Category Archives: authors

Sci-fi/Fantasy: Anne Barwell talks about “What-ifs” and “whumping” (and shares a excerpt from *Slow Dreaming*!)

I’ve loved exploring ‘what ifs’ for as long as I remember. I blame my father, in a good way, for my fascination for science fiction, as he introduced it to me, being a fan of the genre himself. My own interest has since expanded to include fantasy, there being a fine line between the two, and often what I read, and write, has an interesting mix of both.

All fiction has an element of ‘what if’ to it, but science fiction and fantasy allows me, as a writer, to push the boundaries further, and to explore new worlds. One aspect I enjoy about doing this is discovering how my characters will react when thrown into a situation complicated by elements that are not the norm. It gives me an opportunity to explore this in ways I couldn’t if writing something set in another genre. I’m also a great fan of the ‘fish out of water’ scenario, and people finding themselves out of their depth, often needing to search within themselves for strength and abilities they didn’t know they possessed.

Besides, there’s more scope for hurt/comfort AKA whumping in these kinds of scenarios. My imagination is the limit, although I do sit down and work out the parameters of the world in which the science or magic operates. People and places need to be governed by rules, whether it be nature or something else, or there’s no challenge in the story. Where’s the fun of building up a cliffhanger if all the character has to do is snap their fingers and the threat is gone?

Obviously it’s not going to be as simple as that, but for every decision made, there’s a consequence. This theme is one which repeats often in both science fiction and fantasy. There are checks and balances in place, there has to be or everything would fall apart. In the same way if I give a character an ability, there has to be a limit to what he can do or there’s no ‘fun’ in it. Absolute power corrupts absolutely and I prefer to write characters with flaws, who aren’t always sure of themselves, rather than someone for whom everything comes easily.

Throwing my ‘hero’ into a world which isn’t his own works well in keeping him just a little off balance. What if there are worlds out there where its inhabitants follow different rules than we do? Where the scientific advancements in our world did not happen, but instead, magic is a valuable commodity, and those who possess the abilities to wield different aspects of it are the ones in power.

There are two aspects to the genre I enjoy reading and writing in particular. The first is psi powers, or a variation on that theme. It not only ups the ante, but allows the characters to explore a part of themselves they might not otherwise. It also complicates a plot somewhat if the bad ‘guy’ finds out that if they hurt one character, his partner is going to feel that pain, literally. Or if someone is keeping a secret, and he falls for someone who is a touch telepath, but his perspective partner is someone who cannot learn the truth. Makes things more than a little complicated, doesn’t it?

As does a character who can move objects with the power of his mind, but hasn’t got the control over his powers he’d like, so he spends a lot of time trying to hide his ability rather use it because subtle really isn’t an option.

And then of course, there’s the shadowy organisation just out of sight, watching him, who has other ideas of what that ability could be used for.

But I digress with spoilers for upcoming stories…and yes I have written/am working on stories containing the elements I’ve just mentioned.

The other aspect I love exploring is that of time travel. Occasionally I like to combine the two. Time travel combines the fish out of water scenario, and the idea of checks and balances. History has already happened so it can’t be changed, right? All the research in the world cannot prepare someone for the reality of the up close and personal. It’s the little things that are going to trap a time traveller, the details that don’t always make the history books, like having no clue about common pop culture references. Or when a file with a faded photograph in the future becomes a real person in the past, someone the time traveller realises he has to save, no matter what, because that assignment is now all about the person he’s fallen in love with and who he wants to be his future.

The story possibilities and potential for exploring relationships within these scenarios are endless. People still fall in love and have to work together to triumph above adversity – with plenty of angst, romance, and whumping along the way – wherever or whenever they find themselves. These stories are still about people, and to me that’s what makes the decision as to whether I want to read or write: characters I care about and want to spend time with.

This way I get to meet new and old friends, and explore new and interesting worlds and ideas with them. After all, it’s not every day that a guy finds out that his partner is a dragon, is it?

To finish I’d like to share the blurb and an excerpt from Slow Dreaming a short novella which will be available from Dreamspinner Press from 1st June as part of their time travel theme daily doses ‘Time is Eternity’ and also as a separate release.
Anne Barwell Slow Dreaming Dreamspinner Press The Blurb: As an agent for the Tempus Institute, Jason Adams’s task is to observe the past, not change it. But when he’s sent to 21st-century Wellington, New Zealand, during the last week of aspiring songwriter Sean Henderson’s life, Jason finds he can’t just watch from a distance. He and Sean quickly become friends and then lovers, and when the song that’s haunted Jason for years connects them in a way he never anticipated, he’ll risk changing history for the chance of sharing a future with Sean.

Jason smiled, trying to put Sean at ease. “Thanks for the compliment, by the way. It’s been a while since anyone’s made the effort or shown any interest.” No one since Rex, but that was history in every sense of the word. They hadn’t spoken to each other since they’d broken up three years ago, and the last he’d heard Rex was on assignment in the mid-1940s. Very hush hush.

“I’m usually a little more subtle.” Sean sighed. “For all the good it does me.”

“I’m surprised.” Jason leaned over and placed a hand on Sean’s arm. It was warm, fine dark hairs smooth under his fingers. He thanked the powers that be that it was warmer today so that Sean’s shirtsleeves were rolled up above his elbows. “You’re a good-looking guy.” More than good-looking. Jason made a point of looking Sean up and down. “I’d even go as far as to say hot.”

“Really?” Jason could almost see the steam coming out of Sean’s ears at the idea. Sean shook his head in disbelief. “Me?” He shook his head again. “Hell no. Now you….” His voice trailed off. “Um, can we change the subject onto something else? Are you from around here? I hadn’t seen you before the other day.”

“I’m from… overseas.” Jason nodded, running through what was left of his cover story in his mind. “I’m a journalist, travel, mostly. This looked like an interesting place, so I thought I’d look around for a few days, take notes, that kind of thing.”

“Where overseas?” Sean settled back into his chair, relaxing as the conversation moved onto a safer topic. “I’ve been to Aussie once, but apart from that I haven’t been out of New Zealand. It’s on my list of things I’d like to do one day.” He laughed, but there was a self-deprecating air to it. “Perhaps once I’m rich and famous. Can’t see it happening otherwise.”

Jason thought quickly, latching onto the first country that came to mind. “Canada.” He hoped Sean wouldn’t ask for anything more specific than that. Giving the truth wasn’t an option. He couldn’t very well explain that although he was a local, the Wellington he was used to was very different from how it was now. It was better this way; there was less chance of slipping up and referring to something that didn’t exist yet.

“It’s on the list.” Sean sipped his coffee, thoughtful. “I’m a mainlander myself. Christchurch. My parents are still down there, don’t want to leave. They reckon they’ve spent their whole life there, and it’s going to take more than a few earthquakes to make that change.” He shrugged. “They’re one of the lucky ones. Their house is still relatively intact.”

“Have you been to see them recently?” Jason hoped Sean had. Closure was important. He’d seen too many families who’d missed out on that. They couldn’t be there at the end, but at least having had some contact beforehand had helped.

“Yeah. I went down as soon as I could after the first big one and spent some time.” Sean wrapped his fingers around his cup, long fingers, slender. “I offered to move back, but they wouldn’t have anything of it. My life is here now, has been for a few years. I’ve got my music, and I work in the cafe part time. Never going to be rich, but it works for me.”

“You’re a musician?” A familiar not-quite tune whispered to him. He ignored it.

“Yeah, although more of a songwriter than a performer.” Sean shrugged. “I doubt you’ve heard of me, although a couple of local bands are willing to play my stuff. I play keyboards for them on the occasional gig, too, when the usual guy is off sick or whatever.” He glanced toward his pile of papers, his mouth twisting into a half grimace, half-shy smile. “I’m working on a new one but having trouble getting it quite right. That happens sometimes, then when it’s the right time, it all falls into place. It drives me crazy until it does, though. I swear I eat, drink, and sleep the thing.”

“I’d love to hear what you’ve got so far.” Jason could have kicked himself for not taking the time to listen to the sound files attached to Sean’s dossier. However, it was Sean’s role at the cafe that was the focus of the assignment, not his music.

“That settles it.” Sean grinned. “I knew you were crazy with all your talk of hotness. Now you want to hear music composed by a guy you’ve only just met.” He schooled his face into a solemn expression. “I think that’s about the fourth sign of madness isn’t it? After all, for all you know my music could be really bad. How do you know you won’t lose your hearing and good taste for the rest of eternity?”

“And here I was thinking the fourth sign was being a true believer of the sanctity and healing properties of coffee,” Jason deadpanned.

Contact Anne Barwell:

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Ford, Noble, Barwell, Klune, Sylvre get together for a cluster… interview

We five authors had a lot of fun doing this, and we hope you’ll enjoy the results. Each of us came up with a question for the interview, and all of us answered every question. So let the games begin!

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As both a writer and a reader, what ingredients do you consider indispensable for a romance novel?

Anne:Interesting three dimensional characters and a ‘real’ relationship or building of one between them. I want to be able to care about the characters, even if it takes me a while to grow to like them. There also needs to be some conflict they need to work through whether it’s their history, a situation outside of their relationship or whatnot so that their HEA or HEA feels as though it’s deserved and worked for.

Lou:
Attraction
A common enemy or opposing force
Conflict between the parties to the romance
Resolution of that conflict
United victory over the external opposition
A final consummation or sealing of the new love.

Elizabeth: A solid plot and a good story with characters I have some sort of emotional reaction to, even if that means the character is a jerk.

I’m a huge fan of the happy ending, in some manner, and I’m not a fan of the tragedy. I read because I want to feel good, so the characters and the plot need to come to some logical end that is at least nice. I don’t mean they have to be ooey-gooey, just not in tears and emotionally wrecked at the end.

No matter the setting and world the characters must be believable and solid in their development and the development and progress of their relationship. I particularly need characters who can communicate and have a sense of humor.

T.J.: Believable characters. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been pulled out of a story when a character suddenly just does something that makes me go WTF!?!? It’s a bummer when that happens because it can definitely effect how I read and view the rest of the story. When I write, I have a long thought process for most scenes, where I will sit back when it’s finished and think “Okay, would (fill in the blank) REALLY do/say what whatever they just did/said?”

Rhys: A romance? Whoosh. Um. Keep track of the dead bodies. Never ever write about a ferret. And most importantly, I would say a sense of realism. I love happy ever afters as much as the rest but there’s something satisfying about seeing a relationship build over a series of books. And hot sex. Okay, that just helps.

Plot or character, which comes first?

Anne: A bit of both, depending on what I’m working on. I work a lot on what-ifs either with specific characters in mind or those characters show up and become a part of whatever happens or is going to happen. Once I have the basic plot, how the rest of the story develops is very much down to the characters and where they want it to go, often leading in directions I hadn’t thought of or where I hadn’t planned to go.

Lou: For me, character almost always come first. The characters demand my attention until I make them a story, but then they change the story as we go along until, in the end, it rarely resembles the story we started with.

Elizabeth: Ah, the old chicken or egg question…LOL For me it’s the plot and generally not even the entire plot. I’ll often come up with an entire plot idea based on some small scene or even a line in a scene or dialog. I’ll often imagine a character physically along with that little kernel of a plot idea, but I’ll develop the characters to suit the story.

T.J.: Characters, all the way. I have weirdness going on in my head where my characters “talk” to me and are born as such. Plot follows, but it’s usually only after I’ve already thought up how character will look/sound/act. But obviously, there have been moments where a set piece has come into my head and I love to find out how my characters will fall into it.

Rhys: I’d say the main characters. Mainly I write series so I need characters that can hold up over a few books. If they aren’t complex enough, then the plot of the book falls apart. For me, there are two sets of plots; the book’s plot which will be resolved at the end and the arc plot which should span over the series. There could be smaller sub-plots accompanying the main arc plot but they must supplement the overall story, not overwhelm the characters.

How do you name your characters, or do they already show up with their own names or ‘correct’ the names you’ve chosen?

Anne: Some characters turn up already named, others I have to hunt for. One of my favourite websites is ‘behind the name’ as it gives the meanings of the names and their origins which I like to keep in mind when I am naming characters. Others though, as I’ve said, just turn up with all of that in place and don’t care about what their names mean. I’ve also named characters, started writing and been told, in no uncertain terms, that no my name isn’t this, it’s this. I don’t tend to argue with them on that.

Lou: Naming my characters is almost a ritual with me. I struggle (though I enjoy it) to find a name that is right — representing ethnic origin and character traits, having the right sound, and interacting with other character names the right way. My first resource is a baby name book that I’ve had for years, but sometimes I use other sources, too. In the process, I almost always learn more about my character (by knowing what does and doesn’t fit), or at the very least solidify the character in my mind. Sometimes, a lesser character comes with a name: Margie, Jim Ladd, and (believe it or not) Mack Money. For the dog in Delsyn’s Blues, a reader named him in a contest. That was fun.

Elizabeth: I don’t have any specific ritual I go through to name characters and often the names just pop into my head. If I have the wrong name I know it and keep searching until the correct one shows up. Sometimes I use online name sites if I want a certain meaning or nationality.

Another trick I’ll do is go through the data base of names of at work and pick a first and last name that appeals to me. I’ll sometimes read movie or TV show credits for names. I keep a list of names to peruse when I’m naming characters.

T.J.: As a writer who has somewhat…different names of characters, I’ve been asked how I get the names that I do. (I anticipate that won’t change when This Is How We Burn The World comes out and people get to meet Seven, and the Clock Twins, Tick and Tock.) They generally show up in my head already named, but sometimes some tweaking is in order. For some reason, I’m drawn to “A” names for secondary characters and I have yet to figure out why.

Rhys: I usually “taste” a character’s name. It’s rare that I change something once I start writing. It has to fit the person before I start. I know the character. Then I name him or her.

Lion and Unicorn battling over the Crown

What is a “classic tale (fairy or otherwise)” that you’d like to retell. And how?

Anne: St George and the Dragon. I’d rework the story a bit though so that the so called dragon slayer really isn’t one and the dragon is a shifter and so naturally there’s a HFN in there for both of them. After all fairy stories and the like are only based on the truth and the actual story behind it can be quite different. *sigh* I’m going to have to write this one now at some point. Thanks, Rhys 😛

Lou: I don’t have anything specific, but I really love TH White’s The Once and Future King. Let’s face it, it’s chock full of little tales that could be—should be—gay.

Also, on a completely different note, there is a beautiful Iroquois tale that has at least a couple of versions for each of the nations about a young man who falls in love with a salmon wife. He sees that beneath the lake is a mirror-image world (and here we all thought it was reflection), and he goes to live with her there. No, he doesn’t drown! Why would you think that? ;-)Anyway, I think it would be very fine if the mirror-world lovers were both fine young men.

Elizabeth: The Three Musketeers. Well, I think instead of bromance there’d be more actual romance between the Musketeers. It sort of screams for it. I’m not sure who I’d pair with whom yet, but, yeah, that would be cool. My second choice would be the Atlantis legends.

T.J.: Sleepy Hollow, hands down. The original scared the crap out of me when I was a child and I recently read an M/M take on it that I though could have been so much more than it was. I’ve stewed on the idea for quite some time, even having gone as far to write a general outline, but I’ve stopped time and time again, just because I don’t think it’d be right to mess with what is obviously a classic.

Rhys: Damn it, I came up with this question and I don’t have an answer. What a fricking fail! Um… I would say a more current tale that I would love to re-tell is The Treasure is the Rose by Julia Cunningham. Fantastic book. Perhaps the Wizard of Oz. Less… psychotropic drugs but still, that would be fun. I would love to take a stab (no pun intended) at the Ninja Circus, an old Japanese drama about a group of assassins traveling from town to town as an entertaining troupe.

Is there a particular genre or sub-genre that you’ve always wanted to write in but have not done so yet? What would it be?

Anne: Gothic. I’d love to write a ghost story, but give it a bit of a twist and throw some romance into the mix.

Lou: Space opera!

Elizabeth: Space opera! I’ll have to second that.

T.J: Horror. Man, would I give my left arm to be able to write in horror. I’ve read every Stephen King book countless times and I always wished I could write a good horror story. I think that horror can definitely be effective in the long story/novella format i.e. Edgar Allen Poe, and I still hope to one day sit down and write something that’ll scare the bejesus out of everyone, myself included.

Rhys: Wow, I have no answer for this one either. I’ve written in a lot of genres. I would say I’d love to Regency romance (in the style of Loretta Chase). So much discipline and knowledge needed for those. And the language shifts. Totally daunting. And of course, as a male-male romance.

Anne Barwell is the author of Cat’s Quill, Tj Klune is the author of Bear, Otter, and the Kid, Rhys Ford is the author of Dirty Kiss, Elizabeth Noble penned Marked Yours, Together Bound, and Strays, and I wrote Loving Luki Vasquez.

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4 Author Chat Oct 8th at Love Romances Cafe—You’re invited

On October 8th, we’re going to be chatting at Love Romances Cafe. Hours are noon-6 eastern (9-3 Pacific). We hope you’ll join us.

Participating authors:

Elizabeth Noble author of Marked Yours and Strays

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Tj Klune author of Bear, Otter, and The Kid

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Anne Barwellauthor of Cat’s Quill

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Lou Sylvre author of Loving Luki Vasquez

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As you see, quite a variety of styles and themes. We’ll be chatting about what’s out, what’s soon to be out, what we’re working on, but also about whatever you’d like know.

We’ll be having contests, posting excerpts, and blurbs, and who knows what else. I really, really hope you’ll come and chat with us!

Oh, yeah, one more thing. Here’s the link to Love Romances Cafe, and you have to join to chat. Of course you can unjoin later if you want, but they have some great promos there, from time to time.

Leave a comment here if you have any questions.

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Rarer Than Rubies Excerpt (PG) by EM Lynley

Thanks to Lou, I’m spending another day here on the blog, and I wanted to share a little taste to tempt you to check out Rarer Than Rubies! Hope you enjoy it! Remember, there’s a contest…. answer the question below for a chance to win a Gift Certificate from Amazon.com. The more people who enter, the bigger the gift card… I’ll be choosing a winner on Thursday Aug 18.

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RARER THAN RUBIES

m/m action-adventure/erotic romance
novel, by EM Lynley

 

“Are you following me around?” Trent put his backpack on again, this time putting both arms through the straps. Obviously he wasn’t taking any more chances. Reed knew he wouldn’t get another chance to get into the pack, but where could the map be? Had Trent found it in his pack and knowing it wasn’t his, already thrown it away? Or was he working for a competitor and had already passed it off. Reed hadn’t let him out of his sight for very long, but there might have been someone waiting in his room at the Pink Tiger.

But this guy appeared too clueless to be part of any underworld organization. No one was that good an actor. The only explanation was Trent somehow realized the map was valuable and hidden it hoping to sell it to someone who would pay big money for the information.

“No, man. Bangkok’s really kind of a small place for farangs, you know? I run into the same people all the time. I’m Reed Acton, by the way.” He started to put a hand out but Trent didn’t look to be in a trusting, hand-shaking mood yet. He also didn’t volunteer an introduction.

Farangs?” Trent rolled the word around on his tongue and squinted in puzzlement.

“Foreigners…Westerners. It’s kind of an insult, but if you spend enough time here you get used to it.”

“But you speak Thai. You said you live here?”

“Yeah, for work.” Fuck. This conversation was getting into dangerous territory for Reed. But he didn’t want to just walk off on his own and suddenly it had nothing to do with the map. He wanted to get closer to Trent Dallas and breathe in the beautiful scent of him—probably courtesy of that fancy body wash Reed had watched him apply earlier—and lick along the curve of his jaw, and then maybe rip off that shirt Trent was wearing and trace around every muscle on his chest and abs. Reed had seen what was under there and this time he wanted more than to look. He wanted to touch, and taste and…

“Well, thanks for getting my bag back. Do you want a reward or something?” Trent’s voice jolted Reed back to reality and with difficulty he pulled his mind out of Trent’s pants. Which was too bad, because he was just starting to plan out what he wanted to do with that ass.

“No, no.” Reed shook his head. “I don’t want money. If that’s what you’re thinking, that I’m trying to scam you or something, you’re dead wrong.”

“Well…” Trent looked at Reed out of the corner of his eye and Reed knew he wasn’t convinced Reed was harmless.

“Look, let’s sit down for a few minutes and grab something to drink. The heat is getting to me.” Reed wiped the back of his hand across his sweaty brow and smiled up at Trent, getting another suspicious look in return. But Trent looked hot and sweaty, too—though it just made him look even sexier—and let Reed lead him to table set up under a canvas canopy near half a dozen street vendors.

Reed ordered cool coconut drinks for them. Trent eyed the drink warily at first, but when he saw Reed slurp down half the glass in one long pull he cautiously sipped and smiled in delighted surprise. The coconut drinks were one of Reed’s favorites, though some vendors made them too sweet. He loved the soft fresh coconut flesh that floated in the glass and he’d usually save a few pieces to suck on and savor the taste after he’d drained the liquid contents. From the look on Trent’s face he seemed to be relaxing and Reed decided to take a time out here and put him at ease.

“I admit I saw you in the airport and thought it might be fun to hang out. I know a lot of places to go in the city, if this is your first time here …” Reed smiled hoping Trent would trust him, no matter how suspicious Reed’s behavior might have been up till now. He wished he could forget about the map and enjoy a few fun-filled days with Trent Dallas—preferably in a bed in Reed’s air-conditioned apartment where they ordered in food and didn’t get dressed the entire time.

“How do I know I can trust you? I mean, what were you doing in the airport anyway?” Trent repeatedly poked his straw at the pieces of coconut at the bottom of his glass.

“I had to pick up a package for my boss.” Thankfully Reed could tell the truth. “It got misdirected so I have to get it from a different location later today.” He paused for a moment. “You can eat that. It’scoconut flesh.” Reed took a bite from a piece he pulled from his own glass, to demonstrate it was safe.

“Really? I’ve never seen it so soft.”

“It’s from young coconuts. I guess they don’t leave them on the trees long enough to get really hard. They’re much easier to open when they’re young, too.”

Trent fished a piece out and took a tiny bite. He quickly ate the rest of it. “Mmm.”

“See? You can trust me.” Reed laughed. He enjoyed watching Trent consume the rest of the coconut pieces, picking each up and licking it to catch the last drops of the drink before sucking it into his mouth with a tiny slurp.

“Eating coconut and going somewhere with you are two entirely different things.” Trent tilted his head slightly then licked his lips and Reed had to keep from jumping across the table and kissing him. Did Trent know how he was torturing Reed as he imagined what else those lips and tongue could be doing. The smile on Trent’s face led Reed to believe that maybe he did. Damn tease! But Reed was enjoying the game. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt a spark like this for anyone.

“Fair enough.”

They chatted casually for another ten minutes, where Reed kept the conversation mainly about Thai food–deftly avoiding personal topics–until Trent seemed to have relaxed and become less suspicious. Reed noticed Trent’s appraising glances and grinned, hoping his dimples might be extra convincing. God, he hated doing it this way but he was on a short timetable and he didn’t have the luxury of being smooth about it.

“Have you decided you can lower the threat level on me to blue or green?”

Trent laughed and Reed’s spirits picked up. He liked the sound of Trent’s laugh.

“Well, I might go as low yellow, with an option for blue.”

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http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=2430

 

 

Do you try new foods when you travel and what’s the best thing you ate that you might not normally have ordered back home?

 

 

EM Lynley
http://www.emlynley.com | http://emlynley.livejournal.com | http://facebook.com/emlynley

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Grab Your Passport by EM Lynley

First off, I can’t thank the fabulous Lou Sylvre enough for inviting to be a guest on this blog. I love getting to visit new faces and hope to make some new friends here! Now for some fun!

Who loves to read? Did you all raise your hand? Okay, maybe only a few of you actually raised a hand. Good for you! Who likes to travel? I raised both hands, even in the privacy of my office. For me, books don’t get better than when they combine a great story with a real trip, even if it’s just from reality….

 

When you’ve had a rough day or a particularly grueling week, you probably can’t wait to get away from it all by escaping into someone else’s world in the pages (or pixels) of a book. We’ve all been there. I admit to reading for escape as much as simple entertainment. A good writer can make us feel we’re in another place, time, world or even in someone else’s body. A great writer makes us want to stay there and never come home. If only we could.
Have you ever read a book that made you want to visit a place you’ve never been? Not only give you a description of somewhere else, but immerse you in the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures, so you really are there? I love when that happens. And it’s what I’ve tried to do in my latest release, Rarer Than Rubies, set in Thailand and based on my own visits there.
It’s little things that drew me in, almost as much as the spectacular scenery of the countryside or the magnificent temples and palaces.

It was a special pleasure to bring little details and delights of Thailand, from Bangkok and its heat, so thick you feel it wrapping around every limb, to the dirty backstreets where all manner of trade–more than you’ve imagined–takes place.

Food is a special passion of mine, so I wanted to share the duck with anise and ginger and my favorite coconut drinks they serve “to go” with a straw in a plastic bag and a looped rubber band to hold it, boucing along as you walk and sip.
My goal is to make you want to book your flight right away!

Ready yet?

Tomorrow I’ll share an excerpt and more about my travels…. Now it’s your turn: what book has made you grab your passport, whether you actually went there or not.

Leave a comment to let me know. I’ll share my story about that tomorrow! And I’ll be giving away a gift certificate to one randomly selected commenter on Tuesday.

 

EM Lynley writes gay romance. Her latest release romance/adventure, RARER THAN RUBIES from Dreamspinner Press) is set in Thailand, described as “Indiana Jones meets Romancing the Stone.” Also available from Amazon.com. (Read an excerpt.)

Visit EM at her websiteFacebook or follow her on Twitter. She’s even got some free stories on offer.

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Excerpt from J.L. O’Faolain’s The Thirteenth Child

It was far too cold to be working outside today.

Cole took in the dozen or so thugs standing around him with an irritated glare of contempt. If the money for this job hadn’t been as good as it was, he’d be back in his loft curled up underneath a nice, thick blanket enjoying a replay of his old copy of Blood Omen right now. As it was, the rent was due. Katalina had already reminded him of that twice this week. The first gust of New Year air had nearly been enough to make him turn around and go back inside. Only the fact that Awar the troll paid good money made him keep going Now, he was lurking underneath a trash-strewn bridge that reeked of raw sewage as members of the attacking gang closed in on him.

Cole took half a step backwards, crouching down slightly as the red-hot end of his double-headed blade, Aed Deigh, extended out from the hilt. The thug that was nearest caught a swipe across his abdomen as Cole feinted forward, and then turned into a sweeping spin that caught two more with the opposite end, the one endowed with the power of arctic cold. There was perhaps a half-second where nothing occurred, as though his attacks had missed. His first target, however, suddenly clutched his belly in pain as fire exploded all over his skinny frame, incinerating him in an instant. The others went rigid at the same time as ice crawled like ravenous spiders all over their skin.

Cole never let up, even as the remaining members of the gang began having second thoughts. Two more found themselves the victims of spontaneous combustion as Cole drove his twin-bladed weapon with the hilt in the middle down into the chest of the boy who he assumed was their leader. The shocked expression on the man-child was actually somewhat comical. Cole withdrew his blade as the ice claimed him, then tipped the frosted statue over with his finger and smirked to the remaining few thugs as it shattered on the ground. The head wound up rolling down the incline and stopped at his feet. Cole placed the heel of his boot atop it and stared his audience down.

No one blinked. They were all too terrified to move.

Smart.

“I was asked by a friend to ensure none of you harass him any further,” Cole spoke, standing with a practiced ease. “This can go one of two ways. Either I slaughter the lot of you and walk off without breaking a sweat, or you can all go back to wherever it is you came from, and leave the nice troll alone so he can finish his homework and get over his head cold in peace.”

“This is our hood,” one bravely spoke up, yet Cole could distinctly hear the rapid beating of his heart. “Freaks like dat should stay da fuck away.”

A handful nodded their affirmation. “He kind ain’t welcome here no mo.”

Cole was on the speaker in the blink of an eye. “Would you prefer to be frozen, or burned to a little pile of ash?” he whispered in the young man’s ear. “I’d be happy to oblige with either.”

There was the unmistakable sound of a hammer being drawn back from a gun. Cole waited, waited until he knew the shooter was about to pull the trigger, then moved. At the same time, he jerked the boy in front of him forward slightly, putting him directly in line of the bullet as it left the chamber with what sounded like a thunderclap. Had it been rush hour, the sound would’ve been muffled by oncoming traffic. It was with his ears ringing that Cole released his grip just as the young man’s head exploded. Turning around, he saw that the shooter was holding, of course, a .357 Magnum.

“Those things make such a mess,” he muttered as blood and other things ruined his clothes. “My dry cleaning bill is going to be outrageous.”

Everyone else was still taking in the sight of their spokesman crumbling to the ground with most of his head gone. Not one to miss an opportunity to finish a job quickly, Cole dashed forward and took out the one holding the gun first. It was made of metal, and given the decidedly high iron content, it would do the most damage to him. One swipe with the fire edge of his swallow reduced the bastard’s arms to smoldering bones. Cole stabbed him with the ice edge for good measure, then carved a path through the scattering crowd as though he were the wind and they were caught in molasses. Less than a minute later, his job was finished. Ominous footsteps pounded the ground heading in his direction as he slowly stood upright.

“That should do it, then,” he said, willing the blades back into their shared hilt. “I’d like to collect my pay now, if you don’t mind.”

“No problem,” sniffed Awar, grunting from chest congestion as he fumbled around for the opening to his back trouser pocket. “Thanks for coming on such short notice.”

“I hated to ask you to get out of bed given your current condition,” said Cole, graciously accepting the bag of gold from him. “But I wanted to make sure they were indeed the ones harassing you. It would make me look bad if I’d murdered the wrong ones.”

“It’s no big deal,” Awar assured him. “I’m feeling much better, but the runny nose is killing me. I’ve got a calculus final to study for, and my correspondence term paper for American History is tomorrow. All I wanted was some peace and quiet, but those little shits just wouldn’t leave me alone. And it isn’t like I can just phone in the police, not that it would do me much good….”

“No need to explain,” Cole assured him, counting out the gold coins. “Go get some rest. You look like hell.”

“I haven’t been able to sleep because of this damned cold,” he muttered, weakly. “I’d love to have handled this myself, but this crud has sapped all my strength.”

Cole nodded in professional sympathy as he resumed counting. Awar, meanwhile, turned his rather lumpy head to the side and let out an impressively loud sneeze, which caused the bridge overhead to shake. Dust and icy frost rained down on their heads, signaling to Cole that it was past time to go. “Here,” he said, hold up three gold pieces. “You gave me three more than we agreed on.”

“Keep it,” Awar insisted, waving it away. Cole’s long hair was swept up as Awar’s hands inadvertently caused a small wind to kick up around them. “Consider it a tip for a job well done, since I wasn’t up for handling things myself. I honestly thought you’d just come down here and scare the little bastards, but this works out much better. The lot of them should fit in my meat locker with a little extra cramming. I’ve got food for almost a month now, and the bones should scare away anyone else that tries to hassle me.

Besides,” he added, “I was getting sick of chicken soup. It gives me bad gas.”

Cole accepted his tip and, with a wave over his shoulder, left the underside of the bridge very quickly.

A while later, Cole climbed the stairs leading up to his loft, shaking his hair to remove the bits of snow that hadn’t melted yet despite the warm temperature inside of the building. It was one of the many drawbacks to being a full-blooded sidhe living in New York. No matter how powerful he was, all the metal, glass, and man-made plastics hampered his abilities considerably. It was getting to the point where the changing temperatures really bothered him. Before long, he might even suffer from sinus problems like all the other red-nosed shoppers.

Shuddering at the thought, he waved a hand idly at the door and waited as the locks on the other side tumbled open. At the same time, the wards that had been placed years ago temporarily fell, allowing him passage. Shaking the rest of the snow off, Cole hung his coat on the rack and strode idly into his home. The place was quiet for the moment, which meant that Katalina had already left for class. Happy to have the place to himself for a few hours, Cole immediately stripped out of his clothes and stood naked in the living room for a moment, allowing the muted sunlight from the expanse of windows behind him to rake across his moonlight-colored skin. Sighing, he took a few steps over to the open kitchen area, grabbed a bottle of oak mead from the refrigerator, and downed it’s contents.

Having a roommate meant he was rarely able to go naked in his own home. The loft’s rent wasn’t cheap, however, so it was a trade-off he accepted on good terms, mostly. Feeling a nice light buzz from his drink, Cole made himself a sandwich from some leftover turkey, then made tracks for the shower. The gold from the job Awar had given him was strewn across the counter. He would put it away after he’d gotten clean and, more importantly, warm. Katalina could take it to the exchange bank on her way to class tomorrow. For now, though, his only priority was to stand under a steady stream of hot water for as long as possible.

There was only one shower in the whole loft. Luckily for him, Katalina rarely left anything of hers lying around for him to step on. Today, however, he nearly fell flat on his face because of a stray bra getting tangled around both feet. Raising up, he swept his eyes across the counter top, which was loaded with make-up and used cotton pads. There were puddles of water near the edge of the shower, and a used towel hanging on the bar alongside a drawn-back curtain.

Apparently, Katalina had been in a hurry this morning.

Disregarding all of it, Cole marched into the shower and closed the curtain behind him before turning the hot water all the way to the left. Steam rose quickly up toward the rafters as the jets beat down on his backside. Cole groaned; if there was one upside to being affected by cold weather, it was warming up afterwards. For years, he’d wondered why humans made such hype over things like hot chocolate and warm soup in the wintertime. Now, it made perfect sense, though he still missed the warm climate of Avalon.

An image of it, long buried, rose up in his mind. Cole found himself thinking of the last time he’d stood on its shores, looked out at the expanse of trees and distant fairy mounds, and realized he would never be coming back. Through the decades of his time amongst humans, Cole had countered his sorrow with thoughts of not wanting to return and the memories of his last encounter with Lord Oberon. The thought of returning to Avalon now seemed almost like a joke, but that didn’t stop him from crying. It didn’t stop the tearing in his chest, like something vicious was trying to eat its way out of his heart. It didn’t stop his head from swimming.

He must have been under the steam for too long. Even after Cole managed to get hold of his emotions, he still felt light-headed.

Tuulois MacColewyn….

Cole blinked and turned around in response. It had been a while since anyone had called him by that name, but hearing it seemingly out of thin air was especially odd.

Tuulois MacColewyn….

Oh, crap.

Cole looked around desperately for something to hold on to, or at the very least, something to cover himself with. The spell, however, had already taken effect, and he was being drawn out of the shower through the very air towards the one summoning him.

Tuulois MacColewyn!

Cole felt himself being forced through a sort of rubber tunnel, starting with his head. There was a loud splash as the water from the shower that had been teleported along with him came crashing down onto the head of Detective James Corhagen, who was conveniently kneeling at the edge of the chalk circle, directly in front of Cole’s groin. A small cut from the detective’s thumb indicated the blood he’d used to activate the summoning circle. The chalk, now soaking wet, was still clutched in his other hand.

Cole couldn’t resist. “While you’re down there….”

Immediately, Detective Corhagen rose up to his feet. Noticing that Cole was severely naked at this point, he darted his eyes heavenward at the same time that his head snapped sharply to the left. “Ouch!” he grunted. “Warn me next time, won’t you?”

“You could have called first,” Cole pointed out, not bothering to cover himself. “It isn’t my fault your bad timing persists even when you’re using that spell I taught you.”

“I am sorry,” he groaned. “I guess I caught you at a bad time. Are you busy right now?”

Cole rolled his eyes at the question, but Corhagen didn’t notice as he’d just covered his eyes with the hand that had the bleeding thumb. The sight of his former friend stumbling around slightly trying to regain his sense of direction with both eyes covered was enough to make Cole snicker privately to himself. It was only then that he began to notice his surroundings, and realize that the place where they both stood was unfamiliar to him.

“Where are we?” he asked, gazing around at what appeared to be someone’s bedroom. “Have we been here before?”

“Huh?” Corhagen asked, turning almost too fast to keep his eyes covered. “Oh, no. This is a crime scene. The murder that took place occurred in the baby’s room on the other side of that wall.” Corhagen pointed just behind Cole at the carefully made bed. “I think that’s the right direction, anyway.”

“You could take your hand off your eyes,” Cole suggested, coyly.

“No, thank you. This was the victim’s bedroom, anyway. Her name was Susan Brown. She worked as a cleaning lady at some subsidiary company of Microsoft. At approximately 12:01 last night, her heart somehow managed to explode out of her chest and splatter into pieces against the refrigerator. The babysitter discovered the body this morning when she showed up to look after the woman’s daughter while Mrs. Brown was at work. We’ve got her in the living room right now.”

“I thought you said the woman was murdered in the child’s bedroom?” Cole interrupted, confused.

“That was where the….” Detective Corhagen fumbled for a moment. “Where the ‘incident’, I guess, took place. Her heart somehow achieved escape velocity after exploding from her chest, sailed out the open bedroom door, and then splattered into pieces against the fridge.”

“Ah.” Cole nodded. “Now I understand. Please, continue.”

“That’s about it,” the detective finished. “Except that the baby is also missing, and this is the third case of such an incident happening. The chief is breathing down my neck, most of my department thinks we’ve got some kind of serial murderer-slash-kidnapper on our hands, except for the fact that all three crime scenes have been swept thoroughly with a fine-toothed comb, and nobody can come up with so much as a fingerprint. There’s no signs of forced entry, no sign of a struggle at all, unless you count the mess the victims made in their last few seconds before becoming an Aliens stunt double. So I’ve got a murderer who can make themselves undetectable to all forms of modern forensics, even down to DNA sampling, and people are turning to me like the answers are supposed to just come flying out of my ass.”

Cole studied his old friend for a moment. “You quit smoking again, didn’t you?”

“What?”

“You’re always this cranky when you stop smoking,” he clarified. “It makes you stressed out. So, why did you summon me here?”

“You have to ask? I need help here, Cole. This is some serious shit going down, and I don’t know what to do about it.”

The bedroom door eased open just then. Both Cole and Detective Corhagen turned to find a very small woman look directly at James. “Sir, they’ve questioned the babysitter. She had a spare key to the apartment that was given to her by….”

The woman’s eyes finally took in Cole and widened. James turned around to face him, received another eyeful, and quickly jerked away. “Um,” he stammered, thinking fast. “Thank you, Officer Morrison. This is my…. old friend, Cole. He and I used to work on some cases together. He’s a police consultant who specializes in….”

Corhagen snapped his fingers quickly. “Unusual cases,” Cole finished for him.

“Unusual cases! That’s it.” Corhagen was blushing now, which Cole had to admit was fun watching. “I asked him to come down here and have a look at the crime scene. He might spot something the other forensics guys missed.”

“How do you do, m’lady?” Cole bowed slightly, giving her a full view of his package. “Forgive my present state. I was in the shower when the detective called.”

Cole gave the detective a knowing look, and he promptly blushed red. “He got here really fast,” Corhagen tried, feebly.

Officer Morrison had been unable to tear her eyes off Cole during the whole exchange. Cole himself doubted the poor woman had absorbed anything that was said the entire time. “I’m very efficient,” Cole went on, deciding that he might as well enjoy himself. “As Detective Corhagen himself knows very well.”

“Could we maybe get the nice police consultant a pass so that he could examine the crime scene, Officer?” Corhagen pressed, his face turning redder. “And perhaps a towel, to hide his shame?”

“What shame?” Cole teased, as the door slammed shut. “I don’t feel any shame.”

Corhagen ignored him in favor of staring daggers at the opposite wall. A moment later, the door opened again just wide enough to allow a police pass entry. The plastic-coated tag sailed through the air and smacked the detective upside the head. A second later, one mauve-colored towel crossed the barrier forming the summoning circle, breaking it. Cole caught the towel and began drying himself off at his leisure. Officer Morrison eyed him for a second more through the tiny crack, then quietly slid the door shut.

“A very dedicated policewoman you’ve got there,” Cole remarked, taking longer than necessary to dry his balls. “I’d hold on to that one if I were you.”

Corhagen thrust the pass back behind him as he adamantly continued to avoid looking anywhere near Cole. Cole finished drying off, then wrapped the towel securely around his waist and took the pass from him. This one had a clip on it, so he fastened it to his towel just to the left of where his treasure trail ended. Corhagen risked a quick peek and sighed.

“Will you take the case?” he pleaded. “I could really use your help.”

“It’s obvious you need it,” Cole replied, avoiding his gaze now. “Why else would you have used that spell after so long?”

The weight of that sentence hung in the air between them. “I think I’d like to go home now,” Cole finished dryly. “And resume my shower. Do you think Officer Morrison would be willing to call a cab for me?”

“I’ll pay you double,” Corhagen spat out before Cole could step out of the circle.

“What?” Cole was sure he hadn’t heard right.

“If I have to pay it myself, I will,” he added emphatically. “Chances are, though, the Chief would rather cough up the extra cash than risk letting shit like this continue. And that’s really saying something, if you’d just stop for a second and remember what a tightwad he’s always been. Things on the force have been sour since…. well, for a year now. It’s not getting better, and since no one wants to admit what’s really going on, the problem just gets worse and worse. I’ve managed to get a few people at my precinct to come over to my way of thinking.”

It was impossible for Cole to mask his surprise. “I know,” Corhagen nodded. “Believe me, I know. It wasn’t easy, but some of them have had bad experiences themselves that they couldn’t explain afterward, or just didn’t feel other people would believe. None of us know what to do about it yet, but we’re trying. The Chief wants this case taken care of yesterday, though. It’s way too messy and would be a tabloid reporter’s wet dream. Imagine what would happen if word of this got out to the press. It wouldn’t be an outright panic, but the end result….”

Cole thought of Awar living under his bridge, thinking that all was peaceful now that the punks that’d been hassling him were dead. “If I have to, I’ll strong-arm the Chief into paying it,” James finished. “But we need you on this one. I haven’t been having the dreams yet, but I can feel it. It’s going to get a hell of a lot worse.”

Cole nodded. “You’d better not squirm out of paying for me,” he threatened lightly. “Or I’ll have the goblins on your ass for it.”

Corhagen laughed. “Right. So, where do we start?”

“Where else?” Cole replied, adjusting his towel as he headed for the door. “We talk to the victim. She probably knows a thing or two.”

None of the other police officers at the crime scene were happy to see Cole. Though he didn’t recognize many faces in the crowd of discontent stares, Cole had gained something of an infamous reputation among Corhagen’s fellow officers. He supposed word about Lieutenant Heisen’s sudden bout of erectile difficultly had spread very fast. That had been the last time he’d set foot in James’s precinct, so it was natural, he supposed, that people were less than thrilled by his return.

Fortunately, it didn’t take long for Corhagen to clear the room. Most of the police officers on the scene were male, despite the fact that humans today liked to think of themselves as equals. No one seemed in any big hurry to do more than glare reproachfully at him one last time before making tracks for the door. Once they were gone, Cole turned to his former friend and smirked.

“Nice bunch. Very people-skills oriented.”

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Cardeno C’s *Where He Ends and I Begin* out now at Dreamspinner Press

Scroll down for steamy excerpts, and an interview with our author!

Where He Ends and I Begin--Cardeno C

Jake Owens, aggressive, physical, blunt and brave, is a football hero turned city cop. Nate Richardson, his best friend since before forever, is thoughtful, quiet, and kind, a brilliant doctor who has always known who he is and that Jake is the love of his life – and loyal, courageous, straight Jake has never had a clue.

But Jake has been nursing his own case of the unrequiteds, and he’s never been as straight as Nate assumes. Nate may think their passionate explosion is a fluke, a result of too much closeness for too long, but Jake is bound and determined to prove to him otherwise. For Jake, the question isn’t how they ended up in bed together… it’s how can he convince Nate that he wants and needs to stay there.

Cardeno C. is a hopeless romantic who wants to add a little happiness and a few “awwws” into a reader’s day. Writing is a nice break from real life as a corporate type and volunteer work with gay rights organizations. Cardeno often feels that characters write their own stories and just hopes to find enough time to get those stories on the page. And Cardeno loves to hear from readers so please drop a line to share your thoughts on a story.

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Cardeno C Interview (And an bonus excerpt)

Q: Where He Ends and I Begin is part of a series, or rather related stories centering on the concept of ‘Home.’ How does the story of Nate and Jake’s belated love affair fit into that greater theme? Does each book address a different aspect of that concept?
A: Each book in the series focuses on home in the sense that the characters are building their own home together. In that way, there is a singular focus. That said, each book is about a different couple, so each story is different. Nate and Jake have actually always been each other’s home. They are two people who have been best friends, almost family since birth. In Where He Ends, we join Nate and Jake as their relationship shifts and they become lovers.

Q: As an author, you say one of your goals is to give the reader a bit of happiness, deal in a little “awww” factor. Most people would probably equate that with a ‘happy ending.’ I’m not going to ask about the end of Where He Ends and I Begin—let readers come by that information honestly, by reading the book. But can you give us a morsel, an “awww” moment in this book?
A: Even though you didn’t ask, I’m going to tell. There is a happy ending in Where He Ends and there will always be a happy ending in (and happiness throughout) every book I write. That is the reason I write. There are so many hard things in real life, so many struggles, whether with work, our birth families, political issues, the list goes on. I write as a release to get away from that and to go to a happy, kind place and I think readers who connect best with my books are looking for the same thing. As far as an “aww” morsel, I’ll share the scene that inspired the childhood picture on the cover:

I woke up Saturday morning and looked at the warm, sleeping body next to me. His eyes were closed, his hair was tousled, and he had a crease from the pillow across his fair cheek. I gently brushed his soft hair off of his forehead and sighed as the memory of Nate’s angelic face over the years flashed through my mind like a slide show.

My first real, distinct memory, one that I knew was mine and not just an image based on a story told by my parents, was of Nate’s face. It was our third birthday party, and we were standing on either side of our shared cake, ready to blow out the candles. Nate’s cheeks were pink because we’d been running around with our cousins all afternoon, his hair was even lighter then and it was a bit matted down on his head, his eyes were closed, and his lips were sort of puckered, ready to blow out the candles. I looked at him and felt warm inside, then I held my breath when it was time to blow so he could get all the candles out and have his wish come true. After he was done with the candles, he opened his eyes and smiled at me.

Just as that memory of then-three-year-old Nate’s eyes pulled at my heart, present-day Nate opened those crystal-blue eyes. I stroked his cheek.

“Good morning, beautiful.”

His voice was raspy with sleep as he answered me.

“Good morning.”

He scooted toward me, bridging the few inches that separated us, and nuzzled into my neck.
“Watcha thinking about, Jake? You have a faraway look in your eyes.”

I stroked his hair.

“I’m just remembering. What’s the first thing you remember, Nate? Your earliest memory?”
He was quiet for a minute, thinking. Then he pulled back a little and gazed at me.

“You. My first memory is you.” He kissed me softly.

“Remember when we turned three and our folks had the whole family over? All the uncles and their wives and kids? We’d just blown out the candles on our Bert and Ernie cake and I’d made my wish—that we’d be friends forever. Then I opened my eyes and saw you across from me. I remember looking into your eyes and deciding that green was my favorite color. So that’s my first memory—your green eyes, your face, smiling at me over that cake.”

Q: Nate and Jake both do a lot of changing to overcome the past that has come between them. Which one has the most to lose? Which one changes the most?
A: You know, I think they both have a lot to gain. Their friendship is solid and unshakeable and in many ways, they’re also family (though not biologically). By taking the next step in their relationship, both men gain the joy of connecting in every way with the man they already love. As far as who changes most, I think if I had to choose, I’d say Nate. The change isn’t to his personality or his behavior, however, it’s to his perception of Jake and himself. Nate never believed Jake could want him, and much of the story centers on Jake proving to Nate that nothing could be further from the truth. Nate’s ultimate acceptance of Jake’s feelings is, in my opinion, the biggest change.

Q: When Jake needed a sexual outlet other than Nate, believing that Nate wasn’t attracted to him, why—in your author’s mind—did he sleep with women instead of other men?
A: Well, if I were going to be crass (and if you’ve read my books you know that I can be), I’d say because he was looking for a warm hole with no possible risk of emotional entanglements. Jake is in love with Nate, has always been in love with Nate, and knows he will always be in love with Nate. He has no desire to change those feelings and no desire to have anyone other than Nate fill the role of best friend, confidant, roommate, and life mate. Because Jake believed Nate didn’t want to share a physical relationship, he sought that elsewhere. But he didn’t intend to replace any other aspect of Nate’s place in his life. In Jake’s mind, if he had sex with men, he’d think of Nate and the one thing he couldn’t have with the man he truly wanted. So, instead, he had sex with women, which to him was a physical release without involvement of his mind or heart.

Q: To put a spin on it, do you see one main character as sexier than the other? Is there a key difference between them that sparks, that makes their sex really hot—the sum greater than the parts, so to speak?
A: I don’t see one as sexier than the other. I think they’re different men with different traits. I think the thing that makes their sex really hot is their emotional connection and shared history. These things make every touch meaningful to them, and hopefully that translates to an intense reading experience.

Q: What’s in store for your readers? Will there be more in the ‘Home’ series? Something new?
A: There will be many more books in the Home series so long as I am fortunate enough to be given the privilege of publishing them. The next book in the Home series is slated for release this summer, though I haven’t been given an exact date. I’m currently writing another book in the series, but it’s in the early stages so far. And I just finished writing a paranormal (shape shifter) book for a new series.

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*Where He Ends and I Begin* an Excerpt from Cardeno C

“Do you remember senior prom, Jake?”

I turned to him.

“Yeah.”

“You let your date have it because she called you her boyfriend, and then you left her there.”
So that’s what this was about. That’s why he’d relegated me to some fucking one-off with his buddies instead of owning our relationship. I sighed.

“Is that what you remember?”

He looked at me, confused.

“That’s what happened.”

“Come here, Nate.”

I stood up and reached my hand down to help him stand. Then I gently pulled him to my room and sat him on my bed. I walked over to my dresser and picked up a framed picture.

“This is a picture of me with my prom date, Nate.”

It was a picture of the two of us, wearing our tuxedos and smiling, with our arms draped across each other’s shoulders. Nate looked at the picture and smiled, rubbing his thumb over it. Then he seemed confused again as he looked up at me.

“Your prom date? What do you mean?”

“Nate, I asked you to go to prom with me. Tell me you remember.”

No response. Just that same confused look in his eyes. Fuck. I knelt at his feet.

“Okay, I’ll remind you. Prom was coming up and everyone was talking about it. I asked you if you were going to go and you laughed, said you didn’t have a date. I thought, well, you don’t have to be attracted to me to go to prom with me. I mean, it’s just dancing, right? So, I asked you to be my prom date. Do you remember what you said?”

I knew he was remembering, but he was still sitting there, just looking at me. No words were coming out of his mouth. So I kept talking.
“You said you didn’t want to be some sort of gay poster child, going to prom with another guy. I didn’t understand that. But I knew you were uncomfortable, so I told you we’d get a couple of girls to go with us and then we wouldn’t be making a statement. We’d just have fun. Sylvia and Julie didn’t have dates, so I told them they could come with us. I didn’t ask Sylvia to be my date, Nate. And I sure as fuck wasn’t her boyfriend.”

Nate looked down at the picture for a couple of minutes before he finally spoke.

“You were serious? When you asked me to the prom, I mean. You were actually serious?”

I knew he was sensitive and I knew those years growing up in Bryerville were hard on him, that he felt inadequate. But I guess I never fully grasped the depth of the damage, of his insecurity.

“Of course I was serious. You know what, Nate? You never danced with me. I asked you that night but you laughed. I think you still owe me a dance.”

His eyes were misty.

“Yeah. I guess I do.”

So we got up, turned on the radio, and danced slowly in my room. Nate was still wearing his nice jeans and button-down shirt. I was coated with dried muck from the puddles and the rain, wearing nothing but a jock. It didn’t matter. Everything except Nate faded away, just like it always does when we’re in each other’s arms. And we danced.

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And Here’s the Racy Excerpt, from Where He Ends and I Begin (Thanks Cardeno C.)

We somehow made it back to our apartment with our clothes on. That was a major accomplishment, considering the fact that I was practically in Jake’s lap in the cab. I started kissing him as soon as we got in and I only broke the kiss long enough for Jake to give the cabbie our address. By the time we made it to our door, I had his belt off and his pants unbuttoned. He managed to unlock the door and lead me into the apartment, while constantly sucking on my tongue.

“Let’s go to the bedroom.” he whispered to me.

“No time,” I replied as I stripped off my shirt and kicked off my shoes. Jake looked at my chest and made a sound that can best be described as a growl. Then he unbuttoned and unzipped my pants and pushed them, along with my briefs, down to my ankles. I stepped out of them as Jake plunged down on my cock, taking me into his throat.

I leaned back against the wall and moaned.

“Ahhhh. Jake, that feels so good. But I need to feel you inside of me.”

He pulled back a little but continued sucking.

“Ohh, Jake. I won’t last. Please, come up here. I need you!”

He stood up and I pushed his pants and briefs down. His cock slapped up on his stomach and our eyes met. Jake’s eyes seemed almost wild. He kissed me deeply as he wrapped his arms around me and grasped my ass. Then he lifted me up. I put my arms over his shoulders and clasped my hands behind his neck, wrapped my legs around him and locked my ankles. I felt his cock pressing against my ass. He moved slowly, trying to find my entrance. I moaned into his mouth when he brushed against my pucker.

Jake pulled his mouth back and looked into my eyes as he simultaneously thrust upwards and lowered me down onto his cock. It was a hard, fast movement. I gasped at the stretching, slightly burning intrusion. It felt incredible and my cock reacted by twitching and dripping.

“Ungh!”

I lost the power of speech. I could only grunt and moan. Jake had me pressed against the wall. His arms were under my legs, holding me up and he had his hands pressed against the wall to brace himself. His biceps were flexing, sweat was dripping from his forehead, and he was pushing himself up and down, using the strong muscles in his legs while moving me up and down by raising and lowering his arms.

I could feel my cock rubbing against his stomach. I could smell his skin, his sweat. The sound of us both moaning and grunting filled the room. The whole experience was primal and erotic.

The friction of his cock plunging into my ass without lube caused an incredible combination of extreme pleasure with just a hint of pain. I was really getting off on it. Jake was kissing me and thrusting up into me when I felt his body tense.

He pulled his face back and looked into my eyes. I was so close, I needed to trip. I was gasping for air, banging my head back against the wall in frustration. Jake seemed to know exactly what I needed—he bent his head down and bit the spot where my neck meets my shoulder.

“Ahhhhhhh!”

I screamed as I released all over our chests and I felt Jake respond by shooting deep inside me.

After a few moments, he turned around while still holding me up. He pressed his back against the wall and slowly slid down, lowering us to the ground so he was sitting on the floor with me straddling his lap. He gazed into my eyes.

I was struck by how comfortable, how safe I was with him. His look held the knowledge of every hope, every failure, every achievement, every dream, every disappointment, every success, every humiliation, every joy I’d ever experienced.

“Was… was that okay? Did I give you what you needed, baby?”

He was looking at me intently. I nodded and nuzzled into his neck, licking his skin, sucking gently. As I regained the power of thought, I realized that his voice sounded different. It sounded… unsure. I picked my head up and looked at him. He brushed my hair back and ran his fingers through it. I searched his eyes.

“Jake? Is everything okay?”

He sighed and then tightened his grasp on me.

“I just… I want to make you feel as good as you make me feel. I want to give you everything.” He hesitated. “But, I don’t have the experience of those guys tonight. I could never move like they were moving.” He leaned his forehead on mine and continued.

“And they were all looking at you, wanting you. Man! You looked fucking amazing tonight, Nate. You always look so fucking amazing. You’re beautiful. So beautiful. And you’re such a good lover. The things you do with your body… the things you do to my body. You make me feel a way that I never even imagined. And you’re sooo fucking smart. I mean, that guy Bill is an ass, but he’s right. You could be with someone so much smarter than me.”

I opened my mouth to stop him, but then he finished in a whisper so low, I wouldn’t have heard him if I’d made any sound, or if we weren’t so close together, sharing the same air.

“Am I enough for you? I want so much to be enough for you.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I had never known Jake to be insecure. And he was way out of my league—how did he not see that?

“Oh, Jake. Enough for me? You’re everything to me. I lose my breath when I look at you. Do you realize that you could be on the cover of a magazine? You are so gorgeous, without even trying. And don’t say that you aren’t smart, Jake! You know that isn’t true. I’m good with numbers, books. So what? I never have the right words. I don’t understand people. Hell, I barely even understand myself. But you do. You always have. You can walk into a room and somehow understand what every person there is doing and feeling. Do you have any idea how much I admire you?”

I realized that I was crying when I felt Jake’s hand brush the tears off my cheeks.

“I’m not that great, Jake. Trust me on that. Or ask any guy I’ve ever been with. None of them would be singing my praises in bed. The way I am with you, it’s… it’s different. It’s because of you, because of the things you make me feel, because of how much I love you, because I know how much you love me.”

I sniffled. My face was damp with tears. Jake was still wearing his shirt. The front was wet and sticky from my cum, but the sleeves were dry. He reached down and took off his shirt. Then he found the dry areas and used them to wipe my tears and the rest of my face. I laughed.

“What? Why are you laughing?”

“You just… you just made love to me to within an inch of my life, Jake. I can still feel you in my ass. You have the most incredible body I’ve ever seen.” I slid my hand down his perfectly sculpted, chiseled chest. “And you took the shirt off your back and used it to wipe my nose. So, yes, I think it’s safe to say you’re enough for me.”

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