Sunday, October 31, 2010

Bay City Paranormal Re-Release!


That's right, folks, Samhain is re-releasing the Bay City Paranormal Investigations series! The first five books, anyway, the main series arc :) The books haven't been re-written or anything, but the first three have new blurbs and all of them have gorgeous new cover art. You can check it all out on the Samhain Coming Soon page; just scroll down a bit. You'll notice that Willow Bend and Love's Evolution are being re-released with new blurbs and cover art as well. Cool, huh?

All the re-releases are coming out November 12th so the old buy links are dead for now. I'm excited about the re-release. I loved my old covers, but these new ones are just beautiful and I'm extremely happy. I just adore my new Bo in particular *g*

Thursday, October 28, 2010

This is Halloween!!

Yes it is that time of year. My favorite of all -- Halloween.

I'm gearing up for the party on Saturday. It's always fun and I'm just having a ball with the menu this year (since the spawn are old enough that we can go super creepy!)

So what is James having you ask?

Well, as you can see by the picture, A Meat Head.  You'll also find a Brain on the table. This summer salmon mold actually works very, very effectively in the brain mold. It's the right constancy and the right color -- that good pinky-grey. You can get at most halloween supply shops  Ialso will have a some min cheese brains as well. I have a few 1/2 cup sized molds and they work well for that.

Rounding out the table you'll find Fried Fingers (Fried Mozzerella Sticks from Cost-Co) with congeled blood dipping sauce (good old Ragu), Baked witches toes (mini hotdogs in crecent dough -- also from Cost-Co), Moon Bites (mini pizzas -- guess from where? Cost-Co), Puss with crackers (hummus and pita chips) and eyeball salad  --gotta sneak some fruit in there somehow.

On the sweet side, they'll be the regular round of cookies and brownies, but we're also supplying Baked grasshoppers (a variation of the candy called White-Trash, but you make it with butterscotch chips) that is if I can keep SG from eating them all.  My cake this year will be a cauldron.

So, who's trick-or-treating my house this year?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Picking Scabs

A very excited version of my dad called me this week asking for computer help with a video. (Not that I have any computer skills beyond ability to type and click a mouse.) Dad had found a video on YouTube that he desperately wanted to save onto his computer’s hard drive and/or some other media. The video was a grainy black and white from the early days of VHS, when the recording camera needed a tripod because it was that heavy. The video was eight minutes long, eight minutes that are legend in our family: the 98-lb state final wrestling match, a match which would end up being my father’s only chance at coaching a state champion.

Jimmy’s path to that finals match has also been memorialized, to the point that the family can recite the names, schools and match scores from his other opponents. And of course we remember that final match score: 8-7 in favor of Jimmy’s opponent. What I remember best about that match was that Jimmy was putting the other kid on his back at the end, in four or five seconds more seconds he would have won, but time ran out. What my dad remembers best is that he told Jimmy not to try that arm drag a third time, that the other kid would be ready for it. Whatever led to the loss, I still couldn’t believe how happy my dad was to find that match. He had it playing the whole time he talked to me on the phone. To me, reliving that moment like that, albeit in a fuzzy black and white, was like picking a scab so that it can’t heal. Why would someone want to relive that?

Okay, I admit it. I have a serious weakness for reunion romances. Most of my characters, including those in my WIP, are driven by an opportunity at a second chance to make things right.

But that’s fiction. And what I love angsting over in fiction is not quite what I enjoy experiencing first hand in real life. Revisiting a crushing disappointment, like that finals match, or missing out on college honors by two one-hundredths of a point (if I’d known, I’d have done that extra paper in that basket-weaving course) or perusing a three-inch high stack of rejection letters is not fun for me. I run from unpleasant realities into fiction as fast as my imagination can carry me. After all, that’s what fiction is for. Escape. I don’t even mind fiction that makes me sob, as long as I get my happy ending.

I should add that my dad couldn’t be prouder of Jimmy if he had won the States. Despite a serious disadvantage in size and height, Jimmy went on to realize his dream of becoming a Navy Seal. My dad measured his accomplishments as a coach not in the hardware of awards, but in molding boys into strong, responsible men.

