Monday, October 28, 2013

NaNoWriMo

So, many of may have noticed that I have sporadic at best and then mostly silent lately. I have had a lot of trouble finding inspiration and motivation. SO, I have decided to join NaNoWriMo this year. For those you who look at that and go WTF are all those random letters - it stands for the National Novel Writing Month (which is November btw). The goal is to write 50,000 words over the course of a month. Eeeep!  My goals for the month are twofold. First off - Finish True Love's Kiss (OH MY GOODNESS - IT IS TIME ALREADY). I will still parcel it out to you a chapter at a time but it will come on a regular schedule cause it is, you know, already written. But I am not predicting that to take up the full 50,000 words because I already have a good 14,400 words of it written and it is only meant to be novella length by the time it is done. Second off - get started on my next project. I have decided to write something to submit to an actual publisher. One of my very favorite publishers is Less Than Three Press. They are having a submission call for stories about missed connections for an anthology. I have a plot bunny about country singers that was actually inspired by my brief experiment with Music Mondays (hopefully I will get a few more of those in soon - if anyone has songs they want me to use, post in the comments).

So for the tl;dr version - National Novel Writing Month is a thing. I WILL finish True Love's Kiss and I will start my next project which involves country singers and a missed connection. ;)

Thank you for your time and have some pretty for your trouble.





Friday, September 6, 2013

Facebook

I have finally made the jump and joined facebook - about a decade later than everyone else, I know! This means I am sadly lacking in friends right now. So, come be my friend on facebook!! :) This is my profile.


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Book Review: Catch A Ghost


Title: Hell or Highwater #1 - Catch A Ghost
Author: S.E. Jakes
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Length:65,000 words
Release Date: 9/9/13
Rating: 4 Quills
Tags: law enforcement, military, private contract work, damaged men, kidnapping, badassery, alphas, hot, paranormal, ambiguous ending
Note: I received a free ARC of this story for the sake of review from Net Galley.

Blurb
Everyone knows that Prophet - former Navy SEAL, former CIA spook, full-time pain in the ass - works alone and thinks only about the trouble he can cause. But his boss, Phil Butler of Extreme Escapes, LTD., has just assigned Proph not only a new partner but also a case haunted by ghosts from Proph's past. Suddenly, he's got to confront them both head on.

Tom Boudreaux - failed FBI agent, failed sheriff, full time believer in bad luck - is wondering why the head of a private contracting firm has hunted him down to offer him a job. Still he's determined to succeed this time, despite being partnered with Prophet, EE, LTD's most successful, lethal, and annoying operative, and even though the case is also resurrecting his own painful past.

Together Prophet and Tom must find a way to take down killers in the dangerous world of underground cage matches, while fighting their own dangerous attraction. And when they find themselves caught in the crossfire, these two loners are forced to trust each other and work together to escape their ghosts...or pay the price.

Review

This is the story of two severely broken men trying figure out how to keep on living. Prophet struggles with guilt and ghosts from his past as he races to catch a future he doesn't really want. Tom has enough baggage to weigh down anyone and just doesn't want to drag anyone else down with him. Neither wants a partner - though for different reasons - but their boss, Phil Butler doesn't give them a choice. Prophet and Tom are sent on an assignment that tugs at Prophet's past in more ways than are apparent and the case pulls both of them into a dark and confusing world of slowly planned revenge and promises made that must be broken.

The first thing that drew me into this story were the rich, multidimensional characters. Cop/Spy/Assassin novels are a dime a dozen in the genre and after awhile it seems you are reading the same book over and over again. This is not that book. These are not those characters. Tom and Prophet are a unique blend of walls and vulnerability. The moment you think you have one of them pegged, they go and surprise you with a bout of truth or unexpected insight. These two play well off of each other with interesting dialogue and gut wrenching emotion.

I was also impressed with the fact S.E. remained true to her characters and true to her story by not wrapping everything in a pretty bow by the end of the book. I was initially shocked, and maybe a bit dismayed, by how the ending left Tom and Prophet. However, the more I thought about it the more excited I got for the books to come in this series. Rather than wrapping everything up and then tacking books with superficial conflict on for the sake of making a series, S.E. is allowing her characters room for real growth and development in the later books. 

There were just a couple of things that occasionally knocked me out of the story though. Since this is my first book by S.E., I am not sure if this is just her writing style or if it was an affectation of the narrative voice in this book. However, I noticed a tendency to leave out the subject, especially at the beginning of sentences. This can be used, on occasion to good effect. However, it was used so often that I found myself annoyed every time I saw it and I kept wanting pull out my red pen and add a subject.

Nevertheless, the wonderful characterization and solid plotting were plenty enough to make me want to continue despite this stylistic choice. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys darker mysteries with an element of the paranormal or anyone who likes to see two well developed alpha males go at each other. In many ways, Catch a Ghost, is reminiscent of the feel of Abi Roux's Cut & Run series (the later books of which are also available from Riptide). If you are a fan of that series, you should definitely check this series out!



You can pre-order Catch a Ghost here at Riptide Publishing for $6.99. If you are not into the whole pre-ordering thing, it will be released on September 9, 2013

Friday, August 30, 2013

Falling Apart is Available!!!

Hello All,
As you may know I wrote a second Love Has No Boundaries story for the goodreads.com M/M Romance Group. My second story is called Falling Apart. It is a wee bit darker than my usual stuff but my regular beta says it is one her favorites. I hope you enjoy it as well. Click here to read it. You have to be a member of the M/M Romance group at this point to access it (it is not hard, so if you aren't, you should be). In a few weeks, downloads will be available if you don't want to read it in the group thread. If you read and enjoy it please please please rate/review it. I would love you forever. ;) You can review it here.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Announcement Delayed

So I know I said I had an awesome announcement for y'all today but alas, it is not dependent only upon myself and the other party has issued a delay. Tune back in on Friday to see what I was I going to reveal today! I am being mysterious and I love it. ;) Now, as a thanks for tuning in, here is some pretty. :D


Monday, August 26, 2013

Urghhh...It's Monday

I have two words to explain my silence this last little while: migraines suck. We'll leave that subject there. To help you through your Monday (and me through mine), I will leave you with some lovely pretty. I don't have much more to say today BUT I have an awesome announcement tomorrow so be sure to check back in!



Do you sense a theme? ;)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

True Love's Kiss Update #5

Hello Everyone,
Would you believe that, despite having this blog for almost two years now I have NEVER tried to schedule a future post before. Well, it is true. And it is also the reason I have been incommunicado for the past week. I went out of town where I would have minimal reliable internet so I "scheduled" a week's worth of posts in advance. But alas. Rather than pressing "publish" which I assumed would publish them immediately, I put in the date and pressed save. Well, here we are a week later and none of them have been posted. Mea culpa. I don't want to inundate you with a week's worth of posts in one day so I will do one a day for a few days until I am caught up. So without further ado, I give you True Love's Kiss Part 5.

Click here for the True Love's Kiss main page or click here to go straight to Part 5!

Summary
Be begins to learn to fight from his bodyguard, Cresp and one day, Kalristian is caught watching one of their training sessions. Much to Be's surprise, Kalristian becomes flustered and ends up asking him out to the Fairy Gardens later that evening. While their outing begins rockily, Be and Kalristian open up to each other and decide to start again. They have a pleasant evening and are about to consummate with a kiss when they are interrupted with the news that Nullnomen has caught the shooter who attempted to kill Be.

Behind the Scenes
This was one of my favorite chapters to write. Firstly, because it was sweet and romantic (and I LOVE that) and secondly because I got to torture readers with a cliffhanger ending (muahahaha). Also, until this point, I had a much shorter version of this story planned. As I set up the shooter being caught I had to plan what the shooter was going to say and more explicitly outline how the evil plot was going to play out. Rather than make it a simple power grab (which was what I had in mind originally) I decided to add some complexity to it. No, you don't get to know what that complexity is yet BUT you will get to find out before the end. ;) Because of the plotting and planning that went into this chapter the whole story is probably going to be about twice as long as originally planned. The writer in me hopes that this will please y'all.

Also, some fun for any weapons enthusiasts out there. This is an approximation of the hammers that Be is learning to fight with. They are not the same size/shape as his blacksmithing hammers but it is familiar enough that he feel comfortable wielding them.


And just for a comparison, this is what one of his blacksmith hammers would look like - a little smaller and a little lighter. 


I hope you enjoyed that behind the scenes look and I'll be back tomorrow with some more! :D


Monday, July 29, 2013

Music Monday - Love Don't Live Here Anymore

Hello My Blog Readers,
I have been inspired. Yay! I am going to start a new thing. It may not go every Monday but I am hoping for at least twice a month. BUT, I need your help!!! I have always enjoyed listening to music and often those songs spin stories out in my head but I never get around to writing them down. Usually because I mostly listen to music while I am driving and fifteen songs later I have forgotten whatever story inspiration hit me. So, what I am doing is Music Monday. Music Monday will be ficbits inspired by songs! Now, to make it a little more fun, I wan't y'all to tell me what your favorite songs, most inspiring songs, most story worthy songs are. Post song title and artist (and link to a youtube video of that song if possible) in the comments. Depending on how many songs get posted I will work my way through the list posting a short ficbit inspired by each song. I am pretty excited about this so PLEASE PLEASE leave comments! Just so you know, this won't impact the True Love's Kiss schedule at all.

For today, I picked a song and wrote a ficbit to go with it - just as an example. Hope you enjoy it!


Love Don't Live Here Anymore
“Real Adventures Travel Agency – Where we can make your dreams come true. This is Aiden. How may I help you?” I spoke with a falsely cheerful voice into my headset. It had been a crazy day. No one just wanted to go parasailing in the rain forest or to lie on a beach somewhere. No, today people were asking for nudist kayaking and African Safari petting zoos.

My mind wandered as I listened to this customer describe long lost fraternity days and a bet made and could I help him find a place he and his buddies could swim with the sharks. That, at least, I could do. I was almost through with my formulaic “Good-bye and thank you for choosing Real Adventures Travel Agency” when I heard the bell over the door ring.

I hung up the phone, plastered a smile on my face and prepared to greet the next in a long line of customers. When I saw who was framed in the doorway, I squeezed my eyes shut, shook my head and prayed I was hallucinating. I opened them again and, unfortunately, I was not hallucinating.

Jeremy Jensen, ex-boyfriend and heart breaker extraordinaire was standing in front of me with one of his stupid arrogant smirks painted across his features. He was supposed to be working in Europe with his young pretty twink of a “research assistant” – not here, ruining my day.

“What, no warm welcome?”

I closed my eyes, braced myself on my desk for a moment, and pushed myself up out of my chair. Just before I let my hands rise with me I quickly pressed the two buttons needed to send Nick our pre-planned text for this situation. He’s here.

Now, Jeremy had never hit me. But that didn’t mean I wasn’t terrified of him. Somehow he wormed his way into my thoughts and managed to twist them all about without me even realizing it. It wasn’t until he was gone and my newly found best friend, Nick, shook some sense into me that I was even able to see how toxic Jeremy had been for me.

Somehow I always knew he would be back for me. It was what terrified me the most. Even knowing how he worked, somewhere deep inside the darkest parts of my heart I liked that someone, anyone, wanted me. That’s what the text was for – accountability. And Nick was probably already on his way over here. He worked in a building about five blocks away.

I shook myself back into the present and looked Jeremy square in the eyes. “No. No warm welcome. You lost that right when you ran off with Graham.”

A cloud passed over Jeremy’s features and he took an angry jerking step forward. I stood my ground behind my desk. This was no time to show weakness. Almost frighteningly quickly, his features changed. No longer was he radiating anger. Instead he had turned on the charm.

“Come on, baby. You know I love you. I’m sorry I made a mistake. I’m home now.”

My heart jumped painfully when I heard him call me baby. I heard Nick’s voice sternly inside my head. He doesn’t love you. He never did. He just wants to own you. I repeated it to myself one more time before I said, out loud, “No. I am not your baby anymore. I am sorry if you think you love me but I don’t love you anymore. Please leave.”

I head the bell over the door ring again. Over Jeremy’s shoulder, I saw Nick’s towering form. I almost let a sigh of relief escape but blocked it off at the last second.

Jeremy glanced over his shoulder, saw Nick, and turned back to me. “This isn’t over yet,” he hissed.

“Yes, it is.” I said in a cold voice. I stared at him, unwavering for another few seconds before he turned and stormed out of the door.

As soon as he was out of sight around the corner, I collapsed into my chair. I was startled by Nick’s loud whoop from closer than I realized he was.

He had a smile on his face and nearly shouted, “You were fantastic!”

I nodded shakily and tried to smile back at him but I was still a little off balance. Then he pulled me out of my chair and into his arms. My arms snapped to hold him tight, almost out of reflex. As he held me tight, supporting me, he whispered in my ear, “I am so proud of you.”

