NineStar Press

Room at the Inn and Of Printers & Presents

It’s Boxing Day here in NZ, and I am not yet ready for Christmas to be over. So, I’ve been prolonging the festivities by mainlining seasonal fiction, courtesy of NineStar Press’s 2017 Seasonal Collection (the same collection The Charity Shop Rejects appears in). I’ve already talked about Handmade Holidays. Today, I’m reviewing Room at the Inn and Of Printers and Presents.


Room at the Inn by Drew Marvin Frayne is a contemporary story set in the hotel where Jason, the main character, works. The premise will resonate with anyone who has had to work Christmas Eve and Christmas Day–the author does a really good job of capturing the mixed feelings of working that particular holiday evokes. Jason’s looking forward to a dull evening, and is reflecting on his dissatisfaction with where he is in life, when a striking guest checks in, sharing the news that there is a bus of disgruntled travellers on their way, and Jason must pull out all the stops to save Christmas.

There’s no conflict, but I don’t think there needs to be–the circumstances act as one, and enough happens that the happy ending feels earned. I was thinking that this is almost like a Cinderella story, which might be why it is so satisfying. Stylistically, the writing reminded me a lot of Holiday Hotel Hookup by Jeff Adams which I read last year.

Room at the Inn at Ninestar | Amazon | Smashwords


Of Printers and Presents by Asta Idonea is a sweet, uncomplicated office romance. Any other time of the year, I might complain that the story lacked conflict, or that there was too much explaining, but this story was so exactly what I needed to read today, that I just enjoyed it. Sometimes you just need an uncomplicated romance! Especially at Christmas, when things have a knack of becoming exponentially more complicated than they need to be.

Vaughan is shy and crushing on Ford. Ford has anxiety issues, and doesn’t want to compromise his work position by acting on his crush on Vaughan. They’ve been dancing around each other for two years. Can an office secret Santa be the force that finally brings their feelings out in the open?

Of Printers and Presents at Ninestar | Amazon | Smashwords


Review: Handmade Holidays by ‘Nathan Burgoine

This is my first holiday read of the season, and I don’t feel precipitate in saying that it’s my favourite. It has so many elements that I love—friends to lovers, slow burn, ensemble cast, people taking on the responsibilities of jobs and families, found families… And they’re put together in a way that is not hit you over the head sappy, but genuine. I was not at all surprised that the author drew on his own experiences in writing it. The story, for the most part, feels true.

To be honest, Burgoine had me at ‘origami crane.’ Nick has got a Christmas tree for his apartment and his first Christmas on his own. It’s only when he gets it set up that he realises he doesn’t have any decorations. Enter Haruto, or ‘Ru’ as he is commonly known, with a box of candy canes and an origami crane. The crane is the first piece in a collection that grows along with Nick’s new family.


I really love the way the crane shows up throughout the story. Cranes have a special meaning for me. I was still living in Japan when my sister got engaged, and for her wedding, I folded one thousand cranes. It was a really positive experience. When you are folding that many cranes, you get into a rhythm. It’s like knitting or any other repetitive activity–it becomes sort of like a meditation. Your fingers are busy but your mind can wander.

At the wedding, the cranes took on a life of their own. My sister loved them and decided to use them in her decorations. We hung them from the roof, we put them on tables as decoration and even placed them among the bushes in her garden—it was an outdoor wedding. The guests loved them and a lot of people took them home as favours. My sister gathered all the ones that we left and kept them, until another friend was having an event and asked if she could use them. I like to think that a few of my cranes are still out there, kicking around, pressed between the pages of a photo album, or maybe sitting on a shelf or a desk.

But yes, digression aside, I thoroughly recommend Handmade Holidays for a seasonal story that will leave you feeling warm and glowy, without drowning you in saccharine sweetness.

Handmade Holidays

At nineteen, Nick is alone for the holidays and facing reality: this is how it will be from now on. Refusing to give up completely, Nick buys a Christmas tree, and then realizes he has no ornaments. A bare tree and an empty apartment aren’t a great start, but a visit from his friend Haruto is just the ticket to get him through this first, worst, Christmas. A box of candy canes and a hastily folded paper crane might not be the best ornaments, but it’s a place to start.

A year later, Nick has realized he’s not the only one with nowhere to go, and he hosts his first “Christmas for the Misfit Toys.” Haruto brings Nick an ornament for Nick’s tree, and a tradition—and a new family—is born.

As years go by, Nick, Haruto, and their friends face love, betrayal, life, and death. Every ornament on Nick’s tree is another year, another story, and another chance at the one thing Nick has wanted since the start: someone who’d share more than the holidays with him.

Of course, Nick might have already missed his shot at the one, and it might be too late.

Still, after fifteen Christmases, Nick is ready to risk it all for the best present yet.

Purchase Links:

Ninestar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Kobo 

Cover Reveal: The Charity Shop Rejects Live in Concert

On this day next week, The Charity Shop Rejects Live in Concert will be released! I’m really looking forward to sharing it. We get to revisit Jake and Dan, as well as spending time with The Charity Shop Rejects, who, by performing in ugly sweaters, are men after my own heart.


The cover doesn’t really convey what this story is about. It’s beautiful—I don’t think Ninestar’s cover artist Natasha Snow has made a cover that wasn’t—and does a good job of suggesting seasonal without being overtly about Christmas or one of the other holidays represented by the NineStar Holiday Story Collection. The problem is that when you have a collection of stories that are as different as the NSP Holiday Collection (seriously, we have stories revolving around Christmas tree ornaments to stories revolving around dragons), it’s really hard to come up with something that can really capture all of them.

