Sunday, December 07, 2008

“Paper, Scissors, Death”

I hate to admit it, but I’m reluctant to try out new authors. I love reading, but I don’t have a lot of time to read, so I stick to authors and books I know I’m going to enjoy. Occasionally, though, I leave my comfort zone for something new and different. And, boy, did that pay off the last time I did it.

I discovered Joanna Campbell Slan and her fiction debut Paper, Scissors, Death at the Manhattan Mystery Conclave a few weeks ago. I saw Joanna speak about her pet character, Gracie, and I was intrigued. So I bought her book. I had no idea what to expect from a Scrap-N-Craft mystery.

I’m not into arts and crafts. I don’t like scrapbooking. I have absolutely no visual talent and even less desire to work on anything that involves glue or sticky tape. Add to that my unfortunate dislike of first-person POV and Joanna’s book was in a tight spot. But I read it, and I loved it. In fact, I adore it.

I liked that Kiki, the cozy sleuth, had no idea what she was doing. Yes, she knew she needed to find the killer of her husband, but she had other more pressing issues to deal with first: without money or resources, she needed a job, a home, some safety in a life that was crashing down around her. Not model tall or model thin, she felt like a very real person thrust into a bad situation. She did her best, and I liked the way she rallied after each setback. Her friends, Dodie and Mert, were delightful in their no-nonsense approach to life. Detective Chad Detweiler received bonus points for cooking and gently pursuing a relationship with Kiki. (I’m so glad to hear that he’ll stick around for the next book in this series.)

Yes, Kiki used her scrapbooking knowledge to figure out the mystery behind her husband’s murder, but I didn’t have to know a thing about arts and crafts to follow along. I had an interesting glimpse into a foreign world, and I enjoyed the tour. Joanna did a great job of making me feel comfortable, explaining things and not making me feel like the clueless crafter that I am. Hey, for a moment I even wondered if I could work one of those beginner kits Kiki put together for her scrapbooking students :-)

I can absolutely recommend this book to anyone who’s looking for a cozy mystery.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Homophobia at its best

I’m heartbroken.

My little guy had a playdate with his very best friend scheduled for later this week. Today I received an e-mail telling me that the playdate is off. His friend’s mom followed the link in my e-mail signature and discovered that we have vastly different outlooks on life and the world we live in. She wrote a very polite e-mail saying, among other things, that she wasn’t going to interfere in our son’s friendship, but that she didn’t want my little guy at her house.

Ouch.

Now how do you tell a five-year-old that he’s become the victim of homophobia?

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Family members




their favorit spot in the whole house: the hamster cage















"One Silent Night"

Last night I devoured the new Sherrilyn Kenyon, “One Silent Night.” I’m a great fan of her Dark-Hunter universe, in particular her Weres, but we haven’t seen those in a while. Still, this new book has a few of my other favorites in it: Nick. I love Nick Gautier. In the past, he needed a good slap upside the head, and he really, really needed to stop whining, but he’s still one of my all-time favorites. He has such potential and, boy, this new complication in his life (I’m talking about p.305) has all the makings of an awesome story. Urian. Don’t I love the tortured ones the most? Ash. But I have to admit I enjoyed him better when he was single. Just goes to show, I prefer the tortured ones.

I enjoyed this book. I’m a great fan … but … I would rather wait longer for a new book to come out than read one that feels rushed or underdeveloped. The rushed feeling wasn’t as prevalent in this one as in the last few (Acheron not included), but it was there, in the missing fluff and details. The build-up of conflict and tension is still there, but the steep angle at which it traditionally rises towards the dramatic conclusion feels far reduced. As if Sherrilyn only allowed herself one paragraph to deal with each emotion, hurdle, new clue, character, complication or whatever. What’s missing is depth.

I don’t think it helps that there are so many characters. Yes, this is a book about war, which necessitates a large cast, but I don’t think I’m meant to consult my notes to see who’s who, how they’re related and where they came from. The problem is that all these characters vie for my attention and steal time from the protagonists.

As a writer I can appreciate the need for and the benefit of a large cast, but as a reader I feel like secondary supporting characters are dangerously close to becoming “deus ex machina” devices whose only purpose in the book is to quickly unravel a complication the protagonist doesn’t have the time to deal with. I know Sherrilyn can do better than to have a character show up in the last chapter, stay two pages and save the day all under the guise of “surprise, we had this up our sleeve all along.”

That, of course, is the great benefit of having a large cast: there’s always someone useful up your sleeve.

All in all, I’m still a fan :-) and I enjoyed this book. I was thrilled to come across Nick again. I hope he’s done whining and back on his way to being the smart ass who never took no crap from Ash.

Now, when do we hear from Aimee and her wolf?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Remember this? ...

Remember THE STALKER?

I decided to share the first chapter again. I mailed it out earlier. If there should have been one in your mailbox but there wasn't, please let me know and I'll make sure to update my mailing list.

As always, I welcome beta readers. Let me know if there's something you like or dislike. Writing is a lonely business and feedback is always welcome, especially if there's something that doesn't quite work and makes you scratch your head.

Happy Halloween.


***

THE STALKER
1.

Mason Ward’s cell phone buzzed to life on the built-in shelf next to his bed. Instantly awake, Mason grabbed it before it could wake the young man sleeping next to him. “Ward,” he grumbled. He didn’t have to be polite; according to his phone’s display it was 4:30 in the morning.

Silence greeted him.

Mason disconnected and dropped back onto his pillow. The air drifting in through the open ports over the bed was thick with the scent of Pacific and the relative chill of December. He inhaled deeply, resigned to the fact that he was now awake. Damn crank calls. He knew if he scrolled through his incoming calls, he’d find a local number that would eventually turn out to be a payphone. He hadn’t kept track of the first few calls, had barely even registered the hang-ups, but a half dozen or so calls later he knew the drill.

In no particular hurry to leave the bed, Mason rolled to his side and propped himself up on his elbow. His lover slept on his stomach, face turned the other way. Mason knew Soren was naked under the rumpled sheet, but all he saw was a sliver of pale shoulder and a tousled mop of red hair. Slowly, so as not to disturb Soren’s sleep, Mason pulled the sheet down. His knuckles grazed his lover’s skin. The sheet out of his way, Mason splayed his hand across the small of Soren’s back. He loved the sight of his large, darkly tanned hand against Soren’s pale skin, the redhead’s body warm and smooth, the muscle underneath it firm.

Soren didn’t stir.

Mason ducked his head and pushed his nose into Soren’s hair. Too vain to let the sun bleach his glorious copper-colored hair, Soren often wore a baseball cap, but where his hair wasn’t protected—there was too much of it too long to fit—it was streaked with golden highlights. Mason loved the hair. His own close cropped, he appreciated the effort Soren took.

Phone call long forgotten, Mason inhaled a day and night’s worth of sweat and pushed his nose past the hair, until his lips grazed an ear, until his mouth found the column of a throat.

His hand slid under the sheet pooled over Soren’s hip. Like the rest of him, Soren’s cock was warm and lean. Mason let his hand slide down the shaft of Soren’s cock, brushed his knuckles past Soren’s balls. His palm traveled across the sensitive skin of Soren’s inner thigh and the redhead responded the way Mason had hoped, reflexively spreading his legs a tad wider.

When he looked up, Mason was greeted with the sight of a green eye glinting at him from under a tangle of hair. “Hmm,” he murmured, “good morning.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

Mason chuckled. So much for the libido of youth. Of course, Soren had only just joined him in bed an hour or so ago. His bartending schedule already differed from Mason’s work hours, but the holiday season had them barely even in bed together these days.

