Posts Tagged With: Self-Published

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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Categories: Book Promo, Excerpts, Giveaways, Honorary Blogger Post | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review: Evolved by N.R. Walker

Reviewed by Susan65

Title: Evolved
Author: N.R. Walker
Heroes: Lloyd & Shaun
Genre: M/M Scifi
Length: 242 pages
Publisher: Self Published
Release Date: April 21, 2018
Available at: Amazon
Add it to your shelf: Goodreads

Blurb: In 2068, androids are an integrated part of human life. Big Brother no longer just watches from the shadows. It’s in every household.

Lloyd Salter has OCD issues with noise, mess, and he’s uncomfortable with human interaction. When his ex claimed the only thing perfect enough to live up to his standards was an android, Lloyd dismissed it. But two years later, after much self-assessment, Lloyd thinks he may have been right.

SATinc is the largest manufacturer of androids in Australia, including the Fully Compatible Units known as an A-Class 10. Their latest design is the Synthetic Human Android UNit, otherwise known as SHAUN.

Shaun is compatible with Lloyd’s every need; the perfect fit on an intellectual and physical basis. But Lloyd soon realises Shaun’s not like other A-Class androids. He learns. He adapts. Sure that SATinc is aware Shaun functions outside of his programmed parameters, Lloyd must find a way to keep Shaun safe.

No one can know how special Shaun is. No one can know he’s evolved.
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Categories: 4 Star Ratings, Book Review, LGBT, Published in 2018, Susan65's Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review: Blackwood by Pia Foxhall

Reviewed by Nikyta

Title: Blackwood
Author: Pia Foxhall
Series: Perth Shifters #1
Heroes: Braden & Coll
Genre: M/M Paranormal
Length: 267 pages
Publisher: Self Published
Release Date: November 23, 2018
Available at: Amazon
Add it to your shelf: Goodreads

Blurb: In a world that is still getting used to shifters, where everyone thinks omegas are second class citizens, nature photographer and omega Braden Payne lets everyone think he’s a beta. That way no one gives him a hard time and he doesn’t have to live a repeat of his failed relationship. But when his car breaks down in the remote Blackwood forest in Western Australia, without the medication that lets him hide who he is, he’s faced with what he fears most: an unmated alpha.

Government forest guardian and alpha Coll MacDubhar is tired of illegal loggers, foolish tourists and people who underestimate the wilds of Western Australia. He discovers Braden lost and in need of medical assistance in the forest he protects and knows something’s not right.

But there’s hidden depths to Braden that capture his interest, and no decent alpha would walk away when Braden’s unwelcome past comes to visit.
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Categories: 4.5 Star Ratings, Book Review, LGBT, Nikyta's Reviews, Published in 2018 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review: Alpha’s Law by Sara York and H.L. Holston

Reviewed by Susan65 

Title: Alpha’s Law
Authors: Sara York and H.L. Holston
Series: Mountain Wolves #1
Heroes: Max Gaines/Jameson “Jamie” Matthews
Genre: MM Paranormal
Length: 208 Pages
Publisher: Self Published
Release Date: December 10, 2017
Available at:  Amazon
Add it to your shelf: Goodreads

Blurb: Max Gaines has known one thing all his life: he loves Jamie Matthews. Best friends since childhood, Max and Jamie are inseparable until the day of Max’s sixteenth birthday when he presents as an Alpha instead of an Omega. With Jamie being an Alpha too, they cannot bond and all their dreams of a future together are dashed.

Jameson “Jamie” Matthews has only ever wanted one man, his best friend Max. He doesn’t care when Max turns out to be an Alpha just like him, Jamie is willing to disregard society’s rules and mate with Max anyway. But when Jamie’s rut comes, all their hopes of bonding are in ashes. Jamie joins the Army to hide his pain and to hide from Max.

Left behind, Max is determined to find a way for them to be together. But time is running out as Jamie’s unit is captured by the anti-shifter group The Amity Brethren. Can Max save Jamie in time, or does fate has something different in mind for them?
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Categories: 4 Star Ratings, Book Review, LGBT, Published in 2017, Susan65's Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review: Double or Nothing by Cari Z and L.A. Witt

Reviewed by Susan65 

Title: Double or Nothing
Authors: Cari Z and L.A. Witt
Series: N/A
Heroes: Rich Cody/Leotrim Nicolosi
Genre: MM Contemporary
Length: 282 Pages
Publisher: Self Published
Release Date: August 7, 2018
Available at:  Amazon and Barnes & Noble
Add it to your shelf: Goodreads

Blurb: Rich Cody joined the U.S. Marshals to hunt down bad guys, not babysit witnesses. Orders are orders, though, and now he’s protecting a hacker with ties to the Albanian and Sicilian mobs. It’s just another exciting day in WITSEC.

Leotrim Nicolosi was born into a world of crime and bloodshed. When that bloodshed hits too close to home, taking down Leo’s boyfriend—the son of a notorious mob boss—Leo is determined to destroy the Grimaldi family. He’s got evidence that will send every last Grimaldi to prison, he’s got the family’s wealth in an electronic chokehold, and he’s got a vendetta that can only be settled with the blood of the man who killed his lover.

When a routine transfer to a safehouse goes horribly wrong, Rich and Leo narrowly escape with their lives. With the Marshals compromised and Leo being framed for murder, he and Rich are on the run from criminals and law enforcement alike. They have no one to trust except each other, and nowhere to go that their enemies can’t reach.

And the only way out might mean making a deal with the Devil.
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Categories: 4.5 Star Ratings, Book Review, LGBT, Published in 2018, Susan65's Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review: Lights and Sirens by Lisa Henry

Reviewed by Susan65

41459129Title: Lights and Sirens
Author: Lisa Henry
Series: Emergency Services #2
Heroes: Hayden Kinsella/Matt Deakin
Genre: MM Contemporary
Length: 231 Pages
Publisher: Lisa Henry
Release Date: September 13, 2018
Available at:  Amazon
Add it to your shelf: Goodreads

Blurb: Paramedic Hayden Kinsella is single and the life of the party. He likes driving fast and saving lives, and he doesn’t do relationships—he does hookups. Except he wouldn’t hook up with copper Matt Deakin if he were the last guy on the planet. Hayden thinks the feeling is mutual . . . until clearing the air leads to a drunken one-night stand, which leads to something neither of them was expecting: a genuine connection.

Police officer Matt Deakin moved to Townsville to take care of his elderly grandfather. In between keeping an eye on Grandad, renovating his house, and the demands of his job, he somehow finds himself in a tentative relationship with Hayden and very slowly gets to know the damaged guy beneath the happy-go-lucky persona.

But the stressors of shift work, fatigue, and constant exposure to trauma threaten to tear Hayden and Matt apart before they’ve even found their footing together. In the high-pressure lives of emergency services workers, it turns out it’s not the getting together part that’s hard, it’s the staying together.
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Categories: 4 Star Ratings, Book Review, LGBT, Published in 2018, Susan65's Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review: Dead Inside by Alexander Ward

Reviewed by Susan65

Title: Dead Inside
Author: Alexander Ward
Series: Temporary Bliss #1
Heroes: Alex and Raymond…maybe
Genre: MM Contemporary
Length: 385 pages
Publisher: AW Publishing
Release Date: September 23, 2018
Available at:  Amazon
Add it to your shelf: Goodreads

Blurb: 

Pain and heartbreak. Tears and blood. Life’s never been easy for Alex. Pushed to become a male prostitute and also having to deal with trauma and abuse in the relationship with his boyfriend, doesn’t help a 19-year-old stay sane. In his struggle and desperation to get out of that toxic environment, he soon finds himself in the middle of something much worse.

Caught between two powerful Russian organizations, a broken man and his abusive lover, Alex has to make a decision and he must choose quickly. But when he starts spiraling out of control, the lines between life and death begin to blur and his steps seem to take him towards what might very well be his end.

Warning: The book contains triggers and approaches subjects such as abuse, self-harm, PTSD, human trafficking, murder and suicidal ideation.
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Categories: 4.5 Star Ratings, Book Review, LGBT, Published in 2018, Susan65's Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Book Review: Saving Noah by T.S. McKinney

Reviewed by JustJen

Title: Saving Noah
Author: T.S. McKinney
Series: N/A
Heroes: Noah/Zach
Genre: MM Contemporary
Length: 348 Pages
Publisher: Self Published
Release Date: September 1, 2018
Available at: Amazon
Add it to your shelf: Goodreads

Blurb: Noah tries to do the right thing—protect the innocent and make the evil pay for their sins. But instead of saving the world, he loses himself. After testifying against one of the biggest crime bosses in the country, Noah’s fear of retribution leads to a serious case of agoraphobia. There isn’t much in Noah’s safe zone that calms his nerves… well, except for his short interactions with his surly but hot new neighbor.

