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

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Challenge Accepted-- well, a little

So, I'll be honest.

I gave up with the GIANT CHRISTMAS KNITTING QUEUE about six years ago.

The people I love get knitwear when they ask for it, I'm always working on something and I'll give it to them when I'm done.

But as this Christmas approached I had... urges. Unholy, unhealthy, inescapable urges.

I wanted to KNIT for people.

People I hadn't knit for before. Or hadn't knit for in a long time. Or just... people. *gestures vaguely* I'll be honest--it might have been ZoomBoy asking me to knit the Infinity Mitten for him, but I have a BIG cache of patterns so it might have been building for a while.

Anyway--

This pattern-- Incognito, found on Knitty-- is one of those things I wanted to knit for a friend. This one's for a specific friend, but if I can overcome my aversion to duplicate stitch and sewing (and there's a LOT of it in this pattern!) I may make a couple of them for other friends.

I don't know what to tell you. The mustache... OMG the mustache.

Anyway... Blogging may possibly become a little spottier as this urge continues... but I promise to post pictures.

BTW? This mustache is called "Snidely"-- there are two other types on the pattern-- Buckaroo and Poirot.

I gotta tell you, knitting as a warm, squishy, hilarious joke is one of my favorite things :-)

Also? Squish told me she wants one with an entire cartoon face on it. I told her she had to create the graph. I think she's thinking about it.

So there you go.

The evil urges of knitting for Christmas.

May Goddess save my soul-- preferably before 4 a.m. Christmas morning as I'm trying to crochet a doll and a complete set of clothes for it before the kids get up for Christmas.

Yes, I've done that before.

No, I don't still have the dolls.

But I must tell you--  Big T's doll looked so much like him as a kid, I put one of his old onesies on it. He loved it. It was adorable.

*sigh*

Yeah. I'mma need a wake up call. Hopefully when I'm done with the rest of these Incognito cowls...

Scuse me--I'm running away to knit.


Wednesday, November 28, 2018

I'm Writing

Oh God the laundry... I can get to it... but my characters... but I'm writing.

The kids are talking in the car and I don't hear them.

I'm writing.

That e-mail is pretty important... that newsletter... that blog post...

I'm writing.

But shouldn't you be planning dinner? Christmas? Oh my God, have you even thought of shopping?

I"m writing.

Mom! Are you coming to pick me up???

On my way! Sorry! Sorry! Sorry!

I'm writing!

Oh, there's that edit I've been talking about...I'm on it... I'm reading it... wait--I forgot that part where my people do--

Oh Jesus, am I writing again?

I'm writing.

And even when I'm not at my keyboard...

On my walk,

In the car,

Doing dishes,

Cooking dinner...

I'm writing.

They're in my head--they have more to say--can't you hear them?

Can't you see?

They're fighting and fucking and fooling around and they're just so real--

Here... Let me show you.

I'm writing.


Tuesday, November 27, 2018

ZoomBoy's rabbit hole...

I got a long, sad hug from ZoomBoy today, and I kept it going as long as I could, until my shoulder went to sleep because boy has bones like razor blades.

He fell down a music rabbit hole and ended up at "We Didn't Start the Fire" by Billy Joel, looking up all of the political events that started it.

"Mom, I know this is a sad question, but has there ever been a time when mankind was not at war?"

Fuck.

"No. In fact, when you read the Christian myths, you'll see that Adam took a bite of the apple of knowledge and was cast out of Eden-- it essentially means that once you have free will and knowledge of the world, you can't escape conflict."

"Never?"

"No, honey. It's why Puritans taught, 'In Adam's fall sinned all.'  I mean they interpreted it to mean that we're all damned because we're evil, but I think it was more basic and less black and white than that. It means that once men have knowledge and free will, doing the right thing--and deciding what is right--gets harder and harder. And it's scary. I'm sorry."

He hugged me harder.

"This scares me too."  Oh God, does it. Have you lOOKED outside? Have we SEEN what our vile, corrupt, ignorant, syphilitic turd of a governing body has been doing to our world? Jebus fucking Christmas. And the puckered angry white men who think that's okay-- I am constantly angry. Anyway, I needed to give my kid hope. "The thing I keep reminding myself is that the small kindnesses we do matter. We can't control the actions of corrupt and powerful assholes who want us all dead. But we can be kind to the people in our lives, no matter how small. We can take whatever power we have and use it for good. "

"Yeah."

"Also, we can listen to Springsteen for a while-- he believes in redemption."

"Yeah! He does! Okay! I'll do that!"

So there you go. Small kindnesses and Springsteen. I won't tell him that I cry in the car a lot out of fear for my children, for their generation. The kids have both learned about "duck and cover" in the last couple of years at school, and I told them that yeah, I had nuclear bomb drills when I was a kid.

"But that's so stupid! It wouldn't do any good! You'd be dead."

"Yup."

"So what's the use of having the drill?"

"You can plan how to make yourself right in your heart if it ever happens."

"What would YOU do?"

"Well, I'd try to get us all home. So we could sit and talk and hug and tell stupid stories until we couldn't anymore."

"That's a good plan. We like that plan."

I don't tell them I hate that plan. I would rather plan to die old and happy and know they were living good lives in a better world.

But you have to tell your children what will give them peace. They're smart, my kids. They see the news. They see Mate and I trying not to fall into anger and despair.

Our plan has always been each other. It's still a good plan. It's the best comfort we can give.

Also, Springsteen. Can't hurt.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Leftovers

Okay, so for starters I made turkey + gravy w/mashed potatoes for dinner, and set the turkey carcass to slow cook for soup tomorrow.

*happy sigh*

Boy, do I love leftovers.

I also, I confess, have a thing for yarn leftovers.

The red and white hat (which is NOT color true at all because the couch is oxblood and we have zero creditable light sources in our house right now) I made with these two random balls of chunky yarn that was just sort of hanging around my stash. I kept looking at it thinking, "Uh... I have no idea what I'm going to do with this..."

JUST enough for the hat and the ragged floof ball on top.

It looks like a candy cane.

It doesn't have a destination yet, but I'm pretty sure by the time I'm done with this year's crafting I'll find one. btw-- the yarn is a multi-ply 50% wool, 50% acrylic-- I used the original yarn for a blanket for Chicken, because I got it on sale. Did the whole thing in K1, P1 rib and while it made me want to slit my wrist with monotony, the blanket is still on her bed and doing very well.

The little gray set...

Not so much a leftover, but a repurpose. The original batch of yarn was meant for a big poncho that I never got to, with several gradations of dark purple fading to light purple fading to gray. And then I used a skein of the purple tweed for socks, and then a skein of gray for mitts for a guy, and then I got a request for the same thing in gray again.

And I kept hearing Nathan Lane in the back of my head--that quote from BirdCage. "It does want but a hint of color."

So I broke out that gray purple and went to town.

And there was enough of both for the hat.

So I'm feeling very smug about leftovers right now. Seems very thrifty, right? Very, very thrifty...

Sh... don't tell anybody, but I have SO MUCH RAW YARN in my house right now, I could knit a hat a day for the rest of my life in any color, and there would still be boxes of it left when I die.

But the illusion of thrift...

We take our props where we can.

And I have to add here-- you may notice the gray mitt/hat set on the back of the couch. I have to admit, I had a sad little moment there. I set it up to block and thought, "Well, I don't know why I'm spending so much time making sure it's straight--Gordie's gonna come sleep on it almost immediately."

Damn cat hated me, but he loved my knitting, and not having him come make sweet lurve to my blocking knitwear is pretty damned sad.

Fucking cat.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

*burrrrrrrrrp*

*covers mouth*

Scuse me.

It's been a long couple of days of eating.

So, since you last saw Squish's crown, the week has gone like this...

Wednesday-- clean kitchen. Cook for Thanksgiving.

Thursday-- start with the following conversation with Chicken on text:

Chicken: So, you're coming to get us so we can carpool to Aunt Teresa's, right?

Me: Uh...

Chicken: I don't remember how to get there.

Me: Okay. What are you bringing for food?

Chicken: Uh...

Me: *racks brains* No, no, I have enough food to justify bringing seven grownup eaters to the family gathering.

Chicken: Seven? How are we seven?

Me: We are picking you guys up on the way to get Grandma Alexa in Sacramento before we go to Ophir. (For those who know the area, we are talking about a forty mile loop, one way, and then we have to do it reverse, the other way.)

Chicken: Oh... okay. We'll be ready!

Me: *hangs up*  BATTLE STATIONS, EVERYONE, WE ARE LEAVING IN HALF-AN-HOUR, OPERATION FAMILY THANKSGIVING IS A GO! REPEAT, A GO!

But the dinner-held at my Aunt Teresa's--was really lovely, and for once, we didn't have to run away to go to another dinner.

Friday: My friend Berry Jello and her kids came over to our house to help us clean. And we cleaned. I mean, the house isn't GREAT, but the kids are like, "We haven't seen this much improvement since sixth grade!"

Berry Jello is a saint and I haven't knitted nearly enough for her.

That will change.

Saturday: Sent Mate out to store in early morning for a pan to put the turkey in. Mate sent me back this picture, and brought home a cookie sheet.


Berry Jello and her kids and my older kids and Chicken's friend (Guest Dog Gibbs's mom) all come over and I cook and cook and cook. I ask Mate to come help me with the turkey and he grabs two knives, pirate style, while I try to grab the dripping bag so we can save the drippings for the pot. The cookie sheet is NOT deep enough for the drippings, the bag MUST be saved, we are NOWHERE NEAR THE SINK.

And the following words are uttered:

ABORT ABORT ABORT! The turkey has broken, repeat, THE TURKEY HAS BROKEN! Somebody get us a pan! OMG EVERY PAN IN THE HOUSE IS DIRTY! THE TURKEY HAS BROKEN! THE TURKEY HAS BROKEN!

We eventually found a pan, while the double skewered turkey dripped a combination of root beer, turkey drippings, dressing, and butter on the quickly failing cookie sheet. The turkey wasn't just falling off the bones, folks, the bones were falling off the turkey.

Hey-- it was the OPPOSITE of the turkey from the National Lampoon.

I try to clean up at the end, but my back decides it's done for the weekend and I sit while Mate serves me and then cleans up.

We watch MST3K. It's hilarious.

Everybody eats pie and waddles home and I am happy.

LATESGIVING ACHIEVED!

Sunday: Mate wakes up early to bake a strudel--which is apparently a pie with a chewy crust. (I'll be honest. I prefer pie. But he was so proud of his strudel!)  Some of the strudel filling leaked out onto the burner from the cookie sheet. A friend of the family told Mate, "This is great! How'd you get the crust to taste smoked?"

"Well, first you use the wrong kind of pan..."

And anyway-- we took the strudel to my parents place and had Brunchgiving, which was nice. We missed them for the holiday.

Maybe next time, I'll just cook once!

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Every Princess Deserves One...

OKay, so I admit, I was one of those parents who would give the other kids birthday presents on the one kid's birthday. Nothing huge, and the birthday kid was definitely the star of the show, but everybody knew I was a little bit of a pushover during birthday shopping.

Everybody wants to feel special.

But the Infinity Mitten was a pretty big act to follow, and I really didn't expect any requests.

But then, some smartass (*kisses and love* to Kris Marshall Gray on FB) posted THIS on FaceBook -- and I thought it was so cute, I showed Squish.

And she WANTED one.

And it looked quick and easy (SO quick and SO easy) and, me, having that mind that has to do things one better, said, "You know... we still have jewels leftover from ZoomBoy's Infinity Mitten..."  (SOOOOOO many jewels. So many. I tried to push them on a friend-- THAT many jewels.)

She actually picked out the jewels before I even made the first stitch.

And tonight, she had her brother help her glue the jewels on. (It was a BONDING experience... get it? heh heh heh heh...)

And the result is an ear-warmer meant for a princess, who is not too old to want to be a princess.

And a mom who feels like a queen :-)

Monday, November 19, 2018

The Christmas Special

 Okay--where should I begin?

My first story for Dreamspinner was a teeny tiny novella titled If I Must. It sold decently, and since then--Christmas, 2009-- I've released one to two Christmas stories every year.

Some of them were novellas.

Many of the novellas have been bundled in one form or another, so it's possible to get them in paperback.


The longer novellas either haven't-- Freckles is the one I can think of, or have been lengthened to be available in a paperback-- and that would be Regret Me Not. 


A word about Freckles. Freckles has changed publishers--and while the first publisher released their 40K novellas in paperback, Dreamspinner Press does not. Freckles will be recovered and made available in March I think-- but only as an e-book. BTW? The cover is still adorable, but DSP is doing cover reveals and it's not available yet.

A word about Regret Me Not. Originally released as a novella-- 40K-- I loved the guys so much I wrote about them all year, and now have enough for a paperback. It will be released in paperback format for those of you who want it, and I'm pretty sure the extras will be available as a free download for everyone who already purchased the book. For everyone who hasn't, the price will go up when it's re-released, and you will get a 60K-ish short novel length book. Yay!

A word about Christmas Kitsch.  Originally available from Riptide with a different cover, this will be rereleased on December 7th. Nothing has changed. Okay. One thing. Rusty's going to Stanford instead of Berkeley-- don't ask me to explain why, it makes me stabby.

A word about Candy Man. Candy Man is a novella, and it became the first in the series. If you're a sucker for paperbacks, it can be found in the paperback of Bitter Taffy as a sort of free insert at the beginning. That makes the total EBOOKS in the series FOUR, but the total PAPERBACKS in the series, THREE.

And now, about Winter Ball. Winter Ball was a novel to start with, and it's now the first of the series. The second is Summer Lessons, and the third--Clay and Dane's story will be written this spring. (I'm excited about this!) The books will also be recovered because I love these books and although *I* loved the concept of the covers, I think we've firmly established that I have no taste, so the publishers are going to try with somebody who DOES have taste and see if we can't cheerlead these books to a little more notice.

So we're on to The Winter Courtship Rituals of Fur-Bearing Critters, which is a name so long I'm not typing it again. Anyway-- this too became the first of a series, four books in all, but the first three were short form. So the firs three-- Winter Courtship, How to Raise an Honest Rabbit, and A Knitter in His Natural Habitat, were all bundled together into The Granby Knitting Menagerie for a paperback. The last book in the series--Blackbird Knitting in a Bunny's Lair is full novel length and available in both formats.

And now for the big bundle.  If I Must, Christmas With Danny Fit, Turkey in the Snow, Puppy Car and Snow, and Going Up! are all fluffy, tiny, adorable, fun Christmas confection stories that are all of the sweet and only a touch of the tender, just to make the sweet taste better. Anyway, all five of those stories have been bundled into An Amy Lane Christmas, and are available for a bundled price (which is a pretty decent price, after all) but they are also available by themselves.

So there you go.

That leads us to Homebird, which is out on December 18th, and which will get it's own page as we draw near because I SO want to talk about this story-- there's oh so much to say!

All of my Christmas stories are special to me. You might have noticed but I'm sort of obsessed with the "Oh my God, how bad could it get?" scenario, and you'll never believe me when I tell you-- I pull my punches. Even in Stain, I pulled my punches. Even in Chase.  In my Christmas stories, I never punch. I may give a little ear flick, just to deepen the happy, but I never punch. There may be some melancholy, and even some conflict--but I never punch. Holiday stories (and some of them are TRULY holiday stories and not Christmas stories at all. They're sort of NEAR Christmas, actually) are meant to make us feel good--not worry.

So these stories are sweet. They're tender. They're not too scary or too angsty, and you never doubt the two people are going to end up together. The families are going to relent if there's friction, and the dog will always be okay.

These are miracle stories, and we all need some of that in our lives.

I hope you all enjoy them--and it's very possible there's a couple here you haven't read before.

I know I have to go back and count them every year I post.

And I'm always sort of proud.

I mean-- that's a heckuva lot of happy, right?

Yeah. Happy holidays everybody-- and VERY happy reading!

OH! A word about Bells of Times Square-- I loved this story, but it's not included on this list. Bells is sad--it's chest rippingly sad, and the HEA has been hotly debated. It finaled in the RITA awards, a thing I'll always be proud of, and if you're interested, I posted the link above. But this list is about the happy, and Bells doesn't really fit. That doesn't mean I don't love it, just means that for most of us, who so desperately need to hear laughter and joy and goodness, now is not the time.

So here are the happy stories-- go forth and read and know the world with a happy, sunshiny yellow glow. The hard shit is hard enough-- let's embrace some joy.

Amy



















Strange Days

So, California caught fire, and our air quality has been dismal and the world is topsy-turvy and upside down.

Most of California's outdoor events have been cancelled for the past weeks--including soccer--and the kids got Friday off school because just walking from class to class was killing them.

I've been taking the dogs for their walk because they get so damned restless and things are slightly clearer in the morning, but once we get back? We're done. The end. Exhausted. We've got nothing.

On Saturday, I was lucky-- because I didn't have a trip and there wasn't soccer, I got to go to my local chapter RWA meeting, and they were lovely lovely people and I want to go back again. *crosses fingers*  It's just that I want to be a part of them. They're really great. Then we went out to lunch and saw a movie-- Fantastic Beasts--and then came home.

And I fell asleep at eleven o'clock because that was a lot of hard work when you can barely breathe.

So today, I took the dogs walking and... *wheeze wheeze wheeze*  Like I said. The end. That's all she wrote. Except I DID get writing done, and even though I'd planned to get housecleaning done instead, the writing was good, because I've got multiple deadlines and that was some work down.  But the house, tho... I had so many plans.

Mate did not.

He did the dishes and later made corn bread to go with our soup for dinner, but everything else he tackled was administrative. For example, everybody's car registration is now completely taken care of. Yay!

But I guess the grimness of not being able to go outside and really do much didn't set in until I got back from the walk, exhausted and eyes itchy and just tired of trying to breathe the density, and I found my kids both wearing their pajamas at one in the afternoon.

They were both like, "We understood that nobody was really going to expect anything from us today. This appeared to be the appropriate uniform."

Frankly, I didn't have the energy to go a different way with that.

So here's hoping for rain and cleaner air tomorrow.

Here's hoping for total containment of the fires in Paradise and Chico.

Here's hoping for aid to the people who've lost their homes and need help and money and geez-- just gas to get out of Chico and go to their own families.

Here's hoping for leadership--I have hope for the sitting governor and the governor elect who can both get shit done.

And here's hoping the traitor from the White House gets out of our state as soon as possible. He's making the air quality worse.

Friday, November 16, 2018

ZoomBoy's Birthday

So, the thing is, school is canceled tomorrow due to the smoke in the air--and it's just as well. The lot of us are headachy with itchy eyes and the whole family is waking up and coughing like 80 year olds after a cigar and whiskey bender.

But the thing is, the kids got to stay up tonight.

Which was unfortunate in a way, because I had planned to stay up all night and make ZoomBoy's gauntlet.

But the more I worked on it, the more fascinated he became.

I mean, the original plan?

Was to have it in a box all finished, with some purple felt and package fill representing Thanos's severed arm sticking out of the back.

But he watched me make it, and came and asked where the gems went, and it was twelve o'clock as it was.

"Do you want to glue the gems on?" I asked uncertainly. I mean, I'm supposed to be making it for HIM.

"YES!" He got so excited!

"Uh..." And I paused here. My family knows I'm not good with secrets, but this one was SO GOOD. "Uh, do you want to set it up in the box? We were, uh, gonna--"

"YESSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!"

So, ZoomBoy has helped finish AND wrap his gift.

Because it's cool.

And funky.

And fun.

Pretty much just like my fifteen year old son. Who stayed up until 1:30 tonight watching Close Encounters of the Third Kind with me so he could see the end of the movie--AND his birthday present at the end.

He's sort of the best.

He's the funniest, and the smartest and the coolest and the funkiest and the most awesome ZoomBoy a mom could wish for.

Although if he wants me to top the Infinity Mitten for another birthday, I really COULD wish for some more heads up.

But other than that?

It's perfect.

(btw-- he is trying to pose with the glove doing the Thanos snap from the movie, but it doesn't show off all the jewels... just saying, we do love a bit of detail here!)





Tuesday, November 13, 2018

I'm sorry, I won't be blogging tonight, I'm making an infinity mitten...

Seriously.

I need to finish it by Friday!!!

btw-- I had this idea... stuff it full of polyfil and glue some purple felt together at the end and fabric paint it red (like blood) to make it look like we ripped the mitten off the bad guy's arm and put it in the sacred box of the Avengers.

Let's just say I've been inspired by the project.

But this is what I'm dong instead of blogging tonight--hope you all forgive me!

I think ZoomBoy is really going to like it, don't you?


It's hard to be the bard...

https://music.youtube.com/watch?v=k2WcOdz96ko&feature=share

So, I've got an embarrassment of projects right now--and I'm enjoying them all.

I'm writing the sequel to Beneath the Stain, titled Paint it Black, and it's sort of grabbed me by the throat and won't let go and I love it when that happens!

I'm also working on Jai's story on the side. For those of you who missed the third installment, it showed up on Amber Kell's blog HERE-- this chapter's from George's point of view, and that was fun too. George gets a little cheeky here--but only a little. He did, after all, have a rough weekend.

And, I'm gearing up for an edit on my craft book--which I think I'll start tomorrow. I was going to start it Sunday, but if you saw yesterday's blog, well, it caught us all by surprise, and I just wasn't present enough to commit to edits, which are painful by nature.

Writing fiction, though, that's something I do when I'm hurting, and I slid into Mackey's world like it was a tub of warm water.

This book is about Cheever and Blake, and one of the things I have to do to make it plausible is release the shorts on Instafreebie--the ones that came out when the book was in serial release, even before the full length book was out. Because as much as Blake protests about, "Nuh-nuh, no gay porn for me!" the fact is, he had feelings for Kell that weren't all platonic, and he's grown up some since Stain. 

So much to do--and gear up for ZoomBoy's birthday, including making the Infinity Mitten (heh heh heh... yeah, doesn't get old!) for him.

I'm torn about that, too-- Chicken and I came up with the idea of having a TRULY awesome gift box--Chicken wrapped it with an Avengers tablecloth and it's stuffed with tissue paper, and I can either A. Present it to him Friday night, in this box, with a sort of Arc of the Covenant vibe, or I can have it ready for him Friday morning so he can wear it to school.

Maybe it depends on how close to done I am Friday, right?

Anyway...

So lots of stuff to do that I really enjoy.

An embarrassment of riches...

Feels dumb to complain.

So I'll leave you with this--because it's hard to be the bard ;-)

https://music.youtube.com/watch?v=8hnI7yhIWGY&feature=share


Sunday, November 11, 2018

Goodbye, sweetheart

About a thousand years ago I was doing GRL in Albuquerque and like I usually do when I sign up for events, I was a little bit lost. And then Ethan Day, the organizer, contacted me and asked if I wanted to do my panel with him, because he wrote comedy and he'd heard I was "kind of funny" and he thought that would be a good mix.

He added ZAM to the roster, and we said we'd talk about the panel when we got there--ha! He was one of the organizers of the event--he had a thousand people talking to him almost constantly, and I had a surprising number of people I was excited to meet as well.

Finally--about fifteen minutes before our panel together, we had a quiet moment to talk. He'd ordered pizza, and he offered me a couple of pieces--neither one of us had eaten lunch. We ate in blessed silence, and then collaborated on the panel, giving Zam the details when she was done with her other events, and then we went and did our thing.

The con was busy--GRL is always sort of a riot--but I remember Sunday morning. It was my first con, and I hadn't yet discovered the joys of Sunday morning--it's the day you finally get to talk to people you've been trying to see for the entire event.

Ethan was drinking a Diet Coke--at the time, it was my drink of choice, and I told him I was jealous, because neither of us had a chance to get a drink or even breathe to ourselves. Everybody was saying goodbye--so damned many friends.

And we were still talking to other people, and we met eyes, and suddenly...

We were on the same page.

"I'm so done," he said with a little laugh.

"I've got to be alone," I completely agreed.

We managed to escape and made our way to our own rooms, but when we saw each other at dinner (a huge dinner so many people) we had a word about how rare it was. We were both pretty good with the public, but to be able to meet someone's eyes and say, "I need to be alone!" That was pretty special. Not everybody got that about us--but we got that about each other immediately.

The next time we met was at Romantic Times. I was talking to Damon Suede and Heidi Cullinan as they waited in line for a party that I had no intention of going to, when I caught sight of Ethan, plowing through the crowd--a pizza over his head.

When Mary and I got back to our room, I texted him. I saw that.

What?

You escaped through that crowd with pizza.

Yeah. Don't get in the way of a bitch and his pizza. I will cut you.

Ethan was such a nice guy--I laughed about that for a long time.

Next time, share.

And we did.  GRL, Romantic Times--whenever we were at a con together we managed to find a quiet moment together. Often, there was pizza--but not always.

Not this last year.

This last year, we were doing a panel again, and I was talking to people as they came in and sat down. He sat and said, "So, we don't have a moderator. How about you do it?"

"Sure." (You have to imagine me with big eyes as I say this. I tend to have a BWAK BWAK SKY IS FALLING! reaction to every new thing introduced to me.)

But I did it--I gave Ethan and Jordan Castillo Price an introduction, and I was going for, "Introducing them like the gods that they are!" and I hope I did them justice.

We found quiet time at this event too--managed a meal even (thanks, Carol Lynne for inviting me!) and we promised to stay in touch.

We've texted and skyped through the years, lots of e-mails, lots of making each other laugh. We wanted more Skype--he liked showing me his yorkies, I liked sharing my Chi-who-whats, we both got each other's company, and although we were both busy--demands on both of us, pretty much throughout all of our time together--we always managed to find that quiet moment, that moment to connect, because that first meeting we had seen a kindred spirit--the person who loved people, and loved a crowd, but sometimes just needed to be alone.

I know I was not Ethan's best friend, or his oldest. We were afterthought friends--our circles were just out of distance from each other. But whenever we cycled around, we found a reason, a way, to reach out and clasp hands and touch.

Those touches were important, to both of us. It's not often you find that person who gets the two sides of you--the introvert and the extrovert, the happy public and the shy private person--with just one look and a fondness for the same drink.

Ethan was only Ethan Day to the M/M community--and he was so much to us. He was one of the first people to write gay romance funny, and to think funny was important. He gave a lot of his life to making GRL for us--because he believed a chance for our community to connect was so vitally important.

He was such a big part of this genre because of his tireless energy, his enthusiasm, and his vision--his press Wilde City was such a generous idea.

But he could have been all of this and just been an authority figure, someone to talk to when I went to GRL, someone I saw around on the net.

He was my friend because he was kind, and he was funny, and because we would both escape a tornado just to sit alone and eat pizza--or something better for us, as we grew older--and have a chance to talk alone.

I have so many Ethan stories, so many moments of remembered kindness, of humor. I can't believe there's no more to come. We had such plans to fight the tornado this year, to push all the other things outwards, and sit in a quiet center and share dog stories. And Skype.

We were both aware that having a friend was precious and we didn't want to squander that.

Goodbye, sweetheart. I will miss you at totally stupid times when I think I'm thinking about something else, but you will pop into my mind. When my kids want pizza. When I'm walking my dogs. When I hear someone else's story about how this totally mild mannered person actually did something that involved stupid, naked, and alcohol when they were too young to know better.

When I hear a voice from Missouri or Ohio, or see someone with a glorious albeit shy smile.

And sometimes I'll miss you at really appropriate times, like tonight when I cried through the last twenty minutes of Bohemian Rhapsody and wanted to ask if you'd done the same.

And you weren't there to ask, because our circles had gone around one last time, and GRL was our last chance to touch.

Thank you for all the times you made plans with me to push back the tornado. I treasure every moment. Thank you for thinking I was funny, and for looking at me when we were both cooked and done, and seeing a friend.

Goodbye, sweetheart. I'll miss you. I can't believe our last hug was our last hug. I hope we see each other again, when all our tornadoes are blown out, and we have a chance for a quiet room, and all the time in the world.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

The Infinity Mitten

Me: aHA!

Mate: What?

Me: They have one!

Mate: One what?

Me: A pattern for the thing ZoomBoy wants for his birthday. *shows Mate THIS LINK*

Mate: Are you serious?

Me: Yup. He asked. Said it was the only thing he really wanted.

Mate: No, really.

Me: He called it "an infinity mitten".

Mate: You can make that?

Me: I hope so, I just bought the pattern.

Mate: What are you going to do for the other hand?

Squish: I told her she should make a purple one, and give it black fingernails, with veins and stuff.

Mate and I: ewwww... no!!!

Squish: I think it would be great!

Me: Plain gold glove. No worries.

Mate: Whatever.

Me: I have to buy yarn tomorrow.

Mate: I bet if I excavated the garage--

Me: See this color gold?

Mate: Yes?

Me: Have you ever, in a thousand years, seen me come home with anything that looks like that?

Mate: No.

Me: Yarn store.

Mate: God. Seriously?

Me: I also need to buy the fake stones.

Mate: Heh heh heh... that's sort of fun.

Me: Right?  Anyway-- I need to hurry. His birthday dinner's next Friday.

Mate: Damn. That's all he wants?

Me: Hey-- beats the heck out of his first suggestion.

Mate: ???

Me: He wanted a head-to-toe outfit, so, leg warmers to match his sweater and his hat.

Mate: OH DEAR GOD NO!!!

Me: Right? He said that way he could wear shorts to school.


Mate: AUGH! That one's committed, like you read about!

Me: RIGHT?

Mate: But good luck on the Infinity Mitten. Seriously. In a week.

Me: *sighs*  Yeah.  Good thing the cat likes knitting.

Mate: I think she just thinks there's bugs on the string.

Cat: bugs bugs bugs bugs EAT YARN!

Me: Very possible. Night hon.

Mate: Happy knitting.



Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Remember Who's Voting Next

I haven't even checked election results. Like most democrats, I'm pretty sure I'm hiding in an enforced media blackout until tomorrow for the sake of my sanity.

Anyway--my kids were NOT super invested in their phones today on the way from school, with the exception of a rather unfortunate picture of a man with a penis shaped like SpongeBob, but other than that, it was all discussion.

ZoomBoy *tapping on my window as Squish and I wait for him*: ADHD Squirrel forgot his meds and would like food.

Me: Sure, where we going?

ZB: Carl's Jr.. Did you vote?

Squish: Yes she did, although I'm not sure what we're voting for here.

Me: Ballot measures--keeping the gas tax that's fixing our roads, not killing people on kidney dialysis to make the pharma business happy, giving first responders breaks, that sort of thing.

ZB: Good. Remember, the local races are important.

Me: Yes, I know--

ZB: Because it's important we make bad stuff illegal.

Me: I know--

Squish: Remember, last night? You told us that everything Hitler did was legal in Germany. So we can't let that happen here.

Me: Doing what I can.

Squish: I didn't get a chance to tell my history teacher that--but do you know who killed more people than Hitler and Stalin together?

Me: Uh--

Squish: Chairman Mao-- he was really bad.

Me: Yes, yes he wa--

Squish: And we read in the Red Scarf Girl about how the prejudice started, and how the girl in the class did everything right, and because she followed what she was supposed to, because the government made prejudice legal, eventually she ended up really prejudiced. And you see how a bad government can hurt individual people.

ZoomBoy: Yeah, and like, in 1984, when they had the two-minute hate, that was so people could get all riled up because the government knew they were easier to control when they hated people without reason. So we need to make sure we don't let the laws get bad.

Me: Guys, I kno--

Squish: Red Scarf Girl was really sad--it was written by someone who survived Mao. I don't want our country to end up like that.

ZoomBoy: Squish, 1984 was scarier, because it's exactly how that happens. Like, you've got to be careful about what teachers and stuff tell you because if it's not true, that's for us to figure out.

Me: *desperately* Guys! I voted! It's like a big group project--I did my part right, we'll just hope for the rest of the country, okay?

Squish: Okay. Can I have a strawberry shake?  And that thing ZoomBoy sent to us was totally gross--you have to take away that app that lets him browse those memes.

Me: I'll talk to his father.

ZoomBoy: No, no--I'll be more appropriate, I swear!  And I want an Oreo shake. And tenders. And if you order those zucchini things I'll eat some.

Me: I get a tender.

ZoomBoy: Deal.

Squish: I want fries.

Me: Deal. Anything else you want to talk about?

Squish: Can I tell you how happy I am that there's no soccer today?

ZoomBoy: Can I tell you how much it sucks that it's almost dark?

Me: Yeah, got it. Time to order....


And the moral of this story is,

A. I think California teachers are unsung fucking heroes because that was some good frickin edu-ma-cation those young-un's were spouting,

 and

B. You Republican assholes out there who think the young are malleable and easily led? YOU'RE the generation that has been proven to have difficulty sorting fact from opinion. My children? Both generations? Are gonna save the fuckin' world from your mess. Just hope they don't have control over your old age homes. I mean, my kids are gonna take care of ME, because Carl's Jr. and soccer and dance and love, but they are SO unimpressed with the dumbasses that elected the fascist traitor  leading our government.

They're growing up, they're smarter than you are, and they're coming for you.

I'm gonna sleep well tonight.

How about you?


Monday, November 5, 2018

Kermit Flail--Giving Thanks for Great Books!

YAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAY!!!


Okay-- corny intro for our November issue, but I am SUPER grateful here. 

I have to admit-- I KIDNAPPED the first item on my list here. Parker Williams is one of Jackson and Ellery's BIGGEST fans, and he's reviewed Fish Out of Water on his blog and has even given Colby and Terrell a brief cameo in one of his latest books--but he keeps forgetting Kermit Flail-- so I figured I'd promote his book anyway, because Parker is just amazing, and because this book LOOKS fantastic, and because I love him to death with smishes and Jai-fic, just for him. 

Muah!

And Kaje Harper wasn't so much kidnapped as she was... uhm... nudged. That's the word. I saw she was online as I was putting my post together and I NUDGED her. Because I love her work, and because she's writing for DSP for the first time here, and because I adore HER personally--and one of my biggest regrets at GRL was not getting so much as a lunch with her. *sigh* But at least I got to flail her newest story, Fair isn't Life.

And, well, Melanie Jayne has been on the Flail before, but, see, I've known her for so long and am always so excited to Flail her and when I found out she was doing an M/M story instead of het, I was OVER THE MOON. I may have, uhm, nudged her too. 

C.J. Elliot just dropped into my lap like a ripe apple, because her story, The Kinsey Scale, looks both adorable AND delicious.

And of course, gay romance's answer to Mary Janice Davison, Ms. EJ Russell, is here with Vampire With Benefits, and I am tickled pink!

It's an embarrassment of riches, and while some of them are, admittedly pilfered, most of them were invited--yes, INVITED--like favorite friends to the table.

I hope your November is hopeful, I hope you're surrounded by people you love, and I hope you read a lot of good books this time out.

I know I plan to!


Lincoln's Park

by Parker Williams 
A Links In the Chain Story

Lincoln Merriweather was born an entitled brat with a silver spoon lodged so deep, it might never have come out. At the BDSM club or in business, Lincoln was a storm, blowing in and disrupting the lives of everyone he touched, until the day he met a man who peeled away the tarnished layers to expose a decent person.

Lincoln found—then lost—love.

Since then, he’s tried to atone for his past, including walking away from his family’s wealth. He opened a diner, hiring people to work for him that he would have spit on before his epiphany. He’s found peace, which he’s about to lose to a hazel-eyed man.

Noel Simmons wound up on the street when his parents discovered he was gay. His path leads him to Lincoln’s diner, where he asks for a job. He’s thrilled when Lincoln agrees to hire him, but finds his new boss perplexing. Can anyone be this kind and decent?

What starts out as business becomes something more. Noel discovers he needs Lincoln in order to feel safe. Lincoln needs Noel to complete him. But when Lincoln’s past gets in the way of his present, will the two have a future?





A Change of Pace

 by Melanie Jayne

Book 6 in The Change Series

Edwin Eric is a self-made man. He’s out, proud, and more worried about the effects of winter salt on his Gucci loafers than settling down. He’s landed his dream job as a fashion consultant, but he’s not taking the job any more serious than he takes his hook-ups. Edwin has only one type, willing. He can’t imagine any man could ever change his mind.

Guillermo Cruz has known love and the pain of losing it. The owner of the hottest restaurant in Indianapolis, he is as comfortable with his sexuality as he is with accepting whatever life throws at him. He isn't looking for love and Edwin is definitely not the right man.

When Edwin is forced to change his ways or lose his job, it’s Guillermo’s cool, collected calmness that provides an unexpected oasis. Can a change of pace lead to love?

Buy at Amazon



Vampire With Benefits

by E.J. Russell 
Supernatural Selection #2

A match between a vampire and shifter could be deadly—but one broken beaver doesn’t give a dam.

Silent film actor Casimir Moreau had imagined that life as a vampire would be freewheeling and glamorous. Instead, he’s plunged into a restrictive society whose rules he runs afoul of at every turn. To “rehabilitate” him, the vampire council orders him mated to an incubus with impeccable breeding who’ll mold Cas into the upstanding vampire he ought to be. Or else.

As an inactive beaver shifter, construction engineer Rusty Johnson has fought—and overcome—bias and disrespect his entire life. But when his longtime boyfriend leaves him for political reasons, Rusty is ready to call it a day. Next stop? Supernatural Selection and his guaranteed perfect mate, a bear shifter living far away from Rusty’s disapproving clan.

But then a spell snafu at Supernatural Selection robs both men of their intended husbands. Rusty can’t face returning to his clan, and Cas needs somebody on his arm to keep the council happy, so they agree to pretend to be married. Nobody needs to know their relationship is fake—especially since it’s starting to feel suspiciously like the real thing.


Buy at Publisher





The Kinsey Scale

by C. Jane Elliott

Life is good for Eric Brown. He’s a senior theater major, an RA for a freshman dorm, and has a great circle of friends. Single since sophomore year, Eric isn’t looking for love. Then Will Butler—fellow senior, co-RA, and the cutest guy Eric’s ever seen—walks into his dorm. Will has a girlfriend he sees off campus—a minor disappointment that becomes a major problem when a housing shortage causes Will and Eric to become roommates, and Eric is forced to witness Will’s hotness day in and day out. For protection, Eric asks Jerry, his ex-boyfriend, to pretend they’re still together. Jerry warns him it’s a stupid idea, but he reluctantly agrees.

Too bad it won’t save Eric from losing his heart.

Will Butler has never believed in himself. His dysfunctional family saw to that. Although Will has loved music since childhood, he’s never seriously considered pursuing it, and the person he’s dating doesn’t encourage him. Then he and Eric Brown become roommates, and everything changes. Eric believes in Will and his talent. He’s also gorgeous and playful and fast becoming Will’s best friend. And that’s not good, because Will is hiding some big things, not only from Eric but from himself. 

Tagline: Forced roommates, fake boyfriends, fiery attraction, and a secret or two… are they fooling themselves or falling in love?




Fair Isn't Life

by Kaje Harper

Luke Lafontaine survived the past year by not thinking about the father he lost, the dairy farm he couldn’t save from bankruptcy, or his way of life that vanished with the rap of an auctioneer’s hammer. Cleaning up city folks’ trash at the Minnesota State Fair is just another dead-end job. But at the Fair, surrounded by a celebration of farm life, ambitions he’d given up on and buried deep start to revive. And seeing Mason Bell in the parade—gorgeous, gay, out-of-his-league Mason—stirs other buried dreams.

Mason left his hometown for college in Minneapolis without looking back. Student life is fun, classes are great, gay guys are easy to find, but it’s all a bit superficial. He’s at the State Fair parade route with his band when he realizes a scruffy maintenance worker is Luke, his secret high school crush. Luke should be safely home working on his dad’s farm, not picking up litter. Mason wishes he hadn’t fallen out of touch. He’s an optimist, though, and it’s never too late for second chances. Now he just has to convince Luke.


Hiding the Moon

by Amy Lane
Fish Out Of Water: Book Four - A Fish Out of Water/Racing for the Sun Crossover

Can a hitman and a psychic negotiate a relationship while all hell breaks loose?


The world might not know who Lee Burton is, but it needs his black ops division and the work they do to keep it safe. Lee’s spent his life following orders—until he sees a kill jacket on Ernie Caulfield. Ernie isn’t a typical target, and something is very wrong with Burton’s chain of command.


Ernie’s life may seem adrift, but his every action helps to shelter his mind from the psychic storm raging within. When Lee Burton shows up to save him from assassins and club bunnies, Ernie seizes his hand and doesn’t look back. Burton is Ernie’s best bet in a tumultuous world, and after one day together, he’s pretty sure Lee knows Ernie is his destiny as well.


But when Burton refused Ernie’s contract, he kicked an entire piranha tank of bad guys, and Burton can’t rest until he takes down the rogue military unit that would try to kill a spacey psychic. Ernie’s in love with Burton and Burton’s confused as hell by Ernie—but Ernie’s not changing his mind and Burton can’t stay away. Psychics, assassins, and bad guys—throw them into the desert with a forbidden love affair and what could possibly go wrong?

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Jai there! Part 2


Hey all-- first of all, I can't guarantee how long this will be, or how many installments--but I WILL keep writing them every so often.

Second of all, I don't think it's going to be a novel--but, like with Scorched Haven or some of the other ficlets it WILL end up somewhere, either on Instafreebie, OR as part of Fish 4 when it's done.

Third of all--DON'T forget to check out the new version of Regret Me Not in January, because I did the same thing and that's where all the extras went.

That being said, a little more of Jai/George. (I may keep calling this Jai There! because I'm just that big of a nerd.)

*  *  *

Jai crawled into the tent about an hour after George fell asleep. George was tossing, and still feverish, so Jai woke him up with some ibuprofen and crackers--and water, that was very important. By the time Jai had stripped down to his boxers and a T-shirt, George had stilled and was sleeping like the might-maybe-live.

Jai spent a few moments curled on his side, staring at the lump of his sleeping bag in the darkness. Such a sweet man--protests of a misspent youth aside. Kind. Funny. A nurse.

No. George may have liked men, and had the yellow hair, but Jai had killed people. He was not a nice man.

Still, he would enjoy hearing another person's breath in his space, just for the weekend.

That soothed, he fell asleep.

He woke up with a man-sized heating pad vibrating against his chest.

"George?"

George whimpered and shook some more, and Jai grunted, feeling his head. "And you need more medicine."

"Is that it?" George asked pitifully. "God. I'm going to get you sick. Shit. All you've done for me and I'm going to get you sick."

Jai gently pushed him aside so he could reach to the space above him for the bottled water and ibuprofen. "Here," he mumbled, helping George sit up. "Take some of this."  George swallowed convulsively, and Jai realized the moon must have been up and shining directly on their tent. "Now crackers."

George grimaced. "Are you--"

"Or your stomach will cramp some more. I could give you the medicine another way, but that is a little personal, you think?"

George took a cracker, eyes wide in the dark. "You're pretty persuasive," he muttered, swallowing. He took another pull of water, and then, voluntarily, another cracker.

"I am not a nice man," Jai said seriously. "I do not wish to hurt you."

"You realize those two statements don't fit together," George mumbled, finishing off the cracker. He waved the rest of the package aside. "I don't want to get sick again."

"There is a pot next to you--you see it? I set it there when I came to bed."

George chuckled weakly. "You have the instincts of a first class nurse."

"Or a world class mob enforcer." Which he had been. "Or an auto mechanic who cannot hold his sushi."  Which he most definitely was.

"Augh! Don't say sushi." George tried to wrap up in the fleece again, making so much noise and commotion that Jai sat up and turned on his flash light. "What are you doing?" George asked after collapsing miserably in a pile of fleece and tangled sleeping bag.

"Planning my attack. Stay still, small man." Jai unzipped the sleeping bag, ripped the fleece off, and laid it flat. Then he lifted George onto the fleece again like a child in a bunting, and wrapped him first, then got in the bag next to him and zipped it all up."

"That was impressive," George mumbled, sounding dazed. "You should be a nurse."

"Mob enforcer."

"Or an army medic."

"Auto mechanic."

"Hey, it's my fantasy." George rolled over so he was facing Jai and snuggled into his chest. "I might as well make you somebody I see every so often."

"I am no man's fantasy," Jai told him sadly, smoothing his sweaty hair back from his head.

"Tonight you're mine," George said with some dignity. "A guy who will take care of me. And make me smile."

Jai chuckled, the sound rumbling through the tent like thunder, and George rested his head against Jai's chest.

The next thing Jai knew it was morning, and George was snoring softly, huddled under the fleece still but not shivering.

Jai tested his forehead and while it was clammy, it wasn't burning up.

Good. His new friend was feeling better.

After quickly dressing so he could run to the nearby bathroom, Jai resurrected the fire and started boiling water for soup and hot chocolate. He made a coffee mug of chocolate for himself and a small thermos of broth, which he planned to take inside the tent. Just as he was twisting the cap, he heard George call his name in a rather small voice.

"Yes?"

He turned around and saw George, poking his head out.

"I need help to the head, man. Can you get me some sweats from my car?"

Jai grunted, squatted down at the tent's entrance and scooped him up, fleece blanket and all. He was not a small man, but still, no more heavier than he had been the day before.

"This is so embarrassing," George mumbled, but that didn't stop him from wrapping his arms around Jai's neck and resting his head against his shoulder.

"There is nobody awake," Jai said. "The campground is not full this time of year."

"That's cause it's fucking freezing," George muttered. "What brought you out here?"

"It was a place to come where my boss and his boyfriend didn't have to fuss over me, one that did not look like my apartment."

George gave a short laugh. "I was recovering from a breakup."

"Bad?"

A shrug and a bitter sound. "Stupid."

"What is stupid about it?"

"I said exclusive, and he said threesome. I said no way, and he said, 'Fine, Gary and I will find someone else.' And I said, 'Gary?'"

Jai couldn't help it--he laughed. Full fledged, from his stomach--from his toes, if the truth be known. "That is too bad. You thought he was your man?"

"I thought we were at least on the same page," George muttered dispiritedly. "I figured I'd come camping, since it was something Harvey never wanted to do--"

"You were dating a man named Harvey?"

"Don't start."

"No, no--I think it is fine you were dating a man named Harvey who wanted to have a threesome with Gary. So it would be Gary, Harvey, and George."

George groaned into his shoulder. "We can't all be giant Russians named Jai!"

"Which is probably a good thing," Jai said, to calm his ruffled feathers. "We are here. It is freezing in there--can you make it to the toilet alone or--"

"No," George muttered. He was shivering already.

It was strangely intimate, moving the blanket up to his shoulders and stripping his boxer shorts down. Jai left him alone for an appropriate time and returned to help him to the sink. When he was done, he scooped George up in his arms again, wrapped tight in fleece and took him to the tent. George was still tunneling into the sleeping bag when Jai appeared again with the broth.

George drank it gratefully. "You're really good at this. I think you were wasted as mob muscle."

"Possibly, but I am a very good mechanic."

"Do you like your boss better?"

"Yes. He is a good man. I have been helplessly in love with his boyfriend for over a year, and he has been nothing but kind."

George choked on his chicken broth. "In love with--"

Jai shrugged, used to it by now. "He is... small. And perfect. And I like yellow hair, like yours. And..." He frowned, not sure he could say this right. "He needs Ace. Like I need oxygen and large sized boots. I would very much like to be needed like that. But I was too late for Sonny."

Jai was sitting cross-legged on top of the sleeping bags as George sat up inside his end. George reached out then, and stroked his hand gently. "It's good to be needed," he said softly.

Jai shrugged. "I have always been the biggest, and the strongest. I've always had the scariest smile. My friends, they have hidden behind me, and my lovers have depended on me for protection--and for pleasure. It is a thing I am good at." He frowned. "Fixing cars too. Which makes me needed again." Suddenly he smiled. "I will work on your car while you rest. That way it will not die after you decide to live."

George nodded and put the lid back on the thermos. "I can't stop you," he sighed. "Maybe someday you'll find somebody you need as much as they need you."

Jai grunted. "I would not like that. It sounds terrifying. I think it's why I've had such a hard time finding a man as it is. Who wants to need somebody who could break them like a twig?"

"But won't," George said, yawning. "It's the won't that's very important. Don't go yet. Stay there."

"Why? What am I doing?"

"I need you here while I fall asleep. I'm sick and I'm sad, and I would have been all alone and freezing to death at the lake's edge if you hadn't stepped up. Just sit here and let me need you."

Jai grunted and made himself comfortable on his side. George curled up into the shelter of his body again, and Jai, good and settled now, pulled out his phone so he could play a game. George's breath settled, and he was asleep soon enough, but still, Jai didn't move.

George said he needed Jai.

Even for this moment, while George was recovering from what had apparently been the mother of all stomach bugs, it was a nice thing.

Jai would lay there and keep George warm and appreciate it while it lasted.





Thursday, November 1, 2018

Jai Likes Him

Okay--

So I finished the SCB (Shitty Craft Book) which I have been working on for two weeks. It's twelve a.m., and I don't want to start my next novel until tomorrow. (ETA--I didn't finish this last night, so now it's 11:30 on Halloween night, and I wanted to give you guys a treat!)

And yesterday was sort of boring, but today was sort of busy.

So where does that leave me?

FANFIC!

Or Ficlet, really.

This one is sort of a fan favorite that I don't really want to give a full novel to--but who, I think, deserves some screen time. (Mostly because Parker and Jason whine a lot, and I love them.)

So, in Hiding the Moon, we find out a teeny bit more about Jai's personal life. Jai is Ace Atchison's employee, and he's well over six-feet tall, has a shaved head, a goatee, and a really disturbing smile. While he's rooting through his crappy Toyota for a stud finder so he can spot landmines, he reveals that he's seeing somebody-- but, "He's married, and I do not like him."

Jai is lying.

On all counts.

But then, he really doesn't know what to do with George.

*  *  *

Jai actually loved camping.

Originally he'd just found the gear at a rummage sale, and given that he'd only lived in his tiny apartment for a few months at the time, and Ace and Sonny weren't really paying him on the same scale as his former employer, the mob boss, he thought a plan B for a place to live would be a good idea.

Then he had it, and Ace and Sonny started giving him days off, and he didn't know what to do.

He enjoyed going to their place for movies sometimes, but not too much.  Too small, too much emotion, too much... Sonny.

He half-hated himself for his badly hidden torch for Sonny. Ace knew--Jai could tell. Every now and then, Jai would think about petting Sonny's yellow hair, just to feel it, but he would catch Ace regarding him, eyebrows raised in that handsome country-boy face, and Jai's cheeks would burn.

Ace knew, but he trusted Jai.

Jai, who had once fucked his way through an entire male brothel and left the boys panting and exhausted and done, had been forced to just stand there, next to someone who made him protective as a bear over a cub, and watch him be in love with another man.

At least Ace was worthy.

If Jai had any doubts, they'd been erased after Ace had killed the guy who'd attacked Sonny at their last race.

Dammit.

Jai would have killed him no problem--but for Ace, with his damned sense of chivalry and fair play to commit that kind of murder, well, that was true love right there.

So it was hard for Jai to go over to their place and watch movies. Finally, he decided fuck it! He had the camping gear. If nothing else he could sleep somewhere the walls weren't closing in.

He had a choice--mountains or ocean--and he picked mountains.

He was fairly competent and not a moron. He bought broken in boots, wore worn jeans, a sweatshirt he didn't mind getting dirty, and some fleece, and reserved a campsite by Lake Tehachapi.

He grabbed an ice chest, some beers, some hot dogs, and even remembered some sticks, as well as some tinned soup and the little camp stove and pot set that had come with his tent, bag, and the big egg crate meant to cushion his big body from the rocks.

Oh my God.

It was almost a science.

He even remembered a fishing pole.

HIs grandfather had taught him fishing, back in the Ukraine when he'd been a boy, before the gang, the recruitment, and the plane ticket to America that he'd spent twenty years working off before his boss decided he'd be better off with Ace and Sonny.

He was pretty sure his boss had been a murderer, and definitely a motherfucker, but Jai couldn't be mad at him.

Ace and Sonny's was not a bad place for someone like Jai.

He no longer had to break people's legs, but he didn't feel comfortable looking for a legitimate job with anybody else.

And look at him-- camping!

He was actually quite content.

He set up camp under the trees, enjoying the coolness of the mountains, and made himself a sandwich as soon as he arrived. Then he set off toward the lake, pole over his shoulder, tackle box in one hand, camp stool under his arm.

He didn't expect to catch anything, really, but he remembered that fishing had been relaxing, and nobody ever accused you of sitting and staring into space.

It was like fishing was a get-out-of-relaxing-free card.

So there he was, worm wriggling somewhere in the muddy waters of the lake, enjoying the sound of other campers bouncing off the surface, when the bushes rustled behind him.

And a water buffalo stampeded out.

Not really a water buffalo--a big young man, in his late twenties maybe, wearing jeans and a T-shirt and tennis shoes.

His face was almost green, and he staggered to the water and fell to his knees, retching a weak fluid into the lake.

He was so close Jai just had to lean over a little from his camp stool to rub the poor man's back.

He waited until the vomiting was done, and then reeled in his hook.

