My Favourite Things: 2018

It’s time for my favourite post of the year, and thank goodness for that. Did anyone else think 2018 was a long year? Time’s supposed to speed up when you get older, isn’t it?

I needed all the time I could get, though, to write the last book of the This Time Forever series, a final novella for Marc and Henry, edit everything I’d written last year, this year, and what felt like an entire library full of books, and then promote it all. I also taught three writing workshops and continued my volunteer work at the library. And my husband bought a bagel shop. And my daughter is preparing for college. And…

But, still, I found time to read, to watch, to play, and to fall in love with a year’s worth of stuff. ❤

 

Books

FTBooks

I read nearly 220 books this year, which is a little more than average for me. I’m honestly not sure how I found the time earlier in the year, but I do know that a lot more of my reading is now done with my ears. I’ve always been a fan of audiobooks, but as my days become increasingly busy, listening to a book is so often the only reading time I get—and a great way to switch off my own thoughts for a while. Half of the books I’ve chosen as this year’s standouts were listened to as I walked the neighborhood, drove to town, cleaned bathrooms, and mowed the lawn.

 

Bitter Legacy by Dal Maclean (Mystery/Thriller)

Extremely compelling. I had a really hard time putting this one aside to deal with real life.

I really enjoyed the mystery aspect of this novel—more than I thought I would, actually. I liked the slow collection of clues and the “procedural” feel of having them snapped together, one by one, but not always in the right order. I’d love to read more mystery written by Dal Maclean. I think she demonstrates great talent.

The romance aspect of the book was a little more difficult to… like. This isn’t a happy, fluffy contemporary. But it totally worked for the characters. Jamie is so new and so inexperienced when it comes to relationships that it was easy to imagine him making the excuses that he did. His hesitancy and heartbreak were also really well written. I felt them both quite deeply.

I did have a hard time accepting the reconciliation at the end, but justified it in much the same way Jamie did: love can overlook a lot of faults, especially when we think we’re getting what want/need. Also, if Ben isn’t to be a bitter, twisted, and lonely old man, someone has to take a chance on him.

I’m really looking forward to reading Maclean’s follow up novel, Object of Desire.

 

Dangerous Women (Anthology)

One of the reasons I love short story collections so much is the opportunity to try new authors, and I will forever be thankful to this anthology for introducing me to Lawrence Block. This is otherwise a solid collection. I skipped a few stories, mostly those set in worlds I wasn’t all that familiar with (Jim Butcher, G.R.R.M.). I imagine those stories would work better for existing fans, but S.M. Stirling’s entry really worked for me.

The stories I enjoyed the most:

  • “Some Desperado” by Joe Abercrombie. A Red Country story. This was a great intro to the collection.
  • “My Heart is Either Broken” by Megan Abbott. Really well done.
  • “Raisa Stepanova” by Carrie Vaughn. Fantastic piece of historical fiction.
  • “Wrestling Jesus” by Joe R. Lansdale. This was one of my favourites. It was just so quirky and out there.
  • “Neighbors” by Megan Lindholm might be my favourite story. It was so well written and complete.
  • “I Know How to Pick ’Em” by Lawrence Block encouraged me to give one of his novels a try.
  • “Second Arabesque, Very Slowly” by Nancy Kress was amazing. Perhaps the best in the collection.
  • “Pronouncing Doom” by S.M. Stirling – An Emberverse story. Had me wondering why I never got back into the Emberverse books.

 

Dedicated (Rhythm of Love, #1) by Neve Wilder (Romance)

I just finished reading Neve Wilder’s Center of Gravity (Nook Island, #1) last night and considered replacing this with that, but in the end chose to stick with Dedicated because for as much as I loved Center of Gravity (to the tune of almost half a box of tissues toward the end), I feel Dedicated is the better book. It’s a little tidier and tighter, story-wise, and is one of the best rock star romances I’ve ever read.

What really make this novel work are three things. The first is the almost flawless integration of plot and romance. I’m one of those readers who require quite a lot of story with my steam, and this has that. Second are the tropes: friends to lovers and fake relationship. Yes! Third, the interview snippets interspersed throughout the book. These are awesome, and taken alone, give wonderful insight into the characters personalities. Along with the story, they’re gold.

 

Fools and Mortals by Bernard Cornwell (Historical)

Fools and Mortals had been on my wishlist for a while, and after I finally read it, I almost wish I hadn’t so that I could read it all over again—for the first time. Briefly, it’s the story of the first production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as related by one of William Shakespeare’s younger brothers.

The history of the play itself would have made a fascinating story—and Cornwell’s attention to detail stood out here with facts so expertly interwoven with fiction as to give the book that peculiar weight of good historical fiction. I came away feeling as if I’d learned something, and with a desire to read more about the subject.

What made this book so special, though, was Richard. He’s a compelling character in his own right with a very Dickensian life story. I loved his point of view and enjoyed his unique insights into the character of his older brother William. I actually became so engrossed in the lives of the players in Shakespeare’s company that I could have kept reading forever.

 

God Country by Donny Cates (Comic/Graphic Novel)

How do you even describe a comic book like this? The shelving label on the back reads “Epic Texan Battle Fantasy” and there is a quote inside the front cover from Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the WestGod Country lives up to both. It is a western. But it’s also a fantasy that borrows from Norse mythology. And it’s the story of a family devastated by Alzheimer’s.

I most often buy comic books for their art and it’s gorgeous here, with the style definitely working in support of the story. But what made this comic one I was keen to shelve in my library with a reverent stroke of the cover as I slipped it into place, were the spontaneous tears that caught me about five pages from the end. I’m a self-admitted sap. I’ve cried in more Star Trek episodes than anyone else on this planet. But I’ve only teared up over one comic book before, the poignant Roughneck by Jeff Lemire.

I might have to start a new Goodreads shelf.

 

Now That You Mention It by Kristan Higgins (Contemporary)

I loved Now That You Mention It from the first chapter, the first page, the first paragraph—the first line!

The first thought I had after I died was: How will my dog cope with this?
The second thought: I hope we can still go with an open casket.
Third thought: I have nothing to wear to my funeral.
Fourth: I’ll never meet Daniel Radcliffe now.
Fifth: Did Bobby just break up with me?

Everything you need to know about this book is right there, in black and white. Nora is obviously at a turning point in her life, and she has questions. What follows was a funny, deeply thoughtful, honest, romantic and just a damn fine story about a woman finally coming to terms with herself. As always, the secondary characters were wonderful, populating the small island off the coast of Maine with authenticity and charm. I particularly loved Nora’s mother and niece. The dialogue was amazing—effortlessly flowing through every subject—and the romance was sweet without overwhelming the true message of the book.

I loved every minute spent within the covers of Now That You Mention It and can’t wait for my next Kristan Higgins. She has become one of my favourite authors.

In contemporary fiction, I also really enjoyed Less by Sean Andrew Greer. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara isn’t a book you could say you enjoyed, but the reading of it consumed a part of my soul this year and I’ll carry the story of Jude with me forever.

 

The Dark Defiles (A Land Fit for Heroes, #3) by Richard K. Morgan (Fantasy)

I tried to read The Steel Remains, the first book in this series, several years ago and put it aside after only two or three chapters. I can’t remember why, but the usual reason for putting something aside is simply a lack of connection. It’s frustrating when it’s a book I really want to read, so I’ll often return later, or try it on audio. That’s what I did here and I immediately became invested in the first book, then the second, and finally the third. As soon as I finished, I ordered books two and three to go with the first on my keeper shelf. This is a series I want to revisit and remember.

It’s not always a pleasant read. The violence is brutal and the themes quite dark. But Morgan has a way of drawing you into a story almost unaware, and making you care about characters who aren’t even particularly “nice.” He did it with Takeshi Kovacs and again here with Ringil. If I had a favourite character at the beginning of the series, it would have been Egar, but only because he’s typical. He’s a man meant for more. Arceth’s story is fascinating and she grew on me as the series progressed.

But Ringil. He was hard to love, but once there, impossible to shake off. I adored his caustic wit and unrepentant attitude toward his homosexuality. If ever a character was who he was, it would be Ringil. Society reviles him, his family despairs for him, and yet… and yet. Without giving away too much, Ringil doesn’t bloody care, except for when he does.

I loved the ending, and what I presumed to be Ringil’s fate. Even more, the coda afterward that hinted at Arceth’s epilogue (and maybe the fulfillment of a certain prophecy), and the circumstances surrounding the birth of a certain baby. I shed a few tears throughout. I laughed, too. I stood silent sentry at every funeral. But that last chapter of the coda. I pretty much lost it there, as Morgan tied up every loose end and brought us back to the beginning.

This was a great year for fantasy (for me) and I had a hard time choosing a favourite. The other contenders were Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold, and The Blinding Knife (Lightbringer #2) by Brent Weeks.

 

Touch by Claire North (Science Fiction)

I invented chores to keep listening to Touch. I baked muffins. They were horrible because I left them in the oven too long because I was listening to this. But I did get all the bathrooms cleaned and even vacuumed my stairs. I hate vacuuming stairs.

What drew me to Touch was the premise: Kepler is a being that can pass from host to host through touch. There’s also a mystery. Kepler is trying to solve the murder of his most recent host, a woman killed while Kepler was “in residence.” Toss a mystery plot into a novel with speculative elements and I can’t help myself.

Touch was exciting, compelling, different, but not weird. There was a logic to it all and it was kind of beautiful. I don’t think it made quite the comment on gender that some reviewers seemed to think it did, though. I thought was actually more about self and love.

As an aside, Touch reminded me of another of my favourite books, Purpose by Andrew Q. Gordon. If the premise of Touch appeals, I’d suggest you add Andrew’s book to your wish list as well.

 

Movies

FTMovies

I’m going to share a secret: if you go to the theatre at about four or five in the afternoon, on a Friday, you can see a new release film at matinee prices, and pretty much have your pick of seats. It’s not a “cool” time to go to the cinema, but it works for me. I can be home and in bed by about eight. You know, like the old folks. 😉

2018 was a great year for movies, seeing me in theatre seats forty-four times. That’s… nearly every week. And I didn’t really see a movie I regretted. My picks for favourites are a bit surprising, though, and not what I would have predicted going in.

In Theatres: Crazy Rich Asians

I had such a good time watching this movie! The story, the characters, the sheer spectacle of it. I laughed and cried and just felt good the whole time. I was thoroughly entertained, which is about all I ask for when I buy a ticket.

My other favourites in theatres this year were Hostiles—one of the most moving Westerns I’ve ever seen, plus… Christian Bale. I’ll always go to see Christian Bale. And Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse, which I expected to be good, and was better than good, almost taking the top spot.

I can’t let the year pass without mentioning Love, Simon, which I saw twice. The kiss at the end was everything. Also, I enjoyed the movie quite a bit more than the book.

On DVD: The Rider

One of the most quietly touching movies ever made, The Rider pretty much broke me and Jay. By the end, we had a box of tissues on the couch between us and were shamelessly grabbing handfuls. The two standout scenes were the campfire, where the guys shared their songs and stories, the faith that keeps them going, and Brady’s dedication to his family and best friend.

I also enjoyed The Wedding Banquet and I Feel Pretty.

 

TV

FTTV

2018 was the year of The Walking Dead.

I normally limit myself to one episode a day of whatever show I’m watching. By the time I got to season six of The Walking Dead (I picked up where I’d left off with season two sometime in January), I was devouring four episodes at a time. I couldn’t stop, even though the story was so, so dark, and the world outside was so, so dark, and life itself was… Well. March was tough. Romancelandia exploded, a blizzard dumped three feet of snow in northeast Pennsylvania, and I got the flu. And one of my favourite Walking Dead characters died. I recently caught up with season eight and might actually have to buy season nine instead of waiting for it to hit Netflix. But then I’d have to wait nearly a year for more, and…

I also got heavily invested in The Americans, which I watched from beginning to end (seasons 1-6) over the summer, sobbed my way through two seasons of Queer Eye, and thoroughly enjoyed season two of Iron Fist, which I thought was even better than the first.

 

Games

FTGames

Game of the Year: The Evil Within

Horror Survival is a genre. Who knew? My daughter showed me the trailer to this game and despite all the blood, I thought the story looked pretty good. It is pretty good. Also, the game is phenomenally fun to play. It has a similar feel to Dishonored, in theme and in appearance, with that sort of open world feel that gives you enough space to move without letting you wander off the path. The scarcity of resources reminded me a little of The Last of Us, and the way I had to plan out each encounter became addictive. Outside of the blood and gore and blood and blood, this game is one long logic puzzle, and I loved it.

Another game I really, really enjoyed was Rise of the Tomb Raider. It was pure fun from beginning to end, with a story that wrung a few tears from my eyes, and I’m looking forward to the next installment.

I also played through two installments of Assassin’s Creed this year. I found Syndicate a little boring, but quite enjoyed Unity, which felt like a return to Assassin’s Creed II style of play—lots of story, compelling characters, and a thoroughly invested world.

Right now I’m playing Fallout 76 and having a lot of fun with it. While I’m hoping there are plans for more story than there is right now, and fewer disconnects, the game so far is everything I love about Fallout: a world I can explore on my own, quirky quests hidden in odd places, crafting, and lots and lots to do.

 

Music

FTMusic

The increase in audiobook listening this year meant a decrease in music listening. I’d miss music sometimes, and so tune in to Pandora while editing. Or occasionally spend an evening flipping through my somewhat outdated collection. But I did discover a couple of new (to me) songs in 2018, two of which wormed their way into my subconscious, and then into the playlists for two of my releases this year.

“You’re Somebody Else” became the theme song for Renewing Forever, my melancholic romance featuring a couple trying to bridge a gap of thirty years. The lyrics and the feel are so damn perfect that the first few times I heard the song, I’d think about the book and weep a little.

“Broken” by lovelytheband became the theme song for Chasing Forever, and the upbeat melody and lyrics are the perfect antidote to my first choice.

I still love “Whatever It Takes” by Imagine Dragons, who seem only to be getting better with age (and they started out pretty good!), and I bought the soundtracks for both A Star is Born (every time Lady Gaga sang in that movie, I cried) and Spider-Man.

 

Food

Hot Bagels Gold (1)2018 was, without a doubt, the year of the bagel. My husband and I bought a bagel shop, meaning we kind of live and breathe bagels. I still like them—but it’s only been three months. A long three months. He gets up at 3:00 a.m. to bake and I head in late morning to work the lunch shift and close the shop. And clean and clean and clean. I’ve never washed so many dishes in my life!

My favourite bagel is still the sesame, especially when it’s fresh from the oven–crisp and chewy on the outside and tender in the middle. Toasted lightly and spread with cream cheese, sprinkled with capers and piled high with lox. Yum!

 

Activity

IMG_0491

I’m tempted to say sleep, but really, getting out to hike became super important again this year. It’s not a new activity and I’ve always appreciated my time out on the trails, but with everything that happened this year, to crowd my headspace and my workspace, I needed the quiet of the forest more than ever.

I took several hikes with my dad this year, which added to the fun, and discovered a few new trails, including those around Boulder Field at Hickory Run State Park! I look forward to getting out there again as soon as I figure out how to get time away from the shop!

That’s another year quantified! It was productive and busy and I’m hoping 2019 at least begins a little more sedately. We’ll see. Hope it was a great year for all of you and that the New Year is better still. ❤

(For those of you looking for my writing plans for 2019, stay tuned! I’ll be posting sometime next week!)

Thinking About Nothing

Sometimes there is so much stuff in my head—the two TV shows I keep up with, the three books I’m usually reading, the plots of my own books, marketing strategies, ideas for new stories, the classes I teach, when we’re going to move all the boxes of books I’ve packed for the library—and I really just want to think about nothing for a while.

I have tried meditation. The nearest success I had was about twenty-five years ago, during a yoga class. After leading us through a series of postures designed to constrict and then release the blood flow through vital glands, our instructor would wait for us to settle into shavasana—our gently exercised bodies covered with a light blanket—and lead us through a ten to fifteen-minute meditation.

Usually, we would start by tensing various muscles and letting them go, moving from the feet all the way up to our heads. Then our instructor might talk us through a visual landscape or encourage us to build one ourselves. Then we’d do some finger wriggling and blinking, roll over, and sit up, apparently refreshed.

Shavasana (otherwise known as “corpse pose”) can be very refreshing. I’m a huge fan of lying down and being covered by a blanket. But I always had a lot of trouble following the meditation part. My mind tended to wander. The one time I did manage to stay with the instructor’s voice was actually kind of frightening. I “woke up” up suddenly with a memory of a black and yellow place and with the feeling of having been suspended between the known and unknown.

I’ve always thought of the incident as a pretty good illustration of my struggle to let go. I’m not very good at letting go. At the beginning of a yoga class, when we’re encouraged to empty our minds, I’m usually going over my to-do list. When we’re lying down, letting the thoughts that snag pull free, I’m usually plotting the next chapter I want to write. Or the next book. Or thinking about my characters. Or wondering what’s for lunch.

Often, at night, I’ll wake up sometime after midnight and lie there for two to four hours, thinking. I try to think about nothing or to tell myself some sort of bedtime story. To let my mind wander, snagging sometimes, but pulling free, and it’s so danged hard. I’ll think about the movie I just saw, a character type I’d like to explore, about the fact my daughter plans to go away to college next year. I’ll wonder if I remembered to close the oven at the bagel shop (where I work afternoons) and if the cats have food and water. Did I forget to put a muffin in that last customer’s bag? Do I have everything I need for the Teen Writers’ group I’m teaching tomorrow night? Oh, and you know what would work for that scene I was struggling with this morning…?

Sometimes I just get up and read for a while. Filling my head with someone else’s words is usually a good way to quiet my own thoughts for long enough for me to fall asleep. But all these thoughts are still there in the morning.

I’ve tried morning pages and I’ve had some success with them—in that they do serve as a good way to get all this stuff out of my head and onto paper at least. I often find solutions to problems that nag at me by writing them down, including my feelings about an issue and questions to myself about what I can do about it. I also do a lot of plotting and planning in my morning pages.

I try to go for a walk every day and usually listen to an audiobook as I circle the neighborhood. It’s about the closest I get to thinking about nothing on a day-to-day basis, but not always successful. Sometimes my mind will wander and I’ll have to restart a chapter and listen to it again. It’s amazing how much I can miss, too. It will be as though I’ve never heard the words before.

Interestingly enough, however, I cannot sit and listen to an audiobook. I have to be doing something or in motion. I can be driving, traveling as a passenger, walking, mowing the lawn, or cleaning the house. I cannot do a jigsaw puzzle and listen. I can color and listen.

But, back to my quest for nothingness—when I sat down to write this, I planned to share the one thing that worked, but when I got to this part of the ramble, I realized there are two things, but only one I can do year round. The first is for summer only: lying on the beach. I usually take a book to the beach with me, but my favorite thing to do (aside from riding the waves) is to lie in the sun and listen to the sounds of people playing in the water. The vague crunch of bare feet against the sand. The sigh of the wind over the sea, and the roll and hiss of the waves. People talking. All the different music. I find all that listening extremely restful.

The thing that works year-round is going hiking. While I often listen to audio books on my daily walks, I leave my headphones behind when I’m on the trail. Instead, I do the same thing I do on the beach: I listen. To the leaves crunching under my feet and the wind through the trees. The skitter and chitter of forest animals. The rush and trickle of water. Other hikers talking to each other, or their dogs. The sound of the world taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly.

Or maybe that’s just me.

I look at the color of the bark on the trees and the different shapes of the leaves. I make note of the mushrooms growing alongside the trail. I look for flowers, especially in the spring, and interesting patterns in the fallen leaves during the fall. I’ve hiked through snow, counting the different sets of tracks crossing my path. I’ve hiked in the summer when it’s ninety degrees and all I want to do is take off my shoes so I can stick my toes in the creek.

But I especially love hiking when the air is cold and the sun is warm. Just last week I hiked to the top of Mount Tammany in New Jersey. It was thirty-seven degrees when I started out and pretty chilly. But when I got to the top of the mountain, the sun broke properly through the clouds and bathed my face in this incredible warmth. It felt almost unreal. It also felt joyous. The only way I can think to describe it is… okay, you know that scene in The Sound of Music where Maria is up in the hills spinning around and swinging her arms out? Of course you do. There are a million gifs of it on Twitter. I felt like that. I’d climbed a mountain, the sun was shining on my face, and I felt amazing! Happy, light, purposeful, refreshed. And guess what was going through my mind?

Absolutely nothing.

So you can see why the idea of meditation fascinates me. I’ve heard that successfully meditating for ten minutes can be like an hour of sleep. That being able to empty your mind and relax like that will add years to your life. It seems like the perfect way to combat stress. But all that sitting … I just can’t.

Maybe not all meditation is about sitting still or necessarily traveling somewhere in your mind. Maybe for some of us, thinking about nothing requires a little more something. For me, it seems either my body or someone else’s has to be in motion. For me to clear my mind, I have to listen to something—either the sound of someone else’s story, the world moving on without me, or that not-quiet quiet of the forest.

I don’t have to climb a mountain every time, but the view is so often worth it. And then, on the way back down the other side, when I’m drawing close to the parking lot and thoughts of what I need to do for the rest of the day start to filter through, I can think about posts like this where I can at least talk about thinking about nothing for a little while.

45654211291_3c026e7a49_h
The view from the top of Mount Tammany.

To view more of my hiking photos, visit my Flickr gallery.

The View

When Out in the Blue released as part of Dreamspinner’s “Never Too Late” Daily Dose collection, I planned to write a post about the trail Jared and Fin hike during the story. Well, a part of the trail—my favourite part: The hike up to the summit of Mt. Tammany. In many ways, the short hike is a perfect metaphor not only for life, but for writing, and for Jared, for whom I wrote Out in the Blue. I didn’t get to the post then, as I wasn’t able to tackle the hike for a number of reasons. Thankfully, this year I’m back on my feet and fighting fit.

It’s a short hike, just over a mile and a half each way, but the elevation gain is twelve hundred feet. That’s a lot over a mile and a half and, appropriately, the trail is marked as difficult. It’s steep, it’s a definite hike, it’s hard work. This trail is not a walk in the woods. But the climb is so worth it, which is why this trail is one of the most popular in the Northeast. You do get a glimpse of success early on; a view through the trees of the Delaware River winding south, shouldered on each side by the Gap—Mt Tammany on one side, Mt. Minsi on the other.

The Gap

The trail wanders a little after that, steep, but we’re not climbing Everest here. Then we sort of are, without the snow. There are several sections where you’re on your hands and knees and you’re wondering why the heck you decided to climb a mountain today. You’re crawling, not hiking, and your thighs are burning, and you left your bottle of water in the car. It’s not feeling like fun. And all you can see ahead are more rocks and more trees.

The Trail

Where’s the view?

That’s life, isn’t it? We’re always looking for the view. We work toward goals, lured forward by the promise of a view at the end. The first sight of our finished project, or the pleasure it brings others. Financial reward, satisfaction, a job well done. They’re all the ‘view’. And the trail is rough. There are easy sections, but they’re never long enough to make up for the steep climbs.

Writing feels like that sometimes. I think any creative process can feel like that. Life is just so much like that, until we get to the view…and the climb is worth it.

The Summit

For Jared, it’s different. He’s stopped looking for the view. His life has flat lined. For uncounted years, he’s been walking the woods without looking beyond the trees. He hasn’t climbed, he hasn’t caught a glimpse of what’s around the next corner, or up the next slope. What drives him up Mt. Tammany (and along the Appalachian trail for two days before then) is something else. He knows he’s missing something, but he doesn’t know what it is. So I wrote a story to help him find it.

He climbs a mountain:

After an hour of huffing and puffing, and two false summits, they finally reached the peak of Mount Tammany. While the elevation barely scraped a thousand and a half feet—a thousand feet more than the town they’d spent the night in—the view was spectacular. Jared could see the interstate snaking into New Jersey, the river curving south. Though he’d probably see more from the window of a plane, he preferred being on the ground. The scent of old mulched leaves filled his senses, as did the pride of having accomplished something, even if it had been a relatively tame ascent. He’d climbed a hill. He’d walked for two and a half days without collapsing in a heap, and he’d climbed a mountain.

Feeling the warmth of Fin beside him, Jared turned to study the other man’s face. Fin’s expression echoed his.

“Never gets old?” Jared asked.

Fin shook his head. “Nope. Doesn’t matter how high or how far, it’s just being out here.” His lower lip disappeared beneath his teeth a moment. “Being out here is part of the essential human experience.”

Rather than ask him to qualify the statement, Jared simply nodded. He got it. He felt it.

 

Then he takes a chance with Fin:

“I want to kiss you.” He’d kissed so few men. None after Brian.

“That’s a good thing.” Fin’s breath tickled his lips.

Jared opened his eyes, sought the clear blue of Fin’s, and found only an indistinct blur pressed close. “I’m not good at this. What if—”

Fin’s lips touched his in a brief caress. “Shh. If the sex sucks, we’ll laugh about it when we get together to watch a game on Sundays.”

Oh, God. They were really going to do this.

The pressure landed, pushing air from Jared’s lungs. He didn’t understand it, his panic. He just knew it had been getting worse over the past couple of months. Since the company had grounded him, since he’d turned forty-five. Every time he contemplated being stuck in one place, his lungs locked and his ribs dug into his sides. He wouldn’t be able to ignore life when it no longer passed by the window of a plane, constrained to a view of six inches by twelve, cornered in soft angles, obscured by clouds. He’d be out there in the blue, trapped in one place. Trapped in a vastness. An emptiness. His loneliness would be real.

Canting forward, he claimed Fin’s mouth in a rough kiss. His lips were hard, stiff, teeth in the way. Jared pulled away with a gasp. He reached up to frame Fin’s face, thumbs sifting through sideburns to rest against his ears, fingers spearing into dark hair. He sucked in a quick breath, one scented by all Fin was, then kissed him again, this time with less need. Lips softened and parted beneath his.

Spoiler alert, the sex doesn’t suck. 😉 But what I loved about writing this particular scene was the promise of friendship between these guys. Because this is a love story, and the best lovers should also be best friends.

Out in the Blue is one of my favourite stories. I loved writing an older character and Jared’s journey is proof that it’s never too late to start looking for the view, or to simply learn to appreciate it for what it is.

OutintheBlueLGOut in the Blue

At forty-five, Jared Tailler suddenly feels old. When his employer grounds him, he starts thinking in terms of measuring his coffin. Well, not quite, but he’s creakier and hairier than he was ten years ago, and his closest relationship is the one he has with his frequent-flyer card.

It’s time to get out there.

On the first day of a five-day hiking trip, he meets Finley Macrae, a younger, seemingly brighter man. As they inch together in halting steps, Jared learns he’s not the only one lost out in the blue—Fin’s good cheer hides a turbulence deeper than Jared’s midlife crisis. Maybe together they can find the trail to happiness.

 

A story from the Dreamspinner Press 2015 Daily Dose package “Never Too Late.”

Amazon | ARe | Dreamspinner Press

Available Now: Out in the Blue

I really enjoy writing short stories. Despite the word count limit, a short story is an invitation to examine something more closely–an idea, an event, a slice of life. In “Out in the Blue” I take a look at what it feels like to be forty-five and ever aware of the big question: Is this all there is? I’m two years older than Jared and not single, or male, but I’ve never written my characters with an extreme bias toward one gender or another. I write people. So I found it easy to slip into Jared’s thoughts and examine what it must feel like to be alone and lonely, not as physically capable as he was twenty years ago, and facing a career change after years of allowing himself to become very isolated.

Every time I finish a new story, I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever written. Until I have had to rip it to pieces, stitch it back together, and read it ten more times, it’s my favourite. It’s usually right around the copy edit phase that my co-writer Jenn gets a note from me saying: I hate this story. Everyone is going to hate this story. Why did I write this?? That never really happened with “Out in the Blue”. I hope everyone else likes it as much as I do!

“Out in the Blue” will be released to subscribers of Dreamspinner’s 2015 Daily Dose Package “Never Too Late” sometime in June. For those who did not subscribe, you can buy this story now at the Dreamspinner website and other major retailers. Links below. 🙂

OutintheBlueLGOut in the Blue

At forty-five, Jared Tailler suddenly feels old. When his employer grounds him, he starts thinking in terms of measuring his coffin. Well, not quite, but he’s creakier and hairier than he was ten years ago, and his closest relationship is the one he has with his frequent-flyer card.

It’s time to get out there.

On the first day of a five-day hiking trip, he meets Finley Macrae, a younger, seemingly brighter man. As they inch together in halting steps, Jared learns he’s not the only one lost out in the blue—Fin’s good cheer hides a turbulence deeper than Jared’s midlife crisis. Maybe together they can find the trail to happiness.

A story from the Dreamspinner Press 2015 Daily Dose package
“Never Too Late.”

 Amazon | ARe | Dreamspinner Press

Reviews

“This short novella is sweet and sexy and touching…”
— Goodreads review

“I truly loved this story. It’s short…will only take about an hour to read, but it’s packed full of depth and emotion.”
— Smitten With Reading

Pathways

I have a tumblr blog that I mostly use to collect pretty pictures. While a good (overwhelming) proportion of those pictures are gorgeous men (usually without their shirt), I am also partial to beautiful landscapes and photography. I collect pictures of mountains, in particular. And flowers and forests. Colour and composition usually capture my eye first, but sometimes the subject, itself, is the picture.

A series of photographs to recently catch my attention all feature pathways. I like paths. I like being out in the forest or the mountains, rambling through nature, but it’s instinct—and just sensible—to find a path through all that glorious chaos. Paths beckon the eye, the feet and the imagination. When following a trail, one might wonder what the view will be like from the crest of the next rise. Likely as not, you’ll be looking at the slope of the neighbouring hill and it’s longer and steeper than the climb you already made. Sometimes, it’s an unexpected and beautiful vista, and that’s why you keep going, even though your thighs are burning.

There are also twists and turns. A path might feel like it’s folding back on itself and then, instead, spit you out in wonderland. A hidden pond and you’re there just in time to see the lilies in bloom. Or a steep drop off where your new boots do an admirable job of turning you into a mountain goat.

Pathways beg to be explored, and to get all philosophical, not all paths are the ones we see. They don’t all twist through forests, rise over hills or step over ponds, parting the duck weed on the other side. Sometimes a path is a choice and sometimes more than instinct is required to take that first step.

Beautiful photographs after the cut.

Continue reading “Pathways”