Monday, August 1, 2016

Monday's Montage Mantlepiece: Going for Gold

It's not hard to see the outward appeal of the Olympic Games: watching the fittest and most-accomplished athletes in the world compete—generally with fairly skimpy uniforms. Voyeurism aside, there's nothing sexier than a beautiful body running, jumping, swimming, rowing, and a couple dozen other activities. Who wouldn't take the chance to enjoy the spectacle?

But the Olympics are more than just a chance to watch athletes at the peak of physical perfection. Every competitor at the Games has a story behind why they run or jump or swim, and why they compete. How they got to the Games, and what they sacrificed along the way to make the cut. To spectators, they may perform superhuman feats, but each and every one is human in the same way we all are.

In this collection of stories, you'll find there's a lot more to competing at Olympic level than being the best in one's field. Expectations and pressures from family, friends, coaches and country add up, and sometimes it's only the love of the right man who can make the effort worth it. And sometimes, love is more important than going for gold.

Stories Included:
Hot Shots by Michael P. Thomas
Into the Deep by Nico Jaye
The Quad by Kelly Rand
Lightning in a Bottle by Sarah Madison
Swimming the Distance by Annabeth Albert
Shoot for the Gold by Whitley Gray
An Olympic Goal by K-lee Klein
Tumbling Dreams by Kaje Harper

Hot Shots by Michael P. Thomas
I was laid up with what had come to be known as my "ice dancing injury," flipping half-heartedly through a badminton supply catalog, wondering if I could get my parents to spring for an Olympic-quality horse for my next birthday, when my mother hove into the room, locked in a struggle with an upright vacuum cleaner.

"How's your ankle?" she shouted over the clatter.

"It hurts," I pouted.

After a prolonged tussle against the root beer shag, she yanked the cord from the wall, and the vacuum cleaner sputtered, clattered, and was eventually still.

"What are you doing?" she asked, jerking her chin towards the catalog.

"Plotting my triumphant return," I told her.

"To badminton?"

I shrugged. "Unless you want to buy me a horse."

"I wish you'd go back to swimming," she said. "There was very little equipment to buy."

"There was also very little sleep," I reminded her.

She rolled her eyes. "This again. My son the athlete-will do anything at all to get to the Olympics. As long as he doesn't have to get out of bed."

"I'm just saying, the Olympics are on TV all day-there must be a sport that competes in the afternoon."

"It's a question of dedication," she declared. "You must be willing to get up at four in the morning for your sport, whether you need to or not. Nobody ever got to the Olympics by sleeping in. Ask your cousin Marcel," she non-sequitured.

"I have a cousin Marcel?"

"Mmm," she affirmed, a lazy French yes. "Your auntie Francine's oldest, from her first marriage."

"Francine had a ‘first marriage'?"

"Mmm." Again.

"And what would cher Cousin Marcel know about setting your alarm for the Olympics?" I asked, missing the connection.

"He's been to the Olympics," she said, leaving her duh! unsaid but well understood.

"What, you mean like as a spectator?"


"You mean he's been to the Olympics?"

She nodded. "A few times. He went to Atlanta. And Sydney, I think."

I sat bolt upright on the couch. "I have a cousin who's been to the Olympics, and you're just telling me this now?" I cried.

"Have I never told you this before?"

"You never even told me about Marcel before!"

"Well, that's pretty much Marcel in a nutshell: he went to the Olympics. He was Luxembourg's first medal in like fifty years."

"He medaled?"

"Mmm. Bronze medal," she said. "He might actually have two of them."

"In what sport?"

"He's a shooter."

"What is that, like a position in field hockey or something?"

"No, a shooter." She pointed her finger at me and cocked her thumb. "Pow, pow," she said.

"Shooting's a sport?" I asked.

She shrugged. "In Luxembourg it is."

And just like that, my plan fell into my lap from the sky, fully formed and only an e-mail away. I felt like a jackass; I had never even considered the Luxembourg angle. It had been made clear to all observers that I had neither the drive nor the talent to rise to the top of the highest-funded Olympic program in the world, but I had a Luxembourgish passport-somewhere-and I was immediately and fully confident that I could be a star in what had to be a tiny program. I hadn't been to my mother's speck of a country in ten years, and I had never lived there, but I whipped out an e-mail to my long-lost bosom cousin professing a love for shooting that would not be denied, and when his gracious invitation to come and train with him appeared in my inbox, my bags were already packed; I was still on my ice dancing crutches when I hobbled onto what was literally the very next flight to Luxembourg.

Author Bio:
Michael P. Thomas
MICHAEL P. THOMAS is a flight attendant whose passions include the coffee in France, the hundred-yen stores in Japan, and the men in Argentina. His writing is continually inspired by his work with the flying public, who flatly refuse to be boring. He writes gay fiction because when he was coming out he sure was glad to have it to read. After misspending his youth in San Francisco, he now lives in his native Colorado with his husband. He blogs and you can follow him on Twitter. His first novel, Kiss Me, Straight, is available in eBook and paperback from JMS Books. His next, Crazy Like Fox, comes out on September 8th!

Nico Jaye
Nico Jaye is a fan of all things HEA and has dragged her romance collection along for her moves from San Francisco to Los Angeles to Chicago to New York and back. She thinks reading is awesome and loves that she can hang out night after night with crinoline-wearing debutantes, brawny firemen in suspenders, and werewolf shifters with Scottish brogues. An overall feline enthusiast, Nico secretly (or not so secretly?) adores Hello Kitty, cat GIFs, spontaneous traveling, pretending to be crafty, emoticons, hot menfolk, and parenthetical statements (not necessarily in that order). Her favorite stories are those that marry smut and fluff (a.k.a. smuff) into a gooey ball of HEA and fuzzies.

Kelly Rand
I'm a writer and editor with high hopes, low expectations and too much curiosity for my own damn good. I write stories about vulnerable people who are figuring themselves out because I suppose I am perpetually figuring myself out too. So far, I know that I am pure rock 'n' roll.

I have a particular love of fiction that explores gender binaries, and will read just about any trans story put in front of me. I prefer stories with complex female characters who are motivated beyond the typical gotta-get-that-man, because that motivation is lame. I write m/m, f/f, m/f and every other combination.

I like live music and road trips, and still write paper letters. I love when people follow me on Twitter because then I can follow them back.

Sarah Madison
An avid reader as a child, early on Sarah was asked to decide between her creative and scientific interests. Believing that she couldn't explore both sides of her personality, she chose science, and made a conscious decision to shut away her creative nature. Though she loved her work, she always felt like something was missing from her life, but whenever she questioned that feeling too deeply, she convinced herself that a life without joy was simply the definition of being a grownup.

One day she discovered fanfiction online, and it was like waking  a sleeping dragon. Over the next three years, she wrote over a million words of fanfic, finally deciding perhaps it was time to take the training wheels off the bike and try her hand at original stories. Now an award-winning author of M/M romances, Sarah believes that if she can transport you to another world for a few hours, make you forget your bad day at work, or your chronic illness, or anything that hurts you--even for a little while--then she's done her job as an author.

Annabeth Albert
Frequent tweeter, professional grammar nerd, and obsessive reader, Annabeth Albert is also a Pacific Northwest romance writer in a variety of subgenres.

Emotionally complex, sexy, and funny stories are her favorites both to read and to write. In between searching out dark heroes to redeem, she works a rewarding day job and wrangles two toddlers.

Whitley Gray
After years of reading straight-up mystery/thrillers, Whitley discovered romance. Inventing characters and putting them through paces in interesting ways turned out to be addictive, and along the way, Whitley discovered that two heroes is twice as nice. Stop by and feed your fix for heat between the sheets with erotica and M/M romance.

K-lee Klein
K-lee Klein has lived in one part of Western Canada or another for her entire life. She’s a doting mother of three now-grown kids, and has had characters and plots running around her head for as long as she can remember. In an attempt to avoid major writer's block, she keeps the image of muse on her leg so he can't run off too far, unfortunately it doesn't work all the time.

K-lee's days consist of planning her next tattoo design for her growing collection, having a lot of baths since her muse loves the water, and fighting off an abundance of fabulous gay men, large and small who continually bounce off the walls of her skull, competing for their turns to tell their stories.

Among her favourite sub-genres to read and write are rock stars, cowboys, shifters, friends-to-lovers, and opposites-attract relationships. But to be honest, she’s open to almost anything if it involves messing around in the heads of her characters. She’s also big on series—because she has a hard time letting her characters go—and is usually working on a handful of stories in various stages of completion all at the same time.

Kaje Harper
Kaje Harper grew up in Montreal and spent her teen years writing, filling binders with stories about what guys like Starsky and Hutch really did on their days off. (In a sheltered-fourteen-year-old PG-rated romantic sense.) Serious authorship got sidetracked by ventures into psychology, teaching, and a biomedical career. And the challenges of raising children.

When Kaje took up writing again it was just for fun. Hours of fun. Lots of hours of fun. The stories began piling up, and her husband suggested it was time to try to publish one. Kaje currently lives in Minnesota with a creative teenager, a crazy little omnivorous white dog, and a remarkably patient spouse.

Michael P. Thomas

Nico Jaye

Kelly Rand

Sarah Madison
AMAZON  /  B&N  /  MLR PRESS  /  ARe

Annabeth Albert

Whitley Gray
KOBO  /  GOOGLE PLAY  /  ARe  /  B&N

K-lee Klein

Kaje Harper