GRL 2015 Featured Blogger Tour, Rick R. Reed

Guest Post: The Countdown To GayRomLit 2015 with Rick R. Reed

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With only nine more days until the official kick-off of GayRomLit 2015 in San Diego, we’re so pleased to have author Rick R. Reed with us today as our final tour guest. If you’ll be there and have a chance to say hello, do. A more delightful gentleman you’ll never meet.

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Life Imitating Art and “Gender Reveals”

If I just say that the m/m community has been buzzing about a certain “gender reveal,” I think we all will know what I’m talking about even if I avoid mentioning the specifics. I have nothing new to add to that conversation, but a comment one person made on Facebook about it reminded me how my book, HUNGRY FOR LOVE (Dreamspinner Press September 2013) dealt with almost the exact same situation. The Facebook commenter mentioned that he’d already read all about the controversy in HUNGRY FOR LOVE.

Talk about life imitating art!

See, HUNGRY FOR LOVE has a main character that adopts an identity as a woman to write bestselling m/m fiction. When I wrote it, I was thinking of no one in particular (and the fact that the book came out two years ago attests to this), but I thought the similarities were, well…interesting.

Below is an excerpt that better details what I’m talking about. If you want to read the whole story of HUNGRY FOR LOVE, you can buy it by clicking on the links below.

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HungryForLoveFSBLURB: Nate Tippie and Brandon Wilde are gay, single, and both hoping to meet that special man, even though fate has not yet delivered him to their doorstep. Nate’s sister, Hannah, and her kooky best friend, Marilyn, are about to help fate with that task by creating a profile on the gay dating site, OpenHeartOpenMind. The two women are only exploring, but when they need a face and body for the persona they create, they use Nate as the model.

When Brandon comes across the false profile, he falls for the guy he sees online. Keeping up the charade, Hannah begins corresponding with him, posing as Nate. Real complications begin when Brandon wants to meet Nate, but Nate doesn’t even know he’s being used in the online dating ruse. Hannah and Marilyn concoct another story and send Nate out to let the guy down gently. But when Nate and Brandon meet, the two men feel an instant and powerful pull toward each other. Cupid seems to have shot his bow, but how do Nate and Brandon climb out from under a mountain of deceit without letting go of their chance at love?

BUY: Amazon || Dreamspinner Press

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EXCERPT: He had never intended for things to spiral so out of control when he picked the pen name. In another age, when things weren’t so instantly available online, there wouldn’t have been the temptation to connect so personally with readers. But one thing had led to another, and soon Nate had created up an entire life for BF Mann. It had been fun, imagining all the things she was up to and her quirky personality. She had become like a character in one of his novels.

He could have kicked himself for never realizing the stock people might come to put in this woman, this writer whom they adored.

Until this morning….

Pen names were one thing. And Nate still didn’t believe he had done anything wrong by adopting one. Writers had been doing that much since time immemorial.

He realized that what he had done wasn’t so very different from what his sister and Marilyn had done, and it had spiraled out of control in much the same way (although his had much bigger consequences). He understood now what had happened, how an online persona could be fun, how we could create a whole new person to be.

Who among us hasn’t longed to be someone else, if only for a day?

Nate got up. He wasn’t enjoying the warm, balmy breezes, wasn’t able to eat more than a few bites of his sandwich.

He needed to talk to his readers. He trudged back up to the third floor, sat down at his desk, and opened his laptop.

He opened a new blog post and stared at the empty screen. And then he began to type.

Dear Reader,

I am writing just to you, the one who has been hurt by my admission earlier today that BF Mann is not a woman but a gay man. I wanted to apologize, to tell you how deeply I regret letting things get out of hand. I never meant to hurt you. In fact, if I could go back and do things differently, I would. Because I love all of you; I have loved communicating with you, even if I was foolishly hiding behind a mask. 

I hope I haven’t damaged things beyond all repair. And I don’t say that because I am worried about sales, or that you will turn away from my next offering, but because one of the greatest treasures I believe any writer has is his or her connection to a reader. A reader like you. It might be on the page, when together, with my words and your imagination, we build a story. Or it might be on Facebook, exchanging messages and good-natured snark. Authors work in an isolated place, and believe me when I say I treasure my connection to you. I would be inconsolable if I thought my actions had done anything to permanently damage that. 

It started with a pen name, and that was all I ever intended it to be. Like the characters in my books, BF Mann took on a life of her own. She’s a wild woman and got a little out of control. 

I had to rein her in. I had to tell you the truth. I apologize many times over for deceiving you, but malice was never in my heart. Know I never snickered at you or thought you were foolish for believing in my persona. As I said, I treasured that interaction, and it never even crossed my mind that I could be doing you harm. 

I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me. I have many more stories to tell, both personal and the kind you like—juicy gay love stories spiced with the paranormal or a big dose of suspense, all set right here where I do live (honest!), in Seattle. 

For me—and I suspect for you too—it’s always been about the stories and not as much the person behind them. I know I will remember that going forward and hope you will as well. 

I heart you. 

Nate

He hoped the blog wasn’t too much and that it didn’t come off as insincere. He prayed, with all his heart, that his readers, his beloved readers, saw that he was baring his soul along with the real him, and in that act, dreamed of a kind of grace—or at least forgiveness.

He hit “publish.”

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Rick R. ReedBIOGRAPHY: Rick R. Reed is all about exploring the romantic entanglements of gay men in contemporary, realistic settings. While his stories often contain elements of suspense, mystery and the paranormal, his focus ultimately returns to the power of love. He is the author of dozens of published novels, novellas, and short stories. He is a three-time EPIC eBook Award winner (for Caregiver, Orientation and The Blue Moon Cafe). Raining Men and Caregiver have both won the Rainbow Award for gay fiction.  Lambda Literary Review has called him, “a writer that doesn’t disappoint.” Rick lives in Seattle with his husband and a very spoiled Boston terrier. He is forever “at work on another novel.”

Web: http://www.rickrreed.com
Blog: http://rickrreedreality.blogspot.com/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/rickrreedbooks
Twitter: www.twitter.com/rickrreed.
E-mail: jimmyfels@gmail.com

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GRL 2015 Featured Blogger Tour, Marie Sexton

Guest Post and Free Download: The Countdown to GayRomLit with Marie Sexton

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We’re so please to welcome author Marie Sexton today on the Countdown to GayRomLit 2015 blog tour. Marie’s here to chat books and to tell you all about how you can get a FREE book this week only at Amazon.

Enjoy!

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Darkness and Light

Hello, everybody! I’m Marie Sexton, and I’m thrilled to be here on The Novel Approach as part of the GRL blog tour.

Today is kind of a big day for me, being the culmination of over three years of work. See, back in early 2012, I became obsessed with a new story idea. It was a dystopian fantasy set in a universe that looked a lot like Dickens’s London, but with a bit of cyberpunk thrown in. It centered around a pickpocket-turned-whore named Misha who fell in love with an abused sex slave. I spent the next two years beating my head against that book, trying to make it take shape. It was by far the darkest story I’d ever tried to write, and I swear it almost killed me, especially when I realized the story was too big for one book. After all, if I couldn’t finish one story in this bleak universe, how would I ever manage to finish two?

I gave up on it many times, but I kept going back, partly because there were pieces of the story I loved too much to let go, and partly because certain friends cheered me on, telling me it was too good to give up on. Finally, in June of 2014, I published the first part of that story, Release. (You can pick it up for free on Amazon, this week only!) And today, the last part of the story, Return, is available too.

I mentioned before that the Davlova series was the darkest story I’d ever tried to write, and that wasn’t an exaggeration. It was so dark and disturbing that one of my beta readers flat-out said, “Your readers aren’t ready for this, Marie,” and so I decided to publish these books under a slightly different pen name, A.M. Sexton. I wanted it to be absolutely clear that this series is very different from Coda or Tucker Springs. It’s different even from Blind Space or Oestend. Davlova is a brutal and violent slum of a city (although I promise, the second book is significantly lighter than the first). But those who are willing to venture into this seedy world will also find a rather sweet, gentle love story buried under all the filth.

And man, after three years of struggling with these books, it feels amazing to finally have them finished!

But if you prefer your reading a bit lighter, don’t worry! I have something for you, too. You see, the world of Davlova was too dark to live in for three years straight. I put the story on hold several times in order to write sweeter, fluffier things like Lost Along the Way, Shotgun, Apartment 14 and the Devil Next Door, and (the one I’m dying to tell you about!) a fun, whimsical little Christmas novel for Riptide called Winter Oranges.

Winter Oranges is about a frustrated actor named Jason who tries to escape Hollywood by moving to Idaho. He hopes for a bit of peace and quiet (and a break from the paparazzi!), but instead finds a mysterious man nobody else can see living in his guesthouse. I don’t want to give too much away, but I will say this: I haven’t been this excited about a story in a long time. Of course, I’m always more excited about the story I have coming up than the one that just came out, but this book truly holds a special place in my heart. Winter Oranges won’t be available until November 30, but it’s available for pre-order now.

So, there you have it! One day, but two very different worlds to choose from – the dark, dangerous alleys of Davlova, or the bright streets of Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, all decked out with holiday lights. (Of course, you could always try them both!)

Release (Davlova, part 1) (FREE this week only!)

Return (Davlova, part 2)

Winter Oranges (pre-order)

Thanks very much to The Novel Approach for having me today, and for everybody headed to GRL, I look forward to seeing you all in San Diego!

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Release-400x600Release Blurb: Davlova: a poverty-ridden city-state ruled by the tyrannical upper class. Resources are scarce and technology is illegal. But in the slums, revolution is brewing.

Misha is a common pickpocket until his boss gives him a new job. Disguised as a whore, Misha is sent to work for one of the most powerful men in the city. But his real task is far more dangerous: get close to Miguel Donato, and find something – anything – that will help topple Davlova’s corrupt government.

Misha is plunged into the decadent world of the upper class, where slaves are common and even the most perverse pleasure can be found. Although he’s sure Davlova’s elite is involved in something horrific, proof is hard to come by, and Misha begins to fall in love with the man he’s supposed to betray. Then Misha meets Ayo – a sex slave forced by the neural implant in his brain to take pleasure from pain – and everything changes. As the lower class pushes toward a bloody revolution, Misha will find himself caught between his surprising feelings for Donato, his obligations to his clan, and his determination to save Ayo.

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Return-400x600Return Blurb: The exciting conclusion to Release.

Fire rages through Davlova in the wake of a bloody revolution. The tyrannical upper class has been overthrown. In the midst of the chaos, Misha and Ayo escape on Miguel Donato’s boat and flee across the sea to the distant city of Deliphine.

All his life, Misha has dreamed of leaving Davlova behind, but now the only thing he wants to do is go home. He has no idea if the city still stands or how many of his friends have survived. But before he can return to Davlova and find his place in the wrecked landscape of the trenches, he’ll have to face a new threat in Deliphine – the Dollhouse.

Even in Deliphine, most people think the Dollhouse is a myth, but Misha knows the truth. The Dollhouse is real. It’s ruthless. It has an agenda.

And now, it wants Ayo back.

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WinterOranges_400x600Winter Oranges Blurb: Jason Walker is a child star turned teen heartthrob turned reluctant B-movie regular who’s sick of his failing career. So he gives up Hollywood for northern Idaho, far away from the press, the drama of L.A., and the best friend he’s secretly been in love with for years.

There’s only one problem with his new life: a strange young man only he can see is haunting his guesthouse. Except Benjamin Ward isn’t a ghost. He’s a man caught out of time, trapped since the Civil War in a magical prison where he can only watch the lives of those around him. He’s also sweet, funny, and cute as hell, with an affinity for cheesy ’80s TV shows. And he’s thrilled to finally have someone to talk to.

But Jason quickly discovers that spending all his time with a man nobody else can see or hear isn’t without its problems—especially when the tabloids find him again and make him front-page news. The local sheriff thinks he’s on drugs, and his best friend thinks he’s crazy. But Jason knows he hasn’t lost his mind. Too bad he can’t say the same thing about his heart.

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Marie Sexton December 5 2009 - 07webAbout the Author: Marie Sexton lives in Colorado. She’s a fan of just about anything that involves muscular young men piling on top of each other. In particular, she loves the Denver Broncos and enjoys going to the games with her husband. Her imaginary friends often tag along. Marie has one daughter, two cats, and one dog, all of whom seem bent on destroying what remains of her sanity. She loves them anyway.

Marie also writes dark dystopian erotic fantasy under the name A.M. Sexton. You can find her at http://mariesexton.net/, and on Facebook and Twitter.

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Christina Pilz, GayRomLit, Giveaways, GRL 2015 Featured Blogger Tour

Guest Post and Giveaway: The Countdown to GayRomLit with Christina Pilz

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We’re so pleased to welcome GayRomLit attending author Christina Pilz to The Novel Approach today to chat about how she came to fall in love with Oliver Twist.

Enjoy Christina’s guest post, then be sure to leave a comment below for the chance to win a copy of her historical novel based on the characters Oliver and Jack Dawkins, Oliver & Jack: At Lodgings in Lyme

Christina is giving readers 2 ways to win: A Paperback copy of the book to one US or Canada winner, and an E-copy of the book to one International winner. 

THIS CONTESTS IS CLOSED

Good luck!

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Swimming With Nazis: or How I Fell In Love With Oliver Twist

1 -AskingForMore

When I was very little, the Air Force moved our family to Winnweiler, Germany, where we lived off-base for the first year. I spoke German and went to a German kindergarten. And because my mother was otherwise occupied having a fine time playing bridge and eating fresh, German pretzels, I wandered in the wilds of the Black Forest, unsupervised. I remember seeing the remnants of gypsy caravan camps that had been ravaged by time, but in what was left of the caravans, you could still see bullet holes.

Sometimes my sisters and I swam in the local swimming pool with large, jolly men, because Germans were all about being athletic. They seemed rather eager to show us how they could wiggle the joints for their missing fingers and to point out their scars and tell us that when they were younger that they had fought in the war. That they’d worn the uniform. That they’d marched in the parades. I had no idea who these men were, only that they were nice to me.

While we were in Germany, my parents also thought it was a good idea to take us to a concentration camp museum for a bit of history. I’m thinking it was Dachau. For years after seeing those piles of shoes, and eyeglasses, and hunks of shorn hair, and pictures of Jews in striped uniforms being tortured and starved, I had nightmares about Nazis.

Don’t get me wrong, while Nazis give me the creeps, the Germans were great because Germans love kids, and I was the cutest little blond-haired blue-eyed child they had ever seen. But it never occurred to me until later that the men in the pool were the same men who had tortured Jews and slaughtered civilians during the war. It was the late ‘60’s, you see, only 20 years after the end of WWII, and the Germans still remembered because the marks from the war were still all around them.

Then in the summer of 1969, we went to England for a two-week vacation.

For me, coming from history-drenched, post-war Germany to England was like stepping into a fairy land. It felt like home because not only did everybody speak English, I did not see any scars from the war. I’m sure there were scars, as London survived The Blitz after all, but there were no concentration camps, and no men who told stories about what they’d done in the war. England is country that should be very proud of having given those Jerrys a good, solid drubbing, and they certainly didn’t brag about it.

2 - VictorianLondon

Even better, English food tasted a whole lot nicer to my untutored palate, what with the sweet tea and softly scrambled eggs for breakfast along with a nice sausage and some toast. All of which is so much more appealing than discovering in your German breakfast a bit of half-cooked bacon inside of your pancake.

The contrast between the two countries was rather huge in other ways, for although the English love kids too, they are more subtle about it. Instead of being forced to say guten Tag to a rather scary looking and large, loud German guy in an overly decorated green Tyrolean hat, I would get a gentle nod from a woman in a printed apron as she patted my blond hair and served me a slice of Victoria sponge to go with my tea, without asking my parents if she might do this, because, for some reason, my parents were nowhere to be found.

Combine all of this with the rather transitive state of a six year old brain and a parentally unsupervised trip to the movie theater with your siblings where Oliver! is playing and you have yourself a life-changing event.

3 - Oliver

Having been totally prepared for yet another boring movie in which there is a lot of talking about nothing that could ever mattered to a six year old, along came this little boy, and he was like me. He had blonde hair and blue eyes, and his whole life seemed to be made up of being pushed around in a world where nothing made much sense but which must be dealt with. Plus, for an added bonus, he had no parents. He was an orphan.

4 -WorkhouseGates

I could almost feel the wetwire in my brain becoming hardwired forever as I fell in love with the little boy on the screen.

PKT3116-216023
THE LITTLE BOY WHO ASKED FOR MORE
Mark Lester, who comes from Richmond, won the coveted role of Oliver in the musical screen version of Lionel Barts “Oliver!”. When producter John Woolf announced that he was about to make the film “Oliver!” he recieved over 2000 applications from children all over country wishing to play the part. After seeing Marks tests, John Woolf was convinced that he was Oliver.

And I don’t mean a little in love, I mean passionately forever-in-love. Looking back, I can identify this moment as a recognition of a mirror self and all that psychology stuff, but Oliver Twist was so damn cute that nobody questioned why I loved him. Nor asked why I was in love with Mark Lester, who played him. At the age of seven or eight, when we moved to Forbes AFB in Topeka, Kansas, I wrote myself a little reminder note that I was going to marry Mark Lester one day, and while everyone around me thought this was oh-so-cute, I was fairly certain that they did not understand the depth of my devotion.

5 - OliverNJack

I followed Mark Lester’s career for years; if there was a movie he was in, I saw it, and in that age of no VHS machines, no Netflix, this was quite a feat. Some of the movies appealed to me more than others, though the more the character Mark played was like Oliver, the better I liked it. I particularly liked him in the TV movie The Boy Who Stole the Elephant, probably because he wore those little suspenders with his trousers. (Come to think of it, that’s when my suspender fetish started.) I also rather enjoyed Crossed Swords, in which Mark played the poor boy and his royal lookalike counterpart. And let us not forget Run Wild, Run Free, which was about Oliver, I mean, Mark, I mean Phillip and a white Welsh pony. OMG.

