Rhys Ford’s Dirty Rings: A Cole McGinnis Ringtone Set Voiced by Greg Tremblay

January 9, 2015

Dirty_Ring_Banner

So a funny thing happened on the way to a tweet, Greg Tremblay, the fantastic narrator of my Dirty series, texted me and said… hey, you should giveaway a custom ringtone. Or something to that effect. There was some discussion. A few emails and then well, long story short—there may have been some pixilated shots of whiskey and banter but a plan was formed. A plan so cunning I could have stuck a tail on it and called it a weasel.

Mostly, it involved Greg. And your phone. But it was still a plan!

After a furious, intense process of queries, eliminations, debating on who said what, we came up with a set of phrases from Cole, Bobby, Jae, Claudia, Scarlet and one from Maddy then Greg went to work. And returned to me with a brilliant sound bites forged by a narrative master—in the style of the characters’ voices.

So dear reader, as a thank you for everything you’ve done for Greg and me, I’d like to present the entire set of ringtones—twenty one in total—FREE, as a gift to you.

Available in Android (MP3) and iPhone (formats for Android and Apple phones, Greg has also graciously included the WAV files if that’s your thing. Download links to the zipped files are provided below.*

A great humongous thank you to all of the blogs who helped me with this guerilla gifting. This swirled up on Tuesday and Greg just MADE it happen. He is the voice of the series and I am forever grateful for his talent.

If you’ve not tried out Greg Tremblay’s narrations, please do so. He makes audiobooks fun and damn, he brings Cole and the others to life.

Greg Tremblay’s body of work can be found here—and yes, the Dirty series is there but so are many other lovely audio books. I highly recommend one of Greg’s audiobooks, a comfy chair, a pair of headphones and a nice hot cup of coffee… or tea… with or without whisky.

* These are copyrighted and available free for individual use. The files included in the zip cannot be sold by third parties nor can they be altered in anyway as to destroy the integrity of the original work. Animals were test subjects for these sound files and while the cat could not have given less of a shit, the dog seemed mighty interested. Please note, neither own nor use a phone or a computer so results may vary.

Love you all, and really, Thank You.

Rhys Ford

Dirty Rings Android MP3

Dirty Rings Apple M4a

Dirty Rings Apple M4r

Dirty Rings Wav

Get to Know K.C. Wells

January 6, 2015

Do any of your characters haunt you and if so, why?

I really don’t think any of my characters haunt me. Sean’s predicament in Learning to Love: Final Exam, now, that’s another matter. I cried writing those scenes. Even now when I read the scene before he goes in for surgery, I tear up.  What comes across is how scared he is – and how much he loves his husband Michael.

Please give us the inside scoop on your upcoming release, A Bond of Three.

This was one of my first ideas for a book, back in 2012, only it wouldn’t leave me alone. Having said that, the novel changed direction when I got to the chapter introducing Prince Sorran. He was….different. And when I got my head around that, I suddenly had a very different plan for the story.

I met with author Chris Quinton in the summer of 2012, when she came to visit the Isle of Wight where I live. I outlined the story for her. She listened intently, and when I’d finished, she looked me in the eye and said, “you have to write that book.” Whoa.

I admit to being a little nervous. So far I’ve written either contemporary or BDSM. This was A, an MMM story, B, a fantasy and C with an added dash of paranormal for good measure – yeah, nothing liked anything I’d written to date. When I first started sending chapters to my betas, I was getting the same response….

“I don’t like fantasy.”

“I don’t like ménage.”

“Hell, woman, give me MORE!!!!”

I sent an advance copy to a friend who doesn’t normally ‘do’ ménage – three guesses what her response was? LOL

So yes, I am awaiting the response from my readers with mixed feelings.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?

HA! My close friends would say, “But she’s always writing!!!!” Er, I read, I love watching movies, I knit, I used to paint, but writing is far more satisfying. But there’s always my notebook not far away – I’ve learnt by now to keep it close. Ideas come ALL the time! But yes, it’s true that if I were writing more, I’d be a happy bunny.

What’s one of your guilty pleasure?

OOOH….Snuggling up with a good book, usually one that I know really well – the Deviations series by Chris Owen, ANY of the Jarhead series by Sean Michael,  the Jock Dorm series by Bobby Michaels, (One of the first MM series I ever read and I still love them)

Then there’s my other guilty pleasure… and nope, you’re hearing NOTHING about that one! ;-)

_____________________________

Born and raised in the north-west of England, K.C. Wells always loved writing. Words were important. Full stop. However, when childhood gave way to adulthood, the writing ceased, as life got in the way.

K.C. discovered erotic fiction in 2009, where the purchase of a ménage storyline led to the startling discovery that reading about men in love was damn hot. In 2012, arriving at a really low point in life led to the desperate need to do something creative. An even bigger discovery waited in the wings—writing about men in love was even hotter….

K.C. now writes full time and is loving every minute of her new career. The laptop still has no idea of what hit it… it only knows that it wants a rest, please. And it now has to get used to the idea that where K.C goes, it goes.

K.C. can be reached via e-mail, on Facebook, or through comments at the K.C. Wells website. K.C. loves to hear from readers.

Wrapping Up The Playing Hard To Forget Release Party!

December 26, 2014

Whoa, would you just look at the time! My time taking over the Dreamspinner Blog is nearly up!

 

I’d like to thank you all for stopping by today and helping me celebrate the release of Playing Hard To Forget! It’s been a real pleasure from start to finish getting this book out to the world. Dreamspinner has been amazing and they are a Florida based company, so it was great getting to work with a local company to help to support our economy!

 

Coming up next I have a Facebook chat on Dreamspinner’s page Saturday December 27 from 4-6pm EST and a Twitter Takeover of Dreamspinner’s Twitter from 8-10 EST.

 

And I’ll be making more rounds in March, when my second Dreamspinner story, tentatively titled “Something To Die For,” comes out!

 

Be sure to check out Playing Hard To Forget, my debut novel with Dreamspinner Press, out TODAY, December 26, 2014. I hope I’ve given everyone some insight into the story and some interesting tidbits on how it came to be.

Playing Hard To Forget–in Paperback or ebook on Dreamspinner or in ebook at Amazon. Don’t forget that all ebooks are 20% off through December 31, 2014! Now’s your chance to get it ON SALE.

You can find me on Facebook or on Twitter.

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I’m going to open up this posts for any questions you may have about me or my book or what I’m working on next or even random questions like “where should I eat on my trip to Orlando next February?”

Don’t forget to comment on the music post for your chance to win a copy of Playing Hard To Forget!

Inspirational Quote About Music…Plus An Excerpt And Giveaway!

December 26, 2014

It all started with Peter Murphy.

Now, wait a hot second, Piper. You said it started with Doctor Who.

Just go with it.

Playing Hard To Forget all started with Peter Murphy.

I adore 80s music. I really do. But, like most people my age, my knowledge of 80s music came from two places: vague memories from early childhood and VH1’s I Love the 80s. There were large gaps in my education of 80s New Wave. A few years ago I was driving around when an awesome sounding song came on my satellite radio. Indigo Eyes. I’d never heard it before but it immediately struck a chord with me (get it? Chord? Music? Ok moving on). I’d been struggling with the characterization of my two mains in Playing Hard To Forget. They weren’t as easy to create as the characters around them. They needed a depth I hadn’t found yet, but as soon as I heard Indigo Eyes, my Ethan had a new layer almost immediately. I ran home and downloaded the song and played it over and over as I story boarded Ethan’s journey.

And about the same time I had my “Don’t Forget Me” revelation, I was dragged by a dear friend into that terrible, awful 5th circle of hell conveniently located in every suburban mall in America: Hot Topic. It was there I heard the voice of the goddess Siouxsie Sioux singing a cover of Bob Dylan’s This Wheel’s On Fire. And suddenly everything became so clear. “If your memory serves you well.” It was life-changing. Why the fates decided to pause the System of a Down long enough to play some good music that day, I’ll never know.

The third song with a large hand in the plot comes to us from Canada (Now, if you know me well, you know Canada is important in our family. I birthed two French-Canadian children, made with my French-Canadian husband whose Canadian roots go back over 400 years. Our last name is Canadian, forged in the fires of a Tim Horton’s hot oil fryer. He is part Scottish, but, for the most part, I’ve broken the Scottish bloodline. Go me). It’s by an indie band called Folly and the Hunter–Moth in the Porchlight.  The song is incredible. And it’s Ethan and Liam…and Fiona, Ethan’s sister. Hearing it for the first time was, like, boom, cancel my meetings for the rest of the day. I have to go home and write.

Other songs had a hand in the creation of Playing Hard To Forget. I’m posting the list here and a link to a YouTube playlist. If any song here appeals to you, I heartily encourage you to check out the band and support them by buying tons of their music.

Indigo Eyes–Peter Murphy

Wolves–Big Wreck

Dangerous–Big Data

No One Knows–Queens of the Stone Age

Club Foot–Kasabian

Rather Be–The Verve

The Passenger–Siouxsie and the Banshees

Never Let Me Down Again–Depeche Mode

High on a Riverbed–Toad the Wet Sprocket

The Sweetest Drop–Peter Murphy

Never Tear Us Apart–INXS

Born To Ruin–The Wildlife

Space and Time–The Verve

Sick, Sick, Sick–Queens of the Stone Age

Under the Milky Way–The Church

Skin on Skin–Queens of the Stone Age

Burn the Witch–Queens of the Stone Age

Hope–Toad the Wet Sprocket

This Wheel’s on Fire–Siouxsie and the Banshees

Moth in the Porchlight–Folly and the Hunter

Here’s the whole unofficial soundtrack in a YouTube playlist

 

And now it’s time for an excerpt!

 

The distant snap of a twig from about ten yards back confirmed his suspicions, but he stayed on his own target and squeezed off the last shot of the round and it effectively left him unarmed. He stood and turned toward the sound, but the dense pine and oak did not afford him the best view. He bent back down to lock the safety and left the edge of the clearing to venture deeper into the forest.

He did not have to walk far before he heard it—the smooth, snarky tone and now familiar voice-over of his new and very explicit fantasies. “Looking for me?”

Ethan whipped around to find Liam leaning against a tree as if he owned the goddamned forest. He put on his best nonchalant face, which of course was going to fool absolutely no one.

“I thought it might be a bear.” Immediate and total regret washed over him. Stupid answers were beneath him. He was twenty years old, damn it.

Liam moved like a cheetah, and he was inches away from Ethan in the span of a breath. “Now, now. Ethan. Ignoring the fact that I can hear your heart and smell your hormones, why would you go after a bear unarmed?”

“I—I wasn’t looking for you, I….” Stammering was also beneath him. How could he let this guy—this wolf—do this to him?

Liam looked amused. “Come on, Ethan. You think I haven’t seen you all week? Walking twice a day through the field where we met? Taking wild detours through the forests? You’ve been looking for me all week. And here I am. And you left your weapon behind. I’m flattered, Ethan, really.”

“You’ve been following me?” His chest was tight, but it was not from embarrassment as much as it was anticipation.

“Yes.” No lies. No stammering around the truth. Liam was unapologetic.

“All this week? Everywhere?” Ethan blushed at the thought of what Liam might have seen in that week.

Liam snorted. “Now, Ethan. I do have a life.” He leaned in close to Ethan’s ear, and Ethan silently blamed the heat coming off Liam reacting with his cold sweat for the long shiver.

“But I’ve followed you enough. Tell me, are you thinking of me when you’re alone in your bedroom? God, I hope so, because that face you make when you come, I’d really like to see that face when you’re under me. I’d like to make you come myself instead of watching you think of me from a distance.” He backed up and blinked slowly, and watched Ethan for a reaction.

Ethan tried to shake the fog of confusion and arousal and opened his mouth to speak, but not before he heard Fiona in the distance yelling for him.

Shit.

Liam rolled his eyes and sighed. “I guess that’s my cue, isn’t it, Ethan? Can’t have daddy and little sister knowing about our little secret, can we?”

He turned to leave, but stopped short. “Still, it isn’t fair leaving you this way.” Liam smirked and raised an eyebrow as he surveyed Ethan. “No, you need something new to think about tonight.”

And before Ethan knew what was happening, Liam’s lips were on his. It was hot—literally and figuratively—and Liam’s lips were soft and tasted of the same earthy tang Liam smelled of on the day they’d met. Ethan relaxed into it faster than he liked and he let Liam’s tongue explore his own. He didn’t need Liam to tell him his heart was racing. He could feel it kick against his rib cage, and it served to spur Liam on.

Liam’s hands wrapped around the back of Ethan’s neck and he lifted his jaw slightly so Liam could kiss his way down to a spot Ethan’s shirt barely hid. Liam didn’t bite hard enough to break the skin, but there was certainly going to be a mark, more so because Ethan jerked up into it and he did not even care about how weak it made him seem or the noise that escaped when he felt sharp teeth.

Liam came away smiling and admired his masterpiece: red and purple and, in a few minutes from then, in dire need of a quick explanation from Ethan if he couldn’t find a way to cover it up. While Ethan adjusted his shirt as best he could, Liam disappeared beyond the tree line.

I know, right? I’m simply dying to find out what happens next!

Playing Hard To Forget–in Paperback or ebook on Dreamspinner or in ebook at Amazon.

You can find me on Facebook or on Twitter.

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Music is such a gigantic part of my life. My next story with Dreamspinner, due out in March 2015, also has a soundtrack with similar revelatory moments behind each song. I was struggling with a plotline for a potential number three the other day when I heard Le Pyromane by Karkwa and my brain went crazy with ideas.

My favorite song ever–my favorite song always–is Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve. I cannot imagine a more perfect song existing. What is your all-time, hands-down favorite song of all time? My favorite wins a paperback edition of Playing Hard To Forget!

Doctor Who…Gave You The Right?

December 26, 2014

Playing Hard To Forget all started with Doctor Who.

Sort of.

It actually started with Scotland. A thousand years ago. Brave, handsome Struan Robertson slayed a wolf that threatened the king and was rewarded with money, land, titles, women, fame, and, eventually, a thousand years later, a beautiful red headed descendant, fair of skin and big of ego, who would use his story as the backbone for her debut novel.

But before she decided to tell his story and turn it into a love story for the ages, there was an episode of Doctor Who.

It was a tenth doctor episode called Tooth and Claw and it took place in Scotland.  Royalty. Wolves. Saving royalty from wolves. Where have we heard this story before? But there was, as there always is, a twist: Werewolves. Okay, like, alien werewolves, but it’s Doctor Who and we give it a pass.

Our intrepid and clever author watched with glorious side eye as an idea formed in her head. An idea born out of a territorial and possessive drive.

This was not their story to tell.

You can’t just take a family’s story and make up stuff about it.

That, I said, is my right.

The idea simmered and festered for awhile. It was lacking…something. I wanted it to be more than just the old “star crossed lovers” torn apart by family and a millennium-long war ignited when Struan Robertson killed not a wolf, but a werewolf. Then it hit me. Every person has two sides of their history: their mother and their father’s stories. I used my father’s side’s story, but what about my mother’s?

Ne m’oubliez.  Latin for “Don’t Forget Me.” The motto of my equally Scottish mother’s family. Ne m’oubliez.  What if there was an even bigger force tearing Ethan and Liam apart? What if something happened to make them forget about each other? Don’t Forget Me. How many nightmares have I had where I’ve forgotten my husband? Where he’s just on the edge of my memory but I can’t seem to remember how to find him or that we’re together? It’s a recurring theme in my nightmares and they always terrify me. What if there were someone you know was important to you but you can’t quite make out how? Going to the phone to call but you can’t remember the number?  Imagine the frustration of not being able to remember. Ne m’oubliez. It was perfect. My book was born.

Playing Hard To Forget–in Paperback or ebook on Dreamspinner or in ebook at Amazon.

You can find me on Facebook or on Twitter.

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Let’s talk. Do you have any great folk tales from your family history? Do you believe them? My family crest tells the tale with wolves heads on pikes and there is some evidence that it happened thanks to name changes and land names. I want to believe that Struan Robertson slayed a wolf and saved the king because how awesome is that?

People, Places, Apologies….

December 26, 2014

Hello and welcome to Florida.

florida

If you’ve never been to Florida, let me start our tour by assuring you that, yes, everything you have ever heard about it is true. Whatever you’ve heard is true.  Snakes, gators, crocodiles, Publix, zombies, sharks, Disney, whatever. It’s true. I just watched a spider the size of my head devour a small bird right outside my window. We’ve got wild lizards 6 feet long, crazy people, and rides. It’s safe to say that Florida is really just Jurassic Park minus Jeff Goldblum.

We’re starting our tour in the dead center of the state.  Now, the closer to Disney, the closer to insanity, but if you go beyond the safety of the theme parks, you can actually find some amazing culture hiding out in the small towns of central Florida.

Playing Hard to Forget is set in one of these small towns: Lakeland. Nestled in the heart of a very conservative county smack dab in the middle of the state, it’s home to (obviously) a zillion lakes, twice as many orange groves, and, more to the point of this story, our two main characters, Ethan Robertson and Liam Kinnaird.

Why such a heartland kind of place? Because I went to a very progressive and diverse high school there in the late nineties and it was a place where everyone was not only accepted for who they were, but celebrated for it. I’ve gone back at least once a year since then to visit friends and family and I’ve watched that attitude spread throughout the city and I’m proud to have once called Lakeland home.

Beyond that. it’s a perfect Florida city. Geographically, it’s a crossroads that reflects the north, south, east, and west cultures that make up the state. When we start our story, Ethan lives in the southern part of the city. A little more affluent and modern, but a lot of old money. Liam lives to the north. It’s a bit more rural out there. Lots of farms and fields that eventually give way to forests and the Green Swamp. A perfect place for a family of shifters to live without drawing too much attention to themselves.

Later in the book, there are a few mentions of a place called Bone Valley, which is one of the coolest places in the area. It sits south of the city and is heavily mined for phosphate, but is also one of the best places to find megalodon and rhino teeth fossils (although they have restricted access to the area these days). It’s a fascinating place because it doesn’t even look like Florida.

http://s97.photobucket.com/user/Paleoc/media/fossils/GARDNIER.jpg.html

I mean, COME ON. This looks like a Star Trek set.
(image from Flickr. See alt text for details)

 

Even the outfitters Charles owns is based on a real place in the area (probably can’t mention it by name, but if you know Polk County, you know the place), as well as the restaurant Ethan has a funny encounter at (It was called Vito’s and the vintage neon sign above it said “Vito’s–Air Conditioned” so that’s what we all called it before it closed).

We eventually see our characters in cities to the east like Cocoa Beach and to the north, up in the panhandle area, but, to my boys, Lakeland is their home.

 

Everyone in Playing Hard To Forget is based on a real person in my life. From my insanely abusive father, who made it into the book as Charles Robertson to my high school best friend, who, along with my 11th grade Honors English teacher, influenced my favorite ever side character, Penelope. It was very important to me to put as many real people from my life into this book because, even if they are evil, terrible people, they often have motivations and character traits that are real.

It’s much easier and more satisfying to draw on that one friend you know who would risk his own well-being to help out a friend or your father who believed that he was doing the right thing by trying to beat and berate his children into becoming his perfect idea of a family than to try to create them from scratch and spend time figuring out their back stories. Real people are just so neat. Crazy Floridians even more so.

And let’s not forget that the entire setup for the story is based on a family folk tale (Which I’ll go into in the next post). I drew on a thousand years of people in my life for this one!

So, to anyone who knows me personally, if you think you recognize yourself in a character, you’re welcome. Unless you recognize yourself in Penelope. Then I apologize. But, and you know who you are, that was totally you back in the day, girl. If you’re my father and you’re reading this? I apologize for nothing. This was better than years of therapy.

Playing Hard To Forget–in Paperback or ebook on Dreamspinner or in ebook at Amazon.

You can find me on Facebook or on Twitter.

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Let’s talk. Would you be flattered or mortified if you recognized yourself in a book? Do you prefer the authenticity of drawing from real people and their motivations for the things they do? One of my biggest problems with tv these days is that sometimes characters’ motivations don’t line up with how they act and react to things. It’s like showrunners don’t know any real people at all. I’d also love to see your examples of characters who have great reactions relative to their back stories.

Release Party: Playing Hard To Forget by Piper Doone

December 26, 2014

Okay, my beauties. My name is Piper Doone.  Put down the last of the eggnog, because we’re about to have a release party.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we are gathered here today to hopefully join you and my book, Playing Hard To Forget released December 26, 2014!

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Today I’m going to be talking about the crazy story of how this novel came to be. I’ll be posting the soundtrack listing and how the music really drove the story. I’ll talk a little about the setting and the history of the story. And I’ll also post an excerpt and do a giveaway!

 

Playing Hard To Forget is my debut novel from Dreamspinner Press. Left to my own devices, I’d probably just tell you it was about hot Scottish boys in love despite every force in the world trying to keep them apart, but Dreamspinner does a much better job summing it up than I do:

Ethan Robertson never asked to be the latest in a long line of werewolf hunters, but the war between his family and the werewolf Kinnairds has raged on for a millennium, and he is expected to fight like all the Robertsons before him. But then he meets Liam Kinnaird, a gorgeous, mysterious werewolf Ethan falls hard for. Despite the danger, they carry on a torrid affair until a terrible explosion destroys everything, including Liam and Ethan’s memories of their time together.

Twenty years later, Ethan is embroiled in battle once again and catches a glimpse of Liam. It triggers intense, erotic dreams that Ethan thinks might not be dreams at all. But he’s never been anything but enemies with Kinnairds. He’s certainly never been in love with one. Or has he?

Like, whoa, pretty cool, right? Stay tuned for an in depth look at the story behind the story!

 

Let’s get the conversation rolling. It’s the day after Christmas and Hanukkah recently ended. Before we get into the book, how were your holidays? Family is a big theme in Playing Hard To Forget. Mostly, though, it’s about how families can, well, kind of suck. If you were stuck with yours (or your partner’s), did everything go smoothly or did the cops have to come out (again) to settle things?

 

I’ll also open up the comments to any general questions about me, my writing, my whereabouts on the night of the 10th, what’s my name, who’s my daddy,  and is he rich like you?

You can buy Playing Hard To Forget in Paperback or ebook on Dreamspinner or in ebook at Amazon.

You can find me on Facebook or on Twitter.

Get to Know Skylar M. Cates

December 2, 2014

How did you come up with the title for The Guy series?

That’s a funny story. I had a title for the series all planned out. Book one was to be titled Better than Candy, and the series titled the “Better Than” series. Well, right after I submitted book one, my fellow DSP author Lane Hayes came out with a book called Better Than Good.  Yikes!  I had to find something else and fast. Since book one was set in the fictitious town of Glamour, I decided to call it The Guy from GlamourThe Guy series was born from that decision. I think it all worked out for the best!

Do you have a favorite couple that you’ve written?

No, but I do get obsessed with whatever couple I’m focused on most recently. My new series, for example, has the first book releasing in February, and I fell hard for this couple. I never intended to write Cole and Ian’s story at all. It came rushing out like a locomotive. Their story involves sudden tragedy. It gave me all kinds of strong feels to write, and I hope readers will embrace it. It’s called Here for You and will be out in February. What I love about the story is that it’s also a story of friendship. It revolves around five roommates in South Florida and the strong bond they all have for each other. Today it is my favorite, but tomorrow I’ll have a totally different answer.

The truth is I fall in love with different aspects of each MC.

My two December releases have four guys to love. Evan, from The Holiday Hoax, is self-deprecating and sweet— a combination I love—while JD is lonely and shy.   Henry from The Last Guy Breathing has gone through the awful dating scene and needs some love. Locke is flawed yet deeply protective, which is another combination I fall for in a character.

What are some of your favorite books, music and movies?

My kids are watching School of Rock this week, and I adore this movie.  I love many of Robin Williams’s films, especially The World According to Garp. And let’s see… Since it is the holiday season, I would pick A Christmas Story and It’s a Wonderful Life as two favorite holiday flicks.

As for music, I like classic and current rock. Some of my favorites would be The Killers, Aerosmith, and Train.   I enjoy putting on a fun dance band too like the B52s or The Black Eyed Peas. I love dancing, but I do most of my dancing in my living room these days.

Books would be impossible to name only a few favorites. Sorry!  I seriously fall in love with a new book every other month.

Can you briefly share what your writing process is?

Get butt into chair and write, lol. I write as much as possible, but I don’t write daily. My kids, my messy house, and my other responsibilities often steal the time away. I’d love to be one of those Type A writers who charts their progress and counts their daily words, but it never seems to happen for me. As long as I see the novel developing, though, I’m satisfied to follow my own haphazard process.  Once the first draft is complete, I’ll go through several more versions with tough self-edits and beta readers before submitting it. I’m tough on myself and it is hard to let the WIP go.

Cake or pie? Coffee or tea? Chocolate or peanut butter?

Pie  ( I love all kinds)

Coffee (I can never drink enough)

Both (Why pick between chocolate and peanut butter? Reese’s is fine with me)

Happy holidays!

___________________________

Skylar M. Cates loves a good romance. She is quite happy to drink some coffee, curl up with a good book, and not move all day. Most days, however, Skylar is chasing after her husband, her kids, and her giant dog, Wasabi. Skylar dreams about spending her days writing her novels, walking along the beach, and making more time for her good friends. On a shoestring budget, Skylar has traveled all over in her early years. Although, lately, the laundry room is the farthest place she has visited, Skylar still loves to chat with people from all around the globe. Visit Skylar on her website.

The House on F Street by Christopher Hawthorne Moss

December 2, 2014

When I woke that morning, I was alone in the bed.  This was not unusual as Rufus often got up early to take his “customary constitutional on Constitution”, but I was sorry anyway.  Last night had been lovely, sweet and passionate at the same time.  After nights like that I always wanted to wake up in his arms.

I heard the door to my bedchamber open slowly and twisted my head to see if it was he.  “Oh, it’s you, Annie.”  Out of kindness to the girl, I hoped she did not hear the disappointment in my voice.

“A good mornin’ to you, Senator,” she replied in her brogue.  Annie is our maid of all work and came straight to Washington from somewhere near Limerick.  “I am here to open your curtains and to see if you’ll be after comin’ down for breakfast or want to have a tray brought up.”

I sat up in bed and made sure my nightshirt wasn’t a scandal.  “Is the Senator at home?” I asked her hopefully.

“Himself is not, sir,” she answered, grasping the heavy curtains and thrusting them apart with a clatter of the curtain rings.  “Senator King went out quite early this morning.”

I sighed.  It was a special day, you see.  It was St. Valentine’s Day, and I so wanted to spend it with, well, my paramours is a word I have heard it called.  I am sure the wags in Congress have unkinder terms than that.  I had hoped to breakfast with Rufus on this special day of all days.  I knew he had not forgotten, as he had made reference to the occasion when we lay together in my bed last evening.

“I shall take my meal in here then.  Will you be a dear and hand me my dressing gown?”

A neat and prim little woman, no older than 25, Annie was a country girl and seemingly blessedly ignorant of the ways of the world.  I once overheard her speaking with the boy who delivers produce talking in low tones.  He appeared to have been telling her how my old friend Andrew Jackson called me “Miss Nancy” and my dear Rufus “Aunt Fancy”.  She must have expressed some confusion as I saw him lean to her and whisper something in her ear.  She drew back with a look of horror on her face and exclaimed, “Jack, no!  Senator Buchanan is a very respectable statesman, so he is.  He and Senator. King are just housemates.  I never heard such a shameful thing in all me days,” she went on.  “I am thinkin’ you have a filthy mind, Jack Hamilton.”

I was loath to believe that she was that innocent, I must tell you.  But then so young and just off the boat, who knows?  I saw to it she got a stern talking to by our cook, Mabel, who impressed upon the girl the importance of not sharing tales with the likes of delivery boys.

I had breakfasted and dressed and decided to go into my study and read up on two bills that my party would bring to a vote in the afternoon.  I took my seat by the small fireplace to read when I happened to look up at the mantelpiece.  I sat and stared for a moment, sensing something missing.  I realized with a start that the empty place on the wall was where my painting of Mr. Jackson, Old Hickory, should be. It was a gift from him.   “My stars!” I exclaimed.  I shot up from my chair and flew to the door.  When I was in the hall I shouted, “Annie!  Come here this instant!”

In a moment the girl was standing before me, her eyes wide and her hands twisting anxiously in her apron.  “Whatever be amiss, sir?” she asked.

“That!” I said, pointing to the bare spot on the wall.

She peered in the direction I indicated.  “Sir?”

“See for yourself!” I accused.

She crept past me, crossing the room to peer closely at the wall.  She carefully looked all around, her nose no more than a few inches from pressing against the wallpaper.  She reached up a pale finger and touched a spot.  She finally turned to me with a perplexed expression.  “I be that sorry, Senator, but I’m not findin’ anything amiss.”

Making an impatient harrumph, I stated, “That is just what I mean, girl.  You don’t see anything amiss… because what should be there is missing.”

She turned back and looked, then threw up her hands and said, “Saints preserve us!  Why this is where that picture of that disagreeable looking old gentleman should be.  What happened to it?”

“That ‘disagreeable old gentleman, as you describe him, my dear, is the seventh President of these United States, Mr. Andrew Jackson!  The painting was a gift to me from that august personage.  And how should I know where it’s gone?  I called you in here to have you tell me that.”

Her look of chagrin quickly shifted to hurt feelings.  With her fists on her narrow hips she muttered something in what I assume was Irish and then, in what passes for English through her lips, she said, “Senator, you cannot be suggestin’ that I should take the old thing, now, would you?”

I realized she was right, that I had not taken care to be clear that all I wanted to know was if she had removed the portrait.  “I beg your pardon, Annie.  I was intemperate.  I merely wanted to know if the picture had been removed for some reason.”

Giving me such a look of “Are you simple?” she shook her head.  “Well I am that certain that it has, Senator.  By whom and why I cannot tell.”

Now I was annoyed that she should take such an insolent approach to my obvious wish to learn where my treasured portrait of Old Hickory had been removed to.  Impatiently I demanded, “Then go ask cook what she knows.”

Annie put her proud shoulders back and an imperious nose in the air and whisked out of the study.  “Aye, sir, that I shall.”

I followed her to prevent her from sharing her less flattering thoughts about me with the cook.  When I arrived at the kitchen just behind her I heard her ask, in a manner of utmost asperity, where the portrait of Mr. Jackson that was hung on the Senator’s study wall above the mantelpiece might be.

The cook looked up at me then and bobbed a respectful curtsy.  “Senator Buchanan, I cannot say.”  She turned towards the scullery door and called out, “Jack, come in here.”

From the scullery emerged the tousled headed befreckled face of the young scamp, Jack Hamilton.  “Ma’am?” he squeaked.  He had a partly consumed piece of cake in his grubby hand.

I took over the questioning.  “Young man, a very valuable picture is missing from my study.  Do you know anything about that?”

The boy looked from me to Mabel and then to Annie, the look on his face bespeaking a readiness to make up a story turned into genuine puzzlement.  “Why, no, sir.  I never even seen it.”

Annie said smugly, “It’s a paintin’ of the seventh president of these United States, it is!”

The boy looked back at me, wide eyed.  I headed off whatever he was going to say.  “Never mind, boy.  I shall no doubt have to summon a policeman to look into the matter.  Would be so kind as to find one and send him to this house?”

He had gone pale, making me wonder if I had been hasty in exonerating him from guilt, but with one look at Mabel, he stuffed the rest of the cake in his mouth, said something no one could have understood, took his soft cap from a back pocket, and exiting quickly, pulled it onto his head.

It was clear when no officer of the law arrived at my front door within a half hour that Jack had not made the effort.  I called for Annie to fetch my coat, gloves and hat.  I shall go to the Senate for the rest of the day.  If I see a policeman on the way, I will enlist his assistance.”

In the foyer, she helped me on with my coat.  I asked, “Is Senator King expected to take his supper at home, do you know?”

“I do not, sir.  The Senator left so early this morn that I did not see to speak to him”

I went out the door onto F Street where carts and horses clattered by and natty young gentleman strode with purpose on some business.  I had no eye for them at the moment, intent as I was on getting to the Hill.

I did let myself become distracted from time to time as I made my way to Constitution Avenue and the Capitol for I was anxious to spy Rufus along the way so I could inform him of the missing portrait.  I was not far from my own destination when I caught sight of him, head to head with a most attractive and elegant young man, laughing and sharing a pleasant moment together.  I was about to call to him when I saw him put his arm about the younger man’s shoulders.  I quite simply froze.  I did not call out.

Rufus is an extremely handsome and well turned out fellow.  I on the other hand am plain and what some would call dumpy.  I should lie if I did not say it had puzzled me these several years that a man as fine-looking as my Rufus should want to be with me, to live with me, to be my one and only.  The result of this uncertainty has been a sort of vigilance where my love’s attention might turn, if that attention is to another quite good looking fellow.  I am quite sure some day I shall lose Rufus to such a one.  I shall be the pathetic abandoned lover, pitiful in all men’s eyes.

I sighed and turned to walk quickly away.

Seeing a policeman as I approached the Capitol, I waylaid the man and described my loss, the portrait of Old Hickory and not, of course, the future loss of my dearest one, nor of my heart and present peace of mind.  He promised to go to my house straight away to look into the matter.

I spent a dispirited day, I can tell you, feeling as if everything I cared for was slipping through my fingers.  Rufus was not at luncheon in the Senate dining hall, and as a result I was quite unapproachable and some of my colleagues made some quite common remarks that should not be spoken of in the presence of the fairer sex.  Fortunately there were none about in the Senate.

As I wended my way home to our house on F Street , I lacked an appetite for my supper.  I fully expected to find my portrait still gone, no news from the policeman, and no Rufus awaiting me with a glass of whiskey and a cigar.

Annie, it seemed, was no more cheerful with me.  With no syllable of her lilting speech, she took my hat, gloves and coat.  When I asked if the Senator was at home, she gave me a tight-lipped shake of the head and left me standing there quite alone.  I proceeded into the parlor with the newspaper which I had taken from the hall table and found my own whiskey and cigar, feeling most misused.

I had despaired of companionship at supper when I heard the front door open and close.  I heard Rufus’s voice, shushing Annie as he divested himself of his coat and the rest.    My heart beat faster waiting for my love to come into the parlor, then it fell when I heard his footsteps pass the door and head up the staircase.  I sat for a while trying to decide what to do.  Why had he shushed Annie?  Was there someone with him?  Someone he took up to his rooms?

I had had enough.  I threw down the paper I was reading and stormed out of the parlor and up the stairs.  I went to Rufus’s bedchamber door and without announcing myself, I reached for the doorknob.  I was surprised when it turned and the door opened.  I had half expected it locked, to prevent discovery of whatever indiscretion my Rufus was involved in.

“Jamie, dear!” he called, obviously startled.  He spun to face me, and I could not help but stare, admiring him, his slender but manly form, his fine features, his dapper apparel.  I found myself thinking, whatever you have done to break my heart, dear boy, I shall forgive you.  What I said aloud however was “What are you hiding, Rufus?”

The look he gave me then shook me to the core.  He looked embarrassed, sheepish, and guilty.  I thought, Here it is.  The death of the idyll. 

I had to sit down.  I stumbled to a chair and planted my backside heavily.

“Oh Jamie, I wanted it to be a surprise.  I was going to give it to you at supper.”

I looked up sharply at Rufus.  “You what?”  I gazed into his eyes to see them twinkling, so full of love and happiness.

He slowly turned and lifted a package wrapped in brown paper and tied with twine.  “Since you caught me with it, I suppose I shall just give it to you now.”  He came towards me, and I stood to face him.  He held the package out to me.

“Happy Valentine’s Day, dearest Jamie,” said in that soft warm voice of his with its Alabama drawl.  “I love you.”

I must have looked like a trout, standing, holding the package and staring into his eyes open-mouthed.  “I-I love you too, my darling Rufus,” I managed to get out.  “What is it?”

“Open it.  Here, I’ll cut the string with my pocket knife.”  He proceeded to match his actions to his words.  The twine felt to the floor and, meticulous as he always is, he crouched to pick it up and tuck it in his pocket.

I turned over the package and unfolded the brown paper with which it was wrapped.  I could see at once that I was looking at the back of a frame.  The wire for hanging it was attached.  I turned the gift over as Rufus carefully refolded the paper and set it aside to reuse.  He is as frugal as he is meticulous.  Well, except for fashions.  Those he spends what he must on.

He looked at me expectantly as I gazed back, then I lowered my eyes and was confused.  What I held in my hands was my portrait of Andrew Jackson.  The portrait that Jackson himself gave me.  I stammered, “W-why, Rufus, it’s wonderful.”

“What a silly man you can be, Jamie.  Look at it.  There is something different.  That is your gift.”

I looked again, perplexed.  Then I realized what the difference was.  “It’s the frame. It’s new.”

Rufus gave me one of those patient indulgent looks he often gives me when I am being obtuse.  “Yes, but you don’t see it, do you.  The wood.  It’s hickory!  Old hickory!”

My Rufus was the one who had removed my treasured portrait of Old Hickory and had a new frame made of old hickory wood.  I was speechless with wonder and gratitude.

Rufus went on chattily.  “I was on Constitution today as I was going to pick this up at the woodworker.  I ran into Simon Beauregard.  Do you remember him?  That very tiresome fellow from Tuscaloosa.  I was so excited about seeing the new frame I could not get away from him fast enough.  He is a pretty man, to be sure, but all I could do was pretend to laugh at his jokes and get away as soon as I could manage.”

He reached to take the portrait away from me and set it down on a table.  He walked the short distance to the door and bolted it.  He came back, took me in his arms, and pressed his sweet lips to my own thin ones.  I relaxed into his embrace.

“I do so love you, Jamie,” he said softly when we ended the kiss.  “These past years have been such golden ones.  Promise you will never leave me for some younger, more handsome man.”

I could only lean back in for another of his delicious kisses.

“Take me to bed, Jamie,” he sighed against my lips.

“But what about supper?” I reminded him.

“It can wait.”  His hands were already at my cravat loosening it as he applied the firm but gentle pressure to my chest to guide me through the door and into his bedchamber.

_______________
Author’s note:  Was President James Buchanan gay?  He and William Rufus King lived together for many years and their colleagues in the Senate called them “Mr. and Mrs. Buchanan”.  Their nieces burned all their letters.  Let’s just say we don’t really know if he was, but then again we don’t really know that he wasn’t.

 _______________
Christopher Hawthorne Moss wrote his first short story when he was seven and has spent some of the happiest hours of his life fully involved with his colorful, passionate, and often humorous, characters. Moss spent some time away from fiction, writing content for websites before his first book came out under the name Nan Hawthorne in 1991. He has since become a novelist and is a prolific and popular blogger; he is the historical fiction editor for the GLBT Bookshelf, where you can find his short stories and thoughtful and expert book reviews. Moss is transgender, having been born with a female body but a male heart and mind. He lives full time as a gay man in the Pacific Northwest with his partner of over thirty years and their doted upon cats. He owns Shield-wall Productions. Moss welcomes comment from readers via email and can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Harmony Ink New Release – November 13, 2014

November 14, 2014

Always Leaving by Gene Gant

A Harmony Ink Press Young Adult Title

As Ravi and Jason work through clues to Jason’s missing past, Ravi’s father’s prejudice threatens to tear them apart. Always Leaving by Gene Gant, a Harmony Ink Press Young Adult title available from Dreamspinner Press.

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When Jason Barrett wakes up, he remembers only one thing: his name. Frightened and driven by paranoia, Jason keeps moving, going from town to town working odd jobs and making no friends. When he stumbles onto an emergency in New Hanover and saves a fellow teenage boy, it offers him the first connection he’s felt in a while.

All Ravi Mittal learns about his knight-in-shining armor is his name. Jason. But New Hanover is a small town and it is easy to reconnect. To return Jason’s kindness, Ravi wants to help solve the riddle of Jason’s missing past. As they work through clues, Jason begins to feel settled. He finds a place he belongs with Ravi—maybe something more.

But Ravi’s father’s deep-seated prejudice against the African American teen threatens to tear Jason and Ravi apart… if the mystery chasing Jason doesn’t do it first.

Length: Novel (180p.) | Genre: Mystery, Young Adult, Gay | Release Date: November 13, 2014

Buy as an eBook (ISBN: 978-1-63216-589-3) | Buy as a Paperback (ISBN: 978-1-63216-587-9)