Welcome to our Grand Finale celebrations for the superbly talented
In today's post, we'll talk about Winter Oranges and Trailer Trash, with two excerpts each, plus our Q&A with Marie. And all the way at the bottom is one more chance to win!
First up, Winter Oranges:
Jason Walker is a child star turned teen heartthrob turned reluctant B-movie regular who’s sick of his failing career. So he gives up Hollywood for northern Idaho, far away from the press, the drama of LA, and the best friend he’s secretly been in love with for years.
There’s only one problem with his new life: a strange young man only he can see is haunting his guesthouse. Except Benjamin Ward isn’t a ghost. He’s a man caught out of time, trapped since the Civil War in a magical prison where he can only watch the lives of those around him. He’s also sweet, funny, and cute as hell, with an affinity for cheesy ’80s TV shows. And he’s thrilled to finally have someone to talk to.
But Jason quickly discovers that spending all his time with a man nobody else can see or hear isn’t without its problems—especially when the tabloids find him again and make him front-page news. The local sheriff thinks he’s on drugs, and his best friend thinks he’s crazy. But Jason knows he hasn’t lost his mind. Too bad he can’t say the same thing about his heart.
"There’s nothing worse than not being able to see outside.”
If seeing outside meant that much to him . . .
“Do you want to go out there?”
Ben spun toward him. “What?”
“I could take the globe outside if—”
“Oh my God, yes! I hadn’t even thought of that, but yes! Would you really do that for me?”
“Sure. Why not?”
Ben grew so excited, he popped out of sight for a moment. By the time he appeared again, Jason had donned his shoes and jacket. He tucked a pair of gloves into his pockets.
“You ready?” he asked Ben.
Ben nodded, his face bright and eager, and Jason picked up the globe. Ben vanished again as he passed out of the living room, flickering back into view briefly in the hallway, and then again on the veranda. His face broke into a dazzling smile as they descended the steps to the yard. The sunlight washed through him, making it much harder to see him than it had been inside. He closed his eyes and tilted his head back, soaking it in. His lips moved, and Jason realized he hadn’t yet rewound the globe. His fingers were starting to get sore from turning the tiny key so many times.
“You’ll have to repeat that,” he said, after he’d wound it as far as it would go.
“I said, ‘It’s perfect.’” Ben watched as Jason pulled on his gloves, the globe held tight between his knees. “Is it cold?”
“Can’t you feel it?”
Ben shook his head, but his smile didn’t fade. “I wish I could.”
“It’s brisk, that’s for sure, but it could be worse.”
“What month is it?”
“Oh, if only it were October! That’s my favorite month. But November isn’t bad. Is it early in the month?”
“It’s the eleventh.”
“On a mild year, they might still be harvesting. Does it smell like apples?”
“We lived right next to an orchard, and in the fall, I swear I could smell them all the way to our house. Does it smell like apples? Please tell me it smells like apples!”
It didn’t. Not even close. But Jason said, “Of course it smells like apples, silly. What else would it smell like in November?”
Ben laughed with delight. “I don’t even care that you’re lying. It’s the best lie anybody’s told me in a century and a half!”
“Until recently, the only time I’ve ever been outside was when the soldier took the globe away. But if I can walk around outside without you having the globe right next to me . . .” He shrugged uncomfortably. “Don’t get me wrong. I love being with you. But it’d give me a bit of independence I haven’t had before, you know?”
Jason nodded. “I understand completely.” He held up the globe. “I should leave this here then?”
Ben nodded. Jason placed the globe on the back patio and they started walking. Of course, leaving the music box behind meant he could only hear Ben for the first couple of minutes. After that, they walked in silence, the weak autumn sunlight dancing through the trees. They spotted squirrels and birds and once, a fox, who watched them with wide eyes as they passed. Could she see Ben, Jason wondered. He wished he knew.
Finally, they reached the fence line at the edge of his property. Jason regretted not taking Ben to the east where his property abutted the National Forest. Instead, they were faced with private property to the south. They stared for a moment at the strings of barbed wire, then at each other.
Ben pointed past the fence. I want to keep going.
“I can’t go with you.”
“You’ll be okay?”
Ben laughed silently. Jason couldn’t quite read his lips, but the mirth on his face said it all. What do you think could happen?
Still, Jason was hesitant to let him go. What if Ben managed to keep on walking? “You’ll come back, right?”
Ben’s laughter turned to an expression of surprise. Of course.
That made him feel better. “Do you want me to wait here, or meet you back at the house?”
Ben waved toward the house.
“Okay. You’ll be able to find it, right? You won’t get lost?”
Ben gave him that same mocking smile. He spoke slowly so Jason could read his lips. I can always find the globe.
“Okay.” Jason nodded, unable to explain his hesitance to be parted from Ben. It defied all logic, so he forced a smile. “Don’t take any candy from strangers and be back before dark, all right?”
Ben cocked his head in confusion.