Life crushed Dr. Zachary Meadows’s rose-colored glasses years ago. He makes amends for the deeds of others—and for his failure to protect those in need—by saving as many lives as he can as an ER physician. After early betrayals, he purposefully keeps his circle small. Until he meets his odd new neighbor and unwanted desires cause him to act like a jerk.

When two survivors collide—one desperate for love and one afraid of it—sparks fly. But just as Zachary and Noah begin to heal one another, the past returns…with a vengeance.

One. Two. I’ve decided to come for you.
Three. Four. It won’t help Scaredy Cat to lock his door.
Five. Six. You committed a sin you can’t fix.
Seven. Eight. I’ve picked the date.
Nine. Ten. No one will ever see you again.
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Categories: 3.5 Star Ratings, Book Review, JustJen's Reviews, LGBT, Published in 2018 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review: Paint the Stars by Christina Lee and Nyrae Dawn

Reviewed by Susan65

Title: Paint the Stars
Authors: Christina Lee and Nyrae Dawn
Series: Free Fall #3
Heroes: Ezra Greene/Daevonte Randall
Genre: MM Contemporary
Length: 252 Pages
Publisher: Self Published
Release Date: February 20, 2017
Available at:  Amazon and Barnes & Noble
Add it to your shelf: Goodreads

Blurb: Ezra Greene has made a pretty decent life for himself. He has a nice apartment and spends his days doing the one thing he’s always loved—creating art. Despite being somewhat of a grumpy recluse, he’s even made a few loyal friends. When he takes a side job painting a mural at a local holistic center, he can’t help being curious about a certain friendly and self-assured yoga instructor, even if he doesn’t buy into any of that Zen crap. His holier-than-thou family already tried fitting him inside a box, and he swore he’d never be molded into anybody’s belief system again.

For Daevonte Randall, adulthood has worked out pretty well. He’s close to his parents and lives with an awesome roommate. He’s content with weekend hookups, teaching yoga, and taking college courses. What he doesn’t expect is to be so intrigued by the brooding and reserved painter he’s been tasked to stay after hours with at the center. Something fascinates him about Ezra, even after Daevonte’s attempts at flirting gets him friend-zoned on the spot.

As weeks pass, Ezra and Dae get to know each other, and soon their friendship catches fire. But Ezra’s been burned pretty badly before so trust and intimacy has to be earned. Daevonte feels up to the task, but it proves difficult as Ezra continues to keep his emotions in check. Dae’s only willing to wait so long, and when they’re dealt a surprising blow, Ezra needs to decide if love is worth the risk, that is…if it’s not too late.
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Categories: 4 Star Ratings, Book Review, LGBT, Published in 2017, Susan65's Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review: Savor Me by Beth Bolden

Reviewed by Nikyta

Title: Savor Me
Author: Beth Bolden
Series: Kitchen Gods #3
Heroes: Xander & Damon
Genre: M/M Contemporary
Length: 342 pages
Publisher: Self Published
Release Date: September 29, 2018
Available at: Amazon
Add it to your shelf: Goodreads

Blurb: When Chef Xander Bridges leaves the warmth and safety of his car on a cold, stormy night and approaches a stranger, the last thing he expects to find is a future. He’s wanted to leave his job for awhile, but with no good opportunities on the horizon, he’s been stuck in a long, painful rut. But when he befriends the stranger viciously tearing up his own vineyard, Xander discovers something inexplicable. Maybe he’s not the bitter, sarcastic man that everyone, including himself, has endured for years.

Maybe, with someone like Damon in his life, he could be something more. Something better.

Damon Hess doesn’t just want more, he demands it. With his alcoholic past, there are no gray areas for him. Only black and white. In love or not. Sober or drunk. But the chance meeting with Xander opens Damon’s eyes, and gives him a vision full of something he hasn’t experienced in years: hope.

Hope that he can expect companionship and affection, hope that he doesn’t have to grapple with his family’s questionable Napa legacy any longer, and most importantly, hope that there’s a future worth believing in. But the longer he and Xander spend cultivating that future, the more Damon realizes that the key is so much simpler than he ever imagined–it’s Xander.

Savor Me is an 80,000 word contemporary m/m romance starring an irascible man with a soft, gooey marshmallow center and another who knows he likes men, but has never been with one before. It is third in the Kitchen Gods series, but can be read as a standalone. Continue reading

Categories: 4 Star Ratings, Book Review, LGBT, Nikyta's Reviews, Published in 2018 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment