A Boys of Summer Christmas Short Story

A few Christmases ago, I wrote a short epilogue for The Boys of Summer. I ran across it again today, and decided it would be fun to share again this Christmas.

Warning: there are mild spoilers for the novel, so you might want to consider whether or not you want to read more if you haven’t read the story yet! And also, this short story contains a very explicit sex scene (okay, a smoking hot sex scene…). This is an adults only website, but I thought I should point that out.

The Boys of Summer

David McIntyre has been enjoying the heck out of his current assignment: touring the Hawaiian Islands in search of the ideal shooting locations for a series of film company projects. What’s not to like? Stunning scenery, great food, sunny beaches…and a secret crush on his hot, ex-Air Force pilot, Rick Sutton.

Everything changes when a tropical storm and engine failure force a crash landing on a deserted atoll with a WWII listening post. Rick’s injuries, and a lack of food and water, make rescue imperative, but it takes an intensely vivid dream about the war to make David see that Rick is more than just a pilot to him. Will David gather his courage to confess his feelings to Rick—before it’s too late?

Finalist in the 2013 Rainbow AwardsNominated Best Historical in the Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice AwardsSelected as a Best Read in 2013 by Jessewave and a Top Pick Read by The Romance Reviews. Winner of Best M/M Romance in the 2013 PRG Reviewer’s Choice Awards.

On: AmazonBarnes and NobleDreamspinner Press

So without further ado, here is “All I Want for Christmas”.

christmas tree_stevep2008“What on earth are you doing?”

Em’s voice coming from behind startled David. He yelped at the sudden intrusion of sound and spun with the pan of cookies he’d just taken out of the oven. Cookies threatened to slide off the no-stick surface and he had to juggle them to keep them from falling onto the floor.

“Jeez, Em! You scared the bloody wits out of me!”  Hastily, he set the hot pan down on the stovetop, tucking the potholder under one arm as he glared at her.

“Sorry. I thought you heard me come in.” She didn’t look sorry, however. She smiled widely at him, obviously amused at his expense.

“I couldn’t hear a thing over Bing there.” David indicated the CD player with the oven mitt, where Bing Crosby crooned about a White Christmas. Despite the fact that Emma was standing in his kitchen wearing a navy crop top and white shorts, which just so happened to set off her tanned legs very nicely, Christmas was right around the corner. Less than a week now. David was determined to make it absolutely perfect this year.

“You’re so cute when you get this domestic urge to bake,” Emma commented, flicking a long strand of copper hair back from one shoulder. “It’s particularly funny because you never cook at all the rest of the year if you can help it. I think you’d live on take-out, if you could.”

For the briefest of moments, David saw Rick in his kitchen, peering in his refrigerator with disapproval and volunteering to cook dinner. Standing in the kitchen, drinking a glass of wine, and watching Rick create a delicious meal out of what seemed like nothing at all had been one of his favorite memories to revisit in the four months since Rick had gone back to his home in Hawaii.

Well, one of his favorite G-rated memories, that is. His cock stirred hopefully at the thought of some of his other favorite memories of the month Rick had spent in California last summer.

“I like baking at this time of year. I’ve never heard you complain before, unless it’s about the calories.”

“I’m not complaining. I’m commenting. You’ve baked a lot this season, haven’t you? Tell me you made sausage balls again. No one makes them like you do.”

“The recipe is online. You just have to Google it.”

“I don’t care what you say.” Em shook her head. “No one has quite your touch.”

David couldn’t help but preen a little. “The secret is in the mixing of the ingredients. And the choice of ingredients, too. The right sausage is important, but the right cheese? That’s critical.”

“See?” Emma arched an eyebrow. “No one makes sausage balls that are as good as yours. I’ve never seen you bring home any leftovers from a party, either.”

“Well, I made plenty this time, but they’re all in the freezer right now. No one gets to eat them until Christmas.”

David had a reputation to maintain. He’d made several batches, experimenting with a gluten-free recipe as well. In the past, the sausage balls never made it to the Christmas party because everyone kept eating them before the big day. He’d made extra at Thanksgiving this year, but they were all already gone.

“What kind of cookies are these? They smell fabulous.” She reached around him to pick up one of the cookies cooling on the rack beside the stove.

“One,” he admonished. “Tell me what you think.”

sugar cookies wikipedia commonShe bit the head off of a reindeer dusted with colored sugar. “Mmmm. These are wonderful. Almost like tea biscuits. With just a hint of lemon, right?”

He nodded. “They’re sour cream cookies. One of my favorites. This year I added a little lemon zest. I don’t make them often because they’re such a pain in the ass.” He glanced around the kitchen at the hopeless mess. Over on the CD player, Bing began singing about coming home for Christmas.

Emma laughed. “It looks like you detonated a flour bomb in here. That’s why I wanted to know what you were up to. That and you’re wearing an apron over your gym clothes. You have been to the gym, haven’t you?”

David glanced down at himself. He was wearing a threadbare brown T-shirt with the word “Shiny!” printed on it. Below that, he had on running shorts. He’d exchanged the expensive track shoes for a pair of old flip-flops as soon as he’d gotten home, however. It was just as well—he had flour everywhere, despite the apron. “Well, you know,” he said a bit self-consciously, “I have to look the part of a successful scriptwriter. You know Hollywood.”

She snorted inelegantly. “Bullshit. Most scriptwriters in Hollywood look like they spend all their time playing World of Warcraft in their mothers’ basement. This has more to do with impressing a certain ex-fighter pilot than meeting Hollywood’s standards. What’s the news on that front, anyway?”

David turned to shift the cooled cookies into a container so he could move the ones from the oven onto the cooling rack. When he spoke, he deliberately misunderstood her. “Well, they’ve cast the role of me. Of David Braxton, that is.”

After David had returned from his scouting trip in Hawaii, where he and Rick had crash landed and had to survive under grueling conditions until rescued, he’d sat down to write about his experience there. Not the actual plane wreck or being marooned on a deserted South Pacific island, but about the incredibly vivid dream he’d had while they were there. In his dream, he and Rick had been transformed into two young men during the Battle of Britain—and they’d been both doomed in love and by the war. David had changed their names a little bit for the purposes of the script, but had essentially written the dream as he’d remembered it. He’d feverishly written the screenplay in a matter of weeks, desperately trying to recapture some of the heartbreak of the story that had played out in his dream before he forgot all the details.

The fact that he could remember nearly every element of the dream as though he was watching a movie had been an unexpected blessing. When he was finished, however, he thought he had a hopelessly maudlin tearjerker that no one would ever want to read. Emma had sobbed her way through the script and then begged him to shop The Boys of Summer around. To his surprise, one of the smaller studios he’d worked with in the past had snapped it up, claiming that WW2 stories were back in vogue again.

David now found himself being hailed as a ‘promising’ scriptwriter after years of failed projects. Fortunately, his boss was cool about him needing flexible hours, and things had slowed down due to the holidays anyway. Besides, from a practical standpoint, David’s newfound status wasn’t hurting Pegasus Productions, either. And his boss had offered to invest in the project, too.

“I wasn’t talking about the movie, though I still don’t see why you couldn’t play you. You’re certainly buff enough these days.” She snagged another cookie.

He smacked at her hand, but not very hard. The ‘buff’ compliment was nice to hear. “Yeah, but no amount of makeup or workouts will make me twenty again.” His voice was rueful. “Most of those pilots were hardly more than schoolboys.”

“I thought you made the characters older for the movie.”

“A bit. More than I liked, to be honest.” The studio had balked at finding actors young enough for the script the way it had originally been written. A gay love story set during the Battle of Britain had been a tough enough sell to begin with. The studio had been worried about projecting the wrong image had they gone with lead actors barely out of their teens.

He’d argued for keeping the integrity of the story intact, but it had been Rick who pointed out that maybe it was better to compromise on that point in order to get the story out there for people to see.

“A movie like that might have made a difference to me growing up.” He’d shrugged when he said it, but he’d liked the script. He said so. He’d also given David a funny look after reading it. “That was your dream?” he’d asked.

“More or less.” David had shrugged in turn.

Rick had surprised him with a full body hug, and then had kissed him as though he was trying to put into that kiss all the words he could not say.

It had ended the debate on the age of the actors, as far as David was concerned.

“Well, they’ve got thirty year old actors playing teenagers in high school all the time. I think you could make it work if you wanted. Face it, you just don’t want to be in front of the camera anymore.”

David nodded in agreement. “It’s an unforgiving spotlight, especially in high-def. Besides, I like looking at things through the other side of the lens.” He’d given up acting years ago. He much preferred his job as a locations scout and being general dogsbody to the production teams for various movies and television programs.

Jaunty Irish pipes accompanied “Christmas in Killarney” on the player. David continued to roll out and cut cookies, dusting them with the lemon zest and granulated sugar before transferring them to the baking sheet.

“So, they’ve cast your role. What about Rick’s?”

“Nothing so far. They’re having a hard time casting that part.”

For the movie script, Rick Sutton had become ‘Rick Sheppard’. David had a very specific type in mind to play the role, and he’d made sure to make his wishes known. Everyone knew about the author of some popular vampire stories who’d been vitriolic over the casting of a mega-celebrity to play her main character. The producers for the film had completely shut her out for the rest of the film’s production. The author had later praised the actor’s performance—but that’s not what most people remembered. David didn’t want to end up shut out in the cold because he hated whoever they chose to play Sheppard in his story. But the role of Sheppard was critical. It had to be the right actor.

“So.” Emma dragged the word out playfully, reaching for another cookie but giving in with grace when David threatened her with a spatula. “Why the big push for the holiday spirit this year?”

“I don’t know what you mean.” David bent over the open oven door, positioning the cookies within. Hopefully Em would blame the redness of his face on the heat from the stove. He straightened and set the timer.

“David. The baking, the decorations. You’re kind of going all out with the Spirit of Christmas this year, aren’t you?

He maintained his cool, scattering more flour on the counter and re-working the dough. “I always decorate.”

“You haven’t done more than string some lights on the palm tree out front for years. This time it looks as though you hired Martha Stewart.”

“I told you, the Grinch stole all my decorations last year. He didn’t bring them back until this past week.”

“Uh-huh. Not buying it.”

David sighed and tossed the pot holder down on the counter. “Okay, so Rick hasn’t had much of a Christmas for the past, oh, I dunno, five or six years. This is the first time he’s been to his brother’s for the holidays since he was discharged from the military.” For being gay. Even though he didn’t say it aloud, he knew that both he and Em were thinking it. He often wondered what it was like to love something so much and yet know it was killing you. Rick had given the military everything he had and it had nearly destroyed him. It had taken a desperate man to deliberately use Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to force a discharge from service.

He swallowed hard. “I just want things to be perfect. Heck, if I could import George Bailey running through the village shouting ‘Merry Christmas’ while snow gently fell around him, I would.”

He snapped floury fingers when he realized he could recreate Bedford Falls, if he so desired. He had connections. He could hire a snowmaker and…

“Don’t.” Em put her fists on her hips.

“Don’t what?”

“I know what you’re thinking. Don’t. Rick doesn’t want a Norman Rockwell Christmas. He just wants to be with people who care about him.”

“But—”

“No buts. Trust me on this one. You don’t need to stage a big Hollywood-style scene. Besides, as hot as it is, you’d never get the snow to last.”

Damn, she really could read minds sometimes.

Emma laughed at his expression. “You’re so adorable when you’re in love.”

David stuck his tongue out at her. “When have you ever seen me in love before?”

“Like this? Never. That’s how I know it’s real.”

David certainly hoped it was real. Sometimes he wondered if the emotion was all one-sided—Rick was so guarded with his own.

“When’s he getting in town?”

David started prepping the next batch of cookies. He wasn’t avoiding her eye, really. “In a couple of days, I think.”

“Hmm.” Her tone indicated he wasn’t fooling her with his practiced nonchalance. “I saw his commercial the other day.”

“Did you?” David looked up, all pretense at not caring about Rick’s schedule vaporized. “What did you think?”

“I honestly teared up at his bit, and you know I am not particularly sentimental as a rule. But it was really good.”

The first time David laid eyes on Rick, he’d pictured him in Hollywood, playing a wide variety of tough-guy-with-a-heart-of-gold roles. He’d pulled some strings when Rick was visiting last and had gotten him an audition for a commercial which featured a solider coming home from the war. It had seemed tailor-made for Rick, and David had been right. Rick was perfect in the role.

“It was good, wasn’t it?” David tried to hide his bias but failed. “I mean, he’s more than just a pretty face—he can act too.”

Em nodded. “I thought he was going to cry when the dog came out of the house and it was so excited to see him. But he didn’t. The emotion was there just under the surface, though. Very convincing. “

“It’s getting a lot of hits on YouTube.” David felt this was a personal achievement. Well, in a way, it was. Rick had thought the whole idea of acting silly, and had only gone along with it to prove to David it wouldn’t work. He’d been surprised when he was accepted for the commercial, and staggered by how much he was paid for what he called ‘sixty seconds of work.’ The parent company, which had just been looking for a patriotic, schmaltzy way of tugging at the heartstrings in order to sell diapers, was delighted with the internet response. David had been getting other nibbles along those lines, casting agents looking for someone with Rick’s devastatingly rugged good looks. Unfortunately, all he could do was forward them on to Rick, along with the membership information to join SAG and the other local organizations for actors. He hoped Rick didn’t think he was being a nag or trying to pressure him into relocating to the mainland.

“He hasn’t said anything more along the lines of moving here, though, has he?”

David shook his head. The only thing David wanted for Christmas was to hear that Rick had given up his air charter business in Hawaii and was moving to California. Where they could have a shot at a real relationship. It was a lot to hope for, though. Nothing could have surprised David more than when Rick came to visit last summer. Sure, he was reconnecting with his brother again, but he’d spent a lot of nights over at David’s place, just the same.

The twang of a ukulele accompanied “Mele Kalikimaka” on the CD player, and David made a mental note to remember how to pronounce that phrase. It might come in handy over the next couple of weeks.

“No, but we email each other all the time.” Well, David emailed Rick. He sent chatty emails about his day, and photos that he’d taken that week. He’d written long emails from his hotel room late at night, when he was bored and just a little bit lonely, working on some out-of-town job for Pegasus Productions. Rick, on the other hand, leaned toward one word responses. Sometimes he sent links to interesting articles, which David took as a hopeful sign that they were still in a relationship, but a grand epistolary romance, it was not. On some level David wondered if it would have been different if they were still writing old-fashioned snail mail letters to each other. If maybe the very fact that the letters took so long to arrive would lend some poignancy and strength to the communication. He doubted it though. He suspected only the convenience of email made Rick communicate at all.

Something of his thoughts must have showed on his face.

Em came forward and squeezed his arm. “I just don’t want to see you getting your hopes up or anything.”

“I’m not,” David lied. He forced a smile. “I’m just happy he’s coming into town for Christmas, that’s all. Best gift ever.”

“Uh-huh.” Em touched his arm again. “Well, you know where to find me if you need me. I’ll see you at your party if I don’t catch up with you before then.” She glanced at her watch. “I’m going to be late for yoga class if I don’t leave now.”

“You shouldn’t have eaten those cookies, then. I thought you were supposed to do yoga on an empty stomach.”

Emma wrinkled her nose at him. “Oh-ho, listen to the expert here. Why don’t you come by and sit in on a class sometime? I think it would do you a world of good.”

“Maybe after the New Year.” David smiled and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. “Be an angel and restart Bing on your way out, will you? I’m all covered in flour.” He waggled sticky fingers at her. The CD player had fallen silent. “Set it on replay while you’re at it, okay?”

“Sure. See you later!” She waved on her way toward the door, pausing to start the CD player again. The opening bars of “Silent Night” filled the room. David smiled as he went back to the baking. He tried one of the gluten-free cookies he’d made earlier. Adding butterscotch chips to the recipe had been a good idea. They didn’t taste like traditional Toll-House cookies, but they didn’t taste like they were full of sand, either. Still, they weren’t the same as the ‘real thing’. They didn’t bake the same, nor did they have the right consistency. There was nothing he loved better than a crispy on the outside, slightly chewy in the middle Christmas cookie. He couldn’t deny, however, that he felt better since making an effort to go gluten-free. Once the holidays were over, he’d go back to being strict again. For now, “but it’s Christmas” was his excuse for cheating.

The impression of movement behind him caught his attention.

“What did you forget this time, Em?” he asked without turning around.

“I didn’t forget anything. Just admiring the view.”

David dropped the cookie cutter with a clatter and whipped around. Rick leaned negligently in the door frame, arms crossed over his chest, his eyes hidden behind dark aviator sunglasses. David stared in disbelief for several seconds, drinking in the long, lean form of his body, memorizing details to take out late at night and review like a miser counting his gold. The way Rick’s black T-shirt stretched taut over muscles that were impressive without being ridiculous in the extreme. The half-smile on his face, as though he weren’t quite certain of his welcome. His dark hair sticking up in wild disarray, as if he’d run a careless hand through it without notice of the results. The suggestion of a rapidly approaching five o’clock shadow on his jaw line.

“Rick!” David was conscious of equal parts delight and dismay. Great. He’d meant to look his best when Rick arrived—hell, he’d offered to meet Rick at the airport and had been turned down, so it had been in his mind to look his absolute hottest when Rick finally came over. Happy as he was to see Rick now—two days early hadn’t been in his plans. “What the hell are you doing here?”

It might have been his imagination, but he thought Rick’s features froze just a little.

“Not that I’m not glad to see you,” he added hastily, looking around for something to wipe his hands on and giving up to smear flour all over his shirt when he couldn’t find a dish towel. “But I thought you weren’t coming in for at least another couple of days. This place is a wreck.”

A curious expression passed over Rick’s face; there and gone so fast that David only had time to register that something wasn’t quite right.

There’s something he doesn’t want to tell me. David’s heart began to batter its way against the walls of his chest like a wild bird looking for its way out of a building.

“I was able to trade my ticket for a few extra days.” Rick removed his sunglasses and tucked them into the collar of his shirt. David was tried to decide if he should give in to his joy in seeing Rick again or play it cool and act as though it was no big deal.

Rick took the decision out of his hands, peeling himself off the doorjamb with an easy grace. David found himself meeting Rick halfway, and then they were kissing as only two people who hadn’t seen each other in months could do. As though their very lives depended on the breath of the other. David tried keeping his floury fingers to himself, but Rick had his hands in David’s hair, turning his head so that their lips could lock. David couldn’t help it; he wound his hands into Rick’s T-shirt.

Even when they parted for air, Rick continued to gently nip and peck at David’s lips, displaying a desire for contact quite unlike him. All of David’s apprehensions vanished under Rick’s touch. Instead, he was filled with a need to growl and mark territory—to lay claim to this man and make sure the world knew who he belonged to.

Embarrassment at his feelings made him push Rick back reluctantly. “Crap. I got flour all over your shirt.” He brushed ineffectually at the black cotton—making things worse as he spread flour and remnants of cookie dough.

“I don’t care.” Rick moved in to kiss him again. This time, David could feel the hard length of Rick’s cock pressing against the denim of his jeans. For one glorious moment, David pictured the two of them sweeping the counter clean of the baking, snagging a bottle of olive oil from the cabinet, and going at it like rabbits right there in the kitchen. Hell, they wouldn’t even need to take their clothes off. David thought he might come right now just from rubbing up against Rick, from the very scent of him, from the feel of Rick’s arms around his body. Just a little more friction, a little more rutting, and he’d be there.

Instead, the timer went off for the next batch of cookies.

“Sorry.” David let the regret leach into his voice. “I gotta get these.”

Rick stepped back and watched with that small smile in place as David got the batch of cookies out of the oven.

He raised an eyebrow when David turned the oven off. “Don’t you have more cookies to bake?” He indicated the remaining mound of dough on the counter.

“Screw the cookies.” David did growl this time.

“I’d rather screw you.” Rick gave David his sexy smile now, the one that should be registered as a lethal weapon.

“Perfect. Exactly what I had in mind.” David grabbed Rick by the arm and dragged him, laughing, toward his bedroom.

It didn’t matter that Rick was hiding something from him. It didn’t matter that David wasn’t looking his best. He pushed Rick into his bedroom and hurried down the hall to the bathroom to wash his hands, hastily glancing in the mirror as he did so. Okay, so he was still grubby from his workout. But he recognized the raw need on the face staring back at him in the glass. Fuck or be fucked, he didn’t care. All he knew was that he needed Rick, right now, in his bed.

He fumbled with the nail file, making sure he got all the dough out from under his fingernails, digging furiously in his haste. He shucked off his T-shirt, too, and ran dampened hands through his hair in an effort to look a bit more presentable before returning to the bedroom.

Rick was waiting for him, standing with his back to the room, looking out the window.

Completely naked.

“God, what you do to me,” David said, causing Rick to turn. His cock stood up from the thatch of dark hair at his groin, begging for attention. David loved everything about Rick’s body, but most especially the aerodynamic perfection of his cock and the way Rick’s body hair seemed to do everything in its power to point to that lovely, wonderful organ.

He stalked across his bedroom, clashing with Rick in what was almost a grapple, mouths fighting for domination while their hands groped and clutched.

“Four months, three days, six hours.” Rick’s voice in David’s ear was electrifying. He was keeping track. By God, he was keeping track. Hope surged like a tidal wave and David engulfed Rick’s mouth, inhaling him deeply as their tongues met and fucked.

God, he was so close. It wouldn’t take much more—in fact, this whole thing was about to become very embarrassing if he wasn’t careful. Through his jogging shorts, he took hold of his cock, squeezing it off at the base to avoid coming too soon. He broke off the kiss with a mewl of frustration. “I need you to fuck me.”

The way Rick’s pupils darkened his entire eye was gratifying, to say the least.

Somehow they made it to the edge of the bed. Rick peeled off David’s running shorts, pausing to mouth his dick appreciatively until David pulled him up with a groan. Silently communicating to each other with only their eyes, they tumbled into bed. David reached for the beside drawer where he kept lube and condoms, but Rick beat him to it with a laugh. David rolled onto his back, clasping his knees with his hands and spreading his legs apart as Rick found what he needed. Yeah, he was begging for it. So what?

He cried out at Rick’s first touch, his cock bouncing up in anticipation. The shudder that ripped through his body was exquisite. More. He needed more. He spread his legs even wider, tucking his pelvis up for easy access. Take me. He didn’t care what he looked like. Just fucking take me.

And more he got. Rick lavished attention on his body like a man starved for water finding an oasis in the desert. The backs of his thighs, the curve of his hipbone, the soft skin of his balls. Every time David thought he couldn’t take it anymore, that he was going to blow his wad any second, Rick would somehow settle him down by changing gears and devoting his efforts to another part of David’s body. His nipples were teased and pinched just the way he liked them, sending an electric current straight to his dick. Rick mapped every inch of David’s skin with his mouth, his lovely, oh-so-talented mouth. David writhed and basked under the pleasure of Rick’s touch, again and again coming to the edge of orgasm without crossing over.

David almost sobbed with relief when Rick finally brushed his hole. He arched up into the touch, his thighs quivering with tension. “Oh God, yes. Yes!”

Lubed fingers entered his body, pumping and thrusting in a way that had him rocking back against Rick’s hand.

“Look at you.”

The sound of Rick’s voice, so unusual during their lovemaking, made David open his eyes.

“You want this so bad. You—” Rick was obviously at a loss for words. “You abandon yourself. “

“Less talk, more fucking,” David ground out.

Rick laughed, as he knew Rick would. Rick withdrew his fingers from David’s ass. The loss was keen, but momentary. He watched in fascinated anticipation as Rick rolled on a condom and lined himself up. The pressure of Rick’s cock against his asshole was exquisite torture. David forced himself to relax, even as his entire body wanted to arch up into the pressure entering it.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck.” David turned his head from side to side as Rick folded him up and began to thrust. He felt the powerful contact of Rick’s thighs against the back of his own, and the indescribable fullness that came from having Rick’s cock fully up his ass. The urge to push back against him was powerful but David held still, maintaining his position so that Rick could pound him freely.

A groan tore its way out of Rick’s throat and David smiled to himself at the knowledge of his power. It was a brief triumph, however. Rick caught the edge of his prostate, and David saw sparks behind closed lids. He slid over the edge into his orgasm. Rick continued to pound him, triggering shudder after shudder long after he thought he was done.

Rick suddenly stiffened, and David felt Rick’s thighs tighten as he released himself into the condom, the warmth filling David from within. He hooked his legs around Rick and rested, panting a little with the weight of Rick on top of him.

“Now, that’s what I call a Merry Christmas,” David said, in the quiet that followed.

He felt Rick’s laughter against his chest.

****

“No, you can’t have any sausage balls. They’re for Christmas.”

“I’m starving.”

“Well, if I’d known you were coming into town early, I’d have made sure there was plenty of food for feeding time at the zoo.” The morning sun streamed through the kitchen window, as golden and glorious as David’s mood. He hummed “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” as he filled two mugs with steaming coffee.

“But you have enough to feed an army!” Rick protested. He was looking gorgeous, as usual, shirtless and wearing nothing but sweat pants. David was tempted to give him anything he wanted but felt he had to put up a token fight.

“You’re welcome to as many gluten-free sausage balls as you can eat.” David smiled sweetly.

“Um, thanks but no thanks.” Rick groused a little bit more but then began fixing the two of them omelets with chopped spinach and green peppers.

David cradled his coffee mug in his hands and asked the questions he’d been avoiding since yesterday afternoon.

“So why did you come to the mainland early? Does your brother know you’re here?”

Rick froze momentarily as he stood at the stove, his back an expressive line of unwillingness to talk, and then he forced himself to relax. David had to give him credit; his level of self-control was amazing.

He tended to the omelets as though nothing had happened. “I got an audition for your script. For the part of Rick Sheppard. I came over early to test for the part. I didn’t want to say anything until I knew for sure, but they offered me the role.”

He expertly scooped the omelets out of the frying pan and turned, plates in hand, to face David. His expression was one of hopeful anxiety.

Elation and concern warred within David. He didn’t know what to say.

Rick’s shoulders sagged. “You’re not happy. I can turn the part down, you know.”

“What makes you think I’m not happy?” David forced a beaming smile. Okay, he’d pictured Rick in the role as he’d written the screenplay, but he never thought Rick would actually get it–he was too new to the business. Then too, there was the fact Rick would be acting out love scenes with some hot, young actor, and David wouldn’t be human if a part of him wasn’t slightly jealous. “This is fantastic! I mean, I never thought you’d be offered the part, but you are perfect for it.”

I wrote it with you in mind, after all.

Sure, the part had been written for a younger version of Rick, but it was Rick just the same. There was a kind of beautiful symmetry in Rick playing the character in the dream that had made David bold enough to declare his feelings for Rick in the first place.

The tension in Rick’s shoulders visibly eased. “Really? You’re okay with this? I wasn’t going to accept the part until I knew how you felt about it.”

“Are you kidding? You’ll be awesome.” David moved in closer and kissed him. He suddenly pushed Rick back so he could stare at him. “Wait, does this mean you’re relocating to California?”

Red-faced, Rick set the plates on the table. “I got an offer for the charter service. That, plus the insurance money on the wrecked plane gives me a little cushion to see if this acting thing is going to work. I’m not giving up the house in Hawaii just yet,” he was quick to add, “but I can lease that for now. I figure I’ll give the acting thing a shot and see what happens.”

David thought he was happy before, but now he wanted to burst into song like a character from a cheesy musical. “Well, you know you can hang out here until you find a place of your own, if you want.” He made an effort to sound nonchalant, and caught Rick grinning knowingly at him. Oh well.

“Sam doesn’t know I came over early,” Rick confessed when they were cleaning up after breakfast. “I didn’t want to say anything until I knew for sure what was happening.”

“Don’t get your hopes up,” David warned. “I’ve seen more than one pilot or movie fold for lack of investors or poor market testing. Just because you’ve been offered the part doesn’t mean it’s a sure thing.”

“I know.” Rick was quiet when he answered. After a beat, he said, “Sam invited you to join us for Christmas. I guess he figures they’ll get to see more of me if you’re in the same house too.”

homecooked dinner flickr commonsImages of himself by Rick’s side suddenly flooded his mind—the two of them holding hands at the table, taking a post-prandial walk after they’d stuffed themselves with holiday goodies, his sausage balls being the hit of the gathering. “Cool. I’d like that.”

Rick’s smile was like someone had turned on a spotlight. It dimmed a little as a small frown creased his forehead. “You’re sure you’re okay with the movie thing?”

Rick’s uncertainly was endearing.

“Yes.” David reinforced his affirmation with a kiss. “I was just surprised, that’s all. I hadn’t heard anything at all, and well, you’re brand new at this.” He frowned. “You didn’t agree to a ridiculously low salary, did you?”

Rick snorted. “Don’t worry. Remember, Sam’s a lawyer. He won’t let me sign anything unless he looks it over first.”

“Well, that goes ditto for me too. I know the difference between a good contract and a bad one, so let me take a look at it as well.”

Later that evening, he pulled out his duffle bag with the intent on packing a few things to take with him to Sam’s house. It was the same bag he’d taken with him on their ill-fated flight that had resulted in a crash landing on a deserted island. Sometimes David dreamed of the crash, only in his nightmares he’d turned Rick over in the pilot’s seat to discover sightless eyes staring off into eternity. He always woke from those dreams with a startled gasp. Just being able to reach out and touch Rick was a wondrous thing now.

The bag proved to still have some sand, leaf litter, and bits of paper in the bottom of it, and he took it into the bathroom to shake it over the trash can. Ticket stubs to a luau, markers for a snorkeling trip, and receipts from the hotel fluttered over the can, some spilling onto the floor as well. He picked up the receipts—he’d need those at tax time. In fact, he should have turned them in to his boss for reimbursement long ago. Obviously, those normal post-trip details had slipped his mind in the aftermath of a near-death experience. He gave the bag a final thump and something pinged off the can and landed on the tile.

Frowning, he bent over to pick it up. It appeared to be a small disc of some sort. He thought it was cardboard at first, but then he realized it was some type of compressed fabric.  It was smooth to the touch when touched it. Something about it made him want to rub his fingers over it. When he did, he felt the worn edges of stamped lettering. He flipped the disc over, noting the how thin and frayed the material was around the hole meant for a chain to be threaded through. He couldn’t make out the words at first—he had to tip the disc toward the light.

To his surprise, he realized he was looking at a dog tag. A very old dog tag. He smoothed his thumb over the depressed letters in the material, his hand shaking a bit as he read them.

Sheppard, Richard J

It was followed by a string of numbers and the designation “RAF”.

It couldn’t be. It was impossible. He hadn’t even known that the RAF used compressed fabric for ID tags during WW2—he’d assumed they were metal, the way dog tags were in the military today.

How had it gotten in his bag?

Like a flash, the memory came to him of Rick holding the rotting leather journal they’d discovered in the abandoned base on the island. He knew Rick had tucked it in David’s backpack, which had later been stuffed in the duffle on the trip home.

The tag must have fallen out of the journal. What had happened to the journal?

Clutching the tag in his hand, he rushed to the desk in his bedroom, pushing aside papers and opening drawers until he found what he was looking for: the old journal. The book was in poor condition. He’d only tried to read it once; the ink was faded and the pages wanted to disintegrate when he handled them. He’d put it away, hoping it might dry out. But he’d forgotten all about it. Carefully, he opened the cover. On the flyleaf, in rusty brown lettering, he read the name of the journal’s owner.

David Braxton.

Okay. This was a problem. Names that he thought he’d made up obviously belonged to real people. The very first thing he needed to do was contact the production company and request a name change for the characters.

But that begged the question: how had he come up with the names in the first place? Perhaps he unconsciously picked the name Braxton after having seen it in the journal, though he didn’t remember doing so. But the dog tag? He’d never seen it before today.

Sitting at his desk, the journal in his lap, he opened his palm and looked at the tag lying there. What if his dream wasn’t just a dream? If it was real, then the David in his dream somehow ended up in the South Pacific during the war—and carrying his Rick’s tag.

Goosebumps raised on his arms.

“Hey. You okay?”

He looked up to see Rick leaning in the doorway, as though he’d been leaning in David’s doorways his entire life.

David smiled, tucking the tag into his pocket. He closed the journal, placing it on the desk as he stood up. “Yeah.” His voice was a little shaky. “Just got distracted by some research.”

“That from the island?” Rick indicated the book.

David nodded, joining Rick at the door.

“Something tells me there’s another story there.”

“Yeah.” David took Rick’s hand in his own, marveling at the feel of the warm flesh against his skin. “But that can keep for another day.”

“Hey.” Rick looked down at their joined hands, his voice suddenly soft. “Things have been a bit crazy lately. I’m afraid I haven’t gotten you anything for Christmas yet. What do you want?”

He raised his clear blue eyes to lock gazes with David, giving his hand a little squeeze.

“You’re here,” David said simply. “What more could I want?”

The disc felt like it was burning a hole in his pocket.

~the end~

 

 

The Jackal’s House by Anna Butler: Release Day Book Tour & Giveaway!

Oooh! I’m so excited to be able to share this with you at last! It’s here, the second installment in Anna Butler’s fantastic steampunk M/M romance series, Lancaster’s Luck. If you haven’t yet met Rafe Lancaster in the brilliant debut of The Gilded Scarab–rush out and get it right now. The Gilded Scarab was nominated in the 2015 Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Awards, and it was well-deserved. Rafe Lancaster is going to be your new book boyfriend, let me tell you. Not that you’d be able to tear Rafe away from Ned, the love of his life. But he would be an incredibly charming dinner companion and a devilishly useful man to have at your back in a pinch. Don’t take my word for it though–go, read Rafe’s story, then come back and snatch up the next book in the series. Anna tells me The Jackal’s House is even better than the first book, and don’t you know, I think she’s right!

How can you argue with all my favorite tropes? Egyptian archeologists on the hunt for buried tombs. Violent death. Shenanigans at the dig site. Rumors of the Jackal-Headed God, Anubis, walking the desert at night… and Rafe and Ned in the thick of it all! This is where I say, “Shut up and take my money!”

Better yet, she’s told me all about her plans for the NEXT book in the series, so yippee! More Ned and Rafe to come!

THE JACKAL’S HOUSE

Something is stalking the Aegyptian night and endangering the archaeologists excavating the mysterious temple ruins in Abydos. But is it a vengeful ancient spirit or a very modern conspiracy…

Rafe Lancaster’s relationship with Gallowglass First Heir, Ned Winter, flourishes over the summer of 1900, and when Rafe’s House encourages him to join Ned’s next archaeological expedition, he sees a chance for it to deepen further. Since all the Houses of the Britannic Imperium, Rafe’s included, view assassination as a convenient solution to most problems, he packs his aether pistol—just in case.

Trouble finds them in Abydos. Rafe and Ned begin to wonder if they’re facing opposition to the Temple of Seti being disturbed. What begins as tricks and pranks escalates to attacks and death, while the figure of the Dog—the jackal-headed god Anubis, ruler of death—casts a long shadow over the desert sands. Destruction follows in his wake as he returns to reclaim his place in Abydos. Can Rafe and Ned stand against both the god and House plots when the life of Ned’s son is on the line?

Title: The Jackal’s House
Series: Lancaster’s Luck: Book II
Sequel to The Gilded Scarab
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Publication Date: 30 October 2017
Genre: Steampunk adventure m/m romance
Wordcount: 111,600
Cover Artist: Reese Dante
Illustrator (Map): Margaret Warner

Goodreads

About The Series
The Gilded Scarab
The Jackal’s House
Lancaster’s Luck is set in a steampunk world where, at the turn of the 20th century, the eight powerful Convocation Houses are the de facto rulers of the Britannic Imperium. In this world of politics and assassins, a world powered by luminiferous aether and phlogiston and where aeroships fill the skies, Captain Rafe Lancaster, late of Her Majesty’s Imperial Aero Corps, buys a coffee house in one of the little streets near the Britannic Museum in Bloomsbury.

So begins the romantic steampunk adventures which have Rafe, a member of Minor House Stravaigor, scrambling over Londinium’s rooftops on a sultry summer night or facing dire peril in the pitch dark of an Aegyptian night. And all the while, sharing the danger is the man he loves: Ned Winter, First Heir of Convocation House Gallowglass, the most powerful House in the entire Imperium.

Find out more about the Lancaster’s Luck books and the world of Rafe and Ned!

Excerpt
The only times I’d seen him this relaxed and at peace back home had been while he lay against me, skin against skin, sated after a night of lovemaking. Well, with luck I could provide that too, although perhaps not quite skin to skin. The sand got in everywhere if you tried that.

I slipped my hand into his. We were going to one of our favorite spots half a mile or so from the expedition house, a place where a small sandy depression in the land formed a perfect bowl before the ground started rising to the hills edging the Western Desert. Behind us, sparks from the village’s fires danced upward to meet the star-diamonds, and out on the canal a fisherman leaned out of his boat to grasp his nets, illuminated by a moon that had leached all the color out of the world, leaving it gray and black with shadow.

Far in the distance came a sharp yapping.

A jackal, likely, rather than one of the village dogs. The desert teemed with them, those ancient psychopomps to the souls of the dead. Another picked up the call, like an echo. Behind us, from the reedbeds of the canal, came the low ugh-ugh-ugh of a bittern and the higher-pitched whoop of the ibis.

Ned’s quiet breathing as he walked beside me became deeper, relaxed, and easy. His eyes gleamed in the starlight. “I love this.” His grip on my hand tightened. “Listen to that! Can you imagine what it must have been like all those thousands of years ago? So little in this old land has changed. Fishermen in Seti’s time went out on the canal in boats very like that one, and the bitterns kept up the same commentary as they watched. Seti heard the jackals too, and worshipped them.”

“I draw the line at worshipping dogs.”

“Heathen!”

The jackals started up again, farther off, the sound harder and angrier. Two dogs trading insults and gearing up for a little manly jostling perhaps, or a dog posturing for a reluctant female. After a little while, the barks and growls became a screaming yelp, and then there was silence.

“I wonder if she was interested anyway.” Ned sounded amused, showing he’d followed the same line of thought I had. He shook out the soft bedthrow and settled it over the sands.

“One of them lost, and I’d be surprised if it was the lady.” I settled onto the blanket.

Ned lay on his side, facing me, propping himself up on one elbow and using his free hand to trace a fingertip down the side of my face. “Do you really want to talk about the mating habits of jackals?”

“I would far rather talk about ours. Or to be precise, I don’t want to talk but to act.”

“Good.” Ned leaned over me. “Because I shall follow Benedick’s example and stop your mouth.”

With a kiss. With lots of kisses.

Well, blow me down hard. If there was one thing Shakespeare got right, it was the efficacy of a kiss to stop a man talking himself to death and to focus his mind on the essentials. For the next few minutes… years… centuries… Ned and I indulged in deep, increasingly urgent kisses, hands exploring bodies that were familiar now but which always needed to be mapped out anew. Just so I could be sure, you understand, that nothing had changed. Some kisses were so deep, I would swear Ned was using his tongue to check out my lungs from the inside—an exercise that left me breathless. His hands slid inside my shirt, hot and possessive. No doubt Ned too was reacquainting himself with familiar territory.

“Do love me tonight, Rafe. Dear Rafe.”

Well, I didn’t need to be asked twice.

Buy Links
Dreamspinner Press ebook | Dreamspinner Press paperback

Universal link to other digital stores

Individual Store Links:
Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Apple iBooks | B&N | Indigo |
Kobo

Giveaway
Enter the Rafflecoptor draw for
1st prize—$25 or equivalent Amazon gift card
2nd prize—a signed paperback of the first Lancaster’s Luck book, the Gilded Scarab.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

About Anna

Anna was a communications specialist for many years, working in various UK government departments on everything from marketing employment schemes to organizing conferences for 10,000 civil servants to running an internal TV service. These days, though, she is writing full time. She recently moved out of the ethnic and cultural melting pot of East London to the rather slower environs of a quiet village tucked deep in the Nottinghamshire countryside, where she lives with her husband and the Deputy Editor, aka Molly the cockerpoo.

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Fool’s Gold: Audiobook Version and Freebie!

It’s here at last!

The audiobook version of Fool’s Gold, narrated by the charming and talented Gary Furlong, is now available on Audible.com! And as part of the celebration, from now until 9/10/17, you can grab a FREE digital copy of the award-winning Fool’s Gold to go with it!

Eight years ago, Jake Stanford had it all: a spot on the U.S. Olympic Equestrian Team and the love of his life, Rich Evans. A tragic accident wipes out everything in the blink of an eye. Hard work and sacrifice get him another shot at Olympic Gold, but only if he puts his past behind him and agrees to work with Rich again.

Bound by secrets he cannot share, Rich was forced to give up Jake eight years ago. Now he has a second chance to help Jake realize his dreams. But the secrets that drove them apart haven’t changed, and Rich must face them or risk losing Jake forever.

This is a story very dear to my heart–a love letter to my horses and the sport of eventing. Not to mention, I loved tearing Jake and Rich’s lives apart, only to force them back together to see if they could work things out!

So be my guest, snag yourself a free copy and check out the smooth-as-silk audio treat that is Gary Furlong’s rendition of the story. You’ll be glad you did!

I Know Fear but Not Your Fear…

I opened Facebook, glanced around, and realized quickly I don’t have the energy to be there right now. I. Just. Don’t.

I closed the tab.

I haven’t been silent though. I’ve called my state representatives, even though I hate cold-calling people. I have to write up scripts in advance to get through such phone calls, and even then, my voice shakes. I’ve attended vigils and protests, even though I get panicky in crowds (and I think the abandoned baby stroller could possibly be hiding a bomb).

I recognize I am a person of privilege. As a cis-het white woman, I understand being discriminated against because of gender, but not because of the color of my skin, my religion, or my sexuality. I’ve had men suggest I wasn’t capable of doing my job because I didn’t have a Y chromosome, men who tried to talk me out of buying a stick shift because I didn’t want to be ‘thinking while I was driving’, and bosses who justified paying me less because I wasn’t the breadwinner of the family–despite the fact I am single and the sole representative of my household.

But no one has described me as an ape or suggested I wasn’t even human.

I’ve had inappropriate advances made on me by people in positions of authority over me. A tutor frightened me so badly I dropped the class. By the time the professor made a sexual advance on me, I’d perfected the art of inflicting pain and making it look accidental. I’ve also had a stalker–I know what it is like to be afraid for my safety–but that was one person. Yes, I am frightened by crowds. Yes, I am uncomfortable walking anywhere alone after dark–I don’t know many women who aren’t. But I don’t know what it is like to have people assume I’m a slut because of the color of my skin, or want to kill me because of who I’m sleeping with. I don’t have a whole class of people looking down on me as I walk along the street, with a single glance assessing my worth as a human being and assigning me to a category of ‘them, not us.’

I can sympathize with those who experience this sort of thing every day. I can tell myself I get it, but I really don’t. What I’ve gone through in my life isn’t even close. It’s like having arachnophobia and coming across a Daddy Longlegs in your house, imagining it’s a Black Widow. It might feel like I know what others are going through, but I don’t. Not really.

I don’t know what the average POC goes through on a daily basis. I don’t know what it is like to be a Muslim or Jew, or a member of the GLBTQ community, or anything other than what I am: a middle-aged white woman. I don’t know what it is like to watch my teenaged boy get into a car with friends and worry that he will be shot simply for being a black male. Or fear I will be attacked because I don’t look a certain way. On a given day, I might get eyestrain from rolling my eyes so hard at someone’s condescension toward me, but that’s usually the worst thing that happens.

I might be treated like ‘the little woman’ but I’m not treated as though I don’t have the right to live.

It’s not the same.

I am a person of privilege.

And as such, I don’t have the luxury of keeping my mouth shut right now. As long as things were inching their way toward better, it was easy for me to be a supporter.

It’s not so easy anymore. It’s downright scary. And the sad thing is, for the first time, I’m getting the tiniest inkling of what it’s always been like for the people I claim to support. Yeah, I could get hurt. Even killed. Something my friends live with all the time.

Things are coming to a crisis in this country. It’s not a matter of right versus left anymore. It’s a matter of right versus wrong. I can stand here and say I voted for Hillary and I believe in universal health care and a minimum wage that lets people afford a place to live. I can say I support marriage equality and sensible gun control and abortion rights and affordable birth control. I can rant about our current government and the death of democracy, voter suppression, gerrymandering, the Russian interference into our elections and the most corrupt administration the US has ever seen, but it’s not enough to believe these things. I have to voice them. Loudly.

I believe that standing up for what is right, saying no to the neo-Nazis, the KKK, and the consumption of the US by Russia is so important, I have to make my voice heard. It doesn’t matter if I’m scared. It doesn’t matter if I might lose readers. Hell, that’s the least of my worries. Frankly, if you don’t feel as I do on these matters, not only will you probably not enjoy my stories, I’d rather you not read them anyway.

Yeah, I know. I’m nobody. A no-name author in a niche genre. I’m sure there are people out there who’d rather I go back to chatting about the upcoming release or sharing pictures of my animals. Believe me, I long for the days when the most distressing thing I had to deal with was book edits and some silly brouhaha on Facebook. I feel as though I’ve been under siege for the last year or so.

So imagine what it’s like to have felt that way every day of your life?

I can’t.

I’m not a brave person, but this is too important. And I won’t shut up.

 

 

Being Broke Doesn’t Mean You’re Never Allowed to Have Fun

This may wind up being a rather disjointed and rambling commentary, rather than a neat little essay on what I find repulsive about the current attitude towards those who aren’t as well off as the 1%–which frankly, is most of us.

I’ve been in tight circumstances for a while now. I started a business right when the economy crashed, ran into some major health issues while self-employed and had crappy insurance, and have spent most of the last decade crawling out of the hole these situations put me in as a result. Things have gotten better lately, in part because I’m finally at a point where my backlist can help pay the mortgage but also because I just paid off the last of the medical bills.

But as these things go, the universe decided to play its little joke and hit me with several personal losses back to back to back. Between those losses, the current state of politics here in the US, and my fears for this country (and the world), it would be fair to say I’ve been struggling this past year. My creativity and my health have taken hits as a result.

Which brings me back to the point of this post. See, when you’re struggling to stay afloat, you tend to grab hold of anything that keeps your head above water. For me, that might be binge-watching old favorites on Netflix, or re-reading the comfort reads of my youth. Sometimes it’s planning a trip (though more often than not, I ended up having to cancel my trips this past year), or going to the bookstore, or buying pretty nail polish.

It turns out I’m not alone in that alone in that regard. A Reuters post indicated that in tough economic times, sales of nail polish went up because it was seen as an affordable indulgence–buying luxury at a bargain price, if you will. Apparently lipstick sales used to rise as well, presumably for similar reasons but also because for many women, their appearance factored largely into their success during a job interview. Even more interesting is that sales of women’s lingerie goes down with a poor economy, indicating a need to practice frugality in an area where one has some control over who will see your undies.

Lipstick sales no longer inversely reflect the economy, but nail polish does. It also is a relatively inexpensive way to lift my spirits. Not just a new shade, but the act of applying lacquer is very soothing to me. Much like drawing in a coloring book.

What all these images I’ve shared thus far have in common is that these are my own nails, painted by myself, all taken within couple of years. Something happened to my nails in the last year, however. I don’t know if it’s stress or an indication of health issues or my generally crappy diet, but I can’t seem to grow my nails out any longer–not past the quicks. They split and peel. They break with normal use. I used to grow long nails so easily, people would ask me what I did to make them grow. I used to have such strong nails, when someone asked me what could break them, I’d smirk and say “Kryptonite.”

All that changed within the last year. Sure, it’s a little thing compared to watching our civil rights erode before our very eyes, the concerns of climate change, the sheer incompetency and corruptness of our government, and oh yes, the possibility of nuclear war. Yeah, poor me. I no longer have pretty nails.

But it’s because of these other things that I feel the loss of my pretty nails more keenly. Painting them was a tiny indulgence that made my day a little bit brighter. So a few weeks ago, I decided to have my nails professionally done.

No, it wasn’t something I intended to have done all the time, but I have some weddings to attend in the not-to-distant future and I wanted to know if I could have nice nails for something like that. I fully expected to hate the process, but instead, I fell in love. Not only did I get my indestructible nails back again (with the industrial strength nail polish used, they don’t chip or break), I also got my pretty nails back again.

There’s not much about me I find pretty or attractive. Losing the one thing I was kind of proud of bugged me more than I realized. I was delighted by the results, and found myself looking at the budget and trying to figure out how often I could indulge. But shortly after I had my nails done, I started getting commentary on the unnecessary expense by various people around me.

Comments on whether the nails were appropriate to my job. How could I possibly do my job with those nails? Comments on how I could possibly afford to have my nails done.

Because suddenly, like the millionaire telling millennials to lay off avocado toast if they want to buy a house, or Jason Chaffez suggesting that if we didn’t buy an iPhone, we’d have the money we need to afford health insurance, everyone had an opinion on my nails.

Let’s set aside the infuriating irony of Chaffez lecturing the rest of us on saving our money to spend on health insurance–someone guaranteed coverage simply by being a member of Congress–I don’t know about you, but I don’t buy an iPhone every month for every year of my life. Because that’s how much my health insurance cost per month before Obamacare: the equivalent of an iPhone. Let’s set aside as well the fact that the last time I bought a house, it was for around $35 K. I sold it a few years later for $44 K. The same house now lists at $150 K–and as an individual with a single income, I couldn’t afford that kind of house payment. So yeah, perhaps millennials could save their pennies–but it still wouldn’t add up to what it takes to buy a house these days.

No, what really irks me is the notion that it isn’t enough that we are barely squeaking by at times, we must suffer for the indignity of being broke too. I know, it’s all relative. I know some people for whom tightening their belt means they will forgo the trip to Tuscany this year. For others, it means making soup out of popcorn because there is literally nothing else in the house to eat. But here’s the thing: if I choose not to have cable TV so that I can have my nails done, that’s my choice. Cable or nails: neither one comes close to a house payment. And if a house payment is completely out of the picture, then why begrudge me a small indulgence?

Especially if that indulgence helps me get by when things are really hard for me right now.

It’s high time we stopped being so judgemental. Be it about someone’s weight, or the books they read, or how they spend their hard-earned cash. Especially by people who want to make these judgements about morals when the truth of the matter is it’s very hard to lose weight when you’re dead broke. Cheez Doodles are cheap. Buying and cooking good food is expensive, both in terms of actual cost, but in time spent as well. It isn’t laziness that causes some people to collapse onto the sofa at the end of the day and not get up again until it’s time to go to bed–working two jobs kind of saps any energy for going jogging or making a week’s worth of meals in advance.

So I say this to you: if you’re hanging on by your fingernails, paint them. Buy that book or DVD you’ve been wanting. Take that special person in your life out to dinner. Wear the nice perfume. Just because you have to pinch and scrimp and save to pay the bills–sometimes to the point of having to decide which bills you’re going to pay and which you must delay–that doesn’t mean you can’t ever enjoy nice things. Maybe your budget is so tight you’re eating popcorn soup–but you can still check out books from the library or go to the free movie in the park. And if you do save up for something nice, something that makes you feel special or makes you smile, by God, don’t let anyone diminish your joy in it or try to make you feel bad about your little indulgence.

Just because you’re broke doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to have fun.

Being broke isn’t a moral failing. It’s bad enough to have to struggle to make ends meet. No one should demand we maintain a colorless existence without joy, merely because we fall into the wrong tax bracket.

This image was taken after I had my nails done professionally. Turned out rather nice, don’t you think?

 

Coming Soon to Audiobook: Fool’s Gold by Sarah Madison

Wow! I can’t believe the last time I posted to the website was back in March!

Looking back, I can see why. A lot of stuff is going on in my personal life right now–family crises, health issues, work stress… I’ve been keeping my head down low and trying to work on various projects but it’s been slow going.

The good news is that very soon I’ll be announcing the release of Fool’s Gold on Audible! This is my first audiobook ever and I am SO excited. I fell in love with Gary Furlong’s voice during the auditions for narrator and I’m sure you will too. With any luck, it will be released in August.

Fool’s Gold was voted best M/M Romance by the 2016 PGR’s Reviewers Choice Awards. The story is a love letter to my own sport, eventing, and I couldn’t be more pleased to share it with you in audio format. Stay tuned for more details on a release date!

In other good news, I’m working on the final installment of the Sixth Sense series, tentatively titled Deal with the Devil. I had intended to have it finished and submitted to Dreamspinner by March, but all those pesky life trauma things got in the way. It’s going slowly, but I am making forward progress, and hope to have it available for release sometime in 2018.

I’ve also been teaching myself to make promotional graphics and how to put together a newsletter. If you want to keep up with the latest from me (and I promise, it probably won’t be more often than once a quarter–no spammy newsletters from me!), then sign up for my newsletter here.

I look forward to being able to share with you an exact release date on the Fool’s Gold audiobook! Until then, I’ll keep writing.

Unspeakable Words: On Sale At Dreamspinner Press!

I’ve been so pleased with the relaunch of Unspeakable Words! It’s been getting some fabulous reviews, and is on Dreamspinner’s bestseller list. Best of all, right now it’s on sale! I’m not sure for how much longer, so be sure to grab a copy of this expanded version at a great price!

Here are some great reviews from LoveBytes, Sinfully Gay Book Romance Book Reviews, Joyfully Jay, GayBook Reviews, Diverse Reader, Boy Meets Boy Reviews, and Rainbow Book Reviews, just to name a few! (I feel like someone thanking people at the Academy Awards–I’m bound to leave someone out!)

I have a lot a blog posts out with this book tour, including interviews at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words and Open Skye Book Reviews. I’ve also begun sharing about my experiences at Writer’s Police Academy, part of my research for the Sixth Sense series. Do drop by Authors Speak at Rainbow’s Gate for more about Writer’s Police Academy, but also fantastic giveaways, and the latest on upcoming releases by some of your favorite authors! My April post will be about crime scene investigations and blood spatter, so come check it out. 🙂

It’s Here! Release Day for Unspeakable Words by Sarah Madison

Wow! It’s finally here! I am so excited to be able to share this with you–the brand new relaunch of Unspeakable Words and the Sixth Sense series! To start things off, I have a post explaining my decision to relaunch the series over at MM Goodbook Reviews, and I am chatting about when characters misbehave at GayBook Reviews. Tomorrow I’ll be over at Bayou Book Junkies, so do come and make the rounds with me!

There have been some excellent reviews already, including this delightful one from Debra at Sinfully Gay Romance Book Reviews!

I’m off this weekend to a much needed retreat in the mountains: just me, the BF, the dogs, and a snow-dusted cabin. No internet, but a roaring fire in the hearth. I’ll be posting the first in a series about my experiences at Writer’s Police Academy (part of the research I did for this series) at Authors Speak at Rainbow’s Gate on March 12th, internet permitting. And there will be more in the Unspeakable Words relaunch tour, so stay tuned!

You can find the brand new Unspeakable Words at Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble, as well as some of your other favorite outlets. Find out more about the next installment in the series as well!

Unspeakable Words and all my titles on sale at Dreamspinner Press!

Woot! I just saw that all my Dreamspinner titles are on sale until March 5th in honor of the annual conference held by the press! That means you can grab not only any of my Dreamspinner titles for 25% off until March 5th, but you can also pre-order the expanded version of Unspeakable Words at the sale price as well!

I’m so excited to share with you the soon-to-be-released version of Unspeakable Words! Isn’t this cover fantastic? That smirky face and raised eyebrow is SO Flynn, it’s as though LC Chase read my mind when redesigning the covers for the Sixth Sense series!

There will be a book tour starting soon, so stay tuned!

Love is in the Air: Valentine’s Day Sale at Dreamspinner Press!

I don’t know about you, but I hated Valentine’s Day growing up.

I hated all the emphasis on being ‘chosen’ to be someone’s Valentine, and how the whole day was an exercise in humiliation for a introverted, homely child.

As a young adult, it felt like a comment on my attractiveness and desirability that I didn’t have someone special in my life to take me out to dinner or bring me flowers. And yet I still wanted those things very much. I wanted that tangible proof that not only was I loved, I was deemed worthy of love.

The first couple of times I was in a relationship as Valentine’s Day rolled around, I went all out: the romantic dinner, the fancy restaurant, the expensive (and sexy) dress. Chocolates, wine, flowers, and cards. The whole nine yards.

Now after having been in a committed relationship for nearly a decade, I can appreciate it not the day that matters, or the meal, or the bling. It’s the person who is sitting across the table from you. It’s the person holding your hand, or the friends taking you out for Galentine’s Day, or the cat in your lap and the dog at your feet. I love that people are taking what has always been for me a problematic celebration of ‘love’ and making it their own–redefining it for their needs.

 

 

 

As part of that celebration, Dreamspinner Press is having a store-wide sale: 25% off all titles until Feb 18th, and a flash sale of new releases today only! That means you can pre-order the newly revised version of Unspeakable Words at the sale price (release date March 10, 2017)–or perhaps you’d like a story of love, loss, and re-connection with The Boys of Summer.  Or maybe werewolves and vampires are your thing–in which case, check out the award-winning Crying for the Moon! Plenty to choose from, and not just my titles. Entering the DSP store is like opening the Potter family vault at Gringott’s. 🙂

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!