Category Archives: guest blog

Brynn Stein on First vs. Third and Ray of Sunlight

Today my guest is Brynn Stein, here to talk about writing in first versus third person and feature her new story, Ray of Sunlight. Don’t miss the giveaway info!

Thanks so much for having me on your blog today, Shae.

Today I thought I’d talk about writing in first person versus third person.

So far I’ve split right down the middle with the stories I’ve written. Haunted and Living Again are written in third person, as is an upcoming story, For Mac. On the other hand, Through the Years, and Ray of Sunlight are written in first person, as is an upcoming story, What No One Else Can Hear.

I don’t really decide what POV to write in. The story just sort of comes in one or the other, usually. I’ve tried to change a story from first to third, or vice versa, but it doesn’t really work. The one exception to that is the story I’m writing now, From the Ashes. It was originally coming to me in alternating first person.  I even wrote two chapters that way. Then apparently the characters decided that they didn’t like that way and the rest of the story is coming in third person. So, I had to go back and rewrite the first two chapters. At least it allowed me to do that this time, and I have to admit that third person is working out better for this particular story.

There are pros and cons to each point of view, as far as I’m concerned.

I like first person because it allows me to write less formally throughout the story, since it’s almost the one character’s dialogue. It gives the reader a better insight into that character and there is a lot of personality in the writing. However, it limits the insight into all the other characters, and limits which situations I can write about. If that character isn’t there, obviously I can’t write about it, unless someone tells the character about it later.

Third person, especially alternating third, gives insight into more characters and frees up which situations I can write about. Of course that opens up a debate between limited third and omniscient third, or alternating limited third. But I’ll get into that on another day.

What about you? Writers, do you have a preference of which POV you write in? Do your stories give you a choice or do they come to you in one or the other? Readers, do you have a preference about what to read? I know some people refuse to read first person. Some people prefer it. What about you?

Comment below for a chance to win.

RayofSunlight_FBbanner_HarmonyHere’s how the giveaway will work. Visit as many blog tour sites as you want (full list here), as often as you want. Each comment will enter you to win one of the following prizes: 1st) An autographed paperback copy of Ray of Sunlight, 2nd) An electronic copy of Ray of Sunlight, 3rd) Your choice of audio or electronic copy of Living Again, 4th) An electronic copy of Through the Years, and 5th) an electronic copy of Haunted. The takeovers for Harmony Ink’s blog and Facebook page will be part of the tour, so comments on there will count. I will draw the winners during the FB takeover (March 21) and will announce them then, but will come back and announce it to all the sites too. So, you don’t have to leave your email address here if you don’t want to, just remember to check back. You’re also welcome to leave your email in the comments if you’d rather or email me at with the subject heading of “just in case”, so I can contact you if you win, if you don’t want to have to stop back by the blog sites. You don’t have to be present at the FB takeover to win.

RayofSunlight_smallRuss Michaels has his whole life ahead of him but no plans beyond dropping out of school as soon as he turns eighteen. He’s been in and out of juvenile detention for the last four years and thoroughly expects to end up in an adult penitentiary at some point. He hates life and everyone in it, especially this latest community service that he earned in lieu of juvie yet again.
CJ Calhoun has big plans. He wants to bring joy and happiness to sick and injured children for as long as he can by performing as a clown. The problem is, he has stage-four cancer and a horrible prognosis.
When circumstances throw these two polar opposites together, they find they have more in common than they imagined. CJ discovers Russ’s talent for art and arranges for Russ to create a mural in the hospital foyer, which leads to a tentative scholarship to the Art Institute. As life changes in ways neither of them could have expected, Russ must work harder than ever to better himself as CJ struggles with his deteriorating health.

About the Author

logo extreme cutBrynn Stein has always loved to write. Fan fiction, original fiction, whatever. While Brynn wrote in numerous genres—everything from mystery, to contemporary, to supernatural—she had always tended toward strong male characters. And then she discovered “slash,” male/male romance, and all those strong male characters were finally allowed to express their love for one another. It seems that there are always at least two characters clamoring to tell Brynn their story.

Brynn lives in Virginia near her two grown daughters who encourage her writing and provide a sounding board for fledgling stories. When she isn’t writing, Brynn teaches children with special needs. In free time, when such a thing exists, she reads anything she can get her hands on, and haunts bookstores. She draws and paints, and enjoys the outdoors—especially if she can get to the beach—and is always thinking about her next story.

Please feel free to contact Brynn at any of the following:

Amelia Bishop on Character Flaws and Night Vision

My guest today is Amelia Bishop, here to talk about writing flawed characters in romance and her new release, Night Vision.

Hi! I’m Amelia Bishop, thank you, Shae, for having me here today.

I have a recent release to promote (Night Vision) but I think the topic I’d like to blog about here is more general.

I’ve been writing m/m Romance, mostly Paranormal, for several years now. I always had some trouble finding stories I really could relate to. I was so tired of the typical alpha-male heroes and beefcake super-lovers. So I started writing the kinds of stories I wanted to read. I didn’t think much about who’d like them, or what the standard Romance formula is, or what reviewers would think or say. That might have been dumb… but anyway, I just jumped right in and wrote my stories, blissfully ignorant of the expectations I was failing to meet.

Along the way, I have learned that the kinds of things I like are not the kinds of things most people like. I guess the reason I was having so much trouble finding stories and characters I enjoyed reading is that those types of plots and main characters are not very popular. Huh. Oh well, I still love them!

I write characters who have real flaws. Sure, most Romance MCs have flaws, but generally they are not real flaws. They are just decoration. Like the orphaned MC who clings to his partner out of a fear of abandonment. Sweet. Or the slightly OCD character who really needs to have everything nice and neat. Adorkable. Or even more serious flaws that, once they have served their purpose in the plot, kind of fade away and never really interfere with the main Romance or the character’s lives at all.

I also write more ordinary (boring?) situations and circumstances. No hostage rescues, no daring leaps off a burning building, no crazed obsessive ex-lovers holding the MCs at gunpoint. Just fairly believable situations and reactions, even if the characters are sometimes supernatural.

And to make it even worse, I write human-quality sex. I mean, my characters really enjoy it, but it isn’t the mind-blowing, hair-trigger orgasm, sex-god sex of most Romance novels. Sometimes things don’t go as planned. Sometimes it’s pretty close to reality.

The end result is that while I am usually happy with my stories, some (many?) Romance readers are not. I feel kind of bad about that, honestly. But I’m not sure I’m going to change.

So I’m wondering, is there a place for Romance that does not follow the formula? Is there a difference between a “Romance” and a “love story”? And if so, which do you prefer?

What kinds of things are deal breakers for you, as a Romance reader? Are there any flaws or circumstances which would make you dislike an otherwise engaging MC?

And…If by some chance you are interested in reading a story about a socially awkward emotional-empath and a quiet systems-administrator, check out my paranormal romance (or love story?) Night Vision.

Thanks so much Shae Connor for having me here!

NightVisionFS_smallTheron Antonopolis, a strige, feeds on human emotion. In a tranquil suburban neighborhood, his best meals come from a quiet systems administrator who’s become more than a source of nourishment for Theron—Alex Rowler is an obsession. Theron can no longer remain in the shadows. When they meet, any attraction Alex feels toward the sexy monster is overshadowed by his anxiety and distrust of Theron’s supernatural powers. But sensing the underlying arousal, Theron begins courting his human.

As months pass, Theron falls deeply in love, and the need to complete the strige bonding ceremony with his human lover becomes overwhelming. But a permanent commitment is too much, too soon for Alex, and he delays the joining, despite Theron’s insistence they are running out of time. As an unbonded pair, however, Theron and Alex draw the attention of the Midnight Parliament, and the lovers are brought to trial to determine their fate.

Buy Links: AmazonDreamspinnerAllRomance
Amelia Bishop links: TwitterFacebookBlogAmazonPinterestGoodreads

Anna Butler on Sex in a Non-AIDS World

My guest today is Anna Butler, here to talk about her new releases, The Gilded Scarab and Gyrfalcon, and how she approached writing in those worlds. Be sure to check out the giveaway options! 🙂

One of the more tricky questions I had to ask myself when writing both The Gilded Scarab and the Taking Shield series, was how to deal with sex.

Neither book has a lot of sex scenes (which some readers may deplore!), but the two or three that are there, are reasonably explicit. Neither book is contemporary. The Gilded Scarab is set in an alternate London of 1900, and the Shield series is set on a world halfway across the galaxy, thousands of years into an alternate future where Earth is dead and dark. AIDS doesn’t feature in either world.

I’m committed to what someone once called the struggle for health. General health, I mean. Better nutrition, good water, access to healthcare for all. And, of course, better sexual health. Shortly after AIDS became news, before therapies and drug regimens that make it manageable, I lost a neighbour to it. I watched his health decline, his weight drop away, his energies wane. It was a sad time. It brought home—hard—that the struggle for sexual health, everyone’s sexual health, was one in which we all have a stake.

When it came to writing my books, the issue for me was simple: do I have a moral obligation to write the sex scenes as if AIDS did indeed exist, and therefore not write anything that would undermine safe sex messages? Or write it and just sort of skate over the issues? After all, sex can be safe and safe can be sexy…

In the end, I don’t make mention of it.

I concluded that a novel isn’t a good way of proselytising and, if it doesn’t sound too pretentious, it isn’t my job as a writer to write role models but to write the characters as they unfold themselves to me. Being true to them, if you like. In neither Gilded Scarab nor Gyrfalcon is AIDS or safe sex an issue.

What’s more, I trust my readers to be grown ups and adult, and not need me to tell them, with big flashing warning lights, that the books aren’t real. After all, if I’m reading about a drug addict, I’m not going to take him or her as a role model for my own life. I recognise that their lives are within the constraints of the book. So I don’t expect any of you will be thinking “But why aren’t those two Victorian gentleman, or those two space pilots ten thousand years in the future, fishing about for the condoms? Maybe I can be that adventurous too…”

So, was I right? What do you think?

GildedScarabsmallWhen Captain Rafe Lancaster is invalided out of the Britannic Imperium’s Aero Corps after crashing his aerofighter during the Second Boer War, his eyesight is damaged permanently, and his career as a fighter pilot is over. Returning to Londinium in late November 1899, he’s lost the skies he loved, has no place in a society ruled by an elite oligarchy of powerful Houses, and is hard up, homeless, and in desperate need of a new direction in life.

 Everything changes when he buys a coffeehouse near the Britannic Imperium Museum in Bloomsbury, the haunt of Aegyptologists. For the first time in years, Rafe is free to be himself. In a city powered by luminiferous aether and phlogiston, and where powerful men use House assassins to target their rivals, Rafe must navigate dangerous politics, deal with a jealous and possessive ex-lover, learn to make the best coffee in Londinium, and fend off murder and kidnap attempts before he can find happiness with the man he loves.

(Cover by Reese Dante)


Dreamspinner as an ebook and in paperback.

From an Amazon near you ( and links for starters)

All Romance as an ebook

GyrfalconsmallEarth’s last known colony, Albion, is fighting an alien enemy. In the first of the Taking Shield series, Shield Captain Bennet is dropped behind the lines to steal priceless intelligence. A dangerous job, and Bennet doesn’t need the distractions of changing relationships with his long-term partner, Joss, or with his father—or with Flynn, the new lover who will turn his world upside-down. He expects to risk his life. He expects the data will alter the course of the war. What he doesn’t expect is that it will change his life or that Flynn will be impossible to forget.


Gyrfalcon is available as an ebook at Wilde City Press


Comment here and get an entry in a rafflecopter to win an Amazon gift card (drawn when the blog tour is over at the end of March).

Rafflecopter Link

In addition, one commentator chosen at complete close-eyes-stick-a-pin-in-it random will get their choice of a little pack of Gilded Scarab or Gyrfalcon loot and a free copy of FlashWired (a gay mainstream sci-fi novella).


Anna Butler was a communications specialist for many years, working in UK government departments on everything from marketing employment schemes to running an internal TV service. She now spends her time indulging her love of old-school science fiction. She lives in the ethnic and cultural melting pot of East London with her husband and the Deputy Editor, aka Molly the cockapoo.

Find Anna:

Website and Blog


The Butler’s Pantry (Facebook Group)



Transgender* Romance Writers Blog Hop

Trans_ blog hop badgeI want to thank Shae Connor for letting us stop by on our Transgender* Romance Writers Blog Hop.

One of the reasons we are hopping around on a Transgender* Romance Writers Blog Tour is to give our readers a better understanding of what it means to be transgender* and to start a dialogue. The more we understand >>> the more accepting we will be.

Let’s take a look at the genderbread person. The picture depicts for us how gender identity, biological sex, gender expression and sexual orientation reside in different locations. THEY ARE NOT THE SAME. The sliding scales allows for us to be on different ends of the spectrum or not. We are all unique. Where are you on the scale?


We want to encourage your participation in this hop so please leave a comment, tell us where you fall on the genderbread person or ask us questions for a chance to win:

1 of 2 $20 Amazon gift cards
1 of 1 $20 online retailers B&N, ARE, or Amazon
1 of 1 $15 gift card
1 e-book copy of Groom of Convenience
1 e-book copy of Illusions & Dreams
1 e-book copy of Transgression

The winners will be picked after our last stop March 5th. We will notify you by e-mail.

A few questions and answers with the blog hop authors…

What has been the reader reception to your story?  

Theo Fenraven: Based on the reviews I’ve read, it seems 95 percent of people enjoyed it. Many of them contacted me to talk about it.

Sara York: It’s been positive. I think we made it clear that one of our characters was transgender, and the people who have read the book have enjoyed it.

Corvus Alyse: So far, those who have read my WIP have been very enthusiastic about wanting me to write more. It’s coming guys! I just have a bit more life stuff to organize.

Ethan Stone: I’d say it was very well. The complaints with the story aren’t about Taylor. I haven’t heard from any trans* man or woman saying we got it wrong, but I have heard from one or two who loved the story.

Vicktor Alexander: LOL. I had a reader (who gave Groom of Convenience a 5-star rating) liken the book to Marmite. Now, since I hate Marmite, I thought she was insulting it. But she said that people were either going to love it or hate it. But she was right. For the most part I either get 1 or 5 star ratings for the book from readers. I’ve had a lot of readers who seem to love it (YAY!) and have been after me about the sequel, and they love the new approach to gender I’ve taken. The four new genders that I’ve created. The way I’ve pushed people past their limits when it comes to understanding their ideas of genders and even opened their minds and held up a mirror to some phobias they may have had. But some of it was a little too confusing I think for some readers, which I can understand.

Z.Allora: Readers are surprised by how much they enjoyed the genre, which was new to most of them and how much they learned (like not everyone who is transgender needs or wants surgery).

Kimberly Gardner: It’s difficult to say since I don’t hear very much from readers. HFL has gotten some good reviews, but as every writer knows, reviews don’t necessarily translate into sales.

Transparency Blurb:

Transparency Shae's blogCharlie is the quintessential bear. Big, muscular and hairy. But that isn’t the type of men he’s attracted to. He is drawn to men like Taylor—short, smooth, and sexy. Taylor is Charlie’s idea of the perfect twink. But there’s something about Taylor Charlie doesn’t know.

Taylor is unsure about a lot of things, but when he sees Charlie, he instantly knows he wants him. The only issue standing in his way is how Taylor views his own masculinity. He’s afraid that Charlie will leave once he knows the secret Taylor wants to keep hidden. Can he be transparent with Charlie and allow him to look behind the image he’s so carefully constructed?

Excerpt from Transparency

(It occurs at the end of Taylor and Charlie’s first date.)

All too soon they were back at Taylor’s place and Charlie shot him a look that melted Taylor’s underwear. Charlie didn’t waste any time in getting out of the car and coming around to open Taylor’s door. His knees were weak and he leaned against Charlie, praying for some sort of reprieve. He didn’t want this to end. Any other man, he would have patted him on the back and said he’d had a nice time, but Charlie was too good to let go. Nice, good-looking, sexy, strong—any positive adjective Taylor thought of could be used to describe Charlie. This date—this man was all too good to be true.

Everything was going great as they entered his building. Taylor had a plan and he knew he could talk fast enough to explain to Charlie why he didn’t want to actually fuck, or undress below the waist, but then he heard a sound that stilled his heart. Clunky shoes clomping down the hardwood stairs, their loud voices ringing out made him wish he’d told Charlie to go home. He tried to hurry Charlie to the door, and almost made it, but his key wouldn’t fit in the hole.

“Look at that, the freak has a man.” The high-pitched squeal of Elizabeth’s voice hit him. She’d known Taylor for a long time, long enough to remember when Taylor was Lisa Marie, named after none other than the King’s daughter. Of course, Elizabeth hadn’t wasted any time telling her roommates about Taylor’s past. Had he known Elizabeth lived in this building, he never would have moved in. He still had three months on the lease, and he didn’t have the funds available to break it, so he was stuck in this dump, hearing their taunts, and living with the pain of their teasing every time he saw the group.

His shoulders sagged and tears sprang to his eyes. He felt Charlie straighten beside him. The last thing Taylor wanted was a confrontation. Elizabeth and her friends wouldn’t hesitate to spill the truth, leaving Charlie just as disgusted as all of the other people who didn’t want to listen to his truth.

Fucking tranny was followed close by pussy boy, then girly freak, and all the other derogatory expressions used to describe what others thought he was. The words cut deep, leaving raw gaping holes in the armor that protected him against the depression demons. His shoulders curled in as he worked the key into the lock.

“I’ve had enough of this,” Charlie growled.

Taylor froze, fearful Charlie was going to leave, or worse hit him, but Charlie’s murderous glare wasn’t turned in his direction. The man was going to stand up for Taylor against the bullies. But the fight wasn’t worth it. Elizabeth, and her friends were heading out the door, probably going to a bar or somewhere else, Taylor didn’t care as long as they left him alone. Maybe the group heading away so quickly had a bit to do with Charlie’s muscle, or the angry scowl that even had Taylor frightened.

“Please don’t,” Taylor begged as he grasped Charlie’s shirt and tugged him toward the door and away from the jerks.

“They can’t get away with taking to you like that. Someone needs to teach them a lesson.”

“Please, please, please just let it go. Don’t engage them.” He didn’t want Charlie to fight for him only to be disappointed once he realized what those idiots were saying was true—well, true if you were a narrow-minded prick.

“I can shut them up.” Charlie turned to Taylor, his eyes still full of menace and anger. For one brief second Taylor wanted this man to protect him from the hurt, but he had to deal with the words in a calm and reasonable manner, drawing no more attention to him than necessary. Fighting every asshole who questioned his identity wasn’t realistic. Letting anger rule would set him back, and he’d never be comfortable with who he was.

“Please just come inside,” Taylor begged.

Miraculously, Charlie followed him in. Taylor shut the door, but he still heard the laughter and stinging barbs. He turned the lock, wishing the world would go away. Unable to face Charlie, Taylor braced himself with one hand on the door, and let the tears trail down his cheek. The taunts from his brother and parents filtered through his mind. He was crying like a girl, just more proof he’d never be a man. He’d heard the damning evidence time and time again, and Elizabeth and her friends reminded him with their mean words that he couldn’t hide from the truth.

Charlie’s hand on his shoulder was an unwelcome reminder that falling apart wasn’t an option—yet. He still had to deal with the truth, even if it meant Charlie would pound him. He hoped Charlie wouldn’t beat him, but he guessed he deserved any pain heaped upon him. Going on a date before telling Charlie he was a transman wasn’t fair. But he’d never be given a chance at a real relationship if he led with candor, allowing every potential date to know about his change. That’s why he went to the bookstore. He guessed Pleasures was out now that Charlie knew.

“Hey, babe, come here. Don’t let their words get you down.”

“Didn’t you hear what they said?” Taylor spit out, wishing Charlie would end this instead of drawing out his shame.

“They were just jerks. They probably treat all twinks like shit, calling them names and telling them they’re girly. You’re cute, but a man. That much is obvious.”

Taylor spun around and stared openmouthed at Charlie, wondering if he was full of shit or oblivious. “Didn’t you hear them?”

“What, they’re just jerks. Don’t listen to them.”

“Oh fuck, you didn’t hear their words, did you?”

Charlie threw up his arms and Taylor flinched, wondering when the first blow was going to come. But Charlie never hit him, instead he ran one beefy paw over his beard before sighing heavily.

“Okay, I have a bit of a processing issue. I didn’t hear everything they were saying. I kind of have to listen closely, and sometimes if I’m excited, I can’t hear anything. I’m not stupid, I just don’t concentrate well.”

Taylor heaved in a few breaths before sliding down the door, wrapping his arms around his knees, hugging them close. Charlie knelt in front of him and lifted his hand, his touch gentle, not at all what Taylor expected.

“Don’t cry, let me hold you. I can help you forget what they said.”

Charlie’s words sounded nice, but they had the opposite effect on Taylor. He couldn’t hide the truth from Charlie any longer. The fear was too much and if Charlie walked out or punched him, he’d take it. Charlie was too nice and Taylor owed him that much.

He opened his mouth but the words stayed inside, his fear too great to speak. Then Charlie sat on the floor and pulled Taylor into his lap. The strong arms gave him the courage to speak, and if he was in Charlie’s arms, the guy wouldn’t be able to hit him.

