Hi guys! We have R.L. Merrill popping in today with the tour for her new release Brains & Brawn, we have a brilliant guest post, a great excerpt and a fantastic $25 Amazon GC giveaway, so check out the post and enter the giveaway! ❤️ ~Pixie~
Brains & Brawn
Billy “Brains” Brennan has achieved rock stardom in not just one, but two chart-topping bands, but events from his past have him convinced he’s living on borrowed time. Brains and his brothers-in-Hush are ready to take the last cross-country Warped Tour by storm…until the actions of two drunk dudes with bad attitudes set off a chain of events that leave him incapacitated…and face-to-face with a handsome stranger who inexplicably feels like home—and not the home Brains fled at sixteen.
Chief Petty Officer Paul McNally has spent his 25-year career as a Navy Corpsman responding to emergencies and caring for wounded soldiers. When fate has him in the right place to provide aid to a fallen rock star, it sends his life spiraling on a trajectory he never planned for. Instead of concentrating on his impending retirement and a second career, he’s now playing nursemaid to a fascinating younger man…and falling in love—a fact he can’t seem to figure out how to explain to his adult son.
A health scare, band drama, and pain from both of their pasts threatens to end Brains and Paul’s fledgling relationship. Fate brought them together. It will take trust, honesty, and hope to keep them together.
R.L. Merrill & Exclusive Excerpt!
Meet the Band Hush
I love writing stories of hope, love and rock ‘n’ roll. My very first published book was about a band out of New Orleans dealing with a terrible loss and the tattoo artist they hire to design a memorial tattoo for them. There were hijinks, tomfoolery, and swoon-worthy romance set to a hard-rocking soundtrack. It was so fun to write and I still have readers who talk about how much they wish they could hang out with the guys from Maggie’s Bones.
Fast-forward to three years after that book came out and I thought, “You know, I haven’t written a band on a tour bus story yet.” Haunted, Teacher, even the Forces of Nature series all featured musicians, but they’d never been on the road.
Enter Hush and Warped Tour.
After spending time at several Warped Tour shows, I realized that the younger generation was much more open about their sexuality and the stigma that had always been there around rock music in my day (Egads, I sound old!). I know there are queer folks in the hard-rock/alternative/metal scene, so why not write a band into the thick of it!
Here’s an introduction to the band Hush:
Silas Franklin: Singer, bass guitar. The energetic frontman is the main lyricist for the band and it’s heart. He’s emotional, impulsive, and driven. After the death of his best friend and guitarist Gavin West, he and Brains and Los soldiered on. They knew Hush had more to accomplish. On the second show of the tour, he meets Krish the Intern, and the chemistry is immediate. (You can read more of their story in Summer of Hush Book One). He’s got to keep the band together no matter what, and when tragedy strikes again…it’s on Silas to grow up and take charge.
Billy “Brains” Brennan: Drummer, de facto leader of the band. The oldest, most experience member of the band and its, well, brain. Emancipated at age 16, Brains set out on a course destined for rock stardom and is living the dream. However, he’s living on borrowed time and he keeps everyone at arm’s length in order to keep some semblance of control over his circumstances. He’s a self-taught musician, has a good head for the business, and when he’s not keeping the beat, he’s experimenting with makeup tricks and styles to keep the band’s look fresh and edgy.
Carlos “Los” Morales: Guitar, vocals. Los is the loose cannon of the band. He has no filter, can be emotionally explosive, and is loyal to a fault. Los’s family life will be explored in more detail in future books, but the dude has experienced some serious emotional trauma and as a result struggles with his interpersonal relationships. He’s been with Brains and Silas for so long that he depends on them for a source of normalcy but is not very forgiving when they make mistakes…or they find romance. His best friends are on the opposite end of the Kinsey Scale from him, which amuses him more than anything, although he does wish sometimes that he were gay as well so they could all just be one happy family without the drama that significant others bring to the mix.
Jordan Barrett: Lead guitar. AKA The new guy. Jordan played with a few bands before catching the attention of Hush when they decided it was time to move on with a new guitar player. He nearly turned them down, though, thinking he didn’t want to end up in a messy situation, but then he knew this was his chance to make it big, and no one was bigger in the metalcore scene than Hush. His younger brother Jake ends up joining the band on tour, which was fun at first, but then becomes a complication he’s not sure he needs in his life. He’s a go-with-the-flow guy for the most part and enjoys kicking back and observing the others, but he’s not ready for the drama. No one is ready for the drama on the Summer of Hush.
There are plenty of other characters who play a role on tour and I hope you’ll check out the books! Here’s a glimpse at life on the bus with Hush:
Billy “Brains” Brennan was a fairly patient guy, but Carlos “Los” Morales, the rhythm guitarist for their band, Hush, would try the patience of Mother Theresa.
“But what if it were possible? Just hear me out.”
Brains sighed loudly. He took a sponge and dipped it in the MAC foundation, smeared the near-white creme on Los’s already-pale face, and blended it in as smoothly as he could. Los was lucky he didn’t grow a lot of facial hair, so his beardal and mustachial regions were fairly easy to cover. Brains often used concealer and then foundation on himself if he wanted to go for a smoother appearance.
It was possible they could be playing early today in Mountain View—set times on Warped were announced the morning of, which didn’t give the openers much time to prepare—and Los wanted Brains to do his makeup “properly,” rather than the smeary mess Los usually inflicted on himself. Luckily, the guy had insanely good looks to play with. Brains loved working on his bandmates. Any excuse to experiment and improve on his craft was fine with him.
“It’s not possible, Los. We’ve already been over this.”
Brains was often entertained by Los’s conspiracy theories and apocalyptic concerns, but this one was just ridiculous. Plus, he needed to get his head in the game. He needed to have a positive mental attitude.
“If they sting you, though—”
“It’s highly unlikely they’ll hurt you. They’re disoriented and near death. They’re being eaten from the inside out by parasitic larvae. You’d have to actually work at getting them to sting you.”
Los’s latest concern rose from an article about zombie bees, and he’d nearly convinced himself that a sting from a “zom-bee” would lead a human to become a zombie.
“But, like, what if, while they’re infected, it spreads to the pollen they’re carrying and then it gets into our food? The article I read said that seventy-seven percent of hives in California were infected, and if bees are responsible for, like, a third of our food, then dude—”
Silas chimed in from the kitchenette, where he was making breakfast. “Dude! I read that same article, Los. It said seventy-seven percent of the hives they checked, and they only checked a small amount. Besides, everyone knows that zombies are made from a virus, not a bee.”
Their lead singer—and Brains’s best friend—Silas made the best French toast on the planet, and luckily for them, he was willing to make breakfast at least once a week while they were on tour. Brains allowed himself to splurge on those days. The rest of the time it was meal-replacement shakes, protein bars, and grilled meats and veggies from the catering staff.
“Are you still on the zombie-bee kick, Los?” Jordan, their brand-spankin’ new guitarist, stumbled over to the table from his bunk and sat down with a sigh. His drunk brother and friend had both crashed on their bus last night after the show in San Diego and were still asleep. It had been commonplace in the past for Hush to have overnight guests.
But that was a different time.
Hush was a different band now after the death of their guitarist and best friend. They were only on day three of their first tour in two years and were breaking in the newbie Jordan. They had just released a new album—their first without Gavin.
As if that weren’t enough change, their lead singer had found a new cuddle buddy.
Making predictions about anything right now—even a zombie apocalypse—seemed like a bad idea. Weird shit was already going down.
“Yes. I, for one, am concerned, you know. How would you like to have a parasite eat you alive from the inside?”
“Los, you need to close your mouth or I’m going to get black shit all over your teeth.”
“Sorry.” He pushed out his lips in a pout and Brains chuckled.
