January 15, 2016
I’m Shira Anthony, and today is release day for First Comes Marriage, the second book in Dreamspinner Press’s brand new Dreamspun Desires of sweet, tropey, feel-good romances! I can’t tell you how much fun I had writing this story—it took me back to my romance roots and the days when I gobbled up Harlequin romances like they were salt and vinegar potato chips.
First Comes Marriage is a gay romance take on the classic category romance. What is a “category romance”? Honestly, I didn’t know this myself until a few years ago, but a “category romance” is also sometimes called a “series romance.” The term comes from the old tradition of publishing a certain number of books on a monthly basis in a certain category. You remember these. When I was a kid, they were the Harlequin and Silhouette romances that were shipped, 4 books a month, on subscription.
Category romances were sweet, funny, standalone stories that were low on the angst and with a feel-good happy ending. Full of classic romance tropes (millionaires, exotic locations, mistaken identity, arranged marriages, you name it), these babies were shorter than the average novel, all the covers looked alike, and some were numbered like magazines. They became a genre unto themselves.
My contribution to the Dreamspun Desires line grew out of a conversation at the Romantic Times (RT) conference in Dallas of this year, by far the biggest general romance conference in the world. I mean, that baby is HUGE, with hundreds of romance authors from every subgenre you can imagine including, of course, gay romance. I was having something to eat with Poppy Dennison, Dreamspinner Press’s PR guru, and a number of other Dreamspinner writers. With all the amazing and sexy posters of romance book covers plastered all over the hotel, I had that Harlequin vibe going. You know the one: warm and fuzzy, sexy, fun and easy reading. The very definition of a category romance.
So I kvetched to Poppy about how I was getting worn out writing angsty romances (Blue Notes or Blood Series, anyone?). You know those too—books that rip your heart out and put it back together piece by piece. Stories of heroes with deep, dark secrets, horrible childhoods, illnesses, and lots of pain. Happy endings, for sure, but very hard won happiness. Don’t get me wrong. I love angsty romance (and I’ve got plenty more planned), but they do take a lot out of me to write, especially when they deal with issues close to home.
I told Poppy I wished I could write a warm, fuzzy romance like the ones I used to read as a kid. Poppy (love that woman!) asked flat out, “Why don’t you?” She then proceeded to tell me about an idea she had to create a line of gay category romances for Dreamspinner. I took that conversation to heart and started thinking about what tropes I’d like to try writing. And on a three week vacation on our boat, I wrote about 80% of First Comes Marriage. A perfect setting to write that book, by the way. Romantic and relaxing.
My story takes a few familiar romance tropes and turns them on their head. Marriage of convenience? Check. Billionaire playboy? Conniving stepgrandmother? Check.
Jesse Donovan, the billionaire heir to his grandfather’s boat building business, must get married or he’ll lose control of his company under the terms of his grandfather’s will. Chris Valentine is a struggling novelist working as a barista in New York City. When handsome, charming Jesse proposes, Chris thinks it’s a joke! Chris finally gives in and marries Jesse. But the more time they spend together, the more Chris comes to genuinely care for New York’s most eligible “straight” bachelor. But this marriage is just business, isn’t it?
Dreamspun Desire books are available individually in paperback and ebook, and as part of a subscription where you get 2 books a month in ebook or paperback for 30% off the cover price. I’m a subscriber, by the way. Gay romance in the old category romance style? Right up my alley as a reader, too. So you bet I’ll be reading these in between working on my own projects.
What’s your favorite romance trope? Comment with your answer below and you could win your choice of any of my back catalog titles in ebook format (so anything except First Comes Marriage). I’ll choose a winner after midnight on January 17th.
I’ll leave you with a taste of First Comes Marriage. Chris’s first hint that his pretend marriage to billionaire Jesse might be a bit more of a challenge than he realized. Hope you enjoy it! -Shira
Excerpt from Chapter Six:
Now, standing in the conference room of Windview Enterprises’ corporate headquarters near South Ferry in Manhattan, one of the matching platinum bands Jesse had bought for them in his pants pocket, Chris wondered if he’d wake up from the dream. The floor-to-ceiling windows looked out over Wall Street and the East River through the forest of high-rise buildings.
“Do you, Jesse Chase Donovan, take Christopher James Valentine to be your husband, in love and in friendship, until you are parted by death?” the judge asked.
“I do.” As Jesse slipped the ring on Chris’s finger, he met Chris’s gaze with such intensity that for an instant, Chris could almost forget the entire ceremony was a ruse to ensure the future of Windview remained firmly in Jesse’s control. Damn the man for being so attractive. Damn him for being a nice guy, because that was the worst part of it. And the part that had you agreeing.
“And do you, Christopher James Valentine, take Jesse Chase Donovan to be your husband, in love and in friendship, until you are parted by death?”
Chris swallowed hard and prayed he didn’t look as incredibly nervous as he felt. “I do.” His hand shook as he took Jesse’s hand and put the ring on his finger.
“Congratulations, Chris and Jesse,” the judge said.
Chris caught Val’s eye for a split second, and he half expected her to urge him to kiss Jesse. But it was Jesse who took charge and blindsided Chris with a kiss.
It started sweetly enough, just Jesse’s lips against his, but instead of releasing Chris, Jesse pulled him tighter against him and pressed his tongue into his mouth. Jesse tasted fucking amazing. Chris didn’t hesitate—their tongues tangled and danced. This close, Jesse smelled good and felt even better. Chris was barely aware of slipping his hands around Jesse’s back before resting them on lean hips. He didn’t think twice as his body and Jesse’s responded in kind.
Someone giggled—Chris recognized Val’s voice—and Jesse pulled abruptly away. Their eyes met for a split second, and Chris thought he saw a mixture of desire and surprise in Jesse’s deep blue eyes. The next thing Chris knew, Val had thrown her arms around him and only his racing heart and tingling lips told him he hadn’t imagined the entire thing.
“Oh, Chris,” Val cooed. “You really did it!”
“Yeah” was the only response Chris could manage. He was still thinking about Jesse’s mouth.
“I guess I was wrong about him being straight,” she whispered mischievously.
Chris was thrilled when Terry grabbed him in a bear hug, because he had no idea how to respond to Val’s comment. He also wasn’t sure if he should be pissed off with Jesse for the show. He supposed if this was going to work, Jesse needed to make the marriage look real. Still, how difficult would it have been to warn Chris that he had that up his sleeve?
About Shira: In her last incarnation, Shira Anthony was a professional opera singer, performing roles in such operas as Tosca, Pagliacci, and La Traviata, among others. She’s given up TV for evenings spent with her laptop, and she never goes anywhere without a pile of unread M/M romance on her Kindle.
Shira is married with two children and two insane dogs, and when she’s not writing, she is usually in a courtroom trying to make the world safer for children. When she’s not working, she can be found aboard Land’s Zen, a 35’ catamaran, at the Carolina coast with her favorite sexy captain at the wheel.
Get your copy of First Comes Marriage today!
January 14, 2016
Hi everyone! My name is M.D. Grimm and I am the proud author of “The Shifters” series, of which “Predator and Prey” is the latest book. I plan to run “The Shifters” into the 20s before coming to that epic battle that will conclude everything. Hopefully, at that point, all loose threads will be tied up neatly and we can all leave this strange world I created satisfied.
But until then….
“Predator and Prey” is book #9 in the series and the last of the “historicals” for a while. Yes, I know the 1970s are hardly “historical” in the usual sense, but they aren’t current times, so I just lumped this story in with “Hunted Guardian” (#7) and “The Serpent and the Angel” (#8). I have two more historical stories in the series to write, but those are for later.
First the blurb:
Vietnam War vet turned deep-sea treasure hunter Digger Sullivan scratches out a living, and this new commission is just another job—albeit an exciting one off the Florida coast in 1977. But while exploring the area, Digger and his crew encounter a lot more sharks than they expected.
Reef and his shark shifter clan are charged with protecting a vital, magical secret—two of four scrolls that, when brought together, could annihilate shifters across the world. But Reef can’t keep his head in the game around this intriguing diver, and it’s not long before Digger takes one of the scrolls topside. Reef now has two missions: seduce Digger and recapture the scroll. Despite his attraction to Digger, Reef’s priority must be reclaiming the scroll.
But when Reef’s true identity is exposed, Digger is scared and appalled, and rejects him. Yet Digger might change his mind when his crew is captured by the very person who commissioned them, and Reef and his shark clan are the only things standing between them and death.
Are you all intrigued yet??
Now, for what you’ve all come for: the dirty deats on “Predator and Prey.” First of all, it came about because I really wanted to write a story about a shark shape-shifter. I have a particular fondness for sharks and hope to swim with them one day. What can I say? I’m a little odd. The biggest challenge this presented, however, was trying to reconcile the inherent “alieness” of a shark’s emotion with the more familiar one of a human. It was a similar challenge that “The Serpent and the Angel” offered, since Tobias was a snake. But sharks are even more alien and practically emotionless. But I needed Reef to be relatable, so that was a delicate balance I had to keep. I decided that the best way to approach the situation was to pick a few key features of the shark I wanted to emphasis and stick with them, giving them as much play as possible. Reef is practical, territorially protective, and isn’t ashamed by what he wants. He just goes and gets it. He’s refreshingly free of human idiosyncrasies… at least at the beginning of the story. He was a fun character to play with, and I liked him more and more as the story progressed.
Digger, however, I knew right off: ex-soldier looking for freedom on the ocean, living by no one’s rules but his own, and befriending those society didn’t want. Yeah, I liked him a lot. I have a soft place in my heart for those who serve, and I wanted to try my hand at bringing one to life. It was intriguing to put Reef and Digger together, and even I couldn’t have guessed how well they would click! They “get” each other on a level that most could only dream about.
I consider this story my most ambitious yet. I had zero knowledge of scuba diving, treasure hunting, boats/ships, the Florida coast and waters. For that matter, I had to research the 1970s and be grateful my story was set mostly in isolation on a boat. College work had nothing on the massive research project I dumped on myself. Jeez. But it was all worth it. I am very proud of the end product and though some of my research didn’t end up in the story, that wasn’t the point. I needed to know all those tedious details if I was going to make everything seem real. If it wasn’t real for me, how could I make it real for anyone else?
Most of my story ideas come from the question “what if?” I’m a big fan of asking “what if?” and letting it lead me down winding paths filled with plot bunnies. This has served me well for “The Shifters” series since I wanted to distance myself from the classic wolf shape-shifter stories and experiment with other animals. Don’t get me wrong, I love wolves, but there are so many interesting, beautiful creatures out there, and I didn’t want to limit myself. This strange world I created is full of life, various and magical, and yet connected and fragile. That’s one of the themes I work with through most of the stories—the idea of connectedness. We are all connected to each other, and if one of us fails, it’s a loss to everyone. In my series, the world essentially has three sorts of players: shape-shifters, magical people/fae descendants (the Knights and the Agency), and mundane humans who are oblivious to the war waging. It’s a massive, dysfunctional family, and there aren’t many who know how the war all began.
“Predator and Prey” answers some of those questions. The main villain in the story has an intimate connection with Arcas, the main villain of my series. Also, for those who’ve read “Hunted Guardian” and “The Serpent and the Angel,” I’m sure you’ve guessed the connection between the villains in those stories and Arcas.
Arcas is more than he appears. But more on that at a later date.
“Predator and Prey” also continues the storyline of the four ancient scrolls that act as keys to unlock a weapon that can annihilate shape-shifters. The scrolls will feature heavily for the next three books, then a new facet of the war will emerge. To keep things organized for myself, I split the books up into parts (of which there are five) and kept to specific themes and connected events.
Part 1 has all been published and includes: Psychic Moon, Love is a Whirlwind, Blind Devotion, Hunter and Hunted, Healing Minds, and Master’s Blood.
Part 2 is what I’m working on now: Hunted Guardian, The Serpent and the Angel, and Predator and Prey. There will be three other stories in Part 2. Happily, Shifting Moon has been accepted by Dreamspinner and due out in April/May 2016. Shifting Moon will be based in current times and chronologically follows Master’s Blood. It also includes Derek and Brian from Psychic Moon. I was very happy to meet up with them again! I missed them.
Because I’m super excited with the progress of the series, I’m going to reveal the titles of the next two books… drum roll please… Feather and Scroll (#11) and Kindred Truths (#12). While Feather and Scroll introduces new characters, Kindred Truths will revisit some fan favorites… *cough* Poe and Nordik *cough*
As you can see, I’m moving right along and hope to have Feather and Scroll done perhaps by the end of 2016. But no promises! You know how life can happen.
Since I’m sure you’re done with my rambling, here’s an excerpt!
That’s when they all heard something smack hard against the starboard side, causing the boat to rock slightly. Everyone jumped up from the table, and for some reason Digger decided to race to his bedroom and thrust the tube inside before following the rest on deck. He’d learned long ago not to question his impulses, and it had saved his life more than once.
“The lights!” Digger said.
Kevin and Felipe flicked on the large spotlights and scanned the waters. It wasn’t long before the light flickered on something pale in the water.
“Put it back.” Digger pointed. “Put it back over there.”
Felipe followed orders and swung the light back around. What it illuminated made everyone freeze in shock. A pale, naked man was floating facedown in the water.
“How—” Hook started but then he let off with a cry when Digger dove into the water. The sudden motion jerked everyone into action. More lights were turned on and directed at the motionless man and their captain, who swam straight and sure through the dark night waters. Jewel dashed below to grab blankets while Angie threw a rescue donut attached to a rope into the water. Kevin and Felipe kept the lights trained on their captain.
Digger quickly reached the man and flipped him over, slipping an arm under his chin. He turned back to the boat, thankful it was summer and he was at the surface. The temperature was mild but carting the dead weight of the man through the water taxed him. How long had the man been in the water? And why the hell was he naked? Digger gripped the donut and watched Angie and Felipe pull on the rope, reeling them both in. He hadn’t thought before he dove into the water. One minute he’d been on the deck and the next the sensation of swimming in inky black water with the unknown lurking beneath made him grimace in agitation. He gritted his teeth, trying not to dwell on the fact that the man in his arms wasn’t breathing.
Digger’s entire crew helped drag him and the naked man onto the boat. He shivered as a wind rose up and accepted the blanket Jewel draped over his shoulders. Angie wrapped the rest around the man before she bent to give him CPR. She managed to give him only one breath before his eyes popped open and he began coughing and gagging. Angie rolled him onto his side as he sucked in air, and Digger closed his eyes, taking a deep breath. Thank God.
Soaking wet and shivering slightly, Digger pulled the blanket tighter around his shoulders and could only ride the wave of relief that flooded inside him. It had been a while since he’d saved anyone’s life, and this hadn’t even been in a war. Just an odd, random occurrence.
“Sarge?” Hook gripped his shoulder.
Digger grunted before opening his eyes. He considered the man who was now sitting up, wrapped tightly in several blankets. Jewel and Angie each had a shoulder and were rubbing his back and arms. The man wasn’t very old, if Digger was any judge. He couldn’t have been past his midtwenties, and Digger remembered his body had been slender, his skin cold. And where the hell had he come from?
The spotlights glared off pale skin that had a strange, almost translucent quality, and Digger gave a start when he realized the man’s hair was silver. Not blond, not gray, but freaking silver. How was that even possible?
Then the man opened his eyes and a sharp black gaze met Digger’s. A zing of familiarity pinged inside Digger before quickly fading. There was no reason for it; he’d never seen this man in his life. He wasn’t a forgettable one. The man continued to stare at Digger though, breathing heavily, shivering now and then. Digger couldn’t read what was in those black eyes but he was intrigued despite himself.
“Can you tell us your name?” Jewel asked.
The man jerked slightly at her voice and glanced at her. Digger looked away, realizing his gaze had been held captive. Mentally cursing himself an old fool, Digger struggled to his feet. Hook grabbed his arm to steady him.
The man turned back to watch him, a puzzled expression on his face.
“My name is Reef.” His smooth voice was pleasant to hear.
Digger raised an eyebrow.
“Reef?” Angie scoffed. “What sort of pansy name is that?”
“Angie!” Jewel scolded.
“Calls them like I sees them.” She stood and walked below decks.
Reef watched her go and Digger thought he looked amused rather than insulted.
“I’m sorry, Reef,” Jewel said, continuing to rub his back. “She’s a foul person on her best days.”
Reef shrugged. “It’s my name and I like it. No one else has to.”
Digger smiled. “Good sentiment for most things in life.”
Reef returned his attention to Digger, and Digger realized he wanted it to stay there. Old fool. What would a young buck want with you? You’re twice his age!
“Where’s your boat, kid?” Hook demanded. “Your clothes? One would think you’d just bubbled up from the depths.”
For a moment a look of panic seemed to cross Reef’s face but then it was gone, and his expression was smooth and unaffected. Digger wondered if he’d imagined it.
“Give it a rest, Hook,” Jewel said as she started to help Reef to his feet. “Hasn’t he been through enough? Are you hungry, Reef? Thirsty?”
“I’m fine. I just—” He suddenly gripped his head and wobbled. Digger found himself by Reef’s side, supporting him as Jewel was doing. His own blanket fluttered to the deck as his focus centered entirely on Reef.
“Sarge, don’t you think we deserve some answers?”
“In the morning is early enough, Hook.”
Hook scowled and part of Digger was surprised by his sudden defense of a stranger. But when Reef began to lean against him and his unique scent filled Digger’s nose, an urge to protect overcame him. The feeling intensified when he realized Reef couldn’t be taller than five feet and that, added to his slender form, made him appear fragile. Then another feeling rose up, one he hadn’t felt in years. He almost welcomed it, relieved the war hadn’t taken away his sexual drive, as it had some men’s. But most of him was wary of it as it caused him to forget his control and lower his guard.
But then Reef looked up at him, gaze steady and direct, and smiled. It wasn’t a smile of puppy dogs and kittens, but one that a shark might give potential prey. A challenging, hungry smile, and it shot a bolt of lust straight to Digger’s gut. He reassessed his initial thought that Reef was fragile. There was steel in that gaze. Unconsciously, his grip on Reef’s arm tightened, and Reef’s smile became knowing even as he looked away. With help from Jewel, they managed to get Reef below decks.
And that’s it for now!
Who is your favorite couple in my series? Or, if you haven’t read any books yet, what’s your favorite shifting animal? Or shifter series? I’m always on the lookout for new books and series to dive into!
May dragons guard your dreams,
You can find me at:
Dreamspinner Press: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/AuthorArcade/md-grimm
December 24, 2015
For the last post, how about some heat? Cody, being bisexual, is completely attracted to both the masculine and feminine qualities of Phineas. As we saw in the last excerpt, he finds Phineas as Phanny a huge turn on.
This excerpt comes several months into their relationship after another Phanny Hill performance at Janelle’s. Cody is beginning to struggle with jealousy and goes a bit caveman on the guys who are swarming around Phanny in the lobby. He retreats to the dressing room to wait for her.
Ten minutes later, Phinney, aka Phanny, came into the dressing room where Cody had holed up. No one was around at the moment, although there’d been a near-constant stream of queens coming in and out.
Cody jumped up, prepared to apologize for his caveman act in the lobby, his stomach doing a flip at the way Phineas was advancing on him in all his Phanny Hill glory, something dangerous flashing in her eyes. “Phinney, I—”
“Wait.” She—for he could only see Phanny in this moment—pushed the dressing room door so that it was almost closed, then shoved Cody up against the wall, her ruby-red talons digging into his shoulder. Cody grunted in surprise when she used her other hand to grip his cock through his jeans. A wave of her perfume tickled his nose and he hardened to the point of pain. God, she was glorious, her glittered breasts peeking out of her low-cut bodice, her big brown eyes framed by the false eyelashes. She unsnapped his pants and he found it difficult to breathe, even more so when she pulled down his zipper ever so slowly.
The hotness of the moment was enhanced by the door not being fully shut. Cody could hear people walking by and talking as she finally slid her hand under his briefs and took hold of his cock.
She looked up then, pinning him with a seductive glance, her ruby lips curved in a knowing smile. “You like?” she asked huskily, then licked those sultry lips.
“Um-hmm,” he rasped, unable to tear his eyes away from her mouth and that pink tongue. His cock twitched under her hand.
“You’re such a bad boy, scaring away all my men. I think I should punish you, hmm?” she purred, giving him a stroke for emphasis. “But I’d rather reward you, because that was smoking hot.”
“What do you want? And ask nicely. Phanny’s a lady, you know.”
Cody felt the room spinning as he tried to get out the words, the world having narrowed to the smell of her perfume, the feeling of her warm fingers on him. “Will you… please… suck me?”
I think I’ll be a tease and stop here! Thank you for helping me celebrate the release of my new book. I’ll be back in a bit with a wrap-up post.
Question: Easygoing Cody finds himself jealous for the first time in his life and he doesn’t like the feeling. Have you ever been jealous in a relationship? I have!
GIVEAWAY: Make sure you comment because three people who comment during the There You Are Release Party today will win a CJane Elliott ebook of their choice. You can leave a comment any time. I’ll be checking throughout the day!
December 24, 2015
Cody finds out early on that Phineas was a drag queen by the name of Phanny Hill and performed regularly at a local drag club, and that Phineas gave up doing drag after Allen died. One of the ways Cody helps Phineas come back to life is by encouraging him to return to performing as Phanny Hill.
I modeled the club Janelle’s in the book after Portland’s drag club Darcelle’s, which I went to a few years back with some other DSP authors. This is Darcelle herself who is Janelle in my book:
Here’s the drag queen version of Phineas from Shutterstock. This is the same model as the cover. Isn’t she beautiful?
I love drag shows! It was fun to include drag in my story. And when Phineas allows Phanny out again, he finds a whole new spark to his life. Cody likes it too.
Here’s an excerpt from when Phineas returns to Janelle’s after four years to perform as Phanny Hill.
Janelle herself, a regal old drag queen, took the stage. She bantered and told ribald jokes, pointed out some bachelorette parties and other would-be notables in the crowd, and then paused to take a sip of water. “And now, I’ve been savin’ the best for last, chickadees. Because tonight marks the return of one of the fiercest queens ever to grace our stage. It’s been too long, way too long, and I’m overjoyed that she’s here with us tonight. Please welcome back to Janelle’s stage our very own Phanny Hill!”
Cody and friends applauded wildly as Janelle exited and the stage went black. The first chords of Diana Ross’s “I’m Coming Out” accompanied the spotlight illuminating Phanny Hill, a vision in a formfitting scarlet sequined gown and short black hair. She was coming out, all right, strutting the stage in her spike heels, her lips ruby red, her long eyelashes fluttering, glitter in her cleavage. Cody had no idea where the breasts had come from, but it didn’t matter. Phineas had disappeared, leaving sexy, alluring Phanny. And fuck, was she a turn-on.
She sashayed in their direction, her painted mouth lip-synching the song, and stopped right in front of them. Blaine and Gemma had their dollar bills at the ready to stuff into the top of her dress. She leaned down to accommodate them, then slid her hand, with the long red nails, along the back of Cody’s neck, emanating a trace of tantalizing perfume. He lifted his face, and the crowd cheered at their kiss. Then she was off, playing to the audience, while Cody touched his lips and Blaine and Gemma laughed.
Question: I don’t have a good question for this topic, so how about asking me anything you want to know – about me, my writing, this story or my others. Fire away!
GIVEAWAY: Make sure you comment because three people who comment during the There You Are Release Party today will win a CJane Elliott ebook of their choice. You can leave a comment any time. I’ll be checking throughout the day!
November 23, 2015
For years, Clayton Potter’s been friends and workout partners with Ronnie. Though Clay is attracted, he’s never come on to Ronnie because, let’s face it, Ronnie only dates women.
When Clay’s father suffers a heart attack, Ronnie, having recently lost his dad, springs into action, driving Clay to the hospital over a hundred miles away. To stay close to Clay’s father, the men share a hotel room near the hospital, but after an emotional day, one thing leads to another, and straight-as-an-arrow Ronnie make a proposal that knocks Clay’s socks off! Just a little something to take the edge off.
Clay responds in a way he’s never considered. After an amazing night together, Clay expects Ronnie to ignore what happened between them and go back to his old life. Ronnie surprises him and seems interested in additional exploration. Though they’re friends, Clay suddenly finds it hard to accept the new Ronnie and suspects that Ronnie will return to his old ways. Maybe they both have a thing or two to learn.
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I changed in the locker room while Ronnie talked to everyone. His big personality was back, and it was good to see. After filling my water bottle, I went up to the mezzanine to the treadmills. I got on one, dropped my phone into one of the cup holders, then started the machine and began my workout. I had a good view of the workout floor, so I watched as the others went through their routines, talking constantly as they did. A few times I saw Ronnie glance up, making the occasional rude gesture and then grinning like a naughty child. I was about to give him one back when my phone rang. I picked it up and answered it.
“Is this Clayton Potter?” I heard a strange voice ask.
“Yes, it is,” I answered, figuring this was some sort of telemarketing call. I made a mental note to check the do-not-call lists.
“I’m Dr. Greenway down at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. Your father listed you as next of kin. He was brought in earlier today. I’m afraid he’s had as many as three strokes in the past few hours.”
Hearing the word stroke, I forgot what I was doing or where I was. The machine kept working even as I stopped, and it pushed me off the back. I stumbled and managed to keep from crashing to the floor but ended up in a heap nonetheless as my legs gave out.
“Mr. Potter, are you all right?”
“I don’t know” was the only answer I could form. My head buzzed and my ears rang, hands and legs tingling. “How is he now?”
“Howard is stable at the moment, but he’s slipped into a coma. Part of it is the body’s way of protecting itself. We need to run some more tests to determine the cause of the strokes, and then we may need to perform surgery to try to correct the blockage in his neck. Is it possible for you to get here? We will need permission to perform the surgery. I can do emergency surgery without it, but I would prefer we time this as best we can.”
“Yes. I’ll see about leaving as soon as I can.” I stared at the phone, sitting on the floor while other people began gathering around me. I scanned the faces, people I didn’t know all asking questions that didn’t seem to register. Then Ronnie pushed his way in, and I took a deep breath as the fog over my mind lifted somewhat.
“It’s my dad,” I told him. Those words galvanized Ronnie into action. He helped me to my feet and grabbed my things from the machine before turning it off.
“What happened to him?” Ronnie asked.
“Stroke,” I answered. “Got to get to Johns Hopkins.”
Ronnie stared into my eyes. “You can’t drive. Not like this.” Even as he said the words, he was already leading me down the steps and toward the locker room. “Change your clothes.” He left me in front of my locker, and I stared at it, forcing my hands to work. I pulled off my gym clothes and got back into the regular ones. By the time I was done, Ronnie was dressed.
“Where are you going?” I asked.
“My dad was at Hopkins,” Ronnie told me, and then he snatched up my bag and took me by the arm. My head was clearing, and the feeling was returning in my arms and legs, but I still felt shaky on my feet. He half propelled me toward the door, stopped at the desk briefly, and then we continued outside.
“My car is over there,” I said, but Ronnie guided me to his and somehow managed to get both gym bags in the tiny trunk of the Lamborghini.
“I’m taking you down.” He unlocked the car and lifted the door upward. It felt like I was still almost on the ground once I got in. Ronnie pushed the door down to close it and came around to the driver’s side. As soon as he got in, he started the engine, which roared to life, and within minutes we were out of the lot and entering the freeway.
“You don’t have to do this,” I said, a little belatedly, though I was pleased he thought enough of me to take this much care. Ronnie and I were friends, but he was a very busy man whose time was extremely valuable.
“Of course I do.” Ronnie reached over and patted my leg a few times, then returned his hand to the wheel. “When my dad was in the hospital, you came in all the time, talked to him and Mom.” Ronnie’s voice faltered for a few seconds. “She told me how you used to sit with her and just listen while she spouted all kinds of crap. Her words. She said she needed someone to talk with, and you were there.” Ronnie continued driving as I stared out the window. I’d made the drive from Harrisburg to Baltimore more times than I could count. It had been just my dad and me for a long time.
November 12, 2015
When you begin to lose track of how many books you’ve had published, it’s really hard to say which one is your favorite. It’s like asking Mrs. O’Farrell, a staunch Irish Catholic who lived next door to us when I was growing up which of her nine children was her favorite.
“They’re all my favorites,” I imagine her replying, “Each for a different reason.”
And the same holds true for me and my books. But today I am thinking about Chaser. For its humor, its insight about body image (and the gay ideal or lack thereof), and its theme of attractiveness being a highly personal and relative thing, Chaser truly is, of my own stuff, one of my favorites.
Since its publication back in August of 2012, I’ve gotten many letters from readers thanking me for introducing a romantic hero who is not the ideal. See, the object of desire/affection in my story is Kevin and Kevin’s a little overweight. The “chaser” in the title refers to the gay lingo term for men who prefer their men on the meatier side: chubby chasers.
My other main character, Caden, is one of those men. Although Caden is a runner, with a lean and what some might call a perfect body, he prefers his men to have a little something to hold onto. Here’s Caden’s first glimpse of Kevin in a bar one night:
Caden did have his eye on one guy, down on the lower level at one of the high-topped tables, talking with a couple of friends. He stood out because he was not built like most of the guys here, who were, to a man, either too skinny or too pumped up to register on his attraction meter.
This guy seemed comfortable in his own skin and Caden liked the way he threw back his head and laughed when one of his buddies said something funny. Unlike most of the other guys in Sidetrack that night, he did not show any signs that he was conscious of his appearance. Caden liked that he wore comfortable clothes, a cotton sweater of faded blue-gray and a simple pair of carpenter pants, most likely Carhartt. He peered over the rail and saw the guy’s feet were encased in work boots. Ah. A blue-collar man. A working guy. Just my type. Caden also liked his tousled blond hair, which revealed fetching layers of color that went from almost brown, to wheat, to pale blond, to nearly platinum, yet revealed no indication, Caden thought, of the attentions of a hairdresser. And what put him on the “edge of glory” was the crowning touch: a thick beard, not manicured into tortured geometric lines.
And he was blessedly overweight. Not fat. But a bit of gut protruded, and his thighs, in denim, looked like tree trunks. When he turned around, he revealed an ass of ample proportions, the kind Caden could just imagine as two perfect, creamy white spheres perfect for grasping and pulling apart.
“Is it hot in here?” Caden shouted in Bobby’s ear. He took a gulp of beer and fanned his hand in front of his face.
Most of the time, in gay or straight romance, you don’t find men like the one above. But in Chaser, I tried to show that objects of desire and/or love can and do come in all different shapes and sizes.
The vagaries of sexual attraction are definitely not a one-size-fits-all affair.
But if that was all there was to Chaser, there wouldn’t be much of a story, now would there? As an author, I like there to be some drama, some tension, so I asked… “What would happen if….”
…and filled in the blank with “Kevin lost the weight that drew Caden to him in the first place?”
So, when Caden has to leave town suddenly for an extended period, he returns home to a man who is not at all what he was originally drawn to. How does one deal with such a situation? As the tag line on the cover of Chaser wonders: “Is it really what’s on the inside that counts?”
Well, is it?
I think open-hearted people everywhere know the answer to that question, even if might be modified somewhat by “within limits”. But to find out if Kevin and Caden are still a love match when body images change, you have to read Chaser to discover what happens.
I leave you with a sentence near the end of the book that may give you a clue to how things turn out:
Caden turned back to Kevin. The fight had gone out of him. He appraised him with new eyes.
And what do you think he saw?
Chaser is available from Dreamspinner Press and at all the usual suspects—Amazon, Barnes and Noble, All Romance eBooks, and so on. And if you want more, check out Raining Men. It explores another side of gay life that may not be at the forefront of gay romance—sexual addiction and its power to thwart the very love for which one might search within its clutches.
Rick R. Reed is all about exploring the romantic entanglements of gay men in contemporary, realistic settings. While his stories often contain elements of suspense, mystery and the paranormal, his focus ultimately returns to the power of love. He is the author of dozens of published novels, novellas, and short stories. He is a three-time EPIC eBook Award winner (for Caregiver, Orientation and The Blue Moon Cafe). Raining Men and Caregiver have both won the Rainbow Award for gay fiction. Lambda Literary Review has called him, “a writer that doesn’t disappoint.” Rick lives in Seattle with his husband and a very spoiled Boston terrier. He is forever “at work on another novel.”
Also available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, AllRomance ebooks, and more.
October 15, 2015
Someone else cried out, and I whirled around. Parsol, I think was her name—it had become a challenge to remember all the names because on every mission we lost people, so many people—held up her right arm. A ram stood next to her, gnawing on the part it had just ripped off her.
I choked as I lifted my gun again. The ram trilled before it stared at me from cold, reptilian eyes. Parsol was still staring at her limb, gushing with blood, when her knees buckled and she sprawled on the ground. The ram’s head whipped around, the red ridge on its head flaring. Seconds later we listened to crushing bones and tearing flesh.
Tom grasped my hips in his hands and lifted me up, so I could reach a low hanging branch. On autopilot, I grabbed for it and hauled myself up. I reached for the next one and had to assure myself with a glance at my fingers that I was indeed holding on tight because my fingers felt numb.
Tom patted my ass, probably to encourage me, but to me it felt like a slap, and not of the good kind. Startled, I moved up higher. Not a second too soon.
A ram showed up below us, tilted its head sideways, and inspected the tree trunk. After a snapped whistle, another ram appeared next to the first.
On our way up, Tom had made sure to destroy the low hanging branches, probably to stop the rams from following us. How we were supposed to get down from the tree was his secret. For now, it was more important for the rams to stay on the ground.
We stopped our climb halfway up the tree. Not because we couldn’t go up farther, rather due to the gusting wind that threatened to blow us off. When I peered down through the pouring raindrops, my heart stopped for a beat. Seriously, it did.
With a trembling finger, I pointed at the scene below. “Tom? Are they doing what I think they’re doing?”
Tom’s eyes narrowed and his nostrils flared. He wrapped his tail around the trunk and me, anchoring me. I had no time to process whether I should give him a piece of my mind or not because the first ram had finished climbing on the shoulders of the second one and now vaulted up on the first branch within reach. After its landing, it threw its head back and screeched.
Even through the thundering rain, the scream sliced through my body. Tom lifted his gun and fired right at the ram’s head.
The ram had ducked aside and was now steadily climbing the tree, winding around it like a slithering snake. No matter how hard we tried, our shots always missed the target.
I glanced down again, only to see another ram ready himself for the climb. I fumbled with the pocket on my right thigh, grabbed a bluster and lobbed it at the two rams on the ground. As they tumbled down, the bluster went off, destroying both of them. Two less to worry about.
In the distance, I heard more gun shots and another bluster going off. Maybe we would survive this attack after all.
Right at that moment, claws appeared an inch below my boot. I reversed my gun and slammed the butt of it onto the claw. The ram screeched in pain but didn’t let go. Instead, it hauled itself up on a branch opposite Tom and me. Why the fuck didn’t the bough snap under the ram’s weight?
I swiveled the gun around to aim, but the ram’s claw closed around the muzzle. Even though I pulled the trigger, the ram pulled and flung my gun to the ground.
Tom withdrew his tail from the trunk—not a second too soon, because the ram tried to snatch it with its claws—but kept it around my waist. We moved farther away from the trunk, carefully balancing on the narrowing branch. Another blast of wind almost chucked us off.
The ram’s head peeked out from behind the trunk for a moment, then withdrew. Was it pondering its options?
“I’ll throw you to that tree in the back. Do you think you’ll be able to get a hold on a branch?” Tom whispered.
I froze. “Excuse me? What do you mean by ‘you’ll throw me’? We’re like… like high above the ground, and I don’t have wings or anything.”
Tom jerked his thumb over his shoulder, pointing at a tree close to us. “You can’t jump this kind of distance, but I can throw you. Will you be able to hold on?”
“I have no idea!” I burst out. “I’ve never tried before!”
“Berit,” Tom said, his voice so soft it hurt. “I know you haven’t done that before, but if I can’t trust you to find a handhold, I can’t risk the move.”
“I can’t promise,” I said in sheer desperation. What would be worse—getting killed by a ram, or falling to one’s own death? “Can’t you just shoot the damn thing?”
“It always ducks behind the trunk, so, no, I can’t. Ready?”
“Berit!” he snapped. With his free hand, he grabbed for one of my hands and gave it a squeeze. “I’ll follow right away.”
“If you can follow, maybe that beast can too,” I protested.
“It has to come out of its hiding place, and that’s when I’ll kill it,” Tom replied.
“Oh. Well, that sounds reasonable.”
Tom squeezed again, and this time I reciprocated.
“Ready?” he asked.
“Now is probably not a good time to confess that I’m not the adventurous type, huh?”
Tom chuckled. “I’d beg to differ anyway. On three.”
Chris T. Kat loves to write and to read. She writes whatever floats her boat, which means her stories vary from contemporary to paranormal, fantasy, bittersweet dreams or sci-fi. All of her books have a strong romantic element and she’s happiest if she can write about shapeshifters. In real life, Chris is a teacher and couldn’t have hoped for a better job. She’s blessed with a wonderful and supportive family.
August 26, 2015
I can’t help it, there’s nothing like a guy in a tux. I just had to get James and Gabe into formal clothes at least once. Then of course I had to get those clothes off.
The doors slid open. A Town Car was waiting at the curb. They didn’t talk as they made the short trip to Gabe’s building. They just held hands and watched the lights go past outside.
They didn’t even talk as the elevator took them swiftly and smoothly up to Gabe’s place. The lights automatically came on as they stepped out of the elevator, neither too fast nor too bright; a soft fade-up to a warm glow.
Gabe stepped close and pulled on James’s bow tie until it came loose and slipped from around his neck. He let it drop through his fingers; it fell to the floor without even a whisper. He put the tips of his fingers to James’s cheek next. James leaned into them, noticing the way two were rough and two were smooth. Gabe must have been chewing on them again.
He reached up and pulled on Gabe’s tie. It slid from its knot more easily than his had. The silk was cool on the ends and warm where it had gone around Gabe’s neck. He let it drop from his fingers as well.
Gabe took a few steps back, and James followed as if being led in a dance. And he followed where Gabe led. It was so easy and felt so right. He usually avoided the easy path. Easy was usually wrong.
Gabe changed directions, moving quickly behind James and slipping his coat from his body. James shivered at the sudden change in temperature, from being wrapped in the sultry jacket to having only the fine linen shirt between his body and the air.
The chill left as quickly as it had arrived. Gabe stepped in close, pressing himself to James’s back, putting out a powerful heat. He leaned back, still feeling like he was in a dance that had no music with a rhythm that was in constant flux. But still Gabe was leading perfectly.
Gabe stripped off his own jacket without ever taking his chest from James’s body. He let the jacket drop to the floor, not even bothering to toss it toward the hooks as he had with James’s.
He pressed his lips to James’s neck, right above his collar. James felt his toes curl and his body tingle. Gabe’s fingers were back, skimming along his cheek, and his thumb brushed across James’s lips. He flicked out his tongue to tickle it.
Gabe exhaled long and slow, his warm breath slipping under James’s collar. His fingers left James’s face and went instead to his throat, popping open the high collar buttons. James let out a long breath, unaware of just how constricted he had felt until that moment.
Gabe slid around him until they were once again face-to-face. He thought they might kiss, but instead Gabe just looked at him, eyes dark in the dim light. He felt his breath hitch and that tightening in his chest return. It was so much like the way Gabe had looked at him their first night. All those months ago now, standing so close that James had been able to smell the hint of peppers on his skin.
Now Gabe smelled faintly of fancy cologne that had nearly worn away.
He took Gabe’s hand and laced their fingers together as if they would dance. Gabe took his other hand, lifted it, and kissed his palm. James closed his eyes and nearly fell forward. Gabe kissed the heel of his palm next and then placed a kiss on the inside of his wrist. James whimpered softly. Somehow those three small kisses had his head spinning with greater pleasure than kisses in far more intimate areas.
Gabe stepped backward, leading them with just the knowledge of the dimensions of his own home.
He didn’t lead them to the bedroom, but rather to the large couch of cool leather draped with blankets of the same spun and woven silk as the one on Gabe’s bed. He sat on them and drew James onto his lap, giving James the height advantage for once.
James took it, tilting Gabe’s head back and into a slow, lazy kiss, their tongues just flitting around each other’s, chasing the flavor of champagne. Gabe’s arms went around his body, pulling him close. James’s fingers went into Gabe’s hair, tangling themselves in the dark curls, destroying the last of the control imposed by handfuls of hair gel that smelled slightly of mint and clashed with the cologne.
Gabe sighed into the kiss and held James tight.
He and Gabe kissed. He didn’t think about time; he didn’t think about anything beyond the feel of Gabe’s arms around him and the taste of Gabe on his lips, the sound of their tiny moans and sighs in his ears.
At some point Gabe pulled away from the kiss and took a deep breath. He leaned in, laying his head against James’s chest. James became aware of his own heart pounding strong and steady. Gabe looked up at him, a small soft smile on his lips. James kissed those lips, then stood. Gabe followed.
This time James took Gabe’s hand and led the dance toward the bedroom. There was no rush. He was content to keep kissing if that was all the night had in store, but he wanted to be lying down in Gabe’s arms while it happened.
Bowerbirds (Nested Hearts: Book Two) available through Dreamspinner Press.
August 16, 2015
Swing music blared out of the static Temple had been dialing through, making him grin. “That’s better. I want to dance.”
“Must you do that here?” Agni asked. “I was listening to the orchestra before you barged in.”
“You go be boring somewhere else.” Temple waved him off. “I’m going to dance and this is the only radio, so….”
Agni cast a look at Caleb. “I’m regretting not taking him up on his earlier offer.”
When Temple perked up, Agni added, “On going out in the snow. I could have buried him up to his eyes. Maybe that would have kept him out of trouble.”
“I honestly doubt it,” Caleb replied as Temple started gyrating to the music.
Agni lost interest in his book and his tea as he watched Temple. Caleb knew the look in Agni’s dark eyes: honest amusement. “You look very silly dancing by yourself, Temple.”
Nonchalantly Temple danced his way over to the bay window. He pulled the curtain shut, then spun over to Caleb, yanking him up from the couch. “Dance with me.”
“I don’t know how to swing,” Caleb protested, stumbling after Temple.
“I’ll teach you.”
“I’m a horrible dancer.”
“He really is,” Agni put in.
“Nonsense, you’re trainable,” Temple assured him. “I’ve seen you fight. You know how to move. You just have to figure out how to do it to music.”
“Don’t blame me when you lose a toe,” Caleb said, trying to find the beat in the wild music. He gave up and let Temple spin him around.
Agni laughed, watching them. Temple managed to make the complicated dance steps look easy, but Caleb felt like he was wrestling a many-armed demon. The occasional seductive touches Temple lavished on him only served to help that image. Finally Caleb managed to trip them both, and Temple ended up half-over the back of the couch.
Temple buried his fingers in Agni’s curls while he dangled over the couch, trying to drag Agni in for a kiss. Agni put his hand over Temple’s face.
“Don’t even think it.”
“Come on, dance with me, Agni. You’re right, your partner’s awful. He’s going to maim me.” Temple pouted.
“I warned you,” Caleb snorted.
“I’m busy, Temple.” Agni hefted the book he hadn’t been reading for a while.
Temple pushed it down, leaning in for that kiss, then froze. He cocked his head, listening intently. Caleb shut the radio off. The sounds of screams echoed loudly in the night. Cursing, the trio ran for the door where boots, winter gear, and weapons waited for them.
August 13, 2015
It’s been lovely chatting with you all! We’ll be here til midnight Eastern, chatting with y’all in the comments, but for now we’re going to leave you with an excerpt of Twelfth Night:
John doesn’t expect Michael to be as weirdly taken with the ocean as he is with the wild woods. It doesn’t seem like his element the way the trees are. But he is mesmerized by the beach almost instantly upon their arrival, insisting they walk along the hard wet sand of the tide line. It doesn’t matter how many times John says their muscles will ache unhappily tomorrow from miles walked at the edge of the frigid fall water; Michael either doesn’t hear him or doesn’t care enough to respond.
John is fascinated as Michael keeps a close eye on shells and rocks. One is shaped like a small egg, and he’s disappointed when it’s not. Still he makes John hold it for him, running ahead to a rock jetty to comb through the midden of mussel shells left by persistent and angry seagulls.
John tries not to be horrified, but the sight of Michael’s fingers picking through the dead bivalves and seaweed stinking in the sun is a bit much.
“What’s this?” Michael asks, eventually, holding out a shell, colored and swirled, to him.
It’s in perfect condition, and John is about to be impressed with the find until he realizes there’s still a creature using the shell as its home.
“That’s an animal in there.” He doesn’t actually know what kind. But it’s gelatinous and of the sea and not really a thing they should be messing with. They’ve seen dozens of jellyfish washed up on the beach already today.
“Does it go in the ocean or not in the ocean?”
“Ocean,” John says. He’s not 100 percent sure, but he suspects, like the jellyfish, the sun and the birds will eventually cook and peck it to nothing if it’s not saved by the sea.
Michael throws the shell back and returns to the tide line as they walk, gaze carefully on the ground and picking at every shell he sees that looks like whatever creature he just rescued. Most of them have their animals in them, and John suspects the coming hurricane that’s going to ruin their trip is churning them up.
As Michael throws each one back into the water, John is charmed that he’s trying to save creatures that have no spine, names he doesn’t know, and forms he’s never seen before.
Eventually Michael decides they can leave and reaches for John’s hand. John flinches away. It’s not the strangeness of the town this beach is attached to, half religious meeting town, half gay beach paradise. There’s even a club down the block from their inn that advertises “Less Lights, More Fun!” It’s that he can only think about whatever bacteria Michael is now coated in from all the dead mussels.
God, but he’s going to look like an idiot explaining that.
When he tries, stumbling through a mini monologue about seaweed and sea creatures and sand, Michael just listens with his head tipped to the side.
Finally John’s speech drags to a halt under Michael’s incredibly unimpressed gaze. He sighs and starts again.
“Okay. I swear the handholding thing has nothing to do with anything except your gross dead bivalve hands. But I think I may be freaking out.”
Michael blinks at him. “Did this start when we checked in and you had to deal with people who know we’re here to fuck?”
It’s sharp, but John knows he probably deserves it.
“You know I don’t mind being out in public with you,” he says cautiously. He wants to be honest with Michael, but he also doesn’t want to provoke anger by being less willing to be out than Michael deems sufficient.
Thankfully Michael considers John for a moment and then grins. “Somewhere in the romantic beach getaway, I got that.”
John lets out a relieved sigh and wraps an arm around Michael’s waist. He wants to prove his willingness to be fully in this relationship without shame, but life is also just better when they’re touching. Michael leans into his side, and they start walking down the sand again.
“But it’s something I can’t help being aware of,” John says quietly as they walk. “What we are and what people see when they look at me. Which apparently means I’ve found my internalized homophobia, and I am completely aware of how gross that is. I’m going to work on that, but there it is.”
“You still want to, like, go out to dinner tonight and make out on the boardwalk, though, right?”
“Oh my God, you have no idea. I want to tell everybody about you.”
Michael smirks. “So why don’t you?”
“Coming out at my age is kind of more complicated than it is at twelve. Or however old you were when you did.”
“I was fourteen, thank you.”
“So how did you come out to your parents?” John asks after they walk for a few minutes in silence.
Michael cracks up.
Michael buries his face in John’s arm and apparently can’t stop laughing. “You do understand how ridiculous this is, right?”
“I understand that I’m forty-two and have to come out to everyone in my entire life that I give a remote shit about, because you are addictive and fascinating and wonderful and also are sadly holding me to some pretty legitimate ethical standards. So help a guy out, okay?”
“I was making out with my first high school boyfriend in the living room, and my mom walked in.”
John is entirely not surprised. “So hey, when you meet my family, let’s not go with that plan, yeah?”
“Yeah,” Michael says, drawing the word out in a way that makes it clear it’s his turn to be defensive and weird.
John smirks, pleased to be off the hook for the moment. “You haven’t told them about us either,” he says smugly.
Michael mumbles something against John’s arm.
“What was that?”
“You’re really old,” Michael says. “And they’re going to freak.”
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