Thanks, Erin and Racheline, for inviting me to be a guest at your unconventional holiday celebration!
When I learned Erin and Racheline were planning a series on unlikable characters I jumped at the chance to join in. I love unlikable characters. Yes, I really do, even in—or maybe especially in—Romances. So many Male-Male Romances are full of characters that are almost too perfect: chiseled hunks, pretty young guys, rich guys and famous guys and literal heroes like cops, soldiers, and firefighters. Those books are great—I read them too. But what about the rest of us?
Maybe you fit one or more of the “almost too perfect” types to one degree or another, but maybe not. In all honesty, I can’t say that I do. One of the things I love most about Queer Romance is that I can see myself, my experiences and my attitudes, in some of the stories. And that includes the faults and the flab, and the person who picks up pennies from the sidewalk hoping they’ll find enough for a meal.
One of my characters in Cascades is fairly unlikable. When we first meet Doug he’s living on the streets of Vancouver, BC, selling pot to get by. Not exactly a heroic line of work, but at least he eats every day. JB isn’t a prince either—he’s nursing both his broken heart and an intense dislike for the holidays with no plans to let either condition change anytime soon. But I love both of them because even though they’re not perfect, they haven’t given up. Both men do what they have to in order to get through the days and nights, but they’re not so jaded to pass up a second chance when it comes along.
Here’s a short, exclusive, excerpt from Cascades. This is from Doug’s point of view, after he’s stormed out of a…discussion…with JB.
I found a spot where I used to hole up before I started working for Rafe. Decriminalization was the best thing that ever happened to a bunch of us. No real threat of jail and no state-run places to get weed. My gig was just like those traveling snake oil salesmen, except my product really did cure what ailed most folks. A temporary cure is more than anyone can reasonably expect most days.
That wasn’t really the best thing that ever happened to me. No. The best thing that ever happened to me just got accosted by a dirty street bum and then abandoned. Again. That it happened in a cheap room meant for backpackers and mules probably didn’t make it feel any better than waking up in your own bed alone.
I crawled up onto the abandoned loading dock, into the warehouse, and collapsed in the corner. The best thing to do would be to find Rafe and see if he had any work, but I felt like someone had just pushed a blade up under my ribs and twisted it. And I’d thought my heart had shriveled up into nothing years ago.
But no. It remembered JB too well. It still held pictures of him silhouetted as the light slanted through the trees on a cold, misty morning, how powerful he looked wielding a chainsaw more than half as long as he was tall. I almost cut my own leg off more than once while watching him work, half forgetting the live chainsaw in my own hands. Maybe that would’ve been better—if not a clean break, at least a quick one.
I hadn’t realized what it meant when he said it, but if JB was working at the bar, something must’ve happened in the woods. He wasn’t one of those guys who wanted to raze the world, but he came from a logging family, and the money clinched it. For both of us.
Or maybe something had happened to Pete so he couldn’t run the place by himself anymore. I hadn’t regretted being out of touch this bad in decades. At least that’s what I decided to tell myself.
One thing I knew, though: JB didn’t take care of anyone he didn’t like, didn’t love. He might have been cursed with a big, soft heart, but he wasn’t anybody’s bitch.
At least that used to be true. He also used to love me, but sometimes a man doesn’t deserve a second chance.
By the time I finished my pity party and pulled myself together, it was dark. Which worked out perfectly. All night, I moved Rafe’s best product from one end of the city to the other. Instead of using my cut to blur the sharp edges of the life my mistakes added up to, I sold it to a guy I knew wouldn’t pass it to any kids.
The next morning I showed the barber cash, and he cut my hair and shaved my face.
I waited outside the hostel for two days and didn’t see hide nor hair of JB.
Justice “JB” Bishop tells himself he’s satisfied with life in the small town of Upright, Oregon. He was born and raised there, and has settled into a comfortable, if lonely, routine working at his uncle’s bar. JB doesn’t expect anything to change after he turns fifty, until an old friend drops in. She suggests he get out of town for the holidays, and soon JB finds himself on an Amtrak to Canada. JB expected to feel different in Canada, to see things he couldn’t see at home. He never expected to find the one who got away.
Charley Descoteaux has always heard voices. She was relieved to learn they were fictional characters, and started writing when they insisted daydreaming just wasn’t good enough. In exchange, they’ve agreed to let her sleep once in a while. Charley grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area during a drought, and found her true home in the soggy Pacific Northwest. She has survived earthquakes, tornadoes, and floods, but couldn’t make it through one day without stories.
Rattle Charley’s cages:
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: December 9, 2015
Cover Artist: Bree Archer