The story: (This is the first half of the story that was previously published under this title, re-edited and revised, with added material. Part 2, A shot of Fear is coming in November.)
Gay American Dom with a fabulous sub juggles romance and bondage with Scotland Yard police work.
When Brian Harrison met Jackie Vasquez at a Hawaiian wedding, Jackie was sixteen and troubled. Six years later they meet again; Brian’s career at Scotland Yard is budding with promise, while Jackie’s student days at University of Nebraska are rolling toward a strong finish. Magnetic mutual attraction pulls them insistently toward one another, but the ocean separating their lives makes for a simmering romance. When the waiting ends and they get together for a weekend in Denver, Dom Brian and sub Jackie both know they’ve tapped into something scalding hot, and much deeper than sharing an artful session. Shibari, lust, and love are all on the agenda—but for Brian, so is his police career, and a strange series of crimes seems poised to threaten their romance—and maybe their lives.
Jackie knew he struck people as an enigma. In fact, he recognized the trait in himself. How exactly does one explain or categorize a man who’d lived through several nightmares before the age of seventeen, yet counted himself as one of the luckiest people on earth? A young man still, who had experienced things in life beyond the most horrific dreams of some old men? A man who had once been a jumble of confusion and even self-hatred, who now knew himself thoroughly, affirmed himself as the person he was born to be—unaltered at the soul?
Talking with Brian, he saw doubt, worry, and caution give way to interest, perhaps even some sort of admiration. He’d seen the change before, but he’d never met anyone on whom interest looked so becoming. Although Jackie didn’t remember their previous encounter much, he did remember how he felt about Brian afterward, when he’d recovered enough to explore his feelings. Or perhaps, not so much how he’d felt about Brian, but about Brian’s presence. The man stood like a rock in his memory, in silhouette and shadow, but solid and safe and capable, so Jackie had no trouble believing what he’d been told—he’d clung to Brian in the aftermath of terror. Maybe if Luki had been around, Jackie would have turned to his uncle instinctively instead, but Luki’s injury had kept them apart. While he’d been grateful for the others—Sonny and Kaholo and especially his brother Josh—he’d treated Brian as a natural harbor.
Now Jackie saw with a few more years and life experience behind him and judged Brian to be unchanged—still the rock in the tide, but perhaps even stronger, his foothold deeper and more secure.
“So, anyway, Brian,” he said, ending a not uncomfortable lull in the conversation. “I’m looking forward to the ride to airport. I want to hear more about your work, and London, and whatever. But,” he gestured toward the window, “here comes Sonny and Luki and Bear. I’ll get more coffee on.”
He rose, but before he turned toward the kitchen, he faced Brian and leaned forward, kissed his cheek swiftly and softly. He intended to step away, but Brian caught first one of his hands, and then the other, and held them both in one hand.
“Jackie, thank you for that. But what I’d like even more is if you were to kiss me—” Brian lifted the index finger of his free hand and touched his own lips. “—just here. Will you?”
“Yes,” Jackie whispered, and without any conscious decision to do so, added, “Yes, sir.” He leaned forward and touched his open lips to Brian’s, found them soft when he added a bit of pressure, and sent his tongue darting just inside for a taste. They broke the kiss together, but as it ended, Brian sucked and then nipped at Jackie’s bottom lip.
Brian smiled, and after he let go of Jackie’s hand, stroked once over Jackie’s arm and shoulder—a comforting touch, Jackie thought.
“Thank you, Jackie,” Brian said, his eyes sparking with something like mischief. “That was lovely.”
Rainbow Gate Book Blog is happy to be a stop on the Rocking Thin Ice blog tour. Welcome, Z. Allora!
Can a sexy rock star show a relationship-phobic ice skater that there’s more to life than gold medals?
When ice-skating’s bad boy Blaze first glimpses Drake, every fantasy he’s ever had flares to life. Not only is rock star Drake sexy as sin, his songs awaken a longing in Blaze that he’s denied for years. But Blaze Parker doesn’t believe in relationships—at least not those that last more than twenty minutes.
Drake Keys has dreamed about the sensual ice skater for years. When Drake is kicked out of his band because of his bisexuality, he drives across the country to finally see the man he’s had a crush on skate live.
Though the attraction is instant and intense, both Blaze and Drake have baggage that puts any relationship on thin ice. Blaze is driven by a long-ago betrayal to prove himself a champion, and Drake, uncertain about the future, hopes to resurrect his music career. As they take a road trip together, Drake romances Blaze, hoping to melt his heart and show him that love is possible… but not without some tough decisions.
I love rock stars. It’s no secret. I have two different series (The Dark Angels & Made in China) and now Rocking Thin Ice. There’s just something about a person who has the courage to stand in front of a crowd and sing out my feelings. Of course, add the cool/bad guy appeal and well, you’re in my happy place.
One of my gateways into M/M romance was a rock star story. It was perfectly imperfect and threw me down the path of lustful adoration. When I was in China, I spent hours (days… okay weeks… months) watching the Adam Lambert tour cross the USA.
I was fascinated by I could tell how homophobic the state they were performing in was by how they handled the song Fever. Did Adam Lambert and Tommy Ratcliff kiss? Did they makeout? How much did they play with each other? The tour embarked on their overseas tour and I followed it again. That song was still a good predictor of homophobia but when they headed to Malaysia and people protested because they were afraid he’d make their kids gay. I decided I had to start sharing my work.
The music industry is far from tolerant when it comes LGBTQIA people. Though as we’ve seen in the last few years more out rainbow people. Lil Nas X, who is openly gay is the rap star who went country and just won Song of the Year at the MTV Video Music.
I believe music can help people bridge gaps… therefore books about musicians can really get the job done!
Rocking Thin Ice came to be because I was enthralled with a Johnny Weir video where he skates to Lady Gaga in an exhibition. He’s all defiant and sexy… just by showing the world exactly who he is he fights and wins a war.
Blaze Parker from Rocking Thin Ice skates to music that sends messages to the judges, audiences, and the world. I struggled with who could balance and appreciate all that my skater is and wants to become… A rock star stood up for the challenge.
Drake Keys is super laid back. He likes girls, guys, and guitars. No biggie as long as everyone is happy… until the band’s homophobic manager dismisses him. He finally decides to see Blaze Parker skate live. He decides attending a skating event wasn’t stalking even if you had been crushing on the guy since you were a teenager.
Blaze doesn’t do relationships longer than twenty minutes so his decision to take a very high guitar player home was more about responsibility than spending time with a hot guy. His brother is joking about Blaze and Drake’s wedding on their first official date could easily be ignored, but even his dog (who takes the world on teeth first) loves Drake. It’s a conspiracy! But not a bad one.
About the Author
Z. Allora believes in happily-ever-afters for everyone. Z. met her own true love through the personals and has traveled to over thirty-four countries with him. Z.’s lived in Singapore, Israel, and China. Now back home in the USA, Z.’s a strong supporter of those on the rainbow in her community. Z. wants to promote understanding and acceptance through her actions and words. Writing rainbow romance that explores the spectrum within each letter of the LGBTQIA+ community allows Z. to validate and open hearts as well as bring a greater understanding of orientation and gender.
Facebook: Z Allora Allora and join Z.’s Yaoified Love group (for fun, character chatters, giveaways, and silliness)
The Rainbow Gate Books is happy to welcome Jeanne G. Fellers back to the blog with her new release, Keenping House.
Jeanne G’Fellers has a new queer non-binary/gender fluid paranormal fantasy out in the Appalachian Elementals series: “Keeping House.”
Centenary Rhodes is caught in a deal she didn’t make. Thanks to her eternal lover, Stowne’s, quick thinking, she’ll live forever, but there’s a hitch. Cent’s now fey, and three months out of the year she’ll live on the other side of Embreeville Mountain among the Hunter Fey, serving their king, Dane Gow.
As Cent begins wading through the anachronisms that come with being a Hunter, she learns that nothing is what it initially seems. Cent shares several past lives with Dane, who wants her back, and Stowne’s lied to Cent so many times that she’s having doubts about their marriage. To make matters worse, the past Hunter Kings are influencing Dane’s behavior, and the youngest Hunter, Brinn, might well be the most dangerous of them all.
It’s going to be a cold, dark spring, and Cent needs to unite both sides of Embreeville mountain before her eternal life, her relationship with Dane, and her marriage to Stowne come permanently undone.
Another rich Contemporary Appalachian tale about fantastic people and the magic they possess, including LGBTQIA+ characters Human and otherwise.
Come dance with the Appalachian fey and drink a little moonshine under the full moon while you hear Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Death share tales about families of our blood, families of our making, and magic both long ago and flowing through us now.
Warnings: depiction of mental illness including on page psychosis; discussion of gender dysphoria, cutting, and self-harm; discussion of rape and murder; on and off page violence
I can do this. Cent unzipped the top of her coveralls and lowered her long johns to reveal the halter top beneath them. “Sorry, not sorry to disappoint you, King Dane.” She unfurled her wings and rolled her shoulders to shake them open.
“Just look at all them sigils.” Dane stomped her boots on the circle sands as she laughed, and her men laughed with her. “You look like a doodled-out scratch pad.” She removed her arm from her coat and rolled her sleeve above her bracer to show the sigils tattooed across her plaster-pale bicep. “All us Hunters got them, but ours won’t warsh off with a good scrubbin’, and neither will yours by the time you get back to Stowne.”
“Sigils remain intact even if they cannot be seen by the eye.” Cent’s spouse’s mouth thinned with the stress she knew they were feeling. “If the sigils are applied in perfect love and trust, that is. Rest assured, Centenary’s were.”
“Like I care.” Dane shoved her arm back into her coat. “It’s my turn, you worn-out gravel heap. That was our deal.” She lunged forward to grab Cent by the arm.
“Let go!” Cent wrenched away and moved to stand between Pyre and Exan, her elemental escorts. “I’ll fly with them.” She blew Stowne a kiss and stretched her wings, shivering. “Hold on.” She pulled a pair of striped leg warmers from her pocket and slid them over her arms. They were horribly outdated, but they’d been a cheap thrift shop solution, and she was glad she’d remembered them. Still, they weren’t enough for the current weather.
“Betcha she can’t keep up.” Dane’s guard, Conall, snorted and extended his hand to the guard with the dreadlocks. “Deal, Weeds?”
Weeds knocked his hand away. “Nothing to be gained there because you’re right.” He pulled a red wool chullo hat from his pocket and drew it over his head, topping that with a pair of ski goggles he lowered over his eyes. “She’s not going to get there without help.”
“Manners, boys.” Dane pulled a pair of leather Steampunk-style goggles over her eyes. “Best not judge until we see what she’s got under the hood. Come on. We’re late for a helluva shindig.” She laughed as she took to the air, hovering above the circle until Cent, Pyre, and Exan joined her. Her men took to the air behind them, Weeds pressing ahead while Conall brought up the rear.
We’re sandwiched in.Cent flew as hard as she could, hoping to lessen the distance between her and Dane, but it kept growing.
“Problem?” Conall flew up behind Cent as she struggled to keep speed. “Get movin’.”
“I’m trying!” Cent almost stopped mid-air to confront him, but Pyre grabbed her by the shoulder, pulling her to the right so he flew past.
“Not a good idea.” Pyre hooked their smoky arm through hers, urging her along. “You’re cold.” They sent warmth into her, but she still shivered.
“Let us give you the energy to do this.” A thread of Exan’s black mass wrapped her left arm. “Come along.”
“What’s the holdup?” Dane flew back to face them. “Havin’ trouble keepin’ up, girlie?” She moved closer. “Guess Conall’s right after all. You need him to carry you the rest of the way?” Dane snickered when Conall returned to hover, scowling, behind her. Their beating wings stirred the air more than Cent’s, and her teeth chattered to the point she couldn’t hide it.
“I’ll get there.” But she knew she’d be struggling even with Pyre and Exan’s help, and she was so cold their warming energy wasn’t enough.
“You can’t, admit it.” Dane surged forward to grab Cent around the waist, forcing her wings to roll then tuck as Exan and Pyre’s grips fell away. “Your spirit form can fly, but your real wings are puny. Best hold on, or I’ll let you fall.” She turned Cent outward, holding her with one stout arm as they began to move. “Your eyes ain’t used to this cold and movement combined, so keep them closed until we’re— no. Hey, Weeds.” Dane slowed until he caught up along with Pyre and Exan, who both moved to see Cent’s face.
“I’m fine.” She blinked away the frost that’d collected on her eyelashes. “Let her do the work if she wants.”
“I got stuff to get done, or you’d be suckin’ up the rear, that’s all.” Dane motioned to Weeds. “Give her your goggles.”
“But— yes ma’am.” His dismay spread across his face as he pulled a scarf from his pocket, wrapping it around his head until only his eyes showed.
I’m making a great impression on him.
“Put them on, and let’s get movin’. Much longer up here and our wings’ll start freezin’.” Dane pulled Cent’s coveralls and long johns to her chest and opened her own coat to wrap her in it. “Damn rookie-ass flyer. Next time, wear a hat too.” Dane jerked her welding cap from her pocket, pulling it over Cent’s head as they gained speed.
Air whipped around them as they moved, and it began to sleet, pelting Cent with ice shards and freezing over her goggles by the time they touched down. “Someone get her a blanket!” Dane tore the goggles from Cent’s face and blew warm, tobacco-tainted breath in her face. “And somethin’ hot to drink!” Her voice softened. “You all right, sugar?”
“Let go!” Cent broke away and rushed to Pyre and Exan’s sides before they could fully manifest. “Dane’s being nice,” she whispered as she pulled off the leg warmers then raised her long johns and coveralls. “I don’t know what to do.”
“Take a deep breath and look around.” Pyre kept their voice soft and calm, which frightened Cent all the more.
“She means you no harm this night.” Exan wrapped their arm around her shoulders. “This is Dane’s kingdom, and she is in control of all you see.” They spun her around to view the nearly three-dozen pale Hunter faces, some clearly pissed by her presence, others amused, and a few too clouded in their expression to read, clustered around the bonfire she stood near.
“Welcome back to my world, Centenary Rhodes.” Dane bowed before her then rose wearing a mischievous smile. “Let’s get this party started!”
In Keeping House, the protagonist, Cent Rhodes, is forced to live among the Hunters, a small band of Appalachian fey of Scottish descent. Time has changed the Hunters, but some traditions have remained, like court. So what’s it like within the Hunter Fey court? Here’s an exclusive excerpt from Chapter Seven: “A Lil’ Drama to go with that Second-Hand Buzz.”
“Her accessin’ the finances ain’t needed for Gow Weldin’ to keep profitin’. I’ve been doin’ the books for the last decade, and they’re balancin’ just fine.” Eudard Gow, one of the Hunter men Cent had been introduced to before the evening gorge of deer steak, fried potatoes, home-canned apple butter, and biscuits, paced the Great Hall’s white marble floor in front of Dane’s throne. “She’s a jasper at best, and Stowne’s girl, their wife, and while she might be—”
“The word you’re lookin’ for is spouse, not wife. And that’s enough.” King Dane waved Eudard toward his seat. “What Cent learnt me before Samhain has already proved good for business.”
“But she’s a jasper.” Eudard flexed his shoulders so his wings dropped into view, but he kept them rolled against his back.
“Watch it, Eddie.” Conall crossed his arms over his chest. He stood beside Dane, his wings fully unfurled, black and glistening, his beard exposed to show three leather-wrapped braids hanging to his belt. Large and in charge. Cent could admire that, but she more admired the way she’d seen him treating Bea the night before. Those two were deeply in love, and Cent missed Stowne more each time she thought about it. But this current argument, Conall’s warning, and Dane’s violent response had been repeating since dinner, Eddie being the third man to broach the topic of Cent’s taking over the bookkeeping.
“How many years have you been with us?” Dane folded her hands in her lap and moved forward on her throne, something she’d done time-and-time again.
Here it comes.
“Why’s it important?”
“Humor me.” Dane pressed her mouth into a thin slash.
“Yes’m.” Eddie took a half-step back. “Near six score, I reckon, but it ain’t got nothin’ to do with this, and—”
“How long has your blood-kin been in this part of Tennessee?”
“A generation longer.” He rolled his shoulders so his wings spread behind him, a bold move, but Dane turned her mouth up into a smile when he did.
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” Conall shook his head. A shadow passed behind him, followed by another, but he paid them no mind.
“So, Eddie, how many of your kin are still livin’ in Washington and Unicoi counties?” Dane’s smile now spanned her face.
That’s a look to be wary of. The smile Dane had offered Cent earlier had been genuine.
“Besides me?” Eddie gulped. “None. They’ve all died out or moved off.”
“That’d be mighty interestin’ if I didn’t already know it.” Dane drummed her fingers along the metal edge of her throne, her nail clicks echoing among the sighs and generally bored murmurs. “Now, Cent’s been in the area for over three thousand years, and she remembers more of them hundred-plus lives than you’ve ever had family.” She stood and spread her wings, spanning the gap between her and Eddie in a single flex of her back muscles. “I’m gettin’ mighty tired of this stupid outsider argument y’all keep tryin’ to make. Centenary Rhodes has been here longer than any of us, and now she’s Hunter too.”
“Enough!” Dane flicked her hand, and Eddie flew backward, sailing over the long banquet table to slam against the Great Hall’s doors. “That’s three. Anyone else got somethin’ to say ’bout my choice of bookkeepers?”
The Great Hall remained silent except for Queen Sissy, who hiccupped into her can of Bud Light.
Born and raised in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Science Fiction and Fantasy author Jeanne G’Fellers’ early memories include watching the original Star Trek series with their father and reading the books their librarian mother brought home. Jeanne’s writing influences include Anne McCaffrey, Ursula K. LeGuin, Octavia Butler, Isaac Asimov, and Frank Herbert.
Jeanne lives in Northeast Tennessee with their spouse and five crazy felines. Their home is tucked against a small woodland where they regularly see deer, turkeys, raccoons, and experience the magic of the natural world.
It’s a very good feeling for an author when a new book releases and some positive reviews roll in right away. Because Vasquez and James Volume 1 from Changeling Press re-releases a second edition of three books, I wasn’t sure what to expect in the way of reader response. It’s early yet, but there’s some good news! Check out these reviews from new readers. You can find the full reviews on the book’s listing page on Amazon.
Her characters are very well written, very believable for the most part. The stories will run you through a gamut of emotional ups and downs. In 1 minute you’ll be crying over a sad thing, then just have to laugh along with Luki or Sonny, as they try to find humor to help each other through the pain, or sigh over the sweetness of their love for each other. It can take them time to spot the vulnerabilities in their partner, but they eventually do.
The action/suspense in these stories is very well written. Lou has obviously done her homework here. Everything from kidnapping to small homemade bomb building. AND all the emotions evoked in the characters suffering these things are very believable as well.
This is a fantastic pairing of two MCs who seem like opposites on the surface. and yet they have so much in common. Number one of which is that neither is looking for a relationship! They have trials and tribulations galore as they make their way into each others’ hearts. This is a fantastic set, and the books should be read in order. There is danger, drama, trauma, grief, and love. I was unfamiliar with this author before I picked up this set, and I am so glad I did.
The Vasquez and James books that got such high praise from reviewers, readers, and fellow authors is back in a brand new format with a brilliant cover, courtesy of Changeling Press. Today, 6/28/19, the first three stories in this blazing romance between two extraordinary men comes out in an ebook box set, Volume 1 of 2, with the remaining 3 stories due out July 27. In each book Luki Vasquez and Sonny James meet danger in a thrilling episode of suspense, and despite it all their love grows a little bit stronger, glows a little bit brighter.
Get Vasquez and James Volume 1 today from Changeling Press and save 15% off an already great price.
Discover why author Kade Boehme said what he did in his Goodreads review of the first edition of book 1: “Luki is infuriating but god I love him. And Sonny… How appropriate is that name. He’s got a bad past hiding in there somewhere but he’s all light and “bubbles”. Just what that hard ass Luki needs. Lou Sylvre’s writing is also phenomenal. What chops. Very eloquent while still maintaining the masculine voices of her characters. Now THAT is talent. I’m smitten.”
About the books:
When badass meets artist, sparks and bullets fly. Blazing romance, chilling suspense, enduring love…
Loving Luki Vasquez: Renowned but reclusive weaver Sonny Bly James masters color, texture, and shape in his tapestries, but when he meets Luki Vasquez, an ex-ATF agent and all-around badass, his heart and desire spin out of control. The heat between them won’t be denied. United by danger, can Sonny and Luki put fear and anger aside, and fight together to save Sonny’s nephew and their own lives?
Delsyn’s Blues: Devastated by loss, Sonny James listens to a voice singing the blues from beyond the grave. Convinced he’s failed in an all-important life task, he tries to shut out Luki Vasquez and love just when he needs him the most. But when Luki finally breaks through Sonny’s fortress of grief, it’s just in time for the newly reunited couple to face a new, violent, escalating danger.
Finding Jackie: When Sonny James asked Luki Vasquez to marry him, Luki’s “yes” was accompanied by a request — a wedding in Hawaii. Months and many trials later, their hilltop island ceremony is poignant and funny, and every bit as beautiful as they’d hoped. The honeymoon is all sex, surfing, and sunshine… until Luki’s sixteen-year-old nephew is kidnapped by a sadistic killer. When it all comes to an ultimate showdown with evil, it’s not only love at stake, but their lives.
Excerpts (Beware of sexy hotness in the one from Finding Jackie):
From Loving Luki Vasquez
Oak Flats, Nebraska, 1982
A MUD-SPATTERED pickup in the front yard of a weathered house. Summer-gold hayfields rolling back farther than the eye could see. In the west, a sinking sun screened by a line of trees—cottonwoods and willows. Under those trees, a band of children just into their teens, whooping and laughing in that way that kids do in the summer when night is just on the edge of the next breath.
Luki ran faster than all the rest, and then looped back to taunt them. Excitement like electricity ran through him. Something about this day, this hour, this prelude to night, was special. “Maria,” he yelled. “I’ll race ya!”
It started a stampede, all seven of the boys and Maria, the one girl who always hung out with them, running as if they could fly, thrashing through brambles and over sticks and stones as if they couldn’t feel them. Out onto the Old Granary Road, onto the bridge, right over the rail and into the river, just as they’d done hundreds of times before.
Luki swam underwater for as long as he could hold his breath, which was longer than anyone, except maybe Maria. When he came up, laughing and spitting, and slicked his hair back out of his eyes, all of the other boys had gathered at the shore, whispering, or maybe arguing. Maria hadn’t even gone in, and now she was worming her way down the steep embankment from the road to the river.
The sun sank under the skyline, and the river turned dark, and Luki felt a chill run through him.
“Hey, Luki, c’mon over here, man.” It was Ronny Jemison, the boy that was a bit taller, a bit rougher, a bit meaner than any of the rest. Maybe the leader, if they had been a gang. “We’ve got something for you. C’mon.”
Ronny scared him when he was like this. Luki had seen the bully push Little Jimmy down the bank, yank Maria’s hair hard enough to put her on her knees, kill birds and frogs and rabbits—anything that lived—just to be killing. But, scared or not, Luki knew he had to choose: go and fight and maybe get hurt, or be deemed a coward and so get picked on—probably for the rest of his life.
So Luki went.
Before he quite made it safely to dry land, Ronny smacked him hard in the face with a balled up fist, and yelled one word, spit it at Luki as if it was made of acid and would flay him.
From Delsyn’s Blues
SONNY knew he should care a lot more about getting arrested for things he no way could have done, about people breaking in, about all of that. But he didn’t want to care. Luki—obviously—was thoroughly busy with the problem. Let him have it. Sonny had other things he wanted and needed to think about. Like Delsyn dying. Like Delsyn living.
Like Delsyn playing the blues.
He didn’t want to rush things, so instead of popping the cassette tapes into an old player, he took them to Port Angeles to a shop where they’d convert them to CDs. In the process, he discovered a 16mm tape he hadn’t noticed before. He had that converted to DVD. He successfully ignored Luki’s investigation for another twenty-four hours, then hopped in the ancient F-150 his uncle Melvern had left him as a legacy. After the key didn’t even crank the engine, he took it out of gear and hopped back out, gave the truck a push downslope, hopped back in and popped the clutch. On his way to P.A. to get the finished product, he didn’t think about Delsyn or various crimes. He thought about replacing the starter.
He drove through Port Clifton, which wasn’t quite on the way home, to stop at the store. He contemplated something alcoholic to help him through the hard parts. God help him, he once again contemplated dope, but he quickly discarded both ideas and settled for Rocky Road ice cream and a great big tin of Scottish shortbread cookies. Because, he freely admitted to the cashier, he was a little crazy. Making a last stop, he had a raspberry latte at Margie’s.
“So, Sonny, why are you driving that rusty bucket?”
“Mustang wouldn’t start,” he said, lying and pretty sure Margie could tell.
“Well, that’s kind of lucky, don’t you think? I mean, your Uncle Mel would have wanted to go along.”
Sonny laughed, and after that Margie found room in her freezer for his Rocky Road and chatted with him—or more accurately, at him—in the old way, not mentioning anything at all about death, murder, jail, dope, Luki, or anything else remotely related except her new PT Cruiser. But then at the end, she gave him another latte, free of charge. “You’re not the only one who misses him, you know. You’re certainly the one who has lost the most, but you’re not the only one who is sad, or hurt, or wondering how to fill up the hole in the world Delsyn left behind.”
“You miss him too.”
“I do, but I wasn’t talking about me. It’s good to see you in here again, by the way. I still wonder why you drink those silly coffees, though. See you soon, dear, and don’t forget to tell Luki I’ve always got a cup of coffee for him, black and sweet.”
Sonny parked the pickup in the yard, refusing the crotchety old thing the right to live in the barn with the Mustang, the Harley, and his auntie’s ridiculous but fragile ’72 Honda Civic. He wasn’t sure why his mood had lightened at least three shades, but he didn’t spend much time thinking about it. He wasn’t really the kind of person to get so very bogged down in misery, and now he had plans. He’d clean up the studio first—the rancid dyes had actually begun to smell up the rest of the house, and his fingers were starting to itch for the touch of silk and wool. Once he had his tools and space in order, he’d know what he wanted to weave. And what a relief.
Then he’d watch the DVD. See Delsyn again, he hoped. Hear his voice. Keep loving him, just as if he was alive. Maybe not, but better than nothing at all.
In the end, though, he didn’t deal with the studio at all. He let the screen door bang behind him as he ducked into the mud porch. Ignoring the strips of bark and thankfully dead but now useless cochineals, thankful that he’d at least dumped the smelly, spoiled dyes, he walked through to the kitchen to put the ice cream away and pried off the lid of the shortbread tin to eat a cookie. He thought about checking to see if it improved his fake Scottish brogue, but it never had before. The coffee pot was on, the coffee hot and smelling fresh, but Luki was nowhere in sight—not in the kitchen, the bathrooms, the bedroom, etcetera. Sonny thought about looking for him outside, or thought maybe he wasn’t there after all; maybe Rona had come to get him to figure out some legal thing that Sonny refused to notice.
But no. His shoulder holster was hanging on the back of the bedroom closet door. He wouldn’t have left it. Without having to think about it anymore, he knew where Luki was. Sonny could move almost silently, and he made it a point to be as quiet as he could on the way back to Delsyn’s room. It wasn’t that he wanted to surprise Luki. He only wanted to see him without the guard he would put up if he knew he was being watched. Maybe not nice, but Sonny didn’t care about that just then.
The door to Del’s room was open, the blue walls strangely aglow in the light that poured around the edges of the plywood he’d used to cover the broken window. The small lamp in the corner by Del’s bed had been switched on, and in the circle of light it cast, Luki sat in a T-shirt and striped pajamas, chewing his bottom lip and stroking the wood of Del’s old, now broken, guitar, tracing the scratches and scars on its surface as if reading it like Braille.
Of course, Luki became aware of Sonny instantly, and put the instrument down. It took him a minute to look up, and when he did, the look on his face gave away Luki’s feelings—a rare event in itself. Luki grieved. Sonny couldn’t understand now why he hadn’t seen that, expected it, even. The two of them had grown close—Luki and Del. Sonny had been happy for that at the time.
“He loved you,” Sonny said.
“You sent me away.”
“I’m sorry. I couldn’t help it.” Sonny thought of how lame that must sound, but he had no solution and just then he felt overwhelmed with all the things he’d done wrong—even if you just counted the last few days. But he tried to explain. “Luki, it was like… it hurt, but the pain was all I had of him toward the end. Stupid, I know, but I couldn’t share it.” He didn’t know what else to say, so after a moment’s silence, he added, “But I love you. And… will you watch Delsyn’s DVD with me? Want some Rocky Road?”
Luki sent him an almost-smile, nodded. “Sure. But hamburgers first. I’ll make ’em. You have to have something solid in your stomach before the shortbread.”
“You and your hamburgers,” Sonny said. “And I didn’t say anything about shortbread.”
“I need hamburgers to keep my strength up. You’ve got crumbs in your beard.”
“I don’t have a beard.”
“I know, but if you did, there would be shortbread crumbs in it
From Finding Jackie
LUKI and Sonny had checked into their hotel room before they went to the market, but they’d only had their bags placed inside the room; they’d never even gone in. They had decided to stay this time at a different hotel altogether, thinking the Fairmont was beautiful but the memories of their previous stay mostly not so good. At the Monaco, they’d been offered the Ambassador Suite, but Sonny had insisted the purple furniture would prevent him from sleeping, so they ended up with the Monte Carlo suite. They walked back to the hotel after their business and pleasure at the market was done, and Sonny sighed.
Luki said, “What?”
“Nothing,” Sonny said, sounding like a martyr. “It’s just… interesting wallpaper.”
“Baby,” Luki said, not understanding at all but willing to go to any lengths to please his man, “If you hate it—”
“No, no, I don’t. I mean, it’s not bad—it’s probably even good. I just need to get used to it. The colors in here are gorgeous, truthfully. And you know what?”
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. Then 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.”
Thanks for stopping by! I hope you’ll enjoy Luki and Sonny’s adventures!
(I rarely note “warnings,” but there are potential triggers here. Beware if you’re vulnerable. – Lou Sylvre.)
Madeira Desouza has a new gay erotic sci fi tale out: Baja Clavius.
This controversial science fiction adventure depicts gay male time travel agents with very bad behaviors. They are violent and immoral men.
A few hundred years from now, these time travel agents work within a top-secret agency located beneath the crater Clavius on the moon. Their time-travel missions take them to Earth in the past where they ruthlessly manipulate man who are targeted for their roles in the outcomes of historical events such as the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.
Yesterday I was lost and I died. Today I am alive again. I accept the truth about foregone tomorrows and my resurrections from the dead.
I do not claim to be a believer in a deity or a religion. Yet, I have personally experienced being repeatedly brought back to life after death. Something far more powerful than us human beings resurrected me. And now, everything I have learned about living, dying, and then coming back for more is presented here.
I have been coerced into creating this journal of my experiences. I will suffer if I am less than completely truthful. I will be held prisoner until I have completed this in full.
I work for a top-secret international agency that is so deeply concealed nobody could possibly find it. Baja Clavius is the name of the international base of operations where I live. It is from that base that I travel in time to work assignments on Earth.
Desperate efforts by others to censor this work all have ended in failure. Just to confuse you, others have circulated conflicting versions of this. But I defeated all my enemies who wanted to prevent you for seeing this.
I begin by sharing my memories of being back in my home state of Arizona—on foot trudging through the desert under dark, threatening thunderclouds that do not diminish the hottest day I have ever felt in my entire life. Through an unexpected break in the storm clouds, I see bright white sunlight and the most magnificent color of blue sky. Up there above me a haunting full moon commands my attention.
Sticking out of the landscape under the ominous skies is a mechanical structure apparently made mostly of wood. As I walk closer to the device, it looks to me as though it was created specifically to slow down the process of hanging a man by the neck so that he will experience extended agony before his death.
Hung from a thick brown rope wrapped around a wheel wench is a muscular, shirtless, and barefoot man with his arms unbound struggling desperately to stay conscious as his neck is crushed in the noose. I see his high cheekbones and long dark brown hair that is tied behind his neck into a queue. I watch his bare feet kick the sky.
I notice a pair of unattended video cameras on tripods positioned nearby on the desert floor pointing toward the hanging machine. Why would anyone go to the trouble of videotaping this man’s death by ritual hanging?
I know that I have met him previously. But this man whose name I cannot remember somehow seems to hold a distinct place at the very center of faulty recollections in my brain.
Off in the distance fifty meters or so to the west of my location, I can see four men wearing cowboy attire running away. I must have scared them away when I approached. But they left that helpless man to die on their hanging machine.
He is someone who seems obviously capable of having put up very considerable resistance against this merciless fate. His powerful body attracts my full attention. He looks like he is about thirty years old—the same age as me. His legs wildly swing in all possible directions as I reach the hanging machine. He desperately tries to reach his hands up to his neck as if it somehow were possible to free himself from the noose. But that is impossible! He groans when he sees me as if to try and tell me something.
His faded blue jeans are too tight for him. I stare at his bulging crotch as he dances in the air at the end of a rope. I marvel at his incredible masculinity contrasted with utter vulnerability. This man looks strong and tough. He must certainly be capable of protecting himself against anyone with success. But, not now.
He cannot save himself. He is simultaneously very manly and totally defenseless. This precise opposing combination of traits is, I’m sure, why men watch executions of other men.
His deep, dark eyes remain open, defiantly staring outward into the eerie sky. He resumes his kicking, but much more forcefully now.
His tight blue jeans emphasize his growing bulge. He has attained a full erection ahead of what will be his final ejaculation into his jeans. There is intense humiliation on his face. His body jerks wildly. As he shoots his last load in his pants, his neck cannot withstand the crushing force of the noose. I am stunned because I did not expect to see his body spasms, kicking, and curling of his toes.
Very suddenly, he just stops struggling. His body no longer can fight back against the effects of gravity and the noose that has applied fatal pressure to his vulnerable neck. I watch him desperately try to open his mouth to breathe, but he has no life remaining in him. I am overwhelmed with intense anger and shock as I slump to the ground. I cry without any shame for this stranger. I feel stunned by my sexual attraction to him. It is as if I have lost someone who has been very significant to me and to my life.
Even though I feel instinctively that I have suffered memory loss, I can remember where I work. I especially remember being inside some kind of cylindrical blue machine.
The inside of the circular blue glass machine was filled with a milky white liquid. It was translucent and unpleasant. It smelled like chemicals. I was naked. I felt like I was drowning. But I knew I was not going to drown. Something has taught me that I cannot die. I know with absolute certainty that I do not know death. I live on and on. But, I have so many questions that I cannot answer. Why am I repeatedly resurrected? Will I live forever?
Notes from the Author on Diverse Characters
What motivated you to choose a wide diversity for your science fiction characters?
