Saturday, 30 April 2016

Stronger that Lions Sean J Halford

Today, I am delighted to be hosting Sean Halford to talk about his wonderful book, Stronger Than Lions. Sean and I met at the free writing community Gay Authors more years ago than I want to remember. I loved this story the first time I read it and it's even better now.

Therefore, without any further ado I introduce you to Sean Halford, and Stronger than Lions

Buy Link


Let’s start by telling us, in twenty words, or less, what your book’s about.

In senior year, a shy, grieving young man meets a handsome troublemaker. An unlikely friendship becomes an emotional rollercoaster ride.

What was it that led you to write in the genre(s) you write? 

I’ve never restricted myself to any genre, though until now I’ve focused on fantasy and science fiction. “Stronger Than Lions” is both my first full-length novel and foray into romance. I’ll be honest, the book started off as a coming-of-age story. The fact that a M/M romance developed in the plot was a chance occurrence. However, I decided to take up the challenge and thoroughly enjoyed the process. 

Are your books character led or plot led, or both?

Both. I like to make my characters as interesting as possible, with a healthy dose of quirks and flaws (as E.M. Forster says, “round” as opposed to “flat” characters). Their subsequent interactions have repercussions on the plot, of which I only have a general idea when I start a story. So it’s pretty much a two-way thing: the plot brings my characters into various conflicts, exposing their idiosyncrasies, and this in turn affects their decisions which then guides the action. And so things become more complex. All things being equal, I like telling a good old-fashioned story with the classic triad of conflict, climax and resolution. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking a formulaic plot, especially in genre fiction, as long as the characters are compelling – you should care about the characters, even the villains. 

I think the most important part about writing is to be engaging. I like narrators who are “warm” – I’ve realised readers forgive a lot of flaws if the narrative voice is approachable and disarming. I like to treat the reader as a friend – and this means avoiding pretense, giving just enough information to keep them wanting to know more, and never, ever being patronising. 

What is your favourite part of the writing process?

There are a few: I love seeing characters come to life with dialogue. It’s also in dialogue where I first see flaws– if the dialogue is stilted or unnatural I know I need to go back and revise my character’s traits.

Then there’s the excitement of starting a story and not quite knowing where it’s going to end up. I’m more of a “seat-of-the-pantser” in the way I write, as opposed to others who plan their plots out meticulously before writing a word. There’s merit to either process –lately I outline and plan much more than I used to– and I think it comes down to the writer’s personality, ultimately.  

Finally, there’s the joy of getting under the skin of a character and starting to care about them – so that everything they do or are exposed to in the story is something you value. 

What is your least favourite part of the writing process?

Reinforcing the habit of writing regularly. Telling yourself to keep going on the days when inspiration is low and you feel you have nothing to write. Then there are the doubts that come – the moments filled with the anguish of thinking you have no talent and everything you’ve written has been done before, and in a much better way, by someone else. So I was heartened to discover that John Steinbeck kept a journal when he was writing “The Grapes of Wrath”, one of the greatest books of the twentieth century – the journal details his intense worries and doubts and fears of failure. Even the greatest writers find things difficult at times. 

And then there’s the long process of rewriting: when you finish a first draft, it’s only the beginning of a long journey ahead, of rereading, correcting, editing, cutting out things that you thought were amazing but really add nothing to the story. That’s really hard work. But its also an essential process that helps you grow as a writer.

Where do you get your inspiration for your characters? 

They are usually a pastiche of several persons I’ve either known or have been able to observe, sufficiently altered of course. That’s the joy of writing fiction – you can pick and choose from people’s traits and flaws from real life and combine them to create a meaningful character. Of course, a lot of characterisation is autobiographical: little traits and insights from yourself and past experience can bring a spark to a character that makes it unique. It’s almost a rule that first novels are autobiographical, and I definitely lifted some of my memories and experiences of high school into “Stronger Than Lions” without even being aware of it.  

Tell us a little about the characters in your book and their story. You can use more than twenty words this time.

Caleb, the narrator, is a shy and nerdy guy who’s just started his final year of high school. His mom’s recently died so he’s right in the middle of the grieving process. Life at high school is hard for him – he doesn’t fit in and he is constantly bullied by the jocks. But he’s not a weakling: despite the grief and bullying he manages to live a very rich inner life. Cal’s fascinated by a lot of things, like astronomy and physics and music. He’s also had a fairly religious upbringing which sometimes clashes with his inquiring mind. 

Chris is new to Cal’s school. At first glance he’s the complete opposite of Cal: an extroverted, carefree jock who surfs and plays rugby. He’s lived a very privileged life. But he harbours complexities: there’s conflict in his family, he’s gotten himself into trouble, and he has emotional issues. He also has a sensitive and nerdy side that is not immediately apparent, but it is on this level that he and Cal bond. I would go so far to say that Chris has actually become frustrated by his jock façade: lately he uses it to shield the world from the sensitive, intelligent soul that hides inside. He wants more to life than rugby and being admired for looking good. 

I particularly enjoyed writing Cal’s two best friends, Bella and Rob. Although they’re frequently played for comic effects, I didn’t want them to be simply sidekicks. I gave them their own little quirks and issues, and I like to think that they undergo a transformation during the story as much as the two main characters do, because all of them are growing up and standing on the cusp of adulthood. Rob and Bella are both fiercely loyal to Cal, being outsiders themselves, but they aren’t afraid to put him in his place either. When Chris enters their world, Bella and Rob differ in their reactions, but they both want the best for Cal. 

Writing the parents was an enjoyable challenge. Cal’s father is devastated by the loss of his wife, and while he loves his son deeply, he has difficulty expressing his feelings. He’s trying to take things day by day and he’s freaked out about his son growing up; he worries if he’s going to be able to do this on his own. Then there are Chris’s parents, who, without giving away too much of the story, are complete opposites. There’s been an ugly divorce, and Chris’s mom is dealing with a lot of her own hurt and anger, trying not to take it out on her son, while things between Chris and his father are strained to say the least. Each parent has a different reaction to Cal and Chris’s relationship; I wanted this to reflect things in real life: some people will always be bigoted, while others are accepting; still others can change their views. 

If you could have one wish what would it be? 

That I could live long enough to read all the books I want to read. 

What's your deepest fear? 

