Rum & Ginger Release Party! Excerpt!

December 2, 2013

I would like to introduce you to Ben Silver. He’s the main character of Rum & Ginger. In this excerpt you’ll also meet Lena Chaplin, his best friend. Enjoy! Has anyone else had a day like this at work?

Chapter One:
“You need to get out here, Ben.” Lena panted as she leaned into his office, her jet-black hair pulling free of her ponytail. “There’s a rhino stampeding again.”
“Christ.” Ben groaned as he rose from his chair. “It’s only fricking Tuesday.”
“Hurry up. She’s ready to tear the place apart,” Lena stated as she exited the office. Ben pinched the bridge of his nose and followed. A rhino on Tuesday did not bode well for the rest of the week. Sometimes being the manager of T.C. McFlannigan’s Family Funstaurant and Grillery gave Ben a splitting headache. He straightened his red-and-white-striped tie as he walked down the hallway, its wall covered in bits and pieces of pop-culture kitsch from decades past. The autographed picture of the cast of Diff’rent Strokes had remained in the same place since he’d started here as a waiter in high school. He shook his head as he marched toward the inevitable rhino confrontation.
The employees of the T.C. McFlannigan’s in Liamsport, Pennsylvania had been using the term “rhino” since before Ben started. Any overweight, disagreeable customer could be a rhino. Ben hated when they stampeded, when they started arguing with the waitstaff for some reason. He marched along the cheap tile floor in his company-issued polo with the requisite five pieces of “dazzle” Flannigan’s forced managers to sport. Ben had chosen a Batman cloisonné pin, two peace sign buttons, an embroidered Cure patch, a Star Trek combadge, and a polymer clay ladybug Lena had made him. The waiters and waitresses were required to cover their entire vests in “dazzle.” Ben didn’t miss those days.
He could hear the woman bellowing as he approached the dining room. “It says ‘all you can eat shrimp’! I ain’t done yet!” she protested at the top of her ample lungs. Ben readied his placating “manager smile” and he stepped in front of Lena. The large customer took a large sip from her large drink and barked, “Get me a manager, damn it! I want to talk—” She stopped when her piggy brown eyes met Ben’s blue gaze. He’d often practiced the look he turned on the woman, confident that his smile and expression would calm the awful creature. The woman sputtered once as her family averted their eyes in shame. Her husband’s face glowed red with embarrassment.
“Hello, ma’am. I’m Mr. Silver, the general manager. What’s affecting your funtertainment this evening?” Ben regurgitated the Flannigans’s approved greeting.
“Well. Hot damn.” The woman’s tongue snaked out and danced across her lips as her eyes molested Ben’s physique. “You’re the manager?”
“I am, ma’am. What’s the problem?”
“I got this coupon.” She presented the little slip of paper. “It says if we buy an entrée and two appetizers, we get all you can eat shrimp. This bitch,” the customer stated, shoving a finger in Christine’s face, “says she’s cuttin’ me off!” Christine’s expression paled with shock. “What’s that shit?”
“I don’t think it’s the shrimp Christine is cutting off, ma’am. I think you’ve had a bit too much to drink. Isn’t that right, Chrissy?” The frightened waitress nodded, her eyes wide. “We’re happy to give you as much shrimp as you want, but we have to draw the line when your drinking causes you to become belligerent. This is a family establishment.” Ben flashed his most ingratiating smile to punctuate his plea.
“You think you’re so cute. I paid my money. I got my coupon.” The woman drained her glass and shook it in Ben’s face. The ice cubes rattled annoyingly. “Give me my effing shrimps!”
Something in Ben’s brain snapped. “You don’t need any more shrimp, you fat cow! You’ve had too much to drink tonight. You’ve had too much to eat since the day you were born, and you’re humiliating your family. Get the hell out of here before I call animal control to put you down!”
“I—” The customer gasped. Her mouth opened and closed without sound. “I…what… you….”
“Out!” Ben pointed to the door. He looked at the astonished faces of the woman’s family and his waitstaff. Ben didn’t care. He was sick of these awful human beings walking all over them and demanding consideration. The woman snorted before she stomped out of the restaurant. Her family followed with their heads down, but Ben caught a smirk on her husband’s face.
“Jesus, Ben,” Lena stated with something Ben thought might be awe. “Where did that come from?”
He shook his head. “Just one of those days. Not in the mood for people.” Ben turned, uncomfortable with the stares of the entire dining room. He wasn’t sure what had come over him, but he’d never lost it like that before. He wanted to visit the bar himself, but he still had a few hours left of his shift. He stalked off to his office instead.
Ben sat with his head in his hands. What was going on? He’d dealt with hundreds of tipsy rhinos since he’d started and never once had he lost it like that. Maybe it was just everything finally getting to be a bit too much. He never wanted to end up back here in his little backward hometown. The whole point of college was to acquire a skill set to get him out of Liamsport. Ben supposed that’s what he got for going to school and hooking up with someone from his hometown, but it had been so wonderful at the time. He and Chance Henry hadn’t been friends in school. They’d known each other. In a town like Liamsport, it was impossible not to at least have heard of one another. Two months into their freshman year and they’d ended up at the same party, where they started talking about their little town, and Chance had confessed his homosexuality to Ben. It didn’t seem possible to Ben that he could have lived three blocks away from Chance his entire life and never known they had so much in common.
Chance understood everything Ben had gone through being closeted in that little town with their redneck classmates. Like Ben, Chance had only a few close friends, and none close enough that he could be completely honest with. It hadn’t taken long for a romance to blossom between the two young men, and it seemed at the time like fate had brought them together. Ben fell for Chance. He loved Chance’s dry, almost nonexistent humor, his grim determination, and his fierce intellect. Chance was no model, but Ben thought he was beautiful, as tall as Ben but not as broad with sandy, impeccably groomed hair. They’d started running together a few months after they started dating, and Chance toned up nicely. They’d moved into a little apartment a few blocks from school their sophomore year and hadn’t been separated since. Except for when they went home for the holidays. Neither one had been able to disclose the true nature of their new relationship to friends or family, and no one thought it odd that two hometown boys attending the same college would become easy friends.
“Earth to Ben.” Lena interrupted his reminiscence. “It’s time to close up. Anything wrong?”
“No,” he answered automatically. It felt like a lie, but he didn’t really want to burden Lena with his melancholy. She’d want him to, of course. Lena was his best friend besides Chance, and she insisted that Ben kept way too much bottled up and hidden away. She constantly bugged him to talk about his feelings with her. Sometimes he wanted to, but he’d gotten so used to keeping things secret and hidden away that it wasn’t easy for him to break the habit. “Maybe,” he amended his answer. “I don’t know. Everybody else gone?”
“Yeah. Murph is smoking outside, but everyone else went home.”
“Right. Let’s get the hell out of here.” He opened his desk and retrieved his keys. “Want to get a drink?”
“God,” Lena answered, puffing a jet of air to blow a loose hair back from her forehead. “I want to get more than one. Where do you want to go?”
“I don’t know.” Ben frowned. He hated that question because it didn’t have a good answer. Liamsport was full of bars. They were about the only means of entertainment in their small town. Churches, bars, and cigarette stores seemed to occupy every corner. With the abundance of bars in town, one would think it would be easy to find a place to drink, but the opposite was true. At least for Ben.
Most of the bars were chock-full of country music and rednecks. The bars within a mile of the local college were meat markets with cheap booze. The few places with dance floors attracted old single women looking for men half their age to regain lost youth or young men looking for sugar mommies. Unfortunately that’s where most of Liamsport’s gay community drank out of desperation. There were sports bars, dive bars, and a microbrewery, but none of those were very high on Ben’s list of places to hang out.
“What about Mike’s place?” he asked. Mike’s bar, the Bill and Vinny, was named after Mike’s two heroes, Shakespeare and Van Gogh. Mike tried to promote some kind of culture. He held open-mic nights, poetry readings, and once a month he transformed the bar into a gallery and featured a local artist. It attracted the right kind of college kids and the more palatable citizens of Liamsport.
“Eh.” Lena shrugged. “That’s fine. At least Mike has a pool table.” She unlocked her car door. “Meet you there.” Ben waved as she slid into the driver’s seat. He pressed the button on his key fob, unlocking his silver Prius, and slid behind the wheel. Ben checked his rearview mirror as he turned the key. The Cure picked up where they’d left off when he’d arrived at work, in the middle of “Friday I’m in Love.” He saw Murphy crush out his cigarette and tip a nod. Ben nodded back and pulled out of the parking lot onto the street.

http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4421

Rum & Ginger Release Party! Blurb!

December 2, 2013

Hey friends. I’m super excited about today’s release of my new novel Rum & Ginger. I’m sure you’d like to know more about it so here’s the blurb:
The Connection: Book One
Ben Silver’s personal dream is to open the first gay bar in Liamsport, Pennsylvania. The town isn’t exactly open-minded, but that’s not why Ben stays in the closet. Chance, Ben’s computer nerd boyfriend, is deathly afraid of anyone finding out he’s gay. On a night out, Ben meets Brodie Felix, a younger, heavily tattooed bartender who lights a spark in Ben’s heart. Although the spark in his relationship with Chance has dwindled to almost nothing, Ben feels guilty for wanting to be single, for wanting another man, so he tries to forget about Brodie.
But when Ben discovers one of Chance’s own secrets, he’s forced to make a difficult choice.
On his own for the first time in his life, Ben can be open with his family and friends. Though honesty has its benefits, his life isn’t perfect. Ben’s circle of friends and family is growing. So is the spark between him and Brodie, and Ben hopes it will grow into a flame. His dream remains out of his grasp, but with a little help and a lot of work, he might yet serve his favorite rum and ginger ale at his own establishment, the first gay bar in his hometown.
So what do you think? Want to read more? Should I post an excerpt?

Eon de Beaumont Release Party!

December 2, 2013

Hey all, as you may have guessed, my name is Eon de Beaumont and my first ever contemporary novel, Rum & Ginger, releases today. R&G is the first book in The Connection series and I think it’s going to appeal to a lot of folks. Here’s a look at the cover. I’ll post the blurb soon. What kinds of stories is everybody into? Rum_and_Ginger_FINAL_FLAThttp://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4421

On Archimedes Street Release–Last Post

November 20, 2013

You have yet to meet the parents, Paule Saint-Paix, Achille Abbott, and Say-Say Abbott. Two of them are wily, and the third is a saint of a mother hen. They’re among my favorites.

Eight people left comments. Two are ringers. The first was a test, since I wanted to test how commenting works. And Dennis, you can’t fool me! If you want my book, you’ll have to buy it!

That leaves six people, and I promised five books. Seems cruel to leave the odd man out. So, thank you to:

  • JJ
  • Susan
  • Trix
  • H.B.
  • Theo
  • Andrea M

As soon as the printed books are available and I can get my clammy mitts on them, I’ll send them to you.

Leave me your contact information here: Jeffersonwrites@gmail.com. If you’re uncomfortable sharing your address, I’ll try to find out whether Dreamspinner can send them directly to you on my dime.

I had a ball, but my day job calls.

Jefferson–”It’s Never Too Late for Love”–Parrish

On Archimedes Street Release–Part 5

Let’s not forget Wailin’ Elwood the Tree Man, shrewd in his granting of sexual favors, and the besotted Special Ed. In this scene, Elwood and Ed meet for the first time. Ed has seen a Help Wanted sign in front of Elwood’s shotgun single, and Elwood’s dog, Larceny, is the first to spot him:

Behind a shutter, Wailin’ Elwood the Tree Man watched the scene. With hunger and desperation in his eye, he concentrated intently on the man petting Larceny. Life circumstances had made Elwood a preternaturally keen observer, but he trusted Larceny’s instincts as much as his own. The man had passed the first test.

Elwood made his initial assessment. Dressed by the Little Sisters, so must have been sleeping rough. Not a dime in his pocket. Desperate as me.

“Nothin’ wrong wit’ dat cayoodle. He jes’ scratch his pad. Limp be gone in a day or two.” Elwood stepped out noiselessly from behind the shutter.

Ed, startled, jumped up from his crouch over the dog. The man had moved so silently that Ed was caught unawares. “Er—I saw the sign.”

The man had a secret, Elwood could see. Was he the one?

“Sleepin’ rough lately?”

Ed was stunned. “Er—yes. I could really use a job.”

College guy, Elwood registered. “How the Little Sistahs are?”

Ed flushed. “What kind of job is it?”

“Oh, helpah. I the tree man. Also cook some for pawties. An’ play the piana on Sattaday mornin’ in the fawmer’s mawket.”

“Tree man? An arborist?”

“Dat too,” Elwood deadpanned. “You know anythin’ ’bout shapin’ trees an’ bushes an’ dat shit?”

“Er….”

“Don’t hafta lie.”

“Well, not much,” Ed said. And then in a rush: “But—give me a chance—I’ll do anything you want. If I can’t do it, I’ll learn it.”

“You look fit enough.” Bought those muscles at a gym, but a few weeks of tree work would start putting real muscle on him. “Ain’t rocket science.”

Please, Mother Cabrini! “How did you know about sleeping rough and the Little Sisters?”

“Ain’t rocket science, needer. See dat shirt? Bin wash’ more often dan your teeth, an’ you wash dem after every meal, doncha, Poily? When you ain’t drunk.”

“Oh.”

“An’ dat ol’ shirt bin press’ bettah dan a weddin’ dress. An’ darn’. Wit’ stitches so tiny like you see on a bap-dismal robe. Dem’s nun stitches. An’ why the Little Sistahs dressin’ you? Dey eeder foun’ you on the street or more prolly when dey toin you loose from the lockup. An’ you on the street or in the lockup cuz you drunk, right? An’ broke. Else why you applyin’ for dis shit job?”

Shit. Just what I need. A regular blue-collar Sherlock Holmes.

My beta readers have had varying reactions to the dialect I use. To me, Yat, the native speech, is the heart and soul of the place. And I couldn’t resist trying to re-create it on the page. At an editor’s suggestion, I included an author’s note with a “cheat sheet.”

All the how-to books warn against dialect. I bucked the trend. Do you think it works? Does dialect put you off?

 

On Archimedes Street Release–Part 4

As a first-time novelist, I had to figure out the process of writing as I went along. I’d dream up plot possibilities while woolgathering on the bus, in the kitchen, and in the yard. I’d heard it said that sometimes characters spring to life under then pen—or the keyboard, in this modern world—like Athena from the head of Zeus. I didn’t see how that could be.

Then Mimi materialized under my fingers. At first, she was simply the occasion for a joking exchange between Dutch and Flip. She appears in an early scene with her arm in a plaster cast. Dutch clearly wants nothing to do with her. “Don’t like her much, do you, Dutch? Why not? She’s really cute.” Dutch answers, “Nah. She’s broke.”

Then I needed to populate a bar scene in the French Quarter and decided to place Mimi there. Well, she took over and would just not be denied center stage. Here she is, in snippets from various scenes, with Googs, her admirer, who is star quarterback of the Redemptorist Rams.

Here is the bar where she moonlights:

The concept behind Glitz on Bourbon—familiarly known to its disheartened employees as Titz on Bourbon—was threadbare and fully obsolete ten years before the club opened its doors. The proprietor, Carlton Carrollton, had been of an impressionable age when he first visited the Playboy Club. He had loved the idea of keys, of membership, of the posh surroundings and the playful but classy Bunnies. A very young Carlton, key in hand, had savored the unfamiliar sensation of privilege.

Glitz, which had taken every penny of Carlton’s savings, was a diluted, dispirited imitation of its outmoded inspiration. Carlton, facing an empty house night after night, had quickly given up on the notion of membership. He’d tried one-night membership, a sad euphemism for “cover charge,” which his patrons—largely Alabama and Mississippi college boys—saw right through. What remained was a cardboard key, handed out to patrons desultorily by Cleanhead the barker as they entered. “Your key to a good time!” it proclaimed jauntily. But since the keys were not good for a drink, they ended up littering the floor of Glitz like so many peanut shells crackling underfoot in a Far-West themed steakhouse.

Another Playboy throwback was the uniforms the “Glitz girls” wore. Carlton had not wanted simply to ape the Playboy Bunny franchise, and he’d come up with a truly knockout and original uniform design. Tonight, Sandra, Myrtle, and Dora wore it: a white satin tailcoat barely concealing pasties over nipples, white piqué bow tie and collar worn like a necklace, black bikini thong, fishnet stockings, and a white top hat. As a cost-cutting measure, Carlton had passed on the expense of maintaining the Glitz uniform to his waitstaff. Myrtle Guerrère—who’d had the sense even in second grade to ditch “Myrtle” and reinvent herself as Mimi—especially resented the expense. White satin was the most impractical thing that pain-in-the-ass Carlton could have come up with. Leave it to him to dream up this loopy uniform. The dry-cleaning costs were eating her up alive.

Still, she needed the job if she wanted to get through Redemptorist College. Stints as a personal trainer were far more profitable, but few and far between. The job sucked, really and truly. She’d have to fend off Sandra’s advances once again tonight, she knew. Nonetheless, she had a fondness for Sandra. She loved how Sandra jerked around the college boys. Dora, with her drooping tits, was not a crowd favorite, but she was a font of wisdom. “Don’t end up like me, honey,” she’d told Mimi. “Stay in college.” Cleanhead the barker could be relied on to do double duty as a bouncer when things got rowdy. Eusebio, the Mexican mixologist and dishwasher, rounded out the Glitz crew. It was sweet, really, thought Mimi—Eusebio didn’t mind Dora’s sagging tits in the least.

The crew had developed an odd solidarity, wedged, as they were, between the rock of the raucous college boys, all hands, and the hard place of the penny-pinching Carlton, short-tempered, panicking at every turn, and fearful of losing his investment.

And here is her reaction to the appearance of Dutch, Flip, and Googs at Glitz:

“Slumming, boys?” Mimi had moved silently to the table. “I know these clowns, Sandra, leave them to me.” Sandra flounced off.

Mimi? Dutch’s baritone deserted him in favor of a squeak.What are you doing here?”

“Paying tuition. What about you, hotshot? What’s your excuse?”

“But here?” Dutch circled one arm to encompass the sordidness of Glitz. “Surely there must be something else.”

“Oh, it’s all so easy for you, isn’t it, Dutch? Dutch, the golden boy, who never had to lift a finger in his whole life. Bet someone still wipes your ass for you. Have you tried to get a job lately? Oh, excuse me, I forgot. If you wanted a job, your daddy would snap his fingers and the limo would appear out of thin air to drive you to it, wouldn’t it?”

“Mimi, that’s not fair. Why didn’t you tell me? We could have found something. What about your personal trainer gigs?”

“You and Say-Say were my last personal trainer gigs, and you sure didn’t spread the word about me, did you?”

“You had a personal trainer? And it was Mimi?” Flip couldn’t suppress the glee from his voice.

“Oh, shut up,” said Dutch.

“Yeah, and you shoulda seen him, honey, before I worked on him. Can you say ‘adenoidal scarecrow’?”

Dutch frowned in annoyance. “But Mimi”—he motioned vaguely at her uniform.

“Yeah, so they can see my tits.” She shrugged. “Well, not all my tits. And yeah, some of these ding-dongs try to paw me, but that doesn’t mean I’m easy. Dutch, I’m the first person in my family ever to go to college, and I swear I’m going to graduate if I have to dig ditches!”

Flip and Googs, enjoying this exchange immensely, traded glances.

“Mimi, I’m an asshole,” said Dutch. “I’m sorry.”

Eyebrows flew up, both Flip’s and Googs’s.

Not expecting this from Dutch, Mimi had the cunning to summon sudden crocodile tears. She swept her hand over the small table, and the glasses crashed to the floor. “Dutch, I fucking hate it!” she sobbed.

Carlton winced at the crash. His profit margin was reed-thin. All he needed was for that stupid Myrtle—he relished the name on the income-tax forms she’d filled out and never called her Mimi—to break every glass in the place. That girl was determined to bankrupt him!

He rushed to the source of the noise. “You stupid girl, what are you doing? You think I’m made out of money? Now clean up this mess. This is coming out of your salary, you bet your pretty bootie.”

His words enraged Dutch. “Leave her alone!” he yelled. Hearing the commotion, Cleanhead had come inside, ready to give these clowns the bum’s rush. But he stopped short when he heard Dutch taking Mimi’s side. Cleanhead had always liked pluck, and Mimi was made out of pluck.

Anger, mostly at himself, burned in Dutch. He strode to the bar. A cowering Eusebio ducked. Dutch swept his beefy hand over the glasses lined in front of the bar mirror, sending them flying.

“My barware! My barware! Cleanhead, do something!”

Dutch gathered himself. “That won’t be necessary.” He dropped a handful of bills on the table. “If that doesn’t cover it, please send a bill to my father, Councilman Achille Abbott.”

Carlton’s eyes grew wide.

“C’mon Mimi, you’re coming with me. Fellas, let’s blow this pop stand.”

Googs and Flip were both thinking what a great time they’d had at Glitz. Dutch dragged Mimi out by one hand.

“Hey!” Googs called out to Sandra as they left. “Can I snort some coke with that bill later?”

“Anytime, jockstrap, anytime. In your wet dreams.”

“Wasn’t that romantic?” swooned Dora to Eusebio and Sandra. “Just like Richard Gere and Debra Winger at the end of An Officer and a Gentleman,” she sighed.

“Hhmmpff. And what a shit piece-of-crap that movie was,” said Sandra.

“Well, excuse me for living,” replied Dora.

Oh shit shit shit. Carlton’s mind was abuzz. That big goon was Achille Abbott’s son? He could pull the liquor license out from under Glitz in a heartbeat. Shit shit shit shit.

They end up on Bourbon Street, with Mimi astride Googs’s shoulders and Flip astride Dutch’s.

At each backstep, Mimi and Flip were thrown forward into Googs and Dutch. Flip and Mimi clutched at each other to maintain their balance. At each dip, their crotches bounced up and down into nape and bottom of skull. Mimi was beginning to feel a pleasant moistness and warmth in her crotch as it nestled into and rode the base of Googs’s skull. She stopped to consider the man she was riding. Dumb jock, but built pretty good. Big old Italian sausage, she’d bet.

“Siiinnnng! Do the dirty thing!”

Googs’s head nestled right into her. She pictured that Italian sausage sliding in and out, and Googs so grateful and drooling. Well, maybe she could go for some of that. Dutch was out of her league, and, in truth, she had a reverse Pygmalion complex going on with him. As buffed as he was, she couldn’t forget the beanstalk he’d been. Well, Mimi thought, as she milked her crotch into Googs, she was smarter than any man. Googs could be trained. But “Pizzalotta” had to go the way “Myrtle” had gone so many years before. She’d be damned if she would go by the name “Mimi Pizzalotta.” “Googs Guerrère” didn’t sound bad. Even better, “Gregory Guerrère.” Hell, it’s been done before. But first, her degree. She couldn’t trust Googs to graduate from septic-tank-cleaning school. Let him play football for a while, then flunk out. He’d do just fine working in the chain of fitness centers she intended to run someday.

And, if you’ve ever been in the French Quarter during its rowdy moments, you’ve probably heard the “show your tits” chant. Here’s how Mimi handles it.

Dutch’s suggestive lyrics got the crowd going. “Show us your tits!” someone screamed. The crowd took up the chant.

“Show your tits! Show your tits! Show your tits!

Mimi drew the white satin tailcoat closer. “Get your fourteen-year-old cousin in West Virginia to show you her tits, creep! You know the one I mean—the one with the rotten teeth! And the two kids!”

The crowd roared its approval, suddenly and capriciously championing Mimi, and she sailed her white top hat into it. Hands reached out for it. It took more than this crowd to scare her. She was a Glitz graduate.

Sandra would have been proud.

After my parents’ divorce, I observed first hand the obstacles a woman with both beauty and brains had to maneuver. In the fifties and sixties, that combination just didn’t compute. So thanks, Mama! Not that you were perfect. She was good at math and I wasn’t, and once she told me, “It’s a simple percentage! You just move the decimal point! What are you? Stupid?” But I made it anyway, Mama, without math.

I find that M/M novels generally portray women in a positive light. There’s the sister, grandmother, best friend—all adjuncts to the protagonists—dispensing wisdom and oiling the rusty track toward happily-ever-after. Sometimes they’re lively, and sometimes they’re cardboard cutouts. And sometimes—and I hate this—they’re evil incarnate, usually in the guise of the jilted girlfriend seeking terrible revenge.

Do you find a misogynistic streak in some slash literature? How do you go about depicting a flesh-and-blood woman, warts and all, while respecting her?

On Archimedes Street Release–Part 3

Next up are FrenchyDominic, and Dominic’s father, Manny. Frenchy and Dominic are schoolmates, and in this scene, Frenchy meets Manny for the first time.

Frenchy loved Dominic’s house. It smelled like something compounded from thyme, furniture polish, wood shavings, and something else he couldn’t name. And he adored the shabby, sagging furniture. Dominic and his dad lived in the shotgun on the right, and Dominic had told him his dad ran his cabinet-making and woodworking shop from the shotgun on the left.

“Frenchy!” called Dominic. “Been waitin’.”

A man came out of the shotgun on the left as Frenchy approached.

“Dad, this is Leo Saint-Paix. But everyone calls him Frenchy. Frenchy, this is Dad.”

“Hi, Frenchy,” said the man.

“Hello, Mr. Twardowski,” said Frenchy, extending his hand.

“Welcome, Leo/Frenchy. I’m Morris/Manny. But call me Manny. Everyone does.” Dominic’s dad grinned. “See, we already have the nickname thing in common. I understand we’re going to do some pitching today.”

Frenchy fidgeted slightly. “Yes, sir.” If only I didn’t throw like a girl.

Then Frenchy took the measure of Dominic’s dad. He was shirtless and barefoot, and he wore khaki shorts that came to his knees. Five eight, with massive arms and shoulders. Underneath the prominent pecs nestled a small rounded belly. The pecs protruded and dominated the belly, with its button swirled in hair. The torso was long in relation to the legs. His long arms and short legs gave him a simian look, and his whole body shimmered in gold, just as Papa’s had. Frenchy could see a few wood shavings clinging to the gold fuzz. The gold-covered legs were slightly bowed. Fine gold hair, with a sharply receding hairline eventually destined to meet the bald spot just barely visible at the crown of his head. He’d have a lovely monk’s tonsure in ten years or so. Forehead reddened with the sun, splotched with brown spots, and a deep tan on the rest of the body. Tortoise-shell glasses, turning a grimy white at the temples, sat crookedly on a too-large but straight nose. Faint puppet lines around his mouth, and the merest hint of a cleft chin. Hairless shoulders covered in freckles. Smile askew, straight white teeth, with a slight gap between the two front ones. Square, calloused, beautifully shaped, and none-too-clean fingers and toes, with the nail of one big toe black but growing out shell-pink like the others.

In short, thought Frenchy, the most beautiful man on the face of the planet.

“Let’s see what you got, Frenchy!” said Manny.

Frenchy felt a fleeting panic.

“Dad, c’mere,” said Dominic. He whispered in Dad’s ear, “He throws like a girl. Don’t do this. Don’t humiliate him. Teach him first. Dad, he needs a dad.”

Manny looked at Dominic with pride. “You’re a great kid, you know that?” he whispered back.

“Southpaw?” Manny asked Frenchy.

“No.”

And then he bent his five-eight frame into Frenchy’s five-six frame and grasped Frenchy’s throwing arm from behind. “Okay. So you’re pitching. First, get the right grip on the ball.” He moved Frenchy’s fingers so they gripped the ball across the seams, first two fingers splayed and thumb across the bottom seam. “Now you move your arm in a circle.” He took Frenchy’s arm and moved it slowly in a circular motion. “The farther you wanna throw, the bigger the circle. Point your front shoulder toward Dominic. Now move this back foot”—he grabbed and moved Frenchy’s foot—“perpendicular into Dominic, the target. Close your hips”—Manny maneuvered—“and line everything up.”

Manny took over Frenchy like a puppet, and Frenchy willed his hardening cock down.

“Now twist your wrist to keep everything as vertical as possible when you let her zing!

Leo/Frenchy leaned back into his wood-, soap-, and man-scented instructor. And let her zing.

“Yow!” cried Dominic. The force of the ball twisted his gloved hand.

“Good one, Frenchy!” said the man.

Frenchy, half hard but going down, pressed back farther into Manny, a grin splitting his face.

“Will you show me with a football sometime?”

“You got it,” said the man.

I’ve noticed that romance novelists take varying approaches toward the physical description of characters, especially when they are meant to be beautiful or handsome. (The not-so-beautiful usually get far longer descriptions, because defects are far easier to describe than perfection.) Some novelists give the barest outline of the beautiful protagonist, letting the reader’s imagination fill in the details. Others give fuller descriptions. I haven’t made up my mind which I prefer.

But I definitely prefer not to see protagonists depicted on the cover. No matter how compelling the prose, if the cover depicts a Fabio lookalike—I personally am not attracted to that type—I can’t help envisioning the character that way. And sometimes that can spoil the whole thing.

The folks at Dreamspinner let writers give a lot of input into their covers. Which do you prefer—full face or body, torso, no people at all? Has a particular cover enhanced or diminished your enjoyment of the book? Has any cover “hit the nail on the head,” depicting your ideal?

Now a word of wisdom, from someone probably much older than you, which I did not believe when I heard it many years ago: “Everyone, no matter what shape, form, size, age, or physical condition is somebody else’s sexual ideal.” I scoffed at the notion then. I was wrong. Believe it.

On Archimedes Street Release–Part 2

Next, I’d like you to meet Rita and Honoria, fast friends, and their archenemy, Lotte LaNasa. Rita and Honoria have conspired to make Dutch and Flip roommates in the vacant apartment in Rita’s shotgun double bungalow on Archimedes Street. Lotte, widow of Raymond, runs the grocery at one the corner of Archimedes Street. She is on a clandestine mission, but she is discovered and confronted by Rita and Honoria.

She watched them surreptitiously as they mounted their bikes and headed for the ferry. They wouldn’t be back until midafternoon. Just to be safe, she waited an hour and a half, in case they had forgotten something and came back for it. Then she grabbed one of the new cloth grocery bags Gaia had miraculously procured in a short two weeks. They bore the legend: “LaNasa’s—Keeping the Green in Greengrocer since 1937.” She hurriedly stuffed items into it. At first, she hadn’t trusted in her surmise, but the evidence had been mounting. She had to find out.

“Armida! I back in a hour. Hol’ down the fort. Put Eunice on the vegables—don’t let her nowhere near a regista. An’ Clyde on the stockin’. Oh—and the waterless urinal people might be comin’. Don’t let dem bring dat thing t’rough the front door for the customers to see!” Gaia had assured her it was sanitary, but she still had her doubts.

The heels—she’d been making more of an effort with her appearance lately—made their distinctive step-step-slide-step tattoo on the banquette. The LaNasa green bag was brimming over.

She knew exactly where they hid the spare key. She reached for it, opened the door to their shotgun, and quickly replaced the key. Once inside, she drew the shades in the living room and went about her errand.

In the adjoining shotgun, Rita and Honoria were discussing attire for the bride and maid of honor.

“Let’s invite the least amount of ridicule that we can. Knee-length, both of us. Can you imagine long gowns?” Both women tittered.

Honoria held out her coffee cup for a refill. “Thank God, no classes today. I can wallow in idleness all day.”

Rita wandered into her bedroom and returned to the kitchen holding a dress on its hanger. She twirled it to show both back and front to Honoria.

“Black? You can’t wear black to your own wedding!”

“But I look best in black.”

“And I look best in white, but I wouldn’t dream of wearing it to a wedding!”

“Oh, you are so convention-bound!”

“Me? I’m not the one who is getting married in front of a Baptist preacher, waiting for the wedding night, making decisions about the processional and recessional music.”

“I know.” Rita’s shoulders slumped. “You’ve got to understand that Doodie is very traditional—”

A loud crash from next door interrupted Rita’s lamentation.

“Mother Cabrini!” they heard a familiar voice shout. “Help me!”

They were up and out in a second, their spryness belying their ages. Rita reached for the key in its hidey-hole.

All the shades were drawn in the living room. Rita hit the light switch. “LaNasa!” they cried in outraged unison.

Lotte was splayed on the floor, looking dazed. She offered two words of explanation. “I trip.” Damn heels. Then three more. “Hit my head.”

“On what?” Honoria, physiologist, frowned worriedly.

“Corner of the desk.” Lotte rubbed her temple.

“Rita—go get your penlight.” Rita retreated next door for the penlight she kept on her keychain—it came in handy when she and Honoria went out to dine. The lights in restaurants these days were so dim, how did they expect anyone to read the menu? Meanwhile, Honoria helped Lotte up and shepherded her to a kitchen chair. When Rita returned, Honoria peered with the penlight into Lotte’s pupils.

“You’ll be fine,” she said drily.

“Well, is she well enough to explain why she is breaking and entering into my tenants’ apartment, invading their privacy?”

Beginning to recover, Lotte recognized the diciness of her situation. “Lemme explain.”

“Please do,” said Rita icily.

“Well, at foist I t’ought dey twins.” Rita snorted. “Den I realize dey not twins, but brudders.”

“And how does that justify your breaking into their house?”

“I nebber broke in. Use the key.”

“But why?” asked Honoria in frustration.

“Bin seein’ things. Hearin’ things.” Then Lotte whispered reverently, “I think dey havin’… relations.”

“Why?” asked both women, excitedly. Maybe their matchmaking had worked!

Then Honoria remembered herself and said, “And why is that any of your business? We’re in the twenty-first century, after all.”

“Cuz dey brudders! Dat wrong, ain’t it? An’ cuz, you know, I always t’ought of dem as mine.”

Rita and Honoria exchanged glances. Each knew the other was guilty of the same sentiment.

“LaNasa, don’t be making yourself ridiculous, chasing after young men.”

Lotte drew her bosom up and her shoulders back. The bump on her head was forgotten. “I nebber chase after no man. Quite the oppasite, in fack. An’ if I ebber did decide to get togedder wit’ a man, it soitanly wouldn’t be wit’ no man twenty-five years younger dan me!”

“Thirty,” said Rita.

Lotte glared.

“But what did you hope to achieve by sneaking in here?”

“To fine out, wunst and for all.”

“How?” in unison, again.

“Got dis black light….”

“The Stink Detective!” said Honoria.

“Yes,” said Lotte, eagerly. She withdrew the gadget from the LaNasa greengrocer bag, along with the instruction booklet. She pointed to a blob on the booklet. “Dis here? Dat semen! The pink wagon come tomorrah. Figger I shine it on the sheets before the laundress come. See if dey sleepin’ in the same bed, if any semen on the mattress! An’ not on the udder mattress,” she whispered.

“But young men….”

“Know all ’bout dat. But if alla the semen on one mattress…,” she hinted darkly.

Rita and Honoria exchanged glances again. Finally, Rita said, “Honoria, let’s stop being hypocrites and pillorying LaNasa for wanting to know what we want to know too.”

The three looked at each other. There was a brief pause. Then they all sprang into action.

They entered Flip’s room first. The bed was perfectly made. The three women worked speedily, wordlessly intuiting the role each should play. Honoria drew the blinds. Rita scrunched to plug in the detector. Lotte shone it over the bed. “Les’ not waste our time here,” Lotte cried out.

Dutch’s room was a horse of a different color. The bed was rumpled. Lotte drew the sheets back gingerly, using only her fingertips. The violet light of the Stink Detective revealed glowing continents on the sea of the mattress. They consulted the booklet. Not saliva, blood, urine, or feces. Lotte gave a triumphant scowl as she replaced the sheet.

Animated, the three scurried to the bathroom and flipped open the top of the laundry hamper. Honoria sped to the kitchen to find a pair of tongs while Rita plugged in the detector. Lotte directed the beam of the black light, and the story was told. Almost every brief, every sock, every T-shirt gave off an eerie, ectoplasmic glow.

Lotte looked at them victoriously. “Tol’ you! Lawd! It a ocean of the stuff. Dey mus’ be at it night an’ day!” Honoria and Rita exchanged smug, satisfied looks.

It was then they heard the scritch-scratch of a key in the lock. The three froze.

“Into the kitchen, quick!” said Lotte.

Honoria replaced the tongs in the tub that held spatulas and spoons. Rita stood transfixed in shame in the darkened kitchen. Lotte rooted around in her LaNasa bag. She withdrew a cake box and some matches.

They heard Dutch whoop. “Be it ever so humble. Canceled! All hail the god of canceled!”

“Why is it so dark?” Flip asked.

Lotte busied herself with the matches.

As the two men entered the kitchen, Lotte broke out into song.

“Happy boit’day to you, happy boit’day to you….” She elbowed Honoria, who joined in tentatively. Then Rita.

“Happy birthday, dear….” Honoria and Rita waited for Lottie’s cue.

“Flii-iii—” said Lotte. On “li-iip,” Honoria and Rita joined in. “Happy boit’day to yoouuu.”

“Blow out the candles!” said Lotte.

“How did you know it was my birthday?” asked Flip. He hadn’t told anyone. The cake was a dobash, a LaNasa specialty. He loved that cake. He blew out the candles.

“Oh, a little boid tol’ me,” said Lotte airily. “We meant to su’prise you when you came back in the evenin’, leavin’ it on the table. You su’prise us comin’ back so soon.”

Heaven knows that’s the God’s truth, thought Honoria.

“You don’t have to have it now if you don’t wanna. Jes’… happy boit’day! So glad to have you here wit’ us in the neighborhood.”

Dutch looked at the women suspiciously. “It’s your birthday, Flabbott?”

“Well, yeah,” he said shyly. “Didn’t think anybody knew.”

Safely back on the Archimedes Street sidewalk, the women heaved a sigh of relief.

“How in the world did you know it was Flip’s birthday?” Honoria demanded.

“Cawd’ him when he bought beer. Figger I need a covah story if I get caught in dere, so I wait for today. Lawd knows a woman—’specially a woman wit’out a man—need to covah her ass, figger the angles, have her covah story in place. Night an’ day. An’ you know dat ain’t no lie.”

The women silently acknowledged the sad truth of Lotte’s statement. “LaNasa, maybe I’ve underestimated you,” said Rita. “You are a woman of parts!”

Lotte looked offended and sniffed at Rita.

“Oh, not those parts, you silly woman!”

Snooping is not an admirable trait. I try to resist—I  really do—and my partner’s browsing history, email, and even holiday cards are strictly off limits, unless he shares them. But I confess that in my past, especially in my youth, there were times when I couldn’t resist taking a peek. Once, I was very sorry indeed, because I wound up knowing something I really wish I hadn’t known. To this day, even though I try not to eavesdrop, certain conversations I overhear on the streetcar are just so compelling that I’m drawn in despite myself.

But now I’m a novelist! Watch out, you people riding the streetcar or confiding secrets! You might end up on the pages of a Dreamspinner book.

I’m very interested in the natural history of snooping. Is it ever justified? Have you ever been caught? Fair warning—anything you leave in comments may end up in the pages of a future book.

On Archimedes Street Release–Part 1

Greetings, readers of spinners of dreams, and everyone else! Jefferson Parrish here. It’s my first time out of the gate, and I’m totally stoked. Totally stoked and pretty much clueless when it comes to blogs, so bear with me until I get the hang of it.

On Archimedes Street is a comic work that celebrates its setting—New Orleans and its environs—and the people, culture and, speech rhythms of that region. It’s an ensemble work—and I’d be hard put to say who the main character is. So I thought I’d structure this blog, by way of excerpts, as a cast of characters. Let me first introduce Dutch and Flip, tall, handsome, and—of course—destined to fall in love. Here is the scene where Flip finally acknowledges his attraction to Dutch:

“Googs, can you explain the basis for the system of blood classification?” asked Honoria.

“Uh, A, B, and O,” croaked a hungover Googs. Mimi and Flip were looking pretty green around the gills as well after four bottles of Dom Perpignan and the rich food at Anton’s.

“Well, not exactly. Although you did manage to name the major blood groups. But what is the basis for those groups? Anyone?”

Silence. “Dutch?”

Dutch jiggled his knee. “The basis for those groups is the presence of glycoproteins on the surface of the plasma membrane of the red blood cell.”

“Yes.” The class seemed especially dull and lethargic today, thought Honoria. “Those proteins are called antigens and sometimes agglutinogens, and when they are accompanied by plasma proteins called antibodies—also known as agglutinins—they set the stage for certain reactions. Can anyone explain how these reactions occur?”

Dutch telegraphed a silent threat with his eyes. Don’t call on me again.

“The reaction is the clumping of blood cells, called agglutination,” Flip offered groggily.

“True, but not what I asked. Agglutination occurs when antibodies react with red blood cells bearing different antigens. It’s for this reason that blood is typed before transfusion of whole blood or packed cells. So that the blood won’t clot in the recipient’s vessels, causing death.”

Mimi was dragging tail. A transfusion sounded pretty good right about now. Maybe it would put some pep in her step.

“In today’s exercise, you will determine not only your ABO blood group but also your Rh group. You’ll see from the materials list that you will need microscope slides, anti-A, anti-B, and anti-Rh sera, lancets, alcohol swabs,….”

Dutch and Flip worked at their bench in the back. Flip had already swabbed his finger and drawn a drop of blood with the lancet. Mother-effer hurt like hell. It felt strange to purposely wound oneself, and he fought a slight feeling of nausea. He wiped off the first drop, per the instructions, and waited for a drop of blood to well up again. He then placed a drop on each side of the first slide and a drop on the second slide. He walked over to the sharps disposal bin and dropped in the lancet.

Dutch flinched when he lanced his finger. He watched mesmerized as the drop of blood oozed onto his fingertip. And then he began to see funny.

His field of vision narrowed down to the dark red, and he seemed to see nothing in the periphery, nothing but that glowing red dot. Then the dot multiplied itself and he saw a whole field of red dots. As he watched, intrigued, the dots began to dance, first jigging to the left and then jigging to the right. Dutch cocked his head curiously.

As he looked in fascination, the dots also began to move toward him as they zigged and zagged. The dancing dots grew larger and larger as they approached him, and the dots at the edge disappeared as the field of dots came nearer. Finally, there were only four; and at the next zig, two; and finally only one, flooding his retina in red. At the final zag, Dutch fell blissfully into that red dot.

Flip was walking back from depositing his lancet in the sharps container and glanced up to see Dutch, standing and looking at his finger. He held his hand about a foot and a half from his face and stared at his finger with glazed curiosity. Honoria happened to look up, saw Dutch, and recognized the symptoms.

“He’s going down! Catch him, Flip!” Just at that moment, Dutch’s eyes rolled back in his head and he began to topple.

Flip was right there. He scrunched down, and bent and braced his knees in preparation before taking Dutch’s full weight. He caught the big man, staggered, and circled his arms around him. A pliant, inert Dutch crumpled into him, armpit to Flip’s nose.

Flip hoped his shaking would be attributed to the strain of having to hold up a very heavy Dutch. He breathed tentatively into Dutch’s armpit, and then he just let himself. Dutch would never know. He took breath after deep breath of the most intoxicating scent he’d ever experienced. He was embracing Dutch, and he realized how desperately he’d wanted to embrace him for weeks now.

As the other students came up to offer assistance and help lay Dutch flat on the floor, Flip looked at the handsome, softly breathing form.

He realized he no longer wanted to hide from himself. His mind inventoried his desires with newfound candor: He wanted to lick every inch of Dutch’s body, inhale him totally. He wanted to sniff the stupid show-off from his toes to his ears, with a long detour midway. He wanted to do to Dutch’s crotch just what he’d just done to his armpit.

The cock-lust was upon him.

“Give him room! Give him air! Prop his feet up!” yelled Honoria. Then, with a satisfied smirk: “It’s always the big lugs who faint at the sight of their precious drop of blood.”

I suppose there are as many kinds of love—and as many ways to fall in love—as there are people on the planet. By convention in romance novels, however, two prevail.

First, there’s the stroke of lightning out of a cloudless sky that stuns the poor lovers, leaving them spellbound. In this bolt-from-the-blue tradition are Cupid’s arrow, Love Potion Number Nine, and just plain old love at first sight. “The very instant that I saw you,” Shakespeare has Ferdinando say, “did my heart fly to your service.” But then again, Shakespeare has the potion-addled queen, Titania, fall instantly for Bottom, who’s been transformed into a donkey. Seems that even Shakespeare is of two minds about love at first sight. But I like it. It happened to me once. Unfortunately, it wasn’t reciprocated.

In the second tradition is the love that sneaks up on you from behind without warning. You look at the coworker, fellow student, neighbor, old friend—all familiar and comfortable as an old shoe—and suddenly realize it. She/He is the one! Under my nose all along! In a more prosaic context, it’s like suddenly realizing that the track you always skipped over is the very best one on the album.

Of course, these oversimplifications are the stuff of romance novels. Real life is more complex. Do you think it’s possible to fall in love at first sight? Sometimes you hear couples in cultures where the parents arrange marriage say, “We fell in love after we married.” Can two people marry because of compatibility and convenience and have that bloom into love? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section. At the end of the day, I’ll draw lots and give away a paperback copy of On Archimedes Street to five of the people leaving comments.

To Schmoop or not to schmoop, that is the question and Gangster Slang, Damon Suede style

November 18, 2013

Welcome back to the Tarnished Souls Blog Tour, and a post about gangster slang.

These dates, plus a few additional, make up the tour

Giveaway: Two winners per blog stop.

One random commenter will win an ebook copy of Tarnished Gold or For Men Like Us. Another commenter will win a swag pack, with signed bookmarks, and a couple other goodies. Winners chosen on November 27.

Gangster Slang and romance, Damon Suede style

Writing any piece of fiction requires myriad decisions, many made before a single word is set to the figurative paper. Each piece you write must have a consistent tone, as well fully realized characters and plot. A period piece or historical, two different things, requires and author to set each scene, to place readers in the period you want them in, so there is no question in their minds that these characters live in, in the case of Tarnished Souls, 1934, and that they are really gangsters. Without a careful setup, believable characters, a world built to accommodate the story, all you have is a costume drama. You have to bring in a flavor of the times—the clothing, hairstyles, places, music, and even language. When you toss in a couple of gangsters, you add a layer of language that I found extremely interesting. To create the proper tone, I tapped a very clever friend of mine.

Damon Suede and I often beta read for each other, and bat ideas around. He’s a font of knowledge about many different eras, genres, and has a particular interest in the entertainment industry. He once wrote a play about gangsters, so he was the one person I wanted to talk to about this book.

Tarnished Souls would be a different book had Damon Suede not beta read for me.  While he saw the characters as raw, he also saw them as too refined. He encouraged me to create them with more authenticity, while forgoing the traditional idea of a romance novel.

I struggled with that, because I wanted this story to be about a romance between Frankie and Gent. They’d had a relationship before the story begins, and this story felt like it should be about continuing that. Damon saw it much differently, and I came to understand that the story required something different.

The first thing I had to do was to let go of the traditional romance, where guys speak to each other with terms of endearment. These guys are from the tough New York streets, and despite the number of years since that primitive introduction to life they received in Hell’s Kitchen, no amount of life takes that out of a guy. They are fundamentally scrapers, roughhewn, more likely to take what they want rather than to ask nicely.

I dedicated the book to Damon. He is on every page. His marvelous insight helped me create the characters this story demanded. He asked me some hard questions and the answers resulted in the  stripping away of the schoopiness, particularly in a scene between Mac and Gray, the subjects of the next Tarnished Souls book. That set Mac and Gray up, and gave the interaction between Frankie and Gent depth and a quality I’m not sure I would have tapped without Damon’s help. Then I tackled the year’s old feelings between these two men.

Damon read the first draft of Tarnished Souls: Frankie and Gent, then called me with what was the first of many calls to do with the project. Don’t ask for Damon’s help unless you want his honesty. He’s all about the story and how best to achieve the goals you set for yourself.

He pointed out that I had entered Romancelandia, (no one says that word quite like Damon,) and in doing so, I had misrepresented the characters.

“They are mobsters, they wouldn’t talk like that,” Damon said. “These are he-men, no schmoopy talk.” (If you know of or read Damon’s work, you know he has a language all his own. LOL)

We discussed, for the better part of three hours that one time, the importance of authenticity in their language and expression of feelings. Mobsters feel, yes, they care. But they don’t fall into the “I love you forever” realm. Open expression, in any situation, could get them killed. Gangsters don’t have a place at the romance table, as we know it. They unashamedly demand their own table, full service required.

I’ve written fifteen plus romance novels, many Regencys. The language used in those is quite different from 1934 Los Angeles mobster-land. In Tarnished Gold, where I used 1920s slang to affect the mood of the times, but very little of that translated to Tarnished Souls.

In the first draft, I had Gent tell Frankie what a nice home he lived in. After Damon read it, the line became, “You live in kippy digs.”

Aside from the easily deciphered meanings of some slang, words like vig and snipe not so much. Vig is vigorish, as in “Those loans make you good vig.” Excessive interest on a loan. Snipe is a cigarette butt.

In Tarnished Souls, guys carry rods, and no, that doesn’t refer to their private parts. They knock off or ice people, and even bump them off. Women are sometimes broads or chippies, and people earn simoleons and greenbacks, dough and scratch. They sit around after a long day, and punch the bag or chinwag, when what we do is talk. They make their bones (commit their first kill) and when they’re tired, they’re joed out.

A friend of mine isn’t something cozy. He’s a connected guy, an associate of the mob. A friend of ours is a made man, fully invested in the mob. Two different things, both situations that can get them killed.

Frankie is sent for, which is what brings Gent to him in California. No mobster wants to hear those words. As Lefty explains in Donnie Brasco, “When you’re sent for, you go in alive, and you come out dead, and it’s usually your best friend who kills you.”

I bought several books on slang, and with them, combined with Damon’s enormous help, Frankie and Gent came alive, as did the historical period.

Many bits of slang from those days live on today. Beat it and you’re aces, have a looksee and dough.

I’ve included a slang glossary in the front of Tarnished Souls. Buy the book and take a peek. Think you’ll recognize porking or moxie?

As fully invested members of the Sebastiani crime Family, Frankie and Gent struggle with what I’ve come to see as an almost robotic loyalty to the mob, to the old ways, to the man who brought them to that way of life.

My next post will dig into that loyalty—where it comes from and why it’s so important. Check back here at 6 pm, for my final article – Mob Loyalty

Here’s the blurb for Tarnished Souls: Frankie and Gent:

Hollywood’s Golden Age is not all glitz and glamour. Mob boss Frankie Monetti controls the unions and the studios, which makes him and the syndicate very rich. But after five years, Frankie runs afoul of the law and those who put him in power.

Primo hit man, and Frankie’s lifelong friend, Arvin “Gent” Vitali, goes west with orders to clean up the mess and then bring Frankie back to New York to answer for his double cross. But as the noose closes tighter around Frankie’s neck, Gent questions where his loyalty truly lies. Is business just business or is freedom worth the risk?

Purchase Tarnished Souls: Frankie and Gent

Schedule for Tarnished Souls: Frankie and Gent Blog Tour

November 14 –The Rainbow Studio

November 18 – Dreamspinner Press Blog

November 18 –Brita Addams

November 19 –Sid Love

November 20 –Joyfully Jay

November 21 –You Gotta Read

November 25 –Jacob Flores

November 26 –The Novel Approach

December 3 - J.P. Barnaby

December 4 - Lynley Wayne

December 5 –Michael Ruptured

About Brita Addams:

Born in a small town in Upstate New York, Brita Addams has made her home in the sultry south for many years. In the Frog Capital of the World, Brita shares her home with her real-life hero—her husband, and a fat cat named Stormee. All their children are grown.

Given her love of history, Brita writes both het and gay historical romance. Many of her historicals, as well as few contemporaries, have appeared on category bestseller lists at various online retailers.

Tarnished Gold, the first in her Tarnished series for Dreamspinner, received honorable mention, and is a finalist in the 2013 Rainbow Awards, historical romance category.

Brita and her husband love to travel. They’ve taken no less than twenty-five cruises and countless long car trips, as well as completed a Civil War battlefield tour, and visits to many sites involved in the American Revolutionary War. Their 2013 anniversary tour of England, Scotland, and Wales gave Brita fodder for many new tales.

On a trip to Hollywood, California, Brita stood in the footprints of some of her favorite actors—Clark Gable, Henry Fonda, Tyrone Power, and many others, at Grauman’s Chinese Theater, and has even kissed Mickey Rooney.

A bit of trivia—Brita pronounces her name, Bree-ta, and not Brit-a, like the famous water filter. Brita Addams is a mash-up of her real middle name and her husband’s middle name, with an additional d and s.

Readers can find Brita Addams at any of the following places:

Website

Blog

Twitter: @britaaddams

Facebook

Fan page

Goodreads

Pinterest

Booklikes

Monthly column at The Novel Approach

Here’s the blurb for Tarnished Souls: Frankie and Gent:

Hollywood’s Golden Age is not all glitz and glamour. Mob boss Frankie Monetti controls the unions and the studios, which makes him and the syndicate very rich. But after five years, Frankie runs afoul of the law and those who put him in power.

Primo hit man, and Frankie’s lifelong friend, Arvin “Gent” Vitali, goes west with orders to clean up the mess and then bring Frankie back to New York to answer for his double cross. But as the noose closes tighter around Frankie’s neck, Gent questions where his loyalty truly lies. Is business just business or is freedom worth the risk?

Purchase Tarnished Souls: Frankie and Gent


Schedule for Tarnished Souls: Frankie and Gent Blog Tour

November 14 –The Rainbow Studio

November 18 – Dreamspinner Press Blog

November 18 –Brita Addams

November 19 –Sid Love

November 20 –Joyfully Jay

November 21 –You Gotta Read

November 25 –Jacob Flores

November 26 –The Novel Approach

December 3 - J.P. Barnaby

December 4 - Lynley Wayne

December 5 –Michael Ruptured

About Brita Addams:

Born in a small town in Upstate New York, Brita Addams has made her home in the sultry south for many years. In the Frog Capital of the World, Brita shares her home with her real-life hero—her husband, and a fat cat named Stormee. All their children are grown.

Given her love of history, Brita writes both het and gay historical romance. Many of her historicals, as well as few contemporaries, have appeared on category bestseller lists at various online retailers.

Tarnished Gold, the first in her Tarnished series for Dreamspinner, received honorable mention, and is a finalist in the 2013 Rainbow Awards, historical romance category.

Brita and her husband love to travel. They’ve taken no less than twenty-five cruises and countless long car trips, as well as completed a Civil War battlefield tour, and visits to many sites involved in the American Revolutionary War. Their 2013 anniversary tour of England, Scotland, and Wales gave Brita fodder for many new tales.

On a trip to Hollywood, California, Brita stood in the footprints of some of her favorite actors—Clark Gable, Henry Fonda, Tyrone Power, and many others, at Grauman’s Chinese Theater, and has even kissed Mickey Rooney.

A bit of trivia—Brita pronounces her name, Bree-ta, and not Brit-a, like the famous water filter. Brita Addams is a mash-up of her real middle name and her husband’s middle name, with an additional d and s.

Readers can find Brita Addams at any of the following places:

Website
Blog

Twitter: @britaaddams
Facebook

Fan page
Goodreads

Pinterest

Booklikes

Monthly column at The Novel Approach

Island House release party—Final post

November 11, 2013

I’ve had such a great time today on the Dreamspinner Press blog! Thanks to everyone who came by and commented or Tweeted me about Island House. It was a pleasure to spend release day with you!

The winner of the Island House prize pack with a ceramic oil warmer, ocean breeze scented oil, nautical-themed earrings and a handmade metal anchor bookmark is Janice.  Congrats!

I’ve had a blast sharing some of my favorite parts of Island House. I’m also excited to announce that I’m currently working on a spin-off novel that focuses on Niall’s playboy friend Ian Mackay. It will be the second the three-part series Dropping Anchor. All three books have a slight nautical theme and are based around men who are a little bit adrift in the sea of life.

In Island House, Ethan is the one who anchors Niall and gives him the stability he needs to move on with his life. In Finding Home, the second book in the series, Ian’s carefree lifestyle and love ‘em and leave ‘em approach to his love life are beginning to lose their appeal. When he meets yoga instructor Luke Keys and immediately has his advances rebuffed, Ian is intrigued. He spends an inordinate amount of energy courting Luke, and when Luke finally caves and succumbs to Ian’s wiles, Ian is shocked to find that his interest in Luke doesn’t wane as one date turns into many more. Before he knows it, Ian finds himself in a monogamous relationship. Has he truly found an anchor in Luke, or is Ian still scanning the horizon waiting for another ship to come in? Find out this summer in Finding Home.

I’m signing off (or maybe I should be saying anchor’s aweigh?). Thanks for a great time, Dreamers!

Order a copy of Island House
Bru’s website
Follow Bru on Twitter

Island House release party—Bringing the scent of the ocean to you with another giveaway

November 11, 2013

Drum roll, please….(don’t you love my super-scientific method of choosing a winner?)…

Congratulations to Susie Ritzko, who picked up a free ebook copy of Island House in the last contest. I loved all the comments! Check out the end of this post for another chance to answer a question to win some swag.

If you’re just tuning in, I’m Bru Baker, author of Island House. I’m here on the Dreamspinner Press blog talking about my favorite parts of the book. This time we’ll take a closer look at the island of Tortola, which is where Niall and Ethan meet and start to fall for each other.

Cane Garden Bay, Tortola. Image credit: WikiTravel

I’ve never had the pleasure of visiting the British Virgin Islands, but I’ve been to several other Caribbean islands and I loved the beautiful scenery and the laid-back feel. I chose Tortola as the setting for Island House because it’s somewhere that has always sounded intriguing to me but that I haven’t had a chance to visit yet. Through the magic of Google I’m pretty familiar with the island’s layout now, and I’ve spent quite a bit of time daydreaming over the gorgeous views.

Frenchman's Lookout

The view from Frenchman's Lookout on Tortola. Photo credit: Inspirato

Niall moves to Tortola after his longtime partner Nolan is murdered in the UK. It isn’t a random choice; the two of them had vacationed on the island several times and Nolan owned a vacation home there. Living on Tortola is a sort of penance for Niall because he blames himself for Nolan’s death. The island is gorgeous, but to Niall it’s more like a prison.

Even though four years have passed, Niall is still in love with Nolan and grieving. When he meets Ethan Bettencourt and feels an instant, undeniable attraction, it’s a bit of a shock for him. And in typical Niall fashion, he manages to make a bit of an idiot out of himself in their first interaction. Here’s their first meeting:


“You’re Ahern?”

The voice belonged to a tall, dark-haired man who would have been handsome save for the stubble covering his face. The rugged two-day growth transformed his slightly sharp features into something dangerous, and paired with his slight tan and blue eyes, the end result was nothing short breathtakingly gorgeous. Were it not for the faded button-down and pair of tattered Dockers the man was wearing, Niall would have sworn he was an 18th century pirate somehow transported to the modern day.

Niall didn’t realize he’d been staring, until Jacks cleared his throat and stepped forward, hand outstretched to welcome the visitor. Niall swallowed, his already heat-flushed cheeks burning with the beginnings of a blush. He hadn’t reacted to a man like this since—well, since ever. Niall’s only serious relationship had been with a man he’d known since childhood, and it definitely hadn’t started with a spark of lust like this. He felt a familiar pang of guilt at the thought of finding a man other than Nolan attractive, though Nolan had been gone for years.

“Sorry?” Niall asked when it became clear the would-be pirate was talking to him again.

“I asked if you were Niall Ahern,” the man said, blue eyes narrowed slightly as he studied Niall. “He said he’d be here to pick me up—”

“Mr. Bettencourt!” Niall felt his stomach drop. Ethan Bettencourt was one of the world’s most sought-after software developers and technology consultants. He wore Armani suits and custom-made Italian shoes, not ancient Dockers and flip-flops. But as Niall stared at him, he could see the full lips and aquiline nose that had made Ethan fodder for gossip magazines across the world. It was definitely him.

“I’m so sorry, sir,” Niall said, rushing forward. He wasn’t sure if he should shake his hand or offer to take his luggage, and as a result he did neither, hand raised awkwardly in front of him as his mind tried to catch up and figure out what to do.

Bettencourt solved Niall’s dilemma by shifting his bag to his other hand and reaching out to take Niall’s half-raised hand. “Call me Ethan.”

The contact had Niall cringing inside, the cool skin of Ethan’s hand making him even more aware of his own sweaty palm.

“Of course,” Niall said, cursing himself for being so flustered. He’d never had this problem before when greeting important clients. Of course, he’d never had an important client who was as gorgeous as Ethan, nor one who could keep Niall’s business afloat for another year with a single transaction.

Island House

ebook paperback


Have you ever really botched a first impression? How did you fix it? One lucky commenter will win a small ceramic oil warmer with a vial of ocean breeze oil to bring a little bit of the island to them. (Since international shipping is a beast, non-US residents will receive a different prize if they win.) I’ll announce the winner at 3 p.m. EST (just in time to introduce the next contest!)

Order a copy of Island House

Bru’s website

Follow Bru on Twitter

Twelve Tasks Release Party – Winners and Thanks

November 6, 2013

Oh my goodness, this has been a ton of fun! Thank you so much for hanging out with me and celebrating my first ever release day! I’ve had a blast talking with you all and thanks for letting me share about my novella! My first ever release day has been awesome.

You all have done some crazy things in the name of love. Seriously! I’m impressed. I couldn’t pick just one winner. So I picked two. Here they are! Susan for joining the military and Andrea M for uprooting her life in the name of love. Both of you guys are awesome! Email me at writer.reese@gmail.com with the emails you use in the DSP store and I’ll get your copy set up! Thank you to everyone who sent in their stories. :)

If you guys are interested in keeping up with me and other writing projects, here is how:

My blog

My twitter

Twelve Tasks Order Page at Dreamspinner

The Order Page on Amazon

Look for another novella from me in December! Thanks again!

Twelve Tasks Release Party #4 – The Supporting Cast

November 6, 2013

Tell me something crazy you did for love here and you might win a copy of Twelve Tasks!

So the stars of our show are Eliot and Matt who find each other amidst Eliot’s mini-life crisis. But these two need some serious help along the way which is why they are lucky to have a cast of supporting characters. And as much as I love Eliot and Matt, I loved writing about the whole ensemble, and honestly, the people that Eliot and Matt surround themselves with tells us so much about them. So here are the supporting characters in just a few words.

First, there is Jen, the best friend and enabler. She’s a romantic at heart and has an endearing habit of running off at the mouth:

“And this is Eliot. He lives with me.” Her eyes widened. “I mean, not lives with me. Well, he does live with me because he’s my roommate. We’re not together, at all. Not that he’s a bad guy or anything. He’s really quite lovely and….”

“Jen!” Eliot interrupted.

“He’s celibate!”

There is Carlos, the manager at the gym. He’s the strong quiet type with a dry sense of humor:

He took the towel from Eliot’s limp hand and wrapped it around the bag of ice. “Ice your nose and your eye and take some pain medicine,” he instructed. “If you start acting like a zombie, become disoriented, communicate only in grunts or groans, or start thirsting for human brains, go to the hospital.”

There is Mae, the Lilliputian-esque physical trainer slash professional cheerleader who everyone is just a little bit frightened of:

“I was thinking of maybe asking Mae.”

“No,” Pete said immediately. “No, not a good idea. Don’t you think she’s a little frightening for him? I mean, I think you probably want someone a little less Black Widow and a little more Bambi.”

Matt silently agreed. Mae was way too scary for Eliot.

And last but certainly not least, and my personal favorite, Pete, the other roommate who is a little crass but gives excellent relationship advice:

“I don’t even know what to say,” Eliot whined.

Jen smiled. “Just say you’re sorry.”

“And you want to suck his dick,” Pete added.

At Jen’s disapproving gaze and Eliot’s open-mouthed shocked expression, Pete shrugged.

“What? I’d forgive anyone willing to give me a blow job.”

So based on the above, who would you like to hang out with? Do you know a Jen? Or a Pete? Tell me about your supporting cast!

Twelve Tasks Release Party #3 – Setting!

November 6, 2013

Real quick! just a reminder to tell me something crazy you did for love (I feel like I’m channeling Meat Loaf) and you could win a copy!

I have been so lucky to be able to live in some awesome towns throughout my life. One of those is Asheville, NC which is the setting for Twelve Tasks. I decided that Eliot’s and Matt’s story needed to be told in a place that is as quirky as they are. Asheville fit the bill! I mean, just look at this city nestled in the middle of the Blue Ridge.

Here are some pictures I had in mind when writing the story. Eliot, Jen and Pete live in a small house in west Asheville with a crazy set of stairs that look like these. Look how there are three different tiers. It’s a wonder Eliot never fell down them.

Later in the story, the group of friends go camping. Just look at these mountains! Plenty of opportunities for hiking and fun times in there.

This is just a glimpse of the quaint town in the mountains where Eliot completed all his tasks and met Matt along the way.

Have you lived somewhere awesome? If you were to write a story, where would you set it?