Archive for the ‘Guest Poster’ Category

Let’s welcome Michelle Smart today, who’s turning our own words back on us in a brilliant guest post about her book, Talos Claims the Virgin. Look for a review to come, once Jett and I stop fighting over it and start reading. Thanks to Michelle for sending us a review copy!!

Talos Claims His Virgin
Guest Post by
Michelle Smart

“If you go by the title alone, this sounds like one of those really bad romances people make fun of…”

So said this very blog! And when I read this same blog, and saw the postscript asking if anyone knew anything about it, I couldn’t resist tweeting that I know a *lot* about this book. Because I wrote it! Alas, I didn’t title it. Nope, that’s one aspect of writing for Harlequin that’s completely out of the author’s realm of control. But I don’t care because I get total control on the best bit, namely the actual book itself!

Of all the books I’ve written, Talos Claims His Virgin is my absolute favourite. A lot of it is down to the hero, the aforementioned Talos, and much of it is down to the heroine being a violinist. I played the violin for years, learning it at school and making my way through the grades. I played for my school orchestra and when I left, I switched from classical to folk music, playing in Irish folk bands right until I had my eldest child. Now I play only for my own pleasure. I’d always wanted to write a book with a violin playing heroine and for a long time I’d had a story floating in my mind of a huge brute of a man bursting in on a shy violinist hiding herself away in a practice room and declaring that she’s the musician he’d been searching for. I just needed to figure out who this brute of a man was and who the violinist was.

So… Talos… my inspiration for him came from watching Game of Thrones. Khal Drogo anyone? For non-Game of Thrones peeps out there, do a search for Jason Momoa. Alternatively, visit my pinterest board where you will find many examples of his magnificence!

As for Amalie, I knew that even though she was seemingly shy, she had a core of steel that made her more than a match for Talos. Music is the medium that brings them together, and it’s through music that they first shag each-other’s brains out and then fall in love (after hating each other first, obviously – well, it is a romance!).

Indeed, music features heavily throughout the book. When Talos first meets her, she’s alone playing Massenet’s Meditation de Thais (there’s a clip of Sarah Chang playing it on my pinterest board too). Talos’s grandmother was a violinist and composer, and now that she’s died, he’s tasked Amalie with learning her final, unpublished, composition, and mastering it in time for his grandfather’s Jubilee celebrations. Did I mention that Talos is a prince…?

My thanks to Susan and Jett for hosting me here today – it’s been a joy! x

Michelle, you are awesome. Drop in here ANYtime. Seriously. You rock. And roll. And play violin. Lindsay Sterling, anyone?


When author BJ Knapp dropped into Susan’s inbox, asking if Jett or I would like to review her book, Beside the Music, I laughed. Jett had already done it. So I sent her the link and asked if she’d like to write a guest post. I checked with Jett about some topic ideas, ran them past BJ, and here we are! Some words about Beside the Music, which Jett thought was worth a read, but I suspect I might like more, especially after reading this. I hope you agree; buy links are at the bottom!

BTM Cover

Beside the Music was born out of a day dream. I often wonder whatever happened to those ‘80s one hit wonders. Sure, when they were on top they were living the high life. And they spent like the money was falling from the sky. The fast cars, the mansions, the hot tubs and the parties where they practically swam in cocaine. At some point somebody had to tell them that the money was gone. A meeting was called. The rockers strolled into a conference room wearing the eyeliner and the leather. A manager or an accountant told them that the money was gone. Then what happened? Did the rockers freak out? Did they demand more money? Did they give up and get office jobs where they sat in cubicles and worked at repairing copy machines? Or did they fight it out and try to re-invent themselves?

I wanted Hydra to try and re-invent themselves. But I wanted them to be clueless as to how the real world functions. They’ve been sheltered behind their managers, assistants and roadies. I originally had the scene where Hydra learned that the money was gone in the manuscript. But it didn’t work with the first person perspective from Brenda’s point of view. I tried for a shifting perspective, but I just couldn’t get it to stick. So I had to ditch the scene where the band comes up with the idea for re-invention.

