Monday, October 21, 2013

Love Lessons Blog Tour





Warning: This story contains lingering glances, milder than usual sexual content for this author, and a steamy dance-floor kiss. Story has no dairy or egg content, but may contain almonds.




Love Lessons
By Heidi Cullinan
Blurb: 
Love doesn't come with a syllabus.

Kelly Davidson has waited what seems like forever to graduate high school and get out of his small-minded, small town. But when he arrives at Hope University, he quickly realizes finding his Prince Charming isn't so easy. Everyone here is already out. In fact, Kelly could be the only virgin on campus.

Worst of all, he’s landed the charming, handsome, gay campus Casanova as a roommate, whose bed might as well be equipped with a revolving door.

Walter Lucas doesn't believe in storybook love. Everyone is better off having as much fun as possible with as many people as possible…except his shy, sad little sack of a roommate is seriously screwing up his world view.

As Walter sets out to lure Kelly out of his shell, staying just friends is harder than he anticipated. He discovers love is a crash course in determination. To make the grade, he’ll have to finally show up for class…and overcome his own private fear that love was never meant to last.


Available to purchase at

         

Excerpt:

Walter filled a glass and handed it to Kelly. “Drink this and stop looking so nervous.” 

“It’s just weird. We’re the only guys here.”

“Oh, more will show up. Trust me. Not our kind, though.” He linked Kelly’s arm through his. “Let’s go find the music. I like dancing with lesbians.” 

Kelly thought at first that was either a joke or a euphemism for something, but it turned out Walter meant that comment literally. No sooner did he have Kelly set up with a trio of not-that-drunk (and not making out, thank God) girls on a sofa, he disappeared into the middle of the room, where he began dancing with an abandon Kelly hadn't ever seen him exhibit, not at Moe’s, not anywhere. Kelly watched Walter move, transfixed. 

“He’s so cute.” The girl next to Kelly—Tricia, Kelly thought her name was—leaned her head on Kelly’s shoulder and smiled as Walter shimmied behind a laughing girl who moved in sync with him. “Except he’s gay, dammit.” 

“And you’re a lesbian,” the girl on her other side said, and they all laughed. 

Kelly felt dazed. God, Walter just…moved. For a long time Walter danced and Kelly watched him, sometimes talking to the girls who sat next to him—they kept getting up and new ones sat in their places—and then after about a half hour, as a song ended, Walter came over, sweat-soaked, and collapsed next to Kelly. 

“Shit.” He laughed, relaxed and happy, and he glanced at Kelly’s glass. “You need another?” 

Kelly peered into his cup. It was empty. Huh. That would explain why he felt buzzy. 

Walter popped back to his feet with a wink. “Be right back,” he said, and he was, with a new glass for Kelly and another bottle of water for himself. He was about to sit down when a girl grabbed him and hauled him back onto the floor. 

Kelly had half a minute to observe them, that odd feeling of longing stirring in him again, and then someone grabbed his arm too. 

He danced stiffly at first, but soon the wine and the gentle teasing of his partner relaxed him, and he began to loosen up. It was fun to dance with a bunch of lesbians or nearly lesbians, because yeah, nobody gave a shit about what he looked like or how badly he danced. Even when a girl with shock-red hair plastered herself tight against him, her tits mashed to his chest and his—limp—cock squashed along her thigh, it was so clear neither of them were turned on at all, and as such they could both let go and act like total sluts. Laughing, he tossed up his hands and danced. Someone handed him another drink, this one smelling tart and intense, but he drank it anyway.

He was having fun. So much fucking fun.

When he heard the familiar thumping beats of “Wild Ones” begin to play—they’d finally picked his iPod, apparently—he gave a hearty woot and threw himself into his boogie with an abandon he didn't know he had in him. Somehow he’d become the center of a circle—he could see the straight boys now, mingled in amidst the girls, all of them looking slightly lost and out of place, and it was funny so he laughed. Hands slid down his arms, making him shiver, and as someone pressed against his back, he caught the familiar scent of cologne.

Walter’s thumb brushed Kelly’s wrist. “You’re having a good time.”

“Yeah.” Kelly tried to smile over his shoulder, but Walter’s hand skimmed his hip, and he jerked, glad Walter couldn't feel the sudden erection that sprang up at the contact.

Walter gripped Kelly’s hip more firmly, holding him in place. “Hey—it’s just me, goofball. What, you can’t dance with me the way you were dancing with Sally?”

No, Kelly couldn't. Except as Sia’s voice boomed out over the room and Walter led him into a sway, Kelly started to wonder if maybe he could. It’s just dancing, he told himself. Because the truth was, he did want to dance with his roommate. He wanted Walter to dance with him the way he’d been dancing with the girls, and Kelly wanted to let go enough to be the way he’d been with his own partners. He wanted to be able to feel that relaxed with Walter.

He couldn't do that, though, because then Walter would know. Hell, he’d feel, because even this subtle contact had Kelly hard as a rock.

“Hush.” Walter’s lips grazed his ear, making Kelly shiver. That made Walter laugh, though not unkindly. “Is that it? You’re being self-conscious because I’m turning you on?” When Kelly said nothing, Walter snorted and pulled Kelly against his body.

Kelly shuddered. Hard—Walter was as hard as Kelly was. “Walter,” he croaked, his entire body turning to jelly. Except his screaming dick.

Walter kept them moving, his touches gentling, soothing, even as they kept in time to the beat. “Babe, it’s fine. We’re both guys. We both like guys. We’re both hot, so we get turned on by each other. Big deal. You don’t have to be embarrassed about it.”

He turned Walter on? He was a hot guy? Kelly angled his head around, needing to see Walter’s face.

Walter looped his arms around Kelly’s neck and shook his head. “Oh, Red. You’re precious, you know that?”

No, Kelly didn't. “You confuse me,” he confessed, because he’d had too much to drink.

Walter laughed, but it wasn't a mean laugh, not at all. “You confuse you, Red. Turn your head off for ten minutes and dance with me. I don’t care if you come in your pants. Just let go for ten fucking minutes.”

Kelly’s whole body felt hot. “I can’t do that. Not with you.”

“You can’t flirt with me?” Walter gave him a come on look. “Red. You can totally flirt with me.”

Wait, what? Kelly shook his head, trying to clear it.

Walter sighed and began to speak in the tone of someone teaching a child something simple that they’d made complicated. “Walk it through, babe. You’re tipsy. You’re turned on. You’re having a good time, and it feels good to be turned on. You’re at a party full of lesbians, and me. Is there anyone here you’re going to let take you to bed tonight?”

“What? No.” It came out so automatically he couldn't stop it, but rather than be upset, Walter seemed to be waiting patiently for Kelly to figure something out. Kelly frowned, still not getting it.

Walter rolled his eyes, but he laughed too. “Jesus. Red—you can flirt with me, you can do whatever you want, because we’re not sleeping together. So stop worrying about it. Just have a good time.”

The music slipped into the chorus, and Walter dragged Kelly bodily back into the dance. He forgot to be upset or confused or anything else, and within a few bars he was moving in time to the beat with his roommate, brazenly sliding his arms around Walter’s body. He tried to stay loose, to not think about how hot Walter made him, how bad that was. We’re not going to sleep together kept ringing in his head, though, annoying him.

The music shifted to Pink’s “Raise Your Glass”, and the room erupted in drunk, enthusiastic people singing and dancing along.

Most of the girls jumped up and down and did some drunken version of headbanging while they belted out the chorus, but Walter kept tight hold of Kelly and pulled him close, alternating between sensual thrusts with his thigh into Kelly’s groin and shimmying them in deep dips that nearly ran them into their neighbors. Kelly could feel Walter’s hard cock against his hip, and he knew Walter could feel his erection too. He could smell Walter’s sweat, could sometimes taste it on his tongue. The wine and whatever else he’d been drinking filled his head, heightening his senses, making him think he could feel Walter on his tongue.

Suddenly he wanted to. He really, really wanted to.

Raise your glass, the room shouted as one, Walter too, his shout reverberating in his chest beneath Kelly’s hands.

Kelly shut his eyes, drew in a sharp breath through his nostrils and buried his face in Walter’s neck.

He thrilled when Walter stilled, and he laughed, the sound rolling in his belly before he opened his lips over the throbbing pulse and sucked. Walter gasped, his knees wobbling, and his hands tightened against Kelly’s hair and waist.

Running his tongue along Walter’s skin, Kelly felt his cock pulse inside his jeans at the sharp, salty taste of his roommate’s skin.

Walter jerked and tried to pull away. Fuck no, Kelly thought, and turned his grip into a vise. He stopped kissing Walter’s neck, but he nipped at his jaw, heady at the thrill of making Walter the awkward one for once.

“Stop thinking,” he murmured, and ran his tongue along Walter’s stubble.

“Jesus.” Walter sounded shattered. He turned his head, and for a second their mouths almost brushed together. Walter kept that from happening, pulling Kelly’s head away from his own mouth. “Kelly, don’t.”

The refusal shafted Kelly, and all the self-consciousness alcohol had kept at bay returned in a tidal wave. “You drive me crazy,” he said to Walter’s chest, because he couldn’t look him in the eye.

“Sweetheart, you’re drunk. Like, really drunk. If I let you do what you’re doing, you’ll hate me tomorrow, and I’m not going there.”

Some distant, wine-slogged part of Kelly acknowledged Walter was right, but that didn’t mean Kelly liked hearing it. “You think I’m a stupid dumb kid.” He just wanted Walter to kiss him, to push him onto the couch and…do stuff.

Walter drew Kelly in close and kissed his hair. “I don’t think you’re stupid. Or dumb. Or a kid.”

Could he stop being so reasonable and nice for a second? Kelly sank against his shoulder defeated. “I’m so confused.”

“I know, baby.”

Walter was stroking Kelly’s back, and his butt, and it felt so fucking good. “I want you to fuck me,” he whispered.

Though Walter stilled, he didn't let Kelly go. “I want to fuck you too, baby,” he said at last. “But we can’t.”



What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

Cracking open new facts is very much an experience I have for each novel I write. In a book I’m currently drafting the characters took this hard right turn into wine country, and in the span of three hours I learned more about wine than I ever thought I could know. That was for one scene, so I’m sure I have more of that coming. For Dirty Laundry I had to research OCD to a painfully intimate level. For Double Blind I learned how to play poker and read tells. And how to ride a motorcycle. For Love Lessons it was philosophy. I always know twenty times what ends up in the book. Then I forget everything the second I’m done. I’ve pulled out Double Blind to play poker if Poker for Dummies wasn’t handier.

So I’m sure I’ve learned some crazy stuff--and immediately forgotten it.


Which of your characters are you most like? Least like?

Randy Jansen from Double Blind. And Walter Lucas from Love Lessons. Honestly, I’m in all my characters, and none of them are a full self-insert, but the way Randy and Walter snark on the surface while quietly slaying dragons for those they love? Me. Don’t try to get in the way of someone I care about. Anybody they want can walk over me, I’ll just snark and make jokes. Take on my daughter, husband, friends? It’s on.

If I’m least like anyone, it’s Adam from Dirty Laundry. I don’t have anxiety. My response to danger is to KILL IT and figure out if it was actually a threat while I examine the corpse. But I live with two people who have chronic anxiety, so his mental landscape isn’t entirely a foreign country.


Do you have a particular writing habit?

I used to, but it’s work now, so I do whatever I need to in order to get the job done. Coffee, music, change of venue—whatever it takes. The one thing that’s non-negotiable is I will be drafting in Scrivener and on a Mac. Everything else is insanity and I won’t do it.


If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

My mentor no question was Jennifer Crusie. Yes, we were friends too and it was a two-way street on a lot of levels, but she never let my head live too high in the clouds, was frank as hell when I needed it, and bloodied my manuscripts until I learned how to open them up myself. Sometimes I learned by defiance, but mostly in the end I have to admit she was right. The only amendment I have to make is that it’s not always “the antagonist, stupid.” Sometimes it’s “the antagonism, stupid.” But when you get to the point you have to be told that, the stupid part is very much a given.


Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

The authors I’m interested in right now aren’t new, but they’re new to me. I’m in love with Vivian Arend and Tessa Dare. In both cases my insta-love meant I bought a pile of their books and am now trying not to read them because once I do I’ll run out and it will be very sad.


What is the hardest part of your writing?

The hardest part has been my health. At this particular second it seems I have maybe, possibly found something magic that helps, but I refuse to get excited about it until it’s been six months, and it’s been four weeks. I write through a lot of brain fog and chronic pain.


Do you have any advice for other writers?

I forget who said it first, but I stand by the adage, “If you can stop writing, you should.” If it’s about money, there are a million easier, more reliable ways to get it. If it’s about fame or attention, ditto. If you imagine yourself not writing and you feel happiness and relief, stop writing immediately. If thinking of writing makes you angry or exhausted, if it’s a drain on your system, at least take a break and let ceasing be an option. Everything else? Everything from loving the challenge to gritty determination to climb this mountain to a sense of soul-sucking darkness if you stop? Come on in. The water’s abysmal, but you don’t have much choice so you might as well.


Describe yourself in three words.

World’s crappiest memory.


I know characters are like children but if you could chose, who’s your favorite from your books? Of all time?

Characters aren’t children to me. I do like all of them, even the villains. Favorites are Charles Perry of the Etsey series and Randy Jansen of the Special Delivery series for different reasons. Though they and Walter Lucas are all the same archetype spun out different ways, and they’re all the closest to me, so this is basically me saying I love myself. But ALL of them are me, even the villains, so that was inevitable.


Any song or songs that could basically sum up the overall mood of your writing?

Well, I pretty much only listen to music while I’m writing or thinking about writing, and the top three songs on my iTunes are “Our Love” by Paul Cardall, “Somewhere” by the Scissor Sisters, and “Define Dancing” by Thomas Newman. Which probably says everything right there, if you listen to the trifecta.


Do you plot out your books or just freely write them and let the characters tell you what to do next?

It’s a combination. I plot and outline, but I only write linearly, and it never goes the way I think it will. I very much subscribe to the idea that I write to find out how it ends, because even when my outline is semi-accurate, the arrival is never quite as I pictured it.

 If you had to choose, which writer would you consider the biggest influence in your writing?

A mashup of Hans Christian Andersen, Walt Disney, and the Bible. I read fairy tales voraciously as a child and watched Disney movies and picture books religiously and was taken regularly to Lutheran Sunday school. When I couldn’t sleep at night (which was often) I put myself to sleep reading one of the three. I don’t think I always got out of the Bible what many wanted me to. Frequently I was angry at the unfairness and contradiction, and the older I got, the more I was encouraged to explore those contradictions. The same was true in Andersen and Disney—sometimes I felt sheltered and safe, sometimes I felt things were very unfair. I can’t say exactly how these things molded me, but as the diet of my formative years, I know without question they did.


What are your current projects? Can you share a little of your current work with us?

At this particular second I’m working on Fever Pitch, the sequel to Love Lessons. Here’s a random bit from the cute meet:

Aaron really liked this Giles guy.
He was kind of lanky and goofy-looking, with ears that stuck out and a faux-hawk he should really give up on, and he had this sharp way of looking at everything like he wasn’t sure if he should run from it or attack it or just watch it in case it attacked. His voice was a little sharp, a little nasal, and a lot of lispy. But he was funny, and he had this way of taking charge that made Aaron breathe a little easier. Also, he was the only person tonight interested in doing something Aaron wanted to do.
Most importantly, when Giles looked at Aaron, he smiled. That was nice, that smile.




About the Author


Heidi Cullinan has always loved a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. She enjoys writing across many genres but loves above all to write happy, romantic endings for LGBT characters because there just aren't enough of those stories out there. When Heidi isn't writing, she enjoys cooking, reading, knitting, listening to music, and watching television with her husband and ten-year-old daughter. Heidi also volunteers frequently for her state's LGBT rights group, One Iowa, and is proud to be from the first midwestern state to legalize same-sex marriage. 

You can stalk, I mean find Heidi here: 

                                  






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