Exercise. Really.

I can’t believe it’s come to this. I’m blogging about exercise.

When it comes to exercise, I’m generally against it. I blame my junior high PE teachers, sadists who took all the fun out of of the subject. I had to take 3 semesters of PE in college, and that was actually sort of fun–I did bowling, racquetball, and self-defense. But that was centuries ago, and since then I’ve avoided most exercise.

Except walking. I love walking–but only when I travel. My favorite way to tour is on foot, and I’m apt to walk many miles (or kilometers, as the case may be) when I’m away from home.

But walking around my neighborhood is hot and dead boring. I have a choice between beige stucco houses or, if I walk the canal, dairy cows, orchards, and cornfields. And lizards and ants. Not exactly the streets of Paris.

So I avoided walking at home. I drove. That’s what Californians do, after all.

But a couple months ago I bought a Fitbit. And because I’m somewhat, ahem, compulsive, having all those goals and charts totally did it for me. I now walk 3 or more miles almost every evening. Sometimes my husband or my teenage daughter walks with me, which is fun. When I walk alone, I listen to audiobooks, which is also fun. I’ve been known to take an extra spin around the block if I’m in the middle of a good part. I’ve worn through one pair of walking shoes already.

I’ve also found that walking is an excellent way to sublimate the frustrations of my day job. And I get plot ideas! Today a terrific plot bunny hopped into my path at about the 2 mile mark.

One of my colleagues sometimes wears a T-shirt from some 20K “fun run”. Running 20K would not ever, under any circumstances, be fun to me. I doubt I’ll ever go the extra step (figuratively speaking) and take up running instead. But for once I’m actually enjoying exercise. Who could have predicted that?


Knights Ferry

I live in California’s Central Valley. It’s a long way–culturally, at least–from the hipness of the San Francisco Bay Area or the palm-trees-and-movie-stars vibe of Southern California. This area is hot and dry and conservative and poor. The bulk of the economy is agriculture-based. It’s not a part of the state most people think about much. And sometimes I whine about living here.

But the truth is that there are some great things about living here. No snow and ice, but I can easily visit wintry weather in the mountains. I can grow nearly everything, and there are abundant produce stands very close by. Our oven-hot summer days are also very dry, and in the evening the Delta breeze usually comes through, cooling us down by 30 to 40 degrees. And there are about a million interesting places to visit within about a 2-hour drive.

The other day we took a short drive–less than 45 minutes–to the tiny town of Knights Ferry. It was founded in 1848. Named after William Knight, who–obviously–ran a ferry across the Stanislaus River, at least until he was killed in a gunfight.

119Knights Ferry has the longest covered bridge west of the Mississippi. It also has the oldest still-operating general store in the state. There are the ruins of a flour mill along the river, and the old jail still stands.

133 127

I love exploring old cemeteries, and the one in Knights Ferry didn’t disappoint. I love the “no horses” sign at the gate. My older daughter spied the 141-year-old typo on one stone, while I admired the lichens on another. It’s very difficult to read the lichen-covered one, even when you’re there, but I did make out that the man was killed while mining his claim.

145 146 142.

136The area around Knights Ferry is cowboy country–horses and cattle–but at least one local rancher has chosen slightly more exotic stock.

I know of at least one other person not far from me who has a camel, but this may be the only zedonk in the region.

Knights Ferry may be tiny, but it’s colorful. And I love how places like this give me ideas for my stories. It’s a good reminder that we don’t always have to travel far to find inspiration.

Do you have quirky places near where you live? Please share in the comments.


Fabulous 5 Blog Hop

The always-wonderful Charlie Cochet tagged me for the Fabulous Five Blog Hop.

1. What am I working on?

I always have lots of things going in different stages! I’m just beginning to write an urban fantasy novel based on raven mythology. If all goes well, it’ll be the first in a series. I’ve also begun a partnership with the talented Venona Keyes on a contemporary novel about a runner. I just submitted a contemporary novella called “Grown-Up” about a guy who realizes it’s finally time to grow up. I’m in edits for a short story called “Standby,” which will release October 10 in the Stranded anthology from Wayward Ink Press. I’m just about finished on edits for my novella “The Dance,” which will be in the second Gothika anthology, Bones. It has a voodoo theme and I’m joined by 3 wonderful authors. It’ll be available October 27. I just finished the galley proofs for my third Bones book, Bone Dry. It comes out October 10. And… I will soon be in edits for my holiday short story, “Saint Martin’s Day,” a part of Dreamspinner Press’s Advent Calendar package.

Yes, I use a spreadsheet to keep track.

2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?

When you read my previous answer, did you notice the stories spanned several genres? Contemporary, paranormal and urban fantasy. I’ve also written lots of fantasy and even a historical. I think my inability to stick to a single genre is one thing that sets me apart. I blame my muse. But I figure love is love, wherever, whenever, and whatever, and good writing should be enjoyable no matter what the genre.

My heroes tend to be untraditional. They’re introverts. They may have disabilities. They are not necessarily breathtakingly handsome. But still they find love.

Also, I have a teeny tiny tendency to torture my poor guys before finding them a happy ending.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I have to. Seriously, I’d write even if I knew nobody else would ever read a word of it.

I fell into m/m romance accidentally. I took a deep breath and wrote my first novel, Stasis, for NaNoWriMo. And the story that came to me just happened to involve a gay man (who’s also a wizard of sorts and who has several major issues!) who rescues another man from a terrible punishment.

And then a lot of other stories followed!

4. How does my writing process work?

I keep a (long) file of story ideas. I generally write only one thing at a time (although there are exceptions). I write a story all the way through (usually on my laptop at my kitchen table) and don’t allow myself to edit until the first draft is done. Then I go back, reread, and fiddle with it. I send it to my lovely beta for a couple rounds of editing, and voila!

5. What’s next on the blog hop? Some of my favorite authors, that’s who:  Eli Easton, Jamie Fessenden, Andrew Q. Gordon, and Tali Spencer. (Yes, that’s only 4. So sue me.)

Please welcome Louise Lyons! (includes giveaway)

Conflicted header banner

Two competing gangs of car and drag racing enthusiasts with a shared history of pain and rivalry leading to outright hatred. Two men from opposite sides of the tracks, yet more in common than they’d like to admit.

Paul Appleton is a troubled man who has never been in a relationship, having lost everyone he cared for in his life. His mother died when he was very young and subsequently, he lost his brother and his best friend. Now Paul is convinced love will always end in tears.

Greg was living on the streets after his parents died and was stabbed by a junkie, ending up in hospital. The Buchanans took Greg under their wing while doing charity work, and Greg joined their loving family when he was adopted. He and his siblings are also car enthusiasts with much more money and therefore better cars than Paul Appleton’s gang.

When they eventually find a connection, Paul fights his feelings and tries to convince himself his lover is only a temporary bit of fun, but Greg has other ideas.


Conflicted coverGreg went to the bar to get a beer and was just handing over the money when he noticed the very man he had been hoping to avoid was right next to him, nursing his own bottle of Budweiser.

“I thought you went to a bar in Stevenage,” Paul commented without looking at Greg.

“I couldn’t be bothered driving over there tonight,” Greg said and gulped some of his beer. He leaned against the bar and glanced at Paul. His gray T-shirt looked about three sizes too small and only emphasized the size of his shoulders and broad back. Intentional, no doubt. His faded jeans were even tighter, and clung to his muscular thighs and firm ass as if they were painted on. Damn, he was hot, and Greg wanted to kick himself for thinking that.

“Not even in the new car?” Paul turned to look at him and raised an eyebrow. His eyes were deep brown and piercing, as if he were looking into Greg rather than at him.

“Not tonight.”

“Nice, by the way. Shame we don’t all have rich parents to shower us with toys like that.”

It was just what Greg expected – a brief compliment quickly crushed by an insult. He was immediately pissed.

“You know nothing about it,” he growled.

Paul shrugged. “I can’t blame you. I wouldn’t have said no either.”

“Listen, Appleton, I won’t pretend I’m not smug as hell driving around in an R34, but I didn’t ask for it and to be honest, I would rather have bought a car I can afford with my own money, which I do earn, by the way. I don’t just live off of them like a fucking leech!”

“Alright, chill, I’m sorry,” Paul said.

“Yeah, well, it gets up my nose that people think I’m rich and spoiled when I work hard like anybody else. I can’t help the fact that I got adopted by the Buchanans. I came from an ordinary family, same as most people, even you.”

“My family was anything but ordinary,” Paul grumbled. “So how come you were adopted anyway?”

“You actually want to know?” Greg asked in surprise.

“Yeah, why not?”

“Okay, we might as well get a seat, then.” Greg turned away from the bar and headed for a corner away from the main bustle, leaving Paul to follow if he felt like it. Greg wasn’t particularly delighted by the prospect of spending more time with him, but since he was here, there wasn’t much else Greg could do. Annoyingly, his pulse sped up as he made his way to an unoccupied corner bench and sat down. He chewed his lip. Paul was still at the bar, speaking to someone he apparently knew, but a moment later, he moved away and walked toward Greg. Fuck, those jeans were tight, and Greg would have bet Paul had no underwear on either.

Jesus, don’t stare. He shifted his eyes up – to bulging pecs. Heat rushed to his groin, and he tried to think about something else. The last thing he wanted was a hard-on, but too long with no fun except for his own hands, and now the company of the hottest guy in the pub, had him stiffening regardless. Greg wondered what the chances were. Would Paul be up for it? Greg knew nothing about him, but he couldn’t imagine him being shy. Greg would bet Paul would shag anything that looked twice at him – or certainly play around with them.

“So? You were going to tell me where you came from,” Paul prompted, dropping onto the seat a little distance away, facing Greg.

“Uh…um…yeah, well, my parents were just ordinary – my dad was a builder and my mum was a waitress. They died in a car crash when I was sixteen.”

“Sorry to hear that,” Paul said with a frown. “Did they treat you okay?”

“My parents? Of course, why wouldn’t they?” That comment puzzled Greg, but he carried on talking. Anything to stop himself imagining Paul’s hand, which was gripping his beer bottle, wrapped around Greg’s cock instead. “They had a huge mortgage, the house got repossessed after they died, and the system didn’t want to know. I lived on the streets for a year, then ended up in hospital, and Agnes Buchanan, who was there doing charity work, took pity on me. And the rest is history.”

“That was lucky.” Paul nodded. “What put you in hospital?”

“A bloke with a knife.”


“So, how did you end up living with…Stewart Sanders, is it?” Greg asked.

“It’s a long story,” Paul grunted. “I left home when I was sixteen, and he and Abby took me in.”

“Why did you leave?”

Paul scowled and drained the rest of his beer before answering. “It’s not important.”

“Humor me,” Greg said, genuinely interested.

“I’m not here to entertain you!” Paul snapped and got to his feet.

“Hey…” Greg protested. Hell, the guy had a chip on his shoulder. A huge chip. And he was about to walk away from Greg just when he was beginning to convince himself that they were getting along, and that he might possibly get his hand inside those tight jeans later. But Paul was already walking to the bar.

“Shit!” Greg growled under his breath. He was annoyed that Paul walked away and more annoyed still that he was disappointed. It had seemed like they might be starting to move past what happened at Octane, and Greg hoped the stupid feud might have been forgotten too.

Paul hadn’t gone far. He had wedged himself between two men at the bar and was waiting to be served another drink. Greg stared at his ass until he turned around again and then quickly dropped his eyes and pretended interest in the last mouthful of beer in his bottle.

“Sorry.” Paul appeared at the other side of the table, placed a fresh bottle of Bud in front of Greg, and then stepped over his legs and took up his original seat, maybe a foot closer to Greg than before.

“No, I’m sorry. I suppose I come across as if I’m prying, but really, I’m just interested.”

The corner of Paul’s mouth twitched up slightly into a hint of a smile. “Just don’t ask me about family.”

“Okay. So can I ask about your job at the club? Don’t they need you on a Friday night?”

“They rotate the weekend days off. It’s my first in the month I’ve been there. It’s a good job – decent pay too, better than the shitty warehouse I was in before.”

“Yeah, I imagine bouncers get paid pretty well.” Greg nodded. “Do you have to use your fists much?” Damn, Greg, what the hell did you say that for? He cursed himself.

Paul grinned. “Not really. You get more trouble with drunken girls trying to slobber all over you.” He pulled a face. “If there’s real trouble, you diffuse it rather than add to it. I do kickboxing and jujitsu to help with that.”

“Cool,” Greg said. It was something they had in common. “I did kickboxing for a few years. I’ve been thinking about taking up something else too.”

Paul nodded and took another drink. Greg watched the movement of his throat as he swallowed and imagined his lips were wrapped around his cock instead of the bottle. He shifted awkwardly and rested his arm across his lap, hoping not to draw attention to the fact that he was getting uncomfortably hard. Paul lowered the bottle, and his eyes slid from Greg’s face, down his chest, and fixed on exactly what he was hoping Paul wouldn’t look at. He grinned and trapped the tip of his tongue between his teeth. Oh fuck. He was checking Greg out and way more obviously than Greg was checking him.

Should Greg ignore it, or go with it? Did he seriously want to get off with Paul? How difficult would that make things if they ran into each other at shows or something in the future? What the hell would the family say if they found out? What on earth was Greg thinking when he considered taking a chance with a person who went out of his way to make trouble for himself and others?

Greg thought for another minute and realized that it was going to be the only chance he had, at least for that evening. Besides, who was going to know? Paul didn’t want anyone finding out about him anymore than Greg did.

“What are you looking at?” Greg grunted as a way of starting a sort of flirting interaction.

“Isn’t it obvious? Like my company, do you?” Paul responded.

“It seems like it, doesn’t it?”

Paul arched an eyebrow and leaned back. He shifted his ass forward on the seat and drew attention to the fact that the ridiculously tight jeans were virtually crushing him. Greg could make out the head of his cock pushing against the fabric. He wondered if it was his imagination or if he was more turned on than he’d ever been in his life.


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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 FanFiction 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.