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My guest today isn’t just a blinkin’ good author but also a dear friend and mentor, a fellow UK Meet Committee member, a stalwart of the writing community and an all round good egg.

Charlie is here today to celebrate her brand new release – In the Spotlight. a bundle of two stories about men who tread the boards.

Charlie, what inspired you to write these stories?

My love of sport and the theatre. In the case of All That Jazz, I was once going to a rugby match at London Irish and I saw two blokes having a row in the club car park. My mind went into overdrive and by the time I’d considered all the possibilities why they’d been arguing, I had the makings of a character. At a similar time, the all-male productions at the Globe made me wonder if an all male Chicago would be a goer – so when these two ideas conflated I had the germ of a story. (Any more detail would give it away.)

If Music Be came from another mixing of ideas. I love Will Shakespeare’s work, especially Twelfth Night; the sexual politics and gender bending in that play are mind boggling. It’s something I’ve explored before and no doubt will do again. When hubby got given a Military Wives CD, it made me wonder about military husbands and – again – these two seemingly disparate things came together to make a tale.

Have you tackled the theatre in other stories?

Oh, yes. The Cambridge Fellows found themselves embroiled with an all male production of “The Scottish Play” and “Awfully Glad” concerns a WWI officer who appears in a concert party dressed as a woman (do I detect a theme here?) I guess it’s a matter of writing about what I enjoy watching or reading about!

“The Roosters”, an army concert party started in 1917 with the donation of a 100 drachma note by a Surrey wicket keeper and continued to perform for over 30 years

There’s something comfortably camp about the behavior of theatrical types, including the straight ones. They certainly seem happy touching each other when being interviewed on the television. Any thoughts?

Plenty! Cultures develop around professions and settings, so the language and interactions in the theatre will be different to those in accountancy. I’m sure the fact that actors spend a lot of time pretending to be someone else in an artificial setting must have an influence, too. Perhaps it loosens the inhibitions or something.

Mind you, that relaxed physicality can be seen in my beloved rugby, too. One of the factors must be the close contact on the pitch (hands and heads go places in scrums and rucks that they don’t go in other sports). But it isn’t just during the game – the lads are very tactile when celebrating a try, or after the match. I also see tweets from them along the lines of, “In bed with my pal x, watching TOWIE”. They’re clearly sharing a bed in the way Morecambe and Wise platonically shared a bed, as has been customary through time, but you can’t imagine a footballer making that sort of tweet, for fear of snide comments. I wonder if it’s because rugby players have nothing to prove in terms of their masculinity? After all, the world’s top rugby referee is “out” and nobody bats an eyelid.

What are you working on at the moment?

Something rather different and a bit daft, about which I’m giving no more details as I don’t want anyone else to nick the idea. J

Can we have an excerpt?

Of course! Here’s a bit from All That Jazz:

“Are you looking for someone?” An incongruously quiet voice sounded beside him.

Hardly the most original chat up line. Francis eyed the stranger warily. He’d got past the point of being impressed by smooth lotharios sporting smarmy clichés although this bloke didn’t seem like one of them. If Francis had been a betting man he’d have put twenty quid on the remark being genuine and heartfelt.

“Not really.” Francis used his huskiest tones, ones belying the clothes he wore, tones intended to impress. Whoever or whatever the bloke with the clichéd lines was, he had a stunning smile to accompany them. And an honest fresh face—as complete a contrast to Rhys fucking don’t trust him as far as you can throw him Mannering as you could get.

“Sorry, you just looked a bit lost.” The stranger turned face on, his smile now shy and losing some of its lustre.

“Maybe I am. Not sure I know anyone here.” Francis couldn’t believe he was uttering the words, and in such a bashful manner. He was used to being the confident, pushy one in these sort of joints. Or at least he’d been good at acting that part once Mannering had gone. He’d had to learn to make the running, determined not to let that poncy sod ruin any more of his life than he already had done. So why was he now admitting to some beddable bloke that he was anything less than Mr. Confidence? Especially tonight when a beddable bloke and a bottle of beer were top of his shopping list.

“You do look a bit out of place.”  Another devastating smile. Why the fuck did beddable bloke make you feel like you’d never been in a bloody gay bar before?  “It’s not your average pub, this place. Most of the team hang out here and it’s coloured the atmosphere.”

