*Big sigh* Dreamspinner Press.
I've been with this publisher since 2011 and this current situation is difficult.
There is a lot of talk going around social media about DSP, some true, some less than true, some a mixture. Lots and lots of opinions.
I won't bore you with details or my opinions on this current situation.
There are, however, a few things I'd like to say.
DSP has employees. Other than upper management those people are just that, employees and probably know just as much about this situation as the rest of us. They're not responsible, and I have friends who are contract people who have told me they're owed money as well. They're in the same boat as the authors. Please don't be mean to them. Please direct your anger where it belongs...those in charge of the financial management of the company.
Buying books. If you have bought, or are planning to purchase any of my books THANK YOU! Do NOT under any circumstances feel guilty about where or whom you purchase books from. Buy your books from the retailer, be it publisher, or Amazon, or Kobo or whoever, that you like and are comfortable with. Really, at the end of the day, all I truly care about is that people enjoy the stories I write.
I've asked for the rights to all my DSP and DSPP books back. Sentries is no longer for sale anywhere but rerelease of those titles will begin in October from JMS Books LLC as the publisher. If you see them for sale anywhere between now and Oct 12, those books are being sold illegally and I'd appreciate it if you'd let me know. The exception is the paperbacks being sold by private individuals on places like Amazon.
Until the rights for my other books published by DSP are reverted to me they'll remain on sale wherever DSP places them. That's legal and I have no issue with it. As I understand it if you've purchased a book through DSP directly and it's on your bookshelf there, it will not go away once my rights are returned. If you have a question about purchasing feel free to contact me, I'll do my best to help. I'll post updates here and on my website when and where other books will be rereleased as the information becomes available.
I can't stress enough, not a single author or a single reader or a single blog owner or reviewer is responsible for what is going on at DSP. I personally know many authors who've emailed with questions and comments. Some get answers, most do not. Some talk about it on social media, some do not.
I will continue to support my fellow authors, which means I might share their releases on social media, have them on my blog or in my newsletter. Where they publish their books is not my business. I'm supporting the person who wrote the book, not the entity its published through.
As always, thank you for your support,
Note: This title was originally published under an alternate pen name. This second edition has been re-edited and significantly updated.
Bob Appavu has a new gay urban fantasy out: "Art of Death."
Starving artist Riley Burke refuses to be dependent on his rich older boyfriend—hence his second job as a nude model at the local art school. When the famous artist Coliaro requests him for a private modeling session, he jumps at the chance to earn some real cash.
But then Westwood, a mysterious stranger, warns him to steer clear—it's said Coliaro is undead. That his worshippers perform rituals to fill him with life energy. That every time he paints a male nude, the painting transforms to depict a gruesome murder. And that shortly after, a young man turns up dead.
Riley dismisses the rumors—until they start to play out before his eyes. When he becomes a target, Westwood comes to his aid. But Westwood is secretive and dangerous himself... which just makes him more attractive to Riley. Riley is in over his head, and even his tenuous alliance with Westwood might not save him.
A young artist's life changes forever when he stumbles upon the secret society of the undead... and those who defend humanity from the depravity of their brethren. Lychgate protects the innocent from the monsters stalking the shadows, and Riley and his undead lover, Westwood, must fight together or lose each other.
Bob is giving away a $10 Amazon gift card with this tour. Enter via Rafflecopter:
Direct link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d4779/?
Upon reaching Nick’s house, Riley turned off his headlights, eased into the driveway, and parked outside the garage. He’d been racked with guilt throughout the drive, unable to think about anything but the future murder he’d failed to prevent. He tried to tell himself that maybe he’d at least saved Levi from a trip to Coliaro’s bedroom, but it was no consolation.
He wasn’t doing any good for anyone. When had he everdone good for anyone besides himself?
You’re wallowing, he told himself as he sat, stalling, with his hands on the wheel. He gave his head a brisk shake to break the string of invasive thoughts.
But shutting down his thoughts didn’t mean he’d ceased to believe them. As he climbed out of his car, he felt crushed by the weight of the guilt he couldn’t ignore.
He’d leave his car in the driveway. He didn’t want to wake Nick with the squealing of the garage door. After sliding out of the car, he gently pushed the driver’s side door shut and turned toward the house.
Westwood stood at the hood of the Corolla, his face hidden in shadow. Riley cried out and stumbled back against the side of the car. “Shit, Westwood!”
Westwood didn’t speak. Riley waited for his heartbeat to return to a normal pace, and Westwood continued to stand without offering any explanation.
“What are you doing here?” Riley asked at last, his voice hushed. “My boyfriend is inside.”
Westwood hesitated. Then, softly, he whispered, “I had to make sure.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Coliaro told me he was going to… do things to you. Did he?”
“He didn’t do anything.” Riley crossed his arms over his chest. “Why do you care? After our phone conversation, I was under the impression you were pissed at me.”
“I am. You were an idiot going after Coliaro like that. But that doesn’t mean I want you maimed or tortured. I’ve known Coliaro for a long time, and he doesn’t make empty threats.”
Riley looked past Westwood toward the house. The curtains were drawn over all the windows, and he couldn’t tell if Nick had waited up for him. “Listen, I just want to go to sleep.”
Westwood reached out without warning, tilting Riley’s chin back. His eyes appeared oddly reflective in the dark as he examined Riley’s neck. His gaze traveled down, pausing on Riley’s wrists. Riley pulled back, bracing himself against his car. “It’s only a couple rope burns on my wrists and a few scratches from falling into the bushes. No big deal.”
Riley had a feeling he would have been more convincing if his voice hadn’t cracked on the last few words. Westwood narrowed his eyes, and Riley felt himself begin to tremble. He’d been so trapped in his guilt that he hadn’t realized how shaken he was. Now, in front of Westwood, was not the time he’d wanted to make that discovery. Swiftly he turned away, cursing under his breath as his tremors intensified.
He could feel Westwood’s gaze on him, scrutinizing him. “I’m tired,” Riley told him, his voice choked. “That’s all.”
A warm hand on his back snapped him into awareness. His muscles went rigid and he turned, meeting Westwood’s eyes. Westwood ran his hand slowly up and down Riley’s spine, easing his tremors. Riley shuddered, alarmed at the potency of Westwood’s touch and dismayed by how badly he wanted more.
He reveled in the warmth of Westwood’s soft caress, closing his eyes and breathing in deep. This was exactly what he needed—a calm, reassuring hand.
Westwood could barely stand to keep his hand on Riley. Riley’s tormented energy crackled under his fingers like static electricity, shooting through his veins and jolting him to his core.
Riley had fooled him. He’d stepped out of his car wearing a shell so stoic and emotionless he could have passed for undead. But the moment Westwood had touched him, his ruse collapsed. Riley had been concealing a hurricane of emotion just below the surface, and with a single touch, it flooded the dams.
Riley’s emotion poured into Westwood. It filled his heart, shooting upward and tightening his throat, sparking wetness behind his eyes. He blinked, and a tear fell from his eye. Not his own tear—the tear Riley refused to shed.
Shit, this was painful. He couldn’t bear it. But if he let go….
If he let go, then Riley would have to face the hurricane alone again. Right now, Westwood’s touch seemed to be the only thing calming the storm. He couldn’t withdraw.
Bracing himself, he blinked out another of Riley’s tears and tightened his grip.
Riley didn’t want Westwood to let go—ever. Westwood’s touch calmed his heart in a way he hadn’t felt in years.
Why? How? This was Westwood, the same man who barely had a grasp on empathy or emotion. Yet he was somehow capable of freeing Riley from the prison of his stress and panic. Riley wanted to say something to him, but he had no idea what to say.
After a long, shaky pause, he opened his mouth to speak, and Westwood immediately withdrew, as if assuming Riley was about to protest. Westwood took a couple of steps back, giving Riley space, and Riley almost groaned with disappointment. More than anything, he wanted that hand on him again. He wanted that surprisingly gentle touch.
Westwood lingered. If Riley didn’t know better, he would have thought Westwood didn’t want to leave him alone. When Westwood finally spoke, it seemed to take him considerable effort. “I only came to make sure you made it home alive,” he said gruffly. “Go inside and sleep.”
Riley considered calling back to him, asking him to stay awhile. But by the time he managed to find his voice, Westwood had already disappeared into the shadows.
Bob Appavu is an author, illustrator, and creator of the long-running LGBTQ+ webcomic Demon of the Underground. Born and raised in a conservative Chicago suburb to South Indian parents, Bob turned to reading at an early age to find the inclusive, illuminating worlds that couldn’t always be accessed in real life. Bob recalls spending most of the 90s at the local bookstore feigning interest in the poetry anthologies that were conveniently shelved next to the LGBT fiction.
As a queer writer who enjoys challenging conventions and pushes creative boundaries, Bob has a passion for crafting the types of stories she can’t readily find on the shelf and the types of characters who are often denied the spotlight. Bob is a lover of suspense, speculative fiction, and deep world building, but her greatest joy is portraying the full scope of her queer characters’ humanity.
Bob is an incurable workaholic whose preferred fuel is tea. When not at work, she enjoys caring for rescued ferrets.
Author Website: https://www.bobappavu.com
Author Twitter: https://twitter.com/bobappavu
Author Tumbler: https://bob-artist.tumblr.com/
Cover Artist: Jess Small created this fantastic cover for Grace Duncan's next release.
Let's take a peek, shall we? ...................
Miguel Garcia and Luis Rodriguez have been best friends all their lives. For the last year, they’ve been hiding the fact that they’re also destined mates. When Luis’s family finds out, they kick him out. Miguel’s family would keep them…except their alpha has been known to be downright violent against gay wolves.
With the help of Miguel’s mother, they set out to find a pack that will accept them. They run into more that a few obstacles before they end up in Denver, at the national wolf headquarters, meeting the alpha prime. They’re stunned to find, not only offers to join more than one pack, but that their struggle can shine light on a bigger problem–and make things better for LGBT wolves across the country.
When they pulled into the Phoenix station, Miguel found himself annoyed that there didn’t seem to be anything nearby. He’d spent so much time in a city—a real, big city, with a McDonald’s and an In-N-Out on every corner—that to step outside and see nothing besides the bus station but an airport and desert was disheartening.
Grace Duncan grew up with a wild imagination. She told stories from an early age – many of which got her into trouble. Eventually, she learned to channel that imagination into less troublesome areas, including fanfiction, which is what has led her to writing male/male erotica.
A gypsy in her own right, Grace has lived all over the United States. She has currently set up camp in East Texas with her husband and children – both the human and furry kind.
As one of those rare creatures who loves research, Grace can get lost for hours on the internet, reading up on any number of strange and different topics. She can also be found writing fanfiction, reading fantasy, crime, suspense, romance and other erotica or even dabbling in art.
Cover Artist: Jess Small (http://jess-small.com)
Genre: M/M Paranormal
Length: 12,000 words
Release Date: September 6, 2019
Check out this amazing MM fantasy series from M.D. Grimm - "The Stones of Power."
About the Series:
Lord Morgorth is a dark mage on the planet Karishian. His peers consider him a villain, but there is more to him than they choose to understand. Cursed by a dark destiny and tormented by painful memories of the past, Morgorth struggles to find his place in the world. Far from innocent, Morgorth has teetered between embracing his destiny and fighting against it his entire life. A decision that is made easier when Aishe comes into his life.
Aishe is a creature of the forest, a warrior and healer. He has the moral compass that Morgorth needs, and Morgorth gives Aishe the companionship he craves. Together, they forge ahead, weathering the storms and fighting the enemies fate puts into their paths.
However, their greatest enemy is not a living being, but gemstones infused with deadly power. They are addictive, seductive, and completely treacherous. Morgorth hates them and is determined to find and imprison all of them.
But he soon realizes they are keys to a greater power. He learns his destiny is not all he thought it was. And an even greater enemy stirs in the darkness.
Enter the world of “The Stones of Power.”
Lord Morgorth is a dark mage on the planet Karishian. He’s considered a villain by his peers and relishes the title, having embraced the role early in his life. However, not all of his actions are necessarily villainous.
Despite owning several of the Stones of Power—gemstones infused with powerful magick—he doesn’t use them, preferring to keep them hidden away and out of destructive, power-hungry hands. He hates them more than anything. So when a sorcerer gets a hold of a major stone, Morgorth has no choice but to go after him. But, to his irritation, he is not alone. Aishe is a dialen whose tribe was massacred by the sorcerer, and is now on a mission of vengeance. The attraction is instant between them, but Morgorth keeps his distance. Because of a traumatic childhood and a deadly destiny, he has no desire for emotional complications. But Aishe’s very presence challenges Morgorth’s resolve.
Not only does Morgorth admire Aishe’s strength and intelligence, but he begins to see Aishe as a friend. As their hunt continues and their time together lengthens, their bond deepens, as does Morgorth’s fear. If he becomes the monster that destiny claims he will be, will he hurt Aishe? Will he harm the one person who sees right through him? Who accepts him wholeheartedly? Determined to not let that happen, Morgorth keeps Aishe at a distance. But when Aishe is kidnapped by the sorcerer, what will Morgorth do to get him back?
Amazon print: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1544166257/
Morgorth is considered a villain by his own people and known as the Dark Mage of the North. But now all he feels is light and love as he pursues a budding relationship with Aishe, a dialen of the Ravena tribe. Morgorth hardly believes his good fortune. He has allowed Aishe into his home, into his bed, into his heart. He laughs more, smiles more, and feels happier than he ever has before.
He should have known such bliss never lasts.
The Council of Mages, the ruling body over all mages on Karshian, knows he has Rambujek, a major stone of power—a stone won from an evil sorcerer. They also know his destiny—to become the Destroyer. Fearful, they send two emissaries to take the stone from Morgorth, using whatever means necessary. This includes tricks, threats to those under his protection, and the threat of war. A war Morgorth knows he would never survive.
Conflict soon arises between him and Aishe. Their tenuous relationship is put into jeopardy, their very beliefs about themselves and their love is put into question. Morgorth doubts if he should keep Aishe in his life. He doesn’t know if he can protect Aishe from his enemies. Or from the monster he might become.
Amazon print: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1546858660/
Every story has more than one point of view.
As the mate to the Dark Mage Morgorth, Aishe has learned a lot about magick, love, and himself. He tries to find a home with Morgorth, to be accepted into his world; to survive in a world full of magick, treachery and deception. But all the while he struggles to keep a secret about his past and their intertwined destinies. Despite all the obstacles thrown at both of them, Aishe is determined to stay by Morgorth’s side, no matter what the future brings – even if that future turns dark with death should Morgorth embrace his grim destiny.
But when Morgorth leaves with his mentor to collect another stone of power, Aishe is left behind. It is then that a surprise attack comes and Aishe, determined to protect and defend his new home, decides to take the invaders on by himself. It might prove to be too much for him to handle… especially when he learns the one who leads the invaders is a mage.
The third book in the “Stones of Power” series allows us a glimpse inside the mind of Lord Morgorth’s better half, a dialen named Aishe: his motivations, his personal sorrows, and his struggle to find a place to call home.
Amazon print: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1546977864/
Time travel. For mages, it violates their number one rule: what the Mother has written, let no one unwrite. The Mother writes the destinies of the creatures on the world of Karishian. If her writings were undone, it is feared that Creation itself could be undone. The Dark Mage Morgorth takes this rule to heart, but there are others who do not.
Morgorth is about to claim a stone of power when it is stolen from him by a female mage he hasn't seen in decades. As they struggle for the stone, she activates it, and Morgorth is unwillingly plunged into another time and another place. It isn't long before he realizes what time he's found himself in and there are a few familiar faces.
Most notable is a much younger version of Aishe. His mate.
Living with a tribe who will be massacred, caring for a young lad who will become his mate, and fighting a battle against a mage who can travel from past to future at a whim; Morgorth's life has never been easy but now he must contend with the will of the Mother. Unable to change the future and the tragedies of Aishe's life, he must decide what his role in his mate's past will be, and ask himself one vital question: how does one defeat time?
Amazon print: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1547286482/
Those words often invoke a sense of love and comfort. But for the dark mage Morgorth, they mean hate and pain. As the seventh son of a seventh son, many believe Morgorth’s destiny is to become the Destroyer. His father embraced such a future and trained Morgorth through torture and fear to become his weapon. Morgorth managed to escape his father’s cruelty, but not the nightmares that still haunt him. For many years he’s lived with the stain of his father’s savagery, but now he must confront his nightmares head-on.
His father has found a stone of power.
Morgorth must return to his land of birth, to the memories he’s tried his entire life to suppress. Aishe is determined to help Morgorth defeat his inner demons, but he knows he might not be enough to save Morgorth from embracing his darkness. They know it will be a fight to the death and know Morgorth won’t be the same if he survives. With Aishe by his side, Morgorth hunts for his father, and finds answers to questions he never dared to ask—and must live with the truths they reveal.
Amazon print: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1547286822/
Lord Morgorth is haunted by dreams of his father. Although Morgorth killed him, his father's presence and brutality won't completely die. But now he has more to worry about—in the form of the Council of Mages' inquiry into the duel between Morgorth and an elder of the council. Morgorth expects sabotage and prepares accordingly. He fears for Aishe's life, knowing that the best way to sabotage the inquiry is to eliminate the witnesses. He sets into motion a desperate plan that, though it will protect Aishe, could put a strain on their relationship not easily removed.
Yet the true danger lurks unseen, and it will take all of Morgorth's skill, strength, and devotion to Aishe, to save his mate from the hold of a foe Morgorth has yet to tangle with: a dream demon. Now Morgorth must throw aside caution, restraint, and fear if he is to save the one most dear to him. He must call upon the power of the one thing he hates more than even his father: a stone of power.
But even if he manages to save Aishe, his mate's experiences in Dreamworld—at the mercy of the dream demon—have changed him forever and could shatter their bond irrevocably.
Amazon print: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1548466158/
A bond they thought couldn’t be broken...
Lord Morgorth, Dark Mage of the North, has never felt so far away from his precious mate as he does now. Still reeling from the events of a month before, Aishe struggles to come to grips with what the dream demon did to him while pretending to be Morgorth. For his part, Morgorth is haunted by the chilling vision the Mother sent him while he traversed Dreamworld—a vision where he kills the one most precious to him. Due to that knowledge, he knows he must choose his magick or his mate.
A choice with devastating consequences...
When Morgorth goes missing, Aishe must search for him, frightened that he has lost his mage forever. In his heart he knows they were meant for each other and refuses to allow his own horrid memories to tear them apart. But when he finds Morgorth he is stunned to realize that Morgorth doesn’t remember him. In fact, in Morgorth’s mind, he is a young lad named Lazur.
Sometimes the most well-known truth is the greatest lie...
For his entire life, Morgorth always knew his destiny was to become the Destroyer of his home world. His birthright as the third seventh son of a seventh son guaranteed such an outcome. Everyone told him so—except his mentor, Master Ulezander. Morgorth will learn that his mentor has been keeping the greatest secret of all: his true destiny.
MD is giving away a $20 Amazon gift card with this tour. Enter via Rafflecopter:
I knelt on the floor in front of a large bowl of cream, freshly churned that day. After lowering my head until my chin touched my chest, I lifted my sigil-covered hands palms up. The summoning sigils had been made with black ink, standing out starkly against my pale skin. I closed my eyes, and since I’d memorized the ancient words to chant, I repeated them now. They slipped out, winding around my tongue and charging the air. The familiar burn of my magick flowed out of my core and through my veins, lighting up my insides. I never paused in the recitation, not even when I breathed. If I did, it would be considered rude, and the creatures of the summoning might decide I wasn’t worth their attention.
My magick, infused with the ancient words, pulsed in the room before sinking below the floorboards, into the ground, deeper into toxic Underworld.
I vaguely noted the heavy breathing of my brother, Olyvre, while Lyli, his daughter, made little squeaky noises of excitement. Of Aishe, there was nothing. Not surprising. He didn’t make many sounds these days—either with words or simple footsteps. He seemed to have withdrawn from existing.
Feeling my focus waver, I snapped back and infused the words with more magick, hardening my resolve. The krattyie would protect my brother and Lyli if I did this right. They might have been demons of Underworld but they were the benevolent kind. If treated with respect and given lots of cream, they would protect a home, property, and all those who lived and worked there. As a result, my brother and his daughter would be safe as would those who worked for Olyvre on his acres of farmland. It was one of the main reasons he’d agreed to the summoning. He would never seek protection for himself, but for those he loved? He would do anything.
When my magick and words touched something, I kept the touch persuasive and coaxing—a humble request, nota demand. One never demanded anything from the beings of Underworld, not unless one was certain they were stronger than the creatures. Sure, I might have been stronger than the krattyie but I wanted their trust, and I needed them to accept Olyvre as their patron if this was going to work. I couldn’t watch my brother all the time, and after the events of the inquiry several weeks before, I could not deny that everyone I loved desperately needed protection.
I opened my eyes when I sensed otherin Olyvre’s house. Lyli giggled and something tittered faintly back. Krattyie adored children, and Lyli was the sort to walk up to a strange animal and try to pet it.
I peered around the room, still chanting, still pulsing with magick. Shadows flickered at the corner of my eyes, sneaking around the furniture, soft sniggers accompanying the movements.
Then I said the final line of the chant. A question.
Will you accept?
The answer was a playful flick to my hair…a gesture Aishe used to do. Shoving aside the longing for his touch, I hardened my focus once more and nodded.
I stopped chanting and pulled the magick back into my core. The pulsing in the room faded with it, although the krattyie stayed. I stood, wincing at my stiff legs. How long had I knelt there? Didn’t matter.
“Follow my lead,” I said, my voice hoarse.
“Lyli.” Olyvre held out his hand and Lyli took it dutifully.
I bowed with my right foot forward, toes pointed. I tucked my left arm behind my back while extending my right, palm up in both offering and gratitude. The others followed my actions, and when I considered the bowl of cream in front of me, I noticed flickering shadows crowding around it. I counted five. A good number. They might be small but they were fierce and their loyalty was absolute. They would guard this house and its occupants forever as long as they received the respect they deserved and as much cream as they could guzzle.
When the cream was gone we all straightened.
I smiled at Olyvre and nodded. “Just follow the instructions I gave you and you’ll be fine.”
Lyli dashed over to where one of the shadows wavered and giggled as it danced away. It laughed with her. She chased the krattyie and they howled like loons. Olyvre watched with a soft, indulgent smile.
We’d stayed with Olyvre last night, and I’d hoped the change in scenery would open Aishe up. Lighten the tension that stiffened his body. So far it wasn’t working. I focused on him now, allowing myself to really look at him. He still appeared pensive, troubled, distant.
So very distant.
Lyli’s antics didn’t even produce a smile, although his eyes did soften and warm. That was something. We’d been doing relatively well for a week or two after the entire inquiry and dream demon debacle. Then he’d started to close up. Shut me out. And I didn’t know what in the Mother’s name to do or say to open him again. I was flailing in the dark without a light to guide me. Aishe was my light and he was dim and indistinct now.
“I hope you can stay.” Olyvre picked up the empty bowl and regarded both of us. “I know summoning the krattyie was your reason for coming but… stay, at least for another day. I know Lyli would like you to. So would I.”
I tried to meet Aishe’s eyes but he wouldn’t allow it. I swallowed the frustration that was becoming all too familiar, and the darker sensation of impending doom. “Sure. We can do that. Nothing presses us to leave.”
“Perfect.” He smiled and touched my arm lightly. “I have to get supper ready. Why don’t you—?”
“It’s cloudy, Daddy!” Lyli said and ran over. “I want to watch the cloud creatures.”
“Why don’t you take your uncle with you?”
Panic tightened my gut as I threw Olyvre a glare. “I don’t think that would be a good idea.”
“Please?” Lyli grabbed my hand, hanging onto it with all her weight.
I staggered at the attack before gazing down into big brown eyes that reminded me of Grekel’s pups. Wichtln puppies were as cute and adorable as the adults were fierce and bloodthirsty. Despite Olyvre’s fair looks, Lyli was darker of skin and hair and eyes. Either from her mother—who was deceased—or from the other side of Olyvre’s blood. He was fair like our mother, but our father and the rest of our brothers were dark.
Aishe watched us, silent. He wasn’t going to save me. Why did I think he would? He hadn’t spoken much to me in weeks.
“I don’t even know what we’ll be doing.”
“Watching cloud creatures!” Lyli said as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
I pleaded with Olyvre with my eyes. “Why are you doing this to me?”
He grinned, eyes sparkling. “You need it.”
“Come on!” Lyli was stronger than she appeared, and with a determined tug had me stumbling out the front door.
M.D. Grimm has wanted to write stories since second grade (kind of young to make life decisions, but whatever) and nothing has changed since then (well, plenty of things actually, but not that!). Thankfully, she has indulgent parents who let her dream, but also made sure she understood she’d need a steady job to pay the bills (they never let her forget it!).
After graduating from the University of Oregon and majoring in English, (let’s be honest: useless degree, what else was she going to do with it?) she started on her writing career and couldn’t be happier.
Working by day and writing by night (or any spare time she can carve out), she enjoys embarking on romantic quests and daring adventures (living vicariously, you could say) and creating characters that always triumph against the villain, (or else what’s the point?) finding their soul mate in the process.
Author Website: https://www.mdgrimmwrites.com/the-stones-of-power-series
Author Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001710645622
Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/search?utf8=%E2%9C%93&query=md+grimm
Author QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/m-d-grimm/
Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/M.D.-Grimm/e/B00I0KZMY6/
âIt's been four years since a global pandemic has ravaged the world and almost a year since Mark and Duncan had their fateful meeting at a tiny pharmacy. Duncan has spent that time doing everything he could to ease Mark's fears of losing himâfears that go beyond the normal danger of their new world. When a minister and his wife seek out Mark for help, Duncan sees an opportunity to show Mark another level of commitmentâif Mark will dare to take it.
The world is no longer one we recognize. A pandemic wiped out a huge portion of the worldâs population. On the heels of the pandemic, chaos and anarchy reigned, bringing even more death to the world until barely twenty percent of the population was left.
Mark had to watch a disproportionate number of the pandemic victims near him die. He stood by helpless as his family, friends, and coworkers succumbed to the disease while he survived. Any of us who tried to live through a situation like that would find themselves leery of opening up to others.
For Mark, the pandemic was just the icing on the cake.
For those who have read Healing, theyâre a little more familiar with how Mark got to the point he did with his fear. Having faced abandonment issuesâand never really dealt with themâitâs no wonder watching his friends die was so hard. Add to that the fact that Mark is a nurse, itâs even harder knowing there was nothing he could do for them, or any of his other patients, for that matter. Beyond the pandemic, he came from a broken family with split parentsâwho didnât do as much as they probably could have to make up for the fact that their family was split in two. In fact, Markâs parents end up not even talking much to the kids, much less each other. Their estrangement only started easing right before the pandemic hit, much to Markâs dismay.
If that wasnât enough, Mark was married before the world fell apart. Heâd just come out to his wife Julie, who hadâ¦ not taken the news well. Thus they were all but estranged when the virus happened.
So, for Mark, opening himself up to another person, giving that person the power to hurtâeven through simply leaving, even if it wasnât voluntary on their partâwas huge. He manages, at the end of Healing, to open himself up and lets Duncan in. Despite this step, despite some nine months together, he still has a lot of fear when Overcoming Fear begins. Itâs understandable. Abandonment issues donât disappear overnightâor even after nine months. It can take years with therapy, and Mark certainly doesnât have access to that anymore.
And this is where Mark is when the preacher and his wife find Mark and Duncanâs cabin to ask for help. Heâs still working through his fears, still worries. And if you want to know how well he handles the next stepâ¦ youâll have to read the story. *wink*
Thank you to Elizabeth for giving me space today! I hope you guys enjoyed the little insight into Markâs background. And enjoy Overcoming Fear!
You can find Overcoming Fear at Amazon and on Kindle Unlimited.
Grace Duncan grew up with a wild imagination. She told stories from an early age â many of which got her into trouble. Eventually, she learned to channel that imagination into less troublesome areas, including fanfiction, which is what has led her to writing male/male erotica.
A gypsy in her own right, Grace has lived all over the United States. She has currently set up camp in East Texas with her husband and children â both the human and furry kind.
As one of those rare creatures who loves research, Grace can get lost for hours on the internet, reading up on any number of strange and different topics. She can also be found writing fanfiction, reading fantasy, crime, suspense, romance and other erotica or even dabbling in art.
Queer Sci Fi has just released the annual QSF Flash Fiction anthology. This year, the theme is "Migration."
1) Seasonal movement of animals from one region to another.
2) Movement of people to a new area or country in order to find work or better living conditions.
3) Movement from one part of something to another.
Three definitions to inspire writers around the world and an unlimited number of possible stories to tell. Here are 120 of our favorites.
Migration feaures 300 word speculative flash fiction stories from across the rainbow spectrum, from the minds of the writers of Queer Sci Fi.
Queer Sci Fi is giving away a $20 gift Amazon certificate with this tour – enter via Rafflecopter for a chance to win:
Each year, hundreds of writers send in stories for the Queer Sci Fi flash fiction anthology. Here are the opening lines from some of the stories chosen for the 2019 edition – Migration:
“Darkness has substance. It is tangible; different shades within the black, sounds, a taste. It is accompanied by self-awareness of time and thoughts, even when other senses fail.” —Hope for Charity, by Robyn Walker
“The sky has been screaming for five straight days when the shrimps come to take us away. They’ve been boxing up the others and hauling them off. Now they’re here for us, soaking wet, dragging cords and crates behind them.” —Shrimpanzee, Sionnain Bailey
“Allister always had faultless hair. He’d comb and gel it to perfection while gazing in the mirror. One day a pair of eyes stared back.” —Zulu Finds a Home, by Kevin Klehr
“On her sister’s wedding day Ari noticed that one of her ears had migrated to her hand. It was right after her high school crush, Emily, arrived with Cousin Matt.” —Playing It By Ear, Aidee Ladnier
“The wound was fatal. Their vessel wouldn't live much longer. This is what came from leaving loose ends. Frantically they sought out a new vessel to migrate to. “ —The Essence, by L.M. Brown
“That night, we were sitting in the bed of her daddy’s old pickup truck and the radio was playing the best song. We had a pack of cigarettes between us and her hand was almost touching mine. The wheat field was silver in the moonlight. When they came, we weren’t surprised, just disappointed that our time was up already.” —Our Song, by Lauren Ring
“Willow said she was my wife, but I knew it wasn’t her, not the right her, anyway. Sure she looked like her with olive skin and bright pink hair. She even smelled of mango flowers, just like I remembered, but there was something about her smile that was slightly off, something about when she said she loved me that didn’t sit well in my old heart.” — They Said It Would Be Her, by Elizabeth Andre
“Agnes is eight when she first sees the river. Cutting its way through town, the only thing she knows not coated in coal dust. She sticks her toes in, comes home with wet socks and a secret. See, the river hadn’t been there yesterday.” —Stream of Consciousness, by Ziggy Schutz
“Terry twirled in her green synthsilk dress, looked at her reflection, liked what she saw. She felt good in her own skin, for maybe the first time.” —Altball, by RE Andeen
“The thing was in the corner. It had come through the window and had slid down the wall. Scratch went the sound. The noise of a hundred nails clawing at the wood. Nails of white bone. Alex pulled the sheets up quickly, covering every inch of skin and hair in a warm darkness.” —Whose Nightmare, by Jamie Bonomi
A hundred and twenty authors are included in Migration:
Zulu Finds a Home, by Kevin Klehr
Allister always had faultless hair. He’d comb and gel it to perfection while gazing in the mirror.
One day a pair of eyes stared back.
“Who are you?” he asked.
The tiny green man climbed from his scalp. “I’m Zulu,” he replied. “Can I stay? My planet is dead. I’ll be no trouble. I can dine on your dandruff.”
“I’ll feed you my crumbs if you live in my kitchen.”
“But your hair is like the vegetation on my planet. It feels like home.”
Allister decided it was cool for an alien to live in his hair. No one else had one. He’d be a trendsetter.
The next morning two tiny men stared back.
“This is my lover, Sulu. He’s very quiet. In fact, he’s deaf. He’ll be no trouble.”
Alister agreed to let them stay. He believed in love.
The following day, three glass domes appeared on Allister’s head. Miniature escalators transported people between each of these structures. Crystal buildings sparkled inside the distinct communities, each full of aliens living their lives.
Alister ran to bed and wept.
“What’s the matter,” Zulu yelled, dangling on a strand of hair in front of Allister’s face.
“I can’t go out like this.”
“But you like being a trendsetter.”
Alister didn’t answer. He cried himself to sleep. When he awoke his head felt lighter.
His reflection wore a beret.
“Is this better?” Zulu asked with Sulu by his side. “We’ve changed the molecules from glass to fabric. You can go out into the world and still be a trendsetter.”
So, Allister never worried about his hair. A different hat appeared each day. A beanie. A fedora. A baby bonnet.
No one knew of the tiny society playing, working and breeding on his head.
And Allister made sure he never scratched his scalp.
Louisa Masters has a new contemporary MM romance book out: Out of the Office.
Whoever thought achieving career goals could be boring? Not Duncan Witten, but here he is at forty-one, in his dream job… and hating it. Throw it all away for a challenge? Yes, please!
If only Dunc had known his challenging new job came with Paul Hanks, a man who redefines “stubborn.” They need to work together to meet targets, but thanks to Dunc’s idiot predecessor, Paul won’t take his calls or reply to emails.
There’s only one solution: travel across the country and confront Paul face-to-face. It’s time to take things out of the office.
Louisa is giving away a $20 gift certificate (your choice of Amazon, iBooks, B&N or Kobo). Enter via Rafflecopter:
I deliberately loiter in a coffee shop across the street from the Perth office. I don’t want to arrive early and give Paul time to come up with an escape plan, but there was no way I was risking being late. I take the time to go over my plan again, checking it for any flaw that might have sneaked past my and Krista’s eagle eyes.
There aren’t any. But it’s a great opportunity to implant every detail in my brain while sucking back a coffee.
The shop is only moderately busy—we’re well past the I-just-arrived-at-work-and-desperately-need-a-coffee rush, and not quite at the midmorning coffee break rush. There are a few small groups efficiently combining coffee with a meeting at the tables, and a couple of other loners like me sitting in armchairs, hunched over laptops, but voices are low and there’s not a lot of ambient noise.
So the strident ring of the shop phone gets my attention, and I’m still only half-focused a minute later when one of the staff calls to another, “Paul’s on his way—make his usual, will you?”
There are a lot of Pauls in the world. In fact, there are probably a lot of Pauls currently within a one-block radius. But a guy who phones in his coffee order when he’s on his way is either superefficient or an asshole, and Paul Hanks has been described as both. Plus, this place is the closest to our Perth office, so it makes sense that he’d use it. And the timing is about right for a break before his meeting with me.
I slouch down a little in my seat. There’s no reason to think he knows what I look like, but it feels like the done thing. I mean, if you’re potentially spying on someone, you’re supposed to be all sneaky, right?
I’m just wondering if maybe I’ve been watching too many police procedural TV shows when the door to the street opens and a man walks in.
Remember, I’ve never actually met Paul Hanks before. I’ve seen a picture of him, though—it was from a company party a couple of years ago, in profile, and not terribly clear. But it’s enough for me to recognise him and to marvel at what the picture didn’t show.
He’s fucking huge.
Tall, yes—about six-three, although it’s hard to judge with me sitting down. But it’s more thathe’s built like a brick shithouse. Broad across the shoulders, with a tank for a torso. He’s just solid. I can’t tell with how he’s dressed—chinos and a long-sleeved shirt—if that solid is muscle or fat, but whatever it is, it’s imposing. His face is average—attractive enough, although he’d never win any awards for his looks—and he has a ruddy complexion. His hair is dark blond, in an all-over messy style that makes me think he usually has it quite short and it’s just overgrown.
But the most important detail is his presence. Seriously. He walks in, and it’s like the room is full to bursting. I can’t stop staring. He has serious charisma, but not of the charming variety. It’s more like a force of nature, blasting through all that stands in its way.
In just a few strides, he’s at the counter and accepting the paper cup offered to him.
“Hey, Paul,” the young man behind the register says as he rings up the sale. “How’s the morning?”
“Not as bad as it could be,” he replies, handing over some cash. His voice is deep enough to stir something carnal in me—I’ve always been a sucker for a deep voice. I shift slightly, reminding myself that I’m not here for that, that I cannot jeopardisemy one chance to get him on sideby letting my sexual urges get in the way.
He’s not even that good-looking. It’s a stupid, petty attempt to convince myself, even if it is true. I’ve met better-looking guys—hell, one of my exes was so fucking hot that people on the street would turn to watch him walk past. Just because Paul is built, has an amazing voice, and can’t stand me (we’ve talked about how I love a challenge, right?) doesn’t mean I should think of him that way.
And yes, he’s gay. I’m not engaging in pointless fantasy here. Well, I am, but not for that reason. Paul being gayis one of the worst-kept secrets in our incestuous, gossipy industry. He managed to keep it under wraps when he was a site engineer, but once he transitioned to mostly working in the office, it came out—no pun intended. He doesn’t advertise, but enough people know that it’s not a secret. He’s been in the industry long enough, and earned the respect of enough people, that it’s not an issue. From what I’ve heard, there’s occasionally some fuckwit on a site who tries to make something of it, but they get shouted down pretty quick.
Paul finishes his transaction and leaves, and I take my first real breath since he walked in.
Okay. It’s gotime.
Louisa Masters started reading romance much earlier than her mother thought she should. While other teenagers were sneaking out of the house, Louisa was sneaking romance novels in and working out how to read them without being discovered. She’s spent most of her life feeling sorry for people who don’t read, convinced that books are the solution to every problem.
As an adult, she feeds her addiction in every spare second, only occasionally tearing herself away to do things like answer the phone and pay bills. She spent years trying to build a “sensible” career, working in bookstores, recruitment, resource management, administration, and as a travel agent, before finally conceding defeat and devoting herself to the world of romance novels.
Louisa has a long list of places first discovered in books that she wants to visit, and every so often she overcomes her loathing of jet lag and takes a trip that charges her imagination. She lives in Melbourne, Australia, where she whines about the weather for most of the year while secretly admitting she’ll probably never move.
Author Website: https://www.louisamasters.com
Author Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/louisa.masters.31
Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/LouisaMastersAuthor
Author Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/authorLouisaM
Author Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/authorLouisaM
Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5755521.Louisa_Masters
Author QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/louisa-masters/
Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Louisa-Masters/e/B008YBZT0S
Interview with Paul Hanks
Louisa: Hey, everybody! Thanks for coming on tour with us. Today I’ve finally gotten Mr. Stubborn himself, Paul Hanks, to agree to a chat. Say hi, Paul!
Paul: Hi. Can we move this along? I’ve got shit to do.
Louisa: Aren’t you charming. Don’t you want to tell us about yourself?
Paul: *incredulous look*
Louisa: Right. What was I thinking. So, you and Duncan met at work, you refused to talk to him, he basically twisted your arm… all that is in the book. What I really want to talk about is when you felt the two of you started dating.
Paul: What? Why? That’s personal.
Louisa: Paul, these people are reading a book about your love life. It doesn’t get more personal than that.
Paul: *shrugs* Yeah, but it’s all from Dunc’s perspective. He’s the one who’s sharing. I don’t really share feelings or any of that crap.
Louisa: Yeah. We get that. But how about you give it a go. When did you first consider yourself to be in a relationship with Duncan?
Paul: Well… *huffs* I guess after our first date. It was fast, but when shit’s right, there’s no point fucking around, yeah?
Louisa: Absolutely. And your first date was that night in Perth, the day you officially met?
Paul: Yeah, of course.
Louisa: Did you know that Duncan wasn’t sure if you were actually dating or not until you came to Melbourne?
Paul: Nah. Of course he knew.
Louisa: Mm-hmm. How’ve things been since then? Getting ready for the next stage of the project?
Paul: Yeah, and on that, I really gotta go. Important work stuff to do.
Louisa: Sure, I believe you. Just one more question. If you had to pick a moment from the book as your favorite, which would it be?
Paul: Uh. Wow. That’s…. I guess when we were driving to Beacon and Dunc got hard and then tried to make a joke about it. Hey, do you know why he got turned on in the first place? I never actually asked him.
Louisa: You should. Or, you know, read the book. Because like you said, it’s all Duncan’s perspective, and he’s a pretty funny guy.
Paul: *smiling fondly* Yeah.
Louisa: Thanks for the chat, Paul. I’ll let you know if I have any more questions.
Paul: What? I didn’t agree to that!
Panel discussion at Fictional Badass Association annual convention 2014
Place: Emotion in Motion Convention Center, Noble and Sylvre room
Date: September 5, 2014
Time: After several cups of coffee
Panel members: Luki, Brian, Todd, Forge
Discussion topic: Badass methods for keeping one’s other half in line and out of trouble
Moderator: Frodo Baggins
Welcome by Frodo Baggins
“Hello. Hm-hm. Your attention, please. Can you all hear me out there?”
A murmur rises up out in the audience, as people begin to argue among themselves as to whether or not anyone is truly standing at the podium.
Sonny James comes forward from the back of the hall, steps up next to Frodo, puts his hands on his hips, and raises his eyebrows. The audience quiets, and gives him their full attention. Blair also comes forward (very, very quickly), hops down and fetches a chair, then lifts Frodo onto it. The hobbit can now be seen, and Sonny and Blair return to their places as he continues.
“I want to welcome all of you to this panel discussion. I was happy to be selected—(Frodo breaks off to make noises in his throat and foam at the mouth. Luki hands him his pristine white hanky. Frodo continues.) Please excuse me. I didn’t know that the eye of Sauron would be here tonight—took me by surprise. Wasting no more time, allow me to present the esteemed fictional badasses on the panel tonight. I’ll let them each introduce themselves, because frankly I know nothing at all about them.”
Todd: “Good afternoon and thank you for welcoming me back for a second convention. It’s quite an honor. Let me introduce myself. I’m Todd Ruger, a Sentry. I protect the innocent against supernatural—and sometimes natural—threats. My mate, Nick, and I specialize in shifters. Though, we have encountered other paranormal entities. Where we come from Nick was bred to be a slave and has been trained since childhood to assist me.”
Forge: “I’m a vampire. *points thumb at Todd* What he hunts.
Luki Vasquez and Brian Harrison, the remaining panel members actually begin to whisper to each other. After nodding in agreement, they both get up from their seats, and stand behind Forge—who’s fangs are beginning to show, and Todd—who’s nostrils have flared as he stares in Forge’s direction. Luki and Brian seem to have made their point, but it’s not clear if that’s because the shoulder holsters are showing. After a tense moment, Forge moves to the seat farthest from the middle. Luki and Brian sit in the two seats between them, and Forge continues.
“I’m also a homicide detective. Detective Jonas Forge. This is my first time in attendance, but I’m also very honored to be asked. Vampires have soul mates, mine is Blair Turner.”
Blair (pipes up from the back): “PhD!”
Forge (hurriedly): “Uh, yes, Dr. Blair Turner.”
Nick clears his throat (quite loudly).
Todd (quickly speaks up)” “In our world slaves aren’t permitted to be awarded degrees, but Nick has been educated as a veterinarian and medical doctor as well as a Sentry.”
When neither Blair or Nick drop any more hints, the other panel members all look at Luki.
Luki: “I’m Luki Vasquez. I became a member of the FBA after a wonderful man, Sonny James, found himself loving me in our first book. I am a former federal agent now in the business of security, a martial arts and firearms expert. Some true but less fortunate facts about me, I throw up when other people get hurt, and I tend to get shot a lot, though they are usually flesh wounds.
Sonny (shouts from the back): “Flesh wounds are still bad!”
Luki rolls his eyes and gestures to Brian.
Brian: “My turn, I guess, I’m pretty much just a regular guy.”
Jackie (shouts from the hecklers’ line-up): “Nothing regular about you, Sir!”
Brian turns an interesting shade that can’t quite be called red, but continues without stumbling over his words.
Brian: “Uh, I’m in pretty good shape, have some hand-to-hand combat skills and handle a firearm fairly well. I’ve been lucky enough to have done, at this point in my fictional life, a couple of stints with the Murder Investigation Unit of the London Metropolitan Police—”
Jackie (interrupts again): “Pay attention folks—that’s Scotland Yard! Best in the world!”
Brian (turns and speaks to Jackie): “Devil boy. You know that conversation we haven’t had about punishment? We’ll be having it tonight!”
Jackie (tosses his beautiful dark-fire hair): “Oooo! Thank you, Sir.”
Brian (shakes his head, and says into the mic): “That didn’t work for shit, did it? Anyway, I’ve also been very fortunate to do a couple of stints as an employee of Vasquez Security. No better place for an agent to get schooled in the business. And, as you might have guessed, Jackie is my sub, my lover, my boyfriend, my everything, and I truly hope he’ll be my future, too. I don’t know where I’d be without devil boy, these days.”
Frodo now begins to read out the questions:
How important is it to make sure your chosen one has enough to do, meaning appropriate activities that will keep them busy, especially in your absence, and why?
Forge: Well, Blair has a job. That keeps him plenty busy.
Blair from the back of the hall: And it’s not washing your car. I teach computer sciences at a university in Flint, Ohio. Since the big guy here can’t live without me, and gets into trouble all on his own I have to watch him every minute.
Todd: Nick runs our farm, when we’re home. He cares for the community’s livestock as well.
Nick shouts out: Todd needs me. We’re partners and we work together. Besides someone has to watch his back when his snark gets him in trouble.
Luki: “You’re kidding right, Frodo?”
Sonny, in a stage whisper: “Husband, I’m mentally cutting my toenails right now.”
Luki just bites his bottom lip, but Frodo appears confused. “What does he mean, Luki”
Luki: “Frodo, one of the first things I learned about Sonny is never to get in the way if his hands are on his hips. One of the next things I learned is that when he cuts his toenails it means he wants to... um... get frisky.”
Sonny: “No, baby, it means I want to fu—”
Frodo: What about you, Brian?
Brian: “How do I keep Jackie busy? Hell, the biggest hurdle in our relationship is that we’re both so busy sometimes we don’t see each other for a week.”
Jackie: “But whenever we are together, Brian shows me his rope tricks. (Jackie laughs, and Sonny giggles, which makes all the badasses in the house smile,)
How do you assure that your other half complies with your proscribed activities?
Nick: *Barks a laugh* Todd’s chin drops to his chest while the others turn around and look at Nick.
Blair: “Complies with—? He wishes.”
Todd: “I trust Nick completely.”
Nick: “Good answer.”
Forge: I am of course compelled by the vampire code to defend and…
Blair: Dude, there is no vampire code. *turns to audience* There is no vampire code. (Turns back to Forge.) You like to flash your pointy teeth and flex your muscles.
Forge: *shrugs* He loves it. Especially the teeth…and the muscles.
Blair (somewhat subdued): Yeah, I do.
Luki: I have no idea how to answer that. I'm not even sure what such a question means.
Sonny: Of course you do, honey. No really big words in there.
Luki: Damn, Sonny. I went to college!
When once again silence falls and Luki looks very stubborn, Frodo moves on to the next question:
Occasionally, even the best men get cranky. When your sweetie is having a bad day, what do you do?
Todd: “Blueberry pie. Nick’s a sucker for blueberry pie and a…ah…rub down.” *Glances back at Nick and winks*
Nick: *silly grin* “Yeah.”
Forge: “Well, Blair does enjoy shaving.”
Blair: “Forge is wicked good with a razor.”
Luki: “Honestly, Sonny doesn’t really get cranky. He goes from ‘everything is beautiful’ to ‘I’m going to kill you in your sleep, Luki Vasquez,’ in less than a second flat.
Sonny: “Shut up! I have never threatened your life.”
Brian: I have a tried and true formula, one question and a five word statement.
Frodo, looking curious: “This spell, or whatever it is, works every time?”
Brian: “Sure. Jackie, shall we demonstrate?”
Jackie laughs and nods.
Brian (stands and looks at Jackie): “Safewords?”
Jackie: “Red and yellow.”
Brian: “Use them anytime, starting now.”
Jackie: “Yes sir.”
Frodo: “Wow, impressive.” He clears his throat, and asks the next question.
Do you ever let your honey play with weapons? Why or why not? Give examples if available.
Forge: “We’re vampires, got all the weapons I need right here. *Points to fangs* And as for playing with them, hell yes!”
Blair: “Only real men use their fangs for love.”
Todd: “Nick has knives. I wouldn’t suggest trying to take them away from him. And as for letting him use them? I’ll just quit while I’m ahead.”
Nick: “He loves our private times and hates sleeping alone.”
Luki: “No. No, no, and no. I mean, I’ve taught him how to use a gun, but only once have I made the mistake of putting a gun in his hand. A little Beretta, but he was so wrapped up in wanting to kill a certain disgusting individual—”
Sonny: “You can’t pretend the world wouldn’t have been better off without him.”
Luki: “That’s true, baby. He’s dead now and the world is better off. But if you would have killed him then, I would have lost you. That’s what scared me. You are the most beautiful man that ever walked the planet.
Sonny (smiling): “And?”
Luki (actually smiling, too): “And I love you.”
Frodo signals to Brian.
Brian: “We live in the UK. I’m a cop and I don’t even get to play with my guns. Or leastways I can’t work with them.”
Jackie: “But my uncle, Luki, taught me to handle guns. I don’t need permission for that.”
Frodo says, “Uh, this next question, um...” He loosens his collar and blushes.
If you had to choose between following your lover or following Gollum and sending your lover away, what would you do? Please explain.
Todd: “I’d send him away. I couldn’t have him in such danger.”
Nick: “Translation, he needs someone to bail his ass out.”
Luki: “You do realize, Frodo, that Gollum is uglier than sin, and if I was to, say, climb up a big rocky slope behind him I’d have to look at his bony ass the whole way, right?”
Sonny: “Samwise is a whole lot cuter!”
Jackie: “Yeah, Sam is kinda hot. Buff too!”
Brian: “I simply can’t answer that question. Anyone that would follow Gollum and send his lover away is crazy... Present company excluded, of course, Frodo.”
Frodo foams at the mouth and makes grunty/moany sounds again, clutching his shoulder.
Samwise has been sitting quietly in the audience behind some tall Klingons with broad foreheads. Now he stands on his chair. “Hang on, Mr. Frodo. Don’t you give up. I’m not going to leave you! ‘Don’t you lose him, Samwise Gamgee,’ That’s what Gandalf said, and I don’t mean to.”
Frodo has stopped choking and foaming. He says, “Sam, calm down. The ring has long since melted in Mount Doom. I’ve just got touch of rheumatism. You’re over-reacting.”
If you ever followed Gollum into a dark tunnel leading to Mordor and he disappeared, would you keep going? How would you handle a monstrous, venomous spider, if you were to encounter one in that tunnel? (Please indicate weapon(s) of choice and strategy.)
Todd: “I’m not sure I’d follow. As for the spider, fire kills everything. Surround it with fire and…”
*Knife comes from behind and embeds in the table in front of Todd.*
Todd: “Nick is more accurate throwing a knife than most people are shooting a gun.”
Forge: Bares fangs and growls: “There is very little that is faster than a vampire.”
Blair and Nick burst out laughing. Nick elbows Blair and says, “I see what you mean.”
Luki: “Well, I can say this much. It wouldn’t be a little vial of light some blonde lady gave me.”
Assuming you survived Gollum and his tunnel, you would likely want to secure your darling’s forgiveness and understanding. How would you go about making up?
Blair butts in before anyone on the panel has a chance to answer: Shaving cream, a razor, after some serious groveling and probably an evening at that special place we like to go.
Forge: “I’ll get right on that.”
Blair: “Alright then.”
Todd: “Nicky would hurt me if I didn’t survive.”
Nick: “It’s true. I’d hurt him…a lot.”
Brian: “I’d start by saying I was sorry, then I’d ask him for his safewords.”
Jackie’s smile is bright enough to be a flood light.
Luki: “I’d buy him shortbread cookies.”
Sonny: “Not nearly enough, husband.”
Luki: “And Rocky Road ice cream?”
Sonny: “Still not enough, honey.”
Luki: “Okay. I’d let him top.”
Sonny: “Well... we can talk about it, I suppose...”
Hello! Today I'm joined by...okay that's not entirely accurate. Todd and Nick Ruger are guest hosting (shanghied) my blog right now. Their special, and very unexpected guests are Sonny James and Luki Vasquez, Lou came along for the ride.
Hi, I’m Lou Sylvre and the reason I’m whispering is because the back seat of Sonny James Mustang is not very far from Luki’s ears, and Luki is sleeping. Not on purpose—I think he’s hypnotized by the monotony of the road. Either that or he’s deliberately snoozing because Sonny is humming while he drives, and he hums very badly.
Very, very badly.
When Luki is awake he tends to silence me with a piercing look from his cold blue eyes if I speak, so this is an opportunity to catch you up on the road trip. We’ve been on the road for most of the past twelve hours (with a couple of breaks), heading west on I-90. We left Portsmouth, New Hampshire this morning, and we’re heading for Ohio to visit with Elizabeth Noble. It was Luki’s idea. He knows Elizabeth’s character Todd Ruger—they chatted some at the Fictional Badass Association meeting last May. They didn’t exactly click, but they did agree Frodo shouldn’t have been the keynote speaker. Anyway, Luki thought it would be nice, since we’re on the Saving Sonny James Road Trip Blog Tour to stop in and see Elizabeth, and she said we’d be welcome—my thanks to her for letting us visit.
We’re just about ready to cross into Ohio now, so it won’t be long...
Oh my god! What just happened? I… I can’t really see for all the dust in the air. There was a huge noise. Oh no… Luki! Sonny! Where are you? Where am I? Where’s the Mustang?
“Be quiet,” Luki’s voice comes to me, and then I see him standing there, combing the dust out of his curls with his fingers. “Sonny,” he calls out, then trots over to a figure hunched on the ground. “Baby! Can you hear me? Are you okay? Can you stand up?”
“Calm down, husband.” Sonny’s voice does sound oddly calm in this—what? I can’t even guess what has happened. He stands up. “I’m fine, of course.”
“Why were you on the ground?”
“Dropping and covering, as I was taught to do in the event of nuclear attack.” Sonny dusts off Luki’s shoulders.
Luki brushes away Sonny’s hand, which is an event in itself. “Well, sweetie,” he says, a tone of annoyed sarcasm in the words, “if that was a nuclear attack I think it was a dud. But I wonder where we are?”
Sonny looks around, sees me. “Ms. Sylvre, you’re okay?”
“A simple yes or no is plenty,” Luki interjects.
“Honey?” Sonny is walking around the immediate area, peering this way and that. “Have you seen the Mustang anywhere?”
“No. But I think we have more serious troubles. I don’t see anything but rocks, a wide river and grass with a light dusting of snow. This is definitely not I-90.” They were surrounded by trees, blocking the view. “If we don’t find somebody that can explain… this, then we… Fuck, I don’t know.”
Meanwhile, a dozen yards away on the other side of the trees…
“It was over here. Todd, I know I heard something over—” A guy, slightly taller than Sonny with thick brown hair and wearing a collar came around what appeared to be a bend in a dirt road and stopped short. “Oh. Uh, hello.”
“Nicky, who are you…well darn.” Todd Ruger came up to the little gathering in the copse, and tossed off some words at Luki. “If you want a mustang, Mr. Vasquez, there is a herd near here. They’re wild. Catch one and keep it if you want. He turned to his mate and spoke with a completely different expression and tone. “Nick, this is the guy I met at that convention you harangued me into attending.”
“It was supposed to make you more sociable,” the guy, Nick, said.
“I’m very sociable.”
“No, you’re not.” Nick’s voice was joined by Luki’s. Sonny was currently ignoring them, looking now up in the treetops, as if he thought his car might have gotten stuck up there.
Todd snorted. “Whatever. How’d you guys get here and why are you looking for a mustang. We have horses you can borrow, not mustangs though.” He turned to Nick. “Was that sociable enough for you?”
Nick grinned and shrugged. “It’ll do.”
“Luki Vasquez, this is my mate, Nick Ruger.” Todd turned to Lou and Sonny, nodding. “Hello. Welcome to Yellowknife Protectorate.” He smirked in Luki’s direction. “Maybe you could introduce us?”
The only thing Luki could sputter out was, “This is your slave? Not what I expected at all.”
Todd smiled. “Welcome to my world.”
Sonny came over just then, mumbling to himself and shaking his head. “I don’t get it. Everything was fine. We were on the highway…” He noticed everyone looking at him, finally, and stepped forward brushing off his hands. “Hey, I’m Sonny James, Luki’s husband."
Nick said, “Oh, yes. I’ve heard you do some beautiful artwork, in your tapestries. I’d love to see them sometime.”
“I wish I could show them to you right now. I hear you do some pretty fine drawing, yourself. I think it might be tough for us to ever share, since we’re usually in different worlds. We’re in your world now, I take it?” When Nick nodded, looking thoughtful, Sonny asked a second question. “Any idea how that happened?”
Nick shook his head. “No,” he said, “I’m sorry. But maybe Todd can figure it out—he’s been out and about in the world longer than I, if you know what I mean.”
Before Sonny could answer, Todd spoke up, his comments relevant to Sonny’s questions, but speaking mostly to Luki—one badass to another, more or less. “No,” he said, bluntly. “Haven’t got a clue but it’s going to be dark and we left our horses over by the river. Let’s get them and head back to our farm and get some food. We’ll try to figure out a next step tonight, but we may not be able to do anything until morning.”
Well, Lou here again… that little conversation worried me. Had they forgotten me altogether? The four of them headed for the river, and I got up to follow, but when I put weight on my right ankle it became clear I had indeed been injured. I didn’t think Luki was aware of me at all, but as Sonny is fond of pointing out, he’s really much kinder than he tries to pretend. He came back and probed my ankle, turned it this way and that. The motions hurt, but I could see him cringe when I exclaimed, and I knew he was trying to be gentle.
“I don’t think it’s broken, Ms. Sylvre, but you’d better not put full weight on it. Can you walk if I support you?”
I (rather bravely I thought) said I’d do my best. He helped me up, and all three of the other men came over, looking concerned. Every one of them acted like they wanted to help, but it was Todd who ended up supporting me on the other side.
“It’s treacherous ground up ahead, Ms. Sylvre, but I think Luki and I can get you to the river. Then you can ride. Nick has plenty of medical supplies at home. We’ll get you fixed up.”
I was thankful and if I hadn’t been hurting, I would have been in one of the higher levels of heaven. But I was hurting, and as the sun fell I was also getting cold. Imagine my surprise when Luki took his warm wool-lined leather jacket and put it over my shoulders. What a sweet guy. Thoughts about pain and the sweetness of badasses occupied my mind as we negotiated the road and then a rocky climb down to the river. But then I almost fell over as Todd nearly dropped me.
“Uh, Nicky?” he said. “How did our horses get on the other side of that river?”
“I didn’t do it,” Nick said. “Don’t worry, Ms. Sylvre, I’ve got some decent pain killers at home. It’s not far, or wouldn’t be if we didn’t have to cross the river.”
“Well, how bad can it be? It’s just a river,” Sonny said. He wandered dangerously close to the muddy bank. “It doesn’t look like it goes very fast.” Turning and walking backward as he spoke, Sonny continued. “Looks like we can just wade across here.”
“No!” Todd held out his free hand.
“It’s a lot deeper than it looks,” Nick added and sprinted at Sonny.
Too late. Sonny must have hit a slippery spot along the bank, or maybe some slim covered rock, but it didn’t matter the effect was the same. His feet went up into the air and his ass plummeted earthward, or more exactly riverward.
A hearty kersplash and Sonny was in the water. Then he was under the water and moving down stream. Fast.
“Shit,” Todd muttered and left me to run for the river.
“Crap.” Nick was right behind him. Todd must have hit the same slippery spot, he did some sort of uncoordinated quick step before his feet slid out from under him and he hit the muddy ground. “Nice save,” Nick said.
“Shuddup. We need rope,” Todd grumbled.
“We need to get my husband out of that water!” Luki let go of me and ran toward the river. Apparently he hadn’t learned from Todd and Sonny since he ended up mud covered and on his considerably finely attired ass. He tried to scramble up out of the mud, but it was almost like quicksand, and seemed to suck him down toward the water. I sat there helpless as he slid helplessly down the bank, and the two already in deep flailed and shivered. It reminded me of the events in Saving Sonny James where Sonny swam out too far in the straits. Luki rescued him then, but that just wasn’t happening this time.
I struggled to my feet but I was just no use. Fortunately Nick really had his stuff together. He ran back to a small brush covered hunting blind I hadn’t noticed before. He came out with a thick rope, knotting it as he high-tailed it back to the bank. He hit the muddy patch, but was better prepared than Luki had been and avoided getting stuck or losing his balance. I struggled to my feet again; by this time the moon had risen and its light limned a long, almost straight branch that had gotten stuck between some rocks. A serviceable crutch. I made my way down to the bank.
Todd had run into some trouble, finding it hard to keep his footing in the muck. I called out, “Todd, take the end of the branch with one hand, I’ll anchor you from here.”
“Good idea,” he said, and followed suit. He threw the rope out, and Sonny latched on, then Todd. So far, so good, but when Luki took hold, the weight of all those muscles pulled Nick and me down the bank and Luki splashed right out into the current. They were all three trying to fight the current, but they were losing.
I was no help at all after that—I had wrenched my wrist when I landed on a rock. Thank god for Nick. He’s stronger than he looks, and very smart, and he wasn’t about to let the river take his mate—or anyone else if he could help it. Back on his feet, he shouted, “Grab the rope again! Don’t let go!” He turned his back to the river, hunched down, and holding the rope with two hands, belayed it over his shoulder, and hauled with all his hidden strength.
And it worked. Sonny, the strongest swimmer, got close enough to the bank to swim up to the shallows. Once there, he dug in his heels and lent his own wiry strength to the task. Luki and Todd made it to within a few feet of him, dropped the rope and wrapped arms over each other’s shoulders, helping each other the rest of the way.
All of the men who’d been in the water were weak and shivering, but Nick ran to and from the cache and brought back dry tinder and a few chunks of wood and a striker. In no time he had a fire going. Luki, though I know he barely had half the strength he usually had, nevertheless came over and lifted me as if I was no heavier than a child, and settled me by the fire. I was blubbering, and I was going to give him his jacket back, but Nick said, “No, hold on to it, Miss Lou,” and in minutes had everyone covered in blankets, eating chocolate bars, and watching coffee boil.
“Nicky,” Todd said, still shivering a little. “First, I really love you. Second, where did that cache of stuff come from?”
“Oh, Todd! Don’t you know. Miss Elizabeth puts them around for us in case of emergency—we can use them as long as we’re not actually in a book.”
“How did you know?” Todd looked totally perplexed.
“She told me.”
“Elizabeth Noble told you about these emergency hoards?”
“Uh-huh. I thought she told you, too,” Nick said sheepishly.
“Nope. She likes you best, like I said before.”
“Todd, don’t say things like that. Just remember to write her a thank you note.”
“Good idea. I think I’ll send her a little tapestry.” Sonny looked relaxed now that Todd had passed him a cup of hot camp coffee.
“Okay, I’ll get in on this, too,” Luki said. “I’ll sing her a song.” And he did, he started right into the strains of a song I loved when I, Lou Sylvre, was a teenager. “You and I must make a pact… we will bring salvation back.”
How fitting. All of these guys were there for each other, petty disagreements shoved aside. Badasses are nicer than they look, and nice guys are stronger than they look, but in the end, every character needs his author.
It’s the 2013 annual meeting of the Fictional Badass Association (FBA), and the keynote address is scheduled to commence in twelve minutes. There is the usual low, echoing roar of scraping metal chairs and mostly phony expressions of friendship. The wide, vaguely beige hall boasts poor lighting—overhead canisters that glare, yet somehow manage not to throw enough light for Luki Vasquez, with his sometimes uncooperative left eye, to read the program.
Luki (mumbling and fumbling on his hated pince nez): “God damn it, these chairs are fucking uncomfortable! This is the badass association, people, not numb ass. Or maybe I just shouldn’t have let Sonny have his way with me before I left.” He chuckles without smiling and tries to find a spot of light to situate the program in. Then, suddenly, someone’s large feet are standing close, and someone, presumably the owner of those feet, is clearing his throat overhead. Luki looks up to find a rugged looking man with a good-natured smile—a man who looks familiar. Recognition strikes. “Oh, Todd… uh… Todd Ruger.”
Todd: “Hey, Luki Vasquez, right? I think we met briefly on Lou Sylvre’s blog? Listen, do you mind if I sit here? Most of the people here….”
Luki: “Yeah, sure, join me. I know what you mean. Slash is seriously underrepresented. And have you seen who’s on for the keynote? Fucking Frodo!”
Todd: “No shit? Well… you know one doesn’t simply walk into Mordor.”
Luki shakes his head: “Yeah, well if any of that bunch should be involved with FBA, it’s Sam Gamgee. Not Frodo. Although I admit in the movie version he made sounds of pain a human male could not reproduce. But how about Boromir, eh?”
Todd: “I've never seen a movie, not actually sure what one is, but I've read and, Hell no! Aragorn has my vote.”
Luki: “I would never vote for Aragorn! I mean… Sonny really likes him, and all.”
Todd: "So, your idea of a badass is to sit around and watch stuff? I didn't manage to get rid of a few shifters and fight in a war, you know an actual war with bullets and explosions and stuff sitting on the side lines watching some wannabe badasses pretend."
Luki: "Geez, dude, this is a meeting, not a boxing ring, calm down. I suppose the people in the movie might be wannabe, pretend badasses, but I’m not in a movie—and if you want to know what one is just sit tight for a while, they’ve got clips cued up to demonstrate Frodo’s alleged badassness. You might even see Aragorn whining around. But you know besides Boromir, there’s also Gimli! That dwarf can throw an axe, baby.”
Todd: “Aragorn. To hell with the rest.”
Luki: “Broken record.”
Todd: “What’s a record?”
Luki: “But as for me, I've got bullets, and explosives, and I hate to boast and so forth, but I can pretty much take a guy out and make it seem I’m hardly moving. Tai chi. And more. Then, should I need it, I have a security team—all badasses in one way or another, especially Jude, who runs the office.."
Todd: "I don't need a team. Just me and Nicky, he’s psychic. As for entertainment, I'm not sharing the details of what we do."
Luki: "Oooh such a gentleman. What in the hell would make you think I’d be telling you what I do in private with my husband?”
Todd smiled, clasped his hands behind his head, leaned back in his chair and stretched ridiculously long legs out in front of him. "Dandy like you probably couldn't handle it."
Luki chuckled, shook his head, and put his own muscled arms, in their tailored shirt sleeves with their white gold and sapphire cufflinks behind his head, mirroring Todd. “Fuck you, Ruger. Or rather I wouldn’t. But if we’re all done playing cock o’ the walk, for now, I have a serious question for you.”
Todd: “You are a rude son-of-a-bitch, aren’t you.”
Luki: “Leave my mama out of it. Here’s the thing, though. See I’m ridiculously in love with my husband. So much that I can’t imagine living without him. What’s it like for you, Todd? I mean… don’t get me wrong, but Nick’s your slave? Would you love him even if he wasn’t? Would he love you?”
Todd heaved a long suffering sigh. He couldn’t believe even someone like Luki Vasquez couldn't get it. "There is no law that says an owner, or a slave, have to have fond feelings for one another, or even love. I have to provide for him, nothing more. I worked hard to earn his love and I work to keep it. I've known Nick since he was five and I was twelve. Let me ask you, would your husband so much as give you the time of day if he'd known you that long?"
Luki: “Todd, relax. I get it. I do. I asked you an honest question, I’m not so sure the question you asked me is in kind, but I’ll respond as though it is. "
Todd: “I asked an unfair question? You're the one who insinuated that because my relationship with Nick started out differently from you and your husband's it's not real. We still chose to mate, both of us, freely. Nick was never forced."
Luki: “I said I get it, about you and Nick. Do you think I’m lying, or do you think I’m too dense to understand? Or maybe you’re just on the defensive. I don’t need a response, though. I’ll say it one more time. I get it. You love the man and he loves you. That can’t be bad. As for whether Sonny would love me under those circumstances… who can say? The first decades of Sonny’s life he endured horror stories piled one on the other—no less than what Nick went through. He pulled through it and made something beautiful of his own life, and thank the saints, when I stumbled into his domain, he was able to open up for me. So your question makes no sense, because in the world Sonny knew as a kid… well, there just wasn’t any room to admit someone like me. But speaking for me, I’m 42 and I’ve never been in love, until Sonny. But to my heart it feels like he was always there and I just didn't know it.”
Todd: "And you didn't answer my question. Would he still love you having known you since you were twelve?"
Luki: “As I tried to explain, the question makes no sense in the context of Sonny’s life. And I don’t have a backward crystal ball any more than I have a forward one. And when I was twelve, he was one year old, for god’s sake. As I said, my husband and I love each other, and I’m willing to accept that though your relationship is not one I understand, you and Nick love each other, too. And you’ve told me about evil in your world—demons and things like that, horrifying! Well my world is full of evil, too, and just because it’s human doesn’t make it less horrifying, or less deadly.”
Luki waited for Todd to speak, but the man just stared straight ahead, so eventually he concluded. “I know what it’s like to be willing to give up anything, even your life, in a fight to save the man you love, Todd. People will be reading soon, Ms. Sylvre hopes, about how I had to win against a man who kidnapped my husband and poisoned him—yeah, evil. Every bit as awful as those demons you fight. Believe that love and goodness and strength matter in my world. And in that weird world Ms. Noble created for you, the same things matter. So as annoying as you’ve been, I want you to know, young man, that I’m glad you’re there to fight that brand of evil, and I’m glad you and Nick have your brand of love…. Hm, I think Frodo’s at the podium.”
Todd: “Yes, I know what you mean, about fighting for your man’s life. I recently spent weeks getting Nick from the clutches of a psychic vampire, and a few more getting him to stop blaming himself for something he had no control over." Todd stretched in his seat and stared forward. "I can’t see anyone up there.”
Luki: “I know. But I think Frodo’s at the podium.”
Todd turned in his chair and looked Luki up and down, speaking in a soft voice, "For the record, some people are worse than demons and are monsters."
Luki chewed his lip in order to stop the smile that wanted show itself. “Yes,” he said, “ and short."
Welcome to My World