April's Featured Book: THE TROUBLE WITH TONY

I'm starting a new feature here on the blog. Each month I'll focus on a backlist book and it'll be on sale.  For April the book is THE TROUBLE WITH TONY. All through April it's on sale for just .99c on Dreamspinner. HERE's THE LINK.  Keep reading for a little background on the story.

This was one of the first m/m romance stories I ever wrote, way back in 2012. It was published in 2013 by Dreamspinner.

Tony DeMarco is a private investigator in Seattle. He's looking into a young woman's death and he learns she went to a sex clinic the last few months before her murder. Did the sex clinic, or her therapist, Dr. Jack Halloran, have something to do with it?

To find out, Tony pretends to e a new patient of Jack's. At first Tony makes up a story about being a sex addict. But when Jack sees through that, Tony admits he does have a little problem. He can only have sex with specific men he's really attracted to. Only four in his life so far.

Things get complicated when Jack turns out to be #5.

This is a fun-set up that allows for a lot of humor in the book, especially since Tony is a big, wise-cracking, Italian tough-guy. There's also a mystery/investigation thread running through the book. It's fairly short at novella length, but it packs a lot in.

Eli's 3 Favorite Things about The Trouble With Tony:

1. The humor.

2. The stirrup scene (yes, OBGYN stirrups)

3. The appearances of sex surrogate Michael, who later gets his own book.

Hope you enjoy your time with Tony!  Here's the book page on this site.

Eli

 

Excerpt & Give away - Merry Christmas, Mr. Miggles

I'm hosting the Queer Romance Freebie Fan Club on Facebook this week. If you aren't already a member, you can join below. The group is manned by more than a dozen mm authors who regularly give stuff away: https://www.facebook.com/groups/queerromance/

This week I'll be giving away a few books, audiobooks, an ARC of my upcoming "Five Dares", and an Amazon gift certificate.

To kick off the week, I offered a chance to win any of my Christmas novellas in ebook or audiobook (includes "Blame it on the Mistletoe", "Unwrapping Hank", "Midwinter Night's Dream"  and "Merry Christmas Mr. Miggles"). To enter to win you just need to comment on that thread in the facebook group above.

Today's giveaway is for one copy of the audiobook of "Merry Christmas, Mr. Miggles".  To enter, comment on this post on the Facebook group. You can listen to a sample and check out reveiws here:

AUDIBLE: MERRY CHRISTMAS, MR. MIGGLES

Today's post is an excerpt from "Merry Christmas, Mr. Miggles".

Excerpt (from chapter 2):

 

The next day when I arrived at the library at 8 o'clock, Mr. Miggles was already there. He was in Santa's Headquarters. Christmas tunes played over the library's speaker system, and he was swathed in an apparently infinite strand of gold tinsel.

He fought against the tinsel's stranglehold harder when I walked into the room, embarrassed to be caught out. It was hilarious and precious at the same time, like a video of a kitten falling off a sofa, but I kept a straight face. I plopped my backpack down and helped him unwind. He was dressed in his usual gray suit pants and starched white button-down shirt. Today his tie was navy and yellow and had subtle smiley faces on it. The tinsel strand had gotten itself entwined on a button on his back suit pants pocket. I couldn't help noticing, as I freed it, that he had a decent ass.

Did I mention that I'm twenty-four?

"I was, um, trying to judge the length of the strand," he said with strained dignity.

"By pole dancing with it?"

"Don't be cheeky." He gave me a warning glare that looked amused at the same time. "I'm glad you're in. I wanted to discuss the Christmas Surprise Box before the library opens."

"Okay. But why are you here so early? You shouldn't come in early like this."

The library ran on a very tight budget. There were only two paid employees—Mr. Miggles and me. We had a few volunteers, but either he or I had to be there at all times. So I worked 8 to 5 and he worked 10 to 7.

He waved away my concern. "Needs must. Now. The Christmas Surprise Box." He picked up his pen and notebook from the table. "We'll have the traditional chocolates, of course, but I want something new. You're young. What latest trend might we be able to afford?"

I leaned against the table and crossed my arms. "What's the budget this year?"

"Same as every year. Fifty dollars."

I gave him an incredulous look and sighed. "Well, that leaves out a smart phone."

"What about a smart phone case? Or another accessory?"

I shook my head. "There are too many phone sizes to do a case. No way to know what the winner would have. Besides, they're expensive." I thought about it. "Earbuds?"

He hummed and wrote it down. "Possibly. You're sure most people would have a mobile communication device?"

I opened my mouth to accuse him of being a hopeless Luddite, but then I saw the suppressed smile on his face. He was yanking my chain. Of course he was. He had a cell phone, I reminded myself. I even had his number in case of emergencies.

"You're not the least bit funny," I grumbled.

His grin broadened. "Just making sure you're awake, Toby. What else might be an option?"

"iTunes Gift certificate?"

"Too impersonal."

"But flexible."

Clearly this was a teaching moment to Mr. Miggles. He gave me a serious look. "A gift says as much about the giver as the receiver. How much thought went into it? Does the giver truly know the recipient’s heart? Did the giver put time and care into the selection, or was it merely a chore to be ticked off?"

"Chore," I said decisively. "Oh… you meant hypothetically."

Mr. Miggles looked rueful. "Of course, if you're the sort of person who prefers to put the minimum amount of effort into a thing…."

I rolled my eyes. "We don't know who's going to win the surprise box, so how personal can it be?"

"We know the winner will be a human being with all the needs and frailties that implies. Also, it's someone who lives in Sandy Lake and comes into the library. There are scores of information in those few data alone."

"So no alien technology then. Or dog biscuits."

Mr. Miggles gave a “this is what I have to put up with” sigh. "Something about the town, perhaps. Something for a reader."

"What about a Sandy Lake bookmark? We might be able to get something custom done on Etsy fairly cheap. We could use a photo of the town clock."

"Excellent!" Mr. Miggles wrote it down. "Is there anything I might get at the mall? I'm planning on a hike near Columbus on Sunday, so I could make the dreaded mall run."

My face must have given me away, because Mr. Miggles blinked at me. "What is it?"

I tried to downplay my frustration. "Nothing. Justin and I were supposed to go to Columbus on Sunday, but now he has to work."

"Oh. I'm sorry to hear that. I suppose you were quite looking forward to it. Do you…."

He trailed off, stopping himself. And I thought. Do I… what?

Mr. Miggles looked at me and I looked at him. In a flash, the room was full of this weird frizzle of… something. It was definitely tingly. And awkward. He clenched his jaw as if he wanted to say something. Was he going to invite me to go with him? That would be weird.

I suddenly wanted him to ask and… I didn't. The idea of having company for a trip to Columbus, not to mention going for a hike on a nice November day, sounded righteous. Why shouldn't I go out and have fun since Justin had bailed on me?

But Mr. Miggles was my boss. We didn't socialize. And there was the gay thing too. Would he think that, because I was a gay man, any invitation would be misconstrued as a come on? Mr. Miggles wasn't gay. At least, I didn't think so. Come to think of it, I had no idea what he was or even if he was anything at all. Possibly, he was asexual or he’d been kidnapped by white slavers during his formative years and castrated. That would explain his “tragic past” vibe. Hey, anything was possible.

"So, um, have fun, you know, with that," I stammered. "If I think of anything you could pick up at the mall, I'll let you know."

"Yes. Fine. Good." Mr. Miggles nodded adamantly.

I looked at the clock on the wall in desperation. The second hand edged toward 8:30, when the library officially opened. I had a few things to do to prep for that and a cup of coffee was definitely high on the list.

"I'd better…." I jerked my thumb at the door.

"By all means. Get to it."

 

See you tomorrow!

Eli

Two new releases for the holidays!

two-covers-promo In November I'm releasing 2 books. I won't have another release until February. So check these out.

"Falling Down" is now available. I'll post a buy link in the comments below. It's a fall-themed, hurt-comfort story about a homeless youth who travels to New English to see the fall leaves and then end his life. Fate intervenes and he meets a troubled former Marine who saves them both.

"Merry Christmas, Mr. Miggles" is my Christmas story for the year (NOV 23). It's a feel-good holiday story about Toby, a small town junior librarian, who has to save his boss (Mr. Miggles) and the library's Christmas. It's a May-Dec contemporary romance with humor and a minor dollop of angst. Cover by Reese Dante. Isn't it pretty?

BUY LINKS:

FALLING DOWN:

Exclusively on Amazon for the first 90 days, then generally available.

MERRY CHRISTMAS, MR. MIGGLES:

Now available for pre-order (release Nov 23rd)

ON AMAZON

ON ALL ROMANCE EBOOKS

Eli

"The Stolen Suitor" now available for pre-order!

perf4.250x7.000.indd Big news! My novel "The Stolen Suitor" is set for release Feb 1, 2016 and is now available on the Dreamspinner "Coming Soon" page for pre-order!

This 70K novel is set in Clyde's Corner, Montana, where my Christmas novella "A Prairie Dog's Love Song" took place. It's part of the new Dreamspun Desires line from Dreamspinner. This new line features 2 new books a month, each with a traditional category romance trope respun for m/m. You can get a subscription or buy books separately. All books will be available in paperback. Cool, huh? Check it out here.

Here's the blurb for "The Stolen Suitor"

All of Clyde’s Corner, Montana, knows local dandy Chris Ramsey will marry Trix Stubben, young widow and heir to the richest ranch in the area. But one woman isn’t too keen on the idea. Mabe Crassen wants to get her hands on that ranch, so she sets her older son to court Trix, and her younger son, Jeremy, to distract Chris and lure him astray.

Jeremy Crassen thinks his mother’s scheme is crazy. But he wants desperately to go off to college, which Mabe will agree to—if he seduces Chris. How will shy, virginal, secretly gay Jeremy attract Chris, who seems determined to do the right thing and marry Trix? Jeremy can’t compete with a rich female widow. Or can he?

Eli

Desktop: Midwinter Night's Dream

Nov 25, 2015 is release day for my Christmas novella "Midwinter Night's Dream". Here's my desktop of images that inspired me. MICAH SPRINGFIELD

First, of course, is Micah Springfield, one of the MCs in the story. Micah is Hank's brother from "Unwrapping Hank". He's a laid-back, hippy kind of guy with dreads. The images that inspired me for Micah are pictures of SAMUEL LARSON from Glee. (yes, before he cut his hair)

2_samuel-larsen images'

LEO DAYSON

Micah's love interest in "Midwinter Night's Dream" is Leo Dayson, a senior theater major, gay activist, and general OCD hard ass. For visuals, I found the picture below of a young Chris Hemsworth. The young part is key, because in the photo below, he's not the hugely muscled Thor version, but a thinner, more sensitive looking guy (but still intense).

ChrisHemsworth-1chrisHemsworth214x350_0

MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM:

As might be apparent from the title, the plot of the story is inspired by the Shakespeare play, Midsummer Night's Dream.  Leo is producing a version of Midsummer Night's Dream (the play) and he's going to be holding it in the Springfield family's barn.

The story also mirrors the play a bit, with Micah crushing on Leo, a girl named Yasmine crushing on Micah, and Leo's bff, Helen, crushing on Yasmine.

midsummer-2

(above: From the 1999 film version of "Midsummer Night's Dream")

Sloane and Grinch make up our story's "Puck".

PuckEverett

hipster grinch

And a lot of the action is set, once again, on the Springfield family farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. It's a snowy Christmas in the story.

winterbarn

I hope you enjoy this holiday romance. Merry Christmas!

Eli

"Midwinter Night's Dream" - Cover reveal & give away!

MidwinterNight'sDream-600x900  

Along with the upcoming "How to Walk Like a Man", I have another book coming at Thanksgiving. It's my 2015 Christmas novella, "Midwinter Night's Dream". The main character, Micah, is the brother of Hank from last year's "Unwrapping Hank", but this novella can be read as a stand-alone.

The cover reveal is going on today at Gay Book Reviews and there's a give away of a gift certificate too, so stop by and sign up for the give away. You can also read an excerpt there.

Eli

"Among the Dead" -- first excerpt

Spirit_postcard_front_DSP "Among the Dead" is my novella in "Spirit", gothika #4, which is due out Oct 19th. You can pre-order here.  I'm happy to be back in gothic land for Halloween, and to share this volume, once again, with the talented Kim Fielding, Jamie Fessenden, and BG Thomas.

This is the first part of the first chapter.

Excerpt:

1

The first time I saw the dead man in the bowler hat, I was on the Number 34 bus heading downtown.

It was the first Tuesday of the month, and I had to go into the office for my one-on-one with my boss, John Shaler. I hated first Tuesdays with the heat of a thousand pissed-off suns. But it was little enough forfeit to pay for having a steady job I could work from home the rest of the month. Thank God I’m the best dev Hora Systems has, or they would have kicked my agoraphobic ass to the curb a long time ago. I haven’t exactly been the ideal employee AC.

AC—After Concussion. My life is pretty much defined by Before Concussion and After Concussion.

That particular first Tuesday, I left my basement apartment on Capitol Hill with the usual vein-thrumming mix of nerves, terror, and utter dread. As soon as I got on the bus, I saw a dead woman. She was up front, in those seats that face the aisle. She’d probably gotten hit by a truck or some kind of machine. Her body was sliced into thirds like she’d been through a giant Veg-O-Matic. She sat close to the oblivious driver, a purse primly clutched in her lap, while blood pooled under her seat. I walked past, pretending I didn’t see her. My stomach threatened to toss up the Eggo and peanut butter I’d had for breakfast. I fucking hate blood. If I had my way, I’d never see it again.

A few stops later, an old couple got on and sat in the laps of two teenagers. Their lined faces were pinched into bitter, sour masks—the old couple, not the teenagers. They said nothing to each other, didn’t even look at each other, but their movements were perfectly in sync: scratch of the nose, shaking finger and mouthing something angrily, rock in their seat, gnash teeth, sigh. There they remained for three stops and then they hobbled off, each step perfectly mirrored.

