Thanks to The Armchair Reader for hosting me today as I finish up my first official Riptide Books tour for Catch A Ghost, which is book 1 in the Hell or High Water series. Today, I wanted to talk a little bit about music and how it affects my writing process, so I answered some questions below.
1. How do you come up with your book titles? A lot of my book titles for my Riptide series come from song titles. The lyrics play a big part in my choice—it’s typically a song I’m using to write to as I write the book. Music’s always ben a huge part of my process. Sometimes, an entire book can be inspired by a single line of lyric. To me, music is like poetry, and it sets a mood that you can’t really explain. If you play me a song I used to listen to in college, I’ll still get that same feeling I had when I was first listening to it—and I can picture where I was when I first heard it. I’ve had that relationship with music forever. I can still remember the first songs I asked my parents to get me—I used to make them play them loud on the radio. Loud.
2. What music do you write best to? It depends on the book, but it’s never classical music. Usually, it’s a mix of some classic rock with rap, disco and those embarrassing songs you refuse to admit you own thrown in. I try to set the playlist so that it will immediately drag me right back into that book and characters, so I don’t waste a moment of precious writing time. Music is so amazingly visceral that way.
3. Doesn’t music distract you?
I’ve heard that some authors can’t listen to music at all, or can’t listen to music with words because it yanks them out of their story. For me, that doesn’t happen. The entire thing—the song, the words and my thoughts kind of blend together. And I get to lose myself. And that’s the key to good writing, letting yourself get lost in that fictional world. If you’re not exhausted at the end of your writing session (albeit, it can be a good tired) somethings’s wrong. You didn’t dig deep enough.
4. Can we see the songs you write to? Sure! If you look at my website, I’ve got a list of songs I wrote Catch A Ghost to (and trust me, it’s a partial list) but I included some of the lyrics that are most important. I think, once you read the book, you can go back to the lyrics and see why I chose that particular song. And sometimes, I’ll play a song over and over during certain key scenes, so much so that I’ll forever associate that song with that moment. Not a bad thing.
I’m having a contest that will run through the end of this blog tour on my website. In order to be eligible, you just need to leave a comment here! Actually, you can comment on my blog and any other blogs along this tour and you’ll be entered separately for a chance to win with each comment.
So just tell me in the comments—what’s your favorite kind of music to listen to. Or your all-time favorite song—or favorite song of the moment. Please share, because I love discovering new music!
About SE Jakes:
SE Jakes writes m/m romance. She believes in happy endings and fighting for what you want in both fiction and real life. She lives in New York with her family and most days, she can be found happily writing (in bed). No really…
You can contact her the following ways:
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Truth be told, the best way to contact her is by email or in blog comments. She spends most of her time writing but she loves to hear from readers!
About Catch A Ghost:
Everyone knows that Prophet—former Navy SEAL, former CIA spook, full-time pain in the ass—works alone and thinks only about the trouble he can cause. But his boss, Phil Butler of Extreme Escapes, LTD., has just assigned Proph not only a new partner but also a case haunted by ghosts from Proph’s past. Suddenly, he’s got to confront them both head on.
Tom Boudreaux—failed FBI agent, failed sheriff, full time believer in bad luck—is wondering why the head of a private contracting firm has hunted him down to offer him a job. Still he’s determined to succeed this time, despite being partnered with Prophet, EE, LTD’s most successful, lethal, and annoying operative, and even though the case is also resurrecting his own painful past.
Together, Prophet and Tom must find a way to take down killers in the dangerous world of underground cage matches, while fighting their own dangerous attraction. And when they find themselves caught in the crossfire, these two loners are forced to trust each other and work together to escape their ghosts . . . or pay the price.
You can read and excerpt and purchase at Riptide books! Book 2 in the series, Long Time Gone, is also up for preorder from Riptide here.
Title: Angel’s Redemption
Author: Azalea Moone
Publisher: Storm Moon Press
Length: 31k words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Fantasy Romance
Heat: 2 – Romantic & Tame
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Angels, Fallen Angels, Rockers/Musicians, Metal Music, Roommates, Luck, Insta-Love
Rating: Not Feelin’ It
Twenty-four-year-old Blaine Schneider is seasoned to hardship. Since the age of eight, he’s experienced nothing but a swarm of bad luck: from the funny electrical fire in shop class to failing grades and relationships gone sour. He believes he’ll never get past it; only his band, ‘Til Dark, and their dream, keeps him going through it all.
Shortly after he mysteriously inherits a beautifully carved angel statue, Blaine also finds an apartment big enough to display the lifelike sculpture, and he thinks his luck has finally taken a turn for the better. But when he discovers the spell inscribed on the statue’s base, he frees Lynsael from his stone prison, a handsome fallen angel who claims to be Blaine’s former guardian angel, and then his luck really improves.
But while Blaine is falling hard for the angel’s blue eyes and lively personality, in the shadows, dark forces are working to keep Blaine and Lynsael apart. It will take more than luck for the pair to come through unscathed—it’ll take a miracle.
I shouldn’t apologize for my feelings and I try not to usually, but I will, because I tend to do that. Sorry ahead of time to those who put a lot of love and care into the creation of this book, this isn’t really going to be a positive review 😦
I have a love/hate relationship with angel stories. I think that maybe people are turned onto angels for a few different reasons, but a lot of it has to do with the loss of innocence. There are so many directions an author can take an angelic character — an exploration of literary history and popular angelic mythos, playing on the fallen angel theme and the dichotomy of innocence and corruption, angelic and human. Many romance novels place a lot of importance on world building as a backdrop to the reason their angel falls and then some place the romance itself as the focus of their story. Many of those stories are where I find myself not as interested. I like seeing an author’s imagination in world building of angel stories. I think that what I really don’t like is that I sometimes find angels in romance stories to be somewhat… vapid? without personality? They convey all of that innocence but it seems one dimensional. It’s hard to connect with a character like that, and even though it might be a purposeful choice because angels are in fact, not human (who knew?!), that doesn’t necessarily make it a good choice for the story.
That’s where I started to encounter some problems for me with Angel’s Redemption. I like this author’s prose, no doubt about that. And that is probably why I continually come back to read her stories even though, in the past, I’ve not been very kind in my reviews. So for me, taking a gamble on this story for review was… well, a gamble, what with the angel theme and my past history with not liking some of this author’s characters so much. The premise of this story is the freedom of an angel who is bound in a statue. Blaine received the statue, which has always mystified and alternately unnerved him, from his father’s best friend, an artist who worked on the statue for a long time and for some unknown reason left it to Blaine in his will. When Blaine moves to an apartment with enough space to showcase the beautiful rendition of the male form (au naturel), he puts it in a place where he can showcase it, even adding a spotlight to show it off.
In the meantime, Blaine is trying to make his sucky life better. Ever since the age of 8 he’s been terribly unlucky. Prior to that, his life was wonderful. Now that he’s 24 and with a band he’s proud of he thinks he might be able to master his own luck and make his life happier. There’s a chance for his band to play a weekly gig at a popular club, which will give them lots of visibility and even a bit of cash. His life and luck is looking up, if they can actually get the gig. It looks promising, if only his bandmates would get their shit together.
But Blaine is still mystified by the statue of the beautiful angel. Sometimes… he swears that when he walks by the eyes follow him and occasionally he sees a feather ruffle. It can’t be true, but further investigation of the statue reveals a strange phrase in latin marked on the base. Blaine’s curiosity could be the best, or worst thing that has ever happened to him.
I hate to sit and list the problems I had with this book. I mean, for the most part I still enjoyed reading it and I definitely didn’t hate it. But, I also found some things here that have bothered me with past Azalea Moone books and stories. One of those things, and the one of the biggest problems that I had here was the world building. It’s almost non-existent. I read through this whole book having no clue what was going on. It wasn’t because the characters were purposefully keeping secrets — they were — but, we’re often given references of things that have happened in the past. This is great because it helps us put the pieces of the story together ourselves, but there has to be a framework in which to fill in those gaps — a world. I read the blurb again when I finished the book and it had more detail than was in the actual book. Also, throughout the book, Lynsael continually asks Blaine to help him find out what happened with the statue. Both of them don’t understand how he broke out, how he was bound, or what the sculptor (Blaine’s father’s friend) really knew about any of this, including Lyn. Blaine offers to help, about a million times but something always seems to come up to distract him. This is just one of my pet peeves. It didn’t seem like a very good reason to stall them, to put off talking about their situation and finding out what is going on. It seemed more like an easy way to stall them until the ending of the story. It was just… frustrating to read, honestly. I would have liked to see them talk, not only to figure out why everything was happening as it was, but also to get to know one another — their history, their lives, their feelings — and by extension for me to get to know the characters.
I ended the book feeling like I didn’t really understand the story, only the few events that happened but no background at all to fill in the details and gaps. I also felt like I didn’t really know the characters well. I understood Blaine a bit better than Lyn, but not well. So I didn’t connect with them and I didn’t really see a connection between them. In another story by this author that I read and reviewed (“On Clouds of Obsession” in the Fraternal Devotion anthology, reviewed here), I felt like I didn’t really like one of of the main characters. And I felt that way about Blaine somewhat too. While he wasn’t the kind of asshole like in “On Clouds of Obsession”, he still pissed me off most of the book with his words toward Lyn and his refusal to help him and his general attitude of pissy and then, suddenly, he loves him. I didn’t get it, really.
I think that pretty much says everything. I didn’t really like the book and I feel like it needed more work to fill out the story. That and I just couldn’t connect with both of the characters. Unfortunately, I can’t recommend this one.
Posted by Cole in 16-40k, 2 Not Feelin' It, Authors M-O, Contemporary, Fantasy, Heat 2 - Romantic & Tame, Romance, Sex Freq 3 - Average Story to Sex Tags: Angels, Azalea Moone, Fallen Angels, Insta-Love, Luck, Metal music, Music, Musicians, Roommates, Storm Moon Press
- Back to the USSR
- Dear Prudence
- Glass Onion
- Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
- Wild Honey Pie
- The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill
- While My Guitar Gently Weeps
- Happiness is a Warm Gun
Author: Sabrina Luna
Length: 9k words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Erotica Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Short Story, MLR Mixtapes, Flashback/Memories, 1980s, Music, Established Relationships, First Times, High School, College, Friends
Rating: So So
Dan Rockwell finds a mix tape in an old trunk which brings back memories of a special night in 1984.
When Dan Rockwell discovers a mix tape in an old trunk in his parents’ attic, it brings back fond memories. Coaxed by his partner, Dan recalls Russ Hill, the guy who gave him the mix tape, and their very sexy Spring night together back in 1984.
Dan is with his partner of ten years, Ian, cleaning out his mother’s attic space when they come across an old trunk that very obviously according to it’s decoration, once belonged to a young Dan. At Ian’s urging, Dan opens the trunk to find memories from his teenaged years — including one mixtape — the memory of which obviously seems to mean a lot to Dan. Ian wants to hear the story of where it came from and why it means so much to Dan. He’s somewhat reluctant to tell Ian, not because they don’t tell each other everything about their past lovers anyway, but because it’s a special memory to him.
On their drive home, Dan starts the story and we flash back to 1984, the year of Dan’s senior year of high school where he’s invited to a house party of a friend now in college and learns that another roommate there is Russ, his friend from high school that he lost touch with when he went away to college. Dan always had feelings for Russ, feelings that he had a hard time exploring. Russ was all around perfect — really cute, brave enough to come out, very smart and an incredibly talented artist – where Dan feels he’s none of those things. In fact, he’s still in the closet and totally scared of anyone finding out about him.
The story continues when Russ and Dan start talking at the party, and when one thing leads to another and the rest of the guys decide to move the party elsewhere, the guys are left alone in an empty house. Dan is suddenly faced with the assurance that for the first time something is going to happen and totally excited that of all guys, that something is going to happen with Russ Hill. Then he puts in the mixtape…
In some ways I can see where this might be a disappointing story for some. There’s really no romance and not much plot here. The story is basically Dan recounting a night in his past for his partner, but we don’t learn a lot about that partner. In fact, we learn a whole lot more about Russ than we do about Ian. I found that to be a little sad, not only because it would help the story so much to have an understanding of the present day and Dan’s relationship with his partner, but also because I have a feeling that while Dan may have fond memories of his first time that Russ probably wasn’t as interesting as Ian. Maybe I feel that way because I wanted to know Ian better, but I also wanted to know the man that Dan has spent 10 years with rather than the boy that he spent a night with.
I labelled this as Contemporary Erotic Romance, but I didn’t feel that it was in particular a “romance” nor that it was “erotica”. We don’t get a romance because the man that Dan is with isn’t really known to us, and his relationship with Russ isn’t really enough to constitute even a failed romance, and his first sexual encounter isn’t really even particularly that erotic, just some playing that, for sure is a big deal for a first time, but otherwise not as much.
At the same time, I have to give this story props because even with all of those things I’ve written I still really enjoyed this story and I didn’t feel that in any particular area it really failed in a big way (except with present day Ian, which I talked about). This story read for me as more of a short gay fiction story, whether the author intended that or not. There’s a happy ending, but it’s not part of the story we really read about, it’s because we know that today as the story ends Dan is in a happy place. In 1984, his one night with Russ Hill is overall a bit disappointing. Still, I found the emotions that Dan has about that time in his life to be appropriately subtle in many ways across the board — fondness, sadness, memory of his excitement and his overall disappointment. Even more than that, I gave this story a whole extra point (star…what have you) simply because that whole encounter between Russ and Dan was so real. You can feel Dan’s nervousness and his excitement and the feeling that something out of control is happening to him but which he’d never ever say no to! And at the same time, you can at once see the dichotomy between them and their experience. Dan is fresh and overwhelmed and Russ is experienced and nonchalant and at the same time just a little bit jaded. He’s obviously glad he got Dan into his bed, but I (as the reader) got the feeling that to Russ that’s all that really mattered. Dan, as this is something he looked forward to and wanted for so long automatically has deeper meaning for him. That is something that he doesn’t figure out until later.
Honestly, I didn’t expect a whole lot from this story because I don’t know this author. I assumed that this was a new author, thought she apparently isn’t and I just wasn’t familiar with her before. In the end, this is a mixed bag for me. Some of the writing was really excellent, but some of the story crafting was disappointing. So So
Oh, before I go! Has anyone else been listening to the song when it pops up in the story? I put it up on iTunes whenever I read one of these stories and when they put the mixtape in and started…. well, you know, and “ah, ah, ah, hah ah… I know this much is truuuuee” I started CRACKING UP LAUGHING 😉 I was born in 1984 so this song, instead, just made me think of “The Wedding Singer” with Adam Sandler instead!
Posted by Cole in 3 So So, Authors J-L, Contemporary, Erotica, Heat 3 - Sexy & Mild, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between, up to 15k Tags: 1980s, Childhood Friends, College, Existing Relationship, First Times, Flashbacks, High School, MLR Mixtapes, MLR Press, Music, Sabrina Luna, Short Story
Title: When I See You Smile
Author: Karenna Colcroft
Length: 16k words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Short Story, MLR Mixtapes, Rockers/Musicians, Music, Famous, a bit of BDSM, Coming Out, Light & Sweet
Rating: Pretty Good
Rocker Kieran West is ready to go public about his relationship with his lover–and submissive–Deacon Shea.
Although rocker Kieran West is openly gay, only a handful of people know about his relationship with his lover–and submissive–Deacon Shea. Although he knows the BDSM part of their relationship must remain a secret, Kieran wants the world to know that he and Deke are in love, and he wants to make Deke a permanent part of his life.
It has been a while since I read and reviewed one of Karenna Colcroft’s short stories — that last one being Chance Met, which I gave a So So rating — but I was excited to read this one because of the rocker theme. And I’m glad that I did, because this story did what a short romance does well. It doesn’t try to pack a whole romance into a short format but it gives us a glimpse into the life of the characters and their romance.
Kieran is a forceful presence, a musical star combining country and rock with a solid fan base, and publicly gay after coming out over a year before this story starts. But he also has a secret life that he’s held in check, mostly at the urging of his manager and boyfriend, who just wants to support his career and not jeopardize it. Kieran is a forceful presence, yes. He knows what he wants and he takes it, which makes him successful. But he also likes to carry that power into the bedroom, and he has a permanent partner there who likes to submit to him. Secretly, Kieran has been dating the man who works at his right hand, doing much of the behind-the-scenes work for his music and on his tours. Deacon is known to most as his best friend, but they’ve been lovers in a part-time BDSM relationship for a year now.
But Kieran is tired of hiding. He finally made the leap and convinced his management and studio that he should come out. But so far they’ve convinced him not to admit to his relationship with Deke, hoping to continue to play on Kieran’s heartthrob status and unsure if the same people who supported him coming out as gay would feel similarly about him as a gay man in a relationship. For Kieran, however, it is past time. When a man from the studio tells him to record a cover on his next album of the song “When I See You Smile” from the 80s, it serves as a catalyst for Kieran to stick it to the man. Kieran West doesn’t do covers, and he sure as hell isn’t going to keep Deke a secret any longer. But will Deke agree?
As I mentioned at the beginning of the review, this story works as a glimpse into the lives of our characters at an important moment in their relationship, without using conflict to drive the plot. Of course, there is a little bit of conflict. The people around Kieran are pretty adamantly against his decision to go public about Deke, but there’s no real conflict because Kieran has already made up his mind, and like I said, he’s a strong personality. His resolve only serves to make us closer to him because we always respect people/characters who are steadfast and self-aware, especially in defense of their partner. And Kiernan’s decision to go public is really about honoring Deke, who deserves to stand up as his boyfriend as much as Kiernan wants to stand by his side. The BDSM flows outwardly from that, in the sense that it’s an extension of their personalities, but also that their sexual lives take a backseat to their romantic lives and their public lives. There is a touch of BDSM in the story, but it isn’t the focus.
The removal of real conflict works here if you’re looking for a light and sweet story, and it isn’t really needed to push the plot forward at 16k words. The story is short enough to keep a steady pace just from getting to know Kiernan and Deke, and the little bit of conflict that propels the story in the beginning as we start to see the dynamic in their relationship and how it changes when they move out of bed and return as equal partners. Deke remained a bit of a mystery for me, and to rate this story higher I would have liked to get to know more about him. The story reads well as it stands, however, and is definitely good for you if you’re in the mood for something sweet and heartwarming. And of course, rocker characters always draw attention and Kiernan does well playing the bad boy with a heart of gold.
Posted by Cole in 16-40k, 4 Pretty Good, Authors A-C, Contemporary, Heat 3 - Sexy & Mild, Romance, Sex Freq 3 - Average Story to Sex Tags: a bit of BDSM, Coming Out, Famous, Karenna Colcroft, Light & Sweet, MLR Mixtapes, MLR Press, Music, Musicians, Short Story
Title: Born This Way
Author: Poppy Dennison
Length: 25,383 words
Genre: m/m Paranormal Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between (just one [super hot] scene!)
Keywords/Tags: Shifters (Big Cats), Mate Bonding, Injured Character, Alphas, Teachers, Famous (friends), Music, Lawyers, Atlanta
Rating: Pretty Good
Dayton Whitmore injures his arm playing basketball with his lion-shifter friends, and his best friend asks Dayton to check on her estranged brother Hart while he’s in Atlanta visiting a specialist. Though Dayton and Hart were never close, he grudgingly agrees.
Banishment from his pride meant Hart Sherman could never see his family again. His liger heritage—a tiger mother and lion father—was a thorn in his alpha father’s side. He always planned to go back for Dayton, the man he knows is his mate, but he uses his career as an entertainment attorney as an excuse to avoid risking Dayton’s rejection. When Dayton shows up unannounced on his doorstep, Hart wants nothing more than to claim him.
Knowing what it means to be a lion’s mate, Dayton isn’t in any hurry to make a lifetime commitment. To convince Dayton he’s serious, Hart must come to terms with the circumstances of his birth—and find a place in the pride for them both.
Ever since finishing the finale of Poppy’s Triad series with Soul Magic (reviewed here), I’ve been really excited about this new release. At the time, I almost begged Poppy to tell me that she was going to write a spin-off about the kids in that series (Garon & Riley), only to have my poor heart crushed 😉 There is still a spin-off coming, also about cat shifters, but in the meantime this story isn’t associated with that series yet still, in some areas, I found reminiscent, like the pack politics.
Dayton grew up with Hart’s family, or pride. They welcomed him in as a kid with a mom who wasn’t around much and took care of him, making him one of their own. He exists in a strange kind of half adoption. While he’s part of the family and they consider him, a human, part of the pride, he still can’t really understand what it’s like to have a cat as a part of himself. Then there’s Hart, the son of the Alpha who was born as a cross-bred liger and subsequently more powerful than his father. His banishment ensured his father’s reign.
But even though Dayton doesn’t think Hart ever liked him much, Hart has a good reason why he’s willing to take the banishment. He’s known since they were teenagers and his first heat came over him that Dayton was his mate, but as an outcast among his own family, he couldn’t offer him much. In the years that Hart has been gone, forbidden any contact with the rest of his family, he’s made a career and a name for himself, all in the hopes of going back to claim his mate with a life to offer him. Somehow though, Hart can’t work up the nerve, knowing that accepting their mating may mean leaving his adoptive family behind. Having to face Dayton not choosing him is too hard, so they remain parted until Hart’s meddlesome sister Tawny, Dayton’s best friend, sets them on the same course. The ramifications, however, are more than any of them expected.
This was really a cute story and I think that it stands well on it’s own. I’ll say straight up, I was a little confused at first whether this was the spinoff that Poppy talked about, just because it has to do with cat shifters, but it’s not at all. Still, with the recent release and a similar type of story, I wouldn’t be surprised if people make comparisons. It’s probably bad to do that, in fact, because the Triad series had a real forward momentum that involved an overarching series plot. This story is different because it does stand alone. And while it certainly leaves things open for a sequel, it isn’t obviously just part one of a longer story. That means that the focus of this story is really the relationship, something quite different from the Triad series. And considering the characters and the setup of the plot, this story didn’t need a convoluted journey, no matter how much longer I wished it could have been so that I got to know the characters better and all that. It worked well as it is and I’m really just being greedy.
The story works in the Alpha Man trope with a larger stronger man and a smaller, more emotional and fragile man. But it also doesn’t play to stereotype, but allows the characters to become themselves as the story progresses and buck a few of those conventions. I think that the story could have benefitted from a little more concrete knowledge of the pack politics as well as some better knowledge of the secondary characters in the pack. Otherwise, the story mostly focuses on Hart and Dayton and uses the pack as a catalyst for the changes in their relationship.
I’m excited whenever I get a story to read from Poppy and this was no different. In particular, the two of these guys together are super steamy. Even though we don’t get more than one intimate scene with them, it packed a punch! Recommended, especially for fans of the author and fans of shifter stories.
Born This Way is available today from Dreamspinner Press!
Posted by Cole in 16-40k, 4 Pretty Good, Authors D-F, Heat 4 - Spicy & Smutty, Paranormal, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between Tags: Alpha Men, Atlanta, Big Cats, Dreamspinner Press, Famous, Injured Character, Lawyers, Mate Bonding, Music, Poppy Dennison, Shifters, Teachers