Eli Easton Author of m/m romance books and stories
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Five Senses Blog Tour & Giveaway: “First Howl 3 Excerpt”

April 19

Thanks to RJ Scott for inviting me to be part of her “The Five Senses Blog Tour” for autism. For this stop, I’ve got the first excerpt from “How to Wish Upon a Star”, which is book #3 in the Howl at the Moon series. It features the sense of smell.

Here’s RJ’s Master Post for the Blog Tour

Autism fact:

Being Hypersensitive to taste, autistic people may find some flavours and foods too strong and overpowering because of very sensitive taste buds, and this may mean they have a restricted diet. Certain textures may cause discomfort. Some people will only eat smooth foods like mashed potatoes or ice-cream.

“How to Wish Upon a Star” – first excerpt

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Above: Milo, the hospice dog, is one of the MC’s in “How to Wish Upon a Star”

From chapter 2 “Finding Milo”:

The hospice hallways had shiny linoleum floors and soothing gray-blue walls with paintings of sunsets and flowers. The decor was meant to be soothing, Lily thought, but it bored her senseless. They should have photos of bunnies and other chaseable creatures if they truly wanted to take people’s mind off their troubles. She passed a nursing station and then rooms 200 and 201.

An odd scent tickled her nose and she stopped to sniff the air, trying to figure out what it was. There were a lot of smells in the hospice wing, most them unpleasant. She could smell a heavy lemon cleaner, salt water, the bitter tang of antibiotics, the copper of blood, hints of urine and feces, hand lotion, and the unhappy smell of sickness. There was a trace of the perfume one of the nurses wore and—

Dog. She smelled a dog. A male dog.

Lily looked around and thought she saw a furry face looking around the edge of the counter at the nursing station. But it was only there for a second. It had to be her imagination, with that smell fresh in her nose. There wouldn’t be a dog at the nursing station! Maybe the dog she smelled in the hallway had been brought in by a relative to visit a sick patient?

Shaking her head, Lily walked on, still looking for room 207. When she arrived, Sophie’s son Dillon was coming out the door. He looked exhausted.

“Lily?” he said with surprise.

“Oh, Dillon!” Lily wrapped him in a hug, and he rested against her gratefully. Dillon had grown up in Mad Creek and was good friends with Lonnie. He was a nice man, even if he was fully human.

When she pulled back, Dillon’s eyes were wet. “It’s nice of you to come. I’m afraid she’s not conscious.”

“That’s all right. Why don’t you go get some coffee while I visit with her for a bit?”

“I need to go into the office for a few hours, actually. There are nurses around so… feel free to stay as long as you like.”

“Okay.”

“Thanks again for coming. Mom would have loved to see you.”

Dillon left and Lily steeled herself and went into room 207. Her skin prickled with unease, the hair on her arms and neck standing up. But it was just Sophie in the room, after all. She looked small in the bed, a shrunken version of herself, her strong features more hawk-like than ever. She was deeply asleep, her mouth slack.

Lily pulled a visitor’s chair close to the bed and sat down. She took Sophie’s hand, ignoring the way it felt like dry paper. She proceeded to tell Sophie all the latest gossip from Mad Creek. Lily knew a lot of gossip.

The morning slipped by. Sophie never opened her eyes, but a few times she squeezed Lily’s hand. Lily thought Sophie was truly interested in hearing all about Lance and Tim and [redacted for spoilers!]. Well, who wouldn’t be interested! She also told Sophie about little Jason Kunik, who always was an odd duck but bright as a whip, moving back to town to do research on the quickened. He was now a doctor and everything! Several times, Lily could have sworn someone was at the partially-opened door to the hall. But every time she turned around, there was no one there.

Lily had just about run out of things to say when a nurse came in.

“Hey there!” the nurse greeted Lily. She was a big lady with a wide smile and colorful balloons on her aqua nurse’s top. Her badge said ‘Racine’. “Now, don’t mind me! I just need to check a few things. I’m sure Sophie appreciates you coming to see her. Ain’t that right, Sophie?”

Lily couldn’t resist a new person to talk to. She learned that Racine had worked hospice for six years, had two grown children, and was looking forward to an upcoming cruise for her and her husband’s anniversary. She also seemed to be genuinely fond of Sophie.

“I can tell she was a wonderful woman, and she accomplished a lot. You can always tell by who comes to see them in the end, and how their family member’s treat ’em. You know, we all get here sooner or later. Best to live so you have no regrets.”

“She was smart and honest and a loyal friend. She taught all my kids in high school,” Lily said, choking up again.