But although I’ll help my dad store his video, I won’t be watching it. Knowing that you can’t rewrite real history, that second chances in real life don’t come along very often, is why I would always prefer to take my reality with a big healthy slice of imagination.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Autumn Traditions

Autumn has struck here with a vengeance. Lots of wind and rain--and the small power outages that tend to come with the wind and the rain. I love autumn, though. I love the wacky weather. I love the colours that the leaves turn. There are a couple of streets near me where the trees all look like flavours of jam. There's apricot and plum and golden raspberry peach. Makes me hungry for a PB&J just looking at them. Halloween decorations are appearing in people's yards, too. I put mine out Saturday--just before the weather hit. I haven't done that the past two years because I haven't been home on Halloween, and I've missed the ritual digging out of the big plastic bin and the unpacking of the decorations.

Another autumn tradition I enjoy is roasting pumpkins. I'll do that next week. It makes the whole house smell pumpkiny good! I'm a freak for autumn foods, you see. Last night it was butternut squash enchiladas. Last week it was pasta with mushroom sauce. The week before was sweet potato and chick pea stew. Mmmm! The flavours of fall!

Let's not forget the tradition of watching Kenneth Branagh's Henry V on St. Crispin's Day. (That was yesterday, in case you didn't know. This year is the 595th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt.)

And last but far from least, there's the autumn--or more specifically November--tradition of NaNoWriMo. I'm participating again this year. This is year five for me. I've "won" every year, but this time I'm not so sure I'll make it. I'm even less prepared than usual, I'm afraid. We'll see. I am a competitive person, even when I'm just competing with myself, so perhaps I'll bring in another one. ::fingers crossed::

So, what about you? What autumnal traditions do you most enjoy?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Eye Candy

Life has been hectic for me recently. I'm trying to get my writing going again while rewriting a rejected story. Needless to say, this was one of those days that I at here staring at a blank screen wondering what to say. *sigh* So why talk much when I can give you all some nice eye candy. Have a good week!




Sunday, October 24, 2010

It's Sunday, right? I have no idea. This is me, today:




I have the plague, or something. I wish my tissues would walk around like that, though. It would make being sick much more fun.

My last blog day (that I missed) was also spent like that, in between bouts of panic that I now have a deadline for the novel my partner and I swore we wouldn't have a deadline for. I guess passing the 25k mark means "time to shop it around", which we did, and then BOOM! Deadline.

However, this means that our novel about the highs and lows of working in a very large, very well known theme park will be released sometime in late March of 2011. I am SO. EXCITED. about this one, partly because the book is hilarious, partly because I had so much fun working on it with a co-writer. Things seem to move along so much faster.

In any case, I have to brave the wilds of Costco today (ugh, the people who want free samples will be out in force) and then I plan to ensconce myself in bed with football on tv and possibly a cat by my side.

I love Sundays.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Leigh Ellwood's Contest Giveaway Extended!

Please read the original post, pasted here. October turned out to be a busier month than anticipated, so I'm extending my two giveaways through October 31. When I'm back from trick or treating, I'll pick the winners, I swear. Thanks so much!!!!

This September, I had the honor of attending Authors After Dark as a featured author and panelist, and I had a great time. I enjoyed meeting people with whom I'd previously communicated online, and it's always a pleasure hooking up with Bridget Midway, Yvette Hines, and Denise Jeffries. We were the Golden Girls of Erotica and hosted an 80s cheesecake bash. Not sure what's on tap for next year, but I'm in.

For October, I'm planning two different giveaways, so read the whole post!

This year, I brought home from AAD a bulging goody bag of books, promo, and all sorts of neat stuff, and I'm giving it away to one lucky reader. Here are the titles you'll get:

Wild Blue Under - Judi Fennell
Queene of Light - Jennifer Armintrout
Dark Days & Wicked Nights - sampler of excerpts from Allyson James, Devyn Quinn, Meljean Book and others
The Tease Dark Tarot: Death - Dorlana Vann
Tigers and Devils - Sean Kennedy (M/M)
Hard Fall - James Buchanan (M/M)
The Beast Within - Erin McCarthy, Bianca D'Arc, and Jennifer Lyon
plus two freebies by me: a print version of Dareville After Dark (with M/M stories) and a proof of She Loves Me, my F/F collection.

To enter for the above giveaway, simply click on http://bit.ly/LeighsAADBag and fill out the form. US winner gets the bag, International winner gets free downloads from DLP Books.

Deadline to enter is October 31st, midnight EST.

My second giveaway will tie in with Breast Cancer Awareness Month. My mom is doing the walk for the third year in a row, and as I can't take the time off to do it I will use my Facebook Page as a month-long tribute to the great women we have lost to this disease. Every day will feature a different woman and hopefully create awareness that self-detection and early detection is the key.

For this giveaway, I'll send one US winner a gift from the Republic of Tea (a Sip for the Cure selection) and a print book from my backlist, reader's choice. One International winner gets a $15 gift certificate to Phaze Books. To enter this giveaway, you only have to like my Facebook page! Deadline to enter the second giveaway is October 31, midnight EST.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Visual Inspiration


Over the years, I've amassed boxes and boxes worth of books. With space being an issue, I've had to reduce the number of leisure paperbacks I keep around, but there's no way I'll ever part with my collection of art books! From catalogs on more contemporary artists like Paul Cadmus to books on movie art (The Art of the Lord of the Rings, woo!), my bookshelves hold an assortment of creatively inspiring material that helps me if my imagination needs a little wake-up call.

One of the latest additions to my collection is, Male Nude. The paperback is small, but it's full of beautiful, full-color reproductions of artwork featuring the male physique. It's a lovely survey of subject matter that doesn't come up in contemporary art too often, and it includes work by Jacques-Louis David, Michelangelo (of course!), classic sculpture, and more. I definitely hope you check it out!

Post-book hangover

Yesterday I wrote the last sentence of my current novel “Scorpion”. There are still at least three scenes that are complete crap, the whole thing has a ton of typos, and there are some logic issues, but I have a book. A new, solo-written fantasy novel. I started that one on my holiday in Turkey, in the week before I started work at my new job. That’s four months ago now, and I’m taking into account that for at least two of those months, I wasn’t really writing (but editing, and sometimes just working long hours at my paid job to keep the mortgage payments coming).

When I went to Turkey, I didn’t actually want a new project. I had one. I brought a pile of books to research and had an e-reader full of books I had to review. I got some reviewing done, but most of the time during that week I spent typing on my netbook, writing around 18thousand words about a character that just showed up and demanded to be heard. Kendras – the tough mercenary I was writing about – didn’t take a “no” for an answer, and besides, it was fun. And, yeah, hot. It certainly pressed my buttons. The world where he lives is a dog-eat-dog place.

Have a visual:



If you’re injured and have no money, you starve or bleed to death or die of an infection. Kendras, shell-shocked from losing most of his unit, is an unlikely “romance” hero. While I hope that one of the m/m romance & gay romance publishers will buy the book, to me, it’s not just about the guy Kendras falls in love with (or has been in love with for a while). It’s also a book on how he grows as a person and what else goes on in that strange place where he lives, where three cities are in constant war, the church pretends that gods exists, human sacrifice is one of the rites that keeps the world going, and mercenaries are as likely to sell their bodies as their swords – and nobody bats an eyelash.

I’m not trying to sell you the book (would be counter-productive, because it’s not out yet and won’t be for several more months). It’s just that right after a book, my head is still not back from that world. I still feel it. It’s very much in my bones at this point.

Apart from the sheer amount of time it takes, it’s also hard to keep writing at that speed. It’s just under 70thousand words and I wrote at least 25thousand of those in the last two weeks, while working around 50-55 hours/week in my day job and being responsible for a financial publication. Getting a magazine to press (today) and finishing a novel (last night), has left me with a feeling not unlike a hangover.

The head hurts, reality is a fuzzy, blurred place, but sleep is for the wicked and a no-no. Choosing between writing and work doesn’t work. I don’t have the courage to quit my day job – I like having a pension and owning a house. But writing is why I’m here and life’s short, so “I’m tired”, or “I worked so hard” is no excuse. My job is to get words out, and that was what I did. If it’s only 500 words a day – that means 3,500 words a week, and a 60k novel in around four months. If you keep doing that, that’s three novels per year. Not bad at all. (And 500 words is not an outrageous amount – this entry has just under 700 words).

Even if I didn’t feel like it, there was always “just one more sentence” and “c’mon, just one paragraph today.” That’s how you write books. That’s how I wrote “Scorpion”, my first finished solo novel in a pretty long time.

I can relax now. I’ve taken Monday off (as the magazine goes to the printer today), and I’ll spend the weekend editing, writing a synopsis, re-writing three scenes. I’ll fill up the fridge with fresh food, do my taxes, go to the gym, but above all, I’m hoping to sleep, rest and recover. (To be ready for the next one.)





(Images used without permission)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

You have to start somewhere...

Someone has unearthed photos of an 18-year-old Jared "Angel Face" Leto during his hair model years:



More of the fabulous retro-mane here and here. Thanks to the cheesy poses, I'm torn between spontaneous combustion and LOL. Twenty years ago, I would have been all over this!!! Now, I'm of the mind that Mr. Leto looks much better today. Still, he sure did have some pretty hair there. Also, bear in mind these photos would have been taken in 1989 or 1990, around the time we alternative girls were talking our alternative boys into growing out their shag cuts, mullets, skater bowls, or mohawks and just wearing it long and gel-free. So Jared was a pre-grunge trendsetter!

And yes, I'm tagging this post as both "humor" and "eye candy" -- you decide!



Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Monday, October 18, 2010

Great Reading!

Hi guys and gals! I hope everyone reading the blog today is well. I'm kind of a flustered mess at the moment, so I thought I'd share a few of my favorite recent reads with you all.




Bestselling author Michael Thomas Ford demonstrates once again why he is the master of portraying the contemporary gay experience, in this moving, beautifully told story of love, family, and finding one's place in the world.

When a car accident leaves photographer Burke Crenshaw in need of temporary full-time care, he finds himself back in the one place no forty-year-old chooses to be--his childhood bedroom. There, in the Vermont home where he grew up, Burke begins the long process of recuperation, and watches as his widowed father finds happiness in a new relationship that's a constant reminder of everything Burke wants and lacks.

Meeting Will Janks is an unexpected complication. Will is the twenty-year-old son of Burke's high school best friend, Mars. After what transpired between them one summer long ago, Burke had hoped he and Mars might become more than friends, but Mars has always pretended that night never happened. Will, in contrast, makes no secret of his interest in Burke, who can't resist his attraction to the handsome young man.

The burgeoning relationship draws Burke out of himself and into the community he left behind. Exploring local history, he discovers an intriguing series of letters from a Civil War soldier to his fiancé. With the help of librarian Sam Guffrey, he begins to research a 125-year-old mystery that seems to be reaching into the present day. The more Burke delves into the past, the more he's forced to confront the person he has become: the choices he made and those he avoided, his ideas of what it takes to be a successful gay man, his feelings about his mother's death, and the suppressed tension that simmers between himself and his father.

Compelling, frankly funny, and often wise, The Road Home is the story of one man's coming to terms with who he is, what he wants out of life, and where he belongs--and the complex, surprising path that finally takes him there.







Ryan's relationship-phobic, preferring to live his life from one anonymous hook-up to the next. He never remembers a name, and he never goes back for more. But then he meets Jayden, the one-off who won't get out of his head, his life -- or, indeed, his bed. Ryan remains in a denial, however; he has no place in his life for emotion or feelings, despite how much difficulty he finds in keeping away from the gorgeous, confident Jayden.

It's not until Jayden gets a boyfriend, bringing their non-relationship to a sudden end, that Ryan thinks he might have been feeling something all along. Feeling a lot, actually, but it's too late. Jayden's happy with his new man, and Ryan shouldn't want to get in the way of that -- but he's selfish, and he's had an epiphany, and maybe the only way to get Jayden back is to reveal more of himself than he knows how to handle. But is it enough for Jayden to take a risk on a man who, by his own admission, has no idea how to love?







My name’s Cameron. And I’m a male escort. I’m the best, and most expensive, at what I do. I have one rule—never let anyone in.

In five years of hooking I’ve never picked up the wrong guy. But when I met Toronto ad man Trevor Barclay in a Manhattan bar, his soft green eyes and shy smile drew me right in. When I discovered the error I had made, I should have written it off as a mistake and moved on. But memories of the steamy encounter we shared in his hotel room continued to haunt me.

I never should have agreed to see him again, but from that very first night he worked his way under my skin and into my heart. I can’t stop thinking about him. But how can I tell him the first man he’s been with in sixteen years sells himself for a living?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Halloween geek

That is me. Total Halloween Geek. And, yes, I know, it’s a little over two weeks away, but I’m already planning.  I’ve made dried crickets already (melted butterscotch chips, peanuts and pretzel sticks –broken some – mixed together and dumped by spoonfuls onto wax paper) which may or may not actually last until our party on the 30th. But in surfing the web this AM I found the coolest thing EVER for my table.

creepy-critter-cheesecake-xl

Chocolate rats on a cheese cake. 

Bwhahahahhaa…I’m tickled, although their eyes need to be red.

