Sunday, July 21, 2013


Since I have a good bit of Cymric or Welsh blood as well as Irish in my veins, I am fascinated by the country of Wales and all the wonderful legends from this area and these people. We are all familiar with the Arthurian tales, of course, and have probably visited Wales and neighboring Cornwall frequently in our reading, especially if we favored the likes of Daphne DuMaurier and the Brontes, among  the premier authors of the Gothic romance novel! I just added to the genre is a very small way with my new story, Dark and Stormy. See the prior posts for information on it!

As I often say, I am a creature of the high desert and believe I have lived a number of lifetimes in this kind of environment but the genetic memory or connection to the British Isles is also strong. I will probably never get a chance to visit that region since time is ticking merrily away and I do not see a strong chance of finding the fortune that would allow me to go spend the 'quality time' for the independent journey I would want to make. So maybe next time--as well as in the past!

Still I read a lot about the history, geography, cultures, legends and myths, and even modern realities in the Celtic regions. I do have a picture or two that I have collected, not mine of course, but valued items in my collection.

By the way, I have library of about 3,000 photos, perhaps a third or so my own and the rest 'pinned' from many sources that serve as a slide show screen saver on my computer. The selection is totally random and each shot is displayed for about thirty seconds. Even after a couple of years, I can sit and watch it for hours and do at times. But I digress.

Here is a shot of Welsh mountains. An odd thing I notice about the mountains in Scotland, Ireland and Wales--many of them are barren. It's not that they are above timberline like the high peaks of the North American chains that run from Canada through the US and Mexico and eventually rise again as the Andes in South America. I think the cause is a combination of centuries of grazing and timber harvest and the harsh winds and storms off the ocean that have scoured them bare over the eons. Still, they almost seem "desert" in their stony and rugged faces. This scene could almost be along the Pacific Coast, don't you think? Not desert in the cacti and sand image yet deserted and also with scant vegetation!

I also want to find a picture of Powys castle since a cousin's research indicates that my maternal grandmother's family, Wilcox, had ties to this region and the lords of that domain. If I do I shall post it soon! That family name was once Wilcockson or perhaps the sons of Will the Cock. Did that long ago ancestor raise poultry? Was he "the cock of the walk"? Who knows. The background of many surnames can be quite fascinating! And Wales has a peculiar tradition of names reflecting one's trade but used in an unusual way: David the Train, Lew the Swine, Dylan the Bard etc. reflecting a railroad man, a swine herd and a poet!

There is a totally silly little tale of "Oom the Belt Holes" about a leather worker who devised a clever idea of having a buckle that connected into holes on the belts he made to keep one's trousers secure and in place. The punch line is something like "Ask not for Oom the Belt Holes." I told you it was silly but I do enjoy the funny punny sort of "fuzzy puppy stories"--not quite the full grown shaggy dogs! An old friend of my late husband's had an innumerable collection!

And since I am celebrating Wales, I have to share a dragon! We all know the link between Wales and dragons! This was taken at a kite festival by Luanna Rubin  who runs the marvelous fabric and quilting site. I think it is marvelous!

Gothics Galore!!

Here , hot off the presses are the blurbs for the five great stories in this new PAX! If you are a fan of the classic Gothics and yet favor gay romance, you are in for a treat! These five stories all sound delish and I can't wait to read the other five. I am especially intrigued by Coliseum Square because it too has a tutor and a mute child! Talk about a really weird coincidence. But Lynn and I write very different voices, styles and tales so I am sure you will not get a deja vu feeling from these two! 

Grab them while they are new and on sale, like right now!

Coliseum Square
by Lynn Lorenz
ISBN-13: 978-1-61124-457-1 (Electronic)
Gay / Historical / Gothic
Heat Level: 3
Length: Novella (29k words)
New Release 35% Discount (One Week Only)

 New from Lynn Lorenz, author of the Amber Allure best-sellers David's Dilemma and Remember Me?......

When Mark Madison accepts a position as tutor in New Orleans, he does so to run away from his past. Yet he never once believed the house on Coliseum Square would actually hold the key to his future. Royal DuCote, the wealthy owner of the house and father to a son named Luc, is dark, sexy, and haunted. Ever since the death of his wife and Luc's mother, nothing has been the same. Luc refuses to speak or let Royal near him, and putting Luc in school is out of the question, so he hires a tutor for his son. But when he meets Mark Madison, he's instantly attracted to the younger man. As tensions build between the Mark and Royal, Luc's affliction becomes a mystery Mark wants to solve. But will what Mark discovers destroy all that is left of the DuCote family?...........Find Out More!
Dark And StormyDark And Stormy 
by Deirdre O'Dare
ISBN-13: 978-1-61124-458-8 (Electronic)
Gay / Historical / Gothic
Heat Level: 2
Novella (21k words)New Release 35% Discount (One Week Only)

 New from Deirdre O'Dare, author of the Amber Allure best-sellers Rez Dogs And Scooter Trash and The Sorcerer's Apprentice......

Gently reared Martin FitzHugh finds himself adrift without means when his uncle goes bankrupt from gambling debts. Martin seeks a livelihood by taking a post as tutor to the young children of an earl on a remote Welsh estate. Arriving on a dark and stormy night that sets the tone for his whole adventure, he falls into intrigue, mystery and powerful new loves--for the three traumatized children and their enigmatic guardian. Dylan Davis was called back from military service in South Africa after his elder brother supposedly found his wife with another man, killing the pair, then himself. Now, Dylan has to assume the title of earl as well as care for his nieces and nephew. He hires a young man, sight unseen, to become their tutor while he sets out to uncover the roots of the scandalous tragedy that tore apart his family. Both matters reveal surprising results, however...some tragic and some delightful...........Find Out More!
Mist In The Night
by D. J. Manly
ISBN-13: 978-1-61124-459-5 (Electronic)
Gay / Gothic / Dark Fantasy / Vampire / Paranormal / Ghosts / Hauntings / BDSM (Light) / Ménage (M/M/M) / Group Sex
Heat Level: 3
Length: Novella (19k words)
New Release 35% Discount (One Week Only)

 New from D. J. Manly, author of the Amber Allure best-sellers Cherished Displacement and Weeping Roses......

Jamie's on the brink of rebelling against everything in this life when, on one fateful evening, he's invited to spend time in what's thought to be a haunted house near the university campus. His roommate and another guy, totally "out" and ready to play, want Jamie to join them for some sexy fun. Intrigued by the idea of exploring his sexuality, Jamie follows the two men into the old gothic mansion on the hill, once a place of decadence and torture. But could there still be echoes of the past lingering there? Jamie's about to discover much more than his sexual preferences on a night of terror he won't ever forget...........Find Out More!
My Soul He Seeks 
by Darcy Abriel
ISBN-13: 978-1-61124-460-1 (Electronic)
Gay / Contemporary / Gothic / The Arts / Paranormal / Ghosts / Hauntings / BDSM (Light)
Heat Level: 3
Extended Amber Kiss (15k words)New Release 35% Discount (One Week Only)

 New from Darcy Abriel, author of the Amber Allure best-sellers Nightingale and Run To Ground......

In Ternekill, Terne House was said to be haunted. Auction house researcher Byron Shepley knew that all too well because he'd broken into the then-vacant, ominous mansion when he was sixteen, and he'd never forgotten the chilling experience. Or perhaps it was the house that never forgot him. Now, the old estate is no longer vacant, and on this night, the delivery of an expansive instrument has Byron returning once more. Will the house let him leave this time? Ravol Nova appeared in Ternekill and took up residence at the Terne House two years ago. Once a well-known guitarist, Ravol formerly played his music for no one but his lover, the flamenco dancer Francisco Caspar, until the man died a horrible death at the hands of an unknown killer. Ravol, now a recluse with a dark, mysterious past, came to Terne House for a specific purpose, and has been waiting a long time. On a dark and stormy night, one man may trade his soul for passion, while another may find the redemption he's been seeking for so very long. What dangers await these two men when they finally unite and come face-to-face with destiny?...........Find Out More!
Shattered By Fate 
by A. J. Llewellyn
ISBN-13: 978-1-61124-461-8 (Electronic)
Gay / Gothic / Mystery / Detective / The Arts / BDSM (Light) / Interracial / Multicultural
Heat Level: 3
Extended Novella (39k words)New Release 35% Discount (One Week Only)

 New from A. J. Llewellyn, author of the Amber Allure best-sellers Balthazar Starblitz and Nightwalker......

Elvis Summers and his writing partner Holt have scored a fantastic gig--spending two months in romantic Buenos Aires while researching their old TV idol, Guy Williams, famous for playing Zorro and the futuristic, perfect father in Lost in Space. What made Williams fall so deeply in love with Argentina that he gave up his acting career to move there in the mid 70s? For years, the actor remained an icon as Zorro in Argentina, even though he died alone and under mysterious circumstances in his apartment in the lush neighborhood of Recoleta. As Elvis and Holt retrace the actor's footsteps, history and gothic romance seep into their souls. Elvis meets a hot local named Joaquin, a man with his own secrets and apparent fears. Elvis falls hard and fast for the sexy porteño, but after scorching nights of passion, Joaquin inexplicably vanishes. Elvis desperately searches for him even as Holt tries to convince him that Joaquin was obviously not interested, and that residents of Joaquin's apartment building claim no such man exists. Feeling the ghost of Guy Williams accompanying him on his sometimes-frightening search, Elvis is determined to find the man he came to adore. Or will he, like TV's Zorro, find himself shattered by fate?...........Find Out More!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A little about The Last Train to Clarkdale

I've been a railroad buff for most of my life. When I was growing up I seldom saw trains except for the small mixed freight "local" that came into the Verde Valley from the Santa Fe main line across northern Arizona. Then on occasion when my grandparents came out west, we went to Flagstaff and met them there when their train arrived from Kentucky. That was always very exciting.

Just for fun here is a very old snapshot of the original depot and a more recent view of the current one. They give you an idea of how Clay recalls it and how he sees it in the story. They are both my photos. The one was taken with a Kodak box camera and shows the building just left of the tall smoke stack, long gone. The color one on my recent trip back for my high school reunion.. Now the former freight line into Clarkdale mainly serves as a scenic tourist excursion line. I took this trip a few years ago myself and found it to be wonderful, a fantastic way to spend an afternoon. The idea of a story featuring this trip began to take shape in my mind but other things came first. Finally I had a chance to tell that tale! This one will be coming out in the fall, perhaps around October, as part of another Amber PAX titled All Aboard. We've done trains before but its a great theme to revisit--at least for me!

The first hero came to me first and began to talk to me. Then a bit later, I meet the other man. It's very rough yet but here is the first part of the story....

Gliding down the gentle curves of I-17 from Flagstaff, Clay almost drove on autopilot, watching the familiar yet strange landscape unfold before him. They said you can’t go home again. He wasn't sure he even wanted to, yet something seemed to be drawing him back. The drag of it felt as relentless as one of those tractor beams they spoke of in old science fiction tales.  How many years had it been?
More than ten, nearer twenty…  He had to be bloody fucking insane to go back and relive a minute of it. The memories that filled the oldest suitcase in his mental baggage were all ugly, weren't they? And yet what he felt now seemed vague, gentle nostalgia instead of the bitterness he thought would be there.
As he turned north toward the Verde Valley towns, he decided maybe that was partly because nothing was the same. Oh, the same ragged old hills, the unbelievably blue sky, some of the old run-down buildings still mixed with the new ones. Would he run into any of the guys he’d known in school, the ones who’d taunted him as “Gay-Clay” and made his life miserable? Or any of the older folks who’d known his parents and been as appalled as they’d been when he was came out at sixteen? Still, he had to take that risk. He just knew he had to go back and come to terms with it all. 
The old grade school looked derelict and decaying. They had new schools now, consolidated to serve the several small communities instead of the low-budget old ones for each area. The middle school was gone—only a concrete foundation left. The old high school held some offices and a small shop or two.
He made a U-turn and headed down another road, the one that led to a favorite old hang-out. The railroad station had never been much, a small frame building painted a dull mustardy yellow, but for him it was paradise. He loved trains, always had. For several years the high points of his week were the days when “the local” arrived, a Santa Fe manifest freight bringing in a variety of commodities to serve the somewhat isolated area, a few villages in a river valley edged by rugged mountains.
Smelling the diesel fumes, hearing the powerful rumble of those GP-9 locomotives and sometimes daring to talk to some of the train crew took him out of his misfit status. When a work train came in with crews to maintain the tracks or repair the bridges over the many arroyos that tended to wash out during the summer monsoon rains, he would hang out and watch, listen and learn. Those experiences had turned him to the career he followed to this day, a life inexplicably bound to the railroad industry.
He pulled in to the parking lot, a much larger and well-maintained one than he recalled and looked around in amazement. The new depot, built in Spanish Colonial style, had class and quality. Behind the building, two older but clean and brightly painted diesel engines idled, hooked to a string of matching coaches and some open observation cars.
Of course, he recalled, they ran a tourist expedition here now. He’d read about it a few years back and then promptly forgot. On an impulse he got out of his crossover and walked in. Maybe he could still get a ticket for today’s trip, or at least soon, before he headed back to Topeka. It was midweek, just short of summer, and the crowds were not too heavy yet. As luck would have it, he got a seat on today’s trip. Maybe it was meant to be.
With a couple of hours to kill before the post-noon departure, he wandered through the gift shop and then out to an open courtyard that featured several bronze sculptures of wildlife. They were exquisite and beautiful.
A slight sound close behind him had him spinning around. Clay was always sensitive about his space, alert. Maybe that went back to the mean tricks and bullying he’d known in school. Unseen people behind him were not safe. Was this different? As he took in the man who had paused, a step or two away, he felt the same shocking jolt one got from a close lightning strike, the sizzle of energy and the keen ozone scent that stirred an adrenaline rush. Could a heart really skip a beat and then leap forward in double time? It felt that way. He sucked in a fast breath. Who was this guy?


Jon Reid took fame and notoriety in stride. As a world renowned wildlife and scenic photographer, his face might not be known but his name was. He kept clear of the danger zone in front of a camera but behind one, he was an acknowledged genius. Why then had life begun to feel dull, colors muted and flat as if viewed in poor light? Could it be because there seemed to be no new venues to portray, no new adventures to dare?
Or maybe because the solitude and independence he’d once valued so highly now seemed empty. Lonely... He’d never expected to apply that word to himself. He didn’t like it.
“Nice work,” he remarked casually when the man he’d approached whirled around like a startled deer and then stared, something akin to shock or amazement on his face.
The stranger nodded. “Yes, it is. They are, all of them. I’m guessing the same artist produced them. He didn’t do bronze, but I’m reminded of the Larry Toschik’s work.”
So, the man knows something about wildlife art. That wasn’t typical of the kind of tourists Jon expected to encounter on a much touted scenic rail excursion like this one. Still, some did come to see the eagles and other species that called the rugged and remote canyon home, the route the track traversed.
“I’m a fan of his work myself. I believe these are by another artist, though clearly one with a similar level of skill and attention to detail.”
The stranger nodded again. He edged back a step or two, while the initial expression of wariness if not actual fear left his face.
“Are you taking the train today?”
The other man shrugged. “Yeah. I hadn't really planned on it but when I found they still had seats available, I decided I might as well, almost as if it was an omen. I’m a train fan, always have been. Maybe it’s in the genes. Both my grandfathers were railroad men.” He stopped then as he feared he was babbling or talking too much to a stranger.
“I enjoy them myself,” Jon said, seeking to put the other man at ease. “A trip like this is fun for that as well as the sights to be seen. I’m hoping to get lucky and find a few photo ops today. I prefer to miss the summer weekend crowds. It’s easier to get some good shots if the observation cars aren't jam packed.”
They ended up eating lunch together, sitting out in the shady courtyard with food bought from the casual little cafe in the station. The weather was mild, warm but not yet the stifling heat that would come later in the summer. A light breeze carried the subtle sweet scent of mesquite blooms and tamer flowers making up the landscaping around the depot. Above through the slatted roof, glimpses of the incredible blue of the desert sky tempted the artist in Jon’s mind. He glimpsed a large bird, high in that sky, a hawk or perhaps even an eagle. With luck he’d see more where he could photograph them from the train.
While they waited for the train to load and depart, Jon enjoyed the company, despite his normal habit of staying aloof, He found the somewhat diffident younger man a pleasant companion. No harm in some conversation, was there? He doubted he’d ever see the other man, who’d introduced himself as Clay Carter, after this one day. Still, they talked easily and it seemed no time at all before the growing crowd of passengers gathered to answer the call to board.
Jon glanced at Clay as they tossed the trash from their lunch into a convenient can and started toward the platform. “What car are you in?”
Clay glanced at his ticket. “Flagstaff, it says here. It looks like they all have the names of Arizona towns. How about you?”

“I’m in Flagstaff as well. What a coincidence. Well, let’s obey that all aboard and begin this adventure.”

Dark and Stormy is coming soon!

Next weekend the Gothics Galore Amber PAX will be coming out. There are five great stories with the Gothic flavor. I have not read the four of the other authors yet but I  know mine is in the traditional or almost classic vein of the genre. I loved the style of Daphne DuMaurier, the Bronte sisters etc. So romantic and also touched with the shivery rush of fear and danger. I tried to bring a bit of this into my story and even wove a bit of a mystery into the tale which the two heroes get involved in solving. The bad guy comes to a fitting end and all ends well. Of course, as it is a romance!!

Here is the luscious cover again in case you missed it the first time. And then I'll give you another sneak peek at the tale. Specifics and buy link will follow soon along with the other four titles and their authors.

Excerpt: Dark and Stormy
 (this is about a third of the way into the tale and Martin again meets the mysterious dark rider of his arrival night.)

At one point, Martin’s feet went out from beneath him when he hit a slick spot in a narrow gully. Down he went, slipping and sliding, scooting on his arse down a muddy slash in the hillside until he finally fetched up against a tree that leaned out over the declivity. He grabbed the rough bark, halting his headlong fall and dragged himself up onto a rockier but less slippery spot. From there he continued down with no further mishap but his wet and muddy trousers clung to his legs, clammy and chilling. A fire would be most welcome. He hoped the hut offered at least that much.
As he approached the odd little structure, Martin heard muffled sounds which he could not quite identify, like a heavy step and a snuffle or whuff. Deep in the valley, dusk had turned to real dark. Nearly blind, he ran smack into a huge, dark bulk. When he flung his hands up to stop himself, he encountered warmth and soft fur over a solid wall of flesh. A horse, a big one and dark, a shade darker than the trees and ground. The animal snorted and sidestepped but did not offer him any harm. To his hands, bruised, scraped and cold, the soft fur felt wonderful. The beast shuffled, snorting mildly in an anxious manner, apparently as startled as he by their sudden collision.
“Easy, big boy,” Martin murmured. “If you’ll allow, I’ll just move around and past you.” The horse shifted another step or two and revealed a gentle glow that seemed to come from the far side of the hut. Either a door was open or that side was not walled. Martin stumbled toward the light. Before he was able to peer around the corner, a low voice challenged him.
“Halt. Who goes there? What is your business?”
The voice was not that of a humble and unschooled huntsman, shepherd or wood cutter, which Martin expected. It was a cultured voice, each word clearly and precisely spoken.  The tone also held a note of warning, even perhaps of threat. Martin sensed the speaker was not a person to be trifled with or presumed upon but his needs drove him past caution.
“It is I, just a weary and chilled hiker who’s become lost in the hills.”
As Martin rounded the hut to look into the front, which was indeed mostly open, his eyes were dazzled by the dancing fire in a rustic fireplace inside. At first all he could see was a towering black form, more shadow than shape, looming to bar his way. Then, as if the other man decided Martin posed no threat or danger, he stepped aside.
“Come then, and warm yourself. I haven’t much to offer but was about to brew a bit of tea. I can share my pasty with you if you’re in need of nourishment. It’s quite a large one.”
Martin stumbled to the fire and held his hands out to the welcoming warmth. Within a moment, his trousers were steaming as the heat started to drive the moisture from the woolen fabric. When his front had warmed enough to warrant it, he turned to let his back dry, too.
As he looked at the other man, sudden recognition jolted through him. A black horse, a big man with a black cloak—who could it be but his mysterious benefactor from the night of his arrival, now several fortnights past?
The man kept his face averted from the firelight at first. When he finally turned, Martin realized he wore a silken black mask which concealed all but his mouth and chin. What skin he could see was darkened as if rubbed with charcoal or boot black. Disappointment speared him. It seemed he would not get to see the face of his rescuer after all.
“I think I know you,” he said, after a moment. “Were you not the one who snatched me from the mired coach and bore me to Ravensrawn the night of the terrible storm back in February?”
The masked man laughed. “It seems you have a proclivity for getting yourself caught in difficulties. You’re the young tutor for the Ravensrawn children. How come you to be out in the woods alone?”
Something familiar about the man’s voice tugged at Martin’s awareness but he could not quite pin it down. He lacked time to ponder on it, for he knew he needed to answer the man’s question and did so. “The children and the housekeeper are away for a few days and I was at loose ends. Since I hiked in my youth on my grandfather’s estate near the Scots border, I thought to explore a bit. I must have gone farther than I intended or else I got turned around completely. I’ve been lost since well before sundown.”
The other man nodded. “We’ll have some tea then and I’ll see you safely home before I go on about my business. Though it isn’t really far, I can understand how one unfamiliar with our hills and deep gullies could become lost. It looks like you took a tumble, too. Are you hurt?”
Martin shook his head. “No, the only real damage was to my attire and my dignity. In retrospect, I would have been wiser to stay on the grounds. Hindsight is always so much clearer…” At his host’s gesture, he sat where indicated, on a rough bench to one side. The rustic seat looked to be made from a large log, split in half and cut to a length of four or five feet. At least my muddy arse won’t leave a mess on a better seat.
As he looked around, he saw the amenities were few. Surely no one actually lived here. The hovel could not be anything more than a temporary shelter for hunters, shepherds or others wandering in the wilds. Once sitting, he realized in a few breaths how very weary he was, even more now than when atop the hill. He had no idea how far he’d hiked but it had to be several miles, most of it up and down steep slopes.
He watched as his strange host fetched two rough earthenware vessels from a single shelf above the fireplace. From a knapsack beside the hearth he extracted a small pouch and took from it a generous pinch of tea leaves which he sprinkled into the mugs. As the kettle hanging over the fire began to chirp, he filled the crude cups with water and handed one to Martin.
Then he dropped to the bench on the other side and sat quiet for a time, gazing down at the steaming beaker in his hands. Although Martin could see little of the other man’s face, he sensed his host was troubled, perhaps worried or even angry. He found himself hoping he was not the cause of such distress.
Although the black clad man spoke in a mild voice and made no sudden or violent moves, he emanated confidence, power, even danger. A slight shiver tracked down Martin’s spine. Although he told himself he had nothing to fear, a mixture of anxiety and inexplicable attraction heated him almost as much as did the fire.

Although it made no sense, he felt as if he could follow this man to the ends of the earth were he asked to do so. The same strength, courage and defiance he’d sensed the first night still radiated from the tall stranger. He might not be exceptionally large, but his posture and attitude made him seem huge.