Saturday, December 31, 2016

Saturday's Series Spotlight: Leaves of Tyrone by Debbie McGowan & Raine O'Tierney

Leaving Flowers #1
Shy and awkward since childhood, Aidan Degas is now a man lost. His twin—Aidan’s other half, Nadia—died tragically young, leaving him with nothing to get him through his days but his job at the prestigious Grand Heights Luxury Apartments and the flowers he lays upon her grave. When Aidan is assaulted on the job by a tenant, it’s the graveyard he turns to for strength and solace.

Patrick loves being assistant groundskeeper at the sprawling cemetery where he tends graves and offers a bit of comfort to mourners. When he sees a sad young man lingering over an old grave, his curiosity is strangely piqued for reasons he doesn’t understand. He’s never done this—struck up a friendship with a mourner. But soon that friendship blossoms into a romance.

It’s not going to be easy for the pair. Aidan is so damaged, like petals crushed in an angry fist, and even with Patrick’s warm heart and Irish charm, it might not be enough to bring him back from the edge.

Where the Grass is Greener #2
Mistakes were made, that’s for sure. But was it the night of passion? Or walking away afterward? That’s the question Seamus Williams must face when he gets a late-night phone call from someone he never expects to hear from again.

“I miss you, Shay.”

Chancey Bo Clearwater is a cowboy through and through. He spends his days finding work on whatever ranch will take him and his nights at the pool hall. He’s always done what needed doing and never thought much about what he wanted. ’Til that drunken night with Seamus.

A world of problems now stand between Seamus and Chancey exploring what might have been, the least of which being the Atlantic Ocean. On one side, there’s Chancey’s daughter who mood swings from angel to demon in two seconds flat; on the other, there’s the new lodger, hogging Shay’s telly and his cornflakes, and making private Skype time hard to come by.

Is this relationship doomed before it ever begins? Or can a surprise announcement from Seamus’s brother be enough to help the two find their second chance?

Where the Grass is Greener is book two of 'Seeds of Tyrone' and features characters from Leaving Flowers , but can be read independently.

Christmas Craic and Mistletoe #3
Two couples, two unique stories of love at Christmastime…

Harrison and Paulo were once passionate lovers—until tragedy tore them apart. When the men miss an opportunity to reconnect at a Christmas party, Paulo is prepared to move heaven and earth to see Harrison again.

Michael’s coming out didn’t go down well in his conservative hometown of Omagh, and the bullies are out to get him. But he has a guardian angel on his side—his unrequited long-term crush, Tom.

Will the magic of Christmas in Ireland be enough to see these two couples through?

This book features characters from the Seeds of Tyrone series, but can be read and enjoyed independently.

Leaving Flowers #1
“Quit then. It sounds a horrible place.”

“I can’t quit.” Aidan closed his eyes and left them closed, letting out a long, low breath. “The Grand Heights is all I have.”

He felt Patrick move, felt as he shifted across the center console, close into Aidan’s space, but he did not open his eyes. He was expecting the hug—longed for it even—and as Patrick’s arms wrapped around him, Aidan melted into the feel and warmth and smell of Patrick. Then he felt Patrick’s lips on his neck, so gentle he almost wasn’t certain he felt it at all. He was tenderly kissing the spot where Mrs. Wright had left such an ugly mark.

“I wish I could make it disappear.” Patrick’s voice was hypnotizing, the sound of rain on a tin roof. Aidan turned his face, just a little, so that Patrick’s lips caressed his cheek.

“The hickey?”

“All of it.”

Their lips met and Aidan died a little, right there, in the parking garage. It was nothing at all like when he’d awkwardly kissed his prom date goodnight, his teeth knocking against hers. Nor was it like Ms. Ashmore and her almost suffocating kisses. And it sure as hell wasn’t Mrs. Wright clawing into him, sucking on his neck like a vampire with a blood-soaked appetizer.

“I’m sorry,” Patrick murmured against his lips. “I don’t know what I’m thinkin’, kissing you like this. I just can’t stand to see you sufferin’, Aidan Degas.”

“Oh.” Idiot, Aidan berated himself as he pulled back. He inhaled deeply and let it out on a chuckle he hoped sounded natural and not hurt. He’s feeling sorry for you. God, you always read so much into everything. “Well, I am feeling much better now.”

Patrick didn’t look convinced.

“I promise,” Aidan said, way too brightly, and turned back to the window. “I wonder if we’re ever getting out of this garage.”

Where the Grass is Greener #2
"You're quiet today, Seamus. What's up?" the landlord asked.

"Just tired, is all. Got a leaky roof and the fecker was drippin' all the damn night. And didn't I get up this morning and kick the bucket?"

"You look alive and well to me, so you do. I say look like shite."

"Yeah, thanks very much, John. Think I'll go join the lads, see if I can't get a few more insults thrown at me."

Seamus gave the landlord a wry grin and went over to the others, who were already well into the first of the three games they got in every lunchtime. He watched one of them take a bad shot and accidentally pot the black, the clunking of the ball as it rolled its way through the machinery of the table setting Seamus's teeth on edge. John was right: he was dog-tired and probably did look like shite. He'd barely slept after the missed call, trying to decide whether to return it or not. His mind played tricks on him, one minute convincing him it was urgent and he should call back, the next telling him to stay strong. He'd made the move. He'd come back to Ireland. That's what he'd wanted all along.

He had wanted it. Ever since Mam died, he'd set his sights on coming home. He'd only stayed for Paddy's sake, and now Paddy had Aidan, there was nothing to keep Seamus in the States, although he was no further away from his brother now than he had been in Kansas. Never mind that he'd already made the decision before he knew Aidan even existed. No. It was a good decision. He was just -

He already knew, before he pulled his phone from his pocket: same Kansas number, same caller. His thumb hovered over the red button. Reject the call. Reject the call. He answered.

"Seamus Williams."

"At last! I thought I was calling a wrong number. Man, it's so good to hear your voice."

"Er, yeah. Yours too. What's up? Has something happened?"

"Nothing new. I just..."

The rapid-hard thump of Seamus's heart filled the pause, two seconds, three, four, and more. He drew breath to speak, but there was nothing to be said. Or nothing he should say.

"I miss you, Shay."

* * * * *

The first call had been a drunk dial. Thank God that Seamus Williams hadn't picked up. Lord, the shit that might have come tumbling out of Chancey's mouth. Now he was dead sober, but only slightly more composed. Had he really just said he'd missed Seamus? He tried for a laugh. It sounded as fake as it felt. Well he had missed Seamus. Nothin' wrong with that.

"You gonna say somethin'?" He knew he was putting on the accent. Drawing out his vowels, droppings his g's. His grandmother - who was from south Texas and who had an accent so deep it was digging a hole to the centre of the earth - used to yell at him when he'd get lazy with his words.

You jus' sound ign'rant, Chancey Bo Clearwater. Full name, cue snickering cousins, and Chancey sank down low in his chair, ashamed at the way he sounded despite the fact they all talked just alike. The accent followed him when he moved to Oklahoma, where he picked up a whole set of strange 'O's, and even having lived in Kansas now for the better part of his life, it was still there underneath.

"I didn't expect to hear from you, that's all."

"Surprise." He was trying for friendly, for calm. Trying to keep the I wanna put my fist through the wall and did you really mean to let me find out through Lulu? out of his voice.

"Isn't this call costing you a million dollars?"

"Skype. On my phone. I bought minutes, y'know?"

"Is that right then?"

"But I didn't think. It's probably charging you too."

"It's fine."