All of the sudden an awareness shot through me. I figured out what that tension that had been just under the surface these past few months had been. He had been waiting – waiting to make sure I was over Jeremy, waiting to make sure I was ready before he made his move.

With a surety I had never felt about any part of my relationship with Jeremy, I lead back, threaded my hands through Nick’s hair and pulled him forward so I could press my lips to his.

For a moment, he didn’t react – probably from the shock. Then his arms tightened and his lips moved and a moan escaped from somewhere deep inside him. Then it didn’t matter because we had melted into each other and it was perfect.

It was almost the end of the day so I broke the kiss for just long enough to lock the door, flip the sign to closed and drag Nick into the back room. He proceeded to shove me up against the wall and kiss me like his depended on it.

For the first time in a long time, I felt truly happy.


The Beginning.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

True Love's Kiss Update #4

I have been a little remiss in my True Love's Kiss posts this weekend. We can blame the Love Has No Boundaries event for posting my story yesterday. If you didn't get a chance scroll down a bit and click through to read Pickup Lines at the Goodreads.com M/M Romance Group. Without further adieu, I give you a brief summary of Part 4 and a little behind the scenes insight into (dun dun dun) the mind of the writer. *woo woo*

Summary
Be wakes up in bed, after being shot, only to find that King Kalristian has used the healing magic of the royal bloodline to heal him from his injuries. Much to his shock, Kalristian kneels before him and apologizes for allowing him to injured. After staying abed for one more day, Be attends a meeting with the King's inner counsel to discuss the assassination attempt. The King's spymaster, Nullnomen, deduces that Bierni was the actual target. If he is dead then they would be forced to put Kalristian back to sleep. After the meeting, Be and Kalristian share an unexpected moment.

In My Mind
This was an interesting chapter to write because it is the chapter where Be and Kalristian's relationship begins to develop into something less than hateful. I am used to writing short stories so generally things go a bit fast. However, I am trying to make this story longer so I struggled with how quickly to shift their relationship to make it realistic but also not draw it out too terribly.

Additionally, it was also the chapter in which I introduce the mystery - who shot Be and why? In order to do this I introduced Master Nullnomen and Silurianus' son. I admit, I was a bit ham-handed in their introduction and I might edit it a bit in the re-write. I sometimes get a wee bit over excited when naming my characters. I like to research what the name means and be really clever.
That is where Nullnomen came from. I may have taken six years of latin during high school and college and the name - in some horrible bastaridization of romance languages - literally means "no name" or "empty name." Thus, the king's master spy. I can't bring myself to change it despite it's ridiculosity. :D I figure if I'm the one writing, I get to have a little fun with it. ;)

I'll see you back in a day or so with the next update!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Pickup Lines Posted!!

Hello My Readers,
I have wonderful news. My story, Pickup Lines, has been posted. I wrote it as a part of the M/M Romance Group's Love Has No Boundaries event. You can find the photos, the prompt, and THE STORY here.


Blurb
Edmund and Mack have been friends for years. Edmund has been in love with Mack for almost as long. Things finally seem to be shifting between the two until Edmund ruins everything for the sake of petty infighting with his family. Can Edmund prove to Mack that he is more important than all of that or will he loose Mack forever?

If you read it and like (or I guess if you don't) please please please click over to the goodreads story page (linkity here) and give it a rating and/or review. I would love you even more than I already do. :D

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Falling Apart Excerpt

For a little change of pace today (we'll get back to True Love's Kiss Special Features tomorrow), here is an excerpt from my second Love Has No Boundaries story, Falling Apart.

***
I settled into his lap more snugly, and continued with a game we had been playing all week. "So, what is your most embarrassing moment?"

Now he groaned, but not in satisfaction. "Couldn't you have asked something easy like 'favorite color' or 'favorite dessert'?"

"You can answer those if you want but my question still stands." I said with a smirk in my voice.

"Fine," he paused, "When I was a rookie, I arrived first on scene to a break in alarm. It was right when 3D holo technology was being released. It was dark, and I was nervous and I had a ten minute standoff with a holo-image shooter. It took me years to live that down."

I couldn't help myself. I burst out laughing. "Seriously? A standoff with a holo-image?"

"It was dark. Shut up."

He grabbed me and wrestled me until I was under him on the couch. All of the sudden, I was completely aware of everywhere we touched. Calf to calf, thigh to thigh, hips to hips, chest to chest. I got momentarily lost in the depths of his eyes.

"Make me." I said breathily.
***
Hope that whets your appetite! I'll let you know when they are posted. In the meantime, here's some pretty for your hump day. :D



Monday, July 22, 2013

True Love's Kiss Update #3


Today you will be getting the summary for Part 3 and some visual inspiration for the Fairy Gardens! Hope you enjoy. :D You can click here for the True Love's Kiss homepage with links to all the chapters or you can click here to go directly to Part 3.

Summary
Be is still locked in the room, as we left him at the end of the previous chapter. Expecting the King or one of his functionaries when the door bursts open, he is surprised when his overly excited sister enters. She convinces him to stay in the capital and give King Kalristian another chance - if only so she has the chance to study under the palace healers and learn more of her trade. And explore the capital some. Promises secured, Be makes the best of being forced into a court dinner by befriending ex-High Regent Silurianus. The evening takes a turn when he is shot with an arrow while viewing the lights of the city from one of the palace towers with Silurianus and Mils. ;)

Fairy Gardens Inspiration
NOTE: I own none of these photos and did none of this art work. Sources are noted where I could find them.

unknown artist
Frederick Grier
Kolonihavehaus by Tom Fruin
Unwanted Visitor by Herb Williams
Enduring Trust by Chuck Peters

Enduring Trust in Snow

I absolutely love outdoor glass sculpture. It is so beautiful and can be lit wonderfully by natural light or by fire (as in the story). These are just a few of an absolute ton of wonderful outdoor glass sculpture that I found. If you are interested bring out the google fu and give a go at it. You won't be disappointed. :D I chose these particular pieces to share today because of their bright colors and bold style. I believe that this most represents the style of art that would be found in the Fairy Gardens. The colors, in particular span the spectrum and are magical to view - especially from above where you would be able to take in the entire garden at once - as Be, Mils and Silurianus are able to in the chapter. Never fear, you will get a closer look at the Fairy Gardens in a later chapter. 

I hope that was a fun detour into the world of True Love's Kiss. I'll be back a day or so with some more! :D


Thursday, July 18, 2013

True Love's Kiss Update #2

This is True Love's Kiss special feature post #2! Following you will find a summary of Part 2 and some behind the scene's look at the cover!