Interlocked spirits liked that were particularly horrifying to me. The idea of spending eternity with someone you hated in life—it’s so unfair. You’d think you could escape the commitments you regretted in death. Right? I mean, what else is death for? It ends all corporeal pleasure and shit, so there should be an upside. Debts cancelled, enemies escaped, mistakes left behind, and all that. But that’s not how it is. I’ve seen a lot of spirits who were stuck together. And let me tell you, it’s rarely down to true love.

I’ll take my loneliness, thanks.

Despite my commitment to being single, I found myself craning my neck when we drove past Volunteer Park. But I didn’t see the beautiful boy in the red hoodie. I hadn’t seen him in a long time.

See, a few years ago, BC, I used to ride my bike to work, and my daily route went past the park. I often saw a young guy at the entrance on the corner of 15th and Galer. He was maybe eighteen, wore a red hoodie and jeans, and had blond hair, a pretty face, and sad blue eyes. His clothes were always the same, rumpled and dirty. I thought he might be a street kid, but he could have just been dedicated to the Seattle grunge thing. He was always alone. I called him Red Riding Hood in my head, and I always looked for him when I rode past.

I wished I’d had the nerve to stop and talk to him back then, but I never did. He was long gone now, maybe away at college somewhere. He could have ditched the grunge for a suit and tie for all I knew.

The bus passed Volunteer Park and then Broadway, the main shopping drag on Capitol Hill.

At the Swedish hospital stop, he got on. The man in the bowler hat.

To be honest, my first reaction was to check him out. He was handsome—dark-haired and slender, with an intelligent, soulful-looking face. Besides the bowler hat, he wore a three-piece tweed suit, looking very genteel for the bus and a bit old-fashioned. It took a second glance to realize he was also, unfortunately, not alive.

I stared down at my shoes. The floor of the bus was fairly clean, with it being just after seven in the morning. The slightly bubbled blue flooring looked bright around my scuffed brown leather shoes. It was a bit embarrassing, as if to say, Even I, the floor of a public transit vehicle, am better groomed than you.

I was about to tuck my neglected shoes under my seat in shame when a pair of pointed, black boots stepped in front of me. The legs were covered in dark brown tweed pants and almost completely solid, but the prickling hair on my arms and the back of my neck told me what I knew anyway. It was him.

I swallowed and raised my eyes. I expected him to be staring straight out the window or perhaps around the bus. But no, his warm brown eyes were looking into mine.

My heart pounded, and fear slicked through me in a black, oily tide. I closed my eyes and counted to ten. Oh, God. Oh, God. Please be gone.

When I opened my eyes, he’d moved. He was now across the bus, a few feet away, as if backing off. But he was still staring at me. Shit. I took calming breaths and pretended I didn’t see him.

I glanced at the old lady sitting next to me to see if she’d noticed my freak-out, but she just sat reading her book.

When I got off at First and Bell, Bowler Hat followed me. He walked five steps behind me for the three blocks it took me to get to the Hora Systems offices, a dead man reflected in shop windows and the shiny surface of a black limousine. And when I passed through the revolving door at our building and signed in at reception, I risked a casual glance around.

He was there. He stood against the glass front of the building, his eyes fixed on me. He opened his mouth as if trying to speak.

“Hi, Joe,” I blurted out to the security guard, just to act normal, like nothing was wrong.

Joe grunted, not looking at me.

I headed to the elevators.

Desktop: "The Black Dog" (in claw anthology)

It's my tradition to do a desktop post when I have a new story release, showing images that inspired my story. "The Black Dog" is in "claw", the 3rd gothika. It's a gothic m/m anthology with three novellas by myself, Jamie Fessenden, and Kim Fielding. The theme of the claw anthology is beast shifters. Jamie and Kim's stories feature werewolf shifters and mine, a massive black hound.

INSPIRATION:

I love gothic stories and horror movies. Both of my previous gothika stories were influenced by some of my favorite books or movies. ("Wuthering Heights" and "Frankenstein" for stitch's "Reparation" and "I Walked with a Zombie" and "Wide Sargasso Sea" for bone's "The Bird").

The inspiration for "The Black Dog" comes from "Hound of the Baskervilles" by Sir Conan Doyle.

the-20hound-20of-20the-20baskervilles

 

I love this Sherlock Holmes story, the mood and atmosphere of it. Though I have to admit always been a little disappointed that the 'solution' to the mystery ends up not being paranormal at all.  In "The Black Dog", that's not the case. SAY NO MORE.

Initially, I was going to do a modern take on "Hound of the Baskervilles", sticking true to the original plotline. But as I began working on it, I wasn't satisfied with that and I decided I needed to pull in some other influences and go my own way.

LOCH NESS MONSTER

nessie

I liked the idea of having a legendary creature in my story, and a small town where monster-hunters might go to try to track down this legend. I'm a fan of TV shows where people are trying to track down Big Foot and other fabled beasts.  "The Black Dog" is set in Scotland and the legend of the Black Dog (which is fictional) is the only thing bringing in dribs and drabs of tourists to the tiny Northern Scotland hamlet where my story is set. The Black Dog is like a poor cousin to the Loch Ness Monster.

