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Belts and braces

In llight of recent stuff on Facebook, where the Powers That Be seem intent on driving anyone with an alternate identity used either for professional reasons – in my case my name is just so damned common – or for self protection, either off the site completely or to fan pages that we all know just don’t work even when paid for I’m going to try to post here a bit more frequently and check G+ more often.

The beauty of Facebook was that everyone was there. Way to go to split up a lovely community.

Talk like a Pirate Day?

In case you didn’t know today, September 19th, is the annual Talk Like a Pirate Day. Why Sept 19th? Blowed if I know. Why NOT Sept 19th?

Anyhow, just because I like pirates, here’s a long piratey snippet from On A Lee Shore:

Amidships the party was getting rowdy as the musicians sawed, pounded, or whistled. One crew challenged the other to wrestle and made wagers on the outcome. It looked like anarchy, but there were men in the waist of the ship who stepped in if the struggle got too aggressive. Kit found himself laughing as he watched Saunders, bottle held safely out of the way, battering a brawny pirate about the shoulders with the despised volume of Homer.

Saunders spotted Kit, abandoned the brawlers, and made his way to his side. He offered O’Neill a swig from his bottle and leaned back against the transom.

“What a to-do,” he said. “Damn fellow knocked my bottle over, would have spilled it if I hadn’t looked sharp.”

“So inconsiderate,” Kit nodded to the book, “and he made you lose your place.”

“Hanging is too good,” O’Neill commented as he offered the bottle to Kit, who shook his head. O’Neill passed it back to Saunders.

“Barbuda,” Saunders said suddenly. “That is our destination. There I should be able to replenish our medicine chest—try as I might the men will keep catching things. While we are in port they will have the opportunity to catch some more I wouldn’t wonder. “

“Something to look forward to then—you and your syringe.” O’Neill grinned as Kit shuddered. “And what will you do, Mr. Penrose?”

“He will give his parole,” Saunders said, “as befits an officer of His Majesty’s Navy, and will accompany me to Willaerts coffee house to see if we can trade this unlovely item for something more elevating.” He waved the book again. “Or he will not give his parole and will spend our time in port chained to a long gun—possibly. It depends on our lord and master’s whim.”

Kit’s spirits had sunk to hear that, and he shook his head. “You must see that I can’t give my word not to try and escape?” he said. “I can promise to guide the ship to safe waters, but I won’t take part in acts of piracy or neglect my duty to return to my post.”

“You’re a fool then,” O’Neill said, without rancour. “This can be a fine life for those of us cast out. Half the men on board here would be hanged or starving, else. True there are a few who would knife a blind beggar for half a groat, but most are just getting along.”

“Indeed we are,” Saunders said. “I too, Kit, was once part of your glorious institution,” he said the word with great relish. “But I too fell foul of the authorities. I lost the life of a man rather than, as in your case, Kit, losing a mere boat. That I had a drink or two taken was seen as the reason for his demise, though a far better and soberer doctor than I would have been hard pressed to save him. So—they consigned me to Gehenna.”

“Gehenna? I wouldn’t have described the Africa as Gehenna,” Kit said. Saunders had mentioned the wreck of the Malvern, so he was half expecting a reference to the cities of the plains. Gehenna had thrown him.

“Hah! No! You’re right. The Africa is an abode of angels. I was referring to the Army!” Saunders rolled his eyes and took a drink to wash away the memory. “No wonder I ran away to sea. Come, Kit, you must have a drink with me to celebrate our disgrace and our subsequent escape from tedious respectability.”

Kit took the bottle, containing God knew what. “To tedious respectability,” he said and made a creditable mime of taking a sip until O’Neill slapped him hard on the back. Kit choked down a mouthful and coughed.

“Well done, Lieutenant Penrose, sir,” Saunders crowed. “We’ll make a pirate of you yet.”

“If I live!” Kit wiped his tongue on the back of his hand. “Trying to drum up trade, sir? That’s truly awful.”

“Isn’t it though?” O’Neill said taking the bottle. “Now you hit me while I take a swig.”

comfy chairMy guest today is a favourite author and a leading light in the formation of UK Meet as we know and love it. Jo Myles lives in Somerset, England, with her eight-year-old daughter and another bun in the oven (due Dec 23rd!). She has been writing gay erotic romance for the last five years, mostly published by Samhain. Her books are all set in England and are deliciously humorous, sexy contemporary romances with the occasional dabble in ménage and kink. Her next novel, How To Train Your Dom in Five Easy Steps, will be published on 23rd September.

Welcome Jo, and thanks for being such a good sport about answering my questions.

Can you tell me a little about yourself? For instance, do you have to have a day job as well as being a writer?

I live in a small Somerset town with my eight-year-old daughter, Daisy, who has Downs Syndrome. I’m one of those lucky writers who can somehow just about afford not to have a day job and live off my writing. I don’t think I’d be able to if I lived in the US, though. Us Brits are lucky to have a more robust welfare state, reasonable taxes and free health care.

I’m currently five months pregnant so I’m not sure how much writing I’ll be able to do over the next few years, or how I’ll survive. I expect I’ll have to move in with my boyfriend at some point, although I’ve got quite used to it being just me and my daughter at home. Sharing with another adult will involve lots of compromise and he’s horribly messy, but I love him anyway ;)

When you aren’t writing, is there any other creative activity you enjoy? Have you ever written about it?

I’m a hopeless craft addict, and over the last few years I’ve become obsessed with dressmaking. It’s such a wide field with so many techniques to learn. I’ve now covered lots of the basics, so I’m getting more into couture sewing projects, pattern drafting and working with trickier fabrics like chiffon and knits. I wrote a fashion student hero in my novella, Tailor Made, and I’m planning to revisit Felix and Andrew in another novella called Custom Fit, hopefully out early 2015.

What are you reading? Can you recommend something that you wished you’d written yourself?

I’m currently reading outside of m/m romance as I’ve felt the need to have a break from it while I complete my latest WIP. I’m reading The Timetraveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger at the moment which I’m absolutely loving. It’s a literary romance, but also written in an accessible enough style to make it a worldwide bestseller. Yeah, I wish I’d written this one! I’d have added a happier ending and a few sex scenes, though. It’s frustrating to be told they’re having amazing sex, but always fading to black. Show me, damn it! I demand smut!

In that crucial inspiration stage of a new story which comes first? Plot, situation or character?

Situation generally comes first, shortly followed by character. I usually have a vivid scene in my mind—often a comic one—and the rest of the story follows from there. I either work backwards (how did they get to be in this situation?) or follow the consequences of that first scene. For instance, in The Hot Floor, it was the bath falling through the ceiling scene that came first. In Screwing the System, it was the job interview, and in Merry Gentlemen it was the seagull “shower”.

Put together your ideal team of men/women – drawing from all and any walks of life, fictional or non-fictional – who you would want to come to your rescue if menaced by muggers/alligators/fundamentalists?

Indiana Jones instantly springs to mind, but it would have to be the younger version from Raiders of the Lost Ark. I’d also want Ripley from Alien, Trinity from The Matrix and Sarah Conner from Terminator 2. Those women can kick arse! I think Mike from Breaking Bad would be great too, as he seems to know what to do in just about any dangerous situation. And if circumstances demanded being able to read body language and defuse a situation before things got critical, I’d want Cal Lightman from Lie To Me. And that’s not just because I fancy Tim Roth, honest!

Villains are incredibly important in fiction since they challenge the main protagonists and give them something to contend with beyond the tension of a developing relationship. The cruel sea. The serial killer. The society itself. Your hero’s inner demons. What sort of villains do you prize?

Writing a flesh and blood villain is always fun and they can be such scene stealers—I thoroughly enjoyed writing Saul in Tailor Made and Grant in Stuff. I’ve always been a fan of the Hollywood British villain, and Alan Rickman is a perfect example of how to do it right. I have to admit, though, I don’t use a human villain all that often, as it isn’t always realistic. My characters are usually battling their inner demons or what they think are society’s expectations for them.

Snog, marry or avoid – which of your characters? OR Of all your characters who would you be most enjoy pushing downstairs, sharing a taxi cab with, or having them move in next door so you saw them every day?

Since most of my characters are gay I don’t think I’d get very far if I tried to snog or marry any of them. Perhaps it could work out with Jeff White in my next novel, How to Train Your Dom in Five Easy Steps, as he is at least bi. He’s more my type than my other bi hero, Perry in Stuff. As for avoiding… I don’t know that I’d want to avoid any of them. Even totally obnoxious people are fascinating when you’re a writer, and there are very few people I actively avoid in everyday life.

I’d definitely want to live next door to Mas from Stuff. He’d keep me endlessly entertained.

What are you working on at the moment? Can you discuss it or do you prefer to keep it a secret until it’s finished.

I’m currently working on Scrap, which is the third in The Bristol Collection after Junk and Stuff. Normally I’m fine to share some details, but I’m keeping quiet about the heroes for this one until my betas have read it, as I’m concerned one may not be a popular choice. I just had to write him again, though!

Could we please have an excerpt of something?

This is from my next novel, How to Train Your Dom in Five Easy Steps.

