Oh My Shelves welcomes author Ari McKay to the blog. They come baring an Excerpt and a Giveaway for their newest release Striking Sparks. Please give them a big welcome to the blog and comment below for a chance to win $10 gift certificate from Dreamspinner.
Hello, everyone! A big thanks to Tamika for hosting us here at Oh My Shelves. I’m the Ari half of the symbiotic critter known as Ari McKay, and I’m here to talk about tomorrow’s release of our latest book from Dreamspinner Press, Striking Sparks. We’re incredibly excited, and we really hope people enjoy reading the story as much as we enjoyed writing it!
Striking Sparks is, when it comes down to it, a book about misconceptions and how things can work themselves out if people will simply communicate with one another. I know that’s usually phrased as “talk to one another”, but if two people are talking and neither one is really listening, things don’t tend to go very far. When you add in sexual tension and preconceived notions… well, you have the plot for a story, don’t you?
Each of our MCs has a sore spot in relation to the other. Starting out as high school football rivals in a Texas town, as teens Beau Walker and Jake Parnell are both hiding their sexuality, yet irresistibly drawn to one another. Of course neither realizes the truth about the other, so instead of hooking up, they wind up fighting both themselves and each other. Beau thinks Jake is too smart and looks down on him for being from the wrong side of the tracks, while Jake worries that Beau has sensed his attraction and despises him for it. Even after they learn the unexpected truth, it doesn’t get any better, because they can’t move past what they think the other one feels. Beau and Jake talk at each other plenty, believe me, but neither of them will win any prizes when it comes to listening!
Fast forward ten years. Jake comes back to their hometown after the death of his fraternal twin brother. He’s got a family to take care of, he’s grieving, and he still thinks Beau hates his guts. For his part, Beau thinks Jake still believes him to be an ignorant bully. But Beau needs Jake’s help, and Jake needs Beau’s, too, even though he doesn’t realize it in the beginning. They’re both determined to hold on to the “truth” they think know about the other, but the cooking competition they’re in forces them, for the first time in their lives, to start communicating rather than making assumptions, to put aside the misconceptions they’ve carried around for years and look at each other fresh eyes. That’s when they both begin to realize they aren’t nearly as different as they’d always thought, and when the blinders come off… well. I don’t want to give away too much, but there are certainly other interesting uses they can put their mouths to than just talking, right?
Oh, and there’s barbecue. Lots and lots of barbecue. If you aren’t ready to go out and maul a rack of ribs or demolish a piled of pulled pork by the end, then McKay and I haven’t done our jobs. There’s also family drama, hurt/comfort, cowboys, a diva chef, cute kids, an unexpected arrival, along with a pretty decent helping of humor. Add together, stir gently, and strike a spark.
Did I mention there’s barbecue?
Never in his wildest dreams had Jake ever thought he’d be back in Buffalo Lick, Texas, working as a cook in his family’s restaurant, Parnell’s Pantry. Josh was the one who’d wanted it, the one their father had trained up to take over the business. Jake hadn’t resented it, because even though he liked the restaurant and helped out after school while he was growing up, he was the “different” one in the family. The dreamer, the one with a surprising head for numbers and a flair for making money. Even while working at the restaurant, he’d also had a paper route, and he’d tracked every penny he made as though it were gold. By the time he was twelve, he was helping his mother balance the books for the restaurant. By fifteen, he was doing the family taxes. At eighteen, he’d left for UCLA, and his family had been proud of his bachelor’s degree in math and his master’s in education. He’d gotten a job teaching at an exclusive private prep school in Southern California, and he was working on his doctorate. He had a full life with friends and acceptance.
Then the world had come crashing down, when a devastated Lexy called to tell him there had been an accident. Jake had flown back to Texas at once, where he helped to support Lexy and his parents as the doctors tried to put Josh back together again. But they hadn’t succeeded, and Jake’s father, who was approaching his seventieth birthday, had been devastated. Jason Parnell had had a heart attack five years before, necessitating his retirement, which left Jake as the only one to run the restaurant. He couldn’t walk away, not when Josh’s life insurance hadn’t been sufficient to support Lexy and the kids. His parents were comfortably well off, but with his father on Social Security and his mother only a year from a school-system retirement, there was no way the older Parnells could manage alone. Lexy’s folks were no better off. They lived sixty miles away, while the various aunts, uncles, and cousins of their extended families had their own problems to deal with. Jake was the only one free to help out. He’d adored his brother, and he loved Lexy and the kids, so he’d put his life on hold and taken over the restaurant.
So here he was, back after ten years. He still felt like he didn’t fit in Buffalo Lick, although not because he was “too big” for it. But he’d known from his early teens that a rural Texas town, full of men who relived the glory days of playing high school football and prided themselves on their manliness, was not a good place for a gay man.
That was the real difference between him and his brother and everyone—well, almost everyone—else in the town. Jake had grown up hiding who and what he was because he didn’t have the courage to take the abuse he knew he’d get about his sexuality. As much as he loved his family, Buffalo Lick had been a prison he’d longed to escape, hoping to find a place where he could find someone to love the way Josh had loved Lexy. California had seemed like the Promised Land, and if he hadn’t found love there, at least he’d found acceptance, and he’d never given up hope of finding someone to share his life with.
A glance at the clock showed him it was eleven thirty. He’d been in since six that morning, and he was tired in both body and spirit. Even though a morning cook handled breakfast, he had books to balance, orders to place, and a variety of other chores to handle. Not to mention that the busiest time of the year was fast approaching. Soon the Buffalo Lick Festival would draw thousands of visitors for the annual rodeo and celebration of the town’s place along the famous Chisholm Trail.
He also had a mountain of correspondence he still had to get through—agreements Josh had made to cater events, and even something about a television show that wanted to film at the restaurant. Jake was still sorting through everything and managing as best he could, but Josh had died less than a month ago. Sometimes Jake still wondered if it was all a bad dream, but when the alarm went off every morning and he opened his eyes to find himself in the same bedroom where he’d spent his childhood, he knew it was all too real. California and thoughts of finding his soul mate had been the dream. Reality was Buffalo Lick, Texas, and the family who needed him.
Striking Sparks: by Ari McKay
Release Date: December 15, 2016
Pages: 214 • Format: eBook
Published By: Dreamspinner Press
Dreamspinner • Amazon • ARe • Barnes & Noble
The stakes are high and the heat is on.
Beau Walker, owner of the Barbecue Shack, needs the help of Jake Parnell, his one-time rival and secret crush, in a televised barbecue competition. Beau is a proud man, but the stakes are high, and smart, sexy Jake is his only hope, even if being around Jake reawakens the attraction he’s fought for years.
Jake left his hometown, determined to build a life somewhere his sexuality wouldn’t hurt his family’s restaurant business—and far away from hunky, obstinate Beau Walker. Then his twin, Josh, is killed, and Jake returns to support his brother’s wife and children. Despite his reservations, he agrees to go head-to-head against Beau on national television. Between stress and grief, as well as pride and determination, only one thing is certain—the heat between Beau and Jake extends well beyond the kitchen.
Ari McKay is the professional pseudonym for Arionrhod and McKay, who have been writing together for over a decade. Their collaborations encompass a wide variety of romance genres, including contemporary, fantasy, science fiction, gothic, and action/adventure. Their work includes the Blood Bathory series of paranormal novels, the Herc’s Mercs series, as well as two historical Westerns: Heart of Stone and Finding Forgiveness. When not writing, they can often be found scheming over costume designs or binge watching TV shows together.
Arionrhod is a systems engineer by day who is eagerly looking forward to (hopefully) becoming a full time writer in the not-too-distant future. Now that she is an empty-nester, she has turned her attentions to finding the perfect piece of land to build a fortress in preparation for the zombie apocalypse, and baking (and eating) far too many cakes.
McKay is an English teacher who has been writing for one reason or another most of her life. She also enjoys knitting, reading, cooking, and playing video games. She has been known to knit in public. Given she has the survival skills of a gnat, she’s relying on Arionrhod to help her survive the zombie apocalypse.
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ari-Mckay/266185570179748
Comment below on which book has been your favorite miscommunication trope!!! Giveaway is eligible until 12/21/16 12 pm CST.