Oh Look, Bruce, It’s A Girl!

welcome-0790-sexyOkay, that’s a stupid post title, I know, but it’s the first thing that popped into my head…which is always a dangerous thing where my brain is concerned. :)

Aaanyway, I am so very thrilled to announce the newest member to join our little family here at TNA and would like to welcome Tina to the team! Here’s a little bit about Tina in her own words:

Hello my name is Tina and I am an addict. Isn’t that the way I was supposed to introduce myself? Oh, but I am. I love to read. As far back as I can remember my mom would take us to the library each Saturday and I could take home as many books as I could carry. I built some biceps in my younger years.

Since the advent of the e-reader, life is much lighter, if not easier.

While real life sometimes is hard, reading gives me a place to go where it is safe and comfortable. If there isn’t a Happily Ever After, at least there’s a Happy For Now. Books give me a place where I can cry without having to explain why. And stop crying when the book ends. Between laughing out loud and crying, my son thinks I am a crazy old book lady. Well, he may have a point.

I have a husband of 26 years and two wonderful children. I am also biased.

Having attended a fundamental Baptist church for 20 years, I came away with two things; Closed minds should come with closed mouths and I am proud to be straight but not narrow.

I hope you’ll help Bruce and I welcome Tina to our little corner of the playground. We’re so glad she decided to come swing on our monkey-bars!

Welcome, Tina!

Ellora's Cave, Leta Blake

Leta Blake And Keira Andrews Give Gravity To Their Earthly Desires (Tempting Tales, Book One)

One’s not half of two; two are halves of one. – E.E. Cummings

I’m such a sucker for Once Upon A Times that lead to Happily Ever Afters. You know, there’s a school of thought out there that says fairy tales can be harmful to impressionable young minds, especially for girls who may begin to believe that their worth as a person exists solely within how beautiful the image in the mirror, and that the pursuit of Prince Charming is the one thing in life worth aspiring to. Well, pooh on that, I say. Somebody’s just reading them the wrong fairy tales; either that, or they’re forgetting to teach these girls the moral of the stories because, yes, every fairy tale is a cautionary tale with a message, and Earthly Desires is no different. Okay, maybe a little bit different. There wasn’t so much of the sexy bits in the fairy tales I read as a kid, that’s for sure.

“And the sins of the father shall be visited upon the son.”—that’s the conflict within this story of a young prince cursed with levity, who meets a handsome young woodsman cursed with gravity when the prince floats away on a breeze and becomes stuck in a tree on the woodsman’s land. Earthly Desires is a story of the sky and the earth meeting at the horizon of a new beginning, a story of witches and curses, of revenge and elemental magic that happens between the opening and the closing of this opposites attract story. It is a Yin-Yang, full-circle completion of vengeance and redemption, one in which heroes arise through sacrifice and salvation.

This is a story of a name, a name so significant that on the tongue it gives a soul weight. It is the story of Prince Efrosin and Dmitri and the way they discover their curses are their cures, that love endures, and that tears offered in grief are a powerful magic in their own right.

Authors Leta Blake and Keira Andrews have retold the fairy tale “The Light Princess” with some added twists to make it decidedly more adult for those of us who enjoy a grownup fairy tale every now and then. If that reader just so happens to be you, then I’d definitely recommend giving this endearing and enchanting and altogether uplifting story a try.

You can buy Earthly Desires (Tempting Tales, Book One) here:

J.K. Pendragon, Less Than Three Press

The Gentleman and the Rogue by J.K. Pendragon Is History And Mystery And Heroes And Villains

I am bewitched with the rogue’s company. If the rascal have not given me medicines to make me love him, I’ll be hanged. – William Shakespeare

Once upon a time, there was a rogue who was less a criminal than he was the end result of an uncontrollable circumstance which transformed him into a self-appointed harbinger of justice. Once upon a time, there was a gentleman who was as much a harbinger of justice as he was the end result of an uncontrollable circumstance which served to reveal the only life he’d ever known was little more than an illusion, and this is the story of how they not only brought an end to the evil they were both sworn to fight but how, in the process, they managed to find a love worth fighting for.

J.K. Pendragon’s The Gentleman and the Rogue is a historical mystery wrapped within a heroes and villains drama and tied up in a romance between two men who represent opposite sides of the law but both stand for good, fight for right, and pursue justice in the face of near insurmountable odds against them succeeding, let alone surviving.

It’s the story of a man who metes out his own brand of vigilante justice, a man who doesn’t always fight fair, who will lie, cheat, and steal to win. It’s the story of a lawman who will bend and break the laws himself to save the innocent and attempt to earn the trust and the truth of a man who trusts no one and will say anything if it serves his purpose. But, where there is honor among thieves, there is also the capacity to love.

The Gentleman and the Rogue is a quickly paced story of betrayal and of treason and of the lust for absolute power that corrupts absolutely, and in some ways it defies classification: I want to call it steampunk, but it’s not steampunk. I want to call the Rogue a superhero (a la Batman) without all the cool gadgets—though he does have some gadgets that were pretty special for their time—but he’s really more heroic than super. So, rather than try to pigeonhole it, I’ll just say that the story was briskly paced and entertaining, a bit spare on the world-building but fun and, I thought, worth the read.

You can buy The Gentleman and the Rogue here:

Chris Quinton, Manifold Press

Fool’s Rush (Fool’s Odyssey #3) by Chris Quinton – The Future Of Vampire-kind

For fools rush in where angels fear to tread. – Alexander Pope

There was a time, not so long ago, that Xavi Escudero might’ve been described as impulsive, reckless, self-centered, maybe even a bit of a cheeky brat…but that was so much a part of the man’s appeal it was easy to be drawn in by his charms, even when it was clear he needed something more. Or someone, perhaps. Xavi is still a little impulsive, truth be told, maybe still a little reckless too, and he’s definitely still a bit of a cheeky brat, but the self-centered part has dissolved under the influence of his deepening feelings for his lover Andreas Rousakis, the intimidating, dangerous, deadly when it’s demanded of him vampire Warden who is nobody’s inferior, and who has laid claim to Xavi for himself. Not that Xavi is complaining, mind.

Murder brought them together, a near death experience brought Xavi over, and now the discovery of a hidden treasure has put Xavi to the ultimate test, which has thrust him, and all of vampire-kind, into a very unwelcome spotlight as far as some are concerned, especially Xavi. The US is in a perpetual state of suppressive turmoil, though in Barcelona HARC is close to manufacturing an immunization that would make humans immune to the vampire virus and, with luck, would allow humans and vampires to peacefully coexist. There are those who see Xavi’s mysterious vampire hero mystique as a step closer to bringing their community out into the open, to show humans that vampires are not insensate and evil monsters to be feared. It is an opportunity to manipulate the media machine before the media machine has an opportunity to manipulate them, to fight the overwhelming prejudice from without, but first they must fight the prejudice from within that has fractured their community into the isolationist faction and those who wish to be able to live outside the walls of Renaissance.

Xavi is faced with a challenge from Father Esteve—find out if the Treasure of San Pedro-by-the-Wall can be traced to any living beneficiary. It’s not a challenge Xavi accepts readily, but accept he does in spite of, not because of, Father Esteve’s attempts at coercion, and it’s his investigation that brings trouble of another sort to the threshold of his and Andreas’s relationship, and brings out the worst in one of the members of their own society.

Fool’s Rush, the third book in the Fool’s Odyssey series, is part mystery, part suspense, and part solidification of a romance that Xavi was having a difficult time putting a name to, this bond that is more than a gold collar and goes beyond a promise. He and Andreas form a connection that exceeds anything resembling what we know and delves into the mysticism and mythology of their kind, delivering them to a new level of commitment and opening them up to a new life with each other.

It’s a revelation and a turning point as Xavi comes to know his own heart in this installment, and Chris Quinton handily leads Xavi, Andreas, as well as their fans to the place we’ve all been anxious for them to reach since they first met.

If you’re not already a fan and are looking for a sleek and sophisticated, futuristic paranormal romance, I wouldn’t hesitate to direct you to this series. If you’re already a fan, then I can say without hesitation you won’t want to miss this one.

You can buy Fool’s Rush here:

Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia

And The Winners Are…

The Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia may be done for this year, but the education process is an ongoing effort, a goal we’re committed to seeing through to the day that these misperceptions and attitudes are more the exception than the rule.

