A COOK'S TALE
Book Two: Ship Logs of the Santa Claus
by Mann Ramblings
M/M Sci-fi Romance by Wayward Ink Publishing
Giveaway for Book One – The Luxorian Fugitive below!
The trials and tribulations of the crew and passengers of interplanetary transport vessel, The Santa Claus continues in A Cook’s Tale.
After a horrific breakup, Erron Murfin is bitter, homeless, and friendless. When the cook’s position on the Santa Claus presents itself, Erron decides to escape his current circumstances and join the crew. On board he reconnects with family friend Gamin Wells, whose own secrets and issues begin to surface upon Erron's arrival. The least of which is the reason the pair haven't laid eyes on one another in over twelve years.
As Erron settles into his new duties, the men on board take an interest in their newest crew member. Among those intrigued by Erron are polyamorous couple, Barrus and James. Despite Erron's cautious nature, he’s drawn into a triad relationship with the pair.
But there’s something about Gamin…
Is Erron too damaged to confront his own feelings?
Will his past prevent him from finding what he needs?
Beta Deck was situated like a large dormitory. All the rooms ran in a loop with a central facility containing a gymnasium, lockers, lavatories, and shower room. On a non-hetero vessel, the layout was dubious to say the least.
Since the majority of the crew was off-ship, Erron felt bold enough to enter the locker room. In his quarters, he'd stalled for a bit, deciding how to proceed. What was considered normal on the Santa Claus? Did the men walk around half-dressed? Less than half? There were a lot of factors in fitting into an established community. Towel over his shoulder, he stepped through the doorway into the locker room. The gymnasium could be seen down one end and the shower room was visible down the other. He wondered what it would be like with a dozen men all stripping down and showering together in one room together. The likelihood for something tawdry to happen seemed high.
Gamin's clothes lay over the bench and the sound of water running told Erron the chef beat him here. Not surprising really, Gamin had been on the ship for years, this was his home, and Erron hoped he'd soon feel the same.
Stripping off, Erron dropped his garments in the same fashion as Gamin. Peeling off his briefs, he felt a sudden surge of awkwardness. He was about to get in the shower with Gamin. The nervous giggle tried to rip out of his mouth, so he choked it down. He was being childish.
“Took you long enough.” Gamin said. The chef hadn't looked in Erron's direction as he held his head under the spray.
“I had to find my towel.”
Erron hung his towel on the hook near the doorway, and selected a shower with a buffer of one nozzle between them. The control panel beeped as Erron touched it, but nothing happened. Over and over, he touched the pad only to be mocked by the same tone.
“It's voice activated,” Gamin said, barely looking over his shoulder. “Just tell it the temperature you want.” Erron's face heated up; he couldn't bring himself to admit he couldn't muster the nerve to use the shower last night after they turned in. The ship was too quiet, and too new.
Ducking his head slightly, Erron leaned forward and spoke to the black panel. “Forty- two degrees Celsius.” A torrent of heated water rushed over Erron, the delicious heat the first step in washing away what felt like months of grime and sad reminders of his derailed life. The cheap inns he'd been forced to rent after being evicted had lousy facilities. This... this was a small piece of chocolate decadence.
“Like your showers pretty hot?” Gamin continued to face the wall as he soaked himself.
Erron angled his hips, keeping his privates out of view. “I'd forgotten how nice it feels.”
For the first time he could remember, Erron felt self-conscious. The fitness membership expired shortly after the breakup, but Erron hadn't lost too much tone. He'd never be large and imposing, his frame didn't allow it. A lean body and smooth skin could still turn heads. The treatment responsible for his hair growing in green made all the rest on his body the same color. Jade colored hair on his arms and legs was too odd and a green pubic zone made him feel like a perverted clown, so it had to go. There was nothing wrong with him, but why he felt the need to hide himself, he couldn't say. He certainly never acted this shy in front of the troops during the war. It was more than a bit hypocritical when he peered over his shoulder at his showering partner.
Tall and thick, with coarse hair on his arms and legs, Gamin's size and sturdiness were a stark contrast to Erron's smaller stature. Wisps of fur reached around the sides of the chef's rounded belly that matched the meaty globes of his behind. Everything about Gamin was solid and manly. The peppering of gray on his head and beard fit him as well.
It was true, he probably shouldn't be looking, but Erron had never seen Gamin this way in all these years. Not even shirtless at the park when he was growing up. From what he could see, the view wasn't half bad; Gamin had nothing to be ashamed of. What he did notice was how deliberate Gamin was being at not looking at him.
“You're a lot bigger than I remembered.” Erron couldn't help watching Gamin soap his body while continuing to face the wall. It had been a long time since he'd had any opportunity to be with a man. While it wasn't his plan to be with Gamin, as long as he didn't turn around, Erron could enjoy the show. He prayed Gamin wouldn't turn around. That would be mortifying.
“Yeah well, I've had time to eat a few good meals.”
“It looks good on you.”
Gamin chuckled as lines of lazy suds followed the contours of his back and between the crevice of his haunches. “Thanks. You've changed a lot over the years too.”
“I'm not a kid anymore.”
“No. No, you're not,” Gamin said, drenching his head under the spray.
Reading A Cook’s Tale allowed me to fall in love with the crew of The Santa Claus all over again. Mann’s characters are so alive that at times they leap off the page. It’s easy to get sucked into the story, letting time slip away while you read. Erron is an easy character to root for, the pain he felt at being dumped so cruelly is something that everyone can connect with and yet, rather than allowing himself to wallow in it, Erron is moving forward to do something positive with his life as he takes a job on the ship in the hopes of reconnecting with the father figure he lost so many years before.
His friendly personality, his genuine care for other people make him loveable, but Erron is no push over and his strength comes through several times over the course of the book. I think in him, Mann created the perfect balance of vulnerability, need and desire, with the strength to care for others and the genuine concern he shows for their feelings and their well-being.
On The Santa Claus, Mann has created a home for his characters to live and work in that is more than just a ship, it’s a community of individuals who have come together to form a family. Each and every character, be they secondary to the central story being told, or the featured individuals, have their own distinct and very unique personalities.
Tormented and harboring secrets, Gamin is the most complex characters in the story. As Erron’s father figure, they have a unique connection that hasn’t dulled in the long time that they’ve been apart. But there are other feelings too, buried feeling that begin to be revealed over the course of the book.
It was wonderful to see some of the much beloved characters of the Luxorian Fugitive again. Sgt. Jacks and Capt. Danverse and of course Hadrian, who was wonderful in his interactions with Erron.
Mann has a wonderful way of building a story, introducing the characters in active situations and then moving us into our lives, allowing us to see the journey they find themselves on. Along the way it’s impossible not to cheer for them, cry for them, and hope that in the end, they find peace and happiness. I’ve found myself anxiously awaiting the next story from the Santa Claus. This is a must read for those who love their sci fi sprinkled with strong romance and amazing guys!
About the Author:
Like many gay men, when MANN RAMBLINGS grew up, there weren't any heroes he could relate to. The world held him back while he tried futilely to hide the real person inside. So much has changed since those hollow days. He finally found his voice, the voice that says it’s all right to revel in the so-called inappropriate joys, laughs, and loves that storm inside a man's head. It took a long time to find that courage and now that it's here, he plans to use it well.
While spending years more focused on visual arts, he never let go of his innate passion for storytelling—he wanted to write and draw comic books when he grew up. Once he discovered M/M fiction, a whole new world opened with new possibilities. Why couldn't you have fantastic and dynamic tales with an M/M cast? He started reading the online tales of authors like, Night Tempest, Rob Colton, and Alicia Nordwell, which only fueled within him the need to create. Eventually he found GayAuthors.org, and with a little coercive nudge from Night Tempest, started sharing his tales with an unexpected level of positive response. That experience and support gave him the courage to cross his fingers and aim for the world of M/M publishing.
Born and raised in Michigan, Mann Ramblings continues to type away, wishing it was practical to use a noisy, old fashioned keyboard that clacks with each strike, if only to annoy his loving partner and spoiled miniature dachshund.
MANN RAMBLINGS can be found at: