Guest Author: Bru Baker!

Happy Monday!

Today I’m pleased to host the lovely Bru Baker. I had the pleasure of meeting her in meatspace a few weeks ago, and she really is as sweet and fun as she seems. Bru is celebrating the release of the second book in her Dropping Anchor series, Finding Home, and talking about writing a series. Thanks so much for coming, Bru!

First off, I’d like to thank Charley for being so kind as to host me. I’ll admit that this blog tour was pretty hastily thrown together, since I’m in the final stages of finishing the third book in my Dropping Anchor series, Playing House. It’s due July 1, and that’s kind of sapped all my focus. The June 23rd release of the second book in the series, Finding Home, totally crept up on me!

When Charley suggested I talk a little bit about crafting a series, it seemed like kismet. How to create something that ties to the other books but still has new and engaging characters of its own has been on my mind for the last two months as I’ve been writing Playing House.

Other than sharing characters, all three books in the series are linked by a common theme. I named the series Dropping Anchor both as a play on the heavy role boats play in all three but also because it means settling in. For Island House, that’s the story of Niall moving on after the death of his longtime partner and finding love again. In Finding Home, it’s Ian finally growing up and seeing that there’s more to life than partying. And in Playing House, it’s Frank realizing that he and Warner really are ready for kids, despite Frank’s abundant protests that they’re not.

Funny thing is, I never intended for the series to be more than two books. I’d always known I would write a spin-off sequel to Island House, but when I sat down to write the synopsis of book two, the characters I wanted to feature kept wandering off the page. The only one who stayed was Ian MacKay, a secondary character from Island House who I’d never intended to do anything else with.

I’d vaguely thought about his back story while writing Island House. He’d fled the competitive corporate banking industry after he’d gotten a large inheritance, ending up on Tortola in the British Virgin Islands with a lot of money to spend and no shortage of one-night-stands willing to help him do it. Honestly, I kind of thought that was all there was to Ian. He was Niall’s fun-loving, never-serious playboy best friend.

Except he wasn’t. And that’s how a two-book series became a three-book series, and how the book I’d intended to write next got put off so I could write about Ian and his journey toward becoming a mature, well-adjusted adult. Most people get there before age thirty-five, but with Ian I think all of his friends and family were just thrilled he got there at all.

Ian shows up in book three a fair bit, so we get to continue to see his progression from a sun-bleached beach bum to someone who actually has good advice for his friends from time to time.

All three books in the series feature different main characters, which I think makes things more interesting. While I love Ethan and Niall from Island House dearly, they got their happily ever after, and there just wasn’t enough left of their story to justify another book. I could have done a novella, I suppose, but I’m much happier tying in glimpses of their life with later books in the series. In Finding Home we get to see them get married—from Ian’s point of view, which is kind of hilarious. Ian still isn’t sure he buys into the institution of marriage, but he’s definitely happy for his friends. And at that point he’s starting to realize that while he probably won’t ever be the marriage type, he just might be the monogamous relationship type—with one special guy, Luke Keys.

For the third book, Playing House, I wanted to bring Ian in as someone my main character Frank can lean on. They struck up a friendship in Finding Home, and when Playing House picks up they’re already besties. And Frank definitely needs a support system, since his entire world seems to be falling apart. He thinks everything is pretty good, and then his husband drops the bomb that he wants kids. On top of that, Frank finds out some things about himself that throw everything into question, so Frank’s a mess. Ian helps with that, and we get to see a bit of Niall, too.

I’m about two chapters away from finishing Playing House, and I’ll be sad to finish it, since it’s the last of the series. At the same time, though, it’s a great ending place for all of the characters. I’ve had so much fun writing them over the last few years!

 

Finding Home Blurb:

When an inheritance fell in Ian Mackay’s lap, he fled the high-pressure banking industry and didn’t look back. Since then, he’s spent four years living carefree on the island of Tortola, his life a series of hookups and hanging out with friends.

After his best friend moves to Seattle and gets married, Ian finds himself lost. His unapologetic existence doesn’t hold the same appeal, and he wonders if he’s throwing his life away. After visiting Niall in Seattle, Ian decides to stay, but that means taking his life off hold and finding a real job. Meeting Luke Keys, who is about as far from a player as possible, isn’t the plan but might be just what Ian needs. Luke and his values intrigue Ian, and he pursues Luke ruthlessly until Luke agrees to a date.

Their courtship sweeps Ian off his feet, and when the relationship gets complicated, Ian has the chance to cut and run. Habits born from years of being on his own are hard to shake, and self-proclaimed playboy Ian must decide if love is worth fighting for.

Finding Home is available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other book retailers, or directly from Dreamspinner Press.

You can read an excerpt from the first chapters of both Island House and Finding Home on my website, www.bru-baker.com. I’ll be doing giveaways on Twitter to celebrate the release of Finding Home, so follow me there for a chance to win some fun gifts! Follow me @bru_baker!

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Guest Author: Bru Baker!

 Today I’m welcoming Bru Baker to the party! Bru’s novel Island House is released today—November 11th!

She’s prepared a special treat for us—a prequel scene written especially for Kink Month! Later in November we’ll take over the Dreamspinner Press Twitter account together, so stay tuned for details on that. For now, I’ll leave you with the lovely Bru and her smokin’ dudes.

Thanks for having me, Charley! I’m making the virtual rounds promoting the release of my first novel, Island House. I’ve written several novellas and shorts, but this is my first full novel. I’ve been living in this state of excited nervousness about it for months, so I’m both relieved and terrified to have it finally coming out!

Island House, by Bru Baker

Unable to move on after the death of his lover, British expat Niall Ahern clings to Nolan’s dream of living in the Caribbean by moving to Tortola. Once there, he finds that not even the beauty of the island can fill the hole in his heart. Broke and spent in nearly every way imaginable, Niall wants out of the lonely, miserable, guilt-ridden life he’s carved out for himself.

When Ethan Bettencourt, a wealthy tech guru, shows up in British Virgin Islands looking to purchase a second home, he gives Niall hope that he can move on. Both men fall hard and fast, but Niall finds piloting his yacht in the midst of a hurricane is nothing compared to weathering life’s simple misunderstandings. As their troubles come between them, Niall is left to wonder if he and Ethan are over before they’ve begun.

Buy links:

Ebook: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4364

Paperback: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4365

The first 20 readers who buy a paperback from Dreamspinner’s site will get a signed copy!

I know it’s Kink Month around here, and honestly there isn’t any kink to be had in Island House. Niall and Ethan are just getting comfortable with each other and starting their relationship, so it was a little early to be bringing out toys and safe words.

I didn’t want to come here empty handed, though, so I’ve written a short prequel snippet. Island House picks up four years after Niall Ahern’s longtime partner Nolan Gentry’s murder, so we never get to see Niall and Nolan actually interact aside from Niall’s memories of him. Niall’s love for Nolan and his grief and guilt over his death plays a huge part in the book. Niall meets and almost instantly falls for Ethan Bettencourt, but he’s plagued by self-doubt and the niggling worry that he’s being unfaithful to Nolan even though he’s been gone for years. I thought this was a great opportunity to give readers a peek at what Niall and Nolan’s relationship had been like, since it’s so integral to understanding Niall’s inner turmoil.

This extra scene happens about seven years before Island House. Nolan is stationed in Afghanistan with the Royal Marines, while Niall is back home in the UK.

Nolan had given him the package when he’d been home on leave a month ago. They’d had fun playing with it in bed together, but when Nolan had gone back to the base to report for duty, Niall had packed it away in its discreet box and stuffed it in the bedside table drawer.

He wasn’t much for using toys on his own. Niall knew a lot of other people in his situation did—he belonged to a few virtual communities for military partners that provided a safe space to rant and rage about the forced separation, provide support for each other, and give partners an outlet to openly worry about their lovers without having to censor themselves. Most posts seemed to devolve into discussions about sex. Not that he minded; Niall had employed more than a few of the tips that he’d picked up there, like the homemade videos he and Nolan always made a point to film while Nolan was home. They’d seen both of them through more than one tour of duty. It was no substitute for having Nolan in bed with him, but it was a lot closer than the run-of-the-mill porn on the web.

Nolan had mentioned the toy being a special treat to keep both of them satisfied while he was in Afghanistan, but Niall had brushed the comment off as pillow talk. The email he’d gotten from Nolan earlier that afternoon had put paid to that, though.

Looking forward to our Skype date today, Nil. Can’t wait to see your face. Remember the treat I left for you? Wear it for me, please. I won’t be able to see it under all your clothes, but I have plans for it and you. Miss you like crazy! See you soon, babe.

Niall hesitated for a long moment before turning on his webcam and logging into Skype. He’d followed Nolan’s instructions, but he felt like an idiot sitting there with a plug inserted under all his clothes. It’s not like they’d be able to have any sort of Skype sex—not with half of Nolan’s mates from the Royal Marines there in the same room with him. Nolan’s deployments necessitated a certain amount of creativity to keep their relationship healthy, but voyeurism had never been a particular kink of either of theirs. At least, Niall hadn’t thought it was. He found himself curiously excited by the prospect, even though he knew it was unlikely that’s what they’d be doing. Nolan had to work and live with these guys, after all.

“Hey, Nil! God, it’s so good to see you.”

Niall unconsciously scooted closer to his laptop when Nolan’s image came onto the screen. Skype was wonderful, but the image was always grainy and had a tendency to freeze and flicker during their short weekly conversations. It didn’t matter to Niall. He lived for these weekly Skype dates where he could actually see Nolan and confirm that he was whole and healthy. They emailed almost every day, but there was no substitute for actually seeing Nolan’s smiling face.

“I thought your CO canceled your Skype privileges this week because of the prank you pulled on him,” Niall said, trying for severe but knowing his manic grin gave away.

“He caved. Betty went to his own CO and took full responsibility for that one,” Nolan answered. Even the distorted Skype feed couldn’t disguise his megawatt smile.

“And why would Betty do that?” Niall had never met him, but he knew Betty was an American Marine who worked with Nolan in reconnaissance.  Niall was glad they had each other, even if spending time together did usually end with one or both of them getting into trouble for goofing off or pranking their commanding officers.

“I may have implied that I had very big plans for our date. Begging was also involved,” Nolan said. “I also promised him he could have all of your next batch of cookies.”

Niall laughed. He sent Nolan care packages every month full of treats he could barter away for favors as well as Nolan’s favorite sailing magazines and candies.

“So, Nil. Are you wearing what I asked you to?” Nolan’s face came closer to the camera as he scooted his chair in, suddenly taking up most of the frame. Niall hoped it hid his own face from the room, because he instantly flushed scarlet.

“Yes.”

“Do you have the remote?” Nolan’s expression was downright predatory, and Niall shivered in response.

“Yes.” He held it up so it was visible to the webcam.

“It’s not on now?”

“No.” There’s no way Niall could have been having a calm conversation if the plug had been vibrating. The sensations from it were intense, and when he and Nolan had experimented with it while Nolan was home, it had never taken long to send Niall over the edge.

“There are five levels, right?”

Niall’s throat was too dry to answer, so he just nodded.

“So if I held up one finger, you’d know what to do?” Nolan’s eyes were crinkling with the force of his grin, and Niall bit his lip to keep from moaning just from the sight of Nolan so focused on him.

Niall clicked the button once, his spine stiffening at the sudden onslaught of sensations. The fact that Nolan was the one controlling the speed—and that he knew Nolan was sitting out in the common room with more than one marine probably right next to him—only made it more exciting.

“Good?”

“Yes,” Niall bit out, his teeth clenched to hold back another groan.

Nolan’s hand came back into the frame, this time with three fingers raised. Niall pressed his tongue against his teeth but dutifully clicked the button twice more. It was becoming more difficult to sit still. The pressure of sitting up in the chair held the plug at just the right angle inside him; it was rapidly approaching being too much.

Nolan’s face came back into focus for a moment and then Skype froze. Niall felt a bead of sweat slide down his face as he held himself rigidly still. His jaw ached from the way he was clenching his teeth.. A moment later the video unfroze, and Nolan was scooted back a bit, his head turned as he spoke to someone out of frame next to him. Niall squirmed uncomfortably, his hands coming down to close over the edges of his chair so he could squeeze them and keep himself still.

“Time’s about up,” Nolan said when he finished the brief conversation he’d been having. “CO’s calling us all together. So let’s finish this, okay?” He flashed five fingers, and Niall whimpered softly as he clicked the plug up to its maximum setting. It didn’t take long—only a few seconds later he was shuddering in his seat, his lips pressed tightly together so no sound could escape. As soon as his trembling hands unclenched from the seat, Niall turned the plug off and slumped bonelessly against the backrest.

“Beautiful,” Nolan murmured, just loud enough for the camera to catch. Niall blinked his eyes open, his muscles shaking. “We are definitely doing that again.”

“Give me a month or so to recover, yeah?” His voice was rough even to his own ears, and Niall didn’t miss the way Nolan’s smile grew even larger at the sound.

“Oh, trust me. I’ll get good mileage out of that for at least a month.”

Niall laughed. He loved the idea of Nolan thinking about him as he jerked off.  “Glad to be of service.”

Nolan snorted and looked down at his lap before turning a rueful smirk toward the camera. “Unfortunately, that’s going to have to wait. Gotta run, babe. I love you.”

“Love you too, Nolan. Be safe.”

“Always, Nil.”

Niall pressed a kiss to his fingers and held them up to the screen, touching Nolan’s fingers where he was doing the same. A moment later the call ended, and Niall let his fingers slide down the screen.

God, he missed Nolan.

Now that you’ve met Niall and Nolan, I hope you’ll pick up a copy of Island House and see the continuation of Niall’s story. You can read an excerpt from the first chapter on my website, www.bru-baker.com.

I’ll be doing giveaways all month on Twitter, so follow me there for a chance to win some fun gifts! http://twitter.com/Bru_Baker

Guest Author: Bru Baker!

Happy Monday everyone!

I have a lot going on today, which is a nice a change since it’s all author business! I’m over at Charlie Cochrane’s blog talking about writing and characters and how they take over, and sharing a new excerpt from Directing Traffic!

Random.org tells me #3 is the winner of this weekend’s swag giveaway–thanks Sarah for playing along! Check your e-mail.  🙂

And I’m hosting a fellow Dreamspinner author, Bru Baker! Her story Diving In is part of the June Daily Dose sports anthology Make a Play! She’s also holding a contest, which you’ll want to enter, so after you’ve finished reading head over to her blog. All you have to do is leave a comment and you’re entered–tweet about the giveaway and you’re entered twice!

First off I’d like to thank Charley for hosting me today! I’ve never done a guest blog post before, so I’m a little nervous. Luckily the topic is one I feel very at ease talking about—Max and Everett, the couple from my latest release, Diving In.

I had a lot of fun writing about a water polo player falling for the pool boy, but there’s a lot more to Everett and Max than what you see at the surface. Everett is a photographer for his father’s (heterosexual) soft core porn magazine, and he’s also an Olympian. Max owns the pool company that cleans Everett’s pool, and has an advanced degree in chemistry.

In one scene, Everett goads the usually-shy Max into playing a game with him where they each come up with a 60-second autobiography. It’s a good ice breaker for them, but 60 seconds isn’t a lot of time. Four embarrassing things they don’t end up sharing that night:

  • Everett is fiercely competitive in anything he does. None of his friends will play board games with him after the Great Scrabble Incident of 2009. He doesn’t care what the Scrabble dictionary says, kickout is one word.
  • Max has every Nicholas Sparks book ever written. He buys them in hardback and switches the cover jackets with chemistry and ecology books so no one ever looks at them.
  • Everett keeps his iPod locked with a passcode so none of his teammates know that his workout play list is predominantly made up of folk singers like The Weepies.
  • Max wears his watch 24/7 to hide the wrist tattoo he got during spring break in Cancun. He’d wanted the Apple logo, but thanks to the language barrier and Max being very, very drunk, he ended up with an actual apple. Six years later and the red ink still hasn’t started to fade.

Diving In, by Bru Baker

Being the pool boy makes it easy for Max Jansen to ogle his long-time crush, water polo player Everett Caldwell. Never mind the fact that Max owns the company and is overqualified for the task of monitoring chlorine and cleaning skimmers. He’s just happy to watch his unattainable dream play—until one day Everett invites him over and suddenly Max is his platonic plus-one for everything from movie nights to racy industry parties. Then Max learns the one-time Olympian isn’t as straight as everyone assumes, and he isn’t sure how long he can hold out before his crush grows much deeper.

The excerpt:

Max had his head down, dripping chemicals into the vials to test the water when the deck erupted in catcalls. He carefully finished counting out the drops before screwing the tops back on the bottles and giving the vials a little shake. Only after he’d finished and casually set them aside did he allow himself to look up and follow the scantily clad water polo team members’ progress toward the pool. As usual, Everett was last, shooing his teammates toward the water and pulling them away from enthusiastic spectators when necessary. Max let his eyes wander over the smooth, tanned expanse of Everett’s chest, following taut muscles all the way down to the blue Speedo that hugged his groin, leaving little to the imagination.

Watching Everett herd everyone into the pool to start practice wasn’t quite as nice as watching the reverse, since after practice the team was dripping wet and flushed from exertion. But since Max had a full schedule of consultations that afternoon, it would have to do. He’d actually squawked when Brenna had suggested he let one of the actual pool techs cover for him for the day, and Max knew she was never going to let him live it down. It wasn’t like it was a big secret why he insisted on being the one to carry out the routine pool maintenance during water polo season, but Max did have the grace to feel a little embarrassed when Brenna teased him.

Max grimaced when the vials of test water changed color. The pH was too high, which meant he needed to add some muriatic acid. Keeping everyone out of the pool for half an hour after the treatment wasn’t usually a problem, since Max made a habit of coming after practice was over, but the team wouldn’t be done for another two hours. He’d have to come back after his afternoon and evening appointments.

Sighing, he packed up his kit and ambled over to the edge of the pool, watching Everett slice through the water with a neat, efficient stroke as he warmed up. The entire team was swimming laps, but it was still easy to pick out which figure was Everett. They all had their numbers on their swim caps—not that Max needed that to be able to tell them apart, even with their faces in the water. He crouched down at the end of Everett’s lane, waiting until he closed the distance between them. Just like Max had hoped, Everett stopped instead of using his normal flip turn.

“You’re here early today,” Everett said, breathing hard from his warm-up. He adjusted his goggles, raising them up to rest on his head as he looked at Max.

Max swallowed. He checked in with Everett after every treatment, giving him an update about the water and noting any concerns Everett or the other swimmers had registered about the pool. It was usually a two-minute conversation, but Max looked forward to it. In his current position, he found himself a lot closer to Everett’s gorgeous hazel eyes than he normally was, and he couldn’t stop his heart from kicking up a notch.

“Yeah, scheduling conflict. The pH is high, but I can’t treat it while you’re in the pool. I’ll come back tonight, if that’s all right? It’s not dangerous—the water just might get a little cloudy until I can fix it.” Max fumbled with his phone, looking at his calendar. “I could come by around nine tonight. Does that work? The pool needs to be empty of swimmers for about thirty minutes after I treat it.”

Everett raised an eyebrow. “Scheduling conflict? You’re usually in and out in ten minutes, tops. How many other pools are you treating that you can’t get back here for eight hours?”

Max flushed, his jaw tensing. He hated it when people assumed that he spent his days pouring chlorine in water and cleaning out filters, though he wasn’t about to point out that the pools at the Flesh mansion were the only ones that got his personal attention these days. Max had helped design the entire six-pool landscape when Caldwell renovated it so the team could practice there, though he doubted Everett knew that. Everett had still been training with the Olympic team when his father had revamped the pools.

Everett surprised him by speaking again before he could respond, rubbing a hand over his face and saying ruefully, “Sorry, that was rude. Yes, it’s fine to come by later. My father is having a party, but that doesn’t start until eleven, so you should be safe coming around nine.”

Max nodded, making a note on his calendar so he wouldn’t forget. Not that it was likely he’d forget an opportunity to possibly see Everett twice in one day.

“Thanks. I have back-to-back appointments up until then, so I really appreciate it. I should have had someone else come take your appointment today, but I thought I could squeeze it in.” Max nearly pinched himself, horrified that he’d rambled so much. He’d just meant to thank Everett and leave.

“That’s a lot of pool maintenance,” Everett said lightly, but his easy grin took the sting out of the earlier unintended slight. Max smiled back. “Your boss shouldn’t work you so hard.”

Max laughed. “You have no idea. My boss is a real slave driver. I haven’t had more than a ten-minute lunch break in about three years.”

He stood, slipping his phone into his pocket. Max was notoriously clumsy, which was a pretty big liability when it came to electronics in his line of work. His last three phones had died a watery death, and even though he’d sprung for a supposedly waterproof casing on this one, he didn’t want to test it out.

Everett was still looking at him when Max saluted him and started to head off, but he was startled into stopping when Everett yelled his name as he came up to the gate.

“Knock on my door when you come tonight, all right? Just come up the central staircase in the pool house. There’s a door at the top.”

“Sure thing, captain!” Max said, touching a finger to his temple in the same spot where the captain’s star was visible on Everett’s swim cap.

Everett rolled his eyes and laughed, pulling his goggles down and heading off to finish his laps. Max indulged himself in another quick ogle, watching as Everett’s lean body cut through the water, his strong arms and shoulders on display. Coming at the beginning of practice apparently had its benefits, too.

Visit Bru’s website, http://www.bru-baker.com, to read her blog or excerpts of her other books. You can also find her on Twitter, where she Tweets as @bru_baker.

Buy Diving In at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Dreamspinner Press!

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Barnes and Noble

Dreamspinner Press