SCOTLAND AND HAMISH MACBETH

Hamish2

 

Gothic stories are defined by their setting. It's critical to have someplace that feels mysterious, spooky, and isolated, where the normal safeguards and rules don't apply.

I decided to set "The Black Dog" in an isolated region on the northern coast of Scotland. Why? Well, first I felt the story had to be on the British Isles because the original inspiration, "Hound of the Baskervilles" is a very British story. But I wanted someplace that would still be very remote in the current day.

I decided on Scotland, primarily due to my love of the TV series "Hamish MacBeth". Hamish is a constable in a small town in Scotland and I loved the rural, isolated feeling of the show. What a great place for a spooky tale! The show was also the inspiration for my main character, Hayden, who is a constable in the small Scottish town of Laide.

More pics of my setting:

castle_lg plockton-main-street Mountain-Road-Through-Applecross-Peninsula1

HAYDEN MacLAIRTY

Hayden, my main MC, is a huge "almost ginger" Scotsman, a police constable, patient and steady. Simon calls him "Mount MacLairty". Yes, he's big. He's the seventh son of a seventh son, and he loves living in the tiny hamlet of Laide and wouldn't have it any other way, despite the fact that all his older siblings have moved to big cities and the modern world.

I don't really have a picture that does Hayden justice, but not to leave you hanging, here's a lovely Scotsman for you...

Hayden

SIMON CORTO

My other MC is a writer from New York. Simon is intelligent, sophisticated, he loves to travel, doesn't mind roughing it, and has made a career writing fictional stories around real monster legends. I picture him looking like a younger Neil Gaiman.

neil-gaiman

And last, but not least, some inspirational beast pics I grabbed off the web while writing:

621-00739395 scary_werewolf_head_grinning http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-snarl-wolf-image20312816

That's it for this desktop. I hope you will give "The Black Dog" a read!

You can read an except and find ORDER LINKS here.

Eli

First excerpt from "The Black Dog"!

Claw Cover "Claw", the third volume of the gothika anthology, is coming out Apr 13th!  I'll have a blog post running on the DSP blog tomorrow, and in celebration I'm posting the first excerpt from my novella-length story, "The Black Dog".  Here's the blurb.

The Black Dog by Eli Easton Constable Hayden MacLairty is used to life being dull around the tiny hamlet of Laide on the north Scottish coast. They get occasional tourists, “monster hunters” interested in the local legend of the Black Dog, but Hayden thinks that’s only a myth. A rash of sheep killings, a murdered hiker, huge footprints, and sightings of the Black Dog force Hayden to rethink the matter. With the help of Simon Corto, a writer from New York doing research for a book about the Black Dog, Hayden tries to figure out why the enormous hound is reappearing. Hayden finds himself strongly attracted to another person for the first time in his life. But between the danger stalking the hills, Simon’s inevitable return to New York, and Hayden’s mother’s illness, true love may be more of a phantom than the Black Dog.

CHAPTER 1:

“I’m tellin’ ye, it was the Black Dog. Now what the hell are ye gonna do about it, Hayden MacLairty?”

The dead sheep, all four of them, made a grisly spectacle on what remained of the green summer grass. All of them had their throats crushed and bloodied, and two had their stomachs torn open, too, inviting flies to the feast. Hayden couldn’t quite wrap his head around it.

There were no bears or wolves in Scotland. A vicious pet or zoo animal might have gotten loose. Or perhaps it was a pack of stray dogs that had gone rogue. But what would kill four sheep and not feed? The animals were not so much eaten as displayed.

Hayden knelt down by one of the disemboweled sheep, trying to get a closer look at its wound. It looked torn, as from claws or teeth, not cut with a knife.

“I’ll take ’em to the vet in Ullapool. See if he can tell me anythin’ about what done this.”

“I told ye what done this! It was the Black Dog!”

Hayden straightened up to his full height, not averse to using his size to shut up Dylan Mitchell. Dylan was one of many colorful characters in Hayden’s precinct. He drank, and he saw things, and normally Hayden could ignore his wild stories. But not today, not with four dead sheep.

“Now you listen here, Dylan. There ain’t no such thing as the Black Dog.”

“I seen it! Why, just two nights ago—”

“And whatever killed your sheep is real, not some supernatural phantom, and that means I’ve gotta catch it. I’m not likely to catch it if I’m wastin’ my time lookin’ for spooks.”

Dylan’s face clouded with anger. “Ye don’t never listen to me, Hayden. But I know what I saw. Seen that thing five times now, the first time when I was nigh on ten year old, and there weren’t no liquor involved then. And I drink plenty without seein’ the damn thing. When I see it, it’s because it’s there. So what’re ye gonna do about it, hey? I can’t afford to lose four head.”

“I’ll post watch for a couple of nights,” Hayden agreed reluctantly. “I’m not arguin’ with you. We gotta find this thing.” And if you didn’t get drunk as a lord every night, you could watch your land your own damn self.

“’Course we do! My sheep one night, maybe my wife the next…! I wanna know what yer gonna do about that monster.”

“Now, Dyl, it won’ do a lick of good to berate the man.” Laith Mitchell spoke up, thank heaven. She was a good woman with a heck of a lot more sense than her husband.

“How ’bout you?” Hayden asked her. “You seen any animal in these parts that might have done this?”

She shook her head regretfully. “No, Hayden. The O’Ryan’s lab goes wanderin’ from time to time, but he’s gentle as a kitten. Ain’t seen nothin’ else.”

Dylan glowered harder.

“Right, then. I’ll just load ’em up.” Not for the first time, Hayden wished he had a subordinate to give such menial work to. He spread out plastic bags in the back of his Land Rover that was marked with the cheery yellow and blue check of the Scottish police. Then he hauled the heavy, bloody sheep into the boot. He had to drive them over an hour each way to Ullapool. But anything that ever had to be done, Hayden did himself. He was the only constable in the small hamlet of Laide and its surrounds. He covered a territory of nearly a hundred miles square, and he himself was the entire breadth and width of the law here. He might call in help if there was real trouble, but not for sheep. And decidedly not for a phantom black dog.

 

 

It was nearly dark when Hayden got back to Laide. He passed the Black Dog pub. There was a strange car in the lot, a rental, so apparently Angus had tourists in. Hopefully, they were there for the night and not just a meal. It was a good day when Angus could let out one of his upstairs rooms.

Maybe Dylan would show up at the pub tonight and spout off about the Black Dog. Nothing like a little local color to give the monster-hunters that chill up the spine. The wild northern end of Scotland was popular with long-distance cyclists and the occasional hardy hiker. But the few who stopped in the tiny hamlet of Laide had the legend in mind.

Hayden sighed. How he’d love to put up his tired feet at the pub and have a pint. But he had other obligations.

 

 

At home, Hayden let himself in quietly. As always the house smelled sourly of camphor and rose water and cabbage.

“Hullo,” he said to Ruth as he entered the kitchen. “And hullo, Mom.” He kissed his mother on the top of her head, assessing her condition automatically. Her crazy thick black hair, shot through with gray, was freshly washed, a task Ruth only managed a few times a week. She was wearing a thick purple cardigan. It was a bit too small on her large frame, but it was clean. And she had on real trousers today—some old khakis—not PJ bottoms.

His mother looked up at him and smiled. “Hayden! Ruth made us supper. Isn’t that nice?”

It was a good day then. Deep inside, where fear gripped his stomach in greedy handfuls, the tension eased.

“That’s lovely, Mom. What’re we havin’, then?”

“Pot roast! Can’t you smell it? I’m surprised the whole town isn’t outside the door wantin’ to be let in. Smells delicious!”

Hayden swallowed and looked at Ruth. She shook her head a little. “I’ve got some baked chicken in the oven,” she said quietly.

His mom ignored Ruth, going on and on about the pot roast. He sighed. A year ago he would have chased that phantom. But he’d learned better. Even if he went out and got a pot roast now, and they cooked it right away, by the time it was done, his mother would have forgotten all about it. She’d pick at her food like she always did, taking a few bites, and then claiming she was stuffed and couldn’t manage another morsel. He had no idea why she wasn’t a skeleton by now.

“I’m sure it’ll be wonderful,” he said. “I’m starving. I’ll just go wash my hands, shall I?”

 

 

After dinner, his mother settled in to watch her programs on TV while Hayden helped Ruth with the dishes.

“What is it, Hayden?” Ruth asked, giving him a leery expression. “I know that face.”

He sighed. “Ah, Christ. I hate this.”

“Go on. Hemming and hawing won’ make it any easier.”

He bit his lip. “Dylan Mitchell lost four sheep last night. I’m thinking it’s a pack of dogs. Told him I’d watch out tonight. Our farmers can’t afford to be losin’ livestock.”

Ruth rinsed the dish soap from her hands and turned to face him. “Hayden, of course I’ll stay, but this is what I’ve been tellin’ ye. You can’t manage. You can be called out any time day or night with that job o’ yours. And she shouldna be left alone.”

The anxiety in Hayden’s stomach returned with a vengeance. Dear God, he’d be growing a family of ulcers in there. “I can’t afford to hire a nurse, even if she’d take to one. What am I supposed to do?”

“Well, you know what I think! One of those fancy brothers o’ yours should be helping out.”

He didn’t disagree with the general concept. It was the particulars that were the problem. Jamie and Loren were both taking graduate courses in London. Jackson, Levi, and Moby had jobs and families of their own to care for hundreds of miles from here. And Sam was on a ship somewhere with Her Majesty’s Navy.

They’d all gotten away from Laide. And Hayden, the youngest, was left the loser in the MacLairty game of musical chairs. Last one standing. Then he felt guilty. He wasn’t the one with dementia. He shouldn’t be whinging about his own troubles. Besides, he honestly had no desire to leave Laide.

“You know that’s not gonna happen,” Hayden said tightly. “And you know how she is. Last time that social welfare lady stopped by, Mom screamed bloody murder, and she didn’t calm down for days. She won’t abide a stranger.”

“I know,” Ruth said quietly. “Which is why I told my niece and her husband they could have my cottage for the summer. And why I’m gonna be bossy and tell you I’m movin’ into the spare room.”

It was so welcome and yet too much at the same time. Hayden leaned against the counter, light-headed with relief. “I canna ask you to do that. I can’t pay you for more hours, and it’s not fair to you. You have a life.”

Ruth gripped his hand. She had a lot of strength for an old lass. And the light in her fierce eyes made it clear there was no faltering in her faculties either. “I’ve had a life, and, God willing, I will have one again. But right now Becca needs me. And you need me. And she’s been my best friend since we were six year old, and that doesn’t stop because she can’t remember what year it is. Of course, I don’t want any more of your money, Hayden MacLairty.”

Hayden swallowed. “That’s… I don’t know how to thank you.”

Ruth smiled, but she still looked worried. “It’ll be a relief to be able to keep me eye on her, to tell you the truth. You’re a right bonny son, and no mother could ask more. But if you ain’t workin’ nights, you sleep like the dead, and don’t think I don’t know it.”

“Hayden!” His mom called from the other room.

“Thank you, Ruth. Really.” His throat felt thick with gratitude.

Ruth snorted. “Yes. I’m sure any healthy young man would be itchin’ to live with two old crones. Go on, then. See what she wants.”

Hayden went into the living room. His mother waved frantically at the TV screen.

“Hayden, look at that dog! Isn’t he the cutest thing!”

Hayden sat on the arm of his mother’s recliner and took her hand. “He’s sweet, isn’t he?”

“You’ve asked and asked for a dog, but you know how your father feels about it. Maybe this Christmas, if you get that A in Maths. Do you think you could do that, lad?”

“Sure, Ma. I can do that.” His father had been gone for ten years, and Hayden had been out of school far longer. He often wondered how his mother could look at him and see a teenager instead of a man just turned thirty-two. But her misfiring brain had its own rhyme and reason.

Becca frowned. “I had a dog once. His name was Bandi. Did I ever tell you?”

Hayden rubbed her cold hands. “No, Ma. Tell me about Bandi.”

“He was a German shepherd. Used to sleep right by my bed. And he’d follow me to school. And I’d say ‘Thank you, Bandi! Now go on home!’ when we got there.”

“Uh-huh.”

“And do you know what happened to that dog? He got into the neighbor’s chicken coop and ate a chicken. Oh, did Pa gave him what for! Lord, Hayden. But Bandi, he’d got a taste for it, ye ken. And he wouldn’t stop. So Pa took a rifle and put him down.” There were no tears in her eyes, but her voice got soft. “Ma said Bandi ran away, but the neighbor’s son told me the truth. Pa shot him.”

“I’m sorry, Mom,” Hayden said, like he always did.

“Oh, look! It’s Bette Davis. Isn’t she lovely!”

Here's the link to "Claw" on dreamspinner's site.

And the Goodreads link.

"Unwrapping Hank" hits #1 on Amazon gay romance list!

As an author, I have a soft spot for every book I write, even if others don't love them like I do. lol  But it's amazing, wonderful, hopeful, sustaining to have one that gets good sales.  I was super excited this morning to see that "Unwrapping Hank" has hit #1 in gay romance on Amazon.  I'm so grateful, because getting good results means I get to keep writing m/m romance, which I LOVE, and I get to spend more time on it. So thank you so much for anyone who bought the book. In these days of rampant piracy, your support is so, so, so much appreciated! http://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/books/14044691/ref=pd_zg_hrsr_b_3_5_last

 

Hank_Nov21_No1_Amazon

Desktop: "Unwrapping Hank"

My 2014 Christmas novella, "Unwrapping Hank" released today!  Here's my traditional desktop post in which I share images that inspired me while I was writing the story. THESE IMAGES ARE TAKEN OFF GOOGLE and do not belong to me. They do not appear in the book itself but only in this post. If anyone has an issue with one of these being in this post, please email me at eli@elieaston.com and I'll be happy to remove it.

SLOAN:

I Googled a lot to find this guy. He has the sort of smart ass, intelligent, slightly Euro look. Sloan!

hipster

 

HANK & MICAH:

My husband just told me today there's a new thing called a "lumbersexual" -- a guy who has a beard and wears flannel and likes to build things. That's Hank all right (well, maybe not the building things). His brother Micah is slightly more on the hippy side. Here are a few images I found that remind me of Hank and Micah.

Hank Springfield Example me-and-ron

stock-photo-26447289-handsome-guy

 

PSU (Penn State Uni in State College, PA)

Here are some mood-setting location shots.

penn-state-university-campus-6 snow01 nittany lion inn woods

DEAD SANTA PARTY:

I mocked this up and then decided not to include it in the book.

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photography-scary-santa-claus-skull-illustration-image34761677

LILITH AND KARMA:

The parents of Hank and Micah are lovely hippy, homesteading peeps.  Here are a few images I found for inspiration.

mark-anna-lucy-big brooklyn-homesteader-honey

 

THE TURKEY:

I was too soft-hearted to write the turkey-killing ceremony. I'm sorry.

RidleyTom09

AMISH COUNTRY CHRISTMAS:

Actually,  the Springfield's farm turned out to be very autobiographical. It's based on our real farm in Lancaster County, PA. We do have 3 cows (named Trueheart, Tinkerbell, and Bessy) and chickens. Our barn similar to the one in the book.

true

 

cows

winterbarn

 

GRINCH:

Our bulldog, Lucy, walking out by the cornfields along the lane by our house. Lucy was the cover model for Wrapping Hank.

lucy_august

grinch

 

TALLY HO tavern in Lancaster

Is a real place.

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That's it for this desktop!  The story is live today!

Here's the Amazon link.  (kindle edition)

Here's the link for ARE (epub, pdf, kindle editions)

 

Eli

 

Desktop: "The Bird" (in "bones", gothika #2 anthology)

bonescover Today is the release day for "bones", the second volume of the gothika series -- m/m romance with a gothic twist. This volume is all about Voodoo. There are 4 novellas by Kim Fielding, Jamie Fessenden, BG Thomas, and myself.  You can get it at 25% off for a short time on Dreamspinner.

My story is called "The Bird" and here's the blurb:

“The Bird” by Eli Easton Colin Hastings is sent to Jamaica in 1870 to save his father’s sugar cane plantation. If he succeeds, he can marry his fiancée back in London and take his place in proper English society. But Colin finds more than he bargained for on the island. His curiosity about Obeah, the native folk magic, leads him to agree to a dangerous ritual where he is offered his heart’s most secret desire—one he’s kept deeply buried all his life. What happens when a proper English gentleman has his true sensual nature revealed and freed by the Obeah spirits?

COLIN

First off, the story is set in the West Indies during the end of British rule.  I've always been interested in old horror movies set in the tropics like "Island of Dr. Moreau", "I Walked with a Zombie", "White Zombie", etc.  So the horror side of this story was definitely influenced by those films.  On the romantic side, this story definitely owes a nod to "Wide Sargasso Sea", both the book and film, which has a visceral sense of sweaty, muggy senuality. I love the film version starring Nathaniel Parker, so he is the model for my lead character, Colin.

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SUGAR CANE PLANTATION

The story is set on a sugar cane plantation in Jamaica owned by a British Earl.  His third son, Colin, is sent to set the plantation to rights after being mismanaged for years by a lazy overseer.  I found some great resources online for the workings of a colonial-era sugar cane plantation.

Cannes-sucre-Georgi_late_1800s Sugarcane_planting

planting sugar cane with 1 bud

 

TIYAH

One of the women who works on Colin's family plantation is Tiyah, rumored to be a powerful Obeah woman. Below is a stock image I found that reminded me of Tiyah. She's very beautiful. Colin ends up doing Tiyah a significant favor. And in return, Tiyah offers to give Colin "his heart's desire" through Erzulie, an Obeah loa. Colin is curious and he agrees, but he has no idea what is about to happen.

stock-photo-12306002-jamaican-woman

 

THE BIRD

A bird features heavily in this story, as a metaphor and a magical conduit. The bird looks like the one below, which is a black-crowned night heron.

220px-Black-crowned_Night_Heron_RWD7

black crowned night heron

 

MAJOR JOHN PIVOT

John Pivot is a neighbor of Colin's in Jamaica, an Englishman who lost his wits in war and has been exiled to Jamaica by his family to be hidden away. John's fate is more linked to Colin's than Colin realizes.

John_Brougham_-_Brady-Handy

RICHARD

Colin's best friend since his school days and perhaps more.

style

 

 

MORE MOOD SETTING JAMAICA PICTURES

Jamaica

jamaica-blue-mountains

 

images

That's it for this desktop!  I hope you enjoy reading "The Bird".  Please leave a comment for me at goodreads or amazon if you do.

Cheers!

Eli