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Honorary Blogger Estella Mirai: Why a Phantom Retelling? + Excerpt & Giveaway!

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Why a Phantom Retelling?

by Estella Mirai

One of the most common questions I’ve been asked since The Stars May Rise and Fall was announced is, “Why a Phantom retelling?”

Oddly enough, though, that’s the one aspect of this story that was never a question for me at all. This is actually the third Phantom retelling I’ve attempted to write. The first was set on a space station, was aesthetically inspired by that opera scene from The Fifth Element, and took what was probably non-so-subtle inspiration from late-20th-century music-inspired science fiction like Orson Scott Card’s Songmaster or Anne McCaffrey’s Crystal Singer series. I was maybe 15 or 16, and I definitely never showed it to anyone.

The second was a fairly typical modern-day M/F AU, which I started writing after I got into Phantom fanfiction after the release of the movie version of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical in 2005. There wasn’t anything very special about it—Christine was a college student, the Phantom was a reclusive genius who saw how special she was when her teachers couldn’t, etc. I didn’t get very far into it before I just got tired of it, partly because there wasn’t anything to really set it apart from dozens of other fanfics that had been written before, and partly because that was around the time I started working on what would become The Stars May Rise and Fall, and that quickly took all of my creative attention!

But even though it’s always been a question of when, and what kind, rather than whether I was going to write a Phantom retelling, I still think I can answer that why question.

Various incarnations of the Phantom story have always resonated with me. Like a lot of people, my first introduction to the story came from the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical—although, because I lived in the middle of nowhere, and the nearest auditorium where SOME touring musicals would occasionally come wasn’t big enough to handle the Phantom sets, I didn’t get to see it live for years. So I had the London cast recording with Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman, and I had to sort of fill in the details and the visuals on my own, since the Internet at the time was all dial-up and we definitely didn’t have bootlegs on YouTube. I got some things wrong, but I actually think that’s kind of cool… now I have my own “headcanon” version and the actual stage version to act as inspiration.

Like a lot of readers and writers, I was an awkward kid, and my heart ached for the Phantom—not that I’d been shunned by society and forced to live under a opera house or anything, but I knew how it felt to be so sure that people wouldn’t like me that I never really gave them a chance to, or to try so hard to win someone’s affection in all the wrong ways. I also longed to be Christine, to find someone who DID see something special in me. Of course, Christine and the Phantom aren’t exactly the picture of a healthy relationship, and while it’s sad, it also feels right that they don’t end up together. Still, there are a lot of universal themes in that story that are probably the biggest reason it remains so popular, in so many different incarnations, more than a hundred years after the publication of the original novel.

I also wanted to write a retelling, in part, because there are so many existing versions of the story. The original novel by Gaston Leroux is itself a kind of retelling of the Beauty and the Beast story, and most of the subsequent versions don’t follow the novel (which is more of a mystery than a romance) very closely to begin with. As a young teen, I started seeking out as many different versions of the story as I could, and I loved the way there were so many different takes on it. The 1962 film starring Herbert Lom moved the setting from Paris to London, and was the first instance of a Phantom who had been disfigured through injury, rather than at birth. The 1990 film starring Charles Dance gives the Phantom a different backstory and a father. The Lloyd Webber musical gives Meg Giry a bigger role, makes Christine a dancer (which she was not in the original), and introduces the half-mask. One of my very favorite retellings, though, is the 1974 Brian dePalma film, Phantom of the Paradise. It reuses the “genius composer whose music is stolen” storyline from the Lom film, and introduces paranormal elements inspired by Faust and The Picture of Dorian Grey, while also being a sharp satirical commentary on the commercialization of art and the blurred line between entertainment and reality. It deviates significantly from the original novel (and from the musical, which didn’t even exist when it was made), but that’s a part of what I love about it. That film, more than any other, was probably what really inspired me to retell the Phantom story in a very different place and time, with different characters and additional themes.

One of the most fascinating things about releasing this book and doing guest posts like this has been the opportunity to look back and think about all of the influences that have—consciously or otherwise—gone into my writing over the years. I enjoy retellings because they take the themes and basic premise of the original story and bring to them new elements that only the author of the new could have provided. I hope readers will enjoy my take on the Phantom story, colored by a very different setting and time, and by my own connection to all variations of the source material—from the novel to the musical, and beyond.

