The sniffles weren't too far away. Tadashi paused to listen again, allowing all other noises drown away. The fun type were children laughed, adults conversed in groups, and the teenagers amassed, broke apart then swarmed together again oohhing and ahhing over the different booths.
And each other. Tadashi sighed. Okay, maybe his concentration needed a little more work. He'd forgotten how hard this age was. Thirteen. The lack of focus, the hormones all over the place, and why did his hair have to grown in like that by his crotch this time around? No, not what he was supposed to be worrying about. Not even close.
Dag had run off. That was why Tadashi needed to focus on the sniffles. He knew that quiet crying anywhere, or more specifically, whom it belonged to.
The young boy he'd chosen to protect now that Per had grown up. His duty. His old persona had reached a ripe old age and it had been time to retire even before Dag had been born. The how's were a little more complicated than they used to be. Humans. They lived so long now. They also had too many means in which to document everything.
However, they had managed to put in place his brother Etsou and his wife, Hikaru, had a child but a sickly one. She traveled to Europe to get their kid treatment while Etsou stayed at the temple with periodic visits to her. The plan gave them all leeway to keep a facade while Tadashi passed on.
His end of the bargain was to stay out of sight. Not always the easiest thing, but they managed. Tadashi spent more time as his fox than human for six years. The freedom of the temple responsibilities had been nice, and he took more than one trip around the globe. But the mountain was home. Always would be now.
It felt good to be young again, like he'd been reborn. Maybe he had. So much had happened in the last century, so many wounds accumulated, so much life lived Tadashi welcomed the challenges of growing up again.
If I had only known what I was getting in for. Tadashi might've come up with a different plan. One that entailed the Mizuno's moving away then coming back. Staring over at five? Pretending to learn all over again? Only two things kept Tadashi from leaving. His son, Kou, and Dag. His little squirrel who preferred home and the strong, resilient young boy who brought laughter into life.
So to have Dag's eyes well with unshed tears, to see him cry out and stomp, then to turn and run away, it broke Tadashi's heart. He wanted Dag's exuberant smile back. To do that, he'd have to find him first.
Which is... Tadashi tilted his head to the left. The temple. Somewhere in the temple. Only Dag. Tadashi looked up. The sky had gotten quite dark. The fireworks would be beginning soon. They had some neat ones this year he didn't want Dag to miss.
Tadashi took off at a trot, weaving in and out of the flow of bodies. Friends called out to him, their excited voices asking where Dag was and whether or not to save some of the good seats for them.
"Maybe! If you can!" Tadashi called back, still pushing through the crowd. Going upstream was never easy.
The closer he got to the temple, the faster he could run without worrying about toppling someone over. People smiled at him, some asked for Etsou and Hikaru, while a few grumpy old timers told him to slow down. But he refused to go any slower. He wanted Dag to see the fireworks with him.
The thump of the tiles resounded in his ears as he made for the temple, zeroed in on Dag's hiccups and stuttered breaths. Tadashi zigzagged through a few stragglers before shooting up the temple steps and inside the main room. Out of breath, and a little frazzled, Tadashi took a moment to gather himself.
Partially because he needed to, and partially because the overflowing emotions he was desperate to hold in check. Stupid teenage hormones.
Obon never ceased to amaze him. The crowds. The energy. The love of community. The love of small town with mostly Scandinavian background had for his customs. The small pinprick of pride flowed through him. They helped him make the town feel like a safe place for Japanese citizens to resettle after... well, after Berg had him reopen the temple. They even had a museum dedicated to survivors of the internment camps down in town.
However, seeing the festival through these eyes, fresh ones, really hit him in the feels. Tadashi had been so focused on his birthright and paying homage to his ancestors, he had forgotten how much fun Obon could be. This year even more so, he was finally getting back to an age where people didn't question him running around all by himself.
Then there was Dag and their friends. Because of Dag, Tadashi always had people around him, kids wanting to play and enjoy the day instead of worrying about everything else.
How long had it been since he really let go and celebrated? Too long.
Except Dag wasn't there to celebrate. He'd run off, crying. His green eyes full of tears, Tadashi stunned into silence and wondering what had caused the outburst. All right. Time to find his friend.
Tadashi looked up and scanned the main room. He dipped his head when his gaze fell upon Inari, but continued his search for Dag. He could've sworn the sounds had been from here. If it had been any of the other rooms, the chances were Tadashi might not have heard them.
Disgruntled and surprised he was a little pissed at missing the fireworks, Tadashi turned to leave when color caught his eye. Color where there shouldn't be any. Bright red converse stuck out from behind Inari.
Ambling over to the statue, Tadashi decided it would be better to not give Dag a chance to run. He went around the opposite side and hoped for the best. What he found broke his heart.
Dag leaned heavily against the statue. His head pressed against the top of the base. The defensive position in which he had curled into was awkward and telling. One gangly leg stuck out—the one that had given him away—while his other one had been pulled up against his chest. One long thin arm held it close while the other lay by his side, Dag's hand turned up on the ground.
A puppy. Too big for its own body. Thirteen and Dag was already a head over most of their friends. Gangly to the point where someone could count his ribs without much effort. Someday he'd grow into himself, but first, Dag would have to survive the teen years.
Tadashi crouched down next to his young ward and friend. Dag didn't even notice. His eyes were closed, cheeks stained red from the tears.
"Hey." Tadashi shoulder bumped Dag.
"What?" Dag started, turning a wide-eyed gaze on him. "Tada? What?"
Dag tried to untangle himself but only managed tripping himself up instead. Tadashi caught him, only to have Dag pull away. The move hurt, but Tadashi managed to put on a brave face. At least, he hoped he did.
"I'm sorry. Why did you run away?"
Unfortunately, the response only created more tears. Tadashi looked up to Inari wishing for a little help.
A garbled, hiccupped reply from Dag came instead. "You forgot. How could"–hiccup–"you forget? Anyone else."
"Dag, I need you to stop crying. I can't understand you."
More hiccups followed by more tears came. Tadashi had to remind himself once again how young Dag really was. Just because he'd gotten bigger didn't mean he suddenly grew up on the inside too. The first loud boom went off outside.
"No one." More hiccups. More booms. "I could've handled any"–hiccup–"one else forgetting. Just not you."
Whatever Tadashi had forgotten certainly had to be a big deal. He reached out tentatively and put a hand on Dag's shoulders. More loud pops and booms went off overhead. A shudder rippled through Dag, his mournful green gaze turning on Tadashi.
"All day I waited." He sniffled, snot running down to his lip. "All the excitement. I kept waiting when the surprise would be."
Surprise? Tadashi struggled to keep up with the jumbled words.
"I love you," Dag said with another hiccup. "And you don't even care. You just forgot me."
"I haven't forgotten you!" Tadashi protested, confused but sure he hadn't done anything wrong. Dag kept on going as if he'd never heard Tadashi.
"No cake." Another hiccup. "No present."
Oh gods no. Tadashi had indeed forgotten something incredibly important. His chest tightened and the pit of his stomach clenched. He had to do something. Quick.
"I kept waiting and waiting," Dag continued, tears and hiccups galore. "But nothing."
Tadashi grabbed Dag's shoulders and shook him. "Wrong. You're wrong."
Dag's forlorn gaze rose. He swiped his hand across his runny nose. His shoulders were still slumped but Dag had stopped crying. No more tears stained his cheeks. Tadashi saw the raw need radiating off him.
"I just wanted to wait," Tadashi said, only a tiny bit of guilt about the lie. Sometimes it really was kinder. "Because I didn't want the others to get jealous."
"Over what?" A flare of hope shined in Dag's eyes.
"What I got you."
Tadashi nodded. "In my... Meditation room."
"What?" Dag's expression darkened.
"I wanted to keep it a surprise." But before Dag could question him further, Tadashi pulled him up and dragged him out from behind Inari. He ran, a startled Dag tripping after him.
They were out of the temple and off across the empty courtyard while Tadashi tried to think of what to give Dag. Overhead the fireworks display burst above them. Blue, gold, white and red li the sky above, cheers and claps following each burst. But the lights were of no importance anymore. The only thing Tadashi wanted was to make Dag understand how important he was. However, there were only a few items he kept in his shack. One of the drawers in the dresser had Kou's tidbits. There were shirts, mediation stuff, his pictures, and... And... Well, yes, that might work.
The problem with that was its size. Tadashi looked over his shoulder with a critical eye on Dag. He was still growing, but could he really excuse the improper fit because of that? Although... If he gave one of his own... Yes. Problem solved.
