Please welcome Grace R. Duncan!

My guest today is Grace R. Duncan!

I’d like to introduce those of you who haven’t yet read Choices to Hamid and Isam, two of Teman’s gypsy clansmen. They are two of the men who guard the gypsy camp and friends of Teman and Jasim. This is the beginning of a story with them below. More will be available on my blog and website soon. In the meantime, do be sure to leave a comment below for a chance to win some swagand a chance to win a signed paperback copy of Choices!

 

Isam checked the sun for the umpteenth time that afternoon. It hadn’t moved so much as an inch, but he couldn’t seem to resist. He wanted the afternoon over.

“It doesn’t move that fast, you know,” Hamid said helpfully then chuckled. “What are you so anxious for, anyway?”

Isam sent him a sideways look. “I am tired of guard duty today,” he grumbled, though that was far from the full truth. He needed away from Hamid, not the duties. His closest friend and the man he was in love with was making him absolutely insane.

Because Hamid didn’t know he was in love. Hamid didn’t realize that when bending over to pick something up or stretching or whatever, it made Isam’s cock twitch and mouth water. He’d had to turn around and adjust himself more than once.

And that day was worse than most. Isam hadn’t had much time by himself the last few days and so his normal method of easing his frustrations over his best friend hadn’t been possible. But he was determined that night to find some quiet alone time and ease his tension.

Hamid snorted at him. “Tired of guard duty? You never tire of guard duty. Unless you have your eye on one of the cam—”

Isam growled. “You are never going to let me live that down, are you?”

Hamid grinned. “No.”

“I never actually did anything with it, you know,” Isam felt the need to say, even though he knew quite well that Hamid was aware of the truth. “The teasing has gotten old.” He turned his back on his friend and paced away.

He listened to the footsteps on the sand, then a hand on his shoulder. He turned to see Hamid frowning. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize it really annoyed you.”

Isam shrugged a shoulder. “It does not matter—”

“It does. I’m sorry. You’re my best friend, I know I’m allowed to tease you, but I should also respect when there are lines not to cross.”

Isam forced a smile and nodded. “Thank you. I am fine, really.”

Hamid silently considered him for a long moment, then nodded. “Alright.” He glanced up at the sun then smiled. “It’s almost time. Why don’t you go. I’ll cover the last bit of time.”

Isam raised his eyebrows. “Are you sure?”

“Yeah, go on.” Hamid tilted his head and Isam smiled.

“Thank you. I will see you at dinner, then,” he said as he stepped away.

“See you then.”

 

Isam hurried to his tent, annoyed to no end when he got there and found his sister inside. “What are you doing here?” Sahla had her own space and it frustrated him when he found her in his.

Sahla looked up and scowled at him. “What do you mean? I have a right to be here.”

Isam’s eyes narrowed and Sahla’s widened. “You have your own tent. This is mine and I would like some privacy.”

Sahla grinned. “Oh! I know why you want privacy!” She laughed as she stood up and picked up her needlework. “Have you told him yet?”

With a sigh, Isam shook his head. “No, and you are not going to, either.”

“Why don’t you?” She asked, rolling her eyes. Isam noted that she still hadn’t moved toward the exit.

“You know why. Now get out.” He scowled when she slowlyput her things back in the basket. “Why do you insist on coming into my tent? What is wrong with yours?”

Sahla made a face. “Ommah is in there. And she insists on talking my ear off, asking me when I’m going to pick one of the handsome clan members and settle down.” She shook her head. “They are all either too old or young boys. Or prefer someone else.” She gave him a pointed look that had him rolling his own eyes.

“Why not find someone, then and shut her up?” He asked, ignoring her look.

She shook her head. “I already told you that no one here interests me. Besides, maybe Jasim will come back and—”

“He is in love, Sahla, I told you. He is not going to leave the empress to come back here.”

Sahla pouted. “How can he be a slave? Doesn’t he care about that?”

Isam sighed. “He is not. Not really. If he wanted to leave, the empress would not care.”

“Well, fine then. Jasim is taken. The only other one I would have wanted apparently doesn’t want me.” She sniffed and picked up her basket. “He is interested in someone else. Or so he tells me.”

Isam raised an eyebrow. “And who would that be?”

Sahla smirked. “Wouldn’t you like to know?”

“Sahla—” Isam scowled.

“Nope. I promised him I wouldn’t tell. You will find out eventually.” And with that, she flounced out of the tent.

Isam sent up a bid for patience with his sister. He loved her dearly, but she could get him to the point of breaking things with very little effort on her part.

The conversation did manage to derail the worst of his frustration from the day, but he knew that wouldn’t last. He tied the flaps closed on his tent and undressed quickly, settling back on his pallet.

With his eyes closed, he brought Hamid’s image to mind, the way his friend looked especially when they were at the oasis swimming. Hamid loved to wear nothing when swimming and they had, on more than one occasion, gone in late at night alone and naked. Isam had a particular memory he loved of Hamid’s long, lean form in the moonlight with water sliding over skin.

That was all it took for Isam’s cock to harden. He bit his lip to stifle sound as he moved his hand over his length, squeezing slightly at the base before he started stroking. He had a favorite fantasy he liked to accompany this and he brought that up as his hand moved over his length with more purpose. His other hand cupped and teased his balls as the Hamid in his fantasy approached him across the sand in the moonlight.

They stood just a foot apart, not touching, not speaking. Hamid’s look was heated, want clear in the hazel eyes. Isam’s gaze met Hamid’s and he dug deep for the courage to reach up and touch his friend’s face. Fingertips danced over damp skin then slid along a cheek to weave through curly wet hair.

A breath of time later, he was in Hamid’s arms, their lips locked in a battle of tongues and teeth and need. Hands mapped muscles and skin and their cocks ground together.

Outside of his fantasy, Isam’s hand sped up, soft grunts slipping out that he was unable to contain. His other hand rolled his balls through his fingers, then slid down to his taint to tease then press on the spot he knew would amplify the pleasure. Another quiet groan escaped and he bit his lip almost brutally to hold it all back.

“Isam…” Hamid whispered as they broke apart, both fighting for breath. Isam met his friend’s eyes and stepped back, taking Hamid’s hand and pulling him toward the blanket where they’d left their things. Hamid followed, eyes never leaving Isam and when Isam felt the fabric under his feet, he sat down and lay back, tugging Hamid with him.

“Hamid,” he murmured when the other man was over him, lips moving over chin and cheek, then making a wet trail over his neck. Hamid ground his cock into Isam’s, pulling a long, loud moan from Isam’s throat.

Isam let another sound out, despite his best attempts and he let go of his cock to slow himself down just a little. He didn’t know how long it would be before he could get time alone again and he was determined to make the most of what he had. His cock twitched in agreement and pre-cum beaded on the tip. He panted hard as he tried to cobble together a bit of control, but the fantasy still played on in his head and he couldn’t seem to stop it.

Hamid dragged his lips over Isam’s chest, teasing the skin and bringing goose bumps to the surface. Isam’s eyes slammed closed as one nipple was pulled between Hamid’s lips and tormented until Isam let out a groan loud enough to be heard across the water. His hands threaded through Hamid’s wet hair as his friend moved further along his body, brushing his lips over Isam’s stomach, causing the muscles to jump. He clenched his jaw, determined to keep quiet, to keep from alerting the camp of their activities but when Hamid paused, hovering over Isam’s cock, eyes full of more heat, Isam released a tiny whimper of need.

Hamid’s lips spread into a smile full of promise, then he opened his mouth and swallowed Isam’s cock in one swift move. “HAMID!” Isam’s eyes slammed closed as the shout let out that he couldn’t have held in for anything.

Isam had no idea he’d said his friend’s name out loud. He took his cock back into his hand and started stroking, this time much faster, unable to hold back. His hips rocked as he did, his other hand teasing his entrance, then moving back along his taint to cup his balls again. Pre-cum flowed from the tip of his cock steadily, easing his hand and every time he got to the tip, the pleasure sharpened further.

Hamid pulled off Isam’s cock and looked up at him, smile spreading at the shout. “Isam?” He called, and Isam forced his eyes open. He met his friend’s eyes and watched as Hamid lowered himself again to Isam’s cock.

Hamid’s tongue came out and he dragged it along the length, teasing another soft groan from Isam’s throat. It made a path over veins, finding every spot Isam had that would make him desperate for more. “Hamid…” he groaned again, hands fisting in the black hair.

“Isam…” Hamid whispered again before going back to what he was doing.

Isam’s hand was nearly flying over his flesh now. He could feel himself getting close, so very close and he knew he’d never get through his whole fantasy. Instead, he focused on the imagined feel of Hamid’s mouth on him and let himself go, let the pleasure start to flood him.

He didn’t register the sound he should have, didn’t notice the shift in light. So he didn’t know that he wasn’t alone when he moaned his dream lover’s name again. It wasn’t until he heard the gasp that he was brought out of his fantasy.

His eyes flew open to stare into Hamid’s. His friend was standing in the entrance to his tent, eyes wide and face a study in pure shock.

Isam lay there, his mortification taking over as he realized what just happened. But he couldn’t seem to move, couldn’t seem to do anything. He just stayed there for a long moment, his cock still hard and still in his hand, his other hand between his legs, fingers at his entrance, and his eyes glued to his friend.

It took him quite a while to realize it, but when he was finally able to tear his eyes away from Hamid’s shocked face, they dropped to see… Hamid was aroused.

His eyes flew back up to meet Hamid’s gaze and they continued to stare at each other in suspended time. Oh no, now what?

 

Thank you again to Kim for hosting me today! I really appreciate the opportunity to share this story with two of my favorite characters.

 

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Born and raised a gypsy in the late eleventh century, Teman values freedom over everything. He and his best friend, Jasim, are thieves for hire—until one night they’re caught and their precious freedom is revoked. Given the choice between the dungeons or palace pleasure slavery, they become slaves, but Teman vows to escape someday.

 

Bathasar doesn’t want the throne. He supports his brother instead, which suits their sadistic father, Mukesh. When Teman, the handsome slave Bathasar has secretly been watching, saves his life, Bathasar requests a slave for the first time. Before long, Bathasar and Teman fall in love. But all is not well. One day Mukesh brutalizes Teman before the court, angering the empress of a neighboring nation. To appease her, he then offers her Jasim as a gift, and Teman decides to stay with Bathasar for now—despite the abuse he may suffer.

 

The peace doesn’t last. Mukesh plans to invade Jasim’s new country, and Bathasar must find a way to stop the destruction. But if he succeeds, he’ll ascend to the throne and have the power to grant Teman his liberty. Then Teman will surely leave him. What other choice could a gypsy make?

 

Buy it at the Dreamspinner Press site or through Amazon!

Please welcome L.J. LaBarthe

Today, L.J. LaBarthe talks about big things.

Australia is a land of Big Things. Oh, I don’t mean things like Uluru or the Olgas, natural formations that are as much a part of our landscape as salt bushes, killer spiders, nine out of ten of the top ten deadliest snakes in the world and the best coastlines and beaches you could ever imagine. I mean Big Things made out of concrete and steel, usually to advertise something.

Like fruit. Or toys. Or beer.

These Big Things are nationwide, and it’s estimated there’s over 150 of them. The first one built was Scotty, aka the Big Scotsman. He was made in 1963, and still stands there to this day. Scotty’s purpose is to advertise a hotel/motel in Medindie, a suburb on the outskirts of the Adelaide CBD. He’s become a bit of a legend, what with being a giant stone and steel Scotsman, playing a bagpipe. (I have been asked before what’s under his kilt. The answer is: stone. His kilt is solid.)

Scotty’s pretty much been one of those things that’s always been there. His sculpturer, Paul Kelly, went on to design the Big Lobster in Kingston, south-east South Australia.

 Visitors to Australia are often astonished at the variety of Big Things we have. I must admit, the first time I saw the Big Koala, in Dadswell’s Bridge, Victoria, my first thought wasn’t so much, “Wow, cool!” but “What a sad looking koala.” I can promise you that koalas do not look like this. They’re much fluffier, generally a paler shade of grey and don’t look quite so maniacal.

He does look a bit sad, doesn’t he? And yes, that is a shop in his belly. He was built in 1989 and is 46 feet tall and weighs 12 tonnes. The internet tells me he’s made of bronze. No wonder he weighs so much. He must be one of the few Big Things that *isn’t* made of concrete.

My favourite Big Thing in South Australia is the Big Rocking Horse. He’s at Gumeracha, in the Adelaide Hills, and is connected to the toy factory there. Once upon a time, you could climb to the top of his head and take in the amazing view, but not anymore, sadly. Still, he stands proudly as an awesome piece of Australiana.

The size comparison with the little rocking horse is accurate – the little one is a proper toy. Mr. Big there, though, is 59 feet tall and weighs over 25 tonnes. The designers, David MacIntosh and John Twopenny took eight months to build it in 1981. The latter of the two then went on to design and build the Big Orange in Berri, in the Riverland, South Australia.

The other Big Thing in Western Australia (out of quite a few Big Things) that never fails to amuse me is the Big Blue Whale at Eucla. Eucla is just over the South Aust/West Aust border, and is basically a motel and truck stop town. It’s in a beautiful spot, though, right on the Australian Bite, so amazing coastlines. It’s right in the middle of the Nullabor Plain, which is known affectionately as the Nullaboring. Anyway, the Big Blue Whale doesn’t advertise whale watching or swimming with whales or anything quite so exciting.

No, the Big Blue Whale advertises beer.

I don’t know why, either. It’s a mystery.

See? Beer. And a whale. He’s 33 feet by 9.8 feet.

This Big Things post would be nothing if I did not mention my favourite three Big Things outside of South Australia. In New South Wales, in the town of Goulbourn, is the Big Merino. I remember the first time I saw it. I was coming home from Sydney on the bus, and I woke up from a nap. (There’s not much to do on a long haul bus trip.) I peered out the window and for miles, there was nothing but wheat fields and this looming giant grey thing. The closer we got, I realized that this was a giant sheep. It’s attached to a roadhouse and inside its belly is a shop, selling souvenirs and, naturally, wool. Beautiful merino wool. The merino is known locally by the name Rambo, which amuses me greatly. He stands at 49 feet tall and 59 feet wide and was built in 1985. All concrete around a steel frame.

 

Last and certainly by no means the least, are the Big Pineapple (which sells pineapple products) and the Big Macadamia Nut (which sells, yep, you guessed it, macadamia products). These two are on the same property on the Sunshine Coast, which is a truly gorgeous part of Queensland. The Macadamia Nut was built in 1978 and is 52 feet tall; the Pineapple was built in 1971 and is 52 feet tall and 20 feet wide.

 

 

A wonderfully clever soul has put together a map of the Big Things, including natural formations, like trees and rocks and things like Uluru as well as the man-made. The man-made ones are the blue pegs, the natural are the green. Check it out, it’s pretty awesome. http://goo.gl/maps/0IPrk

And that concludes my Beginners Guide to Australia’s Big Things. Alas, the only reason for the creation of such things in the first place is as a way to put small towns on the map, but the Big Things are everywhere, not just the country and outback. If you’re coming to Australia, do try and stop by one or more of the Big Things. They’re pretty awesome kitsch.

*~*~*

 

L. J. LaBarthe can be found in the following places:

Twitter: @brbsiberia

 

“The Body on The Beach” is the latest release from L. J. LaBarthe. It’s a m/m romance and murder mystery, set in Adelaide in 1920. It is part of the “Under the Southern Cross” anthology put together by L. J., which features work from Isabelle Rowan, Meredith Shayne, RJ Astruc, L. J. LaBarthe and newcomer Robyn Walker. The anthology is five Australian m/m stories by five Australian authors and is out with Dreamspinner Press in March/April. Stay tuned to http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/index.php?cPath=116for more information.
 

Marriage is about mustard

You want to know why I support marriage equality? Mustard.

My husband and I met in high school and married right after I graduated from college. We’ll celebrate our 25th anniversary this summer. He supported me through grad school, then I supported him while he got his accounting degree. We’ve moved five times—two of those cross-country. We’ve owned eight cars and four motorcycles (not, thankfully, all at once). We’ve had three dogs, a cat, and a snake. We still have date nights. We have zillions of in-jokes. We share most of our iTunes playlists.

Yesterday afternoon, he went grocery shopping. I’d written him a grocery list but he forgot it, so he texted me from the store and I texted the list back. One of the items on the list was Dijon mustard. I was very specific about this. Dijon mustard. I needed it for a recipe.

So he came home and I helped him put away the groceries, and lo and behold, he’d bought honey mustard instead.

“Wrong mustard,” I said, holding up the bottle.

“No, you said honey mustard and that’s what I got.”

“I said Dijon.” I showed him the text as proof.

“Oh. I read it as honey. Well, it’s the same thing.”

“No, it’s not.”

“Practically.”

“Not even close.”

Then the discussion devolved into the side issue of paper towels, and whether it’s worth buying the cheap kind when you end up using three times as much of them. And I made the recipe with honey mustard instead, and it’ll probably turn out okay.

But see, this is what a marriage is about.

Yes, marriages might involve kids. Today during oral arguments before SCOTUS, the attorney backing Prop. 8 said a same-sex marriage ban is justified because only straight couples can procreate. But that’s bullshit. My husband and I have kids, but we have friends and family members who don’t and never will, and their marriages are no less valuable and meaningful and real than ours. And plenty of gay couples have kids, as do single people of all sexual orientations. Kids are nice. I like ours. But we were just as married for the 11 years before the first kid was born as we’ve been in the 13 years since.

Marriage is about loving someone. It’s about making a commitment that you both intend to be life-long. It’s about saying, “This person is so important that I want to make sacrifices and compromises, that I want to give up a little of my me-ness so that I can become part of an us.” Marriage is about that great vacation you plan for months, and paying the electric bill, and arguing over whose turn it is to make dinner, and snuggling on the couch to watch the same favorite movie you’ve already watched a dozen times together. It’s about knowing you have someone at your back, finishing each other’s sentences, putting up with football every Sunday even though you hate football, renovating the bathroom, telling the same lame jokes and stories.

Marriage is about mustard.

And when you’re squabbling over condiments—and then deciding you can make do—or when you’re bitching about your boss or deciding whether it’s time to take the car in for service or providing comfort over a health crisis or doing any of the other things married couples do… what the hell difference does anyone’s gender make?

Househunters, the home version

I love watching Househunters International. It’s especially fun when I’ve visited the cities, but even when I haven’t I love peeking into homes across the world. My husband and I watch together and discuss which house the people on TV should choose.

Well, this morning I’m playing the home version, and you can to0! I hope to spend a week in Zagreb in November, and I’m looking at 3 apartments.

Apartment 1 is in an amazing location right on the main square, right next door to the wonderful main greenmarket. It ticks all my boxes. *g* But at $2100/month, it’s over budget: http://www.homeaway.com/vacation-rental/p2010227
Apartment 2 is a few blocks away and has a lot of character. There’s also a terrace, and the rent is cheaper at about $1600/month. But it’s on the 3rd floor (4th by the way Americans count) and there’s no elevator:  http://www.homeaway.com/vacation-rental/p2048074
Apartment 3 is a couple blocks from the main square. At about $1100, it’s under budget. But it’s tiny and the shower is annoying. http://www.homeaway.com/vacation-rental/p1050248

I have a lot to think about.

Which should I choose?

Please welcome Lex Chase

Hello everyone! I’m Lex Chase, and it is my pleasure to be on Kim’s blog today. I’m the author and brainchild behind Pawn Takes Rook, the first installment of the Checkmate series. It’s a tale about the disgraced superhero Memphis Rook told through the eyes of his sidekick Hogarth Dawson. And that’s what I’m talking about today, telling a story through first person point-of-view.

Let me go on record and say I hatefirst person in fiction. It just gives me the utter skin-crawling heebie-jeebies. It seems to be the trend with Young Adult fiction these days, and I just can’t get around it. I think the fault in Young Adult these days is you have these 16-year-old protagonists that are beautiful, perfect, and good at everything. Or so they say because these teens are not aware of their own faults, so of course they’re going to talk themselves up.

The only time I ever liked first person in a book was Perry Moore’s Hero (ironically a book about a gay superhero!) because our protagonist Thom Creed was very aware of his own inadequacies or had his own reasons to fear failure. We identified with him. He was like us. He was like many kids that read about him.

Now, here’s a problem, doing first person POV in adult fiction. Not only adult fiction, but adult fiction with sexual situations. I don’t know about you, but there is something about that it makes me want to scrub the yickiness off with sandpaper and kerosene.

And here’s where my book Pawn Takes Rook comes in. When I conceptualized the story, I saw Rook in my head first. Dark, brooding, badass, pissed off at the world, determined to say fuck it all to everything. Because of a failed mission that was entirely his fault, he was kicked out of his superhero team, all his connections burned, his assets liquidated, and had the clothes on his back.

If I don’t know about you, but after I got over my crippling depression, I’d be pissed. That’s Rook. He’s pissed.

But honestly? If I told the story from his POV, it would be one dark angst-filled story, and there’s only enough room in the world for one Batman. And then, I came up with Hogarth.

What a contrast of voices! Rook’s anger versus Hogarth’s overeager hyperactive chipmunk ways. Framing Rook’s torrid tale through Hogarth’s rosy pop-culture laden POV, now, I had something. Now, I had a comedy that made fun of superhero tropes as much as it made fun of itself.

Like Thom Creed of Hero, Hogarth is inadequate at many things. He’s unapologetically nerdy, cripplingly insecure, but is the eternally infectious optimist. But Pawn Takes Rook is a romance. And there’s sex. And Hogarth is the bottom. And the book is in his POV. And then I start getting weird in my head all over again.

I don’t know if there’s a solution for me to get over it. All I know is while one part of my brain utterly winces about it, Pawn Takes Rook is told in the best POV possible.

Because you seriously don’t want to hear what’s going on in Rook’s head 24/7.
 

Pawn Takes Rook Pop-Culture Hunt Clue:

#53 Oh those crazy religious sects. Did you know one of them worships Öysters? (Note: The umlaut is actually crucial to this clue. Don’t mention it.)

Email your complete answers with the full sentence the reference appears, the page number, and your reading device to: lex.chase@nomadchronicle.com

For Complete Rules and Prizes See Lex Chase’s Blog here:

http://nomadchronicle.com/blog/pawn-takes-rook-pop-culture-hunt-official-rules/

One Grand Prize Winner will receive a $25 Visa Gift Gard and other fine swag. Deadline: March 30, 2013!

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Pawn Takes Rook: Blurb

The first time Hogarth Dawson sees superhero Memphis Rook, he comes to Hogarth’s rescue by cracking the heads of two thugs like eggs into a skillet. Hogarth is utterly smitten, but he soon discovers the superhero Power Alliance has ejected Rook for failing to protect a civilian.

Hogarth devises a plan that will reinstate Rook and might even earn Hogarth a place in Power Alliance roster. But what he expects to be a simple few missions rescuing kittens and helping little old ladies cross the street turns into a shocking reality of citywide chases, foiling robberies, and facing his ex. Then Hogarth discovers the beating Rook saved him from wasn’t a chance attack. It’s possible Hogarth is just a pawn in Rook’s game….

Where To Buy:

Goodreads:

 

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Pawn Takes Rook: Excerpt

I jogged up the steps, then cracked open my squeaky door, only to be greeted with the esteemed sight of Rook, clad in Pac-Man pajama bottoms that were definitely not mine and little else. I watched as he polished off my gallon jug of milk, tossed it aside, and moved on to the OJ, fresh from the fridge. If you could have seen the utter horror on my face at watching my hardearned groceries disappear with shocking efficiency, you’d agree with me. One thing was for certain, he didn’t eat doubledecker buses, but he pretty much ate everything else! I had to step in before he slurped up the remains of the pickle juice straight from the jar.

I snatched the jar out of his hand, and he looked at me like a swatted puppy. I was onto his game, and he wouldn’t sucker me for sympathy.

“Hey….” he groaned like a five year old denied ice cream.

I squinted at him and frowned. “Do you want to make yourself sick again? I saw you puke your brains out. I’d like it if you’d refrain from decorating my apartment with an explosion of BaskinRobbins!”

Rook went silent. His lips pursed, his wild eyes narrowed—I should add he had some crazy long lashes. Like that guy in that show about the crazy mysterious island with the smoke monster. Yeah! Guyliner dude!

Anyway, he was about to say something. I could see the train of thought coming to the station. He took a breath, and then broke into a bright superhero grin, blaze of gleaming white against tawny skin.

“You’re sweet, Garth,” he said.

My ears felt hot. I flushed like a freak. At that moment,my feet became really interesting. He stepped past me, rummaged in the pantry for the Golden Grahams, and then poured them straight down his gullet. I spun around and ripped the box from his hand. Tiny squares of tasty goodness showered the floor.

“Hey!” he growled.

“Don’t ‘hey!’ me, bucko!” I snapped at him. “You don’t get to say sweet things to me, show your junk to me, or other sundry flirty things to get your way. You do not get to use my credit card in return for giving me a peep show. You do not get to raid my fridge just because you pay me a compliment. You do not get to waltz into my life and not explain a Goddamned thing to me! Why did you puke, then pass out? Why did you pass out when you saved me? More to the point, why do you goddamn flat fuck fall over all the time?”

Rook crossed his arms and pressed his lips into a thin line. “Will there be anything else you’d like to file with the Complaint Department?” He grinned. “Press one for ‘sit and spin’, and press two for ‘cry me a fucking river’.”

God, this man was absolutely incorrigible. If you can’t beat em….

I shook the box of Golden Grahams as a temptation. “Answer my questions, and I’ll show you where I hide the pretzel M&M’s.”

Rook gently took the box from me and shoved his hand into the crinkling plastic. He popped a handful of cereal in his mouth and crunched obnoxiously. “I freaking love the pretzel ones,” he mumbled.

I sat on the counter and watched him scarf down my beloved Golden Grahams. “Why did you puke?”

“That’s appetizing….” he said and scanned the fridge, choosing a bag of shredded cheese.

I pointed a finger and watched him pour the Colby-Jack from the bag into his mouth. “Are you like a gremlin? Can I not feed you after midnight?”

“And you don’t know what DeLoreans are,” he chided, then slurped caramel sauce from the jar.

“Hey. One ’80s reference at a time!” I scolded him. “Answer the question.”

Rook smirked as he popped the tab on a Sprite. “You know how every superhero has some ultimate super-secret power?”

“Yeah?” I said, leaning in eagerly.

“That’s mine,” he said and chugged the soda.

I didn’t get it. “…Puking?”

Rook coughed, and his hand clasped over his nose. Let it go down in the history books the moment I made Memphis Rook snarf on Sprite.

“No!” he gurgled, then coughed wetly. He snorted carbonation up his nose. “Raising the dead….” he said softly.

“Say what, now?” I blurted out. Not the smoothest of things to say at the moment. “But… you’re a fighter.

His crazy eyes met mine. “You could say I’m a giver too.”

Man, my shoes were seriously interesting at that moment. Wow, never noticed that peculiar dapple of puce paint on the toe. The more I tried to make myself stop blushing like a freak, the worse I made it.

 

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Bio:

Lex Chase is a journalist by day and a writer by night. Either way you slice it, she makes things up for a living. Her style of storytelling is action, adventure, and a dollop of steamy romance. She loves tales of men who kiss as much as they kick ass. She believes it’s never a party until something explodes in a magnificent fashion, be it a rolling fireball of a car or two guys screaming out their love for one another in the freezing rain.

Lex is a pop culture diva, an urbanite trapped in a country bumpkin’s body, and wouldn’t last five minutes without technology in the event of the apocalypse. She has learned that when all else fails, hug the cat.

She is a Damned Yankee hailing from the frozen backwoods of Maine residing in the ‘burbs of Northwest Florida where it could be 80F and she’d have a sweatshirt on because she’s freezing.

You can find her on those Facebook and Twitter things at:
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/LXChase
Twitter: http://twitter.com/Lex_Chase

And her blog at http://lexchase.com.

 

 

Please welcome Augusta Li

Today my guest is Augusta Li!

It’s not easy being The Empire Strikes Back, or the Two Towers—the second book in a series. To paraphrase one reviewer of Ash and Echoes, Book One of The Blessed Epoch: “I hope the author can keep up this level of quality for the rest of the series.” No pressure, right? Writing a second installment poses a unique set of challenges for an author, or at least it did for me when I wrote Ice and Embers, the sequel to Ash and Echoes and Book Two of my Blessed Epoch series, for a few reasons.

1.      In an AU high fantasy, much of the world, the races, and the culture is established in the first book out of necessity. The challenge in the second book is to recap all of this information, in case it has been a while and readers need a little refresher, or for readers who may be beginning the series with the second book. The risk is repeating a lot of information and boring readers who have heard it before. It’s a delicate balance to strike sometimes, and can require a writer to get quite inventive. My solution is to try to add new and fresh details about the world that serve to explain some of its core values. That way, returning readers get something different and new readers can build an understanding of the universe.

2.      An established romance is hard to pull off. Characters meeting, becoming fascinated with each other, getting to know each other, and sharing first kisses is inherently interesting. All the confusion, doubt, and joy of falling in love makes for a compelling story. Keeping the passion alive and the love affair stimulating takes more work after the characters have committed to each other. Luckily characters are constantly evolving, changing, and facing new conflicts that can test the love and devotion they share. This is especially true for Duncan and Sasha in Ice and Embers, since Duncan is a knight who lives by a strict code of honor and Sasha is an assassin who will do whatever is necessary to achieve his goals. They accepted the differences in each other—in theory—in the first book, but living with the reality will prove quite a challenge and take a toll on their relationship. And then they have to deal with Yarrow….

3.      The second book in a series has to wrap up some—but not all—of the unanswered questions from the first book. It’s another balancing act to satisfy reader curiosity and tie up some loose ends while leaving enough hidden to continue interest in the series. I know some readers were not happy with the conclusion of Ash and Echoes, and while it is resolved in this book, it is a long, hard journey for the characters and new conflicts, in some cases larger ones, arise along the way.

4.      Which brings me to the most difficult aspect of writing the second book in a series. This is abstract and rather difficult to explain, so bear with me. A second book has to wear many hats. The first book in a series introduces the characters and the world, establishes the conflicts and instigates the romance. The second has to continue all of that while simultaneously telling a good, self-contained story and planting the seeds of future conflict in the series. This takes a lot of thought and careful pacing. The world of Ash and Echoes expands in Ice and Embers, literally as the characters travel to new and uncharted lands, and figuratively as secondary characters take on more importance and new cultures are explored. The political intrigue continues and new alliances are formed. I don’t want to give too much away, but the crux of what will define the Blessed Epoch takes root in this book.

5.      Last but not least: I love my characters! I love them like I imagine other people love their children, as cliché as that sounds. I want to do them justice. I want to capture the nuances of their personalities and make readers love them as much as I do, and if that doesn’t happen, I think the failure is mine and not theirs.

So, fellow authors and readers, what do you think? What do you look for in the second book in a series? What do you enjoy seeing, and what annoys you? Personally, I hate info-dump recaps at the beginning of the book (previously in the Blessed Epoch, LOL). What do you love or hate, in my books or in general?

Don’t forget my Dreamspinner Press titles are all 25% off from March 15th to the 22nd in celebration of this release. You can see what I have on sale here: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/index.php?cPath=55_366

And stop by my blog and sign up to win a copy of Ice and Embers and a cell phone charm or bracelet!

And here’s the blurb and an excerpt from Ice and Embers:

Despite their disparate natures, Yarrow, Duncan, and Sasha united against overwhelming odds to save Prince Garith’s life. Now Garith is king and the three friends may be facing their undoing.

Distraught over Yarrow’s departure to find the cure to his magical affliction, Duncan struggles with his new role as Bairn of Windwake, a realm left bankrupt by his predecessor. Many of Duncan’s vassals conspire against him, and Sasha’s unorthodox solutions to Duncan’s problem have earned them the contempt of Garith’s nobles.

When word reaches Duncan and Sasha that Yarrow is in danger, they want nothing more than to rush to his aid. But Duncan’s absence could tip Windwake into the hands of his enemies. In addition, a near-mythic order of assassins wants Sasha dead. Without Yarrow, Duncan and Sasha can’t take the fight to the assassins. They are stuck, entangled in a political world they don’t understand. But finding Yarrow may cause more problems, and with his court divided, King Garith must strike a balance between supporting his friends and assuaging the nobles who want Duncan punished—and Sasha executed.

Excerpt:

 

THE bairn of Windwake cast off his golden ceremonial cloak emblazoned with the crag eagle livery and let it fall heavily to the stone floor of his chambers. Duncan collapsed into an upholstered chair by the inglenook and rubbed his forehead. The fire had long ago diminished to embers, leaving the expansive suite dark and chill on this early spring night. Ruling Windwake had turned out nothing like he’d imagined, and the stresses of yet another day of listening to the demands of squabbling nobles wore on him. When Duncan had been granted his lands and title, he’d anticipated protecting and providing for his people, much as he’d done when he’d been a knight. The reality clashed hard against his expectations. He’d rather face an entire field of soldiers than those nattering, duplicitous aristocrats any day. At least men with swords were honest about wanting to destroy him, and he knew how to counter them.

 

Duncan had no sooner let his eyes fall shut and his head rest against the padded velvet of the chair when he heard a sound, even softer than the flutter of a night bird’s wings, on the balcony opposite his hearth. He tensed, his exhaustion replaced by alertness. Many of his vassals couldn’t be trusted; he found them avaricious, their only loyalty to their own treasuries. Some of them still owed fealty to Taran Edercrest, the traitor whose mantle Duncan had assumed after the man’s death in a failed attempt to overthrow Selindria’s true king. Duncan knew at least a few of the backstabbing nobles might stoop to murder if they could profit from it. He crept as quietly as he could to the weapons stand and picked up his greatsword. He held it in both hands as he approached the balcony, ready to defend himself.

 

With the sole of his boot, Duncan nudged the wooden double doors, and they swung open with a rasp and a groan. The red-tinged crescent moon provided little light as he glanced from one end of the parapet to the other. Nothing moved except a few leaves tumbling across the stone in the light breeze. Duncan blinked hard as sweat dripped into his eyes. He knew he’d heard something, but now he wondered if the combination of his weariness and the ever-present threat of treachery toyed with his mind. He’d never been a paranoid man, but as he stood looking out from the western side of Windust Castle, over the deep, round Barrier Bay, sheltered on three sides by high cliffs, he heard nothing but the gentle lap of the waves against the strong, gray ironstone that made up so much of Windwake. On a clear day, Duncan could see almost to the southern shore of Lockhaven from this balcony, but the gloom of the night and the chill mist rising from the water restricted his vision to the dozens of ships huddled close to the shore, bobbing gently on the calm tide.

 

“You should be more careful.”

 

Duncan started and turned toward the low, velvety voice. He scanned the shadows but couldn’t locate the speaker. Then, at the opposite end of the terrace, a sliver of shade separated from the wall, and a lithe silhouette tiptoed along the thin, stone railing before leaping down in front of Duncan without even disturbing the leaves. His boots met the stone silently, and the leather armor he wore didn’t even creak or rustle.

 

Duncan blew out an extended breath and lowered his weapon. “Goddesses, Sasha. Why must you sneak around like that? I could have cut you in two before I recognized you.”

 

Sasha answered with a sensuous laugh devoid of any genuine amusement. “I don’t think you could have.”

 

“Perhaps not,” Duncan conceded, his happiness at his lover’s return trumping his slight annoyance. Besides, he knew Sasha spoke not out of arrogance but simply stated the truth. Sasha had been trained by a cult of assassins so legendary and feared most doubted they even existed. The Order of the Crimson Scythe held mythical status throughout Selindria and Gaeltheon, and Duncan had witnessed Sasha’s lethal skill on more than one occasion. If he’d been inclined, Sasha could have cut Duncan’s throat while Duncan stood watching the boats like a dull-witted child.

 

Sasha’s training was also responsible for what Duncan saw when he stepped closer to his partner: a face that, while exotically beautiful, betrayed no hint of emotion. Shrewd, black eyes offered no clue of the intentions behind them. Though they hadn’t seen each other in weeks, Duncan looked into the cold face of a killer, not the warm smile of a lover. He tried, unsuccessfully, to staunch the hurt by reminding himself Sasha had been taught almost since birth not to feel love or attachment, let alone show evidence of what he’d been told was weakness.

 

Duncan reached up and stroked the soft, black hair that fell to Sasha’s slender shoulders. Sasha batted his long, thick lashes and smiled mischievously. He had the most amazing, full, dark lips Duncan had ever seen, and the sight of them curling up and parting slightly sent a tremor of desire down Duncan’s spine. He hoped Sasha showed sincere pleasure at his touch, as much pleasure as he experienced feeling the smooth skin of Sasha’s cheek again after what seemed like forever. Sasha had no reason to perform with Duncan, but Duncan knew old habits held on tenaciously sometimes, like a cough that lingered after the fever had passed.

 

“I missed you,” he said, pressing a kiss to Sasha’s forehead. “But you could try using the front gate like a normal man. Or are you trying to impress me?”

 

Sasha curled his body against Duncan and brushed their bellies together. He rubbed his face against Duncan’s whiskers and whispered close to his ear. “Did it work?”

 

Duncan glanced over the railing at the sheer, four-story drop to the sharp rocks surrounding the fortress. A wide gravel road wound out around those cliffs from the docks to the gate at the southern wall, on the opposite side of the fortress. Aside from that entrance, Windust was virtually impenetrable. “I suppose it did. Did your—” Duncan still felt uncomfortable discussing Sasha’s work. “Were you successful?”

 

Sasha snorted as if insulted and crossed his arms over his slim chest. His devastating smile widened. “Pym Goodsal and his associates will cause no more trouble for your friend Garith.”

 

“His Majesty will be pleased,” Duncan said, taking Sasha’s gloved hand, careful of the thin blades hidden at his wrists and the razor-like spikes over his knuckles, and leading him inside.

 

Sasha shrugged. “So long as he produces the agreed-upon gold.”

 

Duncan almost asked what Sasha would do if Garith, High King of Selindria and Gaeltheon, the largest and most powerful kingdom in the known world, withheld the payment. He thought better of it, though, and went instead to add logs to the fire and stir up the coals. By now, Duncan knew Sasha regarded a prince and a beggar alike only as men who bled and died for his Cast-Down god.

 

Sasha removed his gloves, loosening the buckles and then tugging them off one finger at a time, while Duncan poked at the ashes in the hearth. Sasha unbuckled the belts over his hips that held daggers and pouches likely full of poisons, and then he unfastened the strap crossing his chest, along with the weapons it held, and let it drop onto a wooden bench. Sasha effortlessly disarmed himself in absolute silence. Duncan admired Sasha’s grace and fluidity of movement from the corner of his eye as he tended the fire. The room soon glowed warm and bright as the flames flickered and grew. Orange light reflected off the snug, deep-red leather wrapping Sasha’s slender limbs and made shadows dance across his face. The fire couldn’t melt the icy mask the assassin wore, but Duncan knew what might. He replaced the iron poker and crossed the room to Sasha, who stood only a few feet from the balcony door, as if waiting to be invited inside, seemingly unsure of his welcome.

 

Duncan curled his big hands around Sasha’s waist, almost encircling it. He drew Sasha’s chest against his, rubbed his palm up Sasha’s back to his neck, and guided Sasha’s head to his shoulder. Burying his face in the top of Sasha’s hair, he inhaled the spicy fragrance that almost masked the scents of leather, steel, and blood. “Sasha, this is your home as much as mine. I wouldn’t have any of it if it hadn’t been for you. You don’t have to enter it in secret.”

 

Sasha laughed icily, but his lips and nose felt warm as he nuzzled against Duncan’s neck. The tickle of his breath against Duncan’s dampening skin when he spoke made Duncan shudder. “So, you’d parade me before your nobles and officials? Claim me as part of your household, as your friend?”

 

Holding Sasha’s cheeks in both hands, Duncan tilted his face upward and made Sasha meet his eyes. He searched for some trace of emotion in those glittering, black orbs but saw only his own conflicted face reflected back at him in distorted miniature. “I would. Why do you make it sound so absurd? I’ll tell them anything you like, anything that will make you happy. Sasha, you know I love you.”

 

“I know.” The assassin tried to look away as he furrowed his brow and turned down his lips, but Duncan held him, not letting him hide what he felt.

 

A fake smile replaced Sasha’s concerned expression. “You’d lose your bairny if anyone discovered the nature of our association,” he said with false cheer. “I understand better than most the need for secrecy. It’s of little consequence how I enter the castle, anyway. I’m used to standing in the shadows.”

 

Duncan hated it when his partner walled himself off, but he didn’t know how to breach barriers that had been in place so long. Battering them down would not do, he’d learned. If he pushed too hard, Sasha would instinctively close him out, so he slid his hands down Sasha’s lithe arms, clasped his hands, and led him to the massive bed canopied in gold and black velvet. They sat facing each other on the edge. Sasha pulled his heel to his crotch.

 

“Are you hungry?” Duncan asked, stroking up and down Sasha’s thigh, savoring the feel of taut muscles beneath buttery leather. “Shall I have something sent up from the kitchens? My servants, at least, still respect my wishes.”

 

Sasha edged closer and draped his hand over Duncan’s knee. “Thank you, my friend. But not just now. Is there nothing on your mind besides food?”

 

Please welcome Cate Ashwood

Please welcome Cate Ashwood today!

Kim, I am so excited to be here today. This is the first stop on my first ever blog tour so I just wanted to thank you so much for having me. 

Before we dive into things, I wanted to mention that I’ll be doing a giveaway at the end of the tour. Every comment that is made on each of the posts will be put into a hat and two winners will be drawn at random to win e-copies of the book. I’ll announce the winners on my website on April 10th.

Yesterday, my very first novel, Keeping Sweets, was released by Dreamspinner Press, and I have to say that not a lot tops this feeling. Having a book published is not something that I ever imagined would actually happen, and now that it has, it still doesn’t quite feel real. Because this is my first stop on the blog tour, I just wanted to chat a little bit about what went into writing the book and give you some information. Here is the official blurb:

Days away from high school graduation, with hardly a penny to his name, Evan Lowry needs to earn money for college. When he comes across an ad for modeling, he thinks his luck has changed—until he learns he’s interviewing for an adult film and will be expected to have sex. On camera. With other men.
For gay porn star Brandon Court, the shine has worn off of regular shoots. He and his producer, Les, decide to try something new: a reality-show porno set at a beach house. When he meets wide-eyed and naïve Evan for the first time, Brandon isn’t sure if he wants the kid to get lost or get naked. Naked wins.
On set, Brandon takes Evan under his wing, and over the next month, they are thrown together in every intimate way conceivable—except emotionally. Both Brandon and Evan are terrified of trying for anything deeper, and insecurities and doubts wear on their hopes, but the chemistry between them won’t let them slow things down.

One of the things I loved the most about writing this book was the characters. I was actually a little amazed at how quickly the words flowed once I had a good idea of who my boys were. I know it sounds a little silly (or possibly crazy) to say that Evan and Bran were a big help in writing their story, but in a way it’s true. I would have an idea of where I wanted the scene to go, and by the end of it, we were in a completely different place. Normally in life, I am a planner. My husband makes fun of me for how many lists I make, but with writing there is only so much planning I can do before everything gets flipped and the plans become useless.

I think it really worked out for the best that they took over, at least partially, because I had no freaking clue what I was doing. I honestly sat down at my computer and thought “I’ve read hundreds of books. How hard can this be?”. If present me could go back and slap year-ago me, she just might. What was I thinking? I was an idiot. I learned quickly that it wasn’t as simple as I thought it was going to be. I rewrote the first chapter several times, and then I had no clue where to go next. It took me months to write, and I was writing every day. Or…should I say, staring that my computer screen with a blank expression on my face every day. Some days I wrote nothing.

By the time I realized how difficult a job it actually was, I was a good chunk into things and so decided that I’d come this far, it was better to press on than to give up entirely. And so I did. And eventually I had a book. Well, the first draft of a book. A very rough first draft. I took some time to edit it, and package it up, and then I held my breath and hit the send button.

Six months of the most exciting “work” I’ve ever done, my very first book has been published. Thank God for the amazing team at Dreamspinner Press for doing such a wonderful job with everything; the cover, the editing, the setup and production, and the millions of little details that go into publishing a novel. I can’t express adequately express my gratitude.

Maybe one day I will tire of round after round of edits and drafting blurbs and filling out questions I’m not sure of the answers to (although I have serious doubts about that), but for now, those jobs are blindingly shiny and new, and I am in awe of the whole process. I may not be able to fully grasp what I’ve accomplished, but it doesn’t stop me from being over-the-moon thrilled about it.

Here is a little excerpt from near the beginning of the story. Bran has taken Evan shopping with him for supplies they need for the porn shoot. They started off easy, so Bran wouldn’t scare Evan, but eventually ended up at a sex toy shop.

Evan gulped audibly. “Nipple clamps? What’s the draw of those?”

Bran laughed, his good humor returning despite his best efforts to remain impartial and distant. He slid his hand through Evan’s hair, ruffling it slightly as he pulled the other man toward him. “We really do need to get you an education, don’t we? Now’s as good a time as any.”

They walked into the store, closer together than two platonic friends should be. Evan didn’t make any attempt to pull away with Bran so close. It made Bran feel warmer, happier. He was totally fucked.

Evan’s first foray into sex toys was quite the experience for him, or so Bran assumed. He had taken all the teasing and ribbing like a champ, smiling and laughing instead of freaking out every time Bran tried to shock him with a story or new toy.

They explored the world of cock rings first—something relatively innocuous—and picked out a few to use on set. For the most part, cock rings weren’t needed, but they came in lots of colors, and Bran let Evan choose a handful to buy.

The next destination on their journey of discovery was the dildos. Bran tried his best not to crack up at Evan’s expression. Bran of course had seen it all before, but watching Evan experiencing the different shapes, and especially sizes, was a sight to behold. He was like a kid at the zoo, seeing an alligator being fed close up for the first time. There was deep fascination thinly veiling sheer horror painted across his face.

In the end, Evan seemed to have made a smooth transition from naïve and innocent to curious and horny as hell. He wasn’t a small guy in the dick department, and he was visibly excited over some of their purchases. Although when you were an eighteen-year-old, it was tough to hide your enthusiasm over anything, so Bran tried not to put too much stock into his reaction. He remembered being eighteen. He might have even fucked a girl if one had let him.

E-Book: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=3620
Paperback: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=3621

Bio:

Cate Ashwood wrote her very first story in a hot pink binder when she was in the second grade and found her passion for writing. Her first successful foray into romance writing came five years later when she wrote her best friend, who was experiencing a case of unrequited love, her own happily ever after.
Cate’s life has taken a number of different and adventurous roads. She now lives a stone’s throw from the ocean, just outside of Vancouver, British Columbia with her husband and two cats. Her life is filled with family and friends, travel, and, of course, books.

Cate loves to hear from readers. You can find her here:
Website: http://www.cateashwood.com
Blog: http://cateashwood.blogspot.ca/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/cate.ashwood
Twitter: https://twitter.com/cateashwood

 

 

Ranting

Oh, for pity’s sake.

Yesterday my younger daughter–the 10-year-old–brought home an excellent report card and then endured a DPT booster shot without even a wince. We celebrated with her choice of fast food: McDonald’s. Of course she wanted a Happy Meal (we speculated during the drive about what might be included in an Unhappy Meal. Lima beans? Liver?). And when I ordered the Happy Meal at the drive-through window, they asked, “Boy or girl?”

When I was even younger than she is now, my grade school separated girls and boys in the lunchroom. I’m not sure why. Fear of cootie contagion? We were segregated on the playground too. The boys’ side had basketball hoops and monkey bars. The girls’ side had jump ropes. I used to sneak onto the boys’ side and, as a 1st grader, was andorgynous-looking enough to get away with it for a short time. When I was in 4th grade the school built a large new play structure and, unsure how to divvy that up and unable to afford two build two of the things, they gave up on segregation.

This was back in the mid 70s. I’d like to think we’ve made significant progress now that we’re well into a new millenium. Yet still fast food franchises make kids choose what someone has decided is a gender-appropriate toy. Here’s what my daughter ended up with yesterday:

Apparently girls want sparkly purple plastic tiaras (Barbie branded, no less). I think the boy toy was a plastic bug thing.

As a child, I would have had no interest in a purple tiara. You can see that my daughter hasn’t yet bothered to take it out of the plastic wrap, even though she is a big fan of purple. And I suppose Mayor McCheese wouldn’t have thrown us in jail with the Hamburglar if we’d ordered the boy toy instead. But that means that a girl who’d prefer a plastic bug–or a boy who’d prefer a tiara–would have to consciously reject gender norms and purposely identify with the opposite gender, just to get a toy she or he is interested in. That’s idiotic.

 It’s not just McDonald’s. Walk to the toy section of Target an witness the pink-and-purple-sparkles-and-dolls aisle and the orange-green-red-black-action-figures-and-vehicles aisle.

Haven’t we reached a place as a society where we can reject ridiculous notions of what girls and boys “ought” to like? Where a boy can play with a doll or a tiara and a girl can play with a race car or a plastic bug without being made to feel as if there’s something wrong with them? Couldn’t the fast food restaurant just ask, “Tiara or bug?”

Please welcome Andrew Gordon

Today, I’m very pleased to have Andrew Gordon visiting with us.

Write What You Know – Really?

The old saying, ‘write what you know,’ sound good on paper, but what if your life is boring? Should you write about ‘boring?’ Granted, my life isn’t boring but it’s not all that different from everyone else’s so in a sense, it would be a boring read. 

But law enforcement characters seem to excite readers of many stripes and especially in romance books. I work in law enforcement, and I can tell you the glamour and shine you see on television is nothing like the real thing. Sure there are some hot cops, I’ve seen and worked with a few, but no grass is every quite as green as it is in fiction.

I did try my hand at a legal story. It’s posted on Gay Authors for free. The Trial Of Jordan Colmar was a companion story to a much much, much, longer story – too long probably – Second Shot. It is not a romance, not a m/m story, not sci-fi or fantasy. It my an attempt at a courtroom story. It is written from the perspective of the prosecutor and follows him and his team during the trial of a very rich defendant who gay bashed someone in a small college town. [So I guess that semi sorta qualifies it as a ‘gay’ story.]

Having been a prosecutor for almost fifteen years, and a public defender for seven years before that, I tried to make it as true to life as I could, without being boring. It might still be boring, I don’t know. But what you see on TV is so far from really happens. Granted, time is a huge issue. How do you put an entire case, from investigation, interrogation, trial and verdict in fifty minutes? Hell, I’ve been in hearings where we can’t get through a preliminary argument in less than fifty minutes. An entire trial? Fuggedaboudit!

Seriously, in a halfway-complicated case, you couldn’t do closing arguments in less than an hour; two is probably more realistic. And if the trial lasts for days, do you think any lawyer is going to talk about one point and then sit down? Makes for great drama I suppose but it’s not realistic.

In The Trial Of Jordan Colmar, I tried to take snippets of each phase: openings, government’s case, the defense’s case, closings and verdict. For those interested, I warn you, it is NOT edited professionally, so there are going to be mistakes. Also, although I think it’s a stand-alone story, to fully appreciate the background, you probably need to read the much longer Second Shot.

The other side of law enforcement is the police. I tried to write about a bit about how police officers work in my upcoming novel Purpose that is due for a late May, early June release. In Purpose, the main character is a vigilante of sorts. He is the human host of a spirit of vengeance. As you can image, dead bodies, even dead thug bodies, would be a concern for the police. One of the main secondary characters is a police detective with the violent crimes unit. He is not one of the m/m characters, but he is fairly essential to the story.

In portraying the detective, I drew on my interaction with detectives in DC – since the story is set in DC it made perfect sense. Here again, reality might not be as exciting as needed for fiction, so I might have taken a wee bit of an artistic license here and there. That said, most of the places and procedures are fairly close to what actually happens. 

Don’t get me wrong; I see the allure of a legal drama. I love being in trial. Yes it’s a ton of work, and you wouldn’t believe how exhausting a day of trial can be, but it’s still a bit of a rush. Yeah, I know how geeky that sounds, but dorky sports metaphors side, when the trial starts and you’re prepared and ready, you get locked in a zone. I think writers know exactly what I mean. When inspiration strikes and your fingers are flying across the keyboard trying desperately to keep up with the rush of words you want – need – to get down, you know what being ‘locked into it’ feels like.

To leave you with an anecdote of how much in the zone you can get during a trial, let me tell you about my first trial, lo these twenty plus years ago when I was a public defender. I was ready, really ready, for trial. I had my file organized, my witnesses prepped, my closing, my opening, my questions were all written out and waiting for me to use. So when the government rested, the judge turns to me and asks, “Defense, do you have a motion?” And me, all locked and loaded and ready to put on my killer case answered, “No Your Honor, we’re ready to put on our case.” 

Thankfully Judge Ott was a kind man – kind to all who weren’t convicted criminals that is – and took pity on me. “Do you want to make a motion for Judgement of Acquittal?” Now, every defense attorney knows, you always at least ask that the court rule as a matter of law, the government failed to make it’s case. It almost never succeeds because the standard is, ‘if I believe everything the government witnesses have said, and drawing all inferences in favor of the government, is there enough to convict?’

Think about it. The standard boils down to, ‘if I accept everything the government said as the truth, is there enough to convict.’ What prosecutor would go forward if there weren’t witnesses to say the defendant did it? So it’s an almost impossible standard. 

But I realized I was supposed to make the argument so I said the magic words, “I move for Judgment of Acquittal.”

“Granted!

Sometimes it pays to breath a little when you’re in the zone.

The Last Grand Master their very survival.

Champion of the Gods: Book One:

Synopsis

In a war that shook the earth, the Six gods of Nendor defeated their brother Neldin, god of evil. For the three thousand years since, Nendor and the Seven Kingdoms have known peace and prosperity.

But then a new wizard unleashes the power of Neldin. Meglar, wizard king of Zargon, uses dark magic to create an army of creatures to carry out his master’s will.

One by one, the sovereign realms fall. Soon the only wizard who can stop Meglar is Grand Master Farrell, the Prince of Haven, the hidden home of refugees. An untried wizard, Farrell carries a secret that could hold the key to defeating Meglar—or it could destroy the world.

While helping Nerti, queen of the unicorns, Farrell saves Miceral, an immortal muchari warrior the Six have chosen to be Farrell’s mate. But Farrell approaches love with caution, and before he can decide how to proceed, Meglar invades a neighboring kingdom. Farrell and Miceral find themselves in the middle of the battle. Farrell pushes himself to the limit as he and Miceral fight not only to stop Meglar but for their very survival.

 

 

 

 

Excerpt

 

Klissmor stopped without warning. Nerti too. Everyone behind them swerved to keep their distance. Farrell gave no explanation. He leapt down, turning back the way they’d come.

He raised both hands, and an enormous energy bowl formed over his head. A sudden blast of sickly black and red energy ripped through Northhelm’s shield, striking the protective dome and forcing him to his knees. A grunt slipped out of his mouth at the same time Miceral jumped off Klissmor.

“Farrell!”

Raising a hand, Farrell pointed at Miceral. “No! Stay back.” He needed to complete this. He’d been fortunate that the hastily wrought shield held the last attack.

When Miceral continued to close in, Farrell muttered under his breath and threw a barrier between them. He’d apologize later. Right now he needed to focus on defending everyone from the next attack.

Another attack ripped through the sky. He struggled to keep on his feet as he hurried to close the circle of energy. Once the ends merged, he launched it back the way it came. Forming a second shield, he anxiously peered skyward. A flash of light on the far horizon brought the hint of a smile to his face. It didn’t answer their problems, but it helped. Without releasing his shield, he engaged his wizard’s sight, looking in the direction where the attacks originated. Seeing nothing, he relaxed.

The barrier dissolved between Miceral and him.

“What was that?”

“What happened?”

“What did you do?”

Questions darted at him from all sides. He waved a hand, dismissing them. He didn’t have time for an inquisition. Then his eyes landed on Miceral, a small frown cutting between the man’s brows, and the urge to explain made Farrell open his mouth. But a slight rumbling beneath them had him shutting it again and searching the ground.

His hand went to his endless pocket. After checking the distance to the entrance, the position of the rocks, and the contour of the ground, he settled on a suitable spot. He removed an oddly grooved stick with a large mushroomlike head, half the length of his staff. It looked to be made from a live tree branch, with sprigs of green along the stem.

Using both hands and all his weight, he firmly embedded the stick into the rocky ground.

He stepped back, checking his distance. In one fluid motion, he grabbed his staff in both hands and swung it directly at the head of the stick. When the staff’s metal head struck the wooden top, sparks flew, and the stick sank further into the ground, leaving only its head visible. A sudden burst of energy pulsed outward from the stick. When the flash subsided, a new shield replaced the one Meglar destroyed. Much better. He turned and walked back to the others.

“That ought to give us enough time to get everyone to safety.”

Miceral fell in beside him. A small grin replaced the frown. Farrell liked the way the man’s cheek quirked with the smile.

“Next time”—Miceral’s deep voice sent a shiver through him—“you could warn us we’re under attack.”

“There really wasn’t time for an explanation.” Reaching back, he returned his staff to its place.

Then, catching Miceral’s eye, Farrell gave him a shy wink before placing a hand on Nerti. Almost immediately he snatched his hand back. “Honorus help us!”

Moving so he could look her in the eye, he shook his head. “You’re exhausted beyond your limits.”

Nerti trembled slightly and tried to pull away. Despite his lack of familiarity with unicorns, he grasped her head with both hands and pressed his forehead to hers, just below her horn. He said nothing, and Nerti ceased her effort to pull away. For a brief moment a light blue aura engulfed the pair. When it vanished, he released her and stepped back.

Nerti no longer trembled. He smiled and turned toward the distant gate. “Come, we should get inside. When Meglar recovers from the shock of having his attack shoved down his throat, he’ll probe this area to find out what happened.”

Before he advanced three steps, Grohl barred his way.

“What do you think you are doing, silly wizard?”

“Trying to get inside.” Checking around him, he found everyone staring at their exchange. “What are you doing?”

Grohl didn’t move. “And you expect us to let you walk?”

“Nerti can barely make it back herself, let alone carry me, and though magically weary, I am not—”

A low, deep growl forced him to step back. A hand grabbed the back of his shirt, yanking him upward. What the…? He landed in front of Miceral. The man’s arms snaked around his waist, pulling him closer. Torn between annoyed, embarrassed, and thrilled at the closeness, he opted for thrilled.

“You could have warned me you were going to do that.” He picked at a loose thread on the side of his shirt. “You almost ripped my shirt off!”

A laugh rumbled from behind him, causing another shiver. Miceral leaned forward, his lips so close Farrell could feel the warmth of his breath. “When I want to take off your shirt, believe me, I’ll do it somewhere more private than this.”

Klissmor began an easy jog toward the now open gate. Acutely aware of how they moved together, he let out a nervous breath. Good thing the others were well ahead. He hadn’t been this embarrassed in years.

“Farrell, are you blushing?” Miceral twisted to his left, and Farrell turned the other way. Not to be deterred, Miceral twisted again. “Your neck is turning red.”

“Fine.” He felt his cheeks warming even more. “Yes, I’m blushing. Your attention, while welcome, is also uncomfortable. I’m not sure what to say or do in response.”

Miceral’s grip seemed to slacken, but he didn’t say anything.

“You are supposed to kiss him, Wizard.” Nerti’s voice bubbled with amusement. “That’s what he wants.”

Honorus help him, could this moment be any more mortifying? Now Nerti gave him advice? And how did she know Miceral felt that way? This mind-sharing thing was going to be a pain.

“I heard that, she said. “I’m just trying to help you.”

He laughed and shook his head.

“I missed something, didn’t I?” Miceral said.

Annoyed at the unwanted attention, he tossed caution aside. “Nerti said I ought to kiss you.”

Miceral pulled him closer again. “A wonderful suggestion, I’d say.”

Farrell’s blood rushed someplace other than his face. Don’t notice, don’t notice. Miceral pressed a fraction closer, his warm breath tickled the nape of Farrell’s neck again. He felt Miceral having the same “problem” and smothered a smile. Maybe this wasn’t so bad. He relaxed into Miceral’s embrace a little more.

 

 

 

 

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