Archive for November 2011

J.P. Bowie’s Christmas Wishes

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The 42 Days of Christmas Series from MLR Press continues and today I’m posting an excerpt provided by J.P. Bowie!

Christmas_Wishes_9_21_2011_BChristmas Wishes

by J.P. Bowie

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Christopher Fielding has no choice but to spend Christmas with his family in York, away from William MacPherson, the biology professor with whom he has fallen in love. Finding his sister Nan in some distress over her pregnancy, Christopher makes a wish that all will be well with her and the baby, and another that William, traveling by train to his family in Scotland will be safe from the blizzard raging over the countryside.

As Christmas Eve approaches, William’s train is stranded in snow drifts and Nan’s baby is about to arrive prematurely. Cut off by the weather from a doctor’s help, the family is in despair, and Christopher feels that his wishes may not be enough. Perhaps what they now need is nothing short of a miracle.

 

This excerpt is from when Christopher meets William for the first time.

“Fielding! Fielding, for pity’s sake, will you kindly get a move on? The best of the grub will have long gone if you don’t stop dawdling!”

Christopher ran the backs of his fingertips over the keys of the grand piano in a sharp, angry sounding glissando and closed the lid a little more loudly than he’d intended.

“You’ve been twiddling around on that thing for hours, Fielding.” Percy Sommers-Smythe, not at all put out by his friend’s obvious annoyance, regarded him from across the rehearsal hall. “Are you coming to luncheon or are you not?”

“Coming.” He stood, gathered up his music and strolled across the wooden floor with maddening nonchalance, grinning now at Percy’s impatience. “It wouldn’t do you a bit of harm if you missed a meal now and then,” he teased, pointing at Percy’s ample belly.

“How rude.” Percy sucked in the belly under scrutiny then turned his back on his friend. “I shall not speak to you—for at least thirty seconds.” They laughed together as they walked toward the dining hall. “Have you met the new biology professor yet? Mac something… Macpherson, I think he’s called. Something Scottish anyway.”

“No, I have not. A Scot, eh? I can never understand a word they say. All those ‘cannas’ and ‘dinnas’—and they call it English.”

“A bit high-handed of you, Fielding,” Percy remarked, raising an eyebrow.

“Yes, I suppose it is. I’m a bit out of sorts today. That ‘twiddling’ you referred to earlier is a new piece I’m having the devil of a job finishing. I have the melody, but the underlying chords remain elusive. I want it to sound… different, I suppose.”

“I’m sure it will come to you, old chap. Ah…” Percy inhaled the aroma of some fragrant stew as they entered the dining hall. “Lancashire Hotpot, I do believe. One of my favourites.”

Christopher chuckled at his friend’s euphoric expression. “Along with every other dish in the Western hemisphere. I’ve yet to see you turn your nose up at any concoction from the kitchens.”

They took their assigned places at the table and Percy immediately ordered up two plates of his favourite dish without even asking his luncheon partner if that was what he wanted. Unaware and uninterested in what he would be presently served, Christopher looked around, acknowledging the nods and faint smiles of recognition from familiar faces. Then his eyes were suddenly riveted on a completely unfamiliar face. A face, the likes of which he had never before seen.

The man had everything every other man at the table had. Two eyes, a nose, a mouth… dear God, that mouth… a chin, perhaps firmer than most, hair a dark gold red, shoulders, wider than necessary, surely. Christopher found that he had almost stopped breathing and was only vaguely aware that Percy was saying something; was addressing the beautiful stranger.

“I say, you must be the new biology professor. Macpherson, is it?”

“Indeed. William Macpherson.” The beautiful stranger rose and inclined his head in a short formal bow. Then he raised his head and Christopher’s heart stopped along with his breathing.

Those eyes… of the deepest green… emerald pools to drown in

“Percy Sommers-Smythe.” Percy held out his hand in greeting in his usual amiable fashion. “I’m the dreaded mathematics professor, and this fellow at my side is—” Percy was momentarily put off his stride when he saw the thunderstruck expression on his friend’s face. “Uh… is… uh—Fielding! What the devil’s the matter with you? Are you quite well?”

Christopher felt his face flood with a fiery heat. “Oh… yes…i-indeed,” he stammered. “Quite well. So sorry.” He extended his hand across the table. “Christopher Fielding, s-so happy to make your acquaintance, sir.” He almost swooned when warm, firm flesh enclosed his hand in a lingering grip.

“Very pleased to make your acquaintance, Professor Fielding.”

Christopher was close to collapsing back into his chair when his hand was finally released. Never, never before had another human being affected him in this way. He felt dizzy, nauseous, excited—terrified that another man’s touch could inflict such tumultuous sensations within him. And most embarrassing of all, he was so hard inside the confines of his trousers, he knew he could not stand up even if someone was to suddenly shout, “Fire!”

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Too beautiful for everyone not to see…

Proof that pictures can be as powerful as words…

D.H. Starr’s Someone to be Thankful For

bloghomopromoThe 42 Days of Christmas Series from MLR Press continues and today I’m posting an excerpt provided by D.H. Starr! Hope you all Enjoy!

Have a happy holiday weekend. : )

DHS_SomeoneToBeThankfulForSomeone to be Thankful For

by D.H. Starr

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Sometimes is not what, but who you’re thankful for.

David is a twenty-four year old code writer for a software development company, handsome, wealthy, and living in New York City. By all appearances, his life is perfect. But outward appearances can be deceiving. Despite all his material accomplishments, the one thing he truly wants is what he doesn’t have. Keller.

Preparing for his annual trip home to San Rafael, California, David if filled with dread knowing he has to face Keller, his best friend from childhood, his first and only love, the man he let slip through his fingers. But from the first day David arrives back home, he can tell things are different.

As events unfold, the walls David has carefully constructed around his emotions are broken down until he’s left with nothing to protect him. When Keller shows up on Thanksgiving, David is forced to confront the very issue he had worked so hard to avoid.

For better or worse, this Thanksgiving will change David’s life forever.

Excerpt

Placing a hand on his arm, Pearl looked around the room, then leaned in close, her voice nearly a whisper, conspiratorial. “I bet you have to fight the ladies off; a handsome young man like you, wealthy. Oh, if I were thirty years younger—”

“Aunt Pearl! That’s—” Time froze, the air not even moving, as the front door opened and a tall, fair-skinned, dark-haired man with dazzling blue eyes entered David’s home. “—Keller.”

Ignoring his aunt’s confused protests, David moved closer to the kitchen, leaning on the wall for support and making sure he had a quick escape if he felt the need to throw up. As if in slow motion, Keller scanned the room, the ropes of tendon and muscle in his neck casting shadows, highlighting each crevice David wanted to taste and explore. Damn, he’s even sexier than I remember.

Wearing a black V-neck shirt and khaki pants, the simplicity of the outfit seemed to highlight each contour of Keller’s body. His chest seemed even bigger, the top portion of the crevice where large pectoral planes connected visible. Broad shoulders stretched the protesting material, the rest of his shirt tapering to match the cant of his body, drawing David’s attention to the bulge at Keller’s groin. To say the sight knocked the breath out of him would have been accurate had David been breathing.

When their eyes locked, Keller’s mouth pulled up into a wide grin, revealing sparkling white teeth and dimples accentuating each cheek. As if he’d been lassoed, David’s feet started moving toward the vision of his childhood, of his dreams, of the future he wanted. His heart swelled, filling his chest to the point of bursting, fingers of happiness flowing through his veins, tickling and exciting him.

And then, as if those fingers turned to acid-laced nails, another man appeared by Keller’s side…Jerry. David’s feet stuck like glue to the spot where he was standing, his desire to fly in the other direction as much an impossibility as taking steps forward.

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Z.A. Maxfield’s A Picture Perfect Holiday

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The 42 Days of Christmas Series from MLR Press continues and today I’m posting an excerpt provided by the lovely Z.A. Maxfield! Enjoy! I know I did. : )

A_Picture_Perfect_Holiday_D_10_6_2011

A Picture Perfect Holiday

by Z.A. Maxfield

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Photography club president Caleb loves football standout Christian Muñez. He knows it’s an old high school chestnut, but if being a cliché is wrong, he doesn’t want to be right. They’ve been in school together since the fifth grade but having brothers on the same soccer team provides Caleb with a great opportunity to get to know Christian better. What he finds out – about Christian’s home life and his future plans – could end his hopes forever. Or they might be the beginning of something wonderful.

Caleb throws caution to the wind in A Picture Perfect Holiday.

Excerpt:

Oh, yeah. Take it off. Take that helmet off for me. Show me what you got.

Okay. Oh, Christ, the way the breeze caresses that sweaty hair is magic, turn my way. Please baby, please. Just another couple of degrees…

Snick, Caleb took the picture and waited for the next opportunity.

Yeah, that’s it. Now let me see that shy grin… Ah, God, there it is. That’s my pretty boy. Yeah, baby. Pout for me… That lower lip is yummy, mister. Give it a nibble, will you? Use those pretty white Chiclet teeth of yours and—

“Are you perving on number seven again?” Erin asked, raising her voice to be heard over the marching band. Decked out with sprigs of holly on their hats, they played the March of the Toys in a Christmas-themed, slightly too ambitious show.

“No, I am not perving on number seven. I do not perve. I appreciate when I see the skillful hand of the creator and I applaud a work of art in nature as I would any object of art in a mus—”

“You’re totally sporting wood right now. I have seen wood before and that sir, is wood.”

Jeez. Caleb flushed and shifted his position to hide it. Was it that noticeable? “Will you shut up already?”

They weren’t kids anymore or anything. A visit from the boner fairy was nothing new, but seriously, did shePicturePerfectHoliday_200 have to point it out?

“I don’t think so. No. A gay man’s gal pal does not shut up in this situation. A gay man’s gal pal asks what are you thinking? Every single person in this school already knows you pop wood for our varsity QB and I promise you, in his case QB does not stand for queer boy as much as it stands for quickly broken—as in every bone in your body—if he finds out you’re sitting there perving on him. So cut it out.”

“I can’t help it.” “You can too help it. You have to get over this thing you have for him, Cay. Caleb McKenzie does not pine after what he cannot have. Caleb McKenzie is fierce and independent and deserving of the love of an out and proud gay man. Caleb McKenzie is looking for a long term, life affirming—”

“You must have me mixed up with someone else. If I could have Christian Muñez for just one night—for one hour—I’d take it and never look back.”

“No you would not.”

“I would.” Caleb snorted. “My wood would, and I go where the wood goes.”

“No kidding. You and all the other Y-chromosomes. What I don’t get is why Christian of all people? He’s like a hillock of muscle with no personality and no brains.”

“What’s your point?”

“Have you ever, in this entire year, heard him say anything that didn’t start with Um?”

“Now you’re just being mean.”

“No, I’m not. I have a class with him. It’s Um, I think Stalin killed a lot of people. Um. I think Russia was only our ally because Germany was worse. He’s not your type. He’s inarticulate and vague. He’s quiet and maybe a little shy. He’s not into you. He’ll never be into you. He’ll never be worthy of you, even if he was. Which he’s not.”

“Au contraire, Erin. I know I’ve told you the story, but in case I haven’t, let me tell it now.”

“Oh, here it comes.” Erin rolled her eyes. “It all started on the first day of the fifth grade—”

Look for A Picture Perfect Holiday, November 23, 2011 at MLR Press MLR Press Advent Calendar

 

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William Neale’s Christmasing with You

The first release in the 42 Days of Christmas Series from MLR Press kicked off today with William Neale’s Christmasing with You, now available!

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You can check out the blurb and excerpt below!

Neale - Christmasing With You cover low res

 

CHRISTMASING WITH YOU

BY WILLIAM NEALE

 

Andrew Bastion lost his partner to a violent and senseless criminal act. Devastated and all alone, he questioned how he would ever get through his first Christmas season without the husband he so loved. But when Drew’s best friend convinces him to “find people who need help and help them,” he finally begins to focus on something other than his own grief. And to his great surprise, he meets the one man with the ability to help heal his broken heart. Christmasing With You is a shamelessly heartwarming, upbeat holiday story that will require tissues, smiles, a box of good chocolates, and the willingness to believe that Christmas miracles really happen.

 

Excerpt

“Unless you go out and look for reasons to be happy again, you never will be,” Mike said to Drew via their Skype teleconference. “And we’re going to toast the fact that you’re alive and healthy, you’re the smartest, kindest person I know, and most important, you’re the brother I never had. Now go open the damn bottle of wine.”

Even though Mike now lived seven-hundred miles away in Atlanta, Drew walked away from the computer in his home office and found a chilled bottle of sauvignon blanc in his bar refrigerator. It had been there since Bill put it there. He found the corkscrew, opened the bottle, and reached for a wine glass from the bar shelf. Spotting a thick layer of dust as he held it to the light, he frowned at the fact that none of the bar stemware had been used—or washed—in months. He wiped the dust off this one with the tail of his shirt.

“Are you happy now?” Drew asked without enthusiasm, now returned to the conversation.

“Yes. Here’s to your thirty-sixth birthday, buddy,” Mike said and raised his glass in salute and took a sip of his own drink. “And, we’re going to make one more toast. Only this one is in lieu of a handshake. And you know what a promise and a handshake means to us, don’t you?”

“Yes.”

“Then say it, Andrew Bastion. What does a promise and a handshake mean to us?”

“It means we swear upon our friendship that we will keep our promise,” he answered in the same flat tone.

“Between now and the exactly thirty days remaining before Christmas, I want you to promise me that you will get out of that big old depressing museum of a house and go find some ways to make other people happy. I want you to find the Christmas spirit. You do that and you will start living again.”

“No, Mike. I don’t feel up to seeing other people yet.”

“I’m not talking about dating them. I’m talking about you focusing on something other than your own sadness. You’re the most generous person I know. So find people who need your help and help them. They’re everywhere, Drew.

“I don’t know, Mike. I—”

“Listen to me. I know you better than you know yourself. This will accomplish what all the grief counseling obviously hasn’t. Will you promise me you’ll at least make an effort? Please, buddy, I worry so much about you.”

“I’ll be fine and you don’t need to worry about me. You have a new wife and two little step-kids to worry about now.”

“I’m allowed to worry about whoever I damn well please, asshole, so stop playing martyr and make me a promise that you’ll try.”

“Mike, this is my first Christmas without Bill. I don’t think I’m ready. I just want to stay here and be left alone so that I won’t forget a single thing about him.”

“Then remember how much he loved Christmas. Remember the enormous trees he always brought home that he knew were too big but he bought ‘em anyway. Remember how he loved throwing impromptu parties to decorate them and how he was always trying to get us all to sing carols with him.”

Drew couldn’t hold back a small smile. “Yeah, and bless his tone deaf heart—he could make every dog in the neighborhood start howling.”

Make laughed. “Yeah, you sure got that right. But it didn’t stop him from knowing every song by heart and loving everything about the season. What would he want you to do? What would Bill tell you to do about Christmas this year? You think he’d want you to be all alone and miserable?”

Drew let out a long breath knowing he’d lost this battle. “No… I guess he’d be yelling at me to get my ass out of this house. Okay … I promise I’ll at least try.”

“That’s my bro. Now drink to it. See, you’re already making progress. I’m gonna check on you in a couple of days and I want to hear about more progress, okay?”

“Okay, Mike—whatever.”

“Drew, you know I’m riding you so hard because it’s time for you to be pushed back into living again. And it’s only because I love you. You know that.”

“Yeah, I do. I love you too. God, I wish you were still here.”

“I am, buddy. I’ll always be here for you.”

***

Drew sat alone on the sectional sofa in what he now thought of as his family-less room. He held the same hardly-touched glass of wine and stared at the logs burning in the fireplace. He hadn’t really wanted the wine or the fire and now both were too warm. But it indeed was his birthday on this November the twenty-fifth and he was at least trying to contemplate what he had just promised his best friend.

“Okay, Bill, I know—it’s time to get my act together and make the effort,” he said out loud. Talking to an absent Bill had become a frequent habit since his passing. Drew knew it suggested some mental issues but at the same time, it was comforting to indulge in the fantasy that on some other plane, Bill could hear every word he said. No one else knew Drew did this and, he figured, as long as he didn’t start really believing Bill was there, he’d eventually stop.

He got up from the sofa, dumped the warm glass of wine in the bar sink, and poured himself another. This time he dropped three ice cubes in it and chuckled when he remembered how Bill always did that and how Drew would scold him for ruining a perfectly good glass of white wine.

Drew walked to the antique mahogany armoire where the house’s sound system equipment was hidden, opened the doors, and picked up the iPod Bill had connected to it. Bill had spent many hours building playlists of music for every occasion and took pride in making customized and fully loaded iPods as gifts for friends. There still were several of them in their unopened boxes on the armoire’s bottom shelf. Drew scrolled through the different collections loaded on this one until he found the one he was looking for. It was labeled A D&B Christmas—their friends often referred to Drew and Bill collectively as D&B. There were dozens of albums and hundreds of holiday songs in this one collection alone.

“You really did love your Christmases, B,” Drew said softly. He scrolled to the album he was looking for and pushed Play.

Yes, it had been Bill’s favorite Christmas album and Bill especially loved to play it while the two made their annual batches of Christmas cookies. Drew would wince and then faux complain every time Bill hit a high note about two notes flat. And now, he would give his soul to hear Bill singing it off-key just one more time.

It was actually pleasant hearing the first few songs and remembering so many holiday seasons they had spent together. But as soon as Karen Carpenter’s dulcet voice began the next one, he knew he had made a big mistake.

Merry Christmas, darling.
We’re apart, that’s true.
But I can dream and in my dreams
I’m Christmasing with you…

… I’ve just one wish on this Christmas Eve:
I wish I were with you.

Drew put down the wine glass and buried his face in the softness of the tufted silk pillow beside him. His shoulders shook and chest heaved as he poured all his cumulative sadness and loneliness into the kind of crying breakdown he hadn’t allowed himself for at least a month now. How could he have predicted that such a sweet and innocent little Christmas song by The Carpenters could trigger such a relapse?

With grim determination, Drew lifted himself up, wiped his eyes, and leaped more than walked to the sound system cabinet. Grabbing the iPod with one hand, he jerked it and the cable connecting it from the sound system. With a windup worthy of a baseball pitcher on the mound, he delivered a down-the-middle strike directly through the center pane of the leaded glass door leading to the sunroom.

“I’m so sorry, Bill,” he said to the empty room, tears streaking his face. “But it hurts more than I can stand. I will never play your music again.”

Christmasing With You is available at MLRPress.com

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