April 30, 2016
Hello everyone, Jerry Sacher here to introduce myself and my newest release: Ocean of Secrets.
I’ve been interested in the Titanic and the people who sailed on board her since first grade, when I was first able to read A Night to Remember by Walter Lord; and for the longest time I wanted to write a Titanic novel of my own, a story of forbidden love on board the doomed ship. In Ocean of Secrets we meet Andrew Elliot, who is a first class passenger, and Matthew Ahearn, a third class steward.
Those were the days when men who loved other men where either imprisoned or forced into loveless marriages, which is exactly what brings our main character, Andrew, on board the Titanic. He is to visit America with his fiancee and her brother as chaperone. Everyone is impressed by the Titanic’s luxury and safety, but while he appreciates these things…. Well, I don’t want to give any spoilers here, so here’s a brief excerpt:
“Come on, jump and I’ll follow you!” Andrew shouted above the rumbling noise from all around them. Matthew held on to Andrew’s hand for a brief second, squeezing, as they gave each other silent encouragement. Then Matthew jumped.
Andrew watched him hit the water, which was now only a few feet below. He took a step off the edge of the deck and leaped. The water was bitterly cold, like a thousand knives being driven into his body. He could barely breathe, but he had to find Matthew. Andrew looked behind him as the lights blinked and went out and the ship towered above him in the darkness. People were jumping, splashing near him, crying out.
He thought he heard someone calling his name, so he swam toward the sound. He only got a few feet before he was showered with pieces of glass, wood, and scraps of metal and sparks; the screech of tortured steel drowned out all other noise, except the voice that persistently called his name.
An arm grabbed at Andrew and pulled him under, but he somehow managed to break free. He came up next to a collapsible boat with a handful of people huddled together inside watching the scene unfold in front of them. Andrew hung on to the side of the boat and followed their gaze.
The ship was breaking in half, sparks lighting up rooms laid bare, the two remaining funnels toppling over. He barely missed being whipped by a torn cable. The forward half of the ship plunged under the surface, sucking in ocean, people, and wreckage along with it. He felt the water pulling him backward, but strong arms grabbed him and drew him aboard the boat. He sat on the bottom and lay against another man’s body. Outlined in the darkness, he saw two men near him with boards, paddling the boat away from the ship. He looked from them back to the Titanic.
I hope you enjoyed that brief scene from Ocean of Secrets.
I was inspired to write Ocean of Secrets about two years ago when I read a book titled Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage, by Hugh Brewster. He gives a look into the privileged lives of the first class passengers on board the Titanic. In his book he introduces us to Frank D. Millet, a noted artist, whom you also meet in Ocean of Secrets. In a letter that he mailed to a friend from Queenstown (Cobh as it’s known today) he mentions “A queer lot of people”, and also that there were many of “Our kind of people” on board. He doesn’t name names, so they are lost forever; but another first class passenger named Archie Butt, the military advisor and friend to President Taft, was mentioned by Mr. Bewster as another gay man also in first class. He was devoted to his mother, he planned White House parties and other social functions, and he also had an eye for women’s fashion. (In a letter he goes into great detail about a female friend’s dress). It could be argued that those were just the times he lived in, when a man could be a mother’s boy without raising suspicion. We also meet him briefly in Ocean of Secrets.
Any information about them is lost to history; but in second class, a Mr. Fynney and his lover, a Mr. Gaskell, were also known to be on board. They were both lost in the sinking.
It was after reading Mr. Brewster’s book that I decided to write a novel about the Titanic. My original idea was to write about Archie Butt, the president’s advisor and friend. But like in any novel, the characters will want to tell their own story. So I set down a story about a romance between a first class passenger and a steward. Men from two different social backgrounds and experiences in those years before the Great War, when classes were segregated from one another, and loving anyone outside one’s own social circle was taboo.
Our main character, Andrew Elliot, is the son of a Scottish noble family. I have to admit that along with our other hero, Matthew Ahearn, he is one of my favorite characters. Like me, he’s bookish and sensitive, and he’s willing to sacrifice his own happiness to make others happy. Again, no spoilers here….
And now a word about the background of our villains: In the days of the great liners there were professional card players, and there were con-artists who worked in teams. A man and woman would be traveling together as brother and sister or a married couple. On the first day of the voyage they would befriend a man — of course, after finding out his financial and social situation from an obliging steward (they knew everyone’s business). Gradually, the woman would tell him tales or her cruel brother/husband/family, and appeal to him for help. He would be reluctant at first, but then she would show up at his cabin in tears/bruised, and the brother or husband would walk in and catch them. To avoid scandal they would oblige him to pay them for silence.
I really enjoy writing historic/romantic fiction. It involves a lot of research into customs, manners, language, and even music. During the writing of Ocean of Secrets, I listened to period music on a Victrola, which is another of my interests, to immerse myself in the 1912 frame of mind. The music is also available on Youtube, especially ‘Alexander’s Ragtime Band’.
Getting words and phrases correct was another issue. One of the words you will read in Ocean of Secrets is “Josser”, which is an Edwardian term for someone who is a fool/simpleton.
Now for a little about me: I currently live in Chicago with my husband Dean, and two rambunctious cats named Monty and Nicky. Perhaps an adopted child will be in our future. I’m interested in all things historical and collect books and antique phonographs. My favorite machine is a baby grand piano-shaped phonograph from the early 1920′s.
Ghosts and the paranormal are also other subjects that intrigue me. In Ocean of Secrets there are two ghost tales. One is told to Andrew by another passenger, and the second…. Well, again, no spoilers….
I have four other books available from Dreamspinner Press:
The Saint of San Francisco
The Rosary and the Badge
Fair In Love
I am definitely interested in writing another historic romance/fiction novel. Is there any time period/historic event you would like to see portrayed? Leave me a comment/question, and I’ll be happy to answer. The person with the best answer will receive an EBook of one my backlist titles!
Thanks for joining me for the release of Ocean of Secrets.
Check out Ocean of Secrets today!
Andrew Elliot, the son of a Scottish nobleman, is being sent to America, accompanied by his fiancée and her brother. But Andrew’s engagement is not a love match. His family insists that he marries to “cure” him of his feelings for the son of the caretaker on his father’s estate.
Matthew Ahearn leaves Ireland to pursue his dream of becoming a Texas cowboy. In London, a brush with the law almost derails his plans, but Matthew perseveres and lands a job as a third-class steward on a ship bound for America.
Andrew’s and Matthew’s worlds collide as they—and their secrets—are brought together in the magic of an ocean voyage, one that will never be forgotten.
The year is 1912, and they are about to board RMS Titanic….
April 29, 2016
Hi all! Charley Descoteaux here, to celebrate the release of the third book in my Buchanan House series, Tiny House! You might have read the first book, Buchanan House, and if so you’ve already met the heroes: Nathan and Paulie. If not, I’m giving away a free download of the audiobook so you can meet them! Stick around for the excerpt and find out how to enter.
One of the fun parts about writing a series is that I already know some of the characters, of not all of them. I’ve had the chance to hang out with them and get to know them during the writing process. Bringing a supporting character into a starring role and giving him his own HEA is like playing matchmaker for an old friend!
When I started Tiny House I knew Nathan fairly well but didn’t really know Paulie at all. Getting to know him was a lot of fun. At first I only saw him through Nathan and Eric’s eyes. They’ve all been friends for a long time, so that worked out well. But I don’t really get to know a character until I’ve written with their voice in my head so Paulie kept surprising me. Until one paragraph in Nathan’s POV.
Nathan drew his hand down Paulie’s arm and wove their fingers together. “Regardless of how it might look, your friends know you. I know you. So I know I don’t have to worry. I know you’re loyal to a fault. I know you say you love dance mixes, but your MP3 player is full of nineties music like Dave Matthews and Incubus. I know everyone called you PJ until your brother started calling you Paulie when you and his son were both little boys of seven, and I know the noises you make when you come.”
Part of my process when getting to know new characters is to find their music. I’d been searching for a soundtrack for Tiny House, music I could play to get in the right mood to write this story. I thought that would sound like the songs I’d danced to at the beginning of the 21 Century, but somehow it just didn’t feel right. As soon as Nathan told me what music Paulie really listened to, going back and filling in Paulie’s sections became much easier.
Here is my playlist for Tiny House, because it never would have come together without Paulie’s input.
Incubus Make Yourself
“When it Comes”
“I Miss You”
“Out From Under”
Dave Matthews Band Crash and Under the Table and Dreaming
I listened to these songs, in this order, over and over and over for the four months I lived in Nathan and Paulie’s heads. Which made it so easy to get into the right frame of mind for edits, or writing blog posts!
My mp3 player is filled with an eclectic mix of music (or maybe it only looks like it belongs to more than one person). I listen to Alice in Chains, Led Zeppelin, Vince Guaraldi, Metallica, Peter Frampton, Beethoven, Pearl Jam, Slipknot, and I have a list with my favorite jazz standards to soothe jangled nerves after an especially difficult day at work.
What music is on your iPod or mp3 player that would surprise your friends?
Spill, and you could win a free copy of the audiobook version of Buchanan House, the first book in this series!
While you’re thinking about how honest to be about your musical guilty pleasures, check out this excerpt from Tiny House. It’s not from the scene above because that’s too spoilery to share, but this one isn’t. This post was about Paulie so it seems fitting that the excerpt be from his point of view. He’s just finished helping Eric in the kitchen for a celebration at Buchanan House, and is ready for desert…
By the time Eric and Paulie finished the last of the evening’s work, Paulie had a nice buzz going. His thoughts had strayed to his own father whenever he’d had a free second, something which usually led to at least a drink or two. Paul Senior had been gone for nearly twenty years, but Paulie still missed him almost every day. He missed his kind and gentle nature and his quiet confidence as much as the way he’d seemed to have the answer to every question.
As he cleaned up, he smiled as a thought of his parents together came to the front of his mind. His father would enter the kitchen when Mom was working, wrap both arms around her waist, and ask if she’d been nipping into the cooking sherry. As far as Paulie knew, they’d never had any alcohol in the kitchen, so he eventually figured out that must’ve been some kind of code.
The lack of such codes in his own life weighted his shoulders, despite his overall good mood.
A sound startled Paulie from his memories, and he looked up to see Nathan, who was also nearing half drunk but still looked ravishing in his sixties-inspired outfit—orange pants with a subtle paisley print, topped with a simple blue silk shirt. Sometime during the evening he’d abandoned his shoes, and Paulie ached to run his foot alongside Nathan’s sand-smoothed arch.
“Have I told you lately how fabulous you are?” Nathan glided close to Paulie’s side and hugged him.
Paulie’s hands were wet, so he leaned into Nathan’s warmth for a moment.
Nathan held him out at arm’s length and grinned. His skin glowed with tan and with his buzz. Paulie knew the look in his eyes, even if he hadn’t seen it for a while. It made his heart race. “Tonight couldn’t have gone better. Everyone loved your mini s’mores desserts.”
“I’m glad. It was a fun party.”
Nathan’s flush crept from his cheeks, down his neck, and onto his chest.
Almost like when he’s coming.
“Let’s get out of here for a while.” Nathan grabbed his hand. They made it almost to the side door before he stopped. “Oh. Can you? I mean…. Can you?”
Paulie blinked. Between his fatigue (which didn’t bother him nearly as much as it had moments before) and Nathan’s special look aimed right at him….
“Or have you promised—”
“No. I can.”
Nathan’s posture relaxed immediately. He looked even more delicious than he had a moment before, and downright slinky as he cozied up to Paulie’s side. Nathan slipped an arm around his waist and applied gentle pressure to his lower back.
The door opened, and Paulie could only guess Nathan had opened it, because he couldn’t tear his eyes away from the triangle of bronze skin at Nathan’s throat, framed perfectly by the rich blue silk of his shirt. Paulie’s head practically spun with thoughts of the boathouse. Eric and Nathan hadn’t done anything with it yet—they’d been too busy to finalize a plan, let alone to turn Tim loose on it. As they slipped out the side door, Paulie remembered clearing a corner of the workbench so he could bend Nathan over it. Fucking Nathan while surrounded by the strangely charming scene of canoes, oars, and colorful antique glass floats hanging just below the ceiling, flashing colors around the dusty room, was one of his most revisited memories of the previous summer. It had been a long time ago, but the boathouse had seen enough action to become one of Paulie’s favorite places at the camp.
They’d only made it two steps across the porch when Paulie heard footsteps coming from the parking lot. The porch wrapped all the way around Buchanan House, but guests didn’t usually venture around the kitchen side. No reason for them to. There wasn’t really anything there, but the entire way around was well lit just in case. The crash of heavy footsteps came around the corner seconds before Paulie saw the men attached to it.
Nathan squealed in surprise and grabbed Paulie tighter.
The men didn’t notice them at first. They only had eyes for each other and seemed to be laughing about being lost. The pair stopped and pulled back a step when they first saw Nathan and Paulie, as though they expected trouble of some kind. Thankfully, they relaxed quickly. All four of them.
“Sorry, we’re looking for the beach. Where did it get off to?” The men leaned against each other and laughed.
Nathan kissed Paulie’s cheek and took a step away from him. His little smile held a big dose of regret, and Paulie nodded to accept his completely unneeded apology. “Let me show you.” Nathan waved them along. When Paulie turned to go back inside, Nathan took his hand and squeezed.
Paulie followed as Nathan led the couple around the building, down the wheelchair ramp, and through the backyard. Paulie hadn’t noticed the brick border separating the lawn from the flowerbed had been transformed into a path. He grinned, thinking about how little Nathan liked to wear shoes, despite the fact that he owned several dozen pairs. Paulie made a mental note to check out the new brick path in the light; in the dark backyard, lit with fairy lights and a few strategically placed solar yard lights, it made him think of a brick road a la The Wizard of Oz.
They’d almost reached the beach by then, and Nathan had started his story. The story he always told tipsy guests who wanted to go out to the beach. Especially at night. Nathan would remain with them until they came back off the beach, encouraging them to stay well away from the water. Nathan had told the story of how Eric had almost drowned to many guests with a daredevil bent. Since he left out the part about Tim saving him and the two of them falling madly in love, the story usually worked to keep drunken guests safe from the briny deep.
Thank you for reading!
If you’d like to read the whole story you can get your copy of Tiny House, Book #3 in the Buchanan House series, here:
Be sure and grab your free copy of Book #2 “Pride Weekend” here.
I have to keep the folks at the Evil Day Job happy but will be in and out as much as I can today, and throughout the weekend, to chat.
Random.org will choose a winner of the audiobook code for Buchanan House on Sunday evening (US Pacific Time). Have a great weekend!
Tiny House Blurb:
Pride weekend is over, but for Nathan Lucas, the summer is just heating up. He appears to have it all. He’s tall and blond, ripped and handsome, and half owner of Buchanan House, a successful gay retreat on Oregon’s beautiful central coast. But his joie de vivre hides a fear of abandonment. When he was twelve, his mother had triplets, and instead of the cherished only child, Nathan became a scapegoat for his exhausted parents, and he has never truly dealt with that pain.
Portland chef Paulie Nesbitt is head over heels in love with Nathan. They’ve been drinking buddies with benefits for years, while Paulie has not-so-secretly yearned for more. Paulie’s extra pounds and self-doubt have kept him from acting on his feelings. Their friends know they would make the perfect couple, but Nathan and Paulie will have to let go of past insecurities if they want a future together.
April 28, 2016
Hi, I’m S.C. Wynne and I wanted to talk about why I wrote Believing Rory.
“I guess I’m the stupid one for believing Rory.”
I woke up one morning with that line in my head. I don’t know where those words came from, but it started me thinking about all the things that might make a person say something like that. My brain went to suicide.
Suicide is ruthless. Suicide is brutal to those left behind.
But I think it’s sad that when someone commits suicide the natural result is every word they ever spoke and every promise they ever made comes into question. As if the only thing that mattered was their manner of death, not their life. Surely their life should mean far more?
The problem is suicide feels like a personal failure to those of us left behind. I think it’s our nature to think we could have done something to stop it. If we’d only been more loving, more alert. We take on the burden of that person’s death as if we actually were the ones who killed them.
My MC Lane struggles with all of these feelings when his best friend Rory takes his own life. He meets another friend of Rory’s, Baron, who is also devastated by Rory’s death. The two of them form an unlikely, romantic bond that was carefully orchestrated by Rory before his death.
I suppose by writing Believing Rory I wanted to show the struggle of those left behind, and perhaps reinforce that the way one dies can never erase who they were as a person.
Has your life been touched by suicide in any way? I’m willing to admit I had suicidal thoughts when I was younger. I’m thankful I never acted on them, but I remember those feelings very strongly. Did you ever suffer with depression or thoughts of harming yourself? Did anyone close to you struggle with suicidal thoughts?
Leave a comment and let’s discuss this sensitive topic. The two comments that resonate with me the most will win an ebook of their choice from my backlist.
Check out Believing Rory today!
Will Rory bring them together or stand between them?
Eighteen-year-old Lane Graham has always relied on his braver, more confident buddy, Rory. But Rory’s sudden suicide blindsides Lane and sends him into an emotional tailspin. How’s he supposed to start college in a few months feeling this damaged?
Baron MacDonald knew Rory from playing League of Legends together. He was always intrigued by Lane’s online presence, and Rory had promised to set them up. Now that Rory’s gone, Baron has to approach Lane on his own.
On the surface, Baron and Lane couldn’t seem more different. Baron is confident and serious, and Lane is guarded and uncertain. But it’s the pain beneath the flesh that binds these two souls together like barbed wire and cement.
April 22, 2016
Hi all! Charley Descoteaux here, to celebrate the release of my first free short with Dreamspinner! It’s also my first ever “Book #2” so I’m super excited! “Pride Weekend” is the second book in my Buchanan House series and is like an appetizer, a sexy little hors d’oeuvre to whet your appetite for next week’s release of Book #3, the full length novel Tiny House!
If you enjoy audiobooks stick around, I’m giving away a code for the audiobook version of Buchanan House, the first book in the series, to one random commenter on this post.
I’m always curious about how the stories I love came to be written so I thought I’d talk about what inspired me to write “Pride Weekend”. I’ve always been in awe of people with talent in the visual arts. How cool must it be to imagine something, create it physically, and have it look like your original vision—or better?! I’ve experienced this with knitting and crocheting, but it’s just not the same with writing.
When it came time to design a cover for Buchanan House I asked for L.C. Chase because I love her style and it fit well with the stories. I’m a huge fangirl and hope for the chance to work with all of my favorite cover artists! I told her the book was an angst-lite beach read and she came up with three different covers that were all wonderful—including the one that eventually became the cover for “Pride Weekend”. As soon as I saw it a story popped into my head fully-formed. I love it when that happens!
While I was planning out the Buchanan House series, I thought it would be fun to have a short or two about guests at the camp. A guest visiting for a long weekend would have a very different perspective on the camp, and the people who run it, than just about everyone in the first book. “Pride Weekend” is, of course, focused on the main characters Adam and Silas, but the camp doesn’t run itself. ☺ I hope you’ll enjoy seeing Nathan through the eyes of these two guests.
Here’s an excerpt where Adam arrives at the camp and gets an eyeful!
Getting dating advice from an aggregate news site didn’t seem like something to be proud of, but as I sat in my car, getting my first look at Buchanan House, I couldn’t find it in me to be embarrassed. I’ve never been much of joiner, nor had I any interest in the club scene. Or in downloading an app to my phone, where my nosy but well-meaning sister could accidentally-on-purpose find it. I’d considered forums before, but every other time had found a “reason” not to create an account. In short, circumstances had controlled the abysmal state of my love life almost since high school. When I came across the article disseminating the results of an online dating survey, including the URLs of a few sites I hadn’t heard of, it seemed particularly serendipitous.
Hoping “Polysemous24”—Silas—would show up eventually, I forced myself to stop acting like a creeper in the parking lot and go up to the house. My suitcase had wheels, but it wouldn’t be rolling on the gravel. Glad I’d packed light—because how many changes of clothes does one man need for three days, even if it is Pride weekend—I carried my things to Buchanan House. Clever. I’d liked the sound of it even before I read the article that practically said it was a gay, landlocked version of The Love Boat.
It didn’t seem grander in person, which was a little surprising considering the pictures online had been almost unassuming. Rustic and homey was more like it—a long, low building with only two floors, surrounded by trees, trees, and more trees. I like the outdoors as much as the next guy, but it was a relief to hear Madonna over the sounds of the ocean when I got close to the open front doors.
Okay, the only thing I like about the outdoors is…. Okay, I don’t like the outdoors.
But I was there, and this had been my idea in the first place, so I climbed the porch steps. The inside of the lobby looked like an old movie set from a time when travel had been treated as an event. I was warming to the whole plan even before the most gorgeous man I’d ever seen glided up to me and smiled as he looked me over. Compared to everyone else in view, I was seriously overdressed in my khakis and salmon polo.
“Hello, sweetheart,” he said and extended a hand. His grip was surprisingly firm for a man wearing purple pants, a pink feather boa, and nothing else. “I’m Nathan Lucas, your hostess with the mostest. And who might you be?”
“Adam. Adam Byron. I—I mean, we have a reservation.”
“Hello, Mr. Byron.” He winked and swished back behind the counter. He pulled an old-fashioned guestbook from behind the desk and put two keys with oval brass holders on top of it as he spoke. “Welcome to Buchanan House. You’re in room seven—that’s top of the stairs and to your left. Once you get settled in, come down and join the party. At least until your friend shows up.” He winked again and moved the book toward me an inch or two.
I had to remind myself what to do—he was so tall, tanned, and blond, my brain just stopped functioning for a few seconds. I signed my name where he indicated and read the name below: Silas Grant.
Mr. Lucas asked if I wanted to take both keys with me.
“Um, no thanks. I might take a walk on the beach before Pol—Silas gets here.” My ears felt like they’d burn off my head because I’d almost called Silas by his online handle instead of his name. Not that I thought I was the only gay man to ever meet someone online… but I might be the only one who was meeting that someone for the first time at a gay retreat three hours from home.
Nathan pressed the key into my hand and closed my fingers around it. I hadn’t noticed him coming back around the counter, but he practically floated instead of walked, so I let myself off the hook for that one. “If you want to have a drink first, we’re having appletinis and rainbow Jell-O shots. Don’t be shy. If there’s anything I can do for you, Adam, let me know.” He looked me over and might have even nodded before turning and sashaying away in the direction of the music. A smattering of cheers and applause greeted him as he passed into the next room.
After I’d made the reservation, I’d received an e-mail outlining all the festivities planned for Pride weekend—both at Buchanan House and in Lincoln City. I’d missed the kick-off party on Thursday and almost hoped I would be too busy to attend the indie film screening scheduled for Sunday evening. Apparently, the “Come as You Are” party was in full swing. The open floor plan allowed a view of a dozen or so scantily clad men, most with drinks and small plates in their hands, or dancing. Every last one of them was worth at least a second look.
I felt a little winded from the whole exchange and was suddenly glad the room was only one floor up. It surprised me by turning out to be even more beautiful than the pictures, with a stone fireplace, large bed, and a daybed. The colorful garden beyond the back window and the place where the river met the ocean appeared inviting enough, but I wasn’t there to appreciate the flora. I was counting on the fauna downstairs to make the weekend memorable.
If I could work up the courage to go back down.
First I unpacked and changed into shorts and a red T-shirt. And then I changed into a green tank top. I was about to pull it off and try another style and color when someone knocked on the door. As I crossed the room, my heart pounded fast in my throat, then felt like it stopped when I pulled the door open.
Thanks for reading! “Pride Weekend” is free so don’t forget to grab your copy—just click here.
If you’d like a chance to win a copy of the audiobook version of the first book in the series, Buchanan House, leave me a comment and leave an answer to this question: What color is your feather boa?
Mine would be purple, shot through with tinsel!
I’ll be back again next Friday to celebrate the release of Tiny House, with another audiobook code to give away. Hope to see you there!
I’ll be back throughout the weekend to chat, and on Sunday evening (US Pacific Time) to choose a winner from the comments.
Speaking of free fiction, I’d like to invite you to my group on Facebook. It’s called Rainbow Snippets, and every Saturday morning (Pacific Time in the US) I pin a post for writers, authors, and bloggers of LGBTQ+ fiction to leave links to their 6-sentence snippets. You can see a sample on my blog here, and if it sounds like something you’d be interested in we’d love to have you join us. The more the merrier!