Apart from losing my loved ones? Probably growing old and lonely. I hope I’m always surrounded by friends. I’m truly blessed to have so many friends in my life.

If I came to dinner what would you feed me? 

Tomato gazpacho, home-made lasagne, finishing off with crème brûlée. That’s three different nationalities of cooking, but I like it, because I’m a mongrel. 

Which of your characters would you like to be sharing the dinner table with us?

Caleb and Christopher, as well as Bella and Rob

Tell us in the character’s own words, what he/she would have to say about you.

Caleb: This Halford dude is cruel, unpredictable, and I think he may be mad. 
Christopher: Yes, but he did allow us to meet. 
Caleb: <rolls his eyes> True. I’m not complaining about that. And he did put us in Cape Town. It’s beautiful here. So he’s proud of where he comes from, I’ll give this Halford guy that. But I’m still convinced he’s mad. 
Rob: You forgot the telescope, Cal. You got a frigging telescope. This writer’s got a lot of interests, that’s for sure. Cal’s into astronomy and music for starters. Man, that telescope. Where’s mine? And Chris gets to drive a Jeep. I seem to only enjoy gaming. My car is ancient and Cal ground the gears. I’m never letting you drive it again. 
Caleb: Not my fault he made me a nervous driver. 
Christopher: Hey! My Jeep is ancient too. 
Bella: Shut up, boys. He gave me orthodontics. Like for at least two-thirds of the story. I agree, Cal, he’s cruel. But I think he’s a romantic too, at heart. Especially all the books he makes us read. At least I get some Virginia Woolf out of the deal, or I wouldn’t worth my salt as the token feminist in this tale.
Rob: This is all getting very meta. Could you pass the crème brûlée?

What would they say (again in their own words) about themselves, and their story that will make us want to read about it?
Caleb:  Well, I can’t say I’m the happiest of people at the beginning. I watched my mom die a slow and painful death, and I’m still seventeen. My poor dad is like a fish out of water. He’s numb and I don’t know how to reach out to him. Then there’s school. It’s tough when you don’t fit in. And being a teenager is complex enough. The bullying… I don’t want to talk about that right now. It hurts too much. You’re gonna find out about it anyway. I only feel safe when I’m with my friends, or involved with the two things that keep me sane: swimming and music. 

And then I meet somebody who changes my life forever. A person who teaches me so many things. That life gets better. That love is the most powerful thing there is. And often frigging difficult and frustrating. I was never searching for it, you know. Maybe a part of me didn’t feel worthy of finding someone. I always knew I was wired differently to most people. I never struggled with that part… but I was always scared how people would react.

Then this person comes into my life, and I’m confused as hell, happy and sad and afraid and thrilled all at once. I’m terrified how he might react to my feelings. But I know if I don’t confront my feelings, they’ll consume me.

You can be assured that I grow a lot during my senior year. I also do some stupid things. But it’s all part of the biggest adventure I’ve ever had. And I’m not alone in the journey. By the end of it, I’m not the scared little boy I was when you meet me. Do I get my happily ever after ending? All I’m saying, it’s a very interesting ride.

Chris:  I’m a bit of a rogue. I’m not a bad person, but I did some crazy shit last year. I’m hoping to start with a clean slate at this new school in a new city on the other side of the country. I’ve grown up having everything a kid could want – as far as material things go, at least. Sometimes having all this money makes me uncomfortable. And Mom’s really had Dad have it after they split up. I’m angry with my dad too, which is bad, because of all his kids I seem to be the black sheep. Or the blond sheep, as my mother jokes. Mom’s pretending to have a great time, we’ve got this big new house with a fancy address but I think she’s miserable. And it’s getting worse. 

Cape Town itself is cool, at least. Fitting in will be easy: I’ve always been one of the popular kids and girls love me and I’m not complaining about that. I’m gonna keep my head down at first, make sure nobody figures out the shit I got up to, and then I’ll slowly unleash the old Hathaway charm so the year will be smooth and steady. Maybe I can even make the rugby team. I miss playing. I was one of the star players back in Durban, you know? 

And then, on my first day, I bump into this dude who seems to get himself into all sorts of trouble. Yet there’s something about him. He’s just so… I don’t know… genuine. And funny. And honest. Not like all the preppy idiots I’ve been surrounded with. He’s really smart too. But he doesn’t talk down to me. I’m shocked at the way some of the guys treat him. I’d hate for him to think I have a hero complex or something, but I can’t help wanting to protect Cal. And maybe more… whoa, where did that come from?

Love’s always been easy for me. At least what I thought was love. This year, things turn out wayyyy different to what I planned. My eyes are opened to stuff I never expected. And my reaction to it all is even more surprising. 

I just hope the people I love will support me. Because I’m pretty sure there’s one of them who won’t. And it might get ugly.

Which other fictional character(s) would you like to be present at the dinner party?

Caleb Trask from John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, after whom Cal is named
Holden Caulfield from The Catcher In The Rye, what would he think of the problems 21st Century teenagers have, compared to what he had to go through?
Eeyore and Tigger
Marvin the Paranoid Android from The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy
Miss Havisham from Dickens’s Great Expectations
Calvin and Hobbes
Okay he’s not a fictional character, but I’d want the author E.M. Forster to be present, and ask him what he thinks of 21st century writings.

What other authors would you say have either influenced your writing or you would like to emulate?

Gerald Durrell, for his colourful and lyrical use of language.
Douglas Adams, for his humour, comic timing and unique voice.
Virginia Woolf, for her mastery of sensory experience and detail.
John Steinbeck, for his story-telling ability. Incidentally, one of Steinbeck’s novels is a major motif in my book.
T.S. Eliot, for his masterful use of metaphor and religious imagery
E.M. Forster, for his subtlety, and gift for understated satire and comedy

Which character from literature, would you most like to have invented?

Marvin the Paranoid from “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy”. 

What do you prefer writing? A one off novel, a series or short stories? 

Definitely a novel. I enjoy the space in which one can develop things. I find short stories very challenging to write.

What kind of books do you read (if you have time to read)? 

Lately I read a lot more non-fiction than fiction – mainly popular science and history. I have an intense hunger for information and part of this functions as research for stuff to put in a story. 
As for fiction, I have broad tastes: I’ll go into phases where I read a lot of classics (like Austen, Henry James and Steinbeck) and then change tack and binge on easy-reading thrillers or even romances. Right now I’m reading Howards End by E.M. Forster, which was written in 1910, and it’s a very “serious” book by 21st century standards, but I’m also reading a couple of trashy yet charming romances I’ve discovered on Kindle. 

Basically, I’ve found reading any genre useful. But when I read fiction, I like to allow myself time and space, to pay attention to the story and immerse myself in the world the writer has created. 

Where do you see yourself personally and professionally in 5 years’ time? 

Personally, possibly with a kid or two (my wife and I have to make a decision soon; the biological clock is ticking), hopefully in a bigger house (it’s straining from all the books we buy!) and having travelled a lot more. There’s so much of the world we have yet to see. 

Professionally, having completed my postgraduate studies in creative writing and published my first print novel through a formal publishing house. Dividing my time equally between my day job and writing.

Do you have any other projects in the offing we should look out for?

I have a number of short stories that I’ve submitted to science fiction and mystery sites and am waiting for responses (they take AGES!). I also have two novels in progress that will hopefully see the light of day by the end of 2017. If “Stronger Than Lions” continues to be popular, I may well attempt another romance novel. 


I was born in Pretoria, South Africa where I attended high school and then university where I studied English literature and medicine. I’ve been writing since I was about five years old. At first I drew my own comics but found out I was hopeless at the art. So started concentrating on the stories. I’ve written ever since. 

After med school I lived in the UK for a few years on a working holiday, but returned to South Africa as I ended up very homesick. I moved to Cape Town, where I had always wanted to live. Here I got married and specialised in my current medical field of interest, qualifying as a specialist a few years ago. 

But the writing bug started biting in earnest soon after – I had put it on the backburner during all the years of studying. One night after a heavy day at work I started typing out a paragraph. I wrote another. Intrigued, I kept on… it was like a drug. Two years later the novel that we’re talking about today emerged. 

I still have a full-time clinical job which I enjoy very much, but am now also enrolled in a postgrad creative writing degree which I hope will help me “give birth” as it were to my first professionally published work. 

Where can we find you?

You’re welcome to email me at check out on my author page on, and find me on Twitter as @SeanHalford. 

Thursday, 28 April 2016

The Better to Kiss You With by Michelle Osgood

The Better 900px (Tumblr) Author Name: Michelle Osgood Book Name: The Better To Kiss You With
Release Date: April 21, 2016
Pages or Words: 182 pages
Categories: Contemporary, Lesbian Romance, Paranromal

Blurb: Deanna, the moderator for Wolf’s Run, an online werewolf role-playing game, wanders the local forest with her dog Arthur and daydreams about Jaime, the attractive, enigmatic woman who lives upstairs. When threats from an antagonistic player escalate, Deanna wonders if her job could be riskier than she’d ever imagined—and if her new girlfriend knows more about this community than she had realized.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

COVER REVEAL Lab Rat by Nephy Hart

I would like to introduce you to the amazing cover of my new release Lab Rat which will be released next Wednesday, May 4th

This was previously published by Romance First Publishing under the title of The Unfairness of Life, but it has been very much cleaned up and improved since then


At thirteen, Gabriel was subjected to experimentation designed to awaken latent psychic abilities.

 He’s been locked in a downward spiral of self-destruction ever since.

Then one night he meets Laurie, who is the antithesis of everything Gabriel’s become: cheerful, optimistic, and comfortable in his own skin. 

Laurie pursues Gabriel. But Gabriel no longer believes in love. With a dark past and a history of disastrous relationships, he’s promised himself ‘no more’. Laurie, however, won’t let go, no matter how many obstacles Gabriel places in his way.

When Gabriel starts hearing voices in his head, he realizes they belong to the scientists who experimented on him. Worse, they’re trying to track him down. 

With the past nipping at his heels, Gabriel and Laurie flee together. 

Can they outrun the enemy? Can they save Gabriel before either his life or his sanity are forfeit?

And is Gabriel as helpless as he, or Laurie, thinks he is?


IT’S THE LIGHTS. I hate the lights—they’re so bright. I don’t like bright. I want to go back to my room. It’s not bright in my room. It’s dim and cool and safe. I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to talk. I don’t want to think. I don’t want to....

“Good morning, Gabriel. Are you going to be a good boy today? You weren’t yesterday, were you?”

“I want to go home.”

“All in good time. We have work to do today, and the sooner we get it done, the sooner you can go back to your room. One more day. Just one more day.”

“Can I go home then?”

“We’ll see. Relax now, Gabriel. You know it’s easier when you relax. I’m going to give you an injection and I want you to relax and let your mind open. Relax now, Gabriel. I’m going to start now. 

Remember to relax.”

The lights. I hate the lights.

It’s the screaming that wakes me every time. But this time I’m not alone. There’s someone here with me. My housemates never come near when I’m screaming; they know better. It scares them. It scares me.

I prise open my eyes and the shock stops the screams. It almost stops my heart. I try to push him away, but he holds on. He’s in my bed. He’s… dressed but I… I’m not. What the fuck happened last night? Was I that drunk?

“Get away from me.”

“When you stop shaking.”

“Fuck that. Get away from me.”

I manage to push him back and he stretches out like a cat, propping that head of glorious hair on one hand. He looks at me with his amazing eyes.

“What the fuck are you doing here?”

“That’s okay. I wasn’t expecting thanks. Not from you.”

“Thanks? What do I have to thank you for?”

“Well, I could have left you unconscious on your doorstep, but I thought you’d be more comfortable in bed.”

“I… what? I…. You undressed me?”

Laurie shrugs. “You threw up.”

I groan. I’m not worried about passing out or throwing up—that’s not unusual for me, especially after alcohol—but the thought someone saw it, saw me, and took off my clothes….

I’m horrified. No one sees my body. No one.

“Get the fuck out of here.”

“Just as well I wasn’t expecting thanks, isn’t it? Otherwise I might be feeling crushed right now.”

“I don’t give a shit. Get the hell out of my room.”

Laurie’s expression turns introspective. He reaches out and runs his finger over my arm. The touch sends shivers through me, and for a moment I freeze, staring at his hand. It’s been a long time since anyone has touched me, especially there.

