Blast from the Past: Checkmate by Lex Chase

Howdy everyone! Kim invited me over to talk about old hidden gems you may have missed from the Lex Chase vault.

PawnTakesRookORIGWell, allow me to present Checkmate, a superhero novella series that’s part drama, part comedy, all pop culture. In order the books are Pawn Takes Rook and Cashing the Reality Check, both released in 2013, and Conventional Love in 2014.

In a nutshell, Checkmate is the story of disgraced superhero Memphis Rook and his plucky sidekick/boyfriend Hogarth Dawson on a quest for redemption. We see this all unfold through Hogarth’s point of view which equates into the story of Batman as told by a hyperactive chipmunk.

The series had been an oddity among m/m readers because of the non-typical romance angle. There’s romance in it, but the series is more about explosions and saving the day. It’s what actually launched me onto the m/m scene as being the quirky writer with books filled with things going boom. I’m like Jamie Hyneman of Mythbusters: Lex want Big Boom.

CashingtheRealityCheckLGThe Checkmate series was also all about the pop culture. You had Rook, the subdued 80s geek, and Garth, the balls to the wall Millennial with his own brand of references. Everything from Back to the Future to Nyan Cat, nothing was sacred. Pawn Takes Rook had over 50 pop culture references, Cashing the Reality Check had over 80, and with Conventional Love I lost count once I hit 100. I never went back and did an official tally but it’s on the list. I even reference Gangnam Style. Because I don’t know this foreign concept of shame.

The series does have its emotional highs and lows (and it has some doozies if I say so.) but if you go in looking for pure angst and eroticism, this is not that series. Rook and Garth’s story is zany, humorous, tugs at the heartstrings, but also intentionally cheesy with terrible character names and alliterative business names. Captain Chivalry? Ted’s TV Tabernacle? My personal favorite character names hands down? Wyld Stallyn and Uniscorn.

It’s like eating Nutella. You know what tastes good with Nutella? More Nutella. In Checkmate, it’s not less is more, more is always more.

ConventionalLoveFSAnd more you shall have! The Checkmate series has been picked up by DSP Publications to be bound into a paperback edition called PTR: Checkmate Ever After. The paperback will not only have a fourth Checkmate novella called Miracle In Axis City, but also bonus content. You can pick it up December 2015!

Can’t wait that long? Pick up the eBooks from Dreamspinner, but if you like the smell of pulverized trees that have died for your amusement, the paperback is for you. Are you not entertained!

So kick back in your Snuggie, get your giant box of Thin Mints, and settle in with an indulgent fluffy series that doesn’t take itself seriously. Really, life is too damned short and too full of shit. Retreat into a world where nothing is impossible and you too can save the world.

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Author Bio:

Lex 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. You can find her at:








Ooh! That’s Interesting!: Houseboat

I’ve always been a little fascinated by houseboats. If you’ve read Bone Dry, you know that a houseboat features in that book. But until last weekend, I’d never had a chance to sleep in one.

My friends and I booked the Yellow Ferry for a girlfriends getaway. Now berthed in beautiful Suasalito, it’s the oldest surviving ferry on the west coast. Back in the 1880s, it made its home in Puget Sound. You can read all about it here.

So first off, this is the sunset view:082 I took that pic with my iPhone and didn’t play with it at all–that’s exactly what it looked like. Reminds me of one of those hand-colored photos.

And this was my view when I woke up: 095 A paddlewheel! You can open the window to touch the paddle, which is extremely cool.

The inside of the ferry was almost as amazing as the outside. I loved the big living room. I wish I could live there all the time and write there. 122

We had nice neighbors: a sea lion and a lot of birds. I especially liked this pelican, who was pals with the cormorants (those are ducks on the far left).

106 143

We couldn’t, alas, go on the roof:


But we were all vastly entertained by this toilet.  I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a toilet quite so much, in fact. 🙂


And now I want to run away from home and live on the ferry forever.



Please welcome Louise Lyons!


My Characters – Who runs the show?

I get the inspiration for my characters from a variety of places. For example, my first novel, Conflicted, revolved around the world of exhibiting and racing cars which is something I love. I’ve had a beautiful and unusual imported car for almost 2 years now. I’m in an owners’ club and I regularly take the car to shows to “show it off”. This type of environment and the people I meet there, inspired Paul and Greg, my “tough guys” in the book, who actually reveal themselves to have big hearts later on in the story.

Beautiful Thunder, a novel which I submitted a few weeks ago, is set in the early 1990s around the rock music scene, which was a big part of my life at that time. Alex and Lindsay, my main characters, were inspired by people I met, or simply gawked at in my favourite rock club, with maybe a hint of one or two of the musicians I liked then thrown in.

And as for Beyond The Scars, due to be published later this year, my main character Tommy gets a big part of his life from me. I went through many of the things he goes through in the book, and some of the other people he meets were inspired by men I knew. So my characters come from all over the place – bits of myself and bits of people I’ve met and known along the way.

As for how I write them; I’ve heard other authors say the same thing and this is so true. Sometimes the characters grab the story between their teeth and run off with it, and there’s not a great deal you can do, but go along for the ride. I plan and make notes of where I intend for my story to go, but quite often my boys just don’t want to do what I tell them. One example I can think of is my recently submitted novel, Beautiful Thunder, mentioned earlier. Alex, my main character, was intended to be much more of a “tart” than he turned out to be. But he didn’t like being casual and unfeeling and decided he was going to fall for his guitarist, Lindsey (this is a boy Lindsay of course!) hook, line and sinker. And so, the plan was for them to “get it on”. I had it all planned – the when, the where and the how. But no, Lindsay decided he wasn’t ready to have sex and told Alex (and me) in no uncertain terms that it wasn’t the right time. So there we have it. I plan my stories and stick to the general idea, but if my boys don’t like what I have in mind, I have to hand over the reins a little.


Shy and geeky Rhys White, has recently been ditched by his boyfriend of five years. On top of that he’s been made redundant from his job as a computer programmer.


Tired of being boring and unadventurous, he throws caution to the winds and buys a plane ticket to Peru.

Rhys’ adventure in Peru starts out well, but then disaster strikes. All of his belongings are stolen. Everything is gone—passport, wallet, phone, clothing, the lot.

Stranded in Cuzco, not too far from the famous Machu Picchu, Rhys tries to find someone to help him. He’s about to give up, when a sexy Brazilian named Rafael, comes to his rescue…

Buy links

Amazon US:

Amazon UK:

Amazon AU:






$20 WIP Gift Card

$5 Amazon Gift Card

1 x eBook copy of In Darkest Peru

1 x eBook copy of Conflicted or Second Bite of the Cherry (winner’s choice)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the author

Louise Lyons comes from a family of writers. Her mother has a number of poems published in poetry anthologies, her aunt wrote poems for the Church, and her grandmother sparked her inspiration with tales of fantasy. Louise first ventured into writing short stories at the grand old age of eight, mostly about little girls and ponies. She branched into romance in her teens, and MM romance a few years later, but none of her work saw the light of day until she discovered Fan Fiction in her late twenties.

Posting stories based on some of her favorite movies, provoked a surprisingly positive response from readers. This gave Louise the confidence to submit some of her work to publishers, and made her take her writing “hobby” more seriously.

Louise lives in the UK, about an hour north of London, with a mad Dobermann, and a collection of tropical fish and tarantulas. She works in the insurance industry by day, and spends every spare minute writing. She is a keen horse-rider, and loves to run long distance. Some of her best writing inspiration comes to her, when her feet are pounding the open road. She often races into the house afterward, and grabs pen and paper to make notes.

Louise has always been a bit of a tomboy, and one of her other great loves is cars and motorcycles. Her car and bike are her pride and joy, and she loves to exhibit the car at shows, and take off for long days out on the bike, with no one for company but herself.

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“It’s freezing,” Rhys protested. He wondered what Rafael had in mind, but he hoped fervently that it might involve more contact between them.

“You will soon be warm.” Rafael reached over and fumbled for the zip on Rhys’s sleeping bag. Rhys wriggled out of it and rubbed his upper arms. He waited as Rafael moved around in the near darkness, wondering how he could do anything without at least a torch. “Here.” Rafael touched Rhys’s shoulder. “Get in.”

As Rhys slipped back into the sleeping bag, he realized Rafael had zipped the two together, making one large one. He swallowed nervously, his pulse racing, as Rafael got into the bag with him and snuggled close. Warm breath fanned his cheek again and Rafael rested a heavy arm across his middle. Rhys shivered, not only from the cold this time.

“Better?” Rafael inquired.

“Um…yes, thank you.” Rhys felt his cheeks heat up at his prim response and Rafael laughed softly.

“You are shy.”


“You like me?” Rafael whispered.

Hell, yes! Rhys struggled to think of an answer that wouldn’t sound too eager or too cold. He had no idea what was going to happen, but he thought Rafael might kiss him. He hoped Rafael would kiss him. Immediately his head filled with images of their lips clinging, tongues entwining and their hands stroking each other’s bodies. His cock twitched and began to fill.

“Yes, I like you,” he said eventually.

Rafael slid his hand up to touch Rhys’s face. His palm was warm as it cupped his cool skin and Rhys held his breath. Rafael’s nose bumped his again as he angled his head and brought their lips together. Rhys let out a soft groan as Rafael’s mouth fitted over his. His lips were warm, soft and moist and they caressed Rhys’s lips gently. Rhys lifted his hands cautiously, unsure where to put them. Rafael’s tongue licked along the seam of his mouth and then entered when he parted his lips on a gasp. Rhys laid one hand on Rafael’s chest and felt his heartbeat, as rapid as his own. Rhys could feel the heat of Rafael’s body coming through the layers of clothing he wore and he longed to feel the man’s skin under his fingers. He stroked his hand tentatively over Rafael’s left pectoral and then lowered it to his ribcage. Rafael groaned and kissed him deeper. His tongue plunged urgently into Rhys’s mouth, teasing his own and flicking against the roof of his mouth. Rhys had to tell himself to breathe and he sucked in small breaths of air through his nose as he pressed his lips harder against Rafael’s and sucked at his tongue.


Blast from the Past: Magic’s Muse by Anne Barwell

MagicsMuse_dspThanks, Kim, for hosting me.


Magic’s Muse is the second book in my Hidden Places series, and was published in 2012. Although the book I’m writing now—One Word—is the third book in this series, it’s a side novel to the first book, Cat’s Quill.


So why choose Magic’s Muse as the blast from the past?


Although Cat’s Quill ties up quite a few loose ends, and may seem on the surface to finish the story, it’s just the beginning of the journey for Cathal, Tomas and their friends. With Cat’s Quill being only from Tomas’s POV, I wasn’t able to explore Cathal’s world in much detail. The readers only ‘saw’ what Tomas did, and his perspective of everything was very much that of an outsider seeing everything briefly for the first time.


Magic’s Muse picks up those threads and runs with it. As well as finding more out about Cathal and his world, and getting to know some of the other characters a bit better, a few more dangling plot threads are introduced in this book as their story is far from over.  In Cat’s Quill, Cathal’s sister, Irene, had warned Tomas that there will be a price to pay for their escape. That time is coming, and sooner than they think.


But in the meantime, in Magic’s Muse, there are more immediate concerns, like how to rid Cathal of the magic that binds him to the tree, and the fact that, in our world, his cousin Christian is still a cat.


Buy link:



Sequel to Cat’s Quill

Tomas and Cathal have escaped from Naearu, Cathal’s mystical homeworld, but happily ever after is never as straightforward in real life as it is in books. Then again, most people don’t deal with the complication of a lover who’s magically bound to a tree or have an interfering cat for a cousin.

With Naearu’s police force, the Falcons, still after Cathal, he can’t go home. Now that he and Tomas have consummated their relationship, Cathal’s abilities are evolving and changing to the point that Tomas can sense them. And until the oak portal closes, Cathal—and his new life with Tomas—are in limbo as Cathal can’t expect Tomas to stay with someone who can never venture past the property line. Will he and Tomas ever get to follow through on their engagement?


A pitiful meow, although it could be better described as a squeak, filled the air, followed by a frantic scrabbling of claws. Cathal slid further out the window, so that one foot was resting on the roof, and focused on the direction of the noise. Without the window frame obstructing his view, it was easier to look around for the culprit. Further down the roof, on the overhanging part near the drainpipe, sat a tiny gray tabby kitten, growing more distressed by the moment. “I think it’s stuck,” he decided, when the cat’s meows became louder.


“It probably jumped out there when it saw us and then couldn’t figure out how to get back.” Tomas studied the kitten. “We can’t leave it up there. I’ll go find a ladder.”


“A ladder won’t reach that part of the roof.” Cathal squinted, working out the distance between the kitten, where they were, and the ground. He slid his other leg out of the window, finding his balance while he still had his back against the outside of the attic wall.


“Cat?” Tomas tried to grab Cathal’s arm to bring his back inside, but Cathal took another step further out onto the roof, just out of reach. “You can’t go out there. It’s dangerous.”


“I’ll be fine.” Cathal was already working out the quickest way to reach the kitten. At least it wasn’t about to move, but hopefully it wasn’t so scared that it would try and attack him when he got there.


“Let me do it then.”


“So it’s dangerous but you’ll do it?” Cathal snorted at the sensible way in which Tomas had gone from one conclusion to the other. “Your ankle is still tender. It makes more sense for me to.” His voice softened, realizing Tomas was concerned and scared for Cathal’s safety. However, that did not mean he should risk his own in the process. “It’s okay, love. I’ve been on this roof before, and I know the safest way to do this. Why don’t you go find that ladder? We might need it.”


Tomas hesitated. “I could help you here,” he offered.


“There is less chance of scaring the kitten this way.” The kitten meowed again. Cathal didn’t need his ability to know how scared it was. “I’m not leaving it out here, Tomas. Ladder, please. Now.” A ladder would work in that spot. He just had to get the kitten over there. “The drainpipe is closer than the outside stairs, but I don’t know if it’s still in good repair.”


“Drainpipe?” Tomas looked between Cathal and the kitten. He paled. “You are not going down that fucking drainpipe with that kitten. Promise me?” Without waiting for a reply he was gone, calling for Donovan.


“I promise,” Cathal said softly. This looked more dangerous than it was, but Cathal was not about to take any unnecessary risks. He’d done this before, on more than one occasion, the first time just to see if it could be done, much to Christian’s amusement. Alice had ripped verbal shreds off him after she found out, and then Christian too when he’d laughed at her reaction.


There was a light breeze, but nothing that would cause any problems. Cathal stood for a moment, enjoying the freedom of being so exposed to wind and sun with nothing between him and the elements. He’d forgotten how good it felt being up here like this, despite the cold, especially after a decent amount of rain, the air crisp and clean. It always smelled better up higher for some reason, closer to the sky.


The kitten squeaked. It was watching him cautiously. He projected reassurance and comfort, figuring that even if the animal couldn’t feel the emotions at least it would keep himself calm. His brother, Kane, had used the strategy once when rescuing a cat from a tree. It had worked for him, but being able to project his emotions onto others drew on the strengths of his ability rather than Cathal’s.


Cathal edged further out along the roof, choosing his footing carefully. There was more moss on the tiles than there had been the last time he’d done this, and it occurred to him that perhaps the roof might not be in as good repair, being that much older. Still, he’d got this far and wasn’t about to give up yet.


Below him, he heard voices. Tomas would be organizing the ladder. Cathal hoped it wouldn’t be needed, but the idea of having it as an option was beginning to feel very welcome. Six more steps and he’d reach the kitten. Another meow, but this time it was accompanied by a loud purr. “You know you’re going to be rescued, don’t you?”


Up closer, he could see just how tiny it was, barely weaned from his mother at a guess. It must have wandered away from the litter wanting to explore, and got out of its depth very quickly. How had it got up here? Perhaps it had found its way into the inn through an open window and then onto the roof from there. Maybe from the attic, as Tomas had originally suggested?


His foot slipped, the feel of the firm roof beneath him disappearing as he scrambled to find a foothold, barely managing to right himself.


Heidi screamed. Tomas swore loudly, his voice carried by the wind.



Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand.  She shares her home with two cats who are convinced that the house is run to suit them; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date it appears as though the cats may be winning. In 2008 she completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra. She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth.





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Dreamspinner Press Author Page:


Lots and lots of stuff!

Do you ever have one of those days that rushes by at lightspeed, when you don’t even have time to breathe? Today is one of those. Here’s a quickie rundown of the high points.

1. Standby released today

standby_smlThis is a short story that originally came out as part of the Stranded anthology. Now you can buy it by itself at:





2. Grown-Up is now available for preorder!

GrownUpFSLook at Paul Richmond’s fabulous cover! This is a contemporary novella about Austin Beier, who realizes–somewhat belatedly–it’s time to be an adult. It releases on March 18 but you can preorder it now from Dreamspinner.






3. Part 14 of Different Tracks is now up

42156_origHave you been reading this free round robin story? if not, there are links so you can catch up.


4. Other stuff too.

My boring alter ego got interviewed for Huffington Post and that article posted today too. I have a huge stack of exams to grade. This weekend I’m staying on a ferry that was built in 1888. And in less than 2 weeks I’m heading to Orlando, but first I have to finish the first draft of the novella I’m writing.

Different Tracks: Part 14


Previous parts:
Sophie Bonaste (Part 1, 7 and 9)
Charlie Cochet (Part 8)
Grace Duncan (Part 3 and 11)
Kim Fielding (Part 6)
Lane Hayes
Elizabeth Noble (5 and 13)
Brynn Stein (2 and 10)
Suki Fleet (Part 4 and 12)


Part 14

Xander wasn’t a big guy, but he managed to take up a lot of room in Peter’s arms. Pete focused on just a bit of him, a colorfully inked shoulder glistening with water droplets.

“What are you doing, Xander?” Peter asked. His voice wasn’t as calm as he’d hoped.


Peter glanced down to where their torsos joined, where his growing erection pressed against Xander’s. “This seems kinda more… dualistic than showering.”

Xander huffed loudly and stepped back as much as the shower stall would allow—which wasn’t much. He let his hands fall to his sides. “See, that’s what I mean.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Dualistic. That’s not…. Fuck. I chop meat for a living.”

Maybe, Peter decided, the head injury was muddling the poor guy’s head. The bleeding had long since stopped, but the area around the wound was red and puffy. Xander was going to have a hell of a bruise by morning.

He set a hand on Xander’s shoulder. “Let’s rinse off, and then I can make us something to eat.”

When Xander blinked quickly and ducked his head, he looked astonishingly young and vulnerable. “I should just go,” he said, and made as if to step out of the shower.

But Peter caught his arm. “You don’t have a car, remember?”

“Just… just drive me home. Please.”

“If that’s what you want.”

“I don’t know what I fucking want!”

Usually when people yelled at Peter, he walked away. He wasn’t into confrontations. But he was pretty sure Xander was angry at himself, not at Peter. So he took a chance and pulled him close. “Let’s stop worrying so much, okay? You don’t do relationships. I get that.”

“So you just want another quick fuck?”

“I’m not sure what I want either.” Peter shrugged. “But, um, you’re here. And I’m here. And we’re naked, so….” He gave in to temptation and bent to delicately tongue the water from Xander’s collarbone.

Xander groaned deeply and tried to clutch at him. But Peter followed a small trickle of water down Xander’s pec to a puckered nipple. He nipped lightly—making Xander groan again—and would have been happy playing there for a while if the water hadn’t distracted him. He traced the trickle with his tongue and lips down the hard ridges of Xander’s abs, then fell to his knees to he could lick at the shallow indentation of Xander’s navel. He tasted really good, all warm salt. But then, God, Xander’s cock was right there, hard and glistening, and Peter couldn’t really say no to that. He slipped the head into his mouth.

“F-fuck!” Xander stuttered. He clutched hard at Peter’s shoulders, which was just fine.

Peter grabbed Xander’s slick hips, closed his eyes, and concentrated on his work. He liked giving head, although it had been some time since he’d had the opportunity. And Christ, he loved the ragged noises he was forcing from Xander’s throat.

“G-g-gonna…,” said Xander, his grip tightening. Peter considered jerking himself off too, but decided against it. He wasn’t in the mood to multitask. He redoubled his efforts instead, hearing Xander’s breathing hitch and clatter.

And then the hot water ran out.

Peter yelped as a jet of cold water hit his back and ran down his ass. In his spastic attempt to get away from the torture, he knocked against Xander, who lost his footing completely. Tangled, they flopped together like a pair of drunken octopi, neither of them able to escape the slippery floor.

Xander’s head thudded hard against the tiled wall. “Ow! Dammit!” He pushed hard at Peter and managed to tumble out of the shower, but the bath mat skidded when he tried to stand and he fell again. “Ah!”

Peter made it to relatively dry land and rose safely to standing. He gave Xander a hand to rise before reaching in to turn off the water. “Are you okay? Are you bleeding again?”

Xander touched his forehead and looked at the small smear of blood on his fingers. “You’re fucking trying to kill me,” he said weakly—right before his eyes rolled up and he collapsed in a dead faint.


Toweled off and dressed, Peter and Xander were silent over sandwiches. Peter had talked Xander into drinking a big glass of orange juice on account of the earlier blood loss, but was sticking to water himself. Xander winced slightly every time he moved his head.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to take you to the hospital?” Peter asked for the hundredth time.

Xander shook his head, winced again, and sighed. “I’m fine.”

“You lost consciousness. You might have a concussion or something.”

“I don’t.”

“But how do you know?”

“It’s the blood,” Xander mumbled, not meeting his eyes.


“I’m… not very good with blood.”

“But you work in a meat market.”

Xander poked at a piece of bread. His cheeks had gone slightly pink. “’S different. That’s animal blood. It’s my own I’m not very fond of seeing.”

Ah. That made sense, sort of.  “I’m really sorry,” Peter said, also for the hundredth time. But he was. Really, really sorry.

“Forget it. Look. You’re a great guy.  And you’re really hot and you’re… you’re good at sex.” Xander squirmed slightly. “But I don’t think you and me are meant to be.”

“Because you don’t do relationships.” Peter didn’t want to sound petulant, but he was growing tired of treading this ground.

“Yeah, partly. I mean, some guys are good for partners and True Love and all that shit, and some of us are good for quick ’n’ dirty hookups. And really, what do we have in common apart from hammering nails on Saturdays? You’re… you’ve got all this,” he waved his hands vaguely, “and I live in a crappy apartment with walls so thin I can hear my neighbor brush her teeth. Even fate is against us.”

“I don’t believe in fate,” said Peter.

Xander didn’t answer.

They finished eating. Xander stood first, collected the dishes, and set them in the sink, which surprised Peter. Then he turned around. “Could you take me home? This guy I work with, Ralph, he’s good with cars. I’ll see if he can help me out.”

Ignoring the ridiculous stab of jealousy, Peter nodded. He stood and grabbed his car keys from the kitchen island.

But when they got outside, Xander didn’t seem in such a hurry to get in the truck. He stood on the front porch, gazing across the road and over the fields as if watching something amazing, although there was nothing but greenery that rustled in the early evening breeze. The air was sticky and thick, and Peter hoped the wind would blow away some of the humidity.

“It’s quiet out here,” Xander said.

“Mostly.” Peter liked quiet. He’d lived in the city when he went to college, but he hadn’t liked the way everything moved so fast, the way all the textures felt hard and unforgiving. He’d probably have a more active love life now if he didn’t live out in the sticks, but he wasn’t willing to give up the old family homestead.

Xander sighed deeply before turning and heading to the truck. As Peter followed, he took in the defeated set of Xander’s shoulders and was struck by a realization: Xander wanted a lot more than he let on. Probably a real home, a permanent lover. He just didn’t think he could have those things.

Grinning to himself, Peter picked up his pace. Maybe all he had to do was find a way to make Xander see the truth. This called for a plan.




Ooh! That’s Interesting!: Tattoos

There’s something fascinating about tattoos, isn’t there? I guess it’s the concept of using the body as canvas, of applying art permanently to skin. The fact that someone chooses to get a tat says something about that person–although the specific message changes with time and culture–and of course the chosen design also gives insight into a person’s history and psyche.

I don’t know how long ago humans invented tattooing, but I’d guess it was thousands of years ago. We like to mark walls and we like to mark ourselves–symbols of permanency in an impermanent world.

I think it’s interesting how the perception of tattoos has changed in the US in recent years. Used to be, sailors, criminals, and people of questionable moral character got them. Today, some people still frown on them. I know my local sheriff won’t hire deputies with visible ink. If they have arm tats, he makes them wear long sleeves even if it’s over 100F out.

But the fact is, lots of folks have tattoos nowadays, and you can see this page to find proof. Including middle-aged university professors who also write m/m romance. I have three:

tat3 tat1 tat2The first one is because I have degrees in law and psychology (see the Greek psi?) and because I’m an academic. It’s a pretty nerdy tattoo. The second one is because I love travel–and also to remind myself I don’t need to carry the world on my shoulders. The third features the first 3 words from my first novel, Stasis. I might get a fourth tattoo someday, if I can decide on a design.

I find tattoos sexy, especially men with sleeve tats. Like Cleve from Venetian Masks:


Notice how one of Cleve’s designs includes wings? When the artist, Shobanu Appavu, made that amazing cover, I don’t think she knew I have similar wings on my arm.

What are your thoughts on tattoos? Do you have any? Are there any you hate? Do you share my slight fetish for sleeves?

What’s Kim Reading Now?: Belonging ‘Verse books

I have a two-fer for you this week–two books set in the same universe but written by different authors. They are Anchored by Rachel Haimowitz and Counterpunch by Aleksandr Voinov.

The world-building is terrific. The books are set in a world pretty much identical to ours–except that slavery wasn’t abolished in the US in the 19th century. In fact, slavery has spread in scope and across the world. In Anchored, the protagonist is a man who was born a slave and was bought by a corporation to be a journalist and TV newsman. But the corporation also rents him to a high bidder for evenings and weekends. This book takes place in New York. The protagonist in Counterpunch was born free and was a policeman, but was sentenced to slavery after he killed a politician’s daughter. That one’s set in the UK.

You could easily read either of these without reading the other–they have little in common apart from the shared universe.

There are some very brutal scenes in these books, especially Anchored. But there’s also real tenderness. And in both books, the writing is fantastic.

Blast from the Past: Where My Love Lies Dreaming by Christopher Hawthorne Moss

Where My Love Lies Dreaming

By Christopher Hawthorne Moss


wmlld cover

As the famous riverboat Le Beau Soleil lazily steams down the mighty Mississippi into the heart of the South, distractions of every sort attempt to pull agent for the Treasury Johnny Stanley away from his assignment. While liquor and gaming are no great temptations, his fascination with Le Beau Soleil’s owner, the debonair Frankie Deramus, means Johnny’s steadfast denial of his attraction to men is no longer feasible. Johnny fights his lust, but when he must come to Frankie’s aid, he can’t ignore his urges any longer. Their passionate love affair falls apart when Johnny refuses to admit two men can be in love. A bitter confrontation between the lovers at a Mardi Gras masquerade forces Johnny to run north. Frankie tries to follow, but the Southern states secede one by one, making it impossible to track Johnny down. The Civil War pits brother against brother and separates lover from lover. When at last the lovers meet again, it’s on the battlefield….


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Reviewed by Mel Keegan, author and owner of GLBT Bookshelf

How easy it is to forget that bygone eras were snake-pits of risk for GLBT folk (as other parts of our own world still are). Realistic historical gay fiction is compelled to deal with this; thoughtful historical gay fiction may go further and examine the ramifications and consequences of legal systems which intrude into the bedroom.

Where My Love Lies Dreaming by Christopher Hawthorne Moss is a deeply thoughtful and also thought-provoking novel addressing several questions, of which `How was it to be gay in Civil War era America?’ is but one. The author tackles others, some of them already well explored — such as the issue of slavery — and others touched on more rarely: `What does it actually mean to be American?’ and even, `Are licentiousness and outrageousness necessarily a part of being gay and out?’

One of the most fascinating aspects of the novel, for me, is that while the protagonists are American by birth, culturally they are European. Francois Deramus is Creole, with French roots as deep as any Quebecois; bilingual, with the gentility and sophistication of the French aristocrat as well as a sometimes rashly flamboyant personality. This proves irresistible to the repressed, naïve young man calling himself Johnny Stanley to avoid the prejudice toward immigrants which, in this era, would surely trap him in the ghetto. John Stanley is in fact Johann Steinfeld — Hansi for short: born in Chicago of German parents and as bilingual as Deramus. But unlike `Frankie’ Deramus, who delights in his heritage and his very Frenchness (Creoleness, to be accurate, though to readers beyond American shores `Creole’ is an exotic, evocative word rather than a familiar culture), Stanley is, of economic necessity, a fugitive from his own heritage.

America and Australia have several characteristics in common — forgive me if I speak here from the perspective of the antipodes. Both are nations of immigrants, settled originally and extensively from Europe; both remain young nations by comparison with the countries from which our ancestors arrived only in the last two or three centuries. (And of course immigration continues, often problematically, involving asylum seekers in overwhelming numbers). The wider canvas of American history shows a nation grown from European rootstock, an evolving society at once rich, varied and all the more robust because of its cultural multiplicity. However, what is healthy for a nation can be destructive to an individual. To escape the destiny of an immigrant laborer `Hansi Steinfeld’ will deny his heritage, though it alienates his family. Not only has he changed his name, he has schooled himself to lose the accent, mannerisms and manner of dress that identify him as an immigrant and would imprison him in Germantown. And he is up against tougher obstacles: born gay in an era when homosexuality was worth a life sentence; born Catholic in a time when Catholicism was widely scorned as a kind of religious deviance almost on a par with the aforementioned sexual `deviance.’

The author does not tackle the question of how young Stanley overcame his Catholic upbringing, but he clearly has; the undesired attentions of a priest, in his youth, would have helped. He displays none of the telltale quirks of the Catholic as he leaves home to undertake a fact-finding job for the government — he can pass in a crowd as the heterosexual, homogeneous American Protestant. Only Johnny knows the price he pays for this ability to move unnoticed among the common human herd, and the mask lasts only long enough for him to board a riverboat and blunder into another world … a liberal microcosm revolving around the vessel’s owner, where prejudice is held at bay by one man’s determination not merely to be different, but to make his `one small corner’ different.

Riverboat owner and professional gambler Francois Deramus is as close to `out’ as one could be in 1859. He has an ingenious barometer for gauging the sexual preference of passengers, and dalliance is his delight. Moreover, he is an abolitionist to the limits permissible in his time and place: he makes it difficult for his boat to be used to carry slaves, and though he actually owns his manservant, Albright, and Albright’s wife, he sublimates the relationship into one of an interracial Wooster and Jeeves. Albright is a `gentleman’s gentleman,’ with pride and dignity in himself and his work.

Stepping into Deramus’s utopian milieu aboard Le Beau Soleil — opulent, splendid, sensual — the erstwhile Hansi Steinfeld is doomed. He wages a game fight but seduction is a matter of course as surely as is his flight from the scene, and from the source of his dilemma — because for Stanley, seduction is not liberation, but a descent into shame. Such is his Catholic conditioning that later, meeting Deramus by chance he wonders, albeit fleetingly, if he might reform a man who is joyful in both his sexual freedom and the tiny bubble of liberty he has labored to create in a world filled with the very oppression that continues to make Stanley himself profoundly miserable. The painfully naïve Johnny actually wonders if he can `wean’ Deramus away from the sin of homosexuality — away, and into what? Into Stanley’s own private hell? Fortunately, Deramus is too self-assured, confident in himself and in the microcosm he has built, to be influenced by socio-religious tyranny. Stanley is seduced again before he knows it — also `on the cards’ for a healthy male who has denied his own sensuality until, in fact, sex seems to be on his mind most of the time. The gulf of difference yawning between Deramus, who rejoices in his sensuality, and Stanley, who bears his as a burden, is measured by the unmitigated disaster of Johnny’s exposure to the ebullient, outrageous face of gay identity. Deramus appears to possess no inkling of the intense religious conditioning Stanley wears like armor, and too late discovers his mistake.

The stage is set for the lives of these men to be blown apart by the Civil War. In a world gone completely mad, Deramus will pay handsomely for former liberties taken and enjoyed, and Stanley will discover himself through the bloody rituals of war. To me, this is a fascinating period about which I wish I knew more. I appreciated the way the author unfolds the early days of the conflict through the medium of rumor mill, returning eyewitness, political rhetoric … the newspaper.

For the most part, Where My Love Lies Dreaming is an adroit character play. Events and backdrops weave around the characters rather than the protagonists being driven by events to key locations — until the mid-section of the book, where the plot sparks to life for readers looking for more than romance. Some of the pivotal events of the war are seen through the eyes of Deramus, in particular, and also Stanley. Suffice to say, their lives will never be the same; and you don’t want spoilers here.

The novel is at its most commanding in its historical accuracy, the impressive depth of the research and the very concept of the story driving it. The reader is gifted with a genuine sense of time and place. Most of the Civil War tale is synopsized, told in outline form, which saddened me somewhat because this was the very part of the book that spoke to me, personally — action, conflict, intrigue, danger — rather than the romance, which is extensively developed. However, I realize that in romantic fiction, and perhaps especially in m/m works, there will always be dichotomy: readers who flip past sex to get to plot while others skim plot to find sex. In a novel extending beyond erotica, the author must, per force, try to cater to both camps — also, if those tracts of Civil War synopsis were properly developed, this book would be the size of The Feast of All Saints or Captains and the Kings. (Not that one objects to an epic!) To my mind, it seems one or two important points that should have been developed rather than synopsized were skipped over, but I can’t say more without spoilers; the reader must decide for him- or herself.

On a purely personal note, I was fascinated by New Orleans, about which I know spectacularly little. (One of America’s gay Meccas, razed by a `perfect storm,’ famous for its jazz and sizzling food … all else remains deliciously mysterious.)

The book is beautifully prepared, with the meticulous proofreading one has come to expect from Dreamspinner Press, which is extremely welcome. The writing style is clear, lucid, vivid, only occasionally jarring with a little redundancy and the overuse of names, where a reader yearns for the simple pronoun. Any shortcomings of style blur away into the greater tapestry of the work and are soon forgotten.

I enjoyed this novel a great deal — high praise, since m/m and romance are not my usual reading. Where My Love Lies Dreaming offers much more than what I term `pure romance,’ though a generous part of the book is, admittedly, devoted to particularly explicit erotica. Occasionally, romantic fiction crosses a certain line and succeeds on other levels: this book is a compelling historical too. Highly recommended for readers interested in American history and at the same time hunting for the panoramic story in which gay sex is one of the principle driving forces — where one can choose between the erotic adventures, or the grit and courage of sometimes harrowing human endeavor … and by all means choose both, if you will!


large kitAbout the author


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




Riverboat Le Beau Soleil, November 1860


“You know, it is almost Noël. Will you want to spend that time in Chicago with your father?” Frankie sat on the divan in his sitting room with one arm around Johnny’s shoulders while the latter examined reports.


“No!” Johnny shuddered. He kept reading. Less vehemently he repeated, “No, I don’t think so.”


Frankie frowned at him. “Won’t your father want his son with him for Noël?”


Johnny wriggled uncomfortably. “I suppose. But I would rather spend it with you.”


“I could come with you to Chicago!”


The change in Johnny’s demeanor was marked. “No! Absolutely not!” Shuffling his papers, he made a show of attention to his work and ignored Frankie’s dismayed look.


Frankie abruptly stood and began to pace in the small space. He finally turned and asked, “Are you ashamed of me, Johnny?”


Johnny looked up at him, his eyebrows knitted. He shook his head.


“No, of course not,” Johnny said. “I… I… just don’t want to spend… Christmas where it is freezing and windy.” He realized he had almost said, “Weihnachten.”


Frankie glared at him. “It’s true, isn’t it? You are afraid to be seen with me. I am only un bouffon, un paon to you. In New Orleans you can barely stand to be seen with me. But let your father or friends see me? Mais non. Ça, ce serait de trop!”


Johnny got to his feet and went to him, but Frankie shook him off. “You constantly chide me for being too reckless. Has it ever occurred to you how I feel when you try to stifle me? I go my whole life being exactly who I am. People like me this way. More important, I like me this way. Then suddenly when I find someone I want to be with more than any other person in the world, I have to hide myself.”


Johnny watched him as he began to pace again, gesticulating flamboyantly. “Frankie…,” he began.


“I see, you want me to be your fancy man, but you don’t want anyone else to know it.”


Johnny frowned. Sternly, he essayed, “Frankie, please don’t talk like that.”


Frankie spun on him. “Don’t talk like what? Like someone who cares about you, who wants you, or like some sort of… chichi man?”




Frankie leveled an icy glare on him. “You know what I mean.” He mimicked his own florid gestures in an exaggerated way. He glared into Johnny’s nonplussed face, turned and stalked into his bedchamber, loudly slamming and locking the door behind him.


Johnny stood stunned. He went to the door and shouted through it, “Hey, wait a minute. That’s the only way I can get to my stateroom.”


He heard a snort of derision followed by rapid angry French. Frankie called in English, “Then I suppose you will have to let everyone see you sneaking out of the chichi man’s bedroom.” Johnny heard him open the adjoining door and slam it.


He stood, unsure what to do. He turned back and sat again on the divan. Why didn’t Frankie understand? Exposure was dangerous. He may have managed to steam under the bridge until now, but discovery was only a matter of time. If they went to Chicago together, it wouldn’t take a particularly perceptive person to see at once what Frankie was. It would be all over the place in no time. So much for Johnny’s position, his reputation.


A tap sounded on the door that led to the promenade. Johnny leaped to his feet with “And another thing…” on his lips, expecting Frankie, but he opened the door to Charles William. “Oh, it’s you. I suppose he sent you to give me a good talking to.” Johnny turned and went back to the divan and threw himself down on it.


The manservant quietly shut the door behind him. He turned to regard Johnny, his posture his usual elegantly attentive demeanor. “Is there anything I can get for you, Mr. Stanley?”


Johnny shook his head. “I am quite all right the way I am.”


Charles William hesitated, then asked, “Mr. Deramus is clearly angry about something, if I may say so.”


Johnny shot him a look. “That is hardly any of your business, is it?” he stated imperiously.


The manservant nodded. “Yes, you are right, sir. It is not. I beg your pardon.” He reached back to open the door to leave.


“No, stop. That was unfair of me. You’ve known Frankie all his life. Why does he act… that way? Why does he have to be such a… nancy?”


To his surprise, he heard a rumble start from Charles William’s throat that slowly grew into a deep booming laugh. He turned a rueful eye on him.


“You think Mr. Deramus acts like a… nancy?” The rumble continued. “I take it you have never met any nancy boys.”


Johnny glared. “Well, no. I haven’t. I don’t go into that part of town. I have no reason to.”


Charles William cast an indulgent smile on him. “Mr. Deramus does not act like a nancy. He acts like a Creole. They would never admit it in a hundred years, but Creole people have picked up African mannerisms over the time of our close association.”


“But you don’t act like that.”


“You haven’t seen me at Mardi Gras. Most of the time I have to be very solemn and quiet. That’s part of how I survive. But François doesn’t have to hide to survive,” he said, reverting to his master’s familiar name. “He’s free. And that is one thing I admire about him. I thought you did too at first.”

What’s Kim Reading Now?: The Bells of Times Square by Amy Lane

Most readers of m/m romance already know that Amy Lane can write. And they know that she does angst like nobody’s business. The Bells of TImes Square delivers well on both accounts. But I also liked the sweetness of it. And I’m a sucker for a good historical. I’m hardly an expert in these matters, but it sure reads as if Amy did her research for this one–the details rang true. I loved the main characters, and even though I knew the book would be bittersweet, well, sometimes that’s what we need.