6 - RunWildRunFree

So that, my friends, is how an obsession starts. You get imprinted at a young age, and it never leaves you, never.

I had a subscription to Tiger Beat magazine, so that on a regular basis I got new pics of my fave. By Junior High, I had also determined to read the book the movie was based on, such was my devotion. Much to my shock, unlike in the movie, in the book Fagin dies in the end, and Oliver’s best friend Jack goes missing in the middle. He gets deported, you see, for fumbling the theft of a two-penny-half-penny snuffbox.

7 - TippingHisHat

Did I know then that Jack was Oliver’s best friend? Of course I did! Because even at the tender age of six or ten or twelve I knew that Jack and Oliver cared very deeply for each other, that they were, actually, in love.

8 - ChattingUpOliver

For it was Jack, you see, who first fed Oliver. Here’s how it happened: After starving for years at Mrs. Mann’s baby farm and after being starved and beaten at the workhouse for six to nine months (Dickens plays it very loose with his timelines), Oliver meets up with Jack in Barnet, a town north of London. (As to what Jack is doing so far from his own hunting grounds is another story). And what does Jack do? He greets Oliver with a gentle “Hello, my covey, what’s the row?” and then he feeds him a ham sandwich and a beer. I think there was an old woman who gives Oliver a bowl of soup when Oliver first travels to London, but a ham sandwich and a beer is better than soup any day, wouldn’t you say?

9 - OAndJ

That Jack Dawkins (the Artful Dodger) was played in the movie by the also-very-cute Jack Wild was no punishment on the eyes either. Jack Wild was dark and sassy where Mark was blond and sweet and they were such a perfect foil for each other that it was quite easy to think about them being together, doing things, having adventures.

10 - TheArtfulDodger

For years, even after my mother threw out all my Tiger Beat paraphernalia, Oliver followed me around, at least in my mind. My little flaxen-haired alter ego and his dark-haired, rather more street-wise boyfriend, kept me company and gave a physical form to the never-ending mental movie about orphans and pickpockets that I took with me everywhere. I even made my friends act out scenes with me until they became tired of my obsession and began mocking me.

Eventually, in Junior High, I allowed myself to be convinced that vampires and shape-shifters were far more interesting than Victorian-era boys, so I was converted for a time. Though, as might not surprise you, the character I invented (the shape-shifting, storm-child Timothy North, aka Shadow) looked rather a lot like Oliver Twist/Mark Lester, but as long as I talked about him controlling storms, turning into a unicorn, and rescuing his best friend (the dark-haired, street-wise vampire, Pascal Brooks), then everyone was okay with that.

Life rolled onward, as it does, with adult cares and concerns, and eventually I became a mortgage-paying, lawn-raking, card-carrying adult. During this time, Oliver morphed into other characters and ideas, but always stayed present, a part of me, in spite of a former boyfriend and an ex-therapist telling me that it was time I put away such childish obsessions. (They wanted me to have more grown-up problems such as drinking and gambling, I guess.) But I never did. I kept Oliver and I kept Jack and woe betide anyone who tried to talk me out of it.

11 - WaitingForOliver

Eventually, after writing about every other character I’d invented except for Oliver and Jack, I knew I had to write about them. I had to, for they were a part of not just my inner emotional landscape, but also my entire being. Without them, I was just an ordinary person with everyday concerns and thoughts. With them, I was interesting (at least to myself) and had ideas that were exciting and adventures that were perilous!

So I did write about them, starting off with Fagin’s Boy: The Further Particulars of a Parish Boy’s Progress. That took me about six years and two layoffs to write, so hesitant was I, probably for fear of screwing up the image I’d held in my head since I was six. But it turned out okay, that book, and so then I wrote another one about my boys called Oliver & Jack: At Lodgings In Lyme, which had a more romantic tone to it, and a more dynamic relationship between the characters. A relationship, might I add, that seemed to need very little input from me as to which direction it should head. (It was one of those cases where the characters take over not just themselves but also the entire story and I was just there to take down dictation.) Currently I’m finishing up a darker tale about Oliver and Jack called Oliver & Jack: In Axminster Workhouse, where Oliver’s worst nightmares come to life, and Jack gets a better idea why his sweetheart is such a foodie.

12 - HangingOut

I do get asked why I don’t write about vampires or werewolves, which is what all the cool kids are writing these days. In part it’s because I like to write about what I like to read about, and while I’ve always been a fan of Dark Shadows (and Christopher Lee’s many iterations of Dracula), I don’t enjoy writing about anything fantasy-based.

I also get asked why I don’t write something more “normal” like a regular romance or maybe even a crime thriller. Sure, I could write something like that, but it’s not what gets my motor running. I prefer writing about the dingy back alleys of Victorian London, about orphans and pickpockets, cute orphans and pickpockets, need I add. I like writing about characters and situations that resonate with me, like how hungry you can get when there’s no one looking out for you, and how gratifying a ham sandwich and a pint of beer can be when given by someone who cares.

But mostly, it’s because I can see in my mind that little flaxen-haired child who looked so like me and who has so faithfully stayed with me all of these years. Who, in effect, saved me from the Nazis. I cannot abandon him, for I cannot abandon myself. And besides, OMG, he is so cute!

13 - LetsGoNolly

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Oliver and JackBlurb: An ex-apprentice and his street thief companion flee the dangers of Victorian London and the threat of the hangman’s noose in search of family and the promise of a better life. Back of Book Description After Oliver Twist commits murder to protect Jack Dawkins (The Artful Dodger), both must flee London’s familiar but dangerous environs for safety elsewhere. Together they travel to Lyme Regis in the hopes of finding Oliver’s family. Along the way, Jack becomes gravely ill and Oliver is forced to perform manual labor to pay for the doctor’s bills. While Oliver struggles to balance his need for respectability with his growing love for Jack, Jack becomes disenchanted with the staid nature of village life and his inability to practice his trade. But in spite of their personal struggles, and in the face of dire circumstances, they discover the depth of their love for each other.

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble

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Author Bio: I was born in Waco, Texas in 1962. After living on a variety of air force bases, in 1972 my Dad retired and the family moved to Boulder, Colorado. There amidst the clear, dry air of the high plains, as the moss started to grow beneath my feet, my love for historical fiction began with a classroom reading of Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

I attended a variety of community colleges (Tacoma Community College) and state universities (UNC-Greeley, CU-Boulder, CU-Denver), and finally found my career in technical writing, which, between layoffs, I have been doing for 18 years. During that time, my love for historical fiction and old fashioned objects, ideas, and eras has never waned.

In addition to writing, my interests include road trips around the U.S. and frequent flights to England, where I eat fish and chips, drink hard cider, and listen to the voices in the pub around me. I also love coffee shops, mountain sunsets, prairie storms, and the smell of lavender. I am a staunch supporter of the Oxford comma.

Tidbits:

  • I live in Colorado. I’ve tried to live elsewhere, but it never works.
  • I love wooden floors, and prefer them to carpet.
  • I don’t have pets but have lots of plants
  • I have a green armchair that I call The Vortex, because once I sit down in it, it’s impossible to get up out of it.
  • I love the structured orderliness of school and so ended up going to college for a long, long time.
  • I love beer.
  • I love hot summer nights, lightning storms, and fireflies.
  • I love going to England, and have gone so often that I pretty much know my way around.
  • I will never get tired of London.
  • I dream in color with surround sound.
  • Naps on stormy afternoons are one of my favorite things.
  • I have camped on the hillside where Do-Re-Mi was filmed.
  • I once spent five weeks on a three-masted barque off the Atlantic coast of North America, where I scrubbed decks, polished brass, washed dishes in cold seawater, and nigh on froze to death in the icy rain while on watch.
  • Find out more about Christina and her work on her WEBSITE

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    Giveaways, GRL 2015 Featured Blogger Tour, Tara Lain

    Countdown to GRL 2015 – Character Interview and Giveaway with Tara Lain

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    Today we’re so pleased to continue the countdown to GayRomLit 2015 celebration with Tara Lain and the guys from her new novel Knave of Broken Hearts. We put together a little interview with Jim Carney and Ken Tenaka, and Tara is also offering the chance for one reader to win an e-copy of Book One in her Love in Laguna series, Knight of Ocean Avenue.

    To enter for a chance to win, just click on the Rafflecopter widget below.

    Good luck!

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    TNA: Hi, Jim and Ken, welcome to TNA. I know Tara usually fields all the promo for her books, so does it feel a little weird for you two be here with her readers to talk about yourselves? Who had to talk who into doing it, or were you both on board from the start?

    Jim: *Jim shuffles his feet* Ken definitely had to talk me into this gig, but he explained that it would be good for Tara’s novel if we agreed to talk to you, so here I am.

    Ken: *Ken puts a slim hand on Jim’s shoulder* He’s shy but he’d do anything to come through for a friend. As for me, well I’m so happy to get to work out my shit with my family, I’ll tell the world.

    TNA: Speaking of weird, does it feel a little strange to know you guys are the subject of an entire novel about how you met and got together? What was the strangest part of the entire storytelling process for you?

    Jim: *Jim shrugs* It got me off my ass and made me look at myself. Hard but worth it. *He threads his fingers through Ken’s*

    Ken: I’m Japanese. We’re not used to opening our kimonos in public, so this whole experience was weird. But look how well it came out.

    TNA: So, Jim, we already know you’re a big fan of Yaoi. What do you love about it?

    Jim: Yaoi was Hiro’s thing first. He was my closest friend. Looking back, I realize it was an easy way to get me comfortable with gay sex. But the thing I loved most was the yaoi hero who looked like Ken. He really turned me on. Man, that guy was real to me. I’d never seen anything so beautiful or so sexy. Then, of course, I saw Ken in the flesh and that did it. He looked just like that character – but better. I knew I couldn’t hide anymore.

    Ken: But did you notice that in his dream scenario the guy who looks like me is the uke (bottom) and the character who resembles Jim is the seme (top)? I don’t know how he worked that one out?

    Jim: Oh come on, you know you love it.

    Ken: *grinning* Ya think?

    TNA: Have you ever been to YaoiCon before? If so, what’s the atmosphere like? Do you have plans to take Ken sometime?

    Jim: No, I’ve never been, but I have to confess I’d just as soon keep Ken close to home. Exposing him to a lot of gorgeous Asian guys would probably turn me green with jealousy.

    TNA: This year is the first time you guys will be attending GayRomLit. What made you decide this was the event and the right year to attend it?

    Ken: *Ken adjusts his shirtsleeves* As you know, Tara’s been going to GRL since the first event. She loves the conference and loves seeing all the people who support gay romance. She’s told us so much about it, we can’t wait to go. I mean, she’s had some other guys with her in former years, but this is our GRL. I think Tara’s readers are going to like us best.

    TNA: Are there any authors you’re most excited to meet? What are some of your favorite books in the genre?

    Ken: Tara’s got a lot of favorites, but she has breakfast a lot with ZA Maxfield and KC Burn. I know these authors really help her and inspire her, so I look forward to meeting them. Plus, ZAM wrote a book called Drawn Together with an Asian hero who looks like a girl. I can relate.

    TNA: Have you looked over the schedule of events? What are you most looking forward to attending?

    Jim: Tara keeps talking about this big reader party she’s going to be throwing with a bunch of other authors. Readers will be guessing little known facts about the authors and winning prizes. Sounds like fun to me!

    TNA: Given the historic ruling handed down by the Supreme Court on June 26th, what were your feelings the moment you heard? Were you together when the news broke?

    Jim/Ken: Of course, we’re from California, so we’ve been planning a wedding with a whole helluva lot of help from my mother since we moved in together. But realizing that our marriage will assure our status and that of the children my mother so desperately wants us to have in every state is a huge relief to both of us.

    TNA: One last question, then, for the readers who can’t attend GRL this year, and for the readers who’ll be there in San Diego with us. Would you consider sharing a short excerpt from your book? Maybe one of your favorite scenes, and telling us a little bit about what makes it so special?

    Jim: Okay, I’m going to share a scene that’s really hard for me. It’s a moment that I’d like to forget – but I’m grateful it happened or maybe I would never have realized how much Ken meant to me. Here it is —

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    Except: Shit, the old man couldn’t even know what his plan would do to Jim. He just thought he was arranging Jim’s life for him, and he knew Jim would hate that. No way he could understand he was condemning Jim to misery and breaking his heart. Sweet Jesus, he’d be so happy if he knew.

    He dropped his head on the steering wheel. Ken. Oh God, Ken.

    Come on, he won’t miss you. He’ll move on in one day.

    He picked up his phone and held it against his chest. But I won’t.

    A tapping on the truck’s window brought his head up, and he stared into a flashlight. Behind it he could just make out the security guard from the gate. He rolled the window a couple of inches. “Yeah.”

    “No loitering in this vicinity. Would you please move on?”

    The top of his head exploded. “Fuck you!” He smashed his fist against the window, the edge of the phone caught the glass just right and cracked it into a spiderweb of pieces, as the perfect pain seared up his arm, into his shoulder, and out though his brain. He cranked the key, stomped the gas, and pulled out as a Porsche wheeled around the corner. The Porsche skidded to the side as Jim floored it, and the old truck showed it was pissed too as it sailed down the road toward the ocean, leaving the sports car driver leaning on his horn. His hand hung at his side. Oh shit, that hurts. Hurts. Good.

    I could go to Ken’s. He’d fix it. I could tell him everything. Maybe he’d fix that too? His hand trembled. Why would he do that? Take on the chairman and board member of the club he loves? Take on a doctor who could ruin his career? For a casual date with no future? Shit, why?

    He could practically hear the discomfort in Ken’s voice, feel his embarrassment at having to tell Jim that no way was he wrecking his life for a quick lay.

    Before he could crap out, he switched the phone to his left hand on the wheel and pushed the speed dial number. He heard the ringing.

    Ken sounded happy. “Hi, baby, on your way to see me? I made some salads. I know, you hate anything healthy, but I promise to slather them with blue cheese.”

    “Can’t. Can’t come. I’m so sorry. Family matter.”

    “Oh hell. I’m really sad not to see you, but I sure know about family. Can we get together tomorrow night?”

    “No. No. I’m going to be tied up. Oh God, tied up for a while, quite a while.” Bile rose up his throat, and somehow his face got wet.

    “Jim, are you okay?”

    “Yeah. Just hurt my hand. But I’m fine. Thanks. Thanks for everything.”

    “Jim, wait—”

    “Can’t.” He clicked off, pulled to the side of PCH, jumped out, and puked his guts all over the scrub grass beside the highway that led to Crystal Cove.

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    Knave of Broken HeartsBlurb: Jim Carney has a full time job—running from himself. Since he walked out on his wealthy family at sixteen because he’d wrecked his best friend’s life over some yaoi graphic novels, Jim has lived a macho, blue-collar existence of too much booze and too little responsibility. Then Billy Ballew, the man Jim most admires, gives Jim a chance to come through as his construction supervisor. For once, Jim is determined to make someone proud. Then Jim goes in for a physical for his new job, and his yaoi dream comes to life in the form of cardiologist Ken Tanaka. Jim discovers he has two heart problems—a wonky mitral valve and a serious attraction to his doctor. But Ken is a major player, and Jim might be just a notch on the doc’s stethoscope. To Ken, Jim is unforgettable—but the living embodiment of his traditional family’s worst nightmares. How come the minute Jim decides to be responsible, he finds himself taking care of his kid brother, getting a proposal from a wealthy woman, making a deal with the devil, and winding up in the hospital—when all he really wants is the Knave of Broken Hearts?

    Buy Links: Dreamspinner Press | Amazon | All Romance eBooks

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    Tara LainAbout the Author: Tara Lain, like so many novelists, wrote her first book at five. Writing ability got her through college when there wasn’t enough time in the day, and, shortly thereafter, it became a marketable skill. Very early in life, people started paying her to write — scripts for industrial films, brochures, magazine articles on semiconductors. She became a really successful non-fiction “ghost-writer”.

    Where to Find Tara: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon Author Page

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    THE GIVEAWAY

    Rafflecopter Giveaway

    KnightofOceanAvenueBlurb: How can you be twenty-five and not know you’re gay? Billy Ballew runs from that question. A high school dropout, barely able to read until he taught himself, Billy’s life is driven by his need to help support his parents as a construction worker, put his sisters through college, coach his Little League team, and not think about being a three-time loser in the engagement department. Being terrified of taking tests keeps Billy from getting the contractor’s license he so desires, and fear of his mother’s judgment blinds Billy to what could make him truly happy.

    Then, in preparation for his sister’s big wedding, Billy meets Shaz—Chase Phillips—a rising-star celebrity stylist who defines the word gay. To Shaz, Billy embodies everything he’s ever wanted—stalwart, honest, brave—but even if Billy turns out to be gay, he could never endure the censure he’d get for being with a queen like Shaz. How can two men with so little in common find a way to be together? Can the Stylist of the Year end up with the Knight of Ocean Avenue?

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    Teasers

    Teaser #1 - Knave Of Broken Hearts

    Teaser #3 - Knave Of Broken Hearts

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    Giveaways, GRL 2015 Featured Blogger Tour, J.A. Rock

    Guest Post and Giveaway: The GayRomLit Countdown Celebration Continues With J.A. Rock

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    Today, The Novel Approach welcomes author J.A. Rock as we continue the countdown to GRL 2015. Enjoy J.A.’s guest post, then be sure to check out the instructions on how you can enter to win one of J.A.’s backlist titles.

    Good luck!

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    Celebrating Diversity at GRL

    Hi! I’m J.A. Rock, and I’m so happy to be back at The Novel Approach! I’m also super excited to be attending my second GRL in October. One of the things I’d heard about GRL before I ever went was that it was a safe place for people to be themselves. And I was like, “Take me to this utopia of costumes, dancing, books, and widespread acceptance!” I wasn’t disappointed. The diversity and openness I witnessed at GRL 2014 extended not just to people, but also to books. It’s called Gay Rom Lit, and m/m romance is certainly the focus, but the conference celebrates books featuring characters who are all over the LGBTQIA spectrum, and stories spanning a wide array of genres.

    As a queer author of stories that are sometimes hard to classify, I really appreciated my experience in 2014. I met so many amazing people and was introduced to so many awesome books. And I danced. A lot.

    Since I’m on tour this week for my new release, THE GRAND BALLAST, which may or may not kind of I guess possibly be a romance, I’m using my GRL slot at TNA to talk a little about what I write, and about some of the experiments I’m doing in 2015, and how those have been going so far.

    I don’t come from a romance writing background—I’m more horror/spec fic/general creepery. But I absolutely fell in love with queer romance in 2012, and over the past few years I’ve had a blast writing lighthearted books with low body counts like the WACKY WEDNESDAY series and—with my lovely cowriter, Lisa Henry—THE PRESCOTT COLLEGE series and the PLAYING THE FOOL trilogy. I’ve had an equal amount of fun writing darker novels with Lisa, from WHEN ALL THE WORLD SLEEPS to ANOTHER MAN’S TREASURE.

    I’m spending 2015 getting back to my roots a bit. So far I’ve had TAKE THE LONG WAY HOME, a coming of age dark comedy about a volatile young man dealing with family issues and first love. The aforementioned THE GRAND BALLAST, a gay spec novel about a world where people value little beyond sex and violence. And in October, I’ll have MINOTAUR, a horror/urban fantasy novel about a young criminal who takes on a mythological beast in a quest for redemption.

    I’ve loved playing around with genre this year, but I’m looking forward to rounding out 2015 with a return to kinky romantic comedy when THE SUBS CLUB books start releasing in December. The series focuses on a group of submissive friends who go vigilante when a member of their circle is killed in a BDSM scene gone wrong. They form a club to try to ferret out dangerous doms in their community, and antics ensue.

    So that’s a little about me, what I write, and why I heart GRL. I’m looking forward to celebrating diversity in literature and in humanity once more in 2015, and I hope to see many of you there!

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    The Grand Ballast CoverBlurb – The Grand Ballast: In a future where live sex shows abound to keep a jaded population entertained, dancer Bode Martin falls for the brilliant and unstable Kilroy Ballast, who molds Bode into the star attraction of his erotic circus, the Grand Ballast. Drugged beyond any real feeling, Bode trades freedom and his once considerable pride for an illusion of tenderness—until he inadvertently rescues a young man from a rival show, and together they flee to an eccentric town in the west where love still means something.

    Valen’s not an easy man to know, and Bode shed his romantic notions under Kilroy’s brutal employ. Yet their growing bond becomes a strange and dangerous salvation as they attempt to overthrow the shadows of their pasts and wade together through a world of regret, uncertainty, beauty, and terror.

    But Kilroy won’t let Bode go so easily. Long ago, Bode was responsible for the loss of something Kilroy held dear, and he still owes Kilroy a debt. As the three men battle toward a tangled destiny, Bode must decide if his love for Valen is worth fighting for—or if he was and always will be a pawn in the story Kilroy Ballast will never stop telling.

    Buy Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords

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    Featured Blogger Tour BadgeAbout the Author: J.A. Rock is the author of queer romance and suspense novels, including BY HIS RULES, TAKE THE LONG WAY HOME, and, with Lisa Henry, THE GOOD BOY and WHEN ALL THE WORLD SLEEPS. She holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Alabama and a BA in theater from Case Western Reserve University. J.A. also writes queer fiction and essays under the name Jill Smith. Raised in Ohio and West Virginia, she now lives in Chicago with her dog, Professor Anne Studebaker.

    Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook

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    THE GRAND BALLAST is out this week, and in the spirit of its nontraditional romancey-ness, I’m giving away an e-copy of any of my backlist titles that exist in that sort of Is-this-a-romance-novel? gray area. Choose from TAKE THE LONG WAY HOME, THE SILVERS, and ANOTHER MAN’S TREASURE (co-written with Lisa Henry). More information about each title is available HERE.

    THIS CONTEST IS CLOSED

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    Devon Rhodes, Giveaways, GRL 2015 Featured Blogger Tour, Totally Bound

    Guest Post, Excerpt, and Giveaway: The GayRomLit Blog Tour Kickoff With Devon Rhodes

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    I’m so happy to be here kicking off the GRL Blog Tour with The Novel Approach! October is going to be here before we know it. Can’t wait! Thanks to Lisa for having me on, and letting me talk about a topic near and dear to my heart.

    My Military Guys—When News Creates Inspiration

    110527-N-OA833-014 ANNAPOLIS, Md. (May 27, 2011) Newly commissioned Navy and Marine Corps officers toss their hats during the U.S. Naval Academy Class of 2011 graduation and commissioning ceremony. The Class of 2011 graduated 728 ensigns and 260 Marine Corps 2nd lieutenants at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Md. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad Runge/Released)

    110527-N-OA833-014
    ANNAPOLIS, Md. (May 27, 2011) Newly commissioned Navy and Marine Corps officers toss their hats during the U.S. Naval Academy Class of 2011 graduation and commissioning ceremony. The Class of 2011 graduated 728 ensigns and 260 Marine Corps 2nd lieutenants at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Md. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad Runge/Released)

    One of the questions authors get most often is, where do you find inspiration for your books? The answer is usually a nebulous “Everywhere.” As well as having a brain that never turns off, I’m also very visual, so many times photos or people I see lead to a runaway imagination as I begin creating a story for that character.

