Recommended: Special Delivery and Strawberries for Dessert

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Another in my occasional series of recommendations for books/series. Disclaimer: Just because I don’t mention a certain book/series/author doesn’t mean anything bad! These will simply be ones that really stand out, usually ones that get regular re-reads.

I started reading in the gay romance genre about four and a half years ago, after I became aware that it even existed through fanfic friends. I waded in slowly, picking my reads with care, but it wasn’t long before I found the first one that stuck with me. That book was Special Delivery by Heidi Cullinan. (This was the first edition, of course.)

SpecialDelivery300Special Delivery had so many elements that stood out. The older man/younger man pairing. The road trip. The dirty, dirty sex. Vegas. And, of course, Randy Jansen. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read that book, and it hits me in the gut every time. I fell in love with Sam, and Mitch, and yeah, Randy too, and I’ve never quite gotten over it. They say you never forget your first? Well, Special Delivery wasn’t the first book I read in the genre, but it was the first one I never forgot.

(The sequels are great, too. Double Blind, Randy’s love story, had a bit too much poker-ese for me, but I loved it anyway. Especially that limo scene. Tough Love almost, but not quite, landed as high on my list as SD. Oh, and don’t miss the freebies, too! Links to all on Heidi’s website.)

StrawberriesforDessertLGA little farther into my time in the genre, I came upon Marie Sexton’s Strawberries for Dessert. I can’t remember what made me pick the book up. I had read the first book in the series, Promises, but I didn’t realize that until after I read SfD. (How I missed that, I don’t know. I suppose it was just that I was cramming so many books into my brain at once that some aspects didn’t stick.)

SfD was probably the first book in the genre that actually made me cry. You may not know what a huge thing that is, but I am not a crier. At all. Even tearing up is rare. And when I am that affected by a scene, it will nearly always be a happy or bittersweet moment, rarely something truly sad. What got me in SfD? The moment at the end of the book when Cole finally lets Jonathan all the way in. I’d fallen in love with Cole right along with Jonathan, and seeing him laid bare just broke me open. Still does whenever I re-read.

(Again, this is part of a great series, the Coda series. I like Promises next-best, I think, though the direct sequel, Fear and Bread Pudding, is pretty close. Marie has a series reading order on her website, and I’d recommend following that, although as I showed with SfD, some of them do work as standalones. Oh! And there’s another Coda story, Shotgun, coming in 2015! Squeee!)

Last weekend at GayRomLit, I discovered that both SD and SfD were available for purchase in paperback from the publishers. I snatched them up and got Heidi and Marie—who are both fabulous women I adore—to sign them for me. It doesn’t matter that I own both in ebook format. I wanted those hard copies on my bookshelf, so that every time I glance over, the memories make me smile.

Image courtesy of Anusorn P. Nachol / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Brynn Stein on Real Life in Fiction

My guest today is Brynn Stein, here to talk about her new book Through the Years and how real-life events seem to find their way into our stories.

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Thanks Shae, for hosting me today.

I’ve noticed over the years (for fan fiction) and year (for original fiction) that real life likes to creep in.

In Haunted, the fact that Jason kept his journals stuffed in a locked drew in a desk came from real life where my mother had a bazillion journals stuffed in her desk. She insisted that we get them before getting rid of the desk. It was years and years of random thoughts. Not so much a diary as just everyday things. She had grocery lists and reminders of PTA meetings. All sorts of stuff. Jason’s were much more organized and of more import to the story. But the idea came from there.

In Living Again, the trip to the zoo drew from my own trip with my daughters to the zoo. They wore me out running ahead, hollering, “Mommy, look” and then running back to get me and drag me to the next exhibit.

In Through the Years, there are quite a few things taken from real life. I already mentioned, on other blog tour stops, that the prologue came from a real life scene at the hospital, and Luka is based on two different students of mine. But little things like reading Winnie the Pooh to the girls before bed, or living with (or around) alcoholics, crept into the story.

There are some books coming up that have touches of real life in them. In Ray of Sunlight, CJ’s road trip mirrors that of my daughter’s and mine coming back from the beach. We kept seeing signs that could be taken dirty, or made into innuendo and we laughed all the way home. CJ has an even dirtier mind than either my daughter or me, so it’s a funny scene.

In For Mac, Liam and Branson go to see “Rise of the Guardians” because Liam loves all things Chris Pine. In the story, there are three teens sitting in front of them and the five of them collectively are the only people in the theater. My youngest daughter and two of her friends were literally the only people in the theater when they went to see that movie. In the story, the teenagers’ giggles make Branson uncomfortable. When my daughter read that part, she said, “Oh, sorry Branson. This scene is my fault.”

Liam and Branson are also big Isaac Asimov fans, and avid trekkers, as am I in real life. In fact, several of my characters in various stories are Star Trek fans. In a story I’m writing now, Cody is trying to teach Adam “Texas Hold Em” and Adam says it would be easier to learn to play Fisbin. (Go to YouTube and watch the clip from the original Star Trek series where Kirk is making up a card game to provide a distraction. It’s hilarious).

What about you, writers? Do your interests or odd things that have happened to you or your family or friends, make it into your stories? Readers, have you ever read something minor in a story and wondered if it had really happened to the author or someone the author knew?

Comment below to be entered into the raffle.

Here’s how the raffle works:

I’ve listed the tour stops on my website. Feel free to stop by as many as you want. For each stop that you comment on, you will receive one entry to the giveaway. I’ll check all the stops numerous times throughout the tour and will draw five winners on Thanksgiving Day, so even if you come in late to the tour, you can go back through the list and comment on past stops.

I’m giving away five prizes. Prize 1) a signed paperback copy of Through the Years; Prizes 2 and 3) electronic copies of Through the Years, Prize 4) your choice of either a signed paperback copy or an audiobook of Living Again (the audiobook won’t be available until December), and Prize 5) an electronic copy of Haunted.

ThroughTheYearsLGEdward and Gene were instantly drawn to each other when they met at college in Maryland. Fast friends, they developed a “closer than brothers” relationship. But then Edward began to feel more for Gene. In 1967, those kind of feelings would not be tolerated. Not even by Edward himself.

Gene always thought he was asexual. He had never been attracted to anyone… until he met Edward. He dreamed of Edward as more than a friend throughout college, but he knew Edward would not welcome that kind of attention. So Gene wasn’t surprised when Edward reacted badly to a drunken kiss just before Edward’s graduation. He was surprised when Edward moved to Florida and had little to do with him for years afterward.

When fate finally brings them back together, Edward is married and has a little girl. Gene gladly accepts the role of “Uncle Gene,” happy to have Edward in his life in any capacity. Together, they face all the trials and tribulations life throws at them, including the death of Edward’s wife, and as each grows and matures, their life views change. The relationship they’ve secretly wanted all along is closer than ever, and if Edward can break free from his homophobic upbringing and admit his feelings for Gene, there might still be a chance for them to share their lives in the way they both desire.

A Bittersweet Dreams title: It’s an unfortunate truth: love doesn’t always conquer all. Regardless of its strength, sometimes fate intervenes, tragedy strikes, or forces conspire against it. These stories of romance do not offer a traditional happy ending, but the strong and enduring love will still touch your heart and maybe move you to tears.

Buy from Dreamspinner Press

brynnsteinlogoBrynn Stein has always loved to write. Fan fiction, original fiction, whatever. While Brynn wrote in numerous genres – everything from mystery, to contemporary, to supernatural – she had always tended toward strong male characters. And then she discovered ‘slash’, male/male romance, and all those strong male characters were finally allowed to express their love for one another. It seems that there are always at least two characters clamoring to tell Brynn their story.

Brynn lives in Virginia with one of her two two-legged children, and two four-legged ones. Her supportive family encourages her writing and provides a sounding board for fledgling stories. When she isn’t writing, Brynn teaches children with special needs. In free time, when such a thing exists, she reads anything she can get her hands on, and haunts bookstores. She draws and paints, and enjoys the outdoors—especially if she can get to the beach—and is always thinking about her next story.

Please feel free to contact Brynn at any of the following:

https://twitter.com/BrynnStein

http://brynnstein2.wordpress.com

https://www.facebook.com/brynn.stein
or brynnstein2@gmail.com

Deadlined

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So, this is gonna be quick, because I’m on deadline and can barely find time to sleep, much less do anything except write this blasted book. Not that it’s the book’s fault, considering I’m the one who procrastinated and didn’t make myself BICHOK* and get the thing written sooner. I’m also the one who set the deadline and promised it to the publisher by that date, so if I were to miss it, it would be completely and totally my fault. But that doesn’t make me feel any better, because this is the first time I’ve tried writing a novel to a deadline (albeit a long one), and if I fail at it, then it’s gonna drive me nuts, especially when I have another deadline for the next book, and fail me twice, shame on me. I’ve already warned people that it’s likely any free time I have at GayRomLit (where I am now) will be spent writing, so I’ll probably be lugging my laptop and/or notebook around with me, and/or hiding out in my room between events to churn out words. Which makes it sound bad, because it’s not just churning, it’s telling a story that I really want to tell, but when you’re at 46,000 words on October 9 (as I write this) and need a minimum of 60,000 words for a novel (and possibly more to actually finish out the story), and have to have it in decent enough shape to submit no later than October 31, well, it starts to feel like a chore. And I know writing is a job, no matter how much fun it can be, and I know every writer goes through times when things are dragging or frustrating and you forget why you do it. Then your characters start talking to you again, and you find yourself smiling or crying or rolling your eyes at them, or someone reads one of your stories and tells you they love it, or that they can’t wait to read your next one, and then you remember—

Oh. Yeah. That’s why I do this.

(*Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard. My mantra for life, really.)

Image courtesy of thaikrit / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Andrew Q. Gordon’s A Closed Door

A Closed Door CoverOutted at thirteen, Orin Merritt left home after high school hoping to escape the hell his life had become. Ten years later when a tornado destroys his childhood home and kills his parents, Orin finds himself in an entirely new nightmare. One he can’t run away from.

Blaming himself for failing the two people who always loved and supported him, he returns home and confronts his past in the person of his one-time best friend, Thomas Kennett.  Thomas not only rejected him when Orin came out, he led the group that tormented Orin into leaving.  

As he struggles to deal with his grief, Orin also labors to fulfill the pledge he made to his parents before their death.  In the process, Orin learns that sometimes when you go away to find yourself, you leave the answers you’re looking for behind.

Cover Artist: Lily Velden and Jay Aheer

Publisher: Wayward Ink Publishing

Buy Links:

Wayward Ink Publishing

Amazon US

Amazon Australia

Amazon UK

Amazon DE

Amazon Canada

Excerpt:

“Orin, I won’t.” Thomas stood a bit straighter and his eyes lost the sad, pleading shine. “I won’t hurt you again.”

“You can’t promise that. Things happen.” Orin watched as his words dragged Thomas back from the brink of hope.

“If you truly believe that, then there’s nothing I can do. You have to believe there’s a chance or else I can’t prove it.”

“That’s not what I’m telling you.” He locked his gaze on Thomas’s. “If I say yes, I’ll have to take down the walls I surrounded my heart with to keep it safe. Once it’s gone, I won’t be able bring it back if I get hurt. Not now.

“So what I’m saying is, think about what you’re asking me to risk. If you really love me, ask yourself if are you willing to risk what will happen to me if you can’t keep your promise.”

He knew how unfair he’d been, but self-preservation had been a skill he’d honed over the past fifteen years. He needed Thomas to know just how serious the repercussion could be for his actions.

“Orin, I . . . I . . . how . . .?” Their faces were inches apart, and Thomas moved in for another kiss.

This felt different than the first—less urgent, but no less intense. Orin trembled at the leap he was about to take. When they stepped back, Thomas rubbed his thumb across Orin’s cheek.

“I do love you, Orin. More than I can say. So much, that I’m not willing to risk what will happen if I fail you again. I don’t have that right.”

Thomas’s lips quivered and the tears welled at the bottom of his eyes. He kissed Orin’s forehead gently.

“Good-bye, Orin. Please be happy.” Without looking back, Thomas walked to the front door, opened it, and walked away.

Author Bio:

Andrew Q. Gordon wrote his first story back when yellow legal pads, ball point pens were common and a Smith Corona correctable typewriter was considered high tech. Adapting with technology, he now takes his MacBook somewhere quiet when he wants to write.

He currently lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his partner of eighteen years, their young daughter and dog.  In addition to dodging some very self-important D.C. ‘insiders’, Andrew uses his commute to catch up on his reading. When not working or writing, he enjoys soccer, high fantasy, baseball and seeing how much coffee he can drink in a day.

Author Contacts:

Website: www.andrewqgordon.com

Facebook:  www.facebook.com/andrewqugordon

Twitter:  @andrewqgordon

Email: andrewqgordon@gmail.com

Other Books:

The Last Grand Master:  (Champion of the Gods – Book 1)

Purpose

(Un)Masked

Ashes of Life

Sarah Madison on Writing from the Gut

Today my guest is Sarah Madison, here to talk about following your instincts and her new book, Walk A Mile.

There are times when you should go with your gut. You know what I mean. That little voice that says, “Don’t take that job” or “That guy is bad news” or “You know, if you don’t want to end up with diabetes, you should lay off the Cheez Doodles.” That voice is serious and quiet. It expects you to listen, and you should. Every. Time.

The only time I’ve ever made a serious mistake was when I didn’t listen to that voice. I took the job that filled me with misgivings. I trusted someone I shouldn’t have. I wound up with health problems I could have avoided.  Does your gut ever lie to you? I don’t think so. I think that instinct was honed deep within us to keep us from eating the wrong plant or entering a cave in which a saber tooth tiger was lurking.

Oh yes, it fails us sometimes. When something blindsides us, we tell ourselves we didn’t see that coming; we didn’t have any warning. But we probably did. We’ve spent a lifetime ignoring that little voice. Many times it speaks, but we’ve learned to drown it out. Many times we’re so frazzled and out of sync with our gut that is only in the aftermath of disaster we can acknowledge to ourselves we did know better.

Occasionally we’ll get the outlier—the screaming sense of panic that tells us not to get on that plane, or to take the next taxi cab. Oftentimes, that is a symptom of something else, some larger problem that we haven’t yet identified but instead are focusing on the thing in front of us. Well, you know what? I’ve listened to that gut statement, too. And I’ve never regretted it. Once, as I was getting ready to leave the house for a day of fun at the barn, I looked down at the bouncing, eager dog and said, “You know what? It won’t kill you to stay home one day.”

On the way home, I flipped my car on the interstate.

The first question everyone asked me, once they knew I was okay, was if my dog was okay. Everyone knew my dog went everywhere with me. Not that one time, however. Other things can masquerade as your gut, too. That small voice that tells you you’re not good enough, attractive enough, talented enough or smart enough? Yeah, that’s not your gut. That’s the part of you that has been shaped through the years by other people’s perceptions of you. Maybe you threatened their own sense of self-worth. Maybe they were trying to protect you from heartache. But that small voice isn’t centered in your gut. That’s the reflection of the Dream Killers in your life. Dream Killers feel compelled to destroy your dreams because someone effectively killed theirs. So don’t listen to that voice. Funny how we tend to listen to that voice all the time. Why? Because is it familiar. Because it doesn’t challenge us to leave our comfort zone. Because it matches the story we tell ourselves about our lives.

When I wrote Unspeakable Words, I had a plan for a three to four book story arc. It was my first major publication, and it went to the Dreamspinners bestseller list and stayed there for over a month. I was delighted, and happily began working on the next in the series. But a couple of lukewarm reviews shook my confidence in the planned storyline. Yeah, I was the rawest noob. They weren’t even bad reviews, just a couple of less-than-enthusiastic ones, but the old self-doubts set in. I began reading a ton of books on writing mysteries, and OMG, I was doing *everything* wrong! I discounted the sales, I conveniently forgot about all the wonderful emails and positive feedback I’d received. I set aside the series and worked on other projects.

Every time I thought about picking up the Sixth Sense series again, I did so with completely revamping the storyline. Gutting it. Ripping out the paranormal aspect and making it a straightforward mystery series. I couldn’t do it, though. I felt hamstrung by my indecision. The more time that passed, the more I figured no one would care about John Flynn and Jerry Parker anymore.

I was wrong.

One day I was seized with a moment of fierce determination. Damn it, they were my characters and it was my story arc, and instead of just waffling around about it, I should just write the stories I wanted to write and let the readers decide if they liked it or not. That was the last day that reviews had the power to wound me. Oh sure, everyone likes good reviews. A slew of stellar reviews makes you more visible on Amazon, makes people take a chance on your work. But you know what? That only matters if I am counting on writing to rescue me from a stack of bills or let me quit my day job. I’ve stopped fretting about that, too. What will be will be.

And so I wrote Walk a Mile, the story the way I had envisioned it four years ago. The response has been tremendous. Not only do people really like this story, but I’m getting emails and comments from people telling me how much they loved Flynn and Parker and how long they’ve been waiting for the next installment in the series. I’m both humbled and ashamed—I feel bad that I kept readers waiting so long.

I should have gone with my gut.

I’m working on the next in the series now.

Excerpt from Walk A Mile:

Jerry could sympathize. His palms dampened at the idea of meeting Flynn’s former lover. His former female lover. He wiped his hands surreptitiously at his sides and wished there was time for him to dash into the men’s room and straighten his tie or something. If he put his sunglasses back on now would he look cool or pretentious? Crap. Would anyone noticed if he stood with his gut sucked in for the rest of this visit? Maybe she’d be a frumpy librarian type. Oh, who was he kidding? This was Flynn’s ex-girlfriend he was talking about. She’d be the sexy librarian that would knock your socks off just by saying hello. The echo of a woman’s shoes on the tiled floor made him realize she was here and he’d run out of time to make a better impression. Slowly, he turned to face the woman approaching them. Oddly, when he briefly caught Flynn’s eye, he looked as reluctant as Jerry felt.

Nancy Glover was absolutely stunning. She couldn’t have looked better for the ‘run into the old boyfriend’ moment than if she’d planned for it. Her hair was that vibrant Dana-Scully red that could only come from a professional colorist, and suddenly Flynn’s remarks about him not dying his hair that color had a lot more meaning than before. The intense shade complimented her pale skin and illuminated her green eyes. Of course she would have green eyes. Dressed in a black pencil skirt and white blouse, she had the cool demeanor of Agent Scully as well.

“John,” she said, walking up to the counter where Flynn and Jerry were waiting. “I wasn’t expecting to see you here at the museum. In fact, I’m surprised you’re in town at all. I would have bet good money that you weren’t coming in for the reunion.” Her smile was pleasant but cautious, like a stray cat that wanted to be friendly but wasn’t sure she wasn’t about to get shoved in a carrier and taken off to the shelter.

The woman behind the desk watched their interaction avidly. Jerry thought about offering her some popcorn. Flynn glanced at him sharply.

“I’m not here for the reunion.” Had it been anyone else, he would have sounded curt, but Flynn’s charm didn’t fail him. “I didn’t know you were working here. Last I heard you were at the Smithsonian.”

She shrugged. “There were cutbacks. You know how it is in a down economy. To be honest, I prefer working at a smaller museum. Less bureaucracy.” A real smile cracked her cool exterior. Damn. Under other circumstances, Jerry suspected he’d like her. She raised a questioning eyebrow at the two of them. “So what are you doing here? And who’s your friend?”

“My partner, Special Agent Jerry Parker. We had to come to D.C. on business and I was curious about this trinket box that was listed as part of the Smithsonian’s collection. How’d it end up here?”

“Come with me, I’ll show it to you. You can go ahead and close up, Betty. I’ll see them out.” Nancy turned on a glistening black heel and walked back down the hallway from which she’d come, her shoes clicking authoritatively as she moved. “As to how it ended up here, the Smithsonian had no idea what to do with it. It didn’t seem to be particularly valuable and no one could tell precisely what its origins are. You’re telling me you saw one of these in California?”

“Yes,” Jerry said, entering the conversation for the first time. “Though this one appears to be a bit larger. The designs on the casing are similar, but not identical.”

WalkAMileSix months after starting their hunt for a serial killer who is still at large, FBI agents Jerry Lee Parker and John Flynn are partners in every sense. But Jerry has serious doubts about their relationship and whether they would even be together if not for the way Flynn changed after touching a mysterious artifact in a museum.

Flynn hates the extraordinary power bestowed on him by the artifact and wants nothing more than to have a normal life again. Jerry fears that without the unusual connection they forged, Flynn will no longer want or need him. Chasing after a similar artifact takes them back to Flynn’s old stomping grounds in Washington D.C., where his newfound abilities uncover long-buried secrets, the kind people would kill to protect. But they aren’t the only ones looking for these powerful relics, and what they discover will threaten their relationship—and their lives.

Buy link: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=5521

Sarah Madison is a veterinarian with a big dog, an even bigger horse, too many cats, and a very patient boyfriend. She is a terrible cook, and concedes that her life would be easier if Purina made People Chow. She writes because it is cheaper than therapy.

Website: http://www.sarahmadisonfiction.com/

On Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B004K9QY5C

On Facebook (Author page): http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Sarah-Madison-Author/106445646104338

On Facebook (Profile page): https://www.facebook.com/akasarahmadison

On Twitter: https://twitter.com/SarahMadisonFic

On Dreamspinner: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/advanced_search_result.php?keywords=Sarah+Madison&osCsid=i8qhvu8sb7150s11croi48klc3&x=31&y=8

Goodreads Profile: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4057853.Sarah_Madison

On Tumblr: http://sarahmadisonfiction.tumblr.com/

Kim Fielding on Vodou and Bones

My guest today is Kim Fielding, here to talk about how she learned about vodou for her story in the second Gothika anthology, Bones. Take it away, Kim!

1FieldingHi! I’m Kim Fielding. Until recently, I knew almost nothing about vodou, apart from the old stereotypes about voodoo dolls and zombies. I saw The Serpent and the Rainbow a million years ago. I have a friend in San Francisco whose official polling place used to be a vodou/Santeria store, which makes me slightly envious (I used to vote in a Baptist church) but doesn’t teach me anything about the practice of vodou.

Then I agreed to write a story for the second Gothika anthology, Bones, which has a vodou theme. In doing so, I’d be joining some wonderful authors: Eli Easton, Jamie Fessenden, and B.G. Thomas. Clearly, however, I was going to have to do some research.

I ended up buying a couple of books and spending a lot of time online, and what I learned was fascinating. Vodou originated among Caribbean slaves, who were forbidden from practicing African religions. But these people managed to mesh their African traditions with the Christian ideas that had been forced on them, to create a new and vibrant practice. The negative reputation vodou received had little to do with the religion itself and much more to do with attempts to disempower and demonize the people who practiced it. Vodou is not Satanism. It reveres love, family, and generosity, and fosters respect for one’s ancestors.

One thing I admire about vodou is that although its practitioners have often been oppressed people, it is a lively religion. Vodou art and artifacts are bright and colorful; vodou music is made for dancing.

In fact, that’s the title of my novella: “The Dance.” The protagonist, Bram Tillman, begins as I did, with nothing but misconceptions about vodou. But then his boyfriend dies and Bram is nearly killed on multiple occasions, and Daniel Royer appears to offer a warning and assistance. Bram learns a great deal more about vodou than he anticipated—and also learns something about life and death.

“The Dance” is actually one of five (!) new releases I have available. I’m doing a Fieldingpalooza blog tour, complete with prizes. Please join me! Contest details and a complete tour schedule are on my website.

***

Kim’s new releases:

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Bone Dry—book 3 in the Bones series—releases October 10—available now for preorder!

Brute—French translation!—releases October 7—available now for preorder!

 

4Strandedcover

5BonesGothika2coverStandby—in the Stranded anthology—releases October 10—available now for preorder!

The Dance—in the Bones anthology (Gothika vol. 2)—releases October 27—available now for preorder!

6TheFestivusMiraclecover

The Festivus Miracle—releases November 1—all proceeds go to Doctors Without Borders—available now for preorder!

Contests! 

Win an ecopy of Kim’s novella The Pillar!

Win a $20 Dreamspinner Press gift certificate!

Win a Bones-themed goody bag!

For more details on Kim’s books, as well as some free stories, visit her at http://kfieldingwrites.com/ .  You can also follow her on Twitter @KFieldingWrites and on Facebook.

Suki Fleet on Guilt in Skeleton

Today my guest is Suki Fleet, with a discussion of guilt and responsibility as themes in her new book, Skeleton. There’s an excerpt, too! :)

Many thanks for having me on your blog today, Shae. My new release Skeleton came out on the 1st Oct.

Although Skeleton is what I’d consider a light sweet read it does tackle the subject of personal responsibility, and how hurting someone affects you even if you try to deny it—if you have a heart anyway ;)

This is one of the main themes of the story—how everyone does things they feel guilty about, like hurting someone or treating them badly (it’s human nature, we mess up) but ultimately it’s how we deal with our mistakes that is the important thing. Whether we bury them and struggle with our guilt or whether we are strong enough and have a big enough heart to do the right thing. And sometimes, of course, we need a shove in the right direction :P

I hope readers can sympathize with Jan’s character. While he does have a skeleton in his closet (not literally), he also has a big heart.

Here is a short excerpt:

“Oh, I don’t know, I’m not sure it is,” Jan says, though he knows without a doubt Henry is right. He picks up their pace, leaving the figure behind them.

“If he’s still standing there, can we invite him home for a hot chocolate? Everyone likes hot chocolate,” Henry says as they walk slowly back home from the shop.

Please be gone, please be gone, Jan mutters to himself, though he’s not sure his heart is in it.

They turn into their street and see the figure is still standing on the corner, head bowed against the now freezing onslaught of rain.

Henry takes off at a run, and Jan doesn’t stop him. His chest feels tight. He’s nervous, and sure Matthew is going to think he’s a creep, even though he can’t think of a concrete reason why.

Matthew staggers as Henry launches himself at him, but then sinks down, kneeling in the dirt and wet of the pavement to hug the small boy.

As he gets closer, Jan can see Matthew’s shoulders trembling as though he’s crying. Jan’s not sure what to do. When he reaches the corner, he tentatively holds the umbrella over them, trying to find the right words to ask Matthew if he wants to come home with them to get dry. But before he can say anything, Henry takes Matthew’s hand, tugs him up, and leads him to their house.

Jan’s hands are shaking as he tries to fit the key in the lock. They are, all three of them, cold and wet. Matthew’s hair is plastered to his head, but even soaked and upset, Jan thinks he still looks heart-stoppingly beautiful.

Leaving them in the kitchen, Jan brings down all the warm towels he has from the airing cupboard. He throws one over Henry’s head and hands two to Matthew, who is slumped in a chair.

“Thank you,” Matthew says softly, balling the towels in his lap. His clothes are so drenched, they’re leaving puddles on the kitchen floor.

Jan goes back upstairs and searches through his wardrobe for a T-shirt and some sweatpants. Everything he has is huge, much too large for Matthew. He stands there for ages staring at his clothes. In the end he grabs a soft grey jersey and some grey sweatpants, if only because he thinks the color will suit the faint blush of Matthew’s skin.

“Here.” He holds his clothes out. Jan is fully aware he comes across as cold and standoffish when he’s nervous. “I’ll put your clothes in the tumble dryer. You can get changed in the bathroom at the top of the stairs… if you want…,” he continues hesitantly, sure Matthew probably doesn’t want to.

But Matthew takes them, his expression still slightly tearful, and makes his way upstairs.

“Henry, can you get me the hot chocolate and the milk please?” Jan asks, pulling a pan down from the rack.

The process of cooking anything is distracting, which is exactly what he needs right now.

Then with a groan he remembers the cake.

“How about I make some pancakes for tea?” he asks, knowing this suggestion is not going to go down well and inwardly wincing.

Even though he loves pancakes, Henry is not so easily duped. “You said we could make a cake for Matthew,” he says accusingly.

Jan sighs. Suddenly he feels very tired. Putting the pan on the cooker, he sinks down in front of Henry so they’re at the same level and rests his hands gently on Henry’s small shoulders. “I know I did. But as Matthew is here, and he’s a bit upset, I think it might make him feel a little uncomfortable. Do you understand?”

They look at each other a long while. Henry bites his lip. “Can I put sparkles on his pancake then? And a candle?”

“Well, if he wants a pancake, and you ask him first, then yes, you can put sparkles on it, but no candle, Henry, okay?”

Skeleton_coverBlurb

Jan has given up on love, at least the romantic kind. He loves his five-year-old son Henry more than anything. 

But when Henry starts school, Jan is introduced to Matthew, a very sweet but shy young man who helps out in Henry’s class. Although he tries desperately to ignore his attraction, Jan finds himself falling for Matthew—he’s everything Jan needs. 

But amid creepy silent phone calls and possible break-ins, things start to fall slowly apart for Jan. Matthew wants to trust Jan, but the skeleton Jan has been trying to keep buried in his closet and the guilt he feels threatens to destroy everything good in his life.

Buy Links

Dreamspinner Press
Amazon
All Romance

Losing a Friend: A Tribute to Eugie

Saturday morning, I was devastated to learn that Eugie Foster had died, after a year-long battle with lymphoma.

Paul Bright, Kage Alan, Eugie Foster, Kayelle Allen, Shae Connor

Paul Bright, Kage Alan, Eugie Foster, Kayelle Allen, Shae Connor

Eugie has been a friend since 2007, when I began working for her as a volunteer for the Daily Dragon, the on-site publication for Dragon Con. She was Director/Editor and had been looking for someone to do layout. She’d nearly given up when I emailed her. I’m lucky she gave me a shot, and we hit it off both as “co-workers” and as people. A few years later, I also shared a panel with her at Outlantacon, though we joked about how we never seemed to see each other outside of the convention context.

Eugue held a master’s degree in developmental psychology and a day job as an editor for the Georgia General Assembly, but she was primarily an author. She wrote fantasy and science fiction, much of it based on Asian folklore in honor of her heritage. She won a Nebula in 2009 and was nominated for a Hugo for her novelette Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast and won a number of other awards. Her work has been published in multiple genre magazines as well as in podcast format. She self-published a number of short stories, and her collection Returning My Sister’s Face and Other Far Eastern Tales of Whimsy and Malice was published in 2010.

Her latest story, When it Ends, He Catches Her, was published on Friday by Daily Science Fiction.

Eugie’s husband, Matthew, is Director of the Dragon Con Independent Film Festival and has also become a friend. In lieu of flowers or gifts, Matthew has requested that we honor Eugie’s legacy by reading and sharing her writing. You can buy many of her published works at Amazon.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote this little piece of fluff and posted it to Eugie’s Facebook wall. I hoped so hard for a happy ending to this story. Maybe in some alternate universe, this is how the story went.

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess named Eugie, and she lived in a beautiful land called Fosteria. Fosteria had many beautiful people and places and all sorts of friendly woodland creatures. But Princess Eugie had eyes only for her greatest love, the handsome Prince Matthew.

One day, Princess Eugie was stricken by a terrible curse that left her sound asleep. Prince Matthew rushed to her side, and unable to wake her, he called on Fosteria’s most prestigious healers to assist. The healers worked their magicks well, but in the end, it was the voice of her dearest love, Prince Matthew, that woke Princess Eugie from her slumber.

Rejoicing, Prince Matthew called for a celebration throughout Fosteria in honor of his Princess, and the people danced and sang and made very, very merry. After much enjoyment, Princess Eugie and Prince Matthew retired to their home, where they adopted a tiny woodland creature and, as the story goes, they lived happily ever after.

Blogging at Prism, and All in a Day’s Work Updates!

AllInADaysWork_smallI’m at Prism Book Alliance today, talking about my love affair with food and how it led to “Ice Cream Dreams,” my story in the All in a Day’s Work anthology. Great big thanks to Brandilyn and her team for having me over!

Yesterday, A.J. Cousins visited Boys in Our Books to discuss her story in the anthology, “Dance Hall Days,” a 1930s historical set in London.  She wrote more about her story on her blog, too. One of the things I love about doing anthologies is how different the stories turn out. :)

Back on Monday, our release day, Bru Baker visited MM Good Book Reviews, which also gave the antho a lovely review.

Also, in case you missed it, all the buy links for the anthology are up and running now:

Dreamspinner: Ebook and Paperback
Amazon: Kindle
AllRomance: Ebook
Barnes & Noble: Nook

Release Day! All in a Day’s Work

It’s here! My latest release, the All in a Day’s Work anthology, is out today from Dreamspinner Press. Check it out…

AllInADaysWork_smallA guy’s got to make a living. He can do it the conventional way—by selling cars, scooping ice cream, or delivering sandwiches—or he can earn his money as a spy, a historical interpreter, or the host of a myth-busting television show. Whether the men in this anthology are working hard to build their own business or performing in drag at a dance hall, every day has the potential for surprises and the chance to satisfy their lust or maybe find something more permanent. For the guys in these stories, what’s all in a day’s work might be anything but what they expected.  

My story is “Ice Cream Dreams”: Gage Albert is working at his Uncle Gordon’s ice cream shop when well-regarded young chef Loren Rey stops by, interested in using the shop’s unique flavors for his new restaurant. Gage plies Loren with samples and banter and soon finds ice cream isn’t the only thing on the menu. After the men share a hot night together, Gage approaches his uncle about Loren’s ideas, but he fears Gordon’s religious nature may mean rejection not just for Loren but also for Gage, who isn’t out to his uncle. Torn between the business and the personal, Gage has to decide if a future with Loren is worth revealing all.

Buy links:

Dreamspinner: Ebook and Paperback
Amazon: Kindle
AllRomance: Ebook
Barnes & Noble: Nook