Counting Stars

At the end of my holiday novella, Counting Fence Posts, Henry invites Marc back to his parents’ place for Christmas. Actually, it’s less invitation, more assumption, but Marc doesn’t object, and after two days of haunting the lobby of a crowded hotel outside Albany, they’re finally on their way back to Boston. Continue reading

Love Wins Anthology

Because love should always win. ❤

It’s been a tough week for me, and I know I’m not alone in this. Fortunately, I received a little nugget of light today that lifted my spirits. I know the LGBT+ community is facing a tough four years, but now that I’ve had time to mourn and process what happened on Tuesday, I’ve gotten to the point where I just want to turn up the gay.

love-winsAnd what better way to start than by announcing the release date for Dreamspinner Press’s Love Wins Anthology! The collection of short stories with positive and uplifting endings will be released December 12th, and all proceeds will be donated to LGBT organizations in Central Florida.

I’m so happy that I could do something positive and meaningful to show my support for the victims of the Pulse shooting and offer a helping hand to those in desperate need of it. I fear the…

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Flash Fiction: Kissing Cherries and The Song

 

Here are couple more of my contributions to the Monday Flash Fics group on Facebook. These stories and more can be read on my flash fiction Tumblr.

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Kissing Cherries

“Thy lips, those kissing cherries, tempting grow! That pure congealèd white, high Taurus’ snow…”

Again, I faltered. It was the word congealed. Generally, I enjoyed the fun Shakespeare had with words, but every time I hit this line, I imagined that fuzz you got on your teeth in the morning if you forgot to brush the night before.

“You’re thinking about teeth again, aren’t you?” Ray said.

“I can’t help it! The high Taurus snow part is perfect. I’m thinking white, there. Glacial white. Fresh as a mountain whatever.” I tapped the script. “And then he goes and ruins it with the crow reference.”

“It’s a comparison. It means Helena’s hands are very, very white.”

“Seriously, if you tried a line like that at Becker’s, you’d find six dudes asleep at your feet and one frothing at the mouth.”

“Frothing?”

“Because he’d be insane.”

Grinning, Ray bent toward the floor and tapped at the phone he’d laid there. “Congealed. Take shape, coalesce, especially to form a satisfying whole.” He glanced up. “How does Google’s interpretation work for you?”

I rolled the concept around in my mind a little, disregarding fuzzy teeth and trying for coalescence. A satisfying whole. My gaze strayed toward the floor and I found myself distracted by Ray’s feet. They were pale, as far as feet went. And kinda delicate for a guy’s feet. His toes were long and straight and his nails were clean. The sparse hair across the top and on his big toe stood out darkly, making me think of the crow’s wing comparison. A little smile tugged at one corner of my mouth.

“What?” Ray’s tone bordered on suspicious.

“You always take your shoes off when you come over.”

One shoulder hitched up slightly. “Is it a problem?”

“No, it’s…” I glanced up to find him regarding me with a coded expression. As if my response would decide his response. I’d never seen that look before. I hesitated to call it vulnerable, because Ray didn’t do vulnerable. He wasn’t shy, or reticent. He spoke his mind, and meant it.

“I like it,” I continued. A tiny crease winked into existence between his brows. Otherwise, he didn’t shift one way or the other. He was still waiting. Askingwhy without asking. “It means you’re comfortable here.”

His smile happened then, as sudden and unexpected as sunlight peeking over a mountain top. “Cool.” He wriggled his toes. “Your place is much quieter than mine.” He glanced down at his script, but I could see the color creeping up out of his shirt collar. “What to try again?”

“Hmm?”

Ray tapped the script. “From kissing cherries.” His blush spread a little higher.

I leaned in close. “Nah, I think I’d rather kiss you.”

Line Break

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The Song

Clouds continued to break over the western horizon, giving way to a sky of blue tinged with gold. Every breath of wind was warmer than the last. Soon the sun would warm Karen’s back—but it would not ease the prescient poke that held her spine stiff, her chin high.

It will rain again tomorrow. Sylvia’s whisper floated somewhere between her ears, a tickle against her mind. And even if it doesn’t, I’ll be fine.

What if it doesn’t rain the day after tomorrow? Karen answered. What if it doesn’t rain the day after that?

They’d talked about Sylvia extending her roots into the ocean, but only as a way to pass the time. Both knew the salt water would kill her. Even now, with her roots bound into the shape of the boat that carried them, she risked herself. Instead, she dangled tendrils from her boughs, seeking moisture from the air. Now they stirred in the warming breeze.

Karen turned away from the prow of the small vessel and leaned into the trunk of her tree. She wrapped her arms around the scratchy bark and pressed her cheek into a space above the window, a patch that might have been worn smooth by years of similar embraces.

“I’m afraid,” she murmured.

In answer, Sylvia began to hum. The music pulsed deep within her trunk, beginning in the chamber where she’d carried Karen’s seed, nurturing it until she birthed a spindly-legged child.

The water beneath her hull stirred into a light chop. Overhead, a flock of birds wheeled down out of the parting clouds, their black feathers glistening in the sunlight. The wind strengthened, freshened. A capricious gust reached inside the boat and plucked a paper shape from the floor, tossing it overboard. One by one, Karen’s workings lined up behind the boat like chicks following their mother.

Karen’s throat moved as the song caught her. Her first hum sounded cracked and broken. Then her voice rose above the beat of wavelets bumping the hull, entwined with Sylvia’s deep and resonant murmur, sweetened, rose, and called to the birds circling overhead.

No song could bring land where there was none, or call clouds back together against the sun. But she would continue to sing for Sylvia, because Sylvia sang for her. It was the least she could do—and the most, perhaps—for her mother and her home. For the tree who would sacrifice all she was to save her daughter.

Sylvia might be nothing but an empty shell when they found land. But Karen already carried a new seed inside her. As soon as her feet touched soil, she would send her toes down deep and spread her arms up high. Face pointed toward the sky, she would sing this very song until her face stiffened and her mouth disappeared beneath ridges of crusty bark. Then she would nurture her seed, grow it until she was ready to birth a wobbly new child.

Shading her eyes, Karen looked toward the western horizon. She saw nothing. She turned back to her tree and sang a new verse, one where she birthed more than one seed and taught the song to daughters and sisters and aunts and nieces. Where she became a forest, her song so loud, even the birds carried it.

Overhead, the birds cawed, and in that shrill cry, Karen heard hope.

Honeymoon: A Chaos Station story

Zander Anatolius and Felix Ingesson are two of the hardest working men in the galaxy. They really need a break. So, we’ve sent them on a honeymoon—and managed to do so without bringing them to further harm.

(Readers of the Chaos Station series are likely breathing a huge sigh of relief here, as they’re more used to people dying. Or at the very least losing limbs. This holiday has been a long time coming.)

We didn’t just write this story for the Zed and Felix, though. We wrote it for our readers, the fans who have followed the adventures of Zed and Felix from the very start. For those who have mourned their losses, and cheered their successes. For all the folks who sent us little messages saying: “I cannot believe you did that!” Or: “Hasn’t Zed been through enough?” Or, popularly: “OMG, Felix!”

In particular, I wrote my part of this story for Eileen Griffin who finished every book with the plea: “Zed and Felix, deserted island, one week. All sex, all the time.”

Felix doesn’t do planets, so we put the guys on a cruise ship instead. 😉

Jenn and I also wrote this one for ourselves. We’d said goodbye to Zed and Felix with the last edit round of Phase Shift (Chaos Station #5), and it was hard to let go. Many of our blog posts for the release of Phase Shift reflected on how hard it was to say goodbye to characters we’d given life to through five novels and a small collection of short stories. So “Honeymoon” is our last hurrah—a chance for us to just play with the guys, our dear fictional friends; to enjoy their love and everlasting happiness; to share their last adventure with our readers.

Thank you for taking this journey with us! We hope you enjoy this last story.

Visit our website at: http://chaosstation.com for more short stories, excerpts and deleted scenes.

HoneymoonHoneymoon

A Chaos Station story

Zander can’t quite believe a galactic emergency didn’t interrupt their wedding. Felix can’t quite believe he’s married. One thing is for sure, though, these guys need a holiday! So they book a cruise aboard the drift ship Biswas.

There is no death or dismemberment in this story. No hull breaches, no marauding aliens. This is Zed and Felix, though, so not everything is going to go according to plan.

Honeymoon is available to read now!

MOBI | EPUBPDF

Flash Fiction: Headfirst and Reminders

On my travels around the internet I often stumble across photographs that tell a story. Sometimes it’s a single moment, one I can capture in a few hundred words. More often I’m really only telling part of the story–what brought the character(s) to this point, or what’s happening right now. These snippets end up in my Big Book of Ideas, and one day I hope to expand on a few of them. The others, the single moments, stand as they are.

Today, I’m sharing one of each. A story I feel is a complete moment, and one that is a slice of something much bigger. There’s more story to both, of course, but in the first case, I believe the moment I’ve captured–or more accurately, remembered on behalf of my narrator–tells more than everything that might have come before.

Both of these pictures were posted as prompts by the Monday Flash Fics group on Facebook and these stories and more can be read on my flash fiction Tumblr.

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Headfirst

When people see this picture, they think I’m the one out front, diving headfirst into the river. There’s always this weird moment when I tell them it’s Damien. A beat of silence as they snap a few facts together. Then the creeping awkwardness as they wonder if that’s when it happened.

“He was always a headfirst sort of person,” I say. To quell the inevitable flash of horror, I push on. “Still is.”

By now, they’re uncomfortable, and so am I. It’s hard to find fault in their disquiet, though, and I often feel a bit like an arse for keeping the conversation alive. But they looked at the picture. They asked.

So I keep talking.

“Headfirst is definitely the better of the two. It’s not leaping without looking”—I actually had someone turn green at this point—“it’s looking where you’re going and stepping out anyway. It’s being brave. Always being ready to dive in. Thinking as fast as you move. Taking chances. Never backing down from a challenge.”

This is when the follow up questions start—if they’re too polite to let a conversation lapse in the middle.

“What about feet first?” is the gist of what they want to know.

“Feet first is caution. It’s worrying about where you’re going to step, and what you’re going to step in. It’s putting the least vulnerable part of you through the door first. It’s leaving your shoes on inside the house in case you tread on a Lego. It’s gloves and hats and earmuffs because you’re sensitive. It’s worrying about things that might never happen, simply because if you can think it up, it might be possible.”

This would be about where sympathy overpowers all the rest of what they’re feeling. They still feel awkward. It’s hard not to. Our house is a temple to awkward. But they’re trying to fit our reality into theirs and make themselves comfortable. And I’ve talked long enough to make it all feel a bit more normal. Sort of. It’s hard for me to get past the Lego part without looking like I’ve stepped on one.

And that’s being a feet first person all over.

This is usually when Damien wheels in, the width of his chair making sense of our weird furniture arrangement. He might be smiling, or he might be stern faced. It’ll depend on how itchy I’ve made our guests. Whether I’ve got my own sad face on—because I still have days like that, even ten years after. When I wish it had been me who jumped first. We’d have known then, how shallow the water was.

Thing is, Damien probably still would have gone for the dive. It’s what he does. Always.

Now, he’ll simply take my hand, give that half squeeze that’s the best he can manage on his left side, and ask, “Is Harry being all maudlin?”

They usually don’t know how to answer—and that’s my cue to hop up and fetch the next album. The one of our trip to Spain the year after Damien’s accident. And as I tell those stories, I make it clear that if not for Damien being a headfirst sort of person, always, we might never have been anywhere at all.

~+~+~+~

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Reminders

On a clear day, when the sun is bright and the sky blue, you can almost imagine there is life in the city. That the streets buzz and the buildings are alive with industry—people thinking and dreaming and doing. The air sings on days like this, and the melody is clear and sweet. It’s the sound of birds rejoicing in the light, of a wind more curious than mournful.

These are the days when I go to see him.

He is my favourite of the Reminders—and not simply because he is beautiful. Strong, yet serene. Poised, movement restrained, but also ready to bend, leap, spin. To dance to the sunlit music only I seem to hear.

Of course, he never will, but he looks as if he might, and that’s what makes him so wonderful.

No one knows who or what the Reminders are. Whether they are art or something divine. None of them are pictured in the many books left in the libraries, but Reminders dot the city like statues—never crumbling, never breaking.

Most people like the Reminder standing outside the safety rail on the Brooklyn Bridge. I agree she’s compelling. It’s hard to tell if she’s about to fall or dive or is simply admiring the view. She combines fear with hope. The Reminder sitting in Bryant Park is the most famous—not that fame spreads far and wide now. The plastic news sheet he holds is as crisp as he is. You can read the date on the perpetual display. June 25, 2023. Many speculate that was when it happened.

The dancer has something the others do not, though. I call it persistence. The world has ended, but he is still here, still concentrating on perfection and making it look—not simple, but attainable. The tension in his frame is easy. He is gathered strength, he his kinetic energy. He is a reminder that beauty can have a purpose—that while it can be achieved for its own sake, it’s more powerful when there is a reason.

He doesn’t get as many visitors as the others, but I think he is the reason we call these frozen people Reminders. Because in this ugly, broken and half dead world, it’s easy to forget things like beauty. Purpose drives us every day, and strength is what separates the living from the dead. We’re taught we don’t have time for useless things.

There’s this poem, though, in one of those old books. It talks about beauty and joy and forever. Someone called John Keats wrote it and when I read it, I think about the dancer and I feel the music. The sunlight and the curious wind. And I think maybe this world isn’t so lost after all.

I think that maybe the Reminders are us, or who we’re supposed to be.

Cover Reveal: Fire Up My Heart by Asta Idonea

Today I’m welcoming Asta Idonea (aka Nicki J Markus) to my blog for the cover reveal for her new science fiction romance novella, Fire Up My Heart.

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Gorgeous, isn’t it?

What it’s all about:

London bartender Fane thinks he’s hit the jackpot when he finds a rare and expensive service Bot discarded in a dumpster, and he takes it home to get it working again. The Jo-E brings some much-needed companionship to Fane’s lonely life, but there’s something different about this Bot, as indicated by its odd behavior. Fane’s developing feelings toward Jo-E trouble him, and things go from bad to worse when a robotics engineer arrives on Fane’s doorstep, demanding the return of his property. Fane is forced to choose between a hefty reward and following his heart. Giving in to his forbidden desires might get him killed—or change his life forever.

Coming from Dreamspinner Press, 25 May 2016

Dreamspinner Press |ARe |Amazon US |Amazon UK

About the author:

Asta Idonea (aka Nicki J Markus) was born in England, but now lives in Adelaide, South Australia. She has loved both reading and writing from a young age and is also a keen linguist, having studied several foreign languages.

Asta launched her writing career in 2011 and divides her efforts not only between MM and mainstream works but also between traditional and indie publishing. Her works span the genres, from paranormal to historical and from contemporary to fantasy. It just depends what story and which characters spring into her mind!

As a day job, Asta works as a freelance editor and proofreader, and in her spare time she enjoys music, theatre, cinema, photography, and sketching. She also loves history, folklore and mythology, pen-palling, and travel; all of which have provided plenty of inspiration for her writing.

Where to stalk her:

Blog |Facebook |Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | LinkedIn | Amazon Author US | Amazon Author UK

 

 

Salute to the Sun – A Chaos Station story

Salute to the SunSalute to the Sun

A Chaos Station story

For Felix, finding peace has always been about staying in motion—about running faster than his demons, and enjoying a small reprieve before they catch up. For Zed, peace is finding the center of the storm and sitting it out. Embracing stillness. Felix wants that. He’s determined to learn this meditation trick. He’d like to stop running. But sitting still isn’t as simple as it looks.

“Salute to the Sun” is set shortly after Skip Trace. I actually wrote it before we finished writing Skip Trace, as a Christmas gift for Jenn. In preparing to share it with our newsletter subscribers, I had to go back and edit in a few details such as nipple rings for Zed and mention their much needed therapy sessions!

I hope you enjoy this extra little episode with the guys.

Read Now | Download

For more short stories, extras, excerpts and previews of the Chaos Station series, visit our website: http://chaosstation.com

Flash Fiction: Ghosts and Possession

I keep most of my flash fiction on a Tumblr blog because I really like the format for posting pictures and keeping drafts…and some of the photos I find inspiring are NSFW. 😉

I’m sharing a two recent favourites here, though, because…well, I’m a writer. Says so up there under the header. Also, I have about three gaming posts lined up and there should be some balance on this blog.

Also, I just like sharing my stories.

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Ghosts

I’ve seen him five times over the past month, but this is the closest. Even from across the quad I’d recognise the line of his shoulders, though. The tilt of his head. The way his shoulder blades poke at the back of his t-shirt, the length of his torso. His butt. His stance. He has that way of standing, you know? It’s a statement and a challenge. He’s coiled. He’s kinetic energy waiting to be set free. The memory of that, his skin, the vibration of life and expectancy, tickles the centre of my palms.

God, he’s so close—I could almost reach out. I imagine I can smell him. The big yellow brick of Dial he has to pry away from the soap dish every morning. His cheap shaving cream. That weird shit he puts in his hair. I dunno what it’s for. I never figured it out.

Is he here for me? Should I say something?

Maybe he’s lost. Maybe that’s why I keep seeing him around campus, always in the same pose. It’s as if he’s forgotten something and is about to turn around to retrieve it. I’d like to believe it’s me. That he’s come back for me. That the whole facing away thing is just him being coy. He has that down pat. Sly little smiles that mean so much more than the crook of his mouth. Invitations that have to be read in the line of his brows, or a subtle lift of his chin.

Does he know I’m here? Is he playing me?

Maybe.

I thought I’d be over him by now, but every time I see him, I realise I’m not. It hurts. Not just in my chest, dead center—where my heart isn’t. My throat aches, there’s a niggle behind my eyes, something like a burn, and—damn it—my whole being just feels strapped. I’m a bowstring. One snap and I’ll break. That’s how much I miss him. Still.

Because, you know, I’m standing here imagining I can smell his soap.

That’s all it is, though. My imagination. Truth is, I don’t know what he’s looking for or why he’s here. I’ve not the courage to ask, either. Not again. Not after the first time I reached out to tap his shoulder, fingers trembling, throat so tight I didn’t think I’d be able to talk. I don’t want that to be my last memory of him. I’d rather try to figure out what that shit was he put in his hair. And I kinda wish he’d stop appearing like this. I want to believe he doesn’t realise how much it hurts.

But even as I vow not to, I know I’m going to try again. Because even if my hand passes through him, catching nothing but a tickle that could have been stirred air, a breeze, it’d be worse knowing that I hadn’t tried—one last time—to tell his ghost I’m sorry.

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Possession

“Stop smiling like that.”

My whisper is the very definition of furious. I’m trying so hard not to smile and there’s Michael, grinning, tucking his nose in against mine. He’s moving his lips, I know he is. Whispering things I can’t hear. He’s teasing me, riling me up. Intent on either making me laugh or swoon.

“I need a little more intensity from you, Alex.” The photographer doesn’t sound impatient, yet.

Intensity. Smiles aren’t intense. I’m supposed to be commanding—a touchy broody. Possessive? I own this man. The one now quirking his brows at me…well, just the one, on the side the photographer can’t see.

“Stop,” I hiss-whine.

The breath of his laughter tickles my lips and a new struggle begins. Keeping my shoulders still and my throat locked. I really want to laugh as well. The whole situation is torturous and ridiculous. Michael standing there in nothing but a collar and ink while I hold his chain. Leash…whatever. I’m sure in circles where people play these games there’s a word for this chain, and a way to hold it. A posture that commands—broodingly and intensely.

I bite the inside of my cheek. The flexion along my jaw will look good for the camera. Okay, I can’t do intense. What about possessive? How does one possess another? Oh…he’s naked. I can claim him with my eyes. All of him.

Which means looking down.

I’ve seen him naked a hundred times. He’s seen me naked a hundred and one. Because Michael has a knack for staying on top of things, which is why it’s so amusing he should be the one at the end of this leash. I’m going to call it a leash. If I lean in a little, feign a nose bump and just happened to catch the fine fabric of these pants against his dick, maybe I could tease a reaction out of him. I’d never know if it was friction or desire—but a reaction would be nice. To be the one pulling the chain.

Yeah, we’re going to call it a chain.

I tug it a little and our noses collide. He has that crease in his cheek, the one where a dimple would be if his smiles tended toward coy. Michael isn’t shy with his games, though. Nope. Not him—

“Perfect, Alex. Can you tug the chain again? Yeah, just like that.”

The whirring chitter of the camera forms a soothing counterpoint to the sudden tension snapping between us. Michael’s smile is changing and his other brow has joined the first.

“Damn, Michael, that expression is perfect. Can you hold it?” The photographer is practically panting over there.

And I can see why. The look Michael is giving me now? Oh. My. God.

Don’t look down, Alex. Do not look down.

He’s filling down there—I can feel him against my thigh—and that tension? That’s him contemplating the fact he’s hard and wondering if it’s the chain, the fabric of my pants or just me.

I tug the chain again and sneak my hand around behind his bare ass. “Not sure if you should be smiling quite so wide, Michael.”

I can smile now, though. With him leaning into me as if I own him? Definitely my turn to smile.

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Both of these stories were written for the Monday Flash Fics group on Facebook and were originally posted on Tumblr. You can visit other interpretations of the pictures from the group site. You can read more of my fics on Tumblr or by visiting the Free Reads (under the books tab) in the menu above.