3.5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, M.J. O'Shea, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed By Carrie

Review: X Marks the Spot by M.J. O’Shea

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Title: X Marks the Spot

Author: M.J. O’Shea

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 200 Pages

At a Glance: Send reality packing and just enjoy the ride.

Reviewed By: Carrie

Blurb: Jack Hunter is always on a quest for lost art, ancient manuscripts, and anything else that’ll romance the millions of viewers who watch his show each week. He hasn’t always hit pay dirt in his searches though, and a string of empty global treasure hunts has left his show on the brink of cancellation. Jack needs a white whale, a holy grail, nothing less than a miracle to revive his career.

Aloysius “Alo” Green likes his ivory towers. He’s content to study from the comfort of a university library and publish papers nobody other than academics will ever read. But coded letters pointing to hidden Nazi treasure fall into his hands, and while colleagues warn him to keep them to himself, Alo can’t stop obsessing. He makes a huge mistake and publishes a paper on his find, ignoring the danger doing so will bring.

Jack is sure he’s struck gold when his assistant brings Alo’s paper to him. Alo wants nothing to do with Jack or his televised treasure hunt. But after Alo is threatened, it appears Jack is his best bet to silence those who seek to use him to find the vast wealth first.

By trusting Jack, Alo might’ve saved himself… or made his worst decision yet.

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Review: Alo is an academic—if he has his way he will stay in college forever, living at home and publishing papers on medieval history that no one but other academics will ever read. Working on his PhD, he longs for a job in some university’s ivory tower as far from everyday life as he can possibly get. Then his grandfather moves into an assisted living facility, and leaves Alo a stack of letters which hold a mystery no one has ever been able to solve. Alo’s life is tossed upside down when he publishes a paper on the letters, and all of a sudden, his life is in danger and apparently, there is stolen Nazi treasures to find. Alo may be a nerd, but he is a clever nerd and puzzles are a specialty of his.

Jack Hunter is an adventure seeking TV personality on a once popular show on the History Channel. If he doesn’t come up with a hook for a new show soon, its lights out for his onscreen persona. A quest for Nazi treasures is just what his career needs, and if it comes with the quirky Alo, more the better. Convincing Alo to search for the treasures is a whole different matter, but when Alo is confronted with bullets from the people who want to steal his letters, he decides finding the artifacts may be the only way to keep his family safe.

And this is where you send reality packing and just enjoy the ride, much as you do in an Indiana Jones film. Creative license is used in its entirety in X Marks the Spot, as the quest for the treasures takes you to country after country filled with iconic landmarks and old world charm. The treasure hunt is by far the most enjoyable part of this book, as I felt Alo could have been a bit more mature and embrace the opportunities and excitement around him. Instead, Alo went to all these wonderful places and experienced the thrill of the quest, all the while wishing he wasn’t there.

I didn’t really connect Alo and Jack Hunter together – the chemistry just wasn’t there for me. Take out the romance and you have a nice little adventure book. I generally love M.J. O’Shea’s work, but this book just fell a little flat for me. I actually wouldn’t mind seeing a follow up of these characters, with Jack forcing Alo more out of his shell, and Alo uncovering more mysteries out there that need to be solved.

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5 Stars, Geoffrey Knight, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Jennifer, Wilde City Press

Review: The Cross of Sins by Geoffrey Knight

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Title: Fathom’s Five #1: The Cross of Sins

Author:  Geoffrey Knight

Publisher: Wilde City Press

Pages/Word Count: 233 Pages

At a Glance: A riveting adventure with danger, intrigue, and five sexy men.

Reviewed By: Jennifer

Blurb: Somewhere in the world is a statue so sinful that a secret sect of the Church wants it destroyed at any cost. Somewhere in the Turkish desert, in the streets of London, and in the depths of Venice, are the clues to find it. And, somewhere in the hearts of five sexy, daring, thrill-seeking gay men, is the courage and die-hard determination to unravel one of the greatest mysteries of all time.

Meet Luca da Roma, an Italian model and expert in art, both ancient and modern; Dr Eden Santiago, Brazilian biologist, physician and genetic engineer; Shane Houston, a Texas cowboy and an expert in cartography; Will Hunter, a San Diego college student and football star, majoring in ancient history; and Jake Stone, an adventurer-for-hire from New York and the newest member of Professor Fathom’s team of hot gay adventure seekers.

Together, they are Fathom’s Five, traveling the world, solving ancient mysteries, uncovering priceless treasures, and getting into hot, sticky and sexy situations, while thwarting danger at every turn! From Venice to Vienna, from Tuscany to Turkey, from the South Pacific to the seas off Sicily, join in the heroic adventures, hunky sex and hot, high-octane action of Fathom’s Five.

Dividers

Review: I first read this series years ago when it came out in print, but I could never find book one. After reading the rest of the series, I finally got my hands on a copy of the first book. And, years after that, I see the series is being rereleased by Wilde City Press with a gorgeous new cover. Of course, I snapped it up to see if the adventure series I loved so much still held up to my memory.

I’m happy to report that it does. If you’re a fan of adventure, you really don’t need to look any further than this.

Some reviewers have compared the series to Indiana Jones, and to be honest, it’s an apt description. Fathom’s men (Luca, Eden, Shane, Will, and Jake) are very different in their day jobs, but when it comes to finding adventure and missing treasure, they’re very much like Indy. Except, well, gay.

It’s impossible to pick just one favorite guy, as each one has his charms that adds to the story. They all have different backgrounds and such well-developed personalities. And, of course, then there’s the wonderful sex between some of them. Can’t argue with that, right? If I had to pick my favorite, though, it would have to be Will. There’s something so intriguing about him. Most of the time when you picture a football star, you won’t imagine his major being ancient history, but that’s Will for you.

One word of advice to readers: if you’re looking for romance, this book (series, really) is not for you. While yes, there is sex, it’s not of the romantic variety. If you go into this book expecting that, you’re going to be disappointed, but don’t let that keep you from reading it. Just go in with the mindset that this is an adventure, a mystery, and you’ll enjoy it thoroughly. This book will take you around the world, from London to Venice to the middle of the desert to an erupting volcano. Your heart will race as the boys get themselves into dangerous situations and back out by the skin of their teeth, and then tumble into bed together.

As far as whether or not the book has changed much from the first version, I honestly cannot tell. It was so long ago that I read it that while I remember the basic story and all of the characters, no place jumped out at me as being different. If you’ve read the story before, I’d say read it again. First, the new cover art is gorgeous, and second, who wouldn’t want to relive a Fathom’s Five adventure?

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You can buy The Cross of Sins 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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4 Stars, Alt U, Devon Rhodes, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Taz, Totally Bound

Review: Bonfire Heart by Devon Rhodes

Title: Bonfire Heart

Author: Devon Rhodes

Publisher: Totally Bound

Pages/Word Count: 65 Pages

At a Glance: If you are looking for a fun, quick read to satisfy your romance palate, this is a great book for you.

Reviewed By: Taz

Blurb: Sometimes fires burn and destroy, but from the ashes, new growth can heal and cleanse.

Thierry Alexander is the deputy mayor of Chicago, a city he loves but can’t save on his own from the corrupt political system. His assistant and lover, Eduardo, is also known as Cesar, the head of the underground resistance movement. He has been working behind the scenes for years and finally gets what he needs—enough information to get the US government involved and take down the criminal elements strangling the city he loves.

But they need to act fast because legislation is about to be enacted that will give rise to social and ethnic purging in Chicago. Not knowing who they can trust, they will have to put their faith in one another and risk everything to save a city.

Publisher’s Note: This story has been previously released as part of the An Unconventional Chicago anthology by Totally Bound Publishing.

Dividers

Review: I have always been a big fan of Devon Rhodes. Not only a sunshiny person, but an author who knows how to deliver a story filled with depth. Shorter stories are usually hit or miss for me, mostly because with fewer words, there is less opportunity to develop plot, setting, and characters. While there was a small degree of that present in Bonfire Heart, I found myself drawn into the story from the opening pages. My only criticism: with more story I could have learned more about each character, the secondary characters, and the central problem in the story could’ve been fleshed out more deeply.

That being said, let’s get to what this talented author was able to deliver in such a short amount of space.

First and foremost, the two main characters, Thierry and Eduardo, are clearly in love. Their sex is piping hot, but more than that, they are clearly committed to each other. The central conflict in the story places both men in a dangerous situation, and they weather the struggle to persevere as a solid team. The tension within the story kept the pace fast and moving forward at all times. Even though I would have loved to learn more about the underbelly of Chicago and the sinister intentions of its corrupt leaders, the information would only have served to lengthen my reading experience (something I was yearning for but which the story certainly didn’t need). No part of the story was drawn out or disproportionate to other parts of the story, a difficult task when writing something under 15,000 words. What I mean by this is that Ms. Rhodes crafted an experience that gave us just enough to become invested, but avoided the pitfall of getting mired down on any one character or situation.

If you are looking for a fun, quick read to satisfy your romance palate, this is a great book for you.

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5 Stars, Cari Z., Reviewed by Angel, Riptide Publishing, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Review: Where There’s Smoke by Cari Z.

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Title: Where There’s Smoke

Author: Cari Z

Publisher: Riptide Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 88 Pages

At a Glance: Where There’s Smoke is The Incredibles on steroids, and I totally mean that as a compliment.

Reviewed By: Angel

Blurb: Panopolis is a rough place to be an average Joe. I came here looking for adventure and excitement, but nobody cares about one more normal guy in a city filled with super-powered heroes. The closest I’ve come to glory is working in a bank that villains often rob.

But then I maybe accidentally-on-purpose helped a villain escape the hero who was trying to save the day. Imagine my shock when, a week later, that villain asked me out for coffee. One date turned into more, and now I’m head over heels in love with Raul.

Falling in love with the guy dubbed the Mad Bombardier isn’t without its downsides, though. I’ve had to deal with near-death encounters with other villains, awkwardly flirtatious heroes who won’t take no for an answer, and a lover I’m not sure I can trust. It’s getting to the point where I know I’ll have to make a choice: side with the heroes, or stand fast by my villain.

Either way, I think my days as a normal guy are over.

Dividers

Review: Where There’s Smoke is a novella, but it is a fully complete story, and I wanted more. I am definitely looking forward to the sequel that’s coming out later this year. I think the author said it best in her forward dedication:

“For everyone who has always preferred the villain. I feel you, people.”

Yes, indeed! This is for all those who fell for Bucky Barnes (Captain America and the Winter Soldier), Brigadier General Francis X Hummel, as well as John Patrick Mason (The Rock), Gru (Despicable Me) and just to date myself, Darth Vader, from the original Star Wars trilogy.

Where There’s Smoke is an action/adventure tale with corruption, politics, heroes, villains, and romance, and I loved it. I normally don’t like the first person POV, but it works here. It works so well here, in fact, that you almost forget you’re being told a story. Cari Z throws you right into her world with some telling, but it’s mostly showing, which is explosive. Once I started this novella, I couldn’t put it down.

Edward is a wonderfully normal guy who puts himself in a new city to find his excitement, and find it he does. I could feel his wonder about the city of Panopolis, and how the fantasy didn’t quite live up to the expectation. Then, he meets a “villain”, and in one sense of the word The Mad Bombardier is the bad guys. But…I loved him, just as I did all those other villains previously mentioned. Raul, the life he led, the one that made him our villain, makes you wonder about how your own children will turn out, and if you are doing the right things with them. Or, at least it did me. This is just the beginning of their story, and it was a grand slam right out of the park.

The heroes, some mentioned only by name, made me want to know their stories, too. Freight Train, our “hero” of this story, seemed to have that same aspect—the fully justified arrogance about being a hero, with a bit of “Aww shucks, just doing my job” thrown in for good measure. This is what makes them our supposedly beloved heroes, and despite the fact, he made my skin crawl. Some of the other villains are over-the-top creepy, and it made me wonder about the speculation that, for all intents and purposes, it seems the city made both the heroes and the villains. Even the exposé writer SuperTruther is a viable presence, and I so wonder who it is.

I loved the world building Cari Z has done for this verse. The city of Panopolis is recognizable as both a regular city and one from a popular superhero series, be it Gotham or Metropolis. It has that adult, gritty and realistic feel to it. I’d say it was The Incredibles on steroids and totally mean that as a compliment. I am a first time reader of this author, but I will definitely be going back for more of her work. Thanks for a wonderful tale, Cari Z, I’m looking forward to reading more!

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4 Stars, Amber Allure, BDSM/Kink/Erotica, Hurri Cosmo, Reviewed by Lana

Review: Chase and Capture by Hurri Cosmo

Title: Chase and Capture

Author: Hurri Cosmo

Publisher: Amber Allure

Pages/Word Count: 123 Pages

At a Glance: This is a piece of fun escapism, and I enjoyed it.

Reviewed By: Lana

Blurb: It’s only a game, an adult twist on “Capture the Flag.” Very adult, actually, especially when it comes to the “Flag” and where it is hidden. In fact, the only similarity between the kid version and the adult version is each hunter must capture his opponent’s flag to win.

So how the hell did Camden end up here? Tanner, his good buddy from college, refused to let him waste another birthday, was determined to score him some exciting adult time with a group of sexy men, and had set up the entire weekend party on a remote island.

Now, Camden finds himself crashing through the woods while playing the wonderfully lascivious chase-and-capture game, trying to stay ahead of his pursuer. But Camden can’t help but wonder…why is he the prey and that dark-haired, muscle-bound, relentless god of a man named Gunner his hunter? After all, it’s his birthday, so he should be the one in pursuit of the sexy stud, right? And what exactly is the downside of having his hidden flag confiscated by the man of his dreams?

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Review: Chase and Capture is a fun and hot little story about an adult version of Capture the Flag, which has a pretty interesting twist! I really enjoyed this story and could have read more.

The two main characters are fairly typical to these types of stories, but they were written in the right way and for me, made the story. Camden gets invited by his friend to an island getaway. The island’s resort is for men only, and Camden’s friend hopes this little vacation will get Camden over his painful breakup. Two others join their little group: Steven, an annoying twink, and Gunner, a former military man who’s a total alpha. Sparks fly between Camden and Gunner, and both hope that the weekend’s games will get them together. Boy, do they ever!

The island resort is secluded for a very good reason. There is a lot of kink going on! The weekend’s activities are for adults only and the game of Capture the Flag is pretty raunchy. The flag is not a flag, and I will leave it at that. You’ll just have to read the book. It’s pretty good.

The usual hijinks ensue, Gunner and Camden get their freak on, and the sex is hot and well written. There’s a totally weird plot twist but in the context, it works. This is a piece of fun escapism, and I enjoyed it. I like to think of it as bubble gum for your brain.

Chase and Capture is a good read for a slow afternoon, and if it’s a cold one, this one will warm you right up.






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Aleksandr Voinov, Riptide Publishing

Excerpt and Giveaway: A Taste for Poison by Aleksandr Voinov

Title: A Taste for Poison

Series: Memory of Scorpions: Book Three

Author: Aleksandr Voinov

Pages: 224

Genre: Historical Fantasy, Action/Adventure

Blurb: Even a king gets stung when he reaches for a scorpion.

After barely surviving an assassination attempt, King Adrastes is a changed man—one who mistrusts even his allies and friends. He readies his empire for war against an enigmatic enemy, the Elder of Vededrin, but not everyone approves. While courtiers dare only to whisper dissent, an outrider called Death foments rebellion in the mountains, aided by a prophecy that promises he’ll stop the Black King. Continue reading

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Jordan L. Hawk, Self-Published

Crossing the Threshold with Jordan L. Hawk – And There’s A Giveaway Too!

Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers,
but to be fearless in facing them. – Rabindranath Tagore

Dr. Percival Whyborne and Griffin Flaherty have settled into their home and a life together; or are as settled as they can be, given the nature of their relationship and their need for discretion. Life in Widdershins has been quiet for the two men since the city last teetered on the brink of annihilation, but life… well, at least life as Whyborne and Griffin know it, is about to take a turn for the supernatural.

Whyborne’s father—he of the, “Oops, I nearly destroyed the world,” Whybornes—wants to hire Griffin to investigate some strange goings-on in Threshold, West Virginia. Seems there’ve been reports of disappearances, odd behaviors, and inexplicable noises in the coal mine there, for which the town even exists at all. It’s a case he and Ival are reluctant to accept, but accept they do because if they didn’t, there wouldn’t be anything for me to have stayed awake until the wee hours to devour now, would there? And that would be bad, which is an understatement. Tragic! It would be tragic…

There’s a stone—the literal keystone, to put a finer point on its significance—that holds a secret message, one Whyborne must attempt to translate. But someone, or something, doesn’t want this puzzle solved, and they’re willing to do whatever it takes to make sure our dear philologist isn’t afforded the opportunity to make heads or tails…or claws or pincers or tentacles, oh my!…out of it.

