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I’m going to be honest with you, my lovelies, and get a bit wordy so the tl:dr version is “2018 hasn’t been a good year for me” and you can skip the next couple of paragraphs if you’re just here for the book recs. There’s a sentence in bold where you can pick them up.

So, yeah, 2018 has sucked in so many ways.

Living with long term clinical depression with a stonking side-order of anxiety and good medical reasons why the usual drugs are a Really Bad Idea isn’t fun however you look at it, and it’s exacerbated when you’re having to do all the emotional heavy lifting for family members who are in a state that’s as bad or even worse. The other half is still trying to adapt to not being invulnerable – a very hard thing to do when one is used to being the strongest, fittest, toughest, most independent person in ones friendship group and then suddenly isn’t. It hasn’t gone well. Then there’s Mum, who’s dementia diagnosis surprised nobody in the family but her and whose lack of inhibition is letting out secrets that she’s kept for years and might have been better unvoiced. And at work – ooh boy, everyone’s miserable there too – budget cuts, reduced hours to do the same amount of work, redefinition of roles, expectations for the same level of service. Yeah, it wears you down. Any one thing is doable on it’s own but stacking them up makes it more difficult. I am sure there are people who thrive on challenges who might read that and think “How incredibly feeble and whining. I wrote 50 best selling novels while battling cancer and bringing up quads” but, let’s face it, we aren’t all resilient. We aren’t all robust. Some of us are a bit wobbly even when nothing particularly bad is happening. Some of us are Eeyore even when the sun is shining. Depression lies. Depression tells you that it’s not worth getting out of bed, or washing, or looking after your health or keeping up with friends. It suggests that a jump off a high bridge would be a good solution to all your problems and sometimes it’s all too easy to believe it. All you can do is keep on carrying on and hope that snide and sneering little voice becomes less compelling with time.

Normally writing is my refuge and comfort but the potential closure of Manifold Press – meaning I might have to self publish – made the idea of packing the writing game in very attractive. So I lost faith in all my potential works in progress and my muse fucked off to sit on a beach somewhere working on his tan. With zero mental energy I read: vast amounts of old favourites both e and paper, and works of reference just for the heck of it. I rediscovered the joys of fanfic, reading in fandoms where I had no idea who the characters were or who I should be cheering/booing. I’ve been hugely grateful to the people who have allowed me to beta read – it’s nice to feel useful – and to UK Meet as something to look forward to and companionship from the committee.

I’m also very grateful to the authors whose books I have enjoyed so much this year. I’m just picking 8 for special mentions because each of them came along at a time when I really NEEDED to be out of my head for a while. Plus they are all 5 star reads in their own way.

The Holly Groweth Green by Amy Rae Durresson is a short but delicious paranormal historical filled with delightful descriptions of winter in the countryside and the type of christmases I remember from when I was small. Lit by a warm low sun, embellished with frost flowers and scented with pine and cinnamon, it has a haunting and beautiful love story to enjoy.

Bitter Legacy was the first book by Dal Maclean that I’d read, so I have laid seige to her demanding more fiction. Poor Dal must be sick of me by now but has obliged with Object of Desire, equally good, equally unusual. Exciting, harrowing, and incredibly satisfying, both have romances as part of the plot but are approached more as murder mysteries.

Hunger Makes the Wolf and Blood Binds the Pack by Alex Wells are one long story and I devoured them like a ravening beast over about 72 hours when I only put my Kindle down to go to work, and that with very poor grace. These are science fiction, and fantasy and adventure and refer to real life historical events so that I was biting my nails, knowing and fearing what was coming. Also there are fabulous female characters and – oh i want these to be made into films SO DAMN MUCH!!

Where Death Meets the Devil by LJ Hayward and Bad Judgement by Sidney Bell were recommended to me on the same day by different people and I read both over the course of a week. Very different in execution and mood they both made me very happy indeed.

KJ Charles features very heavily in my folder of ‘comfort reads’ for when things are getting to be too much to handle. Also I’m a fan of the pulpier Victorian and early 20th century classics so you will understand how much I was looking forward to The Henchmen of Zenda, her rewrite of The Prisoner of Zenda with all the bits in that the original narrator left out to make himself look good. I love it to bits, even [or possibly because] it’s not the usual HEA type of romance. I wanted to BE Jasper Detchard throughout the book.

The Last Sun by KD Edwards is honestly the only book I’ve ever bought due to a bit of fan art. Book one of a series, with fantasy and magic in a modern setting. Such good stuff, exciting, weird – oh so weird sometimes – and scary. Book one wraps up in a satisfying manner but there are loose threads still to be tucked into the weave of it. I found it absolutely absorbing and am looking forward to reading book 2, The Hanged Man, due out early this year.

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As I said earlier, my own writing took a seat at the back of the bus until Manifold seemed likely to continue. I fooled around with a rewrite of The Lunar Imperative – my werewolves in spaaaace novelette – and thought it was finished until a beta pointed out that I had been writing as though I planned to submit it to the Warhammer 40K blokes and had put in no female characters at all, just a couple of cardboard cut out stereotypes. So, because that’s the way my mind worked, I settled down to a vast world building project, with proper female characters with strength and weaknesses and agency of their own, until I realised I’d need to write at least one, possibly 2 full length novels, scared myself and put it away. I might go back to it at some time.

I did have one new release in 2018, or was it late 2017? – Calon Lan, a Great War set novelette, with a female POV of a sister observing the romance between her brother and his friend – and re-releases of A Taste of Copper [medieval fantasy mm] and Sheep’s Clothing [contemporary comedy paranormal]. The rest of the year I spent poking my sequel to Eleventh Hour – Midnight Flit – until October when I was asked, very nicely, if I might possibly finish it. I did and submitted it and am waiting to hear whether it’s good enough. I already know there are some bits I left out, but there wasn’t time for my usual multiple draft, angsty second guessing approach. I suppose we’ll see!

2019 is a new year and I hope it will be a better one, both in terms of mental health and in productivity – since they are inextricably linked. I’ve been warned that I can’t carry on the way I have been so must set aside time to do other things that I have abandoned – artwork, calligraphy, letter writing by hand, walking in the open air to get those endorphins moving, and maybe shed a pound or two from me and the dog.

I suppose we’ll see about that too.

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I’m so incredibly excited to be able to share this with you that – well! Words fail me. JP always has wonderful painted covers and I think this one might be the best yet. Artist is Lehanan Aida.

 

Blood Before Wine, designed and painted by Lehanan Aida.

Conquer. Own. Sacrifice everything.

Gaius Fabius knows a healthy son will secure his claim to be crowned emperor of Rome, but his devotion to his Dacian pleasure slave, Allerix, threatens to topple his political power. Determined to solve the mysterious murder of a friend, Gaius searches for clues hidden deep in the palace that might jeopardize his future and his family.

But while he and Allerix share passions in and out of the bedchamber, another assassination sends Gaius and his captured prince back to the vanquished kingdom of Dacia. In order to protect his beloved concubine, can Gaius find the courage to sacrifice his own heart?

Lose. Submit. Betray everyone.

Allerix knows vengeance for the vicious destruction of his homeland is within tantalizing reach, but only if he can convince his Roman master to trust him. When an unexpected ally interrupts his plans, Alle sets aside his lust for revenge to embrace the ecstasy of Gaius’s unbridled devotion.

But a surprise reunion with a childhood friend and an unforeseen return trip to Dacia remind Allerix of all he has lost while revealing the honor and glory that remain to be won. To earn the respect of his surviving kinsmen, can Alle betray the only man he has ever loved?
***

Dominus is a plot-packed m/m historical fantasy set in ancient Rome during the reign of Trajan (AD 98-117). Blood Before Wine is the third book in this four-book alternative history saga—a tumultuous adventure of forbidden love, humor, friendship, political intrigue, deception, and murder.

***

Joseph Barnaby, released on 5th October, published by Crooked Cat Books.

Blurb:

Stand by your beliefs – even if it means going to the end of the Earth.

By standing up for his principles, horse farrier Joseph Barnaby lost everything. Now, when a personal vendetta goes too deep to fight, he escapes to the Portuguese island of Madeira where he finds work on a small farm only accessible by boat.

The balmy climate and never-ending supply of exotic fruit, vegetables, and honey make it sound like paradise. But, for Joseph, it’s the ideal place to hide from the world.

Not everyone is prepared to give up on life’s misfortunes. The local fishing village has its own surprises and the inhabitants of Quinta da Esperança have more grit in them than the pebbled beach that borders the property.

 

Contact details: Amazon: mybook/JosephBarnaby1

 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SusanRoebuckauthor/

https://www.facebook.com/SuRoebuck

Twitter handle: @sueroebuck

Blog, website: http//www.susanroebuck.com

A recent review from Readers Favorite tells the story pretty well:

https://readersfavorite.com/book-review/joseph-barnaby

Reviewed by Kimberlee J Benart for Readers’ Favorite

Joe is a handsome young farrier who has fled England to hide from the world in a small town in Madeira. He works first in a bar and then on a farm accessible only by boat. The farmer, his wife, and their lovely but deaf niece quickly take to Joe, and he to them. So do the burro and the goats, who seem to follow Joe about as if he’s a pied piper to anything with hooves. The niece, Sophia, is strong-minded yet gentle and hardworking. She’s also a successful beekeeper and stays at the remote farm much of the time for her own reasons, avoiding the social life that other young women might normally seek. But fate or providence in the form of a very odd “fairy godmother” named Lua, and the shenanigans of a couple of evil characters who intend no good for Joe or Sophia, will entice them both to rejoin the world in a way that neither could ever have anticipated.

Joseph Barnaby is an engaging and entertaining romance novel by Susan Roebuck. While full of mystery and suspense, it read to me like a modern-day fairy tale. I enjoyed reading Joseph Barnaby. Roebuck builds the scenery and characters with wonderful, descriptive, and flowing narrative. Joe and Sophia are good-hearted people who become real and believable. You want them to triumph over the adversities and evil intentions with which they’re each faced. This story is full of plot twists and unexpected heroes, and you won’t want to put the book down until the last page. This a story for anyone who is a true romantic at heart.

Buy link: mybook/josephbarnaby1

Super for You, Bad for Me
Asta Idonea
Dreamspinner Press
14 August 2018
60k/200 pages
MM/Fantasy/Superheroes

Struggling actor Oswell Outterridge thinks he’s hit the jackpot when he’s chosen to play a scene opposite his idol, Kane Teague, in a superhero movie. However, things take an unexpected turn when the slime he accidentally ingests gives him telekinetic powers. Then Kane asks him out, against all expectation, and it seems that life couldn’t get any better—aside from the little matter of keeping his identity secret from his celebrity boyfriend. Oswell goes from a nobody with little social life and few prospects for the future to dating the man of his dreams and using his superhuman abilities to defend innocents. Everything is perfect, and it seems he’s finally achieved a happily ever after worthy of the silver screen. But when a supervillain arrives, determined to defeat Oswell and win Kane’s affections, everything falls apart. In the ensuing conflict, Kane gets caught in the crossfire, and Oswell faces his toughest fight yet. Can he remain the hero he’s always imagined himself, or will a dark desire for vengeance change him forever?

SoundCloud Excerpt: https://soundcloud.com/nickijmarkus/super-for-you-bad-for-me-by-asta-idonea-excerpt

YouTube Excerpt: https://youtu.be/RmbDY_g0kNc

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07G53GVFY

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07G53GVFY

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/super-for-you-bad-for-me-asta-idonea/1127915418?ean=2940161934173

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/super-for-you-bad-for-me

Author Bio & Links

Asta Idonea (aka Nicki J. Markus) was born in England but now lives in Adelaide, South Australia. She has loved both reading and writing from a young age and is also a keen linguist, having studied several foreign languages.
Asta launched her writing career in 2011 and divides her efforts not only between MM and mainstream works but also between traditional and indie publishing. Her works span the genres, from paranormal to historical and from contemporary to fantasy. It just depends what story and which characters spring into her mind!
As a day job, Asta works as a freelance editor and proofreader, and in her spare time she enjoys music, theatre, cinema, photography, and sketching. She also loves history, folklore and mythology, pen-palling, and travel, all of which have provided plenty of inspiration for her writing.

Blog: http://www.nickijmarkus.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/NickiJMarkus
Twitter: https://twitter.com/NickiJMarkus
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/aleera21
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nickijmarkus/
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4567057.Nicki_J_Markus
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Asta-Idonea/e/B00RMGGVYO

You might benefit from grabbing a copy of this book – especially since it’s only 99p this week.

Here’s the blurb:

What other authors say about “Marketing the Romance”:

‘Who knew a book on marketing could be so entertaining? If you’re a romance author (or any author really) and you want to know how to market your books effectively and strategically…you need to buy this book! I guarantee you will not regret it.’ (Heidi Rice, USA Today bestselling author, published by Harlequin Mills and Boon Modern and Harlequin Mira UK)

‘It was like getting together with a friend over coffee for a good pep talk. Clear action plans to follow broken down into manageable chunks.’ (Elisabeth Hobbes, Harlequin Mills and Boon Historical author)

‘Liam’s clear, structured approach helps to demystify an often confusing subject and, with the use of genuine examples, he provides real insight into the whys and wherefores of marketing.’ (Janice Preston, Harlequin Mills and Boon Historical author)

‘Practical, detailed, and fun to read. Liam is incredibly knowledgeable about marketing and romantic fiction, and communicates that knowledge with passion and humour.’ (Alison May, RONA nominated romantic fiction author and creative writing tutor)

‘Includes the best explanation I’ve seen yet of what “author branding” actually means.’ (JL Merrow, award-winning gay romance author)

‘An absolutely essential marketing guide for today’s romance author. Highly recommended! Straight-forward, clear and packed full of tips, advice and research-based strategy to help you get your books noticed!’ (Mandy Baggot bestselling and award-winning romance author)

‘Practical and jargon-free, Liam’s witty take on marketing is gloriously do-able.’ (Virginia Heath, RONA nominated Harlequin Mills and Boon Historical author)

‘Practical, useful and sensible advice about marketing your romance novel…written in a clear, friendly and down-to-earth manner.’ (Kate Hardy, multi-award nominated Harlequin Mills and Boon Medical and Cherish author)

With testimonials like those, and from authors with those credentials, anything that I can add feels a bit superfluous. But I will say this – of all the things associated with writing books for money, I find marketing, even the thought of it, just about the worst. Even worse than writing the obligatory sex scenes, which I can at least turn into comedy once I decide that my characters have reached the point of engagement where it would be silly if they didn’t boink each others brains out. Or I can write a bit of it and fade to black when I get bored, or turn it into a massive psychological plot point or… see there are options with the actual writing. But with marketing – we kind of HAVE to do that and if one is the sort of person who would sooner chew ones own arm off than ever be conceited enough to imply that one has done/made/written something that is rather good and that might be worth someone forking out some cash for – well then marketing is a HUGE problem.

I’ve read a few ‘Build a Better Author Platform’ books that were completely unintelligible, but in this one the jargon is explained, the style is chatty and accessible, and the different topics are presented in bite sized chunks. Also, rather than a “I’m a successful author and this is what works for me” scenario, which depends a LOT on popularity, personal charisma and drive, this book is by a marketing professional and contains tips and tricks that anyone can do whether you’re aiming for mainstream success or playing to a very tiny niche audience. I think if you’re a brand new shiny author just starting out, rather than a tired old hack who has made all the mistakes the book warns against, you would find it absolutely invaluable as a guide to making your name instantly recognisable, establishing a sound author brand and ultimately selling a lot of books. And it’s useful for old hacks too – there are a few things I might try when I’m back on the marketing treadmill.

All that for 99p too. You can’t really go wrong.

And here is the very last of my book covers – and in some ways the most important because of ‘things’.

I’m not tagging because so many people have done this now – but if you see this and you have a mental bookshelf of which you would like to share the titles you keep close to hand for comfort, have at it. Seven, or eight or ten, books posted without explanation and tag whomsoever you please.

Over eight days I’m posting the covers of books that have made a huge difference to my life in some unspecified way, or that I’ve just really liked, but I’m not telling which is which.

Here we go: