Tech That Turns My Crank: Virtual Gaming

I’d like to welcome my friend, fellow writer, gamer and science fiction enthusiast, Vikki Romano to my blog. She’s here to talk about tech that turns her crank—Virtual Gaming. I love the idea of stepping into my game world, but until I can do it out of body, I’ll have to stay safely behind my control pad and/or keyboard. I get seasick playing first person shooters. Luckily, Vikki doesn’t. Over to her!


I’ve been gaming for a long time.  Decades really.  I was there at the advent of Pong and its lack of challenge.  I advanced to Joust and Pitfall, which at the time was high end for my crowd.  And then came the first person shooters and my life took a turn.

Wolfenstein 3D and Doom were the first games of that kind that I played and once I did, I was hooked.  It was one thing to run through an RPG or other turn based game on your handy dandy Atari 2600, but it was quite another when you could boot up Doom on your primitive PC, put on your headphones and turn off the lights to encase yourself in the game.  That, to me, was virtual gaming at the time.

Virtuality's SU 2000 Virtual Reality Gaming Pod
Virtuality’s SU 2000 Virtual Reality Gaming Pod

In 1991, I was met with a wondrous new creation called Virtuality.  It had been installed in the arcade section of the theater complex near where I lived and on any given night, there was a crowd watching some kid fumbling around while standing within a pod.  Intrigued, I waited in line, got a ticket and played.  The game was called Dactyl Nightmare and as I stood there with my visor and wired hilt controller, my life once again took a turn.

The game was moronic, to say the very least.  You stood on a strange, Escher-like platform and tried to kill your opponent, all while being chased by a dinosaur.  As a gamer, I excelled and killed off several opponents before they made me get out of the pod.  And though the game, in and of itself, was rudimentary, its media was not.

What the crowd watched on a side screen was not what the gamers experienced.  With the visor on, you were literally cut off from the outside world.  The sound in the visors was beyond stereo and tricked your eyes into thinking things were around you by virtue of good recordings.  The video playing in the 180 visor tricked the rest of your brain into thinking you were really standing on this strange platform.  The only drawback was that to move, you used the trigger on the controller, otherwise, my brain was convinced.

Some players were so convinced that they ducked or covered their heads as their opponents chased them and for me, that was part of making the game real.

Now, a whopping 24 years later, a new type of virtual reality system is finally making its way onto the home PC arena.  Virtuix Omni has put out a system that makes the Cyber pod of the 90s look like an Atari 2600 to today’s gamers.  With the same pod concept, the base is now equipped with a movement sensitive board that forces gamers to run or walk in real time if that’s what they need to do.  And to fire weapons, you fire weapons.  In order to shoot a bow, you mimic the movements of an archer.  Same goes for machine guns, bazookas or any number of modern two-handed weapons.

And the visor is again equipped with stereo, now digital as is the video, making the experience nearly realistic.  Walking through games like Skyrim, you engage with NPCs, use weapons and run through campaigns, all while working up a real sweat, and that’s something new.

Gone will be the couch surfing gamers of old, surrounded with discarded Doritos bags and soda cans.  Now gamers will be in the action, as part of the action and their movements will have to be heroic.  Or at least more heroic than waving a sword with your thumb.

As virtual gaming progresses, I can envision gamer suits, much like motion capture suits for films, which will allow players to move freely without the use of a pod.  The suits would come equipped with sensors that will ping or shock you if you get shot or stabbed, which in turn will force you to game better – A Pavlovian response where it’s needed.    It will also reduce the more urgent argument that video games are keeping kids indoors.  This at least will give them the exercise they are missing.

But for now, I’ll continue to sit and play my first person shooters with my big screen and the stereo cranked as loud as I can to try to trick my brain into thinking I’m really there, walking next to a warrior, having just killed a dragon and saved a village.  After all, a hero will always see value beyond what’s possible.


About Vikki Romano

VikkiRomanoI know it sounds cliché, but I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, in every capacity that I could manage.  From newsletters to yearbooks, journals to hard cover books.  It’s not seeing my name on a cover or any kind of admiration that does it to me, it’s getting it out.  It’s a strange phenomenon that most writers have, of having stories continually running through your mind and the nearly painful urge to get them all out before you forget them.  Not sure what the phenomenon is called, but there are days I hate that I have it.  It’s a blessing and a curse.  A double edged sword.

My love for sci-fi goes way back to my childhood.  I mean, who didn’t love movies like Tron and Terminator when they were a kid?  Or great oldies like WarGames.  I grew up in the advent of technology and rode the wave of the dot com lifestyle in my 20s.  It was a wonderful time to be alive, to see where tech could go.  Being involved in the field as a database admin and then later as a hardware tech and web designer, I had my fingers in all of it and I loved what it was all about.

In college, I was a true cyberpunk and gloried over works by Gibson and Dick.  I reveled in the hackers manifesto like a warrior and actually prayed for a world like BladeRunner.  They were very cool, hyper-energized times we were in and it gave me scores of ideas and hands-on experience to dump into my work.

Why I chose to write historicals when I went pro is beside me.  It was another love, history, and something that was big on the traditional market with movies like Braveheart scoring big at the box office.  Back then, where there was only traditional publishing available, you went where the money was if that’s what your end game was.  At the time, I wanted to write full time like the greats, but writing historicals in a saturated market does not a best seller make.  I learned that lesson the hard way.

And now, here I am, at the behest of friends and colleagues; I have begun to pen the sci fi story that has been buzzing around my brainpan for the last 20 years.  And it’s freeing, writing for the love of writing.  Not having a deadline, but holding to a promise to yourself that it’s going to get out.  Finally.

Twitter | Website

A Corgi Named Kilowatt

Silver & Gold (out today!) is an anthology from Less Than Three Press featuring May-December pairings. To celebrate the release, I’d like to welcome author C.C. Bridges to my blog to talk about writing children and animals, and her story, “A Corgi Named Kilowatt”.


A famous actor (most likely WC Fields) once said never to work with children or animals. I don’t know if this rule applies to writers, but I did both.

My first novel, Angel 1089, features as a supporting character a little girl named Kayla and her protector dog, Trixie. Both play important roles in the story because Kayla’s existence and well-being are what motivate her father, Jeff, to keep the angel Gabriel hostage. Of course, things get a little bit more complicated than that.

Pembroke Corgi Image 001

My most recent short story, “A Corgi Named Kilowatt”, also features a dog who plays a very important role. Kilo is so important, he’s in the title of the story! That’s because one of our heroes, Marc, is a dog trainer. And Kilo is the instrument that brings Marc and Evan together..

The most important thing to remember when writing dogs is that they are not furniture. It’s easy enough to put an animal in your story, but if you forget they are there then what’s the point? Dogs especially have their own unique personalities. I say it’s just as important to develop the character of a dog as any of the ‘human’ characters.

This is not exactly easy. I’ve had a dog for pretty much my entire life, and it’s so obvious how each dog is its own personality. Another challenge I faced is that the dogs in my life have been mostly hunting breeds. Hunters are super smart, and devoted to their owners. I’ve never owned a herder before, but I still wanted to cast a Corgi in my story.

Cue lots of research. To be fair, it wasn’t a hardship looking up cute pictures of Corgis!

One thing I’ve promised to do is never hurt or injure a dog in one of my stories. I can’t make any promises about the human characters, but all dogs are safe!


About C.C. Bridges

Librarian by day, erotic romance writer by night, CC Bridges would like to say that her writing is influenced by a variety of wild and exotic sexual experiences. It turns out she just has a really good imagination. She writes surrounded by books, spare computing equipment, too many video game systems, a very fluffy dog, plenty of yarn, and a long-suffering husband all in the tiny state of New Jersey. Angel: 1089 won a Rainbow Award in 2011.

You can find her at ccbridges.net though she hangs out mostly on twitter @ccbridgeswriter.


The Books!

silverandgold400From one-night stands to on-and-off love stories that span decades, the roads of love are diverse and have no map. One of the hardest relationships to navigate may be those with an age difference. Society isn’t always sure what to make of May-December pairings, and the odds seem stacked against them. But the wisdom of age and the optimism of youth is a combination not to be underestimated…

After his brother’s death, Navy SEAL Zev comes home to take care of his estate in “After the Dust” (Eleanor Kos), and finds ex-prostitute Julian on his brother’s doorstep. “In Coffee Boy” (Austin Chant), new grad Kieran interns at a senatorial campaign, and has to deal with being an out trans gay man in the workplace, his overbearing supervisor Seth, and his growing, begrudging affection for Seth—not to mention Seth’s crush on their straight boss.

“In One Last Leap” (Helena Maeve), Phillip carries the old wounds of his partner’s death, and he’s not sure how to deal with an attraction to the much-younger Ivan. “A Corgi Named Kilowatt” (C.C. Bridges) turns the teacher-student dynamic on its head when young TA Evan clashes with Marc, a dog groomer back at school at forty.

Maddie flirts with the older and mysterious Claudia at a movie, but doesn’t expect to see her again—especially not at a cake-tasting session for her best friend’s wedding. “The Memory of You” (Erica Barnes) explores not only the promise of chance encounters, but the reality of them. “Runner” (Sam Schooler) brings us Eden, who answers an ad for a caregiver but somehow ends up married and trapped in an isolated, dilapidated cabin with his snarly new husband, Mick.

Amazon | Less Than Three Press

When this deal breaks, Heaven will fall.

Heaven Corp, Book 1

Catching two demon burglars is routine for Gabriel 1089, who’s one cog in an army of cybernetically modified humans protecting the sky city of Heaven. Until two turns into a twenty-demon ambush. When he wakes up, he’s missing his network-enabled halo—and one of his metal wings.

The down-level junk dealer tending Gabe’s wounds has hands that spark nerve endings he never knew he possessed. But for an angel cut off from Heaven, an attic in Old Trent feels more like a trap than a sanctuary.

Demons on his doorstep are nothing new for Jeff Werth. Ever since they saved his daughter’s legs, they’ve been calling in their marker. In exchange for his services—nursing Gabe back to health so they can use him as a pawn in their war with Heaven—they’ll consider the debt paid in full. Except having a powerless angel at his mercy feeds a rising desire that has him rethinking the deal.

Then the de-haloed Gabe begins having dreams that become visions…then memories. Until he’s not sure whose side he’s on. Heaven, or the simple family man who healed his broken wings…and made his heart whole.

Product Warnings: The sexual awakening of an angel, some wing porn, abuse of heavenly clichés and a dog who steals the show.

Amazon | B&N | iBooksARe | Samhain Publishing

Wasted by Holley Trent (“What Happened in Vegas…” Blog Hop)

I’m delighted to welcome Holley Trent to my blog today to share her story “Wasted”. 🙂

Vegas-Hop-Graphic

The charity I’d like to spotlight is the LGBTQ Center of Durham (North Carolina). They provide support and arrange for a safe meeting place for LGBTQ people in the Triangle area. Learn more about them and their programs at http://www.lgbtqcenterofdurham.org/. You can add them as your preferred charity on Amazon Smile.

 

Wasted

by Holley Trent

Zane Miller had a flight to catch in three hours, so it was a good thing the man he was taking home with him finally opened his eyes.

“What the fuck?” Bobby asked on a raspy whisper. He hadn’t used his voice in at least ten hours—not since Zane had fetched him from a Las Vegas emergency room and carried him to Zane’s hotel room.

Zane grinned. “I was starting to wonder if I’d ever see those baby blues again.”

Bobby squinted, cleared his throat, and hiked the sheets up to cover his bare chest. He’d been limp as noodle when Zane had stripped him down. Bobby had thrown up from the potent combination of booze and hospital-administered painkillers—the nurses apparently didn’t realize Bobby couldn’t have passed a Breathalyzer test because he’d been talking too clearly—and Zane didn’t see where he’d had a choice but to strip him. He wasn’t going to let the guy spend their wedding night sleeping in soiled sequins and lamé. Or at least, Zane thought it was lamé.

“No offense, ’cause I’ve certainly woken up to regrets more times than I can count, but who the hell are you?” Bobby asked.

At that concession, Zane ground his back molars, and stretched an arm to grab the arm of Bobby’s eyeglasses. “Here you go. I took ’em off you so you didn’t roll over onto them and get them all bent up like you used to.”

What?” Bobby slipped them onto his nose, pulled his dark auburn hair out from beneath the arms, and fixed his bloodshot gaze on Zane.

“Zane Miller. Why are…” Bobby lifted the sheets, stared beneath them, looked then at his hand with the shiny new embellishment, and finally at Zane again. “No. We…wait. I don’t…” He lifted the sheet again and moved his bulky left foot beneath it. “And I broke something. My ankle. I broke my ankle?”

How could he possibly not remember?

Even though his pulse pounded in his ears and his face was hot as an ember, Zane smiled for him—tried to put him at ease. Zane couldn’t panic. He needed to be cool and collected, or at least put on a good show of it so Bobby didn’t freak out, because Zane certainly wanted to himself.

“Quit playing,” he said jokingly. “You know what happened.”

Bobby squeezed his eyes shut and rubbed the heels of his palms against them. “Fuck. Fuck. I…I remember going to work as usual on Friday night. Sold-out show. Some of the other dancers in the chorus wanted to go get drinks afterward, and I said yes.”

“What else?” Zane didn’t know anything about the show Bobby was in, but Bobby’s artistic streak was one of the many reasons he’d left Nebraska at seventeen, right after high school graduation. Up until last night, Zane hadn’t heard from him, but even after fifteen years of absence, he would have been able to spot the man anywhere. The eyes were the same. Zane would never forget those sad blue eyes.

“I remember the bar, and having a few drinks—no more than I usually do.”

“You sure?”

Bobby opened his mouth, and then closed it wordlessly. He stared at Zane for a long moment, brow furrowed and lips pursed in distaste.

Keep it together, Miller. Zane softened his smile and pulled his arms in tight to his body to make himself look smaller. Less intimidating. He didn’t want Bobby to think he didn’t have any control, when the truth was Bobby had all of it.

Bobby relaxed his expression, and the fine lines at the corners of his eyes smoothed. He looked like a boyish twenty, not a man of thirty-two. He’d hardly changed, at least outwardly. Still pretty, and still so sad-looking.

Bobby sighed and leaned his head back against the luxe, padded headboard. The casino had spared no expense when it came to decorating its hotel rooms. Zane hadn’t rented the room thinking it’d be used for a wedding night, but he was glad he’d gotten edged out of the cheaper rooms at the Motel 6. That was where his rodeo friends were staying, and he hadn’t been in the mood to double- or triple up with those bastards, even if the room cost was bleeding him dry. He hadn’t been on a bull in ten years and had only came along to lend support. He’d regretted even taking the trip until he saw Bobby.

“God,” Bobby said, “it was the last performance ever of that show, and we were looking down the barrel of unemployment.” He jerked himself upright and poked Zane’s bicep. “Whose room is this? These rooms go for a mint. I would know. I work—worked here.” He cringed.

A mint sounds about right.

Zane had been between drinks three and four in the casino’s lounge when he’d spotted Bobby on the dance floor letting some little shit grind against him. Zane had watched them quietly while sipping drink number four, but when the twit stuck his fucking tongue into Bobby’s ear, Zane couldn’t have vaulted off that barstool fast enough. Bobby was his boy. He…just didn’t know it yet.

“It’s my room,” Zane said. “At least for the next couple of hours. What else do you remember?” Bobby had been perfectly lucid, right up until Zane tucked him into bed.

“I…” Bobby zipped his lips and shook his head. “That’s it.”

“Damn. Well, let me sum it up for you. I rescued you from some groping lecher on the dance floor, and you tried to punch me in the nose.”

“I did?” Bobby’s eyes went round, but he quickly narrowed them. “Well, I’d understand why I would. You deserve it. Actually, since you’re here—”

Zane grabbed Bobby’s fist before it could connect with Zane’s face. “Easy there.” He wrapped both hands around Bobby’s shaking fist and set it gently on top of the other man’s lap. “Maybe I deserve it.” He knew he deserved it. “I hope you’d hear me out, though. I’ve changed a lot in fifteen years.”

Bobby made some sound that was half snort and half scoff and let his gaze rake down the exposed part of Zane’s body. “Yeah, you’ve put on a little weight.”

Ouch. “That’s not what I meant. And you look good, Bobby. Real good.”

“I go by Robert now.”

Zane couldn’t see it. Bobby didn’t look like a Robert. Roberts were buttoned-up and boring—things the lively auburn lush would never be. “Sorry. I always thought of you as…okay. Robert.” He turned his hands over in concession. He was married to Robert, and Robert wanted to punch him in the nose.

Robert was right that Zane deserved it. While Zane hadn’t been one of the boys who’d given Robert so much hell in high school, Zane may have been just as guilty because he didn’t try to put a stop to it. He’d stood idly by and let the others taunt and tease Robert for being who he was—unapologetically flamboyant, even at fifteen.

It’d taken Zane a lot of years to realize that Robert had far more courage than Zane ever did. Robert may not have fought back—not physically, anyway—but he put himself out there and presented his true self, pink wristwatch, bedazzled backpack, and all.

“Anyway, after you tried to punch me”—Zane moved Robert’s hand to Zane’s lap and held it until he was certain Robert wouldn’t draw it back—“you decided to tell me off via karaoke. I don’t even remember what the song was, but it was mean, and I got the point. You stormed out of that bar like your pants were on fire, and I followed you.”

“Skip to the good parts. How did I break my—”

“Ankle.”

“Again?” He rolled his eyes. “Whatever. How did we…” He pulled his hand free and pointed to the cheap wedding band. “You know.”

“You don’t remember cursing me out and telling me you hoped I lost my nuts in a farm accident?”

“Sounds like something I’d say, but no, I don’t remember it.”

“Naturally, I took offense.”

“I image anyone would.”

“I got a little pissed. We were standing in front of the hotel fountain, and you were screaming at me. All these folks were walking by and staring, and I needed you to be quiet so security didn’t throw me out.”

“How’d you shut me up?”

“I threatened to gag you, and you didn’t miss a beat. You told me you’d sooner bite my dick off than stop talking when you had so very much to say to me, and I informed you I never said what I would be gagging you with. You went quiet for a while after that.”

“I didn’t cry, did I?”

“No.”

“Sometimes I cry for no reason when I’m drunk. Not that I remember it. I’ve been told that I’m weepy, though.”

Zane committed that to memory so he could make sure Robert never again had a drink stronger than Cherry Coke.

“What happened next?”

“Since you were quiet, I figured it was the perfect time to give you the hello kiss I’d been waiting to give you for so long. It was like this.” Zane leaned in and skimmed his lips across Robert’s.

Robert sucked in some air and straightened up, but he didn’t pull away. He was very still, very compliant as Zane nibbled at his bottom lip.

Zane had been dreaming about that damned lip ever since Robert had left and about how badly he wanted to pull it between his teeth. About how he wanted to feel both of Robert’s lips on the crook of his neck or at the tender backs of his knees. He’d be so turned on.

“Wasn’t much of a kiss,” Zane whispered, “’cause we were being watched and I didn’t want to scandalize you.”

“As if I’m a stranger to that.”

“Well, it’s new for me. You were sweet as honey after that, though.”

“I followed you to the chapel?”

Zane leaned back against the headboard again, hating that he had to put some distance between them, but he still needed to tread carefully and keep Robert calm. “Pretty much.”

“You didn’t think to question my easy compliance?”

“Oh, I questioned it plenty. Peppered you with all kinds of complicated questions and you had an answer to every single one. I would have sworn you were sober.”

“What’d you ask me?”

“Typical tourist stuff. I asked you what I should go see before we flew out in the morning.”

“What do you mean we? You’re skipping around too much, and that’s a really shitty thing to be doing before I’ve even had a cup of coffee.”

“I’ll get you some coffee, honey.”

Robert narrowed his eyes.

“Like baby better?”

“I don’t see where you have the right to call me either.”

“We’re married.”

“Illegally.”

“Perfectly legal in all states, actually. God bless the Supreme Court. And you weren’t coerced, unless you count by Satan. You obviously sipped his personal brew last night for you to remember nothing about the most important day of your life.”

Robert rolled his eyes. “Say this thing is legal. Why would you want to do it in the first place unless you were drunk off your ass yourself?”

“I remember everything. I’m not a blackout drunk. I’m an honest drunk. I told you every fucking secret I had last night, and I guess you can’t remember a single one of them. If you could remember, you’d know why I dragged your chipper ass down that chapel aisle and why I’d do it again this morning.”

“Why did you? Or maybe the better question is why would you?”

“Unbelievable.” Zane threw the sheets to climb out of the bed. He snatched Robert’s bottle of painkillers off the nightstand and tossed them at his bedmate. “I’ll get you some water and call down for breakfast. Shuttle is already scheduled.”

“The shuttle?”

“The airport shuttle. We’ve got one-way, non-returnable tickets home, and remember, I have a farmer’s salary. We can’t afford to miss that flight.”

Home?”

“You can’t hide here forever. Don’t you think it’s time go home?”

* * *

Robert spent the vast majority of the travel time into Lincoln, Nebraska staring at the side of his so-called husband’s face.

Maybe it was the medicine fogging his brain or the dull pain in his ankle he could still feel—even being as drugged up as he was—but he just couldn’t make sense of it all. Zane had said Robert had broken his ankle on the return from his apartment after their wedding. He gone to fetch a bag, supposedly, but somehow on the way back to the casino, managed to tangle himself up stepping off a curb. That’s what the witnesses had said, anyway.

Of course Robert didn’t remember shit. If he’d had four or five drinks at the club and then got shot up with happy juice at the hospital, it was a wonder he could even remember his own name.

But married? To Zane? Robert should have remembered that.

“You’re thinking too hard.” Zane chuckled and switched to a one-handed grip on his pickup truck’s steering wheel so he could squeeze Robert’s knee.

In the back of the truck were their overnight bags, Robert’s crutches, and what looked like the decayed remnants of last year’s corn crop. He’d left the razzle-dazzle of Vegas for corn as far as the eye could see.

Why had he left Vegas? And with Zane, no less?

He closed his eyes to shut off some of the stimulation to his throbbing brain and put his hand over Zane’s. He’d meant to pick it up, but made himself stop because a niggling voice inside said, “You don’t want to.”

He’d been angry with everyone when he left Nebraska—not specifically Zane, but he was certainly swept up in the collective. Zane’s clique had made Robert’s life a living hell. He’d never forget the names they’d called him and the pranks they pulled. They treated him as if he weren’t a person, but he’d endured it because he was getting the exact opposite at home. His parents ignored him altogether after he came out. That is, after they tried to get him to change his mind about it. They’d finally shut up when he’d told them he’d stop being gay when they stopped believing in the almighty guy in the sky.

At least the folks at school saw him, even if they didn’t respect him.

Zane…Zane didn’t seem interested in hurting him now, though. Quite the opposite.

Why is that?

“Where are we going first?” His voice came out in such a whisper, he wasn’t sure Zane even heard it.

Zane gave Robert’s knee another gentle squeeze. “The farm. My mom’s expecting me back by dinnertime.”

“Mrs. Miller?” Robert croaked.

“Yep.”

She’d taught Robert in second grade. Even back then, little Bobby Alexander had been what people called “light in the loafers.” She’d certainly had to have noticed it—everyone did—but to the best of his memory, she hadn’t treated him any differently than any other kid in her class.

“Does she know…that…”

“That what?”

“That…you…” Robert tried to force down the frog in his dry throat and locked his gaze on the corn they flew past. Miles and miles of corn.

He’d never had such hard time saying the word “gay.” He was acting as if he said it, Zane would deny it, and that would leave Robert wondering what the hell was happening and what kind of bad dream the morphine had triggered.

“Are you gay, Zane?” He spit it out, forced out some spent air, and slapped his hand to his clammy forehead. Oh, God.

Zane shrugged.

“That’s not an answer!”

“I’m not being coy. It’s just hard to put a label on some things.”

“Because you don’t want to admit it?”

“No, I think everyone who matters in my life knows by now that I’m not straight.”

“You’re bi, then?”

He shrugged again. “That label doesn’t feel quite right either. Suffice it to say, I’m comfortable with being married to a man.”

Married.

Robert turned in his seat right as Zane hit the blinker switch to signal his turn onto the farm road. “Uh…what did you tell me to make me go along with it?”

“It was your idea, Robert. I was the one going along with it.”

“What?”

After one last squeeze of Robert’s knee, Zane put his hand back on the wheel and made a hard right turn onto the driveway of the old Miller place. “Like I said, I’m an honest drunk. I told you how sorry I was that you left and that you felt you had to leave in the first place. I told you I was sorry for my part in you thinking you had to go.”

He parked next to the oil tank and pulled up the brake.

“Bob—sorry, Robert, I told you how much I’d been thinking about you, worrying about you since you left. Hoping that you were okay and wondering if I’d ever get to see you if you came home.”

“Why?”

Robert started at the knock on the window behind him. Clutching his chest and the heart that felt like it was going to pound right through his sternum, he turned to find his mother-in-law—for the moment, anyway—grinning and waving.

He turned back to Zane. Through clenched teeth, Robert asked, “Does she know?”

“I told her. I don’t think she believed me, though. Does it feel real to you?”

Robert couldn’t lie. He shook his head and pulled on the door handle. “No.”

“Tell me what to do to change that.”

“You fooling with me, Zane Miller?”

“No. I mean it. I’d like for you to stay.”

“I can’t.” Too fucking hastily, he hopped down from the truck and landed hard on the foot attached to the bad ankle. “Goddammmm—”

Mrs. Miller grabbed him by the shoulders and draped the arm opposite of his broken ankle around her neck. “All right, you klutz. To think you supposedly dance for a living. Sheesh! Is that the same one you broke in second grade?”

The only response he could give through his clenched teeth and pinched lips was a high-pitched hum.

She helped him hop as far as the porch steps, at which point Zane picked Robert up and carried him to the door as if he weighed nothing.

Turning to face his mother, Zane said, “Can you please get the red bag out of the back? His painkillers are probably wearing off.”

“Yep. Go on into the kitchen. Food’s on the stove.”

“I’ll get the crutches out later. It’s not like he has anywhere he needs to be.”

“Hey!” Robert objected.

“Shush.” Zane squeezed sideways through the front door and carried Robert past the formal living room and into the kitchen. “I totally just carried you over the threshold.” He chuckled.

The screen door slammed in the front room, and light footsteps sounded up the staircase. Probably Mrs. Miller taking Robert’s bag upstairs.

Zane placed Robert at the head of the table and pulled out a second chair for Robert to prop his foot on. Then, he headed to the stove. “Looks like we’ve got a roasted chicken, some kind of rice casserole thing, creamed corn, and green beans almondine. Any allergies I should know of?”

Robert shook his head. He could have found something argue about if he tried hard enough, but he was hungry, tired, in pain, and oh-so curious. He felt like he’d taken a wrong turn to La-La Land and had no way out of it.

Zane slid a plate in front of him and grabbed the empty glass from Robert’s place setting. “Tea okay?”

“Uh. Yeah, sure. Tea’s okay.” Robert picked up his fork, nodded in thanks at Zane’s beverage delivery, and stared down at the hearty farm fare on his plate. Fresh rolls, too. Mrs. Miller had gone to a lot of trouble to make it. It was a lot of food for just her and Zane. And it had been just the two of them for at least ten years. The grapevine had been slow, but word had eventually reached Vegas. “I’m sorry about your dad, Zane.”

Zane had his back turned. Robert couldn’t see his face, but he saw how Zane’s head fell and shoulders slumped.

Dammit. Robert wasn’t usually so tactless. He blamed it on the painkillers. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have brought it up like that.”

“It’s okay. It just still feels so recent.”

“Things have been hard here? I heard your mom had to stop teaching.”

“She chose to. Otherwise it would have been just me here. Even now, we don’t get away much.” He picked up his full plate and his glass, carried them to the table, and sat at Robert’s right. He didn’t start eating immediately, though. He stared at his food until Mrs. Miller entered the room with Robert’s pill bottle.

“You packed mighty light, Bobby. When are you gonna get the rest of your stuff?”

“I…”

Zane pulled his tired, brown gaze up from his plate and locked it on Robert. So easy to read, but he always had been.

She doesn’t know.

She didn’t know the thing they did had been a drunken whim and that if they had it to do over, they might not have done it. She thought they were for real, and apparently, so did Zane.

Bobby flaked off a bit of chicken and forked it into his mouth. “I had to pack in hurry. He only gave me a couple of hours notice.”

She shook a pill onto the tabletop next to his plate and set the medicine bottle in plain view on top of the fridge. “I can probably find some of Zane’s old stuff you might be able to fit. I swear, you haven’t put on a single pound. Must be nice. I gain weight even if I think about food. Damn menopause.”

Zane groaned. “Mom.”

“What? Not like it’s a secret. Easy enough to figure out when I start fanning myself even when the air conditioning is cranked up as high as it can go.” She picked up the third plate from the table and shuffled to the counter.

Zane nudged Robert’s good leg beneath the table. “Better dig in. You can’t take that pill on an empty stomach.”

“It’s gonna knock me out.”

“What are you trying to stay up for?” Mrs. Miller chided. “Let Zane talk you to death tomorrow. Plenty of time for that.”

“He was never much of a talker, as far as I can recall.”

Zane bobbed his dark eyebrows and fixed his gaze on the roll he was buttering. “I didn’t have as much to say back then. Got plenty now.”

Oh.

Robert certainly wanted to hear it.

* * *

When Robert’s eyelids started to droop at the kitchen table, Zane carried him upstairs and got him into the bed he’d left unmade before his trip. He turned off the light and started to slip out to see to a few chores, but Robert called out to him.

Zane paused in the doorway, convinced Robert was just stirring in his sleep.

“Come’ere.” Robert freed a hand from the covers and made a lazy gimmie gesture.

“You should sleep while you can. Pill will probably wear off before you get a full eight hours.”

“I’m used to five or six. Come’ere and talk to me.”

Zane pushed off of the doorframe and took measured steps toward the bed. He was still worried that if he made too much noise, he’d scare the smaller man away as if his size were the biggest strike he had against him at the moment. “What do you want to talk about?”

“Nothing in particular. Just talk to me so I’m not anxious.”

Anxious? Zane knelt at the bedside and looped his fingers gently around Robert’s left wrist. “You don’t feel safe here? Or did I upset you somehow?”

“No, I just…I don’t know what’s happening, and worse—I guess—is I don’t know what I want to happen.” His voice got softer toward the end, and it took a few seconds for Zane’s brain to digest the statement.

“I know how that feels, Robert. I felt that way all the damn time.”

“You seem perfectly cool right now. Like you got all your shit together.”

Zane shrugged and moved his hand down to cover Robert’s. “I’m good at pretending. If you pretend well enough, nobody asks you any questions. That’s why you got picked on in school and I didn’t. The pretending gets tiring, Bobby.” He sighed. “I’m sorry. You’ll always be Bobby to me.”

Bobby nodded slowly and his eyelids sank to half-mast. He let out a long, soft exhalation and turned his head toward Zane. “You were really thinking about me all that time I was gone?”

“Never stopped.”

“Why me?” Bobby’s words came out in a slow slur, spoken from that place halfway between sleep and not, and Zane suspected Bobby wouldn’t remember anything. Zane could speak shamelessly and hope that he was brave enough to tell Bobby again if he asked. Zane wasn’t brave like Bobby.

“You used to make me smile,” Zane said. “Your candor about things, I mean. I envied you for being able to say what you felt. I was always holding back my words.”

“Hmm.” Bobby’s eyelids closed the rest of the way.

“You were the first boy I looked at and felt that stir for, you know? That never went away. So when I saw you in Vegas, I had to act. I hope you don’t feel like I took advantage. I’ll understand if you want to go or if you feel like there’s nothing here for you. If it weren’t for Mom and this farm, I’d feel the same way, probably.”

He got slowly to his feet, being careful not to jostle the mattress as he stood, and just stared down at Bobby for a few minutes.

That stir.

Bobby was so close after so long, and Zane wanted to pull him into his arms and grind against him, show him what he did to his body simply by being there—show him how much he wanted him.

But Bobby was passed out, under the grips of powerful painkillers, and uncertain about so much. A kiss would have to do. Just one.

Zane tucked Bobby’s hair behind his ear and pressed his lips to Bobby’s temple, sliding them down to his cheek, to the scruff of his jaw.

Maybe it was cheating, but still, it was just one kiss.

* * *

Bullshit.

Everything Zane had said as Bobby nodded off had to be bullshit. The fact that someone had cared about him in all that time, and wanted him?

Bobby wanted to believe it. He wanted to believe that feeling of home and belonging was a real thing he got to keep forever. He wanted to believe that man who’d been so patiently taking care of him for the past couple of days that Bobby could hardly remember wanted to love him, because Bobby was sure halfway in love already, himself. It wouldn’t take much to send him falling over the edge.

He’d been around so many people in the past fifteen years. He was rarely alone, and yet he was always so lonely. He owed it to himself to see if it was real, because he’d regret it if he let something that could be so good slide through his fingers just because he was vengeful and stubborn.

He sat up at the edge of the bed, cringing as blood flow returned to his feet and woke up the aches in his ankle. Not as bad as it was the day before, but too uncomfortable to compartmentalize and ignore. He’d need to find his pills. But first, he needed a shower and to dress.

He made it downstairs in a little over an hour, grabbed a leftover roll out of the breadbox, shoved half into his mouth, and with shaking hands, wrestled open his bottle of sleep-inducing narcotics. He’d always been such a fucking lightweight. If he’d been sober at the hospital, he would have told Zane he shouldn’t have those, but they were all he had at the moment and he needed them. He popped one into his mouth, returned the bottle to its perch, then hobbled outside using the walls to prop himself up.

In the distance, he saw a tractor moving slowly in a field, and with his foggy brain, he couldn’t quite remember the calendar math to work out what needed to be done that time of year. It’s not harvest time is it?

“She’s reseeding the pasture we lease out to the rancher next door,” came Zane’s deep voice from the other end of the porch.

Out of fright, Bobby nearly lost his grip on the rocking chair he’d leaned on for support, but Zane made it over to him before Bobby could crash nose-first onto the porch floor.

“Easy.”

“You scared the hell out of me.”

“Sorry.” Zane settled Bobby into the rocking chair and leaned back against the porch railing. He lifted his mesh hat and brushed back the dark, sweaty hair beneath it. “I was sitting on the porch waiting on someone who wanted to take a look at some equipment I need to sell.”

Need to?”

Zane turned his hands over in a gesture of concession. “Doing what I can to make a financial buffer. It’s been too tight here.”

“Hmm.” And he thinks I’m the candid one. Bobby appreciated the honesty and that Zane would let Bobby in on such a personal thing most folks would have thought was embarrassing. Apparently, he didn’t intend to keep any secrets.

Bobby was going to return the favor.

He stared at the gray-looking toes peeking out of his cast and blew out a sputtering breath. “I’m about as useful as a lawnmower with no blade right now, but if you find me something to do I’ll try not to botch it too bad. I don’t remember shit about farming. You’d think I didn’t have them all around me growing up.” He pulled his gaze up to Zane’s startled one.

The big oaf.

“What do you want me to do?”

“I…” Zane shook his head and scratched it. “I don’t know. You don’t have to do anything. I didn’t think—”

“You didn’t think I’d stay so you didn’t plan ahead.” Bobby clucked his tongue and used his good foot to start the chair rocking. “You gotta do better.”

“I’m trying to.”

“So find me something to do that won’t get messed up if I fall asleep doing it.”

“You don’t have to do anything. I didn’t bring you here for that.”

“I know that. Did you mean what you said to me last night?”

Zane furrowed his brow. “About…you mean what I said when you were nodding off?”

“Yeah. Did you mean it?”

Zane had the audacity to blush. “You heard all that?”

“Yup. You gonna take it back?”

“No. Not one word.”

“If you meant it, then you find something to do so I don’t feel like such a damn leech. It’s not like I can dance with a broken ankle, and doubt anyone in town here would much care for the kind of dancing I made my living doing, anyway. Too many sequins. Too many pelvic thrusts.” He shrugged.

One of Zane’s thick eyebrows twitched.

“It was Vegas. What do you expect?”

“You’re gonna have to show me what you mean after your ankle heals…if you’re still here, I mean.”

Bobby rolled his eyes on that last part. He had a hunch he wasn’t going anywhere any time soon, busted ankle or not, and that was fine with him. “Private performance, huh?”

Zane started backing away, wearing a grin that read capital-T Trouble.

“I think I’m gonna have a good time getting reacquainted with you, Mr. Miller.” For cryin’ out loud, I have a husband!

Zane winked and hauled a bushel of beans up to the porch. “Oh, yeah. Gotta make up for years of wasted time. Better rest up. Before you do, though, can you get the bits of vine off those? They need to go to the market.”

* * *

holleytrentHolley Trent is an award-winning author of more than forty contemporary, paranormal, and erotic romances. Visit her website at http://www.holleytrent.com to learn more about her work, or say hi on Twitter, where she dispenses snark as @holleytrent.

Indigent (Charity Volume 1)

Five authors have joined together to produce stories evoking both loss and hope. Reaching deep within their fiery imaginations, these stories take flight and showcase dreams for a better today and future for LGBT everywhere. Embodying a diverse set of talents and stories, this volume sets out to grab the hearts of those who read the m/m genre and to offer hope to LGBT across the globe. Proceeds from all sales of this anthology will go to charity.

indigentIndigent (New Gay Fiction 1)

Edited by Lou J Harris and Kimi D Saunders. Stories include:

Frederick Eugene Feeley Jr’s “Indigent”, after which the anthology takes its name, brings the reader to witness an apocalyptic war between the good and evil that rages in one man’s mind. Soon he will know that his problems are insignificant compared to those of others.

Mari Evan’s “Stumbling into Forever”, involves a handsome young vampire who will learn that just a sip of blood is the difference between love and freezing to death.

Leona Windwalker’s “If Only the World”, takes rejection to another level. A heartbreaking story that is turned on it’s head by the kindness of strangers.

Shaye Evans’ “Rescued”, is a contemporary social statement about the aftermath of a young man’s life after his drink has been spiked at a bar.

M. LeAnne Phoenix’s “Higher Love”, takes us on an almost spiritual journey through the minds of two people who have never met, but have spoken on a telepathic level. When they do come together, that bond is already cemented but there is a price to pay.

Audience: Young Adult and Teen (age group 16+)

Available now at:
Amazon

Charities Supported

Our nature is to live and let live.

Often disregarding the plight of our homeless, our sick, our tired and our handicapped LGBT fellow beings. It gives us great pleasure in presenting this edition to assist our community members wherever they may be. Many of our community members have nowhere to sleep, nothing to eat, and have no work. The proceeds collected from this book will go to rewarding several charities across the globe. These charities are passionate about what they do. Some take in the homeless and others provide a home for the aged and the handicapped. The charities whom we will be assisting are:

GALA, South Africa
Lost-n-Found-Youth, Atlanta,
USA Youth Off The Streets, Australia
The Albert Kennedy Trust, UK

GALA is a centre for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) culture and education in Africa. Their mission is, first and foremost, to act as a catalyst for the production, preservation and dissemination of knowledge on the history, culture and contemporary experiences of LGBTI people.
http://www.gala.co.za

Lost-n-Found is Atlanta’s only non-profit organization dedicated to taking homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth off the street and into more permanent housing, Lost-n-Found Youth is dedicated to the advocacy and service of youth from 13 to 25 years old.
http://lnfy.org

Youth Off The Streets is a non-denominational community organisation working for young people aged 12-25 who are facing challenges of homeless- ness, drug and alcohol dependency, exclusion from school, neglect and abuse. We support these young people as they work to turn their lives around and overcome immense personal traumas such as neglect and physical, psychological and emotional abuse.
http://www.youthoffthestreets.com.au

The Albert Kennedy Trust supports lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans homeless young people in crisis. Every day they deal with the effects homelessness can have on young people’s lives.
http://www.akt.org.uk

These charities require funding to assist desperate, needy members of our community and this book is a mere drop in the ocean of how we can reach out socially to them. Indigent has been produced to entertain and delight and all the stories leave the reader with a “feel good” state of mind.

Authors

Frederick Eugene Feeley Jr
F.E. Feeley Jr was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan and lived there for twenty years before joining the military. He is a veteran of the US Armed Services; having done a tour in support of Operation Iraq Freedom in 2002-2003, he turned college student, pursuing a degree in political science. He now lives in Southeast Texas where he is married to the love of his life, John, and where they raise their 1½-year-old German shepherd, Kaiser.

As a young man, reading took center stage in his life, especially those novels about ghosts, witches, goblins, and all the other things that went bump in the night. His favorite authors include such writers as Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Anne Rice, whose work allowed him to travel to far off places and meet fascinating and scary characters. As a gay man, he wishes to be able to write good fictional literature for those who love the genre and to write characters that readers can relate to. All in all, he is a cigarette smokin’, whiskey drinkin’, rock and roll lovin’, tattoo wearin’ dreamer of a man with a wonderful partner who puts up with his crap and lets him write his stories.

Mari Evans
Mari is a wife and the proud mother of a very active daughter, two dogs and two cats. She’s a very social kind of girl, who loves to talk. It’s both her best and worst quality.

From the moment she could read, she devoured books. Anything goes, as long as it has a happy ending.

There were always stories swirling around in her head and as a child she liked to lay in bed and let the characters have their story and happy ending. It wasn’t until 2013 that she actually tried to put one of the whole stories down and submit it to a publisher. To her own surprise and excitement it was accepted. This gave her the drive to keep going.

The decision to write m/m was made when a friend told a story about a young gay man that struck a chord, even as her husband had already encouraged her to try it earlier.

Now she found her passion, having already found the love in her family and friends, her life is completely chaotic, crazy but wonderful.

Shaye Evans
Shaye is a proud Australian and best selling author of the M/M Romance genre.

At age nineteen, Shaye found her love in the m/m genre when she read her first M/M and was instantly hooked, but it took her an entire year to begin writing her own. She has had five of nine short stories accepted to be published in 2014 alone. Something she is very proud to admit—and who wouldn’t be.

When not writing or plotting her next piece, Shaye keeps busy by either reading one of over four-hundred books in her collection, designing her next book cover, or shopping. She one day dreams of being a paramedic and her books making it to the movies!

Leona Windwalker
Leona is a long time staunch supporter of human rights and environmental causes. Her favorite genre is m/m fiction and she particularly enjoys the sci fi, fantasy and action suspense sub-genres, especially if they have a nice seasoning of romance. She has far too many books on her Kindle, has overloaded her phone with even more, and when not reading, writing, being driven to distraction by her children, or being overlorded by her three cats, spends time trying to locate the portal that the sock monster uses to steal socks from her dryer.

M. LeAnne Phoenix
Born and raised in Fort Worth, Texas in the mid-1970’s, Ms. Phoenix was young and wild (and even free!) during the crazy wondrous decade known as the 1980’s and the even crazier but now grungy decade of the 1990’s. Music is second only to the muses that live and breathe to fill her mind with beautiful men, and music always helps them to tell their stories. She is never without her iPod or her computer no matter where she goes, although, she does like to hike and take pictures of the sky and the moon, and even the occasional shot of the sun through the branches of a tree.

An avid cat lover, Ms. Phoenix has been owned by many throughout her life, though her current owner is one Lily-Rose, who really would like for her to step away from the keyboard and pay her some attention! After all, hasn’t she earned it?

Editors

Louis J Harris
Louis lives in Germiston, South Africa. He has published three novels, “Stars Fall”, “Revival”, and “Swimmer”, his short stories have appeared across the globe. He is the owner of CoolDudes Publishing and has been an affiliate member of the South African Professional Editors Group.

Kimi D Saunders (Leona Windwalker)
Leona is a long time staunch supporter of human rights and environmental causes. Her favorite genre is m/m fiction and she particularly enjoys the sci fi, fantasy and action suspense sub-genres, especially if they have a nice seasoning of romance. She has far too many books on her Kindle, has overloaded her phone with even more, and when not reading, writing, being driven to distraction by her children, or being overlorded by her three cats, spends time trying to locate the portal that the sock monster uses to steal socks from her dryer.

Links

Louis J Harris
louisjharris@cooldudespublishing.com

Kimi D Saunders (Writes as Leona Windwalker)
https://twitter.com/ShroudedDancer
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Leona-Windwalker/890405037684824?fref=ts

Frederick Eugene Feeley Jr
http://www.authorfefeeleyjr.wordpress.com

Mari Evans
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mari-Evans/1412324675676352

Shaye Evans
https://www.facebook.com/ShayeLEvans?fref=ts

M. LeAnne Phoenix
mleannephoenix.com
FB: mleannephoenix
Twitter: @MLPhoenix

CoolDudes Publishing
https://www.facebook.com/pages/CoolDudes-Publishing/1524105151191706
https://twitter.com/search?q=cooldudes%20publishing&src=typd Twitter: (@lgbtpublisher)
https://www.pinterest.com/cdgaypub/
https://plus.google.com/u/0/108242351336143580514/videos

Cover Reveal: In the Distance, coming June 15 from Carina Press

Taking five minutes out of science fiction week to share this cover, because it’s gorgeous, I love it, and because Nikka and Eileen rock! I cannot wait to read this book.

Nikka Michaels

cover63455-medium

Eileen Griffin and I are pleased to reveal the cover for Book Three of the In The Kitchen Series: In the Distance

Trevor Pratt and Tyler Mitchell just might have a shot at love–if, that is, they choose to follow their hearts, instead of letting their ten year age difference and the three thousand miles separating them keep them apart forever.

Tyler Mitchell has worked hard to rebuild his life after his family kicked him out. A culinary student and sous chef who spends his spare time volunteering with kids, he’s happy enough even though he has no time to consider a relationship.

Trevor Pratt is finally getting over losing his best friend and the one person he wanted to spend the rest of his life with,  but it’s taken screwing every cute guy in Manhattan to get there. He’s vowed to repair the friendship he endangered, but that’s hard to…

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Life, the Universe and Nutella

Since joining Carina Press, Jenn and I have formed a friendship with another male-male romance writing duo, Eileen Griffin and Nikka Michaels. A couple of months ago we interviewed ourselves regarding our co-writing processes. This time, we sat our characters down together and interviewed them. Chaos Station and In the Kitchen are two very different series. Chaos Station is science fiction romance and In the Kitchen is foodie romance. But our guys—Zed and Felix—have more than a little in common with Ethan and Jamie. There are some pretty hilarious differences, though.

StarTrailBanner

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Felix: Living to see thirty.
Zed: Um, for me, I guess it’s saving that transport of civilians during the war. Kind of wish it didn’t end up on holo, though.
Ethan: Not murdering New Guy.
Jamie: Not murdering E in his sleep.
Ethan: *raises an eyebrow at Jamie*
Jamie: *leans over and smooths Ethan’s eyebrow* What? I’m sure a lot of people would consider that a huge accomplishment. Claire. Tyler. Cal. Chef Boulanger…
Ethan: Next question.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Zed: Damn. Can I skip questions? Because…yeah, I don’t know if I want to answer this one.
Felix: We’re not getting graded on this, you know.
Ethan: *rolls eyes* It’s not that difficult. Perfect happiness is a beer in my hand, good food and naked time with that gentleman. *points at Jamie*
Jamie: Seriously E?
Ethan: What? I can’t think of anything better than a naked you and food. Unless it’s food on you while you’re naked. Preferably Nutella.
Felix: What’s Nutella?
Ethan: *winks at Felix* Just imagine an orgasm in your mouth. That pretty much sums up the divine goodness that is Nutella.

What is your current state of mind?
Zed: Hoping Flick doesn’t scare everyone off with his assholishness.
Ethan: Frankly, irritated the two chicks who write us dragged me out of the kitchen for this.
Jamie: I got nothing except for trying to find my happy place so I don’t accidentally murder E in his sleep.
Ethan: *turns to Jamie* Does this happy place have anything to do with Nutella and naked time?
Jamie: *sighs*
Felix: What the fuck is Nutella?
Ethan: Don’t worry Felix. We’ll send you guys some.

What is your favorite occupation?
Felix: Tinkering
Zed: I don’t really have one. I like watching Flick tinker though.
Ethan: Cooking. Next.
Jamie: I’m with Ethan – cooking. Although, keeping Ethan from going postal on our produce suppliers has recently become a full-time job.
Zed: I’m suddenly thinking we need Ness in here to talk shop with you two. She’s our cook…and doctor. What? It’s a small ship.
Ethan: Back the fuck up. Your doctor is your chef? *shakes head* That’s just wrong, dude.

What is your most treasured possession?
Felix: A picture.
Zed: Really, a picture? Which one?
Felix: Never you mind.
Ethan: My knife block.
Jamie: Your knife block?
Ethan: What? It’s an awesome knife block.
Jamie: Remind me again why I moved to Seattle.
Ethan: Because you love me so much?
Jamie: *sighs* Yes. Yes I do.
Ethan: And naked time that involves Nutella?
Jamie: *sighs again*
Zed: You keep your knives in a block? A block of what?
Jamie: A block of wood. To keep them handy without dulling the blades.
Felix: I keep a knife in my boot. Saves hauling a block around, you know?
Ethan: That sounds dangerous and … hot. Like a pirate or something. *wriggles eyes at Jamie* I know what our next role play is going to be.
Jamie: *looks around at Ethan, Zed, and Felix then shakes head* How in the hell did I get myself into this.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Felix: *tips head* Him, over there with the steel blue eyes.
Zed: *pokes Flick* Be nice.
Felix: What? I was being nice! I could have said the Chaos.
Zed: Well, that wouldn’t be a lie. You love that ship.
Ethan: That guy in the goofy pin-striped apron. *points at Jamie*
Jamie: I’ll have you know this style of apron is all the rage in New York.
Ethan: Another reason I’m happy your ass is firmly situated in Seattle. But you didn’t answer the question.
Jamie: As if you really need me to say it. *leans over and kisses Ethan* You.
Ethan: *goofy grin*
Felix: *trying not to smirk*

What is your favorite journey?
Felix: The one to the bathroom for a shit, shower and shave.
Ethan: Home. To our bed.
Jamie: *coughs* Ditto to what Ethan said.
Zed: We’ve got these two lovebirds. And then there’s Flick. Jesus.
Felix: So, you’d rather I didn’t visit the bathroom every morning? *attempts to pull Zed’s head toward his armpit*
Ethan: *whispers to Jamie* And you thought I was a fixer-upper.

What is your most marked characteristic?
Felix: I’m an asshole.
Ethan: I’m an asshole.
Jamie: Patience. *goes back to muttering about not murdering Ethan in his sleep*
Zed: I hate these kinds of questions. Probably because I’m not an asshole. Hm…I guess focus?

When and where were you the happiest?
Zed: Hemera Station, 2261. Those five days…
Ethan: Shoving cake in Jamie’s face during our reception.
Jamie: Opening my door in New York and seeing Ethan standing there.
Ethan: Really? More than our reception?
Jamie: *grins at Ethan* When I saw you in New York that morning, I knew we were in it for the long run. Everything else since then has just been the icing on the cake.
Ethan: *groans* You’ve been waiting to use that one, haven’t you.
Jamie: *grins* Yep.
Felix: Next question.

What is it that you most dislike?
Felix: Assholes.
Ethan: *holds fist out for a bump*
Felix: *fist bumps*
Jamie: Brussels sprouts.
Ethan: You’re never going to forgive me for that, are you?
Jamie: Nope.
Zed: Military brass who don’t give a shit about their men.
Ethan: *peers over at Zed* Dude. We have got to swap stories sometime about past asshole bosses. I had this one boss–”
Jamie: Pretty sure this isn’t the time, E.
Ethan: *mouths to Zed* Later. We’ll talk. I’ll buy the first round.
Zed: Okay. And then for the second, I’ll raid Qek’s special cache. You ever tried ashushk wine?

What is your greatest fear?
Felix: The dark. *glares* It’s not really dark in space, all right? My ship has lights. And there are stars and shit.
Zed: Heights. How many people are going to read this, anyway?
Ethan: I hate people touching my feet. *shivers* Oh, and him leaving me again. Mostly, feet. And tofurkey.
Jamie: Losing Ethan, again.
Ethan: *goofy grin*
Felix: What the fuck is tofurky?
Jamie: Well, you see. There’s this soy product that’s used to make‒”
Ethan: *interrupts Jamie* Trust me, Felix. You don’t want to know.

What is your greatest extravagance?
Felix: The Chaos. Took every credit Eli and I had to buy that bucket of bolts.
Ethan: Extravagance? What is this, big fucking fancy word day? The restaurant.
Jamie: The secret bank account I add money to for my future therapy bills.
Zed: Um…I’m not sure how to answer this. I don’t actually buy a lot of stuff.
Felix: Are you kidding me? Each one of your fancy shirts costs about as much as my ship. *fingers the silk* But you should keep buying them.
Zed: Yeah, but they’re not an extravagance. They’re just clothes.

What is your greatest regret?
Zed: Walking away after graduation.
Felix: *looks at Zed, looks at Ethan and Jamie, looks back at Zed. *grumbles*
Ethan: *looks down at wedding ring, spinning it with his thumb and forefinger*  Walking away from Jamie.
Jamie: Nothing.
Ethan: Nothing?
Jamie: Nothing. Everything we did led me here to this moment with you. So, yeah. Nothing.

Which talent would you most like to have?
Ethan: Superman’s heat vision. I’d never have cold coffee again.
Jamie: More patience.
Felix: Patience would be good. I guess. Sometimes. Or the ability to see through walls.
Zed: You know, the wishing for talents thing has never worked out well for me. Next question.

Where would you like to live?
Zed: A planet. I’m not picky. I don’t mind being in space for long periods, but I kind of like having somewhere with rock beneath my feet and a sky stretching overhead as a home base.
Felix: Really, a planet?
Zed: Yeah. I like having roots.
Ethan: I’m already living where I’d like to live. In our condo in Seattle. Planet Obvious.
Jamie: Anywhere Ethan is.
Felix: *makes gagging noises*
Ethan: *smirks at Felix, then plants an exaggerated kiss on Jamie*

What is the quality you most like in a man?
Zed: Knowing what he wants and going after it. Also, strong arms.
Ethan: Sense of humor. Also, a big set of *spreads hands apart* hands.
Jamie: Tatts.
Ethan: *raises an eyebrow* Tatts?
Jamie: *blushes* And maybe piercings.
Ethan: *smirks* Time to hit the Ink Shop again.
Felix: You know we have tatts that actually move, right? That’s one of those future things. *grins* Actually, ours are dead. Too many trips through j-space.
Ethan: *jaw drops* Your tatts move? *turns to Jamie* I have to get one of those. Goddammit, I will fucking die if I don’t get one of those.
Jamie: *sighs*

What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Zed: Knowing what she wants and going after it. Also, curves.
Felix: *gestures* You mean boobs, right?
Ethan: I second the boobs. Or third. Whatever.
Zed: *holds out fist awkwardly* Is this how you do it? Anyway, yes. Boobs. But hips, too. That curve, right there…
Jamie: *pauses, looks around at the guys, then shrugs* I got nothing.

What do you most value in your friends?
Ethan: The ability to roll with the punches.
Jamie: Sticking by you, even during the bad times.
Ethan: *mutters* Fucking Trustfund …
Jamie: Ethan
Felix: *glances at Zed* We gotta stop skipping questions, man. Our score is dropping.
Zed: Wait, we’re being scored? I thought you said we weren’t!

Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
Felix: Batman
Zed: I don’t think the question means superhero.
Felix: Batman isn’t super.
Ethan: Fiction? Hmm. Let me think about that one.
Jamie: Chuck Hughes.
Ethan: Chuck Hughes? You do know he’s real.
Jamie: *smirks* I’m talking about the Chuck Hughes in my imagination.
Ethan: Next question.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Felix: *tips head* Him, over there with the steel blue eyes.
Zed: Don’t believe everything you see on a holo.
Ethan: Jamie. Speaking of steel, he’s got balls of steel for coming out and taking the world by the short hairs.
Jamie: *blushes* Ethan. He’s the strongest person I know. Plus he has such an elegant way with words.
Felix: *tries not to eye Jamie’s steely balls, or general crotch area…anything below the hips* Walking must be awkward, eh?
Jamie: *drops head in hands and groans* I’m so going to kill you, Ethan.

Which living person do you most admire?
Felix: Elias, because he hasn’t strangled me in my sleep yet.
Zed: Flick. He knows why.
Felix: No I don’t.
Ethan: I should give some kind of deep answer here. Let me think about it.
Zed: C’mon, Felix. Think about it. You’re still kicking.
Felix: *kicks Zed in the ankle. Gently*
Zed: Remind me why I like you.
Felix: *nips Zed’s earlobe* You love me.
Jamie: I think it’s time to open a bottle of wine. Anyone else want some wine?

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Felix: Shit, double shit, triple shit and… *smacks Zed’s hand away* Don’t touch me. Yeah, I see what you did there.
Zed: Just being helpful, in case you forgot that one.
Ethan: Any combination of words with the F-Bomb.
Jamie: Ethan.
Ethan: *leers* You did say that a lot last night. Well, that and “Oh my God!” and “Yes! Yes! Yes!”
Jamie: How many more questions are there?

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Zed: *looks at Flick sadly* I want to say I’d change that, but I don’t know if I can say it. I don’t know if I’d want to. I’m sorry.
Felix: S’okay. Can I call you Soliton?
Zed: That’s Captain Soliton to you.
Felix: *salutes*
Ethan: I’d listen to Jamie before opening my mouth. He’s the smartest guy I know.
Jamie: *leans against Ethan* Love you too, E. I’d work on my OCD. I tend to get a little … anal in the kitchen.
Ethan: *snorts* You said “anal.”
Jamie: *sighs*
Felix: *snickers*
Zed: *stares at the ceiling and tries really hard to keep a straight face*

How would you like to die?
Felix: Is this a trick question?
Zed: Quickly.
Ethan: With a smile on my face next to him. *points at Jamie*
Jamie: Ditto what Ethan said.
Zed: Aww. That’s…that’s really sweet.
Felix: *makes gagging noises*
Ethan and Jamie: *snickers*

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
Felix: A poltergeist. And I’d touch everyone who insisted on touching me, with my ghost fingers. And maybe knock shit off walls.
Zed: Maybe you could put your poltergeist powers to better uses, hm?
Felix: *winks* Sexy uses?
Zed: Well, duh.
Ethan: Dude. I’d come back as a chick just so I could smack myself upside the head for all the times I’ve opened my mouth and been a tool.
Jamie: You’d come back as a chick just so you could play with your own boobs.
Ethan: *stares off into space dreamily* Yeah, that too.
Zed: I like Ethan’s answer. I’m gonna ditto that. Because boobs.

What is your motto?
Felix: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Sir Winston Churchill said that. I think he must have faced something like the stin, eh?
Zed: “Don’t die.”
Ethan: “Life’s too short to eat shitty food.”
Jamie: “Laugh often and love hard.”
Ethan: *snorts* You said “hard.”
Jamie: Is this thing over yet?

StarTrailBanner

Eileen Griffin and Nikka Michaels co-authored In the Raw and In the Fire. The next book in the Kitchen series, In the Distance, is due out June 15. Visit their websites to find out more about their many other collaborations.

Jenn Burke is the author of Her Sexy Sentinel. My other titles are listed on my Bookshelf. Coming May 25 from us, Lonely Shore (Chaos Station, Book 2).

 

 

 

 

The Joy of Co-Writing

Yes, I realise my title has sexy connotations. It’s meant to. 🙂

When my writing partner, Jenn, and I joined the Carina Press author loop, we met another co-writing team, Nikka Michaels and Eileen Griffin. We immediately bonded over our love of male-male romance, writing and reading it, and the joys of having a writing partner. Although we write very different kinds of stories–Nikka and Eileen write contemporary romance and Jenn and I write more speculative stories, we all agreed on the same thing: love is love and happy ever afters are made of win.

We haven’t decided to collaborate on a book just yet (I write this with equal parts trepidation and amusement), but we did “sit down” and discuss co-writing in general and male-male romance more specifically. Co-writing can work in a number of ways. Some partners do more of the writing, others more of the editing. Some write chapter by chapter and others each take a point of view. So we’ll start there.

 

Do you each take a character?

Nikka Michaels   It depends on the book. The first two books of the In the Kitchen series we tended to take a certain POV, but for the third we’re both writing both POV’s.

Eileen Griffin   Usually, but like Nikka said, it depends on the book and on our own personal schedules.

Kelly Jensen   Yes. In the Chaos Station series we also share the writing of a third point of view character, the captain of the Chaos, Elias Idowu.

Jenn Burke   I enjoy the surprise of opening up the document to see what Kel’s character has done in his scene. Most of the time, it’s what I’m expecting, because I know her character as well as I know my own, but sometimes…

 

Is it hard to write each other’s characters?

KJ   At first, yes. I didn’t want to assume too much. But as you get to know the other character, it’s easier to do.

JB   When Kel and I first started writing together, it was tough because I think we didn’t want to step on each other’s toes. We’re over that now.

KJ   Now we’re constantly inventing quirks for each other’s characters. 😀

NM   It can be if the other character isn’t speaking.

EG   I totally agree that it is at first, but after a few chapters, each character develops a certain personality. Even though we each have an affinity for a certain character, once we’re fully into the book, it’s not that hard to swap characters.

 

How do you keep to your storyline if someone adds something unexpected?

NM   We usually talk about additions before we change the plotline. If we both agree then we plow forward. If not we make a note and keep moving.

EG   Even though Nik says she’s a pantster, we both have to have an outline in place in order for us to write comfortably. We just recently had a situation come up where we had to deviate from the outline, but before we could move on, we got online together and hashed out a new direction/outline. Our characters tell us what direction they want to go in, and so we’re okay with changing the outline, but only if both of us agree on the new direction.

KJ   If it’s something a character really needs to do, then we try to plot around it. If it’s a plot element that crops up unexpectedly, then we examine our plot as a whole to see if we have a problem or hole we hadn’t seen earlier. My characters tend to have really loud voices. If they’re making enough noise, then I usually assume I’m trying to write something that doesn’t work for them. That’s when it’s time to sit back and reexamine a scene.

JB   Communication and openness is key. Sometimes a new direction is exactly what’s needed; the characters drag you in that direction and you’ve got no choice but to madly write in their wake. But sometimes it’s not the only direction and as much as you might be in love with it, if your partner isn’t convinced, you need to hash out why it doesn’t work and come up with a compromise.

 

How do you keep the descriptions straight?

KJ   World building outlines!

JB   We have files and files and pictures and spreadsheets and… (our shared folder is getting a little full).

NM   We need to do world building outlines. lol Next book we’ll definitely have to be more organized.

EG   What Nik said 😉

 

What’s your favourite aspect of cowriting?

KJ   Having someone else to share the workload. We’ve just finished revising a book and facing that task alone would have been more daunting.

JB   Sharing the story and the world is both my favourite aspect and the most challenging. It took a while to get comfortable with the idea that I don’t control everything about the world as I do with my solo projects. But the flip side is that being able to bounce ideas off Kel and having that support when something just isn’t working. There’s no time wasted in getting her caught up in my thought processes or where the plot was going or anything like that—she’s right there with me.

NM   I’m with Kelly. Having someone to split the workload and everything that is involved with writing a book: writing, editing, revising, promo…it would be a lot more overwhelming going solo. Also it’s just really fun.

EG   I’ll be honest: I’d be lost without Nik. Writing is such a solitary endeavor, so having her there with me to talk to about the characters, to plot with, to bounce ideas off of is worth its weight in gold.

 

Least favourite aspect?

NM   I don’t really have one. We’ve been co-writing for a while so we pretty much have a system down after so many books together.

EG   I don’t really have one either. I hate time zone issues since we live in different states and google docs can be highly temperamental sometimes. But I guess the least favorite as for me is getting our outlines down. I’m terribly OCD when it comes to our outlines, so I feel for Nik when I go into my Rain Man routine, but I’m getting better. Right, Nik? RIGHT???

KJ   Letting go of total control of the project.

JB   I don’t know if I’d say least favourite, but challenging, for sure, is leaving my ego at the door. Honestly, I think that’s an absolute necessity for co-writing and it’s not easy to let go of your ideas if your partner’s not down with them. (Thankfully, we can usually find a way to incorporate most of our ideas with some compromise!)

 

How did you meet?

NM   We met online on twitter through shared love of a book series.

EG   What’s more, we found out we clicked. She truly knows me better than most of my friends who I see regularly.

JB   Kel and I were both fans of video game Dragon Age: Origins and got chatting on the BioWare fan site back in 2009. We bonded over our mutual love of the game and its characters. Seriously, the chats we had via the site’s messaging system were epic.

KJ   Then you insisted on telling passport control at the Canada/U.S. border that you were on your way to visit someone you’d met online…

JB  Yeah, I think that was the longest I’d ever been questioned at the border. That lady was SCARY.

 

When did you decide to write together?

NM   After realizing we wanted to write stories together.

EG   Funny story. We’d been chatting online for a while when Nik showed me a submission call one day and said, “You know, we could write a short story together, just for fun …” The rest is herstory.

JB   About a year or so after we met online, we started roleplaying in a play-by-post forum, which gave us our first taste of writing together. We fell in love with our characters and the story we created for them in that setting, enough that we were inspired to try writing a book. Chaos Station is the second book we’ve written together.

KJ   One day we’ll dig out that first manuscript, dust it off and shrink back in horror at all the mistakes we made.

 

Why male-male?

KJ   Short answer: Two penises are better than one! Long answer: I adore men and I love writing them. I also love reading and writing about men in love. We see a different side of men when they’re in emotional situations. Put two of them together and the dynamic and rules change completely.

NM   LOL Swordfight! Who doesn’t love reading a love story? I’ve written men and women together, men and men together and I imagine I’ll write all the combinations of letters together eventually. Love is love, no matter how you put the letters together.

JB   I love that m/m seems to allow for a wider range in emotional vulnerability for male characters than hetero romance. That’s a huge and enjoyable challenge to write. Also, there’s the added bonus that, by adding to the m/m genre, I’m helping to further the idea that love is love.

EG   I read an article not too long ago that summed up my feelings on this perfectly. Basically, in het romance, the men all have to be these alpha males who never show emotion and take charge of every situation and problem the author throws at him and his love interest. In m/m, we’re given the opportunity to write men with feelings, who aren’t always the strong ones, but are still worthy of love, none the less.

 

There you have it, love is love. On to the books! Available now from Carina Press, In the Raw by Eileen Griffin and Nikka Michaels. Coming March 2015 from Carina Press, Chaos Station by Jenn Burke and Kelly Jensen.

In the Raw (In the Kitchen #1)

If you can’t take the heat…

James Lassiter has had a crush on fellow culinary student Ethan Martin for three years, but has never had the guts to make a move. Putting himself out there is hard, especially when under the thumb–and wallet–of his overbearing parents. Now that bad boy chef Ethan–who is always vying with Jamie for best in class–is struggling with the pastry course, Jamie suddenly has a reason to reach out.

Ethan doesn’t mean to be an ass–okay, so mostly he does–but even though he’s secretly hot for Jamie, he sure as hell doesn’t want help with pastry. Ever since his dad walked out, Ethan has been the one to hold things together and he’s done fine on his own. Except that he can’t get his cake to rise.

Jamie could be the answer to what Ethan’s been missing his whole life–someone to depend on. But with the two competing for the same scholarship, things suddenly get too hot to handle. And if Jamie finds the strength to go for what he wants, he isn’t about to settle for what he needs.

Amazon  /  Amazon UK  /  Barnes & Noble  /  KOBO  /  iBooks  /  Google Play Books

Where to find:

EILEEN GRIFFIN
Website and Blog | Twitter | Facebook | FB Author Page | Goodreads

NIKKA MICHAELS
Website and Blog | Twitter | Facebook | FB Author Page | Goodreads

 

Chaos Station (Chaos Station #1)

“You’re not real. Felix Ingesson is dead.”

The war with the alien stin is over, but Felix Ingesson has given up on seeing his lover, Zander Anatolius, ever again. Zander’s military file is sealed tighter than an airlock. A former prisoner of war, Felix is attempting a much quieter life keeping his ship, the Chaos, aloft. He almost succeeds, until Zander walks on board and insists that Felix isn’t real.

A retired, broken super soldier, Zander is reeling from the aftereffects of his experimental training and wants nothing more than to disappear and wait for insanity to claim him. Then he sees footage of a friend and ally—a super soldier like him—murdering an entire security squad with her bare hands and a cold, dead look in her eyes. He never expected to find Felix, the man he’d thought dead for years, on the ship he hired to track her down.

Working with Felix to rescue his teammate is a dream come true…and a nightmare. Zander has no exit strategy that will leave Felix unscathed—or his own heart unbroken.

AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER
Amazon | Amazon UK | B&N | Kobo | iBooks | Google Play

Where to find:

JENN BURKE
Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

KELLY JENSEN
Website and Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

 

 

 

Cover Reveal: The Void by Timothy S. Johnston

Previously, I have reviewed the first two books in the Tanner Sequence for this blog, so I’m excited to share a first glimpse of the cover for the third book in the series.
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The Void Cover RevealThe Void, Timothy S. Johnston

A Tanner Sequence Novel
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Transporting a serial killer might seem like a simple job for Homicide Investigator Kyle Tanner.  But when his ship breaks down in interstellar space and another murderer starts carving a path through the people around him, Tanner realizes that he might be in over his head. Unfortunately there’s no one to call for help, and the days are ticking down to his probable death.  He’s facing a mysterious threat in deep space, but he knows that if he can’t decipher the clues and capture the killer, he’ll at least die trying …
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The Void is coming from Timothy S. Johnston and Carina Press on March 30, 2015.  It is the third book in The Tanner Sequence, a series of standalone murder mysteries set in unique and claustrophobic environments.  The first two are The Furnace (2013) and The Freezer (2014.)
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Pre-order links are here:  www.timothysjohnston.com/voidpurchase