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Free Books from MLR Press

December 13, 2014

Starting today, Dec 13th, MLR Press will give away free downloads of one book each day for the twelve days of Christmas. Each book will be free for 24 hours, from midnight Pacific time.

Before I run off panicking about only twelve days till Christmas, let me give you the list of free books and the link. These are each the first book in one of MLR’s most popular series. Life Lessons – book 1 will be free on December 22nd. Check out all the great titles on this list.

So if you’ve been thinking about taking a look at any of these series, here’s your chance to grab the first one and see what you think. You can reach the MLR Press 12 days of Christmas here.

Mahu by Neil S. Plakcy is the first title available, with a new book every day. Enjoy the holiday reading. :)

Rainbow Awards

December 8, 2014

Runner-UpSM

The winners and runners-up for the 2014 Rainbow Awards were announced last night. So many excellent books – I love that there are enough great stories to have categories like “Best Bisexual Romance” or “Best Transgender Debut”.

My collection of free short stories from my YA LGBT Books group - Rainbow Briefs (published under the pen name Kira Harp) – was voted second in the Best LGBT Anthology / Collection category. Many thanks to everyone who read and enjoyed it, and a big round of applause for Sara Winters who pushed me to do the collection, edited and formatted and helped release it. Also to Enny Kraft for the great cover Rainbow Cover Print draft1final. This ebook is available free on Smashwords, ARe and Goodreads, and for .99 at Amazon with royalties to the Trevor Project. Amazon also has the paper book for sale.

There were so many excellent books among the winners. My TBR list grew three sizes overnight ;)

And Elisa asked people submitting to books to contribute to an LGBT charity for their entrance fee – the Rainbows resulted in donations of over $11,000 to LGBT charities.

These are the full results:

Best LGBT COVER
DESIGN:

1. The Tin Box (Anne Cain)
Runners Up:
2. Omorphi (Reese Dante)
3. Love Lessons (Kanaxa)
4. Stitch (Eli Easton)
5. The House on Hancock Hill (Brooke Albrecht)

ILLUSTRATION:
1. Splinters (Thorny Sterling)
Runners Up:
2. London Calling (Kevin Pruitt)
3. Balefire (TreeHouse Studio)
4. That Certain Something (Fereday Design)
5. Bitter Waters (Elizabeth Leggett)

Best LGBT Anthology / Collection
1. Playing Ball by Shae Connor, Kate McMurray, Kerry Freeman & Marguerite Labbe
Runners Up:
2. Rainbow Briefs by Kira Harp
3. Secrets of Neverwood by G.B. Lindsey, Diana Copland & Libby Drew
4. Stitch by Eli Easton, Sue Brown, Jamie Fessenden & Kim Fielding
5. All you can Eat, A Buffet of Lesbian Erotica and Romance by R.G. Emanuelle & Andi Marquette

Best LGBT Erotica
1. Breaking Free by Cat Grant
Runners Up:
2. At Her Feet by Rebekah Weatherspoon
3. Games Boys Play by Zoe X. Rider
4. Into The Fire by Lori Toland
5. Incubus Tales by Hushicho

Best LGBT Poetry
1. Hibernation and Other Poems by Bear Bards, an anthology by Ron J. Suresha
Runners Up:
2. Velvet Rodeo by Kelly McQuain
3. Souvenir Boys by David-Matthew Barnes

Best LGBT Visual Arts & Photography
1. Beards, an Unshaved History by Kevin Clarke
Runners Up:
2. A Thing of Beauty by Jake Jaxson & RJ Sebastian
3. dr.a.g. by Christopher Logan

Best Bisexual Debut
1. Slide by Garrett Leigh
Runners Up:
2. Demons Within, For Love of Authority 1, by Rhiannon Ayers
3. Beyond Cutting by Vicki Clifford

Best Bisexual General Fiction
1. Alpha Trine by Lexi Ander
Runners Up:
2. Cythera by Jo Graham
3. The River Within by Baxter Clare Trautman
4. The Stars Change by Mary Anne Mohanraj
5. Best Bi Short Stories by Sheela Lambert

Best Bisexual Romance
1. Stuff by Josephine Myles
Runners Up:
2. Slide by Garrett Leigh
3. Fusion, North Star trilogy 2, by Posy Roberts
4. Rocky Mountain Freedom by Vivian Arend
5. Capricious by Julie Cox

Best Bisexual Book
1. Hibernation and Other Poems by Bear Bards, an anthology by Ron J. Suresha
Runners Up:
2. Alpha Trine by Lexi Ander
3. Cythera by Jo Graham
4. Stuff by Josephine Myles
5. Slide by Garrett Leigh

Best Transgender Debut
1. If We Shadows by D.E. Atwood
Runners Up:
2. Babette: The Many Lives, Two Deaths and Double Kidnapping of Dr. Ellsworth by Ross Eliot
3. An Unspoken Compromise by Rizi Xavier Timane

