One lucky winner will win a bundle of prizes including 2 x $5 gift cards, 8 x backlist ebooks, 1 x swag bundle, 1 x audiocode, & a signed paperback
From authors: RJ Scott, H.L Day, Clare London, Davidson King, Susan Scott Shelley, Liv Rancourt, A.D. Ellis, Elle Keaton, Anne Barwell, Avery Cockburn, Mel Gough, Jay Hogan, and Elizabeth Noble
Excerpts, prizes and BOOKS! Don't miss out! I'll be giving away a copy of Marked Yours during TBR's Paranormal Romance Week.
Hello and welcome to Reader Corner!
Ever since my very first book was published a highlight for me has been interacting with readers. I love learning about others and giving them a place to tell us about themselves. If you're interested in joining the fun email me email@example.com or use the contact link at the top of the page.
Hello and welcome back to another round of Reader Corner! This week I am pleased to have been able to learn about more about a wonderful gentleman, Stanley Errington.
Elizabeth: Would you tell us a little about yourself?
Stanley: I’m an artist, fashion designer and teacher, though that wasn’t always the case as I was a psychiatric nurse for twenty years until an assault by a patient left me with a damaged spine. I do like to think of myself as a ‘glass half full’ person, and although disabled I’m grateful to be alive, and when I hit 60 next year I will be looking forward to the next chapter of my life!
Elizabeth: What are your hobbies?
Stanley: Other than reading, I enjoy drawing, sewing, visiting art galleries and travelling. I also enjoy foreign language films and thought I would learn a new language and chose Swedish, though to be honest I understand it a lot better than I speak it!
Elizabeth: Why were you drawn to this genre?
Stanley: As a gay man, I think it was inevitable, although it was a female friend who got me started!
Elizabeth: Why do I like this genre?
Stanley: I enjoy the wide variety of characters that reflect both positive and negative aspects of gay men, and I like to immerse myself in their stories, probably because I’m an old romantic.
Elizabeth: How did I discover M/M romance and gay literature?
Stanley: A female friend recommended ‘Dirty Kiss’ by Rhys Ford, and after that I was hooked
Elizabeth: What are your reading habits?
Stanley: I make time to read every day, be it ten minutes or a couple of hours, and before I go to sleep I listen to audio books
Elizabeth: Do you prefer paperbacks, hard cover or e-books?
Stanley: I love all formats of books, but lately because of my arthritis I tend to read more e-books, and usually on my smart phone or tablet.
Elizabeth: Favourite TV show and/or movie
Stanley: My favourite TV show is ‘Game of Thrones’ followed closely by ‘The Eurovision Song Contest’, which is an annual song contest that started in 1956 and it also happens to be one of the campest shows on TV. My favourite all time film is ‘Camille’, the original with Greta Garbo
Elizabeth: What music do you listen to?
Stanley: I have a varied taste in music, but my favourites are – Abba (‘The Winner Takes It All’ is my all-time favourite song), Celine Dion, Nanne Gronvall, Kim Jae Joong and Versailles.
Elizabeth: Why did you decide to do the interview?
Stanley: Bottom line – I thought it would be fun, and something different – which it was!
Elizabeth: What is your favourite type of romance plot?
Stanley: I can honestly say that I don’t have a favourite type of plot, just as long as the writing is good (but I do like a happy ending).
Elizabeth: Who are your favourite authors?
Stanley: I have books by a wide variety of authors but in particular I have three favourites; Rhys Ford, Rick R Reed and TJ Klune. When I read books by any of these three I know I’m going to be taken on a wonderful journey, where I might laugh or cry, be on the edge of my seat, or all three, but I know I’m going to enjoy their work.
Hi, I’m, author Elizabeth Noble of Code Name Jack Rabbit and I’m your host for this stop in the Hunt.
If you would like to find out more about the Hunt, please click here.
Somewhere on this page is a hidden number. Collect all the numbers from all the authors’ posts, and then add them up. Once you’ve added all the numbers, and if I am your last author, please head to the official website and click on the ENTER HERE page to find the entry form. Only entries will the correct number will qualify to win.
The author I’m pleased to be hosting for Virtual FantasyCon’s Blog Hop Hunt today is Birgitte Rasine, author of The Jaguar and the Cacao Tree.
Hi everyone, this is Max. I’m eleven and I live in the Bay Area (San Francisco). I’m the big cheese in The Jaguar and the Cacao Tree. Oh, no, wait, I should say the “big chocolate!” because this is all about cacao! LOL!
So… Birgitte is my literary mom, and she’s super busy right now with the 123 game and the coloring book they’re making for the book. Yeah, seriously! I’ll tell you more about that later but I wanted to tell you about Itzel and me and our story.
