March 27, 2015
Find “The Serpent and the Angel” here! http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6201
Remember, while this might be Book 8 of my series, it is also book 2 of my Part 2 of the series. I have 5 parts planned and while the entire series should be seen as a cohesive whole, to make my life easier, I split the books into parts to make sure I stayed on track and told the story that needed to be told.
It’s certainly a struggle to balance the romance with furthering the overall plot, but I welcome the challenge. I feel that with every book I grow stronger in my writing skills (and research skills), and I really enjoying seeing my series unfold and reveal itself. Every single book offers me at least one surprising moment.
That is the struggle with these later books since the dominoes need to start falling as the series unfolds. Part one (Psychic Moon through Master’s Blood) was more of the introduction to my universe, and the characters and the groups I will be dealing with for the rest of the series. Now the rest of the parts will be focused on the various romances (of course) but also the workings of the villain Arcas and his allies. But the core of the series is still love and how each couple tries to save the day and prevent Arcas from reaching his goals.
The snake slowly slid out of the small hole it had been coiled in. Flicking its tongue, sensing no danger, it slithered and scraped over rocks and boulders, easily finding a path out of the rubble. It was hungry, but it didn’t smell any prey, which caused it to focus on finding an exit out of the tunnel. For some reason it didn’t want to hide and wait for prey, it wanted to find open air. Always going with instinct, the snake never questioned or doubted its senses. The long serpent easily made its way down the open tunnel, seeming to glide over the uneven ground and disjointed tracks. It wound around the mine carts, past the fallen pickaxes, constantly flicking its tongue.
It began to feel cool air over its scales and hesitated. Slithering to the side of the tunnel, the snake eyed the opening, flicking its tongue, again sensing no danger. It moved slower now, wary of the open air, the lack of protection. But something inside it urged it out, into the open; something seemed to push it forward. Keeping close to the side of the tunnel, it peeked out of the opening, into the dark. The moon was high, the stars shining, but the snake paid it no mind. All it saw was the wide expanse of land, and all it thought about was food and shelter.
But even as it was about to move across the darkened land, it sensed movement just outside the tunnel. Coiling into itself, the snake lifted its tail and lowered its face. Sound followed the movement, and the cause of that sound formed a shadow across the land. The snake flicked its tongue out, tasting the air, oddly familiar with the scent upon it. It wasn’t prey. It wasn’t predator. What was it?
A creature walked into sight. Again, there was an odd sense of familiarity. The known scent grew stronger as the creature seemed to notice the snake. The snake coiled tighter, muscles trembling. Its rattle shook louder.
“Never seen a rattlesnake as big as you before,” the creature said.
The snake didn’t understand. But Tobias did. It felt as though he surged upward, as if he was rising out of water toward the surface, straining for air. He saw through his snake’s eyes, smelled Angel’s scent. The snake fought, of course it fought, but Tobias knew he’d win. The snake wasn’t stronger than he was. It had never been stronger.
The snake shuddered as if in pain, and the rattle stopped moving.
Angel knelt in front of the snake, at a safe distance from a potential strike. Tobias stared into Angel’s face, using it as an anchor. He knew that face. He liked that face. When he’d changed, he’d been too scared, nearly panicked with the thought of death, that he hadn’t fully prepared himself mentally for the change. This caused his snake to take over fully, for him to lose who he was, his memories, his purpose, his personality. But now he fought, and he knew he would win. But he couldn’t allow Angel to see him change back. He couldn’t even allow himself to consider the outcome of that travesty.
Tobias took full control of his snake and struck out at Angel, never intending to bite, but trying to scare Angel away. Angel jerked back in shock with a yelp. Then Tobias turned and shot down the tunnel, into the dark. But even as he did, and as Angel’s scent faded, his snake began to fight back. Tobias held onto Angel’s face, his voice, his scent, and kept control. But he couldn’t hold the snake’s form as he kept remembering what it was like to be a human. He could only move past the first corner of the mine before the air shimmered. His skin rippled violently, and he fell to the ground, a human once more.
Gasping, shaking, Tobias’s skin flashed hot then cold. He was going to be ill; he knew he was, just like the first time. He curled into himself, his throat dry, his lungs heavy. He must have made enough noise to draw attention, because he suddenly heard someone running down the tunnel. It wasn’t long before Angel ran around the corner and skidded to a stop. They stared at each other for a long, humming moment before Angel dropped to his knees and yanked off his own coat, wrapping it around Tobias.
Then, to Tobias’s great shock, Angel pulled him into his arms and hugged him hard.
“Oh, thank the spirits. I knew it, I knew you had survived.” Angel’s voice was thick with tears as he rocked them both, his arms in an unbreakable hold.
Tobias didn’t know what to say. He still felt ill and was becoming more so by the minute. But right then, he closed his eyes and allowed himself to indulge for a moment. He took a deep breath, coughed, but still relished the scent of his deputy. Angel was so warm, the kind of warmth Tobias’s skin had never exuded. He curled into his deputy, remembering acutely the reunion with his parents so many years ago. It had been so different from this. He’d been slapped by his mother, yelled at by his father. His arm had been grabbed, and he’d been dragged to their carriage and berated the entire way home. There’d been no tears, no words of relief or joy.
He didn’t know what to make of Angel’s obvious affection or how to handle it.
Angel suddenly pulled back, and their eyes met again. Tobias’s eyes had adjusted to the darkness, and he could see his deputy’s face well enough to see something in his eyes that sent a spike of fear down Tobias’s spine.
“It was you,” Angel whispered. “You were the rattlesnake.”
Want to learn more? My website is here: www.mdgrimmwrites.com
Do you like long series (20+ books) or would you rather a short one (under 10?) or do you prefer trilogies?
March 27, 2015
I’m back! Promoting my latest release “The Serpent and the Angel” (The Shifters Book 8).
“The Serpent and the Angel” was very fun to write because of the pairing of Tobias and Angel. I enjoy pairing “odd” couples and these two are perhaps the oddest of my pairings so far—a diamondback rattlesnake shifter (Tobias) and a golden eagle shifter (Angel). Since I find both of those animals beautiful and majestic in their own right, I liked the idea of them together. Also, I was intrigued by their symbolism in various Native American tribes. Both animals held (and hold) very important roles to those tribes, and I tried to play around with that within the story. But my greatest emphasis was put on the idea that they appear to be opposites in every way: one’s above the earth, the other is earth-bound; one mates for life, the other is solitary… you get the idea. But in my story both of them are guardians. They approach their jobs differently but the core of who they are is the same.
And now here’s an excerpt:
He pulled on Shadow Dawn’s reins before dismounting. He approached five men, ones he knew well, Lord help him, who were currently getting their asses handed to them by one lone man. Tobias didn’t recognize his face and figured he had to be a stranger. His clothes were plain and dirty around the cuffs and knees, indicating he’d been traveling for some time. He had a bag with him but lacked a hat.
Tobias stood for a moment, rather entranced by the ferocity and skill of the stranger. He was swift, his unusual gold eyes keen and sharp. He used arms and legs to defend himself, and one-by-one, each man fell to the ground, coughing dust and dirt. The sun glinted off brown hair streaked with gold, and it matched his skin, which was also an intriguing shade of light gold. The man was tall, but not nearly as tall as Tobias, who stood an intimidating six foot, three inches. The stranger had broad shoulders and a narrow waist, and his coloring was certainly odd. A suspicion as to the stranger’s origins formed in the back of Tobias’s mind the longer he observed the man. When all five men were flat on the ground, moaning and groaning, Tobias was able to take a better look at the man’s face: he had sharp features, especially his cheeks and nose, a heavy brow, and Tobias decided he was quite handsome and strangely beautiful at the same time. Then the stranger looked straight at him. Those sharp, gold eyes met his, and a zing of lust shot straight to his groin. The man panted, sweating visibly, his bag still held by one hand, his body tensed for more fight. Tobias smiled.
Interested? Find the book here http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6201
Do you have any questions for me regarding my series or my life? Ask away! I shall try to answer.
But now a question for you: What sort of odd pairing would you like to see in a shifter story? What two animals would you find hilarious to pair together?
March 27, 2015
Hello everyone! M.D. Grimm here promoting “The Serpent and the Angel,” the latest story in my Shifters series.
“The Serpent and the Angel” continues the story of the ancient scrolls and their bird guardians. For those of you puzzled by the direction I’m taking with this series, rest assured I have a plan, the scrolls are very important and that’s why I’m diving into the past to introduce them. And because it’s fun J
If you want to learn more about my “grand plan” for the series, you can check out my blog at: http://www.mdgrimmwrites.com/#!blog/cqsg
I share all you ever wanted (or not wanted) to know!
I’m not too familiar with historicals, which is why I wanted to challenge myself with “Hunted Guardian” (book 7), “The Serpent and the Angel” (book 8), and the nearly-completed book #9 “Predator and Prey.” I wanted to introduce the scrolls in a historical setting to set up where they are in the present (which will be books #10-#12, and possibly later ones).
Now here’s a short excerpt:
Tobias knew how to intimidate, to make others fear. Lord knew it was his greatest skill. He had a deadly stare, aptly like that of a rattlesnake, and his eyes, his expression, were blistering cold. His boots thumped up the two steps of the general store’s long porch before he entered the building itself. He turned smartly to the counter where an older gentlemen, one in a snappy suit, stood, waiting for the few customers inside to purchase their items. The man’s gaze shot to Tobias’s, and he visibly paled, his eyes widening.
With a casual lean on the counter, which didn’t fool anyone, Tobias lifted the brim of his hat a fraction before considering the man.
“Good morning, Mr. Thompson.”
Mr. Thompson had to clear his throat before he found his voice. “Good morning, Sheriff.”
“I hear we might have a problem.”
