Five shinies for Anne Barwell’s On Wings of Song! (Release day review)

Five luminous stars to Anne Barwell’s On Wings of Song. This novella is not a story of hot love or love at first sight, but rather a tale of the tenacity of a first spark between souls. Here Barwell’s prose style pleases as always, but it’s her ability to ferret out the secrets of the heart that shines above all.

Many of us already know the author has a gift for finding the human truth in historical times and events, and especially for seeing past the walls that veterans of war often—of necessity—build around their hearts. In On Wings of Song, her time-travelling pen (or keyboard, perhaps) takes the reader back to one of the most remarkable verifiable events of modern warfare—the Christmas Truce of 1914. Entrenched soldiers of Germany, France, England, and Scotland (the later three allied) in a number of places along a battlefront that already foretold the later horrors of WWI came together across narrow strips of no-mans-land to celebrate together a few hours of peace.

When German soldier Jochen Weber and Englishman Aiden Foster meet that under that extraordinary circumstance, it isn’t football or cards that help them overcome the initial awkwardness of the exchange, but a mutual love of literature and Aiden’s exceptional musical voice. Before they part, they (like others) exchange uniform buttons as pocket mementos, and each hopes for a someday when in a more lasting peace they may see one another again. The remaining years of war leave both men scarred, and life after war holds new challenges and little time or place for true healing. Both men retreat into the silence in which those who survive years of the worst of human cruelty often cloak their hearts—how can anyone who wasn’t there truly understand? Yet a spark of hope lives Jochen and Aiden’s hearts, sharing space with memory of the “enemy” whom they befriended on dark Christmas on a battlefield.

Barwell’s careful, sparsely adorned prose gives the reader an inside look at the redemption of truly broken hearts when long-sheltered sparks meld into flame. The fire burns painfully until it warms and comforts. This is not a long, arduous read, rather a brief but revealing journey into the heart of these two men, Jochen and Aiden, who come to love despite time, distance, and irreparable loss.

I heartily recommend On Wings of Song to those who love men, who love men who love men, and who treasure stories that paint the darkness with light and life.

Here is the buy link: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=5869

It’s 25% off at the moment, so now is a good time to snap it up. Or if you feel lucky, Anne will be chatting at the Dreamspinner Goodreads “forum thingy” on 12/28/14 from 4-6 EST, and there will be a giveaway. Win or not, it promises to be a great conversation!

If you want a little more info, here’s the blurb:

Six years after meeting British soldier Aiden Foster during the Christmas Truce of 1914, Jochen Weber still finds himself thinking about Aiden, their shared conversation about literature, and Aiden’s beautiful singing voice. A visit to London gives Jochen the opportunity to search for Aiden, but he’s shocked at what he finds.

The uniform button Jochen gave him is the only thing Aiden has left of the past he’s lost. The war and its aftermath ripped everything away from him, including his family and his music. When Jochen reappears in his life, Aiden enjoys their growing friendship but knows he has nothing to offer. Not anymore.

And here’s Anne’s bio:

Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with two cats who are convinced that the house is run to suit them; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date it appears as though the cats may be winning.

In 2008 she completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher and a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra.

She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth.

Visit Anne at her blog: http://anne-barwell.livejournal.com or her website: http://annebarwell.wordpress.com/. You can contact her at anne0@xtra.co.nz.

Happy reading!

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A Healthy Dose of Sex-positivity

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This blog post is late in coming, but for this hop, I think late is far better than never. I’m relatively newly acquainted with the term “sex-positive.” I’d heard it first a couple years ago when I was doing some web research on kink, and linked to the Center for Sex Positivity in Seattle, just up the road 50 miles or so from my home. I thought, wow, that sounds adventurous.

Sadly, I’m not.

Or at least I haven’t been, but I’ve come to understand that I would like to be. And I think it’s a sex-positive attitude that makes me comfortable with that. Why wouldn’t I be comfortable with an adventurous sex-life? Well, no auto-biography here but understand, my childhood unfolded in a strict home in the socially restrictive 1950s and early 60s. And I’m female. And I’m bisexual. Here’s what Susie Bright said about her youth:

“When I was young, I was hurt by political ringmasters who said they wouldn’t talk, fuck or work with me because I was “bisexual.” Now that I’ve talked, worked, and fucked with them all, I know their secret. They desire what they condemn.”

She’s undoubtedly right about a whole lot of dishonest people, but for purposes of this post, they don’t matter. What is inspiring me is the realization of what I lost as a product of a sex-negative culture—a youth and prime where even my best sex had a background tape, saying, “It’s not for you, Lou. She (or sometimes he and once or twice they) are the ones that count.” And even though I never condemned myself for my sexuality, I didn’t quite accept it either. the-sex-positive-umbrella When I was in a relationship with a woman, I felt compelled to erase the part of me that has sexual feelings for some men, and vice-versa, and so forth.

That attitude toward myself has changed over the last few years, and that is my further inspiration for participating in this hop—my still-rather-knew acceptance of the sex I have explored (which actually might be seen as adventurous by some of my peers), which is a direct result of beginning to think sex-positive.

So, yay for me, right. Life’s more fun now that I’m happy to be exactly who I am sexually, and it opens the way for me to like the rest of me too. It does get better, right?

But what if I hadn’t been told that if I had sex of any kind I was making myself “a dirty rag for anyone to wipe their hands on”? Yes, that’s a quote from a sermon preached more than four decades ago, and I still remember who I was sitting by, the perfume smells, what I was wearing, and exactly what I felt. Panic! Doom! Gut-punched. Choked. Hopeless. And yes, dirty.

Many of the messages I received were much like that, overt. But the unspoken ones are just as damaging to a young heart and mind, and those are the ones that our children and teens continue to receive more often than not in school, at home, and in religious settings. And then we confuse them with sex advertising every possible product.

What if we stopped the negativity and moved toward positive messages that embrace the truth that sexuality is part of who we are? What if we let sexuality mature in our youth naturally? What if we educated them about sex in an honest way appropriate to their ability to understand at each level of mental growth? That means tell them the truth about what happens, why it happens, what (true) dangers there are, and how to make their best decisions about sex and safety?

Love comes from accepting ourselves first and foremost, because only then can we know how precious and abundant and endlessly multiplying that gift is. If we teach our youth that it’s good for them to learn about their own sexuality—and make no mistake, the particulars of our sexualities are as unique to us as the particulars of our minds—they just might accept themselves more easily and fully, and my, what a wonderful world it could be then!

A moment of fear-monger myth-busting:

1) Educating young people honestly does not encourage them to have sex. It’s not giving them a green light; it can be viewed as giving them a caution light. If we’ve done the job well, they’ll know what to think about, and are much better equipped to keep from getting blind-sided in the cross-traffic..

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2) Sex-positivity is about embracing all the snowflake individuality of human sexuality, with safety and clear consent.

3) Sex-positive parents, believe it or not, do not have sexual contact with their children! Period. If you might want to know what it does mean to be a sex-positive parent, I found a great Huffington Post article here, by a woman who is living it.

That’s my two pennies’ worth for today. Thanks for reading, and be sure to follow the blog hop and read all the posts! You can find a whole list of blog links at Grace Duncan’s blog.

Oh, and if you’re interested in knowing more about Seattle’s Center for Sex Positivity, here’s a link.

Right, almost forgot. Comment, 1 meaningful word or more, and your name’s in the hat for a copy of Loving Luki Vasquez, a positively sexy read and a story of real love.

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Gay Romance University 601—Once you have your scientist, keep him happy… and alive! (Course lessons drawn from Shadowboxing, first book in Anne Barwell’s Echoes series)

Please take your seats people, we want to get started…. What’s that? Boxer shorts? Certainly they’re allowed…. Yes, sir, briefs, certainly. Sure, speedos are not only allowed but encouraged. Be comfortable, but do pay attention in class.

Even though Kristopher Lehrer’s last name means ‘teacher,’ as we examine the early pages of our textbook, Anne Barwell’s novel Shadowboxing, it is Kristopher who is most in need of schooling. Oh, he is a learned man, it’s true—a physicist working on an important, possibly world-altering project. Unfortunately Very Important Projects often become the clouds where a scientist’s head is most comfortable. Kristopher’s attitude, as the novel opens, is reminiscent of the fearless forward motion of a horse with blinders.

To illustrate, consider this: Kristopher’s friend—the man that could have been his first true love if Kristopher had been honest—is Jewish, and in World War II Germany the yellow Star of David he must wear means that he is in danger every time he steps out in public. And, though David is a respected physician, he can no longer practice medicine for the same reason. Yet when Kristopher meets him for coffee he has no clue why his friend is upset, or scared. Read along in your text (or look over your neighbor’s shoulder if you haven’t yet picked up your text). We look at what happens with David challenges Kristopher’s naivety, beginning on page eight.

“Have you any idea what kind of people you are working for?” David spoke quietly, as always, but there was an underlying tone of fear in his voice that Kristopher didn’t remember hearing before. David’s emotions were always controlled; it was something that Kristopher had envied. “Have you any idea of their real agenda?”

Kristopher snatched his hand away, trying to ignore how fast his heart was beating. Why had David come to him? Surely he couldn’t have presumed to use the closeness they’d once had to further whatever agenda he had? “I’m a scientist, David, trying to make the world a better place, just as you are. We are working for the advancement of science and for the good of the Fatherland.” The last sentence came out sounding like the mantra it was. Any doubts that Kristopher had were always dealt with efficiently when he repeated those words. While he knew the potential danger of the device they were working on, the chances of anyone considering utilizing the catastrophic component of it were remote.

“You always were naïve, Lehrer.” David raked a hand through his hair and replaced his glasses, adjusting them when they slipped down his nose. “Wake up and take a look at what’s going on around you before it’s too late.” An edge of desperation and fear sharpened his voice as he lowered it to almost a whisper; it sounded as though he was talking about the end of the world.

“Too late? Too late for what?” His earlier fears of being used vanished at David’s tone. Kristopher’s voice rose in pitch, all attempts of hiding his conflicting emotions lost as he tried to desperately work through his rapidly escalating confusion.

David shook his head, unwilling to say more, his eyes darting nervously around the small Kaffeehaus before his gaze settled on the man who had entered several minutes earlier. “I have to go. I’ve said too much already.”

“Wait!” David was already halfway out the door before the word was out of Kristopher’s mouth. He pushed his chair back, ready to follow his friend, then hesitated, suddenly unsure as to what had just happened.

A week later, dining at home with his sister Clara (whom he loves and depends on) and his father (with whom he has a strained relationship), he is shocked to hear that David has disappeared, and clueless as to why such a thing had happened. What’s more, he is just as dumbfounded when Clara says (on page 11)…

“Poor Kristopher.” Clara rolled her eyes. “You’re so involved in your work that you haven’t noticed what’s going on around you.” There was no teasing in her voice now. Whatever this was about, it was something very serious. “It’s because he’s Jewish, of course.”

… as he is when his father says…

“They are Jewish, Kristopher. What other reason is needed? Better that they are rounded up and sent somewhere more suited for their place in the scheme of things. We must not lose sight of the fact that the Jews are nothing more than parasites interested in taking control of the economy for themselves.”

We, the readers can take our first lesson from this, and the downhill spiral of father-son relations that follow. Please take this down in your notebooks. It will be on the test:German_Experimental_Pile_-_Haigerloch_-_April_1945

The longer you keep your head stuck in the clouds of denial (about anything, really), the more it hurts to pull it out.

Our next unit of study follows Kristopher as he goes about his work the next day. The clouds around his head have been disturbed, but not quite dislodged. Feeling cranky and a little wooly due to a poor night’s sleep, he enters his boss’s office when the boss is out, and rather clumsily knocks a pile of papers on the floor, and reads this sentence on one of them:

Cue ominous music.

We look forward to putting these plans into reality. Such a device will ensure the continued success of the Fatherland during this war against our enemies.

Kristopher’s head falls from the clouds with a mighty thud, which hurts and can’t be ignored even by a dreamy physicist.

Gott im himmel, as my very German mother would have said. Here Kristopher had been, believing he was working on nuclear fission for peaceful purposes, and suddenly he realized he’d been living in a lollipop world.

For a number of minutes, our scientist is unable to think straight. He knows what he saw, but he’s unsure of what he might do about it, or even how to keep from getting in trouble for standing in his boss’s office with his pants down (figuratively of course, because that would be far too weird).

But a guard comes along, Obergefreiter (Sargent) Schmitz, and helps him organize his brain and move his body, thank goodness. Of course, at first, Kristoffer is afraid that Schmitz will actually contribute to his danger, but he soon realizes he was lucky the Obergefrieter came along. He leaves the office that day still waffling about what to do. Like most ordinary Germans of the day, he loves his country and has some significant blind spots about it—a phenomenon not unknown at any age of the world in just about any country, including all of those where readers of this blog might be living today. But you don’t become a leading physicist if you are slow-witted. Once Kristopher’s sight is forcibly cleared, he cannot escape the truth about the leaders of the Nazi regime and what their intentions are.

After much soul-searching, presumably some hand-wringing, and a few horrid nightmares, Kristopher Lehrer confronts his boss… and is told in no uncertain way to mind his own business. The encounter goes from bad to worse. (You can read about this in home study, chapter three of the text.) When he is discovered in the room with his dead boss by the same Obergefreiter Schmitz, he figures his number is up.

Thank heaven for pleasant surprises, large and small. When Schmitz asks Kristopher if, as smart as he is, he can come up with no better plan than to threaten the guard with broken glass, here’s what happens (at the beginning of chapter four).

“My plan? […] I don’t have a plan. […] Do you honestly think I would be standing here waving a piece of broken glass if I had a plan.”

“Good point,” Schmitz admitted.

[Text elided by blogger… er, I mean university professor Lou Sylvre. Kristopher says:]

“Have you come to hand me over to the Nazis?” Whatever happened he didn’t intend to go easily.

The corner of Schmitz’s mouth turned up in a half smile before he shook his head. “I’m here to help you, Herr Dr. Lehrer.”

“You expect me to believe you?” Kristopher wished the desk behind him would disappear into thin air, although it still wouldn’t be of much help as Schmitz was blocking the path to the only door. “I know you’ve followed me for the past week.” He noticed the slight look of surprise on Schmitz’s face with a degree of satisfaction.

“You need to trust me, Dr. Lehrer.”

You may guess that Kristopher isn’t so sure that’s the best course of action, but like people everywhere when they’re in danger and want to trust someone, he looks for a way to do so.

“Give me one good reason.”

“The Nazis will be here in, Schmitz said, consulting his watch, approximately ten minutes. Either you trust me, or you tell them what you’ve just told me. I doubt they will believe your story.”

His voice softened. “I do.”

Now, students, you may have guessed that the Obergefreiter isn’t really the Obergefreiter. His real name is Michel, and he’s not even German. And his interest in Kristopher, like Kristopher’s trust of Michel, soon weaves into a whole new feeling. After negotiating much hell and highwater together, Michel soothes a startled, overwhelmed Kristopher in his own native tongue.

“A l’aise, Kit. Je suis ici… Ssh, tout est bien.”

Yes, Michel is there and all is well for the moment. There’s a whole lot more trouble to face, more evil to evade, more heroes to meet—all kinds, German, foreign, soldiers, everyday people. But Michel does whatever he needs to do to keep Kristopher alive. And since this is Gay Romance University, it isn’t giving away secrets to let you know, that once Michel has WinterDuetLGseen to the matter of Kristopher’s continued existence, he gets the opportunity to use a little French term of endearment.

“It’s all right, mon cher. I love you. I’m not letting you go.”

That is the end of our lesson, today. If you are interested in learning more on the subject, click the cover image above for a link to the blurb and purchase links. (And while you’re there, check out the continuation of this beautiful story in book two of the Echoes of War series, Winter Duet.

I thank Anne Barwell, Kristopher, and Michel for the privilege of treating the serious story of one of the world’s most painful times with a bit of irreverence. Truthfully, the heroes in this story are a reflection of all the real life heroes on every side of that war and every other, especially the quiet ones not lauded in headlines. They all deserve our gratitude, and I take no such service or sacrifice lightly.

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Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment!

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Lou Hoffmann’s *Key of Behliseth*, dragons and wizards and swords, oh my!

KeyofBehliseth_postcard_front_Harmony Happy to announce that Harmony Ink (Dreamspinner Press Imprint) will release Key of Behliseth (the first book in The Sun Child Chronicles), on 9/11/14. Visit Pride Promotions to enter the ebook giveaway raffle! There’s also a 20% discount on pre-orders at the Dreamspinner Press Store! At checkout, Use code SUNCHILD. It’s good on e-book and paperback, and if you can get there today, you get another 25% off!

On his way to meet a fate he’d rather avoid, homeless gay teen Lucky steps through a wizard’s door and is caught up in a whirlwind quest and an ancient war. He tries to convince himself that his involvement with sword fights, magic, and interworld travelMan on spiritual journey is a fluke, and that ice-breathing dragons and fire-breathing eagles don’t really exist. But with each passing hour, he remembers more about who he is and where he’s from, and with help, he begins to claim his power.

Lucky might someday rule a nation, but before he can do that, he must remember his true name, accept his destiny, and master his extraordinary abilities. Only then can he help to banish the evil that has invaded earth and find his way home—through a gateway to another world.

Lou Hoffmann, a mother and grandmother now, has carried on her love affair with books for more than half a century, and she hasn’t even made a dent in the list of books she’d love to read—partly because the list keeps growing as more and more fascinating tales are told in written form. She reads factual things—books about physics and stars and fractal chaos, but when she wants truth, she looks for it in quality fiction. Through all that time she’s written stories of her own, but she’s come to be a published author only as a johnnie-come-lately. Lou loves other kinds of beauty as well, including music and silence, laughter and tears, youth and age, sunshine and storms, forests and fields, rivers and seas. Proud to be a bisexual woman, she’s seen the world change and change back and change more in dozens of ways, and she has great hope for the freedom to love in the world the youth of today will create in the future.

You can find Lou:

On Lucky’s fifteenth birthday, heading home after a long and trying day…

When he emerged from the trees and caught sight of the shack he called home, he stopped and stared while a chill prickled over his scalp like a tattoo needle made of ice.shack on edge

Something wasn’t right.

Could he have somehow come to the wrong place?

For the comfort the sound of his voice might offer, he spoke aloud again. “Don’t be stupid, Lucky. You know your way home by now.”

He’d been living there for nearly a year. After about that same length of time sleeping in alleys and doorways—only occasionally sleeping in a bed, which was even worse—he’d been raveled to within a hair’s breadth of wanting to give up. Even now he didn’t want to think of what that might have meant. But he’d been truly lucky, for once, and happened on this old shed while he was looking for a place to hide from truant officers who’d spotted him trying to panhandle. He’d slept better that night than he had in a long time, and the next morning he decided to make the place his own. He’d swept away bugs and spiders, pounded loose nails, and even mended split planks, and within a few weeks he’d patched it up. Ever since, he’d shared the ten-by-twelve space with Maizie and a family of finches in the eaves, and he’d come to think of it as the one secure place on Earth.

The shack might once have been in the center of a pasture or field, but the walls of Black Creek’s infamous gorge had since crumbled, and now the structure squatted at the cliff’s edge, at the end of the flats. Ordinarily, that precarious location didn’t trouble Lucky. But tonight… tonight a mist rose from the ravine and pearled silver in the moonlight, twisting and twining like ghost flesh. The strange, swarming fog cut the cabin’s hulk off from everything beyond, as if the place he counted on as refuge now hunkered at the edge of oblivion, the brink of the world.

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Filed under GLBT YA fiction, Lou Hoffmann, Upcoming release

Congrats to my HAHaT drawing winner!

congratulations bookshelf spectrum flickr goo ftuos 3330670980_dab9f6b5c8_z

The winner is JenCW! Congratulations Jen! Thanks for your comment and “playing” my raffle!

I’ll email you personally.

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by | May 25, 2014 · 12:23 pm

Because of Jade is live at the Dreamspinner Store! I have news and this beautiful graphic to share…

A grapic of Luki, Sonny, and Jade with a quote.

The new Vasquez and Jade novel is live for download at Dreamspinner Press, and I’m excited about events slated over the next few weeks. Today, release day, Monique Lehane at Sinfully Sexy Book Reviews will will post a review, and the first installment in my blog tour. This tour is themed, The Further Adventures of the Vasquez-James Family! Yes, I’ll be posting some mini-fictions at various places around the Internet, along with other stuff. You can find a calendar here in a goodreads blog post, and track me down as it happens to enter for prizes and join me for what I hope will be some fun. Or, read at your leisure, if you feel like adding a little extra Luki and Sonny to your day. 🙂

I hope you’ll join me, and maybe check out the book.
Oh yeah! There’s a discount: 20% off with code: JADEBOOK</strong. Almost forgot…
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Filed under Because of Jade, Contests, M/M romance, Reviews, Vasquez & James

HAHAT 2014 blog and giveaway—Celebrate, but stay for the long haul, because *this is beautiful*

HAHAT 2014

Another year has gone by, and equal marriage rights have been popping up all over the USA.

The International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia is a yearly event on May 17th, and the Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia is one way some of us bloggers participate. (Click that link for a list of all participating blogs!) Since last May, the US Supreme Court has made a landmark decision, believe it or not, helping to prevent California state law from undermining marriage rights for people who love another of their own gender. And several states have found their conscience and passed laws equalizing marriage rights. And some state courts have overturned bans. Even the IRS has joined in to treat people in same-sex marriages equally with their heterosexual counterparts. The list of accomplishments goes on—there’s a lot to celebrate. In that spirit

I’m giving away $15.00 in money for (what else) books from Dreamspinner Press.

All you have to do to enter is comment below, naming the one event since May 2013, personal or public, that most spurred your hope for equality. You don’t have to use a lot of words, a few will do and they don’t have to be fancy. I just want to cheer when I read your comment. 🙂

But I’m no believer in blind optimism. I think there are many good reasons to hope and envision a day when who a person loves is not hung from the town hall for public judgment. We’re not there yet, though. I recently was asked why I write homophobic events into my stories. Well, my characters are gay. I’m bisexual. Homophobic stuff happens. Hate crimes happen. Bullying and abuse of LGBTQ spectrum teens continues to happen, be tolerated by some who should know better, and to cause despair to the point of suicide. And as for marriage equality, here is a map of the US. After you’ve looked at the map,

consider this: Only the solid dark blue states have fully legalized same-sex marriage. I count sixteen.

For a greater eye opener, look at the full legend, here.
US states by same sex marraige status

Honey, we have a long way to go, just for the legal stuff! Changing minds and hearts, stopping homophobia and transphobia, is another layer—a thicker, crustier, more corrosive one, and it moves glacially slow. I remind myself of this so that I

don’t lose heart, and do dig in for the long haul

.

Why does it matter?

Because this is beautiful:


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Filed under Contests, HAHAT 2014, homophobia, Marriage equality

Gay Romance University course 501: The rewards of exceptional service — Servitude by Rebecca Cohen

As advertised, Gay Romance University is delving into the ins and outs of the life of exceptional service to a well-endowed… er, I mean well-tended master, as experienced by Lornyc, in service to Methian, and recorded in tale well-told by Rebecca Cohen, entitled “Servitude.”

Lest you think this is just your average tale of loving service, let me assure you nothing could be farther from the truth. The person doing the serving is… well, exceptionally able.

Oh, I see a student has raised their hand. There in the back of the hall, did you have a question, sir?

Oh, my! Well, I’m not going to repeat the question, because I fear you simply meant it as an off-color joke. Those are not appropriate in a university class, unless it’s me telling them, so please refrain. But, since you asked, although Lornyc may indeed be exceptionally capable in that respect, judging from Methian’s inability to resist him, I refer to his capability in terms of intellect—perhaps mind-over-matter describes it well. Witness, on page 5, in the labarotory.

In a darkened corner, beside a rack of spare parts for machines long scrapped, was a large black curtain. He walked over to it and pulled the heavy cloth back to reveal a gray rectangle about the size of a standard doorway. Next to it, in a chrome-plated bracket, sat a ball. It was small enough to have been held easily in one hand, and was a cerulean color flecked with gold. When he pressed his hand to the surface of the orb, it began to glow, and with a gentle push, it began to spin in its bracket.

Accompanied by a low hiss, the gray rectangle came to life with a series of waves and swirls appearing across its surface. Lornyc cast a final glance over his shoulder and stepped into the portal.Man in portal from Stockvault photos

Stepping out into a tastefully decorated but obviously seldom-used room, Lornyc called out, “Are you here?”

A muffled reply came from what Lornyc knew to be his lover’s bedroom. With a decidedly wicked grin, Lornyc advanced toward the bedroom door, stripping off his tunic as he did so. “I thought,” he said to a figure reclining on the large bed, “I’d put in another long night in the lab—that’s if you’ve not got anything better to do.”

The sandy-haired man grinned and bounced to the end of the bed, holding out his arms in invitation. “You know I’m always willing to help with your studies.”

Lornyc laughed as he walked forward. “Your dedication, Methian, is touching.”

Methian’s strong arms wrapped around him, and the kiss they shared chased away his worries from the lab. Lornyc yelped in a most undignified manner as Methian pulled him forward onto the bed, but any further complaint was lost as he let his lover distract him fully.

Before any servitude comes into play, Lornyc has already managed to demonstrate a successful principle of gay romance—any romance, really. That is:

Access, access, access. Even if you must create a trans-dimensional portal to do it, make sure you can always reach your lover when need arises.

Self-explanatory, right? So I’ll say no more about that.

But even persons with exceptional ability and high station in life in very interesting (and well-realized, thanks to Ms. Cohen) alternate worlds will at times find that not all events are under their control. In order to keep within the time limits of this university course, I’ll summarize events:

Long before Methian or Lornyc were twinkles in their respective daddy’s eyes, Lornyc’s legendary, long-lived grandfather, Reagalos, signed some contracts. Possibly unbenownst to him, these contracts included interwoven magic that would bind a certain grandchild to fulfill them no matter what. One of them said that his grandchild would be servant to a descendant of the house of Hadral. Lornyc is that Reagalos grandchild, and Methian is—you guessed it—that Hadral. So while Lornyc and Methian where busy playing in-and-out-the-portal (yes, very tacky euphemism, I know), their parents were busy binding Lornyc to Methian as valet. Despite the fact that the men had a well-known history of indiscretion! Read along on page 17 of your text:

“Unfortunately, while it would be usual practice for my personal manservant to be housed within my suite of rooms, Tancorix vetoed that immediately. Apparently I’d be unable to control myself and would have my wicked way with you,” said Methian with a wry smile. “As I did when we were at College.”

“Your wicked way?” Lornyc leaned away with a bemused look on his face. “They’ve never thought that poor, sweet Lornyc could’ve possibly gone after Methian Hadral. The way I remember it was that I had my wicked way with you. The mighty Methian seduced by a seventeen-year-old virgin.”

The second lesson to be drawn from this text begins to come clear immediately thereafter, and it’s one to be remembered by all who are wise.

Methian had to work hard not to get distracted at the memory of that encounter. “But it doesn’t matter. You’ll be below stairs—with the rest of the staff. You should be grateful that she’s decided against making you wear Hadral servant livery.”

Lornyc raised an eyebrow in response. “Really? I thought that would’ve been a definite, fitting me out in that gaudy blue you Hadrals seem to like.”

“Careful, it’s not too late to reverse that decision,” warned Methian, pushing Lornyc backward so that he landed on the pillows. “That sort of cheek will have to be punished.”

“Promises, promises,” Lornyc said playfully.

Methian grinned and crawled toward Lornyc, stopping once his knees were either side of Lornyc’s hips and his hands rested on the pillows next to Lornyc’s head. Methian leaned down to kiss him.

A bolt of fiery pain shot through Lornyc’s arm. He sat up abruptly, his head connecting sharply with Methian’s with an accompanying sickly crack.

Methian growled in pain and sat back, clutching his nose.

“My arm! It feels like it’s on fire,” cried Lornyc. He grabbed his shirt, tearing away the sleeve.

Lornyc grunted in agony but seconds later was hit by a wave of ecstasy, which rolled over him, stripping away the heat and the pain.

The two men stared at Lornyc’s left bicep. There, in vibrant colors, was the Hadral family crest: a blue shield embossed with a golden H.

“Bloody hell,” whispered Methian, reaching out and stroking the newly adorned patch of skin.

Right. Simply put: Magic complicates everything.

When magic rears its ugly, controlling head, how does a lover cope? For answers, we look to dear Lord Methian. We find this little jewel of romance on page 34:

Lornyc sagged into Methian’s arms. “I have no choice but to treat you as my master when you command it.”

Methian cupped the back of Lornyc’s head with his hand. “If anything, you are my master, and have been since you were seventeen.”

So, as far as I’m concerned that is the most notable principle to be gained from these two men—loving is give and take. Love is kind, and love is… well, noticeable. See? (This is on page 52.)

“Your grandfather could do amazing things, and from what I felt, you’ll be able to do even more. He didn’t need to rely on muttered words and hand movements, the world yielded to him—and now we need to make it do the same for you.”

“But….”

“No time for buts, my boy. This contract will be fulfilled, and if what Tancorix has told me is true, we need to get you connected and up to speed as soon as possible. You don’t have the luxury of time to procrastinate. Sooner or later you’re going to be Katraman’s High Lord—and you need to be everything your father isn’t.”

“But the contract to the Hadrals….”

“From what I saw, Methian—that’s what you called him, didn’t you—seems to be willing to cooperate.” The mage grinned. “If you truly are his valet, then you’re doing things way beyond the remit of your job description.” Kat laughed at Lornyc’s expression. “I can see your imprint all over him. Valet, my ass!” Sexy naked guy posing in studio with roses

“My what?”

“Even though you can’t do much, you’re still projecting raw energy. One of my talents is to see an individual’s magical signature if it’s being broadcasted, and Methian is covered in yours.”

Oops. But hey, being marked is not always a bad thing, right?

In truth, the lessons to be learned from the interwoven lives of these two men go far beyond romantic words and a master being marked by his servant. They persevere through so many things: parents, politics, grief—even females. But we’ve reached the end of the course seminar, and the rest can be absorbed through home study.

If you’ve been working with a borrowed text book and want to buy it, click the (fabulous) cover image for the buy link at Dreamspinner Press.

Thank you Lornyc and Methian for allowing us to spy on your joys, sorrows, and bafflements. And thanks Rebecca Cohen for a unique and delicious romance.

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Filed under Gay Romance University, M/M romance

Expect the Unexpected: Free story coming soon! (Don’t Read in the Closet 2014, Love’s Landscapes)

Expect the Unexpected Cvr (2)

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by | May 13, 2014 · 1:15 pm

(1) I love my cover artist! (2)I forgot to post on my own blog

Because of Jade cover design Reese DanteRegarding title number 1: Reese Dante. I probably need say no more, but I have been so lucky to have her create all my covers for the Vasquez and James series. Frankly, she’s outdone herself on the cover for Because of Jade coming up for release on 5/23. (Goodness! I just realized that’s less than three weeks!) Virtual hands in the air if you agree it’s lovely. (And I’ll blow you virtual kisses in return 🙂 )

About number 2: Yeah, hard to believe isn’t it. I had Pride-Promotions arrange a fabulous cover reveal, and my cover was all over the internet for quite some time… but I forgot to post it here! I need heavy doses of Ginkgo Biloba, or something.

So, I’ve posted it here now—better late than never, I hope. Book releases 5/23, and can be preordered now. (Click the cover image for the buy link.)While I’m catching up on things, here’s the blurb.

Luki Vasquez receives the news he’s still cancer free after five years, and he wants to celebrate with his whole family. He and his husband, Sonny James, take a road trip south, intending to gather at the home of his nephew Josh, Josh’s wife Ruthie, and Jade—a little girl who was still in the womb when she and her mother helped Luki beat lung cancer.

Halfway to their destination, Luki learns Josh and Ruthie have met a tragic death. The horrible news lays Luki low, but he pulls himself together in time to be the family’s rock and see to the dreaded business of tying up loose ends. The most important business is Jade, and when Luki and Sonny head home, they take Jade with them.

Luki and Sonny must combat self-doubt and fear and help each other learn to parent an unexpected child—and they must also nourish the love that has kept them whole for the past ten years. A relative’s spurious claim to Jade threatens the new family, and even if they prevail in court, they could lose their little girl unless they can rescue Jade from evil hands and true peril.

I hope you all love it! There will be giveaways and good times coming up–watch for posts if you’d like to join me in celebrating.
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Filed under Because of Jade, Dreamspinner Press, New M/M releases, Vasquez & James