Early Beginnings with C.M. Lievens

May 24, 2016

Early Beginnings

Hi, I’m C.M. Lievens, author of A Good Enough Reason.

I started writing when I was a kid. I still remember a story about a ghost and two twins I wrote when I was about eight as a gift for my grandmother. I don’t remember how it ended, but it sounds interesting. I just might add something similar to my ever-growing to-write list.

After my first steps as an author, I stopped writing. I found other things to focus on. I’ve always been very art-oriented. I paint, I draw, I make jewelry. You name it, and I’ve probably tried it, but nothing held my attention for long.

I came back to writing a few years ago. I graduated from college when my son was one, and since sending him to daycare would have cost me more than I’d earned by finding a job, I stayed home with him. I used the time to read, but there’s only so much you can read before even that becomes boring. Shocking, I know.

Then I started to think that I could do that too. I could write. It would be hard, because English is only my third language, but it would be something that would break the routine.

The first book I wrote was a mess. I reread it recently, and I wanted to strangle the main character. At the time, though, I thought it was good, even though no one seemed to want to publish it.

Once it was done, I started another one. I’d just started reading gay romance, and I decided to dip my foot into that for a series of reasons that would require a blog post of their own, so I’ll skip them.

That’s how my first published book was born. I kept it short, because writing an entire novel in English scared me, and I sent it to the publisher thinking I’d never hear from them. I didn’t stop writing, though. I’d planned that book to be the first book in a series, so I started writing the next book. By the time it was published, I’d written six novellas.

I wrote only about shifters for close to two years, but I felt it was time to step out of my comfort zone, to try something new. That’s how A Good Enough Reason was born.

A Good Enough Reason is my first full-length novel, and my first book without any kind of shifters. I hope people will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

What about you? Do you have a passion you discovered later in life?

 

Excerpt:

“Eeelliiis. Do you have a crush on Mr. Shea?”

Luckily for Ellis the table they sat at was mostly empty, but Anna’s voice was loud. From a few tables away, Dale Stephens looked up from his tray and over at them, a question in his eyes when he saw Ellis watching him.

Ellis shook his head and looked down again. “Anna, please. Do you really need to give people even more reasons to make fun of me?”

Anna offered an appropriate repenting expression, but Ellis wasn’t fooled. He knew that now she’d discovered a juicy bit of gossip, she’d pounce on him like a lioness on raw meat once they were away from prying ears.

“Are you done writing?”

“Of course.” She wrote the last word with a flourish and gave Ellis a triumphant smile. “All done. Now we can have fun.”

“After school, you mean?”

“Nope. I mean we can gossip.”

Ellis groaned. “You know, my being gay doesn’t mean I like to gossip or go shopping. Sometimes you seem to think I’m one of your girlfriends or something.”

Anna patted Ellis’s hand. “I’d never take you shopping. You have the most awful taste I’ve ever seen.”

Ellis looked down at his Platform 9 3/4 red T-shirt. “What’s wrong with my clothes?”

“Honestly? I think you’re the only one in this school who actually gets the meaning of your T-shirt.”

“You do too.”

“I was coerced into learning about it.”

“Oh, please. It’s not like I tied you to the couch.”

“You said you wouldn’t help me with my English homework if I didn’t watch the movies! All eight of them!”

“Hey, I did you a favor. They’re classics!”

“Classics?”

“Yes. It’d be sad if no one here got the T-shirt.” Ellis shook his head. It was better than talking about hypothetical crushes on teachers, but he knew he wouldn’t be able to make Anna see the flaw in her ideas. It wasn’t the first time he’d tried—and failed.

“They’re just books, Ellis.”

Ellis snatched his hand back. “Take that back!”

“Ellis,” Anna said with a laugh.

“Anna! It’s like me telling you statistics is boring!”

“You do, at least once a day, five times a week.”

“But—”

“Let’s agree to disagree on this one, okay? I don’t expect you to start liking statistics, and you stop trying to educate me in geek stuff.”

“I get the shirt.”

Ellis turned to the side to see who was talking and froze. Anna fluttered her eyelashes at Dale. “Really?”

“Yeah. Awesome books.”

“I can’t believe all the hot ones are geeks,” Anna said with a groan.

Ellis cringed, waiting for Dale to tell her off, but he only chuckled. “You think I’m hot?”

Anna gave Dale a shocked glance. “You think I’m blind? Are you fishing for compliments?”

Dale pressed his hand over his heart. “I would never.”

 

Check out A Good Enough Reason today!

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Blurb: 

High school seniors Ellis and Dale are as different as day and night, or so Ellis believes. Ellis loves to write, while Dale loves soccer. Ellis has only a handful of friends, and Dale is Mr. Popularity. But when they’re partnered up for an AP English project, Ellis learns different can be good. Really good.

Dale Stephens has it all: friends, a hot girlfriend, mad soccer skills—and a secret. He’s bisexual, but because he’s never been in love with a boy, it’s always been easier to keep that part of himself hidden. Until Ellis changes everything.

As their love grows, Dale realizes it’s Ellis he wants to be with—only he’s not ready for the world to know about them, especially after the way his mom reacts to the news.

But when they are outed by a bully who has made a career out of tormenting Ellis, Dale and Ellis must face down their fears and try to stay together. What will happen when the bully goes too far? Will Ellis come out of it unscathed?

Author Bio:

C.M. Lievens is a penname Catherine Lievens uses when she writes stories with little to no sex, and more specifically, Young Adult ones.

She lives in Italy with her husband, three cats, and her son, who luckily isn’t going to be a young adult for many years to come, because Catherine is not prepared for that just yet. She loves to write about different people and situations, hence the need for a penname.

When she’s not putting pen to paper to plot her next story, writing while avoiding her kid’s questions (he’s way too curious for his own good), or talking to her cats, she can be found hiding in the bathroom, because that’s the only place where she can read in peace.

E-mail: lievens.catherine@gmail.com
Blog: https://cmlievens.wordpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/catherine.lievens.9
Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/CM-Lievens-1659898224299254/

 

Families That Hurt; Families That Heal – CJane Elliott Talks About Sand-Man’s Family

May 5, 2016

Families That Hurt

Hello there! I’m CJane Elliott and happy to be on the Dreamspinner Blog today to talk about Sand-Man’s Family, the third book in my Wild and Precious series.

Sand-Man’s Family differs from the first two stories in the Wild and Precious series in the age of the main characters. In the first two novellas, those ages ranged from mid-twenties to late thirties. In Sand-Man’s Family, Sandy and Jade (and Dare, who Sandy dated before Jade) are seniors in high school (for the flashback scenes) and most of the action takes place the following year, when they are at the most nineteen years old.

I enjoy writing New Adult characters who are teetering on the edge of adulthood. They’re often still sorting out who they are in relation to themselves, their gender/sexual identity, and their relationships. Family still plays a big role, positive or negative. This is the age when people start living away from home and begin to create their families of choice. Some of them are lucky in their families of origin but many are not.

The tagline for Sand-Man’s Family is: Having A Family That Hurts, Choosing A Family That Heals.

Sandy’s parents, conservative Catholics, only gave him approval when he was being the “good son,” and sometimes not even then. His father is an alcoholic who when drunk berated and yelled at Sandy. Neither parent could accept that Sandy was engaging in premarital sex and could barely comprehend it when Sandy announced he was bisexual. His father hit him and his mother talked to the priest who recommended conversion therapy. They didn’t exactly throw him out, but they likely would have had Sandy continued to be himself in defiance of their rules.

Sandy has the courage to run away from his stifling home situation and the luck to have someone to run to: his uncle, Phineas MacDonald, in Portland, Oregon. With Phineas and his friends, Sandy starts the process of creating a new family that heals. The family expands to include Cody Bellstrom, who falls in love with Phinney and moves in with them. Together, Cody and Phinney parent Sandy, with support from good friends like Blaine and Gemma, and give him the unconditional love he never received from his real parents.

Inside of the support and love from this new family, Sandy is able to return to his childhood home for Thanksgiving and deal with his parents’ continued refusal to accept him as he is and his sadness at having to leave his brother and sisters behind. Cody and Phinney also help him figure out his feelings about Jade Byrne, his high school hook-up with whom he reconnects, and who becomes special to Sandy in a short time. The story ends with Sandy experiencing an abundance of love—for himself and for others.

That is the power of choosing a family that heals.

 

SandMansFamilyFS

Blurb:

When Sandy Nixon’s conservative Catholic parents discover he’s had sex before marriage, they are furious. But when he blurts out he’s bisexual, they go ballistic. After they threaten him with conversion therapy, Sandy does what many queer kids long to do—leaves his homophobic parents in the dust. He moves in with his Uncle Phineas and Phineas’s partner Cody in Portland, Oregon, and is finally safe to be himself. Sandy misses his siblings, though, and decides to visit his former home in Rockford for Thanksgiving. On the train, he runs into Jade Byrne.

As the only out gay kid in their Catholic high school, Jade has stared down homophobes while being fabulous in the school musicals. He’s crushed on Sandy for years. But he’s made sure never to show it, even after they had a onetime hookup, because Sandy’s the good Catholic kid, the altar boy, and the apparently straight athlete—all the things Jade isn’t. Traveling back to Rockford together sees the start of a month of adventures, a blossoming attraction, and a chance for Sandy to learn what it means to have a family that hurts and to choose a family that heals.

 

Buy Links:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sand-Mans-Family-Wild-Precious-Book-ebook/dp/B01EGAALMG/

ARe: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-sandman039sfamily-2023484-149.html

DSP: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=7677

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/sand-mans-family-cjane-elliott/1123670439?ean=2940158150685

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/sand-man-s-family

 

About CJane Elliott:

After years of hearing characters chatting away in her head, CJane Elliott finally decided to put them on paper and hasn’t looked back since. A psychotherapist by training, CJane enjoys writing sexy, passionate stories that also explore the human psyche. CJane has traveled all over North America for work and her characters are travelers, too, traveling down into their own depths to find what they need to get to the happy ending.

CJane is an ardent supporter of LGBTQ equality and is particularly fond of coming out stories.

In her spare time, CJane can be found dancing, listening to music, or watching old movies. Her husband and son support her writing habit by staying out of the way when they see her hunched over, staring intensely at her laptop.

E-mail: cjaneelliott@gmail.com
Website: http://www.cjaneelliott.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CJaneElliott
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cjane.elliott
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/CJane-Elliott/e/B00LPIJDM2/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0
Dreamspinner: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/AuthorArcade/cjane-elliott

Remembering a Life Lived with S.C. Wynne – Post + Giveaway

April 28, 2016

Remembering a Life Lived

Hi, I’m S.C. Wynne and I wanted to talk about why I wrote Believing Rory.

“I guess I’m the stupid one for believing Rory.”

I woke up one morning with that line in my head. I don’t know where those words came from, but it started me thinking about all the things that might make a person say something like that. My brain went to suicide.

Suicide is ruthless. Suicide is brutal to those left behind.

But I think it’s sad that when someone commits suicide the natural result is every word they ever spoke and every promise they ever made comes into question. As if the only thing that mattered was their manner of death, not their life. Surely their life should mean far more?

The problem is suicide feels like a personal failure to those of us left behind. I think it’s our nature to think we could have done something to stop it. If we’d only been more loving, more alert. We take on the burden of that person’s death as if we actually were the ones who killed them.

My MC Lane struggles with all of these feelings when his best friend Rory takes his own life. He meets another friend of Rory’s, Baron, who is also devastated by Rory’s death. The two of them form an unlikely, romantic bond that was carefully orchestrated by Rory before his death.

I suppose by writing Believing Rory I wanted to show the struggle of those left behind, and perhaps reinforce that the way one dies can never erase who they were as a person.

S.C.

GIVEAWAY:

Has your life been touched by suicide in any way? I’m willing to admit I had suicidal thoughts when I was younger. I’m thankful I never acted on them, but I remember those feelings very strongly. Did you ever suffer with depression or thoughts of harming yourself? Did anyone close to you struggle with suicidal thoughts?

Leave a comment and let’s discuss this sensitive topic. The two comments that resonate with me the most will win an ebook of their choice from my backlist.

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100005217189290&ref=bookmarks

https://twitter.com/SCWynne1

www.sc-wynne.com

Check out Believing Rory today!

BelievingRoryFS

Blurb:

Will Rory bring them together or stand between them?

Eighteen-year-old Lane Graham has always relied on his braver, more confident buddy, Rory. But Rory’s sudden suicide blindsides Lane and sends him into an emotional tailspin. How’s he supposed to start college in a few months feeling this damaged?

Baron MacDonald knew Rory from playing League of Legends together. He was always intrigued by Lane’s online presence, and Rory had promised to set them up. Now that Rory’s gone, Baron has to approach Lane on his own.

On the surface, Baron and Lane couldn’t seem more different. Baron is confident and serious, and Lane is guarded and uncertain. But it’s the pain beneath the flesh that binds these two souls together like barbed wire and cement.

A Taste of Gay History with a Tale of Gay Romance by Michael Murphy

April 25, 2016

A Taste of Gay History With a Tale of Gay Romance

My name is Michael Murphy and I’m here today to talk about my newest release A Night at the Ariston Baths.  This book is very special to me for many reasons, one of which is that it has been in the works longer than anything else I’ve ever written.  There really was a place called the Ariston Baths, and the core events described in this book actually took place there.

When we think of Stonewall and the Gay Revolution of the 1970s, we don’t always remember that conditions were slowly fermenting and building up over decades until everything blew apart in June of 1969. Some have said that Stonewall started with what happened at the Ariston Baths on a winter’s night in 1903.  It was that night when New York City police conducted the first ever mass raid targeting men who had sex with men.  While police would make many raids of gay gatherings over the decades that followed, the raid on the Ariston swept up more than 80 men and is is seen by many as the first step on road that ran for more than sixty years to the raid on the Stonewall Inn.

In turn of the century New York, there was a huge, vibrant, active gay subculture that existed just beyond sight of most people. What men wanted was simple – just to be able to carve out some space where it was safe for them to be together, a safe space. For years they had had that at the Ariston, one of the most upscale Turkish and Russian bathhouses in all of New York City.  But that night when police swept in and scooped up more than 80 men, that safe space was destroyed.

When I first learned of this event and heard some of the things that happened to the men involved, I wanted to know more, but I couldn’t find anything more than a passing footnote in history books.  It seemed absolutely criminal to me that the men whose lives were so dramatically changed that night in 1903 had been largely forgotten.

I had been in New York one summer doing research, trying to learn more about this episode in history. Later that same week I saw Elizabeth North and we sat and I described what I had found.  She suggested I write this book.  We spent a long time tossing ideas back and forth and she suggested an approach and a fictional character that could be the focal point of the story.  I went with her approach and that is the book that is releasing now.

My character is Theodore McCall, a young gay man who grew up in far western rural Pennsylvania.  Theodore was fortunate because his best friend growing up, Martin Fuller, was also gay.  When they were discovering adolescence and that they were different than the other boys, they had one another.  But Martin moved to New York City following high school, leaving Theodore behind where they had grown up.

When everything fell apart for him quite suddenly and dramatically,  Theodore decided it was a sign that he should do something equally out of character – he bought a ticket and took the train to New York City to join his best friend, Martin.  Now Martin had been in New York for several years by then and had scoped out everything and knew where to meet men.  Martin was very bold and outgoing, while Theodore was more shy and reserved. Martin took his friend by the hand and introduced him to some of the joys of life in the city.  One of those joys was a visit to a bathhouse that men of their kind frequented. And wouldn’t you know it, but the night Martin picked was the worst possible night to be present at the Ariston Baths.

But that’s just the start of the story. Theodore’s road is long from there. And while the story is a bad point in gay history, Theodore’s story is not equally bad. But you’ll just have to read the story to find out how.

If you have questions about the Ariston Russian and Turkish Bath and the men involved in the original story, please comment and I’ll do my best to answer your questions. Some of what went on there has been lost to history, but I have dug through every record I could identify to be able to piece together the real story.

Please be sure to swing by my website gayromancewriter.com to see my blog, some of my photos, and of course information on my books. I look forward to hearing from you.

Check out A Night at the Ariston Baths today!

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Blurb:

In rural Pennsylvania, Theodore McCall lives on his family’s farm and works as a clerk at the local general store. While his best friend, Martin Fuller, thrives in New York City, Theodore trudges through life. But on New Year’s Eve, 1902, Theodore’s world is turned upside down, and big changes call for bold action.

Theodore, who has never ventured more than eight miles from home, undertakes the daunting journey to New York City to join Martin. But the Martin he finds in New York is a stranger, a different man, doing things Theodore finds shocking. After just two months in the City, Theodore’s world is upended again as he an, d Martin are swept up in the events at the Ariston Baths.

Haunted by his experiences in New York, Theodore returns home, wondering whether he’ll ever find happiness in life. When he meets Jasper Webb, Theodore must boldly risk everything for the love he so longs for.

Scotty Cade Chats About Knobs – Interview + Excerpt

April 22, 2016

 

“Knobs” by Scotty Cade

Two cadets from very different worlds. One forbidden love.

 

Hi All,

Scotty Cade here. First I’d like to thank Hayley at the Dreamspinner Press Blog for allowing me to tell you a little bit about “Knobs,” my newest release and let you meet Gus and Sam and get a glimpse into their daily life at the Citadel. Later in the posts you can read an excerpt and I will be telling you how you can win a book from my backlist.

So when I was asked to write these blog spots, I posted on Facebook and asked my fans what in particular they would like to know about Knobs, besides the premise of course. The answers came in fast and furious and included a history of the Citadel and what all this “Hell Week” stuff is all about, The inspiration for the book, Character interviews with each main character, as well as a little about cadet life. I have six blog posts to do so I can cover all these requests with one or two to spare. So here goes. I hope you enjoy.

 

Before we get started, here is the blurb for Knobs.

Angus Conrad (Gus) McRae is a privileged Charlestonian following family tradition and attending the Citadel, harboring big dreams of a military career. With the infamous hell week behind him, he quickly realizes being a Knob (a freshman cadet) is just as tough—especially for a man like Gus who must keep his sexuality a secret. Then a sudden dorm reassignment places him in a room with one of the football team’s top players: working-class jock Stewart Adam (Sam) Morley—and life gets increasingly complicated.

Gus can’t imagine a man like Sam as gay, yet there’s something between them—exchanged glances, the occasional innuendo. Sexual tensions rise, leaving them more than friends but less than lovers. Gus and Sam know there’s too much to lose and they must keep their attraction hidden. If they fail, they risk destroying their hopes and dreams for a prosperous future in a military world that’s not yet ready to accommodate masculine gay men.

***

Sam sitting comfortably on his bunk in his dorm room waiting for Gus, looking a little nervous.

Q- While we wait for Gus why don’t you tell us about yourself Sam. And remember this is off the record. Nothing you say here can ever be used against you. I want the real story.

Sam sighed and seemed to relax just a bit.

A – Hey ya’ll. Sam teases drawing out the word like the Southerners do with much amusement.

I am Cadet Stewart Adam Morley and I am a freshman or a Knob at The Citadel, a conservative military academy located in Charleston, South Carolina. A ‘Knob’ is a freshman and during our first year attending the Citadel, we are pushed to our mental and physical limits day in and day out. So next time you’re feeling down, rejected, insulted, made fun of, or generally upset, just remember: it could be worse. You could be a Knob.

Each time I see an upperclassman, I have to tuck in my chin and shaved head until it becomes one with my neck, push out my hips, and arch my back with my hands at my sides. I must always know my next three meals by heart, and can be interrupted at any time in the non-existent privacy of our tiny rooms in the barracks. A room I share with Gus. I mean Cadet Angus Conrad McRae III. A mouthful huh? And speaking of, Sam looks at his watch.  I have no idea where he is. He was supposed to be here five minutes ago. He is normally very prompt. We all are. We have to be.

Life as a ‘Knob,’ makes me realize I am not as tough as I thought I was, but that I can do better, more than I ever thought I could.”

Q – Give us a little more about your personal life.

A – A little more about me? Well, I hail from Southfield, Michigan, just outside of Detroit and it wasn’t always what I’d call comfortable. While some of the areas were nice, the block I grew up on wasn’t the safest. But I knew the streets, knew what areas to avoid, and once I was behind the multiple locks on my front door, I always enjoyed a sense of security only home could provide.

When I’d finally decided to accept the football scholarship I was offered to the Citadel, the anxiety over leaving home wasn’t the only thing weighing heavily on me. I mean…I was twenty, and it was time, but the thought of my mom having to care for my younger siblings and herself without me around was daunting. I was the man of the house. I’d taken on that role at twelve when my stepdad had followed in the shoes of my real dad and split. No note, no forwarding address, just gone. Well, back then we hadn’t needed the lazy bastard. My mom and siblings had me. But now I was also leaving. Not like my father and stepdad had, but I was leaving all the same. It didn’t matter how many times Mom had tried to convince me otherwise, I’d felt like I was abandoning my family, my responsibilities, and it sucked.

When I left for the Citadel, I’d never been away from home. I knew nothing about Charleston, South Carolina. The people were all strangers, the streets unfamiliar. Yet it was going to be my home for the next four years.

I thought I was prepared, but that’s what I get for thinking so highly of myself. The entire Citadel system is designed to strip us of our individuality, ‘Knob year’ aims to make me a seamless part of the greater group. I must know the name of every upperclassman, or risk punishments, which includes running around the perimeter of the four story fortress in my underwear, so inside the barracks and outside the confines of my room, a word from me is rarely heard.

I’ve had the door to my room kicked open at all hours of the night, been berated for a single article of clothing out of place and then had all my articles of clothing pulled from my drawers and locker and tossed onto the floor. Once I was able to complete the pushups I was forced to do, again in my underwear, I might add, then and only then was I able to go back to my room and put everything away and prepare for another inspection.

Duty. Honor. Respect. Is my motto. And for the next four years I will eat, sleep, breathe and live it. Along with Sam of course. I can do anything if Sam is by my side.

The door opens and a handsome cadet walks in.

There you are. Sam says. Finally, this is my roommate Gus.

Gus is out of breath. Sorry. My class ran a little late.

No problem. Sam said. I covered the Knob stuff.

Q – He did. So just start by telling a little about yourself Gus.

A – Okay. Well, I guess I’ll start by telling you I come from what southerners might call a fine Charleston Family. Other non Charlestonian’s might simply call it a privileged upbringing, but either way I’m grateful for everything I had growing and everything I have now,” Gus says looking at Sam and winking.

Sam beams with pride. He leans over and squeezes Gus’ knee playfully.

Let’s see. My father is a Charleston attorney and he along with my grandfather are both graduates of the Citadel. It was a given that I would attend the Citadel, but what I was to major in? Now that was a different story. Since I was young, I always wanted a career in the military, but my family wants me to join the family law practice and this has been a very touchy subject and the source of many arguments between us since I was fifteen years old.”

Q – Were you groomed for the Citadel from a young age and were you prepared when you arrived?

A – Let’s just say I was groomed. In fact, by the time I was twelve, I had every book about the Citadel ever written and had even memorized the The Guidon.”

Q – The Guidon?

A – It’s the Knob bible, so to speak.

Q – I see.

A – So was I prepared? I thought I was. Or at least acted like I was. But let’s just say, the day before I was to report, in the solitude of my bedroom, with no prying eyes and no pretenses to keep up, I lowered my defenses and allowed myself a rare moment to doubt that I could really pull this off.

I mean…I stared at my bed and looked at the few things I was allowed to bring. And I thought. This stuff is going to be my life for the next four years. But that wasn’t completely true. The stuff on my bed along with grueling physical training and an impossible academics schedule—that was going to be my life. I think I’d just been determined to be strong. But then I remember thinking about Hell Week and breaking into a cold sweat, my stomach starting to churn. I had to get through hell week or nothing else mattered.

So outwardly, yeah I thought I was prepared. But to be honest, even my worst nightmares didn’t compare to the real thing.

But everything changed when I saw Sam across a room on matriculation day. He’d already been through Hell Week because the Corps Squad, I mean the athletes, have matriculation day one week ahead of the rest of the Knobs. We locked eyes and although we hadn’t met, I felt a connection to him. And right then and there I knew if he could do it, so could I. And I did.

Q – Is that when you two met?

A – Not really. No.

Q – Then when?”

A – On second day of hell week, my roommate quit and I was left without a roommate. And then Sam came through the door carrying his duffle bags. That the first time we officially met.

We’d locked eyes across a couple crowded rooms but we’d never even said hello. The funny thing is that when we did meet, we didn’t really hit it off.

Q – You didn’t?

A – No. Sam thought I was a privileged asshole, and maybe I was a little, but I tried not to be.

Q – Its obvious you two care about each other now. When did that happen?

A – Care doesn’t begin to capture what we have.

Q- Okay sorry. So how do you maintain a relationship with so many restrictions?

A – Let’s just say we make do.

Gus and Sam both looked at the back of their dorm room door.

A – We spend a lot of time there.

Q – At the back of the door?

A – Yep. It’s the only place we can be intimate. And by intimate, I mean steal a kiss every now and then.

Q – Just a kiss? No sex?

A – No sex. We could get expelled for that, but we manage. I can wait for this man as long as it takes. But I don’t want to sacrifice our educations for something that we can wait for.

Q – Okay Cadets. I think I get the idea. Thanks for you time.

A – Our pleasure.

In closing, I hope this gives you a good understanding of the discipline required to attend the Citadel and just a sneak peak into Gus and Sam’s world. The fact that they were able to find unexpected love in such a demanding environment and make it work shows the depth of their commitment. If you’ve ever been pushed to your limits, I’d like to hear about it. Please posts and each entry will be eligible for a free copy of “The Royal Street Heist.” Book one in the Bissonet & Cruz Investigations series.

Check out Knobs today!

 

Here’s where you can find me and “Knobs”, as well as my other stories.

Website

Facebook

Dreamspinner Author Arcade

Amazon Author Page

Twitter

Scotty Cade left Corporate America and twenty-five years of Marketing and Public Relations behind to buy an Inn & Restaurant on the island of Martha’s Vineyard with his partner of over twenty years.   He started writing stories as soon as he could read, but just five years ago for publication.  When not at the Inn, you can find him on the bow of his boat writing gay romance novels with his Shetland sheepdog Mavis at his side.  Being from the south and a lover of commitment and fidelity, most of his characters find their way to long healthy relationships, however long it takes them to get there.  He believes that in the end, the boy should always get the boy.

Excerpt:

“Are you gonna come in and close the door behind you?” Gus asked sarcastically. “Or are all the cadets going to get to see me in my underwear?”

Sam was sort of standing there more for effect than anything, but his eyes were glued to Gus’s body. His stomach was ripped, and the muscles in his thighs were visible through the legs of his boxer briefs.

“Okay,” Sam said. “If I close the door, will you at least talk to me?”

Gus shook his head. “I really don’t think you want to hear what I have to say right now.”

“I think you’re wrong about that,” Sam said, stepping in and allowing the door to close behind him.

Sam removed his cover and tossed it onto his bunk. He was tired of this cat-and-mouse game. Instead of untying his shoes, he brought his left foot up and tugged at his shoe until it came off. He tossed the shoe into the bottom of his locker, making quite the thud, and removed the right one much the same way.

He turned and rested his hands on his hips. “Are you gonna talk to me now?”

Gus didn’t respond. He went to his closet, removed his toiletries bag, and headed for the door. Sam took two steps forward, put both hands on Gus’s shoulders, spun him around, and backed him up against the door.

Their faces were so close Sam could feel Gus’s warm breath against his cheek.

Sam slammed one hand against the back of the door while leaving the other one on Gus’s shoulder. “Fuck, Gus! Yell at me. Curse me out. Do something. Don’t just give me the silent treatment. You’re not leaving this room until you talk to me.”

Gus smiled incredulously. “So, what? You’re gonna hold me hostage now?”

“If that’s what it takes,” Sam said.

“Fine! You want me to talk? Here goes. You are the most selfish bastard I’ve ever met. You’ve treated me like shit since the first day we met, and I’m not going to be your punching bag anymore. Please go to the Academic Officer and ask for a transfer. Tell him we’re incompatible. I’ll back you up on that one.”

“I don’t want a transfer,” Sam said, his lips now inches away from Gus’s.

“Why not?” Gus said quietly through clenched teeth, just in case there were any stray cadets roaming around in the hall. “You’ve done everything possible to offend me and my family. Why not move on to another cadet? Go ahead, man, share the charms of Stewart Adam Morley with the entire Citadel, one cadet at a time.”

Gus glared at him, the normal bright silver-gray of his eyes now a dark, gloomy gray. “Furthermore, you can fuck with me all you want, but leave my crazy family out—”

Sam had heard enough. Before Gus could finish his sentence, Sam covered Gus’s lips in a crushing kiss.

August Li’s The Kitchen Boy

April 7, 2016

August Li's The Kitchen Boy

Hi everybody. I’m August (Gus) Li, here at the blog today to talk about my novella The Kitchen Boy.

If you’ve read much of my work, you probably know I like to put a lot of pressure on my characters to see how dealing with conflict will force them to adapt and hopefully grow. In a lot of my books, characters face large-scale battles, conspiracies, assassinations, and powerful magic. I took a little bit of a different approach to this book. There’s still magic, and there’s political intrigue, some fights, and a body count. There are characters with selfish motivations, and there are betrayals. But the main conflict for my main character, Yoli, is internal, which leads to the topic I’m interested in exploring.

Does personal interest have a place in romance?

It’s easy to say no, that of course a character should put aside personal pursuits to chase love, to sacrifice selfish goals for the greater prize of a lasting connection with another person. But I like to poke around in the gray areas where things aren’t so simple. Love and partnership is a wonderful thing to have, but is there a point when its price is too high? What if a character must give up a lucrative career to be with another, or leave his homeland? Do we as readers cheer, or do we have to wonder if he made the right decision? What makes it a fair trade for the character who is giving something up? What does the love interest have to provide to balance the scales?

Or, as is the case in my book, what if the character is given a choice between loyalty to the man he loves and safety, freedom from being hurt, having his basic needs met, and the opportunity to realize his dream? It sounds too good to be true, and, in a way, it is, but walking away will make his life much easier and more comfortable. It might even mean the difference between life and death. It’s an interesting conflict to explore, because the desire to find love is such a basic and compelling one. But self-preservation is also a strong need. And not every character is a tragic hero who would rather die than lose they person he loves. Some characters are more practical. Some characters have also learned from experience that they have to look out for themselves.

As my character finds out, loyalty is lovely as a concept, but can become messy in practice. He wants to be an idealist, to stick to his beliefs no matter the opposition, but he also wants a future, and he wants that future to include enough to eat and the chance to do something he finds fulfilling. He’s put in a position where he must make an impossible choice. You’ll have to read the book to see how he reconciles everything, but does a certain amount of self-interest make for a bad romance protagonist?

Nobody likes a self-absorbed jerk who only cares about himself, but personally, I also don’t like a character without his own interests, without an investment in his own success, or who doesn’t use his agency to ensure a satisfying outcome for himself. I don’t like a character who only cares about what his love interest wants, at the expense of his own wishes and goals.  Most characters are never forced into a situation where they must, in absolute terms, choose between one and the other, but putting them there makes their most basic personality rise to the surface. As a writer, moving that dial between selfish jerk and doormat is a delicate balancing act. Push it too far, and the result is an unlikable character—no one cares about his success because he really doesn’t deserve it. Wiggle it in the other direction, and you end up with a character who lacks believability at best, comes across kind of deluded and pathetic at worst. Most people have a strong survival instinct, but most people also want to be loved—and to see those they love thrive. If they cannot have it both ways, what do they do?

So how do you like your protagonists? Self-sacrificing idealists or practical people who look out for themselves? It’s somewhere in between for me. Do you prefer characters that lean more one way or the other? What lines can a character not cross without losing your affection?

Check out The Kitchen Boy today!

KitchenBoyFS

Blurb:

Kitchen servant Yoli is one of only three men who know a carefully guarded secret about High Commander Koehen, the brilliant general who united their lands against a common invader. The enemy wants that secret, and they are willing to use either kindness or cruelty to obtain it.

Yoli must decide if his loyalties lie with the commander, who has shown him more affection than anyone in Yoli’s life, or with his own best interests. High Commander Koehen’s attention is capricious at best—he summons Yoli only when it is convenient for him, and Yoli knows there’s little hope of a future together. Is a glimmer of a hope for love worth sacrificing a chance for prosperity beyond his wildest dreams?

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What Inspired Yesterday by Mickie B. Ashling – Post + Giveaway

January 22, 2016

What Inspired Yesterday

Hi, everyone!

I’m here to celebrate the release of my latest novel, Yesterday, a period piece set in Karachi, Pakistan. You’re probably wondering how or why I chose this locale. A writer’s brain is a weird and unpredictable part of our anatomy (at least mine is). It can draw inspiration from memories buried so far back in our subconscious we don’t even realize they exist—until a prompt comes along. It can be anything from a song to a smell, but once it’s unleashed, there’s no stopping the ideas from flowing. This is the magical part of writing I love. In the case of Yesterday, my trigger was a photo I’d unearthed while cleaning out my closets in preparation for my latest move from one suburb to another.

Yesterday Front

Several decades ago, before the Middle East was a tinderbox, and the most dangerous thing about traveling to that region of the world was heatstroke, my stepfather was assigned to a business posting in Karachi, Pakistan. Much like my character, Grady Ormond, I wasn’t thrilled by the prospect. The thought of spending any amount of time (I was also on break between high school and college) in a desert climate with no friends, other than my sister, and very little understanding of the culture or language, wasn’t my idea of a good time. I’d left a boyfriend behind as well, and in those days, there was no social media to keep us in touch. We had to resort to letter writing, something I didn’t mind, but he wasn’t too keen on the idea. Separation was bad enough, but imagining worst-case scenarios (cheating etc.) was depressing. I was stuck trying to figure out positive ways to keep my overactive mind in check. There was always reading, but since romance was my favorite genre and every bodice-ripper had a jealousy arc, I ignored the paperbacks in favor of exploration.

At the time, I didn’t know Pakistan was a melting pot of faiths and cultures. Having been occupied at one time or another by different empires—India, Persia, Turkey, Arabia, Mongolia, and Great Britain—it’s ethnically and linguistically diverse. The religion is primarily Islam, but when I was there, it wasn’t uncommon to have Hindus and Christians living side by side. The political atmosphere was very different in those days and foreigners could walk the streets without worrying about suicide bombers or being kidnapped.

We played it safe the first week, joining other expats at the American Club, lazing in the sun, and sampling the different varieties of food. I ignored hot dogs and hamburgers and reached for the Chicken Tikka instead, falling in love with the new flavors from the very bland to the tongue-scorching vindaloo.

The next week our parents allowed us to explore the city (with a guide), and our first stop was the Empress Market. Hypnotized by the exotic, I tried on bangles, earrings, scarves, and necklaces. Shopkeepers showed me how to turn lovely gold-threaded fabric into a sari, and I insisted on wearing one over my shorts and T-shirt, adding to the fun by parading up and down the aisles in my new outfit. We bought hand-tooled slippers, admired the colorful pottery and metal work, tiptoed warily around the animal cages, praying none of the cobras would leap out of their baskets, and I ate more street food than was smart. It was a magical place and I tried to share some of my exploits through the voice of my character, Grady.

There was a French girl I befriended at the club. She was older than me and much more sophisticated. Her English was terrible and my French was atrocious, but we managed to communicate. She eloped with her Pakistani boyfriend while I was there, and they lived in a tiny apartment with hardly any furniture. His parents were against the marriage so they made do with very little. At the time, I thought it was romantic as hell to live on love and not much else. I was pretty clueless in those days. Her husband was tall and very good looking, made even more attractive by his Brit accent and his impeccable manners. He was always dressed in a long white tunic and flowing pants, the salwar kameez I describe in my novel. In truth, a lot of Prince Kamran’s physicality was modeled after this man who made quite an impression.

Through our new friends, we were introduced to other people our age. I went out on a few innocent lunch dates with an Iranian student who shared interesting facts about his country and culture. He was very nice and I would have probably given some serious thought to his tentative advances if not for the fact that I had a boyfriend back home. I thought of him often when Iran was going through its political turmoil.

We learned that Pakistani beaches were famous for green turtle migrations.   One such beach, Hawks Bay, was twenty kilometers from the city, and my sister and I were invited to observe this phenomenon firsthand. Here’s a short excerpt from the novel that describes Grady’s evening.

***

Excerpt:

The turtle experience was as fascinating as I’d hoped, except for the buzzing mosquitoes determined to eat me alive. What made it worse was that I was the only one who was sweet enough to be targeted by the bloodsuckers. After a certain point, I resigned myself to being a lumpy mess by the time we got back on the yacht. Hopefully one of my companions would produce some home remedy to get rid of the itch and red spots.

Gus stayed on the yacht, but Jon came along to navigate the dingy, which was parked on the sand where we could see it but not in the pathway of the turtles. It was quite a hike from sand to sea, and I could understand how a lot of the hatchlings would fall into the mouths of predators before reaching their goal. It looked like a marathon crawl from where we were hiding, but they’d been doing this for centuries, and when they started to move, they came out in droves. One minute the sand was smooth and bare and the next covered with moving amniotes raring to go home. The moon was doing its job that night, shining brightly on the water to guide the little critters to the deep. I was pretty stoked with the idea of capturing something like this on film. Kam watched for a while but got bored midway and fell asleep. It was past midnight, and we’d had a long and emotional day. Jon was beside me, though, handing me whatever I needed to make sure I got it all on film.

Several hours later, everything stopped. The sand looked like a blanket of silk again, and the whole experience felt like a dream. The moon was starting to wane, and soon the sun would be rising, which was probably what put everything to a grinding halt. We shook Kam awake and made it back to the yacht without any problems. Back on board, I stripped and stood under the shower for as long as possible, trying to find some relief. My arms and legs were covered in red splotches. My torso was fine, thank the Lord, but the rest of me looked like I had a bad case of hives or measles. I popped a couple of aspirin when I got out of the shower and went up to the galley hoping Gus could recommend something to make it go away.

He took one look at me, mumbled a few choice words in Italian, removed a big bottle of vinegar from the pantry, and poured it on my skin. I howled like a banshee, but after a few minutes the pain subsided and so did the itch.

***

As it turned out, my summer in Karachi gave me a new appreciation and awareness of a previously unknown section of the world. The knowledge I gained at that time has stayed with me through the years, and the savory cuisine from that part of the world remains on my list of favorites.

The world has changed a lot since then. Good people who fall into a certain demographic are automatically shunned or condemned because of the radicals in their faith whose sole purpose is to stir up hate and dissent. As a writer, I’ve never shied away from including characters and situations as diverse and interesting as the people I’ve met in my life.  I hope you have an opportunity to pick up a copy of Yesterday, a love story between two very different men who dare to take a chance.

Answer any of the questions I’ve posed in italics, and your name will go into the drawing for a $15.00 DSP Gift Certificate. The winner will be chosen in three days.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation totally out of your control?

Do you like food from the Middle East? What’s your favorite dish?

Ever see a live cobra outside of a cage?  

Have you ever been attracted to someone you can’t have?

Would you travel to an exotic locale if given a chance? If so, where?

Do you enjoy stories with diverse characters?

Blurb

In June of 1978 Grady Ormond, eighteen-year-old son of diplomat Peter Ormond, accompanies his father to his new posting as US Ambassador to Pakistan. Neighboring Iran is on the brink of a civil war, with the monarchy in danger of being overthrown.

Grady will be leaving for New York City in late August to study cinematography and has been warned to keep his homosexual orientation tightly under wraps while on vacation. Repercussions in the predominantly Islamic region could be severe.

On their first night in Karachi, his father hosts a cocktail party to meet the local dignitaries. Grady is introduced to His Highness Prince Kamran Izadi, nephew of the shah of Iran. Twenty-three-year-old Kamran has recently returned from the UK, where he spent eleven years, first as a student, and then as a financial analyst.

The attraction is immediate—unforeseen and dangerously powerful—but neither one dares to make a move. Odds are so stacked against them it’s futile to even entertain a friendship, but they do, and their world tilts precariously.

With his country in turmoil and Grady about to leave for college, Kamran makes a decision that will change their lives forever.

 

Bio

Mickie B. Ashling is the pseudonym of a multifaceted woman who is a product of her upbringing in multiple cultures, having lived in Japan, the Philippines, Spain, and the Middle East. Fluent in three languages, she’s a citizen of the world and an interesting mixture of East and West. A little bit of this and a lot of that have brought a unique touch to her literary voice she could never learn from textbooks.

By the time Mickie discovered her talent for writing, real life got in the way, and the business of raising four sons took priority. With the advent of e-publishing–and the inevitable emptying nest–dreams of becoming a published writer were resurrected and she’s never looked back.

She stumbled into the world of men who love men in 2002 and continues to draw inspiration from their ongoing struggle to find equality and happiness in this oftentimes skewed and intolerant world. Her award-winning novels have been called “gut wrenching, daring, and thought provoking.” She admits to being an angst queen and making her men work damn hard for their happy endings. Mickie currently resides in a suburb outside Chicago.

Contact Info

E-MAIL: http://mickie.ashling@gmail.com

BLOG: http://mickiebashling.blogspot.com

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/mickie.ashling

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/MickieAshling

Get your copy of Yesterday now!

Dreamspinner Press

Amazon

Adobe Photoshop PDF

All That Is Solid Melts Into Air: Writing Sequels For Fun and Aggravation with Christopher Koehler

January 22, 2016

All That Is Solid Melts Into Air-

Hello, everyone in DSP/Harmony Ink-land. Christopher Koehler here today to talk about my latest release, All That Is Solid Melts Into Air, the second installment in The Lives of Remy and Michael. I appreciate having the chance to talk about ATISMIA today. I hope you don’t mind me abbreviating the title like that, but it’s a mouthful.

AllThatIsSolidMeltsIntoAirMO

What inspired ATIS? Where did I get the idea?

Most of my books are spinoffs from earlier novels. That is, minor characters in an earlier book getting their own novel. Dreamspinner/Harmony Ink call these spin-offs. Sometimes the plot remains elusive, as in the case of Settling the Score, the fourth and final book in the original CalPac quartet, which is why Stuart’s story took so long to write. Stuart popped in and out of all the previous three novels, always the supporting character but never a protagonist until the very end. The inspiration for each novel came from Rocking the Boat, really.

I wrote First Impressions as a stand-alone, and in that case, I found inspiration in Pride and Prejudice and in my life at that time. Yes, my social life at that time resembled a Jane Austen novel, and let me tell you that was no end of fun. No joke. If life was Pride and Prejudice, my husband and I represented Mr. and Mrs. Gardner, Lizzy’s aunt and uncle, or uncle and uncle as the case may be, the sane and stable married couple. From the safe vantage point of our union, we watched the shark tank of the gay urban scene. As Austen said, for what else do we live but to make sport for our friends and laugh at them in our turn?

But for ATISMIA? This novel is a direct sequel to Poz and I’ve never written a direct sequel before. When I finished writing Poz, I was done with the story, but if you paid close attention to the final paragraphs, you could tell I wasn’t done with Remy and Michael. If you paid close attention, you might also have figured out how, at least to an extent, ATIAMIA would end, so don’t blame me for any feels you’ll have or have had. Notice how cagey I’m being? It releases today and I’m not spoiling anything. I’m evil that way.

I actually had the outline for ATISMIA underway before I finished Poz. I’d go to write something in Poz and realize that no, that was beyond the scope of Poz and needed to be told later in Remy and Michael’s lives. But wait, Christopher, I can hear you objecting from here. What if it’s much later in their lives? That’s why there’s a third book planned. You want details? You’ll have to check out my blog for details of the blog tour.

I’m evil that way, too.

So by the time I was done with Poz, I was outlining ATISMIA. By the time Harmony Ink had sent me edits for Poz, I was writing ATISMIA. The continuity is that direct, and to my regular readers I must apologize for that. You’re used to my books being more or less stand-alones. To new readers, if you go back and start with Poz, ATISMIA will make more sense. I don’t usually do this to readers. I hope you’ll bear with me, but at least Poz is on sale at Harmony Ink through January 23. Why? Because—shameless plug—the American Library Association named it to its Rainbow List for 2016.

Harmony_ALA2016_Badge_Poz

What does the title mean?

The title—All That Is Solid Melts Into Air—refers to the changes that Remy and Michael face in their lives and in their relationship throughout the novel. I felt bad for what I did to them, but not so bad that I held back. If you recognize where I lifted the title from, leave a note in the comments. There are Easter eggs littered throughout my books and no one ever calls me on them. It’s a great disappointment.

The Inevitable Soundtrack To The Book Question

I’m inevitably asked what music I listened to while I wrote a book, but before I answer it, I’m going to ask you what you listened to when you read it. Leave your replies in the comments, if you’d be so kind.

Here’s what I’m pretty sure I listened to while I wrote ATISMIA, because I failed to make a list. (Memo: Make a list for next time…anyone feel like keeping track to see if this actually happens?)

Bad Romance (Lady Gaga…I know, right?)
Cell Block Tango (“Chicago” Soundtrack)
The Killing Moon (Echo & the Bunnymen)
NYC (Interpol)
Out of My League (Fitz + The Tantrums)
Paris (Magic Man)
Summertime Sadness (Lana del Rey)
Transmission (Joy Division)
The Whole of the Moon (The Waterboys)

All of which probably explains why the book ends the way it does.

The thing is, though? I’ll listen to one song over and over and over before moving on to another.

Anyway, music is a huge part of my creative process, along with winking references to friends’ books, particularly if music is involved. Astute readers will have picked up on Outbreak Monkey in Poz and Kill The Wendybird in ATISMIA. I felt so bad for my editors in ATISMIA. Those heroic people checked everything I mentioned, and that included bands. One tried to find Kill The Wendybird in the International Music Database. The Wendybirds are from Settling the Score. They’re so alternative Sirius XM doesn’t even play them (h/t Jamie!).

I’m currently writing…

I needed a break from Remy and Michael, so now I’m working on a bit of Arthurian bit of fluff called Bullsh*tting Your Way To Camelot. There are people in the Arthur legends who show up in the historical record, specifically King Urien of Rheged, and his sons Ywain ap Urien and Ywain the Bastard, who preferred to be called Ywain the Adventurous for obvious reasons. Of course, where history goes off the rails is that Urien was allegedly married to Morgan le Fey. After that, everything’s just sort of bullsh*t….

Find me on:

On Facebook at Facebook.com/christopherkoehler

Twitter @christopherink

Blog: christopherkoehler.net/blog

Get your copy of All That Is Solid Melts Into Air today!

Stay Focused, Live Free with Evan Gilbert – Post + Giveaway

December 30, 2015

stay focused, live free (1)

Greetings, all. This is Evan Gilbert, here for the release today of
my novella Eyes on Sparrow.

 

People and events in my own life often provide the spark that drives my fiction writing. Several months ago, I casually mentioned to a friend that I wanted to do another gay romantic story involving blue collar men. This friend has a fetish for construction workers and suggested (demanded, actually) that I include at least one in my new endeavor. That inspired the creation of Kele Smith, the sexy young Native American man who becomes a teasing object of desire while building a house. Originally, I was going to pair him off with an older construction worker. That changed when a cousin of mine graduated from high school in May. I asked her what she planned to do next, and she explained that she would be attending the college her parents chose, as well as pursuing the course of study they selected for her. Her interests, she further explained, lie elsewhere, but her parents were footing the bill, so what could she do?

 

I don’t usually stick my nose where it doesn’t belong, but I went to my aunt and uncle on my cousin’s behalf and told them she really wanted a different career than the one they were pushing her into. They told me my cousin had been directionless her entire time in high school and was still directionless, which is why they made the choices they did for her. I couldn’t get them to see that their daughter’s perceived lack of aim had more to do with their always leading her by the hand while she was growing up rather than stepping back and letting her do her own thing.

 

The discussions with my cousin, aunt, and uncle caused the character Morgan Breck to spring into the story. Newly graduated from high school, he’s a young man who has never asserted his independence, even sublimating his sexuality to the will of his parents. Religious themes worked their way in with Morgan and his parents, which led to Kele getting the “Sparrow” nickname. I wanted to use a title that played off the old gospel hymn “His Eye is on the Sparrow.”

 

Here we are on the cusp of a brand new year, a time for making bold decisions, changing direction, taking chances and taking control. Is there something you’ve wanted to do with your life but haven’t for some reason?  Have you decided to make a leap of faith in the coming year? Leave a comment with your resolutions, or share your thoughts on living freely and independently. After seventy-two hours, all commenters will be entered into a drawing and the winner gets to select an eBook from my backlist.

 

Thanks for reading, and all the best to you in 2016.

 

Get your copy of Eyes on Sparrow here!

 

Freshman Blues Release Party with Ravon Silvius: Celebrate!

July 3, 2015

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So, people must be wondering a lot about all this talk about starting college when it’s July-and tomorrow is the 4th!

I figured I’d go out with a figurative bang and talk about vacations, since summer vacation—and vacations from work—are a grand part of life, whether it be school life or work life. At the end of the day, no matter one’s worries about work and school, what really matters is one’s family and loved ones. What with the landmark victory last week for gay marriage and the coming celebration of America’s birthday, I figured it would be good to talk about partying!

In Freshman Blues, people party before vacations with enormous frat parties and celebrations, complete with showing off superpowers. In college, I can’t count the number of random parties, Thirsty Thursday celebrations, and Friday night celebrations that happened for very little reason other than to have fun. I worked a lot of my own fun or funny college experiences into the book. After all, a huge part of college life is goofing off!

But how do you guys celebrate? Will your fourth be spent by the pool, at a barbecue, or out on a lawn, watching fireworks? For those outside the U.S., what sort of vacations do you take when you have the chance—or what would your dream vacation be?

Let’s talk about partying as I leave my last post for the day! Thank you all so much for participating!

Just as a last reminder, you can grab Freshman Blues here at Dreamspinner!   You can also check out my other work, or visit me to continue the conversation past the release party, at my blog!

I’m going to leave you all with one last cover shot, blurb, and an excerpt! Thanks again everyone, and I’ll be around to chat in the comments until midnight!

Freshman Blues

Freshman Blues

When Chris is invited to prestigious Creekville University, he discovers he is part of an experiment by the mysterious Professor Faran. There’s no other way a C student like him would have been accepted into a college where academic mastery results in unique powers like levitation or empathy. But if Faran is right, even below-average students can get special abilities and a good job after graduation. Chris just has to work hard.

Chris isn’t the only one, either. Frederick has worked for Faran for years, and Chris is intrigued by the aloof and sexy older student. But Frederick is too terrified of life after graduation to pursue romance. As they work together, Chris tries to help Frederick out of his depression, all while juggling friendship, classwork, dating, and trying to carve out a place he can belong.

But funding for the experiment is running out, and Chris has to acquire an ability—any ability—soon, or he’ll lose his opportunity at Creekville, and any chance with Frederick, for good.

Excerpt:

Chapter one

Chris took a deep breath. Then another. The Isaac Newton dormitory loomed over his head.

The engine of his parents’ car gunned, and he gave a weak wave to his mother. The last thing he saw was her proud smile as the car began to pull away, leaving him on the sidewalk with his two enormous suitcases by his feet. The car rushed past the faded sign proclaiming “Creekville University, 1891,” and then was gone.

Chris turned back to the double doors and took another deep breath, the butterflies in his stomach threatening to spill out of his mouth. He took a crumpled paper out of his pocket.

“Are you lost?” He jumped at the voice. A girl with long blonde hair smiled at him, her teeth bright white. “Need help with your bags?”

“Uh….” He cleared his throat and started again. “I’m Chris Taklo. I’m, uh, a freshman.”

She smiled wider. “I figured as much. What floor are you on?”

“Fourth floor. Reed Hall.”

“Great!” She stuck out a hand, and he stared at it for a moment before shaking. “I’m Krystal, and I’ll be your RA this year. Welcome to the Newton dorm.”

Chris took a breath, his stomach calming. “Thanks.”

“Parents aren’t helping you move in?” When Chris shook his head, she nodded. “That’s fine. What room number are you? No, wait. Let’s get your bags first. You’re sure it’s Reed Hall, right?”

“Right. Room number….” He glanced at the paper in his hand. “Four-oh-nine.”

“Okay. Here we go!”

She began to recite something, and tension fizzed on Chris’s skin. He tried to pick out the words and numbers, and figured it out just as his bags began to levitate off the ground.

It was a physics equation, and it rattled off her tongue so fast he could barely make out the pronunciation of big G and little G, mass and velocity. The bags soon floated over his head, and then up toward the window of the fourth floor. Krystal changed the recitation, rattling off variables related to momentum, and the bags floated through the window.

“There.” She took a breath, then broke into another large smile. “That should lighten your load.”

Chris kept staring at the open window where his bags had disappeared. This was college. He hoped he could make it through even one semester. “Thanks.”

“Don’t look so down. You might be able to do that one day, if you decide to major in physics.” She patted him on the shoulder, then hopped up the cement stairs. “C’mon, let’s get you to your room. Do you know what you want to major in yet?”

Chris’s mouth twisted. “Not yet.”

“That’s okay.” The interior was plain, the walls a smoky yellow. Fire doors marked exits down long hallways, but Chris didn’t get the chance to explore before Krystal hit the elevator button with a well-manicured fingernail. “A lot of freshmen come in not knowing what they want to do. I’m sure some of the older students will give you suggestions, though.”

“Right.” The elevator dinged, and Chris stepped inside. A blue tarp stretched across the interior, and he peeked over. There was nothing on the other side.

“That’s for researchers transporting animals,” Krystal said. Chris blinked. “And here we are—Reed Hall.”

The doors swung open to the Reed Hall of the Isaac Newton dormitory, fourth floor. Chris’s new college home.

Green carpeted hallways led to two lounges on either side of the elevator lobby. His bags lay on the floor of the lounge to the left. A guy with a buzz cut was currently using them as a footrest. A football game blared on the television.

“Derric!” Krystal shouted. The buzz cut guy raised an arm in a lazy wave. “Get off the new student’s bags!”

Derric lifted his legs, Chris’s suitcase falling on its side. “Sorry,” he said with a shrug.

Chris sighed, then walked over and pulled the bags away from the chair Derric sat in. “You a freshman?” Derric asked, his gaze swiveling from the TV mounted on the wall. “That’s all you have?”

“Yep.” Chris grunted as he lifted the bags.

Derric shrugged again, then went back to watching the game. Well, fine, then. He wasn’t someone Chris would bother with much.

Reed Hall stretched down past the two lounges, a row of closed doors on either side. The first one he passed was decorated with colorful letters spelling Krystal R.A.

“This is my room.” Krystal had followed him. “There are sixteen people in Reed Hall, though I haven’t met all the new arrivals yet. Can you manage from here?”

Chris nodded. He certainly hoped so.

“Great! We have a hall meeting tonight at eight where you’ll meet all your hallmates. Let me know if you need anything at all. The two guys in the room next to mine are also seniors, and I wouldn’t ask Frederick, but you can ask Kiefer anything if you can’t tell me.” She winked, and Chris’s face heated. “Also, your roommate is a sophomore, so you can ask him whatever you want too. Welcome again!” She waved, and Chris waved back before heading on down the hall. He wondered who Frederick was, and why he shouldn’t speak to him.

Most of the doors he passed were closed, including the one next to Krystal’s, where she’d said the seniors lived. There were two bathrooms—one for males and one for females—and finally he passed another open door.

Paintings covered the entire room. Some were modern—splotches of bright color on white canvas—and others depicted stick figures. A few were more detailed, showing women in colorful dresses dancing in a brightly lit ballroom. A girl with long dark hair sat behind a desk, sketching something. She lifted her hand from the pencil for a moment, the utensil staying aloft and continuing to sketch. Almost certainly an art major, Chris thought.

Chris kept moving, staying aware of the numbers on the doors. His room was last.

He passed another open door, but the room had no occupant. A giant football jersey was spread across the doorway. Must be Derric’s room.

Finally, he stopped outside room 409, a bright red exit door down the hall to his left. He set down his bags and fumbled for his keys a moment before swinging open the door.

“Don’t move!” someone shrieked. Chris froze.

Two enormous computer towers met his gaze, and parts littered the floor. A guy with slicked black hair and glasses stood, a pair of tweezers in his hand.

“You’re my roommate, right?” he said. “Okay, give me a few seconds to get this stuff off the floor.”

“Uh… what are you doing?” Chris asked. His new roommate turned one of the computer towers, the interior gutted.

“Making some adjustments.” He began picking up electronic bits from the floor near the door, waving a hand. “Sorry. I wasn’t expecting you. My roommate from last year never showed up, so I guess I kind of… forgot.” He grabbed wiring that lay near the empty bed on what Chris guessed would be his side of the room. “Come in, come in. I’m Gene. Short for Eugene, but… just call me Gene. You?”

“Chris.” He stepped carefully into the room, arms straining as he lifted his suitcases onto the bed. He wished he knew a few physics equations at the level Krystal did.

“Nice to meet you.” Gene shoved one of the computer towers back under his desk with a foot. “I guess, um, tell me about yourself. Where you’re from, all that stuff. We’re roommates now!”

“Uh… I’m from California. I’m nineteen.” He gave a weak smile. “Not really interesting.”

“Nineteen? Same age as me. Old for a freshman.” When Chris didn’t elaborate, Gene shrugged. “Then again, I was young in my year, so whatever. What are you going to major in?”

“Uh… no idea.” Chris set his suitcases on the now-clean floor and sat on the bed.

“Figures. Not many people know. And even the ones who do know as freshmen don’t always know exactly what their abilities will be, even in their field. I don’t know yet, either. I’m majoring in computer engineering, though. Isn’t it obvious?” He gestured to the gutted computer tower.

Some of the tension went out of Chris’s shoulders. “You don’t know your abilities?”

“Nope. Maybe by the end of this year, after a few more classes. Or maybe I’m in the wrong field, and I’ll find out I have amazing skills in basket weaving.” He chuckled, sitting down in a plush computer chair. “Is that all you have, by the way? Where’s your computer?”

“I thought I’d rent one…?”

Gene’s eyes widened. “Wow. Okay, though. I’ll come with. We can go over to ITS, and I’ll help you get something good. Otherwise, you’ll end up with some piece of crap, trust me.” His chair creaked as he stood. “Put your things away. The sooner we go the better, or the good stuff will be gone.”

“Okay.” Chris unzipped one of the bags, thinking for a second. “Let’s just go now, then. All that’s in here are clothes and bedsheets.”

Gene raised a dark eyebrow. “Wow. Light packer, aren’t you?”

“I… don’t have much.”

“Well, let’s go, then. Don’t forget your keys. Unless you’re majoring in locksmithing, of course.” He grinned, and more of the anxiety left Chris’s muscles as he smiled back.

So far, college didn’t seem so bad.

Chris just wished he actually belonged here.