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Release Blitz: Only Love by Garrett Leigh + Giveaway!

Only Love by Garrett Leigh

The diagnosis of a chronic stomach condition leaves thirty-two-year-old Sergeant Jed Cooper with little choice but to call time on his Army career. Then on the dusty streets of Kirkuk, an ambush gone tragically wrong decimates his team, and he returns to the US with a shattered leg and the memory of his best friend dying in his arms.

Life in his sleepy hometown proves intolerable until he finds solace in a lakeside cabin with vivacious young carpenter, Max O’Dair. In the shadow of the epilepsy that periodically plagues Max, he and Jed form an unspoken bond. After a late night episode, Jed realizes how much Max means to him, and life has taught him not to waste time.

But the lines between contentment and complacency are blurred. Things left hidden resurface to tear through their world, and before they can repair the damage, death comes to call again. Faces, past and present, rally around them to weather the storm, but before long, they are left with only love.

Available at: Amazon

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Release Blitz: Home For Christmas by RJ Scott + Excerpt & Giveaway!

Home For Christmas by RJ Scott 

Can Connor show River a real family Christmas?

When Connor finds River on the roof of the campus admin building, he doesn’t know what to do. His friend is drunk, and shouting into a snowstorm, a bottle of vodka in his hand. The easy part is getting River down; the hard part is insisting River comes home with Connor for Christmas.

River doesn’t have a family, or any place outside of college that he calls home. Not that it matters to him; he’s happy being alone for Christmas in his budget motel, watching reruns of Elf. Only, Connor keeps telling wildly improbable stories of the perfect family celebrations at his parents’ ranch in Texas, and it’s wearing River down. He didn’t ask to be kidnapped. He didn’t want to fall in love with the entire Campbell-Hayes family. But he does.

From one Christmas to the next. This is Connor’s year to rescue River, and himself, for them both to mess things up, make things right, fall in lust and finally, for Connor to show the man he loves what being part of a family can mean.

Available at: Amazon

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Release Blitz: Under the Felt Mistletoe by Nell Iris + Excerpt & Giveaway!

Under the Felt Mistletoe by Nell Iris

The most wonderful time of the year is about to get even better.

On a cold, rainy December morning, Finn’s beloved Grampa, his best friend and rock, makes a friend outside their home who he invites in for coffee. The last thing Finn expects is Nelson, a man with a painful past, who is beautiful and generous and turns Finn’s knees into jelly.

What starts out as a chance to get out of the rain, soon becomes more as Nelson helps Finn get ready for the Christmas market. They bond over coffee and fabric and Mariah Carey. Can handmade Christmas ornaments and an understanding heart give Nelson the love he’s been denied?

Available at: Amazon

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Closer by F.E. Feeley Jr.: Exclusive Excerpt & Giveaway!

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Exclusive Excerpt from Closer

by F.E. Feeley Jr.

With the power of a sledgehammer, Hayden felt the caffeine kick his brain into gear.

“So, about the rough night?” Tommy inquired again.

Hayden stared at him for a second and rolled his eyes. “I thought I saw something. A…ghost,” he said, cautiously.

Instead of laughing at him, Tommy arched an eyebrow. “Really?”

“Yeah. I know it sounds dumb, but…I was walking up the stairs last night and almost got to my bedroom when I looked over at the corner…and…this man was standing there.”

Tommy sat forward, listening to Hayden tell his story. He seemed pretty sincere. “Go on.”

“He was awful looking. Pale. Scraggly. His hair was matted down to his head. He was tall, like you, but thin. It took a second or two, but I swear, the sight of him is burnt into my memory.” Hayden sat back. The hairs on his arm stood up as he recalled what he’d seen, and a chill cascaded down his back. He rubbed his arms absentmindedly.

“What happened then?” Tommy asked.

Hayden smirked. “I grabbed my blanket and crashed on the couch. I wasn’t staying up there by myself.”

“Are you sure it wasn’t an intruder? You know, criminals prey on people who live alone or…”He stopped when Hayden emphatically shook his head.

“No. He would have had to run past me. When I spotted him, I fell backward, almost down the stairs. I blinked, and the next second, he was gone. He had nowhere to go. No, I’ve dealt with criminals, trust me.” He took another drink of his coffee, which had begun to cool enough to gulp.

