Monthly Archives: November 2011

What I learned Since I Became a Published Writer—by Tj Klune

Featured this week on sylvre.com, a guest post by Tj Klune, author of Bear, Otter, and the Kid, and two upcoming novels. Burn is due out 2/6/12, and Who We Are (the sequel to BOATK) is due out in April—all Dreamspinner Press publications.

As always on this blog, if you think you might like to buy the book, click on the cover to go straight to the publisher’s store. Now, Here’s Tj Klune’s words to the wise. Enjoy!

A little over three months ago, my first book was published. It was surreal, the lead up to that moment: a sort of breathless anticipation that was really, for all intents and purposes, anti-climactic when it actually occurred. And when I say anti-climactic, I strictly speak only of the day of. It wasn’t like the heavens opened up on August 12th and angels streamed down from the sky, singing out the title of my book for the masses to hear. It just came out.

And I couldn’t have been happier. Or more terrified.

There’s no manual given to first time writers, no outline of what the expectations should and shouldn’t be. It’s scary, flying blindly like that. Oh sure, there’s people that have come before me that told me what it was like for them, but it’s different really, for everyone.

Did I learn anything from it?

You bet your sweet ass I did.

Gather round, and I’ll show you that it’s possible for a twenty-something gay man to actually learn a lesson or two.

The First: People think I’m a woman. Or rather, they did initially. And why not? The m/m writing world is heavily populated by female authors, definitely out-numbering the amount of men who write about man-love. Does the sex of a writer really matter in the long run? I’d like to think it doesn’t. As long as the story is good and the characters are people you can grow to like/love, whether the author is a man or a woman should really be the last thing to look for. However, as a caveat, as we recently learned from a successful M/M author who portrayed herself as a man (even going so far as to have a male stand-in for her at a book signing even), honesty is always the best policy, no matter what. For the record, my author name is a pseudonym, the T and J being initials for my first and middle name. My name is Travis. It’s nice to meet you. I swear I’m a dude. Please don’t ask me to prove it to you. I don’t want my penis ending up on the Internet. Again.

The Second: My editor is smarter than I am. Seriously. Way smarter. Like, to the point where it’s scary. But did I realize that at first? Hell to the no. Me: What do you mean that’s hyphenated? Are you sure there’s an apostrophe? Well, that sentence that doesn’t make sense to you makes sense to me. To be honest, I’m surprised that she didn’t run screaming every time she saw an email from me. Seriously, though? 99.9% of the time, she’s right, I’m wrong (but there is that .01% that totally validates the 99.9%–I take what I can get).

The Third: My books will never be used as masturbatory aids. And don’t give me that look. Let me explain. I’m speaking about sex scenes, of course: where penises meet for the first time in an orgy or riotous passion. There are some really gifted writers out there who look forward to writing those hot and steamy scenes that make the heart race and your mouth dry. And some can go on for pages. And pages. And pages. Others are simply PWP (and some are just porn). My point? You’re probably not going to open up a book by me and say “Holy Jesus, TJ Klune writes fantastic smut. I should probably take off my pants while I read this.” It’s not my thing. I can’t really tell you why; I am more focused on a story when writing, not wondering what needs to be done to get to the next sex scene. And the scenes I do write are going to be minimal, not because I don’t know what to write in them, but because I don’t know how much they’ll add overall. Look. I’m a gay man. I’ve probably done half the things I could write about (and, if you’re reading this, Mom, it all happened well after the age of 18 and I had moved out. If she’s not reading this, then that was a lie). I’m no prude (except when it comes to felching—that is so gross. If you don’t know what that is, only Google it when there’s no innocent eyes around). But if there was a choice between writing a minimal sex scene and pages and pages of plot/dialogue/action versus pages and pages of boning to get to the HEA, then I’d go with the plot every time. Not everyone agrees with that. Not everyone likes to read that. To each their own.

The Fourth: Word of mouth is everything, especially for a new writer. That was something I did not understand, nor something I could even fully appreciate before the release of my first book. M/M readers are a voracious bunch, willing to go to bat for the authors they like. There’s talk about how the M/M market is over-saturated, how it seems like everyone in the free world is writing a book about two dudes (or three or four—I saw one recently with SEVEN guys. My God, can you imagine the clean-up that has to go on after a seven-way? *shudders*) Maybe there’s a lot of m/m books out there. Maybe some better than others. But regardless of that, the readers are what are important and again, if they find something to latch onto, they do, both good and bad. Hell, I can even admit to a bit of snobbery about passing on a book I thought may have been interesting simply because the masses seemed to dislike it. Seriously though, as a new writer? I would have not gotten anywhere without word of mouth. What the hell did I know before it came out? Zilch. Nada. Facebook? Oh sure, I had an account I never used. Goodreads? WTF is that? You want me to keep up with a blog? Are you out of your damned mind? I hate computers. But for some damn reason, people talked about my book, both good and bad, and it caused people to read it. Which, to be honest, humbled me and shamed me. Humbled me, because I never expected that. Shamed me because I was one of those readers who read books and then never wrote reviews about them. I didn’t feel the need to share my thoughts with others on what I felt about a story. Now I am caught playing catch-up, simply because I know how important reader reviews are to an author. I won’t make that mistake again.

