Yellow Streak Release Party, #4

November 13, 2015

Susan Laine here, hanging around for any questions or chats you wish to have. Now promoting my latest release, Yellow Streak, and it’s prequel, Yellowbelly Hero.

The previous book, Yellowbelly Hero, shows our two heroes, Yance Bell and Curt Donovan, meet. In a dark college bathroom where Curt plans to commit suicide. His father had thrown him out and called him vile things. It takes Yancy to show Curt his life wasn’t worthless or over.


Here’s the blurb for Yellowbelly Hero:

“Yancy Bell was bullied in high school for being a yellowbelly, not because of any cowardice, but because of his nervous bladder condition. It’s Yancy’s first year in college, and he’s hoping to make a fresh start.

Three days before Christmas, the campus is empty. Having to pee on a midwinter night leads Yancy to meet Curt Donovan huddled in a dark shower stall. Curt’s a troubled jock whose coming out went badly, so he plans to end it all.

But Yancy adamantly refuses to let Curt go through with his irrevocable plan. With just one dark night to talk Curt around, Yancy has to win the trust of a stranger who only sees one way out.”


Here’s an excerpt from Yellowbelly Hero, which you can also get from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and ARe:

CrisArt 16


His gaze connected with mine. I could see the exact moment he made his choice, a steely flash of determination. “I’m Curt Donovan.”
Oh. A name now attached to that masculine, beautiful face. I smiled. “Hi. I’m Yancy.”
He chuckled and rolled his eyes. “Yeah. You said so. My memory’s A-OK.”
“Well, good.” I cracked a smile too, and we shared a laugh. But my memory was fine too, and I couldn’t shake the thought Curt was stuck in a dark place. “So, um, can I ask… what are you doing here tonight?”
His smile faded. His frown was firmly back in place and he looked away. Stiffening, he didn’t seem able or willing to find the words. I didn’t know how to encourage him. These were uncharted waters for me.
The defensive look and tone were back in force. “Are you telling me to pack it in and be on my way, or you’ll call the cops on me for trespassing or some shit like that?”
“Of course not.” I couldn’t keep the hurt out of my voice.
Curt looked embarrassed as he saw my response. “Sorry.”
“It’s okay.” I decided being magnanimous was the best approach here. It seemed to draw him out of his shell, bit by bit. “I just….” I chewed on the inside of my cheek, nervous all of a sudden. “When I came in, I thought… I thought maybe you were hurt or something. I guess I just wanted to… you know, help out. If I could. That’s all.”
Curt threaded a hand through his spiky black hair. It was a gesture born of frustration, I could tell. “Look, I… I don’t wanna bore you. I’m sure you’ve got better things to do right now.”
I shook my head steadfastly. “Nope. Free as a bird.”
Curt seemed to find that baffling. “But… you’re up.”
A quick flash of guilt had me worrying he could see my semihard dick through my hands in my lap. But then I realized he meant I was awake in the middle of the night. I chuckled. “I had to take a leak.” Or I’d been leaking without wishing it, but I wasn’t going to tell him that.
“Oh.” Curt accepted my explanation at face value, for which I was immensely grateful and glad. “Well, anyway… bet you’re wishing you were in bed, though.”
My naughty dreams of this ruggedly handsome man took a turn for the wild side, and I had to shake my head to clear it from such distractions. “I don’t sleep well, usually. I wake up a lot.”


If you or anyone you know plans to commit suicide, please call or urge them to call a suicide hotlineNational Suicide Prevention Lifeline


Susan Laine is an award-winning, multi-published author of LGBTQ erotic romance. Susan lives in Finland, where summers are wet and winters long. Thankfully, she’s kept plenty warm by the spark for writing, which kindled when Susan discovered the sizzling hot gay erotic romance genre. Trained as an anthropologist, Susan’s long-term plan is to become a full-time writer. Susan enjoys hanging out with her sister, two nieces, and friends in movie theaters, bookstores, and parks. Her favorite pastimes include listening to music, watching action flicks, eating chocolate, and doing the dishes while pondering the meaning of life.

Susan Laine


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Yellow Streak Release Party, #2

November 13, 2015

I’m Susan Laine, here to chat with you good folks, especially about my latest novella, Yellow Streak. There will be a giveaway and an excerpt coming soon, so stay tuned :)


So without further ado, I’m diving straight in. This series, Heroes At Heart, deals with some heavy issues. Among them, youth angst, depression, and suicidal thoughts. The cause for Curt Donovan, a college jock, is his bad coming out as gay when his parents threw him to the curb without a backward glance.

In the first book, Yellowbelly Hero, Curt plans to end his own life, unable to face the holiday season without a family the belong with or a home to go to. To his aid comes an unlikely hero, Yancy Bell, a geek English lit major who suffers from a bladder problem. In Curt’s darkest hour, Yancy refuses to let Curt go through with his plan. They talk and try to find a solution to Curt’s problem.

In the second book, Yellow Streak, Curt has survived his suicide attempt, thanks to Yancy. But upon his return to college, Curt acts like nothing’s happened. It’s up to Yancy to figure what’s wrong with Curt, and learn if those dark thoughts still remain. I offer no simple solutions, as there are no quick fixes. In fact, two more books in the series will come out next year, in May and July 2016, making this series a quadrilogy.

Thoughts of suicide, depression, and suffering are common among youths of all ages these days, not just to LGBTQ teens. It feels like the world is full of hatred and venom, and often that extends to the home when parents turn on their children, siblings against one another, and there seems to be no hope for the future. But, as Curt too discovers, no one is truly alone. So, if you or anyone you know plans to commit suicide, please urge them to call a suicide hotline.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline


Susan Laine is an award-winning, multi-published author of LGBTQ erotic romance. Susan lives in Finland, where summers are wet and winters long. Thankfully, she’s kept plenty warm by the spark for writing, which kindled when Susan discovered the sizzling hot gay erotic romance genre. Trained as an anthropologist, Susan’s long-term plan is to become a full-time writer. Susan enjoys hanging out with her sister, two nieces, and friends in movie theaters, bookstores, and parks. Her favorite pastimes include listening to music, watching action flicks, eating chocolate, and doing the dishes while pondering the meaning of life.

