Saturday, 30 March 2013

Lex Chase - Pawn Takes Rook Blog Hop

Today I am very excited to announce that Lex Chase, a fellow author and friend, is here to talk a little but about her new novella, Pawn Takes Rook. I have had the pleasure of reading it, and let me tell you, brilliant doesn't begin to describe it. This book has it all: action, adventure, humour, romance and even a little bit of angstiness thrown in for good measure!

Hello everyone! I’m Lex Chase and it is my honor to be at Cate Ashwood’s blog today. So, thank you Cate. I’m the author of Pawn Takes Rook, the first installment in the Checkmate series. As a superhero romantic comedy, it harkens back to the days of When Harry Met Sally, only with two dudes. One of those two, our protagonist Hogarth Dawson struggles to find his place in the world and keep his monsters of insecurities away with a witty joke. And that’s what I’m here to talk about today. That monster in our minds called Insecurity.

Let me say, Hogarth’s insecurities are like mine only cranked to sixty. Because of him, I can deal with my own inadequacies and realize how I’m make huge fucking mountains out of the most absurd molehills. I think as a writer, we battle our insecurities every day. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose, but we keep rising to the challenge to make it in this world of a person that gets paid to make stuff up. How awesome is that? Getting paid to make stuff up. Marinate on that.

But here’s the problem, we’re constant worriers that the stuff we make up will be well received, that if we submit something to the publisher will they offer a contract (and by proxy validate our existence.) We worry about promotion, we worry about getting sales, we worry about getting fans, we worry about looking foolish, and we worry about failing.

I look foolish all the time, so with that out of the way that’s one less problem I have. Did you see what I did there? I made a joke. It’s what I do to cover for my complete terror. Bury my own insecurities with humor and self-depreciation and everyone laughs both with me and at me. But aren’t we all like that? Aren’t we all a little uncomfortable or worried that our underwear is hanging out or there’s a booger peeking out our nostril? Fearing failure is like fearing your pants falling off mid-stride in a packed shopping mall during Black Friday. Meaning it’s bound to happen so don’t worry about it much because you’ll get your turn soon enough. 

Here’s a thought: If we knew we couldn’t fail, would we even try? 

That’s Hogarth’s predicament, after a string of perpetual failures and poor life decisions, (and we can admit taking in Rook was likely a poor decision too.) he decided to do something he decided to scheme his way into being somebody. His plan was guaranteed to fail, but with Rook at his side they both go down together and have a good time doing it. 

Hogarth is like the Chumbawumba song “I get knocked down, but I get up again!” He refuses to let any bastard grind him down. If he’s going to have a pity party, it’s going to be on his own terms. Not because Suzie Shumaker pushed him in the mud in the third grade and now he is terrified of all things brown and gets flashbacks when the UPS truck goes by.

I leave you with this: You may be struggling, confused, at a crossroads, petrified of taking the next step… But if you’re going to fail? Fail like a rockstar.

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Pawn Takes Rook: Blurb

The first time Hogarth Dawson sees superhero Memphis Rook, he comes to Hogarth’s rescue by cracking the heads of two thugs like eggs into a skillet. Hogarth is utterly smitten, but he soon discovers the superhero Power Alliance has ejected Rook for failing to protect a civilian.

Hogarth devises a plan that will reinstate Rook and might even earn Hogarth a place in Power Alliance roster. But what he expects to be a simple few missions rescuing kittens and helping little old ladies cross the street turns into a shocking reality of citywide chases, foiling robberies, and facing his ex. Then Hogarth discovers the beating Rook saved him from wasn’t a chance attack. It’s possible Hogarth is just a pawn in Rook’s game….

Where To Buy:

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Pawn Takes Rook: Excerpt

When I first saw Rook, he was cracking the skulls of two goons like eggs into a skillet. I sat there like a freaked out choir boy on my butt between the trash cans lining the alley behind Ted’s TV Tabernacle, gazing in awe and wonder. Rook had hands that could mold steel like Dollar General Play-Doh. He did just that by wadding up Random Thug Number One’s Louisville Slugger into a sadistic snowball and beaned the guy right in the ear. Getting snow in your ear has to be the most excruciating sensation in existence. I can’t imagine getting Kentucky’s finest steel shoved into your noggin.
I don’t remember if I screamed. I likely did. Totally did.
Random Thug Number Two went flying past me in an expert over-the-shoulder throw, his open mouth smacking wetly into the bricks. Broken teeth bounced over the sidewalk. Random Thug Number Three ducked behind the trash cans opposite me. He popped up once in a while, hidden behind the mound of bags and cans. His alligator eyes inched over the unfolding scene from the safe vantage point of the trash bag swamp.
Rook surveyed the alley, making sure he had gotten them all. He snorted a puff of steam with menacing satisfaction at seeing one guy out cold and another on the fast track for full dentures before sixty. Then he came to me. Now, when I say he was smoldering, that’s totally what he was doing. Smoke rose off his tattered trench coat in ethereal coils. Rook’s smoking frame could have been caused by the chill of the oncoming winter and the steam of sweat, but it definitely added to the sexy first impression.
His eyes, oh my Christ on a cracker…. They were not quite blue, not quite green, but like that girl on the National Geographic cover. Those haunting Afghan eyes.
“Are you okay?” Rook rumbled in a perfect antiheroic growl while reaching for my hand. His fingers, broad, callused, and strong, hung there long enough to cue the musical montage in my head. I couldn’t believe it. The one and only Memphis Rook had swaggered into my mugging, ready to bust heads. It was like he planned it, really. Or our universes collided in some awesome poetic way that I can’t think straight at the moment because holy crap, those hands are huge!
That’s when Random Thug Number Three opposite me decided to ruin the amazing moment, popping up like a spring-loaded Halloween skeleton and launched at Rook.
Rook turned in a smooth whoosh of muscle and fabric, and I shrieked as the knife skewered into his gut. He latched onto his killer’s knife hand in surprise.
“Oh God, oh God, oh God!” I screamed. I knew in that infinitesimally dark moment, I was going to die alongside the guy who fought in vain to save my life.
Confused, the thug glared at him, then to his captured wrist, and back again. “W-what are you?” he stammered as courage ran down his pants leg.
Rook released him. The thug held up the knife with the blade crumpled onto itself like a bullet impacting a Kevlar plate. The thug backpedaled, falling backward over a black plastic trash can after slipping on a greasy Five Guys burger wrapper. He screeched, twisting in an about face, and ran like a kid who had spilled orange juice on his dad’s vintage Playboys.
Then Rook turned those Afghan eyes on me, and the musical montage returned. The sleepy, sultry lyrics to Dream Weaver crooned in my head along with the accompanying halo of sparkles. His hand, those powerful, thick fingers, reached for mine….
And then he flat fuck fell over in my lap like a Buick dropped from low earth orbit. Steam rose from his body in the not so sexy eau de parfum of burned rubber and gasoline. He lay there, crushing my pancreas while out cold.
And that’s how Memphis Rook fucked up my life.
By coming into it.

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Lex Chase is a journalist by day and a writer by night. Either way you slice it, she makes things up for a living. Her style of storytelling is action, adventure, and a dollop of steamy romance. She loves tales of men who kiss as much as they kick ass. She believes it’s never a party until something explodes in a magnificent fashion, be it a rolling fireball of a car or two guys screaming out their love for one another in the freezing rain.

Lex is a pop culture diva, an urbanite trapped in a country bumpkin’s body, and wouldn’t last five minutes without technology in the event of the apocalypse. She has learned that when all else fails, hug the cat.

She is a Damned Yankee hailing from the frozen backwoods of Maine residing in the ‘burbs of Northwest Florida where it could be 80F and she’d have a sweatshirt on because she’s freezing.

You can find her on those Facebook and Twitter things at:

And her blog at


Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Keeping Sweets Excerpt 3

Evan has been waiting eighteen years for his life to begin. He doesn’t know a lot about the world, or even himself, but once he leaves home he begins to understand where he fits into the bigger picture. This is from a little ways into the story when Evan begins to understand where he belongs.