April 20, 2016
When I was young, I was informed that writing wasn’t a career. It was a hobby, a thing you did when you happened to have some time from doing your Real Life. Going to college. Getting a job. Getting married, having kids. Being “normal”.
It cannot be a surprise that ‘normal’ was never on my list of personal descriptors. I thought I wanted to do the college thing, though it did not hold my attention too terribly well. I knew I wanted a career—that was what I’d been told to do in order to be successful. I was ambivalent about marriage, and terrified of children.
And here I sit in a coffeehouse with a Macbook—what in the world has happened to the old Computer Science major—trying to decide how to interact with strangers who think that my writing is valuable. That this story I’ve painfully eked out despite my past, my thoughts, my fears, is something they find entertaining. I just have to say, you, dear readers, are amazing. Without you, so much of worth would be lost. Thank you.
My name is Sera Kane, and today I am proud and honoured to introduce you to my novella Lord of Hearth, Lord of Hollow.
When I originally lurked around on DSP wondering if I dared to try, I was caught by an anthology call. For cooking type things. Something of which I know essentially nothing about. My spouse is the chef in our household. I’ve failed at boiling water.
No. Seriously. He had to take over. And, yes, the water did start boiling for him, almost immediately.
It would be a challenge, then. A challenge to write a story that tied into cooking. I could tap into my spouse’s knowledge, though, and, really, that’s where the recipe at the end came from. A challenge to write under a deadline. But I am lackadaisical at best when it comes to scheduling, so a deadline would force me to work at a steady pace. A challenge to write for the sole purpose of trying to get it published.
It was the last that I most feared.
LoH is a story of two men hiding from their fears. Aimes Cully is a full-blooded human, something unusual in a world where ‘fae’ blood has diluted the world. When his brother—and only surviving family member—disappears after being accepted as a chef at the palace, Aimes sets out to be accepted, too. But magic is possible through one’s fae heritage, so Aimes must find other ways to make up for his lack and that includes chancy raids into faerie rings.
Fae. Faerie. Elf. So many misnomers for his kind, the Elfaegaard, and very little truth of his ancestry remains among the humans, mixed blood or not. Keanewyeth Ordioral, however, is unaffected by any of these could-be slurs, for he is the lord of his own hollow. A cursed hollow. He is a prisoner within the home of his own lands. For two centuries, Keane has been trapped here with no opportunity for escape. He cannot leave and none come and so, he’s been alone. Until a particular human is captured attempting to plunder one of his hollow’s rings, and, suddenly, Keanewyeth is reminded of the outside world and all that he has been locked away from, not the least of which is the love of another.
As their pasts cross, Aimes must come to terms with the truth of his family, and Keane must confront his so that they have a chance to overcome their fears and emerge into a brighter future, together.
Aimes and Keane are gentle reminders that we can reach beyond our current circumstances to find better things. Not just running wildly in any direction, like Aimes, or hiding like Keane, but with focused purpose. You are not defined by your circumstances, no matter how easy it is for others to try to do that to you. You are valid and worthwhile, exactly as you are.
It’s so easy to let fear decide our reactions to things, but it doesn’t have to be a wall keeping us from our hopes and dreams! When is a time that you’ve used fear to motivate you to accomplish your goals? Is there a time you overcame your fear to do something anyway? Or even a time when the fear kept you from doing it?
One thing you don’t need to fear, though, is boredom! I’m pleased to announce an exclusive giveaway. One lucky traveler will be chosen to receive a copy of Lord of Hearth, Lord of Hollow. Your entry fee is merely to comment here! I need a chance to meet you, after all! We can talk about fears, cooking, writing, anything you’d like. I’m happy to answer questions or just shoot the breeze. So, dear travelers, let’s meet!
Check out Lord of Hearth, Lord of Hollow today!
Culinary school is hard enough for Aimes Cully without mixing in an utterly underwhelming physical appearance—too small, too delicate, too red-haired, too freckled, too human—added with the inability to magically improve the food—still too human—and facing the too beautiful, too fae-looking Aleksi’s teases and taunts. When rumors surface that Aimes’s older brother’s success is a lie, Aimes is determined to prove them wrong and show that pure-blooded humans are the equal of anyone with mixed blood.
But things get worse after Aimes is caught in a faerie ring and transported to the fae hollow of Lord Keanewyeth Ordorial. As the attraction heats up, it becomes obvious that there’s something wrong in the magical home. A cursed creature appears, and everything becomes jumbled as the secrets of their lives collide into a painful concoction of Aimes’s past and Keanewyeth’s present. But if they can meld their talents, they might be able to save each.
Sera Kane has loved the written word for essentially forever, in this particular case, somewhere in the range of thirty years or so. She writes to share the fantastical things that go on in her mind on a daily basis. Her secret-but-not-so-secret desire is to write pieces that are impossible to put down. And, also, to kill off a beloved character. She has not succeeded at either of these things, but be warned that she wants to!
She currently lives in southern California, but she’s been quite a few places in her day! Her favourites include Washington– the state, not DC– Texas, and Japan. Her house is filled by an exceedingly tall husband, a very swift son, a derpy German Shepherd, and a grumpy yet loving Shih-Tzu. If she ever won the lottery, she’d have houses in all three of those places and breed Shepherds in at least one of them.
April 11, 2016
Hello! My name is Dolce and I’m a fiction writer. My new contemporary romance novel, Escapade, will be released on Monday April 11, 2016 by Dreamspinner Press. I’m very excited to meet you, and truly hope that you enjoy Escapade!
I started writing fan fiction around nine years ago as a hobby during the summer between undergrad and graduate studies. I was working a telemarketing job to pay the rent (and support my diet of cheap white wine and chicken souvlaki from the nearby greasy spoon) and found myself with a lot of free time. Writing was a fun way to be creative and get some scenes out of my head. It also brought me to a fandom community that was supportive and caring, where I met many dear friends that I am still close with to this day.
I have a background in theatre and music. My writing started very script-like—very barebones. My style has grown through the years, but I still tend to prefer simple. I write in a way that mimics, in my mind, the eye of a camera or the view of an audience. We live in a world where most watch television and films regularly, and I definitely try to tell stories in a similar style. Luckily, the wonderful editors at Dreamspinner helped me get some of my floating limbs and eyeballs under control!
Escapade was inspired by my own summer reading experiences. When I was younger, I would stock up on romance paperbacks from the library before I went on vacation. There were many different genres and scenarios, but the pairings were only men with women—no same sex couples. I wanted to write a romantic comedy that featured two men falling in love in an exotic, beautiful location with lots of adventure and fun. It might sound silly, but it’s always been a dream of mine to have my book published and available in an airport bookstore. Maybe someone who feels left out by the standard romance novel pairings on the shelf would pick up my book to read on vacation.
Escapade is light and something to read at the beach, but also tackles realistic issues people face. Loneliness, the prick of discomfort you feel when you’re single amongst couples—even if you don’t want a relationship, balancing your personal and professional life, and growing into adulthood with your family.
The main character, Lucas, deals with all of those things. He is wealthy and successful, but in the eyes of his family, he’s still just Lucas. The secondary main character, the charismatic Jack McQueen, deals with the same issues, though he comes from a completely different place compared to Lucas. My hope is that in reading Escapade, readers see both characters growing together to conquer loneliness with love, laughter, and kindness.
I wrote Escapade over the course of about five months. It began in a writing challenge where a friend prompted me to write a story about someone needing a date for their ex-boyfriend’s wedding. I didn’t give myself any sort of word count goal per day, though I knew that this was going to be novel-length based on the journey I wanted the characters to go on.
Escapade came at a time when I was about to make a jump from working two time consuming jobs to one that had more of a freelance vibe. Something in my gut told me I should move on to the freelance job to free up time for writing. Looking back, I’m so, so happy I did it!
Research for Escapade was fun! Not to spoil anything about the plot, but I had a chance to write luxurious accommodations and activities that I’ve never included in my other stories. I’m a foodie and love incorporating cooking/meals into my stories. It was cool to learn that, if you vacation in the Bahamas, you might drink Kalik beer or eat fresh conch. Now I just need to manage a beach holiday of my own!
Music plays a huge role in Escapade. I love soundtracks and while I wrote Escapade, I listened almost exclusively to music from the eighties. Something about that era of music fit with Escapade. Fun, sexy, a bit silly—songs that when the DJ throws them on, you know all the words (even if you’re a bit tipsy) and want to dance. Here is a link to a playlist I made while writing, that includes lots of songs from my process:
Strangely enough, when I was editing Escapade, I listened to a mix of pieces from the Star Wars soundtracks, especially “Rey’s Theme” “Cantina Band” and “The Imperial March.” I have no idea where that mix came from, but I listened to “Rey’s Theme” for hours on end while editing in a café. Maybe that’s why one of my next planned projects has to do with a futuristic world!
All this talk about music and the beach makes me want to go on holiday. Please leave a comment with your favorite song (or songs) that you would put on a vacation playlist for a chance to win an Escapade eBook! I will randomly pick the winner in three days. My choices would definitely include some tropical Duran Duran (much like the Escapade soundtrack), along with the Beach Boys and Weezer.
Thank you for taking the time to read my guest post! I hope you enjoy Escapade!
Check out Escapade today!
Twenty-nine-year-old Lucas Thompson is at the top of the corporate ladder. But when his lifelong friend and ex-boyfriend invites him to his last-minute destination wedding in the Bahamas, Lucas realizes his corporate success can’t hide his private loneliness. Nor will he be able to escape seeing his family at the wedding—and having to explain, yet again, why he’s rich, handsome… and still single.
Fate and a taxi ride change everything when Lucas meets the charismatic and clever Jack McQueen, who just so happens to be a male escort. Jack’s presence on Lucas’s arm at the wedding keeps questions at bay, but their pretend relationship turns into something more after ten days of sun, sand, and sex. And before the trip is up, both men will discover that what started as a simple escapade in paradise might just lead to their very own happily ever after.
Dolce is a twentysomething New Yorker who loves to write, cook, sing, and laugh. She got her start writing fan fiction and is excited, and a touch frightened, to make the jump to original fiction. She is a big fan of the band Muse, who inspired her to choose a single word for her pen name: DOLCE. Plus, Cher has the one name thing going for her, too. Everyone loves Cher.
March 28, 2016
Hello! Skylar, here. Thanks for being here with me today as I release my new book, Close to You.
Last year at the Dreamspinner conference, I sat next to fellow author Eli Easton. When she asked me what new things I had planned for 2016, I immediately mentioned wanting a book with a best friends and a hurricane. Not sure if Eli would even recall this conversation, but I’m thrilled that a year later Close to You succeeded in fulfilling these goals!
When it came to writing a hurricane, I only had to draw on personal experience. For better or worse, I have been through several hurricanes since moving to South Florida.
Behind the book interesting fact: when I wrote the hurricane scene in Close to You, an actual hurricane warning was in the area. Yikes! And yeah, for my next novel, two characters are definitely winning the lottery!
I wanted to capture what it is like to wait out a hurricane. One of my editors, who lives in England, found this pretty fascinating and kept wanting more details. For me, I simply love the man vs. nature idea. Add to this, two best friends who are having trouble with each other, and it was a great to force them together. Coincidentally, this falls into another favorite trope of mine— stranded together. My idea was that the hurricane brewing outside their home matched the hurricane brewing internally between Tomas and Marc. But the weird thing about tropes is they often lead to other ones. This was the case in Close to You.
Confession: I LOVE the friends-to lovers trope! Love! And I have done different versions of this trope before, The Only Guy or Five Ways a Boy Can Break Your Heart come to mind, but in Close to You my goal was to take the trope even further.
Because Tomas and Marc are not just best friends now, they are best friends from middle school. Having the friendship have its roots so far back really shaped the present day conflicts in the book. I allowed the novel to explore the past fully in order to understand what motivated Tomas and Marc. Digging that deeply into their childhood was like digging for gold. Every time I would uncover a nugget, I would squeal with excitement. Add to it the sexual chemistry between the guys in their present lives – and POW—emotional treasure.
In real life my childhood best friend and I have lost touch. We stayed friends for over twenty years, but distance and different interests eventually drove us apart. Still, as I write this, I feel a pang of sadness. I might go and contact her. Because although our friendship can’t be the same and I know it, I still love her and will always love her for being my first friend.
As for Tomas and Marc, they found their way home. This was a complex book to handle, but it is also a book that I’m extremely proud of completing. Tomas and Marc fought for their happily ever after. They told me time and time again —-their happiness mattered. Many outside forces tried to pull them away from each other, but it was their friendship that brought them back.
Close to You is about hope for me.
Question: Tell me about your best friend from childhood
Giveaway: Book of choice on my backlist
Check out Close to You today!
It’s hard to recover from a first love. Some people never do.
How hard would you fight to keep your best friend? Marc Lucas and Tomas Santos have been best friends forever, but now their friendship is in a crisis. When they were boys, betrayals ripped their world apart. They thought it was fixed, but some parts remained broken. Ever since he saved him from a humiliation at school, Marc has loved Tomas. The last thing he expects is for Tomas to love him back. To keep his best friend, Marc revisits an abusive past he’s tried to forget.
For Tomas, loving Marc has been anything but easy. His upbringing told him it was wrong, so why did it feel so right? Accepting who he is as an adult, Tomas decides he needs a committed relationship. To his deep sorrow, he can’t seem to find it with Marc.
When the two find themselves alone and in the grip of a hurricane, long-buried feelings emerge. Being “just friends” is no longer an option. They must risk it all on love.
March 24, 2016
Hello you fabulous readers. I’m Amberly Smith and I’m here to tell you all about my latest novel Waking Jamal, out tomorrow. Plus, giveaway!
You are what you read?
If that were true I’d be super sexy and adventurous and burden with too much angst. Which isn’t true. Yet as a writer, I believe what we read influences what we write. My critique partner Valerie Roberts writes Sci-Fi Romance where the women are complete kick ass and rescue the hero. So when I thought about writing my first sci-fi book, Waking Jamal, I was dealing with serious bleed-over from reading her stories. But unlike Valerie who has a science degree and experience working in a lab, my science experience and knowledge of technology comes from Star Trek, Firefly and Scalzi’s Red Shirts.
Which makes it a bit overwhelming to tackle a whole futuristic novel. Yet Sci-Fi isn’t about just science. It’s about exploring radical ideas, human ideas like race equality and sexuality and uncharted parts of the universe and the deep, deep ocean. Looking in areas that haven’t been explored before. Finding familiar in the unknown. Right up my favorite alley.
I also had heavy influence from all the shifter romance I was reading at the time. Shifter Romance is the bomb diggety. Love me some aggressive, alpha, omega dynamics. Get downright giddy over pack angst. So it is no surprise that Waking Jamal has similar concepts in it.
Here’s the Blurb:
Their physical and mental survival depends on them bonding.
Jamal Zumati joins the military, determined to repay the country that fed and housed him. But during his Hamask activation, his senses go offline and he enters a berserker rage. The United States Hamrammr Program, or USHP, has only one option: put him into hibernation.
Despite his extraordinary ability to read and manipulate situations, Vargr Lt. Rum Walker has stepped on one too many brass toes, and the USHP demoted him back to teaching new candidates. Rum is one paranoid thought away from self-destruction when he is recruited for a covert mission: pull Jamal from hibernation.
The problem is, no one has ever survived a berserker fury—at least not officially. If Rum is to challenge the military stereotypes, he’ll not only need to wake Jamal—he’ll need to get him to agree to bond as a Hamra Pair, the ultimate supersoldier team.
When Jamal and Rum team up with an FBI Hamra Pair to stop the terrorist group Dios Provee, Rum thinks he’ll show Jamal their true potential lies in an equal partnership, but Jamal is convinced Rum should take the lead. Will Rum stop Jamal from going berserk again and destroying both of their futures?
Waking Jamal isn’t standard science fiction because reading Scalzi, Roberts, Collins, Le Guin doesn’t make me a scientist. It doesn’t have shape shifting because Calmes, Vaughn, McCallister and Singh have done it and done it well. It’s happily a blend of genres, just like me.
If books really were a reflection of us, what would you be? Leave your answer in the comments for a chance to win a book from my back list. Also, I love to hear from readers. Find me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or my website.
Check out Waking Jamal today!
HAVOC Class, 2097
ACTIVATION FOR Jamal Zumati started on a Thursday morning. He ate with the others, then gathered his rations and gear and hiked to the farthest shed. The US military insisted on some of the antiquated practices of the early aboriginal tribes in order to bring his abilities online; isolation, little to no food or sleep, and meditation. The hardest part of his training had been the goddamn meditation.
You want a former Adderall-dependent guy to focus by sitting quietly and not thinking about anything? So not going to happen. One of the cadre had finally suggested yoga. The poses allowed him to focus on the strain, the heat generating from each muscle, rather than the mind-numbing silence.
The military either ignored the other historical aspects or felt they went a bit too far, voodoo and wives’ tales. So no eating mushrooms, bloodletting, or purging. Which was all fine and good, except being the farthest out meant he went last, and those mushrooms would have at least kept him from being bored.
He spent the week stretching his mind and body.
Some couldn’t handle being alone this many days. For Jamal, it felt like the first couple of weeks at a new group home. You got your bearings, established which of the kids were the bully, the narc, and the druggie, and then you shored up and tried to make it to school each day. There was always food at school.
Jamal kept to himself until the second time the foster had to enforce a rule. The first time they’re on their best behavior, so you don’t get the real picture. Second time, though, when they go apeshit, vein pulsing in their neck, that’s when you see the real them.
Wednesday morning, the sweat dried on Jamal’s chest as he held his sun pose then eased down to upward-facing dog. He heard them activating someone just down the hill: the sound of stomping boots and tears instead of the buzz of insects and the occasional rustle of an animal scurrying past. Maybe it was one of the girls, or a guy who had hung his masculinity on being a bear and knew instantly that he was a wolf. Bear or wolf—it made no difference to Jamal. He had a duty to his country. It had supported him through his whole life: paid his medical, bought his food, provided for his schooling. Now he would pay with his muscles or his mind. He’d act honorably and serve the people.
He placed his forehead to the smooth wooden plank and let the tension wash out the tips of his fingers as he took the balasana or child pose. It was finally silent again outside. Jamal’s ribs slid around loosely, his chest full of liquid heat, revved up to take on this vital step.
As the activation team entered his shed, Jamal stood and saluted his senior officers, no longer self-conscious about his nudity.
He moved to a parade rest and surveyed the team: four military police, a nurse, a doctor, and Captain Chakosky. Chakosky was a Vargr and would be on hand to help with grounding Jamal if he activated as a Hamask. Chakosky was round of face, his size equivalent with Jamal’s broad shoulders, but Chakosky was rather soft for Special Forces. Genetics could still snuff gym effort.
“Are you ready?” The doctor’s eyes were bloodshot, his clothes creased in odd places.
They must have worked through the night and had one more to activate before they could call it a day. What, they couldn’t be bothered to dress up for the occasion? Jamal had on his birthday suit, so dress blues should at least be required for everyone else.
“Sir, yes sir.” Jamal sat on a wooden chair—the solitary piece of furniture was older than the shed—and stared straight ahead while they prepared his skin.
As he activated, Chakosky was the first thing he was aware of. The man stood in front of Jamal and had his hands clasped as if in prayer.
Jamal pushed the sickness in his stomach down.
There was a medical tray holding the empty vials and the thirty acupuncture needles, a few tipped with red. Jamal’s eyes felt dry and he reached up to rub at his eyelashes. His nails felt like metal files tearing at wooden lashes. Shit, what have they done to my eyes? He flattened his palm against his cheek and eye socket to gently, slowly rub away the debris. His dry, coarse fingertips shredded his skin like a cheese grater. Tears poured down his cheeks.
God, this is embarrassing. Fuck, yes, it hurts, but I’ve had worse.
Tears were a sign of weakness. Tears made you a target. He just needed to pull himself together. Just give him a minute to calm down, to process.
Chakosky took a step toward him. No. He held up a hand to ward the man off. He just needed another minute.
That wolf shouldn’t be touching me. Shouldn’t be in my territory.
The abraded skin itched, and Jamal staggered to his feet as he scrubbed with his fingernails. He was definitely a Hamask, could even feel the increased power in his arms and thigh muscles. His touch was all haywire, but realization felt distant, almost separate of self.
Chakosky took another step toward him and Jamal raised both hands to hold the Vargr off. “Just give me a minute.”
Something was wrong—his hearing was normal. Not all his senses had come online. That would be okay, no surprise to learn he was subpar at even this.
The nurse pulled out a brown bottle, and as she unscrewed the lid, the smell—lavender and rice starch in rancid water—made Jamal jerk his head back and stumble toward the wall, bile rising in his throat. He bumped into someone and his skin recoiled and shot with pain. “Stay the fuck back,” he whispered to the MP. Stupid jock was going to mess this all up.
They needed to clean the activation away. Left unattended, the chemicals would fry his neural synapses. Shit, he couldn’t focus around the pain. As the nurse advanced, an MP and Chakosky stepped up to take hold of his arms. Caustic bile churned in Jamal’s throat at their repulsive touch and he dry-heaved.
Hold on, you can do this. They’d clean him up, give him fresh water, and then he’d head back to the base with Chakosky keeping him grounded. That was how all activations were supposed to go. Except, even with the Vargr touching him, he wasn’t leveling out. Physical contact should help. “What’s happening?”
He tried to push Chakosky away and realized his fingers were smeared with blood. Had he cut himself on the wooden chair? Moisture dripped from his chin, and a red splotch smeared like oil over water on his chest. Not tears. Blood.
His hearing kicked in at the same time that a deep feeling of hatred, so hot and bright that he closed his eyes, poured through his bones. They had done this to him. Come in with their bullshit B game, used crap chemicals, and blundered around like idiots. Damn them. “Stop. Don’t.”
LT. RYAN “Rum” Walker could tell the men and women filing down the aisles of the lecture hall were ensigns, privates, cadets, and seamen. They looked like kids, and they had yet to develop that ramrod posture that came with any service past basic. The uniforms—standard issue and for the most part unadorned—told the same story. But being faced with their youth was another slap to his recently demoted face.
He waited for the creak of wooden seats and the quiet murmurs to settle down. His psych and anthropology training divided the room into Myers-Briggs subtypes and recognized those whose body language showed either confidence or secrets. A human map stretched across the tiered rows of wooden seats. With 78 percent accuracy, he could identify those who would be good wolves or bears, who had lied to get here, and who would kill to stay. Those were the things he should be teaching. How to read people. If they were going to pull him from the field because of insubordination, let him teach candidates actual battle-ready techniques, something useful. Instead they assigned him this propaganda bullshit they spoon-fed all the newbies.
Rum had a lesson planned, just not the one the brass were expecting.
As he stepped into view, someone called out “Attention!” They jumped to their feet, and Rum returned their salute. “As you were.” They settled back in their chairs and he let his voice fill the hall.
“My name is Lieutenant Walker. Welcome to HAVOC.” He then clicked the old-fashioned wireless remote in his palm.
“Hamask and Vargr Operations Center” projected on the forward wall. There were a few murmurs, and a girl in the front row, her hair tightly braided, shifted in her seat. Her eyes weren’t the only ones that gleamed.
“This morning I will give you a brief summary of what we do at HAVOC and answer any general questions you may have. You will then be divided into groups, where you will watch an in-depth video on the Hamrammr initiative, and then you’ll choose.”
He let the silence draw out. “Choose to be activated or… choose the blue pill. Choose to return to your current posting.”
When they got a Hamask to do the morning introduction for potentials, it turned into parlor tricks. Who used which soap that morning? Which male had masturbated in the last twelve hours? They’d have the class write something down at the room’s farthest corner and then the Hamask would read it. The instructor might even tell you the type of fabric you were wearing. Hello! We’re in uniform. The last one even Rum could do.
Rum squinted at them, glaring the murmurs back to quiet. He tilted his head to one side, leaning his right ear toward the noise, and took an audible sniff.
As a Vargr, his enhanced skills didn’t involve his senses, but his abilities were always in play. Hard to turn off, in fact. If there was a sleep mode for his brain, he sure hadn’t found it yet.
Rum clicked the remote again. Pictures of men and women, often in uniform, always in pairs, slid by on the screen. There was official verbiage on what, exactly, he was supposed to say. However, if he were any good at following orders, he wouldn’t be here.
