“This full, lush tale reaches maximum thrill in a matter of paragraphs, its potent language of blood, sweetness and fear exposing the duality of a priest and the razor-sharp line between the seductive longings of good and evil. [The author} writes through the darkness with a quiet grace and a careful touch, never letting this moving tale flop into the clichés of fiery damnation and screaming vicars.” ~~Louisa Thompson, reviewing (1st ed.) in The Future Fire
The Story: Ousting this demon has nothing to do with holy water—it’s all about a steady hand on the dagger.
Mary Evans’ blood pooling in the cobbled streets beneath her corpse symbolizes everything DuHarren hates about his contract with the demon Tamuel. Father Michael—a beautiful but angry green-eyed priest—performs the latest in a long line of failed exorcisms. But where salt and holy water fail, will murder succeed?
October being the month when all things dark are brought front and center to cause shivers up and down even the stoutest of spines, I’ve re-released the short story, “The Demon Tamuel: A More Beautiful Monster,” with a stunning cover from Sleepy Fox Covers. Featuring DuHarren and Father Michael, the story actually revolves around the demon’s desires, and he is the source of all the available sorcerous powers—and all the troubles too. With a bundle of similar names, this demon is usually (in the “lore” of such things) considered a fallen angel, said to be responsible for giving humans ink, scroll, and the ability to write—including writing and signing contracts that can get a person in all kinds of trouble. On the other hand, sources say he might cure stupidity, and he taught men the “strikes” formerly known only to spirits, including everything from serpent bites to what sounds to me like heat exhaustion. Though there is a thread of male-male attraction, this story is neither romance nor suspense, but rather dark fantasy with overtones of psychological horror. It’s unlike any of the Lou Sylvre books published before, and so I’ve released it under Lou Sylvre writing as Loretta Sylvestre. Pre-order today for 99¢ on Amazon, and block out a little time on the 17th to curl up in a well-lit corner to enjoy a truly eerie short read.
Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08L1DFM93 (99¢)
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08L1DFM93 (.77€)
(Also available on Amazon stores worldwide.)
After too much time apart from his lover and sub, Brian Harrison is thinking kink, a cowboy hat, and one more marriage proposal. When Jackie Vasquez finally says “yes” to a wedding, he also says, “why wait?” But their vows and the toasts to the happy couple have hardly faded when a phone call reminds them that trouble still awaits.
Despite his best intentions, Brian broke the law in his efforts to stop a powerful criminal from harming those he loves. He could go to prison, or he could risk his life going undercover to help bring one of Europe’s most nefarious citizens to justice. Friends and smart thinking can help him do the right thing. But only love can supply the courage he and Jackie need to prevail against schemes and guns and, if they’re lucky, stay alive to enjoy a honeymoon.
An Exclusive Excerpt:
For Brian, Jackie’s unfaltering love and a quiet session showing him how beautiful he was in ropes had resulted in a settled mind and a good night’s sleep. By the time he sat at the table with his early morning coffee, though, he was worried again. His anxiety had taken a new tone. One good thing: Jackie loved him. Bad things: he was in trouble with the law and on mandatory leave from his job. The worst thing — or so it seemed at the moment: Luki probably didn’t trust him anymore, and he still hadn’t told him everything.
Jackie had gone out already, wanting to check in at school and with Dr. Holland, and maybe see Esi. Brian hadn’t wanted him to go, but Jackie understood the risks, and he was all grown up, and neither love nor Dominance, nor even marriage gave him the right to keep him from making up his own mind. He listened to Brian’s pleas to “be careful, don’t go places alone, and if you see something or someone that seems wrong, call me or the cops, depending.” And then he kissed Brian, said, “I’ll be careful,” and left.
As a result, when Luki arrived in LA and came up to the apartment, Brian was home alone.
He sat down on the couch looking exhausted. Brian felt bad, knowing he was about to lay some more trouble on him, but he was determined. He made coffee, poured two cups, and said. “Luki, there’s more. I meant to tell you all of it, but… well, I’m not sure why, but it just didn’t happen.”
Luki looked at him either forbiddingly or inquiringly — Brian wasn’t sure which.
“I’ve agreed to… work for Vintner.” Tempted to go on and pour out the whole story, Brian swallowed down the flood of words and guilt, and waited for Luki’s initial response.
Luki barely reacted. An eyebrow went up, and clearly gears were turning, but he didn’t ice down, and he didn’t snap. He didn’t even make one of his snarky comments. After a moment, he said, “I’m pretty sure I shouldn’t take that statement at face value.”
“Uh, well, there is more to it, yes.”
“Speak. No wait. I need more coffee. You?” Without waiting for a reply, he stepped into Brian and Jackie’s tiny kitchen retrieved the pot and the sugar bowl and brought them to the table. “Sit down here,” he said, while shoveling sugar. Once he’d taken his seat and fetched a toothpick from his pocket, he said, “Go.”
Brian picked up his cup and sipped, intending to stall and collect the right words but only succeeding in burning his lip, so that all he really said was, “Shit!”
Luki got him ice water.
“I am afraid of Vintner, which I already told you. Last thing I wanted was to end up like Espen, but he managed to blackmail me, I guess. He hired me… I mean, he came in pretending to be a customer — pretending either of us believed that — and wanted me to look into the hot cars he sold that were then stolen from his customers. I said no, but he let me know he could hurt people I loved. And well, I believe him Luki. Ruth and Jade, what happened to Lonny, that’s not coincidence.”
“No. It’s not. And you’re right to be scared of him. So you… agreed. You didn’t think of telling me.”
“It was the first thing I thought of, but that was part of his warning And I half-convinced myself I could just do it, and he’d let us alone. I know that was stupid.”
“That’s all there is. Except I went to jail…”
“Not that time. Before.” Brian told him about Jackie’s search for Esi, about the trip into the tunnels with Dr. Holland, and the weird fight with Roscoe Lieb, or Gerald Roscoe. “Whatever his name is. We both got arrested. I got released. Apparently there’s no record of it, because it didn’t turn up in the fingerprint match the other day.”
Luki stayed calm and cool, but there was a strained edge to it, and he said nothing until he’d finished his coffee and started in on the toothpick. “Anything else, Brian? Anything at all?”
“Um… I demanded data from him, info on his customers. Told him I couldn’t do the job without it. I thought maybe we… I… we could use it to… I don’t know. I got it. He sent files.”
Luki’s eyes widened and he nodded, but the silence was deep enough for Brian to count the muffled ticks of the clock on the kitchen stove.
“Just so you know,” Luki finally said, his tone casual, “He’s not blackmailing you.”
“It’s called coercion, not blackmail. Two different beasts. And you realize that by working with Vintner — even superficially — you’ve become at the very least an accomplice in his crimes, if perhaps a case couldn’t be made for conspiracy.”
Brian closed his eyes, part of his struggle to maintain his balance. Bullshit. I am not a criminal! He knew that, and he was convinced that Luki knew it too.
“You could try, as a defense, to point out that you were coerced — feared for your life, even. Unfortunately, while coercion can get you out of a contract, it can’t really get you out of a guilty verdict. So we’ll have to try something else.”
“Of course, Brian. Think about it. You are my nephew’s husband. If you get hurt, he’s hurt. And you’re my employee. If you get convicted my business is seriously fucked. And you’re my friend. Someone I care about. Love like family — you are family. I might not be happy with things you’ve done, but I’m not gonna hang you out to dry.”
“Uh, well. Thank you.” In reality, Luki’s kind words did more to undo Brian’s composure than any threat or angry snarl could ever have done. He couldn’t meet Luki’s eyes, so he drank coffee, then wiped an imaginary spill with the heel of his hand. “So then, you have a plan?”
“Yes. I’m going to disappear, at least as far as most eyes are concerned. I’m going to take some important people with me to keep them safe — including Jackie.”
Brian wanted to break down and cry. Everything he was facing was already overwhelming. The last thing he wanted to hear was that he’d be facing it alone, with no help, and no Jackie to claim his attention once he got home — and yes, to find comfort in, even shelter.
“No,” Brian said, and even though it came out like a poisoned breath, he meant it sincerely. He wanted Jackie safe above all else. And if Jackie was at the apartment behind VSI — or anywhere Vintner could find him easily — safe is what he would not be. After swallowing to try and fix his voice, Brian repeated, “No, Luki. Jackie being safe is the most important thing in the world. Hiding with you seems like a safe place.”
“Good. To be clear, he and Sonny and whoever else close enough to either of us to be in danger — if I can get them to join me — will be ‘hiding’ on vacation. And I’ll have some people around, keeping eyes out. People who know how to deal with bad guys.”
He stopped speaking, and when he caught Brian’s eye, smiled softly, his eyes kind and reassuring in an expression Brian thought wouldn’t have even been in Luki’s repertoire before Sonny, before the cancer.
Brian breathed a little easier, and smiled back, although truthfully it only made the desire to weep a little stronger. He still pushed it back, though. He didn’t want Luki to think he was caught up in self-pity.
“You won’t be alone in whatever’s coming your way. I’ll make sure you have a way to get in touch with Jackie, and possibly more important in the circumstances, me. I’ll help you in any way I can that doesn’t endanger our people more than necessary. I’m going to seem to disappear, but I’ll be around. Does any of that help?”
Brian nodded emphatically, almost knocked the chair down, getting up, and started viciously rinsing out his cup. “Though I’d feel even better if I was one of them.”
“One of who?”
“People who know how to deal with bad guys.”
“You are, Brian. Why do you think Vintner feels a need to make sure you’re handled?”
Luki brought his cup to Brian for a wash, leaned in, and said, “Anyway, I’m glad the measures I’m taking make you feel a bit better. Because, I now need to pull the rug out from under you.”
“I’m going to report it all to Jesse Douglas.”
At the word ‘report,’ Brian dropped the cup. Fortunately, nothing broke. “Jesse Douglas — State Department, they’ve already had me charged with a crime.”
“Yeah, well. I think we can stop that before it becomes a trend.”
Thanks for reading! Comments welcome below, and if you are typically do reviews, review copies are still available.
In 1605, Robbie Elliot—a Reiver and musician from the Scottish borders—nearly went to the gallows. The Witch of the Hermitage saved him with a ruse, but weeks later, she cursed him to an ethereal existence in the sea. He has seven chances to come alive, come ashore, and find true love. For over a century, Robbie’s been lost to that magic; six times love has failed. When he washes ashore on the Isle of Skye in 1745, he’s arrived at his last chance at love, his last chance at life.
Highland warrior Ian MacDonald came to Skye for loyalty and rebellion. He’s lost once at love, and stands as an outsider in his own clan. When Ian’s uncle and laird sends him to lonely Skye to hide and protect treasure meant for Bonnie Prince Charlie’s coffers, he resigns himself to a solitary life—his only companion the eternal sea. Lonely doldrums transform into romance and mystery when the tide brings beautiful Robbie Elliot and his broken harp ashore.
A curse dogs them, enemies hunt them, and war looms over their lives. Robbie and Ian will fight with love, will, and the sword. But without the help of magic and ancient gods, will it be enough to win them a future together?
Isle of Skye, June 1745
Ian woke with a start, his dirk already in his hand before his eyes were properly open. He glanced around, unable to shake the feeling that something was wrong, although if asked what or why he couldn’t explain it…
The harp was gone!
Memories of the evening before flooded his mind. He’d walked by the beach as he usually did, checking that all was well and there was nothing there that wasn’t supposed to be. Since his run-in with Campbell and his men, he’d made a point of keeping an eye on the area at least twice a day. The harp had caught his eye, the tip of the old wood caught on the white crest of a wave, not quite submerged, or belonging.
It had taken but a moment for Ian to make the decision to rescue the thing. Part of him identified with it, he suspected. It had been so long since he’d felt he belonged. Sure, this was an important task he’d been given, but it was so lonely, especially since Fergus had died. It wasn’t as though he and the old man had conversed much, but Ian had taken some comfort in the knowledge he wasn’t completely alone. When his uncle had bestowed the task upon him, it was understood he’d keep to himself and not have much to do with the locals. The Harp and the Sea
It was safer for both him and what he guarded as it didn’t take much for stories to travel and find the wrong ears.
He still regretted not having had the chance to tell his parents the truth behind his banishment. His parents might not have approved of their son’s relationship with another man, but they hadn’t turned their backs on him for it. However, it hadn’t stopped his mam from telling him it wasn’t natural. A fine young strapping lad such as himself should get himself a pretty girl and settle down.
Months spent in only his own company hadn’t stopped him wishing for what he didn’t have, and what he truly wanted. On a cold night, those dreams were both a comfort and a curse.
A firm thigh. A muscular arm. The scent of someone unmistakably masculine.
“Aye, because that’s going to happen,” he’d muttered as he waded out from shore to recover whatever it was stuck out there, neither a part of the sea nor the land.
The water was freezing, but he’d expected that. He’d shivered, but it wasn’t from the cold. One firm yank and the harp was in his arms. His breath hitched, his imagination caught in the same way the instrument had been trapped by the seaweed, a green slimy rope holding it to its watery prison.
The harp was still beautiful, despite the state of it. Once ashore, Ian allowed himself to run his callused fingers over it, marvelling at the smoothness of the wood. Amazingly, the strings were still intact. He plucked at one, and then another, wincing at the following cacophony. It needed a good tuning, but he didn’t possess the knowledge. He had no clue what song it should play, just the strong feeling it was missing something—that like him, it wasn’t complete.
His thoughts snapped forward to the present, his attention taken by the slightly open door of his stone cottage. He’d shut it the night before, he was sure of it.
Ian’s eyes narrowed. Some thieving bastard had been in his home while he slept! Fully awake now, he grabbed his sword and its sheath as he stomped out of the cottage, intent on capturing the culprit and at the very least giving him or her a piece of his mind.
At least it wasn’t Campbell or one of his men. If it had been, Ian would know it by now. Campbell wouldn’t have let him sleep but more likely held a knife to his throat and ensured his waking was a painful one.
“Not very clever for a thief, are ye?”
The tracks leading from just outside the door were clear as day, the red rays of the rising sun highlighting them as clearly as though the thief had left a sign-posted trail for Ian to follow. He didn’t need any further invitation. The harp needed to be kept safe, though if asked he wouldn’t have been able to say why. Still, he had to find it.
The footsteps led him to a clearing some distance from the cottage. A man sat huddled on the ground, clutching the harp to his breast. He seemed lost, afraid, yet for some reason very familiar.
Ian forgot to breathe for a moment, lost in the sight before him. The man was slim and blond, with long hair stretching down to almost his arse. He stared at Ian, his green eyes the colour of the deep sea. Neither of them moved.
And then the harp began to sing.
The sun finally rose, and Robbie Elliot felt its warm finger skim along his pale skin, seeking his bones to warm them. Every time this moment had repeated itself throughout his long life, for just that blink of time, his existence seemed worthwhile. To feel the sun caress and kiss his skin, to see it spark gold off the knotty locks of hair that hung before his eyes, this one feeling made his heaven. It would pass too soon, but for that instant, everything was perfect.
He looked out at the olivine sea. He loved her, gave thanks to her for the gifts she had given. She was his mother, but she gave with a cold breast.
Heavy footsteps approached; it would be the Highlander who’d been asleep in his cottage when Robbie snuck in to retrieve the harp. The man would be afraid of witchcraft, once he saw Robbie sitting before the harp, legs stretched on either side, leaning over the arc of its neck as if it were an ailing lover.
Robbie hadn’t made it to land yet from his most recent stint at sea when the ruddy Highlander had lifted the harp from the foam at the edge of shore, but he’d been aware. Even before Robbie left the surf and stepped on dry sand, he’d sensed the man who’d touched his harp and felt he’d known him a lifetime.
And the feeling had woken him quickly, completely, mind and body, had pulled him towards the beach as if he were a fish on a line. He didn’t fight it. For the first time in so many that he’d lost count, a man had found the harp! It was a man who’d been drawn to the magic, who’d touched it and touched Robbie, though he—this Highlander who’d found the harp—had no way to know what he’d done. Drawing his first harsh breath of air as he rose from the sea, Robbie had felt such hope that it stung his eyes.
Voice raspy from long disuse, he’d whispered to himself, or perhaps to the sea. “Can it be at last? Can this be the completion of the magic?”
For all he had tried, he had not been able to make the harp sing with any of the women he and the harp had met—be they ladies or housemaids, whether they wanted him or not. And he knew why. He was, despite everything, the same Robbie Elliot he’d always been, and they were women. How could that work?
Now, sneaking a glance as the finder approached him across the meadow, Robbie thought, But this is truly a man. A ruddy, huge Highlander, kilt-clad and bearing a hand-and-a-half sword across his back.
When the man found the harp, Robbie had still been roaming far out among the waves. But despite the distance, with all the senses of the sea at his disposal, he’d seen and heard with his mind’s eye—and no less clearly. The great bear of a man had hefted the sodden wood of the harp in one massive hand—a hand that Robbie could feel as if it grasped his own flesh—and carried the wounded thing to shore, whistling off-key some song of the Highlands.
And now the Highlander stepped into the glade where Robbie sat in the sun with the harp before him as if ready to coax a tune from her broken strings and warped neck. He strode across the sunlit ground, the red flush on his face and neck betraying his anger, his eyes on the harp, intent.
But when at last the tall, red-headed Scot raised his eyes to meet Robbie’s… Oh, wonder!
The harp began to sing.
Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts! Comment below, or email me at email@example.com.
Deep love, hot kink. Secrets call for a shot of trust when true danger lurks in LA’s hidden places.
Brian Harrison wants to keep everyone safe — especially his beloved sub, Jackie Vasquez — and he’s convinced the only way to do that is to dig ever deeper in a forbidden investigation. Keeping his activities secret from the State Department means keeping them from his own boss, Luki Vasquez, and keeping secrets from Luki means Jackie can’t know either.
Meanwhile, Jackie keeps his own secrets as his kind heart and indomitable spirit drive him to find and help a mysterious homeless woman, who may be connected to a kidnapping. Both men dance around dangers lurking in LA’s hidden places.
Love continues to grow, adventurous kink heats up, and a marriage proposal still hangs in the balance. Can a willing shot of trust keep them together and alive when secrets collide?
Luki’s face had gone dark with controlled anger as he read the missive, then he’d passed it to Brian. While Brian read and fought down the urge to hang his head as if the letter was a scolding and he a misbehaving teen, Luki sat unmoving except for chewing a matchstick—his stress replacement for the cigarettes he’d quit half a dozen years ago.
Luki had stayed in LA for a week after what Brian was now calling “the Espen incident,” helping Brian through the red tape that had resulted from those events, and, once again, to help put VSI Los Angeles back in good order. The office’s most experienced agent, Lonny, had turned in his resignation, and on the evening of the day the State Department letter came, Luki hosted a small retirement party for him at the Brown Derby. Edith, Lonny’s wife, had been so happy she was practically shining the whole time.
On their way back to the apartment, Brian listened to Luki say more words at one time than he’d ever heard his boss string together.
Luki made it clear he was pissed at the perpetrator of crimes against what he called “his people.” He explained that he wanted to find the “doers” who had “subverted” Espen, a man whom Luki described as a “formerly decent guy.” He wanted to catch the “low-life fuckers” who had threatened an innocent, disabled woman. These “jerkwads,” he proclaimed, had put his nephew Jackie at risk by invading his—and Brian’s—home, had caused a situation in which he himself as well as Brian and Lonny could have been “barbecued” or at least “smoked to death,” and had put Sonny, Jackie, and Margie at risk of “bad shit,” like arrest, at the very least. And the “whole fucking mess” had generally “screwed with” Luki’s company and his life for months.
“If I don’t catch them and make sure they pay, maybe nobody will.” Luki went silent for a moment after that. Then he said, “Sonny would say I’m not being reasonable.”
Brian grunted to show he heard, because he wasn’t about to touch that.
Then Luki said, “I would tell him I don’t give a fuck.”
As chilling as it was to see his boss so pissed that he’d defy the husband he all but prayed and sang hymns to, for Brian, that wasn’t the worst of it. It wasn’t only Luki’s people threatened by the situation, it was his own.
In fact there was a lot of overlap—almost one hundred percent—and Jackie was at the top of both their lists. Beautiful, precious, wounded, strong, remarkable Jackie. Luki would protect him with his life—Brian knew that. But that was not an inch farther than Brian would go. Jackie filled a place in Brian’s heart no person or thing could ever replace. He suspected he wouldn’t survive losing him—he’d come close enough to that awful loss to know it would gut him. So yeah, Brian wanted the bad guys just as hard as Luki did, if not more.
But what he could do about that probably depended on Luki, and now that Luki’s federal resource had dried up, maybe Luki’s hands were tied. So as they pulled into the driveway that evening, he asked, “What are you going to do, boss?”
“You don’t need to know what I’m going to do, Brian. Your attention belongs on what you’re going to do. You—and VSI Los Angeles—are going stay miles away from anything to do with Espen or this mess he wrapped himself up in. If you can’t do that, then I will fucking fire you, and close the office. Am I clear?”
Brian heaved a sigh. “Crystal, boss. Fucking crystal.” In truth, Brian had never heard Luki speak like he did that day, and his carefully controlled tone and cold demeanor rendered it ultra-scary. But Brian knew there were still some criminals out there wearing, in Brian’s mind, a target. He wasn’t likely to forget that.
Thanks for reading, and as always feel free to leave me your thoughts in a comment. I love hearing from you! If you’d like an ARC, please contact me here, via email, or by Messenger.
Lou Sylvre loves romance with all its ups and downs, and likes to conjure it into books. The sweethearts on her pages are men who end up loving each other—and usually saving each other from unspeakable danger. It’s all pretty crazy and very, very sexy. As if you’d want to know more, she’ll happily tell you that she is a proudly bisexual woman—a mother, grandmother, lover of languages, and cat-herder—of mixed cultural heritage. She works closely with lead cat and writing assistant, the (male) Queen of Budapest, Boudreau St. Clair. She lives in the rainy part of the Pacific Northwest, and hearing from a reader unfailingly brightens the dreary weather. Find her through her links listed here, or drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Her Twitter name is sylvre, and she’s pretty sure she still has a tumblr account…)
After a crash left him with new mental and physical scars, Jackie Vasquez has finally regained his focus, flair, and bright outlook. Though he’s letting Brian Harrison’s marriage proposal simmer, it’s not for lack of love. He’s set his sights on putting his life right first — a new job and a fresh start at graduate school. But Los Angeles — the city of devil winds — has new trauma in store for him. Another accident leaves him with the stump of a leg and defeated spirits, adrift despite Brian’s devoted attentions.
While Brian copes with his own emotional trauma, he hopes to break through Jackie’s apathy, but work at Vasquez Security takes more and more of his time and attention. Specifically “the Espen case,” which his boss — Luki Vasquez — has forbidden him to pursue. Help comes on all fronts from friends and family for both Brian and Jackie, but even as it does, danger mounts from outside. Can the two men find their way back to love as well as passion and fulfillment in their D/s roles? Can they survive the confrontation with danger that seems to loom closer and darker every time LA’s hot winds blow?
The morning after their stellar session, when Brian got out of bed, he discovered Jackie was already up. The fortune cookie was no longer on the night table. Brian walked out into the open front rooms of the apartment looking for his boy, eager to kiss Jackie soundly and get his answer to the marriage proposal.
Jackie had left three of four diagonally cut pieces of cinnamon-toast on a plate, two strips of bacon in a pan, and half a pot of coffee still keeping warm, but he was nowhere to be seen. Brian poured himself a cup of hot coffee and grabbed both bacon strips with his fingers. He sat down in his usual spot at the table, wondering if he should feel disappointed, worried, or perhaps unconcerned. Jackie had certainly demonstrated his feelings for Brian the previous night.
But the question Where the hell is he? kept popping up in his mind as he devoured the bacon and chased it down with coffee. Then, as he helped himself to Jackie’s toast leavings, the question evolved into Why the hell would he leave without a word?
Followed closely by Why hasn’t he answered about marrying me?
Shit. “No” would be better than silence…
Wait. No, it wouldn’t. But shit…
After he polished off the toast and talked himself out of putting a shot of J&B in his second cup of coffee, he remembered that phones and text messaging existed. Hopeful, he swallowed most of the coffee down and went to the bedroom to fetch his phone. Aha! A text awaited, and it was from none other…
— Good morning, Bri. I’ll be home soon. Before I forget. What happened to that broken drawer in the playroom? —
It took Brian a number of seconds before he could even make sense of the question, so far was it from what he’d expected — and desperately hoped — to see, but eventually he put it together. Annoyed, but glad Jackie had at least not forgotten him entirely, he texted back.
— It had a lock, no key, and I couldn’t pick it. I broke it. Where are you? —
Brian waited, sitting on the unmade bed in his skivvies, only vaguely aware of Marley head-bumping his arm hoping for a good scratch and not even noticing the sun blazing through the window and baking his left shoulder. He didn’t get an answer. He sighed very deeply, well aware of how piteous it sounded, and then he moaned, “Dammit, Jackie.” Sure the devil boy would be his undoing someday, he gritted his teeth, resolving not to worry until something clearly indicated he should.
He picked up his phone to send another text, but before he could do so, he got a mixed media message. As often proved to be the case with images, it had taken a long time to get to him, having been sent even before the text he’d already responded to. It was a selfie. Jackie looking very fine and dressed for success, wearing a blazer the same color as his eyes and a tie… one of Brian’s, he believed.
He texted back: You look good. Why are you wearing a tie?
He waited. No answer.
He waited some more. No answer.
He started to wait some more, said “Fuck it” out loud, and sent a final text. What did your fortune cookie say? And wherever you are, be careful.
Brian dressed, walked down to the office, and had already situated himself at his desk and powered up his PC when a reply came.
I love you, Brian.
Brian didn’t reply. He was already tired from the strange interaction. He just gathered up his things and, sighing again, turned his attention to work.
More and more he found he accomplished the tasks of management easily. He whipped through the morning’s e-mails before Livvy showed up, made a pot of coffee, assigned Lonny to manage a personal security situation for Korean corporate officers in Los Angeles for a wedding, and reviewed the latest financial reports with Ahmad. After a break, during which he tried unsuccessfully to reach Jackie by phone and then spent fifteen minutes crocheting with Livvy while she talked about her nephew’s latest musical triumphs, he worked on a plan he’d been putting together to point VSI-LA in a profitable direction over the next couple of years.
LA was rife with security companies, a good number of them with high level capabilities. It was why Luki had never concentrated his energies here — a big market with an even bigger pool of competition, and as successful and respected as Vasquez Security was, it remained a small- to- medium-sized fish in the large pond. That made it difficult to compete with the likes of Security Group International, and SGI’s office in LA was more than triple the size of Brian’s little group.
But he thought the office could do better than it had. The key was targeting the right niche. He’d researched, and he’d found two of the least monopolized areas to be security for transient high level corporate officials — like the Koreans in town this week — and event security for small to medium-sized posh gatherings. VSI was set up well to grow in those market areas, and his report included the necessary facts and figures for Luki to make a decision as to whether to invest in the additional personnel, training, equipment, and advertising to accomplish it.
Now he set his mind to propose one additional area of investment, one he wasn’t at all sure Luki would approve. For one thing, it involved privately dealing with things that technically should be the domain of law enforcement agencies. For another, it involved putting someone in the middle of very dangerous situations — negotiating with kidnappers and dealing with blackmailers — and nobody on staff at present in Los Angeles was qualified. But Brian knew Luki had done that type of work, and he had other agents in Chicago who could do it. Luki could do the training, and Brian really wanted to be trained and to do the work. He wasn’t sure why he wanted to do something so patently risky, except that he hadn’t studied what he’d studied and gone on staff with the London Metropolitan Police in order to spend all his time at a desk.
Whatever the reason, his brain got ridiculously excited at the idea. He’d need a partner, and he thought Amy might be a good choice. If not, they could hire someone. With Luki’s connections in the business, Brian had no doubt they’d pick up jobs if word got out VSI-LA was equipped to deal with them.
Interestingly, he’d found a file indicating Espen had been looking into the same field of operations a few weeks before his disappearance, but he hadn’t compiled any reports except a list of other security companies that offered the same services.
As that thought passed casually through his thoughts, a realization jolted him — as if lightning had struck and revealed Espen’s secrets. Two entries in the notebook had been different than all the others. Both had the letters RL, a date, and what was surely an amount of money. Only one had been crossed out.
Espen was a gambler, possibly an addict. Espen had been deep in debt to someone represented by the initials RL. He’d paid RL once, but not the second time. Around the same time, he’d compiled that list.
It clicked. He hadn’t been thinking of the business, he’d gone looking for help with a blackmailer.
Lou Sylvre and Anne Barwell’s New Zealand romance (in which two sweet, hot, lonely men try their damnedest not to fall in love) has a new home with JMS Books. It will go wide with retailers soon, but for now you can pre-order from the publisher (at a nice discount)… and read it on release day, January 25, 2020.
We have a lovely cover from Written Ink Designs, and we’re anxious to share it. With no further ado—
It’s beautiful, right? And so are our lovers, Rusty and Nate, as is their story. (Spoiler: happy ending!)
Fog at Wellington’s airport leads two men to an impromptu road trip. Destination? Could be love!
Kiwi Nathaniel Dunn is in a fighting mood, but how does a man fight Wellington’s famous fog? In the last year, Nate’s lost his longtime lover to boredom and his ten-year job to the economy. Now he’s found a golden opportunity for employment where he can even use his artistic talent, but to get the job, he has to get to Christchurch today. Heavy fog means no flight, and the ticket agent is ignoring him to fawn over a beautiful but annoying, overly polite American man.
Rusty Beaumont can deal with a canceled flight, but the pushy Kiwi at the ticket counter is making it difficult for him to stay cool. The guy rubs him all the wrong ways despite his sexy working-man look, which Rusty notices even though he’s not looking for a man to replace the fiancé who died two years ago. Yet when they’re forced to share a table at the crowded airport café, Nate reveals the kind heart behind his grumpy façade. An earthquake, sex in the bush, and visits from Nate’s belligerent ex turn a day of sightseeing into a slippery slope that just might land them in love.
About that time, Rusty followed Nate onto an even narrower track that took off to the right—the sign marking it as Browns Track. He had to pay attention to his footing now. The trail was truly steep—muddy and slippery in places.
Immediately on thinking those words, slippery in places, he felt like it was about something besides the muddy ground of the Orongorongo forest. He associated the phrase with his own intentions, coming out here with a man who—okay, I’ll admit he pulls at me like sex on toast. If he wasn’t so sure he didn’t want anybody, he’d think he wanted Nate. And yes, he knew he was skirting the truth.
Is that a rock in my shoe? Hard to think about anything else, really, with that irritant. He needed to do something about it. “Nate, hold up. I have a—”
A rolling blast of thunder cut his words short. In his mind’s eye, he saw explosions all around him in a cornfield around a sleepy, dusty town in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. But he’d come a long way since leaving that year of his life behind, and he knew almost instantly that he wasn’t there; the sound he heard wasn’t war.
“Fuck! Earthquake,” Nate said.
That made perfect sense—especially as the ground suddenly lurched beneath Rusty’s feet, knocking him off-balance. He fell forward, and gravity carried him downslope against Nate, who went down under him. Instinctively, he tried to shield Nate’s head from hitting the hard ground, cradling it against his chest with his hands. The packs on their backs weren’t bulky, but were enough of a lump to keep them from rolling far. Instead they slid, and by the time they came to a stop, they’d nearly reached the river.
Rusty lay still, concentrating on steadying his breath, but when he realized his body lay spread over Nate’s like butter on bread, his heart took off racing all over again. Trying to rein in his senses—ignore the feel of the man, the scent of him, the rush of his own blood heating his veins — he pushed up onto his elbows.
“Are you all right?” he asked.
The breathy sound of Nate’s voice seemed to belie his words, and Rusty turned sharply to meet Nate’s gaze. He looked pissed again, and Rusty couldn’t blame him. He pushed up farther, intending to rise and then help Nate to his feet. But from that slightly higher perspective, Rusty suddenly saw he’d been reading Nate all wrong.
Yeah, maybe there was anger in that smoldering gaze, but it wasn’t anger at Rusty. The man’s as hungry for me as I am for him! Rusty knew that without a doubt. Of all the incongruous things, he could even smell Nate’s arousal mingling with his own. It smelled damn good.
And fucking dangerous.
He told himself his arousal was just a reaction to the shock of the quake, or it was from being thrust into proximity with Nate for the last twenty-four hours, or maybe he was hypersensitive, having gone so long without a man. He steeled himself to pull away from the man—the damned desirable man—who lay beneath him. But before he could put the intention to the test, Nate clutched the front of Rusty’s shirt in one strong hand and brought the other one up under his jaw, either holding his head or caressing his face. God, it was a sexy move.
Nate spoke, his glorious green eyes widening as if he shocked himself with what he said. “It won’t mean anything, right? It won’t… change anything. It will just be sex.”
How could the word “sex” harden Rusty’s cock to the point of pain? But he knew the word was coincidental; it was Nate unleashing possibility that made him fall headfirst into the desire he’d been trying to hold at bay.
He glanced around. They’d ended up some yards from the trail behind a tall rock formation and some brush, which screened them from the path and the river—and from anyone who might pass by. It seemed as if the earth had deliberately shaken things up, conspiring with fate to land them there. They were alone.
Nate let out a rush of heated breath, and seemingly the last of his inhibition flew away with it. He sat up long enough to strip the pack off his back and toss it aside, and Rusty did the same. Without any further warning or delay, Nate pulled him down and kissed him hard, smeared their lips together, licked across Rusty’s mouth, plunged his tongue deep.
Rusty felt on fire, flame burning away every emotion but want. He vaguely realized he didn’t usually want quite this hard, that the extremity of desire might have something to do with the nature and identity of the man he grappled with, but that was nothing more than a rumor behind the yearning that loomed huge, front and center.
Thanks for reading, and as always feel free to leave your thoughts in a comment. Anne and I would love to hear from you!
From some early 5-star reviews:
“Lou Sylvre outdid herself with this one! … Write faster, Lou!” —Kitty, on Goodreads
“A fine continuation of this series…. I look forward to more.” —Tappy, on Amazon
About the story—
LA’s heat holds danger and mystery for a Dom and his sub aiming for love and a new life together.
Anxious to leave London and its horrors behind, Brian Harrison and Jackie Vasquez move to Los Angeles. Brian hopes working for Luki, managing a small Vasquez Security branch, will leave him more time to live, love, and play with sub Jackie. But Los Angeles awakens old trauma for Jackie, and follows that with a brand new hit.
While Jackie struggles back to health after a crippling accident, Brian strives to find his balance as Jackie’s lover and Dom. Meanwhile, the more Brian defies the order not to investigate the disappearance of the previous branch manager, the deeper and darker the mystery gets.
Can the couple fan the lusty flames still burning between them, rekindle romance, and rise together in time to stand against looming dangers just ahead?
“He’s late,” Brian said to himself. He double checked the app on his phone, confirming the flight had landed only two minutes late. A little bolt of worry shot through him, but he quickly quenched it. This was Los Angeles. The delay was probably due to traffic. Twenty or thirty minutes late means nothing in this town, he thought. “Hell,” he said aloud, “two hours’ delay is pretty much normal around here.”
Ignoring the hollow sound of those words in the mostly bare room, he set about hanging up carefully coiled hanks of colored rope via stick-on hooks, thinking only about the colors he’d use to make Jackie beautiful when he did arrive. He wouldn’t be able to use the suspension rig he’d bought that night — no time to set it up and make sure it was safe — but that didn’t mean they couldn’t have plenty to play with in the meantime.
Fifty minutes later, Brian had checked and fidgeted with each of the rose bouquets scattered around the apartment at least three times, made sure wine and water were chilling along with a tray of fruit and cheese, wiped the counters again, re-dusted the mantel over the built-in and partially locked cabinet, cleaned a smudge off the playroom’s triple-width, full-length mirror, and listened to two sets of phone messages twice.
Marley sauntered into the new playroom and began an inspection, disapproving as big orange cats tend to do, then gave up and sat down to stare at his human. Brian had just that moment arranged — again — the new cock-ring he’d picked up on another impromptu shopping spree, setting it jauntily alongside the vase of Black Baccara roses
and the opened box containing the new collar he hoped to put on Jackie soon — maybe even within hours. He’d chosen the collar carefully, after much deliberation purchasing a rich, pliable, black leather adorned with a silver lock and trim and a stylized Triskelia inset with iridescent labradorite. He situated the box just so, sighed, and ran exasperated hands through his hair.
Legitimately, he had no more preparation to accomplish before Jackie’s arrival, but he fidgeted, knowing he wouldn’t succeed if he tried to do anything important and unrelated. He was full of nervous energy — more so the later it got, so he turned his mind to a minor mystery he’d discovered the day he’d moved in. The playroom had a built-in cabinet, something like a bureau but mostly recessed into the walls, with a narrow counter stretching across the top instead of a mantel and a mirror. Brian had opened, inspected, and cleaned seven of the eight small drawers and found nothing.
But he hadn’t been able to open the eighth drawer. The pull was missing, and at first he thought it was fake — just a façade like the double cabinet door in the center. But why only one fake drawer out of eight? Those doors looked to be painted shut, their front recessed from the rest of the structure. But the mystery drawer had a thin strip of metal set unobtrusively — almost but not quite invisibly — along its side between it and the neighboring wood. He bent and peered closely at it, shining the flashlight on his phone into the narrow space. A space in the middle of the inch-long strip looked like it called for a key.
Brian had always been driven to solve a mystery, and this one was no different. He stood with his hands on his hips, squinting, as if that would provide answers. The locked drawer bothered him enough, and it was enough of a welcome distraction from Jackie’s lateness, that he decided to try his hand at lock-picking. He went decisively to the other bedroom closet where he rummaged through a still-packed box and came up with a few paperclips.
He understood the basics of lock-picking, but had never had much call to apply the skill, which might have been why he failed miserably. That added to his frustration with the way things were going in general. Already, things had slid downhill from his perfect plan — starting with the fact that Jackie was late. He wasn’t taking “no” as an answer from the damned drawer. He lined a butter knife up with the lock and gave it three sharp blows with a hammer, successfully knocking the lock through the wood. Brian sighed, left with mixed feelings — tension relieved, gratified, victorious, but angry as hell and disappointed in himself for ruining the perfection of the setting for tonight’s planned scene. The front of the drawer was a splintery mess. He moved the roses, collar, and cock ring to the other end of the shelf for the sake of aesthetics.
Inside the drawer, he found a small notebook and nothing else. About half the pages were filled with what looked to Brian like scribbling. A few repeated things, like a circle around a capital B followed by numbers and certain other letters that seemed to be abbreviations. The arrangement of entries looked haphazard, completely disorganized, and — to his eye — meaningless. Yet someone had found it necessary to lock it up all by itself. The someone likely to have done that would be the now-disappeared Espen, as he was the last person to occupy the apartment.
Something seemed deeply troubling about that.
But, mystifying as that was, and as much as he knew he’d have to come back to the mystery at some point, Jackie was a much more present concern, and his mind returned there insistently. With no one else to bounce things off, Brian turned and asked his audience, the former alley tom, “Where’s my boyfriend, Marley?”
Vasquez Inc is a true series, so I’m giving you all the links here. If you haven’t read books 1 and 2, follow the links to start at the beginning. (Book 4, A Shot at Perfect, will be available starting January 24th, and 4 more books are planned in 2020, so this is a great time to catch up on this series, which is jam packed full of sizzling romance as well as spine-tingling suspense!)
Vasquez Inc series is a spin off from the popular Vasquez and James series. If you’re like me and you want to know all about the characters you’ll see Vasquez Inc, check out those stories first. Luki Vasquez loves Sonny James, and vice versa, through six suspenseful novels that culminate in one of the happiest endings ever. Find me on the publisher’s website for links to that series https://www.changelingpress.com/lou-sylvre-a-211
Lou Sylvre lives and writes on the rainy side of Washington State, penning mostly suspense/romance novels because she can’t resist giving her characters hard times along with their hot sex and good love. Her personal assistant is Boudreau, a large cat who never outgrew his kitten meow, and he makes a point of letting her know when she’s taken a plot tangent too far. When Lou isn’t writing, she’s reading fiction from nearly every genre, romance in all its tints and shades, and the occasional book about history, physics, or police procedure. Not zombies, though—she avoids zombies like the plague unless they have a great sense of humor. She plays guitar (mostly where people can’t hear her) and she loves to sing. She’s most often smiling and laughs too much, some say. Among other things and in no particular order, she loves her family, her friends, the aforementioned Boudreau, his sister George, and their little brother Nibbles, and a chihuahua-terrier mix named Joe. She takes pleasure in coffee, chocolate, sunshine, gardens, wild roses, and every touch of beauty she finds in the world. It makes her day to hear from a reader, so feel free to find her on the web—links follow.
Thanks for checking out the latest news. Follow the blog for news, sign up for my Sylvre Linings newsletter, or follow Author Lou Sylvre on Facebook. You can also find me on Twitter—@sylvre.
I always love to hear from readers and this blog is no exception. Please feel free to comment with your thoughts!
The second half of the acclaimed Vasquez and James stories is out today from Changeling Press, following the release of Volume 1 last month. Vasquez and James Volume 2, sporting another brilliant cover, completes the long, flowing, beautiful love story of Luki Vasquez and Sonny James. Stick with them as they face suspenseful episodes, laugh with them as humor rears its marvelous head even in the toughest of moments, and rejoice with them as they come through the hardships stronger and closer than ever, with a happy ending any couple might envy. The sexy romance continues to blaze even while the suspense can chill you to the bone. Maybe that explains why Nadine said the novella Yes was “like some kind of magical incantation,” and the opening sentence of Nickie’s 5-star review of Saving Sonny James on Goodreads:
“What can I say about Lou Sylvre’s book Saving Sonny James? A veritable work of art. I laughed. I cried. I set on the edge of my seat. It was awesome.”
And here’s what Jules, of The Novel Approach review site, said in her review of the series’ final book, Because of Jade:
There is such a beauty about the way Lou Sylvre writes these characters. A pureness. A sort of reverence. If I had my way, there would be new Vasquez & James books until the end of time.
Get Vasquez and James Volume 2 today from Changeling Press and save 15% off an already great price. (And if you prefer buying through Amazon or another online retailer, the links are right there on the publisher’s catalog listing.)
About the books:
Troubles strike, Romance sizzles, Love endures, A family is made.
Saving Sonny James: The events of the last couple of years have begun to catch up with Luki — loving Sonny James and letting Sonny love him back have left gaps in his emotional armor. Sonny says yes to a European tour with Harold Breslin, a dangerously intelligent promoter whose obsessive desire for Sonny is exceeded only by his narcissism. When Harold’s plan for Sonny turns poisonous, Luki must break free of PTSD and get to France, fit and ready in time to save his husband’s life.
Yes (A Vasquez and James novella): Professional badass Luki Vasquez and textile artist Sonny James have been married for five years, and despite the sometimes volatile mix, they’re happy. From their first days together, they stood united against deadly enemies and prevailed. But now the deadly enemy they face is the cancer consuming Luki’s lungs. Sonny tries to control every thread just as he does when he weaves, but still Luki dances with cancer alone—until he gets a startling reminder of the miracle of life.
Because of Jade: Still cancer free after five years, Luki finds out his nephew Josh and wife Ruthie have met a tragic death. Luki and Sonny must help each other learn to parent an unexpected child, Jade, and still nourish the love that has kept them whole for the past ten years. A relative’s claim to Jade threatens the new family, and even if they prevail in court, they could lose their little girl unless they can rescue Jade from evil hands and true peril.
From Saving Sonny James
The cemetery lay quiet in heavy mist, autumn leaves breaking the gray with fiery shades. Sonny picked up some leaves and twirled them one by one in front of him, and Luki knew his mind was busy with ideas of color. They stood together at the foot of Delsyn’s grave, looked at the still new headstone with its simple engraving: a medicine wheel with eagle feathers in each of the four directions, and the name—Delsyn James Bull.
Luki said, “I didn’t know his last name wasn’t James.”
“He preferred James,” Sonny answered, shrugging. “He didn’t like his father.”
“So why is your name James?”
Sonny grinned, “I didn’t like my father either!” Then the smile disappeared but not the good humor, and he added, “And my stepfather, whose name I had on my birth certificate, didn’t mean anything to me. When my mother died and I was living with Melvern, I wanted his name—Melvern’s—and he got it changed for me. I’ve never been sorry. I don’t feel like any other name but James would have been mine.”
“I think you’re right,” Luki said. “You’re definitely Sonny Bly James, the most beautiful thing that ever happened to the world. And I love you.”
Sonny smiled and hugged Luki, then leaned his chin on his husband’s shoulder. “I love you, too, Luki Mililani Vasquez, the hottest badass that ever happened to the world.” He took a deep breath, held on really tight. “Why are you different, Luki?”
Luki’s wrapped his arms tighter around Sonny. He stayed quiet.
“Should I not have asked?”
Finally Luki found some words. “It’s fine that you asked, baby. I just don’t know how to answer…. Do you…. Are you asking why I’m different since I… since that kid—”
“Guard,” Sonny said. “He wasn’t a kid, he was a guard. No, I think I understand that, at least in theory. I’m asking why you’re different today. You’re… good. Have I blown everything by going there? Are you not going to answer?”
“No. You haven’t, and I will. Just not right this second.”
“Okay. Don’t worry, husband. No rush, and besides, I wanted to smudge over Del’s grave…. Damn, I hate saying those two words together.”
“Yeah, that’s hard. I’m sorry, baby.”
Sonny gave Luki a puzzled look, as though he could see something beyond those words that didn’t quite make sense. Luki thought, Please don’t say anything about it, Sonny, and perhaps Sonny was sensitive to that, because he said nothing more about it.
“Husband,” Sonny said, and the way he said it, Luki felt himself blush. He knew that was silly, but when Sonny called him that, in that certain way, it sort of made him tingle. He resisted a stupid grin, and Sonny went on. “Will you help me with the smudge?”
“Sure. What do I need to do?”
“Not a lot, really.” He reached into his backpack, fiddled with some things, and then held out an abalone shell filled with cedar and some other dried plant material Luki didn’t recognize. “Hold this,” Sonny ordered, “This is just sage, with the cedar. And a little sweetgrass.” He held a Bic to the mixture and set it to smoldering, making a plume of sharp but very sweet-smelling smoke.
Luki fought a smile again—almost lost the battle.
Sonny once again gave him the puzzled look. “This seems all mysterious, you know, but really it’s just a way of being clean. Body, mind, and spirit, so they say. I’ve never smudged all that often, nor did I go to sweat lodge or smokehouse to pray. But Delsyn did. Him and Melvern…. Watch how your holding that shell, Luki, it gets hot on the bottom.”
“Ouch! Shit, burn!”
Sonny took the shell from him, and Luki felt completely foolish. He’d been so distracted by the sweet smell of the smoke and crackle of the cedar, the pretty burn, he hadn’t even noticed the shell heating up. He looked up sheepishly to find Sonny peering at him through narrowed eyes, his lips pursed in a slight, pensive smile.
“You like this smudge, don’t you, Luki? That’s good. Put your hands in the dew.”
“Quick, honey!” Sonny sounded a little annoyed but obviously concerned for Luki’s welfare. “Put your hands in the dew on the grass—wet and cool, for the burns.”
“Oh, well, probably too late now. They’re not that bad, anyway. That was a really good idea, though.”
In answer, Sonny gave him another one of those bemused looks—this time, just out of the corner of his eye. Luki was trying to figure out what those looks meant at this point, but it didn’t appear he was going to be getting that information.
Sonny produced a medium-sized feather from the vest pocket of his leather jacket. “You know what I should do for you, Luki? I should have Jim Standing Bear come up and put you in a sweat with fifty-two rocks and a long-winded leader.” He chuckled. “Either fix you right up or put you in the hospital. Just kidding, of course. But to clean the grave—which sounds stupid but I think Del would like it—we have to be clean first. So I’ll do you and then you do me, okay?” Luki’s eyebrows went up.
“Smudging, Luki. We’re talking about smudging. Get your mind out of my pants!”
“Never, sweetie, but okay. Smudging. What do I do?”
“Just stand there mostly, while I get the smoke all over you…. Okay, lift up one foot… the other. Okay, you’re done. Smoke’s still going good. Do me?”
“Whoa, Sonny! Right here in the graveyard?”
Sonny laughed and smacked Luki’s bicep. “I meant the smudge, Luki. And you know it.”
“Oh, okay.” He knew a smile could be heard in his voice and he let it play there. He started to move the feather, washing Sonny down with the cleansing smoke. This whole thing, this day, this smudging as Sonny called it—it all felt so good. Luki didn’t want it to stop, ever, and he didn’t care if his beloved husband knew that. He hoped Sonny knew. He didn’t think he was well, cured, absolved. He knew he wasn’t, but just for now he felt brand new. He thanked Delsyn in his thoughts—this wasn’t the first time Delsyn had brought him and Sonny closer, or adjusted Luki’s focus. He’d done it more than once while alive, and it didn’t even really surprise Luki that he’d reach from the other side of the veil to wake him up.
Thanks for stopping by! I hope you’ll enjoy this second batch of Luki and Sonny’s adventures! Coming soon, a new series! Vasquez Inc, The J&B Stories, featuring the suspenseful trials, lustful heat, and poignant love story of Jackie Vasquez, Brian Harrison—with plenty of appearances by veteran characters Luki and Sonny! Feel free to comment on the blog—your thoughts are always welcome. Happy reading, everyone.
Welcome Scott, and congratulations on the release of Lander. Having you on the blog has given me a reason to take a closer look at your work—something I confess I’ve wanted to do for a while, and I have to say I got drawn in—so much so that I read Skythane instead of doing a number of other things I had on my to do list. I’ve got a few questions that arose from my reading, but let’s start with a few more general facts.
Q: Please tell us three of your favorite things about being a writer. We all get discouraged from time to time—when that happens, what keeps you writing? ame three books, novels, that you could read over and over again—the books that make you want to be a writer, too.
A: So first off—Larque on the Wing—a fabulous magical realism tale about a housewife who wanders into the gay part of town and finds out she quite literally has a gay man inside of her. In this world, there’s a man who can bring to the outside who you really are on the inside. This book showed me what could be done with magical realism and a rainbow palette.
My second—Daughter of the Empire, by Raymond Feist and Janny Wurts. OMG this book is good. It tells the story of a daughter of a powerful family who returns home after the rest of her kin are slaughtered, and is forced to take control of the family business. The world is a feudal society that mirrors Japanese culture, and the twists and turns are fantastic, as is the ending. Plus there are two more after this one. A master class in plot-driven sci fi/fantasy.
Finally, Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern. I am a huge fan of Anne McCaffrey generally and the Pern series in particular, and this one pulled all my heart strings – an epic tragedy that seamlessly combines sci fi and fantasy in a beautifully realized world.
Q: If you couldn’t be a writer, what profession would be your first choice, and why?
A: Hmmm… I always wanted to be an astronomer, until I found out how much math it required.
I’ve always loved space and sci fi, so astronaut would be my second choice. 🙂
Q: Among your characters, who is your favorite, and why?
A:My favorite character? But I love them all! But if I had to choose… probably Mael from “The Great North.” He’s so strong and sure of himself – he comes from a society where there’s no issue with folks who are gay or lesbian or any other part of the queer rainbow. Plus there’s the whole death and reincarnation thing (spoiler)…
Q: In a throwback to a question I used to ask authors for every feature—what are the fifty hottest, sexiest words you ever wrote? Okay, you have some leeway here. It can be less than fifty, but not many more, and “hot” and “sexy” can be defined any way you want.
A:From “A New Year”:
Finn pulled him down into a bed of moss, hungrily, and they kissed with a passion that unleashed Heath’s lust like an uncoiled spring. He pulled off his shirt and unbuttoned his jeans, and Finn shirked off his own clothing. Heath nuzzled Finn’s neck, and was soon lost to an animal passion that surpassed anything he had ever experienced in his bedroom with his own hand and a box of tissues in the dead of night.
I may have cheated and gone over. Just a bit.
(That’s perfectly all right, Scott.)
Q: You do have stories in other genres, but is sci-fi your favorite? If so, what in particular makes that true? Who are your sci-fi author heroes—the writers who made you fall in love with the genre? What new sci-fi favorite authors are on your current reading list?
A: I have three loves – sci fi, fantasy, and magical realism. Most of my stories fall under at least one of those categories, and sometimes several. Sci fi/fantasy has been a favorite of mine since I used to raid my mother’s sci fi bookshelf – McCaffrey, Asimov, Clarke, Anderson, Bova, Tolkien, and many more.
I love being a part of bold, amazing, fully realized worlds that are so different from this one, and others that seem like they might just be a heartbeat away. Give me starships, elf magic and planet-wide terraforming, and I’m in bliss. Put them all together successfully, and I’m in awe.
I have very little reading time these days, but I love me some Angel Martinez. And though he’s new, OMG, Peter Hamilton. If you are a hard-core sci fi butt and you haven’t read Hamilton… * shakes head *
Q: You are one of the administrators of the Queer Sci-fi website, an associated Facebook group, and a critique group. Can you give us a little history? Was this your brainchild? What do you most want people to know about QSF?
A:LOL… yeah it was. I started writing when I was in elementary school, and sent off my first book in my mid-twenties, but I didn’t write queer characters then. When I came back to writing in my mid-forties, I knew it had to be different this time. My new stories exploded with rainbows, and I wanted people to share my newfound freedom with. I found some good groups in Facebook, but none was quote what I wanted – a group that was truly inclusive of all kinds of speculative fiction and all kinds of people across the queer spectrum.
So Queer Sci Fi was born.
Not long after, I managed to convince Angel to come run it with me, and then we added Ben Brock, who has become our reviews guru.
The site’s watchwords are diversity, safety and fun – we work hard to foster an atmosphere where everyone can hang out together and rub elbows with others who are different, without feeling sidelined, disparaged, or made to feel invisible.
Q: The names and creatures in Skythane and Lander draw on Irish or Celtic mythology. What drew you in that direction? How extensively did the ancient figures of Oberon and the fey influence the worlds you created, or the stories you set within them?
A: LOL… it was an accident, actually.
I wrote the first three scenes of what eventually became Skythane in the mid-nineties, and then put it back on a shelf. It had no direction, no outline, no particular place it was going, and it joined a bunch of started stories that I’d never finished.
Around 2014, I pulled out the scenes to take a look at them. The image of the half world against the stark backdrop of space stuck with me. And the name – Oberon.
I did some research, and ran across Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’ Dream” – where King Oberon and Queen Titania are two of the many characters in a play that includes faeries, a magical forest and a love potion that makes people do crazy things. And Skythane was born.
I had gotten about halfway through, but then in November, 2015, I made it my NaNo project, and wrote the whole thing in one month. Of course, it took a few additional months to rework it and clean it up, and then Dreamspinner bought it and the rest was history.
Just for kicks, here’s the first scene I ever wrote of the story in all its misspelled glory. It still appears in the current book, with a few alterations:
Raindrops rolled off the plas screen in crazy patterns, the drops skidding across the slick surface in a wind-whipped frenzy. Xander lay on his back, head thrown back, watching them with a laziness that belied his inner turmoil. His chest heaved slowly up and down, his breath easing out of his lungs with silent ease, his whole posture and demeanor speaking of ease.
Nothing could have been further from the truth. Below the surface, under the deception of skin and sinew, seemingly relaxed muscles and redolent pose, his heart beat at a thunerous pace, and his mind raced for answers that seemed to just as quickly slip beyond his grasp.
The trick he’d brought home worked enthusiatically, his warm hands lain upon Xander’s thighs, his warm mouth evident elsewhere. Xander smelled the deep musk of him, slipped a hand absently through the man’s dark, tousseled hair, watching the rain increase to a thunder on the plas. The drops glistened, each an individual universe of shimering light, combining and recombining and running quickly out of sight.
Despite himself, he felt himself rising quickly to climax; despite his detachment, his mind was drawn up like the tide in the swell that seemed to radiate from his cock and balls down through his toes, up along his spinal cord.
Lightning flared suddenly in the wet-black sky, followed by thunder so close it shook the bed, and Xander came at the same time, his body crying out in joyous release. He shuddered, shivered and shuddered again, feeling for just a moment on the crest of the wave, in a pleasure so intense it burned through him like phosphorous, white hot fire.
In the short moments afterward, he drifted in an oblivion that was blessed in its emptiness, missing the pain that had taken up residence inside him these last few weeks.
When he opened his eyes, the nameless trick was staring down at him, expectant. Xander pushed himself up, off the bed, and took a fifty out opf his wallet, handing it to the trick with a dismissive gesture.
“I can do more…” the man said, but Xander shook his head.
“You’ve done enough. Now get out.”
The trick shot him a dirty look, but hurried out of the flat, slamming the door behind him. Xander looked after him in disgust. This was what he’d sunk to, bringing home tricks for a quick blow?
He stood against the long window, his lithe form silouhetted in the darkness of the plas, touching the cool surface with his hand, and tried to remember where things had gone so horribly wrong. The city spread out below him, thousands of amber lights in strings along the main causeways. In the distance, he could make out the Molokais, their peaks just a sharp-toothed wall of darkness at the edge of the world. Above them, the stars swam in the deepest night, thickest overhead, neither of Oberon’s two moons yet up to challenge their dominance of the night sky.
Turning his back on the night, he stared around the flat, glaring at the unmade bed as if it were to blame for his indiscretions. “Light,” he said, and the dim glow increased to something approaching daylight. “Candler, Deca Seven, Play.”
He eased himself down onto the center of the bed, and Candler Dalias’son was floating there before him, his beautiful gossamer wings extended on either side of him. Camber looked down at him, his amber eyes filled with concern. Xander drank in his beautiful face, the glow of his skin. “Xander, what’s wrong?” Candler reached out a hand toward him, and Xander reached out to touch his fingers, but his own hand closed in thin air.
“Candler, I miss you so…” he started, but his voice cracked. It was still so hard, even after all these weeks…
“Javier’s going out country next week,” Candler said, oblivious to him. “I’d like to go with him…”
“End play,” Xander said, and the thing that wasn’t Candler disappeared. Out country… he’d forgotten… “Oh Candler, why did you have to go?”
He sank down into the bed, exhausted with grief, and fell into a dark and dreamless sleep.
Q: The story descriptions tell us a little about the main characters in Lander. What secondary character do you think is most important to the story? What do they bring to the tale?
A: Hmmm. Depends on how you define secondary. Alix – the Lander the title refers to, starts as a secondary character in Skythane, but comes into his own in “Lander.” But I’d have to say Morgan. This little guy revealed himself to me in Skythane and I didn’t really know what or who he was, but he’s become central to the story. You learn a lot more about him in Lander, and he will be pivotal to “Ithani,” the last book in the trilogy.
Q: Let’s talk about themes. What would you say is the primary theme of the Oberon series? The theme of Skythane? Of Lander? I assume book three is at least well underway. What will be the theme of Ithani?
A:Change. On a macro scale, the change of the world and the species and breeds of people and aliens. And on a micro level, the way the characters themselves, especially our everyman Jameson change.
Q: To wrap up, Scott, what’s in store? Do you have a date (tentative or otherwise) for Ithani’s release? What other works do you have in progress? Any events you’d like your readers to know about? Anything else you’d like to say?
A: So many questions!
Yes – Ithani should be out in February 2019. 🙂 I am about 16k into it at the moment.
And yes, I has plans!
The sequel to “The Stark Divide” – “The Rising Tide” – is in edits, and will release in October, and the final book in that trilogy, as yet unnamed (but it might be “The Shoreless Sea”) will be out in October 2019.
This year, I also plan to get into self publishing with a vengeance, with my blog serial “The River City Chronicles” hitting the shelves in English and Italian in the spring, an anthology of some of my shorter works in the fall, and the fourth Queer Sci Fi flash fiction anthology, “Impact.”
Also, sometime this year, Mischief Corner Books should be coming out with the three volumes of the serial that appeared on their blog titled “Marionettes in the Mist” – I wrote it along with Angel Martinez, Toni Griffin and Freddy MacKay.
After that, who knows?
Thanks so much for having me!
You are very welcome, J. Scott Coatsworth, and I can’t thank you enough for allowing sylvre.com to host you on your tour for Lander. The exclusive excerpt was an unexpected gift, and I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to answer my nosy questions. I wish you all the best with Lander and with everything you’ve got sizzling. I hope you’ll visit again someday.
Readers, thanks for being here. Comments are welcome, and we’ll try to answer any questions.
Alix followed after Xander and Quince, trying to ignore the scowls and hateful stares he got from the skythane they passed as they made their way through the halls of the castle. He wasn’t wearing his enforcer garb, but either these people recognized him from his time there, or they were just soured on landers as a whole.
He couldn’t really blame them. They’d come as advisors to the king, promising to help modernize Gaelan. Within a few months, they’d become occupiers instead.
One man spat on him as he passed.
Alix closed his eyes. They had their reasons—even if he hadn’t been personally responsible for most of the bad things that had happened. He was still a ranger.
He was also astonished that Xander was a prince here. The first time they’d met, Xander had been a pale, skinny thing, running courier duty for Rogan in the Slander. Alix had immediately wanted to protect the boy, but it had taken him three long years to find him again and to buy out his contract. By then Xander had been seventeen, but in some ways he had still seemed much younger, his development arrested when Rogan had taken him. He’d had a lot of anger issues.
Xander had grown into his full potential. It was strange to see the man inhabit the role of a skythane king. Xander had always been out for himself before anyone else, a lone wolf. It was a natural response to six years of sexual slavery.
Now that version of Xander was gone. Somehow, his new maturity only made him more attractive to Alix.
Quince had warned him to stay away, but how could he? The man he had dreamed about for a year, had missed like a ragged hole in his soul, was right there in front of him.
Alix was no fool, though. Xander was focused on his new love, and he would gain nothing by stepping in the middle of that. Especially when Jameson was in some kind of crisis. He would have to wait and see what developed.
“In here.” Mylin led them into a small, bare room with a lumpy mattress.
“What is this place?” Xander asked.
“It’s my room,” Mylin explained. “I didn’t want it. But some of the others insisted I have a place to come for an hour or two to get away from the madness.”
Xander kissed her cheek. “I’m grateful.”
It was a particular kind of grace, as if the whole place didn’t belong to him to begin with. “Let’s get Jameson down on the mattress.” Quince and Xander laid Jameson down, holding him in place to keep him from thrashing about too much and injuring himself.
The man’s face was flushed, his wings extended and shivering as if he were freezing cold, but his skin was covered in sweat.
“What’s wrong with him?” Alix asked. He’d seen that look on men on campaign who’d been injured, but there wasn’t a bruise or cut on him, as far as Alix could tell.
Mylin returned with an earthenware bowl and a cloth and used it to wipe his forehead. The cool water seemed to calm him.
“He’s stuck in a memory loop,” Xander said, as if that should make perfect sense. “He sees these past memories, things that happened wherever he is, and sometimes they overwhelm him.”
“Whose memories? Looks more like a seizure to me.” Xander wasn’t buying into the native superstitions, was he? Though to be fair, Alix had seen his share of strange things on this half of the world.
Xander glared at him. “I have them too, but not like this.”
“The memories. You sounded skeptical. We just shifted an entire world. You have to learn to adjust your expectations for what’s likely and possible.”
That shut Alix up.
“This happened before?” Quince asked.
“Yeah, back in the cavern.” Xander pulled out a pulse pistol. “This shocked him out of it.”
Quince smiled grimly. “I imagine it would. But you don’t want to go applying too many of those to poor young Jameson here. They could start to scramble his brain.”
“I know.” Xander winced. “So what do we do?”
Alix refrained from saying that it would be hard to tell the difference. “I might be able to help,” he said instead, as surprised as any of them that those words came out of his mouth.
Xander and Quince turned to him, surprised. “How?” Xander asked, but he looked hopeful.
“I have some experience dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder and panic attacks.” He pulled off his jacket and unbuttoned his shirt. He brushed off Xander’s renewed glare. “I know it’s not the same, but he needs to regain his focus on the here and now. I know a few things that might help.” He knelt next to Jameson.
Alix had a hard time keeping up his anger at Jameson. In fact, for a moment he was reminded of Xander, the first time they’d met. Jameson was pale and helpless, out of control of his own fate. Alix growled under his breath. He did not want to have sympathy for this man.
Gently he took Jameson’s hand and turned it over. Stunned, he hesitated.
Jameson’s fingernails had a double moon—a second arc above the first, separated by a thin line. It was subtle, but he was used to seeing it in rangers who’d taken up the habit during the long occupation.
Jameson was a pith user?
Alix shook his head. It was none of his business. “Can you take the lantern out of here? It may be easier if he has less to focus on.”
Robyn complied, taking it outside the door, and the room dimmed.
Alix held Jameson’s palm to his own bare chest. “Jameson, can you hear me?”
There was no glimmer of recognition in Jameson’s eyes.
Alix sighed. He had no guarantee that this would work. Still, it didn’t hurt to try. “Jameson, this is Alix. I’m right here with you.” He took a deep breath and breathed out just as slowly. “You have to focus, Jameson. Focus on me. Feel my breathing.” He breathed in once, deeply, holding it for a long moment, and then out again. “I want you to breathe with me.”
Alix put his other hand on Jameson’s chest. “In. Out. In. Out. Focus on breathing.”
He concentrated on his own.
“Is it working?” Xander peered over his shoulder.
“Shhhh.” Alix’s hand was warm against Jameson’s beautiful chest. Jameson looked like an angel. He shook his head. He would not let himself be attracted to Xander’s crush. “We’re all here with you, Jameson. In….”
Jameson’s chest lifted.
Jameson’s chest fell.
“That’s good.” Soon they were breathing together as one, connected skin to skin. It was as intimate a thing as he had ever experienced. “It’s okay. Let the memories go. Just keep breathing.”
Xander’s hand settled on his shoulder, sending a new splash of warmth through his body.
At last, Jameson’s eyes focused.
He looked up at Alix. “What… what happened?”
“You were stuck in your memories. The breathing helped you to get a grip and move past them.” He lifted his hand off Jameson’s chest and laid it down on the bed. The connection was broken.
“Thanks.” Jameson’s voice was raspy.
“Are they gone for now?”
Jameson looked around. “I think so.”
Alix nodded. “Good. I can teach you how to cope with them, I think. If you want.”
“Yes, please.” Jameson closed his eyes. “So tired.”
“He was tired last time too,” Xander said. “I think these memory storms really take it out of him.” Alix got up so Xander could kneel next to Jameson. “Sleep, my love.”
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