Roses Are Red (short story)

But violets are definitely more interesting…

“Surely it’s not true. Imagine the scandal. He’d never be able to show his face again. He’d be ruined.”

The scandalised whisper crept around the edges of the potted plants to reach the interested ear of Mr James Devon. He straightened from his lean against one of the pillars edging the small country ballroom and strained to hear more of the conversation.

“Of course it’s not true,” snapped a matron’s deeper tones. “He’s a duke. And imminently eligible. Such gossip does not become you, girls.”

There was only one duke in attendance tonight, and indeed he was the only peer to grace the ball with his presence. The fact that he lived a mere stone’s throw away (if one had a very decent throwing arm) was neither here nor there. Tonight’s ball commemorating Saint Valentine’s Day hadn’t even drawn a baron, but the attendance of the Duke of Wiltshire had certainly sealed the host’s social status among the gentry.

James felt a sudden chill despite the warmth of the overcrowded room. Society did not take kindly to anyone who deviated from their expectations of what was proper, and they were so careful to maintain appearances. For a man, being ostracised from society would be difficult and inconvenient, but it was the young women like the sister who had dragged James to tonight’s function who would truly suffer the consequences. Her chances of finding of a good husband would be utterly destroyed if scandal broke out and James was at the center of it.

“How can they even tell?” The young lady’s voice was breathless with curiosity. “It’s not like someone caught him kissing another man.” A gasp, and then, “Or did they?”

James narrowed his eyes and swept his gaze across the ballroom. Taking only cursory note of where his younger sister was dancing decorously with another member of the local gentry, he searched for the duke. Tuning out the sound of the matron berating her charges for their indiscreet comments, he watched the duke do the rounds of the ballroom, sending all the other guests aflutter with every dip of his head and polite smile. Unlike the matron, he knew rank and privilege were no guarantee of a man’s preference.

There were no affectations in Wiltshire’s mannerisms, no hint of effeminacy. He wore stark black formal wear, relieved only by the blinding white of his starched shirt and a single violet in his boutonnière. Of course, the same could be said for any of the men in the room, although to a man they all wore red roses to match the ludicrous abundance of draped red silk and velveteen hearts that passed for decoration. James looked down at himself, where he wore the twin to the duke’s boutonnière. It was also a convenient match to the pastel-shaded gown his sister wore.

James monitored the duke’s progress, careful to avoid being too obvious. The last thing he needed was to fan the flames of gossip. He even made a point of taking his sister out on the floor for a dance when the duke’s circuit of the ballroom brought him near. It wouldn’t do for anyone to put two and two together and make four.

It was nearly 11pm when James tapped his sister on the shoulder as she stood in line at the refreshments table, and indicated he was going outside for a smoke. At her nod of understanding, he strolled out into the crisp air. Spring had yet to really show herself this season, and the chill was a marked contrast to the stuffy heat of the overcrowded ballroom.

James withdrew a cheroot from his waistcoat pocket and held it to his lips, the brief light of the flame flaring bright in the darkness as he lit it. The smoke trailed gracefully into the still night, delicate wisps against the vast array of stars strewn across the sky. James enjoyed the view for a moment, glad he didn’t live in London where the smog was so thick one never saw the stars of an evening.

James ambled round to the stables, stopping to pet a horse here and there. The duke’s curricle was ridiculously easy to identify; no one else at the ball could afford such an exquisitely matched pair of horses. He nodded at the groom who had been given the tasks of overseeing them for the duration of the ball, and reached out to rub each horse between the ears.

“Beautiful, aren’t they?”

The deep voice came from behind him as James ran his hand down one horse’s long, velvety nose. He spun to see the duke standing behind him. James withdrew his cheroot and smiled.

“Your Grace.” James bowed in deference to the duke’s status, mindful of the groom who was listening intently. “What a splendid matched pair. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen the like.”

The gas lamps weren’t sufficient to clearly see the expression in the duke’s eyes, but James fancied that there was a relaxed warmth to his smile that had been missing all night.

The duke gave a light chuckle as he stepped forward. “I saw them at Tattersalls, and had to have them. Cost a pretty penny, but they are a joy to drive. I often take them out myself, much to my coachman’s disgust.”

James brushed his hand down the neck of the nearest horse in long strokes. He heard the crunch of gravel as the duke moved, then he felt the heat of the duke’s body as they stood shoulder to shoulder. The duke reached out and stroked the horse, his hand sliding over James’ hand which was frozen in place. James hardly dared to breathe. Then, as if nothing had happened, the duke stepped back, and the cold crept back in.

“Perhaps you might like to come and view my stables, Mr Devon. I recently purchased a rather magnificent stallion which I hope will see some new foals born of my mares next year.” The duke turned away, tugging on one cuff and speaking casually over his shoulder. “Would tomorrow afternoon suit?”

James couldn’t help the smile that lifted his lips. “Tomorrow afternoon would be splendid, Your Grace. I shall look forward to it.”

The duke turned back to face him, and lifted an eyebrow. “Perhaps your sister would care to accompany you? The Dowager is frightfully bored these days, and would love some company.”

James knew that was for the benefit of listening ears, as the duke knew very well that his sister was otherwise occupied the following afternoon. “Unfortunately, she and my mother are attending an afternoon tea. I know she’ll be sorry to have missed the opportunity.” In truth it was his mother who would be heartbroken to know that her daughter had come so close to dining with the dowager duchess at the ducal estate. That would certainly have been a social coup.

“Never mind, another time perhaps. Still, you should come and see the horses. Come prepared for a good, hard ride. It’s been too long since I’ve had one, and I’d enjoy the company.” The duke made eye contact, and James couldn’t resist a smirk at the double entendre, relieved the horses’ large heads hid his expression from the groom. It was rare for the duke’s clever wit to come out in public, and James was delighted to know that he was enjoying himself despite the game of cloak and daggers they were forced to play.

As James took his leave, and the duke made preparations to depart, there was nothing to suggest that anything untoward had taken place. By tomorrow the conversation would have travelled on gossip’s swift feet, and ladies all over the region would be hearing it from their maids as they dressed for their afternoon calls. All would be assured that the Duke of Wiltshire and Mr James Devon had behaved with the utmost decorum, and the proprieties had been observed. Indeed, the duke had invited the man’s sister to dine with the dowager duchess, and surely he wouldn’t have done that if there had been any hint of inappropriateness about the meeting.

James returned to the ballroom and his duty as chaperone for his sister, relieved to see that she was still mingling with the other guests despite his absence. Nothing in the ballroom had changed in the few minutes he’d been gone, but somehow the music seemed livelier and the candlelight seemed brighter. Dresses sparkled and laughter caused his own lips to lift. Even the profusion of red roses and the ostentatious pink champagne didn’t offend to the same degree. Like a child with a secret, the wait for tomorrow afternoon would be both interminable and full of wondering delight. In the meantime, he would daydream of violets and one particular duke.

An interview with author Rachel Peck

How long have you been writing?
I used to write stories as a child. I was a huge Enid Blyton fan, so most of them involved boarding schools and solving mysteries. I never took it seriously, though. When I was thirteen, I received a journal as a Christmas present, and I started journaling daily. I continued until I was in my early twenties, amassing over fifty volumes! As a teenager, I wrote a lot of angsty poetry. I never thought it was any good, though. I never shared it with anybody. I had a long gap after that, when it didn’t occur to me to write. Life kind of got in the way. Then, two years ago, my husband suggested I join an online writing group, and now I spend most of my time writing. When I spend time away from my computer for a long period of time, I actually feel twitchy. I write on my phone’s notepad, or in one of the many paper notebooks I carry with me. I don’t think I could ever go back to not writing again.

What genres do you write in? Do you have a favourite?
I was thinking about this question a couple of days ago. I don’t know the answer. I guess, literary fiction, mainly. I say that because a lot of my stories don’t fit into one specific category. They are stories about people. Real people, going through things that real people go through. I write with a lot of emotion, and I love to put my characters through the ringer. Seeing them survive and evolve is something I find really interesting. My stories always begin with a character, rather than a detailed plot.

I discovered, only recently, I can write non-fiction. Writing, with honesty, about the darkest (and lightest) parts of your life can be therapeutic. It is my ambition to write my memoirs, one day.

My poetry is free verse and, like my stories, packed full of emotion. I guess I’m still writing a lot of angst-ridden poems, if I’m honest. I’ve written my life story through poetry.

Letting Go

I sit next to the
sterile hospital bed and
wonder how she got this ill—
how I never noticed—
I was supposed to look after her.
I watch as the angry mask
furiously forces air into her lungs,
her body slamming into the bed
with every blast.
I hold her lifeless hand
and trace the misshapen
fingers and thumbs;
memories cascade before my eyes, and
I am a grown-up child,
five years old, taking care of my mum,
my precious responsibility,
but I was selfish,
all I wanted was a mum
who could play with me,
run with me,
lift me,
hold me.
None of that matters now,
I just want a mum who can hear me,
speak to me,
but I know I’ll never have that again,
so I turn to the doctor and
nod,
and the mask is removed,
the machines switched off.
I’m terrified as I watch her breaths,
almost imperceptible,
gradually fade to nothing;
she is still,
pain free,
and I am broken.
I look to her face,
in her very last breath
she has smiled,
and I know she has seen my dad—
the love of her life—
they are reunited in death,
and this comforts my shattered
heart.

Rachel Peck

Are there any genres you’re afraid to try, or struggle to write in?
A couple of years ago, I would have said Sci Fi, Fantasy, or Steampunk. I don’t read these genres, and I don’t understand them well enough to write about them. But, now that I have more confidence, there is nothing I wouldn’t try. I think it makes it interesting to try something new, sometimes. I’m sure if I did try to write in these genres, I would still turn my story into one about intriguing characters and their lives.

Do you read in the same genres that you write in?
I don’t read much literary fiction. I do read books with great characters. I also love psychological thrillers. Grip-Lit, your “Girl On A Train” kind of style. I like to read a wide variety of genres. I think it widens your imagination.

You write both poems and stories. Do you have a preference? Which do you consider your strength?
My poetry is more personal. It’s less polished, more raw. I think, poems have always been something I write when I have things I need to work out. They’re written for me, rather than for my readers. Stories are what I want to write more now. Specifically, the novel I’m working on. I think I write stories better than I write poetry. I’ve learned more about writing them over the last couple of years. Although, when my poetry is spot on, it’s pretty good.

The charity shop doorway looked inviting to Charlie. Walking the streets for hours, trying to stay away from J.T., had made his body heavy and in need of rest. His backpack hit the floor with a thud, startling the bundle of clothes lying next to it.

“You don’t mind if I grab this doorway, do you?” He pulled his lips into his most dazzling smile.

Donna was so young. It saddened him when he imagined the things that led to her thinking sleeping here was her best option.

“Knock yourself out.” Her smile had become sharper around the edges since they first met.

Springtime hung in the air, with its warmer weather finally reaching the streets. Even so, Charlie shivered, as he sat with his back against the door. He hugged his knees, and his eyes darted from side to side. He knew J.T. was out there watching him.

Screams drifted through the air, signalling the coming of Crazy Sue. She staggered between bodies, displaying a strange mixture of crying and guffawing. There were stories she ended up sleeping rough because her husband died and she lost her job. There were stories that back then she really wasn’t that crazy. Charlie knitted his brow as he contemplated how pretty she might once have been.

A whimpering sound drew his attention. He looked to Donna, who quivered and cried. Reaching out his hand and resting it on her back, he spoke in hushed tones. “Hey. What’s up?”

His friend gulped air, in an effort to breathe. “It’s C-Crazy S-Sue. She’s gonna k-kill me.”

The laugh had escaped his mouth before he could stop it. “Crazy Sue’s harmless. Why would you think she’ll hurt you?”

“I lay my stuff down in her spot earlier. She said if she saw me again she’d kill me.”

As the frightened girl buried her head in her blanket, Charlie shuffled closer to her. “Donna. It’s okay. Crazy Sue is . . . well . . . crazy. She shouts and screams at everyone. But she forgets all about it five minutes later. Honest.”

Donna peeked at him from under her blanket. “Really?” she whispered.

Holding her eye contact for longer than he normally managed, he nodded. “Really. You don’t need to be afraid of her.” He was tempted to add, “But J.T., well, there is someone you should avoid at all costs.” But it wouldn’t have made any difference. It never did.

Charlie’s Story by Rachel Peck

Do you listen to music when you write? Do you have a favourite ‘soundtrack’ to write to?
I always listen to music when I write. There is no specific soundtrack. I hit random shuffle on my iPod. I have to skip certain songs, as they can be really distracting (like, you cannot write whilst listening to “Stayin’ Alive” by The Bee Gees!). I love music. I listen to it all day long.

Do you have a favourite author? Or perhaps an author you view as an inspiration?
Yes. Marian Keyes. I love her. I first discovered her in about 1997. I was in a bookshop, and I spotted a book with a bright red cover with a pair of lime-green mules on it. It was like a siren, and I made my way over to it. When I saw the title—“Rachel’s Holiday”—I believe I yelped with delight. It was like it was made for me. I bought it, without reading what it was about. As it happened, I fell in love. Marian Keyes writes books about characters. She writes about the darker side of life, with topics such as drug addiction, depression, domestic abuse. But she also writes with humour and oodles of warmth. Her natural storytelling style has me laughing on one page, then weeping on the next. I would love, in my wildest dreams, to be able to write as well as her.

Tell us about something you read that was particularly memorable, for whatever reason.
About three years ago, I came across a book called “The Shock Of The Fall” by Nathan Filer. He was a new author to me, but I saw him speaking on TV about this book, and I had to look it up. It’s about a young man with paranoid schizophrenia, and about his past and his illness. I read it in one sitting, and I wept and felt my heart twist and turn. At the end, I felt like I’d gone through a bereavement or something. But, I realised I could write a story like that. I mean, I didn’t imagine it could be anywhere near as good, but it gave me the idea to start writing again. I had a story to tell. Maybe I could do it. Reading this book was kind of a turning point for me.

What inspires you? Where do you get your ideas from?
My best ideas are always based on my experiences. I change them, play with them, but ultimately, they have events that are part of me at their heart. I also have a tendency to dream vivid, wild dreams. Pretty much every night. So I write them down and draw on those when I’m looking for an idea. Really, though, ideas are everywhere. Wherever I go, I see people who look interesting and imagine their life stories. I spend a lot of time inside my head. I think it comes from being an only child.

Do you think negative experiences are crucial in order to be a good writer? Do you find it harder to write well when it’s a positive experience?
For me, I wouldn’t be the writer I am without my negative experiences. Especially, where my poetry is concerned. I write so much better when I’m feeling unhappy. I always have. My negative life experiences are probably the reason my writing leans toward being emotional. For me, experiencing pain makes me more understanding of how it works. For example, I don’t think anyone who has never experienced the darkness of deep depression can really understand it. They can read about it and understand it on a logical level, but they won’t feel the emotional connection to it. I think that comes across in writing.

With regards to positive experiences . . . I find it much harder to write happy. It is good to do this from time to time, though. Like, sometimes I have an idea for something light and fun, and it feels good to write something happier.

Do you think that as an author you write better when you pour the emotion on to the page, or when you take a step back and refine your work?
Without question, pouring emotion onto the page is what works for me. I always get better feedback for my pieces that are from the heart. I never would have believed it could make such a difference, but it does. It comes back to that question of having a connection to your work. However, that isn’t saying I don’t edit my work. The first draft is pure emotion, and from there, I make it more cohesive and shareable. That’s an important part of the process.

What has been the hardest thing for you so far on your writing journey?
The hardest thing has been, without question, believing in myself. It’s hard to be objective about my work because, no matter how hard I try, whenever I read it, I hear my own voice. So it doesn’t sound very special. But, I’ve chosen to accept that my voice is okay. One thing I’ve learned over the last two years is that most writers also have doubts. It actually makes us better writers. We can harvest that insecurity and turn it into magic.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
I’ve received so much advice in the past couple of years. I’ve learned to always listen to advice, even when it’s tough. The best piece, though . . . probably to write about what you know. I didn’t believe it at first. When I did, my writing improved.

What is your purpose in writing? Do you aspire to be published?
When I stared writing, it was mostly about exorcising demons and validating my feelings. I never dreamed I could be good enough to publish. I never dreamed I would one day want to try. But, now, things have changed. I would love to be published one day. I have a novel I’m working on at the moment that is everything I’ve ever wanted to write about. It’s in the formative stages right now, but the feedback I’ve received on what I have written has blown me away. So, this book has to be published. That’s my dream. After that, my memoirs. This last year, I’ve had two poems and a story published. One of my poems is in www.threelinepoetry.com. The other poem and the story are in the WDC 2016 Anthology. I can’t tell you the thrill of that! Really, though, I just want to write. Every day; forever. That will make me happy.

How do you drawn the line between truth and privacy when it comes to publishing a memoir?
This is a tough one. Writing about people who are still living is difficult, and I wouldn’t write about anyone without first getting their permission. I know the trouble that can cause. I have a distant relation who published a book on my mother’s family. She had so many facts that were incorrect. For example, she made two of Mum’s brothers twins, when they aren’t. She also said one of her sisters was dead, when she isn’t. So, getting your facts right is imperative. Like I say, I wouldn’t write about living people without asking their permission. I know most of them would be happy. People who have died, I would say that as long as you don’t lie, some people may not like it, but they are probably people who aren’t that close to you in the first place. I think honesty is the key. Whenever you write about real people and your own take on events, you run the risk of upsetting others. You have to be prepared for that, if you want to write about true events.

How will you format your memoir? Will it be told as a story, as a sort of ‘letter to the reader’ or will you use excerpts from your journal entries?
I’ve thought about this a lot. I don’t want it to be a long narrative that moves linearly from event to event. I plan to write about certain events and certain time periods in an order that makes sense to me as I’m writing. I think chapters, covering events or time periods would make sense. Some of them short, some longer. Including some journal entries is a great way to show how it felt to be me at different times. So that’s something I will probably include.

Will you include photos, letters, etc. in your memoir? I love books that do that!
Yes! I love books that include that, too. I’ll probably have some photos dotted throughout the book, rather than a section with tons of pictures. But I will definitely include some.

Will you self publish your novel and memoirs or try traditional publishing?
Ideally, I would love to have them published the traditional way. I think most writers would probably say that. However, this is the real world and there’s a lot of competition out there. So, self publishing may be the way to go. Initially, at least. I can always hope I get noticed somehow.

You can read more of Rachel’s work at her Writing.com portfolio.

An interview with author T R Byron

You blog, you write short stories, you’re a novelist and a poet. Do you have a preference for a particular format? Do you find it hard to switch between them?
I usually have a general idea of where I’m going, but I usually don’t know exactly where the stories will take me. Blogging is a stress reliever for me. As for poetry, that is my biggest struggle. Staying structured makes me a little crazy.

How long have you been writing?
Since I was in grade school. I came across a few books I wrote as a child. They are horrible! But you could tell that I had a knack for putting stories together. I was in my late twenties when I really started writing novels and short stories. My first novel I wrote in twenty-four hours. I couldn’t sleep, the story wouldn’t let me get any rest until I had it all written down. That one book turned into a four book series. This was during my VC Andrews phase and that series really shows it.

What has been the hardest thing for you so far on your writing journey?
Probably believing in myself, in work, that it is good enough. Aside from the common issues with grammar and missing words, I tend to be a perfectionist, and am constantly editing trying to make it better.

What genres do you write in? Do you have a favourite?
Romance and erotica mostly. I love flawed characters with heart. If I had to choose, it would definitely be Romance.

Do you ever find it hard to admit that you write erotica, or to let close friends/family read your erotica?
Definitely. Most people think erotica is porn and cannot see the difference. They focus on the sex and nothing more. And then, of course, there’s that little flash I will see in their eyes where some people wonder if I’m just a tramp. If you write about it so openly, then you must be doing something dirty. What they fail to see is sex is as natural as breathing. If feel that if I’m going to write about love and romance, it’s a natural progression, and leaving the intimacy out downplays its importance.

So, can you explain the difference between porn and erotica, when it comes to writing/reading?
I see porn as having no literary or artistic value other than to stimulate sexual desire. Anyone can do that. Plot isn’t required in Pornography, nor is the emotional connection between the main characters. The characters usually don’t grow emotionally, stay together, or even in some instances like one another. Readers of porn want to read about sex, plain and simple. Pornography’s concentration lays in the physical activity between the characters. You won’t find a happily-ever-after here, but do expect a wham, bam, thank you ma’am. Don’t assume the word choices will be nice or sensual either. They won’t be. They can get rather crude, distasteful and cringe-worthy, which all depends on your preference of what you want and prefer

The driving force behind Erotica is exploring a character’s sexual discovery. I see it as a romance. Sex is the common link between Erotica and Romance, but the outcome of the story can be completely different. Erotica can easily leave the door open to the characters staying together, or going their separate ways, while in romance the couple must come together by the end of the book. All Romances have a hero and heroine that strive to be together no matter what, the reader expects to root for both, and to have the happy conclusion. What set Romance and Erotica apart are the details in the sex scenes itself. My erotic scenes fall in the middle of Romance and Porn. The most important thing to me is making that emotional connection between my characters and reader, and letting my readers enjoy the journey with them as well.

Are there any difficulties particular to writing erotica? For instance, I find it hard to write erotica in first person because I end up feeling like I’m writing about my own experiences even if I’m not!
I’m like you there and usually write in third person. It allows me to step outside and visual the scene more clearly in my head as I write from my characters point of view. The most difficult for me was my first erotica novel, Distracting Duncan. I had this one character who used women, loved prostitutes and used his status to the fullest. I had to write a scene where he gets physical with the prostitute, and I struggled for weeks to write that one scene. I had to keep stepping away, but when I finally completed it, it made me hate that character, and that was the emotion I really needed my reader to hone in on.

Are there any genres you’re afraid to try, or struggle to write in?
I try to put a little comedy in my stories. I love to laugh. I don’t think I could write a real tale of horror.

Do you read in the same genres that you write in?
Yes. I am always looking for a good romance to read.

What inspires you? Where do you get your ideas from?
People inspire me. I like getting to know people, what makes them tick, those little things that make them smile. I get my ideas everywhere. I find myself watching television or movies and thinking, I wouldn’t have written it that way. I love good dialogue, and will often write certain phrases in a notebook to use for my characters.

Do you have a favourite author? Or perhaps an author you view as an inspiration?
I’ve read everything by VC Andrews and that is what really started me on my writing path. I am a huge fan of Linda Lael Miller and Maggie Shayne. Miller has great romances, a lot of them centered around cowboys. Maggie Shayne does supernatural. I like that even her darker characters have some endearing qualities.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
Slow down and visualize the scene. In the beginning, I had a tendency to rush through just to get the story out. When I came to Writing.com, that’s when I really learned to slow the scene and work on painting a picture so the reader could catch a glimpse of what was happening.

What is your purpose in writing? Do you aspire to be published?
Being published is the dream. I even went so far as to pay $1500 for an editor who was supposed to shop my book around. After a year, and minimal editing, they sent my manuscript back. It was a good lesson. I’ve tried for years to find an agent, sending in manuscripts. Finally, last year, I decided to put my books out there on CreateSpace. Mostly family bought them, but I’ll never forget seeing my book in print.

What’s your favourite piece of your own writing?
My novel, A Perfect Fit. My main character has a lot of me in her. I think she’s the stronger, more outgoing version of me.

Anna flew out of the Boutique on cloud nine, ready to burst. In her excitement, she plowed right into someone on the street. Their hard figure was as unmovable as a brick wall. Her eyes focused on a chest covered in a light brown T-shirt. The man caught her at the elbow, preventing her from stumbling to the ground. When she looked up into his face, her knees almost buckled and her heart pounded at an erratic pace. Those eyes she knew so well looked down at her, and Nolan smiled for a change.

“Where’s the fire?”

Anna swallowed the hard lump in her throat. The mere sight of him, mixed with the feel of those strong hands holding onto her sent her pulse racing as she fought for control.

“Sorry. Guess I didn’t see you.” She couldn’t let that smile and those intoxicating dark eyes deceive her again. She refused to let him into her heart so he could take advantage of her emotions, not to mention her eager body. Their eyes met and locked, making Anna powerless to look away, even though she knew she should.

“That’s obvious. What are you doing in this part of town?” The softness in his eyes disappeared. The coldness returned while he continued to stare at her. One eyebrow lifted as he waited for her to respond. “Checking up on me or you just couldn’t stay away?”

“Try again,” she said taking a step back. Anna steeled her spine and stood tall as irritation flooded her. “If you must know I was offered a job, not that it’s any of your business.” The quick anger thankfully hardened her voice. This man was nothing but trouble, and trouble she didn’t need.

“So you are trying to get close to me, honey,” he said, moving closer.

Again with that word! The endearment rattled her mind and began to break away all her defenses, not that she had many when it came to him. The fact that he presumed she was following him galled her and reinforced Anna’s opinion about his massive ego. He did nothing more than irritate the hell out of her, knew it and enjoyed it.

“I’m not your honey, so don’t say it again. For your information, I don’t spend my days wondering where you are and what you’re doing.”

A Perfect Fit by T R Byron

Do you do anything in particular to promote your published works?
I did start a facebook page, and I had a few giveaways for my books, hoping that I would get some objective reviews from it, but sadly, nothing happened. I find it hard to try and promote myself, and I know I seriously need to look into doing that. I’ve considered donating a few of my books to my local library, but haven’t yet.

Is there a third book in the Endurance series, and when can we expect it to be available?
Books three and four are halfway complete. I started a big edit of Bride 2 Be, the third book in the series, and am hoping to finally finish it by the end of the year so I can complete book four.

You can find the first two books in T R Byron’s Endurance series, A Perfect Fit and Megan’s Man at her Amazon profile.

A teasing excerpt of nothing…

I took a deep breath and knocked on the door. Holy shit, I was really doing this.

The door opened and he smiled, gesturing me inside. He wore leather pants and a black t shirt that showed a slim, leanly muscled figure.

“Hey,” he purred. “I’m James. What shall I call you?”

His voice wasn’t as deep as mine, but oh so smooth. I wanted to close my eyes and just listen to him talk. I turned when I was halfway across the room and looked at him.

“Shall I just call you Babe?” he prompted.

Oh shit, I hadn’t answered him. Fuck, I can’t even get it right when I’m paying for it! I felt my old insecurities rushing in. “Um, I… Um…” I felt heat flood my face, and I closed my eyes. “Chris.”

“Hey, it’s okay, Chris. Relax. Nothing to be nervous about.” He strolled toward me, a smooth, graceful glide. Fuck, he was so sexy.

I froze when he reached out a hand and ran it down my chest.

He noticed. Of course he fucking noticed. “Okay?” he asked, in a gentle voice.

I closed my eyes and sighed. “Uh, yeah,” I nodded. “I, uh…”

“It’s okay.” He moved behind me. I felt his breath tickle my nape, and the heat of him against my back. He grabbed my hand, and led me to the bed.

My breathing quickened when he tugged me to sit on the cover beside him.

“Was there something specific you wanted to achieve, or did you just want to do whatever feels good?”

I snuck a sideways glance, and found him watching me intently. “I haven’t… I don’t…” For fuck’s sake, Chris, spit it out! “I don’t know what I want,” I growled.

He eyed me up and down, and I fucking knew what he was thinking. I wasn’t some spotty teenager. I was a grown man, with a good body, a decent face, and money. He didn’t say it though, thank god. He ran his fingertips over my hand, then pulled it to his mouth for a warm press of his lips. He was smiling again.

How could he be so relaxed and smiley while I was so fucking tense?

“Let’s go with the flow, and if you wanna change anything up, just let me know, okay?”

I nodded, then jerked back when he leaned towards me.

He stopped and raised an eyebrow. “No kissing?”

“Uh, kissing is okay. I was just… I wasn’t expecting… Fuck!” I tipped my head back and looked at the ceiling instead of his sympathetic face. “I’m so fucking useless at this.”

“No, you’re not,” he cooed. He fucking cooed. Like I was a frightened horse he was trying to calm. Which probably wasn’t a bad analogy. He ran his palms up and down my thighs. “Nothing to be embarrassed about. Everyone has a first time. No shame in that.”

I nodded, but looked away. “I don’t know what to do or say. To anyone. I’m useless at talking to people, being with people. I’m just… useless.”

“Aw, honey, no.” He tugged at my forearms, drawing me to my feet.

I was a couple of inches taller than him. Broader too.

He reached up and ran his fingers into my hair, then gently tugged my head down until our lips met. His kiss was sure and I let him run the show. His lips were smooth and warm, and I shuddered when his tongue teased mine. His hands slid around to cup my face, and I placed mine on his hips.

He pulled back and tilted my head to better suit him, before diving back in. Nips and licks, and his tongue stroking mine. Fuck, it was hot.

He pressed himself up against me and I realised with a jolt of surprise that he was hard. So was I. Holy shit, I had a hot guy in leather pants pressing his erection against mine. I pulled back, gulping for breath.

He sucked my neck, and my whole body went taut.

“Shiiiiit,” I moaned. I felt him smile against my skin as his hands slid down to clench my ass.

“You like that, huh?” He backed away a step and pulled off his t shirt. While I was running heated eyes over his chest, I absentmindedly helped him draw my own shirt over my head. He was perfectly defined without being bulky. I knew I was in good shape, but I was pleased when he eyed me with smouldering eyes.

His hands were all over my chest, gently teasing my nipples and stroking over the ridges of my abs. He dipped his fingers into the top of my jeans and peered up at me with a smirk. “Shall we take these off?”

I nodded. “You first, though,” I said, gesturing to his leather pants.

He grinned, and unfastened the button. My breathing picked up pace. There was no hair on his lower abdomen. I wondered if he was that smooth everywhere, and bit my lip as my pants got even tighter.

He slid the pants off, and somehow made it look graceful and effortless. If I ever managed to get the courage to wear a pair of leather pants, I know it’d be a fuckload more gawky getting them off than he’d made it look.

“You’re frowning,” he commented.

“Oh! Sorry, I just… Fuck, you’re gorgeous.”

“And that’s a bad thing?”

“No! No, no, of course not. I just felt a bit…inadequate.”

James smiled, and my eyes widened in shock as he reached out and cupped the bulge in my jeans. “You don’t feel inadequate to me.”

An interview with author Reb Kreyling

You blog, you write short stories, you’re a novelist and a poet. Do you have a preference for a particular format? Do you find it hard to switch between them?
I seem to focus on a format for a while and not touch any others. Right now that means short stories. All the short stories! As I play with characters and ideas.

I haven’t done much with novels lately because my life is just crazy and I haven’t got sucked into the worlds. Doesn’t mean they aren’t there, just haven’t been sucked in.

My poetry is more a catharsis. I don’t really write it unless I need to get some feelings out. Or it was assigned in college.

Click.
I take your picture.
Laughing.
Your hair flying.
Your body dancing.

Click.
I take your picture.
Tears falling down.
Frowning smiles on your face.
Eyes cloudy–salt water clean.

Click.
I take your picture.
Hands raised in self-defense.
Black and blue.
Fear etched on your face.

Click.
I take your picture.
Calm.
Serene.
Finally at peace.

Click.
Photographs by Reb Kreyling

As for my blogging, it’s part of my way to get my name out to readers and I try to make it more of a conversation.

Apart from blogging, do you do anything else to promote your work?
Not at the moment. If I have a sale or something I post on Facebook. And I make comments on WDC, but I don’t have an author page anywhere. At some point I’ll do more, but not until I have more books published.

You refer to yourself as a life-long writer. What has been the hardest thing for you so far on your writing journey?
Two things really.

I submitted what I thought was a really good, solid piece of writing to an editor. An editor I know and consider a friend. And she rejected it. What made it less hard? She didn’t know it was me until after it had been rejected (it was a blind submission).

The other is sometimes just finding time to write is sometimes a tricky balancing act.

When your submission was rejected by your editor friend, what did you do?
I’m going to revise it, although I haven’t yet. She’s actually offered a more in depth critique so I’m waiting to hear back. I’ve written a lot new since then including another story for submission to her–which also got rejected but I didn’t like it nearly as much. And yeah I did wallow around for a few days.

You primarily write science fiction and fantasy. What appeals to you most about those genres?
I like the escapist qualities of fantasy. I was always fascinated with mythology as a kid and a lot of my stories have that type of idea in them. And Narnia, oh I loved Narnia. So I always wanted a world like that to play in that was all my own.

As for science fiction, although I’m not as good at the hard science part, I enjoy the “what if…” idea of science fiction.

Are there any genres you’re afraid to try, or struggle to write in?
I wouldn’t say afraid to try or struggle with any genres. I’m willing to try anything once. Maybe. I’m not a huge fan of horror though. And although romance creeps into my stories, I wouldn’t say I write much romance. Because of my day job, you will probably never see any erotica under my name either. Not my real name anyway.

Do you read the same genres that you write in?
Absolutely! I won’t get any better if I don’t read in my chosen genre. And honestly I just read.

What inspires you? Where do you get your ideas from?
Life inspires me. Which sounds funny considering what I write, but it’s true. I get ideas from friends, conversations, prompts, teaching moments. Just life. I also sometimes just get ideas from letting my mind wander.

Do you have a favourite author? Or perhaps an author you view as an inspiration?
Hahhaaha. Do I have a favorite author? Come sit down and let me unroll the REAMS of authors I adore and explain why I have a Kindle now and why my moms banned me from buying books for a while. But seriously right now I would say my top four are Jasmine Walt, Pippa DaCosta, Jim Butcher, and Tanya Huff. Oh and Mercedes Lackey. My moms would say Dean Koontz, but I’ll counter with none of his recent work—he’s become too commercialized. So…five really; maybe six.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
“You just write like you got words.” From a friend on WDC. Not very grammatically correct, but it amuses me and at the time got me to write. It often prompts me to keep writing and I actually have it as a wall hanging.

Other than that? My freshman year in high school, my English teacher was always very encouraging as was another teacher in middle school.

What drives you to be published?
I don’t know that I have a drive per se. I write because I need to. If I feel I edit it into enough shape, I share my babies with other people. Sometimes that means publishing.

What defines success for you as an author?
Having someone enjoy my work and telling me so.

Your published book – When the Prince Didn’t Come in Time – is marketed as a ‘comic retelling’ of a fairy tale. Tell us a little about it.

When the Prince Didn't Come in Time: (Sleeping Beauty) by [Kreyling, Reb]

I know this is supposed to start “once upon a time” but since it doesn’t end “happily ever after,” I’m not going to bother. I didn’t mean to kill her. Honestly that wasn’t my intention at all. I mean I grew up in the shadow of a great big hulking relic from another time. How was I supposed to know she was waiting for her prince to come? The stories never told us that. All they said was that she was asleep and would sleep for a hundred years. Can I help it that I hit that hormone driven age just as she hit those one hundred years? I’m telling you it seemed like a really good idea at the time. Sneak into the castle, kiss the princess; hey, instant wife or concubine or whatever.
When the Prince Didn’t Come in Time by Reb Kreyling

I can’t say too much or it gives away the whole thing but it’s based off a quote from the David Crosby/Phil Collins song Hero. And wonders what would happen if someone other than the prince kissed Sleeping Beauty. The narrator is a bit of a sarcastic smart mouth which is where the comedy comes in.

You can get When the Prince Didn’t Come in Time free on Smashwords until the end of July, or you can also buy it at Amazon.

You can also check out Reb’s blog and her Writing.com portfolio.

An interview with author S Jade Castleton

You describe yourself as ‘a novelist who is yet to finish a novel’. What’s stopping you?
Honestly, I’ve been trying to figure this out for YEARS. I think it comes down to three main things:

  1. I have this irrational fear that once I finish and/or publish something I’ll never be able to modify or add anything, and I hate that thought (generally because of point 2 below)
  2. I like writing my characters’ lives, so I just keep going. Generally each novel has a plot but I’m in no hurry to actually bring it to an end. And I can be found adding on short stories even while the novel itself is languishing.
  3. I write for myself. Means I’m not all hot and bothered about actually publishing anything and therefore I don’t have any pressure on me to finish.

Having said all that I’ve got one novel in the process of being finished so that it can be published. It’s been with a writing coach who is the only other person to have read it in its 21 years of life. Great feedback, and good tips. Does mean huge amounts of extra ‘life’ being cut, but I’ve almost come to terms with that. The published story is for the public, but I’ve still got the ‘real’ story for me.

A lot of authors publish extra chapters or short stories to accompany a novel, usually as freebies on their websites. This can be appreciated by fans. Have you considered doing this with your related short stories and/or cut content? It might help you accept that the story doesn’t really need to end with being published. Also, some authors publish novellas that are like extended epilogues, especially where there are multiple books set in the same world and the characters from multiple books can be featured in a single novella.
Ah yes, I’ve kind of done that. I have a piece from Watching Clouds and a piece from another novel linked under the Characters part of my website, and I’ve actually got Fire Red Leaf there too – under Snippets. I suspect I will put other things up there, almost like ‘cutting room floor’ pieces. I really should add a few more things but I have been entirely slack with the website (and even the blog).

Where do you get the ideas for your novels and short stories?
Dreams, mostly—for novels anyway. And, given some of the contents of my novels, that probably should worry me a bit. News items or even a single name have also inspired stories. Lately, I’ve been saving prompts on Pinterest but none yet has grown into something.

I generally only do short stories when I’m writing for a contest and, in that case, it’s the prompt that gives me the starting framework. But, I’ll only write if some sort of inspiration comes to me.

How much research do you do for your writing? 
Starting out? None. I need to get the story out before I figure out what might be wrong or right in terms of reality. However, for a story I’m serious about (as in publishing serious) then I’ll research – places, laws, food, weather facts. And in fact I love doing research; I’m a knowledge/trivia geek. I’m even learning Welsh via Duolingo.com because I’ve a story set in Wales! And I’ve been learning about famous Japanese swords lately because of a story that’s sort of set there but also isn’t. A lot of my novels are set in vague places and/or times so that lets me be lazy with regards to research. However, the novel I’m looking to publish is set in Chicago and talks a lot about the city. There’s no way that I can’t be serious about getting information right. I’m actually spending a month there early next year to write and research.

You’re a self-titled ‘pantser’, yet you do research. Do you store your information online or are you old school and have binders or notebooks filled with handwritten notes? How do you organise all the details and ideas?
Oh man, notebooks, notebooks, notebooks. One in every bag/handbag, one on my bedside table, one in drawers beside my couch etc. Can get a little messy when I’ve got sequential notes but in multiple notebooks! And the one in the bag I take to work is often filled out while on the train, so the handwriting can get tough to read. I also use little pieces of paper (often when at work when I daren’t bring out my notebook). I shove those in my glasses case so they can safely get home. Sometimes they get transferred to a notebook, sometimes they just get stuff in the notebook. Early on I used to use hardcover 1B5s to write my notes – though more for a particular novel than just general notes. I do like that way of keeping things together but I’ve not really kept it up. Sometimes notes are just on A4 and put into the binder that carries the rest of the story. For Watching Clouds I do actually have a research/notes binder that was split into notes, ideas, stuff for characters, dates etc. But no matter the notes these days, they’re pretty much always handwritten.

Of course, none of that means I plan. I don’t, though I love the idea of planning and I have tried several times but never really pulled it off.

Why did you choose to set your novel in Chicago? Why not a New Zealand city that would have been far easier and cheaper for you to research?
Because I fell in love with Chicago when I was there as an exchange student in 1993. And back then I probably also thought it would be a little more vague. You know, things can happen there that never make the news but which would here. I didn’t want to deal with all that. Also…. Owen’s age is a key factor in the story. 16 is the legal age here for sex whereas it’s 17 in Illinois. I could have made Owen even younger but thought that he’d be able to handle things at 16 (and get away with them) but not at 15. 15 was too young.

When I returned to Chicago in 2011 and then again in 2014 the city was so much more awesome, so I also didn’t have any trouble making my story leap forward from actually being set in the 90s.

Home will always be home, but Chicago has a big chunk of my heart.

As a New Zealander, what are the difficulties of writing for an international audience?
Well, when I read about the huge successes of New Zealand authors with international audiences (mostly the US, admittedly) I come to the conclusion there aren’t many difficulties. And definitely not with the rise of self-publishing.

However, language can be an issue. I know that my story set in Chicago will need to get the ‘u’ removed from ‘colour’ etc so as to be ‘truly’ set in the US, and of course the slang in that story is all very much Kiwi at the moment. My writing coach asked where my MC was from because he’s obviously not American, due to his speech/slang. Well, at that time he was only from Arizona but obviously that wasn’t going to wash. Fortunately, with a major plot black-hole now fixed I actually can get him to have lived in New Zealand much of his life and so I won’t have to change the slang. Kind of relieved about that, but I’ll still need to change the spelling.

Tell me about your passion for reading and writing gay characters.
I don’t consciously think of my characters as gay and I don’t write them as that. They’re just normal guys who happen to love other guys. Actually, I wonder why it’s even considered a genre.

My passion, though? When I look back over all the stories I’ve written with gay characters, it all seems to have started in about 1995. This was the year I met Antinous in Roman Art at university. Aside from the statue we were shown being so amazingly beautiful, the tragic tale of his life with the Emperor Hadrian really got my attention. I started looking for gay fiction (they were kept separate back then!) and read what I could. They tended to swap between being fantasy (female writers) and about the serious AIDS issues of the 80s and 90s (male writers). I don’t really remember any of them being simply about a guy who loved another guy. There was always something else.

Anyway, I just started writing gay characters (and my own version of Antinous’ life with Hadrian) and kept going. I do have some f/m stories but 90% now are with gay characters. It’s just what I write. But it wasn’t until I joined Writing.com a few years ago and found that people liked my stories and found others who wrote them that I really felt like I wasn’t doing something weird.

I like that gay fiction now (most of the time, in any case) treats the characters as normal, just going about their lives. If only some people didn’t think ‘porn’ when hearing I write gay fiction!

‘What caught your attention?’

Gale turned. ‘Huh?’

‘Josh,’ Eric clarified. ‘I guess he was cute but were the others ugly?’

‘You’re seriously asking?’ Gale got out. ‘Looks aren’t everything.’

‘Aren’t they, beauty queen?’

‘Shut up,’ Gale growled and glared out the passenger window.

Eric grinned and remained quiet.

‘His smile actually,’ Gale muttered at the glass.

‘Not the crap bowling?’

Gale turned his gaze on his friend. ‘If I was attracted by crap bowling I’d have gotten myself a harem.’

Eric snorted. ‘Well, worked in your favour, didn’t it? And the fact it was something you could correct… Though,’ he added in a drawl, ‘I didn’t notice you offering advice to anyone else.’

Gale simply kept up the glare.

Eric bit the inside of his cheek. ‘His smile, huh?’

Gale sighed, leaned his head back. ‘Yeah. I just happened to look up when he was smiling at something or someone.’ He closed his eyes. ‘Bugger, I’m screwed.’

He felt a hand touch his arm briefly. ‘Hardly the first or last, mate,’ Eric told him.

‘Great pep talk, cheers.’

Eric laughed. ‘And so the smile egged you on?’

‘No, it was the bowling that did that.’ Gale smiled briefly. ‘Like you said, worked in my favour.’

‘Helped by your own bowling.’

Gale snorted. ‘Made me legit, I guess.’

Eric cracked more laughter. ‘You made his legit.’

‘Well, as I told you, he listened to me,’ Gale said.

‘Ah so… a cute smile and a pair of ears.’

‘Do you know how dirty you just made that sound?’ Gale grinned as he saw the flush rise. ‘And look at this, home. We can stop the inquisition.’

‘Fucking A,’ Eric said with a grin. He applied the handbrake. ‘You know I’ve got your back.’

‘Jesus, Eric, I’m not gonna do anything stupid.’

‘Yeah well,’ Eric said. ‘That’s debatable but I meant the boyfriend. Now I know there is one, I really don’t think things are fully right there.’

Gale considered his friend, was pretty darn sure Eric wasn’t joking about this. Damn, had he really missed something? He swallowed. ‘I’m not going to steal anyone from anyone,’ he said. ‘That’s not my intention. If I contact him that’ll be clear.’

‘I hope so,’ Eric said. ‘But I meant what I said, you know.’

‘I know and I’m grateful.’ Gale got out of the car, then leaned back in. ‘You know you’re just like Morgan.’

‘Yeah, that thought crossed my mind too,’ Eric said wryly. ‘Wing man for the gay guy.’

Gale snorted and swung the door closed, but Eric saw him grin as he walked to the front door.

– Love is Complicated by S Jade Castleton

Many of your characters are male, yet you are female. What are the challenges of writing from a perspective you’re not familiar with?
I’ve never really thought of challenges, to be honest. I write my characters almost without specific thought to their gender, even though I know what it is. I do sometimes pick up where a response or action may be too ‘girly’ but it doesn’t happen much. If I need to check something then I go to my friend, the Internet, mostly to online manga. I’ve found that ‘seeing’ helps clarify things I might be struggling to write correctly. But, I’ve been writing male characters all my life so I don’t feel weird doing so. Even if I have a dream where the character is female, when the idea is fleshed out the character invariably becomes male.

Do you have a favourite author? Or perhaps an author you view as an inspiration?
Well, I collect series. Does that make those authors favourites? If so, I have a whole lot of them across many genres! I’m more likely to admit to favourite books, than authors, but I do consider S.E. Hinton as an inspiring author. I read The Outsiders back in about 1988 and ever since I’ve been addicted to first person narrators. But I also loved the way she told that tale, both serious and funny. There’s one particular section of the book that can still make me instantly tear up.

What is your purpose in writing?
My purpose is selfish: I write to keep calm and sane. I write only when inspired but if I haven’t written anything fresh in a fortnight or so I get anxious.

I do aspire to be published, despite what I’ve said. But I’m not really sure why. It’s definitely not to make money and it’s not even really to have others read my things. I guess it’s more so I can say ‘I’ve published a book. See, writing isn’t a waste of time.’ I want to feel vindicated for all those years people’s eyes have glazed over when I’ve told them that I write.

You mention in your blog that none of your family have read your work. Do you think you’ll ever break that barrier between real life and your pseudonym? If so, when? What about friends and other people in real life?
Eek, I need to update that particular bit obviously as my parents and brother/sister know at least know I write gay fiction. My brother’s read a (non gay fiction) short story and my mum has in fact read a couple of my gay fiction short stories. No one’s batted an eye lid about it, and mum’s been good on editing too. Has never read my novels though and may not until they’re published. Could be because they’re darker, they have sex etc. It’s probably just me. I do have one friend who has read short stories and with whom I’ve talked about Watching Clouds. Was great to chat to but she has just retired so that link has been cut just a little. However, I’m writing a YA paranormal novel (parts thereof are actually on WDC) which she is keen to read the entirety of and so eggs me to finish.

As for breaking the barrier between real-life and pseudonym. No, not really. As daft as it is, all my gay fiction will be under the pseudonym. I don’t want it linked with ‘me’ and my friends who may just all freak out. Silly fear, I guess, but I also want to publish non gay fiction and I don’t want the two mixed up.

You can read more of Jade’s work, and her blog, at her website: www.sjadecastleton.com

Mid year book freak out

I found this quiz over at Maxxesbooktopia and thought it’d be fun to give it a go.

Just to be clear, I’ve excluded all re-reads. So this only covers books read for the first time in 2017.

Best book you’ve read so far in 2017?
Hold Your Breath by Katie Ruggle.

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It’s tells the story of Lou, who moves to a small, isolated town in the Rocky Mountains and joins the dive rescue team.  There’s pretty much everything you could want in a book – suspense, action, romance, humour…  This book has it all.  The humour was what made it a five star read in the end I think.  The rest gave it depth and made it a great read, but the humour elevated it above other books I’ve read.

Best sequel of 2017 so far?
I’m going to have to go with Hard Wired by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell. This is the third book in the Cyberlove series, and I wrote some more about it in a previous blog post – Cyberlove.

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It features two gamers, and although they know each other online (and we met their online entities in the first book of the series), this book is where they meet in real life for the first time. It’s definitely worth reading the first book in the series before reading this one. I’ll be honest though, I skipped the second book in the series. If you’ve read it, let me know how it was.

Anyway, the two main characters are wonderfully crafted, and the book has depth. Despite that, I found it a really easy read and flew through it. The characters lingered with me though, as all good characters do.

New release you haven’t read yet, but want to read?
Ooh, really tricky.  I assume by new release it doesn’t mean ones that are releasing later this year.  See, if I’m waiting for it, I usually read it straight away.  So I don’t have any that jump out.  However, I went for a browse (yep, while writing this post) and realised that a novella epilogue to Katie Ruggle’s Search and Rescue Series was released earlier this year.

After the End (Search and Rescue) by [Ruggle, Katie]

It’s actually free on Amazon, so saying I ‘bought’ it is a bit misleading, but I’ve downloaded it, and am looking forward to reading it.  Apparently it gives an intro to her Rocky Mountain K9 Unit series too, so hopefully it will lead me into another good series.

Most anticipated release of the second half of 2017?
That would have to be The Woman Who Couldn’t Scream by Christina Dodd.

Here’s the blurb from Amazon:

Merida Falcon is a world-class beauty, a trophy wife who seems to have it all…except she has no voice. For nine bitter years, she lived to serve her wealthy elderly husband. On his death, Merida vanishes…and reappears in Virtue Falls with a new name, a new look, and a plot to take revenge on the man who loved her, betrayed her and walked away, leaving her silent, abused and bound to an old man’s obsession.

I just hope I can get it in electronic format. I would read the earlier books in the series while I waited (nope, haven’t read any of them) but Amazon doesn’t seem to have any of the ebooks.  Does anyone know why?

Biggest disappointment?
That would definitely be Just One Touch, the fifth book in Maya Banks’ Slow Burn series.

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I’ve already written a review of this book so I won’t repeat all my opinions, but wow. A one star book that came with so much hype, and followed some great books earlier in the series.

Biggest surprise?
Hmm… I think I’m going to go with Bloodline by Barbara Elsborg.

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The blurb doesn’t really grab me, and I’m still not entirely sure what made me decide to give it a go. I had already read good books by the author, so there was that, and it had good reviews. Maybe that was enough. Anyway, it was well worth the read. The best part was definitely the humour. I love a book that makes me laugh without trying too hard or losing the connection between the characters. This was well done.

Favourite new author (debut or new to you)?
That would definitely have to be Katie Ruggle, whose Search and Rescue series I really enjoyed. Her first book was actually published last year, but I didn’t find it until this year. Interestingly, she released all six books (four full length novels and two novellas) in quick succession so that ‘readers didn’t have to wait too long to find out what happened next.’ Yes! I’m on board with that! Ha ha!

Newest fictional crush?
Ooh, I think I’m going to have to go with Zach from Dianne Duvall’s Immortal Guardian’s series. We get glimpses of Zach and I couldn’t wait to read his story which we finally get in Night Unbound.

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Zach is strong, both physically and mentally. He does what he thinks is right, regardless of what others think and he’s definitely got that mysterious vibe going for him. But ultimately, he won me over when the big badass sat on the roof with Ami, eating lollipops.

Newest favourite character?
I think that has to be Kai Bannon, from Strong Signal. That’s the first book in the Cyberlove series by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell.

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Kai is a wonderful mix of contrasts – somewhat of an exhibitionist, and yet suffering from crippling social anxiety.  I just loved him.

Book that made you cry?
Hmm… I’m a little embarrassed to admit there’s more than one! Okay, first one is Smoky Mountain Dreams by Leta Blake.

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There’s the death of a secondary character that hits one of the main characters really hard, plus some really emotional scenes.  Definitely a tearjerker.

Okay, second one is Unforgiven by Ruth Clampett.

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This book comes with a trigger warning for a reason.  Jason is suffering serious trauma as a result of childhood abuse, and his breakdown is just heartbreaking.  He truly reaches rock bottom, and it’s so hard to read.  I challenge you to read it without shedding a tear.

Okay, and my final one for this question is Logan’s Need by Sloane Kennedy.

Logan's Need (The Escort #3)

Again, this one features the death of a secondary character which hits both main characters really hard.  As the story goes on, we learn more and more about the character who died, and there are some truly bittersweet moments that make you wish that character was able to play a more current role in the story.

Book that made you happy?
Interesting question! Let me see… I’ve already mentioned Hold Your Breath by Katie Ruggle and Bloodline by Barbara Elsborg. Both had great humour. What else? How about Be True by Stella Starling.

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Trevor was such a fun character, and this was a really easy read without too much angst and darkness.

Favourite book to movie adaption you’ve seen this year
Ooh, tough. I don’t watch many movies. Erm… Maybe Allegiant? Did I see that this year or last? The BFG? I think that was last year too. Erm… I guess you could count Beauty and the Beast, but I honestly didn’t think it was that great, so not sure I wanna count it as a ‘favourite’. I know it’s not a movie, but I’ve just started watching Game of Thrones from season one, so I’m gonna count that.

Favourite review you’ve written this year?
I guess that’d have to be The Harder He Falls by Lynda Aicher.

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Here’s what I wrote:
Grady is a white water rafting guide, and his cousin invites him to join up with his company. On his first trip in the new job, Grady’s raft hits a submerged log, killing a man and putting his cousin in a coma.
Grady is overwhelmed with guilt, and currently waiting to hear if his name is cleared or if he is going to jail. In the meantime, he is visiting his cousin in hospital and trying desperately just to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Micah has experience with comas, and enjoys reading to coma patients. When he meets Grady, he offers to help him by answering some questions, talking things through and generally being a friend. But Micah works at a leather bar frequented by most of the guys that work at Grady’s job. The last thing Grady needs is for any of those dominant men to find out he has a submissive streak. No way can he work with them once they know that, they’ll never respect him.

This book was emotionally intense, and I got sucked in by both the main characters. They both have secrets and issues, which makes for a really well balanced book. Both characters grew and evolved over the course of the book, and both had to learn to accept themselves as they were and fight through their obstacles. Neither one was magically ‘healed’ of their issues, rather they had to learn to embrace themselves and figure out how to make their relationship work with those issues.

I’m not into the BDSM scene, but these characters are not heavily into it either. They’re more on the fringe of it. There are some scenes, but the actual relationship between the two men is very equal (which I liked). I think the next book will be heavier on that side of things, as the main character in the next book has already admitted to being a sadist. Whether the book is accurate about such things, I can’t say, you’ll have to form your own opinion.

Most beautiful book you bought or received so far this year?
Does that mean the one with the most beautiful cover? If that’s the case then, maybe it’d be Wondering Sight by Melissa McShane.

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What books do you need to read by the end of the year?
I don’t really have a ‘to be read’ pile at the moment, but one thing I hate is having half-finished books. Currently I have two books that are sitting half-finished and I am determined to get them read. The first is Between These Sheets by Devon McCormack.

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This book has some great characters, some great scenes, but oh my god, so much sex! Every now and then I get a bit fed up of reading all the sex and take a break from the book. Need to just finish it and be done with it.

The other book is Play of Passion by Nalini Singh.

Play of Passion: Book 9 (Psy-Challenging) by [Singh, Nalini]

This is book 9 of the Psy-Changeling series, and it’s a fantastic series. I know it gets better too, because I went to the Auckland Writing Festival and heard Nalini read from what was then a new release in the series, but I haven’t got to it yet. I have a signed copy of the first book in this series too. So yes, I will read this. I just have to be in the mood for it.

Ha, this quiz took me way longer to finish than I thought it would. I’d love to hear your answers. Tag me if you do the quiz so I can see what you’ve been reading!