Stunned, I raise my eyes and gaze into the deep blue orbs. “Is it because of that?” he says softly. “It’s alright. It doesn’t bother me.”

“I….” My heart pounds. I’m overwhelmed. I can’t cope with this. I shake my head. “Get out of my room. Get out. Get out!” I know I’m being unreasonable, but I can’t help it. I know I’m getting hysterical, but I can’t help that either.

Looking completely shocked, he does what I ask.

Pre Order Links

Amazon UK
Amazon US

Author Bio

Nephy Hart was born into a poor mining family in the South Wales Valleys. Until she was 16, the toilet was at the bottom of the garden and the bath hung on the wall. Her refrigerator was a stone slab in the pantry and there was a black lead fireplace in the kitchen. They look lovely in a museum but aren’t so much fun to clean.

Nephy has always been a storyteller. As a child, she’d make up stories for her nieces, nephews and cousin and they’d explore the imaginary worlds she created, in play.

Later in life, Nephy became the storyteller for a re enactment group who travelled widely, giving a taste of life in the Iron Age. As well as having an opportunity to run around hitting people with a sword, she had an opportunity to tell stories of all kinds, sometimes of her own making, to all kinds of people. The criticism was sometimes harsh, especially from the children, but the reward enormous.

It was here she began to appreciate the power of stories and the primal need to hear them. In ancient times, the wandering bard was the only source of news, and the storyteller the heart of the village, keeping the lore and the magic alive. Although much of the magic has been lost, the stories still provide a link to the part of us that still wants to believe that it’s still there, somewhere.

In present times, Nephy lives in a terraced house in the valleys with her son, dog, bearded dragon (called Smaug of course) and three cats. Her daughter has deserted her for the big city, but they’re still close. She’s never been happier since she was made redundant and is able to devote herself entirely to her twin loves of writing and art

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Locked by Anyta Sunday



TITLE: Locked

SERIES: Telluric Realm #1

AUTHOR: Anyta Sunday

COVER ARTIST: Natasha Snow

LENGTH: 98,000 words

RELEASE DATE: April 26, 2016

BLURB: A curse threatens the Winter Kingdom. 

A brother is turned to ice. 

A rebel uprising is on the horizon. 

Marble-maker Rye Cunnings is at the center of it all—and doesn’t know it.

He doesn’t know he’s the lost summer prince. Doesn’t know his blood can unlock Winter’s curse. Doesn’t know why the marbles he makes flutter with magic. All he thinks is that he’s crazy. That he sees things others don’t, like dragons and strange markings on his skin.

But when a dark dragon snatches away Rye’s only friend Milo, he is forced to face the crazy in his life and figure out a way to bring Milo back.

Help comes in the form of Cerdic Leit, a warrior who finds Rye to take him “home” to the Telluric Realm and their kind. All Rye has to do is follow him into Gatreau, the gateway to the four Telluric kingdoms, and all his questions will be answered.

In the hopes of saving Milo, Rye steps into this new and dangerous world. A world where he learns of the Tellurics and their Hansian foes. A world that is swept up in a bitter battle of justice and hate.

And a world that won’t let Rye leave again.

Rye Cunnings shivered and hoofed it down the cobblestone road, fixed on the slice of his marble store ahead. This was just another morning. Just another morning.

A drizzly dawn fingered through the low-hanging mist creeping along Bristol’s narrow streets. Lamppost lights flickered and blinked out, sucking their murky reflections from deep puddles. Rain hit Rye’s neck and face and the palm he pressed against his chest. The drops snaked down his sleeve and mixed with the blood at his wrist. It tingled, and Rye dabbed his cuff over the cut—a circle intersected with twelve loops.

A cut that he’d gouged out with his keys, following the shimmery pattern that had marked his skin for as long as he could remember.

Mist lurked over the Marvel Marbles store sign, thickening over the tattoo parlor and barber cushioning it on either side.

Inside was safe. He just needed to get inside.

He jogged over the road for the bright blue door beckoning him home. Each step jarred through his body to his aching head. He just needed to touch one of the marbles he made.

Key in his good hand, he sank it into the lock and twisted until the bar snapped back.

A figure prowled out from the shelter of the parlor entrance.

Rye choked back a gasp, then let out a relieved laugh. Milo. Just Milo.

“Stealthy as a cat, you are.”


Milo smirked and slunk to his side, raindrops weaving through day-old stubble to the cleft in his chin. He studied Rye and lifted an eyebrow. “And where’ve you been?”

Doesn’t matter. Get inside!

Rye feigned nonchalance. “A walk.” A drug-induced, crazy person one. “Just a walk.”

He beckoned Milo inside, but he tilted his chin skyward and let the rain fall on his face. A small smile played at his lips. “And a mighty good morning for one. Fresh, today is. Invigorating. Where’d ya go?”

Where? Where he always regained consciousness: the local cemetery at the church ruin. Every week the same time, the same place, and always surrounded by a sea of daisies. “Just . . . about.”

Clouds rippled, growing darker. Rye sucked in sharply, grabbed Milo’s arm and steered him inside. He shut the door and sank back against the glass.

Milo strutted through the store, running fingers over jars of comets, cat’s eyes, peacocks and milky ways. Hundreds of jars filled the shelves on his walls. Sparklers, corkscrews, aces. Hundreds of colors glittered without light. Aquamarine, butterscotch yellow, magenta, and every shade in between.

Rye caught his breath and let the colors calm him. In a couple of hours the grandfather clock tucked between shelves would chime nine and kids would press their noses to the window and fog the glass as they took in the wonder of his store. The day would whip by with smiles and laughter. Then it’ll be sundown again, thank God.

Milo faced him, casting a look at his mud-crusted jeans. Rye tucked his bloodstained sleeve behind him. “You look like regurgitated hell, pudding.”

“And you wonder why I never let you into my bed.”

“You couldn’t handle me, love.”

Rye gripped the wooden “shut” sign as he peered through the rain-splotched glass to the sky. Milo came to his side, staring out the window with him.

“A bad sign, huh?”

Rye startled. “What?

“The weather. Means less customers, right?”

“Customers. Right.” His head pounded, his teeth ached. A marble. He needed one now. He shifted away from the windows but Milo planted a forearm on his shoulder.

“You seem on edge, Rye. Lock up for the morning. We’ll go out.”

Out? He shook his head. “Not today.”

A dark shape darted behind the gaps in the clouds. A shiver scuttled down Rye’s spine and he stepped back. Milo moved with him, oblivious to the danger that lurked out there.

“I need to make marbles,” Rye croaked.

“What you need is a day off, friend.”

“Haven’t made a marble in two days.”

“We could go to the carnival, hop on the Ferris wheel. Might even see above these clouds today.”

“How about some green tea?”

Milo pulled away, and Rye scampered across the store to his special marbles behind the counter.

“All right,” Milo said. “I’m going to be a bloody wanker and just say it: you don’t have a social life, mate. You never party. No one visits.”

“I’ve plenty of—”

“Customers don’t count.” Milo skulked closer. “Far as I can see, I’m the only friend you have. And that makes you one hell of a poor bastard.”

A sharp pang shot up Rye’s temple and he hissed, and scanned the middle shelf. He withdrew the largest jar, uncorked it, and dunked his fingers into the mass of silver swirls. Relief fingered up his arms, soothing the pain in his head and the ache from Milo’s advice.

He pocketed a marble.

Over the counter, Milo pointed at Rye’s bloodstained sleeve. “What happened, then?”

Rye resisted the urge to stare at his wrist. The cut never stayed long, would be nothing but faintly-scarred lines by now. Opening the door to his kitchen and marble-making workshop, he threw a hurried lie over his shoulder.

“It’s nothing. Had a raspberry smoothie.”

In the kitchen nook before his workshop, Rye picked up a half-filled pot of tea. Behind him came the clacking of boots, then a hand clamped over his shoulder, urging him around. Cold tea spilled out of the nozzle to the floor between them.

“What are you—?”

Milo pushed up Rye’s sleeve and revealed the circular scar, traced with dry blood. “How exactly did you have that raspberry smoothie?”

“Y-you wouldn’t understand.”

“Don’t underestimate me, I have vast, comprehendy abilities.”

Rye’s throat was tight. “I’m crazy, Milo. Certifiable.” He lifted the pot. “Green tea?”

Milo gently drew his black-painted nails around and over the mark. “You and green bloody tea.” He pulled Rye’s sleeve down. “I’ll have a cuppa.”

With a shaky hand, Rye poured them both a cup. Milo pinched his nose, downed his tea, and set the cup in the sink. “Ugh.”

Rye sipped his, then put it down. It didn’t settle his churning stomach.

“Now make me a marble, friend,” Milo said with a wink, and took out the pendant hanging under his shirt. “One with a bit of me in it.” He snapped off a thin corner and handed Rye the tiny wedge.

Rye stared at the piece on his palm. So small, so horribly scratched, and yet it warmed his entire hand. He clamped his fingers over it.

“Got any cash?”

“Put it on my tab.”

“I love it when I do work and no one pays me.” He moved into his workshop and Milo followed behind. 

“Reminds me of my last foster home.”

“Said so dryly. That’s exactly why I like you.” Milo flung himself on the stained brown couch at the flank of the room and slipped his hands behind his head. “I’ll lie here and share my woeful problems while you warm your glory hole. God, I love marbling.”

Rye tossed a fiber blanket at him. “I work with a torch.”

“Go on then, light up. Make magic.”

Swallowing, Rye glanced at Milo, who stared at the ceiling with half-lidded eyes. Make magic. He’d thought the same thing himself a thousand times. The way his marbles soothed his anxiety, or seemed to open locked doors, or throbbed warmly in his grip like they held secrets of who he was—what he was.

“I don’t make magic,” Rye said carefully.

Milo turned his head, waggling his brows. “Marvel me, then. Make me a nicer set of balls than I already have. Or better yet, make a marble that solves all my problems.”

“Such as cockiness?”

“Don’t go messing with anything starting with cock. All else is fair play.”

“Your assery it is then.”

Milo snorted.

“Entertain me with these oh-so woeful problems.” Make me forget mine.

“I’m too smart for my own good,” Milo said with a smirk. “And it’s going to cost me.”

“So dramatic.”

Milo looked pointedly toward Rye’s wrist.

“Point taken,” Rye said.

Milo’s phone rang and he swung off the couch. “You get to making that marble,” he said, ducking through the door. “I’ll be back.”

Rye took a sparkly gold glass rod from the jars on the shelf, bumping the small velvet pouch of marble monstrosities at the end. They’d been Milo’s attempts at marbling, pockmarked and pitiful. Yet he’d not brought himself to throw them away. They called to him with a magic of their own, the magic of a hundred shared laughs between them. Laughs that had been few-and-far-between before Milo had come into his life a year ago.

Rye set the melting glass next to the wedge of pendant. What style did Milo want? Did he wish his marble to glitter? To glow? To be dotted with silver?

He listened for Milo and was met with nothing but the creaking of his store door. Where had Milo gone to take his call? Rye shuffled to the kitchen. Empty. He checked the store.


A breeze swept through the room. The front door was partially open and rain was pooling at the floor. Had Milo taken his call outside? Or had he left, like sometimes he did, without so much as a goodbye?

At the store window, Rye looked outside. The cloud had thickened. It hung low over shop roofs and gutters, only a few feet above the three umbrella-toting pedestrians huddled at the bus stop. Milo was strutting down the middle of the street toward the store, ash blond and soaked.

Rye waved.

The cloud burst, plumes pelting toward the ground, and a large winged body swooped down the street toward them.


Rye’s heart seized in his chest; he jerked his bloodied arm across his face and peered at the beast again, at its long snout, horns, and black scales, the arrowhead tail snaking behind it, whipping up gusts. The dragon dipped and umbrellas jerked, inverting into black poppies. Their owners laughed.

Rye ached to be one of those men, ignorant of the terror flying over them, of the dragon stretching its forelegs, clawed talons aimed at—


Rye tried to shout but his voice was lost in the tight clutch of his throat.

The dragon whipped past the window. Wind surged and the door banged against the wall shelves, smashing a jar, glass shards and red marbles raining to the floor.

Rye shrank back into the shadows, shaking as the dragon snatched his friend and lifted into the clouds. Words echoed in his head, soft, placating…

Shhh. He won’t get you.

An intriguing, and thought provoking book.

The basic story is fairly simple. In a world linked with ours four ruling families – winter, summer, autumn and spring – are required to provide a blood sacrifice (small one) from one of their ruling family every day. If they can’t their power will fail and our seasons will go awry (maybe that’s what’s happening right now). Upon the Winter King kidnapping the Summer King’s son, the Summer King put a spell on the Winter royal heirs that if they have any sexual contact with another the lover turns to ice. The only way to break the curse is to have someone from the Summer Royal family remove it. If the curse is not removed the royal line dies out and so does winter. A captain of the royal guard, who happens to be a dragon shifter, is sent to our world to find and return the Winter Prince, knowing that the prince will die to remove the curse.

On the whole, the book was extremely entertaining. There was a lot of originality in the world and its people with complex, well drawn characters and plotline. I loved the poor, clueless summer prince who things he’s losing his mind with vague memories of dragons and strange markings on his body that seem to mean something. He has a fixation with marbles and one of my favourite scenes from the book is where he makes one.

There are so many lovely scenes that are drawn beautifully and move the book on at what feels like a fairly leisurely pace, which is in no way a criticism. Even when exciting things are happening there is still time to look around and appreciate the beauty of the surroundings.

I have two very small criticisms. The first few chapters had me a bit confused. That, in itself is nothing unusual, but the whole issue of keys was frustratingly confusing until they were explained more than a quarter of the way through the book. I am not a fan of info dumps but I would have liked a little more explanation earlier.

Secondly, especially given how fearful Rye was at the beginning, I think he reacted and adjusted to the new world a little too easily.

That being said, I absolutely and utterly adored this book. I found myself thinking about it days after I finished it and there are nuances that only come out after reflection. Just who are the good guys and who are the bad guys here? The characters are vivid and unique, including the 'villains', the world building is masterful, the dialogue is fluid and the descriptions are delicate and evocative. 

I totally and absolutely without hesitation recommend this book to anyone who likes fantasy, or is looking for something that little bit different.



A born and raised New Zealander from Wellington, I’ve been exploring the literary world since I started reading Roald Dahl as a kid. Stories have been piling up in my head ever since. Fast forward to my mid-twenties and jump a few countries (Germany, America, and back again), I started to put them to paper.

My genre of choice is romance, both adult and YA, gay and straight. You can take a closer look at my books, available as e-books for download in many formats!

When I’m not pushing my characters deeper into adventure, I chase my son around the house and fight my two comical cats for the desk chair.

Since 2014, I’m also part of CritShop Literary Services, specializing in writing workshops and editorial services for LGBT fiction.

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Winner’s Prize: E-copy of Locked

Dead Camp by Sean Kerr

deadcamp300 Author Name: Sean Kerr

Book Name: Dead Camp

Series: Dead Camp Book: One

Release Date: January 1, 2016

Pages or Words: 87,422 words, 260 pages

Categories: Dark Themes, Erotica, Fiction, Gay Fiction, Historical, Horror, M/M Romance, Mystery, Paranormal, Romance, Vampires/Demons, Thriller

Publisher: Extasy Books

Cover Artist: Latrisha Waters

Blurb: Eli is an ancient vampire with an ego the size of a planet and a sex drive to match, but his tumultuous past left him broken, so he hides from humanity and cowers from love, left to endure the crushing guilt that haunts his every waking moment. Even his best friend Malachi, a ghost who is hopelessly in love with Eli, remains unaware of all that transpired in London. Malachi can never know the truth.

 When the Angel Daniyyel pays an unwelcome visit, Eli must face his secrets, secrets that he has tried so long to hide. To make matters worse, a chance encounter with the most beautiful man he has ever seen shatters his beloved isolation, pushing him into the world of the living once more. Something about this strange man seems so familiar, but Eli can’t even remember who he was before he became a vampire, never mind explain the unwanted emotions the enigmatic stranger ignites in his dead heart.

So Eli has a choice—return to the world that ruined him, or continue his self-imposed exile with no hope of salvation.

Monday, 25 April 2016

REVIEW Candyland by Lissa Casey

Author Name: Lissa Kasey

Book Name: Candy Land
Series: Hidden Gem
Book: Three
Should be read as a series

Pages or Words: 100,000 words

Categories: BDSM, Fantasy, Gay Fiction, M/M Romance, Ménage, Paranormal, Romance, Shifters, Urban Fantasy

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Cover Artist: Shobana Appavu

Release Date: April 25, 2016


Cameron “Candy” Michelson Jr. doesn’t have time for distractions. He’s too busy restructuring the red-light district into an adult playland for City M and running the Hidden Gem. But when his companion, Avery “Ivy” Laurent, grows closer to Jack, an investigator for the Institute of Scientific Study, Candy can’t hide his jealousy. Nor his own interest in Jack.

Ivy is crazy about Jack, but he’s also in love with Candy. Ideally, Ivy longs for all three of them to be together, but between Jack’s nonexistent libido and Candy’s supercharged needs, Ivy isn’t sure how to make it work.

When Jack gets called in to help the City M police department investigate a series of violently murdered companions, both Candy and Ivy brace for trouble. But nothing prepares them for Candy becoming the prime suspect.

In a future landscape of corrupt government officials, brutal BDSM crimes, and a host of dark creatures, Candy, Ivy, and Jack must work together to find the killer, save themselves—and learn how to trust each other.


Candy groaned when he realized he was the most innocent in the dark side of the world of the three of them.

Him innocent. Unbelievable.

Dom, whore, and pimp, he shouldn’t inch at the idea of death and blood, but he did. Fuck. Had Paris known how worthless he was going to be when it came to monsters, gore, and the supernatural shit of the world?

He glanced at Jack, sighing over his natural boy-next-door beauty. His dark blond hair was long, curling around his ears, and somewhat unruly. It looked soft, and Candy longed to run his fingers through it. He’d met more handsome men than Jack, Paris and Shane being prime specimens of men, but something about him drew Candy in deep. His eyes were a soft shade of honey brown, with specks of dark chocolate that glistened if the light hit them just right. He always held himself apart, shoulders squared, head high. Con dent, Candy thought. But every once in a while he’d get a glimpse of something lurking beneath all that bravado—a childlike innocence and fear. It was the little boy hiding his heart behind the badge that made Candy want Jack so bad. He wanted to take that fear away, show him that while the world might not be safe, he wasn’t alone anymore.

Had Ivy even gotten to taste those thick lips? Or experience Jack’s strong arms wrapped around him? Had he chased away the overconfident man and fearful child long enough to see the real Jack? Did Candy have a chance? Should he even care if his death was just around the corner? Fuck. If there was anything he hated it was uncertainty. Whatever Aki saw would happen. Candy had no doubt about that. If he was going to die today or even a year from now, shouldn’t he just live every moment like it was his last? What would Jack do if Candy threw himself at him? Kissed the breath out of him? Asked to be held? Candy growled to himself and shook his head. He didn’t know where to start, but somehow he was sure aggression wouldn’t be welcome.

Jack stayed on his heel while Candy wandered, but seemed to be inspecting the property himself, maybe looking for clues that had been missed by the police. He had this nervous habit of biting his lip when he was deep in thought. Candy had noticed it ages ago, and it drove him nuts. It was an almost boyish cuteness that made Candy want to kiss Jack just to stop him from worrying at his lip, but now he knew it wouldn’t be welcomed and it irritated him. His tight pants bit into his lling cock. It wasn’t fair to be attracted to someone so badly.

He’d looked up the term Ivy had left for him after his last client: asexuality. A lack of emotional interest in sex. There were a dozen divisions within the term, some even sex- or relationship-averse, meaning they were repulsed by sex. Did sex disgust Jack? Was that why he hugged himself whenever he entered the Gem and refused to meet anyone’s eyes? Candy had thought it was just shyness, and maybe it partially was. He just didn’t quite understand. How could someone be physically able to have sex, but not want to? If he asked Jack, would he answer?

Candy sighed to himself and headed up the stairs. Even the stairs were caked in grease and grime. Ivy had lived here for several years, walking those steps in bare feet. Candy didn’t want to see, but he had to get his mind off Jack. The nastiness of the Red Delight client rooms would hopefully wilt his erection. If he’d been home he would have found a spare moment with Ivy to alleviate some tension. Here there was nothing but sticky floors, stained walls, and the stench of years of cigarette smoke.

Jack followed him up the stairs. Neither of them spoke or touched anything. A door at the far end was still marked with the yellow paint used by the police to indicate the crime area. Jack rubbed his nose and grabbed Candy’s arm before either of them could make a step toward that door. “It still smells of death up here. We should go back down. There’s nothing to see, right? You don’t want the actual building, just the land.”

“Ivy is too free with information,” Candy said, somewhat annoyed. How was it fair for Jack to know so much about him when Candy knew almost nothing about Jack?

“He worries about you. Wants to take care of you.” “Funny. I’d say he does the same for you.”

Jack shrugged. “He’s a friend. I thought he was your friend too.”

Candy stepped into Jack’s personal bubble. “I fuck him regularly. We’re more than just friends.”

Jack didn’t step back, nor did he appear to be shocked by Candy’s words, which stole some of Candy’s anger. Ivy had obviously not been dishonest with either of them. Though Candy had never expected him to fully disclose his sex life to Jack. “Why does that matter?” Jack asked finally. “I’m friends with Shane and Aki doesn’t mind. I know they have sex often.”

Did Jack really not know? Maybe he didn’t get that Ivy wanted more than friendship. Hell, Candy would have liked to get to know Jack on a more personal level too, only his hackles were always raised by the man. He had this feeling that Jack would have to be the man of the relationship. The guy in charge, the Dominant, and Goddess knew Candy hated to give up control. Not that he didn’t like occasionally having someone hold him down and pound into him. Fuck, his head was messed up. And why did Jack smell so damn good?

Candy stood close enough that if he leaned forward just a bit he could finally capture Jack’s abused lip. When had he grown tall enough to nearly meet Jack eye to eye? And the strength of Jack’s hand on his arm... Candy knew it could hold him, maybe even be enough to restrain him. He sucked in a deep breath; his cock ached to be touched and leaked in his pants. It made him angry. He was never rational when angry. Paris had been trying for years to teach him to bury that wild emotion and had failed. Candy opened his mouth to say something scathing, only Jack spoke first.

“I never got to thank you for the book,” Jack said. “At least not in person. I’m sure Ivy told you I was grateful. But I really do like it. It’s like owning a piece of history. I’m in awe that you even found it.”

An odd mash of glee filled Candy’s gut. Jack liked the book. He knew that, of course, Ivy had told him so, but it was different hearing it from the man himself. The anger fell away. Did Jack really see him?

“The cake too. That was pretty amazing. I have the rest of it in my freezer. Been eating it a little at a time. Ivy helped me cut it into slices so I could freeze it and unthaw it as I want. I’ve never been a huge fan of sweets, but the lemon and strawberry mix is good. I’ve never had anyone give me anything. Thank you.”

Candy gave in to his need to touch and be touched. Even if it meant Jack shoved him away, he had to step forward, close that space and try. He leaned forward, not daring to kiss Jack, but enough to rest his forehead on Jack’s shoulder, arm loose around his waist. He kept their hips apart so as not to startle Jack with his erection. He almost expected Jack to step back. But he didn’t. His arms circled around Candy’s back, patting his shoulder lightly.

“The new hair color is good,” Jack told him. “Makes me think of flowers. Not that you’re flowery, but I’m sort of hoping spring comes soon. I don’t like the cold very much.” He seemed to be rambling now. Breathing a little hitched. Candy couldn’t recall Jack ever speaking to him so much.

“More you than that brown I saw you with at Solstice. And I’m glad the jacket ts. When I saw it last week I told Ivy it would be perfect for you. I don’t know when your birthday is, but if it makes you feel better you can pretend it’s a present for your birthday, or maybe a late Solstice present.”

The clothes, or at least the jacket, had been from Jack? Candy wished they were in a better place. He would have shoved Jack against the wall and proved to him how great sex could be. Only he couldn’t imagine touching anything in here and not coming away with some nasty disease. “Thank you. The coat is nice. Warm.”

Jack rubbed Candy’s arms. “That’s what I thought when I saw it. That it would keep you warm, and the color is nice. Bright, like your hair always was.” He hesitated in his touch, but Candy moved closer to him, assuring him that it was okay. “It’s been a while since I saw you last. I hope you’re doing okay. I mean, I’m sure Ivy would have told me if you weren’t, but it’s good to see for myself that you’re looking good....”

Jack thought he looked good? Manny appeared on the stairs a moment later, saving Candy from doing something stupid, like stealing a kiss from Jack.

“Oscar’s finished,” Manny told him. He said nothing about the embrace that would have embarrassed Candy had anyone else seen.

Candy pulled away reluctantly. He couldn’t meet Jack’s eyes as he made his way downstairs. If he had, he’d have said something stupid, like ask if they could go back to his place afterward. Jack probably would have taken the proposal badly anyway.

Yohan didn’t look any happier. And the offer was even lower. Candy took the screen and added a small sum of money to it. This was their final offer. “Take it or leave it,” Candy told him.

“You’re ripping me off,” Yohan protested. “Just because you can.”

Candy shrugged. Jack took the screen and glanced over it. “Looks fair to me. The condition of the building is questionable. I noticed more cracks in the walls and ceiling than the building code would allow, even for an older structure. There’s substantial water damage upstairs, so the roof is bad. Probably should have been replaced years ago. And then there are the health code violations....”

“I’ll take your offer,” Yohan said, most likely to shut Jack up before he could air the long list of problems with the property. Oscar stepped in to get his signature and thumb print on several e-documents.

Candy couldn’t help but grin at Jack, who gave him a nonchalant shrug. “Everyone out to the bus,” Candy instructed the companions. “You’ll be heading to Cardinal Sins.”

“What will we be doing there?” one of them asked.

“Paris will interview each of you and find a suitable job. Most likely serving drinks, food, maybe cleaning or cooking. He’s pretty well stocked in companions right now.” And all of these whores were well past their prime. Candy would have to find out where Yohan had sold the others to. There weren’t many brothels left in City M, and he hated the idea of any whore being left to be abused by some asshole pimp.

“No more whoring?” another clarified.
“Not likely.” He ushered them toward the door.
Jack still stood between him and Yohan. Yohan had several bags

packed and there was a car that wasn’t part of Candy’s entourage parked near the curb. “Will you be leaving town, then?” Jack asked Yohan. “I’d like to know where to nd you in case more questions come up about this case.”

Yohan shook his head. “Not my problem anymore. That belongs to him now too.” He waved his hand at Candy and made his way out the door and down to the car.

There was another unmarked car parked across the street that Jack saluted lightly. The passenger window rolled up, and as soon as Yohan’s car eased away from the curb, the black sedan followed.
“Ino,” Jack informed Candy. “He’ll let me know if Yohan leaves town or hides out somewhere. I really do want to know where he goes, just in case.”

Candy nodded, a little shocked by Jack’s foresight. If Candy had been thinking ahead, he’d have put one of the guards on the task. It was just more proof that he hadn’t gotten enough sleep. He watched the former companions all board the bus and sent a text off to Paris that they would be in need of immediate healthcare as well as clothing and jobs. Oscar held out the last of the documents for him to review and sign. Moments later, with money transferred, it was time to return to the Gem and to Ivy. If only he could bring Jack with him. He knew for certain Ivy wouldn’t mind at all.

Jack stood less than two feet away. He was looking around, a confused expression on his face. “Everything okay?” Candy asked him. He reached out to touch Jack’s arm. Oscar was already headed back to the car when Jack’s eyes widened in alarm and the same instant something sliced into Candy.

For a moment he stood there, startled, confused at the odd, growing, wet heat suddenly pouring down his back, and then the fiery pain that erupted from his back and through his stomach. Hot pokers seemed to melt through his body, driving mind-numbing pain to every nerve.

His breath faltered as blood filled a lung. He choked on the rising fluid and spit out a gush of red and froth. The world turned into a wild swirl of fading colors, all centering on Jack’s face. His expression was horrified, and then a moment later, Jack was no longer there and a black tiger leapt at Candy.


This book is the culmination of a trilogy that I have thoroughly enjoyed. I really don’t think this book can be read alone because it ties up a lot of loose ends and there are things that just can’t be explained in one book.

I have no intention of rehashing the story, first because it’s too complex and second because it takes you no time to go check out the blurbs.

The characters in all three books are very well drawn and utterly unique. From the detective, Shane who knows exactly what he is to darling little Aki who, until this book, had no idea what he was. There’s a mermaid, an extremely complex character who might be a vampire, a cat shifter (kind of), a wolf shifter, someone who makes flowers grow – and then there’s Candy.

Candy isn’t the most complex character but he is fascinating, not least because of the way he’s grown through the three books. He started off as almost a side character to Aki’s star, but grew from a ‘mere’ whore to…well you’re going to have to read the books to find the incredible role he’s built for himself and so adeptly fills.

I have to say that my favourite character was Aki. From the first time we met him shivering in a doorway to the moment he really comes into his own, he’s captivated me and I’ve gone on a terrifying and heart–breaking journey with him. He’s a proper little imp who can’t be left alone for five minutes. He’s been dead, experimented on, is unable to die from the brain cancer that keeps cropping up and endures unbelievable suffering with absolute grace. He’s a gentle little thing, but threaten someone he loves and he turns into a monster – literally. I absolutely adore him.

Another character I utterly adore is Ivy who is, in many ways, similar but in many more completely different. As his relationship with Candy and Jack develop I find myself rooting for him more and more.

The storyline from beginning to end of these three books is complex, unique and compelling. There just aren’t the words to describe as it moves from chilling, to sweet; from heartbreaking to inspiring. Everyone has their problems, everyone is far from perfect, but everyone is there for each other in what becomes a close–knit community; an incredibly unlikely family that just seems to work against all the odds.

If you only read three books for the rest of the year make it this three. There are so many twists and turns between the pages it sometimes has your head reeling but think of them as a box of candy – each sweet, each unique and each leaving a delicious flavour in your mouth. Be careful, though, because you know what happens when you finish a box of candy. You find yourself looking for more and the withdrawal can be unpleasant. It’s one of those series you want to read but don’t at the same time. You’ll want to get immersed in the world and its characters, but you won’t want it to end.

I advise coffee and tissues.

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Meet the author:

Lissa Kasey is more than just romance. She specializes in depth characters, detailed world building, and twisting plots to keep you clinging to your book reader. All stories have a side of romance, emotionally messed up protagonists and feature LGBTGA spectrum characters facing real world problems no matter how fictional the story.

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