Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Christmas Bonus by EM Lynley

Throughout the week, between regular posts, I'll be highlighting different authors I really like. 

This one is EM Lynley, and she has a new book out: A Christmas Bonus. 

 the publisher link, and I'm sure you will find it on all web sites were e-books are sold.

Here's the synopsis:

Alec Compton's dream job at a Wall Street investment firm is on the line if he can't close a make-or-break takeover deal by the end of the year.

The buyer is none other than world-renowned billionaire and corporate raider Brant Linton, recently named one of the hottest and most eligible gay businessmen. Electricity crackles at their first meeting, and Alec's thoughts drift far from business, despite his distaste for Brant's business practices.

When Brant takes off early to spend Christmas with his sister's family on the exclusive French Polynesian island of Taha'a, Alec has no choice but to follow if he wants to get Brant to sign on the dotted line. But Brant's sister has forbidden him from conducting business during the holidays and Alec must masquerade as Brant's boyfriend.

Then business turns into pleasure, but neither Brant nor Alec know whether the other is there for the deal, or for something more personal in EM Lynley's sizzling holiday novella A CHRISTMAS BONUS.

by Ryan Field

Re-posted from Ryan's blog from Dec 19th

Monday, December 12, 2011

Dreaming of a H-O-T Christmas

Is your holiday season filled with snow?  Sun?  How about H-O-T men?
This time of year all I can think about is Christmas.  Presents, food, family.  All the traditions that make the season wonderful.   This is true whether I’m in the warm climate of paradise (where I live now) or the cold temperatures of the Lone Star state (where I’m from and where I’ll be heading soon).
Last year, I started a new tradition – participating in Silver Publishing’s 25 Days of Christmas.  Each day in December until Christmas, a new short story is released.
This year, I’m pretty sure my story puts me on Santa’s naughty list. 
My story is called SECRET SANTA and tells the story of Santa and a Marine!

Martin's gig accepting presents for the annual Marine gift-giving drive becomes less mundane when a new Santa arrives at the department store. This year, Martin will experience Christmas as he never has before--and find out if Santa is real.
To find out if he is, you can buy SECRET SANTA here: Buy Secret Santa HERE!

Not enough heat for Christmas?  Then try out the audio version of my Christmas story from last year! 
FOR THE LOVE OF SCROOGE is available here as an eBook and now as an audio book:  


I hope these stories will keep you warm for Christmas.  Cuddle up with my boys and enjoy! 

~Rebecca Leigh


Monday, December 5, 2011

How Can a Box and a Basket Screw Up the Entire Book?

I wish there were a way to scream "thank you" to my managing editor at Loveyoudivine.com, Dalia. Once again, she saved the day. I found an error before a THE COMPUTER TUTOR went to print and it really bothered me. This holiday novella/story is my first attempt at writing "new adult" fiction. It's a new genre you don't hear about often, and I'm liking the freedom it gives me. The release date is December 9th. Here's a link: http://www.loveyoudivine.com/index.php?main_page=document_product_info&cPath=3&products_id=898&zenid=1994737b4787575c9aacac5618988fd8

Last night, while going over the final draft of THE COMPUTER TUTOR, I discovered a mistake. It was just one word, and it could have been ignored, but I figured that if it bothered me it's going to bother other readers. And, this is what editing is all about.

The word was "basket." It needed to be changed to "box." If you look at the book cover for THE COMPUTER TUTOR, you'll see there is a "box" of puppies, not a "basket" of puppies. "Basket" was in the book, not "box." Both words would have worked within the context of the story. But it bothered me that the cover didn't go with the story. And I like the word "box" more than "basket," even though I originally wrote it as "basket." I think a guy would use a box faster than a basket.

So I e-mailed Dalia late last night and waited to hear if it could be fixed. I've seen this happen before with all publishers, even NY publishers, where the book cover doesn't always coincide with the story. It's not the biggest thing in the world, I wouldn't classify it as coverfail, but those little details can really freak me out. I also know they can freak readers out.

Thankfully, Dalia was able to change "basket" to "box" and all is well. The reason I didn't catch it sooner is because when you're in the editing process you're busy working on tightening sentences, revising paragraphs, and a multitude of things most people wouldn't even consider while they are reading a book. Most readers only care about the story and whether or not it appeals to them. But there is a lot of work that goes into the writing aspects, and even the slightest mistake can bother a writer for years. 
Ryan Field
Romance Author

Monday, November 28, 2011

Also Starring... and Walk-On Parts.

aka Secondary Characters.

People rarely live in a vacuum. Even the prisoner in solitary has the guards in his or her world. In the wider world, those we have as friends and family helps to define our own place in it. So for me the people around my heroes are as important as the two guys themselves, be they family, friends, ex-lovers, work colleagues, opponents, rivals, or just the little old lady who is helped across the road. Show Not Tell is engraved in poker-work on the surface of my brain, and while I don't always manage to follow its advice, secondary characters are one of the major weapons in that arsenal. Whether I'm writing in the 1st person, or a tightly focused 3rd person, how my hero feels about and reacts to these people tells the reader a lot about the kind of person the hero is. 

But, and it's a big but, the secondary characters mustn't overwhelm the leads, and that is a difficult line to walk. What I, as the writer, think is a good balance between the leads and the also starring, isn't always the same to the reader. Some readers prefer the concentration to be solely on the leading characters and have no time or inclination for the 'cast of thousands' approach.  That's no reason for me to avoid attempting to create believable multi-dimensional characters, even if I'm not intending to write a series based in a particular universe, following the lives of the various people introduced in the original book.

Of course, the also starring doesn't have to be human - or sentient alien *g*. In my recent release, Game On, Game Over, TBC [aka That Bloody Cat] played a significant role in the latter part of the story. In my latest release, Home and Heart, Golden Retriever Bracken and Curly Coated Retriever Teazle, had walk-on parts. Here the trick was to avoid over-sentimentality that can go against the run of the story [TBC is an amalgam of various cats I have known, while Bracken and Teazle were and are members of my family].

Another variety of secondary character can be a place. Stokesay Castle in the Welsh Marches is a wonderful example of a fortified manor house, and made the ideal basis for the Fitzwarrens' albatross of a ruin in The Fitzwarren Inheritance trilogy. Certain TV series have excelled at these kind of co-stars - Star Trek's USS Enterprise, Starsky & Hutch - Starsky's Ford Torino, Supernatural - Dean Winchester's '67 Chevrolet Impala, and I could make a case for MacLeod's barge moored on the Seine in Highlander: The Series. Does that seem silly? Think about how James T Kirk feels about the Enterprise and all the lives held within her. And Dean's loyalty to the Impala, given to him by his father and probably the only true home he and his brother have had for most of their lives. Important character points there, for both men.

~~~ Chris Quinton ~ Gay Fiction Across Genres  ~~~
My website is here and I'm on FaceBook here  - Manifold Press is here
Silver Publishing is here - GLBT Bookshelf Wiki is here

Monday, November 21, 2011

Love Means... Healing

I have received more notes from readers asking me to tell Len and Chris’s story than I have on any other topic.  After releasing Love Means…No Fear, the notes started and didn’t stop.  I tried for a while to come up with a story and decided that there simply wasn’t enough there for a full novel, so instead I wrote Love Means… Healing.  This is Len and Chris’s story and it takes place between the end and the epilogue of Love Means… No Shame.  I really wanted this story to explain how Len allowed himself to find love again and to heal from Cliff’s death.  What I got as I started to write was a story about how both Len and Chris help each other to heal form very different wounds. I really hope you like it.

~Andrew Grey

Seven months ago, Len Parker lost his partner of more than twenty years, and he isn’t sure how to feel about his blossoming attraction to Chris, one of his farmhands. Hesitant and still hurt, Len remains aloof and distant until he’s goaded into teaching Chris to ride.
Fresh out of a thirty-year career with the Marines, Chris can explore his sexuality openly for the first time in his life, but what he needs more than anything is peace. He’s convinced Len doesn’t like him until he digs a little deeper, and then, armed with hope, Chris sets out to prove that love can provide the healing he and Len so desperately need.

“Couldn’t sleep, so I got up and went for a ride,” Len answered and went right back to work. He really didn’t want to talk about it, and Len knew Geoff would understand. The clomping of horse’s hooves on the concrete told him Geoff had moved on, and Len continued filling the wheelbarrow before wheeling the mess to the mulch pile. On his way back, he passed Eli walking his horse out into the yard.
“Morning, Len,” Geoff’s partner of six months called with a bright smile on his face.
“Morning, Eli,” Len answered with more energy than he felt. “Do you have a class this morning?”
“At ten. I have most everything ready,” Eli answered before mounting. Len pulled off his cap and waved it at the two of them as they started their ride. He saw them both wave back and heard the conversation and laughter fade as they got farther away. Placing his hat back on his head, he went back to work. As he finished the stall, Len heard tires crunch on the gravel drive outside, followed by the sound of truck doors closing and then footsteps on the gravel and into the barn. The tractor started with a deep rumble in the equipment shed.
“Morning, Len,” Lumpy called from the doorway of the tack room, the list of tasks in his hand. “Pete’s gonna get those last hayfields roll-baled before it rains. Where do you want us to put them when we’re done? You said yesterday that we didn’t need it.”
“You can leave it in the fields. The Hansens are going to take it all. They enlarged their dairy herd, and he said he’d be happy to take whatever we have. I’ll call and tell him he can start picking up the bales in a few hours,” Len said, and he saw a curious look on Lumpy’s face, like he wanted to ask something, but wasn’t sure if he should.
“I’ll tell Pete and then get on the list.” Lumpy looked the sheet over. “I’m gonna start with those fences, and I’ll let you know if I find anything that needs fixing. See you this afternoon,” Lumpy added before walking out of the barn and getting to work. Len climbed the stairs to the full hayloft and opened the only trap door that wasn’t covered by hay. Lifting a bale, he dropped it through the door to the barn floor below.
“Len, I can get that for you,” a voice behind him said, making him jump. Len landed near the edge of the door and nearly lost his balance. Big hands caught his arm, pulling him back from the brink and against a hard, firm body before both of them fell against the stacked bales of hay, with Len caught between the hay and Chris, the hand Geoff had hired a few weeks earlier. The scent of fresh hay mixed with the smell of soap and man, and for a second Len remembered what it felt like to be held and went with it until his thoughts cleared.
“You scared the shit out of me,” Len said, pulling away before storming toward the stairs.
“It was an accident. Christ, I only came up to help. There’s no need to take my head off!” Chris retorted louder than was needed, and Len heard the whap and thump as a bale was flung to the floor below. Len descended the stairs in a huff. He wasn’t angry with Chris, not really. It was his reaction whenever he got close to the man that kept throwing him.
At the bottom of the stairs, Len stopped. He could hear Chris moving around, heavy footsteps stomping on the loft floor, the thump of the bales as they fell with more force than necessary, but more than anything he could see the man’s chiseled face and bright, intelligent eyes, which looked as though they’d seen things Len could never understand. Chris also had a body that had seen hard physical work for years. Chris appeared to be nearing fifty, the way Len was, but Chris didn’t look like any other fifty-year-old Len had ever seen. Not that it mattered. Len was not going to find out if the muscles beneath Chris’s flannel shirt were as large as they looked, or if that glimpse of dark hair that sometimes peeked over the top of his shirt extended further. That was not going to happen. Len pushed the images out of his mind as he stomped out of the barn toward the house, figuring he might as well make breakfast. It would give him something to do, and everyone would be hungry in an hour or so.

Seven months ago, Len Parker lost his partner of more than twenty years, and he isn’t sure how to feel about his blossoming attraction to Chris, one of his farmhands. Hesitant and still hurt, Len remains aloof and distant until he’s goaded into teaching Chris to ride.
Fresh out of a thirty-year career with the Marines, Chris can explore his sexuality openly for the first time in his life, but what he needs more than anything is peace. He’s convinced Len doesn’t like him until he digs a little deeper, and then, armed with hope, Chris sets out to prove that love can provide the healing he and Len so desperately need.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Men of Riverside

This month, on November 21, Convincing Landon (Men of Riverside, #7) will be released at Total-E-Bound.

The series has been a total joy to write, even though it got a little complicated at times. Having eight books that are interconnected to the degree the volumes in Men of Riverside are, has been an interesting challenge. Not only are a lot of characters involved, but the timeline goes as far back as twenty years, and ‘current events’ of the series itself stretch over three years. So, planning has been a big part of this.
But the most important part, for me, at least, in any writing adventure, is finding out more about the characters. Quite often they come to me from dreams, but sometimes I get to see just a part of a person, then have to find out more about them as I write. It is just like getting to know someone in ‘real life’, in many ways, and can be just as surprising.
Like with any series, I am sad to see it end. Well, end for now. Men of Riverside 8 is already written (Helping Harry) and will be released in January. I have a feeling I will return to the series in the future, so you never know.
For now, I hope you enjoy Convincing Landon, in which both Landon and Kendall will need a lot of convincing before they finally admit that they were meant ot be together. In the tradition of the series:
For those who never give up hope that luck, determination and love may bring separated lovers back together for the happy ending we all crave.




Afraid of being openly gay, Landon rejected Kendall after a brief affair. Will they be able to make a fresh start when chance reunites them years later?
Landon Tully is a social worker who only returned to Riverside for his father’s funeral. But when a job opportunity opens up, he decides to stay for a while. Within days he runs into Kendall Gable, the man he’d thought was too young for him eight years ago – only now Kendall is all grown up and on the opposite side of a bidding contest for the land Landon has been asked to obtain to build a homeless shelter.
Kendall has made a life for himself as an architect. Focusing on work has helped him fill the hole in his life that Landon left behind. Running into him is painful, but helps him realise some of the issues in his professional life need fixing.
Will Kendall be able to convince himself, and Landon, that they deserve a life together after all?

Buy Link:

Monday, November 7, 2011

Why I’m Writing M/M by Silvia Violet

I’ve been reading m/m romance for years. One of my first publications was an m/m/f where the initial relationship was between the two men. I’ve written plenty of m/m/f since, but until this spring I’d never written an m/m book. So why the change?

I’ve been reading a lot more m/m in the last few years so that may have influenced my muse. I also tried my hand at first person in an m/f story and realized how much I love being in deep male POV. I had so much fun getting into the thoughts of my male character that I decided to write another book in this series. I started outlining, and my hero laughed at me as I tried pair him with a female vampire. He couldn’t believe I hadn’t figured out that he was gay. And thus my first m/m, Sex on the Hoof was born. I’ve since published three more m/m stories and have three more under contract and many more in various stages of writing.

Along with enjoying writing from the male perspective, I think my muse is heading in a new direction because I love to be challenged by what I’m writing. Love it or not, writing solely from a male POV is challenging. I have to remember that in general men use different speech patterns from women and a man would likely approach a budding relationship differently than I would. Then there’s the challenge of thinking like a man without falling into male stereotypes. My recent writing has forced me to consider issues about gender and sexuality from new vantage points. I’m being challenged creatively and intellectually.

For several of my stories, I’ve created sci fi or paranormal settings in which sexual orientation is not an issue. I love making up worlds in which the relationship is a challenge in itself without the burden of prejudice or the need to hide. Wouldn’t it be nice if we lived in such a place? Writing m/m lets me live in this pleasant fantasy world for awhile.

My most recent m/m release is Paws on Me, I fell in love with my hardass cop, Seth, and Brandon, the fun-loving bear shifter who captures his heart. I hope you will love them too.

Protect and Serve: Paws on Me by Silvia Violet
Lieutenant Seth Morrison loves being a cop, but with budget cuts and crime both on the rise, he’s stopped making time for anything but his job.
On the outside, Brandon Lord is an easy-going, flirtatious club owner. On the inside he’s a man trying to overcome a difficult past.
When a murder investigation brings the two men together, passion roars to life. They’re both willing to break the rules to be together. Because as mismatched as they might seem, each man is exactly what the other needs.
I’m Seth Morrison. I’m a cop, a police lieutenant to be precise. I’ve been on the force more years than I want to think about. I’ve seen good men get killed, turn dirty, lose themselves in the bottle, lose their fucking minds, but I’m still here doing what I do. I don’t know any other life. People tell me I need a break, a vacation, to relax. I don’t want to fucking relax. I just want to do my job and keep this city from falling apart.
I park my car, grab my coffee from the cup holder, and charge up the front steps of the station. I could take the side door, it’s closer to my office, but I love the chaos of the bullpen. When I open the door, I breathe deeply, enjoying the variety of smells: coffee that’s been on the warmer far too long, the sickeningly sweet smell of candy and doughnuts, pine-scented cleaner from the scrubbing the janitors gave the floors last night, and something unnamable that simply smells like cops and hard work. I shake my head as I try to imagine not being here nearly 24/7. This is where I belong.
My stomach rumbles. I should’ve had dinner, but after pretending an afternoon nap was a night’s sleep, I’m running late. I’ll grab something from the vending machine while I dream about a juicy burger and thick home fries. It sure would be nice to have someone cook for me. I don’t seem to get along with stoves. Years ago, I tried being married. That worked for about 30 seconds. My wife wanted me to work shorter hours. I wanted her to talk less, or maybe never.
Friends tell me I should make an effort to date, but I’m more comfortable at a gruesome homicide scene than making small talk at dinner with a woman or a man. Yeah, I like both. I stopped going out with men when I entered the academy. I just couldn’t deal with the shit the guys would give me. Now, I don’t advertise what I like, but I pick up a guy now and then. I’m discreet, but if somebody finds out, I’ll deal.
One-night stands I can handle, but relationships are beyond me. People think police work is draining, but I’d rather spend all day in the field and all night at my desk filling out fucking paperwork — and often I do — than try to decode relationship signals. I inevitably screw things up and never understand why.
Sex I need. Romance I don’t.
My phone rings. I pull it out of my pocket hoping the call will save me from the mountain of paperwork on my desk. It’s Drew Danvers, detective and vampire. That’s right, a vampire who works for the good guys. We’ve got a werewolf in homicide too. And he’s a damn fine cop.
I remember when the shifters came out of the closet, scaring the hell out of us humans. One by one other monsters made themselves known. Most people assumed they were all assholes who wanted to eat us, but I quickly learned not to judge a man because he sucked blood or turned into a wolf. I judge men based on how they treat others.
I answer the call. “What’s up, Detective?”
“Two dead werewolves found in a closet at Shift. Hacked up pretty bad. The scene’s a circus. Jenkins called in sick. I’m on my own, and –”
“I’ll be there in ten.”
“Thanks, sir.”
“No problem. Murder scene or paperwork, which would you choose?”
* * *
I step inside the club. A crime lab team is there and several uniformed officers are talking with employees. I spot Drew in the entryway of an office. He’s frowning as he questions a tall hairy hunk of a man. I’ve seen this man around the area several times, and just like every other time, he makes my cock sit up and take notice.
Our most recent encounter was a week ago. When I want to grab a beer and be left the fuck alone, I go to Mitch’s, a dive just down the street from Shift. Last time I spent the evening there, he sat next to me at the bar and came on strong. I was in a shitty mood. I wanted him, and it pissed me off. He’s not my type. He’s young, hip, and outrageously flirtatious. I walked away, but I regretted it later that night when I couldn’t stop fantasizing about him.
The man looks my way and catches me staring. His grin says he knows the direction my thoughts are going. Fucking bastard winks at me. Drew scowls.
I turn to face him. He grins down at me, that same cocky-as-fuck little smile he’d given me earlier, making me even more aware of how close we are and how big he is. At 6’2, I’m hardly small, but he’s got several inches on me. And while I’ve got a rather thick pelt, the fur visible above the vee of his t-shirt is astounding.
He smiles mischievously. “You gonna cuff me if you take me in?”
“Impeding a murder investigation will get you thrown in jail.”
He rolls his eyes. “I found two dead guys in my closet when I came to work tonight. My business is shut down, and I’ll be losing money every minute that you’re here. But at least I have a sense of humor.”
“Well, I don’t.”
He shakes his head. “Are you taken too?”
I take another step back. “You’re making a lot of assumptions.”
I look over at Drew and realize he and Jason are grinning like loons. Fuck. All I need is the two of them ragging me.
I glare at Drew. “Detective, do you think you can question this man without killing him?”
“Fine. Fleetfoot, head back to the lab. Take my car. I’ll get a ride with Danvers.” I throw him my keys, and he snatches them out of the air as he gives Drew’s hand a final squeeze. Jason is better in the lab than any tech we have. We only send him into the field when we’re desperately short-handed. I run a hand through my hair, wishing I knew how I’m going to hold the homicide division together if we don’t get more funds.
He holds out his hand. “I’m Brandon Lord. I own Shift.”
“Lieutenant Morrison.” I shake his hand. His skin is surprisingly smooth, his grip tight and warm. I want to feel those big hands running over me. I want to rub his furry body with my own. Fuck! I should assign someone else to this case right now and get the hell away from him. But some crazy restlessness he’s dredged up in me makes me fight my instincts.
“Nice to meet you, Lieutenant.” His voice is low and rich. And his grin lets me know he’s well aware of my body’s reaction to him.
I need to get away. His smell alone is making me hard. “I’m not here to play games. Drop the act and treat this case seriously, or I’ll find an excuse to throw your ass in jail.”
He grins. Fuck, he knows he’s got me rattled. “I’d never kill anyone, Lieutenant. I’m just a cuddly teddy bear.”
The bear shifter and the bear. Ridiculous. I need to leave now. This man is no cuddly toy. I don’t think he’s our murderer, but he’s far smarter than he wants me to believe and likely far more dangerous. “I know what cuddling leads to.”