Best Transgender Fiction
1. If We Shadows by D.E. Atwood
Runners Up:
2. Beloved Pilgrim by Christopher Hawthorne Moss
3. Cevin’s Deadly Sin by Sally Bosco
4. His Fair Lady by Kimberly Gardner
5. Collected by Solar Harris

Best Transgender Non Fiction
1. Babette: The Many Lives, Two Deaths and Double Kidnapping of Dr. Ellsworth by Ross Eliot
Runners Up:
2. Queerly Beloved: A Love Story Across Genders by Diane & Jacob Anderson-Minshall
3. An Unspoken Compromise by Rizi Xavier Timane

Best Transgender Book
1. If We Shadows by D.E. Atwood
Runners Up:
2. Babette: The Many Lives, Two Deaths and Double Kidnapping of Dr. Ellsworth by Ross Eliot
3. Queerly Beloved: A Love Story Across Genders by Diane & Jacob Anderson-Minshall
4. Beloved Pilgrim by Christopher Hawthorne Moss
5. Cevin’s Deadly Sin by Sally Bosco

Best Lesbian Debut
1. Loved and Lost by Stephanie Kusiak
Runners Up:
2. Freak Camp: Posts From a Previously Normal Girl by Jessica V. Barnett
3. Like Jazz by Heather Blackmore
4. Let the Lover Be by Sheree L. Greer
5. Exception to the Rule by Cindy Rizzo

Best Lesbian Contemporary General Fiction
1. Rest Home Runaways by Clifford Henderson
Runners Up:
2. What Matter Wounds by Geonn Cannon
3. Let the Lover Be by Sheree L. Greer
4. Ebenezer by JoSelle Vanderhooft
5. Hoosier Daddy by Ann McMan & Salem West

Best Lesbian Contemporary & Erotic Romance
1. Camellia by Caitlin Ricci & Cari Z.
Runners Up:
2. Departure from the Script by Jae
3. (tie)
a. Loved and Lost by Stephanie Kusiak
b. No Boundaries by Donna K. Ford
4. (tie)
a. Nightingale by Andrea Bramhall
b. She Sings of Old, Unhappy, Far-off Things by Caren J. Werlinger
5. Like Jazz by Heather Blackmore

Best Lesbian Sci-Fi / Futuristic & Fantasy
1. Dogs of War by Geonn Cannon
Runners Up:
2. Wolf’s Eyes, Amendyr Series 2, by Rae D. Magdon
3. The Empath by Jody Klaire
4. Chronicles of Osota – Warrior by Michelle Magly
5. Dark Horizons by Rae D. Magdon & Michelle Magly

Best Lesbian Fantasy Romance
1. A Kingdom Lost by Barbara Ann Wright
Runners Up:
2. Daughter of Mystery by Heather Rose Jones
3. The Only Way by Jamie Sullivan

Best Lesbian Historical Fiction & Romance
1. Waiting for the Violins by Justine Saracen
Runners Up:
2. Club Storyville by Riley LaShea
3. Murder and the Hurdy Gurdy Girl by Kate McLachlan
4. Fervent Charity by Paulette Callen
5. Agnes by Jaime Maddox

Best Lesbian Mystery / Thriller
1. Season of the Wolf by Robin Summers
Runners Up:
2. Rapture, Sins of the Sinners by Fran Heckrotte & A.C. Henley
3. Tumbledown by Cari Hunter
4. Girls Don’t Hit by Geonn Cannon
5. Killing Rosa by Lynn Kear

The Cate Culpepper Award for Best Lesbian Paranormal Romance
1. Windigo Thrall by Cate Culpepper – Cate passed away just weeks before winning this category, now named in her honor
Runners Up:
2. True Nature by Jae
3. Return of an Impetuous Pilot by Kate McLachlan
4. Vermilion Justice by Sheri Lewis Wohl
5. If I Die Before I Wake by Liz McMullen

Best Lesbian Romantic Comedy
1. Eight Dates by Lori L. Lake
Runners Up:
2. Out Of Retirement by Erica Lawson
3. That Certain Something by Clare Ashton

Best Lesbian Book
1. The End of Eve by Ariel Gore
Runners Up:
2. Waiting for the Violins by Justine Saracen
3. (tie)
a. Club Storyville by Riley LaShea
b. Camellia by Caitlin Ricci & Cari Z.
4. Rest Home Runaways by Clifford Henderson
5. Time Fries! Aging Gracelessly in Rehoboth Beach by Fay Jacobs
6. Season of the Wolf by Robin Summers
7. Rapture, Sins of the Sinners by Fran Heckrotte & A.C. Henley
8. Departure from the Script by Jae
9. (tie)
a. Loved and Lost by Stephanie Kusiak
b. No Boundaries by Donna K. Ford
10. Eight Dates by Lori L. Lake

