Oh My Shelves is beyond excited to be part of the blog tour for Short Stay by Heidi Cullinan. Our resident ginger loved this and is a HUGE fan of the Love Lessons and Special Delivery series! Check out the post to get answers to some must know questions, get a glimpse into lunch with beloved characters and a chance to win paperbacks in the Love Lessons series.
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Why Did You Write This Story?
I hadn’t planned on writing this story at all. I’d meant to write something for my Patreon readers as a Christmas present, but it got long and complicated, so I asked them what they wanted in a short story from a known character universe. They voted, and Baz and Elijah won, though Walter and Kelly were only one vote down, and the Special Delivery series characters had a strong showing too, so I decided what the heck, let’s include them all.
I meant the story to be short, but I don’t do short well. I was having too much fun playing with the characters and thinking of things to include I knew would delight my readers. I told them, as I wrote, that every time I got stuck I asked myself, “What would the readers want right now?” then tried to give it to them. I didn’t back down from anything cheesy, didn’t let any critical voices in my head.
The result was something I loved writing and my patrons loved reading. In truth all stories are written for readers, but this one really was. It wouldn’t have happened without them. It was designed with specific readers in mind, ones I’ve come to know and appreciate more deeply in the past six months. It felt exactly like it was meant to: a gift to readers I care very much about. And they enthusiastically let me share it with everyone else, so here we are.
You crossed the streams on this one big time, sending the Love Lessons characters into the Special Delivery characters’ world. Why did you do that?
It started as a lark. I’d meant for Baz and Elijah to go to Vegas in Lonely Hearts in an early draft, so I was eager to send them there now. And I thought, well, the Special Delivery characters have to say hi, since they live there. But I couldn’t resist sending them to Herod’s itself, and then everything snowballed. I should have known better. Randy always steals the show. But it’s okay, because he does it so well.
Will what happened in Short Stay become canon in either or both series?
Yes. It doesn’t change much in Special Delivery except now Randy wants a Tesla. For the Love Lessons series, though…well, I’m not giving any spoilers, but it changed a lot in what I had planned for the rest of the White House gang story arc. Which is fine, because shaking things up and making me scared always gives me good energy in a story.
What’s next in your production queue?
My muses have been fickle lately, and every time I make plans they thwart them. What I’m working on right now, for better or for worse, are two more after-HEA stories: Shelter the Sea, a novella in the Roosevelt series, and Enjoy the Dance, a short novel in the Dancing series. (Yes, Dance With Me is part of a series now.)
Shelter the Sea is still slightly amorphous, but essentially Emmet is trying to help a friend in trouble and doing a little more growing up in the process. Enjoy the Dance began as my attempt to chronicle what happened to Ed and Laurie between Dance With Me and when they appeared in Lonely Hearts, and how the radical change in the state of marriage equality affected them personally. We also find out what happened to Duon.
After that, I’m working on the next full novels in the Love Lessons, Roosevelt, and Clockwork Love series. As per usual I’m also working on several other things as well. What specifically comes next is difficult to say, but suffice it to say, something will float to the top.
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Lunch With the Boys
Walter and Kelly had left, as had Randy, but Mitch and Sam were still there, sitting in what Elijah had begun to think of as “Randy’s booth.” They welcomed him over when they saw him.
“Where’s your other half?” Mitch asked in his Texas drawl.
“Sleeping. I didn’t want to wake him, but I needed to get out of the dark for a bit.” Elijah had barely slid into his seat before the same waitress from the day before placed a Dirty Whiskey in front of him. He thanked her with a nod and took a sip. “What are you guys up to?”
“We’re waiting for my brother. He’s had a long day of rehearsal, and Steve’s deep into a project, so we thought we’d take Chenco out to pamper him at his favorite vegan restaurant.” Sam glanced at Mitch, who nodded. “You’re welcome to come along, with or without Baz.”
Elijah hesitated. “It sounds good, but I don’t know how long he’ll sleep, and I don’t want to be gone if he’s up and wants to do something.” He remembered the day before, their argument, and couldn’t help a wry smile. “Though if he were awake, he’d tell me to go.”
Sam leaned into Mitch. “I love how devoted the two of you are to each other. When are you getting married again?” When the question made Elijah shutter, Sam sat up, concerned. “I’m sorry, was that an uncomfortable question?”
How the hell should he answer? “We don’t have a date set, and whenever it is, I’m not going to look forward to it. Baz’s mother means well, but she’s a Momzilla on the best of days, and since she heard we were getting married, she’s been off the charts. There is no incarnation of our ceremony that doesn’t result in her taking over and turning it into some major social event for rich white people from Chicago. I can’t blame her, because this is her only son getting married. But it overwhelms me. I wish I could skip the ceremony and jump simply to being married to Baz.”
Mitch raised his eyebrows. “You can do that today, in Vegas. It’s called eloping.”
Elijah laughed bitterly. “Yeah, she’d be thrilled to find out we’d done an end run on her. But…even if I could know us running off to city hall wouldn’t mean she was gunning for my head on a platter, I kind of want some pomp and circumstance at our wedding.” He blushed, feeling ridiculous and exposed admitting it, but it wasn’t as if these people knew him or ever would. “I never thought I’d get married. I never thought anybody would feel that way about me. I still don’t always understand how I ended up with someone like Baz. You don’t get more opposite than the two of us, for family background.” His blush deepened, and he regretted not stopping his mouth on his first inclination. Damn Dirty Whiskeys.
Sam, unsurprisingly, turned soft and empathetic, a bottle-blond Kelly. “I never thought I’d leave Iowa, until I met Mitch. At best I hoped to get away to Des Moines. We aren’t so opposite as you and Baz, but we have other ways we’re different, I suppose.”
Mitch gave him an incredulous look. “Yeah, starting with our twelve-year age difference.”
Sam hushed him. “The point is, different can be good. You bring things out in each other, I think. Challenge each other. I didn’t want to move out to Las Vegas, but I wanted to be nearer to Randy and Ethan, and Mitch wanted to develop a relationship with his half-brother. Mitch likes to run cross-country jobs, but he’s driving local runs now almost all the time because we’re getting tired of not having a home base. Or rather, we want to be at the home base more.” He bit his lip, glanced at Mitch shyly, and added, “And because maybe someday soon we’ll make our own family.”
Yeah, this guy really was a Kelly. Elijah pulled the napkin from beneath his drink and shredded the edge absently. “I don’t know if I want a family beyond Baz.”
“It’s okay if you don’t,” Mitch said. “And it’s okay if you don’t now and do later.”
Chenco appeared, well-scrubbed and exhausted. Sam scooted out of the booth to break the news about the restaurant, which Chenco seemed pleased by, and once again invited Elijah to come along. Before Elijah could decline, however, Mitch leaned over to tap him on the arm and give him a heavy look.
“You come on out with us. We’ll tell Randy to take a break from party planning and bring Baz on over if he wakes up before we get back. Or Randy can keep him company, whichever Baz prefers.”
Mitch said this in such a rumbly, bossy way Elijah didn’t feel no was an option. And so he ended up piling into a sedan with the three of them, driving through the city into a residential area north of the city.
The restaurant was nice—fancy, but not formal, and the food wasn’t bad. Elijah ordered a fried tofu buddha bowl, which smelled delicious as it was placed before him. It tasted good too.
“My friends and I are eating more plant-based,” he said around bites. “We haven’t been doing it long at the White House, but we’re trying. We need to make stuff like this, though. It’s so good.”
Chenco raised an eyebrow. “The White House?”
Elijah always forgot how weird it sounded. “It’s this big house we all rent off Campustown. It’s white, and it’s a house, so…White House. Someone made the joke a million years ago, and I guess it stuck.”
“It’s so cool you get to live there with all your friends.” Sam looked jealous. “I lived with my aunt and uncle for most of college. My aunt and uncle who hated me.”
“My first year I lived in the dorms. My parents were…” Elijah stopped, the urge to share abruptly washed over with the urge to self-protect.
Mitch’s drawl was gentle, reassuring. “Randy told us your story. Glad you got out okay.”
Elijah poked at his bowl, appetite gone. “Some days I’m less okay than others.”
Sam put a hand near Elijah’s plate. “My mom died when I was seventeen after being sick all her life, and I had to live with the horrid aunt and uncle afterward. Mitch’s mom left when he was eight, meaning he was raised by his father who, from the sounds of it, would get along fine with yours. When Chenco was kicked out by his mother, he had to go live with their father—who then left the only home he had to the KKK when he died. We get it, Elijah. Trust me. We get it. And it’s okay. You’re okay. Even when you don’t feel it.”
Elijah moved his gaze around the table, taking in the serious but understanding and accepting faces of the three men. He felt exposed…but also seen, and in a way making something deep inside him unwind. The same place inside him Randy had touched. Randy, who had been kicked out in high school and done tricks to survive, same as Elijah.
“Family is essential. Find it, make it, seize it however you can. If it walks up to you and welcomes you home and you don’t have reason to doubt it’s real, don’t argue. Just go through the door.” Chenco winked and nudged Elijah’s bowl. “Eat your dinner. Anyone with that many hickeys on his neck had enough sex to require calorie replacement.”
Elijah ate. He also, on the drive to the hotel, got out his phone and opened Facebook again. Pulled down the still-unanswered friend request from Penny.
He didn’t know how to tell if the request was real or not, but he clicked accept anyway.
Short Stay by Heidi Cullinan
Series: Love Lessons, Book Three Point Five
Release Date: May 24, 2016
Pages: 118 • Cover Artist: Kanaxa
Published By: Heidi Cullinan
Amazon • ARe • iTunes • Smashwords • Kobo
Hot messes have a hard time with happily ever after.
Baz Acker and Elijah Prince have it all. They’re engaged, and their wedding is guaranteed to be a spectacle no event will ever top. So why are they hunkered down in a quiet corner of the Acker mansion, restless and edgy while they wait out the holidays?
When Baz suggests a road trip with Walter and Kelly to Las Vegas, it sounds like an ideal escape, but it turns out Vegas only amplifies their unease. Elijah can’t slough off the self-hating his parents programmed into him, and he worries how that will affect his marriage. Baz, crippled en route because of too much time spent in the car without rest, must face the truth that his wealth and influence can’t always counteract the limits his disability will put on his—and Elijah’s—life.
With help from their friends, a wily poker player, a take-no-prisoners drag queen, and a smooth-talking casino owner, they face the truth that happiness is a state of mind, not a destination where they book a stay. What happens in Vegas won’t stay in Vegas—it will follow them all the way down the aisle.
This novella is a continuation of a story begun in the novel Lonely Hearts in the Love Lessons series and was written at the request of Heidi’s Patreon readers.
Follow the tour!
Follow along to learn more about the book and for chances to win prizes, including a paperback set of the Love Lessons series!
May 20th – Review and Giveaway at Lucy Marker
May 23 – Ticket To Anywhere
May 24 – Diverse Reader
May 24 – Bayou Book Junkie
May 24 – Keysmash Blog
May 24 – Just Love Romance
May 24 – The Day Before You Came
May 25 – Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words
May 25 – My Fiction Nook
May 26 – Oh My Shelves
May 26 – Joyfully Jay
May 26 – Bike Book Reviews
May 26 – Sinfully
May 27 – PrettySassyCool
May 27 – Molly Lolly
May 27 – Just Love Romance
May 30 – Viviana, Enchantess of Books
June 2 – Prism Book Alliance
June 3 – The Novel Approach
June 3 – Wicked Faerie’s Tales & Reviews
June 4 – Love Bytes
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