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Archive for October, 2012

The thing about Second Chances, as is probably the case with a lot of first novels, is that there’s a lot of me and my life in it. We write what we know, right? Or we go out and research and take off from that point and hopefully make an interesting story out of it.

I’ve worked with nonprofit agencies, including the large indigent care hospital here in Atlanta for the past twenty years. In that time, I spent ten years working with kids twelve to eighteen years old who are in the foster care system, and with people living with HIV/AIDS for five years.

The thing I learned about people? Most are kind, gentle and caring, and when asked, will give their last dollar to help a teen or person who needs housing or care. All you have to do is ask. But it’s the small percentage that preys on the most vulnerable among us that makes me stay up at night worrying. Mark Jennings is based on people I worked with and know, so no, he’s not really me. He’s a better man, in some ways, than I could ever hope to be, although God knows he’s dense sometimes.

There really is a Robbie. I met him working at the child-caring agency I was with, and he bonded with me almost immediately. He was deadly shy, but we had a pet therapy program and I brought my Lab in to work with the kids, and he fell for her. I guess he decided I was okay since I had dogs, and he shared his past and pain, the good times and the bad. Many nights I went home with a huge lump in my throat, because this kid deserved a home. I couldn’t show favorites or spend too much time with any one kid because that can threaten their therapy, but the director decided it was a good thing for him to learn empathy, so we hung out.

Long story short, Robbie wanted to see his sister, and his aunt decided that he couldn’t. So he ran.

I saw him once, when I went looking for him. That scene in the book is real. Only my Robbie ran and I never saw him again.

I hope he got his second chance. God knows he deserved it.

 

Excerpt – Chapter One

October 2000

I WONDERED if praying that she wouldn’t pull out of this episode made me a terrible son. I didn’t dare breathe a word of that to anybody, but fuck it, I could stand here and by God take a minute to suffer and let my heart bleed in private. Pull all the jagged pieces of my soul together and cobble them into something resembling the man everybody knew as Mark Jennings before I had to go in and be him.

But after a few minutes and a few more deep breaths, I pulled it together. Took the piece of me that was the good son, attached it to the responsible work Mark, the peacemaker brother, the single gay man pieces. Looked at all the parts tiredly, and once they fit into something that approached a whole man, I slipped back into my skin. I took a deep breath and opened the door to Mom’s room.

Dad was there. It may have been too early for any of my brothers and sisters, but that was almost a relief. Today it would be nice just to have some time with him while I still felt so tired and raw.

“It’s good to see you, son.” He hugged me and eyed the sack I brought in from Huey’s. He loved the beignets and the muffaletta sandwiches I’d gotten into the habit of picking up for our dinner.

I handed him the bag. “You too, Dad. Looks like everything’s about the same here, huh? Thought I’d come and keep you company.”

“But I know you’re tired. I told you to go home after work and I’d call you if anything changed,” he fussed as he dug around in the bag.

“Just hush and eat. Where is everybody?” I plopped down in a chair and kicked my shoes off. I’d been at this damn hospital enough to know how to make myself comfortable.

“You’re it right now.” He plowed into the food like a hungry bear, and I knew he’d probably skipped lunch to sit with her. Again. “Patty was here earlier, and Robert. Said he and Jennifer’d be back tonight. The doctor was in today, said she may wake up tomorrow some time.”

I didn’t want to talk about that right now. More than anything, that subject threatened the fragile internal balance I’d forged, so we talked about little crap. What my day’d been like. What had to be done around the house when he made it back there.

But we also slid in some of the more important things, too. How was he holding up? Was I okay? Had I heard from Brian? Things he would share with me, the responsible son. My brothers and sisters, while I loved them, always made everything such fucking drama, and found reasons to let me handle the hard things. You know, since I didn’t have kids and a wife, or a husband, or a boyfriend. At least that’s what Brenda and Sam and Linda thought. Robert and Patty, at least, pitched in as best they could.

But it was also our way to ignore the big things without telling each other to fuck off.

“Go home,” he finally sighed. “Get some sleep. I don’t want to have to visit you in the hospital, too. You aren’t doing her any good wearing yourself out like this.” He turned that look on me that still made me want to give up my secrets like I did when I was a kid.

“Backatcha old man,” I shot back. “You know she’s gonna peel the hide off you for not taking care of yourself. And then it’s me that’s gonna catch hell for letting you stay here too long. Go home and take a shower, feed that damn cat of hers.”

“Shut the fuck up and don’t let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya.” He smiled. I love you, son.

“Hush up, you dirty old man.” I grinned back at him, using Mom’s favorite admonition. I love you, too, Daddy.

Good Southern boys always made everyone at ease and happy. Who were we to fight what was in our blood? We were pleasant, manly, and only said the hard things and showed our emotions, man to man, when we abso-fucking-lutely had to. But finally, I hugged my old man and took him by surprise when I kissed his cheek and left.

 

 

Readers ask, where do you get your inspirations? Sometimes you don’t have to look very far. Sometimes they are joyful and sometimes they hurt.

 

Ah, but in my head, this Robbie got his second chance. That’s the beauty of fiction—it heals not only the reader, but the writer.

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Coming Home is a glimpse into the life of Ivan and Maddoc from Pump Me Up.  Enjoy!!!

 

“Ivan, I’m home,” Maddoc called as he dragged his bags inside, setting them in a heap in the hallway, too tired to carry them any further.  “Where are you?”  Nothing, not a sound.  Ivan knew the time he’d be home and after 24 hours of flying, he was completely dead on his feet.    Thankfully the planes had been on time, so he hadn’t had to wait around in airports.  But a fourteen hour flight from Brisbane to Los Angeles topped off with another flight across the country had worn him completely out.  Leaving his bags where they were Maddoc climbed the quiet stairs to their bedroom.  He was definitely disappointed that Ivan wasn’t home, but Maddoc was too tired to really think about it right now.  All he wanted was a shower and then to collapse into bed.

In the bedroom, Maddoc stripped out of his clothes and walked into the bathroom.  Starting the water, he let it warm before stepping under the hot spray.  Muscles that had been cramped in planes for hours finally released their tension and Maddoc sagged against the cool tile, barely able to keep his eyes open.  He washed slowly before rinsing himself.  Then he turned off the water and dried himself with one of the towel.  Somehow, he managed to make it into bed before he fell asleep.

The room was still light when he woke a couple hours later.  He listened for movement in the house, but heard nothing and he wondered where Ivan could be.  He knew Maddoc was getting home today.  Getting up, Maddoc pulled on his robe and wandered downstairs.  In the kitchen he found a note on the counter.

Tiger

I had to take care of some things at mother’s.  I’ll be home as soon as I can.”

Love you

Ivan

Dropping the note back on the counter, he opened the refrigerator door and poured himself a glass of juice, carrying it into the living room.  Curling up on the sofa, Maddoc turned on the television and dozed off.

This time when he woke, it was to a soft kiss from warm lips.  “You’re awake,” Ivan told him with a soft chuckle.

‘I am now,” Maddoc replied groggily.  “When did you get home?”

“Just a little while ago.  How was your flight?”  Maddoc scooted back on the sofa and Ivan sat next to him.  It felt nice to have his lover with him again.  After three weeks on business in Australia, Maddoc was happy to be home and to have Ivan close to him once again.

“Long but uneventful,” Maddoc answered as he stretched and Ivan slipped his hand under his robe, making small circles on his belly.  “They barely fed us though and I tried to get food in LA but with all the moving around and trying to go from one terminal to another I didn’t get a chance to eat there either.”  Ivan continued his gentle caresses and Maddoc stretched and yawned once more, soaking in the touch he’d been denied for weeks.  Once he stopped moving. Ivan leaned forward, kissing him deeply.

“I missed you,” Ivan told him and Maddoc wrapped his arms around Ivan’s neck, returning his kiss.

“I missed you too.”  They kissed for a long time and Ivan stretched out on the sofa next to him holding Maddoc close.  “I never want to be gone that long again, but I’ll probably have to go back in two months for another couple of weeks.”  Maddoc tried not to make it sound like a groan, but the last thing he wanted was to be gone like that again.

“How about if I prep my boss and maybe we can tack on a week’s vacation together the next time you go.  I’ll fly out and can be with you for the last week of your business trip and then we can have a week together just the two of us.”

Maddoc sighed softly.  “I’d love that.  I can take you to this place that has koala cuddling.  I’d love to get a picture of you holding a koala.”  Maddoc yawned yet again and Ivan got up off the sofa.  Maddoc immediately missed his warmth but stifled a groan when Ivan spread a blanket over him.

“I’ll make you something to eat and then you can go back up to bed,” Ivan said and Maddoc was too tired to argue about anything.  Pulling the blanket up around his shoulders Maddoc closed his eyes and easily fell back to sleep.

Ivan woke him once he had food ready, bringing it into him.  The scrambled eggs and ham tasted good and once he’d eaten Maddoc’s eyes felt heavy again.  He was about to lay down on the sofa, when Ivan sat next to him.  Maddoc curled into his warms, enjoying the warmth of his lover and partner.

“Let’s get you upstairs,” Ivan said as he turned off the television and practically carried Maddoc up the stairs before tucking him into bed.   Then Maddoc felt Ivan join him.  Maddoc expected Ivan to leave the room and let him sleep, but he heard continued movement, but was way too tired to open his eyes to see what Ivan was doing.  The bed dipped behind him and the covers lifted, cool air kissing Maddoc’s skin.  He shivered slightly and groaned, but then the coolness was replaced by Ivan’s warmth and hot bare skin.

Maddoc scooted back toward the warmth and was immediately spooned against Ivan’s hard, sexy body.  Maddoc groaned softly as he felt Ivan wrap him in his arms, stroking his belly gently.  “This is what I missed most, being able to sleep with you,” Maddoc moaned sleepily as he slowly began to slip deeper into sleep.

“I missed it too, Tiger” Ivan whispered softly and Maddoc felt a soft kiss against his shoulder before Ivan pulled him a little closer.  Maddoc let go of his last hold on consciousness and let sleep take him completely.  He was warm, fed, and above all loved.  He was home.

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Love Romances and More has an annual contest called The golden Rose.  This year I entered Accompanied by a Waltz in the Contemporary category and I’m please to announce that it won!!!  (Does the dance of joy!)  I can hardly believe it.  This isn’t the first contest I’ve entered, but it is the first I’ve won where the entries were read by a panel of judges as opposed to internet voting.  The judges had wonderful comments on the story:

Accompanied by a Waltz is an incredible read!  I ran the gauntlet of emotions with this book.  As far as I can remember this is the first perfect score I have awarded since started Judging for Golden Roses.  An absolute wonderful, beautiful story.  Would list Mr. Grey as an auto-buy/auto-read.

The author has a strong voice and penned the characters well.

Accompanied by a Waltz can be purchased from Dreamspinner Press.   http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=2185

 

 

 

 

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Scary or Not

I asked my friend Mary Calmes if she’d like to guest post and not only did she agree, she brought a friend too.  So today we have Mary Calmes and Ellis Carrington.  Two great authors.  And I’m so pelased they agreed to stop by and say hello.

I just want to thank Andrew for having Ellis and I here to talk about our paranormal characters and why we love them.  It’s October, my absolute favorite month of the year and it’s always been lucky for me. Even more so, the first con I was ever at, Yaoi-Con, is always at this time. In 2010, I was brand new when I flew into San Francisco for the con and met Andrew. He was fantastic when he was just my online buddy, but in person––even better. He gives the best hugs ever. Super tight and warm, like you’ve known him all your life.

But okay, onto our paranormal men.

Mary:

Why shifters? For me it’s all about the destined mate. I love the idea that nothing, not race, gender or anything else will stand between two guys  who love each other. Because there can’t be anything greater than finding your other half, the someone who, for lack of a better phrase, completes you. There is also the pack to consider or, if we’re not talking about werewolves, whatever other unit that the two people are familiar with to come from. There are the Romeo & Juliet style of shifter stories, the alpha and the omega, or the shifter and the human mate who has to become “pack” one way or the other. But the part that gets me is the intense, devouring need. Mates have to be together and that drive, that need, that craving, is what draws me to it. When something is chemical first and then emotional, there is no way to deny it. The whole idea is just fraught with danger and passion but also consuming, fulfilling love. It’s an unbeatable formula.

Purchase Change of Heart form Dreamspinner Press:   http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=1598&cPath=55_191

Ellis:

Why vampires? The vampire hero is the original bad boy. Dead or undead, alpha or beta, certain sexy characteristics remain constant: the fangs, the muscles, the drinking of life-giving fluid. Almost always there is some sort of supernatural aspect to our vampire hero, and also usually an inability to handle daylight. He’s gotta have some weakness after all, right? There’s a dark, forbidden quality about vampire heroes that makes them difficult to deny. Over time, popular fiction has shifted from portraying the vampire as a creature who is pasty, creepy, and stiff to something more sensual and prone to human-esque emotion. There’s so much to play with in story, from there. Can they blend with society or do they have to live outside of it? Drinking blood is sort of a taboo fantasy, but in the construct of vampire romance it is not only acceptable but necessary. As is growling, scratching, snarling. Maybe a little rough lovemaking. Is hot, right? The ultimate dark hero.

In my novella, Immortal Valentine, I knew from the beginning I wanted to play with the challenge of pairing an alpha vampire with a nerdy, slightly awkward human. In fact, I “met” Caleb first. He was standing alone in the cold on Valentine’s Day, reliving an intense heart-break. He need the perfect someone special–otherworldly special, like a vampire named Angelo–to sweep him off his feet. Now, this isn’t a pairing of weak and strong. They each have something to offer that helps the other feel like they’ve found their missing pieces.

The same can be said of the mates discovering one another and in Change of Heart; I wanted the ruling pair to be pre-ordained to have traits that the other needed. The semel, the leader, is the yang, the masculine, heat, aggression, and solid strength. The reah is the yin, yielding, softness and passivity. When each compliments the other, then there is a true joining.

So even though shifter and vampires can be construed as things that go bump in the night, they are more to be delighted in then ever feared.

Purchase Immortal Valentine from Amber Quill:   http://www.amberquill.com/AmberAllure/ImmortalValentine.html

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