Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Color Therapy

Winter has been hard the last few years.  In NYC, seasons never really impressed me.  My windows let in only the weakest sunlight, so there was no hope of growing flowers.  In bad weather, I still took the subway to work - worst case, mass transit shut down and nobody went into the office.

Moving to a rural area changed that.  Now I drive a good forty minutes to work, and my way home involves crazy highway traffic as well as a long metal grid bridge and twisty-turny hills.  All of which become extra treacherous in bad weather.  Have I mentioned I drive a twenty-year-old sedan that keeps crying uncle?

But somehow more depressing is the fact that when the outdoors is frozen over in a sheet of white, my garden freezes with it.  My fragrant thyme plant becomes a spidery stick; the tulip bulbs are buried and forgotten; even the persistent green of yarrow foliage browns and crumbles.  I dream of spring, of crocuses bursting from snow and bleeding hearts dripping from the stem.  Chocolate mint releasing its fragrance beside sweet red roses and tomatoes growing swollen on the vine.  Snapdragons and dianthus and sweet pea and morning glories and moonflowers and clematis.  I am a witch firmly rooted in the earth, and while she sleeps, I become Demeter cold and alone.

So I lock myself in a room.  Surround myself with all the color I can gather, and pray my cyclamen blooms until the sun returns.

I baby succulents in fabulous planters, and spray too much perfume into the shadows of my home.

I dye my hair the color of fire and warmth, and my parrot, ahem, I mean my dog, as well.

And I lose myself at my writing desk, in worlds where sunlight drips over golden skin and the promise of eternal day seems almost within grasp.  A world where only the monsters slink in darkness and cold, and even they are seeking the light.

This is how I survive the winter.

Friday, December 28, 2018

New... Website?

I just wanted to drop a note here for any of you who have been checking my website for updates.  Paid hosting has been ticking me off lately, and I'm migrating over to using blogger pretty much completely.  So this is going to be the site to check for new stories, etc.  But not to worry; I don't expect ya'll to read through every blah-blah post.  (Yes, dears, I know I'm long-winded... ;)  Just check this page and any new releases will appear at the top of the list:


You can also find it on the blog sidebar, of course. And very soon I hope to have plain old www.LFBlake.com pointed there as well.

Ok, then, righty-o.  Now that you all know I'm still here, it's off to work on the latest New Berlin masterpiece.

After a quick nap.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

It Is Done

Today at work I groomed a dog I will probably never see again.  He's an older boy at fifteen, and has been blind and mostly deaf for the year and a half that I've been seeing him.  And he is such a good boy he breaks my heart.  He came in today completely incontinent with a smell that wouldn't wash out even after five baths.  And five baths is a hard thing for a poor little old man to go through.  Then he's dripping urine and other things while I'm trying to clip pee-soaked hair that doesn't want to clip, and his hips are too stiff for me to lift one leg to get at the really nasty hair, and it's disgusting, I've had his smell in my nose since eight a.m., but worse than that I've had the tears and ache of him clogging me up all day, because I love this little dog, and all I want to do is hug him and tell it will all be all right and it will be over soon.  I had to recommend that his parents take him to the vet for his next groom, where medical supervision will be standing by.  And even while I'm making this recommendation and his mom is trying not to tear up, I know and his mom knows he will probably not live to see this next grooming appointment.

None of this has anything to do with today's news posting, except that apparently death punctuates all my new releases.  I've just uploaded CURVE OF MOON for sale, Curve of Moon being the rewritten version of Wolves' Blood, my not-so-successful attempt at a straight paranormal romance.  There's a long-ass explanation on my reasons for re-writing the novel as a gay romance in the back of it...  in brief, it says, because I wanted to.  And I like it this way.  I like Nico.  And I will never rewrite this particular story again.

Eight months ago I uploaded the final manuscript of Iron and Bone hours before my mother died.  Today I'm uploading the final manuscript of Curve of Moon and praying that somewhere out there a little old dog is not dying.  Or maybe I'm praying that he is dying, peacefully, going to sleep and slipping away without pain or shame into a beautiful After.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Ok. I get it. I suck.

At least, apparently I suck writing about straight people.

Sorry, Mom.  I'll write you another novel another time, under another name maybe.

Wolves' Blood is going to be removed from Amazon for renovations.  I will reimagine our heroine and make her into a hero.  Because I'm flexible that way, and I'm pretty sure Gideon Summers is, too.   Plus, Lia was always edgy enough to switch hit, and I think she might get a kick out of becoming a boy.  So when you next see that story, it'll have a new cover, new title, and new protagonist.

Part of me would like to just leave it up as is and shrug--oh, well, you win some, you lose some.  But honestly that damn story took too long to write (five drafts!  90,000 words!), and I like the actual premise too much to let it die being read by only two people.  Speaking of which, hey, two people, whoever you are, thanks!  Hugs!

Ok, so one more try.  Back to work.  Assuming my dog moves over and shares my own goddamn desk chair with me.


Literally.  Where's the vodka?

Monday, September 17, 2018

Don't You Ever Write About Straight People?

My mother used to ask me that.  She never actually told me that I shouldn't, as a female, be writing about gay males.  Though she believed on and off again that homosexuality was a sin against God, it probably bothered her more that I'm pagan than that I write about gay rocks stars.  Still, she was a voracious reader of romance novels, and I think she wanted to read something of mine without being weirded out because two guys were "doing it."  Also, she seemed to think I'd make more money if I wrote about straight people.  ;)

My answer to whether I ever wrote about straight people was usually evasive.  I always have written heterosexual romances.  But my first novel being a gay love story, it seemed logical to me to continue in that vein when I was working on a story I planned to publish.  LGBT culture attracts me, or maybe a better way to put it is that it speaks to me, to something in me I can't quite define.  I'm primarily straight in this life, but I've always felt that in another life I was a shy gay man who never got his shit together enough to be happy in his own skin.  I'm left with an eroded past self, the ghost of which is still present through all the other layers of me.  Not quite accessible.  But still seeking expression.

And really, I try to just write the characters as they appear to me.  If a gay werewolf pops into my head, he's getting a gay romance.  If a kinky-but-straight witch starts swimming through my brain, she gets a kinky-but-straight romance.  Simple as that.  The gay ones just get published more often, because I'm a creature who loves familiarity, and hates taking chances.

Also, it's always seemed like a lot of work to publish a straight romance.  So many writers use different names to separate their gay work rom their hetero work.  And obviously that's fine, but I just didn't think I had the energy for yet another personality.

Then my mom died.  And I have so many fucking regrets about her death, about her life, that this one thing--don't you ever write about straight people?--suddenly seems like such a simple thing.  I can't go back in time and be a nicer person when she was driving me crazy.  I can't go back and dig the time out of my schedule to take her on more day trips, or stop griping at her for her love of Hallmark movies turned up to deafening volumes.  But I can write a goddamn romance novel she might actually have enjoyed reading.

Although she'd probably be unhappy that my protagonist is a little bit of a junky, and a lot of a bitch.  But what can I say?  I like my girls crazy, damaged, and nasty AF.

And so that is the explanation for why a male/female romance novel is suddenly appearing under my name.  Ironically it's a story I wrote almost ten years ago as a cute little novella.  It went up online at FictionPress, and some people said they liked it.  Enough people that I always thought I'd like to redo the story as it deserved, someday.  And now someday is today.

Tomorrow actually.  Wolves' Blood releases tomorrow on Amazon for all you kindle readers.  And ironically it fits perfectly into the New Berlin universe.

I hope some of you enjoy it.  And don't worry; I am not turning into a different kind of writer.  Just letting ya'll see a different side of me.  Meantime, hard at work on the next New Berlin story, about a stoic fallen angel and the glittery cross-dressing exotic dancer he falls in love with.  And possibly the final installment of The Hunting will sort itself out before next year.  You never know.  Miracles happen.

Cheers, and peace out, yo.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

A Blog Post Written on May 29th and Not Posted

Joy to the world ~ I have a new release out today.  Iron and Bone, my first novel since 2015's Sweet.  It has all the elements I love.  Virgins, hellhounds, slaves breaking their chains, and true love.  I'm proud of this novel.  It might not be the most amazing thing I've ever written (I say this about every single thing I've ever written), but I'm happy with the end result.  And I hope readers are, too.

