Today I am so pleased to welcome R.L. Merrill to Joyfully Jay. R.L. has come to talk to us about her latest release, Typhoon Toby. She has also brought along an exclusive excerpt and a great giveaway. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!


Thank you so much for joining me today and special thanks to Jay for her support! If you’re new to my brand of Rock ‘n’ Romance, I’d love to tell you a little about myself and the Forces of Nature Series.

I’m a Bay Area girl, born and raised, and I’m also a mom, teacher, tattoo collector, and metal enthusiast. My early years were spent in front of a mirror…dancing. Whether I was in tap or jazz shoes—or even barefoot for Hula—I was always moving. I took classes five days a week and usually spent two to three hours a day at the studio. My mom drove the bus for the studio and sewed costumes to pay for my lessons. Tap was my favorite. I even got a detention in 7thgrade history class (Mr. Marazzo, RIP) for tapping my feet. The man asked, “what do you think you are, a tap dancer?” I replied that I was. Even back then I rarely knew when to keep my mouth shut to avoid trouble. I had been practicing my time steps under my desk to keep me focused.

Many years later, after college in Iowa and my first years as a high school teacher, I found myself in a summer theater program at a local university. I finally got to experience what it was like to be a part of a stage production, which was very different from a dance recital. I was able to choreograph a tap section for one of the numbers in the show, Kiss Me, Kate, and the next year, I helped out with a high school production of Crazy For You. I’ve always loved musicals and being able to participate fulfilled a dream I never knew I’d had.

Fast forward to 2016…I started writing this little story about a guy who’s a natural disaster when it comes to relationships but a ridiculously talented musician who’s just finished a run of his first Broadway musical.  He is ready to dive into the next show with his partner-in-crime, but complications arise when he decides to take on the full-time care of his beloved grandfather, who has Alzheimer’s, and his attraction to his grandfather’s caregiver. Writing Hurricane Reese started me reminiscing about dance and theater and I loved creating this world that’s now called the Forces of Nature series published by Dreamspinner Press. When Reese was finished, I was already percolating thoughts of what would come next. Naturally, his songwriting partner, Toby, the guy who keeps Reese in line and adds the flair to their arrangements, needed to have his mysterious story told. We meet him in Hurricane Reese just after he’s returned from a vacation fling in Bali, but his role in that story was as Reese’s support. In Typhoon Toby, his vacation fling, which was supposed to remain just that, is thrust back into his life and his carefully crafted world begins to fall apart. As the typhoon builds in strength, his mental health, as well as everything he and Reese have built, is threatened.

For you fabulous readers here at Joyfully Jay, I wanted to share an excerpt that gives you a glimpse of Reese and Toby’s friendship.


Toby sat in his living room and sighed as he looked out over the Santa Monica beach. Last night was full of firsts for him—first time he hadn’t gotten laid on New Year’s since he could remember, first time he’d been turned down, first time he rolled around fully clothed in the ocean with a beautiful man he was desperate for.

He took a long drag on his e-cigarette, determined to quit all of his other vices but still needing something naughty to do. This cartridge smelled just like the Hawaiian Tropic suntan lotion he’d enjoyed smearing all over Spencer’s fair skin. He had the most adorable freckles all over his back and even on his ass.

“So you ready to go over our schedule?” Reese said as he sat down with his laptop in the chair next to the couch where Toby sprawled. His living room was on the second level of the condo so he could see the beach without being too distracted by the passersby on the walk outside.

“How can you smoke that shit?” Reese said with a grimace. “It’s so unnatural.” Reese had brought out his own kit and was rolling himself a decent-sized joint. Toby laughed.

“Ah, I see. Well, my stoner friend, I’m committing myself to this clear-headed thing I thought we were doing—no booze, no drugs—but you can’t expect me to have not a single vice.”

Reese lit his joint and took a long drag. He handed it to Toby, who held up a hand.

“I’m serious! I need to be clear-headed as we go into this week. I’m done.”

Reese squinted at him. “What happened to you last night?”

Toby exhaled vapor rings and sighed. “I had an epiphany.”

Reese snorted and took another drag. “Is that why you were soaking wet and covered in sand? Sounds to me more like you fell in the water. Maybe you hit your head.” He laughed, and it turned into a fit of giggles that had Toby rolling his eyes.

“You’re going to be impossible to deal with. Now put that out. Seriously. I had an epiphany. I’m going to clean up my act and get my shit together. We’re going to make this show killer, and then I’m going to, I don’t know, do something with my life.”

Reese put out his joint between his fingers and sat back in the chair. “I thought we were doing something with our lives. Did I miss something? What the fuck are you talking about, Toby?”

“I’m just thinking ahead, you know? Maybe after this show I should do something of my own. Music? Or maybe I’ll even go back and finish my doctorate? Write the next great American novel? I don’t know. I…. Fuck, Reese, I’m nothing. I’m just a spoiled rich kid with half a brain and a little bit of talent. I want to be more than that. I’m proud of what we’re doing together, but I’m just along for the ride. If I don’t eventually find my thing, I’ll never be worth anything to anyone.” Toby picked a piece of lint off the couch beside him. Maybe he needed to add cleaning house to his list of shit to do.

“Toby, how can you say that? Ruby and Boy are just as much your projects as mine. We’re partners. How can you think—”

“The stories are yours. The music is yours. I’m just the condiment in this relationship. I love making music with you, and I don’t want to stop. I just think if I don’t do something on my own, I don’t know. I want to be somebody. Ha. Does that sound corny or what?”

Reese sat next to Toby on the couch and put his arm around his shoulders. “You don’t really believe that, do you? I couldn’t have done any of this without you. You’ve been my support ever since college. We wrote the album together, you co-wrote those songs for Melinda…. Toby, we’re partners…equal partners. You can’t eat a wiener without the relish anyway.” He pulled Toby in for a hug and wouldn’t let go.

Toby tried to push him off, but Reese wouldn’t let him go. “Did you just call yourself a wiener? Really?”

“Come on, Tobeeeeee. Sing with meeeee.” Reese began singing one of the songs from their first show, Ruby in Red Plaid, aptly titled “Sing With Me.”

“Ruby, baby, it’s your time to shine. Come home with me. Say you’ll be mine. Cuz tomorrow, baby, you never know, where that road will take us, where we’ll go.”

Reese moved to the piano and played the keys to the next verse. Toby sighed, cleared his throat, and prepared his falsetto.

“You’re right. It may be my time to shine. So why would I go with you, not leave you behind? Cuz tomorrow, baby, I’ll be a star, and I’ll forget you, wherever you are.”

They harmonized on the chorus. Toby sat on the bench next to where Reese had set up his keyboard.

“Whatever’s out there, wherever we stay, I’ll always remember, our time in LA,

Where nobodies line every corner every day.”

They finished the song, and Toby leaned his head on Reese’s shoulder. “We did alright, didn’t we?” he asked.

Reese kissed his hair. “We did. And we will—together. Because no matter what happens with Boy, you’re my partner. We’ll make it great together. Then, if you want to do something on your own, I’ll support you every step of the way, just like you’ve supported me. That’s what partners do. But whatever happens, dammit, this is just as much yours as it is mine, Tobias Solomon Griffiths. You aren’t the condiment in our partnership, asshole. You’re the glue, the support pillars, the four walls, the fucking bun. God, I don’t know. You make this work. You always have. Without you, I’d be getting high every day, surfing and living off Grandma’s money, playing in a garage band. You made me who I am as an artist.”

Toby sighed. He knew Reese was right, but there was just a part of him that wondered whether he’d ever feel worthy of the things he wanted.

“Can I get personal?” Reese asked.

“My hand is on your thigh, Reese. We’re pretty personal right now.”

He chuckled and reached over to turn off the power to his keyboard. “Is all this self-doubt and scrutiny because of a certain vacation fling?”

Toby groaned and put his head down on his arms—not so different a position from the night Toby listened to Reese pour his heart out about Jude.

“I suppose,” he finally said. He lifted his head and looked Reese in the eye. “He makes me want. He makes me want to be better than I am.”

“But Toby, why do you feel like that? Why are you suddenly doubting yourself?”

Toby got up and walked over to pick up his e-cig. He took a long drag and his eyes rolled back at the scent. “Because while I may seem like a total catch, I just keep thinking of all the fucked-up things I’ve done, and I don’t want to tarnish him. I want to be the kind of man who can date a therapist and be his equal, not a fucking college dropout who plays in a band.”

“Fuck you, Toby. You have a fucking Tony. You have a master’s degree. You’ve got a kickass house on the beach that’s fucking paid for. You just raised us a quarter of a fucking million dollars to put on our next show—in one night. Don’t give me this bullshit. This guy might be a therapist, but you’re brilliant.”

Toby let Reese run out of steam. Sure.That’s because I’ve kept so much about myself from you. I need you to think of me as brilliant and talented or else that’ll be it.


Forces of Nature: Book Two

On the surface, Toby Griffiths appears to have it all—talent, money, a brilliant mind, and model good looks. With his best friend, Reese, he’s built an empire as a singer/songwriter.

But beneath that glittering exterior, Toby suffers the lasting effects of abuse. To keep his tempestuous past where it belongs, he insists on anonymity with lovers—no names, no personal information. But a vacation fling in Bali changes all that, and he can’t get his recent playmate out of his mind.

Therapist Spencer Hart left Bali with a bad case of pneumonia and a broken heart. Although he’s recovering, he’s shocked to find his secretive partner on TV, and he’s determined to see him again. Spencer arranges to attend one of Toby’s fundraising galas, and their reunion is tense.

Toby tries to stick to his rules… until a New Year’s kiss with Spencer washes away the last of his resistance. But Toby is a man with secrets, and when the storm comes ashore, it could devastate not just his professional life but his fledgling love affair and his longtime partnership with his best friend.

Will Spencer stand by his side and help him weather the storm as Toby faces his worst fears?


Once upon a time… a teacher, tattoo collector, mom, and rock ’n’ roll kinda gal opened up a doc and started purging her demons. Several books later, R.L. Merrill is still striving to find that perfect balance between real life and happily ever after. You can find her lurking on social media where she loves connecting with readers, educating America’s youth, being a mom taxi to two busy kids, in the tattoo chair trying desperately to get that back piece finished, or head banging at a rock show near her home in the San Francisco Bay Area.


R.L. has brought a $10 Dreamspinner Press gift card to give away to one lucky reader. Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Wednesday, January 30th at 11:59 pm ET.

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FILED UNDER: Excerpt, Giveaway, Guest Post