Lily was about to tell Racine more about Sophie, but her ears heard the tiny release of air that came from the door opening a bit more. She turned to see a long, furry brown face looking at her from around the door. Oh, you sneaky thing. It’s been you all this time, has it? This time, the dog didn’t run away. Lily narrowed her eyes and looked at him thoughtfully.

“Do you know that dog?” Lily asked Racine, very quietly.

Racine turned to glance at the door. A smile lit up her tired face. “Oh, yeah! That’s Milo. He’s our comfort dog.”

“Comfort dog?”

“Mm-hmm. He visits with the patients and family members and comforts ’em. He’s just a ball of love, that one. He’s so gentle with the patients! We all think he’s a little bit magic ’cause he always knows when someone’s about to pass. More like than not, we find him curled up next to the ones who just slipped away. Milo makes sure they never go alone.”

“Huh. Does he belong to one of the nurses or doctors?”

“No. Well, he belongs to all of us, I guess. See, a couple of years ago, the head nurse, Mrs. Barton? She read about using service dogs in hospice, how they can help ease stress and fear in the patients and all. So she called the local shelter and asked if they wanted to bring a few dogs by, see how it went. They brought several, but Milo’s the one who stuck. The other dogs weren’t all that interested in the patients and were too rambunctious. But Milo knew just what to do, who needed him the most, and how to be careful.”

“Is that so?”

Lily studied the cute face. The dog blinked at her. He was tall with curly golden hair, a lab-poodle mix, Lily thought.

“Uh-huh. So the shelter brought him by once a week. And the patients were always askin’ for him. ‘Where’s Milo! How come he’s not here today?’ Then one day the shelter called and said they gonna put him down because he’d been there so long without being adopted, you know?”

“Oh no!” The very idea that shelters did that made Lily so sick and furious she wanted to bite someone.

“Oh, yes indeedy. So we had a meetin’ and we decided to bring him to live here? He’s got a bed in the staff room, and everyone takes turns walkin’ him and feedin’ him all that. Ain’t that right, Milo?”

Usually a dog would look at a person who said his name, but Milo’s eyes never moved off Lily’s face. She looked deeply into his eyes, trying to see if her suspicion was correct. Those eyes were like a warm pot of misery stew. There was heartbreak in them, and resignation, fear, and curiosity. The intelligence in them was uncanny. Lily sniffed as discretely as she could, but the stale, medicinal tang to the air kept her from catching a clear scent of the dog. As if he realized what she was doing, he quickly ducked behind the door and she heard the faint click of his nails as he trotted away down the hall.

Oh no you don’t.

“Excuse me a moment,” she told Racine.

Lily slipped from the room into the wide, quiet halls of the nursing home. She had to find that dog! She was not leaving the hospital without having spoken to him in private. The sound of his nails stopped. He’d gone into hiding somewhere nearby. His smell was simply everywhere so it was hard to pinpoint where he was right now. And there were a number of rooms occupied by patients and their families. She couldn’t exactly barge in!

Well, she could. She was Lily Beaufort. And she would, if she had to. But she could at least try to be subtle first. She stopped in an empty hallway and took a deep breath. She spoke, her voice so low a human would only hear her if they were inches away.

“Hello, Milo. My name is Lily. I know what you are. It’s okay. I’m like you. Will you please talk to me? I promise I won’t hurt you. And I won’t tell anyone, if you don’t want me to.”

She stood there in the florescent light of the hall, hardly daring to breath for fear she might miss the tiniest response. As she waited, she couldn’t help but wonder. Was Milo aware of what he was, what he could do? Had he ever met another quickened? She’d known dozens of dogs who’d gotten the spark. Heck, she’d helped their transitions into Mad Creek, and she’d heard their stories. The loneliness and confusion they felt before finding others like them just broke her heart. Like this poor baby.

How many dogs like Milo were out there? Quickened, but all alone, not even knowing others existed? Ugh. The idea made her crazy. They’d talked many times at pack meetings about starting an outreach program. But where did they even begin? These lost souls could be anywhere—anywhere there were dogs and owners who loved them.

After a few minutes, Milo appeared around a corner at the end of the hall. He stood there, keeping his distance and watching her.

“It’s okay, hon. Is there someplace we can talk?” Lily whispered.

Milo gazed at her for another long moment, then he turned and walked away, glancing back over his shoulder. Lily followed.

Giveaway:

Comment on here or on RJ’s Five Senses blog post that links to here for a chance to win a free ebook of “How to Wish Upon A Star” when it comes out in May 2016.

