Please welcome Lex Chase!

When Not Writing
Hello everyone! I’m Lex Chase and Kim let me drop by her blog today. A little about me is I am the creator of the Checkmate series for Dreamspinner Press with Pawn Takes Rook, the newly released sequel Pawn Takes Rook: Cashing the Reality Check, and coming in early 2014 the final installment Pawn Takes Rook: Conventional Love. The series follows the zany adventures of disgraced superhero Memphis Rook and his climb to redemption alongside his sidekick/boyfriend Hogarth Dawson.
And don’t forget about the giveaway at the end of this post! 😀
So, today I’m talking about what I do when I’m not writing. I’m always writing, and there are times it feels like my life revolves around my ass in my chair and my hands on the keys. I’m one of those people that can never not be doing something. I’m always productive in some way. It’s just who I am. Anderson Cooper who is the king of keeping busy once he’s like a shark that had to keep swimming to be able to breathe. A friend told him there’s a shark that can actually stop swimming to sleep.
He didn’t believe it.
And neither do I.
So, here’s a rundown of what I do when I’m gasp not putting words to the page.
Organizing
It is said the chaos outside reflects the chaos inside. My head for a variety of reasons is a verychaotic place. Many times it looks like a bomb has gone off in my bedroom while my office is pristine. I have no idea what that says about me.
My office doesn’t always stay perfect either. Often times when I’m deep in a project or projects pluralmy desk has an army of water bottles. Papers and post-its piled high. Pens scattered everywhere. Mail I’ve opened and put the document in one place, and left the torn envelope on my desk in another place. All because I was busy.
I recently finished a novel and sent it off to my betas. The subject matter of the story was harrowing to get through to say the least and I felt extremely vulnerable handing it in to them. The next day, I took an internet sabbatical and dismantled my office then put it back together. I shucked shit. I found new places for things to live. The whole act is very soothing, and when you’re done you are soready for a nap!
Cook
I run a fitness blog called Bitter Little Pearl (http://bitterlittlepearl.com) where I share my adventures in Weight Watchers and share things I’ve learned and my progress. Overall, it’s a very supportive and open place for all walks of life.
Part of Bitter Little Pearl is coming up with recipes to share. I’m no pro food blogger but I like to give people something approachable and easy to do. Real food for the real world.
I have several recipe series I’m working on. One is the Pintrest Makeover Series where you see all those wonderful super-indulgent-super-bad-for-you recipes, and I’m converting them into Weight Watchers Friendly without sacrificing the taste or sense of indulgence. One I did was a cheese bun recipe here: http://nomadchronicle.com/blp/2013/05/18/recipe-i-can-has-cheezebunz/
Another is the Comfort Food Series where I’ve been asking people what their go-to comfort foods are when they are emotional in either a celebratory or depressed mood. I’m always taking suggestions for that! And one of my proudest achievements for it was making a delicious diabetic friendly German chocolate cupcake. http://nomadchronicle.com/blp/2013/06/22/recipe-dads-delectable-diabetic-german-chocolate-cupcakes/
One that I’m still researching is a series of recipes on Food Trucks. We don’t have very many in our town, but I am fascinated by them and the awesome stuff they make. I have a few cookbooks, so I’m looking into it.
Leave The House
This sounds like such a simple thing doesn’t it? Who doesn’t leave the house? I have a severe form of bipolar disorder, so the act of me going out in public is quite difficult.
If it’s something I have an appointment for, or I’m scheduled to do something (like college classes), I’m fine because it’s a routine and I know what to expect. But going out just to go out? What is this deviltry you speak of?
It sounds super silly, but I leave my house in small doses. In my head, I keep a mental list of “safe places” I can go that won’t be overwhelming or anxiety inducing.
[[[PACIFIC RIM HERE]]] I can go to movies, but not on opening weekends much to the annoyance of my older brother that needsto see everything in IMAX 3D and needs to see it noooooooww! Protip: Go the followingThursday and the first showing of the day. That’s how I finally saw Pacific Rim and there were five other people in the theater. And it was AMAZING.
Bookstores are always a good place to go on certain days when it isn’t too crowded. And Staples. God, how I love Staples. It’s like the Ikea of Office Supplies! Above all that?
Target.
I will go to Target and walk every goddamn aisle for no reason at all. I collect My Little Ponies and have since I was five, so one of them is always falling in my cart.
Crafting
When I have a break from writing, I’ll sit and make something. I’ve recently gotten back into drawing which is something I haven’t done in years and I’m currently designing stickers for GayRomLit. Or I’ll actually pull out the sewing stuff and hot glue gun and stitch something together.
It’s very meditative to sit there and watch Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, then Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods, while having something take shape in your hands.
I recently made a gift for my Mom out of a Fisher-Price toy cow for infants. We’re fans of the show Under the Dome based on Stephen King’s book, and one of the opening scenes features a cow being split in half when the dome comes down. We lose our crapevery time we see it. So I took the cow, did a little surgery to split him in half, and sew him up again with his new… modifications.
I named him Lucky the Split Cow and I’ll gladly make more for others that want one for 20 bucks. 😀

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GIVEAWAY TIME! One lucky winner for August, and one lucky winner for September will receive a set of Series 1 and Series 2 Checkmate buttons, a Lex Chase.com pen, and both Checkmate covers! August winners to be announced August 31st! September winners will be announced September 30th!
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Pawn Takes Rook: Cashing the Reality Check Blurb
Even after eleven months of keeping the mean streets of Axis City safe, superduo Checkmate—Hogarth Dawson—and his boyfriend, Memphis Rook, still receive the cold shoulder from the Power Alliance. Undeterred, Hogarth brings his intense focus to bear on Rook, and after Hogarth makes an accidental marriage proposal, it becomes all too clear Rook isn’t quite at the same place. But before life gets awkward, duty calls.

Booted-off female contestants of the romantic reality show Single and Super are being found in comas, and Checkmate needs to get to the bottom of it. As part of Rook’s plan, he cleans up his bad boy image and goes undercover as a bachelor looking for love among twenty-five frenzied women. Against Rook’s wishes, Hogarth sneaks onto the set as a cameraman to investigate the case on his own. With questions unanswered between them, emotions run high, distracting them and feeding a trap of their own making.

Where To Buy:
Goodreads:
Catch up on Checkmate #1, Pawn Takes Rook:
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Pawn Takes Rook: Cashing the Reality Check Excerpt
“Move it, Garth!” Rook screamed and hopped down from the counter. He ducked as a smoking sea-green tentacle lashed forward through the kitchen window. The long, slimy appendage flailed blindly through the tiny kitchen and flopped over the scattered pots and pans. They clattered around the floor and bounced against the cabinets in head-splitting bongs and gongs. I thanked God Mr. Caruthers in the apartment below was now deaf as a post.
I scrambled backward to the doorway of bedroom, and Rook followed, holding the Cheez Whiz and Aim-N-Flame at the ready.
“Go, go, go,” he ordered, and I scurried as fast as the Nyan Cat through the vastness of space.
“What the hell are you doing with the Cheez Whiz?” I yelled over the roar of the horrible elder god watching us through the windows.
The creature’s shark-black eye peered through the window, and Rook took action as he spritzed Cheez Whiz toward the new target. I gasped when the cheesy not-really-a-dairy-product ignited like napalm. Rook, if anything, was stupidly resourceful.
The putrid green creature teetered away from the window, clawing at his face, his great wings flapping and kicking up cyclones through the tightly packed apartment buildings. He swayed, left, right, forward, back, and I danced back through the door into my bedroom.
“Rook, you might want to get down,” I helpfully suggested as he stood in the living room between me and the kitchen.
Rook braced himself and planted his feet. He lifted the Cheez Whiz and Aim-N-Flame, ready to spritz the cheesy napalm of death.
The elder god swayed toward my kitchen. You know when something is going to totally not work the way it’s supposed to? Yeah. This was one of those moments. I could see it play out in slow motion, like one of those car crashes they cinematically shoot at three hundred frames-per-second so you can see every agonizing, bone-breaking, glass-shattering moment. And then overlay it with a soundtrack like—I don’t know—some Limp Bizkit song that sounds like an angry cat in a blender that makes no sense with the artful scene of carnage.
I craned my neck and peeked around Rook’s elbow. Brick by brick, and tile by tile, the creature crashed into my kitchen. Knocked out and drooling on my Nana’s shredded gingham wallpaper. Rook stood there like it was another day at the office, his long blond hair fluttering with each breath of the sleeping elder god.
“Whoa…,” I said, blinking through the dust on my glasses. The monster sighed and the tentacles around his mouth flopped in the most unfortunate sounding snore. I glanced up at Rook. “The typical giant monster never took out half the apartment before…”
Rook kept his grip on the Cheez Whiz and Aim-N-Flame, ready to strike again. “Think the landlord will notice?”
I frowned and gestured to the creature. “How will the landlord not notice?” I asked. “Half the apartment’s gone. Look!” I said and nudged a splintered timber with my toe. “This is not as easy as just ignoring it and hoping it’ll magically go away.”
Rook smirked and stooped to get a closer inspection of the monster. “You’re cute when you’re angry.”
I stamped my foot and grunted. “Don’t you dare start that with me, Tiberius.” I growled.
Rook perked up and pursed his lips. “Who told you my middle name is Tiberius?”
I tossed a hand back toward the bedroom in hopes to indicate my Macbook somewhere in there. “Wikipedia,” I growled. “You should check it out. The Captain Chivalry fans have done a pretty good job of defacing it.”
Rook waved a dismissive hand before poking the monster with the Aim-N-Flame. “And how’s he doing up on Ganymede Lunar Prison? I’m sure Rainbow Honeysuckle Jones is calling him a pretty-mouthed midget right now.”
I crossed my arms and stared at the crater left by Rook’s frame in the wall. I counted to ten. And when I still didn’t feel better, I counted again. Nope. Still didn’t feel any better. I glared at Rook. “The fact remains there is a KO’ed elder god in the kitchen. The kitchen!”
“It’ll be okay,” Rook said and offered one of those smiles that he knew would charm my pants off. And said smiles have indeed charmed my pants off a time or twenty. “We’ll fix it.”
I tossed up my hands and frustration flooded through me. “With whatfictional Monopoly money? We can’t afford something like this.”
Rook frowned, and his brows drew upward seeming to indicate concern. “Are we arguing? Because it seems like we’re arguing.”
With such a simple question, my wrath melted away when it dawned on me Rook took on the demeanor of a swatted Doberman. I sighed. “It’s okay. It’s okay,” I said, then smiled. “We’ll figure out something.”
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You can find Lex 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.

Inspiration Post #16: Saint Bernards

In my short story “Care and Rehabilitation,” Ira has a Saint Bernard mix named–to his great embarrassment–Lady Gaga. Gaga rescues a baby dove, and that’s how Ira meets up with his former student, Caleb.

I love Saint Bernards. We had one named Otis when I was a little kid:

When I grew up and bought a house, I got a Saint Bernard. Her name was Billie:
 
 She looks very noble in that photo but in fact she was watching the birds in a tree. She was a very sweet and elegant dog, however. She really did rescue a bird once–a sparrow, not a dove. I’m not sure what she intended to do with it. I’m not sure she knew what she intended to do with it. But when I got it out of her mouth it was completely unharmed, albeit slimy. I brought it to a bird rescue person who was not Caleb.
I’ve always loved this photo of Billie and my cat, Furgie:
When my older daughter was born, Billie was quite elderly. But boy did she love that kid. She loved all kids, actually, but my daughter was definitely her kid.

A year before my daughter was born, we brought home a second Saint named Ruthie. (They were named after Supreme Court Justices.) Ruthie was goofy and silly and didn’t have a mean bone in her 140-pound body. Ruthie loved the world. Her biggest goal was to be a tourist attraction. She was great with my daughter too, and later with the second kid.

 Of course, sometimes it was pretty clear why children were so attractive to the dogs:

There are some downsides to Saints. Here are the results of a few minutes of brushing:

Billie lived to be 13, which is really old for a Saint, and Ruthie lived to 11. I’ve been dogless for a while now; my travel schedule makes pet ownership difficult. But Saints will always have a special place in my heart–and will probably show up in my stories now and then.

Next week: Old photos

Available for Preorder: The Tin Box

William Lyon’s past forced him to become someone he isn’t. Conflicted and unable to maintain the charade, he separates from his wife and takes a job as caretaker at a former mental hospital. Jelley’s Valley State Insane Asylum was the largest mental hospital in California for well over a century, but it now stands empty. William thinks the decrepit institution is the perfect place to finish his dissertation and wait for his divorce to become final. In town, William meets Colby Anderson, who minds the local store and post office. Unlike William, Colby is cute, upbeat, and flamboyantly out. Although initially put off by Colby’s mannerisms, William comes to value their new friendship, and even accepts Colby’s offer to ease him into the world of gay sex.

William’s self-image begins to change when he discovers a tin box, hidden in an asylum wall since the 1940s. It contains letters secretly written by Bill, a patient who was sent to the asylum for being homosexual. The letters hit close to home, and William comes to care about Bill and his fate. With Colby’s help, he hopes the words written seventy years ago will give him courage to be his true self.

Available September 20

Please welcome Eli Easton!

Talking About Trouble — Eli’s Top Five Scenes in “The Trouble with Tony”
By Eli Easton

“The Trouble with Tony” is a light-hearted, rom-com of a m/m romance novella.  In the story, Tony DeMarco, a private eye, goes undercover at a sex clinic during his investigation into a young woman’s murder.   He ends up falling for the dead girl’s therapist, Dr. Jack Halloran, a steely-eyed ex combat surgeon who’s PTSD has relegated him to doing therapy work.  But before Tony can act on his attraction to Jack, he has to prove the good doctor is innocent of murder and also deal with the little problem that Tony’s lied to Jack since the moment they met.
There are two things I love in a m/m romance story—humor and lots of sexual tension.  I did my best to infuse this story with heaping helpings of both.  Here are my top five favorite scenes.
Eli’s 5 Favorite Scene:
#5  The ‘you are lying’ scene
Tony is trying to find out if Dr. Halloran, or the sex clinic, had anything to do with the death of Marilyn White.  So he decides to go undercover as a new patient in order to sniff around.  He’s clicked around the clinic’s website and he knows the disorders they treat, so he has his cover story all ready.  What he didn’t count on, though, was that Dr. Jack Halloran is far from stupid.  I love this scene because it’s the first time Tony realizes just who he’s dealing with.
““It’s like this, Doc. I’m a sex addict.”
“Oh?” Halloran looked a little surprised.
“Yeah. And it’s starting to affect my work and everything, so, you know, I figured I needed help.”
Tony put on a distraught look. He wouldn’t call himself leading man material, but he was a bullshitter from way back. You had to be with a mother like his. Ma seemed to know by osmosis if he’d clipped his toenails or jerked off that morning, and would be sure to bring it up over breakfast so that all four of his brothers and his father could be in the loop.
“What kind of work do you do?” Halloran asked.
“Insurance investigations,” Tony hedged. It had a thread of truth in it. If you squinted.
“I see.”
Dr. Halloran said nothing for a long minute, just studied him. Shouldn’t he be making sympathetic sounds? Asking questions? Offering helpful advice? Tony shifted in his seat, feeling vaguely like a bug under glass.
“How often do you masturbate?” Halloran asked.
Tony choked a bit, but managed to make it look like a tickle in his throat. “Uh… two, three times a day.” He forced a cheeky grin. “And that’s in my off days.”
Halloran lifted the pencil and tapped it thoughtfully on his chin, those steely blue eyes unwavering.
“And you have partners as well?”
“Oh, hell yeah! Lots.”
“Female? Male?”
Tony shrugged. “Doc, I’ll tap anything. I told you, I’m an addict.”
Halloran’s eyes narrowed. He sucked on the end of the pencil lightly. Still, his piercing gaze never wavered. What was his problem? Whatever it was, Tony was feeling the pressure. It reminded him of being in Sister Mary Frances’s algebra class. That nun had eyes that were like frickin’ pinholes in space-time.
“Do you watch porn?” Halloran asked calmly.
Tony froze. What was the right answer here? But he had to stick with the story he’d already been building. He snorted and made a “come on” gesture. “Why would I need porn when I get laid all the time?”
In a flash, Halloran was out of his seat, around the desk, and in Tony’s space. Tony gasped in shock as Halloran leaned down, quick as a snake, and grabbed his crotch.
And there they were, Tony sitting in the chair, and Halloran leaning over him, his hand grasping Tony’s dick through his trousers. Halloran’s steely blue eyes were far too sharp. Why had Tony thought they were cornflower? Cripes, they were a cold blue, like steel, like ice—inches away from his own. Those eyes were locked on him like a weapons system.
And Tony’s dick, which had been soft in the first place, now tried to crawl back into his body like Napoleon’s army retreating from Moscow. Great. Thanks, you goddamn coward.
Halloran gave him a cold smile and spoke, low and deadly. “You. Are. Lying.” And with that he let go and straightened up.”
#4 The “BM” scene
Tony left behind a big Italian family when he moved from Brooklyn to Seattle.  Part of the reason he lives far away from his big horde of relatives is the fact that he’s gay and he doesn’t think his macho brothers would be able to accept that.  But despite the distance, Tony’s family is involved in our story (Tony might say overly involved).  Here’s part a phone call from Tony’s mother.  She’s one of my favorite characters in the book.
“What about you, Tony?” his mom asked. “You feeling good? No colds?”
“I’m good, Ma. Healthy as a horse. It was all that garlic you fed me in utero.”
His mother laughed. “You make fun, but it’s true. I swear! How are your BMs?”
“Ma,” Tony warned.
“Do you go daily? Because it should be daily.”
Tony hit his forehead into the steering wheel with an audible thunk. He was really, really glad he was alone in a parked car on a dark street, and that there was no reason for anyone to bug his car. “Ma, I really don’t want to talk with you about my bowel movements, okay? What am I, three years old?”
“You know what your Uncle Harvey always said, ‘What comes out shows the quality of what went in.’”
“Ma, Uncle Harvey had dementia. That’s what comes from obsessing about BMs.”
“Don’t be so full of yourself! I’m your mother, and I have a right to know these things.”
“My BMs are fine, okay? Peachy! Daily and… fine.”
“Not too hard?”
“Ma!”
“If they get too hard, you’re not eating enough fiber. Are you eating plenty of vegetables? And bread. But not that white crap—sourdough, like I make. You should find a good Italian bakery there.”
#3 The prostate exam
Did I saw something about sex earlier?  Right.  Sex!   In this next scene, Dr. Halloran insists on giving Tony a physical exam, as he does every new patient, to make sure the root of his alleged sexual problem is not physical.  Tony hates the idea, but thinks he can endure if it he must.  This is the first time Tony realizes he’s in trouble because he’s strongly attracted to the man he’s supposed to be investigating. 
Jack stood up and went to the door of his office, where a white doctor’s coat hung on a hook. He started putting it on. “As I mentioned, before we can start treatment, I need to do an exam. I have to rule out any obvious physical issues first.”
“I can assure you, Doc, the plumbing is fine down there,” Tony said, now definitely panicking.
“Oh? When was your last physical?”
Tony tried to joke. “Me? I’m Italian, I’m male, and I’m under fifty. I wouldn’t go to a doctor unless my eyeball was hanging out so far I could floss with it, or my piss was the color of pink lemonade, maybe even bloody mary mix.”
Jack turned to him with a raised brow, blocking the door and folding his arms, his feet slightly apart. “Uh-huh. That’s what I thought. Do you want me to treat you or not, Mr. DeMarco? Because if you’re not serious about this, I’d rather you not waste both our time.”
“I… I am serious, Doc. But—”
Halloran pointed to an exam table set against the back wall of the office. His voice was so cold it could have sunk the Titanic. “Then go over to that table and drop ’em.”
Jack walked over. As he drew close, Tony felt a nauseous flutter in his stomach. He closed his eyes.
“That’s fine, Tony. Close your eyes and relax.”
It sounded suspiciously like something a serial killer would say. Tony bit his lip as he felt hands unbutton the lower buttons on his shirt and tuck the ends to either side. A cool breeze wafting over his dick let him know he was exposed. Nice.
There was absolute silence for a moment and then Jack chuckled. “You’re going to make your lip bleed. It’s not all that bad, is it? Didn’t you play sports in school?”
A warm, latex-covered hand rested on his left thigh while another gently, but confidently, lifted his flaccid flesh. He felt Halloran check his slit carefully with the brush of a fingertip, probably looking for discharge.
“Wrestling,” Tony said with a sharp exhale. He squeezed his eyes shut tighter.
“Yeah? High school freestyle wrestling?” Halloran’s gentle fingers prodded along the length of his penis, felt around the base of it, then palpitated along the top of his groin. A hand nudged him to spread further.
“Yeah,” Tony managed in a strangled voice. “Freshman year through Senior. Letter jacket and everything.”
“That right? Did you win a lot of matches?”
A gentle hand cupped him and felt carefully around his scrotum and the space underneath, pressing sure, confident, clinical fingers.
“Better than average,” Tony managed. “My ranking was 80.90.”
Tony knew Halloran was just trying to distract him, but he was grateful to have a reason to think about something, anything, else. “It ran in the family. I had four older brothers and they all wrestled. I guess it kept us from killing each other. When we’d get in a fight, my dad would make us wrestle on the living room floor, college rules.”
The hands vanished. For a moment, Tony felt joyfully relieved. He’d survived it.
“Turn around, please,” Halloran said.
Tony’s eyes popped open. “Oh, hell no! Please, Doc. Say you’re joking.”
Halloran managed not to smile. Much. But his eyes were dancing like it was a fucking jolly holiday. “Don’t be a baby, DeMarco. It’ll be over before you know it. Think of it as a wrestling match.”
“I hate you,” Tony said sincerely. But he turned. He felt like a doofus with his pants around his knees and his bare ass hanging out.
“Lean forward,” Jack said softly. He placed a hand on the middle of Tony’s back and lightly urged him down over the table. Tony went. Halloran pushed the tail of his shirt up to the middle of his back. Then Tony heard him squeezing something, no doubt some medical lube, onto his hand. The edge of Halloran’s thigh pressed into his left leg, and one hand returned to his back as if to hold him steady.
And that’s when it happened. Tony felt a hot rush explode from every place where Halloran was touching him—along the length of the leg that pinned him and the latex-covered hand that was cupped on the small of his back. A rush of lust surged through his body like an express train. His dick went from zero to sixty in about three seconds, and it pushed, hard and heavy, against the edge of the exam table. And just about the time Tony, in total shock, had registered what was going on, Halloran went in for the kill.
The hand on Tony’s back slid down to pull one cheek slightly open and then Halloran’s finger, covered in latex and lube, slid home.
“Fuck!” Tony cursed, loud and long.
Halloran twisted his finger a bit, as if to loosen him. The hand not busy plowing Tony’s ass slid back up and spread out over the center of his back. Perhaps that was meant to be comforting, but it smacked of being held down to be fucked and, damn, Tony suddenly wanted that. That. More than he’d wanted a Dean Martin jacket for Christmas at age twelve or for Aaron to say he was joking the night he’d announced his move to L.A.
“Relax,” Halloran said calmly. “It’ll be over in a moment. So is 80.90 high? How good were you, DeMarco?” It was his index finger; Tony could feel that now, feel the palm of Halloran’s hand pressed against him as that finger stroked and prodded for….
“Oh, fucking hell!” Tony cursed again, his body shaking.
#2 The epilogue
The epilogue takes place on the Skyline Trail at Mt. Rainier, one of my favorite hiking trails of all time.  In this scene, Tony and Jack are sitting at an overlook when Tony gets a call from his mother.  He’s been meaning to come out to his family and tell them about Jack, and he decides to go ahead and do that right there at the overlook.  You’ll have to read the book to see how they respond since I don’t want to spoil it. 😉
#1 The massage scene
And… more sexual tension.  My favorite scene in the book is a hot one!  Tony breaks into the clinic after hours to snoop around and Jack catches him leaving.  Jack misinterprets why Tony is there so late.  He thinks Tony is an E.D. patient (erectile dysfunction) and he’s having which Jack calls ‘hallelujah time,’ a rare moment of arousal.  With no surrogate on hand, Jack decides to give Tony a little touch therapy in the form of a massage.  Tony knows it’s dangerous territory, but he’s been crushing on Jack big time and he just can’t resist taking the good doctor up on it.
He knocked on the door of the massage room and heard a muttered, “Come in.”
Tony was lying on his stomach with the white towel arranged neatly from his waist to upper thigh. He was sumptuous laid out like that, and the low hum in Jack’s gut kicked up a notch. Tony had broad shoulders, very broad, and well-defined arms. His back was strong, golden-skinned, and perfectly smooth. His waist was trim, and there was the shape of a fine ass under the towel. The picture was completed with solid thighs and calves. Yes, Tony DeMarco was a man in his prime. He deserved to be as sexually active as he wanted to be.
Then again, thought Jack, don’t we all?
He noticed that there was a light red flush on Tony’s back, across the shoulders. He must still be nervous and embarrassed. Jack thought the tell was rather adorable. His awkwardness was endearing.
Jack stepped over to him and placed a hand in the center of Tony’s back. “There’s nothing to be worried about. You’ve had a massage before, yeah?”
Tony nodded without looking up.
“Well, this is just like that. Except if you’re able to get aroused, that’s fine. Let yourself go. And if you don’t, that’s fine, too.”
Tony turned his face into the table with a muttered, “Oh God.”
Jack hesitated. Tony was a lot shyer than he’d expected. “Do you want to continue? We can scrap this if you’re not comfortable.”
“Not stopping,” Tony said in a small voice.
“All right.” Jack rubbed his hand soothingly over Tony’s back for a moment and then went to wash his hands and get some massage oil from the cabinet. No latex gloves for this. Skin on skin fostered trust and intimacy.
“Do I need a safe word?” Tony mumbled, obviously joking.
Jack laughed. “For touch therapy? ‘Stop’ will be fine.”
“What about ‘don’t stop’?” Tony said softly and not, apparently, joking.
Jack felt a little heat at the base of his spine. “You can say that, too. I might even listen, depending.” Jack walked to the table and squirted a line of massage oil up Tony’s back and then put some on his hands, rubbing them together to warm them up.
“Depending on what?”
Jack didn’t answer. He froze as he saw the scar tissue on the back of Tony’s left thigh. It was a bullet exit wound, large and raw-looking, covering an area about four inches long and two inches wide. Tentatively, Jack touched it, feeling an emotion he had no idea how to define.
“You were shot,” Jack said quietly.
Tony stiffened. “Yeah.”
“Why?”
“I was… a policeman for a while. But after the shooting, I quit.”
Jack was not entirely surprised. Tony had a certain tough bearing that said “cop.” But it was not unlike a military bearing, and the only full-blooded Italians like Tony he’d ever known had been in the Army. He’d just sort of accepted it as part of the Italian persona.
Jack realized he was lightly stroking the scar.
“Does it gross you out, Doc?” Tony asked. He sounded vulnerable.
“God, no,” Jack said. “I’ve got…. My arm….” His voice cracked. He couldn’t finish the sentence.
“In Iraq, right? What was it?” Tony asked quietly.
Jack swallowed a lump and cleared his throat. “An I.E.D. I was trying to get a kid out of a mess of truck bombs that had driven into our compound. One of the trucks hadn’t yet exploded.”
Tony lifted himself up on his elbows and turned his head to look at Jack. His face looked serious. “You’re an amazing guy, you know that, Doc?”
Jack snorted. With some effort he pulled his mind away from the war. Way to kill hallelujah time. Poor Tony. “What I am is a guy with some amazing scars. Lots worse than this little blemish. Now come on. Lay down.” He patted Tony’s back. Tony laid back down.
Jack let his hands trace lightly over Tony’s back, feeling the perfect, warm skin, getting Tony—and himself, if he was honest—back in the right frame of mind. When he felt Tony relax, Jack placed the heels of his hands on Tony’s lower back and ran them up his shoulders, firm.
Tony shivered. He lifted his head and let it fall with a thunk back down on the massage table. Jack wasn’t sure what the gesture meant, but he kept going. He massaged Tony’s back with firm, sure stokes, alternating that with running light fingertips up and down his sides. The form of massage he’d learned in his surrogacy class was different than most. The goal of touch therapy was to relax the patient, yes, but only to the point of quelling any nerves. The massage was also intended to foster intimacy and to arouse.
He stroked down Tony’s left arm and smoothed out his clenched fist. He rubbed his thumbs into Tony’s palm, caressed the base of his fingers, then folded his own fingers through Tony’s so he could stimulate the space between. Finally, Jack pulled light fingertips up the length of each digit, from palm to fingertip.
Jack noted, with some interest, that his right hand performed the massage with no hint of tremor. Oh, what the body could do with the right motivation.
Tony was growing tense under his hands. “Fuck, you’re killing me.” His voice was shaky and the blush across the tops of his shoulders had deepened.
“Feel good?” Jack asked in a low voice.
Tony nodded.
Jack ran his hands up to Tony’s neck, rubbing it for a moment before running his hand into Tony’s hair, palm to his scalp, massaging fingers just lightly tugging at his hair.
God, his hair felt nice—so thick and soft.
Tony tilted his forehead farther into the table, as if his scalp was trying to get more of Jack’s hands. He groaned. The sound was clearly that of arousal and it caused an echoing pulse in Jack’s groin. He was completely hard. For a moment he had a flash of a fantasy, himself crawling onto the table and lifting that towel, burying his cock in Tony just like this, his hands full of that hair, mouth on that neck. It was a strong, compelling image.
Jack took a deep breath and let it go. He was only human. That didn’t mean he had to act on every impulse his mind conjured up. “You all right?” he asked Tony, bringing his hands down to rub at his shoulders.
Tony grunted in the affirmative.
Jack did the other arm and hand, spending time on Tony’s palm and long fingers. They were nice hands, slender but strong. Very nice hands. Tony shivered every time Jack pulled his fingertips up one of Tony’s fingers. It was a move that was particularly erotic and suggestive. So Jack did it again. Tony moaned.
“How are you feeling?” Jack asked gently as he moved down to massage Tony’s feet. He picked up a lower leg, braced it against his chest and rubbed circles on the bottom of Tony’s foot with his thumbs in much the same way as he had his hands.
Tony didn’t answer for a while. Jack moved to the other foot, kneading the arch.
“I’m feeling like I’m about to do things to this massage table that are ethically and hygienically questionable,” came Tony’s muffled voice.
Jack chuckled. He moved up to the center of the table and laid a hand lightly on Tony’s back. “We can’t have that, can we? How about you turn over?”
Tony hesitated. “I’m… hard, Doc.”
“That’s good, isn’t it? Come on, DeMarco,” Jack said with a smile. “Let’s see what you’ve got.”
I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek at “The Trouble with Tony”!  Thanks to the lovely Kim Fielding for hosting me.
Eli
About Eli Easton
Eli Easton is a new nom de plume for an author who has primarily published mystery thrillers in the past.  As an addict of m/m romance novels, she decided to tip her size-nine toe in the water and write in the genre herself.  She has various other m/m titles out or soon releasing from Dreamspinner Press.  She lives on a farm in Pennsylvania with her husband, three bulldogs, three cows, and six chickens.  You can get news about her books at the links below:
Eli’s blog:  www. elieaston.com
Eli’s Tumblr:   http://elieaston.tumblr.com/
Eli’s Twitter:  EliEaston
“The Trouble with Tony” links:
Eli Easton’s website:  www.elieaston.com

