Laura Lascarso on Research, Strip Clubs, and her new novel In the Pines (A Charlie Schiffer Mystery #1) (author interview and excerpt)

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In the Pines (A Charlie Schiffer Mystery #1) by Laura Lascarso

Dreamspinner Press
Publication Date: October 23, 2018V

Cover Designer: AngstyG

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Laura Lascarso here today talking about writing, research, and her new release and series In the Pines (A Charlie Schiffer Mystery #1).  Welcome, Laura.

 

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Interview with  Laura Lascarso

 

The excerpt I’ve chosen to share is a scene from IN THE PINES, where our amateur sleuth Charlie Schiffer, and his love interest, Dare Chalmers, travel to Café Risqué, which is a real strip club just outside of Gainesville, Florida, in search of clues to Dare’s brother’s murder.

For those who are unfamiliar with this particular strip of I-75 in Central Florida, Café Risqué is something of a legend because it’s the only strip club within a hundred-mile radius, and all along the interstate are suggestively graphic signs pointing you in that direction. All throughout my college career at the University of Florida, friends would tell stories about their adventures at Café Risqué. I never made the pilgrimage myself, but I knew that I wanted to include a scene from it in my story, simply because it was such a magnet for local lore.

That’s where my research came in, and to my surprise, the best place to get actual details and information about the club wasn’t from their website, which was pretty sparse, but from their Yelp reviews. Here are a few of my favorites:

The ladies were nice and very sweet to me being a newcomer. I ordered chicken tenders with my side as rice and gravy. Thought it was an oddest thing to put on rice, so I ordered it. The gravy was good, just wish it was a little less than that. Not taking over the plate. Still an enjoyable dinner.

Often times when I’m embarking on a cross country expedition in my big rig 18-wheeler, I try to make Cafe Risque my first stop. Drop-in, take a shower, eat some food, make some new friends, then back on the road again! Definitely would recommend the Tuna Salad sandwich. Britney is also my favorite staff member and often times I think she lets me get in a free song or two.

I’ve been here. It’s amazing. I won’t say whether or not it’s a good amazing or a bad amazing. Just imagine 2 eggs over easy with bacon and toast. Then imagine a Reddick, FL native bringing it out to your table completely nude. I mean naked. If that’s not enough, imagine eating it while that same Reddick, FL native gives the guy next to you a lap dance.

I could go on, but you catch my drift. The most interesting thing to me, was that all of the Yelp reviews really focused on the food, with the dancers only being a second or sometimes third consideration. I suppose part of the reason is because Yelp tends to focus on the restaurant aspect of establishments, more so than the entertainment, but I found it fascinating nonetheless.

So, in this very sexually charged setting, I knew that I wanted for Charlie to be very uncertain and nervous (and a little judgmental) while also worried that he’s going to unintentionally offend one of the dancers. And I wanted for Dare to be cool and collected, and absolutely enjoying Charlie’s discomfort. I think I pulled it off, while also getting at some information important to the mystery itself. All in all, I think this is my favorite scene from IN THE PINES, and a good example of the balance I was trying to achieve between camp and sincerity.

Maybe one day I’ll take that trip to Café Risqué and give their chicken tenders with gravy a try.

The excerpt I’ve chosen to share is a scene from IN THE PINES, where our amateur sleuth Charlie Schiffer, and his love interest, Dare Chalmers, travel to Café Risqué, which is a real strip club just outside of Gainesville, Florida, in search of clues to Dare’s brother’s murder.

For those who are unfamiliar with this particular strip of I-75 in Central Florida, Café Risqué is something of a legend because it’s the only strip club within a hundred-mile radius, and all along the interstate are suggestively graphic signs pointing you in that direction. All throughout my college career at the University of Florida, friends would tell stories about their adventures at Café Risqué. I never made the pilgrimage myself, but I knew that I wanted to include a scene from it in my story, simply because it was such a magnet for local lore.

That’s where my research came in, and to my surprise, the best place to get actual details and information about the club wasn’t from their website, which was pretty sparse, but from their Yelp reviews. Here are a few of my favorites:

The ladies were nice and very sweet to me being a newcomer. I ordered chicken tenders with my side as rice and gravy. Thought it was an oddest thing to put on rice, so I ordered it. The gravy was good, just wish it was a little less than that. Not taking over the plate. Still an enjoyable dinner.

Often times when I’m embarking on a cross country expedition in my big rig 18-wheeler, I try to make Cafe Risque my first stop. Drop-in, take a shower, eat some food, make some new friends, then back on the road again! Definitely would recommend the Tuna Salad sandwich. Britney is also my favorite staff member and often times I think she lets me get in a free song or two.

I’ve been here. It’s amazing. I won’t say whether or not it’s a good amazing or a bad amazing. Just imagine 2 eggs over easy with bacon and toast. Then imagine a Reddick, FL native bringing it out to your table completely nude. I mean naked. If that’s not enough, imagine eating it while that same Reddick, FL native gives the guy next to you a lap dance.

I could go on, but you catch my drift. The most interesting thing to me, was that all of the Yelp reviews really focused on the food, with the dancers only being a second or sometimes third consideration. I suppose part of the reason is because Yelp tends to focus on the restaurant aspect of establishments, more so than the entertainment, but I found it fascinating nonetheless.

So, in this very sexually charged setting, I knew that I wanted for Charlie to be very uncertain and nervous (and a little judgmental) while also worried that he’s going to unintentionally offend one of the dancers. And I wanted for Dare to be cool and collected, and absolutely enjoying Charlie’s discomfort. I think I pulled it off, while also getting at some information important to the mystery itself. All in all, I think this is my favorite scene from IN THE PINES, and a good example of the balance I was trying to achieve between camp and sincerity.

Maybe one day I’ll take that trip to Café Risqué and give their chicken tenders with gravy a try.

About In The Pines

A Charlie Schiffer Mystery

When your high school crush is also your number one suspect, what’s a boy to do?

After the disappearance of Eastview High’s homecoming king, seventeen-year-old Charlie Schiffer must put his detective skills to work to help class heartthrob Dare Chalmers find his missing twin brother. From the gator-filled swamps of Paynes Prairie to the truck-stop strip club Café Risqué, there’s no situation too dicey for this amateur sleuth when he’s on the prowl for clues to this mystery.

Meanwhile, Dare is everything Charlie could want in a boyfriend—charismatic, handsome, polite—but as Charlie’s mother always says, the unlikeliest people can turn out to be criminals. When evidence surfaces revealing his suspects’ hidden motives, Charlie must dig deep to suss out who among them is innocent and who is guilty, even if it means betraying the man he cares for most.

 

Excerpt:

 

We headed out into the inky, starless night, southbound on I-75. All along the stretch of interstate between Gainesville and Ocala, Café Risqué billboards promised great food in a welcoming venue where “We bare all.” The billboards used to have a picture of this blonde woman from the eighties with feathered hair, which could have easily been mistaken for a teen pregnancy hotline or a missing persons advertisement. But in recent years, the business rebranded to feature silhouettes of busty women in provocative poses, and one in particular of a woman gripping a pole in ecstasy.

It seemed we were all chasing some ridiculous fantasy.

A trip to Café Risqué was something like a rite of passage for central Florida teens on the cusp of manhood, and one I’d always assumed I’d happily forgo due to my sexual orientation, and yet, there I was, racing to the famed truck stop with Dare in his sleek silver Jaguar, intent on looking for clues to the identity of Mason’s killer.

We arrived at about 10:00 p.m. Dare gave me Mason’s ID, which could pass for my own if the lighting was dim and the bouncer didn’t look too closely. Still, I was nervous about potentially breaking the law. The first place they’d call was the local police, who would contact my mom. She’d probably send someone to arrest me just to scare me straight.

The bouncer in question roved his flashlight over Dare’s ID and then over his person. Dare’s height made him look older, along with the scruff of a few days without shaving that had accumulated on his jaw. It was pretty sexy, actually, and I scolded myself for even looking at him in that way.

When it was my turn, the bouncer inspected me a little closer.

“You’re twins?” he asked while side-eyeing the both of us. “You don’t look alike.”

“Fraternal,” Dare clarified. He made a motion to move past the bouncer, who held out his hand to block him. The man turned to me.

“What’s up with your hair?”

“It grew out.”

“What’s your sign….” He squinted at the ID. “Mason?”

“Scorpio,” I said easily. I’d memorized that a long time ago.

“Where do you live?”

I recited the Chalmerses’s address. I had a knack for memorization. And riding past their house on my bike when I was at the height of my stalking phase didn’t hurt my recall either.

“You been drinking?” he flashed his light in my eyes, blinding me.

“No, sir,” I answered.

“All right, then.” He passed the ID back to me. “No funny business, and make sure you tip the ladies. They aren’t here for their health.”

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I entered into the surprisingly well-lit Café Risqué. It was kind of like when you built something up in your mind so much that the reality couldn’t possibly match up to your expectations. I wasn’t disappointed by the interior, not exactly, but it seemed so much smaller than I’d imagined. Other than the poles, it really did resemble a Denny’s or some other greasy spoon. There were booths along one side of the dining area and a bar that butted up to a small empty stage, where I assumed the main event would take place. There was also a side shop that sold ladies’ lingerie and pornographic DVDs, but overall, it was pretty underwhelming.

There were a few truckers in the booths, being served by women in revealing outfits, something like a costume you might pick up on a discount rack after Halloween—naughty nurse or curious co-ed. So far, nothing that lived up to the motto of “We bare all.”

Dare suggested we sit at the bar and soon after, a waitress approached us. She appeared to be in her late thirties, dyed red hair, heavy on the makeup, with her ample, freckled bosom squeezed into a cropped leather bustier. “What would you handsome fellas like to drink?” she asked with a salacious grin.

I knew from the signs out front they didn’t serve alcohol, which seemed a little strange to me, but if this venue really catered to truckers, then I supposed it wouldn’t do to get them liquored up while pulling an all-nighter. In fact, the idea of a place where truckers could get a square meal while also admiring naked women to help pass their long and lonely rides had an almost wholesome appeal.

“Cherry coke?” Dare asked, looking at me. He seemed perfectly comfortable with our situation and not at all put off by the strange mix of fry grease and sex pheromones circulating in the air.

“Coke’s good. Regular for me,” I said as I steered my eyes away from our server’s chest. I’d kind of zoned out there for a minute. She left us with two menus, and Dare scanned his dutifully.

“This is not what I was expecting,” he said in a low voice.

“No, me neither,” I admitted.

“I really can’t believe this.” He studied his menu with a look of deep concentration.

“What is it?” I thought perhaps he’d stumbled across a clue.

“The food’s actually very reasonably priced.”

I laughed out loud at Dare’s practicality. He glanced over with a small smile that acknowledged the sheer oddity of our situation. Our waitress, Cherry, returned soon after and took our order. Mine was a hamburger and curly fries. Dare’s was soup and salad, and I remembered what he’d told me before about how greasy food upset his stomach. As she was leaving, Dare grabbed her arm. “Wait a minute, if you would.”

“No touching, sweetie,” she said in an almost motherly fashion.

Dare released her immediately and apologized. “I was wondering if you’ve ever seen this man.” Dare pulled up a photo of him and Mason on his phone, the one taken from the pep rally with Mason in his singlet.

“You a cop?” she asked with dismay.

“No, ma’am. It’s my brother. He’s gone missing, and he used to come here from time to time, over the summer, I believe. I was wondering when he might have been here last. If you might have seen him?”

His sincere desperation came through in his appeal and Cherry took another hard look. “I don’t recognize him, but one of the late-night girls might.” She pointed to the stage, which was really just an extension of the bar and less than two feet in front of us. “They come on in about a half an hour, if you want to ask them.”

The place had a definite between-shift vibe. Cherry herself said she’d close out our order when she brought us our food. “It’s past my bedtime,” she said, yawning unapologetically as she collected the money for the food and her tip. Dare insisted on paying for my meal, but it wasn’t like we were on a date. More like he was paying my expenses.

We were just finishing our meal when the jukebox kicked on. I hadn’t noticed it before, but it stood in a dim corner of the room. There were a couple of burly men going over the choices with an almost academic fastidiousness.

I recognized the song after the first couple intro bars of a searing guitar riff: “Sweet Child of Mine” by Guns N’ Roses. Dare grabbed my arm. “Charlie, look.”

I turned. Onstage, among a cloud of fog and strobe lights, five women of varying ages, ethnicities, and statures entered the spotlights, wearing stilettos and nothing else.

“We bare all,” Dare said with wonder. As it turned out, Café Risqué’s motto was absolutely true. Dare handed me a stack of bills. “Time to splash some cash, Charlie.”

And then with a look of childlike glee, Dare made it rain.

I didn’t realize until after their performance, Dare was baiting the dancers. When they finished their set, the women circulated through the bar, offering up private dances to the patrons. All of them had their eyes on Dare. The first two women he slipped a twenty and showed them his phone, asked them if they’d ever seen Mason. They hadn’t but were happy to take his cash nonetheless. One of the women told Dare she’d give him a deep discount on a private dance on account of him being so easy on the eyes. It actually took quite a bit of the Chalmers’s charm to let her off easy.

The third woman, who was blonde, or perhaps wearing a blonde wig, was the closest to our age. She looked from the picture to Dare and said, “Private dances are forty bucks.”

I thought she was only angling for an upsale, but Dare seemed on board with it. “My friend Charlie here wants a dance. And I want to watch.”

“Each dance is forty. No freebies,” she studied me with a peculiar expression. I wiped my mouth, thinking there might be ketchup on my face.

“Lucky for me, I’m a rich bastard,” Dare replied.

The woman introduced herself as Crystal and led us to a back room where there were booths covered in red vinyl, kind of like a Pizza Hut. Easy to wipe clean, I thought and then shivered with disgust. About five feet away was a video camera recording everything that happened in the room. I prayed my mother never saw this footage.

“Don’t worry,” Crystal said, perhaps noticing my unease. “It doesn’t record sound.” She then gave us a list of rules, which included, among other things, no touching.

“You don’t have to worry about that,” I assured her, sweating profusely. I’d never seen a naked woman this close before, and even after watching Crystal grind and gyrate on the pole, having her practically on top of me felt criminal. Her boobs were everywhere. I didn’t know where to put my hands so I wouldn’t accidentally touch her, so I shoved them between my legs.

“Are you sure this is legal?” I asked Dare.

He gave me an amused look. “You’ll have to excuse my friend, Crystal. Charlie has a girlfriend, but like I told him, so long as there’s no touching, it’s not cheating. Am I right?”

“That’s right, baby,” she said, winking at Dare. A rap song came on, something fast with a deep bass line. Crystal straddled my knees, which were pressed tightly together. “Just relax now, baby. Crystal will make you feel all right,” she cooed in my ear. Her hair tickled my neck, and her heavy bosoms nearly brushed up against me.

“Maybe you should take this one,” I said to Dare, who sat to the side of us, watching with complete rapture. His arms stretched out along the top of the booth like this was an everyday occurrence. Funny thing was, his attention seemed more focused on me than the naked woman on my lap.

Dare shook his head with a huge smile on his face. He was really getting a kick out of this. “It’s your birthday, Bud. Just sit back and enjoy it. Let’s see what turns up.”

I gulped and pressed back as far as I could into the slightly reclined seat. It felt a little bit like being at the dentist’s office when you’re trying really hard not to get any of your bodily juices on the dental hygienist. But the more I retreated, the more Crystal advanced. She gyrated in lazy circles, cupping her boobs and pinching her nipples to perhaps add to the excitement. She moaned a little, trying to sell it. I wanted to squeeze my eyes shut and count in my head until it was over, but I didn’t want to be rude.

“Did you recognize my brother Mason?” Dare finally asked, studying her critically. He didn’t seem aroused in the least by her performance, just deadly focused on getting answers.

“I saw him in the news,” she said. “Is he… dead?”

“Yes, he is.” Dare ducked his head so that she wouldn’t see his face. Still, Crystal seemed sympathetic to his pain.

“I’m sorry. He seemed like a nice guy.”

“He was,” Dare said quietly. “So, you met him?”

“He came in here a couple times while I was on shift.” She reached down to spread my knees open, as though she could force me to relax. She grabbed my hands as if we were dance partners. I probably resembled a very stiff puppet.

“I thought there was no touching,” I said, feeling a little panicked.

“You can’t touch me, but I can touch you,” she said with a teasing smile. It made absolutely no sense to me. Touching was touching, but I didn’t want to argue the point with her.

“Did you see him with anyone else?” Dare asked.

“Yeah, a beefy red-headed kid. Bad attitude. He complained about the girls being fat. He was kind of an asshole, if I’m honest. Not your brother, though. He was a good tipper, just like you.” She dabbed Dare’s nose with the tip of her finger. He went cross-eyed for a moment and then drew his finger along the end of his nose where she’d touched him.

“Did it seem like my brother was just here to enjoy the entertainment, or was he meeting someone?” Dare asked.

Crystal turned around so I could get a full view of her bulbous butt, jumping up and down to the beat with practiced efficiency. At least now she couldn’t see me cower.

“There was another man here with them. Older. White hair and a fake tan. Looks like he works out a lot. He’s a regular.”

Dare leaned in closer. “When was the last time you saw him?”

“He’s here tonight,” she said. “He was sitting next to you at the bar.”

My mind flashed back to the guy she was describing. He was wearing a sleeveless shirt and a red bandana and his arms were grossly huge, like a Hulk Hogan wannabe. I suddenly knew what pills Mason had been taking.

“Steroids,” I said aloud.

Dare slumped back into his seat, realizing my meaning. A speaker piped up in the room. “Crystal, finish up. The cops are here.”

I glanced over at Dare. “It might be GPD.” As I was indisposed, Dare poked his head out of the room to take a look down the hallway. He turned back to the two of us, both of us having given up this charade and awaiting his word.

“One more favor, Crystal. You’ve got to get us out the back.” Dare laid a stack of bills on the red vinyl booth.

“Is it your girlfriend?” she asked with exasperation, as though that sort of thing happened frequently.

“Nope,” Dare said. “It’s Charlie’s mother.”

About the Author

Laura Lascarso wants you to stay up way past your bedtime reading her stories. She aims to inspire more questions than answers in her fiction and believes in the power of storytelling to heal and transform a society. When not writing, Laura can be found screaming “finish” on the soccer fields, rewatching Veronica Mars, and trying to convince politicians that climate change is real. She lives in North Florida with her darling husband and two kids. She loves hearing from readers, and she’d be delighted to hear from you.
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/lascarso 
Twitter: @lauralascarso

A MelanieM Audio Review: When Everything is Blue by Laura Lascarso and Michael Mola (Narrator)

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

When they were kids, Chris Mitcham rescued Theo from the neighborhood bullies and taught him how to “be cool.” Now, years later, Theo’s developed feelings for his best friend that arise at the most inopportune times. Theo hates lying to Chris, but in coming out, he might lose the one person who understands him best, a risk he’s not willing to take.

When a relationship with another young man goes south, Theo is forced to confront his own sexuality along with his growing attraction to Chris and his stunted, tenuous relationship with his father. Will Chris abandon Theo when he learns the truth, or will he stand by him in this tumultuous season of self-discovery?

In this quirky coming-of-age romance, Theo’s path to manhood is fraught with awkward firsts and a few haters, but also the unexpected comfort of a friend turned lover.

I fell hopelessly in love with this story, with Theo from the moment narrator  Michael Mola ushers  us into his gentle, brilliant interpretation of Laura Lascarso’s teenage character discovering his love for his long time best friend just before his birthday and beginning of school.

From the accent, to the confused musings that sound exactly like they would come from a teenager, When Everything is Blue by Laura Lascarso is that new adult coming out story that hits every high mark you expect in such a novel and rarely get.

The characters are beautifully nuanced, believable, and ones that grab at your heart.  Theo’s home situation rings especially true where the father has a new younger family (also a layered portrait where the new wife is struggling and deserving of our compassion), a twin sister desperate for her father’s approval, and a quietly supportive mother whose Puerto Rican culture has contributed so much  to who Theo is becoming as an adult.  It’s understated in some ways and so much of the character’s foundation at the same time.  A beautiful job by the author and the narrator as seen by the gorgeous accent given to Theo in the audiobook.

In tandem with Theo is Chris, Theo’s best friend,next door neighbor, and the boy he’s in love with.  They’ve been joined at the hip for years, surfing, skateboarding, just being with one another, until now Theo has his “sexual awakening” and knows that it’s Chris that he’s not only attracted to but in love with.  His straight best friend and that causes all sorts of confusion and heartache.

There is so much here in this story much of which I can’t relate without venturing into spoiler territory.  And that would be unfortunate for this is a journey I recommend readers take for themselves as I’m putting this book (and this audio version) on my Best of 2018 List.  The beauty of the friendship and support between Theo and Chris is one to be remembered and treasured.  The strength of Theo as a young man finding his way through coming out and establishing himself as a gay youth to his family, friends, and community is also not to be missed.

Lascarso has done a tremendous job in creating not only a compelling story of teenage young love and relationship dynamics (between love lovers, siblings, and family) but also in making a realistic unfortunate use of the media part of her storyline.  That is something teenagers deal with every day.  It’s almost routine and here the consequences have the same devastating effects.

Reading it?  Brings the issue vividly to life.  Hearing it?  The emotional toll becomes so cuttingly real, so heartbreaking that you immediately think of all the others dealing with the same issues in schools everywhere.

Never fear, the ending is as remarkable as the rest of this story.  How I love it so.

After having listened to the marvelous voice of  Michael Mola, his range of diversity when it comes to the cast of characters of this novel, I can’t imagine just reading When Everything is Blue by Laura Lascarso.  I highly recommend you listen to the audiobook version and settle in for an outstanding evening of contemporary listening pleasure.  As I said this one is high on my list for Best of for 2018.  After you listen, I believe you will agree as well.

Cover Artist: AngstyG.  Along with the perfect of the writing and the narration, we have the great cover which has major elements from the storyline and is just beautiful to look at.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon | Audible | iTunes

Audiobook Details:

Audible Audio, Length 07:01:00

Published August 13th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press LLC (first published March 6th 2018)
Original TitleWhen Everything Is Blue
ASINB07G9RJBB7

A Caryn Release Day Review: When Everything is Blue by Laura Lascarso

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Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Wow.  Just Wow.  This book is everything I love to read in a coming of age story, and I guess the only thing that surprised me is that it was not marketed as YA.  I would absolutely recommend this book to the YA crowd as well as to adults

Our protagonists are Theo and Chris, two boys who are entering their junior year in high school, who have been best friends and next door neighbors for years.  The story is told primarily from Theo’s point of view.  He’s suspected that he is gay for a few years, and thought maybe he was falling in love with Chris, but when Chris returns from his summer long visit with his Dad in California, it hits Theo like a ton of bricks.  Yes, he is definitely gay, and yes, he is definitely in love with Chris, and he has absolutely no idea what to do with that.

The characterization is phenomenal in this book.  Theo is a  skater boy, a geek, a good student, and a good son to his mother.  He’s just a great kid, a little messed up, and a little thrown by all the events that befall him as he comes to terms with who he is, but he maintains a surprisingly calm and mature attitude about everything.  Chris is almost too good to be true – one of those popular kids who is nevertheless a genuine friend, the type of boy that everyone wants to be;  as Theo says “people gravitate to Chris like sugar ants on a soda can”.  And as the story unfolds, he shows his uncertainties, his mistakes, and Theo is able to appreciate him as still the true-blue and staunch friend, even as he steps down from the pedestal Theo put him on for all those years.  There were so many moments when I thought these two boys would separate, let circumstances or bad choices come between them, but it never happens.  And I think that loyalty they have for each other is my favorite aspect of the book.

There are amazing secondary characters as well – Theo’s twin sister Tabitha, who is obsessed with being popular, with social media, but is nevertheless protective and supportive of Theo.  Theo’s father, who is on his third family and focussed only on how Theo can make him look good.  Theo’s demented great-uncle, who is difficult and disrupting and calls everyone “cocksucker”, but who has a secret past that makes a lot of things clear to Theo when he discovers it.  David, the new kid in school, gay and experienced and kicked out of his parent’s house, who introduces Theo to gay sex.

The process of coming out is certainly changing as our society changes, easier in some ways, harder in others.  Social media is a great platform for anonymous bullying, and the incident that affects Theo and those around him was frighteningly believable.  The way Theo and Chris handle it just showed the depth of their maturity, and their devotion to each other as friends.

The writing was engaging, funny, the dialogue realistic, and the plot unfolded naturally and easily.  This is definitely a book I will go back and read again!

Cover art by AngstyG is absolutely beautiful, the top portion setting the scene, and the bottom and really capturing the tender friendship between Theo and Chris

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 216 pages
Expected publication: March 6th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
Original TitleWhen Everything Is Blue
ISBN139781640801448
Edition LanguageEnglish

Laura Lascarso on Writing, Pain, and her latest novel When Everything Is Blue (guest post, excerpt, and giveaway)

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When Everything Is Blue by Laura Lascarso
Dreamspinner Press

Cover art designer: AngstyG, www.AngstyG.comhttps://www.facebook.com/Angstyg

Buy LInks:  Dreamspinner Press eBook:  and Paperback

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Laura Lascarso here today talking about writing, tragedy, and her latest novel When Everything is Blue.  Welcome, Laura.

♦︎

 

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Interview with Laura Lascarso

With so much going on in the world today, do you write to explain? To get away? To move past? To widen our knowledge? Why do you write?

In a word, therapy, but here is the long answer…

I was fortunate to connect with Dreamspinner Press on my first M/M novella Andre In Flight. The responses from both the DSP team and readers gave me a real sense of purpose. I was considering what my next project would be when the Pulse shooting in Orlando happened.

Some of the feelings of rage and impotence I was feeling after that tragedy, I channelled into The Bravest Thing. My family was also dealing with the loss of my husband’s little brother to a drug overdose after battling addiction for many years, so some of my sadness over that personal tragedy also played a role in that story. All in all, it was pretty heavy.

After completing work on The Bravest Thing, I was pretty emotionally drained and needed a project that was a little more uplifting. Because I came from the young adult fiction world and not that of romance or fan fiction, I had a lot of catching up to do in terms of the genre and what readers want. (I only recently discovered the difference between an HEA and HFN!) By reading reviews of my stories and others, and reading several wonderful M/M romance novels by my contemporaries, I began to understand what romance readers like and dislike. I also learned there were all kinds of romance tropes to draw from, including one of my favorites, best-friends-to-lovers.

I’m also a regular lurker on Reddit where there are countless stories of young men falling for their straight best friends. All of them are so touching and sweet, and their sense of yearning is so palpable. Who hasn’t fallen in love with a friend only to find out their love is unreturned or in the best possible case, requited?

So, with that in mind I wrote When Everything Is Blue to be a kind of Oddessy of self-discovery with a host of colorful characters to act as Theo’s guides along the way. It was a real pleasure for me to write the relationship between Theo and his best friend Chris. If The Bravest Thing was an ice pick to the heart, I hope When Everything Is Blue will feel like a warm embrace with a bit of wish-fulfillment thrown in.

To answer this question of why I write fiction, my goal is to encourage empathy and understanding among my fellow human beings, as I believe stories have the power to heal and transform a society. I also like to provide a safe place for readers to hunker down and escape from the world, which can be unbearable at times. I think for myself, I use writing as a way to process the world and make sense of my own emotions through my characters. Despite my sometimes sad stories, writing is a real joy for me.

I’m including the first chapter of When Everything Is Blue to give you a feel for the story. If you like it, I encourage you to read more!

Blurb

Sometimes the people we need most aren’t bonded by blood but by something deeper.

When they were kids, golden boy Chris Mitcham rescued dweeby Theo Wooten from the neighborhood bullies and taught him how to “be cool.” Now, years later, Theo’s developed feelings for his best friend that “arise” at the most inopportune times. Theo hates lying to Chris, but in coming out, he might lose the one person who understands him best, a risk he’s not willing to take.

When a relationship with another young man goes south, Theo is forced to confront his own sexuality along with his growing attraction to Chris and the stunted, tenuous relationship Theo has with his father. Will Chris abandon Theo when he learns the truth, or will he stand by him in this tumultuous season of self-discovery? In this quirky coming-of-age romance, Theo’s path to manhood is fraught with several awkward firsts, a few haters, but also the tender comfort of an unexpected lover.

Excerpt from Chapter 1

Be Cool

Being horny and almost sixteen is the absolute worst.

Take it from me, Theodore Wooten III, resident expert in the spontaneous boner. The cause of my lovesickness: Christian Mitcham. The cure: hell if I know.

With his sun-bleached hair, warm brown eyes, and devil-may-care attitude, people gravitate to Chris like sugar ants on a soda can, me included. He’s been my best friend since sixth grade when some neighborhood punks held me down on the sidewalk and tried to spit in my eyes. Chris called them off and threatened to beat their asses even though he was outnumbered and outgunned. I guess they believed in his conviction. I know I did.

“Chris is back.”

My twin sister, Tabitha, rushes into my room, even though the door was mostly closed. When we moved into this apartment, the owner paid a contractor to split the master bedroom into two bedrooms, so that we could each have our own room. Tabs got the en suite bathroom, and I got the window. Considering the view overlooks Chris’s property, where he can often be found strutting around shirtless in the wild, it now seems like a fair trade.

“You’re supposed to knock,” I grumble. My gut is a brew of excitement and nerves at the knowledge that Chris is back. My feelings toward my best friend have become more complicated over the past year or so. I’d hoped a summer apart would simplify things.

“I did knock, Theo. You just didn’t hear me,” says Tabs, she of the last word.

I was watching some skate videos online with my cans on. The music was loud, but not that loud. I toss my tablet on the bed, stand, and stretch, delaying the inevitable.

“Oooh, he looks good,” Tabs says as she opens my window, piquing my interest even more. “Buff and tan. He’s been working out.”

“Probably just surfing.” A cloud of swampy Florida air envelops me as I steal a glance over her shoulder. She’s right. He’s even more godly than two months ago. Lucky bastard doesn’t even need to try. Ever since Chris turned thirteen, his muscles have been bursting out like microwave popcorn. He lifts a burger to his mouth and sprouts biceps, sits up in bed and boom, there are his abs. Meanwhile, I grow taller and lankier and have to deal with my mom telling me to stand up straight or I’m going to get scoliosis, which I’m pretty sure isn’t how that disease works, but it’s hard to argue with my mom when she thinks she’s right.

My sister calls down to Chris. He’s carrying a new surfboard—midnight blue, probably a gift from his dad. He glances up and lifts his free hand in a friendly wave.

My gut twists in a nausea-inducing way. The feelings are still there, the sharp knife of longing that slices down my sternum and scrambles my guts. I lift one hand in greeting and hope I’m far enough away so he can’t see anything unusual on my face.

“Come down,” Chris calls. “Bring your suits.”

I’m already wearing my board shorts and a T-shirt. Standard summer attire. We live close enough to the beach that I can bike or skate there, even though my mom hates me going through all the traffic. Sometimes I just go to skate along the sea wall and smell the ocean. It reminds me of Chris.

The twist in my stomach coils into a hard knot of anxiety at the thought of our reunion, but it’ll be weird if my sister goes and I don’t. Plus, I’ve missed him like crazy. I got so bored this summer, I was finally able to nail a nightmare flip on my skateboard. Something to add to my college applications.

“Be right down,” Tabs calls to Chris, then bounces out of my room like a happy Pikachu. My sister’s always been the cheerful, outgoing one. I’m slightly sour.

I glance back out the window to find Chris still looking up at me. Of course I’ll be down. As if there was ever a question. I always do what Chris tells me. And until recently, I’ve been happy to do it. I trust him to know what to do in just about any situation.

Me, not so much.

I trail behind Tabs across our driveways and through the gate into his backyard. He’s laid out on a lawn chair, shirtless of course. His hair’s gotten longer. He likes it that way, so he can tuck it behind his ears. He’s got a deep summer tan, and his abs are even more ripped than when he left for summer a couple of months ago. His sunglasses are reflective so I can’t see his eyes. I worry he can tell I’m checking him out, so I stare at the shrubbery instead.

“What is this, a race?” Chris rises from the lawn chair to give me our usual bro-hug. He means my height. I must have grown two inches over summer, but I didn’t realize the difference until I have to lean down a little to embrace him. I catch a whiff of his hair—a mixture of sunshine, salt spray, and coconut shampoo. His skin is warm and feels good in my palms—dangerously good.

Chris hugs my sister too and asks her if she highlighted her hair. She did. He tells her he likes it, and my sister’s smile cracks wide open. We have good teeth, my sister and I, bright white and straight thanks to orthodontia. Our dad’s a dentist and our mom’s a dental hygienist. Our smiles are the one trait people say we have in common, though they probably see a lot more of Tabs’s teeth than my own.

“I wish my hair was your color naturally.” Tabs tugs at Chris’s golden locks playfully, which draws another deep chuckle from him. I study the flecks of quartz in the concrete and try to ignore the fact that my sister is flirting with my best friend. And she’s doing a really good job of it.

“How have the waves been?” Chris asks, drawing me back into the conversation. He never lets me stray too far.

“A couple tropical depressions came through and kicked up the surf. We got a few good days down at the pier. Probably nothing like an average swell in Cali, though.”

Chris shrugs. “It was all right. Nothing too special. I kind of missed it here.”

He looks at me then with his mile-long gaze, and I wonder if he’s saying that he missed me or if it’s just my lovesick imagination trying to bridge the gap between friendship and something else.

“It was pretty boring.” I glance out at the chemically blue water. The summer has been drab and gray without Chris. Feels like the sun is just now breaking through.

“Learn any new tricks?” he asks, meaning skateboarding. I don’t usually surf too much without him.

“Yeah, a nightmare flip.”

“No way.”

“Yeah, landed primo a few times and almost sliced my balls in half.” I stop at the mention of my balls, feeling my whole face flame up, which is stupid because we’ve probably talked about our balls a million times before, so why is it so weird now?

“Ew, Theo, gross. No one wants to hear about your junk,” my sister says, saving me.

Chris chuckles. “Can’t wait to see it. The flip, that is.”

I feel intensely hot under the heft of his stare, like my body might spontaneously combust. Instead of saying something else weird, I drop my towel on a chair and take off my shirt, then dive into the water and start doing laps. I spent a lot of time swimming laps in Chris’s pool over the summer. I like being submerged.

When Chris and I met, he was in seventh grade and I was in sixth. At the time my mom, my sister, and I had just moved into the gardener’s cottage next door because my parents had recently separated. I told Chris they were getting back together—I was so sure of it. But I’ve realized since then we were only my dad’s starter family.

Chris told me about his own parents’ divorce and then, when it happened to me later that year, he was there to talk me through it. I’ve never met another person I connected with like that. It felt special from the beginning.

Kismet.

And then last year, I started noticing things more—Chris’s muscles for one, the texture of his skin—warm and golden like honey—the pucker of his lips when he’s thinking, his hands. His smell. I started imagining what it might be like to kiss him, and when we’d happen to touch, it made my body go completely bonkers. It got to the point where I couldn’t be in the same room with him without getting a hard-on. Then he left for California for the summer, and I hoped the feelings would pass.

But they haven’t, and I’m scared they won’t.

After about twenty laps, I climb out of the pool feeling a little more relaxed. There are snacks on one of the tables, probably brought out by Paloma, their housekeeper. I towel myself off and check out the spread. Chris lowers his sunglasses and looks me up and down, not even trying to hide it. I don’t know if it’s out of competition or appreciation.

“Been working out?” he asks in that bro-code way.

I flex my barely there biceps as a joke, but they’re not as puny as I remember. “Just swimming and mowing lawns. Got a jobby job.” I grab a grilled cheese sandwich off a plate. Paloma must have made it special for me, knowing they’re my favorite. There’s also cut celery and carrots for Tabs, who it seems is always on a diet, and chicken wings for Chris. He loves bar food—the greasier the better. He should weigh five hundred pounds, but he’s doesn’t. He’s perfect. Le sigh.

“Who you working for?” Chris asks. Beads of sweat have collected on his bare chest, drawing my eyes to the growing patch of rangy brown hair between his chiseled pecs. And, yeah, there it goes again. There must be some kind of pill I could take—the anti-Viagra—for when you want your dick to be cool.

“Theo?”

“A patient at my mom’s office,” I answer, glancing anywhere but at him. “Jack Lawson. Owns Lawson’s Lawns. He needed someone who can speak Spanish to the crew.”

My mom’s Puerto Rican, and she and I mostly spoke Spanish in the house while Tabs and I were growing up. Tabs understands it, but she hardly ever speaks it. She’s always trying to fit in, telling us to “act normal,” whatever that means. Half the people in South Florida speak Spanish, so it’s not even that uncommon.

“Saving up for college?” Chris asks.

I grin at that. Chris is always telling me not to worry about college, that I’ll get a scholarship with my grades and his parents will probably have to pay extra to get a university to take him. He’s always trying to even things out between us so that money isn’t an issue—him having it and me not. Even though my dad’s a dentist and comes from money, he’s working on his fifth kid with his third wife, which means the child support well is drying up fast.

“I’m trying to buy a car,” I remind him.

“What do you need a car for?” His sandy eyebrows draw together, giving him a stern appearance. He looks put out by it. He’s been giving me rides since he got his license last year. Sometimes I feel like I’m taking advantage of his generosity, and I don’t like it.

“You know, to get around. I’m getting my license soon.”

“I thought I was your ride.”

A bit of melted cheese gets stuck in my throat and I have a little coughing fit. Chris jumps up and slaps my back, though I’m not sure it helps. I recover pretty quickly but not before noticing the hesitation of his hand, his warm palm against my cold skin and a slight, reassuring rub that sends the exact wrong message to my dick.

“You going to let me drive your car, Theo?” Tabs calls, hitting me like an anvil to the head.

“Not without a license.” My sister has shown no interest in learning to drive. She only got her learner’s permit because my mom made her, and she hardly ever practices. I don’t understand how she can be so reliant on others. I hate asking people for things.

“You’re still going to ride with me to school, though, right?” Chris says, moistening his lips with his tongue, drawing my attention to the pink that stands out against his tanned skin. His jaw is smooth. No more soft, downy hair. He must have started shaving this summer. Makes me think I should too.

I shrug. “Or, you could ride with me.”

He looks pleased with the suggestion. “Hopefully you’ve gotten better at driving this summer.”

“Like you’re the expert, Curby.”

He throws his shirt at me and I throw it back, but not before catching a whiff of it. Ack. Sensory overload. I claim the lawn chair on the other side of my sister. Physical distance helps. I close my eyes and try to envision the perfect wave instead of imagining what Chris looks like naked. Unfortunately it morphs into what Chris would look like surfing the perfect wave while naked, so then I imagine my fingernails being pulled from their nail beds because only thoughts of physical torture seem to work in these situations.

Tabs sits up, hands the sunscreen to Chris, and asks him to do her back. Without waiting for a reply, she angles toward him and sweeps up her ponytail. Like it’s nothing.

I tell them I have to use the bathroom so I won’t have to watch the rub-a-thon. Inside, I say hello to Paloma and ask about her mother, who’s still recovering from a recent illness. They’re from the Dominican Republic, and I think she likes speaking Spanish to me. We catch up for a bit. Then I hang out for a while in the bathroom, wash my hands meticulously, and count to a hundred until I’m sure the sunscreening is over.

When I come back, they’ve traded places and Tabs is doing Chris’s shoulders. I can tell she’s enjoying it. Really working it in there with the palm of her hand and taking her time. Who wouldn’t? All that warm, teasing skin…. I don’t want to watch, but I can’t seem to look away, so I stand there trapped with a crampy feeling in my balls.

“You need sunscreen?” Chris asks.

I turn fifty shades of red and stammer, “No, I’m good.” The last thing I want is to sprout a hard-on while Chris rubs my back. Jesus, I hope this is just some weird hormonal thing. I’d take acne and voice cracks over impromptu erections any day.

“Brown people burn too,” Tabs says, our mother’s constant reminder.

“I’ll be all right,” I say tightly.

The three of us lounge around in the shallow end, soaking up the sun and our last few days of freedom before school starts. My sister gossips about what went on while Chris was away visiting his dad in California, which couples from school have broken up and who’s gotten back together, who’s cheated or been cheated on. Who’s pregnant or on drugs or in rehab. I tune her out and quietly float on a raft until I hear her start talking about our birthday.

“Guess who’s turning sixteen soon?” she says to Chris.

“Ummm, Theo?” he says with a smile on his face.

She punches his arm playfully. “And me.”

“Really, I thought you were at least seventeen by now.”

She shakes her head and laughs. It echoes across the water, and my twin-sense tells me she’s working up to something. My ears perk up.

“So, I was thinking…,” she says in that nasally voice she gets with my dad whenever she wants something.

“What were you thinking?” Chris asks, playing along.

“I was thinking maybe I could have my birthday party here.” She motions with her manicured hands at the pool and surrounding veranda.

“No,” I call from my inflatable island in the deep end. I hate it when she asks our dad for things. Asking Chris is, like, a million times worse.

Chris ignores me and says, “Will there be a lot of hot chicks here?”

I roll my eyes and groan at his predictability.

“A ton,” she says with this huge smile on her face, and I already know he’s going to give in to her. Everyone does. My sister’s a master at getting her way.

“Will you plan it without any help from me?” he asks.

“Of course I will.” She claps her hands together.

“Will you help clean up?”

“A thousand times yes!”

“One last question.” He glances over at me. “Will I be invited to this party?”

She laughs and strategically places one hand on his bare shoulder. Seeing her touch him like that gets me all moody and pissed. I hate feeling that way toward Chris. And my sister too. I wish I could stop it, or even better, rewind my biology back to when I didn’t have these feelings at all.

“You’ll be my guest of honor, Christian Mitcham,” she says dramatically.

Chris waggles his eyebrows at me. “And what about birthday boy over there, is he invited?”

Tabs turns and lowers her sunglasses, stares at me like I’m the mutant tail she just can’t seem to shake. “I guess so. It’s his birthday too.”

“I’m not going,” I announce. I hate birthday parties, especially joint ones with Tabs. I’m always on edge because she’s so uptight about me not making her look bad.

“You have to go, Theo,” Chris whines in a high-pitched voice and splashes me. “It’s your sweet sixteen.”

A car horn interrupts my everlasting groan.

“Oh, that’s Lizbeth,” my sister says, climbing up the stairs and quickly toweling off. She dons a slinky sundress over her bikini and grabs her bag. “Going shopping at the Gardens. Want to come with?” She directs the question at Chris, not me. My sister rarely asks me to do things with her and her friends. I’m too weird, she says. I don’t talk enough and when I do, I say strange things.

“I’ll stay here and catch up with Theo.” Chris smiles warmly at her. He has this amazing quality of making you feel special just with a smile.

“See ya, Tabs,” I call.

“Yeah,” she responds and saunters off with this swishy walk she does when she thinks somebody might be watching. She has a nice little body, and she knows it. Her sandals go clack-clack-clack on the concrete, and then she’s gone.

“Same old Tabs,” Chris says with a chuckle.

“Yep,” I agree, though I don’t find it at all amusing. She could have at least asked me about her birthday plans before springing it on Chris. I’d have said no—hell, no—which is probably why she didn’t. Maybe too I feel a little possessive over Chris. She has a ton of friends already. Does she have to add Chris to her collection?

“A party could be fun,” he says, trying to warm me up to it.

“I’ll be up there.” I point to my bedroom window.

“Like hell you will. If I have to put up with Tabs’s friends, you do too.”

I groan again even though I think Chris and Tabitha have both become immune to my resistance. The only thing I want to do on my birthday is go down to the DMV and get my license, then drive down A1A in my mom’s car with the windows down, unless I have my own car by then. I’ve got a few thousand saved up from a lifetime of being cheap, along with my pay from summer work. A car means freedom, independence, and not having to rely on Chris or my mom to cart my ass around town all the time.

Chris turns on me then with a mischievous grin, crosses the pool in two strides, and upsets my float, dumping me into the cold water. It’s a bit of a shock to the system. Even more so when he wraps one muscular arm around my neck and dunks me under just to show me he still can.

I come up with a full-body shiver and shake the water from my hair. “Had to get that out, huh?” I ask, hardly even annoyed.

“Got to make sure you still know who’s boss.” He punches my shoulder lightly.

Boss is my nickname for him, whenever he’s being pushy or trying hard to get his way, which is most of the time.

“So, what have you been up to?” Chris asks. “You hardly texted me at all this summer.”

He’s right about that. Mainly because it just made me miss him more. I did send him a few pictures, mostly of the beach and the waves, since that’s always been his favorite view.

“Nothing too exciting happened while you were gone. Didn’t seem like much worth mentioning.”

He scowls like he doesn’t believe me, though he should know nothing fun ever happens when he’s not around.

“I got a new board. Want to see it?” Chris has a lot of toys, but he gets super excited about his boards.

“I’m surprised you held out this long.”

“I figured Tabs wouldn’t be into it. Not the way you would.”

“Yeah, sure.”

We climb out of the pool and towel off. I follow Chris over to one of their outdoor sheds where he keeps his half-dozen surfboards, all quality-made, on wooden racks. If the boards don’t stand up to the test, Chris trades or sells them, which means his collection is always evolving to suit his style of surfing.

The floor is a concrete slab and the couple of dusty windows light the shed in a buttery yellow haze. I can’t see the color and design as well as if we were outside, so I run my hand along the edge of the board where it straddles two sawhorses. It’s a short board with a slightly upturned nose. The epoxy resin is smooth as glass, not a drop of wax on it. It’s probably never even been floated before.

“You haven’t used it yet,” I remark. Usually Chris takes them out his first day, or he arranges to test drive them before buying.

“This weekend. Taking a trip to Sebastian before school starts. You coming?”

I have nothing planned other than working with my lawn crew, which I can probably get covered for the weekend, but it’s hard enough keeping my junk in check when we’re alone. I don’t want the pressure of being around his ultrahetero friends or watching him make out with his squad of surfer girls.

“I don’t know, Boss. School starts on Monday.”

“Whaaat?” he whines and I shrug like What can I do about it? “Come on, T. I really want you to come with me. We haven’t hung out all summer.”

“I know, but….” I drift off, not knowing how to finish that thought without telling him the real reason—it’s too damn hard to be constantly tempted with something you can’t have.

“I’ll give you Lady Macbeth.” Chris grins slyly, sweetening the pot. Lady Macbeth is my favorite of his collection, a long board made by a local guy named Casper. We named her that because we’re convinced she’s suicidal. On good days that board can sail. On bad ones she drops me on my ass. I can relate to her temperament.

“I always get Lady Macbeth.”

“To have.” He crosses his arms over his broad chest, accentuating the swell of his biceps and the meat of his pecs.

Chris is always giving me stuff. Before I got too tall, he used to give me his old clothes. My bike used to be his, too, and a couple of my skateboards. He’s too generous, especially to me.

“That board’s worth, like, $500. Not including sentimental value.”

“It’s practically yours anyway. I never ride it.”

“So you’re telling me you want me to store it in my garage,” I say to mess with him. I don’t want him to think I’m using him for his stuff, part of why I started working this summer. To give back.

“No,” he says, getting a little flustered. It doesn’t happen often, but I do enjoy seeing Mr. Calm, Cool, and Collected squirm. “You can still store it here. You probably should. Don’t want to make the others jealous.”

“Ha,” I say as my eyes land on the ridgeline of his collarbone and the gold chain that rests there with a shark’s tooth attached. I found it way back when on the beach and gave it to him—biggest tooth we’d ever seen. Chris had it made into a necklace. The tooth belongs to a great white, he always tells people when they ask, the same shark that chomps on surfers up and down the coast. Not us, though. By wearing its tooth, it shows the sharks we’re one of them. Like most surfers, Chris is a bit superstitious.

I turn away so he won’t see my face and pretend to inspect Lady Macbeth. “She’s pretty dinged up, though.”

“You little shit.” He shoves me lightly. “You’re the one who dinged her.”

I smile. He’s so protective of his boards. “If I take her off your hands, she might not answer to you anymore.”

“She never did. I’d have sold her if it weren’t for you.” He lays his hand on the board’s edge and gives her an affectionate little squeeze. His ruddy golden hand with his sun-bleached nails, next to mine, so close they’re practically touching. Chris is always just an inch too far away.

“So, you’ll come to Sebastian with me?”

Is it my imagination, or is there some unspoken plea in his voice? I don’t know how I’m going to survive the weekend with him, much less my entire sophomore year. Lots of cold showers. But like most things with Chris, I don’t have the willpower to say no.

“Yeah, I’ll come. But I get shotgun.” I always get shotgun unless there’s a girl in the car, Hopefully he’s not bringing a girl with us.

“Damn, Theo, I go away for a summer and you’ve turned into a shark.”

I shake my head and nudge him lightly with my shoulder, my bare skin brushing against his. I glance over, and even though I can’t see them in this light, I know that’s where he collects his freckles, on the tops of his shoulders. I’ve spent way too much time memorizing them, but it’s partly his fault for never wearing a damn shirt.

“You know you always get what you want in the end,” I tell him. As if there was ever a question.

He smiles with an arrogance that only adds to his appeal. “Don’t make me work too hard.”

That deep, gravelly voice gets me every time. Feels like my heart is being rubbed over a cheese grater. I remind myself to breathe, then make up an excuse about something I need to do at home and walk back out of the shed with his fumes still in my nostrils and his voice humming in my head.

Our summer apart hasn’t changed a thing. If anything, it’s only gotten worse. I’m still hopelessly infatuated with my best friend.

My straight best friend.

 

About the Author

Laura Lascarso wants you to stay up way past your bedtime reading her stories. She aims to inspire more questions than answers in her fiction and believes in the power of storytelling to heal and transform a society. When not writing, Laura can be found screaming “finish” on the soccer fields, rewatching Veronica Mars, and trying to convince politicians that climate change is real. She lives in North Florida with her darling husband and two kids. She loves hearing from readers, and she’d be delighted to hear from you.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/lascarso

Twitter: @lauralascarso 

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Laura Lascarso on Writing and Andre in Flight (Dreamspinner Press Author Guest Blog and giveaway)

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Andre in Flight by Laura Lascarso
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reamspinner Press
Cover Artist: AngstyG

Release Date: November 16, 2016

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Laura Lascarso here today to talk about writing, and her latest release Andre in Flight.  Welcome, Laura and thank you for answering some of our questions today.

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An Interview with Laura Lascarso author of Andre in Flight

  •  Where do you normally draw your inspiration for a book from?  A memory, a myth, a place or journey, or something far more personal?

