The Writer’s Life Vs. The Real Life

a-map-of-a-writers-mind

By A.J. Llewellyn

With the social whirl that makes up the end of the year it’s come to my attention that I am a bit schizophrenic. I think all writers are. It’s not a new observation perhaps, but it’s a valid one, especially around the holidays.

I love my friends and family, but I have so many books in various stages of completion/edits/promo that I veer between my imaginary world and the real one, and oh yes, I do most often prefer the fantasy one!

In my books, my gay couples rarely cheat. The men love each other and communicate easily. The forgive each other, have romantic dinners, and manage to overcome the various crises of all those around them. They even manage to have sex, even when they have children in their lives!

The reality for many gay men is nothing like my books. I was made painfully aware of this over a pre-Christmas dinner with friends last night at a gay couple’s home. I mention they’re gay because it is pertinent. I am in the middle of doing rewrites for a book originally published several years ago. The couple in question inspired it. I trooped to their home and should have known it was a bad sign when I dropped the wine bottle on their doorstep and it broke,

They were lovely about it, but there was tension in the house as we all chatted and waited for dinner. The house stands on Mulholland Drive, overlooking Los Angeles. As usual, I began plotting a book set right in this home and imagined a sex scene taking place in front of the log fire. Oh, I could see it all. Every body movement, every kiss, hand gesture, you name it. I ran off to the bathroom to jot it all down in a notebook and returned to find a scene of total disaster.

The two men were arguing over the electricity being shut off earlier in the day for nonpayment. Though it came back on, their temperamental oven refused to work and the turkey and ham were sill raw inside it. They were upset with each other’s in-laws, with social services for deeming their home inappropriate for child adoption – it went on and on. We ended up ordering Chinese food and laughing about life, but of course, being a writer, all these negative things only enhanced the scene I planned to write.

In my mind – and in my story – once the guests had gone, the happy couple would kiss and make up by the dying embers of the fire. I suspect it’s not what really happened, but I don’t want to know. I believe in true love. I believe that it conquers all. And I believe in happy endings.

I like to think there is a place for love and magic in the real world. At this time of year and every other season. I wish you a holiday time of love, and joy, and yes, I wish you the belief in all things possible. I wish you a year of all good things.

Merry Christmas,

Love, AJ

Night Hag is OUT NOW!

NightHag

 

Night Hag and the funny, feisty tales that make up the Amber PAX Heavy Petting 2 collection of books, is OUT NOW!

Buy one, or buy them all! Here is the link to ALL the books: http://www.amberquill.com/store/p/2073-AmberPax-Heavy-Petting-2.aspx

Featuring my story, Night Hag, and other tales of wonder from the totally awesome J.D. Walker, T.A. Chase, K.M. Mahoney and Heidi Champa, this collection is a follow-up to the original Heavy Petting collection.

Here’s a taste of what you can look forward to!

From the Rubble by T.A. Chase

Purchase Link:http://www.amberquill.com/store/p/2069-From-The-Rubble.aspx

Synopsis:

Ever since watching a search and rescue team find his lost sister, Keaton Goodwin has worked and trained to become a SAR handler. He raises the perfect dogs to work with him, and he loves his job. When he’s called to take his dog, Kaiser, to Bogata, Colombia after a devastating earthquake, Keaton heads out not sure what he’ll find.

And what he doesn’t expect to find is Master Sergeant Nodin Standing Bear.

Nodin’s squad has been sent by the Army to help keep the SAR teams safe during the search and rescue part of the operation. He’s done a lot of this kind of work during his twenty-three years of service, yet there’s something different about Keaton, and Nodin knows a disaster area isn’t the best place to start a relationship.

When Keaton disappears, Nodin has to face how much he really cares about the younger man. Will the emotions they feel amongst the rubble be enough of a foundation to build a future?

Crazy Cat Guy by Heidi Champa

Purchase Link: http://www.amberquill.com/store/p/2068-Crazy-Cat-Guy.aspx

Synopsis:

Jacob Danby loves cats. He makes room in his home and heart for seven of them, all strays and rescues. Unfortunately, his lawyer ex-boyfriend, Owen, didn’t share the same affinity for the pitter-patter of cat paws. When Owen presented Jacob with an ultimatum, the cats or their relationship, Jacob had no choice but to pick his pets.

When Jacob finds out that having so many cats puts him in violation of a town ordinance, he reluctantly turns to Owen for legal help. Can Jacob find a way to trust Owen again, or will his pride cost him more than just his beloved cats?

Learning to Love Cats by K.M. Mahoney

Purchase Link: http://www.amberquill.com/store/p/2070-Learning-To-Love-Cats.aspx

Synopsis:

Mike isn’t much of an animal lover. His sister, however, insists that every little boy needs a pet, which is how he finds himself sitting in a veterinary office, trying to explain the facts of life to his six-year-old nephew while holding a dead hamster in a shoebox. It’s not one of his finer moments. So of course, it’s just his luck that in walks the cute, shy, and utterly lust-worthy Riley Laytham. But Mike has never been one to let an opportunity pass him by, no matter how awkward the situation might be.

Riley isn’t used to guys flirting with him, and he definitely didn’t expect it to happen at the local vet office. In the kennels, no less, surrounded by dogs and cats, and under the close scrutiny of one overly inquisitive little boy. Riley’s first instinct is to make his excuses and run, but Mike is persistent.

Their first date is a disaster. They have nothing in common, and Riley’s cats seem determined to end the budding relationship before it can get started. For some reason, though, Mike isn’t running. Now Riley just has to decide if he can make it work with a guy who staunchly declares that he doesn’t like cats.

Of Paws and Pet Rocks by J.D. Walker

Purchase Link: http://www.amberquill.com/store/p/2072-Of-Paws-And-Pet-Rocks.aspx

Synopsis:

Barry Dunning is a gifted yet lonely pet groomer, fierce animal lover, and the painter of pet rocks, thanks to the lease on his tiny apartment that does not allow for actual pets. He’s been burned badly by an ex-boyfriend who left him with tons of debt, which will take years to pay off, and has built a wall around his wounded heart.

Sheldon Svenson, the handsome owner of the animal shelter where Barry volunteers on weekends, asks him out on a date. Barry—for once taking his sister’s advice—accepts. Dinner starts out well, but when the discussion turns to Barry’s past relationships, he panics and runs away.

Undaunted, Sheldon pursues Barry. But can Sheldon convince the man to risk losing his heart and to give their budding relationship a chance, despite his fears?

Night Hag by A.J. Llewellyn

Purchase Link: http://www.amberquill.com/store/p/2071-Night-Hag.aspx

Synopsis:

The sequel to Amber Allure’s Best Seller Bunyip

In the idyllic seaside town of Half Moon Bay, just outside of San Francisco, Gideon Hunter has just met the man of his dreams in Jory Wyatt. But how can he start something with Jory when Gideon has a monster of a problem? His newly adopted five-year-old daughter has some issues, and Gideon can’t even begin to cope with her little…idiosyncrasies…let alone fall in love. Not only that, but Jory has a few things to deal with himself. Namely his 175-pound dog Renaldo. Unfortunately, Gretchen has become attached to Renaldo, and the big drooling beast seems to have become smitten with her, too.

Jory has waited a long time for somebody as wonderful as Gideon to move to town. But can Gideon be as amazing as he seems? And is it true what their mutual friend Steve Maddox says about Gideon’s cute yet serious daughter? That she’s some kind of actual monster? Steve should know, especially since he has an unusual creature of his own…Norman the bunyip…

Note: Although this story is a sequel to Bunyip, it can be read as a stand-alone story.

The Great Pumpkin Chase

pump

By A.J. Llewellyn

“I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.”

– Henry David Thoreau

‘Tis the season of pumpkins. Lots and lots of pumpkins.

I’m not sure if we’re all yearning for a return to gentler times, or we’re embracing the spirit of the great round thing called The World, but I like it. I’ve been reading a lot about the symbolism of pumpkins and way back when – before we commercialized this time of year – pumpkins were considered a sign of good fortune and abundance. Households had strict rules about keeping only round pumpkins, which represented the world. They would carve their pumpkins for good luck. They would sometimes hollow them out and place candles in them to symbolize lighting the way home.

We’re still observing these rituals and I noticed I’ve been invited to more pumpkin-carving parties this year (for adults) than I have in all the years I’ve lived in Los Angeles.

Shopping at my favorite store Trader Joe’s recently, I became a bit obsessed with the “everything’s pumpkin!” motif. There were pumpkin raviolis, pumpkin bread, pies,soup, breakfast rolls, pumpkin truffles (with sea salt and caramel…mmmm…), pancake mixes, pumpkin muffins, seeds, spiced seeds, pumpkin fudge, ice cream, toaster pastries, and my favorite, pumpkin cheesecake.

Sure it’s seasonal, but it seems to be just huge right now. After this weekend the scary Jack-o-lanterns will be replaced by plain pumpkins and gourds in readiness for Thanksgiving. I love this time of year. I like the chilly mornings and evening, the hot summer days and thinking about how I’ll cook pumpkin for dinner. I was walking my dog today thinking about this blog and it struck me that ever since I heard the story of Cinderella’s coach, which of course. was really a humble pumpkin, I’ve seen them as a symbol of hope, and love. And of course, magic.

I write about all three, so as I started thinking about this blog I realized as much as we’re heading into chaotic waters with the electronic generation, many of us are sticking to tradition and myth. I’ve never liked Halloween because I didn’t grow up with it, but as I yearn for a simpler life, of reconnecting with my own family’s traditions and celebrating cycles and seasons, I will attend those pumpkin-carving parties and I’ll happily participate in Halloween festivities with my niece and nephews.

I want them to have memories of pumpkins, the belief in magic, tradition, and most importantly, love.

As I write this, my niece is in my kitchen making coconut pumpkin cookies from a recipe she found online. I have baked with her since was two years old and I will get in there in a minute and help her demolish them all. We’ve stopped pretending that we’ll save some for our other family members.

She is is so in the moment as one is when young, and she is a powerful reminder to me that some things never change. Anticipating the seasons and the good things to be found in them is like re-reading a treasured book. We want the comfort of the story, for the magic to weave its glow all over us again.

However you celebrate this time of year, I wish you peace, love, freedom, a good book to read.

And a great big pumpkin.

Happy Halloween,

A.J.

Phantom Lover Chronicles Chapter Two FREE BLOG STORY! Comment for a chance to WIN!

PhantomCHRONICLES

Phantom Lover Chronicles

By A.J. Llewellyn

Cover Art: Silver Pixies

Link to Chapter One: http://www.ajllewellyn.com/site/2013/03/18/2039/

 

 

Chapter Two: The Kawatarō

 

Kimo chewed his lip a moment. It had finally sunk in that the ‘E’epa had not only abducted our children, but taken our car, which left us stranded. Kimo could shape-shift and jump from one spot to another thanks to his huna magic, but he wasn’t Superman and couldn’t fly around in the sky hunting for our kids.

“Do you think Snape would be able to fly after them?” he asked. As usual, he was able to read my thoughts. It wasn’t very convenient sometimes, like now. He looked at me, anxiously awaiting a response.

“No. He can’t fly.”

“That’s a relief.” Kimo grinned. “Okay. I have good news for you, and bad news for you. Which do you want first?”

“Gimme the good news.”

“I promise that I’ll have the kids all home in time for dinner.”

“Okay. So what’s the bad news?”

“I have no idea where the heck they are.”

My body swayed involuntarily. I adored my husband, but I’d never been so mad at him. How could he have let this happen? Kimo was in touch with the infinite. The nature spirits and the deities of our islands all communicated with him. This was a bad sign if he had no information, no whispery thoughts or images in his mind.

“I didn’t say I have nothing.” His expression turned wounded. “I keep seeing a river.” He shrugged. “I know it’s not much, but…” He began biting his lip again. His eyes took on the vacant look they did when he was receiving communication. “Oh,” he said, his face looking ashen. He was having a conversation with somebody or something on the other side of the veil.

When this happened, I couldn’t read his mind. He closed his thoughts from me. I wanted to scream at him, but it was my fault, really. I was the one who’d suggested he conjure up some magic. This was a whole lot worse than green ogre ears. My sister. Oh, God. How was I going to explain this to her? She would freak out. She would kill me. Oh, man. I’d kill me too, if I were her.

Kimo turned suddenly and as I followed his gaze, I spotted the ghost of a Japanese woman. She stood on the edge of the heaiu, gesturing to him. He walked right over to her, but something about her frightened me. It took me several seconds to realize the heavy wooden yolk she wore around her neck was the type that King Kamehameha the Great forced people to wear when they’d been selected to his human sacrifices in honor of the war god, Ku. The intended victim would wear the yolk that was so heavy it made movement difficult, for up to three days before death.

The spirit of a Hawaiian man appeared beside the Japanese woman. His body was mangled, and around his neck he wore a ka’ane, a strangle cord that was used to hold down victims designated to be beaten to death.

I shivered. There must have been many restless ghosts here. Thousands of men had been sacrificed to Ku. That crazy old king was keen on human offerings, and in the most gruesome ways possible. He thought the more pain the victim suffered, the more it pleased his war god. What puzzled me was that he selected criminals usually, and as far as I knew, always men. I’d never heard of him choosing a woman. He apparently considered women and children inferior sacrifices.

And putting the yolk around her neck – or any victim’s neck – signified they’d committed a terrible kapu, a violation to be marked for death. It wasn’t difficult to commit kapu back in those days. Just standing in the king’s shadow or looking him in the eye condemned you to death. What could she have done to displease his majesty so much? She seemed anguished and exhausted.

Kimo conducted a lengthy conversation with the spirits of the Japanese woman, and the Hawaiian man, then turned and moved back over to me, his eyes grave. “We have a little problem,” he said.

No shit, McGarrett.  ”What is it?” I asked.

He peered at me anxiously. “It’s kind of an interesting problem.”

“You don’t say,” I deadpanned.

Kimo winced. “This lady, her name is Momoko. She has quite a tale to tell.” He took a deep breath. “Her father came from Japan as a sugar slave a long time ago. When he received his freedom papers after five years of work, he sent for his wife, Momoko’s mother. She became pregnant very quickly and Momoko was born here. She says when she was four, she realized around the same time as her mother, that her father had a secret life. He was kappa.”

I stared at him. “What’s a kappa?”

“In short, they are river monsters. He kept his secret for a long time, but Momoko’s mother took off, leaving Momoko and her brother, Yasu, in their father’s care. Momoko says he was a good father, and in spite of their reputation as killers and tricksters, he was a good monster.”

“A good monster. Kimo, do you know how ridiculous that sounds?”

Kimo held up a hand. “He provided food and shelter for many families in their village, which she says was in Hale’iwa.”

This made sense to me. Many of the freed Asian workers flocked to the North Shore of Oahu when they achieved freedom. Firstly, it was largely unpopulated and land was cheap. The island’s very first hotel, the Hale’iwa, had been built there and many Asian families created small businesses that catered to the guests. Some of the men helped build the now-defunct Hawaiian railroad that carried visitors from Waikiki to the North Shore each weekend.

Hale’iwa also had a beach and a river…

A river.

“Anahulu River,” I said.

Kimo nodded encouragingly. “Exactly.  There was a very bad storm, Momko said. A typhoon that devastated parts of the North Shore. Her father helped everybody, but the work of restoring homes and businesses was back-breaking, so he and her brother, Yasu turned themselves into kappa late at night and finished a lot of the work without anybody realizing. They had supernatural powers and worked hard and fast. The locals credited the menehune, and the family never corrected them.”

“So,” I said, “He does sound like a good um, monster.”

“As you know, once King Kamehameha died, this heiau was used by some dark kahuna who also performed human sacrifice. Momoko’s father was seen in his kappa form, captured and blamed for shark kills on the shores of the ocean. He’d been seen shape-shifting, but he always denied he had anything to do with the ocean. He stuck strictly to mountains and rivers. He said he loved the land, and its people, and protected them.

“Only one kahuna believed him and fought to spare his life. Instead, a stronger sorcerer-type guy shackled him, then captured Momoko and Yasu by lying to them. He said if they came willingly to the heiau, they would be designated official land spirits. Momoko had never shown any signs of being kappa, but she worried her brother and father would be slaughtered and that they would not be accepted as land spirits.”

I looked across the rough expanse of stubbly grass and pebbles where she’d been standing, but I could no longer see her now. “And what happened?”

“All three of them were painfully sacrificed.” He let the words sink in. “Yasu however, has turned into a very mischievous kappa. She says he is a Kawatarō.”

“Which is, I’m afraid to ask?”

“A river boy.” Kimo turned to look back at the spot where Momoko had been standing. “She said he has been waiting for a long time to return to the river. He longs to be with their father, who returned here many years ago. She can come with us. If we are willing to take her, and reunite them. The only way Yasu was able to return was with human children.”

“He’s not going to hurt our babies is he?” I was near hysteria now. How the hell were we supposed to get to Anahulu River?

“Oh, ye of little faith. Don’t you know me better than that, Mypaka?” He dropped a kiss on my lips. “I will ask Pele to provide us transportation and it will come.” He gestured to Momoko. “Our people wronged her family. I’d like to take her with us and give final freedom to her and her family.”

“But that little…whatever he was that ran off with our children didn’t look like a little Japanese boy.”

“No. That was a shell he created. The Kawatarō are tricksters, just like our own ‘E’epa. He must have met a lot of them over the centuries here. He would have found it easy to create the shell, and I walked right into his trap.” He shrugged. “Everybody makes mistakes.”

I said nothing. I just wanted to get to Hale’iwa. From where we were in Pupukea, it was about a five-mile drive. With the winding Kamehameha Road traffic, it would take us about twenty minutes to get there, depending on what type of transportation he was able to summon for us.

“Momoko,” Kimo said, his voice deeper now, his breath coming out frosty. This happened whenever he worked huna magic. She emerged from the same spot. She knelt before Kimo and the man with the strangle cord appeared beside her.

She spoke in rapid-fire Japanese.

“What is she saying?” I asked my husband.

“She said, save me.”

That made me so emotional. She was already dead. It was her soul that screamed for peace. I suddenly remembered the spirit of the young Japanese girl who had invaded our lives – and my body – the previous Halloween, seeking justice for her unsolved murder.

I sighed. Kimo and I drew troubled souls both living and death like flames lured moths. I didn’t mind helping Momoko, but I could tell Kimo was having a hard time convincing the dead Hawaiian with the strangle cord that he should let her go. I couldn’t figure out their connection and Kimo’s voice fluttered into my mind.

::He was the bounty hunter who captured Momoko’s family. The kahuna who hired him, tricked him, and killed him, too. He doesn’t want Momoko to leave. He’s grown to love her.:: Kimo looked at me imploringly. ::His feelings are not reciprocated.::

Oh, boy.

Kimo worked wonders in his communication with the dead. The spirits of tribal elders soon emerged, supporting Kimo in his efforts to right a wrong.

“Go,” one of the older men said, pointing a spear toward the exit. Kimo, Momoko and I didn’t need a printed invitation. We left. When I turned to look, everybody had vanished.

“What happened?” I asked as we trudged up a long slope toward the street.

“They gave me ten minutes to get away from here.” He glanced at me, a guilty look on her face. “Lopaka, we’ve become her family’s guardians. I’ve personally guaranteed they will be benevolent spirits and not harmful ones. Momoko says her father is quite bitter. Hopefully he won’t make a liar out of me.”

Out on the street, we looked up and down the highway. “Well, ain’t that a pip,” Kimo said, hands on hips. I felt certain Madame Pele would send a vehicle. After all, she did promise.”

The clip-clop of horse hooves caught our attention. From our left came an old-fashioned mule-drawn streetcar, the kind that used to be the popular form of public transportation in the islands. Motorized streetcars had replaced the mules around 1900.

“Perhaps I should have been a little more specific,” Kimo muttered.

“No. This is right.” I watched Momoko climbing up the steps. She was still wearing the yoke and I could tell it made movement difficult. “She would freak out in a modern vehicle.”

“Yeah.” Kimo nodded. The streetcar was half full, but nobody seemed to be aware of us. To our left sat elegantly dressed men and women wearing formal, wintry suits ill-suited to the Hawaiian climate. On the right sat workers, mostly Asian, giggling and whispering among themselves.

“When does she lose the yoke?” I asked Kimo.

“As soon as we deliver her safely to her family.” A muscle worked in his cheek. “And before they turn over the children to us.” His eyes took on that vacant look again. “I’m so glad Pele is with them. Our little girl won’t take shit from anybody.”

“Language, darling.”

“Well, it’s true. I sort of feel sorry for that little river boy. He’s met his match with our firecracker.”

He was right. Thank God we hadn’t been able to tame her wild ways. I’d never have to worry about her on a date. I’d have to worry that she’d do something to the guy. I could live with that…

Momoko sat beside me, head bent. In some ways she reminded me of Ayumi, the girl we’d sent to the Pureland when we solved her murder.

Kimo shook his head at me. Momoko lifted hers. I realized then it was hard for her to sit up straight with the yoke and I wanted to rip the damned thing off.

I gasped when I looked outside of the slow-moving streetcar, stunned to see a gleaming black and green railway carriage gliding past us on the edge of the road. I was giddy with excitement because I’d always wanted to see the long-gone train, but that was the point. It was gone. Long, long ago.

“Lopaka,” Kimo said, a mixture of excitement and dread on his face. “I have bad news for you, and bad news for you.”

“No good news?”

“Well, some.”

“Gimme that first.”

“The good news is, that we’re getting close to the river.”

“Okay, so what’s the bad news?”

“We’ve somehow, I don’t know how, stepped back in time over a hundred years. I don’t think I’ll get our kids back by dinner time because I have no idea when that is.”

I stared at him. “But we will find them, won’t we?”

The streetcar stopped.

“This is it.” Kimo helped me and Momoko off the vehicle. Around us stood tiny stores all bearing Japanese names. Momoko stared toward the river.

“Papa!” she cried out, then ran toward a bent-over elderly Japanese man. Beside him loomed the little ‘E’epa and he pointed and laughed at us.

“Where are my children?” I screamed at him.

The little bastard just laughed and laughed.

“Huh,” Kimo said. “This shit just got even more interesting.”

 

 

 

Phantom Lovers Books 11 and 12 OUT NOW!!

PL11_Diura

 

adam cannibal

 

OUT NOW!

Diura and The Cannibal King’s Husband are out today at Amber Allure! 

 

Diura (Book 11 of the Phantom Lover series)

http://www.amberquill.com/store/p/2030-Diura.aspx

Kimo Wilder, Hawaii’s top hula dancer, kahuna (high priest) and Keeper of Secrets, is battling with his husband Lopaka over their toddler son. Baby Kimo shows all the signs of being a gifted healer himself and now the Huna Council wants him. On the day of their wedding in California, an emotional celebration of same-sex marriage, the couple realizes they must present a united front.

To celebrate their wedding in style and to keep their family intact, the Wilders travel to a remote Scottish castle on the ancient, volcanic island of Diùra. But this is no holiday idyll. Now at war with the Huna Council, Kimo and Lopaka discover long-dormant family secrets and unseen forces determined to both help and destroy them, and send them to an undetermined fate in search of the truth.

NOTE: This story was previously published with the ISBN: 978-1-55487-253-4. This reissued version of the story has been revised and reedited.

Genres: Gay / Fantasy / Witchcraft / Magic / Paranormal / Ghosts / Hauntings / Mystery / Action / Adventure / Interracial / Multicultural / Series
Heat Level: 3
Length: Novella (29k words)

 

The Cannibal King’s Husband (Book 12 of the Phantom Lover series)

http://www.amberquill.com/store/p/2031-The-Cannibal-King-s-Husband.aspx

Kimo and Lopaka are on the run from the Hawaiian Kahuna Council. They’ve fled their castle hideaway in Diura, Scotland, on a boat headed for Samoa in search of Lopaka’s father, Paden.

Paden, a remarkably handsome islander, now known as Keneti, abandoned his young family in pursuit of his own island man…a cannibal king. He is the only person who can prevent the Council from taking Kimo and Lopaka’s precious toddler son away from them and into seclusion for magical training.

But will the man who dumped his own son find it in his heart to fight for Baby Kimo? Or will his new lifestyle dictate a different and deadlier choice?

NOTE: This story was previously published with the ISBN: 978-1-55487-159-9. This reissued version of the story has been revised and reedited.

Genres: Gay / Fantasy / Witchcraft / Magic / Paranormal / Action / Adventure / Series
Heat Level: 3
Length: Novella (29k words)

 

It’s TIKI TIME with RICK R.REED! – WIN a FREE eBOOK!

Husband Hunters Rick

 

It’s Tiki Time!

Hi Rick, and thank you for visiting my authors’ hideaway tiki bar. With the ocean to your left and the mountains to you right, you can have whatever cocktail you like.

1. What is your favorite? Honestly, the first thing that popped in my head was a margarita. But it has to be good margarita, none of that pre-mix crap: just lime juice, good tequila, and some triple sec for sweetness. Not frozen, please, and the rim must be salted. Can we have a pitcher?

2. Now, onto the important stuff. The interrogation. Er, I mean, the questions.I first interviewed you several years ago and you were the king of gay horror. Your books both enthralled and terrified me but I’ve noticed you haven’t written a horror book lately. Is there a reason for this? Do you plan to write one in the near future – or are you too happy now? Oh, I still love to read horror and I have no doubt that I’ll write it again, but I think my newer horror will also be tempered with a romance backdrop. I’m at a place now where I’m more interested in love than terror and that’s reflected in what I pursue in my writing. But I do have some ideas up my sleeve for the future (and a new title coming out at the end of the year called THIRD EYE, which will include psychic visions and murder). 2016 should also see the release of a romantic suspense novel called THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR. So I’m not done scaring you, but I do it with love. Also AJ, you’ll be thrilled to hear Dreamspinner Press Publications (a new imprint of theirs which will feature horror, mystery, fantasy and science fiction) will be releasing my serial killer thriller, IM, in a new edition. You remember my online killer…and striped sheets?

3. I live in fear of striped sheets. Thanks for that, Rick! I really enjoyed your recent book, Chaser. I do have to ask have you ever been one yourself? And how do you feel about chubby people? I noticed in a recent interview that you say you have a secret crush on your cover model from Dinner at Home. He doesn’t look stick-thin to me. Does Bruce need to pile on the pasta??? Have I ever been a chubby chaser? Not in the strictest sense, no, but I can appreciate a man with some extra meat on his bones (like Ollie on the cover of DINNER AT HOME–he’s dreamy). Bruce is fine just as he is.

4. I think Bruce is adorable! You don’t write cookie-cutter romances. Some of your protagonists are frankly hard to like at first. This is a brave feat on your part considering so many readers and reviewers demand perfection from the outset. I’ve read numerous reviews of your books and I am always intrigued that reviewers say they trust you and that you don’t disappoint. My question is, does it ever worry you when people have such visceral reactions to your books? I can’t let myself worry too much. Here’s the part where I sound crazy, but I have to release the voices and characters that are inside me, clamoring to get out and have their stories told. Like real people in real life, none of them are perfect and they all have flaws. I think that makes them so much more interesting. And I believe the same thing for the things I enjoy reading. In my opinion, perfection is a worthy thing to strive for, but let’s face it, it’s kind of dull.

5. How do you feel about the plethora of M/M fluff on the market? Have you read any? I’m gonna pass on that question because to answer it in any meaningful way, I’d have to give examples. Let’s just say that I think there’s a place for fluff. Sometimes you just want something happy and entertaining and that doesn’t demand too much thinking. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

6. What makes a hero appealing to you in fiction? As in the question above, I think what makes a hero appealing is one that’s flawed. That way he has something to strive for, something to overcome, and something to make him human.

7. We’ve talked a lot about women writing M/M and you wrote a significant blog about it some time ago. I asked a friend of mine recently about this subject since so many women read and write in the genre. She says it’s because some women perceive gay men as having a freedom of sexuality and self-expression that they don’t. How do you feel about this explanation? I don’t know. I’m reluctant to generalize about gay men at all. Like any other group of people, gay men can be very different from one another. The only common thread is having the same sexual orientation, which may sometimes translate to this freedom you mention…and it may not. It depends on the individual. I like what Elisa Rolle (the Italian m/m reviewer) said when I asked her this question and she said she liked the power dynamic in m/m romance–it was more equal.

8. What are some of the biggest misconceptions women have about gay men – in fiction and in life? One of the tropes I hate most in gay fiction is “gay for you” which takes an otherwise straight man and has him suddenly attracted to one significant other male. This is different from awakening to desires lying dormant. The former can happen, although I suspect it’s rare and more confined to younger people. But the idea that a single guy could suddenly “go gay” is aggravating to me, a gay man who fought very hard to accept and love himself (it took years and lots of mistakes). Sexual orientation isn’t something that just appears because of another person–it’s innate and I believe it’s something you’re born with. I know this trope has its fans, but you will never catch me writing it. I think it’s simply ignorant. In real life? That we’re all alike.

9. Is there a subject you would never write about as an author? If so, what is it? I’m generally not afraid to “go there” and explore strange and dark places, so I’m not sure. For certain, I do shy away from the usual taboos–necrophilia, rape, incest, kinks involving bodily fluids–not because most publishers prohibit them but more because I don’t really think I’d be interested in writing about such things. 10. What elements in your work space are crucial? And do you have any sacred writing rituals? Computer, keyboard, mouse. I write in the morning and stop when I have around 1,000 words completed–almost every day. See, simple? And probably boring….

10. Before you met and married Bruce, what was the worst date you ever had? When I was single, once upon a time, I met a man online who seemed nice enough. He invited me over for a hook-up and when I arrived, I saw he was not at all as he represented himself and he was not my type at all. I politely declined to take things any further. As a parting shot as I was leaving his apartment building, he shouted that he hoped I got AIDS. Nice.

11. He said that? Really? How…creepy. Did he have striped sheets? Now…onto more pleasant things! You are such a foodie…and by the way your Facebook posts frequently make me hungry… If you could invite any six famous people to dinner – alive or dead – who would it be and what would you serve them? I wouldn’t invite dead people to dinner; that would be unappetizing, not to mention unsanitary. I guess I’d invite the following, in no particular order: Lily Tomlin, John Waters, David Sedaris, Ellen Degeneres, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Michelle Obama, just to keep order. I’d make my mom’s spaghetti and meatballs and serve it with lots of Chianti. I’d just sit back and listen.

12. And…what are your top 10 desert island keeper books you’ve read? That’s tough. I read 1-2 books a week, every week. Let me just see what pops into my head: A Confederacy of Dunces, The Hours, A Dark-Adapted Eye, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Anything by Flannery O’Connor, Anything by Patricia Highsmith, Dolores Claiborne, The Wizard of Oz, Was and that’s all for now.

13. What current projects do you have in the pipeline? I mentioned THIRD EYE, a psychic thriller with a dash of romance, coming out end-of-year. In early 2015, I have BLINK, a very romantic–and semi-autobiographical–love story coming out. Also in 2015, I’ll be doing a thriller called THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR and a contemporary romance that I’m working on now, tentatively called HENRY AND VITO.

 

Rick R. Reed Biography
:

Rick R. Reed is all about exploring the romantic entanglements of gay men in contemporary, realistic settings. While his stories often contain elements of suspense, mystery and the paranormal, his focus ultimately returns to the power of love. He is the author of dozens of published novels, novellas, and short stories. He is a three-time EPIC eBook Award winner (for Caregiver, Orientation and The Blue Moon Cafe). Raining Men and Caregiver have both won the Rainbow Award for gay fiction.  Lambda Literary Review has called him, “a writer that doesn’t disappoint.” Rick lives in Seattle with his husband and a very spoiled Boston terrier. He is forever “at work on another novel.” 

Web: http://www.rickrreed.com 
Blog: http://rickrreedreality.blogspot.com/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/rickrreedbooks 
Twitter: www.twitter.com/rickrreed. 
E-mail: jimmyfels@gmail.com

 

WIN a FREE Rick R.Reed ebook!

Rafflecopter Prize: Signed copy of ‘Hungry for Love’ or ‘Chaser’

Rafflecopter Code: a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

HuntersBadge

Blurb for Husband Hunters

You never know where the love of your life might turn up.

When Matt Connelly suggests to his best buddy Cody Mook that they head to downtown Seattle to audition for the gay reality TV show Husband Hunters, both agree the experience might be a lark and a chance to grab their fifteen minutes of fame. What they don’t know is that the show, modeled after HGTV’s House Hunters, will open doors of longing neither expected. For Matt, the secret love he has long harbored for Cody might be thrust into the spotlight. Cody might realize his search for his perfect-forever-man extends no farther than the man who’s always been at his side.   Husband Hunters promises laughter, tears, and, just maybe, a happy ever after. Will Cody and Matt’s story be one of best-friends-to-lovers—or an outright disaster?

Excerpt:

“You ever heard of a TV show called Husband Hunters?” Matt asked.

Cody let a short bark of a laugh escape. “Dude. It’s House Hunters. On HGTV, like, a thousand times a day.”

“No, no. There’s really a show called Husband Hunters. It’s on the gay channel. Haven’t you even heard of it? It’s the new gay show, even more popular than Drag Race. Where have you been?”

“Husband hunting?” Cody asked.

“Exactly. And how’s that working out for you?”

Cody paced his studio apartment and thought his friend Matt wasn’t as clueless as he had assumed about Cody’s romantic situation. “So far, my wish to be desired by many, won by few has gotten twisted around so it’s ass backwards.”

Matt obviously had to think about that for a moment. When he put it all together, he laughed. Not for the first time Cody thought of how his friend’s laughter too strongly resembled a donkey’s bray.

“Anyway,” Matt went on. “This show is kind of like your House Hunters in that it showcases someone looking for something and gives us three scenarios to watch and help them decide. Except instead of houses, it’s husbands!” Matt shrieked this last with something like delight—or lunacy.

“You’re kidding.” Cody rolled his eyes. He walked over to his kitchenette and began pulling out the makings for his breakfast: a couple of eggs, a loaf of Dave’s Spelt bread. “Is there a reason you brought this up? I can’t imagine anything more horrible. They actually get people to go on this show?” Cody sighed. “Whatever happened to romance?”

“The Internet,” Matt replied without missing a beat. “It’s a new day, as Miss Nina Simone once sang. Men get their manmeat digitally now. Soon Amazon will have drones delivering studs to your front door.”

“Whatever.” Cody was getting tired of the conversation. “You want to go out tonight or what?”

“Cody!” Matt complained. “You didn’t let me tell you the best part! Husband Hunters is right here in Seattle… today! They’re doing a talent search for some Pacific Northwest episodes.”

“And this affects me how?” Cody filled a pan with water, threw in some white vinegar and a little kosher salt, and set it on the stove to come to a simmer for his poached eggs.

“We can try out. Are you dense?” Matt went on, a little breathless with excitement. “What with the snow, there won’t even be as much competition. With your hotness and my wit, we’ll both be shoo-ins.”

Cody laughed. “You’re kidding me, right? What about the school?”

“You think they’d mind? Have you noticed that our principal is a legally wed leather daddy?”

Cody chuckled. “Only in Seattle….” He set two pieces of bread in the toaster and checked the water again for signs of boiling. A watched pot…. “You feel free to trot on down to the auditions, but this is nothing I want any part in. It’s gross.” Cody scratched the top of his head. “What do you have to do to audition, anyway? Kiss guys?”

Matt laughed. “One can hope. Come on, Cody. It’ll be fun. And you never know. It could change your life.”

“So could a car accident.”

Matt blew out a big sigh. “Don’t be a spoilsport. You know you can’t resist my charms. The casting call is being held at the Westin downtown. What time should I pick you up? My four-wheel drive will plow right through this shit.”

“I’m not going. It’s undignified.” Cody cracked the two eggs into separate ramekins.

“Dignity is overrated. What time should I pick you up?” Matt repeated.

“Didn’t you hear me? I’m not doing it!” Cody pushed the bread down in the toaster.

“Look. You may not think I’ve noticed, but I know you want to find that special someone, that soul mate character. I’ve seen how you moon over Pete at school.”

Pete was a biology teacher who bore an amazing resemblance to Colin Farrell. He had just married his sweetheart of eleven years, Johan. The couple was seldom apart. It was sickening. Except it wasn’t. It was sweet and gave Cody a glimmer of hope that somehow, somewhere, someday there was a man out there for him. Cody’s heart gave a little lurch. He knew it was true. He wanted what Pete and Johan had.

Matt went on, “So why not just try this? The truth is neither of us will probably make the cut. But it’ll be fun to go to the tryouts, see who else turns up. And who knows? The man of your dreams may be twitchin’ down at the Westin, looking for the same thing you are.”

Cody had to begrudgingly admit Matt had a point. “Okay,” he said, defeated. “But after? We go to Terra Plata for appetizers and lots of Bloody Marys. And you’re buying.”

“Deal. If it’ll get you there.”

“Is that it, then?”

“Yeah, yeah. I’ll pick you up at one. The casting call starts at two.”

“Okay, good-bye. My water’s boiling.”

“Your water broke?”

“Oh, shut up!” Cody was about to hang up when Matt shouted into the phone.

 


Tour Dates/Stops:

9/8: Joyfully Jay

9/11: A.J. Llewellyn

9/15: Rainbow Gold Reviews

9/18: Fallen Angel Reviews

9/22: Prism Book Alliance

9/25: 3 Chicks After Dark

9/29: On Top Down Under

10/2: The Blogger Girls

Buy Links Dreamspinner Ebook: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=5381 Dreamspinner Paperback: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=5382 Amazon Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Husband-Hunters-Rick-R-Reed-ebook/dp/B00MYNU7DQ/ Amazon Paperback: to come AllRomance eBooks: http://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-husbandhunters-1604135-149.html

 

Thanks for stopping by, Rick. The cabana boys will be mixing you another drink before you hit the beach!

Giving New Life to Older Titles

whoshelf

By A.J. Llewellyn

If I had my way, my whole house would be books, books, books. My favorite bookstore in Ojai, CA – Bart’s Books – is located outdoors and even has shelves built into the trees. And I am all about recycling so I fully approve of this photo depicting a novel use for defunct telephone booths.

Having said that, sometimes, reaching back to the future as an author is an exciting prospect. To that end, I’ve talked with my publishers at Totally Bound and I am going to be revamping a couple of my very early books with them, such as “The Mediator” and “Paper Valentine.”

I think both these early efforts could use a little expanding, and new covers, too. I am excited to go back and rework these stories, which I still love, but see definite areas for improvement.

My work has changed a lot since I wrote these books and I still love the characters. So, while I won’t be moving them into a refurbished phone booth (especially the Victorian men from “Paper Valentine”) I do want to spruce ‘em up a bit. I am really happy to be able to do this.

When I looked over “The Mediator” recently, I could remember exactly what I was doing when I wrote it. I was still a boxing journalist and moving out of the sports arena and into writing romance novels full-time.

Ironically, I was in Las Vegas at the time and my boyfriend took me to the old Avenue D area, where in the 1940′s, African Americans were kept segregated from the white population. When Sammy Davis Jr. blew into town in the 50′s to perform on the Strip, he spent his nights in the awful Berkley Square section of West Las Vegas. This is a little-known, shameful chapter in American history, but on that fateful weekend in Vegas, I became absorbed in the area.

My boyfriend and I strolled the old neighborhood that consisted of 148 homes, a barber, a couple of grocery stores, and a shop-front dentist’s office.

It was as though time stood still that Saturday morning. I could feel the ghosts of those who’d lived there and my emotions ran deep. I shouldn’t have been surprised when boxing promoter Don King showed up in a limo armed with a crew of architects. He donated a huge amount of his own money to preserving Berkley Square, and invested in a park to memorialize the original residents.

In 2009, in no small part due to Mr. King, this area was placed on the National Historic Register. The area looks so different in so many ways because a whole new community has sprung up around it, but Berkley Square, the heart of this community, remains the same. This storyline played a strong part in “The Mediator” but just like the Square itself, the book’s integrity, its heart, will remain the same.

There will just be more. More sex, more love, more…mediation.
Aloha oe,

A.J

LAID 3 – OUT NOW!! – And an Update on the late John Bruno

Laid-3 50

 

I am thrilled to announce that Laid 3 is out today at the fantastic Stiff Rain Press – and that the totally fun story I concocted with the late, great John Bruno. http://www.stiffrainpress.com/m8/36-978-1-62344-037-4–laid-3-by-aj-llewellyn.html

I’ve been thinking about my friend a lot the last few days, ever since the passing of actor Robin Williams. Both were remarkable men who took their own lives, devastating all those who knew and love them.

John was in pain for a very long time and tried to take his own life several times before succeeding, unfortunately, on January 14, last year.

I still miss the dry, observant, witty, self-effacing man who had such huge dreams and amazing talent, but met constant obstacles that he could no longer overcome.

Depression is a serious illness that robs the people suffering from it of all their senses. Looking back, there are many signs we all could have seen…and did, BUT John was a man who was in counseling and had actually gone to see his therapist on the Saturday before he died. In fact, that night, he checked himself into a motel and took a drug overdose as he had before, but survived.

He returned to his parents’ Michigan home Sunday morning, confessed his suicide attempt, then slept for a full day.

On Monday evening, he crept out of his bedroom window and shot himself in the head.

According to all the reports I’ve read, Mr. Williams too, had been in an AA meeting on Saturday, but took his life two days later.

When someone is determined, they will find a way to silence the dark storms in their minds. John left behind three suicide notes, which I have copies of.  They kept me awake for days, just reading them. Two of them had been written months before – when he’d made earlier attempts. He kept scratching out the dates and putting in new ones. There was a certain macabre humor to these updated notes that were pure John.

The final note however was current and simply devastating. He wrote, in part, “If you want to know why, it’s because I am mentally ill.” He wrote many things, but his handwriting deteriorated at this point to a mind-blurring scramble.

I believe he might have taken anti-anxiety pills, but they were all doctor-prescribed. Ultimately, he had a gun nobody knew about, and he shot himself right in his poor parents’ backyard.

My hope is that Mr. Williams’ passing opens up a discussion about the insidiousness of this disease – and how there are things we still don’t know and the ravages of it.

These were two men who were both seeking and receiving treatment, but nothing worked. The foghorns of doom kept calling them. When I look back on the last weeks of John’s life, a cheery call in December after months of ignored emails and calls was a relief at the time. It’s not that he was Mr. Happy, but he seemed comfortable and focused. We made plans to meet in January here in LA. It turns out his close friends ALL got the same call.

We realized at his funeral that he had in fact no intention of coming here.

He’d called us all to say good-bye.

They say people who’ve made the decision to end their lives act happy toward the end. That wasn’t true of John. He seemed calm, but hardly bubbly.

In fact his last scrawled message on his suicide note said, “I’m scared to die.”

And yet, he wanted it all to end.

I have stopped looking at the notes because they tear at my heart. It is still sore from the loss of my friend and a true, madcap genius who had amazing ideas and a wonderful, warped sense of the ridiculous.

I will miss you forever John, but I have Jack and Lucky, our naughty, naughty creations with which to remember you by.

With a heart full of love an enduring sadness…I miss you.

 

A.J. xxx

Rainy Days and Mondays – OUT NOW!

RainyDaysMondays

 

Rainy Days and Mondays – part of the Amber PAX Collection of super-hot stories is OUT now! Featuring tight, edge-of-the-seat tales from D.J. Manly, K-lee KleinJamie CraigSean Michael and me! You can buy one or buy’em all. My story is called Rainy Days and Mondays and me likeey!

Here’s the link: for the entire collection:

http://www.amberquill.com/store/p/2001-AmberPax-Risky-Business.aspx

And for Rainy Days and Mondays :

http://www.amberquill.com/store/p/1999-Rainy-Days-And-Mondays.aspx

Rainy Days and Mondays synopsis:

When Mike deCosta arrives in Honolulu in search of his missing brother, Luca, his own life is a mess. His ex-boyfriend still has a hold on him, and Luca seems to have made the same mistakes with his abusive ex-lover, Greg. Not only did Luca take Greg back into his life, but moved to Honolulu with him in search of Greg’s dreams. And now, Luca’s been gone for four days and it was the couple’s crazy, drug-addled landlady who reported him missing. Not Greg. And now, Greg has vanished, too.

Keanu Māhoe is a private investigator and former cop whose specialty is tracing people who’ve come from the mainland and slipped through the cracks of Hawaiian society. He’s immediately attracted to Mike when they meet on the flight from Los Angeles, and the man’s haunting sadness makes Keanu want to reach out and help him. Keanu wants to show Mike the aloha way of life, the value of rainy days and Mondays…the other side of paradise.

Genres: Gay / Contemporary / Mystery / Detective / The Arts
Heat Level: 3
Length: Novella (24k words)

*     *     *

A NOTE BEFORE PURCHASING: This title is part of the Risky Business AmberPax™ Collection. To purchase this title individually, simply use the shopping cart on this page. To purchase this title as part of the entire AmberPax™, however, and receive an even greater discount off our normal retail price, use the shopping cart on the Risky Business AmberPax™ page.

Waikiki Vampire Chronicles Chapter Three – FREE BLOG STORY!

waikiki vampires

 

Waikiki Vampire Chronicles

Chapter Three: O ke aloha ka ‘iu ~Love is paradise

Cover Art: John Bruno       

Model: Leo Giamani

By A.J. Llewellyn

 

Link to Chapter One: http://www.ajllewellyn.com/site/2013/01/09/1960/

Link to Chapter Two: http://www.ajllewellyn.com/site/2014/01/01/2149/

 

Chapter Three

 

I ran through the house toward the source of the hysterical screaming just as Kalani let the people from Child Protective Services into the house.

“Smoke!” Tem yelled from somewhere behind me, his voice muffled.

“Is there a fire in here?” a female voice demanded.

Oh, no. I recognized the shrill tones of Martha, our case worker from Applewood Orphanage.

“Get the boys and take them outside,” I instructed Tem when he appeared beside me. “I’ll look for Moontime.”

“Please, Div! Find him!” Tem sounded far away now. I couldn’t see him for all the smoke, and I really had no idea where to look for our cat. I bumped into something solid. Holy moly. Jim Carter from CPS, closely followed by his steely sidekick, April Montgomery.

From some place close, a deep, demonic voice giggled. April’s mouth dropped open in a frozen, frightened O, as the air took on a deathly stench. Coupled with smoke from the fire I could see licking along the doorframe of my office, it was scary as hell.

“Jim, April, please go outside. We’ll be right there.”

“Keej—” Jim started to say.

“Tem has both boys.” I hope. “Please, the sprinkler system hasn’t kicked in, and I don’t know why.” I pointed toward the back door.

They didn’t argue.

They retreated. The smoke was thick and impenetrable.

“Stay low!” I yelled after them. We had three extinguishers on the premises installed by our trusty security expert, Francois Aumary, plus bulletproof glass on all our windows and cabinetry.

He’d also installed sprinklers in some of the rooms. Why the hell weren’t they working?

Martha suddenly emerged from my office and gave a shriek, just as water jetted from the from the door. She scuttled past me. I pointed to the back door and she didn’t stop.

“Akua! Keej! Tem” I yelled. I had to get them out of the house.

The hairs on the back of my neck prickled. A chilly breath crept along my right arm, then my left.

“Stop it!” I commanded.

The mad laughter grew closer. It was a horrible sound, like a thousand guttural voices straight out of a bad horror movie.

Somebody tickled my stomach, then the back of my neck.

I whipped around, furious that anyone would play games with me at a time like this. The tickling continued. Whoever was doing it knew the exact places to get me, except that the perpetrator was now pressing harder. I tried to fight off the invisible fingers now pinching and cutting into my skin.

And then I saw the shimmer.

Hot damn!

Tijlaug! That ghostly little runt had set fire to my house and thought it was funny!

Tem raged past me, a fire extinguisher under one arm, Keej under the other. Thick, acrid smoke continued to pour out of my office as Jim and April reappeared.

“Where is Keej?” April shouted at me.

This is no time to fool around!” Tem telepathed. Aloud he turned to the CPS officials. “The kids are safe. Let’s get out of here.”

Somebody began biting my ankles. I glanced down to find a petrified-looking Akua. That did it. Nobody scared my nephew that way.

“Get up here. Now,” I commanded him. His storm-demon eyes turned red and he levitated to my shoulders quickly.

April looked astonished, but I couldn’t worry about that now.

“Hold on, Akua!” I shouted. “Don’t look, baby!”

He straddled my neck, then I turned and tried to fix my gaze on the flickering Tijlaug. I threw my hands toward him. He was pointing and laughing at me, but suddenly let out a shriek.

“I’ve been dead a lot longer than you, you little fire-starter,” I whispered. “I know some tricks.”

Tijlaug writhed in pain, his crazy laughter turning into agonized yelps as from outside, sirens blared.

“Oh, please,” I shouted at the zashiki warashi over the cacophony. “It doesn’t hurt that much.”

At least, I didn’t think so. I had received an unexpected gift along with my family’s vampire curse. I could toss ectoplasm out of my fingertips and fling it at a ghost. It was supposed to freeze them and stop them in their tracks. I’d never needed this talent before, because most of the ghosts I encountered were deceased family members, or helpful entities. Not little dickheads like Tijlaug, and so I had no idea if Tijlaug was really in pain or whether he was exhibiting a flair for the dramatic.

Suddenly, he smiled. Blossom had arrived and like the mischievous little imp that he was, he became captivated by the crystals on her beaded dress. His head tilted from side to side. His spiteful expression returned and he tried to yank one of the crystals off her bodice.

She went crazy, hosing him with great gusts of ectoplasm.

Tijlaug’s shrieks grew more frenzied. Akua gasped and wrapped his legs and hands around my head.

I couldn’t see.

“Akua! Leggo!”

Tijlaug was on the floor now, mewing like a pitiful kitten. I peeled my nephew’s hands from my eyes and looked down at Tijlaug. Man, he was an ugly mofo.

“He’s playing for sympathy,” Blossom seethed. “Get the baby out of here. I’ll deal with this little bastard myself.”

“No!” Tijlaug, the little drama queen that he was, jumped to his feet, threw his hands up in the air and ran off, just as Keej collided with me, burying his face in my knee cap.

“Are you okay Keej?” I asked, picking him up. “What are you doing back here?”

He looked excited. “Tem’s putting out another fire! He’s so awesome!”

I raced outside with both boys.

“That was so cool!” Akua enthused when Tem emerged from the house drenched in fire extinguisher foam. Martha, Jim, and April were spluttering and coughing.

Fire fighters paraded past us, invading the house. Some of them were super-cute, too.

Both boys clung to me as smoke spiraled out of our windows and doors in dispirited circles into the air.

I wondered where the hell Moontime was, and hope he hadn’t been hiding in my office. No. I felt he’d gone off for a good long sulk some place away from the house. He was alive, I was sure of it. I glanced at Tem and my heart broke to see his woebegone expression.

“So many beautiful things, destroyed,” he said, his bewildered, beautiful eyes tearing my soul to shreds.

I couldn’t say they were just things. I couldn’t say we’d replace them. Many of the items in my office were family heirlooms. They were one-of-a-kind pieces. I closed my eyes and hugged the two boys closer to me. A wretched tiredness swept over me. I’d just remembered that shrouding a ghost–the proper terminology for flinging ectoplasm–was supposed to be exhausting work.

The fire crew came back out of the house, rolling up their massive hoses.

“She’s out,” one of the men said to me.

I opened my eyes, aware of April’s scrutiny.

“It wasn’t as bad as it looked,” the fireman said. “Somebody set three different fires in your office, using some old wooden toys in your cabinets. Your sprinkler system works, but your friend Tem indicates the blaze kept re-starting. Somebody in this house is a real fire bug. Whoever it was tried to sabotage your security system. Amazing those flames didn’t spread.”

“That was Tem’s quick thinking,” I said. “He went in with a fire extinguisher and blasted the place.”

“Other fires were set in a couple of other rooms,” the fireman told me. “For some reason, none of them ignited. Weird, huh?”

Blossom emerged from the house and grabbed herself a handful of fireman’s ass.

“Verrrry nice work,” she told him. The poor guy looked like he was really starting to sweat now.

I exchanged looks with Tem. It was astonishing to think that the zashiki warashi would wreak such havoc when we’d welcomed him into our home. I’d always heard they were troublemakers but had been willing to give him a chance.

Not anymore.

He’d deliberately started more fires. He could have killed Tem. Tijlaug could have killed everybody.

What’s more, I knew one of those toys used as kindling was a very rare, original prototype G.I. Joe from 1963 with a face hand-crafted to look like Sean Connery. Now priced at $200,000 I had bought it for myself as a gag gift one lonely Christmas. I had no idea it would become so valuable. I’d kept it for its increasing worth, and, as a reminder of my life waiting for Tem to find me. Up until the day I met him, the only man I had any desire to undress and play with was that G.I. Joe doll.

“Oh, Div.” He must have been reading my thoughts, because he shook his head at me.

“Any idea who started it?” the fireman asked, writing something down on a clipboard.

“None,” I said.

“None?” he gave me a look of disbelief, and I spread my hands. “We’ve had some strange people up here on the mountain lately. Total strangers. We have security, but when we’re home, our house isn’t exactly Fort Knox.”

He held my gaze a moment. What I’d said was true. I just neglected to mention that one of the strangers was a dead one, bent on trouble.

My sister and Clancy trooped out of the house holding several instruments in their arms.

“They’re irreplaceable,” Clancy muttered.

Yes, they were. I wish I could have salvaged some of my things, but I had to grow a pair and stop dwelling on the subject.

“You need better security,” the fireman said. “With the drought we’ve been having, you’re lucky this old house didn’t fall apart completely. Look at the shape it’s in!”

Old? Who you callin’ old, buddy? You’re lucky I only eat bad guys! Bad Div, bad.

“Somebody will be following up with you within a couple of hours. We’ve put tape across the office door. Nobody’s to go in there.” He ripped a sheet of paper from his clipboard. ”

“We can go inside the house?” Tem asked.

“Except for that room,” the fireman snapped as he stalked away from our property. The boys waved to the crew as they loaded up on the fire truck.

With the house cleared for us to re-enter, we all walked in, the mood somber as Tem flung open more windows.

“Well!” he said, with a bouncy air. “That was an adventure, wasn’t it?”

Martha, Jim, and April all looked homicidal. My poor man’s face fell. I knew we were thinking the same thing. They would take Keej from us. They would hate us forever and ban us for life from the orphanage for not keeping an eye on him. We’d be persona non grata, like the Octomom lady but with no plastic surgery.

I worried for poor little Keej. They would blame him for this episode, when it had nothing to do with him.

There was a moment of awkwardness where they said nothing and Tem, Clancy, Kalani, Blossom, and I all exchanged furtive looks.

The girls put the instruments on chairs at the kitchen table.

“Tem darling, you will make us some tea?” Blossom inclined her head to my addled husband who blinked a few times, then nodded.

“Yes, of course.” He threw a desperate look at me.

“Akua-san, Keej-san, you come with grandma now, darlings.” Blossom was dripping a sweetness completely out of character for her.

Where is the vampire queen and what have you done with her? I didn’t recognize this doting, domesticated duchess. I kept remembering her naked in red high heels stripping for her weirdo boyfriend.

I shook my head of the memory. It was almost worse than Tijlaug’s insane laughter. Where the hell was that hideous creature, anyway?

“Where’s Tijlaug?” Tem’s thoughts invaded mine.

No idea. Brace yourself, sweetheart. They’re going to take Keej from us.”

Never,” Tem telepathed. I received images of us on a boat in the ocean with the two boys. Oh, man. He was planning an escape.

I let both boys down to the ground. They kissed my cheeks, and I kissed theirs. They took each other’s hands and went off with Blossom. I caught Jim and April staring at me. Jim suddenly coughed.

Tem sprang into action, instantly offering him iced water. He turned on the kettle, then opened the cupboards looking for food.

My God.

They were all bare.

Holy moly, Mother Hubbard!

I closed my eyes. Tijlaug had been a busy little prick. He must have emptied them.

“Oh!” Tem’s cheeks flamed, closing them quickly.

We don’t even have a single tea leaf,” he telepathed to me. “What’s CPS going to say when they see we don’t have any food for Keej?”

I sent frantic messages to my sister, who nodded.

“Distract them. Ask Clancy to play something. You know what a ham she is. I’ll go down to the bomb shelter and get some supplies,” she telepathed, then slipped away quickly.

I’d forgotten about our secret hideaway. We called it a bomb shelter, but it was really a panic room for us vampires to sleep in total safety should we need it.

That relieved me. I sent this message to Tem, who gave Clancy a dazzling smile.

“Clancy, while I’m making tea, why don’t you play us some nice music?” he asked, getting out our finest china. It was Royal Doulton with a pattern called Colclough Braganza. Tem had searched for it for months on various antique websites because it was the pattern used in a British TV series called Keeping Up Appearances, except that on that show, Hyacinth Bouquet pompously calls it “My Royal Doulton with the hand-painted periwinkles.”

“I’d love it,” Clancy said, picking up her Stradivarius from one of the kitchen chairs. She sat on the countertop, legs crossed, her expression dreamy-eyed as she began playing.

“Please, sit down,” I urged our guests. I moved all the instruments to a sideboard. I was surprised Jim and April still hadn’t said anything. The place smelled disgusting, we had no visible food in the place, and, God help me, Clancy was playing the worst possible music she could have chosen.

“Is that a funeral dirge?” April ventured.

I laughed out loud, making everyone jump. “Clancy has a wicked sense of humor. My wife is quite the comedian.”

Clancy opened and closed her mouth. Since becoming a vampire, she’s turned into quite the macabre little musician. She stared at me, fuming, but changed the music to something livelier. It sounded Hawaiian and made me want to bring out my hula skirt.

Much better.

Behind me, Kalani was back with an armful of packages, and, I noticed, some pieces of fresh fruit from the garden. She took over helping Tem in the kitchen. Clancy was usually his helper. Within minutes, Blossom had returned with the kids. I glanced at Keej, surprised to see a shimmer around him.

Dang, I’d thought Tijlaug was gone. Kalani and Tem brought the tea tray to the table. The boys drank fresh pineapple juice and nibbled at ham and cheese sandwiches Kalani had cut into triangles.

They were giggling about something, completely unaffected by the drama.

I was anxious about Akua but he was a model gentleman. He didn’t fling a single piece of bread across the room, didn’t unleash a single tantrum, and there was no projectile vomiting, his favorite party trick.

He and Keej ate quickly. “Uncle Div, can we play with our wii?” he asked.

“Yeah! Can we? Please?” Keej looked pleadingly at me.

“Of course you can,” Tem soothed. “Blossom, do you mind—”

“I’d be happy to watch them,” she said, rising from the table and gliding away with such ancient charm, even I was beguiled.

I began to worry. She was never this nice, so I wondered what price I’d have to pay for this little pantomime.

She left behind a whiff of some spicy kind of perfume, and a dark red lipstick mark on the edge of Tem’s teacup that I knew he’d never be able to remove. Blossom’s lipsticks were ancient Chinese formulas created centuries ago for concubines so that they would always have perfect mouths. Those lipsticks lived longer than the women who used them.

There was a knock at the back door. Clancy and Heavenly opened it.

Oh, heck no. Siberio.

Blossom’s lover came in dressed in his black tunic and skinny black pants. He wore love beads and Maltese crosses around his neck. He’d taken time to brush his long hair. I wanted to pull it out by the roots. He smiled at the women, and swept a stray strand back with a long, tapered hand that featured black nail polish on his fingertips.

How the hell did I explain this creature feature to the people from CPS?

“Howdy,” he said. This was weird considering he sounded like Count Dracula.

I’ve grappled with the problem of understanding women for several centuries now. I’m still no closer to getting them. I was shocked when both Martha and April seemed smitten by him.

“I’m a shaman,” he told them, taking the seat vacated by Blossom.

Martha, a plump, pleasant woman who is always on a diet but never seems to lose weight, showed an avid interest in the weird food program Siberio suddenly prescribed to her.

Clancy and Heavenly showed a strange interest in the guy, too. I hoped they weren’t contemplating a threesome. Blossom would kill them. All three of them.

“I’d like to lose weight too,” a stick-thin April said loudly.

“I can devise something tailored to your needs based on spiritual contemplation.”

Oh, fuck, no!

Tem looked petrified. He’s a head case. Any second now they’ll figure it out. They’re going to take my baby from me! His thoughts screamed.

I was ready to drop-kick Siberio off our mountain, but for some bizarre reason he’d charmed the women, and Jim seemed to like him, too.

“Keej has such a wonderful family,” April said. “We’re to let him stay with you.”

“These are righteous folk,” Siberio said, nodding to her.

Say, maybe this asshole wasn’t so bad after all.

“We’re so happy for him,” Jim said.

Martha was a little more grounded than April. Maybe she didn’t dig the love beads so much. “We want to know the outcome of the investigation into the fire,” she told me.

They got up and left the house, Siberio walking off to find Blossom and the boys.

“I’ve been so worried,” Martha said to me. “We got such crazy reports from Keej’s family.” She pulled a face. “Are you sure he didn’t start the fire?”

“Of course not,” I assured her.

Once she and the others left, Tem and I cleaned up the kitchen.

“We’re going for a ride,” Clancy told us. I had no idea if she meant their horses, or each other. I decided I didn’t want to know which. As soon as they left, Tem looked at me.

“Still no sign of Moontime, Div.” His gaze broke my heart.

“We’ll find him,” I promised, pulling him into my arms. I was about to give him a kiss to end all kisses when Blossom and Siberio emerged with the boys.

“Do you mind if we show Siberio the panic room?” she asked. “I think he’ll be so impressed.”

“I don’t mind,” I said. “Take your time.”

“Look after my babies,” Tem instructed. He was so possessive of those boys.

And I am possessive of him. I took the kitchen sponge out of his hand and steered him to our bedroom. He needed a major distraction, and I needed to suck his cock.

He let me kiss him. I felt his focus wavering on the damned cat as I began to undress him. I pushed him to the bed and began unbuttoning his tight, vintage jeans. He was getting a nice big hard-on as I worked on him.

Suddenly, he brushed my hand away, and sat up on the bed shouting, “When the cat’s away!”

“What?” I only had two buttons to go on his fly. Damn!

“Don’t you see?” he asked, his lovely eyes looking troubled again.

“See what, my love?” I see your juicy cock waiting for my attention.

“Oh, Div. You have such a one-track mind.

“I know it.” I hung my head in shame.

When the Cat’s Away,” he repeated. “The French movie we saw, remember? Where the woman in Paris loses her cat and goes all over the city looking for him and for weeks goes crazy and it turns out he was stuck behind her stove all that time. Oh, Div! What if Moontime is stuck behind ours?”

He bolted from the bed and out of the room.

I followed him into the kitchen, hoping the people from CPS wouldn’t show up  as Tem dismantled the joint. I helped him move the stove.

No Moontime.

My cell phone rang. I was surprised to hear Keej’s uncle apologizing for hanging up on me.

“I wasn’t very nice to you,” he said. “In fact, my wife says I was very rude.”

Resisting the urge to say, “You were,” I waited to hear what he was going to tell me.

“Anyway, I had to call back because there’s something you should know.”

“Oh?” I said as I heard some ragged cat shrieks.

“Moontime!” Tem and I shouted in unison.

Tem pulled our bedraggled boy from behind the fridge. He looked awful. Crimson slashes on his neck and chest glistened with blood.

“He’s…he’s hurt, Div.” Tem turned frightened eyes toward me. He gaped at me. A chilly breath puffed at the back of my neck.

“There’s no good way to tell you this but Keej has demon possession,” the uncle said.

“Yes. We are aware of that.”

He inhaled sharply. “You are? How?”

“We met.”

A pause. “Which one did you meet?”

The chilly sensation began to envelop me. “You mean there’s more than one?”

“Who did you meet?” he demanded.

“Tijlaug.”

There was a brief pause. Then, “He’s bad. But his twin is worse. If you want your family to stay alive, get out of that house. Now.”

I clutched the phone, staring at Tem as Moontime seemed to collapse in his arms.

“The one you have to be really afraid of is Neng,” the uncle went on.

“Neng?”

“Tijlaug’s twin sister. She’s really bad. I mean, she’s the demon seed. She will do anything she can to harm humans. And family pets. Her name means shaman, and she loves more than anything to take over people she thinks are phony.”

My God. Siberio. He’d just gone down into the panic room with Blossom, Akua, and…Keej.

The cold breath at my neck turned into a bite. I felt a pair of teeth chomp into me and I began to choke.

I dropped the phone. “Tem. Help me.”

And then the world went black.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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