4 Stars, DSP Publications, Lissa Kasey, Paranormal, Reviewed by Sammy, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Review: Evolution: Genesis by Lissa Kasey

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Amazon

Title: Evolution: Genesis (Evolution: Book Two)

Author: Lissa Kasey

Publisher: DSP Publications

Pages/Word Count: 200 Pages

At a Glance: Genesis is an interesting, if somewhat tangled, read for paranormal fans.

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: Evolution made music history when one bandmate turned vampire and another joined the vampire hate movement Preservation Group. Gene is trying to cling to the music as his relationship with Kerstrande begins to spiral into the darkness of hidden demons. Jaded by his years as a vampire flunkie, Kerstrande uses his newly won power over New York City to destroy his enemies and protect Gene. But a demon called a Fallen begins to take control of KC, slowly devouring his soul and through him the entire city. Battling against the evil that wants to destroy him, Kerstrande fights to hold onto Gene’s brightness.

A power unlike any other grows within Gene and shines like a beacon to the demons surrounding him. Realizing that only he can save his lover, Gene is willing to do anything to shake the darkness loose. Even if it means reshaping the future, the band, and his own existence.

Dividers

Review: I was thrilled to see a sequel to the riveting novel Evolution by author Lissa Kasey. With book two, Genesis, two of the most exciting characters in the paranormal genre are back, center stage, and sparks fly once more—and by sparks I mean an all consuming fire, which is exactly what Gene is currently dealing with at the story’s beginning. I cannot state more clearly than this that you must read this series in order to appreciate all the nuances and relationships that are further developed in book two. If you have not, then please stop reading this review and go read Evolution, for I will be remarking upon some of the themes and incidences from the first book to set the stage for book two.

At the opening of Genesis, Gene is still grappling with the fact that he is a human hybrid in the form of a phoenix. Those who know their mythology will remember that the phoenix never really dies but instead is reborn from flames—dying when engulfed from inner fire—and that is exactly what Gene had discovered he could do when he took down Hane—the maker of Kerestrande (KC), Gene’s vampire, again/off again lover—in the first novel. But remember vampires cannot be fully destroyed by flames—instead, they must incinerate by being exposed to sunlight, which burns them to ash never to rise again. This is exactly what KC does to Hane, and when he does so, the dark shadow—the fallen that clung to Hane—consumes KC and begins to slowly take him over.

Meanwhile, every bad guy and paranormal on the earth seems to be after Gene as a means to get to KC. Consequently, Gene undergoes several horrific deaths only to be reborn again each time. However, Gene is weakening, and coming back to human form takes longer and longer each time. Instead, he is trapped in darkness where he can clearly see what is eating at KC, and all the undead that cling to his lover as well. In the end, it will be up to Gene to save his vampire lover from certain death, as the Fallen within KC pushes its way into his soul and consumes that which is KC at his very core, taking him over completely.

Okay. That was a major oversimplification of a very intricate plot that I must admit I lost my way in at certain points in this novel. Not only were there additional characters to learn about, there were also so many creatures after Gene that it was hard at times to keep up with who was after whom, and why. Still, the bones of this story were really solid and KC and Gene, when they were together, were pure gold in terms of an “it’s complicated” relationship. Every time KC pushed Gene away, Gene’s pain and dejection was so poignant to read—really just heartbreaking. And this author was so smart in that she alternated the point of view almost chapter to chapter so we were privy as to why KC was sending Gene away. Plus, we saw just how it guts the vampire when he does so.

Alongside these two was a cast of secondary characters that were convincingly real, and each became an integral part of Gene’s life—some with deadly and evil intent. Without them, Gene would have never been able to survive all that he does at the hands of evil forces determined to use Gene as bait to draw out KC and the shadowy evil that holds him captive.

So why wasn’t this a five star read? Well, when it came down to it, this story got very involved with the mystical side of both vampires and Gene himself—this phoenix hybrid. In doing so, I honestly was often confused as to where this whole plot was moving and just exactly why Gene kept getting…well, brutally beaten and killed, only to rise again. I felt that the plot was sometimes unanchored and drifted too far into mystical realms that were not always fully realized or fleshed out in the story. That made for some real frustration when I just wanted this story to “get on with it” and come to some conclusion I could understand.

As a result of all this action without a solid plot theme to plant itself on, the ending seemed way too easy and a bit rushed. The final outcome was nice, but after all the angst and miscommunication between KC and Gene, a sweet happy-ever-after seemed just a bit contrived. Still, this is an author whom I really admire and whose writing is often involved and well executed, therefore I would encourage fans of the first in this series to see how things play out between Gene and KC. Genesis is an interesting, if somewhat tangled, read for paranormal fans.

TNA_Signature_Sammy

 

 

 

 

You can buy Evolution: Genesis here:

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Amazon US

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4 Stars, DSP Publications, Jamie Fessenden, Literary Fiction, Reviewed by Taz

Review: By That Sin Fell the Angels by Jamie Fessenden

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Amazon

Title: By That Sin Fell the Angels

Author: Jamie Fessenden

Publisher: DSP Publications

Pages/Word Count:  191 Pages

At a Glance: This is the second book I’ve read by Jamie Fessenden, and while the topics are tough and some of the events made me squirm, I applaud this author’s courage and talent.

Reviewed By: Taz

Blurb: It begins with a 3:00 a.m. telephone call. On one end is Terry Bachelder, a closeted teacher. On the other, the suicidal teenage son of the local preacher. When Terry fails to prevent disaster, grief rips the small town of Crystal Falls apart.

At the epicenter of the tragedy, seventeen-year-old Jonah Riverside tries to make sense of it all. Finding Daniel’s body leaves him struggling to balance his sexual identity with his faith, while his church, led by the Reverend Isaac Thompson, mounts a crusade to destroy Terry, whom Isaac believes corrupted his son and caused the boy to take his own life.

Having quietly crushed on his teacher for years, Jonah is determined to clear Terry’s name. That quest leads him to Eric Jacobs, Daniel’s true secret lover, and to get involved in Eric’s plan to shake up their small-minded town. Meanwhile, Rev. Thompson struggles to make peace between his religious convictions and the revelation of his son’s homosexuality. If he can’t, he leaves the door open to eternal damnation—and for a second tragedy to follow.

Dividers

Review: I read Violated by Jamie Fessenden and was so impressed by his courage and style that I had to pick up this book as well. I wasn’t disappointed.

In By That Sin Fell the Angels, we face the tragic issue of teen suicide and homophobia in a small town. The book opens with an ominous phone call from a teen who needs someone to talk to before he kills himself. One of the main protagonists, Terry, who received the call, is helpless to do anything to prevent the horrific event.

As the story unfolds, we meet Jonah, the other main protagonist in the story. He is a high school student who is closeted and gay. We see him interacting with the one open gay student, as well as his crew of homophobic friends. Slowly, as the story develops, we see how he comes to terms with his own failings and, ultimately, acceptance of who he truly is.

Add to this a zealous preacher (the father of the child who committed suicide), a flamboyantly gay peer at Jonah’s school, a ridiculously supportive boyfriend to Terry, Jonah’s mother, who is dating a man half her age, and a general town aura of intolerance. The mixture is a recipe for nail biting intensity.

My only complaint about this book was that it went a bit over the top. I only say this from my deep familiarity with school systems and school boards. The manner in which the school board and the principal handled the events was extreme and wouldn’t happen in real life. The feelings might be there of intolerance and hatred, but the words and actions wouldn’t have unfolded the way they did. That said, it made for good drama and added to the depth of the emotions in the story.

What I loved about the book was how the author wove together a rich web of experience, shifting point of view frequently so that we could get inside the heads of a full range of characters. By doing so, we were able to truly look at this town and the topic of homosexuality, and see a highly religious small town through the eyes of an outsider with omniscient knowledge of everyone’s thoughts and feelings. Had the story only been told from one point of view (and I have no idea whose point of view Mr. Fessenden would have chosen), the story would’ve suffered for it.

As I said, this is the second book I’ve read by Jamie Fessenden, and while the topics are tough and some of the events made me squirm, I applaud this author’s courage and talent. I certainly intend to continue reading his work (starting with a backlog of his sizable completed manuscripts).

TNA_Signature_Taz

 

 

 

 

You can buy By That Sin Fell the Angels here:

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Amazon US

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5 Stars, Audio Book, DSP Publications, Narration Rating - 5 Stars, Reviewed by Sammy, Rhys Ford, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Audio Review: Black Dog Blues by Rhys Ford – Narrated by Greg Tremblay

Audio Gem

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Amazon

Title: Black Dog Blues (The Kai Gracen Series: Book One)

Author: Rhys Ford

Narrator: Greg Tremblay

Publisher: DSP Publications

Run Time: 8 hours and 50 minutes

At a Glance: The audio version of this novel was well done and hooked me immediately, drenching me in the mood and pathos of the story.

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: Ever since being part of the pot in a high-stakes poker game, elfin outcast Kai Gracen figures he used up his good karma when Dempsey, a human Stalker, won the hand and took him in.

Following the violent merge of Earth and Underhill, the human and elfin races are left with a messy, monster-ridden world, and Stalkers are the only cavalry willing to ride to someone’s rescue when something shadowy appears.

It’s a hard life but one Kai likes—filled with bounty, a few friends, and most importantly, no other elfin around to remind him of his past. And killing monsters is easy. Especially since he’s one himself.

But when a sidhe lord named Ryder arrives in San Diego, Kai is conscripted to do a job for Ryder’s fledgling Dawn Court. It’s supposed to be a simple run up the coast during dragon-mating season to retrieve a pregnant human woman seeking sanctuary. Easy, quick, and best of all, profitable. But Kai ends up in the middle of a deadly bloodline feud he has no hope of escaping.

No one ever got rich being a Stalker. But then few of them got old either and it doesn’t look like Kai will be the exception.

Dividers

Review: If you are approaching Rhys Ford’s novel Black Dog Blues looking for a traditional romance or even a sci-fi classic, think again. This is no typical anything. Instead, author Rhys Ford creates a world that has both human and fey, magic and monsters and everything in between, and places them inside a story that is so rich in character and long in plot that you are nearly breathless by novel’s end.

The main story centers on the Sidhe and Unsidhe—those who are elfin and those who are…something evil altogether. They coexist next to humans and multiple creatures of every species, from dragons to the elfin shadow dogs and many other mutant forms of different species. In this new society there are stalkers—those who go hunting our worst nightmares and deliver their hides for payment. One such stalker is the mysterious Kai Gracen, a young elfin who has been humanized to the point of virtually becoming a loner, neither cohabitating with his own kind nor humans. Kai was raised by Dempsey, a stalker who won him in a poker game. At that time, Kai was barely recognizable as any kind of boy, more animal than human or elfin. As this story evolves we come to find out about his past and are mystified as to how Kai not only managed to survive the horrors of his former life but rise above them to be the compassionate man he has become.

He is commissioned to retrieve a pregnant human from the chief city of the sidhe (the good elves, in essence). Accompanying him will be the prince of that dynasty who has come to Kai’s neck of the words to establish a “dawn court” for the disenfranchised sidhe who live in the city. This mission will challenge Kai in many ways and unlock the mystery of who he is and just what stalks his own nightmares. He will be confronted by the horrors of his past and feel himself slipping into love with a man who wields much power for good. The question remains, though, will Kai survive this mission intact, and can he really love another person—especially when he is unsure that love can ever really be his at all.

The brief and admittedly shallow synopsis above touches only the bones of this story. There is one mystery after another in this novel, and Rhys Ford unravels each one, even while intertwining them into the most intricate of plots I have ever read. However, by virtue of her excellent storytelling abilities, I was never lost in the weaving of this tale. Kai is a conundrum whose story just begins in this novel. While he is on every page, his past is slowly and carefully alluded to over and over, with the startling revelation of who and what he is being revealed finally near the end of the novel. Even then, you know there is a wealth of background information just waiting to surface, which becomes the springboard for future novels about this brave young elf.

Speaking of elves—these are not your waif-like forest creatures. No, this author not only makes her elf-kind cunning and smart but strong and determined as well. I was so impressed by the way that the supernatural creatures in this story were three-dimensional and fully fleshed out. The result was that I cared for them, was drawn into their story and captured by their troubles. The story itself was captivating, with so many twists and turns that I found myself trying to solve the many mysteries and was delightfully surprised when the answers turned out to be ones that I would have never thought of in a million years.

Greg Tremblay did a great job with Kai’s sarcasm—that weary ennui that the character wears like a mantle. The variation of voices was quite good—including Dempsey’s lilting brogue that was so reminiscent of those turn of the century New York City Irish cops. Every once in a while Mr. Tremblay would allow the brogue to bleed into the beginning of another character or the narration but overall, the delineation between voices and their cadence was spot on. The narrator’s gravelly tones really added to the gritty feel of the novel as well. Quite frankly, his pitch, speed of delivery and variation in voices enriched the overall mood of the story. Black Dog Blues is a dark tale and the narrator’s approach added to the mysterious feel to this story.

All in all, Black Dog Blues was a compelling mystery with a touch of romance and excellent supernatural shadings thrown in. The audio version of this novel was well done and hooked me immediately, drenching me in the mood and pathos of the story. I enjoyed this narrator immensely and would highly recommend this audiobook.

TNA_Signature_Sammy

 

 

 

 

You can buy Black Dog Blues here:

Amazon US

Amazon US

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5 Stars, DSP Publications, Ethan Stone, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Maryann

Review: Closing Ranks by Ethan Stone

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Amazon

Title: Closing Ranks (Flesh: Book Four)

Author: Ethan Stone

Publisher: DSP Publications

Pages/Word Count: 244 Pages

At a Glance: Closing Ranks is an extremely well written mystery/romance story.

Reviewed By: Maryann

Blurb: Internal Affairs investigator Jeremy Ranklin is looking into corruption within the Reno Police Department when he’s ordered to examine the suspicious death of the Chief of Police. The assignment partners Jeremy with Detective Cristian Flesh. Though they spar at first, Jeremy earns Cristian’s trust, and they work well together.

Deeply closeted, Jeremy fights an attraction to fellow cop Kipp Mosely. The investigation brings Jeremy and Kipp together, but lies and secrets prevent things from going any further. Jeremy will need both Kipp’s and Cristian’s help to discover how deep the corruption runs—and to stay alive when the danger hits close to home.

Dividers

Review: Suspense, danger, murder and so many suspects, Closing Ranks is another wild ride from Ethan Stone, fast paced and full of so much information that it keeps you turning the pages from beginning to end. Yes, Cristian Flesh is back and has teamed up with Jeremy Ranklin, of Internal Affairs, to investigate the suspicious suicide of a mentor, as well as corruption inside the Reno police force.

Besides the twists and turns of the suicide and corruption, we also get to know Jeremy. He has to deal with personal issues, with being gay and closeted, with a young man who has a crush on him, an ex’s return, and an uncontrollable attraction to Officer Kipp Moseley. I really felt bad for him. He carries guilt about being gay and over what would happen if he came out to his parents and sister-in-law. He believes it would kill his father if his secret were to be found out.  He also has a six-year-old nephew he loves dearly, and is afraid of never seeing him again.

Jeremy is trying hard to keep his mind on the case, but no matter what, he keeps coming in contact with Officer Moseley. Kipp is out and doesn’t hide his sexuality. He’s not sure if he’s willing to get involved with Jeremy because he’s not about to be anyone’s “dirty little secret”. There is no insta-love between Jeremy and Kipp. In fact, they have to work at it because neither one wants to have to change who they are. But when danger arises, Kipp has Jeremy’s back.

Flesh play’s a big part in this story, and he’s all business and snarky, as usual. Colby only has a brief part, and Reg, Flesh’s partner, is also back. There are also two newbies, Leif and Rafe…hmmm, very interesting!

I have to say, Closing Ranks is an extremely well written mystery/romance story. It’s hard to choose which book in the Flesh series I liked best, but this one is a favorite.

TNA_Signature_Maryann

 

 

 

You can buy Closing Ranks here:

Amazon US

Amazon US

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5 Stars, DSP Publications, Horror, Reviewed by Lisa, Rick R. Reed

Retro Review: A Demon Inside by Rick R. Reed

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Title: A Demon Inside

Author: Rick R. Reed

Publisher: DSP Publications

Pages/Word Count: 260 Pages

At a Glance: An intense, macabre, edge-of-your-seat, don’t-read-it-in-the-dark thrill ride.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: Hunter Beaumont doesn’t understand his grandmother’s deathbed wish: “Destroy Beaumont House.” He’s never even heard of the place. But after his grandmother passes and his first love betrays him, the family house in the Wisconsin woods looks like a tempting refuge. Going against his grandmother’s wishes, Hunter flees to Beaumont House.

But will the house be the sanctuary he had hoped for? Soon after moving in, Hunter realizes he may not be alone. And with whom—or what—he shares the house may plunge him into a nightmare from which he may never escape. Sparks fly when he meets his handsome neighbor, Michael Burt, a caretaker for the estate next door. The man might be his salvation… or he could be the source of Hunter’s terror.

First Edition published by ManLove Romance Press, 2010.

Dividers

Back in July of 2010, when I was still a fairly wet-behind-the-ears newbie to blog reviewing, I grabbed a book from an author whose Tales from the Sexual Underground I’d just read two weeks before. This book, as you can probably glean from the titles, was a vastly different reading experience.

When Mr. Reed contacted me to let me know he’d pulled a quote from my review to use as a blurb on the front of the new cover for A Demon Inside’s re-release, I was both shocked and humbled, and I’m also grateful that he saw something worthy in what I look back on now and can see just how much my reviewing style has changed (and improved, I hope) over the course of the last five years.

So, in honor of this 2nd Edition of one of my earlier reviewing experiences for a book that invokes the spirit of some of Stephen King’s finest tales, here’s a rerun of my review:

Dividers

Review: Rick R. Reed’s A Demon Inside is an intense, macabre, edge-of-your-seat, don’t-read-it-in-the-dark thrill ride. From the prologue to its final chapter, I couldn’t turn the pages quickly enough to see what would happen next.

The story opens in a dark winter forest in 1845, where the reader witnesses a lone gypsy woman consigning her baby boy to his eternal sleep. The scene is dense with tension, mystery and a sense of foreboding that sets the mood up beautifully for the entire book, as the reader experiences the results of this gypsy’s invocation over her son’s grave.

Hunter Beaumont is an orphan. At the age of five, when a child isn’t nearly old enough to understand the concept of life, let alone death, Hunter witnesses his parents’ murder but has experienced a form of post traumatic memory loss that has helped him escape the worst of the trauma. Hunter’s family legacy holds a dark secret that has cursed his ancestors for generations, and Hunter learns the true meaning of being orphaned when his beloved grandmother succumbs to cancer, leaving him entirely alone in the world. On her deathbed, his Nana exacts a promise from Hunter—to destroy his family’s ancestral home, Beaumont House, a place he’d never known existed until that moment.

The Beaumont family legacy has also left Hunter a wealthy young man, but his sheltered upbringing leaves him a man susceptible to the human predators who would prey on his innocence. Dr. Jay Blackstock, the doctor who saw Nana through her waning days, is just such a predator, a scavenger who feeds on Hunter’s naiveté. Jay manipulates and insinuates himself into Hunter’s life so entirely that his ultimate betrayal of Hunter’s trust leaves the young man broken and wary.

After having made a trip to Beaumont House with the family lawyer, during which time Rick R. Reed serves us a mere morsel of what’s to come, Hunter decides to go against his Nana’s dying wish to destroy the house and instead, aspires to make it his refuge, a sanctuary from the social order that is determined to make him its victim. It doesn’t take long for the reader to understand that Beaumont House holds strange and terrible secrets, and it didn’t take long for me to realize that I’d been drawn into this story, feeling as though, like Hunter, I’d become ensnared in a residual web of nightmares reaching out from the past to grab hold of my reality. Just as society had deemed to victimize him, so does Hunter’s home seem determined to exact a deadly price.

Michael Burt is introduced to the story as the caretaker for a neighboring property, living in a cottage at the edge of Hunter’s estate. Michael is a ruggedly handsome and affable man who, living with the loneliness of the remote location of these estates, looks to befriend Hunter, but Hunter, who has determined that he can’t afford to trust anyone, makes it clear to Michael that friendship is not on his agenda. Michael, as fate would have it, is also penning a novel based on the local folklore surrounding a mysterious gypsy woman – some called her a witch – who lived in the area near the mid-1800s. As more and more unexplained phenomena occur in Beaumont House, legend becomes portent, and Hunter has to choose whether to stand firm, or cut and run.

There were times during the reading of this novel that I didn’t know whether to cheer Hunter for a hero, or curse him for a fool. Perhaps there’s a fine line between the two, and the side of the line the protagonist falls on depends on whether he succeeds or fails at his quest. The one thing I do know for certain is that Hunter had me holding my breath and devouring pages in a frenzy to decide whether he would be hero or fool at the end. My final determination is that Hunter was a foolish hero – how’s that for not choosing sides? One important lesson Hunter does learn is that detachment and independence aren’t synonymous, and sometimes it takes great strength to learn to depend on others.

A Demon Inside is an enthralling read that kept my nerves stretched taut as a tightrope, leaving me spellbound from beginning to end.

TNA_Signature_Lisa

 

 

 

You can buy A Demon Inside here:

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5 Stars, DSP Publications, Ethan Stone, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Maryann

Review: Blood & Tears by Ethan Stone

Title: Blood & Tears (Flesh: Book Three)

Author: Ethan Stone

Publisher: DSP Publications

Pages/Word Count: 244 Pages

At a Glance: Ethan Stone gives us an in-depth and well deserved story about Gabriel Vargas and FBI Agent Andrew Bradley in Blood & Tears.

Reviewed By: Maryann

Blurb: The last thing Gabe Vargas wants to do after nearly dying is to leave his young son. But that’s exactly what FBI Agent Drew Bradley is asking him to do. According to Drew, the only way to protect Gabe and find his wife’s killer is to fake Gabe’s death.

With an already established adversarial relationship, protecting a hothead like Gabe isn’t exactly a picnic for Drew either. But Drew lets his guard down and a desire for Gabe leaves him confused. Before the crime can be solved, Drew will have to risk more than his life. He’ll also have to risk his heart.

1st Edition published by Dreamspinner Press, July 2011.

Dividers

Review: Ethan Stone gives us an in-depth and well deserved story about Gabriel Vargas and FBI Agent Andrew Bradley in Blood & Tears. The murder mystery itself was tension filled, fast paced, suspenseful, and the investigation was skillfully written. I liked that it wasn’t obvious who the murderer was. Please keep in mind this is not a Cristian and Colby story, but for those of you who have withdrawal, Cristian and Colby do make some cameos throughout.

After Gabe almost dying, and several tragedies that take place in his life, he’s still not safe and is under the protection of the FBI, with none other than Drew. Drew and Gabe have a really rocky start, and we find them both going through various emotions about each other. Gabe is still struggling with the murder of both Violet and Casey, and leaving Victor behind. Drew still carries guilt from Casey’s death. As time passes we start to see changes in both Drew and Gabe.

Drew becomes very uncomfortable because he really hasn’t figured out the change in him and his feelings about Gabe. Even though I see Drew being the stability that Gabe needs in his life, he has his own issues to face. He’s not sure if he’s gay, but he knows he wants Gabe. It was interesting to watch Gabe push Drew’s buttons during the kinky scrabble game.

For me, this was a great story for Gabe and Drew, so many twists and turns in the plot to go along with the twisted suspect. You could actually feel the fear that Drew has for Gabe and Victor when they are in the hands of the suspect. It kept me on the edge, not knowing if Gabe would realize what was happening to him.

I liked that Mr. Stone gave Gabe his own story because we got to see him grow throughout the Flesh series, and become a great father and committed lover to Drew. It was a special treat to see how Drew, Gabe and Victor interacted with each other. I really liked how little Victor was a wonderful fit to this story. So loving, smart and really alert to things going on around him.

TNA_Signature_Maryann

 

 

 

You can buy Blood & Tears here:

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DSP Publications, Ethan Stone

Interview and Giveaway: The Blood & Tears Blog Tour with Ethan Stone

Even if you've read it before, you should read it again...
Even if you’ve read it before, you should read it again…

TNA: Hi, Ethan, welcome. It’s great to have you here with us today.

Since you’re here to chat a bit about the re-release of Blood & Tears, let’s start out with the series in general. What made you want to move it from Dreamspinner to DSP Publications? Or, in other words, what makes the series a better fit under that press?

Ethan: While all the books in the Flesh series have romance in them, I believe the mystery elements are somewhat stronger. The books under the DSP Publications umbrella are ones where romance isn’t the primary focus. I thought the dark tone of Flesh fit with the new imprint.

TNA: Did you revisit the books before they went in to publication at DSPP, do any revisions to them? How do you feel your writing style has changed, if at all, since you first published In the Flesh five years ago?

Ethan: All three books were re-edited. In the Flesh and Flesh & Blood, the first two in the series, had only minor changes. However, this book, Blood & Tears, was totally re-written from third person into first person. I consider it a brand new book, which is why I’m saying that even if you read the first version, you should read this edition. It’s a thousand times better, in my opinion.

My writing style has changed a great deal. I realized that when I started re-edits on In the Flesh. I tried not to change too much because it was my first published novel, and it has a unique voice. My voice is different now, and I wanted to keep my original voice intact.

TNA: If someone were considering reading the series but wanted to know a bit more about Cristian Flesh first, what are a few things you’d want that reader to know about him from your point of view?

Ethan: Cristian can be an asshole, a total douchebag, but he has a big heart. He’s afraid of getting hurt, especially when we first meet him in In the Flesh, so he uses a rough exterior to keep people away. A few people manage to see beyond his attitude and find the real man beneath. He’s a good cop, an excellent one, even if he is a bit unorthodox. If he doesn’t like you he will tell you, but if he likes you he will do whatever it takes to protect you.

TNA: Would you say there are any parts of you in Cristian? If so, how would you say he’s most like you?

Ethan: The Cristian we see in In the Flesh was very much like me at the time I wrote the book. I wasn’t very happy and had a dim view of the future. I was in an unhappy relationship, and many of the rules Cristian lives by were ones we had regarding our open relationship. As I’ve written more books in the series, where Cristian is a supporting character, I’ve written him as mellower and happier, which is how I am as well.

TNA: Was it difficult to switch gears in Blood & Tears, leaving Cristian and Colby in the background to focus on Gabe and Drew? How do Gabe and Drew’s “voices” differ from Cristian and Colby’s—are they grittier, or less so? More or less romantic?

Ethan: It was difficult at first, but once I got into it, I enjoyed it a lot. I’ve loved Gabe since I first wrote him in In the Flesh. He was originally meant to be a disposable character—and a bad guy—but he took over and I’d been looking forward to writing his book for a while. Both Gabe and Drew are less gritty than Cristian. Drew is a bit of a stuffed shirt in the beginning, and I had him relax and chill out as the book progressed. Gabe was rather damaged—mentally and physically—in the beginning of Blood & Tears, but he still had hope beneath the anger. The romance and sex between Gabe and Drew is different than with Cristian and Colby because Drew is a newbie to it all, so it’s not as rough but just as enjoyable.

TNA: Do you have any more books planned for this series, or was this always meant to be a trilogy?

Ethan: Excellent question! I’d planned on it just being a trilogy, but as I worked on the re-releases, I realized I wasn’t quite done with these characters. A fourth book—Closing Ranks—is due out in October. It introduces new characters, but has Cristian and the cops at Reno Police Department as supporting characters. Jeremy Ranklin, the main character, works alongside Cristian on a case and gets to know both Cristian and Colby. It also shakes things up in the police department, which opens up possibilities for new stories. I’m also working on a fifth book which will feature characters introduced in Closing Ranks.

TNA: What’s coming up next for you? Any new releases on the horizon you’d like to share some news about with us?

Ethan: In addition to Closing Ranks from DSP Publications in October, I have a release around the beginning of the year with Pride Publications. Hiding in Plain Sight is a sequel to Vegas Hustle. I’ve also written a couple of short stories for various anthologies.

TNA: Where can readers follow you on the internet?

Ethan: I’m a Facebook addict so you can usually find me there. I’m also on Twitter-@ethanjstone.

A huge thanks to The Novel Approach for having me and to the readers who support me. As a reward to the readers, I will give out an ebook copy of Blood and Tears to one lucky commenter.

THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED

Good luck!

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blood-tearsBlurb: 2nd Edition

The last thing Gabe Vargas wants to do after nearly dying is to leave his young son. But that’s exactly what FBI Agent Drew Bradley is asking him to do. According to Drew, the only way to protect Gabe and find his wife’s killer is to fake Gabe’s death.

With an already established adversarial relationship, protecting a hothead like Gabe isn’t exactly a picnic for Drew either. But Drew lets his guard down and a desire for Gabe leaves him confused. Before the crime can be solved, Drew will have to risk more than his life. He’ll also have to risk his heart.

1st Edition published by Dreamspinner Press, July 2011.

Buy Link: DSP Publications

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Ethan Stone 200x200About Ethan: Ethan Stone is an out and proud gay man. Which is fairly new in his life, the out part, not the gay part. He’s been queer his whole life, though he tried to deny it for years with a wonderful woman. The years in denial weren’t all bad, he has two amazing kids out of it. His son is a teenager and his daughter has made him a grandfather, three times over. A way too young grandfather.

Ethan has returned to Oregon after almost a decade in Nevada. He no longer has a day job and is doing his best to make a living at this writing thing. If he can’t make a living, he at least wants to support his Mt. Dew and beef jerky addictions.

Find Ethan at his Website or Email him at ethanstone.nv@gmail.com

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4 Stars, DSP Publications, Ethan Stone, Literary Fiction, Reviewed by Maryann

Review: Flesh & Blood by Ethan Stone

Title: Flesh & Blood (Flesh: Book Two)

Author: Ethan Stone

Publisher: DSP Publications

Pages/Word Count: 260 Pages

At a Glance: I like the tone Ethan Stone in Flesh and Blood. It may have been a risk, but I think it turned out well.

Reviewed By: Maryann

Blurb: Detective Cristian Flesh is about to find out that he can only run from his past for so long.

When a local man is attacked and the suspect is a hustler, Cristian knows there’s more to the case than meets the eye. His investigation will lead him into a maze of lies, deceit, and underage prostitution. But that’s only the beginning as people start disappearing and turning up dead. Cristian begins to realize that solving the case and stopping the murders won’t be enough. If he wants to make his new life with lawyer Colby Maddox work, he’ll need to face the demons of his past and put them to rest once and for all.

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Review: I always seem to look at Cristian “Bello” Flesh as the tough, snarky guy, but he has a lot of issues and demons that he’s dealt with all of his life. While he faces and fights his demons, we see him becoming a more emotional and caring person toward Victor, the homeless kids, and with the deaths of friends. We see him come face-to-face with his family, and confront his past. Most of all, I think he comes to realize how much he does love Colby.

Colby “Big Guy” Maddox is still very protective of Cristian, and little by little they work together and chip away at Cristian’s rules. Colby has so much love, patience and understanding for Cristian. Colby is in this relationship, no matter what. I couldn’t have been more in agreement when Colby left the law firm; he should have done it sooner. Cristian has always been supportive of Colby opening his own law firm.

There’s also some new characters, FBI agent Drew Bradley and Jed Harper, a homeless kid. I hope Jed Harper gets a story of his own to see how the ranch is working out.

I like the tone Ethan Stone in Flesh and Blood. It may have been a risk, but I think it turned out well. There was crime, court trials and justice prevailing, and humor, but more so, this was a story about Cristian and Colby’s decisions about their own personal lives and their life together. There also are two blurbs at the end of this story for books 3 and 4. I sort of wish they hadn’t been there because one of them surprised me. I hate spoilers, so I am not going to tell!

TNA_Signature_Maryann

 

 

 

You can buy Flesh & Blood here:

OmniLit/ARe

OmniLit/ARe

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5 Stars, DSP Publications, Lissa Kasey, Paranormal, Reviewed by Sammy, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Review: Evolution by Lissa Kasey

Title: Evolution

Author: Lissa Kasey

Publisher: DSP Publications

Pages/Word Count: 250 Pages

At a Glance: Evolution unlocks an exciting paranormal world where the focus is on the heart and soul of its characters rather than just their superhuman qualities.

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: Gene Sage has only ever wanted to sing, but his band, Evolution, is pushing him toward the big time. He finds it hard to focus on making musical history when he’s dreaming of graveyards and seeing ghosts. And while all he can think of is hiding who he is from a world unforgiving of anyone different, he discovers he’s also the ultimate snack for vampires and demons. When Gene literally runs into—over—his idol, Kerstrande Petterson, rock god, vampire in hiding, and music cynic, his life falls over the edge into chaos.

Jaded by the world and nearly a decade in the music business, Kerstrande thinks Gene wants to use him to make Evolution immortal in more than one way, but he can’t seem to brush aside the young singer’s enthusiasm.

Getting involved with Kerstrande drags Gene into otherworldly power struggles. Between the ghosts stalking them, the media painting supernaturals as villains, and a vampire out of control in the city, the only way for Gene and Kerstrande to survive is for Gene to embrace his powers—and his destiny.

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Review: How to understand living a life that was always skirting the edge of reality, versus the terrifying thought that there was something so very wrong with you. Genesis sees dead people. But it’s more than that, for he also sees the darkness which possesses people and creates such a sinister and evil change in them that they become nearly unrecognizable. It is more than their aura and yet it is. From an early age he knew he was different, and he spent years being the focus of bullies and trying desperately not to stand out. Then one day, after nearly being drowned, and knowing the one person who professed to be his friend stood by and watched, Genesis chucked school and pursued his dream—to sing. Forming the band Evolution with two friends, he set out to be himself: gay, quirky and unafraid. However, living in a world where vampires were registered and regularly hunted, and being different himself, Genesis still walked on the edge, trying to live free yet still weighed down with fear.

When his car accidentally hits a living legend, Kerstrande, of rock star fame, little does he know that his life is about to change forever, and for the first time, he will truly understand what it is to be the balance in another person’s life. Unfortunately it is unclear if Kerstrande really wants that feeling of calm Genesis provides for he also evokes other strong feelings, and some of those put Genesis in mortal danger.

Author Lissa Kasey creates a world so familiar yet innately sinister and fantastical in her novel Evolution. Set in New York, we enter a city inhabited by creatures that roam the city, hunting others for sport and, of course, for blood. But those are not the only beings that inhabit this world. The undead roam the streets and are just as real and frightening to Genesis as the vampires. Along with these, our hero himself is not quite human and possesses unknown and untapped power waiting to surface. The world building, the paranormal thread that is unraveled, and the tender and poignant person that Genesis is all converge in what is a fascinating story that had me hooked from the very beginning.

Genesis was, in many ways, a simple young man, full of loving compassion and a core of iron strength that had not yet been fully tested despite his painful history. Each time he was described by the author, from his ever-changing hair color to his painted nails, he evoked such a protective response in me. Much like one of her secondary characters, Cris, Gene’s only real friend, I felt such a need to protect this young man. Lissa Kasey writes her novel with such deliberate care, vividly describing her creations, laying out the city with such a visceral and graphic description that you taste the grit and the evil underbelly that makes up her world. To say that this book was an intense ride is an understatement. Ending with a cliffhanger, I am thrilled that I can turn immediately to the next installment in this exciting series.

Evolution unlocks an exciting paranormal world where the focus is on the heart and soul of its characters rather than just their superhuman qualities. It is an exciting novel that I can definitely recommend to those who love this genre.

TNA_Signature_Sammy

 

 

 

You can buy Evolution here:

OmniLit/ARe

OmniLit/ARe

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2 Stars, DSP Publications, Lyn Gala, Reviewed by Jennifer, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Review: Desert World Allegiances by Lyn Gala

Title: Desert World Allegiances (Desert World #1)

Author: Lyn Gala

Publisher: DSP Publications

Pages/Word Count: 240 Pages

At a Glance: To be honest, I struggled to get through this book.

Reviewed By: Jennifer

Blurb: Being condemned to slavery is a common enough occurrence on the desert planet of Livre, but this time, priest Shan Polli is determined to prevent the corrupt, soul-eating system from destroying one more life. Temar Grazer was sentenced for what amounted to a criminal prank—but Shan soon finds that the dangers extend far beyond Temar’s crime.

Caught between guilt and hope, Shan must find his true path in either the priesthood or in a man whose strength and survival defies the odds. Can the two men unravel a plot that threatens the entire world before Temar is broken by a system of slavery that has twisted out of control?

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Review: I knew going into this book that there would be no romance, so that aspect didn’t bother me. If you really want to read a romance, then this book is not for you, but if you want to read a science fiction novel with some terraforming and a world where water is scarce, then you might enjoy Desert World Allegiance.

To be honest, I struggled to get through this book. While the world-building is well done and the descriptions are vivid, I just couldn’t connect with the characters, and that’s what made most of the book so difficult for me. I didn’t care. From the first pages I was immediately frustrated because I knew how horribly wrong things were going to go, and it didn’t leave me in suspense. It just left me screaming at Temar for being an idiot. I knew everything was going to go from bad to worse. Temar and his sister are the victims of water theft, which is a big deal on a planet where water is scarce. An accident occurs and Temar’s sentence is short-term slavery. Enter Shan, who is against the sentence for Temar, and as he investigates the story he uncovers a conspiracy.

There is a lot of politics in the novel, which I have to be in a certain mood to read. I guess I wasn’t when I was reading Desert World Allegiance, because while it intrigued me sometimes, most of the time I didn’t want to read it. I often felt compelled to put the book down and do something else.

I also struggled with some of the concepts of the book. While I’m not averse to stories with slavery, in some it just doesn’t make sense. This book was borderline. On one hand I could see that as a severe punishment, the threat of slavery would be a deterrent to committing crimes. But on the other hand, for this society, which seems to be advanced, slavery felt a bit incongruous.

There is a second book to this series which I hear has more of a romantic aspect in it. Will I read it? Probably not. I don’t have enough of an emotional investment in the characters.

TNA_Signature_Jennifer

 

 

 

You can buy Desert World Allegiance here:

OmniLit/ARe

OmniLit/ARe

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Deja Black, DSP Publications, DSPP's Genre Talk

DSPP Presents: Genre Talk with Carole Cummings and Deja Black

DSP Publications

Hullo, everyone, and welcome to the latest edition of Genre Talk. This week we’ve got DSP Publications author Deja Black in the hotseat, and she’s brought an excerpt from her new release, Broken Bones, to share. But first, let’s have a look at what it’s all about and get to the grilling. ;)

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tna-dspp-deja black for 08-05Dan Tolliver, the adopted son of alpha pack leader Jeremiah Tolliver, has suffered his last moment of abuse by his lover Keith Mulligan and finds himself in the hospital. There he meets dark and sharp-tongued Dr. Aiden Kavanaugh, who believes Dan needs some of his straightforward kind of medicine. Still, there is something different about the doctor.

Aiden is a sandman, a weaver of dreams, and has been on earth far longer than even he knows. He’s at the end of his time, ready to transition, and needs a human mate to keep him connected to the world he’s grown to love. Only he hasn’t found a special person who makes him want to stay. He doesn’t despair, because not every sandman has the chance to choose, but he knows if he doesn’t find a partner, he will soon lose his physical form and exist only in dreams.

When Aiden realizes Keith is a far greater monster than Dan has any idea, they grow and work together using the support of the pack—and Dan’s inner strength—to overcome impossible odds.

Broken Bones is available for purchase in ebook and paperback from DSP Publications, Amazon, and most other retail outets.

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Carole: Sounds like you’re really mixing it up here, with lots of intrigue and paranormal genre elements. So let’s start there. Tell us about your genre.

Deja: I write paranormal suspense/mystery. I love my supernatural beings, but love them more when they’re fighting crime or some type of demonic adversary, whether it’s of the mentally horrific persuasion or the heinous physical kind. I like my reads with all types of flavors—a little sweet, a little gritty, a little twisted. My genre allows me to give all of that with the promise that there will be a happy ending. My requirement for my main characters, as with any book I choose to read, is that two men better be falling in love. There must be the opportunity for me to introduce a completely new or untouched being, or play around with a bit of the old. There must be passion, struggle. The battle they face and the enemy they overcome will bring them together, unite them in such a way that their lives and the impressions they have made on the reader will not be easily forgotten. Writing paranormal suspense/mystery allows me to do exactly that.

Carole: You mentioned “two men better be falling in love”. Why two men?

Deja: Well, there is simply something mouthwatering to me about two men falling in love, vulnerable yet empowered. It’s scintillating imagery that I want so desperately to immortalize in word. Men love differently. They love differently with women. They love passionately with men in a way that their physical prowess, their power, is that much more impressive because they don’t have to hold back. Still, that release may be tempered by the restrictions and vices of a warped society, but conquering the limitations that the world may try to throw against them inspires me to reach above and surpass my own obstacles. The physical beauty of two men entwined is, to me, artistic. It’s a symbol of freedom, the ability to love, to hope regardless of circumstance. It excites me, and it challenges me to capture it in a way that is artistically authentic. As a woman, it requires talking to men, researching, finding out what works and what doesn’t. It requires me to learn more about a subject that never fails to make me burn with interest.

Carole: As it will with your readers, no doubt. So, tell us about Broken Bones.

Deja: Broken Bones brings together the explored paranormal world (werewolves/shifters) with the unexplored (sandman). It is a story of overcoming fears and adversity, while also finding love and acceptance.

Though hard to take in, readers need to understand the introduction is necessary. That moment for Dan is his turning point in a life that has nearly destroyed his spirit. It is where the reader can not only empathize with his suffering, but honestly connect, and though it’s terrible and horrific, it’s written so that readers might truly appreciate how far Dan is able to rise to become what Aiden needs.

I wanted my readers to enjoy meeting a different supernatural creature, to see Aiden as both a man and as the glorious being he can become. I enjoyed bringing Aiden to life, building his world, aiding him in finding someone for him—someone who would help him, love him, be the family he needs when he feels lost and alone. I wanted readers to appreciate and cheer for Dan and Aiden in their battle to vanquish someone so evil, something so sinister, whose mission it was to destroy them both. I want readers to be able to shout with joy as they prevail against their shared enemy together.

Carole: Broken Bones is being published through DSP Publications, Dreamspinner Press’s imprint for nonromance genre novels. Tell us about the relationship in Broken Bones and why it doesn’t fit the accepted definition of Romance in the M/M genre.

Deja: DSP Publications is a branch of Dreamspinner Press that promotes nonromance genre novels. Why is this the perfect fit for me? Hmm. While I love a great romance, my stories tend to lend themselves more to the writings of James Patterson or even Steven King. Yes, I have two men (sometimes more) who will fall in love, but the story itself is so much more than the romance between them. My plot is filled with action, supports a storyline that will capture the reader’s attention, make their blood rush while the hunt is on for the villain, draw them into the story, and never truly release them as they anticipate the next read, the next step in the characters’ lives. There’s horror, tragedy, suspense, and humor, both dark and light. These all blend to make a read that reaches beyond the traditional romance. DSP Publications allows me the opportunity to blend my romance with a storyline filled with energy and complications not often faced by the main character. And yet, we still have two men who fall in love.

Carole: Tell us about the evolution of this story. What was its earliest incarnation as a concept and when did it begin to take the form of Broken Bones?

Deja: The first few lines of the story itself came to me while I was working on something else actually. I still need to complete that piece, so I won’t mention too much about it right now. Anyway, creating the demon for that work led me to Dan, which in turn gave me Aiden, the sandman. Before I realized it, I had already moved on to writing the first chapter, placing the other work on the backburner because I had to tell Dan and Aiden’s story, make them real. I couldn’t let them go without completing it, without bringing them to life and helping them have their happy ending. I visualized my men, how they would look, how they would love. I knew who Aiden would be, what he would be. I knew what he needed. I knew Dan would have to be broken in order to become the steel that Aiden’s creature would require for balance, to give him a home. Keith was there in the beginning, a sleek and powerful presence the two of them would have to face. Dan would have to challenge his fears. Aiden would have to choose to be loved. And, there we have it. Broken Bones was born.

Carole: Organic evolution—my favorite kind! ;) Okay, so you’ve talked about why you write M/M in general—now tell us why you felt this story in particular needed to be told with the M/M dynamic.

Deja: Well, it’s sort of the way I think. For so long I believed I was the only one who loved M/M writing. Imagine my joy to discover a world of readers who enjoyed the romance that could be shared between two men! Nirvana! I’ve actually been writing M/M romance ever since I was young, and to unearth an audience that would treasure my men as much as I do has been one of life’s greatest moments. Why does this story have an M/M dynamic? It’s what I read. It’s what I love. It’s a story that needs my men to make it whole.

Carole: Will there be more of Dan and Aiden?

Deja: Yes, there will be. I will continue their story through the lives of others. There’s more for these two men, more for them to experience. The Broken Series already has a sequel in the making, and while many of you have asked about Kristoff, his story will be in Broken Promises. Peter’s story will help to introduce Kristoff’s story in Broken Pieces.

Carole: And will there be more unique supernatural beings?

Deja: Yes, there most certainly will be, along with variations of the tried and true classics. My men have their own stories to tell, their own powers and abilities to thrill you. Not stereotypical, not a carbon copy. Variety. It’s the spice of life. I’m here to ensure you enjoy the many flavors.

Carole: How do you manage the balance between main characters and side characters?

Deja: I treat my characters as people with stories to tell. Real people know others, interact with them. I give that to my characters. They know people, some more than others. They live and breathe, sharing their pain, facing obstacles, and they grow. My main characters need the side or secondary characters for that to happen, to make their world real, the story cohesive. In my mind, I see their lives and the people they know and love, or even hate. My mission? To make sure you do, too, which means giving everyone a story to tell.

Thank you for reading the thoughts behind Broken Bones. May you enjoy reading Dan and Aiden’s story as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Carole: And thank you, Deja, for spending some time with us today. I’ve no doubt our awesome readers are intrigued and looking forward to sinking into Dan and Aiden’s world.

And to you, Awesome Readers, thank you for hanging out with us. Stay tuned for buy links, but for now, please enjoy the following excerpt from Deja Black’s Broken Bones:

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EXCERPT: BROKEN BONES:

As time passed, with Dan continuing to see Aiden vividly in his dreams, he could no longer put off discussing how Aiden was involved in Dan’s psyche.

“You’re holding back, Daniel. You’ve yet to share where I fit in, in those dreams of yours.”

The question stole his breath. Dan had wanted to avoid this. Yeah, he knew it was going to come up, that his father would not have neglected to tell Aiden of his name being cried out by Dan as he slept. Was Jeremiah aware that, instead of those cries resulting from pain, they were in fact cries directly connected to the emptying of his balls, blissful visions of his dick encased within Aiden’s scrumptious ass? The more time he spent with Aiden, the more the fantasies increased, and the more the kneading spread over his body, the more Dan hungered for his touch. If Aiden reached any higher, he was going to encounter a hard dick with a specific destination in mind. In fact, Dan was starting to want those fingers wrapped around his mushroom cap as he spilled into Aiden’s waiting hand.

“Ugh.” Dan groaned as he stood abruptly, moving away from Aiden. He needed space from the source of these thoughts. He didn’t know if he could fight the impulse to jump Aiden’s bones, straddle him, and kiss the fuck out of those juicy lips that teased him. Oh, what he wanted to do with that tongue, what he wanted to do with his own. Deep breaths. Deep breaths.

“Daniel?” Aiden moved to stand, but Dan placed his hand out to ward him off. Aiden eased back onto the bench. “Okay….”

The day was nice, one of many they had enjoyed in the gardens. The sun was bright, eager to give light to Dan’s hidden secrets. Was he ready for this, ready to share what had been tying him in knots every day he saw him?

With Aiden’s assurance that he would remain seated, Dan took a second to count down until he could breathe a little easier. It was all or nothing. True, he needed to get everything off his chest, but did he want to tell Aiden what role he was playing in Dan’s fantasies, that when he took a shower, Aiden’s face covered in his cum was what made him get off?

“Daniel, your dreams about me? What do you see me doing in them?”

Aiden had decided to help him along? Okay. Dan could do that. Answer Aiden’s questions. There was a chance he might feel the need to limit how much he would actually say, though. He wasn’t quite ready for much more. Just thinking about it was making a noticeable impression against the fly of his jeans. In fact, Little Dan was trying to make a break for it as they spoke. Spinning around, Dan gave himself time to adjust, shifting his leg with the hope of changing his manhood’s position at least.

“Sometimes you’re talking to me, just talking.” Just a minute more, and he would totally look at Aiden, not completely wimp out. “And other times….”

Aiden was nearer now. Dan felt the heat of Aiden’s body against his back, one hand sliding down his thigh, mapping his flesh. Those lips that had often mesmerized Dan were at his ear, wet and traveling.

“Other times? I… we… we’re making love. I’m leading, or you’re leading. We’re drenched in each other’s cum. There are moments when….” Dan had to pause before he could share the one that had shaken him to his bones. The fantasy or dream, whatever it was, when he had awakened and sat erect in bed, breath pumping like he had just finished a marathon. He could almost taste the blood in his mouth. The shock of that was what forced him out of sleep. It was vivid, tangible. They had drunk from each other, shared each other’s blood. Dan remembered being so hungry for it, gorging himself on Aiden’s carotid artery like he was a starving man and Aiden was his first meal. It was—he was so good. Dan ran his tongue along his teeth as if he could recapture the nectar, the honeyed taste. It was light, like wine… sweet ambrosia. He wanted it now, could almost taste it. Just thinking about it, remembering it, was driving him out of his mind. It didn’t help that Aiden’s touches were building a fire within him he felt powerless to contain.

“Well, I wouldn’t say no to that, Dan.”

Aiden licked him softly against the shell of his ear, then used sharp teeth to nip at him, stoking the flames. He sighed, leaning into Aiden as he welcomed him, made him feel at home. Aiden gently turned Dan in his arms, drawing him closer. He bent down to Dan’s lips, reached his tongue out for a sample first before placing them hotly against Dan’s to enjoy the whole meal. Immediately Dan’s cock was granite. He could even feel the precum wetting the inside of his boxer briefs, his dick pressing against the zipper, eager to rut against Aiden’s own. Lips locked together, Dan crushed Aiden to him, trying to crawl inside the marrow of his bones.

It was good, fucking good. He had been waiting, torturing himself with thoughts of Aiden. It was real skin, real flesh he was grasping needily, real cloth Dan was rending apart with eager hands, desperate to get to more skin, to feel Aiden’s nakedness against him. He wanted Aiden. He wanted him, and Dan was going to take him right here, right now, on this ground. He was going to sink between those glorious globes and spear that tender hole. For once, he would be the one in control. The gasps of breath Aiden heaved now would be nothing compared to the cries he would make as Dan thrust his hungry cock inside him, owned him. They would slow dance to their own blended rhythm, and he would savor every step.

“Danny Boy! What. The. Fuck.”

Oh, shit. Conner. Dan spun to see his Celtic brother marching toward them, a cell phone in hand, target in sight, battle ready. The pink case practically glowed in Conner’s paws, so clearly the phone was not his.

Arriving next to the two, Conner faced Aiden down. “This is what you are being paid to do, is it, Kavanagh? Maul my brother,” Conner growled.

“Maul him, Mr. Tolliver? I would chance to look at him and then to me.” Aiden glanced down toward his powder blue Ralph Lauren cotton dress shirt, buttons missing, petal-soft fabric torn open to reveal tanned flesh. Face flushed from Dan’s passionate assault, red welts standing out along his neck from Dan’s teeth.

Dan was trying to catch his breath. What had come over him? He wasn’t alone in it, though. Aiden had touched him, had hungered for those kisses as much as he wanted to feed them to him. He could feel the roughness of his tongue as he tugged on Dan’s lobe. Not just Dan. They shared equally whatever this was between them, overpowering them both.

“Conner,” Dan called, louder when his brother started squaring off. True, Aiden looked like he could probably hold his own, but with Conner’s martial arts training and combat experience, Dan didn’t want to chance it. Besides, he was as much at fault as Aiden. “I did it. I… uhm… I kissed him.”

Conner turned to face him, eyes wide. “You… you started this? You’ve never….”

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Author BioDEJA BLACK had fantasies of men loving men, men who felt strongly, loved hard, and needed a hero. Then one great day she came across a book and discovered the world of M/M writing, encountered others who shared her obsession as much as she did, and found a world where she could not only be accepted for the lives and loves she envisioned, but she could create them too. So why not? Why not take the stories she would write and throw away as a teenager, grow them, dream them, and make them a reality where she could know her own characters, let them live their story, and make them real for someone else? And she did. Now, with the support of her hubby and some intense time management, she is learning to balance her family of two children at home and the many others she teaches each and every day with her passion of writing what she loves to read.

Deja is always interested in connecting to new people who also share her love, so please feel free to contact her via: Facebook, her blog, and Twitter

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That’s all for this edition of Genre Talk. Please join us next time when Rick R. Reed will be visiting again to talk about his upcoming Horror/Romance release, A Demon Inside. (You know you can’t wait!)

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5 Stars, DSP Publications, Horror, John Inman, Reviewed by Maryann

Review: The Boys on the Mountain by John Inman

Title: The Boys on the Mountain

Author: John Inman

Publisher: DSP Publications

Pages/Word Count: 330 Pages

At a Glance: This is a very well written horror story by John Inman, and ranks right up there with Stephen King, in my opinion.

Reviewed By: Maryann

Blurb: Jim Brandon has a new house, and boy is it a pip. Built high on the side of the San Diego mountains by a legendary B movie actor of the 1930s, Nigel Letters, the house is not only gorgeous, but supposedly haunted. As a writer of horror novels, Jim couldn’t be happier.

But after a string of ghostly events sets Jim’s teeth on edge and scares the bejesus out of his dog, Jim begins to dig into the house’s history. What he finds is enough to creep out anybody. Even Jim. It seems long dead Nigel Letters had a few nasty habits back in his day. And unhappily for Jim, the old bastard still has some tricks up his sleeve.

As Jim welcomes his ex, Michael, and a bevy of old friends for a two-week visit to help christen the new house, he soon realizes his old friends aren’t the only visitors who have come to call.

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Review: First, I have to warn readers there are some extreme cases of abuse in The Boys on the Mountain, so it may be offensive to some. It is descriptive, shocking and scary. This is a very well written horror story by John Inman, and ranks right up there with Stephen King, in my opinion. It drew me in from the start, and I couldn’t stop reading no matter what happened. In a way, it’s a sad tale too, as we have heard of such abuses in this day and age, and I can’t even begin to imagine how this would have been handled in the 1920s and ‘30s.

Most of the time setting for this tale is the 1940s, during World War II. Many of these young boys were homeless and used their youth and beauty to earn money just to stay alive. Timmy (TJ) Johnson, Kenny, Arturo, Charlie Simms, Jeremiah (Jerry), Josh, and Joey; and the exception, Allan Crisp—these are only a few of the boys who faced horrific tragedy.

During this time, Nigel Letters was aging, and work in Hollywood had disappeared for him. He amassed his wealth as a B-horror movie actor in the ‘20s and ‘30s, but left the Hollywood life to live in the secluded mountains of San Diego, where he committed suicide.

Seventy years later, we find Jim Brandon and his faithful dog Rex moving into Nigel’s eighteenth century Mexican hacienda. Its purchase price was worth it to Jim, as it gave him the solitude he was looking for. And, the house was supposedly haunted. Being a horror story author, what more could he ask for, as eerie occurrences start when Jim and Rex spend the night in the carriage house? At which point he also gains some interesting information from Caroline, his housekeeper, as well as ninety-six-year-old Clarice O’Donnell.

There is a lot of humor in this story when Jim’s friends Michael, Lyle, Frank, and Stu show up and practically move into his home, which helps to balance out a lot of the horror in the plot. As a horror story fan, I was really pleased that Jim’s friends didn’t call him crazy or didn’t believe what he was telling them. There was great camaraderie between all the friends—no one ran off screaming. The rekindled romance between Jim and Michael was a plus to the story too, as Michael showed how much he was willing to sacrifice to be with Jim again.

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You can buy The Boys on the Mountain here:

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DSP Publications, DSPP's Genre Talk, Patricia Correll

DSP Publications Presents: Genre Talk with Patricia Correll and Carole Cummings

DSP Publications

GENRE TALK WITH CAROLE CUMMINGS AND PATRICIA CORRELL

Greetings and Happy Wednesday! Today on Genre Talk we have DSP Publications author Patricia Correll who’s here to talk about Late Summer, Early Spring, which is two (two!) books in one. So before we get to the chatting, let’s have a look at what Patricia’s brought for us:

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tna-dspp--patricia correll for 07-08Hour of the Lotus
General Sho Iwata is devastated when the man he secretly loves, Prince Narita, is struck with a mysterious illness. Iwata’s current lover, Hiroshi, is well aware of the general’s unrequited passion. But that isn’t his biggest problem. His sister is Narita’s favorite consort, but Hiroshi believes she has been replaced by an imposter. When they discover the true cause of the illness, they will have to battle an ancient spirit and survive.

Fox Hunter
Lord General Sho Iwata sets out in search of the mysterious Fox Hunter. When he finds his former lover, Hiroshi, he discovers a changed man, scarred inside and out and consumed by vengeance. Together with Narita’s grown son Daigo, Iwata and Hiroshi pursue the malicious spirit as it leaves bloodshed in its wake. Iwata worries about what will become of Hiroshi when the fox is defeated—if Hiroshi’s revenge doesn’t kill him first.

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Carole: Wow. Sounds wonderfully complex and intriguing, so let’s start at the beginning. Tell us about your genre.

Patricia: I tend to write character-driven fantasy stories and Late Summer, Early Spring is pretty typical of my style. While it is fantasy, it’s not the world-shattering, wizard battling, when-does-the-war start fantasy. I love that kind of story, but I’m not interested in writing it! Late Summer, Early Spring is an intimate story focusing on a handful of characters, but set in another world and with supernatural elements based on Japanese mythology.

The world-shattering, when-does-the-war-start fantasy definitely seems more common in today’s world, but I think as a genre fantasy is open to many kinds of stories and my type of writing has its niche. Fantasy has always been an inclusive genre, and is open to characters of many races (and species), orientations, and values. I feel that relatively recently there’s been a shift from telling stories based on European history and mythology to stories based on other worlds, which I think is really exciting.

Fantasy is a broad and open genre, and its writers, publishers and readers are willing to entertain all kinds of ideas, even if they widely diverge from what’s accepted by the mainstream. I love it. I can’t think of any other genre that’s quite as diverse and welcoming.

Carole: So, with all that wide-open space, why M/M?

Patricia: My mind works on a story for a long time before I ever write the first word, and as a consequence my characters are fully formed as soon as they hit paper. Iwata and Hiroshi just happened to be lovers; I saw that the relationship added a new layer to the story and ran with it.

Carole: And Spec Fic is all about layers. ;) So tell us about Late Summer, Early Spring.

Patricia: The book is actually two linked novellas; the title refers to the seasons when each story takes place, though the late summer and early spring are actually separated by eight years.

I’ve written several short stories based on Japanese folktales. I’ve always imagined the old storytellers sitting around the fire, giving every well-worn tale their own personal twist. I like to think I’m upholding that tradition when I write these stories.

These two novellas are the latest in this vein; they’re loosely based on an old folktale about a shape-shifting vampire cat. While I’m fond of cats, I thought it would be more fun to transfer the villainy to Asian mythology’s most famous shape-changing trickster, the fox, which has a long and detailed supernatural history. Hour of the Lotus and The Fox Hunter are definitely the most complex of my retold folktales, and I think that’s because I find the main characters so engaging.

Carole: Late Summer, Early Spring is being published through DSP Publications, Dreamspinner Press’s imprint for nonromance genre novels. Tell us about the relationship in Late Summer, Early Spring and why it doesn’t fit the accepted definition of Romance in the M/M genre.

Patricia: Iwata and Hiroshi are already lovers when Hour of the Lotus begins. Their relationship changes as the plot develops over the course of the two novellas, and progresses from solving a mystery to seeking revenge. It’s an aspect of the story, but not the whole story.

Hour of the Lotus was originally published under (spoiler!) Dreamspinner’s Bittersweet Dreams imprint, which means the ending isn’t exactly a happy one. I always felt like the end of that novella was more like a pause, and I later wrote a sequel, The Fox Hunter. I submitted it to Dreamspinner, and that’s when I learned about DSP Publications. They suggested packaging the two novellas together. I was thrilled, because it seemed like DSP Publications was a better home for it, focusing as it does on stories where romance is not necessarily the main point. I felt it was possible that some readers might have been disappointed with Hour of the Lotus, if they were expecting a straight-up love story. People who read books from DSP Publications should be going into it with the knowledge that they’re going to get something different.

Carole: *nod nod nod* That’s what I always say! ;) Okay, now we’ve come to my favorite question: tell us about the evolution of this story. What was its earliest incarnation as a concept and when did it begin to take the form of Late Summer, Early Spring?

Patricia: Since I have an interest in world mythology, I like to seek out folktales from different places. I came across the vampire cat story. All the basics of Hour of the Lotus come from it: the energy-sucking shape-shifting villain, the loyal retainer who fights to solve the mystery and save his prince. But as my characters developed they brought with them more and more elements and the story became more complex. Unrequited love from a couple of different angles, familial loyalty, traditional Asian values, adherence to duty and finally, a quest for revenge and forgiveness. When Hour of the Lotus was complete, I knew there would be a follow-up, but it took some time to write it.

Two of my favorite writers are Ursula K. LeGuin or Peter S. Beagle, and you may be able to see their influence on my style. I aim for just enough description, and hopefully a little lyricism as well.

Carole: Well, if you’re going to have role models, you can’t go wrong with those two. Now, with everything going on in these two stories, why did you feel they needed to be told with the M/M dynamic?

Patricia: I honestly didn’t put that much thought into it. Hiroshi and Iwata seemed like a natural couple. As their personalities developed, it was obvious that Hiroshi was the sort of determined person Iwata would respect, and the strict, collected Lord General was the kind of man, or challenge, really, that Hiroshi would be eager to take on.

Carole: And finally, as a kind of tagalong to that last question: there are so many questions writers get asked, some unusual, some clichéd, some that make you go “hmm…” and some for which we actually have an answer. Give us one you get a lot and how you generally answer.

Patricia: When people learn I’m a writer, they often say, “I wish I could write, but…”

But I don’t know how/I don’t have time/I have no talent.

Well, I can help you. You don’t know how? Here’s a notebook, a pen (or a laptop — I write longhand but most people don’t). Sit down in this chair and begin. You don’t have time? Do you eat lunch? Eat with one hand, write with the other. If your kids are at the park, write while they play. As for talent, there’s a place for it, but it’s far, far less important than work.

People tend to think that writing is some holy experience where you go into a locked room and work in absolute solitude and silence for hours at a time. Some people can do that, but the rest of us fit it in when we can, while the TV is on or the radio or the guy in the next cubicle is on the phone. If you keep your story running in a stream at the back of your mind, you can easily dip your fingers in and pluck out a piece of it while your kid is at sports practice.

We all have lots of stuff to do in our lives, but if it’s important to you, you’ll find the time for it, and if you want to learn to do it, you will. Anyone can write if they really want to.

Carole: Interesting points, Patricia, and thanks so much for sharing them. And thank you, Dear Readers, for dropping by. Buy links and other info is at the bottom of the post, but first, please enjoy the following from Patricia’s upcoming release:

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EXCERPT: LATE SUMMER, EARLY SPRING

A lantern hung at the end of the new corridor. A figure stood in front of it, cast into darkness by the light behind. Iwata pulled up short.

“Lord General Iwata?” The figure spoke. “Younger Brother?”

Iwata felt Hiroshi’s muscles knot; he thought he could hear the younger man’s teeth grind. Iwata made himself relax and sheathe his katana. But he kept his hand on his obi, where his dagger hid.

Lady Kumomo drifted toward them, emerging from the darkness into the dim light. Her face shone white as the moon. Despite the hour she was fully dressed, her hair piled in a shining mound on top of her head. “Why is your sword out, Hiroshi?”

“We’re protecting the prince tonight.” He didn’t sheathe it.

Iwata interrupted. “Why is my lady out at this hour?”

“I couldn’t sleep, my lord. My worry for my prince is too great.” She smiled sadly. Iwata peered into her face, but he saw nothing sinister, nothing false. Nothing that had not been there before.

She turned to Hiroshi, who stood just behind Iwata, his katana still exposed. “I’m sorry if I frightened you, Brother.”

Hiroshi’s eyes were black pools in the dimness. His scar stretched tight across his face. He held his sword so tightly that his knuckles were white.

Don’t, Iwata thought, his gut clenching. Don’t.

Hiroshi stared at Lady Kumomo. His fingers twitched, and Iwata gripped the hilt of his dagger. Lady Kumomo blinked at him, her face a mask of puzzlement. “Brother?”

Hiro, Iwata thought desperately.

As if he’d heard, Hiroshi breathed deeply. Woodenly he sheathed his sword.

“No,” he said quietly, his voice brittle. “You don’t frighten me.”

She stepped past Iwata, who stiffened. She smelled of incense and honey. “Poor Hiroshi. Good night.” She raised one hand and brushed his cheek with lacquered nails. Then she leaned up and kissed his scarred cheek. A visible shudder coursed through Hiroshi’s body. Lady Kumomo stepped back, smiling. A light flashed in her eyes; a light that shouldn’t have been there, so far from the lantern. An icy fist clutched the base of Iwata’s spine.

“Good evening, Lord General. Take good care of your prince.” She rested a hand lightly on Iwata’s arm. A spike of pain tore through his wounded thigh, pooling beneath the stitches. The agony was so intense it made Iwata’s head spin. Vaguely he felt the pressure of her hand lift, heard the rustle of her robes, saw the flicker as she passed by the lantern. When she was lost to the darkness, Iwata staggered back and leaned against the wall. Hiroshi remained in the center of the corridor, staring after Lady Kumomo. His face had collapsed into fury, disgust… hate. Iwata knew the expression well but had never seen it on Hiroshi. It cut through his dizziness into his heart. “Hiro.”

Hiroshi looked at him. Immediately his expression turned to concern. “Sho?”

“My leg,” he growled. Hiroshi crossed to him, taking his arm and propping him up. They leaned together. Iwata’s dizziness began to abate.
“It was mocking us.” Hiroshi’s voice was thick with bitterness.

Iwata said nothing. Hiroshi was right. The pain had burned down to a single point of agony; he focused on it, trying to drive it out. Hiroshi reached up to brush a stray lock of hair from Iwata’s ear. He leaned forward until their foreheads touched. “Sho?”

“Yes, it was mocking us.” Iwata sucked in a breath, grimacing.

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Late Summer, Early Spring will be released July 14th from DSP Publications and is available for pre-order now.

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Author BioPatricia Correll believes that all humans are natural storytellers. She’s been telling tales since she could string words together, but in the last thirty years or so has graduated from My Little Pony stories to the unholy trinity of fantasy, SF, and horror.

She lives with her husband, their sons, and a fifteen-pound calico cat. When she’s not writing, she spends her time being a stay-at-home mom, occasionally working at a bookstore, and trying to make her cat lose weight (which is almost impossible to do). She also eats lots of ice cream, pretends to be a gardener, and possesses staggering amounts of Hello Kitty merchandise.

You can follow Patricia via her blog or Google+.

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That’s it for this edition of Genre Talk. Thanks for reading, and please join us next time when we’ll turn Deja Black upside-down and see what kinds of answers fall out of her pockets. ;)

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3.5 Stars, DSP Publications, Reviewed By JJ, Sam C. Leonhard, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Review: Forbidden Monastery by Sam C. Leonhard

Title: Forbidden Monastery (Rage: Book One)

Author: Sam C. Leonhard

Publisher: DSP Publications

Pages/Word Count: 310 Pages

At a Glance: I was drawn to the darkness of this story, but was also delighted by the sweet humor.

Reviewed By: Johanis

Blurb: Rage is a seasoned assassin, and he lives by his own rules. One of them forbids him to kill children, and at sixteen, his new target is definitely too young to die. Instead of breaking her neck, he kidnaps Lucinda of Babylon—and soon finds out the girl has the knack to annoy the hell out of him.

As if taking care of a stubborn girl isn’t enough of a burden, Lucinda’s best friend Keiran joins their escape. And falls in love with Rage. And totally ignores the fact that the man in black, who cannot and will not use magic even to save his own life, does not love him back.

Staying one step ahead of a madman who is desperate to end their lives, Rage and his unwilling companions travel to the Forbidden Monastery, a place where horrible magical experiments once took place. There are ghosts screaming for their blood and dangerous, wild magic is always ready to strike. At the end of the day, two people are dead, and Rage realizes with bitter clarity that his heart can break just as easily as it did when he was young.

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Review: Erotic, dark, but cute M/M Fantasy, this story starts when Rage, an assassin with an appetite for male prostitutes, gets a job proposal that he cannot accept. Rage has no problem killing for a living, but he draws the line when it comes to rape. His refusal to rape the sixteen-year-old magical noblewoman, Lucinda, makes him a target for those who sought to hire him. After an attempt on his life, Rage saves the girl and her kitten, and they set off on an adventure as they flee their attackers. Along the way, they run into Lucinda’s mute friend, Keiran. Although Rage is afraid to fall in love due to a painful experience in his past, he and Keiran come together and a romance forms between them.

I was drawn to the darkness of this story, but was also delighted by the sweet humor when the dangerous assassin becomes the protector of a sassy teen girl, a kitten, and a sexy mute boy. Time and again Rage finds himself in the position where he is saving innocence instead of bringing death. I loved the erotic romance in this book, which dipped briefly into ménage, as well as some taboo situations.

Although the danger they faced, as well as the erotic side story, kept me interested, I wasn’t fond of how the book ended. I had trouble connecting with and understanding the magic in the final chapters, and the ending was quite sad. However, after reading the blurb for the next book in this series, I was able to walk away from the book with a smile, and I look forward to reading book two.

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You can buy Forbidden Monastery here:

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3 Stars, DSP Publications, Literary Fiction, Reviewed By JJ, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Yeyu

Review: The Relics of Gods by Yeyu

Title: The Relics of Gods

Author: Yeyu

Length: 350 Pages

Publisher: DSP Publications

At a GlanceOverall, reading this book was a pleasant experience.

Reviewed By: Johanis

Blurb: What is worse: Being so broke you can barely afford food, getting hired for dangerous missions way out of your league, suffocating under mountains of unanswered questions—or wanting to sexually dominate someone who can kill you without lifting a finger?

Lu Delong is a mercenary who evaluates antiques most of the time and deals with the paranormal on rare occasions—even though it’s supposed to be the other way around. When he joins a dangerous quest for an ancient artifact, he meets and becomes strongly attracted to a mysterious and powerful immortal named Cangji. Despite his friends’ warnings and Cangji’s icy, unsociable demeanor, Delong is unable to resist befriending him. However, Cangji is deeply involved in a matter beyond mortals, and Delong is drawn into a chaotic struggle by both visible and invisible forces.

Always the pacifist who wanted to live a simple human life, Delong never imagined he’d end up involved in a conflict that will affect everything from the lowest insects on earth to the highest gods in heaven.

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Review: Lu Delong, an ordinary man with some magical training, joins a mission in search for special artifacts.  Though Delong doesn’t know the reason for the mission and why the artifacts are so important, he goes along and does his best to assist. At the beginning of the quest, Delong meets a man who appears to be a god named Cangji. Delong is immediately taken by the beautiful but reclusive man. Though Cangji will not speak a word to him at first, the two grow closer with each passing battle with ghosts, creatures, and gods. Cangji saves Delong on numerous occasions, which leads Delong to believe that Cangji might have feelings for him. Meanwhile, parts of the mystery surrounding the relics are uncovered, but the mission continues. Toward the end of the book Delong realizes that despite Cangji appearing untouchable, he may just have a chance with him.

The Relics of Gods is filled with adventure but revolves around a love interest. If it were not for the sex scene, which involves dubious consent, I imagine this book would be great for the Young Adult crowd. Though I found the dense world building and myth explanations difficult to follow, Cangji’s character was very sexy and appealing. I really liked the idea of a dominant man sexually pursuing a dangerous immortal who is quiet, threatening, and the least likely being to submit sexually. I enjoyed the interactions between Delong and Cangji, but I would have preferred more communication between them. Following the dubious consent scene, I was left wondering where the couple stood. Then, when the book ended, I was a bit surprised.  I felt like there was so much left unresolved in their relationship, and I really wanted to know how things worked out between them.

Overall, reading this book was a pleasant experience.

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You can buy The Relics of the Gods here:

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5 Stars, Carole Cummings, DSP Publications, Literary Fiction, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Lisa, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Steampunk

Review: Blue on Black by Carole Cummings

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Title: Blue on Black

Author: Carole Cummings

Publisher: DSP Publications

Pages/Word Count: 380 Pages

At a Glance: Blue on Black is an alternate universe, twisted history, sci-fi/fantasy/steampunkish feast for the imagination and senses.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: Kimolijah Adani—Class 2 gridTech, beloved brother, most promising student the Academy’s ever had the privilege of calling their own, genius mechanical gridstream engineer, brilliantly pioneering inventor… and dead man. But that’s what happens when a whiz kid messes with dynamic crystals and, apparently, comes to the attention of Baron Petra Stanslo. Killed for his revolutionary designs, Kimolijah Adani had been set to change the world with his impossible train that runs on nothing more than gridstream locked in a crystal. Technically it shouldn’t even be possible, but there is no doubt it works.

Bas is convinced the notoriously covetous and corrupt Stanslo had something to do with Kimolijah Adani’s tragic and suspicious end. A Directorate Tracker, Bas has finally managed to catch the scent of Kimolijah Adani’s killer, and it leads right into Stanslo’s little desert barony. For almost three years, Bas has tried to find a way into Stanslo’s Bridge, and when he finally makes it, shock is too small a word for what—or, rather, whom—he finds there.

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Review: If ever there was a book written that deserves to be an illustrated novel, it’s Carole Cummings’ Blue on Black, an alternate universe, twisted history, sci-fi/fantasy/steampunkish feast for the imagination and senses that sends readers on a synesthetic journey to an Old West-like place that, had it ever existed in reality, would have changed our own world dramatically.

