A Matter of When – Giveaway

September 15, 2014

I’ve spent the day chatting about A Matter of When, now let’s get to the fun part, shall we?  How about a giveaway of an e-book copy?

But first, let’s talk about the little things that make life sweeter.

Rocker Henri can afford the finer things in life, but is won over by Sebastian’s kindness, highlighted in one simple gesture: a tuna fish sandwich unlike any he’s had before, because “anything worth doing is worth doing well.”

The sandwich reminds Henri of the when he was younger and his mother used to show affection with food. Sometimes we overlook the simplicity of the love baked into our favorite cookies, or a loved one making us soup when we don’t feel well.

Instead of simply entering a comment and telling me you like to enter the contest, why not name one comfort food that brings back good memories? You don’t have to, mind you, but I’d love to hear your stories.

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A Matter of When – Excerpt 2

September 15, 2014

In A Matter of When, lead singer Henri suffers a meltdown in which he fears joining the “Twenty-seven Club, after which he must rebuild his life:

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THE ENCORE, the reporter gauntlet, the picture taking and autograph signing went by in a blur. Then Henri took the limo ride from hell.

“What’s got into you tonight, Henri? You seem a little down. Or should I be asking, ‘What hasn’t gotten into you?’” Ricky snickered. “Oh, maybe you want to go down.”

“Did you notice that big-titted chick down front?” Giles chimed in. “Oh, wait, of course you didn’t.” He lowered his voice so only Henri could hear. “You would if she had a dick.” He paused long enough to suck up a line of coke off a tray he’d found in the limo’s bar.

Fucking assholes. Thank God their manager wasn’t here. Henri could better handle their homophobic slurs than their kissing up to Marguerite and laughing behind his back when she treated Henri like a four-year-old. Lord knew she babied her moneymaker, even if her hovering did cock block him. He had to play the straight boy for the fans.

“Fuck off,” he told his band. Hell, at least they hadn’t invited groupies along for the ride this time. The last thing he needed was Giles pounding into some half-naked woman right next to him.

But if they dared use the n-word, by God, he’d have to kill somebody.

He stared out the window. Buildings seemed to merge together as the limo whizzed by, their features further blurred by darkness and window tint. The car slowed to a stop at a red light. What if he simply jumped out and ran? Never stopped running, never looked back? Found a place to hide where no one could ever find him?

Oh yeah. Think of all the people depending on you, he heard in his manager’s voice. Stop being selfish. One cancelled show cuts into a lot of paychecks. Roadies, vendors, the band…. Not to mention herself.

He squeezed his eyes shut. A hamster on a wheel. A damned moneymaking hamster. No one gave a shit about him, just the money. One more concert, one more town. C’mon, Henri, get up on that stage. Think of your fans, Henri. Think of your family, Henri. Think of the band, Henri.

The next time the car stopped, the band crawled out into chaos. More fans, more grasping hands. A security guard guided him into the hotel, through a crowded atrium, and into a private, invitation-only party. At least his tormenters scattered, finding better amusements than “bash the closeted lead singer.”

In the background, Henri’s recorded voice wailed through the playback of tonight’s show, jacked up high to compete with the revelry of a crowded club. Wasn’t anyone tired of hearing him yet? “Great show, man,” a fan gushed, pumping his hand and grinning into his face.

“If you say so,” he replied once they’d left.

His bandmates took full advantage of their A-list reputations, Ricky throwing a quick wave to the crowd before departing, a blonde clinging to his arm. Giles tossed back his and someone else’s share of drinks from the open bar, occasionally rubbing his nose. Yeah, probably pretty damned numb by now. Vince held court at one end of the room, yet Henri, trained singing automaton, kept to the shadows. Maybe folks would forget him, letting him quietly sneak away. Margo, no, “Marguerite” trained eagle eyes on him. The rest of the band was free to do as they pleased, but the lead singer, the star in her eyes, had damned well better stay until she said otherwise, for once he left, the party would end, as would her evening’s networking.

“Buy you a drink?”

Henri spun around. A handsome man offered a glass. “No, thanks.” The pounding behind his eyes didn’t need any alcohol-fueled assistance to split his brain in two, and his anxiety meds hadn’t kicked in. The driving music and gyrating bodies surrounding him certainly didn’t help. After parties sucked, big-time.

“Aww… c’mon. Have a drink with me.”

A beguiling smile lured him in. Normally, he’d arrange a discreet meeting later in his hotel room, but something about the fan’s creepy smile said, Leave this one alone. He had “I kiss and tell” written all over him. Henri didn’t need another leaked sex tape. It had taken a lot of spin-doctoring and a look-alike claiming responsibility—for a price—to clean up the mess the last time he’d chosen the wrong bed partner.

He gave what he hoped passed for an apologetic smile. “No, really. I can’t.” Where was his manager when he needed her to chase off the undesirables who couldn’t forward his career, or at least dispel the latest bout of gay rumors?

Tall, Dark, and Won’t Leave replied, “I came all the way from New Jersey to see you. The least you can do is drink with me.”

All the way from New Jersey? Where the hell were they now? Oh. Right. Anaheim. Or was Anaheim last night? They were still in California, weren’t they?

Liquid swirled in a glass a few inches from Henri’s nose. “It’s your favorite,” the guy crooned. “Jack and Ginger.”

Oh, how Henri regretted letting slip such a factoid in an interview—about five years ago, when he actually had liked Jack and Ginger. Hell, to get rid of the moron, he’d pay any price at this point, then go back to his brooding. Floor-to-ceiling windows afforded a breathtaking view of the city—whatever its name was—his scowling manager reflected in the dark glass. Would everyone go the fuck away and leave him alone? If she wouldn’t come run this asshole off, Henri would do it himself. “Fine!” He grabbed the glass and swallowed half the contents. Anything to get this fuckwad gone.

The guy’s grin widened. “I’m your biggest fan.”

I bet you say that to all the rockers.

“You have millions of fans, but no one understands you like I do.”

Where had Henri heard that before? Oh yeah, Sacramento, LA, Portland, Seattle…. Name a town and someone there had spoken those same words.

His manager approached. Finally! “Henri, this is Lisa. Lisa, Henri.” Marguerite pushed a buxom brunette his way. “Lisa here is your biggest fan.”

Henri read between the lines: You need to be seen with a woman if you ever hope to dispel those nasty rumors. No way to dispel the truth, though.

The woman was pretty, but her maniacal grin didn’t bode well for protecting Henri’s privacy either. She could be the sister of the admirer he was currently attempting to fend off.

“Go away, bitch. I got here first,” the would-be suitor snarled. Okay, no relation, or possibly a highly dysfunctional, competitive sibling rivalry.

The woman snapped an angry retort. Marguerite waded into the fray. Henri beat a hasty retreat. Damn but his head pounded double-time now. The world fuzzed around the edges of his vision, and whatever he’d eaten before the show threatened to reappear.

Bodies blocked his way, but he lowered his head and soldiered on. Puking in front of two hundred witnesses wouldn’t win him any support from his manager. Hell, he couldn’t fucking belch without making headlines.

“Sir, are you okay?”

Henri glanced up at a broad chest, the word “Security” stamped across a tightly stretched T-shirt. No use lying. “I don’t feel too good.” Nice, broad arms. The guy who’d broken his fall earlier. I owe him a car or his own island or something.

“Would you like me to escort you to your room?” Nothing sinister or even suggestive peeked out of the man’s eyes. Just concern. Henri hadn’t gotten concern from anyone in a long time. Too tired to come up with a smartassed retort, he merely nodded. Maybe he could fall again and earn himself another inadvertent cuddle.

The security guard tapped his earpiece, spoke a few garbled words, and wrapped a hand around Henri’s biceps. “Not now, please,” the man said to anyone who stepped into their path. He hustled Henri to the exit.

Henri’s chest filled with lead. Why the fuck couldn’t he breathe? Too many people. The air cleared a bit near the elevator. His knees buckled. What the fuck? “I’m not drunk, I swear.” He grabbed at the wall and missed.

The guard steadied him. “I’m not judging, but maybe you’d better let me hold your drink.”

What? Henri was still holding the damned thing?

Without realizing quite how he got there, Henri leaned back against elevator walls. The coolness felt good against his skin. “Room 1216.” It was 1216, wasn’t it? Or 1218?

“May I have your key, sir?” The guard released Henri’s arm and held out his hand.

Shuffling, being pulled, the snick of the key in the door, followed by the sweet relief of his room. Hey! Room 1216! Got it in one.

Standing by the window of his penthouse suite, Henri stared out at the night. A string of red taillights marked a mass exodus from the arena down the block. His stomach rolled. Did anyone at the party downstairs miss him yet? Thank God his manager wasn’t hovering over him like some overzealous fruit fly claiming dibs on a piece of rotted apple. Henri snorted. My, how well the description fit him. Something within had died long ago, leaving emptiness within.

He took his glass from the guard, raised it in silent toast to his reflection, and tossed back a mouthful, a bitter brew to kill his pain. Haunted eyes blinked back at him. Tired, so tired. Concerts wiped his energy, and every song came from his heart, taking a piece of him that never regrew. A shriveled prune of a thing, his soul must be now. He needed his pills. The ones the doctor prescribed for emergencies. He hadn’t already taken one yet, had he? His head pounded.

He fumbled his way to the stereo and pushed the play button. Trent Reznor moaned about hurt. “I know exactly what you mean, man.”

“Would you like me to stay?” Arms folded across a well-formed chest. Bulging biceps. Blond buzz cut. Huh? Oh, yeah. Security guard. Asking to stay. But no invitation lurked in his eyes. Mild alarm, maybe.

“Would you? I mean, for a little while?” Henri staggered away, the need to sleep bearing down on him, an oppressive hand forcing him toward the turned-down bed. Slowly he peeled his T-shirt off, wincing at the stench of sweat. Maybe he should have taken a shower first. Too late now.

The guard’s eyes widened, likely taking in the skinny torso and the ink decorating what many viewed as a rock god. Henri was merely himself. If only this man didn’t know who he was and saw Henry, not Henri, the product of an imaginative manager. Ah, I’ve grown maudlin in my old age. Old at twenty-seven. Ancient.

An idea crawled to the surface of his muddled thoughts. “Sleep with me.” Had Henri actually spoken those words out loud?

“Fraternization with clients goes against policy. Besides, I’m straight.” No anger. Just business as usual. How many rock gods had propositioned the man?

Henri giggled. “So am I, if you ask my manager. No, I don’t want sex.” He didn’t. Really. “Hold me.”

“You want me to hold you?”

“I feel swimmy-headed. Need an anchor.” Nice line. He should use it again for something. Oh yeah. Maybe put it in a song.

“I could lose my job.”

“No, you can’t. I’m the boss, no matter what my manager says.”

The crisp sheets felt cool against his heated flesh, and if his bedmate noticed his slightly sweat-ripe scent, he gave no clue. The fully clothed guard arranged himself beside Henri, the image of adorable confusion when Henri didn’t attack. Henri had been fucked enough for the time being, and fucked over once too often. Tonight he’d lie in the arms of a stranger, Henri Lafontaine, a publicist’s creation. Tomorrow, he’d take his fucking life back, gold record be damned.

He cuddled into the stranger’s too-limp embrace. “Once I’m out, you can go.”

“You really don’t look too good. Is there someone I should call?”

Henri barked a humorless laugh. “No one gives a shit. Trust me.”

The man grabbed Henri’s wrist and raised his other arm to his face to better see his watch.

“What are you, a doctor?”

“I’m studying nursing. And your pulse is slow. Your breathing is shallow too. I think I should call somebody.”

“No, really. I’m fine.” Henri snuggled more firmly into his human pillow. Hell, physical contact was physical contact. He would take what he could get.

Something loosened in his chest, and he closed his eyes, imagining a lover’s attention, someone who cared about Henry the man, and not Henri, the rich rock star. He conjured up his own bedtime story: they’d met at a party, fallen in love, shared a house, a life. They’d gone out to dinner, made love, and were now settling in for the night. In the morning they’d…. Well, there wouldn’t be a morning for him and Nameless Guy, would there? Nameless Guy would be gone; Henri would wake alone, like he did every morning, even those mornings when he woke to find his bed filled to capacity with naked bodies.

A tear slipped beneath his eyelid, blazing a hot trail down his cheek. The aching inside flared anew, his heart bursting into a million crystalline shards.

The guard lay stiffly on the bed and wrapped an arm around Henri. Fingers stroked his forehead, brushing hair out of his face. Well, he’d be damned. One lucky woman had landed this guy.

But holy hell was it hot in here or what? His stomach rolled. Oh shit. How much had he drunk again? He glanced around the room. Where the hell was he? On the third try he managed to hoist himself out of bed. Where was the bathroom?

“Sir, are you all right?” came from behind him.

Sir? Who the fuck had he brought home? Henri’s stomach lurched again. Why wouldn’t his damned legs hold him? “Oh fuck!” The floor rose up to meet him.

