August 29, 2014
As I mentioned earlier, Finally Home is the sequel to my short story, Krung Thep, City of Angels, where we first met novice backpacker Marco and culinary travel writer Chris in Bangkok, Thailand. Not to spoil too much, but Finally Home picks up shortly after the story left off, with Marco and Chris enjoying their last dinner together in Thailand before they part ways, possibly forever. Here, have a peek:
Marco’s mouth was on fire.
Scratch that. His entire body was on fire, a searing burn radiating from his mouth all the way down to his toes. Buds of sweat bloomed over his already sticky skin, and the lazy fan mounted above the table did nothing to cool him. He stuck his tongue in his glass of beer, hoping the remains of the ice cubes floating inside would soothe it, but the fizz just seemed to aggravate the burn. A tormented whimper escaped Marco’s lips.
Across the scarred Formica table, Chris’s normally tanned face had gone red beneath his shaggy blond hair. However, his shoulders quaked with barely contained laughter rather than pain, his ice blue eyes filled with a mix of compassion and mirth.
“Thith isn’th funneh!” Marco cried. It was hard for him to make himself clear with his tongue hanging out of his mouth, which made Chris laugh all the harder.
“Yes it is!” Chris wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. “I warned you, the waitress warned you, but you didn’t listen!”
Marco scowled at Chris through watering eyes. The dish had seemed harmless enough on the menu, just some glass noodles tossed with prawns and minced pork. He hadn’t counted on the strength of the chili-lime dressing dousing it, though. Marco had figured that by now, after two weeks in Thailand, his spice tolerance would have increased enough to graduate from the farang level of spicy to that of the locals. How wrong he’d been.
Chris passed a small plate of cucumber slices toward him. “These should help.”
As Marco crammed two into his mouth, Chris motioned to the waitress. All he had to do was point at the sweating, panting Marco and she nodded in understanding. What seemed like an agonizing amount of time later, she plopped a small plastic bottle of milk on the table. Marco was in too much pain to care how foolish he looked, and he wrenched off the lid in one pull. As the milk bathed his tongue, the burn subsided to a dull, throbbing ache.
“Better?” Chris asked, his blue eyes twinkling with humor.
Marco simply scowled at his travel companion over another slug of the sweetened milk. Embarrassment kicked in as the pain subsided. It would have been one thing if Chris were just some random travel buddy he’d met at a youth hostel, another green twentysomething out seeing the world for the first time. But Christopher J. Springer was a noted culinary travel writer, who made his living sampling what the world’s food carts and hole-in-the-wall joints had to offer. Marco had watched Chris sample chili-studded soups and grilled crickets with equal amounts of gusto. Marco couldn’t even handle a plate of noodles.
“Hey.” Chris’s voice grew suddenly tender, drawing Marco’s gaze away from the offending dish. “It’s okay. We all get burned sometimes.”
Chris reached out a hand and placed it over Marco’s with a squeeze. Marco’s heart skipped a beat, the solid warmth of Chris’s calloused fingers soothing away some of his shame. That was the other, more important reason Marco had been so eager to show Chris he’d absorbed some of his adventurous spirit: Chris was the first real lover that Marco had ever had.
Chris had appeared out of the blue three days after Marco had arrived in Bangkok, materializing like some khaki-clad guardian angel to guide Marco through the convoluted streets, sois and canals of the city. It had only taken them a day to fall into bed together, though it had taken a bit longer to figure out that they made a good traveling pair. Now, after ten days of trekking side by side across Thailand, Marco was having a hard time imagining what life was going to be like once he boarded his plane back to Los Angeles tomorrow.
“Really, it’s okay!” Chris said. “You don’t have to look so sad, Marco. We’ll order something else.”
Marco tried to shake off his melancholy and offered Chris a weak smile. “Can we get that one dish—‘the catfish exploded’?” He remembered the crispy-sweet seafood salad he’d fallen in love with during their two days in the beach town of Hua Hin. Best of all, it was flavorful, yet barely spicy.
“Yam pla dook foo?” The Thai syllables rolled off Chris’s tongue with enviable ease. “If they have it.”
Chris gave Marco a smile that spread a different type of heat through him. As Chris waved down the server to order, Marco couldn’t help but study him, struck again by how he’d managed to attract such an intensely good-looking traveling companion. Chris’s physique was wiry and toned from years of constant travel, not too built, not too thin. He had a smile that stood out like pearls against sand on his lean, tanned face, which time had only begun to line. Marco’s gaze drifted from Chris’s face, down the long column of his throat, to the wide triangle of bare flesh peeking out from his unbuttoned collar.
As Marco watched, Chris’s fingers fluttered unconsciously against the spot, quick as a hummingbird, before falling back to the table. Marco felt a pang, as he always did when he saw Chris’s tic. When Marco first met Chris, that spot had been decorated by a worn silver St. Christopher’s medal, a talisman of protection that had been with him on all his travels. Now it hung around Marco’s neck, a testament to the bond they had forged in such a short time. Marco wondered if he should return it to Chris before he left, seeing as it had been so precious to Chris, but part of him didn’t want to let it go. After tomorrow, it would be all he would have to remember Chris by.
While they waited for their dish, Marco pulled his smartphone out of his pocket and snapped a picture of the offending noodles. Within a minute, he’d posted the picture to his Facebook account, the caption reading: “I think I just ate noodles made out of the sun.” When he finished, he noticed Chris watching him with equal parts bemusement and disdain.
“You know your phone bill is going to be huge when you get back home,” Chris said.
