Welcome to our 2nd week
of celebrating the amazing
In today's post we talk about Queers, five little known facts about AJ, and of course give you another chance to win one of her books.
Let's start with the book, QUEERS
Within her walls are stories. Love. Laughter. Tears. Lives lived to the fullest, and sometimes cut short before they really get started. She’s seen it all, from homelessness to super-stardom, boys dressed as girls, girls dressed as lamps, and boy, does she have secrets she could tell. Her one truth is that everyone who darkens her doors is accepted with open arms and a song.
Her name is Queers, and for one of L.A.’s few dueling piano bars, she has a lot of heart. On her stage, the beautiful voice of Duff McKinley rings so true he captures the shattered heart of his boss, Brad Mosely, who checked out of life three years ago. But even lifelong dreams have untold consequences.
Duff came to L.A. to chase his musical aspirations, but his best friend Garrett Slater accompanied him to chase a wish of his own: finding The One, his white knight. He believes Landon Kennedy fits the bill. Suave, handsome, and powerful in the music industry, Landon can show Garrett a life he's only seen in movies. But even as Landon helps Duff realize his dreams, he brings Garrett into a nightmare he may never leave, one from which Garrett's roommate, Jackson Moriarty, is determined to rescue him. If Garrett repays Jackson by seeing his own charms, so much the better.
Yes, within her walls, Queers has long history. Unrequited love, sinister intentions, fame, fortune, and a group of friends and lovers who would do anything for each other no matter the cost.
Product warning: this book contains vivid descriptions of domestic violence and may not be suitable for everyone. Reader discretion advised.
“I’m here to see Brad,” he replied. “I called earlier about the audition? I’m Duff.”
“Okay, just a sec,” she said, reaching up with two glasses in each hand and stretching to place them in the glass racks. The hem of her blood red lacy tank rode up on one side and he caught a glimpse of a simple though elegant vine tattoo scrawling up her pale flank.
“Ooh, nice ink,” he said, forgetting himself for a moment and moving closer for a better look. “Where’d you get it?”
“Old girlfriend.” She gave a vague wave, but he caught the corner of her mouth turning up. “You’re too pretty to be into tattoos. How old are you, anyway? Seventeen with a fake ID and fresh from Kansas?”
He sighed, looking down at the shiny bar surface, tracing the carving that circled the edge. “Yeah, just got off my mother’s tit and I thought I’d see what it’s like outside the sandbox.” He tried to keep the sarcasm from his voice, knowing if he pissed her off she could twirl one finger and send him out the door. But as desperate as he was to avoid scampering back home to Illinois with the failed L.A. dream his parents were convinced was his future, he’d fielded that question at every audition and was tired of explaining he was, in fact, twenty-seven. No one ever believed him anyway.
To his surprise, the girl laughed, a deep, throaty sound that bellowed through the empty room. He looked up sharply and smiled, meeting her twinkling gaze.
“Oh, I like you. Buff, was it?” She reached across the bar, offering her hand, her short nails unsurprisingly painted black. He shook with her firmly, noting a silver ring that twined gracefully over her long middle finger and up the back of her hand.
“Duff. And you are?” he asked, emboldened.
I knew it’d be something like that.
She came out from the island and made no secret of looking him up and down. “Oh yes, but you are a pretty twink, aren’t you?” The heels of her knee-high boots clicked sharply against the lacquered floor as she made a full circle around him. His skin flushed as he withstood her scrutiny. Working in L.A. in any performance capacity practically came with an obligatory eye- fuck, and he had learned to endure. Returning to his twelve o’clock, she put a hand on her hip and tapped her lips with a finger, eyes narrowed at him.
“Um,” he almost stammered. He was used to this, but she was a bartender so what did it matter how he looked to her? She wasn’t Brad. Still, only knowing her name, he couldn’t be sure she wasn’t a manager, or even part owner of the club whose audition call he’d been drawn to answer if only because of the bar’s name. Tired, he wanted to see Brad and get home to a tub of mocha almond fudge ice cream and some Adam Lambert YouTube vids. Clearing his throat, he cocked a hip in the way his best friend, Garrett, said made him look bitchy, though now he hoped it conveyed confidence. “You keep looking at me like that, I’m going to have to charge you by the hour.”
Her gaze snapped to his face. “What’s twenty get me?” she challenged.
She’s totally toying with me, he realized, but oddly, he wasn’t threatened. Maybe he was too tired to get his hackles up after days of pounding the pavement looking for another gig. Maybe it was the twinkle in her eye. Maybe it was how blatant she was, so he felt obliged to be bold in return. He winked.
“Sweets, you’re already up to fifty.”
With wide, mock-innocent eyes, she nodded and approached him, linking her arm through his and pulling him toward the back of the club.
“I like that. Don’t sell yourself short, hot stuff. I suspect if I liked guys, and you liked girls, we’d have quite the tumultuous love affair that would end in tears, shattered knick-knacks thrown in a fit of rage and betrayal, and a domestic disturbance call. I bet you’re a minx in bed. And on the floor, and the kitchen counter.”
Duff couldn’t hold the laughter in, though it came out as more of a bark. He shook his head in amusement and embarrassment. He wasn’t surprised she’d guessed his sexuality, considering he couldn’t see a straight guy answering a call for a bar called Queers, but for her to be so blunt about it and accepting at the same time was out of his normal experience. He’d become accustomed to either being ignored or outright bullied when people found out. He wasn’t butch, nor was he a big nelly bottom. Most people never guessed without him saying something. As with anything in life, some people were cool with it, some weren’t. His family, while eventually coming around, had taken it badly at first, and he had only just started speaking to his brother again after years of silence.
When they reached the hallway that led to the bathrooms, she stopped outside a third door, turning him to face her, a hand on each of his biceps.
“Pep talk time. Don’t be afraid of Brad. He’s a fantastic guy, a lot of fun if you get to know him, and he’s nowhere near as sour as he seems at first. He’s very loyal, but you have to earn it. First thing’s first, though. Don’t pull with him what you just did with me. I’m the gatekeeper for the auditions, and I get the joy of testing the applicants. You have a sense of humor and while I did irritate you, you kept it in check. You took a joke, and flirted with a leathery, dried up, freaky lesbo despite being gayer than a pink polo shirt and loafers without socks. You passed with flying colors.”
His mouth fell open, partially in surprise, partially to defend his masculinity, because loafers with no socks? Ew. That wasn’t gay, that was insulting. Obviously, he knew it was a test, but wow, she’d seen a lot from a few moments of banter. He snapped his jaw shut as she went on.
“Brad won’t even notice, though. He’s the talent; I’m the personality. We both own the bar, and he reminds me it’s a business while I remind him it’s supposed to be fun. And Jesus, your sweet face, those wide, blue eyes and blond-tipped spikes are making me say far more than I normally would.” She spoke rapidly, and he had to concentrate to keep up with her energy. “Bottom line, we’re a business, and we’ve even helped some of our acts go on to bigger and better things. That’s more Brad’s line of work, and he can answer any twinkle-toes questions you have about superstardom. Your looks will get you fans. Your talent, if you have any, will keep them. So go in there, talk to Brad for a bit, ignore his sourpuss expression, and then come out here and knock his fucking socks off. Because I haven’t had a pet project in a while, and I want to keep you.”
Blinking at her in surprise when she finally decided to take a breath, Duff said with a straight face, “Not to go all Erin Brockovich on you, but if that was a pep talk, you suck at it. I’m more nervous now than when I walked in.” Why am I a project?
She gave her throaty laugh once again and rapped sharply on the door. As she walked away, she patted his ass, leaving him off guard yet again and openmouthed when her partner called for Duff to come in.
He did, and his gaze locked on the most beautiful face he’d ever seen.Blond hair cut short above a face made for TV with a pair of hazel-green eyes that shimmered like a tropical ocean. Duff couldn’t help but stare. The youthful features were a mix of rugged and sculpted, but instead of looking like incongruous body parts, they flowed together to stunning effect, sending a tingle across Duff’s scalp. Upon closer inspection, Duff put him at a couple years older than himself. When the guy leaned back in his desk chair and raised a brow, Duff’s trance broke and he shut the door.
Get the book:
Five little-known facts about AJ:
Five little known facts about me…. Hmmm, these are always difficult since I think I’m boring.
- I play piano. I’m really rusty because I don’t play as often as I used to, but there’s something zen about being able to play happy or sad or upbeat or haunted songs and music is one of the best ways I know of to lift myself out of a funk.
- When I was a kid, my parents used to cringe if the phone rang and the caller asked, “Is this Mr. or Mrs. Rose, AJ’s parents?” That usually meant I was hurt. Between the ages of 12 and 23, I was really hard on my body with sports, with two broken noses playing competitive softball, a gash over my left eye again from a softball to the face (I don’t mean those huge ones that barely fit in your hand. I’m talking the ones barely bigger than a baseball), and when I was sixteen, I blew out my right knee playing football (American). Also, people were surprised when I came out? Weird. I’ve mangled my right foot in a car accident and had a couple surgeries that weren’t related to injuries. With my foot, the doctor advised me to carry x-rays to airports to prove it was injury related when the metal detectors went off, but I think the 4 inch scar on my instep is proof enough (and I don’t really set off metal detectors anymore).
- When I was 12, we had a class assignment to write a short story with a lesson. I wrote about a girl on a track team who had a lot of potential but got hooked on drugs. I don’t remember much more than that, but the teacher read the ten best stories to the class and asked us to choose one. The class chose mine, much to my shock. The school sent the stories to a statewide competition, and my story came in 4th place. I always knew I wanted to be a writer, but I think that’s when the bug bit me for good. I also had a poem published when I was in high school, but I’m mortified by it now. Melodramatic drivel.
- I have a purple streak in my hair. The minute I didn’t belong to corporate America anymore, I shed the work wardrobe, streaked my hair blue (got tired of it a few months ago and switched to purple), and now, I get funny looks whenever I go out of the house.
- I get a tattoo after every book I complete. I’m still contemplating the one I want for The Anatomy of Perception, but the one for the Long Fall of Night series is actually the image I used for scene breaks. It’s the same as what Ash has on his left pec. For the Power Exchange books, I have “rain” and “thunder” tattooed on the insides of my wrists in the same font as the books’ titles. For Queers, I have a rainbow colored treble clef circled by the words “for the record” on my right leg.
Where to find AJ:
Thanks for joining us today. Come back next week for more of AJ's books, a personal story (it's super sweet), and another chance to win.
Until then, happy reading!!