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Monday, April 30, 2018

Stand by Your Manny

Yay! Sammy's out!
So, Stand by Your Manny is out tomorrow (today!) and I'm sort of excited!  (Exhausted, because Crocus JUST came out, but excited!)

Anyway, Stand by Your Manny is the third book of the Mannies series, and although Cooper is mentioned in book two, this book was well and truly completely Sammy Lowell's. 

For those of you who've read the series, in the first book, The Virgin Manny, Sammy is the child who needs a day care provider. He's a handful then-- by turns sweet and prickly and mourning the loss of his mother, he nevertheless captures Tino's heart and makes Tino's decision to stay with Sammy's Uncle Channing oh so much easier. 

As we saw in Manny Get Your Guy, Sammy has grown up. He has adopted siblings and he's devoted to them. In Manny Get Your Guy, he was just about to start his senior year, and for Sammy, that's when life throws him a curve ball, because that's when his anemia kicks into gear.

Now yes--I did research into this. Sammy's condition--aplastic anemia--is not often life threatening. Usually it only needs a blood transfusion from a matching donor. But Sammy's mother has passed, his father is out of the picture (and it's hinted that this is a very good thing) and Channing isn't a match. Sammy's role models are Channing and Tino-- they're like the Batman and Robin of the business world. Smart, busy, superdads, super uncles, super siblings --they're unstoppable. Sammy has a lot to live up to and a body that keeps yanking on his chain, saying, "Nope, Sam, can't do that. Gotta stop and rest there. Gotta get a transfusion. Can't keep going without taking care of yourself!" and he's PISSED OFF. 

But because he's had Channing and Tino in his life, and Nica and Jacob's family too, he's pissed off in a very nice way.

When Cooper comes to Channing and Tino's life--just in time to be their live in Manny and give Sammy some much needed time to his own pursuits--Cooper is the blessing Sammy never knew he needed. Cooper doesn't see Sammy's health condition--he sees Sammy, and that's a big deal to Channing Lowell's kid. All Sammy's ever wanted to be is as awesome as his role models--and here's someone who thinks he's better.

It makes for a very sweet book.

But Sammy and Cooper are young, and shy, and vulnerable, and this wasn't a Johnnies book. Not a lot of hot thrusting young guy action here--a lot more getting to know you, getting to love you sweetness. 

Some books are like that. Some couples are like that. I'm so glad I got to write Sammy's story this way.

So, Sammy's story is the third in the series, and there's going to be one more. Everybody remember that kid Nica was pregnant with at the end of The Virgin Manny? The kid that got Taylor in the eyepatch with the spoonful of lasagna? Yeah.

That kid.

He grows up to be just as much a handful as an adult as he was as a kid. 

These books have been fun to write, and sweet, and this family makes me happy. If you like fluff and families and kids everywhere, this could possibly be the Amy Lane series you love most.

I know I'm excited about it!  

Oh!

Today, release day, both Kim Fielding and I have 1/3 off the DSP website-- this might be your day to get the first three books at a VERY good price!

Stand by Your Manny--

The Mannies

Learning to trust and falling in love...


Sammy Lowell has his hands full juggling his music, college, some pesky health problems, and making the uncles who raised him proud. He needs help fulfilling his after-school duties with his siblings. Nobody can be in two places at once—not even Sammy! An injury puts Cooper Hoskins in a tough spot—if he can’t work, the foster sister he’s raising can’t eat. But years in the foster system have left Cooper short on trust, and opening up to accept help isn’t easy. Luckily, family intervenes—Cooper needs a job so he can care for Felicity, and Sammy needs someone who can see past his illness to the wonderful things he has planned for his life. Each heals the damaged places in the other’s heart. But falling in love is a big responsibility for young men deep in family already. Can the two of them get past their fear of the immediate future to see forever with each other?




The Virgin Manny

The Mannies

Growing up and falling in love...

Sometimes family is a blessing and a curse. When Tino Robbins is roped into helping his sister deliver her premade Italian dinners when he should be studying for finals, he’s pretty sure it’s the latter! But one delivery might change everything.

Channing Lowell’s charmed life changes when his sister dies and leaves him her seven-year-old son. He’s committed to doing what’s best for Sammy… but he’s going to need a lot of help. When Tino lands on his porch, Channing is determined to recruit him to Team Sammy.

Tino plans to make his education count—even if that means avoiding a relationship—but as he falls harder and harder for his boss, he starts to wonder: Does he have to leave his newly forged 
family behind in order to live his promising tomorrow?





Manny Get Your Guy

The Mannies 

Starting over and falling in love...

Tino Robbins’s sister, Nica, and her husband, Jacob, are expecting their fifth child. Fortunately, Nica’s best friend, Taylor Cochran, is back in town, released from PT and in need of a job.

After years in the service and recovering from grave injury, Taylor has grown a lot from the callow troublemaker he’d been in high school. Now he’s hoping for a fresh start with Nica and her family.

Jacob’s cousin Brandon lives above the garage and thinks “Taylor the manny” is a bad idea. Taylor might be great at protecting civilians from a zombie apocalypse, but is he any good with kids?

Turns out Taylor’s a natural. As he tries to fit in, using common sense and dry wit, Brandon realizes that Taylor doesn’t just love their family—he’s desperate to be part of it. And just like that, Brandon wants Taylor to be part of his future.














 A Fool and His Manny

Seeing the truth and falling in love...

Coming in July!

Death of a Pilot Fish-- Fish Out of Water Ficlet



Going to be out scattering Mate's mom's ashes on Saturday, and (as Forrest Gump says) that's all I want to say about that.




But I had so much fun writing Skip and Richie's ficlet yesterday that I thought I'd go for another one tonight--per usual, when my RL isn't functioning the way I want it to, my fictional life is my happy place--even when my characters aren't so happy ;-)

This is from the Fish Out of Water universe, and it happens after the second book, Red Fish, Dead Fish.




* * *




Death of a Pilot Fish


Jackson remembered hating that time between Thanksgiving and Christmas when he was a kid. It seemed to serve no purpose--you went to school, but everybody was too wound up to do much learning, and that was when finals and papers were due anyway.


It just always seemed to be the time of waiting--waiting for Christmas, waiting for vacation, waiting for the promise of the new year.

Even if he knew these things weren't going to be awesome-- they never had been in the past-- he could recognize the painful optimism, even as a child.

As an adult, recovering from his injuries in Ellery's house while Ellery went back to work, the time was even worse.

It didn't help that Ellery was doing his best to do all the paperwork that putting an end to Tim Owens's reign of terror demanded, keeping the bulk of it from Jackson's shoulders. All that meant was that Ellery got home from work later than he usually did, and Jackson had spent the whole day knocking around the house fretting, not physically up to do more than wash the dishes, and not mentally up to keep the monsters at bay.

And the monsters were incessant.

What was he doing here, in this stellar house with the matching dishes and the soft leather couches? What was he doing taking advantage of some poor lawyer who seemed to think it was okay that Jackson just leech off him and not pay food or rent or for his own goddamned wrecked vehicles.

Both of them.

Wandering the house alone, Jackson had lots of time to tell himself the things he wasn't.

He wasn't smart.

He wasn't rich.

He wasn't polished.

He wasn't that good looking. (Particularly now when he was looking thin and haggard, thank you very much fever and infection and just not wanting to fucking eat.)

He was pretty much a useless has-been, his best function was cannon fodder, he was a human shield for better people than himself and it was just too goddamned bad Owens hadn't shot at him, because everybody knew that shot would have found its mark--finally.

When Ellery got home, exhausted and distracted, Jackson was a mess--he knew it. But he was damned if he'd tell Ellery.

For one thing, Ellery was working so hard for their future. For another, there just wasn't any time between Ellery getting home, changing clothes, eating some reheated dinner, and then falling asleep on the couch, his laptop precariously balanced as he worked in front of the television.

And Jackson, dammit, couldn't stay up much longer.

But sleep didn't come either--even if he'd gone running, dragging his sorry body out in the foggy cold to make himself tired wasn't helping at all.

This night, about five days before the firm cut everyone lose for winter holiday, was possibly the worst day of them all. Jackson had tried to run five miles and failed miserably, and Ellery had come home in a snit because the neighbor had called him at work to ask him pointedly who that man was lurching into his house.

They'd bickered when Ellery had gotten home--but at least he'd gotten home early, and bickering was how they communicated. That part had been fun.

But then Jackson had fallen asleep early, and Ellery had shooed him to bed while he stayed up and worked.

Jackson had been sort of hoping for sex--it's what the bickering often led to, and he'd gotten himself all ramped up, really.

So his nightmare started in a sexual haze of black.

There was a light here-- there had to be. There was always a light--sometimes it lied, sometimes it led to monsters. 

But there was always a light.

He breathed, he kept the fear away. He knew his dreams by now.

The light appeared. Dangling, bobbing, leading him away from the warm haze of want, the whirling place where the eels of despair kept stripping the flesh from his bones.

He followed it anyway. He needed to see. Needed to know there was an end.

Come away, come away, leave the blackness, come to the hope...

There was never hope. Nobody knew this like Jackson.

But he followed it anyway, because the whirl of his own doubts was a terrible place to be.

The light grew brighter, and he saw the silhouette of the light bearer. His heart clenched.

No. Oh no. Don't do this.

But the dreams were merciless.

And now he kept following the light, not because the light gave him hope, but because the light bearer was his only hope and he had no choice.

The straight posture, the narrow waist, the stiff, uptight walk. Even the chestnut colored hair precision cut, shaved on the sides and the back, a little long on the front, and ruthlessly scraped back with product.

In the dream, Jackson could even make out the individual comb marks from behind.

He kept going.

"Ellery?" he asked tentatively. Oh, Lord, how he longed for Ellery to be the one, in real life, who led him from the dark to the light. "Ellery, is that you?"

He was almost relieved when Ellery turned around with a horribly distended lower jaw, man-sized teeth and protuberant fishy eyes.

But that didn't mean he wasn't terrified, didn't scream, when the pilot fish that looked like Ellery tried to devour his soul...

"Jackson!" Ellery's voice echoed in his head and then cold hands held him down by the shoulders and shook him. "Jackson! C'mon, asshole, snap out of it!"

Jackson squeezed his eyes closed and started to shake. "Did I wake you up?"

"Baby, you were screaming."

"Sorry."

"No--"

"So sorry..."

"Don't be."

Ellery's surprisingly strong body engulfed him, tucked Jackson's head against his chest in a gesture of protection Jackson normally hated--any time but this time, exactly, when he was at his most vulnerable.

"It's okay," Ellery whispered while Jackson continued to shake.

"Sure."

What was it tonight?"

When the'd met, it had been once a week, maybe. Now it was almost nightly.

"Pilot fish. Looked like you from behind."

Ellery shuddered. "Those things are so fucking icky!"

Jackson chuckled against his chest. "You are telling me."

"Jesus... it tried to eat you?"

"Yeah."

"Gross."

"I'm saying." Jackson took a breath. "Looking like you was the worst part."

"Yeah."Jackson felt a kiss on the top of his head. "I'm sorry about that."

Jackson half-laughed. "WAsn't your fault."

"Oh no. This one was all me. Sorry."

"I don't understand how," Jackson mumbled. Ellery's voice in the darkness, his touch, his heat, all of it chased the dream away, leaving Jackson free to make himself comfortable in the tatters of his earlier sleep.

"I'll show you in the morning."

"Okay. Fine. Want waffles."

"Will you eat them?" Ellery sounded sufficiently dubious, but Jackson, warm and comforted and oddly optimistic, couldn't imagine not wanting anything different.

"Yes. Bacon too."

"I will get up early to make them. And we'll kill the pilot fish dream over breakfast, promise."

"You're good to me."

"Love you, Jackson."

Jackson sighed, melting into the words, the comfort, in a way he wouldn't have the year before.

"Yeah. You too."

And he fell asleep, dreaming of Ellery's hair, standing straight out all over his head.

That morning, he was eating his waffles, as promised, and trying not to let on what a struggle it was to just eat Ellery came in from the living room with a DVD and dropped it on the table.

"What's this?" Jackson asked, confused.

"This is why I turned into a pilot fish."

Jackson picked up the case. "Mysteries of the Deep." He gasped. "You were watching this?"

Ellery grimaced. "Just as you fell asleep."

On the front was a picture of a giant glowing pilot fish, so real and closeup Jackson got the willies just looking at it.

"Oh my God! Can we... I don't know..."

Ellery reached over his shoulder, smelling like shower and cologne, and cracked the DVD out of it's box. "Break it. Destroy it. Pound it with a sledgehammer. I don't care. Make it your mission in life."

"But wait!" Jackson saved it from Ellery's hands. "I want to watch it!"

"But your nightmare!"

"Yeah-- but now that I know what it was about, I want to see it!"

"But... but your dream!"

Jackson shrugged, looking at the back of the DVD case. "Yeah, but when I know what something looks like, I'm not afraid of it."

Ellery sighed. "That's bullshit. You know what I look like and you're obviously afraid of me."

Jackson sighed back and stood, wrapping his arms carefully around Ellery, being careful not to ruin his new suit.

"I just..." So hard to say. "It's hard to trust. You love me. You know? How do I trust that?"

"So I'm leading you to the light but I'm going to eat you instead," Ellery said, sounding a little crushed.

"Well, maybe if I see a real fish eating a real fish, it won't be you anymore."

Ellery grimaced. "Jackson, you ever think... maybe..."

"Nope."

"Of course not. Why would you possibly need a shrink. Never mind."

Ellery struggled out of his arms and Jackson let him go. "Hey, Ellery?"

"Yeah?"

"I love you."

"Yeah, but you still think I"m going to eat you."

"Just let me watch the movie!"

"Fine."

Ellery flounced off to work, leaving Jackson to finish his waffles in front of the TV watching mysteries of the deep.


* * *

When Ellery came home, Jackson was watching the whole rest of the series on Netflix. HIs heart fell.

"Oh dear God, what's that?"

Jackson looked at him happily. "It's a moray eel--isn't it awful?"

Oh it really was. "So, are we trying to give ourselves nightmare fodder?"

"Nope! This is one more thing I won't dream about tonight!"

Ellery was about to argue with him, but it was fruitless--because it made sense. If Jackson didn't know about something, it scared him.

The one thing Jackson didn't know about was love. Power. Hope for the future.

"You might still dream about me," he said gently, because Ellery was all of those things for Jackson.

Jackson shook his head and looked away shyly. "Naw. Usually I dream about you in danger. I don't think you're going to eat me again any time soon."

Well, it was a start. "So, we really did kill the boogie man this time?"

Jackson grinned. "Yes! And there were some amazing shots of things being eaten. Want to see the rest of the series with me?"

Well, why not. "I'll order takeout."

They made love that night, Jackson taking him playfully, Ellery on his hands and knees to give Jackson more control. As they fell asleep, naked, covered in spend, still breathing harshly, Ellery panted, "So, no bad dreams."

"I didn't say that," Jackson said, wrapping his arm tighter around Ellery's waist as they spooned. "Just you won't be a mystery of the deep anymore."

Okay, well, it was a start. If they had to fight Jackson's dream one nature special at a time, Ellery was going to see that he had a decent night's sleep or die trying.

All things considered, it was easier for them both to kill the pilot fish--at least figuratively-- using a nature documentary though.






























Thursday, April 26, 2018

I AM A HUMAN FUCKIN' BEING! A Winter Ball Ficlet

Okay-- so I have my autism awareness post going live tonight, but I just got home from the Tire Company where I got a flat fixed, and for those of you who follow me on social media, I got... well, a little tiny plot bunny while I was there.

I'm writing Familiar Demon right now, so I'm not sure if I've got a place there for this nose-wiggling nugget. It may show up there, but just in case, I'm going to put it in Skipper and Richie's very capable hands.

For some reason, I could just hear Richie screaming this at the top of his lungs.  For those of you who didn't see my post, I bet you can guess which part it is...


*  *  *

Clang clang clang clang!

"Goddammit!"

From inside the house, Skip looked up from his laptop and grimaced. The sounds coming from the driveway did not bode well.

"Ouch!"

That was enough to get Skip up out of his chair and away from his online class in employee education, and moving toward the front door. "Hey, Richie..." he called before his hand even hit the knob.

"You--" Clang! "Will--" Clang! "Do--" Clang! "What--" Clang! "I'm--" Clang! "Telling you to no no no no no you dumb motherfucker no!"

Skipper screeched to a halt in front of Richie's middle-aged and much abused Toyota, not daring to get any closer in case Richie tagged him on the backswing with the wrench in his hand as he beat the hell out of something in the engine on the downswing.  Richie's face was streaked with grease and his knuckles were bleeding and the car was hissing and dripping fluid and it wobbled uneasily on the blocks Riche had propped under it after he'd pushed it up with two jacks.

"Richie!" Skip barked. "Enough! You're breaking it!"

"I can't break it!" Richie screamed into the engine. "Evil shit things can't be broken--I want this fucker to behave I need a fuckin' exorcist!"

But Richie paused on the backswing and Skipper managed to yank the wrench out of his grasp. Richie whirled around, hands on his hips, face contorted with rage--and almost with tears.

"Dammit, Skipper!"

"You're bleeding," Skip said logically grabbing his hand.

Some of the fight leaked out of Richie's body and he relaxed and let Skipper take a good look at his knuckles.

"You hurt yourself," he said softly. "What did that car ever do to you?"

Richie's lower lip wobbled. "It... it's gonna die, Skip. I mean, I'm a mechanic. This thing should be spinning like a top, but... you know. Got so caught up in the job and the dog and you and... I let the oil get sludgy and my gaskets are wearing and..."  He looked mournfully at the car, an identical twin on the outside to Skipper's, because they'd bought them both right after they'd gotten out of school.

"You never let mine lapse," Skipper said with a little smile.

"You take yours to the oil place," Richie told him, resentment coloring his tone, like Skipper didn't trust him with his car.

"I have better things to do with your time," Skipper told him with a slight smile.

"Like soccer," Richie said dryly.

"Sure."

Richie's mouth quirked up. "Fine. I'll take it to the quick stop place. But first..." He looked behind him and grimaced. "I gotta fix that shit I broke,  Skip. That's just embarrassing."

Skipper kissed him on the forehead. "Yeah. Sure." He looked woefully at Richie's knuckles. "I'll dress that after you come back in and wash, okay?"

Richie nodded glumly and pulled the wrench gently from Skipper's hand. "Don't mind me, Skip. Me and the car will find a way, okay?"

"Course. Just... you know. No more beating an unarmed opponent, kay?"

That got him a real smile. "Deal."

Skip went back to his class and finished his homework assignment, then stood and stretched. Richie was still swearing at the car, but the dispute seemed amicable, so he threw the ball to the dog a couple of times because he was getting bored and lonely in the backyard.

The dog sufficiently exercised--and fed a giant bowl of kibble-- Skip went in and made lunch for both of them, thinking wistfully of other things they could be doing on this gorgeous Sunday afternoon.

Most of them involved a cleaner, happier Richie, who was not wearing his old mechanic's coveralls. In fact, was not wearing much at all.

He was in the middle of grilling Richie's sandwich when suddenly the timber of Richie's voice went up to worrisome levels again. Skip slid the grilled cheese on a plate, turned off the heat and ran outside just in time to hear Richie crow triumphantly.

"See that you miserable piece of crap? See? I win, because I am a fucking human being!"

Skip had to laugh then, and Richie looked out from under the hood with his face wreathed in smiled. "D'you hear that, Skipper?"

"I did!"

"I won! Oil changed, hoses changed, fluids changed.  I can take her to the Quick Change with pride in my heart, right?"

"Sure, Richie--but come in and get cleaned up first. I made you lunch."

Richie's grin of triumph suddenly turned wicked. "I'm gonna come in and shower," he said. "Then I'm gonna eat wearing a towel. You know why?"

Skip wanted to kiss him so bad, but he held off, because this was a glorious plan. "Because you have better things to do with your weekend?" he asked, eyes sweeping Richie's knotty, muscular little body with greed. "And you are a fucking human being?"

Richie chortled and pulled a rag out of his pocket, wiping his fingers carefully and avoiding his knuckles. "And I wanna be the human you're fuckin'. Gimme five minutes out here, Skipper, then we can have lunch and desert, you think?"

Skipper leaned forward and captured his mouth and only his mouth, because it was the only clean part of him, even when it was saying filthy things.

"I think," he said, tasting his boyfriend and loving it. "Come on in when you're ready."

He was going to shower too, since he hadn't even taken off his sweats since he'd woken up. They'd been the responsible adults this weekend--now it was time to be fun adults.

They were human beings after all.



Wednesday, April 25, 2018

April 25th-- Autism Awareness Blog Hop

Autism Fact: 34% of children on the autism spectrum say that the worst thing about being at school is being picked on.

Hi all!

I'm participating in  RJ Scott's Blog Hop for Autism Awareness this month--my day is April 25th, and hopefully this goes out then because I still get very fidgety when I push "schedule" and then BOOM the post is up at a magic time.

Anyway...

The autism fact this year is chilling and it makes my heart hurt--but it also reminded me of a moment I was really proud of my own children, and I'm going to share that because I think there is a lesson there.

I've mentioned--many times--that my oldest son has a processing disorder, and is communicatively handicapped. Some of the markers are much like autism-- has difficulty making transitions from one activity to another is one. Fixates on small details that are easy for the neurotypical  to miss is another. And dealing with these quirks is a hard earned skill.

Fortunately, it's also one that makes for a better parent all around. I'm good at giving my kids warnings in increments before their environment changes--all of my kids. I'm good at giving my kids a moment to think and respond to the things I've just said--all of my kids. I'm good a assessing the environment as a whole to see what stimuli a child may be particularly invested in before I go around changing all the things.

All my kids.

These are good practices for all parents, all teachers, all caregivers--period.

But I didn't realize how much these habits of parenthood and kid-wrangling had seeped into my own children, and how much watching me dealing with their big brother would help my own children simply be more understanding human beings until about two years ago.

We were at the pool.

Now I go to the pool for aqua class, and for about an hour, my kids find someone else to play with and simply enjoy a bare spot of water. (Well, then, that's what they did. Now I make them go to aqua class, because they risk becoming inert during the summer months if we don't give them a little nudge.)

Anyway--my kids know how to swim, they're usually civil, and I keep a weather eye out for them as they play. They've yet to even catch the lifeguard's attention--it's all good.

And it was all good this day. I didn't know the little boy they were playing with, but they seemed to be having fun. At the end of the class though, one of the younger women came up to me. (I'm one of the younger women there--this should give you an idea of the aqua demographic.)  I'd seen her around and I smiled, and she said, "Hey, thank you kids today for playing with my son. That was really nice."

I shrugged. "They're decent kids--I'm glad they had fun."

"Yeah, but my son has autism, and it's not always... easy for him to find friends. He had a really good time today. Tell them thank you."

And then she walked away.

And my kids came to me--because we usually play dumb games like simon-says or tag or red-light/green/light after he class--and I said, "Hey, did you have a good time?"

"Yeah. He was nice. I hope we play with him again."

"Good. He enjoyed that. He's sort of like your brother--just keep being nice. You guys are awesome."

They didn't seem to think it was any kind of deal--and for that, I was so proud. Because patience, empathy, checking to make sure the person you're talking to is comfortable--these shouldn't be a big deal, but most of us humans have to work hard at these skills. But it's worth it. Not picking on somebody, not remarking on their differences, treating every human as a complete and perfect being just as they come to us can make such a difference in their lives--and in our own.

Being "aware" of of what it means to be neuroatypical isn't just good for those with autism or Asperger's or a processing disorder. Being "aware" means to be a little more patient, a little more sensitive, a little more empathetic to all human beings, regardless of any label we're aware--or unaware--of.

Being aware is good for us all. It makes us better people. It makes us teach better understanding and model better human behavior.

Being aware of autism is being mindful creatures on a burgeoning planet.

And it has lovely, unforeseen consequences that we should work towards with all our hearts.



Monday, April 23, 2018

Snoozing hounds, yarn books, and fungus

 Not much today--I mean Monday. I got to go to aqua-- yayayay!

But I did get a copy of Yarn, the Display edition, which has a short story I wrote in it. This looks like it might be an issue-wide thing--and the magazine is lovely. Full color, glossy paper, some amazing articles on fibers and technique. I'm in love--I wish we got it here in the states. And I get to have a story in it, and that makes me so excited!  Kyle and Cliff shall have many more adventures to come.

Oh!

And Squish got to read it. Because there was only a kiss.

She thought it was charming.
 And I took the picture below of Mate and the potato shaped hound because the potato shaped hound was dead to the world.

Bless her little heart-- that trashy bitch went through a lot of garbage today! She earned her slumber!

And finally, for dinner I took some chicken that I'd simmered in barbecue sauce last week and heated it up with some cheese and some mushrooms, because the mushrooms were going bad and this was my last chance to throw them in something.  The kids asked me what we were eating today, and I told them, "Sloppy fungus!"

Would you believe nobody batted an eyelash and everybody ate?

It was unexpectedly delicious.

Night everybody!

Sunday, April 22, 2018

That Was Neat

So, Reno is... well, it's Reno. To quote Elliot Gould in Ocean's 11 "You're out in the middle of the fuckin' desert!" and while the quote is about Las Vegas, well, the shoe fits.

The college was lovely though--Mate went on their hiking trail while I was in class and pronounced it good. ("Oh, wow-- that's awesome!" I said. "Are you kidding? It had Pokegyms. I wasn't doing it for my health!")

I enjoyed the presentations during the little writer's conference, and I'm pretty sure mine went okay. My big worry--always--is that I'll remember the stuff that you can't put in an outline that makes a course good, and since I came up with MOAR stuff as I was talking, I think it was a success. (Somehow I open my mouth and stuff comes out... it's weird.)  Anyway--I met a writer from Harlequin who lives in Sacramento--that's awesome, right?

The funny part--and it was sort of hilarious--was the hotel room.

See, originally the kids were supposed to come with us. Mate was going to run them around all day and then we'd find something to do with the family in Reno and go home Sunday morning.  ZoomBoy got sick on Friday-- he was tired and just icky and had a fever of 101.  Chicken was going to spend the night with the dogs anyway so she came and watched ZoomBoy and Squish and Mate and I went up.

Now see, when the kids were supposed to come up, I got a cheap hotel. I just didn't know HOW cheap. I mean, I'd just had a nice experience with a Best Western that took dogs, and I didn't want to get the super nice room for just an extended day trip.  I thought, "How bad can a Motel 6 be?"

OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG... DON'T ANSWER THAT!!!

Now I know.

I mean, wasn't dirty or gross or anything like that. But the floor was cheap laminate and the bed was incredibly uncomfortable and the shower...

The shower was hilarious.

It was a corner unit, designed with the head hooked up on the ceiling, so it could shoot water at the corner, while you dragged a curtain over a semi-circular rail to protect you.

Except I finished my shower and walked into a... well, a lake. It was half-an-inch deep all over the bathroom.

"Oh my God! Mate! Water everywhere!"

Mate came in to look. "What did you do?"

"I swear-ta-dog, nothing! I mean, I closed the curtain and everything."

So Mate got in, and as soon as he turned the shower on--NOT standing in the cubicle--we saw the problem.

A three foot arc or water shooting out of the back of the showered, over the curtain and against the bathroom wall.

We laughed uproariously, because neither of us had gotten a lick of sleep on the highly uncomfortable bed, and both of us decided that we were too old for this shit.  We checked out right then and came home after dinner--it's a two hour drive, we wanted to sleep in our own damned bed.

But the seminar itself was nice, and we ate dinner with a friend (*waves frantically to Jason whom I adore*) and the drive home was pretty. I mean, you pass Truckee and Nyack and all the places that were sort of stand-ins for Colton and Dogwatch and the other places up Northeast in Amy Lane, right?

And we really did learn something important.

We're too old for shitty hotels.

Next time I book us a room, I'm taking the expensive room on the chin and enjoying the fuck out of it, even if I'm not getting a conference rate. Dude. Why not?

What's to lose but a decent night's sleep, right?


Friday, April 20, 2018

The Last Manny Cover Reveal, Bobby Green on Audio, and Amy in Reno!

Okay, folks--I am surprisingly tired considering I sort of hid in a corner and read all day. Not sure why the ol' psyche decided to bail on all the adulting I have to do, but I have to say, I'm feeling far more energized. I think sometimes writers really do need to READ books, and these last two days I've treated myself to Mary Calmes, Annabeth Albert, and Melinda Leigh. I feel like I can write again, and that's pretty splendid, really!

Anyway...

I promised you lots of goodies, and here we go.









First off--

I will be at Truckee Community College on Saturday, along with Gayle Brandeis, Sheree Bryokofsky, and Anna J. Stewart, participating in their writing workshop. I'll be giving a talk about world building --if you've got worlds enough and time, come meet us there!

REGISTER HERE


Second off--

Bobby Green and Red Fish, Dead Fish are both
 out in Audiobook, and I've listened to the sample and it's GORGEOUS. So, you know, anybody who's interested in that should go check it out, right?


I know some of you are audio aficionados--enjoy!

Blurb:

Vern Roberts couldn’t wait to turn eighteen and get the hell out of Dogpatch, California. But city living is expensive, and he’s damned desperate when Dex from Johnnies spots him bussing tables.

As “Bobby,” he’s a natural at gay porn. Soon he’s surrounded by hot guys and sex for the taking, but it’s not just his girlfriend back in Dogpatch—or her blackmailing brother—that keeps him from taking it. It’s the sweet guy who held the lights for his first solo scene, who showed him decency, kindness, and a smile.

Reg Williams likes to think he’s too stupid to realize what a shitty hand life dealt him, but Bobby knows better. What Reg lacks in family, opportunity, education, and money, he makes up for in heart. One fumbling step at a time, they connect, not just in their hearts but in their bodies, where sex that’s not on camera, casual, or meaningless, becomes the most important thing in the world.

But Reg is hampered by an inescapable family burden, and he and Bobby will never fly unless he can find a way to manage it. Can he break the painful link to his unrealized childhood and grow into the love Bobby wants to give?

Buy Audio Book Here



Red Fish, Dead Fish--Blurb

They must work together to stop a psychopath - and save each other.

Two months ago, Jackson Rivers got shot while trying to save Ellery Cramer’s life. Not only is Jackson still suffering from his wounds, the trigger-man remains at large - and the body count is mounting.

Jackson and Ellery have been trying to track down Tim Owens since Jackson got out of the hospital, but Owens' time as a member of the department makes the DA reluctant to turn over any stones. When Owens starts going after people Jackson knows, Ellery’s instincts hit red alert. Hurt in a scuffle with drug-dealing squatters and trying damned hard not to grieve for a childhood spent in hell, Jackson is weak and vulnerable when Owens strikes.

Jackson gets away, but the fallout from the encounter might kill him. It’s not doing Ellery any favors either. When a police detective is abducted - and Jackson and Ellery hold the key to finding her - Ellery finds out exactly what he’s made of. He’s not the corporate shark who believes in winning at all costs; he’s the frightened lover trying to keep the man he cares for from self-destructing in his own valor.


Buy Red Fish, Dead Fish HERE




And last but not least, the cover and blurb for the last Mannies book-- and honestly? This one might be my favorite (although Sammy is coming out in May, and it's hard to say. I mean... SAMMY!!!)  But I've loved this series and it will be hard to say goodbye--but hopefully really sweet and romantic too.


A Fool and His Manny

by Amy Lane


Seeing the truth and falling in love.

Dustin Robbins-Grayson was a surly adolescent when Quinlan Gregory started the nanny gig. After a rocky start, he grew into Quinlan's friend and confidant—and a damned sexy man.

At twenty-one, Dusty sees how Quinlan sacrificed his own life and desires to care for Dusty’s family. He’s ready to claim Quinlan—he's never met akinder, more capable, more lovable man. Or a lonelier one. Quinlan has spent his life as the stranger on the edge of the photograph, but Dusty wants Quinlan to be the center of his world. First he has to convince Quinlan he’s an adult, their love is real, and Quinlan can be more than a friend and caregiver. Can he show Quin that he deserves to be both a man and a lover, and that in Dusty’s eyes, he’s never been “just the manny?”

OUT JULY 1ST! 




And with that, I'm off to Reno tomorrow night! Have a nice weekend everybody--wish me luck on Saturday!

Amy



Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Uh, Birthday wishes?

So, today was my stepmom's birthday, and it was sort of a busy day for me, but I wanted to get her a card since I was going to be up by her house anyway--I had to take Big T to the dentist, and our dentist is about a mile away from my parents' house, so I figured a card, not a text this year, right?

Anyway, I went into the drugstore to find a card.

Can I just say, my stepmom is in good health and she's not Saint Catherine, neither is she Mother Teresa, she's a perfectly wonderful human woman who does not need, nor probably does not want a heartfelt poem in five die-cut pages complete with glitter and ribbons celebrating her amazing otherworldly-quality awesomeness.

Dude. There was nothing--nothing--for a perfectly ordinary birthday for a lovely and yet human woman.

I finally found the Shoebox section--aptly named, it wasn't that big--and managed a rather amusing little card, and when I went up to the register I bought some fun sweet snacky thingies to give her with the card.

Then I picked Big T up and took him to the dentist.

Now, I'd bought some chocolate pretzels with my mom's snacky thingies and munched on those, perfectly content, and offered them to T. He declined, went to his appointment, got out of the car and promptly opened his grandma's snacky thingies! 

I was like, *flail*!!!!!

"Oh my God! We can't give those to her now! That's totally tacky!"

"Sorry, Mom. I totally owe grandma a treat--I'll tell her it's my fault."

Well, my stepmom wasn't home, but my dad was, and we gave him the card to give her, and then I told him the tale of the snacky thingies.

"Out of curiosity, what did you get?"

Well, what I got her was caramel popcorn with chocolate bar bits in it which, you gotta admit, was pretty amazing as far as snacky thingies go.

Anyway--I pulled them out and let my dad see the bag and he tried a handful and took the bag and said, "Don't worry. She'll never know you opened the bag." And then he gathered the bag to himself and took the card inside.

*sigh*

Well, at least they were enjoyed, I guess, and now I totally owe my mom some snacky thingies.

I hope she had a happy birthday, though. She was on a horse ride during a gorgeous spring day--I'm pretty sure she did.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Crocus

Crocus

by Amy Lane

Bonfires: Book Two

Saying “I love you” doesn’t guarantee peace or a happy ending.

High school principal “Larx” Larkin was pretty sure he’d hit the jackpot when Deputy Sheriff Aaron George moved in with him, merging their two families as seamlessly as the chaos around them could possibly allow.

But when Larx’s pregnant daughter comes home unexpectedly and two of Larx’s students are put in danger, their tentative beginning comes crashing down around their ears.

Larx thought he was okay with the dangers of Aaron’s job, and Aaron thought he was okay with Larx’s daughter—who is not okay—but when their worst fears are almost realized, it puts their hearts and their lives to the test. Larx and Aaron have never wanted anything as badly as they want a life together. Will they be able to make it work when the world is working hard to keep them apart?



I admit--keeping the spark alive is harder than people assume it is. I love my husband--I've loved him for thirty-three years. But the longer you know somebody, the easier it is to only remember their flaws and forget all their virtues. Instead of "This is the man who just did my taxes in order to support my rather flaky business," I think, "This is the man who ditched out on me for a soccer meeting. Again."  Both things are true, and one is actually greater than the other one is irritating.

But after a while, it's easier to see the downside.

At it's heart, Crocus is about remembering that the person we love is still the person we love even if fortune, fate, and overcommitment takes them from our side for a while. The passion is there, the affection is there, the respect is there--it just has to survive under the snow for a while, while the heat of first love sleeps. 

It's not easy. But nothing worth having ever is.

So that's Crocus--I hope you all enjoy it!  And by all means, review it, both on GoodReads and Amazon if you do!

Amy

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Why are boys again?

So, got a lot accomplished this weekend--but oi! So much to do!




*  ZoomBoy's hair has been looking a little... weird over the last week. He had this section on his forehead that stuck straight up--remember the spooge-mousse scene in Something About Mary?  Yes. It was doing that. 

Anyway, ZB and I went to get our hair cut, because his was obviously out of hand, and it wasn't until we were in line at Great Clips that I realized...

"Oh my God. Did you cut your hair?"

"Yup."

"Why..."  I flailed here. "Why just that little chunk."

ZoomBoy shrugged. "It was in my way."

So, picture this. A 14 YO boy who wishes to attract other 14 YO people for various mating rituals A. Cannot seem to remember to brush his teeth or put on deodorant, and B. Just randomly cuts off chunks of his hair because it's in his eyes.

"Why didn't you ask for a haircut?" I demanded.

Another shrug. "Why?"

Ladies and gentleman, my ZoomBoy. He will never kiss another human in a romantic way at this point, and now you know why.

*  Also a ZoomBoy story--

He told us tonight that Let it Go was actually the story of how boys and girls break wind differently.

With girls it's "Conceal don't feel, don't let it show..."

With boys it's, "Let it go! Let it go!"

And that song's popularity makes sense now, right?

*  Squish fell down on the soccer field and sprained her ankle. She's so stoic. She just goes and goes and goes and is fine and suddenly she's crying.  

It was like, "Honey! You should have told us it still hurt, we would have wrapped it this morning!"

*  One of Squish's teammates has a little brother, and we had the following conversation.

"What are you doing?"

"I'm knitting a sock."

"That's neat. Can you make mittens?"

"Uh, yes. Want to see my mittens?"  (I pull out fingerless mitts)

"They're too big."

"Yes, well, they were made for me."

"Can you make some my size?"

"Yes."

"Can you make them green?"

"Yes--but I have my green yarn at home."

"What do you have with you?"

"Uh, this kind and this kind..."

"I like this kind. Can you make me mittens out of this kind of yarn?"

"Sure you don't want to wait until I can get home and get some green?"

"No, this kind is good."

I take the yarn-- a fine sock yarn--and begin to cast on.

"When will my mittens be done?" he asked.

"Not nearly as soon as you think they should be," I told him, and his mother laughed hysterically.

"You really don't have to make him a pair!" she told me.

"Oh no," I told her. "It's not often that you're commanded to knit, and knit now, and knit faster. I'm gonna enjoy this!"

For the record? They're almost done.


Thursday, April 12, 2018

ZoomBoy Wrote Today's Post

So, ZoomBoy is in a drama class, and he had to write a spoken poem.

"Do you want to hear my poem mom?"

"Sure!"

And he said it out loud, and I died, because it's hysterical.

And I asked if I could share, and he said yes.

So today's blog post is written by ZoomBoy--and I hope it makes you laugh too.  (P.S.-- points if you can name all his sci-fi references. Also, I told him that he should wish the guy used the bathroom AFTER the guy with storm trooper accuracy, but for some reason that was unwieldy.)


A Birthday Curse from a Galaxy Far Far Away... 


On the birthday of the scum and villainy who called me a nerd, 
I wish him an arrow in the knee after being arrested for unintentionally hitting a chicken. 
I wish him the prequels without lightsabers, and to be the unlucky stormtrooper who has to break the news to Vader.
I wish him to be just a mediocre hufflepuff that has nothing to do with the boy who lived and his friends. 
I wish him stormtrooper accuracy in the bathroom and to be roasted in three words by a tree. To have a fear of cubes and dented spheres. To have a job in the Enterprise as an engineer.  
And finally, I wish him the honorable death of being killed by teddy bears with sticks.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

And Now You Know

Was a good work day today, and I was working along when I got this text from ZB:

Now I know what TSE is.

Me: ???

ZB: Testicular Self Examination

Me: Uh, good to know

ZB: Taking notes was like writing an adult novel

Me: Lucky you!

ZB: You're supposed to take a bath first so things get loose and saggy

Me: Don't ever do that while the rest of the family is home

ZB: Fine


Which was, well, par for the course in our house, but still. Then this other thing happened:

Chicken texting: Can you pick my cat up from the vet?  She was barfing blood so I dropped her off at the vets but I don't get up until after they close.

Me (groggily, in middle of nap): Sure

Hours later: When?

Chicken: Six. I told them her name was Peanut Butter

Me: Why?

Chicken: Because

Me: Whatever

So I get to the vets and ask for Peanut Butter. For the record? The cat's real name is Mrs. Poopy Butthole, because this cat weighs in excess of 28 lbs and she is too fat to lick her own ass. This is a true story.

"So, Ms. Lane, your cat does NOT have diabetes, not even a little. In fact, from what we can gather, she just has a mild pancreatitis--not food related. Perhaps stress?"

"My daughter is watching her friend's cat. Perhaps the cat got a little upset that she had to share her food?"

"Yes, of course. Here--what you need to do is go out and buy the cat some Pepcid AC and use this depiller to shove it down her throat. It'll calm down her acid and she probably will stop vomiting in a reasonable amount of time."

"That's a relief. They do laundry at my house."

"Ha ha. By the way, we love this cat's name. She's so cute. And she really does look like Peanut Butter."

I look at the GINORMOUS FUCKING CAT rolling obsequiously on the table in front of me, and hug her. She bitches "RUDE!" in my face and we understand each other.

"Yeah, she's adorable."

"Well bring Peanut Butter by any time. We just love her!"

Mrs. Poopy Butthole screams, "I HATE THESE SUCKY PEOPLE!" in my face.

"I'll tell my daughter. Pepcid you say?"

"Should work like a charm."

"Come on, 'Peanut Butter'. Hop in the crate."

"YOU SUCK TOO!"

"She's a doll!"

"Yeah. Adorable. Truly." At this point I am unimpressed--it's seven o'clock, I have to drop the cat off and come home and cook dinner. If this cat wanted to impress me she'd negotiate the two miles to her apartment and ring the doorbell, but it ain't happening.

I call my son and have him wait for me to pull up. "Why?" he asks.

"Twenty-eight pounds NOT in the crate, Big T. I'm not hauling her up the damned stairs."

"Okay, fine. Does she have diabetes?"

"Not even a little sugar in her urine."

"Luckiest cat on the planet."

"I'm saying."

I swear, next time I have to pick up this cat, I'm spray-painting "Mrs. Poopy Butthole" on her bright pink cat carrier. I love that cat, but we both know she ain't no Peanut Butter.




Tuesday, April 10, 2018

A Very Seasonal Duck --A Pierce and Hal Road Trip Story

Okay, so I promised my editor a whole bunch of these by June-- so far, I've got three, and I want the boys home before I turn them in to Lynn, so let's go to Hal's parents, shall we?

*  *  *

Pierce had to admit--Hal's parents' place was pretty damned intimidating.

The long drive from the main road to the gigantic antebellum house was paved, thank God, because Pierce's body had pretty much decided travel was the suck. The three days they'd spent in Atlanta had helped, as had Hal's insistence on using the jacuzzi and the pool while they were there, so Pierce thought maybe, with some more attention to stopping every two hours, he could make the trip home.

His other option was to give Hal directions to drive by himself while Pierce flew, and he really didn't want to do that. Even if he was sitting in the passenger seat, watching the unfamiliar scenery whiz by as Hal negotiated the expressways, listening as Hal sang loudly to pop songs Pierce had never heard of, Pierce was as happy as he'd ever been in his life.

He didn't have to be home until mid-February, and his ex-wife was setting up the bedroom and the backyard for him, like he'd asked when she'd sent the divorce papers. He was bringing Hal to a proper home. Hal had seriously left everything behind him-- parents, school, friends-- so he could start a life with a guy he'd known for a month. Pierce really didn't want him to regret that.

Seeing this long driveway and the spectacular house didn't bode well for Hal not regretting things.

"Damn," he muttered.

"It looks like a prison?" Hal asked.

"It looks awesome. How was it a prison?"

Hal grunted. "Do you see the house next door?"

Pierce peered through the beech trees that lined the driveway and saw nothing but rolling horse pasture, criss-crossed with wooden fences. "No. I think there's a barn about half-a-mile away."

"That's a whole mile. We've got a golf cart to take us out to the barn. Anyway, no, there were no next door neighbors. There were no play dates. There were no other kids invited to come sit in the living room and watch movies."

Pierce grunted. His parents had been cold and detached as well--but the house he'd grown up in would fit in this house's living room. "Me neither," he said. "I did have soccer, though. What'd you have?"

"Boarding school."

Pierce let out a little sigh. "Do you want kids?" he asked out of the blue.

"Someday, yes," Hal said, slowing down and glancing at him. "Is that a problem?"

"No. Just, you know. We need to make plans. Soccer teams and swim parties and trips to the zoo. We can take turns working from home."

Hal smiled softly, his entire oval-shaped, boy-beautiful face lighting up. "We can spoil our kids like your sister spoiled hers."

His sister's house had been tiny. That Hal thought Darius and Abigail were spoiled told Pierce everything he needed to know. "Yup. And all of that will start with you telling your parents where you're moving to."

"Deal."

Still, when an older man with thinning white hair over a pink liver-spotted scalp came out to greet them and park the car, Pierce couldn't help but be impressed.

"Thanks Daniel," Hal said kindly. "I thought you'd retired."

"Your mother seems to think she can't abide without me, sir." Daniel smiled creakily, his dentures a shining white. "And I'd be bored if I didn't at least park the cars, even if driving full time is a little much for me."

"Well, as long as you're happy," Hal told him dubiously. "But seriously--you can always tell my parents no."

"I don't know why," Daniel laughed. "You've done so enough for the both of us!"

Hal chuckled and came around to help Pierce out of the car. Pierce was about to shake him off when, to his embarrassment, his leg buckled.

"Oh, oh..." Hal clucked, wrapping his arm around Pierce's waist and forcing Pierce to give him some of his weight. "We drove too long, didn't we?"

"I'm fine," Pierce said softly. "Just take my elbow up the porch and I'll be fine."

Hal grunted. "I'll make sure we get you seated as soon as we get inside, okay?"

How embarrassing. "Sure."

But apparently getting up the stairs wasn't the only trial he had in store for him this day.

A butler (butler!) opened the large french door to the right, and ushered them inside, where a mid-sized slender woman stood wearing a winter-white pant suit, her dyed ice-blonde hair twisted up into fashionable coif. Her face was flawlessly--if heavily--made up, and she smiled thinly and offered her cheek for Hal to kiss. "Harold."

"Hi, Mom. This is Pierce--I was hoping we could--"

"Dinner isn't for another hour, Harold. Are you planning to stay the night?"

"No. I didn't think about dinner--we can be out of here by then. I just wanted you to meet--"

"Well you must certainly stay for dinner. I'll have your room prepared, just in case." She eyed Pierce up and down, like fish for dinner. "Where will your friend be staying? We can have Daniel drive him there."

"I'm staying with him. I'll drive us fine."

Pierce smiled greenly at her disdainfully raised eyebrow. "I'm, uh, Pierce Atwater." He stuck his hand out gamely, holding desperately onto the cane with his other hand. "I've been traveling with Hal--"

"I've been traveling with you," Hal interrupted. "My car, your destination."

Pierce smiled at him, their eye contact feeling like an oasis in the middle of an emotional desert. "Yeah, but you drive. I'm pretty sure I'm just along for the ride."

Hal's smile, as subdued as it was, seemed to give color and warmth to this sterile white-marbled hallway. No wonder Hal was so irrepressible. He'd had to shine hard and long to even make this house livable for someone who needed color and kindness. "I'll give you a ride any time, sailor," he said with a quietly bawdy wink.

Pierce winked back. "Anyway," he continued, pulling his eyes away from Hal's extraordinary amber gaze, "Hal and I have reservations in Charlotte. It's barely an hour away."

"Indeed," she said, the disapproval rolling off her like a wave. "Well it's good you have reservations, Mr. Atwater, but I wouldn't count on Hal accompanying you. He does start school next week."

"No I don't," Hal said, exchanging a panicked look with Pierce. "Mom, I called you the day after Christmas. I told you I wasn't going back."

"Nonsense."

"No, seriously--Pierce and I are driving to his house in California!"

"For all you know he lives in a homeless shelter, Harold--don't be ridiculous."

"It's a house," Pierce said quietly.

"Mom, I wanted you to meet him."

"And so I have."  Her tone left Pierce under no delusions as to his importance or impressiveness.

"I wanted Dad to meet him."

"He'll be down for dinner. I doubt Mr. Atwater will want to remain."

"Well if he goes, I go. I'm a fully grown adult, and I told you what my plan was. Why can't you just believe--"

"Harold Justice Lombard, who leaves a college education and a hefty inheritance to go be... what? A masseuse in California? Do people even run away to California anymore? What, are you going to give massages on the beach?"

"I live in Sacramento," Pierce said, because talking to himself was fun. "It's two hours from the beach." His leg ached fiercely, and his hip wasn't far behind. Hal had tried--he really had given it his best to get Pierce to the living room, but his mother had pretty much cornered them in the foyer.

"I have enough of my own money to get a license," Hal argued, and it was the plan they had come up with together. "A year working for a reputable place, and I can start taking clients of my own."

"Clients." She rolled her slightly protuberant eyes. "Harold, you're barely old enough to inherit your money--"

"But I am old enough. Mother, we didn't have to come here. I was all for skipping Charlotte and driving to New York. Can you not even shake his hand?"

"I'm not going to know him long enough to bother!" she snapped, and then Pierce snapped too.  Or rather his abused body gave a shiver and a give, and he almost fell to the floor.

"Fuck!" Hal snapped, wrapping his arm more securely around Pierce's waist. "Mother, I'm taking him to the living room. He needs to sit somewhere not the car, and then we need to leave."

Wonderful. But Hal's hand on his hip was exquisitely gentle, and the look he shot Pierce was full of remorse.

"It's not your fault," Pierce said softly as they walked down the hall and then to the right, into a sitting room that really was the size of the house Pierce had grown up in. "You tried to warn me."

"Yeah," Hal grumbled, "but you were trying to be a good guy."

"Maybe your father will be a better sell?"

But now, Harold Justice Lombard the Fourth was not an easier sell. After sitting for an hour in icy silence, punctuated only by Hal's running to the kitchen to fetch them some water and ibuprofen so Pierce could hydrate and wouldn't start cramping, a bell rang from somewhere else in the first floor.  Hal's mother stood and clicked her way across the marble tile floors in two inch taupe heels, while Hal guided a barely refreshed Pierce to the dining room.

Once they got there, they stood at the long table, waiting for...

"What are we waiting for?" Pierce asked, knuckles white on the back of the really uncomfortable looking wooden chair.

"My father needs to come down," Hal said. His utter disgust indicated that this wasn't a joke, and then he looked sharply at his mother. "Mother, Pierce is sitting down." With that, he pulled the chair out slightly and helped Pierce down, before moving to stand behind his own chair.

"Sit down with me," Pierce said.

Hal looked at him, and looked at his mother, and then looked at the doorway that led from the staircase to the bedrooms. He looked at Pierce again, and Pierce could watch him do the math. His father was leaving them to wait--which was a dick move in any household, but apparently this one made it especially douchey. And Hal had just defied his mother as it was. With a scowl in her direction he sat down next to Pierce and they both took a look at the covered dishes placed around the table.

"What do you think's in them?" Pierce asked idly, unable to take the silence anymore. Fuck it, actually-- he couldn't hate anybody  more thoroughly after an hour of acquaintance as he hated Hal's mother. If Hal was really leaving with him, Pierce wasn't particularly interested in a good impression anymore.

"There's a main dish in the big one," Hal said, smiling. "Probably protein."  He sniffed the air.

"Chicken you think?" Pierce asked, although the smell was a little gamier.

"Turkey?" Hal frowned. "No... but something bird like. Ain't beef. Anyway, there's a winter salad under the clear dish.

"And we know this because..."

"It's wearing a fur coat," Hal said, smirking.

Pierce grinned, relieved. That was his man. The angry, frustrated kid who'd been trying valiantly to be civil to his mother had borne little resemblance to the confident, perky young man who had won Pierce's heart.  "And pearls?"

Hal frowned, squinting into the dish. "Apple slices and mayonnaise, I think."

They both grimaced. "That's awful. Anybody who puts raisins in mayonnaise..."

"Doesn't deserve either raisins or mayonnaise!" Hal supplied, reassuringly outraged. "Gross. Well, we know we don't want salad. What else we got?"

"Harold," Mrs. Lombard hissed. "Put that cover down right now. You know how your father feels about cold food!"

"Well then he should be downstairs by now," Hal said tightly. "You've both been unconscionably rude to a guest. Now I'm hungry and so is he, and we've got a long drive back. I mean, we're not going to return for years, if ever, we might as well get a bite to eat."

Pierce let some of his insecurity show in his wobbly smile. "You're really going to choose me?" he asked quietly.

"I already have," Hal murmured back. Then he raised his voice again. "So, in this dish, we've got greens fried with bacon.  Here, let me dish you up some."

"Harold!"

But Hal was on a roll, dishing up greens, potatoes, bread--there was plenty of food at the table, and Pierce really was hungry. And pissed. And hurting for his lover, who hadn't deserved this sort of homecoming, and had definitely deserved more than this sort of home.

"So," Pierce said, as Hal reached for the biggest cover, "you ready for the big reveal?"

"Maybe it's something extinct," Hal said, glaring daggers at his mother--who was still standing behind her chair like she was glued there.

"Like your education," Mrs. Lombard shot back. And Pierce felt that remorse again.

"Are you sure you want to leave your education behind?" he asked soberly.

"I'd do it twice. I'd torch my records. I'd go back and take all my massage credits again," Hal vowed, looking intensely into his eyes.

"But I might not be worth it," Pierce said softly.

"Bullshit," Hal told him.

"But--"

"Wabbit season," Hal said unexpectedly.

"What?" Pierce had to laugh.

"Wabbit season!" Hal insisted, the smile crinkles in the corner of his amazing eyes deepening.

"Are we even having a Wabbit season discussion?" Pierce wanted to know. This was usually a safe word for them, when their discussion got too heavy, too painful.

"Sure we are!" Hal told him, his voice losing the anger, the embarrassment, the tightness of being here with his disapproving mother and a father who couldn't bother to come down for dinner. "I want to tell you all the reasons you're worth it, but I'm damned if I let my mother hear. Wabbit season!"

"I give. Duck season."

Hal grinned and nodded, and suddenly Pierce knew at least one answer they would get about life that night. "Wabbit season," he said soberly.

"Duck season," Pierce argued, and they both grinned evilly. "Want to see?"

"God yes. Wabbit season."  He set his hand on the trencher handle.

"Duck season," Pierce said, putting his hand next to Hal's.

"One, two, three," Hal counted.

"BANG!" they both chorused, pulling the food cover off on three.

Sure enough, neck stretched out, head intact, was a complete roast duck.

They both burst out laughing.

"Oh my God!" Pierce chortled.

"I can't eat that!" Hal laughed. "I don't know how I ever could."

"That's... oh dear God!"

They were still laughing when Hal stood up and offered Pierce his arm. "Can you make it to the front?" he asked. "I'll have Daniel bring the car around. We can sit on the steps until he gets there."

Pierce nodded ,pretty sure he'd crawl through broken glass not to sit at that table for another minute. They made their way, step by step toward the hallway, and had actually made it to the front door, where Hal pushed a little red buzzer.

"Sir?" came Daniel's creaky voice.

"Daniel, I'll need my SUV please."

"So soon, sir?"

"Well, I'm not returning in the near future, so you don't have to worry about that, okay?"

"Yes sir."

Hal let go of Pierce's waist and grabbed the door handle. "Can you make it through to the steps?"

"Yeah. 'll need your help down," Pierce said, his mortification complete. "It's like the perfect metaphor for me reaching to high for myself."

"Wabbit season," Hal muttered. "All the things I want to say to you about why you're so much better than this place, but I'm not going to do it here.

"Duck season," Pierce conceded. "I'm just so glad you're leaving with me, I'm not even going to argue."

"Harold!"  It was a thundering male voice. "Harold Justice Lombard the Fifth--"

"Go, go, go!" Hal shushed. "Let's let him think we're gone."

Pierce should have stayed. He should have been the grown up. But his body was buckling and he hurt for his lover and all he wanted to do--all he wanted to do--was hold the young man whose spirt was so indomitable, it had survived this giant sinkhole of loneliness and pain.

He limped outside with Hal on his heels, and they were both sitting on the white porch steps when the door flew open.

"Hal?"

Hal looked up to the top of the stairs, hurt in his eyes. "Dad?"

"You're not even going to stay for dinner?"  The man who stood by the french doors was not tall--but then, neither was Hal. But while Hal was slender and lithe and fit, this man was portly, with jowls and a fireplug body. This was Hal if he ever stopped doing yoga and working out and started eating... well, all the stuff on that table, actually.

"Nope, Dad. Too expensive to eat here."

"Don't be silly, Hal-- we don't charge you--"

"My soul. I brought the love of my life home to you and you couldn't even come down on time. Staying here might get me lots more money, but I don't like the cost to my soul."

Hal's father harrumphed. "Why'd you bother to come here at all?"

Pierce grimaced. "My fault sir," he said. "I thought that maybe Hal's parents would know what an awesome kid they had and would want to wish him well. Even a college graduate can make some piss-stupid mistakes."

"Like spiriting my son away--"

Pierce's eyes never left Hal's. "Like doubting his word for even a moment."  He took Hal's hand and kissed his knuckles. "I'll never doubt you again."

Hal's pretty eyes grew shiny. "Duck season," he said, giggling

"Wabbit season," Pierce told him back.

They both grinned. "Bang," they said in unison.

The car appeared around the corner then, coming slowly as Daniel performed his duties. Hal stood and gave Pierce a hand up. "You and me, Bugs?"

"Sure, Daffy."  He made it to the bottom of the stairs and then turned to smile at Hal's father. "Next time, sir, if your son comes to visit, you might want to come out and talk to him. He's a really amazing man."

They both turned and Hal helped him into the SUV, and then gave Daniel a hug--and a tip--and they took off back down the tree lined drive.

They made plans to stop somewhere and eat on the way to the hotel. They told jokes about cartoons. They sang to some more of Hal's pop music. They talked about going to see baseball and basketball games when they got to Sacramento. They touched hands often.

They never looked back.




Monday, April 9, 2018

Cramp Ragnarok

Okay, so menopause is around the corner--I am officially a peri-menopausal hag. At least I hope that's what's going on. I mean, I've had cramps before but the last two months?  Brutal. I had one last Sunday that sucked away half my day. First there was the, "Oh, hey, this feels like a REALLY LONG CONTRACTION," then there was the trying to breathe for 20 minutes and then there was the weeping and the begging for Motrin.  Then, finally, the cramp faded, but just like real labor, I was exhausted, so I went to sleep for two hours, woke up hungry, and was kind of out of it all day.

Anyway, had another one of those yesterday. It was a blast. Everyone should have them, and by everyone I mean all male doctors I don't care if you're a plastic surgeon, guys, you should have one of these babies, medical research should be RIFE with people going, "Oh, hey, remember when they made us have pain that almost had our heart stop? We should find a way to make that better, right?"

Yes. I agree.

By the way, I think the murder rate would drop if this happened, because my thoughts were SO DARK before that cramp hit. I was pretty sure Mate hated me and I was ready to sue for divorce with an extra kick in the nads for good measure because I wasn't sure why I hated life, the universe and everything with such passion I knew it was completely HIS FAULT. I have to tell you, I woke up from that nap, had some chocolate and a sandwich and went, "My Mate is the BEST and I love him SO MUCH! I can't imagine why I was so mad at him this morning!"  Okay-- we were going to see a soccer game at nine in the morning in the middle of April but we do this year, so maybe I can imagine a little bit, but soccer doesn't usually make me homicidal. Saying.

Also, today, I went walking with Mate, and Mate goes WAY FASTER than me because he's much fitter and doesn't waddle, and so when walking through the mud I was trotting to keep up with him and (WHHHHH) my foot slipped and (OOOOOOAAAAA)  I fell sideways to the earth (AAAAAAAAHHHHHHH) with the slow and stately grace of a giant fat-laden oak tree (HHHHHHHHHHHMMMMMMMM) through a pool of Jello. (MMMMMMMPPPHHHHHHHHHHAAAHHHH...)

It was fun. (PFFFFFFT.)

Mate was, of course, watching in horror, holding the dogs, unable to help me because then I'd take him out and it's not like he doesn't have his share of weak knees and jammed thumbs and shin splints and sore joints too, and there's nothing like two middle aged people rolling around the mud going, "Help! I'm old and my dignity is dying and getting up is going to make me fart!"

It was really  much better that there only be one of us, and the other could step in and offer a hand up. (I managed to have breakthrough bleeding through four layers while I was rolling around--and yes. My dignity died a sad, sad little death in the mud on the path of the dog park, why do you ask?)

So I came home from that and my head was pounding--probably neck strain from when I hit--and I took two motrin and went to bed (because it worked for me yesterday, right?) but Squish was at her friend's house to play.  Why would this get in the way of a glorious life giving nap, you ask?

Because ZoomBoy was ALL ALONE.

All. Alone.

Alone. All by himself. HIs father was working on the car. Nobody to talk to. All. Alone.

Except for coming in to talk to me every five minutes until I curled up into a miserable achy ball and begged him to, for the love of holy Jebus and Sexually Inexperienced Mary, PLEASE go away.

He did, and I did get that nap-- but it was about an hour longer than I'd planned to make up for the unscheduled stops. I woke up feeling better and that's something, but I'm way more tired than I should be right now and I have (I repeat) so. Much. To do.

*sigh*

I should have had acres of time to write and do work this weekend--I SHOULD have. I expected to stay out late Friday-- we took Squish and her friends to Chinese food, and then we went to the movies. I FINALLY got to see Black Panther, and Squish & Co. got to see Island of Dogs. A good time was had by all and there was even a sleepover last night and that's good too.

But the rest of my weekend was eaten, it felt like, by unexpected trips to Camp Ragnarok and the surprise benefits of rolling around on the ground and trying not to bleed and fart and failing sadly on both counts.

The good news is, now that the hormones have faded, when I'm done writing I can curl up next to my Mate with a good heart and fall asleep tonight.

After I take some Motrin, of course.