“Maybe, but it’s worth it. I’ll have a record of my day-to-day trip.”
“A travel journal would work just as well. Cheaper, too.”
“Nowhere near as fun,” Marco scoffed. His phone made a cheerful bleep. His older sister, Angela, had already commented, most likely from her office computer, seeing as it was around 11:00 a.m. back home in Culver City.
“You kids and your constant need to share everything,” Chris griped cheerfully. He leaned back in his seat, gnawing on a piece of cucumber. “Back in my day, we used postcards and e-mails to keep in touch.”
“Okay, Grandpa,” Marco snorted. “You’re only nine years older than me!”
“Might as well be twenty, the way things are speeding up these days.”
Chris’s tone was light, but there was a new crease across his brow. This wasn’t the first time their age difference had come up, though the gap didn’t bother Marco in the slightest. In fact, he liked that Chris was older, even if it meant having arguments like this again and again.
“You know, for a travel writer, you’re an awful Luddite,” Marco said.
Chris shrugged. “I have my laptop—”
“That thing is older than I am!”
“And I have my camera. You can’t tell me that little phone takes better pictures than my Nikon D3.”
“No,” Marco conceded, “but at least I can upload them to the web right away.”
“See, I don’t need that.” Chris took a sip of his beer. “Why bother putting things online for free when you can find a magazine or a website to pay you for it?”
“Because sometimes it’s not about the money.”
Marco was getting exasperated. They’d had this argument almost every day. If only Chris would understand how using social media could expose him to new readers and boost sales of his photography books and travel guides. Sometimes Marco thought Chris deliberately didn’t want recognition, despite his awards and high-profile articles. At least Chris had finally taken Marco up on his offer to let him help by recording video footage of Chris’s street-food encounters. It wasn’t high quality, but Marco figured it would help give Chris reference materials, if nothing else.
“Social media is about being connected,” Marco continued, “sharing your experiences.”
“Who would I want to stay connected to?” Chris rolled his eyes in irritation. “The marketing manager pretending to be Anthony Bourdain on his Facebook? My roommate from college? Anyone I want to stay connected with, I do, on my own terms. I don’t need a face-twit-blog-whatever.”
“What about me?” It came out before Marco could stop himself. “After tomorrow how are you going to stay connected to me?”
Finally Marco had asked the question they’d both been avoiding. Marco knew he’d been a rare exception to Chris’s usual rule of not mixing business and pleasure, a lover who had become a travel companion and assistant. The color drained from Chris’s face, and his cool gaze slipped away from Marco to study his half-empty beer glass. For a long moment, the only sounds at their table were the clink of melting ice in their metal bucket and the whir of the cheap plastic fan above.
“All right,” Chris said slowly, “I’ll set up a Facebook account.”
“Really?” Marco’s eyes went wide. “You serious?”
“Maybe you’re right.” It seemed like it physically pained Chris to admit it, which made Marco smile. “It wouldn’t kill me.”
A little side note, if I may, the picture at the top of the page is a meal very similar to the one Chris and Marco shared. The “catfish exploded” dish is on the upper left, and beside it are the “noodles made out of the sun.”
How about you? Have you ever had a dish so spicy it made you cry?
When novice backpacker Marco and seasoned travel writer Chris parted ways in Bangkok, they thought it was the end of their summer romance. Three months later, though, a change of assignment reunites Chris and Marco, and the pair embarks on an adventure greater than ten days trekking through Thailand—forming a real relationship amid family drama, coming out fears, career woes, and personal demons.
Finally Home Blog Tour and Giveaway
June 25, 2014
So you can’t have a release party without a story excerpt. Or at least that’s what I think. Anyway, the excerpt on the DS website doesn’t show the meeting between my main characters so I decided to post it her. Enjoy and tell me what you think!
STEFAN LEANED against of the bulwark of the boat and idly watched his brother diving again and again into the depths of the ocean. Just like Rick had wanted, they’d come here to attempt to find the nonexistent Little Mermaid doppelganger.
It was a waste of Stefan’s time, but since he’d agreed to it, he allowed himself to relax and enjoy the pleasant sea breeze.
The ocean had become silent and peaceful after the storm. Stefan loved these quiet times, when he could take in the smell of salt and freedom, when he could look out into the distance and see only water. From the corner of his eye, he caught sight of motion next to the boat, but it was only a dolphin, performing one of its amusing but highly intelligent dances.
“Hey there, guy,” Stefan greeted the dolphin with a chuckle.
It said “hi” back by shooting a stream of water through its blowhole and making a few whistling noises. As the dolphin approached him, Stefan leaned slightly over the rail. He knew all too well that dolphins were wild predators, but this particular one had come to him of its own accord. It seemed friendly, and if Stefan had to guess, it must be accustomed to humans, at least to some extent.
Stefan petted the dolphin’s snout, and the sea creature released a sound that Stefan could have sworn was laughter. Unfortunately Rick chose this exact moment to interrupt them and emerged from the water.
“What are you doing, Stefan?” he asked as he removed his scuba mask. “Help me look.”
The dolphin whistled in protest and dove back into the water, splashing Rick’s face. As Rick spluttered and gave the sea mammal the finger—and wasn’t that an interesting gesture to make toward a dolphin—Stefan shook his head.
“I said I’d come with you, but I never agreed to playing along with your ridiculous game.”
“You’re just being stubborn,” Rick pointed out, disregarding the dolphin that was now porpoising in the distance. “You know as well as I do that I can’t go too deep, even with the scuba gear. We need the diving suit.”
Stefan resigned himself to the inevitable. The sooner he proved to Rick his idiotic merman didn’t exist, the faster they could go back home. He was loath to use the Newtsuit for such purposes, since he couldn’t afford making repairs to it if something broke. However, Rick wouldn’t have asked him along at all if he hadn’t anticipated the possibility of needing it, and he wouldn’t give up even if Stefan refused.
“Fine. One hour. After that we’re going home, and in the morning, we’ll get you scheduled for a psychiatrist visit.”
He was about to retrieve his atmospheric diving suit from the depths of his boat when the unlikeliest thing happened. A head covered in moist, blue-green curls emerged from the water. Stefan froze, simply staring, his world going a little fuzzy around the edges. It couldn’t be…. Could it? The blue-eyed beauty had to be some unlucky swimmer, one with a very interesting hairstylist, yes, but definitely not a merman.
His knees kind of went weak when the body attached to the head emerged as well. The new arrival lifted himself up to the deck of the boat using just the strength of his arms. Even if he simply leaned against the protective railing of the deck without actually progressing past it, his actions still revealed an emerald green fish tail. Stefan had the urge to take off his glasses and wipe them clean—because he really couldn’t be seeing this.
At first no one spoke. The strange creature looked from Rick—who remained in the water—to Stefan, holding on tightly to the railing of the boat like he was trying to keep himself anchored there. Stefan had no idea what had prompted the beautiful being to come to them, but God, he wished…. He really wished he could touch him. No. He needed to get a grip. This was not the time for Stefan’s neglected libido to nudge him, especially not toward someone of a different species. This was the discovery of a lifetime. And really, given that the merman had just propped what would have been his ass against the deck, he could slide back into the water at any moment, at which point Stefan would lose him.
If another civilization existed in the depths, they might have a solution to the problems Stefan had been fighting for three quarters of his adult life. Toxic waste pollution, oil spills, garbage dumping—the oceans were suffering, and Stefan knew it. As an oceanographer, he’d tried to do his part in controlling it, but he wasn’t the Captain Planet his brother accused him of being, and his insistent efforts had proven to be uncomfortable for his bosses—who had their own, more “practical” interests.
He had to be careful so as not to startle this marvel of nature. Obviously his brother didn’t have such qualms, because he exploded at Stefan. “See, I told you I saw a merman.” He glowered at Stefan, then swam back toward the boat, approaching the merman—shit, the merman!
“Hello. I’m Rick.” When the creature just watched him warily, Rick brought his hand to his chest and repeated his name more slowly. “Rick. Me. That’s. My. Name. Rick.”
Stefan had the distant thought that his brother looked like an idiot while trying to talk to the quiet merman. The creature didn’t seem very impressed, either, and didn’t mimic Rick’s words like Rick undoubtedly wanted.
With a tremulous smile, Rick insisted, “Me. Rick.” Pointing to the merman, he asked, “You? What’s your name?”
The merman didn’t display any interest in communicating with them. At last Rick appeared to lose his patience and reached for the merman’s tail—that lay dangling over the edge of the deck, within Rick’s reach. Rick seemed fascinated with it, as his gaze had gone to the shining green scales more than once.
Before Rick could reach his goal, Stefan’s dolphin friend appeared out of nowhere, slamming straight into Rick and keeping him from touching the merman. Rick fell back, and Stefan cursed, more than aware that angry dolphins could and had killed people before. The dolphin released threatening clicking noises, no longer seeming all that friendly.
“It’s okay, guy,” Stefan tried to say as he leaned over the edge to help his brother. “I’m just going to get this idiot out of your hair. All right?”
A soft whistle came, not from the dolphin, but rather from the merman. The dolphin backed away, taking position next to the still watchful merman. The interaction fascinated Stefan, and it made him want to ask a million questions, which would probably be ignored.
For the moment what mattered was that he managed to retrieve Rick from the water successfully. His brother spouted curses and insults—vicious ones directed at the dolphin and its mother. Stefan guided him to sit down and peeled off his scuba suit to look him over. “I’m fine,” Rick grumbled at him, wincing. “Dolphin didn’t hit me all that hard.”
Stefan palmed his brother’s ribs, watching his face closely as the man took a couple of deep, shuddering breaths. He found no protruding bones, so his brother’s injury was unlikely to be life threatening. Nevertheless, cracked or bruised ribs were still something that needed to be dealt with carefully, lest it grow into a more serious affliction. “Be that as it may, you might want to lie down for a while. I’ll get you some painkillers and ice, and you can go below deck for a while.”
“Are you kidding me?” Rick glowered at Stefan and shot to his feet. “I always knew you blamed me for your own failure to hold on to the best thing that happened to your ungrateful ass. But I don’t care about that. I’m not going to allow you to—”
A soft melody filled the air, more beautiful than any symphony that had graced human halls. Rick’s eyes rolled in his head, and he swayed on his feet. He’d have undoubtedly fallen, but Stefan managed to catch him at the last moment. Stefan grunted, making a mental note to tell his brother to lose some weight if he planned to swoon a lot in the future. Not that he could blame him. The song…. That beautiful song. It was simply spellbinding. Stefan wanted nothing more than to lose himself to it forever. Maybe he’d have done exactly that, but it would have been unpleasant and embarrassing if he’d dropped his already unconscious brother.
Slowly, carefully, Stefan set Rick down on the deck chaise longue. He took a couple of deep breaths and removed his glasses, then wiped them clean with his shirt. When he put them back on, he looked back at the spot where the merman had been. Still there. Thank fuck.
All right, Stefan needed to find something, anything he could tell the creature. Any moment now the beautiful being would leave, and Stefan would lose his chance. First of all he had to learn if the merman’s voice had something to do with Rick fainting. After all, he couldn’t risk Rick’s dizzy spell meaning he had internal bleeding.
“You have my apologies,” Stefan began, “for my brother’s idiotic behavior. I gather it’s rude for someone to try to touch your tail? Did you knock him out with your voice?”
The merman didn’t answer, simply looking at Stefan with eyes so blue Stefan could easily get lost in them.
“I appreciate you calling off your dolphin,” Stefan continued. Still faced with silence, he asked, “Can you give me a sign if you can understand? I feel like an idiot, rambling here without knowing if I’m even getting through to you.”
When the reply came, Stefan almost thought he’d imagined it.
“Phil,” the merman said softly.
His speaking voice was like the whisper of the waves on a particularly calm evening, the mating call of the whales, and the laughter of the wind put together in a package that would be understandable for the human mind. By some miracle, Stefan managed to suppress a moan at the sound. Focus, Stefan. This is important. You have to give this beautiful creature a good impression of the human race. Rick’s rant had obviously upset the merman, so Stefan needed to fix it. Of course, that would have been easier if Stefan had actually understood what the merman meant.
June 18, 2014
To send you off, here’s one more excerpt from my new novella, THE BREAK-IN. I hope you enjoy it.
June 18, 2014
I thought you might like a short excerpt from my novella, THE BREAK-IN.
Because of Jade Release Party (official) post #4: Sonny on bridges, Luki on parenting, and Jade on tulips and tossing cookies
May 24, 2014
Some of you have seen this graphic before with it’s teensy excerpt. Here’s the longer bit it comes from. Setting the scent, this is chapter one, and Sonny’s driving the home from Seattle, where Luki has finally gotten the good news that, after five years, he remains cancer free.
AFTER THEY’D had Full Sail Amber Ale and hamburgers at the Metro, and Luki had gotten upset at the staff for ignoring Sonny, and Sonny had reminded Luki he didn’t care—all of which is exactly what happened every time they went to the Metro—Sonny piloted the flying Mustang down I-5, over the Tacoma Narrows bridge, up and around the Kitsap Peninsula, the long way home.
As they made the trip through Bremerton, Luki said, “An Officer and a Gentleman.”
Sonny said, “Yeah, they filmed some of it here. And supposedly the story took place here.” He was surprised, though, because Luki didn’t really watch movies or television.
“My dad liked that movie. I think he secretly wanted to be a romantic.”
“Maybe he was a romantic,” Sonny suggested. “You know, with your mom. Kaholo said he never got over her dying, right?”
Luki looked as though the thought was completely new and possibly a little painful. Eventually he said, “Yeah, could be. Maybe I’ll ask Kaholo about it when we get everybody together to celebrate my five years cancer free.” He smiled—the second real smile in a single day—and held that expression until Sonny was able to turn his head and smile back.
Sonny switched hands on the wheel so he could reach for Luki’s broad, brown hand currently at rest in his lap, his white gold, black opal, and colorless sapphire wedding set sparkling in the afternoon sun. When Sonny touched it, Luki turned that hand up and caught Sonny’s in his sure but gentle grip. Something delicious traveled all through Sonny, an invisible shiver of pleasure and probably anticipation. He thought, magic hands, but what he said was, “Maybe that’s why he couldn’t accept you as you are, Luki.”
“You mean that’s why he ‘hated what I am.’”
“Well, that’s the way he said it, yeah. But what if he just was afraid you being gay would be another terrible loss, and he wouldn’t be able to deal, just like he couldn’t deal with losing your mother.”
Luki shook his head and raised one corner of his mouth in a wry expression that all by itself dismissed any excuses for his father’s cruelty. “Sonny, I can’t deny my dad gave me a lot of personal power in other ways, and it serves me well. And he said he loved me—he only said it once, but he did say it. And he saved me from being carved up like the bar-b-que pig. Growing up in his shadow and at his command, I couldn’t help but love and admire him. I still do. But I can’t think of anything to excuse his repugnance toward me because I’m gay. Maybe you’re right, but if you are, he was selfish and childish, and that’s not an excuse.”
Sonny didn’t say anything for a while, driving onto the long, flat Hood Canal bridge, which would take them from the Kitsap to the Olympic Peninsula and, still on Highway 104, up and around the coast, past Discovery Bay, and eventually home.
“This is a long bridge,” Luki said.
“Mm. About 7,000 feet.” Sonny changed his voice to his version of tour-guide-Sonny, and added,
“The longest floating bridge in the world located in a saltwater tidal basin.”
Luki chuckled appropriately. “Well, while we’re on it, maybe you can tell me, do you think my dad could be excused for hating… my being gay?”
“Hell no, Luki!”
The answer was vehement enough to actually startle Luki. Once he recovered he said, “You know, Sonny, I don’t think I’ve ever talked about this, but…. The way my dad was, it’s a big reason I’ve never wanted to be a parent. I mean, I remember my mom, barely, and as far as I know she was great, and then of course there’s Kaholo. If I know anything about how to treat a kid, it’s probably because of him. But I’ve always worried I’d be a lousy parent. And if I was, I can assure you I’d blame Peli Vasquez, my good old dad, for at least part of it.”
