Today I’m very lucky to be interviewing Michelle Osgood author of The Better to Kiss You With.
Hi Michelle thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself, your background, and your current book.
Hi, thanks for having me! I’m a writer who lives in Vancouver, BC, with my partner Elizabeth and our two black cats. I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, and have been fascinated with storytelling for as long as I can remember. The Better to Kiss You With is a paranormal romance about Deanna, the moderator of an online werewolf role playing game, who falls for the mysterious woman living above her.
What a great question! I have to say I honestly don’t know, I’ve been reading and writing ever since I learned how. I’ll have to credit my parents with the books they read to me as an infant—a lot of Dr. Seuss, I’m told ;)
I wanted to write a fun, entertaining novel about queer women. And I think I did that! I wanted to write something that I would want to read, and that reflected my reality. Jamie and Deanna’s relationship was a joy to write. They care so much for each other, and I really wanted that to come through. Ensuring that the main conflict came from outside their relationship, rather than in it, certainly helped.
I have! One of my oldest friends, Trever. We make a great team—and he’s possibly the best world builder I have met. He creates the most fascinating universes, and I just want to play around in them. We’ve been talking fairly seriously about collaborating again soon, and I can’t wait.
What a great question! Because I’m currently re-reading it, I’m going to say Scarlett O’Hara from Gone With the Wind. We get so few female characters who are selfish, flawed, and not always kind, that to have a woman like that as the protagonist in a novel was revolutionary when I first read it as a teenager. And it still is!
Cheese, pasta, popcorn, wine (that’s a food, right?), and steak.
“I think I know blood when I see it,” Deanna pointed out. “It was definitely blood.”
Beside her on the floor, Nathan leaned his head back against the couch and, behind the black frames of his glasses, rolled his bright blue eyes. “I’m not saying it wasn’t blood. But just, like, blood happens.”
“‘Blood happens.’ You sound like a tampon commercial.”
“Not true.” Nathan snickered over the top of his glass. “They never use the word ‘blood.’”
Deanna choked on a mouthful of wine.
“Anyway,” Nathan continued, “it was probably just a dead animal. Dogs love that stuff.”
“He wasn’t happy, though. He was scared. Something scared him. And Arthur’s brave. He doesn’t scare easily.” Deanna wiped the Pinot Gris from her chin and they both leaned forward to look at Arthur, who was sprawled artlessly on top of his dog bed and snoring loudly. Deanna smothered a giggle with the back of her hand and grabbed the bottle of wine.
“Just don’t confuse fantasy with reality. I think your job is messing you up.”
Deanna snorted. “Wolf’s Run is a just game, Nathan. I haven’t forgotten that.”
“Really? Because you’re talking about mysterious bodies torn up in the woods, and if that doesn’t sound like werewolves…”
Deanna gave Nathan a shove. “Ha, ha, very funny. I’m not like that weirdo who thinks that werewolves actually exist. It’s role-playing. Playing being the key word.”
For the most part, the players of Wolf’s Run were a good crowd—with the exception of one user who seemed to think that he actually was a werewolf. Apparently, he took offense to the game’s depictions of “his species,” considering them inaccurate and insulting. The rants had been going on for months, and the situation would have been laughable, except that in the last few weeks his posts had taken on a more threatening tone. Every time Deanna deleted his posts and blocked his username he simply created another account. The Wolf's Run team didn’t want to block his IP address because IP addresses could be shared by a large number of people, and doing so might block legitimate players from the game. Besides, it was child’s play to circumvent a block by logging in from a third-party app or web service, or just logging in from a different location. Deanna could only shut him down and hope that this time he finally gave up.
“Well, then just accept that Arthur found a bunny rabbit or something and decided it would be a good idea to roll around in its mangled corpse.”
Deanna shook her head. “You didn’t see him. It was a lot of blood.” It had taken two desperately unpleasant baths and an entire bottle of shampoo to get Arthur clean. Deanna had had to scrub her bathtub three times before she’d felt comfortable using it again.
Nathan grabbed her hand with his long, thin fingers. “Listen, you’re my best friend, and I love you, and I’m sure that it was really terrifying, but I’m also one hundred percent sure that you are blowing this way out of proportion. No more fantasy werewolf role playing nonsense for you.”
“Until my shift starts in…” Deanna tapped the screen of her phone. “Ten hours.”
“Until then,” Nathan agreed and clinked their glasses. “Now, tell me more about your hot neighbor.”
Deanna buried her head in her hands and groaned. “It’s awful. She’s gorgeous. And I can’t think around her. Or speak. I turn into a spluttering sixth grader with her first crush.”
“That’s disgusting and adorable. Tell me more. What’s her name?”
Meet the author:
Michelle Osgood lives in Vancouver, BC, with her partner Elizabeth and their two cats. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and has been reading, writing and blogging in online communities for five years. She likes to read romance novels, speculative fiction and feminist pop culture critique.
Tour Dates & Stops:
21-Apr: BFD Book Blog, Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words, Hearts on Fire, Bayou Book Junkie
22-Apr: My Fiction Nook, Kirsty Loves Books, Inked Rainbow Reads, Happily Ever Chapter
25-Apr: Oh My Shelves, Foxylutely Book Reviews, Louise Lyons, A.M. Leibowitz
26-Apr: Elisa - My Reviews and Ramblings, Havan Fellows, Open Skye Book Reviews
27-Apr: Wicked Faerie's Tales and Reviews, Butterfly-O-Meter, Prism Book Alliance
28-Apr: Nephy Hart, QUEERcentric Books, Emotion In Motion, Unquietly Me
29-Apr: Chris McHart, Velvet Panic, Book Reviews and More by Kathy
2-May: Charley Descoteaux, Love Bytes, Bonkers About Books
3-May: Alpha Book Club, Cathy Brockman Romances, Rednecks and Romance, MM Good Book Reviews
4-May: Dawn’s Reading Nook, Divine Magazine, Molly Loll
Meet the author:
I think that as I approach that milestone that is fifty, I must be one of the oldest gamers on the face of this earth. Many a day you will find me lashed to my PS4 enjoying a good session of Skyrim. Who doesn’t love a good session of Skyrim?
I love writing—I have done it since I was a child when I would happily write about the latest episode of Doctor Who (Tom Baker in those days) in my schoolbooks. Growing up and becoming a business owner with my friend Jayne left little time to pursue my dream of publication, but of late the desire and the compulsion to put words onto paper have once again dominated my life so that now, my laptop has become surgically fused to my fingertips.
There is something desperately satisfying about telling a story. My fascination with History, Religion and Conspiracy theories have, in this instance, gone hand-in-hand with my love of all things vampire, fantasy, sci-fi and horror. I drove my parents nuts when I was young because that was all I would read about in books, all I would watch on television, but they have held me in good stead, and long may my obsession with the subjects continue, at least, that is, until the day they put me in my own wooden box. And imagination is such a wonderful thing. I once had a rather vivid dream about David Tennant and the Tardis console, but I could not possibly go into details about that here. Let’s just say that my polarity was well and truly reversed.
Dead Camp is just the beginning. I have to check my knickers every day at the thought that this book is now in the public domain. My first book, and I hope the first of many. And to those out there who love to write, who love to transport us to new worlds, or old worlds with a twisted perspective, I say to you keep going. I never thought I would ever see my work available to download, and thanks to eXtasy Books, the dream that I always thought unobtainable has finally come true. So thank you all at eXtasy, I am one happy homosexual thanks to you, and thank you the reader for taking the time to read this strange tale and allowing Eli and the incomparable Malachi into your lives. And now I really need Skyrim.
Why do you write?
I love to create stories and characters, it’s a fantastic escape from every- day living. I love to take an idea and start developing a story and characters around it, and I love to see where it takes me! If I am lucky enough that an audience likes it and reads it, then that really is the ultimate thrill!
When did you decide to become a writer?
It was not a conscious decision. I have written since I was a child, and I am now 46! But when I decided to write Dead Camp, when the idea became so powerful and would not let me sleep, I decided that I would do everything in my power to get a publisher and get the work into as good a situation as possible. And it worked! Extasy books have been fabulous.
What genre are your books?
Supernatural, paranormal, horror, gay, a general sprinkling of erotica, conspiracy, history. Have I left anything out?
What draws you to this genre?
I have always loved supernatural/paranormal books, LOVED Twilight, LOVED the True Blood books, and that sent me off wanting to do my own spin on that genre. Plus I have always wanted to write a Vampire story, but one that changed the conventions, and hopefully does something a bit different with the genre.
What made you decide to sit down and actually start something?
I had an idea and it would not let me sleep. The idea grew and grew and I knew it would take a number of books to see it through, so I had to write it. I started Dead Camp to see where it would lead me, and now I know exactly where it is going and how the very last page of the series will look. I’m so excited about it that it stops me from sleeping because I keep seeing bits of it in my head. It’s an obsession, as is writing in general I think.
Do you write full-time or part-time?
Part time. I have an Interior Design business in Cardiff called Home Zone Design, with my fabulous business partner Jayne, so that takes up all my working days sadly. If I could walk away from that and write all day I would, but sadly we cannot afford to hire anyone so that isn’t going to happen lol!
Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
I try to do a couple of hours a night and I try to do as much as I can on days off. However, my debut novel Dead Camp has just gone live on extasy books and Amazon and all my time has been spent doing social media stuff and trying to get the book out there, so I have been a bit lack of late!
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
Not sure about that. I do think my writing has improved dramatically over this process, my editors at extasy have been fantastic! I’ve always had a pretty active imagination, and this series is pushing that to the limits and I love it. The one thing that does happen when you write it that the more you do it, the better you become, and the more ideas you have!
What have you written?
Dead Camp is my first published work. I have written loads over the years, lots of bad stuff, lots of screen plays. I have a file full of half-finished things and ideas that I am looking forward to getting back to once the Dead Camp series is finished. While to go there yet though lol.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just seeing where an idea takes you?
I start from a rough outline, and before I start writing I always know where I need each character to go and where the story needs to go. Dead Camp is going to be a big series, possibly 6 books, and I know exactly where each one will be, start, end, and how each one affects the next, and I know exactly how it ends.
How do you market your books?
Facebook, twitter, Goodreads, yahoo groups. That is my main thrust at the moment and believe me it all takes a lot of doing. How effective it is I don’t know yet, I am a very small fish in a very, very large sea.
Is there any marketing technique you used that had an immediate impact on your sales figures?
Facebook. As soon as I announced the publication of the book, people were buying it. Also, because I am lucky enough to have a fantastic publisher in extasy books, they also sell it from their website, and they have a huge following, so hopefully at some point that will kick in.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Never give up. Keep writing, even if it’s bad, because you will improve. If you have an idea, go with it. Don’t get sidetracked either, as I am now lol. You have to write all the time, to develop your style and your skills. Never take ‘NO’ as the final answer. I was refused by every agent in the Readers & Writers Handbook, but just when I thought there was no point in going on, I approached six publishers directly and within three weeks I had three offers.
Sadly, no-one is going to do it for you, so you have to do it for yourself!
Give us an insight into your main character. What does he do that is so special?
Eli is so arrogant and so self-assured, that you can’t help but love him. It’s not so much what he does that is special, it’s the horror he has been through. He has been through so much that you would think it could not get any worse. But as Dead Camp begins, it does get worse, and his history unfolds through the books to the point where you really need something good to happen to him. He thinks his arrogance and his sexy attitude can get him through it all, but he discovers that nothing is further from the truth.
Where do your ideas come from?
The strangest of places. Dead Camp came to me while watching a World War two film. Documentaries on the Discovery channel also fuel my imagination. Also, there are a couple of future books I would like to write inspired by some terrible nightmare I had as a child that have always stayed with me.
What is the hardest thing about writing?
Getting the time to write!
What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?
Finding someone to take it seriously and publish it. Agents didn’t want to know. Three publishers did straight away.
Who is your favorite character in your book and why?
Eli, because he is so naughty and I would love to be him!
Who is your least favorite character and why?
Melek. He is so bad that you can’t help but love him. Not all evil is as dark as you think.
What is your next project?
Dead Camp book two out so I am trying to get the third one written as we speak!
Who is your favorite fictional character and why?
Count Dracula. I have read that book so many times I can almost recite it! He is not strictly evil, and I think in the end he just wants to be loved. That feels as relevant today as it did when it was first written.
What one person from history would you like to meet and why?
Judy Garland. I’m gay, need I say more?
If there was one thing you could do to change the world, what would it be?
Who is your favorite author?
What is one thing you hate about being a writer?
That I have to work in a shop in order to survive instead of writing all day lol.
Tour Dates & Stops:
29-Mar: Full Moon Dreaming, Velvet Panic, BFD Book Blog
5-Apr: Rednecks and Romance, Jessie G. Books, Hearts on Fire, The Dark Arts
12-Apr: Fangirl Moments and My Two Cents, Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words
19-Apr: Wicked Faerie's Tales and Reviews, Inked Rainbow Reads, Emotion In Motion, Book Lovers 4Ever
26-Apr: Bonkers About Books, Divine Magazine, Nephy Hart, The Hat Party
3-May: My Fiction Nook, MM Book Escape, Bayou Book Junkie
10-May: Dawn’s Reading Nook, Cathy Brockman Romances, Unquietly Me
17-May: Kirsty Loves Books, The Novel Approach
24-May: Elisa - My Reviews and Ramblings, Havan Fellows
31-May: MM Good Book Reviews, Making It Happen, Love Bytes
7-Jun: Happily Ever Chapter, Alpha Book Club
14-Jun: Molly Lolly, A.M. Leibowitz, Outrageous Heroes
Not so long ago J. Scott Coatsworth was a guest on my blog and he did a post about the evolution of the cover of his book. It was a hit! Well today he's arranged for a similar treat! Scott along with August Li, Brandon Witt and Skye Hegyes have a great new anthology Myths Untold: Faery from Wilde City Press. Of course every book needs a cover and this one was designed by the very talented (and incredibly nice) August Li, aka Gus. Gus was kind enough to provide us with some details on how this cover came to be.
Personally I think it's amazing how Gus and other cover artists create these delightful works of art to go with the written word.
Hello everyone, and thanks for having me on the blog today. I’m happy to be here. My name is August (Gus) Li, and I’m here on behalf of my fellow authors J. Scott Coatsworth, Skye Hegyes, and Brandon Witt to talk about the cover art for our anthology, Myths Untold: Faery.
One standard approach to choosing an image for a book cover is to represent one of the main characters. In an anthology containing four novellas, obviously I couldn’t do that, so what we decided was to design a new character—one who doesn’t appear in any of the stories—as a sort of mascot. If you read the book, you might notice bits and pieces of many of the characters, but this particular faerie doesn’t have his own story… at least not yet.
We wanted not just a magical-looking character, but also a somewhat surreal landscape to impart the feeling of being somewhere else, in another world. I don’t want to go too much into boring design details, but one thing I tried to do to achieve that feeling was to frame the cover with the trees and vegetation to create something resembling a portal, a passageway to somewhere else. I also tried to use the light and color to create a setting that wasn’t quite realistic, hopefully a little more magical. My main goal was to impart a mood of mystery and perhaps a little danger, but also enough beauty to lure the curious into this world.
So, here are some progress shots of the cover in development. I’m not going to go into a great deal of technical detail, because that’s pretty boring, and also because a lot of what I do I have figured out on my own to achieve the effects I want, and for all I know I might not be doing it the most effective way.
All of this work is done in Photoshop. The first step is to do the sketch, a basic outline of the figure. Here’s what that looks like. Pretty flat and boring, yeah?
Then I work back to front. That way I can keep creating new layer to place over older layers, and I don’t have to worry about coloring in around anything; I can just place the trees that are nearer right overtop of those in the background. The basic order is sky/light, followed by trees farthest to closest. You can see I haven’t even touched the figure yet. Though I like the results I get from working this way, it’s sometimes hard, because the figure is my favorite aspect to work on.
When I do get to the figure, I keep working in layers, starting with the basic skin tone, followed by skin shading, highlights, hair, hair shading, hair highlights, eyes, and other details. That’s followed by anything that might overlap the figure, in this case the stump he’s leaning, the grasses, and some of the vegetation. So we have:
And then the last step is the title, and voila!
For this project, I also needed to make a back cover, which I’ll share here for those who aren’t planning to pick up a print copy of the book. It’s the same background—another reason to keep all my layers; I didn’t have to start over from scratch—with some new details painted in for added interest. Since this is where the blurb and other information will go, I didn’t want to make it too busy.
That’s about it! If there’s anything else you’re wondering about the cover art, the process, or the book, feel free to comment and ask!
Faeries are part of mythology the world over, past, present, and future. Called elves, brownies, the fae, and more, they evoke a sense of wonder and a little danger. Faery has its own rules, and humans enter at their peril.
In this spirit, we bring you the first book in the Myths Untold anthology series—four stories from the land of the Fae: a homeless man in Cardiff and the luck that could destroy him; the trans man in future San Francisco who falls for an elf; the village boy who has always been a little different; and a faery prince whose birthright was stolen from him.
Welcome to Faery.
The Pwcca and the Persian Boy, by Gus Li
Despite beauty and luck, something about Glyn makes everyone uncomfortable. Homeless on the streets of Cardiff, he has nothing to keep him going but his friendship with Farrokh. Through stealing and fortune’s occasional favor, Glyn keeps them alive. But then homeless youths begin to disappear, and when Farrokh goes missing, Glyn begins to discover the reasons behind both his luck and the way people react to him. Determined to save his friend from a danger he never imagined, he enlists the help of Lleu, who might be an ally, or might be manipulating Glyn to achieve his own goals.
The Other Side of the Chrysalis, by Brandon Witt
In a species that values beauty above all else, Quay looses both his freedom and his birthright as prince of the fairies. Lower than an outcast, he watches over his younger brother, hoping against hope that Xenith’s rebirth will provide safety and positions that has slipped through Quay’s grasp. Though he expected kindness from no one, Quay gradually starts to trust that there is more to life, even for the likes of him, as sexual encounters with Flesser, a fairy barely accepted himself, turn from lust to love. Quay knows having forbidden relationships will be his undoing, but he is powerless to turn away.
Changeling, by Skye Hegyes
With his pointed ears and a tail, Tyler’s always been different than the other children, but until Marsh, a brownie tells him he’s a changeling, he never thought he wasn’t human. Now he will discover what faery life is like, and just how being a changeling could change his life. On the way, his ties with his mother will be pushed and prodded even as his friendships grow and his love life blossoms. However, in a village of God-fearing people, those who are different are spurned and Tyler will discover how much trouble a fledgling changeling can get into.
Through the Veil, by J. Scott Coatsworth
In the not-too-distant future, San Francisco has been swamped by rising sea levels caused by global warming, and has only survived by building a wall to keep the water out of the heart of the City. Colton is a trans man barely getting by on the canals outside the wall. Tris is an elf who has come to the human world on his journey to become a man. Fate brings them together, and everything changes for Colton when he sets out with Tris to find the elf's missing brother, taking Colton behind the Wall for the first time.
Meet the Authors
My good friend Jamie Lynn Miller has another fantastic new release! She agreed to an interview and to talk about Broken Soldier.
Tell us about your new release, Broken Soldier. What was your inspiration behind it?
The majority of the inspiration for this book came from my time spent attending citizen police academy classes. I would listen to the detectives talk about undercover work and how far they needed to go and how dangerous it could be and how it could end up breaking them, living this other life. And this was just to take down drug dealers or gangs. So I upped the ante even further by making this a military book and the "target" an arms dealer supplying weapons to terrorists. Just imagine the lengths a covert ops team would go to, to stop this man. I really put Connor and Shawn (most especially Shawn) through the emotional and physical wringer to complete their mission.
What can readers expect when they read a story from you? What would you like readers to know about your writing style?
Well-rounded characters with faults and flaws. And in-depth research. Since my tag line is "Men in uniform…and out" I do a lot of research (much of it hands on) to make my cops and firemen and paramedics (and now soldiers) come alive and be authentic.
And until this book I would have also said "Hearts and flowers romance with a bit of angst thrown in for good measure".
But that statement changed pretty drastically with Broken Soldier. I believe in challenging myself as a writer and taking chances. And that's what I've done here. This book is dark and gritty. It tackles drug use/addiction and how far Shawn is willing to go, submitting himself to the bad guy emotionally and physically until it breaks him and nearly kills him.
This is a big change for me, and I hope that my regular readers will give this book a chance. Because even though it's not my usual style, I am, and always will be, the Queen of Happy Endings. I will put my boys through hell, but love and dedication will always put them back together again. So give it a try! You just might like it!
Tell us a bit about your cover. Did you create it yourself? How does your design process work?
I'm a graphic designer by day (and romance writer by night!) so cover design is one aspect of being an author that I love. I've designed all but one of my covers. I love having the control and ability to design it exactly the way I want it.
The hardest part for me is finding the perfect photos, as I'm sure it is with most cover designers. Though it's not TOO much of a hardship having to look at pages and pages of gorgeous men. :-) I probably search 6-8 stock photo sites. I couldn't believe how incredibly lucky I got that I found two soldiers that look SO much like my characters Connor and Shawn. I was a bit stunned! All I had to do was mess with "Shawn's" hair a bit and also add a pair of dog tags to him and that's all. Easy fixes.
Normally I'll go through a dozen different designs with different pictures, different fonts, different colors. But with Broken Soldier it came together so smoothly it shocked me! This was just the second design I came up with and I was very happy with it. I think the fonts I chose get across both the military aspect and that neither of them will come out of this unscathed with the shattered looking letters. Then of course there's my two soldier boys themselves. And finally there's the photo of the powdered heroin. This was especially important for me to include since drugs play a big part in this book and I wanted my readers to know that.
And that's how the cover for Broken Soldier came to be!
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, how do you cure it?
Oh sure, absolutely. Thankfully it usually never lasts longer than a couple days. I find that I work through my writer's block in my dreams. If I'm stuck on something I make a conscious effort to think of it right before I go to bed then my subconscious takes over and runs through different scenarios. It really works! I've woken up many times with my solution.
What comes first, plot or characters?
Nine times out of ten it's the plot for me. I suddenly think of some situation that I want to be the main focus of my book and the characters develop from there.
Despite the fact that you do extensive plotting and outlines, do your characters still sometimes take over and send the story in a different direction?
Usually not with major plot points, but with dialogue for sure. I had an idea in my head how the conversation(s) would go and suddenly my guys are taking things in another direction. And it's usually for the better! Rule of thumb - always listen to your characters. :-)
Sergeant Connor Finley and Sergeant Shawn Weller are dedicated soldiers working covert ops for Shadow Unit -- a joint UK/US anti-terrorism task force.
Partners in the field and out, they had been through hell together for the last four years and made it through standing side by side. But when their latest undercover op to bring down an arms dealer plunges them into a world of drugs, sex and violence, Shawn must literally get in bed with the enemy in order to complete the mission. And Connor is forced to watch, helpless, as his partner is broken into pieces.
Will love be enough to put them both back together or will this be their final mission?
WARNING: Contains scenes of drug use, graphic sex and realistic situations
Shawn gave Connor a grin. “So we can chalk this up in the win column.”
Connor sat back heavily in the chair, dumbfounded. “You call this a win?” he said incredulously, throwing his arms open to indicate Shawn lying in the hospital bed. “You died, Shawn,” he said forcefully. “Do you have any idea what it was like for me to see you lying there, bloody, not breathing, pushing on your chest, yelling at you to come back to me…” Connor’s voice broke and he swallowed hard.
Shawn’s expression softened. “I’m sorry, Connor. I never meant to put you through that.” He reached out and Connor took his hand. “Thank you for saving my life. You’ve always got my back.”
Connor squeezed Shawn’s hand, locking gazes with him. “Always,” he said quietly.
They sat there for a moment in silence, just reconnecting with one another, until Shawn spoke again.
“Do one more thing for me?” he asked.
Connor gave a small chuckle. “What? Saving your life wasn’t enough?”
Shawn didn’t laugh. “Get me out of here.”
Connor shook his head. “Shawn, you’re hurt – “ he started but his partner cut him off.
“Listen to me, Connor. I know what’s coming. The withdrawal. Just the small taste of it I’ve gotten this week has been bad enough. You’ve seen some of it. What I’m going to go through soon is going to be ten times worse.” He paused then and squeezed Connor’s hand. “I can’t…I can’t let anyone from the team see me like that. Please, Connor. Take me somewhere. Just me and you. Help me get through this. You’re the only one I trust.”
Connor heard the anguish and desperation in his partner’s voice and it hit him like a punch to the gut. He nodded his head. “Okay, I’ll talk to your doctor.”
Shawn blew out a shaky breath and nodded his head, his eyes closing. Connor could see the exhaustion written on his face. He squeezed Shawn’s hand again and released it.
“Get some rest,” he said quietly, standing up.
“Copy that,” Shawn breathed, already drifting off.
Connor stood there for a moment, looking down at his beaten and battered partner. He understood why Shawn wanted to seclude himself away from the others. He would’ve asked for the same thing. They were soldiers and you didn’t show weakness or vulnerability. Most especially in front of your teammates. He knew it was hard enough for Shawn to be lying in that hospital bed. Even though everyone knew that none of this was Shawn’s fault he wouldn’t put his partner through more than this if he could. Because like Shawn said, he had his back.
Meet and Connect with Jamie Lynn!
Jamie Lynn Miller has been writing fiction since childhood and decided to take the plunge and go pro in 2008, finding to her amazement that people truly enjoyed her love stories. She’s a romantic at heart, and her tales reflect the desire we all have to find “the one,” persevering through trials and heartache for that happy ending.
Jamie has a degree in fine arts and has spent the last twenty years working as a graphic designer, though she’d much rather be writing. She was born in Chicago and still lives there today with her husband and their two furry, four-footed children, er… cats.
If she’s not brainstorming story ideas, you can find Jamie at a sci-fi convention, in front of a furnace doing glass blowing, or on a mat twisted into a yoga pose.
Leave me a comment (AND YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS) for your chance to win a FREE copy of any of my backlist books!
Five years ago, everything went wrong.
Braden Kirk and Rafe Jessen’s long-term relationship started unraveling. They stopped talking, fears mounted, then Braden walked in on Rafe and another man, completely misreading the situation. Without giving Rafe a chance to explain, Braden walks out. Out of their home, their relationship, and the game development company they started together in college.
After months of therapy to deal with the attempted rape Braden walked in on, Rafe begins to understand that his dominant tendencies in the bedroom aren’t a bad thing and that Braden’s submission is likely what scared his partner into silence. But Rafe isn’t ready to let go of the man he loves more than life itself. He arranges for himself and Braden to end up on the same charity cruise, knowing Braden won’t let his phobia—terror of vast, deep waters—rule him.
With a plan and twenty-eight days, Rafe is determined to get Braden back, make him see there’s nothing wrong with being submissive, and find a way to get Braden to stay with him when they get home to LA.
Braden stared at the monstrosity that was to be his home for the next four weeks. He shifted his weight from foot to foot as he tried to remind himself this was a good idea. He was helping a charity he felt strongly about. He really did need a vacation.
He kept telling himself that as he moved forward with the rest of the passengers along the ramp to the gangway. He’d heeded his cruise-veteran mother’s advice and arrived after two so he could go straight to his room. She’d mentioned if he went earlier, he could eat while on the ship, but Braden was delaying boarding as long as possible. Since they were set to depart at four and it appeared most of the passengers had already boarded, Braden had gone from curb to gangway in what he felt was much too little time.
He didn’t know if he was ready to step on that ship.
Braden shook his head at himself, went through the open doorway, smiled at the uniformed lady on the other side, and nodded at something she said. He had no idea what it was, possibly directions to somewhere. He was a bit too overwhelmed at the moment to worry about it. He figured there’d be maps. He could handle that.
He didn’t know if he could handle being trapped in a ship, even one as huge as this one. In the middle of the ocean. For four weeks.
He was committed now. Braden blinked when he was offered what looked like a glass of champagne. Deciding alcohol could only help, he took the offered drink. He half expected to hand over his card—his mother told him they sometimes charged for drinks—but the lady simply smiled. He managed to say “thank you” and moved farther down the hallway, hoisting his backpack, the only carry-on he’d bothered with, a little higher on his shoulder.
But before he got too far, he stopped dead again. He knew he probably looked a bit like a fish, his mouth gaping, but he couldn’t help it. He looked up, then up, and farther up still as he took in the huge atrium.
Plants, marble, wood, glass, and gold seemed to be everywhere. Glass-backed elevators rose to his right, with a white grand piano nestled between them. Groupings of chairs set around glass tables created cozy chatting areas, scattered around the space. Across from him, he could just see the front of a shop, and off to the other side, what looked to be a florist. A three-story fountain poured along still more marble off to his left. And a pair of glass-and-gold curved staircases led to the second and third floors.
Someone bumped into Braden and he shook his head again, cheeks reddening. “Sorry,” he mumbled, moving out of the way. He remembered the glass in his hand and downed the fizzy drink in one long gulp.
He needed to get out of public for a few moments and collect himself. He was being ridiculous and he knew it. With another head shake, he looked down at the paper he’d been handed when he checked in and saw a map—or more like a series of maps of each of the decks. In the upper right, he found the ship name and a list of abbreviations below it that made no sense to him. He ignored those and looked at the tiny maps. A big red arrow pointed to the center of the right-most map. Braden guessed that was this atrium.
He scowled at his boarding pass, then at the map, and squinted at the ridiculously tiny numbers. He had good eyesight but could barely make them out. Where the hell was he supposed to go?
He went back to his boarding pass and found his room listing. Emerald Deck, stateroom E519. Well, he could find the deck, then worry about his room. According to the map, he had three flights up to go, so he headed for the curved stairs in the middle of the room. He paused long enough to leave the glass on a table, then started up the closest set of steps.
It didn’t take him long to find the right deck. They were, at least, clearly marked by big brass plaques between the elevators on each floor. So, a moment later, he was walking along the hallway toward midship on the correct deck and was counting down numbers. He breathed a sigh of relief when he finally stood in front of the correct door.
Braden’s first impression was that his parents had spent an absurd amount of money for him to live in a closet for a month. It seemed impossibly small, despite the queen-sized bed—or perhaps because of it. Braden didn’t know, but there was barely enough space to move around the bed. The tiny desk didn’t look deep enough to hold his laptop, and the LCD television mounted to the wall was even smaller than the pictures made it look.
His luggage wasn’t there yet, but he’d been expecting that. His mother had told him it wouldn’t show up until a few hours, at least, after he got there. He set his backpack on his bed and slipped around it to peer out the window.
He’d agonized over that decision for what felt like forever. He had no wish to look at the vast deep waters, but he wasn’t much fonder of being closed in. Then he’d discovered the obstructed-view rooms and was relieved to find he could have light without having to look at the water.
When he pulled the curtain aside, he was happy to see lots of blue sky… and a huge red lifeboat. If he stood on tiptoes, he could just glimpse the water, but that was fine with him.
Braden let the curtain go, and turned back to his room, dropping onto the side of the bed. He rested his face in his hands and forced himself to breathe deeply. Inhale. Exhale. Repeat. He hated big bodies of water. Well, hated seemed… mild. He was, in a word, terrified.
But he’d agreed to go. He’d accepted the ticket his parents wanted to buy him, especially when they’d explained it was to benefit the house he’d been helping raise money for, to provide shelter for homeless LGBT youth. He’d seriously considered buying the ticket himself and just not going on the cruise, but his mother convinced him he was letting fear rule him and the vacation was more than needed.
She was right about that. Braden had spent more of the last nine months quite literally at his office than in his apartment. As the lead developer on a new game his company was finalizing, he’d put in upward of eighteen hours almost every day. Once the game went live and their first update completed and released, he had no more excuses. He’d earned plenty of money, which he hadn’t spent while practically living at work. His boss had pretty much ordered him to take a month off. When the cruise came up, he knew there was no reasonable reason for him to not accept.
Braden didn’t like the idea of letting his fears rule him. His terror of deep waters had bothered him for years, but he’d managed to avoid the ocean for the most part, despite living in Los Angeles. He’d once had help with that, but that help was gone and it was up to him to face his fear, now, alone.
His mother had pointed out that he didn’t need to spend a lot of time at the railings. He could stay in the lounges, read his Kindle at the pool—which didn’t scare him—or in any of a dozen inside places, work out in the gym, or watch shows in the inside theater. He didn’t need to expose himself unnecessarily.
What he hadn’t told his mother was there was another reason he didn’t necessarily want to go. Exactly the same one, he was sure, she had for pushing him so hard to go on this cruise in the first place. The charity group functions on the ship focused on gathering LGBT singles. And while Braden knew there were more than a few lesbians on the ship, the coordinator had told him the larger portion of their group of more than three hundred was made up of gay or bisexual men. It didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to deduce his mother wanted him to find someone.
Braden loved his mother and would do almost anything for her, but he had no interest in that whatsoever. He’d avoided relationships for the last five years and had no intention of breaking that record. When he’d walked out of the last one, he promised himself he wouldn’t make the same mistakes again. He refused to admit his insistence on not dating had as much to do with the fact that he still loved the man.
He rubbed his face hard and took a deep breath, then sat up. For good or ill, he was on the ship and staying. He’d be damned if he let his fears dictate his actions—whether that was his fear of the ocean or of getting hurt, it didn’t matter. They would not rule him, neither of them.
He stood up and snatched up his bag, opened it, and pulled out the information sheet from the group coordinator. He found the location for the group welcome reception, consulted the map, then stuffed it in his pocket. After stowing his wallet and money in the safe, he snatched up the card that served as identification, payment, and key while on board and headed out.
With any luck there’d be an open bar. The champagne in the atrium hadn’t been nearly enough.
Rafe Jessen stepped quickly into an alcove and waited for the man to pass. He hoped he wouldn’t be seen or at least recognized. After all, the man had no idea he was even on the ship and thus wouldn’t be expecting to see him. Which was exactly what Rafe wanted. For now, anyway.
When he was sure it was clear, he stepped out and walked along the same hallway. A couple flights of stairs and a few turns later, he found a quiet corner of the Explorer’s Lounge where they were holding the welcome reception. He held a slightly weaker rum and Coke than he usually liked—but didn’t much mind, since it was free—and settled in to watch the man he’d been waiting to see again for what felt like forever.
He didn’t look happy. That was the first thing Rafe noticed. The brown hair was a bit longer than he remembered and currently disheveled, as if he’d run his fingers through it a lot. Rafe smiled. Braden had been guilty of doing that quite a bit when something didn’t work in the game he was developing.
The blue eyes looked a bit sadder. Well, maybe not than the last time Rafe saw them. The last time he’d seen them, they’d been spitting the blue fire of Braden’s rage. Now, they were sad. But Rafe remembered when those eyes crinkled at the corners with humor. He remembered heat and want. He remembered love. All for him.
Rafe hated that he was the one to put that sadness there. And as it had for five long years, that knowledge still pierced him. He finished the rum and Coke and waved at the bartender for another, never taking eyes off the man he’d never stopped loving. Braden stood barely thirty feet away and didn’t know he was there. Rafe’s heart thudded, his throat closed, and he reminded himself to breathe. Take air in. Let it go.
As he started in on his second rum and Coke, he drank in the lean frame he knew hid muscles and strength—both mental and physical. He ate up the quick smile Braden flashed at their charity coordinator, Janie, who’d made a joke. And he reminded himself he was on that ship for a reason, and with any luck, the plan he had would work.
It had to. He’d been without Braden for far too long.
Five years. Five years that felt like an eternity.
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.
Find Grace here:
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Meet Lane Hayes
Lane Hayes is grateful to finally be doing what she loves best. Writing full-time! It’s no secret Lane loves a good romance novel. An avid reader from an early age, she has always been drawn to well-told love story with beautifully written characters. These days she prefers the leading roles to both be men. Lane discovered the M/M genre a few years ago and was instantly hooked. Her debut novel was a 2013 Rainbow Award finalist and subsequent books have received Honorable Mentions in the 2014 and 2015 Rainbow Awards. She loves red wine, chocolate and travel (in no particular order). Lane lives in Southern California with her amazing husband and the coolest yellow Lab ever in an almost empty nest.
Tour Dates & Stops:
Parker Williams, Divine Magazine, Molly Lolly, Boys on the Brink Reviews,
Mikky's World of Books, Three Books Over The Rainbow, Emotion In Motion,
TTC Books and More, BFD Book Blog, My Fiction Nook, Bayou Book Junkie,
Happily Ever Chapter, Dawn’s Reading Nook, MM Book Escape, Oh My Shelves,
MM Good Book Reviews, Charley Descoteaux, Wicked Faerie's Tales and Reviews,
Full Moon Dreaming, Love Bytes, 3 Chicks After Dark, Fangirl Moments and My Two Cents,
Outrageous Heroes, Velvet Panic, Open Skye Book Review
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