HEIDI CULLININ’S “SHORT STAY”

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Heidi Cullinan has produced another treasure. On May 24, 2016, SHORT STAY comes out. The novella is Number 3.5 in the Love Lessons series. I’m honored to offer an official blurb and an excerpt below.

Warning: If you’re expecting a critical review of Heidi Cullinan’s writing, you’ll need to look elsewhere. I adore her novels. Anyone who’s experienced rejection and condemnation of their true selves will vicariously triumph with Heidi’s guys. With their vastly different personalities and talents, they scrabble through the wreckage of post-traumatic stress to find their places in the world.

The Love Lessons series focuses on the new freedom of young men in college. In Short Stay, we continue with Baz and Elijah’s newborn relationship.

Status: they’re stuck. They’ve each spent years behind tough facades. They have no problem leaping to each other’s defense, but communicating needs, fears, and miserable doubts? Nope. Not their thing. Instead they try to read each other’s minds.

Doesn’t work.

Baz’s socialite mother worsens their stress. In desperation Baz comes up with the idea of a Las Vegas road trip. Walter and Kelly from the first novel in the series (Love Lessons) accompany Baz and Elijah. It’s a kick to watch them meet up in Las Vegas with characters from other novels. All the friendships and relationships deepen in subtle ways.

I’m particularly impressed with Heidi Cullinan’s deft skill in transforming each guy’s vulnerability into strength. Together and separately, the young men learn how to become who they were meant to be. As they mature, their relationship power levels keep shifting. Friends and lovers push and pull each other toward fulfilling, meaningful lives.

A highly satisfying series.

 


 

THE OFFICIAL BLURB: SHORT STAY
Book 3.5 in the Love Lessons Series

 

Hot messes have a hard time with happily ever after.

 

Baz Acker and Elijah Prince have it all. They’re engaged, and their wedding is guaranteed to be a spectacle no event will ever top. So why are they hunkered down in a quiet corner of the Acker mansion, restless and edgy while they wait out the holidays?

When Baz suggests a road trip with Walter and Kelly to Las Vegas, it sounds like an ideal escape, but it turns out Vegas only amplifies their unease. Elijah can’t slough off the self-hating his parents programmed into him, and he worries how that will affect his marriage. Baz, crippled en route because of too much time spent in the car without rest, must face the truth that his wealth and influence can’t always counteract the limits his disability will put on his—and Elijah’s—life.

With help from their friends, a wily poker player, a take-no-prisoners drag queen, and a smooth-talking casino owner, they face the truth that happiness is a state of mind, not a destination where they book a stay. What happens in Vegas won’t stay in Vegas—it will follow them all the way down the aisle.

 

Note: This novella was written for and by the request of Heidi’s Patreon readers. It is a continuation of a story begun in the novel Lonely Hearts in the Love Lessons series, also incorporating characters from the Special Delivery series. It is suggested but not required that you read at least Lonely Hearts before reading this book.

 

Buy links: All Romance EbooksAmazon USSmashwords iTunesKobo • Nook
Audiobook: coming soon
GoodreadsExcerptShort Stay Spotify Playlist

(bonus: Kelly’s Disney Favorites Playlist)

 


 

EXCERPT: Picking a Vegas Hotel

 

Elijah grinned wickedly and held up his phone. “Giles and Aaron are absolutely green that they didn’t get to come. They said they would have totally been our drivers.”“They aren’t twenty-one.” Baz wiped his mouth with his napkin. “They wouldn’t be able to go to most bars, and they wouldn’t be allowed on the casino floor.”

Kelly wrinkled his nose. “I don’t know if I want to gamble.”
Walter nudged him. “You can do a few penny slots. Or be my arm candy while I play poker.”

Elijah flicked gently at the bridge of Baz’s glasses. “You should play poker. They’d just think your glasses were part of your schtick.”

Baz stifled a wince at how that small gesture made his eyes throb. “Craps is more my game.”

They talked nonstop for the last leg of their trip, imagining the adventures they were about to have, looking up possible excursions on their phones. Even Elijah began to get excited. “I had no idea there was so much to do. Now I wish we had more than a few days to stay.”

“I wish I didn’t have to get back to work.” Walter was driving, or rather he was behind the wheel while the Tesla situated itself precisely in the lane. “But alas, I do. Kelly and I both have to be in Minneapolis by the fourth.”

They came over the crest of a hill, and suddenly there it was: Las Vegas. The city sprawled across the desert, a throbbing oasis in a sea of sand. Great grids of brown dotted with tiny shapes of houses until the Strip erupted, framed by the mountains in the distance. It would have been more impressive at night with all the lights, but two in the afternoon wasn’t anything to sneeze at either.

Baz had programmed the hotel into the navigation, but Kelly rerouted them in a detour of the Strip with a stop at the famous sign. They couldn’t find a place to park, but plenty of other people were slowing down to get a glimpse. Kelly managed to snap a picture through the moonroof.

“Okay, let’s see this hotel,” Walter declared, and they were on to their final destination.

Baz had a little misgiving about his choice as they took in the grandeur of the casinos on the Strip. He wanted to impress Elijah without overwhelming him, a fine line Baz was still learning how to negotiate. The smaller casino had seemed so much more them, though he’d admit mostly he’d seen “ten rainbow flags” and “resident drag queen” and leapt. Plus their suite had a view of the Strip. It also had a hot tub, the photo of which had Baz already thinking about how he’d get busy in it. But the Strip casinos were varying degrees of awesome too. Super-kitschy, elegant, modern—everything was there. As they drove by Bellagio, Baz kicked himself, thinking he should have booked there. He almost had, but they hadn’t had a suite available, and the pictures of the lobby made Baz imagine Elijah bitching about being out of place.

He wanted this trip to be perfect. He wanted it to make Elijah relax and show him that no matter what, Baz would always make everything okay.

As they pulled up to Herod’s Poker Room and Casino, Baz began to feel a lot better about his choice for their accommodations. It was elegant in a more traditional, understated way. It reminded Baz a little bit from the outside of his mother’s favorite old hotel in St. Paul, both the architecture and the quiet dignity of the bell staff. It was nice without being imposing. Small enough, too, that Baz could flash some money and probably get some VIP treatment.

He felt pretty good about his choice before they got out of the car, but what sealed the deal was what he saw as he exited the Tesla and handed the keys to the valet. Along the side of the building, just under the overhang, hung the Nevada flag, the US flag, and four bright, proud rainbow flags. When Elijah spied them, he visibly relaxed. Baz did too. This was going to fix everything. Elijah’s nerves, his quietness, his lack of faith that Baz could take care of him.

He was sure of it.

 


 

Remember, readers! Comment below to qualify for a free copy of Short Stay. On May 27, a commenter will be chosen.

SPECIAL

With so much ugliness mushrooming near and far, last weekend I was heartened by an awesome gift from the Northern California Special Olympics: proof that altruism and joy do exist.One of my young adult relatives competed in volleyball. The team members ranged in age from twenties to seventies. They lived in the moment, utterly devoted to the game. A sixty-year-old man clapped and bunny-hopped in victory. A young woman gave her audience face-splitting grins and thumbs-up no matter what happened to the ball. Entire teams dutifully raised their arms to receive serves—and kept their arms raised, watching with peaceful interest as the ball hit the floor beside them.

I laughed at the same time I fought tears. People with special needs have their behavioral ups and downs, and caring for them is a challenge. Nevertheless, as the players either planted themselves in one spot or threw themselves at the ball and even popped it over the net, their innocent joy was shocking in its beauty.

The tournament will forever shine in my memory, but nothing glows brighter than the moment my often-miserable relative achieved an especially good point and checked out my reaction. I waved both arms and yelled. The responding helpless giggles hammered my heart.

Many of the players were elderly, and I was confronted with an awful reality: their parents had passed on with no choice but to entrust their special children to others.
We desperately need organizations like the Special Olympics. I witnessed respectful teens guide sometimes confused players on and off the courts, keep score and line-judge. Adults worked as referees, coaches, bus drivers, tournament managers, and more. They were generous with their time, energy and experience. They cared.

World-wide ugliness captures our attention with its screaming volume, and honorable people quietly donate their time to give special adults the thrill of playing before appreciative crowds.

I wonder if they fully comprehend the enormity of their gift.
SO Shirt (1)

DREAMSPINNERS AND RAINBOWS

Dreamspinner Press Badge

As an affirmed cave-dweller, I typically leave for writing conferences with about thirty percent happy anticipation topped by seventy percent unfiltered terror. In this mode, I made my way from California to Florida for the Dreamspinner Press Author’s Workshop in early March.

The happiness/terror percentage immediately reversed. In the soft Orlando air, a dazzling group of professionals welcomed, educated, and entertained me. We were united in our love of fiction that celebrates the freedom of sexual identity in all its forms.

Dining with authors whose books crowd my e-reader, I was a little star struck. (Okay, a lot. I impressed myself by speaking intelligible English.) At one of the meals, B.G. Thomas asked what had inspired me to write gay romance. I stumbled through an explanation that included the sheer fun of the genre, but even to myself, I’d never been able to articulate a complete answer to that question.

Later that evening, Librarian Kate and I discussed the reasons we love gay romance. Without minimizing the tragedy of any type of gay oppression, we agreed that in some ways women have been thrown into a similar box: we’re rejected for how we’re made. Throughout millennia, women have been marginalized—and worse—for how the cells in our bodies are formed.

Good fiction pulls us into a character’s point of view, and that character’s triumphs provide a vicarious thrill. Gay romance offers a unique type of liberation. The partners aren’t locked into traditional roles of female disempowerment versus male power.

Various difficulties have taught me only those who share my exact life experiences can fully grasp my point of view. I can’t know what it’s like to be another person, but this limitation only adds to my desire to enjoy fictional relationships and stretch my understanding.

Throughout the workshop weekend, an impressive array of experts expanded my awareness with their insights and knowledge. Elizabeth North gifted us with her astute perspective on the industry. Multi-published authors focused narrowly on specific building blocks for characterization, plotting, and marketing. As a disgruntled technophobe, I was particularly pleased with detailed suggestions for working with social media.

At the conclusion of this authorial feast, we enjoyed a tasty dessert: an FBI agent fed our bloodthirsty appetites with a forensics lecture, sprinkled with fascinating tidbits.

The workshop’s biggest impact came from those who generously shared their self-acceptance. I gained a measure of serenity from people who’ve staked their claim to celebrate their appearance, sexual identity, and pleasure in publishing gay romance. They’re flourishing beyond the parameters of a rigid little box.

Our rainbow romance genre is wonderful. Having traveled from coast to coast, I found myself at home.