Wonder Boi Writes

Spanish Surrender: Giveaway!

Hey Friends,

I’m feeling extravagant! I want to run not one, not two, but three giveaways!

I want to get as many copies of Spanish Surrender out there as possible, but I also want to reward the people who have already supported me and this books that means so much to me.

So, here’s what we’re going to do:

1) IF you haven’t yet purchased Spanish Surrender, comment on here or on social media (be sure to tag me) and tell me why you want to read it. If you do that, you’ll be automatically entered for a chance to win a free, autographed copy of Spanish Surrender.

2) IF you have already bought Spanish Surrender, post a picture on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram of you with your print or ebook and tagging me and you’ll automatically be entered for a chance to win a free, autographed copy of any one of my books!

3) IF you have done the Holy Grail of author support and bought and read Spanish Surrender AND posted an honest review on Amazon or Goodreads, you can share a screen shot or link to that review here or by tagging me on social media, and you will automatically be entered to win a “read- it-before-you-can-buy-it”, proof eBook of Fire and Ice, which won’t even be available until October!

I will keep all three giveaways open until August 15 to give you all plenty of time to level up if you want to. And yes, you can enter both contest 2 and 3 simultaneously if you want! Multiple social media posts get multiple entries, up to 1 per day, because you all rock like that!

And in the meantime, thank you for being awesome. I hope you know how much I appreciate you!

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August 8, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Spanish Surrender: The Photo Blog

Hey there friends,

If you’ve been following along for the last couple weeks, you already know that Spanish Surrender is out and widely available. You also got to read an excerpt from the first chapter in my last blog. I really hope that was enough to pique your interest for you to go buy it, and I’ve actually even heard from a few of you who’ve so graciously posted reviews on Amazon or taken the time to post on social media.

First of all, thank you!

Second, one of the comment trends starting to pop up repeatedly is something along the lines of “Spanish Surrender made me want to visit Spain.” A couple folks have mentioned googling places described in the book, and a handful of you have asked whether or not some specific restaurants or businesses actually exist. This blog is to assure you they do!

While my previous novel Full English was heavily inspired by my time living in England, I had to make a few adjustments, both out of respect for the privacy of people who live there, the legal issues involved with writing about a real dukedom, and the need to make a few scenes flow more smoothly. I am here now to tell you the same was not true for Spanish Surrender. Every single location described in the book was portrayed with all the painstaking accuracy I could muster, from hotel layouts to menus to driving routes, and even some of my family’s own experiences.

And of course I say all of this as an elaborate excuse to show you our vacation photos. You will notice that we are wearing jackets and hoodies because we were there in winter as opposed to summer, but the scenery is largely the same, starting with this night time shot of Calle Larios, the upscale shopping area that Simone loves and Loreto hates. In this photo the area is decked out for Carnival, but you can see it’s a pretty busy and trendy place.

And staying with the theme of places Simone loves, especially early in the book, here’s a photo of my wife and son at the Starbucks Simone visits on her first morning with Loreto. Can’t say that it’s authentically Spanish, but as far as Starbucks goes, it’s not a bad view.

That being said, given the choice between frappachinos and something a little more Spanish for breakfast, we’ll always chose the latter, and that’s why by the very next morning we’d located a tastier option just down an little offshoot of the same plaza where we found the Starbucks. Anyone who’s already read Spanish Surrender knows what I’m talking about, right? Churros!

Loreto’s love of churros con chocolate mirrors our own adoration of this Spanish breakfast dish. We ate them in every city we visited, but few could compare with the ones we had in Málaga.

And before we leave that city, I want to share one more photo, this one from the Alcazaba. This site doesn’t make it into the book, but I wanted to include it here for two reasons. 1) I don’t want you to think Málaga is all polished and gentrified, and 2) I just love this shot of my wife atop the old Moorish fortress.

From Málaga, our protagonists Simone and Loreto head northwest, away from the coast and up through the Sierra Nevada mountain range. They have a serious discussion I won’t spoil here. I’ll just say they begin to set the stage for some encounters that prove every bit as dramatic as this scenery.

Once up in the mountains, Simone and Loreto begin their Andalucian cultural lessons in earnest, starting at La Alhambra.

In the photo above, I’m standing in the gardens at the Generalife, and below is a shot of Jackson in a courtyard that features one of my favorite scenes of Spanish Surrender because it’s one where the temperature begins to really tick up between the two main characters. After you read that scene by the courtyard pool, come back and look at this photo again.

And no trip to the Alhambra would be complete without the obligatory photo of the Lions Fountain, so here’s one of those. Aren’t they adorable?

Then last but not least, there’s a scene in which Loreto relays a legend about a family who literally lost their heads while staring up at a particularly ornate ceiling…here it is! You can see where that might capture someone’s attention long enough for them to be snuck up on.

After Granada and La Alhambra, our protagonists head to Cordoba where, without any spoilers, things start to get tense again as world views collide. What better place to show clashing world views than the Great Mosque of Cordoba, a stunning example of Moorish ingenuity and devotion with a Catholic Cathedral cut right up through the middle of it.

This photo is of me standing in the infinity forest of columns and arches that make up the mosque.

And this one, for contrast in style, is some of the dark wood carvings at the center of the gothic-style cathedral.

After the intensity of the mosque/cathedral (and the things that happen there), Loreto finally gets the more uptight Simone to do a little day drinking in the form of local wine and fruits…aka sangria.

I am not a drinker. I don’t generally consume alcohol more than 4-5 times a year, and never in excess. One glass is generally enough to wipe me out, but when we were in Spain, a friendly waiter comped Susie and I each an extra glass of sangria, so just to prove how good it really is, here’s a photo of me well on my way to being toasted…let’s say it was all in the name of research.

And while we’re on the subject of local delicacies, Loreto convinces Simone to try a dish that takes a bit of bravery for most of my American audiences. Pulpo!

Don’t feel bad if that doesn’t look super appetizing to you. Even as an enthusiastic pursuer of all things Spain, I wasn’t eager to jump on board the pulpo bandwagon, but that’s something I regret now! Don’t let the little suction cups fool you: It’s not slimy! And when rubbed in paprika and olive oil or sprinkled with roasted almonds, it’s actually quite tasty.

After shit gets real for Spanish Surrender‘s dynamic duo in Cordoba, they move on to Sevilla. The first thing they do (after the pool of course) is visit the Plaza España. Interesting side note, the Plaza España is also featured in Spanish Heart, and even makes an appearance on that cover.

In Spanish Surrender, however, Simone and Loreto hone in on the moat surrounding this famous landmark, and even more so on the people who rent the rowboats on the moat. This exchange comes directly from my family’s experiences of doing just that. This was not Susie and I’s first time in a rowboat. We knew how to sit, how to work the oars, and which direction to face/pull in order to go the direction we wanted to. You wouldn’t think that would be setting a very high bar, but turns out it put us well ahead of everyone else in the moat that night! We saw people doing some of the most absurd things in wildly unsuccessful attempts to even navigate away from the dock area. They were sweating and swearing, and several of them nearly ended up in the water. It was the biggest collection of inept numpties we’d seen in ages, so we dubbed the place “Numpty Cove.” And there you have it: When Loreto uses that term, you’ll know we earned the right to do so by weaving our way through them all!

The Plaza España was also the only place we actually got to see flamenco. Since we were traveling with a kid in tow, unlike my characters who can go out to clubs at 10:30 at night, we had to make do with street performances of this powerful and passionate dance, but even on that front, we were not disappointed!

From Sevilla, my characters travel back toward the coast and up the Rock of Gibraltar. Again, this is a spoiler-free blog, so you will have to see what end ups in the story, but I will tell you about my own family’s experiences of taking a trip up “The Rock.” For over a year, Jackson had wanted to go see the monkeys that live there. As we neared the top, our tour guide informed us that while the monkeys were friendly, curious, and vaccinated, they were not by any means tame, and they would bite if they felt threatened. He told us to secure our belongings, put away food, and not to make any sudden movements. Then he asked who would like to hold a monkey. Every single person in the group raised their hand…except for my wife. Anyone care to guess who the monkey jumped on first?

This is one of my favorite shots of the whole trip. No worries, the money soon climbed onto Jackson’s head, much to his (Jackson’s, not the monkey’s) delight, and Susie was no worse for the experience. She simply declared that monkeys were merely cats with opposable thumbs.

Finally, as Simone and Loreto complete the circle of their journey in Malaga, they visit an establishment I am very happy to report really does exist. The Hammam Al Andalus is heaven on earth in my opinion. While my personal experience was vastly different from my characters, I still had one of the most luxurious experiences of my life here. The various rooms my characters visit are all real, and I did my best to describe them in luscious detail, but here are a few photos to better illustrate my point.

I think it’s pretty clear why I loved this place enough to put it in my book completely unaltered, but if you want to find out what my characters do in these rooms and why it matters, you’ll have to read Spanish Surrender!

August 1, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Spanish Surrender Excerpt

Hola Friends,

Spanish Surrender has been out for one week, and I am starting to recover from the death-warmed-over-style plague I came down with at GCLS, so let’s get the ball rolling for real now!

I can’t think of any better way to get you all interested in this book than to give you a peak at this book. Seriously, I know that might sound a little vain, but I honestly believe these characters speak best for themselves. So what do you say? Want to play hooky from work for the next few minutes and read the first chapter of my sexy, new travel romance?

Of course you do!

Spanish Surrender – Chapter 1

Simone sighed dramatically and tapped the tips of her high heeled shoes against the terra-cotta tile of the hotel lobby floor. The lone woman working the registration counter had been on the phone for six minutes and forty-three seconds. Simone checked her watch again, mentally preparing her strongly worded complaint to this woman’s supervisor. The clerk turned to Simone, giving her a little smile and shrug before laughing at something the person on the phone said and turning away once more. Simone’s jaw tightened, but she didn’t blow her top. Her temper simmered, slow and exacting, liquid nitrogen in place of fire.

Perdoname, señora,” someone said behind her, but Simone didn’t turn around until the person added in unexpected English, “excuse me, ma’am.”

“Yes?” Simone spun on her three-inch spike of a heel, hoping for a manager, but the sight of a short, unassuming woman caught her off guard. She couldn’t be more than mid-twenties, with a broad, easy smile that didn’t seem consistent with management material.

The woman scanned her up and down before giving her a knowing smile. “I’m sorry, señorita.”

Simone was vaguely aware that the title made some sort of comment on her age, or her marital status, but she got enough of those speculations in English that she wasn’t going to indulge them in Spanish, too. “Can i help you?”

“May I buy you a cup of tea?”

Simone was exhausted from her red-eye flight from Milan, but she examined the woman more closely. Her chestnut hair wisped deliberately across her forehead, and her bright blue polo shirt that read ‘Corazones Española Tours’ made her cornflower eyes stand out against her golden tan. Even without having slept in twenty-four hours, Simone recognized a tempting little dish when she saw one. Had she been on the vacation she was supposed to be on, she would’ve accepted. However, the vacation had turned business trip, and she hadn’t gotten where she had by mixing business with pleasure.

“Thank you, but I need to get checked in, and if that doesn’t happen in”—she glanced at her watch again—“the next thirty seconds, heads will roll.”

“Spain has seen a few beheadings over the years,” the woman said, not seeming the least bit intimidated, “but it seems a shame to get blood on those fancy shoes.”

Simone arched an eyebrow but didn’t budge.

“Fine,” the woman said with a grin, “would you like some company while you wait?”

“I really don’t think that’s—”

“I’m Ren, by the way.” She extended her hand.

Simone accepted with a quick firm shake, her frustration slipping despite her effort to maintain it. “Ren, you are persistent.”

“You really have no idea, Americana.”

“Simone. I’d love to chat, but I don’t have the time.

“I doubt that.”

“Which part?”

“Both,” Ren said, her grin disarming despite the comment. “But we can focus on the latter, because I’ve been in this hotel every two weeks for the last two years, and I can tell you with authority, no one’s getting into any of the rooms until at least noon.”

“We’ll see about that,” Simone said, causing Ren to laugh softly.

She didn’t appreciate the humor. drawing herself up to her full height and folding her arms across her chest, she fixed Ren with a steely glare, but the smaller woman continued conversationally.

“The clerk doesn’t speak English, and I take it you don’t speak Spanish?”

“I speak with a visa platinum card.”

“Ah, so this your first time in this part of Spain?”

“I’m an experienced traveler.”

“Good. So, tell me this, experienced traveler, what do you notice about that sign?” Ren pointed to a white sheet of paper in a wooden frame that said, “wait your turn.”

“It’s shoddily made.”

Ren laughed outright this time. “What about the fact that you can read it?”

Simone read the sign again, then contrasted it quickly with the other signs in the hotel lobby. This was the only one in English, and it was written only in English, with no Spanish counterpart.

“You, Ms. impatient Americana, are that sign’s audience,” Ren said. “And you’re not the first of your kind to be in this predicament, so you have two choices: continue to stand here fuming, only to be summarily told there’s no room available yet, or have a nice, soothing cup of tea with me while my wife finishes up in our room. Then I’ll ask the clerk, in Spanish, to give it to you.”

Impatient American? Simone’s anger at Ren’s presumptuousness warred with her practical side, which recognized a useful partnership when she saw one. She glanced once more at the clerk, who was still chatting happily on the phone with little sign of wrapping up, and decided that, despite the well-timed mention of a wife, Ren was clearly the more enticing option for getting what she wanted right now.

###

Loreto opened one eye enough to see that the clock read nine. She mentally reviewed her schedule. It was a free day for her current tour group, so she didn’t have any responsibility to the students until dinnertime. She should be entitled to sleep off whatever it was she did last night, so why was her boss yelling at her from the other side of her hotel room door?

“Loreto, open the door, por favor.”

Lina didn’t sound like she was here for a fun chat, and Loreto tried a little harder to remember the fuzzy parts of the previous night as an arm snaked over her shoulder and slid down her chest. The details came back to her. She rolled onto her back, allowing herself to look at the owner of the hand, who was now drawing circles around her nipple. La Señora Markus.

Loreto smiled. She always loved finding out one of those deliciously studious teacher types by day turned into a hellcat by night.

La Señora bit loreto hard on the shoulder and sucked her skin. Apparently, she could be a hellcat during the day, too.

“Loreto, if you don’t open this door right now, I’m going to get the housekeeper to open it for me,” Lina called, her voice holding both annoyance and amusement.

Mierda.” Loreto groaned and disengaged herself from La Señora Markus’s lovely mouth. “I’m coming.”

“That’s what I was afraid of,” Lina said dryly, and Loreto laughed. She loved her boss’s dry sense of humor, and if she was wielding it so early in the morning, odds were good Loreto wasn’t in that much trouble.