Brenda had a colossal crush on Keith when she was a teenager. Keith was one of the founding members with his best friend from grade 9, Ben Taylor. I named him Keith Kutter for a few reasons. One is that Keith is such a rock star name. You have Keith Richards…. You have Keith Moon. Two is that Keith is the kind of name that can be said with a sigh as you are daydreaming about a rocker thrusting to the beat into his electric guitar. Try it. It totally works. You can’t sigh a name like Herbert in the same way. I never did come up with Keith’s given last name. In the book he’s Keith Kutter. I wanted to put in umlaut over the u in Kutter, but Microsoft Word wouldn’t let me. (Fricken Bill Gates, thinking he can just take charge of my characters and their umlauts. The nerve of that guy!) But Kutter, with the K, even without the umlaut, is such an ‘80s rock kind of name.

Addiction is, unfortunately, common in the rock and roll world. A great deal of talent was destroyed by overuse of drugs and alcohol, and Keith was no different. However Keith’s addiction was not a result of backstage peer pressure. His was caused by a drunk driving accident, which was entirely his fault. As a result of the accident his son was rendered a quadriplegic—he eased his guilt by raiding his son’s medications. His addiction ended his family, but not his career. His wife Tamsen threw him out, and he dried out by taking off on his yacht to detox alone while at sea. He still has an issue with alcohol, but he managed to ditch the pills. In the book he spent quite a bit of time passed out on Brenda’s couch, until her mother in law woke him by beating him over the head with her Hermes Birkin purse.

To Brenda, Keith is a fantasy. He’s not the main love interest because love with Keith is not real, and Brenda wants a real life and a real love by her side like she has with Tim. The love that a fan has with a rock star is distant. Fans don’t know what the stars are really like. Sure, we watch them on stage, observe them in interviews and read about their lives in the tabloids. But so much of that isn’t real. And she learns a bit of what he’s like when she first has dinner with him. She watches him throw his weight around and demand the expensive bottle of wine. But then he softens up a bit at the end of dinner and they end up having a lovely time once Keith gets over himself a bit. The character of Keith must change over the course of the story, and it does. He learns to lighten up. He takes his ivory tower rock star persona very seriously, but he does change with the help of Brenda and Tim.

Wow! And I totally need to read this, just to see this scene with the Hermes Birkin purse. Pick up your own copy at Amazon or Barnes and Noble (You iBook lovers may need to search the store. Those access links confuse me!).

Hi everyone! Susan was kind enough to have me on for a guest post, so let me introduce myself. I’m Michelle Hazen, I’m an author, and a total rock fic junkie. My current Work In Progress is a new adult series that follows a rising rock band from bar rooms to the big time, so of course I love to read anything with rock and roll and romance together. The book I’m reviewing today is called Seduced and it is the prequel to a series very much like mine, following a band from their practice sessions in a laundromat to bursting into stadium sized shows later in the series. Let’s have a look at the description:


Summary: Warning: get ready for a testosterone overload. The guys are in the driver’s seat in Seduced – and the ride’s gonna rock.

Twenty-three year old Nick Crandall has one focus in his life: Oblivion, the band he formed with his best friend Simon Kagan. With gigs coming up and the band members lacking focus after losing their drummer to rehab, they’re out of ideas. Until Oblivion’s bassist, Deacon McCoy, poses a surprising suggestion.
Bring in someone new. Two someones.

One YouTube video gone viral later, Oblivion is poised on the brink of stardom. With their new hot drummer chick — who comes in a package deal with a talented guitarist who happens to be head over pick in unrequited love with her – it seems like everything’s falling into place. Or will the band Nick and Simon have fought to keep together disintegrate before their eyes?

Four guys & one woman + more success than they ever bargained for = trouble, of the sexiest kind.
Get Seduced by this novel-length introduction to the band Oblivion. This preview occurs before the four forthcoming books about each of the band members. Sometimes getting lost means finding yourself…

Seduced (Lost in Oblivion)


Now, mind you, Seduced isn’t actually a romance novel (though the rest of the series is), but I’m going to give you five reasons to read it anyway.