 

autism

Eli

“The Stolen Suitor” now available for pre-order!

December 16

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Big news! My novel “The Stolen Suitor” is set for release Feb 1, 2016 and is now available on the Dreamspinner “Coming Soon” page for pre-order!

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

Here’s the blurb for “The Stolen Suitor”

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

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

Eli

“Midwinter Night’s Dream” – Cover reveal & give away!

October 29

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

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

Eli

“Among the Dead” — first excerpt

October 6

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

This is the first part of the first chapter.

Excerpt:

1

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll take my loneliness, thanks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joe grunted, not looking at me.

I headed to the elevators.

“The Stolen Suitor” — new novel just completed!

June 17

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I once heard a saying: the greatest days of a man’s life are the day he buys a boat and the day he sells it. lol

Maybe there’s a parallel for authors: the best days of an author’s working life are the day he/she starts a new novel and the day he/she turns it in. I’m pretty sure that’s the case for me, anyway.

Yesterday I submitted a new novel, tenatively titled “The Stolen Suitor”, to Dreamspinner.  It’s a very plotty book with lots going on. It weighs in at 65K words, which is fairly long for me!

I wrote “A Prairie Dog’s Love Song” in the spring of 2013 and it came out Dec of 2013. It’s not one of my best-received books, but it’s one of my own favorite.  Even though it’s contemporary, it has a folksy, down-home, cowboyish tone that was inspired by one of my favorite romance authors, Pamela Morsi (“Simple Jess”, “Courting Miss Hattie”).

When I wrote “Prairie Dog”, I already had a sequel/series in mind, but nothing immediately came of it. Finally, I got to return to Clyde’s Corner, Montana.  “The Stolen Suitor” is the result. Joshua and Ben make an appearance in “The Stolen Suitor”, but it’s about a new couple and can be read as a stand alone.

Here’s the (temporary, a quickie written by me) blurb:

The Stolen Suitor – by Eli Easton

Summary/blurb:

Mabe Crassen has an idea—a wicked, brilliant idea. She wants her older son, Eric, to court the pretty widow in town. If Eric marries her, the Crassens will own the biggest ranch in Clyde’s Corner, Montana.  Unfortunately, the widow already has a suitor, Chris Ramsey, the local dandy. Mabe suspects Chris is light in the loafers and sets her younger son, Jeremy, to lure him astray.

Jeremy Crassen wants to go off to college and become a writer. Ever since his father went to prison when he was only seven, the name ‘Crassen’ has been the lowest of the low of Clyde’s Corner. Jeremy grew up hiding behind his long hair and disappearing into his stories.  So when his mother promises to give him her blessing for college if he seduces away the suitor of a local widow, Jeremy agrees. Now shy, virginal, secretly gay Jeremy has to figure out how to attract Chris Ramsey, the rich son of the town’s Mercantile, who may or may not like men.

Chris Ramsey is back in Clyde’s Corner after ten years of living in Denver. The death of his best friend convinced Chris he was needed at home.  Chris is a settling-down, family kind of guy, and his last free-loving boyfriend convinced Chris he’d never have that with a man. It seems like the right thing to do to marry up with Trix, his best friend’s widow, and help raise 4-year-old Janie.  After all, there’s more to life than passion and sex.

It’s when we know exactly where we’re headed in life that lightening can strike out of nowhere. With any lucky we’ll end up, not with what we want, but with what we really need.

What do you think? Are you in?

Eli

First Excerpt: “Kingdom Come”

June 5

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“Kingdom Come” is a murder mystery set in Amish country with a romance subplot (m/f).  It’s being published by Penguin/Berkley in the Berkely “Prime Crime” line.  It will be published under my ‘other author name’ Jane Jensen since it’s more mystery than romance.

Here’s the link to the Amazon page.

And here’s the first excerpt — the first scene in the book.

The Dead Girl

“It’s . . . sensitive,” Grady had said on the phone, his voice tight.

Now I understood why. My car crawled down a rural road thick with new snow. It was still dark and way too damn early on a Wednesday morning. The address he’d given me was on Grimlace Lane. Turned out the place was an Amish farm in the middle of a whole lot of other Amish farms in the borough of Paradise, Pennsylvania.

Sensitive like a broken tooth. Murders didn’t happen here, not here. The last dregs of sleep and yet another nightmare in which I’d been holding my husband’s cold, dead hand in the rain evaporated under a surge of adrenaline. Oh yes, I was wide-awake now.

I spotted cars—Grady’s and two black-and-whites—in the driveway of a farm and pulled in. The CSI team and the coroner had not yet arrived. I didn’t live far from the murder site and I was glad for the head start and the quiet.

Even before I parked, my mind started generating theories and scenarios. Dead girl, Grady had said. If it’d been natural causes or an accident, like falling down the stairs, he wouldn’t have called me in. It had to be murder or at least a suspicious death. A father disciplining his daughter a little too hard? Doddering Grandma dipping into the rat poison rather than the flour?

I got out and stood quietly in the frigid air to get a sense of place. The interior of the barn glowed in the dark of winter morning. I took in the classic white shape of a two-story bank barn, the snowy fields behind, and the glow of lanterns coming from the huge, barely open barn door. . . . It looked like one of those quaint paintings you see hanging in the local tourist shops, something with a title like Winter Dawn. I’d only moved back to Pennsylvania eight months ago after spending ten years in Manhattan. I still felt a pang at the quiet beauty of it.

Until I opened the door and stepped inside.

It wasn’t what I expected. It was like some bizarre and horrific game of mixed-up pictures. The warmth of the rough barn wood was lit by a half dozen oil lanterns. Add in the scattered straw, two Jersey cows, and twice as many horses, all watching the proceedings with bland interest from various stalls, and it felt like a cozy step back in time. That vibe did not compute with the dead girl on the floor. She was most definitely not Amish, which was the first surprise. She was young and beautiful, like something out of a ’50s pulp magazine. She had long, honey-blonde hair and a face that still had the blush of life thanks to the heavy makeup she wore. She had on a candy-pink sweater that molded over taut breasts and a short gray wool skirt that was pushed up to her hips. She still wore pink underwear, though it looked roughly twisted. Her nails were the same shade as her sweater. Her bare feet, thighs, and hands were blue-white with death, and her neck too, at the line below her jaw where the makeup stopped.

The whole scene felt unreal, like some pretentious performance art, the kind in those Soho galleries Terry had dragged me to. But then, death always looked unreal.

“Coat? Shoes?” I asked, already taking inventory. Maybe knee-high boots, I thought, reconstructing it in my mind. And thick tights to go with that wool skirt. I’d been a teenage girl living in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. I knew what it meant to care more about looks than the weather. But even at the height of my girlish vanity, I wouldn’t have gone bare-legged in January.

“They’re not here. We looked.” Grady’s voice was tense. I finally spared him a glance. His face was drawn in a way I’d never seen before, like he was digesting a meal of ground glass.

In that instant, I saw the media attention this could get, the politics of it. I remembered that Amish school shooting a few years back. I hadn’t lived here then, but I’d seen the press. Who hadn’t?

“You sure you want me on this?” I asked him quietly.

“You’re the most experienced homicide detective I’ve got,” Grady said. “I need you, Harris. And I need this wrapped up quickly.”

“Yeah.” I wasn’t agreeing that it could be. My gut said this wasn’t going to be a cut-and-dried case, but I agreed it would be nice. “Who found her? Do we know who she is?”

“Jacob Miller, eleven years old. He’s the son of the Amish farmer who lives here. Poor kid. Came out to milk the cows this morning and found her just like that. The family says they’ve got no idea who she is or how she got here.”

“How many people live on the property?”

“Amos Miller, his wife, and their six children. The oldest, a boy, is fifteen. The youngest is three.”

More vehicles pulled up outside. The forensics team, no doubt. I was gratified that Grady had called me in first. It was good to see the scene before it turned into a lab.

“Can you hold them outside for five minutes?” I asked Grady.

He nodded and went out.

I pulled on some latex gloves, then looked at the body, bending down to get as close to it as I could without touching it. The left side of her head, toward the back, was matted with blood and had the look of a compromised skull. The death blow? I tried to imagine what had happened. The killer—he or she——had probably come up behind the victim, struck her with something heavy. The autopsy would tell us more. I didn’t think it had happened here. There were no signs of a disturbance or the blood you’d expect from a head wound. I carefully pulled up her leg a bit and looked at the underside of her thigh. Very minor lividity. She hadn’t been in this position long. And I noticed something else—her clothes were wet. I rubbed a bit of her wool skirt and sweater between my fingers to be sure—and came away with dampness on the latex. She wasn’t soaked now, and her skin was dry, so she’d been here long enough to dry out, but she’d been very wet at some point. I could see now that her hair wasn’t just styled in a casual damp-dry curl, it had been recently wet, probably postmortem along with her clothes.

I straightened, frowning. It was odd. We’d had two inches of snow the previous afternoon, but it was too cold for rain. If the body had been left outside in the snow, would it have gotten this wet? Maybe the ME could tell me.