He lowered his voice, knowing the microphones around the stage would carry to the full room just fine. “You are each here because you have potential. Your ASVAB scores and DNA indicate that you could be activated as a Bear or a Wolf. ‘You’re a wizard, Harry.’” He wasn’t surprised when no one laughed. Sometimes it took people a minute to warm up to him. “Half of an elite fighting pair. Pairs like—” He paused the screen on two female doctors. “—Dr. Janis McCarthy and Dr. Lynn Ladd. Hamask McCarthy is a renowned heart surgeon and Vargr Ladd has revolutionized the organ transplant process.”
He liked using this particular example because it showed possible endgames for those who wouldn’t become career military, and because McCarthy and Ladd weren’t in a traditional bonded relationship.
It would have been nice to include a picture of the FBI pair Bur-Longwei, but that suggestion had been nixed pretty damn high up the food chain.
He clicked the remote again and the screen displayed a new pair. The man and woman stood in front of their WREAC team—War Reconnaissance Extraction Assault Corps. “WREAC and HAVOC. Hamask Tidsdale and Vargr Lange are in the foreground with WREAC Team 3, instrumental in saving thousands during last year’s tsunami in Hawaii.”
A dark-skinned airman with soft eyes scoffed.
Rum snapped an index finger in his direction. “Skepticism. Good. But tell me, Airman…?”
The airman was slightly older than average, tall, broad shouldered. He stood upon being addressed. “Sir, Adayo, sir.”
“Airman Adayo. Why did you assume the woman was Vargr Lange?”
Adayo’s eyes widened, and then he swallowed. “Sir, I—”
Gawd, I love bein’ right. “Unvarnished truth, please.”
“Sir, I reacted to my programmed cultural expectations on gender roles. I assumed that the woman would be the Vargr and the man would be the Hamask. I know that is not always the case.”
And that was why Adayo was here. Because he was smart enough to see his own shortcomings. Rum nodded in acknowledgment, and Adayo reclaimed his seat.
“Less than 25 percent of Hamrammr initiates are women. Though when they make it through training, women have a slightly higher success rate of activation.” Which meant the most common Hamra Pair was two guys. He’d let them do the math.
He clicked to the next picture, a more stereotypical pairing. “This Hamra Pair both specialize in weapons and demolition.” The picture showed the two out in the field and heavily camouflaged, the Hamask distinctive with his bare hands. “A more… traditional team. Currently in deep assignment tracking Christian extremists in South America.”
He explained that those who stayed would face twelve intense weeks of physical and mental training. He highlighted the different military occupational specialties each successful Pair could be assigned to. He sprinkled in a few obscure references to old cultural evidence of Hamrammrs or those with the potential to change into Hamask and Vargr, including how the pair became two halves of a superserum soldier, i.e., Captain America.
“By the end of today, once you make the second-toughest decision, you’ll be housed in coed barracks with your fellow potentials.”
Rum did not talk about bonding, though he identified five of them who practically quivered to ask about it. He did not cover the activation process, though he strongly believed it was something they should know before making the decision to stay. He didn’t warn them of the political bullshit that came with activation. Only a third of the candidates would make it through training, and only half of those would successfully activate. Maybe ten people in this room would become part of a sanctioned, bonded pair.
He turned off the old projector. Military budget restrictions had curtailed the crazy spending that was so rampant fifty years ago, but this ancient tech was sad. At least the mission rooms had holo sets.
“Things you probably all know, but just to be thorough. Hamask and Vargr always work in pairs. Hamask, also called bears, learn to use their senses and strength. Vargr, the wolves, act as a guide, provide a baseline for the chaos bears live in.” That was an oversimplification if he ever spouted one, plus it didn’t explain the heightened speed Vargrs gained in reflexes and mental processing. “Feel free to ask questions, but for the sake of time, please do not stand.”
There were a few chuckles at this. Now to see if the seeds he’d planted would generate the questions he wanted them to ask.
The female marine with the braid raised a hand. He nodded to acknowledge her. “Is it true what they say about the bonding process?”
Rum raised his eyebrows and gave her an incredulous look. Seriously? That wasn’t going to give her the information she wanted. “True that a bonded pair is stronger than an unbonded one? Absolutely. Bonding isn’t a requirement and plenty of pairs never bond.”
Yes, I’m going to make you work for it. Try again.
“Sir, why are only officers activated?” asked a hesitant seaman with more freckles than hair.
“Good eye. Yes, all Hamra, short, of course, for Hamrammr, are designated officers. Upon activation Hamra roll over to an M-rank system, similar to noncommissioned officers. They use officer designations, and though not all of you are officers currently, you all have completed the required college degrees for that status or you wouldn’t be here.”
Which made the two seventeen-year-olds present even more impressive.
A private, so rosy-cheeked that he would probably be carded until he was in his midthirties, raised his hand and asked, “Are Hamrammrs allowed to choose their partner?”
“Yes. Let me emphasize that. Yes.” He nodded and then gestured to communicate exactly how important this was. “The military will make suggestions. If the partner you choose does not qualify for some of the advanced options, that may limit you. Thus the suggested pairings. But you get to choose. You, bear or wolf, get a choice.” A few heads shook in the negative, and Rum immediately labeled and categorized them as American-born, second generation, military service. Military brats.
They came in thinking that the wolves led the bears around by the nose; that the only way to keep a bear in check was to form a sexual bond and manipulate their own pheromones to keep the wolf as the dominant in the relationship. Total military-culture bullshit. Rum memorized each face. By the end of training, either they’d be gone or they would darn well have a new perspective on partnerships.
The next question was from a female airman with the palest blonde hair Rum had ever seen. “Sir, why wolf and bear? I mean, the transformation rumors have been disproved and the abilities of each don’t really match actual bears and wolves. So…?”
“The words hamask and vargr are from Old Norse. Viking mythology, legend, stories, whichever you prefer, tell tales of sending berserkers into battle. Changed men, fierce as bears and cloaked in wolf skin.” He raised his finger to draw their attention even tighter. Giddy warmth filled his chest even as his shoulders tightened.
“There have always been such people. The aboriginal people of North Sentinel Island. Celtic lore. Even Native American vision quests. When the United States discovered a way to fully activate these abilities, shortly after the September 11 attacks in New York, the first Vargr held a doctorate in Norse history. He chose the terms. Don’t worry. You’ll get more of a history lesson during training.”
A few arms shot up, and Rum indicated a tiny guy from the Coast Guard. Rum wouldn’t be surprised if he was one of those two seventeen-year-olds on the list of candidates.
“Can you explain the bonding process and specifically the sexual aspects?”
Better question. “This is the United States military. We are not known for our sexual acceptance.” It was his first use of “we,” and like most of what he said, it was a strategic decision. “Yes, sexually active pairs are bonded pairs. Do all Hamra Pairs have sex? In my opinion, that’s their business, and no one else’s. Bonding does not require sex.” The military strongly disagreed with him, but he wasn’t about to disillusion potentials. That was more of a week-three activity. “Next question.”
Adayo’s hand was the first one up. “What is the hardest decision?”
Bingo. Now to reel them in. “Good question.” He gestured to indicate the whole conference hall. They’d put in their time and deserved his best performance. “If you believe that I am a Hamask, raise your right hand. Starboard for the seamen in the room.” He smiled. “If you believe I am a Vargr, raise your left hand. Okay, keep your hands up.” He looked through the crowd and watched them look at each other. The training cadre were watching to see who would change their answer, and who were right.
“Why did you choose Vargr?”
Adayo smiled. “At first I thought you were Hamask. You fed that belief by emphasizing your use of senses. Squinting, cocking your head to hear better.”
Rum had also crafted each response and kept a tight lid on his accent. He’d teach them how to pick up on those clues eventually. “But?”
Adayo tilted his head and looked back at him with a critical eye. “Well”—he shrugged—“if you’re not Hamask, then only Vargr is left.”
“That is how most people see the Hamrammr initiative. If you’re not a bear then you’re a wolf. A second choice, less than. Despite the wolf being the leader in the pairing.”
Hell, a lot of what was broken in this program surrounded that inferiority complex.