Tadashi led them into the shack, pushing away the wave of sadness he encountered every time he visited this place. He turned on the light, focusing on the dresser and ignoring the paintings on the walls. It would only hurt more to look at them.
Not only had he not been here to pay respects recently, Tadashi had failed Berg by hurting Dag. It hadn't been intended, being too busy wasn't an excuse, and Dag really hadn't cared if the festival trumped his birthday before, but it obviously mattered this time.
"Sit down," Tadashi said, pointing to the couch. Dag went, head straight, his eyes following Tadashi. "Just give me a minute."
The dresser wasn't completely empty. Certain items with deep meaning were kept here. When Tadashi needed to escape, or remember, or to breathe, this was where he always came. The place where his life restarted. The place where Berg brought him, healed him, and fought for him. Those gunshots decades ago should've killed him, but Berg wanted him alive, so Tadashi fought. Clung to that need. That hope. It taught him to breathe again.
Tadashi opened the top drawer. Four boxes were inside it. He touched he purple one, thinking hard. It had been his once upon a time, but Tadashi had never worn it. The occasion slipping away from him the moment Berg died in his arms. After that, he couldn't bring himself to wear it. Maybe it's time to let go. A little bit. Out of the corner of his eye, Dag sat rigid on the couch, anticipation vibrating off him. Maybe if it were Dag wearing the yukata it wouldn't hurt anymore.
With a smile, Tadashi pulled the box out and turned to Dag. "For you."
"It's not wrapped."
"Too pretty of a box to wrap it up." It was true after all. A kitsune adorned the box, standing tall by Inari's side. Fitting if Tadashi thought about it. "Open it."
Dag took the box and flipped the lid, eyes wide.
"Happy Birthday, Dag. May the next year be even better."
"You don't like it?"
"It's just—" Dag shook his head. "A yukata? One like this?"
Tadashi turned away, not wanting to show his disappointment. He should've known Dag would balk. He hadn't been made with him in mind after all.
"Are you sure it's okay?" Dag asked. "It must've been... Expensive."
Tadashi didn't answer.
"It's beautiful. I think it would suit you better."
"It's too big for me." Give him about five years or so, then Tadashi would be the right size again. "If you don't like it—"
"No! I want it!"
Tadashi turned back, and sure enough, Dag had the yukata clutched to his chest.
"You said it's mine, right?
"Will you help me put it on?"
Dag stood, carefully putting the box on the couch, then stripped down to his boxer briefs. Tadashi smiled, his heart squeezing tight. To see Dag putting on his yukata did strange things. Things he was better of not thinking on—not to mention the guilt weighing him down.
"Is this the way it goes?" Dag turned in a circle, frowning.
"No, here, let me." Tadashi adjusted the obi. "The left goes over the right. Right over left is for the dead."
Something he hoped Dag wouldn't be for a long time.
"Then the obi goes like this." Tadashi ducked to wrap it around Dag's waist. A hand pressed against his shoulder. An inquiring glance up found Dag staring intently down at him. "What?"
"Thank you." The words were small, quiet, barely perceptible, but they meant the world to him.
"You're welcome. Now let's see."
Dag turned around, holding his hands up. "Does it suit me?"
No, but Tadashi felt a little better knowing his yukata would be there to help protect Dag. "Yes."
The blue bottom grew into a dark purple the near black at the top. Instead of the more popular geometric pattern men's yukatas had these days, stars adorned the fabric will a lone sliver of the moon. Flowers dotted the bottom—definitely not the style of today—while a kitsune watch from afar on the back.
Please, Inari, Dag asked. Look over this boy as he makes his first steps into manhood. Let me be there always when he needs me.
The smile Dag wore reminded Tadashi of the ones Berg used to give him. Honest. Open. Loving. Sometime in the future Dag would probably remind Tadashi more of his grandfather Berg than he wanted. When he filled out.
The thought niggled on something in Tadashi's head but he pushed it away. "You ready to join the celebration again?"
"Yeah, and Tada?"
"Thank you." Dag petted the yukata. "It's like they move when I do, like the stars are dancing on the yukata."
Tadashi just smiled in return.
"I'll wear it forever," Dag declared, and took Tadashi by the hand. "This really means a lot to me."
"Well, you mean a lot to me."
"Ready for the fireworks?"
Dag titled his head, smiling sadly. "Sounds like they're almost done."
Tadashi pulled Dag outside, the two of them huddled close together in the courtyard, watching the explosions above. Shoulder to shoulder their eyes fixated on the shapes and colors above them. Dag's fingers brushed Tadashi's, and he almost drew back. Except Dag gave him that heart-attack inducing smile again.
"No, I mean it. Thanks for not forgetting me."
"What are best friends for?"
Dag laughed. "To drive us crazy?"
"Maybe," Tadashi agreed. "But I like to think we're there to help pick the other person up."
"Sounds nice." Dag pushed closer to Tadashi.
He agreed and turned to the sky. Thirteen wasn't so bad, and he was excited to see what kind of man Dag was going to become. Halfway there, but still so short. Nevertheless, someday, they'd be out here, under the stars dancing away. Until then, Tadashi would watch over Dag best he could.
A brilliant smile lit up Dag's face the exact same moment the sky exploded with the grand finale, fireworks bursting every which way, floating down toward them like stars coming to rest. Music poured out from the speakers. Dag grabbed Tadashi's hand and pulled him close.
And together, side-by-side, they watched as the lights danced overhead. Tadashi pressed in a little closer and sighed. The night really couldn't get more perfect.
"Happy birthday, Dag. I hope that you get everything you wished for."
QueerSciFi is running our first ever holiday blog hop. Our members will be sharing a number of our great holiday-themed titles on their blogs - it's a great way to find speculative-fiction themed LGBT holiday books! We've included buy links for each of the books below - books are listed in alphabetical order by title. Happy Holidays!
Candle in the Dark Anthology Author: Various Price: $5.00 eBook / $10.00 Paperback Summary: In almost all traditions, winter has been a time to huddle around the fire and be thankful for those the fire is shared with. The holidays grew out of a need to celebrate that time, from Christmas to Chanukah to Solstice. The longest night of the year has always held some special mystery, and we’re proud to present you with several stories of how those mysteries bear fruit. In the first story, Patrick receives a mysterious invitation to dine at the most exclusive restaurant for men. His server, Gio, encourages him to Savor the experience... Buy Links:
A Christmas Cactus for the General Author: Angel Martinez Price: $3.99 eBook Summary: Exiled to Earth for perhaps the worst failure in Irasolan history, General Teer must assimilate or die. Earth is too warm, too wet, too foreign, but he does the best he can even though human males are loud, childish louts whom he can't imitate successfully. When a grieving seaplane pilot strikes up a strange and uneasy friendship with him, he finds he may have been too quick to judge human males. They are strange to look at, but perhaps not as unbearable as he thought. Buy Links:
The Darkest Midnight in December Author: Jana Denardo Price: $3.99 eBook Summary: The year is 1930, and something is hunting infants and young couples in Economy Village, PA. When a local priest begins to suspect a demon may be the culprit, the sheriff calls in a team of Soldiers of the Sun. Caleb, Agni, Temple, and Li specialize in demon hunting, but they can’t rule out an old religious sect as the true culprit. Prejudice, distraught parents, and angry townspeople don’t make the team’s job any easier. And if something goes wrong, their own their own, because by the time their backup arrives, it will be too late. Buy Links:
Fruitcakes Author: Renee George Price: $1.99 eBook Summary: Losing your boyfriend because you see monsters...not good. Getting locked up in the local mental hospital because you accused your boss of being an actual ogre…also not good. Falling for your crazy roommate, who thinks he’s one of Santa's elves…so not good! Or is it? Come along for a sexy ride as Donner and Bran try to escape the locked ward before Christmas Eve so Bran doesn't lose the only job important to him. USA Today Bestselling author Renee George pens a laugh-out-loud MM Fairytale Christmas…Nuts included! Buy Links:
Holiday Lights Author: Jana Denardo Price: Free Summary: Aaron asks Rhys for some help with putting up the tree and finalizing their holiday plans, even though he knows Rhys will have something to say about all of Aaron's geeky ornaments. Rhys puts his own special touches on the holiday decorating as only a fae could. Buy Links:
