Green's Hill-Amy Lane's Home - News

Monday, December 30, 2013

Catching Up

A reader sent me this-- llama and alpaca run a business together.  Love it very very very much-- had to put it in the blog for any reason at all.
Vacation, man-- you've heard of it!
So, you all know the deal, right?  Vacation isn't really vacation-- sometimes it's just personal work instead of professional work.  A reason to visit relatives you rarely visit, an excuse to sit on the couch and bond with offspring-- and with friends visiting-- and a moment to seduce animals to your side of the world by being their so called "petting buddy" which really means emotional manipulation of the basest sort.

You guys get it-- vacation!

Recharging and regrouping.  
And, fact is, I'm regrouping and recharging, because I apparently need it in the worst way.  My plantar's fasciatis is rearing it's ugly head, and, well, Behind the Curtain is out in eight days.  I still need to post holiday fudge and Rusty swag for sweet hell's sake-- so, yeah.  Not a lot of tweeting, not much FB, and a lot of me sitting on the couch and knitting while I gather my wherewithal or, you know-- get my shit together so I can get my shit together.  I was honored to be able to knit with the adorable and amazing Miss Julianne Bentley, who took me around the yarn store in a whole new hilarious way.  I love talking to people who knit and laugh and get my jokes.  Makes me so happy-- and did I mention the adorability?  It was a really good day.

Today we visited Mate's mom, who is still living on her mother's property.  Today, I heard the total history of this stone.  Now, I've always loved the stone-- it's an Indian grinding rock, on which the Native Americans used to grind blanched acorns into flour.  A rock like this would have been passed to generations-- that's how the holes got so big and the pestle rock so perfectly rock shaped.  Anyway, this rock didn't always sit in the middle of a cow field.  It used to sit in the big irrigation pond-- but the government had people relocating their irrigation ponds, and when they drained the first one dry, well, they found this and had it moved somewhere it wouldn't get covered with water, because, well, uber cool, right?  The rock had been on the property since Mate's family bought it from people who were originally deeded the acreage in the homestead acts.  Mate's family came over from Iowa in 1862 and worked for nine years.  They were able to buy it in 1871.  I sort of love that story-- although they're sort of a doughty, tough people, not particularly Celtic in soul, there is something hearty about them, insistent, and embodies some of the best of what Mate is-- dependable and real and honest.

So there you go.  Grinding rock.  All sorts of metaphors you can get from that.

Anyway-- time is, of course, surging by like tide.  I am also editing Triane's Son Fighting, which will be out by the end of the month.

I am actually sort of excited about this story coming out this month-- I'll be able to take three of the four stories to Coastal Magic with me in early February, and that's going to make me very very very proud!  By the way, folks-- there is still lots of room for readers at Costal Magic-- by all means get your passes now, because I'd love to see you there!

Anyway-- so, time.

This vacation thing.

You see that cat?  That's me, asking where the time went!

Seriously-- holidays used to seem like they lasted forever-- do you remember that?  But not right now.  Now they fly right by, faster than my children's birthdays.  So, if you catch me laying low a little, not quite twittering or Facebooking as much as I am wont to do, it's because I'm savoring my holiday-- and my children.  Tonight we watched Stardust.  So much awesome-- not the least of it being that Zoomboy and Squish were absolutely captivated.  It was a very, "I raised them right!" moment.

Anyway-- don't forget that Going Up is on sale at Amazon, , ARe, and Dreamspinner Press, and it seems to be helping a lot of people wrap up their holidays on a good note.  That makes me happy :-)

Enjoy your New Years all!

Amy.







Thursday, December 26, 2013

Making Like Broccoli

I know for the kids it's December 25th, but I've got to tell you, December 26th is my favorite day of the year.

Why? You may ask.

Well, for a number of reasons-- all of which, I have to admit, are both selfish and hedonistic.  I refuse to apologize for this.  December 26th is the slacker's favorite holiday for the following reasons:

*  The house was cleaned on the 23rd and 24th, and although there was a riot in the living room on the 25th, most of the rubble is in the recycling bin, and housework can wait.

*  There is GOOD random shit on the television.

*  Someone (wonder who?) has been cooking for days and there is a fucktonna food in the refrigerator to feed my spawn and myself.

 *  There are a lot of new books out to distract me from the fact that nobody else is working.

*  There is enough diet coke in my refrigerator to send me to the moon.

*  The cats--scandalized by the riot in the living room the day before-- largely ignore us, providing we feed them.
Squish at my parents with a
4 month old puppy they were
dogsitting.

* Whether or not the laundry is done, we're mostly wearing sweat pants anyway, so it doesn't matter.  Hell, only a desire to not knock my own boobs with my knees in a few years forces me to even put on a bra.