    Many years ago (before DADT was repealed in 2010), I had been scrolling through news (ie, wasting time surfing social media) and saw a photo that brought a smile to my face…and an idea into my head.

    It was the white uniform that originally caught my attention, and not just because of the obvious reasons (hello—man in uniform). I grew up as a Navy brat—my dad was a Naval aviator and spent over 30 years in the Navy. So anything to do with dress whites or flybys always catches my eye.

    The photo was similar to this one from the Wikipedia page, and was followed by another photo of a Marine and Naval graduate embracing. Immediately I thought, “What if…?” What if they were secretly more than friends? What would happen if they did care for each other…and were about to be posted in completely different places that they had no control over? I moved on from that photo and created my own two graduates and started writing the hat toss scene that begins A Ring and A Promise right away.

    By the time I finished their story and had turned it in to my editor, the repeal of DADT was becoming a reality, and during the last few weeks before ARAAP was published, I asked to change a few things in the story to make it current with the new military stance. Their story still had plenty of conflict without risk of dishonorable expulsion as well.

    That was a while ago, and I had left Cary and Owen in a firm HFN, since anything else would have been impossible in that timeline. But I never forgot about them—nor did my readers lol—so this year I decided to pick up their story toward the end of their initial five years of service, and wrote A Ring and A Vow. When it begins, Owen is in the Middle East, while Cary is stationed Stateside in Virginia. Cary had been the one moving their relationship forward in the last book, so I decided to have Owen be the one to come up with an idea to take their relationship to the next level…and hopefully get on the same continent!

    Here is the blurb and an exclusive excerpt for A Ring and A Vow:

    aringandavow_800Every promise must someday be fulfilled, and the best way Owen knows how to reward Cary’s faith is with a vow.

    It’s been nearly five years since Owen went down on one knee with his Academy ring and promised Cary he’d someday do it for real. With Cary being a Naval aviator and Owen a Marine officer serving in Iraq, they’re rarely on the same continent, let alone together.

    About time for them to fill out paperwork to re-up, Owen realizes that if they were married, they’d have a much better chance of being stationed nearby. But time is not on their side, so he’s forced to compromise on his proposal in order to make it work.

    Cary has been waiting for Owen for years—there was no chance he’d ever say anything but yes. Owen is coming home at last, and wants to make a home with him. However, between the chronic nightmares he’s been fighting and the ever more complicated wedding plans, the next month could be anything but a dream.

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    Excerpt: It wasn’t very often they could do a face-to-face, between their duty schedules and the time difference of eight and a half hours, but sometimes breaking up a night’s sleep was worth it. Some shifting around on both their parts and he could finally see Owen’s grainy image. “Are you in bed?”

    Owen smirked. “Is this one of those kind of calls?” he teased. They both knew that it wasn’t feasible to do any sort of phone sex—there just wasn’t enough privacy for Owen in the desert base camp.

    “I wish.” The thought was tempting. Cary had the benefit of being alone behind a locked door, and he palmed his semi-hard cock. The nightmare had taken its effect, but Owen’s voice—combined with how long it had been since he’d seen his man—had him hardening as the last vestiges of his dream faded.

    “Are you okay?”

    The video was a bit choppy, but the concern in Owen’s voice was clear.

    “Yeah. Fine.” Owen’s eyebrow rose and Cary confessed, “Just woke up…from a nightmare,” he added reluctantly. “And don’t ask.” He wasn’t going to tell him about it—no way—but he knew Owen wouldn’t leave it alone until he admitted what had him off-center.

    “You sure you don’t want to talk about it?”

    “Definitely. I’d rather hear what you’ve been up to.”

    Owen shrugged and sat back in the chair. “Same old. Really looking forward to heading back stateside end of the month. Everyone is. You can just feel it—short-timer’s. You know.”

    “Yeah.” And that was the crux of it, really. Cary’s worst fear was that so close to being reunited—or at least on the same continent again—that something bad would happen…

    No! Stop it.

    “You seem distracted. You sure you’re okay?”

    “I’m fine.” His voice sounded curt to his own ears and he twisted the Academy ring on his finger while he tried to enjoy the rare chance to talk to Owen face-to-face. “So, it’s about time to make some decisions,” he changed the subject. They were both nearing the end of their first five years of service, and though the decision to re-up wasn’t a difficult one—neither one of them had gone into this to do a five-and-dive—figuring out what duty stations to put in for and trying to end up close to one another was the real challenge.

    Owen nodded and a little smile teased at the corners of his eyes.

    “What? Did you come up with a plan?” That would be the best news ever. Cary’s deadline to fill out his paperwork was the following month and he was nowhere near knowing what to do. The options for a Naval aviator were somewhat limited—and so were Marine officer stations—and unfortunately there weren’t that many that coincided. Owen was a seasoned combat veteran, and Cary had been on and off carriers with his squadron. In the past four plus years, they’d spent a scant number of days together. He would miss the guys if he left for a different posting, but being close to Owen was a greater priority for him. “Tell me you’ve worked something out.”

    Owen nodded—one quick tip of the head.

    Cary frowned at the screen and scooted closer. “Well?”

    “Um, hold on a second.” Owen rose and the view rocked and rolled a little bit as he moved the computer on his end. “Fuck.”

    Cary snickered at the curse. “What’s wrong? Not one of those camel spiders again.”

    “Oh fuck off. I’d like to see your reaction if one crawled into bed with you.” More vertigo inducing motion. “When I was planning this, I forgot how short the damn headset cord is. I don’t have much time left, and it doesn’t reach.” A huge, frustrated sigh.

    “Reach? What are you trying to do?”

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    A Ring and a Vow was originally released in the Semper Fidelis anthology, but also released this week as a single, and is currently only $2.10 on Amazon

    Also at: Totally Bound | B&N | ARe

    When I’m not lost in my imagination, you can find me in beautiful Oregon and at: My Website | My Blog | Facebook | Twitter

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    THE GIVEAWAY:

    aringandapromise_800THIS CONTEST IS CLOSED

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