He blinked. “Problem, sir?”
“Aye, a problem. Namely, a problem you might have with a few of the hardworking miners the coal mine employs.”
“I got no problem with those men.”
Tobias’s lips lifted slightly. It wasn’t a smile. “Right glad I am to hear it, Mr. Thompson. That puts my mind at ease. Now, I’ll just leave here and go tell those nice hardworking Chinese men that you don’t have a problem with them.”
Mr. Thompson scowled, his wrinkled face becoming more wrinkled. “Damn Chinamen. What kinda trouble they causing now?”
Tobias lifted his eyebrows. “They claimed, mistakenly, I’m sure, that you be raising the prices for them, while keeping the prices reasonable for the other miners. I reckon that ain’t true, is it, sir?”
Mr. Thompson, while obviously still wary of the sheriff, didn’t seem to want to appear cowardly. There were a few decent women in the store, including his seamstress wife, who were obviously staring at the two of them, eager to see what transpired.
“They come to this country, stealing work from decent folk. Lord knows they gotta damn pay for it.”
Tobias tilted his head slowly to one side, his eyes flat, his face emotionless. Then, without warning, Tobias lashed out. He gripped Mr. Thompson’s collar and yanked him forward, causing his upper half to lie flat along the counter. Mr. Thompson gasped and choked, his eyes reeling. Tobias shoved his face near the older man’s, their noses almost touching.
“Let me make myself perfectly clear, Mr. Thompson,” Tobias said in a low voice only the two of them could hear. “Consider this your only warning. Whether it’s a Negro, Chinaman, Indian, or a damn dandy who walks into this store, you had better treat them with the same decency you treat those who look like you.”
Mr. Thompson sputtered. Tobias tightened his hold, his strength absolute.
“I don’t got a use for bigots in this town, and you know how I feel about useless folk.”
Mr. Thompson paled even further, his eyes growing dark with terror.
Tobias paused, making sure his point sunk into the man’s thick skull. “If a person got a use in this town, they get the same damn items for the same damn price. Have I made myself clear?”
“Aye.” It was nearly a squeak.
Tobias let go and shoved Mr. Thompson lightly on the shoulder, sending him back across the counter. Mr. Thompson stumbled and panted, his hands shaky as he tried to straighten his clothing.
Tobias gripped the hem of his vest and gave a light tug to resituate it, before smoothing out his shirt. He sniffed and lowered the brim of his hat again, casting his face into shadow, his eyes the only things gleaming.
“Remember, Mr. Thompson, I only give one warning.”
Mr. Thompson nodded vigorously, gulping. “Y—yes, sir.”
Tobias spun on his heal, tipped his hat to the ladies who stood behind him, stunned. Then he was gone, striding out of the store and back down the lane. The sun glinted off the sheriff’s star pinned to his vest as he now observed his surroundings. Parkers Hollow was a tough town with tough people, and he had damn well be tougher. That had never been hard for him. He was cold, detached, and merciless. He’d never pretended to be otherwise. Lord knew he was exactly the type of sheriff a town like this needed.
He lived by one rule: If a person had a use, then that person deserved his protection. In these rough lands, there wasn’t any room for laziness or parasites. The last sheriff had learned that lesson quickly… when Tobias had put a bullet in his brain. The man had been a corrupt, drunken horse turd in fancy suits. He’d certainly had no use whatsoever.
Which do you prefer: series with the same couple/characters every book or different characters/couples but with a related theme?
I shall be back!
March 23, 2015
Since you can read the first chapter over on the Dreamspinner page, how ’bout a bit from the first time Kieran and Jaxon meet?
A few minutes later, the rest of Kieran’s breakfast arrived. Natalee appeared ready to stand guard and watch him eat, but the comings and goings of other customers kept her occupied. She didn’t have any extra time for Kieran except to offer a refill of coffee, which he gratefully accepted.
As advertised, the pecan pancakes were delicious: large, fluffy, and full of chunks of pecan that added a delightful crunch. There was real butter and genuine maple syrup, and Kieran was in breakfast heaven. The fruit salad was fresh and juicy sweet, and the bacon was thick and meaty, not grilled to a crisp.
Positively breakfast heaven.
Kieran didn’t make it a habit to be awake at breakfast time if he could help it, but if not, he required a good breakfast. The Copper Caboose served breakfast all day, and he’d happily eat all his meals here if he couldn’t find any other place with decent food.
Kieran was pushing the empty plates away when the bell on the door jingled and the most beautiful man he’d ever seen walked into the restaurant. He’d seen plenty, so this was no mean compliment.
Make that most beautiful person, Kieran amended. He’d never seen anyone—man or woman—more attractive. Just over six feet, the object of future fantasies had short, neatly cut sun-streaked brown hair. His eyes—bright greenish-hazel, slightly heavy-lidded but in a sexy, just-fucked way—mesmerized Kieran, and just looking at his plush, full-lipped mouth threatened to give Kieran an immediate hard-on.
It wasn’t simply his appearance, but the way he seemed so unaware of his power to attract. Kieran’s usual playmates had no doubts about their looks, and that knowledge seeped into their personalities in all the worst ways.
This man wore a Wedgwood-blue button-down shirt fitted closely enough to make it clear he spent time at the gym, or played at least one sport, and took proper care of that amazing body.
And he was walking directly toward Kieran.
Just then, Kieran noticed the woman who had come in with the man and had pushed ahead of him as she moved toward Kieran’s table.
“Are you Ky… Kee….” The woman fumbled the words, then gave up.
Kieran’s eyes were still glued to the beautiful man.
“Keer-un.” The man’s voice was rich and resonant, with lovely inflections that made it distinctive and incredibly sexy as he spoke Kieran’s name. “It’s Gaelic, right?”
Kieran smiled, noticing a few caramel-colored freckles scattered over the tanned nose and cheeks of the man. Kieran realized for the first time in his life how much he adored freckles. At least the freckles on that face.
“Yes, it is.” Kieran hoped he didn’t have a stupid grin on his face. “You’re probably the only person in town who can pronounce it besides me.” Only natural that someone with an “X” in his name would be sensitive to another person with a slightly unusual name.
“I’m Danetta Archer.” The woman practically shoved her way in front of Jaxon, blocking Kieran’s view. She nodded her head in Beautiful’s direction. “And this is Jaxon Lang, my fiancé.” She reached out to shake Kieran’s hand, and he felt obligated to take it. She gave him a short businesslike squeeze, far more powerful than her looks implied.
“Jaxon,” Beautiful said, offering his own hand. Kieran took it, prolonging the contact, enjoying the warm, firm grip. Reluctantly, he let go before anyone noticed.
“Nice to meet you both.” Kieran’s gaze still focused on Jaxon.
Without asking, Danetta sat herself down in one of the chairs opposite Kieran. Jaxon sat down at the side of the table to Kieran’s left, his knee slightly grazing Kieran’s as he settled into the chair. The resulting jolt of electricity sped through Kieran’s body, and he fought to keep his attention on the conversation.
“Alexa Harrington told me you’d be coming to town early because you wanted to do an article on my wedding.” Danetta beamed at the word “wedding.” “I’m not really familiar with Gloss. It sounds like it’s a fashion mag, perhaps like Vogue or Marie Claire?” She paused. “You have a photographer coming, too?” Her eyes widened and flashed with excitement over the idea of her wedding being featured in one of those magazines.
Kieran shook his head. “I take my own photographs.” He rarely did, preferring to paint pictures with words. “And ‘gloss’ actually has another definition: commentary or interpretation. It’s meant to be an intellectual play on words: one connotation indicates shallowness while the other is almost opposite in meaning.”
Jaxon smiled at Kieran’s explanation. Danetta looked blank. “You’re familiar with the word ‘glossary’? They’re related.” “Oh, right,” she said.
“It’s very clever.” Jaxon nodded.
Kieran gave a casual shrug, pleased with Jaxon’s approval. “Well, I can’t take the credit for it.”
Jaxon turned his full attention on Kieran. “We wanted to introduce ourselves to you now, and—”
“We know you’ll want to do some other interviews and I—we would be happy to schedule those for you, to help you out,” Danetta interrupted.
Damn woman was already finishing Jaxon’s sentences, and they weren’t even married yet, Kieran thought wryly. It didn’t escape his notice that Jaxon hadn’t used any other pronoun besides “we,” which was already disgusting in itself. Worse, Danetta had mainly used “I” and “my.” Those sorts of details spoke volumes.
Jaxon might be the most beautiful name I’ve ever heard—even with the fucking X. Kieran forced himself to snap out of this daydream in order to participate in the conversation without drooling over Jaxon Lang.
“That’s very accommodating,” Kieran replied. “How did you know I was here?”
“Natalee called and told us,” Danetta replied. “She knew we wanted to meet you as soon as possible. Everyone in town is on the lookout for you.”
“You probably feel like you’re being stalked.” Jaxon’s eyes twinkled in amusement. “Well, you are. I’m very sorry about that, but you’re the biggest thing to happen to this town in a long time.” Jaxon paused as he seemed to be giving Kieran a welcome once-over. “In more ways than one. I mean, we heard you’re quite tall.” A rather adorable wide-eyed look of embarrassment flashed across his face. “And everyone in town loves Danetta, so they’re all very excited for our big day.” Jaxon turned to her with a dopey, lovey-dovey smile that made Kieran want to puke up the fantastic breakfast he’d just eaten.
Jaxon’s tone and demeanor were heading directly into Stepford territory, and it was a pretty disheartening realization that this beautiful man would be Danetta’s husband in just a few days.
“So, Alexa said you want to focus on about how even though I was engaged before”—Danetta gave Jaxon a sideways glance—“that now I’m sure I’ve found true love with Jaxon. Have I got that right?”
Kieran liked how she put it—engaged, as opposed to actually had three weddings.
She continued, “And you want to meet the three men I didn’t marry, so you can—what, compare them to Jaxon?”
“Well, I admit that’s part of it.” Kieran avoided Jaxon’s eyes at the implied insult.
* * *
March 21, 2015
So, this is the day after the river-sex scene (as I’m calling it ), and Jackie has convinced Luki, Sonny, and Brian to go Geocaching with him. Brian and Luki are walking a bit farther back, and Sonny and Jackie get a moment to talk. You know, sometimes I wish I had a Sonny! I figure he might look a lot like the guy in the photo above, maybe a bit older. He’s all of 35 or so by the time J&B comes along. Might as well clear up a timeline question while we’re here, too. A Shot of J&B takes place after all the V&J books except Because of Jade. The story in the novella “Yes’ has recently happened, and Jade is still about 5 years in the future.
“So, the you-and-Brian thing,” Sonny said. “Going well?”
Jackie smiled even bigger, shook his head in disbelief at his own good fortune. “Very well,” he said. “Sonny, I can’t believe how… right he seems for me.”
“I can believe it,” Sonny said. “I think he feels the same about you, if I’m any judge. And you’re both good men.” He stopped, touched Jackie’s arm, grabbing his full attention. He glanced back, and then, apparently satisfied with the distance between them and the other two men, he said, “But you still should keep your eyes open, Jackie. I’d lay money on a bet Brian would never hurt you on purpose, but… well, things happen. Don’t lose yourself in him, okay?”
“Yeah. I hear what you’re saying. I’ll do my best…. Sonny, you know I applied to a school in London.”
“Hm. Heard back yet?”
“No. And I haven’t said anything to Brian or even Luki or Josh. Kaholo knows.”
“Okay,” Sonny said, scratching at his almost nonexistent beard, clearly thinking. “I won’t say anything. But you know, if you go, Luki will worry.”
“I know. Will you?”
“Not unless between now and then I see a reason to be more concerned.” Sonny started walking forward again, and Jackie followed suit. “You’re grown,” Sonny continued. “Your head’s on as straight as anyone else’s, and you’re pursuing your studies because it’s a field you want to work in. You wouldn’t go to London to be near Brian if the school didn’t have what you wanted. Right?”
“Oh, it’s a great program. I applied before Christmas… before I met up with Brian at your house.”
“You’ll be fine. You don’t need protecting half as much as Josh and Luki think you do. I’ll miss you if you go, but I won’t worry… much.”
So it’s almost time to go! I’ve have very much enjoyed your company everyone, and I hope you had some fun. I’m going to figure out the winners and post it, then try to answer as many comments as possible. So I’ll be back in a bit with a farewell until next time post!
March 21, 2015
When it came time to leave and Jackie left the room to gather his things, Brian at last turned his full attention to his hosts. He thanked them and quite sincerely said he’d been very happy to see them again. He added, “And the food was fabulous, Luki!”
Luki chuckled, and said. “Thank you, Brian. But as preoccupied as you were, I think if I asked you tomorrow what you ate for dinner tonight, you wouldn’t even remember!”
Brian couldn’t pretend surprise that Luki had noticed. Before he could think of a reasonable response, Luki squelched any possibility of a speech with the biggest hug Brian had ever seen his former boss give anyone besides his husband, and then a giggling Sonny circled his long arms around them both and joined the squeeze. Brian’s ribs hurt a little by the time it was over.
When Jackie came from the back of the house with two suitcases and a backpack, Brian took the luggage from him and went to put it in the rental car while Jackie made his farewells to his uncles.
He put the backpack in the backseat, thinking Jackie might want that available, and then laid the suitcases in the trunk. They seemed to fit perfectly in there with his own bags, but when Brian had that thought, he realized what a strange thought it was, and tried to talk himself back into his usual, more sensible perspective.
Don’t be ridiculous, Brian. Even if there was a God and that God made one person to perfectly match one other person in the entire world, luggage fitting in the trunk wouldn’t likely be a sign they’d found each other. He was able to laugh at himself a little, then, and it did help him take a mental and emotional step back. Not too far, though. Now that he and Jackie had crossed paths again, he had no desire to step back too far.
He admitted in a moment of clarity that the prospects for any future development were a bit disheartening. He lived in London, had a career and a flat and a club and a cat there. Jackie lived in Nebraska—at least Brian thought he still did—was in college, still and had years of study ahead of him pursuing the education he needed to pursue his field of interest. And who knew where in the world that would take him?
Just then, Jackie turned toward him, smile clear and lovely in the glow of the porch light, but somehow more reminiscent of the boy of six years ago than he had been at any earlier time that night. It reminded Brian who Jackie was, what he’d been through, and he thought, if ever there was a sub that required a cautious approach, Jackie is it. Brian had enough savvy to know Jackie had become interested in him, but he decided that, though he wouldn’t discourage Jackie’s interest, he also wouldn’t do anything to deliberately foster it. For the time being, he’d let Jackie take the reins, solo.
RAIN HAD begun to fall heavily just as they’d pulled out onto the main road, which would take them back to Port Clifton. Visibility on the road was poor at the best of times, but on a moonless night in heavy rain, Jackie thought the chances that Brian would be able to pass the slow-moving, overloaded-looking log truck ahead of them seemed slim at best. He sighed, but not unhappily, only settling in. The ride would be longer than expected, but they’d left early so they’d likely make their flights in plenty of time.
The sound of the rain and the way it dripped down the windows seemed to close them in, to make the car’s interior seem cozy, its dash lights comforting. And Brian… he seemed steady behind the wheel, relaxed, perhaps even a masterful driver, reminding Jackie of Sonny. With the heat on low, Brian’s scent permeated the air—something with a touch of incense like quality soap, and slightly sexed, and a faint tang of end-of-a-long-day man-smell. And….
“I smell leather,” Jackie said.
“Oh!” Brian flashed a smile at him. “My brother gave me a jacket for Christmas. It’s on the backseat. Still new enough to have a pretty noticeable smell. I admit I like the smell, but most of the time I hardly notice it, and I know there are people who don’t like it.”
“I like it!” Jackie laughed at his own enthusiastic answer. He knew he wasn’t being subtle, but then subtlety was not a quality he’d ever been known for. “Quite a lot, in fact. It’s one of the reasons I took up leatherwork.”
“Tooling, burning, sewing. I like to work with soft, lighter weight leathers. I think the tooling and painting people do on heavy leather is fabulous—some of it’s museum quality. But I like the feel of the softer stuff, the way it responds if I treat it right, the way it looks when the right people wear it.”
“No. Well, heh. Yes I have a few things I wear from time to time, in certain… situations.” Jackie hesitated, knew he was taking the conversation somewhere unexpected. “I had some leather that matched the color of the darkest streaks in my hair, and I made myself a harness—but that one I’ve never worn.”
“Well,” Jackie said, drawing the syllable out slightly, “the occasion just never seemed right for it, yet.”
Brian glanced at Jackie, turned his eyes back on the road, and said in a husky voice that had to be one of the sexiest sounds Jackie had ever heard. “I’d bet good money you’ll wear it well when you decide to do so.”
March 16, 2015
Austin, Texas has been my home for 27 years. All of my books are set here. It’s a liberal city in a conservative state. Imagine if someone took San Francisco and dropped it into the middle of Oklahoma. That’s Austin.
I wrote my first two books in a comfortable chair at home, but when it came time to write The Eskimo Slugger, I tried out a few coffee shops in my neighborhood. My favorite was La Tazza Fresca, which is Italian for “the fresh cup.”
Most of YES is set in a fictional Austin coffee shop called La Tazza Magica, but it’s inspired by the real La Tazza a few blocks from my house. Here’s another excerpt with some pictures.
IAN SCANNED THE room and thought about the day five years earlier when he bought the building that would become La Tazza Magica.
Located north of the UT campus on one of Austin’s main thoroughfares, the former thrift shop proved to be the perfect size for a European-inspired café. With its vaulted twenty-foot tin ceiling and expansive windows, Ian transformed the space into a haven for students, writers, and the occasional chess player. In one corner, he set up a small living room with two identical black sofas facing each other and a red Queen-Anne-style coffee table in between. In the opposite corner, he installed a dessert case and wooden bar, for an old-world pub feeling. A fifteen-foot wine rack stood like a tower behind the bar, and Ian suspended another rack from the ceiling for glasses and beer mugs.
He filled the central seating area with a variety of tables, both large and small, some regular height and others of the taller bistro style but all made of dark wood. He painted the plaster walls a deep mahogany and trimmed the windowpanes in black. He updated the electrical system and tripled the number of outlets, in order to accommodate laptop and phone chargers. He found a vintage corner bookcase at an antique fair and stocked it with classic literature and board games like Monopoly, Life, Risk, and Trivial Pursuit. He hung paintings of Italian cafés on the slivers of wall between the windows and surrounded the building with a U-shaped stone patio for outdoor seating.
For food, Ian designed a simple menu of sandwiches and salads, with an accent on seasonal, fresh, and local. He served wine, beer, and the best espresso in town. He named the place after his favorite café in Florence, La Tazza Fresca, but changed the adjective. Most nights he had a packed house, and at peak times, Ian would introduce strangers to each other and encourage them to share a table. He posted his prime directive on a sign above the east door:
Stay as long as you want
Don’t be a dick
The barista on duty always had the final say over music selection, but Ian encouraged an eclectic and low-key atmosphere. During job interviews he grilled potential candidates about their musical tastes, so as not to hire a Belieber or anyone with a Wagner obsession. What he ended up with surprised him—anything from Johnny Cash to Billie Holiday to Justin Timberlake to Mozart to the Carpenters to this new band called Dime Box.
