Welcome to our third week of celebrations for the amazing
In today's post, we're looking at the Legend Tripping series with Stumptown Spirits and Wolf's Clothing, as well as Nudging Fate, the first book in the Enchanted Occasions series, plus a personal story EJ has chosen to share.
There's also another chance to win one of her books!
First up, Stumptown Spirits
What price would you pay to rescue a friend from hell?
For Logan Conner, the answer is almost anything. Guilt-ridden over trapping his college roommate in a ghost war rooted in Portland’s pioneer past, Logan has spent years searching for a solution. Then his new boyfriend, folklorist Riley Morrel, inadvertently gives him the key. Determined to pay his debt—and keep Riley safe—Logan abandons Riley and returns to Portland, prepared to give up his freedom and his future to make things right.
Crushed by Logan’s betrayal, Riley drops out of school and takes a job on a lackluster paranormal investigation show. When the crew arrives in Portland to film an episode about a local legend of feuding ghosts, he stumbles across Logan working at a local bar, and learns the truth about Logan’s plan.
Their destinies once more intertwined, the two men attempt to reforge their relationship while dodging a narcissistic TV personality, a craven ex-ghost, and a curmudgeonly bar owner with a hidden agenda. But Logan’s date with destiny is looming, and his life might not be the only one at stake.
As the rest of the crew scattered, Julie snagged Riley for some goddamned reason and towed him across the room. Logan dodged through the milling HttM staff to follow them, because if he had only two more days to live, he was damn well spending them with Riley, Julie’s agenda be damned.
If he had longer than two days, then he intended to begin as he meant to go on.
“Hey.” Max cut in front of him with a smirk and a swagger. “Since you’re putting yourself on the line to protect me, guess I should know your name.”
“Yeah. You should.” Logan tried to ease himself around Max, but a knot of crew guys blocked his way. Max reoriented himself so he was front and center again. Christ. The asshole probably couldn’t resist upstaging anyone within a city block.
“So. What is it?”
“Conner. Logan Conner.”
“So, Logan.” Max displayed more teeth than the average beauty contestant. “Willing to take a bullet for me?”
Logan stopped craning his neck in an attempt to keep Riley in his sights. “Look. Max. This isn’t the Secret Service and you’re not POTUS. So no. I’m just another set of eyes, a guy with knowledge of the terrain and local history.”
“What’s your background? What’d you do before you became a bartender? Military? Special forces?”
“I was studying to be an architect.”
Max goggled at him. “How does that qualify you to protect me?”
“How does posing in a pretentious hat qualify you as an expert on the occult?”
Max puffed out his chest like an inflatable clown. Yeah. That hit him at his vulnerable point: his ego. “I’ll have you know—”
Logan loomed over him, despite having barely an inch on the guy. But looming was all in the presentation. “You have no idea of the things I can do with a drafting pencil.”
Instead of quailing or getting pissed off, awe dawned in Max’s faded-blue eyes. “Hey. That’s good. That’s exactly the kind of attitude the show needs.”
“I’m not interested in appearing on the show.”
Max guffawed and slapped Logan on the back. “Good one, man. Not you. Me. That’s the persona I want. The I don’t give a shit and if only you knew.”
The room had cleared out, leaving no one but the giant walking ego in front of him and Riley, standing by the door with the knowing half-smile that never failed to get Logan’s motor racing.
“That’s pretty much Logan’s life’s creed, Max. Very insightful. I’m impressed.”
Logan met Riley’s amused gaze over Max’s shoulder. “That’s what you think? That I don’t give a shit about you?”
Riley didn’t back down, but his expression shifted to dead serious with a hint of sadness in his eyes. “The thing that bothers me, Logan, is that you don’t give a shit about yourself.”
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Second in this series, Wolf's Clothing
What do you do when you finally prove the existence of the otherworld, but the ghosts kick your ass?
For Trent Pielmeyer, the answer is run like hell—away from his hostile family, away from the disbelieving cops, and far, far, far away from anything that smacks of the supernatural. After seven years’ captivity in a whacked-out alternate dimension, he is so over legend tripping.
When Christophe Clavret spots Trent in a Portland bar, he detects a kindred spirit—another man attempting to outrun the darkness of his own soul. But despite their sizzling chemistry, Trent’s hatred of the uncanny makes Christophe hesitant to confide the truth: he’s a werewolf, one of a dwindling line, the victim of a genetic curse extending back to feudal Europe.
But dark forces are at work, threatening more than their growing love. If Christophe can’t win Trent’s trust, and if Trent can’t overcome his fear of the paranormal, the cost could be Trent’s freedom and Christophe’s humanity. Or it might be both their lives.
Christophe’s grip was firm, lingering long enough for Trent to recognize it as an invitation. In the old days, before he’d sort of hooked up with Logan, he’d have been totally down with the implied offer. Those days were behind him though. Weren’t they? He ought to have grown out of them, but sometimes he didn’t seem to have grown at all.
Christophe accepted his drink from the bartender and slid his credit card across the bar. Amex Black. Cool. Trent could let the guy pay for his drink without guilt.
With a sideways glance, Christophe turned his beer mat over to match Trent’s.
If Trent had been interested in a pickup, Christophe would have scored major points. But this wasn’t a pickup. Trent was only killing time until Logan showed. So why did the idea of facing Logan suddenly fill his belly with lead, while sparring with Christophe sent a buzz through his veins like in his acting days, in those heady moments just before he’d stepped onstage?
Must be because one thing mattered and the other was just for fun. He’d always been better at blowing things off.
He’d never taken anything seriously except acting, legend tripping, and Logan—and look where that had gotten him. Was that the problem? Logan was part of the ordeal, snarled up in the Witch’s Castle nightmare along with Trent. He’s still the only person who’ll ever understand you. Stop fucking around.
He swiveled on his barstool to face Christophe. “Let’s get things straight. You’re hot. I know it. You know it.”
Christophe grinned. “Indeed? How gratifying.”
“Doesn’t mean we’re gonna hook up.”
A trick of the light made Christophe’s eyes appear to flash molten gold. “Why is that?”
“I’m . . . well . . . kind of here to meet someone.”
“You sound uncertain.”
“Except death and taxes, no?”
“Don’t be too sure about that.” Trent had learned recently that death could be negotiable, and his father made it his life’s work to prove taxes weren’t a certainty either.
Christophe grinned. “You, my friend, are a man with issues.”
“That a problem?”
“Not in the least.” He leaned closer, his voice lowering to a suggestive growl. “I love a man with issues. Happy people are so boring. Who was it who said, ‘All happy families are alike’? Tolstoy?”
“Don’t ask me. I was a theater major.”
“Ah. Then we can rest assured it wasn’t Shakespeare. You are an actor, then?”
Trent’s stomach clenched. “Not anymore.”
“Nope. I more or less dropped out years ago.”
“Years ago? You must have been a mere child.”
“I was nineteen.”
“How old are you now?”
Trent glanced at Christophe from under his lashes and took a deliberate sip of his bourbon. “Nineteen.”
Christophe blinked, his eyebrows lifting. “I don’t—”
“Or twenty-six. Maybe two hundred and five. Depends on who you ask.” And whose skin he was in at the moment.
Christophe turned and leaned an elbow on the bar, his knee brushing Trent’s leg. “What if I ask you?”
“Then I’d say I’m old enough to know a wolf in sheep’s clothing when I see one.”
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And third in today's line-up, Nudging Fate
Not exactly a match made in Valhalla.
Half-norn event planner Anders Skuldsson is under strict orders from Asgard not to meddle with Fate. But with Enchanted Occasions’ latest booking—a competition for the hand of Faerie’s one true prince—crashing around his ears, it’s really difficult to toe that particular line. But if Andy pretends to be a contender for the prince…. It’s only temporary, so Odin can’t blame him. Right?
Conall of Odstone’s half-brother, Prince Reyner, was supposed to choose a mate before being crowned and wed. But the idiot left Con to impersonate him. Again.
When Con meets Andy, his anger turns to desire… and despair. Even if Andy forgives him for his imposture, how could someone eligible for a prince’s hand settle for the court outcast? And the double-deception isn’t their only obstacle. Unless Andy makes the right choice, their fates could be sealed by…well… Fate.
Odin's beard, could I possibly be more awkward? But the prince was just so… so… princely. And tall. And beautiful.
And was looking at him as if Andy was wearing his clothes upside down and backward while riding a manticore down the Frost Giants’ football pitch.
It didn’t help that the three EO staff who arrived to serve the meal were all staring at Andy with wide, startled eyes. Since one of them was a sylph, with eyes bigger than Andy’s fist, that made an impression. Luckily, the prince didn’t seem to be paying a lot of attention to the staff, which was exactly what Andy expected—EO staff were trained to be competent but unobtrusive. Some of them could actually turn invisible, or fade, chameleon-like, against their surroundings.
That’s what Andy would prefer to be doing right this very minute—sitting in the EO suite, safely behind the scenes, making sure everything ran perfectly according to the client’s wishes.
The client. Gloriana, the Faerie Queen. Whose wishes definitely hadn’t included setting her only son up on a date with a half-norn event planner who was on Asgard’s three-strikes-and-you’re-out list.
When Mikos finds out about this, I am so dead. Assuming Gloriana didn’t find out about it first.
Then he’d be a newt.
Brooke sailed back into the room, a garment bag draped over her arm, and plucked the champagne bottle out of Andy’s hands. “We’ll open that in a moment, Sir Anders. But first, I have a change of clothing for you.”
The prince bowed politely. “I’ll give you privacy to change, then.” He walked out onto the terrace, keeping his back discreetly turned.
Andy snatched the bag off her arm. “Stop calling me Sir Anders,” he said through clenched teeth. “Don’t make this worse than it already is.”