     He was beginning to realize that his desire to be normal, to fit in with a loving family and friends who cared about him had fueled a sort of denial about what would really make him happy. He had been searching for all these years for a magic trick to instantly make everything better, but there was no magic.
     The forest opened to the cliffs that outlined the beach. A set of well-worn wooden steps carved a path through the low brush toward the water. He walked toward the ocean, listening to the sounds around him. He crossed the dry sand and sat down, then pulled off his shoes and socks before dipping his feet in the water. He wiggled his toes, burrowing into the loose sand, letting the waves splash against his shins.
     The water was cold, and felt a bit like needles piercing his skin, but the calm that overcame him with being this connected to the sea overrode any discomfort from the temperature.
     Slowly, his skin numbing slightly, he became accustomed to the cold. He stared out past the slowly rolling waves toward the calmer water at the horizon. He closed his eyes and thought of how peaceful it was here. He would be happy to stay like this forever. Quiet, serene, and tranquil, it was such a change from the quiet that had permeated his life until now. What had once been loneliness, separation, and isolation had become a quiet strength and acceptance of himself.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Keeping Sweets Excerpt 2

This is from near the beginning of the story. Bran has taken Evan shopping with him for supplies they need for the porn shoot. They started off easy, so Bran wouldn’t scare Evan, but eventually ended up at a sex toy shop.

     Evan gulped audibly. “Nipple clamps? What’s the draw of those?"
     Bran laughed, his good humor returning despite his best efforts to remain impartial and distant. He slid his hand through Evan’s hair, ruffling it slightly as he pulled the other man toward him. “We really do need to get you an education, don’t we? Now’s as good a time as any.”
     They walked into the store, closer together than two platonic friends should be. Evan didn’t make any attempt to pull away with Bran so close. It made Bran feel warmer, happier. He was totally fucked.
     Evan’s first foray into sex toys was quite the experience for him, or so Bran assumed. He had taken all the teasing and ribbing like a champ, smiling and laughing instead of freaking out every time Bran tried to shock him with a story or new toy.
     They explored the world of cock rings first—something relatively innocuous—and picked out a few to use on set. For the most part, cock rings weren’t needed, but they came in lots of colors, and Bran let Evan choose a handful to buy.
     The next destination on their journey of discovery was the dildos. Bran tried his best not to crack up at Evan’s expression. Bran of course had seen it all before, but watching Evan experiencing the different shapes, and especially sizes, was a sight to behold. He was like a kid at the zoo, seeing an alligator being fed close up for the first time. There was deep fascination thinly veiling sheer horror painted across his face.
     In the end, Evan seemed to have made a smooth transition from naïve and innocent to curious and horny as hell. He wasn’t a small guy in the dick department, and he was visibly excited over some of their purchases. Although when you were an eighteen-year-old, it was tough to hide your enthusiasm over anything, so Bran tried not to put too much stock into his reaction. He remembered being eighteen. He might have even fucked a girl if one had let him.

Madison Parker's Interview

I am interviewing Madison Parker today to learn a little bit about her and her new book, Play My, I'm Yours. It is a young adult contemporary novel available from Harmony Ink and Dreamspinner Press on April 1st. 

Fairy Tate. Twinklefingers. Lucy Liu. Will the taunting ever end? Lucas Tate suffers ridicule because of his appearance and sensitive nature. When he’s not teased, he’s ignored, and he doesn’t know which is worse. He feels unloved by everyone, but the one comfort in life is his music. What he wants more than anything is to find a friend.

Much to his dismay, both his mom and a schoolmate are determined to find him a boyfriend, despite the fact Lucas hasn’t come out to them. His mom chooses a football player who redefines the term “heartthrob,” while Trish pushes him toward the only openly gay boy at Providence High. But Lucas is harboring a crush on another boy, one who writes such romantic poetry to his girlfriend that hearing it melts Lucas into a puddle of goo. All three prospects seem so far out of his league. Lucas is sure he doesn’t stand a chance with any of them—until sharing his gift for music brings him the courage to let people into his heart.


