Name: Amy Lane
Websites, Email, and Social Networks:
Describe your writing style using just one sentence.
I write gritty funny angsty fuck-ups using pinball machine verbiage and syncopated stylistics.
Complete this sentence: I write m/m because…
I write m/m because I like men, and so do my characters, and because all western archetypes that change the world and stand as equals are male, and I like to swim in those waters.
You’re here to promote your novella from Riptide Publishing, Country Mouse.
Out April 23, 2012
Buy Link: Riptide Publishing
Available from the following etailers:
Owen was a little nervous as he walked into the pub. London was a new experience for him, noisy and crowded. Taxi and bus drivers seemed hell-bent on killing everybody who crossed the roads, like this was really their space, and everybody seemed in a constant rush. His guide—his ex-girlfriend Jenny, who’d been here before—had pleaded a headache and stayed back at the hotel.
Owen was pretty sure she’d made eyes with an old boyfriend from her time in London and was meeting him for a little somethin’ somethin’. Well, good for Jenny. Shitty of her to leave him in a new city to fend for himself, but since they were no longer doing that, well, a girl had to get some, right? But then, that left him in the middle of . . . well, wherever the fuck he was.
Somewhere in the West End, which was a crazy area: Chinatown right next to Old Compton Street, which held all the gay bars he could want. And then there was more of Soho, with hard-worn prostitutes lining the surprisingly crooked, dark and dingy alleys, which again were only a few blocks away from the bombastic facades of Regent Street with its collection of luxury stores.
The city was a lot more than he could take in on a first day, and part of him considered just getting a drink and going back to the hotel. The crisp cold certainly hadn’t invited him to stay outside for long or wander the streets. Still, he wasn’t so sure about this pub. It hadn’t seemed so funky on the outside—just an entrance on a corner in an old brick building (Victorian? That made it more than a hundred years old!)—but inside, it was all dark wood and the tang of cigarette smoke in the air, even though a sign said that smoking was forbidden. Maybe they’d just never re-painted it.
But the large pint glass was dirty, too, and the wood of the bar sticky to the touch. Patrons ranged from a gaggle of Italian schoolgirls sucking on their little Coke bottles, to a few blue-collar guys crowded around the TV showing soccer, to a guy in a smart suit propping up the bar.
That guy, well, he caught Owen’s attention. Short dark hair gelled into spikes, rather incongruous with his gray pinstripe suit and brown pointy-toed shoes. He wore rimless glasses, and looked halfway between twenty and thirty. He’d propped his elbows on the bar, making his suit jacket ride up, showing off very nicely-shaped thighs and ass in the tailored suit. He’d just downed his second vodka shot and was waving for a third.
Owen kept looking at the guy, trying to figure out where he’d come from. His suit was sharp—Owen wasn’t an expert on these things, but it screamed stockbroker or lawyer or (shudder!) politician. Maybe that was the sort of thing loan sharks—or people investing in really seedy pubs—wore in London, but not in the States. That suit, and the fine ass within it, did not belong here.
And he was drinking top-shelf vodka from a dirty glass.
And, oh shit, he was looking directly at Owen.
Owen felt his face go hot and looked down into his lap at his baggy student jeans and Sac State hoodie. Of course, that suit wasn’t the only thing that didn’t belong here, was it?
The rim of his beer glass had mung on it, something three-dimensional and brown, and he picked at it with a well-trimmed nail, wondering what his mom would say about this ill-advised trip to the pub.
Go to Europe, baby. Have an adventure. Buy something you don’t need, see things you only see in movies, kiss someone who looks a little bit dangerous. But be careful, baby. You’re only there on loan.
His mother—a single woman and a free spirit, but not stupid about the perils of the world, or her only child set loose in it. She’d probably approve of this pub, and even approve of him ogling that man, but would maybe tell him to call it a night at the crap stuck to the beer glass.
He looked curiously at the sticky bar again, and wondered who MLM and STR were, because apparently it was TLA. There was a sudden movement at his side, the crisp slink of silk and linen, and Owen turned his head.
“I wouldn’t drink the draft here,” said the man with the crescent glasses. He had an accent beyond the flat Soho slang Owen enjoyed, and he didn’t even crack a smile. “It’ll give you sepsis.”
Owen pulled up one side of his mouth and took a deliberate swig, then grimaced. Sure enough, it tasted like Satan’s piss in a glass mug. “Well, not all of us are wise enough for top shelf.”
The man arched an eyebrow, one corner of his lean mouth turning down. “I thought I told you not to drink.”
“And I thought you weren’t my mother,” Owen shot back, taking another gulp of the world’s worst beer.
The man quirked a finger at the bartender, and while Owen was still swishing that last mouthful around, trying to work up the courage to swallow, a tumbler of Grey Goose clinked on the bar in front of him. He was so surprised that his throat worked and the beer was gone, and shitty pub and the funky smell and the Italian schoolgirls and working class television-watchers all disappeared.
What remained was the stranger, looking at him sideways with his lean mouth compressed in a taunt, and an actually clean tumbler, two fingers full of first-class liquor.
“What’s this?” he asked dumbly, and the stranger snorted.
“Are your hands clean?”
Owen held them out in front of them and shrugged. “Yeah.” He was unprepared for the stranger’s cool, strong grip as the man seized his hand. Owen was surprised enough to let his hand be dragged to the tumbler and his index finger inserted halfway into the liquid. He glared indignantly and snatched his hand back, pulling his finger up to his mouth to suck off the drop of vodka clinging to it.
He closed his eyes in sudden appreciation and moaned.
“Drink. The Bloody. Vodka.”
The man watched him with what seemed like too-intense interest for a couple moments. His eyes were pale blue, a quarter of one iris blacked out by a spot—making the iris look like a waning moon—and Owen found that getting the glass between him and that glare was the only thing he could do to keep from staring back. It most likely wasn’t anger or aggression; maybe the guy was just high-strung. Or a cocaine addict. Weren’t they supposed to be too loud and a bit twitchy? Not that this guy was twitchy. But his eyebrow arched. Owen took a mouthful of the vodka and swallowed it, the liquid oily, crisp, and extremely strong.
“There you go. Wasn’t so hard, was it?”
Owen breathed out hard, the vodka rasping his throat. “Fucking wonderful. Are you going to give some to the teenagers next?”
That arch in the eyebrow twitched, and then the lean mouth quirked back, revealing the hint of a dimple behind it. “That was not part of my plan, no.”
Owen took an experimental sip of what was left. It was still better than the beer. “Then what’s your plan here?”
“Certainly not getting Italian school girls shitfaced. That way lies disaster.” The guy quirked another grin that seemed to suggest he was only temporarily not in a disaster-causing mood. “Otherwise, I’m looking for a hookup, as my original one seems to be stuck in a Tube tunnel or chickened out.”
“Chickened out? Not exactly a stellar recommendation for you as a hookup, is it?” Owen took another sip, the burn from that big swallow giving him courage. “I might be safer with the Italian schoolgirls.”
“Safer, yes,” the stranger said, as though he were actually thinking about it. “More satisfied? I highly doubt it.”
Owen took a deep breath and shook his hair out of his face. He tilted his head back and looked at the mysterious stranger from half-lidded eyes. Slick. Slick and arrogant. Not usually Owen’s flavor, but then, there was always the possibility of something softer underneath the silk-suit veneer. “I’m a bit of a country mouse, here. Do you really think I’m up to your big-city, pricey-vodka seduction? I could be the most disappointing hookup in the history of ever. Maybe you should move on.”
The stranger flicked a finger against Owen’s cheek, and Owen flinched from the touch, which was both impersonal and intimate at once. He’d thought it was Americans who intruded on personal space by British standards. “You talk too much,” he said with speculation. “I’d love to see you gagged.”
When his mother had talked about having an adventure, she probably hadn’t meant, “Find a random British psychopath and get gagged and tied down and dismembered.” That was stuff for the worst news stories, right? Missing American male (23) found in two suitcases on the bottom of the River Thames. Not exactly the role he’d audition for, the sane part of him thought.
But his sense of adventure (fine, other parts, too) readily agreed. Fantasy stuff, things he’d dreamed about but hadn’t been quite ready to contemplate actually doing. But shouldn’t he know this guy better first? At least, you know, have a name or something?
His phone buzzed, and he grimaced, then reached sheepishly into his pocket to pull it out. Fantasies were one thing, but getting picked up in a bar without telling anyone where you were was not practical.
Mysterious Stranger raised his eyebrow, and then leaned intimidatingly close—close enough to see Jenny’s text: Where R U?
Some bar in So-Ho. He looked meaningfully at Mysterious Stranger, and added Getting hit on by some prick who hasn’t even told me his name.
A soft exhalation told him the man had read that and was highly amused. Good. Let him be amused. But he was going to have to cough up a name before he got Owen anywhere near a bottle of lube and a (shudder) blindfold and plug. (Okay, where had the plug come in?)
Is he cute?! was the reply.
He’s really hot, if you like uptight yuppies with too much hair gel.
The sound behind Owen was indignant this time, and a pointed chin dug into his shoulder as the stranger cast all the rest of his personal space in the crapper and got close enough behind him to breathe in his ear. Which, of course, so not fair.
But you DO like uptight yuppies with too much hair gel! Jenny complained, and Owen closed his eyes in embarrassment. Of course—the problem with friends was that they knew you.
“You’ll like me, I swear,” Mysterious Stranger promised.
Aren’t you supposed to be getting laid? Owen asked Jenny, scowling.
Yeah, but that was a SHORT performance. He could almost hear her answering scowl in the words on the small screen.
“Sign off,” Bossy Stranger muttered in his ear. “You talk too bloody much on the phone, too.”
“Not until I get a name,” Owen replied pertly. “I need to tell her who to have the police searching for when I don’t show up in the morning.” On the phone he texted, Yeah, sometimes, with quickies, shortness is guaranteed.
“No such thing here,” Mystery Man said. Owen should probably call him Jack the Ripper, just to rile him up more. But then the man said, “Malcolm. Kavanagh. Only one in the City, you can check me out on Facebook or something.”
Malcolm ran his hands along Owen’s flanks, a strong grip promising control.
“Fucking queers,” somebody muttered from the corner.
Owen jerked, and Malcolm half-turned, but let him go only slowly, reluctantly. “This can go two ways,” Malcolm said. “Either we depart now, or I’m taking that arsehole’s teeth first.” First being the operative, very-much-emphasized word here.
“Are you going to need help with that?” Owen asked, “or can you take on a shitload of rednecks all by your lonesome?” On the phone he texted, Malcolm Kavanagh, so you know which guy to bail out of jail with me, and Malcolm turned to look at him.
“Well, I’d like to think you’d help.”
Owen shrugged, but stood up. His cousins had been a rowdy bunch of kids; he’d never backed down from a fight.
The gaggle of guys in the corner measured them for a few moments, doing some quick calculations, but clearly the thought that the queers wouldn’t just scamper off hadn’t figured. “No hard feelings, mate,” one of them said and lifted his beer glass. Thankfully, somebody on the TV scored a goal just then, and the men turned quite touchy-feely themselves with hugs and shoulder slaps.
“Opium for the masses,” Malcolm said. “Let’s go before they realize how gay they look.”
Owen snickered, then covered his mouth. He took one more look at his phone (which was still clenched in his hand) and told Jenny, Give your guy a lick-me-up, and see if he’s good for another round. I have a feeling I’ll be late.
* * * * *
Malcolm inhaled the more-or-less fresh air deeply. Why was it that fresh air rarely sobered, only made him more aware that he was getting drunk? Drunk—the thought made him snort. If he’d eaten anything at all today, he wouldn’t even be feeling the three shots. They’d barely have counted as a warm-up during his apprenticeship at the trading desk. But then, he’d learned under Bill “Water Buffalo” Porter, whose idea of a drink after work was to lay waste to at least one bar and one strip club.
Good old days. He rolled his neck. “Nicer bar, food, or my place?” he asked the wide-eyed Yank he’d somehow acquired in that pisshole.
The Yank was cute, looked innocent, but Malcolm had really only decided to fuck him when he’d faced the bullies, too. He didn’t like queens in distress, so this was a refreshing change. He was well-built, too, really quite pretty. Not that Malcolm always had the highest standards.
“Food,” said the Yank. “I’m starving.”
“Aren’t you young enough to survive on other fuel?” Seriously, where was the spirit of adventure in this man? Sure, he’d been willing to stand up to the proles, but otherwise, he seemed to be milking the “country mouse” bit way too hard.
The Yank stopped suddenly in the street. “Hi,” he said, his face flat and unfriendly. “My name is Owen Watson. I’m twenty-three, bisexual, and I’ve been in your country exactly seventeen hours. In that time, I’ve eaten some shitty beer and half a shot of vodka. Before I see how serious you are about a gag, I’d really like a fucking burger, if you don’t mind.”
Oh, this was much better. Malcolm found himself smiling—not a quirk of the lips, but a full, dimple–to-dimple grin. “Do you expect me to pay for that?” he asked, although he fully intended to.
“Only if you plan to top,” Owen said sourly. “That’s how we do things in the States. If you’re gonna get fucked, you get dinner first.”
