Today I am so pleased to welcome Layla Dorine to Joyfully Jay. Layla has come to talk to us about her latest release, A Murder for Crow. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
Thank you so much for having me here today and happy holidays to everyone, I hope the season has brought peace, love and joy to you. In a way, seasons, or at least, the seasons of one’s life, are a major focus in A Murder for Crow. Three of the characters, Crowley, Jesse and Jaylon, are over 40, and looking at what lies ahead of them, especially when careers and relationships have changed or come to an end. Each is dwelling on the things that have brought them to this point in their lives, spinning their wheels, trying to decide what changes to choose to make amidst a bunch of changes they never wanted.
One thing I never expected from this story was the sheer number of ideas and characters it generated. What was supposed to be one character’s book morphed into a found family story where all of the characters had a story to tell, which just means there will be three books instead of one. What came as an utter shock to me was how easily the characters connected and started filling in the empty spaces each of them had. I joked with friends that I never set out to write a harem story. It was supposed to be broody, broken Crow retreating to the wilderness to lick his wounds and perhaps, eventually, fall in love with a small-town boy, who knew who he was and what he’d been, and wanted to learn more about him now.
Instead, he picked up a hitchhiker during his relocation trip, insisted on letting him crash in the spare room of his cabin, and helped him get a job, though the latter was more out of Jaylon’s need for an assistant than anything Crowley does. The more the three of them interacted, the more I was reminded of all the things I loved about Vermont. The changing of the leaves, the railway trestles, the beautiful crystalline ponds, and waterfalls. Rope swings and ice cream festivals, music, and the magical legend of Champ.
It’s been more than twenty years since I left, but writing this story helped me to see how much I long to move back. I now have a two-year goal to relocate back to the mountains and small towns that I loved, and I have Crow and his group of friends and lovers to thank for that.
I’ve always believed writing the be a journey that can take you anywhere, and now it is taking me back to the place where I spent some of the best days of my life. It reminded me of the joy of discovering new flavors, scents, and loves. I hope, as you read their story, you’ll fall in love with them, and Vermont too. It truly is a beautiful place.
Stomach growling, Crow cursed his shortsighted optimism as he rolled into yet another tiny town and didn’t see fuck all in the way of a diner. A chain style burger joint sat beside The Garden Inn. One story, aqua hued, not a single flower in sight. Some garden. Main street fabric shops, a community theater, shoe store, ice cream parlor, smoke….
The road ahead was filled with red lights flashing, firetrucks, cops, and smoke so thick it blotted out the brilliant blue of the sky. Half the street was closed off, with a lone cop waving people in alternate directions, trying to keep traffic flowing despite the efforts of the looky-loos to figure out what was happening. Inch by inch he maneuvered SUV and trailer up the block, pausing beside a streetlight where a young man in a weathered jean jacket leaned, arms crossed as he stared at the smoldering mess across the street.
“Hey man,” Crow called, failing to get the guys attention the first time. “Hey!”
Emerald eyes gazed his way, peering from a pixy face framed by burgundy hair, windblown, tousled and curling in a way that gave a perpetual thoroughly fucked-out look. “Yeah?”
“Is there any place to get a real meal around here, preferably one that ends with pie?”
Pixy-boy’s lip quirked a little as he flicked his wrist towards the smoldering mess across the street. “There used to be, unfortunately the idiot owner just burned it down.”
“So basically, I’m shit outta luck.”
“Same, I worked there.”
Snorting, Crow tried not to laugh, but damn. “Hope the rest of your day goes better.”
“You and me both.”
Someone honked, and the cop waved him through with a vigorous gesture rank with displeasure, so he headed up the road, stopping at the gas station to top off and grab a drink. Nothing at all appealing about oller bites and dried out burgers. His stomach would have to growl for however many miles between here and the next town, may their restaurants not be the victims of unforeseen disaster.
Crow took the time to wash his face, comb his hair and guzzle a couple cups of coffee before getting underway again. By the GPS’s calculations, he’d reach the Vermont border in five hours, unless the need to nap hit, in which case, it might be close to suppertime before he reached his destination.
A quarter mile outside of town he caught a glimpse of burgundy hair and emerald eyes he’d never expected to see again. Thumb out, backpack over one shoulder, he was walking backwards with the relaxed, practiced gait of someone who’d done this hundreds of times before. Well damn.
Crow made the split-second decision to stop before his brain could conjure up a dozen and a half reasons it was a bad idea.
“I take it that fire was a final straw situation,” Crow asked the moment pixy-boy reached the door, face a little flushed as he peered through the window.
“You could say that.”
“Where you headed?”
“Anywhere that isn’t here.”
“I think I can manage that,” Crow replied, popping the lock to let him in.
“Thanks man, did you ever find food?”
“Depends on your definition of food. Personally, I rank gas station fare only a hair below burger joints and I wasn’t in the mood for any of it. I’m Crowley, by the way, or Crow, whichever.”
Shaking hands over the shifter, Crow found Owen’s hands to be softer than he’d expected.
“So, what’d you do at diner anyway? Wait tables?”
“God no, I was the cook. No way in hell I could have delt with people day in and day out. I don’t have the patience for stupid or rude.”
“Amen to that,” Crow remarked as he pulled back onto the highway. “I’m going to guess you weren’t from there?”
“Nope, wandered through about eight months back. Wasn’t the best place I’ve ever been, and it wasn’t the worst.”
“How’d you end up there in the first place?”
“Same way I’m leaving.”
Retiring from the sport he loved had never been part of Crow’s five-year plan. Unfortunately, the head injuries he’s amassed over years of Mixed Martial arts fighting have left him little choice but to throw in the towel and begin a new, shaky road towards…what? He’s got no clue, that’s for sure. In fact, the only thing he’s certain of is that living a few short blocks from the gym is not the way to put the sport behind him, not when he still hasn’t told any of his friends or training partners exactly why it is he suddenly decided to hang up his gloves.
Moving is the only option that comes to mind, and what better place to retreat to than the beauty of the Vermont wilderness he loved visiting in his younger days. After all, he still has family there, and it’s far removed from the sport he’s struggling to walk away from.
Speaking of walking away. Ever since he found proof of his late husband’s infidelity, Jaylon’s been wishing the man had abandoned him long before his illness stole his life. At least then he wouldn’t be torn between fury and mourning, wondering what he’d done to drive away the man he’d loved. He’s way too old to be starting over, or at least, that’s what he tells himself before Crowley “Crow” Davies pulls up to the cabin Jaylon was renting out, beautiful hitchhiker in tow.
Now he’s got one eye on Crow and one on Owen, a budding new dynamic forming between them, but will it all come crashing down when Crow’s best friend, Jesse, shows up, looking to reconnect. A former fighter who left the sport two years before, he’s been friends with benefits with Crowley since before either stepped foot in a cage to fight. The chemistry between the sheets is smokin’ hot, but there’s always been something missing, something the two never could put their fingers on.
Can the inclusion of Owen and Jaylon provide the pieces they’ve always needed, or will someone find themselves left out in the cold.
LAYLA DORINE lives among the sprawling prairies of Midwestern America, in a house with more cats than people. She loves hiking, fishing, swimming, martial arts, camping out, photography, cooking, traveling, and visiting museums, historic, and haunted places.
Layla got hooked on writing as a child, starting with poetry and then branching out, and she hasn’t stopped writing since. Hard times, troubled times, the lives of her characters are never easy, but then what life is? The story is in the struggle, the journey, the triumphs and the falls. She writes about artists, musicians, loners, drifters, dreamers, hippies, bikers, truckers, hunters and all the other folks that she’s met and fallen in love with over the years. Sometimes she writes urban romance and sometimes its aliens crash landing near a roadside bar. When she isn’t writing, or wandering somewhere outdoors, she can often be found curled up with a good book and a kitty on her lap.