Sunday, December 30, 2018

Year-End Holiday Wishes


I want to wish you all the happiest of holidays and the healthiest, best and most productive New Year.!

I’ve been quite busy this fall writing and I thought I’d let you know what’s in the pipeline.
My general practice is to write a first draft, put it aside, then come back to it a few months later. I’ll add in descriptions, make sure the timeline works, and so on. If I’m happy, I’ll send it off to one of the freelance editors I use. Then I’ll do another draft based on her advice, hire my fabulous cover designer to create a great cover, and then put it up for sale.

Sometimes a book takes more than two drafts. I’ve been working on an MM romance version of the story of David and Jonathan from the Bible, for example. In the first draft I took the Bible stories from the book of Samuel and knitted them into a coherent timeline (apparently several different authors contributed to that book, so it’s a mess.)

It wasn’t a real love story yet, because the Bible didn’t treat it as one, so I had to do another draft to improve that. I’m hoping after another draft, and then editorial review and revision, it’ll be ready this spring.

Also on my hard drive is a historical MM romance set along the Delaware Canal in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where I grew up. It’s also where the golden retriever mysteries are set. I’m in a historical mood right now—almost finished with a book I’m calling The Gentleman and the Spy, a romance adventure set a few years later but in London and the Cotswolds. Something about the tumult of that period appeals to me—the US was recovering from the Civil War, and Victoria reigned over India.

And finally, I finished a first draft of the next Have Body, Will Guard book, in which Aidan’s ex, Blake, needs him and Liam to protect Blake’s husband, an Argentine diplomat, at a convention in the Bahamas. You can feel free to tell anyone you know in the IRS that it’s loosely based on a trip my partner and I took in the spring!

If you haven’t read the most recent book in the series, The Same Page, Jon Michaelsen has posted an exclusive excerpt at his website, featuring the secondary couple of the book, young Russian Arseny and his Italian boyfriend Giovanni.

I’ve had several readers ask to see them in another book. What do you think? Leave a comment here or at Jon's blog and I’ll choose someone to get a free digital copy of The Same Page—or any other book in the series, if you wish.

While you wait for all that, here’s a brief piece of flash fiction about Aidan and Liam, who can’t seem to get away from protecting people, even if they’re not hired to do so.

Christmas Village in the Place Massena, Nice

“Ice skating, Aidan? Really? You do know it’s eighty degrees outside.” Liam stared at me.

“Yes, but this rink is only temporary for the holidays.”

“Didn’t you get enough of the cold when we were in Chechnya?"

“It’s not like we were there for vacation. Please, Liam?”

“Fine. But if you fall on your ass, I’m laughing.”

“Ditto.”

They drove their Jeep down into the center of Nice, which was jammed with holiday tourists, and found a parking place in a garage near the Place Massena. On their way to the ice rink they passed an animated Christmas village, complete with elf, and a place where kids could have their photos taken with Santa.

“If you tell me you want to sit on Santa’s lap I’ll call you a pervert,” Liam said.

“I’ll settle for your lap, later.”

Beyond Santa’s village was a sugar shack, which was announced as a Canadian tradition. They both followed the instructions, dipping a stick in hot syrup and then rolling it in snow until it became a lollipop. “This is good enough to make me want to visit Canada,” Aidan said.

 They strolled through the rest of the Christmas village, where people shopped for handmade ornaments or crèches, drank mulled wine and ate crepes and waffles. The rink was the size of an Olympic swimming pool, about half-filled with skaters in an odd mix of clothes, from T-shirts and shorts over bare legs to ski pants and long-sleeved turtlenecks.

It was in the low sixties, so they had both worn jeans and polo shirts. While they fitted their skates beside the rink, the fan blowing cold air chilled Aidan’s bare arms and rose goosebumps, but once they were on the rink he didn’t notice them anymore.

His first few glides were wobbly, as he let his body remember how to do this. He had grown up on a lake in Pennsylvania, and when it froze over he joined the rest of the neighborhood kids out on the ice, skating in loops and joining pick-up ice hockey games.

As with almost everything athletic, Liam was better than he was, taking off on a long glide right out of the gate, even though Aidan was sure he hadn’t been on skates since he was a teenager. Aidan focused on keeping his balance, skating slowly around couples and small children.

As he did, he watched the crowd. When he had taken bodyguard school years before, when he first decided he wanted to work with Liam, one of the things he’d been trained to look for was people whose attire didn’t fit the weather. Men in long overcoats, for example, when the temperature didn’t merit it.

But that rule didn’t seem to matter when it came to an ice rink on the Côte d’Azur. A young man, his face almost obscured by his heavy beard and a wool cap over his head, wore a heavy wool coat that hung to his knees. But who could blame him, when the ice was a frosty thirty-two degrees, with cold breezes generated by the fans at the sidelines that had chilled Aidan earlier.

Ahead of him, Liam twirled around and skated backwards toward him, then took Aidan’s hand and spun him around slowly. “You goof,” Aidan said, but he smiled.

Liam let him go, and zoomed off around the rink, and Aidan skated slowly behind him. When he passed the young man in the overcoat, he couldn’t help noticing something in his look. He remembered going to gay bars when he was barely drinking age, back in Philadelphia. He had the feeling he’d looked that way, longing as he watched men come and go with each other. Would he ever find a man to enter his heart?

There had been Blake first, for nearly eleven years, and then Liam, so Aidan knew that his youthful fears had been ungrounded. He had the desire to pull that young amn aside and tell him not to worry, everything would be all right in the end.

But what if he wasn’t gay? Suppose he was just frightened of getting on skates?

“Did you notice the guy in the overcoat?” Liam asked, as he skated up beside Aidan.

“The one who looks like a kid outside a candy shop?” Aidan said. “Yeah.”

“I wouldn’t describe him that way. I’d say the guy who looks like he’s hiding something under that coat.”

“Liam. He probably just wanted to stay warm out on the ice.”

“But he’s not on the ice. He’s on the sidelines and he’s sweating like mad. Why not take off his coat?”

The next few moments appeared to Aidan to pass in slow motion. The young man unbuttoned his coat, and Aidan recognized the outline of a long gun beneath it. Liam saw that, too, and with a strong push on his skates, glided quickly toward the sidelines. He jumped the low fence with the ease of an Olympic skater, slamming into the young man.

The crowd reacted by pulling back, especially when a twenty-something mother noticed the gun that had fallen free and called, “Au secours! Un pistolet!”

Aidan skated close to where Liam wrestled with the young man, but couldn’t do anything to help because he had his skates on. Fortunately a pair of flics arrived almost immediately, securing the long gun and separating Liam from the young man, whose hat had come off to reveal an unruly mop of black hair.

Aidan skated over to the exit, swapped out his skates for his shoes, and picked up Liam’s running shoes as well. As he returned to Liam, he heard his partner explaining how he had noticed the gun. 

The crowd supported him, and the dark-haired man was hauled off to the police station, after the flics had taken information from all the witnesses.

“Just another sunny day on the Côte d’Azur,” Liam said, as he swapped out his skates for his shoes. 

“I’m starved. How about we go back to that Canadian place and try the grilled marshmallows dipped in chocolate?”

“You know the way to my heart,” Aidan said. “Though you did cause it to skip a couple of beats when you launched yourself at that guy.”

“Just keeping things interesting,” Liam said.

Thanks for reading this far! The hardest thing about the Have Body, Will Guard series is figuring out why someone needs a bodyguard. I’ve already done the following:

1.    A courier who needs protection (Three Wrong Turns in the Desert)
2.    A pop star who comes out amid death threats (Dancing with the Tide)
3.    A boy who may be in danger as a pawn in his father’s business deal (Teach Me Tonight)
4.    The young daughter of an opposition politician (Olives for the Stranger)
5.    A businessman building in a sensitive area (Under the Waterfall)
6.    A man who learns dangerous information about the government (The Noblest Vengeance)
7.    A former porn star in danger (Finding Freddie Venus)
8.    A man whose former love is now a government official (A Cold Wind)
9.    A young man who needs to be rescued from Chechnya (The Same Page)

(BTW, all the links are to Amazon, where I sell most of my books, but they’re all available widely at Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple and other e-retailers.)

Any ideas I can use? I’d love to hear them, either by email, Facebook message or post here or at Jon Michaelsen’s site.

Love and joy –

Neil

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