Brandon laughs, a deep, infectious sound. I can’t help but respond. Now I want him more than ever. Taking this case was a supremely stupid idea, staying on it now is unprofessional.
But I won’t walk away.
Buy link: http://changelingpress.com/product.php?&upt=book&ubid=1705
by Silvia Violet 

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Writer and her Characters

As far back as I can remember, I have had an ongoing relationship with a few of my characters. Ones derived from my imagination, from the time I was a young adult, possibly before then. It wasn’t that I didn’t have plenty of friends or suffered from a social anxiety disorder, I just had a very active imagination and I needed more to fulfill my idle time, I guess. I can remember playing with my Barbies, and I’m not talking just a few at a time. I’m talking a whole room full of them and all their accessories, including the cars, the horses, the pets, all of it. And my goodness, I created a whole world with them. I was busy for weeks on the same storyline and I think I started that when I was five or six. I had a huge collection that I saved and passed on to my own daughter, and she to hers, not that I ever witnessed her getting into their lives the way I did. Anyway, as time went on, and I got too old to sport the Barbies, the stories in my head continued to grow and my characters were anything but Barbies. These characters became entities in their own right. They all look different, they act different, and they talk different. Yet, they are all a part of me. Making me a very diverse individual with an amazing imagination. A very visual one at that. How awesome is it to allow one’s mind to just float and see these characters living and talking and doing life. If it hasn’t happened to you, all I can say is that it’s amazing. It’s almost as if you take a trip to another time, place, or, maybe, are watching a movie.
Now, sure, a writer will introduce dozens of characters to their readers, and each of them, all hold a special place in their creators’ hearts. They are all loved or disliked according to their actions by the creator. However, the one thing that simply flabbergasts me is how a certain few characters are born and how they attach themselves to their creator and not for just a little while. These characters become a part of the writer and remain with them for a lifetime. What intrigues me is this: a writer brings their character to the table and a story is born. The writer gives that character or characters the free rein to tell their tale, the writer being more or less the reporter of the events they see taking place within their minds. The characters take over and the story is being jotted down, word after word, page after page, and chapter after chapter, and the writer is doing all they can to keep up with what they see. And hoping they are doing the characters justice. Before they know it, they have a full novel sitting there on the screen before them, or in notebooks scattered about the room and labeled one, two, three…etc. No time for a title on each, though, all there’s time for is getting those scenes you’re seeing in your head out of it, giving your characters life. I know it to be true because I’ve done it. I have well used notebooks in boxes and under my bed. I have documents saved all over the place. And in all of them, are my creations. My characters just waiting for me and my attention. Waiting for their turn for their story to be told. Now, as I conquer a story, the characters in them become quiet as their story has been told; however, there are some who never quiet. There are some who become so real and so vibrant that I swear I am more than just one person. My characters are alive within me, and they have worth. They are a part of me. Now, please don’t take me wrong, I’m not suffering from a multiple personality disorder, or maybe I am, but I am able to distinguish real life from the fantasy life that I get lost in on a day to day basis along with my characters.

And this leads me to an interesting topic that came up between me and my other half. He said, “I swear there are some days I have married Sybil’s sister.” I looked at him, with what was probably a blank expression, and asked what he meant. Calmly he said, “Well, there are some days when I come in from work and you’re happy and smiling and joking around, and there are other days when I come in and you’re upset and angry and in a very serious mood.” I nodded at him and looked away and grinned. He stood there for a bit, and sauntered off, figuring he’d get no response. Now, I could have taken that with a shake of salt and continued on with what I was doing. I could have dismissed it as being a “woman.” But I didn’t. Because each time he noticed a change in my personality, it was when I was working with a certain group of characters. I had to sit down and I had to think. Was I suffering from a disorder or were my characters that strong. I attributed it to both. Really. And this is why. I am obsessed with my characters, with a handful of them anyway. I mean, they all mean something to me, but it’s just with this certain group that I feel as if I’m a fierce lioness protecting her cubs from danger. That’s not to say they don’t find danger on their own, in their own world, but I’m here in this one protecting them and guiding them as best as I can to help them tell their story for the first time. These certain characters have helped me through some difficult times in my life. They are a source of comfort to me. I refer to them when I need them. And yes, at the risk of maybe sounding a little crazy, I will sometimes say: What would…..do? And I sat some more and thought harder. And I wondered then, when he came in and pulled me out of the story as he so often does, much to my disapproval, what character I was writing for. When I write for them, I feel them and all their emotions to go along with them.

So, I went in search of him days later and I said, “When you got home today was I happy or angry?” He looked at me, his big blue eyes wide, and he said I was angry. I thought a bit and read over what I was writing and it hit me. I was writing for one of my Behind Blue Eyes characters. Torro. He was in the midst of an intense scene with his brother, with my all-time favorite character. TJ. (I’ll be doing a blog on TJ very soon.) So, getting back to where I was going, I get so vested in the characters’ lives that I actually take on what they’re feeling and sometimes, if I’m pulled out of the scene, that certain emotion, feeling, or ? comes with me. He disturbed me as I was focused in on Torro’s (many of you met him in Tony & Ryan and briefly in Caged and will soon see a bit more of him in Carl/Lucca’s story)  POV, he dragged me out of that scene and the anger followed. Torro is an aggressive, torn soul in Behind Blue Eyes and that is who I was at that particular time. To date, he has met my comedian and TJ’s main supporter, best friend, and future lover, Benny. He’s met Torro on several occasions. He’s met TJ countless times, and he says he sees the difference in me with every different character I write for. I think he prefers Benny.

Interesting. I shrugged my shoulders and warned him as I smiled very sweetly at him. “Better watch how you act with me, you never know who you’ll come home to.” He looked at me, a bit of fear laced in his eyes, and he walked away mumbling something about Sybil.

So, I guess my question is, now, to the other writers out there. Do your characters manifest themselves in your lives? Has anyone in your life noticed and what do they say about it? And BTW: I am able to turn them off when I watch TV. So I don’t. Haha!

~Michele L. Montgomery


Monday, October 24, 2011

an erotic romance writer hooked on M/M

Somewhere along the line, as an erotic romance writer, I got hooked on writing M/M. Since then, writing in this genre has is where my creative flow has channeled. And then, since creativity is a live process and ever-evolving, my writing began to find what feels like its natural seat (for now) in more yaoi-inspired M/M, both contemporary and historical. I would say that a great inspiration for me has been the famous series Kizuna: Bonds of Love by Kazuma Kodaka that really inspired me. I admit I haven’t read much yaoi – barely any – and don’t claim to be an expert in exactly what distinguishes yaoi from other M/M erotic romances. The differences to me are subtle and are something that I feel intuitively as I write. It’s not like I’ve taken the definitions that I’ve read and applied them to my writing. However, when I look over the range of M/M books I’ve written, I can definitely take some of them and fit them into what could be categorized as “yaoi” as opposed to M/M.
The other thing that distinguishes it for me is the artwork. For whatever reason, certain stories fit the manga style artwork that is an integral part of the yaoi genre. For that, I have had THE great fortune of meeting an incredible manga artist, Yuramei, whose incredible yaoi series Big Deal, as a team with author Tabatha Katsura Thorn, I will be publishing very soon through Ai Press. However, I have also been lucky enough to have Yuramei do some artwork for my own pieces and really bring the characters to life the way I’d envisioned them when I wrote the stories. She has done the cover for Flying Fish as you’ll see below and is at work on my soon-to-be released contemporary piece, Soy Sauce Face. (Excerpts from both included here.)
All that said, when it comes down to is that certain stories, the characters and the tales they tell, flow from me. They tell me what they want to say and I write it down. All I can say is write it down and offer it up, hoping that you’ll enjoy reading the stories as much as I have enjoyed writing them. Thanks for your support! 

Warmly, Sedonia

Currently available at Ai Press (www.ai-press.net) :
Read excerpts below:

In eighteenth century Japan, during the golden age of samurai and of the Kabuki theater, young actors known as “flying fish” traveled the countryside, performing for audiences by day and giving their bodies to their samurai patrons at night.
Genji Sakura is one such flying fish, yet he dreams of the day he’ll find the man he can give his heart to and leave the loneliness of his itinerant life behind. Though he loves theater, he doesn’t love every part of his profession, especially some of the patrons. So when a handsome ronin, or masterless samurai, comes upon him stealing some solitude for a bath in a hot spring and their encounter turns passionate and profoundly erotic, Genji’s surprised and delighted.
Daisuke Minamoto’s past fills his life with a bitterness that grips his soul and makes him dangerous. Yet his passion takes him when he spies on a graceful young man bathing naked in a hot spring. He has always loved women but he can’t deny the call of his heart or his baser interests.
After an afternoon of sexual bliss, his heart and soul are tormented and torn. Keeping this miraculous lover will require giving up the one thing that has kept him alive for years: his hatred for the lord who murdered his wife. If he loves another, how will he go on and who will he become?
Publisher’s Note: This book contains explicit sexual content, graphic language, and situations that some readers may find objectionable: Anal play/intercourse, male/male sexual practices. This book was previously published and re-released with Ai Press.
Cover art: Yuramei
Chapter One
Kai Province, Edo Period, Japan
During the Tokugawa Shogunate
Ah, finally, the hot spring! A sunny summer afternoon to himself to enjoy a soak and not another soul in sight with whom he’d be forced to share. Who’d have thought such an oasis of luxury awaited a lowly travelling Kabuki actor, a flying fish who jumped from town to town with his troupe, entertaining merchants, peasants, and samurai? Unimaginable. Except that it had happened. And might not last long.
Genji stared a moment into the placid water of the small pond. Steam rose invitingly from its surface. Even the twittering birds in the trees surrounding the small enclave of rocks around the pool seemed to be ordering him in quickly. A hot spring like this would probably not remain undiscovered for long. Once he went back to the troupe’s quarters, only the Buddha might know when he’d have this chance again at solitude.
That was all the encouragement he needed. Genji pulled open the sash of his kimono and let the article slip right to the rock below his feet. On top of that, he dropped the small knife he carried, which when sheathed appeared to be a woman’s fan. A mistake probably, leaving it there, considering there were bandits in the countryside who could assail a lone person. But the essence of time made him throw caution aside.
He stepped out of his wooden sandals, not bothering to make a neatly folded pile of his clothes. The tie in his hair also landed on the pile, as he fully intended to wash his hair in this hot water. Another luxury he couldn’t have dreamed of before this moment. Now he was naked, having already daringly left off the loincloth before parting from his quarters in the village. Who wanted to spare the valuable time to unwrap it in the instance that he found the legendary hot spring spoken of by the innkeeper?
He covered his knife with the folds of the kimono, left within his reach, then stepped into the water. And immediately smiled. Delicious already and the water had only submerged him just past the ankle.
Anchoring his weight on one rock, he lowered himself in to his upper chest. Mmm, more luxurious heat penetrated his skin. The perfect relaxation. Bending forward, he soaked his long hair, then yanked his head back and scrubbed his scalp with eager fingertips. It wasn’t the same as having someone else do it for him, but it made his eyes close with pleasure all the same. Dipping down again, he rinsed his hair until he felt certain all the dust of the road had washed away, leaving the long, ebony strands gleaming.
He squeezed the excess water from the length of his hair then found a spot to sit and recline, where a rock jutted out into a natural ledge underneath the water. The sun warmed his face, and the water warmed his body. Warmth filled him. Made his soul as warm as his body. In moments like these, he could forget for a little while. Forget his childhood memories of the anguished cries of women and children as they all were forced from their homes in the aftermath of their lord’s defeat and herded onto the platforms to be sold. The sun made a reddish glow of the darkness behind his closed eyelids, a starburst of light that blocked out even the worst of his childhood visions.
A breeze passed over, blowing cool on his damp skin, rustling the leaves of the bushes and trees surrounding the tiny pool. However, when the breeze died down, the rustling of the leaves continued. Heavier, with the crunch of tiny twigs under the weight of something on top of them.
Genji’s eyes shot open. Sunlight flooded them, blinding him for a moment. All the nerve endings along his skin crackled to life. He strained to hear, and his body tensed, ready to spring from the water for his knife an arm’s length away.
Another crackle of twigs.
He sat bolt upright. “Who’s there?” he growled.
Genji might have thought it was an animal in the brush, but his inner voice told him otherwise. It whispered to him that he shared this tiny oasis with another human being. Someone who’d been spying on him, watching him wash his hair.
Genji leaned over, slipped his hand within the folds of his kimono and wrapped a hand around the hilt of his tanto, a gift from a high-ranking samurai, one who had patronized Genji’s talents in the past, both on and off the stage. “Answer me,” Genji said, his voice tight. Years of acting had taught him how to infuse his tone with whatever emotion was needed for effect. In this instance, he sought for threatening. “I’m armed. I know how to use this knife.” Indeed, he could follow his threat with action. That same samurai had taught him some basic swordsmanship, in between sessions of intense lovemaking.
Silence still answered him, yet the sense of another human presence remained.
Genji slid the tanto from its scabbard.
“If you don’t show yourself on the count of three,” Genji went on, gaze trained on the rocks that hid part of the brush, “I will climb from this pool, seek you out, and gut you. Don’t think I won’t do it.” Though slim and narrow in build, with finely etched muscle and not the brawn of a highly-trained samurai or laborer, Genji had speed and agility. As a dancer, he’d found the principles of movement were the same.
“Relax, peasant,” a voice said suddenly from behind the brush. “I’m obeying your order.”
Genji’s insides jumped. The voice, deep and male, held a hint of mockery tinged with admiration. Though the owner of the voice hadn’t threatened his safety, Genji continued to hold his knife at the ready, should the stranger indeed mean him harm.
The leaves and branches of the brush rustled and snapped, and within seconds, a figure emerged. He came to a stop at the edge of the rocks.
Genji stared, blinking, not so much because the glare of the sun made a halo of blinding light around the stranger’s broad figure, but because when the man moved so as to block the sun from Genji’s eyes, the vision before Genji was that of a wild warrior.
Darkness. The word rose in Genji’s mind as the stranger moved a few steps closer. Dark eyes, swarthy skin, jaw and cheeks covered with more than a few days’ growth. And though his abundant black hair was pulled back, much of it had escaped its tie and rioted about his rugged face.
The man, obviously a samurai of some sort, would have been handsomely imposing had his clothing not been ragged and desperately in need of washing, even his rope sandals, though Genji felt certain that the blades of his weaponry, long sword, short, and knife, were polished to perfection within their woven scabbards. The hands that handled those weapons were large, fingers thick, and his legs in their gaiters below the hem of his kimono, also thick, muscled limbs of coiled strength.
Genji’s tanto and his limited ability to use it were a mere joke in the face of this obviously skilled warrior, however ragged and dirty his state. His fear must have shown, for the stranger gave him a sudden lopsided grin and began to untie his belt, lowering his weapons to the rocks.
“I apologize for coming upon you the way I did, like a sneak thief,” the samurai said. His hands went to the tie of his kimono and worked it open. “I thought you were a woman when I saw you from a distance, washing that hair.”
Genji exhaled a tiny bit. But only a bit. He set his tanto onto the rock behind him, an excuse to avert his gaze from the thickly muscled torso being revealed. For some reason, the man’s growing nakedness made Genji feel testy. “So you would have continued to spy on me, taking advantage of my undress had you not seen I’m a man?”
The samurai didn’t answer though his dark gaze shifted away from Genji in a way that appeared guilty. He removed his gaiters, unwrapped his loincloth, dropping everything on top of his other ragged clothing, and Genji got an eyeful of the samurai’s musuko. Even in its softened state, the member hinted at delicious thickness when erect. The sac beneath it was equally abundant-looking, heavy and full.
The samurai leaned down, turning halfway as he began to lower himself into the water. His meaty leg and ass muscles flexed as he climbed down into the pool and settled on the other side. Genji didn’t know if there was a rock ledge to sit on over there, but he didn’t offer the space beside him in spite of this warrior’s handsome appearance. He entertained enough samurai already, nearly every evening after the day’s performances. His life was not his own, and it was a blessing for him that he loved the theater, otherwise he would have gone mad and committed hara-kiri long ago with his own knife.
Without meaning to, Genji caught a glance of the way the waterline lapped at the samurai’s chest and gleamed on the golden hue of his skin, just beneath the large dark rounds of his nipples.
“To answer your question,” the samurai said finally, “yes, I would have continued to spy on you, as crude as that may be.”
Genji blinked again, struck at the man’s honesty. That, at least, was refreshing. Not all samurai were as noble as their warrior’s code demanded they be.
“Even after you first spoke,” the samurai went on, “I wasn’t sure of your sex. Your voice is soft and gentle even though you tried to sound fierce. It took many moments of debating whether to show myself. Only when you turned around and I saw your male chest, I knew I could come out without making you scream.”
Genji continued studying him as he spoke. The samurai’s voice was deep, each word saturated with emotions. The explanation made some of Genji’s apprehension ebb, and he nodded. “I see.”
The samurai cupped some water and splashed his face. Shiny droplets clung to the heavy dark stubble on his cheeks and jaw. “You must be a boy, then, by your smooth appearance.”
“No.” Genji lifted his chin. “I’m in my twenty-fifth year.” Truthfully, he’d not been a boy since his family’s expulsion from the castle into dire poverty, a violence that had ripped him from childhood and thrown him into the constant struggle for survival.
His bathing companion looked doubtful for a moment but then nodded and continued to wash himself. He came away from the edge to the center of the small pool and dipped underneath the surface, scrubbing at his skin when he rose. His large hands slid over his arms and chest, making the water stream off his skin.
Genji tried not to watch him while that testy feeling intensified. He shifted in his seat. “I’m not a peasant either,” he said to the man’s back. Water soaked the man’s thick hair, making it shine in the sun and those thick back muscles flexed and bunched as he washed himself. Genji had nothing against peasants, of course. His parents had been peasants who’d served the lord of their province within the grounds of the castle keep before the shogun dissolved the lord’s estate and turned them all out. But Genji hadn’t had the chance to grow up as a peasant once he’d been sold into service of Shizu, the theater troupe’s director. And so, his occupation, the very thing that had formed his identity as a human being, was of utmost importance to him and would be known. Even to this bedraggled-looking warrior.
The samurai turned and regarded him. More water beaded off his broad chest and down his taut abdomen. “What are you then?”
Genji squared his shoulders a bit. “An actor.”
The samurai’s eyes widened with a look of amazement. “Ohhhh,” he said in a hushed whisper, as if a great honor were being conferred on him. Then he bowed, his face nearly touching the surface of the water.
Genji’s cheeks burned. Was the samurai mocking him?
But when the other man straightened, his expression seemed sincere. “You must be famous,” he said.
“You don’t need to make fun of me just because I am part of a traveling troupe.”
The samurai’s brow furrowed. “I make fun of no one.” He bowed again. “I have never met an actor before.”
Genji studied him as his indignation faded. Judging from the wild look of the man, it was certainly possible he didn’t patronize the theater as so many of his class did. Then Genji understood his own agitation. “I apologize,” he said softly. “I see you weren’t mocking me. I’m not accustomed to a…response such as yours.”
“Oh.” The samurai bowed again, and Genji felt his cheeks tingle a bit. In spite of their strange introduction, the warrior seemed to possess the sense of honor exhorted by the samurai code, a quality Genji found attractive.
“My name is Genji,” he said, feeling his heart open a bit toward the samurai. Politeness went quite far with him since so many patrons saw his occupation as an excuse to make him an immediate object of their carnal appetites without regard for his feelings. “Sakura Genji.” Sakura was a surname he’d given himself, not only because he found cherry blossoms beautiful, but as a stage name, it had a touch of romance to it. He also felt it would honor his parents. They’d have been proud to know their son had earned the honor of a surname, even if he had to confer the honor upon himself as he grew older and earned his promotion from stagehand to understudy to first performer.
The samurai bowed yet again. “Minamoto,” he said, “Minamoto Daisuke.”
“Pleased to meet you.” Genji paused before speaking again. “Which lord do you serve?” he asked and immediately regretted his question.
Minamoto’s face darkened, and the wildness Genji had first seen came forth in his look.
“I serve no lord,” he said quietly. “I’m a ronin.”
A masterless samurai. There were many of those in the world. For various reasons, these warriors roamed the countryside, using their skills for their own purposes, never swearing fealty to one lord. Indeed, the status explained Minamoto’s unkempt state. The occupation of ronin never held the promise of steady employment, especially in a time as relatively peaceful as this one, when a swordsman’s skill was not so much in demand.
Genji sought to lighten the sudden mood. There was something underneath the ronin’s demeanor that made Genji uneasy in spite of the man’s apparent honorability. “Well, then, we have something in common,” he said.
“What is that?” Minamoto looked genuinely curious.
“Neither of us stays long in one place. You’re a ronin, and I’m a tobiko.”
Minamoto broke into a grin. He laughed then, a deep, rich laugh that did, indeed, release the darkness of the previous moment.
Genji found the laughter infectious and joined him. Their combined voices echoed into the air, Minamoto’s deep sound and Genji’s higher, melodious one, blending into the sweet summer air and the birdsong in the surrounding trees. Life held some truly pleasant moments for Genji at times, and this was one of them.
When their mirth had passed, Minamoto regarded him with a thoughtful expression. “I wouldn’t have thought of such a comparison, but you’re right, after all. The world holds great uncertainties for both of us.”
Genji nodded then saw the samurai’s look shift, as if his own words had made him think of something he’d left behind while laughing. Feeling suddenly shy, Genji shifted his gaze to the water. “This is certainly a beautiful spot,” he said. The mood had darkened again, and Genji understood. Minamoto carried this darkness with him. It was part of him, like a precious treasure to which he clung for survival. Being an actor had sensitized Genji to the inner workings of human beings. After all, he needed to access the depths of human existence in order to portray it effectively onstage through song and dance.
“It is beautiful,” Minamoto agreed. “I’ve soaked here many times.”
“Oh, so you’ve been in the province before.”
The darkness seemed to close in like a shadow over Minamoto’s handsome face. “I lived here for some time, years ago.”
“I see.” Genji remained quiet. It wasn’t his way to pry into others’ lives. He’d learned long ago to mind his own affairs. Yet, it often didn’t matter. For whatever reason, he had a way about him that made people feel able to bare their souls to him and so had often learned more than he wanted to know of others’ depravities and secrets.
A tormented look tightened Minamoto’s features. “It’s no secret why I lived here and why I left. No doubt you’ll hear the gossip once people see I’ve returned.”
Genji’s insides jumped. Apparently, the ronin sensed this thing in Genji as well. It was inescapable. “I never pay heed to gossip,” he said. “It’s belittling. Unworthy of even the lowliest peasant.”
A moment of silence passed, and Genji thought his response had ended their conversation, but Minamoto spoke again.
“Five years ago, the lord of this province murdered my wife,” he said quietly. “Shot her with an arrow while he was out hunting. She was collecting flowers. They were still in her hand when she was brought to me.”
Genji stared at him. It occurred to him perhaps the lord had been hunting and mistook the woman’s movement for a game creature, but deep inside, he knew it wasn’t true. The act had been committed in cold blood. The truth was in Minamoto’s eyes.
“I was a threat to him,” Minamoto continued. “The aid I gave to certain of his vassals made him distrust me. He did it to rid the province of me. He succeeded. I could not stay here after that…and be reminded of her. Everywhere I looked.”
“I’m truly sorry,” he said softly. Clearly the ronin still grieved. The woman’s death had obviously been a loss from which Minamoto felt he could never return. Perhaps that was the cause of the darkness Genji had sensed in the man.
Minamoto’s stricken eyes went to him. The sympathy he read on Genji’s face seemed to soothe him, for his look shifted to something softer. He nodded an acknowledgment of Genji’s kindness to him. “Since then, I’ve travelled every inch of Japan, been to every province, and studied with the greatest swordsmen of each fiefdom.”
The samurai’s voice took on an edge as he spoke. There was a hunger in his eyes Genji had seen before in the warriors of his class. So many of them possessed fighting skills beyond anyone’s imagination, and in this peaceful time, they had no outlet other than to challenge each other to duels or to protect villages from gangsters and bandits. From the way Minamoto spoke, and from what he’d just revealed about his past, Genji felt certain as to the destructive course this man actually followed. Minamoto was a man consumed, devoured from the inside by his own life. The understanding formed in Genji’s mind and heart as he watched the steam rise from the water’s surface around Minamoto’s damp torso. Minamoto was a living, breathing figure of tragedy.
The understanding softened Genji a bit more toward the man. As much as he ever wanted to remain aloof from anyone for his own protection, he was never able to do so, as if some sort of natural barrier that other people had was missing from him. “Perhaps it’s none of my business,” Genji began gently, “and please tell me if it is not, but what brought you back to this province?” Something gave him the feeling it wasn’t to revisit the place where he had lived with his wife.
That darkness settled over Minamoto again. “I have unfinished business here.”
The answer confirmed his suspicions. Yet, Minamoto’s intentions were none of Genji’s affair. Genji’s existence was devoted to playing the Samurai Princess, a role for which Shizu had meticulously trained him since buying Genji off the platform.
Genji nodded and remained respectfully quiet. The slant of the sun told him it was time to return to the village. His troupe had just arrived the previous day, and their stage would be near completion. Rehearsals would go on this evening, and then when the news of their arrival had spread, there would be the usual wandering in of samurai looking for an evening’s companion. Genji sighed. “I must return. I have a few moments to dry out on the bank, and then I will go back.”
The ronin started as if given a shock. He bowed to Genji. “I’ll accompany you,” he said. “It’s safer not to travel alone.”
Genji hovered on the verge of refusing the offer. After all, he had his tanto and wasn’t afraid to use it…he believed. However, he found Minamoto’s company oddly comforting, showing Genji how lonely he actually felt in spite of his busy life. His fellow tobiko could never really be true friends, even Aoki. Especially Aoki, who coveted Genji’s position in the troupe. Aoki would not want to remain an understudy indefinitely, and so there was always an undercurrent of tension among the troupe members. With a sigh, Genji climbed from the pool, retrieved the pile of his things from the rock, and went to the grass. Retrieving the small bottle of sesame oil from his things, he poured some into his hand and smoothed it into his wet hair. The long strands would comb out much more easily when dry if he worked any tangles out beforehand.
Peripherally, Genji saw Minamoto recline on the grass roughly an arm’s length away. He kept his back turned so as not to steal glances at the samurai’s magnificent, naked physique stretched out on the grass in the sun. Working his fingers down the fall of his hair, Genji turned slightly and caught a glance of Minamoto’s lower body. The man’s musuko was no longer soft between his muscular thighs but stretched halfway erect, blooming with reddish color.
A jolt went through Genji’s body, sending in its wake a series of tingles that concentrated in his own member. He’d thought himself jaded after serving so many samurai with his body, but for some reason, life now infused his male parts, even his nipples, which began to tighten into small, hard peaks. He looked back down, pretending to concentrate on his hair with all his will.
“Your hair is so beautiful.”
Coming Soon: Soy Sauce Face (M/M; Contemporary; Yaoi-inspired)

Sometimes the best kept secret is the one you keep from yourself…

“I’m an ordinary man with an ordinary life in every way. Except for Jun. That’s what I think to myself every night when I watch Jun getting ready for his work as a bar host in Kabukicho. He’s everything I’m not. He’s the beautiful, graceful, sociable and ambitious counterpart to me—a hulking, reclusive, completely unambitious guy who’d rather fix car and motorcycle engines all day than interact with people… I’d be happy if Jun just stayed here with me the rest of our lives, in this little apartment we’d once shared with Dad. But Jun has other plans.”

Or so Jun thinks. One night he gets ready and goes to work. But a tragic occurrence derails his career and all his plans for the future.

Through the eyes of his best friend, Tomo, the man who loves him above all others, Jun will be forced to confront himself, his deepest fears, hates, desires. And his deepest love.
Sneak peek (unedited. May differ slightly from final):
I’m an ordinary man with an ordinary life in every way. Except for Jun.
That’s what I think to myself every night when I watch Jun getting ready for his work as a bar host in Kabukicho. He’s everything I’m not. He’s the beautiful, graceful, sociable and ambitious counterpart to me—a hulking, reclusive, completely unambitious guy who’d rather fix car and motorcycle engines all day than interact with people.
We couldn’t be more different physically, either. Where I’m large and muscular from doing physical work, my hands dirty and callused, Jun is slender, willowy, his musculature lightly etched under his smooth golden skin, his hands carefully manicured. While my face is wide, my jaw squarish, my beard heavy and in need of shaving sometimes twice a day, Jun has what women call asoy sauce face, delicately-featured with high cheekbones, his eyes the shape of perfect almonds, artful, as if a calligrapher had brushed him into being. His lips are soft and voluptuous, always appearing pursed for a kiss.
While I wear my hair short, every day guy-like, Jun highlights his and wears it in long perfectly-sculpted spikes that hang down over his forehead, leaving space for his eyes. I dress in t-shirts and jeans while Jun always wears the latest in scoop neck tees and heavy silver chains with crosses, long leather duster coats, boots and pants with studded belts, as if he’s just walked off a fashion model’s runway.
Our eyes meet in the mirror. Jun smiles. “Aren’t you bored by now?” he asks. “I do the same thing every night.”
I shake my head. I could never be bored by Jun. To me he glows like a star. He’s a more miraculous sight than the pink cherry blossom petals that fill the air when the spring breezes pull them from the branches by the millions.
He chuckles and turns back to scrutinizing his outfit. “Suit yourself.” He doesn’t seem to mind my lurking in the doorway of his bedroom, watching him make sure his hair is perfectly in place before he puts on the rest of his outfit. Tonight it’s a silver ascot tucked into a black button-down dress shirt. A silver vest matches the ascot, all atop closely-fitting black slacks. When he finishes and studies the effect in his full-length mirror, I wonder if he sees himself as I do: as a human work of art.
He strikes a pose, one hip cocked out to the side, a thumb hooked into his pocket while his other hand holds the flap of his vest. The flashbulb of the photographer I imagine he wishes would capture his image on film never goes off. There’s only me, standing a few feet behind him, crowding the doorway with my hulking form, wishing Jun were free to spend the evening hanging out with me instead of hosting women in a bar.
In moments like this, I’m convinced we wouldn’t even have become friends had Jun’s mother not been living in the same apartment building years ago when Jun and I were kids. She worked as a bar hostess nights, leaving Jun alone all the time. Jun’s father was long out of his life, so long that Jun doesn’t even remember what he looked like. My dad, rest his soul, helped her out by having Jun come and stay with us in the evenings so he wouldn’t be alone. He practically lived here for years, so when his mom “left” him to run off with some man and start a new family on the other end of Japan, Jun just stayed.
I’d be happy if Jun just stayed here with me the rest of our lives, in this little apartment we’d once shared with Dad. But Jun has other plans.
I can’t imagine ever getting my wish. Jun is one of the top hosts where he works and he’s nearly all the way to his goal of earning enough to rent his own apartment in a swankier section of Tokyo. Shinjuku maybe. Or even Ginza if he can save up quite enough.
I suppress a sigh. What will become of us then? Jun so far away in a distant ward, living the exciting life he chases night after night. Year after year. The thought makes an ache in my chest. The ache worsens when Jun breaks his pose and turns with that ready-to-leave air about him.
At an hour when most people, myself included, are coming home from work to have dinner, play with their children go for a stroll and maybe watch some television before going to sleep, Jun is just leaving for work. He won’t be back until early in the morning. Maybe even after the sun is up, depending on what clients come in tonight. There are a couple of wealthy women he takes out to eat after the bar closes because they spend a lot of money with him. Sometimes they even go to a love hotel for a few hours.
I try not to wonder too much whether he enjoys his work. The thought just gets me depressed.
“Can’t be more ready than I am now,” he says. From his closet he retrieves the black ankle boots he’ll be wearing and heads toward the doorway. My heart squeezes as I step aside for him to pass through.
Before leaving, Jun sets his boots down and goes over to the memorial photographs of my parents and kneels in front of the small table that holds them, as he does religiously each day. A quiet air comes over him as he lights a stick of incense. He didn’t know my mother since she died of cancer before Jun and his mother moved into the building, but he honors her memory too, out of respect to me and my father, a Tokyo detective killed in the line of duty by the stray bullet of an armed thief he was pursuing.
I hang back quietly, allowing him his moments with my father who I know he still misses horribly, as I do. Then Jun rises, picks up his shoes and heads to the front door. He graces me with one of his smiles. “Please don’t wait up, Tomo.” The fact that I often fall asleep on the couch with the TV on because I don’t want to be tucked away in my room when he comes home makes him feel guilty. I certainly don’t mean to make him feel that way, I just want to see him, if even for a few minutes. It doesn’t matter anyway. I never make it through the night because I have to be up so early for work, which is when I see him often just getting home.
I watch him slip on his boots. “I’ll try not to,” I finally say. The empty promise I make every night. I can’t help it. My purpose in Jun’s life since I know him is to worry about him. He was a sad, unsmiling boy, leaning against the wall of the apartment building alone while his mother was out working. As a man, the sadness still haunts his eyes even though he covers it with glitzy clothing and work that keeps him up in the wee hours of the night so his sadness won’t haunt him and keep him lying awake.
At the open door he pauses. “Okay, thanks.” His eyes lock with mine, the way they did in his mirror’s reflection. For a moment, other words seem to hover on his lips and then he decides not to say them. This is something he’s been doing lately, leaving me to wonder what he would possibly want to say to me. Perhaps some day he will tell me, although if it’s something I’d rather not hear, then better he stays silent.
“Get there safely,” I say to his lingering form. I have my own ritual of unsaid things, one of which is, “Please stay home, Jun. You don’t have to go to that place. I’ll take care of you.” But I don’t. When I’ve said it in the past, he’s resented it and insisted that he needs to do this. He wants to be somebody and make something of his life, according to his own words. Yet, if he saw himself at all through my eyes, even for a moment, he’d understand. Though Jun is a grown man of twenty-seven, to me there’s something so little and vulnerable about him, I can’t help the eerie feeling that snakes its way through me each night he leaves for work. Tonight it’s especially strong.
“I will, Tomo. See you later.”
One more flash of his silver and black clad figure and the door clicks shut behind him.
I sigh, listening to his bootsteps on the cement catwalk until the sounds fade.
Alone in the apartment, I go and kneel in front of my parents’ photographs. Smoke from the incense curls delicately into the air in front of their faces and emits a trace of musk, a scent that echoes how wistful I feel. I look at my mother’s face. I was only five when she died and I don’t remember much about her except seeing her smile at me and making sure I ate and was clean. She never knew Jun as my father did. I turn to his picture, a portrait of him in the uniform he wore before he was promoted to detective and started wearing a suit to work. In fact, this is how I remember him dressed around the time he actually added Jun to our family register as a son, the act which I’m sure really saved Jun’s life. After having been abandoned by both his parents, knowing that someone cared so much about him as to make him a son was very healing to Jun’s heart. I knew that for sure when Jun stopped calling my father “Nakadai-san” and started calling him “Dad.”
So why does he still want to go off and get a place of his own? I ask my father the question silently to his equally silent image. When Dad was alive he used to say that Jun’s demons still haunted him even though being a part of our family had helped to make him happier. He said everyone has deep, driving forces inside them that remained a mystery unless they took the time to understand them. But, he would always add, it doesn’t mean that you can’t always care about Jun. Dad had learned so much about human nature in his line of work. If anyone was aware of the dark side of human beings, it was my father.
Back in my room, getting ready to shower, I also stare at the one photograph I keep on my chest of drawers. To me the image encapsulates the great happiness of my life—me and Jun and my dad during hanami. We’re sitting on our plastic sheet in the park not far from our apartment, under an enchanting canopy of cherry blossom trees. In front of us are scattered the empty bento boxes that had held our meals of rice and barbecued skewers of pork. Dad had been taking a picture of me and Jun when a passing couple had offered to take the picture for him so that he could be in it with his sons. That night after we got home, Dad told me and Jun of his decision to put Jun on the family register.
I owe the fact that Jun hasn’t really gotten into trouble to that one act of love from my father. However, Jun is hosting now, the way his mother used to and nothing I’ve ever said to him makes him realize he can stop. I just hate thinking of him over there in Kabukicho. I know too much about that area of Tokyo from having a father who was a police officer. I wish Jun had gone to work in a fancy hotel, which is what he’d originally planned to do, but he’s so determined to make something of his life that my pleas sink, unnoticed like stones in a murky pond.
I stare a few more moments at the photograph before heading into the shower. My evening unfolds as it always does. Shower, supper, then leftovers of nikujaga, a simple stew of meat and vegetables I threw together the day before, followed by a walk around the neighborhood, watching the kids tumble about on the complex’s monkey bars and swings, and then checking on my motorcycle parked in its space. When I get in, I watch some TV before I fall asleep on the sofa while I wait up for Jun, even though tonight is Friday and any other regular guy would probably be out on a date or something social, instead of passing the time until his friend gets home from work. I’ve often thought of getting some kind of work that would put him and me on the same schedule, but the job I have pays well and it’s our security should Jun ever come to his senses and give up what he’s doing now. Then he’ll know he really doesn’t have to worry about money. Perhaps it’s all a fantasy in my head, but it keeps me going day after day.
Tonight, I’m in a twilight kind of sleep, the TV droning softly in the background when the ring of my cell phone cuts through the haze. At first disoriented, I hold the phone up and see Jun’s name lighting up on the ID. The darkness outside tells me it’s the middle of the night, not a time when Jun would normally call.
Icy fingers rake through my chest. My sleepiness dispels as I press the button. “Jun, are you all right?” I don’t even bother to say a greeting I’m so alarmed.
“Is this Nakadai Tomohito?” The voice is female. Not Jun’s. My alarm escalates to terror.
“Yes. Where is Jun?”
She pauses. “My name is Michiko. I’m the mama-san of the bar where Jun works.” Her voice wavers. It’s a smoky-sounding voice that without the stress would sound confident. “Something…has happened. Jun was…attacked. He’s being brought to the emergency room at Meiji Memorial. I found your name on his phone as the emergency contact.”
Oh my god. “I’m on my way.” Not bothering to dress, I throw on my jeans jacket over the undershirt I’m already wearing. My pajama pants will have to do. I grab my wallet, keys, and helmet, shove my feet into my loafers and fly out the door.