Saturday, December 5, 2015

Saturday's Series Spotlight: Match Before Christmas by Eden Winters

The Match Before Christmas #1
Candlelight, mistletoe, gaily wrapped packages beneath a trimmed tree, and someone to share it with. That's all Barry Richards wants for Christmas. Desperate for a traditional holiday, he creates a profile on "," in hopes of finding the perfect man in a matter of weeks. One date after another goes sour, while all around him friends are falling in love, and Barry starts to lose faith.

The first snow falls and the world fills with seasonal cheer, all except for Barry, for whom time is running out. Facing the prospect of a lonely holiday, he tries just once more to make The Match Before Christmas.

Fanning the Flames #2
The man of Barry's dreams has gone from a sugarplum fantasy to sweet reality, thanks to the GLBT dating site Introducing a new boyfriend to the family and settling into coupledom aren't the easiest things in the world for a man with little dating experience, but the romantic demands of Valentine's Day are beyond Barry's imagination. His piteous cry for help brings all kinds of suggestions from family and friends.Fully believing he's found the perfect ways to charm his sweetheart, Barry isn't prepared to hear "Achoo " at every turn. Adam's allergic to what? And will sneezes and welts wreck Barry's painstaking plans for Fanning the Flames?

A Lie I Can Live With #3
A dating site profile faked up to make geeky gamer Otis Tucker more alluring hasn’t done much for his social life, so what does he have to lose by putting his real picture and honest interests online? His pal Barry swears there’s someone out there who will love Otis for himself, extra pounds and all.

Handsome Garret Mims sends “I’d love to meet you!” but takes things so slow Otis is quite sure they’re stopped. Is it really a date if there’s not so much as a kiss between them? Maybe he shouldn’t worry about Garret’s intentions and just enjoy every platonic moment. Instead, Otis could work on finding the missing ingredient for his pumpkin pies before Thanksgiving.

Garret’s upfront in every way but one, and Otis may have found a lie he can live with.

Match for the Holidays #1-3
Adventures in computer dating.

What starts as Barry Richards’ desire for someone to share Christmas grows into an adventure in friendship and a little matchmaking of his own. Now the three-story set: The Match Before Christmas, Fanning the Flames, and A Lie I Can Live With have been combined into a single collection.

Follow Barry and his friends as they navigate the tricky (and often bizarre) world of Internet dating, in their search for love.

Contains the complete texts of The Match Before Christmas, Fanning the Flames, and A Lie I can Live With, which are also available separately.

The Match Before Christmas #1
How It All Began...

Barry admired the festive holly wreath hanging from his parent’s front door, while deciding how to knock with one arm laden with brightly wrapped packages and the other around a smiling man. The family was going to love his new boyfriend.

A car door slamming in the neighbor’s drive brought him out of his daydream. Barry sighed for about the hundredth time since getting his parent’s e-mail. Was it too much to ask to have, just once, the kind of Christmas he’d always dreamed about? But that’s what it was, a dream. His parents’ holiday cruise plans laid waste to Barry and his sister’s annual Yule pilgrimage to Mom and Dad’s. Karen immediately invited him to spend Christmas at her house. “We’ll make a new tradition,” she’d said.

While his sister’s family would love to have him there, Barry wanted someone of his own to spend the joyous occasion, and ultimately life, with. He wasn’t pouting. Not at all. The entire situation underscored his loneliness. Mom and Dad had each other, Karen had Jack and the kids, he had nobody—yet. Barry’s was a simple goal, to find someone special by Christmas, three months away, even if he wouldn’t be introducing the as yet unnamed man to his folks this year.

He returned to studying the image on his computer screen of two gorgeous men, laughing. A head-thrown-back, eye-twinkling, “I’ve never been so happy” laugh, arms wrapped about each other in a sensual embrace. Underneath their picture an icon beckoned, “Meet our success stories.”

Barry stared at the happy couple and frowned. What had life come to? He blinked hard, and when he reopened his eyes the mutually smitten couple still flaunted their coupledom. A simple, beguiling message asked, “What are you waiting for?”

He reread his “About Me” blurb, trying to imagine a stranger’s reaction:

Single, reasonably attractive gay man, looking for same for possible long-term relationship. Interests: museums, the arts, sports, pets, and romantic candlelit dinners.

Muttering, “I’m a loser,” under his breath, Barry double-checked all the questionnaire boxes he’d clicked previously, making a few minor adjustments here and there.

He paused at the question: “Desired Ages?” While he wanted a stable adult in his life, starting too high might discourage some earnest recent college grad. Likewise, ending too low might exclude the doctor of his dreams for having had a recent birthday. Knowing the criteria could be changed later prompted him to select “Between twenty-five and thirty-five.” Race and religious preferences he left open. He listed his own as Christian, due to the vague memory of a few Sunday school classes in his youth.

Though he’d always been a bit camera shy, resulting in very few available likenesses, he found several group pictures on his hard drive and attempted to edit all the other subjects out. He discarded the results one by one until he came across a recent photo his secretary had taken at the office. He didn’t usually photograph well, in his opinion, but he wasn’t too ashamed of this one. His clear green eyes stood out, thanks to a slightly darker green shirt, and his normally unruly auburn hair framed his face nicely, falling in loose waves. To him, the photo portrayed a successful businessman, which he was, but also showed a more casual side of his personality. “Present yourself as well-rounded,” the site advised.

Before he had a chance to overthink the situation and change his mind, he hit the big red “Enter” button. There went nothing. If things went well, Barry fully believed he’d spent his last lonely weekend. If they didn’t, he was only out fifty bucks, and the cats didn’t lose a lap to sit in for the few hours it would take to go on a date.

Fanning the Flames #2
Somehow Barry managed to keep his secret for the next few days (mostly due to a stranglehold by his overly aggressive conscience), but on Friday his anxiety won the battle, begging to hear Adam’s pleasure at receiving flowers. Adam would like the flowers, wouldn’t he? Wouldn’t he? Oh, my God! What if he didn’t?

Wait! Let Adam make the call, saying,” They’re gorgeous! Thank you,” his conscience argued. Working as a team, Barry and his anxiety wrestled the protesting voice of reason to the ground, making short work of the binding and gagging.

Knowing Adam had a break between classes at ten, Barry watched the big hand’s sluggish progression around the clock face, dialing at precisely one minute past. Instead of excitement, he heard, “Cough, cough. Hewwo.” Adam’s nose and throat sounded packed with cotton.

“Adam? Are you all right?” He’d been fine the night before.

Cough, cough. Sniffle. “Yeah, it’s jus” allergies.” Achoo! “Florists have been swarming the place all morning, bringing deliveries. I’ll be all right.”

Voice scratchy and dry, it didn’t sound like he’d be all right. Wait! Allergies! Oh, shit! “Errr... Are you allergic to all flowers, or certain ones?” Barry’s hope held its breath. Barry, thinking that advisable, held his breath, too.

In the language of extreme stuffy-headedness, Adam responded, “I’m not really sure, so I avoid them all. Definitely grass, pine pollen, hay, and about a zillion other things set me off. It was hell growing up on a farm, let me tell you.”

Told ya! his anxiety yelled at his captive conscience. “Soaps, shampoos?”

“Dye-free, unscented.”


“There’s a few kinds that don’t bother me.”

“What about the boys?” Barry asked, worried that hard decisions lay in his future.

“Cats are fine.” Adam won additional points by adding, “If they weren’t, I’d finally break down and see an allergist.”

Recalling Adam’s scentless shampoo, sitting on the shelf next to his “botanical extracts” enhanced bottle, Barry realized that he needed to stop the florists before they reached the university and added to Adam’s misery. “Ummm...” He searched for a way to end the call quickly.

Adam provided one. “I’m sorry, but there’s a student waiting to see me. Can I call you back?”

Gusting a sigh of relief, Barry replied, “Yeah, sure. Talk to you later.” He barely bit off saying, “Love you!” Too soon, too soon. You’ll scare him off!

The moment he’d disconnected from Adam, Barry punched in the number for the florist, snapping his phone closed and trying again when, in his agitation, he misdialed the first time. He tapped his fingers against his desk as the phone rang once, twice, three times, four times… Answer the phone, damn it!

A Lie I Can Live With #3
GetaDate.Com had a lot to answer for. Okay, so maybe it wasn’t entirely the dating site’s fault that they’d set Otis up with a man he knew and had done work for. And they sure hadn’t forced him to lie like a rug on his profile, even if they’d encouraged it. “Show your interesting side,” they’d urged.

What interesting side? Maybe they should have issued a warning that posting fake profiles would get found out sooner or later, like on first meeting. To their credit, this disaster of a set-up had turned into a pretty nice “guys’ night out.” But it was all their fault that Otis was standing in his non-date’s living room with his shirt off and not a gleam of romance in Barry’s eyes.

“Do you want a date or not?” Barry’s take-no-prisoners death glare didn’t leave any room for negotiation.

“With you?” Yeah, a date with Barry would be nice, though dating clients might not be the best idea. Otis’ company held the service contract on the computers at Richards General Contracting, Barry’s business. No, no date with Barry, he’s already said so. At least he’d been kind enough to say the “no dating” thing was only because of their business relationship and not because of Otis’ extra poundage, bear-like appearance, or general geekiness.

At Barry’s request (okay, command!) Otis had removed his shirt, flushing from his thinning hairline to the back of his furry neck. Barry snapped a few pictures. Otis took off his glasses and sucked in his gut.

“Not that hard, or you’ll look like a Thanksgiving turkey,” Barry warned.

Otis let his abs sag a little more. A full-on slump wasn’t happening, but he could maintain this posture, so that wasn’t lying. At least, he could maintain it until he got distracted by a computer. Or a doughnut. Maybe he should do some crunches that didn’t involve his teeth.

Could Otis actually find a man who’d want him for himself? Finally, Barry asked him to log onto, the GLBT dating service that had arranged their somewhat comical meeting. How could Otis not recognize a client’s picture? Although, the one time before that he’d met Barry face to face he had been rather full of eggnog at a Christmas party. He couldn’t lay the blame on Barry, either, for the picture Otis used on his profile featured a hot model who didn’t look remotely like Otis. Well, maybe a bit around the eyes. And Barry couldn’t possibly have known that Otis’ middle name was Vincent.

I hope he knows what he’s doing. Otis sat down at the computer. Hmm… running a bit slow. No problem. A tweak here and there. Oh, he doesn’t need that program. When was the last time Barry cleaned his hard drive? Okay. Better. Download speed improved 30%, upload by 10%. 1834 megabytes of system debris erased. Now that’s how a computer should work. Oh, wait. I’m supposed to be doing something. Otis dutifully typed his user name and password for the website. Performing a familiar task had momentarily calmed his shaky nerves. His jitters returned with a vengeance when Barry deleted “Vincent’s” picture, replacing it with one from the camera.

“Trust me on this one, okay?” Barry tapped a few keys on his keyboard. “Age? And don’t lie.”


Barry raised a brow but didn’t comment. “Hobbies?”


“That’s it? Just gaming?”

“Umm… I like talking walks. Cooking.”

“Good. Likes? Dislikes?”

That required some thought. “I really like movies. Oh, and microbreweries are cool.” Should he state his true passion? If he were going to be honest, he’d have to. “I never miss an anime convention if I don’t have to.”

How could Barry be smiling? Otis felt he’d lost a friend in his contrived online profile. Not a very good one, but a friend nonetheless. One he’d known, and commiserated with, for the better part of a year. The man I’ll never be.

“Actually, I have someone in mind who I think is gonna love you. Not ‘Vincent,’ but you, just the way you are.” Barry pushed the “Save Changes” button, sending Vincent to a cyber-grave. Where did pseudo-personalities go once they’d been deleted? No amount of pleading dissuaded the well-intentioned (so he said) meddler from what appeared to be a personal mission. Barry hummed “Matchmaker” from Fiddler on the Roof.

Enmeshed in his task, he didn’t even look up while inviting Otis to spend the night—in the guest room.

Well, Otis had drunk maybe a half beer too much. Staying might be a good idea. But would Barry’s well-intentioned meddling help or hurt Otis’ chances? 

Author Bio:
Eden Winters was captivated young by storytelling, and her earliest memories include spinning tales for the family’s pets. Her dreams of writing professionally took a sojourn into non-fiction, with a twelve-year stint in technical documentation.

She began reading GLBT novels as a way to better understand the issues faced by a dear friend and fell in love with the M/M romance genre. During a discussion of a favorite book, a fellow aficionado said, “We could do this, you know.”

Good-bye gears, motors, and other authors’ characters; hello plots and sex scenes. This has resulted in such prize-winning stories as Settling the Score, The Angel of Thirteenth Street, Naked Tails, The Wish, Duet, and Diversion.

Somewhat of a nomad, Eden has visited seven countries so far. She currently calls the southern US home, and many of her stories take place in the rural South. Having successfully raised two children, she now balances the day job with hiking, rafting, spoiling her grandchildren, and stalking the wily falafel or elusive tofu pad Thai at her favorite restaurants. Her musical tastes run from Ambient to Zydeco, and she’s a firm believer that life is better with fur kids and Harley Davidsons.


The Match Before Christmas #1

Fanning the Flames #2

A Lie I Can Live With #3

Match for the Holiday #1-3

Young Knights of the Round Table: The King’s Ransom by Cheryl Carpinello

Title: The King's Ransom
Author: Cheryl Carpinello
Series: Young Knights of the Round Table #1
Genre: Middle Grade Arthurian Legend
Release Date: May 26, 2012
Publisher: Muse It Up Publishing
Cover Design: Kaytalin Platt
Answer the hero's call to Adventure with the Young Knights of the Round Table on their Quest.

Three friends. Three quests. Three mysterious predictions.

In medieval Wales, eleven-year-old Prince Gavin, thirteen-year-old orphan Philip, and fifteen-year-old blacksmith's apprentice Bryan are brought together in friendship by one they call the Wild Man. When an advisor to the king is killed and a jewelled medallion is stolen from the king's treasury, the Wild Man is accused of the theft and murder. Filled with disbelief at the arrest of the Wild Man, the three friends embark upon a knight's quest to save their friend's life. To succeed, the three must confront their fears and insecurities, and one of them will have to disclose the biggest secret of all. Join Gavin, Philip, and Bryan on their quest and share the adventures that await them in the land of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table.

Prince Gavin
Gavin’s gaze was drawn back to the castle’s battle-scarred walls and the heavily armed guards. The evil emanating from the structure surrounded and held him captive, like a lone deer surrounded by hungry wolves in the dead of winter, unable to move, its eyes glassy with fear, its limbs frozen by the hypnotic gleam of the wolves’ yellow eyes. Even knowing its life was ending, the deer wouldn’t break and run. So Gavin sat frozen in front of the castle.

The enormity of his quest enveloped Gavin and he sighed. Continuing on meant he might save the Wild Man, but he might put himself in danger as well. King Edward was his father’s enemy and possibly responsible for Aldred’s murder. If Gavin were caught, Edward wouldn’t treat him kindly. The young prince summoned his courage and focused on the Wild Man. It had seemed so simple last night in the company of Bryan and Philip.


Looking at the stack of chopped wood, he smiled sadly. Two years ago he would never have dreamed he’d be here, chopping wood for food and a dry place to sleep. He shook his head at his thoughts, his shaggy, ill-cut black hair falling unevenly across his forehead. Two years. It seemed like forever.

Two years earlier, he had lived with his parents and baby brother on their small farm up north. His parents worked hard to put food on the table and to pay off the farm. Philip’s main job was to watch baby Benjamin while his mother helped his father in their small field. When Benjamin fell sick, Philip helped his father clear the old stalks and rocks from the soil while his mother nursed the baby. He helped his father carefully plant the winter wheat and barley for harvest in the spring.

As autumn slipped into winter, Benjamin hadn’t gotten better. His tiny body burned with fever. Those last few days when Philip held him, the heat coming from Benjamin threatened to slowly engulf him like the embers of a dying fire.


In the five years he’d been James’s apprentice, Bryan had learned a lot. He made a sturdy sword, so James said. Two years still remained in his apprenticeship. Two long years.

Like most sons of tradesmen or farmers, his family had secured this apprenticeship early on. At eleven, he and his father had made the three-day journey south to the Pembroke Castle blacksmith. At first, the prospect of being away from home, on his own, and learning a respectable trade, was exciting. More importantly, it allowed him to see and talk with real knights.

He spent every day learning how to forge stronger swords, tougher armour, how to shoe horses, and even make pots and pans. It was a satisfying trade and one that would ensure him a livelihood. But Bryan didn’t want just a livelihood. Even now, only two years away from completing his apprenticeship, he still couldn’t see himself working with metal for the rest of his life. As long as he could remember, he had wanted only one thing: to be a knight like Sir Lancelot.

Author Bio:
I am a retired high school English teacher. A devourer of books growing up, my profession introduced me to writings and authors from times long past. Through my studies and teaching, I fell in love with the Ancient and Medieval Worlds. Now, I hope to inspire young readers and those Young-at-Heart to read more through my Quest Books set in these worlds.



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