R.L. Merrill has a new MM rock ‘n roll fantasy/paranormal romance (bi, gay) out in the Carnival of Mysteries shared universe: You Can Do Magic. This is also book three in Merrill’s Summer of Hush series. And there’s a giveaway.
From the author of Foreword Indies Finalist Summer of Hush and BookLife Prize Quarterfinalist Brains and Brawn comes a new installment in the series, a contemporary gay romance with a side of time travel and magic.
Musical prodigy Kallos Alexandrou has played his calliope for countless visitors at Errante Ame’s Carnival of Mysteries, but his one-year residency has come to an end. Scars from a terrible tragedy in his past are the only explanation he has for his loss of speech and memory, but it’s time to move on, so when a music festival sets up next to the carnival, Mr. Ame sends him off with identification, a bottomless billfold, and a set of new clothes. Outside the carnival’s perimeter, Kal finds himself in an unfamiliar world surrounded by strange instruments and vibrant people like nothing he’s ever seen.
Ryan Wells is the troubled and celebrated lead singer of the metal band Backdrop Silhouette. He’s brought more than his share of baggage on the last cross-country Warped Tour, including harsh restrictions placed on him by his parole officer and the band’s label, but it’s the treatment from his bandmates that have him feeling unsettled. After a tough morning, he spots a strange young man playing carnival music on a keyboard backstage, and the sound takes him back to a particularly vulnerable time in his youth. Intrigued, Ryan asks the young man’s name, but he flees only to appear later as a replacement stagehand for the tour.
An invitation from the band Hush to ride on their bus gives Ryan and Kal a welcome distraction. They find the camaraderie and support they’ve both been craving…as well as a little magic and a fresh new romance. But the music business makes personal relationships difficult to maintain, and when the tour ends, Ryan and Kal will have to make a choice: move forward together on an uncertain path, or let fear keep them from trusting that sometimes you really can have everything you desire.
You Can Do Magic is part of the multi-author Carnival of Mysteries Series. Each book stands alone, but each one includes at least one visit to Errante Ame’s Carnival of Mysteries, a magical, multiverse traveling show full of unusual acts, games, and rides. The Carnival changes to suit the world it’s on, so each visit is unique and special. This book contains a Depression-era calliaphone, a Ouija board with a purpose, and tour bus hijinks that will warm your heart and make you gigglesnort. Reading Summer of Hush and Brains and Brawn before this book will give you the full Warped Tour experience, but You Can Do Magic can be read as a standalone as well as the other books in the shared universe. Recommended 18+.
Warnings: Mention of prior sexual abuse, off-page, no descriptions
About the Series
Welcome, everyone, to the Carnival of Mysteries! In this shared element multiverse, we invite you to partake of an array of stories by an eclectic group of authors. You’ll find action, intrigue, mystery, danger, sweetness, and sorrow, but, above all, true love! So grab your ticket, indulge in some treats, experience a few thrills, maybe have your fortune read… there is something for everyone at the Carnival!
R.L. is giving away a $30 Spotify gift card with this tour:
A new day breaks
Under the blue skies above
A new crowd waits
All they need is a little shove
The Carnival is here
With mysteries galore
To satisfy your cravings
To leave you wanting more
We’re here today, gone the next,
Taking along our magic and song.
Come inside, take a peek
Surprises like these won’t wait long
Here we have the fantastical calliope,
come dance with our talented Kal
His music will delight and seduce you
With the power of the siren’s call
So step right up, and don’t be shy
For his time is coming to a close
Come shimmy and shake with this talented guy
And celebrate the last of his shows…
I’d memorized the ringmaster’s introduction, though it was more sensational than I deserved. And last night’s version had a new ending, one I’d been expecting, but hearing it brought a sliver of anxiety to my bones.
The instrument I played was actually a calliaphone—a more efficient and portable version of the forced-air organ—and I’d built it myself, that much I knew. It was my voice. It spoke all I knew to say, my own words lacking. I possessed the ability to speak, but I’d mostly forgotten how, therefore I preferred to let my music speak for me. I played for the crowds. I smiled for them, but I was transparent to the onlooker.
One year had passed in this way, one year of my life, and I had nothing of my own. No friends to help, no family to love, and no safe place to lay my head away from the carnival. What would I do, where would I go, and would someone see me for me?
The boss, Mr. Ame, told me soon it would be time to move on to the next phase. I’d no clue what that meant other than I would no longer travel with the carnival. There was nothing to pack, nothing to carry, only the clothes—and the scars—I wore on my body. I would miss my calliaphone and the crowds, but I knew it was time. My stay had been healing, educational. My time taught me plenty. The carnival would go on without me and my music, on to the next place to entertain…and seduce the locals. They’d fall under the spell of my fellow travelers. Some might even be chosen to come along.
I remembered little from my time before I, too, had joined the carnival. Humiliation and regret reverberated within the structures of my cells, but I didn’t recall more than that, much less the reason for the debt that forced me into servitude. The boss took me away from the darkness, and promised to set me free one day. But what was free, what would it mean, who would I be? A musician, a man, alone? I’d forgotten my past. I’d learned all I could in this place. Would I survive what lay ahead?
I took my questions to the man in charge, the one they call Errante Ame, and he confirmed that my time with the carnival was at an end.
“My dear, Kallos,” the boss said to me. “The world has done you wrong, not the other way around. You have been a part of something important here, and we shall never forget the joy your music has brought to our clan and our guests. But now it is time for you to move on, as all in the crew must do.
It is your choice where you’ll go once you leave the perimeter, what you will do with the time you have left.
“You have been invisible to our guests for so long, adored for your playing, of course, but who you are remains unseen, unspoken. A blank canvas, a puzzle. Only you can solve the riddle of your life. The time is near when you will set out on your greatest adventure, the journey to find your purpose. Being reborn can be frightening. You will have questions, but the answers you seek can be found within yourself. All you must do is follow your instincts, and your heart’s desire. Do what you feel is right and true. Be good to yourself and your fellow creatures, and walk the path of least harm.
“When the next sun rises, you will step outside the bounds of the carnival. You will have all that you need to begin anew. By the following sunrise, our carnival will have moved on. A traveling music festival will share these grounds with us tomorrow. Perhaps you can start there.”
I knew down deep in my bones that he was correct, that something momentous was about to occur.
Whether she’s writing swoon-worthy contemporary romance featuring quirky, queer, and relatable characters or diving deep into the supernatural to give readers a shiver, R.L. Merrill loves creating compelling stories that will stay with readers long after closing the book. Ro writes inclusive romance for the Happily Ever After collective, contributes paranormal hilarity to Robyn Peterman’s Magic and Mayhem Universe, and pens horror-inspired tales and music reviews for HorrorAddicts.net. A mom, wife, daughter, and former educator, you can find her rocking out in her Bronco with Great Dane pup Velma, being terrorized by feline twins Dracula and Frankenstein, or headbanging at a rock show near her home in the San Francisco Bay Area! Stay Tuned for more…
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Why I Love Ryan Wells…
Greetings and thanks for stopping by the blog tour for You Can Do Magic: Carnival of Mysteries. My story features a troubled rock star who meets a mysterious musical prodigy on the last cross-country Warped Tour. It’s a contemporary romance with a little magic and woo woo, which I think is becoming my brand! I’ve written both contemporary and paranormal stories, but several of my recent books have blurred that line a little more than usual. While I love vampires and shifters immensely, I’m also fascinated by the everyday magic that occurs when ordinary folks meet the extraordinary. When people are faced with the unexplained phenomenon such as spiritual intervention or the manifesting of the things in life you desire, that’s the magic I love to explore.
Enter Ryan Wells, lead singer of metalcore band Backdrop Silhouette. Ryan is a conglomeration of several different real-life musicians I enjoy listening to and reading about. He’s the embodiment of sexuality, so naughty he can’t help himself. Never intentionally hateful, but never the best decision-maker, Ryan struggled through a childhood of neglect and abuse to become a star, only to plummet to earth after a series of bad decisions land him in prison. He’s out on parole and trying to make things better by following his 12-step program, going to therapy, and making amends to those he’s hurt. Through all of this, he’s taken responsibility for his misdeeds and is attempting to live a life in service to the people he cares about. But doing the right thing isn’t always met with acceptance, and Ryan is tired and on the verge of hopelessness when he meets carnival musician Kallos Alexandrou. Whose got secrets. Big ones.
Ryan first appeared in my book Summer of Hush where he is a sort of playful rival of Silas Franklin, the lead singer of metalcore band Hush. The two have a mutual respect for each other, but Ryan tends to keep to himself. We soon learn that Ryan and the former guitarist for Hush—Gavin West, who committed suicide two years prior to the start of the books—became close friends and even wrote an album together after Ryan got out of prison, however Ryan’s label put the kibosh on their plans to produce it together. Ryan grieves with his acquaintances in Hush, and throughout the two books, he appears at times to commiserate with the members of Hush. I loved him from the start in all of his black-leather-wearing, ass-shaking, crotch-grabbing, sex-on-a-stick persona. This collaboration with the authors in the Carnival of Mysteries shared world was the perfect opportunity for me to give him his own book and show a bit more about his connection to Hush as well as to bring those characters back for more tour bus hijinks and backstage tomfoolery.
Here’s a little bit from Ryan’s POV:
I stood in the bathroom of my band’s tour bus applying the day’s sunscreen, foundation, and eyeliner while I listened to the new guy bitch.
Getting ready for a performance, putting on makeup, was a ritual that helped me focus. I liked to get a little creative with the corners of my eyes and tops of my cheekbones, but I wasn’t good at makeup like Brains from Hush, or Chris Motionless from Motionless in White. I was more old school, like Scott Weiland maybe. He’d been one of my role models growing up. Same with Chester Bennington, Chris Cornell, Layne Staley. Notice anything those guys had in common?
Yeah, me too.
Every day I woke up was a gift. I had to remember that, especially when I was trapped on a tour bus with my closest friends and biggest detractors. Those two characterizations fit all the members of my band at one point or another. Over the course of a day they’d love or hate me within minutes. This was our fifth Warped Tour, and though I was sad it was going to be the last one, I was also ready for a break from touring. We’d only been on the road together about six weeks at this point, but that was enough.
They were all on my last nerve, and I wasn’t their favorite person either.
That should all be par for the course in a rock band, but we had some extra baggage thrown in there, namely my prison term, my parole requirements, oh, and my sobriety.
I guess it was fair to say I was the baggage in this scenario.
Someone pounded much louder than was called for on the bathroom door. “You almost done in there?”
I opened the door to find TJ, one of the two newest members of Backdrop Silhouette. When I got locked up, our previous rhythm guitarist and bass player quit the band. They weren’t original members either.
Burke, Parker, and I founded the band seven years ago and were used to each other’s quirks. We didn’t have a lot of tolerance for assholes, and yet we kept ending up with them on the payroll. After my little “fuck up,” I guess I’d become one of them myself. Parker and Burke hadn’t come out and said it, but there was a deep, dark crevice between us that hadn’t existed previously. They’d tried to have me fired, but the label assured them they could hang up their instruments if they chose to do so. My face, my ass, my sparkling personality, my stage antics, and my voice were our moneymakers. Probably those five traits could be a band on their own.
That thought had me chuckling to the point that I forgot TJ wanted something.
“What’s so fucking funny?”
TJ was four years younger than me, and damn he had a chip on his shoulder bigger than he had any right to have. I don’t think he’d always hated me this much, but lately he looked as if he wanted to throat punch me every other minute. For that reason, I delighted in fucking with him.
“Your face. Oh, come on. What did you think I was going to say?” I pushed past him, being sure to knock him off his unplanted feet. Dude should have been on his toes. I was always on mine. Prison will do that to you.
He stumbled over his words, scoffed, and told me to fuck off before slamming the door.
“You’re going to pay for that when it breaks,” I said in my sing-songiest voice.
“Do you have to start with him every morning?” Parker sat at the booth in the kitchen drinking coffee with Burke. My other big fan, Oscar, was out jogging. He ran every morning, which I admired. Fitness was important in this life we led, a fact some of the guys could stand to get on board with. I had my own routine that I’d done every day for the past three years save two days: the first full day I had out of Soledad, and the day my best friend died.
I hope you fall in love with Ryan as much as I have. I spent 27 years of my life as an educator, most of which working with kids in alternative education programs, and I have a soft spot for the ones who work hard to make that second chance count for something. It’s for them that I wrote this book.
Thanks for checking out You Can Do Magic: Carnival of Mysteries. I hope you enjoy! For more fun, check out the other stops on the blog tour and pick up the books in my adjacent series, Summer of Hush and Brains and Brawn, both in KU for a limited time. And Stay Tuned for More…