Tag Archives: Dreamspinner

Gay Romance University: Vasquez and James 401—love him up real good before parting

SavingSonnyJamesLG Yes, we’re back in one of the sexiest lecture halls ever invented—my blog. 🙂 Today we take a look at the fourth major episode in the romance of Luki and Sonny, as recorded in our text, Saving Sonny James..

In the “front matter” (you know, the pages before page 1) of Saving Sonny James you’ll find the epigraph, consisting of lines of poetry Walt Whitman. This is the first, from a poem entitled: “Old War Dreams.”

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Long have they pass’d, faces and trenches and fields,

Where through the carnage I moved with a callous composure, or away from the fallen,

Onward I sped at the time, but now of their forms at night,

I dream, I dream, I dream

So yeah, the beginning of Saving Sonny James is a little weighty. With the events reported in Finding Jackie, in the Umatilla where Luki once again faced a life or death situation and the only solution required deadly force, Luki added one more to a lifetime pile of ‘straws’, and it broke his camel’s back… Or perhaps only very seriously sprained it, because the hope is it can be fixed. Sonny of course, would like to fix it—he really, really wants his husband back, but he’s stymied. On page 5 (the beginning of chapter one), we find a sampling from Sonny’s thoughts:

Luki Vasquez had been his usual self when he and his still newlywed husband, Sonny James, had driven home to the rainy Olympic Peninsula from Nebraska, even though he’d been shot in the thigh—again.

Well, Sonny thought as he backed his yellow Mustang—his baby—out of the old barn where he parked it, Luki was mostly his usual self then, when we first came home.

Because at times he’d still been in a lot of pain, and a few times he’d had plenty of—too much—pain medication, and then there had also been those other, weirder times that Sonny couldn’t explain. Luki would just check out right in the middle of a conversation, stay completely blank until he’d suddenly say, “He was just a kid,” or, “He had the greenest eyes.” Those times never lasted long, though, and Luki’s pain got less and less, and Sonny just didn’t expect the thing that happened to Luki not long after they got home. It was almost like Luki… died inside. Like whatever made him Luki drained off and left Sonny a handsome and heart-wrenching Luki-like shell. luki depressed

It didn’t really matter that Sonny knew psychological trauma did this to others: soldiers, agents of the law, people who relied on violent skills to guard the world against violence. This development in Luki astounded Sonny. The very idea that Luki Mililani Vasquez could be so overcome, so incapacitated that people felt the need to watch over him, medicate him, counsel him, be careful of him, for God’s sake. It was like weaving a wall-sized tapestry, spending hours with it and knowing every warp and weft intimately, and then one day discovering the image had changed from day to night, ocean to desert, rock to dust. How could it make sense?

Sonny can’t fix Luki, of course. That type of broken has to be fixed from the inside out. For a while, Luki just can’t seem to wake himself up from the horrors in his mind, and the despair they’ve engendered. It takes a near disaster for him to (figuratively) give himself a mighty shake and begin to take steps toward healing. Actually, two near disasters.

First he rescue Sonny from the frigid waters of the Juan de Fuca Strait. He has to warm him up of course, and what better way than body heat. One thing sweetly leads to another, and then next thing you know, this, from page 18:

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He began to lick the remnants of sea salt off Sonny’s skin, starting out sweet and slow, but growing adamant, pushy, demanding. And Sonny gave and took in kind, until the two of them were half covered in marks from sucks and scratches and bites. Sonny started suddenly to move his head toward Luki’s cock, but Luki pushed him back down and said, “No, you.” He licked the length of Sonny’s erection from base to crown twice, then stroked, squeezing a little until precum coated the sweet tip. Taking Sonny’s own hand, he passed it over to gather the crystal lube, then gave the harvest to Sonny, feeding him his juices from his own fingers.

Sonny moaned, sucking the pleasure from his own hand, and Luki growled, then lay down over Sonny, grinding their hard cocks together. Then, as he almost always did, he asked, “What do you want, baby?”

“Fuck me,” Sonny said, with no hesitation.

Well, you can guess that things progress from there, but I’ll leave it there for now so I can forge ahead. (For independent reading, this smutty/sweet section starts on about page 17.) But after the sex, they fall asleep, and that’s when the unthinkable happens, and Luki has to save Sonny from… well, from Luki.

Even though that first awakening ended in near disaster, it’s a step toward healing, and the next day, Luki is prepared to see Doctor Sonny James off to Paris where he will show his tapestries and lecture on fibers and dies and weaving amazingly beautiful things. Sonny is prepared to believe Luki when he promises to do everything he can—everything he’s supposed to do, for a change—to get well. But first Luki promises Sonny that their last day together will be a good one. And, oh God, yes, they have a little fun. For instance, this, from page 44.

He’d meant what he said to Sonny back at the cemetery. He’d do everything in his power, expend every last drop of his energy if needed, to give Sonny the Luki he wanted today. His thoughts turned to sex, and he knew that if he could pull that Luki out of the magician’s hat, it wasn’t going to be at all unpleasant for him, either.

You don’t deserve pleasure, Luki.

Oh, fuck off.

That little exchange between the halves of his brain, so to speak, struck Luki’s funny bone, and he laughed out loud.

“What?” Sonny said, drawing his brows together in puzzlement, though he smiled. “What is it you’re thinking? Tell me.”

Luki skipped some stuff but he didn’t lie. He stretched in his seat. “Well, sweetie, I was thinking about… oh, this.” He pinched Sonny’s nipple through his T-shirt, making it pucker up and poke out the butter-yellow fabric instantly. Sonny gasped, but his driving didn’t stutter. Luki leaned closer—an easy reach in the small Mustang, and grabbed a handful of Sonny between his legs. That made his sweet husband jump! To his credit, nothing changed in his driving—Luki had known it wouldn’t—but he got a very serious look on his face, a look that Luki loved, treasured. Vintage Sonny.

Sonny put his foot down, figuratively speaking, and the tone of his voice indicated he mentally had his hand on his hip, even though physically one was on the steering wheel and the other on the gear shift. “Luki, don’t do that. I’m driving.”

“Oh, okay,” Luki sighed. “Well, I guess I’ll just do this, then.” He leaned back in the seat and spread his legs as wide as he could, then rubbed his crotch with both hands.

“Fuck!” Sonny said, which was sort of an event all by itself. “Honey, stop! I have to drive!”

Luki laughed again and stuck one hand down the front of his own pants.

“Luki! What the hell is going on with you?”

Luki chuckled once more, removed his hand, and adjusted his clothes and position. “Well, sweetie, it’s like this: I’m either going to laugh with you today, or I’m going to sleep, or panic, or rage, or cry. My ‘just be normal’ mode isn’t working very well. And I want it to be a good day for you, for us. So I’m being a little silly. And when we get home I’ll be putty in your hands…. Orgasmic putty. Okay?”

Sonny giggled, which seemed like a reward. Then he said, “Luki, you’re never putty. You somehow manage to top from the bottom.”

“Complaining?”

“Not at all.”

They fell into a good-natured silence, a calm that felt good, but almost foreign to Luki—or forgotten. Still, he decided, one could consider it a gift horse, and he wasn’t about to look it in the mouth. He settled comfortably in for the remaining half hour of the drive, and even though he had to keep pushing away intruding thoughts and disturbing images and unwanted emotions, he felt more relaxed than he had for a long time. At some point he noticed that he and Sonny had joined hands, rested them together on the gearshift. By the time they got to Port Clifton, he felt almost too relaxed; he could easily have slept instead of making love, but the idea of sleeping brought a whole slew of scary what-ifs.

We’ll have to stick to fucking. He surreptitiously looked over Sonny’s body… long, sleek, beautiful body. Not an unpleasant choice, that.

They parted of necessity so Luki could retrieve his car from Margie’s parking lot and drive it home. But Luki thought about Sonny and sex for the entire drive. They arrived home together. On the almost quarter-mile walk from the car barn, or garage, as Sonny insisted on calling it, to the house, Luki stopped Sonny, wound his hand through Sonny’s long, thick hair and used it to pull him in for a kiss. More than a kiss, it involved sucking and licking and biting, and it carried with it instant heat that flashed straight to the groin. Luki certainly felt it, and he felt Sonny’s skin flame. Not really breaking their embrace, he started them moving again toward the house.

“Luki,” Sonny said. “Maybe you could just be in charge as usual. I mean, I want to feel… in Hawaii you said that’s best for you, and…. Know what I mean?”

“I do. But, sweetie, no. How am I ever going to perfect my top-from-the-bottom technique if you don’t bottom-from-the-top?”

Which leads—after further shenanigans—to this moment, on page 48.

Sonny’s entry was sure and steady and not too slow, no stops along the way. Once he was fully sheathed, he rocked, moving his erection inside Luki, making almost but not quite constant contact with his prostate.

“God,” Luki breathed. “Good goddamn, baby! Who taught you that?”

Oh yeah, there’s more, the entire NSFW encounter appears on pages 44 through 49 in your text, for further study.

Unfortunately, not too long after this, Luki realizes that the saving of Sonny James has not even really begun, for a very, very bad man waiting for Sonny in Paris has plans—terrifying plans. If you care to research that history, and perhaps partake of the sweet, hot reward waiting at the end, you can borrow the book from a friend, or maybe click on the cover image above and buy the book. 

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Filed under Gay Romance University, Lou Sylvre, Saving Sonny James, Vasquez & James

Anne Barwell Interview: The many facets of her romance rainbow

Hello! Today I’m happy to share with you my recent interview with author Anne Barwell. One of the things I most enjoy about Anne’s writing is it’s diversity—she writes series, but they’re all quite different. I made her talk about that sneaky little habit! You can ask her disturbing questions too, if you like, in comments. 🙂
Note: Click any cover for a buy link to that book. For Anne’s bio (and other good stuff), visit her blog

Here’s the interview:

Q: You have, if I’m not mistaken, four different series in process. Please tell us a little bit about each one.
A: Five if you include The Harp and the Sea, which is our joint project… [LS—I’m so pleased to be working on this project with Anne!]

I’m still not sure how I ended up with so many series in progress. I blame demanding characters. Seriously though, one advantage I find with having more than one series in progress is that I have a hardcopy in front of me for the previous book while I’m writing the next one, which is so much easier when hunting for continuity details.

Hidden Places [series] is a contemporary fantasy which crosses through a portal into another world called Naearu. The main characters are Tomas, a writer, and Cathal, who is from Naearu. Part of the action takes place in the English village of Oakwood, part in Naearu. So far I’ve written two books in this series Cat’s Quill and Magic’s Muse. I have two more planned: One Word is Ethan and Donovan’s story and is a side story to Cat’s Quill. Dragon’s Price finishes the series and takes the characters back to Naearu.

Echoes is an historical series set in occupied Europe during WWII. Kristopher Lehrer is a scientist working on a top secret project in Germany. When his illusions are shattered and he discovers what the Nazis plan to do with his work, it isn’t long before he is on the run with both the Gestapo and the Allies after the plans he carries. Shadowboxing is the first book in the series and is set in Berlin in 1943. Winter Duet (which I’ve just submitted to Dreamspinner Press) is set in Germany in early 1944. The last book, Comes a Horseman, is set in France in mid 1944

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Dragons of Astria is a fantasy series set in Astria, a land where dragons are real and magic exists, although it has been outlawed for generations. Aric and Denys are from two very different backgrounds, but their destinies are intertwined in more ways than one. A quest for a magical sword will affect not only their life together, but the future of the kingdom. A Knight to Remember is the first in this series, and there will be two more books: A Mage to Forget and A Sword to Rule.

The Sleepless City is an urban fantasy series which is a joint project with Elizabeth Noble. The first four books are set in the re-imagined city of Flint, Ohio, and the characters are vampires, werewolves, ghosts—and human. I’ve written the first book, Shades of Sepia, and book 2, Electric Candle, by Elizabeth is coming out on April 4th.

Q: Of your series, do you have one that is easier for you to write? One that is your favorite? If so, please explain your choice?
AEchoes, being an historical series, requires a lot more research than the others, but I was surprised how fast Winter Duet wrote once I got going with it. It’s difficult to pick a favourite, it’s like choosing a favourite child. My favourite tends to be the one I’m working on at the moment and yes I know that’s not helpful. Each of them have aspects I really enjoy, and I love all my guys but it is easier writing fantasy especially as I can build worlds and ‘make stuff up’ rather than worry about whether I’ve got the details of a time and/or place just right. Ben from The Sleepless City, as a Kiwi character, is very easy to write, but the US setting means a bit of research as it’s the little things that I really don’t know. I’m definitely setting my next contemporary series in New Zealand. But not just for that reason as I think there needs to be more M/M set locally.

Q: How do you balance your writing time between the different series? Do you find that your style differs from one to the next? If so, how do you get in the right mind set for the particular series you’re working on?
A: I didn’t intend to have four series on the go at once. My original plan was to have two and alternate them, and once I’ve caught up with finishing what I’ve started that’s what I’ll be doing with maybe a one shot—and yes I know they always turn into series—or two in between. Meantime I’m trying to write in a circle: Hidden Places book 3, </em.Dragons of Astria book 2, Echoes book 3 etc. That way I’m not leaving readers of those readers hanging around too long, or at least that’s the plan. There aren’t enough hours in the day with working full time [outside of writing] so a couple of novels a year is about as much as I can manage.

With the series being different genres, my style does differ between them. No too much so but more in what is needed for the characters and plot. The series tend to have a different feel to them, especially in the narrative/dialogue between historical/contemporary and high fantasy. Aric’s speech in Dragons of Astria is going to be more formal, and have no modern idioms compared to Tomas in Hidden Places, while Cathal from that series being between two worlds in a sense has a mix of both. It also depends on what story a particular book is telling. Magic’s Muse was slower paced but it was filling in a lot of gaps and building relationships which need to be in place for the final book in that series Dragon’s Price which will more of an action/drama.

I get in the mind set when I switch projects by firstly writing an outline, printing it out and scribbling over it, and writing a blurb. Usually I’m thinking through and researching/discussing ideas a couple of projects ahead of what I’m writing so I do tend to multitask a bit I guess especially if I’m working on more than one project at a time like I am now with Echoes and The Harp and the Sea.

Q: Your most recent release is Shades of Sepia, book one in a shared world series, The Sleepless City. How did you and your series partner, Elizabeth Noble, develop this concept? Any hints you can give us about what’s yet to come?
A: Elizabeth and I were chatting on IM one day and found we both had vampire characters we wanted to do something more with. One thing led to another and The Sleepless City was born. The mythos or ‘series bible’ is the product of hours of discussion, which is still ongoing.

The first four books in the series are an ‘arc’ and tell a complete story, and then we’re each writing books set within the universe. An arc seemed to be a good way to start the series and establish it and the characters. Shades of Sepia is Simon and Ben’s story, Electric Candle by Elizabeth which comes out in April is Forge’s. [LS—this book is now available for pre-order on Dreamspinner’s site.] I’m writing Family and Reflection later this year which is Lucas’s, and then Elizabeth will tie up the arc with the last book Checkmate. One thing I’m looking forward to in Family and Reflection, as there’s got to be some fun in amongst all the seriousness of the case they’re working, is that Ben’s friend Ange visits from New Zealand. She doesn’t know who or rather what they all are, so they’re going to try to keep it from her. Good luck with that one.

Q: What can you tell readers in advance about the two main characters in Shades of Sepia, Ben and Simon? (Make us curious, or make them irresistible!)
A: Ben’s a local guy – well local for me – as he comes from Wellington where I live. He’s very laid back but at the same time speaks his mind and doesn’t take any shit. He’s also a bit of a geek and collects comics/graphic novels. His passion is photography and that’s the really ironic thing about his and Simon’s relationship. The one person Ben really wants to photograph he can’t because vampires not show up on film. Well, not usually, there is a way around it but he’ll have to convince Simon first – and you’ll have to read the book to find out what I’m referring to 😉

Simon’s is very different to Ben, it’s one of the reasons they complement each other so well. Simon’s more serious, and carefully considers his actions before he takes them where Ben’s more likely to just decide and do it. Simon’s also got an old fashioned streak a mile high, which isn’t just because he was born in the late nineteenth century. He’s also got a dark side, not unexpected as he’s a vampire! But like Ben he’s fiercely protective of the people he cares about and won’t hesitate to put himself in the line of fire to do just that. As Lucas says, “You can argue over which one of you is going to play protective over the other one’s ass on a given day. Promise me I can watch?”

Q: What’s coming next from Anne Barwell? Anything slated for release in the upcoming months? (Please elaborate!) Also, what’s on the burner for the next year or so?
A: I’m putting the final touches to Winter Duet, which is the sequel to Shadowboxing and the next book in the Echoes series.

Here’s the blurb:

Germany, 1944. With Kristopher finally fit enough to travel, he and Michel begin their journey across Germany toward Switzerland and safety.
Separated in the middle of a warzone, after helping an injured RAF pilot, Kristopher is determined to find Michel again. But how far can he trust the man travelling with him? Whoever he is, he is definitely not the German soldier he appears to be.

Meanwhile Michel mounts a rescue mission. Time is running out. Loyalties are tested and betrayed as the Gestapo close in. Can he reach one of their own before information is revealed that could compromise not only his and Kristopher’s safety, but that of the remaining members of the Allied team?
Or is it already too late for all of them?

And an excerpt:

Kristopher dropped to his knees, and examined the boy. His eyes were glazed over and he flinched when Kristopher touched him. “He must have hit his head when he fell,” Kristopher said. He brought his hand away from the boy’s temple. It was covered in blood. “He needs help, but I can’t do much for him here, just try and stop the bleeding.” He quickly opened his satchel and pulled out a short length of bandage, bundled it into a wad and held it against the wound. It probably wouldn’t be enough to stop it, but it was better than doing nothing. Head wounds tended to bleed, didn’t they? It didn’t mean it was something serious, but it could be.

He let out a quick breath. Damn it. He wished he’d paid more attention when he’d watched Clara at work. Why had he agreed to disguise himself a medic? In this situation when that was exactly what was needed, he was next to useless.

“We can’t stay here,” Michel said. “Can you tie something around the bandage so it keeps the pressure on it when we move him?”

“Keep pressure on the wound while I look.” Kristopher searched around in his bag, ripped some more of the bandaging material, and tied it quickly. His hands were shaking, but at least there didn’t seem to be any blood seeping through the original cloth he’d put over the wound. “I think that should hold it for now.”

Michel handed Kristopher the flashlight and then lifted the boy into his arms. “What’s your name?” he asked softly when the boy opened his eyes and looked up at him.

“Fritz,” the boy replied, his voice wavering. He put his arms around Michel’s neck and clung to him. Thankfully he seemed more alert than he had a few moments before.

“Hello, Fritz. I’m Michel and this is Paul,” Michel said. “We’re going to keep you safe, I promise.”

“You promise?” Fritz’s earlier confidence was gone. “I didn’t think it was so dark. I know this place. I shouldn’t have tripped.” He glared at the ground. “Stupid thing. Stupid stupid. Everything looks different.” He sniffled loudly, and wiped one dirty hand over his face.

“Do you remember the way to the bunker, Fritz?” Kristopher asked. Michel was watching Fritz carefully, holding the boy close to him. His grip had tightened at the first sign of Fritz’s distress.

“I don’t need to put you down,” Michel reassured Fritz. “You can still guide us while I’m holding you.”

“I don’t want to walk.” Fritz bit his lip. He looked around and then pointed to a street to their left. “If we go down there it’s only about ten minutes away.” They’d never reach the bunker in time before it closed.

“There isn’t one closer?” Michel asked.
“It’s the one I know about,” Fritz said somewhat defensively. “Mutter told me if something happened I should go to it.”

“Where’s your mother now?” Kristopher asked. The light from the flashlight was dying quickly. They had to hurry.

“I don’t know. She went to get my baby sister but she never came downstairs.” Fritz stuck his chin out. “I waited like she said, even when I heard the loud noises and people crying.”

“You live around here?” Kristopher hoped Fritz’s family had survived this. They’d have to try and reunite them or at least find someone who could look after him before they left Stuttgart.

Fritz nodded. Whatever his wound, it seemed as though it was definitely superficial or he wouldn’t be talking as much as he was. “I went looking for her, and I couldn’t find her.”

“You sound much better, Fritz. Do you think you could walk?” Michel asked.

“I don’t want to lose you and Paul too,” Fritz said. He let Michel put him down and then put one small hand into Michel’s.

“You won’t lose us,” Michel promised. “Keep holding my hand and Paul will look after the flashlight. We can work together.”

“Michel’s very good at working together,” Kristopher told Fritz. He shone the flashlight around. The further out into the street they got, the more rubble there was. It wasn’t safe to move too quickly and at this speed they’d never reach the shelter before daylight. He glanced up at the sky. Most of the flashes of light seemed to now be focused toward the city centre. “I’m wondering if it’s safer to stay here, but get as far away from the buildings as we can, and wait for daylight.”

“We don’t know how long this raid is going to last,” Michel said, “but we need to make a decision.” Something creaked and groaned to the side of them. “Move!” Michel yelled. He picked up Fritz and ran back the way they’d come. Kristopher didn’t stop to see what was going on behind him. He followed.

Moments later, more rubble hit the street where they’d just been standing. If they’d stayed there they would have been buried in it.

Kristopher shone the flashlight on it and shivered. “I think finding the shelter is the least of our problems,” he said. “We need to get out into the open. It’s not just more bombings that could kill us, but the buildings that are already damaged.”

“I know a place,” Fritz said after Michel put him down. “I’ll show you.” He took hold of Michel’s hand again. “You and Paul are soldiers.” He pointed to the Red Cross on Kristopher’s arm. “You’ll stay and help look after all the hurt people, won’t you? Vater is a soldier too. He’s fighting at the front. Mutter says he’s very brave.”

“Yes, we’ll stay and help,” Michel said before Kristopher could say anything. He squeezed Fitz’s hand. “We’ll also help you find your mother, or at least someone who can look after you.” He looked over at Kristopher and gave him a questioning look.

“Of course we will,” Kristopher said, wondering why Michel felt he’d even had to ask.

My next project is On Wings of Song which is a WW1 novella which begins in France in 1914. I’ve had the idea for a while, and as this year is the centenary of the beginning of the war, it felt like the right time to write it. And of course The Harp and The Sea.

After that, and book 3 of The Sleepless City, I’m focusing on working on/finishing the series I already have in progress.

Q: To wrap up, please describe for me the single most satisfying thing about being an author. When and how does it happen?
A Seeing my ideas and characters take shape as I write, and having others enjoy my stories. It’s a scary thing putting a bit of myself out there, but even if each book just touches one person it’s worth it. I write the stories I want to read, or otherwise what’s the point?

LS—Your writing has certainly touched me, and I know I’m not alone, so thanks for taking the chance! And thank you, Anne, for being my guest today! Come back soon.

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Filed under featured authors, Interviews, New M/M releases, Writers on writing

Gay Romance University 301: On Weddings, Hankies, Beaches, and Bathtubs (Yes, NSFW)

Hello class! The third level course in Gay Romance according to Vasquez and James commences with a look at the sweet and slightly ridiculous events of their wedding. We’re using book three in the series, Finding Jackie as ‘text.’Finding Jackie by Lou Sylvre art by Reese Dante As you will recall from Sonny’s proposal (Delsyn’s Blues, read from p. 74 for full context, through p. 80), and Luki’s acceptance (continue through p89), Luki wanted to have the wedding in Hawaii, because his mother and beloved uncle Kaholo come from that Pacific paradise. In Finding Jackie, we join them there for the event, and they are looking good! No that is not them in the picture (which comes to us courtesy a gay wedding firm called Purple Unions). hawaiian wedding purple union vendor Luki and Sonny were much like that (happy and kissy and sexy) only loads more fabulous and dressed to the nines. On page 9:

Luki’s suit fit loosely, almost blousy, giving him plenty of room for his muscled chest and shoulders, yet at the same time it had been tailored so perfectly that, while it only showed off some of Luki’s curves and planes, it eloquently promised the rest. He wore a tie of barely blue silk, woven by Sonny with a subtle, obscured pattern of lauburu—the Basque Cross… .

Sonny wore white silk, an Italian cut customized for his height and slightly broader shoulders, following closely the slim lines of his elegant frame. He wore a white ribbon shirt, with the remaining three sacred colors in the ribbons—narrow strips of a blue so deep it was almost black, golden yellow, and dark red. They crossed his chest and climbed his shoulders, then hung from his shoulder blades in the back, hidden now under his jacket. The two silk-covered buttons of Sonny’s light-weight, summer wool jacket had been set with diamonds at the center. A silk scarf woven—like the ribbons on his shirt—of the four sacred colors from his tribal heritage, fluttered at his chest in the slight breeze.

After the sexy wedding, it’s the honeymoon, Vasquez and James style, starting with Hawaiian beaches. One interesting encounter in which Sonny demonstrates his relative prudishness (as compared to Luki) begins on page 17 of your text. Note the guy in the photo (courtesy Kauai-gay-massage.com) isn’t Luki or Sonny, but he is freakin’ hot! nude rear view on beach kauai massage and intuitive service

“That’s a tough color to match,” Sonny said, finally making some notes when he couldn’t quite duplicate the blue a hundred feet from shore. He wondered, though, if he was only having a hard time because of Luki’s eyes. They were all over him. Even though he didn’t turn to look, he could feel them on every inch of his skin—even the most hidden and intimate. He was getting really warm despite the breeze off the sea, and he really didn’t think it had to do with the sun. He loved the feeling, but enough was enough, and he took hold of Luki’s ice water—why waste his own? He turned and leaned toward Luki, glass in hand, but Luki saw what he was up to. Being ever so much quicker and more capable, Luki simply stopped him, rolled, and stood up.

“Brat,” he said.

“You were making me nervous.”

“I was not,” Luki said as he dusted sand off his rented surfboard.

“Okay. True. You were making me hot.”

“Good, Sonny. That’s good. You’re yummy when you’re hot.”

Sonny laughed and tossed the water from his own glass toward Luki, but Luki evaded it and headed down the beach to the edge of the ocean.

Sonny had worried that Luki wouldn’t enjoy the ocean, what with his history with rivers, almost drowning twice, once involving a knife and once involving a bomb. And last year he’d said he didn’t like being on the water, when they took the boat out to Mack Money’s island in the San Juans. He needn’t have feared. Luki took to surfing like he was born to it. And maybe it was something inherited, something hidden in the genes until opportunity arose.

Kaholo had surfed one day before he left, and as old as he was, his body remembered its Hawaiian youth. He let out a “whoop” once, riding just ahead of the crest of a wave, that reminded Sonny of his own uncle, Melvern, at a powwow. So maybe Luki came by his affinity for board and surf naturally. Whatever the explanation, once Luki had a couple lessons, he hardly left the water. He didn’t try any giant combers, of course, and even on a smaller wave his ride didn’t always succeed. He had some spectacular crashes, and sported a gash on his already scarred left cheek from hitting the board fin.

“It figures,” Luki had said, pressing his palm against it.

But even that hadn’t freaked him out about the water and surfing. Because now, here they were, seventy-two hours before they were due to fly out of Honolulu airport, in the heat of the warmest midafternoon yet. Sonny joined Luki in the waves—he liked them well enough. They were so different from the cold, rocking current of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, where he swam regularly, or at least took a dip almost every day except in a freeze. Here, the water was a whole different kind of playmate. But after Sonny had played a while, he left Luki to surf the aqua sea, and walked up the beach, raising white sand in the miniscule breeze. He shook out his towel and collapsed onto it.

He lay on the beach, then, letting the sun and breeze dry his skin, his eyes almost closed, drowsy but not sleeping, surreptitiously watching Luki’s play. Because that’s what it was, Luki at play in the surf, and Sonny loved it. Loved the very idea of it. And Sonny couldn’t get enough of seeing Luki overfull of joy. He was just thinking that maybe they should never leave this place, when Luki brought some of that joy—dripping wet joy, it turned out—to share with Sonny. He heeled his board into the sand just like an experienced beach bum, and then flopped down right on top of Sonny.

In one of his most articulate moments, Sonny exclaimed, “Ah! Wet!”

“Kiss me,” Luki responded. “That will be wet, too.”

“Ooh,” Sonny said, because Luki was lying flat on top of him, and there were some interesting contact points.

“I know. Ooh.” Luki wiggled a little.

“Luki!”

“Okay, sorry, baby.” Luki started to lift himself off Sonny, but Sonny grabbed him by the shoulders, locking his long arms.

“No! You can’t get up right now. My feelings have become obvious and anybody might walk by. Children. Grandmothers. Lifeguards.”

“Okay, okay. But don’t be silly. There are no lifeguards on this beach—”

“You never know.”

“And I haven’t seen a grandmother around here for at least two days—”

“I’m sure they’ll be back.”

“And I haven’t seen any children here at all.”

“First time for everything.”

“Fine. Try to get ahold of your—”

“Luki!”

“Emotions. I’m just gonna move a little to one side, like that”—Luki demonstrated—“so things aren’t quite so… intimate. ’Kay?”

“’Kay, better.”

Luki managed little by little to put some distance between them, and both the men sat up. “Phew,” Sonny said, and they laughed.

Knowing the importance of having the most glorious possible honeymoon and doing everything Sonny wanted to do, Luki agreed to a three-phase honeymoon, part two of which was to be a brief stay in Seattle, since Sonny(aka Dr. James) had to be there anyway to lecture on dyes and fibers. By the time they got into their rather posh hotel room at the Monaco, trouble had already begun to rear it’s ugly head, as is unfortunately the way of things with Vasquez and James. Trouble from outside (see the prologue and pages 34 through 37), and of course, trouble from inside, mostly Luki, the twerp (see pages 22-23). But trouble did not stop them from taking a very hot and steamy bath. We’ll start on page 48 to set the scene and move right into the NSFW from there.

Luki’s eyes followed his husband, who paced from side to side, peeked around curtains and walls, opened doors. He made a sound, something like “Mm,” knowing Sonny wasn’t really looking for a response, but would appreciate knowing Luki was paying attention. He also smiled. Something about the quirky way Sonny settled himself into a space was too sweet for words.

“You know what I need to do, honey?”

Luki noted with glee that Sonny had begun to strip. This time, when he said, “Mm,” he didn’t have to feign interest.

“I need to get in that bathtub—do you see that thing? It’s like a swimming pool. I need to get in there and soak, all nice and relaxed, and take in that wallpaper until it seems normal to me.”

The man is fucking crazy, Luki thought, both disappointed and surprised. Sonny was already in the bathroom, fine-tuning the water temperature. Luki put his hands in his pockets—not a characteristic posture at all, but he was at a loss. He literally jumped when Sonny whooped and yelled.

“Yes! There’s bubble bath in here!”

Now, Luki was so nonplussed that he sat down on the couch, rather hard. When he tried to think of something he might be doing the only two things that came to mind were jerking off—which he dismissed immediately—and eating a hamburger. He considered the hamburger carefully, decided against, and got up to wander into the strangely wall-papered, thoroughly lavender-scented bathroom.

“This is a big tub, Luki.”

Luki stepped closer to Sonny and pushed a long strand of dark hair off his chest, letting it join its fellows falling down Sonny’s back.

Sonny grabbed Luki’s belt at the buckle and made as if to undo it. “Get in, Luki. There’s room. Look.” He lifted a foot out of the water. “See, my feet don’t even reach all the way to the other side. Not crowded at all.”

Luki stood silent, chewing his lip. He wasn’t one for shower play, which Sonny knew. It just reminded him too much of lonelier days. He never took baths, especially bubble baths. And, he really, really didn’t want to smell like flowers. But he loved his husband so much, and there the man was, asking for this simple, little thing.

“Luki, take a bath with me. Come on.”

Luki started to strip, tossing his clothes back out onto the chair in the bedroom. He was, of course, hard by the time he was naked, which was something Sonny certainly didn’t fail to notice, even though he said nothing. Luki stood there, feeling confused, never before having realized that deciding how to get into a bathtub and situate oneself was so difficult.

“Luki, you can just sit on that side, facing me so I can look at your eyes and we can talk. Okay? That way you won’t feel so awkward.”

“I’m pretty sure there’s something in that statement I should scold you for, Sonny Bly, I just haven’t figured out what it is,” Luki said while climbing in and turning around and sitting down as instructed. But once he settled, his hands found Sonny’s legs, and he couldn’t help but rub them. And then Sonny found his foot, and as Sonny well knew, Luki’s toes were really sensitive. And Sonny played with them. All the while they looked each other in the eyes.

“Luki,” Sonny said, finally, “you don’t play in the shower.”

“No. What’s your point?”

For answer, Sonny took Luki’s foot and laid it along his own erection, which was one of the sexiest things that had ever happened to Luki. ment in tub gay beauty blog tumblrThen Sonny took his size a-very-large-number foot, with its long, nearly prehensile toes, and not too gently stroked it up and down Luki’s cock, and Luki spent a few seconds catching his breath.

“This isn’t a shower,” Sonny said.

Luki nodded. “Right.”

Sonny let a little water out, added some hot to adjust the temperature. “We could fuck here, if we so desired, which I do.” Sonny actually looked hopeful, as if he was a little afraid Luki would say no, or maybe scoff.

Luki wasn’t about to do either one. Sonny was the most beautiful, lovable, eminently fuckable person on the planet, and Luki wasn’t about to fail him. As he’d explained to Sonny just the other day, fucking Sonny happy was his personal joy. He licked his lips. “Come here, baby.”

Sonny more or less slithered up Luki’s body, dragging his weight over Luki’s flesh until he’d brought his lips even with Luki’s. He stopped, offering his slightly open lips, but waiting for Luki to take them. Luki did, starting with a suck and nibble of Sonny’s lower lip, then licking with just the hard tip of his tongue along the underside of Sonny’s upper lip. He kept it up, nibbling, sucking, licking, lingering at the sensitive corners. Sonny made a move to kiss back, but Luki pulled away, and answered Sonny’s widened eyes by kissing them. He smiled, biting his own lip, made sure Sonny saw the expression, then whispered in his ear. “Just let me do whatever I want to you, baby, okay? It’ll be good, I promise, and when I want you to kiss me back, I’ll tell you. Okay?”

“Oh!” Sonny’s breath puffed out; then he nodded. “Okay,” he said. “Yes, Luki. Okay.”

The water, hot and ever so slightly silky from the bubble bath, made touching—running his hands along Sonny’s back, over his ass, down his legs—a little bit different than touching had ever been before, for Luki. And by different he meant, damn, that’s nice! And Sonny, who was never, ever still unless specifically instructed, kept squirming and rocking, moving his body side to side over Luki’s. And the water lifted him just a little bit so Luki felt little weight on him, only a teasingly sweet, achingly light friction.
He pulled his lover tight against his chest. “Sonny, baby, you are so damn sweet!”

Sonny was not very coherent. “Mmm, mm… ooooh! Luki!”

Luki chuckled. He couldn’t help it. Then he took hold of Sonny’s forelock and tilted his head back until he was sure he had Sonny’s eyes, and he said, “Stick out your tongue.”

Sonny did so, a little, and said, “Aauuh?”

Luki smiled. “More.”

When Sonny obeyed, he said, “Yeah, like that.” Then he laid his own tongue alongside it, teased it, licking at its tip, and finally closed his lips around it and sucked it into his mouth, meanwhile invading Sonny’s mouth with his own tongue, and touching every part of Sonny he could reach with any limb, and rocking Sonny over him, cock to cock, chest to chest. At some point he said, “Okay, kiss me back, Sonny.” Finally, after a long interval of bliss, or else torture, Luki asked the question he almost always asked when they made love. “What do you want, baby?”

Unlike his earlier efforts at speech, Sonny answered clear and concise. “Fuck me.” Then he buried his face in Luki’s neck, where he commenced licking, sucking, and yes, even biting.

Luki gasped at the sensations that weren’t quite tickle, weren’t quite pain, “So you’re serious, you want to fuck here? In the bath?”

“Mmm-mmm.”
“Turn over, baby, and turn around; get up on your knees. I want your ass right here, up close and personal.”

There’s more to that bath, but that’s it for the lecture. Read on to the bliss in your text for extra credit. If you don’t own the text, click on the cover image up at the top for a link to Dreamspinner. Also available at Amazon, All-Romance E-books, etc (like all the V&J books).
Thanks for coming to class… see you next time!

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Filed under Finding Jackie, Gay Romance University, Vasquez & James

Gay Romance University: Vasquez and James 101 (intro with excerpts and NquiteSFW pics)

gay couple in bed
Want to get your degree in Gay Romance Lit? Well, why not start by learning from the sweet and hot experts, Luki Vasquez and Sonny James. No, you’re right, the couple to the left is not Luki and Sonny, but they are sweet, and they are romantic, and I think they should have a book written about them. (I’m working on it.) Luki and Sonny are older (especially Luki) and more… well, I’ll get to that later.

As you may know, there are, to date, four installments to the Vasquez and James Suspense/Romance story. (If you wish to purchase the texts for home study, click on the image below. 🙂 )

VJ 4 covers by Monique

There is one more book about the couple, the novella Yes,, and another book in the series entitled Because of Jade,coming in spring 2014. For this introductory bit of GRU’s Vasquez and James course, however, we’ll focus on the first book in the series, Loving Luki Vasquez.

One thing you will note about Luki and Sonny is that although they were certainly always hot (and sort of sweet), they were definitely not always experts in romance. In fact if you’ll turn to page 3 of your text (or just keep reading here), you’ll find an account of the events when they first met, accidentally, on the streets of (fictional) Port Clifton, Washington. To set the scene, Sonny—who lived in the area—was walking down the street in a not very good mood…

Pt T main drag

Then he saw a man.

Which in itself wasn‟t unusual, but this man, an islander, maybe Hawaiian, by the look of him, lounged cool and beautiful in loose summer whites, half-sitting on the fender of an ice-blue Mercedes, a strip of sand beach and the blue straits for a backdrop. Dark chestnut curls shining; straight, white teeth softly teasing a lush, plum-red bottom lip. His eyes, startling pale blue against brown skin, roved all over Sonny; the islander made no effort to pretend otherwise, and besides, Sonny could feel them. Their touch trickled over him like ice water, exciting every nerve he had, even those he‟d never heard from before.

Which scared Sonny, a recluse by choice—and, he knew, because he‟d always managed to be socially… well, clumsy. So, he turned to the weapon that had been his first line of defense since adolescence, when all the reservation had noticed that their star young grass dancer didn‟t mind being gay: a smart mouth.

“What are you looking at?”

Groan with me now, class. Good Lord, Sonny James! Could you be any less romantic?

But… maybe it was fate, because minutes later, the heretofore icy-hearted badass Luki Vasquez took a most uncharacteristic chance. You’ll find this bit on page 4 of the text, and Sonny has just witnessed hardcore Luki sweetly pick up a fallen teddy bear and return it to a child.

coffee-love

Sonny, angry with himself for blowing his chance to meet this chill but beautiful stranger—who might be trying to hide a kind heart—pretended he hadn‟t seen. He turned his faux-stoic shoulder and walked away. A little shaky, perhaps; already sorry. Three strides and he heard a voice, unexpectedly scratchy, even hoarse.

“Hey.”

Sonny turned.

The man took a deep, lovely breath, flashed his cold-fire eyes at Sonny, and said, “I have coffee most mornings at Margie’s. In case you’re interested.”

Following that initial flubbed meeting and interesting invitation, Sonny and Luki met a couple of times on purpose and accidentally, with disastrous and somewhat humorous results, and on would think that would have been the end of it. Truth was, however, neither could forget the other. One day, they met by chance—and a kiss happened. Not love at first kiss, no, but a hint at what a romance between them might be. Beginning on page 16 of your book, Luki is disgusted with himself and decides a little tai chi practice on a mostly deserted beach would do him good…
Kiss: Sean Chappin + Juan Valdez / 20100117.7D.02119.P1.L1.SQ.BW

By the time he‟d finished, the sun had risen almost midway. With heat and exertion, he‟d broken into a profuse sweat. He turned his face into the breeze, let it riffle his curls, took his shirt off, and tossed it to hang on one of his targets.

A dot in the distance moving up the beach toward him. A person. Sonny, no flags in sight.

Crap.

Oh well, no problem. If there was anything he knew how to do, it was shut out emotional disturbance. He‟d just continue with his practice, maybe work another form first, as if Sonny weren‟t there. But with Sonny‟s long legs, he covered a lot of distance in a short time, and now he‟d come almost close enough for eye contact. My God, the man is beautiful.

“Hey,” Luki said.

“Hi.”

“Nice out, huh?” Oh, yeah. Great. Talk about the weather.

Sonny ignored the comment.

Thank you, universe.

“It‟s like dancing.”

The conversation seemed like some kind of mirror image of the last time they spoke, when Sonny was checking out colors, which certainly weren‟t all the same, or so Sonny informed him, leaving him to feel foolish. Nice thing was, now they were in his territory. But he had no taste for retaliation.
“It‟s been called that. Tai chi.”

“Oh. Yeah. I‟ve heard of it. Sort of dancing that can kill. Seems exactly right.”

Luki didn‟t know what he meant by that last remark, so he stayed silent.

“It‟s graceful, the way you do it.”

Luki remained at a loss for a response. Was that a compliment?

“I‟ve even thought about trying to learn it. But I could never get away from my studio—or maybe I should say get my studio out of my head—long enough for anything like that.”

Luki still said nothing, but now he subtly eyed Sonny from head to toe—a pleasant undertaking but one with purpose. “You‟re in good enough shape to do it well.”

“I suppose.”

Luki didn‟t know how he could speak and hold his breath at the same time, but it felt that way. “I could teach you a little,” he said, “right now.”

To his surprise and nervous delight, Sonny agreed after only a second’s hesitation. Soon Luki had him barefoot and mastering a perfect opening stance. From there, he taught him some traditional warm-ups—not part of the forms but a good way to get the feel of the art. Though his long, loose limbs gave him some trouble and made Luki want to secretly and fondly laugh, and though Sonny giggled—yes, giggled—at a few of the early warm-ups, he attended well and learned fast.

They‟d reached the last of the warm-up exercises: Pushing Chi. A little more complicated than the ones that came before, it took focused coordination. When Sonny could Push Chi with acceptable grace, Luki decided to introduce him to at least part of the Chen form: First, he revisited the simple but all-important Opening Movement. Then, Pound the Pestle, Lazy Tying Coat, and Six Sealing, Four Closing.

Single Whip led into White Crane Spreads Its Wings, the name of which made Sonny adorably… all right fine, adorably happy. The sequence involved motions that at first felt counterintuitive. Like probably every student in the centuries tai chi had been around, Sonny needed help with it. As he would with any other student, Luki stood behind him, using his own hands to guide Sonny through the move. He wondered if he could get away with teaching him all the rest of the moves in just that way. Perhaps for hours. Every day. For a long time.

As he was teaching and wondering and probably even almost smiling, a wind rose up, splashing spray and sand and whipping Sonny‟s long hair at Luki‟s face and right into his mouth. On the word “open,” appropriately enough.

Sonny spun around, gathering up his luxurious baked-earth red hair. Before Luki had a chance to close his mouth, Sonny kissed him. A passionate, seeking sort of kiss. A kiss that Luki instinctively returned, though kissing wasn‟t a large part of his intimate life, and especially not kissing on the beach.

Well! That is a nice development. After that, some very suspenseful things begin to happen, throwing Luki and Sonny together whether they (profess to) want it or not. One thing of course leads to another, and things heat up, leading to this, on page 48:

bigstock-Cropped-Image-Of-A-Nude-Africa-32140823

After a moment, that not-quite smile of Luki’s that Sonny had come to recognize appeared in his eyes. He laced his strong fingers into Sonny’s hair and rose up to meet Sonny’s lips in a long, soft kiss, keeping possession of his gaze all the while. “Sweet, so sweet,” he whispered. And then, his lips still moving against Sonny’s: “You can have my ass.”

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Filed under Gay Romance University, Lou Sylvre, Loving Luki Vasquez, M/M romance, Vasquez & James

Vasquez and James Road Trip Update! (with links to the strange and wonderful places they’ve been)

'68_Ford_Mustang_Coupe_(Cruisin'_At_The_Boardwalk_'10)Hello readers and fellow travelers! As many of you know, Luki Vasquez and Sonny James have been on a road trip vacation, celebrating their survival after yet another harrowing episode in Saving Sonny James, the fourth book in the suspense series. It’s been crazy fun–the boys have thus far visited across the Atlantic, the eastern seaboard, a future Yukon, the South Seas, and the lone star state. Here follows the precise links to “where they’ve been,” and the list of what’s yet to come. Please feel free to read up and join in. Most of the previous prizes have been awarded, but there will be more prizes to be had between now and the end.
SavingSonnyJames_bookmarkV_DSP

  • 10/18: Sonny James and Luki Vasquez start their trip home from France, taking the Chunnel train, at The Novel Approach. 1st prize Saving Sonny James signed paperback (or ebook if preferred) and $15 to spend at Dreamspinner Press; 2nd prize Saving Sonny James ebook
  • 10/19: Off the train at Ashford, Kent, England, heading for London, at Sinfully Sexy Book Reviews.
  • 10/20: London! Right here at this sylvre.com blog.
  • 10/21: New Hampshire (yes they will have made it back to the USA!), fittingly at the blog of New Hampshire writer, Jamie Fessenden.
  • 10/25: Uh-oh. On their way to Ohio, to visit at Elizabeth Noble’s blog, Emotion in Motion, when something crazy happens… Todd… Todd Ruger, is that you? Prizes not yet awarded!.
  • 10/28: New Zealand? How the hell do you get to New Zealand in a Mustang? Find out at Anne Barwell’s Drops of Ink.
  • 10/29: Back to the States once again–in Texas! San Antonio, the lovely, romantic Riverwalk, made (even more) famous by the sexy characters of our host, Carol Zampa!
  • 11/2: Chris T. Kat will be our host! Hmmm… what to do, what to do?
  • 11/5: Luki and Sonny will take Rhys Ford’s blog and San Diego, CA by storm. (They will… just wait and see. And I’m pretty sure a prize will be up for grabs, too.)
  • 11/8 through 11/11: Well, I’m going to Bent Con in Burbank (yeah, like Los Angeles and Hollywood, only not…) and since the Vasquez-James boys are my transpo, they’re going, too. I’ll post their odd adventures here, at sylvre.com.
  • 11/13, Recap, and a prize. Here again.

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Filed under Contests, Dreamspinner Press, Lou Sylvre, Saving Sonny James, Vasquez & James

We interrupt this HAHaT to bring you this breaking news…

Hi, I don’t really want to interrupt the Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia–see my feature post below. You can still read, comment, and possibly win, and anyway I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks to everyone who’s already done commented!

Reveiw and giveaway with the lovely Lou Sylvre

But I do want to briefly say, hey! Come see Monique Lehane’s great reviews of all three Vasquez and James Books (Finding Jackie today, 4.5 stars), and her interview of me, the culprit who penned those books. You can comment to win there, too!

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Filed under Finding Jackie, New M/M releases, Reviews, Vasquez & James

Book Sale at Dreamspinner (the best!)

Great Celebration Sale going on at Dreamspinner Press–voted the best M/M publisher in the Love Romance Cafe poll.

Of course those in-stock items include the Vasquez and James Series by yours truly, but also a lot of other great books full of every possible flavor of M/M romance. Authors like Jamie Fessenden, Andrew Grey, Sue Brown, Ruth Sims, Isabelle Rowan, Rhys Ford, Tj Klune, Eric Arvin, Anna Martin, Anne Barwell, Rick Reed, Elizabeth Noble, JL O’Faolain, and way too many to name. Get a bunch? Maybe enough to last until summer…

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Filed under authors, awards, Dreamspinner Press, M/M romance

Lisa Marie Davis on baby name books and big cities, etc. and an exerpt form *Love Less Complicated*

Click on the cover image for the buy link and Dreamspinner Press online store.
From college and AA meetings to his job working in a coffee shop, ex-con Gavin Chandler has a lot going on in his life. All he wants is to leave his past far behind him, especially the father who forced him to run drugs and sell his body. Romance doesn’t even register on his radar.

Then Braxton Irving, a self-employed security guard, shows up at the coffee shop, and Gavin finds he can’t deny his interest. After some serious soul searching, he finally asks Braxton out, and the two embark on a whirlwind affair.

But Braxton hasn’t been completely honest with Gavin about his motivation for coming to the coffee shop that day. Braxton’s feelings for Gavin are real, but so is his commitment to his work. Can their relationship survive once Gavin learns it was founded on a lie?

A self-proclaimed chocolate addict, with an almost obsessive love for gay men, Lisa Marie Davis mostly writes at night (all insomniacs should have a hobby!). Happily child-free herself, she indulges in spoiling her nephews, Zachary and Isaiah. The lone liberal in a fairly conservative family, she is quite happy being the standout and hopes to open some of the closed minds around her, with her constant arguments supporting GLBT rights.

Visit her blog at http://lisamariedavis.livejournal.com/.

The Interview

Q: How important are character names, to you, and how do you go about naming them? What about titles?
A: I love naming characters. In fact, the first thing that happens is a character names themselves and the details sort of build from there. I have several baby name books I flip through when I need inspiration and of course, there are about a million websites out there that are great for finding names with specific meanings. As for titles, those can be tricky. I usually try and find something that captures the overall theme of the story, but it’s not always easy.

Q: In what locale is your most recent book set? How compelling was it to set a story there? Do you choose location the same way every time? How?
A: Love Less Complicated is set in Boston. I like using cities like Boston, New York, and Chicago, because they are larger, well-known cities and it’s easier for readers to imagine the setting. I don’t have to spend pages giving a layout of the setting, because we can all conjure images of the cities I mentioned, whereas smaller towns or fictional communities require more detail. Sort of a cop out, but it’s one I’ll own up to.

Q: How much power do you give your characters in steering the story line?
A: They take total control. Total. On several occasions, I’ve had a layout in mind, for a story, but once the character starts calling the shots, things have changed completely. That’s part of the fun, taking the journey with a character that has very strong feelings about how their story should unfold.

Q: What is the most satisfying element for you in writing gay relationships, and why?
A: There are a lot of misinformed people in our society who believe gays can’t have meaningful, loving, lasting relationships and I have to admit, that is an unfounded concept that annoys and offends me. I like portraying characters that are capable of loving, mature, nurturing relationships to kind of drive home the point that two men are perfectly capable and willing to commit themselves to a relationship. That’s the intellectual answer. From a purely superficial standpoint, I have to admit, I do enjoy the idea of two, strong, sexy men taking delight in one another.

Q: Are readers involved in making your fiction—do they suggest stories or say what they’d like to read?
A: Actually, Moving Forward, the sequel to Dreams Come True, came about because several readers said they wanted to know what happened next with James and Payne. Their interest in the characters prompted me to return to the characters and see what was going on with them, in their new life.

Q: Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.
A: Writing (for me, at least) is a very emotional experience and I tend to become quite attached to my characters. They are real for me. I want to write them, share their story, in a way that makes them real for the reader as well. I want the reader to care about each character as much as I do, to feel for them, root for them, maybe even miss them when the story comes to an end.

Q: What do you find useful about reviews?
A: I like the reviews where the reviewer points out what worked for them, and what didn’t. It’s nice to see the contrast and that style of review lets me know what areas really need work in future books.

Q: I’m well known for demanding to know an author’s opinion about which of their characters is the sexiest, and I’m making no exception for this group. Who, how, and why?
A: Oh, that’s a hard question! Yikes! I’ve always loved Slate from Come Back To Me. He’s rough, sexy, a secret paranormal agent who fights like hell to get back to the great love of his life. Zander from Jasper’s Journey is another character that has always stayed with me. He’s a reporter who was wounded while working in Iraq and after returning home, he works with Jasper to find the person responsible for murdering Jasper’s sister years before; he’s the quietly strong sort, confident, and intensely protective as he and Jasper begin falling in love.

Q: What are the fifty hottest words (approximate the word count) you’ve ever written, in your opinion. (Be sure to include citation).
A: I think my favorite scene is from my latest release, Love Less Complicated.

“Need you, Braxton… please, I need you inside of me….” His plea ended on a whimper. He was too turned on, too needy and aroused, and Braxton seemed to understand how desperately their obviously mutual need craved satisfaction—he nearly toppled the nightstand in his scuttle to retrieve condoms and lube. His frantic search would have amused Gavin, but he was too lost in the moment, in the throbbing desire, to find anything remotely amusing, and Braxton cursed in relief when he finally found what he was looking for. He tossed the condom on the bed, and his hands shook as he popped open the lube and generously coated his fingers before claiming Gavin’s mouth once again in a kiss that could only be described as toe-curling. There was such fierce intensity to the kiss that Gavin felt utterly consumed by it, even as Braxton slipped a
clever hand between his thighs, where tender fingers began brushing gently over his puckered opening.

Q: What are you doing now, what do plan to write next?
A: I have been dealing with the worst writer’s block, but I have several ideas bouncing around. I’d like to get more into paranormal and maybe something with sexy cowboys.

An Excerpt from Love Less Complicated

“Gavin?” The voice was rich and warm, unmistakable. There was a hint of an accent, just a slight drawl that always reminded him Braxton had spent his first fifteen years living in Atlanta, and sometimes he still sounded like a country boy. It was damn sexy. “I just got your message, and I called to say I’d love to get together.”

“Ah… really? I mean… I wasn’t sure if you would….” He stumbled over the words, cursing himself for being so damn flustered.

“Are you kidding? Gavin, I wanted you to call. Hell, if you hadn’t mentioned going out, believe me, I would have, and actually, I’m hoping you’re free tomorrow night.”

“Tomorrow?”

“Honestly, I’d ask you out tonight, but I have a late meeting with a client.”

“Ah, no. No, I mean, tomorrow would be wonderful. I’d like that.” Christ, could I be more of a freakin’ dork? Why is he interested in dating someone who can’t even handle a phone conversation? “I work until seven. Maybe I could meet you somewhere around eight?” An hour would give him ample time to shower, change, and possibly have a nervous breakdown—how else did one deal with first-date jitters?

“Tell ya what. I’ll pick you up at eight. How’s that?”

“You don’t have to go through any trouble….”

“Gavin, it’s a date. Okay? I want to do the whole nine yards.”

“And the whole nine yards includes… what?” He couldn’t help but smile, because damn, he was honestly excited.

“Let’s see….” Braxton sighed dramatically, and something about the sound made Gavin feel warm inside. He rolled his eyes at himself. “I pick you up. We go out. We have dinner at a nice restaurant. Maybe we follow that with a movie. Or maybe dancing, if you’re interested. I wouldn’t object to a lovely walk, and maybe, if I’m really lucky, when I walk you to your door at the end of the night, I get a kiss.”

“A kiss?”

“A small one. Maybe. If you’re interested in kissing me.”

“It’s something I will certainly consider.” Hell, it was something he had already considered on more than one occasion.

“In that case, darlin’, I will see you tomorrow night at eight o’clock, and I am really looking forward to it.”

“Me too,” Gavin whispered. “Tomorrow night. Eight o’clock.” It’s a date. He found himself smiling as he told Braxton where to pick him up, and long after the call ended, he continued smiling, humming to himself, feeling genuinely excited.

He was taking the risk, going for what he wanted, and hell yes, he was terrified, but he wouldn’t allow something as mundane as terror of the unknown stop him from exploring what Braxton made him feel. Baby steps. Right? Start with a date. Just go out and have a good time and then decide what happens next and what Braxton needs to know. If the date was indeed successful, he would decide how best to share his past with Braxton, and then… well, if it did come to that, the next move would certainly be Braxton’s to make, but Gavin figured that was a bridge he would either cross—or burn—when and if he reached that elusive point. For now, just relax and take a leap. You’ve earned the right to find some happiness, Gavin. Don’t allow Daddy Dearest and his cohorts to stand between you and what you want, because no matter what does or doesn’t happen with Braxton, your life is finally your own, and you have every right to live it and live it on your own terms.

With that firmly in mind, he went back to work, happy and excited and eager to take yet another step in learning to live.

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JL O’Faolain’s new release: *Push Comes to Shove* (and he just says the darndest things)

Click on the cover image for a buy link at the Dreamspinner store.

Super-powered superhero Push and his human partner, Scratch, have been best friends and roommates for years. Push is the gay posterchild for the Real-Life Superhero Association. Unfortunately, Scratch is straight, which makes Push’s suppressed feelings for him problematic—but not as problematic as their next assignment.

Push and Scratch’s job: rehabilitating Wrath, a recently released supervillain, complete with super powers of his own. It’s not easy to trust someone who used to be on the other side, and Wrath’s presence creates just the wrong kind of friction.

When a bank-robbing practical joker throws a wrench in their plans and leads them on a wild chase across the southern United States, Push, Scratch, and Wrath have to leave their baggage behind and work together. But there are more secrets and danger awaiting them, and super powers may not be enough.

J.L. O’Faolain was born the youngest, with four older sisters, in the backwoods of the Deep South. Those that have braved getting to know him have attributed this to being the root of his growing insanity. A teased bibliophile in his youth, O’Faolain spent his years prior to getting published as a cook, laundry man, delivery boy, grease monkey, and retail stocker. He has a plethora of skills and abilities, none of which would work well on a job application. In his spare time, O’Faolain enjoys weightlifting, philosophy, deconstruction, reading, writing, porn, and the Internet in general. Aside from becoming a successfully published author, he would very much like to pilot a giant robot while Two-Mix’s “Rhythm Emotion” is playing in the background. Either that, or travel the world in a dirigible. In short, the general consensus by all, including himself, is that he is a mighty strange fellow.

Website:
www.manicexpression.webs.com

The Interview

Q: How important are character names, to you, and how do you go about naming them? What about titles?
A: The titles of my books tend to run along a theme, or have some sort of pun to them. As for the names, they can range from significant to apathetic, depending on my mood and the story’s theme. I do like the idea of a pale sidhe with the name Cole, though.

Q: In what locale is your most recent book set? How compelling was it to set a story there? Do you choose location the same way every time? How?
A: The Section Thirteen files are set in Manhattan, a place that I, believe it or not, have never seen outside of pictures and videos. In October of 2012, though, the first of a new, shorter series will be released, the title of which is Push Comes to Shove. This is set primarily in a small fictional Arkansas town. I liked the idea of a story about superheroes. I love comics, and the idea of a superhero team operating in a small Southern town, where they have to contend with small-town mentality, appeals to me.

Q: How much power do you give your characters in steering the story line?
A: I’ve learned the hard way not to argue with my characters much. If they want something, there’s nothing I can do to stop them. Watching them endure the consequences of their actions is the fun part. I’m a bit of a sadist that way.

Q: What is the most satisfying element for you in writing gay relationships, and why?
A: I knew from a young age that I wasn’t totally straight, though ‘gay’ didn’t quite fit. After I got into college, I found out about bisexuality, and more of what it meant. Because of where I grew up, and the sort of family I had, it wasn’t something I could be open about or explore. When I finally got away, this was the first thing I began looking into. Writing gay and bi relationships lets me explore things from a fictional standpoint that I missed out on.

That, and I enjoy writing porn.

Q: Are readers involved in making your fiction—do they suggest stories or say what they’d like to read?
A: I take things into account, but stories flow on their own, like streams. You can drop stones in them and see what happens, but they’ll keep on churning. Sometimes, a suggestion will stick in my head, and come out in some way.

Q: Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.
A: An ideal relationship between an author and said readers is probably best compared to a dysfunctional family unit, except the screaming takes place over the internet rather than via phone calls and Thanksgiving dinners.

Q: What do you find useful about reviews?
A: Believe it or not, I enjoy reading negative criticism. Its always fun when someone enjoys my work. That’s a thrill to hear about, but knowing other people hated it has its merits. Media that no one criticizes tends to fade quickly. Fame, as they say, is fleeting, but infamy sticks like glue.

Q: I’m well known for demanding to know an author’s opinion about which of their characters is the sexiest, and I’m making no exception for this group. Who, how, and why?
A: Cole is definitely one, but we may be looking at a contender this fall. I think it falls to whether fans prefer sidhe nobles to long-haired pyrokinetics from the Big Easy that have tragic back stories.

Q: What are the fifty hottest words (approximate the word count) you’ve ever written, in your opinion. (Be sure to include citation).
A: Hmm, I think you must enjoy making this difficult for me. (Lou’s note: Yes I do, absolutely!)

“I love you,” Shinichi gasped, once the hair on his boyfriend’s hair and chest was spotted with cum. “Gods, I love you so much I think it might kill me sometime.”

“You need someone to take care of you,” Allen said matter-of-factly.
“I need you,” Shinichi countered, snuggling up next to him. “You’re my hero, remember?”

Allen laughed and placed a kiss on Shinichi’s forehead. “Even heroes need someone to save them every now and then.”

Push Comes to Shove

Q: What are you doing now, what do plan to write next?
A: I’m working on the next Section Thirteen book, as well as one or two other things. Those are surprises for later.

I recently had a book released by No Boundaries Press called Blue Ninja, which is available here at the No Boundaries Press online store. Click the cover image to link to the store.

Excerpt from Push Comes to Shove

“Just like that!” the photographer called out excitedly. “Turn towards the camera a bit. Make sure your face is in the light.”

Nervous, Push did as the photographer asked while beads of sweat popped out of his forehead underneath the dusty cap of brown hair. He had never been comfortable on camera, and had to remind himself continuously that this was for a good cause while the man behind the camera clicked away. The front of his costume had been raised up slightly to expose the rock-hard abs underneath. Not that the spandex did much to conceal them. His blue uniform conformed to the contours of his body so tightly that he might as well have been wearing nothing at all.

But, he wasn’t going to argue with a professional about what looked good on a calender.

“Excellent! Now, lower your chin a bit.”

Push did as he was told. “Raise the shirt up a little bit more,” said the photographer, giving signals with his hands. “Now, Push. Give us that smile we wanna see!”

Impishly, he squinted his eyes slightly and grinned, raising the corner of his mouth into a smirk just as the flash went off. Spots swam in front of his face, but he held the pose. Next, the man wanted him to pull the front of the shirt up over his shoulders. The fabric was a new type of spandex with memory cloth woven into it, so it held up very well, both during fights and for when photo shoots demanded he look sexy.

Push felt ridiculous.

Over and over, he turned, flexed, and posed however the photographer demanded. At five feet and six inches, Push wasn’t the epitome of manly sexiness that the camera guy insisted he was. True, he kept his body in tight shape, but it couldn’t compensate for how small he looked in comparison to the average guy on the street. Adding to this, the studio was very cold. Goosebumps kept popping out over his arms and legs, a testament to the fact.

Down to his underwear, the photographer started insisting he remove the goggles. Fortunately, before he could explain, Annette came to his rescue.

“The goggles stay on,” the RLSA personal assistant said firmly. “They’re a part of his identity.”

The photographer started to object, but Annette had his contract with the studio in her hand between blinks. “It’s stated right here,” she reminded the willowy camera man. “The goggles remain on at all times.”

Annette looked over at him, then. “And in any case, I think we’re about done for today. Push has a meeting to get to, and there’s no way we can publish the underwear photos in the calender. The council was adamant that we keep things PG-rated.”

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Michael Murphy, author of *Little Squirrels Can Climb Tall Trees*, on reviews and New York and many things

Click the cover image for the buy link at Dreamspinner Press Store
Kyle Miller is a rare breed. Though born to conservative parents and raised in small-town Oklahoma, Kyle realized young that he had to escape rural America. Now he’s living in New York City, working as an ER doctor, and paying off his massive student loans. He’s never been on a plane and never seen a movie, but he is worldly enough to recognize attraction when it smacks him in the forehead. Not that he knows how he managed to crack heads with Joseph, who’s a good foot shorter than Kyle’s six and a half feet.

Joseph is Kyle’s polar opposite in other ways too, well-off where Kyle is poor, and self-assured while Kyle is insecure. He’s also determined to show Kyle what a great guy he is and bring the confidence Kyle shows in the ER out in his everyday life. But Kyle’s hectic work schedule and inexperience with relationships won’t make for an easy romance.

Michael Murphy is somewhere between eighteen and eighty-eight – the number varies from day to day depending on his mood and his energy level. He first thought about writing when he was very young, but put the idea aside in order to celebrate his fifth birthday and then forgot about it for a year or two. Periodically he toyed with the idea but each time rejected it as pure folly. It wasn’t until he was an old man of twelve that he wrote his first book. A long dry spell followed before he wrote his next book. Whenever he needs a laugh he looks at those early writings. He has written science fiction, romance, and has collaborated on one non-fiction history book. He and his partner have traveled extensively, trying to cover as much of the world as possible. When not traveling, they live in Washington, DC with their best friend, a throw-away dog they adopted many years ago. To pay the bills, Michael is Director of Information Technology for a national organization based in Washington, DC. All in all he’d rather be writing full-time but hasn’t yet figured out how to make that a viable option.

The Interview

Q: How important are character names, to you, and how do you go about naming them? What about titles?
A: When I was growing up long, long ago – in a place far, far away – everyone had basic names. We were Mark, Mike, Bill, Steve, Joe. Names have become more creative and to some degree more international today than they were when I was growing up. I give my characters names that are basic American male names – except in an upcoming story due out I early 2013 that features an extended Italian/American family. There we have a Fabrizio, Alfio, and Antonio, among others.

All of this is a roundabout way of saying that I try to envision my characters and give them a name that seems to fit how I see them. In a way I’m a bit like Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple in that I think of people I’ve known over the years who have characteristics like the characters I’m creating and try out different names on those people to see if they work. If they do, I’ve got my character name.

I also have lists of the 100 most common American male names and female names that I keep updated and on hand in case I need names and am completely blank. I find myself referring to those lists quite frequently.

Q: In what locale is your most recent book set? How compelling was it to set a story there? Do you choose location the same way every time? How?
A: Since I grew up in New York State, a lot of my stories are based there. My young adult series starts out there and then in the next book moves west to California. Many of my stories (published and forthcoming) are set in New York City, a city that holds a special place in my heart. Surprisingly, I have not yet written a story based in Washington, DC. I say surprising because I’ve lived here for thirty years now so I’m fairly familiar with the area.

Q: How much power do you give your characters in steering the story line?
A: My characters (or my Muse, or some combination of the two) are in total control. When I write I don’t outline, I don’t start with any preconceived ideas. When I sit down to write I don’t even know what I’m going to work on that day. When I look at the computer monitor, my characters start telling me their story and I start typing, often not as fast as the are telling me their story. When I write I write quickly because I’m always anxious to see what is going to happen next.

I recently told another writer about how I write and she was appalled. She outlines everything from character names, characteristics, features, to full outlines for each chapter. I sort of vaguely tried that on my most recent book. Notes were made on everything – a total of 24 pages worth. It was sort of, maybe, kind of useful, but I don’t think I’ll do it again, at least not in the way I did it there. For me, personally, sitting at the blank screen and letting the characters just tell their own story is by far the easiest approach.

Q: What is the most satisfying element for you in writing gay relationships, and why?
A: For me, as a gay man, the most satisfying element in writing about gay relationships is depicting the intense intimacy that is possible between two men. Men have been acculturated to be masculine, in-charge creatures who never show emotion or vulnerability or anything like that. A gay relationship throws all of those cultural rules out the window so I love exploring the give-and-take necessary to make a relationship of two equals work.

Q: Are readers involved in making your fiction—do they suggest stories or say what they’d like to read?
A: Sigh. This one is a tough question for me as a new writer. The answer ties in with the question and answer immediately below. I don’t know that many readers – hardly any. I would dearly like to know some and to develop relationships with readers so that they can tell me honestly what works and what doesn’t. I want to write books that people will actually read and enjoy, so I crave feedback and a relationship with readers. I’m looking forward to attending GayRomLit for the first time this month and hope to develop some of those relationships there.

Q: Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.
A: My first book did phenomenally well in terms of sales but it got mixed reviews. Some reviewers absolutely adored it and raved about it, while others attempted to verbally eviscerate me. The first negative reviews hurt – a lot. They felt like someone had just walked up to me and punched me in the gut with all of the strength that they had.

Slowly, since then I’ve come to realize that nothing will appeal to every reader. Some will like it, some will dislike it. It is impossible to please everyone. Still, I have read every negative review (many times) and have tried to learn from them. I’ve tried to see legitimate complaints and have tried to not repeat those mistakes in future writing. In a couple of cases I’ve tried to engage readers/reviewers in a discussion in an effort to better understand their concerns (absolutely not to argue). Unfortunately I’ve not had anyone follow through and give me substantive constructive criticism.

The most frustrating reviews of all has been people who wrote and left negative ratings – without ever reading the book! They gave a book a bad review and a one star rating based on what someone else had written in a review! I personally think that that is just wrong. If I rate a book I can guarantee that I have read the book. Also, I only rate books that I can give a 4 or 5 star rating to; if I don’t like a book, I don’t rate it because it could just be that my taste is different which is not a valid basis for giving someone a negative review.

So, in a very roundabout way to answer your question, I would like readers to be involved in my writing to some degree, but I have not yet found out how to make that work. I would like to find a beta reader who could be brutally honest with me and help me find holes, problems, and discrepancies, things that just don’t work. I got my spouse to help on my last book. He read it and gave me a long list of things to fix. He also hated the way I started the book, so I wrote a new beginning chapter – five times! I finally got one that he thought worked and I have to agree it makes the story stronger. That’s what I’d like to have for every book, but he is a busy professional with his own work and biomedical research writing so he doesn’t have the time to do this for every book.

Q: What do you find useful about reviews?
A: To date I’ve had something on the order of 50 reviews for my four books (I call a reader who left a written comment a reviewer, as opposed to someone who simply left a rating with no words). I’ve had about 150 people rate my books so far. Of the 50 who have written something, I found one to be absolutely incredible – detailed, thorough and helpful. I’ve found another that was negative but was detailed enough to show me what they objected to – and it was a fair point that I had not considered. One person wrote a very snide review/comment about how I used too many exclamation points. Fine. I can see her point, but I wish she had been a little less cranky in the way she handled the issue. There have been a couple of others that were helpful, but beyond that, by and large, the reviews I’ve had have not been very helpful to me so I’ve largely stopped reading them.

The reviews for my young adult fiction have largely been very positive (9 out of 10 reviewers give it 5 stars and glowing comments). My gay romance story has been quite different. At the risk of opening a can of worms, my observation has been that some women disliked the book, but gay men have raved about the book. I clearly used some buzz words or had an approach that did not easily straddle the line between the two genders. Some women did give it great reviews, so there is no universal. I don’t even know if that is a valid conclusion to draw from a very limited data sample. It is my understanding that the readership of m/m romance fiction is shifting. In the beginning the readership was 95% female, but over time the numbers have shifted and now closer to 50/50 male/female. My next book tries to find a middle ground that will work for both genders.

My first book moved from meeting to sex fairly quickly which some found objectionable. Numerous readers disliked the narrator (who was based on me, by the way – another reason why some of the reviews hurt). In the next couple of books that are in the editorial stage now, I’ve slowed things down so that sex doesn’t happen for a long, long time, after a lot of dancing around whether or not the interest was mutual and then what to do about it if it was.

This is all difficult for me. I grew up in the 1970’s when gay men had to be more furtive in their assignations. This meant that there just wasn’t much time to get to know someone before moving on to sex. You had sex with someone and then only later might get to know them. I know that this is completely foreign to a lot of people, but I’m a relic from a bygone era and without thinking I just wrote about what I know. I also believe that old dogs can learn new tricks, too.

Q: I’m well known for demanding to know an author’s opinion about which of their characters is the sexiest, and I’m making no exception for this group. Who, how, and why?
A: Another tough one to answer. I’m going to say that my sexiest character is Kyle, the young doctor from Little Squirrels. He wouldn’t define himself as sexy or even desirable when the story starts (part of the growth process of the story). He’s tall, has a nice body but not a hyper pumped overdone gym body – just a basic male body that’s been well maintained. He also has a cute butt, something I find very desirable in a man.

I’m going to cheat and pick a backup hottest character, a first runner up if you will. My first runner up would be Bill from my Most Popular Guy in the School trilogy. The first book in that trilogy is heavily autobiographical. There really was a Bill and he really was hot (he still is). He is the most delightful blend of jock and artist. Growing up he would play basketball and compete is all sorts of thing and then he would paint (beautifully). Today he still looks good and he is now a professional artist designing flatware.

Q: What are the fifty hottest words (approximate the word count) you’ve ever written, in your opinion. (Be sure to include citation).

I was a professor of penis, a connoisseur of cock, a devotee of dick, an epicure of erections. I had made it my life’s work to worship the male member. And what a member this one was.

The man’s dick screamed perfection. From the tip of the large circumcised head to the arcing length that ran several inches …

(Little Squirrels Can Climb Tall Trees, Dreamspinner Press, July 2012, page 5)

Q: What are you doing now, what do plan to write next?
A: Just this week I submitted my latest book to a publisher for consideration. It is a dramatic departure from what I have written previously so I have no idea if anyone will want to publish it as it is written. I took a real incident from 40 years ago and brought it into today. It follows a family as it self-destructs right before our eyes. But, since I always want a happy ending, I show that the demise of one family makes way for a new family to form, one that helps all participants in this story.

Beyond that, I’m proofing another story about the sudden and unexpected clash of two diametrically opposed cultures in the form of two young men who are trying to find their way in the world while also trying to figure out who they are and what they want.

What I write next is anyone’s guess. I have a list of something like 30 story ideas, so I guess its time to dig out the list and take a look.

Excerpt from Little Squirrels Can Climb Tall Trees

“OW!”

“Damn!”

I don’t know which of us was more surprised. From the look on his face, the other guy was just as unsure as I was.

It was a busy Sunday afternoon at the gym. Somehow—don’t ask me how—as I had started to get up from my weight bench, I hadn’t been paying attention and had banged my head into another guy’s just as he was doing the same thing from the bench right next to mine. Talk about timing!

We each rubbed our sore heads for a second, unsure who was at fault. And then the guy burst out laughing.

We’d never met before bumping into one another—literally—in the gym that afternoon. Some guys, when they get into the exercise zone, wouldn’t respond well in such a situation, but this guy laughed, and I guess it really was funny. His laugh was infectious and made me laugh as well, something I hadn’t done much of lately.

When he stood—this time without running into my head—and apologized, I noticed that the man was tall. Really tall. I mean really tall. Remarkably tall. Okay, so maybe he wasn’t Jolly Green Giant tall, but still he was so tall that to stand and look at his face, I had to lean my head back a little bit. And I’m not short. At five feet five inches tall, I’m basically average height. My guess is the guy was about six four or six five, maybe even six six. Still, that was a foot taller than I was, so I was looking up to talk to the guy, but it seemed to be worth the effort.

Our mutual apologies finished, we each continued on our way. I thought nothing more of it at the time since I was in my own version of the personal workout zone. I noticed the guy was very attractive but didn’t really give it much thought. I was no dog in terms of looks, but I was not in his league. Not even close.

So imagine my surprise when, after my workout, I was in the locker room changing, minding my own business (okay, okay, I know, but it really was true this time), and Mr. Tall, Dark, and Handsome walked in and opened the locker right next to mine. I don’t remember now who said what first, but we got into one of the most natural, comfortable discussions two strangers can have in the gym locker room. I think he said something about the odds of having lockers right next to each other and having bumped into one another on the floor of the gym. That topic could only go so far—in other words, not very—so he switched to another topic. TVs throughout the gym had all been tuned to CNN so everyone could watch the president address the nation on the latest economic crisis. Seemed like they happened every week or so lately. I had listened, as apparently had my tall locker-mate.

This tall guy standing next to me clearly knew his current events. He made some observations, asked me some questions, and dropped in some facts about the issue the president discussed that were so far beyond what any of the talking heads had said after the speech that it was obvious he really knew his stuff or was one damned good liar. I came down on the side of his being really smart and well informed.

And his smile. Oh, dear God! That smile.

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