The maid is going to freak today, the entire living room is spiderwebbed. A trick to using the web in bags from the store…stretch it as THIN as possible. It’s supposed to be airy and flimsy. If you want a “thick” web stretch it thin and layer the webs…far more spooky.

Tonight, Princess and I pull the gravestones out of the window seat. I’ve bought three more this year…mostly to replace the ones that didn’t make it through last year. I’ve got to hang some specters on the front porch and make the vortex with my light box and fog machine. 

Seriously, it’s Halloween folks. Better than Christmas.

If anyone else has any cool Halloween recipes I’d love to see them.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

New and Old


Oooo, look. Shiny new print book. I think that may be my favorite cover so far. There’s something about the 3D effect. And hey, check out that name with mine on the cover. I was thrilled to be included in an anthology with Josh Lanyon. I love his voice. His story "The Dickens With Love" is a really fun read, and I highly recommend it (either in the print or separately in digital).

My story is the historical Christmas novella that came out last December, “An Improper Holiday.” It’s funny that it wasn’t until my sixth published work that I sold a historical. When I started trying to make a living at writing, I always thought that I would write historical romance. After all, it was my first love as a romance reader. I went right from The Black Stallion and Trixie Belden to Shanna. As far as my published work goes, I think it’s my best piece of writing, maybe because I wrote the first draft of it twenty years ago, never imagining it would ever find a market. Twenty years is a nice long time to get the revisions done! That early draft was full of overblown prose and sappy declarations, but I loved the structure and the characters: a twelve-day house party, a wounded veteran with issues, and the holiday traditions of another time.

No one could be happier than I am to see Nicky and Ian’s love story make it to the page after all these years. I have a few other old gay historicals hanging around in my drawers—my file drawers, thank you very much. I think maybe Deverell and Ethan are due to be dusted off and spruced up.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Follow-up and a Vid

I found out at family dinner out for my mom's belated b-day that my dad did not, in fact, out me to the cousins. Apparently, my cousin who knew I had a space opera novella submitted to a publisher last year (and that's all the detail I gave), made the leap that it must have been published (which it was this summer), and since no one on this side of the fam necessarily knew that I deliberately wasn't sharing, the parental units simply confirmed it. And it was my mom who told them my pen name. *headdesk*

But enough of that. I need some mindless yet brilliant entertainment since my own mind is completely bathed in iambic meters and stage blood right now. And, no, that's not a euphemism. And so, for your entertainment (and mine), here's a vid of which I am particularly fond.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Happy Monday!

It's Monday again...and Columbus Day (in the US). Other than a few furniture store ads and not getting my mail that is the only thing I've heard about the holiday. I still remember when school was out and it was a bigger deal. *sigh* So happy Columbus Day!
However, October is also Breast Cancer Awareness Month. So make sure you get checked regularly.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

In search of...

Oh no, Mickey D's, say it isn't so:



Those don't sound like very happy meals to me. But wait! There's been a sighting over at Vogue Hommes Japan's new digital venture:



It's animated, even! Catch the pretties in motion here.

Whew. I'm glad we got that resolved!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Writing For Real


Lately, I've been wondering about personal presumptions. Those thoughts and feelings that make up our individual reactions to particular situations. It makes for interesting character building. I'm currently doing some work on an admittedly different shifter story. And thanks to two particularly wonderful friend/betas, I've been doing what I almost never allow myself to do.

I'm letting myself be myself. And that may not make sense but bear with me here. What I mean is that every story has it's own characters. Every character reacts to the setup differently. And the thing every writer tries to do is to let the character be the character. Little parts of ourselves slip out of course, we can't help it.

Our characters are part of us after all.

But I've always automatically stopped myself from going that extra mile. This is where the presumptions come in. I don't think I'm good with comedic timing so I don't aim for comedy, ever. I presume that no one will find my attempted funny well, funny. My humor is steeped in biting sarcasm but I'm known to trim down dialogue because otherwise, to be honest, y'all would realize just how bitchy I can be *grins* so I presume that no one wants to read a character that snarky.

And in many cases, I'm probably right.

With this story, however, I'm forcing myself to not edit as I go. I'm sure you recognize this practice from NaNo. Also known as Writers Go Wild. I digress. The result of this means I have heavily sarcastic dialogue, an early, damn near triple-X-rated teasing scene and a lot of heavy duty blood-soaked violence.

The fact that these characters speak to me this way is definitely a bonus.

I fret. My inner editor has gone hoarse from shouting at me to fix this, delete that, and oh-for-the-love-of-all-things-good-and-right-please-don't-write-THAT. I keep thinking that someone is going to call me out on this. I can't seem to stop that little voice from saying that I'm insane.

And yet...and yet...I don't think I've enjoyed or been more challenged by a story in the years I've been doing this. Don't get me wrong, I like pretty much every story I've ever written. But this...this gives me that possibly-a-masterpiece feeling. Not to sound boastful but damn, it'll be something amazing to me.

Plus, these feel like the most fleshed out characters I've written in a long time. It'll be awhile before you guys see them as well but you'll have to let me know what you think. It's kind of like jumping out in the middle of a huge lake...so I'd appreciate the life saver!

Or, y'know, duck-shaped floaty.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

New book!


Ever since Cambridge-bound Colin Lancaster secretly watched stable master Patrick Callahan mastering the groundskeeper, he’s longed for Patrick to do the same to him. When Patrick is caught with his pants down and threatened with death, Colin speaks up in his defense, announcing that he, too, is guilty of “the love that dare not speak its name.” Soon they’re both condemned as convicts and shipped off to the faraway prison colony of Australia.

Patrick learned long ago that love is a fairy tale and is determined that no one will scale the wall he’s built around his heart. Yet he’s inexorably drawn to the charismatic Colin despite his best efforts to keep him at bay. As their journey extends from the cramped and miserable depths of a prison ship to the vast, untamed Australian outback, Colin and Patrick must build new lives for themselves. They'll have to tame each other to find happiness in this wild new land.

Thrilled to announce the release of my new novel, The Station, which is my first full-length historical. It's part of Loose Id's Coming Out Day Celebration. Most coming out stories I read are modern, and I wanted to explore the challenges and rewards of coming out in a different era. Even though it might be unplanned and have serious consequences, coming out can give you the freedom and life you always wanted. You may not be playing by society's rules (certainly not in the 1800s!), but by being yourself, you can find greater happiness than you ever thought possible.

Read an excerpt from The Station.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Shifting Sands anthology now available!

Okay, so five of my critique partners and I got together and wrote a series of related short stories about a group of cursed shapeshifting cowboys. It's called Shifting Sands and it came out last Sunday from MLR Press :D Yay!

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The wrath of a woman scorned is bad, but a witch's wrath is hell on earth. No one knows this better than the six men of Shifting Sands Ranch. When the owner's witch of a wife flees the ranch, she takes with her one of the cowboys and leaves behind a curse that dooms the remaining inhabitants to a life that is anything but normal. Now, every month when the moon comes full, each man takes on the form of an animal.
 
Witches, shifters and ancient curses, such is life on the Shifting Sands.


Buy the book here. Read on for an excerpt from my contribution to the antho, "All The Moon Long." Enjoy!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

© Copyright 2010 Ally Blue

Jud woke in the middle of his shift back to human. When he stopped feeling like he was two seconds from puking and his galloping heart settled into a trot, he aimed an eloquent stream of swear words at the ceiling fan overhead. This was why he usually stayed up to greet the dawn on the night of a shift. He hated being yanked from sleep by the none-too-pleasant feel of his body going from rat to human.

The pain in his side had gone away completely, so the cracked rib must’ve knitted during the shift. He lifted his right leg and cautiously wiggled his foot. It felt a little sore, and a bluish bruise spread from his toes to his ankle, but there was no real pain. The bones seemed to have healed well enough. Good thing, too. Limping all the way home on a lame foot would’ve sucked donkey balls.

Sitting up, he studied the room in which he found himself. Three of the walls were lined with windows, shaded by blinds that looked like they were made of river reeds. White-painted wood made up the fourth wall. A closed sliding glass door broke the line of the wooden wall a good ten feet to Jud’s right. To his left sat a glider wide enough for at least four people. Long white hairs—cat hairs, Jud thought, remembering Woody’s three-legged Persian—covered the blue cushions. A small top-loading freezer hummed in the far corner of the room. Beneath the wadded-up towel and the cardboard box Jud had mangled during his shift, a thin grayish-blue carpet covered a floor hard enough to be concrete.

After a moment’s thought, Jud realized he must’ve spent the night on Woody’s enclosed sun porch. Woody had converted the house’s original outdoor patio into a sunroom several months ago. The memory of Woody’s palpable pride when he’d shown Jud the pictures made him smile, in spite of the seriousness of his current situation.

Speaking of which…

Grasping the arm of the glider to steady himself, Jud pushed to his feet. The room spun around him for a moment before the post-shift vertigo settled into a familiar vague lightheadedness. To his relief, his bruised foot held his weight with no problem.

He glanced around, looking for anything at all he could wear. Woody’s clothes would be too big for him, but hanging on to an overly large pair of pants was a damn sight better than hoofing it back to the ranch in nothing but his skin.

The little room was cluttered with battered sci-fi novels, pet care magazines, gardening tools and bags of cat litter, but no clothes. Jud was about ready to say fuck it and take his chances cutting across farm country in the altogether when he remembered the towel his rat form had slept on. Cursing himself under his breath, he snatched the towel off the floor and wrapped it around his hips. It barely covered the necessary parts and his left thigh peeked out through the slit where the ends didn’t quite come together, but it would have to do. He could not let Woody catch him here. Especially like this.

A quick perusal of the room revealed no exit other than the sliding glass door. The door that led to the rest of the house.

Shit, I’m gonna have to go through the house to get out.

Jud looked around, but didn’t see a clock. It must be early, though. He always shifted back as soon as the horizon began to lighten, and the light filtering through the blinds was still gray and faint. With any luck Woody would still be asleep.

Hanging on to his towel with one hand, Jud padded to the sliding glass door and peered through it. The kitchen and living room beyond were dark and empty. He eased the door open, slipped through and crept toward the back door. It couldn’t be more than ten feet. Only ten feet between himself and freedom.

As he drew even with the kitchen table, his feet tangled in something warm and soft. He stumbled, caught his sore foot on a chair leg and went flying ass over teakettle. The chair clattered across the floor. Jud landed on the unforgiving wooden planks with a thud that knocked the wind out of him.

A pair of crystal blue eyes set in a sea of long white fur stared at him from inches away. “Mmmrrrrrow?”

“Damned cat,” Jud wheezed, glaring into the Persian’s placid feline face.

With a swish of her fluffy tail, the cat turned and made her three-legged way across the floor. She jumped into the battered old recliner, lapped at one delicate paw and swiped it behind her ears. Her smug gaze seemed to say mission accomplished.

Jud flipped her off. Like it was his fault she’d been shut out of what was clearly “her” porch all night.

“Jud?” Bare feet pounded across the floor toward him, long bare legs bent, and he found himself looking up at Woody’s concerned face. “Shit, are you okay?”

Crap. Fucking goddamn crap. Wondering how in the nine hells he was going to explain himself, Jud gave Woody his best approximation of a smile. “Yeah, fine. Tripped over your cat.”

Woody winced. “Sorry about that. Einstein loves to get underfoot.”

“Einstein?”

“Yeah, well. It’s ironic.” Woody shot the animal a fond smile. “Not to put too fine a point on it, she’s kind of stupid.”

No shit. What kind of cat doesn’t know a rat when it smells one? Jud snorted.

Woody slipped an arm around Jud’s ribcage. “Here, let me help you up.”

Jud allowed Woody to haul him upright, trying to ignore the effect Woody’s nearness was having on him. Why did the man have to be wearing those stupid, sexy Jersey knit boxer-briefs, anyway? The damned things clung to his body in a way that left not very fucking much to the imagination. Jud gritted his teeth and hung on to his towel with grim determination, hoping the developing tent would go away before Woody noticed.

Luckily, Woody’s full attention was focused on Jud’s face. Jud stared at Woody’s collarbone, unable to make himself meet Woody’s intense, searching gaze. “So. Um. I should go.”

Woody’s hands clamped onto Jud’s shoulders, holding him in place. “Please don’t. Not until we can talk, at least.”

Jud closed his eyes and hung his head. “Look, Woody, I know you’re wondering what I’m doing here, and why I’m…you know.” He indicated his barely-towel-covered nudity with a quick gesture. “But I really don’t think I can explain it right now, so if it’s okay I’d like to go home.”

“Hey. Look at me.”

Jud shook his head, eyes screwed firmly shut. It was a childish thing to do, he knew, but dammit, he could not look Woody in the eye right now. He couldn’t.

Woody’s big palm removed itself from Jud’s left shoulder. Firm fingers grasped his chin and lifted his face. Then warm, soft lips met his own, and damned if that didn’t make his eyelids fly up like a couple of defective window shades.
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