The Fifth: There’s never been an experience quite like this one. I’ve been told, “Oh, there’s nothing like having your first book published!” I’ve also been told, “You get that feeling with every book.” Can I tell you what it’s like to be published? A lot of you may know. Some of you may disagree with what I say. But for me? For me it was horrifying. It was exhausting. It was sheer blinding joy, a definite decrease in sanity, frustrating as all hell. My first good review. My first bad review. The email I got from a soldier in Iraq who told me my book gave him courage, that at the tail end of DADT, he was ready to tell his squadron about his sexuality. The email I got from the irate housewife who asked me personally that I provide her with a refund because of how awful my book was. The time I was at Starbucks with a friend and saw a woman reading a paperback copy of my book. I nervously went up to her, told her I was the author. She laughed so brightly and asked me to sign it for her. Her name was Megan. Somehow, I misspelled her name. And then I bought her a scone. She gave me a hug and I never saw her again.

Everything that has happened since I became a published author has been like the scariest rollercoaster in the world, one that I sometimes wish would stop so I could get off and just breathe for a moment. But it doesn’t. It won’t. But that’s okay. I can’t stop now, not now that I’ve had a taste.

And you know what? I wouldn’t change a damn thing.

And that, ladies and gents, is what I’ve learned.

Thanks to Lou for letting me blah, blah, blah on her blog!

(Oh, and P.S.—While spell checking this blog post, “felching” came up and MS Word asked if I meant “belching.” If you know what felching is, you would know why I found that to be grossly hysterical. DON’T LOOK IT UP.)

When TJ Klune was eight, he picked up a pen and paper and began to write his first story (which turned out to be his own sweeping epic version of the video game Super Metroid—he didn’t think the game ended very well and wanted to offer his own take on it. He never heard back from the video game company, much to his chagrin). Now, two decades later, the cast of characters in his head have only gotten louder, wondering why he has to go to work as a claims examiner for an insurance company during the day when he could just stay home and write.

He lives with a neurotic cat in the middle of the Sonoran Desert. It’s hot there, but he doesn’t mind. He dreams about one day standing at Stonehenge, just so he can say he did.

TJ can be found:

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Filed under Dreamspinner Press, featured authors, just a category, M/M romance

C. Zampa’s *Candy G.* (Dreamspinner Press, 2011)

Scroll down the page to find excerpts and a fun interview from Carol Zampa herself.

The cover image is, as always on this site, a “buy link” to the book listing on Dreamspinner Press.

What kind of man drives a bulletproof Mercedes and carries a high-powered pistol in the glove compartment along with his boyhood teddy bear? Candy G does, that’s who. Once the exclusive attorney for the most powerful drug lord in San Antonio, he turned his back on Teirso Flores and walked away. But at what price?

Moving on with his life despite the threat of Teirso’s revenge, Candy meets gorgeous, streetwise Carlos Alvarez, and thus begins a passionate love affair rife with danger, secrets, and specters from the past that just won’t let go. When truths are revealed, will the one thing that brought their worlds together be the test that strengthens their love or the knife that severs their bond forever?


C. Zampa’s earliest stories
were not written words, but drawings. Adventures, romances—all drawn in comic book style, complete with dialogue bubbles. Countless hours were spent in her room with her Mead Academie sketch pad and pencils. While the stereo headphones piped the classics into her ears, she feverishly sketched the wonderful characters who lived in her head, creating little vignettes for them.

Even her early drawings reflected romance as she felt it—erotic, sensual, natural, uninhibited.

In her pseudo-hippie days of high school, she began to write. Her teachers encouraged her to take her writing seriously, but to her it was strictly for pleasure. Once entering the working world, she left writing behind; but, a few years ago, overwhelmed by a need to create, she opened a blank document and began to write again and has not stopped since.

Visit C. Zampa at her blog: http://www.authorczampa.blogspot.com, or at her web site, http://www.czampa.com/. You can contact her at czampa1953(at)gmailj(dot)com.

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C. Zampa: M/M Romance with a Texas accent (an author interview)

Carol, I’ve very much been looking forward to featuring you and your work on sylvre.com. Thank you for coming! I’m looking forward to learning more about your writing and your stories, but first I’d like to know more about you.

Q: I didn’t see anything about your hometown, or state, or even region on your bio, so I went snooping and found that you hail from Texas, near Houston. You’ve set Candy G, and your upcoming work Honor C, in San Antonio, and the books are brimming with local flavor. But are there other, perhaps subtler, ways that environment influences how you write, or the flavor of your stories?


A: I’ve never been asked that before. I love that question. Although the books take place in San Antonio and carry much of the local land marking and scenery, I really find myself always throwing in my local childhood memories for flavor—all derived from my upbringing in Pasadena, Texas—where pleasure was taken from the basics that seemed so ordinary to others. The busy beauty of the hard laboring class of folk in old neighborhoods. All my stories seem to reek of it, it’s just in my blood and I love it.

Q: Do you write full time? If not, what type of work do you do elsewhere? Does it feed into what you write—give you ideas, or show you aspects of human interaction that you then use in your writing?
A: I work full-time away from home, in Houston. And, yes, my working environment figures heavy in my writing. A good portion of my Hispanic co-workers have ended up in my stories—their names (mixed for anonymity), their personalities, their lingo. They know this and love sharing phrases with me.

Q: You’ve been writing, in one form or another, since you very young. When did you first set your sights on publication, and why? Is Candy G your first published work?
A: Candy G is my first published work, and I can’t pinpoint exactly when I decided I should set my sights on publication. So many friends and mentors encouraged me, said I should submit work to publishers. I decided, since Candy was my first finished work, to take a chance on submitting him. I submitted to Dreamspinner Press and the story was accepted. I never expected to be awarded a contract on my first attempt, and it was a surreal experience.

Q: Carol, you review books at Miz Love Loves Books—a wonderful review site with a maxim of ‘no snark.’ What prompted you to become a reviewer? You write detailed reviews that seem to convey a sense of wonder, or at the least exuberance. Is that a fair characterization? If so, maybe you can tell us a bit about that, as well as what you find rewarding about writing reviews, and what about it is most difficult.
A: Oh, reviews. How I love them. I began sharing books I’d read on my own blog. I referred to them as ‘C. Zampa’s Not-a-Review’. This way, if I didn’t actually call them a review, I could only share books I loved and I could just gush and not have to ever be critical—and, most importantly, I could ONLY talk about the characters that I loved. Then Miz Love invited me to be a guest reviewer and I jumped at it, as I loved their site. And, yes, your characterization is fair. I find it rewarding because it’s a way to support my fellow authors, to gush over their wonderful characters, to get the joy of a good read out of my system and into the hands of potential readers. The only difficult thing is trying to contain the ‘gushing’ to a reasonable word allowance. I’m quite mouthy when it comes to my big love, characters.

Q: Although you’re writing M/M romance now, a visit to your blog (which, by the way, is wonderful, like an internet travel destination) reveals that you also write M/F romance. Are you working toward publication in that genre as well? You discuss briefly in a blog post that you feel there’s no reason a writer can’t write in both genre’s, and to me that seems very sensible. With that in mind, do you see yourself continuing to write in the M/M genre in any case? Why, or why not?
A: Boy, you did your research. LOL. I do hope to publish my m/f work as well, although I feel it’s going to be more difficult. Why? Because the particular stories I’ve created for my hetero romances are not traditional romance stories. One in particular is actually a story of two men who bond to become partners in business with a straight romance for each man as a second level of the story. This, I think, is more mainstream and will be hard to place as a conventional romance. And then there’s the question of placement as far as publishing requirements. There are words and romance standards in many of the publishing houses—particularly erotica—that I’m not inclined to use in my writing. That will make it hard for me to submit.

And, oh, yes, I will continue my m/m. It’s a passion for me. The beauty of two men in a relationship, their emotions, their physical intimacy, is exquisite to me. I plan to continue it as long as I’m able to write.

Q: You’ve created wonderful characters, Carol, but also realistic, three dimensional settings, and compelling stories. Which comes first for you, the characters, or the plots? Please explain.
A: Thank you, Lou. My writing, like my reading, is character driven, or so I hope. And which comes first? Always the characters. I hate to admit my biggest weakness is plotting. The characters barge into my mind, won’t leave until I put them on paper, and then I toil over what their story should be. It is perhaps the single most difficult factor of my writing—the plots.

Q: Candy G is an unusual character for the hero of M/M Romance. How did you come to create him—or allow him to jump onto your pages? What can you share about Candy G’s origins (as the character in the book)? And possibly more of a mystery: Carlos Alvarez, Candelario’s love interest. Please do talk about him a bit, if you would.
A: Oh, I love you for asking this. Candy. Oh. Well, his persona is driven directly from a real Hispanic man who was a co-worker, recently retired. I was spellbound by this man’s old-world beauty somehow intertwined in a modern, everyday persona. He had these marvelous old world Hispanic traditions—honor, personal pride in his heritage, his ethics. And he was a hot-blooded romantic. Very charming, very classic and chivalrous. The character’s name was stolen from the lawn maintenance man for our company whose name is Candelario.

Carlos? He’s a mystery, even to me. But he was stolen from a real young man in my everyday life as well. I ‘spotted’ Carlos at the very place Candy used to watch him—a car wash in the ‘barrio’ district in my hometown. My daughter and I had stopped during a Christmas shopping spree to have my car washed and I couldn’t take my eyes off a young boy who worked in the detailing section. Small, lithe, scruffy hair, beautiful Asian features. Carlos, when the story was begun, had dark hair and was very demure. Then, later, I wrote a secondary character in the story who flirted with Candy—spiky platinum hair, body piercings; and their chemistry was so intense, I changed the characters around to incorporate Carlos into a beautiful street-wise young man with the body piercings.

Q: Okay, Carol, it’s time for my infamous question. I always ask an author to choose, and you are no exception. The rules here: This is an essay question—no ‘yes; or ‘no’ answer, you must explain or elucidate. Also, you can fudge and hedge your bets a bit, but you don’t get to cheat outright. In other words “both” is not a fair answer. So who’s the sexiest, Candy or Carlos? Honor or Raimundo? That’s the usual question but for you, let’s take this a step farther. Who’s the hottest, Candy or Honor? (I never told you this interview would be easy, C.)
A: Well, damn! You DO realize these are very powerful men we’re talking about? If they were real (and they are in my head…lol) they could hurt me or each other? Hmmm…let me think, let me think. What a question!
The hottest, Candy or Honor. Ay-ay-ay. Okay, well….you know, I’ve got to say. Cringing as my boys stare me down, daring me to answer this. From a real-life, what-would-I-like-if-it-was-me standpoint? Honor is hottest, hands down. There, I said it. Sorry, Candy, my love.

My personal preference, although I love hot Candy—long hair, ripped, smoldering—my heart in real life would be a goner for a man like Honor Castillo. Both men are powerful. Both are Hispanic, which is my weakness. But Honor is a big man (described as the size of an entire football team, who clearly does not visit the gym). He is not perfect physically. And he is quite aware of it, and—when it comes down to intimacy with his lover—will even be inhibited a bit by this. I love big men, bears. And Honor is this man. There. I did it.

Q: Since we don’t have a blurb to introduce Honor C., perhaps you’ll share a bit about the story and the characters’ backgrounds? Is this book related to Candy G.?
A: As a matter of fact, Honor C is a second in the series to Candy G. The series is the Mas Chingon series—a group of three stories about a community of gay San Antonio businessmen who unite to form a society of sorts. Candy was the founder of the group, and Honor is a San Antonio resident who owns chains of nightclubs.

My beloved Candy even makes an appearance in Honor C.

As the story is only a WIP at the present, I’m hesitant to share much about it, except to say that Honor’s newest club coincides with his ‘coming out’ to his community and this infuriates some of those close to him, especially when he compounds the ‘insult’ by beginning an intimate relationship with Raimundo Munoz, one of his employees.

Q: What about the future, Carol? What have you got cooking in general that could potentially see publication in the next couple of years? What’s coming up specifically for your M/M Romance readers? Anything else you’d like readers to know—something I should have asked but didn’t?
A: My crit partner teases me because I have SO many projects. So many unfinished projects. But what IS in the works is what I think will be my most beloved story, Michael Rose, which will be a m/m historical set in 1951. It will be a part of a series of sagas taking place in Hollywood between 1948 and the mid-50’s. I am excited about these stories, as that is an era I’m extremely fond of.

It’s been a delight getting to know you a bit, Carol, and getting a chance to showcase a bit of your work. I hope we’ll have a chance to do it again, sometime. Thanks for visiting.

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Excerpt from C. Zampa’s *Candy G.*

Even amidst the crowded nightlife on the riverwalk, people trained admiring gazes on Carlos. How could they not? Clad—much dressier than usual—in white linen pants and a black silk shirt that highlighted his glistening platinum hair, he was stunning. In a rare act of grudging capitulation, only to make me happy, he’d allowed me to buy the outfit, and I’d chosen well.

His extraordinary appearance combined with the romantic atmosphere—twinkling lights and mariachi music wafting on the gentle evening breeze—brought a swell to my chest, not to mention my cock. I, like the admiring passersby, couldn’t take my eyes from him. My Carlos, an elegant, dark panther prowling the San Antonio night scene.

The last time I’d been to the riverwalk had been with Jorge. Remembering that had been the night Carlos returned to my life, the date that marked this anniversary, the thought sparked an inward grin. Maybe Jesse was right. Maybe it was silly to celebrate the occasion. I didn’t care. I was happy.

The waiter seated us near the river’s edge, and Carlos eased into his chair, carefully placing a Walmart sack he’d been carrying on the table. He stared dreamily into the reflection of hundreds of lights dancing off the gently moving water.
I stared at Carlos.

Sensing he was being watched, he raised his gaze to me. He should have been used to my admiring him, but he blushed anyway. “You’re making me self-conscious. You know I don’t like dressing up.”

My fingers toyed along the thin line of grout between the tabletop tiles. “I’m sorry. You look very good, chico.
He tugged at the cuff of the shirt. “All dolled up, I feel so—”

“It pleases me.” The sincerity, the pleasure in my voice surprised me. “You’re so beautiful. My heart is happy tonight, bebé.”

Apparently it touched him. A tender smile filled his eyes, and he rested his elbows on the table, propping his chin on clasped hands. “You look pretty fucking good yourself, Candy.”

“Thank you.”

“You draw so much attention wherever you go.” He glanced around the busy sidewalk, the restaurant’s multicolored lights sparkling in his dark eyes. Returning his focus to me, he said, “That makes me proud.”

“If anybody’s looking, it’s at you, mi amor.”

“Sure. Whatever.” He blushed again.

Leaning forward, I murmured, “Can you not see how beautiful you are?” Every detail of his face, his body, which
I’d memorized since I’d first seen him, sent wonderful palpitations to my heart and warmth to my groin. “All day, every day, all I can see, whether you’re with me or not, is your face in my mind. And then all I can think of is touching you, making love to you. Me vuelves loco. You make me crazy.”

The smoldering brown gaze pierced me, roamed every inch of my face. “How crazy?”

Burning up under the intensity of his stare, I pulled back in the chair. “Crazy enough to think about forgetting dinner and… well…. There’s all the time in the world.”

Excitement flashed in his eyes, and he picked up the sack. “I have something for you.” He slid his hand into the bag and pulled out a CD. Holding it to his lips for a moment, he handed it to me, and the happiness in his face, so simple and boyish, melted my heart.

La Paloma. He’d bought a new La Paloma CD. Love swept through me, bringing tears to my eyes.

“Bebé.” My fingers lovingly brushed over the case. “Thank you, mi querido. After my baby-ass tantrum, breaking the other one, I don’t deserve this.”

Tucking his chin, he winked over the rims of his glasses. “No, you don’t.” He paused as the waitress placed menus in our hands.

The very pretty girl, her hands clasped behind her back, rested a genial—though somewhat coy—smile on Carlos and asked what we wanted to drink. I told her two Coronas. Nodding and throwing another bold, appreciative glance at my lover, the young lady thanked us and sauntered away.

Carlos hadn’t seemed to notice the flirty employee. He picked up the conversation where he’d left off. “Like I said, you don’t deserve a new CD. But you’re the only man who’s ever played music for me when he fucked me.”

I laughed hard. “Ah, chico, I think you’re trying to be romantic. But you make me sound very pathetic.” Funny thing, though. Carlos, in sharp contrast to his streetwise persona, was the most romantic man I’d ever known. His drawings, his poetic talk, just his pure sensuality.

Everything about him painted a picture of beauty, idyllic eroticism.

Fire blazed behind his wide eyes, and he lurched to touch my hand. “No. No. I… I love that you play your…song for me.”

“Thank you, then, bebé, for La Paloma.” I laid the CD on the table. “I can play it every night for you now,” I playfully threatened.

His tongue swiped, languorous, seductive, across his bottom lip. “And that means you have to fuck me every night.”
The little tease. The silky touch of his finger sent pleasure coursing through my veins like a powerful opiate.
“You think you can stand being fucked every night, chico?”

A brow shot up. “I’d give it my best shot.”

The cute waitress returned to place our beers on the table and take our orders. At the sight of Carlos’s hand on mine, the sex in both our eyes, she cooled considerably as she listened to our selections. When she headed back to the interior of the restaurant, I sucked in a deep breath and pulled the jeweler’s box from my pocket.

“I have something for you, chico.” Reaching across the table, I handed the box to him. How clumsy I felt. Romance ruled my heart but never showed itself very well in my actions. I felt I was too old-world for a contemporary man such as Carlos. Just as his fingers touched the lid to open it, I blurted, “You’ll probably laugh, Carlos. It’s… it’s…. You might think it’s silly.”

Upon opening the box, his hand shot to his chest, and he swallowed hard. “Candy….”

“It is silly, isn’t it?”
“Oh, no, no.” His mouth gaped open, and he brushed a hand through his hair. Shaking his head slowly, he whispered, “It’s… it’s… a dove. It’s the most—”

“Listen, you don’t have to—”

Carlos bounded from his chair and cornered the table so fast I didn’t have time to react. With his arms wrapped around my neck, he pulled me close, and I breathed in his spicy, earthy scent.

“You like it, then?” I wanted to cry, I was so happy that he was pleased.

Pulling back, his arms still circling my neck, he sighed. “I’ve never seen anything so beautiful in my life, Candy.”
His voice, so low, caressing, whispered close to my ear, “I love you so fucking much, Candelario Gonzalez. I love youso goddamn much.”

The sidewalk was crowded with customers, and they surely gawked at us, but I didn’t care. Love for Carlos gushed from my heart, and all I wanted to do, needed to do, was hold him, touch his lips. Although the thoughts that swirled in my soul were passionate and lyrical, the words that spilled from my mouth were idiotic. “So I don’t need to take it back? Well, it was custom made, and—”

“I love it, cariño.” Oblivious to curious gazes, he pressed his lips, which tasted of salty tears, to mine. “I love it so much.” He straightened and leaned back against the table.

“Then you’ll wear it for me tonight?” I rested my hand on his waist.
“I’ll wear it for you tonight.” Hunger darkened his eyes, softened his voice. “Let’s eat fast, then, so we can—”

“Nah, chico.”

“No?” He cocked his head to the side.

“Nah. I reserved a room at Mansion Del Rio.”

Excitement sparked in his eyes. “Ah.”

My sexual juices were stirring, my cock swelling, at the vision of making love to Carlos high above the river with the nightlife pulsing below us. “Would you like that?”

Squinting, he eyed me. “Can I order a banana split from room service in the middle of the night?”

How could he turn even the word banana split into an aphrodisiac? Dios, how my dick ached.

“You can order anything you want in the middle of the night.”

“Can I order you to fuck me in the middle of the night?”

“You can.” Resisting the urge to pull him onto my lap, I growled, “But by the middle of the night, mi amor, you may be begging me to stop fucking you.”

For a moment our gazes locked, and we said nothing, fucking each other with our gazes. As though coming out of a trance, he lowered to his haunches, resting his hand on the table to steady himself. “Put it in now.”

“Put… what… in now?” My mind lagged behind his, still writhing with him on an imaginary bed.

“The earring.” He reached to remove a silver stud from his earlobe. “I want you to put it on me.” Laying the discarded earring on the table, he snorted. “Sort of like getting engaged.”

“Getting engaged, eh?” I pulled the diamond dove out of the box, removed the back from the post, and bent to insert the earring. Each time I touched Carlos was like the first time, and the light stubble on his cheek, his smooth skin against my fingers, sent shivers through me. “You realize, bebé, in my old-fashioned world, that means I own you.”

As I put the earring on his lobe, he nuzzled into my hand and purred, “You already own me, Más Chingon.” His hand covered mine.

“Good.” I helped him to stand and scoured the restaurant patio. “Where the hell is our food? I’m ready to go.”

Carlos returned to his seat, and I stared, mesmerized, as the new diamond in his ear sparkled in the festive lights.
Cognizant of my gaze, he touched the glittering dove and caressed it. He mouthed the words thank you.

I took a tortilla chip from the basket and broke off a piece, putting it in my mouth. There seemed to be nothing to say, no need. All I wanted to do was stare at him, drink in his beauty. I just smiled and murmured, “Te amo, mi amor.”

“Te amo.”

Before I could say another word, my cell vibrated on my belt. I checked the caller ID. Jesse. I opened it and answered, “Qué?”

Jesse immediately blurted, “Before I tell you, you need to know that I didn’t go looking for this. It’s just a coincidence.”

Those words told me the call had something to do with Carlos, and my heart pumped hard, causing my throat to constrict. In a rusty voice, I asked, “What is it, Jesse?”

“Elias Rojas came by La Banda last night, and—”

“This is about Elias Rojas? You’re calling me about—”

“Shh!” Jesse hissed. “Don’t say his name where Carlos can hear you!”

“I thought for a minute you were going to bring up…well, you know… the subject you obsess over.”
Jesse advanced, cautious. “Jefe, it is about Carlos.

“I don’t get it.” Whatever it was, I didn’t want to get it.

“Rojas is looking for you. He insists you meet with him.”

I brushed my fingers through my hair. “You’re losing me, mi amigo. What does he have to do with—”

“He says, Candelario, that he has some information about your pretty amor Carlos that you will find very interesting.”

Closing my eyes tight, I tried to focus. “Jesse. Wait a minute.” I scrubbed my forehead hard. “What the fuck would he be talking about…. What would he….” The words jumbled in my head, and I tried to discuss this without Carlos hearing. “Why would he be discussing… this person?”

“It seems, Jefe, that Rojas knows… this person… your Carlos.”
Sweat broke out on my forehead. I swallowed hard and steeled my nerves, knowing Rojas might only want to tell me something I already knew—Carlos’s drug arrest, maybe.

“Tell him to fuck off.”

“Jefe.”

“No, really, Jesse. Tell him to fuck off. I’m not interested in his petty gossip. The fucking little snitch.”
Fingering the saltshaker, I added, “He probably found out about… well….” I stopped in case Carlos heard me. “And he thinks I don’t already know.”

“It isn’t about Carlos’s drug arrest, Candy.”

My pulse raced again. “Then—”

“Candy, he says he knows who your… boyfriend is.”

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Another C. Zampa excerpt—from work-in-progress *Honor C.*

I’d almost cornered the side of the house when I heard a door slam from the back patio. A second passed and it slammed again.

Shrugging, I continued toward my bike when I heard Honor roar, “Nestor!” A pause, then, “Cual es tu pinche pedo? (What’s your fucking problem?)”

What I did next was wrong, terribly wrong, and I knew it. I tiptoed in the direction of the voice until I could see the patio. There—in the lush backdrop of potted and hanging foliage—stood Honor and Nestor. Guilt, mingled with curiosity, stabbed me and sweat broke out on my forehead and the back of my neck. My heart drummed so hard I was afraid they would hear me.

Nestor leaned his thin frame on a vine-covered column and rolled his shoulders. “No hay bronca. (There’s no problem).”

Honor—his voice lowered now but still legible—spewed, “No hay bronca? Mamadas! (There’s no problem? Bullshit!)”

“Why are you getting so worked up, big guy?” Nestor snickered.

Honor broke into such a fast string of Spanish I couldn’t keep up.

By now, I was torn between walking away and overwhelming curiosity to hear what the hell they talked about.

Honor’s tone eventually shifted into a slower, easier gear, and patience—love?—replaced the frustration in his voice, “We’re going to have to talk about this, Nestor. Comprende?” He took a few steps closer to his brother. “Now.” Folding his arms over his chest, he tucked his chin. “What the fuck do you have against Raimundo Munoz?”

Me? They were arguing about ME? Goddamn. Bile rose to my throat. My legs refused to move.

Nestor’s face remained composed. He strolled to a wrought-iron patio set and sank into one of the chairs, his legs stretched out. Without meeting his brother’s stare, he reached to twirl his fingers in the curling vine of a nearby plant. “Nada, mi hermano. Nothing at all against him personally. You know what the fuck I’m pissed about.”
Honor sighed and rolled his eyes. “Not again. Not this again, Nestor.” Scrubbing his forehead with his palm, he groaned. “Goddamn.”

“Si, si, si! This again. Always this!” Fury reddened Nestor’s face and he sprang from the chair, closing the small space between Honor and himself. “And it will always be this as long as I breathe, Honor Castillo!”

“Nestor—”

In a smaller but still livid aftershock, Nestor wailed, “I mean, goddamn it, I’m a shareholder in this goddamn organization, and—”

“Si.”

“And I have no say-so over this fucking piece-of-shit crap you’re pulling?”

Honor’s tone, his narrowed eyes, challenged. “This crap I’m pulling? Go ahead.” Tossing back his head, he cast a pained smile on his brother. “Say it. I’ve heard it from you so many times already. Please, my brother. Say it again.”

“You know.” Nestor’s shoulders drooped and, glancing up to a set of wind chimes, he pushed his hands into his pockets.

Honor nodded. “Yes, I know. But I want you to say it. I want you to say it over and over until you can’t stand to hear it any more than I can.”

Falling back into the chair, Nestor covered his face with his hands. Through parted fingers, his muffled reply was barely audible. “I try, mi hermano. I try so fucking hard not to hate what you are.”

“You didn’t hate me before you knew. I’m the same man, Nestor.”

What the fuck? Their voices had grown softer, and I strained to hear. I’d worry later about guilt for eavesdropping. For now, though, I couldn’t walk away—especially after hearing my name in the conversation. I had to know what part I could have possibly played in this issue between the brothers.

Nestor’s hands lowered to press against his mouth. “But you’re bringing it into our business now, Honor. Dragging your queer shit out in public for the whole fucking city of San Antonio to see. Hell, for the whole country to see once you spread it to all the clubs.”

His queer shit?

“Nestor, I’m not spreading queer shit, as you call it, anywhere. I’ve only made a decision to….” Honor drew a heavy breath. “Come out.”

Holy fuck. Oh, holy fuck. He’s gay. He is. Why this made a difference to me, I didn’t know. It wasn’t as though his being homosexual was a magic wand being waved over him to make this powerful business man suddenly accessible for a nobody like me. But, goddamn, it did make me want him more, to know he preferred men.

Stretching out his arms, Nestor argued, “You’re bringing this fag club into our business, Honor! And now this…this…little fairy Raimundo Munoz, that little prissy girl.”

“I’m a…fag….Nestor.” Honor’s big body shook with a gentle and surprisingly patient chuckle. “This is ridiculous. It’s hopeless, hermano, to try to open your eyes. Dios, you’re—”

“No, you’re what’s hopeless, Honor. You are.” Pounding a slender hand to his chest, Nestor raised his voice. “And even though I’m a shareholder, I have absolutely no say-so in this shit. I’m being forced to sit by while you humiliate the family.”

“Nestor, everyone involved has agreed on everything I’ve proposed.” Honor sighed. “Not that I need approval. I own the goddamn business.” After pulling out a chair, its iron legs screeching on the concrete, he sat beside his brother. “And, hermano, Mama is all right about it all. She doesn’t hate me for what I am, she loves me. Do you really hate me so?”

A deep furrow formed across Nestor’s forehead and he wagged his head. “No. No. I don’t hate you. I do not hate you. But…I can’t stand this…thing…that you’ve become. I’m ashamed.”

Honor’s stare lingered, probing, on his brother. After a moment he spoke, his hand covering Nestor’s. “I wish I could change how you feel, my brother, but I can’t.” He bit his lip. “But one thing. One warning. No more talk about Raimundo. I won’t tolerate it.”

Nestor yanked his hand away. “But—”

“No. Enough. Whether he is gay or not is not my business or yours, nor our concern. And it has nothing to do with anything anyway. I won’t stand for any more of your pissy attitude toward him. Do you understand?”

No reply, just an icy stare.

Honor persisted, his tone grave, “Comprende?”

“Si.”

“Bueno.” Honor stood and returned the chair to its position at the table. “I’ve got to go. I have an appointment across town.”

Pushing away from his own chair, Nestor rose and straightened his pants.

The storm of emotion had subsided and the brothers retreated indoors, Honor’s muscular arm draped over his brother’s shoulders.

They surely figured I’d left long ago and I didn’t dare draw attention to the fact I was still there by starting the bike’s engine. I kicked the stand and pushed the Yamaha down the long drive to the curb. Once on the street, I revved the motor and started toward home.

Gliding down the highway—halfway between the splendor of my new employer’s lifestyle and my own grubby existence—I enjoyed the breeze cooling my forehead and rustling my hair.

Oddly, even considering the magnificent events of the day—as well as the not-so-pleasant aspects of Nestor’s chilliness—one thing shone through it all, climbed to the top of the mountain of wonder. One thing overrode all the other happenings, sparkled by its lone self in my happy gut and brought a huge smile to my face. Honor Castillo was gay.

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Lie to me! And win a free ebook…

A goodly number of people entered the Friday Free for All giveaway last week, but sadly there could be only one winner. So here’s a chance to try again, or to try for the first time.

All you have to do is lie. What could be simpler? Fiction writers do it everyday. (Okay, if you must, you may tell the truth.) Here’s the specs: In 35 words or less

If you entered the contest on Cup-o-Porn, give me the down and dirty on why you should have been the winner.

If you didn’t enter the contest on CoP, tell me why you wanted to but didn’t.

Simple, right? As usual, you may enter with a comment here, or on my Goodreads blog(which is this contests true home) or email me at lou(dot)sylvre(at)gmail(dot)com. I’ll run the contest for a week, and pick a wiinner in a completely subjective fashion.

So, lie to me, okay? Please.
Oh, and if you already have an ebook of Loving Luki Vasquez and want to lie just for fun, please do.

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Freebie: Loving Luki Vasquez for the cost of a comment

Go here to Cup-o-Porn and get a free ebook version of Loving Luki Vasquez just for making a comment.

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The Luki and Sonny Interview—Live at Cup-o-Porn

We gathered questions, and now the answers are available for all to see at Marie Sexton and Heidi Cullinan’s site, Cup-O-Porn. Topics of discussion include everything from hair care products, to potato chips and sex, to intimate physique. Stop by! Let me know what you think…

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