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March 16, 2015
The first scene between Ian and Bartley, before Ian makes his wish and wakes up two decades younger.
THE NORTH DOOR opened, and Bartley James, another of La Tazza’s regulars, walked in. Bartley was Ian’s customer crush, but with his all-American good looks and clean-cut appeal, he was also out of Ian’s league—or at least that’s what Ian believed. His nerves kicked into high gear as Bartley approached the counter.
“Hi, Ian. Can I get a double skim, please?”
“For here or to go?”
Bartley brushed a lock of golden-blond hair out of his eyes. “I need it to go tonight. I’m heading back to the office to finish the blueprints for the new house. We’re breaking ground tomorrow.”
“This the house you designed for the couple in Westlake?”
“One and the same. I’ve finally graduated from being an assistant to a full-fledged architect.”
“Sounds like you’ll need some food, then. Let me throw a sandwich together for you.”
“I only brought in enough cash for the latte.”
Ian turned to the espresso machine to make Bartley’s double skim. “The sandwich is on the house. You’re in here almost every day. It’s the least I can do to help celebrate your big project.”
“Well, thanks. I suppose food would be a good idea. I’m used to running on caffeine at times like this.”
“You ever have our Pilgrim sandwich? I got the idea from a deli in P-town. You ever been there?”
“Provincetown? Mason and I went last summer, before everything fell…. Never mind. I need to stop…. What’s on the sandwich?”
“Turkey, dressing, and homemade cranberry sauce. It’s like Thanksgiving dinner.”
“Sounds good,” Bartley said. “But how do you get all that onto one sandwich?”
“Well, it can be a little messy, I admit, but it’s bloody delicious.”
Ian cringed. This was usually the part where he started blabbering about something of no importance. All his attempts to be cool around Bartley ultimately ended in failure. He knew he should shut up, but instead he launched into the inevitable explanation. “I’ve been watching this British soap called Hollyoaks. Twenty-three minutes a day, five days a week. Totally addictive, crazy show, and I’m not exaggerating. Half the characters belong in a mental institution. One of them named his kids Lucas and Leah. You know, after the Star Wars characters? There are these five insanely hot Roscoe brothers. The two things I’ve picked up are ‘bloody’ and ‘sort it.’”
The Roscoe Brothers
“What do you mean by ‘sort it’?”
“Well, in Texas, when we have a problem, we fix it or handle it or deal with it. But in England, they sort it. I swear to God, they’re constantly sorting things. And if you go to court, you don’t testify, you give evidence.”
“Hmm. What made you start watching a British soap opera?”
Ian finished the latte, handed it to Bartley, and then turned his attention to the sandwich. “It has a lot of gay characters. I’m a little obsessed with gay stories on television shows.”
“Did you find it on BBC America or something?”
Max and Iago
“No, YouTube. That’s where all the good stuff is. People edit together the gay storylines from European soaps and add English subtitles. They’re called ‘trims.’ Max and Iago from El Cor de la Ciutat. Lenny and Carsten from Gute Zeiten, schlechte Zeiten. Christian and Oliver from Verbotene Liebe.”
Bartley laughed. “Forbidden Love?”
Lenny and Carsten
Christian and Oliver
“Very good. Americans only know Brian and Justin from Queer As Folk, or Will and Sonny, of course, but there are all these other gay supercouples out there they’ve never even heard of, let alone seen. I recently lost an entire Saturday afternoon to Elias and Lari.”
Brian and Justin
Will and Sonny
“Where are they from?”
“Finland. I can’t pronounce the original title, but it translates as Secret Lives. Did you know people in Finland have saunas in their apartment buildings?”
Elias and Lari
“I didn’t know that.” Bartley took a sip of his latte. “You got any big plans for the weekend?”
“My friend Mark is taking me to Denver for my birthday.”
“Today’s your birthday?”
“Happy early birthday. How old?”
Ian hesitated as he spooned some dressing onto the sandwich. “Forty.”
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March 16, 2015
On a flight home to Austin after his 40th birthday, Ian Parker wakes up from a nap to discover, in the airplane bathroom, that he is two decades younger. He returns to his seat and his best friend Mark.
IAN DRIED HIS hands and took a deep breath. He opened the door and practically knocked over the young woman waiting in line. He apologized and hurried past her down the aisle. He took his seat next to Mark, shook him, and lifted his sleep mask.
“Wake up,” Ian said. “I’m having a really bad trip.”
Mark opened his eyes and recoiled. “What the—? Who in the hell are you?”
“What are you talking about?”
Mark shook off his nap and looked around. “You must have overshot your row or something. Someone else is sitting there. What’s your seat number? Do you have your boarding pass?”
“It’s me. Ian.”
“Ian?” Mark glanced up and down the aisle. “Okay. If you say so. There’s no point in getting into an argument about it.” With a look of subdued terror on his face, Mark reached up and pushed the flight attendant button.
“What are you doing?” Ian said. “Don’t you recognize me? I thought I was hallucinating. Tell me I’m hallucinating.”
