Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Book Of Life

My granddaughter and I and my grown son saw the new animated film, The Book Of Life. It’s a great movie and what’s more — it's a romance. It takes place on the Day of the Dead. ... and most of it takes place in de la Reguera, the Land of the Remembered.  It’s bright and colorful, funny, full of myth and magic, action and adventure but at the core it’s a story of a love so strong it transcends death. We romance writers and readers have seen that plot once and twice and loved it. I used it in To Love A London Ghost and also in Timeless Voyage but I used reincarnation for that one.  Take your kids or grandkids, take the whole family to see The Book Of Life, it might be the best family, Halloween themed movie I’ve ever seen.

I went to Houston’s Day Of The Dead Celebration about two years ago. So, I’m including some pictures I took.

I haven't written a book  about the Day Of The Dead or one set in Mexico, the closest I have is my out-of-this-world Steampunk Romance, Conquistadors In Outer Space.
Forbidden love…so strong…it spans the universe.
Ana—a milkmaid—seeks a new life. Disguised as a rich widow, she boards a rocket, to be blasted out of a huge cannon, and targeted for the newly discovered planet, X.

Sparks fly when she finds Ramon—the only man she ever loved and heir of the estate she worked on—is flying to Planet X as well. As the Spanish governor of Plant X searches for gold, the treasure Ramon seeks is Ana. Will his conquest of her heart succeed or will Ana make a life for herself alone amid the wonders and dangers of Planet X?

I hope you all have a happy and romantic Halloween, Samhain, All Saints Day, and Day Of The Dead. And by the way, the little power ranger with the skeleton is my granddaughter.

NATURALLY YOURS by Adele Downs, New Release!

“Once again, Downs delivers. Brava!” 5 Stars! ~Words, Words, Words


Who will save a man who saves the world?

Paramedic Mickey Kendall hasn’t slept a full night since his return from Iraq. He rescues victims by day and protects the innocent after dark. Mickey doesn’t do it for glory; he wants absolution, not admiration. He lives by the rule: No personal contact after a rescue. That code meets the ultimate test when Mickey saves a child’s life on a roadside and declines the parents’ invitation to dinner at their upscale restaurant.

Master chef Amanda Greer lives by the principle that delicious food and good company build bridges. When she learns Mickey has refused her business partners’ hospitality, she persuades him to change his mind. The handsome paramedic visits her restaurant and Amanda joins him at his table. Their unexpected chemistry turns kinetic and leads to a passionate kiss.

In Amanda’s arms, Mickey finds relief from the stressors that haunt him, but resists falling in love. When Amanda challenges him to face his demons and accept the love she offers, Mickey arrives at a crossroad. The war-weary paramedic must first save himself to claim the woman who reignites his passion for living and revives his wounded heart.

 “They called you a hero in the press.” Her dark lashes lowered and lifted and she smiled at him with admiration shining in her eyes. “They were right, of course. What you did for Jack can never be repaid.”
Mickey winced at the hero reference. “I hate to disappoint you, but I only did what I’m trained to do.”
Amanda made sounds of disagreement low in her throat. “Elena told me at least a hundred and fifty cars passed her on the highway. Every one of them ignored her cries for help. Of all those people, don’t you think one might have been medically trained? Or at least cared enough to respond? No. You stopped. Only you.”
Oh. He hadn’t thought of that.
She pointed a finger at his chest. “There’s a difference between you and other people. There’s no other way to explain what happened on that roadway. Elena is convinced you’re special, and I never doubt her perceptions. That’s another reason why I wanted to meet you.”
Mickey stared into Amanda’s eyes and her pupils dilated. Her lips parted, ever so slightly, as if to welcome a kiss. Her tongue touched the inside of her bottom lip and disappeared. Mickey knew then, she felt it too. Synergy. Chemistry. An attraction so powerful it turned kinetic on contact.
Some called it love at first sight.
Amanda. Even her name was beautiful.
She took a sip of her drink and he watched her mouth and throat work the liquid. When she set down the tumbler, she wiped a droplet from the corner of her mouth with a trimmed, unpolished fingertip. Mickey wished he could have swiped the bead away with his tongue.
Amanda leaned closer and pressed a hand to his wrist. “Trained or not, you were the only stranger on that highway who had a heart.”
Mickey laid his hand over hers and she let him keep it there. Until now, he wasn’t sure he still had a heart. His had been chipped away, piece by piece, like a block of ice since the war. He’d considered it long gone, with his soul. In mere minutes, what was left had thawed in the center, leaving him raw and exposed.
Amanda continued to speak; clearly unaware she’d stripped away another layer. “I love Jack like he’s my own son. He’s a terrific kid. I’ve helped take care of him since the day the Martins and I started this restaurant. When you saved him, you saved us all.” Amanda leaned in and pressed a quick, sweet kiss against Mickey’s jaw.
Their gazes locked when she sat back in her chair. The gravity of her words and her straightforward kiss humbled him into speechlessness. He’d been thanked many times before, but this woman had gotten to him like no one else. He squeezed her hand and then downed the rest of his drink. Amanda took another sip of hers and set the glass on the table before retreating into silence. She turned the tumbler slowly in her hands.
Mickey looked back at her and tapped two fingers against the menu’s leather cover. “Nothing here is what I expected.”
Amanda returned a quiet smile, either assuming he meant food choices, or pretending he had. She tucked her arms beneath her breasts and leaned forward against the edge of the table, lifting perfect white swells above the neckline of her blouse. “Organic means untouched by artificiality. Grown and consumed in its natural state. We eat only healthy foods unspoiled by chemicals, preservatives, hormones, steroids, antibiotics, and genetically modified seeds or cells. Pure.”
Pure. Mickey gazed at the stunning woman by his side. The texture of her skin looked smooth as cream and welcoming to the touch. He longed to run his hands along her thighs, imagining sleek roads leading to heaven at their apex. “I like the sound of that.” The way she looked back at him while he studied her face made him wonder if she’d read his mind.
The one that had gone dirty.
Buy The Book! Amazon  Smashwords All Romance eBooks

