Monday, January 18, 2016

Monday's Montage Mantlepiece: Sins of Winter

The seven deadly sins: lust, wrath, greed, gluttony, envy, pride and sloth.

The Sins of Winter weaves a general thread of revelation loosely tying these tales together. Acedia (a precursor to sloth), Greed and Pride, are explored in these hot m/m tales involving action, burning hot sex and out-of-this-world adventures that will warm you!

Stories Included:
Toppling Pedestals by D.J.Manly
In Toppling Pedestals, DJ Manly deals with the sin of pride.

The thought that there was something better out there took Tristan away...then pride almost broke his heart.

Tristan, Samuel and Casey had been friends since grade one. When Casey-the doctor’s son-goes off to university, Samuel and Tristan are left behind in their small hometown. Samuel comes from a poor background and has no money for school. He takes a job in the hardware store that Tristan’s parents own.

Tristan decides to work at the store for a year before joining Casey at school. He’s expected to run the store eventually but wants to explore what’s out there first. Breaking away from the town means breaking Samuel’s heart. When tragedy brings Tristan home again, will pride stand in the way of letting Samuel know how he feels?

If Come by A.J.Llewellyn
In If Come, AJ Llewellyn deals with the ancient deadly sin of acedia.

It was once considered the 'noonday demon'-a melancholia that is brought about by repetitive work. Writing, marriage and monkhood were the three main occupations said to induce it.

Zam Carmarthen is a mildly successful Hollywood screenwriter struggling with a debilitating depression that prevents him from completing anything he starts. When he lands an ‘If Come’ deal with a major Hollywood producer, he's finally forced to focus on his work and not give into the strange malaise gripping him. In order to ever move ahead in the movie business, he must complete the pilot episode of his proposed TV series, Angel Inn. If his producer is able to sell the series, Zam will be a very rich man. Everything he has worked for can be his.

Paralysed by his depression, he finds unusual solace in the form of his arch nemesis, Dominic Glass-a surgeon turned super successful screenwriter...and the man who rewrote Zam's hit screenplay for his own glory.

Can Zam overcome the depression Dominic calls acedia, which threatens to derail his whole life? Can he move on from his long time sex buddy Jason? And what about these new feelings he has for Dominic in spite of their rocky history? Will Zam get it together...or will Dominic once again walk away with all the credit for something Zam created?

Winter Challenge by Serena Yates
In Winter Challenge, Serena Yates deals with the sin of greed.

Paediatrician Noah Goldwin receives some bad news-his father has died and his greedy elder brother doesn’t only take over the family business, he wants the entire fortune for himself. So, he informs Noah that he was adopted and washes his hands of him. Noah, who never knew of his past, sets out to find his roots.

An elderly aunt, a mysterious ring and a location in the far north of Canada are his only hints...until he meets a tall, dark stranger who may have the solution to all his questions. There is only one problem-Ataro lives in a parallel dimension.

Will the two men be able to find a way to join forces? How will they defeat the power hungry enemies on Ataro’s world? And are inter-dimensional relationships even possible?

Toppling Pedestals by D.J.Manly
Everyone slips. Everyone makes mistakes in their lives, but the difference between those who are true failures and those who rise above seems to come down to one thing—humility. To admit you've made a mistake means swallowing your pride. That's not an easy thing to do even when the stakes are high, especially when you risk losing the love of your life.

* * * * *
The Beginning
The kids at school used to call us the three musketeers—Samuel, Casey, and Tristan—Tristan being me. The three of us had been inseparable from grade one onwards. I was the leader, full of cocky self-confidence, the daredevil who led the other two astray...or so they claimed.

It was a wonder we even became friends at all, because we were all so different. I tended to look for trouble, mostly out of boredom. Meanwhile, Sam was simply at odds with everything, a born rebel. He'd earned the bad boy rep early, and unlike me, he couldn't seem to get away with anything.

Casey was an only child. His mom had died when he was a baby and his dad was a doctor. Casey was the 'good boy'—at least, everyone assumed he was. He was the teacher's pet every year and always said the right things. I think Sam and I enjoyed leading Casey into trouble and watching him stress about getting discovered. He and the doc lived in a big white house near the school. Casey was all about style, even as a kid with his expensive, brand-name running shoes. It got worse when he hit puberty. Sam and I often teased him about being a snob, which he'd always vigorously deny, of course, just before showing off his designer jeans. We loved Casey in spite of his quirks. He was generous and funny, even if he sometimes got on our nerves.

Sam, on the other hand, didn't give a damn about status. He came from the wrong side of the tracks, so to speak, and was a little rough around the edges. He wore his background with a mix of pride and disdain. He was a great-looking kid but his clothes never seemed to quite fit, and his hair was either too long or had been hacked at by one of his sisters. He was the only one of us who had siblings—two elder sisters—who, besides giving Sam the occasional crooked haircut, weren't what one would call doting. Basically they spent their time riding around in muscle cars with boys while their mother worked nights as the janitor in the town bank. Casey and I rarely went over to the two bedroom apartment where Sam lived because his mom slept during the day.

It was rumoured that Sam's father was in jail. When we were kids, Sam said his father was a pirate who navigated the high seas, finding treasure on mysterious deserted islands. We all knew it wasn't true. Nevertheless, it made for entertaining stories when we'd sleep in the tent in Casey's back yard on warm summer nights.

My parents owned the local hardware store so we had a nice house near the school not far from Casey. Like my two friends, I had to fend for myself much of the time. My parents worked long hours at the store, including weekends. And when it was closed, they did inventory and the accounting. It was tough. It wasn't until I turned sixteen that my parents could actually afford to take on more staff.

Given that we were all pretty independent, we looked out for one another.

We had a freedom other kids didn't have and that was a plus, of course. Our lives weren't structured in the same way as other kids', what with our parents all working crazy hours. But since we lived in a small town where everyone knew one another, our parents didn't worry too much. The town of Milton Corners was our baby sitter, with people telling us to 'get on home' when they thought we were out too late. It was never hard to find a trusted adult if we needed one in a pinch.

I knew I was gay by the time I hit twelve, but I kept it to myself. The three of us always confessed everything to each other. We'd made a pact when we were eight. That was the first time I'd broke it. Frankly, I wasn't sure how Casey and Sam would take the news that I liked boys. I thought they'd freak out, not want to hang out with me. Their friendship was the most important thing in my life. So I kept it all inside.

If Come by A.J.Llewellyn
Zam Carmarthen entered the lobby of Longshore Films, immediately enchanted by the huge black and white photos on the wall of long-ago shipping days. He took in the close-up images of handsome, rugged stevedores unloading massive pallets on weathered-looking docks. He felt the strong pull of attraction to a couple of the men, shirtsleeves rolled high on their arms. He studied them as he adjusted his messenger bag from one shoulder to the other.

Man, I gotta be hard-up, fantasising about men who've probably been dead for years...

He tore his gaze from the images on the walls and sauntered over to the row of youthful-looking assistants manning a shiny bank of desks against the far wall. They all wore black and had this season's de rigueur hairstyle. Gamine. Even for the men. He felt hopelessly unfashionable with his dark, curly hair, well-worn jeans, vintage plaid shirt and the suit jacket that had seemed like such a groovy idea at the thrift store. Nevertheless, he swallowed over the lump in his throat and pressed forwards.

Business must have been slow or else the three assistants just didn't give a toss. Each held a portable device in their hands. One man was playing Bookworm, the other was playing Diner Dash. The third and only female assistant, God help them all, was rapidly exchanging text messages with somebody. Zam jumped in between her manic rounds with dangerously hyperactive thumbs and kept his tone breezy.

"Good morning. I'm Zam Carmarthen, in to see Jack Kilgrove."

She ignored him, fired off a quick text response and then looked up at him, faint annoyance etched into her features.

"Sorry. What was that?"

He repeated himself. "My appointment's at ten," he added. It was now five after. She glanced at a huge nautical clock on the wall and seemed about to gripe at him for being late.

Zam sensed an immediate problem. He glanced down at the assistant's desk. He had a horrible feeling Jack Kilgrove wasn't even here. He had heard every excuse for executives not showing up to meetings, but this usually happened after lunch, not at ten a.m.—the Hollywood equivalent of the crack of dawn.

Executives cancelling meetings happened to him a lot more than he cared to admit to his friends and family. Being a struggling screenwriter in Hollywood sucked. After turning out a screenplay that had become a mildly successful comedy, he'd been ecstatic to find he was inside the business of Hollywood. It got him meetings, a few extra Facebook friends...but not much more. He was sinking into a depression. Fast.

The assistant flicked another glance at the wall clock. He could almost read her mind. She couldn't use lunch as an excuse. "I don't have you down here," she said, finally.

"Yes, you do. You called me at eight-fifteen this morning. You're Sophia, aren't you?"

She blinked a few times, as if trying to remember.

"Ah, um...yes." Her head tilted at an odd angle. "Wait. I called you?" She seemed reluctant to put her cell phone down on her desk. God forbid she should miss a text message. She swivelled her chair towards an obsolete desktop computer. She pecked away with her free hand at the keyboard.

Without turning to look at him she said, "I didn't call you. I called Cam Cameron."

"Zam Carmarthen. That's me."

"Are you sure?" She looked flustered. For the first time, her cohorts glanced up, both men looking appalled.

"Yeah, I'm quite sure. I've had a few decades to absorb the shock of having such an unusual name."

"Zam Carmarthen."

"Yes, that's me. You asked me to come in at ten. And here I am."

"Wait," she said, using both hands to fan herself as her cell phone rang. "I remember now." She looked so pleased with herself.

How lucky for both of us. He smiled, willing himself to remain in the zone. Pitching had been the last thing he'd expected as a writer. Nobody had told him that being a writer in Hollywood involved acting. It took a lot of rehearsal to perform a story pitch. He'd timed it to the required eight minutes. If he began to fret or cave into self-pity he'd forget his rhythm.

Man, this is so not how I thought it would be once I sold a screenplay.

Winter Challenge by Serena Yates
"Oh my God." Noah Goldwin felt his stomach plummet. He gripped the well-padded armrests of his leather office chair tightly as he closed his eyes to help him absorb the shocking news. "You're sure?"

"I'm sorry to be the one to have to tell you, sweetie." Aunt Miryam, the only member of his family still speaking to him, sounded years older than her usual bubbly self. "I'm even sorrier that your useless excuse of a brother didn't bother to pick up the phone to let you know. He has no right to keep this from you."

"It's not your fault." None of it was. Not the accident and not the fact that Preston was an asshole. He always had been ever since Noah could remember, and it certainly wouldn't get any better now.

"I know that. I still feel sorry. Actually, I'm beginning to lean towards anger now." Aunt Miryam had a vicious temper. Once something or someone upset her, she was not easily appeased. And the way Noah had been treated had never sat easy with her. "I mean, this isn't some minor bit of family news—it's pretty big."

Yeah, he'd call his father dying in a head-on collision 'pretty big'. Noah leant back in his chair and closed his eyes. He only had minutes until his next patient would demand his attention, so he had to get himself together. There had been no love lost between him and his father for a long time. Noah's recent decision to go into paediatrics instead of becoming a surgeon, which would at least have given him some status in his father's eyes, had been the last straw in breaking up a relationship that had never been easy.

Noah's father had thought Noah was too 'soft' and had never hesitated to tell him. Business was the only acceptable career in his father's eyes, yet Noah had put his foot down and had gone into medicine. His elder brother, Preston, seven years Noah's senior, was more than capable of handling the family empire. Noah didn't want to think about ways to make more money—he was interested in helping people. Neither his father nor his brother would ever understand that.

Despite all that, his father's death was still hitting him hard, and not just because it had been sudden and totally unexpected. After all, the man was his father, and had sort of raised Noah and provided for him, at least financially, for many years. Noah sighed. He'd have to make arrangements for a trip back to Miami for the funeral on Friday, had to let his superiors know so he could get time off work and ask one of his colleagues to take over until he'd get back. Not the best thing to have to do just after starting his three-year residency as a future paediatric doctor at the prestigious Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago. He pinched the bridge of his nose with his free hand to try to stave off the encroaching headache. They had to realise he hadn't planned for this to happen, didn't they?

"Are you still there?" Aunt Miryam sounded as if she'd already asked a couple of times. Right...he was still on the phone.

"Yeah, sorry, just trying to figure out what to do." He'd better make a list before he forgot all the details.

"You'll manage, I'm sure." She was always so supportive, something she had in common with her sister, Noah's mother.

"I'll do my best." Noah had been only ten when she'd drowned in a freak diving accident, the cause of which remained unknown to this day. His father had been with her, but was tight-lipped about what had happened. Noah still missed her horribly. At least she had understood and accepted him.

Snap out of it, there's no point in dwelling on ancient history.

"That'll be more than enough." Her smile came through loud and clear. "Will you come see me when you're here? I do miss you!"

"Of course I'll visit. Wouldn't miss it for the world." It sucked that he wouldn't be able to acknowledge her at the funeral, but there was no point in causing a scandal. Noah's father and brother hated Aunt Miryam with a vengeance. Noah wasn't sure why, and it had made his life a lot lonelier until he was eighteen and had become his own man, but there was no point in bringing it up in the current situation.

"Good. I look forward to it." She cleared her throat. "Now, get your stuff together and come over here as soon as you can. Love you."

Author Bios:
DJ Manley
D.J. Manly says, "I write not only for my own pleasure, but for the pleasure of my readers. I can’t remember a time in my life when I haven’t written and told stories. When I’m not writing, I’m dreaming about writing, doing something wild and adventurous, or trying to make the world a better and more open-minded place to live in. I adore beautiful men, and I know I’m not alone in this! Eroticism between consenting adults, in all its many forms, is the icing on the cake of life!"

AJ Llewellyn
A.J. Llewellyn lives in California, but dreams of living in Hawaii. Frequent trips to all the islands, bags of Kona coffee in the fridge and a healthy collection of Hawaiian records keep this writer refueled.

A.J. never lacks inspiration for male/male erotic romances and on the rare occasions this happens, pursues other passions such as collecting books on Hawaiiana, surfing and spending time with friends and animal companions.

A.J. Llewellyn believes that love is a song best sung out loud.

Serena Yates
I’m a night owl and start writing when everyone else in my time zone is asleep. I’ve loved reading all my life and spent most of my childhood with my nose buried in a book. Although I always wanted to be a writer, financial independence came first. Twenty-some years and a successful business career later I took some online writing classes and never looked back.

Living and working in seven countries has taught me that there is more than one way to get things done. It has instilled tremendous respect for the many different cultures, beliefs, attitudes and preferences that exist on our planet.

I like exploring those differences in my stories, most of which happen to be romances. My characters have a tendency to want to do their own thing, so I often have to rein them back in. The one thing we all agree on is the desire for a happy ending.

I currently live in the United Kingdom, sharing my house with a vast collection of books. I like reading, traveling, spending time with my nieces and listening to classical music. I have a passion for science and learning new languages.

DJ Manly

AJ Lleweylln

Serena Yates


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