Before Mason could change Soren’s mind about pre-dawn sex, his phone vibrated to life again. He cursed and snatched it up off the shelf. If he weren’t on call 24/7, he wouldn’t have answered. “Yes?”

Silence.

Mason bit back a second curse, caught Soren grinning from ear to ear, and slid out of bed. He pulled on his workout clothes, left the stateroom and headed to the galley where he dropped his phone on the counter. In the fridge, under the container of fruit salad he’d prepared the evening before, he found two bar napkins and a scrap of paper with phone numbers on it. He dropped the trophies on the counter next to his phone and went about his usual morning routine.

He hadn’t been an Army Ranger in five years, but he still exercised like one. Pushups. Situps. Chinups. Then the run. He walked down the long pier that separated his 58-foot trawler, The Sea Sprite, from dry land, hung a right out of the marina’s gate and headed south on Route 2, past Nimitz Beach Park. It was too early and too dark still for anyone else to be on the road. Even the roving bands of wild pig that usually foraged in the underbrush to either side of the road were still sleeping.

But the exercise didn’t have its usual calming effect on Mason. He couldn’t shake the feeling that there was more to his crank calls than the wish to annoy him. He returned to the marina drenched in sweat and no closer to figuring out his problem.

The Sea Sprite had a bathroom, of course, but Mason preferred to shower in the marina’s men’s locker room. It had taken him, his friend Ben and the cabinetmaker two years to gut, restore and reconfigure his trawler to Mason’s needs, but there was only so much room on a boat and he hadn’t allocated much to his bathroom. As much as he loved living on his boat—a lifestyle he’d chosen with some purpose—it was far more practical for him to use the facilities the marina offered. And so he kept toiletries and a set of work clothes in his assigned locker.

By the time he stepped out of the shower, he had a short mental list of people who hated his guts enough to get up at 4:30 in the morning and call him. He slung a towel around his hips and dragged another over his short hair. He pulled on a black pair of briefs and drew black cargo pants up over his hips, then opened the locker room door to let the steam and hot air escape into the early morning. He turned back and went to grab his black polo shirt from his locker, when a feminine voice intruded on his privacy.

“I bet even your sheets are black.”

Mason turned to find a young woman standing in the door. She was a foot shorter than his six-four, with square, bony shoulders and sharp-edged clavicles that were in stark contrast to the full roundness of her ample breasts. Her sun-bleached hair hung in a loose ponytail down her back. Her yellow tank top and jean shorts left more exposed than they covered. She leaned back against the open door that clearly said Men’s on it and smiled.

“Is there something I can help you with?”

Mason’s brusque manner didn’t faze her, if anything her smile widened. She pulled her ponytail over her shoulder. “Hi. I’m kinda new here and I have no idea where anything is. Where do I go for a good cup of coffee around here?”

Mason thought of the man sleeping in his bed. Soren would know down to the yard where the nearest coffee shop was. Soren would also get a kick out of this girl coming on to Mason.

“There’s a gas station with a convenience store up the road.”

“Not what I had in mind, but it’ll do.” She gave him a pretty pout. “I’m Halley. Like the comet. I’m on The Pacific Sun.” She jerked her chin in the directions of the piers.

Mason knew the boat. The 32-foot Pearson Vanguard was a classic little sailboat, but sadly unused these days. He wasn’t sure but he thought he’d heard that she was for sale.

“Mrs. Maria said I could stay on it, her, for a few days. You know, until after the holidays, and I can get into the dorms.”

Mason arched his dark brows. He didn’t think the barely-dressed Halley and the retired Catholic School teacher Maria San Nicholas moved in the same circles. This girl wouldn’t be the first squatter the marina had seen.

His skepticism must have been apparent, because Halley quickly added, “I’m studying to become a Spanish teacher. Did you know she taught High School Spanish for twenty-five years?”

He’d had an idea. “You’re at the U of G?”

“Sophomore.” Halley beamed and reached for her ponytail again. “I guess I better get going. I really need that coffee. Nice meeting you, Mason.” She gave him a little wave and trotted off.

Mason caught her use of his first name and shook his head. He’d give her a couple of days to figure out he wasn’t in the market for a girlfriend. In the meantime, he’d give Mrs. San Nicholas a call to check out Halley’s story.

He returned to The Sea Sprite to find a cup of steaming brown rice tea and a note scrawled on the back of one of the bar napkins next to his phone. Call work ASAP. The tea made him smile. The note made him cringe.

He snatched up his phone, hit speed dial, and took the steps that led down from the galley to the narrow companionway that he followed to the bow of the Sprite. He gently pushed the door to the master stateroom open to see if his lover was still awake, but Soren was sleeping again, sprawled across green, pinstriped sheets.

When Lourdes Nakamura, Mason’s nightshift supervisor, answered her phone, Mason stepped back into the dark companionway. “You called?”

“Boss. We’ve got trouble.”

Mason groaned and dragged a hand through his hair. It was barely even Monday and already his day didn’t look so good “What’s up?”

“Graffiti. Damnedest thing I’ve ever seen.”

Graffiti didn’t sound like something Lourdes couldn’t handle. The ex-Marine had been a bouncer in some of Guam’s rowdiest nightclubs before Mason had offered her a job on his staff. She was as capable as they came. Mason frowned.

“It’s all over the mall. And when I say all over, I mean all over. Check your phone, I’ve sent pictures.”

Mason thumbed through his phone’s menu and called up incoming files. “Christ.”

“So not the first word that came to my mind,” Lourdes admitted, a wry tone to her voice.

Mason felt like the Sea Sprite was suddenly pitching and rolling under his feet. He reached out a hand to steady himself as he scrolled through the files in his phone with the other. His stomach sank with each consecutive picture. Lourdes hadn’t exaggerated when she’d said “all over.” What little undecorated surface of the Tumon Bay Mall there had been was now covered with the rainbow-colored words “Pickle Kisser” next to the very grotesque rendering of a penis.

“I got the call around 4:30. I sent the mobile guys to check it out. It’s not just the mall. It’s all over the library on O’Brian Drive, the Tamuning post office, John F. Kennedy High School, and up and down Skinner Plaza. It’s not a random prank, is it?”

“No.” Mason wished it was, but he didn’t believe in coincidences of that magnitude. He stared at his phone, absently noting that each act of vandalism must have been committed by a different person. The slur was the same in every picture, but the handwriting was different, some words printed, some cursive, letters slanted left or right, some capitalized, some not. The penis spray-painted next to the words looked similar in each picture, though, as if the artists had worked from a template.

Mason went over the last few weeks of his life, trying to remember anything he might have done to provoke the wrath/contempt of a man he hadn’t seen in five years. He’d heard his fair share of whispered “fag” or “faggot,” but he’d never heard anyone else call him “pickle kisser” before or after Captain Tom Krukowski, the man who’d ended his military career.

But what reason would Krukowski have to come after him all these years later? The way he saw it, Mason had all the right in the world to carry a grudge. Krukowski’s witch hunt had almost cost him an honorable discharge from the military. Only timing had saved what very little had remained of his good name.

“Boss? You’re awfully quiet over there.”

“Just thinking.” Mason’s short list of enemies hadn’t even included Krukowski. Thirty minutes ago the man hadn’t been more than a distant, bad memory. Now he was what he had never wanted to be: the focus of Mason’s attention.

“Can you think while you drive?”

“I’m on my way.”

“Bring air freshener. Your life just got flushed down the toilet. The cops are here.”


***

Friday, October 24, 2008

Yours truly at the Great Manhattan Mystery Conclave

I just received my program for the 5th annual Great Manhattan Mystery Conclave (Oct 31 – Nov 02, 08) here in Manhattan, KS, and there it was, my name in black and white. How exciting is that? Not only is it my first conference, but it’s my first public appearance, complete with author signing and panel.

If you’re a reader, writer or fan and you live in the area, please feel free to stop by the Holiday Inn at 17th & Anderson Avenue. I’ll be there Friday night and most of the weekend. If you already have a copy of The Protector, it’s okay to bring it with you for me to sign. If not, there are some copies available for purchase. Author signings are on Friday, Oct 31, 5:30-6:30 pm, and at Saturday, Nov 1, 5-5:45 pm and after the banquet, 8-10pm.


Naturally, I know exactly how this is going to go down. I will show up on Friday at the gala reception looking ten pounds lighter and five years younger. I’ll be at a table with witty, clever writers whose books I’ve read. At least one of the people attending the reception will have read my book and gush over my beautiful, tropic setting, while absolutely adoring the sexy cover of the book. He or she will have their dog-eared copy ready for me to sign. I’ll take a few photos (looking ten pounds lighter and five years younger). I’ll have a great time and not worry at all about the panel I’m sitting on on Saturday morning. The panel itself will be well attended. My co-panelist, Norm Ledgin, and I will have the crowd spellbound. There will be plenty of audience questions and generous interest in our take on “Why We Write Mysteries.” The rest of the weekend will be filled with intelligent conversation, humor, the occasional great insight and adoring fans at the author signings.

In truth, I’ll probably look about the same I do right now (at least five years younger) and no one will whip out wallet-sized photos of their last vacation on Guam. The panel will be just fine. I’m going to be horribly nervous, wondering if I shouldn’t have invested in prescription strength deodorant versus the regular strength, but only the people in the front row will notice my nervous tick. Most of the people stopping by my table during the author signing will not have read my book or any other gay fiction. I’ll have the great opportunity to introduce and represent a new genre to these readers. A few might even be intrigued enough to give this new author a try.

You bet I’m going to spend all my spare time between now and then practicing my clever one-sentence pitch. If you’re an author and you thought writing a one-paragraph description of your novel in a query letter is difficult, try coming up with an interesting one-liner.

Wish me luck :-)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Holy Smokes

I watched the two-hour premier of Crusoe last night. Talk about slashable TV, holy smokes. I loved it. The show wasn’t on my to-watch list, but I had a lazy evening and, boy, am I glad that I tuned in. I don’t think it’s the best new show of the season, not by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s the most fun/slashy to watch. Most noteworthy: the absence of women. I mean we’re talking deserted island here and two men devoted to each other. It can’t get much better than that.




On a sidenote: I had to read Robinson Crusoe in school and I don’t remember him having been married at all. But hey, the TV people had to get a female character in there somehow :-)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

“Why I Write Mysteries” (part 2)

Yesterday I admitted to liking the chase better than the puzzle. Sure thing, ask anyone who knows me. My monkey mind doesn’t have the patience it takes to solve puzzles, play chess or tinker with things. So that’s why I chose suspense over traditional mysteries. But why this genre to begin with?

I like the relative freedom and flexibility of it. Within the very broad constraints that come with the mystery/suspense genre, I can pretty much do whatever I want. I can keep the plot simple or make it complicated. I can have a happy or sad ending. I don’t have to catch and convict my villain. I can let him live to perpetrate another, more heinous crime two books down the road. Indeed, I can have two books down the road, i.e. I can write a series (definite benefit, in my eyes). I can go into the villain’s head and have a look at his motivations and thought processes or I can surprise my readers with a traditional approach and not reveal anything until the very end. I can focus on the technical aspects of the crime itself or the people surrounding it. I don’t even need to have an actual crime. A threat is all it takes.

I have a lot of options and choices and that made this genre appear less formulaic than others (and this is a personal prejudice, not value judgment). In fact, I could see myself breaking a lot of the rules and still producing a viable product that sells, whereas I felt other genres would be far less forgiving.

Above all, though, I really liked the idea of writing a series, of revisiting with the same characters and setting again and again. I didn’t want to immerse myself in my character’s lives only to “abandom” them after a few short months and move on to the next set. I’m more of a long-term commitment kind of girl (and yep, I’ve been married 15 years now).

So why do I write mysteries?

  • I have a healthy appreciation for bad guys and what makes them tick.
  • I like the chase and the ensuing adventure.
  • I appreciate the flexibility and freedom that comes with the genre.

Oh, and I’m too much of a wuss for horror, don’t personally care for aliens or space travel, and don’t really have the vocabulary for magical worlds :-)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

“Why I Write Mysteries” (part 1)

I will attend the 5th annual Great Manhattan Mystery Conclave (Manhattan, KS) at the end of this month. My first conference, yay :-) I was even offered a spot on one of the panels. Then I realized yesterday that a) the end of the month is nearer than I thought and b) I need to prepare. If my information is still correct I’m sharing the panel with a few other writers new to the mystery genre. Subject of our panel: Why I Write Mysteries.

In all truthfulness and for the sake of accuracy: I don’t write mysteries. I write suspense.

The difference can be difficult to explain. I like to think of a mystery as a story in which some significant crime, usually a murder, has occurred. It is the protagonist’s job to find out who did the murdering and why and then catch the perp. It’s very reactive, in a way.
When I think suspense I think of the protagonist having to keep something from happening. It’s less about solving a puzzle from the past and more about preventing a future crime and saving the day in the process.

You can see how that can get complicated :-) The lines that separate the genres are fluid and often crossed.

I can’t say I sat down one day and decided to write in the mystery/suspense field. Rather I wrote and wrote and tried out different genres and eventually realized that all my half-finished efforts had something in common: villains and the need to foil their plans or escape their clutches. For me, it was never about catching the bad guy, it was always about staying ahead of him. My hero’s main goal is to stay alive not to solve the how and why of things (that’s what his friends do off stage). And that’s why I write suspense, not traditional mysteries.

Misconception of the Day

Some of my students wrote a letter to a school for the deaf today. There was a short discussion about whether or not their teacher would have to translate our letter into sign language so the deaf kids would understand.

I am happy to report that I dispelled that particular myth: Deaf people read plain old regular English. They write plain old regular English. The oral deaf speak regular plain old English [“speak” as in “use their voice or talk”].

There’s another common myth for you: Deaf people are NOT mute. Some may choose not to use their voice, but that doesn’t mean they are incapable of talking. It’s a choice and a perfectly reasonable one at that.

Not all deaf people read lips.

Not all blind people read Braille.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Updates and upgrades

I’ve updated my website. Whoohoo. Go ahead, have a look.

I’d like to think of myself as savvy when it comes to the Internet, but I have no clue, none whatsoever, when it comes to websites. I’m at the mercy of tech support. I think I did a pretty good job, if I may say so myself. I’m not 100% happy yet, but I can certainly live with the results for now.

I’ve also joined Facebook. I’d love to give you a link, but I haven’t figured that one out yet. Whenever I link, I end up sending people to my personal sign-in page and that’s not where I want to send you. Any thoughts?

Also, I refreshed my information on MySpace.

"Death of a Pirate King"

I finished reading Josh Lanyon’s latest Adrien English mystery, Death of a Pirate King, and I LOVED the book (thanks, Ella, for pestering me to make time to read).

I’m a big fan of Adrien. It was good to see his harder side – no pun intended – but I don’t get the fan talk about his fear of commitment. Last I checked “fear of commitment” meant avoidance of long-term relationships. Didn’t Adrien just spent two years with Guy? They clearly had a committed, monogamous relationship. A comfortable, satisfying relationship. But there’s a difference between “good relationship” and “rest of your life relationship.” Guy just wasn’t the one and Adrien knew that. And, come on, do you really want Adrien to end up with Guy?

Will he ever end up with Jake? Maybe. Maybe not. Jake has his own issues. I do wonder how much of a knee-jerk reaction Jake’s coming out was. (By the way, that man has serious commitment issues and he married, which just goes to show that marrying or hanging on to a comfortable relationship has nothing to do with true commitment of the heart.)

Anyway, I loved the book and I recommend it to any fan of gay mysteries or good writing (even those, like myself, who do not generally enjoy the first-person point of view).

Monday, September 29, 2008

Relationships are a mystery to me, too

So I went to the mall last weekend to get the latest Cindy Gerard [got it, read it, loved it]. As I am wont to do I looked to see if the store carried my book. They didn’t. In fact, this is a conversation I had with one of the clerks:

Me: I couldn’t help noticing that you don’t have a Gay/Lesbian Fiction section, do you?

Clerk: No. But those kinds of books are in with Relationships.

Me: Really? Even the mysteries?

Clerk: [blank look]

She was so completely baffled that I didn’t press the issue. Poor woman. I think I might have done something irreversible to her view of the literary world. Gay and lesbian mysteries? Who would have thought?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Ready, set, go

I’m back at work on THE STALKER.

I started last night by reading over the few chapters and scenes I have already. I like what I have—it’s a first draft, of course, so it’s not perfect, but I’m just so very glad that this story is finally coming together for me. I’ve been working on it forever. I worked on it long before I started writing on it. And I gave up writing it twice. Some of you know, because you’ve read both those drafts … :-)

Good things come in threes, right?

Make sure to drop me an e-mail/comment if you’d like to be in my group of beta readers. I love beta readers. I like comments and feedback during that first round of writing. Sometimes I’m not sure of something and readers just love it and sometimes I’m pretty sure I did something well and readers hate it. I’d much rather rewrite and rethink in the beginning stages, trust me.

I’m not just back at work on THE STALKER, I’m also back at work in real life. I started working a regular, full-time job in education last month. This does two things to/for my writing: 1) severely limits my writing time and 2) focuses my efforts to get the most out of that limited time.

These are the same conditions I wrote THE PROTECTOR under, so I’m not worried. It seems I actually get more done having less time on my hands.

There’s plenty to do:

  • Write at least one chapter of THE STALKER a week
  • Overhaul my website or find someone to do it for me (I’m having issues with my site provider and the technical aspect of the website, ugh)
  • Feed family, cats, fish, and lizard regularly
  • Watch at least some of the new shows on TV
  • Read each of the new Cindy Gerard books coming before Christmas
  • Keep up with web groups and return e-mails in a timely fashion

Friday, August 01, 2008

Toto, we’re in Kansas

We’ve arrived. After weeks of living out of a suitcase and bedding down in five different places, we’re ready to move into our new home next week. I can’t wait. I never thought I’d hear myself say this, but I’m sick of eating out. I’m actually craving healthy food and that’s almost disturbing. Also, I gained five pounds (I had an official weigh-in of sorts this week), which really isn’t that bad considering my diet the last few weeks.

Thus far, I like Kansas. Yes, you’ve read that right, I like Kansas. It’s been a bit hot for my taste – in the 100s every day – and we’ve survived our first Tornado watch, but I can’t see much wrong with this place (yet). The gas is cheaper, the grass is greener, and they have three bookstores in town that I know of (boy, I’ve done a ton of reading since we left Hawaii). It’s really not all that flat around here either; we’re surrounded by the rolling Flint Hills and plenty of trees.

Once we move into our new house next week and a working Internet connection is established I’ll be back to a productive routine in no time. I promise I’ll answer e-mails and friend requests in a timely manner.

To those of you who’ve bought The Protector and wrote to tell me how much you’ve enjoyed reading the book, THANK YOU. I appreciate the chance you took on a debut author and I love that you found the time to drop me a line.

To those of you who asked about the next book (in the series), THANK YOU. As you may or may not know, I started working on the next book before my move, but my efforts stalled. Boy, I completely underestimated the complexity of this move. For some reason it was far more complicated to move back on the mainland than it was to move to Japan and Hawaii. I’ll be back to work on the next book once all the moving boxes are unpacked and the computer is hooked up (or at the end of next week).

I’m also in the process of finishing up my first ever Vampire-Shapeshifter short (remember Riley, the deaf weasel?).

Oh, I almost forgot, back in New York, I had lunch with Laura Baumbach. Thanks again, Laura. I had the greatest time, and hey, I hadn’t eaten at an Olive Garden in eight years. Laura is a great conversationalist, and I’m such a fan. Now I just have to wow her with my sexy vampire short.


Back to my just as sexy sophomore effort, THE STALKER. I received a few e-mails asking about The Dickens Challenge and where the chapters went that I had posted. If you’re interested in reading along as I write (at your own risk), please drop me a line with your e-mail address and I’ll make sure to included you in my list of beta readers. Keep in mind, though, that you’ll be reading a first draft, your favorite scene might not survive the final editing process and won’t see the inside of the finished book.

Ideally, I’d love to see THE STALKER in stores right after Christmas and the New Year, some time in January or February. Not for some nefarious reason, but just because Mason and Soren survive their first holidays together in this book.

Realistically, though, I’m a slow writer and there’s still plenty of work to be done once the book is written and Christmas is only 146 days away.

And there’s so much more reading to be done this year, too. I love reading. I’m a reader before I’m a writer. I can’t wait for BREAKING DAWN, the feverishly anticipated fourth installment in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga. And the movie in December!

And of course, I can’t wait to get my hands on ACHERON by Sherrilyn Kenyon. I love her Darkhunter universe. I’m especially partial to her Werehunters, and I’m wondering how long it will take her to incorporate a badass, leather-wearing were-weasel into one of her books.

I’m also highly anticipating the arrival of the men of Black’s Ops, Inc. Cindy Gerard’s new series will debut in October 08, November 08 and January 09.

And when does TRUEBLOOD start on HBO? We don’t have HBO that I know of, but I’d love to see the new series based on Charlaine Harris’s Sookie books.

Boy, I’ll be busy this year. Don’t forget to drop me a line with your e-mail address and I’ll keep you in the loop about upcoming chapters and the occasional personal appearance at the Coffeeshop Writers, a group of greatly talented ladies who’ve invited me to stop by and have a cup of coffee with them.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Out of touch

Dear readers, fans and friends. As you may or may not know I’m in the process of moving from lovely, sunny Hawaii to the American heartland, which is why I’ve been so slow in returning mails and posting news. Please bear with me. Come August we should be settled in and starting our new routines in Kansas. Until then …

Friday, May 02, 2008

Interviewed!

I’ve been interviewed. The always fun Neil Plakcy, author of Mahu, Mahu Surfer, and Mahu Fire, mystery novels set in Hawaii, has a roundtable interview on gaywired.com. Check it out here:

http://www.gaywired.com/Article.cfm?Section=67&ID=18819

It was very interesting to see what the other ladies had to say. I'm humbled to be in their company.

I’ve been tagged

Thanks, Debby (Type M For Murder, http://typem4murder.blogspot.com).

The idea is to reach for the nearest book, turn to page 123, find the 5th sentence, and then post the next 3 sentences on your blog or website or wherever. Sure thing. Only, I’m in the middle of organizing my “library” and I’m surrounded by all my books. The nearest pile is an eclectic mix of Tom Clancy, Nora Roberts, Dean James, and Anne Rice. The topmost book, though, is Lost & Found by Jayne Ann Krentz. I’m very sorry, Jayne, but I can’t remember the book at all. It must have been good, because it’s in my library.

Here page 123, 6th sentence and on:

“Another case displayed gleaming sixteenth-century boxes made of chiseled steel damascened with gold. They had been produced by the same master craftsmen who had forged swords and armor. Jewelry boxes etched and nielloed in impossibly convoluted motifs and studded with semiprecious stones were arranged on the shelves above the balcony level.”

Oi. I have no idea what damascened or nielloed are (well, I can figure it out from the context, but they’re certainly not words I’d ever use.)

That was fun. And I’m curious about the book now. I might have to reread it. Not that I have any time, because I’m in the middle of preparing our move.

We’ve finally received our orders. Yay. It took us several hours and a lot of hand-wringing, but we’ve received our flight arrangements as well. Flying with a pet is a complicated issue—especially in the summer. Luckily, we’re only flying at night, so heat won’t be an issue (I hope).

In case you’re curious how to get from Hawaii to Kansas: fly from Honolulu to Chicago, drive to upstate NY to rest with relatives for a little while, drive back to Chicago, then fly to KS. And if you’d like to have your own car back, travel to 670 miles east to St. Louis and pick it up there…

Oh, and I’m tagging the entire gang at GWR (gaywritersreader at yahoo groups) and everyone who reads this. I’m sure one or two of you have a book with a page 123 :-)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Are you kidding me?

I’m finally at peace with the whole no-orders-yet deal and then had to ruin it all by looking up the passport renewal information at the German Consulate’s website. Since March 2008, all passport applicants are required to show up in person. No exceptions. Great! Just great. The consulate I’d have to visit is located in San Francisco, CA.

I have to travel 2400 miles or 3900 km to get a passport!? That’s five hours in an airplane!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

New York here I come

Life is good this week. I found out another 192 books were ordered, amazon.com still loves me, the good people of Boston enjoy reading, and I might have a book signing in New York City (how super cool is that?)

I immediately went out to get a haircut, which I didn’t like. Then straightened my hair, which I liked even less. Had my teeth professionally cleaned and checked (no cavities, yay!) and went back to get more hair chopped off. Incidentally, the kids had their teeth checked and their hair cut, too. (Of course all of those were appointments I booked some time ago, but it’s more fun to pretend they’re all connected to my good news.)

My firstborn, bless her heart, was absolutely, positively terrified of her dentist. She’ll have to go to a specialist who can sedate her. Poor baby. I’m not sure why she’s so afraid, she’s never had a bad experience that I know of, though, she complains of her dentist being sassy (i.e. the woman tells her what to do, which doesn’t go over so well).

I wrote some more angry vampire and watched that Marlee Matlin movie on TV Sunday night. Oh, the TV died on us last week, but we convinced it to hold on another fifty days or so. I’m anxious about our move, because we still have no official paperwork and there is a lot to be done, but I’m nearing the point where terror turns into numbness.

How awesome is that about a possible book signing in New York City? I need an outfit. My wardrobe consists of shorts and T-shirts and Birkenstock sandals. I’m all Hawaiian casual. What does one wear in New York City in the summer? Do I need shoes? Or a purse? Can I get an intervention from those two people on What Not To Wear?

In two weeks or so, the husband and I are going to a romantic luau. I told my good friend Andrea who immediately called one of those cosmetic stores that does make-up and set me up with an appointment. I haven’t worn make-up in two years. I wear make-up once a year: for the Army Christmas Ball. And last year we didn’t go to the ball. When I say I wear make-up, I mean I brush on some powder, swipe on mascara and dab on lipstick. Voila!

Stacy and Clinton, I need help, because I might have a book signing in New York City!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Saturday, April 05, 2008

the therianthrope

Therianthropy = a general term for human-animal shifts, the most widely known of which is lycanthropy, the shapeshifting from human to wolf



Riley is his human form looks remarkably like Alex Lundqvist, the Swedish supermodel. In his animal form, Riley is a stoat (or short-tailed weasel) and in ermine (i.e. in the white winter fur).


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The weasel familiar

Life works in mysterious ways. When Riley, the deaf weasel familiar, was “born,” I knew almost nothing about familiars. The vast majority of urban fantasies I’ve read dealt with large animals such as werewolves or werecats, which was partly why I decided on a much smaller animal (it’s my contrary nature).

I've since learned that the weasel has a bad reputation, but what surprised me the most was the basic notion of the weasel as the power animal of silent observation.

“Sly and stealthy, with keen observation skills.”

“Weasel medicine can teach you to find out secrets through the power of silent observation.”

“Most weasel people are loners, graceful, solitary, and silent.”

I was stunned when I came across these descriptions. Silent and quiet, that’s quintessential Riley. Now don’t get me wrong, Riley is perfectly capable of talking, but he’s not oral; he doesn’t use his voice, because he cannot hear himself (a personal choice; a lot of deaf people use their voices).

As a deaf person, Riley “listens” with his eyes. For one, sign language is a visual language: Riley would read meanings carried by the hands, the facial expression, and the body’s posture at the same moment. For another, Riley has to pick up on very subtle facial and body movements when dealing with non-signing people or when he’s speech reading. Out of necessity, he’s a keen observer.

Even the loner aspect matched what I had in mind for him. I’m trying very carefully not to generalize too much, but that’s difficult when talking about a large group of people with their own culture. Riley isn’t a loner by nature, but he spends most of his days with people who don’t know sign language. Within the hearing world he’s largely isolated (especially since he’s not oral).

Like many other deaf people, he’s very social with those who know sign language, when all communication barriers are removed (note: not all deaf people know sign language), but in-person get-togethers are sometimes hard to come by (it all depends on your community).

To combat loneliness and liven-up his solitary lifestyle, Riley uses electronic communication to stay in touch with and make friends. In other words, he does a lot of e-mailing and instant messaging and texting (note: English is his second language; American Sign Language is his native language).

I did not make Riley deaf after I chose the weasel form for him, nor did I pick the weasel because Riley was deaf. He was a deaf weasel familiar from the first moment he appeared to me (like many of my characters he showed up on my doorstep fully formed/mostly developed).

Life works in mysterious ways.

I will post a lot more about Riley as I'm getting to know him better. He's by far the most interesting and most challenging character I've ever worked with. Like many hearing people, I take my speech and the noises around me for granted. I have a few notions about life as a deaf person, but no real clue what it’s actually like. Riley is a wonderful ambassador, giving us a chance to discover life through his eyes and from his point of view.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Introducing: Riley

This little guy is Riley.

Riley is the protagonist in a short story I’m working on. It’s an urban romantic suspense short, complete with vampires and familiars and bad guys with big guns. Oh, and sub-zero temperatures in Siberia.

Riley is a stoat a.k.a. a short-tailed weasel. He’s a familiar (you know, like a witch’s black cat). He also has profound sensorineural deafness (he’s completely deaf), which makes him a challenge to write, because there is no dialogue in the traditional sense. Not that that bothers Riley in the least, he’s a very opinionated young man and has plenty to say.

Riley stole all my time the last two weeks. I learned about the differences between stoats and weasels and spent hours looking at sign language clips on youtube. Riley uses American Sign Language (ASL), but I found a British Sign Language (BSL) video I really love. Click here. Watch it at least once with the sound muted.

Also, when you're over there on youtube, check out Keith Wann; he's very funny.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Interview and Review

My very first interview and review. Check it out here.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

THE STALKER 5 (Dickens Challenge)

My last public chapter:

5.

Halley didn’t understand why people would dream all their lives about living on a boat. The Pacific Sun was pretty enough from the outside, but hardly the size of a walk-in closet on the inside. Speaking of closets, there weren’t any. Since all she had was a suitcase full of clothes, she was okay with the drawer under the one narrow bunk, but it was a tight fit.

Halley pushed aside the tank tops she’d tossed on her bunk earlier and flopped down on the thin mattress. Despite the westerly tradewinds, it was hot and humid, so much so her hair was either a frizzy mop or a sorry, lank mess. Still, she preferred the privacy of her sweltering cabin to the sunbaked deck where anyone within earshot could overhear the conversation she was about to have.

She eyed the cell phone in her hand with reluctance. She really needed to call home and check in with her mother, but she didn’t look forward to their talk. There would be tears, and Halley hated it when her mother cried. She just hoped her sister wasn’t around to answer the phone.

“Hello. Hello?”

Halley suppressed a sigh. Of course, her sister would answer the phone. She’d probably been at their mother’s house since Halley’s somewhat clandestine departure (with her sister’s passport).

“Jess, it’s Halley.”

“Where are you? Mom has been crying all day. I can’t keep coming over here, you know.”

“I told you I was going on a trip over the holidays.”

“Right.”

“Can I talk to mom now?”

“Where are you?”

“Guam.”

“What in God’s name are you doing on Guam? You know how hard it is for mom this time of year. Does this have anything to do with that man?”

“Tell mom I called.” Halley disconnected before her sister had a chance to lecture her. They didn’t see eye to eye on this. Of course, Halley knew how her mother struggled, how she grieved for her husband. Halley had been there when her mother had found the lifeless body of her husband, his head an unrecognizable, bloody mess from the large caliber bullet he’d used to escape his shame. She could still hear her mother’s anguished wails.

And she’d been there every day since, watching her mother’s will to live slip away bit by bit, her pain and spirit dulled by medication, weeping for hours and days. In all fairness, Jessica who had her own family to take of had done her best in the beginning, but eventually her visits became less and less frequent, admitting to Halley that their mother’s depression was too difficult for her to witness.

Then the package had arrived. A small mailer from Guam, addressed to her father, souvenirs inside. The vacationing soldier must not have known that his former supervisor had taken his life the year before. Halley had locked herself away in her closet to open the small box. She’d never looked past the folded newspaper page on top. On it a name and picture. Mason Ward.

She’d shown Jess the article. The paper had glorified his heroism as if he could ever be more than a has-been who’d never washed out of the military for his cowardly lies. Jess hadn’t understood, but Halley knew that it couldn’t have been a coincidence that Mason Ward had taken a bullet on the first anniversary of her father’s death. She’d known right then and there what she needed to do. For her mother’s piece of mind and her father’s honor.

Jess didn’t understand, because she hadn’t seen the spark of life in their mother’s eyes when Halley had promised to bring the man who’d caused their father’s suicide to justice, to expose him once and for all for what he was.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Ugh ...

I’m struggling.

As you may or may not know, I’ve been struggling with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome for well over a decade now. It comes and goes. It flares up. The most debilitating symptom for me as a writer is the brain fog that accompanies a flare-up.

Brain fog is a mental fatigue that makes it difficult to process information. It impairs concentration, memory, and word retrieval. According to wikipedia, brain fog “is so named because the sufferer can feel like a cloud literally surrounds him or her that reduces the speed at which things can be recognized or clearly seen.”

Ayep.

Add physical lack of energy to this mental sluggishness and drowsiness and there’s very little wonder depression is one of the side effects people have to deal with.

So I’m in a funk, and I’m struggling with it. I know these flare-ups don’t last, but that doesn’t make them any easier to deal with. And honestly, after two weeks of moping around the house, I’m sick of it. I want my brain back.

Check out these links for more on fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue:

CFIDS Association of America
Fibromyalgia Network

National Fibromyalgia Association

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

THE STALKER update

I'll have one more chapter to post (later today), then I'm taking the first draft of this WIP private (it'll continue on the Dickens Forum, though). If you'd like to know how it continues, drop me a line and I'll keep you in the loop. Otherwise, look for the finished novel in paperback possibly some time in 2009 (or later).

Our days are numbered

The countdown is on: 135 days left on Hawaii. Thinking about our move to Kansas prompted me to come up with yet another list:

What I’ll miss:

  1. rainbows and double rainbows
  2. watching newly hatched geckos emerge from my closet for the first very time and knowing they’ll drive the cats nuts (until they grow big and fat and the cats can catch them)
  3. my kids being in the racial minority on the playground and in school
  4. swimming with green sea turtles and watching whales and dolphins from the beach
  5. coming across a hula or Tahitian dance practice at the community park
  6. the weather and lack of seasons

What I’m looking forward to:

  1. twice as much square footage for half the rent
  2. Dunkin Donuts (I haven’t had a good donut since we left for Japan seven years ago)
  3. Target, Kohl’s and other retailers like that (anything other than Walmart)
  4. chain restaurants like Fridays or Applebees or even Olive Garden
  5. independent bookstores
  6. not paying $7 for a jug of milk (don’t get me started on the price of gas)

What I’m not looking forward to:

  1. the 15-month DEPLOYMENT
  2. homogenized communities
  3. four seasons + the flu season
  4. tornados
  5. religion (The Bible Belt)
  6. trying to find a new babysitter

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Stalker 4 (Dickens Challenge)

a true first draft:

4.

“Son of a bitch.” Mason slammed the receiver of his phone down hard enough to make the plastic groan. He yanked a hand through his short hair—already tousled and spiked from the countless times he’d dragged his fingers through it—and looked up sharply at the chuckle intruding on his anger.

“Yo.” Stoney Ward slouched against the doorjamb, his thumbs hooked in the front pockets of his jeans, grinning broadly.

Mason did a mental eye roll. His brother was the last person he wanted to talk to right now. Born minutes before Mason, Stoney had the natural arrogance of a firstborn son and the irritating assumption it was okay to nose into the lives of his younger siblings. An inch taller, a few pounds heavier and a whole lot straighter, he was a Guam PD plainclothes officer.

“I’m really not in the mood right now, Stoney.”

Oblivious to his brother’s glacial stare, Stoney pushed away from the door and crossed Mason’s office to drop into the chain in front of the desk. “I’ve heard.”

“I’ve just spent all morning talking to your brothers in blue. And all afternoon arguing with one very angry principal who thinks I should consider becoming a social recluse so as no to inflict my gayness on the community.”

“Ouch.”

“I’m fucking pissed.”

Stoney nodded at the Weekly on Mason’s desk. “This wouldn’t have anything to do with the hot bartender you’re dating?”

“No.”

“You’re sure?”

“Stone.”

“Yeah. Yeah. Pissed off. I get it.”

“I’m pretty sure it’s not Buchanan.” Mason took a deep breath, reached up to drag his hand through his hair, caught himself and rubbed his chin instead. “He hasn’t called me yet and I would have expected him to. He likes to make sure others know he’s the one yanking their chain. The man’s on a perpetual power trip. He cannot not take the credit. Besides—”Mason’s glance fell on the Weekly open to Soren’s picture and the blurb about Tradewinds“—that would just get him angry at Soren, not me.”

Stoney snorted. “That man has a hard-on for you, no matter what.” He waved away Mason’s comment about his choice of words and continued, “So what are we talking about then? Jealous ex-boyfriend? Some teenage delinquents you banished from the mall? I have to say, though, I would have expected a bunch of kids to just write fag. They’re not usually this creative. Or organized.”

“That’s because someone told them what to do.”

“Oh? A paid hit? Got someone in mind?”

“Tom Krukowski.”

“Rings a bell. Remind me.”

“The asshole who got me kicked out of the military.”

“Ah, yes. It’s coming back to me. You decked him in a gay bar and he didn’t take that so well. Bigoted jerk.”

“Right. Pickle kisser was his favorite slur.”

“That’s one hell of a signature.” Stoney leaned back in his chair and crossed one leg over the other. “When’s the last time you heard from him?”

“The day I left Fort Benning.”

Stoney gave his twin a skeptical frown. “That’s been a while. You’re sure it’s not The Smile?”

Mason did another mental eye roll.

“Have you talked to Soren about this?”

“No.”

“How’s he been doing?”

“Working his ass off. Mom’s cabinet is done. I saw it on Saturday.”

“And?”

Mason smiled. He’d thought replacing his mother’s bullet-riddled curio cabinet had been a nice, guilt-driven offer; he’d had no idea Soren was going to build it from scratch, or how much work was involved. “He’s wasting his talents tending bar. He needs to make furniture for a living.”

“That good?”

Mason nodded.

“So what’s the plan?”

“The plan is to find Krukowski and beat the shit out of him. Oh, and to convince a certain principal that the gay president of this company can keep his school as safe as the straight security guy down the street. You have the give the man credit for coming right out with it. He wasn’t beating around the bush like some of our other clients.”

“You’re shitting me. They think this is your fault?”

Mason reached for the Weekly on his desk. Soren looked good in his picture. His red hair gleamed like polished copper and his wide smile added a boyish charm to his gorgeous face. There was no mention of Mason in the two sentences that recapped Soren’s spectacular coming out, but there were enough people on the island who remembered his name in connection with the shooting and the kidnapping. He’d hoped at the time that the typhoon pummeling the island would have taken the majority of the headlines, but James “The Smile” Buchanan’s son being kidnapped and involved in a deadly shootout had been of far more interest to the general public. Mason almost losing his life and Soren publicly announcing his homosexuality had only added to the people’s curiosity.

“I’ve been getting phone calls. Hang-ups mostly.”

“Shit.” Stoney stood. “How long has this been going on?”

“Two, three weeks.”

“And now the graffiti?”

“Yes.”

They both knew what that meant. If Krukowski was behind this, he was getting closer, becoming bolder, angrier, which considerably upped his unpredictability factor. And the threat he posed.

“Why is he stalking you after all these years? You don’t just remember that there was someone you forgot to get even with. Something set him off.” Stoney began pacing Mason’s office. “You don’t know where he is?”

“It’s freaking Sunday back on the mainland. It was hard enough getting the little information I got. I burned a lot of bridges when I left, Stoney, I don’t exactly have a good line back to the unit. The Sergeant I spoke to didn’t know Krukowski, so he must have been gone for some time. If he’s still in the service, I’ll find him. If he retired, I’ll find him, too.”

“God damn, Mace. The man could be on the island, just waiting to blow your head off.”

The thought had occurred to Mason, but he couldn’t dredge up the necessary worry. Krukowski might have been an asshole during their time in the Rangers, but he hadn’t shown any psychotic tendencies. No, it was far more likely he was about the same thing he’d been back then: destroying Mason’s reputation. And damn, according to most of Mason’s clients, the man was doing a good job of it.

Monday, January 21, 2008

THE STALKER 3 (Dickens Challenge)

3.

Soren Buchanan pulled his Jeep into the first available parking spot nearest the Agat Marina’s clubhouse and dragged a hand through his windblown hair. Saw dust rained down on his lap. He was liberally coated with the stubborn stuff, having spent all morning cutting plywood. His eyes were gritty with it and he needed a shower.

He shouldered the old Jeep’s creaking door open and contemplated not for the first time to just forgo the door altogether. Or weld it shut. He reached into the backseat to get his tool box and watched more saw dust join the sand already covering the Jeep’s floorboards. Christ, the car was a mess. He hesitated. The last time he’d gotten the glorious idea to deal with the trash he drove around he’d washed his seat covers. They’d promptly disintegrated in Mrs. George’s washing machine, making Mason’s mother wonder if they might have been covers the Jeep’s first owner had bought in 1956. Soren wouldn’t have doubted it.

He sat his toolbox down, stripped his dusty T-shirt over his head, and went to get one of the parking lot’s garbage cans. He dragged it to the passenger side of his CJ-6, wrenched the door open and started pulling junk from the interior. Crumpled ATM print-outs and drive-through receipts, two or three empty water bottles, newspaper carcasses, Starbucks cups, a bag of pretzels he’d forgotten about, his work schedule from three weeks ago, and an assortment of junk mail. He rummaged under the passenger seat for his tennis shoes when his phone clattered onto the sandy floorboard.

He muttered a curse under his breath and retrieved the phone along with his shoes. The laces of the right shoe looked suspiciously like they’d been chewed on by the stray cat that had taken a liking to his Jeep, but Soren’s attention had already been caught by the small plastic baggie tucked into the shoe. He immediately recognized what looked like colorless ice shavings.

“Fuck.”

“Hello to you, too.”

His heart hammering against his ribs, Soren whirled. He shoved the crystal methamphetamine in the front pocket of his cargo shorts and managed a smile. “Hey.”

Since the marina’s liveaboard population was made up mostly of retirees, Soren basically lived in a floating retirement village. But the girl standing on the sidewalk wouldn’t have to worry about Social Security for at least another forty years, if she lived that long—she looked in dire need of a sandwich.

“I was on my way out”—she jiggled the car keys in her hand—“and thought I’d say Hello.” She pulled her wheat-colored ponytail over her shoulder. “I’m Halley. Like the comet.”

Soren recognized the predatory gleam in her blue eyes. Still, he did what she so obviously expected him to do and let his gaze follow the line of her hair to where it rested between her breasts. Nice boobs, too, but his recent brush with death at the hands of a female predator had him turned off women for a while. “Soren. Don’t let me keep you.”

“Oh, I’m in no hurry.” She twirled the ends of her ponytail around her finger and cocked her head to the side, unabashedly raking her gaze down his bare torso. “I’m on the The Pacific Sun. You live here, too?”

“The Sea Sprite.”

“Sweet.” She lowered her voice. “I was worried only old people lived here.”

Soren couldn’t help but grin. He understood completely. “Watch out for Salvatore, the old guy on the pink sailboat. He’s a bit of a pervert.” He was also paranoid and quite possibly off his meds, but she’d figure that out for herself. “Well, I need to get going. Nice meeting you.”

Soren tossed his tennis shoes back into the Jeep, slammed the door shut and pushed the garbage can on the sidewalk. He gave Halley one last smile and turned to get his T-shirt and toolbox.

She pouted, clearly in the mood to talk some more.

“Adios.” He fled in the direction of the clubhouse. A few months ago he wouldn’t have minded being dragged into a conversation and a flirt. He probably wouldn’t have had too many scruples about taking advantage of the found stash of meth, though pills were more his thing. But his instincts, set off by the look in her eyes, had his scalp prickling. He knew from experience that trouble could come in petite packages, and he really, really didn’t need any trouble right now. Besides, he was going to be late for work.

He showered, didn’t bother to scrape two days worth of stubbles off his cheeks, and stuffed his dusty clothes into the locker he shared with Mason. He pulled on his work clothes, the green polo with the Tradewinds logo emblazoned on the chest pocket and a baggy pair of Jeans that would soon have holes across both knees if he kept washing them, then rushed out to the Sprite to drop off the toolbox.

He didn’t notice the brown paperbag on the bench that hugged the aft sundeck until he rushed back out on the deck. Someone had taken a black marker and written “Mason” on the bag, but that didn’t keep Soren from taking a peek inside. A well-used paperback in decent condition. He frowned at the book and pulled it out. Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden. Out of curiosity Soren thumbed through the pages. The dedication scrawled across the title page was barely legible. Something like “Rangers, lead the way.”

“Cool.”

Soren took the book with him, thinking he’d return it to Mason over dinner. The man was an avid reader. Still in need of a Christmas present or his lover, Soren thought about buying a book, but dismissed the idea for the nth time. A book was okay for a friend, it wasn’t good enough for the guy you lived with. Unless it was a priced and signed first-edition.

Soren managed to avoid any head-on collisions with Japanese tourists driving on the wrong side of the road and find a parking spot in the alley behind Tradewinds in record time, which meant he was only fifteen minutes late by the time he swept through the back entrance of his place of employment.

Tradewinds was a fun hang-out, serving up alcohol, live music and the occasional embarrassment during karaoke night. On a quiet side street that had never existed on any map, the bar was within walking distance of the Chamorro Village public market, a popular spot for the lunch crowd, that twice a week, on Wednesdays and Fridays, transformed into a lively night market.

“Oi, over here.” Eddie Aguon, Tradewinds’ owner, stood in the door to his office, waving his newest bartender inside.

Soren cringed. He liked his job. He wanted to keep his job. He could and would kiss ass to keep his job.

“Man, Eddie, I’m—“

Eddie held up his hand to forestall any explanations. “Don’t want to hear it. Not interested. Sit. Sit. We need to talk.”

Soren’s ass wasn’t quite in the chair yet, when Eddie went on. “I know you’re no the punctual type. I’ll deal with it. I’m still happy that I found someone who closes up every night, so you’re cool. Once my happiness wears off, you’re in trouble.”

“Got it.”

Eddie nodded. “Remind me again how we’re related.”

Of all the things he’d expected to hear … Soren took a minute to visualize his complicated family tree. His father’s four marriages had produced six-half siblings and enough cousins to lose track. “Cooper’s cousin Rosalie is your sister-in-law.”

Eddie scratched his chin and puzzled over the names and connections. “My brother’s mother-in-law is your father’s sister-in-law?”

It took Soren another minute to follow the link backwards. “Right. First marriage.” He relaxed back into his chair. If he was being fired, he didn’t see it coming. “What brought that up?”

“Your father, James called. The man obviously doesn’t know the first thing about this business or he wouldn’t have called me at 8 o’clock in the freaking morning.”

Soren’s stomach clenched. The hope he’d built on the foundation of his father’s indifference toppled like a house of cards. Four months. He’d been allowed a four-month reprieve. He should have known that his father’s disinterest in his new life would only last so long. The man wasn’t known to forgive and forget.

Eddie held out a glossy magazine. “He must have seen this.”

Soren knew he wouldn’t like whatever this was. He took the offered weekly. It had been folded open to an article titled “Guam’s hottest bartenders.”

“Shit, I forgot about that.” Soren’s eyes flew over the listing of bars, nightclubs and lounges to settle on his photo and its caption: “Forget all the nicknames you’ve ever heard. We call this redhead ‘intoxicating.’”

Eddie’s grin widened as Soren read on. “Gorgeous guys mixing your cocktails. Tempting waitresses on endless legs serving them. Local talents live five nights a week. What more could you want? This neighborhood bar is popular with locals and visitors alike. There’s something special offered practically every night of the week, and two words you’ll never hear here are ‘last call.’”

“We’re only sixth,” Soren mumbled. His eyes homed in on another mention of his name. “He may flirt, but he won’t date. Sorry, ladies. Soren Buchanan, 23, is tall, feverishly cute and gay. James Buchanan’s youngest son came out rather spectacularly last September.”

“Shit.” Soren winced and dropped the magazine back on the table. If anything could motivate James “The Smile” Buchanan to check up on the son he’d disowned, this would be it. “So what did he want?”

“He told me to fire you.”

“What?”

“Suggested that you working here wasn’t such a good idea. Mentioned that he was real friendly with the ABC board admin guy.”

“He’s going to have your liquor license yanked?”

“And yours.”

“Shit.”

Eddie shrugged.

Soren pushed a hand through his tousled hair. “So, uh, I’m fired?”

“You’re kidding, right?” Eddie shook his head. He pulled the magazine closer and tapped Soren’s picture. His wide grin threatened to unhinge his jaw. “This is great advertisement. You’re an asset now. Matter of fact, James wasn’t the only one who called. The Rainbow Coalition expressed an interest in coming by and doing a similar article,” he rushed on. “I did some research. The gay population is woefully underserved. There is a market to tap into.”

Soren wasn’t sure he liked the glint in Eddie’s eyes and the enthusiasm in his voice. In his experience, only fools disregarded his father’s threats so completely.

“I ordered one of them rainbow decals. Starting today we’re a gay friendly bar. I’m thinking about doing a gay night. You know, drag and stuff. Bring your boyfriend, get a second drink for half off. No way am I letting you go.”

Soren stared. A minute ago he’d feared losing his job. Suddenly, he was Tradewinds’ gay posterboy. “What about lesbians?”

“Yes, yes, I thought about that. We’ll have a girl-on-girl night. You can bet we’ll have flyboys and sailors kicking down our doors.”

“You’re not worried about James?”

“No. Are you?”

“Yes,” Soren insisted. A man who had no qualms about delivering his son into the hands of disgruntled terrorists wouldn’t lose sleep over talking the alcohol control board into revoking a liquor license. James was as ruthless as he was well-connected.

Eddie pursed his lips and frowned. “Well, I guess I could fire you and find me another gay bartender. It’s not pc to ask for sexual orientation, but, you know, maybe they’re more obvious than you.” He scratched his chin again. “I’d rather keep you. In fact”—he bent to retrieve a large book the size of a New York City phonebook from the floor—“I want you to study this. There’s a bartender competition in April. I think it’s time Tradewinds was represented.”

His disbelief must have finally been visible on Soren’s face, because Eddie reined in his enthusiasm and sobered. “He’s a bully. And like all bullies, he’s a coward. Am I afraid of him? No. Can he stir up trouble for us? Sure. Will I have this joint be the newest, hippest gay hang-out before James can take the ABC board admin guy out for a round of golf? You betcha.”

Soren felt his crushed hope stir. Eddie’s confidence and enthusiasm were contagious, but Soren had been inoculated by James himself. Still, his anti-authoritarian streak Mason swore was as deep as the Mariana Trench shoved past his reluctance and instincts. “April, huh?”

Eddie’s face-splitting grin returned. He pushed the tome of cocktails in Soren’s direction and waved his bartender to work. He waited till Soren was at the door. “Oh. One more thing.”

Soren grimaced.

“Get a tighter shirt.”



Tuesday, January 15, 2008

THE STALKER update

Hang in there, dear reader. THE STALKER chapter 3 is almost ready to post. I got horribly stuck and avoided the whole thing for too many days. But I’m working on it again, no worries. Some chapters come together nicely, others are like pulling teeth with salad tongs. I was cramming entirely too much into chapter 3 and had to restructure (i.e. cut most of it for later use).

Thursday, January 10, 2008

I'm #1

How awesome is this?

Amazon.com’s newest numbers. THE PROTECTOR, popularity in these categories:

#1 in Books > Gay & Lesbian > Mystery & Thrillers
#7 in Books > Gay & Lesbian > Fiction > Romance

And the book isn’t even out yet. It should ship this week, though. Yay. I am so excited. This is so cool.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

I did what?!


I might have agreed to jump out of an airplane. Uh oh.

My husband’s friend (“Hello, Mike.”) has this idea to go parachuting. He wants my husband to go. My husband isn’t sure he really wants to go. He’d much rather snorkel with sharks again.

So I might have agreed to go snorkeling with the husband AND jump out of the airplane with Mike.


Honest, I was sober last night …