Today I am so excited to welcome the fabulous Mary Calmes to Joyfully Jay. Mary has come as part of our Coastal Magic Convention Blog Tour to talk to us about her Mangrove Stories series. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
There are introverts and extroverts in the world, no news there, and over the years I have discovered that I am very clearly an introvert. I’m good in small groups, over dinner, over coffee—fabulous—and I LOVE talking to readers and answering questions about my books but a whole room full of faces looking at me can make my hyperventilate. What normally ends up happening is I start talking with my hands like crazy and I’ve seen pictures of myself and it looks like I’m having some kind of spastic episode.
So not pretty.
At GRL this past year I had the pleasure of going first to Marie Sexton, Amber Kell, and RJ Scott’s panel which was amazing for both the banter between them and the ease of their message, and then Tara Lain, ZA Maxfield and Amy Lane’s was informative and fun. I’d LOVE to be like that in front of people but I simply don’t have the skill set. If I could do the Damon Suede thing, be a great author AND be able to command a room…that would be epic. All this is to say that while I’ve tried to bust out of my comfort zone, in doing so I never want to put people to sleep listening to me ramble or flail my arms around like I’m drowning. Big conventions, like RT, are not for me. The sheer magnitude of attendees is overwhelming but in choosing places to go, you still want to meet your audience and sincerely thank readers because without them, readers—fans—an author is nothing. So what is the compromise?
Coastal Magic is a con that is warm and welcoming, not overwhelming in the least, but also thick with amazing author talent from several different genres. There are informative, insightful panels as well as fun and interesting ones, and the con has that mix of relaxed interaction where you can sit and visit with a cross section of readers and authors in a leisurely setting. It’s also in sunny Florida during February when leaving the icy tundra of the winter on the east coast is just frankly amazing. It’s a convention to look into if you have not been and Jennifer Morris does a fantastic job of organizing so everyone feels welcome. Don’t miss out. In fact, going to the first Coastal Magic convention was what prompted me to, years later; set my town of Mangrove in Florida. The fourth installment, Easy Evenings, came out yesterday and the last in the series, Sleeping ‘til Sunrise, is out in December to give everyone a break from the chilly, wrapped-up, winter weather. Hope to see you all there.
Excerpt from Sleeping ‘til Sunrise
Friendship was one of those odd things that could not be relied upon to make sense.
My daughter thought that since we lived next door to Hutch Crowley and Mike Rojas, and since they were both gay and I was gay, and because Mike had lost his wife and I’d done so as well, we would be fast friends. And while they were really good guys and we sometimes ate together and I trusted them with my kid, they were almost more Ivy’s friends than mine. It took me a long time to open up to people, and while I shared a lot of surface things that anyone could know or that my daughter would tell them, I was not about dredging up my soul to people I’d only known for six months.
The exception was Dwyer Knolls, who ran a small but gorgeous bed and breakfast right on the beach called Blue Days. He ran it with his husband, Hiroyuki Takeo. They hadn’t been in Mangrove as long as a lot of others, but while everyone sort of knew one another’s business, Dwyer and Takeo were a bit more solitary. While it couldn’t be said that they were standoffish in any way, neither were they like Hutch or Kelly Seaton or Britton Lassiter. They kept to themselves, and so when I ran with Dwyer in the mornings, no one ever just joined us, because he was with me. It was actually very nice.
“If I wanted to run alone, I would,” he teased, easily keeping pace with me even though I was taller and my stride was longer.
He grunted. “What’s on your mind this fine morning?”
His snort of laughter made me smile.
“Yeah, okay,” I huffed out. “Roark Hammond.”
He squinted at me. “I thought we were holding off on dating until your kid went off to college.”
“Shit, I know.”
“Oh, no, don’t get me wrong,” Dwyer said quickly. “I think that makes a lot of sense, and you and the doctor—that totally works, but it was your mandate, so I’m just wondering what changed your mind.”
“Need to get laid?”
“Yes,” I replied honestly. “But there’s more to it than that.”
“I get it, he’s husband material.”
“What? No,” he repeated with a snicker. “That was so convincing, I think you should get an Oscar or something.”
“Why don’t you run that way,” I said, pointing out to the ocean.
He bumped into me, gently, just a nudge of comradery. “Knock it off. I’ve seen the way you look at him, and I’ve seen the way he looks at you. You’re both idiots.”
“I—that’s not—what makes you… I don’t—”
“Wow,” he scoffed. “All that?”
“No, it’s—no. We’re just talking about hanging out.”
“Yeah, it would just be casual.”
“I see,” he said, his voice dripping with judgment.
“For crissakes, just spit it out.”
He shrugged as he jogged along at my side. “Roark doesn’t seem like a guy you do casual with.”
“Are you kidding? As far as I can tell he only does casual.”
“Because he’s been keeping himself from doing anything at all with you,” he concluded.
“And you know this how?”
His grin was really just filthy; it was the first thing I ever noticed about him. He had been drinking at Wrecked, a bar on the boardwalk, and no one else got near him. I’d left Hutch and Mike, and Kelly and Coz, and leaned close to him. Dwyer hadn’t noticed, but I’d felt the lime wedge hit my back. When I turned, everyone at the table was waving at me to get the hell away from him. But the town was not full of gay men, they were few and far between, and when I’d smiled at him earlier, the openness of the smile I got back had made me brave.
“Can I buy you a drink?” I asked as I got close, breathing in his musky, and at the same time citrusy, scent.
He turned then and gifted me with that grin, ripe with heat and sex and daring, and the turquoise of his eyes reminded me of the ocean first thing in the morning. He was breathtaking. No other man besides Roark had me more interested.
“I would,” he said, his voice a sensuous, smooth rasp that I liked. “But I’m spoken for, finally, and you know how it is when you have the guy you can’t breathe without.”
I sighed. “Not yet.”
The laugh lines around his eyes deepened as he turned in his chair to offer me his hand. “Well, then, brother, we better get on that.”
It was the best start to a friendship I’d yet to experience. As a rule, I didn’t have a lot of male friends, gay or straight, so meeting Dwyer Knolls, having him steer me out of the bar and into his life, was so very welcome. Meeting his husband, Takeo, had been such a nice surprise as well. The few times I had connected with someone, the wife, girlfriend, husband, or boyfriend had either liked me too much or not enough. I was worried before Takeo breezed into the room and first bowed, then took my hand.
He was quiet and reserved, but not cold, and really funny and very quick, but most of all, his observations about people were so spot-on it was sort of terrifying. It was all the listening he did, all the secrets shared with him that he would take to his coffin, and how much taking care of you he was willing to do. When he gazed at Dwyer with all that love and adoration, it was easy to discern the depth of his heart.
They welcomed me into their cocoon, and I was happy to go there. It was a refuge, one Ivy found as soothing as I did. Not that she didn’t love and adore everyone else, but now and then, she needed to decompress, and there was no one better to do that with than Takeo. The first time she was sick and he arrived with homemade shoyu ramen instead of chicken noodle soup, she was in love. Between me liking Takeo and Dwyer, and my daughter liking them as well, I finally had that best friend I’d always heard so much about.
Everyone in Mangrove, Florida, knows Fire Chief Essien Dodd is a saint. He took care of his ex-wife until she died, is raising his teenage daughter alone, and is the kind of man who pulls kittens from trees. All in all, the man’s a catch. But Roark Hammond has sworn off getting involved with a man who’s been hurt before because he can’t guarantee he won’t hurt his prospective love again. If only he could get Essien out of his mind long enough to focus on anyone, or anything, else.
Strong emotions are in play. Essien is lonely but determined to focus on Ivy; Ivy wants her father to have a new life so much that, to his horror, she’s trying to find him a man; and Roark is so scared of the present and past, he won’t allow himself to commit. To have any chance of sleeping ’til sunrise and greeting each new day together, Essien and Roark will have to rethink how they’re living their lives and focus on what’s most important.
Mary Calmes lives in Lexington, Kentucky, with her husband and two children and loves all the seasons except summer. She graduated from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, with a bachelor’s degree in English literature. Due to the fact that it is English lit and not English grammar, do not ask her to point out a clause for you, as it will so not happen. She loves writing, becoming immersed in the process, and falling into the work.