I hope you’ll check out the books and join me on tour with the metalcore darlings. Book three will be out in 2021. Stay Tuned for more Rock ‘n’ Romance…
Summer of Hush – https://books2read.com/u/meeLQR
Brains and Brawn: Summer of Hush Book Two – https://books2read.com/u/bwdQaa
Paul’s head whipped around when he heard the first scream. He watched in horror as the tent Bowie had just been standing in front of—Hush’s tent—collapsed and a crowd of people fell.
Without hesitation, he ran for the tent. Then he spotted Bowie standing over some big guy.
“You okay?” he yelled to him.
Bowie nodded, his big blue eyes wide as he looked back at the disaster.
Security began barricading the area around the tent and moving the screaming fans away from the scene. Adults attempted to pull the kids out of harm’s way.
That’s when Paul saw the tabletop on the ground and a pair of black-clad legs sticking out from underneath.
Guys in bright yellow security shirts lifted and pulled the rest of the tent out of the way. Paul rushed toward the broken table and sank to his knees next to Brains.
“Can you hear me? Are you with me?”
Brains locked gazes with him, and Paul felt pain in his right hand. He looked down to see Brains squeezing the life out of it.
“Please don’t leave….”
Medical staff approached in blue cargo pants and polos and swarmed the members of the band and their staff, several of whom were on the ground. Two women approached Brains with medical kits, and Paul started to move back, but Brains’s grip grew tighter.
“Please don’t leave me!” Brains said again, more insistently. He was panting, his face losing color, and Paul feared he was going into shock. He glanced at the table on his legs and at the staff who were preparing to lift it off him.
Paul worried perhaps the worst had occurred, but the fact that Brains was still squeezing the shit out of his hand was a good sign.
Brains coughed as he brought his other hand up to grasp Paul’s. “Please!” His appeals were growing in urgency.
Paul leaned a little closer to his face and pressed his free hand to Brains’s cheek. “I’m not going anywhere, okay? But they’re going to lift the table now. You ready? Try not to move.”
Brains nodded—another good sign—but Paul pressed a hand to his shoulder. “Stay still.”
The staff guys counted to three, and then they lifted the table.
Brains let out a guttural shout, and tears streamed down his face as he winced in agony.
Paul breathed a sigh of relief to not see any blood or rips in Brains’s pants. He half expected to see a bone shard sticking out. But they weren’t out of the woods.
“Brains, listen to me, okay?”
Paul frowned. “Billy?”
“My name is Billy. Please—”
“I’m not leaving you, but these medics here are going to look you over, and they’re probably going to poke and prod you a bit.” He nodded to the young women in Rock Medicine shirts who stood by, hesitating to approach. Paul heard sirens in the distance, which meant better-trained professionals were on their way, but Brains—Billy—needed to be assessed immediately.
“Sir, we need you to move—”
“He’s not going anywhere!” Brains shouted at them.
Paul addressed the one with the first-aid kit. “My name is Paul McNally. I’m a Navy corpsman, and I’m trained in triage and emergency medical treatment.” And I’m not leaving his side.
The young women looked to each other and then crouched down next to Billy. One of them placed a hand on Billy’s arm.
“I’m going to touch you, okay?”
“He’s staying with me, you got it? He’s staying.” Billy’s chin quivered as he spoke to the medics. The two women looked at each other with eyes wide.
Paul was losing circulation in his hand, but he wouldn’t have left Billy if the entire venue burst into flames. The way he was reacting… Paul had been through countless emergencies and could recognize when there was a psychological issue at work that needed attention.
He looked around for Bowie and saw him with Dimples, watching from a distance. Relieved that he hadn’t been hurt and seemed to be doing okay, Paul turned his full attention on Billy.
One of the women took Brains’s vitals, and the other ran her hands over his body, checking for injuries. She barely spoke to Brains, and Paul was perturbed at the way they were assessing him.
“Billy, can you wiggle your toes for me?” Paul asked.
Brains nodded, and then Paul looked at his Vans-clad feet. Thankfully, he saw movement on both.
Paul smiled down at Brains. “You’re doing great. You know what today is?”
“A fucked-up day? I had a bad feeling this morning….”
“Seems like it was warranted.”
Brains’s deep blue eyes fixed on Paul, and his breathing seemed to slow for just a moment. Paul hoped that meant he would maybe be able to relax—
“Sir, I’m going to need to put a collar on you.”
Brains flinched when the medic touched him. “I’m fine, just let me up—”
Paul placed a gentle hand on his shoulder, and it was enough to keep Brains from trying to sit up. “Billy? It’s important that you lie still and let them put a collar on you. With this sort of accident, they need to keep your spine aligned to avoid any further injury, okay?”
Brains began to pant and tugged Paul’s hand as though he wanted to try to pull up, but when he tried to move his legs, only the right one moved, and he screamed in pain.
“Look at me,” Paul said, getting closer to his face. He needed to distract him, to make Brains focus on him. “Brains, they need to take you to the hospital—”
“No. No, no, no, please,” he whispered. “I can’t go, please, Paul, please—”
“I’m not going to leave you. I won’t let them hurt you, okay? They need to take you in for X-rays to make sure nothing’s broken.”
Brains’s voice sounded like that of a frightened child. Something was seriously wrong. He pulled on their joined hands again, and the medic placed a hand on Brains’s chest to keep him from moving.
“Sir? You may have a spinal injury, so we have to place you on this backboard with a collar to protect you. If you won’t cooperate, we’re going to have to sedate you.”
“Can you give us a minute?” Paul asked the medics, irritation clear in his voice.
“We need to get him to the ambulance,” the medic closest to him said, and then was distracted by the band’s manager. She gave the medic Brains’s information and shot a worried look Paul’s direction. His full name was Billy Brennan.
Paul ground his teeth together and took a breath to calm himself. “I understand. Will you give me a moment to speak to Mr. Brennan? I’d like to avoid the use of sedatives.”
She nodded, and they stood and backed away a few feet to confer.
Paul squeezed Brains’s hand and placed the other on his forehead.
“Hey, man. The sedatives are a drag. This will all go better if you let them collar you and get you on the backboard. Hopefully everything is fine. The fact that you’re moving your toes and strangling my fingers leads me to think your spine is just fine, but it’s procedure. I swear I’m staying with you.”
Billy swallowed hard, his eyes wild. “I know I’m acting crazy. There’s a reason, I just… please.”
Paul smiled at him. “You haven’t seen crazy until you’ve got a wounded Marine pulling his pistol and pointing it at your face while you try to remove a sliver from his other hand.”
Brains’s eyes bugged out. “A sliver?”
Paul shrugged. “It was a four-inch piece of shrapnel, but I’d still call it a sliver.” He winked, and Brains barked out a laugh. Good, keep that smile. “You going to let them collar you and take you for a little ride?”
Brains’s smile faded. “Just please stay with me. Can you? Will you?”
If Paul hadn’t already been 100 percent in on this mission, he was now.
R.L. Merrill brings you stories of Hope, Love, and Rock ‘n’ Roll featuring quirky and relatable characters. Whether she’s writing about contemporary issues that affect us all or diving deep into the paranormal and supernatural to give readers a shiver, she loves creating compelling stories that will stay with readers long after.
Winner of the Kathryn Hayes “When Sparks Fly” Best Contemporary award for Hurricane Reese, Foreword INDIES finalist for Summer of Hush and RONE finalist for Typhoon Toby, Ro spends every spare moment improving her writing craft and striving to find that perfect balance between real-life and happily ever after.
She writes diverse and inclusive romance, contributes paranormal hilarity to Robyn Peterman’s Magic and Mayhem Universe, and works on various other writing and mentoring projects that tickle her fancy or benefit a worthy cause.
You can find her connecting with readers on social media, educating America’s youth, raising two brilliant teenagers, trying desperately to get that back piece finished in the tattoo chair, or headbanging at a rock show near her home in the San Francisco Bay Area! Stay Tuned for more Rock ‘n’ Romance.