“Honey, I don’t think there can be an excuse for a parent treating their child like that. I was only talking about understanding it a bit more—more for your peace than his benefit, certainly. And who knows what kind of parent either of us would have made. Chances are, we won’t know. But we’re damn good uncles.”
“True. But speaking of Nebraska—”
“Doesn’t matter. I can’t wait to call Kaholo when we get home. Tell him the news, see if he’ll come out to celebrate.”
Luki looked blank.
For the rest of the trip, Luki made calls and arrangements. Kaholo definitely would come. Jackie and Brian would try to carve out time from their work with British intelligence to make the cross-Atlantic trip—it was that important to them. Josh and Ruthie wanted to get together but had some issues with traveling. Ruthie was midpregnancy and for some reason had morning sickness and general nausea much later into the pregnancy than was usual.
“It’s a little inconvenient, Mr. Vasquez,” she drawled.
“Does everyone from West Virginia call their uncle-in-law ‘mister,’ Ruthie?”
She laughed, which was a sound Luki always enjoyed. It reminded him of a slow, deep creek running over rocks, in and out of eddies and pools. He inwardly smiled, but it did worry him when she said she was having problems. She apologized for her formality with a smile in her voice. “Sorry, I keep forgetting. I don’t know why. So, Luki—there is that better? Anyway, it’s a bit of a problem. I never know when I’m going to be sick, and also the doctor told me I shouldn’t travel until after the baby comes.”
“Okay, Ruthie. Maybe we can figure something out, but I’m sorry you’re having such a hard time. You didn’t with Jade, right?”
“Sheesh. That girl was easy. She acted like she knew exactly what she was doing—even during the birth. She’s still easy, Luki, and you know she talks about you, misses you. That’s another reason I wish we could come. But then, you know Josh just finally got the job transfer he wanted. He was permanent at the refinery, but he’s on the offshore crew now, maintenance out on THUMS Islands. I don’t think he could get off work—he’s still training and on probation.”
“Huh…. Well, congrats to him on the job. Hey, hold on a minute okay?” Luki held out the phone so Sonny could point to the button he needed to press to put the call on hold.
Once he’d done that Sonny said, “What’s up?”
Luki explained the reasons Josh and Ruthie couldn’t come north for a celebration, but before he could ask about an alternative, Sonny spoke up again.
“Well, how about we go down there? It’ll be a great chance for a road trip.”
“That is exactly what I hoped you would say, sweetie…. Well, not the part about the road trip. I was thinking we’d fly.”
“Nope. Road trip.”
With that settled, Luki took Ruthie off hold but found instead that five-year-old Jade was waiting.
She explained, “Mommy’s throwing up, Uncle Luki. And I can’t come to your house right now.”
“Um. Okay. Why not?”
“’Cause at my preschool I just planted my orange tulip bulbs, and I have to be here to take care of them when they pop up out of the dirt.”
“Well, that’s very conscientious of you.”
“Yeah, little girl that I love, good is a great word for it.” It was a diversion. For some reason, “little girl that I love” always made Jade giggle madly. This time was no exception. When she slowed down, Luki asked, “Is your mommy done throwing up yet?”
“Nope. Still tossing her cookies.”
“Tossing her cookies?”
“Yeah, silly. It means throwing up. Don’t you know that?”
“Oh, well. Thanks for explaining. Why don’t you tell me good-bye, and after we hang up tell Mommy that Uncle Sonny and I are going to come there where you live, so you don’t have to leave your baby tulips. Okay?”
Next, food for thought and the promised contest, and after that, a steeeeeeamy excerpt.
May 7, 2014
Here’s a little excerpt from Raven Feathers, Chapter 1:
. Heading for the central plaza, Rourke knew it was too early to get a warm breakfast, but Pleno usually laid out bread and other leftovers for the early risers. He planned to grab a few quick bites before going to the construction workshop.
. Seeing the mottled-fur-colored figure hunched over one of the picnic tables changed the course of his plans. He called out a soft “Yoiyo” to Antinee as he went to the kitchen area. With some bread and cheese in hand, he took a seat at the table across from him. It was nice to have someone else in the village to practice his English with. He had been working hard on his language skills to impress Evan.
. “Up early? Or up late?” he asked the visitor in English.
. “Up early,” Antinee said with a yawn. “Fell asleep right after dinner. Just woke up a bit ago.”
. Rourke nodded as he ate a few bites. “Is there something you not want to say in front of Idelle last night?”
. With a nod, Antinee grimaced. “When I passed by the Houston area four days ago, I still couldn’t find any traces of the tribe. It’s as if they’ve just vanished.”
. “They like to… wander. Maybe out somewhere?” Rourke offered hopefully.
. “For almost nine months now? And they usually leave behind notes and maps at their site for where they’re going. Nothing like that in their village now.”
. “Holy crap,” Rourke said, repeating the curse he’d learned from Evan. “Maybe—it is time for worry.”
. “Yes,” Antinee said with a nod. “I’d suggest when your tribe gets back from the melon fields, get together a small group, like a hunting party, and take a closer look. Really poke around. I didn’t stay long enough to do a thorough search.”
. Rourke nodded. “Keep it small, stick with ‘hunting party’ story, and not cause alarm until we get more knowledge.”
. The men sat a moment in contemplative silence. Antinee took a sip of his tea. “You know, you look more like your father every time I see you.”
. With a shrug, Rourke shook off the implications. “But I am nothing like him. I am an architect,” he said, remembering the great word Evan had used to describe his job.
. Antinee seemed to disagree. “No doubt, a good architect. That doesn’t mean you can’t be like him.”
. “But I’m not,” he said in a colder tone, hinting this line of conversation was over.
. A few silent moments passed before Antinee took another sip of tea and cleared his throat. “So, this Evan fellow…,” he threw out. “I hear you’ve been spending a lot of time with him.”
. “What of it?”
. “Have you learned anything useful from him?”
. Rourke felt a bit insulted. “It is not at all like that. I’m duanta, in case you forgot,” he said in a bristling tone.
. “Sorry,” Antinee said as he offered up his palms. “You don’t have to get defensive. I’m not trying to imply you’re using him. But, at least some of the time, you guys must talk….”
. With a hard look, Rourke replied, “I didn’t ask if you mate with my aunt. Some things should be… quiet.”
. Antinee frowned. “I’m not trying to pry into your private life. Damn it, Rourke, why are you so defensive this morning?”
. Rourke just shrugged.
. “And you know, I could care less about your homosexuality. Nor, do I think, does anybody else. I’m sure I mentioned before, the Chago tribe even has a duanta chief. No one seemed to be bothered by that idea.”
. “Maybe not,” Rourke said in a softer tone.
. Antinee paused a moment for another sip of tea. “Not that I’m trying to pry, but Idelle told me he’s living with you. Is this a serious thing?”
. After hesitating, Rourke finally nodded. “I’m making beads for him. But don’t go talking about that. Need time for tribe to… adjust before telling the news.”
. “Don’t worry about the tribe. Like I said, nobody cares who you bond with. And I’ll keep it private.”
April 28, 2014
Sacrifices (A Jeff Woods Mystery) Release Day Party—Sean
This is going to be my last post before I draw the winners for an e-copy of Sacrifices, so make sure you enter.
In the first Jeff Woods Mystery, Attachment Strings, Jeff struggles to understand Alex’s devotion to his little brother, Sean. Alex’s brother is disabled, and Jeff had a hard time getting over his prejudices. In Sacrifices, we see him dealing with Sean in a much more natural, relaxed way.
Jeff knows what to do with Sean, and tries his best to understand and interpret Sean’s signals. He’s not always successful, which irks him, to say the least. Still, he doesn’t give up and enjoys those mundane family moments with Alex and Sean—more than he ever imagined he would.
Some readers enjoy kids in their books, some don’t. I have no preference, but I tend to bring in children because I happen to like them. Comes in handy when you’re a teacher, right?
How about you? Do you like kids in your stories? Or do you want your books to be a “kid-free” zone? Or don’t you care either way? I’m curious.
I’ll be giving away two eBook copies of Sacrifices to anyone who comments during the release party.
Here’s another excerpt (from chapter three):
Indeed, Alex put his hands on his hips when I waved the package. Whatever he said was drowned out by Sean’s cheerful screech, though. Sean frog-hopped toward me while I put my jacket on the hook. Alex followed, whispering, “You promised him a gift?”
“No, I promised to help him build his farm and play with him.”
“I don’t get why you needed to buy him something new, then?”
Faking offense, I answered, “How can we play farm without a plow horse? Come on, you have to admit it was very important for me to complete his collection.”
Alex fought against the smile on his face but eventually he gave in. “All right, all right.” He pressed a kiss on my cheek, then added softly, “Thank you.”
Sean watched us while he gurgled happily and bounced up and down. Only Alex’s quick reaction prevented him from toppling to the side and banging his head against the wall. I bent down to pick Sean up. He grappled for the package in my hand until I told him, “We’ll go to the living room, okay? You can open it there.”
Sean nodded reluctantly before resting his head on my shoulder. There, I gently helped him to the floor. We tore open the package, and Sean’s eyes lit up when he held the large horse in his hands.
April 28, 2014
Sacrifices (A Jeff Woods Mystery) Release Day Party—Supporting Characters
In the first Jeff Woods Mystery, Attachment Strings, we not only meet Jeff, Alex, and Sean, but also Parker Trenkins. He’s Jeff’s partner on the force, and a real handful. Parker plays an important role in Sacrifices as well.
I love writing strong, supporting characters, and Parker was a fun character to write. I’m still considering giving him his own story. After all, he found his own lover, David, during the events in Attachment Strings, and is very much in love with him.
Parker seems rude, brash, and on occasion in dire need of a muzzle. However, there’s another side to him. He’s genuinely fond of Alex and Sean, and he’s always there when he’s needed. He’s a good friend to Jeff, even though his favorite sport consists of riling Jeff up to the point of either explosion or total surrender. The relationship between Jeff and Parker reminded one of my editors of buddy cop movies, and that’s exactly what I was going for. I happen to like those movies in which the characters tease the heck out of each other.
The Rush Hour series and the Die Hard series come to mind (and yep, I wrote fan fiction in the Live Free or Die Hard fandom…).
What are your favorite buddy cop movies?
I’ll be giving away two eBook copies of Sacrifices to anyone who comments during the release party.
Here’s another excerpt (from chapter two):
“You’re here to ditch your frustration?”
Parker’s scowl deepened, and a strand of his black hair fell onto his forehead. When he pushed it away, I feared he’d tear it out. He dragged on his cigarette, blew out the smoke, and then said, “I think some of the others know about me and David.”
I stiffened. “So?”
“So? What am I going to do? Look what happened to you!”
For the first time, I realized Parker’s hands were trembling. Great. First I held my trembling boyfriend in my arms, and now I was watching my friend—probably my best friend—shaking. I loved Monday mornings; each new one topped the last in awkwardness, embarrassment, or pain.
“What are you referring to, precisely? That I’m no longer a cop? That certain people won’t talk to me anymore out of fear they’ll be contaminated with gay cooties?”
“Gay cooties?” Parker echoed.
“Never heard that term?”
“I… never mind. I just thought—” He ran his hands through his hair, then gazed at the cigarette in his hand.
“You thought what? That I could give you advice on how to deal with it?” I snorted. I sounded bitter, even to my own ears.
Parker lifted his gaze from his smoke to my face; a harried expression stained his features. Tonelessly, he said, “David wants me to come out and leave the police. He got a job offer at a university in Washington DC and wants me to go with him.”
“He what? Seriously?” I floundered. “Well, congratulations to David. Do you think he’ll take the job?”
“He wants to. He’d earn more money, and he’s originally from that area. David’s parents still live there.” Parker shrugged, a helpless gesture somehow. “I’m kind of confused where I’d fit into his new life.”
“Have you talked?”
That drew a lopsided smile from Parker. “Have you met David?”
Parker threw the stub on the ground, stamped on it, and zipped up his jacket. “Yes, we did talk. He needs to take or decline the offer by next Monday, so he told me to come to a decision by Sunday. Thing is, he won’t take the job if I stay here, and that’s….”
“It sucks,” I offered.
“It does. Big time. Apparently, David’s serious about the job offer, but he’s more serious about me. It’s freaky. We had a—” Parker faltered for a moment, obviously searching for the right words. “—discussion.”
Did I see a blush rise on his cheeks? How odd.
“Of the lengthy variety.”
Parker punched my left shoulder lightly. “Idiot.”
“I should have known you’d be no help.”
Smiling, I said, “I know.”
“Next time I’m going to call you. Saves me the trouble of having to see your face.”
“Hey, no insults so early in the morning!”
Parker didn’t look happy, but at least he didn’t look as if he’d clock the next guy he met.
April 28, 2014
Sacrifices (A Jeff Woods Mystery) Release Day Party—Writing a Series
Chris T. Kat still on the DSP blog, talking about my new release, Sacrifices (A Jeff Woods Mystery). When I wrote the first Jeff Woods story, I knew this would become a series. For a while, I struggled with the decision on how many books the series should entail, but eventually settled on three. The third and last book is written, and I just submitted it.
Writing a series is always a risk because many readers want stories in which the main characters fall in love. In a series, you usually get past that stage in the first book, so how do you keep things fresh in further volumes?
Jeff and Alex know in Sacrifices they’re in love with each other, but neither of them feels very secure in their relationship. Jeff has made the decision to go for it, while Alex is unsure whether he can trust Jeff. For Alex, who is very young, it’s the first real relationship he’s been in and that scares him. Does that mean he has to give up some of his independence? What about Sean? Does Jeff only tolerate him? These are all questions running wild in Alex’s mind. Add to that stress caused by the Church of Virtue, and a sudden lack of money, and you have trouble in the making.
Do you like to read series with recurring main characters? Why or why not?
Remember that I’ll be giving away two eBook copies of Sacrifices to anyone who comments during the release party.
Here’s an excerpt from Chapter Two:
Somehow I survived the day. Even though I’d worked here for two months now, I hadn’t grown accustomed to the bustling, hectic activity. Sure, the station had been busy too, but that had been different. Here it was all talk about stuff I really didn’t give a shit about.
Anyway, I had done my work for today. I’d compiled information about criminal activity in and around Atlantic City, which included a couple of robberies, an attempted rape, an attempted murder, a few brawls, and a missing person. I had my own talk show once a week, telling an interested audience all about what crimes were happening in their city. Astonishingly, the show was a huge success. Most people believed what I said because I’d been a cop. Sometimes there were huge controversies, though these were usually about me as a person rather than what I had to say.
For some people, I was a hero—for rescuing Sean and Alex, for having been a cop, for being outed and standing by my man, or whatever other reason. For some people, I was scum for exactly the same reasons. There’s just no pleasing everyone.
The members of the Church of Virtue definitely didn’t like me. They didn’t like a lot of people, especially gays. At least there had been no parade of Church members chanting in front of the station and waving stupid posters. On the other hand, they never appeared on Mondays. Maybe they actually needed to work somewhere too?
But—there always seemed to be a but—I’d received another letter from them in which they berated me for consciously misleading the public and forcing my gay ways on them. I’d read the letter three times. I always read them several times, each time hoping they’d make sense in a way I could understand. So far, comprehension eluded me.
It was early afternoon when I printed out what I wanted to talk about tomorrow. After reading through it and marking important details, I eyed the clock. I still needed to check and verify some facts, which translated into calling Parker.
Leaning back in my chair, I rolled my head from side to side, trying to get rid of the cricks. I sighed when the tension in my shoulders eased, then picked up the phone and dialed. “Hey, Alex, it’s me. How’d it go with Sean?”
“Not bad. What did you bribe him with?”
“Not going to tell you,” I sing-songed.
“Why not?” Alex sure sounded exasperated.
“Because it’s my secret.”
Alex snorted. “Any other reason for calling me? He’ll be back in about an hour and I need to get some stuff done around here.”
“Oh, the exciting stuff: cleaning the bathroom, vacuuming, and so on. Other guys my age go diving, hang out in bars, or whatever, but hey, I gotta clean the bathroom. Yay me!”
I chuckled. “Poor you.”
“Thanks for your sympathy.”
“You’re welcome. Any luck today?”
The silence that greeted me from the other end of the line told me all I needed to know. Eventually, Alex answered in a subdued voice, “No. No luck today.”
“You’ll find a new job,” I said, ignoring the guilt about using a platitude.
“If you say so.”
“Give it time, Alex.”
“I am giving it time!” His voice rose and I braced myself. Nothing came forth, other than harsh breathing.
“I’m not going to flip, don’t worry.”
Before I had time to process what I was saying, the words were out of my mouth. “Oh, good!”
Alex suddenly laughed. “It’s that bad?”
“That’s a trick question, right?”
“Well, no matter what you say I’ll be pissed off, so… yep.”
“Then I’ll go with saying nothing.”
“That’ll piss me off even more.”
Alex laughed again. “Hey, insulting me might piss me off even worse.”
“I met Parker this morning. He invited us for dinner in two days. I said we’d be there.”
“You really need to work on your subtly-changing-the-topic skill,” Alex replied.
“I’d rather work on you tonight.”
“Geez, that was bad.” Despite the rebuff, I heard the smile in his voice. Mission accomplished.
April 28, 2014
Sacrifices (A Jeff Woods Mystery) Release Day Party—An Unlikeable Character?
Hi! This is Chris T. Kat again, still talking about my new release Sacrifices (A Jeff Woods Mystery). As I said before, Sacrifices is the sequel to Attachment Strings. The first book received some strong reactions, especially regarding the main character, Jeff Woods.
When I wrote that character, I realized I was taking a big risk since he comes across as rude, judgmental, and prejudiced. He has a very hard time dealing with Alex’s younger and disabled brother, Sean. I based Jeff Woods on people I met, and the way they reacted to disabled children. I work as a Special Ed teacher, so, yeah, some reactions make you question your faith in humanity. Not all, of course, but people who’ve never met a severely disabled child often can’t school their features (or they don’t want to), and it’s hard work to show them that no one is defined by his disability.
Jeff has learned that the hard way in Attachment Strings. In Sacrifices, he’s still working on some of his prejudices, but he’s lost the fear that underlined his actions in the first book. All three are doing their best on becoming a family. It’s a tough undertaking, though.
I come from a patchwork family myself, so I know how much work from everyone has to go into creating a new family. What are your experiences?
Remember that I’ll be giving away two e-book copies of Sacrifices to anyone who comments during the release party.
Here’s an excerpt from Chapter One:
After wishing Sean a good day at school, which he answered with a sullen look, I made my way over to Alex. He got up from his chair and threw himself into my open arms.
I held him tight, felt him tremble slightly. He whispered, “I don’t want him to make a fuss when the school bus arrives. I can’t handle this shit anymore.”
He was almost sobbing the last sentence. Sean had given him hell since school had started. We both understood Sean’s refusal, but St. Christopherus School was the only one available for him.
Sean never wanted to get on his school bus, which he showed everyone in no uncertain terms. He screamed and cried and thrashed around in his wheelchair so violently that he’d managed to flip the wheelchair onto its side on several occasions.
His new bus driver, an elderly woman named Patricia Cornell, was an incredibly patient person. Somehow she always convinced Sean she’d take care of him and got him on the bus. By the time the bus left, Alex was either crying or close to tears. I’d witnessed all of this several times in the past weeks and generally sat with Alex afterward while he tried to compose himself.
Today he’d be on his own.
Tightening my grip, I whispered back, “He’ll get over it eventually. His therapist said as much.”
Alex snorted. “Yeah, Burnes also said he’d get over his nightmares eventually. Do you see that happening? Because I damn well don’t.”
His trembles increased and fast puffs of breath tickled my throat. Not a good sign. Helplessly, I murmured his name.
Sean whistled sharply, obviously not happy about being excluded from the conversation. Alex jumped in my arms and tried to push away from me. I held on, keeping him crushed to my chest.
“Jeff, I need—”
“No, you don’t,” I cut him off. “Sean will survive not being the center of your attention for a moment. Relax.”
“Relax?” Alex snapped, again struggling to get free from me.
Lifting him off his feet, I carried him over to his chair, plonked down on it, and settled him on my lap, all the while ignoring his protests. “Hush now, I’m in charge here.”
“No, you’re not.”
“But yes, of course I am. Who else could be in charge here other than me?”
Sean laughed from the other side of the table. I winked at him. Alex finally stopped struggling and leaned against me instead.
“How about me?” he asked.
“You?” I countered, doing my best to sound sufficiently horrified.
Alex bumped a fist against my chest, smiling a bit. “Yes.”
“Well, for one, I like to be in charge and you don’t.”
“That’s not true!”
“Don’t interrupt me,” I said. The corners of my mouth curved upward, even though I tried to keep a straight face. “I’m having a really good daydream right now.”
“Really? What’s it about?”
“Oh, just that you’re acknowledging my awesomeness and—”
“All right, all right, you’re awesome and in charge and I was short of having a meltdown. Yet again.” He sighed.
“Hah! I knew someday you’d say it!”
“Yeah, yeah, don’t let it go to your head. We don’t want you to be distracted while you’re on your way to work,” Alex muttered.
And that was the real problem, or at least part of it. Alex feared something could happen to me—on my way to work, at work, on my way back, anywhere.
I couldn’t blame him. Resting my cheek on top of his head, I pulled him closer to me. Alex shuddered, then trailed a finger over my shirt, tracing the large scar hidden under it.