Gumption and Gumshoes and Alex Kidwell

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The idea of a chinchilla shifter was far too intriguing for me to pass up. When a friend offered the prompt, I knew that, despite my inexperience in the true shifter genre, I had to take a shot at it. And thus, Gumption & Gumshoes came to be and August Mendez was born. He’s overweight, under-motivated, and stuck at a dead end job. He finds his escape in old film noir detective stories; when he finally gets a chance to break out and start his own private investigative firm, August is hoping that his life will change.

Sam Ewing is older, bitter, and divorced. He’s given up completely on love after his marriage fell apart and he is the landlord of the building August rents office space in. They seem like a match that wouldn’t ever work, but half the fun for me to write was this unlikely duo. They come together in a way that even I didn’t expect to solve a case, but also to help one another get past their issues to become something more.

I had an incredible time writing Gumption & Gumshoes. It was a chance for me to go outside my comfort zone, to write something lighthearted in a genre I hadn’t gotten to explore before. I just hope readers enjoy them as much as I did.

In this excerpt we see the reader’s first encounter with Sam and August together.

Most days, Sam found, it wasn’t worth getting out of bed. Just flat-out was not worth the time or bother. And really, what was so great about the outside world? People were dicks, by and large, and dealing with them only put him in an increasingly foul temper.

All of this held doubly true on rent day.

Rent day was like a holiday designed by a masochist. Owning a building had sounded like a great idea before he’d actually, well, owned the damn building. Before, it’d just been a job where he would be his own boss, set his own rules, where he could insulate himself from the dickbags of the world. Do some repairs when they were called for, change light bulbs, paint once a year—the whole thing had been perfect. But that was before he’d known about rent day.

Sam slammed his fist on the door, barking out three quick beats. “Mrs. Pritchett, it’s Sam Ewing. It’s the sixth, Mrs. Pritchett, I’m sorry, but I need to collect the rent. Lights don’t go on by themselves, you know?” Yeah, this was exactly what he wanted his life to be. Harassing little old ladies for the rent to their offices. At least it wasn’t apartments. If he had to throw someone out of their home he was pretty sure he’d just give up completely.

Mrs. Pritchett owned a little hair-and-nail salon on the first floor. It was good for business, nice storefront, drove foot traffic. People liked to rent in a building that had all that shit. Four floors, seventeen tenants, and him living in the walk-out basement he’d converted. It wasn’t a bad gig, really. Except for today. Today he had to be up at seven to try to catch people before they opened for business, knock on doors, and be the bad guy.

He wasn’t the fucking bad guy. He was just the guy who wanted to get paid.

Sighing, he fished out one of the Rent Due notices from his pocket and stuck it to the door. Someone was bound to see it when they came to open up, and if he didn’t hear from Mrs. Pritchett by noon he’d have to come back. Silently, Sam begged her to call. He hated coming back in front of customers; it was just… awkward.

Next stop was the fourth floor. Room 403 was the smallest office space he had; he almost hadn’t bothered renting it at all. It was barely big enough for a desk, some bookshelves, and a coffee maker. But every so often a fledgling business liked to get a cheap storefront to start, and it wasn’t hard to keep up with the maintenance on it. So Sam rented it for a song, made the lease six months instead of twelve, and kept it pretty well occupied. He hadn’t had much cause to come up there, really, rent day or no.

At least, not until five months ago.

Five months ago he’d gone against his gut and signed a lease with some chubby, wide-eyed kid in a damn fedora. Something told him that he’d be trouble, but Sam was a sucker for brown eyes, and he’d been cute, in a roly-poly kind of way. Aw, hell, in any way, though Sam was trying real hard to not think about it. At first, it’d been fine. Rent had been paid on time, guy had been quiet, no worries. For the first month.

“Mr. Mendez, it’s Sam Ewing.” Sam frowned at the door, repressing the urge to sigh heavily. He could hear the squeak of a chair, the distinct noise of someone stumbling, a muffled curse. “Mr. Mendez, it’s the sixth.”

There was another curse and a heavy crash. The brass sign on the door proclaiming August Mendez, Private Detective reflected Sam’s face back to him, the eye roll of disbelief echoed there. Finally, though, cautious footsteps approached the door and August opened it, peering through. Sam was struck again by how attractive the guy was, dusky skin and dark, wavy hair framing a round face that seemed to broadcast every emotion. Not that he was there to flirt. Not that Sam flirted anymore.

“Uh. Hey, Sam,” August said, giving Sam his best innocent smile.

“Mr. Mendez,” Sam sighed.