Mark removed the pillow from around his neck and swiped off his mask. “Let’s let the flight attendant handle this, okay? I don’t want any trouble. Please, whatever you’re doing, you don’t have to go through with it. Think about prison at your age. Have you ever seen Turned Out? Or Oz? Sure, I know it looks hot when it’s Chris Meloni, but this isn’t fiction, young man. You’re on a real plane, and I’m a real person. These things have consequences, and there’s no point in ruining your life before it’s even begun. I’m sure your cause—whatever it is, religious or otherwise—I’m sure it’s a worthy one. Have you been wronged by the American political system? Well, take a number and get in line.”
“Mark, it’s me. Can’t…? Look, I’m wearing Ian’s clothes.”
“And that’s supposed to convince me? You’re wearing jeans and a plain white T-shirt. If they belong to Ian, then what have you done with him? What’s your angle here, kid? Why do you insist on pretending you’re Ian Parker?”
“I’m not pretending.”
“Then prove it,” Mark said.
“I can… I can tell you things I know about you, like your favorite TV show is RuPaul’s Drag Race. You’re obsessed with Robbie Rogers, which I totally don’t get. And you have a dog named Kitty.”
“Practically anyone who follows me on Instagram could know those things. Have you been stalking me? Does this involve sexual blackmail? Because let me tell you right now, I—”
“We met at Jester Hall twenty-two years ago. You live on West Thirty-Ninth Street between Avenue B and Avenue C. You used to have a boyfriend named Troy, but I called him Sparky for no other reason than I thought it suited him better than Troy.”
Marked paused, and it looked like maybe Ian had convinced him. But then Mark shook his head and said, “Still not conclusive. Are you Al-Qaeda? Or maybe NSA? It’s so hard to tell the difference these days. What have you done with my friend? Did you lock him in the bathroom? Is that what you did? Because if you’ve hurt him in any way, I swear I’ll—”
“I am your friend. Why can’t you look at me and see that?” Ian glanced down the aisle and saw a female flight attendant heading their way. He had to think of something fast. He turned to Mark and whispered, “Okay. I didn’t want to go there, but could practically anyone else know you have a thing for twincest porn? Maybe Elijah and Milo Peters? Or the two brothers from Brazil?”
Mark’s jaw dropped.
“I thought that would do the trick.”
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March 11, 2015
And here’s an introduction to Jeff/LJ/Lord January, from Chapter One of Guarding January:
“Do I have to go?” Jeff stood at the door of the room he’d been living in for eight months. Eight months he’d been safe and happy in there. Eight months he’d been able to be just Jeff, instead of Lord January. “Jim, can’t I just stay?”
“Oh, honey, you know you can’t. You have all the tools to do this. You do.”
His sponsor and the man who had become a friend stared at him, smiled.
“You look like Santa Claus when you do that.”
They looked at each other, then they cracked up, leaning together, and if he cried a bit, Jim didn’t say a word.
“Come on. Donna sent a car for you, to take you home.”
“She sent a babysitter.”
He couldn’t even complain; he probably needed one, but couldn’t it be Jim? Couldn’t he stay there where he was safe?
“You have my number, Jeff. Use it if you need it, okay? I mean that.”
He nodded, wrapped his hoodie around him, iPod in the pocket, put his sunglasses on, and hunched inside the fabric.
Jim gave him a short, hard hug, then walked him out the front door. Out into the world.
He winced away from the sunlight, tugging his hood down farther. “My things?”
“Already in the car, Sir.” A mountain of a man threw him into shadow, and a huge paw was held out. “I’m Rye.”
“I don’t shake hands. Sorry.” Jesus, Donna had hired a giant. “I’ll call, Jim, okay? Soon?”
“Anytime, Jeff. I promise.”
The giant waited until he started down the walk, then paced him. “We’re the dark gray SUV to the right of the gate.”
“Okay.” He kept his head down, making sure the light and the long-range lenses couldn’t get to him.
He had to admit, having the Hulk walking next to him gave him some cover to hide behind, making him feel less exposed. Didn’t mean he suddenly wanted the babysitter, mind you.
The walk down the path seemed to take for-fucking-ever, but at last they were at the car, his minder opening the door for him and bundling him in. The door shut with a very final sounding click, and in seconds they were driving away from the one place he knew was safe.
Jeff put his earphones in and turned the music up loud, the noise pounding in his head.
He stayed in his cocoon until the door opened, his new bodyguard’s hand touching his arm. Aside from really tall and really built, the guy had short brown hair, like military cut almost, and a square jaw like you’d expect some tough bodyguard to have. His new bodyguard’s eyes were surprisingly blue, like bright and alive. Jeff slid his gaze from the guy to the house.
Home sweet home. Goodie. He stood, the garage quiet and still. There were two doors down there—one to his rooms, one to the rest of the house where everyone else was. He grabbed his guitar, then headed to the door on the left, heading upstairs without a word.