Is it? Seamus sure as hell wasn't saying much. There was a long pause as Chancey considered his next move. He'd called because he'd wanted to talk. Not talk. Not like that. Nothing to say on that front. Seamus had made it all as clear as crystal dropped in the mud when he'd left his parting message with Lulu, down at the pool hall, Rack 'Em. In a last-ditch effort, he said the only thing he could think: "Boss Tina asked after you the other day when I went around for work."

That got a laugh out of Seamus, which gave him more relief than Chancey cared to admit.

Christmas Craic and Mistletoe #3
Paulo had packed light, not sure if he was going to find Harrison at all, or if he did, if Harrison would then shut the door in his face. Did he know Paulo was coming? Harrison was going to get a surprise when he saw him, either way. For a man who had always made a point of being well-groomed, it was sort of freeing to be traveling the roads of Ireland with his jacket, a single backpack with an extra pair of jeans, a few wrinkled shirts, and a bag of travel-sized hygiene products.

He wondered if he should stop somewhere and shave, but hadn't Harrison always loved when his face was a little rough?

God, he missed Harrison.

Whatever miracle of arrogance, stubborn pride, or even hope that had seen Paulo through this far, also teased him with fantasy. He imagined Harrison grabbing him around the waist, kissing him, insisting they hole up in a hotel and make love for a week. He might need to buy some clothes then. That was nothing though, easily accomplished. He'd buy a whole new wardrobe and then donate it when they left the country if it meant things went well with Harrison.

It was sometime around noon when Paulo realized his phone had died. Of the few things he'd brought with him, Paulo had been smart enough to include his phone charger. Unfortunately, intelligence failed him when he left it behind at JFK, still plugged into a free outlet.

He pocketed the phone, watching as the impossibly beautiful green of the countryside passed him by. Everyone said it was verdant, but he'd never realized just how right they were.

Nearby, a couple chatted. Two young men, sitting next to each other, a little too rigid, staring straight ahead. If they had just been friends, they would have been more relaxed, and the close proximity wouldn't have bothered them, but Paulo knew the look of a young man trying not to be too obvious. The five point five seconds before he was out as a gay man, Paulo had been the same as those boys.

He smiled privately and wished them luck.

There was a bus change in Newtownstewart that consisted of him walking a whole forty feet or so from one bus stop to the next. The delay waiting for the second bus was much more significant than the walk, and it was almost dark by the time they reached Omagh.

With no cell phone to guide him to his next destination, Paulo decided he would stop somewhere to see if he could find a place to charge up his phone. It didn't seem like the sort of town that would have an internet cafΓ©, but what did he know of quaint Irish towns, really? Maybe they had a hardcore underground technology scene. Paulo laughed. Lord, he was jetlagged.

All he needed was an electrical outlet, a kind stranger with a cord, and a bit of luck that they fit. He walked into a corner pub and was washed over with the noise and bustle of men and women drinking Christmas Eve away.

The woman behind the bar tossed him a hearty hello in her rich Irish accent. It made him feel immediately welcome, and he appreciated her for it. He greeted her back, though whether or not he could be heard over the noise was questionable. It seemed like everyone and their mother, sister, and third cousin, had turned out to this pub. He had to practically shove his way up to the bar and wave her back over because two people had called orders to her before he'd even reached her.

"I'm sorry to bother you," he said with a tired smile.

"No bother, love. What'll you have?"

"Lemme have a Guinness. Wonder if it tastes the same as in the States."

"Dunno." She winked at him. "Is that how you got that curly hair? If not, then you don't know what you're letting yourself in for."

* * * * *

It was all well and good being Michael's hero. He wasn't sure why he'd stepped up in the first place, but now it had become a way of dealing with his own lack of courage. He wasn't like the other lads. He wanted more than working to pay the rent and buy a couple of pints of a weekend, and he admired Mike, for knowing who he was and being true to himself, regardless of the hell the lads were putting him through.

Tom could only imagine what it was like to be ostracised like that. He'd only ever been attracted to girls, only had girlfriends. He wasn't gay, like Mike, but at the same time, it was no longer enough to be Michael's distant protector. He wanted to be his friend. He wanted to get to know him, spend time together at the pictures, or in the pub, or wherever. He liked him, respected him, felt a tremendous amount of affection for him.

Leaving the lights off, Tom turned the ignition key and quietly advanced along the lane, riding the clutch as he passed by the two men, still locked in an embrace. How in God's name are they still kissing? Have their lips frozen together? He shook his head and laughed to himself. They were completely unaware of his presence. He turned in at the gate, stopped the car, and reached over to the back seat to retrieve the gifts he'd brought. Nothing special - just a little bottle of port for Seamus and his partner, a bangle for Dee, who he only knew because she was attached to seventy-five percent of Mike's status updates, and for Michael, a guardian angel on a chunky chain. That one was special.

Tom's palms were sweating, and he could barely push the button on the key fob to lock the car as he nervously set off across the farmyard, towards the big wooden door with the welcoming holly wreath. He could see Michael watching through the window, but Michael hadn't seen him, and when Tom knocked at the door, no one came to open it. He wasn't sure what to do. He supposed he could leave the presents on the doorstep and go home.

He gave it another half a minute and was stooping to set the presents down when he heard a noise. The door latch? He froze, half crouched, and watched as the door opened, slowly and only by a few inches. Intrigued, Tom pushed on the door. A black nose poke through the gap. Seamus's border collie - he recalled her coming to work with him a few times.

"Hello, lovely girl," he said quietly. She backed off, and Tom followed her into the warm farmhouse kitchen, filled with the smells of Christmas. Spices and alcohol and fruit and wood smoke. It was overwhelming, but in the best way, and suddenly he didn't feel quite so nervous.

The dog was still watching him. He took a careful step towards her, and she spooked and fled through another doorway. Entranced, Tom followed her through a hallway. The whole house seemed to be deserted, and Tom was thinking he should probably leave, when a door at the other end of the hallway opened and Michael charged out.

"Tess? Where are ye - oh! Hi." He saw Tom and stopped, like someone had pressed the pause button. His face was a picture. A red picture.

Tom smiled. "Hi. I thought I'd drop in on my way to, er...well, anyway. I wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas."

Michael blinked at him, his eyes straying upwards.

Tom self-consciously ran his hand over his hair, but it wasn't that. He tilted his head back and looked up at the ceiling, saw what was there, and looked back at Michael. He shrugged. "It's mistletoe, so...we should probably do the right thing? It doesn't have to - " mean anything...

Author Bios:
Debbie McGowan
Debbie McGowan is an author and publisher based in a semi-rural corner of Lancashire, England. She writes character-driven fiction, covering life, love, relationships - the whole shazam. A working class girl, she ‘ran away’ to London at 17, was homeless, unemployed and then homeless again, interspersed with animal rights activism (all legal, honest ;)) and volunteer work as a mental health advocate. At 25, she went back to college to study social science - tough with two toddlers, but they had a ‘stay at home’ dad, so it worked itself out. These days, the toddlers are young women (much to their chagrin), and Debbie teaches undergraduate students, writes novels and runs an independent publishing company, occasionally grabbing an hour of sleep where she can!

Raine O'Tierney
Raine O'Tierney wants to change the sweet story at a time.

As the Queen of Sweetness, Raine loves writing character-driven stories about first loves, first times, fidelity, forever-endings and...friskiness?

When she's not writing, Raine is either playing video games or fighting the good fight for intellectual freedom at her library day job. She believes the best thing we can do in life is be kind to one another, and she enjoys encouraging fellow writers.

Contact her if you're interested in talking about point-and-click adventure games or discussing which dachshunds are the best kinds of dachshunds!

Debbie McGowan

Raine O'Tierney

Leaving Flowers #1

Where the Grass is Greener #2

Christmas Craic & Mistletoe #3

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