Music please!

My older daughter is 13, a high school freshman. She and I share an iTunes account and therefore share playlists. Mostly we enjoy each other’s music–or at least tolerate it–although I admit to being unable to listen to Skrillex for more than 60 seconds at a time.

The other day she came home from school. “You know what?” she said. “My friend was looking at my playlist and when I told her a lot of the songs are yours, she said my mom is really cool.” The amazement in my daughter’s voice was evident. She had clearly never considered the possibility of her mother being cool.

I have a weird and eclectic taste in music, with a tendency towards old-school punk, blues, and world music. I’ve recently discovered a few bands I’m really enjoying: Gogol Bordello (whose lead singer sounds like a Russian Joe Strummer), Balkan Beat Box, The Zydepunks, Brute Chorus. And I’ve been listening to Chris Issak’s recent wonderful covers of Sun Records hits.

Do your tastes run in similar directions? Do you have a favorite band/singer you think everyone should know about? I’d love to hear about them. You know–I have to keep up my cool creds with the high school set. Please comment here!

Inspiration Post #15: The Midwest

Inspiration Post #15: The Midwest

I consider myself a West Coast person. I’ve lived on the West Coast of the US for about 75% of my life. I feel most at home here. If I could freely choose any part of the US to live, it would be somewhere in California, Oregon, or Washington. But I lived that other 25% in the Midwest, and that’s what I want to talk about today.

People who live on the coasts don’t think about the Midwest very often. The flyover states, we call them. Despite all the culture that can be found in cities like Chicago and Minneapolis, midwesterners are stereotyped as hicks, a bunch of dowdy people straight out of American Gothic. Are there hicks in the Midwest? You bet. But believe me, we have plenty of ’em around here too. You know Chris in my Bones books? You don’t have to travel far outside Portland to find a lot of guys who resemble him as Dylan first saw him.

Although it’s been exactly 20 years since I last lived in the Midwest, it continues to influence my stories. Several of my shorts are located there: “Care and Rehabilitation,” “A Great Miracle Happened There,” “No Place Like Home.” In “Violet’s Present,” a good chunk of the action takes place in Nebraska. The locations in those stories are based on places I’ve visited or lived in Illinois, Nebraska, and Iowa.

For example, in “A Great Miracle,” Jude and Mac meet at a cafe. It was based on a friend’s favorite cafe in Iowa City, DeLuxe. I hadn’t actually been there when I wrote the story so didn’t know what it looked like, but I tried to capture the feeling of a neighborhood bakery cafe. I did get to visit the real place this summer–and their pastries are delicious.

Jude and Mac get to know each other while painting and prepping Mac’s new home. His house was based on the house I lived in in Lincoln, Nebraska. It was a cute little thing built in the 1880s. And yes, the living room walls really were hot pink when we bought it. Here’s what the outside of my living room looked like:

When I moved to Nebraska for graduate school, people kept saying, “Don’t worry! It’ll grow on you!” Yeah, I thought. Like mold. But it did grow on me. I miss thunderstorms, fireflies and cicadas, “interesting” weather, cardinals, foursquare houses, and that brand of unpretentious realism and friendliness that seems to rare on the coasts.

I love being close to the ocean and the mountains, and I don’t miss tornadoes and ice storms. I’ll probably stick to the West. But don’t be surprised if those flyover states show up in my stories now and then.

Next week: Saint Bernards

We have a winner!

We have a winner in the Boring Contest! My kids read and graded all the entries and judged this gem by Sara to be the most boring:

Very few people enjoy it, but washing dishes is vital for keeping a clean house. If you are not fortunate enough to own a dishwasher, you will need to wash dishes frequently, preferably directly after using them. Required supplies are a sink with running water, dish soap, a sponge, and either a dish drainer or a towel. If you are less inclined to do housework, you can put your clean dishes in the dish drainer when you are finished washing, otherwise you can take the extra few minutes to dry them with the towel. But first, you need to choose your sponge and actually wash the dishes. You may be best served by a sponge with one soft side and and abrasive side to get off stuck-on food. Turn on the sink, wet the sponge, and pour some soap into the soft side so you can have a good lather. Run the water over the dish you need to clean, and rub the soapy soft side of the sponge over the dish. If the dish is still soiled, use the abrasive side of the sponge for additional scrubbing. Rinse the dish and, as was already mentioned, either dry it with the towel or leave it to dry in the dish drainer. If you have many dishes to wash, you may prefer to set them all in a dish drainer until you have washed them all, even if you plan to dry them by hand.

The deck may have been stacked a little, since dish washing is a dreaded chore for both of them. 😉 Thanks so much to everyone who entered. If you haven’t read the other paragons of boredom, please check them out here and here.

Please welcome Christopher Hawthorne Moss!

Excerpt from WHERE MY LOVE LIES DREAMING by Christopher Hawthorne Moss
WHERE MY LOVE LIES DREAMING by Christopher Hawthorne Moss
http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4126
When the Civil War began, it split more than just brothers…
On the Mississippi 1860
A loud explosion somewhere on the river ahead interrupted her response. They were south of Memphis, but only by several miles. Frankie stood up at the general uproar from the diners. He lifted his arms and stood with his palms outward. After some effort, he managed to get general silence. “Please, mes amis, finish your dinner. I am sure it is nothing. And I have a most splendid surprise for you after dessert.” He gestured for the actress to stand and take a bow. “Miss Dotty Elliston has agreed to perform for us something from her estimable theater career.”
As the commotion turned to approbation, Frankie leaned and said, “What timing. Will you excuse me? I need to go find out what that terrible noise was.”
“Shall I come?” Johnny asked, starting to rise.
“No, I think it’s best if we don’t look like we are panicking. Stay and enjoy our lady passengers’ company.”
Anxiously, Johnny followed his form as Frankie, stopping to reassure people along his path, crossed the salon to the double doors to the boiler deck promenade. Johnny had trouble attending to Lucinda and Dotty’s attempts to engage him in conversation. He finally made his own excuses and followed Frankie out.
He saw Frankie down on the main deck, standing with Captain Mayer and one of the pilots, Compton, looking out at the river. As soon as he peered in the direction of the other riverboat Johnny gasped. Smoke billowed out of the far side, and the boat clearly listed in that direction. When he looked back, Frankie and the pilot were no longer on the main deck, and Mayer headed quickly down the starboard side of the deck calling to crew members.
As Frankie achieved the hurricane deck, he came to where Johnny stood and stopped to speak into his ear. “Looks like one of the Caroline’s boilers blew up. They may be sinking. We need to get their passengers off.”
Johnny shot his gaze back to the burning riverboat, the Caroline. “Oh my God!” he cried. He turned and followed Frankie and Compton up to the pilothouse.
“Let’s see how close we can get to the Caroline without getting too near the flames.” Frankie was talking to both pilots: Tom Rice, who Johnny knew had been on duty, and Compton, who had been in his berth until the noise of raised voices and running feet alerted him to trouble. “There will be burning material in the water on the port side.”
Johnny found a place in the back of the pilothouse, no mean trick since the structure was small and mostly filled by the big spoked wheel and the three other men. Frankie and Compton were soon joined by Mayer, and all three left Rice and Johnny to go to the fore of the Texas deck promenade. Johnny watched the Caroline coming closer and closer, and the muscles in his shoulders and back tensed with anxiety.
He went onto the promenade when the two riverboats were a matter of yards from each other. Looking down to the main deck, he saw crew fending the other boat off with poles. In the meantime, other crew had gotten the gangway up and across to the Caroline. Crews on both boats were shouting back and forth, and he looked over to see Frankie coming toward him. He started to address him, but Frankie shook his head, patted Johnny’s shoulder as he passed, and took the steps three at a time down to the deck below.
Before Johnny could react, Frankie dashed across the gangway. Several of Le Beau Soleil’s crew were already across. Frankie was talking to the captain of the Caroline. They appeared to be arguing vociferously. Johnny found himself muttering, “Get out of there! Do what he says.”
He saw Frankie pull himself up to his full height, button his frock coat, and turn to the passengers who seemed only too willing to take orders from him. With his guidance, the crew of both vessels began to direct the passengers across to Le Beau Soleil.
Johnny saw Frankie’s head whip around before he dashed after a well-dressed man who headed for the stairs to the boiler deck. Frankie grabbed the man’s arm and used all of his might to drag him back. The task was not easy, as the man was large and strong. Frankie finally let him go and turned to a woman with two small frightened children dressed in the simple clothing of farm workers. He crouched to talk to the girls, reassuring them—Johnny was certain—and then helped their mother get them across.
The blaze spread and came through the boiler deck to burst the windows of staterooms. Johnny realized he had bitten his tongue. He kept chanting, “Frankie, get out of there!” over and over. All at once, he thought, what am I doing here? Then he tore down the steps and ran to the gangway.
Frankie saw him and shot, “Get out of here. Go back! The boat is sinking.”
Johnny ignored him and dashed to where a woman struggled with a large, heavy carpetbag. “Forget it. Save yourself!” he shouted at her, but she would not let go. He finally grabbed the bag and threw it overboard, turned back to the woman, and bodily lifted and deposited her on the gangway. He spun to deal with the next challenge. Catching Frankie’s smile, he smiled back, and got busy again.
The Caroline listed so much to port that Le Beau Soleil’s gangway was in danger of toppling off. But the passengers and crew of the Caroline were across, crowding into the little space the already full Le Beau Soleil had to offer. Frankie found Johnny’s arm and propelled him to where the incline of the deck was almost too great to climb. At the last moment, Johnny saw an orange cat clinging to the deck. After scooping it up, he grabbed the gangway rail with his other arm. He made it onto the dangerously tilted gangway with Frankie and the cat. They were all safely on the deck of Le Beau Soleil when the gangway fell sideways and, after hitting Le Beau Soleil’s main deck with a deafening thwack, fell into the river while still tied to both boats.
“Cut the lines!” Frankie screamed, but it was already too late. The Caroline’s rising deck slowed and then lurched away. It started to sink more rapidly. One of the crew finally managed to cut the lines so the gangway flew up and followed the Caroline over onto its side.
The danger was not over. The pull on Le Beau Soleil swung it at a crazy angle, and it slewed around surprisingly smoothly. When its port side-wheel slammed into the hull of the Caroline, it threw everyone off their feet. Blessedly the force of the impact made Le Beau Soleil swing away.
After several minutes, as they anxiously watched the gap between the boats widen, the Caroline, with a heart-wrenching groan, went down. Le Beau Soleil was clear. Frankie was already off on his rounds, checking on passengers and crew alike.
AUTHOR BIO
Christopher Hawthorne Moss
Christopher Hawthorne Moss wrote his first short story when he was seven and has spent some of the happiest hours of his life fully involved with his colorful, passionate and often humorous characters. Moss spent some time away from fiction, writing content for websites before his first book came out under the name Nan Hawthorne in 1991. He has since become a novelist and is a prolific and popular blogger, the historical fiction editor for the GLBT Bookshelf, where you can find his short stories and thoughtful and expert book reviews. He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his husband of over thirty years and four doted upon cats. He owns Shield-wall Productions at http://www.shield-wall.com. He welcomes comment from readers sent to christopherhmoss@gmail.com and can be found on Facebook and Twitter. 

Inspiration Post #14: Toothaches

I dread going to the dentist. I’ve been fortunate enough to avoid too much major dental work, although I had an infected wisdom tooth 10 days before I got married (and over a holiday weekend), and a couple years ago I had a root canal. Ugh.

So it was with considerable sympathy that I read about dental woes in centuries past.

Spoiler alert–sort of. If you haven’t read Night Shift this is about one of the main characters. Although I didn’t really intend Luka’s identity to be a surprise to anyone but Aiden, and I certainly dropped a lot of pretty obvious hints. Because it turns out that Luka is a 4000 year old Sumerian vampire. And 4000 years ago, he was about to die of an infected tooth.

Two stories especially inspired this. One was the story of an Egyptian mummy–at 2,100 years old, a youngster compared to Luka. This poor Egyptian guy was in his late 20s or so when he died, and he was most likely killed by a sinus infection that resulted from really bad teeth. CT scans have revealed that someone attempted to help him out, but he died anyway, probably in a lot of pain. Here’s the full story, with photos.

The other story is about a teenage boy who died at Jamestown in 1607. Journals from the time told of a boy killed in an Indian attack, and in 2005 a skeleton was excavated at the fort. It belonged to a boy about 15 years old. He’d suffered a broken collarbone and an arrow had struck his leg. The arrowhead was still there. But what’s especially interesting is that the boy was dying anyway–from a broken tooth that had abscessed and spread infection. Here’s that story.

So until recently, a toothache was a very serious thing (it still can be nowadays, but fortunately less often). And that’s what inspired Luka’s near-demise.

Next week: The Midwest

Please welcome Rob Colton!


Inspiration:
Hello everybody, this is Rob Colton. Thanks for letting me take over for a little bit, Kim! Today I wanted to talk about the inspiration for my upcoming novella, The Ranch Foreman. It is coming out this Wednesday, August 14th, published by Dreamspinner Press.
To be honest, the inspiration for the story came from a picture I ran into while surfing the Internet. The big, burly cowboy was holding his hat just so, strategically covering his bits and pieces. The model was obviously the inspiration for the character of Baxter, and once I had that, I worked out the story’s plot in my head and began writing.
A good number of my stories have bits and pieces of my real life intertwined in them. It may be an event or perhaps an exchange of words. In the case of The Ranch Foreman, the dialog that plays out on Matty and Doc’s restaurant date was inspired by something that happened to me when I was younger, still in my twenties and barely out of the closet.
Blurb:
When Madison “Matty” Ward finds himself out of work and without a place to live, his cousin comes through with a job on the Gates cattle ranch. Despite not knowing anything about herding cattle or taking care of horses, Matty does his best to impress the older hunky foreman, Baxter Hollingsworth. Baxter is drawn to the new young hand, but he’s deeply closeted, and after an openly gay veterinarian shows he’s interested in Matty, Baxter’s repressed feelings lead to an explosive encounter. Baxter then withdraws—leaving Matty feeling angry and used—until an accident forces him to confront his fears.
Excerpt:
The sound of a vehicle’s tires crunching on the gravel drive made Matty look out the window.
Doc was right on time.
The vet showed up clean shaven and well dressed in jeans, a button-down shirt, and a navy-blue sports jacket. As they walked to Doc’s pickup truck, Matty was aware they were being watched, but he ignored it. To any outsiders, it should have seemed perfectly innocent. It wasn’t like Doc ravaged him with kisses or anything, though he did open the truck door for Matty.
The drive into town was filled with small talk as the two men got to know each other.
Matty didn’t miss the sideways looks the two of them got as they walked into the restaurant together. Once they were seated, Matty looked up over the top of his menu and quietly asked Doc, “Is it weird being out in a small town like this?”
“I don’t hide who I am, but I don’t really talk about it. If people want to talk behind my back, I don’t care. I do a hell of a good job and most folks recognize that. They leave me alone for the most part.” He looked around the restaurant before his eyes settled back on Matty. “Why do you ask? Does it bother you that these people know that I’m fucking you?”
That was precisely the wrong moment to take a drink of water. Matty nearly choked, which made Doc laugh quietly with amusement. Matty laughed nervously as he wiped his mouth with his napkin. “You’re not.”
Doc raised a brow. “Not yet,” he corrected.
Matty let out a relieved breath when the waitress arrived just then to take their order.
Dinner was very good. Both men ordered steaks and potatoes with grilled vegetables. Matty found Doc easy to talk to, but there wasn’t really a spark. From the smoldering looks Doc shot him across the table, Doc clearly didn’t feel the same hesitation. Matty was going to have to let the man down gently.
When they arrived back at the ranch, Doc turned off the truck. He somehow managed to unbuckle both seatbelts and pull Matty close. He covered Matty’s mouth with his own.
His kiss was openmouthed and sloppy, and Matty pulled back before it could go too far. “I had a nice time tonight….” Matty cleared his throat and averted his eyes.
“But?” Doc leaned back and nodded with a sigh, and Matty didn’t know what to say. “Since I’m here, why don’t I check on your mare?”
Matty nodded. “Sure.”
Doc followed Matty into the barn. Matty leaned against the stall while Doc gave Sweetie a quick look. Doc gave the slight swell of her belly a rub. “She’s doing much better.” As he stood, he took Matty by the hand and led him to the tack room.
“Doc—”
Doc kissed Matty again. This time, it was the kind of kiss that curled Matty’s toes. He grabbed the lapels of Doc’s jacket and held on for life. His cock betrayed him and went hard in his jeans, and he felt Doc press his own hard cock into him, grinding and thrusting.
Matty changed his mind. He was definitely going to let Baxter fuck him again—
Wait.
He was making out with Doc, not Baxter. Matty pulled back, pushing his hands against Doc’s chest when he refused to retreat.
Doc let out a sigh and stepped back.
“I’m sorry,” Matty said. “You’re a great guy, but….”
Doc scoffed. “He’ll never come around. You know that, right?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Matty didn’t sound very convincing to his own ears.
“Right. I’ve known that heartless bastard for years. He’ll never change. When you get tired of waiting, give me a call.” He didn’t sound angry, just disappointed. Matty watched in surprise as Doc dusted off his coat and walked out of the barn, shaking his head back and forth, muttering to himself. “A damn shame….”
About Rob Colton:
Rob Colton is a software developer by day, and avid reader of romance novels at night. A romantic at heart, he loves stories that feature big, burly men who find true love and happy endings.
Rob grew up in northern Michigan and currently lives in the Atlanta area with his very supportive husband and their very spoiled miniature schnauzer.
Visit Rob online: