Thursday, April 19, 2018

My Emphatic Search for Empathy


This week we hear from our newest narrator, Colin Darcy.
His debut narration, "High Test," by Elizabeth Noble, should hit the spot for cafe goers,with its romance of mistaken identities set against the rich
and steamy backdrop of the gourmet coffee business. Enjoy!

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“We thought you were the gay one,” my mom offered one afternoon, not quite a decade ago. I wished at that moment I had my wife’s ability to raise just one eyebrow. When aimed at me at least, it speaks volumes, and has the innate ability to judge and question at the same time, cutting me to the core. But I can’t raise just one eyebrow, so I was forced to use words, plain and simple, fruitless and ineffective words to to explain to mom that while she has a gay son, and it’s not me, that some families have more than one, and others don’t have a gay child at all. We discussed the various ‘signs’ she missed: the love of musical theater, and fashion, and so, just...so….emotional. Those descriptions however, were all directed toward me, thus explaining the misplaced judgement and excusing my mom’s most recent failed ‘gay-dar’ attempt.



I’ve always been very emotional. When I was in seventh grade my favorite song was “One Last Cry,”
by Brian McKnight. A lot of days it still is my favorite. I was a  twelve-year-old kid listening to a man singing about saying goodbye to his lover, until the cassette tape wore thin and stretched and poor Brian sounded like even more of a bumbling crying mess.

I played the trumpet in school and prided myself not on my ability to play the right notes, and in tune, which is a lot to ask, but that I tried to discover what the composer was trying to say, to convey. I tried to empathize with the composer, perhaps Beethoven pressing a deaf ear to his piano as he attempted to compose the sound of his heart breaking for Elise.

I find that as a narrator I find a lot of joy and take a lot of pride in my ability to empathize with the characters. I look forward to exploring the emotionality of each of the characters.

I know I’m going to lose a lot of respect here, but I am not, in any way, a fan of science-fiction or wizards, hobbits, talking foxes, fighting robots, or post apocalyptic epochs. But I can watch or read within those genres because, if they are written well, the characters are as vivid as the landscapes in which they trudge, and as evocatively emotional as the other-worldly circumstances they find themselves in.

I love ‘The Walking Dead’ series because it is exactly that: a character study on the emotional arcs of the highly relatable characters that go through impossible circumstances. I cannot relate to watching my friends get their faces eaten off. But I know struggle. I know pain. I understand loss and heartache and wanting more, aching for more, searching and clawing and digging your fingernails into the dirt for just one more inch.

I love exploring the ‘whys’ behind the actions of the characters that I read. It’s tempting to read or watch or simply observes others’ actions and somehow convince ourselves that we would act differently, choose differently. Being honest with myself can be difficult, but I think it’s incredibly important, for me, to really explore, dive in naked and vulnerable and come out scarred and battered and bruised by the circumstances of my characters.
I’ve put such a slant towards the negative emotions of the characters to make my point, but understanding the pain and the past, allows me to understand the joy. How much sweeter is the victory when it is hard won. After years of training and struggle, early mornings after sleepless anxious nights, broken bones, scar tissue, dehydration, the aching and burning in your lungs, and perhaps worst of all that voice in your head telling you to stop, to slow down, that it doesn’t matter - it’s that experience that makes the success feel - at all.

Attempting to understand the characters’ actions, very quickly leads me try to understand their emotions.



Beethoven’s Fur Elise is beautifully written, and I am not quite arrogant enough to ever suggest he add or subtract to the piece at all. But what about it’s interpretation. A pianist is given notes on a page. That’s it. And the occasional word in Italian to instruct whether slow or fast, loud or soft. But I’ve heard it played as if the piano was creating tears. I’ve felt the pull and push of the notes in such a way that my own heart sped and hurt and longed, as if the pianist broke the hearts of each of the 88 strings encased within the long body of the piano, and then coaxed, stroked and caressed the ebony and ivory keys, pressing violently and lovingly, manipulating them to produce human emotion, want, fear, desire.

How can notes on a page do that?

How can words?


Can I coax the emotions from the characters? Can I manipulate syllables, pause at commas, and interpret emphasis as effectively as a pianist poring over Beethoven? I enjoy trying. I hope you enjoy listening.

Colin Darcy





Find Falcon Sound Company on Facebook or at

www.falconsoundcompany.com

And check out Colin's newest narration, "High Test," by Elizabeth Noble.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Check out a Modern Fairy Tale from Andrew Grey


Title: Redeeming the Stepbrother

Author: Andrew Grey

Series: A Tale from St. Giles Book 2

Genre:  M/M Contemporary Romance

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Release Date: April 10 2018

Edition/Formats Available In: eBook & Print

Blurb/Synopsis:

Family can be a blessing and a curse, but for artist Florian, it’s a nightmare he longs to escape.

As chief designer for Bartholomew Artist Porcelain, Florian specializes in painting birds. He also watches them in the wild to distract himself from his short-tempered mother, at least temporarily. Florian’s heart is too soft to leave his stepsister, Ella, to suffer alone. Still, he can’t help dreaming about one day finding happiness and love.

When Count Dieter von Hollenbach arrives in town to visit a friend and present an award, he isn’t looking for romance. Then again, he doesn’t expect someone as perfect as Florian to come into his life. To make sure Florian is all he seems and that their connection is genuine, Dieter keeps his title to himself.

But he isn’t the only one with a secret.

At a masquerade ball to celebrate the award, some of the masks fall away, but those that remain in place could destroy the love beginning to grow between them.



Book Links








Excerpt 1

This area was marshy during part of the year and I had to be careful where I walked so I didn’t sink into the muck, but it was perfect for birds of all kinds.

I wasn’t disappointed. I emerged from the tall reeds to spot a great blue heron about twenty feet away. It was beautiful, and I didn’t want to scare it, but I also wanted a picture. I had ideas for a series of works featuring the impressive bird—tall, statuesque, shining in the sunlight.

I slowly moved back into the reeds, lifted my camera to position it between the long grass stems, and began snapping pictures. It was stunning, and I’d gotten enough to be able to represent the detail I wanted when a splash startled the bird and it flew away, darting over the water.

“Scheisse,” a deep voice swore. I knew the word from my high school class as a version of “shit,” but wondered why I was hearing German. Another splash came, louder than the first, so I slowly worked my way forward to see what the trouble was.

“You scared the bird,” I scolded and then saw a man, taller than me. He had to be well over six feet and was dressed like someone out of a forties period movie, with a wool hat, a coat complete with elbow patches, and puffy pants. His boots and legs stuck in the mud almost to his knees. An old pair of binoculars hung around his neck. I bit my lower lip to keep from laughing.

“Will you help me?” he asked, and I slowly made my way closer.

“Got yourself in a mess, didn’t you?” I was careful not to get caught in the same bog. “You have to feel before you step.” I managed to get close enough to take his hand. “Pull up one foot and try not to lose your boot.”

“I am.” He lifted his foot, the sucking sound loud in the stillness. He got the foot loose and stepped toward me.

“Hold on.” I bent down a bunch of the reeds. “Step on those.”

He did and got his other foot loose, though this time the mud nearly got his boot. It hung on his foot as he swung around, and he tugged it back on and stepped onto the grass.

“Come this way.” I led him through the reeds, back toward dry ground and the cars.

“I think you come here often,” he said, swatting cakes of mud off the knees of his pants.

I wondered if that was some German version of the old pickup line for a second, but tossed the thought away.

“Yes. I’m familiar with the area. I watch the birds so I can paint them.” I took a step onto solid ground, mud all the way up my boots but sparing my pants. Good. There would be hell to pay if my pants were caked with mud. “I’m Florian.” I held out my hand.

“Dieter,” he said as he shook my hand.

I stomped my feet to get some of the mud off my boots. They would dry soon enough and the mud would flake off pretty easily. “On vacation I take it? Judging by the accent and all.”

“In a way.” Dieter pulled off his hat, exposing light blond hair down to his shoulders that would make a model green with envy. “I’m here on business and decided to take some time to see the sights.” He held up his binoculars. “I study birds back in Bavaria and wanted to get a look at some of yours here. I didn’t realize there would be hazards.” He smiled a little, and I relaxed. At least Dieter had a decent sense of humor to go along with an amazing smile and eyes the color of the sky. My cheeks heated as thoughts of what I’d like to do with his full pink lips went through my head.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A flash fiction bit from Sean Michael


Hey y'all! Sean Michael provided the flash fic this week! Just a random set of boys that popped into Sean's head!

Grant flopped onto his back next to Angel, panting hard. He felt rung out, boneless, breathless, and utterly spent. Which was kind of what you wanted out of an orgasm. He patted Angel’s belly, smearing the cooling come that was pooled there. Not even that was enough to bring him to reality.

“You good?” he asked. It would suck if Angel didn’t feel the same way.

“God, yes.” Angel laughed and turned onto his side. Grant could feel those pretty brown eyes looking at him.

He managed to turn too, because sharing this post-orgasmic feeling made it that much better. He pushed Angel’s hair off his face and smiled. Angel smiled back.

Grant held onto the feeling for as long as he could, but eventually his body cooled, the breeze from the window growing colder, and he became aware of the noise of construction coming in along with the wind. And there was a ticking coming from somewhere. His alarm clock maybe or possibly the fridge.

No, no, he wasn’t ready to let go of this yet, but it was too late. Angel’s smile made him a promise, and then Grant blinked and Angel was gone.

Find Sean at Amazon Author Central

Or at Sean's blog here!

Visit our websites:

Sean's is http://www.seanmichaelwrites.com

Julia’s is http://www.juliatalbot.com

BA’s is http://www.batortuga.com

Kiernan's is www.KiernanKelly.com

Facebook:

Sean -- https://www.facebook.com/SeanMichaelWrites

Julia -- https://www.facebook.com/juliatalbotauthor

BA -- https://www.facebook.com/batortuga

Kiernan -- https://www.facebook.com/kiernan.kelly

Friday, April 13, 2018

Cover reveal and an Excerpt by Felice Stevens



Happy Friday! We made it through another week. 
And this brings us one week closer to the release of     Rhoades—Undeniable on April 20th. I thought I'd also show off my pretty cover again because it's my favorite of all Reese has done for me and give you an excerpt from the book.



I walked out and down the hallways back onto the club floor. The dancers entertained the crowd, and I watched as the muscular blond cowboy play-roped a patron onstage with him to bump and grind their hips, while the tall, mysterious dancer wearing a mask and cape swung around the pole, the silky material sailing after him to wind around his lean, half-naked torso. A large crowd gathered by the stage and threw bills at him in encouragement. The iridescent lights picked up the gleam of his raven hair, while the majority of his features remained hidden beneath his black mask.
I didn’t want them. I wanted Austin. Fuck. No, I didn’t. I couldn’t.
Without him dancing, I had little reason to stay, and yet knowing how scared both he and Frankie were with Frankie’s ex lurking about, I couldn’t leave. As I made my way to the bar, I listened to bits of conversation from the men I passed.
“The futures were shit today.”
“What the hell are they thinking in DC?”
“I’d give a paycheck to fuck that guy’s ass. Did you see him dance up there?”
Those last words stopped me in my tracks, and I found myself glaring at an older man with a lascivious glint in his eye and a glass of scotch in his hand. Imagining that pig with Austin—touching all that soft skin, running his pudgy fingers through the silk of Austin’s dark waves, licking his ripe mouth—made me sick. My hands itched to wrap around his jowly neck and squeeze tight.
Disgusted, I stomped over to the bar, and José, immediately sensing my foul mood, poured me a double shot of Macallan 18. The amber liquid called to me, and I tossed it down and pushed the glass back. “Another, please.”
With a raised brow, he did as I requested and kept the bottle at his elbow. “What’s wrong?”
“What makes you think anything’s wrong?” I downed only half this time and licked my lips, welcoming the burn as it ran through me. The resulting warmth did little to dull the ache in my chest. I should never have started coming here. I was better off at home. Alone.
“Because a while ago I saw you leave the dance floor with Austin. Now you’re out here slamming down shots, and he’s nowhere to be found. So I’ll ask again, what’s wrong?”
“I, uh…” Embarrassed, I rubbed my chin. “I may have gone too far with him.”
The smile on José’s face faltered. “Meaning?” He leaned his arms on the bar, and I saw the tension in his corded muscles. José had worked in the mailroom of my father’s company before James scooped him up and enticed him to work here. I’d noticed the dancers congregating around the bar, talking to him like a confidant, and had no doubt he’d take their side over mine.
“Meaning I let him get to me.” I hesitated, then confessed, “I kissed him.”
Realization mixed with surprise dawned in his eyes. “Did he kiss you back?”
“I didn’t force him—if that’s what you’re asking.” My attention was drawn to the opposite side of the room where James had entered flanked by Austin and Frankie. After a few murmured words to both, they climbed onstage, and with huge smiles on their faces, began to dance with each other as if the past three quarters of an hour hadn’t happened. Frankie had even placed a crown on his head and a royal purple cape around his shoulders.
“Looks like everything’s back to normal. But Rhoades?” A man waved an empty bottle of Patron at José from the opposite end of the bar. José picked up the bottle of scotch, placed it back on the shelf, and before taking care of the customer, said to me, “Don’t fuck with Austin. He’s been hurt enough.”
Haven’t we all?
I scowled into my drink, not bothering to respond, and studied Austin dancing up onstage. He’d also changed and no longer wore the little gold shorts with my jock peeking out. Now, red, sequined shorts hugged his peach of an ass and molded to every sinewy dip and curve. His freshly oiled body shone under the lights, and when he twisted himself around the pole, the men went wild, tossing bills at him like confetti. But I knew better. I hadn’t spent all this time watching him not to recognize his heart wasn’t in the dance. His eyes searched the crowd, flicking over me as if I was another stranger and not the man he’d kissed with such passion and intensity, we’d both almost taken a risk neither was prepared for. They were haunted eyes, brimming with loneliness and fear. He kept himself between Frankie and the outside of the stage as if protecting him.
James appeared at my shoulder. “I had the bastard removed and told him I was calling the cops.”
“Good.” I nodded with approval. “Maybe you should hire some backup security. It couldn’t hurt.”
“You know what?” James leaned against the bar and gave me that infuriating, snide look he’d perfected when we first learned we were brothers. I hated it then, and now, years later, nothing had changed. “I don’t need you to tell me how to run my business.”
“Then step up your game. Keep your employees safe.”
“From what I can tell, the one person Austin might need to be safe from is you, big brother.”
My face flamed, and I was never more glad to be shielded by the colorful, flickering lights. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I gave James my back and drank more of my scotch, hoping like hell he’d go away and leave me alone. In an alarming show of affection, something we’d never allowed ourselves, he took the empty space beside me, nudged my shoulder, and joined me, José having already poured him a glass of the same scotch I was drinking.
“That’s not true. Whenever you see Austin, you come alive.” He nudged me again, forcing me to face him.
“You think because I come here, I’ve forgotten? News flash, baby brother. Looks can be deceiving.”
The unexpected sympathy in James’s eyes proved too much, and I wouldn’t be responsible for my actions if he said something comforting, so without another word I pushed my way out of the bar area, leaving James behind. I couldn’t resist one last glance up at the stage at Austin, who frowned when our eyes met. My rigid body tingled with awareness, the taste of his silky tongue and sweet breath still hot in my mouth. After picking up my coat from the checkroom, I hurried out into the night and slid into the back seat of my black car, staring blindly out the window at the streetlight-washed people.
My driver wisely left me alone, and in less than twenty minutes, pulled up in front of my West 82nd Street brownstone. Before I had a chance to place my foot on the first cement step, the front door swung open, and Edgar’s relieved face peered out.
“I wondered if you were coming home tonight.”
“Where else would I go?” Irritated, I passed by him and entered the brownstone, welcoming the warmth. I dropped my coat on the hall chair and headed straight to the library. This room—all dark wood, brass, and leather—was a “real man’s retreat,” as my father used to say, but its rich interior and the fire crackling in the grate offered no panacea for my thoughts. I poured myself a glass of scotch and took a seat by the window, staring out into the darkness, torturing myself with questions I could never answer.
Until tonight, I’d thought myself capable of holding back, merely entertaining myself with thoughts of Austin and what he might feel like in my arms. But now that I’d tasted the forbidden fruit, instead of retreating back into the shadows, I craved to kiss his soft mouth, to feel him twist in my arms, and to experience again the rush of passion I’d buried years ago.
And that scared me more than anything.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Adventurous April



T.S. Eliot called April "The cruelest month," because it forces growth in Nature whether the world is ready or not. It is a fearful breath-freezing moment of brave beginnings in the face of Winter's weakening grasp, but necessary for the Spring to follow. It is also a great time to make a change, take a chance; Nature is heading that way.  In that spirit, we have a new voice in the Cafe for your Thursday! Narrator Kenneth Obi talks Zombies to Audiobook Awards in his adventure as both an author and a narrator. Enjoy!

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Hitting my fifties, I thought my career path was fairly decided. Old dogs…new tricks. You know that saying, right? I certainly thought so. Back in 2012, I found myself quitting my day job to write full time. I was finding better than average success as a zombie author. To be honest, I was into that scene long before Kirkman jump-started interest in the undead with his Walking Dead franchise, but he certainly helped it become popular in the mainstream, so I always give him a tip of my hat.
Fast forward to 2016 and my toe was just about ready to dip into narrating. I was about to launch a new series, and I’d seen my DEAD series do well in audio format. With a background in theater and radio, I felt I was equipped to make the move as a narrator. It wasn’t long before I felt like I was in over my head, but I kept swimming and kept turning to
the Falcon Sound Company team for advice and pointers. Eventually, I felt I was making some slow progress. Then I got an offer to narrate…from FSC.
“This is a gay romance…I’m gonna tell you that straight up,” John said during our conversation.
Hmm…well, I am a pretty straight dude, but I am also married and with a mortgage. Money spends the same no matter what, so I said yes. Being absolutely honest, I struggled with that first love scene. It was simply not anywhere close to my comfort zone. Still, it was a job…it was acting. I am married, and the only person I need to prove my sexuality to is my wife. Once I made that realization, I dropped into it with a new attitude.

Still, I felt sort of relieved when that job was over. Horror is my wheel-house. Only…being a one-trick-pony is not going to get you far. And when an unsolicited offer came for me to 
voice another M/M romance, I checked the sales figures on Amazon and blinked my eyes. It was rockin’ the charts as they say. I agreed…without reading the full description of the book’s content. Sure…it was a M/M romance, but it was an “age-play” male romance. I discovered that about a quarter of the way in to the read.
If I was out of my comfort zone before…now I was in a whole new universe. But, I am nothing if not a man with at least some form of professional standards. This story deserved all my attention and needed to sound right. There needed to be love and tenderness in the intimate scenes.

Fast forward a mere six months and I have now done a handful of titles under my M/M romance screen name of Kenneth Obi for the Falcon family as well as signing on three prolific authors in the M/M romance genre for my own little production company. I have over thirty titles solely in this genre now and have seen the best sales months in my short career this year, 2018.

Is this where I saw myself…or what I thought I would be doing? Absolutely not. But I now have a small foothold in the genre and believe that my presence will only increase this next year. The topper came when one of my narrated titles made the cut as one of five finalists in the Erotica category for the Audio Book Listener Awards…and is the only title in that category to represent the LGBTQ community.
Side note…they say it’s nice to just be nominated, but I say to heck with that…I’m looking to win.


There's still time to vote for your favorite audiobook finalists at audiobookreviewer.com

Find Kenneth Obi and Falcon Sound Company on Facebook or at www.falconsoundcompany.com

And check out Kenneth's newest narration, "Teaching Ben," by Shae Connor.

Talk to you next week with more on audiobooks!