Crushes by Jessica Lauryn – Guest Blog and Giveaway

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Jessica Lauryn whose second book in her Rabourn Theater series, An Amorous Dance was released last month. Leave a comment for a chance to win a digital copy of the first book in the series A Passionate Play.

Always a romantic at heart, I experienced a number of crushes as I was growing up, beginning in grade school and continuing on into my adult years. Each and every time that I fell for someone new I believed that, this time, I was really, truly in love. My heart would flutter when that handsome guy I was secretly pining for would come by, smile in my direction, talk to me, flirt with me, make me feel as though I was the only woman in his world. When I began to explore the world of romance novels, I realized I was not unlike the heroine who falls for the man in her life—sometimes right for her, sometimes wrong—but always in close proximity, a most important part of her world. Living such experiences made them authentic for me and reading about them made me see just how powerful that feelings can become when characters know one another for a long time, their whole lives perhaps, harboring feelings that hold the ability to forever change the course of their relationship, for worse, for better, for happily ever after.

None of my own crushes ever became the real thing. But I spent so much time wondering if they could that the creative side of my imagination often took the liberty of creating scenarios—stories in which such possibilities took an idealistic turn, after a great amount of effort and strife, of course. Years later, I wrote stories like as An Amorous Dance, (a second-chance romance) with this very idea in mind, the idea that feelings deepen over time, that love is strong between two people who’ve known and cared about one another for as long as they can remember. Sometimes characters don’t even realize they’re in love. But we the reader can see what they cannot and when the moment comes when feelings can no longer be denied, we are right there, crying, and cheering right along with them!

I’ve read, and written, a number of stories in which a hero and heroine are meeting for the first time, in which there’s love that comes at first sight, in which there is an instant connection. But there’s something very special about couples who share a past. The past connects us and it makes us who we are. And when characters grow together, they grow together in love, and that is a love that never dies!

When Hannah Rabourn, daughter of Rabourn Theater’s late owner, is attacked, a surge of flashes prompts her to consider that her father may have been murdered. Hannah’s antagonistic stage director insists her subconscious is merely seeking closure. But as she and Evan become close once again, Hannah’s suspicions about the past deepen, and she wonders whether the man she’s falling in love with for the second time knows more than he’s letting on.

Evan Masters’s dreams were shattered when theater-owner Baron Rabourn destroyed his budding acting career. Having forged an alliance with Rabourn’s former partner, Evan assumed a mission to transform Rabourn Theater into what it always should have been. Fellow conspirators believe Rabourn’s daughter is the key to power, and Evan is the means by which to achieve their ends.

But Evan’s feelings for Hannah are stronger than he believed. And when he realizes Hannah’s life is in danger, he must decide between his passion and his heart.

About the Author:Jessica Lauryn is the author of the bestselling romantic suspense series, The Pinnacles of Power. The Romance Reviews says that her debut release, Dangerous Ally, has, “All the twists that a good suspense should have with just the right amount of passion and romance!” Jessica is a proud member of Romance Writers of America as well as her local chapter, New Jersey Romance Writers, for which she has served on the executive board in several capacities. She has a talent for remembering her dreams, many of which are explored in detail in her stories. Though she resides in central New Jersey, her heart will forever belong to the picturesque White Mountains of northern New Hampshire.

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Buy the book at Bookstrand.

Cross My Heart by Catt Ford – Spotlight and Giveaway


Long and Short Reviews welcomes Catt Ford, who is celebrating the recent release of her newest book Cross My Heart.

Do you believe in love at first sight?

Roland Reynolds—or Lana Renault, as she’s now known—knows that life is no fairy tale. Fortunately she has her trusted friends, nicknamed the “the dwarfs,” to keep her company. She lives her life to the fullest while keeping what’s beneath her skirt to herself.

American painter Daniel Hunter is no stranger to adversity either, and it’s left him with not only strength but secrets. Unlike Lana, he remains aloof, content to observe life and beauty from the sidelines… until the first time their eyes meet on a crowded Paris street.

Cupid’s arrow finds its mark in Daniel, but while Lana longs for romance, she knows there’s no prince in her happy ever after. If their story is to have a fairy-tale ending, Daniel will have to convince Lana to let down her walls—and, in the process, reveal what he fears sharing the most.

Enjoy an Excerpt:

Daniel took great pleasure in watching people, even though hope was dying for finding the one to inspire him to paint again.

Until he saw her.

The first time, her confident stride caught his eye. Attracted by her long legs and perfect derriere, he followed along in a desultory way until he lost sight of her in the crowd.

She must live or work somewhere near his arrondissement, because he kept spotting her. Daniel hadn’t seen her face yet, but he admired her figure and the way she dressed. Like most Parisian women, she had that street-chic thing down. While her clothes were simple, they fit exceptionally well.

She probably wasn’t avoiding him purposely; it was simply one of those frustrating quirks of fate that she always seemed to vanish before he caught up. She couldn’t possibly know how much he wanted to see her face.

The colorful scarf she usually wore helped draw Daniel’s attention to her. Her hair wasn’t tortured to stick straightness. Instead, dark waves danced in the temperamental spring breeze as she moved, her stride long and energetic. Maybe the sun dazzled his eyes, but he thought he caught a glint of purple highlights. If only he could get close enough to check without alarming her.

Some might call him a stalker or obsessive, but ever since… it… happened, Daniel preferred not to get too close to his fellow beings. Watching them from afar was sufficient.

Even Daniel wasn’t sure exactly what he was searching for, but he hoped he’d know it when he saw it. Purely physical beauty did not satisfy him. He wanted something more, a quirk of personality or a hint of the inner spirit. Even a crooked smile might do the trick.

Ironically, now that Daniel had enough money to be able to paint anything he wanted, his muse had deserted him. If only he could catch up with this girl and she sparked his fancy, Daniel was sure he would be able to paint again. If he could convince her to sit for him.

Today she carried a large, flat portfolio, and the breeze lifted it like a sail, pulling her quickly along the pavement. Daniel tried to work his way through the throng of people without stepping on toes or elbowing ribs to get close enough for a good look. She laughed to herself as she turned to wrestle the errant portfolio back under control. For one breathless moment, the world stood still and their eyes met.

She was lovelier than he’d hoped, but not only for her cheekbones and eyes. In that one quick flash, he felt as if her essence had been laid bare to him, all the imperfections and fears, but more importantly the indomitable spirit of her being. Everything about her, the way she moved and the curve of her lips, said that if he was lucky enough to know her, life would be full of pleasant and interesting surprises.

In that split second of awareness, Daniel saw her and he knew she saw him. Then the wind caught her hair and tossed it playfully into her face. She reached up to smooth a strand behind her ear and turned away as if their souls had not just touched. Apparently unmoved by the moment they’d shared, she crossed the street with the rest of the pedestrians.

She was the one. He had to paint her. If only he could do justice to her. Shaken by the glance they exchanged, he doubted his own ability to capture what he’d seen, but he had to try.

Standing immobile on the pavement, buffeted by the hurrying crowd, Daniel let her slip away and disappear.

Damn. So that’s what it feels like.

About the Author: Catt Ford lives in front of the computer monitor, in another world where her imaginary gay friends obey her every command. Catt likes cats, chocolate, swing dancing, sleeping, Monty Python, Aussie friends, being silly, spinning other realities with words, and sea glass. She dislikes caterpillars, cigarette smoke, and rude people who think the F-word (as in faggot, or bundle of sticks) is acceptable. A frustrated perfectionist, she comforts herself with the legend about the weavers of Persian rugs always including one mistake so as not to anger the gods, although she has no need to include a mistake on purpose. One always slips through. Writing fiction has filled a need for clever conversations, only possible when one is in control of both sides, and erotic romances, where everything for the most part turns out happily ever after.

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Where Do Characters and Plots Come From by Karen Stivali – Guest Blog


Long and Short Reviews welcomes Karen Stivali as she celebrates the upcoming release of Moment of Fate, the fifth book in her Moments in Time series.

Where do Characters and Plots Come From?

Readers often ask where authors find their motivation for characters and plots. Is it purely imagination? Are things based on your real life experiences? Do the characters share your personality traits?

The answer to all of those questions is yes. And no. For me, as well as most of my author friends, the stories are completely fictional, the characters are not based on people we know in our real lives. But, and it is a significant but, small things may be pieces of us. A location we used to live. A restaurant we used to go to all the time. A particularly funny or poignant memory. And perhaps a facet or two of our own personality.

In MOMENT OF FATE I don’t have a ton in common with the main characters. Bryan is the lead singer in an up and coming rock band (I can’t sing a note and even if I could I don’t have the personality to be the front man—I was in the drama club in HS and was perfectly content working on the stage crew), he’s a sexy, gorgeous, charismatic gay dude (I’m none of those thing), and he’s got a sister he’s extremely close to (I’m an only child). But…he attends NYU as a photography student (I graduated NYU’s film school) and he’s got a secret he doesn’t share with anyone, which is the fact that he has chronic Lyme disease and pretty serious anxiety issues as one of the many symptoms. He doesn’t tell anyone because he stubbornly refuses to accept the limitations of a chronic illness and he doesn’t want anyone—himself or anyone else—to define him by his ailments. I’d like to say that’s not a trait I loaned him, but confession: I have chronic Lyme disease and yes it made my lifelong anxiety issues many times magnified. Like Bryan, I don’t talk about it because I refuse to be controlled by an illness any more than I have to be. But the lesson he learns in the book is one I definitely had to learn myself while figuring out how to cope with a disease that simply won’t go away.

Likewise with Oliver. He’s a teacher who spent several years engaged to his female BFF in a marriage of convenience because he wanted a family and wasn’t ready to accept his sexuality and come out. I’ve never gone through being closeted, but I am familiar with needing to make the best of things and making sacrifices for a friend. He’s also a writer, as am I. So again, I loaned him aspects of myself but he’s completely his own person. And I think his character arc of needing to learn to live your own truth is something universally relatable.

So, as I said in the beginning, when people ask authors if the characters are completely fictional or not, the answer is pretty much always yes. And no. No matter what the ratio is, the one thing that’s always true is that the characters very much become their own people in our minds. That’s why this series has gone from its original status as one short novella to one with seven books (and counting). The Moments In Time characters a part of my life. Thank you for making them a part of yours as well.

Bryan Dane’s been living the dream—photography student by day, up-and-coming rocker by night. His summer goals are to earn his last few credits, graduate from NYU, spend as much time in the recording studio as possible, and survive the next few months without sex so he can complete his yearlong goal of self-imposed celibacy. Everything is on track until he meets Oliver Newcastle.

For years Oliver planned a marriage of convenience with his high school BFF, but now that she’s fallen in love for real with someone else, it’s no longer convenient. So Oliver came out to his family, quit his job, and left small-town New England for NYC, an intensive summer study program, and a chance to find his own happiness.

From the moment they meet, the sexual tension between Bryan and Oliver sizzles. But Bryan wants no part of a relationship, and Oliver wants to sow his wild oats—he just isn’t sure how. Oliver seeks Bryan’s help navigating the NYC gay scene, which throws them together in increasingly more sexual situations until they can no longer deny they’re hot for each other. Bryan is desperate to keep things simple, but fate may have other plans.

This is a standalone novel set in the Moments In Time world. You do not need to have read any of the previous titles to enjoy this book.

About the Author:Karen Stivali is a prolific writer, compulsive baker and chocoholic with a penchant for books, movies, and fictional British men. She’s also the multiple award-winning author of contemporary and erotic romances. She writes novels about love…like real life, only hotter.

Karen’s lifelong fascination with people has led her to careers ranging from hand-drawn animator, to party planner, to marriage and family counselor, but writing has always been her passion. Karen enjoys nothing more than following her characters on their journey toward love. Whether the couples are m/f or m/m, it’s guaranteed that Karen’s novels are filled with food, friendship, love, and smoking hot sex—all the best things in life.

When Karen isn’t writing (and often when she is), she can be found on Twitter attempting witty banter and detailing the antics of her fruit-loving cat, BadKitteh. She loves to hear from readers (and other writers), so don’t hesitate to contact/follow/like her.

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Other books in the Moments In Time series:
MOMENT OF IMPACT (Book 1)
MOMENT OF TRUTH (Book 2)
MOMENT OF CLARITY (Book 3)
MOMENTS IN TIME (a compilation of Books 1-3)
MOMENT OF DOUBT (Book 3.5)
MOMENT OF SILENCE (Book 4)
MOMENT OF FATE (Book 5)

Buy the book at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Dreamspinner Press, Google Play, or iBooks.

Tapped by Liz Crowe – Q&A and Giveaway


This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Liz Crowe will be awarding a $10 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

You’re a mother, a realtor, a brewery expert… how exactly do you find time to write??

Well, my mom days are less fraught, as my kids are 24, 22 and 18 which helps. I could not even begin to imagine writing when they were all underfoot!

I like to tell people that “writing” is my passion, my hobby, the thing I do for fun. I’ve yet to find the lucky moment wherein an agent or big publisher discovers me (but I am working towards that, believe me!) and so selling real estate is my day job. Luckily, I enjoy it so it’s not a hardship for me to walk away from the hobby and engage with all sorts of people buying and selling houses.

As for the craft beer side of things, that life truly did envelop me for several years but has since become less so, for various reasons. I stay involved and helped found a “women in craft beverages” group here in Michigan and am their communications director. I provide marketing and social media consulting for start up breweries. And I am working toward my full Cicerone certification (that’s like a “sommelier” only for beer instead of wine). Again, it’s a hobby and one I really enjoy!

So…to your question, I find time write around things. Real estate can be a job with serious built-in down time—like when I’m at my office waiting for the phone to ring, or at a dud open house. It’s also the sort of job that does not require 9-5 commitment so after a long weekend spent showing, selling, touring, I will many times stick close to my computer on a Monday and bang out a few words.

Tapped is the first book in a new series; how many books are planned for this series?

Right now, I have 3 planned for it but as I tend to write stories with plenty of juicy, novel-worthy secondary characters I think there could be room for at least 2 more. LightStruck, book 2 of the series is with the publisher now and I’m noodling away on Conditioned, book 3.

What’s your favorite type of sex scene to write?

One that does not involved the actual mechanics of sex. I know this sounds weird to some but as a reader, I get more turned on by the right turn of an erotic phrase, the brush of skin in anticipation, the build-up, than the “insert rod A into slot B” and frankly, am tired of all the boring sex in books lately. That is not to say there is not plenty of sex in TAPPED. There is. But I try harder with every book I write to find that perfect balance between sexy and sex.

How does your family feel about your work?

My family supports me 100% even if they get a little frustrated when I’m in Total Forward Writing Mode and forget things, like groceries. And laundry!

If you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Write books sooner in your life so you have more time to perfect your craft.

When wealthy brewery owner Austin Fitzgerald meets sexy saleswoman Evelyn Benedict, angry sparks fly. They seem destined to clash, until a hot hookup in a cold beer cooler changes everything.

For Austin, it’s a life-altering moment that sets him on a path away from his birthright, while Evelyn must face her fears about committing to a man considered the playboy of the micro-brewing world.

The power of preconceived notions nearly tears them apart—until they meet up with brew master Ross, who opens their eyes to a deeper, even more erotic connection. But three strong personalities don’t always make for the best emotional mix and when a simple misunderstanding causes chaos, it’s up to Ross to repair the tattered shreds of their relationship.

Enjoy an Excerpt:

Sensing the heat of Evelyn’s fury as he finalized another large order, he excused himself and made his way toward the restroom. The tuning-fork sensation had morphed into a dull ache centered in his gut, which steadily made its way down to his balls.

When he emerged—after splashing water on his face enough times to calm the hardening in his jeans—he almost plowed straight into her. He gripped her arms to keep her from falling and the impulses that had bounced around in his brain since the morning nearly brought him to his knees. He dropped his hands and looked away, swallowing back the urge to say something, anything, to convince her he wasn’t such a bad guy.

“Sorry.”

Her voice was flat. He took a step back, stopped only when his butt hit the wall. The space between them filled with near-visible silence, but he didn’t move.

“I don’t know how I’m doing it, but the longer we work together, the more sales I make, and the more you hate me. Clue me in here, Benedict. I thought sales were the goal of the day.” He crossed his arms, holding them close to his chest so she couldn’t gauge how shaky his hands had gotten.

She swallowed, and he watched the exquisite warm peach hue of her skin redden. Admiring the line of her neck, her jaw, the plump fullness of her lower lip as she bit it, a nervous tic he’d love to come to love, if she’d let him, Austin sensed himself falling deeper into a very scary hole. Her ongoing silence took on a life of its own.

“Well? I left my secret-sales-goal decoder ring at home. You obviously have a different agenda for today. I get it. ‘Prove to the rich boy he doesn’t have what it takes’ is fine, but we could have saved some time if you’d just told me first.”

She opened her lips, then pressed them together and shouldered past him. He watched, fascinated, as his hand reached out of its own accord and snagged her arm. She stopped, stared at it, then up at him. When he realized the blue of her eyes was brighter because of tears, he hesitated. Female tears always unnerved him, but his chest tightened in a thoroughly alarming way at the thought of having caused her unhappiness.

He let go. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to…”

In a split second, her beautiful face was within inches of his. “Don’t flatter yourself. I’m just pissed off. You’ve had that effect on me since I first laid eyes on you, so yeah, I guess I set you up. But apparently, all your country-club, private-school time has been worth it. Bullshitting comes naturally to you. And that’s all this job is. A whole barrel of bullshit.”

She stomped away before he could speak or, even better, grab her and kiss her. The space she vacated quivered with anger. But her crisp perfume stayed in his nose and he had to clench his hands into fists to keep from shoving her up against the wall and kissing her until she saw it his way.

About the Author: Amazon best-selling author, mom of three, Realtor, beer blogger, brewery marketing expert, and soccer fan, Liz Crowe is a Kentucky native and graduate of the University of Louisville currently living in Ann Arbor. She has decades of experience in sales and fund raising, plus an eight-year stint as a three-continent, ex-pat trailing spouse.

Her early forays into the publishing world led to a groundbreaking fiction subgenre, “Romance for Real Life,” which has gained thousands of fans and followers interested less in the “HEA” and more in the “WHA” (“What Happens After?”). More recently she is garnering even more fans across genres with her latest novels, which are more character-driven fiction, while remaining very much “real life.”

With stories set in the not-so-common worlds of breweries, on the soccer pitch, in successful real estate offices and at times in exotic locales like Istanbul, Turkey, her books are unique and told with a fresh voice. The Liz Crowe backlist has something for any reader seeking complex storylines with humor and complete casts of characters that will delight, frustrate and linger in the imagination long after the book is finished.

Don’t ever ask her for anything “like a Budweiser” or risk bodily injury.

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Buy the book at the publisher or Amazon.

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Rushing Love by Meg Bawden – Spotlight and Giveaway


Long and Short Reviews welcomes Meg Bawden who is visiting with us today to celebrate the upcoming release of Rushing Love. Enter the Rafflecopter at the end of the post for a chance to win an autographed paperback.

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Hi there! My name is Meg Bawden, and Long and Short Reviews has graciously accepted me on their blog today for the release of my new story, Rushing Love.

Rushing Love is a M/M romance story set in South Dakota, USA. I wrote it for the States of Love line from Dreamspinner Press and I can’t wait for its release. I had so much fun writing it and I can’t wait to share it with you. Please allow me to share the blurb with you:

After a devastating break-up with the man he thought he’d spend his life with, Flynn Webb takes a holiday to a South Dakota dude ranch. It’s something completely different from anything he’s done before, and it helps that it’s as far away from his ex as possible. Trapped in his own depressive thoughts, Flynn is surprised to meet Grayson Harland. Not only is Grayson a sexy cowboy—one fifteen years younger—but he’s the most charming man Flynn has ever met.

Flynn doesn’t have much experience with being seduced, and he has even less with guys like Grayson taking an interest in him—and Grayson is definitely interested. What begins as a fling while visiting iconic South Dakota sights soon develops the potential for much more. But Flynn is afraid that falling in love again so soon—and with a man so much younger—will lead only to another catastrophic heartbreak. Luckily for them both, Grayson isn’t giving up without a fight.

If you’re interested you can find the story here: Dreamspinner Press or Amazon.

To celebrate the upcoming release, I’d like to share an excerpt with you.

*****
“Tell me about yourself. If we’re on a date, I should get to know you, right?”

Grayson glanced at him briefly and smiled. “All right. But I expect the same from you. I’m Grayson, born on September 13, 1995. I was a big baby, and Mom loves to remind me of the pain I put her through.”

Flynn laughed.

“I don’t watch TV, don’t have time. But if I did, I’d watch something with hot guys in it.”

“Queer as Folk.”

“What’s that?” Grayson pulled onto another road. It looked like it led to the monument, because farther down, there was a ticket booth where people were collecting money.

“You haven’t heard of it?” Flynn went to get his wallet, but Grayson grabbed his hand and entwined their fingers. The touch sent a thrill through Flynn’s body. Grayson’s hand was warm and rough, and his fingers were much longer and wider than Flynn’s.

“Nope, should I have?”

“It’s a gay TV show. Full of hot gay guys that fuck. Brian…. Oh God, I’d bend over for Brian.”

Grayson’s eyebrows furrowed. There was a line in front of them, so they weren’t getting anywhere fast. He looked more than happy to drive with one hand and hold Flynn’s with the other. “Reality TV show?”

Flynn laughed. “Nope. Made up. But Brian is still hot.”

“Should I be jealous?”

“Are you jealous?” As soon as it escaped Flynn’s mouth, he pursed his lips. Goddammit. He had to remind himself that he’d only known Grayson for two days. Two damn days! He had no reason to be jealous.

“Yeah, I am.” Grayson stared at him. “I like to think I can make you mine.”

Words escaped Flynn. His chest felt tight, constricting until he could barely breathe, and his stomach was doing these silly little backflips. He liked those words, a lot, and he didn’t understand it. Couldn’t.

“Was that the wrong thing to say?”

“No….” Flynn cleared his throat. “No, it wasn’t.” He leaned in for a kiss, but before he could make it, the car behind them beeped their horn.

“Later,” Grayson promised. “So what about you? You haven’t really told me much about you yet.”

Flynn shrugged. “There’s nothing much to tell. I grew up in a religious home. My mom was a single mother after my dad left her for one of his groupies. He was a musician.”

“You’re joking.”

“Nope. And you know how they were in the seventies, even the late seventies. They liked their music and pot and sex. So Dad ran off and Mom raised me on her own. We were looked down on by the church, no matter how much Mom tried. She was never good enough for them.”

“Not all churches are that bad.”

He shook his head. “No, not all. But a lot are. Are you religious?”

“I suppose I believe in something being out there, but I don’t go to church. Mom used to, but she gave it up when some of the townsfolk started talking bad about me and Thomas for being gay.”

Flynn sighed. “Yeah, that’s how bad it got for Mom, even worse when some of the women from church saw me kissing a boy when I was fourteen. There are so many bigots now, but imagine in the early nineties. We were ridiculed. We had to pack up our stuff and move. Eventually, though, Mom sort of just gave up. She fell into depression and committed suicide when I was seventeen.”

“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!”

“Yeah….” Flynn shook his head, pushing the memories out of his head. “It doesn’t matter. It happened and I’m over it. Well, not over it, but I’ve moved on.”

“I’m sorry, Flynn.”

He smiled and squeezed Grayson’s hand. “It’s fine. I’m fine. How about we focus on more positive things. Like how gorgeous I am.”

Grayson laughed and released Flynn’s hand as he drove up to the ticket booth. He handed the attendant the money and started to drive again. The road from the booth led straight to the parking lot, and it was a little hard to find a parking space, but they finally did.

They both exited the cab, and when Grayson reached him, he slipped his hand into Flynn’s again. Flynn knew he should have been worried about other people’s reactions. He knew from experience that not everyone was okay with seeing gay affection, but at that moment, as he stared up into Grayson’s eyes, he didn’t give a damn.

About the Author: MEG BAWDEN was born and raised in North Queensland, Australia. She’s loved stories since before she can remember and has always enjoyed creating characters of her own, even if it did begin with drawing faces on toilet rolls and giving them names. Writing has always been a passion of hers and she’s loved the M/M genre since 2004, the first book she read being Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez.

Writing M/M since 2007, Meg has never had the confidence to attempt publishing her own stories, but in 2015, she decided that it was all about to change thanks to the amazing friends she’s made in the M/M genre and their support and encouragement. So watch out world, Meg Bawden is coming out to have some fun!

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Food Memories with Matthew Lang – Guest Blog and Giveaway

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Matthew Lang who is celebrating the release of Better With Bacon on February 22. Leave a comment with your favorite food memory and, on the release date, the author will choose the winner to receive a copy of The Way You Are.

Better with Bacon – Food Memories with Matthew Lang

These are actually the red bean buns I’ve made. I don’t have pictures of the chocolate ones. They get eaten too fast. One day.

One of my earliest recollections is being perched on a chair, in the white kitchen of a giant house in Wellington, New Zealand, staring into a wall oven. I know it was a giant house because it had three lawns. My dad had to take a day off work to mow them. Or at least, that’s what I’m told. I don’t actually remember my dad mowing the lawns, or taking time off work. I’m pretty sure I understood that work was something he left home to do most days, but not every day. Maybe it was like kindergarten for grown ups? Anyway, my sister is old enough to remember this and she says it happened, so chances are good that it’s true. Unlike the story about how my parents met, but that’s a long tale of misdirection and betrayal of your children’s trust.

Anyway, the oven. It was covered with a brownish glass front and there were lines across the glass, a bit like looking out of the rear window of a car with the heater lines across it. Inside the oven were Chinese buns, or bao, steaming on racks and I can only assume a pan of boiling water underneath them all. Most had some sort of vegetables inside them but some precious few held chocolate. Little squares of milk chocolate that would melt and ooze once you tore through the sweet, white bread exterior. It was a rare indulgence in a house where junk food wasn’t stocked in the pantry and soft drinks were things you had…never. Still, I wasn’t interested in the bao. I’d never eaten one at that point. That came later. I was watching my snowman.

He was dying.

The thing about bread dough, is that cooking changes it. Yeah, I know, deep, huh? But it changes from its semi-liquid, viscous form into the texture solidness that is bread. Try explaining that to a three year old. Maybe you know three year olds who were smarter than me if they get that before seeing it. Anyway, in the heat of the steaming oven, the twig-like arms I’d painstakingly rolled with my little hands melted into the snowman’s dough body, and the facial features were being swallowed up by the expanding face as it cooked. I don’t know how it turned out. I can’t remember that. I just remember staring through the brown lined, brownish glass door into the oven deflating as my bread snowman inflated in the oven.

Nearly three decades later, I found myself with a surplus of those tiny Easter eggs. I’ve grown up as someone who’s not big on snack or junk food, and I needed a way to get rid of them that wasn’t just giving them away to people when Easter was nowhere in sight in either direction on the calendar. So I found a recipe for man tou, or the Chinese steamed white bread, and started making bao. With Easter eggs inside. The M&M ones were the best, I think. I don’t have a sweet tooth, really, but getting other people to eat steamed chocolate buns is about as easy as explaining what they are. Admittedly, in Melbourne the BBQ pork bun is a ubiquitous enough favourite that I don’t have any issues there.

In my new story, Better with BaconK/I>, Patrick uses the white steamed bread as the basis for sliders, which is possible, but will probably never happen at my place while people keep giving me chocolate. Sometimes I wonder if they’re hoping I’ll make more bao and ask people to eat them.

In any case, here’s the recipe. I stole it from a blog somewhere on the internet, but I can’t find the site now, otherwise I’d share the link.

Steamed Chocolate Bao
1.5 tsp dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup bao flour
1/2 cup self raising flour
3 tsp melted butter

In a small bowl combine the yeast, two tablespoons of water + 1 teaspoon sugar + 1 teaspoon bao flour. Let this stand somewhere warm for about 15 minutes or until frothy.

Cut 12 squares of baking paper. I get about three from the width of a standard width roll. You’ll need these for steaming later.

Sift all your flour together into a mixing bowl, and add the rest of the sugar. Make a well in the middle of your dry ingredients and pour in all your liquid ingredients.

Combine and knead for approximately 10 minutes until the dough comes together.

Cover with a damp cloth and place the bowl somewhere warm. Allow the dough to rise for approximately 1 hour.

Divide the dough into twelve portions, and roll each portion out into a flat circle. Place a small Easter egg or square of chocolate inside and then bring the edges of the circle together and pinch shut. Place each bun onto a square of baking paper and place in a steamer basket.

Steam the buns for approximately 5 minutes. Serve hot.

Notes:

Bao flour is special, highly bleached flour you can purchase at an Asian grocery. You don’t have to use it, but if you just use plain and self raising flours you may find your bao has a slightly yellowish tinge when cooked. They’ll still be delicious though.

This recipe makes big bao. You can make 24 mini bao by dividing your dough more, but it’ll take longer. I recommend keeping any dough you aren’t working with covered with a damp towel to prevent it from drying out while you work.

You can use whatever you want as a filling. So far I’ve tried a mix of spinach, mushrooms and water chestnut, sweetened red bean paste, and custard (add corn flour or it’ll split when you cook them). But still, chocolate still has a special place in my heart, and quite possibly always will.

When Patrick’s long-term girlfriend Li Ling dumps him just as he’s working up the nerve to propose, he ends up drunk on David’s couch—and later in David’s bed. Although initially reluctant to pursue anything beyond a one-time drunken tryst, David throws caution to the wind during an intimate dinner, where the two men also discuss Patrick’s dream of entering the food industry. Just as the friends-turned-lovers are settling into their new romance, Li Ling calls Patrick—she’s pregnant.

Convinced the announcement spells the end of their love affair and a return to their platonic friendship, David flees to Sydney to escape his heartbreak. But upon his return to Melbourne, David discovers the situation hasn’t gone the way he’d expected. There might still be a chance for David and Patrick’s dreams to come true if they can forgive each other’s mistakes and move forward.

About the Author: Matthew Lang writes behind a desk, in the park, on the tram, and sometimes backstage at amateur theater productions. He has been known to sing and dance in public and analyze the plots of movies and TV shows, and is a confessed Masterchef addict. He has dabbled in film, machinema, event management, and even insurance, but his first love has always been the written word. He is suspected of frequenting libraries and hanging around in bookstores, and his therapists believe he may be plotting some form of literature.

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Buy the book at Dreamspinner Press.

Why I Write by J. Scott Coatsworth – Guest Blog

Long and Short Reviews welcomes J. Scott Coatsworth who visiting with us and celebrating the release today of his debut novel Skythane.

Why I Write
J. Scott Coatsworth

I wrote my first story when I was in fourth grade. It wasn’t very good, or very original – basically a Jetson’s rip off in technicrayon colors. But it was such an exciting idea – that I could create my own stories instead of just reading the stories other people created for me. It was empowering.

I remember the old green metal typewriter my Mom used to have, the one I wrote my first stories on, including a novel where a herd of Pegasus… pegasi? swoop in to save the day – clackety clack clack.

I’m not proud of that particular tale – it was juvenile and derivative – but nevertheless it was a part of my evolution as a writer.

In high school, I wrote an amazing first page of a story, and took it proudly to my Junior year English teacher for an evaluation. I don’t think I actually said the words “Prepare to be blown away.” But it was implied when I handed it over.

Her studied response? “It’s a good start.” I still laugh when I think about that moment.

By the time I reached my early twenties, I was ready to be discovered – you know, hot new talent writes bestselling sci fi novel. “He’s so young,” they would all say, as I counted my first million and jetted across the country for book signings and author conferences.

Instead, the ten publishers I sent my masterpiece to sent me back ten rejections, which sent me into a tailspin. Authors, especially young ones, have very fragile egos, and I was no exception. It would take me twenty years to successfully climb back up onto the writing horse.

One day, in 2013, I was complaining to my amazing saint of a husband, Mark, that a family tragedy had derailed me from my writing once again. He looked me in the eye and said nine words that changed my life.

“The only one keeping you from writing is you.”

I think I just stared at him for a couple minutes. But he had a point. I always let other things in my life take precedence over my writing, and if I was ever going to get my writing career off the ground, that would have to change.

So I made my writing a priority, and this time it worked. I got my first publication in less than six months, a short story in a Dreamspinner anthology called “A Taste of Honey,” and I pulled out some of my older works and dusted them off to see if I couldn’t make something of them.

Skythane was one of those, and will be my fourteenth published work, as well as my first novel. It was a short, maybe ten page story starter about this man with wings who is deeply wounded by the loss of his lover. And it’s also about a world split in two by unimaginable forces.

I read it and was hooked. Had I really written this, once upon a time? I would spend the next two years working it into a novel.

Now here I am, almost forty years after I wrote that first story. Forty years! I’ll be forty nine in April, and my first novel is finally seeing the light of day.

So why do I write? I write because I have to. I write because I am not whole unless I am writing.

And I write to get to this place I am at now – because I have waited so long to finally see this day.

I hope you enjoy the results.

Jameson Havercamp, a psych from a conservative religious colony, has come to Oberon—unique among the Common Worlds—in search of a rare substance called pith. He’s guided through the wilds on his quest by Xander Kinnison, a handsome, cocky wing man with a troubled past.

Neither knows that Oberon is facing imminent destruction. Even as the world starts to fall apart around them, they have no idea what’s coming—or the bond that will develop between them as they race to avert a cataclysm.

Together, they will journey to uncover the secrets of this strange and singular world, even as it takes them beyond the bounds of reality itself to discover what truly binds them together.

Enjoy an Excerpt:

Rain hit the plas and ran downward in little rivulets, separating and rejoining like branches of time as the storm whipped itself into a frenzy over Oberon City.

Xander Kinnson lay on his bed, head thrown back, watching the tempest with a laziness that belied his inner turmoil and pain. Alix had left him and gone missing. A year had passed, and still he had a hard time accepting that simple fact.

His dark wings with their jet-black feathers were stretched out lazily to each side of his supine form, their tips extending past the edge of the bed. His chest heaved slowly up and down, and he breathed easily, as if he were utterly relaxed.

Nothing could have been further from the truth. Below the surface, under the deception of skin and sinew, his heart beat at a thunderous pace, and his mind raced for answers to Alix’s fate that slipped beyond his grasp.

The handsome trick he’d brought home rested his warm hands on Xander’s thighs, his hot mouth engaged elsewhere. Xander smelled the deep, masculine musk of him, slipping a hand absently through the man’s dark, tousled hair as the rain increased to a thundering downpour against the plas. The drops glistened, each an individual universe of shimmering light before running quickly out of sight.

A flash of lightning illuminated the room, thunder indicating how close it had been. As the heavy rain pounded against the arco’s walls, Xander rode the wave of pleasure higher and higher. Despite himself, he rose quickly toward climax, drawn up on the tide as the trick worked his cock. Unable to stop himself, he thrust his hips almost angrily upward into the man’s willing throat. Closer, closer….

He reached the crest, a pleasure so intense it burned through him like phosphorous, a white-hot fire.

Lightning flared again across the wet, black sky, followed by thunder so close it shook the bed. The storm had reached a fever pitch outside, and he arched his back in the air one more time, his wings rustling beneath him. As if in concert with the storm, Xander came, the release of his orgasm radiating from his hips along his spinal cord and down through his toes and the tips of his wings.

The rush of elation washed away his cares for a few brief moments. Xander shuddered, shivered, and shuddered again, and it was over.

For a while, he drifted in an oblivion that was blessed in its emptiness. The rain fell in a steady beat against the window, and he forgot to wallow in his pain. His mind floated free, with no responsibilities, nothing to worry about for those brief moments between sex and real life. This was what he needed. This lack of thought, this pleasurable oblivion where he could just be.

When he opened his eyes at last, the nameless trick was staring down at him, expectant.

“You’re still here.”

“I can do more, if you’d like,” the man said with a grin. Like Alix, he had no wings—a lander man.

Xander glared at him, annoyed. He was handsome enough, tall, dark-haired, with blue eyes and a light complexion. Strangely, he reminded Xander of Alix. The hair and eyes were wrong, but there was something about him, and that annoyed the hell out of Xander, for reasons he didn’t care to examine too closely. “Get out,” he said with a dismissive wave.

The man frowned. “I thought—”

“Oh right, your pay.” Xander took the man’s arm and slitted him a hundred crits from the wrist reader embedded in his own. Then he waved the trick away. “We’re square. Now get the fuck out of my flat.”

The man gathered his own clothes, but Xander didn’t give him time to put them on. Instead he hustled the trick out of the irising door, palming it closed on his hurt and angry expression.

I really have become a bastard, he thought, staring at his dim reflection in the shiny black door. It had been a long year.

He tapped the cirq in his temple with his left hand, and called out to his PA. “Ravi, any messages for me?”

About the Author: Scott has been writing since elementary school, when he and won a University of Arizona writing contest in 4th grade for his first sci fi story (with illustrations!). He finished his first novel in his mid twenties, but after seeing it rejected by ten publishers, he gave up on writing for a while.

Over the ensuing years, he came back to it periodically, but it never stuck. Then one day, he was complaining to Mark, his husband, early last year about how he had been derailed yet again by the death of a family member, and Mark said to him “the only one stopping you from writing is you.”

Since then, Scott has gone back to writing in a big way. He has sold more than a dozen short stories – some new, some that he had started years before. He is currently working on two sci fi trilogies, and also runs Website | Facebook | Twitter

Buy the book at Dreamspinner Press or Amazon.

Becoming Dragon by Eve Langlais – Spotlight and Giveaway


This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. One randomly chosen winner via rafflecopter will win a $50 Amazon/BN.com gift card. Three randomly chosen winners via rafflecopter will win a print a copy of Becoming Dragon (international giveaway).

Can he embrace the beast within?

I’m a monster. That’s what Brandon thinks when he flees the medical institute that changed him. Living a normal life isn’t in the cards for him because, while he can hide his scaly skin, his wings are hard to miss. So he runs and lives in the shadows where monsters belong. What he didn’t expect to find were others just like him, and they call themselves dragons. Or so Aimi with the violet eyes tells him when she pins him to the ground.

Seriously, though, dragons?

He doesn’t want to believe, but the evidence is mounting. Not helping his resolve is the fact that the woman with the silver hair doesn’t fear the monster and wants to claim him.

However, before he can think of his own happiness, he has to rescue his little sister. Uncle Theo kidnapped her, and Brandon will do anything to get her back, even if he must embrace the monster within to become the dragon.

Read an Excerpt:

“Are you looking for compliments?” Her lips curved. “I claimed you because you intrigue me. It is hard enough to find an unmated male, but to find one who is handsome and strong and not a mama’s boy…” She reached out a hand to trace his lower lip. “That was not a prize I could ignore.”

“I won’t be owned.” His uncle and Andrew and Bittech had thought to own him once upon a time. He wouldn’t let that happen again.

“But I take ever such good care of my things. Wait until you see my hoard.”

About the Author:

A New York Times & USA Today Bestselling Author

Hello, my name is Eve. I’m a stay at home mom who writes full time in between juggling my three kids, hubby, and housework, I write hot romance with a bit of a twist. I like strong alpha males, naked chests and shifters. Lots of different breeds of shifters. I am also extremely partial to aliens, you know the kind who abduct their woman and then drive them insane…with pleasure of course.I love to write, and while I don’t always know what my mind is going to come up with next, I can promise it will be fun, probably humorous and most of all romantic, because I love a happily ever after.

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Eye Candy by Pauline Allan – Spotlight and Giveaway


This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Pauline will be awarding a $20 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Gavin Rossi is one sexy piece of Eye Candy wrapped in a tight body and sweet smile. The hot breath on his neck, the mesmerizing rhythm as he rolls his hips, the strong chest rising and falling beneath his hands make for a distraction he’s terrified to see play out.

When Dutch Williamson feels a set of perfectly sculpted thighs slipping over his lap, the last thing his liquor-hazed brain registers is this is my future. The tempting piece of Eye Candy grinding on his lap is going to cut him at the knees, and he knows it.

This is a dance. This is a tease. God, this is so much more.

Enjoy an Excerpt:

The thought of going back to the crowded apartment after his shift made Mr. Stranger that much more important. Every customer counted as one step closer to being on his own. Granted, sharing a room with three guys didn’t compare to living on the streets, but dreams could change. Life meant more than a warm bed now.