Susan Laine


Dreamspinner Press e-book
Barnes & Noble
All Romance eBooks


Out of My Own Books, Chaser Is One of My Favorites with Rick R. Reed

November 12, 2015


When you begin to lose track of how many books you’ve had published, it’s really hard to say which one is your favorite. It’s like asking Mrs. O’Farrell, a staunch Irish Catholic who lived next door to us when I was growing up which of her nine children was her favorite.

“They’re all my favorites,” I imagine her replying, “Each for a different reason.”

And the same holds true for me and my books. But today I am thinking about Chaser. For its humor, its insight about body image (and the gay ideal or lack thereof), and its theme of attractiveness being a highly personal and relative thing, Chaser truly is, of my own stuff, one of my favorites.

Since its publication back in August of 2012, I’ve gotten many letters from readers thanking me for introducing a romantic hero who is not the ideal. See, the object of desire/affection in my story is Kevin and Kevin’s a little overweight. The “chaser” in the title refers to the gay lingo term for men who prefer their men on the meatier side: chubby chasers.

My other main character, Caden, is one of those men. Although Caden is a runner, with a lean and what some might call a perfect body, he prefers his men to have a little something to hold onto. Here’s Caden’s first glimpse of Kevin in a bar one night:

Caden did have his eye on one guy, down on the lower level at one of the high-topped tables, talking with a couple of friends. He stood out because he was not built like most of the guys here, who were, to a man, either too skinny or too pumped up to register on his attraction meter.

This guy seemed comfortable in his own skin and Caden liked the way he threw back his head and laughed when one of his buddies said something funny. Unlike most of the other guys in Sidetrack that night, he did not show any signs that he was conscious of his appearance. Caden liked that he wore comfortable clothes, a cotton sweater of faded blue-gray and a simple pair of carpenter pants, most likely Carhartt. He peered over the rail and saw the guy’s feet were encased in work boots. Ah. A blue-collar man. A working guy. Just my type. Caden also liked his tousled blond hair, which revealed fetching layers of color that went from almost brown, to wheat, to pale blond, to nearly platinum, yet revealed no indication, Caden thought, of the attentions of a hairdresser. And what put him on the “edge of glory” was the crowning touch: a thick beard, not manicured into tortured geometric lines.

And he was blessedly overweight. Not fat. But a bit of gut protruded, and his thighs, in denim, looked like tree trunks. When he turned around, he revealed an ass of ample proportions, the kind Caden could just imagine as two perfect, creamy white spheres perfect for grasping and pulling apart.

“Is it hot in here?” Caden shouted in Bobby’s ear. He took a gulp of beer and fanned his hand in front of his face.

Most of the time, in gay or straight romance, you don’t find men like the one above. But in Chaser, I tried to show that objects of desire and/or love can and do come in all different shapes and sizes.

The vagaries of sexual attraction are definitely not a one-size-fits-all affair.

But if that was all there was to Chaser, there wouldn’t be much of a story, now would there? As an author, I like there to be some drama, some tension, so I asked… “What would happen if….”

…and filled in the blank with “Kevin lost the weight that drew Caden to him in the first place?”

So, when Caden has to leave town suddenly for an extended period, he returns home to a man who is not at all what he was originally drawn to. How does one deal with such a situation? As the tag line on the cover of Chaser wonders: “Is it really what’s on the inside that counts?”

Well, is it?

I think open-hearted people everywhere know the answer to that question, even if might be modified somewhat by “within limits”. But to find out if Kevin and Caden are still a love match when body images change, you have to read Chaser to discover what happens.

I leave you with a sentence near the end of the book that may give you a clue to how things turn out:

Caden turned back to Kevin. The fight had gone out of him. He appraised him with new eyes.

And what do you think he saw?

Chaser is available from Dreamspinner Press and at all the usual suspects—Amazon, Barnes and Noble, All Romance eBooks, and so on. And if you want more, check out Raining Men. It explores another side of gay life that may not be at the forefront of gay romance—sexual addiction and its power to thwart the very love for which one might search within its clutches.

Sukie Rick Palm Springs Rococo

Rick R. Reed is all about exploring the romantic entanglements of gay men in contemporary, realistic settings. While his stories often contain elements of suspense, mystery and the paranormal, his focus ultimately returns to the power of love. He is the author of dozens of published novels, novellas, and short stories. He is a three-time EPIC eBook Award winner (for Caregiver, Orientation and The Blue Moon Cafe). Raining Men and Caregiver have both won the Rainbow Award for gay fiction.  Lambda Literary Review has called him, “a writer that doesn’t disappoint.” Rick lives in Seattle with his husband and a very spoiled Boston terrier. He is forever “at work on another novel.”


Dreamspinner Press ebook
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Also available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, AllRomance ebooks, and more.

A Kiss from Jaime Samms’ New Novella

November 12, 2015

His scream split the afternoon, and he jumped, probably five feet straight back, dropped the cup, and minced on feet that barely touched the ground until his tight butt fetched up against the fence.

“Easy.” Dusty rushed forward, crouched, and flicked the errant spider free of Conrad’s leg. She landed in the grass and promptly disappeared.

“Ohmygodohmygodohmygod,” Conrad was chanting under his breath, fingers clenching around the wooden slats behind him, eyes closed tight. “Okay.” Dusty had put a hand on the side of Conrad’s thigh, about to get up, to offer some sort of reassurance, when Conrad’s eyes flew open, luminous and wide, and fixed on him. “Is it gone?”

Dusty smiled. “She’s gone.”

“Good,” Conrad whispered, gazing down at him, freezing him in place. A heartbeat later, Conrad’s hand came free of the fence and his fingertips brushed over the back of Dusty’s hand, still on his leg.

“S-sorry.” Dusty stood so fast vertigo tilted the earth under his feet.

Conrad’s hands, unyielding but steady and gentle, gripped his upper arms, and Dusty blinked. He’d barely drawn a breath when Conrad took a step toward him, lips parted.

Like gravity, the sight of Conrad’s soft expression drew Dusty to him until Dusty touched his lips to Conrad’s. Or had Conrad done the touching? It was impossible to tell, and it made Dusty sigh out a little breath of expectancy. Then there was no air to breathe, no space, and nothing but the pressure of the kiss.

Dusty closed his eyes, ran fingers over the sides of Conrad’s face, and pressed the advantage of the gasp that ran through Conrad at the touch. He pushed his tongue into Conrad’s mouth and moved them until Conrad was pinned against the fence. Dusty had to stand on his toes to reach properly, but that didn’t stop him until they both needed to breathe.

When he stepped back, lips tingling, breath short, Conrad’s eyes were wide, and his chest heaved. His lips, red and parted, curved in a bemused smile. “Was that meant to make me forget I just screamed like a little girl?”

“I—” Dusty took a hasty step back. He’d just kissed a complete stranger. He’d had this job for exactly three hours, and he’d tripped over a spider and kissed the man who signed his miniscule paycheck. “Oh shit.”

Conrad’s smile grew. The hand that had come to rest at the side of Dusty’s face exerted a tiny amount of pressure, thumb pad ghosting over his cheekbone and back, like he had brushed away a bit of hair….

“I’m so sorry,” Dusty blurted. “I—I didn’t mean—Sir—I—”

Conrad grinned then. “You kiss me like that and then call me sir?”

“Oh God.” Dusty broke away and moved back, out of reach. “I am so sorry.” He turned and fled back inside, through the studio, and out the front door of the building. He had hiked back to his own apartment and was letting himself inside when he remembered he never had emptied the bucket of dirty floor water.


Jaime has been writing for various publishers since the fall of 2008, although she’s been writing for herself far longer. Often asked why men; what’s so fascinating about writing stories about men falling in love, she’s never come up with a clear answer.  Just that these are the stories that she loves to read, so it seemed to make sense if she was going to write, they should also be the stories she wrote.

Erotic Sci-Fi Excerpt from Chris T. Kat

October 15, 2015

Someone else cried out, and I whirled around. Parsol, I think was her name—it had become a challenge to remember all the names because on every mission we lost people, so many people—held up her right arm. A ram stood next to her, gnawing on the part it had just ripped off her.

I choked as I lifted my gun again. The ram trilled before it stared at me from cold, reptilian eyes. Parsol was still staring at her limb, gushing with blood, when her knees buckled and she sprawled on the ground. The ram’s head whipped around, the red ridge on its head flaring. Seconds later we listened to crushing bones and tearing flesh.

Tom grasped my hips in his hands and lifted me up, so I could reach a low hanging branch. On autopilot, I grabbed for it and hauled myself up. I reached for the next one and had to assure myself with a glance at my fingers that I was indeed holding on tight because my fingers felt numb.

Tom patted my ass, probably to encourage me, but to me it felt like a slap, and not of the good kind. Startled, I moved up higher. Not a second too soon.

A ram showed up below us, tilted its head sideways, and inspected the tree trunk. After a snapped whistle, another ram appeared next to the first.

On our way up, Tom had made sure to destroy the low hanging branches, probably to stop the rams from following us. How we were supposed to get down from the tree was his secret. For now, it was more important for the rams to stay on the ground.

We stopped our climb halfway up the tree. Not because we couldn’t go up farther, rather due to the gusting wind that threatened to blow us off. When I peered down through the pouring raindrops, my heart stopped for a beat. Seriously, it did.

With a trembling finger, I pointed at the scene below. “Tom? Are they doing what I think they’re doing?”

Tom’s eyes narrowed and his nostrils flared. He wrapped his tail around the trunk and me, anchoring me. I had no time to process whether I should give him a piece of my mind or not because the first ram had finished climbing on the shoulders of the second one and now vaulted up on the first branch within reach. After its landing, it threw its head back and screeched.

Even through the thundering rain, the scream sliced through my body. Tom lifted his gun and fired right at the ram’s head.

He missed.

The ram had ducked aside and was now steadily climbing the tree, winding around it like a slithering snake. No matter how hard we tried, our shots always missed the target.

I glanced down again, only to see another ram ready himself for the climb. I fumbled with the pocket on my right thigh, grabbed a bluster and lobbed it at the two rams on the ground. As they tumbled down, the bluster went off, destroying both of them. Two less to worry about.

In the distance, I heard more gun shots and another bluster going off. Maybe we would survive this attack after all.

Right at that moment, claws appeared an inch below my boot. I reversed my gun and slammed the butt of it onto the claw. The ram screeched in pain but didn’t let go. Instead, it hauled itself up on a branch opposite Tom and me. Why the fuck didn’t the bough snap under the ram’s weight?

I swiveled the gun around to aim, but the ram’s claw closed around the muzzle. Even though I pulled the trigger, the ram pulled and flung my gun to the ground.

Tom withdrew his tail from the trunk—not a second too soon, because the ram tried to snatch it with its claws—but kept it around my waist. We moved farther away from the trunk, carefully balancing on the narrowing branch. Another blast of wind almost chucked us off.

The ram’s head peeked out from behind the trunk for a moment, then withdrew. Was it pondering its options?

“I’ll throw you to that tree in the back. Do you think you’ll be able to get a hold on a branch?” Tom whispered.

I froze. “Excuse me? What do you mean by ‘you’ll throw me’? We’re like… like high above the ground, and I don’t have wings or anything.”

Tom jerked his thumb over his shoulder, pointing at a tree close to us. “You can’t jump this kind of distance, but I can throw you. Will you be able to hold on?”

“I have no idea!” I burst out. “I’ve never tried before!”

“Berit,” Tom said, his voice so soft it hurt. “I know you haven’t done that before, but if I can’t trust you to find a handhold, I can’t risk the move.”

“I can’t promise,” I said in sheer desperation. What would be worse—getting killed by a ram, or falling to one’s own death? “Can’t you just shoot the damn thing?”

“It always ducks behind the trunk, so, no, I can’t. Ready?”


“Berit!” he snapped. With his free hand, he grabbed for one of my hands and gave it a squeeze. “I’ll follow right away.”

“If you can follow, maybe that beast can too,” I protested.

“It has to come out of its hiding place, and that’s when I’ll kill it,” Tom replied.

“Oh. Well, that sounds reasonable.”

Tom squeezed again, and this time I reciprocated.

“Ready?” he asked.

“Now is probably not a good time to confess that I’m not the adventurous type, huh?”

Tom chuckled. “I’d beg to differ anyway. On three.”


Chris T. Kat loves to write and to read. She writes whatever floats her boat, which means her stories vary from contemporary to paranormal, fantasy, bittersweet dreams or sci-fi. All of her books have a strong romantic element and she’s happiest if she can write about shapeshifters. In real life, Chris is a teacher and couldn’t have hoped for a better job. She’s blessed with a wonderful and supportive family.

Bugs and Hisses Free Fiction: Choosing to Live by Caitlin Ricci

October 14, 2015

To celebrate Halloween this month, some of our paranormal authors will be sharing with us some free fiction.

The wind was blistering cold on the high snow blown ledge. It whipped around him, lashing his long brown hair against his cheeks. Through the murky white sky he could just barely see the sun begin to caress the horizon. This was going to be a long night.

Adrian groaned and tried to rise up to escape the blanket of snow that covered him where he lay sprawled out on a stony ledge. He rose unsteadily to his feet, dizziness and nausea washing over his in churning waves. Standing on his left foot though was instantly rewarded with white hot pain that shot up his leg until it stopped in his thigh. He collapsed gracelessly to his knees in the snow. Hot tears stung his eyes as the pain continued to surge through him. He gasped for air in the frigid climate, each breath causing him to cry out as it stung his lungs. He rolled over onto his side, adopting the fetal position as his best bet for the time being. He pulled his thin windbreaker tighter around his body, snuggling as far down into the thin material as he could manage until only the tips of his ears were visible around the wave of his hair. At least it was a little warmer.

How he ended up in this mess he couldn’t begin to understand. He remembered being in the small charter plane. That much he was certain of. But how he managed to get from his comfortable spot on the plane to this bit of snow covered earth was beyond him. He looked around wearily, trying desperately to find any hint of a landmark to tell him of where he was. But there was nothing. The snow was too thick to see through and what little he could see only resembled more mountains. This made no sense. They weren’t even supposed to fly through mountains today. Had the pilot gotten confused in the storm? Was he somewhere out here too?

Adrian spent close to the next hour yelling for the pilot or anyone else to no avail. Wherever he was, he knew that he was alone.

Running through a quick list in his head he soon concluded that everything he had ever been taught about wilderness survival was useless besides the obvious of try to stay warm and don’t fall asleep which were both quite unhelpful in the situation he had found himself in. He would make sure to do those amongst finding firewood to build a signal fire while also splinting his broken ankle. And of course he would hate to forget to do those while making tools out of stone and wood for catching something to eat. He really would hate to starve before he froze to death.

Adrian grumbled to himself and shrunk into a tighter ball. Like his father always said; sarcasm and a bad attitude will help no one. He had to stay awake. He knew this just as much as he knew that he had to keep breathing and that shivering was a good thing. But cold weather had always made him sleepy and it certainly was cold now. Adrian recited the laws of physics a few times to stay awake before his eyes finally closed and he succumbed to exhaustion.

Waking up when one hasn’t had nearly enough sleep is never a pleasant experience. Neither is waking up like that compounded with surely broken bones and an aching body screaming against even the smallest movement as Adrian soon realized. He shivered involuntarily before realizing that he was no longer cold.

Adrian opened his eyes fully and blinked against the brightness of the sun reflecting at him from the snow. The one dark spot near him was a fluffy bit of fur lying along his left side. He froze and tried not to even breathe as he waited for whatever kind of animal it was to leave him alone. But the beast only turned its big head and looked over at him with impossibly bright amber eyes. Then, because of course Adrian had to add hallucinations on top of all the pain he was in, the animal rose up on its four paws, then slowly shed his fur until a man crouched next to him. He was naked, save for the snow blowing against his tanned skin.

“I have a concussion,” Adrian said aloud. Pain plus hallucinations meant concussion. He was sure of it.

The man, the wolf, laughed. “Probably. You are pretty banged up. I’m Frost, by the way. Named for the winter night I was born on. I was scouting when I found you. When you’re ready to go get warm I’ll take you back to my pack. They’re expecting us but I was told to wait until you woke up to bring you to them, in case you refused our help.”

“Your… pack?” Adrian’s head was swimming wildly. If he hadn’t thrown up already he was surely going to soon.

Frost nodded enthusiastically. “My family. My brothers, my parents, my cousins. Everyone. Are you going to come with me?”

Did he really have a choice? “And if I don’t? Then what?”

Frost shrugged. “Ever hear of those people that get lost in the mountains and their bodies are never recovered? Well, that’s generally because they chose to join a pack. Or there are those people who their bodies are found months later. They likely refused our help. Or tried to go back to their families after we did help them. We’re all over the world and you’re not really in a position to refuse and still live so…”

In short, come with him and he got to live. Refuse and he would likely die a horrible, snow covered death where he froze and someone still would probably never find his body. Those were both such wonderful options. This was so freaking fantastic. Adrian sighed and made the decision to live. “Fine. Fine. Only one problem though, my ankle’s broken.”

“You’d give up your family to be able to come live with me and mine?” Frost seemed so surprised.

Adrian tried not to shiver as the thought of the quickest, and simplest, way to explain things to him. “Family isn’t something I exactly have a lot of. The only people that might miss me are my co-workers in the travel magazine I write for. Plus, my options aren’t exactly promising out here. How are you getting me to your pack with my broken leg?”

“You’re going to ride me.”

He grinned at Adrian, who instantly got the wrong idea with a good looking naked man crouched in front of him. “Sure. Let’s go with that plan.” But even as he said it Frost began to shift back into the form of the wolf, only this time he was twice the size he’d been before and now was much closer to the height of a small pony.

“Nifty trick.” Adrian got to his feet, with a lot of difficulty and hanging onto Frost’s shoulder for support. Frost bent down and Adrian managed to slide himself onto the wolf’s narrow back. He didn’t even spare a thought for the life he was saying goodbye to as Frost began trotting into the snow. This was a choice of survival, and when it came down to it he would rather live with a bunch of naked wolf shifters than die on some mountain he didn’t even know the name of. Being surrounded by men who looked as good as Frost did wasn’t even going to be a hardship.

Caitlin Ricci


Bowerbirds (Nested Hearts: Book Two) by Ada Maria Soto – Excerpt 3

August 26, 2015

I can’t help it, there’s nothing like a guy in a tux. I just had to get James and Gabe into formal clothes at least once. Then of course I had to get those clothes off.


The doors slid open. A Town Car was waiting at the curb. They didn’t talk as they made the short trip to Gabe’s building. They just held hands and watched the lights go past outside.

They didn’t even talk as the elevator took them swiftly and smoothly up to Gabe’s place. The lights automatically came on as they stepped out of the elevator, neither too fast nor too bright; a soft fade-up to a warm glow.

Gabe stepped close and pulled on James’s bow tie until it came loose and slipped from around his neck. He let it drop through his fingers; it fell to the floor without even a whisper. He put the tips of his fingers to James’s cheek next. James leaned into them, noticing the way two were rough and two were smooth. Gabe must have been chewing on them again.

He reached up and pulled on Gabe’s tie. It slid from its knot more easily than his had. The silk was cool on the ends and warm where it had gone around Gabe’s neck. He let it drop from his fingers as well.

Gabe took a few steps back, and James followed as if being led in a dance. And he followed where Gabe led. It was so easy and felt so right. He usually avoided the easy path. Easy was usually wrong.

Gabe changed directions, moving quickly behind James and slipping his coat from his body. James shivered at the sudden change in temperature, from being wrapped in the sultry jacket to having only the fine linen shirt between his body and the air.

The chill left as quickly as it had arrived. Gabe stepped in close, pressing himself to James’s back, putting out a powerful heat. He leaned back, still feeling like he was in a dance that had no music with a rhythm that was in constant flux. But still Gabe was leading perfectly.

Gabe stripped off his own jacket without ever taking his chest from James’s body. He let the jacket drop to the floor, not even bothering to toss it toward the hooks as he had with James’s.

He pressed his lips to James’s neck, right above his collar. James felt his toes curl and his body tingle. Gabe’s fingers were back, skimming along his cheek, and his thumb brushed across James’s lips. He flicked out his tongue to tickle it.

Gabe exhaled long and slow, his warm breath slipping under James’s collar. His fingers left James’s face and went instead to his throat, popping open the high collar buttons. James let out a long breath, unaware of just how constricted he had felt until that moment.

Gabe slid around him until they were once again face-to-face. He thought they might kiss, but instead Gabe just looked at him, eyes dark in the dim light. He felt his breath hitch and that tightening in his chest return. It was so much like the way Gabe had looked at him their first night. All those months ago now, standing so close that James had been able to smell the hint of peppers on his skin.

Now Gabe smelled faintly of fancy cologne that had nearly worn away.

He took Gabe’s hand and laced their fingers together as if they would dance. Gabe took his other hand, lifted it, and kissed his palm. James closed his eyes and nearly fell forward. Gabe kissed the heel of his palm next and then placed a kiss on the inside of his wrist. James whimpered softly. Somehow those three small kisses had his head spinning with greater pleasure than kisses in far more intimate areas.

Gabe stepped backward, leading them with just the knowledge of the dimensions of his own home.

He didn’t lead them to the bedroom, but rather to the large couch of cool leather draped with blankets of the same spun and woven silk as the one on Gabe’s bed. He sat on them and drew James onto his lap, giving James the height advantage for once.

James took it, tilting Gabe’s head back and into a slow, lazy kiss, their tongues just flitting around each other’s, chasing the flavor of champagne. Gabe’s arms went around his body, pulling him close. James’s fingers went into Gabe’s hair, tangling themselves in the dark curls, destroying the last of the control imposed by handfuls of hair gel that smelled slightly of mint and clashed with the cologne.

Gabe sighed into the kiss and held James tight.

He and Gabe kissed. He didn’t think about time; he didn’t think about anything beyond the feel of Gabe’s arms around him and the taste of Gabe on his lips, the sound of their tiny moans and sighs in his ears.

At some point Gabe pulled away from the kiss and took a deep breath. He leaned in, laying his head against James’s chest. James became aware of his own heart pounding strong and steady. Gabe looked up at him, a small soft smile on his lips. James kissed those lips, then stood. Gabe followed.

This time James took Gabe’s hand and led the dance toward the bedroom. There was no rush. He was content to keep kissing if that was all the night had in store, but he wanted to be lying down in Gabe’s arms while it happened.


Bowerbirds (Nested Hearts: Book Two) available through Dreamspinner Press. BowerbirdsSmall

Bowerbirds (Nested Hearts: Book Two) by Ada Maria Soto – James and My Dad + Excerpt 2

August 26, 2015


Empty Nests and Bowerbirds in an odd way is for my dad. He wasn’t a single parent and rumor aside not gay (I don’t think, there are days), but he did end up primary care giver the first couple years of my life. It was supposed to be my mother but my father got injured and lost his job just a few days before I was born. My mother was out of work and it became a matter of who could get a job first. This meant my mom going back to work when I was six weeks old and my dad left holding the baby.

This was in the early 80′s, long before the internet and easy access to stay at home dad groups. My dad was the youngest in his family so had no experience with kids. His family was an hour away and my mom was not on good terms with her family. Add in that my dad came out of a very machismo oriented background and he was left reasonably alienated.

I like to think (and it’s my opinion that matters in this) that he handled it pretty well. I think his sense of humor helped a lot. When my mom would tell him to go check the baby he’d get a pen and draw a little check somewhere on me. It’s funnier if you know my dad. I’m surprised with myself that I managed to get two years into doing the parent thing without giving into the temptation. By this point my kid would probably take it as permission to draw allover herself and anyone else. He delivered bottles as if he was a French waiter, rushed back to the park to retrieve forgotten stuffed animals, made up bedtime stories, and read Elephant Goes to School about fifty million times without going completely nuts.SimpsonsDad

He also took a lot of grief from other guys and didn’t get a lot of respect when he explained that two year gap in his resume. But he kept his chin up, pushed through, and I don’t think overly messed me up which in this day and age counts for a lot.

So James is for my dad and all of the dads who have stepped into what much of society still thinks of as a female role.


James bent backward and listened to his spine crack. Despite the noises, his back was in better condition, or at least a few decades younger, than Mrs. Gonzales’s, which was why he was helping her lug bolts of fabric up the stairs. It was her second granddaughter’s quinceañera in a couple of months, and she was sewing all the dresses, which meant stitching up about a million miles of pink satin and tulle.

At least Mrs. Gonzales’s granddaughter was shorter than he was. With Mrs. Maldonado’s granddaughter’s prom dress the previous year, he’d been roped into acting as a living dress stand while it was hemmed, instead of just helping with the hemming. Dylan still had the photos hidden somewhere. He didn’t actually mind helping out with things like hauling groceries, rolling tamales, or handstitching a million seed pearls onto white taffeta. The women of the building had acted as Dylan’s aunties and grandmothers over the years, providing babysitting, hand-me-downs, advice, and more than a few meals when he and Dylan got truly desperate.

Mrs. Gonzales let them into her apartment where the Virgen de Guadalupe stared at him from at least three walls.

“¿Dónde los quieres?”

“Con los demás.”

James put the bolts of fabric on the table with a half dozen others while Mrs. Gonzales went into her kitchen to make them both some coffee.

He followed her into the kitchen, which was identical to his, where she poured them both thick black coffee, then stirred in condensed milk until it was nearly white. “James, I’ve been seeing you with a man lately? The women are saying you have a boyfriend?”

He accepted a cup of coffee. “I might.” He supposed it had to happen sooner or later. Every other person had been the center of gossip in the building at one point or another. James had managed to avoid it, mainly by being the most boring person on earth.

“You might? I think you do. He looks handsome.”

James pretended to think about it. “I guess. If you like that type.”

“And he looks rich?”

James blew on his coffee. Mrs. Gonzales always made it nuclear hot. “He might be, a little.”

“Rich is good.”

“It’s not important.”

“Rich is good. Rich can take care of you and Dylan.”

James rolled his eyes. “I don’t need anyone taking care of me. I’m not looking for anyone to take care of me. And I take care of Dylan just fine.”

Mrs. Gonzales patted the air in front of James. “Of course you do, but it’s good to have help. If someone wants to take care of you, you should let them. If they’re also kind, and handsome…?”

James sipped his coffee, having no desire to respond to that comment.

“What’s his name?”

“Gabe. Gabriel. Juarez.” He figured the best thing to do with gossip was to feed it as much detail as possible. It seemed to burn out quicker once there was less to speculate on.

“And where’s he from?”

“He grew up in the Bay.”

“Have you met his family yet?”

That was something that hadn’t been brought up except for a quick mention of his sisters. He’d heard more about Gabe’s godchildren. “No, no I haven’t.”

Mrs. Gonzales gave a slightly disapproving squint. “Make sure he does that soon. A man who is ashamed of his family is not a man you should be associating with.”

“I will keep that in mind.”

“Good. Now, what does he do? He better have a good job. Rich without work is begging the devil for trouble.”

James took a deep breath. He was surprised Dylan hadn’t blabbed it around the building. He was as bad a gossip as the rest of them. “He’s the chief financial officer of TechPrim Industries.” He got a slightly questioning look. James pulled his phone from his pocket and showed her the logo on the back. “TechPrim.”

Her eyebrows went up. “He better be taking care of you, then.”

“I don’t need to be taken care of.” James tried not to raise his voice. “I am not a child. I have a job. I manage.”

“Doesn’t mean you should turn him away if he offers. It can be nice to have someone who wants to be helpful.”

“Fine.” He didn’t want to start a fight.

“And if he causes you trouble, you send him to me.”

James stuffed down a laugh. Facing Mrs. Gonzales was a proper threat. Every male under the age of eighty feared her disapproving gaze, which could leave even the most hardened soul squirming like a child.

“I’ll be sure to warn him.”


Bowerbirds (Nested Hearts: Book Two) available through Dreamspinner PressBowerbirdsSmall

Bowerbirds (Nested Hearts: Book Two) by Ada Maria Soto – Excerpt 1

August 26, 2015

Back in Ye Olden Days of text based roll playing computer games there always seemed to be that one peasant you ran into who just happened to know everything you needed to know about that castle north of the village and nothing else. I try to avoid that in my supporting characters. I have a great love for them and do my best to make them as well rounded as possible and give them a reason for existing other than just moving the plot. I’m particularly fond of Tamyra and rather tempted to write a couple of short stories staring her.


WHEN JAMES finally woke from his second nap, they ordered Chinese food, sat on the couch, and talked about nothing important. They made out on the couch, ate dinner, made out some more, then moved to the bedroom for some precarious lovemaking. It had been after midnight, and James had been fast asleep again when Gabe let himself quietly out of the apartment. He’d left a note by the bed, promising to call.

Now Gabe was using his sliver of a lunch break to query the almighty Internet on dating people with kids. Dylan had mostly come around to his side after he did his best to prove he wasn’t screwing with James, but if Gabe wanted to get James out of town, he was going to need Dylan’s backing. And any serious relationship moves would quite possibly need Dylan’s approval, or at least his advice. Gabe glared at his computer monitor. The all-knowingness of the Internet was failing him. He’d found plenty on step-parenting and a couple of blog posts about dating people with small children, but nothing that seemed to apply to his situation.

Tamyra came in and put a suspiciously healthy-looking sandwich on his desk before plopping herself down on the couch and tucking into a salad of her own.

“Tam, have you ever dated anyone with kids?”

“No. I’m not really good with kids.”

Gabe lifted the top piece of whole grain and seed bread on his sandwich and squinted at the sprouts under it. “Me neither.”

“My niece was about five when my sister started dating again. Seriously, though, James’s kid is practically an adult.”

Gabe shoved the sprouts aside to find dandelion greens. “I know. I just want to keep in his good books, and I don’t want James to feel like he’s losing time with Dylan to be with me.”

Tamyra shrugged. “My sister used to do these family dates every month or so with her, Julia, and her boyfriend. They’d go to the zoo. Stuff like that.” Gabe pushed aside the dandelion leaves to reveal grilled vegetables. “Stop playing with your sandwich and eat it.”

“Only if I find bacon on the bottom.”

“You have a meeting in fifteen minutes and you don’t have a free second between then and seven. Eat it.”

Gabe started chewing on the top slice of bread. “Why are you still my PA?” It was a question he asked himself regularly but only actually asked Tamyra a few times. He’d yet to get a good answer.

“Because you’d die without me.”

Gabe pushed aside the rest of his sandwich. He’d swing through marketing later. They always had good leftovers from some department party or networking lunch. “I’m serious. You were supposed to be in the job, what, a year? You have more degrees than I do. You know the fine minutiae of every deal we make. Anyone else would have quit or demanded a transfer after six months of putting up with me. You’ve never even asked for a raise.”

“And yet you give them to me.”

“Seriously. What are you doing here?”

Tamyra set aside her salad, which looked about as appetizing as Gabe’s sandwich. “Do you remember the state you were in when I started working for you?”

No, Gabe thought. “Vaguely,” he answered.

“Exactly. You’d had six PAs in five months. They were all either trying to get into your pants or were praying for your soul. My first day you’d had about three hours of sleep in three days. You were trying to shift around the budget so dependents of employees got free flu shots, in the middle of a bidding war for a half-dozen patents, you were fighting with Frank and Nate over if you should even be trying for the patents, and then a bunch of school kids were dragged in, and you were supposed to give them some sort of inspirational talk.”

“Was I inspirational?” Gabe had not a single memory of that day.

“No. You mumbled, babbled, threw in some analogies that made no sense whatsoever, and forgot the name of your own company. The impressive bit was that you pulled yourself up there in that state when any other executive would have just pawned the whole thing off onto someone further down the ladder. I figured at that point you needed someone who wouldn’t try to get into your pants, knew your soul was just fine, and would knock you on the back of the head with a two-by-four if that’s what was needed for you to get some sleep.”

“I wish I could argue with any of that.”

“You’re good at your job, you run a good business, you’re good to your people, but you are crap at taking care of yourself. I’ll move on when I find someone who can take care of you half as well as I can.”

“Or I shove you out the door.”

Tamyra laughed. “Like that’s ever going to happen.”


BowerbirdsSmallBowerbirds (Nested Hearts: Book Two) available through Dreamspinner Press

Down These Mean Streets with J.S. Cook

August 14, 2015

Skid Row Serenade is a novel about Tony Leonard, a down-and-out alcoholic war hero suffering from what nowadays we’d call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In the 1940s – when this novel takes place – it was more likely to be called ‘shell shock’.  During the war, Tony was a commando; he and others of his squad were taken prisoner by the Gestapo and tortured. Because of this, he is emotionally scarred, and can only face the outside world through a buffer of alcohol.

Skid Row Serenade is a noir novel, or what might otherwise be called ‘pulp detective’, a genre that hasn’t always enjoyed the greatest respectability. (When I was in academia, writing genre fiction was seen as something undesirable, almost shameful. You did it, but you never admitted to it, and among the academic community, it wasn’t seen as legitimate writing, not like literary fiction. Writing pulp was and still is too often regarded by intellectuals as the creative equivalent of picking one’s nose in public.) In its earliest incarnation, pulp referred to inexpensive magazines published from about 1896 through the 1950s. It was called ‘pulp’ because of the cheap, wood pulp paper on which it was printed – a direct contrast to the ‘glossies’ or ‘slicks’, magazines printed on high quality paper and often including lavish illustration. Pulps were priced at ten cents each, and within easy reach for almost all readers, unlike the slicks, which were typically twenty-five cents per issue. It doesn’t seem like much money to us nowadays in 2015, but in the dark and dirty 1930s, at the height of the Great Depression, a shoulder of lamb went for seventeen cents, and a dozen eggs were eighteen cents; bread throughout much of the United States cost eight cents. If you had twenty-five cents, you had a meal.


Even though pulp fiction had a shady reputation, many of these inexpensive magazines played host to some of the greatest authors of the twentieth century. Writers such as Agatha Christie, (Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple); Dashiell Hammett, (Sam Spade, the Continental Op); Elmore Leonard, (Get Shorty, 3:10 to Yuma); and Raymond Chandler, creator of private detective Philip Marlowe.

Of Marlowe, Chandler said, “Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. He is the hero; he is everything.” Here is the detective as lone wolf, as modern knight errant, a man unafraid to tilt at windmills in pursuit of what he sees as justice.

Skid Row Serenade was directly inspired by Chandler’s The Long Goodbye—specifically, the character of Terry Lennox, the alcoholic war hero who befriends Marlowe and who calls upon him to whisk him out of the country when Lennox’s estranged wife is murdered. The story is told from Marlowe’s point of view, which got me wondering: what would the story look like if it were told from Terry’s point of view? In order to get into that 1940s detective vibe, I listened to the kind of music Tony Leonard – my version of Terry Lennox – might listen to: Billie Holiday, Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington. I immersed myself (as much as possible) in the culture of the 1940s, specifically the post-war era, when millions of armed forces personnel worldwide were being ‘demobbed’ and sent back to the everyday world they’d left at the beginning of the war. While I didn’t take up smoking again (I quit back in 2001) I did indulge in the cocktails Tony would have ordered: whiskey sours, champagne cocktails, martinis, and Raymond Chandler’s personal favorite, the gimlet.

What’s a gimlet? Half gin, half Rose’s lime juice. Shake over ice in a cocktail shaker; strain into a martini glass and enjoy. Trust me: it’s delicious.


Something interesting happened once I sat down to ‘write Tony’. Maybe it was because of the music, or maybe it was because of the drinks, but I honestly felt as if I were channelling him. Every time I opened my laptop, it seemed he was there, dictating his story to me. All I had to do was take it down. This seemed to confirm something writing teacher Julia Cameron says: ‘writing isn’t about making it up; it’s about taking it down’. I certainly felt that way with Tony living in my head twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

I wanted Skid Row Serenade to have the feeling of an old-time pulp novel, including the snappy patter the genre has always been known for. I wanted it to be funny, but funny with an undercurrent of grimness. For example, Tony muses on his dead wife Janet’s sexual escapades as he flees Los Angeles for Mexico:

“[She] prefer[ed] instead an endless parade of stout young swains eager to fuck her brains out,” Tony says, after Janet has been found brutally murdered, her head beaten to a pulp with what we later find out is a high heeled shoe. “Well, they were out now.”

I wanted the book to have the feeling of a Chandler novel, but not as an intentional copy. Rather, I wanted Skid Row Serenade to read like something Chandler might have written, if he had chosen to write The Long Goodbye from a perspective other than Marlowe’s. There are certain passages that deliberately echo Chandler’s style. For example, Tony’s thoughts as he regards Los Angeles from Mulholland Drive, high above the city:

“Down there, people were crying, being beaten to within an inch of their lives, being disappointed and abandoned, having their bluff called, letting their hair down. Somebody was sitting in an empty room watching the pulse and flicker of the disenchanted neon and waiting for a moving bar of light to fall at a predetermined point along the dank and rumpled sheets of someone’s lonely bed. People were being crushed, being knifed, stabbed and shot; people were bawling their eyes out and people were sitting in a bar drinking themselves into oblivion. People were laughing, celebrating, eating, toasting, gasping, breathing, and dying, and all the while the luminous flesh of the palpitating city didn’t give a sweet goddamn.”

At times, Tony finds himself in down-at-heel bars and taverns, looking for some liquid comfort, most likely in a bottle of gin or bourbon. He’s well aware that his drinking habits are not normal, but he knows he is powerless to do anything about it. His frequent forays into less-than-salutary places and situations see him doling out his usual caustic wit:

“Here.” The barman came back with a bottle of Wild Turkey and a glass. […]“Anything else?” he asked.

“Eternal youth,” I said. “Good teeth. Strong bones. A will to live. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Did I leave anything out?”

The novel noir’s most pertinent distinction is a protagonist who isn’t a cop or detective, but who can instead be seen as either a victim, a suspect, or a perpetrator. The noir character is typically weak, morally corrupt, and self-destructive. If he has morals at all, they are likely his own, drawn from his view of the world; there is little in common with the laws or social mores of the larger world. Because the protagonist is himself a victim (Tony is a horribly damaged prisoner of war turned alcoholic) he has no choice but to victimize others in order to achieve the objective of his own personal end game. Bad things happen to – and around – the noir protagonist, who is sometimes an unwitting patsy and the author of his own destruction.

But it isn’t all bad news for Tony: there is a luscious and brilliant detective to whom he becomes very attached, and while having an alcoholic for a boyfriend isn’t exactly the stuff dreams are made of, Skid Row Serenade definitely has a happily-ever-after.


Now it’s your turn… For a free copy of any book from my backlist, share your favorite cocktail recipes. What really inspires your inner tippler? Tell me about the first time you had it, who made it, and why you love it so much. Does it include exotic or bizarre ingredients like wood, cereal, or vinegar? Does it have hallucinogenic properties, like absinthe or a Mickey Slim? Or does it simply fly you to the moon? Leave your reply in the comments.



Image Credits:

Image 1: ”Volunteers of America Soup Kitchen in Washington, D.C.” by Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum – Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum (53227(291), 06/00/1936, 27-0692a.gif). Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Image 2: By The Delicious Life (Vodka Gimlet no. 5  Uploaded by admrboltz) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons