TheReadEye

"We read to know that we are not alone." — C.S. Lewis

Earning Edie: A Sneak Preview

Earning Edie, a new adult romance by DJ JamisonI am releasing my new adult romance, “Earning Edie,” April 1!

I’ve posted an excerpt of the book here, so you can have a preview of what’s to come. Earning Edie is available for pre-orders on Amazon, Apple ibooks and other online bookstores now.

Pre-order “Earning Edie” here, and receive your copy on April 1.

Chapter 1

EDIE

Well, my parents did it again.

They managed to turn what should be a happy occasion into another crapfest.

Sitting on a folding chair under the glaring sun, my hideous yellow gown soaking up enough heat to power a small village, I couldn’t muster much excitement about high school graduation. It was a stepping stone to our future, a milestone in our lives, blah blah blah.

To my right, Jessica Mallick flirted with Brian Morris while handling dueling text messages from her friends. Apparently, she’d made out with someone last night and was now strategizing about how to “catch” him.

Considering at least half the senior class would be leaving town when summer was over, I didn’t see the point. But when it came to high school girls, I was usually the exception, rather than the rule. I hadn’t had a boyfriend yet. And no, I wasn’t a lesbian, even though my cousin Daisy insisted on asking me that question every other year when I saw her for Christmas.

Still, I admired Jessica’s multi-tasking. Sitting directly under the sun on Ashe High’s football field, I was too miserable to focus on anything, much less two-way texting and one-way flirting.

I sweltered under the polyester gown, my skin growing sticky with humidity. Lifting my thick brown hair from my neck to get a little air moving, I snuck another peek at her phone to pass the time.

Another text message: “Doesnt he have gfriend”

“Not 4 long,” Jessica sent back.

Charming.

The phone chimed with a return text. “You take Carlos; I get Jaime.” Followed by a winky face.

I knew those names.

Carlos Espinoza and Jaime Harris ran with the popular jock circle, pretty far from my more academic group of friends. My closest friend, Lily Brown, sort of surfed between the two circles, making friends with everyone, and she’d been obsessed with Carlos all four years of high school.

Watching him run through girls like soda pop while my awesome friend pined after him made me instinctively dislike him, but Lily had already promised I was going to his graduation party tonight, even if she had to drag me screaming. Lily’s promises often came across more like threats, but I was used to it.

“Lily!” I called across three rows so she could hear me where she sat with the other B names.

She turned, her blue eyes squinted against the bright sunlight.

“I don’t see them,” I said, hoping she’d take my meaning.

Her mouth dropped into a grimace, and she craned her neck to scan the crowd gathering in the football bleachers.

I watched her, rather than the crowd, tired of scouring the bleachers for some sign of my absentee family.

My parents had never been what you’d call good at the parenting thing. They were divorced, which you’d think would mean double the presents and birthday parties. Not so much. Instead, they each shoved parenting responsibilities at each other, and no one picked up the slack.

Instead of two presents, I often got no presents.

They hadn’t attended parent-teacher conferences in ages, which wasn’t that big of a deal. I made good grades anyway.

They’d also skipped my high school band concerts, which was a little harder to swallow. I’d eventually given up the clarinet, so it hardly mattered now. Only I sometimes wondered if I might have kept playing if I’d had someone take an interest. I suspected musical genius wasn’t in my genes, even with an enthusiastic parent in the crowd, but I’d never know for sure.

They’d even forgotten my birthday one hectic year.

But skipping my high school graduation. Really?

A smile lit up Lily’s face and she waved wildly to the crowd. I jerked my head around, hope surging.

My eyes landed on Lily’s brothers and sisters, who waved enthusiastically from the crowd, and my heart settled back into its steadier, if disappointed, rhythm. Figures.

She had a ginormous family, and they were all there. Her parents; her two older brothers in college; and her three sisters still in junior high and high school. It made me wonder where the heck they were all sleeping this summer.

Lily got annoyed by her huge family, but I envied her. There would be plenty of cheers when she crossed the stage.

I’d give anything to have someone in my corner like that.

Thirty minutes later, I shuffled off the stage — after a rousing speech about how we were all persevering like our mascot the Pioneers and the added of humiliation of being called Eddie Mason – to find someone had shown up for me after all.

“Look!” Lily pointed into the flow of people that now swarmed the graduates with congratulations.

Tequila shoved her way to us through the crowd, grinning widely. That girl could rival Lily for the best smile ever. It stretched across her face bursting with uncontained joy.

“You did it, Eeds!” she squealed and pulled me into a hug.

Somehow, I ended up squealing and bouncing up and down with the 13-year-old I mentored. I was supposed to be a model for at-risk youth, but sometimes it seemed like Tequila was the one teaching me about life. My parents hadn’t made it, but Tequila made the effort when it was anything but convenient for her.

“You didn’t have to come. How did you get here?”

Tequila shrugged her bare shoulders above her tube top and said “bus” before popping her bubble gum. She’d paired the bright purple tube top with tight white shorts.

“And what are you wearing? Are you trying to get knocked up?”

Tequila rolled her eyes, used to my mother hen act.

“For real, Edie? I know enough about sex to know you don’t get knocked up just because you look good.” She turned to Lil and gave her a hip bump. “Am I, right? Hmm?”

Lily laughed. “You’re right,” she said, earning a glare from me. “So, you want a ride home, Vodka?”

“Har-har,” Tequila said, used to Lily’s joke of calling her by every liquor except her actual name. “It never gets old.”

Lily gave Tequila a ride home and dropped my at my job, Jumpin’ for Joy, before heading home.

Technically, I had the day off to “celebrate” my big day. I opted to stop by, and see if I could catch an extra shift. Dad had been avoiding the tuition talk, and I was getting a bad feeling about how much financial support I was going to get.

My boss Joy took one look at my face and enforced “bounce therapy,” a term she’d coined for making me go jump in the bouncy houses we managed.

“You need to bounce the blues right out of you, missy!” she scolded playfully, pushing me toward the nearest fire engine red inflatable. “Today is your day. I won’t let you work. Besides, the place is practically empty.”

She had me there. She did a brisk business on the weekends and through birthday parties, but late afternoon and evening was always slow. So, I did as ordered, and reluctantly kicked off my shoes and started jumping.

Between Tequila’s surprise visit and Joy’s enforced bouncing, I felt lighter than I had since I realized my parents weren’t going to appear at graduation. I was almost in the mood to celebrate.

Maybe I would go to that party with Lily.

 

NICK

I’ve been celibate more than a year. For a guy, that’s like, forever.

The reason for my celibacy? The green Prius idling in my apartment parking lot. Or rather, activities with the driver of the Prius. I like cars, but not that much.

I ducked down, my palms sweating and curse words pouring from my lips. I couldn’t handle seeing Elana right now. Or, well, anytime, if I was being honest.

My sister-in-law must have been in town for my cousin’s graduation. I’d missed the ceremonies — and a run-in with her, thankfully — because of a last-minute news meeting at work. A news meeting that was anything but good news.

My column was on the chopping block unless I improved my readership in the next eight weeks. And that column was everything to me. It was my ticket to syndication in larger newspapers, and maybe even a book someday. But only of it was a success, and I was determined it would be, whatever it took.

It was kind of stupid to think I could hide from Elana. Besides being bright orange, my 1969 Dodge Charger was a distinctive classic car, and one I’d spent countless hours working on in Elana’s garage last year. She’d be sure to recognize it.

I smashed the gas pedal to the floor.

The engine revved loudly as I sped up — a feature that usually revved my ego, but today made me cringe — and the wheels squealed as I took a corner too fast.

My cell phone rang before I’d cleared the next block.

Elana.

Grimacing, I let it go to voicemail.

I didn’t know how long Elana would hang around in the hopes of cornering me. I could go to Mama’s house, but there was always the possibility she’d show up there. Elana had gotten even closer to Mama since my brother died, which made me all kinds of nervous considering the secret we were keeping.

We’d made a stupid mistake. One that could rip out my mother’s heart.

It was every bit the cliché Jerry Springer scenario you might imagine.

My brother Gabriel had been traveling a lot for work, while I’d been spending a lot of time working on our project car in his garage. Hanging out with his wife. His lonely wife.

It doesn’t take much to add two and two.

Gabe and I were supposed to restore the Dodge Charger together, but like Elana, I was feeling his absence. I spent hours over there, working on the car and eating the dinners she made for me. We talked, and we drank wine, and we watched movies together.

Then it happened.

One hook-up. One impulsive fall into bed. One betrayal that couldn’t be undone.

And … hell, there were no excuses to be made. I fucked up. Big time. And there was no taking it back.

The phone stopped ringing, only to start up again. Fuck my life.

I drove aimlessly, gritting my teeth until the phone went silent once more.

Blessed silence filled the car. Elana had given up on reaching me, for now.

I should just man up and talk to her, but what was there to say? She only reminded me of our indiscretion. Of my brother, and the fact I could never make it right with him.

Gabe died in a car accident before I could even think about coming clean and asking for forgiveness. Or at least a good ass-kicking. That might have assuaged the guilt somewhat.

With him gone, and the chance for amends gone with him, I wasn’t sure I’d ever outrun the guilt.

Still unsure of my next move, I drove aimlessly.  I needed a place to settle in and work. Shoving the guilt aside, I concentrated on the revelations of today’s news meeting.

I’d been doodling in my notebook, drawing a caricature of my managing editor, Tanya Nelson, as a blowfish shouting at a bunch of distracted guppies when Sean flicked my pen.

My head had shot up to see the blowfish herself staring me down, brown eyes narrowed in annoyance. I quickly flipped my notebook to a fresh page before she spotted her caricature.

“What?”

“You’re quite the attentive reporter,” she said dryly, drawing a few quiet laughs from the staff. My mouth opened, my mind whirring through potential excuses for my distraction, but she continued on. “We’ve had to cut a reporting position.”

My mouth snapped shut, and I cast an anxious glance around the table. No one was missing. Except Shirley, but Shirley always came in late because she lived on a farm an hour from town. It had to be Shirley … Tanya wouldn’t actually lay me off in public, right?

“That means the rest of you have to shoulder some extra responsibility,” Tanya added, with a meaningful look around the table. A look that said, “Yes, I will be giving you extra work, and no, you won’t be getting any perks in return.”

A wave of relief had hit me. I still had a job. As for the reporting, who cared? My job was to write columns and meaningful features, not cover the daily grind.

“Nick, you’ll have to pick up some extra stories.”

Relief, gone. “But my column—”

“As I was saying when you drifted into la-la land, we’re considering retiring your column, so you can report full time.”

“WHAT?”

I’d shot from my chair, heart pounding. I’d worked my ass off, done the hard sell to get the damn thing started — and they wanted to discontinue it, already?

Even though I’d argued hard for my column, Tanya hadn’t budged much, outside of giving me an eight-week window to convince her to save it.

To do that, I needed a kick-ass column each and every week for the next eight weeks, and I had until tomorrow afternoon to turn in the first one.

Gotta love being a journalist in the era of dying newspapers.

My cousin’s house caught my attention. I’d turned down Carlos’ street on autopilot, but it was as good a solution as any. My aunt had an open-door policy for family, and I could kick back in their hot tub after I put my brain through the ringer.

Chapter 2

EDIE

I looked out the car window to get a better view of Carlos Espinoza’s house.

It perched on a hilltop impressively, and I could just see the kidney-shaped pool as Lily turned onto a gravel drive that led up to the house. Big columns supported a front porch and put me in mind of the Southern verandas I’d seen in movies.

I knew Carlos lived in this swanky Northwestern neighborhood, but I’d never been inside any of the homes here. Unlike most of our graduating class, I’d never attended one of his parties.

His house was positioned on a large corner lot, with a huge, perfectly manicured lawn. Tonight, cars parked haphazardly along the side of the drive and up on the lawn, giving me the feeling Carlos’ parents weren’t going to be too pleased when they came home. Then again, he threw these parties often enough they must be okay with it. I didn’t understand that, but admittedly, I didn’t understand much about parenting. I’d avoided my own parents since the graduation ceremony.

Lily blared the car horn and waved frantically through the car window at another group of friends. A loud whoop echoed back, and giddy laughter drifted on the breeze.

“Oh yeah, this is going to be that kind of party,” Samantha said gleefully from the front seat.

“What kind of party?” I asked guardedly.

“The best kind,” she answered cryptically.

I decided not to ask exactly what she meant by that, but now I was a little concerned I might be out of my depth.

Generally, I skipped the party scene, preferring a quiet movie with friends or a night in reading when I was alone. Lily had given up on dragging me to parties years ago, but she’d insisted graduation required a celebration.

The car lurched to a stop as Lily found a spare patch of grass to flatten, and I unwound myself from the cramped backseat with a sigh of relief. Carrie and Kelly Williams climbed out behind me; the twins had been noticeably quiet on the trip over, only whispering to each other. But they’d always been their own super duo, giving others only brief glimpses into their lives.

The group straggled up to the house in a disorganized line, and I hung back, while Samantha threw herself into the center of things, grabbing the nearest available guy and hitting the dance floor. Looking into that mass of twisting bodies weaving around furniture — and occasionally tripping over it —  I wanted to turn around and run out the door.

“Let’s get some drinks,” Lily suggested, as if she sensed my flight instinct kicking in.

She grabbed my wrist and dragged me to the kitchen. I narrowly dodged an elbow to the face and tripped over not one but two sets of feet on the way there. After that, I stopped trying to track our path and watched the ground for obstacles.

“You kind of know your way around here, don’t you?” I asked suspiciously once we’d reached a bubble of space next to the kitchen bar.

“Maybe,” Lily smirked as she mixed sprite, vodka and some purple concoction into a glass. “Here, take a drink.”

It was obvious Lily wasn’t going to spell it out for me. But I had a feeling she’d been hanging out with Carlos before tonight. I had hoped she’d move on now that we’d graduated, but I guess I was wrong. She’d been crushing on him for far too long to give up now.

I hesitated, sniffing at the drink. It smelled like grape, but also like alcohol, reminding me of that awful cough syrup my mom forced down my throat when I was little.

“Come on, live a little,” Lil urged, already chugging down half a cup of the grape-flavored hangover-in-waiting.

Glancing around the party, taking in the chaos around me, I knew the only way I’d get through the night was if I joined the fun. So, I took a deep breath and braced myself for the worst. Then I slugged down a big gulp.

“Ugh!” My face twisted in disgust.

“Sorry if it’s too strong. I’m an amateur bartender.”

It was definitely too strong, but maybe strong was what I needed tonight. I shuddered, and forced another swallow down. And another, and another. I set down the empty cup proudly, and Lil filled it to the brim again with a grin.

I rolled my eyes, but took it with me as we made our way out of the kitchen.

Samantha grabbed my arm as I passed.

“Dance, girl!” she yelled, shimmying her hips while holding a cup in her left hand and a handful of Alex Combs’ shirt in the other.

I laughed, shaking my head, and plowed through the crowd of loud couples and obnoxious boys playing drinking games, shouting over the music, and shoving each other like a bunch of kids on the playground. I’d need a whole lot more to drink before joining that unruly mass.

“Party pooper!” she shouted after me.

Samantha never did understand people who didn’t want to live loud. She was the life of the party, but that would never be me.

Lily steered me into a group of rowdy graduates that included Carlos, and I hovered at the edges, sipping at my drink and attempting to follow the drunken stories.

“And then she was all, the prom is a special night! And she started crying right in the middle of the dance floor!”

Laughter broke out, though I couldn’t figure out what was funny, having missed most of the story and suspecting I wouldn’t find it funny even if I hadn’t. Just as I raised my cup for another drink, I realized it was empty.

“Here, take mine,” Lily said, shoving her cup at me, even as she turned for the kitchen. “I’m going to grab a beer for Carlos, so I’ll just make another.”

She disappeared into the crowd, and I drifted away from the group, searching out a little breathing room.

Finally, I spotted the staircase and blessed open space not filled with drunken teenagers. I climbed the stairs, taking a seat at the top where I could watch over the party while not smothering in it.

By then, I had made it to my third cup of fruity-flavored alcohol, and was feeling rather disconnected from everything. As I sat, the room below spun slowly, and I leaned against the wall for support.

 

NICK

Graduation is the launching pad to the rest of your lives …

Bass vibrated through the room, undaunted by the wooden door, and rattled the desk. I groaned and tapped the delete key.

Delete. Delete. Delete. Delete.

“You suck,” I muttered, glaring at the screen, which was once again blank.

The curser blinked, as if daring me to come up with something better. I’d been working for two hours — or at least searching for inspiration that long. But after reading, surfing the web and racking my brain, I was no closer to the perfect column topic.

And I was distracted.

A yell went up downstairs. “Body shots!”

It was followed by catcalls, whistles and drunken laughter.

Trying to work in the middle of a party wasn’t the best idea I’d ever had.

Doing my best to block out the noise, I reflected on potential column topics. The art walks piece I’d originally planned sounded like fluff. No way to win over the editors in the bid to keep this column. I needed more time to finish the political piece about the councilwoman who was overspending tax dollars for questionable travel arrangements.

Graduation had seemed like the logical solution, but that was the problem.

It was predictable, aka boring.

The newspaper industry is going down the toilet and as a result, this column is saying goodbye …

I sighed and took my hands off the keys. If there was any brilliance inside me, it wasn’t going to emerge with this party screaming outside my door, and I could definitely use a drink.

The view from the second floor revealed a disaster zone below. Empty plates and beer cans covered every surface. Glistening skin flashed as girls and guys grinded together to the blaring music that rivaled some nightclubs for noise decibels.

I was too old for this crap — or maybe too sober.

I longed for my peaceful apartment. Elana would be gone by now, but given the massive crowd in Carlos’ living room, I’d never get my car out.

I hesitated outside the guest room where I’d been hiding, trying to psych myself up. Just get in and get out. One drink and back to work.

Turning toward the staircase, I noticed a girl sitting alone at the top of the stairs. She wasn’t clubbed up like the other girls at the party, instead dressed in jeans and a green blouse.

I gave her a brief onceover, doing a quick inventory: No body glitter. No makeup. No cleavage.

She must have been dragged to the party by a friend.

“Not too social, are you?” I asked, raising my voice to be heard over the music.

Her brown eyes flicked over to me.

“No,” she said, without the hint of a smile.

If there were a projection screen that put her feelings up on the wall, I was pretty sure hers would say leave me alone.

Oddly reassured, I walked over and dropped down beside her.

She leaned away, pressing closer to the wall.

“Don’t worry, I’m not here to hit on you. I’m not even drunk, believe it or not.”

She nodded, turning her eyes to the crowd below.

She was pretty in an understated way. Her chestnut hair was straight and shoulder-length, held back by a makeshift headband that hinted at a retro style. Her fitted blouse outlined her curves nicely, while her jeans showcased long legs. There was a coltish beauty to her, something young and untamed, and yet I got the impression she’d done little more than run a brush through her hair before running out the door.

She struck me as that type of girl. Low-maintenance.

“Is that why you sought out the least social person at this party?” she asked.

Her lips curved in a smile, but a sad one.

That expression made me curious. Had someone harassed her? Or was she lonely, overlooked because she didn’t spray on enough glitter and flash enough skin?

“I guess so,” I murmured. “Drunk people can be pretty annoying when you’re sober.”

I gave her an opening to tell me some jerk had messed with her, but she just laughed and lifted her half-empty cup.

“I never said I wasn’t drunk.”

I hadn’t missed that, either. Her eyes were too glazed for total sobriety, though she was far from trashed.

“Yes, but you’ve missed the hyper phase and gone straight into the brooding, introspective phase. Much more dignified,” I teased.

She turned back to looking at the crowd below, but I could see the smile she tried to hide.

“Oh Lord,” she said. “Lil is getting in it now.”

“Lil?”

She pointed to a slender blonde grinding with … my cousin. Of course.

“Carlos is a total player,” my staircase buddy told me. “I keep telling her that, but she won’t listen. I mean, he’s been with like every pretty girl in our year except Lil. I bet he just couldn’t let graduation pass without saying he scored with them all.”

“Does that include you?”

Now, why did I ask that? I didn’t want to know if this girl was another of Carlos’ conquests. I’d have to bolt, and I was just getting comfortable.

“Uh …” she said awkwardly, and took a gulp from her cup to stall for time.

Shit. She was an ex.

Why had I gone there? Her answer wouldn’t matter. She was too young, and I never dated anyone. Not after Elana.

Anytime I started to think I could move on, the familiar churning of guilt and regret in my gut corrected my mistake.

“I don’t really fall into the pretty girl category. I was never on his radar.”

“Oh.”

I sensed her pulling back into herself, as she refused to make eye contact and sipped her drink. I couldn’t leave her hanging like that.

“Carlos is a dick.”

Great. Real classy, Nick.

She burst out laughing in earnest, to my relief.

I decided in that moment Carlos was an idiot. This girl was beautiful, and if she put in half the effort of the glossy girls downstairs, she’d outshine them all.

 

EDIE

I watched this guy, whose name I didn’t even know, grinning at me and felt a little lighter than I had all day.

He was older. Somewhere in his twenties, I guessed. And compared to the obnoxious boys downstairs, he was sexy and sophisticated.

Too sophisticated for a high school party.

When I’d first seen him in the hall — a tall, dark stranger stepping out of a bedroom — I shuddered to think what he might be doing there. Now, with his body warming my side as he sat close, I wondered if someone waited inside for him.

He didn’t seem to be in any hurry. His eyes fixed on me while I watched the party and tried to seem unaffected by his gaze.

Why hadn’t I done something more with my hair, or dressed up a little at least?

I dismissed the thought immediately, glancing to the side to take him in once more. He was so far out of my league it was a joke.

His dark hair was short, but neatly styled, and his fitted T-shirt and dark-wash jeans hugged his body perfectly. He was lean, rather than bulky, but with enough muscle definition to show when he leaned back on his elbows and his shirt stretched tighter.

I liked his eyes best, though, a deep blue that contrasted vividly against his olive-toned skin.

In a word: gorgeous.

“Why so glum tonight?” he asked. “The only time you smiled was when I called Carlos a dick. Did he do something to you?”

“No,” I said quickly. “I just had a bad day.”

“Why’s that?”

He stared at me so intently, and with such sincere interest, the words slipped free before I could think them through.

“No one came to my graduation today.”

I shrugged, trying to play off how much it bothered me.

“It’s pretty typical of my parents, actually. They’ve missed a lot of special occasions, but I was really hoping this one would be different, you know?”

“Out of town?”

I shook my head and sighed. “No, they just—” I stopped abruptly and glanced at him. “You don’t need to hear all this.”

“Actually, I’d like to hear it,” he said, leaning in close and lowering his voice. “And, it seems like maybe you’d like to tell it.”

Maybe it was the alcohol loosening my tongue, or maybe I just needed to vent. But I told him my whole sad life story.

At first, I talked about my disappointment with graduation. But he kept asking questions, and he was so easy to talk to, that before I knew it I’d given him a rundown of every birthday my parents had missed, every school concert. Even the story of my parents’ divorce, and the strain with my mom ever since I chose to live with my dad.

I went on and on, taking breaks only to gulp down the rest of my drink. And he soaked it all in, never interrupting, always listening intently.

When I finished, I felt drained but also lighter. As though I’d been carrying a burden of bitterness for so long, I didn’t realize it had made it hard to breathe.

“Wow,” he said when I finally fell silent, my throat a little sore from talking so much. “That is some story.”

“Sorry. I’ve probably bored you.”

“Nah, I’d like to hear more. Like your name, maybe.”

“Oh,” I laughed and held out a hand to shake, trying to ignore the flutters in my stomach when his fingers brushed my palm. “I’m Edie Mason. And you?”

“Nick,” he said as he pumped my hand with exaggerated enthusiasm and a grin that made my heart skip.

“Edie’s an unusual name. You spell that with a Y?”

“No, it’s i-e. E-D-I-E,” I said. “So, would you like to share your sob story now? It’s what drunk people do, apparently.”

“Ah, but you forgot,” he said with a slight smile, “I’m not drunk; you are. So why don’t you tell me more? Is your mother remarried too?”

“What are you, training to be a bartender?”

He laughed and nudged me with his shoulder. “No, really, I’m interested.”

I didn’t pause to consider why he wanted my story. It was just nice to have someone interested. So, I rolled my eyes at him good-naturedly and kept answering his questions until Lily arrived.

I didn’t notice her presence on the stairs until she tapped my shoulder.

“Edie, we’re getting ready to leave.”

I looked up. “Oh. Already?”

Lil rolled her eyes. “It’s 2 a.m., and Samantha’s got to work early tomorrow.”

“Okay.”

Time had flown by while I talked to this guy. Nick.

He stood up and grabbed my hand, pulling me to my feet, where I swayed for a moment before catching my balance against the wall.

“I’m Nick,” he supplied to Lily. “Edie and I were just talking about graduation.”

“Uh-hmm,” Lily said noncommittally. “And will Edie ever see you again?”

“Lil! He doesn’t have to see me again.”

Lil thought I was naive, and Nick was looking to take advantage. As if a guy that good-looking would actually pursue me.

Nick just grinned at Lily as if he knew exactly what she was about.

“I’m sure Edie and I will meet again,” he said. “At any rate, she can figure out how to find me.”

To my disappointment — but not surprise — he didn’t offer a phone number or ask for mine.  He started down the stairs.

“What’s that mean?” Lily called after him, but he didn’t answer.

“Oh, well, let’s get you out of here. You can sleep over at my house, so you don’t go home drunk,” Lily said, helping me down the stairs.

Pre-order “Earning Edie” here, and receive your copy on April 1.

Free short story: Hunters’ Sacrifice

I wrote the story below as a flash fiction prompt in the YA LGBT Books group on Goodreads.
It was a beautiful sunset.
Large swaths of burnt orange and amethyst swept across the sky, and all I could think was: I hope it’s not our last.
Kevin faltered to a stop, breathing hard. His normally pale complexion was flushed a deep red from exertion and his long limbs trembled with exhaustion.
“I don’t know if I can keep going,” he said.
I wanted to tell him he could rest. I wanted to pull him close, and let him lean on me until his heart calmed and his breathing slowed. I wanted a of things, but I couldn’t have them.
Not if we wanted to survive.
“You want to be the their dinner?” I asked in a harsh tone. He flinched, and I hardened my heart against those wide blue eyes so full of fear. “They won’t stop, so neither can we.”
“But, I don’t hear anything. Just for a few minutes? Please?”
“No.”
I adjusted the pack on my back, attempting to ease the ache of straps digging into my flesh and the weight of supplies that grew heavier with every step. Without checking on Kevin, I started trudging down the mountainside.
He would follow. He’d follow, or he’d die.
Sometimes, it seemed as if I’d loved Kevin forever. Surely longer than our 17 years of life. Longer than the decades of hunts. Longer even than the war that prompted desperate villages to agree to sacrifice two adolescents every year to the Hunters who dwelled in the woods in exchange for peace.
The Hunters that were half fact and half myth and entirely a mystery.
Some said they were primitive men and women, raised in the woods as survivalists and trained in the art of hunting and tracking their prey, be it animal or human. Others said they were beasts, wild animals that hungered for flesh and could be appeased only by a sacrifice of fresh meat.
The most frightening rumor, though, was that they were a blend of man and beast, with the appetite of an animal and the intellect of a human.
Whatever they were, no sacrifice had ever returned to our village, or any of the others, as far as I’d heard.
But I wasn’t hopeless.
If we survived this, we would never return, either. I’d take Kevin far away, and I’d protect him from the people who forfeited our lives.
He’d never love me back. I’d come to terms with that a long time ago, even before I started pushing him ruthlessly, berating him cruelly if it would yield just one more step.
“We’re gonna die anyway,” he muttered behind me, as we stumbled our way through the trees.
I whirled on him and clutched his arms. “Shut up! You’re going to freaking live if it kills me, Kev. Just. Keep. Going.”
“I can’t!” he wailed, sagging in my grip. I had to release him or fall to the ground, too.
He collapsed in the dirt, between limbs covered in prickly pine needles that itched like the devil. He leaned back into a low-hanging bough and closed his eyes.
“Just leave me. You can make it, Aidan. You’re tough. I’m … not. Never will be.”
“Well, toughen up!” I demanded. “I’m not leaving, Kev. If you stay, I stay. If you die, I die.”
He groaned. “Why? You hate me, so … why?”
It shouldn’t have surprised me he believed that, yet it did. I loved him so hard I lived in terror he would see it shining out of my eyes, even as I said cutting, mean things to him to hide my feelings.
“I don’t hate you.”
He scoffed. “You told everyone I wet my pants in fear of the Hunters.”
His voice broke on the last word, and I winced. I’d had no idea he’d be facing the Hunters when I made that taunt years ago.
“We were just kids. I was a brat,” I said.
“You avoid me,” he pointed out. “When I walk into a room, you cross to the other side.”
I sighed. “What it does it matter now?”
“Because!” He shouted, working up a good fit of anger. “You make my life miserable!”
It was a relief to see his temper. The anger would pump adrenaline into his veins, and he’d find new stores of energy.
He lurched to his feet, adjusted his pack awkwardly and stomped past me. Smiling, I moved to follow, and he threw out his arm, nearly clothes-lining me.
“You go your way, and I’ll go mine.”
“Kev–”
“Don’t Kev me,” he growled. “Leave me the hell alone. I’ll either live or die on my own. I don’t need my last minutes to be with someone who can’t stand me.”
He pushed ahead, walking too fast. The sun had set while we argued, and this dense section of woods blocked out the few rays of light still fading in the sky.
“I don’t hate you,” I called. “Will you slow down?”
He stumbled over a fallen log, his hands flailed at his sides, and then he was gone.
My breath caught in my chest. “Kevin?” I called.
I strained to hear his voice, or some sign of his movement, as I hurried forward. The normally peaceful chirp of birds and the sighing of wind through tree limbs was anything but soothing now.
“Kevin!” I shouted again, even as my heart sank in my chest.
Ahead of me was the log that tripped him, and just beyond that, the crevice in the earth that had swallowed him.
I dropped to my knees at the edge, and peered down. It was darker than night at the bottom.
“Kev?” I called again. “Are you okay?”
I held my breath, praying to hear his voice once more, vowing to the Gods I’d tell him the truth about why I’d treated him so harshly, if only I got the chance. If only he lived.
“Ow. Oh Gods,” he groaned. Then a moment later, a loud shout: “Aidan? Are you out there? Aidan! I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Gods, I’m so sorry. Help me!”
“Kevin! I’m here! Are you hurt?”
He shuffled around, cursing and making pained noises.
“It’s too deep to climb out, but only by about a foot or so. So, um … 7 or 8 feet deep, I guess? I’m bruised, but fine. Do you have rope?”
No, I didn’t. But I wouldn’t leave him there. If I could get to the bottom, I could boost him to the top, and then hope I could figure out some handholds to climb out myself.
“Get back. I’m coming down.”
“Aidan, wait–”
I swung over the edge, extending my full length so I could drop only the couple of feet left to the bottom. The soil pulled loose in my hands, and I fell into the darkness.
It should have taken only seconds to hit the bottom, but it didn’t happen. I fell, and fell.
When I hit bottom, a sharp pain shot through my ankle and I collapsed with a shout of pain.
“Aidan?”His voice floated to me in the darkness.
It was damp and cool in the chasm — and so dark I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face.
A touch whispered over my arm, and I flinched from it before I realized it was Kevin’s hand.
“You okay?” He asked.
“Seven or 8 feet? Really?” I asked in a sharp tone, before I remembered my resolve to tell Kevin the truth. To be kinder.
He sucked in a breath. “Sorry. I tried to tell you before you jumped that it was a blind guess. I’m such a screw-up. No wonder you hate me.”
“I don’t hate you.”
He laughed humorlessly. “I’ve basically gotten us both killed. Of course, you do.”
Exasperated, I reached out a hand blindly, fumbling it over his face until I felt the shape of his cheek under my palm.
“Why do you think I wouldn’t leave you, Kevin?” I said.
“I don’t know.” He sounded confused. “That’s what I can’t understand.”
I sucked in a breath to tell him, but the words lodged in my throat. I had to tell him, though. I’d vowed to the Gods I would, and everyone knew a broken vow brought only the worst misfortune.
Of course, in our present situation, misfortune seemed a given.
I wasn’t sure I could handle Kevin’s rejection as my last memory of him before death. I wanted to remember him as I’d seen him every day of our childhood: a golden-haired, blue-eyed, vibrant angel.
He was slender and a little gangly, yet somehow still graceful in his movements, and though he thought he was weak, I’d watched him long enough to know he was resilient.
I admired him, though I worked hard every day not to show it.
“Aidan?”
Laughter rang above our heads, and twigs and pine needles crunched under feet.
I clapped a hand over his mouth, as I strained to listen. I hoped they’d pass us by, but I suspected this chasm was a trap meant to deliver us into their hands … or paws.
This was my fault. Had I honored my vow, we might have yet escaped.
A lamp swung out over the chasm, and light filtered down between the rocks to shine in my eyes.
“Hello, boys! Nice of you to join us!” a deep voice bellowed.
So, they weren’t beasts. It was yet to be seen if they were entirely men.
Quickly, frantically, I turned to Kevin. If I wanted us to survive the night, I had to honor my promise to the Gods and pray they took mercy on me.
“I love you,” I blurted. “I was a brat because I didn’t want you to know.”
And then, unable to face the horrified expression that would cross his face any second, I pressed my lips to his in a brief kiss.
My heart raced and my palms sweat and it wasn’t at all what I’d dreamt when I’d imagined kissing Kevin.
There was too much fear and shock in me. I barely registered the sensation of his lips against mine.
“Climb the rope,” the voice from above called, and a moment later thickly braided rope thumped against the wall at our sides.
I turned to inspect it, finding that it had a large loop at the end for raising a rider. Good. I didn’t think my arms, or Kev’s, could handle a tough climb.
Grabbing it, I turned to him. “You first. Climb in.”
He leaned on me as he raised first one leg, then the other and slid into the makeshift seat.
“Aidan …”
I shook my head. “Not now,” I said. “I only told you because I made a vow and I had to honor it.”
Tugging on the rope, I called up to the men. “He’s ready!”
Kevin slowly ascended the wall, and then the rope was tossed back down to me. I wasn’t sure we’d made the right choice to put ourselves into these men’s hands. We could have died naturally, together, of starvation or thirst. It might have been better than what was in store. But it wasn’t in me to give up so easily.
I adjusted the rope under me, and began the ascent.
Minutes later, I was on firm ground beside Kevin. I couldn’t look him in the eye, and my ankle throbbed with every step, but we weren’t dead yet.
“What will you do with us?” Kevin asked in a shaky voice.
“Same as always, kid. Don’t look so frightened. You’ll thank us when it’s over.”
“Are you going to eat us?” he blurted.
I turned stunned eyes on Kevin as he stared down the huge man before us. He was a brute, I saw now that I was free of the darkness. He was tall, at least 7 feet, with broad shoulders and muscled arms. His hair was curly and wild, sticking up in all directions, and a thick beard covered his face.
A feral smile split his face, and my hopes sank in my stomach like a stone. There was a beastliness to this man that couldn’t be coincidence.
“You hear that, Hart,” he said, with a deep laugh. His eyes sparkled over his sharp grin as he turned to another hulked-out man beside him. “They’re telling them we eat them for dinner now.”
“So, you don’t?”
“Gods no, boy.”
“So, you kill us then,” Kevin said flatly, and it hurt my heart to hear the acceptance in his tone.
Unable to help myself, I grabbed his hand and squeezed it tight. He didn’t look at me, but he didn’t pull away.
“Relax, boys,” Hart said, his tones more civilized than his partner’s. “We’re not going to harm you. Come, we’ll tell you everything once get back to camp. You two look like you could use a meal and a rest.”
We had no choice but to follow. Thankfully, the camp wasn’t far, but it was still agony on my sore ankle. Kevin fell back to one side, wrapping an arm around my waist to lend support, and Hart yanked me gracelessly to my feet whenever I tripped and fell.
“What could they want?” He asked quietly.
“I don’t know.”
“They don’t need to lie. They’ve already won.”
“Yeah,” I agreed. “But let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth, huh? We’re still alive.”
He nodded, and we fell into silence.
We were hustled to the fireside, and situated on a fallen log. Bowls of soup were pressed into our hands, followed by cups of water that we gulped greedily, dehydrated after our panicked flight through the forest during the heat of the late afternoon.
There were a handful of people in the camp, women and men. Not all of them were so intimidating as the two Hunters who’d caught us, but there was a sort of wildness to them.
“Hart tells me you’ve been misled about your fate,” a young woman with dark hair and intense eyes said.
“There are a lot of rumors,” I said carefully. “About who you are and what you do with the sacrifices.”
“They would call it a sacrifice,” she scoffed. “We call it a gift.”
Kevin stirred beside me. “A gift?”
A note of hope crept into his voice, and I hoped it wouldn’t be shattered before the night’s end. I was glad to hear some emotion from him. That flat, numb tone had torn me to pieces.
“Let me tell you a story,” she said.
I noticed the other Hunters gathering around and settling in with bowls of soup, as if she were about to tell stories by the campfire for their enjoyment and not share with us our fate, whatever it might be.
Kevin’s hand crept into mind, and I held it tight, bracing for the truth at last.
“A century ago, there were hundreds of our kind in this forest. We kept to ourselves, mostly. The woods provided what we needed to survive, and we were happy enough. Then the Hunters came–”
“What? But you’re the Hunters!” Kevin blurted.
The woman’s eyes widened in surprise, and one of the men cursed loudly, angrily. My hand tightened on Kev’s in fear, but no one made a move to hurt us.
“They call us the Hunters?” She said, sounding astonished, then let loose a sharp laugh. “That just figures, doesn’t it?”
It was a rhetorical question, obviously, and she continued to the tale.
“The Hunters came, and they started killing us. No doubt you’ve heard enough about us to know that we aren’t like most humans. We can call our beasts from within, and change into beautiful creatures that thrive in the woods, hunting and playing. The Hunters started killing us, mostly for our furs, but sometimes just for sport. It went on for years, decades. We tried to hide, we tried to relocate deeper within the forest, but the damage was done. We had to fight back for our own survival.”
“The war started,” I said.
She nodded. “Yes. And, it went on for ages. We had a tactical advantage. Our beasts are excellent trackers–”
“And hunters,” Kevin injected.
Did he want them to rip him to shreds?
I tensed beside him and cast him a look that conveyed my wish for him to shut up.
“Yes, I suppose so,” she said. “In that way, perhaps their name for us makes sense. We began to hunt them. But we were disadvantaged by our dwindling numbers, and so the war went on year after year, decade after decade. Finally, we’d all had enough, and a truce was made.”
“Each village sacrifices two adolescents to a tribe of Hunters each year,” I said.
“Each village gives up two adolescents, yes. To join us,” she clarified. “We neared extinction during the war, and we’ve been trying to rebuild our population ever since. Once we reach a stable number, the villages will no longer contribute to our pool.”
I stared, stunned. In all of my speculations, I’d never considered that the village sacrifices might be joining the Hunters.
“You mean we’ll become like you?” Kevin asked.
“Yes.”
This time, I blurted the question. “But how?”
She waved a hand. “That is a long story, and it is quite late. You two need to rest. The transformation doesn’t come without a great deal of effort. Come, I’ll get you settled for the night.”
She stood and led us to a tent, complete with sleeping bags inside. At my astonished look, she cracked a grin.
“We’re not entirely animals, you know. This is just a temporary camp. We could sleep in our beast forms, and some of us will, but the rest of us want shelter from the elements.”
I nodded. “Thank you.”
Kevin and I crawled into our sleeping bags, close together in the small tent. I could hear his heavy sigh as we fully relaxed for the first time in nearly 12 hours.
“So, we’re not going to die,” Kevin murmured, mostly to himself.
“Looks that way.”
He cast a look my way. “Bet you’re regretting that confession right about now. Gonna go back to making my life miserable?”
I bristled. “I honored my vow, and we’re not dead,” I said shortly. “Hard to regret that.”
His hand landed on my shoulder and squeezed. “Aidan, I’m teasing.”
“It’s not a joke to me,” I said reluctantly.
He was right in a way. I hated that he knew my feelings, that he could use them against me. It felt like a weakness.
“Of course not. It’s just hard to believe,” he said.
I cleared my throat. “We don’t ever have to talk about this again, but I have to ask just once. Do you … I mean, do you want to–”
“No.”
“Oh.”
“I mean, not right now,” he clarified. “Right now, I still think you’re a jerk. And I’m still coming to terms with the whole not dying thing. Eventually, who knows? You did keep me alive, you and your vow to the Gods.”
He was teasing me again. I could hear it in his tone. He didn’t believe my vow had anything to do with our situation, and maybe he was right. But at least I wouldn’t have to face the idea that my cowardice had been our doom.
Kevin didn’t love me, didn’t want me. It was what I’d expected, and yet, he’d given me hope. Maybe, eventually he’d forgive the way I’d treated him while we were children. Maybe he’d come to love me in our new lives.
As men.
As Beasts.
As Hunters, giving new life to the packs that roamed these woods for centuries until our people came along to decimate them.
It was a sacrifice I was willing to make, especially with Kevin by my side.