Whyborne, Griffin, and Dr. Christine Putnam (whom I adore!) make the trip to the small West Virginia mining town, entirely unprepared for what they might find there, which, at first blush, seems to be nothing more than local legend and imagination run amok.

The Pinkertons are there to keep the peace. Sort of. But things become less than peaceful on a very personal level, when someone from Griffin’s past resurfaces and creates all sorts of havoc in his and Whyborne’s relationship. But, I have to say, for as much as it gave me the angsty boo-boos on my heart, it needed doing because Griffin needed to get some wrongheaded notions straightened out before he and Whyborne could move forward. Everything happens for a reason, doesn’t it?

How do you sum up a book like Threshold in a single word? Clearly, I’m not very good at it, but if I were to try, I’d say it’s extraordinary. It truly is all the synonyms of that word: amazing and bizarre and unique and strange and marvelous. The plot is chockfull of squicky surprises and brimming with frightening and freakish bogies, not to mention danger and intrigue and romance. Plus, it’s a chance to spend more time with the characters I fell in love with in Widdershins, which is possibly the best part of it all.

Joseph Campbell once said that the crossing of the threshold in a hero’s journey is ”the point of no return.” Why in the world would you want to miss that?

You can buy Threshold (Whyborne & Griffin, Book 2) here:

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Bruce, Tina, and I are ecstatic to have Jordan with us today. She graciously accepted our invitation to answer a few questions, and if you read all the way to the end, you’ll find out that she’s also generously offering a giveaway to one lucky winner. Welcome, Jordan!

So, let’s start off with having you tell us a little bit about yourself: hobbies, interests, whatever you’d like to share about what makes you, you.

A.) When I’m not writing, I brew beer and mead (honey-wine), hike, and drink scotch (I’m lying – I do that while I’m writing, too). I’m a giant geek who fell in love with Doctor Who in 1986 when the local PBS station aired the Tom Baker episodes, and my first love letter was to Spock (I was four, and I wrote it in green crayon and asked him to marry me). I spent more of my life than any human should in college, first to get an archaeology degree, then later to get a BS and a Masters in biology. I’m vegan, have two cats, and an amazing husband who doubles as my beta reader.

Q.) Why paranormal/fantasy? What attracts you to the crafting of those stories rather than a simple contemporary romance? Is there any sort of psychological component behind writing what you write?

A.) Ever since I was a little kid, my favorite stories always had magic in them. I’ve always loved stretching my imagination, envisioning different worlds, or worlds that are almost—but not quite—our own. I also love it because it lets me explore real world problems through a slightly different lens.

Families are a continuous thread in all of my works so far: families made by blood, and families made through choice, and the places they intersect. Dan in Hainted is in danger of wasting his own life making up for his parents’ mistakes, while raising his two younger siblings. In the SPECTR books, the agency is the family which took John in when his own rejected him. Whyborne in Widdershins spent his childhood bullied and put down by his father and brother–only to discover they’re even worse people than he realized.

On that note, I would love to write a book bringing in some of the Endicotts from Whyborne’s mother’s side of the family. One thing I learned from reading HP Lovecraft: never, ever look into your family tree. You’ll only find undead sorcerers, cannibal sorcerers, or fishmen, and it all ends in madness and screaming.

The transformative power of love–for good or ill–is another theme I find myself going back to over and over again. The idea that a person can be inspired to do better, or be a better person, or even just to finally let go of those past wounds and heal, crops up all over the place.

Q.) (From Rhys Ford – this is a multi-part question) When it comes to world building, do you find inspiration in the writings of H.P. Lovecraft and Jules Verne? Who are some other successful world builders that have inspired you? Have you read the Sebastian St. Cyr books?

I’m a huge HPL fan, as you might have guessed. I read a lot of Jules Verne in high school, along with Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, Charles Dickens (for fun, even—giant nerd!), and some of the other classics. I grew up reading fantasy and science fiction: Barbara Hambly’s lush descriptions in her Windrose books left a permanent mark on me.

I am deeply ashamed to admit I’d never even heard of the Sebastian St. Cyr books before now.

Q.) Are you a plotter or a pantser?

A.) I’m an obsessive plotter. I have a storyboard of every book before I sit down to start on page one. Of course, just as any military plan doesn’t survive contact with the enemy, my novel plans don’t always survive contact with the actual page.

Q.) Since we’re here today celebrating the release of Threshold, Book 2 in the Whyborne & Griffin series, let’s talk a little bit about those characters. What made you decide to place them in a historical rather than contemporary setting?

A.) I’ve always adored history—my first degree was in archaeology—and the idea of setting a story some time in the late 1800s collided with another idea about writing a story with a museum employee as the main character. (This is how most of my stories begin, with two unrelated ideas bumping into each other and sticking.) The era was perfect, because at the time museums still did as much research as universities—more, in some cases—which opened up plenty of opportunities to get my MC into trouble.

Not to mention a lot of people, myself included, find the period fascinating. It’s almost, but not quite, the modern world: there are a lot of familiar elements compared to earlier times, and yet it’s still something of an alien landscape.

Q.) What sorts of research did you do to make sure the feel of the time period, as well as the speech and mannerisms, were as authentic as possible?

A.) I’m a research whore. The reason I set Widdershins specifically in 1897 is because I was able to find a reprint of an 1897 Sears & Roebuck catalog, so I could check the accuracy of everything from Griffin’s “shampoo paste” to what scents cologne came in.

One of the trickiest things about researching this era is that so much information out there is about the Victorian Era in England, rather than the Gilded Age in America. They’re similar enough to trip you up if you aren’t careful; a lot of the things I thought I knew turned out to be right for London and wrong for Massachusetts. And of course I still managed to make some accidental flubs.

However, I hasten to point out this is an alternate universe where people go around raising the dead, summoning creatures from beyond, and all sort of exciting things. Even within this ours-but-not-ours universe, Widdershins is an odd town.

And to be perfectly honest, I consider Whyborne & Griffin series of books to be as much historicals as the Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes movies, or The Mummy, or Indiana Jones. ;) The setting enhances our enjoyment of the show, but we’re there to see fisticuffs, wild chases, things blowing up, and boys kissing (hush—leave me to my Sherlockian fantasies!). My primary goal is to have the reader close the book feeling as if they’ve just lived through a fantastic, romantic adventure.

Q.) Which is the trickier character to write, Whyborne or Griffin? Why?

A.) Griffin, without question. Whyborne’s character and narrative voice came very easily to me, but Griffin, especially at first, was more of a cipher.

I guess it’s only fitting, since Griffin has issues with honesty. Whyborne wants to get through life without anyone noticing him, but if he can’t do that, he’ll quietly put up with all sorts of bullying—but he won’t try to change himself to fit in. When push comes to shove, he’s always chosen to be himself instead of being liked. It hasn’t brought him happiness, but then again, he’s probably less miserable than he would have been if he had given in.

Griffin, on the other hand, wants to hide his real self. He’s constructed this persona of a well-educated guy who is fun and charming, and totally has his shit together. He thinks it will make other people like him. But the mask slowly starts slipping away, and we (and Whyborne) find out that he was in a lunatic asylum, and he’s kind of a manipulative bastard when it suits him, and he has massive trust issues, and he’s really even more of a mess than Whyborne. Which is saying a lot!

So, in keeping with their natures, Whyborne was completely open with me, and Griffin made me keep peeling away layer after layer to figure out his character.

Q.) I simply adore Dr. Christine Putnam, Percival’s friend and colleague. When you created her character, did you intend to make her such a strong and dynamic presence, or did she simply evolve that way as you got to know her?

A.) I really wanted a prominent female character to keep the series from being a total sausage party, so I started looking into women scientists from the era (they did exist!). Given the era, Christine would need a very tenacious personality to get where she has, which in turn made her the perfect foil for Whyborne. They’re superficially opposites: brash and confident vs. quiet and shy, athletic vs. klutzy, explorer vs. recluse, etc. But underneath they have a great deal in common: the quest for knowledge, a general dislike of other people, and a huge mutual respect.

Q.) Can you give us any hints as to what the next Whyborne & Griffin book will be about and when we can expect it?

A.) I’m currently researching late-nineteenth century lunatic asylums. As for when, I currently expect it to be out in December 2013.

Q.) Would you mind sharing an excerpt from the book with us?

Griffin frowned at me. “Surely you can ride, Whyborne.”

“Well…yes. I’ve ridden before.” My childhood friend Leander had loved horses, and insisted I join him on little tours around his estate. Of course, I hadn’t been on one of the beasts in a decade, instead riding in cabs, like a civilized person.

“Then mount up!” Christine exclaimed. She swung easily into the saddle, as if she did such things all the time. No doubt she rode horses and wrangled camels as a matter of course in Egypt.

I stared at the remaining creature. I could barely make it out in the dim light, but I thought it was brown in color, with a white blaze on its forehead. What was more obvious was it was very tall and very large.

“Do you need help adjusting the stirrups?” Griffin offered kindly.

“No! Well, yes.”

Griffin assisted me up onto the towering monster’s back and adjusted the stirrups to fit my long legs, before stepping back with a grin. “Don’t fret, my dear—you’ll be fine.”

I rather doubted it. Griffin swung up onto his mount with the same ease Christine had shown, and I remembered his tales of chasing train robbers and the like across the west. Of course he was an accomplished horseman. No doubt Elliot rode like a cowboy as well.

Griffin’s steed responded to a light touch of his knee and headed away from the livery stable at a brisk walk. Mine followed, more or less by default, as I’d done nothing to encourage it I was aware of.

“Buck up, Whyborne!” Christine called from behind me. “They can sense fear, you know!”

Wonderful. I’d be trampled to death by midnight.

Griffin led the way up along the cleared area, avoiding the bulk of the town. I clung grimly to the reins, every step—trot—whatever—of the horse jarring my spine. As we approached the woods, Griffin glanced back and me and winced. “Try to sit more loosely,” he advised. “You’re bouncing along like a sack of wet laundry. Move with the horse.”

“Oh, yes, why didn’t I think of that?” I muttered under my breath. As for what he even meant to begin with, I hadn’t the slightest notion.

Thunder growled over the mountain, louder now, and my horse let out a worried snort. I rather shared the sentiment. The wind picked up, rattling the trees as they closed around us, and bringing with it the scent of rain. The temperature dropped quickly, the oppressive feeling of the air giving way to something wilder.

I looked about worriedly, but the tossing trees already blocked the scattered lights of Threshold. Cloud rack covered the sky from horizon to horizon now, and our lanterns seemed to be the only points of light in all the world.

Griffin slowed his horse and cast about. “Listen,” he said.

“I don’t hear anything except the wind.”

He nodded. “Exactly. The frogs and whippoorwills have fallen silent.”

My skin crawled, and the horse seemed to agree, snorting and tossing its head, tugging at the reins in my clenched hands. We surely couldn’t have penetrated far into the forest, but in the dark I had no idea which direction would lead us back to Threshold and which deeper into the hollow.

“How much further?” I asked. Surely Mrs. Hicks wouldn’t have journeyed too deep into the countryside, given the dangers lurking in the woods.

“Not very—did you hear that?”

The wind howled down off the mountain, and the trees thrashed, branches rubbing together with obscene moans. But underneath it all, nearer at hand, there came the sound of something moving over the forest floor, snapping twigs and crunching leaves.

Christine pulled her rifle from her shoulder. “There’s something moving in the woods.”

Q.) What other works-in-progress do you have coming up?

A.) I’m hard at work with my SPECTR series: book 3, Reaper of Souls is due out July 2, and I’m currently writing book 4, Eater of Lives, for release in September.

Q.) (Here’s another one from Rhys) Would you LOVE to be able to get into a time machine and travel to the Victorian era, just to see what Bedlam was really like back then?

A.) Having taken field trips to the morgue and crime labs back when I studied forensic anthropology, I probably would. :D

Q.) Will you tell us where we can find you on the internet?

My website: http://www.jordanlhawk.com
Be my friend on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/jordanlhawk
Or tweet with me! https://twitter.com/jordanlhawk
You can also show Whyborne & Griffin some love on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WhyborneAndGriffin

Thanks so much for being here with us today, Jordan. We’ve loved having you here and hope you’ll stop by again soon.

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Now let’s talk goodies! Jordan is offering the chance for one lucky reader to win a $5 (US) Gift Card from Amazon. I don’t know about you all, but I’d definitely use it to purchase a certain book. ;-)

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment right here by 11:59pm (Pacific Time) on Saturday, June 8, 2013, and you’ll automatically be entered to win.

The drawing will be held on June 9, 2013 using the random number generator at Random.org, and the winner will be contacted for prize delivery. Now, in order to do that, we need you to make sure and leave your Email Address in your comment. Makes it much easier to get in touch. :-)

Thanks so much for participating and best of luck to you all!

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