He was interrupted by, “I told you, you can call me August. Or Auggie, whichever. You probably wouldn’t be the Auggie type, though, you know? Not that there’s a type. Or that that’s a bad thing! Just, you’re all stern and you’d probably look weird calling me by the nickname I got as a baby when you’re just, you know.” August trailed off, smile faltering, a miserable expression taking its place.

“Not a baby?” Sam suggested, expression still firm even as the corners of his lips twitched slightly.

“Exactly.” August nodded before he seemed to hear what Sam had said. Horrified, he quickly amended, “No! I mean yes, you are definitely a man. An old man. Not that you’re old!” Letting out an explosive breath, August sagged against the doorframe in surrender. “I’ll have the cash for you this afternoon?”

“Thank you, August.” Sam turned, hiding his smile and heading toward the elevator. Well, that had been slightly better than expected.

Thank you so much for allowing me to stop by and talk a little bit about Gumption & Gumshoes! If anyone has any questions or comments I’m more than happy to chat.

Buy links:

Once Upon a Time: Exploring the Creative Life with Leta Blake and Keira Andrews

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Once Upon a Time: Exploring the Creative Life

Most people know the tale of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” sisters who dance their slippers to tatters every night despite being locked in their room. Their furious father allows men to try to discover where the sisters go with the penalty of death if they fail, and the reward of one of the princesses’ hand in marriage if they succeed. After several failures, one man is successful and presents his evidence that the sisters are escaping to a secret kingdom to dance with fairy princes. In some versions, the king destroys the secret passage to the “evil kingdom,” and the man chooses a bride from the sisters.

Kristin at Tales of Faerie clarified many of my own thoughts about the classic tale while Keira and I were wrangling with the plotline and the motivations of the characters in our new novel adaptation of the tale, Love’s Nest. Kristin wrote, “I don’t see why the secret kingdom is so evil. The reason the tale is so popular is because every girl (and possibly boy) wishes she had a secret door in her room that led to a magical kingdom, whether or not dancing all night would be their dream scenario.”

The door to imagination

I think every girl and boy does wish she/he had a secret door in his/her room that led to a magical kingdom, and every girl and boy does, in fact, have such a door. That door is called their imagination. Or to take it a step farther, the door is the choice to explore a creative life for those who choose to step through that door and commit to what they find there.

Much has been said over the years by authors much more talented than I about the benefits and costs of a creative life. One thing is sure, there is a cost to the creative life. If you choose to enter that magical door in your room and follow the path, when you return you’ll find the world a little more confusing than when you left.

You’ll find it a struggle to fit the time in that world in alongside the responsibilities of the day-to-day, and you’ll realize it’s nearly impossible to speak of fantastical worlds to people who don’t use the magical doors in their bedrooms—or perhaps have forgotten how to use them. You’ll realize that work piled up while you were missing, an appointment was forgotten, the dogs are hungry, and the children have needs that need to be met. Oh, wait, maybe I’m just talking about me. But we all know that I’m not—I’m talking about anyone who uses that door and commits to going where that passage takes them.

Love’s Nest: an m/m fairy tale

 Our new book Love’s Nest already mixes up the original story  by exploring the possibility of gay love within the tale, and by making one of the “princesses” a prince. But Love’s Nest, like all other versions of the tale, can act as an allegory for those who choose the creative life. It portrays in its own way the devotion and mixed emotions of creator and creations, of the magical, addictive, compelling properties of the magical places creative people travel to, and the difficulties of merging the two worlds. Sometimes, an attempt to merge results in the destruction of everything and the loss of something meaningful and important to us. Sometimes what is lost or threatened is something from the real world, and sometimes it’s from the magical one in our mind.

Do you step through the door to your magical kingdom?

Love’s Nest is available through:

Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Loves-Nest-Tempting-Tales-ebook/dp/B00E1NXKKO/

Barnes & Noble – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/loves-nest-leta-blake/1116110480

Ellora’s Cave – http://www.ellorascave.com/love-s-nest.html

All Romance EBooks- https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-love039snest-1247145-340.html

While Leta Blake would love to tell you that writing transports her to worlds of magic and wonder and then safely returns her to a home of sparkling cleanliness and carefully folded laundry, the reality is a bit different. For as long as Leta can recall, stories have hijacked her mind, abducting her to other lands, and forcing her to bend to the will of imaginary people. This absence from reality results in piles of laundry and forgotten appointments. In between abductions, Leta works hard at achieving balance between her day job, her writing, and her family. You can find Leta online at her websiteFacebook and Twitter.

After writing for years yet never really finding the right inspiration, Keira discovered her voice in gay romance, which has become a passion. She writes contemporary, historical and fantasy fiction, and – although she loves delicious angst along the way – Keira firmly believes in happy endings. For as Oscar Wilde once said, “The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what Fiction means.” You can find out more about Keira and her books online at her website, Facebook and Twitter.