Short Order, the 8th and last of the Foothills Pride stories, releases on December 13. When I was thinking about blog pieces to write, I realized that a lot of readers want to know how an author gets an idea and develops it to use in a fictional piece, in this case a novella.
Since John, a minor character in When Adam Fell, is one of my favorite peripheral characters, I knew I wanted to write about him finding his happily ever after. I also already knew from Adam that John had a troubled past, but had finally found himself by becoming a sous to celebrity chef Adam.
But whom could I put with John? For reasons readers will discover in the story, John is leery of tall, dominating men, so his lover would have to be someone smaller, not the tall, dark, and handsome guy of romance cliché.
When my husband and I had a layover for a cross-country flight, we sat in a waiting room where a short, wiry man from the airline went from customer to customer explaining to those who needed it how the airplane’s Wi-Fi worked with their computers. The young man had a quick sense of humor and was very patient. The instructor also had a tattoo of computer parts—a motherboard, some chips, and a screwdriver on one of his his forearms.
His look and his personality traits were perfect as a foil for serious, driven John. But what kind of tattoo would John’s lover have? Whatever it was would have to reflect his passion, just as the computer parts obviously were an integral part of the airport instructor’s life.
A more important question was whom John needed in order to stop shutting himself off from people and be able to grow into a loving relationship. The more I thought about it, the more I realized he needed nourishing and patience. What better person for that than someone who loved plants and saw plants as a way to change the world?
I’d read a piece sometime back about a project to bring plants into inner city school rooms and public housing. Not only would the plants enrich the air, but they also responded to TLC on the part of their owners. In addition, they wouldn’t be an added expense for those who were trying to make ends meet.
As I read the article, I could feel the writer’s passion about getting a grant to put common, easy-to-grow houseplants in at-risk households and classrooms. Wouldn’t John’s perfect mate have this same passion? And John’s need to be lovingly looked after would parallel that of a plant that would produce gorgeous blooms.
John’s backstory, his horrific experiences in San Francisco after his parents had disowned him, came from a tiny article in the Bay Guardian that I’d read years before and that lingered in my mind. Remembering it, I now had all the pieces for my story. Now I just had to sit down and write.
I’m not sure this really answers where ideas come from and how they become a story, but these are the pieces that came together for Short Order.
Do you have bits and pieces running around in your head from things you’ve heard or people you’ve seen that you wish were parts of a book? What are they? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have somewhere we could all share these snippets?
I’d love to hear from you and am offering a $10 Dreamspinner Gift Card to one randomly selected person who answers this piece.
Happy holiday, everyone!
Check out Short Order today!
When recent horticulture graduate Dr. Fenton Miller arrives in Stone Acres, California, he thinks his only concern is which job offer to accept after spending the holidays working at his cousin’s plant nursery. But after he rents a room from another shorter-than-average man, sous-chef John Barton, Fen falls in lust.
While he’s attracted to Fen, John’s got bigger concerns when two men from his past arrive in town and pressure him to return to San Francisco. Although John tries to stop Fen from getting involved, Fen realizes his lover is in trouble and is determined to protect him.
As the holidays get closer and Fen makes his own enemy, the joy of the season gets lost in the ill will around them. To ensure love triumphs, Fen and John must stand tall to show that short, dark, and handsome is a recipe for love.
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.
Author media links:
[Previously in the story, Fen and John had gone out on a date for a beer at the local Stonewall Saloon, and John had said goodnight with a “See you next time.” Fen’s been wondering when that would be.]
Next time turned out to be a couple of days later after I got back from work. I felt like a tractor had run over me, and I smelled like fir-tree resin. My apartment, on the other hand, smelled like I could eat it. Any doubts I had about John’s cooking ability dried up as I walked into my kitchen to survey my frozen dinner choices. Talk about haves and have-nots. Whatever he was making downstairs smelled delicious.
I was just settling on a Hungry-Man spicy fried chicken and mashed potatoes dinner, a gourmet delight ready to go in six-to-eight minutes, when he knocked on my door. I was so tired I carried my rock-solid dinner with me.
“What the hell is that?” John recoiled, taking a step back and staring at Mr. Hungry-Man.
It wasn’t hello or how are you, so I stood still to get my bearings. I held up the box and peered at it.
“Dinner. Why?” Nothing seemed to be falling out of the box. Why was he getting so upset?
He laughed a few rusty barks, which quickly turned into guffaws. Tears streamed down his face.
“Hey, not all of us are cooks.” I lowered the box. “You need something? Cup of sugar, maybe?”
His laughter tapered off and died. He wiped his cheeks with his fingers, then stared at the tears a minute, surprise shining from his eyes. Finally, he looked at me, his eyelashes stuck together in a few places. “Yeah. I need you.” His voice slid over me like smoky molasses. It slowly dripped into my imagination.
If I’d been less tired, I would have jumped him right there. But while the spirit was willing, the body was wilted lettuce. He’d asked for help. I could give him help. Just barely.
“Sure. Let me take a shower and eat, then I’ll be right down.” I started to close the door, but he grabbed my Hungry-Man and walked it back to the freezer. He shoved it in with the others. His face scrunched in a grimace.
“Just put on some shoes and a coat. You’re eating downstairs.”
My tired brain recorded one more whiff of the aroma coming up from his kitchen, and I did as he commanded. It was next time, and I was sorta ready.
His place, like mine, was furnished in jewels from the past. As I expected, our floor plans were almost identical except he had a front and back door. His fireplace was alight with a warm, cheery fire. His rooms ranged from stately and formal to cozy and intimate. But none reflected the holiday season: no tree, no garland, nothing.
“You should come down to the nursery.” With a groan, I sank into the dining chair he’d indicated. “We can fix you up with a tree and evergreen swags.”
He put a plate in front of me without comment. The best-looking roast beef and new potatoes stared up at me. I started to drool. While he set his plate down and sat, I breathed in the home-cooked meal and then sighed.
“This looks perfect. Thanks. I’d call it pot roast, but I’m sure it has some fancier name.” I was babbling, trying desperately to be polite and not dig in like the starving man I was.
He laughed and pointed to my plate with his fork. “Just eat. It is pot roast. My variation on straight Yankee Pot Roast.”
Even though his eyes twinkled, he said it without a grin. I laughed. In response his smile lit up, and he laughed with me. Now I knew the green light was on. We could become friends with benefits. Or even landlord and tenant with a booty bond. Tonight, if I wasn’t so damned tired and hungry.
We ate in silence. Now I felt more than ever like we were becoming friends.
As I sopped up the last of the gravy with a piece of roll, I looked around. Since I worked in the glut of Yule paraphernalia, I again noticed how beautiful but bare of holiday cheer the rooms were.
“You don’t celebrate Christmas?” I wondered if maybe he was Jewish or atheist or something.
“Not really.” He grimaced. “You’re probably up to your eyeballs with it now.”
I nodded. “I could use your help tomorrow night if you’ve got the time.”
“Sure. With what?” He looked interested, which I took to mean he wasn’t just humoring me.
“I picked out a tree and need to get it up the stairs.”
“Huh?” He sat back and looked like he was studying me. “So even though you work in the middle of the holiday crap all day, you want to bring it home with you?”
I nodded. I wouldn’t exactly call it crap. Besides, who didn’t like the holiday season? Bright lights, often cheerful people, foods and snacks made with tons of sugar. True, a lot of annoying songs, but I could overlook them. One more verse from Trini Lopez, though, and I’d have to shoot someone—probably myself.
He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Well, you smell good. I’ll give you that.”
I laughed softly as my dick perked up, but I was too tired for any follow-through. “I smell like a fucking Christmas tree.” My eyes were drooping.
“And I smell like a pot roast.” He got up and started clearing the plates and utensils. Ordinarily, I would have helped, but I couldn’t move. It occurred to me I was going to have to go outside and get my ass up the stairs in order to be home. Then I drifted.
As we tackled the stairs, I tilted into him like I was drunk, only I wasn’t. Just so fucking tired. His body felt wonderful next to mine. I could snuggle and sleep on him.
We’d reached the top of the stairs, and I was panting. I handed him my key and muttered, “Can you unlock it for me?”
He opened the door.
I leaned, resting against his back.
“Thanks for dinner, handsome,” I slurred.
Then he turned, and I kissed him, a little sloppy and a lot off center. But I managed to make it lips on lips.
He stepped back, a shocked look on his face, but lust shone from his eyes.
Other titles in the Foothills Pride series: