Book Blast · Guest · New Release

Guest: Maggie Blackbird – Toy Soldiers

Hiya 🥰

 The warmest of welcomes to my guest, the very lovely Maggie Blackbird, with her latest novel in the When We Were Young series: Toy Soldiers. 💜

BOOK BLAST

Book Title: Toy Soldiers (Book 2, When We Were Young series)

Author: Maggie Blackbird

Publisher: Devine Destinies

Cover Artist: Martine Jardin

Genre/s: Contemporary M/M Romance, young adult, multicultural, LGBT

Trope/s: Friends to lovers

Themes: Coming of age, coming out

Heat Rating: 1 flame

Length: 70 349 words/ 244 pages

It is NOT a standalone book. Book 1 needs to be read first.

Goodreads

Buy Links

Amazon US | Amazon CA | Amazon UK | Amazon AU

Publisher | Kobo | B&N | iBooks

Google Play | Smashwords |

Once a thief, always a thief, and if he can’t win the heart of the boy he loves, he’ll steal it.

Blurb

Billy Redsky’s made one of his biggest dreams come true, but there’s a problem. Even though the boy he loves is mere footsteps across the hall from his bedroom, they might as well live a country apart because claiming René Oshawee’s heart is more difficult than Billy anticipates.

Much to Billy’s disgust, René can’t accept his true self, so he’s incapable of loving someone else. And all he cares about is living a life the chief and his wife foresee for their youngest son.

If Billy is to finally have what he truly desires, he must stop René from running away from who he really is and face the man in the mirror, or what they share will never blossom into true love

Excerpt

Stuart lived past the recreation center. Billy huffed down the road. Sure, he’d be interrupting dinnertime, but big deal. He couldn’t stay in Castle Oshawee any longer.

The boiling heat of anger beneath his clothing stopped him from freezing under the clear, cold sky. Darkness was fast approaching. The sun on the horizon was bursting with colors of mauve, scarlet, and pumpkin.

The big door at the recreation center opened. Billy’s old buddies, Lonn and Dylan, strolled outside to probably have a cigarette. When they strutted away from the doors and beelined for the road, Billy stiffened. They knew he could beat their asses—especially since he outweighed them by a good fifteen pounds now.

“’Sup?” Lonn called out, slyly grinning.

“Not much.” Billy stopped. He wasn’t going to keep walking like a coward afraid of the neighborhood bullies. “Heard you both got kicked out.” Because neither rode the school bus anymore.

“No biggie.” Lon shrugged. “Y’know we were bailing when we turned the big one-six.”

A direction Billy had been heading before dumb ol’ René had turned him into one of The General’s toy soldiers in Oshawee Army.

Splashes of rebellion bubbled under Billy’s skin. He might’ve blown off telling Mr. and Mrs. O where he was going tonight, but he’d been heading for Stuart’s, and later going home right on the button of his curfew time, like a good little grunt.

He folded his arms. “What’re you doing?”

“What else? Heading for the old house.” Lonn dropped another sly smile.

Dylan nodded, also grinning.

When Billy had used to party there, they’d burned stuff in the woodstove to keep warm during the winter.

“You coming, or are you still hanging with the geek twins?” Lonn elbowed a chuckling Dylan.

“Sure, why not?” Nobody at Castle Oshawee had given a flying fuck Billy had left the house. As for René, screw him. All he cared about was following the rules and obeying the orders coming from everyone seated in the living room.

About the Author

An Ojibway from Northwestern Ontario, Maggie resides in the country with her husband and their fur babies, two beautiful Alaskan Malamutes. When she’s not writing, she can be found pulling weeds in the flower beds, mowing the huge lawn, walking the Mals deep in the bush, teeing up a ball at the golf course, fishing in the boat for walleye, or sitting on the deck at her sister’s house, making more wonderful memories with the people she loves most.

Author Links

Web Site | Facebook Page | Twitter

BookBub | Linked In | Amazon Author Page

eXtasy Books Author Page | Newsletter Sign-Up

Giveaway

Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway for a chance to win

a $15.00 gift certificate from eXtasy Books/Devine Destinies

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Guest · Reviews

Special Guest & Review: Lockset by Brenda Murphy

Hi 🥰

I’m so sorry for the lack of new writing, my brain seems to have left the building and embarked upon a bitalot of a break. Left to my own devices I’ve been catching up on Drag Race, watching movies and, o’course, reading. 

Not many authors could have lured me from the thriller-fest of assassin slaughtering antics I’d been devouring—particularly between books 2 and 3 of a trilogy—but Brenda Murphy is as irresistible as Valkyrie is invincible. Thus, it was that Bourne had to stuff his Ultimatum where the sun don’t shine until I’d sallied forth on a second trip to University Square.

*Review progress report: they seem to be getting more random, rather than less, with practice*

4c299-lockset-f500

Series: University Square, Book Two

Publisher: NineStar Press

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: F/F

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+ romance, family-drama, interracial, lesbian

***

Synopsis

After a string of failed relationships, brilliant litigator Eunice Park is determined to stay single. Who needs distractions when you’re trying to make partner at Chicago’s most prestigious law firm? A Sunday afternoon visit from the police is the beginning of a series of events that turn Eun’s life upside down, and she’s forced to return to her hometown and confront her estranged family.

Morgan Wright, locksmith and part-time animal shelter volunteer, is convinced the perfect woman exists, just not for her. After a chance encounter with Eun, Morgan becomes embroiled in Eun’s family drama.

Charmed by Morgan’s easy swagger, Eun invites her back to her hotel room. Bone-melting sex and a surprisingly soulful connection leaves Eun questioning her return to Chicago. But not everyone in Sikesville is happy Eun has returned.

My Review

As much as I adored the first book in the series, I may have enjoyed Lockset even more than On The Square. The instant sense of familiarity was a pleasure in itself. As luscious as sinking into a bubble bath scented with my favourite almond blossom. It felt as if I’d never been away…

If I loved the first novel like Haagen Dazs Pralines ‘n’ Cream with hot fudge sauce and nutty sprinkles…warm walnut shortbread and freshly baked bread…this story? Was a litre bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream; lavishly laced with a whiskey warm kick. I may have made these novels sound supersweet; they are not. They are rich and real and feel as authentic as they are fulfilling. I love these women. They are strong in the sort of way I admire most. They retain a stubborn pride in their own self-sufficiency, above and beyond all reason. A trait that does tend to result in a refusal to rely on others and an inability to accept (let alone seek) help. All of which makes for fabulous friction in tandem with sizzling chemistry. And fantastic fiction, full-stop.

Eun may have had a dump truck of misfortunes land in her lap but she retained the sort of quiet strength that makes sharing them a journey, rather than an endurance.  I never for one moment doubted that Brenda Murphy would give these wonderful women the destination they deserved. No matter how rocky the road or tire-slashing the lurkers lying in wait to throw a spanner in their works.

On that note…the image of Morgan weilding a wrench was the single most sexy sight I wish I’d witnessed since Mai last licked her fingers in On The Square. (I am sure she must have done this. She is a cook. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it). It was an added dollop of delight to visit her now thriving restaurant and see her again. I could clearly do with another season of Nigella to warm my cockles. Or a reboot of The (exceedingly) Delicious Miss Dahl. I p’raps have a bit of a type…warm, sensuous women with lush curves…and sublime skills with a bag of sugar.  Ah well, in the meantime, I can but hope that a third trip to University Square might be on the menu and offer utmost compliments to the chef who cooked up this delicious series for our delectation. Oh, and a five star recommendation.

Treat yourself…you deserve it. Times are tough. 😁

Buy links

Amazon UK

Amazon US

💙💙💙💙💙

Book One

On The Square

Synopsis

Dropped from her television show after a very public split with her cheating ex, celebrity chef Mai Li wants nothing more than to reopen her parents’ shuttered restaurant and make a fresh start in her former hometown. So what if twenty years of neglect has left the building in need of a major renovation?

Seduced by Mai’s charm and determination, hard-edged contractor Dale Miller agrees to take on her renovation project.

After a spring storm causes significant damage to the building and renovation costs exceed Mai’s budget, Dale offers her a deal, but is it a price Mai is willing to pay?