For me, each book is different. My first novel, about a teen’s struggle with her alcoholic mother, was inspired by Tracy Chapman’s song FAST CAR and some of my own family’s struggles with alcoholism and depression. The second, a Romeo & Juliet with racecars, was born from my mom’s struggle with breast cancer (she survived!). With ANDRE, I was gifted a story from my best friend from high school about an experience she had with an unrequited lover. The one I’m working on now was inspired by a poem. I guess that means I find the world, for better or worse, an inspiring place.

  • Are you a planner or a pantzer when writing a story? And why?

I’m a pantzer who aspires to be a planner. I used to completely fly by the seat of my pants, get to about page 80, and realize I didn’t have a plot. Lately, I’ve been using beat sheets to outline my story. Or I’ll write a synopsis of the story before I begin. Knowing the ending is so helpful when crafting a story. That said, if a character speaks to me, I’ll follow them down any rabbit hole. For me, it’s all about the characters. Perhaps to my own misfortune, plot comes second.

  • Contemporary, supernatural, fantasy, or science fiction narratives or something else?  Does any genre draw you more than another when writing it or reading it and why does it do so?

I like reading emotionally complex stories, whether it’s a romance, thriller or fantasy. I suppose I gravitate towards writing the same. I’d like to delve more into speculative fiction because I like the themes you can weave in with those types of stories, whether it’s psychological or spiritual, but I tend to keep my stories pretty realistic and contemporary. I write mostly young and new adult. I like the challenges and discoveries of new adulthood.

  • If you had a character you’ve written you would write differently now at this time in your writing career, who would it be and why?

I don’t think so, not at this time, but I reserve the right to change my mind.

  • Can an author have favorites among their characters and do you have them?

I definitely have favorites, some are immediate and some grow on me the more I get to know them. Sometimes a character eludes me and I have to really delve into their lives to understand them better. Revision helps with that. I’d like to write a story where the protagonist becomes the antagonist, like Walter White in BREAKING BAD or Anakin Skywalker in STAR WARS. The reversal of that would be cool too, like Scrooge in A CHRISTMAS CAROL. I really like characters who transform throughout the story. I feel like it’s a much more rewarding experience for readers.

  • If you were to be stranded on a small demi-planet, island, or god forbid LaGuardia in a snow storm, what books would you take to read or authors on your comfort list?

I’d probably bring the Bible because there’s a ton of stories in there. And subtext. So much subtext.

  • How early in your life did you begin writing?

My first published work was MARTY, THE MACAW WHO COULDN’T SING when I was in third grade. It travelled around in one of those bus libraries. I’ve always enjoyed living inside imaginary worlds and writing is a way to share them with others.

  • Were you an early reader or were you read to and what childhood books had an impact on you as a child that you remember to this day and why?

As I alluded to previously, the Bible had a profound impact on me. When I was in fourth grade, my mom, her boyfriend and I lived on a sailboat. My dozen or so Nancy Drew’s and Sweet Valley Highs got old pretty quickly, but the Bible kept my attention. Power, love, vengeance, compassion, forgiveness, violence—so many characters in moral quandaries. I wouldn’t consider myself a religious person necessarily, but I do often go back to Bible stories for inspiration. After that, Edith Hamilton’s MYTHOLOGY: TIMELESS TALES OF GODS AND HEROES. It’s a little more racy than the Bible. One of my favorite picture books was THE MONSTER AT THE END OF THIS BOOK with Grover—so much suspense!

  • What question would you ask yourself here?

I’d ask, what advice do you have for fledgling writers? Keep on trucking. And there are enough critics out there who will tear you down. Don’t do it to yourself. Be your own advocate, artistically and otherwise.

  • If you were writing your life as a romance novel, what would the title be?

Great question! My instinct is to say something flippant like YOU’RE DOING THE DISHES TONIGHT but truly, I am blessed to have a partner who loves me unconditionally and is a great comfort when I need it. We’ve been together since we were 21 (15 years), so in a lot of ways, it feels like we’ve grown up together. At the risk of sounding cheesy, I’d name my romance STILL THE ONE.

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About Andre in Flight

When up-and-coming Miami painter Martin Fonseca encounters youthful pretty boy Andre Bellamy washing dishes in the kitchen of La Candela, he swears he’s known him before, intimately. But Andre only arrived in Miami weeks ago, after running away from small-town Alabama and his abusive father. When Martin discovers Andre trading sexual favors for a place to stay, he offers him a room in his studio apartment. As roommates only.

What starts as a playful friendship turns into something more as Andre begins posing for Martin, whose true passion is painting fantastical portraits. Martin’s obsession with Andre grows until they are sharing more than just flirtatious conversation. But when an eccentric art collector buys one of Martin’s paintings, Martin’s past jealousies resurface and threaten to destroy what he and Andre have so lovingly built.

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About the Author

Laura Lascarso lives in North Florida with her darling husband, two children, and a menagerie of animals. Her debut novel, Counting Backwards (Simon & Schuster 2012) won the Florida Book Award gold medal for young adult literature. She aims to inspire more questions than answers in her fiction and believes in the power of stories to heal and transform a society.

For social critiques, writer puns, and Parks and Rec gifs, follow her on Twitter @lauralascarso

Twitter /lauralascarso
Facebook /lascarso
Website http://lauralascarso.com

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A Caryn Release Day Review: Andre in Flight by Laura Lascarso

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Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

andre-in-flight-by-laura-lascarsoOooh, what a twisty and devious book this was!  It’s not mentioned in the blurb, and only hinted at in the beginning of the story, but there was a subtle paranormal aspect to it which was not what I expected it to be.

Martin is an artist, a painter, who waits tables in a trendy Miami restaurant to pay the bills.  His friend/sometime lover/manager Melissa also works there with him, while she finds ways to promote and encourage his art, and makes sure that he is making money for both of them.  One night when he walks into the restaurant for his usual shift, he notices a beautiful new young man working as a dishwasher.  Martin is entranced, helplessly attracted, but also has that deja vu feeling that he knows this man.  In a matter of a week he has convinced Andre to move in with him, and his attraction starts to turn into obsession.  He paints frenziedly, always of Andre, and it is his best work yet.  But there are  ominous mutterings from Melissa – who has always been a bit mysterious and cagey with Martin – as well as frightening and intrusive new thoughts and feelings that get mixed up into Martin’s recurring nightmare of fire.

The foreshadowing was very nicely done, keeping the sinister impression going through most of the book, even during what should have been a very happy time for Martin and Andre as they enjoy the excitement of a new relationship.  It was like having the Jaws theme playing continuously in the background, but in a good way!  The uneasiness and disquiet come to a climax about two thirds of the way through the book, and Martin is left devastated and confused, and ultimately makes a deal with the devil (guess who that was?) to make sure he can be with Andre.

The plot was great.  The writing was very good, and I really enjoyed how the sex was not presented as a detailed “he did this, and he responded like that”, but rather as a poetic rendering of what Martin saw and felt, both physically and emotionally.  Truly, it was some of the most memorable writing in the book, even though the scenes were brief and infrequent.  I considered giving the book 4 stars, but in the end, although I was attracted to the writing, I never really did connect with either Martin or Andre, or their relationship.

Despite that, I really enjoyed the book, and this author, who is new to me.  I will be looking for more from her!

Cover Artist: AngstyG. Cover art is beautiful, and a fit to the brooding quality of the writing.

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Book Details:

ebook, 116 pages
Expected publication: November 16th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 163477793X (ISBN13: 9781634777933)
Edition LanguageEnglish