Welcome to our Grand Finale celebrations for the awesomely amazing
As before, we'll let B.G. have his say:
Wow. It’s week four already! It’s gone by so fast and I want to thank Sandra and My Fiction Nook for having me. And what a great time. This month marks five years since I sold my first story!
It’s the month of a very big birthday for me…. But you’ll have to look it up to find which one! And this week is the release of my book Autumn Changes, which I understand will be reviewed here as well. It was an intense book to write. Lots of character growth, dealings with some heavy themes (alcohol, spiritual growth, cultural issues), and tons of research—much of it face to face instead of something from a book or the Internet.
First off, though, let's talk about Spring Affair, book one in the Seasons Of Love series.
Sloan McKenna is going through a tough time. His beloved mother has recently passed away, leaving him her house and beautiful garden. But should he keep the house? Sell it? To make matters worse, he’s in love with one of his best friends, Asher, a man who can’t (or won’t) love him back.
Sloan’s neighbor, Max Turner, is married to an ambitious woman with far-reaching dreams, including moving the family to France. But Max is happy teaching at the local college and living in their nice, quiet town. Then he discovers his fourteen-year-old son is not only gay, but out and proud as well. That throws him into complete disarray, for more than one reason....
When Max’s wife leaves on a two-month business trip to Paris, circumstances throw the two men together. As they become friends, Sloan finds himself falling in love with Max, who is completely unavailable… just like Asher. As for Max, he is discovering that both his son’s coming out and his new friendship with Sloan are stirring up feelings he thought buried long ago. Spring is a time for rebirth—Is there any way the two men can find happiness and a new beginning?
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The second book in the series is called Summer Lover:
Scott Aberdeen doesn’t believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or God. Or love—at least, he knows no one will ever love him. After all, he has carried a torch for his best friend Sloan for a decade, hoping his feelings will be returned one day. But when Sloan finds springtime love with another man, Scott’s fantasies are crushed and his skepticism confirmed.
Cedar Carrington, raised by rock star parents, leads a free-spirited, nomadic life, never staying in one place for long. Due to a dark past he refuses to share or even think about, he is willing to let men into his bed for sex, but never for the night.
When Scott finds himself camping in the middle of nowhere with over a hundred men who all believe in love—and faeries and a magickal gay brotherhood—he's pretty sure he’s in the wrong place. And when Cedar connects with cynical, critical Scott, he wonders how he could be falling in for this man of all men. But hearts and lives have been transformed at the Heartland Men’s Festival before, and it might be just the place where two very different men can release their pain and find true love at last.
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And now, Autumn Changes, Book three in the series:
Asher Eisenberg is a brilliant actor, destined for fame and fortune. But a traumatic incident in his past has caused him to reject his Jewish heritage and hide from everyone behind walls of arrogance and selfishness, and he blurs his loneliness with a lot of sex and alcohol. When he meets Peniamina Faamausili, however, he strangely can’t stop thinking about the young man.
Peni is struggling with his sexuality, the Mormonism he was raised in, and the Samoan heritage that calls to him. He longs to receive the pe’a—the traditional Samoan tattoos-- and learn more of his people's ways. He has no interest in a man like Asher, who appears to use men and put them aside and whose drinking can't help but remind him of the drunk driver who killed his father. But he can’t deny his attraction to Asher and finally agrees to a date if Asher can go thirty days without a drink.
Asher is about to go on a journey that will awaken him to his friends, his past, his future, and even to love. But that awakening could well demand the sacrifice of the dream he holds most dear.
A little excerpt
The tattoos. It was the tattoos that called to Peniamina Faamausili.
He didn’t search the Internet for porn. Well maybe a little, but not much.
No. He looked for the tatau. The pe’a. The tattoos. The kind that started at the waist and then swept over the hips and buttocks and down. Down over thighs and to the knees in intricate tribal patterns, arches, and designs with meanings unknown to him.
I should have asked.
Peni’s father had them. Of course the man had been a chief, whatever that meant today in American—thousands of miles from Samoa. It seemed there were a lot of men who called themselves chiefs, but what did that mean? But whatever the meaning, Peni would look at his father’s tattoos, and the pictures on the Internet, and lose himself in the patterns, the lines, the black on brown.
“Four days,” his father—Iakopo—had said. He was—had been—a big man. In height, shoulders and girth.
Four days. “Four twelve-hour days,” his father had gone on to say. “No breaks.”
Quick shake of the head. “No breaks.”
Peni would think about that and his jaw would clench and his back teeth would hurt. He had a high threshold of pain, always had—rarely cried even when he was a kid, even when he wiped out and scraped his thigh half raw on a gravel road riding his bike the day after the training wheels had been removed.
But four days being hammered with those spiked wooden tools?
Sometimes Peni would look down at his thighs and wonder what he might look like with pe’a of his own. In fact, when he was in fifth grade he’d taken a Sharpie marker and used one up entirely drawing on himself to see. His mother had almost killed him. His father had laughed.
“Think you can skip the pain, si ou atalii pele?” his father had said. My dear son.
Could I do that? Could I?
“If you start, you have to finish. Big shame if you stop. Not only for you but for the whole family.”
Peni wanted to ask his father. But he couldn’t very well do that, could he? His father was gone. Dead for over a month, almost two now, and he kept forgetting, despite the funeral and all that had gone with it.
Dad. Gone. Forever.
“You’ll see him in on the other side,” Tina, his mother, told him, her big black eyes wet with tears.
The only problem was that Peni was sure if he would get to the other side.
Or even worse, if there was an “other side.”
Peni winced at the thought. He’d been having doubts. They’d been building for some time now, but a lifetime of religion wasn’t easily shed. There was the fear. The fear that…
What if it’s true? What if they’re right?
Did an angel really appear to Joseph Smith and did he really find golden plates that he translated with a “seer stone” so he could restore Christ’s true church?
It was so hard to believe.
But it could be true. Couldn’t it? And angel could have visited Joseph Smith.
Peni grew up believing it all. Totally. Without question.
Now, he wasn’t so sure anymore.
Peni thought maybe he could have sailed through his whole life believing everything he’d been taught. That Joseph Smith had a vision when he was fourteen years old, that Jesus and God had come to him while he was praying in the woods, and revealed to him that all the churches were wrong and gave him a way to reveal the real wishes of God. When Peni was young and had thought about the story, his heart would pound with awe and excitement. That such a thing could have happened! That God could love the world so much!
But then God setting mankind “straight” had become the problem, hadn’t it?
Because Peni wasn’t. Not at all. He wasn’t even bisexual. He was gay. He’d learned that with one kiss.
One kiss from a man.
And what if being gay meant he was going to be cast into the outer darkness?
Don’t think about it.
Miss you, Father.
So much left to talk about! Some many things unsaid.
I never told you I was gay.
Sandra's review of Autumn Changes:
Ya know, I had my suspicions about Asher, all the way from the first book and through the second one. At GRL 2014 in Chicago, I had an opportunity to sit down with B.G. for lunch and ask him the questions that had been burning on my mind. Like, what's the deal with Asher? Why is he such a jerk. Such a slut? Why is he drinking so much?
During that conversation, when B.G. (whom I know as Ben now, and whom I adore and love dearly) asked me about my thoughts on the character, I proceeded to tell him my suspicions.
I suspected that something traumatic had happened to Asher in his youth, something very, very painful, something that he numbs with the copious amounts of alcohol, something he's trying to suppress - by drinking whenever the memories threaten to rise up.
I also suspected that he felt unloved and unlovable, and keeps people away by being an ass, by not allowing himself to form any kind of real connection, even with his three best friends, because if he lets someone get too close, they can hurt him.
And then, a few months later, Ben sent me his first draft of Autumn Changes and asked for my input.
What you see on April 24, 2015 (or sooner, if you got an early copy) is a fantastic story about two men, both with pain in their past, both unsure of themselves, seeming to be polar opposites, but both seeing something in the other they cannot deny.
Asher falls. Hard.
And so does Peni. Despite trying not to, despite his misgivings about Asher's problem with(out) alcohol, he falls just the same.
Peni, early on, delivers an ultimatum of sorts, you see. Don't drink for 30 days, he says to Asher, and I'll go on a date with you.
We also get to see Sloan and Max (still in love), Scott and Cedar (also still totally in love), and Wyatt, that lovable bear, who reminds me so much of Ben himself.
And Howard. Ugh, Howard, Wyatt's boyfriend/husband, who's not only a jerk but also a cheater and an asshole. I can hardly wait for Wyatt's book, which will round out the series, and I sincerely hope that Wyatt will not only find the person meant for him, the person who will love him the way he is, appreciate him for who he is, but also that Wyatt will get a chance to give Howard what's coming to him - a swift kick in the rear end - and get this revenge on that piece of sh*t he wasted 10 years on.
What I loved about this book is that Ben threw himself into research, not only where Peni's heritage is concerned, but also where it concerns Judaism, and Asher's hang-ups. I was fascinated by the Samoan stories, by learning about their culture, and my eyes grew round when we hear from a rabbi about something that Asher has struggled with for some time.
He gives us multi-dimensional characters, and showcases their differences and how much they are alike in other ways. We see Peni struggle with being gay, and his Mormon upbringing, much like we see Asher struggle with his own issues, that are similar but not. We see Peni's mother being so accepting, and happy that her son is happy, no matter whom he loves, and we see the Samoan heritage brought to life, with the rituals and their belief system.
We see the scales fall from Asher's eyes, when he stops using alcohol to numb his pain, we seem him grow and change, and we see Peni become the man he wants to be, see him honor his father's roots, and grow from someone unsure of himself into someone who knows who he is.
We see a side of Asher that wasn't as obvious in the first two books, though I saw more than Ben may have wanted me to see. Asher has the ability to be kind and thoughtful. He loves his friends, even when he keeps them at arm's length, and once the alcohol no longer clouds his vision, he is able to not only see clearly, but also allow others to see him better.
The writing is gorgeous. Ben has a unique style, almost breathless to some extent, exuberant, and drawing images with his words.
I especially love how characters from other books make an appearance, like Guy from the theater where Asher is cast to perform in a play (you'll remember Guy from Anything Could Happen), how Ben created a world where we can find beloved characters again and again.
Spring is a time of renewal, and as such Spring Affair showcased that season. Summer is a time of sunshine, of loving, of freedom, and Summer Lover had all those elements. Autumn is the season of Harvest, of getting the rewards for your hard work all summer long. It's about reaping what you've sown, about harvesting the fruits of your labor. Both Asher and Peni put in some work on themselves to change into someone the other needs.
I love how Ben uses the meanings of the seasons in his books. Much like Sloan needed Spring to bloom, and Scott needed Summer to become free of his misconceptions, Asher had to labor hard to get his harvest, to become who he was meant to be.
I volunteer! I volunteer as pre-reader for Winter Heart. I can hardly wait!
** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher. A positive review was not promised in return. **
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Sandra has some questions for me this week. So here goes!
1. What inspires you? What gets you writing?
Life inspires me, Sandra. People inspire me. Love inspires me. Wonderful stories in the newspaper where cops risk their lives to save a puppy in the median of a very busy highway inspire me. Thankful emails from readers inspired me.
Deadlines get me writing!
That, and a love of the written word!
2. What's your writing process? Seat of your pants, lots of sticky notes, complex spreadsheets?
I am pretty much seat of my pants. I have an idea where it is all starting and where it will end, and I know a few things that will happen in-between, but I get many surprises.
For instance, in Summer Lover, I originally thought the book started when Scott arrived at the gay men’s summer camp. But as I was writing, I felt something was wrong. Scott is the most pessimistic guy ever. What would send him to a spiritual queer faerie festival? And then he began to really talk in my head and I realized the book starts much earlier….
So all the stuff I knew would happen still happened…but then I got a few surprises and stuff I had no idea would happen, happened! LOL!
3. Which character from your books is your favorite, and why?
I love Tommy from All Alone in a Sea of Romance. There is a lot of me in him—the most courageous part of me just now being born. I love Hound Dog. He is so damaged, and finding love saves him. It reminds me of how my husband helped me believe in love again. Peni from Autumn Changes means so much to me—the spiritual stuff he has to go through…. And Wyatt, from the book I am writing now…. It’s killing me to write. It’s a very, very personal story.
4. Which character is your least favorite, and why?
That would have to be either Bobby Brubaker, who is huge jerk and keeps showing his head throughout my stories. I can’t even figure out why but he keeps coming back! And then there is Howard. Ugh. Howard! The man holding Wyatt back and back and back. And who will ultimately inspire Wyatt to leap and take flight like a phoenix. Again. Personal. There is a ton of…someone I once knew…in Howard. And you will see Howard at his worst in Autumn Changes!
5. If you could go back into one of your books and change one thing, what would that be? And why?
Hmmmm…. Not sure I would change much. A word here and there as I’ve learned to be a better writer. I might expand a scene. But I can’t think of anything I would really change. Some readers wish I had added one more chapter to Hound Dog & Bean. I think they wanted one more sex scene or something to show the two of them are really back together. But I adore the ending of that book. Of course they’re back together. It’s romance! I cry like a baby every time I read the end of that book. I love the ending! I think it’s about the most romantic thing I’ve ever written. No. I don’t know that I would change anything…. Nothing big.
6. What's next for you? What amazing book are you working on?
I am working on the book I am calling Winter Heart. It’s killing me. I thought it would be the easiest one to write. It’s the story I’ve most wanted to write of the four Seasons of Love books. But I didn’t realize how personal a story it was. I knew a very personal experience helped inspire the “villain” for instance. But whoa! And the fears Wyatt has to face! It’s me re-facing some of my old shadows and demons. The fact that while Wyatt seems to be the most confident of the four heroes from the four Seasons of Love books, he is by far the least confident! So much of what he shows the world is a big brave front. Now embracing who he really is will be the journey! Wish me luck! My deadline is zooming up on me!
7. Anything else you'd like to share with your readers?
Well, it looks like in the next year I will be getting rid of my day job! I might have to part time it for a bit, but it looks like it is going to happen, and maybe sooner than even I plan. The Evil Day Job has gotten wind of what’s happening in my writing life and how that job’s part in my life is winding down. Sometimes places of employment resent that and decide to get rid of you before you can get rid of them! We will see what is going to happen.
A ton of novel ideas have exploded into my head in the last couple months and I will actually have time to write them, and so readers will be seeing a lot more of my work since it won’t take me so many months to write!
I’m not scared of any of this! But I am exhilarated! It’s that fear of getting into a rollercoaster. Biting the lip and closing the eyes as it climbs and climbs and climbs—clickety-clack, clickety-clack, clickety-clack—and then the thrill as it whooshes down and over and through the curves!
I am pursuing my dreams. I am catching them! And I am challenging everyone and anyone to do the same.
Leap! The net will appear!
I want to thank Sandra and all those at My Fiction Nook for having me. I have dearly loved it.
And don’t forget to pursue your dreams! Please! You are never ever too old. I said it above and I say it again.
Leap! The net will appear!
Our gratitude to B.G. for those fabulous posts, for the insights into your mind, your writings, and all the fun we had with these celebrations!
Of course, there's going to be one more giveaway as well!!
We hope you, our readers, enjoyed these posts all month long, and found a few new favorites to enjoy. Thank you for celebrating with us.
Until next time, happy reading!