Saturday, September 2, 2017

Rainbow Snippet Sept 1

Rainbow Snippets is a group for LGBTQ+ authors, readers, and bloggers to gather once a week to share six sentences from a work of fiction–a WIP or a finished work or even a 6-sentence book recommendation (no spoilers please!).

In this group you’ll find anything from romance and historical fiction to mystery and YA. The common thread is that every story’s main character identifies as LGBTQ+. The snippets could range from zero flames to full-on sexytimes, anything goes content-wise. The only rule is snippets will be 6 sentences long–one for each color in the Pride flag.

I would invite everyone to please come check out the Rainbow Snippets group, click on a link, read and comment on the writing available and get involved yourselves in this awesome exercise. The link to the group can be found HERE.  The following Snippet is from my current WIP, a slow budding romance between an escort and the client that goes from a one time thing to a regular.  A bit long, and for that I apologize, it just wouldn't have the same impact cut into pieces. This scene comes right after Takashi showed Zander a statue in a garden maze that he'd never had the opportunity to see before, so Zander is speaking in reference to the statue with the opening line below.

“I’m pretty sure I have a new favorite now.”
Takashi chuckled, hating the edge of bitterness that chipped away at some of the pride he felt.
“Guess you’ll have to ask to come see it every time someone brings you here.”
“Nope,” Zander replied with a small shake of his head, shocking Takashi once again. “This was special. Most people don’t care what I want, or like, or enjoy, to them, I’m just an ornament, another prop for the night like their dress or shoes or car.”
Takashi didn’t know how to respond to that. How could someone keep doing something that so clearly demoralized him? Faint strands of music still drifted from the party, so Takashi tugged him forward, surprising them both with his impulsiveness. Zander seemed to recover first, slipping his arms around Takashi’s neck and molding his body against Takashi’s, his head on Takashi’s shoulder, facing inward again. Another impulse hit and Takashi reached up and stroked his hair, assuaging his curiosity about how soft it would be. Time seemed to stand still as they moved, the music fading at times, growing louder at others, and all the while they swayed. Brilliant bursts of color erupted overhead and Takashi tilted his head back to look at the sky.
“Happy New Year, Takashi,” Zander murmured against his neck.
When Takashi looked down, he could see the fireworks reflected in Zander’s eyes, a million times more stunning then seeing them against the sky and he couldn’t resist brushing a kiss against Zander’s forehead, recalling what he’d said about never kissing on the lips.

“Happy New Year Zander,” he murmured, continuing to hold him close. “Thank you for making this my best New Year in a very long time.”

Friday, September 1, 2017

Short Story Teasers and Exclusive Excerpt

The other day, as I was driving up the road, I was reminded of an idea that I'd had for a short story, and pulled over to the side of the road to write it down. Later, during a block of free time, I started mocking up scenes and in doing so, was reminded of a time when I believed myself incapable of writing a short. May workshops later, I  found the courage to submit my first one to Wayward Ink publishing, and the rest is, as they say, history. Forbidden appeared in the Mix n' Match Anthology and after that I made it my mission to submit one for each anthology announced, plus go out and seek other anthologies to submit to. In the end, All Roads Lead Within appeared in Wayward Ink's Age is Just a Number anthology, while Forged in Steel appeared in Wayward Ink's Collars and Cuffs Anthology. Along the way, two short stories were released as stand alone pieces. Today, I wanted to take a moment to share excepts from each stand along and an exclusive peek at a never before released short as well as my upcoming release in the new Fractured Fairytales Anthology. 

Spider Webs and Cover Art: Written for the Take a Pause call for submissions from MLR Press, this short is near and deep to my heart. The semi-colon tattoo described in the book is one that I eventually had tattooed on my own wrist, a memorial for a friend who took his own life at 18. Jace's struggle to understand what happened to his brother was difficult to write, but I hope it's one readers will take a chance on.

Losing his brother leaves rocker Jace Christenson struggling to understand how it happened, and what he can do to open the door to a conversation about suicide and mental illness. A trip to visit an old friend who runs the tattoo parlor where he got his first tattoo soon nets him a conversation piece, in the form of a semi-colon tattoo, but the pain of grief is still overwhelming. Reconnecting with his band is an obstacle he's not sure he can overcome. It takes some time away with best friend and fellow bandmate Troy Paulus to finally get him to open up and accept that the things he's feeling are normal parts of the healing process. And if along the way, the two grow even closer, than that's just a bonus right?

“Blaming yourself isn’t going to change what happened,” she said, after a few minutes of both of them just listening to the hum of the gun.
“I know. I just wish I could understand why.”
“There is no understanding. It isn’t a math problem you can solve. And maybe you’ll learn more about what he was going through when you read those journals, but the final thing that pushed him over the edge you might never know.”
Jace had nothing to say to that, so he unwrapped another candy and popped it in his mouth.
“I thought about putting it in a spider’s web,” he said suddenly. “The semi-colon, I fiddled around with a few drawings before deciding on this one.”
“You should have brought them in, it’s easier when people do.”
“They looked like shit,” he said. “Just doodles on a napkin”
“So, something’s better than nothing.”
“You know, after my sister got help, she said she understood why my brothers and I had stopped talking to her,” she began. “She said part of her therapy was learning how to seek out the things that brought her joy, even when she didn’t feel like doing anything. Make sure you look at this whenever you start feeling down on yourself for all the things you think you should have done. It isn’t healthy to dwell in the past.”
“Not yeah. Yes Sherri, you’re older than me and wiser than me and you’re right,” she said as she turned his wrist a little. “Because I am right, Jace. Believe me when I tell you that you’re not the only one to ask “what if.” When I found out what Lydia was really going through, I hated myself for having turned my back on her. I woke up in tears in the middle of the night because I’d dreamed something had happened to her while I was living it up, enjoying my life. I’m betting that’s exactly what you’re feeling right now.”
“Pretty much.”
“It’s in your eyes, whenever you say his name,” Sherri explained.
Jace sighed heavily and sucked on the candy, silently watching her work.
“How happy would you have been, if you’d stayed?” she asked as she worked just over the bone, making him close his eyes and focus on not flinching.
“Miserable,” he said at last. “All I ever wanted was to share my music with the world.”
“Then don’t second guess it,” she warned. “Brian wouldn’t have wanted you to be miserable, any more than you wanted him to be.”
“I just wish I’d known how miserable he was.”
“Maybe he couldn’t find the words to tell you, or maybe he just didn’t want you to know. Maybe the reason he always asked to hear about your adventures, was because they brightened his day.”
“I never thought about that.”

“You should.”

Nero keeps his mind sharp and his body toned for the nights he spends stripping for horny men. In the light of day, however, he's bitter. Can his best friend Vance help restore his belief in love? 
Vance has always loved cooking. His dream is to return to the coast of Maine where he grew up to open his own restaurant. The closer he gets to that goal, the angrier he feels when Nero doesn't seem to have any goals or plans for the future. He wants better for Nero, even while harboring a secret dream that somewhere in Nero's future there might be a place for him.

“Everything’s a joke to you, isn’t it? You can never take anything seriously, never give a serious answer to a serious question.”
“I thought you said it was a hypothetical question.”
“That didn’t mean I wasn’t expecting a real answer, dammit! Nero this is your life we’re talking about. Why is it so hard for you to take seriously?”
“Sorry I didn’t realize it was a life or death answer. Vance, relax. You want me to be serious about something, fine. I’m seriously pissed off right now because that son of a bitch that’s been hanging around the bar was back again tonight, that’s the fourth time this week. According to Harry he only shows up for my shifts, even asked him when I’m on and of course, my uncle told him because he’s Harry and he’s a sadistic son of a bitch. So I finish up tonight, and this guy corners me beside the bar, tells me he’d love to take me out for dinner and that he’d really like to talk. He’s got me crowded against the wall, and he’s clutching my hand, and I don’t have room to move back or anything. This guy, he’s just steadily pleading with me to come sit down and talk to him, and I could see Harry over his shoulder, just standing there at the bar, watching it all.”
“Shit, Nero, he didn’t hurt you, did he?”
“No, but that’s not the point. The point is that he hasn’t learned to take no for an answer and keeps coming back. He kept insisting that he isn’t trying to pick me up, that if I’d just go to dinner with him, he’d explain why he wanted to talk. Yeah, so I can end up with a roofie in my drink or some other crazy shit. No thanks.”
“Yeah because it’s impossible for him to be serious, right!” Vance exploded. “That’s what stripping has done to you, made you think of yourself as cheap.”
“Hey, I’m not the one who…”
“Shut. UP!” Vance yelled, the ferocity in his tone making Nero jump. “You’re so convinced that everyone’s a sleazy jerkoff that you toss the nice guys out right alongside the assholes. Worse though is that you won’t even take the time to consider doing something more with your life. You’re just content to waste it grinding against a pole and flaunting yourself on a stage.”
“This from the guy who fills notebooks full of unrealistic expectations without ever taking into account that he might just fail!”
“And you think you’re being realistic? Face it Nero, all you’re doing is settling for way less than your fullest potential, and that’s a shame. You’re wasting your life, Nero and what truly sucks is that I have to be here to see it.”
“Well then close your eyes from now on, ‘cause the last thing I need is you judging me!” Nero snapped, snatching up his notepad and stalking back to his room, slamming the door behind him so hard the mirror hanging behind it fell off its nail and shattered on the floor.
Fuckin’ figured Nero grumbled as he flopped down on his bed. It was only then that he’d remembered that he’d never gotten to read Vance the poem he’d truly wanted to.
 “You almost bit Langley’s head off tonight, and though he deserved a stern reprimand, I am not sure equating his cooking to reconstituted squid entrails was very motivating. What’s going on with you? You usually have far more tact than that.”
“Sorry Chef, it’s been a really rough couple of days.”
“You’re telling me, I don’t think the staff is used to you yelling at them so much. Me, they practically cry when I’m silent, thinking I’m plotting their demise or an all-night mis en plas, but from you, they look like they want to puke or hide in the coatroom, possibly both at the same time.”
“I’ll be more mindful of that tomorrow.”
“See that you do. In the meantime, why don’t you tell me what’s going on?”
“Just shit at home, which I know I shouldn’t bring with me into the kitchen. I just, I can’t even make it right because Nero’s been avoiding me since it happened. I think he switched to the late, late shift because I pass out before I hear him come in. He hasn’t been leaving for his morning workouts either. I can hear him moving around in his room, but he never comes out while I’m home. This morning I tried knocking, and the dick just turned his music up louder.”
“What happened?”
“We got into it about him not having any plans for the future and always making a joke about it whenever I bring it up. I think I might have pushed too far this time, but I hate seeing him waste his potential.”
“What you see as a waste might be exactly what he needs right now. Never forget that there are many different paths. Some people are planners, and some are drifters, but isn’t the truly important thing that they reach the end of the path together?”
Vance hung his head. It seemed so simple when Chef said it.
“Look. It’s clear to me how much you care about him, but you need to make it clear to Nero. Attacking what you think are his flaws isn’t going to convey to him that you care about his well-being and it certainly isn’t going to make it easy for him to accept that you have feelings for him. I think you need to sit down and explain to him why you said whatever it is you said, without attacking him with it or picking up where your last argument left off.”
“How am I supposed to do that if he won’t even talk to me?”
“Boy, do I have to teach you everything I know about romance?”
“Chef, the extent of your romantic knowhow is a long stemmed rose in an empty wine bottle, chocolate martinis and crab stuffed lobster with a butter sauce; though it might have helped if you’d checked to see if she was allergic to shellfish first.”
Chef chuckled, waving at the air between them. “Not one of my finer moments but that’s completely beside the point. All I’m trying to say is that sometimes a grand gesture is exactly what you need to get the other person’s attention. From there it’s up to you how you’re going to go about making things right.”
Sighing heavily, Vance rubbed the back of his neck. “Yeah, and I do want to make it up to him. I shouldn’t have yelled at him.”
“Don’t tell me, tell him.”
“I will, Chef. Thank you. I’d better be getting home now.”
Vance stood and stretched his back, then headed for the door.
“Hey, Vance.”
Pausing, Vance glanced back to where Chef sat behind his desk. “Yes, Chef.”
“When you love someone, you love them for who they are, not what you’d make of them. If you can’t do that, then it really isn’t love.”

Vance closed his eyes and nodded, knowing Chef was right. In truth, he really didn’t want to change Nero; all this time he’d been fishing around for Nero’s plans for the future, it had been in the hopes that he’d say something, anything to give Vance some inkling that they had dreams that could somehow mesh. 

Season of New Beginnings: Coming this holiday season from Nine Star Press. 

Sitting there, surrounded by partygoers in Santa hats and green elf shoes, he found himself wondering if Clay had found the time to trim his tree or shop for Christmas dinner. If he’d gotten the stack of cards he’d written out to the mailbox or if he’d set the DVR to record the Christmas shows he loved but would otherwise miss.
“Hey! Hey wait a minute,” Desi’s screeching words cutting through Josh’s thoughts like nails on a chalkboard. “I thought you two were dating?”
Josh pressed a hand to his forehead and dragged it down his face. Inside he was seething, and it was taking every ounce of control he had not to snatch that pink squirrel from Desi’s hand and upend it over his head.
“We were,” Josh snapped. “But that didn’t make him ‘my man.’ People aren’t possessions, I fuckin’ hate that term ‘my man.’ I’m my own fuckin’ person and so is he. Just because we were in a relationship doesn’t mean we stopped being individuals. And before you say some more stupid shit, I hate when assholes decide to call me babe. Makes me wanna jackslap them upside the head.”
“You’re a bitter, violent little queen aren’t you? No wonder you can’t keep a man.”
Josh growled and snatched up his shot of whiskey and downed it before slamming the glass back onto the bar hard enough that it was a miracle it didn’t crack.
“Motherfucker, if you don’t get the hell away from me and stay the hell away from me for the rest of the night, I’m gonna forget this is David’s party, tear that ratty wig off your head, and ram it down your throat.”
Desi pursed his lips, narrowed his eyes, and licked his tongue out along the glittery metallic pink of his lip gloss before batting his eyes flirtatiously at Josh, a sight that made the younger man’s stomach turn.
“That’s not what I’d prefer for you to be ramming down my throat,” Desi practically purred, as Josh all but fell off the barstool in his haste to get away. “Nor is it your mother I’d love to be fucking.”
“God I hate you,” Josh grumbled and stomped across the room.
“Merry Christmas, Sweetheart!” Desi called after him. “Now that’s one queen that needs to get laid.”
Joshua almost turned at Desi’s parting remarks; the only thing stopping him was the fact that he didn’t have enough money on him for bail, at least for the kind of charges he’d end up with if he did to Desi everything that was running through his mind. Shouldering his way past people, and ignoring the looks and questions they hurled his way, he headed for the door. He’d almost made it to the coat-check room when he crashed into Brayden Parker, nearly sending the other man plummeting  to the floor. Of course, wherever Brayden was, his partner, Chase Bennington, was close at hand, and after he’d steadied Brayden, his ironclad grip clasped around Josh’s arm, holding him firmly in place.
“What the hell’s your problem?” Chase demanded as he gave Josh a bit of a shake. Josh wasn’t a small man, but compared to Chase’s six-foot-six muscle-bound frame, he might as well have been.
“Sorry, just in a hurry to get the hell out of here.”
“Yeah, well too bad,” Chase grumbled.
Balling his hands into fists, Josh glared up to see Chase glaring right back at him, his ice-blue eyes seeming even colder, even with the bright colors from the Christmas lights overhead reflecting in them.
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Josh growled as he twisted, determined to yank his arm loose from Chase’s hold.
“It means you ain’t going anywhere yet, not until David unveils his surprise. He specifically asked that all of his friends be here to share whatever it is with him and Dion, and knowing how he feels about you, it would hurt his feelings if you weren’t here to see it, so sit down and stop acting like you’re the only one who’s ever gone through a breakup. You’re an adult, act like it.”
“What the fuck do you know?”
“I know you’ve been acting like a selfish little punk all night, glaring at everyone who tries to talk to you and storming around like you’re just spoiling for a fight. Well if that’s what you’re after, we can go outside, just as long as you know I’m dragging your ass back in here when we’re done.”
Now that got Josh’s dander up. He might not have the size advantage, but he’d been in his share of fights and was never one for backing down.
“And what makes you think you’d win?” Josh demanded, drawing his arm back, itching to punch the smug look right off of Chase’s face, would have too, if Brayden hadn’t stepped between them.
“Behave yourselves, both of you,” Brayden hissed. “Chase, I’d like another Sloe Gin Fizz please.”
The smile he fixed his boyfriend with was one-part innocence and two-parts predator. Josh had to chuckle. While Chase might be the bruiser in the family, it was clear who was truly running things. Chase sighed, his face softened and his stance relaxed.
“Sure,” Chase replied and turned, heading back the way Josh had come, toward the bar.
“He’d have broken you in two,” Brayden cautioned as soon as Chase was out of earshot, “and then he’d have felt like shit about it. The last thing I need is him being broody and mopey at Christmas, so ease up, will ya?”
“I’m not the one who started it.”
“Really? Hmmm, guess it’s some other guy plowing through the place looking to bowl people over on his way to the door?”
“Yeah, well, I am sorry about that. Desi was being an ass; I figured if I didn’t leave, I’d end up going to jail for beating him half to death with his own wig.”
“Awe, honey, you need to relax a minute, before you go and do something you’ll regret, though it seems like you already have. It’s an easy fix you know. If you miss Clay so much, why not just tell him that?”
Josh snorted.
“When? Between the playlist that needs tweaking or the guest list that’s gotten out of control? If I had the cash, I’d schedule a consultation with him, because that way, at least, I’d have his undivided attention, which is about the only way I’m gonna get it.”
“Wow, I never took you for the needy sort.”

And now, as part of the newly released Fractured Fairytale Anthology here is an except from Grotesque Danseur, a play on the Ugly Duckling.

“Margaret, it’s been a pleasure, but I just saw someone I really need to catch up with.”
“Of course. Take care, dear. I hope your next performance brings you threw. I’d love to get together for lunch.”
For the first time since their conversation began, he had to fake a smile, biting his tongue to keep from replying that he hoped never to see the town again. Instead, he gave a non-committal grunt and headed towards the door, scanning for curls and a face that would be most welcome. Instead, a bulky body stepped into his path, dressed in a navy blue dress that bulged in places. Blonde hair flowed over lace covered shoulders, and Sebastian struggled to place her face, though he was certain he’d seen it before.
“You were really good up there.”
“Thank you,” he remarked, trying to look past her to find that fluffy batch of curls.
“It’s a far cry from Pirates of Penzance, isn’t it? I heard you danced on Broadway in The Snow Queen and Beauty’s Revenge.”
“Yes, though that was a few years ago.”
“I wished we could have seen you, but my husband isn’t much for ballet, I’m afraid.”
“I’m…sorry,” he managed, not sure what she wanted to hear.
“I wish I’d kept up with my dancing the way you have. It must be amazing, having the chance to play so many different parts and see so many cities,” she gushed. All while, he struggled to recall her name or where he’d known her from.
“It has its moments,” he remarked, shuffling his feet as he brought the champagne glass to lips, only to find it empty.
Her lips pursed, then turned down into either a pout or a frown. He wasn’t sure. “You don’t remember me, do you?”
“No. I’m sorry, I don’t.”
“That’s okay. I’ve gained a bunch of weight since I saw you last. You, though− you look amazing. I could hardly believe it was you when you stepped out onto the stage. I’m Kristen. Kristen DeMarco? It was actually Kristen Sousa back in high school. We were on dance team together.”
He blinked and studied her closer. Peered into cornflower blue eyes seeking any hint of who she’d been. It was hard to believe they were the same age. She didn’t look 27. Hell, she didn’t look like she was in her twenties at all. He’d have pegged her for thirty-five.
“It’s nice seeing you again, but I’ve really gotta run. I was trying to catch up to someone.”
“I’m sorry.  I just…can I ask you something first.”
He sighed, but gave her a nod.
“What’s it like being up there in front of so many people, having them in awe of you?”
It was a struggle not to roll his eyes. Inside, he groaned, hating those type of questions. Didn’t people realize that he didn’t dance for the adulation of the crowd, but for his own pleasure?
“Dancing is exhilarating. The rush is indescribable. You’d have to experience it to really understand. Words don’t do it justice. Up there, I feel powerful, magical, alive, free to slip into a role and soar with it. The discipline, not only to endure each grueling practice, but to exercise control when fueling my body. There’s little in this world that can compare to it. Now, if you’ll excuse me.”
He said the last part while stepping around her, searching for the one thing in his life that topped his dancing.
But those riotous curls were nowhere in sight, and as he furiously strode through the room, it finally clicked who Kristen Sousa was. Funny, but there had been nothing left of the haughty, loud young woman he’d practiced with every day for years. He remembered her now, giggling and whispering with her friends, the ‘in crowd’ of catty girls who’d danced and done cheerleading, gossiped and pranced about the hallways like they’d owned the school.
“Oh eww, can you believe they let him on our team? I swear, he’d better not try to touch me. I am not doing lifts with him.”
“Yeah, you wouldn’t want to get warts or scabies. l mean just look at his face.”
“Barf. Why would I want to? That’s just sick.”
“At least you don’t have classes with him after lunch. It’s a good thing he sits in the back. I’d vomit if I had to look at him too long.”
“I want to vomit now.”
Sebastian slammed his locker door hard enough that he knew he’d have trouble opening it later, glaring at their retreating backs as they’d pressed their heads together, snickering as they scurried down the hall.