Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Thankful to still be a daughter

Note: This was originally posted as a guest blog on November 24th, 2009, so I've added date references in places for proper context. This is the seven year anniversary of Mom's transplant, so for lucky #7, I wanted to repost it. :)

Fall has always been my favorite season of the year, the colors, coolness in the air, what's not to love? It was Dad's fave as well, which made it especially difficult when he passed away unexpectedly at 61 in late October, six [twelve] years ago.  Every Thanksgiving since then has been bittersweet, with happy reminiscences comingled with the memories of the raw shock of that first holiday season without him.

A year ago [2008], my remaining parent was literally fighting for her life. She had been diagnosed with leukemia in May, fought a losing battle with chemotherapy over the summer, and nothing was helping to stem the advance of the cancer in her blood and bone marrow. With the classification that she fell into, her prognosis at the time of diagnosis was less than a year.

Then a miracle happened...her doctor was able to convince the insurance company to approve a bone marrow transplant despite her age (63) being beyond their normal range. That was followed closely by a second miracle...she didn't have to wait for a donor match. Her brother, who lived 4 miles away from her and was still in good health at 65, tested to be a perfect match for donation. Sibling donations have the highest success rate, and we crossed our fingers that Mom could hold out long enough to stabilize for and undergo the god-awful pre-procedure chemo and radiation.

So on November 25th last year, she was given the transplant, and we waited while her body fought both the cancer and the 'invading' new bone marrow cells. That Thanksgiving was filled with worry and hope.

As December began, she started slipping away. Her counts were proceeding 'normally', but she was becoming delirious and eventually unresponsive. An unexpected allergic reaction to her anti-rejection medication sent her into a coma due to fluid buildup in the brain called PRES syndrome. 2000 miles away, I could only wait for news. She was moved to intensive care and the second week of December I received a call needing permission to place her on a ventilator as a respiratory infection set in.

At that point I could wait no longer, and scheduled my flight to South Dakota. I hadn't seen her since August, and barely recognized her; her hair was gone, she was 30 pounds lighter, and all the medical support equipment... I walked into her empty house alone that night and it was the strangest sensation, as if she were already gone.

I sat by her bed for nearly a week with no response. I'd had the irrational thought that once there, she'd hear my voice and open her eyes, but that only happens in fiction I suppose. I lotioned her feet, tried to keep her bloody tears from drying on, and tried to talk. It was hard to know what to say, again where the movies and fiction have it wrong. Her hand was warm but dead in mine. During this time, her only movements were occasional gagging motions, and I asked, begged, pleaded, and finally demanded they remove the breathing tube. Their response was that she'd met every protocol except one; she had to be responsive before removal.

I was stymied by ICU staff and resp therapists at every turn until one day I finally spoke to the Pulminologist on the phone and reminded him that she's been unresponsive for days before insertion. After securing my permission to reinsert if she went south, he approved the removal, much to the dismay of the resp therapist who'd smugly handed me the phone in the first place, sure that the doc would support her instead of me.

She and the ICU nurse went through the shut-down and pulling of the tube. It was awful watching my mom's body fighting and gagging. But it was finally out.  Then her eyes opened...

After weeks in a coma, when that tube came out, she just...woke up. The nurse asked if she knew who I was, and she said in a raspy, but clearly disgusted voice, "Of course! That's my daughter." Oh, that's my mama.  You tell 'em, Mom.

While she'd been laying there, her body had been accepting the transplant. They moved her back up to oncology the next morning (that was a jolt, coming into her ICU bay and having it be empty!), and I flew home the day after, on Christmas Eve, to be with my girls for the holiday. And only two weeks later, she went home. Her mom, my grandma, who was 87, moved out to the farm to spend the rest of the SD winter with her and take care of her 'little girl' during her recovery.

Tomorrow is the one [seven] year anniversary of her transplant, and she is 100% donor cells and cancer-free. Her vision is still recovering, so she can't read...a huge blow for the person I inherited my bookishness from. [She's able to read again now!] And her hair has been slow to start growing again. But she is back driving again and doing for herself. Moreover, she's still herself, still Mom, still Mimi to my two girls and my brother's new baby boy, something that I almost gave up hope on during my vigil last winter.

Back 'round to Thanksgiving again, I am so thankful that my small family is not one person less this year. We had every reason to expect that she could be gone by now, but a few miracles later and I have something very real and concrete to be thankful for...my mom's future.


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Six Years Down the Published Road...

I had Facebook to thank for reminding me. A random message of congratulations from 2009 popped up on their On This Day feature from my friend Kris. I had to think about it--what had happened in August of 2009 to warrant a congrats? Then I turned to Gmail and searching my messages for that month...and bingo.

I got my first contract offer six years ago yesterday from Dreamspinner Press, setting me on the road I've been barreling down ever since. It was for a short story in an anthology. But I didn't care--it was a contract! And I loved that little short story and the two guys in it. Just this year I took that short, Remarkable Restraint (got the rights back last year after the anth went out of print), expanded it to novel-length and republished it.

Here's my blog post from back then. I was a little excited, lol!

But that's not the entire story of how I started out. My karma game was strong that week, because exactly one week later, I got another contract offer for another story, A Pint Light, from Total-e-Bound (now Totally Bound and Pride Publishing).

Here's that blog post too. :)

So within a week's time, I suddenly had two books on release schedules. And I had to choose a pen name.

Pen names are interesting things. Some people don't bother to use one, but for me, my real name just ain't that sexy. LOL. Plus I wanted to honor my dad, who had been gone several years before I realized my dream of being an author. So after polling some of my industry friends and thinking long and hard--Oh, and doing many searches for available domain names!--I decided on Devon Rhodes. The Rhodes part was easy--my maiden name. :) I'd spent most of my life answering to it and signing it, so that seemed like a natural choice. And Devon came from the last street I lived with Dad on.

Just today I signed my thirty-eighth contract. 38!! Wow--when I went back and counted the books, I was shocked, especially since there have been a couple of those six published years where I just couldn't write and barely put anything out. But I'll tell you...number 38 was just as exciting as the first and second. :)

Now. Back to work on number 39 and counting. ;)

Monday, August 3, 2015

Hottest Hero Contest

I don't usually ask for votes, but All Romance eBooks is having their Hottest Hero contest, and I'm in it. :) Pretty cool. :)

Lots of competition and of course, right off the bat I'm up against a best-selling heavy hitter, but I'd appreciate a vote in round one if you want to support MM romance and my sexy Marine, Owen, from A Ring and A Vow and A Ring and A Promise.

You'll have to sign in to your account in order to vote, and Round One voting goes until Friday, August 7th.

Have fun, and happy Monday! :)

VOTE in ARe's Hottest Hero contest

Friday, June 12, 2015

Portland Pride this weekend!

Gay Romance Authors Northwest

For the second year of many to come, a bunch of Northwest authors of GLBTQ fiction and romance are coming together this weekend under the riverfront canopies at the Portland Pride Festival! Can't wait to see everyone, experience the love of the awesome crowds and, of course, hear our headliner The Original Weather Girl, Martha Wash.

It's raining men...hallelujah!

Our hostess with the mostest, Anne Tenino, who is the superpower pulling us all out from behind our computer screens into the bright of day, set us up with adjoining booths this year so we can better accommodate the crowds we had come by last year!

We had non-stop crowds last year!
 Thankfully, the forecast is gorgeous, so we won't have to shelter from the rain this time--just the sun!

None of the wet stuff this year...unless you count sunscreen and lube samples!

Many of last year's authors are back--me, Anne, Ethan Stone, Daisy Harris, David Holly, Amelia Gormley and LC Chase (who is bringing our mascot--Cowboy James).

Brad and I thought he was worth a fondle.

In addition to our veterans, we have some new faces joining us to better represent the full spectrum, including Jove Belle, Karen Baker and D. Jordan Redhawk.

The turnout should be great, but it's organized and spread out nicely along the Tom McCall Waterfront between Pine and Morrison. We'll be in C11-12 near the north end Pine Street entrance.

Ethan Stone and organizer Anne Tenino kicking back before we opened.
Daisy Harris showing her true colors!

Our local NW authors are bringing tons of free swag as well as books for sale, and we can accept cash, Paypal and Square credit card payments.

Most of all, though, we can't wait to talk to Portland's book lovers, so stop by between 12-6 both Saturday and Sunday. Look for Cowboy James!! See you there, and HAPPY PRIDE!!

Y'all come on down to see us, y'hear?
 More info on the Pride Portland website: http://pridenw.org/

Authors' Websites:
Karen Baker:  Karen Baker
Jove Belle: http://jovebelle.com/
LC Chase: http://www.lcchase.com/
Amelia Gormley:  http://ameliacgormley.com/
Daisy Harris: http://thedaisyharris.tumblr.com/
David Holly: http://www.gaywriter.org/
D Jordan Redhawk: http://djordanredhawk.com/
Devon Rhodes: http://www.devonrhodes.com/
Ethan Stone: http://www.ethanjstone.com/

Anne Tenino: http://annetenino.com/

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Top Ten Worst Things About the RT Booklovers' Convention

Among all of the RT recaps out there, I thought I'd put voice to the dark side of the romance convention. 
Be warned: this gets real!

