Scent Memory and the Art of Writing Joy

Thanks so much for having me, Grace!ToyRunLG

I won’t have a new holiday story out this year, but that doesn’t mean I can’t get into the holiday spirit! I’m going retro with a Backlist Book Bump featuring my 2013 Dreamspinner Advent Calendar story, “Toy Run.” Everybody likes to get presents, and since I can’t send fudge or Mexican Wedding Cakes through the tubes, I’ll have to settle for less tasty gifts.

My Rafflecopter will be open through December 19th, and it’s packed with prizes—a hand-knit wool hat, Dreamspinner store credit, and, of course, books!

Some of you may be aware I was on my own at a young age. AT 17 I left “home” (and I use the term loosely) on the back of a motorcycle—a 1969 Triumph Bonneville to be precise (I kid you not!). That winter I learned a shitload about internal combustion engines in general and wrenching on bikes in particular. For a few weeks, the living room of our small home was dominated by a sheet of plywood and the bike.

Every evening we made progress on the teardown and rebuild and it was fascinating. I’d always had a positive reaction—since the first man I dated who rode a Harley—but I’m sure that winter cemented my strong physical reaction to the scent of ninety-weight oil. The living room was also the bedroom, so that actually makes sense. Even *cough* decades *cough* later all I need is a hint and it’s off to the races.

While I was writing “Toy Run” I wanted to use that sense memory to make the story come alive. It’s not easy telling a story in less than eight thousand words—but I wanted to keep it short enough to maintain the Heartwarming theme and not skid off that road and into my usual angsty territory. If I’ve done my job right, maybe you’ll be able to smell the leather, the toast-and-coffee welcome Ian found at the diner, and maybe even a hint of clean, warm dog.

Some of the finer points of internal combustion engines and wrenching have faded with time, but my gut reaction to the scent of ninety-weight will probably be with me forever. It’s in my head and my heart right alongside my youthful idealism, my excitement at the unknown future, and the freedom and joy of being in the wind. I hope you have some of that too, especially at this time of year. Happy Holidays!

What’s your favorite holiday scent memory?ToyRun_FBThumb

“Toy Run” by Charley Descoteaux

Former physical therapist and reluctant loner Ian Bowen has spent the three years since his grandfather’s death searching for a man to inspire him to park his Harley for a while—without much hope of finding him. On a whim, he shows up for a Toy Run and meets Ed Gonzalez, another loner with a pile of toys lashed to his bike. A few beers at the end-of-the-run party turn into an invite to Ed’s for homebrew. But instead of a night of fun, the unseasonable cold renders Ed immobile with pain. When he tells Ian he just needs meds, Ian does one of the things he does best—he massages Ed’s pain away, allowing him a rare restful night’s sleep and creating intimacy neither wants to lose. Ian thinks two men have to follow certain rules to be together, but Ed’s prepared to show him how wrong he is.


IT WAS a terrible idea, riding north. For the same five hundred miles I could be in Vegas or San Diego—but terrible ideas were sort of my specialty. Besides, if it all went to hell, I’d just keep moving. Another specialty.

I backed up to the curb, killed the engine, and sat leaning against my pack. Hours early, again. It’s not easy to arrive fashionably late when you have nowhere else to be. I flipped the helmet visor up, and glare from the fog and mist made me want to flip it back down. It was dark when I left Ashland two hundred and fifty miles ago. I missed full dark, but by then the only dark to be found was somewhere over the Pacific. As it was, I could almost see the reflection of the floodlight bouncing off my helmet. Being black didn’t help that thing. Being wet probably didn’t either, but that was what I got for riding into Oregon in December.

A growl in my stomach kicked the rest of me into gear. A moment later my two-ton helmet sat where my ass had been, and I headed toward the truck-stop diner, leathers creaking like my knees would be by the end of the day if it didn’t warm up. Birds know what they’re doing, flying south for the winter.

Every head turned when the bells hanging on the front door slapped against the glass. The smell of toast and coffee and the warm air were welcoming enough. They watched me every step of the way, the redheaded stepchild coming in after curfew. They were half right.

I nodded to the man sitting beside the only empty stool at the counter and shrugged my jacket off before easing onto it. The stool on the end—things were looking up already. He nodded back and extended his hand.

“Ed Gonzalez.”

We shook.

“Ian Bowen.”

I grabbed a menu from the holder in front of me, but my stomach had gone from rumbling to shivering. In the space of one handshake, eating became less important than getting out from under his gaze. It usually took a lot more than a pair of dark eyes for me to give up my full name, but those weren’t just any eyes. So brown they were almost black, and full of the promise of rough sex.

Or an ass kicking. Hard to tell. Knowing things like that was not a specialty of mine.


Buy Toy Run:



a Rafflecopter giveaway

Where and When:

Nov. 29: Tempeste O’Riley

Dec. 1: Grace R. Duncan

Dec. 8: Jana Denardo

Dec. 10: Kim Fielding

Dec. 11: Amber Kell

Dec. 16: Anne Barwell

Dec. 18: Skylar Cates


Charley Descoteaux has always heard voices. She was relieved to learn they were fictional characters, and started writing when they insisted daydreaming just wasn’t good enough. In exchange, they’ve agreed to let her sleep once in a while. Home is Portland, Oregon, where the weather is like your favorite hard-case writing buddy who won’t let you get away with taking too many days off, and in some places you can be as weird as you are without fear. As an out and proud bisexual and life-long weird-o, she thinks that last part is pretty cool.

Rattle Charley’s cages—she’d love to hear from you!christmas-retro26-01-111413-537


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