GUEST POST ~ You Can Do Magic by R.L. Merrill #GuestPost #Excerpt #Giveaway


Who was Gavin West?

TW: Discussion of suicide

Greetings and thank you for joining me for the blog tour celebrating the release of You Can Do Magic: Carnival of Mysteries. I’m Ro and I love to write stories that stay with you, that make you swoon and shiver, and which are set in real life with a little woo woo sprinkled in for good measure. You might say it’s becoming my brand. In this case, I delve into the question of what happens after we die, and how do we go on when the person we love is gone? How do they continue to influence, inspire, and affect our lives?

It may seem strange to have a person’s death be mentioned in several books, but Gavin West and his death play an important role in the healing of the characters in the series. In the timeline of stories (Summer of Hush, Brains and Brawn, and now You Can Do Magic) Gavin West’s life ends two years before the books begin. Hush has just ended the Warped Tour in 2016, and, after a devastating breakup, Gavin makes the decision to end his life, leaving his best friends and Hush’s fans to grieve their massive loss. The books begin two years later and everyone is doing their best to carry on without the gregarious guitar player.

Here we have Brains from Hush describing Gavin for newcomer Kal:

Brains looked right at me and spoke. “Gavin West was a ray of sunshine and a cloudy day all wrapped up into one tiny human with golden-brown locks, a full beard, and stormy eyes that were often the only way for you to tell how he was really feeling. He was a brilliant guitar player, an empath, and a drama queen who wore his heart on his sleeve. Gavin and Silas were yin and yang, and it was my job to keep our band from going off the rails.

“We lived through his highs and lows with him, and after a particularly difficult tour, where his long-time lover broke things off with him, he went back to the apartment they’d rented together, and he left a dramatic scene for us to find.” Brains’s eyes filled with tears, though it was weariness I detected and not heartbreak when he spoke, as if he’d had time to accept the fate of his friend, and though he was heartbroken, he’d found a way to move on. 

“Fucking Gavin,” Ryan muttered, wiping at his own eyes.

In real-life chronology, we lost Scott Weiland, Prince, David Bowie, and George Michael within a year. Then in 2017, Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington were gone and my heart ached in a way I didin’t know how to deal with. How were we supposed to go on without our musical heroes? I needed to write about it, how best friends, families, lovers, and colleagues dealt with it, and it helped me heal. I feel like Gavin was the personification of what all of those heroes mean to me.

Will we learn more about Gavin? That remains to be seen, but in You Can Do Magic, you get to meet his witchy aunts and their coven (who I absolutely MUST write about) and you learn a little more about Gavin through his Ouija board. I’ll leave it at that. And there might be more. Okay I’m really stopping now. I’d love to hear from folks whether they want more Gavin, more Hush guys, more Ryan and Kal… Who do you love? Who do you want to see more of in future Ro books?

My first published novel Haunted was a contemporary romance featuring a tattoo artist who agrees to design a memorial tattoo for a metal band in the French Quarter. She lives with them as they work on their overdue album while grieving the loss of their manager. Maggie Boudreaux was such a larger than life character, that when Haunted was finished, I kept thinking about what happened to her after she died in a tragic accident. That led to my first published paranormal novella, Minded. In my world, Maggie became an Intervention Specialist in the Afterlife, traveling around the world with a grumpy punk rocker from the 1980s and helping people sort out the shit they left behind. That led to a whole bunch of contemplation about what happens when you die and a series of novellas.

I guess you could say that I’m as interested in the dead as I am the living, and I love to write about both, so who knows what I’ll get up to in the future? What are your thoughts? Reach out and tell me your theories, your imaginings, and maybe we can make sense of this together! You can always find me at My website is going through an overhaul, but you can find my books at

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…

You Can Do Magic
by R.L. Merrill

Series: Summer of Hush (Book 3) and part of the Carnival of Mysteries shared world. It is not necessary to read the earlier books in the series first, though it doesn’t hurt.
Release Date: Wednesday, September 27 2023
Publisher: Celie Bay Publications LLC
Cover Artist: Lyrical Lines
Primary Plot Arc: Romance
Length: Novel / 60,000 Words /287 Pages
Genres: Paranormal, Romance
Tropes: Time Travel, Hurt/Comfort, Proximity, fantasy, paranormal, Rock ‘n Roll, new release, announcement, MM romance, MM, gay, giveaway
Pairings: MM
LGBTQ+ Identities: Bi, Gay
Keywords/Categories: Gay Romance, Rock Star, Time Travel, Divination, Witches

Sometimes, you really can have everything you desire.


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

Series Blurb

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!


Chapter One

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. 

About the Author

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 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…

Author Links


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