Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Thousand Word Thursday Story from Tam Ames

Late … Again

The light from the sun shining on my face was what woke me, I think. When I sat up with a jolt, I literally gasped in pain. My head felt like it was about to disconnect from my body. I grabbed my hair as if I could physically hold it on. I was swearing off tequila … and killing Marcus. Yeah, I could blame Marcus; he’d been buying all night, not my fault.

When my head had firmly reattached itself to my shoulders, I looked at the clock. Eleven fifteen. Not so bad, considering it was after four when we left the last place, and I didn’t have to be … Holy fucking shit! I was going to be late! This time my stomach gave a heave, and a lurch, and my head was suddenly a minor problem. Fuck fuck fuck! Why hadn’t someone woken me? Alan would never forgive me if I was late - if he even stuck around to see if I showed up.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Looking at a Trope

Now and then I have to push myself in a new direction. Reexamine why I think a certain way or like or dislike something. The unexamined life is not worth living and all that. Elsewhere in my ramblings here, I've mentioned that I don't care for soul mates as a trope.

So, in this new reviewing mode, I had to think about that. I've been running from the trope if it's explicitly stated ahead of time, and gotten grumpy if it popped up late.  Soul mates gets used a lot, especially with vampires and were creatures, and I come from a fandom background of  vampires and weres, so I don't really want to leave all that behind. Maybe I'm being too harsh.

Two books I've read recently have used the trope in wildly different ways. More extensive reviews to follow on both. Sorry about the reviewing silence, BTW, Dark Divas and I have been getting the details worked out, and I have a few reviews uploaded for editing, so hopefully we'll be back on track here shortly.

One book uses the trope so subtly that I didn't even realize it had gotten in there until just now. Very likely because the association of the two characters in certain ways was required by the greater plot arc, but getting sexual was their idea. They are fated, in a way that is about as big as it's possible for FATE to get, to deal with one another, but they are choosing how to do it. So I feel like the author did something truly new and unusual here. I'm waiting for more, not running away.

The other has vampires and werewolves, and you've seen the story before. So have I. Lots of times. One vamp, one wolf. Much sex. But it did make me think -- why exactly does this bother me?

Short answer -- because in all the "you are meant for me" posturing and sex, the probability  for the characters to do something magnificently stupid in terms of the greater plot is really, really high. Stupidity is not something I find attractive.

It happens a lot. And the rest of the time, I'm braced for it.

So, I guess I need to be more open about the concept in general, because I've just proven to myself that if it's done well, with something new and different, I'll like it. And if it's tired and obvious, I still probably won't. If it's the traditional method, even if done really well, I'm not sure I'll get over being braced for something preventable, but the surprise could be good.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Thousand Word Thursday

I still have some hope for an adventure for our jockey and owner couple from last week; we'll just have to be patient.

Now, this young man -- what's yanked him bolt upright? An author with 100 to 1000 words to explain will have it posted here with cover's links, and news.

Thanks to all who have swung by this last week. Getting ready to work with Dark Divas has messed with my timing, but next week, when all the details are ironed out, we should be back to a frequent review schedule.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

I'm reviewing at Dark Divas!

This has been a very exciting week, because the lovely reviewers of Dark Divas have asked me to join them! I will still be posting here -- some things may be here that are not there, but not many, I hope. And my reviews will still post to Goodreads. All you kind souls who are still waiting to hear from me will have your patience rewarded by the cross-posting. And now, of course, it's all on me to do a really thoughtful job, better than before. It's a little scary!

Thousand Word Thursdays will continue as before, so please don't stop looking at the eye-candy and dreaming up stories. Everything will continue here as before, with the addition of Dark Divas.

Sharp-eyed readers will notice a name change in the header. It was pointed out to me that the name, which was a holdover from when this was a general yappy blog, was a credibility problem. I do take what I read seriously, but the old name made it look like I didn't. So I apologize to anyone who thought I was trying to belittle the genre, I'm not.

If I ever figure out what to do about links that already exist, I will update the url as well. Ideas are welcome, because neither Pam nor I are sure what we can do without inconveniencing a lot of people. Would it work to start another blog with the right addy, and then do duplicate posts? Is there an easy way to do that?

Thanks to all the readers, and all the authors who have had some faith in me.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Picture is Worth...

Last week's picture of jazz players brought us a perfect excerpt from Azul: Bailame from Lee Benoit, who matched the text to the illustration so well.

This week's pic is brought to you because Ruler on Ice won the Belmont Stakes on Saturday. Tell me you don't love the horses flying at top speed and wiry men in bright colors atop them. Maybe a winner at 24 to 1 makes you feel rich and that all things are possible... (My horse did not win.)

Any author who has a little story, 100 to 1000 words, to tell about this gentleman and the jockey can have it posted here, with news, links, and covers.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mr. Plum by Sue Brown

Mr. Plum
Dave picks up coffee every morning at the train station on his way to work. He can't help but notice when the man in front of him is given a plum-colored cup holder, as it goes perfectly with his own tie. There are other things he can't help but notice, like how hot "Mr. Plum" is.

When Mr. Plum hands over a cup of coffee, exactly how Dave likes it, the morning he's late getting to the station, it's the start of a beautiful friendship. Or is it?


The opening paragraph of this sweet short story tells you a lot -- two men who dispute the small stuff but agree on the bigger issues have come together over coffee and commuting.

It's a slow build-up -- Dave, who fixates on small details, goes from noticing the color of the cup sleeve on the stranger's coffee cup to noticing the stranger, and from chatting to making dates. The fragility of taking such a casual acquaintance as a morning commute to something deeper seems to keep both Dave and Tom from asking some basic questions, or perhaps the underlying regularity of meeting a morning train with coffee in hand lulls them into thinking no day would be different.

Then the changes they are trying to make with each other collide with the changes life thrusts upon them. Dave has a lot of trouble rolling with the punches. Described as nearly OCD and certainly worried about details at the wrong moments -- honestly, finish the orgasm, enjoy it, and THEN start cleaning up! -- he's going to be a bit of a challenge for more laid back Tom, but there's hope.

The big events happen to Tom offscreen, so Dave is left to hear about them later rather than share them, making the story a little flat. The struggle is for them getting together anywhere but on a commuter train, so it's very low key, and doesn't really perk up until the last third, when they can finally interact outside the train.

Overall, this is sweet -- they both mean well, though Tom has no way of knowing how invested Dave is, and that his actions have more impact than he thinks. You have to cheer (softly) for them when they finally do get together.

The convention of an HEA in romance takes the spoileriness of starting at the present moment in the relationship and going back to the beginning, as this story does, because it's the journey more than the destination. This journey is cute but not intense, it's made of small disappointments and small triumphs. 3.5 marbles

Buy here.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Thousand Word Thursday Story from Lee Benoit

Lee Benoit sent an excerpt from Azul: Bailame and it really fit this picture!

Though its chief custom came from overseas, the Café Montuño was no tourist trap. The musicians were the real thing, old school guys from Oriente province and young Nueva Trova pioneers. Lola recalled Valdez' words about dancing to a Cuban tune, and let his hips start to sway like breeze-kissed palms in response to the trumpet's blatted call to move, man, move.

Valdez at the piano wore the same clothes he'd had on at the rehearsal the day before, and his companions were no better attired. No mambo shirts, not even matching jackets and ties, but the motley group hung together in a way Lola had to stop and think about. Old, young, handsome, homely, and playing their hearts out for a scattering listeners, they were essentially, inescapably Cuban, right down to their dusty shoes.

Iddi sashayed to the "bar" which was little more than a big aluminum cooler on a wheeled stand, and chatted up the bartender while he waited for their drinks. There were empty tables, but Lola didn't want to sit just yet. He loved the music of the ballet, and the modern classical compositions that accompanied the more avant garde choreography his company was known for. He enjoyed the overproduced salsa and cumbia the DJs used to spin in the clubs before most of them closed. But this raw, street-level music, only a beat or two away from Santería rites and sugar-cane slaves? These earnest comments on the beauty of a woman or the plunging faces of the Sierra Maestra? Listening to it, letting it move his body in a subtle dance, felt to Lola like coming home.

"But I've been here all along," he murmured to himself.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Picture is Worth...

I didn't forget! Just, a late night at work...

Our last week's picture got a hot little fic from Juniper Gray -- check it out.

Now, these guys have to be playing some hot music, making feet tap and twirl, maybe mambo or rumba. What tale could they tell? Any author who tells us, in 100 to 1000 words, will be posted here, with their latest news.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Back in the Closet by KevaD

Back in the Closet (Out of the Closet, #2)Sometimes the best-laid plans don't mean you get laid.

Chaz and Mike are inaugurating their life together as an openly gay couple. Bliss is inevitable, until a dead relative rises up and brings their plans to a screeching halt.

Chaz's not-so-dearly departed Amish Uncle Silas has bequeathed his nephew his farm . . . and a $60,000 tax bill if Chaz doesn't play by the rules.

With empty wallets, the duo and their kitten, TCT, head off for Iowa to live on the farm for ninety days - without electricity or plumbing . . . or sex.

While Mike finds trees to climb, horses to ride, and a big ax to play with, and TCT discovers a wide array of critters to chase and capture, Chaz faces a past veiled in mystery.

As a young boy, Chaz spent time on the farm. Why can't he remember the giant oak tree or the ancient barn? Each time he tries to enter the barn, terror stops him cold.

Chaz will need courage he's never had before, along with all the strength in his partner's lusciously muscled body, to solve the riddles plaguing him. Keeping Mike and his ax from chopping off the wrong piece of lumber might not be a bad idea, either.

Chaz and Mike are back in another adventure -- they are only recently out, very much in love, and even the peculiar stuff is funny. Starting with the odd process server who announces they'll be going out on this agrarian adventure or else, to the comedic possibilities of a kitty turned loose in garter snake paradise, the couple has ninety days to figure out the mysteries of Uncle Silas' bequest. No sex in that time may or may not sharpen their minds.

Chaz spent a lot of time on the farm as a child but can't recall details, only emotions, and the teasing out of the memories is a major thread of the story. This is really the only serious issue, yet it is resolved with the innocent humor that runs through the rest; sometimes falling out of a tree is the right thing to do.

This was also my problem with the story, while it needed to be a big enough issue to create Chaz's memory problems, its also a triggery issue for a lot of readers including me, and kind of jarring in the context of a humor piece. It left me with some mixed feelings.

Best of all, the relationship between the Amish community and the two men is played as "just neighbors" and who cares if that would be the way of it in real life, this was refreshing. A lot of things are wrapped very sweetly, and the book left me with overall good feelings. (And Mike is adorable and needs to be smushed in a big hug.)3.5 Marbles

This was 2nd in the series but it read fine as a standalone too.

Buy here.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

A Thousand Word Thursday Story from Juniper Gray

Half-naked. Half-naked already, skin prickling at the empty cold after a day spent beneath a warm, safe and familiar work shirt. Everything about this situation was new, uncertain – his shameless inspection by the woman at the entrance, the tight clothes and the knowing smiles of the people he'd passed on his way in, the smell of latex and leather from hot bodies locked in pleasure somewhere behind closed doors.

He'd wanted it to be this way. He'd asked for no nonsense, in and out without fuss. He'd made an appointment, he'd kept it (much to his own surprise), and now he needed to get what he came for and leave. That was how the world worked. How his world worked. He couldn't remember what had possessed him to come to a fetish club in the first place, but he was here and half-naked now so there would be no going back. They had something he thought he might need so he would try and take it, and that was that.

The man they'd given him was called John. He wondered if that was his real name. Not that it mattered or was remotely relevant to the situation at hand. He had a bad habit of getting distracted – his mind was wandering away already, sneaking back to well-trodden self-deprecating territory.

“Stephen,” John said, rich, deep voice washing off the hard concrete walls and making them seem just a little softer.

“Yes,” he replied, hating the waver in his voice, hating the fear in it. His own body was betraying him piece by piece – the chill on his skin, the increased pace of his breathing, the tremor in his hands that just wouldn't stop no matter how hard he clenched his fists. John was gazing at him, studying him with clever eyes and Stephen knew he was being figured out. He was fresh meat, blood in the water, out of his depth and desperate for something to cling to and John could see all this, Stephen was certain.

But this was what he wanted. What he'd asked for specifically. No nonsense. No fuss. John wouldn't be the type of guy to fuck around. John stepped towards him and Stephen fought bitterly with the urge to step away. He'd come for this, he was damn well going to go through with it.

“They told me you were new, but even if they hadn't it's easy to see.” A faint, lop-sided smile, caught half-way between sympathy and mockery.

Stephen lit up inside with a familiar flame, feeling himself straighten and broaden in response to the quip. “What's your point?” he asked, glaring over at John.

John's smile broadened. It was a smile of victory now, though Stephen couldn't see where the victory was. “No point,” John said, “just an observation.”

John was standing in front of him now. Stephen wasn't sure when he'd gotten so close.

“Here, I'll make another one,” John said, leaning in. “You're damn good looking.” He'd whispered it, but not in a lurid way. It was merely the best wrapping for the complement.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Picture is Worth...

Our picture last week generated a wonderful little ficlet from Carole Cummings, and a bit of a challenge, too! Carole left those guys in the lurch, and offered to let another author sort it all out. Anyone up to the challenge? Take it from here.

Now, about these guys -- why are they shoving each other around? Are they shoving each other around? Anyone who has the answer to the question in 100 to 1000 words can have it posted here with links, covers, and news. (Check the link upper left for more info.)

The rest of us will watch these guys jostle for dominance.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Dragon's Tamer by Megan Derr

The Dragon's Tamer
Summoned to the royal palace by the King, Alaith spends his days either handling the dragons that plague the kingdom, or holed up in his lonely tower. Unusual in appearance, manner, and his method of taming dragons rather than slaying them, his only distractions from his painfully outcast state in caring for the tamed dragon who resides with him, and admiring the handsome Lord Trey—and arguing with the infuriating Prince Rythe.

When the POV character starts out by scolding the dragon, you know this isn't going to be just any old story.

Alaith tames dragons, he doesn't slay them, though dragons are an almighty nuisance on this world. Opinions on dragons are all over the map, really, they might be useful or they might be pests, but only the Plainsmen are really capable of working with them, so Alaith has a post at this "soft, civilized" court to deal with them. He's an oddity, between his long blond hair, piercings, and refusal to give up his Plainsman ways; and he doesn't want to become like the courtiers. Some he almost likes, and one he'd like to strangle.

Prince Rythe, the fourth son of the king, is "lewd, rude, and in need of a beating" according to Alaith, though his opinion of Lord Trey, Rythe's companion, is much higher. The story goes on to demonstrate that Alaith's instincts are better on dragons than people.

But he can learn, and what he learns is that he doesn't know, and would do better to pay attention and not jump to conclusions.

The story is short and hard to review without spoilers, but the world building is lovely -- the author takes a few small details: dragons, magic, and courting customs, and manages to spend enough time on these few things to construct a world that lets the reader fill in the blanks on the rest. Some of the dragon details are contradictory, but a weed is any plant growing where we don't want it to, so it can make sense without being consistent, like a rose in a cornfield.

The love story is sweet and unconsummated on the page, but as with the world building, once you see where it's going, you can fill in the blanks for yourself...    4 marbles

Buy here.