Tell us a little about yourself and your book.

I grew up in Germany where I feasted on Gummibärchen, wandered through the woods on many a Volksmarch, and dreamed of one day living in a castle on a mountain with a boy who knew how to rock a pair of lederhosen. The Fates had other plans for me, but I’m not complaining. Although I aspired to be an author at an early age and often wrote for fun, I ultimately pursued a career in teaching instead. I have a Bachelor’s Degree and two Master’s Degrees in Mathematics and Education. I’ve taught both middle and high school and enjoy working with young adults.

I have a passion for math and art, and like to dabble a bit with web and graphic design. I also have an affinity for all things geeky (read: Star Trek and TRON). Although I am extremely left-brained (logical, rational, orderly), my artistic, creative side never ceases to flail around in a desperate attempt to be noticed. I spend my days reading, writing, solving math problems, and playing with my feisty German Pinscher. I live in North Carolina with my husband, my pup, and my troop of sock monkeys.

I began writing LGBTQ fiction to help address issues of bullying and low self-esteem among young adults. My short story, SOCK IT TO ME, SANTA!, explores one boy’s struggle to come out in a hostile school environment. My debut novel, PLAY ME, I’M YOURS, takes the reader on an emotional journey in search of love and self-acceptance.

What was the very first story you ever wrote? How old were you?

When I was sixteen, I had a short story published in my school’s literary magazine. The story was called The Girl in the Strawberry Patch and was about a young woman grieving the loss of her mother. Looking back at it now, I’m not too impressed; the metaphors, for example, were cringe-worthingly obvious, but I was proud of it at the time. It wasn’t the first story I ever wrote, but the first I remember by name. I loved writing when I was a kid. One of the best presents I received in my youth was an electric typewriter that my parents bought me when I was twelve. My best friend and I would write stories for each other, just for fun. We mostly wrote about boys, hehe.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a writer for the longest time. I continued to write throughout high school. I was a journalist and editor for my school’s yearbook, and I took creative writing classes. An unexpected pregnancy kept me from going to college right after high school, and in those years away from school, my priorities changed. I eventually became a math teacher, and although I’ve never regretted the decision, I’m thrilled to be writing again.

What made you want to write this book?

The subject of bullying has always been a sensitive one for me. My son was bullied a lot growing up; it was a painful time for both of us. Not only that, but as a teacher of middle and high school-aged students, I’ve seen my share of kids who were easy targets, and my heart goes out to them.

After reading several books about bullying, including Jeff Erno’s Dumb Jock and Adelhardt H.’s Always Joey, I knew I wanted to write a novel of my own. With each of the stories I was reading at the time, I found myself growing frustrated, either because I wanted the plot to go in a different direction, or I wanted the characters to be different. After reading several Gay-For-You stories that just didn’t seem believable, the (secondary) character of Alex formed in my head, and I decided right then I had to tell his story.

Where is your book set? What made you choose this place?

Play Me, I’m Yours is set in Baltimore, Maryland. That’s where I was living at the time I wrote the novel, and it was a comfortable fit. The title of the book, Play Me, I’m Yours, was taken from an international urban artwork project that began in 2008, wherein street pianos are decorated by local artists and placed in public locations throughout host cities for anyone to play and enjoy. Baltimore has not yet been a host for the “Play Me, I’m Yours” street piano project, but it easily could be. Baltimore has a lot to offer for music and art lovers, including the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) and the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA).

Which one of your characters is most like you? How so?

No two characters in this book are alike. Everyone has very distinct personalities, which, for the characters, is at times a blessing and other times a curse. I most closely resemble the main character, Lucas. We don’t necessarily have the same hobbies or interests, but we think alike. We’re both introverts and internalize everything that happens to us in much the same way. One of the biggest differences between us, however, is that Lucas has a very difficult time trusting people due to the constant taunting he endures. I tend to always assume the best of people and take what they say at face value.

What is a typical working day like for you? Where do you write? Do you wait for inspiration? Do you set certain writing goals? Are there any specific tools you use to help you write?

I use a laptop, so I bounce back and forth between sitting in my comfy chair in my home office or the not-so-comfy chair near the back door, where I can let my highly energetic dog in and out. He gets bored when I’m on my computer and constantly interrupts me by laying his head in my lap and giving me sad puppy eyes.

I use Scrivener for all of my writing projects. I love it! I tend to write slowly, and yes, I do wait for inspiration to hit, so setting short-term word count goals is futile. I do attempt to write at least 2,000 words a day when I’m committed to a project.

 Is there anything you do while writing that other people may find strange?

Haha, I really want to make something up so I seem quirky, but no, nothing strange. I like to start with a detailed outline and go from there. I have a deplorable habit of leaving my web browser open at all times, so I tend to get distracted easily by email and other Internet-related time sinks. But that’s not strange—just counterproductive! And I rationalize this by saying I have to do research when a new idea pops into my head.

What do you find the most difficult part of the writing process?

I write slowly and am easily distracted (see above). I don’t think I’ve ever written more than 3,000 words in a day, and that’s a full day of writing for me. When I hear people talking about hitting 5K or more in one day, it completely boggles my mind.

What has your experience been with traditional publishing vs. self-publishing?

I have done both. The biggest advantage of self-publishing is that it can be done quickly and with complete control over all aspects of production (editing, cover art, promo, etc.). My self-pubbed short story, Sock it to Me, Santa!, was published within a few weeks of finishing the final draft of the manuscript, whereas my novel, Play Me, I’m Yours, is being released six months after the submission date. With the self-pub, I’ve been able to host as many giveaways as I please, at no additional cost to me.

What I’ve enjoyed most about working with a traditional publisher is the feeling of belonging to a family. Dreamspinner is very supportive of its authors, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know some of the other authors who publish under their press. It’s also very exciting to be a part of Harmony Ink, their young adult imprint. My dream is to have my books be made available to young adult readers in schools and libraries, and that’s more likely to happen by publishing with a traditional press.

What can we expect to see from you in the coming year?

Play Me, I’m Yours will be released April 1, 2013 from Harmony Ink Press.

I’ve recently started a new writing project, but it’s too soon to reveal much about it yet. I’d love to have it released prior to the GayRomLit retreat in October, where I’ll be attending as a Supporting Author.


“OH, LOOK! There it is!” Lucas fumbled with the camera, then shoved it in Mason’s hands and darted off. If not for the throng of tourists milling about the city’s Inner Harbor, pointing and smiling, Mason wouldn’t have believed he was witnessing his seventeen-year-old brother skipping down the sidewalk.

“Daaaaaaad! He’s doing it again,” Mason said as he passed the camera off to his father. No way was he taking pictures of his older brother acting like a schoolgirl.

“I know, son. Let him have his fun. He’s been looking forward to this for days.”

“What’s the big deal? It’s just some dumb piano.”

Mason pursed his lips as his brother plopped down on the whimsically painted piano bench.


AS LUCAS took a seat on the empty bench, he stared at the work of art before him. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been so excited. He’d have to remember to thank Mrs. Davidson for advertising the “Play Me, I’m Yours” street piano project in class. He was probably the only one listening as she explained that the project involved more than 500 pianos placed in public locations throughout the world.

Maybe it wasn’t worth getting that excited about, but when he saw the flyer, his eyebrows shot up. “Cyndi Lauper!” he squealed and then immediately wished he hadn’t. He heard the snickers in the room and abruptly felt the rush of heat to his cheeks.

Mrs. Davidson had given him her kindest smile and said, “I hope you all have an opportunity to visit one of the pianos while they’re here. I’m sure you’ll find it rewarding to share the gift of music with your community.”

Teachers always said corny stuff like that. Like playing music for strangers would make any sort of difference. Sure it might entertain for a few minutes, but that was it. Even so, Lucas couldn’t wait to get home and read more about the project online. Not that he had any deep desire to commune with his fellow citizens. More like he wanted the opportunity to channel his inner Cyndi. Cyndi Lauper was his childhood idol, and there she was on that flyer, perched upon a street piano.

She was the reason he sat here now. Lucas brushed his fingers across the piano keys. Even if Cyndi hadn’t played this particular piano, she was with him in spirit. The piano, covered with bold areas of red and yellow paint, reminded him of her. It was adorned with black and white curlicues and ample amounts of glitter. Multicolored layers of tulle and strings of shiny beads trimmed the bench. He worried that he looked like he was wearing a skirt—no, a punk tutu—as he sat. Lucas looked down at the piano, where “Play Me, I’m Yours” had been painted on the keys. What would Cyndi do? She was bold and brazen. She wouldn’t care what other people thought, and even if she did, she wouldn’t let it stop her.

“Dad! Get a picture.” Lucas waved to his family, then plastered on his biggest smile and posed for the camera. He planned to upload the picture to the project’s official website later that afternoon. If he were lucky, maybe Cyndi would see it.

“Oh my God,” his brother groaned. “He’s such a dork.”

Lucas ignored the comment. His brother always called him a dork. He didn’t mind it so much. It was nicer than the names most kids called him.

He took a breath, hoping to calm his nerves. A few people gathered nearby, but he didn’t recognize any of them. He wouldn’t have had the courage to go through with the performance if he saw any kids he knew from school.

“This one’s for you, Cyndi,” he said as he struck his first note.

Lucas never sang when he played. He had a decent voice, but he preferred to let the music speak for itself. Maybe that was his classical training showing. He loved playing classical pieces, but pop songs were more fun.

Lucas knew this song well, though he’d never played it for an audience before. It was one of his favorites. It reminded him of happy times spent with his mom.

When he was younger, he and his mom had housecleaning “parties.” All that really meant was his mom played loud music, and he helped her clean the house. She’s So Unusual was their favorite “party” album, and he loved to “bop” around the house with a feather duster. Of course, back then he thought bopping meant dancing. He had no idea “She Bop” was a song about masturbation, and the mental image of “bopping” around the house with a feather duster now made him laugh.

A larger crowd formed around the piano, but Lucas hardly noticed. Lost in the moment, he pounded the keys as he entered the chorus of the upbeat song. The spectators clapped to the beat and sang what few lyrics they could recall. It was one of those songs everyone knew but no one could sing.

As the intensity of the music heightened, so did Lucas’s body movements. It began with biting his lower lip and bobbing his head and progressed to rocking back and forth in his seat. By the second chorus he periodically lifted his butt clear off the bench and scrunched up his nose, oblivious to everything but the music.


IT WAS too much for Mason, who noticed his father also averted his eyes when Lucas went into funny face mode.


Mason turned to see a man approaching his father.

His father reached out and shook the man’s hand. “Hey, Steve. How’re you?”

Steve repositioned his Baltimore O’s cap. “Good. Good to see you. Is this your son?”

Mason’s father clapped him on the back. “Sure is. This is Mason.”

“A fine young man you’ve got there,” Steve said. “What are you guys up to?”

His father’s eyes darted to Lucas, and he hesitated.

Mason took advantage of the opening. “We were on our way to Sports Tank and got distracted by Jerry Lee Lewis playing the piano over there.”

“Yeah,” Steve said. “Liberace’s more like it. That kid looks queer as a three-dollar bill.”

“Totally,” Mason said, crossing his arms.

His father’s posture stiffened. “It was nice seeing you, Steve. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.”

“Yep, you too. Gotta run. Good seeing you.”

As soon as Steve turned to leave, Mason’s father gave him a stern look.

“What?” Mason asked. “He said it, not me.”

The conversation was cut short as the crowd began to clap and cheer for Lucas, who offered a bashful smile in return.

“Lucas,” his father said abruptly. “Let’s go.”

“Dad, can’t I play one more?”

“No. Let’s go.”

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