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What’s in a Name

February 15, 2018

I blogged on Love Bytes Reviews today about choosing names for my characters.

http://lovebytesreviews.com/2018/02/16/whats-in-a-name/

Great reading from 2017

December 30, 2017

The time has come to look back on this year’s reading and pick out a dozen favorites – never an easy task. I’m going to skip over a few excellent books that everyone seems to know about, to focus on perhaps less-read choices. These are books that I read in 2017, but some were released prior to this year.

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His Quiet Agent by Ada Maria Soto – this was my choice for book of the year – Arthur works as an analyst for an intelligence Agency, and he’s so quiet and unremarkable that his own superiors sometimes forget who he is. After another lateral move, he’s determined to try to stand out, so he goes about making friends in the cafeteria, in that excruciating process of “Is this seat taken?” Along the way, he ends up sitting with the silent guy from the next cubicle. A guy who eats only apple slices for lunch, despite his thinness. A guy who absorbs huge, weighty books as fast as he can turn the pages. A guy who seems supremely uninterested in Arthur, except, except… An asexual guy and a possibly demisexual one meet in a lovely, quiet, understated story about complicated people. The end is sweet and warm and yet leaves a lot of mystery. You have the feeling these guys will be discovering each other for decades to come, and yet the most essential parts have been said. I finished this, read it again, and bought every backlist book by this author that I could find.

Arrows Through Archer by Nash Summers – This story had a wonderful mix of angst and realistic age-gap romance that moved at a slow, believable pace. Archer is a young man who is trapped in his grief for his parents, three years after their sudden death. Part of that trap is that he never had the chance to come out to them. He’s never come out to his best friend Danny, either. When he needs a place to stay, Danny brings him home to his father Mallory’s remote cabin. Slowly, gradually, what is at first an older man helping a younger in deep need, becomes something more. Archer is an old soul, and Mallory a man who sees the person inside the body of his son’s friend. But crossing a seventeen year gap, and the barrier of Danny’s relationships with them both, isn’t easy.

Seven Summer Nights by Harper Fox – This is a lovely magic-tinged post-WWII historical fantasy. Rufus Denby returned from active service with a significant case of shell-shock. Now, at the end of his mental, emotional, and financial rope, he travels to investigate the ancient church in the sleepy village of Droyton Parva. There he comes into the orbit of the Reverend Archie Thorne, a generous young vicar whose own service overseas gives him some insight into Rufus’s troubles. Together, they face trouble of both mundane and magical kinds, sharing an adventure to a warm conclusion.

The Family Eternal by James Buchanan – Deputy Joe is one of my favorite characters in M/M – a cop, a Mormon, and a Dom. A quiet, laconic guy, Joe works hard to fit all the parts of who he is together, while staying true to his own integrity and personal faith. In Kabe Varghese, he has a partner who both complements and challenges him. This fifth book in the series is both a procedural mystery and a character-oriented look at two guys figuring out their relationship through changing circumstances. If you haven’t met Joe, start with book 1 – Hard Fall.

Dear Mona Lisa by Claire Davis & Al Stewart – A sweet novella about a shy older man who is in love, but has a hard time coming out to those who matter most. Components of synesthesia, of art, and of family stress make this a quirky, warm, emotional little story.

Sex in C Major by Matthew J. Metzger – This was a challenge and an eye-opener. **trigger warnings for dub-con, suicidal ideation, Master-slave relationship, open menage, etc*** The BDSM is central and intense, the pain and the growth, the intensity of the challenges and risks Stefan faces – as a trans guy whose fantasies include pain and non-con sex – kept me glued to the page. Metzger brings to life characters who are outside my expectations, writing with a clarity and understanding that made me both care and empathize with them. If this author writes it, I’ll read it.

The Doctor’s Discretion by E.E. Ottoman – a well done historical with genderqueer characters, gay doctors, and the threat in that era of being committed to an insane asylum just for being who you were. More straightforward than deeply angsty, this nonetheless delivers a thoughtful and at times exciting story in a realistic 1830’s setting.

The Bones of Our Fathers by Elin Gregory – This book is one of my favorite kinds of comfort reads – a realistic, lovely, gradually building romance about real people with flaws, in a setting with flavor, and some low-key drama. Mal is a PhD archaeologist who has moved to a small town to curate the local museum. He’s only been there a couple of months, and has just noticed a very appealing, gay-and-out construction worker, when that man turns up an exciting historical find while doing a road excavation. The book follows the ups and downs of a relationship between two intelligent men who must learn to have more empathy, while the issues of local jurisdiction, small-town customs, ego, and historical preservation play out. I appreciated all the details that made this one feel real.

Wallaçonia by David Pratt – Young Adult – Jim Wallace is a young man of 18, on the brink of adulthood, still in some ways clinging to childhood (and his imaginary safe world of Wallaconia) by his fingernails. He has a girlfriend he’s trying to convince himself he’s attracted to, and a gay neighbor, twenty years older than himself, a gregarious bookstore owner. Pat Baxter is magnet and mirror, someone who might help Jim figure out his life, but also a target for Jim’s father’s casual homophobic mockery. And there’s Nate, the memory of a boy Jim drove away with bullying in middle school because his friendship felt like it would pull Jim down instead of elevating him to straight, sterling status. Nate’s memory haunts Jim. Shouldn’t he try to make that right, before he hits real adulthood? From the initial convoluted style and breathless claustrophobia of the opening, the tone simplifies, as Jim gains clarity. We see Jim slowly, through this book, walk a path of pitfalls and mistakes on the way to finding himself. This one feels painfully real, and very well done.

Dreadnought by April Daniels – Young Adult – In a world of superheroes, Danny is witness to the last battle of Dreadnought, who falls dying nearby, and bequeaths both the mantle of super powers and a physical transformation. Danny has always known she was a girl – now she has a physically female body, but those closest to her still insist that she’s male and must be changed back. Set in an adventure of fighting villains, this story touches on transgender identity from a novel angle.

Bonfires by Amy Lane – this was my comfort-read for the year – a warm testament to resilience, and to hope, to a belief in the goodness of many ordinary people. And on top of that, this is a book with two older main characters coping with a complex life – trying to fit their needs, their families, and their responsibilities into a working, loving, functional pattern. Like so many of us. Larx is a gay man with a long-ago bitter divorce, and two daughters, one of whom is still in high school. He’s a teacher who allowed himself to be persuaded to become the local principal, because the alternatives were clearly going to damage the kids and school. Aaron is a Sheriff’s Deputy, bisexual, and a widower with a son still at home. He’s beginning to think Larx may be the guy who pulls him to explore his same-sex attraction. But a small town’s bigotry, and intrigues, school bullying and at-risk teens, make romance hard to focus on for both men. This one touched my heart, as Amy Lane’s characters are wont to do.

King Daniel by Edmond Manning – I couldn’t end without homage to the sixth and last book in The Lost and Founds series. In this one we see the world through the eyes of Daniel, a lonely and angry man damaged both physically and emotionally by an abusive childhood. As he cruises the Internet, he comes across the story of King Perry. He knows the Lost Kings crap can’t be true. It must be urban myth. But he locates a real Perry with a cello out there. Determined to track down the truth of Vin Vanbly, Daniel leaves his solitary home and begins a quest. As we follow his adventures we meet old friends in new ways, answer questions, are surprised, amused, touched, shaken and stirred. A fitting end to an amazing series. I recommend reading in order, starting with King Perry. There’s nothing else quite like The Lost and Founds.

And that’s my allotted dozen. There were at least a dozen others I could’ve included, (despite the fact that stress made me do a lot of favorite rereading this year.)

What books would you add to this list? Which stories touched, amused, or enlightened you this year? My TBR list is very long, but I still love adding to it.

Finding the good stuff

December 15, 2017

I’m blogging today on Love Bytes Reviews about finding the books we’re looking for – using the Rainbow Awards lists, and the QueeRomance Ink search functions, including heat ratings, ending tags, etc, to find stories to spend my holiday dollars on. Check it out:

http://lovebytesreviews.com/2017/12/15/finding-the-good-stuff/

“Don’t Plan to Stay” released

December 10, 2017

My holiday novella is now out on both Smashwords and finally Amazon. It will be released to Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iBooks etc over the next week or two as Smashwords sends it out. I hope you enjoy meeting Donnie, Adam, and Willow the pit bull, and sharing their December.

Don’t Plan to Stay

Chapter 1
Donnie

Six years is a long time.

It was long enough for the podunk town I grew up in to have shrunk in on itself. The bus station had shut its sandwich shop and become a dusty, hollow space. The storefronts looked shabbier, even with holiday decorations up. A crust of snow lined potholes in the roads.

Six years was long enough for a new headstone in the graveyard. They’d told me at the grocery store that Adam’s mom had died. I went to the cemetery first. I’d thought I might talk this out with her, but when I looked down at that stone – Beloved wife and mother – all I could do was wish I’d told her even once how much she was a mom to me too. In the end, I gave her the roses and walked away. They were cheap flowers, six bucks a dozen at the grocery store, no doubt frozen and dead in an hour. But she’d loved the yellow ones back when I’d known her, six years ago.

Six years was also plenty long enough for Adam to have moved out and moved on.

This is stupid.

But I pushed open the glass door of Lindberg’s Garden and Crafts and went in. And there he was behind the counter, showing some woman the timers for holiday lights. He looked damned, fucking good. His hair was really short, but he was hotter than ever, filled out a bit in the chest and shoulders. He laughed, teasing the woman, getting her to add a silly ornament to her order. December was the busy season at the nursery gift center, a good season. The scent of the pine wreaths, the gingerbread of the craft ornaments, the musty earthiness of the poinsettia pots, hit me in the gut. This had been everything to me once.

I didn’t know why I was there. Why I came back.

I knew I didn’t belong anymore.

When they let me out of prison, I’d planned to head out West. I was going 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 start a new life. But when I finally had the fare and stepped up to the kiosk at the bus station, carols were on the radio and somehow my fingers tapped in “Tallbridge, ND.”

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

Behind me, a laugh tugged at my memories, the faint echo of something I once knew. I turned and looked. An unfamiliar man with a full beard was bending to listen to the babbling of a small boy. After a moment, he swung the boy up on his shoulders. The kid giggled, crowing like a rooster, and tugged on the guy’s hair. “Go, Daddy! Horsie!” When the man tipped his head around, holding the boy’s legs secure against his chest, I suddenly saw it. Holy shit, that was Adam’s big brother.

A rush of crazy mixed feelings went through me, seeing Nate healthy. With a beard and a kid and, I guess, a wife. And a life. I tried to stomp on my flash of anger and envy, and think good thoughts. Nate was okay. Adam was an uncle. I hoped his mom lived long enough to see the rugrat born.

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

I didn’t turn. I didn’t even breathe.

“Is there something you’re looking for?” Adam said patiently.

You.

Without letting him see my face, I said as gruffly as I could, “No.” Then I added, “Thanks,” because I was back in the real world, and it wouldn’t kill me to be polite.

I’d changed in six years, too. A lot. My voice was deeper, and I didn’t look the same or stand the same as when I was the hot, bad boy on the block. Back before I got a lot of the attitude beat out of me. But all it took was two little words from me, for Adam to whisper, “Donnie?”

I wanted to walk away, but my feet were glued to the floor right there beside the damned teddy-bear-ornament tree. My vision sparkled. I think my fingers went numb.

Adam eased around me, moving like someone stalking a deer. When his face came into view, his eyes were huge. Maybe he was the Bambi. “Donnie? Is that you?”

I took a deep breath, then snapped, “Well, I ain’t fucking Marie, right?”

“Not unless you’ve changed teams.”

When our eyes met, it was almost like six years didn’t happen. It was me and Adam, together, me supplying the attitude and the straight lines, and Adam doling out the punch lines and the smiles. For a moment I almost grinned at him, but then the little kid laughed behind me and I remembered that time didn’t really stand still. I looked down. Adam still had feet the size of canoes in his work-boots. “I was just going.”

~.~.~

This story started as a flash fiction some of you may recognize, from years ago. I’d always wondered what happened to Donnie and Adam, after the end of that little piece. Now we all get to find out. I hope you have fun reading it.

Buy Links: Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/766229
Amazon US https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0782YX8SM/
Amazon UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0782YX8SM/
Amazon DE https://www.amazon.de/dp/B0782YX8SM/

Holiday story cover reveal

November 29, 2017

I have a lovely cover for my holiday story coming in December – thanks to Karrie Jax for the design and Dan Skinner for the perfect photo of my Donnie and Adam.

“Don’t Plan to Stay”

At eighteen, Donnie Kagan’s plans for graduation, and maybe even college, were derailed by a beer, a stoplight, and a fatal crash. Now he’s twenty-four, out of prison, and bitterly determined to start over. But with the holidays approaching, he can’t resist a quick trip home to Tallbridge, North Dakota, and the man he left behind. Just a fast look, to make sure Adam’s doing all right, before Donnie starts his new life. He doesn’t plan to stay.

Adam Lindberg’s been waiting six years to get closure with Donnie. He missed that chance after the accident, fighting for his life in a hospital bed as Donnie pled guilty and disappeared into the justice system. Without so much as a letter back from Donnie in all this time, Adam’s tried to move on. And yet, he never found another guy he cared about the same way. So when Donnie shows up in Tallbridge, Adam’s ready to fight for more than three words of goodbye. Of course, Adam’s brother and dad don’t want Donnie to stick around, but it’s the busy Christmas season at the family store. If Adam asks for Donnie’s help, maybe he’ll stay long enough to finally talk about the future, and the past.

43,000 words. Anticipated release date Dec 9 2017.

Building Forever released

October 14, 2017

Amazon went live faster than expected, so I’m delighted to say you can now find Building Forever, book 2.5 in The Rebuilding Year series, on Smashwords and Amazon. It should arrive at other venues like iBooks and B&N when it distributes from Smashwords.

I had a blast writing Ryan and John again, and I hope you enjoy reading their HEA.

Here are the buy links –
AZ – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B076G4W8WX/
AZ UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B076G4W8WX/

Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/753518

Sole Support re-released

September 28, 2017

I’m delighted to see the ebook rerelease of Sole Support go live. I hope it will find some new readers, with the pretty new cover from Lisa Wilde, and a thorough editing polish by Jerry L. Wheeler. This is the last of my Samhain books back on the market, although I have a couple of other returned stories I’m still working on. It feels good to have this one out again.

Kellen has a good life— friends to hang out with, casual sex, online book chats, and his first novel poised for release. Then he coaxes Mike, the shy, socially inept pathologist he talks books with online, into a real-time meeting. He hadn’t planned for them to become more than perhaps casual lovers, but as he and Mike grow closer, Kellen realizes he might be edging toward his first real relationship. Except that his finances are getting shaky, and his elderly mother is rapidly becoming confused, unpredictable, and needy. He’s faced with difficult choices, and not sure how much he can handle.

Mike considers himself a nerd of the highest order— short, bespectacled, prone to blurting out the wrong thing at the worst possible time. Meeting Kellen face to face is the biggest risk he’s taken, and he doesn’t expect it to be a success. But first meeting leads to first date, first everything for Mike. So it’s confusing when Kellen begins pulling away, just as Mike gets up the nerve to move closer.

Kellen’s most important goal has always been self-sufficiency. His mother taught him to stand on his own two feet. If he lets himself lean on anyone now, even Mike, is he heading for a fall, just when his mother needs him most?

*This book has been edited and polished, but is not substantially changed from the 2013 original.

On Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075ZX5T8C/
Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B075ZX5T8C/
Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/750337

And soon to reach B&N, Kobo, iBooks etc.