Poppy’s Pick: Black Dog Blues by Rhys Ford

This month’s Poppy’s Pick is the amazing Black Dog Blues by Rhys Ford.  If you’ve been searching for a gritty Urban Fantasy with detailed world building and well-developed characters, look no further! Notice that this book is labeled as an Urban Fantasy, and not a Paranormal Romance. The difference is distinct, especially in this case. Rhys has created a world where the romance comes a distant second to the breathtaking plot.

In order to get more info on this incredible read, I sweet talked none other than the author herself, Rhys Ford into dropping by and answering a few questions!
Welcome Rhys!

First off, I’d like to talk to you about your main character Kai Gracen. Kai is one of the most deeply flawed characters I’ve read in a long time. He’s a true anti-hero, the “bad” guy with a heart of gold. And Kai has more secrets than a teenage girl’s diary! Can you tell us a little about how Kai came to be, and how his character shaped the story?
First off back—Thank you for having me here! Smooches!
Ah, Kai. I love writing Kai. He’s a bit younger than the rest of my characters but he is a bit of an anti-hero. I wanted different in urban fantasy. Something rooted a bit in an alternative universe with the Gaelic mythos of sidhe but with a dash of sci-fi and magic. Kai’s a special kitten. Growly. God he’s growly but at the same time, will do the right thing. Sorta.
I wanted to write someone who was mercenary. Because really, Kai IS that. Yes, he’s broken but he’s kind of quiet about his fears. He doesn’t admit them to other people and I needed to write it in first person so the reader knew them. He does have secrets. And secrets have been withheld from him. So all in all, it’ll be a good ride.
He is unapologetically bisexual. That was important but doesn’t define him. He has a good heart but kinda rough in manners. Very visceral character. In a lot of ways, his personality matches the world.
I mentioned in my intro that this story is labeled as an Urban Fantasy. Did you begin the novel with that category distinction in mind, or did it develop more organically as the story progressed?
Oh yes, when I sat down to write Kai, I KNEW it was going to be urban fantasy. It is structured that way and really, a hell of a lot of fun to write in that genre. Different rules but still, great fun.
I’m curious as to how much of the world-building is “real” and how much is from your mind. By that, I mean how much of the world and characters you created are based on actual Fae legends and how much did you create out of your own imagination? (What I really want to know is do those creepy sauce Black Dogs exist in myth? *shivers*)
The black dogs were kind of based on the Wild Hunt. I mingled and mix some of the Gaelic world into the “normal” world. I need logic-based creations, even in magic. It has to make sense. There just can’t be MAGIC. So, the world building took a bit. Nothing could be too crazy and Kai’s not suddenly going to get power-ups. Chances are, he’s going to remain wholly unmagical because his very existence is unnatural.
As the series goes on, we’ll see more Gaelic/Celtic creatures as well as Earth-based mutations and manifestations.
Early in the story, we meet the character of Dempsey who won Kai in a poker game and subsequently raised him to be a Stalker (a monster hunter).  Dempsey sent cold chills down my spine. Can you tell us a little more about his character and the role he plays in the story?
Ah, Dempsey. He’s a cold son of a bitch. He really is the foundation of Kai’s upbringing. Dempsey is NOT a nice person. Very selfish and callous. For whatever reason, he took Kai in and well, now Kai’s the product of that upbringing.
Signs of Dempsey are definitely in Kai’s personality although his base nature is more generous. Dempsey’s role hasn’t been explored yet. *grins*
In this world, the Fae and human worlds have collided in a violent Merge where monsters and creatures of legend walk the Earth. It’s a dark and bloody place! So what came first: Kai or the idea for a merged world?
Wow. Hard question. I think Kai first then the WHY of Kai. I knew it was going to be a merge of some sort. The idea sprang from that.
In a lot of ways, Kai embodies the world itself. A mélange of characteristics and ethnicities. A bit violent. A bit bloody. With a spot of beauty when you least expect it.
I can’t talk about this book without mentioning the rest of the supporting cast. Kai certainly has a colorful group of contacts in this world. In particular, Ryder, the sidhe lord who hires Kai for what may be his most difficult hunt ever.  Ryder seems to have quite a few secrets of his own. What secrets can you tell us about Ryder and his role in the story?
Ryder really comes from a very political world. Now the Sidhe are very physical with one another—hell look at his cousin. Kai is very NO DO NOT TOUCH ME! So the reader’s perception of Ryder really coloured by Kai’s experiences. He distrusts the casual affection. That’s not a part of who he is. And he’s not really been exposed to the REAL sidhe or unsidhe cultures so he doesn’t really know who his people really are.
Of course so far of the people he’s met, he’s not all that impressed. *laughs*
Okay, I’ll stop there before I give away all the secrets of Black Dog Blues. How about I get a few on you instead? *g*
Why don’t we start by having you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
Shit, I dunno. I’m just me. Um… I was born and raised in Hawai’i. I come from a multi-cultural background and I roamed a lot. I am insatiably curious. INSATIABLY. Really. I love watching the oddest history or science shows. Murder shows are great. I like the inane. I read everything. I cook. Um… hell, I have no idea. I just like exploring the world and people in it.
If we were to look around the desk where you sit to write, what would we find there?
Sleeping dogs, a fat black and white cat, coffee cup and music. LOTS of music. I tend to write in the morning. In my living room. The house is usually quiet unless my fool broken cairn is having a spaz day. Art. I have a LOT of art on the wall.
How would you describe your sense of humor? What makes you laugh?
My sense of humour is off. Just a step from something. I’m a geek or nerd. Geek really I suppose but without all that chicken head biting thing. A lot of things make me laugh. From Castiel being confused to farting dinosaurs. Really. Sometimes it’s like having a five year old in my head.
I FULLY intend to watch Ghost Shark in a bit.
Of course I thought Angel Heart was hilarious. So, you can deduct what you like from that.
When you have the chance to sit down and enjoy some quiet reading time, what sorts of books are you most likely to pick up? Who are your favorite authors?
Damn. I read… everything. It depends on my mood. I also don’t read M/M if I’m in the middle of a book I’m writing. No influences. Mysteries, historical romances, urban fantasy. Sci-Fi is good if it’s character driven. Hell.
Authors? Dude, I’m going to get into so much trouble there. I’m going to start with Josh Lanyon and spew out. Really. Mary Calmes does her thing brilliantly. I love Amy’s happy books. Clear Water. Love that book. Heh. Your Magic series rocks. Jacob Flores is brilliant. Charlie Cochrane, Rowan Speedwell’s Kindred Hearts—LOVE. My brain! Britta Adams. Seriously, so much trouble. Piper Vaughn’s got some kick ass stuff. SE Jakes, JL Merrow, Josephine Myles.
John Preston. Lynn Flewelling, Gael Baudino, Karin Lowachee (GOD YES), Lynn Abbey’s Dancers of Arun. Jennifer Estep. Jeri Smith-Ready. Nancy Walker.
Fucking hell, just hit up my Facebook friends list. I stalk everyone good 😀 I STALKER GOOD!
I’m like leaving off three-quarters of the people I’d want to include.
Really, people do their things right. I read for THAT particular thing.
Do you have an all-time favorite fictional character?
OOOOOOsh. Um, the White Queen from Alice in Wonderland. Also Bill the lizard from the same series.
Gaet from Courtship Rite.
Flinx and Pip.
Han Solo. Nom. Really. Han Solo. *nods*
Captain Mal Reynolds.
Dean Winchester
Who are your latest crushes (celebrity, book character, or otherwise)? Do you ever keep those people in your mind when writing your own works?
Crushes? Young Harrison Ford. Um… Kim Jaejoong? Shit, Too many. Thor! Love that character in the movies. Namor! In the comics. Elric. Love Elric. Cumberbatch’s Sherlock. Captain Jack!
I don’t really keep them in mind per se. I think I like certain bits of archetypes and try to keep those in mind. Love the bad boys. 😀
What are your favorite TV shows?
Ooooooh, hard one too. Supernatural. Justified. Anything with bloody investigation forensics. Cooking shows. Firefly. Perception. Sherlock! Nom Yes. Hannibal. City Hunter. Sungkyunkwan Scandal. Coffee Prince. Faith.
 I can’t wait for The Heirs with Lee Min Ho.
What is your favorite meal?
Dude. Really? Hell… 梅菜扣肉. I could eat that all day. It’s um…. Braised pork belly with preserved vegetables. Beef chow fun dry style. Lau-lau and rice. Carne Asada fries. Kal-bi. Purple rice. Spam musubi. All depends on my mood. 😀 Shoyu egg! Miso ramen!
Thank you for having me along. I hope I answered everything you wanted. And really, so much love for this opportunity. We have to exchange spots! And we shall! Wooooot! Can’t wait to read Wild Magic.

Thanks, love!

You’re welcome! Can’t wait for our spot exchange. LOL
More about Rhys:
Rhys Ford was born and raised in Hawai’i then wandered off to see the world. After chewing through a pile of books, a lot of odd food, and a stray boyfriend or two, Rhys eventually landed in San Diego, which is a very nice place but seriously needs more rain.
Rhys admits to sharing the house with three cats, a black Pomeranian puffball, a bonsai wolfhound, and a ginger cairn terrorist.
Rhys is also enslaved to the upkeep a 1979 Pontiac Firebird, a Toshiba laptop, and a red Hamilton Beach coffee maker.
But mostly to the coffee maker.
You can find Rhys on her website and Black Dog Blues is available from Amazon HERE

Poppy’s Pick: The Bones Series by Kim Fielding

Welcome to the second edition of Poppy’s Pick! I’m often asked by friends for recommendations of gay paranormal romance novels, so I decided to share ones that I love here on my blog so others could find them as well!

This week’s recommendation is The Bones Series by the lovely and talented Kim Fielding.

I absolutely love shifter books. That’s no surprise to anyone, I’m sure. I say it often and loudly. *g* I was really intrigued by the “lone wolf” aspect of Good Bones, the first book in The Bones Series.

Dylan is not your typical werewolf character in any way. No really. He’s not. In fact, this book reads very much like a contemporary romance, which I loved. Dylan just has one itsy bitsy little problem: he happens to be a werewolf.

With so many variations on the shifter theme out there, what really drew me into this book was how different it is from the typical shifter tropes. There isn’t a pack presence, no “I am Alpha hear me ROAR” character, and the shifter aspect is handled in a really deft and clever way.

We learn about Dylan’s “affliction” in bits and pieces. His past unfolds as Dylan continues to learn what it means to be a werewolf and we learn more about it along with him. I loved that Dylan really had no clue what he was doing! His instincts guided him, and he did his best with what has happened to him.

Then there’s Chris, Dylan’s new neighbor and love interest. Chris is an amazing character. He’s fun and atypical as well and such a great fit for Dylan. Talk about opposites!!!

Dylan and Chris work together to fix up the dilapidated old house Dylan bought in an effort to get himself out of the city and away from the possibility to hurt anyone when he changes into his wolf. I could wax poetic about it more, but really, you should just read it. It’s a really great character piece and I enjoyed it so much that I was bouncing around excitedly when I learned the second book was out and available!

 Buried Bones picks up where Good Bones left off and continues Dylan and Chris’s story. This one adds in a little twist in the form of a ghost! Now, I have to confess that I had a moment of doubt when I read that–a ghost? Really? But I should have trusted Kim! She made it work beautifully and the ghost element in this story added a richness to the world that was both exciting and heartbreaking!

The past comes back to haunt our couple–literally–and while Dylan and Chris are trying to find a way to get rid of their extra house guest, Dylan is still trying to figure out if he can really be part of a couple. What if he hurts Chris?

All in all, a fabulous series that is very different from the typical shifter stories you’ll find out there. Recommended for folks who like great character development with less focus on the paranormal aspects (but the shifter stuff is there too). I think you’ll love Dylan and Chris’s relationship as much as I did!

And as an added Bonus Pick, have you read Kim Fielding’s other novel, Brute? Now, it’s not exactly paranormal–okay, it’s not paranormal at all. It’s a fantasy but I promise you, it is worth the read paranormal fans! Brute is going to go down as one of my all-time favorite characters ever. I laughed and cried, and cried, and probably cried a little more.

I really can’t explain this one other than to say it packs a huge emotional punch. It’s really lovely and the world building is amazing. And Brute. Have I mentioned Brute?? *sigh*

All in all, I’d say if you haven’t read a Kim Fielding book, you’re really missing out! Hunt her down, buy her books, read them. You’ll become a fan too. I promise.

You can find all of these books, plus others, and information on how to track Kim down on her author page at Dreamspinner Press.

Click here to find out more.

See you all next month for another edition of Poppy’s Picks!

Poppy’s Pick: Until Forever Comes by Cardeno C

paranormal romance recommendations

I’m starting a new feature on my blog today called Poppy’s Pick. Most folks know I’m an avid paranormal reader and they ask me for recommendations. There’s nothing I like more than telling my friends about a great book so I thought I’d share a few of my favorites with you all.

My first recommendation is Until Forever Comes by the delightful Cardeno C. Book two in the Mates series, Until Forever Comes is an amazing addition to the series. Here’s the blurb:

Ethan Abbatt is a wolf shifter who can’t shift. Plagued by pain and weakness all his life, he hopes to find an honorable death by joining his pack mates in a vampire attack. Instead, Ethan learns two things: draining his blood releases his pain and his wolf, and he has a true mate—a vampire named Miguel. 

Miguel Rodriguez is more than four centuries old. Strong, powerful, and vicious, he walks through life as a shadow, without happiness or affection. When a young shifter tells Miguel they’re true mates, destined to be together, Miguel sends him away. But Ethan is persistent, and Miguel can’t resist for long. Once Miguel gives in, being together comes naturally. The challenge is keeping themselves alive so they can stay by each other’s side until forever comes.

Cardeno C

I love books that take your typical paranormal tropes and spin them around. CC does that beautifully in this book. The twist? Well, shifter Ethan is sick, but draining his blood helps. Who better to mate a wolf who needs his blood drained than a sexy and powerful vampire! Miguel is a strong and powerful character who doesn’t quite know what to make of his mate. It makes for some really great twists in the story. I enjoyed the power differences between the two. Ethan’s innocence was charming and unusual for a shifter character. I’m sure you’ll love him as much as I did.

Since I had so much fun reading this series, I sweet talked Cardeno into answering a few questions about life and the books.

Why don’t we start by having you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
CC: Hmmm. I fear this will be dull to nth degree. I’m a fairly low-key person, more than a bit of a home-body, better with friends and small groups than big crowds, vegetarian for more years than I wasn’t, and really thrilled to have the privilege to write.
If we were to look around the desk where you sit to write, what would we find there?
CC: Pillows. I don’t have a desk. I write in bed or on the couch. JThat aside, you’d find various cups of coffee, tea, and Diet Coke.
Do you have a favorite personal mantra, quote, or saying that describes your outlook on life and the way you approach each day?
CC: I’m not sure if I have that exactly, but when tough decisions come my way, I try to remind myself that I have to live with whatever I do or say or don’t do or don’t say, so I better act in a way that’ll make me feel right about my life choices long after I’ve made them.
When you have the chance to sit down and enjoy some quiet reading time, what sorts of books are you most likely to pick up? Who are your favorite authors?
CC: I don’t have a lot of free time so when I read these days, it’s almost always books in our genre. As far as naming names, I try not to do that but I don’t think I’ll surprise anybody by saying that I’m a big Mary Calmes fan. I’ve also enjoyed some books from Dreamspinner’s #tweetaway, including Kim Fielding’s Good Bones.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Who are your latest crushes (celebrity, book character, or otherwise)? Do you ever keep those people in your mind when writing your own works?
CC: For many years, I’ve adored Joseph Gordon Levitt, Matthew Montgomery, and Seth Green.
Let’s talk about the Mates series. What inspired you to write the first book, Wake Me Up Inside?
CC: I wanted to write a story about bigotry and acceptance but I didn’t want it to be heavy-handed or preachy. It seemed to me that putting that message into a paranormal world would make it more palatable. That’s the inspiration for the whole series, not just the first book. Plus, I like shifters.
Cardeno C

A little birdie told me that you’re really inspired by music. Is my birdie telling the truth and can you tell me a little bit about how music inspires you?
CC: I love music of (almost) all kinds. I listen to it whenever possible, including when I write. Usually when I start a story, I think about my general plot, my characters, what I want to say, and then I find an inspiration song (sometimes two) and listen to it throughout the writing process.
Until Forever Comes has a really different tone than Wake Me Up Inside. Did you do that intentionally?
CC: I supposed that depends on what you mean by different. Some of the major differences that were intentional are:
·                     Wake Me Up Inside is written in the third person, Until Forever Comes is in the First.
·                     Wake Me Up Inside is a childhood friends to lovers story, so it spans many years/decades and has more softness to it given the ages of the characters and the setting. Until Forever Comes is a story of mates who meet as adults. It’s a much faster courtship.
·                     Wake Me Up Inside ends more than 50 years after Until Forever Comes starts. In Wake we hear about some incidents that took place in the past and get a sense that the past was more violent and less accepting than the present, but we don’t actually live those things. Even within Wake, we see growth and change due to the main shifter character, Zev, and the love he feels for his human mate, Jonah. Until Forever Comes has a darker, rougher feel. It’s the start of the growth and change within the shifter world, but as is often the case with growth, it’s slow going.
·                     Finally, the dynamic between the mates is very different in the books. Wake is told in the third person by Jonah and Zev, two men with the types of personalities and builds that are traditionally considered strong in an overt, obvious way. Until Forever Comes is narrated by the small, up-to-then sickly Ethan. He can’t hold his own in a fight, he doesn’t have an education or a job, he is looked down on by almost everyone, and he’s not ashamed to admit that he’s scared much of the time. Ethan’s mate is Miguel, an incredibly powerful vampire who fears nothing but causes those around him to cower and beg. He has money, property, and the admiration/respect of his peers. So on the surface Ethan and Miguel are as different as Jonah and Zev are the same. But that’s just the surface.
Ethan is a shifter with some pretty unique qualities. What inspired you to have Ethan have the blood condition he has and what sort of research did you have to do for that plot line?
CC: I read about a person who had health issues due to having too much blood several years ago and I found it interesting. When I was planning this series, I remembered that story and wove it into Ethan’s character and his connection with his mate.
Are there any other books planned in the Mates series?
CC: Yes. I’m going to bring the past to the present, taking us from where Until Forever Comes ended until Wake Me Up Inside. And then we’ll go to where Wake ended.
What’s up next for you?
CC: I’ve been working on books for my Family series. Strong Enough is the next one and it’ll be released in August. It’s about new characters. Then More Than Everything will be released in November. It’s about Chase, Daniel’s friend from Something in the Way He Needs, and about characters we meet in Strong Enough. I’ve also got a short novella called A Shot at Forgiveness that was released June 1st.

Thanks for taking the time to do this, Poppy. It was really fun!
Nothing like an amazing author, huh? Thanks for answering my questions Cardeno and I can’t wait to see what you come up with next! 
If you’re interested in more of Cardeno’s works, you can find them over at Dreamspinner Press.