Summary
Prince, now King, Kalristian and Be speak for the first time and it isn't love at first sight. Kalristian is shocked by the number of years that have passed since he was put to sleep to keep the curse at bay. After a heated exchange, Be storms out, determined to leave. Instead, he is apprehended and locked in one of the rooms in the palace.

Where did the cover come from?!?!

Initially, I had three separate ideas for this cover. 1. Some fun fantasy background 2. Fire/Swirls/Etc to indicate mystery/magical fun 3. Image of castle/palace. Here are few mock ups that I made along the way to my final version. All images used here have the stock photo watermark because they are just mock ups to decide which image to finally purchase.







In the end - after much discussion with my writing group at the time - I decided I liked the idea of a palace image the best. The scenery ones I could find were just too boring and the magic in the story isn't quite so flashy as all that. I thought the ivory themed palace was a better portrayal of the romantic and fantasy feel of the overall story. And now, this is the one I finally chose.



I chose this font because it had a whimsical romantic air about it. It seemed to go well with the feel I wanted. I chose this picture - as opposed to the ones above - because it was a little less visually confusing than the last one which I always feel like I am looking at upside down for some reason. I rejected the first palace image because it seemed a bit too plain. I did, however, like the chandelier. This influenced what I was looking for as I continued my search. I ended up with this picture which was a suitably nice looking palace, with a chandelier that is not overly ornate. This cover is not quite so story specific because True Love's Kiss is a serial and thus not completed yet. While I have the plot planned out, the specifics will be altered a lot over the course of writing. I did not want to make an overly specific cover and then have it not be relevant. Thus, I went more for a feel, than plot points.

Hope that was enjoyable!! I'll be back in a couple of days. :D

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

True Love's Kiss Update #1

Now that I have completed my Love Has No Boundaries stories (Falling Apart still needs to go through final edits but it is turned in!), it is time for me to turn back to True Love's Kiss. I am so freaking excited you have no idea. I am going to continue to post chapters every 2-3 weeks (I wish more often but I am being realistic here) BUT I am also going to expand the story a bit - including adding a lot more back story and giving it a prologue. Once all that is done, I will let my betas have a go at it and publish it. I am hoping it will make it to a novella length. So far, I have stuck to short stories but I would really like to branch out.

In preparation for True Love's Kiss to start back up again, I am going to do some "refresher" posts. Every couple of days for the next week or so I am going to do a "special feature" on one of the previous chapters. Today we get to start with Part 1!

Click here to find a main page that links to each of the chapters individually OR click here to be linked directly to Part 1.

Summary
Bierni Nalorna of Sasharin has promised his sister, Milarna, that he would escort her to the capital as soon as she is old enough to make an attempt to break the curse of the crown prince. The royal line was cursed many generations ago to die unless they are bonded to their one true love by the time they are 20 years old (in the revised version I am upping this age a bit because I realized the characters I am writing are not that young). Any citizen can attempt to break the curse with true love's kiss. Be has no intention of kissing anyone, much less a cursed prince - he doesn't believe in all this true love malarky anyway - but events conspire against and he is forced to make an attempt. Much to his surprise, his kiss wakes the cursed Prince Kalristian.

Background
Initially, this was meant to be a standalone ficbit written as a part of my Friday First Kisses (I don't do that anymore...real life has gotten in the way). I absolutely love fairy tales - and had been enjoying reading the Fairytales Slashed anthologies from Less Than Three Press - so I decided to try my hand at a classic. But instead of a cursed Princess, there is a cursed Prince and his love is most definitely a man. ;) After posting it, I got some good responses and requests for more (it did end on quite an interesting note). I thought it would be fun to do it as a serial. Unfortunately, after completing Book 1, I found I didn't have the time I needed to write this regularly so I put it on hiatus. My life has now calmed down a bit and these characters have been floating around in my head so I am looking forward to continuing on.

I'll be back in a couple of days with a summary for Part 2 and some fun insight into the cover! If you have any questions or things you'd like to know about this universe, post a comment or shoot me an email (kchayes54@gmail.com). If it doesn't give away too much future plot I will do my best to answer!! :D

Monday, July 8, 2013

tumblr!

I have a confession to make. I have fallen to the temptations and depravities that are the world of tumblr. On tumblr I am not an author. I am not a reviewer. I AM A FAN(ATIC). I reblog my favorite shows (usually geeky in some way), I set my favorite ships to sail, I coo over the most adorable and ridiculous cat posts I can find and generally post randomness of every stripe. I am just now learning the joys of tagging (and am coming up with some pretty fun and awesome tags if I do say so myself). One that gets used more often than I might like, especially in reference to Janto is "tears to fill the seas of a thousand worlds." I think that pretty much describes tumblr as a whole. So, if you are interested, check me out over there: http://kchayes54.tumblr.com/

And now for those of you who have no interest in tumblr, I give you some pretty to make this post worth it. ;)



I am in a broody man mood today - deal with it.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Love Has No Boundaries Update

Hello All,
Figured an update was in order. I just got back my edits from the LHNB team for Pick Up Lines. It is shaping up well and will hopefully be posted in the near future (not sure when but I am getting really excited!).

Just a reminder, this is a story about the love between these two fellows. ;)




And here's a brief little excerpt to whet your appetites:

"So, you're my best friend, right?"

Mack had sat down at his desk and he looked up sharply with a wary glance. "Yes. But I don't think I'm going to like where this is going."

I smiled sweetly.

"Yeah, I know I'm not going to like it."

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Awesome News

Hello All,
So this past nine months I have been in a residency program in my field. This pretty much means that I get to work full time, take classes, and be professionally supervised all while earning a tiny little stipend which is barely enough to live on. And be excited about it. From the beginning I knew and the place I work at knew it would be over on September 6, 2013. So I have been searching for jobs elsewhere because my lovely gainful employment is gone (poof!) in very little time. And here's the good news: I FINALLY GOT AN INTERVIEW!!!

On Tuesday morning I will be putting on my big girl panties and venturing forth into the real world and begging to be given a chance to earn money. So I can eat. And pay my rent. And, you know, buy books. Any thoughts, prayers, energies through the ether, or other good wishes you can send my way would be greatly appreciated!

And now, as I go to prepare for my interview, I leave with some pretty that will hopefully show how much I love you all! :D



It doesn't get much better than men in kilts who are kissing...maybe if there were waistcoats involved...

Monday, June 24, 2013

One More Shot

Hello All - 
I have a bit of a treat today. Over in the Less Than Three Press Goodreads group, one of there editors does little prompt challenges. This week's challenge was "Give me one more shot." Here is my response to that prompt. Enjoy!

One More Shot

By Kathleen Hayes


“Give me one more,” I said as I signaled the bartender to refill my shot glass. One more shot and I would go home and pour myself into bed. I had just enough alcohol in my system that the crap hill that had been today was fuzzily out of reach.

It didn’t last long. By the time I got home and collapsed on my bed, the nice haze I built up at the bar had begun to fade. It felt like someone had died. A bit melodramatic, I know – but the person who has been there every day for the past fifteen years, through ups and downs, heartaches and happiness, regular days and crazy days, was gone. And it was all my fault.

I’d been in love with Bas since about five minutes after I met him. Granted I was 14 years old at the time and what I thought was love was probably more like a bad case of lust. However, over the years I had never had cause to change my opinion.

Bas’ bastard of a boyfriend had given him an ultimatum – marriage or break up. Bas had come to me to talk it out and I couldn’t take it a moment longer. If he had been happy, if he had wanted to get married, I would have let it go. I wouldn’t have said anything. But marriage is so final and he looked so miserable, I had to give him another option. That’s how I rationalized it to myself.

I had leaned across the expanse of my couch and kissed him. For just one breath it was glorious. He tasted like nothing I could have imagined and his lips were soft but just a little chapped. Heat and joy and sense of rightness spread through me in a fraction of a second. And then it was gone, shattered, when Bas pushed me away.

The look of pain and anger on his face was clue enough for me of his thoughts on the matter. I stammered an apology and fled. That was six hours ago. I’d turned my phone off and was too afraid to check it. Unfortunately, I used my phone as my alarm in the mornings. If I had any hope of being on time to work I would have to turn it back on and set the alarm.

I steeled myself. Three missed calls. Four text messages. All from Bas.

What the hell? Call me.

Tor – Don’t you dare ignore me.

Don’t make me come and find you.

Damn it – I’m coming to your place – you better be there.

I blanched at that last one and checked the time stamp. It had been sent only 20 minutes before. I swore under my breath. He would be arriving any minute. From the bottom of my bed where I was standing I looked at myself in the mirror over my dresser. My brown hair was disheveled from running my hands through it all evening. My green eyes were blood shot and red rimmed from too alcohol and a bout of self pity tears. My face was haggard, my clothes were a wrinkled mess and I smelled like a seedy bar.

When I heard his knock just a few moments later I contemplated ignoring it. But Bas could be stubborn with the best of them. Knowing him he would just stand there and keep knocking until either I answered the door or one of the neighbors complained to the cops.

I swung the door open and growled, “What?”

He barged in, anger flaring in his eyes. “You look terrible.”

I scoffed in disbelief. “You came all the way over here to tell me I look terrible? Thanks. I could’ve figured that one out for myself. If that’s all you can go now. I’d like to go and cry in peace.” I winced that I let that last bit out.

He was pacing around my living room. The overstuffed couch, battered coffee table and huge flat screen television were probably as familiar to him as his own apartment. He spent almost as much time here as he did there. He was able to swerve to avoid the protruding edge of the coffee table without pausing his pace or paying any attention to his course.

He paused long enough to glare at me. “That was a piss poor thing to do you know that.”

“Yeah, I know.” I spoke at a normal tone but he ignored me as he spoke over me.

“I’m trying to decide if I am going to get married and you just come off and kiss me. What in the hell were you thinking?” He hadn’t raised his voice at all but by the end of his little speech, he had reached that scary quiet voice – when he was so angry, every word was extremely precise and barely audible.

“I said I was sorry.” A look of pain flashed through the anger – barely visible and then gone – at my words.

“I didn’t ask if you sorry. I asked why you did it. You had to have a reason. People don’t just kiss each other for no reason. At least I know you well enough that I know you don’t kiss people for no reason. So… why did you kiss me?” Each word was punctuated by a brief silence that only emphasized his question.

Fear sped my heart. His eyes bore into mine and I knew I had no choice but to give him an answer. My mouth started speaking before my brain was able to figure out what that answer should be.

“If you were happy I wouldn’t have. But you’re miserable. He makes you miserable. I couldn’t let you marry him. I wouldn’t have done anything, I would have kept it to myself but I couldn’t let you marry him and be miserable and never had given it a shot. It was fine as long as you were happy. But he was sucking the joy out of you and you didn’t even notice. And then he wanted to marry you. “ I had to stop to breath and noticed tears streaming silently down my face.

I turned away from him and began tidying the practically empty kitchen table just to have something to do with my hands. “I really am sorry. I never thought I would lose you.” At that though the tears I had been doing my best to keep at bay couldn’t be held back any longer. My shoulders shook with my emotion.

I felt his hand on my arm. He tried to turn me to face him but I resisted. It was easier if I couldn’t see him. His grip became a little more forceful and I was forced to turn or actively break his hold. I turned.

Nothing could have surprised me more than his hand on my face. It was only then that I noticed the red rims around his eyes and the moisture clinging to the edges of his brilliant hazel eyes. “Who said you were losing me?”

“I just figured with how you reacted, I would never see you again.”

“I was angry and confused and hurt and a whole lot of other things. And you kind of dropped the whole thing on my lap like a ton of bricks – when there was already quite a bit on there.  It just took me awhile to process.”

“And what was your conclusion?”

“I went to see Rick and told him to shove his ultimatum where the sun don’t shine.”

I gave a weak chuckle at that. “Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“Do you think you could give me one more shot at that whole kissing thing?”

He grinned. “I think you can have as many shots as you want.”

He drew my face to his and this kiss was everything the first kiss was and so much more.


The Beginning.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

HELP! It's Monday...where did the weekend go?

Hello All,
It has been a busy week so not much new to add. I finished up the first draft of Falling Apart and sent it off to my betas. I have gotten it back from all of them (superb job on the quick responses ladies). Unfortunately I haven't had a chance to do more than glance at them. Thankfully I do not have any overnight shifts this week so that bodes well for evening productivity. Yay!

Alas, we come upon the most dreaded day of the week...Monday morning. I am not sure where my weekend went (Thank you netflix and my lovely Fringe marathon on Saturday). I must gird my loins and prepare myself for the work week to come...as must we all. Therefore, I am using some pretty for the aforementioned girding. Feel free to do the same. I wish you a Monday filled with massive amounts caffeine, many pretty boys and no stupid people. :D



Monday, June 10, 2013

Cover Art

Happy Monday my Blog Readers!
Today I bring you Cover Art. Because I generally live paycheck to paycheck, whenever I have cool covers for my stories I have made them myself - either with cheap/free stock photos or photos taken by myself, my friends or my family. I load my chosen photo into Pixlr Express and go to town. I usually go through three or four (or even five or six) cover design ideas before I settle on the one that ends up going with my story. Thankfully my usual beta is good about being a sounding board for cover art as well. She has often steered me clear of ideas that seemed wonderful in the moment but really really weren't. I have just recently made two covers - for my two upcoming Love Has No Boundaries stories. This is also the grand revealing of their TITLES. I hope you enjoy the little look behind the scenes at my cover art. :D

Love Has No Boundaries story #1: Pick Up Lines
You can find the prompt here.


My initial plan for this cover involved pints of beer on a bar. Then it shifted and I was going to have the title printed on a sign/menu board for a pub. Then the bubbles from a beer were going to be the background. Eventually after not finding any stock photos that I liked, I gave up on the whole pub angle. I shifted my focus to the other character. The prompt photo portrayed a man dressed to the nines in a tuxedo so I started searching for men in tuxedos, close ups on tuxedos, bowties, cuff links, etc. I generally try to avoid using faces on my covers because I hate when books have covers with the main characters on them and they do not live up to the image in my head. This photo originally had a head - I cropped it out. Since this is a lighter story than a lot of the stories I write I decided to soften the focus and go with a whimsical font. The red color came from the fact that I needed a color to be able to see the title over the changing background color. Red is significant in the story because one of the major plot points is anger. A fight is what drives one of the aspects of the story forwards. Also, red can be romantic.

Love Has No Boundaries story #2: Falling Apart
You can find the prompt here.


My initial plan for this cover involved darkness and shadow. Both of the images from the prompt were highly shadowed so that was definitely a theme I wanted to continue with in the cover. Because I paid for the picture I needed for my previous cover - not much but money is money - I had to find something free for this cover. I searched through screen after screen of free stock photos inputting searches like "darkness", "shadow", "fire", "death" and nothing was striking true. Before I had completed writing the story I had mocked up a cover involving a skeleton walking over calm water surrounded in flames. However, as I completed the story this cover did not fit the feel or the themes of the story. Then I hit a sudden inspiration. I had a series of pictures taken of the fireplace at the cabin where I honeymooned last month. I dug them out and found this one. I knew I had found the photo I wanted to use. I tried a few different fonts and settled on this one because it was clearly visible on the background, was not too frou-frou and had some ragged edges which made me think of the dystopian nature of this story. I softened the whole a bit, gave the font it's shifting color and put a canvas texture over the whole thing. I am not 100% sure about the canvas texture and that may change before publication. The placing of the font is taken directly from the typewritten note that is a part of the prompt itself.

I hope you enjoyed this peek into my mind as I create the cover art to go along with my stories. I sometimes find myself saying, "Wouldn't it be great to be able to afford to pay a professional cover artist?" but I enjoy this almost as much as I enjoy the writing so I don't think I would give it up.

Adieu for now,
Kathleen :D

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Custom Written Ficbit - Happy Birthday to Me

During the Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia I offered up a custom written ficbit of at least 1500 words. KimberlyFDR is the lucky - at least I hope she feels lucky - blog reader who won that drawing. She requested a story about a male to female transgender person. This was a bit outside my comfort zone as I generally write male main characters. I hope you all enjoy my first story with female romantic leads!! Without further ado, I give you....

Happy Birthday to Me
by Kathleen Hayes

I walked quickly with my emotions tightly reigned in until I had safely shut my office door behind myself. Then I let out a string of curse words I rarely say since I work with kids. I shook myself. I didn’t know what was with me today. Usually I didn’t let snotty ignorant teenage comments get to me.

Granted, it was never fun to be called a ‘tranny bitch’ but I was usually better at letting it roll off my back. I could tell the new kid, Antonio, was going to be problem from minute he made an extremely loud rude noise when I introduced myself by saying, “Hello, my name is Sandra Meeker but I was born Jonathan Meeker.”

I liked to get that out of the way as soon as possible so the kids didn’t feel like things were being hidden from them. I was in charge of counseling at Lifeline Center – a community center for LGBTQ kids who had been thrown out or were having a tough time at home. It’s the kind of place I wish had existed 20 years ago when my parents threw me out at 17 because my Dad found me wearing my Mom’s clothes.

A light knock at the door startled me out of my fuming. I turned as the door began to open. Cristina’s red head slowly peeked around the edge of my cracked door. She was moving with exaggerated slowness and a ridiculous look on her face as she mimed checking to make sure the room was safe.

I motioned her in impatiently, “Get in here, Cris. I’m not going to bite.”

She laughed a bit as she stepped inside my office and shut the door. “I couldn’t be sure with the way you stormed out after that last Group Support Session.”

“Shit. I’ve heard worse a thousand different times. I don’t know why I let it get to me today.”

She reached around me and grabbed my phone off my desk. She shook it and gave me a pointed look as she said, “It couldn’t have anything to do with this, could it?”

I sighed. “Probably.”

I clicked open my texts and looked down my most recent text.

Have you seen the light yet? Have you washed off the filth of your choices and come clean? I regret giving birth to you for all the suffering you have caused this family.

I threw down the phone and bit out, “Happy Birthday to me.”

Cris gave me an apprising once over. “What you need is alcohol.”

“No. What I need is ice cream. You up for it?”

“Sounds good. I’ll meet you at your place in an hour.”

I watched as Cris left and wished, for about the thousandth time since I met her 3 years ago, that I had the courage to ask her out.

She’d worked as a chaplain at St. David’s Hospital for about ten years. We met when one of her patients – a homeless 17 year old suffering from exposure – had needed somewhere to stay. The social worker hadn’t been able to find a youth shelter to take a gay teen so Cris had gone digging. Since then, she started volunteering twice a week. It was really helpful to some of the kids to talk to a person of faith who didn’t condemn them to hell.

I shook myself and gathered my stuff to meet Cris at home. I stopped by the corner store to pick up three of my favorite pints, knowing Cris would do the same.

As I waited for Cris to knock on my door, I let myself savor the excitement and attraction I usually tried to push down. It had been a long day and I wanted to focus on someone nice. My cheeks flushed a bit in embarrassment at having a crush at my age. I had long ago given up on finding love and forced myself to settle for a fulfilling job and good friends. But the longing never really went away.

My heart jumped into my throat and, despite my horrible day, a smile spread across my face when I heard Cris’ knock at my door.

My smile turned into a grin to match Cris’ when I opened the door and saw her standing outside. She stood a little shorter than I was. Her dark hair was pulled up in a ponytail and her dark skin was smooth, almost glowing. Her brown eyes sparkled as she started singing “Happy Birthday” at the top of her lungs. She also held up her hands. One held a brightly colored gift bag and the other a grocery store sack.

Before she was able to get through the first verse, I slapped my hand over her mouth and dragged her inside.  “Shhh. You’ll disturb the neighbors,” I said over both our laughter. It was just what I needed after the text from my mother and the name calling during group.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” she replied as she took the ice cream into the kitchen and put it in the freezer. “I have made the executive decision that presents come before ice cream tonight, or at least some do. She sketched a curtsey in the middle of my kitchen and held the gift bag out to me.

“For you, milady.”

I took the bag and began to open it but she stopped me before I even got the first piece of tissue paper off the top. “That is just the first part of the present. The second part is that I will use it with you.”

For a wild second my thoughts turned completely dirty but I reined them in because I knew Cris well enough that the chance of there being a sex toy in that bag was about a million to one.

“Okay,” I said drawing it out as I took the colored paper out of the top of the bag. The gift felt big and boxy but not all that heavy. As soon as I had cleared out enough paper to see what was in the bag I burst out laughing.

Cris crossed the room and took it out of the bag before I got a chance, excitement clear on her face. “I know how much you love trivia.”

“And I know how much you hate my trivia.” I grabbed the Trivial Pursuit board game out of her hands gloating gleefully, “And you already promised to play with me.”

I glanced away from the game and back up at Cris. I was shocked to meet an unwavering stare. Our eyes locked and there was nothing I could do to break the intense stare. I didn’t want to break it. My heart beat ratcheted up about four speeds and I felt hope furl out its wings in my chest.

Without breaking eye contact, I reached out to take her hand between our bodies, dropping the bag it still held on the way. It made a slight thunk noise as it hit the ground and still neither of us looked away. Her fingers curled tentatively around my own. At that sign of acquiescence, I found I couldn’t stop myself.

I leaned forward and pressed my lips to hers. A mere chaste brushing and leaned back again. I had made that first move and it was up to her to accept or reject. She made a slight sound at the back of her throat and rushed forward. Her hands were in my hair, her body pressed against mine, her tongue opening my mouth before I had a chance to take a breath.

I dropped the game I was still holding in my other hand on the counter and wrapped my arms around Cris, bringing us as close together as I could. Joy and heat battled for supremacy as we made out like teenagers in my kitchen. My heart took wing and I opened myself to Cris like I had never opened myself to anyone.

Eventually, we broke apart. We stood there forehead to forehead smiling and breathing hard for a few moments before I huffed out a small laugh, “Happy Birthday to me.”

Cris smiled back, “Does that get me out of playing the game?”

I gave her a mischievous look.  “Nope. But I will make it more interesting. How about every time you get a question correct you get a kiss?”

She glared at me for a beat before she gave an exaggerated sigh and said, “Fine.”

We gathered the pints of ice cream from the freezer and set the game up in the living room. As Cris brought spoons in from the kitchen, I marveled that this beautiful, intelligent, wonderful woman had allowed me to kiss her and seemed interested in a relationship with me.

For the first time, I thought to myself, that maybe my mother was wrong. Maybe I actually deserved this because I was a beautiful, intelligent, wonderful woman as well.

After Cris sat down we didn’t spend much time playing the game as she had promised but that’s all right because I actually celebrated my birthday for the first time in 20 years.


The Beginning.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Excerpts GALORE!

Hello All!
This is part update post, part EXCERPTS GALORE. So, I am working on THREE things right.

Thing #1: Love Has No Boundaries story #1 - prompt can be found here.
Thing #2: Custom written ficbit for KimberlyFDR (won in the Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia). She has requested a story featuring a MtF transgender character.
Thing #3: I volunteered to write one of the abandoned Love Has No Boundaries stories. - prompt can be found here.

And now without further ado, a brief excerpt from each. The LHNB stories will have the names and title withheld per request of the event coordinators.

Excerpt the First - Love Has No Boundaries story #1

I stood outside XXX's door and took a moment to try and calm the rampaging elephants that had taken residence in my stomach. This isn't a real date. This isn't a real date. I figured if I told myself that enough then maybe my heart might actually believe it.

Finally, I gathered my courage about me and knocked.

I heard XXX's voice, muffled through the door, "It's unlocked."

I took a deep breath and walked in. It was kind of a letdown when it was the same apartment I hung out in multiple times a week - the same messy tables, the same rumpled couch, the same ratty carpet, the same...

My breath caught in my throat as my eyes passed over the same weirdly painted bedroom door, becaue XXX was stepping out of that door right then.

My brain boggled and my heart skipped beat. About 90% of the time, XXX wears jeans and a black t-shirt. The other 10% he wears sweats. I don't know what I thought he would wear to a formal event, but I didn't want to make him feel awkward about his wardrobe, so I hadn't asked him about.

He definitely wasn't wearing jeans now.
***

You'll have to check in when the stories are released over the summer to find out what XXX was wearing. ;)

Excerpt the Second - Happy Birthday to Me (Custom Written Ficbit)

My heart jumped in my throat and, despite my horrible day, a smile spread across my face when I heard Cris' knock at my door.

My smile turned into a grin to match Cris' when I opened the door and saw her standing outside. She stood a little shorter than I was. Her dark hair was pulled up in a ponytail and her dark skin was smooth, almost glowing. Her brown eyes sparkled as she took a deep breath and started singing "Happy Birthday" at the top of her lungs. She also held up her hands. One held a brightly colored gift bag and the other a grocery store sack.

Before she was able to get through the first verse, I slapped my hand over her mouth and dragged her inside. "Shhh. You'll disturb the neighbors," I said over both our laughter. It was just what I needed after the text from my mother and the name calling during group.
***

Excerpt the Third - Love Has No Boundaries story #2

I began to hyperventilate. The fear coiled throughout me and paralyzed me. My arms and legs wouldn't unbend and allow me get up and run anymore. The pocket of air between my torso and legs seemed to have overheated and just as I was sure I would pass out and finally be free, I felt hands grab me from behind - hands I knew, hands I reason to fear above all else.

I screamed. I screamed until my throat was stripped and then a little bit more. And then, all at once, I was able to move again. I started when I realized my head was resting on my kitchen table. In the background I could still hear AAA on the history channel speaking about the Gonos Corporation's brilliant contributions which allowed human advancement to continue apace without worrying about anything so pesky as the environment. It made me sick.

I shakily tried to stand up and realized my clothes were completely soaked through with sweat. I slumped back into the chair without thinking. I leaned my head into my hands and fought off the tears. I couldn't take much more of these nightmares.

I was shaking so hard, I couldn't move and more than anything I just wanted BBB's arms wrapped around me. I wanted his strength to surround me and for him to tell me I wasn't going crazy. But that could never happen.

He'd fallen in love with CCC, the perfect, beautiful, put together model. He hadn't fallen in love with the mess of a man I was right now. I knew I would lose him if I let him see me as I was.

I'd likely get him killed, too.
***

Hope you enjoyed EXCERPTS GALORE. Continue to check back for posting dates on all three of these. :D

Monday, May 27, 2013

Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia- Winners Announced!!

Hello All!

Thank you to everyone who participated in this year's hop. It was great to hear from y'all in the comments and to read everyone's posts. And now to announce the winners!!!!

FOR PRIZE NUMBER ONE: Congrats to Peggy - You have won a $15 gift card to the online eBook retailer of your choice.

FOR PRIZE NUMBER TWO: Congrats to Juliana - You have won a $15 donation in your name to the GLBTQ charity of your choice.

FOR PRIZE NUMBER THREE: Congrats to KimberlyFDR - You have won a custom written ficbit.

I will be emailing all of you this evening. Please respond within 48 hours or I will have to pick a different winner.

For the rest of you, I offer a runner's up prize!!! Check out my special pretty for tonight. ;)




Saturday, May 18, 2013

Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia



Hello All,
I am sorry for posting this a day late - I lacked internet yesterday unexpectedly. Nevertheless, welcome to the Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia! This is a wonderful event that is bringing together writers, publishers, and reviewers of homosexual and transexual literature to speak up against homophobia and transphobia. 

Six years ago, I started graduate school. I was attending seminary in order to earn my Master of Divinity. In my first semester I met a person. We'll call this person Susan. As I got to know Susan I found Susan to be a wonderful, smart and engaging person. We became friends. In my second year, Susan took a semester off. I missed Susan and wondered what had happened but we were not close enough for me to intrude.

When Susan came back the next year, I noticed some people calling Susan Nathaniel instead. Immediately I discovered that Susan preferred to be called Nathaniel and had started living as a man. I was not knowledgeable about terminology or classification but Nathaniel was my friend so I was happy to treat him however he preferred.

Perhaps I was naive - because I was unprepared for the reaction of some. My school was liberal and known for being on the forefront of gay rights. I just assumed that love and support would be extended to Nathaniel as well. While many at the school, students, teachers and administrators alike, treated Nathaniel with respect and support on an individual level, many did not. I spent the next three years hearing professors call "Susan" out in roll call on the first day of class because the school would not change it to Nathaniel. Every time I wanted to email Nathaniel through the school email system, I had to type "Susan" into the address line.

As I did research for my most recent story Perfect, I discovered even more thoroughly how institutionalized trans and homo phobia can be. I found articles detailing how they are making it up or are sick in the head, how they are evil, how they are what is wrong with the world. I found stories of beatings, of bullying, of hatred. These stories broke my heart - all the more because they are true.

But then I also found stories that - like gems shining in the darkness - showed that not everyone is lost in that morass of hatred. As I found stories of love, of acceptance, of support, of changing laws and changing perceptions, I realized that there is hope. And, as one of my favorite author writes, "Like 'love,' 'hope' is one of those disproportional words that by all rights should be longer." (Jim Butcher) So I write today in hope - hope that each day the world is changing, that we can make a difference, that fear and hatred can be conquered.

Thanks for stopping by. Please continue on the hop and read all about other people's experiences. You can find the list of links here.

I would love to hear about your stories - if you are despairing and need hope, if you have hope to offer others, or if you are not really sure what you feel. Please comment. If you just want to show your support, please comment. AND, if you want to be entered to win the drawing, please comment.

On May 27th at 8 PM CST I will pick three winners for the following prizes:

  •  $15 gift card to the online bookseller of your choice
  • $15 donation to the LGBTQ charity of your choice (as long as donations can be online via paypal)
  • Custom written ficbit (to be completed with two months of winning)
In order to be entered, please comment on this post and include your preferred email address. If you do not respond to my email within 48 hours, then I will draw a new winner.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Hump Day Happy

Hello All,
It is Wednesday and it has been a loooooooooong week so I am going to share some pretty to help me (and everyone else) get through the rest of the week. Also, check out a brief scene from the story that I am writing for Goodreads M/M Romance Group's Love Has No Boundaries event. I am not meant to reveal names or title yet so those are blocked out.
Happy Hump Day!
Kathleen




Excerpt:

As I saw Man's Name squatting down to wipe up splatter from a fallen tray that had reached to the corners of the room, I was instantly, almost violently, reminded of the first time I had met him. 

Back then the bar had been a dive – dark booths, dark corners, dark alley behind. I had stumbled in after storming angrily out of a family function a few blocks away. The rain outside had just started coming down hard. I looked up from the bar where I was nursing a pout and my beer when the side door had slammed open. It was almost like one of those horror movie scenes – lightening flashed, rain streamed down in heavy sheets and a huge dark shadow centered itself in the doorway. An instant later, the shadow had crumpled to the floor, the door had slammed shut and I had shot off my bar stool.

In the dark of the bar, it was hard to make out details but the large shadow was sitting, collapsed in the corner next to the door. As I approached I was able to make out wild red hair and an untamed red beard. Almost before that registered, I saw a different red staining most of one side of his face and down his shirt. He was bleeding from cuts on his cheek and forehead and had a few choice bruises starting to form across his face and neck.

I held back for a moment - after all, I didn’t know this man. But my eyes met his pain filled blue ones and any hesitation fled my mind. I held out my hand.

“Need a hand?”

He looked at me a little funny, then cracked a wavering smile. “You trying to pick me up?”

I marveled that he could crack a joke while bleeding on the floor but beyond the words, I could hear the wavering fear, the panic held at bay and the need to pretend everything was normal.

I smiled back at him and gamely pretended he hadn’t just had the bloody crap beaten out of him. “Yup. My place or yours?” I winked.

He reached up and grabbed my hand.