February 14, 2014
I am sending my hunky waiters around to serve you all some drinks Please enjoy while I share an excerpt from my book – Holding on to Hope.
Leslie felt eyes on her, and she looked across their table. A pair of freakishly blue eyes stared in their direction. They belonged to a man, a bit older in age—probably in his fifties, she guessed—with long gray hair. His face was round and wrinkled, making him look very ugly. He wore a black trench coat over a white shirt and a striped tie. Leslie noticed the big rings on his finger and deduced that he must be some wealthy man. However, his stare was making him appear scary.
When he realized he was caught in the act, his lips curved into a cold smile.
She quickly looked away and tried to concentrate on what her boyfriend was saying. However, Leslie kept getting the weirdest feeling that nothing around her was safe anymore. The worrisome thoughts kept her occupied. An unmistakable panic was slowly settling in.
All because of an old man who was probably innocently looking at the college kids as they sat right across from him and reminiscing about his past!
Leslie shivered. “Guys,” her voice wavered. “I’ll be right back.”
Thankfully, none of the boys noticed the change in her tone, and she quickly made her way to the ladies room. Once she was in, the first thing she did was empty her bladder.
Somehow, the old man had freaked her out so much that she felt the need to pee. She couldn’t put her finger on what it was exactly that triggered such emotions in her. This had never happened to her before.
She splashed some cold water on her face, fixed her makeup once again, and exhaled, feeling a lot better than before. Hoping that the old man was gone, she slowly stepped out.
Her heart felt lighter when she saw his seat was empty, and the smile then came easy to her. At that moment, she even wanted to laugh at herself for having a stupid panic attack.
After all, he was a harmless old man.
She found her boyfriend standing by the counter, buying another coffee for himself. She walked over to him. “I thought you promised me that you’d cut down on your caffeine consumption for a day.” Leslie narrowed her eyes. He looked at her like a deer caught in the headlights and smiled very cutely.
“I told you too much coffee isn’t good for my Patty-pie’s health.”
“I promise this is the last one,” he said and leaned down to kiss her. He obviously wasn’t going to keep his promise. But she let it slip. Pushing the matter wasn’t going to help. Leslie believed that Patrick needed to decide to stop on his own.
However, she couldn’t help but worry too.
When he broke the kiss, she shook her head, giggling slightly, and looked in the direction of their booth. “Where’s Brad?”
Patrick turned to look. “I don’t know. He was sitting right there before you came back out.” They trailed back in the direction of their booth. “Maybe he went to the restroom.”
“Couldn’t have happened.” Leslie shook her head. “Or else I would have seen him when I came out.”
“I don’t understand.” Patrick gazed at her. “He was right here a minute ago, talking to the old dude, and I went to get….”
“Old dude?” Leslie’s heart skipped a beat. “Who?”
“I don’t know who he was, but I guess he was sitting in this booth.” He pointed to the space where the scary old man had once been. “He came over to Brad and was like, ‘Can I talk to you in private?’ So I just left the booth for them to talk.”
“Pat!” Her blood was running cold by then. “How could you leave him alone with a stranger?”
“Baby, overreact much?” Patrick looked around, and Leslie realized that everyone was looking in their direction. “Brad is not a little child.”
“Hey, what’s the matter?” Ian’s voice interrupted them, and Pat tightened his jaw.
Leslie tried to calm herself down before replying. “Brad is… I don’t know… he went somewhere. It’s probably nothing, but Pat says he was talking to this old man before and….”
“Shit, no!” Ian yelled. “Old man? What did he look like?”
There was panic in his eyes, and his voice and fright suddenly found a home in Leslie’s system. “Freakishly blue eyes, wrinkled face, Rings on his fingers.”
“Long gray hair?” Ian asked anxiously.
“Yes!” Leslie was certain something pretty awful had happened to Brad, and she couldn’t stop cursing herself for lack of better judgment. “Ian, do you know something?”
His lip quivered. “I do.” He stepped closer and looked between the two of them. “Brad is in big trouble right now, and there’s only one person who can get him out of it.”
January 15, 2014
I did a short video reading of an excerpt from Dumped in Oz. I like doing readings of my work and since I can’t be there with you, I thought I would do a video reading instead. The scene comes from the end of the first chapter of the story where Lyle and Roger first begin to notice one another. I hope you like it.
Because of an opportunity he’d be a fool to turn down, Lyle Powers transfers to his company’s warehouse in central Kansas. The last thing he expects is to meet another gay man in the small town, let alone one who captures his interest.
Roger Kypers is a recovering alcoholic with a twelve-year-old daughter he only gets to see for part of the summer. Neither Lyle nor Roger is looking for a relationship, and they fumble at the start, yet emotions build as Roger shows Lyle the landmarks of Oz.
But when Roger’s wicked witch of an ex-wife threatens to take his daughter away for good if he doesn’t act “normally,” he’s faced with the challenge of letting her get away with it, or fighting to accept himself and standing up for what he knows is right.
January 9, 2014
Cupcakes isn’t my first story published with Dreamspinner, although it is my first stand alone. I do have a short story in the Two Tickets to Paradise anthology called Something Different.
The anthology blurb: A vacation is exactly what these men need to find love in their lives. It may be about looking for a little fun, gaining a fresh perspective after a breakup, or building up the nerve to take the plunge. Whether they travel by plane, train, or automobile, none of them want to go it alone. They’re hoping romance will be the ticket to finding paradise in another man’s arms.
Something Different blurb: Tuscon Andrews is in Las Vegas to celebrate his birthday. Alone. He’s just questioning the wisdom of that move when he runs into Adam Brewster. He and Adam split a long time ago; they’d been good together, but never seemed to have the time for each other. The intervening years don’t seem to have dulled the passion between them any, has anything else changed or is this destined to be a holiday fling?
You can pick the anthology up here.
Something Different excerpt:
Tucson Andrews stepped out of the airport and winced at the wave of heat.
God, what had he been thinking, coming to Vegas in September? He should have just stayed in Denver. Or taken Rick and Bill up on the offer to come to their place in NapaValley. God knew Rick and Bill would have welcomed him for the week, welcomed him into their bed, into some games that would have left him aching and sore and well fucked.
But no. He wanted to gamble. He wanted to dance with the kids. He wanted to celebrate his thirty-fifth birthday in style. He wanted something different.
Tucson looked at the lack of cabs and groaned, then pondered just getting a shuttle to the Mirage. Really, though, that sounded even less fun than standing in line. Maybe he’d just call for a limo. Hell, maybe he’d just walk. It didn’t look that far, right?
While he was standing there, vacillating, someone bumped into him, knocking his shoulder hard. “Shit. Sorry, man.”
He turned to say something, the words dying on his lips as The One That Got Away came into view like a frigging mirage.
He’d be goddamned. His eyes went wide, and he almost lost the handle of his suitcase. Flashes of a life, back in New York, hit him deep in the gut. Two young guys, trying to get ahead, trying to see everything, taste everything, feel everything. Everything.
Adam’s brown eyes went wide as well, almost comically so. “Tuc?”
“Yeah. Yeah, hey. What’s up?” He knew he looked good, but he still sucked in his stomach, made himself taller.
God, Adam had aged well. The dark hair was cut near the man’s scalp now, but there didn’t look like there was a bit of gray in it. There were crinkles at Adam’s eyes when he smiled, but it made him look sexy, not old. The broad shoulders were shown off to advantage by the tight blue T-shirt.
“Yeah. Here to party.” His own hair was longer, now, his ass skinnier.
“Hey, that’s right—it’s your birthday!” Adam grinned. “Happy birthday, Tuc.”
“You remembered.” He was surprised, maybe a little pleased. “Thanks. Getting old, I guess.” He waved toward the taxi stand. “I guess I’m going to catch a cab.”
“You wanna share one?” The question was light, easy.
“Where are you heading?”
“Mirage. I’d like to buy you a birthday drink.”
His lips parted. “The Mirage?” All the hotels on the strip and they were staying in the same one?
“Yeah—you gotta be heading in the same direction, I mean, it’s at the edge of the strip.” Adam’s smile began to fade when he didn’t answer right away. “If you don’t want to, that’s cool, man.”
“No. No, that’s fine. I’m just there too. I was shocked.” Stunned. A little buzzed from the Jack and Coke on the plane.
Adam nudged his arm. “Of all the gin joints in all the towns….”
Tucson chuckled, head ducking. God, he used to love Adam’s sense of humor. “Yeah, no shit. Come on, I’m melting out here.”
“I don’t know. It seems… almost nice.” He got a wink this time, and then Adam was taking charge, managing to hail down a cab and loading their bags into the trunk.
“Thanks.” He slid in and nodded to the cabbie. “We’re going to the Mirage, please.”
“So you’re on vacation. I hope this isn’t the first one since we split.”
“No. I try to go on one a year. I usually spend it visiting friends.” Having a long week of mind-blowing sex, a couple of scenes, long talks, and a lot of wine.
“What happened to your friends this year?” Adam winced as soon as the words were out of his mouth. “I’m sorry, that was rude of me.”
“I just…. They offered. I thought I’d come here. You remember Rick and Bill, right? It’s their fifteenth anniversary.” He didn’t want to interfere with that sort of celebration. Or worry about the long conversations about looking for a local man to give him what he needed, either.
Adam shot him a look that said a lot about remembering the types of things Rick and Bill were into, but he didn’t say anything. Still, Tucson could feel those brown eyes on him as they left the airport.
What was he supposed to say? He wanted that wild, crazy week in Vegas—booze and sex and dancing and insanity.
They were still sitting in silence when the cab turned, the strip opening up in front of them with the MGM Grand leading the call. They zoomed through garages and behind casinos.
“I’ll get the taxi—it’s your birthday after all.”
“You don’t have to, but thank you for the thought.” God, this was painful, this careful small talk.
They got out and headed in, got in line for the front desk. “So you’ll meet me in the bar for a drink later?” Adam asked, though it didn’t sound so much like a question as it did a statement.
“I… I will?” Had they agreed to that?
“Cool. See you at six.” Adam gave him a grin before going to the front desk clerk who was waving him over. God, the man had a good ass.
“At six….” He shook his head, headed to his own clerk. There were at least five bars per hotel. Hell, he’d never even see Adam again. No worries.
Right now he needed a room, a hot shower, and a nice long nap.
January 8, 2014
This is Ashavan Doyon winding down the day of information about I Almost Let You, my brand new (out today!) release from Dreamspinner Press. It’s been great fun chatting with all of you, and I’ll be hanging around for about a little while yet. If you have any questions about the book or about my process or about the characters, I’m happy to answer them (barring spoilers, of course, though those questions can be asked through my webpage, info at the bottom of the post!).
One of the things I really enjoy about I Almost Let You is the way it starts. So as I wind down the release party, I want to leave you with an excerpt from the book:
“PLEASE,” AARON said, looking a little desperate.
Chris kept his hand on the doorknob and glared at him. “I hate you,” he said, almost a snarl, and yanked open the door. “I’m done.” With that, the man strode out the door, pulling it shut with such force that Aaron thought for a moment the glass might shatter.
Aaron couldn’t move. He brought a hand to his mouth and desperately tried to force himself to run, to follow, to plead. His whole body shook, but he couldn’t move forward, only backward, step by step until his back hit a wall, and then he slid, bonelessly, to the floor. He gulped, his eyes fixed on the door. “Chris….”
But Chris was gone. He was gone. The reality sunk into Aaron and seeped slowly into his bones and pores until the raw emotion of it hit him, and he sobbed helplessly, pulling his knees to his chest and burying his head between them.
It took him over an hour to drag his phone out and press the numbers on the smooth screen that would call someone. He knew he had said something into it, screamed something desperate into the phone that couldn’t begin to describe what he felt. Then his phone was discarded carelessly on the floor, and he was screaming, and weeping, and hugging his knees, arms around them tight as if he were holding something precious.
It didn’t take long. There was the sound of a key in the lock, and then rapid footsteps, and then Aaron was wrapped in soft arms, pulling him into the warmth of a soft and ample bosom. Fingers stroked his hair. And he cried.
Thirteen years earlier
AARON WAS held. But he wasn’t held the way he wanted to be. Not by the person he wanted, needed to hold him. After a few moments, she eased away to look at him.
“Better?” she asked.
Aaron shook his head. “Chris hates me.”
“Again?” Jenny asked.
Aaron swatted at her arm half-heartedly. “Stop it,” he said. “I’m being serious.”
“What did you do?” she said.
“It has to be me doing something?”
“Yeah,” Jenny said. “It does.”
“I sorta, maybe, kissed him,” Aaron said, chagrinned at how sheepish he sounded.
“You sorta kissed him?” asked Jenny. “How do you sorta kiss someone?”
“Okay, I really seriously kissed him. With tongue.” Aaron screwed his eyes shut. “He wasn’t ready.”
“Well, duh. Aaron, he’s a track star. Half the girls in the school are after him and his dad is freaking out that the poor guy isn’t dating. Except he is, honey. He’s dating you.”
“I don’t think he understood what that meant,” Aaron said, opening his eyes to look directly at Jenny. “Until today.”
“Hon, you’re worrying too much. Here’s the question, and it’s important. Before it hit him. Before he realized what it meant and how complicated his life was gonna get. Did he kiss back?”
Aaron shut his eyes and smiled at the memory. “Yeah. Yeah he did.”
“And how did that make you feel?”
“Like the world had stopped,” Aaron said. “Like it was just us. Forever.”
“Hon, not everyone is a walking pride parade. He’s still afraid, and his parents don’t know. They can’t. Hell, they hate that he even knows you, much less hangs out with you.” Jenny shook her head. “You’re lucky they haven’t put an end to that too.”
“So what do I do?” asked Aaron, leaning back to stare at the sky, his arms rigid, hands planted against the ground behind him.
“Convince him that you’re worth it.”
Aaron gulped. “What if I’m not?”
Jenny leveled a stare at him.
“What if I can’t convince him?”
“Then you try harder,” Jenny said.
Aaron stared at the sky. “It’s very beautiful out here,” he said.
Jenny set a hand reassuringly on his shoulder. “He’d like this. And you’d be alone.”
“Am I a horrible person to want to do it again? To want to do more?” asked Aaron.
“You’re a teenager,” Jenny said. “We’re supposed to be all hormones, remember?”
Aaron smiled. “I’m going to do it again, Jenny. I’m going to kiss him again.”
I hope this leaves you wanting to know more about Aaron and Chris. Remember, you can use coupon code: DoyonBlog (case sensitive) to get a 25% off discount at the Dreamspinner Press store to all my books. The code is good for one more day, so take advantage of it and pick up I Almost Let You or The King’s Mate today!
And the contest winner is: Trix!
Trix if you can let me know the email you use for the Dreamspinner Press store, I’ll have I Almost Let You added to your bookshelf. You can contact me through my website, here: http://ashavan.weebly.com/contact-ashavan.html or just reply in the comments.
Thank you all for chatting with me this evening! I’m always happy to talk to readers and can be reached at:
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Don’t forget to BUY THE BOOK: I Almost Let You at the Dreamspinner Press store. And feel free to ask questions in the comments!
December 18, 2013
Hello again! Time for an excerpt. Here’s a key scene from The Heart of Frost! Ooh, I do hope Jack makes it in time! Enjoy! You can read the first full chapter here.
“You’re clear for takeoff, Captain.”
“Roger that.” Only a few weeks left until the Big Flight. There were plenty of test runs to do in the meantime, some on his own and three with the rest of the Rein Dears. There was a great deal of work involved, but no matter how many years he’d been doing it, he still found it exciting and exhilarating.
Above him the skies were blue, the winter winds calm and blowing with him rather than against him. His heart did a little flip knowing Jack was helping him despite his absence. Before he knew it, his plane’s wheels were leaving the tarmac, and he was rising up toward the clouds. Once he achieved altitude, it was just him, his plane, and the lulling sounds of his engine. The peace that washed over him, the freedom he felt while soaring through the air, was unlike anything else he could think of. Ever since he was a tiny elfling, he’d known he wanted to fly, and his mother, who had raised him all on her lonesome, had encouraged him, whittling the most beautiful airplanes for him out of pine, which they would paint together. Whenever he got the chance, he would visit her and take her for a ride in his plane.
With the weather clear, he practiced a few aerial maneuvers, enjoying some dips and loops, a couple of barrel rolls, before the wheel in his hand gave a harsh shudder. Leveling out his plane, he frowned, wondering what had caused the jolt. Out of the snowy blue, every light on his control panel lit up like a Christmas tree, the needles of his gauges going into wild spins. What the Holly? The entire aircraft trembled, and black smoke started engulfing his precious plane. The worst part was he had no idea what could be causing the failure. Everything had been checked and double checked. Every piece had been in perfect working order, well-oiled, polished, and maintained to the highest of standards. Every cable had been in its place, every nut and bolt secure.
The engine sputtered noisily, then stalled, and his heart leapt into his throat.
Nothing he tried seemed to work, and as he began losing altitude it was clear he was going to have to jump. With a curse, he pressed down on the clasp of his seatbelt’s buckle. Nothing happened. Crabapples. He tried again, this time getting a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. Something was horribly wrong. He pressed against the buckle with all his strength, and when it didn’t budge, he thought of climbing out through the straps, except when he tried to move, he was tightly secured, as if the belt had somehow tightened around him, pulling his body back into his seat. There was no budging.
He frantically fought against the harness, and when nothing came of it, he searched around in the hopes of finding something sharp he could use to cut his way through one of the heavy straps, but there was nothing. The way he was falling, he wouldn’t have time to cut himself free even if he did have something, which he didn’t.
“Oh Gods.” How could this be happening?
“Rudy?” Tim’s panicked voice came over the radio. “Rudy, what’s wrong?”
“The plane…. It’s dead, completely dead. I’m falling.”
“You need to jump.”
“What do you mean you can’t?” Noel’s firm voice came over, his own panic evident in his gruff tone. “For Kringle’s sake, get out of there!”
“I can’t. My harness is stuck.” He did his best to remain calm and tried to open his door. Not that he knew what he would do once it was open, but he had to hope whatever was going on wasn’t affecting the whole plane. When the door remained firmly bolted shut, his fears were confirmed. This was no ordinary malfunction. This was unlike anything he had faced before.
He’d done the drills, run scores of variables, prepared himself for every possible outcome should his plane malfunction, but nothing could have prepared him for whatever this was, for this dark force that had infected his precious baby. Had it been anything else, he might not have been so frightened, but this…. Whoever had done this hadn’t intended for him to survive. Even the air around him was thick, making it harder and harder for him to breathe. His lungs ached and his body felt weak. The only thought that crossed through his mind was Jack. He shut his eyes tight to keep his tears at bay. No. He couldn’t end like this. He threw a gloved fist against his window and fought against his harness. If he was going to go down, he’d do so fighting.
“Jack!” he screamed as he threw his shoulder as hard as he could against the door. If there was even the slightest chance the wind could carry his pleas to its master, Rudy was going to take it. Please, hear me. “Jack, I need you! Please… help me.” He let his head rest against the cold window, his voice hoarse from lack of oxygen. “Jack…. I love you.”
Do you enjoy a little suspense in your romance? What’s your favorite romance genre?
The Heart of Frost is available from:
Remember, there’s also a coupon code: CochetBlog to get 25% off any of my Dreamspinner press titles, plus any Urban Fantasy titles! Code is good for 2 days!
About the Author:
Charlie Cochet is an author by day and artist by night. Always quick to succumb to the whispers of her wayward muse, no star is out of reach when following her passion. From Historical to Fantasy, Contemporary to Science Fiction, there’s bound to be plenty of mischief for her heroes to find themselves in, and plenty of romance, too!
Currently residing in South Florida, Charlie looks forward to migrating to a land where the weather includes seasons other than hot, hotter, and boy, it’s hot! When she isn’t writing, she can usually be found reading, drawing, or watching movies. She runs on coffee, thrives on music, and loves to hear from readers.
Twitter: @charliecochet | http://www.twitter.com/charliecochet
October 27, 2013
Hello to all! This is Bell Ellis, the author of “Swiftsilver” which appears in Dreamspinner’s Steampunk Anthology, Steamed Up. I’ve written a few other stories over at the site, but this would be my first steampunk story.
I was absolutely positive that I was doomed as I wrote it, because a) I know almost nothing of steampunk, and b) I wanted to bring Science(!) into the story, and Science(!), as we all know, is difficult to fake. I was fortunate in being able to consult a few friends who think more about these things than I do.
Here is an excerpt from my story:
One day, Thio was playing with a small square of it (enameled to a piece of flannel), when he sat up. “Seamus, look at this.”
“What is it?”
“Take this patch of swiftsilver and wave it back and forth in the air.” Seamus did so, waving it haphazardly, and Thio shook his head. “Not like that; keep the flat side facing the push of the air. Like this.” He held Seamus’s hand and helped him move the patch from side to side, pushing it against the air as though waving a fan. Seamus could immediately tell what Thio had noticed: on the silver side of the patch, there was intense resistance to the air, but on the flannel side, there was very little. The effect was baffling. When one waves a fan, the air resistance is equal on both sides. To have it feel so dramatically different….
“What the devil kind of substance is this?”
Seamus said, “It’s… a semipermeable membrane, Thio. Air passes through one side more easily than the other. Thio, that would be perfect for a wing. You would resist the air beneath on the downswing, but not the air above on the upswing.”
The idea of swiftsilver’s particular properties came to me when a friend of mine mentioned the thought experiment of Maxwell’s Demon. Maxwell’s Demon is basically a powerful little creature that opens a door between two chambers and allows hot molecules into one, and cool molecules into the other, to artificially create a temperature difference and defeat entropy. Apparently some demons need hobbies.
I thought, what if a substance could do that?
The same friend of mine went on to talk about vacuum airships, and the technical aspects of the story unfolded from there. Then I had to throw a bucket of cold water over my friend to get him to stop talking about technical constructs so that I could go and write the Glandularly Meaningful bits.
I’ve begun to read the anthology myself, and I’m delighted to see that I wasn’t the only person to focus heavily on technology (some of them even involve math, but don’t be frightened, it’s just a story); but that just betrays my basic ignorance of steampunk. Of course it would all contain technology and inventions and near-miraculous science (sorry, Science(!)). But that’s what makes this collection of stories special.
Are you a technically-oriented reader? Does it drive you crazy when writers get things wrong, or make you stand up and applaud when they get things right? Leave a comment and tell me all about it.
If you ever want to natter at me about my other stories, writing in general, dogs, pie, contortionists (I’m doing research for another story), or anything else that inspires you, please feel free to poke at me on Twitter, where I exist as EllisTales.
October 27, 2013
Hi. I’m Amy Rae Durreson, and I’m joining Mary, Eli and some of our fellow authors to talk about the Steamed Up Anthology. My story, “The Clockwork Nightingale’s Song” is the second story in the collection. It’s about an engineer, an inventor, a flying pleasure garden, and a clockwork nightingale with a broken heart.
I’ll be talking a little more about my historical inspirations later today, but to get us started, have a little taster of the story. Here Senior Engineer Shem Holloway and his apprentice are at work in the Vauxhall Flying Pleasure Gardens when the nightingale’s inventor Lord Gabriel Marchmont arrives to demand their attention, much to Shem’s annoyance.
That night, Shem found it hard to concentrate on his rounds. He was distracted by the thought of a brass nightingale that refused to sing and, more and more as the evening underwent its daily transformation from charming to wild, of its creator, his unguarded smile, the arrogance Shem wanted to slap off that pretty face, and his fine hands.
“Should we check the fountain, Mr. Holloway?” the boy asked, breaking him out of his daydream.
Shem glanced at Neptune’s fountain, currently occupied by three very drunk young men: one sitting in the water up to his waist and the others, shirtless, copying the pose of the great statue for the benefit of a squealing crowd of women who were clearly no better than they ought to be.
“Have some sense, boy.”
The boy’s eyes were wistful, and he wet his lips a little before venturing, “But they might need our help, Mr. Holloway.”
Like that, was it? Shem could see they were pretty, for drunken louts, the water slicking across their bare, muscled chests, and the colored lights which hung in the surrounding trees washing them with a gold-and-purple glow. Still, anyone who stripped off in a fountain on a June night in England deserved to get pneumonia, and he wasn’t going to let his apprentice lust after buffoons. “The constables will be along in a moment to help them all the way to the dock.”
“But, Mr. Holloway….”
“Come along, boy.” Shem firmly steered the boy away.
He wasn’t expecting a firm clap on his shoulder and an all-too-familiar posh voice to say, “There you are, Holloway. Must say the entertainment’s changed in tone a little since I was last here.”
“I can assure you that the management does not….” Shem started and protested as Marchmont plucked the key from his hand and unlocked the gate in the hedge. “My lord, the paths are for employees—”
“I’m on a retainer,” Marchmont said cheerily, pushing them through the gate. He was still in evening dress, but there was a lot more ink smudged across his cuffs.
A loud splash and a roar of jeering laughter sounded behind them, and both Marchmont and the boy craned in that direction, as if they could see through three inches of dense laurel hedge. Irritated, Shem said, “We weren’t expecting you quite yet, my lord.”
“Oh, I couldn’t stop thinking on it. I’ve revisited all my notes, and the standard reference texts, and now I must see the bird in situ. You’ve restored it to its post?”
“Some hours ago, sir.”
The boy was quivering with curiosity, so Shem said to him, “Nightingale No. 48. Show me that you can find the way.”
The boy darted ahead a little, and Marchmont commented, “It’s a veritable maze behind the scenes. You could make a fortune opening this up to the public. Mazes are all the thing, you know. I designed revolving hedgerows for the one at Blenheim.”
“We do try to keep undesirables out of the staff areas, sir,” Shem remarked. Marchmont seemed to have relaxed considerably since the afternoon, and Shem eyed him suspiciously. Was he drunk?
“Luckily, I am considered quite the catch,” Marchmont said as a money capsule went rattling through the pneumatic tube attached to the side rail of the path. “I say, what do you do about rust?”
This little snippet contains my favorite line in the entire story. It’s a throwaway remark, so I’m very glad it made it through the editing process intact. Anybody want to guess what it is?
October 27, 2013
My name’s Mary Pletsch and I’m the author of Ace of Hearts, one of the stories in the Steamed Up Anthology. It’s my pleasure to be here chatting with all of you today. I’m looking forward to showing some excerpts from Ace of Hearts, sharing some bits of real-world history that shaped the story, and enjoying some conversation with other romance lovers.
Prepare for takeoff! Here’s a little teaser from Ace of Hearts:
The flight leader was the spitting image of Dirigible Captain James Hinson, two-time winner of the Distinguished Flying Bar.
William felt his jaw drop. The man looked exactly like Hinson’s newspaper daguerreotypes—strong chin, chiseled features, a tousled lock of hair tumbling over his forehead—except that his hair was sandy brown. Funny how William had imagined him as a ginger, like William himself. William had spent a lot of time in the past year fantasizing about the famous ace Captain Hinson, but he’d never dared dream he’d get to meet the man himself.
William blinked, revised his personal image of Captain Hinson, and then dared to look again. He had to be mistaken. But when he opened his eyes, the newcomer was still the spitting image of the famous dirigible pilot, and he was standing in front of his purple-striped aircraft. The buried memory dislodged itself and swam up to the surface of William’s thoughts. Hinson’s dirigibles’ baskets had always been marked by distinctive purple stripes, just like the lead Gryphon.
What business would a hero like Captain Hinson have in a heavier-than-air squadron?
Captain Hinson is William’s ideal for a steampunk hero – what’s yours?
The Steamed Up Anthology is available now:
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Saving Sonny James excerpt two: Meet Jesse Douglas–Luki’s sexy ex (yes, really) and another informal poll (decisions…)
October 22, 2013
Poll question: Do you think a spin-off starring Jesse shoud be forthcoming, or is he too… risky? (I’d sincerely like your feedback.)
Long before Sonny James Luki had a bit of a romance with a ginger man named Jesse Douglas. Jesse is sexy, quiet, capable, and a bit of a badass himself. He doesn’t look like Rupert, or Prince Harry, or this:
(Although some of us may wish that he did.)
This little excerpt is the by-chance, surprise meeting after many years between Jesse and Luki, on the plane heading for France, where Luki is determined to rescue his husband from whatever evil has befallen him.
Luki glanced up in time to see a man who had turned in his seat three rows up and across the aisle, looking at him—a man with brilliant green eyes.
Maybe the eyes distracted him, forcing his attention for no reason except their color. For too long an instant, he didn’t recognize the owner of those startling irises. But the man continued to walk toward him, smiling, and Luki knew him. The real memory finally overcame imagination.
“Jesse,” Luki said when the tall, slender ginger-haired man was close.
“Hey, Luki! Been a long time, eh? Too long.”
Luki couldn’t decide if it was too long or not long enough. Jesse had been part of his life—an anomaly—before Sonny, even before Luki had decided to forego attachments and keep solitary and safe with one-night stands done his way. In his youth Luki had twice tried to have a more significant relationship. One was with a guy in college, Graham Kennedy, whom Luki had dated—for real, dated—for a couple of months until Graham had decided to aim for the Catholic priesthood. Jesse, this mellow and still attractive green-eyed agent standing in the aisle on the flight to France, had been the other. They had trained together at FLETC—the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center at Glynco, in Georgia. Jesse had been a new hire with the State Department, and Luki had been new to ATF. That put them in the minority among FBI newbies and cops from various parts of the country, and they gravitated together when they had downtime. Sharing meals and movies and jokes started them talking. Serious study and skills practice started them touching.
Jesse was a likeable guy, adventurous and sexy. But he’d wanted things Luki couldn’t give. He’d wanted to be equals. He’d wanted to be in love. He’d wanted commitment. Luki couldn’t give any of that, then. And after that he didn’t let anyone get close enough even to think about such things.
Until Sonny. Sonny proved to be the one of a kind, sole contender for Luki’s devotion.
Still, Luki held no ill will for Jesse—he even had good memories, and maybe what he felt could be called fondness. So when his old, once intimate friend came up to him smiling his soft smile, Luki patted his extra, empty seat. “Join me for a bit?”
Jesse accepted the offer, and once he was seated said, “Damn, Luki, you look good!”
Luki started to deny that, then gave himself a mental shake. He did look good—or at least he looked like himself. He was groomed and well-dressed, and his body was in almost top shape. His eyes—he knew—had lost the glazed absent look they’d worn since Umatilla, and he’d gotten enough outdoor air for his skin to look its best, hate-scar down the left side of his face and all. And this man sitting next to him had rather liked that scar, even though—until Sonny—Luki had always thought it made him ugly. So instead of arguing, Luki just said, “Thanks. You too, Jesse. How are you? Still working for State?”
“Yeah, I am—moved out of the field agent ranks, though. Now I’m a pencil pusher.” His smile was wide and sincere, as it always had been, but he’d collected some deep lines around his eyes. His hair had some whitish streaks among the ginger too. It wasn’t a bad look on him. “You’re still with ATF, or no? I’ve heard different things….”
“Yes. I haven’t been working since last summer. I… well, it’s a long story. But I’m active duty now.”
“Are you official, then? I mean, is your trip to Europe connected with a case or something? Seems kind of unusual for ATF.”
Luki recognized the slight shift in Jesse’s voice, the minute narrowing of his eyes. Those little changes told him Jesse had switched from personal interest to professional. He was trying to gauge whether Luki’s visit was going to spell trouble for the State Department. Luki answered to set the man’s mind at ease. “No, Jesse. It’s personal. I’m on vacation leave.” For a change of subject, he asked a question even though the answer was evident. “Your duty station is in Europe?”
“Yeah, gay Par-ee.” He laughed, but it wasn’t entirely in mirth. “Hey, listen. I could see the sparkle off those rings clear over across the cabin. They’re on your left hand. Do they have the usual meaning?” Jesse dropped his gaze and pushed his hair back off his forehead. It changed nothing—the heavy forelock flopped right back down over his brow—but his posture and that nervous swipe of his hair was full of meaning. It told Luki the question held emotional impact for Jesse.
After all this time, Luki mused, but out loud he just said, “Yes.”
“I thought you…. Has it been long?”
“No, not really. We met last year, married this past summer.”
Jesse stared at Luki for a few minutes, as if he were trying to tunnel through his eyes to reach his brain and read what he found there. He tilted his head sideways, shaking it and laughing in disbelief. “You’re in love, Luki Vasquez! I can’t believe it!”
It wasn’t unkind, though faintly colored with old frustrations, Luki thought. He watched his friend, marveling that he could still read his old flame so well. Jesse had leaned forward, elbows on knees and hands clasped, his long, straight spine stretched but his shoulders slightly hunched, fighting with himself over something. Finally, he spoke in a breathy voice that told Luki how hard he had struggled not to ask, not to tread this path. “Have there been a lot of men since me, Luki?”
Luki’s long habit of privacy, of playing everything close to the vest, made him hesitate. But he thought it was a fair question, and Jesse was a good man, and though Luki would never have expected it, apparently for Jesse the end of their brief foray into coupledom remained unresolved. “No,” he said softly, but then he corrected himself. “Well, yes, but out of them all, you were the only one that mattered in any way, until Sonny—my husband.”
Clearly Jesse had been hanging on the words. Immediately he responded, “I mattered.”
Biting back a bit of his own frustration now, Luki spoke as kindly and honestly as he could. “Yes, of course you mattered, Jesse. The time we spent together was fun and sweet for what it was, and you helped me know myself. I remember only good things about you, and after we split I missed you.”
“Why didn’t you ever call?”
“Or even e-mail?”
“Jesse.” Luki let his voice take on a note of warning. As much as he held no ill will for his long-ago lover, he just wasn’t inclined to have this discussion. He’d already gone above and beyond, as far as he was concerned. “Stop,” he said.
Jesse visibly shook off his tension, sat up, and sat back in the seat. “Okay,” he said. “Sorry. Sometimes I get unreasonable.”
Luki said, “Yes, yes, you do. I remember.”
At first it looked as though Jesse was going to take offense at that, but then perhaps memory struck, because he laughed. “I’d bet you’ll never forget,” he said. “But okay, change of subject. Why are you going to Europe? Are you stopping in Paris?”
“Yeah. Paris. I think that’s as far as I’m going.” He allowed himself a sigh as today’s reality sank over him. What to say, though? He wasn’t prone to giving out a lot of information, but it crossed his mind that he had no allies lined up on the far shore, and Jesse might be in a position to help. So, “Um…. Well, it’s where Sonny is, my husband.”
“Do I detect a note of… I don’t know, trouble?”
“Probably. So what do you do, these days—for State, I mean. If it’s not classified.”
“Some classified, but generally I work on various problems around US citizens abroad—they get arrested or stranded or whatever. Why did you ask? Is there something you need help with?”
“Maybe. I don’t really want to lay everything out right here, right now, but Sonny’s sort of… missing.”
Jesse’s whole demeanor changed, taking on his professional persona, which
Luki appreciated. “I take it you’re sure he’s not evading?”
A swift wind of self-doubt swept over Luki—would he want to leave me?—but it passed, leaving him only slightly shaken. Truth was, it didn’t matter. Harold Breslin was anything but trustworthy, and as long as Sonny was in the same country with him, he wasn’t safe. But deep in his heart, he knew Sonny would never walk away from him, from their love, their marriage, their home. Never would he disappear on purpose. “Not evading,” he said.
“I’m afraid maybe so.”
October 22, 2013
Informal poll question: What’s your take on humor in romance and suspense fiction? (a) detracts, stop it, bugs me; (b) love it, should be more; (c) some, carefully placed and balanced helps show humanity in the characters and makes the tough stuff easier to get through; (d)some other answer; (e) plead the fifth.
“WHY not, Luki?” Sonny had sent Harold on his way quickly and come upstairs while Luki was still finishing his shower. Luki, groggy again after standing a long time with hot drops pelting his skin, sat on the stool afterward, and Sonny dried his hair with a fluffy towel. The two of them barely fit in Margie’s tiny, feminine, neat little bathroom at the same time, but that didn’t prevent Sonny from attacking Luki’s head with real vigor. At the same time, he was trying to convince Luki to fly to France with him and Harold. “I’ll make sure you get first class, and I’ll have them tow a giant brick of sugar under the plane so the flight attendant can swoop down and pick up a ton of granules whenever you want coffee.” He felt gratified when Luki laughed—never easy to make that happen, and especially not lately.
“I guess I never told you,” Luki said, and then he pulled Sonny down for a kiss. “But since I met you, sometimes I don’t add the sugar.”
“See! I’m good for you. I’ve convinced you to fix that bad health habit.”
“Not exactly. Besides my sugar is probably not as bad for me as that flavored chemical creamer is for you! No, the reason I forget the sugar is because everything already tastes sweet when I’m with you.” Anyone else would have probably punctuated that with a cheesy grin, Sonny thought, but Luki just bobbed his eyebrows and it had the same effect. Sonny laughed, hard, which finally resulted in a slow smile from his husband. Luki said, “I love that, you know. When you laugh really hard like that? You sound like Woody Woodpecker.”
With a supreme effort Sonny stopped laughing, or at least almost, put his hands on his hips, and said, “I do not!”
“No really, you do babe. If I can figure out how, I’ll record it on my phone so you can hear yourself.”
Luki kept an almost completely straight face, but Sonny could see the gleam of fun—joy, maybe—in his eyes, and it was like clean water and fresh air, reprieve. Perhaps unfortunately, the feeling overwhelmed him. And tears stung his eyes, though none fell, and his lip twitched, and the whole damn good mood was broken. How could he explain that he was falling apart because he felt so good? “I’m sorry….”
Luki stood up and wrapped his big, strong arms around Sonny, and then pulled him tight against his chest, stroking his back, kissing his hair. “No, baby. I’m sorry. For how I’ve…. What I’ve become.”
“I love you, Luki—no matter what. And… just now, you were like you are… usually… with me.”
“Yeah,” Luki said. “Today’s a good day. I haven’t had many lately. They’ve just been getting worse and worse, and yesterday… I was so scared, baby.
How can I make you understand? I’d never want to hurt you, and I didn’t have any way to control it! Shit, I didn’t even know I was doing it.” He shook his head, punished his lip with his teeth, then very quietly added, “I couldn’t stay there, sweetie. If it happened again, if I ever hurt you, that would be worse than dying, worse than anything.”
Sonny felt a surge of anger. He growled, “But if you did die, Luki! Like at that fucking place! Like when that man…. That green-eyed guard you can’t seem to stop worrying over was going to fucking shoot you dead! If you’d died then, Luki….” By now Sonny’s rage had turned into sobs, and he just that moment realized how badly the whole situation was fucking with his own head. “I wouldn’t have wanted to live, either. Fuck… Luki. You didn’t do anything wrong. Can’t you just… I don’t know.” His flame had spluttered out, and now he sat down on the edge of the bathtub feeling defeated.
He half expected Luki to be pissed that he’d spoken to him—yelled at him—like that. Amazingly, Luki’s humor resurfaced instead, and he sat on Sonny’s knee. He whispered into his ear, “And for Christmas, Santa—or sooner, if you can make the extra trip south—I’d like to get my big-boy badass pants back.”