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Friday, December 20, 2013

Thank you

As you might know, I donate 100% of the royalties from my Ennek series (Stasis, Flux, and Equipoise) to Doctors Without Borders. This organization does amazing work around the globe. Because of your support, this year--for the third year in a row--I was able to donate several thousand dollars. I hope you enjoyed the books, and I think we've really helped make a difference.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Newsy update

I sometimes get envious of my writing self, who gets to spend her days (and nights) traveling and writing. My other self has to deal with things like chauffeuring offspring, calling AAA when her battery unexpectedly dies, going to meetings, and grading these:

But now the battery is replaced, the meetings are suspended until January, the offspring are about to be on vacation, and the towering pile of papers and exams has been conquered. Hooray!

So I thought it was time for a blog update. Here's what's new.

My holiday short story, Alaska, is now available from Dreamspinner, Amazon, ARe, and other online booksellers. It's a bittersweet tale, a bit of a balance perhaps to all the holiday sugar.

And it looks like today it's on sale at Dreamspinner. While you're picking up sale books, Brute, Housekeeping, The Tin Box, and Speechless are also discounted.

And speaking of Brute, I am overwhelmed and delighted to announce that it won the Rainbow Book Award in the fantasy category--quite an accomplishment when you see the other contenders! It also tied for fourth in the Gay Novel category. This book has a special place in my heart, and I'm so pleased for Brute to get some love.

Also, Shobana Appavu's gorgeous work for Venetian Masks tied for fourth in the Illustrated Cover category. Well-deserved, I think.

I have several new things in the works. In February or so, my next novel will release. It's a fantasy called Pilgrimage. Here's the blurb:

Fiscal analyst Mike Carlson is good with spreadsheets and baseball stats. He doesn’t believe in fate, true love, or fantasy. But then a fertility goddess whisks him away to another world. A promise has been broken, and if Mike is ever to return to California—and his comfortable if lonely life—he must complete a pilgrimage to the shrines of a death goddess.
A humiliating event convinces Mike to hire a guard to accompany him, and hunky Goran is handy enough with a sword, if a little too liberal with his ale. A man with no home and no family, Goran is deeper than he first appears. As Mike learns more about Goran, his disbelief wavers and his goals become less clear. Contending with feuding gods, the challenges of the journey, and his growing attraction to Goran, Mikes faces a puzzle far harder to solve than simple rows of numbers.

Then in April, I'll have a novella in a fantastic anthology called Stitches. The other authors are Sue Brown, Eli Easton, and Jamie Fessenden, and I so enjoyed their stories! The stories all have themes of artificially created men, and it's the first in a whole series--Gothika--with gothic themes. My story is called The Golem of Mala Lubovnya. Set in seventeenth century Eastern Europe, it's a take on the traditional golem tales.

Finally, I recently submitted another novel. This one is an urban fantasy or paranormal story set mostly along the old Route 66 and in Las Vegas. It has a bit of a noir feel to it and features a ghost and a man for whom good luck just isn't enough. I'll keep you updated on it.

Between my busy schedule when I was in Europe and finals when I returned, I haven't had time to write anything new for a while. My muse is furious with me, and she and I are both very excited to get back to work!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Back in the USA

I'm back home in California. It's good to see my family again, but already I'm missing Croatia. Today I'll be discussing a couple Croatian quirks. But first, my new holiday release is out.

Best friends Scott and Marco meet on a rooftop on Christmas Eve, each temporarily escaping from his difficult home life. With no gift to share, Marco instead promises to someday rescue Scott and take him to Alaska. As the years pass, they meet—first by design, then by chance—on occasional Christmas Eves, only to find life growing increasingly difficult. They treasure the few moments they have together, but will they ever reach Alaska?
Alaska is grittier than the average holiday tale, I think. But sometimes we need something to balance out the holiday sweetness a little. You can buy it here.

Now, Croatians.

You know already that I love Croatia and consider Zagreb my second home. But like every culture, this one has a few more challenging aspects. Croatians hate to wait. Sometimes this is alarming--I've seen them put life in jeopardy again and again to dart across traffic to catch a tram. Even though there will be another tram within minutes. Sometimes it's annoying; getting off those trams can be difficult when people are clustered around every door, already trying to press their way inside. Sometimes it can be funny. A few weeks ago I was standing in line at a drugstore on a busy Saturday morning. I saw a woman in her 60s shamelessly cut in line in front of the lady in front of me--who was a nun. I'm not Catholic, but isn't there some special penance you have to pay for that?

Croatian impatience perhaps achieves art form when cultural performances end and everyone rushes at once to retrieve coats from the coat check. There's not the remotest semblance of a line. Everyone sort of pushes and worms their way forward, claim tags held in front of them, trying to reach the harried young women who work behind the counter. And when you finally get your coat, good luck leaving because nobody will move out of your way. It's this strange, silent melee. I found it pretty amusing, actually, but it would probably cause apoplexy in a Brit.

Now, there is one notable exception to Croatian impatience, and that involves drinking coffee. I've been to cities with famous café cultures, such as Vienna and Paris. But believe me, none of them hold a candle to Croatia. Croatia surely has more cafes per capita than anywhere on earth. Some serve food or desserts, but many just serve drinks. This is where you meet friends or business associates, and you sit there nursing your drink for as long as you want, chatting and people-watching. There's a charming Croatian phrase: you can invite someone for "Čaša razgovora"--for a cup of conversation.

I'm thankful that Americans are fairly obedient at queueing, but I'd sure love to adopt Croatian café culture!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Anne Barwell on Kiwi slang!

Kiwi Slang

Thanks, Kim, for hosting me today J


The first thing that struck me when I started thinking about what to write for this post, was that, as a Kiwi (which is how we New Zealander's refer to ourselves), most of the slang I use is what I speak every day. So how do I figure out what is unique to this country?  A lot of the sayings/phrases we use are British, although I've noticed there are a few more Americanisms sneaking it now we're exposed a lot more to US movies and TV shows. 


So I figured the way to go was to a) go for the obvious stuff and b)take a look online and google 'Kiwi slang' and see what turns up. Hmm, some of these I knew and some I didn't realise were 'Kiwi slang.'...  And there are phrases in use now that weren't when I was growing up. But that's language for you, it changes over time. That's what makes the study of older forms of English, and its varying dialects so interesting. Yes, I do have an English Lit degree, why do you ask?


One of the most common phrases here is 'sweet as'.  Or 'cold as' or 'insert appropriate word here as'. It basically mean there's no comparison so why waste time giving one.  When I use it online the response I usually get is 'as what?' as though I've missed a word. I haven't.


Another word which is a fairly recent addition to the Kiwi slang dictionary is 'munted'.  It means broken, and badly at that, and came into regular use after the Christchurch earthquakes. 'Nuff said.


Other words and phrases in fairly common use are: 'togs' (swimsuit), 'arvo' (afternoon), 'fortnight' (two weeks), 'take the piss' (make fun of – although I suspect that's Brit), 'tiki tour' (take the long way around, scenic tour), 'rellies' (relatives or family/whānau), 'flag it' (forget about it, which I found when I used it the other day is the opposite to what it means in the US). That's just to name but a few.


But of course differences in slang is just the tip of the iceberg where culture shock is concerned as Ben (in my upcoming release Shades of Sepia, the first book in The Sleepless City series, which is a joint project with Elizabeth Noble) discovers upon arriving in the US for his OE. So I'll finish this post with an excerpt from the beginning of the story which illustrates just that....



A serial killer stalks the streets of Flint, Ohio. The victims are always found in pairs, one human and one vampire.

Simon Hawthorne has been a vampire for nearly a hundred years, and he has never seen anything like it. Neither have the other supernaturals he works with to keep the streets safe for both their kind and the humans.

One meeting with Simon finds Ben Leyton falling for a man he knows is keeping secrets, but he can't ignore the growing attraction between them. A recent arrival in Flint, Ben finds it very different from his native New Zealand, but something about Simon makes Ben feel as though he's found a new home.

After a close friend falls victim to the killer, Simon is torn between revealing his true nature to Ben, and walking away to avoid the reaction he fears. But with the body count rising and the murders becoming more frequent, either, or both of them, could be the killer's next target.


“Ben? You there?”


“Yeah, just give me a minute, will you?” Ben Leyton called over his shoulder in the general direction of his laptop. He finished pouring the milk into his tea and took the time to peer out the window for a moment. The street below was quiet and dark apart from the soft glow of the streetlight in front of the bookshop.


“So, how’s it going?” Ange Duncan grinned at him from the computer screen. She’d always been one of his constants, a close friend with whom he could talk stuff through. They’d met at university, and something had clicked between them. “Not keeping you from your beauty sleep, I hope?”


“Nah, it’s fine. You know I’m a night owl.” Ben took a sip of his tea. Despite the time difference between the States and New Zealand, he and Ange had managed to keep up their regular Skype chats. During the six weeks he’d been in Flint, they’d tried different times before settling on late evening for him, which worked out to be late afternoon for her. They both had flexible schedules which tended to shift a bit, so some weeks they caught up more than others.


“How’s work going?”


“Fine.” Ben rolled his eyes. “Well, fine apart from Melanie. I swear I don’t know how that woman got a job working in a café. Her social skills are zilch. Apparently one of the customers complained last week and the boss had a word with her. She was over the top friendly for a couple of days before she started to revert.”


Ange laughed, her gray eyes twinkling. “I think most work places have a Melanie, Ben, although so far we’ve been lucky.” Ange worked at a community library part time and was studying for her PhD in Anthropology at Victoria University in Wellington. “But mostly it’s okay, yeah?”


“Yeah. It’s sweet as.”


“Apart from everyone asking you sweet as what?” Ange had been amused when she’d heard about that one. The first time he’d used the phrase he’d had to explain it. Who would have thought there was such a difference between their two cultures? It was the little things that still tripped him up on occasion, although he was getting there slowly.


“I’ve got some of the locals using it now.” Ben grinned. “Once I told them the point of it was that there was no comparison, they thought it was pretty awesome, especially when I pointed out there were variations on it too.” He sighed ruefully. “I suppose it makes up for all the stuff I’ve had to learn. I had no idea serving coffee could be so complicated.” He’d referred to coffee with creamer his first day on the job as a flat white. The woman had looked at him blankly and asked why he was talking about house paint. In hindsight he should probably be thankful he hadn’t handed her the coffee and called it a straight black.


Ange pulled a face. “I don’t blame you for taking your coffee black. The very idea of creamer, or cream for that matter….” She shuddered.


“I’m told it tastes good, but I can’t get my head around it,” Ben agreed. Although he could ask for milk if he wanted, he didn’t see the point in making a fuss.


“Hey, I got those photos you sent. I’ll print them out later in the week and go see your granddad, see if it’s the right place.”


“Thanks.” Although many people traveled around a lot during their overseas experience—usually referred to as an OE—Ben had decided to settle in one place for a while and then go from there. Flint, a smallish city by Lake Erie in Ohio, seemed a good place, especially as his granddad had visited there years ago, and spoke highly of it. “It looks the same to me, but it’s hard to tell, as the trees would have grown quite a bit since the fifties. Granddad never mentioned the plaque on the park bench, so I included a close-up of it. I reckon that will help.”


When Ben had first become interested in photography, his grandfather had encouraged it, and loaned him his old camera with which to practice his skills. Before he’d left for Flint, the old man had given him a copy of a black and white photograph taken in a park there. The use of light and shadows in it had fascinated Ben, and since his arrival he’d spent a lot of time taking his own photos of that same park, playing around with different settings and effects. Spending time there also reminded him of his grandfather, to whom he’d always been close. Ben hadn’t expected the homesickness to hit him this hard. Knowing he was somewhere his grandfather had once been helped in a weird sort of way. Sometimes he closed his eyes and just listened to the wind, pretending he was still home in New Zealand.


About a week ago, he’d reopened his eyes to catch a glimpse of someone watching him. He’d blinked, not sure whether he’d imagined it or not, but when he’d looked again the guy was gone.





Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand.  She shares her home with two cats who are convinced that the house is run to suit them; this is an ongoing "discussion," and to date it appears as though the cats may be winning.

In 2008 she completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra.

She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as "too many." These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of "spare time" is really just a myth.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Jana Danardo on Fishkill

When Kim first suggested this blog idea, I was very excited. I’ve lived a lot of places, but we settled on the delightful, evocatively named Fishkill, NY for me to talk about. It’s been some time since I lived there. I was a different person then, on a rigorous, almost killer, career track from which I’ve since diverged. I was young, in my twenties, but what made me so interested in this little Hudson Valley River town hasn’t changed in the intervening years: History. At no point in my life have I not loved history, and Fishkill swims in it, pun intended.


The first thing upon arrival I had to find out why it was named Fishkill, since it couldn’t mean what PETA assumed it meant (seriously, they petitioned to make the town change its name to something animal friendly). ‘Kil’ is actually Dutch for stream or creek, and you’ll find many New York towns with ‘kill’ in them. Growing up in Pittsburgh with its heavy Italian and Polish influences, I knew little more about the Dutch settlers other than they were some of the first people to immigrate to America.


At the time, I had learned very little about the Dutch beyond the fact they had gotten the land that Fishkill occupied from the Wappinger Indians, and found out even less about the Wappingers. However, the Dutch left their fingerprints all over this part of New York, including what became for me the touchstone of the town: The First Reformed (Dutch) Church.


Not only was the architecture alluring, it had a cemetery that was, for this country, very old. Many of the gravestones were in Dutch and had wonderful artwork on them, remarkably well-preserved in the sandstone. 
 I was fascinated by the stones and wanted to know more about the people they represented. I was a little surprised to learn the townspeople originally sent back to Amsterdam to find Dutch-speaking priests since in the early 1700s this was not an easy task.


But as I learned, the church had a far more interesting and dark history. All of Fishkill was very active in the Revolutionary War, becoming part of the largest Colonial encampment and the base of Alexander Hamilton. One can touch the history of the revolution all around Fishkill. The Van Wyck Homestead was part of the Fishkill Supply Depot, feeding thousands of militia men. In the 1970’s, when much of the land became a mall, they unearthed tons of artifacts from the era, though the unmarked graves of the men who died of smallpox have not been found. Mount Gulian, Gulian ver Planck’s home became General von Steuben’s residence, and he went on to become famous for being the man who truly shaped the Colonials into a fighting force.


However, as interesting as those sites are, it was the First Reformed (Dutch) church that held my interest. The unassuming church became a site of meetings for the military officers and then became a prison for British prisoners.
 Imagine what these walls would say if they spoke. All the fear and pain they had to have witnessed. I couldn’t keep the image of imprisoned soldiers out of my mind. Even learning that the church later became the seat of New York’s Provincial Congress after the British drove them out of New York City and White Plains didn’t displace the thoughts about the prisoners.

I wanted more than anything to get inside that church. Bringing up the history to the locals was met with hostility. I suppose no one wants to remember their dark side, but it was that side that fascinated me. I never did get to go inside. Oh, it’s an active church to this day, but at that time, they still worked medical residents on long shifts, 36 hours on not being uncommon, so if I was off on a Sunday morning, I either slept or did all the things that needed doing. That’s the difference between me then and me now. Today, I would have found a way inside. I would have tried to cajole my way into the area the prisoners were held because I simply had to see it.


I may go back someday. I do go back in my imagination. I just traveled back to this area in an upcoming steampunk novella, and yes the main character is Dutch. Fishkill is a picturesque little town and fun for the history buff. You might be seeing it in my stories sometime soon, if only to ponder why there is a tombstone for a Gray alien in the First Reformed Dutch church’s cemetery.  Thanks to Kim for having me on her blog today.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Sunday afternoon walk in Zagreb

I've returned from Bosnia for my final week in Croatia. It's been pretty wet here and I have a ton of work to do. But when the sun snuck out for a short time this afternoon, I couldn't resist a stroll.
I love the way the light was hitting this church. You can see a fancier church behind it.

There are a couple things I like about this shot. First, you can see that Croatians have a tendency to stick vineyards anywhere they can. I've been told it's how you show off here. Instead of a fancy car, you have a vineyard and homemade wine. This vineyard is right in the middle of Croatia's biggest city.
You can also see some history here, if you know what to look for. In medieval times, Zagreb was two towns--Gradec and Kaptol--each atop a hill, with a river between them. They often squabbled. Eventually they were united and the river, which was polluted, was covered by a street. The house on the left was once at the edge of Gradec. The house on the right is on Tkalciceva, the street that covered the river.

Today there were firemen on Tkalciceva. I don't know what they were doing--something on the back of that roof. But quite a few of us stopped to watch and snap photos. Sunday afternoons are sleepy times in Zagreb, and good for small entertainments like this.

This is my building at the bottom of Tkalciceva. Yes, it's really curved. Makes for an interesting shaped apartment. Notice that I can buy shoes without even leaving the building (there are 2 more shoe stores around the corner, also in my building).

But these were at the shoe store across the street. They're in men's sizes. Do you know any men who would wear sparkly teddy bear sneakers (in gold or silver)? I kind of like the ones with the wings, though.

My building also houses something called The World of Fungi. I have not visited it.

People here love food stands and will grab any opportunity to have them. Christmas has provided them with an ample opportunity, even if it's over a month away. There are booths all over the center of the city, including these colorful ones near the funicular. One of the booths was selling "American style hot dogs." That tower to the right of the funicular top is called Thieves Tower. It was part of the city wall of Gradec. Nowdays, there's a cannon at the top, which is fired at noon every day.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Lost my heart

This is Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia & Herzegovina. I've spent a lot of time in Croatia, but this week was my first visit to Bosnia (unless you count 10 minutes along the Dalmatian coastline). Bosnia has stolen my heart and broken it.
It's a beautiful place. You can tell that from the photo above. And it's exotic too. For many centuries, it's been a place where many cultures came together. Although the locals were mostly Slavs, many converted to Islam after the Ottoman Empire conquered the land. Today, slightly less than half of Bosnians are Muslim, and there is definitely an Eastern flavor to the place. Here's a shot of the old town, which dates to the 16th century or so.
There are also large numbers of Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, and Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews have been living there for centuries too. You can hear muezzins and church bells, can peer out a synagogue's windows to see minarets and cathedrals. And you can also see plenty of buildings left over from the Austro-Hungarian and communist Yugoslavia years. It's fascinating.

The people I met in Bosnia were lovely and wonderfully quirky. In the photo above, two teams of men are playing giant chess. My guide said sometimes people bet on the matches. In Sarajevo, you can drink coffee at Club Bill Gates:

Or eat at Kenttucky (sic) Fried Chicken.
The countryside is beautiful too--steep mountains with limestone cliffs, winding rivers, villages with tall haystacks and roadside stands selling honey, cabbages, and oranges. And two hours from Sarajevo is Mostar.

 Stunningly beautiful, isn't it?

Food in Bosnia is cheap. I had espresso and a slice of delicious cake for a little over $2. I had a huge plate of burek and a can of Coke for about $3.

People speak a lot of English, and are patient with my pidgin Croatian (which becomes pidgin Bosnian there, because the two languages are almost identical). The locals have a wonderfully dark sense of humor. They smoke too much and drive like they're insane. They drink Bosnian coffee with Turkish delight or baklava. They seemed delighted to show off their country to me.

But then there's the heartbreak part. See that beautiful, famous bridge in Mostar? It was destroyed during the war and had to be rebuilt. Damaged and destroyed buildings are still everywhere in Bosnia. In Sarajevo and Mostar you can't go outside without seeing signs of the war on buildings and sidewalks.

That's an apartment building. You can see where a shell hit it and where the shrapnel sprayed. The only buildings without signs of damage are those built after the war or repaired. Everything else is marked. Sidewalks still have holes. The ones painted red are called Sarajevo Roses--they designate places where people died.

And the people are marked too, although they aren't the least bit bleak. You can see some of what I mean in the top photo I posted, where rows of gravestones in the foreground all date from 1992-1995. That cemetery was once a park. But Sarajevans couldn't leave the besieged city to bury their dead, so they buried them wherever they could.

One of my guides lost his father, stepbrother, grandmother, and all his possessions during the war. The other spent a long time trapped--with 60,000 other people--between two different enemy armies, unable to get food or medical care, watching her hometown being destroyed.

Bosnians like to quote Churchill, who said the Balkans generates more history than it can consume. That breaks my heart. That Bosnians can survive all this with courage, good humor, and graciousness is why my heart's stolen as well.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Grocery shopping

Did you get your free copy of Equipoise? Today's the last day.
Today I want to discuss grocery shopping. Yawn, right? Except if you're doing it in another country--a country where you don't speak the language--it becomes an adventure!
I lived here before (for 5 months last time), so I did learn a lot of food words. For example, kruh is bread. Plus, of course, bread is pretty recognizable in the store. Except I generally have little idea which specific kind of bread I'm buying. Like this, for example:
I think that first word means something like mixture, but I'm not sure. It was tasty in any case.
Sometimes I like to buy ajvar, a  relish made from roasted peppers and eggplant. It's yummy stuff. But it also comes in a zillion varieties (some of which are quite hot), and I'm never sure which to choose. I usually grab one at random.
Even when I know the words on the package, I may remain uninformed. Like with this:

Med means honey, and cvjetni means flowers. Not too informative, really. Sometimes the packaging language I don't understand isn't even Croatian. They get lot of products here from Austria, so:
Okay, I do happen to know that johannisbeere means blackcurrant. And I can recognize the word in Croatian, too: crni ribiz. But sometimes I am clueless:
Is it liquid detergent or fabric softener? I don't understand German, and the helpful Croatian sticker doesn't really help me much either.

It's fabric softener, by the way. Sometimes I'm confused even when there are no words at all, such as this control on my microwave:
I have no idea what the hell those symbols mean. Where should I turn the dial to nuke potatoes or warm leftovers? I dunno. And then sometimes the package is in English, which takes all the fun out of everything:
My soup even has preparation instructions in English, which is no fun at all.
Another challenge is when familiar items are packaged in ways I've never seen before. Like this:

Actually, mayo in a squeeze bag is a great idea. I've just never seen it that way in the US. And here is how one purchases toothpicks:
I know an American who bought some yogurt here. But when she opened it, she discovered it was actually sour cream. You can understand her confusion:
 Yeah, that's sour cream on the right. Fortunately, that's a word I do know.

Some packaging is just mystifying:

Why is it important to advertise that the peas are sterilized? And you know what else? Grasak means peas and grah means beans. So which is it? Aha--this is a sneaky one. Grah means beans in Croatian but it means peas in Slovenian. Yes, this is a bilingual package again, but one that might confuse someone (like me) who speaks little Croatian and no Slovenian.

One really fun thing is discovering products we don't have at home. Like this flavor of Colgate:

Why can't we get this in the US? I love this flavor of toothpaste. We also can't get this  candy:
The name makes me laugh, because it's pronounced "choke-sah." Not the best name for a food product, is it? And bum-bum? Snort. Yes, it is actually pronounced "boom-boom" here. This chocolate has Pop Rocks in it.
Finally, look what caraway seeds are called in Croatian!

 Tomorrow I'm off on a side trip to BiH--Bosnia & Herzegovina. I'll have pics of Sarajevo and Mostar to share when I get back to Zagreb.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Tinnean's Early Bird Special!

I’d like to thank Kim for allowing me to talk about a quaint little custom you’ll find down here in Florida known as “early bird specials.”
I’m a native New Yorker, and of course I’d heard the term “early bird special” before moving to Florida.  The thing is, up in NY, it meant department store sales. Or, y’know, mattress sales.
After I moved to Florida... Well, let me just say I was in for a treat. Or an experience, however you choose to view it.
Early bird specials down here refer to dining, and can start anywhere from 2 or 3 p.m. and run until about 5 or 5:30 or sometimes even 6, depending on the restaurant. The major bonus is that the meals are a good deal less expensive than during the usual hours.
As you may (or may not) know, Florida is also referred to as God’s waiting room, due to all the senior citizens who retire to the Sunshine State, and if there’s one thing they like, it’s a bargain.
Within the time frame I mentioned, you’ll find diners strolling in. (or rushing in, in order to make sure they get a table and their order is placed on time, otherwise they’re just out of luck.) After being seated, usually by their favorite waitress, they get a menu with specific meals listed on it. (Let’s face it: as good as the choices are, you’re not going to get a lobster dinner for $9.99.)
Generally the meals will consist of a soup or salad, entrée, potato, and veggie. One place I patronize includes dessert, and needless to say, I visit them frequently. They can be sneaky though, slipping in the caveat that you have to order a beverage as well, and you need to be prepared for that.
However, you still get a great deal.
So… if you come down to Florida, this is what you need to know if you plan on taking advantage of the early bird specials: you don’t have to be a senior citizen—that’s what senior citizen menus are for—but you do have to get there in plenty of time. These places don’t have benches outside just for curb appeal.


The Light in Your Eyes (Pick Up the Pieces) is the story of Theo Bascopolis, a Greek boy who lived in Tarpon Springs, Florida. He was a good boy, until the day a few weeks after his fifteenth birthday, when his father discovered he was gay and threw him out. A chance meeting with an older man resulted in Theo, renamed Sweetcheeks, becoming a rent boy.  Eventually, years later, he left the business because someone loved him enough to ask him to stop. However, when his lover had to go out of town again, and failed to keep in touch—again—Theo started to worry that it was the beginning of the end.
(And although I didn’t mention it in the story, there’s a good possibility that Franky, the older man, took Sweetcheeks to a local diner that offered early bird specials.)


As much as the Greek girls of our community in Tarpon Springs had their lives mapped out, so had the boys.

Once I grew up, I’d become a fisherman as my father was. Eventually I’d marry a nice Greek girl, and we’d give our fathers a new grandson or granddaughter every year.

That was the way it was supposed to be, only….

When I was fifteen years old, my father threw me out for being gay.

I knew what my father thought of homosexuals, had heard him and his friends, the fishermen down at the docks, sneer and tell coarse jokes about them.
But he was my father. He was supposed to love me, just as I loved him.

Instead, and as I probably should have expected, he shouted, “Theo Bascopolis, you stop being gay right now, or else you get the fuck out of my house!”

Ma cried and wrung her hands, and my little sister threw herself at me and held on, but Poppa just stood there with his hands clenched into fists, his face set.

I had no choice. I couldn’t obey the one, so I obeyed the other, and I got the fuck out of his house.

Since that time, I’d been a rent boy.

But it didn’t start out that way.

Chapter 1
It was getting late, and it was starting to drizzle, unusual since this was the dry season in Florida.

Was this God’s way of punishing me for being gay?

I sat on a park bench trying not to cry.

 “Whatsa matter, kid?”

 Before me stood a man. The rain didn’t seem to bother him. He must have been about twice my age, but he was wearing jeans and a white tee-shirt and Reeboks. He had a tattoo of coiled barbed wire around his upper arm and numerous piercings—along the cartilage of his right ear, along his eyebrow. Through the dampness of his tee, his nipples were prominent. The one above his heart bore a ring.

He looked so sexy that in spite of my predicament, I felt my dick hardening.

I shouldn’t have said anything, he was a stranger, but he also looked so sympathetic that I found myself pouring out the story of my plight.

“And… and then Poppa told me to get out.” I sniffed hard.

“That’s tough. You’re a sweet-looking kid. What’s your name?”

I glanced away, reluctant to tell him in case he was a social worker or something and was going to take me in to the cops, who’d put me into some kind of juvenile home after they called my father and found out he didn’t want me anymore.

He laughed softly. “Well, I’ll call you Sweetcheeks. My name is Franky. How old are you?”

My birthday had been a few weeks before. “I’m fifteen.” I bit my lip. I hadn’t even thought of lying to him. 

“Yeah?” His eyes were hot as they ran over my body. “Sweet fifteen.” I blushed. “You’re getting wet. Why don’t you come with me, Sweetcheeks? I’m pretty sure I’ve got some leftovers in the fridge, and I’ve got a bed you can use.”

“Sure.” There was a tingling sensation in my groin, and my asshole clenched. I wouldn’t mind sleeping with him, if that was what he wanted in exchange for a place to stay. I’d fooled around with some boys in the men’s room at the multiplex, and I’d liked it, but I’d never done much beyond mutual hand jobs.

We had to walk a bit to catch the trolley that would take us to where he lived. “Cabs won’t go there,” he said, his smile apologetic.

I guessed it was a good thing that Poppa that thrown me out on a Friday, when the trolley ran until midnight.

The trolley driver gave us a bored look. Franky showed the driver his pass and gave him the fare for me without even asking if I had the money, which was a good thing, because I’d used my last couple of dollars at McDonalds.

I walked ahead of him to the back of the trolley.

 "Hey! You're a redhead! I just noticed! It was too dark to tell before we got on the trolley, and I guess your hair was too wet.” Franky tipped his head to one side. “Are you a natural redhead?”

 “Excuse me?” Was he flirting with me? I liked the thought that he was.

 “Are you a redhead… all over?”

 I realized he meant the hair that covered my groin, and I blushed and nodded. I got the deep mahogany coloring from Ma's side of the family. There was at least one redhead in each generation. I would have preferred to have brown hair like Poppa, but my sister Casey got that.

"Cool.” He winked at me.

I opened my mouth to tell him about Greeks having red hair—not many people knew that—but he started talking.

I sat beside him and listened while he talked about the cities he’d lived in: New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles—the exciting, glitzy cities that I’d read about and wanted to see myself but knew I never would. There was little chance I would ever get out of Tarpon Springs.
This book will be available in February/March of 2014.



Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Housekeeping is here! Plus a free book!

Today's the release date for my newest novella, Housekeeping.

 That gorgeous American Gothic-inspired cover is by the amazing Paul Richmond. Here's the blurb:

When Nicky Hauser walks in on his restaurant-owner boyfriend having sex with a waiter, Nicky loses his lover, his job, and his home all in one night. Although he’s nearly thirty, he’s never settled on a true career, and he has nothing to show for his years with Tom. Depressed and unable to find work, Nicky ends up couch-surfing with friends until he lands a house-sitting gig for a wealthy family.

When Nicky’s clients discover that he loves to clean, demand for his services skyrockets. Word of mouth leads him to Spencer Cartwright, a busy computer consultant and a slob. Spencer and his wife divorced when he came out, but he’s never found the time or courage to settle down with a man. As Nicky sets Spencer’s house to rights, the two men find friendship. But Nicky’s past experiences make him wary of risking everything on love.

We needed something a little light after The Tin Box, I think. Housekeeping is light, but it has a sweetness and heart to it that I hope you enjoy. In addition to the main characters, I had special fun with some of the supporting characters in this one.

You can order Housekeeping through Dreamspinner Press, or through Amazon, All Romance Ebooks, or other booksellers.

To celebrate the new release, my book Equipoise is free in Kindle format, today through November 16! Yes, Equipoise is the third in a trilogy, so you'll probably want to buy the first two. But Stasis is only 99 cents and Flux is just $4.99. Plus I donate all my royalties from this trilogy to Doctors Without Borders, so you'll be helping a good cause. Oh, and Stasis is also available in an audio version! Audio version of the other two books are in production.

And here's a little snippet from Housekeeping:

Evan blew him a kiss and fluttered his eyelashes, then stole a piece of Balvir’s cookie. “Calories don’t count if you eat off someone else’s plate,” he said.
Deciding that a change of topic was in order, Nicky leaned back in his chair. “Didn’t you guys go see a play last weekend?”
That set his friends on a long and involved critique of the actors, the plot, the dialogue, and the costumes. Nicky smiled and listened but kept his gaze on the handsome guy, who was typing furiously. Evan was in the middle of an impassioned diatribe against the set designer’s entire family tree when the guy knocked his arm into his cup, sloshing coffee across his sleeve. “Fuck!” he yelled, startling the gaggle of teenagers at a nearby table. Then he simply stared at his arm, looking as if he might cry.
Nicky was out of his seat before he could stop himself. He grabbed a wad of paper napkins from the dispenser on the guy’s table and started blotting at his sleeve. “You didn’t burn yourself, did you?” Nicky asked.
“Uh… no. It cooled off already.”
“Well, that’s good.” Nicky looked critically at the brown blotch marring the blue fabric. “You might be able to save the shirt, though. Get it home right away and drown it in Shout.”
“Stain remover.”
The man shook his head with bemusement. “I don’t have any.”
How could you not own stain remover? Nicky sighed. “Then try this. Soak it in warm water with a little dish soap. You do have dish soap, right? And then sponge on a little rubbing alcohol. That might do the trick.”
“I think… I think I’ll just throw it away.”
Nicky shrugged. The shirt had probably cost a hundred bucks, but that wasn’t his problem. “Okay.” He was still clutching the wad of napkins and he knew he should walk away, but those green eyes had him pinned in place. And those eyelashes couldn’t be real, could they? Nobody had eyelashes that long and thick.
“I have a meeting in forty-five minutes,” said the man, looking like a lost child. “An important one.”
“Well, that stain’s going to show, even if you wear your jacket. See? It’s all the way to the edge of your cuff.” Nicky set his finger on the fabric in question and pretended not to notice how big and strong the guy’s hand was. Nicky was definitely not thinking about what that hand would feel like on his bare skin.
“Oh… crap.” The phrase came out sounding so lost and overwhelmed that Nicky’s lust was replaced by pity.
“Look. There’s a Kohl’s a couple blocks from here. Just turn left out of the parking lot. They’re not going to carry any shirts as nice as this one, but I bet you can zoom over, pick up a plain white button-down, and make it to your meeting in plenty of time.”
The guy smiled at him. One of his front teeth was the slightest bit crooked, which somehow made him even better-looking. “Thanks, man. Are you some kind of guardian angel?”
Nicky grinned back. “If I were, I’d have saved you before you spilled. Um, and when you’re at the store? You might want to pick up a pair of socks too. Yours don’t match.”
The man grunted and looked down at his ankles. “They don’t?”
“One’s navy and one’s hunter green.”
“I’m color-blind.
“Find an employee at the store. Have them pick out a pair of black socks for you.”
“Thanks. I… I better go.”
Nicky stepped back and watched as the man closed his laptop and folded his jacket over an arm. The guy held out his stained arm so Nicky could shake his hand. “Thanks again. Really.” He had a firm grip.
Nicky wanted to straighten his tie, but there didn’t seem to be much point since the guy would be changing clothes anyway. “Good luck with the meeting.”
He watched as the man walked away.