“The team?” Francis cast a quick glance around. The rainbow flag over the door might well have been false colours, given the butch, well built appearance of the bar’s clientele. It looked more like your average suburban local than a haunt of the spenders of the pink pound. Perhaps the flag had actually been flying over the Brasserie next door and he’d missed it in his foul temper? No, the looks and nudges he’d had were genuine enough, and he wasn’t so dragged up that he could really be mistaken for a bird.

~~~~~~

In the Spotlight

Blurb:

All That Jazz
Francis Yardley may be the high kicking star of an all-male version of Chicago, but bitter, and on the booze after the breakdown of a relationship, he thinks that the chance for true love has passed him by. A handsome, shy rugby player called Tommy seems to be the answer to his problems, but Tommy doesn’t like the lipstick and lace. Can they find a way forward and is there still a chance for happiness “nowadays”?

If Music Be
Rick Cowley finds himself taking up am-dram once more, thinking it’ll help him get over the death of his partner. He’d never anticipated it would mean an encounter with an old flame and the sort of emotional complications the Bard would have revelled in. Still, old Will had the right word for every situation, didn’t he?

Link: Amazon UK Amazon US

Bio and links: As Charlie Cochrane couldn’t be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice—like managing a rugby team—she writes.  Romances, mysteries, sometimes historical and occasionally hysterical. Rumours that she has written about weresloths are true.

Charlie’s a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Mystery People and International Thriller Writers Inc, and regularly appears with The Deadly Dames.

You can reach Charlie at cochrane.charlie2@googlemail.com (maybe to sign up for her newsletter?) or catch her on Facebook, twitter, goodreads, her website or her blog.

 

Smashwords are celebrating Read an Ebook Week from 5 to 11 March 2017 – and what that means for readers is deep discounts on awesome titles!

Manifold Press is participating, with all of our titles, backlist and new, discounted by 25%. (The only exception is our charity anthology, A Pride of Poppies.) Now is the time to stock up that TBR pile, and maybe try some new stories you’ve been pondering.

Browse the Manifold Press catalogue on Smashwords – or browse the full catalogue of all the discounted ebooks across the site. We’re 100% sure you’ll find something to love!

PS. That 25% discount includes Eleventh Hour if you fancy a copy.

comfy chair My guest today is an old friend and a person whose work I adore, so please join me in welcoming Heloise West to the Comfy Chair.

Welcome, Heloise and thanks for answering my questions.

~

In that crucial inspiration stage of a new story which comes first? Plot, situation or character?

Situation and character strike me first. For Ardent, the origin scene was Benedetto working to make that fine pigment wash, sandwiched between two situations—the death of the master painter and the arrival of a new master, the latter of whom he’d taken temporary solace from the pain of a bad breakup. My old historical critique group sent me back in time to get up to that point—I do sometimes start too late in the story, or stick too long with the first moments of the scene that’s risen to the surface, not seeing that it’s not the first scene, just a pivotal one.

Do your characters arrive fully fledged and ready to fly or do they develop as you work with them? Do you have a crisp mental picture of them or are they more a thought and a feeling than an image?

 In my first novel, Hitting Black Ice (contemporary romantic suspense from Loose Id) Hunter pretty much arrived fully fledged. I knew he had a traumatic background and an idea of what it was, but he always had that bubble-off-plumb sense of humor, calling himself Mata Hairy at one point when he’s taken up a bit of recon.  The love interest in trouble was a mystery man, even to me, and readers wanted to know more about him, so he got more screen time in the sequel.

In Ardent, Morello was the less complicated of the two and determined to both do the right thing and to have what he wants.  He was easier than Benedetto, who had to be equally determined though his needs and wants were at war with each other on a larger scale. It was hard to keep Benedetto from being a flake, but I like the way he turned out.

Is there any genre you would love to write, ditto one you would avoid like a rattlesnake?

Historical mysteries are my heart and soul, and I’m hoping to find a slice of time to work on a few of them soon. I can’t seem to make myself write straight romance, but I have a few bunnies hopping around. I have to say I avoid writing science fiction like a rattlesnake because I’m so bad at science in general. I’d definitely be putting the fiction in science, lol.

Do you find there to be a lot of structural differences between a relationship driven story and one where the romance is a sub plot?

Yes!! I got to a point in a recent manuscript, the third in the contemporary romantic suspense series, when I had a very strong feeling, wishing it was a plain old mystery I was writing and not a romance. (I always, always wanted to do the “Ellis Peters thing.”)

 I use beat sheets and structural how-to books for some books and veering off from the romance arc has been appealing lately.  Sometimes I lay scenes out physically with post-its and huge sheets of paper taped to the wall, scribbling all over the place. It’s tempting to follow the nonromance arc and see where it goes.

I think it’s the emotional map that’s different.  In a romance, you’re focused on just these two and whatever emotional landscape they share between them. That takes precedence. This landscape is different in a mystery, everyone’s emotions are important to solving the crime/mystery, how they felt about the victim, their reaction to the crime. A puzzle with more pieces, I think.

I’ve got to get these mysteries down and work on them so they won’t jump in front of the romances. I feel like an overburdened bookshelf some days. Most days, lol. I write slowly, so there’s quite a backlog messing up the works.

When writing series, what measures do you take to keep track of those annoying little details – eye colour, car type, name of ex-spouse’s dog – that are so easy to drop into text and so easy to forget about?

Sharp-eyed critiquers and beta readers. I’m too disorganized to make and keep a series bible.  Thank goodness for the search capability in Kindle, so if I do question something, I can check it faster.

Villains are incredibly important in fiction since they challenge the main protagonists and give them something to contend with beyond the tension of a developing relationship. The cruel sea. The serial killer. The society itself. Your hero’s inner demons. What sort of villains do you prize?

At this point, I find myself wrestling with three main characters who have done something awful and unforgivable, and they aren’t straight and narrow good characters to start with. But somehow I have to redeem them, bring them back from doing more damage to the world or themselves. It’s damn hard. It goes against my own McJudgey morality, but it’s doable because, hey, it’s fiction, and I still have to make this redemption believable and the characters really have to work at making it realistic, too.  I think that’s more interesting and challenging than plain evil. Though I do have a particularly nasty villain in If I Were Fire, a novella set in 18th century Tuscany (from Dreamspinner Press). He was fun to work with. But no one wants to romance him–ick!

What are you working on at the moment? Can you discuss it or do you prefer to keep it a secret until it’s finished.

So, yeah, the three main characters from the novels I’ve been working on and about to embark on: The third in the Heart and Haven series, Nick, is on submission, but it’s bounced back to me once for clarification edits—it might come back again. Nick is…complicated, and not in a good way. He was the antagonist in Hitting Black Ice, but he got a shot at redemption and took it. (My editor liked him.)

ootbk

The second novel is William, from the Order of the Black Knights multiauthor series, the brainchild of Thianna Durstan. The knights traded their souls to become warriors in an evil wizard’s army during the middle ages. They are doomed to be killers and mercenaries to the end of time, unless they can forgive their enemy and free themselves from the curse and the cycle of rebirth. I’m half way through this one.

Falcone, from Ardent, has a mystery to solve and love to redeem him, like the guys above, but he’s not easy to get along with. He was born in the slums of Florence and has lived on the streets most of his childhood. From Ardent: “Of loving parents he had no experience, Leo had once explained, a man-child who craved the light, but feared to leave the familiar darkness.”

Could we please have an excerpt of something?

In Ardent, Chapter Two, Benedetto wants Morello to teach him to swim…

“Some find it strange to put their faces in the water,” Morello went on in a slightly lecturing tone. It gave him distance from the beautiful man naked beside him. Why had he thought this would be a good idea? “Or their whole heads. Hold your breath and – ”

“I’m not an infant,” Benedetto scolded lightly. He took a breath and sank beneath the surface completely.

When Benedetto rose again, the water running loving tongues down his body, Morello said, “Then on to floating. If you relax, the water will buoy you up, like so.” He went face down into the water, arms and legs spread out, acutely aware of his naked ass, but he liked being naked with Benedetto. He floated there a few moments before turning onto his back and beginning to move his hands and feet slightly in the slow-moving water. “Now you.”

Benedetto flopped down face first in the water, thrashed about, then stood again, chagrined. “You make it look easy.”

“Let’s go deeper.” Morello pulled him a few arm’s-lengths farther out into the river. “Maybe you don’t trust me.”

“I trust you,” Benedetto said quickly.

Morello thought his answer more polite than true. “You can trust me. I would not hurt you for the world, Benedetto. I won’t let you drown. Is that what you fear?”

“I don’t know why or what I fear,” Benedetto murmured. “I think I can trust you, Morello. I want to.”

“On your back,” he said gently, trying not to think about whispering those very words by lamplight, in his own bed, Benedetto spread out against the bolsters. Well, his imagination had ever been his master, had it not? Morello put his arm under Benedetto to support him, and the man did not thrash about as he had before. He put his hand to Benedetto’s flat, hard stomach, and did not allow it to wander. “Gently. Relax. Close your eyes if that helps.”

###

Ardent from Manifold Press

Cover image: © Kiril Stanchev | shutterstock.com

Cover design: © Michelle Peart 2017

Historical M/M Romantic Suspense

Renaissance Florence

In the village of Torrenta, master painter Morello has created a color that mimics the most expensive pigment of all, the crimson red. Master Zeno, from strife-ridden Medici Florence, tells him the color gives him a competitive advantage – but Morello must be careful. Fraud is ever-present in the dye and pigment markets.

As they work together in Torrenta, Morello falls hard for Zeno’s assistant, Benedetto Tagliaferro, a young man of uncommon beauty and intelligence. Benedetto is still fixed on his old lover, the master painter Leo Guisculo, and cannot return Morello’s affections.

But when Leo dies in a terrible accident, it’s to Morello that Zeno and Benedetto turn for help. And Morello soon finds that in Florence, every surface hides layers of intrigue.

75,600 words

Publication February 1, 2017

Preorder links:

Barnes and Noble

Manifold Press

Kobo

 

About Heloise West:

Heloise West, when not hunched over the keyboard plotting love and mayhem, dreams about moving to a villa in Tuscany. She loves history, mysteries, and romance of all flavors. She travels and gardens with her partner of fourteen years, and their home overflows with books, cats, art, and red wine.

Where to find Heloise:

Blog | Website | Facebook | Pinterest

Twitter | Email | Tumblr | GoodReads

 

 

 

Another fantastic instalment in the Shield series, released today!

Anna Butler

PUBLISHED TODAY!

the_chains_of_their_sins_cvr_f_hr

The Chains of Their Sins, the fourth Shield book, is published today by Glass Hat Press (aka: me!)

JUMP TO:

Buy Links

Launch Blog Tour and Chance to Enter Giveaways

Goodreads Giveaways

About the Taking Shield Series

About The Chains Of Their Sins and an excerpt

Buy Links

Payhip – pays me the most in royalties! Available in epub and mobi (Kindle) formats

Amazon.com  |  Amazon.co.uk  |  Kobo  |  Barnes and Noble (live today)

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Launch Tour and Giveaways

I’ll be visiting various blogs next week to promote the book and a $25 Amazon gift voucher giveaway. Visit one of more of these blogs to enter the giveaway – there’s lots of choice!

FEB 13 AbibliophobiaAnonymous
Books Laid Bare Boys
Charli Coty
Gay Book Reviews
Jana Denardo
Marie Brown
MM Good Book Reviews
Nerd Girl Official
Novel Approach
Prism Book Alliance
Stories That…

View original post 1,122 more words

Artwork by Meredith Russell

Artwork by Meredith Russell

I read this book at beta level and I’m SO glad to see it back on the shelves again. With engaging MCs, an exciting and unusual setting and some fantastic secondary characters, both human and animal, it’s a great treat and highly recommended.

Blurb

Realising their love will be a hard fought battle. Keeping hold of it might just kill them.

 An unexpected job offer finds zoologist Eric Phillips transported from the elephant house at a zoo just outside London to the wildlife reserves in the South African bushveld. Being able to work with his own herd of elephants, and analysing their behaviour, more than makes up for the remote nature of the research station. The one bright spot on the horizon, quite literally if the sun hits it at the right angle, is the silver freight plane that brings his supplies and half an hour in the company of Tyaan, the gorgeous but taciturn pilot.

With wide open spaces and clear skies, Tyaan Bouwer is never be happier than when he’s flying over the bushveld, the landscape beneath him a changing vista of colour and texture. It’s that view and the freedom to be able to climb in his plane and fly that’s kept him in the small town where he was born and raised. South Africa might be a rainbow nation but in the northern regions where neighbouring countries are far from liberal minded, prejudices and hatred bleed across the borders. Tyaan’s not in the closet, not really. Get him to the city and with his strong, silent routine he can pull a guy without even trying. He’s fine with that as long as they don’t press him into trying to see them again. It’s not like he wants a relationship. And just maybe when he gets home he’s hovering in the doorway of that closet, but he’s never met anyone worth taking the risk for.

The day he’s sent to Limpopo to collect Eric that all changes. He tries to bury the feelings of want that Eric conjures in him, but he can’t resist the bonds of friendship that forms between them.

As a zoologist Eric likes to think that he’s adept at anticipating how a creature will react in any given situation, and they don’t come any more beautiful and skittish than Tyaan. Despite Tyaan’s jittery behaviour Eric has a theory they could be good together but when things go catastrophically wrong it appears their relationship will remain a theory unproven.

Second Edition

Publisher: Finally Love Press

Released: January 2017

Buy Links

Universal Amazon link: myBook.to/TheoryUnproven_LF // Payhip // Smashwords // Kobo // B&N

About the author

Lillian Francis is a self-confessed geek who likes nothing more than settling down with a comic or a good book, except maybe writing. Given a notepad, pen, her Kindle, and an infinite supply of chocolate Hobnobs and she can lose herself for weeks. Romance was never her reading matter of choice, so it came as a great surprise to all concerned, including herself, to discover a romance was exactly what she’d written, and not the rollicking spy adventure or cosy murder mystery she always assumed she’d write.

http://lillianfrancis.blogspot.co.uk/ // Twitter @LillianFrancis_

Facebook // Facebook Author Page

Goodreads // Email: lillianfrancis@rocketmail.com

 

Excerpt

Stepping out of the taxi on unsteady legs, Eric leaned against the side of the vehicle and rested his arms on the roof. The smell of burning rubber and brake discs enveloped the vehicle, searing the inside of his nostrils. He’d hoped the next leg of his journey would be in a better-cared-for vehicle than the taxi had been. This close up, the plane looked… well, old would be the best word to describe it.

As he studied the outer skin of the fuselage for missing rivets and any other manner of unseen defects, a pair of dusty leather boots appeared on the cargo ramp. The measured stride they belonged to was solid and confident, and in no time at all, a man appeared. Tall and tanned, he stooped slightly to avoid any contact with the body of the aircraft, and then grabbing a clipboard from atop a box, he hunkered down in the midst of the crates.