On behalf of Bruce and myself, I want to thank everyone who took a moment to stop by to read our contribution, and would especially like to thank everyone who took the time to comment not only to enter the giveaway but also to show your support for this cause.

Our winners have been selected and notified, and now I’d like to extend a big congratulations to both Annette and parisfanca. They are each the lucky recipients of $25 worth of goodies! :-D

Warmest regards and many thanks,

Bruce and Lisa

Loose Id

The Chimera Affair by Keira Andrews Is An Affair To Remember

Love is the most difficult and dangerous form of courage. – Delmore Schwartz

So, I found this lovely little short story called The Argentine Seduction that I glommed onto when Loose ID was offering it for free as promo for their Spring Fling collection, which is also when I snatched up Anna Zabo’s Slow Waltz. At the time, I had no idea that these tasty little morsels were snippets set within the worlds of their full length novels, something I learned very quickly after I read “Waltz”, so—and here’s what a quick learner yours truly is—unlike I did with Slow Waltz, I picked up The Chimera Affair and read it before I read The Argentine Seduction. Pretty smart, right?

And I also finished “Chimera”, all three-hundred and four pages of it, in roughly…hours. Think I maybe liked it just a little bit? Well, really, what’s not to love about an action packed story filled with danger, espionage, international intrigue, and seduction?

Kyle Grant is the spy in this passion play; Sebastian Brambani is the mark whose father is not only the criminal element in Kyle’s latest mission, but Sebastian’s also the young man who’s about to turn the coolly detached operative’s world upside down. The elder Brambani has something Kyle needs to get his hands on, something that, in the wrong hands, could prove fatal for a lot of innocent people. The something Kyle ends up getting his hands on, though, is Sebastian, and Arrigo Brambani would rather see his son dead than in the arms of a man.

It’s a shoot-to-thrill, play-to-kill game of outwit the bad guys, and Sebastian is the pawn that Kyle’s willing to manipulate to get what he wants, which means keeping him alive at all costs. But what begins as a cold and calculated maneuver to get hold of the Chimera becomes a genuine game of hearts in which the two men gamble on love, an ante that may be too rich a promise to keep in this line of work.

Keira Andrews pulls this one off in a big way, with cover-to-cover action, exciting locales, and two characters I can’t wait to read about again and again. Kyle was the perfect blend of sophisticated agent for whom the mission is everything, and the lonely man for whom life is a lot less empty now that he’s found The One.

Sebastian is a little bit innocent, a little bit hopeful, a whole lot intelligent and is no one’s shrinking violet, doing what needs to be done when it needs doing, whether he believes in all his strengths or not, and whether he believes he can trust Kyle or not.

The next mission has been assigned and danger is guaranteed to await these two men. I have no doubt that whatever is waiting for them on their next mission, I’ll be there to be sure they make it through.

You can buy The Chimera Affair HERE and The Argentine Seduction HERE

Loose Id, Z.A. Maxfield

The Brothers Grime: Grime and Punishment by Z.A. Maxfield – Hello New Obsession

Fear not for the future, weep not for the past – Percy Bysshe Shelley

I have a savior complex. No, not the kind where I think I’m the Messiah or something. I’m talking about the kind of savior complex where I think, “Oh look, a book about a couple of damaged men who have to overcome a tragedy and a broken past so they can fall in love. I can fix that.” And then I buy said book and think, “Phew, good thing the author did all the work for me so I could sit back and fall in love with the men in the book who overcome a tragedy and a broken past and fall in love with each other.” It’s such a great relationship we readers have with these writerly types, isn’t it? It’s like being a second-hand savior, which is so much less work.

Z.A. Maxfield has begun another series, as if I weren’t already obsessed enough with that of the St. Nacho’s variety, but now I get to start obsessing all over again on a new one, The Brothers Grime, and the first book, Grime and Punishment, the story of ex-firefighter Jack Masterson, a man whose disability suffered in the line of duty has forced him to leave the job he loved and turn his talents in a new direction—crime scene clean up.

Jack doesn’t do much field work himself these days, having become successful enough to hire a team of workers to handle the hands-on part of the business. But when his friend, sometimes buddy-with-bennies, and full-time closeted police officer Dave Huntley, calls with the news that Nick Foasberg has committed suicide, well, Jack has no choice but to rush to the scene. Love and loss and lies and pain and a purgatory of self-denial have an uncanny way of motivating a man to revisit a past he’s never overcome.

Ryan Halloran did what he could to help his cousin, but there’s only so far a man can go before every effort merely ends up leading one step closer to the inevitable. Nick committing suicide in Ryan’s bathroom stole the man’s home and sense of security from him, which is why Ryan needs what Jack is there to offer—his company’s talent for erasing the stains of violence left behind for the survivor to bear. It’s not as easy a decision as it sounds, though, for Ryan to make. See, Ryan knows full well—or at least he thinks he does—the history Jack and Nick shared. But when the past comes clean with all its secrets and truths, secrets and truths that weren’t anyone’s but Nick’s to tell, they threaten to collapse the bridge the two men have begun to build between the past and the present.

Grime and Punishment is a story of redemption and second chances in all its humanly complicated finery, especially if you love flawed characters who seem determined to keep wrecking their own chances at peace. Not only is there plenty of emotional substance to sink your heart into, but there’s also the very simple fact that ZAM has come up with another great couple of MCs whose verbal skills rival the non-verbal for a practically perfect validation that they should continue to investigate what’s happening between them. There’s also the added benefit of a potentially interesting character in Dave Huntley, which, when all’s said and done, has put me on full alert for round two.

You can buy Grime and Punishment here:

Chris Quinton, J.K. Pendragon, Leta Blake, Z.A. Maxfield

What’s Coming Up In The Week Ahead

I hope everyone has had a great weekend! Here’s what’s happening this week at TNA.

Monday – Z.A. Maxfield has a new series, so we start the week with a review of Grime and Punishment

Tuesday – Kiera Andrews’ The Chimera Affair and The Argentine Seduction are being featured

Wednesday – Is all about Chris Quinton and her futuristic vampire series Fool’s Odyssey, with a review of the third book Fool’s Rush

ThursdayThe Gentleman and the Rogue by J.K. Pendragon is on tap

and finally,

Friday – is all about Kiera Andrews and Leta Blake’s fairy tale Earthly Desires (Tempting Tales, Book One)

Have a great week, and happy reading!

Storm Moon Press

On Daydreams and Dragonriders – Please Welcome E.R. Karr & “Dracones”

We at The Novel Approach are happy to be able to play host today to author E.R. Karr, one of the contributing authors in Storm Moon Press’s newest anthology Dracones, a compilation of stories that “brings together seven stories detailing the power and majesty of a dragon’s love.” So, without further ado, take it away, E.R.!


Hi, all! E. R. Karr here. My story “Two in the Bush” in Dracones is my first Storm Moon Press publication – which really is only fitting, since a short story about dragons is how I became an SFF fan and writer to begin with.

I’d always loved science fiction and fantasy, long before I knew what it was – A Wrinkle in Time and The Chronicles of Narnia were some of my favorite books as a child; but I didn’t realize that these belonged to a greater genre. One of my other favorite books was an anthology of sci-fi stories that for some unknown reason had been shelved in the children’s section of my local small-town library. The first story in the collection was Anne McCaffrey’s “The Smallest Dragonboy”. I had never heard of Pern or read about dragons like these, but I loved the story; I checked out the anthology a dozen times to reread it.

Imagine my thrill the day I wandered into the library’s sci-fi section and came across an old paperback copy of Dragonflight. “Book 1 of The Dragonriders of Pern”, the cover proclaimed—not just an entire novel, but an entire series of novels, about the dragons I loved!

I must have read the original Dragonriders trilogy half a dozen times in the first year I discovered it; to this day, there are passages I can quote from memory. It was my gateway into scifi and fantasy. Lured to that most fascinating section of the library, I devoured Tolkien, Asimov, Le Guin, Adams, Card, and dozens of others. But of all the new worlds opened to me, Pern was my favorite. I was twelve, a shy, awkward, unpopular kid (and oblivious like we all are then to how everyone else was as shy, awkward, and unpopular as myself) and Pern, with its friendly dragons and their special chosen riders, was my first, best escapism. I doodled fire lizards in the margins of my school notebooks, had nightmares about Threadfall, and, of course, daydreamed about Impressing a queen dragon of my own. I didn’t have a clue how to be a cool kid, but I was sure appearing on the playground astride a fifty-foot gold dragon wouldn’t hurt my reputation any!

While I’m still a SFF fan, it’s been years since I’ve read any Pern books; my tastes have grown and changed over the years, as have the worlds I choose to escape to. (And, to be honest, I’m a little nervous about trying to go back and finding I don’t fit there anymore.) But dragons are still my favorites of the entire mythological menagerie, and for all their ferocious nature in so many stories, I can’t help but prefer more hopeful fantasies: dragons not as man’s enemy but allies and friends—or even more than that! So I was excited to hear about Dracones, and the opportunity it offered for exploring more, hmm, advanced dragon-human relations.

It was inevitable that Pern would inform my own story, though the dragons in “Two in the Bush” are worlds away from McCaffrey’s genetically engineered Thread-fighters. These dragons are on our Earth, though hidden and secret, and they are of magic, not science: immortal, immensely powerful beings almost as old as life on this planet, more easily mistaken for gods than monsters. Though Ferdie (he picked his name himself!) is the exception that proves the rule: he’s young, curious, and as fascinated by people as so many of us are with dragons, risking his power and his life in order to live in vulnerable human form. And it’s the human, not the dragon, who’s the telepath in their partnership—David happens to be psychic, which is very handy in the private eye business, but can make things complicated when it comes to personal relationships. Especially when your lover is a young dragon with limited magic and even more limited common sense.

But while Ferdie may not breathe much fire and David prefers to get around in fuel-efficient hatchbacks rather than on dragonback, in their way, they’re as closely bonded as any dragon and rider. This bond will be put to the test in “Two in the Bush”, wherein Ferdie and David discover that going camping in the woods with a dragon means you have a lot more to worry about than mosquitos, moose, or burnt marshmallows…

I hope you enjoy the story, and the rest of the anthology! (And if you ever happen to get hold of an extra fire lizard egg, or are invited to a weyr Hatching… drop me a line?)

E.R. Karr was born in Boston and raised in small-town Massachusetts, and she read The Dragonriders of Pern at an impressionable age. She has two cats, three housemates, and a computer named Rupert, upon which she is currently working on more stories doing terrible and annoying things to characters who probably don’t deserve it. She rather enjoys living in the future (though she still secretly is waiting for her gold queen to hatch). Her latest short story, “Two in the Bush”, can be found in Storm Moon Press’ Dracones anthology. Get your copy today!

Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia

A Question Of Morality And Much Navel-Gazing On My Part

Morality: (noun) conformity to the rules of right conduct; virtue in sexual matters; the quality of being in accord with standards of right or good conduct; a system of ideas of right and wrong conduct.

Conduct: (noun) a mode or standard of personal behavior especially as based on moral principles; personal behavior; way of acting; bearing or deportment.

Misperception: (noun) to understand or perceive incorrectly; a false perception; a mistaken belief, idea or interpretation about something.

Since the Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia is still going strong, at least for the next three days, I thought it would be fitting to take this opportunity to celebrate the landmark vote yesterday that has ended the ban on openly gay young men in the Boy Scouts of America. While this is indeed a victory and was a clear vote for progress, it is still somewhat tempered by the organization’s refusal to allow gay men to be troop leaders, but even small steps will still lead to big changes, and this is proof of it.

Before the vote had been taken, or the outcome announced, at least, I’d run across this Article, which has caused quite a lot of pondering on my part since I read it. First, I’m sure that there will be a lot of reactionary parents, and boys, too, who will desert the Boy Scouts because of the decision to lift the ban. That’s a reaction that has precedence, after all. I mean, look how many states wanted to secede from the union after the last election, my own included, much to my chagrin. I’m not saying it’s rational, but it is the way of human behavior when we don’t get what we want. We run off, pout, lick our wounds, and then we carry on to whine and overreact another day.

But what led to all the introspection after reading this article had nothing to do with the potential reaction to the outcome of the vote and everything to do with how this argument, this decision to end discrimination and allow all young men to achieve everything they are capable of within the realms of this organization, to realize every possible potential on their way to manhood, how…does being gay ever come down to a question of morality where these young men are concerned?

I have to say that when I read the headline, and then the quoted text about how our nation lacks moral standards, and that the BSA should remain an organization that parents can rely upon to uphold a sense of moral conduct, I had to stop and read that particular line again because, A.) I wondered when the Boy Scouts had become the moral authority in this country, and B.) I couldn’t believe that there was someone out there who actually believes that being gay is a question of morality. I must have missed the memo that outlined being gay as a behavior, as if it’s a choice rather than a matter of biology. Stealing another scout’s popcorn sale money = immoral. Cheating to earn a merit badge = immoral. Lying to make another scout look bad and to make oneself look the hero = immoral. Being gay? Nooooo. See, there’s a difference there.

Does being heterosexual consequently make a person more moral by default? Is heterosexuality an automatic pass to a spotless virtue? I’m sorry, but just typing those questions made me laugh a little bit, in a completely sarcastic and condescending kind of way. I’m simply unclear on all the ways a gay teen is any more or less capable of virtue than his straight peer. This misperception that, first of all, there have been NO gay boys involved in scouting over the past century is at best Pollyannaish and at worst, head-buried-in-the-sand naïve. But then to hold this truth to be self-evident: that all gay scouts will issue forth and become predatory cruisers of Troop 000, would be laughable if it weren’t so terribly, frustratingly disheartening to know that there are people out there who do believe that, very much.

I’m not sure how you all feel about it, but I don’t see this as a question of morals, unless, of course, you count prejudice and discrimination and judgment as immoral. Then, yes, it very much is a question of morality.

Allen Mack, Dreamspinner Press

Dorian’s Worlds – A Brave New World by Allen Mack

Freedom is the sure possession of those alone who have the courage to defend it. – Pericles

On Earth, sometime in a future that we all should hope never materializes, there is a caste system in which the aged are venerated and the young are relegated to a role of subservience that ignores their humanity and elevates their status as objects to be manipulated, molded, and bound in servitude. It is a hierarchy of slavery, one in which homosexuality and bisexuality are encouraged not because the world is a more enlightened place but as a way to control the population growth of the lower classes. Things are about to change, though; there is about to be a paradigm shift that will become a catalyst for revolution.

Dorian’s Worlds is that future realm, and Dorian is the young man who, along with his friends and fellow rebels Bryn and Lasa, will lead Workers in a rebellion to take control of their lives and of the bodies they’ve been taught are for nothing but the sexual pleasure of the elders.

This is a story that shows how society may attempt to strip a man of his free will, but how it cannot strip him of his will to be free. It’s a story of a man’s fight to reclaim his soul and his Self, and to fight for all those who, like him, want nothing more than to be the master of his own destiny. And, in the end, it is a story of honor and of sacrifice for the greater good so those who will come after him will know the meaning of freedom and what it means to live rather than to merely exist.

I really liked the premise of this story, as well as the sci-fi elements and world building that happened in the relatively limited time frame. The setting is a dystopian future, not of the landscape but of the humanscape, which is a chilling prospect itself. Dorian, as a hero who becomes the venerated patriarch of a brave new world, was a blend of innocence, cynicism, and a fierce determination to fight for the greater good, and I found myself rooting for him every step of his brief but significant quest.

There is only one thing I can say I wish I could’ve been given a glimpse of at the end, and that’s to know what became of Bryn, the man Dorian comes to love, after the series of events that lead to the conclusion of Dorian’s story. I missed playing witness to his thoughts, feelings, and reactions to the story’s climax, during and after it’d run its course, but otherwise can say I enjoyed Allen Mack’s pioneer journey into futuristic fantasy.

You can buy Dorian’s Worlds here:

Amazon Digital Services, Anyta Sunday, Self-Published

My Thoughts On Lenny And Lenny For Your Thoughts by Anyta Sunday

Being together, we harm nobody; being apart, we extinguish ourselves. – Tabitha Suzuma

Leonard Krause is in the process of moving away from the past. Forward, after all, is the only direction he can move when the single reason he’d even think to cling to what once was has abandoned him. There’s no point really in trying to hang on to the years that were, or try to hang on to all the memories, when all they can possibly do, especially the good ones, is end in pain.

Lenny’s in the process of moving from the village of Waldau to the city of Berlin, but there are a few things he must factor into the equation before he can complete the transition from past to future, the most important being that he must make the move as uneventful for his oma as he possibly can, which means he must manufacture as much of the present for her as he’s able to within the walls of their new home. The move will also bring him closer to his best friend Ben and his sister Carolyn, not to mention it will keep him away from his cousin Julien, the cause of poor Lenny’s broken heart.

Lenny For Your Thoughts is the story of four childhood friends, told in chapters alternating between the present and the past and allowing the reader to live through all the events and secrets and dreams that led Lenny and Julien directly up to the point that Julien betrayed Lenny and broke his heart.

If I thought I was going to have a difficult time accepting a romantic relationship between these two men related by blood—which, if I’m being honest, I thought I might—Anyta Sunday quickly put my fears to rest by creating characters whose journeys forged bonds that went far beyond family and friendship and delved into a sole-baring kinship. (And yes, it’s spelled correctly. :) You’ll get that charming little detail of the story when you read the book. )

This is the story of the taboo relationship between two cousins who spent years falling in love with each other and moments falling apart, thanks in large part to Julien’s mother but made just as difficult by the fear of rejection from everyone they love. But, in the end, when all thoughts and feelings were accounted for, when things were done and said that couldn’t be undone or unsaid, it was Julien’s denial of Lenny that caused the greatest harm.

I adored this book and the attention the author gave to each moment that led to the culmination of Lenny and Julien’s love story. Oma was such a surprising treat, and Ben and Carolyn both got their own happy endings too, which was a nice compliment to the conflict in Lenny and Julien’s relationship. Before I knew it, I’d become nearly as invested in the supporting role players as I was in the story’s MCs.

Lenny For Your Thoughts is, at its heart, a story of rejection and redemption, a story of revelation and second chances, and ultimately, it is a story of the unstoppable force that is love, which is a concept I’ll gladly buy into, especially when it’s told by and for characters I’ve grown to love.

You can buy Lenny For Your Thoughts here:

Allison Cassatta, Dreamspinner Press

When A Kiss Speaks Louder Than Words – Dear Diary by Allison Cassatta

How did it happen that their lips came together? A kiss, and all was said. – Victor Hugo

Chris is a senior in high school, dressing for the prom and prepping to take that next big step away from childhood and into a new chapter of his life. Dear Diary is his story, a personal confession of the way he’d got to where he is—a boy who’s only recently been able to say out loud that he’s gay because he’s only just recently made the discovery; a boy who’s going to the prom with his ex-girlfriend; a boy who’s in love with Josh, the guy he met at his summer internship at a law firm.

Chris begins recording an audio diary of the events that led to him meeting Josh, and then the epiphany that Sarah was not the person he was meant be with because Josh made Chris feel feels he never thought it possible to feel for anyone, let alone a another guy.

This is the story of a first kiss, not the first kiss ever, but the first kiss that ever mattered. It’s the story of the way Chris panicked and Josh apologized and when Chris came back for more, Josh panicked and Chris took another step toward revelation. And then they kissed again and it was a kiss that spoke all the truths that words could never hope to express.

It’s the story of a first fight and of being man enough to answer for the choices made when the first blushes of love cause a boy to think with his heart rather than his head. And finally, it’s a story of unconditional love and acceptance.

Allison Cassatta’s Dear Diary is an introduction to two characters I’m so anxious to spend more time getting to know. There were some clever little evasions in this first entry in the Dear Diary series that lead to a sweet and heartwarming end for Chris and Josh. Or, rather, that lead to a sweet and heartwarming beginning, which the author delivered in a hard-to-resist way.

You can buy Dear Diary here:

Dreamspinner Press, Poppy Dennison

Poppy Dennison Delivers A Little Magic For The Reader’s Soul In Soul Magic (Triad #3)

Love and magic have a great deal in common. – Nora Roberts

So after reading and reviewing Creature Feature, I was a little intrigued about the paranormal business in the m/m romance genre. I had heard quite a bit about the “Magic” series by Dennison and when Soul Magic came across the review list, I thought it was time to delve into this genre. I started with the first book in the series, Mind Magic, and progressed to Body Magic before diving into Soul Magic.

Now I realize that many of you are scratching your heads and probably questioning my credibility since I confessed that paranormal just wasn’t my cup of tea, and are wondering for someone who doesn’t like it he sure did read three books in two weeks time. While I may not be a full convert just yet, let me just say that this series is just that good.

The series follows a mage, Simon, who from all accounts is a very beloved and rightfully so character in the series. Simon falls in love and becomes the alpha mate of Gray the alpha of a local werewolf pack. There are many supporting characters in this delectable series, but all three books find themselves centered in one way or another around Simon and Gray. Dennison takes three kinds of magic—mind, body and soul—and weaves them into her tale of her two main characters. Their struggle to find love and how the other characters find love and all of them deal and relate to the magical gifts bestowed upon them is well told and makes for a wonderful, hopeful, and incredible story.

The fact that each story can stand on it’s own is a tour de force by Dennison, but even more so is how intricate and seamless the three books work together. It is a remarkable series that if one is a fan of paranormal romance or not is well worth reading.

Soul Magic, the culmination of this series does a remarkable job of finishing the story that Dennison industriously set out to tell. The climax of how the three different magic’s work together is a scene in the book that I could not stop reading. The culmination scene for me ranks up there with the best of the best of any series including “the little sorcerer who could and shall not be named.”

I love a good romance story, but to be honest I like my romance to have substance. I like my books to have a story to tell. Yes romance for the sake of romance is a well-known pattern of storytelling in the vein of soap operas and Harlequin romances, but I like knowing that the romance and the love have a purpose. I like seeing how it interacts in people’s lives and how the world is affected by such love. When that is interposed with a truly great story, it makes for a delicious read. That is what Soul Magic and the other two books in the series accomplish. It is worth anyone’s time to give this wonderful book and series a try.

Reviewed by: Bruce

You can buy Soul Magic (Triad #3) here:

Brandon Shire, Self-Published

The Book That Brought Me To Tears, And The Author Who Did It – Please Welcome Brandon Shire

We have the rest of forever for regret… – Brandon Shire

Lem Porter is nearly two decades into the life sentence he was given for committing cold-blooded murder, but only he knows why he committed that crime and, let’s face it, at six-foot-six and nearly three-hundred pounds, there aren’t a lot of people who have the courage to challenge Lem for the answers he’s not willing to give. Not yet, at least.

Enter Anderson Passero, who couldn’t be a greater contradiction in terms of his likeness to Lem. Anderson was convicted of selling drugs in the night club he owned with his partner, Jacob, and whether Anderson was wholly complicit in the affairs that led to his arrest, or he merely was caught in the crossfire of greed and arrogance, it didn’t matter in the end. He was convicted, albeit it to a lesser crime than Jacob, and he is now at the tail end of his ten year sentence. Just eight more months to serve, then he’s finally free to begin reassembling some sort of life outside his prison walls.

When the beacon of light at the end of Anderson’s very dark and very long journey begins to grow brighter with each day that passes, the single goal in his life is to keep his head down and his nose clean, striving to bypass any hint of drama that might throw a hitch into his imminent release, and that means avoiding any entanglements or encounters that might lead him to trouble. One of the numerous negative aspects about prison, however, is that no matter how far out of the way a man may go to avoid it, trouble, when it’s determined enough, will always find a way. And it’s trouble of the potentially disastrous sort that ultimately brings Lem and Anderson together, this trouble in the form of a cold and sadistic man who takes an intense interest in a very unwilling Anderson, something that leads to a multitude of problems for Anderson and Lem both, though it will bond them irrevocably to each other, for better or for worse, through fear and lust, and through longing and regrets.

There’s an inherent tragedy to the story of two men who form an intimate bond with each other within a setting that affords so very little opportunity for true or lasting intimacy, especially when circumstances provide the ultimate conflict of desires, but Brandon Shire capitalizes on this facet of the prison drama, skillfully feasting upon and serving up to the reader all the heartache and yearning Anderson and Lem have for something more than is possible for them to hope for. Cold is a book that is sometimes frightening and sometimes heartbreaking, a complex love story that is a contrast of thoughts and feelings. It’s a book about loss–the loss of freedom, the loss of choice, the loss of trust and privacy, the loss of connection–that left me anxious and hopeful and yearning for more from these characters.

I don’t mind confessing that the end of this book left me in tears, but take heart: there is a sequel in the works, so let’s thank the Muses that Mr. Shire is brave enough to pursue some of those questions that Lem, dear dichotomous Lem, has so adamantly refused to answer just now. The fact that the author was capable of making Lem a sympathetic character is truly impressive; the fact that he was capable of making me yearn for a happy ending for Anderson and Lem is nothing less than pitch-perfect storytelling.

Click on the image for buy links:


Thanks so much for taking the time to answer a few questions about Cold, Brandon. Bruce and I are honored to have you with us today.

Q.) What inspired you to write a prison drama?

A: There were multiple elements that made me chose prison as a backdrop.

The two MC’s in the story are so completely different that it would be highly unlikely they would mix ‘in the real world.’ So there had to be an element that would place them together and really force them to look beyond the stereotypes they had built. Ironically, this becomes a self-examination about the idea of compatibility and how they view a potential partner. It’s a struggle for both of them.

The subtext in that was also designed to challenge the reader’s view of what is just and unjust, who is viewed as a ‘prisoner’ and who as a ‘human’. I think this will be challenged much more when we find out why Lem killed his brother in the next book.

Q.) Did you base Lem’s and Anderson’s crimes and/or characters on any real-world events or people?

A: Anderson was easy. Drug abuse within the LGBT community is very high, so you could pick out any number of people that you think might be on their way to prison if they don’t get themselves straightened out and there would be Anderson sitting in front of you. For Lem, who was a convicted murderer, I had a consultant who spent over 20 years in prison for the same charge. A lot of what we spoke about is reflected within his character.

Q.) Was one character more difficult to write than the other? If so, was that Lem or Anderson, and why?

A: I would have to say Lem, because he is such a big, quiet, gentle man that it was hard to draw him out of his shell enough to speak to me (and thus to Anderson.) But while persuading him to give us that information, it was impossible not to see his dark side too, which is, honestly, scary.

Q.) Were there any built-in difficulties in writing a book set within the limited confines of prison walls?

A: (Laughs) Yes, the sex. From what my consultant told me the shower is the main area for sexual activity because it is one of the only places where you are allowed some privacy. You can only do so many shower scenes in a book. :)

Q.) How long did it take you to write the book?

A: From first word to publication, about six months. That is the usual with all my writing. The longest I ever spent on a book was ten years (because the subject matter was so hard.)

Q.) In spite of Lem’s crimes, I found him to be such a sympathetic character. Did you ever find yourself wondering, as you were writing the book, if you were succeeding in achieving, or maybe I should say tipping, that balance in the right direction?

A: I spent many, many hours talking to my consultant, and we have become close friends. I think in our current society we are too quick on judgment. The crap you see on television doesn’t encompass the real people behind the hyped up media stories. That’s not to say that people don’t deserve punishment for crimes, but that they should still be viewed as people first.

Q.) Do you have any works-in-progress you’d like to share a little bit about with readers?

A: I’ll be working on a follow-up novel for COLD, though I have no idea what the title will be at this point. When I first started writing, the intent was for a single novel, but the muse had different ideas. I also have several sci-fi novels in the works. The novels are complete but fans have asked that I convert the characters to reflect a broader spectrum of the LGBTQ rainbow. And there is more romance coming too.

Q.) Where can readers find you on the internet?

A: Just about anywhere except Facebook. My website is brandonshire.com and there are links to all my social media outlets. Fans have also created a group on Goodreads and anyone is welcome to join. I stop in often.

Allen Mack, Allison Cassatta, Anyta Sunday, Brandon Shire, Poppy Dennison, Storm Moon Press

What’s Coming Up This Week?

Here’s what Bruce and I have on tap for the week ahead!

Monday – Brandon Shire will be our guest, answering a few questions about his new book Cold, a book that definitely left me wanting more!
Tuesday – Bruce reviews Poppy Dennison’s Soul Magic, book 3 in the Triad series
Wednesday – Allison Cassatta’s Dear Diary will be the featured review of the day
Thursday – Brings a little Lenny For Your Thoughts by Anyta Sunday
FridayDorian’s World, Allen Mack’s foray into futuristic Alt U, is on tap
Saturday – Storm Moon Press will be our guest with a post for the upcoming Dracones anthology

Happy reading and have a fantastic week!

Eric Arvin, Wilde City Press

Eric Arvin Will Make You Believe In The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men

If you reveal your secrets to the wind you should not blame the wind for revealing them to the trees. – Kahlil Gibran

There’s a single line in Eric Arvin’s The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men that, if I were being lazy, I’d use to sum up exactly what this book is and leave it at that: “It felt like a dream, an illusion ended before the mind could piece it all together.”

There. Now you know everything you need to know about this grand and glorious novel. Wait. You know two things now because, yes, it was like an illusive waking dream, but it was indeed also grand and glorious. It was epic in only the way parables and mythology and fairy tales of the battle between good and evil can be, and it’s a book that fed all my nerd-girl reading fantasies.

The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men is a walk through the valley of the shadow of death, where animals speak and the forest is enchanted, where magic and faithcraft contest the encroachment of the Outside World, and where superstition and science wrestle with zealotry and spirituality. It is a valley where a chapel resides on poisoned ground, as those who are called there are swallowed into the very bowels of its corruption. It is a place where a famine of birds has allowed a plague of bugs, a place where the Angel of Death lurks in the treetops and keeps an ever watchful eye upon the few remaining souls there. It is a place where God and Gaia have yet to find a way to peacefully coexist.

The river valley is the place where sacrifice and grief walk hand in hand with fate and destiny—the fate of what is meant to happen, the destiny of where that event must lead—where the renunciation of love is at worst a death sentence and at best a decent into madness. It is a place where the trinity—the three that replace one as the symbol of power—will stand together and emerge victorious so that they may have hope for the generations to come.

The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men is a story of hope and faith and of courage, in which courage doesn’t mean an absence of fear but is the sort of bravery a man sometimes finds when he feels he has nothing left to lose.

It’s a book that feeds the imagination and is a feast for every reader who loves the sort of prose that flows poetically through a world that is just on the other side of extraordinary. It is symbolic and supernatural and is the sort of book that makes me want to celebrate my love of reading. It’s one of the more unique books I’ve read in a very long time and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.

You can buy The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men here:

Agnes Merikan, Storm Moon Press

Matthew Powers Lives To Tell His Story – A Guest Post From Agnes Merikan (Half The Writing Duo K.A. Merikan)

The moment my co-author and I decided to submit a manuscript for Storm Moon Press’s Queer Fear anthology, we knew it would touch upon the topic of conversion therapy. “Matthew Powers Lives!” may be a ghost story, but at its core is the fear of being denied the right to express the fundamental part of one’s personality that is sexuality.

Western societies have a shameful tradition of condemning atypical sexual behavior. Throughout the Middle Ages, all the way ’til the French Revolution, homosexuality was universally considered a sin and a criminal act, which in some countries was punishable by death. The first person referring to it as an illness was Auguste Ambroise Tardieu, who claimed exclusively homosexual men suffered from a form of insanity. This view was then popularized by German activists such as Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, who contributed to an explosion of scientific and pseudo-scientific theories of what caused homosexuality. The views on the topic polarized and ranged from acceptance of homosexuality as a variation of human behavior, to viewing it as a defect virtually impossible to cure, to continuous attempts to produce an effective form of therapy.

Regardless of the numerous negative outcomes of the medicalization of homosexuality we still see today, this new viewpoint left room for compassion. The 1919 German silent movie “Different from the others” told the story of a homosexual man whose life is being ruined by blackmail. The film was co-written by sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld and included educational scenes where the doctor himself explains homosexuality, dismissing the need to condemn or “cure” it. The movie ended with a meaningful sequence of a hand crossing out the paragraph that criminalized homosexual behavior from an open law book, but the plot also included a committed gay relationship, coming out, and parental reactions to their son’s sexuality. Pretty modern, if you ask me.

Unfortunately, the majority of professionals saw these matters in a completely different light. This period is most known for psychoanalytic interpretations of homosexuality, but many physicians believed that it might be caused by hormonal imbalance, or other physical defects. Those theories produced bizarre treatments such as rectal massage, or bladder washing, but some physicians went as far as castrating their patients or transplanting the testicles of heterosexual men into the homosexual men. Both castration and testosterone therapy are still being used as elements of conversion therapy, though in the less invasive form of pills.

Despite the popularity of Alfred Kinsey‘s publications and cross-cultural research that made it clear homosexuality is relatively widespread and natural, in 1952, the American Psychiatric Association included it in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, contributing to the development of various forms of conversion therapy. At this time, behaviorism was all the rage, and within this movement, homosexuality was seen as an undesirable behavior that could be reconditioned, most often by aversive means.

It is reflected in the story we have written for the Queer Fear anthology. Trapped between reality and the spirit world, Matt relives the experiences of a deceased patient, going through some of the treatments he had to endure against his will. The therapy was aimed to make an association between undesirable arousal and pain, so electric shocks or nausea-inducing drugs would be used during screenings of homoerotic pictures. Later, mental health professionals also started using masturbatory reconditioning, which is exactly what it sounds like: the patient would masturbate while watching heterosexual content. Other behavioral methods of reconditioning homosexuality included visualizations and social skills training (because, apparently, gay people developed them in a wrong way). As effective as the use of behavioral principles can be in certain situations, it is a stretch to try to meddle with one of the basic human drives. Trying to interfere with someone’s sexuality isn’t much different from attempting to condition them to take dietary advice from Bear Grylls. Wouldn’t kill you, but… why would you do that to yourself?

Taunting is another thing our main character has to endure. Most of the time, it is the byproduct of power, but that isn’t always the case. An extreme example of therapy gone off the rails was the collection of methods of Edmund Bergler, who used punishments, bullying, and broke patient confidentiality. Unfortunately, humiliation and guilting are very often used by modern “homosexuality therapists”, particularly those whose views are based in religion. Patients have been reported to be forced to clean toilets with toothbrushes, bathe in icy water, or even be exorcised.

Some forms of therapy claim to be more humane. The basic idea behind reparative therapy (a program developed by Elisabeth Moberly and Joseph Nicolosi) is the need to condition a person to perform the “correct” gender role. For a male, this involves playing sports, while avoiding “effeminate” activities, such as attending the opera, and favoring male company over female (unless it’s for dating). Patients are expected to attend church and group therapy and subsequently become (hetero)sexually active and start a family. This kind of therapy was pointedly mocked in the 1999 movie “But I’m a Cheerleader”. Megan is sent into a gay rehab facility that looks as fake as its methods are ineffective. The patients wear gender-coded uniforms (blue for men, pink for women) and participate in activities associated with gender stereotypes. The whole process is finalized with a simulated sexual act performed in Adam/Eve tricots, complete with fig leaves (and an extra flower for the girls).

The main character of “Matthew Powers Lives!” is proud of his sexuality, but confronted with the hate and fear still lingering in the walls of the abandoned asylum, he experiences them in a very visceral way, up to the point where he can’t differentiate them from his own feelings. It isn’t just about mental and physical torture, there is something very personal being ripped away from him. For me, the motif of moral values determining what constitutes goodness and personal happiness is a major fear factor, because this kind of approach ends up with training or guilt-tripping people into repressing their instincts. And there isn’t anything good or natural about that.

K.A. Merikan is a joint project of Kat and Agnes Merikan, who jokingly claim to share one mind. They finish each other’s sentences and simultaneously come up with the same ideas. Their latest short story, “Matthew Powers Lives!”, can be found in Storm Moon Press’ Queer Fear anthology. Follow them on Twitter @KA_Merikan and @AgnesMerikan.

Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia, Videos

We’re Hopping Against Homophobia And Transphobia, And Giving Away Goodies Too!

Hi, everyone, and thanks so much for visiting The Novel Approach during this year’s Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia. Today marks the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, and Bruce and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be participating in this event. It is our belief that this community-wide effort—and I’m not speaking solely about the LGBT community, but also about those of us who are proud to be allied and in partnership with the men and women of the community—is an integral part of illuminating the ways in which we share so many more commonalities than we do differences.

The Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network reported in its 2011 National School Climate Survey that eight out of ten LGBT students experienced verbal harassment because of their sexual orientation. But, among the key findings, “for the first time (in over a decade) the 2011 survey shows a significant decrease in victimization based on sexual orientation.” That’s heartening news and definitely a step in the right direction, but there’s still so far to go, so much misperception to be overcome, and so much more educating we can do, especially with our children.

When we decided to participate in the Hop, I’d just read This Article about Lucy Meadows, a transgendered teacher in England who’d committed suicide after the media took hold of and then ran with the story that she was transitioning, mid school year, from male to female; something, by the way, her school administrators fully supported her in. As you can see in the article, Lucy’s story ended tragically, but her death, though heartbreaking, has gone on to become a spotlight on transphobia and the ways in which she was so woefully misunderstood.

Lucy’s story is but one example of the many ways transgendered men and women, boys and girls, are marginalized every day, as is the case with Isaak Wolfe, a Pennsylvania high school student who made news, first for being denied the right to be added to his school’s Prom King ballot, then by being denied the right to have his natural identity printed on his diploma.

Being parents ourselves, Bruce and I began discussing our own families and the ways in which we and our spouses are attempting to raise our children to see beyond labels, and how so many adults tend to complicate the things that children see so innocently and so simply. As you could see in the poem written by one of Miss Meadows’ students, after her death, the emotional scarring of her children—the argument that some of the parents hid behind in an effort to reinforce their own prejudices and assuage their own fears—would most likely never have materialized. At least not for 7-year-old Daisy Moreton, who saw a loving and caring adult making a difference–no more, no less. It seems this was all a case of panic and misinformation, and rather than treating the subject with the clear and common sense attention it demanded, rather than choosing respect and communication with their children, parents allowed a child’s misunderstanding of the situation to prevail over an open dialogue of all the ways Miss Meadows would be the exact same loving and caring teacher, and how being transgendered or gay or lesbian or bisexual or pansexual… is not a choice but is simply the way a person is made, though for some reason, there are many who choose to make it into something far more convoluted than it needs to be—primarily because there are those who can’t seem to take the sex component out of a person’s sexuality, which, to put a very fine point on it, diminishes all the other things these relationships are outside of the bedroom. 970349_373883192717800_746898477_n

So, I asked Bruce if he would share his personal story, the story that both he and his husband Jacob lived, attempting to first conform to what society expected of them, then finally finding each other and building their family upon a foundation of faith, and of love and respect, both for each other and for their children. My question to Bruce was simply this: How did you and Jacob break the news to your children and help them understand your relationship when you began dating seriously?

This is the answer he so graciously shared:

Wow, that is a very tough question! Thinking back to having to tell our kids about us and our homosexuality brings back some very strong memories. Jacob and I had both come out of the closet and gone through painful divorces. Jacob’s daughter was very young, so not really aware of what was happening. My children were in 1st and 4th grades. I remember having to sit down and tell my children that I had always been gay but that I thought I could make it go away. I had lied about who I was to myself and everyone around me. I had to explain to them that I loved them and their mother very much, but I needed to be honest with myself so that I could stop living the lie and be happy.

With that conversation, also came the conversation about what being gay meant. My children were distraught about the dissolution of their family and of their parents’ marriage, but oddly enough took the whole gay thing in stride. We noticed very early on that the younger two really had no issue with the gay question with us, and often discussed it freely with their friends and teachers at school. I was fortunate that my son was at a school where it was not an issue. Unfortunately, at the time, Jacob’s daughter was at a school that, because she was so open about her daddies (it was just normal for her), she experienced not prejudice from her friends but from her teachers. We quickly moved her over to the same open-minded school that my two children were attending once we found this information out.

Bruce and JacobMy daughter, who is the oldest, at first was a little reserved about who she informed about the daddy situation, but oddly enough, as she got older she has become a very staunch and vocal supporter. We have had to counsel the children that in our conservative neck of the woods, it is best that they not hide their daddy’s situation but not openly volunteer information either. As my daughter progressed to a conservative Catholic high school, we have had to be careful to not be too public since we have felt that she could be removed from school for having two gay dads.

My son, who is in public high school, has also had to learn to censor himself to a degree from what he had experienced at his accepting Episcopal school. Though we have stressed to the children that there is nothing to be ashamed of, nor should we hide our family, Jacob and I have had to be protective of the kids. We have to let them judge and decide who they feel safe letting know about their two gay dads.

My son, unfortunately, has suffered the brunt of homophobia in the form of he has to be careful who he can invite, or not invite, to the house. His best friend was and is forbidden to visit our house. Jacob and I are very proud of our family, and even though we often feel like the only gay family in the village, we are proud to be seen with our normal, happy family. I think that is the best way that we have combated homophobia in our small conservative Texas town. We go about living our lives, and as a physician and college professor with three very active, involved children, we are anything but unseen. We go about our lives and show people that we eat out, we attend church, we attend recitals and soccer games. I think once others in town have seen that it’s really not a big deal, and that they have seen we really are no different than any other family, it has become no big deal in our community.

I guess when I think about homophobia, I go back to a quote I heard early on in my own coming out process. “The problem that people have about homosexuality is that they can’t stop imagining what happens behind closed doors.” That is the crux of homophobia, I believe. The homosexual act frightens them. When our children learned about homosexuality, they didn’t know about the sex. It was not an issue for them. They just knew they were now a part of a family with two men that loved and cared for them. I think that once others see that a homosexual family is no different than any other family, they then get beyond what’s going on behind closed doors and become accepting as well. It’s all about education and experience. Once their irrational fear is thrust in their faces, that Jacob and I aren’t parading around in rainbow Speedos and having sex in front of the children, they realize we are no different than any other family raising three children.

Thankfully our children are well-adjusted and happy children. Being part of a gay family has not destroyed their lives; instead, they are better off for it. We have three wonderful children who go to school, play sports, dance, go to summer camp, have friends over and live normal, successful lives. We are truly an American family and there has been no better weapon against homophobia than that, and that alone!

This opened up a broad range of discussion topics for us, a lot of them geared toward questions I had to think very long and very hard about, primarily because they were questions about how my husband and I are raising our kids in a socially liberal household, to be accepting of other people’s differences and to understand that we haven’t been put on this earth to judge but to show the compassion toward others that we want to have aimed at ourselves. We didn’t set out to consciously raise our kids to be tolerant free-thinkers—we didn’t bring our first-born home from the hospital and say, “Okay, these are the ground rules. Now, get out there and parent!” It’s just the way my husband and I are; instinctively, it’s the direction in which we’ve guided our kids because it’s the way we live, the way we believe; it’s the faith we have that love and kindness and empathy will always overcome hatred and intolerance, and that marriage equality in no way would diminish our own marriage or family, but would only serve to broaden and strengthen the definition of marriage as a whole, as well as family, love, and commitment.

The more Bruce and I talked, the more it became evident that his and Jacob’s three children are very much like my husband’s and my three kids, especially our oldest, both daughters, who are nothing less than champions of those who need support and friendship the most. We are, all of us, raising six children who we pray will be the difference-makers going forward. These six kids, and so many more like them, will be the generation that sets about affecting a broad-spectrum change in society’s views on homosexuality and transgenderism. History proves that prejudice will always be a factor in the way some people see others, but it’s also true that there is strength in numbers, and we are adding to that strength every day. We’re trying, along with so many other parents out there just like us, to foster a future of acceptance, with the hope that someday, we will be the norm rather than the exception.

Thank you again for visiting with us today! We hope you’ll leave a comment not only because you’ll be entered to win some great gear but because you’d like to share your stories with us about your own experiences. :)

**And now for the contest! For the duration of the Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia, May 17-27, 2013, we’re offering the chance for TWO lucky commenters to win their choice of gear (Up to $25 value per winner) at any one of the following sites:

The Trevor Project
It Gets Better

All you have to do is leave a comment right here, along with your email address, before 11:59pm Pacific Time (2:59am Eastern), on May 27, 2013, and you’ll automatically be entered to win.

Prize drawing will be held on May 28, 2013 and the winner selected via Random.org. Please remember, an email address is necessary for us to be able to contact you!

Thanks so much for stopping by, and good luck!**


Dreamspinner Press, Ellen Holiday

Ellen Holiday proves that Small Miracles Can Make Big Differences

A gentle word, a kind look, a good-natured smile can work wonders and accomplish miracles. – William Hazlitt

When life has done its best to kick you, leave you out in the cold with nowhere—or no one—to turn to, sometimes even the smallest of kindnesses can feel like a miracle.

Cal Harrison knows this because he’s learned it the hard way, living on the streets, sleeping under bridges, begging for food and loose change, trying to find day-work that will at least give him enough coin for a meal at McDonalds. To say that Cal is at the lowest ebb of his life doesn’t go far enough to describe where he is at the moment he ducks into a neighborhood bar during a torrential downpour, hoping for nothing more than a few minutes to try and warm up before he’s forced to leave.

Matt Kirkland is a man who is about as far on the opposite spectrum of Cal’s brand of luck as a man can be, having just landed a deal that transformed him from just another unknown member of the masses who’d happened to create a social website into an internet mogul, not to mention a very wealthy man, nearly overnight. Matt is one of those men whose star is rising but whose head and feet are still planted very much on the ground, and when he happens to be in the bar the day that Cal wanders in, it’s a moment that will change both of their lives in significant ways.

Matt sees something in Cal that can only be explained by way of miracles. The man is cold, wet, hungry, grimy, bordering on skeletal, and just about as odorous as a man can be, yet when Matt sees him all he wants is to know Cal better, to buy him a meal and a hot cup of coffee and show Cal that the world can be a little less cruel, if only Cal will accept Matt’s offer of help. The only problem is that in Cal’s experience, charity never comes without a price, and that’s a price he’s not willing to pay. He’s survived this long without having to sell himself for a warm shower and a few bucks. He’s not about to start doing it now, regardless of how attractive the idea might be.

Ellen Holiday’s Small Miracles is a warm and uplifting story about a man who wants to give and a man who is unwilling—and let’s face it, terrified—to grab hold of what’s being offered. Nothing comes without a price in Cal’s vast experience, not even miracles, and he’s a firm believer in the fact that Fate and the kindness that has been done to him isn’t something he can pin his hopes on without it being torn away from him just as he’s learned to depend upon it.

This is a story of a man who will go to any length to prove his sincerity, to prove that what he has to offer isn’t merely a bed for a night but is the gift of warmth and friendship and kindness and hopefully, in the end, something so much more.

Having read and very much liked this author’s Inside the Beltway, I think it’s safe to say I’ve cottoned on to her storytelling style and the brand of romance she offers. I wanted very much for Matt to be able to touch that part of Cal that’d been taught that trust and hope leads to pain and disappointment, that life was nothing but a series of raw deals, and when it finally happened, on Cal’s terms, I found myself wishing that the story had lasted just a few pages more, to see where Cal and Matt went after The End.

You can buy Small Miracles here:

Upworthy, Videos

This May Be One Of The Most Difficult 3:34 Minutes I’ve Ever Sat Through

But it’s tangible proof that children are eloquent and powerful and should have a voice!

Dreamspinner Press, Mary Calmes

When Love Goes Still by Mary Calmes

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. – Seneca

Sivan Cruz and Walter Wainright are at the end of their beginning—the end of a marriage that had languished through years of raising a family, building careers, and going through the emotional and physical mimicking of a relationship that had long ago ceased to be a communion and had, over the years, become little more than a collaboration of convenience, more tedious than torrid.

Siv and Walter’s story is one that’s all too familiar, the story of two people who begin a new life with each other amidst the heat of attraction, and before all is said and done, it’s that life that’s got in the way of the weaving of a connection between spouses, the part of the family dynamic that has nothing to do with children and careers and has everything to do with friendship and being attuned to each others needs. To say that Siv and Walter grew apart would be true enough, but it might be more accurate to say Siv and Walter never had the opportunity to grow together, given the way their affair began. There was so much promise there, so much to hope for. But in the end, great sex simply wasn’t enough to build a marriage on, nor was it enough to hold one together.

Separated and on their way to divorce, Sivan is all about moving forward now, moving on without Walter because that’s what you do when you fall out of love with someone you’ve spent nearly two decades of your life with. Walter, though… Walter loves Siv every bit as much as he always has, but what does a man do when he’s the sort who speaks in actions and not words? He lets Siv go, that’s what, because he doesn’t know how to say, “Please, don’t leave.” Ironic for a lawyer whose job it is to argue in the face of every challenge.

Still is a beautiful story that begins at the end and ends at the beginning. It’s a story that shows how easily love can go still but not cease to exist. It’s a book that shows how easy it is to still love someone in spite of the belief you’re much better off without him.

This story touched my heart, made me a little sad, if I’m being altogether honest, but knowing this was a story written by Mary Calmes, I never lost faith she’d eventually steer Siv and Walter to their happy ending, and would take me along for the ride.

You can by Still here:

Loose Id, Mercy Celeste, Self-Published

In Which I’ve Discovered That Having Mercy Is A Really Good Thing – Behind Iron Lace & The 51st Thursday by Mercy Celeste

No man is rich enough to buy back his past. – Oscar Wilde

Darcy Butler moved from Oregon to New Orleans, following the woman he’s been in an on-again-off-again relationship with for the past decade. It’s a new beginning for the online magazine he’s made a success of, even while the economy has made it difficult to build a business, and Darcy’s friendship with Bailey, one that happens to occasionally include sex, is a habit he’s formed over the years, so following her didn’t necessarily make sense as much as it was just a case of abiding the status quo. It’s a relationship that has become a convenient crutch for Darcy, but it’s about to become painfully obvious that he’s been wasting far too much time living a lie.

Landing an interview with award winning photographer and artist Caleb Mitchell was a stroke of good fortune and exactly what the magazine needs—Caleb’s vision and talent to help revamp the graphic art department and take the publication to the next level of polished professionalism. But, oh, Caleb is far from a polished professional. He’s a sublimely seductive, smooth talking French Cajun, whisper that in my ear one more time, bebe! sex god, and he takes an immediate interest in the very straight, very staid Darcy, something Darcy isn’t at all flattered by or interested in exploring.

Until, of course, he is.

Darcy has never been interested in men, and outside of Bailey, has never been particularly interested in women either. Mediocre sex is all he’s familiar with, so he has no idea there’s any other way for it to be. But Caleb is eager to seduce the man he can’t seem to keep his eyes or hands or lips off of, and eventually, he smooth talks his way behind Darcy’s walls of resistance, obliterating Darcy’s belief in his heterosexuality and blurring the lines between what’s lust and what could grow into so much more in the space of just a few days, and proving beyond all reasonable argument that sex and mediocrity don’t belong in the same frame of reference.

The sex these two guys partake in is about as hot and steamy as the city of New Orleans herself, though Darcy grows much fonder of one than the other, which is a conflict that bubbles just beneath the surface of whatever it is that’s going on between these two men. Their story is complicated by lots of drama and doubt and ghosts of the past that hang on like a miasma of self-abuse, the kind of pain that won’t allow for anything like peace. It’s a torment that Caleb eventually misuses as a weapon against Darcy and one that nearly ruins everything they could need or want from each other.

Four hours. That’s exactly how much sleep I got while I was reading this book. I didn’t want to put it down; then once I did, I think I must’ve dreamt about it because I couldn’t wait to wake up and start reading it again. I’d be lying if I said Caleb didn’t make me want to go all Gomez Addams on him every time he spoke. (And if you get that reference, give yourself a pat on the back.) Basically, I wanted to attack him with my lips. I know, that sounds a little scary weird, but it’s truthiness wrapped in weirdity, so there you go.

I really, really liked this story a lot, though, for reasons that go beyond my obsession with Caleb and Darcy. I loved the struggle and the tragedy and the passion and the rage inherent in their relationship, as they fought not only each other but the things that’d already happened, things they couldn’t change, but things that intruded on their relationship nonetheless, things that brought them to the breaking point and forced them to face the question of whether they could be together and build a future with each other.

You can buy Behind Iron Lace here:

Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain. – Vivian Greene

Shelby Bainbridge has made a habit of living his life the way everyone else, especially his Senator father, the same father who has presidential aspirations, has dictated he should live. Once a ‘Bama football star, now nothing more than the shell of a broken man, Shelby has made it a habit of showing up at Deacon’s Place every Thursday for the past year of Thursdays, for a few beers, and, if he’s lucky, to find a woman who’ll take him home and make him forget who he is and everything he’s lost for a little while.

Joe Deacon is the proprietor of Deacon’s Place, and has been watching Shelby, each and every one of those Thursdays, not knowing who he is or what his story is, though he knows it’s not a happy one. On the night a hurricane is bearing down upon the city of Mobile, Deacon doesn’t hold out much hope he’s going to see “Thursday” at all that night, something he realizes he’s come to count on, but he’s seriously underestimated just how much the “come-for-the-beer, stay-for-the-atmosphere” routine means to the man Deacon has taken an intense interest in.

Playing out against the threat of a storm the likes of which neither man has ever experience—and I’m not talking about the hurricane—Deacon and Thursday give in to their mutual attraction to each other, creating a firestorm of need and emotion that leaves them both reeling and causes Shelby to run away as soon as Mother Nature’s storm blows over.

There’s too much baggage and too much pressure weighing Shelby down to allow him to admit he wants Deacon for so much more than just that one night of passionate sex. It’s too much for him to process, knowing that if he’s outed it’s going to cause a shit-storm for his father’s presidential run, not to mention throw him and whomever he’s involved with into the media spotlight. It’s so much better that he hide from himself and from the truth that he’s gay than it is to deal with the repercussions. Or it would’ve been easier if Deacon were an easier man to resist.

The 51st Thursday is a story of passion with a side of tragedy mixed in, set against an atmosphere of longing and denial. It’s not a long story but it’s not lacking in emotion or a connection to the characters. This is one of those books that I finished and asked myself if I wish it’d been longer and can honestly say, maybe. Probably. But then again, it’s always that way with the characters I want to spend more time with.

You can buy The 51st Thursday here:

Angel Propps, Ann Anderson, Anna Hedley, Erik Moore, Harper Bliss, John Amory, K. Lynn, K. Piet, L. Alonso Corona, Lor Rose, Piper Vaughn, Raven de Hart, Rob Rosen, Storm Moon Press

Gay and Lesbian Coffee Break Quickies Is Shorthand Sex That’s Long On Subtext

Quickie: Syllabification: (quick•ie)
Pronunciation: /ˈkwikē/
a rapidly consumed alcoholic drink.
a brief act of sexual intercourse. – Source: Oxford American English Dictionary

And sometimes, quickies are had even in that order.

At any rate, we all know they’re that intense and spontaneous moment when foreplay is defined as the quickie: the sex is red-hot and is entirely about getting in, getting it on, and getting out before you get caught. Not to be confused with the nooner, the quickie’s less spontaneous cousin, these transactions of the hit-and-run variety, conducted online, in a cubicle, in the knee-space of a desk, or a locker room, are made all the more combustible by that element of danger in being caught with your pants down—quite literally—and ups the ante, turning the risks into a roleplayer in the game.

Storm Moon Press has gathered all that erotic potential and put it together in a compilation of short stories about sex in the workplace, which has nothing to do with harassment and everything to do with heating things up when the 9-to-5 gets altogether dull.

Thirteen authors have contributed their individual takes on workplace romance, and include:

Skype Wars by Rob Rosen (M/M)
Hands On by K. Piet (F/F)
One Week by L. Alonso Corona (M/M)
Working Lunch by Ann Anderson (F/F)
Personal Assistance by K. Lynn (M/M)
She’s the Boss by Angel Propps (F/F)
The New Guy by John Amory (M/M)
Stair Walking by Harper Bliss (F/F)
1-800-Boredom by Raven de Hart (M/M)
Fair Play by Anna Hedley (M/M)
His Non-Existent Coffee Break by Lor Rose (M/M)
Tele-Romance by Erik Moore (F/F)
Three Strikes by Piper Vaughn (M/M)

It’s extra tempting to tell you what my favorite stories in this erotic collection are; yes, I did have a few favorites, but rather than do that, I’ll say in all honestly that each of them was sexy—sometimes playful, sometimes all business—in its own way, not to mention a few of them having some very nice little twists in roleplaying and role reversal, making them just that little bit more enjoyable for the effort.

I can say with some confidence that if the idea of quickie shots of caffeinated sex are your…err…cup of tea, you ought to find this anthology every bit as much fun as I did.

And in case you missed it, check out K. Lynn’s interview HERE, in which she discusses her story “Personal Assistance.”

You can buy Gay and Lesbian Coffee Break Quickies here: