August 29, 2014
As I mentioned earlier, Finally Home is the sequel to my short story, Krung Thep, City of Angels, where we first met novice backpacker Marco and culinary travel writer Chris in Bangkok, Thailand. Not to spoil too much, but Finally Home picks up shortly after the story left off, with Marco and Chris enjoying their last dinner together in Thailand before they part ways, possibly forever. Here, have a peek:
Marco’s mouth was on fire.
Scratch that. His entire body was on fire, a searing burn radiating from his mouth all the way down to his toes. Buds of sweat bloomed over his already sticky skin, and the lazy fan mounted above the table did nothing to cool him. He stuck his tongue in his glass of beer, hoping the remains of the ice cubes floating inside would soothe it, but the fizz just seemed to aggravate the burn. A tormented whimper escaped Marco’s lips.
Across the scarred Formica table, Chris’s normally tanned face had gone red beneath his shaggy blond hair. However, his shoulders quaked with barely contained laughter rather than pain, his ice blue eyes filled with a mix of compassion and mirth.
“Thith isn’th funneh!” Marco cried. It was hard for him to make himself clear with his tongue hanging out of his mouth, which made Chris laugh all the harder.
“Yes it is!” Chris wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. “I warned you, the waitress warned you, but you didn’t listen!”
Marco scowled at Chris through watering eyes. The dish had seemed harmless enough on the menu, just some glass noodles tossed with prawns and minced pork. He hadn’t counted on the strength of the chili-lime dressing dousing it, though. Marco had figured that by now, after two weeks in Thailand, his spice tolerance would have increased enough to graduate from the farang level of spicy to that of the locals. How wrong he’d been.
Chris passed a small plate of cucumber slices toward him. “These should help.”
As Marco crammed two into his mouth, Chris motioned to the waitress. All he had to do was point at the sweating, panting Marco and she nodded in understanding. What seemed like an agonizing amount of time later, she plopped a small plastic bottle of milk on the table. Marco was in too much pain to care how foolish he looked, and he wrenched off the lid in one pull. As the milk bathed his tongue, the burn subsided to a dull, throbbing ache.
“Better?” Chris asked, his blue eyes twinkling with humor.
Marco simply scowled at his travel companion over another slug of the sweetened milk. Embarrassment kicked in as the pain subsided. It would have been one thing if Chris were just some random travel buddy he’d met at a youth hostel, another green twentysomething out seeing the world for the first time. But Christopher J. Springer was a noted culinary travel writer, who made his living sampling what the world’s food carts and hole-in-the-wall joints had to offer. Marco had watched Chris sample chili-studded soups and grilled crickets with equal amounts of gusto. Marco couldn’t even handle a plate of noodles.
“Hey.” Chris’s voice grew suddenly tender, drawing Marco’s gaze away from the offending dish. “It’s okay. We all get burned sometimes.”
Chris reached out a hand and placed it over Marco’s with a squeeze. Marco’s heart skipped a beat, the solid warmth of Chris’s calloused fingers soothing away some of his shame. That was the other, more important reason Marco had been so eager to show Chris he’d absorbed some of his adventurous spirit: Chris was the first real lover that Marco had ever had.
Chris had appeared out of the blue three days after Marco had arrived in Bangkok, materializing like some khaki-clad guardian angel to guide Marco through the convoluted streets, sois and canals of the city. It had only taken them a day to fall into bed together, though it had taken a bit longer to figure out that they made a good traveling pair. Now, after ten days of trekking side by side across Thailand, Marco was having a hard time imagining what life was going to be like once he boarded his plane back to Los Angeles tomorrow.
“Really, it’s okay!” Chris said. “You don’t have to look so sad, Marco. We’ll order something else.”
Marco tried to shake off his melancholy and offered Chris a weak smile. “Can we get that one dish—‘the catfish exploded’?” He remembered the crispy-sweet seafood salad he’d fallen in love with during their two days in the beach town of Hua Hin. Best of all, it was flavorful, yet barely spicy.
“Yam pla dook foo?” The Thai syllables rolled off Chris’s tongue with enviable ease. “If they have it.”
Chris gave Marco a smile that spread a different type of heat through him. As Chris waved down the server to order, Marco couldn’t help but study him, struck again by how he’d managed to attract such an intensely good-looking traveling companion. Chris’s physique was wiry and toned from years of constant travel, not too built, not too thin. He had a smile that stood out like pearls against sand on his lean, tanned face, which time had only begun to line. Marco’s gaze drifted from Chris’s face, down the long column of his throat, to the wide triangle of bare flesh peeking out from his unbuttoned collar.
As Marco watched, Chris’s fingers fluttered unconsciously against the spot, quick as a hummingbird, before falling back to the table. Marco felt a pang, as he always did when he saw Chris’s tic. When Marco first met Chris, that spot had been decorated by a worn silver St. Christopher’s medal, a talisman of protection that had been with him on all his travels. Now it hung around Marco’s neck, a testament to the bond they had forged in such a short time. Marco wondered if he should return it to Chris before he left, seeing as it had been so precious to Chris, but part of him didn’t want to let it go. After tomorrow, it would be all he would have to remember Chris by.
While they waited for their dish, Marco pulled his smartphone out of his pocket and snapped a picture of the offending noodles. Within a minute, he’d posted the picture to his Facebook account, the caption reading: “I think I just ate noodles made out of the sun.” When he finished, he noticed Chris watching him with equal parts bemusement and disdain.
“You know your phone bill is going to be huge when you get back home,” Chris said.
“Maybe, but it’s worth it. I’ll have a record of my day-to-day trip.”
“A travel journal would work just as well. Cheaper, too.”
“Nowhere near as fun,” Marco scoffed. His phone made a cheerful bleep. His older sister, Angela, had already commented, most likely from her office computer, seeing as it was around 11:00 a.m. back home in Culver City.
“You kids and your constant need to share everything,” Chris griped cheerfully. He leaned back in his seat, gnawing on a piece of cucumber. “Back in my day, we used postcards and e-mails to keep in touch.”
“Okay, Grandpa,” Marco snorted. “You’re only nine years older than me!”
“Might as well be twenty, the way things are speeding up these days.”
Chris’s tone was light, but there was a new crease across his brow. This wasn’t the first time their age difference had come up, though the gap didn’t bother Marco in the slightest. In fact, he liked that Chris was older, even if it meant having arguments like this again and again.
“You know, for a travel writer, you’re an awful Luddite,” Marco said.
Chris shrugged. “I have my laptop—”
“That thing is older than I am!”
“And I have my camera. You can’t tell me that little phone takes better pictures than my Nikon D3.”
“No,” Marco conceded, “but at least I can upload them to the web right away.”
“See, I don’t need that.” Chris took a sip of his beer. “Why bother putting things online for free when you can find a magazine or a website to pay you for it?”
“Because sometimes it’s not about the money.”
Marco was getting exasperated. They’d had this argument almost every day. If only Chris would understand how using social media could expose him to new readers and boost sales of his photography books and travel guides. Sometimes Marco thought Chris deliberately didn’t want recognition, despite his awards and high-profile articles. At least Chris had finally taken Marco up on his offer to let him help by recording video footage of Chris’s street-food encounters. It wasn’t high quality, but Marco figured it would help give Chris reference materials, if nothing else.
“Social media is about being connected,” Marco continued, “sharing your experiences.”
“Who would I want to stay connected to?” Chris rolled his eyes in irritation. “The marketing manager pretending to be Anthony Bourdain on his Facebook? My roommate from college? Anyone I want to stay connected with, I do, on my own terms. I don’t need a face-twit-blog-whatever.”
“What about me?” It came out before Marco could stop himself. “After tomorrow how are you going to stay connected to me?”
Finally Marco had asked the question they’d both been avoiding. Marco knew he’d been a rare exception to Chris’s usual rule of not mixing business and pleasure, a lover who had become a travel companion and assistant. The color drained from Chris’s face, and his cool gaze slipped away from Marco to study his half-empty beer glass. For a long moment, the only sounds at their table were the clink of melting ice in their metal bucket and the whir of the cheap plastic fan above.
“All right,” Chris said slowly, “I’ll set up a Facebook account.”
“Really?” Marco’s eyes went wide. “You serious?”
“Maybe you’re right.” It seemed like it physically pained Chris to admit it, which made Marco smile. “It wouldn’t kill me.”
A little side note, if I may, the picture at the top of the page is a meal very similar to the one Chris and Marco shared. The “catfish exploded” dish is on the upper left, and beside it are the “noodles made out of the sun.”
How about you? Have you ever had a dish so spicy it made you cry?
When novice backpacker Marco and seasoned travel writer Chris parted ways in Bangkok, they thought it was the end of their summer romance. Three months later, though, a change of assignment reunites Chris and Marco, and the pair embarks on an adventure greater than ten days trekking through Thailand—forming a real relationship amid family drama, coming out fears, career woes, and personal demons.
Finally Home Blog Tour and Giveaway
August 11, 2014
Here it is, my last post before announcing the winners of today’s giveaways!
Thank you for visiting the release party for my first full-length novel, The Nesting Habits of Strange Birds! I’m so glad you stopped by, and hope you had a little fun.
Speaking of fun and sex (we weren’t talking about sex? Well, why the hell not?) Strange Birds is an erotic romance so naturally sex figures prominently in the growth of both men. They come into the story with their own ideas of what sex is, and what it should be. Those ideas don’t always mesh, because that would just be too easy.
Besides, sex is different for everyone (I’m guessing here, since I haven’t actually had sex with everyone). What it’s like, and what it includes, both depend on a lot of variables. Not the least of which is who your partner is and what they bring to the table (or the sofa or the backseat of the car or…). Sex for same-sex partners is different than it is for opposite-sex partners too—not only in the most obvious ways.
It’s pretty obvious that same-sex partners don’t go into it with the idea that sex is about procreation. It’s about pleasure, about showing your partner how you feel about them, about the connection. So, very often, it’s not about penetration either. I’m not going to knock it in general, but penetration doesn’t have to be the culmination of every sex scene—or every relationship, for that matter. Most of the opposite-sex romance novels I’ve read seemed to be saying that it is, that penetrative sex is the ultimate goal two people should have (along with marriage, but that’s a whole post unto itself).
What’s the point of this, you ask? I enjoy same-sex romance because you never really know how it’ll end. Sure, if it’s marked romance you expect someone to be in love with someone else by the end and for those feelings to be returned, but it seems to me this is the only hard and fast rule. The mysteries of how they’ll get there and what they’d do along the way are the fun parts. The journey can look wildly different for every couple.
Okay, I’ll stop rambling and make with the steamy excerpt now.
I’ll be back by 7 p.m. Pacific Time to announce the winners.
In the meantime, tell me about your expectations when you read male-male romances. Do you like a lot of sex, or just a little? Wild or vanilla? The sky’s the limit, and every post is an entry for my giveaways.
No fair saying “it depends on the story” either–everyone has a favorite thing and I want to hear ‘em! In this, as in all the truly fun things in life, there are no wrong answers.
All the excerpts today have been from Phil’s POV, but Lee has a voice in this book too. Here’s a little from him. The context for the excerpt is a little spoilery, so I hope I’m not too horrible if I don’t share it.
Lee moaned when Phil knelt on the floor in front of him, and again when he leaned against him and kissed him slowly, deeply, circling Lee’s tongue with his like a preview of coming attractions.
Lee didn’t have to wait long, after that kiss, Phil moved faster with every passing moment. He pulled at Lee’s shirt, and as soon as it was off, tossed it behind him without a glance, and dove forward to kiss a path down his abs. Phil’s hands shook as he slid the elastic waistband of Lee’s sweats down, and by the time his dick was free, both panted loudly in the otherwise silent room.
Phil sucked gently on the head until Lee raised his hips. After a long teasing moment, he opened his lips and let Lee fuck his mouth. A few strokes like that and Phil lowered his head, just a little, every time Lee pushed up. Lee fought the urge to bury both hands in Phil’s hair. He wanted to tangle his fingers, feel Phil’s head banging from both sides, but settled for watching as his hair bounced up and floated down.
Whoa, it’s getting long—it hardly even curls anymore.
Lee grunted with the effort to keep from grabbing Phil’s hair as he sped the pace. Almost like he’d been listening to a Tool song but then Metallica came on the radio. Lee smiled and pulled his good leg up over the arm of the little chair. More leverage meant more friction and—oh shit—and then Phil wrapped a hand around the inside of Lee’s hip. He gripped the crease where leg and ass met, massaging until Phil’s thumb found his hole. For a moment, that felt much longer than it could’ve been, time stopped, just like the hummingbird wings in Phil’s pictures. The moment ended when Phil gripped harder and traced a circle with his hot thumb, ripping a hoarse scream from Lee’s throat as he came.
“Oh shit,” Lee panted, his head lolled to the side, his ass hanging off the chair. He opened his eyes and saw the ottoman about four feet away, his casted foot barely hanging on to the corner.
Phil kissed Lee’s deflating prick and then turned away. He lifted his cast and slid the ottoman under Lee’s leg.
“Oh man, I think you should pay me now.”
“What?” All the happy disappeared from Phil’s face and his body got very still.
“You need to feel this good too.”
Lee leaned forward and rested a hand on Phil’s shoulder. When he didn’t look any less happy, Lee drew his palm down across his chest. He scooted a little more upright and then slipped his hand around Phil’s hip, drawing him closer. Phil shook his head but didn’t really seem to be saying no. After a careful moment spent watching Phil’s face for any sign he was going too far, Lee pushed his fingertips past the waistband of his jeans. Phil shivered, and he took that as a sign and opened the snap.
“Come up here?”
Phil turned his face up to Lee, panting through his beautiful swollen lips. When Lee slipped both hands under his arms and pulled, he didn’t resist. Lee kissed those luscious lips as he arranged Phil across his lap, and didn’t stop while he opened his pants. He was about to pull them off, but at the last minute just brought them down enough to get at Phil’s burning erection.
“Oh shit, you’re so hot.”
Lee grabbed a big handful of Phil’s ass and lifted until he could lick the glistening tip of his cock. When Phil moaned in response, Lee closed his lips over the head. He was tempted to move to the bed so he could watch Phil’s face—his gorgeous face—while he came, but didn’t want to stop sucking his dick to do it.
As though getting off had erased the tough workday, Lee lifted Phil in a faster and faster rhythm until he got close.
Much more fun than free weights.
Thanks again for hanging out with us today—hope you enjoyed the excerpts! I’ll be back in a couple of hours for the drawing. If the train is on time, I’ll be back before then to answer any questions and enjoy the party from the comfort of my PC instead of my phone.
Buy The Nesting Habits of Strange Birds: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=5271
July 30, 2014
And Karenna Colcroft continues her blog takeover. Since it’s the release day for my contemporary novel Love Like Vampires, you guys probably want to see an excerpt, huh? There’s one posted on my website, but I’ll save you a bit of trouble. (Though if you want to go over to my site, you could sign up for my monthly newsletter and get a free PDF short story. The story is hetero romance, though.)
This is from the beginning of the book, and I think gives a pretty good sense of Shane McCarthy and Thaniel Robichaud, my main characters. If you like it, you can get your copy of the book in ebook or print from Dreamspinner Press.
The roar of adrenaline and rush of the crowd. Or something. High from excitement and fame, Shane didn’t even care whether he had it right. He and his band, Love Like Vampires, had just finished opening for Jareth frigging East, one of the biggest names in the business.
A small-time band from Maine had played the show of a fucking lifetime. How could he care about something as menial as a cliché?
And the audience had loved every second of it. They had screamed. They had danced. A couple of cuties in the front row had even tried to grab Thaniel, the lead singer, when he leaned toward them during the band’s ballad “Your Love Staked My Heart.”
It wasn’t an unusual response, but they weren’t at their usual little club. They were at TD frigging Garden in Boston. Opening for Jareth East. If Shane repeated that to himself enough, maybe he would be convinced this wasn’t all a wonderful dream.
As Love Like Vampires left the stage to let Jareth’s crew set up, Shane felt like his feet barely touched the floor. His heart raced and he was panting for air. He was so soaked with sweat his hair dripped, but none of it mattered.
The show had been fucking amazing. Every note, every lyric, every beat had been perfect. Not a single mistake. Other than Bryan, their drummer, they’d all been nervous as fuck before the show. Thaniel had almost had a goddamn panic attack sitting out in the van, and Shane had had to score him some weed from one of Jareth’s roadies so the singer could calm down.
Then again, stage fright for Thaniel wasn’t unusual either. Once Thaniel walked onstage he loved it, but every single time they had a show, he freaked out beforehand. Only the guys in the band knew, and only Shane realized how bad Thaniel’s panic truly was. He kept the secret, along with never letting on to Thaniel how much he admired him for pushing past the stage fright and putting on damn good shows.
In the end, the nerves hadn’t mattered. They’d played their best show ever. And watching Thaniel work the stage and the audience was even better. Shane could have stared at the singer all night. Half the people who’d watched probably wished Thaniel would drag them into bed, and Shane definitely counted himself in that group.
Even in the postshow haze, he had to roll his eyes at his fucking ridiculous crush. He’d had a thing for Thaniel for years. It was never going to happen. By now, he should have gotten reality through his head. They were friends and Thaniel was straight. End of story.
Backstage, Thaniel grabbed Shane in a bear hug that would have been a hell of a lot more pleasant without the sweat soaking both of them. “Holy fuck, man, that was amazing!” Thaniel jumped up and down, still holding Shane.
“Hell yeah.” Shane grinned and pulled away. The sweat was bad enough. The fact that excitement, adrenaline, and being held against Thaniel’s wiry body made him hard was worse. He just hoped Thaniel wouldn’t notice.
“They motherfucking loved us! Yes!” The keyboard player, Jace, tried a chest bump with Thaniel. Thaniel stepped back and Jace almost fell flat on his face. Shane stifled a laugh. The kid always got way too hyper after shows, and sometimes before and during them. And often during rehearsals. There were times Shane wanted to clobber him, but the band kept Jace around because he was a damn good musician.
They were all damn good. That was why Jareth East had personally invited them to play.
“Cool it, Jace.” Todd set his bass guitar on their equipment cart and frowned at the younger guy. “Professional, remember?”
“Fuck professional,” Jace muttered. “Famous people celebrate too. We were awesome, you guys. What am I supposed to do, a fucking golf clap?”
Because of Jade Release Party (official) post #4: Sonny on bridges, Luki on parenting, and Jade on tulips and tossing cookies
May 24, 2014
Some of you have seen this graphic before with it’s teensy excerpt. Here’s the longer bit it comes from. Setting the scent, this is chapter one, and Sonny’s driving the home from Seattle, where Luki has finally gotten the good news that, after five years, he remains cancer free.
AFTER THEY’D had Full Sail Amber Ale and hamburgers at the Metro, and Luki had gotten upset at the staff for ignoring Sonny, and Sonny had reminded Luki he didn’t care—all of which is exactly what happened every time they went to the Metro—Sonny piloted the flying Mustang down I-5, over the Tacoma Narrows bridge, up and around the Kitsap Peninsula, the long way home.
As they made the trip through Bremerton, Luki said, “An Officer and a Gentleman.”
Sonny said, “Yeah, they filmed some of it here. And supposedly the story took place here.” He was surprised, though, because Luki didn’t really watch movies or television.
“My dad liked that movie. I think he secretly wanted to be a romantic.”
“Maybe he was a romantic,” Sonny suggested. “You know, with your mom. Kaholo said he never got over her dying, right?”
Luki looked as though the thought was completely new and possibly a little painful. Eventually he said, “Yeah, could be. Maybe I’ll ask Kaholo about it when we get everybody together to celebrate my five years cancer free.” He smiled—the second real smile in a single day—and held that expression until Sonny was able to turn his head and smile back.
Sonny switched hands on the wheel so he could reach for Luki’s broad, brown hand currently at rest in his lap, his white gold, black opal, and colorless sapphire wedding set sparkling in the afternoon sun. When Sonny touched it, Luki turned that hand up and caught Sonny’s in his sure but gentle grip. Something delicious traveled all through Sonny, an invisible shiver of pleasure and probably anticipation. He thought, magic hands, but what he said was, “Maybe that’s why he couldn’t accept you as you are, Luki.”
“You mean that’s why he ‘hated what I am.’”
“Well, that’s the way he said it, yeah. But what if he just was afraid you being gay would be another terrible loss, and he wouldn’t be able to deal, just like he couldn’t deal with losing your mother.”
Luki shook his head and raised one corner of his mouth in a wry expression that all by itself dismissed any excuses for his father’s cruelty. “Sonny, I can’t deny my dad gave me a lot of personal power in other ways, and it serves me well. And he said he loved me—he only said it once, but he did say it. And he saved me from being carved up like the bar-b-que pig. Growing up in his shadow and at his command, I couldn’t help but love and admire him. I still do. But I can’t think of anything to excuse his repugnance toward me because I’m gay. Maybe you’re right, but if you are, he was selfish and childish, and that’s not an excuse.”
Sonny didn’t say anything for a while, driving onto the long, flat Hood Canal bridge, which would take them from the Kitsap to the Olympic Peninsula and, still on Highway 104, up and around the coast, past Discovery Bay, and eventually home.
“This is a long bridge,” Luki said.
“Mm. About 7,000 feet.” Sonny changed his voice to his version of tour-guide-Sonny, and added,
“The longest floating bridge in the world located in a saltwater tidal basin.”
Luki chuckled appropriately. “Well, while we’re on it, maybe you can tell me, do you think my dad could be excused for hating… my being gay?”
“Hell no, Luki!”
The answer was vehement enough to actually startle Luki. Once he recovered he said, “You know, Sonny, I don’t think I’ve ever talked about this, but…. The way my dad was, it’s a big reason I’ve never wanted to be a parent. I mean, I remember my mom, barely, and as far as I know she was great, and then of course there’s Kaholo. If I know anything about how to treat a kid, it’s probably because of him. But I’ve always worried I’d be a lousy parent. And if I was, I can assure you I’d blame Peli Vasquez, my good old dad, for at least part of it.”
“Honey, I don’t think there can be an excuse for a parent treating their child like that. I was only talking about understanding it a bit more—more for your peace than his benefit, certainly. And who knows what kind of parent either of us would have made. Chances are, we won’t know. But we’re damn good uncles.”
“True. But speaking of Nebraska—”
“Doesn’t matter. I can’t wait to call Kaholo when we get home. Tell him the news, see if he’ll come out to celebrate.”
Luki looked blank.
For the rest of the trip, Luki made calls and arrangements. Kaholo definitely would come. Jackie and Brian would try to carve out time from their work with British intelligence to make the cross-Atlantic trip—it was that important to them. Josh and Ruthie wanted to get together but had some issues with traveling. Ruthie was midpregnancy and for some reason had morning sickness and general nausea much later into the pregnancy than was usual.
“It’s a little inconvenient, Mr. Vasquez,” she drawled.
“Does everyone from West Virginia call their uncle-in-law ‘mister,’ Ruthie?”
She laughed, which was a sound Luki always enjoyed. It reminded him of a slow, deep creek running over rocks, in and out of eddies and pools. He inwardly smiled, but it did worry him when she said she was having problems. She apologized for her formality with a smile in her voice. “Sorry, I keep forgetting. I don’t know why. So, Luki—there is that better? Anyway, it’s a bit of a problem. I never know when I’m going to be sick, and also the doctor told me I shouldn’t travel until after the baby comes.”
“Okay, Ruthie. Maybe we can figure something out, but I’m sorry you’re having such a hard time. You didn’t with Jade, right?”
“Sheesh. That girl was easy. She acted like she knew exactly what she was doing—even during the birth. She’s still easy, Luki, and you know she talks about you, misses you. That’s another reason I wish we could come. But then, you know Josh just finally got the job transfer he wanted. He was permanent at the refinery, but he’s on the offshore crew now, maintenance out on THUMS Islands. I don’t think he could get off work—he’s still training and on probation.”
“Huh…. Well, congrats to him on the job. Hey, hold on a minute okay?” Luki held out the phone so Sonny could point to the button he needed to press to put the call on hold.
Once he’d done that Sonny said, “What’s up?”
Luki explained the reasons Josh and Ruthie couldn’t come north for a celebration, but before he could ask about an alternative, Sonny spoke up again.
“Well, how about we go down there? It’ll be a great chance for a road trip.”
“That is exactly what I hoped you would say, sweetie…. Well, not the part about the road trip. I was thinking we’d fly.”
“Nope. Road trip.”
With that settled, Luki took Ruthie off hold but found instead that five-year-old Jade was waiting.
She explained, “Mommy’s throwing up, Uncle Luki. And I can’t come to your house right now.”
“Um. Okay. Why not?”
“’Cause at my preschool I just planted my orange tulip bulbs, and I have to be here to take care of them when they pop up out of the dirt.”
“Well, that’s very conscientious of you.”
“Yeah, little girl that I love, good is a great word for it.” It was a diversion. For some reason, “little girl that I love” always made Jade giggle madly. This time was no exception. When she slowed down, Luki asked, “Is your mommy done throwing up yet?”
“Nope. Still tossing her cookies.”
“Tossing her cookies?”
“Yeah, silly. It means throwing up. Don’t you know that?”
“Oh, well. Thanks for explaining. Why don’t you tell me good-bye, and after we hang up tell Mommy that Uncle Sonny and I are going to come there where you live, so you don’t have to leave your baby tulips. Okay?”
Next, food for thought and the promised contest, and after that, a steeeeeeamy excerpt.
February 14, 2014
I am sending my hunky waiters around to serve you all some drinks Please enjoy while I share an excerpt from my book – Holding on to Hope.
Leslie felt eyes on her, and she looked across their table. A pair of freakishly blue eyes stared in their direction. They belonged to a man, a bit older in age—probably in his fifties, she guessed—with long gray hair. His face was round and wrinkled, making him look very ugly. He wore a black trench coat over a white shirt and a striped tie. Leslie noticed the big rings on his finger and deduced that he must be some wealthy man. However, his stare was making him appear scary.
When he realized he was caught in the act, his lips curved into a cold smile.
She quickly looked away and tried to concentrate on what her boyfriend was saying. However, Leslie kept getting the weirdest feeling that nothing around her was safe anymore. The worrisome thoughts kept her occupied. An unmistakable panic was slowly settling in.
All because of an old man who was probably innocently looking at the college kids as they sat right across from him and reminiscing about his past!
Leslie shivered. “Guys,” her voice wavered. “I’ll be right back.”
Thankfully, none of the boys noticed the change in her tone, and she quickly made her way to the ladies room. Once she was in, the first thing she did was empty her bladder.
Somehow, the old man had freaked her out so much that she felt the need to pee. She couldn’t put her finger on what it was exactly that triggered such emotions in her. This had never happened to her before.
She splashed some cold water on her face, fixed her makeup once again, and exhaled, feeling a lot better than before. Hoping that the old man was gone, she slowly stepped out.
Her heart felt lighter when she saw his seat was empty, and the smile then came easy to her. At that moment, she even wanted to laugh at herself for having a stupid panic attack.
After all, he was a harmless old man.
She found her boyfriend standing by the counter, buying another coffee for himself. She walked over to him. “I thought you promised me that you’d cut down on your caffeine consumption for a day.” Leslie narrowed her eyes. He looked at her like a deer caught in the headlights and smiled very cutely.
“I told you too much coffee isn’t good for my Patty-pie’s health.”
“I promise this is the last one,” he said and leaned down to kiss her. He obviously wasn’t going to keep his promise. But she let it slip. Pushing the matter wasn’t going to help. Leslie believed that Patrick needed to decide to stop on his own.
However, she couldn’t help but worry too.
When he broke the kiss, she shook her head, giggling slightly, and looked in the direction of their booth. “Where’s Brad?”
Patrick turned to look. “I don’t know. He was sitting right there before you came back out.” They trailed back in the direction of their booth. “Maybe he went to the restroom.”
“Couldn’t have happened.” Leslie shook her head. “Or else I would have seen him when I came out.”
“I don’t understand.” Patrick gazed at her. “He was right here a minute ago, talking to the old dude, and I went to get….”
“Old dude?” Leslie’s heart skipped a beat. “Who?”
“I don’t know who he was, but I guess he was sitting in this booth.” He pointed to the space where the scary old man had once been. “He came over to Brad and was like, ‘Can I talk to you in private?’ So I just left the booth for them to talk.”
“Pat!” Her blood was running cold by then. “How could you leave him alone with a stranger?”
“Baby, overreact much?” Patrick looked around, and Leslie realized that everyone was looking in their direction. “Brad is not a little child.”
“Hey, what’s the matter?” Ian’s voice interrupted them, and Pat tightened his jaw.
Leslie tried to calm herself down before replying. “Brad is… I don’t know… he went somewhere. It’s probably nothing, but Pat says he was talking to this old man before and….”
“Shit, no!” Ian yelled. “Old man? What did he look like?”
There was panic in his eyes, and his voice and fright suddenly found a home in Leslie’s system. “Freakishly blue eyes, wrinkled face, Rings on his fingers.”
“Long gray hair?” Ian asked anxiously.
“Yes!” Leslie was certain something pretty awful had happened to Brad, and she couldn’t stop cursing herself for lack of better judgment. “Ian, do you know something?”
His lip quivered. “I do.” He stepped closer and looked between the two of them. “Brad is in big trouble right now, and there’s only one person who can get him out of it.”
January 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.”
December 18, 2013
Hello again! Time for an excerpt. Here’s a key scene from The Heart of Frost! Ooh, I do hope Jack makes it in time! Enjoy! You can read the first full chapter here.
“You’re clear for takeoff, Captain.”
“Roger that.” Only a few weeks left until the Big Flight. There were plenty of test runs to do in the meantime, some on his own and three with the rest of the Rein Dears. There was a great deal of work involved, but no matter how many years he’d been doing it, he still found it exciting and exhilarating.
Above him the skies were blue, the winter winds calm and blowing with him rather than against him. His heart did a little flip knowing Jack was helping him despite his absence. Before he knew it, his plane’s wheels were leaving the tarmac, and he was rising up toward the clouds. Once he achieved altitude, it was just him, his plane, and the lulling sounds of his engine. The peace that washed over him, the freedom he felt while soaring through the air, was unlike anything else he could think of. Ever since he was a tiny elfling, he’d known he wanted to fly, and his mother, who had raised him all on her lonesome, had encouraged him, whittling the most beautiful airplanes for him out of pine, which they would paint together. Whenever he got the chance, he would visit her and take her for a ride in his plane.
With the weather clear, he practiced a few aerial maneuvers, enjoying some dips and loops, a couple of barrel rolls, before the wheel in his hand gave a harsh shudder. Leveling out his plane, he frowned, wondering what had caused the jolt. Out of the snowy blue, every light on his control panel lit up like a Christmas tree, the needles of his gauges going into wild spins. What the Holly? The entire aircraft trembled, and black smoke started engulfing his precious plane. The worst part was he had no idea what could be causing the failure. Everything had been checked and double checked. Every piece had been in perfect working order, well-oiled, polished, and maintained to the highest of standards. Every cable had been in its place, every nut and bolt secure.
The engine sputtered noisily, then stalled, and his heart leapt into his throat.
Nothing he tried seemed to work, and as he began losing altitude it was clear he was going to have to jump. With a curse, he pressed down on the clasp of his seatbelt’s buckle. Nothing happened. Crabapples. He tried again, this time getting a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. Something was horribly wrong. He pressed against the buckle with all his strength, and when it didn’t budge, he thought of climbing out through the straps, except when he tried to move, he was tightly secured, as if the belt had somehow tightened around him, pulling his body back into his seat. There was no budging.
He frantically fought against the harness, and when nothing came of it, he searched around in the hopes of finding something sharp he could use to cut his way through one of the heavy straps, but there was nothing. The way he was falling, he wouldn’t have time to cut himself free even if he did have something, which he didn’t.
“Oh Gods.” How could this be happening?
“Rudy?” Tim’s panicked voice came over the radio. “Rudy, what’s wrong?”
“The plane…. It’s dead, completely dead. I’m falling.”
“You need to jump.”
“What do you mean you can’t?” Noel’s firm voice came over, his own panic evident in his gruff tone. “For Kringle’s sake, get out of there!”
“I can’t. My harness is stuck.” He did his best to remain calm and tried to open his door. Not that he knew what he would do once it was open, but he had to hope whatever was going on wasn’t affecting the whole plane. When the door remained firmly bolted shut, his fears were confirmed. This was no ordinary malfunction. This was unlike anything he had faced before.
He’d done the drills, run scores of variables, prepared himself for every possible outcome should his plane malfunction, but nothing could have prepared him for whatever this was, for this dark force that had infected his precious baby. Had it been anything else, he might not have been so frightened, but this…. Whoever had done this hadn’t intended for him to survive. Even the air around him was thick, making it harder and harder for him to breathe. His lungs ached and his body felt weak. The only thought that crossed through his mind was Jack. He shut his eyes tight to keep his tears at bay. No. He couldn’t end like this. He threw a gloved fist against his window and fought against his harness. If he was going to go down, he’d do so fighting.
“Jack!” he screamed as he threw his shoulder as hard as he could against the door. If there was even the slightest chance the wind could carry his pleas to its master, Rudy was going to take it. Please, hear me. “Jack, I need you! Please… help me.” He let his head rest against the cold window, his voice hoarse from lack of oxygen. “Jack…. I love you.”
Do you enjoy a little suspense in your romance? What’s your favorite romance genre?
The Heart of Frost is available from:
Remember, there’s also a coupon code: CochetBlog to get 25% off any of my Dreamspinner press titles, plus any Urban Fantasy titles! Code is good for 2 days!
About the Author:
Charlie Cochet is an author by day and artist by night. Always quick to succumb to the whispers of her wayward muse, no star is out of reach when following her passion. From Historical to Fantasy, Contemporary to Science Fiction, there’s bound to be plenty of mischief for her heroes to find themselves in, and plenty of romance, too!
Currently residing in South Florida, Charlie looks forward to migrating to a land where the weather includes seasons other than hot, hotter, and boy, it’s hot! When she isn’t writing, she can usually be found reading, drawing, or watching movies. She runs on coffee, thrives on music, and loves to hear from readers.
Twitter: @charliecochet | http://www.twitter.com/charliecochet
December 11, 2013
Gingerbread Palace by EM Lynley
Delectable Series Book #4
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.
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.
He 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
October 27, 2013
Hello to all! This is Bell Ellis, the author of “Swiftsilver” which appears in Dreamspinner’s Steampunk Anthology, Steamed Up. I’ve written a few other stories over at the site, but this would be my first steampunk story.
I was absolutely positive that I was doomed as I wrote it, because a) I know almost nothing of steampunk, and b) I wanted to bring Science(!) into the story, and Science(!), as we all know, is difficult to fake. I was fortunate in being able to consult a few friends who think more about these things than I do.
Here is an excerpt from my story:
One day, Thio was playing with a small square of it (enameled to a piece of flannel), when he sat up. “Seamus, look at this.”
“What is it?”
“Take this patch of swiftsilver and wave it back and forth in the air.” Seamus did so, waving it haphazardly, and Thio shook his head. “Not like that; keep the flat side facing the push of the air. Like this.” He held Seamus’s hand and helped him move the patch from side to side, pushing it against the air as though waving a fan. Seamus could immediately tell what Thio had noticed: on the silver side of the patch, there was intense resistance to the air, but on the flannel side, there was very little. The effect was baffling. When one waves a fan, the air resistance is equal on both sides. To have it feel so dramatically different….
“What the devil kind of substance is this?”
Seamus said, “It’s… a semipermeable membrane, Thio. Air passes through one side more easily than the other. Thio, that would be perfect for a wing. You would resist the air beneath on the downswing, but not the air above on the upswing.”
The idea of swiftsilver’s particular properties came to me when a friend of mine mentioned the thought experiment of Maxwell’s Demon. Maxwell’s Demon is basically a powerful little creature that opens a door between two chambers and allows hot molecules into one, and cool molecules into the other, to artificially create a temperature difference and defeat entropy. Apparently some demons need hobbies.
I thought, what if a substance could do that?
The same friend of mine went on to talk about vacuum airships, and the technical aspects of the story unfolded from there. Then I had to throw a bucket of cold water over my friend to get him to stop talking about technical constructs so that I could go and write the Glandularly Meaningful bits.
I’ve begun to read the anthology myself, and I’m delighted to see that I wasn’t the only person to focus heavily on technology (some of them even involve math, but don’t be frightened, it’s just a story); but that just betrays my basic ignorance of steampunk. Of course it would all contain technology and inventions and near-miraculous science (sorry, Science(!)). But that’s what makes this collection of stories special.
Are you a technically-oriented reader? Does it drive you crazy when writers get things wrong, or make you stand up and applaud when they get things right? Leave a comment and tell me all about it.
If you ever want to natter at me about my other stories, writing in general, dogs, pie, contortionists (I’m doing research for another story), or anything else that inspires you, please feel free to poke at me on Twitter, where I exist as EllisTales.
October 27, 2013
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.