4 Stars, Fairy Tale/Mythology/Folk Lore, M.A. Ray, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Self-Published

Review: The High King’s Will by M.A. Ray

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Title: The High King’s Will (Steel for the Prince: Book One)

Author: M.A. Ray

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 185 Pages

At a Glance: The High King’s Will takes off on an exciting and action packed adventure.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: “The High King’s will crushes all before it. …Fare well, Eagle Eye Wormsbane. If you can.”

Eagle Eye’s world is full of magic. Fairies love him, and his only real friend is the resident unicorn, but since he killed the Worm of Shirith, nothing feels the same. When he collides with beautiful, broken Brother Fox a second time, he knows there’s no going back.

“I’m not in love with him. He needs help, that’s all.”

There’s no shortage of monsters in Fox’s life. The Worm was nothing compared to his own father, High King Beagar. When Eagle suggests an escape, Fox seizes the idea–and he wants Eagle with him.

“Damn propriety! I don’t want a servant! I want you to be my friend!”

The High King’s designs send Eagle and Fox across the sea to Rodansk, a land of summer sunshine at midnight and endless winter dark. Between the two, low-caste Eagle presents the bigger threat to Beagar’s power, and he didn’t even know it. Now that his Prince is giving him so much to lose, he won’t go down without a fight.

“Don’t be afraid. …I’m with you.”

Dividers

Review: Filled with magic, betrayal, danger, and mayhem—not to mention a couple of engaging heroes—M.A. Ray’s The High King’s Will sweeps readers along on an exciting high fantasy adventure. Digging into this story, I have to confess I wasn’t sure whether I was reading a fable or folk lore or a fairy tale. It turns out the answer is yes, I was reading a little bit of all those things, and I found this book to be a delightful tale with a New Adult feel.

Eagle Eye has just been named Wormsbane. He’s slain a dragon and saved the life of Brother Fox, the Crown Prince, but feels unworthy of the title that’s been bestowed upon him by the High King Beagar, certain that it wasn’t skill but luck that was with him that day. When the author introduces us to Eagle and Fox (whose names are what kept me wondering at the start of the book if I was reading a fable or maybe the re-imagining of a Native American folk tale), we don’t learn as much about the slaying as we do about the High King—namely that he’s never going to be up for father of the year. He’s abusive in some brutal and heinous ways, and as the story evolves, we see exactly why Fox is so eager to set off with Eagle to see the world when he has the opportunity.

What I didn’t understand for a good ways into this tale is exactly what sort of creatures Eagle and Fox are. I only knew for sure they weren’t at all human—it’s actually a bit difficult to get a good mental picture of what they do look like, at least for me—but the author does make sure we get a clear picture of this fairy tale world inhabited by trolls, dragons, fairies, elves, as well as humans, not to mention the magic and courage our heroes possess. The world-building along with my compassion for Fox and respect for Eagle made for some good binge reading.

As it turns out, the High King allowing Fox to set off on his adventure, accompanied by Eagle as his guard, wasn’t a rare kindness displayed by a father toward his son. There were much more sinister motives involved, and as the boys discover their journey is going to turn into a fight for survival, this story draws you in to all the danger they face, in the classic hero’s journey fashion. The action scenes are well written and fraught with tension, making for a brisk paced read.

Our young lovers have only just begun, and there are more than a few obstacles they’ll have to overcome, not the least of which is that Fox’s life is the stuff of nightmares and there are many things he’s done and had done to him he can’t put behind him. As the book draws to a close, we’re also left on the cusp of change for Eagle… Yes, the story ends in a cliffhanger, so what that change is remains to be seen. I’m looking so forward to book two to find out, and can only hope these boys will find a talisman of good fortune or that fate will throw some luck their way. Something tells me they’re going to need it.

I’m always excited to be introduced to new authors, and if the entire series lives up to the promise of The High King’s Will, M.A. Ray is one I’ll be paying close attention to.

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4 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Kim, Tara Lain

Review: Sinders and Ash by Tara Lain

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Title: Sinders and Ash (A Pennymaker Tale)

Author: Tara Lain

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 145 Pages

At a Glance: I’ll have no problem reading more of this series since this book kept my interest throughout.

Reviewed By: Kim

Blurb: Housekeeper Mark Sintorella (Sinders) works diligently at a resort hotel while designing clothes anonymously, hoping to get into fashion school. Then his carefully planned life is upended with the arrival of Ashton Armitage, son of the fifth richest man in America—and the most beautiful guy Mark has ever seen. Ash must find a wife or he’ll lose his grandfather’s inheritance, and he settles on Bitsy Fanderel. But secretly Ash is gay, and the guy who cleans the fireplaces sets his heart ablaze.

Further stirring the pot is the little elf of a man, Carstairs Pennymaker, who has Mark wearing his own designs and masquerading as a girl to impress the fashion investors in the hotel. When the clock strikes twelve, two beautiful princesses line up for the wedding—but one isn’t a woman. Will the slipper fit? Only Mr. Pennymaker knows for sure.

First Edition published by Amber Quill Press, LLC, 2012.

Dividers

Review: When Mark’s mother died, his family kicked him out because he’s gay. Living on the streets, he eventually gets a job working in housekeeping at a luxury hotel. The hotel staff have nicknamed him Sinders because he works so hard at his job to save enough money to attend fashion designer school. When a guest of the hotel notices one of the shirts Mark has designed, that guest, Mr. Pennymaker, insists Mark wear more of his designs in front of his fashion investor friends. The biggest problem is that the only other thing Mark has made from his designs is a dress.

Ashford Armitage, known to most as a rich playboy, arrives at the hotel in order to find a wife before he turns twenty-five. Otherwise, according to his grandfather’s will, he stands to lose an inheritance worth millions of dollars. Unbeknownst to most, however, including his parents, Ashford is gay. So Ash kind of figures that Bitsy is the one for him, and when he proposes a business arrangement between the two of them, well, Bitsy balks because she’s not sure that she wants to give up her life for a life of luxury, and Bitsy has her own little secret. But the amount of the money involved is tempting…

Mark and Ash finally meet when Ash saves Mark from a sexual assault by one of the hotel workers, and Mark is so overcome by Ash’s good looks that he kisses him then runs away. I found that I really enjoyed Sinders and Ash, it followed an old fairytale favorite of mine, Cinderella, so I expected after I read the blurb that Ash would be chasing Mark when Mark was dress-up as a women. Not so! But it did put a smile on my face when Ash couldn’t figure out why he was attracted to Mr. Pennymaker’s neice.

Sinders and Ash is different, and it really had me laughing out loud at some of the antics and what male parts could be made to do (sorry, you just have to know how my weird imagination works, and I’m not surprised that these brief bits caught my attention). Some of Sinders and Ash is gooey fluffy, some of it kind of had a point, and I’ll have no problem reading more of this series since this book kept my interest throughout.

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5 Stars, Fairy Tale/Mythology/Folk Lore, Loose Id, Madeleine Ribbon, Paranormal Romance, Reviewed by Lisa, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Review: Death by Dragon by Madeleine Ribbon

Title: Death by Dragon

Author: Madeleine Ribbon

Publisher: Loose Id

Pages/Word Count: 283 Pages

At a Glance: A little bit of fairy tale and a heaping helping of fantasy with a side of action and danger kept this clever and fast paced story moving along.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: Fell Harwick, half-incubus and witch extraordinaire, knows how he’ll die. Ever since he was a child, he’s had visions of a dragon tearing him to pieces. Since he’s not terribly fond of the idea–and the power-hungry vampire that killed his mother is now after him for his unprecedented healing abilities–he’s gone into hiding. But when a pair of shifters get shot in front of his cabin in the woods, he feels obligated to keep them safe.

Jett and Theodore are members of the local resistance, fighting against the same vamp that wants Fell. Theodore is a beautiful, tragic mess, and Jett hates all incubi on principle–something Fell finds out as he tries to take energy to power his healing magic.

Jett and Fell might have been able to work around one paranormal prejudice. Jett even encourages Fell into sex with Theodore when he needs energy. But then Fell discovers that his future killer has been sleeping on his couch.

Dividers

Review: If you’ve ever finished a book and thought, Dear gods of all fiction, please let there be a sequel, then you’ve been exactly where I am after reading Madeleine Ribbon’s Death by Dragon. Not because the storyline necessarily needs one but because the characters and the world they live in need one. And me. I need one too.

Being a shameless Buy-Now-With-1-Click impulse shopping addict, there were two reasons I bought this book, author unknown to me. First, the title. The second reason, the cover (Fell’s definitely an “I licked him, therefore he is mine” sort of a guy). Why I loved this book, however, has much to do with the narrator of the story, Fell (short for Raphael) Harwick. Fell is a witch with extraordinary healing abilities. He’s also become a bit of a recluse since there’s a vampire who aims to kidnap him and make Fell his mindless meat-puppet in an attempt to reign supreme over the kingdom of “others” with which Ribbon has populated this novel. Witch: check. Vampires: check. Shifters: check. Dragon: check-check. What makes Fell an outcast even more than being a witch, though, is the other half of his biology, courtesy of his father. Fell’s also part incubus, and we all know what sort of shenanigans the incubi are capable of.

But wait, there’s more…

There’s also a great plot to Fell’s story, one that’s a little bit fairy tale and a heaping helping of fantasy with a side of action and danger that kept this clever and fast paced story moving along. Fell is a nerdy guy who has a wicked sense of humor and a sharp tongue he’s not afraid to hone on anyone who gets in his way. There were plenty of times I found myself grinning, if not outright laughing, while reading Death by Dragon, but there was also a good balance between that and the political drama in which Fell is involuntarily embroiled when it becomes clear someone’s broken the laws of Silence—which, in short, means there’ve been supernaturals exposing their existence to humans.

When a group of shifter-hunting men trespass on Fell’s lawn and bring danger to his doorstep, he’s forced into involuntary cohabitation with two of the injured survivors—Theodore and Jett. Being more or less a hermit for the past year, and trusting no one, let alone a grieving shifter and his incubus-loathing brother, Fell’s forced into some major adjustments to his routine; though, there are some fringe benefits to having Theodore and Jett in his house. Namely, Fell needs a soul’s energy to power his magic—whether through kissing or sex—and Jett’s happy to pimp Theodore out for the job, and Theodore’s more than willing to supply all the lip-smacking nookie Fell needs to keep his wards up and healing powers at maximum capacity.

The building of the relationship between Fell and Theodore, and the somewhat grudging (at least on Jett’s side) friendship between Fell and Jett is handled more as an aside to the core plot, which is keeping the vampire, Jamison, from getting his hands on Fell, so I wouldn’t strictly categorize this book as a romance, even with its grand sacrifice and perfect fairy tale ending. The beauty is in the buildup of the alliances, the evidence of betrayal, and the fallout from it all, which impacts Fell, Theodore, and Jett, all three, in a thoroughly heart-tugging way. And there’s even quite a touching reunion between Fell and his absentee incubus father, which I loved for its warmth and support of Fell.

Does Jett ever overcome his prejudice of Fell’s soul-sucker lineage? Does Fell’s vision of death-by-dragon come to fruition? Well, the blurb gives you a few clues to the riddle, but I’ll not give the rest because that would spoil the story. Suffice it to say, though, that finding the answers to these questions was an absolute treat, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend you discover them on your own.

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5 Stars, Amy Lane, Dreamspinner Press, Fairy Tale/Mythology/Folk Lore, Reviewed by Lisa

Review: Immortal by Amy Lane

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Title: Immortal

Author: Amy Lane

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 210 Pages

At a Glance: Immortal is a gorgeous novel, eloquent in its joy and sorrow, hopeful in its promise of forever, meaningful in the way of fairy tales that teach us we are each the crucibles of love, and love is the conqueror of hate.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: When Teyth was but a child, a cruel prince took over his village, building a great granite tower to rule over the folk. Greedy and capricious, the man will be the bane of Teyth’s existence as an adult, but as a boy, Teyth is too busy escaping his stepfather to worry about his ruler.

Sold into apprenticeship to the local blacksmith, Teyth finds that what was meant as a punishment is actually his salvation. Cairsten, the smith, and Diarmuid, his adopted son, are kind, and the smithy is the prosperous heart of a thriving village. As Teyth grows in the craft of metalwork, he also grows in love for Diarmuid, the gentle, clever young man who introduces him to smithing.

Their prince wants Diarmuid too. As the tyrant inflicts loss upon loss on Teyth and Diarmuid, Teyth’s passion for his craft twists into obsession. By the time Teyth resurfaces from his quest to create immortality, he’s nearly lost the love that makes being human worth the pain. Teyth was born to sculpt his emotion into metal, and Diarmuid was born to lead. Together, can they keep their village safe and sustain the love that will make them immortal?

Dividers

Review: Fairy tales are a true art form, often dismissed, I feel, for their foreordained destination (the happily-ever-after) rather than appreciated for the journey, which is where the alchemy and symbolism take place. There is a darkness to fairy tales, sometimes a darkness which makes it difficult to find the light at the end of the tale, but it’s during the dark (the figurative burning of the nigredo stage of the alchemical process the hero must endure on his transformative journey) that the richness of the story exists.

This truth is present and accounted for in Amy Lane’s Immortal, the story of a ten-year-old boy sold to the town blacksmith by his wicked stepfather, the foundational villain upon which Teyth’s life is built. Cairsten, the blacksmith, is the gentle giant in this story; Diarmuid, his stalwart protégé, is possessed of the kind and patient nature which serves as the balm Teyth’s soul needs to mend the damage his stepfather had tried to do. Diarmuid is the promise Teyth’s soul needs when his body is broken and bent but his heart and spirit endure. Diarmuid is Teyth’s ascension when a fall from grace seems to leave him all but one small step from death, and it’s here that the allegorical burn resides.

As no respectable fairy tale can be complete without one, the forest plays its part in this story as well—the magical realm within a realm where dark and light, questions and answers, coexist, and is the symbolic place within which our heroes discover the greatest mysteries of life, death, love, physical and spiritual union, and loss. And even as with Shakespeare’s own Birnam Wood, it is the forest which also serves in the end to play destiny to a malicious prince. Within this wood, there is salvation and sacrifice, where trees are the gods that hear confessions. Within this wood, there is vengeance and asylum. Within this wood, there is a covenant of divine energy which represents mortality and immortality in blood and earth. Without this wood, there is the good and evil of humanity.

The beauty of Immortal is in the meticulous weaving and layering of the relationships, the fantasy, and the forging of a life through trial in the fires of grief that threatens to consume, and a burning love that serves as salvation. Time is fleeting, the seasons are the ouroboros of figurative death and rebirth, and love is the immutable within the pages of this book: every detail in this story acts as a shaping and altering of its characters and the village its people suffer to protect, even as Teyth’s own shaping and altering of the base and precious metals gifted to him by their forest become the tangible proof of his heart and soul, his hurt and hope, and the symbols around which he will discover his own immortality.

There is a tang of bittersweet to this fairy tale, which is where the story ends, at a new beginning, begging the reader to find the happy ending within life’s cycles of love, sacrifice, and a separate peace. Teyth’s name means Silence, and is the irony of the words within the pages of a book—that the written word and the characters within are indeed the immortal of all immortals, speaking to us and living well beyond us all, keeping alive the mythologies and mysteries even beyond death.

Immortal is a gorgeous novel, eloquent in its joy and sorrow, hopeful in its promise of forever, meaningful in the way of fairy tales that teach us we are each the crucibles of love, and love is the conqueror of hate. Teyth and Diarmuid are each other’s strength and weakness, their lives tainted by evil and redeemed by their ability to embrace what they’d built together through their hurt and heartache. Immortal is the sort of book that will be unique to each reader, personal in the way of our own perceptions and interpretations influencing the story. But, whichever way you look at it, it’s the journey as well as the destination that make it all worthwhile.

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4 Stars, Alana Ankh, Dreamspinner Press, Fairy Tale/Mythology/Folk Lore, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Jennifer

Review: Splat! by Alana Ankh

Title: Splat!

Author: Alana Ankh

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 127 Pages

At a Glance: Fairies, sex, and angst. Great read for a sunny afternoon.

Blurb: Splat!

When a small creature has an unfortunate run-in with his car, Deacon Hearst wonders what in the world hit his windshield. A bird? A butterfly? No, that would make Deacon’s crazy life too simple. It is a fairy—or rather a Sidhe—with a gaze the color of the moon and thus eloquently named Mooneyes. The little creature’s wing is broken, and it’s shivering in the rain, and well… Deacon has a heart, after all.

While nursing Moon back to health, Deacon discovers Moon’s beauty is more than skin deep. Though they’re very different, especially in size, they’re alike in their loneliness, their need for affection. Despite the weirdness of the situation, Deacon finds himself falling for his not-quite victim.

Deacon thinks it’s a hopeless—gah!—love, but what if it isn’t? Moon might just have a few secrets of his own, secrets that could change everything in an instant and weave a different path for them both.

Dividers

Review: A novella involving a fairy that crashes into a windshield, a healthy dose of angst, and some fantastic sex makes a great read for a sunny afternoon when you have nothing to do but relax in the sun. Splat! has all of these things, with great humor thrown into the mix.

Though short, I enjoyed this book. Deacon and Moon meet when the fairy goes splat against his windshield while he’s driving home one day. Of course, he thinks he’s in a dream but when he goes back to help Moon, his life gets irrevocably intertwined with the tiny fairy.

Deacon and Moon are able to connect with each other because of their similar situations in life. Deacon is currently fending off parents who, even though he’s thirty-three, still think his sexuality is just a “phase” and continually try to set him up with women they deem acceptable. Likewise, Moon also has this problem. Ever since discovering his ability for song-weaving, his parents have rejected his sexuality—which wouldn’t normally be a problem—in order to put their family in a better position in fae society. And that means marrying him to their leader’s daughter, whether Moon likes it or not. So he flees and literally runs into Deacon.

The tension between the families added to the book, though at times I did want to smack Moon and tell him to wake up and stand up for himself. After all, he had the power to do so. He just didn’t act on it.

Deacon didn’t have this problem, and for that I was thankful. He knew what he wanted, and once he realized he wasn’t in a dream, he went for it.

If you’re looking for a fun read with a good amount of angst, I recommend giving Splat! a shot.

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4.5 Stars, Fairy Tale/Mythology/Folk Lore, Keira Andrews, Leta Blake, Reviewed by Lisa, Self-Published

Review: Rise by Keira Andrews and Leta Blake

Title: Rise: A Gay Fairy Tale

Author: Keira Andrews and Leta Blake

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 106 Pages

At a Glance: Rise is everything you’d expect a fairy tale to be: magical, mystical, romantic, and it’s well written to boot.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: What happens when Jack meets a sexy man atop that beanstalk?

Rumors of treasure have long sent fortune hunters clambering up a magic beanstalk to a mysterious castle in the clouds. Survivors told of an evil giant who guards the gold and glittering jewels with savage strength. No sane man would dare risk the climb—but Jack has nothing left to lose. Shunned for his evil red hair and abandoned by his cruel lover, he’s desperate to escape his life.

Rion isn’t a giant, only a man bearing the burden of protecting his family’s legacy. It’s a lonely existence, but he’s duty bound. Then Jack appears, and Rion’s world is turned upside down. After a blazing confrontation, undeniable lust sparks. Isolated in the clouds, Jack and Rion give in to their desire and growing connection. But do they have the courage to let go of the past and follow their dreams?

Soon they must protect the treasure—and each other—from a new threat. And they have everything to lose.

Dividers

Review: I love fairy tales, not the happily-ever-after (though that’s lovely) but the fact they’re so much more than they appear on the surface—the symbolism, the alchemy, the moral lessons they originated as—and re-imagined fairy tales, whether fractured or mostly true to their archetypes, are a time-honored favorite in fiction, particularly in romantic fiction. Authors Keira Andrews and Leta Blake have put their own personal stamp on the tale of Jack and the Beanstalk in Rise, and have not only given the tale a gay twist but an erotic one as well.

Rise is the revised and re-released version of their story Ascending Hearts, a novella I read a couple of years ago and loved enough that I happily agreed to visit it again in its latest incarnation. The story structure hasn’t changed at all; it’s still the same love-conquers-all romance, still just as heart-tugging in its telling, still just as uplifting as the healing power of love which is the heart of this tale, and though different in scope from the original, still symbolizes the rise of a poor man from his lowly state. This time, however, Jack and his “giant” become all the richer for having found the love of a lifetime.

The fracturing of the Jack and the Beanstalk fairy tale is the necessary cog to introduce Jack and the plight he faces, being an outcast in his village. Not because he’s gay but because he’s stigmatized as the Devil’s spawn by virtue of his red hair, a canon with a long and storied history and the impetus for his being friendless, spurned by his family, used and then cast aside. Jack is rejected and dejected, and the final crack in his already burdened soul comes at the hands of his own mother’s betrayal; though it’s this betrayal which is the catalyst for Jack’s ascension, leading him to his destiny.

Meeting Rion, the greedy giant who hoards his riches while the Outsiders below starve and suffer, begins with misperceptions and mirrored prejudices between him and Jack. It’s not until they begin to question everything they’ve been told about each other, and begin listening to their hearts’ and carnal desires rather than leaning on the long-held beliefs passed in stories from generation to generation, that this fairy tale love story begins, that the authors pull out all the stops in the romance, playing on our emotions and our hopes for that aforementioned happy ending despite what seems to be poor odds.

Rise is everything you’d expect a fairy tale to be: magical, mystical, romantic, and it’s well written to boot. I was enchanted, start to finish, and it was entirely worth the revisit.






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5 Stars, Audio Book, Dreamspinner Press, Fairy Tale/Mythology/Folk Lore, Kim Fielding, Reviewed by Kim

Audio Review: Brute by Kim Fielding – Narrated by K.C. Kelly

Title: Brute

Author: Kim Fielding

Narrator:: K.C. Kelly

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Run Time: 11 Hours, 14 Minutes

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: Brute leads a lonely life in a world where magic is commonplace. He is seven and a half feet of ugly, and of disreputable descent. No one, including Brute, expects him to be more than a laborer. But heroes come in all shapes and sizes, and when he is maimed while rescuing a prince, Brute’s life changes abruptly. He is summoned to serve at the palace in Tellomer as a guard for a single prisoner. It sounds easy but turns out to be the challenge of his life. Continue reading

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4.5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Fairy Tale/Mythology/Folk Lore, Lex Chase, Reviewed by Sammy, Romantic Comedy, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Review: Americana Fairy Tale by Lex Chase

Title: Americana Fairy Tale

Author: Lex Chase

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 340 Pages

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Blurb: Modern fairy-tale princess Taylor Hatfield has problems. One: he’s a guy. Two: his perfect brother Atticus is the reincarnation of Snow White. Three: Taylor has no idea which princess he is supposed to be. Four: Taylor just left his prince (a girl) at the altar. Despite his enchanted lineage, Taylor is desperate to find his Happily Ever After away from magic, witches, and stuffy traditions. Regrettably, destiny has other plans for him. Dammit. Continue reading

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4 Stars, Fairy Tale/Mythology/Folk Lore, Nikki Woolfolk, Reviewed by Lisa, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Small Gems, Word Nerd Press

Small Gems Sunday: “The Men of Summerly” by Nikki Woolfolk

“You were supposed to go to the Ball for a few hours and have some fun, not find a husband!” – Nikki Woolfolk


Title: The Men of Summerly (Sweet and Steamy Series: Book Two)

Author: Nikki Woolfolk

Publisher: Word Nerd Press

Pages/Word Count: 61 Pages

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb: Tradition is as quaint tradition does.

So thinks British trade envoy Simon Leatherby as he settles into his temporary home in the mountains of Stubborn, West Virginia, to negotiate an equitable export trade agreement. As the guest of honor at the annual Midsummer Night’s Dream Costume Ball, Simon is charmed by the beauty of this rugged country and matchmaking townsfolk, but only business is on his mind. Continue reading

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Cover Reveal, Dreamspinner Press, Lex Chase

Cover Reveal and Giveaway: Americana Fairy Tale by Lex Chase

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Americana Fairy Tale
by Lex Chase

Genre: M/M Fairy Tale Urban Fantasy
Length: Novel, 340 Pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Blurb

Modern fairy-tale princess Taylor Hatfield has problems. One: He’s a guy. Two: His perfect brother Atticus is the reincarnation of Snow White. Three: Taylor has no idea which princess he is supposed to be. Four: Taylor just left his prince (a girl) at the altar. Despite his enchanted lineage, Taylor is desperate to find his Happily Ever After away from magic, witches, and stuffy traditions. Regrettably, destiny has other plans for him. Dammit. Continue reading

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Hayden Thorne, Queerteen Press

An Unlikely Friendship Transforms “The Weeping Willow”



“Fairy tales and folk tales are for children and childlike people, not because they are little and inconsequential, but because they are as enormous as life itself.” ― Anthony Esolen


Crispian Butcher is a throw-away child who, at fifteen, has learned what it means to be homeless, friendless, hungry, tired with nowhere to rest. He finds work where he can, lucking into a job that provides just enough for survival, making his home within the sheltering branches of a weeping willow tree, a very special tree that is so much more than what it seems, a tree that is bound by magic to absorb a wealth of human grief.
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Ellora's Cave, Keira Andrews, Leta Blake

Ascending Hearts by Keira Andrews and Leta Blake – This Isn’t Your Childhood Version of “Jack and the Beanstalk”

It isn’t possible to love and part … I know by experience that the poets are right: love is eternal. – E.M. Forster

There’s nothing you might expect and everything you might imagine in Keira Andrews and Leta Blake’s Ascending Hearts, the story of a man named Jack who, by virtue of his red hair and his unnatural desires, is an outcast in his village and believed to be the spawn of the Devil. Jack’s mother even buys into the superstition, blaming him for his father leaving them when Jack was but an infant. Now Maura has sold their only cow Inga to the local butcher because it’s the only way she was going to see any financial benefit from the aging animal, not to mention Maura has manipulated her way into greener pastures and is leaving Jack to fend for himself in a world that doesn’t want him.

But there is a beanstalk in the village that withers each winter and resurrects each spring with the temptation to climb its heights and attempt to steal what the giant in the clouds so greedily hoards. It is in desperation to pay a debt that Jack risks the climb to gain the gold that waits at the top, but he ends up losing his heart instead and discovers a treasure far more precious than anything material riches could bring him.

Rion is the guardian of his family legacy, destined to live alone in his ancestral castle as he guards the gold he made a deathbed promise to his father never to leave. Jack’s intrusion upon Rion’s sedate and solitary existence delivers an unwelcome discord to Rion’s orderly life, though it’s not too long before the two men discover that they are each the completion of the other’s soul. That does not, however, in any way guarantee their happily-ever-after.

Mirroring prejudice and overcoming misperceptions, not to mention a case of serious mutual attraction brings Rion and Jack together, but it’s duty and a bargain that must be honored that tears them apart. There is betrayal in the end, a deadly enemy who must be vanquished, which leads to the abiding of the true love that will help these two men to overcome.

Once again, Keira Andrews and Leta Blake have teamed up to make a fairy tale their very own, with the slightest of fractures in the familiar to make the story new and altogether too exciting to resist. Ascending Hearts isn’t the first retelling of “Jack and the Beanstalk” I’ve ever read, but I can almost guarantee it’s the most erotic. And, if I’m being entirely honest, I would pretty much also guarantee it’s the most romantic version of the story I’ve ever got my hands on. At least, I think it is.

If you like a really good love-conquers-all story that will give you a bit of a tug at the heartstrings for a minimal investment, I’d definitely recommend giving this one a go.

You can buy Ascending Hearts here:

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Ellora's Cave, Leta Blake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Eric Arvin, Wilde City Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hayden Thorne, Queerteen Press

Gold in the Clouds by Hayden Thorne – It’s a Giant Of A Fairy Tale

Fee-fi-fo-fum,
I smell the blood of an Englishman,
Be he alive, or be he dead
I’ll have his bones to grind my bread. – Joseph Jacobs

The only thing Jack Wicket is willing to work hard at is coming up with schemes to avoid having to work hard at anything at all, but getting rich while remaining idle isn’t working out so well for the boy either, while he watches—and largely scorns—his best and only friend, Blythe Midwinter, as he grudgingly traipses about the countryside, and to market, selling his sister’s baked goods. It’s not exactly fulfilling any of Blythe’s dreams, but at least it’s an honest trade, as much as he dislikes it.

Blythe is a fifteen-year-old boy living with his sister, Molly, who is more mother than sisterly, and his flatulent frère, Bertie, whose specialty seems to be filling their small and humble cottage with unsavory aromas of the gaseous variety, as well as enduring attention from the mothers and daughters who see Bertie as potential husband material. The Midwinters may not have much in the way of material wealth, but they’re a family and sometimes family is everything.

Gold in the Clouds is a coming-of-age story, told in and around the fairy tale Jack and the Beanstalk, with a smattering of other tales woven in for fun. From The Emperor’s New Clothes to The Bremen Town Musicians to Rumplestiltskin, just to name a few, Hayden Thorne spins her word-magic and has created a story of first love between two boys who may be on opposite ends of the social spectrum but who very much fulfill the recipe of the perfect fairy tale romance between the charming suitor, Edrik Vicary, and Blythe, the poor but proud commoner.

There are no fairy godmothers or glass slippers in this story, but there is most definitely a cow and some magic beans and the riches found amongst the cloud ogres, who do not delight at all in Jack’s sticky-fingered visits. It’s a story that proves the point there can be only one hero in Jack’s quest, but Blythe has a journey all his own to realize, one in which he will find riches of a very different sort.

If you love fables of first love told with humor and heart, then I can’t recommend Gold in the Clouds enough.

You can buy it here:

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Dreamspinner Press, Harmony Ink Press, Hayden Thorne, Ken Murphy, M.J. O'Shea, Mary Calmes, Poppy Dennison, Queerteen Press, Sam Kadence

What’s On Tap For This Week?


It’s a week of reviews coming up, as Bruce and I gear up for the Hop Against Homophobia & Transphobia on May 17th. You’ll want to watch for that because there’s going to be a giveaway along with the post topic we’ve chosen to discuss, something near and dear to both our hearts.

Meanwhile, here are the books that’ll be featured in the week ahead:

Monday: Bruce reviews Poppy Dennison and Mary Calmes’ collaboration, Creature Feature

Tuesday: Hayden Thorne delivers fairy tale magic with Gold in the Clouds

Wednesday: Bruce talks Stubborn Heart by Ken Murphy

Thursday: Sam Kadence’s YA Paranormal romance Evolution makes an appearance

Friday: Justin Foster meets Logan O’Brien in M.J. O’Shea’ Finding Shelter

Have a great week, everyone, and happy reading!

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Kay Berrisford, Loose Id

A New Lyric In The Ballad Of Robin Hood – Lord of the Forest by Kay Berrisford

Never archer there as he so good
And people called him Robin Hood
Such outlaws as him and his men
Will England never see again – Thomas Gale, Dean of York

Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men rob from the rich and give to the poor; or so the legend goes, of the man who lives as the outlaw of Sherwood Forest, whose sworn enemy is the Sheriff of Nottingham, and whose life is about to become all manner of complicated when his band of fellow outlaws each goes his own way, leaving Robin alone, a man with a purpose but with no one left to aid him in the serving of it.

Kay Berrisford’s Lord of the Forest is a re-imagining of the larger-than-life mythology of one of England’s most notorious heroes…or villains, depending upon which side of his brand of justice one stood on. She’s given more than a few great twists to the tale, introducing plenty of intrigue, as well as fairy tale magic, and has managed to turn the legend of Robin Hood into a lovely romance between a lonely man and the young spy who is a traitor to his birthright and whose life is complicated beyond measure.

Robin and the Sheriff are still the bitterest of adversaries, but their relationship is so much more than the Sheriff simply wanting to capture Robin and bring him to justice. No, the Sheriff wants to possess Robin, body and soul, before he sees that the man pays for his crimes, and it is an obsession that Cal—the forester, the whore, the spy—must decide upon which side he stands before he can decide which man he will betray.

The living forest of Greenwood plays its own unique role in the romance between Robin and Cal, building upon the sensuality and the mysticism woven into the story, and reinforcing a bond that was forged by each of their births, as children of the woodland.

There is danger and treachery and even a little bit of heartbreak before an ending that effectively resolved the demands of the Greenwood that the protector bloodline must endure. It is an alchemy that only the Fae could perpetuate; it challenges the imagination, and it also left me wondering if (read: hoping) the author might consider a sequel to the adventure.

You can buy Lord of the Forest here:

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Hayden Thorne, Queerteen Press

Hayden Thorne Won’t Make You Climb A Beanstalk To Find This Treasure


We’re so thrilled to have author Hayden Thorne as our guest today, and we hope you’ll help welcome her. :)

Hayden has a new book that released on April 14, 2013, from Queerteen Press, called Gold in the Clouds, a project she’s here to tell us a bit more about, as well as offering an excerpt from the novel AND giving one lucky reader the chance to win an eCopy of the book! Read on to see how to enter to win.

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Q. When did you start writing creatively, and who was your greatest literary influence?

A. I started out writing cartoon strips with my younger sister. We used to deface our family encyclopedias by doodling in the margins, which, obviously, didn’t go down very well with our parents. But we got blank notebooks and filled those up with crazy stories and weird characters. I remember writing a comic strip about a family that got stranded on Easter Island. That was long, long before I knew that Easter Island wasn’t a Robinson Crusoe type of place.

I didn’t pick up the pen again till around 2000, when I got sucked into the Gundam Wing fandom. Eventually I messed around with Kaze to Ki no Uta, literary slash, and then original fiction, mostly short. It wasn’t until around 2006 when I started publishing short stories for anthologies (adult, by the way). I got tapped by the editors of Prizm Books to contribute material for their new LGBT Young Adult imprint, and things snowballed from there.

My greatest literary influence is Charles Dickens. His books were one of my first forays into classic literature in high school alongside Victor Hugo, and I adored – still adore – his works. His books were instrumental in broadening my horizons from J.R.R. Tolkien to some pretty heavy stuff, and I’ve absorbed what I could of his characterization. I think that element right there is what inspired me the most. He’s not a perfect writer and is the worst when it comes to the use of coincidence in plots, but his characters are incredible. I’ve always wanted to write teenagers (and even adults as side characters) who stand out in some way or other and leave some kind of impression in readers’ minds.

Q. What was the first of your books to be published?

A. It was a group thing, so to speak. Prizm Books opened their doors with Icarus in Flight, Banshee, and Masks: Rise of Heroes. Those books plus additional titles from other authors.

Q. If someone had never read your work before but was getting ready to dive in, what’s the one thing you’d want them to know before they purchased one of your books?

A. Hmm. That I’m no romance writer, even in YA. I remember having some readers react in shock at realizing that Desmond and Garrick weren’t going to get together because their names are front and center in the series’ title. But my main point is friendship developing between two completely disparate characters. I prefer to focus on other relationships involving gay kids in my stories, and I really enjoy exploring families and friends as opposed to love interests. Romance is always secondary to whatever the main conflict is.

I’m also not a writer of contemporary issues faced by gay teens. When I do write about them, it’s always removed from the real world, i.e., I love playing with metaphors and symbols. By and large, I want to write gay kids as individuals who’re much more than their sexual orientation. I prefer to write them no differently from the way I’d write about straight kids. My fairy tales, especially the novels, don’t even make a big deal about homosexuality unless a side character decides to twist it for a reason.

Q. You’ve often said you write in a very niche segment of the LGBT YA market. How do you come up with the ideas for your books, especially for those like The Twilight Gods and Renfred’s Masquerade which, to this day, are two of my all-time favorites?

A. The “preferred genre” for LGBT YA fiction remains contemporary coming-out novels or issues-based novels. You’ll see a lot of those books being published by the larger, more mainstream presses, with occasional fantasy fiction mixed in. And there’s a good reason for that, of course. LGBT kids will always need them, no matter what generation we’re looking at. But at the same time, the even smaller market for genre fiction for LGBT teens is slowly growing, thanks to small, independent presses who aren’t afraid of taking chances. Those books have yet to win over the majority of gatekeepers in the LGBT YA world, but they’re holding steady, and I don’t see them going away at any time soon. As far as the importance of speculative fiction for LGBT teens is concerned, it’s just as needed as coming-out novels; if we want to help these kids find their courage to be who they are, why can’t we write about them in every genre out there?

I tend to find inspiration in art: music, visual arts, literature. The Twilight Gods was inspired by a Native American folktale and is in fact a retelling of the story. When I first read the folktale, I saw so many connections between the imagery of death, the skeletons, and the marriage with the more negative beliefs that too many of us still have regarding homosexuality. But music tends to have a stronger influence on my writing. Renfred’s Masquerade was inspired by Offenbach’s “Barcarolle” in the sense that when I listened to the piece, a number of images and, again, connections came to mind. A masquerade, for sure, was one of them. The context of Offenbach’s piece also made me think of reality vs. fantasy because the aria is sung by a doll, with whom a man falls in love and believes to be real. Plus I couldn’t help but picture two people in a boat or gondola leaving—but it wasn’t a happy image.

Classical music to me is the best source of story inspiration. Each piece works on my imagination in ways that are different from another, but overall, it’s the emotions roused by these pieces that I zero in on and use to influence the way the plot unravels. Strong emotions tend to give rise to images, which can lead to something more, etc. I recently blogged about Carl Orff’s “Gassenhauer” and how it’s helping me sort through my difficulties with a story I’ve been having trouble with. The piece is very short, very light, and very playful—a child’s song, almost. But it’s helped me work out some kinks in a story that I had to set aside for the time being because the emotions affected by it really fit the tone of the story, which is very whimsical.

Q. You have a new book just released from QueerTeen Press called Gold in the Clouds. Would you tell us a little bit about the story, where you found the inspiration for it, and perhaps share an excerpt with us?

A. Gold in the Clouds is “Jack and the Beanstalk” as witnessed by Jack’s gay best friend, Blythe Midwinter. It’s a fantasy and a comedy along the same lines as Rose and Spindle, but it’s snarkier. The novel’s conflict revolves around Blythe’s self-worth and the constant struggle in him regarding wealth and luck because he’s poor, and he’s tired of being poor. It doesn’t help him any that, on one hand, his best friend happens to be a lazy little bugger and prefers to wait for Lady Luck to shower him with gold and so on, and on the other hand, his sister keeps rubbing his nose into the value of honest, hard work despite their poverty.

Inspiration for this story came a long time ago. I was toying with the idea of writing a picaresque series involving two gay kids (boyfriends, to be brief) who run away and try to find how they fit in a number of fairy tale plots, and one of them was “Jack and the Beanstalk”. I pictured them both standing around the chopped-up beanstalk and staring at it forlornly, wondering why they couldn’t be a part of the adventure. My rationale behind the series is like a satirical stab at different fairy tales—especially those princess ones—and how cool it would be to have LGBT kids be a part of those adventures. Or maybe even create their own or add an unexpected turn of events to one that’s already existing.

The series idea died pretty quickly, but I liked the idea of telling familiar fairy tales from the point-of-view of side characters who didn’t exist in the original stories. So Rose and Spindle and Gold in the Clouds came about, but for the next one, I’d like to go back and write an original fairy tale.

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(excerpt from Chapter 2)

The sound of rumbling carriage wheels broke through the lovely calm, and Blythe looked up to watch a handsome private coach being pulled by an even handsomer team of horses along the dirt road on the other side of the river. The liveried driver sat straight and proud, his nose high even as he guided the gleaming horses with skill and confidence.

“I’d love to have one of those,” Jack said in breathless tones.

“You’ll have to work for it.”

“I know. It’s not fair, I tell you.”

Blythe followed the coach’s progress till it vanished behind some trees and dense shrubbery. “I suppose you can always gamble for it.”

“I don’t have any money to gamble with, you oaf.”

Blythe tried not to roll his eyes again. “Sell something, then. One of your cows, for one thing.”

“Mama and I only have one cow,” Jack retorted. “I don’t think she’ll take to selling it. I mean, where will we get our milk?”

“Then find a job, you lazy dog!”

Jack let out a noise that sounded suspiciously like a fart, and he stumbled to his feet, brushing grass and dirt off his ragged trousers. “Dear God, you sound like Mama. Worse, you sound like a wife. I’m going home.”

Blythe shook his head as he watched Jack yawn and stretch his long, bony arms, twisting his torso and cracking his back when he did.

“A wife,” Blythe said. “That’s what you need, Jack. A wife. Preferably a rich one.”

Jack made a face and lightly slapped the top of Blythe’s head with an open hand. “Don’t be stupid. I’ll never marry. I’d rather go off on grand adventures and come back rich.”

“If so, then you’ll have dozens of girls running after you and your money.”

“Ha! They’ll never get a penny from me!”

Blythe grinned as he threw another stone in the river. “I doubt if your mama will be too happy about that. I’m sure she’ll be demanding grandchildren from you someday.”

“Bah! I’ll be the one bringing home the gold, not her! If she wants to stay on my good side, she’ll keep her nose out of my business and let me have my way!”

A sudden movement just off to the right side of the road across from them caught Blythe’s attention, and he cackled as he gave Jack’s leg a sharp slap.

“Speaking of staying on one’s good side, it looks like you haven’t gotten that far with your mama.”

A plump, red-faced woman walked into view, her ragged gown and smock as well as her bonnet caked with road dust. On one hand she held a particularly large rolling pin, and from what Jack had told him, it was never used for baking.

“Jack Wicket!” she hollered, turning her head left and right. “Where are you, you no good lout?”

Jack stuck two fingers into his mouth and whistled—a shrill siren that always set Blythe’s teeth on edge and send nearby dogs howling. Mrs. Wicket stopped dead and caught sight of the boys, and if her face was red then, it turned nearly black upon clapping eyes on her son.

“Jack! What the devil are you doing? Get your lazy, bony arse back home right this instant if you value your worthless hide!” she screeched, waving her rolling pin wildly in the air. “Didn’t I tell you to chop wood? Didn’t I? You’ve had all this time, and you never bothered to do one simple thing?”

For his part, Jack looked to be taking it all in stride. He stood silently for a moment, allowing his hysterical mother to unburden herself so passionately and convincingly, before turning and saluting Blythe.

“I’ll be dreaming of riches while she thrashes me,” he said and then strode off, hands in tattered pockets, and sang a vulgar drinking song. As to where and how he’d learned it, Blythe couldn’t even begin to guess.

* * * * *

Q. I love to ask this question because I get so many different answers: if you could sit down to dinner with anyone, past or present, first of all, whom would it be, and second, what’s the one question you’d be dying to ask?

A. I’d love to sit down with John Keats and ask him how he came up with such gorgeous, gorgeous poetry. I’ll probably be too emotional to hear what he’d say, though, and will likely end the conversation blubbing over how lovely he is and how sorry I am that we never get to see him write more glorious verses till his old age.

Q. Do you have a favorite fictional character? If so, whom and why?

A. I don’t, sorry. There are just way too many great, memorable characters I’ve read that no one really stands out.

Q. Of all the characters you yourself have created, do you have a favorite, and same as above, whom and why?

A. I’d say Eric Plath from the Masks series. That boy’s my free personal therapist. He’s got the confidence and especially the balls to do things that would get me locked up in a convent if I even attempted any of them. He’s everything I’m not, both as an adult and when I was a teenager, and it’s incredibly liberating, writing him in so many adventures—especially when he shoots his mouth off and tries to sass his way out of an argument with his parents and ends up getting grounded or punished for it.

Q. Along the same lines: if you were to choose your favorite among all the books you’ve written, what would it be and why?

A. I’d say Renfred’s Masquerade (a really tough choice between that and Desmond and Garrick). It’s the novel that comes the closest to the kind of book I’d love to be known for as a writer of speculative LGBT YA fiction. It’s an original fairy tale that makes use of the setting as part of the characters, so to speak, and the fantasy elements really played themselves out as well as I’d hoped. I really enjoyed the writing process, too, especially the masquerade scenes, and I even put together a playlist over at YouTube to listen to while working on the rough draft. It’s also the first book I wrote where I didn’t ease up on the darker or more tragic elements and was able to tie things neatly together at the end without making the conclusion implausible or, worse, laughable. I managed to do something similar with The Glass Minstrel, but Renfred’s Masquerade unfolded more smoothly and less tentatively compared to the other book. If anything, how the book ended is inevitable; there really was no other way for Gustav, Constanza, and Jacopo’s story to conclude, and while I was tempted to do something along the lines of a deus ex machina, I held back and let logic dictate the final events. I suppose I could sum things up by saying that this was the first book where I went all out with my imagination and didn’t regret a single decision I made.

Q. How involved are you in the process of coming up with just the right cover art for your books?

A. Very involved. I usually start looking for images to use when I’m almost done with my rough draft. I collect as many links as possible and share those with my publisher. Sometimes we decide which image would work best with the book, and sometimes I decide which one and send my preferred image instead of a collection of links. My publisher takes care of acquiring the image and tweaking the graphics. If you’ve noticed, all books published by Queerteen Press don’t have boys on their covers; that’s my preference. I don’t like having people on my book covers and would rather work with the story’s theme. I find that I have a lot more freedom choosing images that way, and readers’ mental images of my characters aren’t already fixed before they start reading.

Q. How would you describe your sense of humor? What makes you laugh?

A. I think my sense of humor is dry /deadpan, and I’ve got my dad to thank for it. The man had some pretty powerful genes because every one of us has that sense of humor; my mom was the only killjoy in my family.

My favorite comedy series of all time is Blackadder, and that series pretty much encapsulates what I consider to be the best kind of comic writing on TV. Wee caveat: I don’t care much for Blackadder I save for “The Queen of Spain’s Beard” because the humor comes across as a bit strained. I think the writing vastly improved from Series II and onward.

Q. Do you have any other works-in-progress you’d like to share a few details about?

A. I’m currently expanding a novelette I’ve already contracted with Queerteen Press called “The Weeping Willow”. It’s an original fairy tale that started out pretty light and whimsical—rather sentimental, even, but we’re changing that, aren’t we?—that was also supposed to be a part of a new single author anthology. Unfortunately things didn’t pan out with that project, so it’s been shelved for now, and I’m given the green light to work on “The Weeping Willow” some more.

It’s going to turn into a gothic folktale with a lot of supernatural elements worked into the main plot. There’s really not much more to say at the moment since I’m practically starting over with the story, but I’ll definitely be sharing more with readers as I go along over at my blog.

Q. Where can readers find you on the internet?

A. My wee corner of the web is over at http://haydenthorne.com/

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**And now, on to the contest!

All you need to do to enter to win a copy of Gold in the Clouds is leave a comment for Hayden right here. Please remember to include your email address so we know how to contact you for delivery of the eBook. This contest will run through 11:59pm Pacific Time on Friday, April 19, 2013.

A single winner will be selected via Random.org and notified on Saturday, April 20, 2013 for prize delivery.

Thanks so much for participating, and good luck!**

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Harmony Ink Press, John Goode

Something Wicked This Way Comes – Distant Rumblings (Lords of Arcadia: Act One) by John Goode

Every fairytale had a bloody lining. Every one had teeth and claws. – Alice Hoffman

Welcome to a contemporary fantasy, where fiction becomes fact, and the pages of borrowed imagination become the amorphous fabric that veils the arcane realms from the sight of mundane mortals. If, that is, you’d classify Athens, Iowa and its residents as mundane.

Kane Vess has lived there for the entirety of his sixteen years, with his flautist father, and though this small town in the middle of nowhere boasts its fair share of curiosities, Kane being the only openly gay teenager in town isn’t quite special enough to be one of them. It takes much more than that to make an impression upon the hippie population in Athens, but I can guarantee that even this town, with all its normal eccentricities and idiosyncrasies, hasn’t encountered anything, or anyone, nearly as remarkable as Kane is about to.

Hawk’keen Maragold Tertania, Hawk for short, is a new boy at Peter Quince High School, and he’s unlike any boy Kane has ever seen, for reasons not the least of which include the fact that Hawk plunged a sword through Kane’s chest upon their initial encounter. It’s a first impression that nearly precluded a second, if it weren’t for the fact that Kane was unintentionally uncooperative with Hawk’s deadly intentions. Hawk is a prince with two rather well-known parents and an even better-known enemy in the form of a trickster who is on a mission to stop the prince’s ascension to the throne of Arcadia, but it’s the enemy within his own ranks whom Hawk should fear most, for it’s jealousy that prompts a betrayal, which could very well be the death of him.

Distant Rumblings (Lords of Arcadia: Act One) is the story of a motherless boy who believes himself to be nothing at all special until he is met with the improbable, the impossible, and the unbelievable, yet proves that he is nothing less than brave and pure of heart—the only things a true hero need be when he sets upon a journey of discovery that will take him to new and dangerous places where he’ll encounter wicked and wondrous things and the best I can hope for, in the end, is that he and Hawk will survive it.

It’s the beginning of a journey that incorporates more than a little A Midsummer Night’s Dream with elemental magic and a touch of suburban fantasy, and then weaves it together into a fairytale romance between a Fae prince and the boy who has bewitched him. It is a story of treasonous acts and boundless courage in the face of ultimate fear—a magic with which it is impossible for a simple mortal to compete but one he is now going to face for the sake of another. If, that is, Kane is nothing more than a mere human. There is a mystery there yet to unfold, no doubt.

John Goode has woven an irresistible tale of magic and mayhem and music that has charms to soothe the savage breast—or, rather, to ensorcell the unsuspecting faerie. He has rent the thin fabric between what is real and what is imagination, stumbled upon a looking glass world into which Kane has now stepped, a world that I’m traveling to just on the other side of soon.

You can buy Distant Rumblings (Lords of Arcadia, Book One) here:

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Alex Kidwell, Dreamspinner Press

Grief Is A Dish Best Served Told – After the End by Alex Kidwell

Grief is the price we pay for love. – Queen Elizabeth II

Quinn O’Malley knows a little bit about grief; it’s buried him, after all, under the pale ash of a life devastated by the very act of surviving when the one he’d lived for, the one he’d loved for, left him; and with that death, stole all the color and definition from the world.

Alex Kidwell’s After the End is this: a story of grief and of survival and of renewal, told in the juxtaposing voice of a man who understands moving through each day but doesn’t understand the meaning of the words “moving on”. For Quinn, those words somehow translate to betrayal and forgetting, and when a man as alive and as vibrant as Aaron Paterson slips the bonds of being, he leaves a gaping hole in the fabric of all the other lives his was meticulously and joyously woven into, and he is impossible to forget, let alone attempt to replace. There is only the pain of remembering and the bitter aftertaste of regret left for Quinn to sustain himself on. But the dichotomy of it all comes in the form of a man who sweeps in and slowly, meticulously begins to leach the weeping wound that’s been Quinn’s existence for the past two years.

Two very separate and distinct forces of nature have cut a swath through Quinn’s life, though they are similar much in the same way a hurricane is to a typhoon; you are either swept up in their power and embrace what they wreak, or you get out of their way. Quinn embraced the first storm with everything he had and was left with nothing but pain and memories for his efforts, left behind to attempt to rise from the wreckage of loving with abandon and then being abandoned by that love. When the second storm blows in, Quinn does everything in his power to close himself off from what he believes can be the one and only ending, but Brady Banner is nothing if not persistent and is patient enough to wait, to carefully begin to thread his way into Quinn’s life until, in the end, that thread is indispensible to the warp and the weft of Quinn’s remade existence.

After the End is the eloquent fairy tale of the knight who lays siege to a fortress and slays dragons to rescue a man who didn’t realize he was even in danger of being wholly consumed until he was kissed awake and with eyes wide open, was finally able to see the ghosts of his past and his present, and could see that allowing himself to move on didn’t mean forgetting; it meant healing. Brady delivers Quinn from the “I was” to the “I am”, from the end to the beginning, transforming the tense of his existence from past to present so that he was finally to embrace what could be.

Alex Kidwell brings friendships and family together to tell an utterly romantic story filled with universal truths and emotions, and does so with words that I didn’t read so much as feel; this is a story that washed over and through me, and I was reaching for the tissues before I even made it out of chapter one. This is a book that exemplifies the difference between reading a book and living a story, and is the difference between words written on a page and a portrait being painted with words, in all their contrasting colors, from the blacks and grays of sorrow to the rich and vibrant and sometimes violent tones of happiness and love and guilt and anger and hope and fear and redemption.

It is a story that introduces this profound truth: when life’s music inevitably changes, so must the steps we use to dance our way through it.

You can buy After the End here:

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