Since I was sure she hadn’t been killed in the barn, I checked the floor for drag marks. The floor was of wooden planks kept so clean that there was no straw or dirt in which drag marks would show, but there were traces of wet prints. Then again, the boy who’d found the body had been in the barn and so had Grady and the uniforms, and me too. I carefully examined the girl’s bare feet. There was no broken skin, no sign her feet had been dragged through the snow or across rough boards.

The killer was strong, then. He’d carried her in here and laid her down. Which meant he’d arranged her like this—pulled up her skirt, splayed her thighs. He’d wanted it to look sexual. Why?

The doors opened. Grady and the forensics team stood in the doorway.

“Blacklight this whole area,” I requested. “And this floor—see if you can get any prints or traffic patterns off it. Don’t let anyone in until that’s done. I’m going to check outside.” I looked at Grady. “The coroner?”

“Should be here any minute.”

“Good. Make sure she’s tested for any signs of penetration, consensual or otherwise.”

“Right.”

Grady barked orders. The crime-scene technicians pulled on blue coveralls and booties just outside the door. This was only the sixth homicide needing real investigation I’d been on since moving back to Lancaster. I was still impressed that the department had decent tools and protocol, even though I knew that was just big-city arrogance talking.

I left them to it and went out to find my killer’s tracks in the snow.

 

“How to Howl At the Moon” — cover & excerpt!

February 1

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 Release date: Feb 28, 2015

I’m super, super excited about this book!  “How to Howl at the Moon” is the first book of a new m/m romantic comedy series featuring dog shifters and a little town in the California mountains called Mad Creek.

I wrote the first draft of this novel during NaNoWriMo in 2014, and I had so much fun writing it. I fell in love with Molly Harper’s “Naked Werewolf” series and it inspired me to want to write a humorous shifter series of my own, only in m/m.  My husband likes to say he gives me all my best ideas, and I’m afraid there’s some truth in that. When I said “romantic comedy with shifters?” He said “dogs!”. He was right.

We have three bulldogs of our own and it was a blast to write dog shifter characters and give them dog mannerisms and personality traits. I hope you’ll enjoy reading about Lance, his mother Lily (as Lance says, Jewish mothers have nothing on the relentless herding instinct of a mother descended from border collies on both sides), Gus, Roman, and the other residents of Mad Creek. And of course, Tim, our  clueless hero.

You can read an excerpt here. And the book is available on Amazon right now for pre-order.

The cover is awesome, no?  Cover by AngstyG. (Click for close-up)

Also, I am working on an audio book version of this right now!  I hope to have it out around the same time as the ebook.

Eli

Looking Back, Looking Ahead: Eli Easton 2014 to 2015

December 14

 

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I published my first Eli Easton m/m romance in April 2013, so 2014 was a “year two” for me. That’s the year when newbie enthusiasm faces the realities of the market and the daily work flow, and you either flunk out entirely, settle into a dabblers casual ‘tude, or decide you’re in it for the serious long haul.

As of Dec 2014 I can say that it’s option c—my butt is firmly planted on this piece o’ earth.

In 2014 I published 5 m/m romance books, making 13 total. I had less publications in 2014 than in 2013, but I released my first full-length novel (“The Mating of Michael”).

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Many readers of m/m romance also write it, so you will know what I’m talking about when I say there are things an author must consider when deciding whether or not to invest more time in a genre. First: Am I objectively any good at writing it?  Second: Do I really like the genre enough to dedicate a large chunk of my time to building a career in it? Third: Can I continue to come up with fresh ideas and fresh work in this area story after story?

The answer to those questions for me is ‘yes’. I still feel I have something to offer the genre, I still really enjoy writing it, and I’ve gotten some lovely encouragement which makes me feel like my efforts are not in vain.

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The m/m romance genre is an interesting beast. If being a ‘romance author’ is not taken very seriously by the general population and/or literary world, writing m/m romance is regarded with even more confusion/embarrassment/disdain. It seems to be the equivalent of saying ‘I write porn’. Now, I personally don’t think there’s anything wrong with writing porn, but that’s not the way I consider my Eli Easton books.

Granted, I am probably in tune with point-oh-one percent of the population in this, but I really don’t see a lot of difference in regular (m/f) romance and gay (m/m) romance. At the heart, a romance is a romance.  Love is a mystery. Why do two people fit together? And how do they figure it out? To me, a romance is about two people discovering their perfect partner—from first meeting, to getting to know one another, to overcoming obstacles, to realizing they want to be together for life. It’s about the dynamics of their personalities and daily lives and how they fit together. It’s about realizing that love is more important than anything else. It’s family and psychology, personal flaws and strengths. It’s chemistry and heat.  In the end, very few things in life impact us the way our choice of life partner does. So what could be a more important subject to write about?

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How I landed in the m/m genre is a bit of luck and a bit of good casting. My first exposure to m/m was Anne Rice’s “Cry to Heaven”, which I read in high school and found compellingly unusual and sensual. Later on, there was fan fiction (johnlock and sterek mostly). As a writer, I’ve always been more comfortable with male characters. Never a girly girl, I am sometimes irritated by romance heroines. Bottom line: I find men more interesting creatures and far sexier. So being able to write two male leads works for me on many levels. I also find the social and personal dynamics of being gay interesting. Let’s face it, unless you want to write regency romance, there’s not a lot left in our modern society to keep men and women from doing whatever they damn well please. There are more hoops to jump through, and thus more opportunity for denial, obstacle, and conflict, in a gay relationship. I also like the idea of contributing, however obliquely, to normalizing gay relationships. I am absolutely in favor of gay rights.

As for stigma or literary snobbery, I am old enough to have given up on expecting to rule the world—or the NY Times bestseller list. The fact is, whatever people think of romance, more people read it, and buy it, than any other genre of book. People read it because they enjoy it—it’s an escape, a comfort, entertainment, and a solace. It’s fantasy and an outlet for the love and desire that is often lacking in our ‘real lives’. I am honored to provide that for readers.

On to the old and new!

2014: Looking Back

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Publications:

“Stitch” (gothika anthology, my story “Reparation”), Apr 2014
“The Mating of Michael” (Sex in Seattle #3), Jun 2014
“Heaven Can’t Wait” (in Dreamspinner’s Daily Dose), Jul 2014
“Bones” (gothika anthology, my story “The Bird”), Oct 2014
“Unwrapping Hank” (Christmas novella), Nov 2014

Cons Attended:

Dreamspinner’s author con

Milestones:

“Blame it on the Mistletoe” gets over 2000 rankings on Goodreads

“Unwrapping Hank” hits #1 on Amazon’s gay romance list (briefly, but it was there!)

“The Mating of Michael” wins #1 place in the William Neale Award for Best Gay Contemporary Romance category, 2014 Rainbow Awards and #2 place in “Best Gay Book” overall.

3 audio books published in 2014: “Blame it on the Mistletoe”, “A Prairie Dog’s Love Song”, and “Superhero”.

‘Came out’ as Eli Easton under my writing/game design nom de plume of Jane Jensen

 

2015: Looking Ahead

I plan to spend more time writing in 2015 since I’ve recently finished a huge work project.

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Publications Anticipated:

“The Lion and the Crow” (expanded edition), Dreamspinner, Jan 2015
“How to Howl at the Moon” (new paranormal dog shifter series), Love Lane Books, Feb 2015
“Claw” (gothika anthology, my story “The Black Dog”), Apr 2015
A novel for Dreamspinner (TBD– probably Sex in Seattle #4 or Prairie Dog #2), Aug 2015
“gothika #4” (anthology), Oct 2015
Christmas novella 2015 (Micah Springfield’s story), Nov 2015
“Kingdom Come” (murder mystery set in Amish country from Berkeley’s Prime Crime line),- sometime in 2015

Writing in 2015: Kingdom Come #2, Howl at the Moon #2

Cons Attending:

Dreamspinner’s author con
Rainbow Con
Romantic Times

Goals:

* continue to build name recognition and reader base

* do a better job updating my blog!

* would be lovely to have a #1 on amazon for longer than one day!

😉

 

That’s it for this year’s round-up. Please let me know your suggestions and if there’s anything you are dying for me to write in 2015!

 

Eli

New page added for “bones” (gothika #2)

October 25

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Check out the new page for the “bones” anthology, coming out Oct 27th!  Spooky/erotic stories from myself, Kim Fielding, Jamie Fessenden, and BG Thomas. You can read an excerpt from my novella “The Bird” on the new page here.

Cover and excerpt: “Unwrapping Hank” (due Nov 14)

October 9

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“Unwrapping Hank”, my 2014 Christmas story, is due to release Nov 14, 2014.  The cover by done by the talented Reese Dante, who did my Mistletoe cover last year.  This isn’t a sequel, but it does have a similar vibe.

Blurb:

Sloane loves a good mystery. He grew up as the son of two psychiatrists, so he finds most people tediously easy to figure out. He finds his way to Pennsylvania State University, longing for a rural experience, and ends up being lured into joining a frat by Micah Springfield, the hippest guy on campus.

Nothing in Sloane’s classes is as intriguing as Hank Springfield, Micah’s brother and fellow frat house member. Hank looks like a tough guy—big muscles, tatts, and a beard—but his eyes are soft and sweet. He acts dumb, but he’s a philosophy major. He’s presumably straight, but then why does Sloane feel such crazy chemistry whenever Hank is around? And why does Hank hate Sloane so much?

When Sloane ends up stuck on campus over Christmas, Micah invites him to spend the holidays at their family farm in Amish country. It’s a chance to experience a true Americana Christmas–and further investigate the mystery that is Hank Springfield. Can Sloane unlock the secrets of this family and unwrap the heart hidden inside the beefcake?

Here’s the first excerpt!  (this is pre-editor)

1

 

“Sloane, why don’t you get us some more sangria? In the kitchen. On the kitchen table. That’s the good stuff.” Micah Springfield winked at me.

“You know, Hank is—” Brian started.

Micah put an arm around Brian’s neck in a casual stranglehold, clapped a hand over his mouth, and patted it lightly, as if he was joking around. “Sloane?” Micah held out his glass to me.

“Uh… sure.” I took his glass, wondering if this was a pledge thing. If I, as a new member of Delta Sigma Phi, and a lowly freshman, was going to be a community gopher for the foreseeable future.

But so far, Micah and the Delts had been amazingly benevolent. When I and four other freshman rushed, there were no illegal pranks, panty-on-head wearing, belly-crawling through urine, or naked spanking. Which was good, because I would have laughed, ho ho ho, at least at everything except possibly the naked spanking. Then I’d have made a beeline for the exit.

I never thought I’d be the type to rush a frat. In fact, if my parents knew about it, they’d be lecturing me over the phone on peer pressure, the dangers of co-dependency in closed social structures, and the effects of one’s social group on GPA in a university setting. They were both psychologists, and I, I was their lifelong patient. Nothing in my life went undeconstructed. But when Micah, a TA in one of my classes, latched onto me and gave me the hard sell, I didn’t resist.

Micah Springfield is president of the Delts. He’s that guy who is hipper than you will ever be, even if you took master lessons from Bob Dylan and Will Smith. He’s genuinely smart but a thousand leagues from being a nerd. He’s good-looking but lazy with it, you know? He has wild curly brown hair that’s down to his shoulders, with these little braids in it, dread-style, and a remarkably unskeevy soul patch. He wears slouchy low-riding jeans, crazy-patterned shirts, and leather sandals most of the time, even in November. He’s a senior in environmental science, of course, because that’s what terminally hip people major in. And he has these insightful brown eyes, eyes that looked right into yours and say I’m touching your soul, brother.

Micah was warm. In other words, the opposite of my parents.

Besides, the Delts lived in a cool old mansion, which was so much better than sharing a dumpy dorm room with my perpetually anxious, tums-chewing, pre-med roommate. I was over all the hair-pulling. He pulled his own hair, not mine, but still. I was definitely ready to move into a room in the Delts house that first weekend in November.

And if I’d had some stirrings of attraction to Micah at first, it honestly had nothing to do with my decision. I figured out in the first ten minutes that he was straight, and that was the end of that. Tiny nubbin of interest nipped in the bud, and we were both the better for it.

“Kitchen,” I repeated, looking pointedly at the punch bowl not two feet away.

“Trust me,” Micah insisted, winking at me again.

I sighed and went off to find the frat house kitchen.

 

*                          *                         *

 

I pushed through a swinging door and saw a refrigerator. I’d found the kitchen. My sense of accomplishment lasted for about two seconds. Then I noticed the guy standing at the sink doing dishes.

The Delts I’d met so far were upscale-looking guys. Even with Micah’s slouchy hippiness, there was a sense of quality about him that shone. And the other frat members, like Brian, tended to polo shirts and button-downs and managed to tread that narrow line between respectable students and nerds. They were more prone to hacky-sack and ultimate frisbee on the front lawn than video games or football and steroids. It was a zone I felt comfortable in, if not one where I precisely belonged.

But this creature at the sink was something else.

He was a big guy, had to be over six feet and he was broad. He wore old, holey jeans that showcased a perfect, firmly rounded ass. On top he wore a white wife-beater tank top and nothing else, which left acres of huge muscles and tattoos exposed. He had a thick buzz cut and a full beard. One bare foot was propped up on the opposing calf as he washed glasses in hot, soapy water.

I clenched the stems of the glasses in my hands so hard it was a miracle they didn’t break. Black began to descend on my vision and it took me a moment to identify the problem—I wasn’t breathing. Silly me. I gasped in a mouthful of oxygen and the sound caused sink guy to turn his head to look at me.

“Hey.” Sink guy’s grunt was low and rough like a dog or a bear. He turned around and went back to washing dishes.

I love a good mystery. In fact, I find it boring how unmysterious life is most of the time. Study the material, get correct answers on tests, get a good grade, eventually get lots of good grades to get a good job. Point A to B to C. And people? Growing up the son of two psychologists, and furthermore being a huge fan of murder mysteries, I had a tendency to analyze people and put them in boxes fairly quickly.  For example, the pinch of my mother’s mouth can indicate long-suffering, irritated, or secretly pleased, depending on its exact tension. There’s a look a guy gets in his eye when he’s attracted to you and a different look when he finds out you’re gay and he’s disgusted by that. Most people are open books.

But standing in that kitchen my head was flooded with a dozen questions.

Who was this guy?

What was he doing in the Delts’s kitchen washing dishes? He didn’t look like a Delt, but he didn’t look like anyone a sane person would hire for catering or clean-up either.

He seemed young, about my age, yet I knew he wasn’t a freshman rushee, because I’d met all of them and we were currently being schmoozed out front in our ‘welcome to the frat’ party.

Why was he barefoot?

If he was a Delt, why was he hiding in the kitchen doing dishes instead of socializing with everyone else?

And why oh why did I have an overwhelming urge to run my hands over the plump muscles on those arms, shoulders, and back, when I’d never before in my life been attracted to muscle guys or tattoos? The guys I’d dated had been smart and fairly sophisticated. A guy like this should not move me. But he did, like Mt Vesuvius.

Oh God, was I going to hell? Would I end up living in Texas?

The guy looked over his shoulder at me again. His eyes were dark blue, with what looked like flecks of gold, and he had long, long black lashes. They were soft eyes.

How did a guy who looked like an ex-con have eyes that were that sweet?

“Need something?” he asked me with a slight frown.

Right. Because standing frozen by the kitchen door holding two glasses in a death grip was not weird at all.

I cleared my throat. “Refill.” I spotted the pitcher of sangria on the table and manage to fill up the two glasses. The guy had gone back to ignoring me, gently clinking glasses in the water and being ridiculously noir with the steam from the sink wafting around him like a figure in an old Humphrey Bogart film.

Some snooping was definitely in order. I left Micah’s glass on the table and wandered over to the sink with my sangria.

“Are you a Delt?” I asked, all casual.

He took his hands out of the suds and braced them on the edge of the sink. They were thick hands, flush with veins.

He looked me over critically, and I tried not to betray the fact that I found him incredibly attractive. Playing it cool, I took a  sip of my drink.

“Yeah,” he said at last. “I’m Hank. Who are you?”

Oh, God. Oh, no. “Sloane. Greg Sloane.”

“Oh.” His face closed off in a heartbeat. He went back to washing dishes. “Yeah, Micah mentioned you.”

As it happened, I’d heard of Hank too. Hank—the one guy at the fraternity who’d voted against my membership, a fact I shouldn’t know but did because Brian had let it spill. He’d also told me to “never mind Hank. Just stay far away from the guy and he won’t bother you.” The impression I’d been left with is that bothering me—maybe with his fists—was entirely possible should I accidentally annoy this paragon.

Hank, the one Delt I’d never met but had a vague notion was homophobic and thus hated me on principle.

That’s when I noticed the cross tattooed on his impressive left bicep. Without another word, I picked up Micah’s drink and went back out into the living room. My heart was beating fast and something like disappointment burning in my stomach.

“Hey,” Micah said. He took his glass and threw his other arm around me. “Come on, I want you to meet Sam Wiser. He’s a junior and in the vet sciences program too.”

“Sure, uh… There was a guy in the kitchen… Hank.”

Micah stopped and looked at me, smiling shyly.  “Yeah? What’d you think?”

What’d I think?

“He seemed really… domesticated. You know, for a white supremacist.”

I was being perhaps a wee bit judgmental, but Micah laughed, a big booming laugh that made everyone turn to see what was so funny.

“I guess you know the guy,” I commented, even more perplexed by Micah’s reaction.

“Oh, I know him.” Micah pulled me in by the neck to whisper in my ear. “Hank is my baby brother.”

EE