Excerpt – Thank My Lucky Scars by Tia Fielding

April 26, 2012

Just to change things up a bit, here’s a tiny PG-ish excerpt of yesterday’s release, Thank My Lucky Scars. I hope you enjoy it!


“Half now, half later? Please?” he asked and put on a puppy dog face that made me laugh and then surrender.

“Fine, but if I go all mushy and loopy and try to fondle your assets, it’s not me, it’s the drugs.” I huffed and held out my hand for the pill bottle. “I’m supposed to take two, so I’ll take one. Look.” I made a show of taking one pill from the bottle, placing it on my tongue, and then swallowing it with a sip of water.

I caught, just for a second, Brian watching my throat as I  swallowed,  but  then  he  walked  around  the  coffee  table  to sit down again.

“It’s an interesting song,” he said, listening with his head tilted a little, and then he grinned. “And you’re stating you wouldn’t want to, quote, ‘fondle my assets’ if you weren’t under the influence of some nasty medication?”

His  expression  was  so  teasing,  so  perfectly  what  I  had thought he was like, that I wasn’t sure if this was the real him or the Brian he usually showed to people he didn’t know. Fanboys like me.

“I wouldn’t go that  far, but I’ve pretty much resigned myself to the idea that I won’t be doing any… fondling, for a few months at least.” I rapped my knuckles on my cast.

“Oh, right, that does put a damper on things.” Brian nodded  and  gestured  at  my laptop.  “Can  I  show  you something?” he asked.

“Sure. And besides, I read the blog of that one porn fanatic guy—he said you don’t fondle your fanboys anyways,” I said as neutrally as I could while I settled a bit lower in the corner of the couch. I wasn’t getting loopy yet, but I was tired from the pain, and it was beginning to show.

The last contest-question and some rambling a bit later!

Find Your Magic-Mind Magic Release Day

April 23, 2012

Ever wonder what it would be like to come face-to-face with a ticked off werewolf? Not good would be a pretty safe bet! That’s the dilemma that Simon Osborne faces in my new novel, Mind Magic. He’s rescued kidnapped werewolf cubs and returned them to their pack…but now he’s got to deal with the pack alpha.

I’ll be posting several excerpts from the novel throughout the afternoon as well as telling you a little about myself and the process of creating my first novel.

Hope everyone is having as amazing a Monday as I am.

Here’s an short excerpt:

The alpha reached some sort of conclusion and stepped forward, his son by his side.

“Welcome, Simon, friend of the High Moon Pack. I am Gray, Alpha of the High Moon Pack. Thank you for returning my son and our cubs.”

Unsure of the protocol in the situation, Simon recognized the formality of the speech and bowed his head slightly. “You’re welcome?”

Simon wasn’t quite able to keep the question out of his voice. His knees shook a bit from anxiety, and his heart pounded double time in his chest. It didn’t help that the alpha took one step closer to him. He gave Simon a second look, and this time Simon had no doubt that the alpha was checking him out. It sparked something inside him that he didn’t need to be thinking about.

Garon and the other cubs snickered, and drew Gray’s attention to them. They quieted immediately, but the distraction allowed Simon to get his thoughts back on track. His cheeks heated with embarrassment, but he fought the impulse to keep his eyes lowered. As powerful as Gray was, he wasn’t Simon’s Alpha. Simon knew better than to appear too submissive, even if his overactive hormones wanted him to roll over and beg.

Gray gestured to the combination of men and wolves surrounding him. “Take the cubs to the meeting hall. Gather everyone together. Liam, with me.”

Everyone rushed to do as their alpha commanded, and the cubs were piled into the SUV Gray had arrived in. Big, bald Cade turned to lift the little one, but she slipped away and ran back to Simon. The wolf who had intimidated Simon earlier stepped in her way, but she darted around him and lifted her arms to Simon. He picked her up, keeping one eye on the wolf standing beside him.

“Thank you,” she whispered, then snuggled her face in his neck.

Simon hugged her gently, then set her back on the ground. As she ran back to the SUV, he realized she still had his jacket wrapped around her. It made him smile. She could have it; he had an old one in the back of his closet.

When everyone was through the gate, Gray returned his attention to Simon. They locked eyes for a long moment, and Simon’s knees went wobbly again. The intensity of his stare, his sheer potency, drew Simon under his spell. The moment seemed to stretch on and on before the alpha finally spoke. “Explain to me how you have our missing cubs.”

Music Inspirations for Coming Home

April 9, 2012

MJ back, talking about my book Coming Home, out today from Dreamspinner Press! This post is about inspirations — and as those who know me will tell you, my biggest inspiration is music.

 One of the things I nearly always do when I’m writing a book is I make a playlist on my iPod. I listen to those songs in the car, when I’m doing laundry, thinking and forming characters and scenes in my mind. Sometimes the music plays a more concrete role, like a title or a character name, but sometimes it’s all in the atmosphere. Coming Home is a warm, sleepy, small town story, that takes place in spring and early summer. The music I chose kind of molded the scene and the feel of the story. I thought I’d share a couple of the songs with you:

This is Star Anna and the Laughing Dogs. They’re a Washington Band that I was listening to around the time that I was working on the finishing touches. I like the sleepy melancholy:

watch?v=qgiiyKHx8uY

Both of these songs were on the original playlist. I can’t hear them without thinking of Lex and Tally:)

What if You – Joshua Radin

watch?v=wWSi3p3t5ak

Matt Nathanson All We Are

 watch?v=j1ZWxbm_9s4

And here’s an excerpt to go with my inspirational music:) In this short scene Lex is starting to realize  how he feels about his employee:

His family thankfully dropped the subject of Tallis Carrington for the rest of the meal. Lex could tell it was on his mother’s mind, though. Her face showed it. He was grateful that she’d let it rest but knew that a shop visit wasn’t far off. If there was one thing his mother was, it was protective, and she had a very clear memory of Lex’s year as Tally’s number one victim. He shook his head a bit at that thought. No, he was never Tally’s victim.

Tally was a different person than the dick who’d ruled the school with his gang of apes in lettermen’s jackets. Tally was… real and hardworking and interested in learning new things. Lex couldn’t believe how much the new Tally had superimposed itself in his mind over the old snarling image that had been imprinted there. Now all Lex could see was the way he smiled or how he went out of his way to help as much as he could… oh Jesus. It’s too late.

Lex excused himself soon after dinner was over, claiming early mornings and breakfast rushes as he backed hastily toward the door before another well-meaning intervention could start. In the peace and quiet of his car he admitted what he’d been avoiding all week, especially during the tenseness of Friday night.

“I want him,” he muttered, testing out the words to see how they felt in his mouth. “I want my straight employee who also happens to be the same guy everyone in town hates. Except me.”

Oh, God.


Just a Taste

April 9, 2012

Hey again, this is MJ O’Shea back, talking about my book Coming Home. I wanted to share a little bit more about the book and add a couple of excerpts:)

This book is driven by two characters who had different but equally rough childhoods. One came from a loving but poor home, and was tortured at school, the other, a rich home not exactly filled with love — he spent most of his teens living a lie…and being cruel to others in a misguided ploy to fit in.

We have Tally, or Tallis Carrington, former rich boy who has fallen on hard times and desperately needs to find a job in the town where he used to be practically royalty and a big bully at the local high school

And we have Lex, who was nerdy and soft, tormented by Tally and his gang of friends. He’s come back as a successful business owner, handsome, confident, but still harboring a grudge at the boy who’d hurt him so much in the past.

When the tortured and the torturer meet again years later, sparks fly — although not necessarily the good kind. Tally is clueless, Lex is angry, and, well, you’ll see the results:

The coffee shop was in one of those turn-of-the-century brick buildings that seemed to line the streets of small towns all over Washington. From the outside, the place looked cheery and inviting, nestled among the renovated lofts at the far end of Old Main. A good sign, Tally hoped. The door was flanked by two potted Italian cypresses and inlaid with stained glass. There was a quaint hand-painted “open” sign dangling from a hook near the top. The hinges squeaked when Tally pushed it open, but even the squeak was oddly homey.

Inside the shop was even better. Warm and fragrant, the air drew him in and enveloped him. The walls had been painted spring green and decorated with framed black and white photographs of the surrounding beaches. Miles of old woodwork and wainscoting gleamed glossy white, and the floors were stained a warm cherry color. He longed to sink into one of the soft, cushy armchairs and close his eyes for about a week. But he couldn’t. He had work to do—and at that moment, his work was convincing one damn business in his wretched hometown that he wasn’t the big loser they all seemed to think he was.

Tally heard a shuffling sound coming from behind the high granite-topped counter.

“Hello?” he called tentatively. “I’m here to fill out an application.”

There was a small crash and a muffled “shit.”

Tally leaned over the counter to see what all the fuss was. There was a man kneeling on the floor trying to hold a halfway slit bag of coffee beans together while at the same time balancing a stack of white plates with his knee so they didn’t crash to the floor and break. Tally fought laughter as he leaned over to right the stack of plates.

“Thank you so much!” came a relieved voice… a relieved voice that made Tally’s heart pound in his chest, throbbing and trying to be noticed as if it were saying “pay attention to this one.” The rest of his body responded in that one short moment, hardening, quickening, coming to life. Tally gave himself a mental slap on the wrist. Really. Not the best time for that.

The man started to stand, turning slowly with the slit coffee bag still balanced on his thigh.

“Hey, not a problem. My name is—” Tally’s voice stuck in his throat, like he was some little kid with his first crush. The other guy’s name must have been gorgeous—sandy hair somewhere between brown and blond, a little shaggy and curling at the ends, big hazel eyes with long curly lashes and a mouth that Tally could have spent hours kissing. Tally wanted to drool. He stuck out his hand and tried to repeat himself. “My name is—”

After one look at Tally, the stranger’s beautiful face had gone from friendly to scathingly irritated in a matter of nanoseconds. “Yeah, I know who you are. I don’t really think I need the help after all.”

Not another one. Tally started to panic.

“Listen….” He paused, hoping for a name.

“Lex,” the man supplied grudgingly.

“Listen, Lex,” Tally repeated. “I know everyone in this town hates me. Obviously even people I’ve never met. But I really need a job, and you wouldn’t have had an ad in the paper if you didn’t need someone to help you. Couldn’t it maybe be possible that you might put aside whatever it is that you’ve been told about me and my father and just take a chance that maybe I’ll be a good employee?”

Lex cocked his head to the side, regarding Tally silently. Talk about nerve-wracking.

“Everything I know about you tells me you won’t.”

Tally backed away toward the door. “It was a long time ago,” he mumbled. “People change. Even me.” Or maybe people were never really what they seemed.

Lex gave him one more long pensive stare, completing Tally’s humiliation. Everyone who remembered him hated him, and it seemed that his reputation had spread to gorgeous strangers as well. He wanted to crawl back to his grandmother’s house and hide in his room to lick his wounds. Was I really that bad? He reached for the handle on the paned- glass door.

“You know what?” Lex’s voice surprised him. He froze. “Fine. I’ll give it a try. Not like I’ve had any other takers.” The last part was mumbled, but Tally heard it just the same. “I start early. Five on weekdays, six on Saturday and Sunday.”

“That’s okay,” Tally said quickly, ready to agree with nearly anything.

“Do you know how to make coffee?”

“No, but I worked in restaurants for years.” Please let that be enough.

“I’m not going to want to tell you how to do things twice.”

“I learn quickly.” Tally hated to feel hope welling in his chest, but it was there—faint yet insistent. As grudging as beautiful Lex seemed to be, there was finally someone willing to give him half a chance.

“Then I’ll see you in the morning. Five. Not even a minute late.”  …

I don’t think I’ll be spoiling things too much to say that soon Lex starts to notice that Tally might not be the jerk he used to be…and not only that, but Lex is actually very attracted to him. And so the fun begins:)

He was foaming a latte, the fourth pumpkin spice of the night, when he felt Tally’s presence behind him, close and warm and looming. Tally brushed up against him and reached around Lex’s shoulder to grab the big cinnamon shaker that was sitting on the counter right in front of Lex.

“Sorry,” he muttered quietly, right up against Lex’s ear. “Molly wants cinnamon sprinkled on her muffin.”

Shivers burst across Lex’s skin. “It’s okay,” he tried to mumble back. His voice came out in a squeak.

He felt the warmth of Tally’s breath on his neck, and when he inhaled he could smell him, spicy and sexy and lingering in the air. Tally hadn’t moved. The moment stretched, excruciating and hot. Lex felt every single one of his crashing heartbeats. Why doesn’t he move? He has to know what he’s doing to me! And then Tally did move, but closer, just a small little movement, the difference barely perceptible other than from the wash of warmth that Lex felt deep in his belly. There were fingers brushing lightly at his hip, a touch that could be interpreted in so many ways, and then he was gone—back to chatting with Molly Bates, the girl who always wanted cinnamon sprinkled on her chocolate muffin.

Lex clenched his jaw. Get a grip, Barry! But he couldn’t. His pulse thundered, turning his face red, making his groin throb painfully. He had to stare at the counter and do multiplication tables in his head for long moments before he could even consider turning to place the drink on the counter without making a public spectacle of himself.

“You okay, Lex?” There it was again—that light touch, on his shoulder this time, and Tally’s voice so concerned against his ear. Lex’s stomach quivered and clenched in on itself.

“Yeah, just hungry I guess,” he lied. “Got a little lightheaded.”

“You want me to make you a bagel with cream cheese? You probably need to get some carbs in you.”

No, I need you in me. Or maybe me in you. I don’t care as long as I can fill my mouth with your skin.

“Sure,” Lex answered weakly. He’d have to choke the bagel down. Bread wasn’t even close to what he wanted to swallow.

Moron. That’s Tallis Carrington. Tallis jerk-of-the-century Carrington. Straight, asshole… well, reformed asshole. Maybe. Point is, hands off!

In the self-lecture department, Lex knew he’d get an A for effort. It was the follow-through where he failed. Couldn’t seem to talk his body into listening… or his mind, for that matter. They both kept screaming “I want him!”

“Here, eat this, Lex. You’ll feel better.”

A toasted bagel with cream cheese was placed in front of him, accompanied by another hand on the shoulder. Lex stood at the counter, breathing slowly and trying to slow his racecar libido down before it crashed all over the place.

“I’m good. Thanks.”

Lex was surprised by the sharpness of his voice. His lust and self-annoyance had come out of his mouth aimed at the undeserving Tally. He turned to apologize, but by the time he’d turned, Tally was on the other side of their space, taking an order from two giggly teenaged girls who made no secret of the fact that they were checking him out. Lex thought he might look a bit hurt, but he hid it with an open smile and flirtatious banter. The two girls ate it up, flipping their hair and applying lip gloss. Tally silently handed Lex the girls’ drink order, then turned to wipe off the counter.

“Hey, Tally. I’m sorry. It’s been a long week. I don’t want you to think I’m a big asshole, I’m just—”

“Really, don’t worry about it. I understand. No hard feelings.” Tally gave Lex a shy smile. “You better make those two girls their drinks before they eat me alive,” he whispered. “I think one of them tried to slip me her phone number.”

Lex returned the smile, glad that he could breathe again. “You should escape while you have the chance,” he whispered back. “I think I can take it from here if you want to get home.”

“You sure?” Did Tally look disappointed? No, more like you’re projecting your own shit onto him.

“Yeah, I’m sure. Go get some rest. I’ll see you Sunday morning.”

Tally untied his apron and gave Lex another one of those killer shy smiles. “Night, Lex. I’ll see you Sunday.”

Okay, that’s it for this post! Hope you’re enjoying the excerpts so far. I’ll be back soon with some more:)

:) MJ


“No Quarter” Day: Excerpt the Second.

April 3, 2012
A short excerpt this time, a quiet moment between Michael and Gabriel.
Gabriel rolled off him and onto his back, shifting to get comfortable. Tugging Michael into the curve of his arm, he smiled to himself as Michael curled up around him, a leg thrown over Gabriel’s and an arm slung over Gabriel’s chest as Michael rested his head on Gabriel’s shoulder.
“Comfortable?” Gabriel asked.
“Yes, thank you.” Michael let out a slow breath. “Gabriel?”
“Aye?”
“I… have not felt this for a very, very long time,” Michael said slowly, “and I do not want you to wonder or leave it unsaid. It is important to say it, I feel, especially as we do not know what may happen.”
“Oh?” Gabriel shifted a little so he could look into Michael’s eyes.
“Yes. Gabriel, I… I love you.” The last three words were said in a rush.
Gabriel smiled at that, running his fingers over Michael’s shoulder and arm, over the tattoo of the phrase “I am a shield and I am a sword, I protect and I serve” in Hebrew that stood out in black ink against Michael’s olive-hued skin. “And I love you, Michael.”
“You do not have to say—” Michael began, but Gabriel cut him off.
“Hush. I know how I feel, and I love you. Deal with it.”
Michael huffed at that. “Fine. I shall deal with it, as you say.”
Gabriel started laughing. “You’re adorable.”
“I disagree.”
“As is totally your right.” Still laughing, Gabriel pulled Michael even closer, so that Michael was half on top of him, and wrapped his arms around Michael, holding him close. “Get some rest.”
Michael hummed and nodded once. “I think I will. A short nap. You will be here?” The hopeful note in his voice was not lost on Gabriel.
“Aye, I’ll be here. I’ll always be here.”
Michael smiled at that. “Thank you,” he whispered.
Gabriel felt Michael stir a few hours before dawn. “Hey,” he said softly, slowly stroking his fingers through Michael’s hair. “I’m going to have to go soon, go and take care of my kids.”
Michael stretched and yawned, rubbing his eyes with the heel of one hand. It was an almost childlike action, and Gabriel couldn’t help but smile.
“As you say,” Michael agreed.
“I was thinking, though, that maybe you’d like to come with me back to mine? You could get to know my kids a bit better, and they could get to know you—and we could spend more time together?”
Michael smiled at that. “I would like that very much, Gabriel. Do we have time for a brief shower before departing?”
“Aye,” Gabriel leaned in to press a soft kiss to Michael’s forehead. “It’s not yet dawn. We got a few hours.”
“Good.” Michael stretched again, like a big cat. “Thank you for staying, da bao.”
“Da bao?” Gabriel raised an eyebrow. “Big treasure?”
Michael looked away. “It seemed fitting. You do not mind?”
“No. I don’t mind.” Gabriel kissed Michael’s forehead again. “I like it a lot.”
“As you say.” Michael sat up, running a hand down Gabriel’s chest. “Let us bathe, da bao.”
Gabriel smiled and nodded. “Aye.”
“Thank you both for staying with ’em,” Gabriel said, shaking Remiel and Samael’s hands.
“It was no trouble, Gabriel,” Samael said. “I enjoyed the opportunity to spend time with your children.”
“Shateiel and his bonded stopped by,” Remiel put in.
“Really?” Gabriel’s eyebrow shot up. “Why?” Shateiel was mute, but able to communicate telepathically with angelkind and those sentient beings who had the ability of telepathy.
“Shateiel only said to let you know he’s finished up with the assignments you gave him earlier, so he’s available if you need him for anything, and Agrat offered her services if you can think of a way they’d be of use. Then Shateiel got all stony faced grr-angel, and Agrat patted his arm a few times while he huffed in beatific silence, and then they left.” Remiel grinned. “It’s a good thing she doesn’t mind the silence. I teased her about that. She said he’s plenty loud in her head for her not to notice the silence, and then he blushed red like a tomato and stared at the ceiling.”
“Now, now, Shateiel’s a good officer,” Gabriel chided. “Although,” he added, grinning, “I ain’t never seen him blush, but now I think I have to. I’ll mention that when I see him.”
“He’s creepy sometimes.” Remiel shrugged. “Which I suppose is the point, seeing as he’s the Angel of Silence and Soldiers. How on earth he scored Agrat is still a mystery to me.”
“Mayhap Raziel can answer it for you.” Samael chuckled.
“Or mayhap we could cease gossiping entirely,” Michael said.

World on Fire excerpt 2

January 16, 2012

The object was dinner. At least that’s what Cole had been told. The live, twitching sea creature squirmed in Lucian’s grasp. The lobster’s claws were safely held closed by rubber bands, and there was quite a distance of safety between him and the lobster, but Cole still leaned away.

“You want to name it before you kill it?” Cole questioned dishearteningly.

Lucian turned the lobster to look at what Cole assumed would be the face area. “Naming this dinner does go against our discussion yesterday about speaking animals and being unable to kill dinner. Of course, this creature does not speak.”

“Or does it speak and you simply do not have the ears to understand it?” Victoria asked without moving her gaze away from the yard.

Lucian cast a look at her back. Cole saw the horrific surprise in the blue eyes spread to a soundless gasp. “I dare say.” Lucian placed the lobster beside the other on the island table in front of Cole, releasing his hold on both. “We’ll be having salad tonight.”

Cole stood up abruptly to avoid the lobster heading for him and to catch the other before it wandered off the end of the granite. “Lucian?” he questioned the artist just as he disappeared into the basement.

“What will you name your new pets?” Victoria asked.

“My pets?” Cole gasped. “I can’t take them.”

Lucian returned with an empty cardboard box, placing it on the table. “Forgive me for my ignorance.” He took one from the table and held it up, directing his statement to the face area once again. “I may believe you are not speaking to me, but I cannot understand all that I hear.”

If there had been any doubt left in Cole’s mind that Lucian was strange, this cleared it. “You’re keeping them as pets?” he asked after Lucian placed the one in the box.

“I can’t return them to the store for another as ignorant as myself to take them home to murder.”

“You can’t save all the lobsters.”

Lucian laughed appreciatively. “I don’t intend to, but I can’t kill what I eat.”

“But someone else will be able to, so—”

“You want to kill Wilcox and Becca?” Lucian interrupted.

“Who?” Cole asked, bewildered.

Pointing at the lobster on the counter, Lucian said, “That one’s Wilcox, and”—he nodded to the box—“that’s Becca.”

Cole looked down and laughed. “I didn’t mean to insinuate that I would boil them.”

“You think if I return them to the store and another fool buys them that they’ll be killed by that stranger instead?”

“Yes.”

“I can’t allow it.” Lucian shook his head. “These two have been a part of my life, and I can’t allow another to murder them.”

Cole stared at Lucian. “They were a part of your life as dinner until just three minutes ago.”

“Your point, Mr. Saunders?” Lucian picked up Wilcox the lobster and smiled at it. He pinched one claw to hold it out. The other twisted in a desperate attempt at escape.

“My point is that you have no real connection to—” Cole dropped his sentence when Lucian moved away with the lobster. His steps toward Victoria were sweeping circles to the left, and…. Cole shook his head, astonished. Lucian was dancing a waltz with the lobster while moving into the breakfast nook.

“My dear Mr. Saunders.” Lucian danced himself over to Victoria and bowed before he handed her Wilcox. “I wonder what that face you’re making is for.”

Cole cleared his throat and smoothed his expression. I think you’re bordering clinically insane, Cole thought, but out loud he said, “Nothing.”

“I fear I’ve created an unpleasant feeling for you.” Lucian walked briskly across the kitchen to Cole’s side.

Cole leaned slightly away from Lucian, untrusting of the artist’s grin. “Unpleasant?” he questioned in a whisper and looked to the lone lobster in the box, fearing Lucian would have Cole dance with the simple creature.

“Jealousy.” Lucian clamped one hand down on Cole’s waist just as he took Cole’s hand in his other. Cole gasped in surprise and jerked away to free himself, but Lucian’s grip held strong.

“N-No, Mr. Thomas,” Cole said, using his free hand to push against Lucian’s strong chest. “I’m not jealous of anything.”

“You’re blushing so red I fear you might explode,” Lucian whispered in awe, studying Cole’s face. “And call me Lucian.”

Cole lowered his head, attempting in vain to hide the crimson heat racing across his face and up to his ears. “I don’t want to dance, Lucian,” he said softly.

Lucian released him. “I will get you to dance before you leave,” he vowed and took a step back, bowed, and turned to head around the island table.

You can buy World on Fire from Dreamspinner Press.

Eric’s Excerpt: Galley Proof

January 13, 2012

Hey there all! Eric Arvin here. Happy Friday the 13th, and to the Templar Knights I’d like to apologize. (If the History Channel is right, that’s how the day got its bad name.) Here’s hoping the day is good luck pour moi. I’ll be your guest blogger host today. Let’s begin with an excerpt from my latest, Galley Proof. I hope that’s good luck.

“A Room of One’s Own”

I was clearly caught in a cliché.

Everyone has seen those films – usually a sex comedy about high school or college – in which an alluring character is introduced to the plot with the use of soft lighting, swoony music, and, depending on the level of writing, induced drooling from the other characters in the film. Said character enters the library or cafeteria and the music hits its stride. Every other character, but most notably the main character, is dumbfounded – nay, lobotomized – by the sheer sensuality and god-like nature of that which has just walked in. Life, we are led to believe, was nothing before this divine event. Yet what we aren’t privy to as viewers of this type of film – not at the outset anyway – is what trouble will follow in this beauty’s wake. And there must be trouble, for without it there is no story. No life. No box-office. What boisterous, if unbelievable, shenanigans will the hero have to go through to get the guy or girl of his or her dreams? And will it be worth it? That’s what makes or breaks films like this: worth. For if it is worth it, if after all the embarrassing smackdowns, the disgusting flatulent jokes, and the strained one-liners, if in the end we really do care about these somewhat contrived and clichéd characters, then we can forgive any plot hole. We, every one of us, are only looking for a good time, after all. Nobody expects a rom-com to change their life.

Logan Brandish. That’s my real name. I was destined to be a writer, it seems, with a name like that. And I’m a decently successful writer too. I have even managed to amass a firm little nest egg from what was, at one time, a dubious career choice. Even when my sales start to sag, I’m still successful enough that my publisher, Hillside Books, pays for my meals at posh hotel restaurants. Especially when they want me to meet with a new editor.

And, now that introductions are out of the way, so starts my tale.

To put it plainly, I was pigging out. My new editor had yet to arrive and I had already ordered half the menu and was on my second Long Island iced tea. I’m a pretty man – clean-cut brown hair, a face that has been described as “open”, and a body that knows its way around a gym – but I don’t know how pretty I was looking just then. Though, in my defense, all thirteen dishes on the table were in nice rows, perfectly laid out. I was a stickler for order and conformity.

Normally when meeting with an editor I would arrive early to look over my notes for my new project. But my notes had been destroyed. By me. In a fit of anger and self-ridicule. All that was left was a single piece of paper which now lay on the table, a small dab of shrimp cocktail sauce on the right corner. Who cares.

It was for precisely this reason, I suppose, my publisher at Hillside Books decided to send me a new editor. They could tell I was having issues and thought maybe an editor could help. This is when editors start to resemble mean drill sergeants. There were going to be some major battles in the coming weeks and months. Most likely their thinking was that if they started things out between me and this new editor, a Mr. Brock Kimble, in a chic hotel restaurant where there were other people around things would not so quickly dissolve into a sparring match like it had with the last editor they sent me. And honestly, I’ve never been one for showy displays of anger, so they thought correctly. I was not going to knock over the gorgeous pastry tables or throw dishes at the large crystal chandelier, even if the thought did cross my mind. I was a nice guy. I would not be throwing the wine into the cascading fountain or slap some passing waitress across the face just for being too near to me. But I had decided I would not be so easily soothed either. Yes. I would eat their free food and drink their bribery wine, but I’ll be damned if I gave Mr. Kimble one smile. My tolerance was worn thin already. Like that Kool-Aid t-shirt I had kept since high school and refused to throw away. Worn thin.

No. Mr. Kimble would have to get by on my curt and dismissive answers and challenging stares. I was very proud of myself for deciding all of this. It was written like a script in my brain.

And then, as I was devouring a chicken wing as if tolling out vengeance, my moment of cliché happened. Into the restaurant walked what could only be described (albeit inadequately) as a stunning man. I swear, the room went silent and everything crawled in his presence. He was dressed in a dark suit, buttoned properly so that it showed a tapered waist. His shoulders were broad and above them, oh deliciousness, was a face so proportioned and perfect I wanted to take up drawing on the spot. His hair was dark, as were his eyes. In fact, he was so pretty I found myself gagging. Then I realized that the chicken wing was still halfway crammed down my throat. Silly me. I spat it out just as his eyes focused on mine. The chicken landed on the plate with a resounding echo and my face, I could tell via the flames of my embarrassment, was flushed. My ears were most likely bright red as well.

I began to chant to myself: Please don’t be him. Please don’t be him. Please, please, please don’t be him.

But it was. And he was soon standing over me, grinning. He looked at my table and the mess I had made. “You’ve been busy,” he said. “Cute ears.”

As I reached for his offered hand to shake it, I gasped and choked. A bit of leftover chicken flew out of my mouth and onto the table, in front of his crotch. Humiliation complete. Lesson learned.

“Sorry,” I said, taking a quick drink of water. People were looking at me disapprovingly for daring to nearly die in public.

“Don’t worry about it.” He smiled and sat down, sitting his briefcase in the seat beside him. “I’ve had worse things thrown at me than a piece of regurgitated chicken. I’m Brock Kimble.”

“Logan Brandish. Of course, you know that or you wouldn’t have known how to find me. Wish I had had a photo of you.” I grimaced. That did not sound right even though the implication was very near the mark. By golly! He was pretty!

“Would have been easy enough to find you. All writers have the same look of social discomfort and inferiority.”

Wait. What?

I can only imagine what I must have looked like sitting there with him. How others saw me. He ordered his drink with style. He did everything with style. He was fluid. He was Henry Higgins. I wasn’t even Eliza Doolittle. I was Nell, still choking up bits of chicken.

“You’re my new editor?” I asked. My plan to be subtle and aloof was lost.

He must have heard that question and intonation before. His smile jarred the room. “I started as a cover model for the romance division of Hillside. After proving myself,” (he leaned in closer here, smelling clean and fresh) “and sleeping just a few feet up, I landed myself in this position. I’ve been in every position you can think of. Wink wink.”

Wait. What?

Eyes bright. Eyes full of mischief. “I believe in being totally honest. That’s one thing you should know about me, Mr. Brandish. Or Logan? I’ll call you Logan. Over the next few weeks I will hurt your feelings with some of my critiques, but I’ll also be there to encourage you on. We’ll get you going again. You’ll see. I’ll be like Henry V, ushering you on to victory…or something like that. I’m not certain what Henry V is famous for other than being played by Kenneth Brannagh. So, what have you got to show me?”

“Um…I…I’m having issues…”

He spread his arms. “That’s why I’m here. You don’t have anything?”

My fingers edged toward the lone, pathetic piece of stained paper on the table. He snatched if up and read it:

“The trireme surged on the open sea.”

He looked at the page a bit longer then flipped it over as if there were any possibility at all of something being on the other side.

“This is it?”

“Well, there was more…”

“More better, or just more of the same?”

I didn’t know how to answer that. The fact is, since the destruction of my notes I had only gotten as far as the first sentence. Fifteen versions of the first sentence. (There once was a trireme from Kent. Trireme Irene had seventeen children. Triremes are big big boats powered by angry muscle bottoms. All aboard!) The first sentence gets things going. It’s the START button to any new manuscript. Unfortunately for me, the first sentence of any new manuscript is like pushing a basketball out my urethra.

I shrugged and gave a half smile. That worked to get me out of trouble sometimes. I looked so All-American people sang at me when the National Anthem was played at ball games.

“Hmmm. Well, it’s a start.” He handed the paper back to me. “Do you know anything about galley ships?”

“No.”

“Looks like you got some homework, then, huh?” He leaned forward and said with a booming voice, “Cause I sure as hell don’t either, and have no intention of edimicatin’ myself about ‘em. Know what I mean, Jelly bean!”

He was a silly man. A silly, gorgeous man.

A handsome young waiter brought Mr. Kimble his drink and I noticed a lingering gaze between the two. That’s when my stomach dropped and my balls disappeared into my abdomen. Here was a lovely gay man and I had, quite purposely, sabotaged any chance I had with him. He had even said I had cute ears. I had most likely put him off eating for the rest of his life with the whole chicken debacle. He certainly wasn’t ordering anything there. There wasn’t room left on the table.

The waiter looked at me, disinterested, and asked if I needed anything more.

Go away, little bird. Go away.

“I’ve read your blog,” Brock said. “Very entertaining. Witty.”

“Well, I’m no Noel Coward.”

“Never heard of him. Unfortunate name. About your blog. Like I said, entertaining stuff, but I would reconsider the links to the naughtier sites. You know. The porn blogs and naked men.”

How dare he!

“We want the focus to be on you. We don’t want anyone who has come to your site to be distracted by pretty pictures. We want them to stick around and not be clicking away for the first pair of fresh ass cheeks they see.” About that time a fresh pair – those of our handsome young waiter – walked right by. Mr. Brock Kimble couldn’t keep himself from following them for just a bit.

“It’s my blog. It’s like a diary. I post things that interest me.”

“I get it. I know what a blog is. Still, the Lord wouldn’t like it.”

My jaw literally dropped.

“Just kidding.” What a wicked smile.

He looked around the restaurant for that cute little waiter. The one I had just bitch-slapped in my mind. “But seriously, consider taking those links down.”

“Are we through here?” I asked, doing my best to show some irritation.

“Sure. Would you like me to help you clean up?”

“No, I would not! I don’t think I like you, Mr. Kimble.”

“Good. Then you can stop worrying about how you appear around me.”

I froze. How could he know? How could he tell how awkward I felt?

His eyes locked with those of the waiter. “I’ve got another meeting,” he said. “And you’ve got homework.”

I sat a while longer, trying not to pay attention to my new agent walking out the door with the waiter. In my most Walter Mitty-like fantasies I swung into action and knocked the waiter on his cute little buns. He was fired for flirting with a customer and trying to steal my man, and then Mr. Kimble and I purchased a suite where we fucked like toys wound too tightly. My fantasy love life was always so exciting. But life never measured up to fantasy. In real life, kisses are never as sweet and assholes only stretch so far.

Excerpt #2 from Awakenings, by Tara Larson

January 6, 2012

SOON Adam’s shift was over. Sean, still a little buzzed but functional, followed Adam through the lobby of the hotel and out of the door that led to the pool and the beach, carrying a to-go cup of water with him.

The hotel grounds were amazing. The sprawling lawn, which the Delano formally called the “Orchard,” was ornately lit up and decorated as a tropical, Alice in Wonderland fairy tale, with odd tables here and there surrounded by mismatched chairs and laden with dripping candelabras and odd lamps, a giant chessboard, and an oversized bed in the middle of the perfectly manicured grass. The sound of rustling palm branches murmured overhead and the pool twinkled in the distance. There were people milling about, drinking exotic-looking cocktails and martinis. The warm night air was thick with the salty scent of the ocean and carried the unmistakable aroma of Cuban cigars on the breeze. People giggled and chatted by the pool, some sitting on half-submerged chairs in the shallow end of the sloping, beach entry-style pool with their feet dangling in the shimmering water. On the distant horizon, heat lightning flashed like a disco strobe light, just like Adam promised. It was an outdoor party and everyone was invited.

A group of gorgeous, bikinied ladies in a pool-side cabana caught sight of Adam and Sean as they strolled by and purred a collective, “Ooooh, look at that!” toward the two hunky men. Sean felt a blush of embarrassment, but Adam, in his calm self-awareness, turned toward the ladies in the cabana and gave them a smooth half smile and cocked his eyebrows in their direction in mutual appreciation.

Sean smiled at Adam’s confidence, admiring him. Here was a guy completely sure of himself, completely comfortable in his own skin. Sean was always much more modest than that. And yet, Adam wasn’t cocky at all. He was a perfectly balanced creature, it seemed: half masculine, half feminine qualities, and immensely appealing to all who came in contact with him, apparently.

Sean felt himself letting go. It was an exhilarating feeling. He wanted more. In fact, he never wanted to stop feeling this way. He followed Adam to a set of beach chaises.

Adam said, while removing his shoes, “Let’s leave these here.” The sand felt remarkably soft under Sean’s feet, and he allowed his toes to dig into the sand as he walked. The moon sparkled on the ocean in a white, reflective pool. “So what do you think?” Adam said curiously.

“It’s amazing,” replied Sean. “I never want to leave. I love the ocean. I’ve been landlocked, in every way possible, it seems, for way too long….”

The soft ocean breeze whipped Adam’s hair, and Sean could smell his scent as their steps in the uneven sand brought them closer together. It was an alluring, sweet, woodsy smell, like sandalwood or amber.

Suddenly something in the scent jolted Sean’s memory. He remembered his recurring dream about the glowing angel guiding him to a safe escape behind the musky, glowing wooden doorway. He gasped a little and turned to look at Adam’s face, trying through the darkness to recognize his features from the dream. There was a resemblance, but Sean wasn’t sure it was, or could be, the same man. Not that he believed in fairy tales or anything, but still. It was just too strange a feeling, too strange a coincidence. Adam didn’t notice Sean’s discerning gaze in the dark.

“You should live here, then,” replied Adam, looking ahead of them down the beach, “Seriously. I mean, if you’re so unhappy where you are. Why stay unhappy?”

Sean reflected on his words for a moment and said, “You know, I would give almost anything to be able to do that—move here and start over.”

Adam smiled and looked down at his feet and then out to the horizon over the ocean. “You only live once. Why wait? I don’t believe in regrets. You should go for it.”

It’s got to be him, Sean thought, slightly bewildered. His heart swelled with this new awareness. It feels the same. But what can that mean?

Heat lightning exploded in a spider-web pattern across the far horizon.

AS THEY passed around a seawall they realized they were alone together in the darkness, shrouded by the high wall. They stopped walking, and Adam turned to face Sean; Sean leaned his back against the seawall and turned his head to face the moon. A current of chemistry was building between them; Sean’s heart pounded with nervous anticipation.

Adam took a small step toward Sean and stopped.

They stood silently together for just a moment, Sean looking out over the ocean and the night sky and Adam looking intently at Sean. Adam was a few years older and just an inch or two taller than Sean, but barefoot in the sand, they seemed equally matched.

“I, ah,” Adam began, and he briefly looked out to the ocean to gather his thoughts for a moment before turning back to Sean. “I… like you, Sean Morgan. You seem really frustrated, though, and I hate to see that. I hope you can get to a place where you’re on better footing. It’s just a shame to see such a promising guy feeling so lost in the world.”

“Yeah, I know. It’s true,” Sean said as he turned back to face Adam. He was a little startled by the intensity in Adam’s face. Sean wasn’t afraid of him, he was just surprised. Adam looked seriously hot.

I promised myself I would go with the flow….

“You know,” Sean continued, “I know, I, ah, just met you and all, but… there’s something intriguing and, if you don’t mind me saying so, very magnetic about you. I’ve never, um, well, it’s a little weird for me to say this, but… you make me feel like there’s hope for me, you know?”

Adam smiled in return. “Of course there’s hope for you. Don’t let anyone tell you who you should be or what you should do with your life—no one. That includes me, of course,” he said, chuckling.

Normally Sean would have felt uncomfortable with the closeness between them and would have shifted his weight or stepped away from Adam, signaling his spatial boundary. But he stayed put and just gazed at Adam. He knew this was a silent invitation for something heavier, and he kind of liked it, although he was extremely nervous as well. His heart pounded faster and he held his breath as he waited for Adam to move in. He had no idea what to expect; he had never been like this with a guy before. He was resolved to see where it would lead.

Excerpt—Vasquez and James in Seattle

January 2, 2012

The famous and unique Rachel the Pig returns to Pike Street Market after being treated for injuries sustained ina pig vs car accident

*

LUKI had miraculously woken up only fifteen minutes after Sonny. It would be a busy day, he thought, so as soon as he had crept out on the balcony for a cigarette and had a second cup of coffee in his hand, he joined his lover… his partner… his fiancé, for God’s sake, for morning ablutions. The hotel had a big bathroom, surprisingly practical rather than luxurious, and while Luki stood at the sink brushing his very white, very perfect teeth, Sonny sat on the edge of the tub clipping his toenails. It made Luki smile inside; it meant Sonny planned on sex, which hadn’t seemed appropriate the previous night. And about which Luki had doubts with the stitches in his thigh still feeling like they were going to rip out every time he turned his leg or put weight on it.

“Don’t worry,” Sonny said, “I’ll do all the work.”

He reads my mind. Not fair. Still, watching Sonny out of the corner of his eye, the sleek stretches of hard muscle and long hair falling over his shoulders, his own sex responded with a quick leap.

“Not now, though.”

Luki rolled his eyes, sure Sonny couldn’t see him.

“Don’t roll your eyes, Luki—”

What, he heard me roll my eyes?

“We have to leave, and you know it.”

“I guess we should go see Kaholo and….” Luki choked his next words back and very deliberately started heating his razor under hot water. He’d been just about to say “and the ’phews,” which was how he and Sonny had jokingly referred to the boys when there were still three and Delsyn had been one of them. He started again, “I guess we should go see Kaholo and Jackie and Josh. Once again, he felt he was missing some piece of the puzzle about what was going on. Something he should have his finger on, but didn’t. Still, ever since Ladd suggested Nebraska as a destination, it seemed more and more like a good idea. He missed Kaholo, and he missed the boys too—and he hadn’t really had a chance yet to get to know them.

“Yeah,” Sonny said, looking vaguely surprised. “I already made our travel arrangements.”

“You didn’t even know I was considering the idea! You got the plane tickets?”

“No, not plane tickets. I knew about the idea because Ladd suggested it—he told me. And it seemed like a good plan. Though I have to say, again, there’s something not quite right about him.”

“Sonny, we talked about that. You don’t have to like Ladd, that’s your business, but I’ve known him for twenty years. He had my back, and vice versa, in a lot of very dicey situations. When you work with a guy in a job like that day after day, it’s like you’re family. I’d trust him with my life. I’d trust him with your life.” He picked up the can of shave cream and squirted probably too much into his hand, balancing mostly on one leg and watching Sonny in the mirror. Sonny stared back at him, silent and relaxed, his gaze warm but telling. Sonny’s stare meant he would say more about Ladd if he thought Luki would listen. And there was a bit of irony in the mix. Luki got the message, though he wouldn’t have been able to explain how. Maybe he just knew Sonny that well now. “No, Sonny. Stop right there. There’s no comparison between the way I trust Ladd and the way I trust you, so you can’t measure one against the other. He’s my friend. You’re my life.” In usual Sonny fashion, he didn’t respond to that at all. Luki hated that, but he admired it as well. It was a rare skill, letting things go unsaid. And he used to think he had a corner on that market.

“I didn’t get plane tickets,” Sonny repeated. “I reserved an RV.”

“Excuse me?” He stopped with the mountain of shave cream lifted halfway to his face.
“An RV.”

“I heard you.” He waited, but clearly Sonny wasn’t going to say more unless he asked directly, so he voiced the most logical question. “Are you crazy?”

“Some people think so. Really, I’m just a weaver with a doctorate and a colorful history.”

“Sonny—”

“And it’ll be like a vacation.”

“C’mon—”

“It’s a really nice one.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?”

“And on the way, we could listen to Delsyn’s blues.”

A brief excerpt from Delsyn’s Blues (farther along the twisting plot!)

January 2, 2012

(This is one of the softer, gentler, isles in the San Juans, just at nightfall.)

*

Climbing over the gunwale, Luki remarked, “Why did you call this a bucket? Looks like a perfectly good boat.”

“Look over the side, back there.” Sonny pointed.

“Melvern’s Bucket,” Luki read. “Oh.”

“So, anyway,” Sonny said. “Off we go to Mack’s Island.”

Luki had already sat down and started to do his routine weapons check. He tended not to be as heavily armed these days as he had been when they first met. But he still had his favorite handgun and two knives, and of course, a supply of ammunition and nylon handcuffs. He
was taking stock now, making sure everything was where and how it was supposed to be, a job clearly requiring that a cigarette hang out of his mouth. He puffed at the damn thing without using his hands, which meant he had to keep his eye squinted like Charles Bronson in The Mechanic and his face scrunched up on one side—the side with the scar. Sonny hated that he looked damn sexy that way.

“It’s not fair,” he said.

“What’s not fair?”

That something can look sexy and kill you at the same time. He shook his head to dismiss Luki’s question, didn’t answer at all out loud.
Besides, there were other things he needed to have his mind on now. And he hadn’t forgotten that one reason Luki seemed lightly armed was because he, Sonny, still had his other gun. Sonny didn’t bring the subject up, but he was pretty sure Luki hadn’t forgotten either.
Sonny set the boat in motion, having a fair idea of the coordinates and a fair sense of direction. Not more than fair, out on the water, just like he only had a fair ability to drive the damn boat. Melvern had insisted he learn, but… well, it just wasn’t a car. He couldn’t remember the first time he’d lain across a hood wrenching on a car engine, but as far as activities go, cars had always been what he loved best—aside from weaving and dyes and that sort of thing. And now, aside from Luki. Everything to do with Luki. Including staring at Luki, watching him smoke his lungs dry and play with guns. Disgustingly, Sonny wanted to weave him like that.

“I hate being on the water,” Luki said.

“Yeah?” It didn’t surprise Sonny; he just didn’t know why.

“I’ve had not so good things happen around water, you know?”

“Like getting beat up and cut and generally gay-bashed?”

“Mm-hm.”

“And almost drowning while getting blown up in a river.”

Luki holstered his gun and adjusted the position of the leather accessory, took the cigarette out of his mouth, and looked up at Sonny.

Not smiling. “That too.”

Sonny sighed and stepped over to his lover, letting the Bucket drive itself for a moment. He stood in front of Luki, so close he had to
part his legs to either side, which basically parked his sex in Luki’s face. He wished they had more time, but second best would have to do. He buried his hands in Luki’s curls, forcing him to look up. Then he bent low and eased into a kiss, a long, sweet, sucking and sliding one.

After a moment, he regretfully eased off, kissed Luki’s nose on the way by, and stepped back to the wheel. “Very nice,” Luki said, voice huskier than ever. “But there must be an explanation.”

“Now you’ve had something good happen to you on the water. I hope.”

Luki didn’t answer for a moment—which was okay. He absently patted the big red dog, which had been sticking close to Luki since they’d come on board and now leaned into Luki’s legs and stared with him at the gray planks that made up the deck. There was no way to know if either of them saw what they were staring at. After a moment, Luki looked up, chewing his lip, then he let it slip from between his teeth. “You love me, Sonny.”

Sonny nodded.

Luki said, “I love you back.”