Fridays at Ofelia’s | When Heart Becomes Home

Guest-Post

Today, Pat Henshaw is here on a visit! She’s here to talk photography and When Heart Becomes Home. Welcome, Pat!

Snapped 

Before the pandemic began and after we had retired, my husband and I joined a photography group. We really enjoy this group not only for the information about our cameras and the variety of ways we can use them but also for the prompts which make us see the world around us in different ways. 

For example, one of the more recent assignments was to take photos emphasizing negative space. Negative space is the blank black, white, or single color between objects. The point of the exercise was to make the negative space say something. 

In writing, authors might compare negative space as what happens between the brilliant beginning of the novel and the last chapter. Something will happen there to tie the opening scene to the ending, but when the writer first sits down, those details are nothing but negative space. Oh, sure, there might be a glimmer of something here and there, but for the most part it’s what a lot of authors call the “murky middle”.  

That’s pretty much how our negative space photo started out. We have some vertical blinds that looked like perfect negative space to me. But what could we use to make the negative space into an interesting photo instead of just wide open white?  

Like I do when I’m writing, I made up an idea for the photo as I went along. Why couldn’t the negative space be ethereal? A link maybe between two semi-solid forms? But what forms? I looked around the house. Was I trying to make the photo look like negative space with bookends? Maybe the connection between thoughts? Or people? 

We have a lot—and I mean a lot!—of books to choose from, but I wanted something deeper than books, although on second thought I like the idea of the negative space tying two seemingly dissimilar books together. A dictionary and a thesaurus? A murder mystery and a paranormal? A classic and a gay romance? 

Jake and Pat 2020

Instead of all these great ideas, I used my husband and myself. In the photo, the negative space is joining two shadowy people. The photo is ultimately a love story. 

As far as writing goes, what am I working on now?  

Currently, I’m starting another Heart/Home novel about a former cop who was wounded in a robbery gone wrong and who is now recuperating in Spindrift, California, a small town on coastal Route 1 near Mendocino. He’s prone to sudden brain glitches that incapacitate him. Worried about him, his parents persuade him to share his house with an artist who’s fresh out of a horrible relationship. As well as writing that book, I’m planning the next Foothills Pride books and a holiday short story. In other words, I’m still writing and loving it. And, yes, my husband and I are still in the photography group. 

Blurb:

whenheartbecomeshome

Is there a time limit on love and forgiveness?

Fifteen years ago, Manny didn’t show up to take Wes to the Shelby High School prom as he promised. Instead, Wes found Manny’s letter jacket at their meeting spot without a note or any explanation.

From college to his current job in Monterey, California, Wes has carted the jacket around as a memento of his teenage love and rejection. This year he decides enough is enough. He’s attending the high school class reunion, returning Manny’s jacket, and going home free to find the real love of his life.

When Manny sees Wes at the reunion tour of the new high school facilities, he’s determined not to let his teenage lover leave without them clearing the air and possibly getting back together.

Through reunion activities such as a quiz bowl, meet-and-greet meals, and a formal banquet with a prom-like ball as well as outside activities like the quinceañera of Manny’s niece, Wes and Manny work through the lies and misunderstandings of the past.

With so much to reconcile and forgive on both sides, will they end up together? Or go their separate ways with only memories of the past?

Excerpt:

I agreed to meet Manny at Mama D’s.

Mama’s was a hornet’s nest of memories. My mother and I had lived above the diner from after I was born to when I left to go to college in LA. I never really knew another home. So going back to Mama’s was a step back in time I wasn’t sure I wanted to take.

As I drove up, I searched the windows above the diner. They stared back at me, curtainless black holes. Had Mama not rented to anyone after my mother moved out to marry Raymond? I’d never asked.

Then I was stampeded with memories. The façade of the café morphed from familiar and comfortable to alien and shabby. While Manny got out of his truck, I sat and willed myself into being calm.

I’d known when I had decided to come back for the reunion I’d be walking over ground strewn with pebbles, glass, and potholes from the past. I hadn’t counted on how difficult it would be on some of those old roads.

Manny turned around and asked, “You coming?”

Mentally, I tightened my armor, picked up my shield, sheathed my sword, swallowed once, and said, “Lead on.” I could do this. I could.

Picking up the bag with the albatross of a jacket, I opened the door and stepped outside into Mama’s parking lot. I could do this. I could.

Unlike The Trap the night before, Mama’s was dead inside. After looking around and seeing no one, we walked to the back and sat in a booth along the wall with empty tables as our only companions. The booth had been my home, the place I’d colored placemats, raced Matchbox cars, done homework, and met my friends. Others could sit here—but only if I wasn’t in town.

“Well, well, well. If it isn’t little Gordon Westerhouse. Or is it Gordon Tilman now?” Bernice, the waitress I remembered from fifteen years ago, didn’t seem to have aged at all. She had seemed ancient then and looked the same now.

“No, not Tilman, Bernice. Mother took Raymond’s name, but he didn’t ask me to. I don’t know what I’d do if he did.” I grinned up at her. “Um, and you can call me Wes or West now.”

She nodded. Her emaciated face with its beady eyes behind red rhinestone rimmed glasses glowed more pale and haunted than I recalled. Long ago, her rail thin body seemed to roll across the floor. Now she glided like a ghost.

I glanced around at all the empty tables and felt bad she was here waiting on us. Couldn’t they just close tonight and tell us to go home?

“Maybe we should leave and let you shut down and have a night off?”

Bernice started laughing. It was a strange kind of gurgle mixed with a cough.

“Um, Gor…Wes, they aren’t open. Mama’s is closed tonight. For us.” Manny was whispering as if he didn’t want to startle me.

What? Once again I was caught by the unexpected. My carnival ride had taken an unexpected and unseen dip. I gulped a deep breath to corral and expel the butterflies and went through my emergency procedure. I’d done more panic breathing in the past day than in the last fifteen years. Going to Shelby High had been bizarre, but coming back for the reunion was throwing me even further down the rabbit hole.

Manny had asked Mama’s to be open only for us tonight? How romantic? Or didn’t he want to be seen with me? We were in a back booth.

“Mama and Bernice asked me to bring you by tonight. They wanted to see you.”

Manny looked a little embarrassed, as well he should, since I was thinking he was the one who wanted to see me and revisit one of the places where we used to hang out together.

I should have known I was building something from nothing. Hadn’t I learned the castles I dreamed of with Manny were built of sand?

Bernice had been following our byplay and nodded at me with a grimace screaming for me to be cautious and to look before I leapt. Then look again before I moved. I nodded to her, and she gave me one of her skeletal grins. She nodded back.

“What can I get for you fellas?”

While we ordered, I pulled the grocery bag holding Manny’s jacket closer to me. I didn’t want it to trip up Bernice as she marched back to the kitchen to post our order.

Before he and I could start talking, Mama herself appeared.

When I stood, I kicked the bag toward the wall as she held out her arms for a hug. She scooped me up and hugged me into her apron. She still smelled of a delicate balance of burgers and Tide. I could catch a whiff of either while I was working or cleaning the condo and immediately be back here with Mama’s arms around me.

“Oh, honey. It’s so good to see you. Your mother says you’re a big editor in Monterey now. Who would have thought?” She stopped talking and stared a moment down at the booth. “I can see you now sitting back here scribbling away in your notebooks. In the beginning, I would never have picked you out for this one. But there you two were, day after day, pretending like nobody knew you were together.”

She cuffed Manny on the shoulder.

“And him a teacher. I would have bet money he would have taken over from his daddy.”

Manny gave a little huff someone might have interpreted as laughter.

“Nobody’s ever taking over from my old man, Mama. He will outlive the Earth.”

We all smiled because it was true and a little scary. Although I’d never met him, I’d heard the rumors about Pedro Garcia and how tornados and earthquakes ran away from him. He’d been a young mover and shaker for the United Farm Worker movement and was a wealthy land owner now. He was a legend.

“It’s so good to see you all grown up and successful, Gor…Wes. Bernice says we have to call you Wes now, yes? Well, you boys, enjoy your dinner.” She started to turn, but gave me a final hug instead. “Come back and visit us more often. Once in a decade or so isn’t enough. We’re always open to you.”

I coughed at the pressure she’d put into her hug.

When she let go of me, I whispered, “Yes, ma’am. Thank you for opening tonight.”

She gave me a huge whap on the back, and I sat down winded.

For a few moments, Manny and I let her visit gel between us.

Title: When Heart Becomes Home

Author: Pat Henshaw

Publisher: JMS Books

Publication date: March 20, 2021

ISBN: 9781646567669

Length: 65,255 words

Genre: Gay Interracial Romance

Buy links:

JMS Books: https://www.jms-books.com/pat-henshaw-c-224_462/when-heart-becomes-home-p-3725.html

Pat Henshaw website: https://www.pathenshaw.com/book/when-heart-becomes-home/

Queeromance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/book/when-heart-becomes-home/

About Pat

Pat Henshaw, born and raised in Nebraska, has lived on the U S’s three coasts, in Texas, Virginia, and now California. Before she retired, she held a number of jobs, including theatrical costumer, newspaper features reporter and movie reviewer, librarian, junior college English instructor, and publicist. She also loves to travel and has visited Canada, Mexico, Europe, Egypt, and Central America as well as almost all fifty US states.

Now retired, she enjoys reading and writing as well as visiting her older daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren on the East Coast and playing havoc with her younger daughter’s life in NorCal. She thanks you for reading her books and wants you to remember that every day is a good day for romance.

Connect with Pat on social media

Website: http://www.pathenshaw.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pat.henshaw.10

Twitter: @HenshawAuthor

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Pat-Henshaw/e/B00BPDEDEA/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1436131610&sr=8-1

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6998437.Pat_Henshaw

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/phenshaw2018/

Email: patoisca@yahoo.com

Fridays at Ofelia’s | Blue Jay

Guest-Post

Today, we have A. Zukowski here on a visit, talking London and their book Blue Jay. Welcome!


Writing genderqueer-ness in a journey through my city

London pride postboxBlue Jay is about two people: genderqueer AMAB Chris and bisexual Alex. Chris first emerged in book 2 of the London Stories series—Liam For Hire—as the main character’s best friend. Chris is funny and sad, aloof and caring—my favourite kind of character. They deserve a whole novel about them, to give them closure with love and sunshine! Writing the novel took a long time and a lot of soul searching. I built the story around Chris’s wry sense of humour, fierce independence, and aversion to all things romantic. Alex is a tough one to write since he tends to hide the strong emotions behind his tough façade.

I didn’t want to only make the queer character appear more ‘feminine’. Instead, I tried to challenge gender norms through language. All the pronouns they/them/he/him/she/her are used to refer to Chris throughout the book. I struggled to write them more than I could imagine, but the creative process also brought out the gender variance within me. The novel shows my struggles and my refusal to conform as much as that of the protagonists. The other character Alex is bisexual. Alas, I am more familiar with his socioeconomic background and mental health issues.

London-Street-Art

I love writing about London; pre-Covid, I was always walking the city streets, dreaming up stories that happen there. These places provide the perfect backdrops to the angsty, raw, and gritty urban scenes in this book. You won’t find the locations on a tourist map but they have their own histories and eccentrics.

When I was training as a screenwriter, my mentor (who used to produce for the BBC; she has retired now) asked me how I wanted the audience to feel after watching my plays. The readers of Blue Jay should cry and laugh (or smile) alongside the protagonists. I want them to feel uplifted, romantic and hopeful. All at the same time. I want to find all these emotions in a romance set in London that has dark stuff, too.
^_^

Blue Jay CoverThird part of the London Stories.

Boxing was all Alex had ever known, his entire being now shattered beyond repair. One night and four years in jail changed everything. These days, Alex prefers the shadows and dreams of nightmares. Will he find rainbows and glitters in the run-down flat he’s moving into?

Chris has been selling their looks and body for too long. It may be time for a life change, but one thing is clear. The fairest of them all will make a lousy lover until they stop acting the smart-mouthed and blasé cynic. Their story begins with an elegant tango up the narrow stairwell…

A match made in London.

Blue Jay is a hopeful and romantic story with genderqueer and bisexual characters. It can be enjoyed as a standalone.

Best of 2019 ~ Love Bytes Reviews, Electric Me
Delightfully dimensional main characters ~ Joyfully Jay
One of those stories that slowly grows on you and tugs at your heart ~ Divine Magazine
Profoundly emotional, eye-opening, thought-provoking story ~ Love Reading
I have absolutely loved this series…all about redemption, second chances and love. ~ Love Bytes Review

Tags: genderfluid, genderqueer, contemporary romance, LGBTQ, bisexual, prostitution, sex trade, depression

Beaten Track Publishing
93,600 words/290 pages
ISBN: 978-1-78645-368-6

Book links: Beaten Track (publisher): https://www.beatentrackpublishing.com/bluejay
Amazon: http://mybook.to/bluejay
Ebook: https://www.beatentrackpublishing.com/shop/proddetail.php?prod=bluejay_format
Paperback: https://www.beatentrackpublishing.com/shop/proddetail.php?prod=bluejay
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/957426?ref=b10track

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/45288523-blue-jay

Extract

Chris has returned from the hotel after a quick wash. These days, they can’t get away from the appointments fast enough. Even luxurious hotel rooms hold little appeal.
Washed up. That’s what they are; they sigh silently.
For an escort who works late a lot, this lighting arrangement is highly inconvenient. Chris curses and walks up the stairs as fast as they can, almost running.
Forward step in a tango. Cruzada. An Argentine cross.
Bang! They bump into someone massive at the first turn. The impact knocks them back down several steps.
“Hey, you okay?” says a gruff voice.
“Shit.” Chris stops and feels their way around the walls to find the light switch.
It’s gone one in the fucking morning. Who is standing in the stupid stairway, blocking my way? When their hand touches the other person’s, they recoil. Long and strong fingers connect with theirs, sending a shot of electricity through them.
Chris finds the switch; they and the stranger are bathed in the bright light from the bare bulb once more. They squint, uncomfortable with the glare of the yellow hue. They really should get their eyes tested—if there was anything they could actually read.
“What the—” Chris exclaims.
The guy must be about six feet six and built like Hercules. He shoulders a large black holdall. Chris is stunned silent by the bulging biceps and arms, and exposed flesh covered by tattoos. The physique of the stranger contrasts with Chris, who’s tall and slim like a catwalk model.
Crap. The man had better not be a burglar.
Chris stops a shudder, not wanting to betray weakness. They weigh up their limited options. They highly doubt they can take on the hulk in the middle of the night. Summoning their best act of caution and confidence, their hand reaches for the pepper spray in their trouser pocket. Out of necessity, self-preservation has become part of their routine.
“Where are you going?” they ask, praying the man has a legitimate reason to be in the building.
“I’m looking for Flat Five.”
Holy shit. What does he want in my flat?

About A. Zukowski

I am a London-based British writer who grew up in the gay village and red light district of Manchester, UK.

I was trained in screenwriting at the University of the Arts, London; National Film & Television School and Script Factory, UK, followed by a series of misadventures as a film journalist, writer and producer of short films. My stories are based on personal and emotional experiences, and feature strong LGBTQ-identified characters.

Read more:

The Boy Who Fell to Earth (2017 #1 London Stories) http://amzn.to/2Ao90X4
Liam For Hire (2018 #2 London Stories) https://amzn.to/2T1Zod8
Courting Light (2018) http://mybook.to/CourtingLight
Turn Again to Life (2020) http://mybook.to/turnagaintolife

Social Media

Twitter: @saszazukowski
Blog: http://azukowskiblog.wordpress.com
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16509569.A_Zukowski
FB: http://www.facebook.com/a.zukowski.353
Booklikes: http://azukowski.booklikes.com/

Fridays at Ofelia’s | Hop Hop, Carrot Top

Guest-Post

I’m trying a new thing this year, though I’ve already strayed from it. My idea was to have other authors guest my blog on Fridays. We’ll do this, but there will be Fridays without guests, and guests will show up on other days too – tomorrow for example LOL

But today, we have Holly Day here! She’ll tell us about her story Hop Hop, Carrot Top, that was released a few days ago. Welcome, Holly.


Thank you for letting me drop by, Ofelia :D. A few days ago, on the 9th of January, my story Hop Hop, Carrot Top was released. It’s about a red-haired man who is back in his hometown after having been gone for twenty years. He swore never to come back, but his mother has passed away, and someone needs to clear out the house.

The reason I told you he has red-hair is that Hop Hop, Carrot Top is a story I wrote for Kiss A Ginger Day that was on the 12th of January. You know all those (inter)national X days don’t you think they all deserve a story? I think they do.

Kiss-a-GingerAnyway, we have Flynn, who had a hard time in school. He was being bullied because of his red hair and the way his hands seem to have a life of their own. Now, he’s learned to control his hands – mostly, at least.

Caspian always loved watching Flynn when they were kids, and he quickly realises that hasn’t changed despite twenty years having gone by.

When I started writing Hop Hop, Carrot Top, I wanted it to be a short, light-hearted story. But how do you turn bullying and grief into something light-hearted?

I wanted there to be bullying because Kiss A Ginger Day is an anti-bullying project. It’s about showing appreciation for all the gingers in the world, but it’s also to draw attention to the fact that many born with red hair are or have been bullied while growing up.

There is more than just grief and bullying in the story, though. There are animals, cars, and bridges. 

Excerpt:

It might not have been Flynn he’d seen.

 There had been a car in the driveway, though. Caspian often walked past the house with the dogs, and he’d never seen a car there. It didn’t mean it was Flynn, though.

 He dropped the wrench on the floor and cursed. The nuts on the old Ford were as rusty as the rest of the car. He wiped his hands on a rag he’d put in his back pocket and went toward the desk in the corner. He didn’t have an office, only a dirty old desk.

 The phone rang, and he glanced at the clock. Twenty to seven in the morning. Who called at twenty to seven? No one was open for business at this hour. He grabbed the phone.

 “Hartley’s car repair.”

 “Eh… you’re open?”

 Caspian rolled his eyes. He’d answered, hadn’t he? “No, not yet.”

 “Oh. Should I call back later? I didn’t mean to interrupt… I figured if someone answered, then… eh…”

 Caspian ran a hand through his hair, smiling as the man on the other end rambled on. “Yes, call back in twenty.”

 Silence overtook the garage. “Okay… Sorry, I bothered—”

 “Wait! I was joking, sorry.” Fuck, he shouldn’t joke with people on the phone before seven in the morning.

 “Oh…”

 He shook his head. “How can I help you?”

 “I have a car.”

 Looking at the dogs, he shook his head again. “I’m glad to hear it.” A chuckle traveled through the phone, and it made Caspian grin.

 “The problem is, I don’t know if it’s running or not.”

 He glanced at Taco, who was chewing on a bone while lying on his dog bed against the wall. They each had a dog bed along the wall—Taco, Moose, and Chocolate. He didn’t have one for himself, though some days it was tempting to get one. “You haven’t tried to start it?”

 “Erm, no. I need to get rid of it as fast as possible. Do you take in used cars to sell?”

 “We do.”

 “Great! Can you come get it?” The hope in his voice made Caspian want to say yes, but he was alone in the shop.

 “You’re unable to drive it here?” What kind of car was it? How old? Did he own it, or had he stolen it since he was in such a hurry to get rid of it?

 Silence stretched again. “Who’s working there?”

 Caspian flattened his lips. “It’s only me. Why?”

 “Erm… it used to be run by Harold Cook.”

 Caspian was about to say it was his dad, but something in the man’s tone made him reword his sentence. “He’s retired.”

 “Oh… okay, then.” The sigh following was one of relief; Caspian couldn’t be sure, but he believed it was a sigh of relief.

 “Let me know if you can’t get the car to start.”

 “Okay. Bye.” The line went dead and Caspian frowned. The man had never introduced himself. With a shrug, he went back to the Ford.


Hop-Hop-Carrot-Top-(web)Flynn Thomas is back in Hartley. His plan is to be out of there before anyone notices he’s back. He left twenty years ago and promised himself he’d never have to face his childhood bullies or set foot in his bigoted hometown ever again. But it’s been six months since his mother passed away, and someone has to clear out the house.

Caspian Cook is out on a walk with his three dogs when he sees Flynn Thomas, at least he thinks it’s Flynn Thomas. He never forgot the red-haired boy his brother used to harass, and he never forgot how he used to wonder if there were freckles underneath his clothes as well as on his face.

Flynn mistakes Caspian for his childhood tormenter and flees. Caspian can guess why he’s in such a hurry to get away, but he hasn’t seen Flynn in twenty years, and if he allows him to run off, he fears he’ll never see him again. Will spending time with Flynn be enough for him to forget who Caspian’s brother is? Flynn needs help. He underestimated how much work it would be to move his mother’s things. Caspian offers to give him a hand, but can he trust someone who looks like his worst nightmare?

Contemporary M/M Romance / 19,129 words

books2read.com/HopHopCarrotTop 

Hop Hop, Carrot Top in the JMS shop

About Holly:

According to Holly Day, no day should go by uncelebrated and all of them deserves a story. If she’ll have the time to write them remains to be seen. She lives in rural Sweden with a husband, four children, more pets than most, and wouldn’t last a day without coffee.

Holly gets up at the crack of dawn most days of the week to write gay romance stories. She believes in equality in fiction and in real life. Diversity matters. Representation matters. Visibility matters. We can change the world one story at the time.

Connect with Holly @ https://lnk.bio/xpae or visit her website.