As Eric watched, the man studied the labels and then made a mark on the paperwork attached to the clipboard. Blond hair peeked out from under his hat, fanning out on the collar of his shirt. At no point did he acknowledge the existence of the car, even though he couldn’t have failed to have heard its arrival.

Irrationally annoyed by the well-built blond and his off-putting manner, Eric pushed himself off the car and sauntered round to the other side of the vehicle, closer to the man who was busying himself with his work and ignoring Eric.

His shadow fell across the crates and the bowed head of the— Could this be the pilot? Eric could see no other people near the aircraft. The blond raised his head, a frown pulling the skin tight between his eyebrows.

The man’s gaze settled on Eric briefly before flicking over to the taxi. When he returned to look over Eric once more, the skin of his forehead had smoothed out, but still the man didn’t smile. He nodded in acknowledgement, just once, short and curt, and then dipped his head back to his work and turned slightly away from Eric. With the stranger squatting in the dust, Eric towered above him, the position giving him the perfect view of broad shoulders and a solid frame that Eric couldn’t resist studying.

Abruptly, the man stood and cleared his throat. He dropped the clipboard onto a nearby box, throwing a curious glance in Eric’s direction, and then disappeared back up the ramp. Eric blinked, self-conscious at having been caught blatantly staring, and ruffled a hand through his short dark hair. His embarrassment wasn’t sufficient to keep him from trailing after the man, though, stopping just short of following him into the aircraft to stand near the ramp in the shade of the fuselage.

Preparing to ask the stranger his name, Eric opened his mouth to speak, when he was interrupted by a doleful bleat. Startled, he glanced over his shoulder, scanning the airfield expecting to find signs of a wayward sheep. The forlorn stuttering cry came again, and Eric whipped back round, suspiciously eyeing a crate that was securely strapped to the internal wall of the plane.

“Goat,” said the pilot—Eric had decided that’s what he was—as he came back down the ramp.

The deep timbre of that one word surprised Eric. It was rough and low, with an unfamiliar accent Eric’s subconscious demanded to hear more of. That wasn’t likely to happen, though, because the pilot was already surveying his cargo with his back to Eric. He bent to hoist a crate into his arms, leaving Eric to stare dry-mouthed at the enticing pull of khaki for several seconds. Then the pilot straightened and carried the crate into the plane.

Eric wondered if he should offer to help, but despite the ease with which the crate had been hefted into the air, Eric thought they would probably be too heavy and he didn’t want to make a fool of himself. Not in front of this man.

The blond wore the almost obligatory light khaki bush clothes similar to his own uniform The Foundation had provided. Eric hadn’t noticed a logo on his shirt, but he could hope. If this man worked for The Foundation, Eric could at least enjoy the view, since it was unlikely he was gay. He hadn’t even looked twice at Eric. Not that Eric considered himself drop-dead gorgeous or anything, but he was used to getting his fair share of interest back home in England.

Eric caught a glimpse of Akibo gesticulating wildly at the cab driver. His holdalls were piled at Akibo’s feet, Eric noticed thankfully. At least if the altercation didn’t go well and the cab driver took off, he wouldn’t abscond with Eric’s luggage.

The hollow echo of footfalls on the ramp drew Eric’s attention back to the pilot. Tiredness was pulling on Eric’s nerves, leaving him out of sorts, and the lack of conversation was doing nothing to ease his irritability.

Taking the bull by the horns, Eric graced the pilot with the brightest smile he could muster. “So, do you work for The Foundation too?”

“No.” The man’s stride didn’t even falter as he continued toward the next crate.

Not chatty, then. Downright rude, in fact.

The firm slap of a hand on his back caught him just off centre, almost pitching him forward, and Akibo’s fingers curled over his shoulder and squeezed.

“I see you’ve met Tyaan. Tyaan Bouwer. He’s the local freight pilot. He’ll run your supplies into the research station every week.”

It was almost as if the pilot finally saw Eric as anything other than an annoyance for the first time. Tyaan stepped toward him, straightening to his full height, and Eric resisted the urge to check out the breadth of his chest, instead raising his gaze the few inches’ difference in their height to meet Tyaan’s eyes head-on.

“Tyaan, this is Eric. Eric Philips. He’s the new researcher out at olifant velde.” Akibo turned back to Eric. “That’s the local name for your part of the reserve. It means elephant fields.”

Howzit.” Tyaan stuck out his hand. Eric extended his own automatically, and Tyaan pressed their palms together, enveloping Eric’s fingers in warmth. He gave Eric’s hand a short, sharp shake before releasing him from the firm grip. “The elephant man, hey?”

Eric smiled. “I know I’m no oil painting, but I hope I’m not that bad.”

Tyaan’s top-to-toe appraisal was so fleeting that Eric thought he’d imagined it. An expression skittered across the pilot’s face. Interest, curiosity—Eric wasn’t sure. It manifested itself as a bright spark in his eyes and the faint quirk of his lips, as if he were biting the inside of his cheek. The look vanished before Eric could really work out what it meant, but the amber-coloured eyes still seemed to hold a welcome within them.

“Tyaan’s a man of few words, but you won’t find a finer bush pilot. He’s reliable too. He’ll never leave you wanting.”

Wanting. Despite the pilot’s brusque manner, Eric wasn’t surprised he already wanted to press Tyaan up against the shiny metal body of his plane.

“I’m going up front,” Akibo said, blissfully unaware of the thoughts rampaging through Eric’s head. At least Eric hoped that was the case, since he followed that statement with “Coming, Eric?”

In his dreams, maybe.

“It’s hot enough to fry boerewors in there.” Tyaan shifted his attention away from Eric and addressed Akibo. “Leave the doors open. I’ll only be a few more minutes.”

Eric eyed the pile of sacks sitting in the dirt. More like half an hour. Tyaan’s shoulder and back muscles shifted beneath his shirt as he hefted a sack onto his shoulder and took another one in each hand. The tendons flexed and released in his bare forearms from where he grasped the corners of the sacks tightly.

“Eric?”

Realising he was being spoken to, Eric dragged his attention from the large vein that was running up from Tyaan’s wrist to elbow. “No, I’ll stay out here for a moment. Not used to the heat yet.”

Akibo nodded and, shifting his document bag to the other shoulder, headed toward the front of the plane, leaving Eric with the pilot and an awkward silence.

When Tyaan completed several trips into the plane and the silence had stretched on beyond what Eric could bear—although Tyaan didn’t appear bothered by it—Eric groped for something to say. He waited until Tyaan reached the top of the ramp, not wanting to startle him with his latest pile of precariously balanced sacks.

“It’s an unusual name.” Then Eric added as an afterthought, “Tyaan.”

Blithering idiot! As if the man didn’t know his own name.

Tyaan lowered the sack from his shoulder and placed it with the others. The pile outside the plane was already half the size it had been. Maybe the pilot had been right in his estimate. He pushed his hat back, swiped his arm across his brow and looked at Eric as if he’d just asked him whether he preferred to top or bottom.

“It’s Afrikaans.”

“Oh. So, do you speak Afrikaans?” A worrying thought started gnawing at Eric. “Do they speak it in the town?”

“Sure. I had to, my grandfather refused to speak English. Most people speak English with the odd word thrown in. You’ll get used to it.”

Tyaan returned to his sacks, the conversation obviously over. But Eric wasn’t ready to give up. He liked that gravel-edged sound that emanated from Tyaan’s lips. He could almost see the vibration beneath pale bristles on the pilot’s throat and itched to place his fingers there to feel the movement.

“I like your plane.” Eric cast his gaze over the large silver plane he was standing next to. “Looks like the one in that Indiana Jones movie. You know, the one where they fall out of the plane in the life raft. Temple of Doom, that’s the one…”

His voice trailed off as he became aware that Tyaan had stopped hefting sacks and was just staring, hands on his hips, his expression open and amused.

“It’s not that old. That movie was set in 1935. This is a de Havilland DHC-4 Caribou. They didn’t start making these until 1958…”

So that was how to get the reticent man talking, Eric realised as he allowed the low rumble to drift over him in a reassuring array of facts and figures. Get him on the subject of his plane. There was no question this aircraft was loved and well cared-for and Eric no longer had any qualms about climbing aboard.

“…but you don’t really want to know all that. I’m just boring you.”

“No.” I could listen to you talk all day long. “It’s fascinating.”

Evidently Tyaan had run out of words. He shrugged and turned his attention back to his cargo. “It’s old, but you’re safe in my hands. I promise you that.”

Eric didn’t doubt it; he just hoped one day he might get the chance to find out.

Reviews for Theory Unproven (first edition)

5 elephant review from Bike Book Reviews.

The opening line is a cracker in itself.

OH MY GOODNESS, I AM REALLY EXCITED FOR US TO BE HOSTING A BOOK BLAST FOR THIS EPIC, WONDERFUL, MASTERFULLY WRITTEN LITERARY ENTREE KNOWN AS ‘THEORY UNPROVEN’ BY LILLIAN FRANCIS! 

Okay, I’m blushing (and grinning, just a little bit) and we haven’t even got to the review yet. Right off the bat she hits on a point that I’m already concerned will deter readers… the length.

When I started this book and realized how many pages it had, I said to myself, “How in the world is this book gonna hold my interest for this long, it has to be a dang good one”, (but I needn’t have worried) let me assure you my friends, it is a dang good one and more!

And a few more choice quotes:

…a wonderful passionate story 

Get this book and get ready for passion, devotion, and yes suspense all rolled up in a nice package! 

Thank you Lillian, for making me realize it isn’t the length, long or short of a book, it is the heart of it that matters!

Read the review in full here.

Another 5 star review from MM Good Book Reviews.

The passion between Eric and Tyaan is both sweet and explosive. 

…the first half of the book is rather light hearted and relaxed before really going into the action.

There is a lot of sweetness to be had set in an amazing landscape with some pretty damn intelligent animals. In fact, a couple of the elephants are minor characters in their own right and thoroughly enjoyable.

Read the full review here.

Former reviewer Tina gave Theory Unproven 4.5 stars. Check out her review in full here at Leafmarks.

“Both characters are just wonderfully elaborated, and they have this freaking hot chemistry, despite all the things popping up to mess with them. Lillian Francis did a wonderful job of conveying the heart and soul of these two guys, and when the heat turns up, it gets damn hot! It’s either slow and romantic, rough and steamy, or smoking hot and passionate.”

“Lillian’s writing is powerful, gripping, emotional and captivating, she creates enticing characters and a sexy, emotionally charged story line.”

“I lived within the story, I felt the South African heat, smelled the elephants and tasted the dust on my tongue, I laughed, smiled and cursed with the guys. How they managed to overcome their challenges to form a deep and everlasting love and build such a strong relationship touched me deeply.”

“Highly recommended for those who share my love for the beautiful African continent… and want a well done, sweet, funny, suspenseful and delicious romance without too much angst.”

4.25 star review at scatteredthoughtsandroguewords.

With a zoologist, Eric Phillips, as one half of the main couple, I loved the realistic way his life and work with the elephants was portrayed.  Dirty, all consuming, and soul satisfying…the readers understands through the many passages what it must be like to have that deep connection with another species. 

All good characters, all people the reader will want to spend time with.

Tyaan is a character that will draw conflicted feelings among the readers.  I thought his was a character grounded in the reality of the changing times in South Africa…Got it, you understand him even if you don’t like his actions, it makes him human.

While I was reading it, I was hooked on the elephants, Eric and Tyaan’s attraction for each other and strained journey towards a relationship.  

This is a long book yet most of the time I spent reading it flew by.  And I could easily book a flight back to this universe.  

…this story is so lush, so vibrant in feeling and scope that I am still so very much in love with Theory Unproven weeks later.

I recommend this story for all who love romance, foreign lands and a landscape of adventure where the search for love can be rough, affectionate, and hard won.  

Read the review in full here.

5 heart review from Hearts on Fire reviews

…the story was well paced, with great main characters and secondary characters…

The chemistry between the two main characters has a great build up, with compassion for Tyaan…, and hope for Eric that he won’t get his heart broken, since you love him pretty much from the start of the story!

If you like animals, you are going to love these two characters! (Jack and Ianto, the elephants)

I would recommend this book for romance lovers who really enjoy the development of the story as much as the romance and hot scenes…

Read the full review here.

 

comfy chair My guest today is a ‘new to me’ author from the US – Dorian Dawes – who is promising a new and unique voice in gothic horror. They have been previously published published in a some horror anthologies such as Fading Light: An Anthology of the Monstrous, Attic Toys, and In Poe’s Shadow and they have written non-fiction articles and essays for Catalyst Magazine, Harlot Magazine, Bitch Media, and Glitch Witch. Harbinger Island is their first full length publication

Can you tell me a little about yourself?

I grew up in a small town where the satanic panic of the 80’s never really ended and continued well on into the 2000’s. They didn’t always react to me with the most tolerance, and at one point I was told that the way I dressed was glorifying to Satan. My teenage fashion sense wasn’t that horrendous, I hope! I’ve always wanted to be a writer though as books and stories were my rare escape from that awful place.

What are you reading?

godchildAt the moment, I’m re-reading a manga I discovered in my teenage years, Kaori Yuki’s Godchild. It’s a tale of gothic horror and intrigue, and it has beautiful men batting eyelashes at each other so I love it.

In that crucial inspiration stage of a new story which comes first? Plot, situation, or character?

None! My ideas typically start with a style or an aesthetic, or even a mood. From there the world starts to sprout up in my head, then characters, and with those characters the plot begins to form.
Do your characters arrive fully fledged and ready to fly or do they develop as you work with them? Bartleby Prouse from Harbinger Island was extremely clear when I first met him, but he’s become so much more complex and detailed as I’ve gotten to know him over the past two years.

What inspired you to write supernatural horror?

For most of my life I’ve been a big horror not, always drawn to things that are spooky and mysterious. My one frustration was that horror so rarely features queer people or people of color, instead coming from a homogenous white-centric heteronormative narrative that I feel has caused the genre to stagnate. I wanted to bring other stories into the genre, personal stories of marginalized people fighting against oppressive horrors. I wanted this to be a horror book for the rest of us spooky people who might not be white or straight or cisgender. We deserve to be protagonists and have our stories told too.

Villains are incredibly important in fiction. What sort of villains do you prize?

I love writing and creating villains of all kinds, but I’d say my personal favorites are ambitious visionaries or mysterious forces working from the shadows. Both are equally terrifying; delicious to write about and to read.
What are you working on at the moment? I’ve been working on an adventure-comedy set in space about four cranky mercenaries and bounty hunters hired by a shadowy corporation to embark on a hostile planet in order to retrieve an ancient alien artifact. Their conflicting histories and motivations turn out to be their own undoing and shenanigans ensue.

Put together your ideal team of men/women – drawing from all and any walks of life, fictional or non-fictional – who you would want to come to your rescue if menaced by muggers/alligators/fundamentalists?

I live in Florida, so alligators and fundamentalists are a very real threat! I’d put together a group of intimidating and inspiring individuals. Magneto, Laverne Cox, Carrie Fisher, Bela Lugosi, and Luke Cage.

saviors

Could we please have an excerpt of something?

From Harbinger Island:

An awful smell greeted her inside. Some animals had broken in at some point, leaving their little paw prints in dust along the floors and counters, as well as their own little droppings here and there. The kitchen cabinets had been ransacked and old, moldy food left there to rot in festering piles. A pile of unwashed dishes was stacked in the kitchen where cockroaches and worms bathed in their own putrescence.
Dissonant sounds of white noise shrieked from the living room beyond. Veronika winced and struck a defensive position. Yiggie came uncurled from her forearm and rose, hissing back at the noise. She crept cautiously into the living room, bathed in the eerie white glow of an old television set. Her eyes darted about carefully, seeking out intruders.
“Flesh-thing …” Yiggie called her attention towards the TV.
She crossed over the half-turned molding and frayed carpet to the television set at the far corner of the living room. There were at first only images of raining static, but gradually other images came through. She saw the living room from a wide angle, like that of a camera on the ceiling. Gradually, the image became clearer and clearer.
A figure wandered into view. She never got a good look at their face, as every time they looked up at the camera, the static worsened until the image was completely obscured. They were wearing what appeared to be a stained hospital gown. The top of their head was swathed in bloody bandages.
Veronika felt her skin start to craw as she watched the figure wander around the house, hunched over and sniffing at the air. They were a gangly thing, tall and unnaturally thin, and their flesh was discolored and graying, corpse-like. They had long bony fingers, and even longer yellowed fingernails that had grown brittle and curved.

HARBINGER ISLAND

by Dorian Dawes

Every community has a dark side, a sordid past that’s kept to hushed whispers and out of the ears of prying tourists – and Harbinger Island has the darkest shades of them all. Professor Bartleby Prouse is obsessed with the secrets and occult conspiracies surrounding the island’s myriad of unsolved murders and mysteries. He’ll have to use every bit of magic and cunning at his disposal if he is to protect his students after they unwittingly draw the attention of one of the island’s most insidious cults.

A collection of character-driven stories which combine dark fantasy and horror elements within a modern setting. The diverse cast of LGBT+ individuals come from various backgrounds, and the stories examine the prejudices they experience in their day-to-day lives along with the supernatural horrors they face.

84,500 words/322 pages
$6.95

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Smashwords

Author Bio:

Dorian Dawes is a self-described social justice witch and full-time gender disaster. They also like to write things. Their work attempts to bring a diverse queer perspective into the sci-fi, fantasy, and horror genres. When not writing they can be found watching horror movies, playing too many videogames, or hiding from the existential horror of it all beneath a black, fuzzy blanket.

You can follow Dorian on Facebook | Twitter or Instagram.

I’m always pleased to see new books from Manifold and this month there are some doozies!

~

BREAK OF ANOTHER DAY

by Jay Lewis Taylor

The Great War is over. Jack Townsend, no longer a hospital orderly, is back at work in his photographer’s shop in Lewisham. But there is no peace yet; his blackmailer is still in business, and Celia Vavasour seems determined to manage his life. All his life; even his love-life …

Meanwhile in Sussex, David Lewry, former army officer, is still holding off from a closer relationship with Alan Kershaw, once in the Navy and now the village’s GP. Lew knows how much Alan wants him, but this last step is one he cannot take – not yet, unless something changes …

16,200 words/66 pages
$1.99

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Smashwords

~

ARDENT

by Heloise West

In the village of Torrenta, master painter Morello has created a color that mimics the most expensive pigment of all, the crimson red. Master Zeno, from strife-ridden Medici Florence, tells him the color gives him a competitive advantage – but Morello must be careful. Fraud is ever-present in the dye and pigment markets.

As they work together in Torrenta, Morello falls hard for Zeno’s assistant, Benedetto Tagliaferro, a young man of uncommon beauty and intelligence. Benedetto is still fixed on his old lover, the master painter Leo Guisculo, and cannot return Morello’s affections.

But when Leo dies in a terrible accident, it’s to Morello that Zeno and Benedetto turn for help. And Morello soon finds that in Florence, every surface hides layers of intrigue.

75,600 words/292 pages
$6.95

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Smashwords

~

HARBINGER ISLAND

by Dorian Dawes

Every community has a dark side, a sordid past that’s kept to hushed whispers and out of the ears of prying tourists – and Harbinger Island has the darkest shades of them all. Professor Bartleby Prouse is obsessed with the secrets and occult conspiracies surrounding the island’s myriad of unsolved murders and mysteries. He’ll have to use every bit of magic and cunning at his disposal if he is to protect his students after they unwittingly draw the attention of one of the island’s most insidious cults.

A collection of character-driven stories which combine dark fantasy and horror elements within a modern setting. The diverse cast of LGBT+ individuals come from various backgrounds, and the stories examine the prejudices they experience in their day-to-day lives along with the supernatural horrors they face.

84,500 words/322 pages
$6.95

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Smashwords

~

Wishing Jay, Heloise and Dorian all the best with their new books. I can’t wait to read them.