But I just can't get excited.  Maybe because the last time I posted on this blog about Iron and Bone, it was seven in the morning on April twenty-seventh.  Twelve hours later, I sat on my living room loveseat (which is stained with rat piss and sangria and waiting to go in the dumpster as soon as a replacement arrives), putting the finishing touches on the manuscript and uploading the final version to Kindle.  This was about ten minutes after I got off the phone with Hospice care.  My mother hadn't spoken in coherent words all day, for the first time ever.  She wasn't eating or drinking.  That was ok, because even though I had to work the next morning, hospice had promised to send a nurse over to check on her.  Except now she was moaning, wouldn't stop, and didn't seem to know when I was standing beside her talking to her.  So I called her nurse to say hey, she's in pain, should I be giving her something?  The nurse said I should give her morphone, because honey, you shouldn't have to listen to that all night.  I thanked her and hung up, thinking, honey, I lived in the Bronx and I can listen to anything all night, I don't want my fucking mother to be lying there in pain unable to tell me she's in fucking pain.  Before I hung up, the nurse said, it sounds like she's "transitioning" and the end will probably come in 24-48 hours.

So nothing was changing immediately, my mom didn't know if I was in the room or not, and I still had to work the next morning.  Might as well finish up the manuscript, pretend I couldn't hear the moaning, and get shit done.  Because I AM NOT good with sick people.  Give me a sick rat, I'll cup in my hands and kiss its head and feed it pureed sweet potato until the end comes.  Give me back my dead dog, and I'll stroke her soft golden ears until she goes cold.  But a human is hot yet clammy, prone to strings of saliva and gurgling noises and unsettling changes in the color of skin.  I'm a germaphobe, afraid only of human germs.

My mother died two hours later.  I was in the room, holding her hand.  Afraid to touch her anywhere else.  Wanting desperately to do something and not knowing what, afraid to get to close, afraid to be there at all.

Have you seen the 2004 Dawn of the Dead?  There's an obese woman who dies on screen.  Her skin changes color; she looks gelatinous and see-through and wrong.  This is what dead actually looks like.  It looks like your mother changing color in front of you.  Like labored breaths that catch and hold, and you wait wait wait for the next breath, and it comes, and then you wait wait wait for the next breath, and finally it comes, and the pauses get longer, and finally the next breath doesn't come.  And by that time the color is all shadow and wax.

And when it's finally over and you're waiting for the nurses and the funeral home, all you can think is that you didn't do enough.  I didn't do enough to make this easy on her.  It's not a stupid thing to think, just the truth.  I am not good with sick people.  Dying people.  I want to have done so much better for her, supported her through this.  But if you sent me back in time, I would do just as bad a job, always afraid to get to close.

Time passes, faster than you might think.  There are things I can't bring myself to do.  Like watch the last few episodes in the first season of Queer as Folk.  Which I started watching to encourage my mother to go to bed on those nights when she seemed intent on staying awake forever.  The plan backfired.  She got interested and started looking forward to each episode.  She didn't like Brian Kinney.  I was waiting for that last episode where Brain shows up at Justin's prom to see if she changed her mind.  She said he'd never stay with Justin.  I looked forward to proving her wrong.

But I've managed to clear out her room, throw away boxes and boxes of the useless kitsch she collected over 64 years.  And discovered that it's too hard to throw away some items, even if I hate them.  Because she loved them, and suddenly that seems to mean something.

So now Iron and Bone is out.  And I'm glad it's out, glad the writing of it is over.  But I can't seem to bring myself to get excited about it, or to get nervous about how people will like it.  Maybe they'll hate it and it'll get horrible reviews if any.  But really in my head it's always a doomed book.  Far too connected to anticipated death and waiting for that very last breath to stop.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Coming Soon: Another New Berlin Novel

And here is the proof that Iron and Bone, which has spun out from a short story into a novelette into an official novel, is actually going to arrive in the world someday.  Ladies and gents and whatevs, we have a cover:

Here's a teaser from chapter one (though you will have to momentarily bear with  Matthew's version of an exciting day ;)


IRON & BONE (excerpt)

The office had three gray walls, no natural light, and just enough space for a filing cabinet, a desk, and a rolling chair. The chair had two broken casters, and no longer rolled.  Whenever Matthew moved in the chair, it made a soft, dragging sound.

The only other sounds in the office were the clicking of Matthew’s fingers across the computer keyboard, and the susurration of his own breath.  He was a quiet breather; the noise was all but inaudible.

He had once asked if he might bring in a small radio to play while he worked.  His employer had rejected him curtly:  Absolutely not.  Whether he was worried the radio would distract Matthew or if the man simply found music distasteful, Matthew didn’t know, and had better sense than to inquire.

So he worked in silence, tallying the receipts from his employer’s four shops, including The Gem Shoppe, where his tiny office was located opposite from his employer’s much larger one.  Eight hours a day of compiling figures into Quickbooks and running reports of monthly profits and losses.  It was dull work, especially now that tax season was over. Matthew found himself missing the volume of paperwork that passed across his desk in early spring, all the 1099s that had to be mailed by end of January, and then the start of federal forms, February and March consumed by the search for every single tax deduction that could possibly lower his employer’s due.  He never felt so happily busy as he did during tax season, the mad rustle of paper its own cheerful song.

It was Monday now, and nearly noon.  Matthew had sorted the receipts for two stores already, The Gem Shoppe and Green Herbal.  Three more store remained to be sorted before the close of business.  It was the same every Monday.  He arrived at five minutes to nine, and the store was already unlocked. In the main display room, the crystal specimens were set out on stretches of black velvet, and in Matthew’s office, five identical boxes of receipts waited.

There was no sign of his employer, but Matthew knew Mr. Dietrich was there; he was always there.  Usually in his office, but sometimes surveying the contents of the walk-in vault.  Matthew seldom had reason to be in the vault, and preferred it that way.  There was a chill in the room that made his bones ache. The silence there felt different than other silences.  It had a waiting quality about it.  Matthew couldn’t begin to imagine what the vault was waiting for, but he doubted it was anything good.

There was still time before lunch to begin a new box of receipts.  He opened the next in line, which had come from Mr. Dietrich’s pet shop, Familiar. Matthew had a difficult time picturing his employer as the owner of a pet shop.  It didn’t seem to fit the man.  When he was still new, he’d made the mistake of asking about that, about why Mr. Dietrich spread himself so widely in his business ventures.  The gem shop, the pet shop, the health food store, the cafĂ©, and most bizarrely, the matchmaking service.  Was there a connection between them, he had wondered?

Victor Dietrich had fixed him with such a cold look that Matthew felt a ball of ice form in the pit of his stomach.  “My interests are my own, Mr. Goode,” the man said in his hard, flat voice, “and your job description does not include questioning those interests if you wish to have a job at all.”

Matthew had never mentioned it again.  Because of course he very much wished to have a job, even if it wasn’t particularly a dream job.  The wage was adequate (though barely).  And he liked the regularity of his days, knowing what to expect, and that he would not be pressured into taking on extra work.  His previous employer had been a small business owner who expected him to grow with the business, to take on more and more responsibilities and make decisions that affected growth and direction.  The pressure had been incredibly stressful. He much preferred Mr. Dietrich’s ways, frosty and controlling.  Mr. Dietrich would never permit, much less expect Matthew to begin setting policy on his own.

Matthew created a new Exel sheet, copying the format from the week before, and began entering the pet shop’s sales.  Briefly and solely for his own curiosity, he glanced at the “items” sold on each receipt.

One black kitten.

Six cane toads.

Two crows.

One white kitten.

It was, Matthew had decided a long time ago, a very odd pet shop.

The bell over the front door chimed, echoing down the short hallway where Matthew’s door stood open (per Mr. Dietrich’s order). He glanced out the door, forgetting for a moment the quandary of how one might make a pet of a three week old Komodo dragon, and hoping for a customer.  Not that Mr. Dietrich would ever let him speak to the customers, of course. But sometimes he called Matthew out to ring up sales.  Mr. Dietrich had a deep aversion to processing credit cards.

It wasn’t a customer.  It was McCarthy.

Matthew’s heart executed a peculiar vault and flip worthy of any Olympic gymnast, and then settled into a fluttery beat.  The office seemed suddenly warm, spring creeping in from outside as if it simply couldn’t be kept out any longer; perhaps it had come in with McCarthy.

What Matthew knew about the man called McCarthy he could count on three fingers.  First, that his favorite color must have been black, just like Mr. Dietrich, because that was all either of them ever wore.  But where the color (or lack thereof) made their employer appear somewhat corpselike, McCarthy seemed to have been born to it.  The soft black leather of his high-collared coat perfectly matched his hair, which was drawn into a long braid that hung halfway down his back.  Black jeans seemed molded to him, showing every inch of long legs, muscled thighs. His gloves, too, were black, and also the aviator sunglasses perched on the bridge of his fine aquiline nose. All that darkness ought to have made his white skin look far too pale, and it waspale; but the stark contrast was outlandishly appealing.  Matthew thought.

Second, whatever work McCarthy did for Mr. Dietrich, it was dangerous.  Every time he appeared at The Gem Shoppe he had some new scar, or limp.  Frequently his lovely coat, so soft it seemed to fold around him like wings, had been damaged.  Though he seemed to have an endless supply of them, changing one out for another by the next visit.  Like the ruined coats, his scars had usually also disappeared by the next time Matthew saw him.

The third thing Matthew knew, and perhaps the most important thing, was that he would never in his lifetime meet a man more perfectly devastating to his senses than the man called McCarthy.  Or a man more terribly out of his league.

The front door fell shut.  Tinted glass cut off the impression of warmth and overcast skies, and the brief lift in the air flattened again.  The gems on their shelves went on sparkling, impossibly bright. McCarthy ignored the gems and the empty show room and stalked toward the hall, shiny black boots utterly silent.

Matthew looked quickly back down at his desk, trying to remember which entry he’d been in the middle of so that he could resume his absorption in it.  He couldn’t for the life of him recall.

“Good morning, Matthew.”

A cool shadow fell across the desk.  McCarthy smelled like the threat of rain, and he was tall enough to fill the doorway completely.  His voice was dark as midnight, smooth as silk, warmer than his shadow.

Without looking up, Matthew said, “Good morning… McCarthy.”  As always, with that little pause.  Because after six years of working at The Gem Shoppe, he still wasn’t sure if McCarthy was a first name or a last name.  McCarthy had never volunteered more, and neither had their mutual employer.

Good morning, in fact, was the extent of their typical conversation, with the occasional notation on the weather.

McCarthy’s shadow lingered.  Matthew wondered if he was about to comment on the approaching hurricane, early for the season.  Perhaps McCarthy had weekend plans that would now be ruined by wind and rain.

Yet the other man remained silent.  When Matthew glanced up, he found McCarthy frowning down at the stack of receipts on the desk.

His eyes were indigo.  Matthew had only been near enough to him to make out their true color once or twice.  From any distance, they simply looked black.

“Christ.  The dragon sold already.”

Matthew blinked, and then remembered the pet shop. “Ah, yes.  The Komodo.  For nine thousand nine hundred ninety-nine dollars.  Plus tax, of course.”

McCarthy lifted a gloved hand absently to his jaw. “He should have doubled it.  The thing’s too much trouble to restock.”

His jaw was smooth and unmarked now, but Matthew recalled a week earlier when McCarthy had come in with a vicious festering wound there that appeared in the shape of a bite.

McCarthy shook his head as he stepped back out of the office.  An errant lock of coal black hair brushed his cheek, softening for a moment the unyielding lines of his face.  Matthew’s heart startled again.  He tried to formulate a response, any response, but between the lock of hair, the scent of leather, and the notion that McCarthy might actually have gone off to some sweltering island to procure that lizard, he was stuck.

He was still stuck when McCarthy paused again, just outside the door, and glanced back.  “By the way—happy birthday, Matthew.”

Matthew blinked again, rapidly.

“Thank you,” he said a full minute later, but by that time of course, McCarthy had gone.