Blue on Black is a story that’s not so much woven together from beginning to end as it is deconstructed and put back together again. What I mean by that is the plot and characters, and how they relate to each other, are constructed of a series of knots at the outset that must be untangled in order for us to see the “big picture” resolve itself in the end. Everything in this novel is layered—the colors, the characters, the setting, the Tech, the grandiose scheme which has brought the outlier Stanslo’s Bridge and its robber baron, Petra Stanslo, to the attention of the Directorate—with a subtlety that makes you look just that little bit deeper to make sure you don’t miss a thing. Who are enemies, who are allies, and who is simply looking out for number one? When does servitude represent freedom and freedom, servitude? It’s a web we’re snared in from the start, and we must decipher it right along with our intrepid hero.

Stanslo is both the Pandora’s Box and the Prometheus in the novel, dictator of a place where life often means death, where language is mind control, where double-think and its controlled insanity is delivered with a feral grin. Stanslo has opened up his twisted mind and spilled out an insane amount of narcissism upon his world, using people as leverage to oppress and fear to motivate them to carry out his plans, leaving the reader wondering where is their hope. He is predator and scavenger, exploiter and extortionist, both law and lawlessness, and he has stolen the spark (a spark he’s having trouble harnessing, by the way) necessary to unleash a technology upon humankind that humankind will not appreciate. Rather than a tool of progress, the technology in this novel is the agent of greed and lust and evil, and there seems to be no way to stop Stanslo before his delusions of grandeur give free reign to unchecked horror.

This is where Bartholomew Eisen becomes integral to the story. Bas is a Grade 3 Tracker with the Directorate of the Consolidated Territories, which is a fancy way of saying he can not only sense Tech but can taste its colors, and by taste, can tell what sort of Tech a man or woman possesses. He’s been assigned to track a missing weatherTech, a case which ends up intersecting with another, a murder case he’s been investigating involving one of the most promising minds in gridTech ever to be born, Kimolijah Adani, and Kimolijah’s father Ajamil. And this is how Bas ends up in Stanslo’s Bridge posing as a gunslinger called Jakob Barstow.

Narrated with no small amount of sarcasm and tongue-in-cheek humor, not to mention a flair that invokes comic book storytelling, Blue on Black is motion and movement in not only in its crafting but in the very magic of its Tech. Kimo’s power is all about the kinetic energy that flows through and from him, which draws all manner of attention to him, not to mention attracts the bad to him like a negative to a positive charge. “Everything that leaks from the Bruise goes after gridstream,” and poor Kimo is the target of the worst of it.

The Bruise itself is a place, a contusion in the skin of this world from which mutant beasts escape, a place where Nature has been made wild and toxic, a foe of the humans who, in all its karmic glory, are the ones guilty of corrupting it in the first place. It is the place that has offered Stanslo the means to control and the method to compel his madness and incite his avarice, jealousy, suspicion, and obsession with his most prized possession, playing god in his own little corner of hell. But, as with all oppressors, a day of reckoning awaits, and it’s one of the book’s greatest and most satisfying ironies when it happens.

There is action and suspense and danger between the covers of this novel, and while there is something building between Bas and Kimo amidst the destruction, Blue on Black is not a love story, though it is the story of two men who don’t know they’re falling into something that could be love, and doing it quite humorously, I might add. Really, how could they know, though, when one of them is in denial of his feelings, and the other is so full of anger and distrust that there isn’t much room for anything else? You’ve heard the idiom about someone having a burr under his saddle (or in other ::ahem:: delicate areas)? Well, the burrs in this book aren’t figurative, they are literal, and they play far too significant a role in Kimo’s life for him not to be more than a bit prickly. Plus, it’s hard to know love in the presence of fear, and it’s also rather difficult to recognize it when fear and love present some of the same physical symptoms—another lovely irony that.

Blue on Black is yet another outstanding novel by this author. I have had the pleasure of reading all her published work to date and can say without reservation that each of her books is an experience that may make you think a little harder, but the payoff in the end is always well worth the journey.

When you’re in the mood for an Alt U, Sci-Fi, Action/Adventure trip into an (un)reality of (un)imaginably fantastic proportions, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Blue on Black.

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You can buy Blue on Black here:

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10264965_252539888266926_3416999939270236877_nCarole lives with her husband and family in Pennsylvania, USA, where she spends her time trying to find time to write. Recipient of various amateur writing awards, several of her short stories have been translated into Spanish, German, Chinese and Polish.

Author of the Aisling and Wolf’s-own series, Carole is currently in the process of developing several other works, including more short stories than anyone will ever want to read, and novels that turn into series when she’s not looking.

Carole is an avid reader of just about anything that’s written well and has good characters. She is a lifelong writer of the ‘movies’ that run constantly in her head. Surprisingly, she does manage sleep in there somewhere, and though she is rumored to live on coffee and Pixy Stix™, no one has as yet suggested she might be more comfortable in a padded room.

…Well. Not to her face.

Carole is a Rainbow Con 2015 Attending Author

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DSP Publications, Ethan Stone, Giveaways

Guest Post and Giveaway: The Flesh & Blood Blog Tour With Ethan Stone

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The Novel Approach welcomes author Ethan Stone today on the Flesh & Blood tour, book two in the newly re-released Flesh series from DSP Publications.

Ethan has written a serialized ficlet set in the Flesh-verse for the tour. TNA brings you Part Three, so just in case you’ve missed parts one and two, click HERE FOR ONE and HERE FOR TWO to catch up on the story.

Ethan’s also offering readers two ways to win prizes!

THE COMMENT-TO-ENTER CONTEST IS CLOSED

Your second opportunity to win comes via the Rafflecopter widget below. Just click on it to enter for the chance at the tour-wide giveaway of a $25 Amazon Gift Card.

Good luck!

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Part Three:

I stood and spun just in time to view the main event. Colby screwed his face up and his legs straightened before he shot, three loads landing on his chest and stomach.

Watching him was an extreme turn-on and I began stroking my dick. His halted breathing evened out and he grinned when he finally opened his eyes.

“Why don’t you come here so I lick those big balls of yours?”

No need to ask me twice. I got rid of my underwear, climbed up on the couch, positioning myself over his face. Then I lowered until my sack was in his mouth. His incredible tongue made me shiver, the way he licked me exquisite.

Then life interrupted as it so often did. My phone rang. The joys of being a detective meant I was basically on-call 24/7.

“Fuck me!”

“I had planned on it,” Colby retorted.

I rolled away from Colby and dashed to my phone. “Yeah,” I snarled.

“Cris, I am so sorry for calling.”

It was my partner, Lex. She was also one of my best friends and someone I had a hard time being mad at. “What’s going on?”

“I’ve got a witness coming in to check out a line-up. The others are handling a gang fight; we’re all tied up. We just got a call regarding a robbery and Chief Brunson agreed to go on the call.”

It wasn’t usual for the chief to deal with robbery calls, but he had worked his way up from patrol and was more than capable. “So why are you calling me?”

“Well,” she paused. “It’s the location of the robbery. I’m thinking Brunson might be a little out of his element, it’s more your kind of thing.”

I furrowed my brow. “Who was robbed?”

“Suzie’s.”

“Yeah, I’ll head over there right now.”

Suzie’s Adult Super Store was the Wal-mart of sex toys. In addition to the sexual aids there were movies and magazines for every orientation. There were also eight private booths where customers could pay to watch porn and pleasure themselves as they saw fit. The last two booths on the left were the most popular because there was a glory hole. I’d gone there many times, all BC of course.

“Gotta go, big guy,” I said before dashing into the bedroom to find jeans and a shirt.

He followed me. “We can finish this later, right?”

I yanked him into a rough kiss, biting his lip for a moment. “Damn straight. I want those lips on my balls again.”

“Looking forward to it,” he replied.

I got dressed and kissed him again. “See you soon.”

“Love ya.”

I didn’t reply before I left. I did love him but it was hard for me to say the words. He understood I couldn’t say the words as often as he did and accepted it. Being with me meant he had to deal with a lot. I worried it wasn’t worth it, but he assured me it was.

I sped down Kietzke Lane and parked as near the front door of Suzie’s as possible. Inside, I spotted Brunson interviewing a short woman with multiple piercings and made my way over. When he finished with her, we stepped into away so we could talk in private.

“What happened?” I asked.

Brunson reviewed a notepad. “A guy wearing a black ski mask and carrying a gun went to the register and demanded the money. Tawanda, the clerk,” he motioned towards the pierced woman, “didn’t fight and handed over the cash. Approximately three thousand dollars.”

Sex really was the place to make money.

“There was that much cash?”

“She was getting ready to put most of it in the safe. They do it on a regular schedule.”

“So the crook either had perfect timing…”

“Or he knew their schedule.”

“I’d say he’s a frequent flier here and paid attention to when they do the drops,” I said.

Brunson nodded. “I agree.” He glanced up and blushed when he laid eyes on a twelve-inch black dildo.

I stifled a chuckle. Brunson had probably never been in a place like this. He’d been married since college—happily married, even, which is a rarity for career cops.

“Any other witnesses?”

“Yes, I’m hoping you can talk to him.”

I cocked an eyebrow. “Why?”

“Well…” Brunson replied. “I could do it. I mean, I’m a professional and all. You just might know the right questions to ask.”

“I don’t understand.”

Brunson sighed, his face was still a bright purple. “He was in the backroom at the time. He was using the…the hole.” He lowered his voice like he was cursing in church.

“The glory hole?” I asked.

Read The Next Chapter At MM Good Book Reviews

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FleshandBloodFSBlurb: Detective Cristian Flesh is about to find out that he can only run from his past for so long.

When a local man is attacked and the suspect is a hustler, Cristian knows there’s more to the case than meets the eye. His investigation will lead him into a maze of lies, deceit, and underage prostitution. But that’s only the beginning as people start disappearing and turning up dead. Cristian begins to realize that solving the case and stopping the murders won’t be enough. If he wants to make his new life with lawyer Colby Maddox work, he’ll need to face the demons of his past and put them to rest once and for all.

Buy Links: DSP Publications | Amazon | ARe/OmniLit

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Avatar2_Ethan StoneAbout the Author: Ethan Stone is an out and proud gay man. Which is fairly new in his life, the out part, not the gay part. He’s been queer his whole life, though he tried to deny it for years with a wonderful woman. The years in denial weren’t all bad, he has two amazing kids out of it. His son is a teenager and his daughter has made him a grandfather, three times over. A way too young grandfather.

Ethan has returned to Oregon after almost a decade in Nevada. He no longer has a day job and is doing his best to make a living at this writing thing. If he can’t make a living, he at least wants to support his Mt. Dew and beef jerky addictions.

Readers can find Ethan online: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | Ello: @ethanstone92

Or Email Ethan at: ethanstone.nv@gmail.com

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THE RAFFLECOPTER GIVEAWAY:

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4.5 Stars, Audio Book, Drama, DSP Publications, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Narration Rating - 3 Stars, Reviewed by Maryann, Rick R. Reed

Audio Review: Third Eye by Rick R. Reed – Narrated by Chad Tindale

Title: Third Eye

Author: Rick R. Reed

Narrator:: Chad Tindale

Publisher: DSP Publications

Run Time: 8 Hours and 57 Minutes

At a Glance: A multifaceted story that could have benefitted from more emotion in the narration.

Reviewed By: Maryann

Blurb: Who knew that a summer thunderstorm and a lost little boy would conspire to change single dad Cayce D’Amico’s life in an instant? With Luke missing, Cayce ventures into the woods near their house to find his son, only to have lightning strike a tree near him, sending a branch down on his head. When he awakens the next day in the hospital, he discovers he has been blessed or cursed – he isn’t sure which – with psychic ability. Along with unfathomable glimpses into the lives of those around him, he’s getting visions of a missing teenage girl.

When a second girl disappears soon after the first, Cayce realizes his visions are leading him to their grisly fates. Cayce wants to help, but no one believes him. The police are suspicious. The press wants to exploit him. And the girls’ parents have mixed feelings about the young man with the “third eye”.

Cayce turns to local reporter Dave Newton and, while searching for clues to the string of disappearances and possible murders, a spark ignites between the two. Little do they know that nearby, another couple – dark and murderous – are plotting more crimes and wondering how to silence the man who knows too much about them.

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Review: “Fawcettville Pennsylvania a town where nothing ever happens”.

Cayce D’Amico is a single dad to his seven year old son Luke. He’s just an ordinary guy, doesn’t make a lot of money, works at the Elite Diner, lives in an old house, but he gives his all to provide for and love Luke. Cayce was no stranger to abandonment; his ex-wife Joyce had decided, four years earlier, that she no longer wanted the burden of Luke and Cayce, and left them both. Marc, Cayce’s ex, also abandon him and their dog Oreo. And on top of all that, Cayce’s mother doesn’t think her son is responsible enough to take care of Luke.

While Luke is playing in the backyard, Cayce is inside, cooking and trying to keep an eye out for Luke. Then Cayce starts to get strange feelings and realizes a storm is coming. He takes Oreo with him to bring Luke inside, but quickly realizes the boy is no longer in the backyard. When Cayce’s search turns to panic, a neighbor points him in the direction of the dead-end at the woods. As the storm worsens, Oreo spooks and runs for home, leaving Cayce to head into the woods by himself, at which point a tree branch is hit by lightning and hits him on the head.

Luke makes it home and finds his father is not there. Worried, he calls his grandparents. When his grandmother answers the call, her first thoughts are how irresponsible her son is. Luke’s grandfather runs to check on his grandson, sensing something is terribly wrong. He tries to encourage Luke, and they head out into the storm in search of Cayce.

When Cayce awakens in the hospital, after suffering a series of nightmares about his son, he starts having thoughts about different people and can’t figure out why, but still, his main concern is Luke. Dr. Carlos Soto comes to attend Cayce and tells him his parents had brought Luke in the night before. Cayce tells Dr. Soto that he doesn’t remember anything about the accident, but the doctor assures him he will recover just fine. Cayce asks to see his son, and also wants to see the newspaper since he’s heard he’s become somewhat of a celebrity. To Cayce’s surprise the paper isn’t delivered by hospital staff but by Dave Newton, the journalist who wrote the article about Cayce’s accident. As Cayce checks out the article, he notices another about a missing girl, Lucy Plant. Then the nightmares really start!

When Cayce begins experiencing images of some gruesome and frightening things, he has to make a decision about whom to tell. His choices aren’t that great, and he could be facing serious trouble no matter who he chooses, so he settles on Dave, but when he doesn’t hear back from the reporter, he takes matters into his own hands. When Dave does meet up with Cayce again, it’s under less than ideal circumstances, but a special bond forms that night between the two men, and Dave has to make a choice between being a friend or reporter. While Cayce is still haunted by images and feelings, he suffers the worst fright of all when Luke is kidnapped.

Rick R. Reed’s Third Eye is a novel layered with deceit, naïveté, abuse, rape, and murder, and may not be for everyone, but the plot flows well and moves along at a good pace. Reed has created a story that shows how vulnerable young people can be if there is neglect involved, which is sad, because situations like this do exist in society today. It is scary in the fact that fiction can become a reality.

Chad Tindale does a passable reading of Third Eye. It was a somber performance, but I don’t know if this type of story could have been read any differently. He did a good job of distinguishing characters’ voices, but I felt there could have been more emotion reflected in parts of the reading.

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You can buy Third Eye here:

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Carole Cummings, DSP Publications, DSPP's Genre Talk

DSP Publications Presents: Genre Talk with J Tullos Hennig and Carole Cummings

DSP Publications

Hullo, J Tullos Hennig here, one of DSP Publications’ genre authors, temporarily taking the interviewer reins from Carole Cummings. There is something akin to kismet in my being the one to put Carole in the Genre Talk hotseat, since I sort of talked her into the gig in the first place. Because I knew she’d be bloody brilliant at it—almost as good as she is at telling a damn-fine story.

But before we get on with the interview, let’s have a glimpse of Carole’s latest damn-fine story:

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BlueOnBlackColor_resizedBlue on Black: Kimolijah Adani—Class 2 gridTech, beloved brother, most promising student the Academy’s ever been privileged to call their own, genius mechanical gridstream engineer, brilliantly pioneering inventor… and dead man. But that’s what happens when a whiz kid messes with dynamic crystals and, apparently, comes to the attention of Baron Petra Stanslo. Young and brilliant and killed for his revolutionary designs, Kimolijah Adani had been set to change the world with his impossible train that runs on nothing more than gridstream locked in a crystal that shouldn’t even be possible but nonetheless works.

Bas is convinced the notoriously covetous and corrupt Stanslo had something to do with Kimolijah Adani’s tragic and suspicious death. A Directorate Tracker, Bas has finally managed to catch the scent of Kimolijah Adani’s killer, and it leads right into Stanslo’s little desert barony. For almost three years, Bas has been trying to find a way into Stanslo’s Bridge, and now that he’s finally made it, “shock” is too small a word for what—or, rather, whom—he finds there.

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Jen: So, Carole, it sounds like you’ve all the marks of a fine Speculative tale in Blue on Black. What draws you to write in that genre?

Carole: Well, Speculative Fiction is a genre that’s pretty inclusive—SciFi, Fantasy, Paranormal, Steampunk… pretty much anything that relies on the incredible, the impossible, the extraordinary. Spec Fic uses things that aren’t found in our world—magic, alternate technologies, alternate races—and other fantastical elements in storytelling, wherein the fantastical elements themselves are part of the actual story and setting, not merely sidenotes or plot devices. That generally equals a lot of worldbuilding, which is probably the main component of Spec Fic that initially reeled me in and still keeps me coming back. It’s eye-opening and really quite fascinating to read about imagined worlds with completely different beings, histories, sociologies, religions, geographies, etc. To create such worlds and characters, and still maintain a reader’s ability to identify with it all, is a skill that’s beautiful to me to witness. It’s the sameness and the difference—I can relate to the sameness and be challenged by the difference. I think it’s helped me over the years to cultivate my empathy and to make me an open-minded person who’s willing to see all sides and take individual history into account when forming opinions.

Jen: This book focuses upon a dyadic between two male characters, and your previous releases do as well. I imagine the burning question is: why?

Carole: God, you have no idea how often I get that question, which is why I always ask it on Genre Talk, so authors can have a place to point and say, “here, go look there and don’t ask me again”. And I actually sometimes kind of wish I could write things that would contribute to the dearth of female heroes in today’s literature. But that right there is the reason, and though I do have some personal rationale for why I write what I do, the broader motivations are societal.

I was born into one of the first generations that told women we were equal, that we could demand equal treatment and equal pay, and that we didn’t always have to be the princess or the damsel. We could be the hero too. But at the same time, as a voracious reader, the reading material available to me had not yet caught up with that concept. It still hasn’t caught up. So in my preferred reading genre—Spec Fic, natch—I was still seeing only male heroes. John Carter, Frodo and Aragorn, Roland Deschain, Arthur and Merlin, all of the protagonists written by Bradbury and Asimov and Vonnegut, etc. And since that was all I was given, and since there were no female characters with whom I could identify in those works, I eventually learned to identify with the bolder, more forthright characteristics of the male protagonists. Having also been somewhat rough-and-tumble as a child, and having been surrounded by brothers and male cousins, and having been gifted with the kind of observation skills necessary to write characters in general, I felt like I understood men more than I understood women. So that’s what I started writing. It’s also why I don’t fit in with the Romance presses—my stories are more in line with most mainstream Spec Fic stories, with the exception of the fact that the love interest of the male protagonist also happens to be a male protagonist.

Jen: I understand what you’re saying, believe me! Let’s expand a bit more into the society—and story—in Blue on Black.

Carole: It’s… hard to describe. Kind of Fantasy, kind of SciFi, kind of Steampunk… it’s an amalgam. I like to call it Cowboys and Tesla Trains (thank you Jen, *wink wink*) because though it’s a tongue-in-cheek description, it’s also kind of accurate. I also like to call it BoB because it was a very difficult story for me to write and it sometimes made me feel better to say BoB is being a bastard today.

Anyway, it’s a story mainly about control and the kinds of people who want it, the kinds of people who have it, why they would seek it and what they would do with it. It’s not a pretty story, and I’m told some of the concepts might be triggery for some, but I feel like it says some important things about abusive situations, about what kinds of people might get caught up in one (anyone), what they’ll do to survive it (anything), and where the limits might hide (if there are any). It challenges what we would think of as “normal” and “healthy”, and shows us people who may function outside of those narrow parameters, but who should not be judged by them.

Jen: And Blue on Black is being published through DSP Publications, Dreamspinner Press’s imprint for nonromance genre novels. You’ve already talked some about the relationship in Blue on Black; what makes this novel a better fit for genre Spec Fic as opposed to genre Romance?

Carole: Basically, because I just don’t write romance. I never have. And I’ve tried! And while I like a good romance as much as the next person, my interests lie in characterization and watching a different world develop, in discovering what the characters are like and where they came from, watching them interact with their world and finding the similarities and differences in how we interact with our own. I love the possibilities of Spec Fic, and character-driven stories are like good wine for me. And since I write what I like to read, my stories—in this case Blue on Black—tend more toward exploring those possibilities and finding out whether or not the two protagonists will grow together during that exploration. That means the relationship takes a backseat to plot and worldbuilding and character development, which pretty much disqualifies it as a romance.

DSP Publications was a bloody godsend for me, because I often found myself disheartened by comments and reviews that basically said WTF, what’s all this worldbuilding doing in my Romance? and now I at least have the comfort of knowing that if that’s not what they were looking for, it’s their own fault for not paying attention to what my publisher is all about. ;)

Jen: It sounds as though the evolution of Blue on Black has its own story. Share some of that, if you would; give us a peek into some earlier concepts. Did it always resemble the present story? Was it always Blue on Black, or did it morph from something else entirely?

Carole: Augh. This story snuck up behind me, thunked me on the head and dragged me to my laptop, and by the time I realized what it was and where it was going, it already had me chained to the keyboard and wouldn’t let me put it down. This never ever happens to me, but it quite literally jumped me in a dream with the image of Bas up on top of a train (Karl Urban in Priest may or may not have had something to do with that image), with wild currents of electricity whipping around him and something sinister waiting at the end of the tracks. The rest is unending research into Tesla and his genius, and my own wild imagination, all peppered liberally with whinging and dragging my feet. (Did I mention this story was really hard to write?)

Jen: Though it doesn’t sound as though you found it hard to settle that Blue on Black was to centre on a relationship between two men. Out of all the excellent reasons to explore that dynamic, which ones played a necessary part here?

Carole: All of the stories that come to me these days involve the M/M dynamic, for the reasons stated above, but I think this one in particular needed it because a woman caught in the situation in which one of the protagonists finds himself would likely be, sadly, judged harshly and unfairly (and I’ll be interested to see how the character Mari is received). That’s all I’m going to say on that because a) more would be spoilery, and b) I don’t want to get into some kind of MRA –vs– SJW kerfuffle (though that’s admittedly highly unlikely in this genre and in this particular venue, but still).

As a general comment on M/M as a genre, and why Blue on Black is now a part of it, I think my participation is necessary because every story that features love between two people of the same sex—or someone of color, or someone with a disability, or someone whose “normal” is not your “normal” or my “normal”—is another tick in the advocacy column, another step toward acceptance and equality. It opens eyes and opens discussion. And I like to think I’m contributing to that in my own small ways.

Jen: In your opinion, what is the best trend you’re seeing in Spec Fic publishing today?

Carole: The best trend, I think, is the increased selection of reading material brought about by the advent of small presses. I have been unimpressed for a couple decades now by most of what’s coming out of the bigger NY publishers, and small presses are starting to assuage my unhappiness at getting less and less of what I want to read. Small presses so far are welcoming a lot of what the bigger presses turn their noses up at, and that’s awesome for me, because I want my stories, damn it!

Jen: So then, it also begs the question: what of the worst trend?

Carole: The whole “shorter is better” thing that’s been taking over every genre lately and treating character development like it’s some kind of superfluous indulgence. That says an event can’t be an interior revelation but must be some kind of physical exploit, and action can’t be an intense conversation but must be a car chase or a gunfight. It discounts nuance, it devalues subtext, it forfeits depth and caters to short attention spans. Spec Fic is supposed to challenge readers, not kowtow to them. Intricate plots, in-depth character development, immersive worldbuilding—I want it all, and I’m not getting much of it these days, though the small presses are making it easier to find now.

When I find a book or a series the size of a cinderblock, and the blurb gets me all a-quiver, and the writing makes me drool, I do a Snoopy-dance. I get visions of a lazy weekend (or even a week!) sinking into someone else’s world, getting to know some new characters and finding out everything about them so their reactions will be something that a) makes sense, and b) I can understand, if not empathize with. (Don’t slap a couple Elves into modern day NYC and call it Fantasy—tell me why those Elves are there, who they are, how their presence can make sense in this world and why it matters.) But the trend these days is toward “short and sweet” and cutting out character development and worldbuilding in favor of space battles and explosions. Publishing houses—even some of the smaller ones just coming up—don’t seem to want to make readers think, and a lot of readers will cut a bitch if you try to make them, and that’s a bloody shame, because that’s what Spec Fic is for! I don’t need to be dragged through a story behind a speeding train—I need to care about the characters, and if there is no time and there are no words spent on telling me why I should, there’s no real point for me. Today’s “tell it in 60K or less” means I don’t get many of the in-depth epics I grew up with, because authors aren’t allowed to elaborate unless they’re Stephen King or George R. R. Martin. And I miss my epics.

Jen: Me, too. Let’s go light a candle for them… and nurse a drink! But first I’d better do you proud, and be the proper interviewer, and share a bit from yours.

Because Blue on Black is epic-ly entertaining. Continue on, Fair Readers, and see for yourself. (And links available after the excerpt, natch.)

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EXCERPT – BLUE ON BLACK: It doesn’t start like this:

See, the thing is, it isn’t supposed to go this way.

He’s a goddamned tracker, he’s a goddamned good tracker, better than anything else the Directorate’s got, and the swagger that comes with that has been earned a hundred times over, sometimes in blood, though, okay, let’s not get all maudlin and dramatic. The point is, he’s not supposed to be caught wrong-footed. And he’s certainly not supposed to be staring down eight barrels of a spin-cylinder street cannon in the back of a train station in godforsaken Harrowgate.

That’s supposed to be the agent’s job. Poor guy. Stupid fucking idiot.

“You Barstow?” the man with the gun asks. He’s tall and rangy, rough-looking and sallow-skinned, with patches of beard going wild and scraggly. It’s dark and Bas can’t see the rest of his face very well, just a stubbled sloping chin beneath the shadow cast by his wide-brimmed hat. He looks tough as rusty nails and just as pleasant.

Steam hugs the ground and wreaths the hem of the man’s long dirty coat, clings, and thickens the reek of dirt and sweat that wafts from the man every time he moves. Bas can even smell it through the fug of smoke and engine grease coming from the station, and all of it combined pricks at his eyes and makes them water.

There’s no cleaner, deeper sense of Tech beneath any of it—no thick, sundrop yellow mutters of “psyTech” hazing at the periphery of his vision and scattering something earthy on the back of his tongue; no blue edging that says “kineTech” and somehow tastes of wet cedar. Bas’s mind decides “nonTech” before his eyes bother to fully assess his current situation. Still, though, the gun—Bas can see that just fine.

“Who’s asking?” Bas says from his crouch. He’s somewhat pissed off, so it comes out a growl.

Smooth, Bas, he tells himself. Keep it smooth. He can still salvage this.

“I en’t playin’ games.” The housing of the barrels turns and a cylinder clicks into place. “Are you Barstow?”

Bas peers down at the agent’s body, blood still seeping in a rivulet from the knife in his throat, the heat catching the chill of the desert night and wisping steam. Aaron, Bas thinks. The guy’s name was Aaron.

Bas didn’t know him well. Hadn’t cared to get to know him. Just another Directorate agent who’d maybe gotten a little too cocky. It happens.

“Yeah,” says Bas. “Yeah, I’m Barstow.”

He isn’t. No one is, not really. It’s a cover, a standard one used by trackers when they need a ready-made thug reputation as an in with bands of thieves and murderers, and then that same cover is handed over to the agents along with the case once the tracker’s job is done.

Bas is a tracker, not an agent. Trackers track. They don’t do the set-them-up-then-take-them-down part. They do the sniffing out and the pointing, and then they let the agents take over.

Except.

Bas knows the Barstow cover well enough to fake it. He’s been Barstow plenty of times. Hell, he’d done most of the legwork on this particular case, and he’d done it as Barstow. And someone needs to get into Stanslo’s Bridge.

“Well, Barstow.” It sounds like a sneer. “Ye picked up a tail.”

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Blue on Black is available June 16th from DSP Publications, Amazon, and most other major distributors.

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carole-cummings-6About the Author: Carole Cummings lives with her husband and family in Pennsylvania, USA, where she spends her time trying to find time to write. Author of the Aisling and Wolf’s-own series, Carole is an avid reader of just about anything that’s written well and has good characters. She is a lifelong writer of the “movies” that run constantly in her head. Surprisingly, she does manage sleep in there somewhere, and though she is rumored to live on coffee and Pixy Stix™, no one has as yet suggested she might be more comfortable in a padded room. Well, not to her face.

Free shorts, sneak peeks at WIPs, and other miscellany can be found via Carole’s website, blog, Facebook and/or Twitter.

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Thanks for joining us. Next time on Genre Talk, Patricia Correll will be talking to us about Fantasy.

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5 Stars, A.J. Marcus, DSP Publications, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Pia

Review: Eagle’s Blood by A.J. Marcus

Title: Eagle’s Blood (Mountain Spirits Mysteries: Book One)

Author: A.J. Marcus

Publisher: DSP Publications

Pages/Word Count: 200 Pages

At a Glance: A very enjoyable read I would recommend to anybody who loves animals and the men who work with them.

Reviewed By: Pia

Blurb: Brock Summers is a Colorado Parks and Wildlife Officer who loves his job and takes it very seriously. When he discovers a video of golden eagles being shot and learns of a nest in trouble, not even a blizzard can stop him from trekking up the mountain in an attempt to rescue them.

When Brock returns with the one eaglet he manages to save, Landon Weir, the local wildlife rehabilitator, patches up the bird and the injury Brock suffered during the rescue. Though they have been friends and colleagues for years, they discover a shared passion for protecting wildlife and vow to work together to protect the majestic birds from the criminals preying on them. It isn’t long before another video of eagles being killed comes to their attention.

They must face inclement weather, a dangerous mountain, and armed poachers if they want to ensure the eagles’—and their own—survival.

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Review: In A.J. Marcus’s book Eagles Blood, we meet Brock Summers, a parks and wildlife officer, and Landon Weir, a wild life rehabilitator, who work together to save a baby golden eagle and other birds that become targets of poachers who are shooting birds and posting videos online.

I really enjoyed this book, and one of the first things I noticed was just how well researched it was, so much so I feel like I’ve learned things about rehabbing large predatory bids and other wild life I didn’t know before.

Our MCs come across as believable, everyday guys who love their jobs and understand the ups and downs of the job they do, but love it enough to keep doing it even when it’s heartbreaking work. I liked that Brock and Landon had worked together a few years before anything developed between them. It’s nice to find a good friends-to-lovers story.

I liked the pace of this book, and I think Marcus did a great job of balancing the elements of this story. The book never lagged or concentrated too much on either the action or the romance.

Eagle’s Blood is a very enjoyable read I would recommend to anybody who loves animals and the men who work with them.

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You can buy Eagle’s Blood here:

OmniLit/ARe

OmniLit/ARe

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4 Stars, DSP Publications, Felicitas Ivey, Reviewed by Jennifer, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Review: Back to the Dream by Felicitas Ivey

Title: Back to the Dream (Dreamlands: Book Two)

Author: Felicitas Ivey

Publisher: DSP Publications

Pages/Word Count: 314 Pages

At a Glance: Slower pacing than the first novel, with frequent character changes, but still a good story.

Reviewed By: Jennifer

Blurb: Although Inuzaka Keno has found freedom and love in the Dreamlands with oni Samojirou Aboshi, the war is still raging between The Trust’s battle-hardened recruits and the demons of his new home. While cloaked in shadows and magic, powerful people are using Keno, Aboshi, and their Lord Tamazusa as pawns in a deadly plan to rule both worlds.

They’re not alone: soldiers Mason, Wolf, and McGann—Keno’s friends from The Trust—also find themselves embroiled in the battle spreading through the Dreamlands, involving its other lands and cultures. If they’re to have any chance to survive, Aboshi will have to leave his love to protect him, and Keno will have to find the power within himself to live on without his heart.

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Review: I absolutely adored the first book in this series, Dreamlands, when I read it, and I had high hopes for the sequel. I wanted to know more about Keno and Samojirou, as well as the humans Mason and Wolf. I got more of that in this book, but the pacing was slow in the first quarter of the book, and in many parts the story dragged on, and I had to stop. After that first quarter, however, things definitely picked up, and I couldn’t read fast enough. Once again, Ivey has blended urban fantasy with a more traditional fantasy/mythology. New cultures are introduced and explored, which adds new elements to the novel not seen in the first.

Keno is growing as a character. In the first book, while he slowly falls for Samojirou, he is afraid of anything sexual with him because of his abuse on Earth. Understandable. In this book, however, he has gotten past that, and it seems that every time they are on the page together, Keno is exploring his newfound confidence. Readers will also see him grow once he travels with Tamazusa and is reunited with Mason, Wolf, and the others.

The intrigue of the Game in the Dreamlands is developing more. There are new characters, and the tension rises as Tamazusa plays the Game, putting herself in possible danger. Samojirou doesn’t like this, but it enables Keno to take on a new role. Of course, this new role is yet again as a woman, like his alter-ego Sakura. For being the avatar of a vicious warrior, he certainly dresses as a woman more frequently than not. But I guess that could be explained due to the interesting history of his ancestor and how he’s missing from the Dreamlands. It’s almost like two extremes of one person. However, he does shed this role once they reach the Northlands.

Mason is just as crass and protective of McGann as in the last book, and his relationship is growing with Tamazusa, which is fascinating, given her history and distrust of all men except Samojirou, Keno, and her samurai. And then there’s the other new, complex characters from the Trust as well as the Dreamlands, particularly the newly introduced Northlands.

For new readers, it is sometimes tricky because so many characters tell their story from first person perspective. Sometimes the events overlap, other times they skip ahead a bit. Others happen simultaneously in different areas of the Dreamlands. But each character brings something unique to the story.

If you are new and want to check this out, you absolutely must read the first book. While Ivey does a good job of covering the basics, there is just too much that would be missed. Characters that are not present in this novel are discussed, and they are crucial to the development of some events in this book. Plus, the first book is just so awesome, why would you want to skip it anyway?

I look forward to reading book three and finding out more about the Dreamlands and what the Trust is going to try next.

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You can buy Back to the Dream here:

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5 Stars, A.J. Marcus, DSP Publications, Literary Fiction, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Maryann

Review: Grizzly Discovery by A.J. Marcus

Title: Grizzly Discovery (Mountain Spirit Mystery: Book Two)

Author: A.J. Marcus

Publisher: DSP Publications

Pages/Word Count: 200 Pages

At a Glance: I highly recommend Eagle’s Blood and Grizzly Discovery, especially if you are an animal lover.

Reviewed By: Maryann

Blurb: Landon Weir and Brock Summers are happily settling into their life as a couple, easily balancing Landon’s work as an animal rehabber with Brock’s career as a Colorado Parks and Wildlife Officer. When they find a bear shot and skinned, they set out to discover who’s behind the heinous act.

Events force Brock to come out to his boss, causing him and Landon to rethink how public they want to make their relationship. As more bear sightings – and more carcasses – show up in the area, Brock is attacked by a black bear he’s trying to release back into the wild, but his injuries don’t prevent him from helping Landon and their friends with the investigation. Despite leads being thin on the ground, the two men try to uncover the poachers before more bears are killed. But when the evidence points them in an unexpected direction, Teller County’s bear population may not be all the killers have in their sights.

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Review: Brock Summers is a wildlife officer working for the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife. He gives his all to a job that he loves.

Landon Weir is a local wildlife rehabber, and he runs Mountain Spirit Wildlife Rehab, with recovery pens on twenty acres of land. He also gives his all to a job that he loves. Most of all Brock and Landon are true soul mates, and they give one-hundred percent to each other. Brock has just recently moved in with Landon, but not everyone is aware of their personal connection. Brock doesn’t want to lie, but is he ready to admit to his relationship with Landon.

Both Brock and Landon share a special bond with the eagle, Frigga, and Brock spends a lot of his time rescuing and relocating animals and dealing with poachers. Whenever an animal is injured, Brock takes them to Landon, who tries his best to rehabilitate them so they can be released back into the wilderness. Animals that are injured to the point they can’t go back into the wild he keeps or sends them to specialized rehabbers. The ones that he does keep, he uses for educational purposes at events where he introduces them to people. He educates people on what happens when the animal cannot go back to their habitat because of injuries that are caused by humans. In a day’s work, Brock and Landon could be dealing with lynx, moose, osprey, deer, eagles, raccoons, kestrels, elk and bears.

Carl Matz has come to town and wants to meet with Brock and Landon. He is doing research on the bear population in different counties by setting up eight-foot poles with game cameras on them. They discover a carcass of a bear that looks strange to Landon. Landon calls Brock, but it would take him some time to get to Landon. Once Brock and Dara show up, they conduct their investigation and take the carcass with them. Even checking out the photo files doesn’t give Brock and Landon any information. Brock seeks permission from his Captain to have the carcass taken to Dr. Angela Lanstrom at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo to perform a necropsy.

Even with everything that’s going on, Brock has made time to give Landon an amazing surprise. When the time comes for Brock and Landon to get back to work, things get crazy. Brock facing a dangerous bear release, too many dead bears, and a human. What’s the answer to all the bear killings, and who is in danger next?

In 2014 I read Eagle’s Blood, the first book in this series and re-read it to refresh my memory before tackling Grizzly Discovery, and I have to say both books are amazing and informative. A.J. Marcus shares so much knowledge in Eagle’s Blood about birds (of course, he is a falconer). In Grizzly Discovery, you’ll find Brock, Landon, Dara, Bear and Frigga, but most of all, A.J. Marcus shares knowledge about different animals in the wilderness. Both of these stories show how greedy people can be. Land is not the only thing taken away from the wildlife; they are killed for their pelts and body parts too. I highly recommend both of these books, especially if you are an animal lover.

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You can buy Grizzly Discovery here:

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3.5 Stars, Connie Bailey, DSP Publications, Literary Fiction, Reviewed By Carrie, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Review: The Bastard’s Pearl by Connie Bailey

Title: The Bastard’s Pearl

Author: Connie Bailey

Publisher: DSP Publications

Pages/Word Count: 324 Pages

At a Glance: The Bastard’s Pearl is a rather difficult read at times, and sometimes Sheyn is a difficult man to like, or even tolerate.

Reviewed By: Carrie

Blurb: When Sheyn, a headstrong young aristocrat, disobeys his parents and travels to the far east, he passes through Kandaar, an isolated country of strange customs. He is abducted, transformed by a mysterious ritual, and sold to a barbarian king as a pleasure slave. When the king is killed by Kashyan the Bastard, dispossessed prince of Clan Savaan, Sheyn becomes Kashyan’s possession.

The Bastard expects Sheyn—now called Pearl—to behave as an obedient pleasure slave, but compliance is not in Sheyn’s nature. Nor does Sheyn’s ordeal stop at being held captive by people he considers savages. The Red Temple covets Sheyn as a living gateway to the demon realm and plans to use him to summon the God of Death.

Kashyan loathes Sheyn, and Sheyn despises Kashyan, but when the Red Temple kidnaps Sheyn, honor compels Kashyan to rescue his slave, and he starts a war in the process. If they hope to stop the Red Monks from bringing hell to earth, Sheyn will have to accept Kashyan is more than an uncivilized brute, and Kashyan will have to admit there’s more to his Pearl than a pretty, arrogant exterior.

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Review: The Bastard’s Pearl is the story of Sheyn and Kashyan, one a spoiled aristocrat prince and one a bastard prince. It’s the story of a caustic, self-righteous prince made low, and an honorable, decent man receiving the recognition and hard won power he deserves.

We enter a land made by gods, who then fought and divided that land, and so, the people who live there as well. Sheyn is kidnapped from his philosophically forward country and brought to the backwards land of Kandaar, where he is transformed into a pleasure slave, or daaksi, and meets Kashyn, who is his one true mate. Their worlds clash and collide as they attempt to understand one another and the customs and ways of which they have each been taught. In the end, they each learn the value of service and devotion over self and love of country over all.

Connie Bailey has created a complicated mythical world in which these two men meet and ultimately, fall in love. It’s a rather difficult read at times, keeping up with all the words and new language vocabulary. Sheyn is a difficult man to like, or even tolerate, at times as his sarcasm and pretentiousness can be off-putting. In the end the gods are happy, the men receive their HEA and their respective countries become allies, so if you are a fan of mythical worlds and fantasy, then this book would be a good read for you. If you are not a fan of sarcasm, then I would pass this one by.

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You can buy The Bastard’s Pearl here:

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5 Stars, Aldous Mercer, DSP Publications, Reviewed by Jennifer, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Review: The Prince and the Program by Aldous Mercer

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Title: The Prince and the Program

Author: Aldous Mercer

Publisher: DSP Publications

Pages/Word Count: 344 pages

At a Glance: Impossible to define, difficult to read, but thoroughly enjoyable.

Reviewed By: Jennifer

Blurb: Mordred Pendragon, the Bastard Prince, has done a Bad Thing—again. Exiled to Canada for seven years, he has to find a job to pay his bills. For reasons he refuses to reveal, Mordred decides “Software Engineer” has a nice ring to it. And though experience with “killing the Once and Future King, my father” and “that time in feudal Japan” makes for a poor résumé, he is hired by a small tech startup in Toronto.

In the midst of dealing with a crippling caffeine addiction and learning C++, Mordred thinks he has finally found someone to anchor him to the world of the living: Alan, the company’s offsite lead developer. Except that Alan might not be a “living” entity at all—he may, in fact, be the world’s first strong AI. Or a demon that mistook a Windows install for the highway to Hell. Or, just maybe, the ghost of Alan Turing, currently inhabiting a laptop.

Mordred’s attempts to figure out his love life are hampered by constant interference from the Inquisitors of the SecuritatesArcanarum, corporate espionage, real espionage, a sysadmin bent on enslaving the world, and Marketing’s demands that Mordred ship software to the Russian Federation. Then Alan gets himself kidnapped. To save him, Mordred must ally himself with the company’s CEO, who will stop at nothing to rescue her lead developer so he can get back to work. But the Prince doesn’t just want to rescue Alan, he wants a Happily Ever After—and he will travel beyond Death itself to get one.

Too bad Alan is perfectly happy as a computer.

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Review: I don’t know how to define this book. It’s such a mashup of genres that SHOULDN’T work together but somehow do. That’s how talented this author is. Also, kudos to his editor for not ripping out their hair, because I don’t know how anyone could edit this without going insane.

So, as you can see by the blurb, the book has Mordred in it. As in the Mordred from Arthurian legend. But, it’s more than that. It also has a historical person in the shape of Alan Turing. What? I know, right? Who would have thought those two things would go so well together? But they do.

This book is part traditional fantasy, part urban fantasy, part science fiction, part paranormal ghost story, possibly a bit fairy tale-ish (maybe), a LOT of computer jargon, math that hurts the brain, theoretical things that hurt the brain, and I don’t even know what else.

Written in short pieces, the book can be jarring at times. I didn’t know what was happening at first, but I slowly caught on to the author’s style. Then the math and computer coding was introduced, and my brain exploded. I read and reread everything at least three times to try to understand it, but let’s not fool ourselves here. I’m a math and computer idiot, though I did try, and this book made me wish I knew what the characters were talking about.

The middle part of the book flows really well, and I was hooked into Mordred’s story as he became more comfortable in his role at EK, and with his flirtation with Alan. And then demons enter the picture, all hell breaks loose, and the style is once again jarring. Mercer rapidly switches from scene to scene to keep you thrown off. It’s hard to follow, but it’s worth it, I promise.

Not everything is revealed in this book, so you really do have to pay attention and just go with it. I’m not sure exactly what Mordred did that time in feudal Japan, I don’t know what happened to Tom and his family, and the ending of the book had me screaming, “OH MY GOD,” because I think I know what happened, but who am I kidding? I probably don’t.

Either way, what a ride!

I really want to read the next book in this series for a few reasons. First of all, I love Mordred and I want to see what happens to him. Second, I’ve been obsessed with Alan Turing for a while now, so I want to see how he’s portrayed in subsequent books. Even though this is a sci-fi/fantasy/whatever blend, the author was still—what I thought to be—true to the real man. Finally, I need to know if my thoughts on Gen-Mai at the end are correct. Maybe it won’t be revealed, but I can hope.

If you want a book that’s a challenge, check this out. But please, stick with it. I promise you, though it’s conceptually unique, it’s worth every headache.

And, if you’d like to have a discussion on Artificial Intelligence or Artificial Sentience after reading this, please, feel free to message me. In the meantime, I’ll be right here, having an existential meltdown.

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You can buy The Prince and the Program here:

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