My Review

https://zakarrie.com/2020/09/13/guest-brenda-murphy/

Guest · Release Blitz

Guest: DJ Jamison – Faking A Groom

Hiya,

I’m hoping to return this week, but in the meantime… to get it off to a great start…

A warm welcome my guest DJ Jamison with her new release, the irresistibly titled ‘Faking A Groom’

RELEASE BLITZ

 Faking A Groom

Author and Publisher: DJ Jamison

Cover Artist: Garrett Leigh at Black Jazz Design

Release Date: September 24, 2020

Genre Contemporary M/M Romance 

Trope/s: Fake relationship, second chance,

lingerie/femme clothes exploration

Heat Rating:  5 flames    

Length: 103 000 words

It is the third book in the Marital Bliss series but can read as a standalone.

Goodreads


Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US  |   Amazon UK 


Can two men fake an engagement for the greater good?


Blurb

Avery Kinkaid has been bowing to his father’s will far too long. But when his dad supports anti-LGBT legislation, he’s had enough. Sen. Kinkaid says things would be different if Avery had a fiancé in the wings. Well, fine: He’ll just have to get one.

Rory Fisher is an activist with a heart of gold and nerves of steel. He’s not afraid to call Avery on his bullshit, and that’s why Avery knows Rory is the perfect fake fiancé to help him take a stand. If he still feels a little too much for his ex, well, he can shove that down and suck it up to beat his dad at his own game.

Until Rory encourages his most hidden desires. Until he makes Avery feel stronger, braver, and freer than he’s ever been.

Loving Rory is easy, but Avery’s father won’t just sit back and let them have their happily ever after. They will have to fight: for their love, for justice, for a future together.

This is one power struggle they can’t afford to lose
.


Excerpt 

Avery knew that Gil wanted him to tell his father he was coming out, in no uncertain terms. He didn’t understand the manipulative powers Drake Kinkaid possessed. Or maybe he did, now that he worked for him. Avery had never been able to out-argue his father. Each time he tried, he found himself carefully repositioned, as if a piece on a chess board, until he was agreeing to his father’s terms.

“I don’t know what do,” Avery said. “I’ve tried to be patient, but he always talks me out of coming out. I think I’ve got my mind made up, and he somehow convinces me to keep waiting. I hate that I’m so damn weak.”

“Don’t be so hard on yourself. Your dad is a politician. He persuades people for a living.”

“He’s always got a loophole,” Avery grumbled. “Like today. He said, it’d be different if—”

He stopped short, eyes locked on a man who walked past their table toward the bathrooms. Something about the shape of him and the way he moved—long legs, slim hips, smooth stride—reminded him of Rory.

He couldn’t see his face, but his hair was the right color. It was gathered in a knot at his neck instead of loose, so it was tough to gauge exact length, but damn, that ass. Was it possible to recognize a guy by his ass?

“Avery?”

He blinked and looked back toward Gil. “Hmm?”

“You were saying that your father said it’d be different if…?”

“Oh.” He cleared his throat, trying to shake the vision of Rory and the niggling feeling that he should go talk to him. It felt significant that he was here tonight, if he was here. Avery wouldn’t put it past himself to imagine things. Rory had been on his mind a lot since the gala.

“My father said it’d be different if I was engaged. That he’d support me then.” His gaze drifted back to the bathrooms, watching as Rory emerged. He was sure it was him now. He’d recognize those sharp features anywhere. Heart thumping, he asked Gil, “Do you think he means that?”

“Maybe,” Gil said, though he sounded dubious. “I don’t know.”

Avery rapped the table with his knuckles. “Right. He could be bluffing. There’s only one way to find out.”

“And that is…”

Avery took a big swallow of his beer. Then grinned at Gil. “Guess I have to get engaged.”

“Wait, what?”

Avery nodded. “You keep telling me to do something. Well, you’re right. I have to call my father’s bluff.”

“Oh, Avery, I don’t know…”

“I’ve got the perfect person in mind to help me.”

“Uh…who is that?”

“Rory Fisher.”

Rory, the guy who left you because you wouldn’t leave the closet? How is he the right—”

“Because he’s here,” Avery said, feeling euphoric as intoxication, years of regret and longing, and a desire to break free all coalesced into the best idea ever. “It’s fate, man. It’s like the universe is telling me to make my father put his money where his mouth is. He’s always got a reason, an excuse, a loophole. Well this time, I’ve got the loophole, and I’m going to take it.”

“By getting engaged,” Gil said disbelievingly. “To a man who dumped you.”

Avery laughed. “Crazy, right?”

“Yes,” Gil said emphatically.

“Good.” Avery shoved back his chair. “Because I’ve tried sane and respectful and calm. It’s time for a little crazy. It’s time for drastic action.”

“Yeah, but Avery…”

He held up a finger. “Hold that thought. I have to go propose to the man who got away.


About the Author 

DJ Jamison is the author of more than twenty m/m romances. She writes a variety of queer characters, from gay to bisexual to asexual. DJ grew up in the Midwest in a working-class family, and those influences can be found in her writing through characters coping with real-life problems: money troubles, workplace drama, family conflicts and, of course, falling in love. DJ spent more than a decade in the newspaper industry before chasing her first dream to write fiction. She spent a lifetime reading before that and continues to avidly devour her fellow authors’ books each night. She lives in Kansas with her husband, two sons, one snake, and a sadistic cat named Birdie.


Social Media Links

Blog/Website  |  Facebook  |  Facebook Group  |   Twitter: @dj_jamison_ 

Instagram  |   Newsletter Sign-up  |   KoFi for bonus content


Giveaway 

Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway for a chance to win your choice of the Marital Bliss series in ebook (or audiobook if available) and a $10 US Amazon gift card

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Guest · New Release · Release Blitz

Guest: Release Blitz – Evan J. Corbin

Hiya,

I haven’t broken anything for a few days, so I’ll have a bash at writing the last part of My Way over the weekend. 😁 I’m truly sorry for the delay. In the meantime, I’d like to welcome my guest, Evan J. Corbin. I found the title of his new release far too irresistible to pass up…

RELEASE BLITZ

https://lilygblunt.files.wordpress.com/2020/09/banner-.jpg?w=610

Book TitleAtonement Camp for Unrepentant Homophobes

Author: Evan J. Corbin

Publisher: Atonement Book, LLC

Cover Artist: The Book Cover Whisperer

Release Date: September 3, 2020 for the print book and September 17, 2020 for the eBook.

Genre/s: Contemporary LGBTQ Fiction; Speculative Fiction; Humour

Trope/s: Fish-out of water comedy

Themes: Coming out, cultural assimilation

Heat Rating:  2 flames

Length:  70 600 words/ 283 pages

Goodreads

Buy Links – Available in Kindle Unlimited and Paperback

Amazon US  |  Amazon UK

https://lilygblunt.files.wordpress.com/2020/09/atonementcamp-cov-ebook.jpg

Atonement Camp.

Pastor Harris is only going to save his career.

But while he doesn’t want to be there, a change of heart may be just what he needs…

Blurb

The oldest translation of a Gospel is returned to the world by a secret society long dedicated to its preservation.  In it, Jesus explicitly condemns bigotry and homophobia. In a new world in which LGBTQ passengers receive preferential boarding for flights and the United States has elected its first lesbian President, Pastor Rick Harris is stalwart, closeted preacher who doggedly holds onto his increasingly unpopular convictions.

When an incendiary sermon goes too far and offends an influential family, Rick makes a painful choice to keep his job:  He attends an atonement camp run by drag queens for society’s most unrepentant and terminally incurable homophobes.

Atonement Camp is immersion therapy for Pastor Harris, and it might be working. An open bar with pedicures, a devastatingly attractive roommate and an endless supply of glitter help him manage to make new friends. Soon, Rick and his cohorts learn the camp may hold its own secrets.  Amid the smiling faces and scantily clad pool boys who staff the camp, a clandestine group plots to discredit the New Revelation and everything it stands for.

If Rick has the conviction to confront his own hypocrisy, he might be able to uncover the conspirators with help from his adopted flock—and find new truths within himself.