Ilya and the Wolf Author: Rory Ni Coileain Price: $1.99 eBook Summary: Ilya, the youngest son of a Moscow oligarch, is so deep in the closet he’d find Narnia if that weren’t a decadent Western story. On Christmas Eve, his brothers lure him into the forest, intending to murder him and erase the shame he inflicts on their family by existing. However, the attempt is interrupted by Volyk, a wolf who carries the blood of the ancient oboroten’ —shapeshifters. Ilya never imagined a Christmas gift like the handsome wolf, but accepting what Volyk offers will have consequences that change both of their lives forever. Buy Links:
Lion's Hero Author: Alexis Woods Price: $.99 eBook Summary: Eight nights to fall in love. Ari has a mission: meet and fall in love with a man chosen for him by God. The catch: he only has eight nights to complete it—the eight nights of Chanukah Gabriel has a test of faith. Reaching out to a young man, he finds himself confronted with the unbelievable. Believe, and the Festival of Lights may herald a miracle. Buy Links:
Loving Blitz Author: Charlie Cochet Price: $3.99 eBook Summary: From North Pole City to Winter Wonderland, preparations are underway after a royal announcement sweeps everyone into a frenzy of festivity. At the heart of the celebration are the city’s most beloved elf pilots, the Rein Dears. Once the Big Flight is behind them, the pilots prepare for the royal event. Assigned a special task of finding an Elska rose, Cupid and Blitzen are unaware of how their friendship is about to change forever. Yet not all that glitters is gold. The sweet, angelic Cupid hides a dark secret, one that threatens to destroy his Rein Dear status, his friends, and the elf who’s captured his heart. It’s up to Blitzen to help Cupid see the light in the darkness and show him that together they can mend broken hearts. Buy Links:
The Magic of Christmas Author: Pelaam Price: $2.99 eBook Summary: Jared joins his four best friends on an early Christmas holiday in a beautiful winter wonderland. He's been in love with the talented and extroverted Casey for years, but lacked the courage to say anything. Casey loves Jared, but despite his gregarious exterior, inside lurks someone shy and insecure and so he's never spoken up. Both men are about to experience real Christmas magic. Buy Links:
Nicolas Author: Dianne Hartsock Price: $6.99 eBook / $14.99 Paperback Summary: Betrayed by a lover, Jamie rents an isolated cabin on Lake Huron, wanting only to be left alone. Instead, he is pulled from his solitary existence as an artist and tumbles headlong into the legend of Saint Nicolas. As a young man, Nicolas accidentally killed a man intent on murdering three children, only to have the man's malicious spirit rise up against him. Fleeing through the centuries from the Krampus, the evil troll-like creature that dogs his steps, Nico finds refuge with the young artist who takes him into his home and bed. But Jamie has questions. Who is Nicolas, and why does the Krampus want to destroy him? Buy Links:
No One to Greet the Season Author: Elizabeth Barrette Price: Free (poem) Summary: Victor Frankenstein and Igor have a queerplatonic relationship and a constructed son. Igor's deformed back causes him more trouble in cold weather, which makes Christmas more of a challenge. Victor helps him through it. Gothic fluff, holiday hurt/comfort. Buy Links:
Scrudge & Barley, Inc Author: John Inman Price: $6.99 eBook / $14.99 Paperback Summary: A classic tale takes off in sexy new directions! Poor Mr. Dickens must be twirling in his grave. When E.B. Scrudge, putz extraordinaire and all-around numbnuts, is visited by his dead ex on Christmas Eve, he can’t imagine how his life could sink any lower. But the three ghostly spirits that come along after are even worse! Good lord, a dyke, a drag queen, and rounding out the trio, a big, hunky bear with nipple rings and a butt plug! What’s next? What’s next is a good deal of soul-searching and some hard lessons learned with a dash of redemption thrown in for good measure. Buy Links:
Silver/Steel Author: Belinda McBride Price: $6.99 eBook Summary: When dream hunter Dylan Ryve spots a beautiful shapeshifter raising hell in a bar, he knows he wants the wild young man. But Travis Feris is more to Dylan than a few hot minutes outside in the snow; he's the assassin's ticket into the magical town of Arcada. He didn't plan to rescue the kid, but when he found the shifter being attacked, the opportunity to play hero was too good to pass up. Through the solitude of a long winter night, Dylan walks in Travis's fevered dreams, learning about Arcada and the pack, and showing the shifter the man he'd been so very long ago. Buy Links:
Spindrift Gifts Author: Aidee Ladnier Price: $3.99 Summary: Scars and a tattoo may be the only physical reminders from his years as a slave, but when Jimenez suffers a setback in his medical treatment, the only option is a therapy that will wipe away his all memories of the past including his time with Teo. Teo, torn between supporting his lover's decisions and the good intentions of his family, sets out to teach Jimenez about Spindrift Gifts and how memories are celebrated on Celos even when they are painful. Can Teo and Jimenez weather the storm to find their happily-ever-after on Celos? Buy Links:
Tempted from the Oak Author: Rory Ni Coileain Price: $5.60 eBook Summary: With his blue eyes and heart-melting smile, Gavin could have been made-to-order to entice Tearlach, a lonely tree spirit. But the human is the one who’s been enticed—stolen from snow-buried Minneapolis to the Scottish Highlands by Tearlach’s darag, the ancient oak tree of which he is the living spirit. Tearlach is trapped within the darag by the terrible memory of his own death—hundreds, maybe thousands of years ago, but as recent to him as his last heartbeat. And if desire for the handsome human fails to tempt him out, spirit and oak are both doomed. Buy Links:
Hello, Everyone! Welcome to the mad writings of a demonic squirrel today! Oh *looks to the side* what? *listens* Oh, you don't say? Well *brushes off imperceivable piece of lint* I guess we're not listening to the mad ravings of a squirrel. It seems we have a guest author today. The wonderfully talented Angel Martinez is here to talk ago us about her new paranormal series, Offbeat Crimes.
The series kicks off with her story, Lime Gelatin & Other Monsters. *looks at title name* You gotta love it, right?
So without further ado, here is Angel to talk to us about serious stuff. You know, funny. ;)
Paranormal Stories Should Be Serious
Paranormal Stories Should Be Serious, Right?
Yeah, well, often they are. A lot of paranormal stories take themselves too seriously. I’ve written some pretty deadly serious paranormal stuff, too, though I can’t write serious all the time. A lot for the absurd always creeps back in. And boy is there a lot of stuff to make light of in the paranormal genre.
While I’ve run into quite a few paranormal stories in gay romance/fiction that have funny moments (even Whyborne and Griffin have endearingly hilarious moments) there isn’t much in the way of gay paranormal stories that are set up as humorous rather than as a serious stories. We have werewolves and vampires galore and their dark and trauma-laden pasts. We have ghost hunters and fae, zombies and psychics. But not a lot of comedy. Even mainstream het romance is a bit light on the comedic paranormal except for vampire rom coms. Absolutely buckets full of those. One of the few I can recall offhand in gay romance is Geoff Knight and Ethan Day’s zombie romance, Guess Who’s Coming At Dinner, which was hilarious. I can’t even find a list on Goodreads for gay paranormal humor. That might be operator error, though…
When Amber Allure gave us authors the 77th Precinct prompt, the idea was for each author to write about a paranormal police squad in a chosen city. The idea itself seemed humorous to me, but I knew my cohorts would most likely write serious paranormal with Character Trauma and Big Bad Things and stuff. I have to be different. Funny…but what?
I’ll confess, my first thought was a vampire detective, kind of the easy way out, using a defective vampire. But the more I thought about it, the more he needed cohorts, other officers with broken paranormal abilities, until I had a whole squad full of them. Poor vampire (who can only drink “skim blood”) was pushed to the sidelines and another character got to play hero, one who can only absorb other people’s abilities. This sometimes gets messy, dangerous, and occasionally embarrassing. And we needed monsters! Ridiculous ones! So, yes, I have a whole notebook page of the most absurd monsters I could think of, some of which morphed over time.
There’s still mayhem and destruction, cause I like mayhem and destruction, and a budding relationship that’s not treated as an absurdity, but I do hope the structure of the story and the adventures of my broken paranormal cops will strike some funny bones.
Lime Gelatin and Other Monsters
Offbeat Crimes 1
(part of Amber Allure’s 77th Precinct Pax)
Officer Kyle Monroe’s encounter with a strange gelatinous creature in an alley leaves him scarred and forever changed, revealing odd abilities he wishes he didn’t have and earning him reassignment to Philadelphia’s 77th Precinct where all the cops have defective paranormal abilities.
Just as Kyle’s starting to adjust to his fellow misfit squad mates, his new partner arrives. Tall, physically perfect, reserved, and claiming he has no broken psychic talents, Vikash Soren irritates Kyle in every way. But as much as he’d like to hate Vikash, Kyle finds himself oddly drawn to him, their non-abilities meshing in unexpected ways.
Now, if Kyle and Vikash can learn to work together, they just might be able to stop the mysterious killer who has been leaving mutilated bodies along the banks of the Schuylkill.
Kyle sat up straighter, shifting to see between the heads in front of him. Soren looked like a poster boy for the model police officer, tall and straight, uniform crisp and sharp. He stood at parade rest beside the lieutenant, impassively surveying his new colleagues. A little knot of resentment lodged in Kyle’s stomach. At his own introduction to the 77th, he’d been nervous and fidgety, freaked out by the collection of…freaks. How can he be so calm?
“Officer Soren transferred from the Harrisburg PD—”
“Don’t they have enough freaky shit of their own up there?” Wolf called out in his rasping growl.
“Since Harrisburg is in our jurisdiction,” she continued with a quelling glance. “He’ll start out partnered with Monroe.”
“What does he do, ma’am? That it’s safe to put him with Kirby, er, Kyle?” Shira Lourdes asked as she flicked nervous glances across the room at Kyle. An empty chair slid away from her and fell over. Her partner, Greg Santos, shook his head and righted the unfortunate piece of furniture.
“Officer Soren’s abilities are his business, which he may or may not choose to share if you ask. And don’t bully him about it either, any of you.” Lieutenant Dunfee swept the room again, pinning each of her officers with her needle-laser gaze like captive butterflies. “Monroe, my office after briefing. Info on your current case.”
She dismissed them, stalking from the room with thunderclouds in her eyes. Kyle found himself approaching the new guy and trying his best not to be awkward. Did he offer to shake hands? Was it safe? Would the guy flinch like so many people did at the sight of Kyle’s scarred hands? Soren was even taller up close, six-foot-three of lean inscrutability, his blue eyes startlingly bright against smoky bronze skin.
“Um, hi, I’m Kyle Monroe.” Kyle fidgeted when Soren didn’t offer his hand either. “You’re with me, I guess. I’ll show you our spot in the squad room.”
Soren followed him silently and Kyle was starting to wonder if he was like Krisk in the not-speaking department until he finally spoke in a smooth, soft baritone, making Kyle startle and miss a step. “Why do they call you Kirby?”
“You’d hear it sooner or later, I guess.” Kyle shrugged. “It’s this thing I do, absorbing other people’s talents temporarily. If they’re close to me. Or touch me. Like Kirby, the little pink dude in the video game.”
Just that? Soren didn’t edge away, or change expression at all. Was he made of stone? “It’s a thing. Everyone here has a thing.”
After a few more steps, Soren asked, “Always?”
“What… Oh, was I always like this? Who knows? I mean, maybe I’ve picked up stray thoughts or something, but no. It’s pretty recent. Knowing that I do this.”
Kyle took a wide arc around Vance as he entered the squad room, pointing to the double desk in the far corner, well removed from everyone else. “That’s ours. Coffee’s over there, but you might not want that coffee. Let me grab my file and we’ll go see the lieutenant.”
“So what’s your story, Soren?” Vance called across the squad room. “What flies your freak flag?”
“Yeah, what do you do?” Jeff Gatling stopped ’porting his banana from one corner of his desk to the other.
“I don’t really do anything,” Soren answered as he hefted the empty coffeepot. “Guess I’ll make fresh since I’m the new guy.”
He opened the top to remove the filter and every human voice in the squad room yelled out, “No!”
Most people would have startled, maybe dropped the carafe. Soren just blinked at the roomful of people gesturing wildly. He took the filter out and emptied it over the trashcan. “Why not?”
“You don’t want to do that.” Kyle stayed by his desk, a nice safe distance from the coffee station. “That’s Larry’s job.”
“Larry’s not keeping up then.”
The container of sweetener packets began to rattle. It shivered across the counter and leaped to a messy end, ceramic shards skittering across the floor. The desk that Krisk and Wolf shared rose from the floor several inches and slammed back down. Wolf fled with a squeaking yelp just before the desk flipped on its side.
Soren glanced toward Kyle. “Larry’s not a cop, is he?”
“He is…he was! A dead cop. Larry’s a ghost. He gets ticked if anyone else makes the coffee. Put the stuff back, please!”
“Larry?” Soren raised his voice but to all appearances remained completely unruffled. “I’m new here. I’m very sorry I invaded your jurisdiction. See? I’m putting the carafe back. Closing the top. Are we good, Larry?”
A breeze ruffled through a stack of papers, but no further mayhem ensued. The carafe slid from its pad on the coffeemaker and floated to the water cooler where Larry, who never manifested in a visible form, whistled tunelessly while he filled the carafe.
From his dim corner of the room, Carrington said in his dry, genteel way, “Welcome to the Island of Misfit Freaks...”
2 commenters will be chosen at random (’cause I have a formula to do that and everything) for their choice of backlist Angel Martinez book!
Welcome one and all! It's wonderful to participate in this years Hop Against Homopobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia this year as we all celebrate International Day Against Homophobia, Biophobia and Transpobia this May 17th, 2015.
I sat for a while trying my darnedest to figure out what I should write about. I have lots to say, but when it came to this post I was stumped. I've written about bisexuality, homophobia, and all sorts of related topics so this should've been easy. I have talked about my bisexuality, should I talk about identifying as gender fluid? What would I say? I have talked about who I live in a conservative area so it makes it hard to met people like myself. To identify with anyone. Did I really want to discuss it again?
Nope. I write about those things in my books. I wanted something different for my blog post.
I sat staring at the screen and couldn't think of a thing. Frustrated I got up several times and came back, going 'round and 'round trying to decide what to say. Finally I couldn't take it anymore. I had to do something.
So what did I do? I took a walk. I didn't think forcing myself to watch a cursor blink, and not have something to say, would be productive.
The walk cleared my head, let my mind wander. It gave me space from the problem and made me feel better (instead of being absolutely frustrated and no outlet for my energy). And while out on my walk I took my "usual route." A route I have taken since I was in high school, needing an escape. (Yes, I have lived in the area for a long ass time.)
Best decision ever.
It's a nice time of year in Chicagoland. The air is fresh, alive. Everything is in bloom. The weather is just cool enough to not be cold, but not so warm you're sweating buckets. You can appreciate the smells and sights around you.
I have several houses I enjoy seeing aka stalking (and their yards—what can I say? I'm a garden voyeur. A construction voyeur. A, well, a "I like to watch change" voyeur.) We have some perpetual home improvement tinkerers in the area. Something new is always popping up in their yard, around their house, etc.. You can't help watching and taking note of what's going on if you've lived in the area a long time.
One of those house is a little carpenter-style stucco house. It sits on a corner so you can see 3/4ths of the house and yard. The owners take good care of it. Over the years it has changed colors. White. Off-white. Green. And with those color changes came other improvements as well.
First was the the front porch. Earlier on they went with a cinderblock design that went surprising well. Not something you expected but it worked. Then they added a back patio. Nice pavers with garden boxes around it.
For years the guys in the house focused on the inside. There were two doors that entered the side of the house, which seemed a little odd until I figured out door was meant for down (the basement level) and the other for up (the ground level). Slowly the floors were replaced with wood. A state of the art kitchen went in. The entry with the doors? Well, that always seemed unfitted because there was no divide between them.
But hey, it wasn't my house. If they wanted to share the entry and have two doors, go for it. Odd design, but I've seen weirder. (Including one that added a pirate ship in their yard - no joke.)
After they renovated inside to their satisfaction (I assume), the guys focused back outside. A tall fence went up in the backyard—maybe to keep us voyeurs from looking in. But you could still see the yard, so *shrugs*.
A tiny garage was added. Their regular cars never go in it, but it holds the lawnmower and other fun stuff. Their porch table and chairs go in over the winter. Their fire pit too.
Yes, I notice a lot happening in and around the house, but I walk by it nearly every days for years and years. When I went away to college I missed stuff. That sucked because then I had to figure out what changed because stuff had changed there. Little improvements happened.
Decades (yes, decades) passed. Twenty years makes it plural.
The two guys that lived there obviously held a great deal of pride in their work. They had one of the nicest houses because it was loved. Their cars went from being beaters to the expensive kind. They had a dog. It grew up, barked when I walked by. Eventually he was gone, though. The stone steps to the front of the house have been replaced by wooden steps. So, yes, changes happened. Big and small.
Oh, a few years ago the guys added one minor detail. One little thing that had changed in the twenty years I've walked by their house in the right-wing, conservation, catholic neighborhood they lived in.
On the outside of the fence, the one that went around their backyard, they added a flag holder.
The first flag they flew? A Pride flag. A beautiful rainbow flag. Four blocks from the catholic church. Three from the high school.
You know what happened?
Not a damn thing.
You could say "No big deal, I see pride flags all the time." But the thing is, here? In my neighborhood? You don't. Their pride flag is the only one I have ever seen out and proud as soon as the weather permits.
Could that have happened twenty years ago? No. Not one bit. Do we have other LGBTQ families in the area. For sure. I mean, I live here. But it's not like we go around advertising it. Not like what these guys did.
What that flag represents, the fact that no one has complained or damaged their property in any way, means so much to me. The fact that these guys can hang their flag, and no one bats an eye, shows how far we've come as a people. It gives me hope. It fills me with pride. It shows the amount of change that has occurred in our area over the last twenty years.
The other thing that changed? The two doors to make the house look like separate living spaces? French doors now.
The couple went from pretending to share a house to feeling safe enough to live there as a couple. One of their cars even has an marriage equality bumper sticker on it.
That is huge. So huge. It speaks volumes more than I could ever say here.
It shows how even conservative areas like mine are changing, can change, to be a place where all people are comfortable being who they are and not fear the consequences.
I will take that small pride flag over any declaration people could make to me in town any day because it shows progress. It shows hope. And it proves acceptance can happen anywhere.
The Mischiefers have a Rafflecopter going for the duration of HAHABT. Just enter below for the chance to win one of the many prizes being offered.
Below are the other authors, artists, reviewers, and publishers participating in HAHABT. Just clink on the links below to experience many more fantastic stories (and the chance for more prizes).
It's hard to believe I have another release coming up already. Between life, work and everything else, my schedule for stories is pretty slow. BUT, as you can see, another story for you guys to enjoy. The Nut Job is a novella-length SF story in the Foolish Encounters anthology. As you may have noted, I am in good company with Tali Spencer, Tinnean, Elin Gregory, JC Wallace, Angel Martinez and Amy Lane also taking part in our quirky romp.
I thought it would be fun to introduce everyone to Spencer, my space captain with a Napoleon complex. The unsuspecting world may not be ready for him, but Spencer and the rest of his crew hits shelves April 1st. Enjoy!
The Chair & Fork Excerpt
“It’s still there, Spence.”
He bit down on his lip, giving Krapor side eyes.
The tall, lanky Tu’Varian glowered back. “Rcrred is gone and can’t take your damn chair.”
“Fine, but if it’s gone, I’m taking your new sonic screwdriver.”
Krapor paused in his gathering. His slender green fingers went to his work belt, cupping the screwdriver protectively. “You wouldn’t.”
Spencer crossed his arms, straightening up to his whole four and a half feet. It was shiny. He liked shiny.
“That’s just mean, Spence. I’d never find it again.”
He sniffed, looking away.
“No one can find anything in your hoard. Not even you.”
“I know exactly where everything is.”
Krapor tossed the handful of walnut hulls into the bin. “Oh yeah? Where’s that ornate metal fork you picked up on Irasol?”
“Left cubby, on the third row of the sixth rack on my north wall, in the orange plastic cup.”
The birds tweeted, several crickets made themselves known, the breeze rustled the leaves on the trees. Spencer continued checking his square of the forest floor, chucking half the yellowish-green walnuts hulls in the bins while pocketing the rest in his pouch he kept on hand for such occasions.
Only when Spencer looked up did he acknowledge Krapor, who was staring at him, slack-jawed.
Incredulous bastard. “What?”
“I can’t believe you can just spout off bullshit like that. You little sqoltal.”
“Your quarters are the definition of complete chaos. They have a picture of it in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe. Do not enter—danger zone. Dozens of safety regulations are broken in it, with a pukey rainbow as its permanent guest on your ceiling. There is no way you can know where that fork is.”
A while back, on one of the Facebook groups I belong to, the question was raised about translating LGBTQ fiction into other languages. A hot topic for many. Once my response got to be over 1000 words, I knew I had a blog post on my hands, so here it is.
Would I love my books translated into other languages so readers could enjoy more stories in their own native tongue? Yes. It would be great to spread LGBTQ fiction (and SF & F LGBTQ) further.
The biggest problem for independent US pubs is cost, and honestly, that will always be a deciding factor no matter how much someone wants to bring their books to a larger market.
CAN WE AFFORD TO DO THIS?
Will they make money, break even, or have a deficit if they choose to translate it? Depends on how well the author has sold and if large enough population outside the US pushes for it. If the company can't make the money back then that puts their US business in peril.
What kind of market can they take hold of to be able to promote the book? Most of the LGBT indie companies we work with/write for are established here in the US, and don't have a way to market the way we can here. Are there LGBTQ indie pubs overseas? Yes, but that's another topic. The freedom we have to write/publish here versus overseas is a different experience.
Will they be able to find a person who can translate well? I've seen translations from presses who have been ripped apart because the native speakers found faults in the translations.
I could go on, but that won't allow me to stipulate on some of the things I've seen/thought about.
I have seen arguments between English language authors and foreign language readers about pirated translations get horrid pretty fast, and I don't want to spend too much time on that but it does need to be part of the discussion - without the vitriol. Also, geography is important. To put it in perspective I want to use two genres as an example that are not English LGBT fiction: Scandinavian Mysteries & Yaoi (Japanese Boys' Love manga).
Would I love my books translated into other languages so readers could enjoy more stories in their own native tongue? Yes. It would be great to spread LGBTQ fiction (and SF & F LGBTQ) further.
The US is huge, with a lot of people, 330 million. All of Europe has about 742 million combined. We have a lot of people to create works for us, some of which aren't English, but the vast majority of books published here for the casual reader are in English. Now, the difference here, even though we have a smaller population is that the populace - until more recently - only needed to speak one language while Europeans are used to being multilingual. My brother in law speaks four languages regularly. Me? One. Take a look at the maps below to get an idea of what i'm talking about. They're not perfect, but I think the point is clear. Take a look of the one with Texas - our second largest state. How many different languages and cultures are shown in just that state?
Our societies have been structured differently from the get go. We drive two medium size states over, they're still speaking English. Travel the same distance in Europe and you have the possibility of encountering four, five, or six different languages depending on the direction. The average American will never have that experience. In Europe, being multilingual is a necessity and how business is done. If a book sells really well in one country, the others notice and approach that publishing house, work out a deal and get it translated as a course of business, but those are the best sellers on their lists. Some of the medium sized sellers may too, because they are used to this and have a business model to work with.
In the US, there are thousands of books published in English every week. A tiny fraction of those will only ever see translations in a foreign language. Only the big best sellers are approached — Stephen King is a perfect example — by publishing houses in foreign countries for the rights to translate and publish. It's not automatic and LGBT writers aren't discriminating against non-English speakers. We're writing in our own language and have not been approached by LGBTQ pubs in Europe to work out deals like the traditional model.
What about Scandinavian Mysteries? How does that apply? This applies to my geography issue, and the observations here are qualitative.
Stieg Larsson's The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (aka Men Who Hate Women) got rave reviews and was out long before it ever got a US English translation. My dad ordered the UK version of it a year before it came out here. What does this tell us? It tells us translation is not a given. Mysteries were considered 'dead' in some sense here in the US and here comes this Scandinavian writer that changes everything. If his book hadn't sold as well as it did in Sweden, then it wouldn't have been translated for everyone else. US publishers wouldn't have noticed the sales in the UK and they never would have approached him/his representatives for the rights to publish here. Larsson had this awesome and different book with a strong bisexual female protagonist, and it changed things. He not only reinvigorated the US Mystery market, but he put Scandinavian mystery writers on the map.
Look at who is being brought over from Europe to the US—it's still the Scandinavian mystery writers they're bringing over, not the best French or German or Italian mystery writers - but more like Larsson. They found a spot to mine and that's what they're digging at until it dries up. Are there fantastic German/Spanish mysteries English readers are missing out on? Hell yeah, but we don't know because they aren't being pursued by publishers here. We also have a highly competitive market in our own language. Think about it. The size of the Chicago metro area (where I live) has almost the same population of all of Sweden. City vs Country. Think about it. Are those mystery readers pirating/translating the mysteries because they can't get them here? More often than not, no, no they aren't. Some are, there is always a small fraction of any population that will do so.
What this shows us that exclusion isn't on purpose. It can be hard to feel that, though, especially when you've been excluded for being who you are every day on some level.
LGBTQ writers here in the US aren't purposefully keeping their materials away from other LGBTQ readers. But for people who are often excluded or are harassed or discriminated against I can see why it would feel that way. We don't have the network and resources built in like the traditional publishing houses do, and that's part of the growing pains, but more on that in a bit.
Growing pains and exclusion actually leads me to Yaoi - for simplicity sake, the Japanese manga version of MM Romance. There's also the tamed down version of it called shounen-ai. Just like MM it has varying degrees of heat and explicitness. Just like MM it hit big, huge in fact, in the market. Anime and manga were being imported from Japan to the US with increasing amounts, and Yaoi was among the products doing well. For a while.
There were a few things that changed the landscape of importing manga and anime in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The internet being one of them, and a younger, savvier internet generation. Social media platforms made another huge impact. The way people could share information and their likes changed, and as that happened, so did another thing. Attitude. That one caused a lot of changes in the publishing landscape on many different ends-the authors, the consumers, the Japanese publishers, and the American publishers.
Yaoi has been around for a while, and was the big thing (in my mind) before MM Romance. It rose up in the 1970s in Japan and by the 1990s was often called Boys' Love, or BL. Its roots were in the Japanese dojinshi that parodied popular shonen (Boy's) manga and anime. What may have surprised some (but not others) was its staying power. In the 1990s, several companies were bringing over any (and really, I do mean any) anime and manga from Japan. We became a viable market for them and they started handing out their rights, signing big deals with lots of companies. Little, smaller operations popped up, wanting to bring over their favorites but not seeing the bigger names doing so. All sorts of genres fell into this. Popular anime and manga in Japan weren't necessarily what hit over here so it was a learning curve for everyone. And for a while, paradise. You could find anything you wanted.
People ate up anime and manga like no tomorrow. Lots of stuff got brought over, Yaoi being one of those things. And guess what? It was a huge hit, especially with female readers. Sound familiar? For a while dozens of Yaoi were being published a month, more on the way all the time. And then it all started to stop, slowly, bit by bit. The cash flow ebbed and all sorts of things got blamed. People had the demand, they wanted this anime and manga, so why was it too expensive to do any more?
What changed was the landscape.
We went from VHS tapes and paperbacks to DVDs and PDFs. On the internet, you could find anything, do anything, SHARE anything with anyone you wanted. The response was immediate. Hey, you want to know what happened in the next episode? Guess what, I translated it for you and uploaded to this server. Check it out.
Geneon brought over some really fun stuff and a huge variety of anime. They were one of the companies that went belly up here in the states. One of their titles was Kyo Kara Maoh!, a shounen-ai. It was actually a very popular anime in Japan. It's still ongoing as a manga and light novels. The anime also has a PlayStation 2 game. It ran for 117 episodes with 5 OVAs, and was even made into a musical. Here is the US, we have two seasons. When Geneon closed their doors in 2007, Funimation finished off the second season (78 episodes) for them and then let it drop (it's license expired in 2011). Now, Kyo Kara Maoh! had its issues, but this was an overall positive role model for LGBT youth that we lost.
The industry 'couldn't' meet fan demand. So, the fans took it into their own hands. They'd get pirated copies of shows or manga, do their own translation, and upload it to share. Who were they hurting? Those companies made a ton of money, right? Besides, they were too slow in getting the really good stuff out there. They had no taste. The fans could do it better than the paid translators anyway. Another problem? The readers were mostly teens and young adults – women — who didn't have the means to buy the translations. Not an uncommon problem LGBTQ youth have in today's market. (It is hard to buy the materials when you're afraid who might find them or have the means - job, credit card - to buy them legally and have to ask mom and dad to buy them when you're still trying to figure it out.)
All sorts of explanations went flying.
But what was happening is this: American companies invested in the Japanese manga and anime, but they no longer had buyers to give it to. Oh, now don't get me wrong, I have several bookshelves I can show you proving some of us bought, that many did. But with the illegal shares online (and some bad business decisions - no one thing can be blamed, but some shoulder it more), people stopped buying. They traded. So the companies who spent tens of thousands of dollars to put anime and manga out there weren't seeing revenues. Fans would refuse to take stuff down. Litigation happened, draining resources, and a sense of the right to share infused a certain portion of the fan base.
Less anime, less manga, and as a result less Yaoi. Publishers closed their doors because they couldn't afford to stay open and fight to get the translations down and not make money, as did companies of anime distribution. You want to tell me illegal translations didn't affect the market?
I was/am an avid Anime and manga fan. When I found Yaoi, I ate it up. They turned out one book after another, and then dates got pushed back, titles weren't going to happen. I bought Anime on a regular bases, trust me, I have the shelves filled with the stuff. I WATCHED as companies folded. I saw the genre I read, watched, and enjoyed evaporate. I encouraged people to buy and not read scanalations, or pirated translations on YouTube. But the writing was on the wall. I can't just go out to the store, see a huge selection and just buy what I want now.
Here's a list of publishers that opened and CLOSED during the Yaoi boom: Drama Queen, Be Beautiful, BLU, Broccoli, and Deux Press. (It may not be complete, there are a couple I can't tell if they are defunct now or not). As an example, Drama Queen was founded in 2005 and closed its doors in 2010-2011ish (I think). They lost the rights to a lot of their titles not long after opening their doors and were on extended hiatus for a good portion of that time. BLU was publishing arm of TokyoPop originally started bringing manga to the US in 1997 and eventually went bust by 2011 for a variety of reasons (the Border's bankruptcy did not help).
Some are still open, but not many, and they aren't producing what they used to. Just compare what June Manga produced in January of 2008 to January of 2014. In 2008 they were producing six titles a month (you can find it here) and now, in 2014, January had one title (you can find it here), and they don't always have a release anymore.
Another side effect of the illegal translations was the erosion of trust with US businesses.
Have new companies and relationships been forged? Yes, I won't deny that. But we aren't getting the same number of Yaoi translations we used to. The Japanese companies are tentative with what rights they do give. Some of the Yaoi companies popping up are forming from non-Japanese artists.
One example is SuBLime Manga (they have excellent PDF files by the way, best I've ever seen – love them). They have worked hard on getting Japanese companies to work with them again. To get the rights of Yaoi titles that were hanging in the wind because the other businesses shut down. But they had to work for each and every title, and the rights to print and digital versions were negotiated separately.
In fact, they had a post thanking fans for the responsibility they've shown with the digital works (you can find it here) because it has allowed them to negotiate new rights with other mangaka and their representatives. But it has taken a lot of effort.
Japanese businesses and writers don't want to sign over rights to have their works published. And why? They weren't making money. This was their livelihood, how they earned the clothes on their backs, and the food on their table, and instead of giving them a more comfortable existence, what they got was a major headache. Lots of titles are now out of print because of the companies going belly up. Those artists can't resell their rights because a creditor has them. And they are wary of doing more business.
SuBLime worked their tail off to get the titles that they have, and they aren't many. It is my hope that readers continue to show them respect by not sharing their translations. Many people watched as the industry fell apart, and many readers mourned the loss, so a lot of those same readers are now protective of the Yaoi that comes over now. We know if we screw it up this time, we get cut off.
And all of this mirrors the debate of translations for English-writing MM authors. If people go around sharing and translating without permission, claiming it’s not hurting anyone, the evidence says otherwise. The sharp decline of Yaoi being brought to the US shows this. If people are saying it's because we're excluding readers, it is not. It's about the resources and ability to be able translate it and the fear of revenue lost to piracy and unpredictable new markets.
Writing takes time. Editing, covers, and marketing all cost the publishers and authors money. If authors can't earn from their writing, then they have to work regular jobs, which means their production goes down, or stops. Just because you can get it on the internet does not equal free. There are a lot of things we can get online that we have to pay for and are willing to do so. If we cannot support the people who create the work that we read, it will go away. I've seen it happen. I don't want to see it happen again. It's not the same when it comes limping back. The selection is smaller and not as diverse or as interesting. Do we really want that to happen here, to us now?
We have an easier way to publish our work in the US, but we are by no means the only ones producing MM Romance. It would be nice to see small pubs overseas reach out to US companies and US companies reach out to foreign companies to work on getting translations, working with each other just like the big pub houses do. But they need the time to allow that to happen. Readers need to give them the time to make those connections because we're new. We're fledglings in this business and haven't had the time to build those connections.
We need to work together, not against each other, if we want to expand our genre farther. Instead of pointing fingers, people finding solutions so we can make the spread of love happen would be more beneficial. Money drives the market, and if that money dries up, so does our market, our chance to have ourselves realized in fiction. It sucks to say something like that, but it doesn't make it less true.
So do I want my books in translation? Hell yeah. And someday, I hope it happens, but first we got to make it so it's possible.
Today is the big day for the 2014 GRL Excerpt Book Cover Reveal! There is actually two books because of the 80ish authors participating. One for Featured Authors and the other for Supporting Authors. These will be handed out for free at GRL by the authors, so just scurry around and pick up your copy.
There are two covers for the two books. As you can see, the Featured Authors have red/black font with a sepia hue while the Supporting Authors have blue/white font with a blue hue. So be sure to take a good look when you're picking up your copy - we want you to enjoy everyone's excerpts.
I am looking forward to seeing everyone at the event! I will be the one with the squirrel shirt on. ;)
It's been a while. Life is busy. I'm trying to keep up with deadlines (aka writing when I can) as well as keep things moving on.
In other news, I wanted to talk about reviews. Not as in I love reviews - though I do appreciate it when I get them - or as in I hate reviews. It's about reviewing itself. (At the end of my little article I do have resources for people to check out if they desire.)
Review vs Summary
Within the MM community recently, we have seen old review sites shut down and new ones being developed by eager readers. Seeing the old reviewers move on is always sad, but that's the way things go. Meeting the new ones is always fun because they bring fresh-faced eagerness that's hard to compete with.
There will always be someone who loves a book and another who hates it. Reading, what you like to read, is a personal thing. The best thing you can do for an author, and another reader, is to give them a review that is comprehensive. Not a summary, but a review highlighting different areas that would be of interest.
What do I day this? Because there are lots of summaries out there, and they don't do much besides give me or another reader a breakdown of what happened in the book, and for me, the urge to read the book is usually wiped out. Summaries are not the same thing as reviews.
What is a summary? Well, it's basicslly like the book reports you did in elementary school, junior high or high school. In these summaries, the focus is on telling us an account of the plot, letting us know about the characters, and informing us what the work is about. You tell what you liked, what you didn't like, did you enjoy the book's themes, and give some quotes.
Does this sound like a review to you? It could, because they are similar, but in actuality, they aren't the same.
Reviews are critiques of the work the author created. We are not given a point by point retelling of the major plot points like in a summary/book report. Why? So other readers can enjoy the revelations themselves. These are about sneak peeks at the book and whether or not the reviewer enjoyed it. Reviews give a brief description of the plot points with an appraisal of the strength and weaknesses of the story without giving away any of the plot devices, or the end of the book. This idea is important to understand because a lot of summaries do exactly this-giving away the plot, its devices and the end—causing frustration for the writers and disinterest for the readers.
A prime example I can think of is movie trailers. Have you ever sat in a movie theater, watched a trailer, and then turn to the person next to you and say, "Well, I don't need to see that anymore."
Have you? I know I have, and that's because you've felt like you've seen all of the good parts of the movie already. They didn't hold anything back (baiting you for more). That's what a book summary does, it kills the excitement or the anticipation for the reader.
And this is why reviews are hard to write. I will be the first to say I don't write the best reviews, but when I do, I try hard not to give anything away. You have to give enough information that allows the reader to make a judgement about if they want to give a book a chance without telling them too much and killing their curiousity. Let them know why the book worked for a reviewer, or why it did not. Maybe what you like isn't another person's cup of tea, and that's okay, but don't be afraid to try something outside your comfort zone. When a reviewer does this, they are not only the reader's friend but the author's too.
Read. Love/Hate. Review. ;)
Below I have a couple resources listed if you want to have a more comphrensive explanation on book summaries and book reviews. Please enjoy and share.
If you want to read up more on book reports/summaries, check out Purdue's OWL resource for Book Reports. They give more comprehensive detail and guidelines for people to follow.
If you want to read up on book reviews, check out Purdue's OWL resource for Book Reviews. They give a more comprehensive look at them and guidelines for people to follow.
Please welcome Guest Author C. Zampa today. She is here today to give us a taste of her new novella, Honor C, as well as talk about love with us. In addition, she has a $50 GC giveaway (info at the bottom).
First off, I asked C. Zampa to talk to us about the different kinds of love. Friendship, kinship and lovers.
Je t'aime. Ich liebe dich. Aloha wau ia 'oe. Taim i' ngra leat. Te amo. I love you.
Boy, oh, boy. The word, the concept—love. How easy it seems to describe it! A simple four letter word, right?
More language variations for the little word than I can even count. Why, browsing for quotes on the subject, I found over 32,000 of them! And that, my friend, was only the tip of the gigantic, overwhelming, universal iceberg.
Finding a way to describe love has become as impossible to me as trying to catch Niagara Falls in a teacup. It’s that big, that complex, that powerful. That beautiful, that majestic.
Who can have it? Anybody. Where does it come from? That’s the glorious mystery of it. It doesn’t come from anywhere. It just happens and it happens in our souls, our hearts. And, folks, we have absolutely no control over it. Sometimes it’s so beautiful, sometimes it hurts so bad, that we wish we could manipulate it. But we can’t. Sometimes it’s so huge, so bright, we think we’ll die from how good it feels.
It knows no boundaries. Yeah, yeah, I know they say that. But it’s true. It has no gender, It sees no distinctions. Love has this uncanny, exquisitely wonderful way of just latching itself onto the hearts of anybody it wants. Guys fall in love with guys. Gals with gals. Guys with gals. Parents love their kids. Kids love their pets. Grownups love their pets. Kids love their parents. Buddies love their buddies. Best girlfriends love their best girlfriends. I could go on and on, but you get the picture. Anybody, anything that breathes life and has a heart is susceptible to it. The love thing, that is.
I read this quote by musician/singer Bob Marley. I figure he was talking about traditional romance but…well…if you really, really see the words, you know the sentiment really could be applied to anyone, any kind of relationship. But it’s a wonderful portrait of that thing called love.
Only once in your life, I truly believe, you find someone who can completely turn your world around. You tell them things that you’ve never shared with another soul and they absorb everything you say and actually want to hear more. You share hopes for the future, dreams that will never come true, goals that were never achieved and the many disappointments life has thrown at you. When something wonderful happens, you can’t wait to tell them about it, knowing they will share in your excitement. They are not embarrassed to cry with you when you are hurting or laugh with you when you make a fool of yourself. Never do they hurt your feelings or make you feel like you are not good enough, but rather they build you up and show you the things about yourself that make you special and even beautiful. There is never any pressure, jealousy or competition but only a quiet calmness when they are around. You can be yourself and not worry about what they will think of you because they love you for who you are. The things that seem insignificant to most people such as a note, song or walk become invaluable treasures kept safe in your heart to cherish forever. Memories of your childhood come back and are so clear and vivid it’s like being young again. Colours seem brighter and more brilliant. Laughter seems part of daily life where before it was infrequent or didn’t exist at all. A phone call or two during the day helps to get you through a long day’s work and always brings a smile to your face. In their presence, there’s no need for continuous conversation, but you find you’re quite content in just having them nearby. Things that never interested you before become fascinating because you know they are important to this person who is so special to you. You think of this person on every occasion and in everything you do. Simple things bring them to mind like a pale blue sky, gentle wind or even a storm cloud on the horizon. You open your heart knowing that there’s a chance it may be broken one day and in opening your heart, you experience a love and joy that you never dreamed possible. You find that being vulnerable is the only way to allow your heart to feel true pleasure that’s so real it scares you. You find strength in knowing you have a true friend and possibly a soul mate who will remain loyal to the end. Life seems completely different, exciting and worthwhile. Your only hope and security is in knowing that they are a part of your life.
Isn’t that beautiful? What an incredible, priceless gift for one to find this kind of bond.
All that power. Enough combined energy to split atoms, expand universes, turn dark to sunlight, destroy hate.
And only four little tiny letters. LOVE.
Next up, the blurb and an excerpt from Honor C.
Contemporary M/M Novella
All Romance (Are):
JORGE stirred beside me, dragging me from my reverie of schoolyards, lunches, and bullies and back to the present.
Tonight was our last chance to make love. I had no words, I just wanted to look at him, memorize him. I reached to paint the line of his full bottom lip with my thumb and shivered at the sigh it evoked from him, the tiny whimper as he wriggled to face me.
He twirled a finger in the curls at my nape. “Remember Shirley Setzer?”
I turned on my side to take in the sight of Jorge’s nude body—skinny, girly, driving-me-out-of-my-mind sexy—stretched out beside me.
The limited light transformed his thin form into smooth, elegant planes with a tantalizing thatch of shadow between his legs.
“How weird. I was just thinking about her.” I lifted onto my elbow.
His hand dropped to his chest. “The day we met.”
I snorted. “We didn’t meet that day. You never even spoke to me.”
“Ah, no. You pranced your stuck-up little ass back to the building, never said two words to me.”
Lifting his hand, he pretended to slap me. “I was not stuck up.”
I said nothing, just lifted an eyebrow that I was sure he couldn’t really see in the dark.
“I didn’t mean to be, Honor. I guess I was afraid to talk to you. None of the other kids had anything to do with me. Figured you wouldn’t either.”
“But you charged into Shirley. You sure weren’t shy then.”
“I just reacted.”
“I’ll never forget. You knocked the shit out of ol’Shirley and never even said anything to me. You just strutted away, all prissy-assed. Do you know what I thought?”
“I thought you were irritated at me, that you thought I should have defended myself. That you thought I was weak.”
“Oh, querido,” he murmured and cupped his warm palm to my cheek. “I was the weak one, to give in to her taunts. You were the strong one. And I think I loved you that day. Even that young, I think I loved you.”
“Me? Gordo? Cerdo Castillo?”
With a grunt, Jorge flopped onto his back. “Stop it, damn you.”
“Sorry,” I chuckled. It riled him so for me to put myself down about my size.
He shifted toward me once more, wormed nearer. “Fuck, fuck, fuck. I’d see you smile at somebody in the halls and I’d nearly cry like a baby, wanting so bad to get one of your killer smiles aimed at me. Holy shit, I had the biggest girly crush on you.”
“Could have fooled me.”
“Your smile, Honor.” He pressed a trembling finger to my lips. “Your smile.”
“Once you did speak to me, I don’t think my smile showed itself for anybody but you again.”
“Bullshit.” This time he did slap me. Lightly, but still a slap to my cheek. “She sure as hell sees it.”
“Ay-ay.” I coaxed the head of my cock against his crotch. “We agreed not to bring that up tonight.”
“Please don’t do this.” He whispered the words onto my shoulder. His voice, so husky, a sultry purr—all Lauren Bacall, just put your lips together and blow—hadn’t lost its power to make me grovel at his feet in lust.
“Want me to stop?” I teased and turned him in my arms.
“Make jokes.” Burrowing deeper into my embrace, he growled and circled his palm over the hair on my chest. “Becky,” he spat. “I can’t even say her name without choking on it.”
I held him tighter but said nothing. What more was there to say? We’d been arguing all night, ever since I’d broken the news to him that I’d gotten serious with Rebecca Sanchez, the dazzling woman I’d met a few months back.
We can still fuck, can’t we? Jorge had contended.Why does she have to change anything?
Because once my relationship with Becky seemed to be heading on a serious route, I couldn’t cheat on her. I just couldn’t. The decision hadn’t come easily, but I’d made it, and I knew it was good.
Amazon Author page: www.amazon.com/C.-Zampa/e/B004QSDSG0
C. Zampa is giving away a $50 Amazon Gift Card at the end of the tour.
Honor C. Tour Stops
29th: Dawn’s Reading Nook
30th: New Release Announcement Blog
31st: Author Raine Delight
4th: Will Parkinson (blog post/promo post)
6th: RJ Scott (Promo post)
11th: Silvia Violet (Promo post)
12th: Freddy MacKay
17th: Three Flynns (Seduce Day/wip teaser)
18th: MM Good Books Review (review and promo excerpt/blurb)
18th: Sloane Taylor (Recipe and promo post)
18th: Sue Brown (Guest blog post)
20th: Three Flynns Website/blog (Blog Post)
22nd: Cynthia Sax (interview-no giveaway on this stop)
24th: Romance Lives Forever Blog
Vastine is here to visit us, giving us a wonderful look at her story, Glory Lands, as well as hold a little contest for everyone (Rafflecopter link below) for a $100 GC to Victoria Secrets or Amazon (runs through May 10th). First she shares a little bit about the research that went into her story.
Q: Historical books can be difficult to write. The language and culture has changed over time and can only be ascertained through research. What kind of research did you do for Glory Lands? And were there any interesting finds or surprises along the way?
VB: For some reason, this era and everything about it are so close to me, I don't feel like they're historical, just my own personal history---if that makes sense. As far as research, I've always been fascinated with the era...the Great Depression...particularly this location, and have spent so much time reading and absorbing accounts of the period. But, then, I've had the luxury of my roots being deep in this place and to have had relatives (my mother, particularly) alive to share real-life background. And the language and culture are surprisingly intact to this day. But as far as some actual words, it did take a bit of extra study to make sure they were authentic to the period.
The premier interesting find during research was the discovery of the sheriff of the real-life town where the story takes place. The story itself had been tossing around in my mind for so long but---upon stumbling on this man---the story found its heart. His story, the particular incident which begins the story, haunted me.
A Texas Piney Woods Story
Rural East Texas, 1931. Preacher’s son Emory Joe Logan and a fiddler from Shreveport, Glory Lands, meet and form a tender bond. When they are caught and arrested for homosexual acts by Sheriff Elihu Bishop, the lawman’s sanctimonious bigotry threatens to rip the young men from their families.
Emory Joe’s father, Pastor Charles Logan, is brought to his knees in terror, confusion, and anger. He still regrets not standing up against Bishop when the lawman murdered a youth in cold blood nine years ago.
Now there’s no longer a choice for the preacher to stand up to the lawman. Cold-blooded justice, bigotry-disguised-as-religion, and hatred take on a whole new meaning when they’re standing on his doorstep, ready to take the son he loves.
I’D BEEN scared lots of times in my nineteen years, but never as scared as I was as I sat with Daddy in the church.
He’d begged me to go home, to pack, and to head for the bus station while he met with the sheriff alone—how simple he made it sound, as though inviting Bishop to tea and cake.
No, I told him. I wasn’t leaving without some last words to Bishop. So if I insisted on facing the sheriff, Daddy begged me to wait it out with him at the church. He assured me Bishop would show up, as sure as night and day, and somehow he felt safer there in the sanctuary.
Tears threatened to make their way from the well in my belly to my eyes to see Daddy sitting—just sitting, still and silent, with his Bible in his lap—in his usual seat at the side of the pulpit.
He’d never in a million years have showed up at God’s house dressed in trousers, a sleeveless undershirt, and suspenders. Sweaty. Unshaven. I wondered if he even realized how much like a hobo he looked.
Who was to know how this day would end? It didn’t matter any longer.
All I did know was I’d never realized how much I loved my father until sharing that awful but somehow beautiful silence in that empty church while we waited for whatever was going to happen.
Did he know how proud Mama would have been of him? I hoped his heart knew that Mama was right beside him in that seat, holding his hand.
Looking back, I reckon my mother had always seen my true self. She’d always seemed to know there’d been something different about me. Although I knew without a doubt she would have been standing beside us right then, I was glad that she didn’t have to be.
“Daddy.” My own voice startled me when it broke the oddly peaceful tension inside the sanctuary.
Daddy, as though he’d been in a deep trance, glanced to me from whatever world he’d been lost in. “Son?”
“You know why I’m doing this?”
He crossed his legs, shifted in the seat, and shrugged. “I think so, Emory Joe.”
“If it had been just me, I’d have hightailed it out of here, not made a peep, so as to not embarrass you anymore.”
He just nodded.
I continued, “But you know I can’t, after what they’ve done to Glory.”
“I’m not really afraid, if you’re worried about that.”
“I know, son.”
“I love you.”
With his brow furrowed, he stared at me with some words perched on his lips. He said nothing, though, just smiled and nodded. But his smile had hugged me and held me hard, and I felt his I love you stronger than any spoken words. The affection piercing me through his unsaid sentiment was the sort a fellow would give his life to have.
The purr of a car’s engine and the crunch of tires on gravel outside the open doors of the church shouldn’t have surprised me, but my body jolted anyway. And I didn’t even have to look to see who’d driven up. I knew.
Daddy drew a shaky breath, closed his eyes, and softly chanted a Psalm. “They have prepared a net for my steps; my soul is bowed down: they have digged a pit before me….”
Icy water pulsed through my veins with my spiked heartbeat.
Car doors opened and, after a pause, closed.
This was it.
Dreamspinner Press: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4617
All Romance: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-glorylands-1401263-145.html
Readers' Remarks on Glory Lands (Optional in case you want to use a quote or two in the post)
"...This story is beautifully written with charm and a very classy style. ” cathy- (Amazon)
But every so often a story comes along and absolutely annihilates me. Glory Lands is that story...~ Astrid (Amazon)
I tend to be a little squirrelly, but my friends still love me anyway. ;)