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Catch up with the summer SoulShares blog tour! – and don’t forget to get your Rafflecopter entries in at each stop for a chance to win ALL FOUR SoulShares novels!

 

Smoocher’s Voice – http://www.smoochersvoice.com/2014/07/guest-post-excerpt-from-soul-shares.html

 

Jade Crystal at Bound By Blood – http://boundbybloodblog.com/2014/07/01/rory-ni-coileain-talks-about-writing-and-inspiration-soulshares-series-blog-tour-and-giveaway/

 

Hearts on Fire – http://heartsonfirereviews.com/?cat=150

 

Nephy’s World – http://www.nephylim-author.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/artist-allan-penn-publisher-ravenous.html

 

For a terrific review of FIRESTORM (five stars and a TOP PICK from Susan at The Romance Reviews), check out  http://glbt.theromancereviews.com/viewbooksreview.php?bookid=13354

 

Finally, buy links for all four of the SoulShares, on Amazon and at the Ravenous Romance Web site (where if you buy four books, your fifth is free!)

Amazon:

Hard as Stone: http://www.amazon.com/Hard-as-Stone-ebook/dp/B009SX91JQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1355285138&sr=8-1&keywords=hard+as+stone+rory+ni+coileain

Gale Force: http://www.amazon.com/Gale-Force-Soulshares-ebook/dp/B00BSEDKB8/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1363476525&sr=8-3&keywords=Gale+Force

Deep Plunge: http://www.amazon.com/Deep-Plunge-SoulShares-ebook/dp/B00EV7OAYU/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1377825393&sr=1-1&keywords=Deep+Plunge+Rory+Ni+Coileain

Firestorm: http://www.amazon.com/Firestorm-Soulshares-Rory-Ni-Coileain-ebook/dp/B00IOWB2BW/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1393540924&sr=1-1&keywords=rory+ni+coileain 

Ravenous Romance:

Hard as Stone:  http://www.ravenousromance.com/fantastica/hard-as-stone.php

Gale Force: http://www.ravenousromance.com/fantastica/gale-force.php

Deep Plunge: http://www.ravenousromance.com/fantastica/deep-plunge-soulshares-number-iii.php

Firestorm: http://ravenousromance.com/fantastica/firestorm-soulshares-number-iv.php?keyword=firestorm&search_by=all

Congratulations to GIVE A RUSH! And thank you to everyone who entered, and everyone who checked out the teaser from BLOWING SMOKE (which you’re still free to do any time you like!) Stay tuned — I’m starting a blog tour with Pride Promotions on July 1, so I’ll be popping up where you least expect me!

Happy Prideanniverthday!

TiernanMikeGrell

 

This weekend hits a lovely trifecta — it’s Pride weekend, and tomorrow (June 28th) is both my birthday and the second anniversary of the day I signed the contract for my first books, the SoulShares series (featuring the exquisite Tiernan Guaire, pictured above.) To celebrate, I’m offering y’all, in a very hobbit-y fashion, presentses! — an (unedited) excerpt from Blowing Smoke, the fifth Fae novel and the first in the Broken Pattern series, and a giveaway. Comment below with your e-mail address by 8:00 p.m. Central time on Sunday, June 29th for a chance to win YOUR CHOICE of: (1) an autographed paperback of your choice of any one of the SoulShares novels (Hard as Stone, Gale Force, Deep Plunge, and Firestorm), (2) Kindle copies of both Tales of the Grove novellas (Heart of the Oak and Tempted from the Oak), or (3) an autographed (by me) copy of the lovely picture above, drawn for me at ComicCon Minneapolis by the amazing Mike Grell).

Happy Pride! And it’s been an amazing couple of years, and I’m looking forward to many more!

 

Excerpt from Blowing Smoke, Chapter Two:

It took a while to get up all the glass slivers, find the mop, and mop the floor, but it was time well spent. Ever since coming home to the stench it had cost him five grand to get rid of, Bryce had a horror of having anything around the apartment that might smell.

He stowed the mop back in its cupboard. There was a place for everything, and everything in its place, especially in a little New York apartment.

Of course, he’d been that way for a long time. His grandfather had moved in with them when he was seven, after his first stroke, and overnight his room had become the one place where he’d been able to have things the way he wanted. Most of the time, anyway.

He limped back to the table, nursing a bruise on his hip where he’d fallen against the counter. Funny how he’d never managed to pair up with a man as fastidious as he was. Or even close. Aren’t we all supposed to be fussy? He usually drove most of the men he picked up, or who latched on to him, completely bugfuck crazy in the space of a few days.

Terry hadn’t minded, though. He’d been perfectly happy to let Bryce be Bryce, all the while scattering costume sketches and leotards and water bottles and leg warmers everywhere. On purpose, sometimes, he suspected. There had been one time, when Bryce had started to pre-heat the oven for coq au vin, and the strange smell that had filled the apartment had turned out to be roasted ballet slipper.

Bryce’s throat felt tight. He tried so damned hard to drag me out of myself. Drag my head out of my ass. Why the hell did I throw him out? He still couldn’t remember, even after almost a year. He’d asked Terry, but Terry hadn’t wanted to talk about it. Bryce supposed he wouldn’t, either, under the circumstances, but it still would have been nice to know, to get back some of those lost memories, even second-hand. Even painful ones.

Painful? Who am I kidding? I’m a dick. I probably laughed when I did it. Though he couldn’t have treated Terry any worse than he’d treated the parade of men who had followed him–

Bryce froze. What was that?

A barely audible sound, but he realized it had been there, on the very edge of his hearing, for a while. A soft whimpering. And, just as he started giving the sound his full attention, a tiny howl.

What the hell? The guy on the second floor, whose name Bryce had never bothered to ask, had a Rottweiler, but it had a bark like you’d expect from a monster that size and he’d never heard it whimper or howl. Besides, the noise sounded like it was coming from downstairs, not upstairs.

Fucking wonderful, an animal of some kind trapped in the basement. The landlord had a strict policy, all vermin were supposed to be reported to him so he could take care of them before the city caught wind of any problem. Not that Bryce gave a shit about anyone’s policy, but having someone other than him take care of rodents in the basement was his idea of common sense.

Another faint howl.

Rats don’t howl.

No, but dogs did. Bryce hated dogs. Not just Cujo upstairs, he’d hated them all as long as he could remember. His grandfather had kept mastiffs, before his stroke, and Bryce had been about four years old the day one of them had run him down on the front lawn until he tripped and fell, and had gone for his throat. He’d pissed himself from fear before his grandfather called the dog off. His mother had demanded the dog be put down, his grandfather had laughed, and dear Daddy had taken a belt to him for wrecking his new trousers.

The howl didn’t sound like a mastiff, though. Not even close.

I should at least find out what it is.

Bryce methodically unlocked all the locks on the front door, turning the second deadbolt on his way out so the door wouldn’t lock behind him and leave him in the foyer in his underwear. The door to the basement was closed, but not locked; he let himself in and left the door ajar.

The whimpering continued. Bryce reached around the doorjamb and fumbled for the light switch. The light didn’t stop the sound, either. Frowning, he bent to peer down the stairs.

A man lay unmoving on the grey cement of the basement floor. A man with long blond hair curling in soft waves around his face and an amazing body in what looked like someone’s idea of a Ren Faire costume, dark green. Wrapped around in silver chains, so tightly he wouldn’t have been able to move even if he’d been awake, and the linen charred where the chains touched it. And a whisker-faced brown and grey puppy lay on the man’s chest, sprawled out on its side, shivering, its belly rising and falling with rapid panting breaths.

Bryce took a few steps down the stairs. The pup stirred, raised its head maybe an inch, and howled. Not really a howl, more like a pitiful wail. Then it turned away from him, nosing at the man, crying.

He was confused as fuck, and he didn’t like the feeling. What the hell was going on with the man? He tried to imagine some combination of circumstances that could have ended with a Robin Hood type–a fucking gorgeous Robin Hood type, probably a model, just the kind to put a tent in his shorts under other, less bizarre circumstances–chained up in his basement. Unconscious. Smelling of smoke. With a dog. He came up blank.

Great, now the puppy was looking at him. There was something strange about its eyes, he could see that even from this distance. It was having trouble holding its head up, too, he thought.

What the hell am I supposed to do about this? About a dog he was supposed to hate, and a man he was supposed to… well, what? Catch and release?

One thing, at least, was clear. Bryce owed the intruders as much as he’d ever owed anyone else.

Nothing.

Clear, right?

 

HardWork

 

This summer is a little unusual for me. For the first time in a couple of years, I’m taking just a little bit of a writing vacation. Well, technically, I suppose it’s more like a “staycation” – the only immediate things on my plate are a short story with an August 1 deadline and prep for a couple of blog tours later in the summer. I need the breather, as I’m also getting ready to move (pretty much all through the month of July).

Plus, I just passed through a very unpleasant time in my writing life. I hesitate to call it “writer’s block,” because it wasn’t, really. The ideas were all there, I knew where the story had to go, I loved the characters (yes, even Bryce). But writing was almost physically painful. The only physical analogy I’ve ever come across that kind of gets the feeling across is an unfortunately crude one – dry-humping. An activity that’s supposed to be exquisitely pleasureable, that you remember as being exquisitely pleasureable, yet it’s somehow reduced to sheer effort and a lot of pain.

How did I get to this point? I didn’t realize it while I was in the middle of the desert, but basically, I let being a writer pull me away from writing.

It all started innocently enough. I was writing merrily away on my fifth Fae novel, the first in a new series for Ellora’s Cave, but growing out of the SoulShares series. And I started getting a little hung up on finding the right balance between explaining references to the original series and moving forward with the new story. Then I started noticing all the articles and blogs and links on “the craft of writing.”  I saw articles posted by all kinds of helpful people and pages on structuring your story, outlining, research. The appropriate ratio of explicit content to non-explicit content. The story arc of a romance. Tension between the protagonist and the antagonist. Tropes we love. Tropes we hate.

And just as I was pretty sure I’d never written anything correctly in my life, I found help with…  marketing. How to tweet to best advantage – when to favorite, when to retweet, how to create an attention-grabbing profile page, making the hashtag your friend. How to leverage LinkedIn and Google+. Getting the most exposure for your YouTube channel. Building buzz on Goodreads. Optimizing your Amazon footprint to take advantage of its recommendation algorithms. Maximizing my Pinning so as to reach my target audience. (I do have a Pinterest account, born of a night of too much champagne and quite a bit of unfounded optimism… I don’t even remember the password, much less how to pin anything – sorry to disappoint all of you who have started following me there!)

And I wasn’t doing any of that stuff.

And then came… the phone call from my mother. “So how are your sales doing, sweetheart?”

Crash. Burn. Ouch.

*insert uncontrollable sobbing here*

Bottom line, I got completely sucked into other people’s ideas of the “how” of writing, and completely lost my own sense of the “why”. I write because I love it. I never expected to be published; I was lucky enough to be noticed by an editor who loved what I was doing, and I continue to be lucky enough to work with editors who love what I write and help me make it even better. When I forget that, when I stop concentrating on my writing (and, okay, on conventions, I love conventions, I could live at conventions and be completely happy), when I fixate on mastering social media technology and maximizing online presence…. on selling books, instead of writing them, the joy goes out of it. And I need the joy, to make the rest of it work.

I have it back now, by the way. The joy. Rory’s got her groove back. *winks* Wait till you see this story. Hint:  shifters. Yes, shifters. Gotta run, time to write…

 

Thank you to everyone who commented on my entry in the Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia! — I’m pleased to announce that thanks to all y’all, I’m $36 in debt to the Ali Forney Center in New York City!

And the winner of her choice of my books is — Shirley Ann Speakman! Check your e-mail, darlin’….!

And thanks again to everyone who participated!

I couldn’t say no, when asked by Susan Mac Nicol to participate in a blog hop. (Of course, it didn’t hurt that she asked Toby to bat his eyelashes at me to seal the deal…. or maybe I just imagined that part.) My only obligation (apart from finding and tagging the next generation of participants) is to Tell All about my writing process. I’m not entirely sure “process” is the right word to use, in my case – I’m reminded of my priest, when she’s asked why she’s an Episcopalian, she generally replies “Because I can’t stand organized religion.” But I’ll give it my best shot!

What am I working on? I’m currently on Chapter 26 of Blowing Smoke, which is the first in a new four-book cycle of Fae novels, the Broken Pattern. All the Fae novels are SoulShares stories, really, but only the first four are the “official” SoulShares four-book cycle. (I feel a little like George Lucas. “No, only the first movie is Star Wars. Oh, okay, the first three are the Star Wars trilogy. Oh, wait, now there’s the Star Wars original trilogy and the Star Wars prequel trilogy.”) After I finish with Blowing Smoke, it’s going to be an interesting summer, since I’m moving all through the months of June and July and I really don’t want to be fighting with deadlines till I’m done. But I want to work on a shifter short story to submit for a DSP Christmas anthology, and that has an August deadline, so I suppose there’s no getting around that. Then it’s on to Bound in Oak, the third Tales of the Grove novella.

How does my work differ from others of its genre? Is it really bad of me to say that I have no idea? I’ve always had a problem with reading while I’m writing – I soak up literary styles like the proverbial sponge, and I’d purely hate for anyone to think I was plagiarizing them. But after I’d been writing for a year or so, I realized I was having serious withdrawal symptoms, so I started (in my copious spare time, cough cough) reading contemporary m/m. And I found out that I’m pretty safe with that. But I still don’t dare go near paranormal. So I guess you’ll have to tell me how I differ from other paranormal/urban fantasy m/m writers!

Why do I write what I do? Oh, wow. Let’s see… I got back into writing after about 30 years away, role-play writing on Facebook, just for fun. Strictly m/f, because those were the authors I was reading at the time, and I honestly didn’t think I could write m/m. I’m a stickler for accuracy, and for fairly obvious reasons, both anatomical and social, I didn’t think I had it in me to write m/m. But a dear friend begged to differ, and begged me to try. So as a surprise for her, I found a writing partner and gave it a shot. And I’ve never looked back. And it’s funny – another dear friend of mine, the only gay man I could even think of asking to, um, fact-check my first book, read the first few chapters, and his first comment was “Who are you? – have you been a gay man in drag for the last 20 years and you just never told me?” And there are days when that’s very much what it feels like. Writing m/m is a continuous voyage of self-discovery, and I love every minute of it. And I love the community I’m part of, too.

How does my writing process work? Saving the hardest part for last. (Incidentally, in her blog, Susan posted a picture of her lovely writing nook at this point. I’m not going to do that, because I’m too busy trying to write to evade the men in white coats with butterfly nets who would be descending on me in hordes.)
I usually get story ideas in one of two ways. Most often, I’ll hear characters talking to me before anything else. (I am, incidentally, a firm believer in muses, even if I’ve never gotten a good clear look at my own.) Once I know the characters, I start trying to work out what it was that made them who they are, or what got them to the point they’re trying to tell me about. That’s their story. So far, my characters have been kind to me for the most part, and have told me stories that fit into either my Fae stories or my Gille Dubh stories. I don’t have nearly as much time to write as I’d like, and if I had a bunch of unruly guys trying to tell me stories in a half-dozen worlds at once, I think I might have to be sedated.
Sometimes, though, it’s the story idea that comes to me first. And then I have to work backwards from there, to figure out who would be telling that particular story, and how they got involved in it. That’s the case with the short story I want to start after I finish Blowing Smoke – I was given the premise of “Christmas outside the United States”. And at a panel I was on at RainbowCon, the idea came up of doing a benefit anthology of HEA m/m stories set in Russia and the Ukraine, and the two ideas merged perfectly. Like chocolate and peanut butter. Only including a hot wolf shifter, which is a trope I’m pretty sure never came up in the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups commercials. Unfortunately.
The actual “writing it down” part of the process is fairly straightforward. I’m mostly a pantser, but I’ll usually outline the first five or six chapters of a book, very generally. Maybe a paragraph per chapter, sometimes just a sentence. By the time I’m on four or five, the next four or five have usually come to me, so I add them in. A few more chapters, and I’m ready to fill in the rest of the book. Though the outline of the last third of the book or so is never set in stone, because later chapters tend to calve off new chapters I hadn’t planned on. And in Blowing Smoke, I’m encountering a new phenomenon (new to me, anyway) – usually, my chapters are each told from a single point of view. There are unquestionably writers who can do head-hopping and not be confusing, but I’m not one of them. But the later chapters in Blowing Smoke are breaking up into scenes, each scene with a different POV character. We’ll see how that works out…
And now I turn you over to my fellow hoppers, my partners in crime, my willing victims- er, dear friends. (A number of whom are, I think, still either at or recovering from RT2014, so it may be a little while before their posts are up!) Angel Martinez, Dean Pace-Frech, Leta Blake, Nicole Dennis, Pamela Pelaam-One, you’re up!

 

 

Welcome to my stop on the Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia! May 17th is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia – find out all about it, including all the events going on all over the world, at http://dayagainsthomophobia.org/.

HopBadge

The Hop doesn’t end today, though! The HAHAT is here until late in the day on May 27th. And if you comment at the end of this post, with your e-mail address included (even if you know darn well I have it already *winks*) two things will happen. One, you will be entered in a drawing to win your choice of any of my books (listed off to the right, I’ve finally learned to put badges on my Web site, I’m so proud of myself….) And two – for everyone who posts, I’ll contribute a dollar to the Ali Forney Center in New York City (http://www.aliforneycenter.org/), a safe space for homeless LGBTQ youth. (Heck, if you’re the drawing winner and you already have all my books, I’ll add the value of the book to the donation!) I’ll put up a post on the 28th, announcing the winner. I’ll also e-mail the winner, so don’t forget to include your address.
And, to get you back to the main post for the hop when you’re done here, to find all the other terrific authors who are participating – http://hopagainsthomophobia.blogspot.com.
Now, to the point. The reason we’re all here.
I’ve been struggling with writing this post. I really have. Trying to find something meaningful to say, to people who have probably experienced a lot more trauma because of other people’s misunderstandings and phobias and hatred than I ever will. (Well, okay, genderfluidity has contributed to the loss of a couple of marriages and any kind of meaningful sex life, and the one date I’ve been on since my last divorce couldn’t handle a book cover with a shirtless guy on it, but still, that’s small potatoes.)
Finally, though, it dawned on me. I’m a writer. That’s what I do, that’s how I let what’s inside of me out. So I’m going to share a bit from one of my books. In Heart of the Oak, Trevor, an American architect on holiday on the Isle of Skye. He’s met a tree spirit, a Gille Dubh, or Dark One, named Darach. At this point in the story, they’ve been lovers, but Trevor has seen something about Darach, something so alien, non-human, that he’s terrified. He’s running. He’s on the bus back to Glasgow, ending his holiday early, haunted by his dreams. And Maggie is the grandmotherly bartender he met at a pub several nights before. I’m going to let the two of them say what I think needs saying.

 

“Trevor? Lad?”
There was a hand on Trevor’s shoulder. He woke with a start, tears streaming down his face and his breath catching.
In the seat beside him sat Maggie, the bartender from the Broadford Hotel, regarding him with a grandmother’s concern. “Is everything a’richt, lad? I thought I saw ye get on th’ bus in Kyle, but ye were gone sae quickly, I wasnae sure.”
Trevor would have laughed, if the last remnant of the dream in his memory had left any laughter in him. “No, Maggie, not really. But I’m glad you’re here, I didn’t mean to run out on my bar tab.” He shifted his weight to enable him to get at his wallet.
Maggie laid a firm hand on his arm. “Money is th’ furthest thing from my mind, this maement.” Her brows went up and didn’t start to lower until he eased his hand away from his pocket. “Guid lad. Now, what has ye in such a state? Surely ye werena planning tae leave sae soon?”
His throat went tight all over again and he had to cough before he could answer. “I wasn’t, no. But I have to.”
“Naething’s wrong tae hame, I hope?”
Only everything. “No. Thanks. I just have to leave.”
Blue eyes narrowed almost imperceptibly. “Have to?”
Trevor nodded miserably. His head fell back against the seat. He closed his eyes for the space of a deep breath. Any longer and the dream started crowding back into his mind again, Darach pacing the bounds of what had become a prison.
“Wi’ ye humor an auld woman, and let me tell ye a bit story?” Her voice was oddly gentle, her gaze a little less piercing.
“Sure.” Maybe hearing a voice that wasn’t leaves and wind would help chase the dream away.
“Nae sae much a story as a memory.” Maggie smiled and the lines around her eyes creased and deepened, but it was an unreadable smile even so. “Ye remind me of anither lad, years ago. Near enough your age, he was, but a ginger. Though he hated tae be called such.” She laughed softly, nearly inaudible over the motor. “He was a sweet lad and a gentle one, wi’ no taste for the tales of gingers stealing souls or haein’ none themselves, e’en in jest.”
Trevor managed a little smile and the old woman nodded as if encouraged, even as her own smile faded.
“A sweet lad he was, but one who ever kept himself to himself. Feared tae be known for wha’ he was. For back in that day, ’twas few there were on this island who would hae left him untroubled had they known.”
Oh, Christ, she knows. “Is it any different now?”
“Among the young, aye. And those of us wi’ the sight tae see past the ends of our own noses, and our own pasts. But this was monie a year ago, and folk were nae sae forgiving as a’ that.” Just for a moment, Maggie’s lips tightened into a thin line. “And this lad, his life was unco’ lonely, and full of the thoughtless cruelty of others, who would speak athout knowing hae they wounded him. Until he fell in love.”
“Why would that remind you of me? No offense,” Trevor added hastily, wishing he could take back the edge to his words.
Maggie completely ignored the interruption. “For years, he kept that love close tae his chest. For ’twas a lad he’d grown up with who took his heart, and he kenned that tae speak it would be his ruin. But the day came when the other lad was tae be wed.
The night before the day, a group o’ them went up tae Portree. For a celebration.”
A chill rippled down Trevor’s spine. “What happened?”
“I dinna ken.” Blue eyes welled up with tears. “But he was pale and drawn, at the wedding and left airlie. And when I came tae hame masel’, that night, ’twas I wha’ found my own son hanging from th’ shower head, and it too late to do aught.”
“Dear God.” Trevor reached out and rested a hand on Maggie’s, where it was clenched into a fist in her lap. “I’m so sorry.”
Maggie shook her head, wiping at her eyes with her free hand. “Dinna be sorry. Only keep your own feet off that path.”
“But I—”
“Follow your heart, Trevor, lad. Dinna hide from it. And for the guid God’s sake, dinna run from it.”
Trevor wanted to close his eyes but Maggie’s wouldn’t let him. “Thank you.” No sound came out but Maggie nodded as if she’d heard, patted his hand gently and eased out of the seat beside his, leaving him alone with his thoughts.
He almost called her back. What if my heart has gone somewhere I don’t dare follow? he wanted to ask. Into another heart, the heart of an ancient oak.
But she was gone. He settled back in the seat, drawing a deep, unsteady breath, and closed his eyes. Deliberately, knowing what was coming.
Again he watched Darach in the moonlight, pacing. Seeking. Alone. So unlike the memory of what had actually happened, the light in the tree spirit’s eyes at the sight of Trevor. The light had stayed there, too. All through their lovemaking. Both times. He came back to life, he rediscovered what it was to be alive.
But Darach hadn’t known the full joy of that life until he shared it. With me.
The light had left those beautiful eyes, though. It’s not what you did, it’s what you are. Dear God, had he been that afraid? Had he really been so cruel? To someone who had given him his heart?
Someone he needed. Someone he loved.
Awkwardly Trevor levered himself out of the pair of high-backed seats. Across the aisle, Maggie caught his eye and nodded. He nodded back, then made his way up the aisle for a brief and urgent conversation with the driver.
Minutes later he found himself at the side of the road, cursing the lack of reception on his phone as the bus rumbled off. He hefted his bags, walked a hundred yards or so up the road, set them down and tried again. He had to reach the bus company, warn them to expect an unscheduled roadside pickup.
He needed to get home.

Both Heart of the Oak and Tempted from the Oak have moms in small but important roles.  Maggie, in Heart, isn’t Trevor’s mother, but she shares a mother’s story that’s such an important plot point I don’t want to give it away here. *laughing* And Maura Cross, Gavin’s mom, from Tempted, tries to get hold of Gavin at just the wrong time — when Jeremy’s given him notice to get out of their apartment, just before Christmas, in a frigid, snowy Minneapolis winter (which I wrote long before it became apparent just how frigid and snowy our Minneapolis winter was going to be this year!). And Maura, like pretty much all of us moms, just wants to make things all right for her son…

So here’s the beginning of Chapter Twelve, from Tempted from the Oak. With love to all the moms out there…

GavinAustinSanderson5

Chapter Twelve

“He’s only letting you stay one more week and you still haven’t found a place to live?”
Why can’t a phone ever lose signal when I want it to? Gavin grimaced. He could always fake it, sure, but as far as he was concerned, there were some things a guy just never did to his mother. No matter how tempting the idea was. “Yeah, that’s about it, Mom.”
At least she wasn’t giving him crap for his lousy taste in men. She’d taken care of that in the first ten minutes of this phone call from hell. He’d had his phone muted at work and when his mother hadn’t been able to get hold of him, she’d called the other number he’d given her—the one he’d forgotten he gave her. The apartment’s number. Jeremy’s number. And the son of a bitch had told his mother that he, Gavin, was moving out, but wasn’t sure where he was going. Exactly the information he’d been very carefully keeping to himself because he hadn’t wanted to have the conversation he was presently having.
Still, it could be worse. She could have found out that he’d almost fallen in love with a tree spirit. Almost.
“You should come home, sweetie.”
Of course I should.
The bus crept forward another few feet. It wasn’t that there was a lot of traffic, not at six o’clock on Christmas Eve, when anyone with anything better to do than drive or ride a bus home from work was undoubtedly doing it. But the near-blizzard had brought everything more or less to a standstill. He kept clearing a circle in the frost riming the window, trying to see where he was and the circle kept freezing back over before he could see much of anything other than his own reflection. Which he barely recognized, swathed in every scarf and hat and sweater he’d been able to come up with before leaving the apartment this morning.
“I’d have to rent a car, Mom. I have too much stuff to bring home on a plane.” Shit, he was calling Seattle “home” again. Had he already given up? “I can’t afford that.”
“I’ll send you the money.”
“No, Mom—”
“Don’t you ‘no, Mom’ me.” Her tone was light, but Gavin knew from experience that Maura Cross was deadly serious about anything affecting the well-being of any of her children. And when his mother was deadly serious, nothing opposing her stood a chance. “You hate your job—you’ve told me so I don’t know how many times. You don’t have any reason to stay in that godforsaken glacier now that Mr. Wonderful has turned into Mr. Self-Absorbed-Head-Up-His-Ass.”
Gavin choked a little. “Mom, you’re not supposed to talk like that.”
“Someone hurts my baby, I’ll talk however I want to.”
“I love you, Mom.” Which was the truth and which was what made this whole conversation truly miserable. He loved his mom, his mom loved him, his mom wanted nothing more than for him to be happy. But his mom couldn’t understand what made him happy. She’d never understood his dream of working at the Guthrie or how much it had meant to him to move to the city where he might be able to make his dream come true. And she would sure as hell never understand his hopeless longing for the other dream he’d left behind in what he was pretty sure was the Scottish Highlands.
How could she, when he didn’t?
“I love you, too. Now promise me you won’t do anything stupid.”
“Mom, I haven’t—”
“And that you’ll be home for New Year’s. I’ll have the champagne iced.”
God damn it. His throat was squeezed tight and his eyes were burning. It was time. He needed to give up his dream—both his dreams—because that was all they would ever be. Dreams. And he had to get on with his life. “All right, Mom.”
“Thank you, sweetie. That’s the best Christmas present you could have given me.”
Gavin clenched his teeth. He should be relieved. Should feel lighter, without the burden of needing to find a place to live. Should be overjoyed at the thought of being able to wish Jeremy’s new boyfriend luck on his way out the door.
To hell with how he should be feeling. He reached up and yanked the cord to signal a stop. “Mom, I’m at my stop. I have to put the phone away. I’ll call you later. Merry Christmas.” Fortunately, he touched off the phone before she could hear how his voice caught on those last words. There was no way he was at his stop but he didn’t care. Wherever he was, he could probably walk back to the apartment faster than the bus was moving. Getting numb would just be a bonus.
Jesus, listen to me, I’m turning into an honest-to-God drama queen. Complete with M.F.A. Gavin shook his head, pulling out his gloves and tucking his phone into the empty pocket as the bus came to a stop.
“Merry Christmas,” the driver called out down the aisle of the nearly empty bus as he made his way down the steps to the back door of the bus.
Minnesota Nice. “Same to you.” He pushed the door open and stepped down into the street.
A blast of snow-laden wind hit him in the face, just as he went into a bank left by a snowplow almost up to his knees. Maybe this was a bad idea. Behind him, he heard the bus pull away from the curb, or the part of the street that was as close to the curb as anything with four wheels and an engine would be able to get for a while.
Well, shit. Gavin pulled his scarf up from where it had fallen while he sat in the comparatively warm bus. He looked around, making his way to the sidewalk and trying to get his bearings as he wound the wool more tightly around his face. How do people get used to this?
Not his problem anymore.
The unmistakable sound of church bells was muffled by snow and wind. He recognized them, the bells of St. Mark’s Cathedral, probably ringing for a Christmas Eve service. He’d disembarked at the Loring Park exit. If he were able to see at all through the blinding snow, he’d see the tree he never wanted to see again.
Thank God for blizzards then. The words hurt. He wanted them to hurt. That was how a person learned, right? By avoiding pain. Maybe next time he wouldn’t be such an idiot. Snow stung his eyelids, the tops of his cheeks where the scarf left them exposed.
He pulled his knitted hat down further until it nearly met the top edge of the scarf.
Gavin…?
Faintly, the whisper of leaves and an impossible hint of moonlight.
Shielding his eyes, Gavin started to look in the direction of the old oak, then caught himself. Even a drama queen knows better than to go chasing off after his own wishful thinking during a blizzard.
Wishful?
Hell, yes. He wished. He was never going to learn.
Gavin…please.
Gavin lurched aside to avoid a very determined older woman, barreling down the middle of the sidewalk like a wool-clad, fur-hatted tank.
Cold.
The muted clamor of the bells was starting to subside. Gavin missed the noise. It helped. Though it apparently wasn’t loud enough to drown out an imagination desperate to hear Tearlach’s whisper one last time.
Sleepy
No one had shoveled the walkways through the park since the storm started. It didn’t matter. He was being drawn to the source of that last faint, despairing sigh as fast as he could plow through the accumulated snow.
Faster, even. He stumbled, going to hands and knees in the snow when he stepped off the paved path. His chest heaved, drawing in great lungfuls of burning-cold air. He fought down a cough, trying to listen.
Nothing. No sound except the blowing snow, the whipping wind that sounded nothing like a lover.
He staggered upright, covered with snow now, brushing at himself as he trudged forward. His feet were burning in a way that suggested they were going to be completely numb before long and his eyelashes kept trying to freeze stuck together. Where the hell is the goddamn tree? The blizzard was changing everything. Every shape, every sound, every breath. Nothing looked familiar in what little light there was. Jesus, if I’m not careful I’m going to go too far and end up in the lake.
In the end he tripped over what he was looking for, going face first into the snow. Tearlach was curled in on himself, knees drawn up against his chest, arms wrapped around his shins, covered with a coating of snow that looked like it had only been knocked off when Gavin stumbled over him. He wasn’t moving. And it didn’t look like the snow was melting on him.
Cursing, Gavin struggled to his knees, peeled off his gloves and started shucking his coat. “Tearlach!” He wrapped the coat around the motionless spirit, then manhandled Tearlach awkwardly across his lap, holding him as close as he could with one arm while reaching for his phone. Which wasn’t in his pocket. Son of a bitch. No doubt it was out there in the snow, where he had fallen.
Let me sleep

I had an amazing day today — I took my son to Wizard World’s ComicCon, where we went to a talk by William Shatner, and one by Nathan Fillion (I love you even more now, Captain Mal!) and Adam Baldwin. AND… after 30 years, reconnected with Mike Grell, one of the best comic book artists in the business and the gent who hooked me up with DC Comics, well, 30 years ago. I was stunned when he remembered me, after all this time, and thrilled when he agreed to do a sketch of Tiernan Guaire for me. Now, I need to be able to see my characters as I write, so I have painstakingly-collected photos that serve as my inspiration for all of them. But this…. this IS Tiernan. Right down to the crystal hand, the one he lost saving Kevin from the Marfach. Kevin, incidentally, is one insanely lucky man. I hope you enjoy Tiernan as much as I do…. thank you, Mike!

 

TiernanMikeGrell

It’s funny — whatever I plot, for one of the Fae books, I almost always end up with at least one chapter set on the Acela — the express train between Washington, D.C. and New York City. My Fae can get from one to the other by Fading, but humans don’t take very well to being transported that way. And I hadn’t planned for this scene, but Josh and Garrett got up in my face tonight and told me I had to give them a scene on the train. So, without further ado…

 

GarrettDancing

 

“You’re still glowing.”
Garrett grinned sheepishly. “Yeah, I feel like I am. Which is silly, really.”
“I’ve always believed life’s much easier if you have a low pleasure threshold, myself.” Josh grinned back from his vantage point opposite Garrett. “And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last year or so, it’s to stop feeling silly about being happy.”
“I get that.” Garrett glanced out the window, his grin turning into a more introspective smile. “Hard to believe that six months ago, I hadn’t met Lochlann.”
Garrett knew his fellow human SoulShare would follow his leap of logic. The tattoo artist and his ethereal Fae partner were still so obviously in love, it was hard to breathe when they were both around.
“So what exactly did you tell Terry?” Josh tossed aside the magazine he’d been trying to read and settled back in his seat. “I know the basics, but damn, I haven’t seen Terry look that happy in a long time. Since well before Bryce threw him out.”
Garrett frowned. “Remind me to ask you about that, because I really want to know, but right now that’s harshing my mellow.” He laughed softly, leaning forward so as not to have to raise his voice. They weren’t alone in the car by any means, and even if they weren’t talking about Fae at the moment, his life was nobody else’s damned business. “I told him that Lochlann and I had been to that pole-and-aerial dancer’s performance, at the Atlas Performing Arts Center–Davide Aubuchon–and that watching him lit a fire under my ass.” Truth. The Frenchman had combined pole dancing and aerial work and floor work in a way Garrett had never imagined possible. “Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do, and I’m not giving up the pole any time soon, and by that I mean ever, but I told Terry that I really need to push myself. I think I can do that.”
“But you need formal dance training. Or so you think.” Josh raised a brow. “I beg to differ.”
Garrett could feel himself blushing. When he was working the pole, accepting the whistles and shouts and other forms of appreciation showered on him by other men was part of the job. Off the dance floor, though, he still had problems accepting praise. Especially now, when he’d seen what was possible and figured out how hard he was going to have to push himself to accomplish it. “Thanks. But if you’d seen this guy, you’d know what I’m talking about. And I’ve had pickup classes here and there, all different kinds of dance. But I’ve never really studied. And I would feel like a complete idiot walking into a beginners’ ballet class at my age.”
“Terry was obviously okay with you asking.” Josh nodded. “And that made me happy. He took losing his dance company in New York really hard. I don’t think he’s even been in a ballet studio since he moved down to D.C. It’s going to do him a world of good to work with you.”
Josh was happy. Truly happy. Terrence Miller had been Josh’s lover, partner in work as well as in life, until Bryce Newhouse had come along and decided to lure Terry away. Breaking Josh’s heart in the process, Garrett had no doubt, though the hunky tat artist never talked about it. Yet Josh hadn’t thought twice, back when Bryce dumped Terry and threw him out of their apartment. He’d opened his tattoo studio–and even his home, until Terry had been able to get back on his feet. And even now, all it apparently took to make Josh happy was to make Terry happy.
And all it took to seriously piss Josh off was… “What is Newhouse’s shit, anyway?” He was pretty sure his original impulsive desire to meet the investment banker cum dickhead had been a bad idea. He’d still be on this train regardless–Conall was going to need Lochlann, and Lochlann was going to need him–but what he knew of Newhouse reminded him entirely too much of the bullies he’d grown up with. The kind who made people’s lives hell because they could. So they could see they had an impact on the world. They had to hurt others, just to know they themselves existed.
“I’d say I wish I knew, but I don’t think I really want to know how that kind of mind works.” Josh tipped his head back against the seat and closed his eyes, the very top of the head of the black-headed hawk tattooed on his chest visible over the neckline of his t-shirt. “Though I’ll admit, he wasn’t much more than an ordinary run-of-the-mill dirtbag when he first went after Terry. I still think the Marfach had a hand in kicking him out of the house, though. Even Terry has never figured out why Bryce did that.”

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