Wasting away in Procrastinationville

It’s Saturday afternoon. I have a looooong to-do list, but I’ve found myself stuck in Procrastinationville. It’s a pretty town, full of sparkly, shiny things.

My family is stuck here with me: My older daughter, who’s supposed to be doing chemistry homework and studying for the PSAT. My younger daughter, who has an essay to write and yard work to do. And my husband, who still hasn’t quite finished the master bathroom remodel he began when I was in Europe last November.

We’re comfy here.

Also, I recently finished writing a novella and I’m not allowing myself to begin the next story until I accomplish some of the other items on that list. I’m being very strict with myself. But I am excited about the novella, a contemporary in the vein of Housekeeping. It’s called Grown-Up. People can check out Right Touch Residential Cleaning, if they want housekeeping servvices.

photo3My daughters got these fortunes the other day. Perfect!

Have you read The Pillar yet? The reviews have been excellent, which makes me very happy. Even if you don’t usually like historicals, give it a try.

Also, did you know you can preorder my holiday story “The Festivus Miracle“? It releases November 1, and I’m donating 100% of my royalties to Doctors Without Borders.

Speaking of which, Stasis, my very first novel, is now available in the Kindle Unlimited program. If you subscribe, you can borrow the book for free. I get paid when you read it–and I donate that money too. And you can also borrow the sequels.

photo2Will you be attending GRL in October? I will, and I’ll have over 100 of these guys to give away, plus a free story.

Older daughter has cracked the PSAT book, and I’m going to venture out of Procrastinationville… at least into the charming suburb of Thinkingofdoingwork Town.

What are you up to this weekend?

Please welcome Jamie Fessenden!

lizzie-bourneDay Two of the Murder on the Mountain Blog Tour!

In Murder on the Mountain, when Kyle and Wesley are being transported to the summit of Mount Washington on a cold, foggy October night to investigate the murder of Stuart Warren, the train passes by the memorial to Lizzie Bourne. It’s mentioned in passing, but let me take this opportunity to tell you why that memorial is there.

On September 14, 1885, a 23-year-old woman named Lizzie C. Bourne attempted to climb Mount Washington with her cousin, Lucy Bourne, and her uncle, George Bourne. They followed the Carriage Road. However, that was only half constructed at the time, so the second leg of the trip would have been grueling. It’s now believed Lizzie had an undiagnosed heart condition, as well.

They began the climb at 2pm, and by 4pm they were halfway up the mountain. In those days, there was a hotel at the summit called the Tip-Top House, so if they’d been able to make it that far, they would have had a warm bed for the night. Unfortunately, they were hit by a sudden gale, and clouds descended, making it impossible to see the way to the summit. As night descended, the temperature dropped below freezing.

lizzie-bourne-monumentThe girls became too exhausted to continue, so they lay down and George busied himself building a rock wall to shield them from the winds. He labored at this until late into the night, at which point he lay down beside the girls. But when he took Lizzie’s hand to comfort her, he found that it was cold. She’d died quietly in her sleep.

In the morning, the sun rose, revealing that George and the girls were within sight of Tip-Top House, where they could have spent the night, warm and safe.

Lizzie Bourne was not the first person to die on Mount Washington, but a young woman dying so close to safe haven struck a chord with people. A rough stone monument was built to commemorate her, and later replaced with a more permanent structure. Her portrait now hangs in Tip-Top House, which is now a museum.

For the next four weeks, Murder on the Mountain will be touring the blogs of several MM Romance authors, providing . If you leave an email address in the comments or email me at jamesfessenden@hotmail.com, you’ll be entered into a drawing for either a free copy of Murder on the Mountain or a $40 gift certificate to Dreamspinner Press!

To visit more blogs on the blog tour, go to: http://jamiefessenden.com/2014/08/22/murder-on-the-mountain-blog-tour/

When Jesse Morales, a recent college grad who aspires to be a mystery writer, volunteers to work on the summit of Mt. Washington for a week, he expects to work hard. What he doesn’t expect is to find a corpse in the fog, lying among the rocks, his head crushed. The dead man turns out to be a young tourist named Stuart Warren, who strayed from his friends while visiting the mountain.

Kyle Dubois, a widowed state police detective, is called to the scene in the middle of the night, along with his partner, Wesley Roberts. Kyle and Jesse are instantly drawn to one another, except Jesse’s fascination with murder mysteries makes it difficult for Kyle to take the young man seriously. But Jesse finds a way to make himself invaluable to the detective by checking into the hotel where the victim’s friends and family are staying and infiltrating their circle. Soon, he is learning things that could very well solve the case—or get him killed.

BUY LINK: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=5335

Pillar flash fiction contest winner

There were some really fantastic entries in the flash fiction contest. Look in the comments here to see them. All the authors should be congratulated, because it’s hard to write a story in 140 characters!

After a tough decision, the judges have chosen this beauty by Suki Fleet as the winner:

Sometimes he whispers “I love you, I adore you” down the phone before I sleep but most of the time we sleep together—his arms around my chest, his lips to my ear.

Congratulations, Suki! And thank you to everyone who entered. I hope you enjoyed playing.

Special thanks to Andrea Speed, Charley Descoteaux, and Bru Baker, our wonderful judges!

Please welcome Lily G. Blunt!

Paint the Sky Facebook Cover Art copy

Paint the Sky


Lily G. Blunt


Genre: M/M, Contemporary Romance and Erotica

Length: 65,000 Words/230 pages

Release Date: August 30, 2014







A love of art…

A mutual interest in art draws two shy university students together. Ben admires Vinnie’s painting of the university building, so Vinnie invites him to an exhibition of his artwork. From a wealthy family, Ben purchases some of Vinnie’s art and arranges for the artist to personally hang the paintings in his apartment.

Starry, starry night…

Ben commissions Vinnie to paint his portrait, in order to spend more time with the artist. On the night of the sitting, Vinnie fingerpaints the starry night on Ben’s chest… and they kiss. They begin a relationship beneath the night sky, God’s own canvas.

But every relationship has its ups and downs and so it is with theirs. When Ben thinks Vinnie spends too much time with a fellow artist, his jealousy drives a wedge between them and forces Vinnie into the very thing Ben dreads.

Hold tight to your dreams…

Ben and Vinnie will have to walk through fire before they can find one another again. But if they believe, and if they keep their faith in the night sky and each other, just maybe they can make their dreams of love come true.




Paint the Sky E-Book Cover copyVinnie led me across the room, pulling me by the shirt. “Lie back on the sofa for me and I’ll paint you.”

As if in a dream, I settled my head against one arm of the sofa, my legs dangling over the other end, scarcely breathing now. Vinnie knelt on the floor beside me with an open pot of paint in his hand.

Teasingly, he dipped his index finger into the dark blue paint as if it were cream he would lick off. His finger connected with my skin and he made short strokes across my chest, the coldness of the paint making me shiver.

Mesmerised by the closeness of his beautiful face, the view of the night sky through the window, and the picture forming upon my chest, I watched as dab after dab and stroke after stroke he built up a mix of shades, until a dark night sky with the moon and stars were there to be seen—a masterpiece, drying on the warmth of my blazing skin, a transient thing of beauty. His fingers skimmed my skin causing gooseflesh to ripple in waves down my arms and thighs. My nipples pebbled in response to his touch.

And when he was done, his lips met mine in a languid kiss; how our first kiss should have been—sweet, innocent, and full of promise. He pulled away, smiling down at me.

This was the beginning of something special.




Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Paint-Sky-Bob-Loving-ebook/dp/B00MSYA1JQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1408336547&sr=1-1&keywords=Paint+the+Sky


Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MSYA1JQ





Lily G. Blunt writes contemporary gay romance and erotica. She loves to explore the relationship between two men and the intensity of their physical and emotional attraction. Angst often features in her stories as she feels this demonstrates the depth of the men’s feelings for each other. Lily is forever writing imaginary scenes and plots in her head, but only a few ever make it to the page—there never seems to be enough hours in the day despite having left the teaching profession to concentrate on her writing!

Lily discovered the wonderful world of m/m romance novels four years ago via fan fiction and went on to write stories in her spare time. With the encouragement of her friends and readers she decided to publish some of her work.

Lily has several self-published stories available on Amazon. She is also published with Torquere Press and Wayward Ink Publishing.

Easily distracted from her writing, Lily makes videos using clips from gay-themed movies and posts gorgeous pictures of men kissing or making out on her tumblr and Facebook pages. Lily is also an avid supporter of GLBTQ rights and advocates equality for all.

Lily lives in central England with her rather bemused husband, two twenty-something children, and a ‘mad as a bag of frogs’ Shetland Sheepdog.




WordPress: http://lilygblunt.wordpress.com

Blog: http://lilygblunt.blogspot.co.uk/

FB Page: http://www.facebook.com/LilyGBlunt

FB Profile: http://www.facebook.com/lily.blunt.75

Tumblr: http://bobloving.tumblr.com/

Tumblr: http://lilygblunt.tumblr.com

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/BoyonBoyLoving?feature=mhee

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BoyonBoyLoving

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6586037.Lily_G_Blunt









Please welcome EM Lynley!

TITLE: Come and Get It! Spaghetti Western by EM Lynley is Coming Soon!

SpagettiWestern_EM Lynley

I’m thrilled to share the cover (and a recipe from the book!) and tell you about the latest installment in my Delectable Series, featuring men in the world of food and wine. It’s fun to pair up opposites and see where the rough edges will crop up—and how they try to smooth them over. So it was a real joy to set my chef Riley Emerson, fresh from several years of working in Paris, against Colby Zane, born-and-bred cattle rancher who didn’t know a patisserie from a potholder—till he met Riley.


The fun didn’t stop there, because I set the story on the Rocking Z Ranch in Colorado. I’ve only been to the state once and it left such an impression on me that I couldn’t wait to find a story that belonged there.


As the cook at the guest ranch, one of Riley’s duties is taking the antique chuck wagon out for an authentic trailside dinner for the guests, and events that occur during these dinners are some of the key scenes in the book. Not only is there some awesome food, but plenty of fun, drama, and maybe a few encounters hotter than a campfire!


One of the most enjoyable parts of the research was discovering chuck wagon lore. Chuck wagons were a huge part of the west for a short period of time. When ranchers had to move a lot of cattle very long distances, between the ranch and the grazing grounds, or to the sale lot, they were on the trail for days. The chuck wagon provided not only food, but carried their sleeping gear, and the cook (called Cookie) often provided medical and dental services. Ouch! I think I’d just live with the pain rather than let Cookie mess with my mouth.


There’s a lot of Western and cowboy lore surrounding the chuck wagon and the cook. Back when cowboys drove cattle hundreds or even thousands of miles to and from good grazing areas or to the sales location, the chuck wagon was an important part of trail life.


The cook had one of the toughest jobs. He had to be up before the cowboys so breakfast could be ready early enough for them to start their day, and he was still cleaning up when they were relaxing or snug in their bedrolls. He’d also have to prepare enough food at breakfast so the cowboys could take something along for their lunch.


But the chuck wagon cook also had the respect of every cowboy, and no one would dare complain if they didn’t like the chow. Well, if they did complain, they might not want to do it in front of the cook. With a supply of staples like coffee, flour, beans, molasses, potatoes, salt, dried fruit, and beef, the cook had to come up with enough variety to satisfy hungry cowboys day in and day out.


One thing every chuck wagon cook was sure to have was a Dutch oven: a heavy cast-iron pot on legs so it could be set over the coals in the fire. The pots got the name because originally they were obtained by Dutch traders who sold housewares. The Dutch oven’s lid had a special lip where the cook would place coals. This allowed him to replicate the heat dispersion of a regular oven: from below and above for more even cooking. A good chuck wagon cook could reproduce almost anything made in an oven at home.


Coffee was the key ingredient the cook would carry, but chuck wagon cooks were judged by their sourdough. They’d make biscuits, bread, even desserts with sourdough, and that meant they needed a sourdough starter and they would tend it as if it were a favorite child. I’ve got recipes in Spaghetti Western, including several using sourdough, and I even show how easy it is to make and use a starter.


If you’re intrigued, there are antique chuck wagons still working as catering events, chuck wagon suppers and historical reenactments. Visit the Chuck Wagon Registry for one near you.


Check out the beautiful cover by LC Chase, who found me a palomino just like the one Colby rides.



Spaghetti Western, by EM Lynley

220 pages

Release date: September 17 from Dreamspinner Press

Pre-order from Dreamspinner Press

(Amazon pre-order coming soon)



Cordon-Blue trained pastry chef Riley Emerson arrives in Aspen, Colorado for a summer season at the best restaurant in town, only to discover his jerk of a boyfriend has dumped him, leaving his heart and his summer plans in tatters. Doubting himself and longing for a change of pace, he takes a low-paying position as chef at a guest ranch, the Rocking Z. The scenery is gorgeous, but he expects that nature up close and personal can’t hold a candle to his exciting Paris lifestyle.

When born-and-bred cattle rancher Colby Zane spots a newcomer letting himself be pawed at by a passel of horny cowboys at Aspen’s Club Rawhide, he doesn’t think twice before rushing in, throwing the guy over his shoulder, and rescuing him from the volatile situation. Sober, Riley Emerson turns out to be sweet and sexy, but not interested in more than a one-night stand with Colby. Initially disdainful of the guest ranch side of the business, Colby’s over the moon when Riley late arrives as the new cook on his family’s ranch

But all’s not well at the Rocking Z. Unsurmountable financial problems force them to rely on a cash infusion from an outside investor, Fitz Wellington. Only Fitz is hot for Colby, and he won’t sign on the dotted line without some very personal incentives. The future of the ranch is at stake, and Colby’s just desperate enough to go along, but saving the Z might mean losing Riley.



Blue Cornmeal Bread


After sourdough biscuits, hearty cornbread was a cowboy’s second favorite bread. My chef Riley Emerson put his own personal touch on this tradition by using blue cornmeal—it’s so pretty!—and kernels of corn mixed in. If you can’t find blue cornmeal, yellow works just fine, but try and find the blue—it’s available at Whole Foods and other stores with bulk bins.




2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 3/4 cups blue cornmeal* or yellow cornmeal

1/2 cup sugar

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups whole milk

3/4 cup vegetable oil

3 large eggs

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed, drained


*Blue cornmeal is available at natural foods stores and specialty foods stores.



Preheat oven to 350°F.

Butter a 13 by 9 by 2-inch glass baking dish. Stir flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl to blend.

Whisk milk, vegetable oil, eggs, and buttermilk in a medium bowl to blend. Add milk mixture to dry ingredients and whisk until just blended.

Fold in corn kernels. Pour batter into buttered dish. Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cut bread into 2-inch squares and serve warm.


* * * *

Pre-order from Dreamspinner Press

(Amazon pre-order coming soon)


EM Lynley writes gay erotic romance. She loves books where the hero gets the guy and the loving is 11 on a scale of 10. A Rainbow Award winner and EPIC finalist, EM has worked in high finance, high tech, and in the wine industry, though she’d rather be writing hot, romantic man-on-man action. She spent 10 years as an economist and financial analyst, including a year as a White House Staff Economist, but only because all the intern positions were filled. Tired of boring herself and others with dry business reports and articles, her creative muse is back and naughtier than ever. She has lived and worked in London, Tokyo and Washington, D.C., but the San Francisco Bay Area is home for now.

She is the author of Sex, Lies & Wedding Bells, the Precious Gems series from Dreamspinner Press, and the Rewriting History series starring a sexy jewel thief, among others.

Visit her online WebsiteBlogFacebookTwitterNewsletter


Please welcome Lex Chase!


Americana Fairy Tale
by Lex Chase

Genre: M/M Fairy Tale Urban Fantasy
Length: Novel, 340 Pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press


Modern fairy-tale princess Taylor Hatfield has problems. One: He’s a guy. Two: His perfect brother Atticus is the reincarnation of Snow White. Three: Taylor has no idea which princess he is supposed to be. Four: Taylor just left his prince (a girl) at the altar. Despite his enchanted lineage, Taylor is desperate to find his Happily Ever After away from magic, witches, and stuffy traditions. Regrettably, destiny has other plans for him. Dammit.

When word reaches Taylor that Idi the Witchking has captured Atticus, Taylor is determined to save his brother. He enlists the help of rakish and insufferable Corentin Devereaux, likewise of enchanted lineage. A malicious spell sends Taylor and Corentin on a road trip through the kitschy nostalgia of roadside Americana. To save Atticus, they must solve the puzzles put forth by Idi the Witchking. As they struggle, Taylor and Corentin’s volatile partnership sparks a flash of something more. But princesses have many enemies, and Taylor must keep his wits about him because there’s nothing worse than losing your heart… or your head.




Pre-order from Dreamspinner Press in eBook and Paperback

Available September 12th, 2014

Paperbacks ordered through Dreamspinner Press qualifies for Free Shipping to GRL for pick-up!

Use code: GRL2014




Still flustered and confused, with no time to contemplate what had just come over him, Corentin tossed out his hand and gestured to the open road. “Do you see signs for I-85 North anywhere, genius?”

“Man, you’re really bitchy,” Ringo said, crossing his arms. “Have enough water today? Hydration is important.”

“Why should I trust you anyway? You could be getting us lost on purpose,” Taylor said. There was a sneer in his tone, and he glared in the rearview. “I’m not counting out we nearly died three seconds ago.”

“I was avoiding a tire in the road,” Corentin lied. “And I am not getting us lost.” His irritation grew as he tried to puzzle through everything that had just transpired. “I’m keeping my promise. You’re useless to me, so we’re going to go save your brother and kill Idi instead.”

“Woooooah,” Ringo said, holding up his hands in surrender. “You didn’t tell me this was Idi we were up against.”

“Someone fill me in,” Taylor said in a demanding tone.

Corentin gritted his teeth. Just like all princesses, Taylor was a pretty spoiled brat. “Idi is the Witchking,” Corentin said simply. He braced himself for the oncoming flurry of questions. Which he wouldn’t know how to answer in the simplest of terms.

“Idi’s bad juju,” Ringo said. “The worst of all witches.”

“And we’re going to kill him?” Taylor asked.

Corentin caught him arching a brow and making a doubtful expression in the rearview. “That’s the plan.”

“And save Atticus,” Taylor said.

That’s the plan,” Corentin repeated tersely.

“What’s in it for you?” Taylor asked. Something in his tone suggested his mistrust had hit its limit.

Before Corentin could come up with an expert lie, he was unfortunately saved by the GPS popping with sizzles and showering sparks over the cabin of the truck. Ringo zipped behind the passenger seat, and Taylor yelped in a half squeal. The truck fishtailed over two lanes and came dangerously close to clipping a car. Corentin acted fast, ripping the melting device from its dash mount and chucking it out the window. Taylor turned to look out the back window, and Corentin caught the bright orange flame as the thing exploded like a grenade.

When the spots cleared from Corentin’s eyes, he muttered a curse under his breath as the truck passed from a clear division of daylight into the dead of night. He clicked the headlights on and waited for his eyes to adjust.

“What the hell is going on?” Taylor asked, leaning up to the back window.

“Idi’s fucking with us,” Corentin said. “It seems like he’s trying to delay us as much as possible.”

“He knows we’re onto him,” Taylor said. “Way to go for discussing the super-secret squirrel plan out loud.”

“You know…,” Corentin said, glaring in the rearview. “You are a lot more pleasant when you’re passed out, snoring.”

Taylor huffed. “I don’t snore.”

“You bleat like a dying hyena,” Ringo said, then spit a giggle.

Taylor’s attention snapped to the pixie. “What is this? Asshole day?”

Corentin caught his eerie pink glare in the rearview.

“Dude, just get off at the nearest exit. We should be near Birmingham by now.”

“All right, all right,” Corentin said, and it was a pleasant reprieve that Taylor kept his mouth shut for more than five minutes. It didn’t last.

“Hey, hey!” Taylor said and pointed at a green-and-white interstate exit sign in the distance. “Talladega! Turn here. I can get us to Atlanta from here. We’re not that far off.”

Corentin guided the truck up the exit ramp and frowned. Something was wrong—flat-topped mesas came into view.

“What the…?” Taylor whispered and watched the rolling dunes of the Painted Desert.

“Uuuh…,” Ringo added and pressed himself to the windshield. The occasional cactus whisked by. “Wow, Talladega’s having a hard time with the drought this season,” Ringo said through their awestruck silence.

“That’s not a drought,” Corentin said softly.

Taylor squinted into the distance. “Does ‘Welcome to Arizona, the Grand Canyon State’ answer your question?”

Ringo pasted his face to the windshield. “How do you even see—” Ringo squeaked when the state sign of Arizona blurred by. “Oh my Storyteller!”

Corentin remained tense, trying to get his thoughts together.

Taylor, however, seemed to not be able to resist blurting out his opinion. “It seems this Eddie guy is doing more than just fucking with us.”

Idi,” Corentin said and realized how terse he sounded. “I think he wants to do more than just delay us.”

Ringo peeled himself from the windshield. He slapped his hands to his cheeks in horror. “He wants us to die out here?” he croaked.

“Panicking is not going to help,” Corentin said firmly.

“Easy for you to say,” Taylor snapped. “We just need to stop somewhere and ask for directions. We’ll get back on the right road in no time.”

Corentin sighed. Taylor’s hope was admirable, but Ringo was only half right. They would die out here, but only one of them. This was Corentin’s first trial. Now he was here, in the middle of nowhere, with Taylor to do with what he will. As soon as that was over, Idi would release him and he’d be on his way, but only until the next time Idi summoned him to do his bidding.

They drove on, again in a long-hanging silence. The interstate lay barren, not a single car or scrap of civilization to be seen. The pavement bore veins of black tar from years of shoddy repair. Corentin caught Taylor’s pink gaze in the rearview, and his feral eyes seemed to gleam in the dark.

The princess shifted from one side of the backseat to the other. He seemed to look for anything that would help. He cupped his hands around the glass and peeked out into the night. “I can’t see anything out there. It’s just desert,” Taylor muttered.

Ringo turned to Corentin, “How are we on ga—”

Don’t say it!” Corentin and Taylor shouted in unison.

Ringo held up his hands and pursed his lips. “Got it…. Uh… why?”

“I assume Eddie is listening in to everything,” Taylor said.

Idi,” Corentin corrected Taylor again. “I think sir princess is right. It seems the second we’ve said anything, something’s gone wrong.”

Ringo fluttered over to the dash and rested his chin in his palm. “You know… it could be all a coincidence….”

Corentin and Taylor glared angrily at Ringo in silence while the hum of the pavement whooshed as Corentin drove.

Ringo waved his hands. “By Titania’s tatas, guys, I was just kidding!”



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About the author


LXC_FlamesLex Chase once heard Stephen King say in a commercial, “We’re all going to die, I’m just trying to make it a little more interesting.” She knew then she wanted to make the world a little more interesting too.

Weaving tales of cinematic, sweeping adventure and epic love—and depending on how she feels that day—Lex sprinkles in high-speed chases, shower scenes, and more explosions than a Hollywood blockbuster. She loves tales of men who kiss as much as they kick ass. She believes if you’re going to going to march into the depths of hell, it better be beside the one you love.

Lex is a pop culture diva and her DVR is constantly backlogged. She wouldn’t last five minutes without technology in the event of the apocalypse and has nightmares about refusing to leave her cats behind. She is incredibly sentimental, to the point that she gets choked up at holiday commercials. But like the lovers driven to extreme measures to get home for the holidays, Lex believes everyone deserves a happy ending.

Lex also has a knack for sarcasm, never takes herself seriously, and has been nicknamed “The Next Alan Moore” by her friends for all the pain and suffering she inflicts on her characters. She is a Damned Yankee hailing from the frozen backwoods of Maine now residing in the burbs of Northwest Florida, where it could be 80F and she’d still be a popsicle.

She is grateful for and humbled by all the readers. She knows very well she wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them and welcomes feedback.

You can find in the Intarwebz here:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LXChase
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Lex_Chase
Tumblr: http://lexiconofkittens.tumblr.com
Instagram: http://instagram.com/westbaylen

Book recs here!

A while back, I recommended a book to a friend. The book was Bangkok 8 by John Burdett, and it’s a thriller. Not a genre I often read, but I’d stumbled upon this one somehow and really loved it. My friend loved it too, and like me, she’s gone on to read the sequels. And then she recommended the book to a friend.

And this made me think about how important word of mouth is for books. I often choose to read a book because I’ve enjoyed other works by that author. Sometimes a blurb catches my eye. But frequently I end up reading something because a friend recommends it to me–maybe a friend with tastes similar to mine. And of course I don’t hesitate to give advice about stuff I’ve read and enjoyed.

I guess this is why Goodreads and similar sites are popular, but those sites have their downsides too.

I thought I’d share here a couple of my favorites and books I’ve recently enjoyed. I could easily make this list way, way longer, and I certainly don’t mean to exclude anyone. These are just a few books I loved.

  1. The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker–Wonderful historical novel with magic and lots of heart.
  2. Thick as Thieves by Tali Spencer–Funny and sweet. You’ll never look at a unicorn the same way again.
  3. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak–Only book that ever made me burst into tears.
  4. Gives Light by Rose Christo–Interesting setting and intriguing characters.
  5. King Perry by Edward Manning–Complex, with lots of layers.
  6. The Mating of Michael by Eli Easton–Well written and funny, with endearing characters.
  7. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman–Let’s face it; I love everything by Neil Gaiman.
  8. Nor Iron Bars a Cage by Kaje Harper–Beautifully written, nicely angsty characters.
  9. Bird Meets Cage by Anyta Sunday–If Ray Bradbury wrote gay romance.
  10. Transformation by Carol Berg–Sweeping world-building and tortured MC.
  11. To Kill a Mockingbird–Best book ever. If you haven’t read it lately, you should.

Well, that’s a good start, isn’t it?

In the comments, will you rec a book or two that you think everyone should read? Doesn’t have to be m/m or romance. Just some reading happiness you’d like to share. Maybe include a sentence or two about why you love it.


Andrea Speed’s City of Monsters

Andrea Speed is one of the judges for my flash fiction contest. She also has a new book out, City of Monsters. Which you need to read because it’s funny and terrific.
CityOfMonsters3Blurb: Hunter is a human turned animal shifter in Nightshade, a literal city of monsters in a near-Earth dimension called Dev. All sorts of beasts reside here, unable to return to Earth, yet still plagued by the same jealousies, rivalries, and needs of any human. Resolving them is Hunter’s job.

Hunter faces supernatural perils at every turn: vampire debt collectors who most decidedly don’t sparkle, werewolfs who literally piss on everything you love, and surprise shifters. And just like back on Earth, there are mundane struggles too. Like paying the rent—which isn’t easy for a guy with more vices than virtues—and keeping his haunted blender happy with pricey produce. So he takes a job from a foul-mouthed reverse tooth fairy to find her missing twin.

Just when things seem like they couldn’t get any worse, Hunter meets Sakari, a hot newcomer to Nightshade with a taste for danger. Will Sakari change Hunter’s bad luck, or will he only mean more trouble? Can Sakari help him solve his case? And how will Hunter explain the new man in his life to his blender?

​Excerpt: ​You know you’re in for a bad night when you wake up dangling ten stories above the ground. Somehow, the night gets worse when you realize an angry vampire is holding you by the ankle.

“Good, you’re awake,” Fang said as my eyes continued to adjust. My head ached, and I figured I’d been clobbered. Not that I could remember any of it, mind you, but that came with the territory of head injuries. “I was afraid you were gonna sleep through your death.”

“Fang, dude, let’s talk this out,” I said, hoping I didn’t sound as pathetic as I thought I did. The truth was, I bet I sounded a million times worse. “What is it you think I did?”

“You know what you did, you rat bastard.”

“Yeah . . . you’re gonna hafta narrow it down for me, Fang.”

He made a noise of disgust and shook his head, which I could feel in the slight tremor of his arm. “Mutt, even you can’t be this stupid.”

“I am not a mutt,” I protested, even though that was really just a guess on my part. You’d think after six months, I would have known what kind of were I was, but nope. I kind of didn’t want to know because with my luck, I was something ridiculous. A worm maybe, or a dung beetle.

He sighed; it wasn’t natural for vampires, so when they bothered to do it, they were being drama queens. “Did you forget about the wolf races?”

“No.” Although I quickly realized that, yes, I had. “Yes.” I’d really thought Silver Streak was a shoo-in to win the third race, but then he’d had to pull up lame. Just my luck.

“You now owe Mr. Deth two grand—interest added—’cause you didn’t show up Friday to pay off the fifteen hundred, and he figured you were trying to weasel out of your debt. Is that what you are? A weasel?”

“No. I genuinely forgot.” I had. It may have been related to a self-pitying, sorrow-fueled bender, but hell if I was gonna tell him that. He didn’t need to know about my personal life. Although the saddest thing was, I’d had so many interactions with Fang that he was kind of a frenemy. Personal life wasn’t exactly out of bounds. “I’ve kinda been . . . sick.”

“Ya mean drunk?” he asked, his voice dripping with contempt. “I can smell the booze coming through your pores.”

“Look, can you give me a break here? My head’s killin’ me, and if you keep dangling me, I’m gonna barf. Wanna find out what I ate last?”

He made a grumpy noise and roughly deposited me back on the roof, where I flopped down like a landed fish. The sky, a weird midnight blue with dark, flesh-pink tendrils at the very edges, spun as if it were on a broken turntable—too fast and a little wobbly. When my vision cleared, Fang was standing off to one side, arms crossed over his chest, looking vaguely disgusted. The fact that he’d given in so easily confirmed my long-held suspicion about him—that he felt sorry for me. And how sad was that? I’ve always depended on the kindness of enforcers.

