Welcome to our third week of celebrations for the amazing
In today's post, we will look at the Fish Out Of Water series, plus a personal story Amy has chosen to share. There's also another chance to win one of the books from that series.
First up, Fish Out Of Water
PI Jackson Rivers grew up on the mean streets of Del Paso Heights—and he doesn’t trust cops, even though he was one. When the man he thinks of as his brother is accused of killing a police officer in an obviously doctored crime, Jackson will move heaven and earth to keep Kaden and his family safe.
Defense attorney Ellery Cramer grew up with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth, but that hasn’t stopped him from crushing on street-smart, swaggering Jackson Rivers for the past six years. But when Jackson asks for his help defending Kaden Cameron, Ellery is out of his depth—and not just with guarded, prickly Jackson. Kaden wasn’t just framed, he was framed by crooked cops, and the conspiracy goes higher than Ellery dares reach—and deep into Jackson’s troubled past.
Both men are soon enmeshed in the mystery of who killed the cop in the minimart, and engaged in a race against time to clear Kaden’s name. But when the mystery is solved and the bullets stop flying, they’ll have to deal with their personal complications… and an attraction that’s spiraled out of control.
“I am not representing a cause,” Jackson growled. “And let’s get one thing straight.” The cat squirmed in his arms, and he slid the door open and unceremoniously dumped it on the ground. “You’d better take a shit out there!” he hollered as the cat darted away. He closed the door and turned back to Ellery. “You and I don’t have to like each other,” he said, pulling his shirts over his head and throwing them into a hamper by the headboard. His hands went to his belt and Ellery found himself looking anywhere—the green-and-gray comforter, the Lautrec print on the wall, the strip of navy blue painted near the ceiling that gave the room some solid character—anywhere besides Jackson as he stripped down.
“I don’t dislike you,” he said tentatively. “Oh, you have a television.”
“Well, right now it’s tuned to het porn, so don’t turn it on!”
Ellery flinched from his snarl. “I’m… I don’t know how to be around you,” he admitted, hating that he was backing down from this ex-cop, in his bedroom, in a way he backed down from nobody in the courtroom.
“Be around me?” He heard the thump and rattle as Jackson’s belt and jeans hit the ground, and a pair of boxers sailed into the hamper. And Ellery kept his eyes directed right there. “What does that even mean?”
Ellery swallowed. “You… you are two steps ahead of me,” he said. “And you have seen and done things today that I don’t know if I could deal with. And I’m in your….”
“Bedroom?” Oh God—his voice was close, and suggestive, and he hadn’t reached for a towel or a sheet or underwear or anything.
“House,” Ellery corrected, risking a look at him.
Jackson’s green eyes loomed closer than he’d thought, and that glacial cold he’d snapped on had completely reversed polarity. Ellery’s breath caught, and he couldn’t look away.
“Mr. Cramer, are you afraid to look at me naked?” Jackson asked, purring.
“N-no,” Ellery lied.
Jackson took a step back, ice-cold again. “The scars freak you out,” he said flatly, and that of all things forced Ellery to look at him again.
“No,” he repeated, but this time it was the truth. He could see Jackson’s chest, and it appeared muscular and well worked, just like his abdomen. The scars just were, bare and inglorious but not ugly. Simply flesh—painful keloid flesh, but flesh. Ellery reached out a shaking hand, the urge to touch overwhelming him. Very carefully, he stroked his fingers down the whole of that amazing chest, sweaty and strong and covered faintly with dark blond hair—because no, Jackson Rivers wouldn’t give a fuck about grooming.
Jackson’s indrawn breath, sharp and surprised, pulled Ellery back. Jackson’s hand—dusty, battered, bloody at the knuckles and tough—cupped under Ellery’s chin, and Ellery was forced to make eye contact again.
“Oh,” Jackson said, and he nodded as though surprised. “Okay. I… I need to shower. And we have work to do. And if you’re here too late, you can sleep on the couch.”
“The couch?” Ellery gasped, absurdly hurt. He’d just made a pass at the guy and he was exiled to the couch when even the neighbor knew he slept with everything that moved.
“Yeah.” Oh, yay, the sarcasm was back. “Because you are not a one-night fuck, Cramer. You are a complication.” Jackson’s jaw lost some of it hardness, and his lower lip quivered, just once, before he had his game face on again. “My brother’s in jail tonight. I’m not getting laid when my brother’s in jail.”
Oh God. Jackson had needed to remind Ellery about professional behavior. There was not a hole deep enough in the world, much less in Sacramento, for him to hide in.
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Book 2, Red Fish, Dead Fish
They must work together to stop a psychopath—and save each other.
Two months ago Jackson Rivers got shot while trying to save Ellery Cramer’s life. Not only is Jackson still suffering from his wounds, the triggerman remains at large—and the body count is mounting.
Jackson and Ellery have been trying to track down Tim Owens since Jackson got out of the hospital, but Owens’s time as a member of the department makes the DA reluctant to turn over any stones. When Owens starts going after people Jackson knows, Ellery’s instincts hit red alert. Hurt in a scuffle with drug-dealing squatters and trying damned hard not to grieve for a childhood spent in hell, Jackson is weak and vulnerable when Owens strikes.
Jackson gets away, but the fallout from the encounter might kill him. It’s not doing Ellery any favors either. When a police detective is abducted—and Jackson and Ellery hold the key to finding her—Ellery finds out exactly what he’s made of. He’s not the corporate shark who believes in winning at all costs; he’s the frightened lover trying to keep the man he cares for from self-destructing in his own valor.
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And coming in September, A Few Good Fish
A tomcat, a psychopath, and a psychic walk into the desert to rescue the men they love…. Can everybody make it out with their skin intact?
PI Jackson Rivers and Defense Attorney Ellery Cramer have barely recovered from last November, when stopping a serial killer nearly destroyed Jackson in both body and spirit.
But their previous investigation poked a new danger with a stick, forcing Jackson and Ellery to leave town so they can meet the snake in its den.
Jackson Rivers grew up with the mean streets as a classroom and he learned a long time ago not to give a damn about his own life. But he gets a whole new education when the enemy takes Ellery. The man who pulled his shattered pieces from darkness and stitched them back together again is in trouble, and Jackson’s only chance to save him rests in the hands of fragile allies he barely knows.
It’s going to take a little bit of luck to get these Few Good Fish out alive!
Exclusive first look:
“Sh….” Ellery slicked his hair back from his face and whispered to him as he collapsed limply, Ellery’s long limbs sheltering him from the cold outside their little bed.
“Sorry,” Jackson said, blinking hard, irritated at himself for losing sight of his plan. He was supposed to keep control, dammit. He was supposed to blow Ellery’s mind, not get swept away in the sexual tide himself!
“For what?” Ellery asked tenderly.
“Was trying to make it holy,” Jackson told him, lost enough to tell the truth.
Ellery struggled out from under him, pushing Jackson to his side while Ellery rolled over to face him. “Tell me this wasn’t!” he demanded.
Jackson grimaced. “Do you have to?” he asked. “I mean, if our sex is holy and shit, doesn’t that mean you don’t have to go?”
“Nobody is holding a gun to my head! Goddammit, Jackson, do you not get why I have to do this?”
“Aren’t you too late to go this week?” Jackson asked hopefully.
Ellery laughed, grim satisfaction in every syllable. “I set the alarm early so we could have breakfast.” He glanced over his shoulder. “And you know what? We still can.”
Jackson grimaced. Dammit. “But….”
Ellery’s expression softened, and he reached out to brush Jackson’s cheekbone with his fingertips. “Baby, why does this bother you so much?”
Jackson scowled. “Because if you’re thanking God for me, God’s going to show you what a mistake that is, and I like it here.”
With a groan and a heave, Ellery rolled off the bed. “There is no talking to you about this! Now get in the shower, and I’ll make pancakes. And no! You can’t wear jeans!”
“But you said I didn’t have to get out of the car!” Jackson hollered, finding a clean set of boxers in the dresser Ellery had set aside for him.
“I lied! You at least have to visit the outside, dammit!” Ellery grabbed his sleep pants and his sweatshirt from the folds of the covers and started dragging them on.
“But won’t I burst into fire?” Jackson asked, only partially kidding. His past… oh God. His past wasn’t checkered, it was chicken-pocked! “I mean, won’t you get kicked out and excommunicated if you show up with me next to you?”
“No, Jackson, they’ve got a big ol’ reformed-slut alarm that sounds as soon as you step foot on the ground, and then a force field shoots up, separating us and catapulting you to purgatory for the length of the service. After your first six visits, they give you the option of walking there on your own while a sorcerer whispers arcane words and tries to set me up with a doctor, because that’s just how Jews roll.”
Jackson stared at him, cheeks flushed with color, fine brown eyes sparkling with righteous anger, and like it usually did, the thing in his chest melted into a gooey little puddle.
“I can see your sarcasm is functioning well this morning. Isn’t that going to taint the pancakes?”
Ellery struggled to keep his mouth firm. “I can make my pancakes both strawberry and sarcastic. But if you want whipped cream, you’re going to have to shut up, get dressed, and let me have this. Understand?”
Jackson let out a sigh. “If I see anybody there in jeans, I’m not wearing slacks next time.”
“That, too, is understood.”
“And if anybody gives you shit about the gay—”
“We shall find a temple that has no shits to give. Also understood.”
“If you find someone there who’s better than me….” He scowled and stared at the picture of them Ellery had put up on the end table, Jackson looking uncomfortable in his best dinner-wear and Ellery smiling charmingly for his father, who was perhaps the dearest man Jackson had ever met. The picture had been taken outside Ellery’s parents’ house in Boston over Thanksgiving, and while Jackson could say for certain it had been a good time, every single memory he had seemed to be tempered with the stomach-churning anxiety he was dealing with now.
An Ellery Cramer and a Jackson Rivers did not make sense in any way, shape, or form. The longer they were together, the more Jackson looked for the chapped, palsied hand of fate to try to rip them apart. And every time Ellery said he was being ridiculous, Jackson had to walk away, because the fact was, he had almost died—twice—since the two of them had gotten together in the summer.
If that wasn’t God trying to tell Jackson the facts of life, Jackson didn’t know what was.
So Ellery going to temple out of some sort of weird deal he’d made with the big guy—on the one hand, it never hurt to suck up to the person in charge.
On the other hand, Jackson was a fan of the old Irish saying “May you be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows you’re dead.”
In this case, he would just as soon nobody, God or devil, even knew he was on the planet. He’d had forces bigger than he was meddle in his life, and he had the layers of scar tissue to show he’d barely survived.
“If I find somebody who’s better than you,” Ellery snapped, bringing him to the present, “I’m not the one he’ll be hitting on.”
Jackson scowled at him. “You’re being stupid.”
Ellery’s thin lips curled up into a smile. “So are you.”
“Fine. Fine, I’ll go. I’ll even be a grown-up. But Ellery, those had better be some damned good pancakes.”
Ellery rolled his eyes and grabbed his robe, swanning out for his exit, singing “My pancakes bring all the boys to the yard…” as he went.
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A personal story
I use music a lot in my writing—I hear it constantly in my head, and it helps me connect with mood and tone and emotional nuance—but I’m awful with the technology of it. I just don’t seem to have the time to organize my iTunes or my Spotify, and I’m constantly re-learning how to build a list. And it doesn’t help that the one device I had—an old-fashioned iPod—detonated a couple of years ago.
But I did manage to build a list and have it handy for one of the shittiest moments of my life as a professional—and it helped me get through that as nothing could.
I taught at the same high school for fourteen years. When they found out that I wrote LGBTQ literature and that students knew—and had read some of it—they pulled me out of my classroom and threatened me with arrest. They couldn’t do that—and they couldn’t fire me either—so they bargained with my lawyer to give me a settlement to make me go away. I could have gotten my job back—my lawyer told me that a couple of times. But he knew that I was so hurt and so heartsick and so angry that walking back into that classroom to teach with a microscope up my ass would have killed me, so we took the settlement.
But the process was long, and it took over a year before I could go back into my classroom to collect my things.
I wasn’t allowed to go until the administration was almost gone—it was a dark, bitter November night, and a friend insisted on coming with me. To be frank, I didn’t want her. She didn’t understand why this hurt me so badly. What I had was my iPod—and a boom box that I’d kept in my closet and was still there.
The classroom was in shambles. It had been used as a storage room for extra desks that semester, and the posters I’d put on the walls had been ripped up, my curated stash of tchotchkes for nervous kids to play with had been pilfered, and the college anthologies given to me by a visiting instructor so I could supplement my AP kids had been stolen.
Worst of all, the pictures and notes that students had given me over the years, that I had pinned to the back of my wall and taped on my cabinet, were discarded in a box and covered in pencil shavings. Besides the boombox—which I’d promised to my kids—they were what I’d come back for the most.
My friend kept trying to get me to take stuff for its monetary value. My heart was breaking because I’d built this high school’s English program and its senior project program and its creative writing program, and they’d not only taken the job from me, but they’d wiped me from the school as well.
I blew my friend off—I just couldn’t listen to her—and cranked the boombox up and found my “Bleed it Out” playlist. I spent the next hour and a half gathering shit together with angry rock music blasting out the open door, screaming it at the top of my lungs. I didn’t give a fuck who saw me. One teacher—the department head who openly mocked my writing in the staff room—slunk away during one of my final trips to the car and pretended not to hear when I said his name.
Music. Music kept me from shattering. Kept me to my task. Kept me from putting a hole through the walls. Kept me from smacking a friend who was only trying to help.
I always knew it was powerful. I always knew it was magic. I told my students that it would be the closest thing to time travel they ever got. That night it kept me sane.
I still have that playlist. Maybe some day I’ll put together something for when I’m happy, or that romance playlist I keep threatening my husband with, or something playful for grandkids I might not ever get. But right now my playlist of fury is there, for the next time my heart gets broken, and all I want is blood.
More about Amy Lane:
Amy Lane has kids, cats, a computer and an indeterminate number of Chi-who-whats at large. She lives in a crumbling crapmansion with most of the children and a bemused spouse. She also has too damned much yarn, a penchant for action adventure movies, and a need to know that somewhere in all the pain is a story of Wuv, Twu Wuv, which she continues to believe in to this day! She writes fantasy, urban fantasy, and gay romance--and if you accidentally make eye contact, she'll bore you to tears with why those three genres go together. She'll also tell you that sacrifices, large and small, are worth the urge to write.
Find out more on her website, her blog, or on Twitter.
Thank you for celebrating this fabulous author with us. Come back next week for our Grand Finale, with the Johnnies series, plus excerpts, our author interview, and one more chance to win.
Until then, happy reading!