Worm was gone. Pity. With that mess in the lake, it wasn't like any fish were going to swim near for a good couple of days.

"You are okay?" Jai asked, mildly curious.

"No," the poor man groaned, collapsing on his stomach, thankfully a few feet to the right of the mess. "I'm not okay. God."

"Did you drink too much?"

"No! I was fine. Set up my site, feeling good. Then suddenly." He groaned and rolled to his side, holding his hands around his stomach. "Not," he finished, after it became clear he didn't have the strength to throw up again.

Jai was left in a quandary.

The man--blond hair, pale face, tall and rangy--looked as though normally he could care for himself.

Normally.

But not now.

Now he was lying in the dampness of the weeds at the edge of the lake, shivering, and not really wearing enough clothes even if they hadn't been wet.

Shit.

A year ago, and he would have gotten up and walked away.

But not now.

Not after being with Ace and Sonny for the past months. Not after Alba thought of him as a hero. And Sonny thought of him as a friend. And Ace trusted him.

Again, shit.

He stood and folded up his little camp stool, slinging it over his back with the strap, then grabbed the towel he'd brought just in case he'd gotten wet. He wrapped the towel around the man--tall, yes, but Jai was nearly six-eight--and then lifted him in his arms. He gave a thought for the fishing rod and the box and decided to come back for them.

"Your tent or mine," he asked brutally.

The young man--and his face looked really young this close--squinted at him. "I'm in the bed of my truck," he mumbled.

"This is not warm enough," Jai decided. "I have a four-man tent. And blankets. Come."

It's not like he had any choice. He was weak as a kitten. He didn't even struggle as Jai carted him the distance back to his campsite.

He did mumble, "Hey, what're you--"

"There is vomit on your clothes, and mud," Jai muttered as he stripped the jeans off and the tennis shoes with them. He left the underwear but took off the T-shirt with the soiled sweatshirt, and threw  the outer clothes outside the tent, all the better to rinse them off in the lake. "Will you throw up again?"

To his credit, the man thought about it. "No. Stomach cramps gone. I'd already lost most of  it in my campground. I just wanted to... God. Rinse off."

"Mm." Jai sat the man down on a bare spot on the tent floor, at the apron.  "Stay there. I'll be back."

He had no warm water, which was a pity. He did have a pot full of cold water set up on the camp stove for heating, both for hot chocolate and to use in the tub to wash dishes. He turned the heat on, grabbed a water bottle and a cloth and went back to the tent.

The man was sitting where Jai had left him, legs sprawled in front of him, shoulders slumped dejectedly, shivering in the cool of the shade and mountain air.

Poor man. "Here." Jai dumped some water on the cloth and handed it to him. "Wash what needs to be washed." He handed the man the water bottle. "Rinse and spit if you need to. I will be building a fire."

He nodded, and smiled weakly. Jai noted that he had a sort of narrow face, with a chin in a point, and cheekbones that weren't wide enough to make him fox-faced like Sonny. Still, it was a pleasant face--or would be if it wasn't waxy and pale.

"Thank you," the man rasped.

"Your campsite? The one with the truck?"

"Forty-two."

"Mm... the keys are in the vehicle? Do not worry--I shall simply move it here. Otherwise, you have nothing else to wear."

That weak nod, and Jai felt a surge of gratitude that he had been the one to pick this stranger up and put him in his tent. Otherwise, the poor man was a ripe target for thieves and murderers and mob enforcers without Jai's developing sense of conscience.

A half-an-hour later, he had found the campsite and repacked the man's gear in the bed of his battered, poorly maintained F-150 before moving it behind his own Toyota. Then he'd started building the fire in the pit, carefully, using wood that was seasoned but not too sappy. He'd brought some of his own--a bag of kindling and some logs from the local camp store--and it took very little time before the warmth from the fire pit infused the little camp space with some merriness and light.

And blessed warmth.

Jai walked to the tent and stood at the zipped up door, uncharacteristically tentative.

"Little puking man, are you still in there?"

"Mm.. Yes. Come in."

Jai had set up his bedroll by unrolling the queen-sized egg crate and then putting two full-sized bags zipped together, on top of it. They were made especially for someone tall, like he was, and he figured that way, he would have all the room he needed.

His little man was huddled inside the sleeping bags, on the edge, shivering.

"You are still cold?"

"Y-y-y..."

"Do not hurt yourself. I have some fleece blankets here." He pulled them out from under the foot of the sleeping bag. "I'm going to put these in with you, yes?"

The man made a little mewling sound when Jai unzipped his side of the sleeping bag, and it was no wonder. He was burning up. Jai wrapped him in the fleece quickly and then zipped up the bag again, squatting and holding his hand to the man's forehead.

"I have some medicine for this. You can keep it down, yes?"

The man nodded, still shivering.

"You'd better. Your gear is very much better quality than mine. You throw up in my bag, I shall sleep in yours."

To his surprise the poor guy smiled. "You're funny. I feel like shit and you're funny. It's like a gift. What's your name."

"Jai. Like 'Hello, my name is Jai.'"

Another smile. "George. Like my parents couldn't think of a better name, so they called me George."

Jai wrinkled his nose. "George sounds like someone who never gets laid. That is a pity."

George let out a dry rasp of a laugh. "It is indeed." He closed his eyes then and sank into his own misery, and Jai went to fetch him some ibuprofen from his car.

Jai made himself dinner using a soup packet and warm water. He'd been planning on hot dogs, but after cleaning up after George he found the whole idea unpleasant.

He ate his soup, cleaned up, and sat on his chair for a while, contemplated the stars and the embers, and feeling surprisingly at peace.

Until the nuisance in the tent had to have a say.

"Jai?"

"Yes?"

"It's sort of unnerving, you sitting out there all quiet. Can you... I don't know. Put on some songs or something? Or talk to me?"

Jai grunted. He had no boombox and he did not feel like talking.

But the poor man in the tent--George--was sad and miserable, and Jai was starting to feel obliged.

"Your truck?" he asked.

"Yes?"

"It's awful.  Who maintains it for you?"

"I change my own oil--"

Jai grunted.  "I work for a garage. T hey would make that vehicle run so much better. You are no good with cars. What are you good with?"

"Patients," George said promptly. "I'm a nurse."

Jai felt a moment's disappointment. "That is too bad. You are entirely too nice a person to be my friend. Why did you pick that profession?"

"Cause I was a shitty human being as an adolescent, and once I survived and saw how shitty I was, I thought I sort of needed to pay it back."

Jai grunted, immeasurably cheered. "Did you drink? Do drugs? Steal cars?"

"No. I was just really bitchy to my family--wow, you have a low bar."

Jai slumped in his camp chair again. "My family would understand those other things. Being bitch to them would get you killed."

He looked up at the sky, so vast and enormous.  It was like all that darkness divided him and his appealing lost puppy George.

Silly thought.

Lost puppy George could have a family or a girl friend for all Jai knew.

"George, do you have a girlfriend?"

"No, Jai. I'm gay."

Jai's eyes traveled to the embers banking in the fire pit. So much closer. So much warmer. So much promise.

"That is good."

"Why?"  George sounded tired, as though the conversation had wiped him out.

"Because you are pretty, and I like yellow hair, and you are not so good I cannot touch you. But later. When you are not sick and sad."

"Wow."

"You are scared now?"

"Sure. Watch me run."

Jai chuckled. "After you can walk. Goodnight, George. I'll be in shortly. Do not panic. I will sleep in shorts and a T-shirt so I don't terrify you. We will stay warm together."

George's soft snort could be heard through the fabric walls of the tent. "You're not that scary," he mumbled, but Jai only smiled.

When George saw him in the daylight, naked, he'd be scared.

But maybe he'd also be excited.

And maybe Jai would find out.