“Never mind. Just . . .” Just what? Be careful? Don’t disappear? Don’t decide you like the neighbors better? Don’t find some new magical snow globe to occupy, because I’d miss you more than I can say? He’d feel like a fool saying any of those things. “Have fun,” he finished lamely.
Ben nodded and said something that might have been See you later, and then he turned away. Jason watched in silence as he stepped easily through the barbed wire fence. He watched as Ben hiked effortlessly up the hill, his spectral form slowly disappearing into the trees.
And finally, Jason knew what he’d meant to say.
“Be home soon.”
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Secondly, we have Trailer Trash:
It’s 1986, and what should have been the greatest summer of Nate Bradford’s life goes sour when his parents suddenly divorce. Now, instead of spending his senior year in his hometown of Austin, Texas, he’s living with his father in Warren, Wyoming, population 2,833 (and Nate thinks that might be a generous estimate). There’s no swimming pool, no tennis team, no mall—not even any MTV. The entire school’s smaller than his graduating class back home, and in a town where the top teen pastimes are sex and drugs, Nate just doesn’t fit in.
Then Nate meets Cody Lawrence. Cody’s dirt-poor, from a broken family, and definitely lives on the wrong side of the tracks. Nate’s dad says Cody’s bad news. The other kids say he’s trash. But Nate knows Cody’s a good kid who’s been dealt a lousy hand. In fact, he’s beginning to think his feelings for Cody go beyond friendship.
Admitting he might be gay is hard enough, but between small-town prejudices and the growing AIDS epidemic dominating the headlines, a town like Warren, Wyoming, is no place for two young men to fall in love.
“I miss my mom.” Nate figured he sounded like a whiny kid when he said it, but he didn’t care. “I thought maybe I could go visit for Christmas, but my dad keeps putting me off, saying ‘maybe.’” He watched as Cody started dealing, tossing cards by Nate’s knee onto their makeshift seat. “Like I don’t know that means no.”
“You got a car. Why can’t you just go?”
Nate blinked at him, stunned by the idea. “I hadn’t thought of that.”
“Fuck, man. If I had my own car, I’d have ditched this shithole ages ago.”
Nate thought about that. “What about high school?”
Cody shrugged, but Nate suspected his nonchalance was just for show. “What about it?”
Nate picked up his cards and fanned them out, his mind a mile away. He knew Cody didn’t consider college of any kind an option, but giving up on high school seemed reckless, even for him. “There must be a community college in Laramie or something.” He glanced up at Cody, trying to gauge how close he was to pissing him off. Cody’s expression was still stony, but not quite angry. “Don’t you have any plans for after high school?”
“Always figured I’d end up in either the oil fields or the coal mines, like everybody else who grew up here.” He dropped a couple of cards and took some off the stack. “I’m taking two. How many do you need?”
“Is that what you want, though? To dig coal or be a roughneck?” Nate only knew the term because of his dad.
“Jesus, nobody wants to be a roughneck, but what the fuck else is there around here? You think I’m gonna take up ranching instead? Buy a couple of cows and spend my days worrying about whether there’s enough rain this year to make hay?”
“Just ’cause you got your life all planned out, don’t mean the rest of us do.”
Nate didn’t have his life all planned out. Not by a long shot. He wasn’t even sure he wanted to go to Chicago, or to college, but it was what he and his parents had planned back before the divorce. He figured he’d live in the apartment his aunt owned and scope out the schools. Maybe he’d take some accounting courses at the community college, or see about learning computers. His aunt seemed to think there’d be a lot of jobs in that field someday. “I didn’t mean—”
“It don’t matter.” Cody ran his fingers through his hair and forced a smile. It looked more like a grimace. “We playin’ poker or what?”
“Then either tell me how many goddamn cards you want, or fold.”
Nate folded, even though he’d been holding a pair of kings.
The diner was like a trip back in time, with little individual jukeboxes at each table. A dial on top flipped the pages, like some kind of storybook, showing them the available tunes. They pumped in a few dimes, just for fun. There wasn’t much pop, but Nate picked “It’s Raining Again” and “One Thing Leads to Another.” His dad hunted for Bob Seger, but the only one they had was “Tryin’ to Live My Life Without You,” and it seemed that one hit a bit too close to home, so he played “Down Under” and “Jack & Diane,” and for a few minutes, it was almost fun.
The food turned out to be better than Nate anticipated, too. They had sweet and sour pork, and ham-fried rice, which they both agreed was way better than regular old “pork-fried” rice. Nate’d grown used to awkward meals with his dad. This one wasn’t as bad as some, but it still felt wrong. His dad attempted to make small talk, as if nothing had changed. As if Nate’s mom wasn’t missing from the picture. As if they weren’t sitting in a ridiculously tiny Chinese diner in the middle of Wyoming, with the wind blowing outside like it couldn’t wait to get the hell into some greener state.
And who could blame it if it did?
“I saw a truck for sale today,” his dad said. “A Ford. A little rusty, but those things’ll run forever. I think it would be a good investment.”
“I’m keeping my Mustang.”
“Once winter comes—”
They lapsed into another uncomfortable silence. They seemed to have those more often than not lately.
“I know you don’t want to be here,” his dad said quietly. “But there weren’t that many jobs to choose from.”
“I don’t see why we had to leave Austin at all. You had a job there.”
“Your mom wanted the house, and I didn’t want to fight her for it.”
“You didn’t fight for anything.”
“I wanted you,” his dad said, his voice quiet. “I fought for you.”
Nate slumped, having no good way to tell his father he shouldn’t have bothered. Besides, he’d heard it all before. “Whatever.”
“I couldn’t stay in Austin after the divorce. I just couldn’t. I needed some distance—”
“Well, you got that, didn’t you?”
His dad rubbed his forehead. “I know you think I should have tried harder to make things work with your mom, but—”
“You didn’t try at all.”
“That’s not true,” his dad said with seemingly infinite patience. “You have no idea how wrong you are about that.”
“If you’d really tried, we wouldn’t be here. We’d be at home in Austin. With Mom.”
His dad sighed. He sat there in silence for a moment, and then he dug in his pocket, and pushed a dime across the Formica. “How about another song?”
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1. What inspires you? What gets you writing?
I don't really know. Honestly, it'd be easier if there was one set thing that always inspired me, but there isn't. It's very hit and miss. Sometimes it's a picture, or a certain idea for a character. Sometimes it's a song. Sometimes it's something I'm reading. A lot of times, it's a confluence of things that suddenly feel like The Perfect Storm that lead to a book. For example, the original idea for Damned If You Do came from the song The Devil Went Down to Georgia. I started out thinking, what if after the devil lost that duel, he became sort of obsessed with Johnny and kept going back? But that story was going to flirt too much with copyright issues, so I chalked it up as "can't be done." A while later, I watched The Last Exorcism and became intrigued by the idea of writing about a boy who'd been raised in a tent revival. Then, months later, I read Tom Piccirilli's November Mourns. It featured some very unusual snake-handlers (nothing at all like real snake-handlers), and that was the lightning strike that made Damned If You Do come together.
2. What's your writing process? Seat of your pants, lots of sticky notes, complex spreadsheets?
I'm somewhere between a plotter and a pantser. I need to know the rough arc of the story. I need to have a feel for the overall tone, and I need to know at least three points along the way. I spend a long time pulling the story around in my head before I finally jump in and start writing. I can't outline to save my life, but as the story progresses, I usually end up with lots of bullet lists and diagrams and notes scribbled all over the place. I usually start in the middle of the story and work both ways at once. Even when I do start at the beginning, I never end up writing the entire book sequentially. I jump all over the place, writing whichever scene intrigues me the most until it's just a matter of knitting all of the pieces together to make a whole. The last 10-20% of the book is the worst, because I've already written all the fun stuff and just have to fill in all the gaps.
3. Which character from your books is your favorite, and why?
Probably Dante from the Oestend series. He's actually sort of the bad guy in the first book, but redeeming him in book two without letting him go soft was one of the most enjoyable things I've ever done as a writer. He's just so impetuous and impossible. Other favorites include: Frances from the Oestend series, Angelo from the Coda series, and Cody from Trailer Trash.
4. Which character is your least favorite, and why?
Probably Beth in the Oestend series. Then again, she was never supposed to be likable. Or maybe Anzhéla from Release. She actually started out in my head as a really positive, nuanced, wonderful character, but as the books progressed, she took on a very cunning edge. She went from being a crime boss to being a politician. It was important and fitting, but it made me like her a bit less.
5. If you could go back into one of your books and change one thing, what would that be? And why?
There's a continuity error in Saviours of Oestend that I'd really love to fix. It's pretty small. I think most readers probably don't catch it, but I'm really angry at myself for missing it.
6. What's next for you? What amazing book are you working on?
Damned If You Do comes out in June. I have a couple of re-releases and one new release (a "best friend's little brother" novella called Making Waves) lined up for summer. After that? I actually have no idea. I have about four different projects I'm tinkering with, but nothing solid. The one I'm most into right now is a YA SFF. Assuming I finish, it'd be published under some other pen name, so I'll probably end up with a huge gap in releases after October. It's definitely not ideal, but… that's how it goes sometimes.
7. Anything else you'd like to share with your readers?
Only that I'm very grateful for every single one of my books they buy. I wouldn't still be here if it weren't for them.
More about Marie:
Marie Sexton lives in Colorado. She’s a fan of just about anything that involves muscular young men piling on top of each other. In particular, she loves the Denver Broncos and enjoys going to the games with her husband. Her imaginary friends often tag along. Marie has one daughter, two cats, and one dog, all of whom seem bent on destroying what remains of her sanity. She loves them anyway.
Marie also writes dark dystopian erotic fantasy under the name A.M. Sexton.
Thanks for joining us all month to celebrate Marie Sexton. We hope you found a few books to add to your TBR and enjoyed getting to know this fabulous author.
Until next time, happy reading!!