“They weren’t just words, it was the truth. I’m transgender.”

Charlie stilled and even stopped breathing. Taylor waited a second before continuing.

“From as early as I can remember, I knew something was wrong. I’m supposed to be a man. I don’t know why I was born a girl. Every Barbie, every dress, the long hair, all of it, I knew it was wrong. When my breasts developed, I felt so betrayed. I prayed every night, asking for this thing to go away, but I couldn’t live the lie any longer. When I had my first operation, the one where they took my breasts and gave me a flat chest, I finally felt like I was me. This is me.” Taylor crawled off of Charlie’s lap and stood, his gaze unable to meet Charlie’s. “I’m sorry, but I don’t have a penis, and I never will. You can leave now. I’m sorry I made you go out with me and didn’t tell you.”

Taylor waited for Charlie to move, to do anything, but he stayed still, almost as though he was frozen in time. Going out on a date with this man had been wrong. To think he’d be able to have a normal life, too presumptuous. All he wanted was to be accepted as a gay man. Was that too much to ask for?

Buy from Amazon

Contact the authors:


Joe Cosentino on Acting, Writing, and Infatuation

Today my guest is Joe Cosentino, author of the new novella An Infatuation from Dreamspinner Press. He answered a few questions about his writing and the story.

What inspired you to start writing, especially your novella An Infatuation?

When I told my mother I wanted to be an actor, she said, “Take this knife and stick it through my heart.” I did it anyway, and acted on stage and screen with stars like Bruce Willis, Rosie O’Donnell, Holland Taylor, Jason Robards, and Nathan Lane. You can see me on YouTube in the ABC-TV movie “My Mother was Never a Kid,” about a third of the way through. As my students say, “You were cute when you were young!”

Anyway, it occurred to me that acting is storytelling in the same way that writing is storytelling, so I decided to give playwriting a try. When I told my mother I wanted to write fiction, she said, “Don’t you have anything better to do?” I wonder if Shakespeare’s mother said that? I knew my first novella would be a bit autobiographical, but have a universal theme. Hasn’t everyone been infatuated with someone? Think about your first infatuation. There’s nothing more powerful.

I was thinking back to my high school days, and how difficult it was back then for a gay teen before GLSEN, PFLAG, and Will and Grace. Lab partners, gym locker rooms, and club meetings where super important. At my high school reunion, I realized things weren’t what they seemed back then. A story was born.

How long did it take you to write this novella, and what did you do the day that you finished it?

It began as a one-act play, which I expanded and morphed into a novella. So it took many months to write. The story is personal and important to me, so I wanted to get everything just right. Once I was confident that I had achieved just that, a la God, I announced to my spouse, “It is finished!” I have not had a better night’s sleep before or after that night—until I saw the gorgeous book cover!

Who is your favorite character from your novella? And why?

While the situation is fictitious, Harold is based on me, so it’s a no-brainer! Actually, I really admire Harold’s resilience, honesty, intelligence, wit, and ability to keep going in trying situations. His heart may be broken, but his spirit always stays intact. Harold’s devotion to his spouse, Stuart, is admirable, as is his honesty about his teenage infatuation with Mario. I love that the story spans twenty years so we see Harold (and Mario) develop and mature.

Which one of your characters was the hardest one to write? And why?

It is always hard for me to write homophobic characters. How nonsensical is it for someone to spend his/her time, money, and energy trying to hurt, belittle, or take away the rights of someone else? In most cases, the homophobic person is gay him/herself, and due to internalized homophobia, is battling with him/herself via the gay target. That is the case with the two homophobic characters in my novel.

Which one of your characters did you enjoy writing the most? And why?

Stuart was great fun to write, because he is based on my spouse who is totally organized and a real list maker, but also sweet, creative, and caring. He creates an itinerary for our trips in ten minute time blocks!

Is Mario based on anyone?

Mario is a combination of many supposedly straight, perfect guys who gay guys so easily become infatuated with every day. I love that the story spans twenty years so we see Harold (and Mario) develop and mature in their special relationship. I also love that Harold and Mario come full circle at their high school reunion.

What tips would you give other writers, when creating comedy in their own writing? 

When a reader finishes a book, he/she should be satisfied that the various parts equaled the whole, rather than the author pulling an ending out of the hat. I recommend not writing jokes to try to be funny. Let the humor come out of the situations and the characters naturally. People are funny, but only in real life, believable situations. And don’t forget the yang side of comedy is tragedy, and find the emotional core of your characters and story. As the old expression goes, “Make ’em laugh then make ’em cry.”

Is An Infatuation your first piece of fiction?

My first novel, Paper Doll, is published by Whiskey Creek Press. It is a mystery romance novel about an ex-child movie star. Since I was a professional actor, I was able to use my knowledge of show business to create a captivating, humorous, romantic, mystery with lots of plot twists and turns, leading to a surprising ending. Though the leading characters are straight, there are many terrific gay supporting characters, including an M/M romance.

What advice would you give to other writers in the M/M genre?

I love reading and writing stories with engaging characters who I want to spend time with. I recommend letting your characters talk to one another and seeing what happens. An outline is simply an outline. Don’t be afraid to deviate from it. Also, a romance story needs much more than romance. Don’t forget the humor, and the twists and turns in the story. Finally, until gays have equal civil rights, a little politicking never hurt.

What are you writing now?

I am currently writing a sequel novel to Paper Doll, entitled Porcelain Doll. I am also working on an M/M comedy mystery series set in the world of academia. Since I am a college professor, I know that world quite well. Happily, nobody has been murdered at my college—yet. I am finishing the first three novels, Drama Queen, Drama Muscle, and Drama Cruise.

How do you imagine the ideal reader of your book?

My ideal reader is a lover of a good story, someone who craves being swept away and becoming part of the novel. My reader enjoys humor, and being taken on a roller coaster ride. Finally, my reader relishes in captivating characters and earth-shattering romance, as she/he willingly enters the portal of my book. That’s why I love hearing from my readers!

What would you like to say to your readers? 

I know this story will touch your heart, because it’s everyone’s story. We’ve all had an infatuation, and this novella is a testament to that. Please email me via my web site and tell me about your experience with the book. I also love answering questions about the novella, so let them fly. My web site is:

A last message to the readers about An Infatuation?

Make sure you have a good block of free time before beginning it. Once you start, you will be reading until you finish. Prop your feet up, and enjoy!

infat-coverphotoAs a teenager, it was love at first sight for Harold while tutoring football star Mario, until homophobia and bullying drove Mario deep into the closet. Now they’re both married men. Mario, a model, is miserable with his producer wife, while Harold, a teacher, is perfectly content with his businessman husband, Stuart. When the two meet again at their ten-year high school reunion, the old flame reignites. Harold faces this seemingly impossible situation with inimitable wit, tenderness, and humor as he attempts to reconcile the past and the future.

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One Friday afternoon I accidentally ran into my hero in the boy’s locker room. I’d had enough of the big guys banging me into gym lockers, pushing me into cold showers, and hanging me from the gym ropes. So I was on my way to give Mr. Adoni a note from Dr. Dlorah excusing me from gym class for the remainder of the school year (due to my highly contagious disease being studied by my doctor in Guatemala, where he could not be reached for the next year).

The locker room smelled of an odd combination of soap, cologne, sweat, and desire. Mario was getting ready for football practice, standing at his gym locker without a combination lock on it. Nobody would dare to break into it (Except for me that one time I smelled his jock strap. Okay maybe it was a few times, but not more than ten.). Mario slid his T-shirt (red today) over his thick, black hair and threw it on the nearby bench. No longer harnessed by cotton, his arm, back, chest, and neck muscles swelled to full size. I was half hidden behind the adjoining row of lockers, wearing my usual green and blue flannel shirt and brown corduroy pants. Mario, who wasn’t looking in my direction, said something really beautiful to me that I will never forget. “Hi.”

“Did you just? Oh. Hi. Hello. Good afternoon. Nice to see you. I mean, change with you.” I looked down at the floor (but cheated a bit) as Mario kicked off his boots, slipped off his jeans then threw them in the lucky locker. His red underpants (briefs) revealed ample manhood. This is better than the newspaper’s underwear ads!

“Good gym class today with Mr. Adonis, I mean, Mr. Adoni.” Did I just say that? “Harold High.”


“High.” How can I get my pulse down to 260?

“Hi.” Mario reached into his locker for his sweat clothes.

Shouldn’t people be doing that for you? “Oh, my last name is High. Like a kite.” How can I stop my arms from waving like an airport flagger on speed?

“Mario Ginetti. Like nothin’ else imaginable.” Mario smiled, revealing a row of perfectly white teeth, and held the sweat clothes in his hands as if he was mortal.

“I know. I watch your body play.” Why can’t I stop talking? “I mean, I watch you play … football … on the field … in your football outfit.” I feel like Michelangelo with his David!

As Mario put on his sweats, I continued to sweat.

“I’m voting for your body … I mean I’m voting for you for president of your … our … the student body.” I need my jaw wired shut. “I’m your lab partner in Chemistry class. Ms. Hungry’s class … I mean Ms. Hunsley’s class.”

His olive-colored face glistened as Mario’s face registered recognition—of me! “I thought I knew you from somewheres. Hey, thanks for doing the lab reports.”

“It’s my honor … I mean my pleasure. It’s fine. If you need help putting up posters for your campaign, I can … ”

Having just tied the laces of his sneakers, Mario stood absolutely still. He looked at me as if he was staring into my heart and somehow knew what I was feeling. “I gotta take a wicked piss.”

Can I watch?

“Thanks for helping me out, Buddy.” He slammed the locker door and left.

He called me, Buddy! My heart was as soft and silly as putty that Mario held in the palm of his hand like his soap on a rope.

Author Bio

Joe Cosentino is the author of the acclaimed mystery novel Paper Doll (Whiskey Creek Press). He has appeared in principal acting roles in film, television, and theatre, opposite stars such as Bruce Willis, Rosie O’Donnell, Nathan Lane, Holland Taylor, and Jason Robards. His one-act plays, Infatuation and Neighbor, were performed in New York City. He wrote a musical theatre adaptation of The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (Eldridge Plays and Musicals), and The Perils of Pauline educational film (Prentice Hall Publishers). Joe is currently Head of the Department/Professor at a college in upstate New York, and is happily married. His upcoming novels are Porcelain Doll and Drama Queen.

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Elizah Davis on Astrological Traits and Making Nice

My guest today is Elizah J. Davis, whose novel Making Nice releases today from Dreamspinner Press. 🙂

The Eagle and the Archer

Thank you to Shae for hosting me!

One of the first things I do when I’m sitting down to write a new story is figure out what the characters’ sun signs are. Whether or not you believe in astrology, it is a fantastic way to fill out a character’s positive and negative personality traits, as well as the relationship dynamics of the couple.

With Making Nice, Blake and Ryan’s dynamic worked itself out pretty quickly once I figured out where they fell in the zodiac. Initially, Blake was a little harder to get a read on. I knew he was fiercely loyal to his loved ones, but guarded and prickly at first, and eventually pegged him as a Scorpio. Ryan, on the other hand, was always unquestionably a Sagittarius – tactless, but charming and kind-hearted enough that he’s usually forgiven for it.

As it notes in Linda Goodman’s Love Signs (one of my favorite astrology resources), these two have a lot of potential if the Sagittarius can learn to think before he speaks, and thus avoid stepping in it all the time. Unfortunately, Ryan has some trouble with that, leaving Blake unconvinced of his charm.


“Hey, man, how much do I owe you?” Ryan stopped short, nearly hitting himself in the face with the door when he actually looked at the guy standing there.

Definitely not the pizza boy, and easily the most gorgeous guy Ryan had seen in a good long while. He looked like some sort of haughty underwear model or high-class prostitute. He was put together like he was on his way to a GQ photoshoot in a gray wool coat with a red scarf wrapped artfully around his neck. His jeans looked faux-worn, cuffed and draped too precisely over his boots to be casual. Was he there as some sort of practical joke? Had Matt hired some dude to pretend he had sophisticated friends?

The guy gave him a practiced, flirty smile. “Depends on what you’re paying me for, I suppose.” The statement hung somewhere between sarcastic and suggestive.

Ryan turned his head and shouted, “Did you guys order me a hooker?” He turned back to the hooker/underwear model and grinned. “It’s not even my birthday.”

“Excuse me?”

“Sorry, the term is escort, right?”

“What are you—Jesus, Ryan,” Matt said, coming up behind him. “This is Bianca’s brother.” The why are we friends, I’m going to kill you was very clear in his tone.

“You’re Blake?” Ryan asked, ignoring Matt’s death glare. “Man, now I don’t know whether to be embarrassed or disappointed.”

“You’re such an ass.” Matt turned to Blake. “Feel free to ignore him. The rest of us do. Please come in.” He led the way to the living room without giving Ryan a second glance.

Ryan gestured for Blake to enter, and grinned when Blake whispered, “You should be both, but if you have to pick one? It should definitely be disappointment. Scout’s honor.”

MakingNiceFSTwins Blake and Bianca Dunlap have always been there for each other, ready to lend support and make sacrifices. Blake can’t imagine a bigger sacrifice than getting along with Bianca’s fiancé, Matt. However, Matt turns out to be more than the meathead Blake had dismissed him as, but Matt’s best friend, Ryan Everett, is a different story. Ryan seems intent on being an insufferable jerk as often as possible. The fact that Blake is undeniably attracted to Ryan only makes the whole situation more annoying.

Since they’ll all be stuck together for the long haul, Blake is determined to make nice. Unfortunately he overshoots, and he and Ryan end up on much friendlier terms than Blake intended. While he and Ryan agree there’s no harm in having a strings-free fling, that changes when Matt and Bianca find out about it. As more complications arise, Blake and Ryan become more determined to do what it takes to avoid letting them down. But the only way to ensure getting through a joyous wedding and avoid the questions neither of them want to answer is to convince everyone it’s something more.

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Elizah J. Davis has lived in various parts of the United States, but currently resides in the Pacific Northwest, enjoying the abundance of coffee readily available there. Once upon a time she had journalistic ambitions, but switched to creative writing after she realized journalism involved too many facts and not enough unicorns. She loves stories of all kinds, but has a particular fondness for romance and fantastical adventures. When she isn’t busy making things up, Elizah enjoys reading, laughing at cats on the internet, buying girly shoes, and trying to come up with world domination plans that don’t require the donning of pants (her endeavors towards which have thus far been unsuccessful).





Anne Barwell on Music and Wings of Song

Today my guest is Anne Barwell, here to talk about how music plays a role in her writing, and especially in her new title, On Wings of Song.

Music/Music Hall

Thanks, Shae, for hosting me today. 🙂

My stories often have some kind of music reference in them, whether it is that the characters are musicians—Simon, Sean, Kristopher and Michel—or it plays a larger part in the plot such as in Winter Duet, Cat’s Quill, and Slow Dreaming.

In On Wings of Song, both of those elements combine to become a big part of the story.

When I first got the idea for the story, I knew that one of the characters, Aiden, would be involved in Music Hall.  I’ve played for the modern equivalent, Musical Theatre, as rehearsal pianist, and also as a violinist in the band for shows.  One of the shows I was involved in celebrated Music Hall and the music of that time. Another was an ANZAC commemoration.  I also played piano for church in Christmas services for many years, and so having Aiden sing for the combined service during the Christmas Truce was also a given.

One of the bonuses about writing a story set in the early part of the 20th century is that a lot of the lyrics are out of copyright. The music Jochen hears when he attends a performance at the Avery Theatre are actual songs of the time—and earlier.  The library had a wonderful book: Edwardian Song Book – Drawing-room ballads 1900-1914 from the catalogue of Boosey & Co – selected and introduced by Michael R Turner and Antony Miall.  As well as containing sheet music so I could play the songs and hear them, it had a brief history of them and their composers.

With the first and last chapters set around Christmas, it was also an opportunity to use Christmas Carols.  I didn’t want to use the same one twice, as the story needed to move forward, not backwards.  In the finish the songs chose themselves and worked perfectly for Jochen and Aiden and where they are in their lives at each point of the story.

During the Christmas Truce, many men exchanged uniform buttons, as Aiden and Jochen did. However, it’s not the physical reminder of their meeting that keeps Jochen going through the horrors of his war time experience, or the connection between himself and Aiden. It’s also the memory of Aiden’s singing, and how it touched him.

But once that song is over, what then?  If a man has lost himself in his music, or in someone else’s, is it that easy to pick up the melody again years later?   To quote from the story: “That stage was everything to you. You used to lose yourself in it, and sometimes I wondered if that was really a good thing. A man’s got to find himself before he can lose himself in a role.”

Music and literature are the song by which Aiden and Jochen meet, but six years later both of them have changed. The war has exacted a high price on both of them. In different ways they have both lost the music within them. Because of this, in order to find each other, they will first need to find themselves.

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OnWingsofSongSix years after meeting British soldier Aiden Foster during the Christmas Truce of 1914, Jochen Weber still finds himself thinking about Aiden, their shared conversation about literature, and Aiden’s beautiful singing voice. A visit to London gives Jochen the opportunity to search for Aiden, but he’s shocked at what he finds.

The uniform button Jochen gave him is the only thing Aiden has left of the past he’s lost. The war and its aftermath ripped everything away from him, including his family and his music. When Jochen reappears in his life, Aiden enjoys their growing friendship but knows he has nothing to offer. Not anymore.


“I’ve seen it,” Aiden said quietly. “I wish to God I hadn’t.” He looked directly at Jochen. Jochen met Aiden’s gaze. He’d seen an echo of Conrad’s fire in Aiden when he’d talked about his music earlier that afternoon.

“Don’t die on the wire, Aiden.”

“I’ll try not to.” Aiden’s words were an empty promise. They both knew it, but what else was he going to say?

The red-haired man Aiden had spoken to about arranging the burials walked over to him. He too held a shovel, and he wiped perspiration from his brow despite the cold. “There’s going to be a combined service for the dead,” he told them. “In about ten minutes in no man’s land in front of the French trenches.”

As they made their way over, men were already beginning to gather, soldiers from opposite sides sitting together, conversation dwindling to a respectful silence. A British chaplain stood in front of them, a Bible in his hand, a German beside him. Jochen recognized him, although he didn’t know his name. The young man was only a few years older than Jochen and was studying for the ministry—would he ever get the chance to complete those studies?

Jochen and Aiden found somewhere to sit a few rows back from the front and joined the company of men. The German spoke first. “Vater unser, der du bist im Himmel. Geheiligt werde dein Name.”

The British chaplain repeated the words in English. “Our Father who art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy Name.”

They then spoke a few words each, some from the Bible, the rest from their hearts. Their congregation was silent apart from a few quiet “amens.” Jochen saw a couple of men wipe tears away. He was close to it himself.

Finally the chaplain bowed his head in prayer. When he’d finished, he spoke quietly to the man who had come to stand next to him. It was Captain Williams. He nodded and looked over the crowd, his gaze fixing on Aiden.

Aiden must have guessed what Williams wanted. He inclined his head in response and then stood. Jochen glanced between the two men, confused. What did Williams expect Aiden to do?

“Aiden?” Jochen asked softly.

Aiden smiled at him and began to sing. “O Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining….” He lifted his head, his voice strong and clear, each note building on the last to create something truly beautiful, something angelic. Aiden’s eyes shone; his body swayed slightly in time with the music. He was the music.

His audience sat in awe. Jochen could feel the emotion rippling through the men around him, tangible, as though he could reach out and touch it. He felt something inside himself reach out, wanting to be a part of it, to be carried along the wave of pure music, to grab it and never let go.

Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand.  She shares her home with two cats who are convinced that the house is run to suit them; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date it appears as though the cats may be winning.

In 2008 she completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra.

She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth.




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Grace R. Duncan on Survival and Healing

Today’s guest is Grace R. Duncan, here to talk about her new novella Healing, which is set in the post-pandemic world as her previous story Celebrating You. Take it away, Grace!

HealingFSWhen I sat down to start writing in my post-pandemic world, I didn’t do what I’ve advised others to do, what I’ve done for my other world—the Golden Collar world. In that world, I made a map. I wrote out names and titles. I decided on money and food.
Of course, the Pandemus world isn’t the same. It’s, essentially, our world but with a lot less people. And a lot more dangerous. So while I did my world building, most of it was in my head.

One of the biggest questions I had to ask myself, of course, was “How do they survive?” I mean, most of the time, we go to the grocery store (or wherever) and pick up our groceries and toiletries and we don’t give it a second thought. What happens when you can’t do that anymore? How do you eat? What about clean clothes? How do you clean up?
Now, anyone who’s watched any sort of post-apocalyptic movie has already thought about this. I’ve made it no secret that Stephen King’s The Stand helped inspire my world (though, without the creepy old black lady, scary crows, and an overarching good vs evil plot). It certainly gave me food for thought while I figured out things like… how many died? That’s going to make a big difference. If there are still lots and lots of people, then the scramble for food is much harder.
But I wanted an empty world. I wanted opportunity. Pandemus is meant to be a character-driven series of stories, not world-driven.

To that end, I decided a huge chunk of the population would be wiped out, leaving maybe twenty percent of the population. Some of that, of course, was from causes other than the virus, but that doesn’t matter. The end result is the same.

Because there are so few left, there’s plenty of stuff lying around. Canned and dried foods that aren’t going bad anytime soon. Obviously, eventually, these things will run out, but as Pandemus starts roughly three years out from the virus, that isn’t the case yet.

But it also means that those not willing to approach the corrupt cities would have to keep scavenging for useable supplies. Mark and Duncan are two such, the same as Jake from Celebrating You. It felt safer, easier to them. Each new place would have more canned goods, more dried fruit and jerky, more nuts, and so on.

Deciding things like these gave me a new appreciation for all I don’t have to do to survive. The idea that it could conceivably be days before I found something edible is a frightening prospect. I’m glad the Kroger down the street isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

As long as I don’t get sick…

When Duncan stumbles into a pharmacy in search of something to fix his broken leg, he’s surprised to find someone else there. Like the rest of the post-pandemic world, it appeared empty. Instead, he discovers Mark, a former nurse who walked away from his profession after losing too many patients to the virus.

Despite swearing he’d never practice medicine again, Mark patches Duncan up over Duncan’s protests. He even finds an abandoned house in the tiny town, and they settle in until Duncan heals enough to look out for himself. Much to the chagrin of both, they find themselves caring for each other.

Duncan welcomes it, thrilled at finding someone he can trust. However, he’s well aware of the shadows in Mark’s eyes and understands Mark’s reticence as he learns the story. But as he’s starting to do things for himself again, Duncan realizes he doesn’t want Mark to leave. He’s not sure if can get Mark to let go of his fears so they can stay together and love. But Duncan’s damned sure going to try.

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He should have known better. Under normal circumstances, it was a stupid move, but right here, right now, “stupid” didn’t begin to cover it.

Duncan glared at his leg for another moment, then leaned his head back against the wall. He needed to keep moving. It hurt like hell, but he had to keep going. It wasn’t going to get better on its own. The gash needed to be cleaned and bandaged, and even if the break wasn’t bad, it should at least be braced. And it wasn’t like he could call an ambulance. Or even go into an emergency room.

Well, he supposed he could go into an emergency room, if he was in the city. But like a lot of other people, he avoided the cities whenever possible. And when it wasn’t, he stayed as far on the edge as he could. But even there, it was a dangerous risk. As corrupt as the cities were now, the price of anything was higher than most could pay. He’d heard rumors that, in some of the worst cities, people simply got shot if they couldn’t pay what the thugs in power wanted. It was all rumor, but rumor he wasn’t about to ignore.

So he did his damnedest to stay away.

He’d been stupid to jump off the ledge. Even at only a couple of feet higher than he was tall, the risk hadn’t been worth it. He’d have thought, after nearly three years, he’d learned how to be more careful and not take those kinds of risks. It wasn’t the first time he’d fallen and hurt himself—though, thankfully, the last one hadn’t involved a broken bone. Maybe it should have; he might have learned his lesson then.

“Really fucking stupid, Dun.”

Duncan steeled himself and pulled to his feet, grimacing when the sharp pain shot up his ankle and through his leg. “Fuck,” he muttered, breathing hard through his nose. When he finally focused past the pain, he looked up and noted the position of the sun, the only real indication he had for the time, and figured he had another good hour or two of light. If he was right about where he was, he wouldn’t need all of it. He tucked the stick he’d found under his arm, grimaced when it dug into the soft flesh, but then leaned on it and hobbled along again.

Praise for GRACE R. DUNCAN
“I really enjoyed the characters, and loved watching them on their journey. Duncan does a great job of giving a really detailed story, and taking us on a great ride as two men find their happily ever after.”   —Joyfully Jay, on “No Sacrifice”

“There were so many wonderful themes going on in this story, I was wrapped up in them all and couldn’t wait to see how Grace brought them all together.” —Love Bytes Reviews, on “No Sacrifice”

“I don’t really read a lot of historical fiction but some of it is damn good, including Grace Duncan’s Choices… The world building is excellent and draws you right in. The character development is also wonderful.” —Mrs. Condit & Friends Reads Books, on “Choices”

Grace’s Bio:

Grace Duncan grew up with a wild imagination. She told stories from an early age—many of which got her into trouble. Eventually, she learned to channel that imagination into less troublesome areas, including fanfiction, which is what has led her to writing male/male erotica.

A gypsy in her own right, Grace has lived all over the United States. She has currently set up camp in East Texas with her husband and children—both the human and furry kind.

As one of those rare creatures who loves research, Grace can get lost for hours on the internet, reading up on any number of strange and different topics. She can also be found writing fanfiction, reading fantasy, crime, suspense, romance and other erotica or even dabbling in art.

Grace’s website:
Twitter: @GraceRDuncan

Xena Semikina on Friendship and Avalanche

My guest today is Xena Semikina, here to talk about her novel Avalanche and its unique look at a unique bond.

Thank you very much, Shae, for hosting me today. It’s the final stop of my blog tour for my book Avalanche. As usual, I will start with a short blurb to introduce my book to those who are joining us for the first time and then I will move on to today’s topic.

AvalancheCoverBlurb for Avalanche

This is a novel about friendship, maybe in its unusual, extreme form. The two main characters, Mike and Nick, meet in the Alps on a scientific expedition. They become very close, but struggle to place their relationship in the context of their lives. They fear that the bond between them will not survive outside their research hut, and that the outside world will present challenges impossible to overcome. But then a tragic accident changes their lives forever… This story is an investigation into the nature of ties between people, the limits of loyalty and the power of conventions.

Does life make any sense?

In my book Avalanche I elevate friendship to the status normally afforded to love. Since time immemorial love has been variously described as ‘powerful, ‘divine’, ‘sublime’, ‘devastating’. Everybody knows it can make you move mountains or it can kill. If it’s love, and not friendship, that can make you experience these mighty feelings, it must be something specific to love that does it. Is it the sexual desire that gives you these special powers? With this story I challenge the idea that the act of sexual penetration is capable of something like that.

This is my last stop and to mark the occasion I will take a quick dive into the very core of the story’s conflict. My characters are aware that the reason why it’s so difficult for them to build a life together is because their union challenges no more no less than the established order. They call into question not only the traditional concept of family, as a homosexual couple would do, but also the nature itself, the very fabrics of procreation. They can’t justify the passion they share, they can’t explain to people around them what is really going on between them, and eventually they find themselves in a world of their own that makes sense only to them. However, from this vantage point they are able to see what others do not, and from their perspective it’s the world around that has gone mad and life itself doesn’t make any sense.

This is an extract from chapter 28. In this scene Mike has to leave Nick for longer than usual to attend to his family duties, in other words to play games he no longer believes in. Nick is still battling through his leg injury and Mike has severe misgiving about leaving him on his own. Nick, on the other hand, is concerned about Mike, who has too many problems to grapple with and at this point in time is too mentally and physically exhausted to juggle them all. Here we are in Nick’s POV.

‘Will you be okay?’ slipped off Nick’s lips. He knew it was a rhetorical question.

       ‘Of course,’ Mike smiled. ‘I’m inspired enough to produce a masterpiece of hypocrisy.’

       ‘Where do you draw the inspiration from?’

       ‘Life… The stupidity of it. You simply can’t find another arrangement where absolutely nothing makes any sense. Parts simply don’t stick together to make the whole, but somehow it exists.’  

       If that was the quality of life, Nick’s defeatist feelings were absolutely right. They were struggling for nothing. There was little point in sorting out one set of problems, when life would immediately introduce another one. It was like a defective gene, which could never produce a healthy protein. The question was: ‘Was it worth it?’ Was there a better arrangement for them?’ He was looking into Mike’s eyes and he felt like they were reading each other’s mind, as though everything he was thinking of was in fact their joint musings.    

       He didn’t know if he had really tried his hand at telepathy, but what happened to him on Saturday he couldn’t describe as anything other than premonition. He was completely deranged by anxieties by then. It could have made him hyper-sensitive, or indeed simply deranged, he reasoned. Whatever the reason was, sitting here, in this cafeteria under the spring sun, he suddenly got a clear feeling that a misfortunate event was about to occur. His feeling didn’t carry any further message, but his mind did the rest. He feared the worst…


Avalanche is available on Amazon US at $2.90 and on Amazon UK at £1.81. ePub is available at the Apple store and Kobo at £1.99 and the equivalent in $ (sorry, don’t know the exact price as I have never caught a glimpse of the US respective stores).          

Blog tour stops for Avalanche

1) 20 November 2014     Lane Hayes

2) 22 November 2014     Kim Fielding

3) 24 November 2014     Anne Barwell

4) 26 November 2014     Sophie Bonaste

5) 28 November 2014     Shae Connor

About Xena Semikina

Xena is a novelist and a lawyer in criminal practice, with a distant background in computer science. Writing has always been her passion, which she has been pursuing actively for well over a decade. She has written four novels and has published one, entitled Avalanche. She lives in London with occasional trips to the South of France and the North of Russia.

Xena can be found on Twitter @Xena5000 and Facebook as Xena Semikina. Her blog can be found here:

Layla M. Weir, Winter Wooing, and Ransom

Today my guest is Layla M. Weir, here to talk about her new novel release, Held for Random. Take it away, Layla!

Hi Shae! Thanks so much for having me!

My new novel Held For Ransom came out on Friday, and today I’m having an all-day release party at my Facebook and blog:

If you’re reading this, feel free to stop by, chat, enter contests, and watch me liveblog my failure to write! \o/

Okay, so: about the novel! Held For Ransom is a spinoff, of sorts, to my short story “Waiting For the Light” in last year’s Snow on the Roof anthology, although the two share little other than their setting. When I wrote “Waiting For the Light”, I had to put it somewhere, so I decided to set it in central Illinois, where I lived for four years in the early 2000s while my husband went to grad school. Held For Ransom takes place in the same area (fictional Heatherfield County, Illinois) while featuring a different cast of characters. (Certain characters from “Waiting For the Light” just might cameo, though — keep your eyes open!)

I have a longtime fondness for books, movies and TV shows about small towns populated with lovable eccentrics. I also love big ensemble casts. Now that I’ve got the cast assembled, I’m pretty sure this won’t be the last time I write about Heatherfield County.

In Held For Ransom, the little town of Osmar is gearing up for their annual winter carnival when a mysterious, motorcycle-riding drifter rides into town and sweeps the carnival’s organizer, DJ Lanning, off his feet. Ransom just might have the key to saving the carnival from financial disaster, but his pretty face is hiding more than a few dark secrets. What is the tragedy in Ransom’s past that haunts him even today? While he’s busy saving the carnival, will Osmar — and DJ — end up saving him?

In today’s excerpt, DJ and Ransom flirt while Ransom finds himself being sneakily wooed … into volunteering for the Osmar winter carnival:

“So, tell me about the winter carnival,” Ransom said.

DJ looked like his train of thought had just derailed again. For an instant he looked crestfallen, then rallied. “Ah, yeah, it’s kind of a disaster. Did you actually put up the flyers?”

“I did. All over Aldona.” Ransom smiled. “What did you think I’d do, throw them in a trash can as soon as I was out of sight?”

“Well, I wasn’t sure,” DJ said defensively. “It’s hard enough finding people in town who are willing to do anything to help. Oh, everyone wants to, but they evaporate as soon as there’s actual work to be done. Mom had a knack for getting them all pointed in the right direction.” A shadow crossed his face. “Mom used to run the carnival. It was her baby.”

“Now that she’s gone, they’ve got you doing it,” Ransom said. It was a familiar story, the light-side version of his own, he supposed.

“Yes,” DJ said, a world of exhaustion in that tone.

Ransom grinned at him and hoped it looked sympathetic. It was relaxing, somehow—DJ’s world of small problems, and the way he was so bound up in them, as if they were the most important things in the world. And Ransom could help, after all. That made him warm—giddy, almost. And he made a decision. Tonight he wanted to lose himself in DJ’s light-side world. Just for a little while. He didn’t want to think about the road, or the coming snow. He didn’t want to think about the world outside at all. “Hey,” he said, and reached out to touch DJ’s lips lightly with his forefinger. He hoped he hadn’t read the signs wrong. If so, he was about to get thrown out on his ass, and he’d probably deserve it. “It’s okay.”

DJ shut up and looked baffled.

“It’s okay,” Ransom said again. “You want to know why I came back?”

“Yes,” DJ said. He still looked confused. To speak, he had to part his lips, sending a small electric charge through Ransom’s fingertip as they brushed it.

“Because you were so involved with it,” Ransom said quietly. “I wanted to help. I still do. I don’t know a small-town carnival from a hole in the wall, but it really moved me that you were so obviously invested in making it work. I want to help, I really do.”

“Well,” DJ said, and took a deep breath. “We need volunteers for the booth construction, the bake sale, if we can manage to get it pulled together in time—well, basically everything at this point. Do you know anything about advertising? Because Mom always handled that end of things—”

Ransom hushed him with the fingertip again. “Okay, I get it,” he said, laughing. “There’s a lot to do. To each according to his needs, right?”

“Did you just quote Marx?”

“I have depths,” Ransom said, grinning.

HeldforRansom200x300Two weeks before Christmas, the small town of Osmar is gearing up for its annual winter carnival, but the death of the event’s long-time organizer might mean the end of the festivities. Everyone is turning to her son DJ to save the carnival, but DJ can barely save himself. He’s spinning his wheels in Osmar—working part time at the gas station, living in his parents’ house, and trying to figure out what to do with his life. DJ is caught in a large, loving web of well-meaning family and friends, but they can’t fix his life for him. 

Into this mess comes Ransom, a handsome mystery man on a motorcycle. Ransom is traveling around the country, making up for his past sins by doing “good deeds.” He and DJ have a one-night stand that neither can forget, but that’s just the start, because Ransom has a plan to save the carnival, and DJ has a plan to save Ransom… and possibly himself.

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About Layla:

Layla M. Wier is a writer and artist who grew up in rural Alaska and now lives on the highway north of Fairbanks, where winters dip to 50 below zero and summers yield 24 hours of daylight. She and her husband, between the two of them, possess a useful array of survival skills for the zombie apocalypse, including gardening, blacksmithing, collecting wild plant foods, and spinning wool into yarn (which led to her first Dreamspinner Press novella, “Homespun”). When not writing, she likes reading, hiking, and spending way too much time on the Internet.

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Link to all stops on the Held for Ransom blog tour (Nov. 12-Dec. 1)