Finally Home Release Party: Bon Voyage

August 29, 2014

Toast

Well, it’s been a heck of a party, folks. Thank you to Dreamspinner Press for letting me take over their blog for a day, and thank you to everyone who stopped by to listen to me talk about Finally Home!

We do have one bit of unfinished business before we part ways–it’s time to announce the winner of the giveaway!

And, according to the random number generator, the winner is:

 Trix!

Giveaway Winner

Congratulations! Please email me at zeekensington @ gmail.com so I can arrange your prize!

If you didn’t win, please don’t fret. There’s a second way to win! This release party marks the kick-off of a two-week blog tour (August 29-September 12) where not only will I be talking up Finally Home, but I’ll be giving away an autographed book bundle of Finally Home and Two Tickets to Paradise.

Finally Home blog tour banner

August 29: Dreamspinner Press Blog Party 

August 29: MM Good Book Reviews

September 1: Allison Cassatta

September 2: The Novel Approach

September 3: Charlie Cochet’s Purple Rose Tea House

September 4: Cup o’ Porn

September 7: LIVE Facebook Chat with Dreamspinner Press

September 8: Prism Book Alliance

September 10: Guys Like Romance, Too

September 11: Vicktor Alexander’s Purple Fantasy Den

September 12: Zee Kensington (home blog)–Giveaway winner reveal

 

Thank you all again! I hope to see you again down the road. May your travels be safe, and may you always find your way back home.

Finally Home
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.

Now available from Dreamspinner Press in eBook and Paperback!

 

Finally Home Release Party: Location Inspiration Part 2

August 29, 2014

Let’s bring it back to Marco and Chris’ respective hometowns: Los Angeles and New York.

Santa Monica Palm Trees

Santa Monica, CA

…Marco resumed the important task at hand—updating his Facebook account with pictures of yesterday’s after-work walk on the beach in Santa Monica. Sure, it hadn’t been a weekend in tropical Hua Hin, but the sun and surf had done wonders for his mood.—Finally Home

 

LAX International Terminal

Los Angeles International Airport, Los Angeles, CA

Marco felt like he was waiting in the bowels of a spaceship, with the ring of lights hovering above and the panels of cobalt light lining the wall. In a place like this, it seemed more likely that little green men would materialize than Chris would actually show up.—Finally Home

*Source

 

405 Freeway

405 Freeway, Los Angeles, CA

“I swear, freeways look the same everywhere. Only difference is the language of the signs,” Chris murmured. “I’m not used to seeing them only in English.”—Finally Home

*By Mariordo (Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz) (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

 

FDR Drive

FDR Drive, Manhattan, NY

Autumn dusk was swallowing New York slowly, and the streets and buildings fought back with hundreds of little lights of their own. He didn’t have a poetic view of the downtown skyline from here, but the sight of the East River was enough to make his New York pulse beat a little faster.—Finally Home

*Photo by Ryan Vaarsi (Flickr: Comedy on the FDR, New York City, May 2011) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Upper West Side NYC

Upper West Side, Manhattan, NY

With the TV off, the apartment was nearly silent, with no hint of the urban, nocturnal energy humming outside. More than the expensive leather couch or the granite countertops, the silence was testament to just how pricey the condo was, a combination of prime location and well-insulated walls.—Finally Home

 

Central Park

Central Park, Manhattan, NY

He hummed as he scrolled through the dozens of pictures he’d taken with his smartphone since he’d left Chris’s apartment around eleven. He’d traipsed through Central Park until he came out on the Lower West Side, then navigated the subway to Greenwich Village.—Finally Home

 

Brooklyn_Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge, New York

He told Chris about the phone conversation. By the time he finished, they were at the first arch of the mile-long bridge. They had the viewing platform mostly to themselves—aside from a few hearty bicyclists, they seemed to be the only visitors crazy enough to brave the cold October wind lashing the bridge.—Finally Home

 I hope you enjoyed the slideshow!

How about you? Do you have any links you want to share to your favorite travel photos?

Finally Home
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.

Now available from Dreamspinner Press in eBook and Paperback!

Finally Home Blog Tour and Giveaway

Finally Home blog tour banner

Join me on my blog tour (August 29-September 12) and enter to win an autographed book bundle of Finally Home and Two Tickets to Paradise!

 

Finally Home Release Party: Location Inspiration Part 1

August 29, 2014

Since travel is a huge theme in Finally Home, I drew a lot of inspiration for both the character and plot from the various cities the guys stop in. Whenever I could, I tried to use locations I’d visited before so I could more accurately capture their experiences, from the smell of the air to the color of the buildings.

I’d like to share with you some of the photos of the places that inspired Krung Thep, City of Angels and Finally Home. Let’s start with the international locations, Thailand and Mexico.

Grand Palace Bangkok

Grand Palace, Bangkok, Thailand

They’d spent the past couple hours wandering the expansive palace grounds, taking in the detailed murals, jeweled temples, and towering yak demon statues. They’d said little, but a sort of quiet camaraderie had grown between the two travelers amid the tinkle of hundreds of golden bells.—Krung Thep, City of Angels

 

View from Baiyoke

Baiyoke Sky Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand

From up here, they seemed closer to the large, honey-colored moon than to the ground below, and Marco’s heart soared as he drank in the view. —Krung Thep, City of Angels

 

 Sukhumvit road

Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok, Thailand

They left the restaurant, joining the flow of foot traffic back toward Sukhumvit Road, one of Bangkok’s main drags. The night lent some relief from the constant humid heat, though not a real reprieve. That was the rainy season in the tropics for you.—Finally Home

 

elephant in night market

Hua Hin Night Market, Hua Hin, Thailand

“And that was when the elephant walked down the street! I mean, right down the middle of the night market!” Marco waved his hand for emphasis, almost spilling his Thai iced tea on his date. “It was a baby, sure, but it was still almost as tall as I was!”—Finally Home

 

Street in Coyoacan

Coyoacan, Mexico City, Mexico

Chris had been staying in Coyoacán for a couple of weeks with some old ex-pat friends…after spending a month in the crowded, diesel-soaked hub that was the heart of Mexico City, it was a relief to take some time in one of the city’s quieter, greener boroughs.—Finally Home

*Photo by AlejandroLinaresGarcia (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

 

PlazaHidalgoCoyoacan

Plaza Hidalgo, Coyoacan, Mexico

He turned into the heart of the Plaza Hidalgo, which was bustling with color and activity, hoping to banish the shadows from his mind.—Finally Home

*Photo by AlejandroLinaresGarcia (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Finally Home
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.

Now available from Dreamspinner Press in eBook and Paperback!

Finally Home Blog Tour and Giveaway

Finally Home blog tour banner

Join me on my blog tour (August 29-September 12) and enter to win an autographed book bundle of Finally Home and Two Tickets to Paradise!

Finally Home Release Party: Creating Chris and Marco

August 29, 2014

Hello again! Now that I’ve introduced myself more properly, and given you a peek into how Finally Home came to be, I thought I’d share a bit about what went into shaping my main characters, Chris and Marco.

Like most characters I write, Marco and Chris are composites created from bits of people I’ve met, other fictional characters and/or famous folk, and traits that are created to serve the story.

Anthony Bourdain

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that travel writer/TV personality Anthony Bourdain was a big inspiration in creating my travel writer, Christopher J. Springer. I love Bourdain’s brusque, no-nonsense New York attitude, and how fully he embraces new flavors and cultures, no matter how outside his normal comfort zones. Those definitely were traits at the core of Chris, though his background came from journalism and foreign correspondence rather than Bourdain’s as a chef.

I had a much more personal—though similar—inspiration in the friend who played host to me in Thailand. He was an American who traveled extensively, and had spent years studying in Thailand before falling in love with and marrying a Thai woman. He knew how to navigate Thai space almost as well as any local—even as a tall, redheaded farang (the Thai word for Westerner). However, because he was still an outsider, he was also able to easily move through the expatriate community. The man could ingratiate himself to about anybody, and thanks to his friendly and educated manner our experience of Southeast Asia was unique and memorable.

As for Marco…well, in all honesty, Marco, the novice backpacker, was modeled a bit off me, the traveler who felt lost and overwhelmed in a completely foreign country. It was easy to write that fish-out-of-water feeling, and that terror and joy you feel when your deepest dream comes true and you don’t know what to do.

Luke Skywalker

It’s hard to point to any one other fictional character as an inspiration for Marco, though.  He’s meant to be a bit of the “everyman,” or for those who prefer Joseph Campbell’s terminology, the archetypal hero. He’s a little Luke Skywalker, a little Bilbo Baggins (especially with that curly hair!). He craves adventure and excitement in his boring, suburban life, but when he gets it he doesn’t quite know how to handle it. He has to face himself and his fears, come to terms with who he is before he can get his happily ever after.

Hmmm…if we follow the monomyth, though, then that makes Chris his Obi-Wan Kenobi. Or Gandalf. Marco is always teasing Chris for being nine years older than him…

How about you? Who are some of the people or fictional characters you draw inspiration from?

Finally Home
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.

Now available from Dreamspinner Press in eBook and Paperback!

Finally Home Blog Tour and Giveaway

Finally Home blog tour banner

Join me on my blog tour (August 29-September 12) and enter to win an autographed book bundle of Finally Home and Two Tickets to Paradise!

Finally Home Release Party: Giveaway!

August 29, 2014

Alright, I think it’s about time for the giveaway! Oh boy!

I’m offering an eBook bundle of Finally Home and Two Tickets to Paradise (the anthology Krung Thep, City of Angels appeared in) to one lucky winner.

The giveaway is open until 7 pm PST tonight, August 29, 2014. At that time, I’ll randomly select one winner from the answers below, and announce at the end of the party at 8 pm PST. To be valid, though, you have to answer my question: are you more of a traveler or a tourist?

suitcase stickers

Are you like Chris, who prefers to go off the beaten path on his own and discover new treasures—though it occasionally leads to trouble? Or, are you more like Marco, who plays it safe by sticking to known areas and traveling with friends—though it sometimes means missing out on experiences? Or, are you a little of both?

Finally Home
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.

Now available from Dreamspinner Press in eBook and Paperback!

Finally Home Blog Tour and Giveaway

Finally Home blog tour banner

Join me on my blog tour (August 29-September 12) and enter to win an autographed book bundle of Finally Home and Two Tickets to Paradise!

Finally Home Release Party: A Little About Zee

August 29, 2014

I’ve just realized that in the excitement of introducing you to Marco, Chris, and Finally Home, I completely neglected to introduce myself properly. What a bad hostess I am!

Let’s start again. Hello, my name is Zee Kensington. I’m an almost-native Californian, and I currently reside in the San Francisco Bay Area with my husband and our toddler son. I’m a lifelong writer, and I’ve penned and published a range of things under a variety of names: magazine articles, blog posts, screenplays, comic book scripts, fan fiction, short stories, erotica, and even bad goth poetry. Finally Home marks my first novel ever.

So, why did I decide my first novel should be about a novice backpacker and a travel writer who meet abroad, but fall in love back home in US? Well, unlike my scrapped cattle rustler story or my unfinished fairy tale series, I actually had real experience with travel.

Bangkok Soi 8

When I wrote my short story, Krung Thep, City of Angels in 2011, I’d just returned home from my first time traveling abroad as an adult. My husband and I had spent two weeks in Thailand and Cambodia on the invitation of a friend who vacationed every summer in Bangkok with his wife’s family. I was still buzzing with the memories of immersing myself in completely different cultures with their own languages, customs, cuisines, and philosophies, and I was eager to relive that experience.

The novel came about when I realized that my characters Chris and Marco had potential beyond a short story. They had rich back stories that I never got to touch on in the short, and a whole slew of unfinished issues that got tabled when time came to edit Krung Thep. How would Marco handle coming out to his tight-knit family when he got home? How would Chris deal with being alone again on the road after sharing his life with someone for the first time in four years? What would happen if they got back together, but this time as equals, not just as a traveler and a tourist?

Finally Home touches on the things that matter most to me: family, identity, travel, food, and sex (oh, did I forget to mention the hot sex?). It’s actually quite a personal novel, drawing on some of my own experiences, inspirations, and passions. It hints at my love of cities, fascination with culinary writing, and multi-cultural upbringing, among other things.

Mostly, Finally Home reflects and my deep belief that “home” is who you make it with, no matter where you are in the world.

How about you? What characters have refused to go quietly back into the vault of your brain?

Finally Home
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.

Now available from Dreamspinner Press in eBook and Paperback!

Finally Home Blog Tour and Giveaway

Finally Home blog tour banner

Join me on my blog tour (August 29-September 12) and enter to win an autographed book bundle of Finally Home and Two Tickets to Paradise!

Finally Home Release Party: Excerpt

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:

Thai food

Bangkok, Thailand
July 2011

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?

Finally Home
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.

Now available from Dreamspinner Press in eBook and Paperback!

Finally Home Blog Tour and Giveaway

Finally Home blog tour banner

Join me on my blog tour (August 29-September 12) and enter to win an autographed book bundle of Finally Home and Two Tickets to Paradise!

Finally Home Release Party starts…now!

August 29, 2014

Finally Home book cover

Good morning, everyone! My name is Zee Kensington, and I’m thrilled to be here. Not just because I get to spend today with you lovely people, I’m also excited because my very first novel, Finally Home, was released today by Dreamspinner Press!

This novel is very special to me, and not just for being my first. It took me over two years to complete, and seeing this book out in the world fills me with a pride akin to holding my first child (whose birth was the reason this book took so long, by the way).

“So, tell us more about this novel of yours,” you ask. Or rather, I hope you ask. I’ll pretend you asked.

Finally Home is the sequel to my short story, Krung Thep, City of Angels, that appeared in the Dreamspinner anthology, Two Tickets to Paradise in 2011 (though Finally Home can definitely be enjoyed on its own). It’s a contemporary romance about travel, family, identity, and finding one’s way back home, full of drama, humor, delicious food, and hot sex.

I have a lot planned for today–photos of the locations that inspired the stories, some behind-the-scenes trivia, an excerpt, and a special giveaway–so I hope you’ll stop by again! 

Let me leave with a parting question in two parts, so I can learn more about you lovely people: Have you ever taken a trip that changed your life? Where was it to?

Finally Home
After one night in Bangkok turned into ten days trekking together, novice backpacker Marco and seasoned travel writer Chris parted ways thinking they’d never see each other again. Three months later, Marco still can’t forget the greatest adventure of his life—or the gorgeous guy he shared it with. Too afraid to come out to his family, Marco is suffocating in his suburban Southern California life, until Chris announces he’s coming to LA.

Chris has spent the past four years wandering alone, rebuilding himself from the ashes of a failed journalism career. He arrives in Los Angeles eager to eat, write, and resume the sexy, casual fun he had enjoyed with Marco. But when Chris finds his friend is a terrified closet-case at home, he’s determined to help Marco confront his fears.

Priorities change when Chris’s father suffers a stroke, and Chris rushes to New York City to face a harsh homecoming with the family he abandoned. When Marco defies his parents to be at Chris’s side, Chris begins to realize there may be more to their relationship than just work and play, and that Marco may be the one to show Chris what it means to finally be home.

Now available from Dreamspinner Press in eBook and Paperback!

Finally Home Blog Tour and Giveaway

Finally Home blog tour banner

Join me on my blog tour (August 29-September 12) and enter to win an autographed book bundle of Finally Home and Two Tickets to Paradise!

 

 

The post with the steamy excerpt!

August 11, 2014

Here it is, my last post before announcing the winners of today’s giveaways!

Thank you for visiting the release party for my first full-length novel, The Nesting Habits of Strange Birds! I’m so glad you stopped by, and hope you had a little fun.

Speaking of fun and sex (we weren’t talking about sex? Well, why the hell not?) Strange Birds is an erotic romance so naturally sex figures prominently in the growth of both men. They come into the story with their own ideas of what sex is, and what it should be. Those ideas don’t always mesh, because that would just be too easy. ;)

Besides, sex is different for everyone (I’m guessing here, since I haven’t actually had sex with everyone). What it’s like, and what it includes, both depend on a lot of variables. Not the least of which is who your partner is and what they bring to the table (or the sofa or the backseat of the car or…). Sex for same-sex partners is different than it is for opposite-sex partners too—not only in the most obvious ways.

It’s pretty obvious that same-sex partners don’t go into it with the idea that sex is about procreation. It’s about pleasure, about showing your partner how you feel about them, about the connection. So, very often, it’s not about penetration either. I’m not going to knock it in general, but penetration doesn’t have to be the culmination of every sex scene—or every relationship, for that matter. Most of the opposite-sex romance novels I’ve read seemed to be saying that it is, that penetrative sex is the ultimate goal two people should have (along with marriage, but that’s a whole post unto itself).

What’s the point of this, you ask? I enjoy same-sex romance because you never really know how it’ll end. Sure, if it’s marked romance you expect someone to be in love with someone else by the end and for those feelings to be returned, but it seems to me this is the only hard and fast rule. The mysteries of how they’ll get there and what they’d do along the way are the fun parts. The journey can look wildly different for every couple.

Okay, I’ll stop rambling and make with the steamy excerpt now. :)

I’ll be back by 7 p.m. Pacific Time to announce the winners.

In the meantime, tell me about your expectations when you read male-male romances. Do you like a lot of sex, or just a little? Wild or vanilla? The sky’s the limit, and every post is an entry for my giveaways.

No fair saying “it depends on the story” either–everyone has a favorite thing and I want to hear ‘em!  In this, as in all the truly fun things in life, there are no wrong answers. :)

All the excerpts today have been from Phil’s POV, but Lee has a voice in this book too. Here’s a little from him. The context for the excerpt is a little spoilery, so I hope I’m not too horrible if I don’t share it. :D

Lee moaned when Phil knelt on the floor in front of him, and again when he leaned against him and kissed him slowly, deeply, circling Lee’s tongue with his like a preview of coming attractions.

Lee didn’t have to wait long, after that kiss, Phil moved faster with every passing moment. He pulled at Lee’s shirt, and as soon as it was off, tossed it behind him without a glance, and dove forward to kiss a path down his abs. Phil’s hands shook as he slid the elastic waistband of Lee’s sweats down, and by the time his dick was free, both panted loudly in the otherwise silent room.

Phil sucked gently on the head until Lee raised his hips. After a long teasing moment, he opened his lips and let Lee fuck his mouth. A few strokes like that and Phil lowered his head, just a little, every time Lee pushed up. Lee fought the urge to bury both hands in Phil’s hair. He wanted to tangle his fingers, feel Phil’s head banging from both sides, but settled for watching as his hair bounced up and floated down.

Whoa, it’s getting long—it hardly even curls anymore.

Lee grunted with the effort to keep from grabbing Phil’s hair as he sped the pace. Almost like he’d been listening to a Tool song but then Metallica came on the radio. Lee smiled and pulled his good leg up over the arm of the little chair. More leverage meant more friction and—oh shit—and then Phil wrapped a hand around the inside of Lee’s hip. He gripped the crease where leg and ass met, massaging until Phil’s thumb found his hole. For a moment, that felt much longer than it could’ve been, time stopped, just like the hummingbird wings in Phil’s pictures. The moment ended when Phil gripped harder and traced a circle with his hot thumb, ripping a hoarse scream from Lee’s throat as he came.

“Oh shit,” Lee panted, his head lolled to the side, his ass hanging off the chair. He opened his eyes and saw the ottoman about four feet away, his casted foot barely hanging on to the corner.

Phil kissed Lee’s deflating prick and then turned away. He lifted his cast and slid the ottoman under Lee’s leg.

“Oh man, I think you should pay me now.”

“What?” All the happy disappeared from Phil’s face and his body got very still.

“You need to feel this good too.”

Lee leaned forward and rested a hand on Phil’s shoulder. When he didn’t look any less happy, Lee drew his palm down across his chest. He scooted a little more upright and then slipped his hand around Phil’s hip, drawing him closer. Phil shook his head but didn’t really seem to be saying no. After a careful moment spent watching Phil’s face for any sign he was going too far, Lee pushed his fingertips past the waistband of his jeans. Phil shivered, and he took that as a sign and opened the snap.

“Come up here?”

Phil turned his face up to Lee, panting through his beautiful swollen lips. When Lee slipped both hands under his arms and pulled, he didn’t resist. Lee kissed those luscious lips as he arranged Phil across his lap, and didn’t stop while he opened his pants. He was about to pull them off, but at the last minute just brought them down enough to get at Phil’s burning erection.

“Oh shit, you’re so hot.”

Lee grabbed a big handful of Phil’s ass and lifted until he could lick the glistening tip of his cock. When Phil moaned in response, Lee closed his lips over the head. He was tempted to move to the bed so he could watch Phil’s face—his gorgeous face—while he came, but didn’t want to stop sucking his dick to do it.

As though getting off had erased the tough workday, Lee lifted Phil in a faster and faster rhythm until he got close.

Much more fun than free weights.

 

Thanks again for hanging out with us today—hope you enjoyed the excerpts! I’ll be back in a couple of hours for the drawing. If the train is on time, I’ll be back before then to answer any questions and enjoy the party from the comfort of my PC instead of my phone. :)

 

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Rainbow Rose

Release Party Post #4: LGBTQ Youth and Charities + Excerpt

August 11, 2014

Welcome back to my release party!

I’m getting a little serious here, so if you want to skip down to the excerpt I’ll understand. It’s a little serious too, though, so I wanted to warn everyone. The book deals with some serious and potentially triggery subject matter, and this is just a little hint at what Phil and Lee have to deal with before they get their HEA.

I’ve seen a few authors in this wonderful genre we all love talking about giving characters happy endings that the people they knew in real life weren’t able to enjoy. The Nesting Habits of Strange Birds does that, in a way.

Parts of Phil’s backstory are taken from a friend of mine who spent some time in foster care during her childhood. She and her little brother were taken from their mother and spent a few weeks in separate foster homes. Luckily, their grandmother fought for custody of both kids. My friend’s story started me thinking about all kinds of “What if” scenarios.

But those are way too spoilery to talk about.

I can’t talk about nothing, though (not for long, anyway ;) ), so I’ll talk about a real-life issue—the lack of services and safe spaces available for LGBTQ youth. Even in places known for being liberal, LGBTQ youth (and adults, for that matter) have problems with acceptance, which often leads to unstable life situations. Oregon is no exception. Depending on the study you read, at least half to two-thirds of Oregon’s homeless youth are LGBTQ. Places like Outside In, and SMYRC (Sexual & Gender Minority Youth Resource Center) are among the organizations doing great work to change that in the Portland area.

SMYRC is a program of Portland’s Q Center, and they provide youth aged 12-23 with a safe space to hang out, participate in activities from community involvement to music and art, and access services from life skills education to job readiness and counseling. They also provide a lot of the basic necessities of life that most of us are lucky enough to take for granted, like toiletries and warm winter clothes. Last year I spent almost five months knitting and donated a large bag of hats, scarves, and mitts during their annual clothing drive. I didn’t have money to spare, but I had yarn!

As soon as the NFL pre-season gets going I’ll be back at it. Charity knitting in front of football games is one of my favorite things about the fall.

 

Do you have a favorite charity that helps LGBTQ youth?

If so, I’d love to hear about it. If you give or volunteer there, I want to hear about that too. Toot your own horn, and help raise awareness of all the great work being done around the world to help our kids grow up knowing their worth.

 

 

Excerpt:

They sat in silence for a few minutes. Phil thought Jerry was waiting for him to ask another question. He had one but wasn’t sure how to ask it.

“Your scars aren’t you, Phil. It’s possible they won’t make any difference to Lee at all.”

Phil shook his head, scooted back on the bed, and pulled his legs up under the folds of his robe.

“You don’t have to tell him, or anyone, about them unless you want to.”

“But that means….”

Jerry leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees. “No, it doesn’t mean you can’t be intimate. It means you choose what to tell and when. You can tell it all, or you can just say they’re old scars, you’re fine now, and you don’t want to talk about it.”

Phil thought about it longer than Jerry could stay in that position. Jerry stood and stretched his back, hung his sport jacket in the closet, and sat in an old wing chair on the other side of the room.

“I-isn’t that l-l… dishonest?”

“No.”

Jerry’s tone suggested he wanted Phil to turn around, so he did, and then scooted near to where he sat.

“You don’t owe anyone an explanation, Phil. You don’t have to say anything you’re uncomfortable with. And while we’re on the subject, you don’t have to do anything you’re uncomfortable with either. You decide what to do and when to do it. Understand?”

Phil nodded and then looked up—he was afraid he would cry from frustration. “But I d-do want to.”

Jerry nodded. “Then you should.” He smiled. “Lee’s a good guy, and it’s clear there’s something between you, so just go until you have to stop and then start again when you can.”

Jerry had a knack for making things sound simple. Not easy, but simple.

“C-can I ask you something else?”

“Phil, you can ask anything, anytime. You know questions only bother me when I don’t know the answers.”

Phil smiled and his chin shook, which started the rest of him shaking again. “I never… I mean, I never thanked you for h-helping me. Why did you? I don’t mean to s-sound ungrateful—”

“Hold on. You don’t sound ungrateful. It’s a logical question. And the answer is simple, unlike everything else in your life: you needed someone to fight for you, to help you, and I was in a position to do it. I’m glad I was. What you went through—nobody should have to go through anything like that, and especially not alone.”

Phil swiped at his cheeks, but even though they burned, they were dry.

“I know you wanted to give up, more than once or twice, but you didn’t. What happened to you would’ve broken a lesser man. You know that, don’t you? I’m proud of you, Phil. It wasn’t easy, and may never be easy, but you’re still standing.”

Jerry stood and slowly approached the bed. Phil looked up, and when he realized Jerry would hug him, his eyes stung, but at the same time he felt like smiling. When Jerry wrapped both arms around his shoulders and pulled him close, Phil hugged him back.

They stayed like that for a few minutes, and then Jerry moved away the half step he usually let stand between them. He smiled and then sniffled.

“Thanks, Phil.”

“I was just going to s-say that to you.”

Phil wasn’t sure what Jerry was thanking him for and didn’t want to ask. The day had been exhausting, and he was ready to burrow into bed and read until he fell asleep. He was relieved when, after a moment’s pause to give him a chance to ask another question if he would, Jerry turned the conversation to food.

 

Don’t forget to comment with your favorite LGBTQ youth-based charity for a chance to win a copy of Strange Birds or a charm bracelet and your very own strange bird!

 

Buy The Nesting Habits of Strange Birds:  http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=5271

 

 

Rattle my cages, I’d love to hear from you!

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