Best Gay & Lesbian Young Adult
1. Silent by Sara Alva
Runners Up:
2. (tie)
a. This Is Not a Love Story by Suki Fleet
b. Not Broken, Just Bent by Mia Kerick
3. (tie)
a. The Red Sheet by Mia Kerick
b. Vivaldi in the Dark by Matthew J. Metzger
4. Freak Camp: Posts From a Previously Normal Girl by Jessica V. Barnett
5. (tie)
a. Us Three by Mia Kerick
b. Omorphi by C. Kennedy
c. Red Devil by Kyell Gold

Best Gay & Lesbian Young Adult
1. Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East by Benjamin Law
Runners Up:
2. The End of Eve by Ariel Gore
3. Time Fries! Aging Gracelessly in Rehoboth Beach by Fay Jacobs
4. True Stories Too: People and Places From My Past by Felice Picano
5. Lesbian Marriage: A Love & Sex Forever Kit by Kim Chernin & Renate Stendhal

Best Gay Debut
1. This Is Not a Love Story by Suki Fleet
Runners Up:
2. Light by Nathan Burgoine
3. The Next by Rafe Haze
4. (tie)
a. dr.a.g. by Christopher Logan
b. Piper by Leona Carver
5. The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy

Best Gay Contemporary General Fiction
1. Sex & Sourdough by A.J. Thomas
Runners Up:
2. The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy
3. My Favorite Uncle by Marshall Thornton
4. I Loved You More by Tom Spanbauer
5. (tie)
a. Stronger Than This by David-Matthew Barnes
b. First Exposure by Alan Chin

The William Neale Award for Best Gay Contemporary Romance
1. The Mating of Michael by Eli Easton
Runners Up:
2. Perfect Imperfections by Cardeno C.
3. (tie)
a. Last First Kiss by Diane Adams
b. Takedown by Cat Grant
4. Cub by Jeff Mann
5. Behind the Curtain by Amy Lane
6. Ethan in Gold by Amy Lane
7. The Last Thing He Needs by J.H. Knight
8. Message of Love by Jim Provenzano
9. Unbroken by Larry Benjamin
10. The Silence of the Stars by Kate McMurray

The Bobby Michaels Award for Best Gay Erotic Romance
1. (tie)
a. Trusting Thomas by K.C. Wells
b. A Little Too Broken by Brad Vance
Runners Up:
2. Love and Salvage: Loving Emmett by Mathew Ortiz
3. (tie)
a. A Place for Cliff by Talon ps
b. The House on Hancock Hill by Indra Vaughn
c. It’s Like This by Anne O’Gleadra
4. (tie)
a. More Than Everything by Cardeno C.
b. Splinters by Thorny Sterling
5. Gin & Jazz 1- 4 by Morticia Knight

Best Gay Fantasy
1. Rising Frenzy, Men of Myth 2 by Brandon Witt
Runners Up:
2. Shirewode by J Tullos Hennig
3. Highfell Grimoires by Langley Hyde
4. Mercy’s Prisoner, Life Prison 1, by Dusk Peterson
5. Night Creatures by Jeremy Jordan King

Best Gay Fantasy Romance
1. (tie)
a. A Case of Possession by KJ Charles
b. Goblins by Melanie Tushmore
Runners Up:
2. Reawakening by Amy Rae Durreson
3. (tie)
a. The Calm Before by Neena Jaydon
b. Of Last Resort by Megan Derr

Best Gay Historical
1. The Gentleman’s Madness by Bonnie Dee & Summer Devon
Runners Up:
2. Randy by Jane Elliot
3. (tie)
a. Happy Independence Day by Michael Rupured
b. The Music Teacher by Bob Sennett
4. Turnbull House by Jess Faraday
5. The Gentleman’s Keeper by Bonnie Dee & Summer Devon

Best Gay Historical Romance
1. Think of England by KJ Charles
Runners Up:
2. Tournament of Shadows by S.A. Meade
3. Forever Hold His Peace by Rebecca Cohen
4. Dance of Stone by Jay Lewis Taylor
5. The Dead Past by Kate Aaron

Best Gay Mystery / Thriller
1. Corruption by Eden Winters
Runners Up:
2. Home The Hard Way by Z.A. Maxfield
3. Relief Valve by JL Merrow
4. Pawn of Satan by Mark Zubro
5. The Next by Rafe Haze

Best Gay Paranormal Romance
1. (tie)
a. Monsters Under the Bed by Susan Laine
b. Wide Asleep by Nick Nolan
Runners Up:
2. Wolf in Gucci Loafers by Tara Lain
3. In Your Eyes by Cardeno C.
4. Hell & High Water (THIRDS, Book #1) by Charlie Cochet
5. Motel. Pool. by Kim Fielding

Best Gay Romantic Comedy
1. Merry Gentlemen by Josephine Myles
Runners Up:
2. Caught! by JL Merrow
3. Shiny! by Amy Lane
4. The Ghost Slept Over by Marshall Thornton
5. On Archimedes Street by Jefferson Parrish

Best Gay Sci-Fi / Futuristic
1. Rarely Pure and Never Simple by Angel Martinez
Runners Up:
2. Light by Nathan Burgoine
3. Piper by Leona Carver
4. Strain by Amelia C. Gormley
5. Rangers Over Regulus by Alex Powell

Best Gay Book
1. Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East by Benjamin Law
Runners Up:
2. The Mating of Michael by Eli Easton
3. Perfect Imperfections by Cardeno C.
4. Silent by Sara Alva
5. Velvet Rodeo by Kelly McQuain
6. Think of England by KJ Charles
7. (tie)
a. Last First Kiss by Diane Adams
b. Takedown by Cat Grant
8. Beards, an Unshaved History by Kevin Clarke
9. Corruption by Eden Winters
10. Cub by Jeff Mann

There are a bunch of publisher deals to honor the winners with discounts – check on Elisa’s Blog – http://reviews-and-ramblings.dreamwidth.org/4489098.html for a list and links.

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL THE WINNERS – every book on that list deserves recognition. And a huge THANK YOU to Elisa, and all the people who judged, organized and ran the Awards. These have become one of the most visible and recognized ways to honor the best books in our genre.

Flash Fiction Holiday Blog Hop – “Promise”

December 1, 2014

40 writers, one picture.

Thorny, Kris and L.C. came up with the idea for a bunch of us to write holiday flash fiction for the same prompt. You can find links to all the other writers in the blog hop on this InLinkz page. The stories will appear between Dec 1 and Dec 7. (The exact timing is each author’s own choice.)

We each wrote a short piece, 500-3000 words, for this picture – a bit of fiction including a winter holiday, a “bad boy”, and some kind of gift. Naturally, mine went 2992 words :) Not so much “flash” but still short for me. I hope you enjoy it. Then, during the coming week, go see what 39 other talented writers did with the same prompt.

*************************************

Promise
.

Six years is a long time.

It’s long enough for a little girl who liked piggy-back rides to grow up. She’s standing by that poinsettia display and smiling at some scruffy guy in a high-school hockey jersey. He’d damned well better be treating Ben’s little sister right. By which I mean, respecting her and not touching anything more than her fingertips. God, she must be fifteen now.

It’s long enough for a new headstone in the graveyard. They told me at the grocery store that Ben’s mom had died. I went there first. I thought I might talk this out with her, but when I stood there and looked down at that stone – Beloved wife and mother – all I could do was wish I’d once said how much she was a mom to me too. In the end, I gave her the roses and just walked away. They were cheap flowers, six bucks a dozen at the grocery store. They’d be frozen and dead in an hour. But she’d loved the yellow ones. Back when I knew her, six years ago.

Which is also plenty long enough for Ben to have moved on.

He’s behind the counter, showing some woman the timers for holiday lights. He looks damned, fucking good. His hair’s really short, but other than that he’s hotter than ever, filled out a bit in the chest and shoulders. He’s laughing, teasing the woman, getting her to add a silly ornament to her order. This is the busy season at the nursery gift center, and the scent of the pine wreaths, the gingerbread of the craft ornaments, the musty earthiness of the poinsettia pots, hits me in the gut. This was everything, once.

I don’t know why I’m here. Why I came back.

I don’t belong.

I wasn’t going to ever stand here in Weaver’s Nursery and Crafts again.

When they let me out of prison, I had plans to head some other way. To Seattle, or maybe L.A., somewhere warmer and gay-friendly. I’d figured I’d work in Fargo for a while, save enough for the bus and a bit in my pocket, and go start a new life. But when I finally had the fare and stepped up to the kiosk at the bus station, there were carols on the radio and somehow my fingers tapped in “Tallbridge, ND.”

I’m stupid sometimes. And those are my good days.

Behind me, I hear a laugh that tugs at my memories, the faint echo of something I once knew. I turn and look. An unfamiliar man with a full beard is bending to listen to the babbling of a small boy. After a moment he swings the boy up on his shoulders. The kid giggles, crowing like a rooster, and tugs on the guy’s hair. “Go, Daddy! Horsie!” And when the man tips his head around, holding the boy’s legs secure against his chest, I suddenly see it. Holy shit, that’s Ben’s big brother. With a beard and a kid and I guess a wife. Ben’s an uncle. I hope his mom lived long enough to see the rugrat born…

A voice behind me says, “Can I help you?”

I don’t turn. I don’t even breathe.

Ben says patiently, “Is there something you’re looking for?”

You.

I say as gruffly as I can, “No.” Then I add, “Thanks,” because I’m back in the real world and it wouldn’t kill me to be polite.

I’ve changed in six years too. I know my voice is deeper, and I don’t look the same or stand the same as when I was the hot, bad boy on the block. Back before I got a bit of the attitude beat out of me.

But all it takes is two little words from me, for Ben to whisper, “Donnie?”

I want to walk away, but my feet are glued to the floor right there beside the damned teddy-bear-ornament tree. My vision sparkles. I think my fingers are numb.

Ben eases around from behind me, moving like someone stalking a deer. When his face comes into view, his eyes are huge. Maybe he’s the Bambi. “Donnie? Is that you?”

I drag in a breath, and snap, “Well, I ain’t fucking Marie, right?”

“Not unless you’ve changed teams.”

There’s this moment when our eyes meet, and it’s almost like six years didn’t happen. It’s me and Ben, together, with me supplying the attitude and the straight lines, and Ben doling out the punch lines and the smiles. For a moment I almost grin back, but then I hear the little kid laugh behind me and I remember that time didn’t really stand still. I look down. Ben still has feet the size of canoes in his work-boots. “I was just going.”

Fast as a snake, his hand flashes out to grab my sleeve. I hit his grip off my arm, just as quick and harder than I mean to, my other fist coming up. Ben steps back, his empty palms held out. “Sorry! God, Donnie, I’m really sorry, just don’t go yet. Please!

I whirl away to hide the water in my eyes. I almost hit Ben. First time I saw him in years, and I about punched him. “I’m the one that’s sorry. It was a reflex, that’s all. Just, um, don’t grab me.”

“I won’t.” His voice is soft and slow. “I just want to talk to you. Please, a few minutes, an hour. I want to know you’re okay.” He adds, “I’ve missed you so fucking much!”

Ben was always braver than me. I mumble, “Yeah.” Me too.

There’s a pause, like he’s deciding what’s safe to ask a wildman like me. I stare at the tree. There’s a big teddy underneath it with this round little mirror on its stomach. I can see a warped view of Ben, half his face, looking at me, his gaze steady but his lips pressed uncertainly. After a moment he says, “When did you get out?”

“Three months.”

“You didn’t tell anyone?”

I shrug. I didn’t want anyone to see me walk out those prison gates as an ex-con.

“What did you do?”

“Looked for a job. Found one after a while.” Crappy job, cleaning public bathrooms along with a couple of illegal aliens, and a guy who was usually stoned. Right at minimum wage. “Saved a little money.” Mostly by squatting rather than paying rent, eating at free kitchens. My pride went, somewhere in that long, hard first year. I was all about making it through whatever worked now.

“I’d have come—“ He stops, clears his throat. “No. It was your choice. I have to respect that.”

I choke a laugh. “Sounds like something your mom would have said.”

“Yeah. It was. After I woke up in the hospital and got to where I could think about things besides the broken bones, I tried to get in touch with you. A bunch of times. And I know Mom tried too, right from the beginning. They always said you didn’t want to see us, wouldn’t take our letters.”

“No point.” I hadn’t wanted what happened after I was arrested to touch them. Ben and his mom, his sister and brother and dad— they were special. Clean. By then I was pretty damned dirty.

“Of course there was a point!” In the little bear-tummy mirror I see Ben run a hand over his close-cut hair. “Well, anyway. At some point, Mom said we had to respect your choices. She said I could send a letter now and then, so you’d know I hadn’t forgotten. But it was up to you to decide if you wanted to write back or let us in.”

“I’m sorry. About your mom.” My throat tightens so much I have to force the last word out, like a grunt. How classy.

But Ben actually steps a little nearer. “She thought about you a lot, even at the end. She would say she hoped you were all right, or she wished she had enough time to wait for you to get out.”

“Fuck. Don’t tell me that.” I blink hard, because if I wipe at my eyes, he’ll know. “How old is the munchkin? Your brother’s brat?”

“He’s two. We have a few pictures of her holding him as a baby.”

Figures Ben would understand why I asked. I nod, a bunch of times. “Well. That’s good. I should go.”

“Can’t we talk? I want to know what you’re doing next. Where you’ll be staying. I want to tell you about my life and the stupid shit I’m doing.”

“I don’t need to know about your shit.”

“You were all up in my shit once,” he murmurs.

“Jesus, Ben!”

“Donnie!” He mimics my tone, then softens again. “We were best friends and boyfriends and more. That didn’t go away for me because you were driving drunk and got in an accident. Or even because you pled guilty to a bunch of charges and served time. I was drunk in the same damned car, remember?”

“I pled guilty to fucking criminal vehicular homicide, Ben. Not just DUI or open bottle.” Well, those too, although the open can of beer in a moving vehicle had been his. The hand down my pants when I hit Mrs. Johnson’s car had been his too, although it was my idea. I wonder how much he remembers. Probably not much, given that he was in hospital for what I heard was a couple of weeks afterward.

“You’re all healed up, right?” I ask. I had nightmares sometimes, about what I’d done to Ben. Even after I opened one of his mom’s letters, just to know for sure, and she said he was good now.

“Yeah. Everything healed fine. It’s you I want to hear about.”

“I did time. I’m a con. I did sh—stuff inside that I’m not fucking proud of. You don’t know me anymore.”

“I want to.”

“You don’t.”

“The hell I don’t. You get to speak your mind, but you’ve got to respect my opinion too. I’ve been waiting to see you again, Donnie.”

“I call bullshit. You gonna tell me there’s been no-one else in your pants in six years?” It’s fucking stupid that I hold my breath in some illogical brainfreeze of hope.

Stupider that I feel the breath leave my chest when he says, “Of course there has. I’ve dated a couple of guys, messed around with a few more.”

“Me too,” I growl. “Without the dating part. So—”

“Donnie. None of them were you. Not one of them stopped me wondering what you were doing, how you felt, what was happening to you, pretty nearly every day.”

That what-was-happening shit is stuff I’m never gonna tell him. But his words are a little fire in my cold body. “Oh.”

He moves closer. “I want to get to know you again. So we’ve both changed? That doesn’t mean we won’t find we’re still able to be best friends.”

And more? My whole body comes alert at the thought, but I force any idea of sex back down. I know better than to show interest at the wrong time or to the wrong guy. And as right as Ben had been once, he’s dead wrong now. But it’s been a long time since I’ve had a real friend. “I could maybe hang around for an hour.”

“Good! God, that’s great. And… just wait right there, okay? Don’t move. Promise?”

“Um. All right.”

“That’s a promise?”

“Yeah.”

In the mirror, I see him hurry away. Like a dummy, I just stand there. It’s my chance to leave this place that will never be home again and get lost, but I don’t, because I promised Ben and I never once broke my word. Well, not to Ben.

He’s back in a moment. “Here.” He moves up against my back, slowly, but not stopping until I can feel the heat of him through the cheap denim of my jeans.

“Here, what?”

“Here. A Christmas present.”

I don’t move, deliberately speak rough. “I ain’t got nothin’ for you.”

“Don’t be dumb. I don’t need any. Put out your hand.” He’s close enough for me to feel his breath on my neck, his chest against my shoulder as he sneaks an arm around me, holding something in his closed hand.

I don’t want to take anything from him. It’s too much. But it’s been six years since I got a gift. Unwillingly, I raise my arm, open my hand. He drops something into it, a cool metal shape with a tangle of bits. I look more closely.

The basic part is a Swiss Army knife, a good one with all the attachments. I know the very one. The week before everything went to hell we’d been online, looking at catalogs, picking out good shit. I’d seen this, with everything from a saw blade to a pair of tweezers, and wanted it. I turn it in my hand. It has a little loop at one end, to hang it by. Attached to the loop are a bunch of random things. I stare at them.

Ben whispers, “You said the knife was perfect. That a guy could get out of just about any tight spot with that. I bought it for you, the first year, when I thought I could still visit you for Christmas.”

I snorted loudly to cover the ache of that. “Dumbass. Not like they’d let you give a guy in prison a knife.”

“I know. But I thought I’d show it to you, a picture maybe, like a promise. And give you that.” He reaches slowly into my palm, and ticks one of the little charm-things with his finger tip.

“What the hell is that?”

“A four-leafed clover. A real one, inside liquid plastic. An Irish one. They promised on the website. For luck.”

“You believed a website? It’s probably from China. Probably a mutant Chernobyl clover.”

“Chernobyl’s in northern Ukraine, not China.” He flips another of the charms. “That was for your nineteenth birthday. It’s Navajo, sterling silver, with a sun and an arrow for luck.”

“It’s tarnished.”

“It’s been five years. This one is Chinese.” I hear the smile in his voice. “A jade coin.” He taps another. “A rudrakesh nut, a new penny, the nail from a horseshoe, preserved rosemary.” He leans in, his head alongside mine. “I made the little cover for the rosemary from a stamp case. Then here—an actual ancient scarab.” He lowers his voice. “A freaking mini rainbow unicorn, because I saw it when we were ordering ornaments for the store last year…”

I close my fingers over the whole thing, forcing him to pull his hand back. “No rabbit’s foot?”

“Not very lucky for the rabbit, is it? Nope, no dead feet.”

“Oh.” I could feel all the little edges and corners pressing into my palm. “Thanks.”

“Merry Christmas, Donnie. I’m glad I finally was able to give it to you. Whatever comes next, that’s how much good luck you deserve.”

“I don’t fucking deserve anything.”

“How much luck I want you to have, then.”

Wouldn’t that be something different? I slide the knife with the charms into my pocket, but I don’t step away or turn.

Ben’s voice is like smoke in my ear, soft, almost unnoticeable. “Will you stay? At least for a while? Let me get to know you again and make sure you’re going to be okay? You’re welcome at the house—” He must feel me shudder because he goes on smoothly, “—or you could use the room behind the office here. The heating still sucks, but at least the floor has a carpet now. The couch is still the same one.”

I’ve got some damn fond memories of that room, both the couch and the ex-concrete floor. I’d even slept there sometimes, when my dad was boozed up and I didn’t want to go home. It’s a cold little space, meant as an employee break room, musty, sparsely furnished, not a place people usually want to linger. But there’s a bathroom next to it, and a big window onto the open space of the tree-nursery, and the couch is long.

“Yeah, maybe.”

“No commitment. You call the shots. Just give me a little time to spend with you.”

I’ve slept in far worse places, and none of them included Ben. “All right.”

He leans in and I feel the brush of his stubble along my cheek. There might have been a touch of lips in there, but soft enough I don’t have to notice. So I pretend I didn’t. But I can’t help leaning back against him. In that crazy-bright, sparkly shop with the carols playing non-stop and voices all around us, for a second it’s just him and me. His solid strength at my back, his face against mine, his arm around my ribs where it hasn’t been safe to have anyone for so long. I lean, and breathe, but I don’t close my eyes.

“I’ve missed you so fucking much,” he repeats softly. “Whatever happens next, having this, right now, is the best Christmas present I could ever want.”

I take a breath, and man up for once in my sorry life. “Mine too.” I don’t know what might push me to go, or when. My head is in a crazy place these days, but for Ben I’ll try. Maybe I can listen more to him than my fears. “I guess I could hang around.”

“That’s a promise?” For a moment he sounds younger, six years, ten years, fifteen, that first day of fourth grade.

“Promise,” I say, like I did that day when I hauled him up out of the dirt and sent Bobby Tyler running. From that first day, Ben saw a hero where everyone else saw trouble. “For you, I’ll try my best to stay.”

############

Giving Thanks for the Small Things

November 27, 2014

WolfLickCropped Did someone say “Turkey”?

I’m not a huge fan of the whole Thanksgiving extravaganza. Part of that is the introvert thing – too many people in one place for too long, and it gets claustrophobic even when they’re my family or friends. Also, I grew up in Canada, and although stuffed turkeys and pecan pie made their way across the border (to be improved by a collision with maple syrup) we didn’t have all the mythological “first feast” traditions to go with it. Canadian Thanksgiving happens early in October (when the harvest might plausibly have just finished up there.) And it’s a quiet family day, for the most part.

But I’ve lived in the US for almost 30 years, so I can enjoy marshmallows on my sweet potatoes, and even accept that a portion of any group will suddenly go off to watch football. (One year, those of us more interested in the guys’ asses than the yardage gained went and watched recordings of Eddie Izzard instead. Gradually the football folks wandered in to see what we were laughing so hard about… and sat and watched too. For once, cross-dressing beat out football.)

The thing that I do like about Thanksgiving is the timely, if heavy-handed, reminder to count our blessings.This year, which has been tough, I’m trying to remember to count imperfect blessings.

I live in a family of flaming perfectionists. (And yes, I can claim some of that too.) One thing perfectionism does is to rob the enjoyment out of otherwise-good things, for very small reasons. I once had a child declare a wonderful 3-hour party a total meltdown-failure, because we didn’t have time for one of the eight planned games and crafts. Imperfect=failure. With much wailing and gnashing of teeth (or grumbling and tossing things about for adults.)

That’s an exhausting and depressing mindset. So this year, I’m trying to remember to be grateful for the good-enough stuff. Not just the one perfect time my younger kid and I went to a concert together and had a great time for hours, but all the times she’s had a positive word for me or a hug unexpectedly, even if it wasn’t the long chat I wanted. The meals my husband cooks for me, even if timing them isn’t always easy. The fact that they even MAKE tofurkey. (Because it doesn’t taste like real turkey but it’s ecological, humane, and not too damned bad with stuffing and gravy.)

This year could have been worse. We’re all still alive, despite some health and other issues, and that’s a blessing I wasn’t sure we’d manage. My arthritis may be flaring up, but all hail to the guys who invented ibuprofen, because it actually works for me. The dog is eleven, and getting a little whiny, but he still jumps like a crazy maniac if food is involved, and warms my days. If I wait for things to be perfect, my list of thanks would be short. But in fact, my life is full of imperfect moments of grace, and small, partial miracles.

My writing brings me some of those. I am very, very grateful for the warmth and generosity of so many people in the M/M community, who write wonderful books for me to read, share comments and discussion, read my stories, and encourage my writing. This community sometimes feels like the one sane place in a crazy world. A haven for me to come to, when I need it.

So Happy Thanksgiving to you all. May you have comfort and warmth, surrounded by good friends, good family, or good books. May your list of thanks be long, and humanly imperfect.

Thanks for the nominations!

November 12, 2014

The M/M Romance group on Goodreads has begun their annual 2014 Member Choice Awards. Right now, in the nomination phase, members are naming the Oct 2013-2014 releases they feel deserve recognition in 42 categories of M/M, from “Best Hurt/Comfort” to “Best Historical”, from “Best Story That Should Have A Sequel” to “Best Paranormal”, plus a couple of All-Time Favorite awards.

I’ve been delighted to see my work from this year nominated more than a dozen times so far. And I’m even up for Favorite All-Time M/M Author. How cool is that? :)

They’re handing out nomination ribbons in every category – I’ll let this one stand for all of mine.

But I also want to thank Jessa for nominating Enny Kraft’s cover for Laser Visions for Best Cover Art – so well deserved. Enny’s done great work for me.

A big thank you to everyone who enjoyed stories of mine enough to nominate them (including PJ. Dawn, Regina, K, ttg, Zoe ~ Is incognito, Pmj12, 315, Anna, Julia Duncan, Jessa, Jeanne, Jess…)

And a big thanks also to people who nominated lots of the stories by other authors that I loved so much this year. I’m waiting to see what still gets posted, before filling in with my own additions to the lists. It’s so hard to pick just one per category.

There’s a category for Best Love’s Landscapes Story so if you’re an author who wrote for LL, you might be up there. And readers, especially if you loved someone’s first effort, either LL or another freebie or a debut novel, go nominate it! There are categories for all of those.

This is for fun and to celebrate the genre, not a deadly serious thing. There will be two rounds of voting after the nominations, to name winners. But for me, the most fun part is this one – coming together to celebrate the wonderful stories, to enjoy the fact that there are 20 or 35 or 50 excellent books in any category of M/M, written in this year alone. I love that our genre is growing and becoming better and more diverse all the time.

Thanks again to everyone who decided my stories were among the best of the year (and huge thanks to the M/M group moderators, whose efforts to oversee, make sure the rules are met, and that everything ends up in the right category… well, amazing is what that is.) If you’re a group member, come join in the fun.

Talking books and finding a title

November 8, 2014

Today, I’m a guest at Boy Meets Boy Reviews. They asked me some questions about writing and books. (I had to pick a dozen favorite Desert-Island-Keeper books. Only a dozen? It was torture. I love my ereader with 1400 books on there…) If you stop by and comment, you can enter a drawing for a free ebook of your choice of any of my backlist.

I’m also trying to find a title for the sequel to “The Rebuilding Year”. The Rebuilding Year coverI’m not great with titles – I almost never decide on one until the book is finished, and sometimes not until it’s in edits. In the past, I’ve asked for reader input. Some of my favorite titles, including “Home Work” and “Learning Curve” were readers’ suggestions. There’s no guarantee with a Samhain book that they’ll keep my title. Both “The Rebuilding Year” and “Sole Support” were my originals, though – they tried to find better titles for both, and in the end they failed. :)

So I’m looking for suggestions. This book isn’t big and dramatic. Nothing explodes or burns to the ground. It’s about Ryan, dealing with his dad and brothers. It’s about trying to fit two guys and two teenagers, an ex-wife, a medical education with years yet to complete, and all of their baggage, into an interconnected life that actually works. There are pleasant surprises, and not so pleasant. Some allies, and some not. There’s a lot of family in it, but I want to avoid titles with “Family” in them, because of my “Finding Family” series which uses those. I don’t want confusion. Also no titles starting with “Un…” due to the wolves.

The options I’ve come up with so far include:

Forward Momentum
Life, Some Assembly Required
Fitting Together
Pulling it Together

You can express a preference, or leave me a comment with your inspired, even-better title options. (If I use your title, I’ll reserve a free copy for you, although it’ll be quite a while until release.)

Then don’t forget to stop by Boy Meets Boy Reviews. to check out the interview and comment for a chance to win a backlist book. There are daily posts from other wonderful M/M authors too. Lots of freebies that you could win.

Now I need to go polish up TRY2 and get it out to beta readers…

Chat tonight Oct 30-31

October 30, 2014

Tonight, along with many other of my favorite authors, I’m going to be doing a live chat in celebration of M/M Romance and Halloween. This event was organized by Marc, of Rainbow Gold Reviews.

This will be a 24 hour marathon with new authors every hour. I start it off, with author Hans M. Hirschi whom I actually met at GayRomLit. A very interesting guy – we had a great discussion of queer lit and romance and Young Adult issues. He has a small press, as well as being an author. You can join us and ask about our books, or getting started writing M/M, or chat about your cats, or whatever strikes your fancy. I hope to see some of you there.

I’m on at Midnight to 1 A.M. US Central Time tonight Oct 30-31. And if you hang around after me you can chat with the amazing Amy Lane, Diana Copland, and Melissa Graves. If I can stay awake I plan to stick with it and fan-girl them for a bit. (And pretend to bitch at Amy because after I finished Beneath the Stain I immediately started again from the beginning and my leaves are not raking themselves while I reread it.)

The entire roster and schedule (with several time zones listed) for the event is here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1cvSOE8hO06DThywjQJ38a2A5wNZVYFcTndpSeQCsuus/edit?pli=1#gid=0
You should be able to find the link to the chatroom and more info here if you’re on Facebook. This should be the chat room itself. I’m looking forward to chatting with you tonight.

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