  1. Packing! Between professional looks for the presentations, business casual for panels, workout clothes (that I used once), and costumes and formals for the evening events, I have to pick out no less than fourteen complete outfits, including shoes and accessories...then get it all into my suitcase(s). Lots of sweat and heartbreaking shoe decisions involved. My red Fidji's still aren't speaking to me.
    Oh, and I also brought a dress and a corset along for TA.
  2. Getting To Your Room: This year we were in Narnia. Seriously. We hauled our incredibly heavy bags around the fourth floor for about 20 minutes before we found we needed to pass through fire doors to a staircase, then through another door to the random back hallway with our room. The upside was that if the zombie apocalypse happened while in Dallas, they wouldn't have been able to find us. Last year, we had crazy elevators without floor buttons--you had to punch it in before you got on and trust the machine...no changing your mind!
    Yay! We finally found it!
  3. Trying to keep your swag and books straight: It seems like every time you leave your room people are giving you stuff. Then you need to either haul it around or dodge the zombies on the way to Narnia with it and put it in piles. Eventually the piles blend together with stuff you brought, usually on top of the one thing you have only a few minutes between events to find. Multiply times ten for every roommate you have.
    Chris Rice practically forced his books on us.
  4. Missing people: And I don't mean missing your kids or partner or barista or pets. I mean, not seeing your absolute favorite author/blogger/model/editor you didn't realize was at RT until you're surfing social media at the airport going home and see that they were hanging around all the same places you were all week.
    Who knew when I used to read her books as a teen that I'd ever take a selfie with Mary Balogh? Not that I knew what a selfie was back then. Or a cell phone for that matter.
  5. Choosing between conflicting events: Murphy's Law comes into effect here. That's why the developers of the RT mobile app gave each other secret, evil high fives when they added the function that says, "This amazing panel conflicts with another equally amazing event. Are you sure you want to schedule? Maybe you should just go cry in the corner."
    At least the evening events like the Wild West Steampunk night didn't have conflicts.
  6. Keeping your stomach happy: You either have zero time to eat or you fill up on a delicious meal that then expands in your stomach like Gorilla Glue, causing you to rub it, cursing silently as you field questions from nosy strangers in the elevator about when you're due.
    Yes, I had the tempura green beans at Five Sixty, the Wolfgang Puck restaurant in the "big ball", four times. Don't judge me. They were that good.
  7. Which books? All the books! Every year I wince as I try to lift my bags, hoping I don't have to do the airport luggage walk of shame for being overweight. I practice at home on the scale so I know about how much upper forties feels like. And I say to myself as I kneel in front of the airline check-in counter to shove a pair of shoes, three books and that weirdly heavy wool pencil skirt into my carry-on, "I'm not going to pick up any books next time. Maybe two, tops." Yeah, right.
    Ariel enabled my Mary Calmes addiction this year even though Mary herself wasn't there.
  8. Breaking the gravitational pull. There is a world out there beyond the hotel walls, but it can be hella difficult to actually leave and go experience it. I was proud to have gotten out three times this year--once for an off-site reception for ARe, once for breakfast with Amber Kell and her husband, and once to go out with friends who live in Dallas. Full disclosure: last year in NOLA was a little different, and I imagine Las Vegas will be too.
    Actually went far enough away on Saturday night to need Uber to get back.
  9. Saying goodbye: I know that if I actually did live in a small town somewhere with all of my fellow con-goers that they'd drive me crazy in less than a fortnight. But that doesn't stop me from being emotional and hugging every single person I see in the last 36 hours before I leave. It's a special hell, though, to say goodbye to my "con wife", TA. We have a process for it, including tandem packing, sharing a ride to the airport even if our flights are half a day apart, and sad selfies to punctuate an album full of smiling pictures.
    Airport farewell.
  10. Waiting for next year: Thank you, RT people and Las Vegas hotel people and whoever had a hand in moving RT to April next year, thus knocking a month off the wait time. Happy to say that there are only 328 days until I have to start this list of the worst things about RT all over again. See you in Vegas, baby!
    Watch out, Sin City! RT is coming!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Hop Against Homophobia, Bi- and Transphobia Post, Excerpt and Prize


I'm a super lucky mom--I have two wonderful, smart and kind daughters, ages 12 and nearly 9. And I'll freely admit that up until I had children of my own, I was a bit out of touch with the younger set and the challenges they face. Now, of course, I'm all too touched by some of the all-too-frequent heartbreaking tales you see, in the news, yes, but especially on social media.

I'm a positive person, so one of my ways of dealing with situations that touch me deeply--but are out of my control--are to write through the emotions. So when I was trying to think of what to say for this post, I decided to let my writing speak for me.

In one of my co-authored books with TA Chase, I introduced a secondary character (much to her surprise and mine) who has become one of our most asked after characters--Xavier. Xav is a young man who was stunned to be rejected from his family in his mid-teens, and the reader meets him a couple of weeks after he'd been thrown to the streets. I know that far too few kids in that situation are fortunate enough to be helped by someone out of the kindness of their hearts. But I'd like to think that perhaps my characters could make someone think twice the next time they're in a position to do some good.

In honor of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (May17th), here is the scene where Lukas meets Xav in At First Touch, an e-copy of which is the prize for this post (or maybe a few copies). This especially fits since not only is Xav a victim of homophobia, but one of his rescuers is bi.

“Hi there.” This was accompanied by a not-so-subtle nudge to his side and Lukas glanced over…and down. “Buy you a drink?” A dark-haired beauty was working the angle, looking up at him through his glammed-out lashes. Rather than the sexy vibe Lukas would have expected, though, he seemed brittle—uncertain and maybe even a bit scared.

Lukas barely kept himself from shaking his head—not at the offer, but at just how young the young men were looking these days. He was barely in his mid-twenties and he felt ancient next to this cute little thing. “I appreciate it, but I’m all set.” As his admirer’s face dropped dramatically and the seemingly genuine look of disappointment tugged at his heart, he felt the need to add, “I’m just not drinking tonight.”

That intent gaze flicked from his face to the bottle of water and back. “I can buy you another water.” His eyes begged for acceptance in a way that went way beyond a normal pick-up.

Lukas frowned, wondering what was going on with his new friend. His curiosity was going to kill him one of these days. He hoped he wasn’t making a huge mistake in opening a dialogue with this one. “Why don’t I buy you something? I’m Lukas,” he introduced himself.

Sheer relief crossed the young man’s face and his whole frame seemed to relax at once. It made him look tired. “Xav. Well, Xavier, but I go by Xav. And, um… A drink…”

Lukas took the decision out of his hands by catching the bartender’s attention, waggling the water bottle and holding up two fingers. When the drinks had been delivered, he handed a bottle to Xav and scanned the room for a seat. He wanted to talk to the young man and see if he could get him to open up. But the club was filling and about every available space was occupied. So instead he bent down close to Xav’s ear.

“Xav, how old are you?”

“Twenty,” came the immediate and obviously false answer as Xav drew himself up, as though standing straighter would add years to his appearance.

“Try again. I just want to know the truth, okay?” Lukas persisted and Xav’s false bravado wilted a bit.


“Truth,” Lukas reminded him.



“Sorry to have bothered you.” Xav sounded so down that Lukas made a snap decision. Any desire he’d had to find someone to take the edge off with tonight had been extinguished by their encounter.

“Tell you what,” he began, choosing his words carefully to make sure the young man had no illusions about what was on offer. “Let me take you out for a bite to eat and you can tell me about yourself. And you can stop with the cute, enticing looks,” he added as Xav brightened up at the invitation. “I’m not interested in more than a dinner companion.”

“Oh.” Xav’s gaze flicked around the room before he sighed. He looked back at Lukas soberly. “I’d like to, but… I really need to go home with someone tonight.”

Something in the way he’d worded that started things ticking over in Lukas’ head. “You actually want sex? Or you need a place to stay?” he asked as gently as he could.

He knew he’d hit the nail on the head when Xav’s lower lip trembled before he pressed his lips together tightly. “A place to stay,” he admitted quietly, his eyes huge in his face. “But most of the time you have to do the first to get the second.”

Lukas’ insides twisted in a gut-roiling combination of sympathy and anger. He thanked whatever deity existed that Xav had come up to him tonight instead of some other, less moral guy. He tried not to think of previous nights and what Xav might have gone through.

“Not with me,” he said firmly. “Come on. Let’s get out of here.” Xav didn’t move right away, and Lukas tried to reassure him. “No pressure. Just dinner and a place to crash tonight if you need it. Okay? Seriously—no offence, but I have zero interest in a kid your age.”

Conflicting expressions of curiosity, wariness and hope flickered across Xav’s face in rapid succession. “Why are you being so nice? You don’t even know me.”

Lukas wasn’t even sure himself. He began walking, cupping Xav’s elbow to usher him along and to his relief, he gave no resistance. “You seem like a good kid who’s had to grow up too fast.” He shrugged. “I had it easy. Maybe I just want to help.”

There was no response and he looked down at Xav walking willingly by his side. He dropped his grip from his elbow as they approached the exit then was startled when Xav moved closer and slid his hand into the crook of his arm, as though Lukas was escorting him. He pressed even closer as they neared the bouncer, and Lukas got the impression that he was nervous about the man. He deftly moved Xav across in front of him until he was walking on the opposite side as they passed.

Another question to add to the list of what he needed to know from Xav.

But first, dinner.

Just as they were almost out of the door, Lukas spotted Sergio coming in, dressed in clubbing clothes very different from what he wore to work. ‘Dressed’ might be stretching the description a bit. His pants—either leather or some facsimile—looked painted on, and Lukas had a feeling that his unbuttoned shirt would be coming off in about five seconds. He spotted Lukas and made a beeline for him.

“Lukas! You did come. I’m sooo glad.” He swooped in for a brief kiss and grope of his ass. Then he did an almost comical double-take as he finally realised Lukas had company. Sergio frowned at Xav before shooting Lukas a questioning ‘What the hell?’ look.

He beckoned Serge to follow them back out of the door, keeping an eye on Xav’s reaction. He was eyeing Sergio warily but didn’t budge from Lukas’ side.

“Um… He’s a bit…young for you, isn’t—?”

“Yes, which is why we’re just going to grab a bite to eat,” Lukas interrupted Sergio’s incredulous statement of fact. At Serge’s sceptical expression, he added, “You’re welcome to join us if you like.”

Sergio narrowed his eyes shrewdly, studying Xav. Lukas felt him grip his arm even tighter. He pointedly raised his eyebrow at his friend, who finally nodded. “Sure. I was planning on drinking my dinner, but I know calories from food would probably make you happier with me.”

Xav looked like he had no idea what to do now, and Lukas could sense that he was about a second away from calling the whole thing quits and disappearing on him.

“Come on, let’s go then. I have a feeling this one’s really hungry. Still growing. You remember those days, don’t you?”

Sergio’s expression softened a tad. “Like they were yesterday. Which they were. I’m not that much older than you. Okay. Just across and down a block is a good café that’s open late. We can probably still get a table if we hustle.”

He turned word to deed by leading the way at his customary fast clip along the sidewalk to the corner, then crossed the street. Lukas and Xav trailed along in his wake as he wove easily in and out of late night revellers in the nightclub-laden part of town.

Sergio breezed into the café’s entrance and was already being led to a table by the time they’d caught up with him.

“Thank you, beautiful,” he said to the hostess who’d seated them, adding a wink for good measure. Her gaze dropped to his nearly bare chest as she turned away and he grinned wider before buttoning up. To Lukas’ knowledge, Sergio had zero interest in females—he was just a consummate flirt and no one was safe from being on the receiving end of his wiles. Except, hopefully, Padraig.

“Do you know what you want to eat, Xav?” Lukas asked. The young man hadn’t said a word since before they’d left the club and he was beginning to become concerned.

Xav parted his lips as though to answer, then shrugged, toying with his menu but not really looking at it.

Lukas began to regret inviting Sergio to join them. Xav seemed incredibly uncomfortable in his presence and the barriers had gone way up. Sergio continued to watch Xav closely, and Xav squirmed under his regard. He glared at Serge, wishing he’d cut out the examination.

Xav finally tossed his menu aside. “I don’t want to get in the middle of you two. I mean, I don’t want to cause trouble. I’d better go.” He pushed back in his chair and made to rise, but Lukas stopped him with a gentle but firm grip on his arm.

“Stay. I promised you a meal at least. Serge, be nice.”

“I am,” Sergio protested. “Just wondering what the story is here. Seriously, you do not need the kind of publicity getting photographed alone with this boy would give you. Which is why I came with you as a chaperone. You’re welcome.”

“Photographed?” Xav asked with a confused expression. “Are you someone famous or something?”

“Or something,” Lukas muttered before answering Sergio. “I doubt anyone recognised me anyway.”

“You’d better hope not, especially not with club-baby on the make here.” Serge cocked his head and looked at Xav. “You’re not a pro, are you?”

Xav furrowed his brow, then his eyes widened dramatically and he shook his head.

The server arrived, so they decided on their meals, with Lukas ordering more than he needed in case Xav’s appetite really exceeded his modest request. Once they were alone again, Lukas turned to Xav.

“What exactly did you mean about getting between us?”

Xav shifted in his seat. “Well… Aren’t you like a couple or something? I mean, you fight like one and he kissed you, so I thought…” He trailed off as Sergio and Lukas both laughed.

Sergio leaned in and patted Xav’s hand. “First of all, no. We’re just friends. Well…for the most part. And since I don’t think that Lukas will be doing anything with you that would affect a relationship anyway, it wouldn’t have really mattered.”

Xav’s relief was evident in his expression and he relaxed again.

Lukas felt a pang of empathy at how close to the surface all of Xav’s emotions seemed to be. He hadn’t yet developed a hard skin, which might be a good thing. Maybe things hadn’t been as bad as Lukas had feared. “Thank you for being concerned, but there’s nothing to worry about. We’re all friends here. So why don’t you tell us a little bit about you?” Lukas encouraged.

The young man paled a bit and avoided eye contact. Lukas could almost see him trying and discarding different answers.

“Truth,” Lukas repeated his warning from earlier in the evening, and to his gratification, it seemed to have the same effect as it had then.

“I’m just…on my own now. My parents… They didn’t want a gay son, so when they found out a couple weeks ago…” He paused and let that thought go unfinished. “I thought I’d be able to get a job, find a place to live, but it’s hard when you don’t already have a place. So, well, I go to the club each night and, you know…” He shrugged, looking down at his hands on the table miserably. “I picked you tonight because you seemed nice.”

Lukas met Sergio’s horrified gaze. He swallowed past the lump in his throat, wishing that Xav had had parents like his own, who, while they hadn’t been thrilled to learn of their athletic son’s ‘unusual’ bent, had at least continued to claim him as their own and supported him in their own slightly bewildered way. That involved a great deal of avoidance of the topic, which was just fine with Lukas.

Their food arrived, and Xav didn’t waste any time in tearing into his. Lukas’ meal was bitter on his tongue, considering everything, and he ended up giving half of his plate to Xav. He noticed that Serge, who had ordered the same thing as Xav, had surreptitiously given him part of his meal as well.

It wasn’t until Xav had started to slow down that Lukas returned to their conversation. “Where have you been sleeping?” he asked, and got an arched eyebrow in response. He winced as he realised that was evident from his story, at least the club pick-up part of it. “Every night?” he tried to clarify.

“Well, no. If I strike out or get asked to leave before morning”—his voice was nearly a mumble at this point—“I bench-surf in the park.”

“Jesus, kid. You could get killed!” Sergio burst out, looking extremely upset. “Can’t you go to a shelter, or—”

Xav was shaking his head. “It’s sometimes worse in there, from what I hear. Especially since I don’t have anyone to watch my back. Plus, they give priority to families.” He sighed. “And I’m a minor…” He took a sip of water.

Lukas had heard enough. “Xav, I want you to come stay at my place.” Sergio turned his way, but Lukas didn’t look at him, instead watching Xav intently. “I want to help you get on your feet and give you a safe place to live.”

Xav, completely still, stared at him for a long time then switched his gaze to Sergio. He dropped his eyes then raised them to meet Lukas’. “Do you want—?”

“I think I’ve clarified that I don’t want a damn thing from you, and I especially don’t want you offering ever again,” Lukas growled then eased up when he noticed Xav’s unease. “I just want to help you out. Pure and simple.”

“I don’t know. I mean, he thinks you might get in trouble…” Xav nodded towards Sergio.

Sergio interjected, “Oh hell, kid, take his offer. If it comes right down to it, I’ll vouch for the fact that there was nothing but altruistic intentions.” He waved the server down for the bill. “So where do you stash your stuff?” He impatiently threw down some bills and rose.

Lukas hadn’t even thought of that, but Sergio was right. Xav must have more than the clothes on his back. He stood to join Sergio and Xav followed suit.

The beginnings of a smile hovered at the corners of Xav’s lips. “Inside a tree,” he confessed.

Lukas laughed, relieved to see the stress on the young man’s countenance easing the longer he spent in their company. “Well, let’s go retrieve it. This I’ve got to see. Then we’ll head to my house. All right?”

Xav looked at him with something like gratitude before he averted his gaze, his eyes suspiciously shiny.

Sergio didn’t look unaffected either. He roughly cleared his throat. “Yes, well, I think I’ll call it a night after all. Too full to dance. Lukas, I’ll see you tomorrow at the stadium, okay? Let me know if you need anything,” he finished with a meaningful emphasis on the last word and a quick cut of his eyes to Xav.

Lukas nodded. “Thanks, man. I think we’ll be just fine.” He gave Xav a quick side-arm hug then released him to give Sergio an embrace.

“Thank you,” Lukas whispered quickly.

“Just be careful,” Serge returned just as quietly then stepped away and left with one last wave of his hand.

Lukas smiled at Xav and got an actual smile in return. “Okay, let’s go grab your things and then head home.”


Please leave a comment before the end of the day on the 24th, including your email, then head to the next participant's blog! Here are the links to the other participants:


Thursday, May 7, 2015

Catching Up: Death Valley, Vegas Baby, #1 Bestseller and RT!

Where should I begin? We're on the downhill slide into RT right now, and I'm working hard to get books done. Like, four of them, on the brink of being finished. That can be my only excuse for not blogging in such a long time!

What's been happening? I had a fun trip to Death Valley and Las Vegas with the fam over spring break. Believe it or not, I'd never been to Vegas before (and that's saying something since I've been to 48 out of 50 states!). Here are a few pics (and one short video) from my trip:


Lowest point in North America. Speaking of which, 12yo is now taller than me!

View in the evening from our hotel in Vegas. Beautiful weather.

Well, it's Road instead of Rhodes, but close enough! :)

The Silver Queen in Virginia City.


I got a text from TA Chase while I was in Vegas, and she told me I was nearly at the top of ARe's Bestseller list for the release I had the Friday I left on the trip (I was staying offline mostly because the wifi at the hotel was horrible). And before I got home, I'd actually made it to #1! Wow! 

That's getting a little ahead of myself. So--yes! I had a release while I was in the no-blogging zone! :) It's the start of a new series called Grad School Guys. The first book is actually the expansion of a short story I had in an anthology over five years ago. I added a whole bunch to it and rereleased it to kick off the series.


When Justin gets fed up with his best friend Chaz avoiding him, he decides it’s well worth sacrificing his favorite T-shirt to try to save their relationship.

Chaz is finding it impossible to hide his attraction for his straight roommate, so he tries avoiding Justin until he leaves for the summer. He just has to get through a few more days, then he’ll be home free—at least until Justin comes back in a couple of months. Still, he firmly believes that space between them is the best answer for now.

But Justin is not a man to be ignored. He’s known Chaz for almost a decade, and can tell when something is weighing on his mind. And being shut out is not acceptable, especially just when he’s finally ready to commit to more than friendship. When closer than usual proximity just before his trip to Central America turns up the heat between them, he takes matters into his own hands by restraining Chaz’s hands—and feet—until he gets some answers.

The results are explosive and more than either could have dreamt, but the abrupt shift in their relationship is almost impossible to reconcile in the short time they have left together. It will take remarkable restraint from both to find a way to weather the separation, to stay friends…and to grow into something more.

Reader Advisory: This book contains light BDSM elements and bondage.


Chaz Warren groaned with frustration as he removed his hand from his cock and gave up his fruitless quest for orgasm…yet again.

Two months, he thought with mingled disbelief and pride, turning over onto his stomach on his bed. The comforter abraded his tender flesh in a beguiling way, but he resisted the urge to thrust. He knew from experience that it was useless to try to get off that way and it would just serve to exacerbate his arousal. The thick black plug in his ass shifted as he moved, and he pushed backwards with his hips and bit his lower lip until it settled.

It wasn’t even noon yet, and a light sheen of sweat covered his naked body, the ceiling fan doing little to combat the brutal August heat wave. It had been hard to get to sleep, then he’d ended up oversleeping. He must have had a sexy dream he didn’t remember, because his morning wood had been almost painful. So after he was done in the bathroom, he’d decided to have a little fun.

He swiped at a trickle of sweat running down his neck then ran his hands over his head, alternately tugging his short blond hair and scratching his scalp. He was still weary, having been unable to sleep well all week knowing that Justin would be back any day now. He was actually supposed to have been back four days ago, but according to the fuzzy message Justin had left on his voicemail, some road had washed out in flooding and put the bus behind schedule, so he and some other guys had missed their original flight. He hadn’t heard from him since, and the waiting was driving him crazy.

Warring emotions were tying his stomach in knots. Chaz was nearly dizzy with excitement at the prospect of finally seeing the man he had secretly been in love with for years—and been with almost daily just as long—after the summer-long separation. But he was uncertain how Justin would feel about him after two long months with their only contact being a few hurried phone calls and voicemails. At this point, he hadn’t spoken to him in weeks, which made his mind go to unpleasant places, especially given the emotional state of confusion they had parted in in the aftermath of the farewell party in June.

Chaz and his best friend and roommate Justin Travers had spent that warm, early summer weekend at the beach at a friend’s beach house party, blowing off the built-up stress of getting through the spring semester of their master’s program and finals. It had been a sort of combination end of term party for a couple of friends and a send-off for Justin, who was heading away for the summer to do volunteer work before returning to continue his master’s degree work in the fall.

Chaz hadn’t even wanted to go to the beach house. Though he knew the group of guys who was going to be there, they were more Justin’s friends than his. He didn’t really feel a part of the group, and the partying atmosphere wasn’t his scene. But Justin, in his usual forceful style, had bullied and nagged him into it, and in the end, had simply taken matters into his own hands, literally herding Chaz into the car. It was the story of their long friendship—Justin deciding for the two of them and Chaz inevitably trailing in his wake.

The Twins, their mutual friends called them—completely ironic, considering that they didn’t have a single feature in common. Justin, with his dark, riotous curls over sapphire blue eyes, was the polar opposite of Chaz, who had close-cut straight blond hair, plain brown eyes and pale, occasionally freckled skin. But you never saw one without the other, at least until this summer. Chaz shook his head and flipped onto his back again, stifling a gasp as the breeze from the ceiling fan caressed the taut, overheated skin of his shaft like a physical touch.

Giving up any pretense of trying to get some sleep in the suffocating warmth of the bedroom, Chaz rose and walked toward the kitchen of the apartment he and Justin had shared. Officially, Justin still lived there, even though he had been gone all summer, volunteering at a worksite in Central America. His bedroom held all his belongings—he hadn’t bothered to pack up, declaring that he’d rather continue to pay his half of the rent than store everything. That had been fine with Chaz, who had been dreading the thought of interviewing potential new roommates. The thought of living with anyone else besides Justin, even just for a summer, gave him a strange, sickening feeling inside.

Chaz glanced by unconscious habit into Justin’s quiet and tidy room as he passed the open doorway, then stopped short, his gaze sharpening as something caught his eye in the dim light cast from his own room. A package lay squarely in the middle of the bed—an item that he knew for certain hadn’t been there earlier today...

Remarkable Restraint is out everywhere. :) Totally BoundBarnes and Noble, Amazon/Kindle US, Kindle Canada, Kindle UK, Kindle DE, Kobo, and of course, AllRomance eBooks where it hit #1! :)


In less than a week, I'll be in Dallas at RT, the 2015 Romantic Times Booklovers' Convention! I'm really looking forward to hanging with readers, reviewers, bloggers and authors that I only see in person once or twice a year, if that!

Flashback to RT 2013

I'm not doing the booksigning this year, but if anyone wants to track me down, the best place to find me (beside the obvious places: ie, next to TA Chase, at the bar, on the dance floor...lol) will be at Dreamspinner's version of romance-themed Apples to Apples on Friday at 11:15am! There will be a LOT of LGBTQ authors, book giveaways, prizes, and I'm sure a great deal of laughing involved. :D

I'll also be at the much larger FAN-tastic Day Party on Saturday somewhere between 6-7:45pm. :)

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Top Seven Reasons Why Online Superbowl Parties Are Better For Writers

I do like watching football, but nope--not going anywhere today. Seems like everyone has someplace to be on Superbowl Sunday, but the glaring exception I've found is with writers I know.

But really, that makes a lot of sense to me...and here's why.

Top Seven Reasons Why Most Authors Would Rather Rock Online Superbowl Parties Instead of IRL Ones:

  • You always have a place to sit. This is a thing--I don't think I've ever found comfortable seating at a Superbowl party. You either end up standing by the food table the whole time while the outgoing people get prime recliner and couch positions, or you're squeezed in between people getting pummeled...and not in the good way.
  • Superbowl parties are really bad for food choices. Some people embrace it like they do Thanksgiving Day--hey, it's only one day a year! But for people who spend the majority of time on their ass, this isn't a selling point.
  • Day drinking makes it pretty impossible to write later that night, no matter how much coffee you drink when you get home. Trust me, I've tried.
  • You retain control of the remote. So if you want to fast forward, mute or rewind, it's all yours, baby.
  • Live tweeting your opinions on crazy stuff that happens or opinions on the commercials makes you engaged rather than antisocial.
  • You can work on your WIP in between plays. Multi-tasking at its finest. No one except a bookie can get away with being glued to a laptop during real life Superbowl parties.
And last but not least:
  • The variety of photo coverage on social media is much more to your taste than on the television:


Or worse, THIS:

Whatever you end up doing today, have a great time. And if you're at loose ends, I'll be partying on my laptop with TA Chase. Message us! :)