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"We read to know that we are not alone." — C.S. Lewis

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I’ve been remiss in my duties

I’ve fallen down in my blogging duties. Turns out that writing books takes up most of my words!  I do have a few tidbits of news to share, however.

Bedside Manner cover finalMy newest release, Bedside Manner is on a blog tour! The book is available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited. You can grab it here. 

If you’d like to enter a giveaway for some extra money, Diverse Reader is one of the blog tour stops where you can enter!

If you discovered my blog through the tour, then I’ve got a little treat for you. I have my first book of the Ashe Sentinel Series, Changing Focus, up on Instafreebie. Grab it while this offer lasts. You’ll have to opt in to my newsletter to claim it, but I try not to bug my subscibers too often! Outside of letting you know about a new release or sale, I try to make you aware of freebie and giveaway opps and recommend some other great m/m reads!

I’m much more active on Facebook than I am on this blog, so come join my group for additonal fun: DJ and Company

 

 

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All Note Long is how you’ll read this book

allnote“All Note Long” by Annabeth Albert captured me from Page 1. And like the title’s play on words, I was reading all night long. Sufficed to say, I wasn’t disappointed. Lucky ensnared me as easily as he did Michelin Moses.

What struck me most about “All Note Long” were the incredible characters, and how different they were. Often when you read a romance with alternating POV, you run into problems where you forget — just for a moment — whose perspective you’re reading. You will never have that problem with Albert’s third book in the Perfect Harmony series.

Michelin and Lucky are very much people from two different worlds, and that’s reflected in their voices throughout the story. Lucky is a dancer who prefers rap and R&B and is a master twerker who loves showing off. Michelin Moses is a famous country musician who is fairly introverted unless there’s a guitar in his hand.

Michelin has been in the closet for so long it’s become claustrophobic. But his career in country music depends on his discretion. Michelin’s not one for casual hook-ups, so that’s not difficult to maintain, until he meets Lucky while he’s go-go dancing at a well-known Hollywood gay bar.

A brief meeting away from the stage looks to be leading to a date, but a misunderstanding infuriates Lucky and puts them on a path to nowhere — until photos and gossip are printed the next day, accusing Michelin of paying Lucky for sex. Now, for both their sakes, they’ll have to present a story that won’t destroy their careers and reputations.

At its core, “All Note Long” is a coming out story, with all the hallmarks of one closeted character and one out-and-proud one. There are other obstacles that threaten their fledgling relationship, from Lucky’s struggles with money and his pride that won’t allow him to accept help to Michelin’s seeming inability to truly respect Lucky’s dancing as a serious career. As the two muddle through, you’ll be rooting for their romance, despite their differences.

Throughout the Perfect Harmony series Annabeth Albert creates unique characters and story lines. Her incorporation of minority characters is also a highlight readers may appreciate.

trebleThe first book, “Treble Maker,” is one of her sexiest, featuring a Christian gay boy who’s accepted by his family and conservative college as long as he doesn’t act on his sexuality and a rebellious, gothy rocker who’s determined to push all his buttons. Book 1 happens to be on sale for 99 cents on Amazon at the time of this blog post.

tenor

In the second book, “Love Me Tenor,” we’re introduced to Jalen — a guy who’s starring on a boy band television show as a favor to his foster sister, even though he’s never pursued music as a career and has little interest in the fame — and Trevor, a periphery character from the first book who’s hiding health problems and stressing about problems at home.

All three books have one theme in common — that the characters don’t seem like an obvious choice for a love story. They come from different worlds and hold different values, but somehow they overcome the obstacles to find understanding and love.

All Note Long” can be read as a standalone, but why would you want to do that and miss out on the first two great books in the series? I highly recommend the entire series — and anything else Annabeth Albert writes, for that matters. She’s quickly become one of my favorite, most reliable authors in the m/m genre.

You can find her books on Amazon, as well as other retailers.

NOTE: I was provided an free copy of All Note Long in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

 

 

“Source of Protection” preview

My second book in the Ashe Sentinel Connections series releases Aug. 29. In honor of the new release, I thought I’d offer a preview of “Source of Protection,” Rick and Will’s story. You can find the book on Smashwords, Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble,  and various other e-book retailer sites. 

 

SOURCE OF PROTECTION fnal coverWILL McCALL STARED AT THE BODY ON THE GROUND, so still, while the rest of the world spun like a Tilt-a-Whirl at the county carnival.

Not just a body. His boss. Michael Jameson.

Jameson, like the liquor. Which was fitting, because he was the owner of a liquor store that stocked plenty of Jameson whiskey. Also sad because his body was laid out flat in the alley right behind that store.

Will moaned. Just now, he felt as if he’d drunk one too many shots of whiskey. His stomach twisted, and he clenched his teeth against the urge to heave up his breakfast, thinking that it would add insult to injury to hurl all over Michael.

Even if he could be an asshole sometimes.

A dead asshole now.

Will’s limbs trembled, and he realized belatedly he was leaning over Michael’s body, a quiver from collapsing right on top of him. He didn’t hear the back exit of the store open, didn’t notice the footsteps behind him.

He didn’t register another presence at all until he heard the deep voice behind him.

“Put your hands where I can see them.”

Will looked over his shoulder, and his heart lurched. The barrel of a gun stared him in the face.

 

“Don’t kill me,” he pleaded.

A man loomed over him, his feet spread wide and arms extended in a stance that said he was ready to fire at will. His position only made his shoulders look broader under his leather jacket. He could break Will in half, and that was without bullets.

“I didn’t see anything!”

Will lifted his hands so quickly he lost his balance and sprawled back on his butt in the muddy alley. Liquid seeped through the denim of his jeans, but he hardly felt it. He couldn’t take his eyes off the gun. Not even to look into the eyes of the man who might very well kill him.

“No one else has to get hurt,” the gunman stated calmly. “Just tell me the truth. Do you have any weapons on you?”

Will shook his head mutely. He was confused. The world had stopped making any kind of sense when he found Michael.

Oh God, he’s dead? Why is he dead?

The gunman stepped closer, and Will’s panic amped up a notch. The man crouched down and tried to look him in the eye. Will’s gaze kept drifting back to the gun, convinced if he let it out of his sight it would suddenly fire a deadly bullet into him. He could feel his forehead burning, as if a target had been branded there.

“Did you kill this man?”

What an odd question for the killer to ask. Why would he ask that? Will blinked, trying to bring order to his world. Maybe this man was looking to make Will the scapegoat?

Will started to speak, but couldn’t find his voice. What was the right answer? Should he answer honestly? Or would that earn him a bullet between the eyes? Was this one of those trick questions where the killer let you go if you got it right? He’d heard of stories like that.

The more he thought about it, the more panicky he felt. He gasped for air, but couldn’t seem to catch his breath. A loud buzzing took up residence in his head, the staticky sound muffling the curse the gunman let out.

“Oh Christ!” he heard, just as the edges of his vision crumpled inward and his eyes rolled back in his head.

***

Sgt. Rick Wilson cursed, and grabbed for the perp one-armed, while keeping his service revolver well out of reach with the other.

Perp, yeah right.

He’d seen nothing but fear and confusion in the man’s green eyes. Sure, it could have been fear at getting caught. But Rick didn’t think so.

He stared down in concern. He’d caught a real beauty this time. Strawberry blond curls and creamy white skin, probably paler than usual today.

Rick had a knack for scaring the bejesus out of gorgeous men. It was part and parcel of working with the police department, he supposed. Especially when the only eligible men he met were at crime scenes. Ashe, Kansas, was a small town. There were no convenient gay bars or cruising strips to pick up guys.

The last man he’d felt drawn to had been pale and trembling too, after a close call with a bullet while reporting on a stand-off for The Ashe Sentinel.

Jorge Ortiz had a beautiful caramel complexion and dark, intense eyes — quite a contrast to his perp today. Unfortunately, Jorge’s co-worker Mac had moved fast to snap him up. Mac was a looker himself, Rick’s first love in fact. He couldn’t begrudge his ex his good fortune with Jorge, not after Rick had walked away from Mac in his early days on the force when he was determined to stay in the closet for the sake of his career.

He’d since learned there were far worse things than being the gay officer in the department. Hell, being gay is half the reason he was selected as the police spokesman, of all the ironies. No one said so, but Rick knew the department heads thought promoting a gay man to a high-profile position would give them a better reputation for tolerance.

Rick holstered his weapon, and pulled out his cell to call in an update to the department. They’d need to process the scene as a homicide instead of the crime in progress he’d reported before stepping out into the alley.

That done, he set about doing a quick frisk of the man in his arms. He felt around his ankles, and slid hands quickly up each leg. So far so good, he thought, as he moved his hands to check pockets. Nothing but a pack of gum and a wallet. He flipped it open one-handed, but there was no driver’s license in the display window.

That was a little suspicious. Who didn’t have a license these days?

He shoved the wallet back in the man’s back pocket, and resumed his frisk. The man’s snug T-shirt couldn’t possibly hide a weapon, but some idiots thought it was a good idea to stash weapons in their waistband. It was a miracle more perps didn’t blow off their dicks. Or maybe it was a pity.

Rick smiled grimly at the thought, and slipped his fingertips under the man’s waistband, sliding his hand quickly around the front, then the back. He kept his touch brief and impersonal, though the softness of the skin beneath his fingers didn’t escape his notice.

Just another perp, Rick. No need to get pervy about it.

A siren bleated from down the alley, and to his relief sleeping beauty stirred. Dazed green eyes blinked up at him, and the body collapsed half in his lap tensed.

“Shhh, you’re okay,” he said as gently as if he were speaking to a skittish colt. “I’m not going to hurt you. I’m Sgt. Wilson with the police department, and the officers pulling up now are going to have questions for you. Understand?”

The guy’s gaze jerked toward the police car rolling to a stop a few feet from where they half-reclined against the brick wall of the liquor store. He tried to pull away from Rick.

“Easy,” Rick said, tightening his hold on the suspect. “No sudden movements. Why don’t you tell me your name?”

Wide eyes still fogged with shock swung back to his face. A pink tongue darted out to moisten dry lips.

“Will McCall. I work here.”

Rick thought he’d recognized him as one of the store’s clerks.

“Will, that’s a good name. Suits you. Do you know the man on the ground?” Rick asked, letting Will pull away gradually now that he wasn’t likely to bolt and get himself shot.

“Michael Jameson. He owns the store.”

He glanced over at the two uniformed officers headed their way. “Owned the store,” Will corrected himself in a whisper.

Being off-duty, Rick was dressed casually­­­­­­­ in jeans and T-shirt, with a leather jacket thrown over top. No wo­­­nder Will hadn’t realized he was an officer and panicked. He should have announced himself as police immediately.

Rick dealt with the press more than criminals, or even scared witnesses, these days. He was good at his job as the spokesman for the department, but he’d never felt less like police than when he’d drawn on a civilian.

“I didn’t do anything,” Will added. “I just found him, I swear.”

“Don’t worry, Will. We’ll figure it all out. The officers will have to question you.”

“But—”

“You’re covered in blood, Will,” Rick said gently.

Will looked down, and there was no missing the horror in his expression.

“Oh God, I thought that was mud,” he moaned, his face starting to lose color again. “Oh Jesus.”

Rick pulled Will to his feet and propped him against the brick wall. “Deep breaths, Will. You’re alright.”

Officers Jones and Tibbitts strolled up.

“What have we got here, Sergeant?” Jones asked politely. His blue eyes fixed on Will speculatively.

Tibbitts headed straight to the body, crouching next to it and feeling for a pulse.

“Definitely dead. I’ll call it in,” he said over his shoulder, before depressing the button on his radio to report the DB.

“Already updated the station,” Rick told him. “Homicide should be on scene shortly.”

Rick could feel Will shrinking back from the sight of the body, trembling as shock took hold. Rick would have liked to comfort him, but he didn’t. Guilty or not, Will was a suspect.

“This is Will McCall,” Rick said. “He was on scene when I arrived. He says the dead man is Michael Jameson, his boss. As you can see, he’s got blood evidence on his clothing and was in close proximity to the victim. I’m sure homicide will want to question him.”

***

Will listened to the sergeant  spell out exactly how guilty he looked, kneeling over his dead boss in an alley.

God, would he go to jail? It’s not like he could come up with an alibi. The man saw him leaning over a dead body! Wasn’t that the very definition of caught red-handed?

It was just his luck, too.

Will had barely escaped his abusive ex-boyfriend. He moved halfway across the country to start over, and enrolled at the local community college to finish an education he’d given up on years ago.

And now this.

“I’m not a killer,” he interrupted desperately. “I swear!”

“Sir, calm down,” Officer Jones said firmly. “No one’s under arrest. But I do need to ask, sir, do you have any weapons on you?”

Will shook his head. Jones glanced at the sergeant. “Did you frisk him?”

“Not completely. I checked for weapons as best I could when he fainted.”

Will grimaced at that. God, no wonder Michael always called him a pansy.

Used to call him … he wouldn’t be hurling any good-natured insults anymore.

Grief welled up, and Will had to force back the tears that burned behind his eyes. Michael might have been an asshole, but he’d also been Will’s only friend in this town. And he definitely didn’t deserve this.

“Didn’t find anything,” Rick continued as Will bit down on his lip hard to suppress the sob rising in his throat. “You should check, though.”

“Will, please turn around and place your hands on the wall,” Officer Jones ordered.

Will turned pleading eyes on the sergeant. His jaw was clenched, and he wouldn’t meet Will’s eyes. Shit. He thought Will was guilty, too.

He turned, slapping his palms against the brick exterior of the liquor store.

“I didn’t do anything wrong,” he repeated. “I didn’t … I would never—”

His voice broke, and he couldn’t continue. His breathing sounded too loud again. Don’t faint, don’t faint, not again.

The officer’s hands roughly smoothed down his sides, and patted at his pockets. The man paused to pull out Will’s wallet, handing it to the other officer to inspect, then continued his task. Hands ran up the inside of his legs and down around his ankles. He barely felt the touch, too numbed by the shock of this new reality.

He heard the sergeant’s voice as if from a distance.

“Will, no one is accusing you of anything. You’ll have your chance to tell the homicide detective everything soon enough.”

“No weapons,” the younger officer confirmed. “You can turn around.”

Will turned, to see another police cruiser pulling up, along with an unmarked police car. A man in a badly wrinkled suit stepped out and scratched at stubble on his jaw. He looked as if he’d just woken up, or perhaps been up all night. What time was it anyway? He’d arrived at the store around 10:30 … so 11? 11:30?

Hell of a day, Will, when you can’t even make it until lunchtime without fucking up.

Will flinched as his ex-boyfriend’s voice ghosted through his mind.

The sergeant who’d found him strolled over to the rumpled man, probably the detective. He stared after him, feeling like his safety blanket had been taken away.

It didn’t make any sense; he’d been terrified the man was going to shoot him. Now, he wanted him to come back and protect him from the officers, from the inevitable questioning and arrest, from his own memories.

“Will, we’re going to need you to take a seat in the back of the police car,” Officer Tibbitts announced. He grabbed Will’s arm and started pushing him not-so-subtly toward the car.

“Oh, but—”

“Detective Nielsen will have questions for you. Most likely, we’ll need to take you downtown. Your clothes will need to be processed.”

“My clothes,” Will repeated blankly.

Officer Jones nodded. “Evidence,” he explained, as his partner put a hand on Will’s head and shoved him into the backseat.

They didn’t cuff him. Small favors and all that. The doors had no handles, though, so once he was in, he was stuck there.

Evidence. Will thought of all the crime shows he’d watched on TV. The cops were always searching for forensic evidence to place the killer at the scene. Blood on his clothes. A hair. A fingerprint.

They had all that on Will already, didn’t they? How would he possibly prove he didn’t kill Michael Jameson, especially when he’d yelled at Michael just two days ago, threatened to kill him if he betrayed Will’s trust again?

Motive, opportunity, presence at the crime scene. He was as good as convicted already.

‘Life is Awesome’ when you read this series

Gay fantasy booksPrepare yourself: This book review contains glowing praise that may only be suitable for avid readers.

If Jordan Castillo Price wasn’t already one of my favorite gay fantasy/paranormal authors, she would have cemented her place in the list with her Mnevermind trilogy. I spent the weekend reading the third book, “Life is Awesome,” and it was, well, awesome.

While I enjoyed the “Psycop” series for which Jordan Castillo Price is best known, the Mnevermind series has a depth that you won’t find in her other books. Part of that is probably her main character’s emotional baggage.  Protagonist Daniel Schroeder is carrying a boatload of guilt and responsibility on his shoulders, and he’s continually inches from his breaking point.

The series in built on the fascinating premise that people can pay a price to experience memories while in a dreamlike state. Daniel trained as a memorysmith — someone who can create  memory programs — and he and his father were on the fast track to success with their own memory palace when something went drastically wrong. A mnem Daniel smithed, “Life is Awesome,” created a persistent false memory that has wreaked havoc in his father’s life.

Daniel struggles day by day, as he works overtime to keep his struggling memory palace open and drowns in guilt over what happened to his father. Only with the introduction of Elijah Crowe, a mnem tech enthusiast, can Daniel begin confronting all the emotional baggage he’s carried and find some happiness for himself.

Learning to understand and love Elijah is tricky, because as someone on the autism spectrum he doesn’t quite see the world like other people do. Elijah is an intriguing character, and his autism just adds another level of depth to the story. But while autistic characters are beginning to show up  in more novels, this just may be the first one I found to be entirely believable. As the mother of an autistic child, I was fascinated with Elijah and impressed with how real he seemed.

With complex characters and impressive world-building, you can’t go wrong with the Mnevermind trilogy. If you haven’t read any of these books and you enjoy fantasy, then I definitely recommend you check them out.

You can find books by Jordan Castillo Price here.

 

 

Wait a second… that’s the end?!?!

I’m a huge fan of series writing. Some of my favorites include: Harry Potter; Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunter series (two separate series); The Hunger Games; Legend series; Divergent series; Chaos Walking; Across the Universe. The point I’m making: I love series. I am the ideal target audience for them.

But, I have a caveat.

I’m not a fan of the new fad emerging, in which writers/publishers capitalize on series popularity by publishing half a story and calling it the first installment of a series.

Come on, people.

I need a complete story. I’m okay with cliffhangers, more okay than some readers. I’m cool with loose ties and emerging mysteries that will carry on in the next book. But I do need a complete story within that first book. You can’t just chop off the book at the midway point of the story, and say … Well, that’s all folks! Tune in next year to find out more. That just doesn’t cut it.

A recent example of this is the book “Autumn,” by Sierra Dean. The first of the Dog Days series comes to an abrupt end. So abrupt, I stopped and said out loud, “Wait a second … that’s the end?!?!” I felt as if I should be hitting the mid-point of the novel. The new girl had moved to town; she’d found the outcast boy and ventured into a new relationship with him; she learned there was some sort of supernatural mystery under way; and she’d been threatened to stay away from him.

YA book reviews

At the moment when it seemed the real action was about to begin, the book was cut short.

The story itself had pulled me in. It was slightly shallow, compared to the writing of Patrick Ness or Beth Revis, but it was adequate. Not every book has to delve deeply into its characters’ psyche, particularly if it’s not testing its characters’ integrity in difficult circumstances. But for a little supernatural romance, it was doing its job.

Until it wasn’t, that is.

Can you imagine if you read the Hunger Games, and the first book left off right after Katniss arrived in the tournament?

A good series will offer readers a complete story within each book, while continuing a larger story arc to follow-up books. Anything else should be published as a serial, hopefully with publish dates that are months apart, rather than the typical year or two you wait for a new book in a series.

Authors or publishers who ignore this unspoken rule will only aggravate readers and hurt themselves. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I doubt my interest will last until the next book of the Dog Days series, given that the story dropped me cold.

In a parallel universe (and book series)

Today, I’m telling the tale of two book series. Both YA and sci-fi, both with strong protagonists (both male and female), both with stories built around secrets and lies.  They also happen to be two of the best sci-fi series in the YA category that I’ve read.

I highly recommend both.

Exploring the Universe

across the universe

The “Across the Universe” trilogy by Beth Revis and the “Chaos Walking” series by Patrick Ness have a lot of similar themes.

Both stories take us on space exploration. In Across the Universe, our protagonist Amy is woken from a cryogenic sleep aboard the spaceship Godspeed on its way to explore a new planet.

In Chaos Walking, Viola is thrust into a strange society on a new planet after her parents die while attempting to land their scout shuttle.

Secrets, lies and deceit, oh my!

chaos walking trilogy

Both trilogies include some intricately laid deception for their characters to uncover.

The Across the Universe series takes your from the spaceship Godspeed to Centauri-Earth, but the larger journey is the journey toward truth. In the first book, the spaceship is being led by a secretive dictator and the behavior of the people born on the ship is far from any normal Amy has seen on Earth. She and Elder begin working together to reveal the truth behind the mysteries, and they continue in their truth-seeking mission throughout the series.

The series is like a web of deception. Each truth Amy and Elder discover clings to more secrets and half-truths they must unravel.

In the Chaos Walking series, the truth about the planet’s checkered past with the native alien race, and the conflicts that haven taken place among the human settlers, gradually comes to light. Though Todd has lived his whole life on the planet, he realizes that every bit of history he thought he knew was a lie.

Moral Dilemmas

Both series tackle some pretty major moral dilemmas for their protagonists, who want to be “good” people while in bad situations.

Chaos Walking delves into this more deeply than Across the Universe. At one point in the series, Todd is effectively trapped working for his greatest enemy, and in doing so, he loses hope. Along the way, he commits some morally questionable acts. At the same time, Viola has found her way to a rebel group that is striking back. The actions of the army and the rebels are both morally gray, as they put people’s lives at stake in their struggle for power, and Viola and Todd’s determination to do the right thing is put to the test.

In Across the Universe, Elder and Amy also have their own moral tests. After discovering people are being controlled by a drug and discontinuing its use, Elder’s leadership is met with rebellion and chaos. He must decide, as his control over his people crumbles, whether it’s better to risk mutiny for the sake of free will or maintain the peace with mind-controlling drugs. But just as Amy serves as his moral compass in these instances, Elder also reins in Amy when she is bent on vengeance. In this way, they help each other make vital choices about one kind of people – and leaders – they want to be.

Go. Read. Enjoy!

“Across the Universe” and “Chaos Walking” have everything I want in a book series: strong characters, adventure, mystery and the kind of soul-searching that makes you think about the choices we all make in less than ideal circumstances. When you read them, other YA books pale in comparison.

So, what are you waiting for? Read them, then come back and tell me what you think.

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