She pulled on a pair of boxer shorts but left her chest bare and opened the door. Lina stood in the hall with three of the girls from their current tour group. “Buenos dias, chicas.”

All three students immediately turned bright shades of red and averted their eyes, while Lina took the chance to give Loreto a warning glare, then shook her head.

“Loreto, the ladies are worried because they can’t find their teacher. She usually meets them for breakfast and then spends some time on the phone with her husband back in London, but she wasn’t in the restaurant, and her husband has been calling for her.”

“Her husband, you say?” Loreto rubbed the bite marks on her shoulder

“She went out with you last night,” one of the girls cut in. “Do you know where she is?”

Lina shook her head almost imperceptibly, and the little lie rolled naturally off Loreto’s tongue. “After dinner I suggested she take in the sunrise on the beach, and then maybe walk through the markets back up through the old town. I’m sure she’ll return within the hour.”

“See, girls, I told you Loreto had likely played tour guide to La Señora Markus,” Lina offered soothingly. “She’s always eager to introduce people to the finer experiences Spain has to offer.”

“Well if you see her, tell her we’re going shopping in Larios this morning,” the same girl said, her tone infinitely more relaxed.

“If i see her, i’ll let her know,” Loreto said, and the girls hurried off, but Lina stayed put. “yes, boss?”

“What do i have to say to make you understand we have a responsibility to the people on our tours?”

“A responsibility to introduce them to the finer experiences Spain has to offer?”

Lina rolled her eyes. “We’ve talked about this, Loreto.”

“No, we talked about not sleeping with the students, you never said anything about the teachers.”

“Then put on your pants and come downstairs so I can clarify the company policy.”

“Right now?” Loreto whined. “I have plans.”

“Your plans have to call her husband back.”

Loreto’s stomach tightened just a bit. “Oh yeah.”

Lina tapped lightly on the large hickey on Loreto’s shoulder.

“And wear a shirt with sleeves.”

###

Ren set a small kettle of tea on the table between them. The hotel’s restaurant was more of a café or collection of tables on a patio off a small kitchen. Simone had no idea why her boss’s secretary had booked her in a place like this. Something about a film festival, and last minute. The excuse hardly seemed acceptable.

“What brings you to España?” Ren asked, pouring the tea through a small mesh sieve and into a baby blue mug.

“Work.”

Trabajo,” Ren said, then added, “Just in case you wanted to pick up a little Spanish.”

“I’d rather pick up a good translator. Are you interested? I’d be willing to pay well above the going rate.”

“I’m a tour guide, not an interpreter.”

“I could use a guide, too. I have an important meeting this time next week, and I need to pick up some conversation topics between now and then that make me seem in tune with Spanish culture. If you want the job, I’ll gladly compensate your employer for your time.”

Ren’s smile faded. “Make you seem in tune with Spanish culture, not actually help you get in tune with it?”

Before Simone had the chance to dismiss that idea, a sexy, young woman with long, dark hair and olive skin sidled up next to Ren and placed a sweet kiss on her cheek. “I’m so sorry to interrupt, but Loreto is on her way down.”

Ren snorted softly. “Down on who?”

La Senora Markus, but then down here for a talking-to before we head home.”

“This day just keeps on getting better.” Ren sounded tired for the first time, but she regained her smile quickly enough. “Lina, this is Simone, una Americana with money to burn and in need of a tour guide to help her fake an affinity for Spain.”

Hola Simone. Forgive my wife. Spain has softened her edges, but she hasn’t lost all her American bluntness yet.” Lina ran her fingers through Ren’s hair and gave it a loving tousle.

Simone sipped her tea. “I can respect bluntness as long as it’s paired with efficiency.”

Excellente,” Ren said with a mischievous grin. “Then I’ll go tell Marcela to turn over our room so you can get some rest. After the siesta we’ll meet back here, and I’ll introduce you to your guide.

“Introduce me? i made the offer to you, or maybe to your employer.

Lina slipped an arm more possessively around Ren’s shoulder. “Her employer isn’t willing to share her.”

Corezones Española is your company?” Simone asked coolly, refusing to show the hint of disappointment that pricked her chest.

“It’s our company,” Lina corrected, exuding pride, “and between school trips and family holidays, the summer is our busiest time, but if Ren thinks we can spare one of our guides, I’ll trust she has a good reason.”

“I’m certain her reason is better than good,” Simone said. “It’s platinum.”

Lina bit her lip as if trying not to smile. “Be careful. The last time I underestimated her, I ended up wearing this.” She pointed to a gold band on her left ring finger.

“Thankfully, that’s not something I have to worry about.” Simone stood. “Now if you’ll be so kind as to show me to my room, I’ll freshen up and meet you back here at one o’clock?

“Three o’clock,” both women said in unison.

Simone sighed. She was used to setting the schedule. Why was everyone in this country so contrary?

###

Loreto checked her coal-black hair in a mirror she passed on her way down the hotel’s wrought-iron staircase. Not that she minded looking disheveled. If anything, she preferred it. Women like La Senora Markus seemed to prefer it, too. The fact that her white T-shirt and cargo shorts weren’t exactly business attire didn’t bother her either. Lina and Ren had always been lax about stuff like that, though judging by the stern look on their faces when they saw her, that may be about to change.

Loreto was not what anyone would call a morning person, so she bypassed the table in the café and ordered a café cortado, a strong, black coffee with just a kiss of milk, before joining them and laying her arm, palm up, across the table. “Okay, here’s my wrist, boss. Go ahead and give it a little slap.”

Lina shook her head. “We’ve been through this before.”

“Not exactly this. You said no university students, and I listened. La Señora Markus is a teacher, and she crawled into my lap, not the other way around.”

Lina showed no sign she found this logic any more compelling than she had earlier, so Loreto changed tactics. “And wasn’t Ren one of your clients? Can you honestly say if she’d showed up in your room wearing nothing but a bath towel, you’d have just said, ‘Sorry, my boss wouldn’t like that?’”

Sí.”

“It’s the truth,” Ren said wistfully. “It took me days before she even let me kiss her.”

“You’re not helping, amor,” Lina said, but the bite drained from her tone, leaving her sounding more tired than angry. “And we aren’t talking about us. We’re talking about a habit that’s getting out of hand.”

Loreto sighed, finding the topic as tedious as Lina now seemed to. “You can’t tell me not to sleep with a grown woman on my own time. It’s my business.”

“No, it’s my business. Your meeting a woman and taking her back to your place is not the same thing as one of my guides taking one of my guests back to one of the rooms I’ve paid for, leaving my underaged guests unattended overnight . . .”

Loreto slumped in her chair resignedly. Lina obviously had a speech prepared, and Loreto had sat through worse. Ultimately, she’d learned she didn’t have to win every argument. She didn’t even have to engage them if she didn’t care to, and she didn’t care about much. besides, a stern talking-to was a small price to pay to keep a job as good as this one. Still, she wondered how long this was going to take. Lina seemed to be on quite a roll.

“. . . but it’s not only bad for our business. I’m starting to worry about you, too. I know you’ve been through a lot, and it’s probably hard to have faith in people, but you’ve moved past irreverent and into self-destructive. Are you even listening?”

, you’re irreverent and self-destructive.”

Ren set her forehead down on the table with a thud. “Uh-oh

Lina threw up her hands. “Clearly, nothing I can say is going to change anything.”

“It’s good we realize we can’t change each other. No use going on about it.”

“No, we’re done talking. You’ve forced me to take action. You’re relieved of your next tour.”

Loreto sat up straight. “What? you’re firing me?”

“Not firing, just a leave of absence.”

I don’t have an apartment, or income. What about my papers?

Dios mio.” Loreto turned to her other boss. “Ren, help.”

“Why do people always think you’re the nice one?” Lina asked.

“Sorry, Loreto. This was my idea,” Ren acknowledged. “you’ve worked nonstop for three months. You need a break. or maybe you need a new challenge to pull yourself out of this rut you’re in.”

“Living ten days without a paycheck will be a challenge all right. What am I supposed to do? Lay on the beach? Go to the clubs? No offense, but that’s not exactly the way to get me away from women.”

“We thought of that. Obviously, we care about you.”

Loreto snorted.

“We don’t want anything to jeopardize your status,” Ren continued, “and the choice is yours. You can mope around if you need a break, but there’s another option.”

“Why do i have the feeling I won’t like this other option?”

“It’s a private tour.”

“I didn’t think you did private tours.”

“You don’t work for us for the next ten days,” Ren explained.

“The client doesn’t seem very interested in playing tourista, so you’ll likely do a lot of driving and translation, maybe offer context and cultural insight, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she expects you to carry her bags while you’re at it.”

Loreto started to understand. “So, the tour’s not the challenge, the client is?”

“Nicely put,” Ren confirmed. “An Americana on business for some important meeting next week. She’s willing to pay heavily for what I can only assume will be a very long seven days.”

“She wants a pack mule?”

“Pretty much, so if you want to sleep in hostels for the length of your suspension, no one would blame you, but personally, I think the job will be good for you.”

“Lina, you think working for this woman is what I need to do my penance?”

“No, I think one of you is likely to arrive at our next meeting in a box,” Lina deadpanned, “but if it’s you, just remember you dug your own grave.”

“Ouch.” Loreto had enough experience to know Americans with money could be a high-maintenance breed, and she had a particularly low tolerance for them. “So, it’s a test?”

“Consider it a contest,” Ren offered cheerfully. “You versus the naysayers.”

Loreto rolled her eyes. Nothing about this sounded promising, but she did have a competitive streak, and virtually no cash. Ten days of no plans and no money didn’t exactly appeal to her either. “Fine. i’m in.”

Ren grinned and Lina sighed again.

“When do I meet this woman?”

“Two-thirty,” they both said in unison and then laughed,

Loreto assumed at one of their inside jokes. Then Ren added, “Go get some sleep.”

###

“Thanks,” she mumbled and headed up the stairs. If this client was as bad as they were making her out to be, she’d need all the rest she could get.

Simone woke up to the familiar ring of her cell phone. It was two o’clock in the afternoon, which meant it was morning in New York, though she was too foggy to figure out what time. She’d had four hours of sleep, which was more than enough to function, but not enough to thrive.

“Hello,” she said, instantly sounding professional even if she didn’t feel it yet.

“I take it you’re on the ground,” Henry Alston said without introduction. he was used to being instantly recognized.

“Yes, sir. I arrived in Málaga this morning. I’m checked into the hotel your secretary suggested, and I have a meeting with a potential guide in an hour.”

“Good girl. I know I don’t have to tell you to do your home-work on Liberdad. I want this fish mounted on my wall by this time next week.”

Simone grimaced, both at being called “girl” and at her senior vice president’s absurd fishing metaphor. They were talking about a small publishing company, not a large-mouth bass. “Have I ever let you down?”

“Never,” He laughed, “Which is why I wrecked your first vacation in over a year, but you know I’ll make it up to you.”

He’d make it up to her bank account, which to him was the same as making it up to her, and generally it was. “Of course. I had a chance to glance at the specs on the flight from Milan, and it looks like an insanely generous offer, given their limited assets.”

“Asset. They only have one, Juanes Cánovas. He’s a fucking god with a pen, and American women are going to think he’s sex on a stick, but Liberdad Press has everything from translation rights and movie rights to right of first refusal on future works.”

“No one has everything. There’s no way their lawyers can stack up to ours. Why not poach him?”

“Already tried. He’s got some misguided loyalty to that little mom-and-pop shop in Málaga. They’ve fed him some line about his artistic integrity being compromised. He says they are quintessentially Spanish, whatever the hell that means. They’re all afraid we’re going to Americanize Juanes and sex him up.”

“Are we?”

“Of course.”

“If they won’t sell him, what makes you think they’ll sell the company?”

“Two reasons. One, we’re going to make sure the owners never have work again, and two, I sent you, and you never let me down.”

“Both very good points.”

“Wine them, dine them, hell, tattoo a Spanish flag on your ass. I don’t care how you do it, but get the contract on my desk without giving me any more headaches.”

Simone realized her window for asking questions had ended. “I’ll be in touch.”

She ended the call and got out of bed, mentally making a list of what she needed to do to get going on this project. powering on her laptop, she perched it on the bathroom counter while she hopped in the shower. There wasn’t time to luxuriate under the warm water. In a matter of minutes, she was drying her long, blond hair with one hand while she googled “ebooks on Spain” with the other. She picked out one on history and one on the country’s economic development, as well as a guidebook to southern Spain. She had them downloaded by the time she slipped into a pair of gray linen slacks and a white oxford shirt, a move she regretted the moment she stepped onto the hotel patio.

It had to be one hundred degrees outside, and the humidity made her hair seem to double in both volume and weight. She stopped to pull an ink pen from her leather business satchel, and winding her long locks into a bun, she stuck the pen through the center to hold it up off her neck.

“Nice,” someone said in a suggestive tone. Simone turned to see a rakish boy laying on his stomach on a lounge chair by the pool. He wore ratty shorts and beat up sandals. His dark hair was a mess, cascading over dark aviator glasses as he propped his chin atop his folded arms.

“You wish.”

The boy shrugged and resumed his nap while Simone headed inside to find a table in the lobby. Was there anything in this country that wouldn’t annoy her? The café was closed, and there was no one working the front desk. The entire place was empty and quiet in the middle of the day. What kind of establishment was this?

She took the seat that put her back to the wall, giving her a view of both the front door and the entrance to the patio. She was in control of this meeting, and she wanted to situate herself as such. She pulled out her ipad and checked the time. While the meeting wasn’t scheduled until three, anyone who wasn’t at least five minutes early was late. It was 2:40, and her tour guide was now on the clock.

She was tapping her toe like a ticking clock ten minutes later when Ren and Lina pushed through the front door to the lobby.

Hola, Simone,” Lina said, her smile more welcoming than earlier. “I hope you got some rest.”

“I did, but i’d really like a bottle of water, and I can’t get any service in this hotel. It’s like no one works here.”

“It’s siesta time. No one works from one to three in the afternoon.”

Ren had said the words clearly enough, but they made so little sense she might as well have spoken Spanish.

“Siesta? Surely that’s not a serious thing.”

“I know it’s probably a little jarring, but we do things differently in Southern Spain.”

“I don’t care where we are. You can’t shut a business down for two hours in the middle of the day. You can’t run a company like that.”

“And yet this city has thrived exactly like that for centuries. You’ll find billion-dollar homes less than three miles from here, and Michelin-starred restaurants, and upscale boutiques to rival New York or Milan. They’re all doing just fine. Spain sets her own tempo. It’s best to go with it.”

“It’s best to do what you’re paid to do. I’m being paid to work, and my guide will be expected to do the same. I hope that won’t be a problem.”

Ren sighed. “You can negotiate your terms with Loreto when she gets here.”

“I thought i’d be contracting her services through you.”

“No,” Lina said quickly. “We don’t do individual tours. Loreto’s completely free to accept or deny any terms she sees fit. We’re merely offering an introduction.”

“Why?” Simone eyed her suspiciously.

“Why what?”

“Why offer an introduction? Why give up your room early? Why provide one of your guides to a stranger if you aren’t going to accept payment?”

Ren shrugged. “Spanish hospitality.”

Simone didn’t buy that. No one did something for nothing, and she was about to say so when the door from the patio opened and the boy from the pool came strolling in, only upright and facing forward. Without the sunglasses, he was most definitely a she, and a very good looking she at that.

Her baggy shorts now hung off of the feminine curve of her hips, showing a tantalizing glimpse of tanned midriff, and her plain white T-shirt barely concealed her pert breasts. The style was grungier than Simone usually went for, but despite her disheveled appearance, the woman exuded a confidence anyone would find appealing. Most alluring, though, were her eyes. Deep brown irises swirled so dark, then almost melted into her pupils.

“Good afternoon, Loreto.” Ren rose to meet the newcomer. “This is Simone. Simone, meet your guide, Loreto Molina.”

“My guide?” Simone was caught off guard, a feeling she detested. This woman may be a fine candidate for eye candy, but she didn’t appear to have an ounce of professionalism. Shouldn’t tour guides look like, well, she didn’t know, closer to zoo docents or the retirees who sat on stools in art galleries, rather than some sort of sexy skateboard model or a latina boi band front man?

Hola, Señorita.” Loreto extended her hand, and Simone accepted it, sneaking a peek at her watch in the process. It was two minutes until three, so technically she wasn’t late.

“I don’t speak Spanish.”

“That’s not a problem. I’m a native English speaker,” Loreto replied with little more than a wisp of an accent, proving she couldn’t be discredited on the basis of a language barrier.

“How long have you been a guide?” Simone asked, as they took a seat.

“This is my third season working for Lina and Ren. Before that, I spent a few years traveling through the country on my own.”

“We can vouch for the fact that Loreto is one of our most knowledgeable guides. She consistently gets very high satisfaction ratings from our clients.”

Loreto’s grin flashed something more smug, and Lina gave an almost-imperceptible shake of her head. The move may have gone unnoticed by someone who didn’t watch for tells, but Simone wasn’t one of them.

“If she’s one of your best guides, why are you willing to part with her?”

All three of the women exchanged another quick look before Ren stepped in diplomatically once more. “She just finished with a group from England this morning. She’s got the next week off, and we thought she might be a good fit for you.”

“but if you want to shop around, feel free,” Loreto added quickly. “It’s only peak travel time, school holidays, and film festival week on short notice.”

Simone’s jaw tightened at the challenge in Loreto’s voice, but again, she only chose battles she expected to win, and she didn’t have enough information on viable alternatives to dismiss this woman’s points. She’d had plenty of practice swallowing her resistance over the years, but it still tasted bitter as she tried to hedge her bets. “I’m on a tight time frame. I’m willing to give you a trial on your employer’s recommendation.”

Loreto nodded, as if she were neither impressed nor offended by the tepid offer.

“We can come to terms on a price per day, but I reserve the right to terminate the agreement with payment made only for services rendered. does that make sense?”

Loreto shrugged. “I don’t work, I don’t get paid. I piss you off, I don’t get paid. You find a better offer, I don’t get paid.”

Simone fought the urge to defend herself against an accusation of unfairness that hadn’t actually been spoken. The harsh summary of terms wasn’t exactly false, so much as blunt.

Lina shook her head. “That’s very one-sided. There should be some sort of neutral metric put in place for the possibility—”

“Nah.” Loreto cut her off. “I’m good. She wants me gone, I’ll go.”

“Reto,” Lina said, dropping her voice. “Make sure it goes both ways.”

Simone smiled slightly as she realized what Lina was suggesting. “She’s right. Some people find my standards too high. If that turns out to be true of you, you also have the right to terminate the agreement at the end of any day without financial obligation.”

Loreto seemed to ponder the offer, lowering her chin and closing her eyes so that her full, dark lashes rested on smooth skin for a second, then opening them, she said, “No commitment. I like that.”

Simone pursed her lips as the feeling the comment should have inspired in her butted up against the ones it actually did. “So, we have a deal?”

Loreto nodded once more, this time resolutely. “deal.”

They sat staring at each for a long, heavy moment before Ren broke the silence by pushing back from the table. “All right then, we’ll leave you two to hash out the details.”

Lina didn’t jump up so quickly, instead looking from one to the other. Her eyes narrowed as she seemed to inspect each of them, but whatever thoughts spun in her head were silenced before they reached her lips as Ren laid a hand on her shoulder.

“All right,” Lina said and rose. “you’re right.”

Simone shook her head slowly, not understanding who or what the comment referred to.

“It’s not you,” Loreto whispered conspiratorially. “They just do that sometimes.”

“Do what?”

“Have conversations no one else can hear.”

“We do,” Ren said, without a hint of chagrin, “and now we’ve decided to leave you to your own devices.”

Simone found the choice of words a bit odd, but everything about this country had been odd so far. She thanked them both and tried not to examine the minute twist of wistfulness in her stomach as she watched them walk away hand in hand.

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And there you have it! Your introduction to Loreto and Simone. What do you think? Want to see what happens next? Want to see where they go? If they kill each other? When they jump each other’s bones? Why not go get your copy of Spanish Surrender today and find out?

July 23, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Spanish Surrender is out!

Hey Friends,

So, my back up release for Spanish Surrender went about the same as my original release in that I managed to get sick at GCLS, too. Great, fine, whatever, I’m not bitter at all.

The bottom line though is that Spanish Surrender is now available wherever great books are sold, and you can get your copy today in print or eBook.

I am really proud of this book. I do my very best with each and every book I write, but this one goes to a level of meaning for me that I’ve rarely let myself go to in my writing. I really hope you’ll give it a chance, and more than that I hope you love these characters the way I do.

July 17, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Spanish Surrender and GCLS

Hiya friends,

I am freshly returned to the states after a month abroad. In June my family traveled to London, North East England (to visit the town and people who inspired Full English) and Mallorca, Spain.

Anyone who follows me even a little bit knows of my vast love for Spain, and I was so very looking forward to spending five whole days exploring a brand new part of the country, this time on of the Balearic Islands of the Mediterranean coast. I had the added bonus of planning a book launch while I was there.

You see, I had the most wonderful plans to promote my new release, Spanish Surrender, from the island. I was going to livestream readings and announcements. From my lounge chair beside the pool at the finca where I was staying, I was going to read a few paragraphs from a sexy scene where my characters do a little swimming on a hot Andalusian day.

From a mountain-top olive grove, I planned to tease a scene where my characters have an important conversation on a road just like that one.

And for the big shebang, my family and I had ponied up the money to sail out on a traditional Mallorca fishing boat and watch the sunset. From there I planned to read a snippet of a scene where my characters take a boat ride that isn’t at all what it might appear on the surface, and talk about the many layers of meaning this book has to me.

Alas, the best laid plans…<heavy sigh>

My son Jackie spiked a fever before our plane even touched down in Palma De Mallorca. By the next morning it had climbed to worrying levels, and we spent much of our first morning tracking down an English-speaking doctor who would see tourist children on short notice.

By the time we got cleared to travel farther into the country, it was in the heat of the day and poor Jackie was sweltering. We did get our drive through the mountains, but the heat, both internal and external, meant we stopped only long enough in Soller to collect food. No time for readings.

Things did not get better from there. We used the pool only once to try to lower our temperature. There were no sexy feelings or stories to be shared. We left our rural finca only one morning to visit a nearby market and lived to regret it.

Not only did the fever return time and time again, soon it became clear it was also a precursor to a nasty stomach bug.

We all shed a few tears as we had to miss the sunset sailboat cruise we’d already paid so much of our budget for, but in a matter of hours, even that would seem like wasted salt and water, as I was so wracked with sickness I ended up at another medical center with dual IV lines running wide open into my veins.

We didn’t eat any of the Spanish foods we love, and I didn’t have a single class of sangria, and no books were launched.

Still, I have much to be grateful for. One, this was not my first trip to Spain, and God willing it will not be my last. Two, we received excellent medical care at prices so far below what those services would have cost us in America, we had to laugh even in our distress. Three, I learned that when push comes to shove, my Spanish is sufficient to get through basic medical conversations, a fact that bolsters my sense of self and my Spanish street cred. Four, the people of Spain did not let me down. From the hosts of the places we stayed to the doctors and nurses and pharmacists who cared for us, their tenderness, competency, and eagerness to help exceeded every idealistic image I hold of the Spanish population. Five, we are all safe and heathly, which is more than a great many people in the world can say.

Finally, on our last morning in Spain, we all felt well enough to wander down to the water and spend just a few minutes jumping off rocks into the cool, blue, beautiful waters of the Mediterranean. It wasn’t the vacation we hoped for, but it was at least a nice note to go out on.

But now that I am back in America and back to basic good health, I am left with the problem of how to launch Spanish Surrender.

Sadly, I have no more magnificence up my sleeve. I’m afraid I will have to do this the old-fashioned way. You see, Wednesday I head off to Pittsburgh, PA for the annual Golden Crown Literary Society conference. The Mediterranean coast it is not, but what it lacks in breathtaking ocean views, it makes up for in really awesome people.

Seriously, a boi could do worse than launching a novel in a room full of hundreds of literary lesbians. So, that is what I will do! Then, after I do the official Spanish Surrender launch at GCLS, we will upload it to various retailers and web stores around the Internet.

I’ll release more details at the wide release later, but if you are going to be at the conference, you will have the exclusive opportunity to get your hands on the first paper copies of Spanish Surrender! I will also be reading from and talking about the book (and other things) at various events throughout the conference. If you want to find me, say hello, and maybe even have me sign one of those exclusive copies of Spanish Surrender, here’s where you can find me!

Wednesday July 10
1:00 – Conference Opening Ceremony
4:00 – Writing the Perfect Lesbian Lead – Kings Garden 3
5:00 – Opening Reception – (Bonus, Jackie might come to this one, too)

Thursday July 11
10:30 – The Art of Self Editing – Kings Garden 2
1:30 – Membership Meeting
4:45- Bywater’s Book Launch – King’s Garden 3

Friday July 12
10:30 Mentoring Matters – King’s Garden 4
11:40 – Generation Gap – King’s Garden 4
4:30 – Author Spotlight- King’s Garden 1

Saturday July 13
9:00 – Social Media and the author Kings Garden 5
10:30 – Conflict of Interests Panel
2:30 – autograph signing
5:30 – Awards dinner
7:00 – Awards
9:30 – Dance

Sunday July 14
10:00 – Closing Session
10:30 – Brunch – last chance to say hi!

I’ll also be around most of the times they are serving food, because food. So please don’t be shy! Come up, say hello, ask for a photo, ask for an autograph, ask me anything you’ve ever wanted to know about me or my books, because really, and please, help me celebrate the launch of Spanish Surrender, because even though it didn’t go the way it was supposed to, I’m still really excited to share my new baby with each and every one of you!

July 9, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Surprise!

Hi Friends,

I haven’t been blogging much lately, and I would apologize for not writing more, except I haven’t been blogging as much lately as I’ve been busy working on a surprise for you! Spoiler Alert–the surprise is a book!

That’s right, a brand new, not even on the schedule, sexy summer romance called Spanish Surrender. And I wrote it fast! Like In Development fast. So fast that, also like In Development, it knocked the traditional publishing schedule out of the park, and once again my awesome friends Susan and Carolyn over at Brisk did me the great favor of allowing me to do it as “drop in” title with them. What this means is that we just sent it right to print with no idea when it would actually come out. Then we held our breath until we got the news I’d been hoping for.

Are you ready?

Spanish Surrender will officially debut at GCLS in Pittsburg July 10!

That’s less than a month away, and better still, it’ll be available on the Brisk website right around the same time, with a wider release on Amazon in August. You can even pre-order it there now, but if you want it sooner, stay tuned for updates on when and where you can make that happen, or better yet, get ye to GCLS!

In the coming weeks I’ll be sharing more about why I think you’ll want to get your hands on this hot little number, but for now I’m going to leave you with the blurb and the sexy Ann McMan cover, just to pique your interest and hopefully keep you coming back for more.

Spanish Surrender
Simone and Loreto don’t have to like each other. They only need to work together, but the heat and the history around them and between them conspires to demand so much more. 

When Simone Price lands in southern Spain, she has one job upon which the future of her entire career rests: She must convince a small, Spanish publishing house to sell their business to her much larger American corporation. The job should be easy, but many others have failed. Refusing to repeat their mistakes, she hires a guide, translator, and purveyor of Andalucían culture for the week leading up to her big meeting. 

The plan seems simple enough until she meets Loreto Molina, and it quickly becomes apparent that Loreto knows more than her casual demeanor might suggest. The complications only escalate as the two set out on a scorching path through a region that shatters all expectations. As their time together stretches on, both women must confront not only their assumptions about each other, but also their own world views amidst a steamy landscape of temptation, power, purpose and raw attraction. Spain acts as both catalyst and conduit for unearthing desires long buried and threatening carefully planned futures. 

As the stakes and emotions rise like the hot, unrelenting sun, Simone and Loreto fight to hold onto the ideals they hold dear, but what if the only way for either of them to truly win is to surrender?

June 13, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

British Bits and Bobs

Hey All,

First of all I want to say a big thank you to every who helped me raise money for my alma matter, Illinois State University, as part of our Birds Give Back campaign. I did a drawing of everyone who donated at least $10, and the winner is Anne Hart!  Anne, just let me know which ebook you want and where I should email it.

And now it’s time to get back to business, and by business I mean looking at pictures I took when I lived in Northeast England last year.  

For those of you who have read Full English, you may have noticed in my author notes that much of my inspiration for the book stemmed from the time I spent living in a small, seaside village called Alnmouth.  I had to fictionalize a town/dukedom because of a few legal issues that could arise for having your main character interact with people of specific titles, and I also enjoyed the freedom of being able to add or subtract a few features for convenience’s sake.   That being said, virtually everything Emma encounters by way of culture shock is something my family and I experienced, and I wanted to share those, along with some of the spots around town that inspired various places in the book with those of you who follow this blog.

First, let’s start with the basics.  Emma’s house in the story is largely based on the house we lived in for a little over 6 months.  Ours was a triplex, while I made Emma’s free-standing, but beyond that, the location and the layout were largely the same.  Here’s a picture of my son standing outside of ours. 

One of the best features of Emma’s house was exactly the same conservatory as we had in our house. In America we might call this a sunroom or a 3-seasons room. Ours looked out over a small garden and then out toward the North Sea.  I loved to sit out there and stare into the vast blue yonder. It was always the first place to get toasty warm in the morning, and at night the stars shined so brightly we set up a small telescope out there. 

Out in the garden we has a small shed that was a regular perch for a pheasant we named Phez.  He stopped by on Thanksgiving and stayed much of the day. We could see him from the kitchen window seeming to revel in the fact that it wasn’t his holiday to be on the menu. 

Inside the kitchen, though, was where our culture shock began.  Our oven was a “fan oven.”  To be honest, I never did quite figure out exactly how that translated to my American recipes, but British recipes all seemed to list that option for cooking temps and times, so I learned to cook roast veg, meat pies, and Cornish pasties. I like to think I’m a decent enough cook to be passible with any oven. What I hadn’t yet tested my mettle with was the very British staple of the electric tea kettle, and like Emma, my issues began long before I even got to the point where I had to add water.  

That is a pretty standard English outlet, and even though our kettle had right type of plug, our kettle (and our lamps, and TV, and anything else that plugged in) wouldn’t work no matter what wall switches I tried, because every outlet in the house also had that little switch to the right of the plug that engaged the power to that outlet. Once you know it’s there, it’s not hard to figure out how it works, but most of our outlets were behind furniture or along the floor, and many of our small electronics were already plugged in when we arrived. If our friend Kelly hadn’t pointed out those little switches, I’m not sure how long we would’ve gone around flipping wall switches fruitlessly before we got on our hands and knees to check behind the couch and found the root of the issue.

The other perplexing switch in the house was connected to the water heater. Thankfully, our new friend Jane pointed ours out on day one and saved us from cold showers, but here’s what we were dealing with.

While our shower had it’s own little water heater attached to the pipes (“power shower”), if we wanted to do laundry, wash dishes, or take a bath, we had to turn on house’s main water heater in advance, hence the third switch (the first two were a timer and control for the radiators). After traveling around the UK quite a bit, we found many new houses no longer use this set up, but they are far from uncommon.

Much less perplexing to us was the village social life.  Alnmouth is home to about 300 residents, and it seems like we met most of them in two places 1) the cricket pitch and 2) the pub.  While Emma has neither the opportunity nor the interest to play cricket, even our introvert Emma had more than one occasion to find herself in the pub.  And of course, as a bartender and part time cook, Brogan practically lives there.  We feel somewhere between those two options on the pub scale. We certainly didn’t take up residence, but when we were in town, we rarely missed a “Friday club” with the locals to catch up on the gossip of the week. This is where we learned about everything from who was moving, to who was dating, to who was on vacation, and what was on tap for the weekend. In other words, this is where we learned what it meant to be members of the community.

Can’t you just picture Brogan standing behind that bar while all the locals sit just to the right and harass her good-naturedly?

And while we are on about places we ate, no report of our time in England, or Full English itself would be the same without a trip to Bertram’s. Though I didn’t use the name of the business in the book (again, sticky legalities), this is very much a real place, and it can be found just inside the city walls in Warkworth. I won’t rehash all the details I share in the book, but I do want to offer photographic evidence that the tower of amazing yumminess Brogan and Emma order is very much on the menu.

It really is quite amazing that we didn’t gain more weight while living there. While we didn’t eat like this daily, we did eat scones as often as we got the chance. The only thing that saved our pants from splitting was that the sheer beauty of our surroundings inspiring us to walk nearly everywhere and every day.

And now I’ve just devolved into showing you pictures of where I lived, but I hope that when you look at them, you can see why I loved this place enough to make Emma fall in love with it, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll fall a little bit in love, too.

March 19, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Birds Give Back

I don’t do this often, because it’s kind of awkward for me to talk about money when I have so little of it, but I’m about do so now because the cause it just that important to me.

This is Birds Give Back day at my alma mater, Illinois State University, and I was asked to be an “ambassador” for the cause.  I’m told this is an honor, but I was joking with a friend that what it really boils down to is that instead of the university calling to ask me for money, they have asked me to ask you for money.  I see this honor clearly, folks. I am not getting duped by the fancy terms or videos, or the promise of a lunch box if I raise enough money to dwarf the actual retail cost of said lunch box.

And yet, even seeing those incentives for what they are, I am still jumping wholeheartedly into my ambassadorship role, because my time at ISU made me who I am today.

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ISU is the first place I ever got to be fully out.  It was a bastion of love and acceptance amid a vast landscape of cornfields and soy bean fields where I had previously lived in fear.

I started dating, and married my wife during my time at ISU.

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I became a women’s studies major and learned the history, philosophy, and argumentation skills that would help me articulate demand for a fairer, more inclusive society.

I learned the ins and outs of campaigning politics and human rights legislation at ISU.

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I met Jackson’s Big Papi there, and this awesome family sprang to life.

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I became the president of PRIDE and Speaker’s Bureau, where I learned to raise my voice for my community and tell our stories, even when my voice shook.

I wrote my first book while I was an undergraduate at ISU.

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I wrote my second book during graduate school there.

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I met and cultivated relationships with the most wonderfully inspiring people who continue to support and challenge me, as mentors, beta readers, editors, sounding boards, and unwavering supporters.

I tell you all of this in order to make it clear that I would not be the person, the author, or the community member that I am today if not for my time at Illinois State University.  That is why I feel such a compelling need to give back, and to pay it forward.

As part of this process, ISU sent me the promotional video below.  They asked that I share it so that you can see the things that current and future Redbirds might miss out on if donors like me, and hopefully you, don’t step up. As you watch it, though, I hope that in your mind you will also ask yourself what it would be like if you’d never read a Rachel Spangler novel (or heard of Sean Hayes or Jane Lynch, who are also Redbirds!), or be better yet, ask yourself what it would be like if the next lesbian romance novelists never get the chances I was afforded at Illinois State.

I hope that thought alone is enough for you to open up your wallet and give a few dollars.  However, in case it’s not, I’d like to sweeten the deal for ONE DAY ONLY!

Anyone who donates at least $10 while using this link on Feb 28 will automatically be entered into a drawing to win a free ebook copy of any one of my novels.

Anyone who donates at least $100 dollars will be guaranteed to receive any one of my audiobooks or ebooks. 

Anyone who donates $250 will receive a free, autographed, print copy of any one of my books, along with a handwritten thank-you note.

And finally, anyone who donates $500 or more to this cause that means so much to me will receive not only a free, autographed, print copy of any one of my books and a thank-you card from yours truly, but also the right to name a side character in one of my future books! 

Again, all you have to do is use this link:

https://birdsgiveback.illinoisstate.edu/giving-day/13273?utm_source=scalefunder&utm_campaign=amb_share&utm_name=ntx62fq39ke5j8c1a0aq2u5&utm_medium=plain

I appreciate it, and I know for a fact that so many future Redbirds will as well!

ISU GO!

February 28, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Full English – Wide Release

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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I’m celebrating this holiday of love and romance with the wide release of my 14th romance novel, Full English!  Bywater Books sure timed that well, didn’t they?

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While the book as been available at www.bywaterbooks.com for a full month now, this week marks the official wide-release date, which means it’s now available everywhere great books are sold.  So, if you are one of those Kindle aficionados, today’s the day.  If you are an iBooks loyalist, today is your day.  If you love to buy from brick-and-mortar bookstores, get to your favorite one today.  Or if you’ve just been waiting for the right day to be whisked away for the English seaside for a romantic travel adventure, can you really think of a better day than Valentine’s Day?

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Still not enough inspiration?  What about a sale? Well then, today is still your lucky day because from now until Saturday, you can get 25% off your entire order at www.bywaterbooks.com when you use the coupon code 19HEARTS.

So to sum all that up:

New Romance + Available Everywhere + Valentine’s Day + 25% off sale = What are you waiting for?

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February 14, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Descended from Voyagers

We are descended from voyagers
Who found their way across the world
They call me
I’ve delivered us to where we are
I have journeyed farther
I am everything I’ve learned and more
Still it calls me
And the call isn’t out there at all, it’s inside me
It’s like the tide; always falling and rising
I will carry you here in my heart you’ll remind me
That come what may
I know the way
 ~ Moana

The above song is on my writing soundtrack for Full English, but more than that, it was my answer to the question Emma Volant asks herself repeatedly through much of my newest release, Full English.

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“What have you done?”  It’s Emma’s common refrain largely because it was mine for the eight months we spent living in the UK and Spain last year.  There were moments when the panic nearly chokes Emma.  Those scenes often coincided with the worst moments of doubt in my own adventures, and while I couldn’t always answer that particular question, I could often hold the panic at bay by whispering back, “I am descended from voyagers.”

My grandpa is kind of big into genealogy.  He has family trees that when spread out will span whole rooms…big ones.  I was raised on stories of our American ancestors.  The first woman to be married at Jamestown, she was one of us. My grandpa took my brother and I there to see her mentioned in the video at the visitor’s center. We were at Valley Forge with Washington and were granted the land now known as Free Union, Virginia for service to him. The family homestead still stands there, and my grandpa took me to visit in middle school. The real-life Johnny Appleseed was also a relative on my grandfather’s mother’s side. That side of the family also fought at Gettysburg and served time as POWs in Andersonville. My grandfather spent summers walking all the grandkids through cemeteries across central Illinois to point out our people.

Then when I was in high school, my grandparents took a trip to Europe and told me that if I earned enough money to pay my way, I could tag along. I did, and it kicked off a love affair with international travel. I stood in the doorway of the church where my grandmother’s grandparents were married near Essen, Germany.  I stared up at The Arc d’ Triumph as Grandma and Grandpa recounted stories my great-grandpa had told  about the liberation of Paris during WWII, you know, ’cause he was there.

Honestly, as a kid I just thought everyone’s family did that sort of thing.  I was much older before I realized it was unusual for people’s families to go off chasing ancestors across the world, and by then it was too late for me to be persuaded that wasn’t normal.

I am everything I’ve learned and more
Still it calls me

So when my main character starts Full English by arriving in a small English village she’s never seen simply because her grandmother used to live there, I was aware of the disorientation she’d feel, but her motivation never felt illogical to me. There’s a scene early in book where she walks the streets of the little seaside town remembering the stories her grandmother told her, and she has a sort of inherited sense of familiarity. It was only after finishing the book that it really set in for me that not all my readers will intuitively relate to that experience, because it was only after I returned to America after similar experiences that I came to understand how much of a disconnect exists between people who have felt those ancestral echoes and people who haven’t.

As a writer, it is frustrating not to have the words you need to explain something amazing.  Until recently I had experienced this only a few times (e.g. explaining what it’s like to feel the first flutters of a baby kicking inside me), but that was nothing compared to the disbelief we encountered when I told people, first in America and then in England, that we’d packed up our family and moved across the ocean because I felt a call I couldn’t explain.

And the call isn’t out there at all, it’s inside me
It’s like the tide; always falling and rising


I wasn’t in quite the same place as my main character, Emma, in that I did know one person in Alnmouth in the village we chose, and we had at least been there for a whole 36 hours several years earlier.  I mean sure, we had never seen the house we’d be living in, and we wouldn’t have a car, but we didn’t know how to drive on the left side anyway. And, yes, Kelly would be traveling often, which meant there would be stretches were we didn’t know anyone, but we’d meet folks eventually. And yes our visas wouldn’t allow Jackson to attend school, so we’d have to figure out how to homeschool, but my wife and I are both highly educated. We’d learn.  And okay, so the village was too small to have a pediatrician, or a doctor even, or a real grocery store, or, you know even an ATM, but what’s that compared to striking out in a wooden ship in search of a northeast passage to China?

Yeah, that probably seems like a really random comparison to most of you, right?  Well one thing I didn’t mention in the earlier list of my lineages, is that in the age of internet genealogy, my grandfather had been able to trace not only our American ancestors, but gain access to resources across the pond. And since no one in my family does anything halfway,  he’d gone right back up to Eleanor of Aquitaine.

To be clear, well more than half of Brits can trace their family back to royalty, so this in no way indicates a superior bloodline.  What it does offer, however, is a really clear picture of who some of the people that shaped my family’s path through the world were, and it turns out by the 1500’s, my people were seafaring explorers.

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The framed photo above sits in my living room.  (I blacked out the identity-stealing portions for this blog). It shows a direct line from me all the way up to Stephen Borough.

We are descended from voyagers
Who found their way across the world
They call me

Stephen was one of the captains on several expeditions in search of a northeast passage to China.  While they found no such route, what they did find was Russia.  This was mind-blowing to many Europeans who knew of Russia only as a small country that barely touched the Black Sea. At this point, England had no real trade relations in that area and no genuine knowledge that Russia was a massive set of territories and duchies and provincial-style holdings that at its largest stretched from modern-day Scandinavia through to the far northeastern edge of Asia. Obviously I’m condensing a lot of this, but Stephen sailed all the way through the North Sea, around the northern-most coasts of Norway/Sweden/Finland, then many many more miles between the coast and the Arctic circle before having to winter in the White Sea.

While there, he interacted with some locals, and it went something vaguely like this:

Stephen: Who are you?
Locals: We are Moscovite Russians
Stephen: You mean that piddly little country on the Black Sea?
Locals: No, we mean this place:

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Stephen: Holy hell! I gotta tell Bloody Mary about this.
Locals: Cool, in the meantime, want to meet Ivan the Terrible?
Stephen: Sounds legit, let’s go!

Anyway, obviously I super condensed that part, too, but Stephen took lots of trip to Russia, negotiated the first trading charter with Russia, set up the first Russian trading company in England, etc.  Later he reformed the way British navigators were trained and the tools they used, like you do, when you’re a well-traveled dude. If you want to learn more about him, you can check out this book that my grandpa gave me a few years ago.

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To be honest, though, it’s value for me lay not in the dates and details of journeys long past, but in the constant reminder that people up my family tree took off with a lot fewer resources and a lot less knowledge to much more remote locations and not only survived, they changed the world. If Stephen Borough could strike out in the unknown and sail the frigid waters of the North Sea in search of new lands, new ideas, new connections, and renewed sense of global identities, then there was no reason I couldn’t do a little bit of the same.

So, I did.

I’ve delivered us to where we are
I have journeyed farther

I packed up my family and moved them across an ocean to a country my ancestors hadn’t inhabited in 400 years, to a village I’d barely visited, and into a house I’d never seen.  And when I walked out my back door, I stared out at the vast, vivid expanse of the great North Sea.

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I’ll blog plenty more about my time abroad and how it connected to various details in Full English.  I’m even planning to blog some more about my search for Stephen Borough, but for now, as you begin to read Full English, as you see Emma arrive in her grandmother’s village for some reason she can’t fully understand, and read about seeing Brogan hoisting sail because of a pull she can’t quite explain, I hope you’ll think of me getting lost in this view and listening to the echoes of my ancestors calling to me in memories made before I was born.

I will carry you here in my heart you’ll remind me
That come what may
I know the way

February 2, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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