Both of my grandfathers came from Portugal’s Azores Islands situated in the Atlantic Ocean some 850 miles off the western coast of Europe. I grew up as a cultural minority within the Portuguese community situated midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. So, I definitely come from “old country” roots.
When I first started creating the characters in “Baja Clavius” I imagined that 200 or 300 years from today, people probably would not feel ethnic or cultural prejudice like we have nowadays.
My all-male time travel agents working inside the crater Clavius on the moon are from many well-known peoples of planet Earth. I prominently feature a Mexican or Latino hero named Ted Avila. He’s the narrator. The exact heritage of time travel agent Avila in the book is left open to individual interpretation. But although the character’s surname can readily be found in both Portuguese and Hispanic populations today, it is pronounced differently in various places. For example, the “A” in Avila Beach, California is pronounced like in the word apple.
I suppose I may have crossed the line when I created “new prejudices” such as the future society believing gay men are more successful in life compared to straight men, and, a very clear hero-worship of gay men who are celebrities for their sexual prowess. But unlike in the 21st century, nobody in the future society I created is prejudiced based on the color of a person’s skin or ethnic characteristics. Several prominent characters in “Baja Clavius” stand out in this regard. Time travel agent Vincent Wauneka is a Native American Indian born in the Navajo Nation. Markus Tagawa, director of time travel operations, is Japanese American. A second director of time travel operations, Marvin Mainer, is African American.
Madeira Desouza is a gay male author. He focuses upon telling stories about mature, masculine men who are sexually attracted to other mature, masculine men. He steers clear of several deeply embedded traits of American gay culture that can be found in film and in print–eccentric or flamboyant behaviors, alkyl nitrites, dance music, trendy clothing, trendy hair, gay men who think age 30 is old, and so forth.
Desouza’s creative works belong within the bara genre. This little word is shortened from barazuko. Translated from Japanese, it means rose-tribe, which is a code phrase for gay men. Originated in Japan decades ago as gay men created works for other gay men, this genre has not yet been widely embraced internationally. Perhaps this is because bara bara depicts same-sex feelings and sexual attraction to masculine, muscular men who sometimes behave in aggressive, violent, or exploitative ways towards one another.
As both a storyteller and digital artist Desouza explores conflicting and opposing compulsions that all men have. On one side there are impulses men have towards sustaining life, engaging in love, and being attracted to others. In the opposing direction are impulses men have towards being aggressive, engaging in violence, and, causing pain and death. For centuries, artists and storytellers around the world have found inspiration in these two opposing human compulsions that no man is able to resist or impede merely by his conscious will alone.
I’ve decided to go on record in a public way about the Dreamspinner situation—if you don’t know what I’m talking about, just do a web or Facebook search. I’m speaking up in response to some harsh words I’ve recently heard about the company and about authors still with them trying to go about the regular business of promoting books published by them. Dreamspinner once made my dream come true. I’m grateful, and I still believe Dreamspinner is basically honest, not a conniving corporation out to bilk authors or anyone else. They made some poor business decisions, and they took too long to admit that they’d made mistakes (but they did admit it). In addition, my personal belief is that they’ve made some poor editorial decisions. I admit I could be biased by the way a rejection was handled by one individual whom I won’t name because despite my pain I can’t know that the hurt was intentional. That person’s perspective on it is obviously different from mine. (I occasionally try to be an adult.) But that aside, I believe, as an observer with a limited field of vision, that it may have been a mistake for Dreamspinner to concentrate so completely on current reader trends and on certain authors to the exclusion of others who might work at a more traditional pace, possibly on books with a more evergreen style.
In addition, I want to go on record saying I believe that despite mistakes, Elizabeth is an honorable person, along with at least many of, if not all of, the people who work with/for her, like Anne Regan and many others. Perhaps Elizabeth was too hands off with the day to day business—like editorial decisions, like managing royalty payments. Perhaps, I say because I am in no position to know what happens behind the scenes. But certainly if she was not an honorable person, once she learned what a debacle the current royalty payment mess was, she would not have undertaken to go through over a thousand accounts one-by-one herself in order to make sure things got fixed. And, she’s made a wise and probably caring business decision to go to SBA rather than a bankruptcy lawyer.
Most of the rights that are reverted to me are mine because—before any of this—Dreamspinner opted not to renew my contracts, which broke my heart. (I cried for days and still cry about it sometimes even though the books were immediately swept up by another publisher.) But I think it was a business decision made with the best information available at the time, and I can accept that (more or less, lol). Asking for my rights back on the one title I now have with Dreamspinner Press as a sole author would not be worth the trouble at this time. And the series I have in progress with Harmony Ink—well, it’s in progress!
So I’m sticking, for now, and I honestly expect not to regret that. Would I sub another title to Dreamspinner? If I wrote the right book, probably yes. I won’t ever make them the sole basket for my eggs again, but that was foolish for me to begin with. It might not be foolish for someone else, but it was in my case. The same is true for other authors choosing to pull their titles—they’re doing what’s right for them and I support them.
I am still waiting for first quarter royalties. It’s an inconvenience, but I’d be just as broke right now if I had them as I am without them (though another bill might be paid). I fully believe I’ll get paid what I’m due.
I also believe Dreamspinner will pull through, and with a course correction, be a strong and thriving force again in the world of MM Romance and LGBTQ+ publishing, as well as in the community of people who stand for equality in the right for all individual to pursue happiness and full, rich lives.
Could I be wrong about all this? I suppose, but I’m pretty sure I’m not. If I am, more fool me. Thank you, anybody taking the time to read this.
I’m excited. Luki Vasquez and Sonny James will be back in town in less than two weeks, June 28, 2019. Same stories so many readers gave and reviewers gave 5 stars. A new edit got rid of some of pesky little errors and updated a Camaro (no really), but the guys, their wild rides through suspense-land, and their loving romance is all there in a brand new bundle. Watch this space for links to the ebook market places. It will go up for preorder and release first on Changeling’s catalog.
In this Volume
Loving Luki Vasquez — the story that started it all!
Renowned but reclusive weaver Sonny Bly James masters color, texture, and shape in his tapestries, but when he meets Luki Vásquez, an ex-ATF agent and all-around badass, his heart and desire spin out of control. The heat between them won’t be denied, but love won’t come easy for beautiful but shy Sonny, and Luki wears his visible and hidden scars like armor against romance.
They try to run from lust and love, but soon it becomes clear they have bigger problems. An evil, violent stalker has targeted Sonny, and Luki’s protective instincts take over. When Sonny discovers his beloved nephew is at risk, he must choose to trust Luki’s strength and skills, even though he’d rather stay away and avoid loving Luki Vasquez. United by danger, can Sonny and Luki put fear and anger aside, and fight together to save Sonny’s nephew and their own lives?
Delsyn’s Blues — in which a (literal) cliffhanger is narrowly avoided.
Devastated by loss, Sonny James listens to a voice singing the blues from beyond the grave. Convinced he’s failed in an all-important life task, he tries to shut out Luki Vasquez and love just when he needs him the most. But when Luki finally breaks through Sonny’s fortress of grief, it’s just in time for the newly reunited couple to face a new, violent, escalating danger.
Tensions mount, and suspicion threatens to strain their newly mended love to the breaking point. But no matter what Luki fears Sonny might have done and how it might affect their future, he’s determined to keep the man he loves safe under his watchful eye. Together despite their fears and sorrows, they undertake a wild trip to find a madman, stop a crime spree, and save a friend. If they succeed, can they also save the deep passion and enduring love of their treasured, surprise romance?
Finding Jackie — what you do when a mob hit man is bent on revenge.
When Sonny James asked Luki Vasquez to marry him, Luki’s “yes” was accompanied by a request—a wedding in Hawaii. Months and many trials later, their hilltop, island ceremony is poignant and funny, and every bit as beautiful as they’d hoped. The honeymoon is all sex, surfing, and sunshine… until the shadow of death and danger finds them once again. This time, Luki decides a badge will help him deal with the threat, a choice that spells discord for the newlyweds. Passion shines through, but soon the darkness deepens: a former informant brings Luki a troubling message from a renowned Mob hit man. Then Luki’s sixteen-year-old nephew, Jackie, is catfished and kidnapped by a sadistic killer, and the honeymoon is well and truly over.
Luki and Sonny know love and family are far more important than their lingering disagreement. United in purpose, they struggle to unravel intertwined terrors and follow the threads that might lead them to finding Jackie. The hunt takes them from soup kitchens and leather bars to dusty desert back roads, and relies on all the strengths, talents, and allies they can muster. When it all comes to an ultimate showdown with evil, it’s not only love at stake, but their lives.
(And then, in July ride along with Luki and Sonny in volume 2 for more love and more edge-of-the-seat suspense.
Lou’s Rainbow Gate Book Blog is happy to welcome Michael G. Williams.
Michael G. Williams has a new queer sci fi book out: A Fall in Autumn.
WELCOME TO THE LAST OF THE GREAT FLYING CITIES
It’s 9172, YE (Year of the Empire), and the future has forgotten its past.
Soaring miles over the Earth, Autumn, the sole surviving flying city, is filled to the brim with the manifold forms of humankind: from Human Plus “floor models” to the oppressed and disfranchised underclasses doing their dirty work and every imaginable variation between.
Valerius Bakhoum is a washed-up private eye and street hustler scraping by in Autumn. Late on his rent, fetishized and reviled for his imperfect genetics, stuck in the quicksand of his own heritage, Valerius is trying desperately to wrap up his too-short life when a mythical relic of humanity’s fog-shrouded past walks in and hires him to do one last job. What starts out as Valerius just taking a stranger’s money quickly turns into the biggest and most dangerous mystery he’s ever tried to crack – and Valerius is running out of time to solve it.
Now Autumn’s abandoned history – and the monsters and heroes that adorn it – are emerging from the shadows to threaten the few remaining things Valerius holds dear. Can the burned-out detective navigate the labyrinth of lies and maze of blind faith around him to save the City of Autumn from its greatest myth and deadliest threat?
The sun was over the trees at the southeastern edge of the sloped opening in the forest when I awoke. The sun woke me, actually: its rays on my face, the flicker of shadow and light as it played across my closed eyes. I was half dressed: my shoes off, my feet bare, and my coat spread over me in lieu of a blanket. My shirt was somewhere, probably. I wasn’t wearing it, anyway, and my eyes hadn’t opened yet, but I could feel it nearby the way you can sense an old dog by your chair or a former lover on the opposite side of an otherwise perfectly nice party.
My back curled against something firm and supporting and I felt gentle fingers stroke the tufts of silvery black at my temples. Hematite, a man told me once. I would always love him a little for saying that. My hair there wasn’t yet gray but no longer black and when wet it looked like hematite, and he said it like that meant something deep and significant and mystical I didn’t understand. Having someone’s fingers run through it felt good, though. It felt like a happy memory, like something I didn’t expect would happen much anymore if it ever really happened in the first place.
That simple touch was a comfort to me. It’s the most minor thing and, for that reason, the most missed when it’s gone. I don’t go long stretches without being touched, but it had been a while between caresses. This was that: a caress, and more; not exactly sexual but not exactly platonic. It was that happy in-between we call intimate. I made myself vulnerable to other men, and they themselves to me, more times than I can count in my too-short life. It didn’t always work out, though, that my usual flavor of street trade would show basic human kindness in return for mine.
None of that mattered, though. Those guys were long gone. Right that second, someone ran his fingers through my half-asleep hair, intimate and kind and caressing. I felt vulnerable and that was okay. For a few moments I wasn’t dying and I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t lonely and I wasn’t alone. The sun felt good, and the breeze through the branches sounded like Gaia herself telling me to go back to sleep. I thought for a moment I might be okay with dying fairly soon if I got to wake up like this every morning for the rest of my life.
“Okay,” I groaned. I didn’t move and I didn’t open my eyes because I wasn’t quite ready for the moment to go away even as I lifted the pin to pop its balloon. “You want something. So tell me what it is. Because if I say yes – if– I may not have much time to hold up my end of the bargain.” My voice dispelled all the magic of the moment, but his fingers were still at my temple, resting there, ready to go back to what we shared moments before. I rolled over and looked up at Alejandro, his purple hair down over half his face as he leaned on one elbow. I didn’t kiss him, but I did put one hand to his jaw and brush his cheek with my thumb. I wondered if he could feel that – really feel it, like skin feels it. “Let’s not pussyfoot around this. You want me to do something. The whole story about the angel and thinking someone was trying to kill you was bullshit, but there was something there, something worth chasing, so let’s have the truth now and get on with things.” I tried to smile at him. His expression was completely blank.
With the hand he used to brush my temples, he laid a fingertip behind my ear, cupping my face with barely a single point of contact. He still didn’t smile, but his eyes searched my face, my own eyes, for something. It occurred to me the correct phrasing might be to say he searched my eyes for someone. I assumed he’d been alive long enough to know a hell of a lot of people, and I would bet a nickel he looked for one of them in me. There are a hundred romantic stories about golems: meat sacks like me throwing ourselves at a golem out of infatuation with their embodiment of agelessness.
If he’d been there before, heard a hundred thousand of us wail about mortality and still willing to hear number one hundred thousand one, he must have a lot of love for humankind. No, I thought, more than that: he must have loved the hell out of oneof us at some point. Maybe he was waiting for that guy to walk back into his life, reemerging from the vast but finite pool of genetic factors we possess as a species. I wondered if I simply seemed close enough to that long-lost lover to pass muster for a night.
I also wondered what made a golem want to get laid in the first place: ever the detective, after all.
“I really did see an angel in Splendor,” Alejandro said. He still wasn’t smiling. If anything, he had the muted seriousness, the understated gravitas, I’d long since come to recognize as the posture of someone telling the truth at long last. I wondered how long it had been. “I swear it to you. I swear it.” He surprised me, then, because he didn’t cry, golems don’t have tear ducts, but his eyelids quivered with the autonomic response to strong emotion. He still hadn’t moved at all, and we were shielded from the breeze so that his hair hung straight down like a perfectly still and settled curtain across half the stage of his face. “And I believe it would try to kill me if it knew I were here.”
Michael G. Williams writes wry horror, urban fantasy, and science fiction: stories of monsters, macabre humor, and subverted expectations. He is the author of three series for Falstaff Books: The Withrow Chronicles, including Perishables (2012 Laine Cunningham Award), Tooth & Nail, Deal with the Devil, Attempted Immortality, and Nobody Gets Out Alive; a new series in The Shadow Council Archives featuring one of San Francisco’s most beloved figures, SERVANT/SOVEREIGN; and the science fiction noir A Fall in Autumn. Michael also writes short stories and contributes to tabletop RPG development. Michael strives to present the humor and humanity at the heart of horror and mystery with stories of outcasts and loners finding their people.
Michael is also an avid podcaster, activist, reader, runner, and gaymer, and is a brother in St. Anthony Hall and Mu Beta Psi. He lives in Durham, NC, with his husband, two cats, two dogs, and more and better friends than he probably deserves.
To set up this exclusive excerpt for a moment, let me explain that at this point in the story Valerius needs to navigate a huge open-air market in the worst part of the city. It’s called the Lower Market Market because it’s a market on Market Street. Most people refer to it as just the Market, or the LM, or the LMM.
Valerius knows he’s going to have to contend with multiple gangs of thieves and enforcers to get from one end to the other, and he’s bribed his way through the first section by performing, uh, favors for a young knife-fighter named Fiono. Fiono has a big mane of hair that reminds Valerius of a lion, and he very quickly starts thinking of him that way.
Fiono is clearly talented as a fighter, but he’s somehow gotten in trouble with his very businesslike criminal outfit, the Hendricks Gang, and been busted down to guarding the boundaries of their turf. Valerius has bribed Fiono to accompany him to their contested border with the next gang, the Busters, who are decidedly less formal in their presentation and conduct. Valerius used to be a criminal himself – he spent years as a sex worker in this same market – but it’s been long enough that none of his old contacts are around and none of his old street cred matters. He’s become an outsider to this system he once called home, and now he needs that system’s worst elements to protect him from the rest of it long enough to follow a lead.
We walked for maybe twenty minutes. Different people here and there greeted my Hendricks protector in various ways. Some of them were rent boys, some were rent girls, some were hawkers whose tone was the forced joviality I recognized as fear on seeing him. I wondered if he were especially cruel. Perhaps he had a reputation as a gifted slicer. From what his partner said, he was bumped back down to working the door because he fucked the wrong person, which meant he’d been high enough up to get knocked down. And, of course, maybe these people reacted less to him and more to the organization he represented.
I tried engaging him in conversation—I told him my name, offered a hand to shake—but he kept walking without even looking at me. Maybe he pissed off a trick who then made trouble to get back at him. Maybe he was mute. I found myself manufacturing a hundred different reasons why a street tough like Fiono would get blown in the shadows by a wrung-out stranger like me, then walk a mile without saying a word. In most of my manufactured scenarios, he did it by choice. I imagined Fiono aloof in that way a teenager might find romantic but I found a little sad. In some of them, it was tragic circumstance: Fiono cast in the role of my One True Love, found too late to save him from the gyro accident that stole his speaking voice; or the damage to his larynx from a case of Child’s Malady had been too severe; or he was born silent and would, like a swan, only speak on the day of his death at which time his voice would be shockingly beautiful.
After a sensory-numbing slideshow of spice merchants, back-alley pinpricks selling unfiltered shit in dirty needles, an arcade of manual games operated by the few kids not out trying to steal dinner, furniture huts, games of dice huddling in gaps, accusations of counterfeiting, and who knows what else, we walked down some rickety steps one at a time.
Fiono, The Boy Lion, nodded in the direction of one of the warrens and turned to go.
“Wait.” My voice was quiet, but I didn’t push my luck trying to sound intimate. He paused. “I may need them to see a little muscle to let me get through. I mean, these are Busters we’re talking about.”
He shrugged, leaned against a post, and a knife appeared between his fingers without his visibly removing it from anywhere on his person. Fiono started picking his nails with it. The knife was tiny, the weapon of a guy who enjoyed feeling a foe’s dying breath gutter out against his own face.
“What’s Hendy trash doing sitting on our curb?”
I looked in the direction of the new voice and saw two women with football bats and bandoliers of knives walk to within ten meters and no closer. The one speaking appeared the older of the two, but neither of them would have qualified as an adult in the Imperial census. Busters will take anybody desperate enough to volunteer, but these two looked like they had skills and intentions.
“He came with me. I need to get to a fruit dealer. Let us by.” I tried to sound proud but compliant: the default state of one who knows he’s been beaten by a larger foe. There was a middle finger in my voice, but my eyes didn’t meet theirs.
“Let you by, you mean. We’re not letting a Hendy onto our turf.”
Fiono turned to go at that, hands up in a gesture indicating very clearly he was done participating in this minor melodrama.
“Wait.” I didn’t try to hide that I was begging. “Please, wait. I need all three of you to go with me, and I’m willing to pay.”
Fiono turned back and stared at me. The Buster who’d done the talking burst out laughing. “You want Busters and Hendies to help you out at the same time? Buddy, you don’t need to work so hard to set up a fight. Usually throwing something will get it started.” She laughed again. “Now come with us, and we’ll figure out how to get you there and how much it’ll cost.”
That’s the thing about the Lower Em. I could have found the place on my own. I could have probably paid off the guards and kept walking, or bluffed my way through, but I needed some muscle for this trip to the fruit dealer. Yuri might have gotten bounced out because he didn’t know what he was getting into, but I did. I needed this guy to see I had friends and, even better, I wanted him to see I had friends in at least two of the big gangs.
“No.” I shook my head. “He comes with me, and we all go together. You and he make nice and it’ll be worth your time.”
They exchanged glances, and the younger one blinked at the older. Apparently, that was enough. The older went from pensive to sneering again. “Alright, buddy boy. I mean, it’ll be a hoot to tell the rest, right? For both of us.”
Fiono met my eyes and shook his head once to the left. No dice. He wasn’t sold.
I walked over and leaned in close enough to whisper. “You do this for me, and I’ll put a smile on your face twice a day for a week.”
Fiono considered for a long second, then stepped forward. This kid was going to get himself in real trouble one day.
The three of us drew stares as we walked. Most conversations stopped, but some others took on new vigor—and new subject matter—as we passed by. There were people who were too stunned to contain their reaction on seeing a kid in Hendy blue walk with two beat sticks in Buster yellow rags. (Busters identify themselves with tufts of yellow woven into complicated braids in their hair.) I heard something metallic clatter against the scaffolding as we rounded a corner. The Busters refused to tell me their names, but they made constant patter with one another. One was in front, the other in back, with Fiono, The Boy Lion, walking beside. They joked with one another, they joked about one another, they joked at my expense, and they openly mocked the surprise of the people around us.
“Wot,” the one in front said to a pottery merchant selling plastic painted with shellac. “You never seen blue before? Look up sometime, grandpa!” The other shot back, “He can’t, when he does, he gets shit in his eye!” and then they both laughed these high, keening, vulture laughs, like harpies from prehistoric times. They snorted and farted and pointed at people, stuck their tongues out, made rude gestures. Where the Hendricks Gang has turned their turf into an operating business environment with sustainability and stability highly prioritized, the Busters keep people afraid and have fun doing it.
I remembered what it was like to be afraid all the time—hell, I still felt afraid all the time—and so I hated them for the way they used fear as a tool, but at the same time, I loved their energy. There was a time when I was the kid on the corner shaking my ass at whatever ganger passed, cracking jokes, taunting the serious ones and encouraging the silly ones. That kind of bravery comes from a place of powerlessness, from having nothing to lose. Everything looked like up from where I was back then, and in its strange way that can be liberating.
A part of me whispered there’s never been anywhere but the bottom, for me, that it’s always been nowhere to go but up. So where did that feeling of liberation go?
I didn’t want to go back to those times. I’m not trying to glamorize living on the street, sucking crusty dick in return for barely enough calories not to starve. I’m not trying to say it’s a party. Having nothing is not the same as having nothing to worry about. A lot of my bravery was a lie I told myself to make it through the night. There was a part of me, though, on that walk, with those three, that missed being able to summon up the bravado, false or otherwise. Only the terrorized can achieve fearlessness.
Some street kids—real kids, not the Buster teens, and not Fiono, whose age I pegged at twenty—fell in behind us, singing the songs they make up down here about the gangs and life and dangers to avoid. Like kids everywhere, they make up stories about what scares them, what to stay away from, who’s in charge and why. The songs they sang sounded half-familiar to me because they were based on the songs I heard when I was working these streets. They’d been remixed and rewritten over time, the names changing with the shifting tides of gangs and turf, but the tunes and the themes were preserved from one half-life generation to the next. Very quickly our little foursome turned into an informal parade of Lower Market Market street kids singing and skipping and waving scraps of cloth. Fiono looked a little offended as the Busters joined in on the songs, loving the attention, the grand show we were putting on. Like the one said, it would make a great story for them to tell the others. Fiono took himself seriously, though, so all this abraded his sensibilities, his notion of himself as a slicer who was going places.
“Don’t look so sour.” I hit him with a small smile. “They’re making noise because they’re scared of you.” I nodded forward and back. “And of them. If you were nothing, they wouldn’t need to warn each other of your approach.”
Fiono blinked. He’d never thought about that before. He probably was, once upon a time, one of these kids, too, but he’d never let himself examine that experience. He was too young and too focused on gang captaincy or new knives or his own dick or whatever else he saw as the measure of success. Most slicers only wanted to get rich enough to eat when they felt like it and fuck whom they wished, and eventually to die in a close fight after grievously wounding their opponent. I would probably outlive Fiono, given his current career, but he was still a person. He still deserved a moment of kindness as much as the next living thing.
“Don’t try pillow talk with Fiono,” the one in front said with a sneer. “Better’n you ‘ave tried to put a smile on those pretty lips.”
I started to say something smart, I don’t remember what, when I realized we were there: the fruit seller’s stand. Time to get back to work.
More From the Author
I loved writing this scene so much. It really let me dig into the mishmash of cultures and shifting lines of power at work in this seamy underbelly of the city. The Lower Market Market gets to be the place in the city that most feels alive. It practically boils over with activity, with opportunity, and with people taking advantage of each other and watching out for each other and everything between. Seeing all those factions and forces simultaneously entertained and intimidated by an impromptu parade of singing, dancing street kids and a few members of rival gangs made the Market come to life for me in a way it hadn’t in the first draft. It inspired me to go back and rewrite some earlier sections to bring a little more verve into a dingy part of town.
I loved this scene also because it’s a chance for Valerius to realize how far he’s come from the life he had as a teenage runaway – and how far he hasn’t come. After all, he turned to his old methods when he needed a way across, and he didn’t hesitate to do so. He’s still desperate, still just barely making it in a big, bad world full of people eager to gain the upper hand on anyone and everyone who happens to be around. Valerius hasn’t for many years felt afraid in the way he did as a kid, but he’s also starting to wake up to the fact he still does feel afraid all the time. He’s just afraid of different things.
I think it’s important to feature characters who are weak, and who are looked down upon. It’s important because it gives them powerful motivations to succeed, and powerful motivations lead to daring choices and meaningful turns in the plot. But I also think it’s important because that helps us build empathy for the people we think are beneath us in the real world. It’s important to me to emphasize that all people are people, and all people deserve empathy and consideration and respect. Like Valerius, I think almost everyone deserves more kindness than they’re getting, with the exceptions being the very rich and the very powerful. The powerless among us are the ones who most deserve to be recognized as our comrades in the constant struggle to get by. Valerius feels that, and he hopes this moment right here will teach the others to feel it, too. He feels real affection for Fiono, real sympathy, and I think that’s a much more complex and vulnerable and brave reaction to this silent street tough who’s unquestionably killed, probably many times, than simple cynicism would be. I would much rather work to expose what we have in common with those we think are the least like us than just tell another story of someone exactly like me.
What are you working on now, and when can we expect it?
I’ve just signed a deal for 4 more books in the world of A Fall in Autumn and will be writing the sequel over the summer. I can’t wait! I expect the second book, to be titled New Life in Autumn, will be out a year from now.
Later this year I have several other works, already finished and coming out from Falstaff Books:
Nobody Gets Out Alive will be coming out sometime soon, probably over the summer. It’s the fifth and final(-ish) book of The Withrow Chronicles, my suburban vampire series about a guy who became a vampire in the 1940’s and has declared himself the boss of all of North Carolina’s blood-drinkers. The series is a ridiculously fun sequence of genre mashups – vampires and zombies, vampires and superheroes, vampires and spy thrillers, vampires and war, vampires and their witch frienemies – telling a story that gets increasingly complex as Withrow slowly but surely learns the world of the supernatural is much bigger than he thought.
I also have the four-novella San Francisco urban fantasy series, SERVANT/SOVEREIGN. It starts with Through the Doors of Oblivion, and it’s about some of the most evocative moments in San Francisco’s history – such as the 1906 earthquake and fire – and witches and demons and time travel and real estate scams. I’m just exceptionally proud of it, and I get to really focus on the features of San Francisco I most adore, which are not necessarily the parts of the city they try to highlight for tourists. I don’t know exactly when that one is due out, either, but it’s made it through the content edits and the copyeditor and it’s now with the proofreader, so it’s getting close!
And, last but not least, I’ve reached the rights-reversion point on a bunch of short stories I sold years ago so I’m possibly going to reclaim those rights and produce an anthology of short stories and nonfiction essays I’ve written for various venues. That’s a maybe, though. We’ll see.
Thank you so much for having me – I really appreciate your and your readers’ time and attention. I hope you enjoy A Fall in Autumn and I would love to hear from you about it!
You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.
Folks who sign up for my monthly newsletter get a free short story and can read the ongoing first draft of a story set in the world of A Fall in Autumn but in our time rather than 12,000 years from now. Give it a shot! I keep marketing to a minimum and try to focus on rewarding your interest with new content.
And thanks again!
Thanks to the author and OWI for including us in the tour! Michael, I hope you will visit again. Thanks, readers for comeing by. Comments are always welcome.
Lou’s Rainbow Gate Book Blog is happy to welcome Becca Seymour!
Becca Seymour has a new MM contemporary romance out: “Let Me Show You.”
When a veterinarian and a construction worker connect, it takes mishaps, mistakes, and a Rhodesian Ridgeback named Rex to show them they’re made for each other.
Dr. Carter Falon is content living a quiet life in a small town caring for his animal patients. That doesn’t mean he’s not looking for a distraction. After finding himself precariously wedged… naked and at the mercy of a drop-dead gorgeous construction worker, Carter hires his savior to renovate his home.
When Tanner Grady’s best friend and new niece needed him, he uprooted and relocated without a second thought. His life has since been centered on work and spending time with his family, but when he comes to the rescue of a cute vet, Tanner finds he’s a lot more interested in the homeowner than the house he’s renovating.
“Hey, baby boy.” I smiled. In my late twenties, I was far from a baby, but she’d once told me that even at fifty I’d still be her baby. “Good day?”
“Yep. Not too bad. Nothing too hectic or crazy. You?”
“A great one. Your dad’s booked a cruise for our anniversary.” Excitement lit her words. She’d been hinting at Dad for a while about a cruise. I was pleased he’d listened. It didn’t take a lot to make my mom happy; she found joy in the smallest of things,so that he’d organized it all was pretty impressive. Mom usually organized everything, so I knew him booking the vacation for them was a big deal.
“That’s terrific. Caribbean?”
She actually squealed down the line. I pulled the phone from my ear and laughed loudly. “Yes! Carter, I’m so excited.”
“Really? I’d never have guessed.”
“Oh, hush.” She spoke over me as I laughed again. “Don’t sass your mother.”
My laughter continued. “Never, Mom. You’d tan my hide. Wouldn’t dream of it.”
“I should think not. So anything new? Any dates?”
With a groan, I rubbed my face and then stepped further into the kitchen and pulled out a glass. “Mom…,” I sighed.
“What? I worry about you. You’re so far from home and are there all alone.”
I poured myself a glass of wine and took a sip. “I know you worry, but honestly, life’s good.” Admittedly it would have been nice to hook up, but one, I didn’t do casual and never had, and two, there was no way I’d tell my mom I was afraid my penis would drop off from lack of use. “There’s nothing new either, and that’s okay. I’m likingthe quiet life.”
“Hmm….” That was her tell for not being convinced. “You know, I was talking to Julie last week, and her nephew’s gay.”
“Mom,” I said with laughter, “honestly, no hookups. I do not need my mom fixing me up.”
She ignored me. “Well, he lives quite far away, but maybe a week of casual—” She cleared her throat. “—sex would do you good.”
“Jesus, Mom.” I spluttered on my mouthful of wine. Grabbing a towel, I wiped my face, catching the dribble of red wine on my chin, and wiped the countertop I’d sprayed. “Stop. I don’t need you arranging anything, okay? Please tell me you’re listening.” She was quiet. “Mom,” I said louder.
“Yes, yes, I hear you.” She sighed. “Grandbabies would be nice.”
Holy crap on toast! With wide eyes, I looked at the ceiling and counted to five. I then took a big gulp of wine before saying, “Mom.”
“Yes, baby boy?”
“I have to go. I need to grab a shower. I’m expecting someone.”
“Someone to fix the house up.” I’d heard the interest in her tone, the hope in that one syllable.
“Oh.” This time her voice dropped. I hated to kill her enthusiasm, but geez, I really needed to get off the phone.
“Love you, tell Dad I love him too. And I’ll speak to you guys later. Bye, Mom.”
“Will do.” Her tone was a bit brighter. “Love you too. Bye, honey.”
I disconnected quickly and placed my phone down. My mom, yeah, she was wonderful and drove me to absolute distraction. I knew how lucky I was. Every decision I’d ever made, my parents had always had my back. They supported me unconditionally. It was just that my mom could be a little extreme at times. I laughed into the empty room. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Quickly finishing my wine, I looked at the time. I had just fifteen minutes until the contractor was due. I’d left it late to organize myself, still a little in a tizzafter the conversation with my mom and the mention of babies. I glanced around the room at the disorderly mess. Every time I did so, I regretted it.
I detested chaos,and that was what the house felt like. The place was still strewn with my moving boxes, but I had yet to see the point in unpacking. Not necessarily because I planned to move, but rather, the whole house needed a lot of work, so I knew I’d have to pack my things up for any work on the house to start.
I really hoped this Tanner guy would be the person who could finally help me out. I’d had two other quotes, one local and one from out of town. Both were crazy high,and neither would be able to start for another five months or so. I was running out of options. This guy had come recommended to me by one of my clients, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up.
I sighed in defeat as I looked around. I’d have to continue ignoring it all until I finally had the place fixed up. I headed upstairs, careful to miss the coupleof steps that had loose boards, and headed to the main bathroom. I had an en suite, but the shower didn’t work, so it was the pearlescent green suite I headed toward. The sickly porcelain made me shudder every time I laid eyes on it. It was clean though, so there was that.
I hopped into the shower, latheredmyself up, and quickly rinsed off. That was when I heard the knock at the door. “Shoot.” I quickly turned off the taps, stepped out and grabbed a towel. In my haste to get myself together and then answer the door, the dodgy floorboard didn’t even register until my foot slammed throughit, snagging my ankle and bringing me to my knees.
I yelled as I fell, and cursed. Wincing, I looked at my predicament, trying to yank my foot out as I did so. A loud groan slipped past my lips. This was no good. I was wedged, and it appeared I’d lost my towel in my fall. Just great.
Becca Seymour lives and breathes all things book related. Usually with at least three books being read and two WiPs being written at the same time, life is merrily hectic. She tends to do nothing by halves so happily seeks the craziness and busyness life offers.
Living on her small property in Queensland with her human family as well as her animal family of cows, chooks, and dogs, Becca appreciates the beauty of the world around her and is a believer that love truly is love.
Let Me Show You started from an idea of a meet cute, one that immediately had me grinning. There’s nothing I love more as a reader and a writer than that first point of contact. I love the possibility it offers, adore how one pivotal moment can set the tone and the course for the romantic development between characters.
With this in mind, the meet cute in Let Me Show You, which we find in chapter 3, essentially does that. Not only does it set the tone for the lightness and low-angst nature of the book, but it also introduces almost a whimsical chemistry between the protagonists, Tanner and Carter.
While we have two characters who are opposites on many levels, their journey, as sparked by their meet cute, soon begins to highlight their similarities. Both protective and honest, Carter and Tanner, show their determination to be positive and make the best out of a sometimes crappy situation. Their attitudes about family and loyalty are the same, as is their desire for a forever.
It’s this connection that we see immediately in their first meeting that follows them through the novel. And hopefully, it’s enough to keep you wanting to read on and cheer for this amazing couple.
Thanks OWI and Becca Seymour, for including the Lou’s Book Blog on your tour! Please come back soon! Readers, thank you for stopping by! Comments always welcome.
This blog is not pornography, however it will from time to time include material suitable for adults. If you are not of legal age in the country where you live, please leave the site. Thank you. Others, proceed at your own discretion, and please enjoy!