Excerpt

Chapter 1

Northern Syria

It was just after sunrise. The call to prayer from the nearby city’s rooftop loudspeakers receded as Dr. Michael Donahue’s driver left a familiar road for the makeshift trails that led deep into the desert. One faith bridged to the next, he thought. Before long, he wouldn’t need the light jacket, but he wore it anyway. It was a mysterious quest, and he tugged the jacket tight around his chest.

The jeep bounced over the rough terrain as Dr. Donahue carefully poured hot water from his thermos over his yerba mate leaves. His second mate would be less bitter than the first. Each time he made a fresh tea, the leaves lost more of their bitterness to the boiling water. The same leaves could be used again and again any given morning. It reminded him of his profession. Archeology was the sober study of the forgotten—people who lived, laughed, suffered, and died, their history diluted by each passing year. Dr. Donahue was determined to learn as much as he needed to reanimate their past with subtle detail, adding context to what would otherwise be merely more than a list of dates and details for his undergraduates to memorize before a test.

As promised, a man stood by the still-empty dig site. He was dressed in a Western style—no keffiyeh or other head dressing. With short sleeves and rugged boots, his attire was more practical than fashionable. Dr. Donahue always appreciated utility and function above much else. He acknowledged that his estimation of the man’s credibility was thus-far unearned, but he nonetheless felt more comfortable in the company of the familiar.

The site had been Dr. Donahue’s home for most of the past year. His team would return after Ramadan. Dr. Donahue’s research specialization centered almost primarily around the early Christian era. He took a certain guilty pleasure in casually admitting his atheism each semester to the newest crop of freshman at his university in Washington, D.C. Like all things, he saw it as a learning opportunity. One is not excused from understanding something just because they don’t agree with it, he’d remind them. The site itself was an early Christian refuge under the Roman Empire. Forgotten by time, but now rediscovered. Painstakingly, he and his team would uncover artifacts and consider what stories they told about the people who made them. Dust from the jeep’s tires made a gritty fog that enveloped the air. Dr. Donahue squinted, his eyes already dry. He coughed and plodded through the sand to the man silently awaiting his arrival.

“Dr. Donahue.” The professor extended his hand to the stranger.

The man took his hand and smiled. “Thank you for coming. Your research associate mentioned your name last year when he worked with us, and we immediately knew we needed to meet with you.”

Dr. Donahue fanned the remaining traces of the sand from his face. “We?”

The man flashed a half smile. “Consider us like yourself, Professor. Archeologists.”

“I would assume, but that doesn’t answer my question.”

The man chuckled. “By the end of the day, I expect that to change. Come. Follow me,” he beckoned.

Still confused, the professor followed the man down the makeshift stairs to the dig site.

“We’re not certain where it was found,” the man said, waving his arm over the site, “but this is likely close and as good a spot as any.”

“What, exactly, was found?”

The man frowned. “Technically, it was never lost. Let me be more precise. This is where it will be rediscovered.”

The professor felt his frustration growing. “What, and by whom?”

The man turned to face the professor, still smiling. “The oldest copy of the Gospel of Mark ever discovered. I’m what we refer to as a Custodian—a group of people committed to protecting this draft as we have done for more generations than our history may account for.”

The professor’s jaw dropped. He looked for answers in the man’s eyes to questions he could not manage to formulate.

“Every truth has its season, professor,” the man said, lowering himself to sit next on an empty crate near an assortment of digging tools. “This region has been plagued with war. We fear that if the artifact is not returned to the world now, it may never be.”

If his research associate hadn’t already vouched so strongly for the meeting, the professor was certain he would have already left the madman in another cloud of obscuring sand. Instead he asked: “Why have you kept it in the first place?”

“It contains a passage not found in any modern text. What’s the American expression? ‘One man’s waste is another man’s treasure’? That’s how our forefathers saw it. They saw something worthy of protection until the world was ready for the message. That time is now.”

Dr. Donahue smiled. His birthday was the following week, and the realization that his research associate might have set this up as an elaborate practical joke began to seem like the most likely explanation. It wouldn’t be out of character for him, he thought.

“So, where is it?” he asked, playing along.

The man pointed to a black chest. Taking the bait, Dr. Donahue carefully lifted the lid, expecting some puppet to pop out and exclaim “Happy Birthday!” Instead, the heavy lid creaked open to reveal a scroll bound in plastic and wound over on itself. His smile faded. Even without the aid of his radiocarbon dating equipment, he could tell the document was old. Very, very old.

***

About the Author

Evan is a member of the LGBTQ community who fancies himself as a playboy socialite, living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Between work and lucid moments of sobriety, he writes a little.  His debut novel is a light-hearted work that still manages to confront religious hypocrisy and contemporary LGBTQ struggles to balance their loss of culture with new-found civil rights.  His friends say the book is great!  Hopefully, you will as well.

Social Media Links

Blog/Website  |   Instagram: @atonementbook  | Newsletter Sign-up

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Guest · Reviews

Guest: Brenda Murphy

Hi…I hope you’ve had a great weekend.

I’m sorry I’ve been so tardy in completing My Way. It will be on its way as soon as I feel better, but I’ve been a bit blighted by injuries of late. All of which have left me in no fit state to give Mac & Joe a fitting ending. On the plus side? The list of things I can’t do have freed me up to do one of the things I love best of all. I read more novels last week than I have for months; authors both new-to-me and firm favourites.

I’d love to share a few of those with you but first and foremost… I’d like to welcome an author from the latter category and celebrate her 2020 Goldie Award for Erotica and the release of her latest novel: On The Square.

My special guest and most beloved f/f author…the brilliant Brenda Murphy.

On The Square by Brenda Murphy

Series: University Square, Book One

Heat Level: 3

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 64400

Website: http://blog.writingwhiledistracted.com/

💜💜💜💜💜

Blurb

Dropped from her television show after a very public split with her cheating ex, celebrity chef Mai Li wants nothing more than to reopen her parents’ shuttered restaurant and make a fresh start in her former hometown. So what if twenty years of neglect has left the building in need of a major renovation?

Seduced by Mai’s charm and determination, hard-edged contractor Dale Miller agrees to take on her renovation project.

After a spring storm causes significant damage to the building and renovation costs exceed Mai’s budget, Dale offers her a deal, but is it a price Mai is willing to pay?

My Review

There is but one way to begin this review. A cards on the dinner table declaration: I loved this novel.

Loved it like Haagen Dazs Pralines ‘n’ Cream with hot fudge sauce and nutty sprinkles. Warm walnut shortbread. Freshly baked bread. Whiskers on kittens. Those are a few of my favourite things…another? This story.

As the blurb covers the plot, I’ll focus on a few more favourites instead:

1. The characters. Always my clincher. The plot doesn’t matter to me as much as people it revolves around…but this book is a buffet of both. A feast of treats; beautifully written with fantastic characters. I adored Mai. Loved her. She’s as hot as hell and as passionate in her beliefs as she is in the bedroom. The sort of woman who would rather surrender everything than the courage of her convictions. Who loves harder than she’s had to be, in order to survive. I’d marry her in a heartbeat. This woman can cook. She’s feisty and fabulous and has dress sense t’die for. I may be a meeny mite in love with her.

2. Dale is the perfect foil for Mai. The sparks that fly at their first meeting set up the story and the start of their relationship wonderfully well. The sexual tension sizzles as fabulously as a flambé. I very much enjoyed the fact that Dale – the lushly curved, femme character – was more dominant than Mai. How I love a tenderhearted butch, but they are oft so few and far between in fiction; where sass takes precedence and attitude is all. I like my badasses with a soft centre. Mai’s is cherry brandy. Rich and luscious with a kirsch kick. Irresistible.

3. Life has been harsh to our heroines. When we meet them they are badly bruised, without being embittered. Dale has been betrayed and her finances decimated by her last long-term lover. Mai has forever suffered a double dollop of discrimination; for being both visibly butch and mixed race. I adored that she not only expressed her anger when treated despicably, but stood up for herself in shovelfuls. Not only that, she took Dale to task for failing to understand the fury she had every right to feel, and did so while retaining her dignity. She was magnificent in her rage, an utter goddess. I loved this woman. I may have mentioned that.

4. This tale has so many more treats to bring to the table. It was splendidly seasoned by the delightful duo of Noah and Eli; Dale’s son and father. Noah is a gem, the story is enriched by his very presence. I adored that Mai was able to connect with him in addition to drawing him out through their mutual love of cookery. He was a joy to spend time with, as was Eli – a fabulous old cove with Cpt. Jack plaits in his beard who tells it like it is – in that wondrous way older folks delight in doing so well.

While Brenda’s writing is always as emotionally rich as it is erotic, it was a real treat to have the former brought to the forefront in On The Square. I relished this more romantic story telling; it was Bailey’s Irish Cream after Tequila Slammers. Both delicious but serving the senses with their own distinct charms.

As hitherto mentioned, Ms Murphy is an award winning writer of erotica. She has always crafted fascinating women as diverse as they are deserving of the happy ever afters she gifts them. In this – the first novel in her new University Square Series – she proves that her characters can whip up a family soufflé as superlatively as they wielded a whip.

💜💜💜💜💜

AMAZON US: https://www.amazon.com/Square-University-Book-ebook/dp/B08FR64BTY/ref=sr_1_1?crid=P8C6I8W5OXRQ&dchild=1&keywords=on+the+square+by+brenda+murphy&qid=1600036471&s=digital-text&sprefix=on+the+squ%2Cdigital-text%2C310&sr=1-1

AMAZON UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Square-University-Book-ebook/dp/B08FR64BTY/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=On+the+Square&qid=1599979054&s=books&sr=1-1&tag=x_gr_w_bb_uk-21

Blog Tour · Guest · Interview

Guest Post: Abstract Love by Sara Dobie Bauer

Hiya,

Today, I’m delighted to welcome my guest, Sara Dobie Bauer with her new novel, Abstract Love. The moment I saw its cover I was hooked. I’m so looking forward to reading Sam & Donovan’s story. 

Special thanks to Sara for being kind enough to be interviewed too. I couldn’t agree with her more about what makes a great story…and very much suspect Abstract Love will prove itself a portrait of exactly that.

 

BLOG TOUR

Book Title: Abstract Love

Author: Sara Dobie Bauer

Publisher: Self-published

Cover Artist: Natasha Snow

Release Date: September 4, 2020

Genre/s: Contemporary MM romance

Trope/s: enemies-to-lovers, age gap, co-workers, office romance,

bisexuality, businessmen, artists, bondage, comedy

Themes: sexual awakening

Possible triggers: depression, suicidal ideations, biphobia

Heat Rating: 4 flames

Length: 71 000 words

It is a standalone book.

Goodreads

 

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US | Amazon UK

 

I hate Sam Shelby. So why do I want to kiss him?

 

 

Blurb

 

 

Sam never expected to move back to Cleveland.

Donovan never expected to be attracted to a man.

Well, shit happens.

After high school, Sam Shelby moved to New York. Eight years later, he returns to Cleveland and lands a job at the best ad firm in town. It would be the perfect gig, if his boss weren’t such an ass.

After his wife leaves, Donovan Cooper questions everything. The arrival of a young, arrogant, gifted graphic designer at Donovan’s firm is the last straw.

Tempers flare over office gossip, and following a nasty argument and scathing kiss, Donovan flails away from heterosexuality while Sam struggles to keep his “no relationship” rule intact.

Despite ugly socks, fiery fights, and their best intentions to not fall in love, these bullheaded coworkers can’t deny their chemistry. Donovan seeks happiness while Sam seeks success, but is there room for more?  

💙

 

Interview with Sara

 

Do you use images to develop your character’s looks?

Oh, for sure! I ROUGHLY base my characters on actors I love. In Abstract Love, for instance, Donovan is Daniel Craig and Sam is Timothee Chalamet. (Yes, the characters are ROUGHLY based on these men, but Sam’s fashion choices are actual outfits Timothee has worn in real life, for better or worse.) In the past, I’ve used Benedict Cumberbatch, Alexander Skarsgard, Armie Hammer, Tilda Swinton, and more.

Are your characters based on people you know?

Not usually, but in the case of Abstract Love, yes. Monica is very much based on my beautiful friend Keri.They have the same hair, tattoos, glasses, and style. They’re both sassy, smart, confident women. I love women who stand out amongst the masses and embrace their identities without fear. That’s Keri.

Do you use your experiences in your books?

I’d say I use my feelings more than my experiences. As a theater minor in college, I used to channel my emotions into my performance on stage, and I’ve transferred that catharsis into my writing. So, nope, you’re not going to see anything autobiographical here, but the emotions—heartbreak, joy, fear—come from a place that is very, very real.

Do you ever get writer’s block?

Nope.

What do you think makes a good story?

Strong, complex, believable characters with chemistry. The plot doesn’t much matter to me if I’m spending time with characters I love. Especially characters with a great sense of humor. I have a weak spot for snarky protagonists. 

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Energize. More than anything else in my life. Except maybe sex. (My mom isn’t going to read this, right?)

What has been one of your most rewarding experiences as an author?

I released Handsome Death in April through Carnation Books. Due to the pandemic, we weren’t sure what kind of sales we might get. The night of the book’s release, my publisher messaged me freaking out. She couldn’t believe the sales numbers. We broke that publishing house’s record that night. I couldn’t sleep. I was so pumped, I stayed up, watched Clue, and drank absinthe. It was such a dark time for me and for the world; Handsome Death’s book birthday was an unexpected bright spot.

What do your friends and family think about you being a writer?

They think it’s awesome … but don’t really understand what it means to be “a writer.” (My hubby is an engineer, so it’s the same when he talks about work. Since his words don’t make sense, I just focus on how hot he is.) My friends and family celebrate new releases and read my books, but my day-to-day existence is a great mystery of the universe to most people. I like it that way.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

Bartend and practice yoga to stay healthy and sane. Oh, and I read. So much reading. 

Do you like music or silence when your write?

SILENCE IS GOLDEN.

Thank you.

 

💙

 

ABSTRACT LOVE 2

Excerpt

Donovan sifted through a few hand-drawn logos on the desk and froze when he found a crudely drawn sketch of himself. Sam must have done it during a meeting at some point, capturing Donovan’s faux hawk, wide jaw, and severe expression.

Jesus, was this what other people saw when they looked at him? Did he really look so miserable?

“Make yourself at home?” Donovan dropped the picture and stood straight at the sound of Sam’s voice. He leaned against the doorframe, with one ankle crossed over the other.

“It’s really bullshit when people say that, you know?” Sam said. “Make yourself at home. No one actually wants their friends to take off their pants, drink all their beer, and binge The Great British Bake Off.” He paused. “What are you doing in my office?”

“I didn’t mean to snoop.”

The office door closed as he stepped inside. “Sure you did, or you wouldn’t be in here, so what’s up?”

Sam circled the desk, so Donovan circled the other way, although he noticed it was true what coworkers said: Sam did smell good—like clean laundry and cedar.

“I think we started off on the wrong foot.” Sam snort laughed and flipped through some files on his desk.

“More like wrong continent, man.” When he found what he was looking for, he tapped the file’s corner against his palm. “I can handle guys like you, you know.” Donovan shifted back on his heels.

“Guys like me?”

“Hmm. Corporate assholes. All you see are dollar signs. You take no pleasure in your work. Advertising is money to you, not art, but without the artists, there wouldn’t be advertising, so…”

He sucked his cheeks into his mouth, a momentary fish face.

Donovan wanted to tell him it wasn’t true. Donovan loved art. He used to love art.

Sam continued, “I know I look like a six-foot-two Disney princess, but you’re not gonna rattle me.” To prove his point, Sam got right up in Donovan’s personal space until Donovan took a step back. Again, he was not used to dealing with someone his own height. “And I’m right about the Great Lakes ad campaign. If you’d pull your head out of your ass, maybe you’d notice.” He turned away abruptly.

“Sam.”

“What?”

“I’m sorry.” Ouch, that hurt coming out.

Sam’s rebuttal: “Prove it.”

“Excuse me?” He rested a hand on the desk and cocked his hip out—the very picture of young attitude.

“Listen to me in meetings.”

“I was listening.”

“Nope.” He shook his head and ran a hand through his unkempt, unprofessional hair. “No, you were hearing. I need you to listen. There’s a difference. And I know I’m just some fucking kid to you, but I ruled the New York City advertising scene. I know what I’m doing, Donovan, so let me do it.”

“Fine.” He’d had enough. He’d apologized, okay, so he’d done his Monica-enforced duty. He didn’t owe Sam anything else.

He didn’t run for the door, but he definitely moved with speed.  

 

💙

 

About the Author

Sara Dobie Bauer is a bestselling author, model, and mental health / LGBTQ advocate with a creative writing degree from Ohio University. She lives with her hottie husband and two precious pups in Northeast Ohio, although she’d really like to live in a Tim Burton film.

 

 

Author Links

Blog/Website | Facebook | Private Facebook Group

Twitter | Instagram | Newsletter Sign-up | Freebies

 

Hosted by Gay Book Promotions

 

Follow the tour and check out the other blog posts, interviews, and reviews here

 

💙

 

Wafflish

My Way 52

Hi…this chapter brings us to the end of Part 1 of My Way. It’s grown in the re-writing and now totals around 95,000 words. When I began, I believed that I’d written about 70% of the full story, but there’s so much more I’d love to tell. You’ve p’raps read 50% or thereabouts?😳

This seems the perfect place to leave off…with p’raps an epilogue or a preview chapter to Part 2. Still to come: the tour, album launch, Junkie Joe & His Mystery Man hit the headlines. Lots more sex, drugs & rock ‘n’ roll. All manner of mishaps, mischief and mayhem along the way to their Happy Ever After, Amen.

Thank you for reading and for all your support, it means so much.🥰

.

.

My Way

 

 

62 Joe

 

Joe was still reeling when he shrugged the strap of his acoustic over his shoulder to sing the rough sketch of the song he’d scrambled together from snippets of lyrics. They’d kept creeping up on him unawares all weekend; fragments of thought Joe had stashed away in his box of scraps till they told their full story. Sort of like the one at primary school—filled with odds n’ sods, cartons, boxes ’n’ buttons, loo roll tubes, tin foil and bottle tops for arts ’n’ craft projectsexcept it was stuffed with random bits of rhyme and ramblings. 

A single word had strung all those snippets together, but it was Bowie, oddly nuff, who handed Joe a hook to hang them on. Then. The next stop on the station to station trip called life.

To be or not to be, me. Smack sodden, strung out on dope. Tattered torn, lost forlorn. Then was hope, shimmering on the horizon. The strongest link to fuse the lyrics that kept infiltrating Joe’s head, here, there ’n’ everywhere. The new verse had tripped off his tongue the moment all the puzzle pieces had slotted into place. He’d always written as fast as he thought…that bit was easy. It was the polishing up part that took more time—which he hadn’t had—so Joe had been unable to fiddle or fine tune it. A fact that made its already daunting debut—in the most knee-knocking of circumstances—feel a lot like flinging himself out of a plane without a parachute.

The ‘sneering’ accusation was way worse than the fury with which Mac spat it at Joe. Nothing could have been further from the truth Mac insisted on. The ‘Psycho Killer’ ringtone had been a bit of mischief to take the edge off the fact Joe felt as if he’d been outfitted with an electronic tag, like a prisoner on probation. Or a set of kiddie reins to stop him toddling off and getting into trouble.

Sneer? Joe hadn’t even had a huff, let alone sneeredif it p’raps gets lost, will you wheel out the shock collar, or leg irons next?

The very next time Psycho Killer tootled through Joe’s thoughts, it ushered in a couplet t’die for:

Psycho Killer qu’est-ce que c’est, I did it myyy wayyy.

Irrésistible, non? So, a medley it was; the first verse, then half of Psycho’s chorus, segueing straight into My Way.

The latter came about because Joe’s brain had started humming to itself the second ‘My Way’ left Mac’s lips. It sang itself…could anyone hear those words without winding up with an ear worm?

Joe didn’t have a ‘reason’ for wanting to play them, that implied a ‘motive’. A means to an end. Joe rarely had reasons. He did stuff or he didn’t. He never consciously thought: what will happen if I do this? Or vice versa: doing this will cause… Joe’s ideas and decisions were instantaneous. Thus, the moment My Way was mooted, this happened: song/set list.  This did not: song>motive>set list. 

Mr doesnae feel a thing McBadass sure seemed to feel lots of things about something Joe hadn’t spent a second pondering. The two tunes had taken up residence in Joe’s head alongside Mac. There wasn’t a thing he could do to dislodge them. 

Joe had never been able to reason things through, but he could backtrack, after the fact. Retrace his footsteps in reverse. From outcome to origin:  

  • Debuting the new song. 
  • It’s placement in the set list after ‘Is This It’ reflected the fact that it was written as an answer of sorts. An unequivocal No. There was more. There was ‘Then.
  • ‘Then’ picked up where the refrainIs this it? No you, for me? No ‘mine’ nor ‘we’. Merely I, myself, and my enemeleft off.
  • Is this it, all there’ll ever be…was the fear Joe had sought oblivion from when ‘yes’ seemed certain: A fix to fix/hope departed/Hole hearted.
  • The original set list occupied about…five percent of Joe’s headspace (he may have rounded that up). The rest was…bedevilled by badass. Taking into account that ratio? The likelihood that Joe would walk on stage and sing twenty songs about not-Mac? Zilch.
  • Gig rehearsals.
  • Drive to London
  • And how.
  • Arrival of badass to whip Joe’s into shape…

True to form, the very thing he’d longed for most had rendered him horror-stricken with happiness. Joe’s joy was a fearful thing. A petrifying tumult of emotion, as terrible as a beast crouched beneath the bed. A feeling so intense, it left him its loss short of insanity.

Mac made Joe feel safe. A fact that triggered terror. A very specific terror he recognised all-too well. Joe felt it every single time his stash started running low. Or, someone mentioned rehab. Or, his dealer was two minutes late. Or, he couldn’t find a vein that wasn’t shot to shit.

A truth that made: ‘the sooner you’re done, the quicker you can get back to what really matters’ a travesty of it.

“That’s not fair…” Joe’s limp as last week’s lettuce rebuttal incited the retort it deserved.

“Prove it.” 

That? Joe could do. 

It’s all I can do. The only thing…worth anything. Just let me show you…

 So he did.

Prove it…propelled Joe through the studio door with the pizzazz of a man with a plan. The flinty glint that remained riveted to Joe’s person was rocket fuel up his arse as he careered through the set list like a man possessed. He must have sung the right songs in some semblance of order, cos the lads seemed to be playing much the same one, at the same time, which p’raps hadn’t been a…sure thing of late.

Slick with sweat, running on fumes, Joe played as if he were headlining Glastonbury, rather than rattling through a few tunes for one man and nary a dog. He lost all track of time, place, space. There was just his music, and Mac. Thus, it was a wee bit dazedly that Joe tugged the strap of his Fender over his head when a second guitar was wafted in front of his face. Severing his focus on eyes so potent he’d started to suspect they had superpowers. Panther-stalking-prey-powers at the very least.  The latter shouldn’t have been as hot as hell, particularly when the mere threat of curtailed freedom customarily made Joe clammy with dread. 

After shrugging the strap of the semi-acoustic into place, Joe lifted his head. Sought, found, that agate gaze and dragged in a deep breath. He must have taken another at some point, or he would’ve dropped dead, and Joe didn’t…so, it seemed safe to say he pulled that much off with aplomb. Whether he could claim the same about the song itself was a lot less certain. By the time he’d finished crooning the first verse and chorus, Mac looked…a mite shell-shocked. It was trickier to tell if that was a good or bad thing.

“As snug as the hug 

Of a drug haze

Lazy days, lost ways 

A last-past-the-post maze

Of nowhere fast…”

All Joe had ever been able to trust were the truths he cloaked in melody and rhyme. Seeking solace in structure, shaping their form, shrouding his secrets in simile and metaphor. Crafting a suit of armour to protect his inner self from the outside world.

The truth and nothing but, Mr McBadass? So be it.

*

Joe formed a chord, licked his lips, and ignored.

All reason why, or why not. Then, threw in his lot.  

 

“A Nowhere Man

With no hope plans

All tattered, torn, 

So lost, forlorn

What a blast

It’s been.

 

The future is green… “

 

 ***

 

 

Guest · New Release · Release Blitz

Guest: Now or Never by Helena Stone

Hi…

A warm welcome to my special guest, the very lovely Helena Stone with her new novel ‘Now or Never’. 💜

RELEASE BLITZ

Book Title: Now or Never

Author: Helena Stone

Publisher: Helena Stone

Cover Artist: Emmy Ellis

Release Date: August 23

Genre/s: Contemporary M/M Romance

Trope/s: Hurt Comfort, Older Virgin, Distant (not quite enemies) to lovers

Themes Self acceptance

Heat Rating: 4 flames

Length: approx. 69 000 words/ 192 pages

It is part of a series but can be read alone.

Goodreads

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US | Amazon UK

When the past intrudes, can two lost souls forge a future together?

Blurb

Karl’s carefully erected walls are crumbling. Giving up sex and relationships made perfect sense when he was eighteen. For a decade, he poured all his time and effort into his flourishing career. Doubts crept in the first time Karl met Leo and now, after two years of avoiding him, Karl is in charge of training Leo.

Leo loves his life in The Blowhole. Entertaining the guests during explicit shows under Roger’s guidance meets Leo’s needs and keeps his demons at bay. When Roger leaves, Leo’s job expands but he’s assigned to work with Karl, the General Manager who appears to detest him, and Leo’s anxiety blossoms. It wouldn’t be so bad if Leo hadn’t been attracted to Karl from the first moment he saw him.

Two men. A truck-load of insecurities and an attraction that can’t be denied. When the full horror of Leo’s past comes to light, will their fledgling connection be strong enough to weather the storm?

Now or Never_Out Now_Insta

Excerpt

Karl approached the table, put the white ball on its spot, bent his large frame forward, and took his shot. Karl’s cue action was so powerful, the colored balls parted as if a fuse had been lit underneath them. Leo fully expected at least a few of them to disappear into the pockets, but much to his surprise, none went down.

“Your turn.” Karl stepped back from the table.

“I’m spoiled for choice.” Leo grinned as he got in position for his first shot. He picked his ball, pulled back his cue arm and gently rolled the red ball into the pocket behind it.

A few minutes later, after he’d pocketed all the solid colors as well as the winning black eight-ball, Leo straightened and turned to Karl, unable to keep himself from smirking.

“Fair enough.” Karl laughed. “That’s my arse well and truly handed to me.” He approached the table, gathered the balls and set them up for the next game. “No more Mister Nice Guy.”

It took all Leo had not to spray his mouth full of Bacardi and Coke across the room. Until recently ‘Mister Nice Guy’ would have been the last words he’d have used to describe Karl. Then again, the Karl he’d worked with these five past days had been kind, patient, and accommodating. If it hadn’t been for the few times Leo had caught Karl staring at him with a slight frown on his face, Leo would have thought he’d only imagined Karl’s remoteness in the past.

Afraid he’d lose himself in his mostly inexplicable thoughts again, Leo returned his glass to the shelf and approached the table. After he put chalk on the tip of the cue and made sure the white ball was in the right spot, Leo bent forward. For a moment he swayed, and he had to reposition his feet to get his balance right. Then he moved his arm back and gave it his all as he shot the white ball toward the triangle of colored and striped balls, fervently hoping at least one of them would go down.

“Damn.” No such luck. Leo turned around, fully expecting to find Karl smirking at him, only to find Karl’s gaze fixed on his…groin?

“Your turn.”

Karl raised his head and stared at Leo, clearly shocked by his brusque tone. Leo understood his surprise: he wasn’t sure where that sound had come from, either. The red flush on Karl’s cheeks, on the other hand, was unexpected.

Leo took a long drink from his glass as soon as he reached it before facing the table so he could watch Karl pot the first striped ball. Was he really looking at my package? Leo side-eyed his cocktail, wondering if it had been a drink too many after all. Surely there was no possible scenario in which Karl, the man known for never showing any sexual preference or interest, would be checking Leo out?

As Leo’s mind spun with unanswerable questions, Karl continued potting balls, one after the other. Just as Leo had in the previous game, he looked set to clear the table in one visit. Leo smiled. Karl was a worthy opponent.

“Fuck.” Karl whispered the word under his breath, but not too soft for Leo to hear him.

One glance at the table told Leo what Karl’s problem was. Karl only needed to pot the black in order to win. But, the white and the black ball were positioned in such a way that unless Karl shot the white at two or three cushions before hitting the black, it would take quite a stretch to make the shot.

Karl took up position next to the table and lifted his left leg, resting it on the edge, before bending at the waist and stretching.

Leo had meant to watch the shot. He’d had no intention of focusing on Karl, but he did, and his breath faltered for a moment. The material of Karl’s black pants gripped the thigh that rested on the table, showing the feint outline of muscles. And…Dear God…Karl’s arse was glorious under the stretched fabric.

Karl straightened and Leo snapped out of his daze. He threw a quick glance at the table and saw the black ball had disappeared. In the end he hadn’t even seen Karl make the shot. Because you were too busy admiring his arse. Leo almost groaned out loud when he remembered how he’d wriggled when he’d lined up his shot to start the game. Karl had been looking at an arse, too, which was at the same height as Leo’s groin. So when Leo had turned…

AON_Quote Suit_FB

About the Author

Helena Stone can’t remember a life before words and reading. After growing up in a household where no holiday or festivity was complete without at least one new book, it’s hardly surprising she now owns more books than shelf space while her Kindle is about to explode.

The urge to write came as a surprise. The realisation that people might enjoy her words was a shock to say the least. Now that the writing bug has well and truly taken hold, Helena can no longer imagine not sharing the characters in her head and heart with the rest of the world.

Having left the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam for the peace and quiet of the Irish Country side she divides her time between reading, writing, long and often wet walks with the dog, her part-time job in a library, a grown-up daughter and her ever loving and patient husband.

NOW 2

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Follow the tour and check out the other blog posts and reviews here

Wafflish

My Way 51

 

My Way

 

 

62 Mac

 

 

 

“Fuck.” Adam’s expletive splintered the shimmering silence; reverberating with the echo of the last chord strummed. He appeared rather startled, Mac noted with a sense of satisfaction he found…unsettling, to say the least. “That was bloody blindingand I’m not just talking ‘tight’I’m talking the dog’s bollocks. If you play like that on Wednesday, I’ll be cursing the fact I never booked a film crew. Then I could get on the blower to Amazon or Netflix or whatever, telling ’em that the stakes have just been raised to Six Foot Four…” 

“From Five Foot Two, I take it? That’s just blasphemy, that,” Connor declared. “And, just for the record? Sizeist, too. Waving surplus inches about in the faces of the press is an alliterative accident waiting to ’appen, I reckon.  Junkie Joe’s Junk, just sayin’. Biiig mistake. Jinormous.”

“Christ, you’ve had your Shreddies this morning, Con. Don’t tempt him, or it’ll be trending on twitter before y’know it. If only to start a bidding war,” Luke groaned. 

“Sometimes, you scare me, Three Shredded Wheats Watson…” Connor shot him a suspicious side-eye that made Luke splutter a snort of laughter. Not quite as taciturn as he seems at first acquaintance. Mac patently hadnae paid Joe’s drummer the attention he merited. Overlooking the ‘strong silent type’ was never wise. Mac should have clearly polished off some crunchy nutters after his bacon (and Joe’s).

As for the all-day breakfast habits of this band? Mac was starting to suspect their rider would prove more scandalous than egregious inches, if it was leaked to the media. Cereal addicts, the lot of ’em. Should anyone suggest renaming Psycho Killer? Mac couldnae be answerable for the consequences.

“You lot can stick your cardboard breakfasts where the sun don’t shine. I’m a meat man, m’self,” Jez smirked. “Lightweights, the lot of you…if Mac didn’t put away a Full English this morning, then I quit. Mac, save me, please.” The imploring puppy-dog-eyes Jez turned on Mac were as priceless as the fact they’d patently been perfected to stymie someone’s lash-batting terror tactics.

“Gladly…” Mac obliged with a conspiratorial grin. “Two, in fact.”

“Ha. That’s it, he’s a keeper. I rescind my resignation. I’ll stay if Mac does. Speaking of grub, I’m starving…and Joe is suspiciously silent. Y’okay, Fitz?” 

“Hmm…?” Joe blinked, swivelling an abstracted gaze Jez’s way, or thereabouts. “I was…thinking. I need a pen…and a piano. Dammit, I didn’t bring my flute. Well, I did, but it’s at The Berkeley. Ah well, no matter, I don’t need it now-now.”

“You don’t need a piano either, you were going to play the new song. The last new song before this new song—the one I’m prepared to eat all your hats if you forget—so I reckon you’re good to go. Colour me curious, I’m intrigued…and famished. I have a hot date with a Bulgogi and a pair of thigh-high boots, so…If you’d be so kind, Mr. Fitzgerald?” Jez swept a flourish of his wrist mic-wards with a half bow and all the flair of a compere at The Royal Variety Performance.

Mac had to concede that Joe had a point on the too similar to find one another irresistible front. Brains like twin-barrelled scatterguns. As brilliant as they were batshit bonkers. Mac couldnae recall the last time he’d found company quite so…entertaining. 

His squaddie days, perhaps? He didnae do ‘nostalgia’ but he may have missed the camaraderie of those early years. Rising in the ranks didnae come accompanied by a barrel of laughs—it was a trade-off of sorts—respect in exchange for comradeship. Mates. Men whose lives were worth trading your own for. Rather than your duty to do so. 

Special Forces had demanded a different kind of…kinship. Brothers In Arms in extremis. Since then, Mac had existed on the peripheries of all that made a man human. It was the life of a lone predator, and he relished the self-reliance. Considered himself independent, as opposed to isolated. Free to roam at liberty, eradicating the liberties less discerning bastards took with more deserved lives. 

All of which made it…interesting that Mac had taken to this eclectic bunch of blokes, when indifference had best described his dealings with Stateside showbiz types. His insights into the music business, on the other hand, had proved…disappointing, at best. Irritating, more often than not but then, he’d previously been contracted to protect ‘pop stars’ from screamers…rather than musicians, from themselves. 

“Okay…keep your dreads on, drama llama. I feel decidedly underdressed now.”

Whether the absence of said bootsor The Palladium intro were more responsible wasnae elaborated onwhich was perhaps just as well. Particularly if Jez was to be spared starvation and kinky-boot induced cripple cock. 

“It still needs work, sorry…but I want to include it,” Joe scuffed his toe, staring at his feet, strangely…abashed. 

“I wouldn’t worry about it. I suspect there’d be demands for a refund if you didn’t meander off on some ramshackle ditty,” Connor snickered..

“Half naked…at least,” Luke chipped in.  At least? Over my dead body. The miscreant would find himself carted off stage if that looked likely, even if it caused a goddamn riot.

“Quit gassing you lot and let him get on with it then, before Jez’s dinner winds up in the dog,” Adam advised, with a despairing eyeroll for Mac’s ‘benefit’. 

Connor handed Joe his semi-acoustic before heading over to join Mac, his expression one of keen interest, rather than impish amusement, which was a first. 

“Okay…” The sheen of sweat glistening on Joe’s face looked thick enough to drag a finger through, like condensation on glass. It had been a fair few hours since his ‘breakfast’. “’S called…’Then’.”

Then. Thank God Mac was sitting down, it wasnae so far for his jaw to drop. Then: a word he’d mooted even more recently than that last fix. Had Joe written an entire song since? Mac had assumed that Adam must’ve eavesdropped on the ‘new’ one Joe played in the car during their journey. 

Then. Fuck.

It’s…all I can do. The only thing…worth anything. Just let me show you…trust me, you said. I know you don’t trust me…and I don’t blame you, I don’t…but this? Tell me one thing you trust yourself to do, Mac…

Mac couldnae recall the last time he’d felt a creeping sense of shame leech the colour from his face. Or been so thoroughly blindsided. If the devil himself spent forever plotting? Mac couldnae imagine a more lethal plague on his person than discovering who the fuck Joe Fitgerald was.

The first trickle of notes that tripped from Joe’s strings were tentative, as if he were feeling his way into the song…unless it was supposed to sound that way. 

Wide asleep…” Two words…and the tempo made sense. Joe left them lingering in the air while playing a few more bars before the confirmation came. 

Pupils pinned…” Another pause for a repetition of the riff that made Mac’s tendons reverberate in response, twang tight, as tense as muscles steeled to spring.

“From station to station…” Christ. Joe had heard what…three seconds of ‘Time’? Before rewinding it to—incidentally—the best of Bowie incarnations. 

Mac could only be grateful that he was too staggered to register the full impact of the next few lines. Unleashed in swift succession to spear him like lightning strikes. Sung to Mac—at him—in smoky tones as seductive as opium fumes and eyes ablaze with dark fire drilled him to his seat: 

“Then. Came a thunder clap 

A steel-sprung snare trap

My lean mean lethal machine…

A clash of contrasts as extreme…

As whispers in the wind.

Or the soft susurration

Of summer rain

To soothe, succour, sustain…”

My lean mean lethal machine? Thunder clap? He’d transformed Mac into steel-jaw trap Thor. Poetic licence assuredly, but even then; a superhero was the last thing on Earth Mac resembled. That part was too outlandish to focus on—sheer wordsmithery wrought by a Romantic—with my resounding around his head.

My…my…my…was the sound of a ‘Word on a Wing’. Mac was still listening to its echo when Joe started strumming rather than finger pickingthe strings. When he began to sing, his voice was a ripple of velvet ribbon weaving its way through the words:

As hollow as a heart without hope 

Smack sodden, strung out on dope, 

And pipe dreams in the sky dreams

The lost boy left behind beams

Safe on shore Lost no more

Mon amour Dur à cuire…

 *

Joe…hollow hearted, alone in a land of lost dreams. ‘Drowning’ in smack, until…deposited safely on shore. By mon amour Dur à cuireMon Dieu.

Mac’s French and Italian were…good enough to get by when a target was based in mainland Europe. He tended to be  dispatched there more often than most, because he could pass as a native, apparently. Until he opened his mouth, of course…but still. Mac sure as hell recognised the expression dur à cuire: Badass. Hard-nut. Bulldog.

Mon amour dur à cuire… 

Merde.

 

***

 

Wafflish

My Way 50

My Way

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61 Mac

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Mac regretted mooting the ‘bandmates-with-benefits arrangement’ the moment he’d all but spat said accusation at Joe. For a multitude of reasons, first and foremost being the fact it revealed far too much for comfort.

While he’d never been lazy, envy was the only other deadly sin Mac wasnae guilty of. He was riddled with vices, most of which he valued above his scant virtues; none of which had ever served him well. Quite the contrary, he considered them weaknesses. Mac had done his damnedest to suppress, if not eradicate, anything that reeked of ‘softness’. Pity, in particular, was lethal—he’d quashed that like a beetle beneath his boot—the most fearsome of foes couldnae compare.  

Mac didnae want to watch the world burn. Nothing so…noble. Fire could be considered purifying. Mac couldnae claim to be a righteous man. Nor a decent one. He dealt in vengeance and death. Killed in cold blood. He was a weapon without a cause, pointed at a target, as injudicious as death itself. A reaper of revenge. Mac took out the trash. Men he deemed worse than he.

Playing God? No, far from it. He didnae cull innocents. Not even as ‘collateral damage’. That was a crime he’d only committed for Queen and Country…and the main reason Mac no longer did. The other…? Doing so while living half a life himself. An existence that required him to kill to order, but denied him the right to love. Openly.

Psycho Killer? Joe’s tongue-in-cheek tease, and taken as such. ‘Paint it Black’ would’ve been more fitting…except Mac had never shied from facing up to the fact his world was as black as his heart. But jealous wasnae Mac’s colour.

Or, hadnae been. Who the fuck is Joe Fitzgerald, indeed…

Aside from the miscreant intent on pointing the Psycho Killer finger at Mac in front of thousands, that is. Fair enough…it was their secret code of sorts. Ringtone of the McBatphone; the only one Joe answered. It might even be considered a…fond nod to that fact. But…in tandem with My Way? It became something else entirely. A piss-take from the safety of a stage. A very public one. 

What did I do wrong? You can’t say nothing, cos Jez noticed too…‘ 

Yes. Mac could: Nothing…yet.

As for Connor? If it ever happened, neither of us noticed, so I wouldn’t worry about it. Even if you weren’t the last man who fell to Earth who might need to...’

“Why might that be?” Mac enquired. He was wound so tight, his voice sounded flat, devoid of feeling. Verging on bored…as if he couldnae care less. Nothing could’ve been further from the truth.

“You know why. I promised. I meant it.” Joe shrugged, too casual to possibly be so. As was the way he flicked the butt of his cigarette to the floor and ground it beneath the heel of his boot. 

“You expect me to believe that while sneering at me in the most public way possible? My Way?” Mac retorted. “The song itself has that covered…but Sid even sang it as a sneer. That’s just the half of it—”

“No!” Joe cried, cutting him off. “No, It’s none of it. It was never about that! I jus-just wanted to…it’s the only way I know—that I could show—I, Mac, I—” Joe broke off, digging his fingers into his scalp, as if intent on tearing his hair out. “You’ll see…please? It’s…all I can do. The only thing…worth anything. Just let me show you…trust me, you said. I know you don’t trust me…and I don’t blame you. I don’t…but this? Tell me one thing you trust yourself to do, Mac. One thing above all else?” Joe demanded, spearing Mac with an accusing stare.

If midnight burst into flame it would look like those eyes.

“You know damn well, which is why you’re asking…and yet, you want confirmation. Christ knows why…you want me to tell you how it feels? It doesnae. That is why you don’t want to know, Joe. So, go in there, sing your song, tell your truth. I asked for it, after all,” Mac snorted. “My terms. My Way…” Fuck.  

He chews ’em up and spits ’em out like cherry pips…

Oh, but not me? Arrogant arse.

Mac raked a despairing hand through his hair.. “C’mon…let’s get back. The sooner you’re done, the quicker you can get back to what really matters.”

“That’s not fair.” Joe rounded on him like a spiky kitten with eyes spitting sparks.

“Prove it.” Mac returned, resorting to icy indifference. He had fuck all else to safeguard himself from Joe Fitzgerald.  Yanking the door open, Mac jerked his head to indicate ‘you first’ and followed his flouncing charge back inside.

Mac had blown it. Buggered his remit to deliver Joe in a fit state to function in one fell swoop…and for what? A bruised ego? Petty point scoring? Jealously? Pathetic. Fuck knows what Joe’s bandmates would wind up suffering for Mac’s utter ineptitude. He’d pretty much pulled the pin from the grenade and tossed it into the rehearsal room.

Blowing out a regretful breath, Mac followed in Joe’s wake. Possibly to attend a rehearsal for that of their careers.

*

“Thanks for holding the fort. Is everyone good to go?” Joe breezed into the studio for all the world as if he’d just been for an invigorating walk in the woods. “I don’t expect it t’be pitch perfect, I just want to feel m’way through. So, same set list, ‘cept the new song…I’ll play it solo after ‘Is This It’. We may as well do the covers last, for now. I just want to rattle through from start to finish…so, no worries on the bum note front, just carry on regardless. Adam…I’ve decided to use ‘Cat People’ as the intro music, if you’d be so kind as to sort it…” 

“The whole set, without…pause?” Connor sounded incredulous. “Who are you? And what the bejeezus have you done with…etcetera, etcetera…?”

“Shurrup O’Donnell and do your plinking thing.” Joe sniffed, affecting affront, as he selected a guitar from the rack and shrugged it’s strap over his shoulder. “Ready?”

“As you’ll ever be…” Connor grinned, taking his place at a mic to the left of Joe’s, set centre ‘stage’.

“Damn cheek…” Joe just winked, spinning on his heel to face Luke.

The next hour was the most staggering sixty minutes Mac (as sure as shit hitting the fan) hadnae foreseen when Joe stomped off in a huff…a few minutes beforehand. He stood, leaning against the wall, arms folded, legs crossed at the ankles, little knowing what to expect. Either in content or…commitment. Joe’s jaunty air had suggested they were about to launch into little more than a rough jam, ‘bum notes’ and all. 

Mac, of course, had only heard Joe play one song; a ballad as achingly raw as the impact it wreaked. Thus, the sudden surge of sound that crashed against his ears was as unexpected as it was exhilarating. A breath-snatching assault of sheer power and musical prowess. As staggering as the intensity of Joe’s delivery…the irony weaved by its words. Even its title was an oxymoron. Bedsit Busker. Buskers played in public for passersby who tossed pennies into a hat. A bedsit suggested a bleak box room in a busy city…a tableau of loneliness. It definitely did to a teenage ‘Gutterheart’ who’d sought solace in the lyrics of Marc Almond and Morrisey while stripping himself back to sinew and bone. Deadening the truth that would destroy his future before Mac even embarked upon it. 

The bleakness of the bedsit song was followed by a swift succession of melodies as irresistible as the mind from whence they’d sprung; running a gamut of emotion from one end of the scale to the other. Minor chords of melancholy entwined with deceptively intricate ditties, and refrains as immediate as they were infectious.

Had that been all? Mac would’ve declared that Joe had a gift for knocking up a great hook, but that was the least of it. Those mellifluous melodies merely framed—shaped—the stories Joe told. With an intonation as uniquely his own as any artist could lay claim to. Some songs could be sung by anyone…others belonged entirely, exclusively, to their singer. Words that could’ve only frothed forth from the wellspring that was (who the fuck is) Joe Fitzgerald. The click of that tongue, the roll of his rrrr’s, the moue of his mouth. Inimitable.

The lyrics themselves were a revelation. Lyrics? They were poetry, pure and far from simple. If Mac hadnae seen them flow from Joe’s fingertips with startling fluidity, he would’ve thought they’d been meticulously crafted—wrangled to his will—honed and perfected over hours, days, weeks, months…and maybe they had been. But Mac felt somehow sure their essence had been captured in one frenzy of focus so intense, Joe wouldnae have noticed if the world had burst into flames, until his paper and pencil followed suit.

Words that swept Mac along on a tidal wave of emotion. From the most incisive clatter of self-contempt never spat by John Lydon to the unbearable tenderness of a ballad Joe and Jez coaxed from semi-acoustic guitars.  ‘Is This It’—the song Joe had referenced at the start—was the former. A track as bitter-sweet as it was brutal, pulling no punches as it battered its subject with scorn, mocked it with disdain…and left him for dead. 

“Hey Joe, where’d you go…

Why d’you stay

Washed up, wasted, 

Scoring day to day.

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Is this it? All there’ll ever be?

Tall poppy tales

from the toppermost tree?

A brief relief 

from being me?

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And so I flail, 

from fail to fail

From fix to fix

A fix to fix

hope departed 

Hole hearted.

Numbing the ache

Yours to take.

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Is this it? All there’ll ever be?

Filthy lucre n’ kicks for free?

No you, for me?

Never to hear 

A ‘mine’ nor ‘we’...

Without thee. Who’d you be? Is this it…no you, for me? No ‘mine’ nor ‘we’. Merely…I, myself, and my eneme...”

*

The entire song was a teeth gnashing crash of futility. As poignant as it was precise in its dismemberment. Rage, regret and self-recrimination, directed inwards and out. Delivered by a Joe Fitzgerald Mac would’ve been prepared to swear he’d never met in his bloody life. Gone was the gawky grace of those long, lean lines…in it’s place? Joe was all sharp corners and spiky limbs, as fluid as freeform jazz…and yet, as mesmeric as a metronome.

Mac sat, spellbound by this stranger with Joe’s eyes. For they could belong to no other. They drilled him to the seat he must have sunk on to, at some point. Implored far more than Mac could afford to surrender. Ablaze with fearful fury, as cruel as glass shards ground against skin. It didnae seem possible that one gaze could ache with such intense vulnerability and yet, spit such vitriol. The latter felt like being spattered by needlepoints of hot fat. Soothed, by imploring pools of drowning brown in the very next breath. 

Only once had Mac felt quite so besieged; as brain scrambling, breath-snatching experiences went? It sure had waterboarding beat. An endurance test he’d emerged from sane. Whether Mac would survive the next few days in a fit state to function, was a whole other matter.

Moreover, as it soon transpired? Joe had barely begun…

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***