We have Amy Lane blogging for us today and talking about her 4 book series Promises and how it all started. I have now listened to all three audio books and found them absolutely delightful and even more so after reading what Amy has to say.
Dreamspinner will also kindly be giving away one audio book copy of Making Promises to one luck winner too!
A Word From The Author
I Promise You
Promises are powerful things.
Twenty-six years ago, I was a perky little undergrad at San Francisco State, Mate was up in Roseville, living with his mother, and I gave out Amy Lane as bogus ID when I was getting hit on by one of the questionable people who haunted the Daly City BART station at 10:00 p.m. when my class got out. I came home and wrote Mate that the name would be my pen name—it was my promise to him, that some day I would write.
So when I started to self-publish, I that’s the name I took. And when my first stories were accepted at Dreamspinner, I kept that name, and that promise. So it’s only appropriate that the Promises series be my first big accomplishment in the realm of M/M romance. And the characters… God. Every one of the characters gutted me like a fish.
The idea from this story started in a dozen different places. If you read the dedication for the first one (it’s two pages) you’ll see a lot of them. My friend defending her horse property from rattlesnakes figured large, as did my friend who endured multiple tragedies in the same year. My belief in humanity was molded by strong people, the walking wounded, and I promised to do them proud in everything I wrote—to this day, that’s still my hope, the promise to keep. To that end, when I started writing for Dreamspinner, I didn’t want to write the cardboard hero—I wanted to write people with flaws. So when I wrote Deacon, I wrote a guy who looked like he had it all together, but once he was left alone, he fell apart. When I wrote Crick, I wrote a fuck-up who needed redemption. Mikhail was a man who had done awful things to survive—and had to live with that. Shane survived a betrayal of the worst sort and had to find faith in another human being and worth in himself again. Jeff was a snarky bastard who pulled the will to live and live well right out of his own bitchy attitude. Collin was the kid who barely survived adolescence and lived to make adulthood work for him. Every one of my guys in this series—and the girls too—were forced to deal with the same thing we’re all forced to deal with:
We’re human. We fuck up. We’re hurt to the point of emotional death.
And we get up, dust off our asses, fix our boo-boos and live to love again.
So my guys from Promise Rock had a lot of sources of inspiration, but a few remain firmly fixed in my mind:
For a while, my youngest daughter had dance lessons in a town that is roughly analogous to Levee Oaks. It sits not five miles from an extremely diverse part of Sacramento, yet the population in this small town is mostly poor and white, and there is a fundamentalist church on every corner, and a water tower. My friend Wendy was once looking at horse property out there, and when she went to visit the place, it was under water because this town is right next to the river, and that just happens.
I was driving Squish home after a lesson on a hot August day, right after school started, and I had to slow down. There on the side of the road—and there isn’t any shoulder, so he was pretty much in the road—was a kid who was maybe nine or ten on the outside. He was wearing one of those striped shirts that were popular about five years ago, and a pair of corduroy pants worn thin on the ass and ragged at the cuffs. He was barefoot and plodding determinedly toward the 7/11, and I just looked at this kid and wondered. Where could this kid go that was not this little town? He was a kid and it was six-thirty on a school night—why was he out on the street? Didn’t he belong somewhere? What if he didn’t belong here—who would give him a place to stay?
I had a bunch of other stuff running through my head—music videos, actor’s faces, a certain sensibility that the pressure we put on ourselves can destroy us—and when I came home that day, I sat down and wrote about three thousand words before I went to bed. You might recognize the moment that Crick went trudging up and down Levee Oaks to escape church—and that would be it.
Another moment I had rattling around in my brain—one that happened when I was actually writing Keeping Promise Rock—was a trip to the Renaissance Faire with my family. The day was wickedly hot—109 degrees—and trudging around that fairground was murder. We had the kids with us, and everyone was in costume, and there we were, in the food court, when two dancers appeared in that drenching heat. They were climbing silk swaths that hung from the shade pavilion pole, and yes, they looked very much like Mikhail and Kimberly. The detail I noticed the most was, of all things, the girl’s feet. They were bandaged, and so was her ankle, and so was her knee. The young man’s feet and ankles were just as ugly, and I was wondering, just mesmerized, by how much you had to want to dance to go out barefoot in the dust and do what they were doing when their feet and legs were so damaged.
And hence, Mikhail.
By the time I wrote Living Promises, Jeff’s character had already been established. He was snarky, unapologetically, flamingly loud, and apparently emotionally self-sufficient. I needed to see him completely undone. I had a vision of him, eyes liquid, lower lip full, being seduced by a younger man. When it was time to write Collin, the one thing I thought of was the brash, sexually confident students that I used to teach in high school. I was a pretty timid kid at their age, but the boys especially—they would walk into my room with hickeys on their neck and a smirk. “Sorry Ms. Lane—we were in the ‘drama room’.” They’d nod, knowingly, and the whole class would chuckle, and apparently if the drama room ever got a black light, it could be seen from space. So that was Jeffy’s younger man. Brash, confident, a real hell-raiser—but reformed. Because nobody got to break Jeffy’s heart.
So the men in Promise Rock were pretty real to me—and I like them that way. When I first heard that the story was going to be out on audio—dayum. I cannot even describe my excitement.
And then I heard it. I almost cried. So there I was, waving my hands and squealing in the kitchen, when my husband walked in.
“Want to hear something cool!” I said, just beside myself.
“Yeah sure,” he said, shrugging.
I played the first five minutes of the story, and he wrinkled his nose. Our daughter was in the kitchen—she was 14, I’m pretty sure she’d heard all the swear words, and I was unfazed, but he was disgruntled. After what felt to be the 150th “fuck” he scowled at me.
“Dammit, Amy—you’re an English teacher—I know you know more words than that one!”
I cracked up—and I listened to the rest of the recording and loved it. But to this day, that moment rings in my head.
Apparently you can fuck up your characters all you want—but hearing them say the word and having to read the word are two different things.
Since all four books will eventually be out on audio, I hope they’re also two very good things!
Title: Making Promises
Author: Amy Lane
Narrator: Paul Morey
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: M/M (contemporary)
Rating: 5 Stars
All Shane Perkins ever wanted to be was a hero. But after a career-shattering decision to go down fighting, Shane comes home from the hospital to four empty walls, a pile of money, and a burning desire for someone to miss him the next time he gets hurt in the line of duty. He ends up an officer in the small town of Levee Oaks, and, addicted to the promise of family, he makes an effort to reconcile with his flighty, troubled sister. Kimmy makes her living as a dancer, and her partner steals Shane's breath at first sight.
Mikhail Vasilyovitch Bayul dances like an angel, but his past is less than heavenly. Since he left Russia, he's made only two promises: to stay off the streets and stay clean, and to take his mother someplace beautiful before she dies. Making promises to anybody else is completely out of the question—but then, Mikhail has never met anybody like Shane. Earnest, brave, and self-deprecating, Shane seems to speak Mikhail's language, and no one is more surprised than Mikhail to find that keeping promises is Shane's best talent of all.
If you have seen a grown man behind the steering wheel of his car in a traffic jam sobbing his eyes out, then it was probably me! Once again Amy Lane reduced me to tears, but also put all the pieces back together again for one wonderful HEA.
This time it’s Shane’s story. We are introduced to him briefly in the first book as the nice new cop in town who calls on the family at The Pulpit regarding Benny and her child. He finds himself accepted and also ends up with his feet under the table and being welcomed. However, Shane also has his own story to tell.
In the prologue we learn about the time before he comes to Levee Oaks and why he is now there. This for me was absolutely horrifying to hear how despicable he was treated while he was a policeman in Los Angeles just because his department found out that he is gay or should I say bi. He gets a pay off and makes a new life for himself in Levee Oaks.
His sister, Kimmy, whom he hasn’t seen for a long time contacts him as she is at a local renaissance fair. He decides to go and see her. She is a dancer and admits to him that she has been through rehab for drug abuse and is now OK, although she is still together with the source of her troubles, her boyfriend Kurt. Here he meets Mikhail Vasilyovitch Bayul who is also in the same dance troop as his sister. They spend a wonderful day together and find themselves drawn to each other. I love the way that Amy builds up the attraction without it being insta-love. It is clear they pair of them have fallen for each other, but Mikhail we learn is damaged goods from his days on the streets in Russia. Despite his unfeeling and uncaring exterior, we learn there are hidden depths to Mikhail but his teenage years of being a drug abuser himself, although now clean, and being a prostitute has affected his character and his general outlook on life.
His mother is dying of cancer and her only concern is that Mikhail finds someone who he will be happy with for the rest of his life when she is no longer there. The character of Mikhail’s mother, Lena, was absolutely beautiful. A strong stoic matriarch who loves her son more than anything and is prepared to do anything to give him a better life, this she proved by the way she brought him to the USA to get him into rehab. So all in all Mikhail has a lot to contend with and finds his strength and support in Shane.
I loved Shane, the typical guy with a big heart who only wants to do good in life and make a difference. He is the sort of policeman that doesn’t see everything in terms of right or wrong, black or white, but everyone has their story to tell and tries to help the kids on the streets by finding them jobs, etc. this stems for his childhood as wanting to be a hero. Well, he is a hero for everyone but doesn’t see it himself. The job itself is quietly killing him even if he doesn’t see it himself, the others do. After a knife attack he lands up in hospital and once again the family from The Pulpit, Deacon, Crick, Benny and Jeff are all there at his side. The one thing I love about these books is the fact that they live true to the saying, “Friends are the family we choose for ourselves!” Well, never a truer word was spoken. My favourite quote from Shane is………
I have an equal opportunity pecker but a one chance heart.
Mikhail has a dream to take his mother on a cruise and somewhere warm before she dies and is saving for this. Shane helps him out without him knowing, but when he finds out later the Shane had helped financially it is not possible for him to be angry. Mikhail’s mother sees to that. Well, Mikhail’s mother dies and this was so poignantly written, sad but uplifting at the same time, it reduced me to a bawling my eyes out. So there I was, a grown man sat behind the wheel of my car in a traffic jam with tears pouring down my face!! Geez, I still tear up when I think about it.
Well, Mikhail is hurting and although his own emotional protection shield is to push those people he loves the most away, by thinking they will be better off without him or he is not good enough for them and doesn’t deserve him doesn’t work so easily with Shane. He is head over heels in love with Shane and it takes and devious plan worked out by, Benny, Deacon, Crick, Amy, John and Andrew, to get him to realise this. This part of the book was great, with the family working on him brings Mikhail around and he soon realises resistance is futile. Their love for each other deepens to the point where there is no more running for the hills for Mikhail and no question about not making his future with Shane.
Again, as with the first book, the plot is so well lined out, intricate and keeps you in its grip all the way through and doesn’t let go. All the characters are present again from the first book and all have their role to play, but introducing Mikhail and Kimi as new characters. This blog post would be a mile long trying to give you an idea of the ups and downs, twists and turns Shane and Mikhail have to navigate to find their happy ending. The main thing that I felt about this second book is Amy Lane is an author who obviously has a big heart and great understanding for the social problems, discrimination and everyday fight to survive that a lot of people have in our society today. Everyone has their story to tell and good can be found in everyone as long as you are prepared to look deep enough, be patient enough and give it time. However, you can only help someone if they are prepared to help themselves a little first.
The narrator, Paul Morey, again is excellent and clear to understand bringing the characters alive. His voice characterisation of Mikhail’s Russian accent is expertly done. The only thing is that when producing a series of books I wish the producers would use the same narrator for all books. Just as you get used to the voice characterisations of one narrator you have to get used to the other. Just as in reading you have an image in your head of the characters and with audio books I feel it is sometimes made even more vivid by the narrator. Therefore having to match your image of the character to another narrator can cause some irritation at the beginning, but it is a short lived experience and as soon as I got into Paul’s excellent reading i was hitched.
I so love this series and can only recommend it highly, whether you listen to the audio books or read the books; you’re in for an emotional rollercoaster of a ride that will keep you enthralled from beginning to end. Now moving on to the third book………
Audio Excerpt Download
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Listening / Reading Order
1) Keeping Promise Rock 2) Making Promise Rock
3) Living Promises 4) Forever Promised
About The Author
I am creative, distracted, and terribly weird. I love my children to distraction, and I love my hobbies even when they piss me off. I come from a double line of extremely creative, intelligent people who hated authority so much they dodged higher education, and I married a wonderful man who is quiet, conservative, devastatingly funny, and perfect. Our children are constant reminders that God and Goddess have a profound sense of humor, and that all of the things you dislike most about yourself but pretend don't exist really do come back on the karmic wheel to kick your ass when you least expect it. My family keeps me young and humble and I try every day to make them proud. I've written seven books, VULNERABLE, WOUNDED, BOUND, & RAMPANT which are all part of the Little Goddess series, BITTERMOON I and II, and Keeping Promise Rock, found at Dreamspinner Press. I write to placate the voices in my head, profanity is the element I swim in, and knitting socks at stoplights has become my twitch.
Contact The Author
Also by Amy Lane…….
Dreamspinner Press will be giving away a free recording of Promise Rock by Amy Lane.
Just enter the draw below ~ good luck!!!!
In order to receive your free recording the winner will need or have to set up an account at Dreamspinner Press. Setting up an account comes with no obligation or costs and the recording will be left on your bookshelf for you to download.