Thursday, April 20, 2017

Throwback Thursday: Gianni & Zan & the Buddha’s Hand

Today, I’m looking back at Belonging, the 8th book in the Firsts and Forever Series. I had so much fun writing Gianni and Zan! I didn’t set out with the intention of writing a May-December romance, but putting these two characters together made so much sense to me. 

Gianni Dombruso was this beautiful guy in his late twenties who should have had all the confidence in the world, but instead, he was so insecure and thought no one would ever value him as more than a pretty face. And then there was Zan Tillane, my British former rock star, who’d totally cut himself off from the rest of the world. They both needed rescuing, though neither would admit it.

(Actor and Rock Star Jared Leto was my muse for Zan Tillane)

In the following scene from Belonging, Gianni and Zan aren’t a couple yet. Gianni has taken on the job of grocery shopping for the reclusive rock star and has made it his mission to broaden Zan’s closed off world. He thinks a step in the right direction is to introduce some exotic foods into Zan’s very limited diet. But the Buddha’s hand citrus fruit might be one step too far:

Fortunately, Zan snapped me out of my completely misplaced reverie by snatching the canvas sack from me. He stuck his hand inside and pulled out what I’d brought him, then yelled, “Bloody hell, what is that?” as he tossed it onto the counter. 

“It’s called a Buddha’s hand. It’s a citrus fruit.”

“It isn’t! It’s a fat, yellow octopus!”

“Not even close.”

“The thing has tentacles! Where did you find this monstrosity?”

“The market,” I said flatly.

“There’s absolutely no way that’s fruit, or even edible!”

“It is! I want you to try it, I hear they’re good.”

“Aha! You hear they’re good. That means you’ve never been daft enough to try one yourself. I won’t be the first one down that gangplank!” He plucked it off the counter by one of its long, yellow fingers and rushed for the back door as I ran after him.

“Don’t you dare throw that thing! It was expensive!”

“And now it’s doubly crazy! Also, just look. You yourself called it a thing!”

“Only because it sounds pretty freaking insane to yell don’t throw Buddha’s hand outside!” He flung open the back door and went to throw it, but I grabbed his arm as I exclaimed, “I mean it! Don’t do it!”

A ridiculous game of keep-away ensued, worthy of a third grade playground. I burst out laughing and told him, “You’re being really immature!”

Zan was laughing, too. “It belongs outside,” he said as he twisted his body to hold the fruit away from me. “That way, it can crawl back to the mothership!”

“Granted, it’s a little weird looking, but it’s a fruit! Its cousin is an orange!”

“Maybe you should have brought me its cousin, then,” he said, grabbing my left wrist while I grabbed his.

“You’ve had oranges! I wanted you to try something new.”

“So you brought me an octopus alien!”

“Okay, I’ll concede that I might have been aiming a bit too high. But try it anyway! I’ll reel it in next time and bring you some grapes or something.”

“I don’t like grapes,” he said.

“You can’t make a blanket statement like that,” I told him. “There are dozens of grape varieties and they’re all different. If you tried a few, I bet you’d find one you liked.”

“But they’re all squishy little balls, and I want no part of that.”

“God you’re weird.”

“You think?”

He executed a surprisingly graceful move all of a sudden and pinned me to the wall, holding me in place by leaning against me. “You’re going to injure your sore shoulder,” I told him.

“It’ll be worth it for the immense satisfaction of seeing the space octopus become airborne,” he said with a smile.

My heart was already beating quickly because of our game of keep-away, and it stuttered when I looked in his eyes. He let go of my wrist and I let go of his, both of us becoming serious at the same time. My gaze dropped to his full lips. I wanted him to kiss me so fucking bad. God I wanted that.

But he didn’t do it. He didn’t do anything. Zan just stood there, his body pressed against mine as lust shot through me. He was breathing hard just like I was, his chest rising and falling, but aside from that, he remained perfectly immobile. 

Was he waiting for me to make a move? I looked in his eyes again and seriously considered leaning in and planting one on him. But I just couldn’t do it! What if I was the only one feeling this? What if I went to kiss him and he pulled away? How incredibly embarrassing would that be?

Besides, if he wanted to kiss me, he would. It wasn’t like he was shy, given what he used to do for a living. There was just no way.

Zan stepped back from me abruptly and muttered, “Sorry.” Then he (and the fruit) went back to his cave. He closed the door to the den behind him. I stared after him for a moment before I retreated too, heading straight for my car.


Gianni and Zan ended up falling in love and taking off in a sailboat for parts unknown, to dodge the relentless paparazzi. This photo reminds me so much of Gianni in the tropics, gathering up local delicacies to bring back to his boyfriend!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Throwback Thursday: Twin Peaks (but not the David Lynch variety)

One of my favorite spots in San Francisco is a scenic overlook called Twin Peaks. When I first moved to the city, I was lucky enough to become friends with a gay couple who’d lived there for years. They showed me a lot of the city’s hidden treasures, including this gem. I was instantly smitten.

You get to Twin Peaks by winding through a residential neighborhood, and all of a sudden, the tightly packed buildings give way to open space. I’ve always thought that’s an interesting thing about San Francisco. It’s all completely built up, some of it along incredibly steep hills, but then there are a few high-up spots that have basically been left untouched. Twin Peaks is one of them.

Like anyplace in San Francisco, it gets crowded in the summer. But pick a random weeknight in the off-season and you just might have it to yourself. It’s pure magic then, when the only sound is the breeze rustling through the trees, and before you is this breathtaking, panoramic view of one of the most beautiful cities on earth.

I send my characters to Twin Peaks fairly often, because I know if I still lived in the city, I’d be up there all the time. It has particular meaning for Chance and Finn in Coming Home. Here’s a brief excerpt from their book, which is number nine in the series. Chance and Finn aren’t a couple yet at this point. They arranged a rendezvous up at Twin Peaks, but then Chance got spooked and took off, because he was afraid that Finn was getting too close to him:

After a few minutes, I realized the SUV hadn’t driven past me, and I started to wonder if Finn was alright. I shut off the engine and pocketed my keys, then walked back up to the parking lot. I’d barely driven two blocks before I’d pulled over.

My heart leapt when I saw him. He was standing on the retaining wall with his arms outstretched. My God, was he about to jump?

I yelled his name and took off at a sprint across the parking lot. At one point, I tripped over a pothole and came down hard on my hands and knees, but I was right back up in an instant, running for him. Finn turned to look at me, then stepped off the wall into the parking lot. 

He’d taken a couple steps toward me and when I reached him, I knocked him over in what basically turned into a flying tackle. He landed on his back with a surprised yelp, and I fell on top of him. I then sat up, straddling him, and grabbed the front of his jacket in my fists. “What the fuck were you thinking, Finn?” 

“About what?” He looked genuinely bewildered.

“About fucking jumping off Twin Peaks! What a horrible way to kill yourself! You probably wouldn’t even die you know, you’d just mangle yourself real good on the trees and bushes and shit down below. Not that I’m advocating finding a better way to kill yourself! Just, God, what the fuck?”

When my rant was over, Finn chuckled and said as he pulled me into a hug, “I wasn’t trying to kill myself. I was just enjoying the view and the breeze. I didn’t think I’d fucked up badly enough to warrant throwing myself off a cliff.”

“Oh. Well, good,” I said, putting my head on his chest.

He rubbed my back and said, “You were really worried.”

“Well, yeah.”

He kissed the top of my head and said, “Thank you for caring.”

“You’re welcome. I feel like a total idiot now, though.”

“Don’t. I love the fact that you tried to save me.”

“Of course I did. What do you think I’d do in that situation, sit back with some popcorn and watch you end it?”

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Throwback Thursday: Surfers and my Series

In Way Off Plan, the very first book in my Firsts and Forever Series, my main character was a surfer. That choice wasn’t just random. I’ve always had an affinity for surf culture, and I made Jamie a surfer because that rooted him in a world I knew well.
I grew up in Huntington Beach, which is in southern California. My hometown has such a rich surfing history that a surfer is actually included in the city logo. I personally have never surfed (the lack of coordination is strong with this one), but I spent all my summers on the beach and bodyboarding in the Pacific (that’s somewhat like surfing, but without that whole pesky standing up part). Later on, I went to college in Santa Cruz, California, another town where surfing is everything, and I moved back to Santa Cruz after grad school and five years in San Francisco.

I’ve always thought surfers are fascinating people. They’re both athletes and daredevils. When a storm rolls in, the rest of us run for cover. But surfers run toward the huge waves. They can be pretty darn sexy too, in those skin-tight wetsuits (and also when they change out of them on the side of the road – you better believe my friends and I used to cruise that spot when we were in high school). :)

Interestingly, San Francisco also has an active surfing community, even though that’s obviously not the first thing most people think of when someone mentions the City by the Bay. When I lived there, my favorite place to watch people surf was Fort Point, at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge. Both Jamie and River surf there at times.

There really is a fort at Fort Point, in case you’re wondering. It was built in the mid-1800s and is managed by the National Park Service these days. The mouth of the Golden Gate generates some big waves, and you need to be good to surf Fort Point, because the waves crash onto jagged rocks, not a sandy beach. That’s Fort Point in both photos.

Jamie was my first surfer, and now I’m writing my second. As many of you know, River surfs too, and he had a tiny cameo in Way Off Plan. I’ve included that scene below. I’ve always wanted to write another surfer, and four years later, I get to do just that in All I Ever Wanted, the next book in my series. 

This is from Way Off Plan:

Several locals greeted me as I jogged across the sand, and I gave them a little salute. I’d been surfing these waters since I was nine, and it was a tight-knit community. A friend of mine called out, “Hey, Jamie. You going out there? The waves are shit, dude.” The wind was blowing his long brown hair into his eyes, and he pushed it back with one hand so he could look at me.

“Hi River. Yeah, I’m gonna give it a shot.”

He shrugged and picked up his board. “Suit yourself, bro.” River headed in the opposite direction.

The waves slapped my knees as I waded into the water. I laid on my board and paddled out. The first few minutes were always bitterly cold before the layer of water beneath my wetsuit warmed up. The cold cleared my head and made me focus. I welcomed it.