‘Gentleman’s Position’ adds to KJ’s impressive position in genre

gentlemanKJ Charles has positioned herself to earn more fans in historic gay romance with the upcoming release of  “A Gentleman’s Position.”

As I waded into the third novel in the Society of Gentleman series, I was a bit like the blind test in a study. By that I mean I had no idea what I’d be getting into. I’d heard of KJ Charles, of course. I knew she was a well-loved author. But I’d never read any of her books, not even the earlier books in the series.

Admittedly, I played a bit of catch up in the first few page as references were made to a variety of characters I would have known if I’d read the earlier novels. But I read on, and once I got past the first few pages, it didn’t matter — because the two protagonists in this book captivated me.

KJ Charles brought Lord Richard Vane and his valet David Cyprian to life with amazing skill, drawing on an interesting contrast of principles and prejudices of the time period. The conflicts in the story line very much reflected the characters’ inner beliefs. Unlike some poorly developed romances, where you want to throttle the characters and tell them to just talk to each other and every problem will be solved, the conflicts between Vane and Cyprian were more complex.

Lord Richard Vane is an aristocrat who believes in his principles to the exclusion of everything else, even his own heart. The man wrestles with his desires, and ingrained prejudices, as he falls for his valet. David Cyprian, on the other hand, rose from very low prospects to become the most admired valet in Society, and he uses a combination of cleverness and manipulation — sometimes quite illegal manipulation — to fulfill all of Vane’s wishes. Still, he very much has his own set of principles that guide his actions throughout the novel.

David Cyprian is really the star of this novel. He’s an amazingly smart, strong character. While he’s first seen as a servant who only wishes to please his lord, he evolves over the course of the story to reveal a cunning, resilient young man who is very much his own master.

Through it all, KJ Charles sets a pace that keeps you turning the page, alternatively hopeful and pained by the push and pull of their romance.

“A Gentleman’s Position” has everything you’d want out of historical romance: impressive interweaving of historical themes and language; a heart-wrenching love story; and powerful, passionate love scenes that make you desperate to see these two men get their happy ending.

KJ Charles has definitely positioned herself to gain more fans with this beautifully written novel, starting with me.

You can pre-order the book from Amazon here

Note: I was given a free advance copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

 

Flash Fiction: Rooftop Rendezvous

rooftop

The sunset was gorgeous from the rooftop where Liam spread out refreshments on a blanket. The last rays gilded his auburn hair and lit up the golden flecks in his hazel eyes.

Harry couldn’t think of a more romantic setting to celebrate their lives together.

“Hungry?” Liam asked, looking up with a grin. “We’ve got gourmet selections once again.”

“Yum, count me in!”

Harry joined him, watching as Liam slathered peanut butter on soda crackers. It was a far cry from the exquisite duck confit Liam once prepared as the head chef of his own restaurant. But his hands still moved with the sureness of a man meant for the culinary arts.

Harry used to spend every spare minute of his shift at the restaurant watching Liam’s long fingers manipulate knives with astounding speed and skill. He came to life in the kitchen in a way that could not be replicated anywhere else, except perhaps when making love. His hands were very skilled there, too.

Harry never expected to experience the latter. As a busboy, he had been far beneath a head chef’s notice. But one night he’d turned, intent on sneaking a peek of the gorgeous chef, to find Liam watching him.

That moment changed his life.

They’d been together ever since, 11 years as of tonight.

Liam poured the last of the wine and raised his glass. “To us. Happy anniversary.”

Harry lifted his own. “Till death do us part. I wonder how many people bet we’d never keep that vow.”

Liam laughed, his eyes lighting up. “I love your sense of humor. Even now.” His voice faltered. “Especially now.”

Harry forced a smile. “Well, my looks wouldn’t have carried us 11 years.”

“Don’t be ridiculous! You’re still gorgeous. You’ll always be beautiful now.”

“There’s the silver lining,” Harry said softly, leaning in to kiss Liam. “We’ll be together to the end. Having a romantic night every night until …”

Liam nodded, his eyes misty. “Until.”

“I do miss your delicious dishes, though.”

 “That reminds me. I have a surprise for you.”

Liam skipped across the roof gracefully to snatch up his backpack.

Harry watched nervously as he neared the edge of the building. There was only ever going to be one way for their rooftop rendezvous to end, but it wasn’t time yet.

“I’ve got soup!” Liam exclaimed. “I’ve been saving it for a special occasion.”

He pulled out a can of stew, and then rummaged until he found a can opener. He lifted it to show Harry, and it slipped from his fingers.

“No!”

Liam leaned forward, and Harry’s heart lodged in his throat.

“Careful!”

He rushed across the roof, clutching Liam close though he was in no danger of falling.

Liam stared mournfully over the side of the building, where the can opener had disappeared.

The streets teemed with bodies in various stages of decomposition. They milled around buildings, scratching at the walls, seeking out entry. Soon, a window would break or a door would give, and then there’d be no putting it off any longer.

“You know, gay people might have been immune to the virus that created those things, but I’m still not sure we’re not the ones who are damned.”

Harry pulled him back from the ugly sight. “Come away, darling.”

“We’re out of food,” Liam said faintly.

“Then make love to me, Liam. Let’s have one more night,” Harry urged.

They sank down on the blanket, each touch saturated in both love and sorrow.

“Till death do us part,” Liam whispered, before Harry silenced him with a kiss.

Tonight, they would make love. And tomorrow …

If tomorrow came, they’d face it together.


Written by DJ Jamison. Read more flash fiction from other authors here.

Flash Fiction Fun: Cheeky Morning

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Only Muggle knew my secret.

Every morning, I got out of bed, went to the kitchen and cooked breakfast. Totally normal, right? Except …

I liked to do it bare-assed.

I wore a shirt because it was nippy in the morning, but this was my one small act of rebellion. My tiny, unseen wild streak in my mundane life. 

I didn’t live alone, but Katy was a night owl. I hadn’t seen her rise before 10 a.m. in the year we’d lived together, so it was a safe, if neurotic, habit.

A whimper sounded by my feet. My overweight pug begged for scraps. “No way, Muggle. The chicks won’t dig you with all that extra padding.”

“Looks like you could use some padding,” a deep voice said.

I whirled, spatula in hand. “What the fff–”

Oh shit.

A guy. A guy stood in the kitchen, lips smirking and eyes pointed nowhere near my face.

I spun back to face the stove. Glancing around wildly for cover, I grabbed a pot holder from the counter and thrust it behind my ass. Thank God, I was a skinny fucker.

“Sorry,” he said. He didn’t sound sorry. He sounded amused.

“Who are you?” I said to the eggs.

“I’m Tyler. Katy let me crash on the couch.”

No. Not Tyler, as in Katy’s hot gay brother. Not Tyler, as in, “he’s moving to town and you should meet him, Josh, because you two would be so awesome together.” Just no.

He laughed.

It started out as muffled chuckles, as if he were trying to resist, but before long he was belly-laughing.

“So,” he wheezed. “Is there a reason for this, like you spilled juice on your only pair of boxers or absolutely every pair of pants you own are in the laundry? Or is this a thing?”

My face blazed, and I could feel the blush spreading to every inch of skin. Just what I needed: a full-on ass blush.

“This is a nightmare. I’ll wake up, and Katy’s hot gay brother won’t be standing behind me.”

He moved closer, and his chest pressed against my back. My breath caught.

“Hot, huh?” he murmured. With a flick of his wrist, he turned off one burner. Then another. “You’re burning the eggs.”

Cool air rushed in as he stepped back.

“Right. I should put on pants.”

He chuckled. “Yep.”

“Are you going to leave?”

“Nope. Katy’s hot gay brother enjoys a good show as much as the next guy.”

“Muggle,” I said. “Sick him.”

“Cute pug, but he’s shit for guarding.” His voice turned playful. “I’ll happily guard your ass on our date, though.”

Our date?”

“Who am I to turn down a guy with an ass hot enough to fry eggs?”

His laughter followed as I dashed for my bedroom. My cheeks — all of them — blushed, but a smile crossed my face. I had a date with hot Tyler, so what the hell? If you can’t hide your neurosis, own it, right?

Muggle agreed.

 

Written by DJ Jamison. Please visit the flash fic group on Facebook and check out the links to the other authors’ flash fics! 

Freebies and new release news

Winter BlomI’m so very far behind on updating the blog. I blame “Winter Blom” — getting that novella done before Christmas wore me out!

And because Winter Blom is to blame for my lethargy, I am offering it free through Amazon this weekend to make up for my absence in writing/blogging/reviewing. You name it, and I’m behind in it!

You can find “Winter Blom” here. It’s only free Jan. 23 and 24, so don’t miss your chance to grab it!

In  other news, I recently received a message from a reader asking if I had any projects in the works. As a matter of fact, I do. Too many — which isn’t helping my focus — but I’ve finally set my next publish date!

“Earning Edie,” my first m/f romance — and a spin-off from the Ashe Sentinel series featuring Nick Espinoza — will release April 1. You can pre-order it now here.

Earning Edie will be available through several online bookstores when it releases and unlike the other Ashe Sentinel stories, it is a full-length novel. I am still finishing edits, but I’m somewhere in the 88,000 word range at this point.

There will be sequels to this book, and I’m not totally abandoning my m/m following with this series. At least one of the sequels will be a m/m romance. So I hope you’ll give the Espinoza Boys series a chance if you enjoyed my other writing.

Here’s a summary of the book:

Earning Edie _newcoverNick Espinoza is consumed by two things: guilt and ambition. After making a mistake he can’t atone for, his desire for success as a newspaper columnist compromises his integrity. But the consequences of his actions may just be the best thing that’s ever happened to him.

Edie Mason is disappointed but not surprised when her parents don’t show up for her high school graduation. But after she inadvertently criticizes them in the newspaper, thanks to an unethical newspaper columnist in a deadline crunch, she finds herself homeless. Even worse, her dreams of going to college are at risk. Edie’s days as a shrinking wallflower are coming to an end, however. Propelled by anger and desperation, she seeks out Nick Espinoza to give him a piece of her mind — and an ultimatum: He made her homeless, so he can offer up his home as a place to stay while she works nonstop to earn college tuition.

Pressured by management, Nick is desperate to win over the hearts of readers — and Edie Mason’s story is a perfect start. He isn’t prepared for the fall-out that follows, or for the lonely graduate to have so much spunk. Confronted by his mistakes, and consumed by guilt over his past, Nick finds himself opening his home — and his heart — to Edie. But can he ever come clean about his past and truly earn Edie’s trust without losing everything?

“Earning Edie” is the first of the Espinoza Boys series.

 

 

“Winter Blom” and other holiday reads

It is the season of the holiday novella, and in that spirit, I wrote and released “Winter Blom” as part of my Ashe Sentinel Connections series. When I started the story of Andy Blom, I wasn’t sure if I would finish it, much less publish it before Christmas. I was on a tight timetable, and I’d begun the story mostly on a whim.

But my characters came to life on the page, and I found myself not only committed to the story of Andy Blom and Lane Cross (and son Zach Cross), but my “holiday short story” ended up being the longest novella in my series to date, coming in at nearly 41,000 words.

If you like my other books, give this one a try. I like to think it’s the best one in the series, but I’ll let you be the judge of that. “Winter Blom” is available on Amazon and through Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Lending Library. Get it here

Other holiday novellas to read

There are plenty of other holiday novellas worth a look. First and foremost, I recommend the Wish Come True holiday anthology. I actually won the book in a blog giveaway, and there are several moving stories by respected m/m genre authors such as Kaje Harper, Anyta Sunday and Joanna Chambers. The proceeds of this work are going to charity, so there’s added incentive to buy a copy. Get it here

Humbug, by Joanna Chambers, is another great read. Warning: Joanna has a real talent for making sentimental readers (like me) shed a few tears on the way to their happy ending. But hey, it’s cathartic, right? I like a good cry. Get “Humbug” here. 

“What Happens at Christmas,” by Jay Northcote. I credit this novella, over any other, for inspiring me to write a holiday novella of my own. It’s a sweet friends to lovers romance. This book is also exclusive to Amazon, and can be found on Kindle Unlimited. Get it here

Author RJ Scott has released her “Christmas Collection,” which includes “Angel in a Bookshop,” “Jesse’s Christmas” and “Deefur and the Great Mistletoe Incident.” I’ve also heard great things about “The Christmas Throwaway.” Get the “Christmas Collection” here.

I hope you’ll add “Winter Blom” to your favorites. While it’s set over the holidays, the themes in the story go beyond the holidays to insecurity and grief and connection that I would hope hold true any time of year.

Book Description for Winter Blom

Winter BlomAndy Blom is an unpaid winter intern at The Ashe Sentinel, and right away he gets saddled with an “evergreen” – otherwise known as a boring feature that can run anytime over the holiday season. To his dismay, he’s assigned to write about a construction worker who creates metal art. The story wouldn’t be so bad, but he’s uneasy about meeting a macho guy who will no doubt find Andy just a little too … gay. Even if he is in the (fairly transparent) closet. But as it turns out, Lane Cross isn’t what he expects. In fact, Lane is a man of many contradictions, not the least of which is that a man like him could want Andy.

Lane Cross works construction to pay the bills, and makes metal art to … also pay the bills. As a single dad, the enjoyment of his art has taken a backseat to making ends meet. And his love life has taken a back seat to caring for his son, especially when Zach, age 6, sabotages every baby-sitting attempt Lane makes.

Then Lane meets Andy Blom. The man’s Swedish name meaning bloom is perfect for him: Andy is refreshingly sweet and vibrant – even if he gets a bit thorny at any hint that he’s anything but strong and self-reliant. And Lane’s son loves him, which only intensifies the attraction. But when Lane moves too fast, will he scare away the surprisingly innocent young man – or will Andy’s journalistic ethics end them before they ever begin?

“Winter Blom,” a holiday novella, is the fourth book in the Ashe Sentinel series. There are very minor spoilers if you read it before the other novellas. However, it can be read as a stand-alone.

Let’s support authors in face of plagiarism

A screenshot of the Facebook post made by Ashley John, which quickly went viral with more than 200 shares.

A screenshot of the Facebook post made by Ashley John, which quickly went viral with more than 200 shares.

Lately, it seems like there’s been a plague of plagiarism in the m/m genre. And this week, I opened a can of worms on the latest plagiarist when I realized that “Under the Influence” by Addison Scott looked suspiciously similar to Ashley John’s “Saving Michael.”

A Facebook message later, my suspicions had been confirfmed, and Ashley John made a FB post about the plagiarism that quickly went viral (at least in m/m circles).

As it turns out, Addison Scott plagiarized all the books that were found under his/her name (reportedly about 11) in e-bookstores such as iBooks, Kobo and Oyster. Scott stayed away from Amazon, possibly to fly under the radar for as long as possible.

51qeH8IUrAL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_This kind of wholesale plagiarism is extremely frustrating to authors who have been victimized. They’ve put many hours of writing — not to mention untold amounts of time brainstorming and agonizing — into a novel. I know, because I’m a writer. I don’t have the success of Ashley John, and so far I’ve only published novellas, but let me tell you: It’s tough. It takes a lot of time and energy. It takes courage to lay yourself out there and let people into the inner workings of your mind. And it’s an insult to all authors — those plagiarized and those of us pouring work into our own projects — when we see someone steal books and make money off someone else’s efforts.

But there’s a silver lining, I like to think. We can support the authors who have been plagiarized. We can help their sales surge. This won’t take away the wrong that’s been done, but perhaps we can help make up for some of the sales lost to the plagiarist, by creating an uptick in the original authors’ own sales and helping them gain a larger, faithful following.

I encourage you to buy books from these authors if you haven’t yet, to support them as they go through this experience — and to restore their faith in the goodness of people.

Here are some of the books that were plagiarized by Addison Scott:

“Saving Michael,” by Ashley John. Get it here

“Tied,” by E. Davies. Get it here

“Once a Marine,” by Cat Grant. Get it here

“Windfall,” by Amanda Young. Get it here

“Taking in Strays,” by Kracken. Get it here

“Winter’s Fire,” by Donya Lynne. Get it here

Please add on in the comments, if you know of other books so we can encourage readers to support the actual authors of these works.

DJ Jamison is the author of The Ashe Sentinel series, now available exclusively on Amazon. Click here to see her works.

In baseball and in writing, you have to keep swinging

I’m a fledgling Kansas City Royals baseball fan — and I’m a writer. So, naturally, as I watched the amazing comeback in Monday’s playoff game vs. The Astros, I found myself drawing parallels between baseball players and writers.

royalspic

Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Game 1 of the ALDS playoffs. Photo by Lucas Soltow

My husband, a more knowledgeable baseball fan than me, quoted a statistic that even great baseball players get a successful hit about 3 out of every 10 at-bats. “Baseball players have to be great at failing,” he said, with way too much enthusiasm for that statement. This was, of course, in response to my complaint that the Royals players often look like they shrug off strike-outs and failed hits. Why aren’t they cursing or crying, damn it? That’s what I would do!

My husband, in his vast baseball wisdom, told me that it comes down to perseverance (and perhaps a Goldfish-like memory of all those failures) to make a great baseball player. The same can be said of writers.

I cannot tell you how many pieces of writerly wisdom I’ve come across that hammer the same points home again and again: Don’t give up, and finish what you start. If there’s one piece of advice, above any other, that keeps me going, this is it. Perseverance.

When the Royals were down by 4 runs in the 7th inning, most of us thought the game was over. They’d lost. It was too late. But they didn’t give up. They persevered. They kept swinging, even when it seemed hopeless.

That’s what I want you to do. When you’re questioning your vision; when you’re disheartened or losing momentum on a work in progress; when you receive criticism or reviews that are hard on your heart, just know that it isn’t over until it’s over.

Keep swinging. Keep writing.

Building up the gay steampunk genre

A remark by an author I follow made me start thinking about the gay steampunk genre, because, yes, LGBT authors have tackled this style of storytelling alongside the more commonly seen romance, suspense, mystery and fantasy.

Not everyone understands the meaning of steampunk in general. There are varying definitions, but basically, it’s a subgenre of science fiction/fantasy that features advanced machines or other technology typically taking place in a historical period or fantasy world. The exact definition would call for this technology to be based on the steam power of the 19th century, but my interpretation is a little looser based on the books I see. Basically, anything that’s set in a historic period — in this world or another — and incorporates futuristic technology that did not exist in that period could be considered some variation of steampunk.

After RJ Scott made a comment on Goodreads about gay steampunk, I did a mental inventory and realized I had several books in this subgenre without realizing it.

Here are a few authors of gay steampunk you could explore:

sasha

Sasha L. Miller, author of “Stolen Hearts” and “The Novelty Maker.”

Sasha’s “Stolen Hearts” blends magic and mechanics, when a fairy is in danger of dying after his heart is stolen and replaced by a charm.

See the book on Amazon

 

gearheartHollis Shiloh, author of “Gearheart,” “Wes & Kit” and “Cold Hands, Warm Heart,” among others.

Several of Shiloh’s gay steampunk books take place in a world where men who might have died during the war were saved with the help of mechanical parts, only to be discarded and discriminated once the war is over.

Find “Gearheart” on Amazon

 

spiritsJordan L. Hawk, author of the Spirits series (and other fantasy reads). This one might be skirting the line of the steampunk genre definition, but it has elements that fit.

The Spirits series in set in a historic period, in which a scientist and a medium partner to confront a haunting. The devices invented by Henry Strauss give this series a steampunk feel, even if it doesn’t entirely fit. Find books here

Amber Kell, author of “Keys.” Kell is just venturing into gay steampunk, and “Keys” is the result. I have not read this book, but it definitely fits the subgenre. Find the book.

Have you read any gay steampunk? My list is pretty short, so please offer up some reading suggestions!

DJ Jamison is a book blogger and author of the Ashe Sentinel Connections series of novellas (not steampunk). To explore her books — including a freebie — click here

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