5. The music!
It is a sad, sad state of affairs that most musician romance novels use music as a setting, but don’t fill it out with appropriate details. In this book, you can feel the desperation of the characters’ love for their songs, and the drive they have to share them with the world. As for the songs themselves, while there aren’t a ton of lyrics, authors Taryn Elliot and Cari Quinn use creative and visceral descriptions in such a way that you can hear the pounding rhythm of the songs, sweeping you into the spell of a great performance, even as the pages of your Kindle actually remain silent.

4. The men are MEN.
Co-authors Elliot and Quinn can write the heck out of a male POV, so it feels like a real boy thinking, not a romance novel hero. These are guys that sweat and spit and think about getting laid, not falling in love. Which just makes it all the sweeter when the right girl starts to get to them. Some of the cruder moments just made me love this book more because I truly like a realistic perspective at all costs, and I adore an author who isn’t afraid to say that, yes, real boys see absolutely no conflict with periodically pounding the crap out of their best friend in a drunken brawl.

3. Drugs
Bet you’re not used to seeing THAT heading in the pro column… Seriously, though, the music world attracts all kinds of abuse of alcohol, tobacco, different kinds of drugs, and even caffeine. I love that this book dives into that headlong and without a soapbox in sight. Instead, the authors’ only agenda seems to be to show the realism of mind-altering substances in the lives of musicians: how they use them to boost their creativity, and to comfort themselves when they’re not performing or writing as well as they should and eventually how the substances grow a mind of their own, until addiction and rehab become part of the landscape alongside gigs and time in the studio.

I felt like Seduced was a balanced, honest look at this facet of the performing lifestyle. I feel confident that as series progresses, the variance in the characters’ approach to drugs will give the reader a glimpse at all the different roads you can choose when you’re rich, famous, and the rules (almost) don’t apply to you.

2. The sex.
This book made all my hormones perk up and take notice. I wouldn’t give the adult scenes in this book a 5-star rating, but they’re edging into 4-star territory. The sexual tension is eyeglass-fogging hot, and the main sex scene…well…without getting spoilery, let’s just say you don’t read that in a romance novel every day.

1. It ISN’T a romance novel.
There is love in this book, folks, and attraction aplenty. I’m already dying to see the completion of some of the love stories hinted at in this installment. But I adore the idea of this book because this is a start to a series that sets up all the characters and the friendships before anyone finds their soul mate. This made the world feel more real, and perversely, I was more satisfied with the story than I would have been with a straight romance, even though I adore those.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I have to add that the book wasn’t flawless. One of the band members really rubbed me the wrong way. He repeatedly refers to himself as an asshole, and um, I’m forced to agree. He had very little control over his emotions and made a lot of short-sighted, hurtful choices and while I felt for him in many of those situations, I didn’t frequently like him. The authors do a pretty believable job of redeeming him toward the end of the book, but he’s still not my favorite. Regardless, overall this was an outstanding read- a solid 4 stars. Plus, it’s 99 cents, which is the perfect price to sucker you into any great series. I’ve read most of the rest of the series already, and I can tell you that while they’re not perfect, they’re all super enjoyable reads. I love the continuing band dynamics, the peek into what it really takes to be rock stars, and the delicious music details. Plus, if you like lots of steam, this is your series!

Thanks for having me on today, Susan and everyone! I hope to be back to do some more guest reviews in the future, but in the meantime, if you’d like to keep track of me, my reviews of other things, or my books, my links are below:

Amazon Author Page

Susan says: Thanks for coming by, Michelle! Jett is crazy jealous you got to this before she did, but now it’s on her Must Buy Now list (assuming she ever looks at it). Can’t wait to see what else you share with us!

THE GUITARIST by Lindy S. Hudis

Review by Cherry Cox

The Guitarist is a short story about ‘guitar god’ Diego Ortega, the lead guitarist in a 1980s hard rock band called Medieval Steel. (The story is set in the 80s but we only know it’s the 80s because the blurb tells us that. There is nothing in the story itself that actually frames the time period for us.)

Medieval Steel are on tour but Diego is unhappy. He has a love/hate relationship with touring and grows weary of the endless parade of brazen (and annoying) groupies who just want to get into his pants.

When the band rolls into a small unnamed town, Diego goes for a walk and spots a vintage guitar in the window of an antiquated music a store. Despite the shop owner’s warning that the instrument is cursed, Diego buys it.

Diego becomes increasingly obsessed with the guitar, and with a mysterious woman who comes into his room every night to ‘make love’ to him.

Just in case you’re intrigued by this book, I won’t go into details about the plot other than to say it’s got an unhappy guitarist, a cursed guitar that attacks people it perceives to be a threat, and a mysterious woman (Diego’s soul mate) who appears out of nowhere and becomes increasingly possessed by a wicked/evil force.

This is the kind of story that’s right up my alley; guitar gods and a hint of the paranormal, everything I love rolled into one intriguing tale. Unfortunately, and I’m going to be brutally honest here, the story didn’t turn out to be anywhere near as great as I had hoped. In fact, I was actually confused as there are things in the plot that just don’t add up. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I missed something, or maybe it’s just that the story is too clever for me to understand. Whatever the case, I didn’t get it.

Diego wants to find true love but the guitar is stopping him from experiencing true love with the mystery woman/soul mate. Unfortunately, it just seems a little too convenient and coincidental that the cursed guitar comes into Diego’s life at the very same time as his mystery woman/soul mate…

Personally, I think one of the key ingredients in a successful story is great characters. I’m not saying we have to like every character that appears in every book, we don’t. But as readers we do have to have some understanding of the reasons why characters behave the way they behave, and why they do the things that they do. I didn’t get this with Diego. I didn’t understand him, which meant I couldn’t empathize with him, which ultimately made me not really care about him.

I think the main reason for this this that the writer gives us no hint as to Diego’s backstory. This story is all about the plot, not about characterization. It’s about the ‘what’, not about the ‘why’. Even in a short story, I personally like to know about the ‘why’.

Finally, a quick word about tone and style. The writer’s simplistic style is certainly the best choice for this story as is makes for a quick and easy read. Logically, it should also make for a satisfying read; however, there’s something about the style that’s a little too clinical for me, a little too perfunctory. Consequently, I didn’t get swept up in the story. I didn’t lose myself in the time, the place, or the characters, which is disappointing because like I said, this book had a bunch of elements that I love in a good read.

Let’s welcome author Cherry Cox back to The Rock of Pages! She’s got a review of a book that’s not hers, and we hope she’ll hang around this place and help us get through the ever-growing list of Rock Fiction that needs love, attention, and reviews.

Without further ado:

ILLUMINATION by Rowan Speedwell

Review by Cherry Cox

One night while he’s on tour, Adam Craig, a jaded, drunken rock star, jumps into a cab and tells the driver to take him to Indian Lake. Once there, he wanders onto the lakeside property owned by the anxiety-ridden, agoraphobic calligrapher Miles Caldwell and proceeds to make himself at home. The next morning, Miles discovers Adam sound asleep on his patio and the seeds of romance are sown.

The overarching theme of this book is the ‘unattainability of desires’. Both main characters yearn for things that seem beyond their control or reach. In-the-closet Adam yearns for some authenticity in his life, for some kind of genuine connection, and Miles is painfully crippled by his anxieties.

Much of the plot takes place in one location, given Miles’s inability to leave his home. This creates a bit of problem when Adam is forced to return to work in the band. Unfortunately, with the lovers now separated, the plot slows down and loses some important momentum.

The writer has an easy-going style and the book was a quick, easy read. However, I feel that the author may have been in two minds about how to categorize this story and so crammed it into Rock Fiction simply because the main character is a rock star. In reality, I feel this book is really about Miles. Miles specializes in illustrated manuscripts, and the book is called ILLUMINATION. There is very little to do with Adam and his band.

Despite the fact that the characters are well-drawn, I have to admit that I wasn’t all that invested in them. I suspect this comes from the fact that there is little to no development of Adam and Miles’s romantic relationship before they hit the sheets. It really is a matter of fuck first, ask questions later. In fact, it is so quick, it’s unrealistic. However, I pressed on and read to the end.

So, what did I think overall? Well, personally I like a little more depth in my plot, and little more ‘rock’ in my ‘rock stars’. And while I didn’t add ILLUMINATION to my list of all-time greats but I didn’t abandon it either.

About Cherry:

Ever since reading her first rock fiction book Cherry Cox has been hooked. More so, she loves m/m rock fiction. Cherry is the author of IT’S A LONG WAY TO THE TOP. Available now on Amazon & iTunes.

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So into my inbox pops a new-to-me author about to launch her first book, It’s a Long Way to the Top. It’s a male-male story, so it wasn’t for Jett, and let me tell you. I’m halfway through it and it is totally  knocking my socks off. Unless something happens between now and the end, expect another Rock of Pages Recommended Read!


Cherry was kind enough to send me the following blurb, and I’m more than pleased to post it for you.


Cherry Cox 

What’s it like to be a young, hot, talented, yet gay guitar god in a world that isn’t ready for gay?


Step back in time to 1985 where sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll rule the Sunset Strip, and where Jackson ‘Jax’ Reed and his band Acts of Insanity are forging their place in rock ’n’ roll history.


What can I say? I love rock music. I’ve always loved music. I’ve always loved rock music. Many years ago I even tried my luck as a vocalist in several rock music bands. The lifestyle was killer. Literally. It was hard on my mind and my body. It was also one of the greatest times of my life.


Fast forward to 2011. I was loading up my e-book reader with material to read on a long overseas journey when I came across my very first romance/erotica rock fiction book. And I was blown away. I’d just found a new passion. Subsequently, I downloaded all the romance/erotica rock fiction I could find.


I also knew I had to write my own story. And so I started tinkering with IT’S A LONG WAY TO THE TOP.


IT’S A LONG WAY TO THE TOP takes a behind the scenes look at a band navigating their way through the industry, and at a lead guitarist who is struggling with his sexuality.



“Well, let me tell you this rock star – the world isn’t ready for a gay guitar god, you understand me? The world isn’t ready for gay. One word of this gets out, one whiff of suspicion, and it’s over. Do you understand that?”



Melissa Cleeman, Senior Editor at Busy Bird Publishing, had this to say:


Raw, sexy, electrifying. A world where music is God and Rock n’ Roll is a religion, Cherry Cox delivers the sounds, smells and tastes that is the 80s rock era.

Jax is an unforgettable character, leading you down the dark slivers of the industry as he struggles to accept himself in a world that’s not yet ready to. I swayed from wanting to comfort him, slap him, jam with him, and fuck him.

Cox has captured the sexual tension and chemistry between Jax and Harley brilliantly, leading the way for a partnership that has to succeed in more ways than one. Each scene made me feel like I was there in the moment, whether that was being part of the band and playing music, to being in the corner of a seedy bar, reeking of booze and itching for my next fix.

Acts of Insanity paves the way to a new genre, where rock and sex come together in a spectacular way. I can’t remember the last time I read a story where I was so emotionally invested in the characters, and their plight, I just kept coming back for more!



Now, a year after I began tinkering with the concept, IT’S A LONG WAY TO THE TOP has finally hit the shelves. If you want a real, raw, and gritty story about sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll, if you want to know about Jax’s journey, then IT’S A LONG WAY TO THE TOP is the answer to your rock fiction prayer.


But be warned, it is not for the faint-hearted.


Available Rocktober 21 – KINDLE, AUDIO, PRINT & iBOOK


For more info go to:

Paperback Pleasures


And join me on:

My website/blog













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Doris Dumrauf is a friend of mine. I think the world of her and I’m thrilled to be hosting her today for Rocktober. Her first novel, Oktober Heat, is a fun read for you mystery fans — and if you’re not a mystery fan, this one can convince you to be one. Of course, it’s got a strong rock theme to it, too.

