Friday, May 31, 2013

Backlist Bloghop

You can never have too many bloghops, right? Seriously? It's always fun to remember the books that came
first, the ones that brought you to where you are now.

Which takes me back to Max. To The Max was my first published novel. It was released by Dreamspinner Press on March 26, 2010. Even after more than three years, that date is etched upon my memory. For some people, it's the first time they had a drink, had sex, did drugs - for me it's the release of my first novel.

Max is very close to my heart. He's my gay male alter ego, and I don't think I'll ever stop writing him. I'm working on the third book now, and looking for a new home for the second (which I pulled from the sinking ship that is Silver).

Max is a 44 year old gay werewolf, who's been with his lover, Richard, for over twenty years. He writes a syndicated advice column called To The Max, and tries to get along with people and not make waves. His mother, Juliet, is more accepting of his lycanthropy than his homosexuality. His boyfriend comes and goes when he pleases, without a word of explanation or apology. Then there's his kooky sister Diana, and his cousin Sebastian, his good friend Cat... and now his mother is dating a homophobic minister? Welcome to Max's world!

Since I'm reminiscing, I'm going to let Max reminisce a little too - about the first time he kissed a boy. Enjoy!

And if you read to the end, you'll find out about my giveaway!

Sunday, November 16, 1969  

I REMEMBER the first time that I kissed another boy. I was thirteen at the time. Puberty was beginning to manifest itself on my unsuspecting body, which had enough to deal with on a monthly basis without
throwing out-of-whack hormones into the mix. It was at Rachel’s thirteenth birthday party. If it hadn’t been for Rachel, I’d have had next to no contact with other children, being homeschooled and not inclined
toward making new friends. Which was the way Juliet preferred it, determined to protect her little Max from the outside world. But Rachel’s mother had planned something special, and we begged my mother for weeks to let me go, until she reluctantly gave in.

 Rachel made sure that I was there well in advance. I had been careful to make myself presentable, although she encouraged me not to be too formal, so I made do with my best pair of cords and a nice shirt. Once there, I made myself useful and helped her mom set things up. Mrs. Sheldon was always nice to me—she was a very nice lady—she never minded how much I came over or how often Rachel zipped over to my house, never treated me like a pest, and always had time to listen to whatever I found the nerve to say. Which was a lot, surprisingly. She had a knack for drawing people out of themselves. She encouraged my
and Rachel’s friendship, as did my mother, although for different reasons. Juliet seemed to understand that we were close friends, nothing more, and that was fine with her.

The party was scheduled to go off at two, and a few minutes before the appointed time, the arrivals began. I had seen a few of the other guests at Rachel’s house before, had had limited contact with some of them. Most of them were her classmates from the local public school she went to, and there seemed to be far more girls in attendance than boys. For the most part I shyly kept to myself, spoke if I was spoken to, was polite. Rachel, my little social butterfly, although the center of attention, always returned to me, making sure that I wasn’t alone for long. That girl has always had my best interests at heart. Always watched out for me, even then. Still does, to this day.

The party was being held in the basement, which was also the rec room. Adult supervision was right upstairs—Mrs. Sheldon and some of the other mothers were gathered together in the kitchen, drinking coffee
and chattering—but for the most part we were left to our own devices, which consisted largely of talking, listening to music, and eating. Until the games began, that is.

I was standing in the corner of the room nearest to the table where a vast array of pizza had been set out, as well as the mandatory chips and dip—what party was complete without the taste of homemade French onion dip, made from real sour cream and dry onion soup mix?—thinking what a terrific combination that was in my book, when another boy approached the table, looked over its offerings before selecting a slice of pizza and claiming it. He regarded me for a moment as he ate the pizza, giving me time to look him over as well. He had curly black hair and mocha eyes, and for a boy I thought that his bowshaped lips were rather pink. I envied him his glossy curls; I thought my own hair boring and totally uninteresting, while his was dark and
mysterious. I liked his looks, he seemed nice, and I didn’t analyze it any further than that.

He chewed his pizza, swallowed, before he addressed me. “I hear they’re going to have games?” I nodded. Rachel had told me beforehand everything that was planned. “Girls.” He shrugged. “Hope they’re not too stupid.” I only kept nodding, like some sort of idiot savant. Luckily he didn’t seem to notice. “You’re Max, aren’t you? I’m Gene.”

Before I had a chance to say anything even remotely stupid, Rachel bustled over and shepherded us to the other side of the room, telling us that our presence was required for the first game, which turned out to be pin the tail on the donkey, which pretty well ended that. Whatever that might have been.

Everyone knows pin the tail on the donkey, right? Blindfold, pin, donkey—that’s about all there is to say about that, basically.

The second game was spin the bottle.

It’s not like I had never kissed a girl before. I had kissed Rachel. She wasn’t shy about that sort of thing, and we were kids; we didn’t know any better. It didn’t mean a thing. We had even played doctor once when we were about seven, which consisted mostly of you show me yours, and I’ll show you mine, that sort of thing. Forgotten as soon as it happened. No big deal. Kissing Rachel was no different than kissing my little sister Diana, who was about six at this time. Or kissing my mother. Nice, but nothing exciting.

I really didn’t want to play this game, but I knew there would be no way around it. The girls especially were clamoring for it, so we all formed the obligatory circle, the empty glass bottle on the ground in the middle of the circle, like an evil predator waiting to claim its victim.

The bottle was spun, the victims chosen, and amid the hoots of the boys and the giggles of the girls, the selected pair met awkwardly in the middle of the circle and kissed: lightly, tentatively. One boy, one
girl, pink-faced but smiling. Applause. The bottle was spun again, the heavy glass skittering loudly against the tile of the floor, before it came to rest, one end pointing at Rachel, the other at a bespectacled young
man with soft eyes and wavy brown hair. He blushed, Rachel giggled, and never one to be shy, she reached the center of the circle before he did. “Come on, James,” she encouraged him, and once again the ring of
spectators was cheering him on. Their lips met, someone cried out, “Ooolala,” and everyone laughed.

The game continued, more couples, more kissing, more laughter. When the bottle pointed to two girls, everyone went “Oooooo,” but it was done in fun. As long as it didn’t point toward me, I was happy. Every time it looked like it was going to stop in my vicinity, I grew cold, but it always seemed to be for someone else. Which suited me just fine. I noticed that the boy I’d been talking to, Gene, was never picked either, and I wondered, did he mind? I looked at him now and then, admiring the easy familiarity he seemed to have with the people around him. He struck me as being very nice, in fact, friendly. I didn’t have any male friends other than my cousin Sebastian who, at eighteen, wasn’t around much between working and preparing for college. And as for female friends, there was just Rachel.

And then I was thunderstruck as I watched that cursed bottle stop dead on me. Damn.

I didn’t want to look to see who was on the other side of it, but when the major giggling began I had to, raising my eyes to find my gaze returned by the dark-haired boy on the other side. Oh my God! Since there was a preponderance of girls to guys, this particular combination hadn’t arisen yet, so we were the first. And did they make a big deal out of it! I didn’t honestly know why. Not having been exposed to public school, I had no frame of reference for this, knew nothing about sexuality, straight, gay or otherwise. My mother hadn’t given me “the talk” yet.

I bit my lower lip, looked at him. He just smiled and moved into the circle, waiting. For me. Damn.

“Go on, Max.” I could hear Rachel’s voice, encouraging me. And then her words were echoed by the other children, as easily as if they were all rooting for their favorite baseball team: “Go, Max, go, Max, go, Max….” What could I do?

My movements seemed highly exaggerated, everything moving in a sort of slo-mo as I found my way into the center of the circle, miraculously without tripping on my own two feet. Gene continued to smile in a calm Buddha-like way. And as those around us cheered us on, he pressed his lips gently against mine.

I wasn’t prepared for the reaction of my own body to that kiss, having been more worried that I didn’t make a fool out of myself or gross Gene out. But as soon as he kissed me I knew that I liked it. This was different from any other kiss I had ever gotten. This was good. Very good.

If he hadn’t broken it off, I’d have probably stood there for a lot longer, so I guess it’s a good thing that he did. As it was everyone was laughing, but I didn’t hear them at first. It was good-natured, though, and as I slowly became aware of my surroundings, I managed to find my place again, as the game moved on. But something inside of me was different, and I could feel it, even though I couldn’t put a name to it.

And to my embarrassment, I realized that something outside of me was different too: namely, I had an erection. Not that I had never had one before; that’s something that starts with males at a very young age, as well as masturbation. Whacking off, if you will. And I had begun having wet dreams about the age of ten, although I never seemed to remember the dreams afterward and was left with just the sticky sheets as evidence of my nocturnal emissions. But I had never gotten hard at someone else’s touch before. Male or female. Luckily no one else seemed to notice. I guess it was just more obvious to me than to them, naturally.

But it had awakened questions in me. Serious questions.

To The Max is available at Dreamspinner Press.

Now to the giveaway. All you have to do to enter is follow my blog and leave some sort of comment, along with your email address. Two winners will receive something from my backlist, of their choice.

Look for an announcement after the hop with the winners' names, as well as the winners of my Hop Against Homophobia. Don't forget to check out the rest of the hop here.

Until next time, take care!

♥ Julie


  1. I follow by GFC= Kassandra

    Thank you for the chance!!


  2. GFC debby
    I love reading about back books. They are still so amazing.
    debby236 at gmail dot com

  3. Damn woman, you're tough follow you AND comment - shesh.

    Fine - I'll do it just this one. :P

    You are a most generous person with your time and advise and I'd be lost without your guidance at times. So thank you!

    And you're a darn good writer too. :)

  4. Wonderful excerpt! Very warm and sweetly nostalgic....hope the storm didn't touch you! Thanks!

  5. Love this hop! I follow via e-mail...


  6. Loved the excerpt! Please count me in. Thanks!!!


  7. I follow via email. Thank you for the opportunity to win.


  8. Thank you so much for this hop and for the giveaway!!

    I follow via email.

    humhumbum AT yahoo DOT com

  9. Thanks for sharing with us, Julie, and you, too, Max. ;) Sweet reminiscence.

    I follow via email.

    caroaz [at] ymail [dot] com

  10. Good memories about your first published book. Thanks for your post and for being part of the hop.
    Follow by email.

    strive4bst(At) yahoo(Dot) com

  11. Thanks for the giveaway :)

    I already follow your blog by email.


  12. Sounds like a great memory and book. Thanks for the giveaway.
    follow by email
    sstrode at scrtc dot com

  13. I follow the blog. And I really want to read this book

    smurfettev AT gmail DOT com

  14. Your book sounds great! Nothing like reminiscing about the past firsts! :D Im as happy as can be with both! hehe
    Thanks for the awesome hop and giveaway!
    GFC: shadow_kohler