About the Author:

Adele Downs writes best-selling contemporary romance inside the office of her rural Pennsylvania home. She is a former journalist, published in newspapers and magazines inside the USA, UK, and Caribbean.

Adele is an active member of Romance Writers of America and her local RWA chapter where she serves as a past-president. She has written several articles for RWR magazine (Romance Writers Report) and has presented workshops for writers.

When Adele isn’t working on her current project, she can be found riding in her convertible or reading a book on the nearest beach.

Visit Adele Downs at

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Meet InkHeart Authors Lauren Blakely, Elena Aitken, and Eden Bradley!

Lauren Blakely
Lauren Blakely writes sexy contemporary romance novels with heat, heart, and humor, and her books have appeared on the New York Times, USA Today, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iBooks bestseller lists. Like the heroine in her novel, FAR TOO TEMPTING, she thinks life should be filled with family, laughter, and the kind of love that love songs promise. Lauren lives in California with her husband, children, and dogs. She loves hearing from readers! Her novels include Caught Up In Us, Pretending He's Mine, Playing With Her Heart, Trophy Husband, Far Too Tempting, The Thrill of It, and Every Second With You, Night After Night and After This Night. She also writes for young adults under the name Daisy Whitney.

Find Lauren Blakely at:

Caught Up In Her
A sweet romance so perfect it could have been scripted by Hollywood. But can a first love survive past the first summer?

I'm not going to say it was love at first sight when I met her. I don't believe in that. Because love isn't about falling for someone's looks. Though she was beautiful in every single way, from her dark, wavy hair to her gorgeous brown eyes, to the soft curves of her body. But that's not why I fell so hard for her that summer. She took my breath away for reasons that had nothing to do with her looks. It was the the movies, the conversations, the walks through the small town, the nights on the beach with the waves rolling in, the way I could hold her hand and feel as if the world had simply melted away and we were all that was left. So, there was no love-at-first-sight. That would come later, and if it happened first it would take away all the reasons that stayed with me for the next five years. Even though you're not supposed to fall for your best friend's little sister. But that didn't stop me...

Caught Up in Her is a prequel novella in the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Caught Up in Love series.


BOOK 0.5: CAUGHT UP IN HER (Bryan & Kat's story begins)

BOOK 1: CAUGHT UP IN US (Bryan & Kat's story continues)

BOOK 2: PRETENDING HE'S MINE (Reeve & Sutton's story)

BOOK 3: TROPHY HUSBAND (Chris & McKenna's story)

BOOK 4: PLAYING WITH HER HEART (Davis & Jill's story)

BOOK 5: STARS IN THEIR EYES (William & Jess' story - October 2014 release)
Caught Up in Love Spin-off: FAR TOO TEMPTING (Jane & Matthew)


Elena Aitken
I’ve been writing in one form or another since elementary school but although I always knew I wanted to be a writer when I grew up, instead I earned university degrees in Marketing and Psychology and writing got put on the back burner. After my twins were born I was buried in diaper changes, middle of the night feedings and mountains of laundry—obviously it was the logical time to start writing again. I guess it took me while to grow up.

I turned to non-fiction and became a regular contributor to local parenting magazines, published in four Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies, and a compilation by Seal Press. It wasn’t until 2005 that I tried my hand at writing fiction and wrote my first novel. It’s buried on my hard drive where it should be, and ever since I just keep writing more.

Like a lot of my readers, I’m a busy mom. It often feels like life is pulling us in a million different directions, which is why I love to write romance!

There’s nothing better than knowing you have an escape waiting for you at the end of a long day in the form of a good book.
I’m lucky enough to live in the shadow of the Canadian Rocky Mountains in the foothills of Alberta, where I can write the stories I love. Whenever I get the chance, I escape into those amazing mountains and I can usually be found sitting with my feet in the lake, working on my next book.

As well as contemporary romance novels, I also like to write women’s fiction and my collection of stand alone novels are all part of the Escape Collection. I’m always trying something new, so stay tuned to see what’s next!

Find Elena Aitken at:

Tempting Gifts

Working in the children’s club at the Lodge, reputation is important which is why Lisa Gibbs is tired of the party boys only looking for a one-night stand. She’s serious about her life and career, and she won’t let anything—or anyone—get in the way of that.

Jason Porter will do anything to make his twin sister and his favorite nephew happy. Including attending a dreaded family reunion at the Lodge. But hanging out in the mountains has its perks—like the beautiful woman in charge of the kids club.
And flirting’s safe, because the last thing he wants is a relationship.

And the last thing Lisa wants is any sort of attention from Jason—no matter how funny and handsome he is—especially if it could cost her the job she loves.

But when their concern for the little boy they both care about, forces the two of them together, will they let their walls down long enough to see that what they’ve both been avoiding, may be the one thing that saves them?


Eden Bradley
I’ve been reading and writing for as long as I can remember. When I was 3 ½, even though I wasn’t quite clear yet on my alphabet, I decided there were never enough adults around to read to me and demanded to be taught to read myself. My Auntie Mo took the time to teach me. At age eight, I volunteered for summer school so I could take a creative writing class. My friends thought I was crazy; all they wanted to do was climb trees, go roller skating, swim. But I knew even then that what I was doing was even better.

I wrote my first novel at age twelve with a good friend who is also still writing, as far as I know. At a sleepover at her house, instead of sleeping, we stayed up all night crafting a rather horrible romance novel. Hopefully I’ve improved since then, and I now have enough sense to sleep at night and write during the day. Usually.

I didn’t get serious about my writing until the summer of 2000. I went into it writing romance novels, since that was what I thought I could sell, but eventually I returned to what I truly love: writing erotica, and eventually blended erotica and romance in many of my books. It’s been a difficult and wondrous journey, learning about the craft and business of writing, but well worth it. And now, here I am, doing what I love.

Fortunately, someone other than myself loves my work, too. I write for Bantam/Delta, Berkley Heat (as both Eden Bradley and Eve Berlin), HQN and Harlequin Spice, and Samhain Publishing, and I have a few self-published novellas out, as well. Sometimes it’s a struggle, but mostly it’s wonderful and exhilarating. I also love to cook, eat, go to the beach, hang out with friends, shop – especially for shoes – and read everything I can get my hands on. I’m fascinated by art, tattoos, and what goes on inside people’s minds, which is what I love to explore in my books. I’m dying to travel more, and would love to spend a few months at an Italian villa, cruising the Greek islands, or exploring Southeast Asia. Meanwhile, I get to write, and someone actually reads my books, which is a pretty good life!

Find Eden Bradley at:

Pleasure Point

The island always knows what you need…

Miranda lives in paradise— the exclusive Eden resort, the ultimate in fantasy retreats.

Roan, the resort’s dungeon consultant, lives part-time on the island and full-time in the past.

When the sexy Dominant and the sultry pastry chef both receive one of the island’s mysterious invitations they spend a sizzling week together in the dungeon suite. They’re left breathless, wanting more… and hopelessly falling.

Both have been scarred by loss, both have created a nearly impenetrable shell. The intensity and intimacy of kink might be the perfect recipe to open Miranda’s heart again. But can the man who fulfills her every secret desire ever give her what she needs the most?


Connect With Us At:

Monday, October 20, 2014

Things That Go Bump and Grind in the Night

It’s that time of year again!!! Halloween! Show of hands. Who’s afraid of the dark? Who’s afraid to raise their hand?  

Monsters lurk in the dark and in our nightmares (and under my childhood bed). Some monsters snatch at your ankles and pull you over to the dark underworld where the air is thick and hot and burns your lungs. The foul breath of the nocturnal beasts stings your nose and stimulates your gag reflex. They chase mere mortals down to feast on their flesh while they drink our fears and swallow our screams. 

What else waits for us in the dark? Things that go bump and grind in the night. Lustful lost souls who feed off the living. Zombies. Ghosts. Vampires. Some creatures of the night are beautiful, powerful and dead sexy. They are drawn to what we have and they do not. A heartbeat. Breath. Warmth.  

I’m not sure what makes the undead so damn spicy hot. They are the ultimate brooding hero or melancholy heroine, since nothing makes a guy or gal crankier than death. And they are unattainable, what with death being so permanent and incurable. Seems like a recipe for a tragedy. But some couples make it work. Hey, relationships are complicated. 

Meet Luke and Meri. He’s quite mortal and she’s immortal. Talk about opposite’s attracting. No relationship is perfect, but for a few hours a year they make it work. They make it sizzle.


Eternally Yours blurb: 

Years after Luke’s sweetheart was ripped from his arms on prom night, Meri’s loss still haunts him. Searching for her everywhere, he finds her only in his dreams and on the pages of a dark comic book he created in her image. But on the anniversary of her disappearance, she shows up on his doorstep without having aged a day. What can he do but invite her in? 

Meri’s nights are all about surviving alone on the dark, seedy side of life. Once a year she treats herself to a night of tasty passion with her one true love. Is this the year to seal the deal and make their love eternal, or will she walk away to become just another fantasy? 

Check out an excerpt: 

A chill ran the length of his spine in spite of the warm air swirling around him. The dark, grainy picture looked overexposed where other areas seemed underexposed. But the resemblance to Meri appeared unmistakable. Her translucent skin against the dark background leapt off the screen. Her eerie red eyes, caused by a flash photo at night, haunted him, preying on what little hope remained after year upon year of heartache and disappointment. Touching the screen, he traced her features with his index finger.

Gooseflesh rose on his arms seconds before the doorbell sounded. The buzz jolted him to his senses. Anyone who knew him—really knew him—would leave him alone tonight.

Crossing the room, he opened the door, preparing to give someone a piece of his mind. Freezing instead, his extremities tingled but everything else numbed. Including his brain. Especially his mouth.

“Invite me in before you faint.”

“Meri?” Her whispered name on his lips barely registered due to his pounding heart.

“Luke.” Her tone mocked him. She peeked around the door and held out a bouquet of blood red roses like the ones he’d given her for Valentine’s Day way back in the day. “I guess we know who we both are.” Her eyebrows arched up. “Invite. Me. In.”

“I….” Teetering on wobbly legs, he staggered backward a few steps. Spots danced in his peripheral vision and a flash of heat swept through his trembling body.

“Don’t you dare pass out, Luke.” Her blurry finger waved as blackness closed in. “Invite me in, damn it! Can I come in, please?”


“That’ll have to do.” 

What’s your undead of choice? Vampires? Zombies? Ghosts? Or something else entirely?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Vampires We Love

It's October and that means Halloween. That also means a new vampire movie is out. If you haven't seen Dracula Untold I suggest you add it to your list. The story of Vlad Dracula hasn't been this hot in years.

I really enjoyed this movie and love that the writers set it up for a sequel. October 2015 should be an interesting month. But if you can't make it to the movies, there are other vampire movies that are available for at home viewing.

Bram Stoker's Dracula -- The movie that made me realize that Gary Oldman is HOT. What is it about playing Dracula that does that to a man?

Dark Prince: The True Story of Dracula -- Rudolf Martin, another hot guy bringing our favorite vampire to life. Fun fact, he played the same character in Buffy: The Vampire Slayer Season 5, Episode 1 "Buffy vs. Dracula." I guess the execs thought he looked so good in the makeup that they invited him to reprise his role... or something. Good call because that was a great episode.

Van Helsing -- Hugh Jackman didn't play Dracula. That was Richard Roxburgh's role but both men looked damn good in this movie.

And let's not forget Gerard Butler in Dracula 2000. I know I can't forget it. Loved him in that role.

Not a Dracula fan? I forgive you and to each their own. There are still more vampire movies to enjoy that don't involve the dark prince -- Blade, Blade II, Underworld, Underworld: Awakening, Once Bitten, My Best Friend is a Vampire, The Breed, Ultraviolet... and so on. Pick a vampire to cuddle up with this Halloween.

Charmed Lovers (Box Set) by Zenobia Renquist
Charmed Lovers (Box Set) by Zenobia Renquist

[Paranormal Interracial Romance, MF]

* 7 in 1 box set
* Caveat Emptor Series collected

With humans caught in a war between vampires and mages, three couples' love endures amidst the chaos.

Humans are caught in an on-going conflict between the vampires and the mages. There are those who want to live together in peace and those who think fighting is much more profitable. Three couples are struggling to make love work amidst the chaos.

Buy Now
Changeling Press :: ARe :: CTR :: Kindle :: Kobo :: Nook

Have a safe and happy Halloween.

Zenobia Renquist
Discover Different and Unique Romance & Erotica
Wine Service :: She offers satisfaction above and beyond what is requested.

Annus horribilis

Queen Elizabeth used the phrase in 1992 in her speech to the Guildhall for 40th Anniversary of accession, as well as during her annual Christmas Day message, back when Charles and Diana were going through their troubles. That phrase is now perfect for my writing this year.

Annus horribilis.

I've had only one release, and it was with the Ellora's Cave back in January. A hot m/f/m/m quickie set in the same club my other book Plus One was set in. I'm sure many of you know what's going on with EC right now and I'm not going into the details. At this point I don't have any plans to submit something new to them. I may have mentioned a while ago that I had sold to Harlequin digital first. Direction has shifted with that now and I am waiting to find out which way that's going to go.

While it's been an annus horribilis on the publishing side, on the writing side I've been busy using my Dragon software. If all goes to plan I hope next year will be a kick ass release year. And I do hope to have some news I can share soon. So maybe next year will be annus mirabilis, which means “wonderful year”.

Anyway now for some cuteness. Cats seem to do good job on that part so I will attach some pictures of the latest cat-drama.

This is a stray that adopted us way back in June. He never went away he was just a baby and we felt so bad for him that we fed him. It looks like he plans to stay. His name is Django. The D is silent. He just woke up from a nap in the little house I made for him. He's a true outdoor cat.

While I was writing yesterday I heard a crashing downstairs. I knew it was the cats and hoped nothing was too badly broken. This is what I discovered/ the plant had been on the fridge. The kitty in the pic is Zuko. I know he wasn't the culprit because he was sleeping with me upstairs. It was his sister Serenity. Later that night she escaped through a screen and got lost outside. We finally found her at 1 AM two neighbor yards away locked in their backyard.

This is a picture of her with my dad at our Canadian Thanksgiving last Sunday.

And now we have Zuko. The ultimate in scaredy cats. He is getting better though.

As I'm writing this, rather dictating, I hear noises downstairs again for must go investigate. But first...let's remember Cuddles and Bandit. We lost them both this year after 17 years of being our love bugs.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Release Day for Knights of Stone, a Forbidden Romance between a Gargoyle and Tree Witch

I'm back from Romanticon and right back to work, getting ready for my release today. What an exciting weekend that was. Several authors and readers met up for days of readings, panels, dining, and dancing. It went by in a whirl. I can't believe a week ago today I was getting on the plane to go.

Oh well, back to writing and new releases. Today I'm very excited to announce the release of Knights of Stone, which has been receiving wonderful reviews as part of the Highland Shifters boxed set. That set hit the USA Bestseller list last month. Something to celebrate indeed.


Knights of Stone

Gargoyles, tree witches, and wolf shifters have divided the Isle of Stone after a great battle twenty-five years ago. When Kayla, a tree witch, hears about the unconventional rock concerts in the gargoyle’s territory, she sneaks from her coven and into their territory to see for herself. Night after night, she returns to see one in particular shift into human form and play guitar at these unconventional shows.
For several nights, Mason has kept watch for the pixie-like female. He plans to seduce her, thinking she’s a visitor from another island. When he discovers she’s one of the tree witches, he retreats, attempting to keep his distance. The temptation is strong, but forbidden.
Kayla and Mason attempt to meet in secret, but other elements on the isle command their attention. A magical cloak created by the three clans on the island is thinning, leading to repercussions for all the clans. Kayla and Mason are caught in the middle of it, and their actions may change the fate for all.
This novella was originally released as part of the USA Today bestselling Highland Shifters paranormal romance boxed set.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

What's popular in books these days? What day of the week is it?

Rita's post on Tuesday got me to thinking, because she said that she hadn't realized that "short contemporary" isn't a genre anymore.  Tastes change, the reading habits of the public change. often quickly.  Whatever is getting a buzz, whether due to a great publicist or actual good writing, becomes the new "hot button" and gets copied endlessly. Example?  Have you seen how many books are out these days with "billionaire" in the title?  Sheesh!  Just how many actual billionaires are there in the world?  And how many are unmarried and hetero-sexual?  And of them, how many are sexy? Narrow it down further: how many of them would look twice at a mousy woman with low-self-esteem, even for a one-night stand?  Then realize how many would marry out of their "class". I know these are fiction romances, but this makes believing the dead can walk (and romance) among us more believable, when you consider how much stretching of the imagination is needed.

Despite authors being told years ago that vampires were "old-school and boring", there is a plethora of undead-romancers as heroes and heroines these days.  Add to that the shifters, and you realize that werewolves aint' Lon Chaney Jr. anymore!  Now they're hot, tortured heroes (okay, he was that), whose energy and enthusiasm for hot sex can't be equaled by any mere mortal. 

Menage and BDSM used to be considered "porn", written by and for men. Now it's such a hot genre, that my latest book had one reviewer claim that despite the frequent hot sex scenes between the heroine and hero, that she was "disappointed" in the "lack of variety" in the explicit action.  Keep in mind this is a romance between a biker queen who's used to having sex with all of the men in her gang, and who thinks that monogamy is a sucker's game, since her mother is still reeling from being dumped by her father for a trophy wife.  Enter a sexy Russian ex-KGB agent who is sent to convince her she's never to revisit the town where the action movie star Raul Roderick lives, since he's now a happily-married father of young children.  But in the book about his romance, the biker queen had ridden into town just to score with the famous actor. 

So Alexandra is not your typical "mousy virgin" heroine.  Not at all.  The meeting between her and Dmitri leads to some explosive sex on her office furniture, before they move to her place.  And it takes everything Dmitri has to convince her that Only One Man Will Do, and that man has to be him.
But because there are no menage scenes involving them and another man, or bondage scenes with one of them whipping the other, the reviewer gave me only a tepid review.  Hey, I write the stories of my characters the way I imagine them.

Which means I'm too explicit to use my real name in my writing, but not explicit or adventurous for some readers.  Sigh.  So what's an author to do?  Maybe my next book should be The Billionaire Were-Vampire Dom and His Brothers Discover His Mousy Secretary's Secret Submission Desire.
What do you think?  Would you read that?

For a chance to win a copy of Only One Man Will Do, I'm at the Snarkology site talking about "My Kind of Heroine."  Leave me a comment there to be entered into the drawing.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Sometimes A Location Sparks A Story

Over a year ago, I went on a business trip to Kansas and when there was a day off, I ended up in Wamego Kansas.  The town felt like it was out of the sixties and it seemed magical.  While we were there, we visited the Oz Museum, the Oz Winery and took a walk down their yellow brick road.  I had to feature it in a story.  Actually three stories.  The third story, Trapped in Oz, just released.  Spend a little of your time on Wamego... er Oz.

Martin Long has plans and dreams, but they are derailed when his parents move and must sell their house. In need of a place to stay, fast, he answers an ad for a roommate, and even though the house needs work, the owner seems nice so Martin agrees to move in.

Gary Hunter is barely making ends meet, with mysteriously disappearing tips at work and tuition to pay. Disowned by his family and left with a house in need of repair, Gary desperately needs the extra set of hands along with the money.

When Gary confesses that his family disowned him for being gay, Martin makes his own confession that opens a world of possibilities. But Gary has paid a heavy price for being who he is, and Martin’s unwillingness to open up to his family puts strain on the fledgling relationship.

Purchase from Dreamspinner Press:

MARTIN LONG drove the nine miles or so from the warehouse to the small town where he lived with his parents. He worked packing shoes in shipping boxes. He’d been out of high school for a couple years now, and he considered himself lucky. He had a job that would allow him to move out and be on his own. But before he did that, Martin had been saving for the trip of a lifetime. He’d lived his whole life in Wamego, Kansas, and he’d always wished he could see more of the world.

A few years earlier, he’d hoped to go to college and make more of his life than toiling the way his father had. His dad had worked for thirty years at the farm-equipment factory in town, doing almost the same thing day in and day out. It had sounded mind-numbing to Martin, and he had vowed to not fall into that trap. He wanted to make more of himself. Unfortunately, he hadn’t listened to his parents when they’d begged him to study harder in school. He’d figured they didn’t know shit at the time. Well, the older he got, the smarter his parents seemed. So after he graduated, he managed to get a job at the warehouse and was making decent money. He had some savings and paid his folks a few hundred dollars a month for his room. Life was good, and overall he was happy with his situation.

He drove down the main street of town on a bright summer day, singing up a storm to the radio playing his favorite song. It was Friday and he was done for the week. The next two days were his, and while he had no plans, the weekend loomed brightly in front of him. At the far side of Wamego, he drove into the quiet area where his family owned the small home where he’d lived for as long as he could remember. Martin and his dad had converted the attic into a large open space years ago, and that had been turned into his bedroom. It was large enough that he had a seating area, as well as a sleeping area, so it was like his own private apartment. That gave both him and his mom and dad privacy. He turned into the driveway and parked behind his dad’s truck. Martin checked the clock on the dash and wondered what was going on. His dad wasn’t supposed to get home for another hour.

Martin got out of his eight-year-old Camry. He’d bought it used a year earlier and had worked with his dad to fix it up. Together they had it running like a top, and he loved it. His dad could do just about anything he put his mind to mechanically. He hurried inside and found his mother in the dining room setting the table for dinner, the scent of roasted chicken filling the entire house and making him hungry. “Is anything wrong?”

His mother humphed. “You better ask your dad.” She was not happy, and Martin’s stomach clenched.
Martin knew he wouldn’t get anything out of her, so he went and found his father in the living room, watching television. “Hey, Dad.” He sat down next to him. “Mom’s out there trying not to break the dishes over something.” He was trying to make light of things, but it didn’t work.

“You know I’ve been asking for an opportunity for years,” his dad began. “Well, today they noticed me and decided to give me one. I was offered a promotion and a chance to get off the factory floor.”

“They’re making you a supervisor?” Martin asked, even though the question didn’t make a lot of sense. His mother wouldn’t be upset about that. His dad getting into management was a good thing.

“Well, I’ve been a team leader for a few years now, you know that. And they’ve been happy with my work and that of the team, so today they said they want me to help develop a team training and development program for use in all the plants. They said I’d taken one of the hardest teams in the plant and turned it into a well-oiled machine.”

“That’s so cool, Dad,” Martin said. “The chance to get into management, right?”

“It is, and the chance for your mother and me to have the possibility of a decent retirement.” His father sighed, reached over to the coffee table for the remote, and turned off the television. Everyone said Martin and his dad looked alike. Martin always took that as a compliment, because his dad was a handsome man. Martin had noticed handsome men for a while now. He and his dad both had thick brown hair that tended to wave when it got longer, and the same blue eyes and lanky build. Neither of them could sit still for very long because they both tended to run in high gear.

“So what’s the problem?”

“The job is outside Houston. Your mother and I would need to relocate… and if I take the job, I would start in two weeks.”

Martin’s mouth dropped open slightly, and he turned toward the kitchen. “That explains why she’s upset.” His mother had spent her entire life in Wamego, and she was more than happy. This was home, and his mother was the very definition of a homebody. She was one of those people who couldn’t go anywhere without running into people she knew, because basically his mother knew everyone in town.

“Yeah, and I don’t know what I’m going to do. They’ll help us sell the house and find a new one.” His dad stopped and turned back to the now silent television. “Your mother loves this house and this town, but this is what I’ve been hoping for. It could be the difference between us having a retirement where we exist from day to day, or one where she and I can do the things we’ve always wanted.” His dad flopped back in the chair. “I’ve wanted a chance like this for a very long time.”

“Then you have to take it,” Martin said. He was still in shock, but he could adjust. “I can find a job in Houston, I’m sure of that.”

His dad shook his head. “No. You need to stay here. You have a good job at Shoebox. They like you, and they have a college assistance program that will kick in soon. You’ll be able to pay for college and get a degree. After that, you can go anywhere you want. Even with the extra money, your mother and I can’t afford to pay for college, and you need to go. You took a couple years off after high school, and that’s fine, but it’s time for you to figure out what you want to do with your life. I know it isn’t working in a warehouse for the rest of your life.” Sadness filled his father’s eyes. “Did I tell you I tried to go to college once?”

“No,” Martin said, dread spreading through him.

“Well, I did. I started and took an English class. Never finished it. Now I wish I had stuck with it. Our lives would be so much different if I had. This seems to be the year for chances, for all of us.”

“So you don’t want me to go with you?”

His dad shook his head. “I want you to make a life for yourself. You’re an adult now, and you have friends here. This is your home and you have a job, and believe it or not, an opportunity here. Stuff like that only comes around once.” His dad sighed, looking older than he had in a while. Martin could tell he was nervous, scared, and excited all at the same time. “If you give it up, you may not get another one. And the same goes for me. So when your mother calms down, she and I will figure out how we’re going to do this.” He reached out and squeezed Martin’s shoulder. “We’ll come back to visit, and you can come see us. Yes, it’s a drive, but it’s not like we’re an entire country away.”

“No, that’s true.”

“I suspect we’ll be selling the house. The company has a program that will buy the house if we can’t sell it, so….”

Martin nodded. “So I’ll need to find a place to live.” He thought of asking his folks about renting the house. He could find some roommates, and they could live there. But he discarded the idea. This house held most of what his folks had managed to build. They didn’t have a lot of other money, so the equity in the house was important to them, and they would need it to buy another one.

“Let me think about it,” Martin said, more to soothe his own ego than anything. He knew his dad was right, but the thought of being on his own without his family there to help him made his stomach churn. He had plans. He wanted to travel, and yeah, he wanted to go to college. But seeing the world was what he’d really hoped to do, and now all of that had changed within a few minutes.

“You need to do more than think about it. Things are going to start moving quickly for all of us.”

“You’re kicking me out?”

“Of course not,” his mother said when she came in the room. “But your father is right. You have a chance here that he and I never had.” She walked over and sat on the edge of her husband’s chair, wiping her hands on her apron. “If either he or I had been able to go to school and stick with it, our lives could be very different. But we really didn’t have that option. You have it, and we can’t let you throw it away.” She leaned closer. “This isn’t the end of the world for any of us.”

“I know,” Martin said. They were right, but he was afraid.

“Sweetheart, I have a feeling this is going to work out for the best for all of us.” She smiled and tilted her head toward Martin’s dad. His mom had had a hard life. She was the youngest of seven from a farming family that hadn’t had two sticks to rub together. She and his dad had worked their entire lives to give him what they hadn’t had. Martin was grateful for everything they’d done.

“Okay,” Martin agreed. “When you know what’s supposed to happen, let me know. I’ll check with some friends and stuff, see if any of them need a roommate.” He smiled. Martin was happy for his dad and mom, he really was. His dad deserved this. He’d worked hard for years and had helped out everyone at the plant. Opportunities didn’t come around often, not in a small town like this, and they all needed to make the most of them.

“Dinner will be ready in about half an hour. Go get cleaned up, both of you,” his mother said. Martin left the room, figuring he could shower and change quickly enough to give his dad a chance to get ready.

Martin went up to his room and grabbed a change of clothes. Then he went back down to the bathroom and started the shower. He washed up fast and changed into fresh clothes. Then he went back up to his room and made a phone call.

“Darren,” he said as soon as it was answered.

“Dude, you sound upset. What’s going on?”

“My folks are going to move to Houston. Dad’s getting a promotion, and I need to find a place to live. Do you still need a roommate?” At least he knew he and Darren got along.

“Man…. Dude, your timing sucks. I just agreed to let Stevie move in. He needed a place bad and… shit, I can call him….”

“No. You agreed, and you shouldn’t back out.”

“But you’re my best friend.”

“Doesn’t matter, you know that. Besides, Stevie’s been through hell, with the accident and all. He needs guys like you to help prop him up. I was just hoping you hadn’t found anyone yet. It isn’t urgent, but I thought I would start with you.” Martin flopped on his bed and saw the easy answer to his problems float away like a cloud in a gale.

“That’s cool, and I’ll let you know if anything changes or if I hear of anything,” Darren said, and Martin heard a sound followed by a female voice. “I gotta go, if you know what I mean. I’ll call you later.”

He hung up, and Martin ended the call as well. What in the hell had he been thinking? Rooming with Darren would be hell. There would be girls coming and going at all hours. Darren had been the quarterback in high school, and he was a star. Everyone loved him. Including Martin, but he had kept his high school crush a secret. Thank God, because Darren was as straight as an arrow, no doubt about it. Martin swore there wasn’t a girl within ten miles Darren hadn’t been sniffing around, and he usually got what he wanted.

He and Darren had been friends since grade school. Stevie had been the outcast in school, mainly because he was small and easily picked on. He’d always had a hard time of it until he agreed to help Darren in algebra. Stevie knew how to explain shit and should have been a teacher. He’d had big plans for college that ended when his folks died in a car crash. Suddenly he was out on his own without money for college. After helping Darren with algebra, their core group of friends had sort of opened up and taken him in. Stevie turned out to be a great guy once he’d opened up as well, and Martin didn’t want to add to his friend’s misery. Life had already done plenty of that.
“Martin, dinner,” his mother called up the stairs.

He got off the bed and walked downstairs into the modest dining room, where the table was already set.

“Were you on the phone?” his mother asked.

“Yeah, I was checking on possible roommates,” he said as he pulled out his usual chair. “Of course it would be too easy to find one just like that.”

“You will, dear,” his mother said and patted him on the shoulder. He could tell she was nervous and unsettled. His mother was great, but she wasn’t usually a fussy person who hung around all the time. That changed when she was nervous. She always got clingy, especially to his dad, but she did it with him too. He’d thought it was her mother-hen instinct kicking in, keeping her chicks close. “There’s going to be changes for all of us.”

He nodded and waited while she brought the food to the table and continued fussing. His father joined them a few moments later. His mother sat down as well, and then they joined hands and prayed. It was a ritual that had happened each night at dinner for as long as he could remember. The prayer was always the same, but they said it each night. Thankfully, they didn’t do it when they went out, but at home it happened every time. When they were done, food was passed and plates were filled.

No one talked a great deal. Martin suspected they had things on their minds.

“So what will we do?” his mother finally asked.

“What do you think, Grace?” his father asked. “You know it will be hard to turn this down. They won’t ask again. And it’s a lot more money, and the potential for bonuses.”

She nodded, her near perfectly done salt-and-pepper hair moving with her. A small curl fell into her eyes, and she set it back in place. “I know, dear. We have to do this. But I don’t want to leave our friends and everyone we’ve known for years.” She set her fork down on her plate. “Maybe we could keep the house here and buy one there. Martin could live here and take care of this one and….”

“Homes in Houston are a lot more expensive than here,” his father said. “We’re going to need the money from this house as a down payment.” He reached over and took her hand. “We’ll be able to find a nice place we like. We’ll be in the Houston area, but not right in the city. They tell me there are nice places, and the company will find a real estate agent for us. They’ll help us look.”

“I know. It’s just that we’ve lived here for a long time and….” She used her napkin to wipe the corner of her eyes.

“Dear, think of it as an adventure. We’re going to be living in one of the most vibrant cities in the country. There will be things you can do as well, opportunities that you never would have had here. I was thinking if you wanted, you could get a job. You sew, so maybe work in a fabric store. Whatever you want.”

“Maybe,” his mother said with a slight smile. “I was thinking I might try for a bookkeeping job. I did that the first years we were married, and I helped Mack with his books all those years. It might be nice to work in an office as long as I didn’t have to travel too far.” She began to smile, and Martin’s dad returned it.

Martin finished eating and then took his plate to the sink. He rinsed the dishes and left them there before leaving the room. He went up to his bedroom and began making calls to his various friends. They, of course, didn’t need roommates, but it didn’t hurt to let people know what he needed in case they heard things.

“Try Craigslist,” his friend Maria suggested.

They’d gone to high school together, and she was the only person in the world he’d told about his crush on Darren and consequently the fact that he liked boys instead of girls. She hadn’t cared, but he’d kept it quiet otherwise. This was a small town, and Martin didn’t want to be the token gay kid.
“They have listings for all kinds of stuff. You might need to look as far as Manhattan. There are lots of college kids there looking to share apartments and stuff. It would mean driving a little farther to work, but it wouldn’t be bad.”

“I’ll think about it. I was hoping to stay here in town, but I doubt this is a real Craigslist kind of place.”

“You never know,” Maria said. “So your folks are really going to move? I always thought your mom would never leave.”

“So did I, but some things are too good to pass up, and I can’t blame them.”
“Why don’t you go with them?” Maria asked.

“I have a good job here, and I think I’m going to start taking some classes at Kansas State in the fall or spring. Work will help pay for it, so….” He didn’t tell her his parents had said he needed to stay. He had a good job with a chance at a future. He couldn’t give it up, and if things changed, then he could always move later.
“I’m so jealous of that.”

“Maybe we could start taking classes together, get financial aid. I bet Mrs. Jarvis at the high school would help us get all the papers and stuff together.” She was the guidance counselor, and Martin knew she’d helped other kids who had been out of school a while. That was the kind of lady she was. “If we’re serious….”

“That still doesn’t help you find a place.”

“No, but I have a little time yet.” They talked a little longer, and then he hung up. Martin rejoined his folks downstairs. They were watching television, so he sat in the empty chair and watched with them for a while. Then he went up to bed and tried to fall asleep earlier than he normally would. God, in a single day his life and plans had altered and would continue to be fluid. Eventually he fell asleep trying to think of people he could talk to about a place to live.

OVER THE next two weeks, Martin didn’t have much luck as far as the living situation went. His parents made plans to leave, and his dad was getting ready to start his new job in Texas. His mom had cleaned the house from top to bottom, and when she met with a Realtor and got ready to list the house, it really unsettled Martin. He was starting to get nervous he would end up homeless. “There are some ads in the paper tonight,” his mother said and handed him the classified section. She’d been hinting for a while now. Martin had blissfully kept his head in the sand. That was over; he had to find a place.

His friends hadn’t come through with anything, so he figured what the hell and thumbed through the classifieds. He saw a few apartment listings, but the rent was more than he wanted to spend. He was really hoping to find a place that would allow him some breathing room on expenses. If he had to get an apartment alone, he could do it, but it would mean his expenses would be tight, and he didn’t want that. He called about a few ads, but the initial ones for roommates had already been filled. He continued calling and got to the bottom of a rather short list.

“Hello,” a deep male voice said when the line connected.

“Yeah, my name is Martin, and I’m calling about the roommate ad.”

“Oh, sure,” the man said. “Hang on.” The phone was set down. “Gary, it’s for you.”

Martin waited and then heard the phone being picked up. “Sorry about that. Can I help you?” a much mellower voice asked.

“I’m Martin, and I’m calling about the ad for a roommate,” Martin said.

“Hey, cool,” Gary said. “The guy who answered is Doug, and he’s moving out. Do you go to State?”

“No, but I hope to. I live in Wamego and I’m looking for a place,” Martin explained, trying to act cool.

“No sweat. The house is just off the park on North Third, number 181. I’m Gary, by the way. When did you want to stop by? You can see the place and we can talk.”

“I’m a few blocks away, so I can be there in fifteen if that’s okay?” Martin got off his bed and went to the bathroom. He needed to clean up if he was going to meet a potential roommate. He didn’t want Gary to think he was a slob or something.

“Sure, I’ll be here,” Gary said brightly. “Just ring the bell.” He hung up, and Martin got a move on.

“Where are you going?” his mother asked as she looked up from the box she was stacking in the hallway outside the spare bedroom. His mother had been packing like a fiend to get the house ready to be shown.

“I have a possible place to live. I need to go over and see it.” He rushed up to her and gave her a hug. “You were a big help.” He hurried into the bathroom and cleaned up. He didn’t have time for a shower, but he made sure he was presentable before returning to his room to change into a clean pair of jeans and a green polo. He checked himself in the mirror and then grabbed his bag and raced out of the house and onto the sidewalk, where he headed down the street, hopeful for the first time since his dad had told him about his upcoming promotion.