Jeff let himself into the house and ran up the stairs, retrieving his suitcase of kink from the top of his wardrobe. Now he just had to quickly unpack the stuff and lay it out on the sofa, then hide the case so Eddie wouldn’t realise that was the full extent of his collection. Ever since speaking to bloody Sandi, he’d been increasingly self-conscious about how few tools of the trade he had. But the proper kit was bloody expensive, and he’d learnt the pitfalls of buying cheap tools the hard way. Nothing like having a trowel handle break on you when you were in the middle of building a wall to realise that you should have forked out the extra twenty quid and got yourself a professional-quality one.
But when he got downstairs, he spotted Eddie striding down the garden path through the front room window. “Fuck.” Jeff legged it through to the kitchen and plonked the case on the table. Hopefully, Eddie hadn’t seen him. It was always harder to spot people inside a house than it was to look out of the windows. Well, unless you had the lights on, in which case everything in your house was on display for any old potential burglar to check out.
Jeff unzipped the case and pulled out a paddle, a flogger, a tawse and a riding crop. He contemplated the dressage whip. It had stung like bloody buggery when Jeff had tried it out on his thigh. And Eddie had said he didn’t much like those kind of stinging implements.
Jeff added it to the bunch in his hand, along with the cane. Fuck it. Why not? Eddie said he could take all this stuff and enjoy it, hadn’t he? And something about getting a high even off the kind of pain he didn’t much enjoy at the time. Jeff had to stop feeling guilty about the prospect of hurting someone. Painsluts wanted to be hurt. That was part of the whole job description. And sadists enjoyed hurting them.
Right. He could do this.
“I hope you’re ready and in position, bitch,” Jeff called.
“Yes, Sir, right where you asked me to be.”
Jeff opened the kitchen door and got a prime view of naked backside bent over his table.
Fuck. He really wasn’t meant to find that sexy.
Jeff closed his eyes, trying to erase the memory of Eddie’s bare bum. Actually, as bums went, it hadn’t been a bad one—lots of smooth white skin and perky cheeks—but it hadn’t had the right shape. Women’s arses were rounder. Softer. They wobbled. Eddie’s had been kind of…
Jeff opened his eyes briefly. Firm, that was the word he was looking for. Muscular, even. He couldn’t bloody well erase the image from his head. Felt like it had been burned onto the back of his eyelids. At least Eddie had kept his legs together. Jeff didn’t think he’d have been able to cope with seeing his meat and two veg as well.

***

Jo’s latest novel, a filthy BDSM romp, is out on the 23rd September.

How to Train Your Dom in Five Easy Steps

Sometimes the little head really does know best.

Jeff White’s needs are simple. All he wants is a submissive to help him explore the dominant side that his ex-girlfriend couldn’t handle. Problem is, inexperience in both dating and domming has resulted in a string of rejections.
What he needs is an experienced sub willing to show him the ins and outs of controlling a scene. Unfortunately, the only one willing to take him on is male, and Jeff is straight. One hundred percent, never-gonna-happen straight.
Easygoing painslut Eddie Powell doesn’t care that Jeff is younger, working class, and shorter. Eddie likes a bit of rough, and Jeff fits the bill perfectly. The trick will be convincing him to follow Eddie’s five-step training programme—which would be easy if Eddie wasn’t starting to have feelings for the rough-around-the-edges landscaper.
Once Jeff lays his hands on Eddie, things definitely get out of hand. But it’ll take more than hot, sweaty, kinky sex to persuade him to come out of the closet—especially to himself.
Warning: Contains a happy sub, a confused Dom, a high ratio of sex to plot, misuse of root ginger, and a suitcase of kink. Written in Jo’s usual exceedingly “English” English.

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Train-Your-Five-Easy-Steps-ebook/dp/B00KT23WMW
Samhain: http://store.samhainpublishing.com/train-your-five-easy-steps-p-73624.html

Author bio:

English through and through, Josephine Myles is addicted to tea and busy cultivating a reputation for eccentricity. She writes gay erotica and romance, but finds the erotica keeps cuddling up to the romance, and the romance keeps corrupting the erotica. Jo blames her rebellious muse but he never listens to her anyway, no matter how much she threatens him with a big stick. She’s beginning to suspect he enjoys it.
Jo publishes regularly with Samhain. She has also been known to edit anthologies and self-publish on occasion.

Website and blog: http://josephinemyles.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/josephine.myles.author
Twitter: @JosephineMyles
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3499509.Josephine_Myles
Instagram: http://instagram.com/josephine_myles
Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/hrQ4s

Screwing the System

The Hot Floor

Stuff: Book 2 of the Bristol Collection

Blooming Marvellous

All change

For the past couple of months I have been flailing. There’s no more dignified word I can use to describe it. I dislike change – if it isn’t actually broken I see no reason to mend or replace it. Why wallpaper when bookcases and paintings cover the walls much more cheerfully? Why replace tried and tested systems at work with something described as ‘dynamic’ and ‘use friendly’ that actually takes 4 times as long? I grieve when a pen runs out and has to be discarded. Silly, I know, but that’s the way I am.

So you can imagine my horror when I was told that my kitchen didn’t just have to be redesigned but the whole building had to be demolished. It wasn’t a fancy kitchen – it was shabby and battered and leaked a bit but I knew where everything was and everything sort of worked. I convinced myself that dodging drips when it rained was good exercise. But the leaks got worse and we had to bite the bullet.

Over the past week we have gone from this:

Excuse the mess. we were at the ‘taking every single thing out of every cupboard’ stage

To this:

And now there’s a big hole:

But OMG the toys!!

Unfortunately I haven’t managed to get the builders – 2 twenty-somethings with no discernible body fat – in shot. But I’ll keep trying.

So – as I meant so say – if I’m a bit distracted or distraught – this is why and I apologise for it.

One of those days

I won’t go into detail but it’s a day when I need the comfort of writing about sun sea and shenanigans. also I miss Kit and Griffin quite a lot, so here’s a bit of story that may or may not end up in Lee Shore 2.

The eerie moan carried well on the still air. Even at this distance – a good hundred paces away over rocks and a strip of still azure sea – Griffin winced at the sound.
“I’m sorry.” Kit didn’t look as though he knew whether to laugh or be apprehensive. “I didn’t realise how single minded he would be.”
“You could have asked.” Griffin stretched out on the sand, his arm under his head, his hat pulled down to shade his eyes. The Cycladean sun warmed him even through his clothing. If there were better places than this little island to anchor while waiting for their passenger, Griffin couldn’t think of one. But in retrospect it had been a mistake to allow Kit and Denny to go and buy supplies alone. Kit could be relied upon to be sensible and efficient with anything nautical or tactical but Denny, surely the oldest and oddest cabin boy ever to sail the seven seas, could talk Kit into almost anything.
“You could have bought Denny a drum. A small one. It would have taken him a day to master the intricacies and he would have lost interest but Kit – dear God, Kit. Bagpipes!”
“When he asked me for a groat to buy a tsampouna I thought he was hungry.”
“I thought you knew Greek.”
“I thought I did. Maybe Homer and his bunch didn’t have them.”
“Oh I bet they did, they just kept quiet about it.”
The moaning from the ketch rose to a sharp squeal and ceased.
“Benedigaidd Duw.” The other three crew members were also ashore, as far away from the awful noise as they could get. Lewis raised his head from Protheroe’s belly and glowered across the water.
“Don’t get your hopes up.” Saunders turned another page in his book. “I would put money on that last squeak having startled our intrepid musician. In a moment he’ll see if he can do it again. There – I told you so. I’m afraid, dear gentlemen – and Kit, because sometimes, dear boy, your stupidity astounds – we will have to wait until Denny gets hungry before we can ask him to put the instrument away. Has anyone got any wine left?”
Kit leaned to pass him a bottle and Griffin’s glance rested with affection on his lover’s back, shirtless and brown as a nut. Unable to resist, he lay his hand on Kit’s waist, enjoying the play of muscle under his palm, and slipped his smallest finger below the waist band of his breeches, where Kit’s skin, he knew, was just as smooth and muscular but of a far paler hue. Kit turned his head and fixed him with an amused and tolerant stare that warmed Griffin’s heart. Once Kit would have checked to see if any of the others had noticed first.
“I think I’ll swim.” Griffin patted the sun warmed flesh. “If you took those off you could join me.”
“I could.” Kit grinned and got up, extending a hand to help Griffin to his feet. “There’s a spot at the end of the headland where we could dive.”
And a spot, just beyond, out of sight of the rest of the crew, Griffin reflected as he tugged his shirt over his head. But he wasn’t sure whether Kit had remembered that.

Title: Dakota Skies
Author: Taylin Clavelli
Publisher: Wayward Ink Publishing

Picture1

Synopsis

Born in the wrong time…

In 1875 Dakota, Sheriff Jamie Carter has to hide his interest in men, even from his gutsy twin sister, Anna. On a good day, the truth can mean a bullet between the eyes, and on a bad, one in the back.

A man on a mission…

Jamie leaves Anna in charge of Blackrock and he hits the bounty hunting trail, along with his faithful equine companion, Houston. Five territories, scores of ‘Wanted’ posters, and many bullets later, his path unexpectedly converges with that of enigmatic loner, Kit Brooks.

Two men with one soul…

Will the smoldering fire between them rage into an inferno and break down protective barriers, allowing them to find love? Or will it separate and kill them?

Beneath Dakota skies…

Jamie and Kit’s story is a sweeping saga of cowboys, Indians, persistent broads, and vengeful villains, where the cowboys aren’t always the good guys, and love can’t be taken for granted.

Book Trailer

[Click here to see the trailer]

Buy the book:

WIP: http://www.waywardinkpublishing.com/product/dakota-skies/
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00NHPMJ7C/
Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00NHPMJ7C/

About the author:

Taylin Clavelli lives in the United Kingdom, about 15 miles south of Birmingham, and a short journey from the world famous Cadbury’s Chocolate factory. She’s married with children and loves her family with all her heart.

Her love of books has been a long standing affair, with Taylin liking nothing better than to lose herself in an imaginary world.

Until she met Lily Velden, she never considered trying her hand at writing. However, after talking ideas, Lily encouraged her to put pen to paper—or rather, fingers to keyboard. Since, with a few virtual kicks in the right place, she hasn’t stopped. Her confidence eventually led to her writing an original work for submission.

Her first published work was Boys, Toys, and Carpet Fitters, developed for the Dreamspinner Press Anthology – Don’t Try This At Home.

Now she absolutely adores immersing herself into the characters she creates, and transferring the pictures in her brain to paper, finding it liberating, therapeutic, and wonderful.

Outside of writing, her interests include; martial arts (she’s a 2nd Degree Black Belt in Taekwon-do), horse-riding, all of which facilitates her love of a wide variety of movies. Her action heroes include Jet Li and Tony Jaa—finding the dedication these men have for their art combined with their skill both amazing and a privilege to watch. If pressed, she’ll admit to thinking that the screen entrance of Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean – Curse of the Black Pearl, and Shadowfax in LOTR, to be the greatest screen entrances ever. Her all-time favorite movies are Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.

The simple things in life that make her day, putting a smile on her face are:

Laughter – especially that of her children.

The smell of lasagna cooking – it makes her mouth salivate.

The dawn chorus – no symphony ever written can beat the waking greetings of the birds.

Social links:

Website: http://www.taylinclavelli.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100005234535413
Twitter: https://twitter.com/taylinclavelli

comfy chair
My guest today is Lily G. Blunt who writes contemporary gay romance and erotica. She has several self-published stories available on Amazon and is also published with Torquere Press and Wayward Ink Publishing.

Welcome Lily and thanks for agreeing to be interviewed.

Can you tell me a little about yourself? For instance, do you have to have a day job as well as being a writer?

I was a teacher of junior school children for over twenty-five years but “retired” just over two years ago. My intention was to use my time to write more, which I suppose I have. At least I don’t write in the middle of the night anymore like I used to.

When you aren’t writing, is there any other creative activity you enjoy? Have you ever written about it?

I spend some of my time making m/m themed and book trailer videos. (see the YouTube link below) I also walk quite a bit with my daughter and her dog for fun and to keep the legs moving as I spend a lot of the day seated in front of the computer screen. We’ve been to the mountains and lakes in Austria four times. The scenery and a few experiences inspired me to write Opposites Attract¬—my story for Wayward Ink’s Stranded anthology.

What are you reading? Can you recommend something that you wished you’d written yourself?

I usually have several books on the go at once on my iPad and Kindle. I’ve just read an ARC of Clare London’s fabulous A Twist and Two Balls and am about to write a review of it for her. I’ve almost finished AJ Rose’s Queers. I’m also reading Jay Northcote’s Nothing Special and NR Walker’s Starting Point. I have many books waiting to be read, but keep 1-clicking, so my list is forever increasing. I recently finished Damon Suede’s Hot Head. I’d been meaning to read that one for ages. I have an outline plan for a story in my Boys on Film series about two supposedly straight buddies who sign up to film for Blue House Studios. So I hope my writing and final version will be as fabulous as Damon’s. I loved that book.

In that crucial inspiration stage of a new story which comes first? Plot, situation or character?

For most of my stories it has been a situation that comes to mind first. The plot and characters build up from that scene and the interaction I picture between the two guys. For example the initial inspiration for Paint the Sky came from a line in the song Empty Chairs. I happened to be singing it to myself over and over one day:

“I wonder if you know
that I never understood
that although you said you’d go
until you did I never thought you would.”

A scene formed in my head with two guys having this conversation. For some reason one of them was an artist and the other was jealous and suspicious of him. So the whole story stemmed from that situation. I also had an idea to use some of Van Gogh’s paintings and his life story as inspiration and the two plots melded into one.

Do your characters arrive fully fledged and ready to fly or do they develop as you work with them? Do you have a crisp mental picture of them or are they more a thought and a feeling than an image?

My characters develop as I plan and start writing the story, plus they often change in some way too as I write and picture them interacting. I have a template I use when I’m planning and fill in the physical and other attributes about the main characters that I refer back to and add to as the story develops.

Is there any genre you would love to write, ditto one you would avoid like a rattlesnake?

My husband is always saying I should write something my family can read and that is more ‘main stream’. But I wouldn’t want to write an m/f story just to please my family or on the off chance it would sell more copies. I’ve only ever written two m/f chapters and they have long since been deleted. I’m not interested in writing any more.

One day I’d like to write a gay romance or mystery where the love scenes fade to black.

I’d also like to make use of my history degree and knowledge gained from years of teaching pupils about the Ancient Greeks. In fact, I’ve already started to plan a children’s historical/fantasy story series, but have yet to begin writing it. I have a sound background knowledge of the myths and legends from that time, but I would add a twist and make it more fantasy than historical. I love all the monsters and weird creatures and am adding magic into the mix as well.

Villains are incredibly important in fiction since they challenge the main protagonists and give them something to contend with beyond the tension of a developing relationship. The cruel sea. The serial killer. The society itself. Your hero’s inner demons. What sort of villains do you prize?


The villains I like to read about are the characters or situations that cause angst within the plot and break my heart by coming between two lovers who are meant to be together. So even though they make me cry, I love to read this and always hope there will be a happy ending. The ending of the film ‘Star Man’ still makes me tear up, as does Dan Skinner’s Memorizing You.
What are you working on at the moment? Can you discuss it or do you prefer to keep it a secret until it’s finished.
I finished the final edits for Opposites Attract the other day. That will be published on October 10th in Wayward Ink’s Stranded anthology. I’ve been asked to make the video trailer for that, so that will be first on my list of things to do when I return from my holiday in Exmoor.
I have various ideas for what to write next. One might be to continue Finn or Theo or even Cliff’s story from Paint the Sky, but nothing has grabbed me yet.

I have various other plot bunnies and outlines of stories in different stages of development. The children’s story I mentioned above and my best buddies story for Boys on Film. I also started an m/m/m/m story a while ago, but I’d forgotten about it—so I might dig it out and see what it’s like. I’ll probably cringe at my writing from three years ago. I think the idea of writing a foursome in bed is a little tricky, but four guys in a relationship would be fascinating to write.

I also hope to write more short stories for anthologies and keep up with my Free Fiction Friday posts. So I’ll be kept busy. I’ve just got to make my mind up what to start writing first!

Could we please have an excerpt of something?

From Paint the Sky ~ Chapter 1

I stepped out of the examination hall at Manchester University sighing in relief and strolled towards the student café for some lunch. If the excited buzz around me was anything to go by, everyone else also thought the exam paper had been a breeze. I smiled at their whoops and cheers, and silently thanked our lecturer for priming us so well. Knowing I’d only one more exam to sit the following morning, and being well prepared for it, I decided to relax for the rest of afternoon, before knuckling down to some last minute revision later in the evening.
Being a glorious sunny day, as is usually the case in England during any examination week, the grassed area in front of the old university buildings was packed with lazing students; some sprawled on the lawn in pairs or clusters, others huddled around wooden picnic tables. End of semester fever hummed like bees in the air. I would have been welcome to sit with several of these groups, but as usual, I opted to be by myself. It might have been the age difference—I was two years older than most of them—or that I’d never seemed to gel with any of the crowds while I’d studied here. I was a natural loner. The only time I made any meaningful connection with someone was when I was seeking a blowjob in one of the gay clubs on a Saturday night. Even then, it usually ended with just a thank you and me walking away from any potential for a relationship.
Before reaching the café, I came to an abrupt halt. I spotted a familiar solitary figure sitting on one of the farthest picnic benches, his paints and canvas spread out before him. I watched the fair-haired guy clean his brush in the jar of sullied water, his tongue sweeping over his plump bottom lip, observing the red stone building as he did this.
It wasn’t the first time I’d laid eyes on him. I’d seen this hottie around the university grounds many times before. Always alone and often sketching the scene in front of him. I never managed to catch his eye, nor pluck up the courage to approach him. For all my outward bravado, I hadn’t wanted to embarrass myself nor be rejected by him. The artist, always engrossed in whatever he was doing, never looked up. As much as I willed it to happen whenever I passed by, he never noticed me.
For some reason or other, our paths had never crossed socially over the past three years, and now our student years were almost up. University ended for the summer recess in two weeks time and we would be going our separate ways. If I didn’t talk to him today, I’d probably never get the chance again. It was either now or never.
Lacking my usually abundant confidence, I held back, trying to decide on the right approach so I didn’t mess up what was to be my one and only opportunity with him. Standing there under the shade of a large oak tree, I observed him from a safe distance, wondering whether my intrusion would be welcomed. He always seemed such a loner, as if he spurned company in general and would do the same to me. I tutted aloud when I realised I could be describing myself. Perhaps we had more in common than I’d thought after all. I just had to show him I was willing to talk to him.
As soon as the picnic table next to the artist became available, I dashed to claim it for myself. If I hadn’t already, I hoped to draw his attention by deliberately making a load of noise as I sat down and dumped my bag on the bench. The blond artist briefly looked my way, our eyes catching for a second or two, before he turned his head back to his painting. I leaned down and rummaged in my bag for some bottled water to quench my sudden anxiety-driven thirst.
I’d never encountered rejection at a nightclub. Not once, as far as I could recall. But this was a different situation entirely, and thinking this might very well be my first rebuff; I dithered a little longer, nervously fiddling with the strap on my bag and taking unnecessary gulps of the tepid liquid. What if this guy was straight or already spoken for? What if he wasn’t interested in me?
From my position, I had a clear view; not only of him, but also the painting he was making. The guy was certainly talented; the watercolours mixed on his palette were applied with skill. As much as the developing painting fascinated me, the creator was of more interest. When his head tilted, his wheat-coloured locks fell forward over his cheek, the sunlight giving the impression of waves of silk, or so I imagined as I began to compose the first lines of a new story in my head. His top lip held between his teeth softly in concentration, so absorbed he appeared unaware of his surroundings—and of me.
Despite questioning other students in my classes over the past few months, I was unable to find out anything about him other than he was a painter, a solitary one at that. Even when I pointed him out, no one knew his name, or where he lived. Not one of them took the same classes as him. Some had said they had seen him with one or two guys on occasions, but couldn’t recall many details.
The guy was shorter than myself and well built. I stared at his muscular, bulky thighs filling the legs of his jeans as they spread out on the seat. He wore a faded grey t-shirt with indecipherable lettering and an arty theme: of Picasso or Dali perhaps. Fair hair covered the skin on his exposed golden arms; one consequence of sitting in the midday sun for hours, I guessed. His rounded chin adorned also with light coloured stubble. I wondered how his facial hair would feel against my skin if we kissed, or as his lips moved down my torso. Shivering with sudden arousal, I practically groaned.
A tilt to his head signalled the artist had moved his focus from the building. Deciding not to turn away from him, I swallowed down my anxiety, and swept my hands nervously through my hair. Our eyes finally met and held, neither of us flinching nor pulling away. Large blue-grey eyes bore down on me, the sadness emanating from them enough to make me gasp. I wondered if he was lonely too. Slowly my lips formed a gentle smile, and in return, I received the same. For an instant, his eyes sparkled, sending a welcome tingle over my already warm skin. We both quickly glanced away to look at the painting and then back at one another again.
Summoning my courage and not anticipating rejection now I’d seen that magical glint in his eyes, I stood and walked toward the artist, looking at the canvas laid out before him. I allowed sufficient time to appraise his work before commenting.
“You’ve captured the colour of the stone work beautifully.” I hoped that was an intelligent enough response without sounding like some poncy git. “And I like the way you’ve painted those wispy cusps of clouds.” I looked between the sky and the artwork for comparison, waiting for a reply or at least some sort of acknowledgement.
The artist nodded thoughtfully, scrutinising his work, seemingly appraising it as well. “Thank you.” His voice was shy and gentle. “I’ve not quite finished.”
“Would you mind if I watched you paint for a while?”
“Feel free.” His cheeks flushed lightly.
I walked around the picnic table, sliding in next to him. “I’m Benjamin, but I prefer Ben.”
“Vinnie.” A smile lit up his face again, and it hit me how really gorgeous he was when he smiled. After rinsing his brush in the dirty water, he applied a wash of green for the grass in front of the building. “Or Vincent, if you really must.”
“As in Vincent Van Gogh?” I chuckled, feeling pleased. Not only did I now have his name, I’d shown him I knew something of the art world.
“Yep, you got it. My parents loved his work, hung loads of his prints on their walls, and they used to paint in his style as well.” He dabbed a darker shade of green in the foreground with a thinner brush to add texture. The smile disappeared, making me wonder if the sadness I sensed in him was related to his parents.
I wanted to keep our conversation flowing. “Are you studying Art? Or is this a hobby?”
“I majored in Art, although, I’m almost finished now. Just have the final assessment of my portfolio tomorrow afternoon, plus the evening viewing for family and friends to get through on Saturday, and then I’m finished here for good. Three years done and dusted. Thank goodness.” His voice oozed excitement at first and then became laced with a little trepidation. I wondered if he was worried about the exhibition, or the fact he was about to embark on a new phase of his life. I could empathise with that.
I pointed to the piece in front of him. “So, this won’t be on display then?”
He shook his head. “No, I’ve painted this scene several times before. The one I have on display was done in acrylics in the style of Van Gogh’s later work.” I nodded as if I understood what he meant.
I watched Vinnie apply more paint to complete the finer details of his picture. It really was beautiful. Despite the building having historical significance, the subject matter itself wasn’t particularly awe-inspiring to me. He’d obviously been drawn to some aspect of this building if he’d painted it many times before. Perhaps it was just a pleasant and convenient place for him to sit and paint.
“Part of the skill is knowing when to stop, especially when using watercolours. At least with oils you can let it dry and then add some more on top if you want to change or add something.” He rinsed out the jar and his brushes with some clean bottled water and dried them with paper towelling.
Realising he was packing away his supplies, I grappled with ideas to retain him a little longer. “And what do you intend to do now you’ve finished uni?”
Vinnie paused in his packing up. “I already work part-time in an art supplies store down by the river off Bridge Street. You know, the one with the art gallery and coffee shop attached?” I nodded. I knew of it. “I’m working there full-time over the summer, running art classes for kids as well as working in the shop.”
My father owned a rival business on the opposite side of the city, along with another twelve shops in nearby towns. As my father was doing his best to put his employer out of business, I didn’t think I should mention it. If only I’d known beforehand, I could have arranged a summer job for him in one of our stores. “Not returning home to your parents, then?” As soon as I uttered the words, I regretted my thoughtlessness. Vinnie looked down immediately and resumed packing away.
“No, I‘m staying here for now. I’ve paid the rent on my bedsit for the next two months and my brothers live nearby in St Helens.” He gave no mention of his parents. “How about you?”
I laughed with embarrassment. “My mother still insists on a family holiday every year, despite me being twenty-three. So next month, I’ll be in Tuscany with my parents and brother for three weeks. And then I’m supposed to help out my father with the family business. I haven’t decided yet for certain, though.”
“Twenty-three?” Vinnie questioned. “I took two gap years before I started university, too.” I smiled, realising we were the same age. “I worked during that time to save for the tuition fees. I didn’t want a huge debt when I’d finished.”
I never worried about paying tuition fees or anything else for that matter. My father provided more than enough for me, and not for the first time, I felt a little guilty about that. “I travelled around Europe for eighteen months before deciding what I wanted to do and then helped out in my father’s business until I started studying here.”
Vinnie frowned a little. His bag was packed and ready to go, but he remained seated, which I took as a good sign. The canvas lay on the table’s surface, drying in the sun. “So, what was your degree?” He sounded as if he genuinely wanted to know.
“English Lit. and Music.”
Vinnie nodded, his lips pursing while mulling over his next question. “What instrument do you play?
I beamed, chuffed he was trying to find out more and showing an interest in getting to know me. “Piano, violin, guitar… the spoons.” I risked a joke, hoping to tease another smile from him.
Vinnie’s eyebrows scrunched for a second, and then he laughed along with me, tapping his thighs as if playing some invisible spoons, before asking, “So what career would you really like?”
I shrugged. “To be honest, I can’t make up my mind. My father wants me to follow in his footsteps, but I’d like to write. I suppose I could do both.”
“You write?”
“Yes, fiction—I write gay romance and fantasy in my spare time. Or try to anyway.” I liked that Vinnie didn’t blanch at gay. In fact, his eyes sparkled when I said the word. “I’ve got loads of them half-written. I just need time to edit and finish the best ones off. Not that anyone would want to read my stuff.”
“You should submit them to a publisher, you never know.” He really had the most gorgeous eyes, blue yet not quite blue—with a hint smoky grey.
“What colour would you call your eyes?” I cringed when I realised I’d actually asked him that.
He blushed, looking away from me, and rummaged in his bag for his box of paints. His slender fingers pulled out a tube, the lid being a similar colour to his eyes. “Stormy Blue, I think. A mix of pale blue and grey,” he suggested, showing me the name label.
I took the tube as if inspecting the colour, looked in his eyes and smiled, before handing it back to him. “Yep, looks like it.”
He packed it away again, took out an envelope, and stood. “Talking of writing, I need to post this letter to my brother so it gets there by tomorrow. It’s his birthday.”
“Never heard of the telephone or email?”
“I don’t own a phone or computer.” His cheeks flushed. “All my money goes on art equipment, rent and food. I never wanted to get into debt or owe anyone any money.”
I raised my eyebrows in surprise. I couldn’t imagine life without my phone or Mac or any of the luxuries I’d wangled out of my father over the past three years. Most students I knew had a range of modern devices. And damn it, I couldn’t ask for Vinnie’s number to get in contact with him again.
“And I like to write anyway. Plus I often include a small picture I’ve painted for him.” He placed his bag on his shoulder.
“Good luck with your assessment and the viewing next week.”
“Thanks.” Vinnie went to walk away, but paused. “You could always pop into the exhibition on Saturday evening if you’d like to see more of my work,” Vinnie offered, doubt clearly rising in his voice. “I could do with all the support I can get. It’s in the Art Department studio. There are posters with the details all around uni advertising it.”
Cheering inwardly, I kept a restrained look on my face. “I might just do that.”
“It’s free,” Vinnie added, smiling.
As if that would make any difference to me. “Hope to see you there, then.” I smiled back at him.
“See ya.” Vinnie walked away.
I sat there and watched him until he was out of sight, taking in his rear view with lustful appreciation. His jeans clung tightly and my cock twitched at the thought of seeing his naked butt.
I remained seated for another ten minutes, basking in the late afternoon sunshine. I could have punched the air—I’d actually spoken to him. Saturday evening couldn’t come soon enough. It wasn’t a date as such, but I hoped it might lead to one. Something I hadn’t had for a long time. The idea of taking Vinnie on holiday to Italy flashed randomly across my mind. I could persuade my parents easily enough. I laughed at myself. I needed to concentrate on getting a date with him first. But the idea of sharing my hotel room with Vinnie for three weeks had me grinning from ear to ear, until I remembered he had a summer job. I grabbed a sandwich from a local store on the way to my apartment, only now realising I’d missed out on lunch.
Later that afternoon, still on cloud nine, I pulled out my revision notes on Shakespeare, Wordsworth and Jane Austen. After an hour of skimming through them, I gave up. All I could think about was Vinnie, his painting and our earlier conversation. Deciding to do something totally different, I booted up my Mac with excitement coursing through me. Opening a clean page, I began to write a new story.
So inspired, I was still typing three hours later when I realised I was hungry again. I made a cheese omelette before returning and adding more, eventually settling into bed at midnight.
And the main character in my new novel?
Vinnie, of course.

###

Paint the Sky

Blurb:

A love of art…

A mutual interest in art draws two shy university students together. Ben admires Vinnie’s painting of the university building, so Vinnie invites him to an exhibition of his artwork. From a wealthy family, Ben purchases some of Vinnie’s art and arranges for the artist to personally hang the paintings in his apartment.
Starry, starry night…
Ben commissions Vinnie to paint his portrait, in order to spend more time with the artist. On the night of the sitting, Vinnie fingerpaints the starry night on Ben’s chest… and they kiss. They begin a relationship beneath the night sky, God’s own canvas.
But every relationship has its ups and downs and so it is with theirs. When Ben thinks Vinnie spends too much time with a fellow artist, his jealousy drives a wedge between them and forces Vinnie into the very thing Ben dreads.
Hold tight to your dreams…
Ben and Vinnie will have to walk through fire before they can find one another again. But if they believe, and if they keep their faith in the night sky and each other, just maybe they can make their dreams of love come true.

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