Hello all! Thank you very much for taking part in my blog tour for But by the Grace of Dog. I have to tell you, I’m excited beyond words to present this novel to you. It’s been a bit of a process for me. There was a point about a year and half ago where I had more of less convinced myself that I was done with writing. (Those other writers out there who are reading this are smiling at that, I know – as if a writer can somehow just turn off the words and choose to ignore them.) Then, as they tend to, this story showed up in my mind. When the words to that story started to come seemingly all on their own, I figured who was I to tell them no. Before I was even half done that novel, I knew it wasn’t just one story, but an entire series of them.
So, with a renewed, reinvigorated, and refreshed outlook, I completed the novel, started the second one in the series, submitted it, got an acceptance… and a couple of months after accepting the story, the publisher decided it was time to hang up their hats. I was devastated. Not just for this novel, or this series, but for my career in writing as a whole. This was, obviously, a sign, and I should have just given up when I said I was going to, it wasn’t meant to be, nobody really wanted me, and blah, blah, blah, whine, whine, whine. I tirelessly bemoaned these thoughts to close friends, and honestly, they are champs to have put up with me.
Unfortunately, or I guess that I should probably be saying fortunately, that second story refused to let me stop writing it. So, what was I to do? If the stories were going to keep insisting on their right to exist, and I wasn’t able to find a way to ignore them, I was going to have to grow a backbone and take some ownership of my writing career.
Spoiler alert: I did not do that.
In fact, I waited until another publisher reached out to me. And, of course, when that happened, I was pretty dumbstruck. After all, what an honour, right? How could I not follow up with that? Now this, I told myself, was truly the sign! This was what I was waiting for. Even if it was a sign that was completely opposing to what I had thought was the sign prior to that. Forward, on. Here we go. This is going to be the moment where everything turns around.
Well, not exactly. And by not exactly, I mean that didn’t work out at all.
At that point I was back to my two choices: give up or buck up. Honestly, I considered both. (Mostly because I can be a bit of a drama queen when things don’t go my way. Yes. A bit of one.) Then, I had a mutual tell me about JMS Books. I did a bit of poking around—some research that was mostly just me trying to peer undetected over top of walls and around corners—and was instantly intrigued by their covers, policies, and the owner’s seemingly unending energy and devotion. I mean, seriously. Un. Ending. Energy.
They welcomed But by the Grace of Dog with open arms, welcomed all my other little orphans in as well, and the rest, as the say, is history.
All this narrative is my way of leading into this – my journey with the novel isn’t all that different from the one my main character, Thom, faces in the novel. He too has to find a way to reach outside his comfort zone, not just for his own betterment, but for the sake of the things in his life that he holds dear. It can be tough. Especially when we’re dealing with all those little tricks our minds play on us in its attempt to keep us safe and comfy. They call it a comfort zone for a reason and the mind, consciously and subconsciously, is a master at keeping us in a known state.
Luckily, just as I did, Thom finds himself some friends that listen to him complain, who show him an alternative way when he insists that he can’t get over things, and holds his hand (or licks his face) when he’s convinced it’s time to quit. And that kind of love always helps.
Man + Dog + Neighbour = True Love (but does it equal a HEA?)
A huge thank you to Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words for me having me today, and just as big a thanks to you, again, for joining me. Please be sure to keep reading for a short exclusive excerpt and all the details for not just one, but two giveaways! All it takes is a comment here for a chance at one of the adorable keychains pictured below and a promo pack. Then, if you click through to the Rafflecopter, you’ll get yourself a second chance at a freebee, this one for a $25 credit to JMS Books!
All my love!
AF Henley ❤
GENRE: Gay Erotic Romance, Canadian English
LENGTH: 49,400 words
RATING: contains some explicit sex scenes
NOTE: contains brief character thoughts about suicide
Thom Baron has been struggling with social anxiety his entire life. He’s taken the medications, gone to the therapists, followed the programs, and concluded his best life is a solitary one. When he comes across a dog in obvious need at his local market, it rekindles the desire to have some company around. It may come with a dishevelled coat, a notched ear, and a refusal to respond to anything but its given name “Ugly,” but it could still be a friend.
However, Thom’s new fur buddy has no such need to keep to itself and immediately befriends the man Thom has secretly coveted since he moved in — Justin, Thom’s gorgeous, bright-eyed neighbour. No matter how Thom tries to evade the man, the dog keeps drawing them back into each other’s lives, and it doesn’t take Thom long to recognize it’s simply pursuing the demands of Thom’s own heart. With the dog giving him the courage to try, Thom reaches out to return the love being offered.
Until a stranger shows up insisting the dog is his and demanding its immediate return … a loss Thom knows will take all of his efforts and newfound confidence with it.
“Stop.” Thom’s voice caught and he had to try again. “Please stop. I can’t.”
Justin straightened, drying his hands on his shorts. “Or, we could not stop. Not yet, anyway. Let’s stop in half an hour if it doesn’t work out, okay? That’s fair, right? Besides, can’t isn’t won’t. Maybe if you want to, you might surprise yourself. Then, if you still can’t, at least we gave it a shot. Maybe next time you’ll be able to. Or the time after that. Or the time after that one again. Eventually I won’t be a stranger, and you won’t be anxious.”
There was a long pause while Thom processed, and Justin waited without saying another word. But one second before Thom was about to turn him down yet again, Justin added, “I’ll even help you finish washing your dog.”
Thom widened his eyes. “Oh, God, no, that would be even worse than a drink.”
Justin slapped both hands on his thighs. “Then it’s settled! A drink it is.”
“Okay, but even if I agreed, it’s like…” Thom motioned around, running out of steam and already sure he was going to have to give in, “mid-day!”
“But it’s a weekend,” Justin assured him. “The five o’clock rule doesn’t count on the weekend.” When Thom didn’t respond, Justin nodded. “All right then,” he said, tone gleeful. “So, do we do this at my place or yours?”
Thom sighed. “Better make it yours, I guess. Because I can assure you that if I get to my own door before you do, there is not only zero chance of you getting in, but also of me ever coming back out. Like, for the rest of my life.”
Justin’s eyes softened along with his smile. “It’s just a drink, Thom. I’m not going to judge you and I’m not going to make you do anything you don’t want.”
“Except actually come for the drink in the first place.”
“Well,” Justin drew out the word, shrugging comically. “Yes, except that.”
“I’m soaking wet,” Thom said, waving at his clothes. “And muddy.”
“Patio furniture can be hosed off,” Justin countered.
Thom held his breath. He silently counted to five before letting it go. Surprisingly, his chest didn’t seem to be quite as tight when he ran out of air to exhale. “Well, I guess I don’t have a choice then, do I?”
“Always,” Justin said with another grin. “You can have your choice of red wine, white wine, or beer.” He looked positively delighted when the comment won him a smile. He pointed at the fence, Vanna White style. “After you.”
Thom sighed dramatically, reaching for Dog’s leash. “Fine. But we’re going the long way around.”