Oh, and I should say first how it all happened. Well, my lit mom—Birgitte—she’s always cared about the environment and all that, and what happens to our forests and bees and oceans, so she thought she could make a difference if she joined all those non profits and went to conferences at the UN and stuff. She got pretty bored there. I mean, seriously, once they spent like TWO hours talking about bullet points. Yawn.
So anyway, she got really tired of all that and tried the whole business thing. She started her own company and helped people design better web sites to get their sustainability message out more. Can you tell how far that went? I mean, it was great and people loved her work and all that, but she still felt like she wasn’t really getting anywhere. I’m telling you. Adults just don’t get it!
Then she realized she was doing it all wrong. I mean, she’s a writer. An actual WRITER! An author! Wow. That’s really hard. But she’s good at it and so she decided to start telling stories instead.
Ok, so fast forward a few years… she published a bunch of stuff for adults and got awards and lots of really good adult reviews blah blah, but let’s get to the good part.
She’s a TOTAL foodie. She loves, loves, loves food. But good food. You know, the natural… umm, real stuff. And she’s a real mom, too, so that means she doesn’t want her little one to be growing up on all that junk. My mom and dad say the same thing by the way…! Do yours?
So she came up with this idea to do a series about the origins of food. And I’m the one! I’m the one who gets to go on all these adventures! Ok so now we’re at the good part. My dad is Dr. Hammond and he’s a really well-known bee researcher and he goes all over the world to study different bee-keeping cultures. Well, my mom—my actual mom, Jane—and I get to go with him. My friends at school are soooooooo jealous! J
In this first book, we go to Guatemala so my dad can study Melipona beecheii, the ancient stingless bees of the Maya. That. Is. Awesome. But even more awesome is that I got to meet Itzel—her dad is the Maya beekeeper my dad works with—and she became my best bud. Next to Luna, of course. Luna’s a hummingbird and my nagual… that’s like a spirit guide. Except she’s real, and we can communicate. Isn’t that awesome? Oh and there’s a black jaguar we talked to, too. Nearly scared the pants off me. Yeah the one you see on the cover. Here’s another picture of him:
And here’s a picture of me and Itzel:
You can see all the other awesome illustrations that Luba—the illustrator—did, here.
So anyway, Itzel told me about the Sacred Cacao Tree deep in the jungle, that’s like a thousand years old, and it’s twinned with the soul of the heir of Lord Cacao from Tikal. And the cacao pods of this tree hold the entire history of chocolate.
(I’m seriously not kidding. It’s crazy amazing. I thought science had it all figured out but there is this whole other layer to reality that’s so magical and beautiful and cool and most adults have zero clue about it. And it’s literally in front of them and around them all the time!)
We snuck up there one night to see the Elders do their ceremony. I was dying to see the cacao pods open. Except we kinda came a night too early and the Elders never showed up. So I convinced Itzel to do the ceremony herself and she did and… well the cacao pod opened and…
And that’s all I can tell you ‘coz you’ll have to read the book!
I soooo prefer science and fantasy to writing. Writing takes all this… TIME!
So are you going to come with me to Guatemala? Here are some links and stuff to get you all excited. Oh yeah, and the coloring book and the game will come out next year, so check those out too. Thanks guys!
The Jaguar and the Cacao Tree:
The Jaguar and the Cacao Tree Coloring Book
Oh and the “game”—Birgitte just told me that they can’t release the web site yet but if you want to be a beta tester, you get to play the game for free! It’s all about Mesoamerica and really fun. Send Birgitte an email and tell her you want to sign up for that: firstname.lastname@example.org
I'll be participating in Pride Month chats on the Dreamspinner Press day and the general chat days on Beth Wylde's Yahoo Group. Come join me, I'll have excerpts, answer any questions and of course there will be things given away!
Dreamspinner Press chat day is June 6, 2014.
Since I never did the rest of the posts everyday as I intended, I guess I'll just do one big one now.
This event was amazing. Not so big you couldn't meet people and talk to them and not too little either. Everyone was so nice and I think there was much fun for all.
The panels were really fun and creative. In addition to being on a few--Taboos in Romance, yeah that was fun and interesting. Shifter sex in full shift and mpreg, I say no more...lol
Then there was Blending Erotica with Genre Fiction. I had a blast on that panel. The author Q&A's had lots of questions and answers.
I got to hear Shira Anthony sing happy birthday to Becky Condit...opera style in the middle of a restaurant, which was fantastic and I'm still kicking myself for not yanking out my phone and recording the whole thing. On the other hand, Shira probably would have kicked me, and she wears HEELS. Ouch.
The guys on the Male Perspective (dubbed the Man Panel by the attendees) had such an interesting and enlightening views on the subject of gay romance and fiction in general. I really learned a lot and they made me feel good about being a woman and writing M/M romance. All of them are gentlemen in the truest sense of the word.
I must thank all the con organizers, but one person in particular made the whole thing not just great but uber fun and special. Jodi Pushkin was such a wonderful, cheerful person the entire weekend. She made a group of people welcome in her city and was genuinely fun. I loved every minute spent with her and hope we can be friends for years to come. She's got cute cats too. I believe she has recently been promoted on Facebook from coffee wench to coffee goddess! Congrats.
Shannon Shell and Katriona Skye from Dreamspinner Press are always a delight to spend time with and good grief can they throw together an outing at the last minute and keep everything organized like no one else can! You're both the best.
When I left Cleveland Wednesday morning before the convention there was snow and frost. These little guys greeted me when I got home!
Meeting other authors, so many readers and reviewers like Lisa H and Jackie from The Novel Approach and Becky Condit from Mrs. Condit and Friends, Jodi Pushkin and Princess So was the best. I loved hearing their side of things. Mostly I enjoyed learning about all the different reasons one gets into the review business to begin with.
Grace R. Duncan did a fun and informative panel on How Not to Write Sex, we were all laughing so hard there were tears.
Grace and Shira kindly shared their room with me, a big hug and thank you to them.
I always knew authors were very nice people to hang out with, but this weekend is the first time I've gotten the chance to rub elbows with some of the reviewers. Holy cow, what nice people.
So far I've had the pleasure of meeting Becky Condit from Mrs. Conit & Friends as well as Lisa and Jackie from The Novel Approach. Such lovely and fun people and Lisa is just a bundle of energy.
I spent some time lurking at the Dreamspinner table, all my books are there, as well as many other great titles. Shannon Shell and Katriona Skye are not only very helpful members of the DSP staff, but as you can see, they're a lot of fun.
Yesterday's panels, which were great fun were the Blending Erotica and Genre Fiction, and an author Q&A. There were many laughs during both of them.
Today my panel is Taboos in Romance (guess I'll be talking a lot about Todd and Nick!)
The hotel we're staying is fabulous and the staff are very nice. They actually talk to you in the way that says they enjoy their jobs, and not simply because they have to be nice to the guests.
I'm rooming with Shira Anthony and Grace R. Duncan, lovely ladies.
I'm all signed up, my airplane ticket is purchased and I have the confirmation sitting in my email. House sitter arranged.
I hope to see you there!
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.
Note: due to some nasty spamming I had to implement some security for now. Comments will be approved ASAP. Sorry.
Saving Sonny James Blurb:
Luki Vasquez and his still newlywed husband are back home after pulling off a harrowing desert rescue of their teenage nephew Jackie. But the events of the last couple of years have begun to catch up with Luki—loving Sonny James and letting Sonny love him back has left gaps in his emotional armor. In the gunfight that secured Jackie’s rescue, Luki’s bullet killed a young guard, an innocent boy in Luki’s mind. In the grip of PTSD, memories, flashbacks, and nightmares consume him, and he falls into deep, almost vegetative depression.
Sonny devotes his days to helping Luki, putting his own career on hold, even passing up a European tour of galleries and schools—an opportunity that might never come again. But when Luki’s parasomnia turns his nightmares into real-world terror, it breaks the gridlock. Sonny realizes what he’s doing isn’t working, and he says yes to Europe. Enter Harold Breslin, a dangerously intelligent artist’s promoter and embezzler whose obsessive desire for Sonny is exceeded only by his narcissism. When Harold’s plan for Sonny turns poisonous, Luki must break free of PTSD and get to France fit and ready in time to save his husband’s life.
Now for the part every one is waiting for: The Give Away. Lou is offering one lucky reader who comments below their choice of any ebook from the series Vasquez & James.
I'm offering another reader their pick of any of the Sentry series ebooks.
I'll announce the winners on Friday November 1, that gives you a whole week. The winners will need to have a Dreamspinner account. It's free. To claim your book you'll need to give us the email associated with that account. That way you can pick whatever format or formats you'd like.
Good luck and don't forget to mention which series you'd like to win a book from in your comments below.
Join Lou Sylvre and me, Elizabeth Noble, in spying on Todd Ruger and Luki Vasquez! Afterward, leave a comment and be entered to win our prize--one book from each of these series—Lou Sylvre’s Vasquez and James, and Elizabeth Noble’s Sentries.
Winners to be announced June 15, 2013.
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