“Then roll with it. For Neptune’s sake, Andy, you’re a charming guy. All you have to do is keep the prince happy for one evening while we get a wizard in to counteract Johan’s vomit juice. Is that too much to ask?” She popped the cork on the champagne, deftly holding it over a glass as it frothed from its neck. “You can salvage this event and save us all, save Mikos, save Enchanted Occasions. All you have to do is eat dinner. How hard is that?”
When she put it that way, he couldn’t very well refuse. Mostly. An evening in the company of a too-gorgeous fae royal with a reputation for volatility and promiscuity? Andy loved his job and was loyal to his boss, but he wasn’t about to put his ass on the line to save either one.
On the other hand, the prince had granted Andy privacy to change into the ridiculous velvet tunic Brooke had brought. He wasn’t peeking, not even a little. Not that Andy was checking. Much. And is that a niggle of disappointment I feel? Do I want him to ogle me?
No. Of course not. Because that would be unprofessional—or at least the hallmark of a different profession altogether.
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A Personal Story
I hate my birthday.
This has nothing to do with getting older, and perhaps it might be more accurate to say that I’m a birthday evader.
I wasn’t always this way. In fact, as a very young child, I was quite excited about the concept of birthdays because they always seemed so special for everyone else. Mine, however, were always oddly muted. One reason is because my birthday is in December, six days before Christmas.
In grade school, other kids’ birthdays were celebrated with ice cream cups in the classroom, but mine always hit during the winter holiday break, so it got skipped (as did the kids with summer birthdays, if I recall, so I wasn’t the only one to suffer).
When we still lived in Illinois near my extended family, my relatives had a tendency to say, “This present is for both your birthday and Christmas,” although I could never use that same reasoning with my cousins who had birthdays in August or even January.
Another reason—which I didn’t find out until I was an adult—is that my mother hated her birthday too. She was raised on a farm in rural Illinois and my grandparents were fundamentalist Christians who had been hardened by their experiences in the Great Depression. They didn’t believe in coddling children. When my mother was quite young—maybe six or seven—she thought since other kids had birthday parties, that she would have one too, and invited all her friends.
When my grandmother found out, she was furious. She made my mother go to each household and un-invite everyone personally, probably standing at Mom’s back with the pinched-lip expression I remember so well from my own experience with Grandma. Of course there was no party. This pretty much traumatized my mother, and put her off her own birthday for good, something which she tried hard to overcome—with varying degrees of success—for my brother and me.
In any case, by the time I was ten or eleven, I’d learned pretend that it didn’t matter when people didn’t fuss over my birthday. In fact, since even then I was an introverted child, at some point it wasn’t even a pretense anymore.
Then, on my eighteenth birthday, my mother, my boyfriend, and my best girl friend decided to throw me a surprise party. To say I was stunned is an understatement. I think the first words out of my mouth were, “This is the stupidest idea ever.”
An entire evening as the center of attention—opening presents while a circle of more people than I was comfortable with watched, going to Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor (notorious for maximum birthday fuss), the mortification of not being grateful for the effort my friends and family had gone to for me? Well… By the end of the evening, between guilt and sensory overload, I was in tears.
The next year, I was living on my own in my Southern California hometown (my parents having relocated to Wyoming, like the nightmare of having your family move away while you’re at summer camp). I don’t remember what happened on that birthday—I’ve blocked it out.
The following year, I was working at JC Penney, and my birthday celebration was going to be a quiet one: my mom was taking me out to lunch, then buying me a winter coat that I’d already chosen and put in the back room, ready for us to pick up. But when we got there, the coat was gone—not in the back room, not on the floor, nowhere. However, the next day, when I went back to work, it was once again in the back room.
Obviously my birthday was cursed. The universe had it in for me and Bad Things (even if they weren’t all that bad, and/or if they’d happened to another person—like a surprise party, for instance—that person might be thrilled) were bound to happen. Clearly the only way to avoid the curse was to fly under the karmic radar on the day.
So now, when anyone says, “Happy birthday,” I duck and look for incoming.
About the author:
E.J. Russell—certified geek, mother of three, recovering actor—holds a BA and an MFA in theater, so naturally she’s spent the last three decades as a financial manager, database designer, and business intelligence consultant (as one does). She’s recently abandoned data wrangling, however, and spends her days wrestling words.
E.J. is married to Curmudgeonly Husband, a man who cares even less about sports than she does. Luckily, CH loves to cook, or all three of their children (Lovely Daughter and Darling Sons A and B) would have survived on nothing but Cheerios, beef jerky, and satsuma mandarins (the extent of E.J.’s culinary skill set). E.J. lives in rural Oregon, enjoys visits from her wonderful adult children, and indulges in good books, red wine, and the occasional hyperbole.
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Thanks for celebrating this fabulous author with us. Come back next week for more of EJ's books, our author interview, and one more chance to win.
Until then, happy reading!!