Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Advent Calendar Day 9

Today's holiday morsel is an excerpt from the Adrien English CYOA novel STRANGER THINGS HAVE HAPPENED and you'll notice I'm sharing one of the gorgeous full color interior illustrations by the amazing Catherine Dair.

As you may or may not know, I used Fatal Shadows as the rough guideline for STRANGER THINGS HAVE HAPPENED. This allowed me to embellish and expand a bit on Fatal Shadows for those who can never quite get enough of Adrien and Jake, but the fun part is the multiple alternate possibilities for how that story could have gone. And if you've read STHH, you know that it could have gone very right or VERY wrong.

The illustrations, four in total, are probably the best thing about the book. So thank you yet again, Catherine.

Anyway, I had a lot of fun writing it--the SO tells me maniacal laughter echoed from my office on more than one occasion--but frankly it was the most difficult project I've ever done, and I'm not sure I have the nerve to try another (sorry, those of you who have suggested Will and Taylor are prime for CYOA).

I'm giving away two copies of the print edition that contains the full color illustrations. If you've tracked them down to Createspace (the only place you can purchase them new) you know they're on the pricy side. So let's see...comment on why you feel Adrien and Jake are unique and you'll be included in the drawing for one of these two giveaway copies.

And for those of you who haven't bought the ebook or B&W edition but are a bit curious, enjoy the crazy:

PLOT LINE J If you decide to go with Claude to Ball and Chain, turn to page...

The music is deafening and about two decades out of date. For some reason, that strikes you as the most embarrassing thing so far. Of course, the night is young. A lot of guys are dancing, and you are reminded yet again that it is sadly true that most white guys, even gay white guys, can’t dance.

You avert your gaze from the dreadful spectacle — and who should you spot from clear across the cavern-sized room but Detective Riordan. He’s standing at the bar drinking whisky and staring broodingly into space. Your jaw drops and you walk right into a guy who looks like an extra for Marlon Brando in The Wild One. No, correction. He looks like Marlon Brando in later years trying to force his way back into his costume from The Wild One. Talk about something your best friends won’t tell you.

The guy, who is old enough to be your father — although thinking about your parents in this context kinda makes you feel faint — says something you can’t make out over the music. Claude responds saucily on your behalf and drags you away, Marlon gives your ass an appreciative pat and you jump like you sat on a rocket.

“What is the matter with you?” Claude demands. “Behave!”

It’s hard to picture Robert here. Oh, he’d have liked the general subversive kinkiness of it, but Robert was not a kind or tolerant person when it came to other people’s vulnerabilities, and you see a lot of vulnerability. A lot of soft underbelly, both figuratively and literally.

You rock to a stop, bringing Claude to a halt.

“What are we doing here?” you ask in response to his questioning look.

“We’re detecting!”

“What are we detecting?”

He smiles coquettishly and nods at a blond twink in jeans and a black leather vest. “I can’t speak for you, mon cher, but I detect that!”

You roll your eyes. “I’m going to investigate the bar.”

You knew from the moment Claude suggested it, that this night was a waste of time and money. You turn away, but a hand hooks around your arm. You look up and your heart jumps in your chest. Detective Riordan gazes down at you with a strange half smile.

“Why, look who’s here,” he says in that voice that always feels like fingernails raking the back of your neck.

“Oh. Hey,” you say weakly. It really IS him. Detective Riordan is in a leather club. Detective Riordan is apparently gay. Or maybe he’s undercover? Then you remember the scene in Robert’s apartment.

Detective Riordan was not giving you mouth-to-mouth resuscitation this afternoon, he was kissing you.

Your gaze falls and you take him in, from the gleam of his black boots…leather jeans…studded leather belt…and then bare, broad muscular chest. Nothing else. Not a single extra anything. Severe and elegant. Beneath the gold dusting of chest hair, his pecs look like rocks. So do his biceps. He’s got an abdomen like a washboard. You can’t stop staring. Your mouth is dry, your heart racketing around your chest.

“Come here often?” He’s laughing at you. Well, the line of his mouth is serious enough, but his eyes glitter with amusement. Amusement and…excitement.

He wants you.

Holy moly. Detective Riordan wants you.

“It’s my first time,” you joke. “So be gentle.” At least…you thought you were joking. Maybe not so much.

He blinks. Then his eyes widen.

Anyway, to make a long story short, it’s true what the American Express advertising says. Membership does have its privileges. Before you can say “second thoughts,” you’re in a small, private room marked MEMBERS ONLY. The “members” thing makes you want to giggle, but that’s because you’re strung so tight with nerves you’re ready to blow apart.

How can you be so anxious and so turned on all at the same time?

The room is more like a dentist’s office than a bedroom, but then you’re not there to sleep. There is a long — two-way?! — mirror down the length of one brick wall. There is a battered-looking armoire. Or maybe it’s an entertainment console. Are you going to be filmed? Recorded? Blackmailed? There are a couple of padded benches. Padded walls might be more appropriate. There is also a half table with a frame that looks like a cross between a rack and a baby swing. You definitely do not want to know.

The room is warm and the lights are low. The thump of the bass from the dance floor is like a drugged heartbeat beneath your feet.

“Do you have a safe word?”

You try not to start. Riordan is right behind you, breathing down your neck. Your scalp prickles. Your prick prickles. Your prickles prickle.

“Stop?” you offer.

“You do know how this works, right?”

“Of course,” you lie.

“You need to pick a different safe word.”
“Why wouldn’t stop work? If I say stop, believe me, I mean stop.”

He is not amused. “Pick another word.”


“Periwinkle it is. Now take your clothes off, Adrien,” Riordan orders in a silky voice.

“Oh, right.” You slowly pull your black turtleneck over your head. A black turtleneck. You’re dressed more like a cat burglar than a guy hoping for some action. You fold your pullover and then don’t know what to do with it. You hold it to your chest, in ingĂ©nue fashion.

Riordan observes your dilemma. His mouth quirks. “Maybe you better tell me about this fantasy of yours,” he says, breaking character for a moment. Or maybe this is his character. Superior, indulgent, completely in control.

“Um, well, the usual thing,” you say vaguely. How far are you going to take this? You’re not sure.



“You address me as ‘sir.’”

“Right. Sir.” You almost snort, but catch yourself in time. Or do you? Riordan’s mouth quirks again.

He reaches out and his fingers brush the pulse point at the base of your throat. Your heartbeat bangs away like a little blue hammer. “Why are you really here, Adrien? Don’t lie to me.”

Now here’s a crazy thing. You open your mouth to lie to him, and you find you can’t.

You swallow hard. “Robert used to come here sometimes,” you admit. “Claude and I thought…” You don’t finish it because it occurs to you, too late, that Riordan is not a tourist like yourself. He might have run into Robert at this club. He might be a suspect in Robert’s death himself.

You stare at him wordlessly, the pulse fluttering away in the hollow of your throat. Your skin seems to tingle beneath his touch. He stares at you, and you know he can read your thoughts as easily as if they were subtitles at the bottom of a movie screen. In this case, probably a horror movie.

“Go home, Adrien-with-an-e,” Riordan says softly. His breath is warm against your face, and scented of spearmint. “Go home before you get into real trouble.”




If you choose to go home, turn to page 126 


If you decide to stay and get into real trouble, turn to page 142 



  1. That last line ("If you decide to stay and get into real trouble, turn to page 142") shows why I like STHH so much! It's like dreaming on speed, but it reveals aspects of each of the characters which make it invaluable. And yes, I already own the print version so I'm not in the draw.

  2. I wish I did own this. These two are wonderful together as they had many chances and kept going back. Love wins in the end.

  3. Don't count me in the giveaway, because I already have the book. I just want to say that Adrien and Jake are so special for me because they were the first M/M couple I fell for... I had read a couple of books when I hit on the series, but before Adrien English I did not quite feel them, then I met Adrien and Jake and I knew I was a goner... I just loved them from the start!

  4. I just bet this was difficult. But it is one of the most fun books I've ever read. Hours of entertainment. I, of course, already own it so don't include me in the draw. But I just had to say, I had NEVER even thought about a "write your own damn book" for Will And Taylor...Dammit, Lanyon! :-D

  5. This is such a fun book! I have the full color print version and the ebook, so no need to include me in the draw. But I just wanted to chime in and say that reading this one was like opening a big pile of the coolest presents ever. All those new, surprising possibilities twining with the familiar story! I remember laughing aloud a lot while reading it. Oh, and occasionally gasping, too. :-) And Catherine's illustrations are truly wonderful.

  6. I enjoyed reading this. Of course, I read this during my PT sessions. They are such a fun group of therapists that they didn't even complain when I was laughing out loud. :)
    -Andy Slayde

  7. Ohhh, so delicious. I don't know how writing this book didn't send you around the bend. Oh, wait...... Now you've given Marilyn a thought, you are in big trouble!!

    *I own and immensely enjoy a color copy of this, so no contest entry for me!

  8. What a delight to wake up to! Just yesterday, one of the art students I tutor asked me how I got started in this phase of my art career as Catherine Dair. (The line between my two lives is pretty blurry these days as more and more people in my real life circles know what I do, including the kids I work with).

    I told A about reading a series of books that touched my heart so much that I created fanart for them. At my friend Diana's urging, I nervously emailed the author, Josh Lanyon, and hit the "send" button with my heart in my throat.

    I told her about how your reply forever changed my world. The moral of my tale to her was "never be afraid to go for it." Helping you create this marvelous book was a life changing experience for me. I love it (and you) from the bottom of my heart.

  9. Oh God Oh God..who would be STUPID enough to go HOME???? Unique doesn't do them justice, does it? Indescribable, superlative and just plain sexy as.. well you know it :D

  10. I loved CYOA books growing up which made STHH a given to buy. I lost track of how many times I've read it, including going through page by page to make sure I didn't miss any of the gorgeous illustrations or Adrien's wonderful fantasies. The pirate one was my favorite. :)

    I think Jake and Adrien are unique because their romance is unlike any other I've read. It wasn't easy and perfect from the start and they weren't together through the series. It took them years before they FINALLY worked it out and accepted each other and themselves so their relationship could be what both wanted it to be. But even when they were apart, they couldn't fully break away from each other. Their relationship was so real to me and not the fairy tale most romances try to portray.

  11. What timing! I just boxed up my copy and JUST finished re-listening to Fatal Shadows.

  12. Ooooh, why they're unique. I've never been much of a mystery buff and it had been a long time since I had read any romance books so Adrien and Jake opened up new experiences for me. Their relationship kept me at the edge of my seat!

  13. I remember books like these! But... they had less sex. And no kitchen implements.

  14. They are unique since you can't predict what they will do! Favorite couple ever.

  15. I am the proud owner of the b/w book and the STHH ebook, but I have missed the color version, that's very strange. Adrien and Jake are such an unique couple for me, because they are both very strong personalities. Adrien seems to be more fragile, but fragile is only his body. His mind is very strong, he knows his fears and faced up to them.
    Jake has to question his whole adult life, has to give up important dreams; he needs a long time to do that, but at last he has the backbone to be himself. Both are men, I would like to meet in real life.

  16. I have sent the link to Hans, he will understand it :-).

  17. Adrien and Jake are an unlikely couple, yet eventually they bring out the best in each other. Adrien plays the integral role in helping Jake come to grips with his sexuality and self-identity. Without that, Jake is a shell of himself. But the more interesting theme is how Adrien, through his experiences with Jake, develops as a stronger adult. Although always loyal, compassionate, cultured, and blessed/cursed with a rich inner voice, Adrien learns to make smarter decisions, stand up for himself, take chances, and pursue what he wants. The concept of Jake indulging Adrien without crippling him is also a theme that is unique to them as a couple. It runs throughout the series and largely creates the chemistry that makes up the Adrien-Jake relationship that we all love.

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  19. Adrien and Jake were one of my first forays into the genre AND my first introduction to your books, so I have a bit of a soft spot anyway, but I think what makes them truly unique is that they're so beautifully and realistically flawed. They're perfect for each other while not being perfect people, and I loved exploring their weaknesses and fears as well as their surprising strengths, right alongside their growing (and crumbling) relationship. Plus, I want to work at Cloak and Dagger with Adrien SO BAD.

  20. I love this series! Adrien and Jake are the first, and maybe only couple, who spent almost as much time dating other people as they did together, and yet you always felt that they belonged together and somehow they'd find a way. I loved the relationship, the bookstore and the mysteries :)

  21. I've only ever listened to the first book in audible but I have read the codas, the reviews of the readers, and the character interviews.

    I think that Jake and Adrien are unique as a couple because of the people they became when they got together.

    Adrien is loved for his inner strength and his sense of humor. Jake is loved for his over protectiveness and the way he loved Adrien in silence (Oh my gosh, that coda, it hurts).

    It's the way they loved each other and the way they survived every obstacle thrown at them. It's the way they fought for their love. :) It's the way their love story triumphed against all odds.

    And that is why they are dearly loved by the readers. :) Because in real life, forgiveness is harder to give and it's easier to quit. :)

    1. Easier to quit and turn your back on someone when you've had enough of their shit. :(

    2. True. And also I think people have very unrealistic ideas about love, romance and what it takes to keep a relationship healthy.

    3. Oh yes. We put the people we love in the pedestal so high that when reality sets in, the crash is so much harder, louder.

      It shatters us to pieces and it makes it harder to accept they have shortcomings. Us, too. Because everyone does.

      Communication is the key I guess. And compromise. Helping our loved ones realize their potential and the person that they could be, and in Jake's case, helping him accept and embrace who he really is.

    4. And did I mention acceptance? <3 Because we can never move forward without it.

  22. I absolutely love, love, love STHH! It is so much fun to read. I think I've spent hours trying to make sure I followed every possible story line. And don't even get me started on Cathrine's art. I been a big fan ever since Josh first post that fan art of Adrien and Jake. *fans self*

    The thing I think is so unique about Adrien and Jake (and is perfectly portrayed in STHH)is that they are so inevitable. They are soulmates in every sense of the word. It is not all hearts and flowers with them. No, it pain and tears and sometimes pirates but, through it all they keep finding their way back to each other because that is where they belong.

  23. Like one of the other commenters, Adrien and Jake were one of the 1st MM couples I really identified with. I think that Fatal Shadows was maybe the 5th or 6th MM romance I read, and it turned what had been a curious exploration into a fullblown obsession. Adrien and Jake were so entirely captivating, with their banter and their pride and their vulnerabilities - couldn't help but fall in love.

  24. It's been awhile since I've read these, but one thing that stood out to me, especially about Jake, was that he could have been very stereotypical, but he wasn't-- the closeted cop with the religious family. But Jake had depth to him that would have been lost in the hands of many other writers.

  25. Adrien and Jake are just so heartfelt, complete, 3-dimensional, loaded with insecurities and Adrien with his kinda prickly personality but always helping anyhow and Jake with his personal struggle but a solid detective. They're awesome and always worth revisiting.

  26. Love Adrien & Jake! I haven't read STHH yet, and now I feel left out!

  27. I love that Adrien is easily the strongest character in the series, but isn't the obvious choice because of his physical nature. He has a strong sense of self, and even though he feels he's weak at times, he doesn't compromise who he is. I like Jake because of how he evolved through out the books. He could have easily gone the way of the suspect in the last book. I wish he wouldn't have lost so much when he reached his "ah-ha" moment, but I like the fact that he was willing to sacrifice those things to get back to what was important to him. While I think he honestly did make the decision for his own peace of mind, I can't help but think he also wanted to become someone worthy of Adrien. The core of Jake was always there, they both just needed time to realize it.

    I love all of your books and stories, but there's something about these two characters that you can relate to. A vulnerability, but one that allowed them to find the strength to admit the truth of their feelings, not only to each other but to themselves (and unlike some authors, the obstacles seemed real and in context with the story...not manufactured just for the drama of it). Oh, and as always. I love their humor...or at least Adrien's, since Jake is more of the "straight man" (get it? Sorry, bad attempt at humor). ;)

  28. And the winners of the full color print edition of STRANGER THINGS HAVE HAPPENED are:

    Cathy R
    Beth (Scifibookcat)
    Sabine (yes, I kicked in an extra book!)

    Please contact me through my website or on FB with your snailmail address and we'll ship the book out to you!