Author Name: Pat Henshaw
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: Dec 29, 2017
Cover Artist: AngstyG
Genres: Contemporary, Gay Romance
Tropes: Opposites Attract, Shy Man Falls For Outgoing Man, Country Mouse / City Mouse, Overcoming Abuse, Overcoming The Past
Keywords/Categories: Gay Men, Transgender
The influx of San Francisco Bay Area gays is now commonplace in Stone Acres, California. But that means big city problems—much to the dismay of long-time residents of the small community.
In Relative Best, Zeke Bandy’s hotel becomes a haven for a battered youth. Native American Vic Longbow, who escaped a similarly brutal upbringing, comes face-to-face with it at Zeke’s place. With trouble surrounding them, can Zeke and Vic find their own peace and love?
On the outside, hardware store owner Frank McCord is the town’s bachelor handyman in Frank at Heart. Inside, he’s pining for true love, particularly the regard of software designer Christopher Darling. But recently divorced Christopher isn’t looking for another husband.
Country contractor Ben in Waking the Behr has always believed he’s heterosexual…until he meets city entrepreneur Mitch O’Shea. Mitch never thought he’d settle down with a guy from the country. Can a gay city mouse and a sexually confused country mouse find love?
When UC Davis horticulture grad Fen Miller agrees to help out in his cousin’s nursery over Christmas, he rents a room in sous chef John Barton’s Victorian house. John, another shorter than average man, catches Fen’s interest. But John’s past comes back to threaten them both in Short Order.
During the recession at the beginning of the 21st century, many gays and lesbians moved from the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento to the Sierra Foothills. FLAG (Foothills Lesbians and Gays) was formed. This series was written for them.
From Frank at Heart:
Today when the stranger came into the store, instead of wandering and giving me a moment to fully admire him, he stepped confidently up to the counter.
“Hi there. I’m Christopher (mumble, mumble).” He stuck out a hand.
“Frank McCord. Sorry, I didn’t catch the last name.” I gripped his hand firmly, happy to get a chance to touch him. He shone. Handsome as they come, a poster model with a clear, warm smile and a twinkle in his eyes. I wasn’t ever going to win a beauty contest, but I stood up straight as I looked him at him.
Then I noticed his cheeks had reddened in what looked suspiciously like a blush and wondered what that was about. I was still waiting to hear his full name.
“Uh, yeah. Uh. Don’t laugh.” He cleared his throat and pulled out of our too-long handshake. “I’m, uh, Christopher Darling.”
It took me a minute because he hesitated between his first and last names. Had he called me…? Naw. But for a second I let myself believe. No, no. Darling was his last name. I almost chuckled before I remembered he’d asked me not to.
Instead, I put on my helpful store smile.
“Nice to meet you, Christopher. What can I do for you?”
His grin grew in confidence, probably because not only hadn’t I laughed at his name but I also looked as benign as they came.
“I saw you had a Help Wanted sign in the window.” He turned a little and pointed behind him.
“Well, now, I’m not saying you’re old, but I’m looking for a couple of teenagers to work either full- or part-time for the summer. Are you in high school?” I thought I’d asked it teasingly, but he reddened again.
“It’s not for me, but my son. He’s fifteen. Is he too young?” Before I could answer, Christopher scurried on. “He’s a junior, going into senior year. We think he’ll be going to MIT or Stanford after he graduates.”
“Oh my. He’s a child prodigy. You must be proud of him.” I was impressed.
Christopher flushed. “Yes, I’m terribly proud of him. We’re hoping he won’t have as many problems here as he did in Mountain View.”
Who were we? Him and the boy’s mother? I hesitated to ask. After all, it wasn’t really my business. But now that we’d broken the ice, I hoped to learn more about him.
“He had problems?” I couldn’t imagine any kid having problems with a father who seemed as supportive as the god standing in front of me.
“My son’s gay like I am. A group of kids his age thought it unacceptable there.”
Now wasn’t that good news? Focus, I reminded myself. Answer the man’s concerns.
“Well, you’ve come to the right place. Stone Acres Regional High, and the town as well, are gay-friendly and no-hate. The new principal and the gay sheriff go out of their way to keep it that way.” I gave a dry laugh. “Besides, as far as the school is concerned, only a half-dozen kids went out for football and even fewer for basketball last year. That cut down on the number of jocks. Mostly, Stone Acres is a live-and-let-live place with only a few squalls now and again.”
The bell tinkled as someone walked into the store. I shifted from one foot to the other and looked over Christopher’s shoulder. Speaking of teenagers, the half day of school must be out, and here was a potential applicant who was the right age, if I wasn’t mistaken.
The boy moving up behind Christopher stood almost as tall as me. I thought I was skinny, but this kid gave a whole new meaning to the word. His T-shirt caved in toward his chest as he walked, and I swear I could see his hip bones outlined at the top of his slacks.
Going by looks alone, he could have easily been my son. The boy and I shared prominent Adam’s apples under long, thin faces and unruly, cowlick-prone brown hair. Only our eyes were different, his a striking light tawny brown flecked with gold, like Christopher’s, to my plain old brown.
“Dad.” The way the kid groaned it, the word had four or five syllables. “I told you’d I’d come talk to him myself.”
Yup, fifteen years old all right.
It’d been on the tip of my tongue to ask Christopher why in the world his son would want to work here, in what some considered the dullest store in town. Now I’d be able to ask the kid himself.
“May I help you?” I mainly asked the question so the two of them wouldn’t start discussing—or even worse, fighting over—why the dad hadn’t waited for the kid to come in on his own. I didn’t want to give Christopher a chance to say something that would deflate his son, like the dad didn’t think the kid had enough nerve or could handle the conversation with me.
The kid gave me a blinding smile.
“Hi. I’m Henry Darling, and I’d like to apply for the summer position.” He hadn’t stumbled over his last name, so there was no question whether he was addressing me by a pet name.
Henry held out his skinny hand, and I shook it. The kid was stronger than he looked. “Well, Henry, I’m Franklin McCord. Everybody around here calls me Frank. Let me get my calendar.” I squatted and pulled out my paper day planner and plunked it down on the counter.
Father and son shared a smile. Oh, I knew why. They’d come from Silicon Valley and probably had their calendars on their iPhones or androids or somewhere else in a cloud or in the ether. Just because I kept the paper tradition started by my grandfather didn’t mean I was a complete Luddite.
I flipped through the pages, then took out a piece of paper from the back of the book.
“I’m having applicants take a little test after they fill out this form. So if you can complete it right now, we’ll set up a time for you to come in.”
“Okay. May I ask what kind of test, sir?”
Wow. “May” not “can.” What an interesting kid. But I had to break him of the “sir” habit. Made me sound way too old. At least too old for his father.
“Like I said, everyone calls me Frank, even the kids.” I pointed to the former soup can overflowing with pens and pencils. “The test’s pretty simple, really. I’ll have you name some hardware items and build a little something. I’ll provide directions. You just have to follow them.”
The test was the only way to separate the potential baristas and movie ushers from the hardware enthusiasts. Not only did everyone in town call me Frank, but they also knew I paid more than minimum wage to my high school help. So kids who didn’t give a damn about the difference between a nail and a screw—except when they were talking about sex—applied for any jobs I offered.
I watched as Henry filled out the application quickly and neatly. Christopher was eyeing him with a proud, besotted look on his face. His gaze turned to me, and he smiled over his son’s head. He nodded like we were sharing a moment here.
A pang of longing shot through me. I’ve always wanted kids—the more the merrier. As a modern gay man, I knew it was possible. Proof stood in front of me. As the geeky town tinkerer without any hope of finding a man I could love and want as my husband, however, I knew the prospect wasn’t plausible. Sometimes, like now, that realization cut deep.
After Henry studied the page a moment, he returned the pen to the can, picked up the application, and handed it to me.
“The school year ends next Thursday.” Henry, unlike many high school kids, was looking me straight in the eye and wasn’t relying on his father to fill in any blanks or prompt him. I was impressed. “I can take the test today, tomorrow, or after school next week.”
I read down his application. I don’t use a standard form, because the ones I’d found online didn’t tell me anything I wanted to know about my applicants. My form has the usual name, address, and contact information, but it also asks about extracurricular activities, interests, and passions. A lot of kids stopped at the word “passions,” and some even asked what I meant.
Henry had had no problem answering the questions. He wrote that he was a game player, both electronic and nonelectronic. He was a serious reader, listing The Silmarillion as the last book he’d truly enjoyed. Some boys can’t remember a book they’ve read, much less the last one they really got into. Also unlike most of the boys who applied, Henry hadn’t listed any sports, either as a participant or a fan.
“You don’t like sports?” I tried not to ask it too gruffly, but both Darlings’ faces scrunched up.
“Is that a problem?” Christopher evidently wasn’t worried about being too gruff.
“No. I follow a few teams. So I try to make sure rivalries and loyalties won’t become a point of contention here in the store.” Some people have remarked that mildness could be my middle name. I’ve worked hard at keeping my cool, so I don’t usually flare up. I try to surround myself with people who don’t either. The world around me got really ugly when I was angry.
Do you read your book reviews? Having been a reviewer yourself, what do you think about the reviews your books get?
Yes, unfortunately, I do read reviews. I think this is because I was a book reviewer for so many years that I’m curious about what someone I would consider a colleague has to say. The reviews the series has gotten have been a mixed bag. Some are very flattering and ego-boosting, for which I’m eternally grateful. And some aren’t. In fact, the first review I got for What’s in a Name?, the first book in the Foothills Pride series, was posted before the book even released and was absolutely devastating, and was meant to be. I don’t know the reviewer at all, so I can’t imagine that I wrote a harsh review of her books (unless she writes under a pseudonym), but I still wonder from time to time why she picked a new, unknown author to unleash her fury on. I’ll never know, of course, but still, rather than take it personally about the book, which too many other people really liked, I wonder if she’s still that unhappy in her life.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Depends on the book. The Foothills Pride series books are novellas of around 30,000 words, so it takes four or five months to write before I submit them to Dreamspinner. The book I’m currently writing was started a little over a year ago and I still haven’t finished it. I hope to get it done and beta read in the next month and submitted by the first of 2018. We’ll see if that happens.
What are you working on now, and when can we expect it?
My Own Michael is the first full-length novel I’ve written in quite a while—probably five years or so. It’s the first of a series of three books centering around a wealthy older woman who lives in a mansion abutting Sacramento’s Land Park in the neighborhood where Supreme Court Justice Kennedy grew up. Land Park faces Sacramento City College, the oldest community college in town. In the story, Iris Henderson, the widow of a judge and founder of a law office, rents her garage apartment at a reduced rate to Michael, a struggling college student in his late twenties, in exchange for him driving her to her social engagements and helping around her house. When William, her single lawyer son living in town, finds out, he’s livid. Has his mother taken in a scam artist who wants to bilk her? Complications ensue. My Own Michael, like the other two books in the series, is a cozy, no-sex-on-the-page gay romance that delves into issues of homophobia and building a life after parents abandon their son. When can you expect it? If and when Dreamspinner accepts it, the release date will be up to the publisher.
What other artistic pursuits do you indulge in apart from writing?
Currently, my one outside indulgence is for quarter-inch dollhouse miniatures. Quarter-inch refers to the size of the structures and furnishings. One quarter inch equals a foot in real life. So the structures are roughly seven or eight inches tall and don’t take up as much room to show or store as the children’s size structures seen in toy stores. A few months ago, I was making baked goods out of air-dry clay covered with artist chalk. These days, I’m braiding embroidery floss to make rag rugs for the members of the group that I trade items with on a monthly basis.
What do you do if you get a brilliant idea at a bad time?
I carry pens and paper with me everywhere. I even have a pad of paper and a pen on my bedside table. This question is particularly apropos since I had a great idea in the shower this morning and couldn’t wait to get dried and dressed so I could write it down. I read an interview with Rick R. Reed the other day in which he said he’d never live long enough to write all the stories he had roaming around in his head. I feel exactly the same way. But I write down the ideas anyway.
Pat Henshaw, author of the Foothills Pride Stories, has spent her life surrounded by words: Teaching English composition at the junior college level; writing book reviews for newspapers, magazines, and websites; helping students find information as a librarian; and promoting PBS television programs.
Pat was born and raised in Nebraska where she promptly left the cold and snow after college, living at various times in Texas, Colorado, Northern Virginia, and Northern California. Pat enjoys travel, having visited Mexico, Canada, Europe, Nicaragua, Thailand, and Egypt, and Europe, including a cruise down the Danube.
Her triumphs are raising two incredible daughters who daily amaze her with their power and compassion. Fortunately, her incredibly supportive husband keeps her grounded in reality when she threatens to drift away while writing fiction.
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