The song switched. A new rhythm pulsed through the air, and they all bobbed their heads to the hypnotic vibe. Knowing the rhythm by heart, he stuffed the dark memories in his life into the hole where he’d pushed all the other messed-up experiences and focused on the gentleman’s wide-eyed expression.

Had his sexy new customer noticed the thickness behind his stretched white shorts? The way those eyes widened gave away the secret. Ah, two bets to one, the swelling behind that zipper had nothing to do with a balled-up sock.

Tingles sparked down his thighs when his toes finally tapped the rough tips of a pair of black boots. “Can I dance for you?”

Watching the man’s Adam’s apple bob before he nodded lent all the confidence anyone would ever need. Gavin filled his lungs and parted his knees, planted them on either side of Mr. Stranger’s lap, and gripped the back of the couch. Unruly silky waves tickled his cheek when he leaned forward.

“I can touch you, but you can’t touch me. Don’t grab my butt. Okay?” Jesus, he never wanted that to happen again.

Mr. Stranger cleared his throat. The guttural sound massaged the side of Gavin’s cheek, forcing him to dig his knees into the cushions.

“Got it.”

About the Author: Pauline lives in the Midwest with her hero husband, two handsome boys, one ornery cat, and a lovely Pitbull. She enjoys writing erotic romance for all readers. From MM contemporary romance series to LGBT fairytales, Pauline shares stories that she holds close to her heart. By day Pauline is a special care baby registered nurse and by night a hopeless romantic. She loves to travel to New Orleans twice a year to recharge her creative battery and enjoy a bag full of powdered sugar covered beignets. Sit down, relax and Laissez les bons temps rouler!

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It Hurts So Good by Anna Willett – Guest Blog and Giveaway


This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Anna Willett will be awarding a $10 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

It Hurts so Good
Almost everyone can write, but writing something good is the hard part. So assuming one has the knowledge, knowhow and skill to actually put something good on the page, all that’s left is the myriad of other challenges writing a novel presents.

For some, the hardest part is starting. Facing the blank page and trying to focus a maelstrom of ideas into an attention grabbing first chapter is far from easy. Putting aside the self-doubt and stepping into the unknown takes courage. While for others, finishing a novel is the challenge. Putting in the time and effort necessary to wrangle a ninety thousand word beast into submission can be an overwhelming task. Or some might say creating believable characters that readers are willing to invest in their time and money in, is the stumbling block.

Then there’s those pesky parts we all hate. For me, it’s writing the synopsis. What could be worse than trying to condense ninety or a hundred thousand words into one page? It’s enough to send me screaming from the room or wincing with agony. Whittling a novel down to say five hundred words is like squeezing all the joy and beauty out of the text.

The plain truth is, they’re all right. Everything about writing is hard. Ernest Hemingway famously said, “There is nothing to writing. All you have to do is sit down at your typewriter and bleed”. Even for a giant of the literary world like Hemingway, writing was painful. Tearing the scab off long buried emotions and pouring your heart onto the page is not for the faint-hearted. Some days, sitting down and plugging away, one agonising word at a time is a writer’s lot.

But with all that said, the question then becomes, why do it? If it’s so hard, painful even, why write? For me, the answer is simple. I write because I love everything about it, even the pain. There’s a sense of satisfaction that comes from creating something out of nothing that’s incomparable. The thrill of building characters and situations born of one’s imagination that then take on a life of their own. There is nothing quite like listening to readers discuss people and situations from your novel, as if they’re real.

The other irresistible lure of writing comes from the days not when you’re bleeding, but when everything’s flowing. The words and ideas come thick and fast. Your fingers are flying over the keyboard and you’re a million miles away from the mundane. In On Writing, Stephen King wrote, “I did it (writing) for the buzz. I did it for the pure joy of the thing. And if you can do it for joy, you can do it for ever”. A great deal of joy comes from being fortunate enough to spend your time dreaming up outrageous or terrifying situations and then putting them down on paper. Then sending those pages out for others to read and hopefully enjoy. It’s the best job in the world.

So, what’s the hardest thing about writing? The answer is everything. What’s the best thing about writing? Everything. Strange but true. It’s okay to experience the pain of writing. To sit down at the keyboard and bleed is fine – normal even, as long as there is also joy. Because if you aren’t feeling the joy, it’s going to show in the work. If you didn’t enjoy writing your novel, why would anyone enjoy reading it?

For Milly Birdsworth and Her sister Judith, a two day trip in an isolated area of the National Park seems like an ideal way to mend their tattered relationship. With Milly’s best friend Harper along for moral support and experienced hiker Lucas as their guide, it seems nothing can go wrong.

But when everyone has something to hide, it’s difficult to know who to trust. What starts out as an adventure to bring two sisters together quickly becomes a terrifying ordeal where old wounds are exposed and a deadly tragedy is brought to light. One thing is clear, someone is seeking retribution and won’t stop until the guilty are punished.

Enjoy an Excerpt:

Milly reached for her hand under the sleeping bag. It felt icy. “Anything could be happening. We don’t know it was Harper screaming.” There was so much she wanted to say. So many things she needed to tell her, but now wasn’t the time.

“What’s that?” Judith jumped and squeezed her hand tight enough to cut off the circulation. “In the trees, I… I thought I heard something.”

Milly followed her sister’s gaze. Three metres beyond the fire lay only blackness. It was impossible to see anything, human or animal. Suddenly Milly wondered if the fire was a good idea. If there was someone out there, the light would make the two women clearly visible to anyone watching. They’d be easy targets. Targets for what? Her mind raced in a dozen half-formed directions, all of them ominous. She shuddered and leaned against her sister.

“I don’t hear anything,” Milly whispered. “Maybe it’s an animal. A kangaroo or something.”

About the Author:Anna Willett is the author of Backwoods Ripper and Retribution Ridge. Raised in Western Australia Anna developed a love for fiction at an early age and began writing short stories in high school. Drawn to dark tales, Anna enjoys writing thrillers with strong female characters. When she’s not writing, Anna enjoys reading, travelling and spending time with her husband and two children.

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