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After a really horrible night, Henri retreats to the Colorado Rockies to regroup, and place I adore. If you could go anywhere in the world to relax, where would you choose?

Author Interview with Brad Boney

September 5, 2014

Dreamspinner Press: Let’s start with your first novel, The Nothingness of Ben. If readers know your name, it’s probably because of that book, wouldn’t you agree?

Brad Boney: Absolutely. Lots of readers in this genre have read Ben, and it continues to sell two years later. I’m fortunate to have had that experience.

DSP: What’s your response to critics who claim The Nothingness of Ben fails because Ben Walsh is something of a dick?

BB: [Laughs] I’ve read a few of those reviews. The first thing that struck me was how engaged with Ben they were. People wrote about him as if he were real, and that felt like a win to me. I also noticed some of those reviews were marked DNF at 30%. I understand—life’s too short. If my writing doesn’t grab someone, they should bail and move on. I’m the same way. But Ben does grow in the book. I don’t think he’s a dick at the end. He’s a flawed person who was lucky enough to meet a man who is truly his better half.

DSP: So you think Travis is the better man?

BB: Is that wrong? I kind of do, at least for me. Ben is brilliant and charming and funny, but he’s also rudderless. He needs someone like Travis to steady him. I would date someone like Travis before I’d date someone like Ben.

DSP: Is that because you and Ben are too much alike?

BB: In some ways, yes. I’m pretty self-absorbed, but I can also be worthy and faithful and true.

DSP: What about the criticism that the tone of the opening chapters, given the death of their parents, is too lighthearted?

BB: On that one, we’ll just have to agree to disagree. I understand those comments and where they come from, but maybe those people aren’t Catholic. My family has a powerful sense of denial around grief and sadness. We don’t express it. We cover it with humor. We act out like Cade does, or withdraw like Jason does. And then at some point, it boils over and brings us to our knees, like it does with Ben when he kisses Travis in the street and breaks down crying.

DSP: How do you feel about the M/M genre as a whole?

BB: It’s easy to trash romance novels because so many of them are awful. But the argument that they’re all bad is ridiculous, and I don’t even have to include my own books to defend that. T.J. Klune won a Lambda award this year. Jay Bell has been nominated twice and won once. Anyone who points to those books and calls them trash is an idiot, and should be dismissed as such.

DSP: We’ve heard you have some issues with the term M/M.

BB: Where did you hear that?

DSP: People talk around the office. Are you saying you don’t have an issue?

BB: I don’t understand the term because I don’t come from a romance background. I’ve never read an M/F romance in my life, and I assume that’s where it comes from. M/F, M/M, M/F/M, M/M/M, F/M/F. I don’t know why M/M is necessary when the word “gay” works just fine. Those designations seem very tab/slot to me, like it’s all about genitals. In some cases, I also think it gives writers permission to divorce their stories from the lived experience of real gay men, including all the social, medical, and political baggage that comes with it. I guess there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not what I’m doing. Ben Walsh is recognizable to me as a gay man I might know. Maybe that’s why some readers have a problem with him. He’s not an idealized romantic hero.

DSP: How does it feel being a gay man in a genre dominated by women?

BB: [Grins] It depends on the women.

DSP: Do you think a woman can write a good story about two men falling in love?

BB: Yes. I’ve read them. I’ve been vocal about my admiration for books like Faith & Fidelity by Tere Michaels, and Promises by Marie Sexton. The female factor is unexpected, that’s all. When I tell my gay friends that most of my readers are women, they’re very surprised. They don’t understand it, and at first I was the same way. But I’ve gotten to know many of my readers, and that changed everything. I love them and I now understand what draws women to these stories—both as readers and writers.

DSP: You mentioned you don’t come from a romance background. What are your influences?

BB: I spent years in the theater as an actor and director, which explains why my books are so dialogue heavy. Most of the gay fiction I’ve read were books by Violet Quill authors like Andrew Holleran and Edmund White. I’m a huge fan of rom-coms and directors like Cameron Crowe. I think as romance writers, we’re all trying to create a moment like John Cusack holding that boom box over his head.

DSP: We’ve noticed on Twitter that your second book, The Return, has a smaller but more passionate following.

BB: The Return was a tough sell. It doesn’t have a conventional set-up. It spans two generations. It’s got a huge canvas—someone pointed out there are actually 10 main characters. The romance is resolved at about 75%. I had to keep the blurb vague, and once you read the book, you understand why. But that only hurt it in terms of sales. I get it—people like to know what a book is about. I don’t blame them. Still, the people who did read it are grateful I didn’t give anything more away. It’s a story I’m very proud of, and the fact that some readers have embraced it in such a profound way is extremely satisfying to me. I don’t think I can write a better book than The Return, which is why I took a totally different approach to The Eskimo Slugger.

DSP: What do you mean?

BB: The Return was that book every writer has in their back pocket. The one they were born to write. I didn’t think I could top it, so my only option was not to try. As a result, The Eskimo Slugger tells an intimate story on a small canvas, about two simple guys caught up in an impossible situation. It takes place over ten days in the summer of 1983. It’s like a pop song. Readers who are expecting another symphony like The Return should brace themselves for disappointment.

DSP: But you set The Eskimo Slugger up in The Return, which leads us to our next question. Are you writing a series or not?

BB: Yes and no. I believe you can pick up any one of my books and enjoy each as a standalone, but there is certainly something to be gained by reading them all. That doesn’t mean they have to be read in the order I wrote them. I’m a child of postmodernism and enjoy a certain random element. The order in which you read them will determine your experience. If someone out there has never read one of my books, I’d say jump in with The Eskimo Slugger. Chronologically, it’s actually the beginning.

DSP: Is it a book about baseball?

BB: It’s a book about a baseball player. There is only one scene set inside a ballpark.

DSP: Were you a baseball fan before you wrote it?

BB: No. I didn’t know anything about baseball.

DSP: Really? What did you do for research?

BB: I watched the entire Ken Burns documentary twice—all 18 hours of it. I went to a lot of baseball games in Austin and elsewhere. I talked to my dad and a friend of mine at work who used to play college baseball. I read the Billy Bean autobiography called Going the Other Way, about his time as a closeted gay man in the major leagues. I listened to the Baseball Tonight podcast for an entire season, just to hear and understand the way guys talk about baseball.

DSP: Are you a fan now?

BB: Oh, absolutely. I’d love to meet a guy who thinks a baseball game is a great date.

DSP: You mentioned Austin, where all your books are set. How long have you lived there?

BB: Twenty-six years. I’m a naturalized Texan. But as many people have learned from my books, Austin is nothing like the rest of Texas. It’s the blue center of a red state. Austin is very gay friendly and boys walk around holding hands all the time.

DSP: What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses as a writer?

BB: My weaknesses are easy. I have virtually no powers of description. I’ll never be L.C. Chase, the way she can take you into a horse stable and bring it to life. But I also believe that writers should draw the outline and readers should fill it in, so at least my practice matches my theory. I’m very bad when it comes to narrating the internal life of a character. I’ll never be J.P. Barnaby, the way she can spend pages and pages inside Aaron’s head and make it interesting. I can’t do that. But I think most readers would say I spin a good yarn. I understand set-up and payoff. I’m a better-than-average storyteller.

DSP: Of all the chapters you’ve written, which is your favorite?

BB: Do you have one?

DSP: Yes, but we want to hear yours first.

BB: “Cover Me” from The Return. In every season of Mad Men, there’s that one episode when everything happens. The shit hits the fan. That’s what “Cover Me” is. Topher has his inter-dimensional phone call, then he sits down with his bandmates and explains what’s going on, then Stanton shows up, then Topher sings…. It’s just bam, bam, bam. It made my head spin writing it.

DSP: It took us awhile to figure out that all the chapter titles were Bruce Springsteen songs.

BB: I tried not to use the most famous songs. Now it’s your turn. What’s your favorite?

DSP: Chapter seventeen from Nothingness. We call it “the earth is flat.” Anyone who’s read the book knows what we’re talking about. We don’t really know exactly what Travis is thinking, but it doesn’t matter. Ben’s surrender is delicious.

BB: That’s where point of view worked to my advantage, since we only get to know what’s going on inside Ben’s head.

DSP: We noticed you favor third person and past tense, with a single point of view. Is that a conscious choice?

BB: Yes. The Return is actually told from two points of view, though.

DSP: Okay, technically that’s true, but it’s almost two separate stories, so… We’d argue that each of your stories is told from a single point of view.

BB: That’s fair. Single point of view works best for me. I’m looking for stylistic choices that foreground the story, not the storytelling, and sticking with one character does that. I find it jarring when the point of view shifts back and forth within a chapter, simply because the author thinks I need to know both sides of the story. I don’t. A good writer looks at single point of view and sees opportunities, not limitations. What can I hide in the negative space? As far as tense goes, past tense is the most “invisible” way to write. I know present tense is all the rage now, and I have no problem with it. I adapt pretty easily when I pick up a book that’s written in present tense. But I do notice it before I adapt. The writer’s hand becomes visible to me, and that’s something I’m personally trying to avoid. I also think first person is vastly overused, and in too many cases exposes a writer’s weaknesses. I may take that risk someday, but only after I’ve written several more books.

DSP: We can’t all be J.D. Salinger.

BB: Exactly. Unless you can write a first-person narrative with a voice as distinctive as Holden Caulfield, stick with third person.

DSP: Your stories seem to have a spiritual undercurrent to them. Is that intentional?

BB: I think so. I’m not trying to beat people over the head, but it’s there. It’s also there in The Eskimo Slugger, but by the fourth book, I’m just trying to have fun.

DSP: Tell us about that.

BB: It’s called Yes. I finished it last week, so now it’s in the hands of my beta reader. It’s about a man on his 40th birthday who wakes up twenty years younger. It’s like that Tom Hanks movie Big—only gay and in reverse.

DSP: Thanks for sitting down for this interview. It’s been fun to get to know you!

____________________________
Brad Boney lives in Austin, Texas, the seventh gayest city in America. He grew up in the Midwest and went to school at NYU. He lived in Washington, DC, and Houston before settling in Austin. He blames his background in the theater for his writing style, which he calls “dialogue and stage directions.” His first book was named a Lambda Literary Award finalist. He believes the greatest romantic comedy of all time is 50 First Dates. His favorite gay film of the last ten years is Strapped. And he has never met a boy band he didn’t like. Visit Brad on his website and on Twitter

Newsletter Quickie: Hug by Clare London

September 5, 2014

“Hug,” said Harry, arms thrown wide.

“What?”

“Hug!” Harry demanded, his head tilted to one side, his eyes wide. “That’s what you need! Come here and make it happen.”

“For God’s sake.” Spencer grumbled. “What am I, your kid brother? It’s not like a hug is going to make any bloody difference.”

“You know that for a fact, do you?”

Spencer frowned. Harry was always so … bold. So challenging. “You know what I mean. Look, it’s just been one of those days. I can sort things out myself.”

“Let me help, Spence.” Harry took a couple of steps forward. His arms were still wide open, there was sympathy in his eyes. He was close enough for Spencer to feel the warmth of his body heat. “Don’t be the stupid arse everyone else thinks you are.”

Spencer opened his mouth to protest and in that moment Harry slipped his arms around him and hugged him firmly. His head rested against Spencer’s temple and he sighed, gently. “That’s better, see?”

Spencer stood rock still for a second. Harry was such an idiot. Such a play actor. Such a … Spencer’s frustration gave a small shudder inside him and morphed into something very different. Very deliciously different. Harry’s chest was tight against him and he could feel the steady heartbeat. Harry’s arms were strong but surprisingly comforting. His breath was brushing at Spencer’s ear.

Then Spencer lifted his own arms and slid them around Harry. He wasn’t sure why he did that, but it seemed the right thing to do. It seemed to make them fit better. And it felt really, really good.

“Spence?”

“Mm?”

“There’s no way I think of you as a kid brother.”

Harry’s voice was muffled but Spencer felt the tension in his shoulders, heard the hesitancy in his voice. He smiled. “I know.”

“No way.” Harry seemed to think it needed more emphasis. “Never. In fact …”

“I know.” Spencer repeated. He smiled again, though now his head was nestling into Harry’s shoulder and knew his friend couldn’t see it. His best friend. His much-more-than-best-friend. Turning his head, Spencer pressed his lips to Harry’s neck and felt the goose bumps rise under his touch.

“Spence?”

“Yes,” Spencer whispered in answer to an unspoken question. As Harry turned his head as well, Spencer kissed him on the mouth. It was a bit clumsy, it was a bit crooked, but … oh God … it was the best thing ever.

“You’re right,” he murmured. “This is better.” And he tightened his arms around Harry.

________________________

Clare London took her pen name from the city where she lives, loves, and writes. She’s written in many genres and across many settings, with novels and short stories published both online and in print. She says she likes variety in her writing while friends say she’s just fickle, but as long as both theories spawn good fiction, she’s happy.

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!