“Toughest decision that you each need to make before deciding if you’ll stay: does it matter if I’m a wolf or a bear? Until we try to activate you, we don’t know which you are.” He scanned the room. “All of you are Hamrammr, but potential what? If you’ve got your heart set on being a Hamask, can you live with being only a Vargr?”
He checked his watch. 1122. Eight minutes to spare. Perfect. He tapped the watch’s face to bring up the group lists and sent it to the candidates’ smartwatches. “I’m sending each of you an itinerary and group list for the remainder of the day.”
“Lieutenant Walker?” Tiny Coast Guard had his hand up.
Rum blinked at the boy, genuinely surprised at the additional question and the gold bar indicating the seventeen-year-old was an ensign—college degree and officer training completion. “Yes, Ensign—?”
“Sir, Kramer, sir. Are there any potential side effects of being activated?”
Bastian Gero Kramer. Rum’s memory supplied the information. The ensign’s voice spoke of New Orleans and his Latino upbringing.
Damn, he was good. Rum had specifically asked General Khan whether he could cover this and had been shot down. Khan’s exact words were “don’t bring it up,” but he’d also told Rum to answer all their questions.
Rum smiled, and based on a few of their responses, he knew the grin looked evil. “You could fury.”
March 8, 2016
Ever knocked on wood? Ever thrown a little salt over your shoulder? Maybe it’s because you secretly believe in magic. I grew up in a family that carefully saved the wishbones from fowl and hung horseshoes over doors (tips facing up, if you please). Grandma read tea leaves, and kept the clock that stopped the day Grandpa died. When I was growing up, as far as I was concerned, the world was full of unseen powers and the occasional charm or spell during the day was only to be expected.
The question I always asked myself (and never got answered) was who you’d call if the supernatural world got rowdy and out of control. I figured there had to be some kind of supernatural police force. Some folks who knew about monsters and gods and modern magic, who could break bad luck curses no matter where they came from, and who could prosecute the criminal elements of the unseen world.
Salt and Iron is the story of one of those families. You’ve heard of them, the same way you know about knocking on wood. They’re the van Helsing family. Sure, they have an old Dutch name, but this branch of the family settled in the US a hundred years ago and they’re thoroughly American these days. Now it’s not just vampires, now whether it’s sidhe, Loa, or fay, a god or a monster, they hunt them all. It’s a family tradition. And they’ve got a big ol’ family secret too.
Lucky for James van Helsing, youngest son and total screw up, he doesn’t have to deal with monsters and magic alone. He’s got his best friend Gabe to lean on. So what if James is maybe super ultra in love with Gabe and can’t bear to tell him? It’s enough to have Gabe in his life, even at a distance. That is, until the monsters make Gabe one of their own.
Giveaway: We live in pretty rational times, but let’s face it, from horoscopes to playoff beards to lucky socks, we still believe in magic. Tell me about a magical practice you learned as a kid and where you grew up to enter to win a copy of my short story Four Alternative Christmas Presents.
Contact info: I write all kinds of stories, from contemporary romance (as T Neilson) to superhero stories and urban fantasy (as Tam MacNeil). If you want to keep up with my latest releases, get reading recs, read musings on plot and story structure, and if you want to know the best chocolate I’ve tasted lately, you can find me at Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, or, even better (because, hey, inside scoop and book giveaways!) you can sign up for my newsletter at Mailchimp.
Check out Salt and Iron today!
James van Helsing is the youngest son of the famous monster-hunting family—and the family’s big disappointment. He’s falling in love with Gabe Marquez, his oldest friend and son of the family the van Helsings have worked alongside for years. Things get even harder for James when he becomes what he and everyone else despises most—a magic user.
He didn’t mean to evolve into such a despicable person, and he knows using magic is illegal, but there’s nothing James can do about it, no more than he can stop himself from loving Gabe. Just when things can’t seem to get worse, he and Gabe are called to help nab a network of magicians who are changing destiny. Not just any destiny, but the destinies of the van Helsing and Marquez families. James foresees a terrible fate, one in which monsters emerge from the cracks, along with his dark secret. And that’s when people start to die.
March 7, 2016
Hello! Thank you for joining me today on the Dreamspinner blog! I’m really excited to celebrate the release of my second Forbes Mates book, Patience, with you! There’s a huge blog tour going with the release and lots of opportunities to win prizes, so be sure to keep up with the whole thing to get all of them.
This is the first stop on the Music Clues part of the blog tour. Links to all the stops can be found on my website at the blog tour page: http://www.grace-duncan.com/graces-blog/patience-blog-tour
I’m a huge music fan and when I sat down to write Patience, I’d figured out pretty quickly that Chad was, as well. Jamie’s human mate, in fact, has an almost unhealthy obsession with 80s music (and the 80s as a whole). He also has a tendency to quote (or, rather, refer to them since I didn’t want to get into copyright trouble ) the songs as well.
This led me to end up with some twelve different 80s songs hinted at in the story. So, for each of the twelve songs, one of the blogs in the tour (twelve of them) will host a clue to a song as well as the answer and excerpt to another of the songs. There’s no order to it, I used a (probably faulty) twelve-sided die to decide the order. The Rafflecopter below will have an entry to the big giveaway for each of the twelve clues.
For today, I’d like to offer up one of the answers first, then we’ll get to the clue to another farther down.
The song is Don’t You Forget About Me by Simple Minds from the 1985 film, The Breakfast Club. I admit the clue is a tough one, but hopefully you got it before finding the answer here!
You can see the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CdqoNKCCt7A
And the excerpt from Patience:
A few minutes later, they both had fresh drinks and Chad’s laptop set up across their two tray tables. Chad opened up a folder of movies and glanced over. “Ever seen The Breakfast Club?”
Jamie shook his head. “Is this another eighties thing?”
Chad grinned. “Only the penultimate in eighties movies. John Hughes—the director—is legendary for teen angst movies during the eighties, and Breakfast Club is, like, the top from him.”
Jamie chuckled. “All right. Go ahead.”
They put their headphones on and Chad clicked Play. Jamie recognized the song that started as one he’d heard on Chad’s Pandora station a number of times. He grinned at the screen, whispering along to the lyric about not forgetting. He only remembered a few of the lines, but Chad, of course, was mouthing along with the whole thing.
He got lost in the movie, surprised to find himself thoroughly enjoying it. It wasn’t that he didn’t like comedies, he’d just never seen himself as an ’80s teen angst fan. He actually had to stop himself from whistling along when the students did. He slapped a hand over his mouth a few times to keep from laughing out loud. And when Bender pumped his fist as he crossed the football field at the end, Jamie did too, right along with Chad.
And the next clue is here:
“Sammy Hagar’s voice came through the speakers, complaining about driving slow…”
For twelve of the stops on the tour, there will be a clue (the reference) to one of the songs and an answer with excerpt for one of the other songs. You can see which blogs are participating on the blog tour page above.
Each tour stop will have an individual prize as well as an entry into the grand prize. Good luck! And thanks for participating!
Follow tour here.
Jamie Ryan was almost ready to accept he’d never find his destined mate. They’re uncommon to begin with and same-sex versions downright rare. Since his gay best friend found a destined mate, Jamie figured he was out of luck. Until end of semester stress forces him to go through the full-moon shift early. Stuck in wolf form, he runs into none other than his destined mate. Who’s human.
Chad Sutton has always had good instincts. They served him well as a detective and continued on when he went private. Those instincts tell him there’s something about the dog that comes up to him while running away from animal control that isn’t quite right. He works to put the pieces together, but is unsuccessful until his dog turns into a human before his eyes.
Jamie has no idea what a shifter’s mate bite will do to a human. He’s terrified to try—and possibly kill his mate. They hunt together for answers while working together on a case for Chad. It’s easy to see they belong together, but Jamie fears the gods gave him someone he can’t keep.
Grace Duncan grew up with a wild imagination. She told stories from an early age – many of which got her into trouble. Eventually, she learned to channel that imagination into less troublesome areas, including fanfiction, which is what has led her to writing male/male erotica.
A gypsy in her own right, Grace has lived all over the United States. She has currently set up camp in East Texas with her husband and children – both the human and furry kind.
As one of those rare creatures who loves research, Grace can get lost for hours on the internet, reading up on any number of strange and different topics. She can also be found writing fanfiction, reading fantasy, crime, suspense, romance and other erotica or even dabbling in art.
Find Grace here: