A Stoker And Bash Christmas Short – Three Impossible Words

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Once again this year, I’m participating in the Rainbow Advent Calendar, in which a new story from a different LGBTQ+ romance author is available each day. You can find them all collected at the above link, or in the FB group. A huge thank you to Alex Jane for all her hard work and for hosting this event!

My contribution is this year is a Stoker & Bash short, Three Impossible Words. I call it Stoker & Bash 2.75, since it occurs, like last year’s short, between the events of book 2, The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree, and the still WIP book 3, The Death Under the Dark Arches. It’s almost an outtake, a scene that didn’t quite fit into the plot for S&B 3, but that I wanted to write anyway. Even though it’s set in summer, I hope it brings you a little holiday spirit. Have a wonderful holiday.

Stoker & Bash

Three Impossible Words

August 17th, 1874

                Shahida shifted, and shifted, and shifted again. She cupped her hands under her belly and lifted, hoping to alleviate some of the pressure on her insides. A sharp jab let her know what exactly The Pea thought of that. She leaned forward, adjusted her support pillows for the tenth time, and reclined back on this new configuration, but to no avail. Though the chair was soft as a pony’s neck and the cushions fat-cat fluffy, at this stage of up-the-duffery—two months or so out from the blessed day—comfort didn’t exist.

                Someone might have warned her. Her mother, for instance, or her midwife aunt, or one of the many nurses at the former religious cult, now fallen women’s home, where she gave grooming lessons once a week. She’d never understood the conspiracy of silence around childbearing and the carnal act, or the great many things one must never speak of, according to those who did not care to speak of them. As if secretiveness ever helped anyone do good.

                Shahida dragged her mind back from its latest tangent, another refuge from her never-ending discomfort. She found Lillian, a vision of serenity amidst the flower beds of their rooftop garden, and waved. Lost to painting a leaf and blossom motif on The Pea’s cradle, Lillian made no reply. She’d retreated back into herself in the wake of her ordeal at the hands of the Daughters of Eden, but Shahida found quiet, useful activities, like painting or gardening, helped to slowly lure Lillian back out of her shell.

                Shahida shifted again, this time farther under her parasol. The sun gave no quarter on this bright midsummer afternoon. Though banks of smog on the horizon’s edge threatened to befoul the day, for now the silver shimmer of the sky capped air thick with breathless humidity. Shahida daydreamed of the ices Minnie had served the night before as a special treat, of wading bare-legged in the shallows of the Serpentine as disapproving boaters floated by.

                Just as the weight of her boredom threatened to crush her like, well, a pea, Callie marched out of the house carrying an armful of wallpaper samples rolled into a tight scroll. Hiero slunk out behind her, a cat with his tail between his legs, and collapsed onto a chaise longue with a dramatic sigh. As Callie fanned the samples out across the small table between them, Shahida could not help the snicker that escaped her. Not only did their arrival signal the end to her boredom (though never her discomfort), but they had both come seeking her counsel in their own awkward, avoiding ways. Shahida recognized the signs well enough. The rest of the afternoon should prove to be amusing, at the very least.

                “The latest from Mr. William Morris,” Callie declared while sliding a few of the samples in her direction. Shahida stared, feigning incomprehension, until Callie plopped them atop her belly. Resisting the urge to launch one at her head, Shahida began to flip through them. “Some lovely blue shades there.”

                Shahida stared at Callie, who sorted them by color with brisk efficiency, pausing every so often to pull a promising pattern out.

                “Renovations begin on Monday. Unless you’d prefer to select a room on a lower floor,” Callie remarked without looking up. “Then we might postpone them. I don’t believe the babe will upset Mother, but you’re welcome to your privacy, of course.”

                “Of course.” Shahida almost choked on the words. The tears came fierce and fast these days, much to her annoyance. She’d never been one for sorrow. Even joyful tears made her cross. Too much wonder in the world to weep over, she’d always thought. Like the refuge she and The Pea had found here due to nothing more than her father’s unlikely friendship with the captain of the ship he worked on. So many at the fallen women’s home, and other less hospitable places besides, reminded her daily of her good fortune. “The attic. Can’t be too far from our Lil.”

                “As mentioned, you can if you prefer. If only for the first few months. A room could be arranged, and then you’ll move up to the new nursery once you’ve… got the sense of things.”

                Shahida welcomed the chance to retreat back into what she knew best: teasing the life out of Callie.

                “Things? And what things are these?”

                Callie firmed her mouth but would not give Shahida the benefit of her irritation.

                “Motherly tasks, I suppose. Bathing and feeding and… cradling. And whatnot.”

                “And what shades match with mothering, do you think? Just the blue, or—”

                She harrumphed. “Whatever suits.”

                “Suits? Suits me? Or The Pea? We’ll both be staring at them walls for hours on end. Pea more than me, even. Should we ask her, then?”

                Callie visibly fought a smile. “If you’re confident in her answer.”

                “She does like to make herself felt.” Shahida grunted, the babe striking right on cue. “How was the rugby?”

                That earned her a genuine smile. “Oh, wonderful. A player on the opposing team dislocated his shoulder.”

                Only Callie would describe such a painful turn of events as “wonderful,” Shahida mused.

                “Blimey. Is he all right?”

                “Stubborn as an ox, but yes. Though if he means to continue to ignore sound advice and offers of help from unconventional sources, I cannot say much for his future wellbeing.”

                Shahida chuckled. “By which you mean you told him to call in a doc, he said, ‘Not if London Bridge was burning down,’ you insisted he let you give it a go, he told you to stuff it, you gave his arm a tug, and he nearly socked you one… with his bad arm, now mended.”

                “Really, it’s as if you were there.”

                “Hardly needed to be, did I?” Shahida let out a sharp breath, shifted again. “I hope he stood you a pint.”

                “He did not.” But by the blush that crept up her cheeks and the way Callie averted her eyes, he’d offered her something, probably in the crudest language possible. And the offer had not been unwelcome. “But his team had the grace to lose, so I consider the debt paid.”

                “And where was himself while you played nurse with the rugger bloke?”

                Callie shrugged, giving her rigorous attention to a section of animal patterns. But in doing so, she’d exposed her belly, and Shahida knew just where to prod.

                “Abandoned you, did he, ’midst a throng of sweaty, strapping sportsmen? That don’t sound like him.”

                An exasperated sigh gusted in her direction. “Nor was it. He stood at my side and observed. As always.” Though Callie still would not meet her eyes, she intuited the look Shahida shot in her direction. “He knows better than to intervene.”

                “Until he must?”

                “Quite.”

                “And has he ever?”

                “Once or twice,” Callie replied through gritted teeth. “And made his feelings on the matter known afterward.”

                Shahida laughed, knowing only too well how that must have gone. Still, that kind of tension between two people could lead to interesting places. If the two people in question let their guard down long enough to see in the other what shined lighthouse bright to everyone else. Some nights, when the three of them sat around the hearth, chatting or gaming or reading aloud, it was all she could do not to shove the two of them together and shout, “Kiss!” But then she’d never been one for half measures in affairs of the heart.

                A silence more pregnant that she was fell over them. Shahida flipped through a few more samples, waited Callie out. She’d felt the tremors of change rumbling within her friend ever since their ordeal with the Daughters of Eden, but they had yet to make a crack in Callie’s composure, let alone crumble the foundation of her self-possession in order to build anew. Too prideful by far, she was, though Shahida had grown to like her imperiousness. And discovered it masked an innocence that brought out Shahida’s maternal side a few months too early.

                “If I may be impertinent…” Callie began, eyes fixed on a horrid yellow pattern of wasps and nests.

                “Please! I could do with some impertinence, and some scandal besides.”

                “How did you know?” She fussed with the edge of a sample until it curled. Mr. Morris would not be pleased. “Your beau, I mean.”

                “Know what?”

                Callie blew out a long breath. “That he would be a good companion. That… that what you felt for him was more than just…” She whipped the page over. “That he was worthy.”

                Shahida threw her head back and laughed her lungs out. “Worthy? I didn’t. Still don’t, because he isn’t, is he? Look how he left me.” She fought to catch her breath and to give Callie an answer she deserved. “Some, like my mum and dad, might say I didn’t think at all. And truth be told, they aren’t half right. You don’t think and mope and write forty sonnets about a bloke like some penniless poet. It just… happens.”

                “But how? Your parents can’t have left you alone together.”

                She snorted. “Their mistake was letting us meet at all. Soon as I got a look at him…” Shahida waded into the memories of that time. “You can be alone with someone in a room packed full of people. No one pays anyone else much mind in the ale room of an inn unless you’ve forgotten to serve them their ale. No one who works the docks has a care for a clerk tucked in the corner, fussing with his books. And if an enterprising young lass happens to meet said clerk on the street while on her way to market, why, it’s only polite to say a quick hello. And if he lingers in the ale room till the last bell, it’s only too easy to have a quiet word with him while your mum’s shouting people out. When he’s all you can think about, and you’re all he wants, it’s easy to slip a note or sneak away for an hour or steal an afternoon meant to be spent elsewhere. But I knew from that first look, from the first tilt of his hat, and from there it was just… when, where, how. No stopping us.”

                Shahida swam from the pool of her thoughts into the hard bank of Callie’s stare. She found disappointment reflected there along with worry and regret.

                “Did you love him?”

                She huffed. “Fool that I am. Worse, I trusted him.”

                A tortured groan drew their attention—as intended—over to the chaise longue, where Hiero remained collapsed, hand to brow like some tragic heroine. When they made to resume their conversation, a second, bleating sound interrupted them. Hiero flopped about, dejected, a fish in the bottom of a boat. Except instead of air, he gasped for attention.

                After sharing a look, the ladies gave over to the true child among them. Shahida hoped The Pea wasn’t taking notes.

                But instead of indulging his obvious desire to discuss his own romantic woes—of which there couldn’t have been many, since he and Mr. Stoker had spent the summer devoted to one another—Shahida decided to teach Hiero to share. Something that came naturally to him in some ways but less so in personal matters.

                “But why ask me when we’ve our very own Romeo here?” Shahida barely swallowed her giggles. “Were you set on Mr. Stoker from the first, Mr. Bash? Or did you lurk under his balcony at night, desperate to catch a glimpse, wailing to the moon?”

                Callie cackled so loudly she covered her mouth with her hand.

                With feline grace, Hiero leapt to his feet, prowled over to their table, and curled into a waiting chair. He appeared to contemplate batting at a long string of leaves from one of Lillian’s overhanging plants.

                “My dear Kip pursued me, I’ll have you know. Only much later was I won over by his charms.”

                Callie scoffed. “If by ‘pursued’ you mean ‘investigated for criminal misconduct.’ And by ‘charms’ you mean—”

                “Do recall you are speaking of the man I adore beyond measure.”

                “And what calamity has ripped him from your side on this—” Callie took quick stock of their surroundings. “—passably fair afternoon?”

                Hiero scowled. “A visit. From our physician.”

                To Shahida’s surprise, this softened Callie. She reached over to squeeze Hiero’s arm.

                “All will be well.”

                Though he nodded, Hiero replied only, “Perhaps.” He drummed his fingers on the table. “Shall I ring for tea?”

                “If you please,” Callie answered.

                “In this unbearable heat?” Shahida grumbled, shifting anew. She watched him rise and return, scheming her next question. “And once he won you—Mr. Stoker, this is—did you think it just a passing fancy? Or were you sunk straightaway?”

                A series of half-serious, half-comical expressions played out on his face. Hiero opened and closed his mouth several times, pursing, curving, and biting his lips before confessing, “I can’t recall.”

                “You don’t recall how you came to adore the man you adore? One might even say ‘love.’”

                Hiero startled in his seat as if a mouse scurried underfoot.

                “Who might?”

                “You might, I daresay.”

                “What? When? Where? Who has been talking out of school? Or our apartments, more like. Snooping. Spying. Was it you? What have you heard? J’accuse!”

                Shahida gaped, still not accustomed to his fits of nonsense babble.

                Callie, an old hat at Hiero interpretation, deciphered his meaning.

                “My dear Hiero.” She chuckled a little under her breath as she turned his endearment against him. “Have you not said those three precious words to your Kip?”

                Hiero huffed. Inhaled so deep his chest puffed up, only to deflate when he failed to find the words. He angled his torso away from them and contemplated the chimneysweep view of Mayfair, looking as if he’d rather pitch himself over the rail than give an honest reply. Not that they couldn’t guess what that would be.

                “Three impossible words,” he muttered. He grabbed a bunch of samples, tossing each one back post-evaluation, then set one before Shahida and stabbed a finger down. “There.”

                Shahida cradled the book. An elephant and marigold motif on cream paper, with accents of gold, dark gray, and lapis blue.

                “This one,” she confirmed, passing it over to Callie, who nodded her approval.

                Shahida contemplated Hiero, who preened in the wake of his success, though whether in selecting the wallpaper or avoiding an answer, she did not know. There was no question in her mind he and Mr. Stoker were well matched. Indeed, they appeared to her so settled a couple that she was shocked to learn they’d only met the previous October. And yet for reasons of his own, Hiero couldn’t commit to even saying the word “love.” This struck her as a wrong that must be righted.

                She waited to pounce until the tea had been served and peace restored.

                “Impossible to feel or impossible to say?”

                She heard Callie’s soft gasp but continued to gaze expectantly at Hiero, who’d stopped stirring his tea. He shut his eyes.

                “No heart is entirely closed to…” He waved a hand at the sky. “Certainly not when one is as entrenched as I.”

                “Is it to do with Uncle?” Callie asked in a girl’s voice far from her usual snapping tone.

                “After a fashion.” Hiero sighed, then, courage stuck, explained. “I spoke those words to your uncle on many an occasion, in times of true devotion and in times of… well. Six years, you know. Not every second was paradise.” Callie nodded. He cleared his throat. “You are aware, I’m sure, of how I made his acquaintance?”

                “He kept you,” she said plainly, but not unkindly, her maturity restored. “But you cared for him. I saw it.”

                “I did. And deeply. He’s mourned, and will forever be. But with Kip…”

                The change in his expression, the warmth, the worship, the awe, made Shahida smile. No other word for that quality of look.

                “He’s yours.” She rubbed her belly, hoping to baste The Pea in her affection. “To have. To love. And to lose.”

                Hiero bowed his head. “I have something of a history in that regard.”

                “Both of us, I reckon.” Shahida hummed in understanding. “Said things to my beau I never heard back. Never shown back, neither. But even with all that’s happened… No regrets. You got to live what you feel in that moment. If it all gets dashed later… at least you shined. You strutted and fretted your hour upon the stage, you might say.”

                “And then was heard no more?” Hiero laughed ruefully.

                “But you was heard,” Shahida reminded him. “Loved. And Mr. Stoker would know that he’s loved. That’s not nothing.”

                A hint of a smile curled the corner of Hiero’s lips. His eyes, when they met her own, sparked back to mercurial life. They shared a conspiratorial moment that left Shahida thinking Mr. Stoker was a lucky man indeed.

                “Whilst on the subject,” Hiero announced, “and in the spirit of good practice starts good habits… I do hope you know, my dear, just how grateful we all are that you and your nearly there agreed to be a part of our wild family. As with most things, we never knew how we needed you until you were there.”

                For too long a minute, Shahida couldn’t speak. When both Hiero and Callie reached for her hands, she crushed theirs in her eagerness to form a strong, if imperfect, circle.

                “See?” Shahida poorly masked a sniffle. “Speak such nonsense to Mr. Stoker, and you’ll never be free of him.”

                Their laughter rang out over the rooftops of Mayfair, into the bright, perfect day.  

The End

TORONTO LGBTQ+ ROMANCE EVENT ON OCT 19TH!

Announcing the first ever LGBTQ+ romance event in Canada! Some fellow authors and I are having a signing/meet-and-greet in October in Toronto at Glad Day Bookshop and would love to see you there! Come for the great books, stay for the tasty beverages, snacks, prizes, and great conversation with authors like RJ Scott, Keira Andrews, Vicki Locey, Noah Steele, and Kat Cassidy

Details below! Check out our event page on Facebook for all the latest info!

Very excited to see you there!

Selina

Autism Awareness Blog Hop + Giveaway!

Friends,

Once again this year I’m participating in the Autism Awareness Blog Hop organized by the wonderful RJ Scott. One post by a different author every day at their blog with the aim of raising awareness about the challenges autistic people and their families face, and to encourage charitable donations. And there will be a few giveaways and prizes along the way! You can find the master post at RJ’s blog here.

An autism fact: Dogs have been shown to improve autistic children’s quality of life, independence, and safety. The presence of a trained dog can reduce aggressive behavior, calm the child, and serve as a link to the child’s community.

This year’s theme is one near and dear to my heart: food glorious food. I think we’re all very food-obsessed these days, from snacking to baking to supporting the restaurant workers on the front lines. One thing that’s got me a little wistful this year is not being able to indulge in one of my favorite Quebec spring traditions, going to the cabane à sucre (or, as you might know it, the sugar shack).

Every year once the snow starts melting, maple syrup farmers welcome guests to large log cabins in the woods for a homey feast of fat, sugar, salt, and brine. Picture long communal tables by roaring fires in a rustic setting. Homemade bread and condiments, such as ketchup, pickles, and beets, are there to greet you. The first course is a piping bowl of pea soup. Then the family-style plates come pouring out of the kitchen: baked beans, bacon and sausages, skillet eggs, cretons, tourtière, boiled potatoes, and braised ham. Maple syrup is the drizzle of choice. Then, for dessert, favorites like pancakes, sugar pie, pouding chômeur, and grand-pères.

But the pièce de résistance, if you can haul your stomach up from the table after all that food, is outside at the syrup processing plant for tire. They pour heated, thickened syrup out over troughs of snow and, once it solidifies, you roll up strips into little maple taffy popsicles. Sweet, but with that little maple tingle, it’s springtime perfection.

What are some of your local/cultural traditions involving food? Comment here or on my Facebook post about the blog hop to win an ebook copy of my Italy-set contemporary M/M romance (which has lots of mouth-watering food descriptions) In Wild Lemon Groves.

I hope you’ll consider a small donation, either to Autism Canada or RJ’s preferred charity, Lindengate.

Stay safe, wash your hands, and stay home,

Selina

Guest Post: Liv Rancourt with Lost And Found

Greetings!

It’s not often we get an M/M historical set in swoon-worthy 1920s Paris, but my good friend Liv Rancourt has written a romance befitting such a worthy setting. I invited her to the blog to tell you all about it. Read on!

Thanks so much, Selina, for inviting me to your blog! I really appreciate the chance to share Lost & Found with your readers!

It’s been a while since I released a new book and while my promo skills were a little rusty, I’m finding my way. Self-publishing has so many moving parts it can feel like juggling plates with one almost always ready to crash.

I’m definitely going to need a vacation after this. 😊

And given that it’s the setting of Lost & Found, the top vacation spot on my list is Paris. Writing a book about a city I’ve never visited was either very brave or a fine example of questionable judgment. I love the idea of Paris, though, so visiting in my mind was better than nothing at all.

I did a lot of reading – the history of Paris, a book about Montmartre, Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast – and I scrolled through tons of old photos. (You can check out my Pinterest page here. The page is under the story’s original name, L’Ami Mysterieux.) I could have done more research – I never watched Chocolat, for example, although it’s set in France at about the same period.

Ah well. I’ll save that for the sequel.

I also made a sincere effort to resuscitate my high school French. Duolingo and Babbel were my new best friends. I had a free hand with adding French phrases to the story and though I did my very best, my Parisian beta reader made a number (!!) of corrections.

Selina, someday I’m going to take you up on your offer to help me practice – for the next book! [SK note: Je suis à votre service, chérie.]

I love Paris because the whole place was designed with an eye to beauty and romance. Practicality was and is lower on the list. One of the main reasons I haven’t ever visited is that when I go, I’m going to want to stay for six months or a year, for long enough that I feel like part of the scene. I want to get to know the city’s nooks and crannies, the places that rarely make a tourist’s itinerary.

Until then, I’ll stick with the Paris in my mind. While I haven’t started the sequel yet, I have ideas for how it should go, so I know I’ll be back.

I hope you’ll visit with me! Lost & Found is on sale for $2.99 from now until the end of GRL on 10/20/19 at all ebook retailers, and it’s also available in paperback. Check out the excerpt here, and be sure and enter my rafflecopter giveaway for a $25 gift card. Happy reading!!

Buy Links

Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo | More Stores  Add to GoodReads

Lost & Found Blurb

A dancer who cannot dance and a doctor who cannot heal must find in each other the strength to love.

History books will call it The Great War, but for Benjamin Holm, that is a misnomer. The war is a disaster, a calamity, and it leaves Benjamin profoundly wounded, his mind and memory shattered. A year after Armistice, still struggling to regain his mental faculties, he returns to Paris in search of his closest friend, Elias.

Benjamin meets Louis Donadieu, a striking and mysterious dance master. Though Louis is a difficult man to know, he offers to help Benjamin. Together they search the cabarets, salons, and art exhibits in the newly revitalized city on the brink of les années folles (the Crazy Years). Almost despite himself, Benjamin breaches Louis’s defenses, and the two men discover an unexpected passion.

As his memory slowly returns, Benjamin will need every ounce of courage he possesses to recover Elias’s story. He and Louis will need even more than that to lay claim to the love – and the future – they deserve.

About the Author

About Liv Rancourt
Liv Rancourt writes romance of all kinds. Because love is love, even with fangs.

Liv is a huge fan of paranormal romance and urban fantasy and loves history just as much, so her stories often feature vampires or magic or they’re set in the past…or all of the above. When Liv isn’t writing she takes care of tiny premature babies or teenagers, depending on whether she’s at work or at home. Her husband is a soul of patience, her kids are her pride and joy, and her dogs – Trash Panda and The Boy Genius – are endlessly entertaining.

Liv can be found on-line at all hours of the day and night at her website (www.livrancourt.com), on Facebook (www.facebook.com/liv.rancourt), or on Twitter (www.twitter.com/LivRancourt). She also blogs monthly over at Spellbound Scribes (https://spellboundscribes.wordpress.com/). For sneak peeks and previews and other assorted freebies, go HERE to sign up for her mailing list or join the Facebook page she shares with her writing partner Irene Preston, After Hours with Liv & Irene. Fun stuff!

Giveaway

Below is the rafflecopter html for a $25 gift card. Giveaway ends 10/31/19.

https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/1f1867a736/?fbclid=IwAR3Oa299I_mWmN7gn1PD9kaOmL6GmU4tT0W4dwf0zcvFD51IGQ4MrOFmWGo

Excerpt:

M. Richard was wise to have sent me straightaway. By the time I strolled down the Boulevard de Magenta to Le Marais, found the street and the shop, and had an extensive fitting, I barely made it home in time to meet Louis. I was putting the finishing touch on my tie—the Windsor knot gave me trouble—when he knocked on my door.

Bonjour, I’ll be…” All I could do was stare. Never a shabby dresser, tonight the exquisite cut of his suit made the most of his broad, lean body, and his precise hairstyle brought out the dramatic lines in his face. “One, um, one moment.”

I backed away, gesturing for him to come in. Even his cane had been replaced by an elegant black walking stick with a gold handle.

He paused a moment before responding to my request. “Double breasted? Where have you been hiding this? You look superb.”

I busied myself collecting my wallet, murmuring the name of the shop.

“In the Marais Quarter?” He spoke with a hint of amusement. “You traveled far.”

Collecting myself, I moved toward the door. “M. Richard sent me.”

He smirked. “Good thinking on his part.”

The evening was warm and clear, the memory of sunset only an aqua light in the western sky. In the half-light, I brought myself to broach the possible awkwardness between us. “I was surprised to hear from you.”

“I find myself drawn to your plight.”

“You do?”

Absolument.”

I couldn’t tell if he was laughing or not. “Regardless, I do appreciate the invitation.” We smiled at each other through the twilight. “Now, should I rely on you to speak for me?”

That earned me a raised eyebrow.

“My accent.”

Louis laughed. “My friend tells me that most of the other guests share your particular malady, so you’ll feel at home.”

At home? “Perhaps.”       

His chuckle dispelled what was left of my distress, and we walked on in comfortable silence. Navigating the narrow stairs to the Métro proved a challenge for Louis, so once we were on the platform, I took the initiative. “Someday, you should let me look at that.” I waved in the direction of his leg.

“Someday, I would like you to do more than just look.”

Louis met my surprise with bland amusement, though when it became apparent I was too flustered to respond, he changed the subject. “The train won’t come for a while. Tell me more about your friend Elias. I need to know the kind of man he is, to know whom I should talk to tonight.”

“What kind of man?” Looking to the past was safer than dealing with the gentleman standing next to me, so in the concrete cave, under the harsh fluorescent lights, I told him a story. “Elias is always up to something, you know? Like…” A particular memory made me smile. “Do you ski?”

Un peu.” He indicated a small distance with thumb and forefinger.

“Okay, so one night, he knocked on my window after I’d gone to bed. There was about three feet of snow on the ground, but the moon was out, and he wanted to ski.”

I’d dressed as quickly as possible. Outside, the air was so cold, ice crystals formed with every breath. “He followed me to the barn, where I saddled up our old gelding Rocky. Elias didn’t have skis of his own, so he grabbed mine and climbed up behind me on the horse. The moon was huge that night, and so bright we could see just fine.”

“We rode up along the ridge behind our house, four, maybe five miles until we got to the crest. Our plan was he should ski, and I’d ride down to meet him, and then we’d switch. Rocky was stable enough even for Elias to ride.”

His expression neutral, Louis nodded at me to continue. A rumble started from far off. The train must be coming.

“Well, what we didn’t figure was there was ice underneath the snow. Things had warmed up just enough to melt a little, then we’d had a hard freeze, followed by another dump of snow. Elias got himself buckled into the skis, and right as he’s about to take off, he hollers to the heavens.” And with the moon behind him, he’d looked like some forest spirit come to life. “That yell stirred things up, and the snow started sliding.”

The rumble grew, and a pinpoint of light appeared in the tunnel ahead of us. “He’d set off an avalanche.” Though miles and years away from that moment, my heart still skipped a beat. The noise of the train echoed the roar of the snow in my mind. “I thought, God, he’s done. He’ll be buried in snow, and I’ll never find him.

“I brought Rocky as close to the edge as I dared, but all I saw was snow and ice and torn-up trees. We raced down the ridge, faster than I’d ever seen that horse move, through the valley to the place where we usually met up. I figured Rocky and I would do better climbing up to find Elias rather than trying to get down from the top. And you know what?” Full of the one moment I’d never forget, I barely looked at Louis. “He skied up like nobody’s business. He’d stayed just ahead of the snow, said he’d never skied so fast in his life.” I looked toward the ceiling, blinking fast. Elias had made it, his face burned from the cold. His eyes, though. His eyes had been full of stars.

“Come.” Louis took my arm, leading me back to the present as much as onto the train. We fell silent, settling side by side on one of the wooden bench seats. When Louis spoke, the sound of his voice startled me.

“I think your friend has a very big soul.”

I kept my gaze fixed on the window, though all I could see was the gray cement wall of the tunnel. “Big soul? Yes.” And a bigger heart.

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Autism Awareness Blog Hop 2019 + Giveaway!!

Autism Fact:

Research demonstrates that job activities that encourage independence reduce autism symptoms and increase daily living skills.

Friends,

Welcome to the latest blog post on the sixth annual Autism Awareness Blog Hop, hosted by the wonderful RJ Scott. I don’t think there’s anyone in the world today who doesn’t have a friend or family member who is either on the autism spectrum or who supports someone close to them who is. My own dear mom used to run a Brownie troop for some autistic teens at our local school, and it was always a blast helping her out on free afternoons.  It’s an honor to be a part of something that endeavors to reduce the stigma surrounding autism and to generate donations for this very worthy cause.

The theme this year is childhood toys, which ties in nicely with some thoughts I’ve been having lately about storytelling and superheroes. A kind of origin story for myself as a writer, I guess. Watching Captain Marvel recently, I thought of how much I wish I could have seen a film like that when I was a nascent geek. But then I remembered that I did have my own version of Captain Marvel in She-Ra, Princess of Power.

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Though I started out playing with Star Wars action figures, I quickly graduated to She-Ra and her fantabulous, kick-ass friends. There was so much to love. She-Ra was both outspoken Princess Adora and a fearsome fighter with a secret badass identity. She flew around on a crystal Pegasus. She had a legion of friends with multicolored hair and cool powers — one had a peacock fan! One had butterfly wings! One had long twisty pink and lavender braids! One was cold as ice in shades of blue! (No, I don’t remember their names.)

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Some kids spent their afternoons outdoors. I could always be found in my bedroom, my imagination transforming every possible surface into some alien landscape against which my girl power dramas played out. There were epic battles — not stereotypical cat fights, but those of sheildmaidens who could smoke you with a roundhouse kick — betrayals, conquests, and adventure. The kind of tales a little girl seeking her very own heroine’s journey might tell herself in the privacy of her creative space. It’s where I learned to be a writer, where I learned to be me.

The stories we tell ourselves in childhood influence the adult we will become, which is why it’s so important that families with autistic children have the support they need to make sure their kids get a good start on learning to be themselves and have every chance to be independent adults. I hope you’ll consider a small donation, either to Autism Canada or RJ’s preferred charity, Lindengate.

To read all the posts and join the hop, here’s the master list.

And this wouldn’t be any fun at all without a giveaway! What was your favorite childhood toy? What inspired you to be a writer? Comment below to win a free copy of any one of my books! (Please include your email address in the comment.)

Much love,

Selina

Valentine’s Day Sale: In Wild Lemon Groves

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In Wild Lemon Groves is one year old today!

And to celebrate Valentine’s Day and the anniversary of the publication of my contemporary M/M romance, In Wild Lemon Groves is on sale for two weeks, from Feb 8th to Feb 22nd. If you’re in the mood to escape the mid-winter blahs, why not take a book vacation to Amalfi, Italy, with Seb and Andrea?

Buy links:

Amazon

Universal Buy Link

Here’s the blurb:

A telltale knock on a quiet winter night is a sound no husband wants to hear.

Sébastien Osaki has spent the past three years surviving the loss of his beloved Henry. When Seb lands in Amalfi, Italy, for their would-have-been tenth-anniversary trip, he’s haunted by the memory of the man he loved. Following Henry’s notebook leads him to some breathtaking coastal views but also right back to his despair. Seb’s there to get his groove back, not let the past wrong-foot him at every turn.

Enter Andrea Sorrentino, chauffeur, part-time pet whisperer, a Bernini statue in a soccer tee and tight shorts. From the moment Andrea picks Seb up from the airport, he knows just how to soothe Seb’s case of the sulks. But Seb isn’t sure he’s ready for Mr. Right Now, let alone a potential Mr. Right, in a part of the world where all roads lead back to Henry.

Can sun, sea, and eating your weight in pasta mend a tragedy-stricken heart? Will wine-soaked Amalfi nights and long walks through lemon groves work their magic on Seb’s wounded soul? Or will he slink back into the shell of his grief once his grand Italian adventure is over? 

Also wanted to say a huge thank you to everyone who has bought, shared, or shouted out any of my books this past year. You have made my dreams come true. I hope you’re celebrating the holiday with someone you love, even if that person is just you.

All my love,
Selina

Historical Romance and Queerness as Up For Debate

'Nathan Burgoine

I recently joined the RWA despite knowing full well it wouldn’t necessarily be a place I’d be welcome. I’m a queer writer of queer stories—including romance—and seeing some forward motion in the organization made me think perhaps it was time.

Or at the very least, it was time enough to try and get involved, rather than just watch warily.

It’s hard to put into words what it’s like to watch people debate your humanity. To see spirited discussion from “both sides” of an argument where one “side” espouses that the way you love doesn’t qualify as a happy-ever-after, or reading suggestions that judges should be able to opt-out of stories about people like you because they just can’t “connect” with them? Or—this was only the other day—doing a search for “queer writers” in a forum and finding the only use of the term coming from someone who catfished everyone into

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Five Authors Who Need to be on Your TBR List!

Happy New Year! 2018 was a big year for me on many fronts, which left very little time for reading. For that reason, I won’t be doing my normal Best Of list. But 2018 was a year where I discovered a lot of new (and sometimes new-to-me) authors. I also got back to reading a bit of YA thanks to some amazing recs. And I thought, what better way to round up the year than to share the wealth? So here are five authors who need to be on your TBR list!

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Alyssa Cole

Shameful, is what it is, that I had never read Alyssa Cole before now. But once I did, I understood all of the so-well-deserved acclaim. From her sparkling contemporary romances to her riveting dystopian trilogy to her heart-rending and uplifting Loyal League historical series (set during the Civil War), Ms. Cole does it all and does it best. She switches flawlessly from M/F to LGBTQ romance. She’s the kind of writer where the pairing doesn’t matter, you’re really there for her. If you’re not reading her, then you are seriously missing out on a major talent.

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Lee Welch

If I had made a Best Of list, Salt Magic Skin Magic would have definitely been on it. Rarely have I read a novel so assured, so impeccable, and so all-consuming. Combining folklore with historical romance is no mean feat, but Ms. Welch weaves both strands together flawlessly. She is already an auto-buy for me, and I cannot wait to see what she writes next.

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Maureen Johnson

With thanks to the lovely Moog Florin for indulging our mutual love of boarding school mysteries. A tweet of hers led me to discover Truly Devious, the new series by Maureen Johnson. After devouring book 1 only to learn there was no book 2 yet, I switched to her Shades of London series and consumed the first two adventures whole. It’s rare at this time in my life for me to get so involved in a book that I throw it across the room when I’m angry about an ending, but that’s exactly how I felt by the end of The Madness Underneath (though I did not toss my Kobo–I do have some instinct for self-preservation). Needless to say, any author who can inspired that kind of obsession/emotion is one you might want to check out.

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Sherri Thomas

The idea of a Lady Sherlock series is delectable to me, and so as soon as I heard of A Study in Scarlet Women, I downloaded the preview. Charlotte Holmes is a character as tremendous as her namesake, and one you will want to follow on many, many adventures. That this Sherlock has a love interest out of her reach, providing tons of simmering tension and heartbreaking misunderstandings, only improves on the original. And wait till you meet Watson! I am parceling out the next two volumes because writing as vibrant and plots as twisty as Ms. Thomas’ must be savored.

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Sara Dobie Bauer

The Escape trilogy (of which only the first two books are out) is that rare series that reinvents something familiar and nostalgic. My romance journey started with Lestat and Louis frolicking in Anne Rice’s Savage Garden. And in Ms. Bauer’s writing, I’ve found that world again. She brings to life the alluring velvet dark of late-1800s New Orleans, with a vampire even more sexy and vicious in her Andrew, and a tenderheart more magnetic and adventurous in her Edmund. These two blaze a path from exile to amour that you are desperate to follow. I can’t wait to see how it all ends.