“Fair enough. That’s some pretty scary stuff, man. Maybe we can chase them away with some rock ’n’roll and some painting, what do you say?” Tommy smiled.

“You’re on. Let me get changed into some work clothes. Come on, I’ll take you to the room,”Hayden said as they got up. They left their coffee cups where they were, walked out of the kitchen and up the stairs. Tommy broke away from him and went into the second bedroom as Hayden went into his room to change.

Tommy saw the cans of paint ready to be shaken and poured into the pan. The room was a sandalwood color, but it was his guess that it used to be considered off-white. He kneeled down, picked up one of the paint cans and started shaking it.

“What did that paint ever do to you?”

Tommy spun around, startled a little, and saw Hayden standing there in a pair of cutoff shorts and a tank top. His muscles were well maintained on his thin frame. His legs were strong and muscular as well. Tommy swallowed hard. Hayden was holding an iPod player and base, which he plugged into the wall. He placed the device on the floor and pressed play. Van Halen’s greatest hits started to play, and Tommy grinned.

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Release Blitz: Romancing the Undercover Millionaire by Clare London + Excerpt & Giveaway!

Romancing the Undercover Millionaire by Clare London

Can poverty and privilege find a loving compromise?

Alexandre Bonfils, a rich and spoiled second son, is tired of being ignored and decides to help when the family’s exclusive wine business is in trouble. Going undercover in the warehouse, he loves the adventure—and the chance to be close to the sassy and sexy manager, Tate Somerton.

Tate is hardworking and financially struggling, bringing up his siblings on his own. A suspected saboteur at work is his latest challenge, but now he also has a clueless, though very attractive, new intern. There’s an immediate spark between the ill-matched couple, until a shocking accident cuts short Alex’s amateur sleuthing.

While recovering in the generous care of Tate and his family, will Alex realize what belonging really means? Passion and pride come together to fight for the company they’re both committed to preserving, but can a personal bond remain when the dust settles?

Available at: Amazon

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Release Blitz: All That Has Flown Beyond by Marina Vivancos + Giveaway!

All That Has Flown Beyond by Marina Vivancos

Kaiyo’s bloodline has been part of the Garrow pack for generations. He has been destined to be shaman, to anchor the werewolves to the land, and lend aid with the force of his Ousía. When Kaiyo is fourteen, however, an attacking group kills all of the adults in the pack, leaving young Ahmik, only fifteen, as leader.

Their worries don’t end there.

Smelling blood in the water, enemies hunt the decimated pack from all sides. Kaiyo grows increasingly reckless in his desperation to defend his pack, to finally grow into his shaman powers, and to protect Ahmik: the boy he loves.

In the end, Kaiyo loses his pack anyway.

Packless, landless, Kaiyo drifts. For ten years, he fights to remake himself into the shaman, and the man, he was meant to become. One phone call from his old pack, though, and he is forced to return.

Something is killing children and Kaiyo is the only one strong enough to stop it.

Kaiyo never thought his journey would take him back to his old land, his old pack, and to Ahmik. Forced to face his past, and the wounded love that still aches for Ahmik, Kaiyo will be tested like never before.

Content Warning: This story contains themes of depression and associated thoughts and behaviours. However, as always, it focuses on recovery and strength.

This book takes place in the Natural Magic world but can be read as a standalone.

Available at: Amazon

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Drawn to You by Jaclyn Quinn: Exclusive Excerpt & Giveaway!

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Exclusive Excerpt from Drawn to You

by Jaclyn Quinn

Shit. There wasn’t a single thing in his life, aside from the shop, that he didn’t fuck up. He’d put this distance between them. It was his fault Eli had pulled away. Jake lifted his head and took a step back. Eli stared at him, breathing heavy…and he looked pissed.

“Eli…”

Eli studied Jake, as if he were looking for signs that Jake was lying. Then the anger on Eli’s face morphed into—he didn’t know what. Disbelief, maybe? Eli stepped hesitantly closer, and they just stared at each other, heat crackling between them, until Eli moved. Hell, maybe it was him. He had no idea who moved first, but as Eli’s mouth touched his, he couldn’t care less. They hadn’t kissed each other like this—like they needed to just to fucking survive—in weeks. He’d missed him so damn much even though he saw him almost every day.

Eli’s hands slid into Jake’s hair as Jake wrapped his arms around Eli’s waist. He didn’t know how much he needed this…needed Eli…until this very moment. It was like all the fucked-up shit in his life didn’t exist.

The toilet flushed upstairs, making them both pull back and look up at the ceiling. Footsteps sounded above them followed by a door closing. Jake looked at Eli, hating what he was about to say. “We can’t do this out here.”

“Yeah, you’re right.” Eli sighed, glancing back up at the ceiling. “What’s above the office?”

Jake furrowed his brows, completely confused. “The guest bedroom. Why?”

Eli grabbed Jake’s hand and led him out of the family room and down the hall.

“What the hell are you doing?” Jake asked in a hushed tone, completely confused when Eli yanked him into the office. As soon as the door was closed, Eli pushed Jake back against it, and the sound of the lock clicking seemed as loud as a gun firing. Oh.

Eli leaned all his weight against Jake, shoving his hands up underneath Jake’s shirt while Jake took ahold of Eli’s face and pulled him forward until their mouths came together. Jake’s hand was killing him, but he didn’t care. He felt the burn of Eli’s scruff as it scratched against his face. Man, he fucking loved that. Eli pushed up Jake’s shirt taking a step back so Jake had room to yank the thing over his head. Eli did the same with his own and then they were back at it. Tongues battling, hands all over the damn place, and both of them about to bust in their fucking jeans.

Eli dragged his hands down Jake’s torso to the waistband of his pants, but when Jake tried to unbutton them, Eli pushed his hands away. “Nope. I call the shots.” Eli released the button and slowly dragged the zipper down.

“Who says?” Jake growled and leaned down, trying to kiss Eli, but Eli pulled his head back.

“I do; unless you want fucking blue balls to go along with your black and blue hand.”

“You’re taking too damn long—fuck…” Jake’s head fell back against the door with a thud as Eli’s hand curled around his cock.

“So impatient.” Eli tugged on Jake’s cock just enough to make him want more but not enough to get him off.

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Categories: Book Promo, Excerpts, Giveaways, LGBT, Published in 2018 | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

Release Blitz: Old Acquaintance by Annabelle Jacobs + Giveaway!

Old Acquaintance by Annabelle Jacobs

There are two sides to every story, even those buried in the past.

When Sam spots the hot guy moving in next door, he’s all for going round to introduce himself. That soon changes when it turns out his new neighbour is in fact an old school acquaintance, Charles Whitmore. Sam didn’t like him back then, and fifteen years haven’t altered that.

Splitting up from his long-term boyfriend means a move across the city for Charlie. As luck would have it, his immediate neighbour is a guy he went to school with, Sam Gellar. While Sam is less than welcoming, his best mate is more than happy to invite Charlie into their social circle. Whatever problem Sam has with Charlie, Charlie resolves to get to the bottom of it, because, frosty beginnings aside, Charlie likes him.

With Christmas just around the corner, fate thrusts them together, and they get on so much better than they ever did at school. Despite his efforts not to, Sam develops feelings for Charlie, and they appear to be reciprocated. If Sam wants to take things further he needs to either confront Charlie about their past–a past Charlie seems to have forgotten entirely–or let it go and move on. Sam knows deep down that he can’t let it go, but it never seems the right time to bring it up. Until it is.

Available at: Amazon

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Release Blitz: All I Want Is You by DJ Jamison + Giveaway!

All I Want Is You by DJ Jamison

One kiss under the mistletoe destroyed a friendship. Will another Christmas kiss remake it into something better?

Eli hasn’t been home since he left at eighteen with a heart aching from his best friend’s rejection and his father’s intolerance. But when his father reaches out, Eli figures it’s time to make peace with his family. He doesn’t expect to come face-to-face with Turner too — or to learn that the straight friend he’d foolishly loved is actually bisexual — but once the shock wears off, he knows exactly what he wants for Christmas.

Turner’s life isn’t everything he’d once planned, but he’s happy to be the shoulder his loved ones lean on. They keep him busy, which is just as well since none of his dates have really clicked. He hasn’t been able to connect with anyone the way he did with his former best friend. When Eli shows up for the holidays after years away, Turner doesn’t know what hit him. But he knows one thing: This time, he wants to give Eli a reason to stay.

All I Want Is You is a friends to lovers, second-chance romance with an HEA.

Available at: Amazon

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