Finally Home Release Party: A Little About Zee

August 29, 2014

I’ve just realized that in the excitement of introducing you to Marco, Chris, and Finally Home, I completely neglected to introduce myself properly. What a bad hostess I am!

Let’s start again. Hello, my name is Zee Kensington. I’m an almost-native Californian, and I currently reside in the San Francisco Bay Area with my husband and our toddler son. I’m a lifelong writer, and I’ve penned and published a range of things under a variety of names: magazine articles, blog posts, screenplays, comic book scripts, fan fiction, short stories, erotica, and even bad goth poetry. Finally Home marks my first novel ever.

So, why did I decide my first novel should be about a novice backpacker and a travel writer who meet abroad, but fall in love back home in US? Well, unlike my scrapped cattle rustler story or my unfinished fairy tale series, I actually had real experience with travel.

Bangkok Soi 8

When I wrote my short story, Krung Thep, City of Angels in 2011, I’d just returned home from my first time traveling abroad as an adult. My husband and I had spent two weeks in Thailand and Cambodia on the invitation of a friend who vacationed every summer in Bangkok with his wife’s family. I was still buzzing with the memories of immersing myself in completely different cultures with their own languages, customs, cuisines, and philosophies, and I was eager to relive that experience.

The novel came about when I realized that my characters Chris and Marco had potential beyond a short story. They had rich back stories that I never got to touch on in the short, and a whole slew of unfinished issues that got tabled when time came to edit Krung Thep. How would Marco handle coming out to his tight-knit family when he got home? How would Chris deal with being alone again on the road after sharing his life with someone for the first time in four years? What would happen if they got back together, but this time as equals, not just as a traveler and a tourist?

Finally Home touches on the things that matter most to me: family, identity, travel, food, and sex (oh, did I forget to mention the hot sex?). It’s actually quite a personal novel, drawing on some of my own experiences, inspirations, and passions. It hints at my love of cities, fascination with culinary writing, and multi-cultural upbringing, among other things.

Mostly, Finally Home reflects and my deep belief that “home” is who you make it with, no matter where you are in the world.

How about you? What characters have refused to go quietly back into the vault of your brain?

Finally Home
When novice backpacker Marco and seasoned travel writer Chris parted ways in Bangkok, they thought it was the end of their summer romance. Three months later, though, a change of assignment reunites Chris and Marco, and the pair embarks on an adventure greater than ten days trekking through Thailand—forming a real relationship amid family drama, coming out fears, career woes, and personal demons.

Now available from Dreamspinner Press in eBook and Paperback!

Finally Home Blog Tour and Giveaway

Finally Home blog tour banner

Join me on my blog tour (August 29-September 12) and enter to win an autographed book bundle of Finally Home and Two Tickets to Paradise!

Finally Home Release Party: Excerpt

August 29, 2014

As I mentioned earlier, Finally Home is the sequel to my short story, Krung Thep, City of Angels, where we first met novice backpacker Marco and culinary travel writer Chris in Bangkok, Thailand. Not to spoil too much, but Finally Home picks up shortly after the story left off, with Marco and Chris enjoying their last dinner together in Thailand before they part ways, possibly forever. Here, have a peek:

Thai food

Bangkok, Thailand
July 2011

Marco’s mouth was on fire.

Scratch that. His entire body was on fire, a searing burn radiating from his mouth all the way down to his toes. Buds of sweat bloomed over his already sticky skin, and the lazy fan mounted above the table did nothing to cool him. He stuck his tongue in his glass of beer, hoping the remains of the ice cubes floating inside would soothe it, but the fizz just seemed to aggravate the burn. A tormented whimper escaped Marco’s lips.

Across the scarred Formica table, Chris’s normally tanned face had gone red beneath his shaggy blond hair. However, his shoulders quaked with barely contained laughter rather than pain, his ice blue eyes filled with a mix of compassion and mirth.

“Thith isn’th funneh!” Marco cried. It was hard for him to make himself clear with his tongue hanging out of his mouth, which made Chris laugh all the harder.

“Yes it is!” Chris wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. “I warned you, the waitress warned you, but you didn’t listen!”

Marco scowled at Chris through watering eyes. The dish had seemed harmless enough on the menu, just some glass noodles tossed with prawns and minced pork. He hadn’t counted on the strength of the chili-lime dressing dousing it, though. Marco had figured that by now, after two weeks in Thailand, his spice tolerance would have increased enough to graduate from the farang level of spicy to that of the locals. How wrong he’d been.

Chris passed a small plate of cucumber slices toward him. “These should help.”

As Marco crammed two into his mouth, Chris motioned to the waitress. All he had to do was point at the sweating, panting Marco and she nodded in understanding. What seemed like an agonizing amount of time later, she plopped a small plastic bottle of milk on the table. Marco was in too much pain to care how foolish he looked, and he wrenched off the lid in one pull. As the milk bathed his tongue, the burn subsided to a dull, throbbing ache.

“Better?” Chris asked, his blue eyes twinkling with humor.

Marco simply scowled at his travel companion over another slug of the sweetened milk. Embarrassment kicked in as the pain subsided. It would have been one thing if Chris were just some random travel buddy he’d met at a youth hostel, another green twentysomething out seeing the world for the first time. But Christopher J. Springer was a noted culinary travel writer, who made his living sampling what the world’s food carts and hole-in-the-wall joints had to offer. Marco had watched Chris sample chili-studded soups and grilled crickets with equal amounts of gusto. Marco couldn’t even handle a plate of noodles.

“Hey.” Chris’s voice grew suddenly tender, drawing Marco’s gaze away from the offending dish. “It’s okay. We all get burned sometimes.”

Chris reached out a hand and placed it over Marco’s with a squeeze. Marco’s heart skipped a beat, the solid warmth of Chris’s calloused fingers soothing away some of his shame. That was the other, more important reason Marco had been so eager to show Chris he’d absorbed some of his adventurous spirit: Chris was the first real lover that Marco had ever had.

Chris had appeared out of the blue three days after Marco had arrived in Bangkok, materializing like some khaki-clad guardian angel to guide Marco through the convoluted streets, sois and canals of the city. It had only taken them a day to fall into bed together, though it had taken a bit longer to figure out that they made a good traveling pair. Now, after ten days of trekking side by side across Thailand, Marco was having a hard time imagining what life was going to be like once he boarded his plane back to Los Angeles tomorrow.

“Really, it’s okay!” Chris said. “You don’t have to look so sad, Marco. We’ll order something else.”

Marco tried to shake off his melancholy and offered Chris a weak smile. “Can we get that one dish—‘the catfish exploded’?” He remembered the crispy-sweet seafood salad he’d fallen in love with during their two days in the beach town of Hua Hin. Best of all, it was flavorful, yet barely spicy.

Yam pla dook foo?” The Thai syllables rolled off Chris’s tongue with enviable ease. “If they have it.”

Chris gave Marco a smile that spread a different type of heat through him. As Chris waved down the server to order, Marco couldn’t help but study him, struck again by how he’d managed to attract such an intensely good-looking traveling companion. Chris’s physique was wiry and toned from years of constant travel, not too built, not too thin. He had a smile that stood out like pearls against sand on his lean, tanned face, which time had only begun to line. Marco’s gaze drifted from Chris’s face, down the long column of his throat, to the wide triangle of bare flesh peeking out from his unbuttoned collar.

As Marco watched, Chris’s fingers fluttered unconsciously against the spot, quick as a hummingbird, before falling back to the table. Marco felt a pang, as he always did when he saw Chris’s tic. When Marco first met Chris, that spot had been decorated by a worn silver St. Christopher’s medal, a talisman of protection that had been with him on all his travels. Now it hung around Marco’s neck, a testament to the bond they had forged in such a short time. Marco wondered if he should return it to Chris before he left, seeing as it had been so precious to Chris, but part of him didn’t want to let it go. After tomorrow, it would be all he would have to remember Chris by.

While they waited for their dish, Marco pulled his smartphone out of his pocket and snapped a picture of the offending noodles. Within a minute, he’d posted the picture to his Facebook account, the caption reading: “I think I just ate noodles made out of the sun.” When he finished, he noticed Chris watching him with equal parts bemusement and disdain.

“You know your phone bill is going to be huge when you get back home,” Chris said.

“Maybe, but it’s worth it. I’ll have a record of my day-to-day trip.”

“A travel journal would work just as well. Cheaper, too.”

“Nowhere near as fun,” Marco scoffed. His phone made a cheerful bleep. His older sister, Angela, had already commented, most likely from her office computer, seeing as it was around 11:00 a.m. back home in Culver City.

“You kids and your constant need to share everything,” Chris griped cheerfully. He leaned back in his seat, gnawing on a piece of cucumber. “Back in my day, we used postcards and e-mails to keep in touch.”

“Okay, Grandpa,” Marco snorted. “You’re only nine years older than me!”

“Might as well be twenty, the way things are speeding up these days.”

Chris’s tone was light, but there was a new crease across his brow. This wasn’t the first time their age difference had come up, though the gap didn’t bother Marco in the slightest. In fact, he liked that Chris was older, even if it meant having arguments like this again and again.

“You know, for a travel writer, you’re an awful Luddite,” Marco said.

Chris shrugged. “I have my laptop—”

“That thing is older than I am!”

“And I have my camera. You can’t tell me that little phone takes better pictures than my Nikon D3.”

“No,” Marco conceded, “but at least I can upload them to the web right away.”

“See, I don’t need that.” Chris took a sip of his beer. “Why bother putting things online for free when you can find a magazine or a website to pay you for it?”

“Because sometimes it’s not about the money.”

Marco was getting exasperated. They’d had this argument almost every day. If only Chris would understand how using social media could expose him to new readers and boost sales of his photography books and travel guides. Sometimes Marco thought Chris deliberately didn’t want recognition, despite his awards and high-profile articles. At least Chris had finally taken Marco up on his offer to let him help by recording video footage of Chris’s street-food encounters. It wasn’t high quality, but Marco figured it would help give Chris reference materials, if nothing else.

“Social media is about being connected,” Marco continued, “sharing your experiences.”

“Who would I want to stay connected to?” Chris rolled his eyes in irritation. “The marketing manager pretending to be Anthony Bourdain on his Facebook? My roommate from college? Anyone I want to stay connected with, I do, on my own terms. I don’t need a face-twit-blog-whatever.”

“What about me?” It came out before Marco could stop himself. “After tomorrow how are you going to stay connected to me?”

Finally Marco had asked the question they’d both been avoiding. Marco knew he’d been a rare exception to Chris’s usual rule of not mixing business and pleasure, a lover who had become a travel companion and assistant. The color drained from Chris’s face, and his cool gaze slipped away from Marco to study his half-empty beer glass. For a long moment, the only sounds at their table were the clink of melting ice in their metal bucket and the whir of the cheap plastic fan above.

“All right,” Chris said slowly, “I’ll set up a Facebook account.”

“Really?” Marco’s eyes went wide. “You serious?”

“Maybe you’re right.” It seemed like it physically pained Chris to admit it, which made Marco smile. “It wouldn’t kill me.”

A little side note, if I may, the picture at the top of the page is a meal very similar to the one Chris and Marco shared. The “catfish exploded” dish is on the upper left, and beside it are the “noodles made out of the sun.”

How about you? Have you ever had a dish so spicy it made you cry?

Finally Home
When novice backpacker Marco and seasoned travel writer Chris parted ways in Bangkok, they thought it was the end of their summer romance. Three months later, though, a change of assignment reunites Chris and Marco, and the pair embarks on an adventure greater than ten days trekking through Thailand—forming a real relationship amid family drama, coming out fears, career woes, and personal demons.

Now available from Dreamspinner Press in eBook and Paperback!

Finally Home Blog Tour and Giveaway

Finally Home blog tour banner

Join me on my blog tour (August 29-September 12) and enter to win an autographed book bundle of Finally Home and Two Tickets to Paradise!

Finally Home Release Party starts…now!

August 29, 2014

Finally Home book cover

Good morning, everyone! My name is Zee Kensington, and I’m thrilled to be here. Not just because I get to spend today with you lovely people, I’m also excited because my very first novel, Finally Home, was released today by Dreamspinner Press!

This novel is very special to me, and not just for being my first. It took me over two years to complete, and seeing this book out in the world fills me with a pride akin to holding my first child (whose birth was the reason this book took so long, by the way).

“So, tell us more about this novel of yours,” you ask. Or rather, I hope you ask. I’ll pretend you asked.

Finally Home is the sequel to my short story, Krung Thep, City of Angels, that appeared in the Dreamspinner anthology, Two Tickets to Paradise in 2011 (though Finally Home can definitely be enjoyed on its own). It’s a contemporary romance about travel, family, identity, and finding one’s way back home, full of drama, humor, delicious food, and hot sex.

I have a lot planned for today–photos of the locations that inspired the stories, some behind-the-scenes trivia, an excerpt, and a special giveaway–so I hope you’ll stop by again! 

Let me leave with a parting question in two parts, so I can learn more about you lovely people: Have you ever taken a trip that changed your life? Where was it to?

Finally Home
After one night in Bangkok turned into ten days trekking together, novice backpacker Marco and seasoned travel writer Chris parted ways thinking they’d never see each other again. Three months later, Marco still can’t forget the greatest adventure of his life—or the gorgeous guy he shared it with. Too afraid to come out to his family, Marco is suffocating in his suburban Southern California life, until Chris announces he’s coming to LA.

Chris has spent the past four years wandering alone, rebuilding himself from the ashes of a failed journalism career. He arrives in Los Angeles eager to eat, write, and resume the sexy, casual fun he had enjoyed with Marco. But when Chris finds his friend is a terrified closet-case at home, he’s determined to help Marco confront his fears.

Priorities change when Chris’s father suffers a stroke, and Chris rushes to New York City to face a harsh homecoming with the family he abandoned. When Marco defies his parents to be at Chris’s side, Chris begins to realize there may be more to their relationship than just work and play, and that Marco may be the one to show Chris what it means to finally be home.

Now available from Dreamspinner Press in eBook and Paperback!

Finally Home Blog Tour and Giveaway

Finally Home blog tour banner

Join me on my blog tour (August 29-September 12) and enter to win an autographed book bundle of Finally Home and Two Tickets to Paradise!

 

 

The post with the steamy excerpt!

August 11, 2014

Here it is, my last post before announcing the winners of today’s giveaways!

Thank you for visiting the release party for my first full-length novel, The Nesting Habits of Strange Birds! I’m so glad you stopped by, and hope you had a little fun.

Speaking of fun and sex (we weren’t talking about sex? Well, why the hell not?) Strange Birds is an erotic romance so naturally sex figures prominently in the growth of both men. They come into the story with their own ideas of what sex is, and what it should be. Those ideas don’t always mesh, because that would just be too easy. ;)

Besides, sex is different for everyone (I’m guessing here, since I haven’t actually had sex with everyone). What it’s like, and what it includes, both depend on a lot of variables. Not the least of which is who your partner is and what they bring to the table (or the sofa or the backseat of the car or…). Sex for same-sex partners is different than it is for opposite-sex partners too—not only in the most obvious ways.

It’s pretty obvious that same-sex partners don’t go into it with the idea that sex is about procreation. It’s about pleasure, about showing your partner how you feel about them, about the connection. So, very often, it’s not about penetration either. I’m not going to knock it in general, but penetration doesn’t have to be the culmination of every sex scene—or every relationship, for that matter. Most of the opposite-sex romance novels I’ve read seemed to be saying that it is, that penetrative sex is the ultimate goal two people should have (along with marriage, but that’s a whole post unto itself).

What’s the point of this, you ask? I enjoy same-sex romance because you never really know how it’ll end. Sure, if it’s marked romance you expect someone to be in love with someone else by the end and for those feelings to be returned, but it seems to me this is the only hard and fast rule. The mysteries of how they’ll get there and what they’d do along the way are the fun parts. The journey can look wildly different for every couple.

Okay, I’ll stop rambling and make with the steamy excerpt now. :)

I’ll be back by 7 p.m. Pacific Time to announce the winners.

In the meantime, tell me about your expectations when you read male-male romances. Do you like a lot of sex, or just a little? Wild or vanilla? The sky’s the limit, and every post is an entry for my giveaways.

No fair saying “it depends on the story” either–everyone has a favorite thing and I want to hear ‘em!  In this, as in all the truly fun things in life, there are no wrong answers. :)

All the excerpts today have been from Phil’s POV, but Lee has a voice in this book too. Here’s a little from him. The context for the excerpt is a little spoilery, so I hope I’m not too horrible if I don’t share it. :D

Lee moaned when Phil knelt on the floor in front of him, and again when he leaned against him and kissed him slowly, deeply, circling Lee’s tongue with his like a preview of coming attractions.

Lee didn’t have to wait long, after that kiss, Phil moved faster with every passing moment. He pulled at Lee’s shirt, and as soon as it was off, tossed it behind him without a glance, and dove forward to kiss a path down his abs. Phil’s hands shook as he slid the elastic waistband of Lee’s sweats down, and by the time his dick was free, both panted loudly in the otherwise silent room.

Phil sucked gently on the head until Lee raised his hips. After a long teasing moment, he opened his lips and let Lee fuck his mouth. A few strokes like that and Phil lowered his head, just a little, every time Lee pushed up. Lee fought the urge to bury both hands in Phil’s hair. He wanted to tangle his fingers, feel Phil’s head banging from both sides, but settled for watching as his hair bounced up and floated down.

Whoa, it’s getting long—it hardly even curls anymore.

Lee grunted with the effort to keep from grabbing Phil’s hair as he sped the pace. Almost like he’d been listening to a Tool song but then Metallica came on the radio. Lee smiled and pulled his good leg up over the arm of the little chair. More leverage meant more friction and—oh shit—and then Phil wrapped a hand around the inside of Lee’s hip. He gripped the crease where leg and ass met, massaging until Phil’s thumb found his hole. For a moment, that felt much longer than it could’ve been, time stopped, just like the hummingbird wings in Phil’s pictures. The moment ended when Phil gripped harder and traced a circle with his hot thumb, ripping a hoarse scream from Lee’s throat as he came.

“Oh shit,” Lee panted, his head lolled to the side, his ass hanging off the chair. He opened his eyes and saw the ottoman about four feet away, his casted foot barely hanging on to the corner.

Phil kissed Lee’s deflating prick and then turned away. He lifted his cast and slid the ottoman under Lee’s leg.

“Oh man, I think you should pay me now.”

“What?” All the happy disappeared from Phil’s face and his body got very still.

“You need to feel this good too.”

Lee leaned forward and rested a hand on Phil’s shoulder. When he didn’t look any less happy, Lee drew his palm down across his chest. He scooted a little more upright and then slipped his hand around Phil’s hip, drawing him closer. Phil shook his head but didn’t really seem to be saying no. After a careful moment spent watching Phil’s face for any sign he was going too far, Lee pushed his fingertips past the waistband of his jeans. Phil shivered, and he took that as a sign and opened the snap.

“Come up here?”

Phil turned his face up to Lee, panting through his beautiful swollen lips. When Lee slipped both hands under his arms and pulled, he didn’t resist. Lee kissed those luscious lips as he arranged Phil across his lap, and didn’t stop while he opened his pants. He was about to pull them off, but at the last minute just brought them down enough to get at Phil’s burning erection.

“Oh shit, you’re so hot.”

Lee grabbed a big handful of Phil’s ass and lifted until he could lick the glistening tip of his cock. When Phil moaned in response, Lee closed his lips over the head. He was tempted to move to the bed so he could watch Phil’s face—his gorgeous face—while he came, but didn’t want to stop sucking his dick to do it.

As though getting off had erased the tough workday, Lee lifted Phil in a faster and faster rhythm until he got close.

Much more fun than free weights.

 

Thanks again for hanging out with us today—hope you enjoyed the excerpts! I’ll be back in a couple of hours for the drawing. If the train is on time, I’ll be back before then to answer any questions and enjoy the party from the comfort of my PC instead of my phone. :)

 

Buy The Nesting Habits of Strange Birds:  http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=5271

Follow me on Twitter or Goodreads

Rainbow Rose

Release Party Post #4: LGBTQ Youth and Charities + Excerpt

August 11, 2014

Welcome back to my release party!

I’m getting a little serious here, so if you want to skip down to the excerpt I’ll understand. It’s a little serious too, though, so I wanted to warn everyone. The book deals with some serious and potentially triggery subject matter, and this is just a little hint at what Phil and Lee have to deal with before they get their HEA.

I’ve seen a few authors in this wonderful genre we all love talking about giving characters happy endings that the people they knew in real life weren’t able to enjoy. The Nesting Habits of Strange Birds does that, in a way.

Parts of Phil’s backstory are taken from a friend of mine who spent some time in foster care during her childhood. She and her little brother were taken from their mother and spent a few weeks in separate foster homes. Luckily, their grandmother fought for custody of both kids. My friend’s story started me thinking about all kinds of “What if” scenarios.

But those are way too spoilery to talk about.

I can’t talk about nothing, though (not for long, anyway ;) ), so I’ll talk about a real-life issue—the lack of services and safe spaces available for LGBTQ youth. Even in places known for being liberal, LGBTQ youth (and adults, for that matter) have problems with acceptance, which often leads to unstable life situations. Oregon is no exception. Depending on the study you read, at least half to two-thirds of Oregon’s homeless youth are LGBTQ. Places like Outside In, and SMYRC (Sexual & Gender Minority Youth Resource Center) are among the organizations doing great work to change that in the Portland area.

SMYRC is a program of Portland’s Q Center, and they provide youth aged 12-23 with a safe space to hang out, participate in activities from community involvement to music and art, and access services from life skills education to job readiness and counseling. They also provide a lot of the basic necessities of life that most of us are lucky enough to take for granted, like toiletries and warm winter clothes. Last year I spent almost five months knitting and donated a large bag of hats, scarves, and mitts during their annual clothing drive. I didn’t have money to spare, but I had yarn!

As soon as the NFL pre-season gets going I’ll be back at it. Charity knitting in front of football games is one of my favorite things about the fall.

 

Do you have a favorite charity that helps LGBTQ youth?

If so, I’d love to hear about it. If you give or volunteer there, I want to hear about that too. Toot your own horn, and help raise awareness of all the great work being done around the world to help our kids grow up knowing their worth.

 

 

Excerpt:

They sat in silence for a few minutes. Phil thought Jerry was waiting for him to ask another question. He had one but wasn’t sure how to ask it.

“Your scars aren’t you, Phil. It’s possible they won’t make any difference to Lee at all.”

Phil shook his head, scooted back on the bed, and pulled his legs up under the folds of his robe.

“You don’t have to tell him, or anyone, about them unless you want to.”

“But that means….”

Jerry leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees. “No, it doesn’t mean you can’t be intimate. It means you choose what to tell and when. You can tell it all, or you can just say they’re old scars, you’re fine now, and you don’t want to talk about it.”

Phil thought about it longer than Jerry could stay in that position. Jerry stood and stretched his back, hung his sport jacket in the closet, and sat in an old wing chair on the other side of the room.

“I-isn’t that l-l… dishonest?”

“No.”

Jerry’s tone suggested he wanted Phil to turn around, so he did, and then scooted near to where he sat.

“You don’t owe anyone an explanation, Phil. You don’t have to say anything you’re uncomfortable with. And while we’re on the subject, you don’t have to do anything you’re uncomfortable with either. You decide what to do and when to do it. Understand?”

Phil nodded and then looked up—he was afraid he would cry from frustration. “But I d-do want to.”

Jerry nodded. “Then you should.” He smiled. “Lee’s a good guy, and it’s clear there’s something between you, so just go until you have to stop and then start again when you can.”

Jerry had a knack for making things sound simple. Not easy, but simple.

“C-can I ask you something else?”

“Phil, you can ask anything, anytime. You know questions only bother me when I don’t know the answers.”

Phil smiled and his chin shook, which started the rest of him shaking again. “I never… I mean, I never thanked you for h-helping me. Why did you? I don’t mean to s-sound ungrateful—”

“Hold on. You don’t sound ungrateful. It’s a logical question. And the answer is simple, unlike everything else in your life: you needed someone to fight for you, to help you, and I was in a position to do it. I’m glad I was. What you went through—nobody should have to go through anything like that, and especially not alone.”

Phil swiped at his cheeks, but even though they burned, they were dry.

“I know you wanted to give up, more than once or twice, but you didn’t. What happened to you would’ve broken a lesser man. You know that, don’t you? I’m proud of you, Phil. It wasn’t easy, and may never be easy, but you’re still standing.”

Jerry stood and slowly approached the bed. Phil looked up, and when he realized Jerry would hug him, his eyes stung, but at the same time he felt like smiling. When Jerry wrapped both arms around his shoulders and pulled him close, Phil hugged him back.

They stayed like that for a few minutes, and then Jerry moved away the half step he usually let stand between them. He smiled and then sniffled.

“Thanks, Phil.”

“I was just going to s-say that to you.”

Phil wasn’t sure what Jerry was thanking him for and didn’t want to ask. The day had been exhausting, and he was ready to burrow into bed and read until he fell asleep. He was relieved when, after a moment’s pause to give him a chance to ask another question if he would, Jerry turned the conversation to food.

 

Don’t forget to comment with your favorite LGBTQ youth-based charity for a chance to win a copy of Strange Birds or a charm bracelet and your very own strange bird!

 

Buy The Nesting Habits of Strange Birds:  http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=5271

 

 

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

Dreamspinner Author Page: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/index.php?cPath=879

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CharleyDescote

Goodreads: http://tinyurl.com/aqe7g7r

 

 

 

The Actual Birds in The Nesting Habits of Strange Birds

August 11, 2014

 

When I first started writing my novel about Phil and Lee I called it Strange Birds. I used that working title so long, no other title seemed to fit. Which was a problem when I wanted to submit it. Strange Birds doesn’t exactly scream Romance Novel, does it?

I love the title I chose, but feel the need to let everyone know actual birds are involved. I don’t want anyone thinking “strange birds” is a euphemism or any kind of joke, so here are the actual birds, in order of appearance.

Hummingbirds

Credit: J. Tanner

I’ve had hummingbird gardens in the past, full of fuchsias and butterfly bushes. Now that I’m on the fourth floor in a north-facing apartment, I have to rely on photographs. Lucky for me, I have an in with some amazing photographers via the Absolute Write Forums.

Blue Heron

These are older and larger than the babies in SB, but they’re so cute! Blue Heron nests are usually 2-3 feet in diameter before the eggs hatch, but are a work in progress as the chicks grow. A nest can grow to over 5 feet in diameter and 3 feet deep to accommodate the long-legged babies. Sometimes it can grow a foot or two overnight, which I learned one spring a few years ago, as I watched a clutch that lived in a nearby park.

Evening Grosbeak

I love these birds—they look like hard cases, but seem to play well with others. When I first moved to Oregon I would check off every new bird species I found. The grosbeaks shared the food with many other types of birds with hardly a scuffle, and, being 6-9 inches long with a wingspan of 12-14 inches, they look cool in large groups.

Osprey

This juvenile osprey looks about ready to leave the nest permanently. I’ve been lucky enough to watch parents teaching their young to fish at local rivers and lakes. They’re amazing hunters!

Red-tailed Hawk

Almost everyone has probably seen a hawk soaring at one time or another. They make flying look effortless!

Sam the Eagle

Sam isn’t in the avian cast directly but he’s mentioned as inspiration for a work of art, so I had to include him. I loved him on The Muppet Show, always trying to maintain order in the midst of happy chaos. He reminded me of the bald eagle I saw near my little house in the middle of nowhere. That eagle suffered silently as a small group of crows tried to chase him out of the tree. Somehow, he managed to look dignified the whole time. But I still brought my cats inside—he must’ve weighed fifty pounds and could’ve made off with both of them at once without batting an eye.

 

Have you ever seen a strange or rare bird? I’d love to hear your stories of watching hummingbirds build nests, an osprey hunt or a bald eagle sitting in silence as a family of crows try to chase him out of their tree! Every comment is an entry for all three of my giveaway prizes!

 

Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

 

Buy The Nesting Habits of Strange Birds: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=5271

 

 

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

Goodreads: http://tinyurl.com/aqe7g7r

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/charleydescote/

e-mail: c.descoteauxwrites@gmail.com

Rainbow Rose

 

Photo Credits: All bird photos courtesy of Wikipedia, except as noted; Red Tailed Hawk photo licensed from Graphicstock.

The Nesting Habits of Strange Birds Release Party!

August 11, 2014

Cover The Nesting Habits of Strange BirdsHello and welcome! Charley Descoteaux here, to celebrate the release of my first full-length novel, The Nesting Habits of Strange Birds!

I’m taking over the DsP Blog today to give away a copy of the book, of course, and I also have something a little different. More on that later. ;)

For those of you who don’t know me, Dreamspinner released my first novella in June of 2013, and Strange Birds is my fifth title. I live in Portland, Oregon, and right now am missing the rain big-time! I’m happiest when it’s 75 or below, and this summer it feels like we barely get those temps at night. I exaggerate, but 90 is just too hot for us web footed folks.

Soon I’m heading to the day job (which isn’t evil, only demanding :) ) so I’ll only be around during breaks and on my commutes (don’t worry, I take the train :) ). I’ve planned ahead—four posts with excerpts and a little extra are scheduled throughout the day, and all comments are eligible for all the giveaways. If the winner already has a copy of Strange Birds, they can choose two from my backlist.

Before I go any farther, I want to thank everyone who pre-ordered Strange Birds during my charity drive. Between pre-orders and my Rainbow Award entry fee, I’ll be sending a total of $XX to The Trevor Project! They’re my go-to national charity, and especially relevant to this book.

Okay, just a little business and then I’ll give you the first excerpt.

All comments today will be in the running for copies of Strange Birds—one signed paperback (US only), and one ebook copy.

I also have a special charm bracelet I made to celebrate my fifth release with Dreamspinner. I’ve added a charm for each of my stories, and left plenty of room for you to add to it with charms for your favorite books, vacations, anything that makes you happy!

The bracelet has a flip-flop for Directing Traffic, a piece of hard candy for Curious Sustenance, a wing for Toy Run, a key for Not the Doctor, and a camera for Strange Birds.

Along with the bracelet will come one very strange bird—a rubber owl. I saw these little guys and just couldn’t resist! Since this will be the first one to go, the winner can choose which color they’d like.

Now, on to the fun part! This excerpt is a good introduction to Phil and Lee, and how they see each other. It’s the first time they talk. But first the blurb.

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

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

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

 

TWO DAYS later he was busy again—scan; file; shred—when unfamiliar footsteps entered the garage.

“Sorry to bother you, but would it be okay if I used the phone in the kitchen?”

His hand shook when he reached for the next sheet of paper, so he pulled it back empty. After a quick glance up to make sure the guy was looking, he nodded.

“Thanks….”

The guy didn’t leave.

“Say, this is the part where you tell me your name.”

He waited, but still the guy didn’t leave. He took a slow deep breath and rehearsed it silently first. “Phil.”

“Hey, Phil. I’m Lee.”

He glanced up again. Lee’s smile—patient; kind; happy—wasn’t like anything he’d ever seen before. Lee had arrived in the plumber’s truck, with his worn jeans and his surfer hair. Lee. Lee had laughed at Jerry’s silly story about the case that made him want to retire. Lee still wore that same smile when Phil tilted his head to the side just enough to see that Lee’s eyes were brown. He returned his gaze to the floor beside his feet. “H-hey.”

“So I’m half brain-dead from lack of sleep and forget to charge my phone.”

Lee laughed, and the sound felt so good in his ears Phil wanted to laugh along with him. He settled for a strategic head-tilt that allowed him to watch Lee while keeping his face mostly hidden.

“What’re you doing with all these boxes?” Lee twisted to look around the small garage at the Bankers Boxes lining the workbench and sitting in stacks on the floor.

“S-scanning the d-documents.”

“Why? I mean, this is a lot of documents to scan.”

Phil sidestepped behind a stack of boxes and glanced up again. Lee’s smile dialed up a notch. He was so close, Phil could see the outline of his body beneath his T-shirt—the muscular body of a guy who ate like a guy. How was he supposed to get anything out with that in front of him? Talking was difficult enough anyway.

Lee leaned over an open box and looked inside.

“Th-those are p-priv—They’re c-confidential.”

“Oh, sorry. I didn’t see anything.” He took a step back and wiped his palms down the front of his shirt. “Are you a lawyer too? Jerry’s a cool guy. I bet he’s fun to work for. Or with.”

Phil shook his head. “N-not a…. Jerry’s great.” The corner of his mouth twitched into something like a smile.

“Well, I better make that call. Thanks. You really saved my bacon, Phil.”

Lee grinned and took a few steps toward the door. He looked over his shoulder just before he disappeared in the direction of the house.

After he left, Phil leaned against the table holding the computer and scanner to catch his breath.

 

Thanks for reading!

I’ll be back in a bit with another excerpt and a bit about the actual birds in The Nesting Habits of Strange Birds.

I’ll check in during my break, so if you have any questions fire away!

Rainbow Rose

Buy The Nesting Habits of Strange Birds:  http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=5271

Rattle my cages anytime:

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

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/CharleyDescote

e-mail: c.descoteauxwrites@gmail.com

 

 

 

Harmony Ink New Release – July 31, 2014

July 31, 2014

Harmonious Hearts – Stories from the 2104 Young Author Challenge

A Harmony Ink Press Young Adult Title

Celebrate with Harmony Ink Press as we recognize the talented winners of our first annual Young Author Challenge. Harmonious Hearts – Stories from the 2014 Young Author Challenge, a Harmony Ink Press Young Adult title available from Dreamspinner Press.

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Celebrate with Harmony Ink Press as we recognize the talented winners of our first annual Young Author Challenge. This anthology showcases the LGBTQ genre’s best up-and-coming-authors between the ages of fourteen and twenty-one.

The transition from childhood to adulthood is never easy, and growing up presents unique challenges for LGBTQ youth. Confusion, bigotry, and struggle transcend time and place, but fortunately, so does love. Travel with these exceptional young authors from country cottages to big cities, into the past and the future, from fantastic lands of magic to the recognizable landscapes of our world. Regardless of the setting, the characters in these stories, along with families, friends, lovers, and allies, fight to claim their places in life. Their identities and situations are different, but the young people in this collection share the strength and courage to succeed, sometimes against great odds, and they invite you to join them on their journeys.

Cigar, Parasol, Star by Laura Beaird
Counting Stars by L.A. Buchanan
The King of Dorkdom by Avery Burrow
Happy Endings Take Work by Morgan Cair
Tess by Becca Ehlers
Our First Anniversary by Trisha Harrington
The Dragon Princess by Eleanor Hawtin
An IRL Love Life by Rebecca Long
On Their Own Terms by D. William Pfifer
Glitterhead by Benjamin Shepherd Quiñones
City Lights Will Carry You Home by Amanda Reed
The Gift of Flame by Scotia Roth
Waiting by Annie Schoonover
Quiet Love by Gil Segev
Paranormal Honor Society by Leigh Taylor

Length: Anthology Novel (294p.) | Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense, Fantasy: High Fantasy, Fantasy: Urban Fantasy, Fantasy: Fairy Tales, Science Fiction, Paranormal: Other, Young Adult, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Genderfluid | Release Date: July 31, 2014

Buy as an eBook (ISBN: 978-1-63216-188-8) | Buy as a Paperback (ISBN: 978-1-63216-186-4)

Release day for BAMF

July 28, 2014

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With his fauxhawk, sleeve tattoos, and visible piercings, Ridley Corbin has the whole badass vibe going on in spades. The image serves him well as the self-proclaimed protector of the underdog, and he wants nothing more than to be Alex Firestone’s hero.

Alex, a mild-mannered library assistant, has moved to Slater, a quiet college town, hoping to hide from his past. He keeps to himself, but that doesn’t save him from catching the unwanted attention of the campus bully. But not all is as it seems. Alex’s past comes calling, and it’s time he becomes top dog.

Excerpt:

Chapter 1

RIDLEY CORBIN was the protector of the underdog, a role he’d come into as a direct product of his upbringing. A squirrely little kid, he had buckteeth, bright red hair, and was a good ten pounds and two inches shorter than the next smallest kid. A runt, and an ugly one at that, he’d been bullied nearly every day of his first three years at Gates Elementary School.

During those early days, he’d drop to his knees next to his bed and beg God for a little brother or sister. It would have been cool to have had a sibling to play with—even if he or she were forced to play with him by their mom. Apparently something had gone wrong during his birth, though, and they’d had to pull out Mom’s baby box. But hey, at least the prayers had been good for something—he got a puppy.

The summer between third and fourth grade, Ridley thought he’d gotten the next best thing to a sibling. Brock Hanners moved into the house next to his, and Ridley thought that, since they were the only two kids on the cul-de-sac, Brock would want to play with him. He was wrong.

Brock was huge; well, at least to Ridley’s scrawny little ass he was. Much to his dismay, Brock bullied him too. He used to steal Ridley’s bike, take his toys, even came over once and knocked down his clubhouse. Granted it was only a couple of kitchen chairs and old blankets and he was the only member, but it was his. Instead of the friend he had hoped for, Ridley found himself even more miserable after Brock moved in. He was being picked on at school and now bullied at home as well.

However, Ridley was a smart kid and Brock, well, he wasn’t too bright. Brock had been held back a couple of years—hence why he was so much bigger than everyone else. So when classes resumed in the fall, they came to a little agreement. Ridley would do Brock’s homework and Brock would keep Ridley safe at school. Brock was like his own personal bodyguard. Not a perfect arrangement, but he learned some great study habits doing the work of two, and it saved him a crap-ton of ass beatings.

Brock moved away during their junior year of high school, but by then Ridley had had his teeth fixed, his hair had changed from Bozo red to a nice chestnut color, and, most importantly, he’d grown. He was still scrawny, but he was inching up on six feet and had a wicked bank shot.

It would have been easy to become one of those kids who felt that just because he’d been bullied his whole life, it was now his turn to be the bully. Instead, he became more like Brock, except Ridley did it for free and he was a lot smarter. Okay, he was nothing like Brock. He never took advantage of someone and he’d never failed a class, but he did take to the protector part.

So it was only natural that he was on the move as soon as he heard Kyle Bouche’s familiar sneer—Hey, nerd boy. Where can I find a book on Gustave Courbet?—on the other side of the books he was searching through. Damn, he hated that guy. Kyle was the big man at Slater University. Quarterback for the football team, student body president, as well as president of his fraternity, blah, blah, blah. Ridley didn’t normally pay attention to the shit that went on around the campus, couldn’t care less. He kept his head down, stayed to himself, and worked hard to keep his grade point average at a 4.0. The only reason he knew about Kyle’s activities was because the fucker liked to brag about them. Personally, Ridley thought Kyle was a complete and utter dickhead.

Ridley eased his way around the aisle, and there in the next row was Kyle, smirking at Alex Firestone. Ridley was about to step in and teach Kyle a few manners, but stopped when he saw Alex glare at Kyle and say, “Look it up on the computer like everyone else.” Alex then went back to sorting the books in his cart.

Ridley tensed and his hands tightened on the Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood he was holding as Kyle moved up close to Alex. Kyle puffed his chest up in an obvious attempt to intimidate Alex. The idea made Ridley crazy and he wanted so badly to slap Kyle up against his thick head. The little bantam rooster had no idea who he was messing with. Yes, Ridley fancied himself protector of the underdog, but with Alex the need was even sharper. It was personal. If Kyle laid so much as a finger on Alex, Kyle would be washing the cold blood from his face later. Ridley had to bite down on his lip to keep from laughing at the irony.

“Do you have any idea who you’re talking to?” Kyle snarled.

Ridley shifted slightly, fighting back the urge to pounce when Kyle put the cart between him and Alex and leaned in close. He couldn’t see Kyle’s face but clearly saw the narrowed gaze and challenging look Alex gave him in return.

“Yeah, you’re the guy who is going to use the computer to search for your book like everyone else,” Alex informed Kyle without so much as flinching.

Alex worked in the library, and although Ridley didn’t really have a need to be in the library—with his major in mechanical engineering, most of his studies were done hands-on or on the computer—he found himself drawn there anyway. Basically he was there to gawk at the star of his wet dreams, Alex Firestone. No, he wasn’t a freaky stalker. He just hadn’t built up the nerve to approach the sexy man. Okay, it might have been bordering on stalkerish since he’d been doing quite a bit of gawking over the last six months, but damn, it was Alex Firestone.

Alex was the same six-foot height, and although he tended to wear dress shirts and slacks that were a bit big for him, Ridley could tell Alex had an impressive build beneath the cotton material. He also had the most amazing gunmetal-blue eyes Ridley had ever seen. Oh, and then there was the fact that Alex had a head full of unruly blond curls and the biggest and sweetest dimples ever. He also wore heavy-framed black glasses, and the bow ties he sported were just too adorable for words. Basically, Alex worked the fuck out of cute.

Read more and get your copy here: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=5260

Harmony Ink Press New Release: June 26, 2014

June 26, 2014

Tabloid Lies by RJ Astruc

A Harmony Ink Press Young Adult Title

The tabloids are getting Melanie’s secrets and nobody will cast Jack in an acting role. When the truth comes out, dreams could shatter. Tabloid Lies by RJ Astruc, a Harmony Ink Press Young Adult title available from Dreamspinner Press.

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Soap actress Melanie Potter wants a gay best friend, and Jack fits the bill nicely. They share an apartment, their time, and mutual friends Katie and Roo—another soap actress and her obligatory gay friend. Drinks and gossip fill their free hours, and anyone who sees them thinks they’re a carefree and happy bunch. But someone is telling Melanie’s secrets to the tabloids, and Jack can’t figure out why nobody in town will cast him in an acting role. When the truth comes out about who is behind the sabotage, everyone’s dreams could shatter.

Length: Novella (72p.) | Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Gay | Release Date: June 26, 2014

Buy as an eBook (ISBN: 978-1-63216-145-1)