His name, by the way, was actually Fang. He was an Asian American vampire. The Asian part was pretty obvious, but the American giveaway was his almost comically thick Minnesotan accent. The first time I heard him talk, I’d laughed, expecting him to ask me if I had a hot dish to pass, don’tcha know. He punched me into next week, and I’d never laughed at his accent anywhere near him again. It was still really funny, though, especially considering he made his living as a hired thug.

“Look, he’s extended all the credit he can,” Fang said.

“That’s bullshit, and you know it. He could do more if he wanted.”

“Yeah, but why would he for you?”

That was a damn good point. I would have agreed if I weren’t concentrating on not vomiting up my digestive track. Fang looked down at me, scowling with distaste, and finally rolled his gleaming copper eyes. “I’ll see if he’s willing to have you work off the debt. But how are you at shakin’ people down?”

“Depends. Actual humans?”

“Oh, hell no.”

“Not that good, then.” Finally the sky steadied, and I got brave enough to push myself up to my knees. Took a bit longer than it should have.

“Has anyone told you that even for a weird were, you’re kinda lame?”

“Don’t you start, Fang. I’m humiliated enough as it is.” I sat on the cool crystal roof and tried to mentally will myself into feeling better. It wasn’t working. Spirit wine was a fucking bitch. Brilliant when you had it, but later you understood why they gave it the name—it haunted you like a cursed graveyard. Also, it made you feel undead. In a bad way.

“I’ll talk to Deth. Don’t leave town. If you do, you’ll be sorry,” Fang said before stepping off the edge of the roof. He couldn’t fly—vampires couldn’t do that—but they were pretty indestructible, like most of the undead, and Fang’s legs weren’t natural. Oh, maybe they had been once, but his boss, Deth, had arranged for his number one enforcer to get legs made of that nigh-invulnerable black crystal stuff the bug people used for their buildings. I couldn’t pronounce their name for it, and frankly I didn’t care to, ’cause I wasn’t insectoid and it didn’t really matter. All I knew was, if you made Fang mad, he could easily kick a hole through titanium-plated steel. When he landed, he left two foot-shaped indents in the ground below.

“Where the hell would I go?” I shouted after him. Did he hear me? Didn’t matter. It was a rhetorical question anyways.

Still, at least he’d given me an out. Kind of. How pathetic did you have to be for a legless enforcer to feel sorry for you? I guess I’d just answered that question.

I’m usually not this sad, really. Or at least I hope I’m not. The name’s Hunter Burrows, and I’m a finder in the city of Nightshade. Never heard of it? Lucky you. It’s a city of monsters.

I’m not being fanciful or metaphorical. It’s literally a city of monsters. There are no humans here, or at least none that aren’t food. Zombies, vampires, and werewolves walk the streets, as do lizard men, insect men, and assorted other beasties and mutant abominations. I’m a were, so I’m in that category. Not a werewolf; there are a whole bunch of different weres. You name an animal, there’s probably a were for it. Problem is, I’m not sure what kind I am. I’m not a werewolf, ’cause they pee on all their stuff, and even in human form, they have this gamey, wet-dog smell about them. I don’t. But I only know I’m not a wolf—everything else is up for grabs. For all I know, I’m a werepenguin. I kinda hope not, because I’m pathetic enough as it is.

When I was sure I could move without barfing my head off, I got up and headed for the roof exit. Of course, me being me, the elevators were out, so I had to make the long climb down the stairs to street level. I was forced to take breaks along the way, with the way I was feeling.

Once I left the building, which was an apartment complex primarily populated by vampires, I sat on the sidewalk, trying to shake off my fuzzy headedness, and wondered if I should blame a hangover or a blow to the head for the fact that I couldn’t remember where I’d last been. Maybe it was neither—maybe it was just the city itself.

I’m not kidding. I have no idea how I was turned, or how I ended up here. I just woke up half-naked in an alley, my head hurting, gripped with a sense that something was wrong, though I didn’t know what. When I saw the first lizard man amble by, I’d thought maybe I was near a sci-fi convention or something. It was the sky and the buildings that eventually convinced me I was in another world, long before the zombies and werewolves. The buildings were made of the strangest stuff I’d ever seen, and the sky . . . well, it was a fleshy pink. I’d thought it was hell for maybe five seconds, but I’d never believed in that shit, and I wasn’t dead.

Somehow, I’ve figured out how to survive in this world. But it was all trial and error, and in many respects, I’m still trying. I never thought I was very good at improvising, but my continued survival seems to prove otherwise.

A werehorse pulling a pedicab clopped down the street, and I flagged him over and asked him to take me back to my place. He agreed with a neigh and a shake of his big roan head, and I stepped up into the cab. They’re a community service, mostly for thieves and other low-level criminals. The justice system in Nightshade is a patchwork of weirdness. There isn’t really a police force as humanly defined, just Sentinels who work for Medusa, the god who runs the dimension. In any other place, that all might seem super strange, but in Nightshade, it’s close to the most normal thing we have.

As I sat in the back of the cab and watched the city go by, it occurred to me that the existence of a mythological god no longer seemed weird. Then again, I was some kind of were. What was unbelievable anymore? There were no limits. And I was in debt to a were crime boss with vampire henchmen all because gambling and drinking were the only thrills left to me. Being in a city full of monsters seemed to have made me more jaded by the day. And maybe a bit depressed. I felt terribly alone, even though all of us former humans were in the same boat. And now I was in trouble with Mr. Deth. Terrific.

I live in an apartment building made of onyx and shaped like a dagger plunging into the heart of the sky. It’s officially known as Briarwood, but it’s called the Knife. In fact, this area is known, consequently, as the Knife District. Just ’cause it’s a city full of monsters doesn’t mean they’re any more creative than humans.

I gave the werehorse a friendly pat on the haunches as I got off the pedicab in front of the building—my version of a thank-you. Technically, weres don’t retain human intellect in animal form, but there’s a special kind of curse applied to those doing community service. No one but the Sentinels and their special Cursers (yes, that’s an actual job description) actually know how that works, but rumors about it run rampant. I try not to pay attention to any of it. I may not have been here long, but I’ve caught on to the fact that the truth is often too strange to properly tolerate.

Inside the main door of the Knife, I was almost instantly overwhelmed by the animal scents, which no amount of air scrubbers could take away. The Knife was mainly inhabited by weres, and while most spent at least part of their time in their human forms, the building still ended up smelling like a semi-tidy zoo.

I’d wanted an apartment on a lower floor, as I’m not a great fan of heights, but the best I could get was level twenty-two. So I took the elevator up, though it made creepy creaking and groaning noises that made it sound like it was two minutes away from gaining sentience and swallowing you whole. It wasn’t totally impossible. Nothing here was.

I staggered down the hall toward my door, which was painted red. On every floor, each door was a different color, making the dimly lit hallways look like a pride parade after the power had gone out. From the lingering scent in the hall, one of my neighbors was a werewolf, and another had decided six in the morning was the ideal time to make lasagna. It made the nausea I thought I’d shed come back big-time.

As I went in, I continued wracking my brain for what had happened last night before Fang had dangled me off a building. But it was a painful, blurry fog. I finally decided I’d sleep on it and see whether it came back to me. It was just a shame that, despite all this mystical stuff, you still had hangovers. Magical dimension, my ass.

– See more at: http://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/city-of-monsters#sthash.ecsyRPrD.dpuf

Travel tips

As some of you may have surmised by now, I love to travel. My wanderings often inspire my stories. For example, my latest novella, The Pillar, was born after I spent a few days in Bosnia & Herzegovina. I’ve been around a good chunk of the United States and Europe. I’ve even been lucky enough to live in Croatia twice for brief periods.

As the semester begins, I’m dreaming of travel. So I thought it would be fun to share some of my tips. Please add your own in the comments! I’d love to hear from you.

1. Learn a few words of the local language. Nobody in Budapest expects a tourist to be fluent in Hungarian. I’m fluent only in English and I’ve gotten by fine everywhere I’ve been. But it’s important to greet someone and be able to say please and thank you in their language. My atrocious attempts at French have brought friendly responses from Parisians, and Zagreb merchants have been delighted when they realize I can manage a few words of Croatian.

2. If you get stuck language-wise, look for a young person to translate. I don’t know how well this tip works elsewhere, but it’s served me well in central and eastern Europe. Older people there often learned Russian or German as their second language, but folks born after 1990 or so are generally pretty proficient in English. I’ve employed strangers as impromptu translators in grocery stores and post offices, and none of them minded. In fact, some of them were happy to practice their English with a native speaker. Once in Zagreb, a university student intentionally rode the tram well past her own stop just so she could chat in English with me.

barcelona3. Hire local tour guides. I like a good guidebook (I’m a Rick Steves fan), and I also like to explore on my own. But I’ve become convinced that local guides are worth their weight in gold. Even if you’re with them only a couple of hours, you’ll learn so much more. I spent a day in Sarajevo with an amazing guide. Not only did he show me a good chunk of the city, but I got to hear firsthand what it was like to live in the city during the siege. Guides can give you tips about restaurants and sights, and also help you find stuff that guidebooks don’t mention, like the names of good Bosnian punk bands. And guides can give you all sorts of unique perspectives, like in Barcelona, where my daughter and I did a tour on an antique motorcycle with a sidecar.

4. Don’t try to see everything. The other day I saw an ad for a package vacation: London, Paris, and Rome in nine days. Yikes. Personally, I’d rather take my time. I may see fewer sights, but I’ll have the time to truly see them. Plus I’ll have the chance for one of my favorite activities: sitting at cafes and people-watching. And when I get home, I’ll have vivid memories instead of just blurs.

5. Walk. I think this is the best way to see places. Some cities are big enough that I have to rely on public transportation to some extent, but I try to spend as much time as possible on foot. I truly see the details of a place that way. My daughter and I spent a day in Edinburgh with a friend, and we walked over eight miles that day. It’s remained one of our favorite memories of our trip.

pere6. Don’t ignore the smaller sights. Yes, if you’re in Paris go see the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. But also stroll around LeMarais (and go to this boulangerie) or visit Pere Lachaise cemetery. I love quirky museums like Vancouver’s Police Museum and Zagreb’s Museum of Broken Relationships. And I also like visiting smaller, less-touristy towns. Venice was amazing but I also really enjoyed Trieste. Vienna was wonderful, but so was Graz.

dubrovnik7. Live like a local. Most of us probably can’t pick up and move to Berlin for a few months. But even if we’re there only a few days, we can often rent an apartment instead of staying at a hotel. The advantages are many. Usually you get more space, and often for less money. You often get to stay in a less-touristy area. You get a kitchen, which means you can save money by cooking for yourself. Plus you get to shop at local greenmarkets and grocery stores, which is one of my favorite things to do. Your temporary landlords are often excellent sources of local information. And you can stay in some amazing places. I’ve been able to sleep in a medieval apartment adjacent to a Roman palace, in another medieval apartment halfway up a steep stairway in Dubrovnik, in a comfy walk-up in London, and in the second oldest building in Vienna.

plane18. Plan, but don’t overplan. I make my travel and lodging arrangements ahead of time, and I read a guidebook or two. But I also leave room for surprises and extemporaneous fun. Some of my favorite memories come from these surprises, like the time I was the only passenger on a commercial airline flight. And some surprises are just… well, surprising. Like discovering your first squat toilet.

tram9. Don’t freak out. The unexpected happens during travel. I make arrangements for the true disasters–lost passports, illness, theft. But I go with the flow for more minor stuff. Those minor things make the best stories later anyway! Like the time my husband and 8-year-old were supposed to meet us in Venice but got lost (everybody does, at first)–until I happened to glance out the window and see them walking by. Or the extra day I got to spend in Iowa City with a good friend, thanks to Delta Airlines. Or the trip to Budapest and Prague when I realized that it wasn’t the heat or overindulgence in fruit (I miscalculated kilos and pounds in my head and ended up with way too many raspberries) that was making me feel icky, but rather morning sickness.

10. Don’t overpack. I struggle with this one myself, actually. But I did do nine days in London and Edinburgh with only a carryon-sized suitcase and a computer bag, so even I can do it. I just give myself the Mars lecture while I’m packing: “You’re not going to Mars. If you need something really badly you can buy it there.” And hey, those purchases then become souvenirs too, like the pajamas I bought in Barcelona while Air France tried to find my luggage.

11. Wear comfy shoes. Even if you have a limited budget, this is not the place to skimp.

gondola12. Do some touristy stuff. Like many people, I hate to think of myself as a tourist–even when I totally am. And so I tend to avoid sights I think are too touristy (I’m talking about you, Madame Toussaint’s and Pier 39). But some touristy things are totally worth it, like a gondola ride in Venice or the Edinburgh vaults tour. Just choose wisely.

13. Of course it’s not like home. Some things are better in the US than elsewhere. Air conditioning. Free drink refills. Toilet paper. But don’t whine when the cafes are full of cigarette smoke in Sarajevo or the cobblestone streets are uneven in Edinburgh or building ineriors are overheated during the winter in Warsaw. If you want to make sure everything is exactly like home, stay home. 🙂 Personally, I think travel makes me better appreciate certain things about home, while also experiencing all sorts of new and wonderful things.

What rules of travel do you follow? Do you have tips for all the many parts of the world I haven’t visited? What would you want people visiting your hometown to know?

Say hello to contest judge Charley Descoteaux

In case you missed it, I’m running a contest to celebrate The Pillar’s release. You can see the details here. And I have coerced persuaded three lovely people to serve as contest judges: Bru Baker, Andrea Speed, and Charley Descoteaux. Yay! Today’s blog entry is a guest post from Charley, who also had a new release very recently.

Top Five Things I Geek Over

  1. Authors whose books are like onions.
  2. Star Trek: The Original Series
  3. Mystery Science Theater 3000
  4. The stories behind the music I love (anything from Tool to 50 year old West Coast jazz)
  5. Research!

I did a lot of research for The Nesting Habits of Strange Birds, even though I’ve been watching birds in the Pacific Northwest for almost 25 years (and have first-hand experience with a few other things that happen in the book). I researched Jeep Wranglers and hypothermia and organic farms and folk art. Of course I did some of that online, but I also read books and magazines, and visited museums and nature preserves. More than once I walked the streets where my characters lived and worked (and played)—just to get the feel of a place at a certain time of day. It was a blast!

I hope you enjoy the story, and that the research doesn’t jump out and wave a rainbow flag in your face. Research is fun, but the idea is for it to be invisible from the other side. Let me know how I did!



The Nesting Habits of Strange Birds, by Charley Descoteaux


All he ever wanted was to be a normal guy….

Phil Brask spends his days in the basement of his mentor’s Victorian home, converting legal documents into electronic format. When the pipe feeding the water heater bursts, Lee Redding arrives in the plumber’s truck and draws Phil away from the narrow focus of his computer and camera lens. Lee gives Phil hope for a life beyond the walls he’s constructed using the nesting habits of migratory birds and dense legal files, a guided tour through a world filled with romance and music…maybe even family. But there’s a reason Phil retreated behind those walls, why he panics at a simple touch.

Lee has a good life—working with his uncle and on his mother’s farm, playing bass in a horrible metal band, and hooking up when he pleases—but he’s always suspected something was missing. When he meets the hot photographer with the icy-blue eyes, he knows exactly what that something is. Phil isn’t like other guys, but neither is Lee beneath his carefree exterior. Maybe Lee’s the perfect guy to show Phil that everything doesn’t have to be done the hard way and “home” isn’t a four-letter word.


Lee popped the tops on two cans, one in each hand, as he walked across the clearing. He’d spent a few Willston Jubilee weekends working in the beer gardens, and opening twice the number of beers he could drink at once wasn’t the only useless skill he’d practiced. Phil’s eye roll didn’t take anything from the fact that his face wasn’t pointed toward the ground.

“Ch-check it out.” Phil took a long pull from the can as he stepped aside to let Lee look through the viewfinder.

Lee was speechless. The view was like nothing he’d ever seen in real life: a huge bowl-like nest that had to have been made from branches the size of his wrist sat near the top of a tall old maple. Two full-grown blue herons stood outside the nest, and as Lee watched, four or five beaks appeared and started a cacophony of bird sounds.

It was cool, but not cooler than what happened next. Phil moved so close he was almost pressed against Lee’s side, and then he bumped him out of the way with a strategically placed shoulder. Lee took a few steps sideways to keep his feet and when he turned, Phil was snapping photos like a photographer on America’s Next Top Model. And smiling. Not a split your face kind of smile—somehow Phil’s plain joy packed even more of a wallop. Phil was captivated by what he was doing—snapping a series of pictures, fiddling with the settings on his camera, and then snapping few more.

If the guy puts that much effort into sex, I might not live through it.



Charley Descoteaux has always heard voices. She was relieved to learn they were fictional characters, and started writing when they insisted daydreaming just wasn’t good enough. In exchange, they let her sleep once in a while. Home is Portland, Oregon, where the weather is like your favorite hard-case writing buddy who won’t let you get away with taking too many days off, and in some places you can be as weird as you are without fear. As an out and proud bisexual and life-long weird-o, she thinks that last part is pretty cool.


Buy Links:

Dreamspinner Press: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=5271

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/Nesting-Habits-Strange-Birds-ebook/dp/B00MMEGIC6/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1407899087&sr=1-1

All Romance eBooks: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-thenestinghabitsofstrangebirds-1592772-149.html


Rattle my cages—I’d love to hear from you!

Blog: http://cdescoteauxwrites.com/blog/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CharleyDescote

e-mail: c.descoteauxwrites@gmail.com