Not a rule Malcolm recognized from his brief stint on Wall Street, but he did like that the kid was making him work for it. Kid. He was barely six-and-a-half years older. “I know just the place. If it’s still there; places in London have recently been opening and closing faster than a cheap whore’s legs.” He glanced around, got his bearings and headed down one of the dark alleys, cutting through the occasional group of tourists braving the cold, but he kept an eye on Owen to make sure he was following. “Bisexual? Aren’t we all a bit? Girlfriend? She the one you’re texting?”
Owen shook his head. “No, she’s a friend. She had the money, wanted a friend on the trip. I wanted the trip, didn’t mind being a friend.”
“So,” he asked, still amused, “how bisexual are you?”
“I’ve had three serious relationships.” Owen sounded resentful, as if wondering who Malcolm was to ask him to quantify. “Two female, one male. They all ended well, we’re still friends, but my ex-guy is dating my ex-girl, and Jenny’s currently getting banged by the guy she had before me. Are we all caught up now?”
“Serious? And you’re still friends? You’re the forgiving kind.” Or a pushover. Or possibly really a well-adjusted kid. It would be interesting to find out which.
“I’m all about the forgiveness,” Owen said, and Malcolm couldn’t tell if he was being bitter or not.
What motivated you to write this story, and what do you hope readers will take away with us having read it?
Aleks and I were talking about finding our mojo—his to write, mine to work out. I’d read Aleks’s work, and I knew it was raw and edgy and oh-so-hot! I told him that if his mojo found mine, my mojo would be left face down on the couch, covered in come. We pretty much had to write it then.
I suggested the country mouse/city mouse idea because my characters are always sort of wholesome, sweet guys, even my porn stars, right? And I knew that Aleksandr tended to write harder edged characters. I thought that if we had one of my sweethearts and one of Aleks’s dominating types in the same city, interesting things would happen.
Tell me a little about the cover to this work. What does it say to you?
The thing I like most about this cover is Malcolm with the city as the background. One of the things that came about as we were writing is that Aleksandr gave Owen and me a virtual tour of the city, complete with really fun facts. I think the cover, with the scene of London lit by night in the background, really compliments that idea.
You two have written this novella as a collaborative effort. Tell me a little bit about that process. Do you find this to be more or less difficult than writing solo? Why or why not?
It was a blast that’s what it was. I started by introducing Owen and his POV, and then, after I set up “lonely guy in alien city pub” Aleksandr took over and gave us Malcolm. We were using Google docs, which meant that sometimes, the banter between our characters really WAS written as we went—that introductory scene where Owen and Malcolm do a snarky little dance around each other, that was us taking each character and following through with what he would say. As we continued, we got to the point where one of us would write a couple of pages and then the other would step in, and then we’d be back to writing “face to face” as it were. The ending scene was written with one and then the other of us going full bore, while the person NOT moving the cursor was giving suggestions in the comment box. My family was going apenuts while I wrote that—they were hungry, we didn’t have any milk, mum needed to go buy snack for my youngest daughter’s school the next day—but we were so close to being done, and we had such amazing emotional momentum. And it was late, late at night Aleksandr’s time, and he didn’t want to give up either. I think that sort of urgency and excitement shows in the final product—it was a real rush.
When you were researching and writing this book, did you face any particular challenges? What did you learn that you perhaps didn’t know before?
Aleks was a champ about taking me through some of the finer points of London—he was awesome. Our guys would go to a restaurant and he’d send me a menu and ask me what Owen would order, and I’d get to see a part of the world I never would have. It was funny—after the story was over, I was with my family in San Diego, and Aleksandr’s partner had just taken some pictures in London and he sent them to me. I was so in love with his city, and he was justifiably proud. Unfortunately, all I had in return was a shot of Highway 5, from Los Angeles to Sacramento—he said he’d never seen so much emptiness—I told him it went on for three hundred and fifty miles. I really got the better of that bargain, I think.
Tell us about your upcoming work. What’s next?
I always have stuff in the works—in addition to Country Mouse in April, I’ve got Gambling Men: The Novel and the Talker anthology in May; I’m part of The Three Fates anthology with Mary Calmes and Andrew Grey in June as well as having a very quirky little short called Do-over coming out with the Dreamspinner Press Daily Dose; Sidecar is a novel I have coming out in July, Mourning Heaven is a novel coming out in August/September, and I’m currently working on the sequel to Chase in Shadow called Dex in Blue.
Any last words for us?
Beware of Bruce Springsteen. That boy has been a songworm in my ear for my entire life, and I wrote Mourning Heaven after listening to the Magic CD ad infinitum. You can practically hear harmonicas in the prose. That is one dangerous storyteller there—and he’s infectious. Just thought it needed to be said, that’s all. That sort of thing is important.