 *  My children are exhausted, and by happy happy coincidence they have just been handed a whole bunch of lovely diversions that allow them to immerse themselves in quiet activity for most of the day.
That dog loved by
leaning.

*  Because the family has been gone or busy for so long, the dog thinks having us all to himself is the best thing ever, and wants to snuggle and give us attention.

*  Absolutely nothing is expected of me or mine except that we process oxygen into CO2, and flush the toilet when needed.

*  Some idiot left cookies and chocolate around the house in staggering quantities.

*  Only the dedicated and the brave go to the gym on December 26th.  I am neither.

*  Whether or not I had all my knitting done in time for Christmas, my deadline has passed.  I can now knit for pleasure again-- as long as I knit the things that need to get done.

*  Most years, the last thing I published in recent memory was my Christmas letter, and nobody leaves 2* reviews on GoodReads for that.  

*  In this instant, like Peter Boyle says in While You Were Sleeping, everything is perfect.


***

Don't forget Going Up! is out at Amazon, ARe, and Dreamspinner Press.

Jessie Potts at HEA BookBlog enjoyed it very much!


Monday, December 23, 2013

Going Up! And Christmas wishes :-)


*smishes*  Thanks to all of you who commented on the last post!  I completely forgot to mention some of those movies, and I love them so much!  A Christmas Story-- we watch that every year, and that's just one!  So, anyone who commented yesterday and wants some Rusty Keychains, give me a holler-- I'll set you up after Christmas.

And, in the Christmas countdown, here's where we stand:

Have humiliated Zoomboy by making sure at least 2000 people saw the picture of him screaming on Santa's lap.

Have had our picture taken-- wearing bright Christmas red-- on the court of the Sacramento Kings.

Have bought gift we hadn't planned on but was perfect.

Have eaten other people's Christmas cookies (THANK you Laura Adriana and Berry Jello) until I feel like a fatball of Christmas joy.

Have injured myself by falling spectacularly in a friend's living room.  (Sorry, Berry Jello!  I'm still a little embarrassed.)

Have managed to go grocery shopping.  Sounds like a small thing, but it took TWO DAYS of good intentions and Mate's company to get it done.

Have managed to hug the kids.  They're really excited about Christmas.

OH! Have SENT THE CHRISTMAS CARDS.

Have sat up from a sound nap and said, "OMG-- DID I SEND RHYS FORD A CHRISTMAS CARD?"

Have wondered if, like Clarence the Angel, I am doomed to have the IQ of a rabbit for the rest of my life.

Have wrapped NO PRESENTS.  Repeat-- NO PRESENTS.

Have called mom to ask what I should be bringing for Christmas dinner.  Have been told "Lasagna, didn't your Mate and two oldest Spawn tell you?"

Have yelled at Mate and Spawn ferociously.  LASAGNA?  Deserved a mention, you think?

Have wrapped NO PRESENTS.  Repeat-- NO PRESENTS.

Have watched Muppet Christmas Carol for the third time.

Am listening to It's a Wonderful Life now.

Heh heh… have JUST watched oldest son wander around my office space-- HOME OF SIX ZILLION WRITING UTENSILS, asking for a pen.

Have strained my calf again, jerking trying to get him a pen.

Have revisited rabbit IQ theory again.

Have ALMOST knitted everything.



Have realized it's time to get off the computer and get my shit together.

Have wished all of you folks a happy solstice, a Merry Christmas, and a lovely yule.

***

Okay guys-- Going Up! Will be out on Christmas Day.  It's a very short novella, but the idea is, it's like a little Christmas aperitif, a dollop of whipped cream on your pumpkin pie, gravy on the mashed potatoes.  I'll post the buy link here, and the blurb and the excerpt, because, well, it's adorable.  It's designed to make you happy-- not Christmas centric, perhaps, but Christmassy in spirit.  Let's just say the holiday comes up often enough to put you in the mood.  And of course, there's the GORGEOUS color, which makes me so proud.

Also-- if you scroll WAY down, you'll see the cover reveal and pre-buy link for Behind the Curtain.  It's going to be out a little earlier than I'd thought, and I thought I'd show it to you now :-)





GOING UP!  

Available at Dreamspinner Press

Available at All Romance e-Book

Every dreary day, Zach Driscoll takes the elevator from the penthouse apartment of his father's building to his coldly charmed life where being a union lawyer instead of a corporate lawyer is an act of rebellion. Every day, that is, until the day the elevator breaks and Sean Mallory practically runs into his arms. 

Substitute teacher Sean Mallory is everything Zach is not—poor, happy, and goofily charming. With a disarming smile and a penchant for drama, Sean laughs his way into Zach's heart one elevator ride at a time. Zach would love to get to know Sean better, but first he needs the courage to leave his ivory tower and face a relationship that doesn't end at the "Ding!"


EXCERPT

Ground Floor



ONCE UPON a time, there was a prince who lived in a tower. He had been born to a king and a queen in the kingdom of San Francisco, and he was raised by nannies and boarding schools. He was a good child. He did everything he was told. He never questioned his world, and his rebellions, on the whole, were very, very small.

He worked hard, earned his law degree, and made a life defending the weak and downtrodden, while he enjoyed a privileged life atop the tallest tower of the kingdom.

But although there was no snow in his kingdom, there were chilly bay breezes, and they left his heart cold, oh, so very cold….


ZACH DRISCOLL sipped his champagne and looked around him. His parents’ annual Christmas party seemed to be in full swing: the chandelier was dusted, the galleria ballroom glittered with tasteful silver decorations, and his secretary, Leah, was flirting with the up-and-coming young president of the local chamber of commerce.

Fortunately for Leah’s fun, she didn’t know he was gay.

Zach knew Angelo Fitzsimmons was gay—but Angelo didn’t know Zach knew. It was a sad fact that Zach owed pretty much every decent sexual encounter he’d ever had to a flier on “escort services” that Angelo had left in a bathroom stall when Zach was still in college.

Zach figured that if the firm was discreet enough for Angelo with his budding political career, it was discreet enough for a union lawyer who only showed up to these things for his parents.

Oh, and speaking of….

“She’s charming, Zach. It’s about time you settled down and brought a date to one of our parties.”

“Hi, Mother,” he said, pursing his lips in a really horrible approximation of a smile. “We’re not dating. She’s my secretary—she does a really good job. I figured she deserved a perk.”

“So you brought your secretary to a fundraiser?” His mother…. God. She looked forty, was closer to sixty-five, and could ooze disdain with a few choice words. Right now, she needed a little sponging off at the edges.

Zach looked over at Leah, who was wearing a red crushed-velveteen dress that left one shoulder bare and sported gold spangles up the split sides. Her dusky skin and sturdy, wide-hipped body looked lush and sensual under that textured fabric, and he only wished he could appreciate that. She’d dyed her hair Christmas red to match, worn gold bangles in her updo, and was currently trying to teach Angelo the Harlem shuffle.

“Yes,” he said, smiling a little. He didn’t joke with Leah, or get too personal with her, but he sure did admire the hell out of her. She’d started off the job wearing black suits and black shoes, and had kept her normally straight black hair cut short and practical. In the past three years since he’d started the firm and hired five more lawyers and three more paralegals, she had, one tiny bit at a time, let little bits of the real Leah shine through.

First it was fuchsia or lime-colored shirts under her business suit. Then it was fantastic shoes to match the shirts.

Then it was suits to match the shoes.

Then it was hair to match the whole shebang.

And while her wardrobe expanded, her sarcasm also began to expand in depth, breadth, and sheer breathtaking scope. “What, you didn’t finish that file before it’s due, Mr. Driscoll? I’m suspecting you stopped to take a crap sometime this weekend—shame on you!”

Zach hadn’t known how to respond at first. He’d never been proficient in sarcasm, or in any of the more salient social skills such as conversation, eye contact, or generally wanting to get to know his fellow human beings. He’d simply grunted and walked into his office, wondering what to say.

But over the last six months, that sarcasm had started to feel like overtures of friendship. When he’d gotten the invitation to the party stressing the need for a plus-one, he told Leah he’d spring for the dress, and, well, there they were.

“Do you think that’s appropriate?” his mother asked, not smiling at all, and Zach watched Angelo actually grace Leah with a real smile, one that didn’t seem as constipated and as cramped as Zach felt most of the time.

“I think something needed to happen,” he said quietly. “And she’s having a lovely time.”

Some flashes went off, and Zach figured that moment exhausted his family time for the rest of the year as his mother stood up and left. Zach watched Leah dance like she was Cinderfuckingella (her word, when he’d given her the credit card) and then he looked up into the windows that surrounded the high ceiling of the ballroom. It was raining, and in the cutting silver light from the galleria, the rain looked like slivers of crystal. Like wishing stars.

I wish a prince would rescue me, he thought, half in whimsy and half in despair. Silly wish, right? His parents were rich, and he was a lawyer. Wasn’t he the prince? Okay, then. I wish a knight would rescue the prince in the tower.

In the distance he heard Leah laugh like a kid in a playground, and he went to tell her that he’d leave her the town car and take a cab home. He knew enough about fairy tales to know that the knight in shining armor never really did show up at the ball.


ZACH LIVED in the penthouse because his dad owned the building. It was that easy.

Of course, law school at Stanford hadn’t been that easy, establishing his own practice hadn’t been easy, and keeping his relationships to the guys from the escort service wasn’t particularly easy on him either.

But Zach had always been good at putting a slick face on things.

He got up in the morning and put on his wool suit—and in San Francisco, it was always a wool suit—with his bright patent leather shoes and his crispy starched collars and hundred-dollar ties. He shaved and slicked back his dark hair, made sure his eyebrows were tweezed and his face was moisturized, and generally ensured he looked and smelled like a man who could protect your future.

He’d been the same way as a kid, except he hadn’t had to tweeze his eyebrows.

When he was a kid, his father and mother had insisted on hygiene, and so had his nannies, but the resulting behaviors were neat, orderly habits of mind and he wasn’t going to discard them just because there was a sort of echoing, vaultlike quality to all of his childhood memories.

And he figured, after that childhood, living in the nice penthouse of Driscoll Towers in the middle of downtown was a perk. He’d take what he could get. Hiding his sex life from his parents wasn’t such a big price to pay, and really? They lived in a mansion down on the peninsula, so about an hour of commute time separated them from him and the guy he’d paid to leave before midnight. Not that there were that many of those, but a guy had to be touched, right? That wasn’t so bad, to be touched?

But certainly not in an express elevator in the middle of a soulless January.

Which was currently breaking down. The cab lurched to a halt between the nineteenth and twentieth floor, and then, just as Zach was hitting the button for maintenance, it dropped half a floor and the doors opened.

Zach got out of the elevator on the nineteenth floor, absolutely bemused. He didn’t even know the express elevator could open in this part of the complex. He got out and turned around, seeing there was a bank of elevator doors instead of just the one like he was used to. He thought, Hunh? but hit the button to the hopefully working elevator, and got in when the doors opened.

The elevator stopped at the fifteenth floor, to let in a teenage girl in bright-pink spandex with a matching iPod who ignored him, and then at the fourteenth floor, where the doors opened and then started to shut again.

“Wait! Wait! I didn’t think it was going to open so soon!” The guy was running, and Zach was in the back corner behind the teenager, so he couldn’t stop the doors either. The kid—he looked like a kid—who stopped the doors and opened them again, wore cowboy boots and leather chaps and a pink-striped oxford shirt and a really revoltingly large fake-Stetson hat. He had kind of a long neck, a really prominent jaw, a smattering of freckles still on his cheeks, and teeth that barely escaped being bucked.

And curly yellow-brown hair.

And really blue eyes.

And not an ounce of embarrassment for skating in through the door at the last minute, stumbling past the girl and pitching into Zach’s arms.

“Sorry ’bout that!” he burbled, straightening himself and then straightening his hat. He arranged a scuffed leather satchel over his hip, and got a tighter hold on the peacoat he’d obviously brought to ward against the cold San Francisco morning. The doors were still open, because sometimes they did that, and the staff complained about it going slow and the tenants said things about it being haunted by the ghost of the bachelor who had died on the twenty-second floor and who had been so lonely his cat had eaten his face.

Zach pretended none of that was actually happening because even though he didn’t own a cat, he didn’t want to think of his face being eaten. So he didn’t think about his face being eaten. He just scooted around the teenaged girl, leaned forward and pressed the “close” key, and mumbled, “No problem” so the boy didn’t think it was totally okay to go rocketing into a stranger’s arms.

“Yeah, well, I’m still sorry,” the kid said, tilting his hat up. Zach had no choice. He looked up from the control board into those plasma-blue eyes, and the kid grinned. He had the slightest space between his teeth, which made Zach think that maybe his parents hadn’t had good health insurance, and that made him feel bad.

All his own teeth were capped, because six years of braces hadn’t been enough and his smile had been… well, it was perfect now, and that’s what mattered.

“That’s okay,” he said, a little more clearly, and he quirked his lips up for good measure. “Uhm, going on a round-up?”

The guy’s face split into a grin. “Substitute teaching in seventh grade. They didn’t give me a cattle prod so I figured this would have to do.”

“That’s… you do that voluntarily?” The thought of facing a battalion of sugar-crazed grunion made Zach’s well-worked abdomen muscles roll tightly. “You don’t look old enough to be in college!”

He laughed. Not a polite “you just insulted me so I’m brushing this off” laugh, but a full-stomached laugh, like what Zach had just said was really fucking funny.

“I’m twenty-six!”

Ding!

The elevator opened into the lobby then, and Zach watched the boy—guy, man, crap—stride off into the shiny, fogless day, struggling into his battered peacoat as he went.

Zach followed him, feeling bemused. He didn’t see which way the guy turned, and so he went his usual right, because it was twelve blocks to his office building and he walked it every day, wielding his briefcase like a weapon against the hordes on the crowded sidewalk. The bay wind scalpeled its way through his wool trench coat, but he didn’t let that stop him, and he didn’t resort to huddling and blowing on his hands, either. He just kept up that same relentless pace that allowed him to push his law firm into success, that allowed him to gut school districts and corporations that tried to treat their employees like crap, and that allowed him to subvert every desire he’d ever had for a warm and comfortable life in favor of the thing his parents had decided he should have instead.

He strode into his office with an expressionless face, because that’s how he always walked through his office.

Leah smiled brightly at him like she did every day.

“Hello, Mr. Driscoll, are we having a good day, Mr. Driscoll, I have your coffee waiting for you, Mr. Driscoll, all of your appointments are on your computer, Mr. Driscoll—”

Her perky sarcasm usually washed over him like acid rain. After those first conservative months, Zach had come to treasure the punk rock diva who couldn’t sing, who wore matching lime-green Converses with her lime-green-and-black suit, and who harangued Zach about his lack of personal life like she had a right.

Her job performance was spectacular.

And she thought she was funny.

Usually Zach tolerated her, but today, as he was walking through the lobby, he had a thought of her in her Christmas dress, flirting with a man just to see him smile, and then a vision of a sort of geeky-looking teacher, dressing up to impress middle schoolers he might never see again.

It was an awful lot of effort to go to, this effort to make people respond to you, wasn’t it?

He turned to her and spared her a brief smile. “Thank you, Leah—I definitely appreciate the coffee.”

Leah’s mouth dropped and her stunned silence actually made him a little sad. Jesus, Zach—way to fail Humanity 101.

Maybe tomorrow, he’d bring her dessert coffee and nut bread. She really did try hard, didn’t she?

HE LEFT a little early the next day to get the coffee and the nut bread, and even though the elevator was still broken down and he had to sidestep at the nineteenth floor again, he was disappointed not to see his substitute teacher/cowboy on the way down.

But Leah brightened up so much with the coffee that he thought maybe it was worth it. After all, he workedwith Leah every day. This other guy he didn’t know from a monkey in the subway.

Anyway, he kept getting off on the nineteenth floor, whether or not the haunted elevator of the guy on twenty-two with the cat-eaten face worked or not, but it didn’t seem to matter. He didn’t see Mr. Cowboy Substitute Teacher the next day, or the next, but on Friday, when he decided that he could be five minutes late and still bring Leah her coffee, that’s when Mr. Cowboy Substitute Teacher slid in at the bell.

But he wasn’t wearing his cowboy outfit anymore.

He was wearing a three-piece suit instead, and for a moment Zach felt absurdly disappointed. He saw suits every day.

Then he noticed that Mr. Cowboy’s Adam’s apple bobbed nervously above the collar of his suit, and that his arms were too long for the obviously off-the-rack ensemble, and that his shirt was a little rumpled and that his tie was off-kilter.

This wasn’t his normal attire, now was it?

“Your tie is crooked,” he said softly, after getting a nervous, flop-sweat smile from the man next to him.

“Oh fuck!”

Zack snapped his head back, because the obscenity was violent, and, well, unexpected. Mr. Cowboy dropped his satchel and his coat at his feet and started fiddling with his tie. “Crap crap crap crap… dammit. I need this freaking job!”

Zach didn’t even know he was doing it until he did it. “Here, hold this.”

Mr. Cowboy grabbed his briefcase from his outstretched hand, and Zach moved in, squaring the knot and adjusting the whole works until it rested neatly at his throat. Cowboy looked up at him—he was about four inches shorter than Zach—with implicit trust, and Zach kept his breathing even and focused exclusively on the tie and not on the little bits of stubble that Cowboy had missed when he’d been shaving, or at the rainy smell of body wash, or the fact that his breath was freshly scrubbed with mint toothpaste. When he was done, he stepped back, still not making contact with those limpid blue eyes, and smoothed his palms against Cowboy’s bony shoulders, then turned him around and did it again.

The door dinged, and Zach took his briefcase back, and then walked away while Cowboy scrambled for all of the stuff left in the bottom of the elevator car.

“Thanks!” he squeaked, and Zach turned around in time to watch him narrowly slide out of the elevator before the doors closed.

“Good luck,” Zach said. He felt something unfamiliar stretch his cheeks, but it wasn’t until the wind hit his teeth that he remembered what it was.

When he gave Leah her coffee, he felt it again. When he was telling his latest client—a gay man who had been fired from his office temp job on some bullshit excuse—that they had the company over a barrel and he could have the settlement and new job of his choosing, he felt it again.

He was smiling. 

ZACH DIDN’T see Mr. Cowboy (or was it Mr. Teacher?) that evening, but since he worked very long hours, he assumed he wouldn’t anyway. Instead, he went to the gym to work out, stopped at a take-out place for dinner, and sat in front of his television, mindlessly wondering if he should call the escort service he sometimes used just so he could have a man pretend to like him.

He couldn’t make himself do it. He kept imagining that Adam’s apple bobbing, and the total vulnerability of that slender neck. Poor guy. Looking for a job in this city must suck. Putting himself out there like that.

He was so brave.

Hiring a rent boy just seemed like the height of cowardice after that.





HE STARTED setting his alarm and crossing his fingers. When he left exactly at that moment, his odds of seeing Teacher-baby (which sounded so much better than Mister anything, because the boy’s limpid blue eyes were just too… yum) increased dramatically.

He left at that moment as often as possible.

On Wednesday he was rewarded. Teacher-baby slid into the elevator, followed by a voice screaming across the hallway.

“Sean! Wait!”

“Dammit, Wendy, I’m late!” He held out an arm though, and kept the elevator from closing. Today he was dressed in jeans and a nice button-down shirt with a sweater over it. If he had to hazard a guess, Zach would guess he was subbing again today—those weren’t the clothes you wore to a new job.

“Todd wants you to get coffee when you come back!”

The girl running down the hallway in her T-shirt and underwear was incredibly pretty. Elfin, delicate, around five seven, with a short cap of dyed-ruby hair, an oval face with a pert little chin and matching nose, and obviously green contacts.

“Does he have money? It’s his turn, and I’m just as broke as he is!”

“Yeah, we all are.” She sighed and held out a hand with a crumpled five in it. “Here—you and me will get it today—again—and Toby and Chris can get it next week. Todd and Katie are up for it after that.” She batted her eyelashes appealingly. “Please, Sean? I know you got it last time, but we all need the stuff, okay?”

Sean sighed and took the money, shoving it into the pocket of his jeans. “Yeah, okay. Go back inside before some pervert ogles your ass.”

She turned to him before she left and grinned. “That would be awesome!” And then disappeared down the hall.

Zach blinked. “That is a lot of people.” He had a penthouse apartment—it took up a quarter of the floor, and it was just him. The other apartments were an eighth of that size, with—

“Six,” Sean (his name was Sean!) confirmed. “Yeah, but prices here—man, they’re steep, you know?”

Zach had sort of known, but now it was more personal. “Yeah,” he said. He didn’t ask why someone would want to live in the city when it was so expensive—who wouldn’t? “How do you all fit?”

“Toby and Chris in their own bedroom, since they’re a couple, the girls and me in a king size in the other bedroom, and Todd the straight guy on the hide-a-bed in the living room. Don’t tell Mr. Driscoll, right?” Sean smiled and winked.

Zach found himself smiling back, because… well, because. “Will the new job help?” he asked, and Sean’s face fell.

“Didn’t get it,” he murmured. “It was a Catholic school—they have morality clauses. I sort of violate them just by my very existence.”

Zach wanted to roar in outrage, or, at the very least, go sue the crap out of someone, but he knew it was legal. Church-run schools had the right.

“Good luck on the next one,” he said gently, and Sean looked up and smiled.

“That’s really sweet,” he said.

Zach found it suddenly hard to breathe, and his mouth went dry, and he was caught up in the idea that the only thing sweet in the world was that oh-dayum smile but the smile faded and—

Ding!

The elevator door opened and it was time to go. This time Sean left first, but before he walked out the glass doors from the lobby to the street, he turned and offered a tentative smile and a wave.

Zach waved back. That whole stretchy-face/cold-cheek thing lasted until he got to work and everything!


“SHAKESPEARE?” ZACH asked politely.

Sean wore peasant garb today—drawstring pants, a doublet, the floppy hat and everything. He grinned.

“Romeo & Juliet, eighth grade. I get them for a week!”

“That sounds….” Zach couldn’t do it. “Awful,” he apologized. “But I’m glad someone enjoys eighth grade.”

“Well, it’s a lot easier when you practice,” Sean said with a wink. “Besides—I’ve got all this theatre stuff, and I’m teaching them English/History—I mean, it feels like the whole reason I hauled this stuff around with me, you know?”

Zach didn’t know—he’d been on the debate team. But he nodded anyway. “The teaching thing—you really like?”

Sean nodded and Zach was treated to that smile—all teeth and dimples and a ducked head that sort of asked forgiveness for that much joy. “It’s like being the most popular kid in the class. Eighth graders never had it so good!”

Zach hadn’t been particularly popular. He’d kept his head down and his grades good, and had ignored the girls who thought the valedictorian was some sort of trophy.

“I wouldn’t know,” he said quietly, and Sean’s long, mobile face suddenly assumed a look of compassion that Zach was entirely uncomfortable with.

Ding!


Saved by the bell!


****


And as for Behind the Curtain?  

What do you guys think about this cover?  

Cause DAYUM-- it was a Christmas present in my e-mail box, that was for sure!

















Friday, December 20, 2013

Movies of Spirit

Okay-- I'll be honest.  I realized that it was blog day and whimpered.

Today, completely by accident, I ended up taking the day off.

Yeah, yeah, I'd done a few things-- wrote about a thousand words, replied to some e-mails, did a little promo--

But mostly?

I watched movies and knitted with Chicken, which I've been promising to do all week.  So, yeah.  It was blogging day on movie day-- and then I decided, hey!  I'll cheat.  I'll combine them.  I'm sneaky that way.

So--

We have a few diehard (*snerk*) movies that we watch every Yuletide that just, well, make us feel the season.  Some of them are definitely Christmassy, and some of them are… well…. not.

But either way, as a family, these are the movies that get us in the mood.

I'm going to go interactive with this one-- in the comments, tell me what movies get you in the solstice mood, right?  If you mention one that I love but forgot, I'll send you Christmas Kitsch swag!  It's gorgeous, I swear!

So, this is in no particular order:

Love Actually -- I laugh and cry every time.

Die Hard-- 1-4-- because nothing says holiday time like Bruce Willis bleeding.

Lethal Weapon-- remember when Mel Gibson wasn't insane and embarrassing?

Santa Clause is Coming to Town-- Because, in Chicken's words, "Never have so many people taken so little money and made something so timeless."

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer-- Because nothing says "Christmas" like a fascist Santa self-reforming and allowing the misfit toys out of the ghetto.

While You Were Sleeping-- Besides real Chicago during Christmas?  There's Sandra Bullock looking frickin' cold.  

Sleepless in Seattle-- Yeah, Bill Pullman gets ditched in this one.  But he's still classy, and Tom Hanks… kinda hot!

Muppet Christmas Carol-- A truly perfect movie.  Those muppets put in more human performances than most humans.  Watch any reality show, and you'll swear Miss Piggy is more real than the all the Kardashians put together.

Polar Express--Tom Hanks.  Again.  But also some mind-blowing animation and quirky plot twists and simple poetry.

The Grinch Who Stole Christmas-- The real one, with the animation and the Grinch with the creepy smile that climbed up to his forehead and the wonderfully subversive lyrics and the soul of a kind man who spent 26 years trying to break OUT of advertising.

It's A Wonderful Life-- Because.  Jimmy Stewart.

Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas-- Okay.  I'll be honest.  The kids said this one.  The older kids.  I think they've got an overdeveloped sense of melancholy.

A Very Supernatural Christmas-- Because Dean is gonna die.

101 Dalmatiens -- Because there's snow and dogs with spots and the older kids said so.

You've Got e-Mail-- Because there's Christmas in it.  And did I mention Tom Hanks?

It's About Time-- I know it's new and hardly anybody's seen it… but… Mate and I saw it last March.  And loved it.  Because it was gorgeous.  And it will make you cry happy tears.  And that's the best Christmas stories that aren't blowing shit up.


So there you are-- not all of them, but some of them.  If you'd like some Rusty Swag (since the Scavenger Hunt ends officially tomorrow) go ahead and leave a post, and then e-mail me!  And, you know, if you don't want some Rusty swag, just leave me a post!

Oh-- and the weird picture with the cat?  Well, I dyed my hair on Tuesday night.  And Chicken's cat started nose humping my head like a pornstar on viagra.  Not very politic, and you won't see it in a movie, but it sure did have us laughing our asses off!  



Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Santa Fail

Mate and I got a lot of Christmas shopping done last night--I'm very impressed with us. If there was a fold in the space/time continuum and BAM! we wake up and Christmas is tomorrow, give us some tape, some scissors, some paper, and we can make due.  I need to write the Christmas letter-- my other task today-- and at some point in time baking would be great!  But we're on our way to a Merry Christmas, and that terrible mental checklist that starts an ever-present cycle in my head starting the day after Thanksgiving is on its way to being satisfied.

Mate and I are both terribly aware that things can still go wrong.

A lot is made of a baby's first Christmas, and Mate and I are no exceptions to the "ALL OF CHRISTMAS MUST BE PERFECT!" drive-- but then, Mate and I have had our share of screw-ups in the St. Nick department, too.

Examples, you say?

*  Well, there was the time we got the Christmas cards out a wee bit late…

*  And then there was the emergency closet cleaning of 12-12-12!  (Which is also Big T's birthday-- he turned 20 on 12-12-12.)

*  There was the time (undocumented) when all we got for Big T was clothes.  (He didn't ask for anything else that year.)

*  There was the time (also undocumented) when his pile was mysteriously smaller than everyone else's.  (This started the process of sorting their piles at least three days before Christmas, because there is NO rectifying this one at 12 a.m. Christmas Eve.)

*  There was the time (probably documented but it was just so sad…) when he stayed up all night and made himself crazy with how awesome Christmas was going to be, so that when he ended up getting exactly what he wanted, he burst into tears.  (Big T is a delicate duck around Christmas time.  He's mellowed out and become like a young Kris Kringle since, but his generous heart has always been overfull.)

*  There was Zoomboy's visit to Santa wherein this photograph was taken:

*  There was the time Chicken was so tiny she woke up, helped me wrap the chocolate that went into her stocking and then went to bed, woke up, and unwrapped the chocolates that went into her stocking, and never recognized that Santa didn't actually do it.

*  There was the Christmas (mentioned in Country Mouse) wherein Mate and I were so devoid of funds that after buying everyone else's Christmas gifts,  I bought four Harlequin Temptation romances at the grocery store and wrapped them so that the kids wouldn't think that Santa left me high and dry.

*  There was the Christmas Big T woke up at three in the morning and got really upset when we told him hell no since we'd just gotten to bed an hour before he woke us up.  (We were not exactly charitable about this.  Damn, for a kid who's birthday is the 12th of December this kid has had the worst luck with Christmas!)

*  There was the time Santa got the kids cell phones and Mate waited until he thought they were awake so he could call them and the packages would just ring under the Christmas tree.  (This was the year after the one where T woke up at 3 a.m..)  Unfortunately, we may have been up at six a.m., giddy with excitement over the big ticket Christmas gift, but they had entered adolescence with a vengeance and they slept in until eight.  At any rate, he'd set the phones on buzz, so after twenty minutes of kids going "What was that?" they finally found the damned packages at the bottom of the pile.

*  There were the many times mom stayed up until gawdawful a.m. knitting kids' or family's Christmas presents, absolutely sure that CHRISTMAS WOULD BE RUINED if the doll/hat/mittens/scarf were not done absolutely in time for the blessed event.  Of course the best one was after I got the third season of SPN and spent three nights running watching Sam and Dean through three seasons of hell. (I have mellowed out a little since then, mostly because I was tired of being tearful and distraught on Christmas morning-- but that doesn't mean I still don't lose some sleep around Christmas.)

*  And then-- my personal favorite in Christmas loserdom-- there was the time Santa forgot presents small enough to fit in the stocking and ended up at 7/11 at eleven o'clock Christmas Eve.  There were only two kids at this point, but they were just old enough to go, "Geez, mom, the stockings sort of sucked this year.  Since when did Santa wrap stale Gummi worms?"

Whew.

Yeah.  We put a lot of pressure on ourselves for Christmas, don't we?

But (and I can only say this because I have at least minimal Christmas going on in my closet at this point-- I wouldn't be nearly this sanguine if I still hadn't gone shopping) the really impressive thing about all of these failures is that, so far, the kids still love Christmas time.  Even the big ones.  There are still specials to watch and lights to cruise and stockings to hang.  There are still cookies to bake and fudge to rock out and knitting to do (in a timely, relaxed manner, of course.)  Christmas doesn't mean spazzy, freaky parents sobbing in failure to them.  Mostly, Christmas means pretty lights, cuddling in front of the television, and being together.  So I guess the moral of my story is that Christmas (like personalities) can often be a series of successful gestures.  As a kid, I remember some really thin Christmases-- I remember when my dad assembled a bicycle out of spare parts found at the dump.  He cleaned it up, spray painted it, and bought a new seat.  I was seven-- I thought it was beautiful.  Once he made my little step-sister a puppet using foam balls and fuzzy pipe cleaners that he bought for pennies on the dollar, and the duck puppet he made my step-brother out of wood.  I remember the Christmas he didn't get his check until Christmas Eve, and he took me to the electronic toy department in Sears and we all got electronics and not much else.

I remember many, many projects my stepmom made-- hand sewn sweaters, brand new jeans, missed presents under the tree.  I remember the one time my stepmom opened Alexa's present (and didn't realize it.)  My dad took me to a drug store on Christmas day, and Alexa ended up with a coffee cup so my stepmom wouldn't be hurt-- she really loved the rose perfume.

So yes-- it's weird.  I remember all of the Christmas failures--but, like my kids, all of my memories are good.  The moments may not have been perfect, but the intention behind them (unlike other times of the year) seems to have transcended the painful blunder.

The silly season is upon us.  The craziness has begun, and for many of us, work etc. has screeched to a halt while we try to carefully construct the illusion of one perfect time of the year.  I guess it's just important to remember that even if the perfection fails, the sweetness--that can still remain.

***

Just a reminder-- Going Up! is available for pre-sale, and it is available on Christmas day.  Think of it as the literary equivalent of hot chocolate-- sweet, warm, and better with marshmallows.

And don't forget-- the Christmas Kitsch Scavenger Hunt is open until the 21st!