Exclusive Excerpt of Holding on to Hope

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.

 

Excerpt

Holding on to HopeLeslie 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.”

Cupcakes excerpt, the nice version

January 9, 2014

So I thought I’d go ahead and post a ‘nice’ excerpt for Cupcakes — in other words, a G rated one rather than an adult one — I’ll save that one for later in the evening.

In this excerpt, the boys wind up at a pub called The Crazy Squirrel. I have to admit that I do love naming pubs. Restaurants, not as much for some reason, but with a pub, I can have a little bit of fun with it because pubs do have some crazy names, don’t they? What’s the craziest/funniest/neatest actual pub name you’ve seen?

 

Excerpt (G rated):

Allen locked up the shop, running later than normal. The bonus sales were helpful for rent but hard on the schedule. Six o’clock. Lord. He had to be back in eleven hours…. Lord.

“Allen? Honey? What are you still doing at work?”

Jean-Luc, one of his regulars, was coming down Harris Street, smiling at him, and he had to swallow a groan. The man was dear and always came in, but he made Allen exhausted. Before he could answer, a truck with Banigan Construction on the side pulled up. He looked over, praying the cupcakes had gone over well.

The passenger’s window slid down and B called to him. “Hey, Allen. I wanted to thank you for the cupcakes. Josine was over the moon.”

“Oh, good.” He headed over eagerly. “I’m so glad.” Leaning close to the open window, he whispered, “Can you please talk to me for a minute?”

B glanced past him, nodded. “You need a lift? I’m going your way.”

“Oh, really? That would be fabulous. Late night, you know.” He mouthed “thank you,” then waved at Jean-Luc. “Have a great evening, honey!”

“But I wanted to ask you to….”

Allen hopped in the truck, pretending he hadn’t heard.

B pulled away from the sidewalk and headed down the road. “So where are we going?”

“Oh, you can just drop me off in a couple of blocks. I won’t put you out. I just… he’s exhausting,” Allen admitted.

“Well, how about you buy me a beer for my troubles?”

“I can do that. Totally. She liked the cupcakes?” He could so go for beer. In fact, he was eager to.

“She did. She squealed.” B chuckled. “And the guys ate them like they’d never tasted cupcakes before.”

Allen clapped. “Oh, wonderful. I love to hear that.” He was building a clientele, a life that was all his, without Gary.

“I think I might have committed to a standing Friday order for the guys.” B grinned at him.

“Oh? Oh yeah? I love those—standing orders.”

“Good. We’ll do a dozen every Friday, then.” B pulled up a few spots down from the Crazy Squirrel pub. They were lucky to get a spot big enough for the truck. It felt really high in the cab, so different from a car.

“I. Yes. Yes, thank you.” Oh damn. Yay.

“Thank you. I’m going to have a happy crew.” B really did have the most amazing smile. Lighting up his whole face, it put crinkles in the corners of B’s eyes that made him all the more handsome.

“It’s nice to be able to plan.” He wasn’t a professional, after all. He was just a guy with a cupcake store.

“Cool.” B got out and came around to open his door for him.

How old-fashioned and dear. “Oh, thank you.” It was a long way down to the sidewalk.

“You’re welcome.” B’s hand might have lingered on his arm as he slid down. The last time anyone had been so solicitous, it had been Gary.

“Is your office close by?” Allen felt like flirting, like playing.

“It’s wherever the latest job is, which is very nearby at the moment. I live close enough to the shop, though, that it won’t be a hardship to pick up… cupcakes every week.” B’s gaze said he didn’t really mean cupcakes.

Allen blushed, head ducking. “Do you come to the Crazy Squirrel often?” The pub might have an odd name, but it was very typical in many ways. The exterior was brick with large windows looking into the interior; they were covered in the usual signs: one declaring the place open, a second flashing out the availability of local beer on tap, and a third advertising a big-name brewery.

“Most Fridays. I like to unwind with a beer and a burger.”

“I’m normally home by this time. I have early mornings.”

“I appreciate you coming out with me, then.” B led them inside, where wood and faux leather dominated, and took him over to a booth. Big enough for four, it wasn’t so large that it felt like they were lost in it.

“You did rescue me from Jean-Luc.” That man was like an energy vampire.

“Your knight in shining, uh, denim.”

~~~

Cupcakes is available at Dreamspinner.

Sean Michael

smut fixes everything – www.seanmichelwrites.com

THE HEART OF FROST Release Party! Time for an Excerpt!

December 18, 2013

HeartofFrost_headerbanner

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.

baublessnowbaublessnow

Excerpt:

“Ready?”

“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.”

“I can’t.”

“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.

“Rudy!”

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?

baublessnowbaublessnow

The Heart of Frost is available from: 

Dreamspinner Press | All Romance eBooks | Amazon.com

goodreads-badge-add-plus

Remember, there’s also a coupon codeCochetBlog to get 25% off any of my Dreamspinner press titles, plus any Urban Fantasy titles! Code is good for 2 days!

baublessnowbaublessnow

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.

Website: http://www.charliecochet.com
Blog: http://www.charliecochet.com/blog
Email: charlie@charliecochet.com
Facebookhttp://www.facebook.com/charliecochet
Twitter: @charliecochet | http://www.twitter.com/charliecochet


Gingerbread Palace Release Day: #nsfw excerpt #giveaway @emlynley

December 11, 2013

Gingerbread Palace by EM Lynley

Delectable Series Book #4

Buy from Dreamspinner

GingerbreadPalace_200x300

Coupon Code

To celebrate the release of Gingerbread Palace, Dreamspinner Press is giving a special coupon code to get an additional 25% off any of my titles. Use coupon code: LynleyBlog (case sensitive) when you checkout from the Dreamspinner Website on December 11 and 12 only. See all of my DSP titles.

Excerpt:

Both engines were called out on an early morning run when Kevin arrived early for his shift the next morning, and he was the only one left in the house. He wanted to make progress with paperwork for the rest of the Bancroft Buns employee statements, hoping if he got it done before the new shift was due to report the captain might let him out of the doghouse. A kids’ tour of the firehouse was scheduled for later that morning, and Kevin had been assigned the task since he was still riding the desk.

As soon as he walked in the door, he was bombarded with the distinctive aroma of gingerbread. Cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and a few other mouthwatering notes he couldn’t quite place. He went into the kitchen and discovered dozens of cookies cooling on metal racks. The night shift had been busy baking before they’d been called out. He glanced around before remembering he was alone. Then he grabbed a cookie off a rack. It was still warm to the touch.

652635He broke off a foot and popped it into his mouth. Ginger exploded on his tongue, unexpectedly spicy. There were chewy chunks of crystallized ginger in each cookie too. The sweet and spicy balanced perfectly, and the cookies were so crisp. Alex Bancroft might be a public nuisance, but he was a damn good baker. This cookie was worth a few extra minutes on the treadmill, and he couldn’t leave half a cookie, could he? He munched on the rest of it and headed for the bathroom. He wanted to brush his teeth. Wash away the evidence and eliminate the desire for another cookie.

He went into the bathroom and heard the shower running. He wasn’t alone. Now he remembered, they’d let Alex stay while everyone was helping bake cookies. The water stopped and before Kevin could leave, Alex came out of the shower area and headed for the sinks where Kevin stood.

“Hi, Kevin,” Alex said. The guy was always smiling, even though his business had burned down. No one could be that cheerful, especially at six thirty in the morning.

He had a towel slung loosely around his waist, and his hair was still wet, bangs falling into his eyes. He looked far too much like that shower dream Kevin had had—more than once.

“Morning.” Kevin tried not to stare at the firm, smooth chest and the nipples that haunted his daydreams. Alex didn’t have a gym physique, but clearly he got a decent workout from all the lifting and carrying he must do in the bakery. His pecs were nicely shaped, and he had some definition in his shoulders and biceps.

“You’re here early.” Alex’s hand was still bandaged, with a big Baggie over it. He pulled the plastic off and grabbed a can of shaving cream from the counter and turned toward Kevin. “Not talking? That’s okay. I like the strong, silent type.”

That got Kevin’s blood boiling. Why was Alex being such a tease? “Will you cut that shit out? I’m not interested in you.”

“Don’t worry. I won’t tell anyone your secret. Stay in the closet.”

“I’m not—” Kevin’s hands balled into fists before realized it, and he tried to pull himself together. He didn’t look at Alex. As if not seeing him would make him go away. Why didn’t he just leave? In the mirror he saw Alex shake the can of shaving cream. The towel slipped off his hips. Kevin couldn’t help staring. Alex’s cock, which hung down past his balls, was worth staring. Five inches now? What would it look like hard?

Alex didn’t pick up the towel. “Go ahead. I don’t mind if you look. Like I said, I won’t say anything. But I don’t believe your protests.” He put the shaving cream down on the counter and walked up close to Kevin. “Tell me again you’re not interested.”

Kevin pushed Alex back a pace, intending to leave, but once his fingers grazed Alex’s warm, damp skin, his brain stopped communicating with his feet. Alex put a hand on Kevin’s belt buckle, and all hell broke loose in his shorts. He couldn’t stop the erection, and he felt the blood filling his cock until it almost hurt. It would be completely obvious in the fitted uniform trousers.

Alex looked in that direction and smiled. “At least part of you isn’t lying. The important part.”

Thank God no one else was around for this. Kevin grabbed Alex’s wrist off his belt, and instead of pulling it away, he pulled Alex in close and Kevin’s other arm went around his waist, almost of its own accord. With Alex’s body pressed against his, Kevin leaned in for a kiss. Alex opened his mouth and let Kevin in. He tasted like toothpaste and smelled woodsy from the station’s body wash. His lips were soft, yet firm, and his tongue danced around Kevin’s.

—————

Leave a comment with your impressions of the excerpt for a chance to win any e-book in the Delectable Series

The Science of “Swiftsilver”, A.K.A. I Have Never Written Steampunk Before And It Shows

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.

How “The Galatea’s Captain” Throws a Wrench in the Machine

October 27, 2013

Hello, beautiful dreamers!

Anka here, back to talk to you about Steamed Up, DSP’s newest steampunk anthology!

“The Galatea’s Captain” was the first steampunk story I ever completed (and one of my very first completed stories in general, because I’m a total loser). I got a bit experimental with it, so my process, I think, makes for a kooky little anecdote:

Basically, I decided a) I was going to submit a story to the anthology, b) I was going to Google a list of steampunk tropes and include them as many as humanly possible, and c) I’d spice it up with my own individual flavor. It was a fun and challenging experience!

Immediately, I knew that I’d do the lattermost by including lots of characters of color. Most steampunk stories tend to be set in Victorian England, with white English characters, which can make sense, but as a person of color, I wanted a character like me, with various strengths and vulnerabilities, tossed into a setting that intrigued me.

Here’s an excerpt from “The Galatea’s Captain” so you get a quick look at the plot and my protagonist, Kamil, who’s recently lost a limb and commissions the help of a brilliant tinker to fill the emptiness in his life:

The frigid air of Alba, capital city of Camlaan, sends a phantom ache through Kamil Ramses’s bad leg. Despite the chill, a light sheen of sweat begins to mist across his brow when he steps out of the horse-drawn carriage the Duchess of Althea had reserved for them.

Seeing his pinched expression, she hooks his right arm in her left and says, “Oh, Mr. Ramses, please do not tax yourself! I just knew we should have brought along your chair!”

He winces. Ever since his arrival in Camlaan, he’d been sequestered away in the Altheas’ sprawling estate, stuck convalescing in the wooden wheelchair its master had commissioned on his behalf. The cane he now holds, made from ironwood and embellished with gold, is also a gift from the wealthy old couple, but he prefers it immensely. It allows him some autonomy, at least.

“Don’t worry, Your Grace, I’ve become quite accustomed to this by now,” he replies after a moment, smile stilted. If he could, if it would serve to allay her doubts, he would pat her hand.

Instead, he gazes out at the harbor ahead of them. The sea breeze tickles his nose, whipping his long, dark swath of hair around his narrow face in spite of the cord around it. No boats are visible on the water, hidden by the colossal bodies of anchored airships, comprised of various woods and metals, fantastical figureheads carved into their bows. Their colorful sails billow in the wind, blotting out the gray sky above.

Although he misses Siro, his homeland, rather intensely, Kamil admits to himself that Camlaan has many virtues, many incredible, beautiful sights. Perhaps when he recovers, he can pay proper homage to them. If he ever does.

“Shall we continue?” The duchess’s hesitant voice disrupts his reverie.

He flashes her another smile, disarming this time. “Yes, I’m ready now.”

She beams up at him through the netted veil of her hat. Elaborate silvering curls encase her round face, contrasting starkly with the black lace of her gown. Her small hand remains a chaste weight on his arm as she guides him into the heart of the harbor, humming all the while.

“What can you tell me about this Air Pirate Talos?”

So there we have it! An injured philosopher from another land, a “pirate” who ends up not much of a pirate at all, and all of the assorted people who get sucked into their affairs! I hope you’ll read Steamed Up and “The Galatea’s Captain”, and that you enjoy them if you do.

While we’re on the topic, what are some of the things you’d like to see in steampunk that break out of the standard mold of the genre? What settings beside Victorian England? What sort of characters? Did any of the authors in Steamed Up do something in their stories that surprised you? Do tell!

It was a pleasure talking with you all today. Don’t be a stranger! Remember, you can find me, my stories, and links to social networking sites I haunt on the Dreamspinner Press website. Steamed Up is available in ebook and paperback formats.

A Clockwork Nightingale?

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?

Prepare for takeoff!

October 27, 2013

Hello everyone!

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:

http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4267 for the eBook or http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4324 for the paperback.

Saving Sonny James: the X-excerpt you never expected to see (and the final contest! win book money!)

October 22, 2013

All you have to do is comment in reply to this post, anywhere in this release party, with the words “book money” somewhere in the comment, and you’re in the running for $20 on your account at Dreamspinner to spend as you like and Saving Sonny James paperback or ebook.

THE night after Luki talked to Kaholo was the first one in a couple weeks that found him struggling to find sleep. Finally, he allowed his thoughts to drift toward his husband and his fingers to drift toward his restless sex.

Once he started remembering and imagining his tall, dark, lithe lover, he couldn’t stop. And once Sonny’s beauty entered and filled his aching, sweet, waking dream, his hands wouldn’t stop. His neglected penis thickened and leaked and begged, and though Luki couldn’t remember the last time he’d masturbated, he got right with the program.

Not content to jerk off quickly in a half somnolent fashion, he sat up and stripped his lower half naked, switched on the small light next to the bed, and spread his legs wide, knees up, so he could see. Smiling at himself and thinking of Sonny, he ran his palm over the wide, glistening head of his cock and gathered a little reservoir of precum, then brought it to his mouth and dragged his tongue through it. He chuckled, then bit his lip. He wasn’t sure what he’d expected, but of course his own product, though tasty, wasn’t nearly as sweet as Sonny’s. Briefly he wondered why he could remember Sonny’s flavor so clearly, but he couldn’t remember the particulars of any other man he’d tasted—and of course there had been a few.

Knowing the experience wouldn’t come close to sex with beautiful Sonny,
Luki decided nevertheless to take it slow, make a feast of the masturbation experience. He handled his hardening testes, running his hands over the silky skin, watching the motion, pretending they were Sonny’s long fingers, pretending the balls he cradled in his own hands were Sonny’s. It didn’t quite work—the differences in anatomy meant Luki really had to work at the imagining, but he persisted, and if it wasn’t perfect, it was good. Next, using spit and precum for lube, he let his fingers wander over his perineum and straight into his ass. All other considerations aside, Luki liked getting fucked, had liked it from the very first time. Other considerations meant he craved the top role more than the bottom, but sometimes Sonny….

“Oh, Sonny,” he whispered, feeling Sonny’s long, straight erection rather than his own two digits. The fingers weren’t quite adequate, but they were a passable substitute as long as he doggedly kept his fantasy in mind. He drew his fingers out then slammed them back in, rough, speeding up and finding a rhythm, relishing the burn and—even though it was a bit of a reach—managing to tap his prostate, stimulating the deep pleasure the little gland had to offer.

He could have come to orgasm with just that, but he didn’t want to, so he gentled the motion and slowed the rhythm almost to a stop. He reached for his cock with his other hand, stroked it once, twice, but stopped that too and instead pinched first one nipple then the other. He made it hurt, made the nipples red and puckered, hard nubs standing out like markers, which was so pleasurable that again he thought he might come. He stopped, wet his fingers in his mouth, and soothed the same nipples he’d just tortured.

Again he said, “Oh, Sonny,” and now he started to stroke, twisting a bit, running his thumb over the slick head. In no time—too soon he thought—he felt his orgasm begin to insist, to rise, to gather force, and then he exploded, groaning out Sonny’s name over and over in a tortured, raspy cry.

He felt mildly strange when it was over, laughed at himself a little, even. But after he cleaned up, he slept well, and he dreamed only of his love. It was good.

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.

For real.

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?”

“Jesse.”

“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.

“In danger?”

“I’m afraid maybe so.”