So how to properly convey the train wreck that is The Charity Shop Rejects? It’s a tough one. A really, really, really tough one. I don’t know if there’s even—


Okay, nevermind.

The Charity Shop Rejects Live in Concert.

Mikaal Sarhadi has been in trouble since the moment he met guitarist Declan Hyde. Declan treats music like religion, setting high standards for himself and his bandmates. Mikaal struggles to even step on stage. He will do anything to justify Declan’s belief in him—even if that means ignoring the powerful attraction between them.

After a chance meeting with Brandon, Declan’s estranged brother, reveals just how much Declan will sacrifice for his music, Mikaal wonders if he can even call himself a musician. Worse, drummer Hiro’s visa application has been denied. With time running out for The Charity Shop Rejects, Mikaal must conquer his stage fright or lose music—and Declan—entirely.

Preorder from NineStar Press or Amazon (coming to other vendors from December 18th).

All About the Trigger Moment: P.A. Friday on writing short stories that sizzle!


Today, I’m welcoming a brand new (to me at least!) author to the blog–P.A. Friday! P.A.’s new novelette contains not one, but three short stories, all packed with sexual tension! I struggle to keep anything I write short, so I was really curious as to how P.A. manages to pack so much into such a short format. P.A. was kind enough to satisfy my curiosity with the exclusive interview you see below. Enjoy!

I ought to admit straight out that I’m basically a Jack of All Trades when it comes to writing. Articles? Check. Novels? Check. Short fiction, flash fiction, Twitter fiction, poetry? Check…

Usually, though not always, I know what length something is going to be (or at least approximately what length it’ll be!) when I start writing, however. The three stories in All About The Boy were always intended to be about 5000 words long. So how do you write something which is a specific length?

AllAboutTheBoy-f500.jpgWell, first of all, I can’t tell you how anyone else does it! My way of writing has always been a little unusual, in that I’m not reliable about the whole “start at the beginning and go on until you reach the end, and then stop” business. If I have inspiration for bits of story, I’ll write those bits. And then sometimes I’ll have to wriggle things about a bit until all the pieces fit. In Making Amends, the middle story of the three in the anthology, I actually wrote the second half of the story first, and then went back to explain how we got to that point. (I hope it doesn’t seem that way when you read the story, though!)

By far the most important thing for me, though, no matter the length of the story, is the characters. Everything I write is character-driven. There’s a tendency for some people to write off erotica as all about ‘tab A in slot B’ but for me, that’s not the interesting part. The interesting part is why these particular characters have that spark – and what sort of spark it is. Why has this man reacted to this other man in that particular fashion? How does he feel about it?

When you’ve only got 5000 words in which to spread yourself, obviously you can’t get too deeply into the complications of the human psyche in the same way you can with a novel. So you have to focus on something. An event. A trigger moment. Why this particular occasion was important for your character. Once you’ve got the event, if you know your character well enough – and I try to know my viewpoint character quite well before I start – it’s easy to follow through. I already know how he’d react, and why. My job then is to show this to the reader in such a way that they care about what happens to the character.

Oh, and – because this is, after all, erotica we’re talking about – to make it hot!

So I guess that’s what I’ve tried to do with my 5000 words: offer characters which seem real, and which readers can invest in, and then let the action go from there! And boy, is there action in these particular stories…

Thanks for the fascinating insight behind the scenes of All About the Boy, P.A.! To learn more about this collection of short hot stories, read on for the blurb and an excerpt.


Some men like gentle loving—others like to switch up the power. In P.A. Friday’s collection of stories, explore the raunchier, edgier side of lust—a space where domination and control can be the greatest turn-on.

From Stefan finding out the hard way just how straight he isn’t, Jake who has to learn to behave or take his punishment, to Kel juggling two very different lovers at his workplace, doing what you’re told has never been sexier.


NineStar Press | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | All About Romance Ebooks


Author Bio:

P.A. Friday fails dismally to write one sort of thing and, when not writing erotica and erotic romance of all sexualities, may be found writing articles on the Regency period, pagan poetry, or science fiction. She loves wine and red peppers, and loathes coffee and mushrooms.

Contact P.A. Friday

Email: | Website | Twitter | Facebook


Usually, Jake liked to do as he was told. He obeyed Alessandro’s every whim and behaved impeccably—especially in the presence of his master’s friends.


It was not because he feared punishment that he did so, either. Far from it. It was because he loved the look on his master’s face when Jake was obedient. That expression of pride in his boy—in Jake—and the warmth of his smile. Jake would do anything for that look.

Still, there was one of Alessandro’s friends to whom Jake couldn’t take. No matter how many times he met the man, he didn’t warm to him—had, in fact, an instinctive revulsion towards him. In his presence, the temptation to disregard his usual obedience was always strong. It wasn’t the fact that Leo had once been Alessandro’s lover—Alessandro had had, and continued to have, any number of lovers. Indeed, with Alessandro’s permission, several had played with or been pleasured by Jake. But when it came to Leo, the rules changed.


Check out NineStar’s events calendar for information on additional blog stops for All About the Boy and other upcoming releases!

Joe Cosentino Bounces Back!

Today, we’re welcoming Joe Cosentino back! Joe was last a guest in January when he was promoting his two comedy-mysteries, Drama Queen and its sequel, Drama Muscle. Kudos to Joe for Drama Queen winning Best Mystery Novel, Best Humorous Novel, and Best Contemporary Novel in Divine Magazine’s Readers’ Poll of 2015! Just like the last time Joe appeared on the blog, this is a double feature — he is back next week with another exciting release! This week, however, we’re talking Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back, Joe’s first release from NineStar Press and the start of the new Cozzi Cove beach series. Already, Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back  is getting attention. The TBR Pile voted in March’s Book of the Month! Congratulations and welcome Joe!

Joe: Thanks so much, Gillian. And congratulations to you on your NineStar releases too! We are both (nine) stars!

My first introduction to your writing were the Nicky and Noah comedy mysteries, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Cozzi Cove beach series. The first thing that struck me, however, was a similarity. In Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back Lance and Cal eat buckwheat waffles with blueberries and maple syrup for breakfast. I am pretty sure that Nicky and Noah are also big fans of buckwheat pancakes. So my first question to you, Joe, is are you a foodie? Or just really fond of buckwheat? (For the record, I think buckwheat and blueberry pancakes with a bit of lemon are amazing and my personal favourite.)

Joe: You noticed! Yes, many of my books have decadent scenes with delicious and extravagant food. My editors tell me they eat a huge meal after reading my books!

cozzicovebouncingbackcoverGetting into the serious part of the interview, I noticed that as I was reading Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back, I was reminded of something, but I couldn’t put a finger on what. It wasn’t until Chapter Two when Harold revealed himself, that I put my finger on it — Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back is like a soap opera in book form! I know you’re a Dark Shadows fan, so was it an influence? Or maybe given Cozzi Cove’s location on the (New) Jersey Shore, the reality TV show of the same name was an inspiring factor?

Joe: I’m a soap opera junkie. So that makes total sense. I remember an evening soap opera a while back, Melrose Place, where young, beautiful Californians lived and loved in a condo. That may have influenced me too. I’m sure Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City did as well.

Cozzi Cove has a large cast and several concurrent romances. It must have been really hard to balance them all! However, managing all those different romance story lines isn’t too dissimilar to managing all the different layers of motive and opportunity of a mystery cast! Do you think that writing Drama Queen and Drama Muscle had an impact on writing Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back?

Joe: Yes, there is plenty of romance in Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back. But there is also a great deal of humor, mystery, and drama. Nothing is what it seems in Cozzi Cove, so my mystery writing definitely came in handy. We will be talking about In My Heart (An Infatuation & A Shooting Star) my novellas from Dreamspinner Press. Many readers begged me for more time with one of the minor characters in An Infatuation. So the first guest in Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back is Mario from An Infatuation.

One of the most interesting things for me personally about Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back was that you presented different sides of facing death. Was that intentional?

Joe: Yes, Cozzi Cove is a gorgeous and magical place of life, love, rejuvenation, surprises, and death. The circle of life is definitely in motion at Cozzi Cove. I always thought the same thing about an old TV series, Fantasy Island. I love how Cal inherited Cozzi Cove from his father who inherited it from his father. Sensing Cal’s sexual orientation as a boy, Cal’s father had turned Cozzi Cove into a gay resort. Cal is honored to follow in his father’s footsteps. Again, the circle of life.

Obviously the one-week time limit of the novel makes a leisurely exploration of feelings difficult. What problems did you encounter juggling multiple storylines and character viewpoints?

Joe: As you know there are seven guest bungalows and the main bungalow (where Cal as owner lives) in Cozzi Cove. I wrote each of the storylines separately then I intercut them in the same way a television writer creates a soap opera. I was pleasantly surprised at how well the stories complimented one another, and the cinematic structure of one character leaving a location as another character seamlessly enters.

Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back ends with a preview for the sequel, Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward. I am hopeful this means that Cal’s romantic storyline will be explored further.

Joe: Definitely. Cal is in for quite a few surprises in his personal life in Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward (up for pre-order at NineStar Press and releasing April 18). And of course a new set of enticing characters/vacationers arrive in the seven bungalows with new captivating stories.

I’m also curious about Connor. Are we going to see much character evolution from him over the course of the series?

Joe: Connor, Cal’s college student/maid packed with muscles and a roving sponge is definitely a big part of Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward. We get to see various sides of him in book 2, no pun intended.

Another thing I noticed is that while I was dragged out of the story by the fact that the ambulance driver covered Michael’s brother’s body with a sheet instead of a body bag, and that in a fatal car accident, there was no police presence, Michael was not interviewed as a witness, and he was free to wander the city an hour later. However, I accepted mermen and other paranormal occurrences without any question! I suspect that this might be my urban fantasy/mystery bias showing! On the other hand, you have an established married couple, college kids, lifelong friends and total strangers. With such a wide variety of character types and romance dynamics, what groups of fans would you recommend the Cozzi Cove series for?

Joe: I love the precision with which you read, Gillian! Please keep in mind that Michael is a runaway. Most of Michael’s story about his brother is told to Cal by Michael. We aren’t there as it is happening. So we don’t fully know what exactly occurred. We get to see a lot more of Michael in book 2. And of course the merman storyline has quite a few surprises in it that are revealed by the end of book 1. I think anyone who enjoys a soap opera type story will enjoy this series.

As a writer myself, I was obviously interested in Sean Guile — and his reception by other characters! I loved that you poked fun at authors, and that we saw Sean’s reaction to getting some literary criticism — not a fun part of being an author but one that we all have to deal with! I really enjoyed how realistic Sean’s reaction was. I don’t really have a question, but that was one of my favourite moments in the story! I know there is female gay romance novel reader appearing in the sequel, Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward. Is this going to be a continuing theme?

cozzicovemovingforwardcoverJoe: I love Sean Guile (in book 1). As a virgin gay romance novelist captivated by a gay porn star, he is quite a fun character. I want to play Sean in the television series! Hunter Foster, a woman who immerses herself in reading gay romance novels appears in book 2. I enjoyed the idea of gay romance novels within a gay romance novel. I’m glad you did too. Sean definitely reacts dramatically to criticism of his books. As a writer, most of my reviews and reader response have been incredibly positive, which fuel my writing. What a gift it is for a reader to post a positive review on Amazon or Goodreads, relating how something I’ve written has moved them, made them laugh, made them cry, think about something new, or changed their life. I can’t think of anything better. As for the few bad reviews, I don’t read them. As my mother always told me, if you don’t have something nice to say about somebody, don’t say anything. I can’t imagine why anyone would continue reading a book after chapter one if he/she doesn’t like it. Just put it down and read something else. As Sean says in the novel, why attack a book someone has poured his/her blood, sweat, and tears into? As the saying goes, just say no.

Cozzi Cove represents happy childhood memories, love and belonging to Cal, while offering acceptance, new possibilities and the chance for love to his guests. Is there any place that represents to you what Cozzi Cove is for Cal?

Joe: My aunt and uncle had a bungalow on the New Jersey Shore. Every summer my family would stay with them. My sister and I had the time of our lives playing at the beach, bay, miniature golf course, trampoline emporium, eating salt water taffy, and dining at our favorite seafood restaurant. All those places and experiences are in the Cozzi Cove novels.

I believe that you have just returned from vacation yourself! How was it?

Joe: Ironically we went to the New Jersey Shore and I saw a cove! A cove is formed when softer rocks are worn away by the sun and salty water faster than the harder rocks surrounding them. This creates a gorgeous bay of turquoise water shielded by large rocks in the distance and smaller rocks near the water’s edge. It was as gorgeous as the cove on the book covers.

You have produced an incredible body of work in what seems like a very short amount of time — and you show no signs of slowing down! I’ll be asking you more about your upcoming releases in next week’s interview, but for now, I’m curious about your writing discipline. How do you keep yourself motivated to write?

Joe: Thanks, Gillian. Since I’m a college professor/department head, I write at night after my spouse has gone to bed. I have a beautiful cherry wood study with a fireplace, huge desk, bookcases, and window seat overlooking the woods. When I complain about my schedule, my mother says, “Just think how hard you would work if you had a real job, like your sister’s” (an accountant). It takes me about three months working evenings and weekends per book. I generally get an idea for a book, waking up at three o’clock in the morning. I jot notes on my nightstand. That evening I begin a biography for each character and eventually a plot summary. I show the second draft to my spouse for his notes. The third draft goes to the publisher. For a list of my books, including my Jana Lane mystery series with gay supporting characters, go to

Thanks again, Joe! I’m looking forward to our next chat next week!

Joe: Me, too! Until then…



by JOE COSENTINO from NineStar Press

cozzicovebouncingbackcoverOn Cozzi Cove at the New Jersey shore, handsome Cal Cozzi’s seven bungalows are open for summer and love. Mario and Harold are brothers and college students who happen to look alike, but couldn’t be more different: Mario is searching for love, and Harold is searching for lust. Josh and Greg, a wealthy older couple, are matchmakers for their son, Christopher. When it comes to Connor, the maid, packed with muscles and a roving sponge, anything can happen. Opposites attract as wild Tim with the secret past meets shy Mark, and porn star Chuck Caliber connects with Sean, a virgin romance novelist. And what will happen when computer-game designer Arthur has a midnight sea rendezvous with a merman? Even married Cal faces an emotional upheaval when a gay bashing turns into something quite unexpected. What secrets and passions lie in magical Cozzi Cove?

Purchase Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back from Ninestar Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble or All Romance Ebooks!


“I loved this story. It carries you through the full range of emotions, from joy to sadness, from happiness to anger.  The characters are beautifully written.” “I look forward to a return visit to the Cove.” TBR Pile

“Heartbreaking and heartwarming, sweet beginnings for some, sour endings for others, emotions jumping off the page as you turn eagerly to read more, welcome to Cozzi Cove. The author measured his scales to perfection in delivering the perfect balance of love, laughter and tears in this sexy, fun filled holiday romance entwined with some sadness. Summer magic waved it’s wand at all who visited and stayed at Cozzi Cove and I was one of those who wanted to stay.” Three Books Over the Rainbow


Amazon Bestselling author Joe Cosentino wrote Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back (NineStar Press), Drama Queen and Drama Muscle Nicky and Noah mysteries (Lethe Press), An Infatuation, A Shooting Star, A Home for the Holidays, The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland (Dreamspinner Press), Paper Doll and Porcelain Doll (Wild Rose Press) Jana Lane mysteries, and The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (Eldridge Plays and Musicals). He has appeared in principal acting roles in film, television, and theatre, opposite stars such as Bruce Willis, Rosie O’Donnell, Nathan Lane, Holland Taylor, and Jason Robards. His one-act plays, Infatuation and Neighbor, were performed in New York City. He wrote The Perils of Pauline educational film (Prentice Hall Publishers). Joe is currently Head of the Department/Professor at a college in upstate New York, and is happily married. His upcoming novels are Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward (Nine Star Press), Drama Cruise Nicky and Noah mystery (Lethe Press), and Satin Doll and China Doll Jana Lane mysteries (Wild Rose Press). Joe was voted 2nd Place for Best MM Author of the Year in Divine Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Awards for 2015!

website | facebook | twitter | Goodreads | Amazon

Excerpt of COZZI COVE: BOUNCING BACK by Joe Cosentino

published by NineStar Press

Alone together in the parking lot, the two young men smiled at one another.

Suddenly Chris’s throat tightened. “I’m Julie. I mean, I’m Chris Tyler-Hampton.” He extended a clammy hand.

“Nice to meet you, Chris. I’m Mario Ginnetti.”

“I’m gay.” Chris replayed in his head what he’d just said. “I mean, I’m on college break.” Chris noticed Mario’s bulging pectoral muscles in his polo shirt. Mario returned the favor by openly checking Chris out. Looking into Mario’s dreamy dark eyes, Chris asked, “Are you on college break too?”

Mario nodded. “I go to Princeton. I’m a psych major, and I play football.”

Chris admired Mario’s strapping body. “I’m in engineering at Yale. I know, the whole Asian stereotype thing.” He tried to focus on not sounding like a lunatic as his heart raced like a Saturday-night driver. “Are you staying here with your parents too?”

“I’m parentless in Bungalow One.” Mario unleashed luscious dimples and a row of straight white teeth. In an obvious attempt at seduction, he posed on his car, but slipped on its smooth finish and fell to the ground.

Chris helped him to his feet.

With his face as red as a ripe strawberry, Mario said, “My father’s dead and my mom ran off with a mobster.”

Chris gasped. “I’m sorry.”

“You asked if my parents were here. They’re gone. My mother paid my college tuition first. It happened a while ago.”

Chris understood. “I’m sorry about your folks. I complain about mine, but they’ve always been there for me. We generally spend the summers in Europe, but Dad read about this place. Since I have one week off before my summer internship, they booked us in here for a week before they leave for Switzerland.” Chris hoped he didn’t sound snobby. “Well, I better get back inside and make sure Julie is using her best manners.”

Clutching his grocery bag to his chest, Mario said, “And I should refrigerate this stuff.”

Chris took a step away and then stopped and turned back to face Mario. With a throat drier than the Sahara Desert, he said, “Would you like to visit the main bitch with me tomorrow?”

Mario did a double take.

“I mean, would you like to go to the ocean beach … with me … tomorrow?”

Mario ran a shaky hand through his jet-black hair. “Is tomorrow supposed to be a good beach day?”

Chris replied, “I’m not sure. If there’s a hurricane or something, we can go inside.” Chris wiped the sweat off his neck with his handkerchief. “And if a shark comes along, we can always swim to shore.” Chris made a desperate attempt at swallowing and said, “I’ll knock on your bungalow door at ten a.m. If that’s indeed okay.” He had never said the word indeed before.

Mario nodded. “Ten a.m. is good.”

“I look forward to seeing you then.” Chris couldn’t stop himself from looking back at Mario and smiling as he walked toward his fathers’ bungalow. When he banged into the trash can, he barely felt the pain in his knee or the gash in his calf.

Publisher: Nine Star Press, Release Date: March 21, 2016

Language: English

Cover Design: Arai Tan

ISBN-13: 978-1-911153-35-1

Length: 60,000 words

Praise for Joe Cosentino’s other works:

“unbelievably beautiful” “a masterpiece” Lovebytes Reviews

“as Joe Cosentino proves time and time again, with his wonderful writing and storytelling ability, love will prevail, and you will smile from ear to ear.” Kathy Mac Reviews

“a master class in how to write short fiction (or any fiction). Joe Cosentino has provided a work that will leave you thinking and wanting to savor and re-read it again and again.” GGR Reviews

“Like an onion, Joe Cosentino’s stories have layers.” “For those readers looking for something a little bit different – dare I say unique? For those readers who like to laugh. For those readers who appreciate the nuances of people and the way each character is different. For those readers who want to read a damn good story – check out this author. I’m glad I did.” “A truly fabulous read.” Boy Meets Boy Reviews

“From the beginning I was enthralled and couldn’t wait to finish the book.” Inked Rainbow Reads

“This is polished prose at its best. Intelligent writing, a thought-provoking plot and characters befitting the theater genre” “one of my favorite reads this year.” Love’s Last Refuge Reviews

“Don’t miss this one friends, it is a heartfelt story magical in the telling! Thanks Joe for putting your heart on the page for us to savor!” Bike Book Reviews

“It’s unusual for me to get sucked into a book in the first chapter but it grabbed me early and I read the whole thing in one day.” Nautical Star Books

“There were times I laughed and then there were times I cried…unforgettable.” Multitaskingmomma Reviews

“I really loved this book and having an ending that made me laugh and cry at the same time is testament to the brilliant writing.” BooksLaidBareBoys

“The author executed his storyline with a marvelous precision that would be the envy of many authors. He draws the readers into the lives of his characters, they become real and in turn, their emotions becomes yours.” “If you can only afford to buy one more book this year, buy this one.” Three Books Over the Rainbow Reviews

TJ Land and The Captain’s Men.

Today, I welcome back TJ Land to my blog! When we talked about TJ’s Midsummer Nights last month, she mentioned her upcoming release, The Captain’s Men. Sci-fi is a big leap from fairies, and I expressed my interest in seeing how TJ would approach the genre. She obliged — with an interview and an advance copy of The Captain’s Men! Thank you, TJ! I enjoyed reading The Captain’s Men and am looking forward to our interview!

TJ: Thank you Gillian! It’s lovely to talk to you again and I’m so glad you liked TCM. J

I mentioned this in an e-mail already, but I really enjoyed your style! The Captain’s Men is just really smoothly written, and the tone was flawless. But what I really liked about it was how smart the story is — and that’s not something you expect from a 20k erotic short! I’m really curious now to how The Captain’s Men came to be. Tell us about it please! What influenced you writing it? Where did the idea come from?

TJ: What a nice thing to say! Please feel free to keep plumping up my ego.

 I’ve got a thing about ships. Sailing ships, ferries, icebreakers, submarines, cruise liners, you name it. Many of my favorite stories – or at least the ones that stick in my head the longest – are about ships and shipwrecks. When I first started writing The Captain’s Men, the core idea was ‘five men fall in love with their captain after being shipwrecked’ (I like to begin with a plot that I can sum up in around ten words). I planned for them to be in the navy or perhaps fishermen, and they were going to wash up on an uncharted island.

 When I started writing, I realized that there were two problems with that:

  1. On an island, they might get rescued, or encounter people living on the island who could help them out. I wanted them to be completely cut off from the rest of humanity, with no hope at all of ever getting home. 
  1. It would be harder for them to have all the sex I needed them to have if they were busy fighting off wildlife, foraging for nuts and berries, and building a raft. Even though they were irretrievably lost, I wanted them to be living comfortable lives, with beds and lights and lube, so that the rampant sexual antics could proceed unabated.

So I put them on a spaceship and made the story SF. Soft SF, mind. Very soft. Flaccid, even. Don’t ask me about distances or velocity or how the spaceship works. The answer is always ‘A space-wizard did it’.  

After I’d made that decision, a lot of things fell into place. I figured out what Rick’s role on the ship was – originally, he was a cabin boy, which I never felt worked. Cabin boys were usually in their mid-teens or younger, and there was no way in hell I was going to write about a 15/16-year-old having sex with a 40-year-old. Ew. When the ship became a spaceship, he became the guy who grows their food.

The one thing I worried about with the change to an SF setting was making the tone too bleak. It’s a short erotic romance. I didn’t want the characters to spend thousands of words moping about never seeing Earth, their families or ANY aspect of human civilization ever again, and facing the prospect of dying alone and forgotten in the pitiless emptiness of space. Which was tricky, because I’m pretty sure that the most reasonable reaction in that scenario falls somewhere between mild panic and uncontrollable sobbing. That’s why when the story starts they’ve already been lost for four years. They’ve started to reconcile themselves to what’s happened, and the big problem now is that they’re bored and lonely.

Clearly the Captain is the focal point of the story. I was really impressed by how clearly you brought across his forceful personality. I was also struck by how you let his thoughts and actions dominate a large part of the narrative, but were still able to surprise us. I know I would struggle pulling off a character like him, but you do it so well, that it did not surprise me that in four years of isolation from humanity and no idea where they were, the Captain was still able to impress his crew with his authority. How did you do this?

thecaptainsmenTJ: As is the case in Midsummer Nights, I am forced to acknowledge a debt to J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan (the fact that I get so much inspiration for my filthy pornography from a children’s book is a problem, isn’t it?) The captain in TCM is an amalgamation of several captains from various trunked stories I’ve written in the past, all of whom were ultimately derived from Captain James Hook.

 Ah, Hook. In the words of Jon Stewart: I so love this man. In my opinion, Hook is one of the best villains ever written – ‘not wholly unheroic’, and with just a hint of tragedy to him. There he is, stuck on his ship, the most reviled person in this perilous magical land, hunted by a crocodile and at war with an immortal child who’s already taken his hand (and in unrequited love with Smee).

 And he’s such a pretentious wanker. Look at what Barrie tells us about him:

 This inscrutable man never felt more alone than when surrounded by his dogs. They were socially so inferior to him.

 The ‘dogs’ are his crew. As to how he treats them:

 …even in their sleep they rolled skillfully to this side or that out of Hook’s reach, lest he should claw them mechanically in passing.

 To be fair, Hook’s crew are almost all murderous, selfish, and mutinous. But there’s one scene I’ve always loved. Hook hears the crocodile approaching the ship and freaks out:

 Even the iron claw hung inactive; as if knowing that it was no intrinsic part of what the attacking force wanted. Left so fearfully alone, any other man would have lain with his eyes shut where he fell: but the gigantic brain of Hook was still working, and under its guidance he crawled on his knees along the deck as far from the sound as he could go. The pirates respectfully cleared a passage for him, and it was only when he brought up against the bulwarks that he spoke.

‘Hide me,’ he cried hoarsely.

 They gathered round him; all eyes averted from the thing that was coming aboard. They had no thought of fighting it. It was Fate. 

Yeah, when it comes to it Hook’s men are basically useless (and they get taken out by children in the climatic battle). Here’s the thing, though: they don’t just throw Hook to the crocodile and be done with it. They don’t mock him or pity him for being frightened either, or even look askance at his reaction. Their captain’s got a problem with crocodiles; they get it. And they hide him when he asks them to, because he’s their leader, even if he is a complete bastard most of the time.

Reading this scene again a few months ago, I started to toy with the idea of a lost crew with an impressive yet fallible leader, and what would happen if I injected sex into that set-up. My captain isn’t just Hook in an SF setting, though; he’s not a villain, he’s not as cruel, and while he doesn’t like having his authority questioned, he doesn’t think he deserves to be in charge because he’s their social superior. He thinks he deserves to be in charge because it never occurs to him that he shouldn’t be. Taking charge is what he does. Which becomes a problem when it comes to Zachery and Antoine, both men who are instinctively inclined to challenge authority.

Of course, the aspect of the captain’s personality that gets the most focus in this story is how much he likes sex. All the best fictional captains have an obsession. Hook has his crocodile. Ahab has his whale. Nemo has his crusade against imperialism. My captain? Sex. He loves sex. And cuddling, and relationships, and all that jazz. But at the time the story starts, he’s not allowed himself any of that for four years. Then, one day, his boot laces snap…

You did a great job of characterizing the Captain’s men — Thomas, Rick and Zachery are all very different in personality type, background and even sexuality. However, what really interested me is how different the nature of their mutual attraction to the Captain is. You did an amazing job of bringing that out, which makes me suspect you’ve put a lot of thought into the psychology of these characters. Am I right?

TJ: Again, thank you. J

 One of the things I most look forward to when writing poly romance is getting a lot of different temperaments and sexual preferences into the mix. There’s gay, ace, and bi characters in this story, and beyond that, they all have different ideas about what constitutes good sex, what their roles and responsibilities are in bed, and how closely sex is connected to love and romance. The captain acts as a… what’s the word? Yardstick? Barometer? He enjoys almost any kind of intimacy at all. Rough, tender, chaste, slow and sensual, quick and dirty, in a bed, on the floor, in the vegetable garden, he’s up for it. Because of that flexibility, he’s a useful tool for exploring what preferences and boundaries his men have.  

So although this is a poly romance, all the sex scenes involve two people until the very end – the captain and Thomas, the captain and Rick, the captain and Zachery, etc. In the sequels, I’m going to examine the way Zachery feels about Thomas, how Rick feels about having more than one lover, and all the rest of it. This first installment is the story of how the captain brings them together. I wanted to showcase their personalities as individuals before going on to the more complicated aspects of poly relationships.

 Regarding their personalities; one of the reasons they’re all so different is because they come from such different backgrounds. The captain recruited them from all over the solar system; some of them had wealthy families on Earth, some of them were in jail on Mars, some of them had spent their whole lives in space. And their origins have an impact on what they’re into and how much/what kind of sex they’ve had in the past. Zachery likes violence and always tops. Rick’s never been with a man before. Thomas is self-conscious about his body. And the captain – whose origins, like Hook’s, are largely mysterious – likes anything.

I left out one of the Captain’s men in the above question, because he really deserves a paragraph all of his own — Echo. In our previous interview you mentioned that ‘you enjoy and write stories featuring disabled characters, particularly neurodiverse characters.’ Does this include Echo?

TJ: Yeah, I envision Echo as autistic, or a cousin (term used in the autistic community to refer to people who don’t identify as autistic but aren’t neurotypical either, and share traits, experiences, and disabilities with autistic people). As far as the rest of the crew is concerned, though, he’s just a weirdo. He doesn’t communicate through speech, he doesn’t like porn or card games or any of the things they like, he’s antisocial, and he’s averse to being touched in any way without explicitly stated consent (something he shares with me). They don’t dislike him; most of them don’t know what to make of him yet, and some of them bluntly admit to finding him unnerving. Which hurts his feelings a tad.

Generally speaking, sex is more complicated for Echo than it is for the rest of them. He’s one of the captain’s men, but he was never going to be prepared to jump into bed with the other three at the drop of a hat. That said, in some ways he’s got a better grip on his preferences than they do; he knows that he doesn’t know what he wants.

 Although he’s the most ‘obvious’ one, there are other members of the crew who could be categorized as some variety of ND. It’s not something that gets much attention in this installment, but it might come up later.

At the end of the story, the characters are faced with an event that is going to mean major changes for everyone of the ship. Echo, with his strict schedules and fixation on time, is, I imagine, going to have a particularly difficult time. I — okay, fine. I’m worried about him. Is he going to be okay?

TJ: Echo’s tougher than he looks, don’t worry. In fact, he might be one of the most resilient people on board. See, he grew up on the Moon. In the timeline this story is set in, the Moon is regarded as the worst place to live in the solar system – high levels of unemployment, poverty, illiteracy, and infant mortality. Not a great place for an orphan to grow up. Echo made it out alive for two reasons. Firstly, even though he’s not half as physically powerful as, say, Zachery, he can take a lot of punishment. Secondly, he’s an excellent judge of character. If he pegs someone for a threat he gets out of there fast, which makes it hard for people to take advantage of him. The flip side is that as soon as he decides he loves someone, he’ll stick to them limpet-style for as long as he’s allowed. He’s been limpeting onto the captain since long before the rest of the crew signed up (well, except for one of them).

 Another thing Echo’s got in his favor is that unlike the others, he didn’t leave anything behind; no family, no friends, no dreams. Everything and everyone he cares about is on The Prayer. Which is not to say he’s not suffering. He’s a cook who hasn’t had any fresh ingredients to work with in four years. But he’s hanging in there. He does like his routines, though, and he HATES going outdoors; got a touch of agoraphobia. So that’s going to be a challenge in the stories to come.

 I think the one to worry about is Rick, actually. The ship’s youngest crewmate has a lot to cope with in the next story.

(POTENTIAL SPOILER) The other character I’m worried about is Antoine. As second in command and the only member of the crew to share some of the Captain’s history, I imagine that he’s been accustomed to having a fair amount of the Captain’s time and attention – time and attention that has been challenged by the Captain’s new relationships. Is their attitude towards each other going to be challenged by the new developments of the story?

TJ: Antoine likes the captain’s attention the way normal people like air, this is true. However, he’s also got an ego the size of a quasar, bless him. He’s not worried that Thomas, Rick, or Zachery are going to take the captain away from him, simply because… to be honest, at this stage he’s viewing them the way he would if the captain had adopted several stray cats. ‘Oh, did you have to? Where will we keep them? Ugh, that one’s got mange. Well, if it makes you happy. You’re dealing with their litter, I hope you realize that.

 That’ll change.

What thing from Earth (or Mars) does each character miss the most?

 TJ: Thomas – his friends

 Rick – his mom

 Zachery – beer and the sky

 Echo – fresh baking ingredients

 Antoine – lecturing at the University of Paris

 The captain – living within walking distance of the liquor store, the pharmacy, and his favorite sex shop

What are your sci-fi influences? Antoine makes a Star Wars reference, and the crew’s predicament is vaguely Red Dwarf like, so I’m curious! Feel free to add any sci-fi reading or watching recommendations!

TJ: Star Trek is probably the main one. In terms of the plot, The Captain’s Men is closest to Star Trek: Voyager, which also happens to be my least favorite Trek-related thing barring that Cucumberbatch debacle. There was so much potential there and they completely. Ruined. It. *seethe*

Otherwise, Guardians of the Galaxy does pretty well with the ‘crew of misfits and losers’ plot (although I think I would have enjoyed it more as a series than a film). Tbh I cared far less about Peter Quill than Captain Yondu Udonta. (He’s blue! He collects dolls! He murders people by whistling at them! All my love, seriously.) In terms of SF anime, Cowboy Bebop and Gurren Lagann are great. Oh, and recently I’ve gotten into Dan Abnett’s Warhammer 40K stories.

A commonality between most of these shows and movies is that they don’t treat women well. That’s something that I worry about in relation to TCM. There are four women on board The Prayer and because the majority of the story is taken up by prolonged sex scenes between men, they don’t do much. Need to work on that.

This isn’t a question so much as a comment, but I pretty much knew I was going to like this story from the moment the word ‘mandibles’ showed up. It’s a great word! It doesn’t get used enough! And then you referenced Lysistrata, which made me incredibly happy.

 TJ: Mandibles are amazing! I don’t know why everyone wants the future to give us jetpacks and hoverboards and shit. We should be holding out for fucking mandibles.

 The aliens those mandibles belong to don’t feature much in TCM. They’re a plot device; I couldn’t think of how else to get the ship so far from Earth so quickly. My grasp of mathematics and science is piss-weak at the best of times but even I know that you can’t get to another galaxy in fours years without magic. Hence, magic aliens.

The captain’s copy of Lysistrata was a way of creating a bit more distance between himself and the rest of the crew. He likes old things, classical literature and antiques and The Prayer herself. He studied ancient Greek in his youth. Also, it has to be said, he’s older than everyone else on board; a lot older, in some cases.

And yeah, Lysistrata’s inclusion is also a silly joke. For those who haven’t read it, it’s a nifty little play by Aristophanes about the women of Greece trying to bring the Peloponnesian War to an end by refusing to have sex with the men of Greece until they make peace with their enemies. I thought it would be funny for a gay man who’s (SPOILER) in love with an ace man to have his favorite play be a story that runs on heterosexism.

March seems like it’s going to be incredibly busy — in addition to The Captain’s Men, you’ve got Midsummer Sky and Midsummer Court on the horizon, and the sequel to The Captain’s Men. Is that all you have coming up? And how on earth do you stay organized with so much going on?

TJ: I don’t. 😀

One thing that helps me keep track is the efficient and comprehensive editing provided by the lovely folk at Ninestar Press. Raevyn McCann caught a lot of problems in this story that had escaped my notice. *blows kisses to Raevyn* Also, I do no social media stuff, which makes my schedule less taxing than would otherwise be the case.

The Captain’s Encounter, a sequel to The Captain’s Men, is coming out on April 11, featuring aliens and sexy men in Kevlar. I’m also working on a third story in the Adrift series. I like this universe. I like these characters. I think I’d like to do more with them. Not going to say more than that at this point, because often when I talk about my ideas for stories I lost the ability to write them.

Thanks again for stopping by to be interviewed and for sharing The Captain’s Men with me! I hope you can tell how much I enjoyed it. All the best TJ, and hopefully you’ll be stopping by again soon!

TJ: It was great to chat with you, Gillian. Thanks for having me! J

 The Captain’s Men is available on Amazon, from NineStar Press and other online retailers! For more information, check it out on Goodreads.