Cold War means spies, arms race, and – rock ‘n’ roll? During the 1950s, the U.S. military built hundreds of military installations in West Germany within a few years. GIs with pockets full of dollars, big cars, and the latest rock ‘n’ roll records invaded the formerly sleepy villages. The local girls found them irresistible. Romances blossomed while the young couples danced the night away to the hottest tunes. American and German musicians toured the enlisted clubs to entertain the troops.

“There’s a novel in there,” I thought when I learned about the Fifties in my home county. But which year should I choose as the setting? And then it occurred to me that Elvis Presley arrived in Germany in 1958 to complete a tour of duty in the U.S. Army. I had found my hook!

In my novel “Oktober Heat,” music becomes the symbol of the clash between Old World values and New World culture. The book begins and ends with a concert because rock ‘n’ roll music is my protagonist’s passion. Young police officer Walter Hofmann works long hours investigating a murder and relaxes by listening to the latest hits on AFN.

I admit that I do not remember the 1950s from personal experience. By the time I became interested in pop music, the first Beatles hits were already Oldies. But I’ve always enjoyed the music of the Fifties and Sixties and played them while writing my novel.

How important is music to Walter? Let’s ask him:
Q: How do you feel about Elvis Presley’s arrival?
WH: First of all, I love his music. But I am not happy that the girls are all crazy about him. I mean, how is a young man with average looks and income supposed to compete with him?

Q: What do you like most about the American GIs?
WH: I like the rock ‘n’ roll records they bring in. Most of all, I love attending concerts at the base. How else would I ever see the Trotters and other famous bands? They bring the big, wide world into our province. Lauterbach was a sleepy village before they arrived, and now look at it. We have an italian ice café, several bars, and plenty of pubs. German singers are trying hard to imitate the sound, but I much prefer listening to American bands, even if I can’t understand all the lyrics.

Q: You seem to be very protective of the women in your life.
WH: Yes, I became a police officer because I want to protect and help people. My younger sister Ingrid, though, makes it hard for me. She’s 18 and a bit rebellious. Her Elvis infatuation is getting out of hand and I don’t have the time to look after her all the time. I fear that she might get into trouble.

Q: So you young people just want to have some fun and enjoy life?
WH: Yes, we do! We work hard, but when we’re off work we want to shake up the town. And now I have to go because the Crocodiles are playing at the Enlisted Club tonight and I don’t want to miss it.

“Oktober Heat” is available at:

Barnes & Noble

My website

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One of the best things about Rocktober is being able to share authors who may not write about great big Rock Stars, but who write about music in different ways. I think it’s every bit as important as the tales of backstage debauchery and tour buses and groupies and love. So today, meet CK Johnson. She’s great fun, my buddy CK. And her books? I love how inventive they are.

Here’s a bit from CK:

I’ve been a rock fan since my friend first introduced me to Metallica. I played “The Unforgiven” on the violin until I got my hands on a guitar. My go to on a bad day was “Nothing Else Matters.” When it came time to write a novel it wasn’t a surprise that music shaped it.

A Piper’s Song tells the story of Kyra, a descendant of the Pied Piper who can control people with music. It’s an urban fantasy laced with darker notes reminiscent of the original Grimm tales. I enjoyed writing a book that allowed me to take the music I love and shape it into imagery. My favorite part of the book is toward the end when Kyra steps onto The Fields to prove herself. I got play battle of the bands piper style—a fine line between music and madness.

In honor of Rocktober I’m giving away two eBooks of A Piper’s Song. Leave a comment about one of your favorite songs and why you love it and I’ll do a random drawing.

Yes! You totally want to read this, so start commenting away.

Connect with CK, too, because there’s no better way to show love than to buy a book — except maybe to review it once you’ve read it.

Let’s welcome author Anne-Marie Klein to The Rock of Pages! She’s not only a Rock Fiction lover, she puts her money where her mouth is. Which means this woman who loves the Who loves them so much, she steps out to see them play live.


Sort of.

The Wholigans formed in Toronto in 1982 as a cover band that played Keith Moon era songs by British supergroup The Who. In their heyday, they played local clubs that are now long gone, from the Gasworks to the Nag’s Head. I met them in 2003, at a local gathering of Who fans, and have been a friend and a supporter ever since. Each member of the group is a talented musician, and I can attest to the fact that the quartet is made of four very distinct yet equally colourful characters. Their shows are always lively, and much like the group they have emulated for 33 years, very loud.

I am a rock fiction writer, and in 2012 I published the first novel in a series called ‘Behind Blue Eyes.’ The books are based on the Pete Townshend song of the same name, and they tell the story of a sad blue-eyed man forming a rock band in the Toronto of the late 70s. The books combine my love of music and my hometown with a family drama and a great love story. So far, three books have been published: ‘Love Reign o’er Me,’ ‘Love Ain’t For Keeping,’ and ‘Let My Love Open the Door.’ The series will end in the new year with the fourth instalment, ‘Empty Glass.’

I am also a huge music fan, especially for the album sounds of my teenage years and young adulthood, a genre now known as classic rock. As a measure of my great affection for the Wholigans, I made them the headlining group in one of the early club scenes of the first book. Despite my knowledge of their 1982 formation, it was important for me to include them in the narrative to pay tribute to their longevity and contribution to the Toronto music scene of that era, and so I made them jump back in time and play DJ’s Tavern in 1978. Lead singer Barry Quinn confirmed to me that they did play that club a few years later than I claimed in print, so I was comfortable with the anachronism despite my insistence on maintaining historical accuracy in every other aspect of my books’ timelines.

This past weekend, The Wholigans played two dates in their hometown, despite the fact that Barry and guitarist Bill Cannell flew in from Florida and New York City, respectively. Drummer Darren Atkinson and bassist Dave ‘Gater’ Smith still reside in the city, and rounded out the lineup for the weekend shows. The special occasion was only announced a few weeks ago, and most of us were shocked to hear that Gater was retiring from the band and that we would be seeing the last of him as ‘fake John’. I could not attend the final show at the iconic Cadillac Lounge on Saturday, October 17th, having already purchased tickets to see Paul McCartney, but I did go to The Duke on Friday, October 16th, to make sure I saw the band one last time. As it happened, they were playing sets from ‘Quadrophenia’ and ‘Who’s Next’ the first night, choosing to do ‘Tommy’ and “Live at Leeds’ for the very last performance together. It was perfect: my two favourite Who albums performed at the only show I could attend.

Anne-Marie and dude

A funny thing happened on the way to the concert: the Toronto Blue Jays made the American League Baseball Championships, and a decision was made by the venue to delay the Wholigans’ first set until the game against the KC Royals was decided. Sometime during the day, a contractor accidentally cut off the cable link, and it wasn’t until after we had arrived at The Duke that the signal came back on and the game could be viewed. The delay allowed me to chat with Barry and Gater, and to meet some mutual friends.

When it was clear the Jays would not recover, well past 11pm, The Wholigans took to the stage for the first of two sets. They opened with some of the best music from ‘Quadrophenia,’ from the big hits such as ‘Love Reign o’er Me’ and ‘I’m One’ to lesser gems like “The Punk and the Godfather.’ There were classic Roger Daltrey moves from Barry like marching steps and microphone twirls, fantastic Pete Townshend windmills and jumps from Bill, and Gater reminded us all of his phenomenal bass-playing skills with his interpretation of John Entwistle’s solo from ‘5:15.’ Darren got to shine with his rendition of Keith Moon’s ‘Bellboy,’ and the very best music from my favourite Who album was delivered in grand style and with great ability.

The second set was all about ‘Who’s Next?’, and all the big songs from that classic record were thrown at the audience with equal enthusiasm and ability. The audience cheered as ‘Behind Blue Eyes,’ “Baba O’Riley,’ “Naked Eye,’ and “Won’t Get Fooled Again’ were played to near perfection. There were also nods to the earliest Who recording, as Barry asked the cheering crowd to suggest numbers: out came ‘Substitute,’ ‘Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere,’ ‘Pictures of Lily,’ ‘Boris the Spider,’ ’Squeeze Box,’ ‘My Generation,’ and even ‘Who Are You?’ as the band fed on the energy of the fans and delivered a solid performance throughout the second set. There were moments of audience participation as Barry wandered between tables and invited people to sing along, and despite the late hour, people sang, danced, and enjoyed themselves to the very last note. The show finally ended after 2 am with an encore of ‘Shaking All Over’ as people continued to dance before the stage. All in all, a wonderful night of seeing old friends do what they have done so well for so long, and the end of an era. Happy retirement, Gater, and long live rock.

Isn’t Anne-Marie great? Pick up her books and connect with her, why don’t you?


Links to Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, B&N Nook (ebooks), and Lulu (print)


Rocktober3Rocktober3avatar S RED

So… I read and reviewed my buddy Jessica Topper’s new release, Softer Than Steel. I don’t blame you if you’re too lazy or busy to click through, so I’ll say this: I didn’t love it as much as I wanted to.

Now that it’s been over a month since I finished reading, I’ve found that, like all of her other books, it’s lingered with me. With Louder Than Love, it was the idea of drunk Adrian showing up at the library. That’s such a packed image. With Deeper than Dreams, it’s the image of Kat sitting on the steps of the library while Adrian does that spoiler thing. Just… wow. The beauty of it. With The Dictatorship of the Dress, it’s… well, hell. It’s a lot. The bean. Sleeping in the tub. The Magic 8 ball. The feel that Laney gives off whenever she appears on a page. I think she’s Topper’s best overall character, to be honest. Laney and I connected, and she hasn’t fully let me go yet.

But in Softer than Steel, I keep coming back to the idea of the ner tamid, the eternal light that hangs over the bima in a synagogue, shul, or temple. The idea of that light watching Sidra teach her yoga classes. Watching Riff learn to let go of his past. Watching Sidra and Riff love each other.

That’s heavy stuff. It’s got the obvious God reference, since that’s part of what the ner tamid represents. (Part! All you purists, hush! I am Reform!)

But there’s a metaphysical sense, too. Something not quite Godlike, not so obvious. I stretch for it, but can’t quite get it… there’s a feeling of safety under that particular ner tamid, a sense that it’s taking care of more than Sidra and Riff. A sense that the light helps contribute to the mood of the yoga studio, that it enables everything that happens under its watchful eye.

And that’s what lingers for me. It’s a lovely image, not at all creepy, if you’re reading this and thinking along those lines (Hey, Halloween does approach). Safety, protection, and the growth that can occur when someone who’s been badly traumatized finds safety at last.

This is what I take away from Softer than Steel, more than anything. It probably says more about me than it should, more than Jessica ever intended.

But reading, as we all know, is an intensely personal experience.

Playing into this for me is the fact that although my house was never a synagogue, a shul, OR a temple, I’ve got a ner tamid of my own, strangely enough. I still can’t figure out what the builder was thinking when he installed a light on a circuit that never turns off and has no switch. When I was new to the house, I put a bulb in the fixture, a simple white canister of a light. It begs for a couple of hands and a clock mechanism, this fixture. That’s how I found there’s no switch and no circuit I can flip without shutting down other parts of the house.

But this light? It wasn’t comforting. It didn’t make me feel safe.


Just the opposite, in fact. It was creepy, this stark white light that illuminated the bathroom and reflected off the tub underneath. Malevolent. Even now, years after I promptly removed that bulb, I look at that light covering with an uneasy feeling.

It’s kind of funny, really. I’m a Rock Fiction expert. You’d think I’d have connected to the record store, which plays a magnificent role in Softer. Or to Riff, who is a fascinating man.

But nope. It’s a light. A relic from a time when the building was something else, when it meant the same kind of safety and protection that it offers in the book’s present.

And that, of all the elements in the book, is what lingers with me.