Love On Ice
Yes! I have a new release coming out on April 19, a couple of days after Easter. Here’s a nice blurb:
For Matt Wasko, February in Wisconsin is the best time of the year, and ice fishing on Lake Winnebago is his idea of heaven. With shanty villages cropping up, barbeques on the ice, monster sturgeon to spear, and plenty of booze to keep everybody warm, things couldn’t be better—until a surprise storm hits and an uninvited guest shows up at his frozen doorstep.
Matt’s not happy to see John Lutz, a coworker who cracks lame gay jokes at Matt’s expense. But John’s flimsy new ice shelter got blown across the lake, and it wouldn’t be right to leave even a jerk outside to freeze. Would it?
In the close quarters of Matt’s fabulous ice shanty, between stripping off wet clothes, misadventures with bait, and a fighting trophy-sized walleye, the two men discover creative ways to keep the cold at bay. And when John confesses his long-running attraction, Matt must decide if he can believe in John’s change of heart—and crack the ice for a chance at finding love.
Breaking the Ice is very much a Tali book with a twist, because it’s contemporary. Like its near relation, The Last Cannoli (a FREE read available HERE), it is more autobiographical than my fantasy books. I’ve never personally known any wizards, barbarians, or gods, but I have known men very like Matt and John.
I also know Wisconsin very well. I was born there. I spent a huge chunk of my adult life in Milwaukee, where I raised three wonderful boys. Most of my family still lives in the state and I visit often. My roots go deep—as does my appreciation for Wisconsin in winter, because Wisconsin does winter with the best of them.
So of course, when I wrote a story set in Wisconsin for Dreamspinner Press’s States of Love series, I knew I would write a winter tale. A real winter tale. One set in deep cold.
Wisconsin has lots of lakes, including some big ones, and so in winter there’s a lot of ice. Humans being humans, the residents put this ice to good use. Fun use. Wisconsinians drive, park, skate, race, catch fish from—and throw really great parties out on frozen lakes. Some of these events are epic: the Battle on Bago Winter Fishing Tournament draws a few thousand people out on the ice for $250,000 worth of prizes including Ford trucks, boats, and cash.
Some of these people camp out in ice shanties and, humans being human, some of these shanties are mighty cozy! They have heaters, beds, stoves for cooking. There’s no doubt in this world that more than fishing goes on in some of those shanties.
Matt Wasko loves his outdoorsman life. Fishing is his passion. This is very Wisconsin. My brother in law goes fishing every weekend, except when he goes hunting. Matt is true to the state’s outdoorsy vision, and he’s also gay, a guy whose activism includes both sturgeon conservation and signing bands for Pridefest.
John Lutz is another kind of Wisconsin, one more like my brothers (to be honest). He doesn’t hunt and fish. He works a blue-collar job in heavy industry, and cheering for the Green Bay Packers is as activist as he gets. That he’s gay isn’t something he talks about. In fact, he hides it. Which is part of how Matt came to decide John is a homophobic jerk.
How does John go about persuading Matt Wasko to look deeper? Why, he decides to take up Matt’s passion: ice-fishing. It’s not as easy as making a hole in the ice….
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Want to read an excerpt from Breaking the Ice?
Matt stewed as he watched Lutz get out of his car, open the trunk, and haul out an auger. An auger? No chainsaw. What was he going to do? Catch panfish?
“He’s not here for sturgeon. Look at that! He’s just making a hole…. He’s a lawsuit waiting to happen, the way he’s handling that thing.” He stared at the train wreck that was John Lutz trying to manage the crank and spiral blades of an eight-inch hand auger.
Racko appeared outside her shanty door. Her open parka swung from her shoulders and she shaded her eyes with a gloved hand as she peered toward Lutz. “For cripe’s sake! You troglodytes just going to stand here drinking and let that fella cut off his legs? Hold this!”
She thrust her spear at Andy, and stomped across the snow toward the inept man.
“We should be ashamed,” said Andy just before he munched into his brat.
“She can handle it.” Babe went back to the cast-iron skillet he’d just put on the grill, no doubt testing to see if it was hot enough yet to fry some eggs. People were emerging from the surrounding shacks and he needed to be ready with breakfast sandwiches. “Racko’s been working those upper arms. Let her help the guy. You ask her, she’d tell you she needs the muscle for spearing sturgeon.”
“When was the last time any of us speared a sturgeon?” Andy took another bite of bratwurst.
Matt wasn’t in the mood, either for banter or this unwelcome invasion of his privacy. Neither did he want to continue watching Racko work at cranking the auger, drilling a hole for asshole John Lutz. What he wanted was to drink a beer and enjoy eating hot food in the cold, watching his breath frost the air as his friends’ breaths frosted their beards, and sharing fish stories—as far away as possible from gay-bashing, corn-fed idiots. He hoped to God Lutz wouldn’t catch a look at his shanty because he for sure would make fun of the decorations. The painted fish were too colorful, too fabulous, too fucking gay. And Matt liked being gay.
But of course Lutz would eventually notice his shanty. Who wouldn’t? There was a sea-green octopus on the door with WASKO emblazoned on its head, waving eight arms and eight pink spears.
“Hey!” Andy had gotten a call on his phone and now waved it overhead, shouting. “Picky got one! He’s fighting it now!”
“Got him a sturgeon?” Babe looked down at his grill and the pan crowded with frying eggs.
Matt’s heart leaped. “Big one?” An icy battle between a man armed only with a spear and a Triassic, monster fish was not to be missed.
“Big as a shark! Let’s go.”
“My eggs! Gotta take the eggs!” yelled Babe. “Get the truck, Andy. Keys in my pocket. Matt, help me with the grill.”
They couldn’t leave without the Grill Master. The only thing better than watching Picky Pete de Groot wrestle a sturgeon would be having plenty of food and beer on hand while they did so. All of the commotion caught the attention of the Little Tippers—aged seven to fourteen, jigging for panfish nearby—and they came at a run.
“Sturgeon? Where?” Katie and Jeremy bounced up and down, red-cheeked, while teenage Maysie tried to look uninterested while texting. That she could do this with mittened hands was a superpower.
Andy got the keys and backed Babe’s pickup into place. Working carefully, Matt and Babe hoisted the grill up onto the truck. The Grill Master resumed his place, and flipped the eggs in the pan while Andy, Matt, and Racko—having finished helping Lutz—braced coolers and tarps around the grill’s legs.
In the distance where Picky’s shanty stood, the door flung open and a chair flew out. Yep. Sturgeon.
“Get in the cab, kids!” Racko herded her brood. “Yes, Mays, you too. You can’t ride in the back.”
“Mo-om!” But that was as far as the rebellion went.
“Got the beer?” Babe called.
Racko jumped in to join him. “Beer! Brats! Go!”
Andy vaulted into the cab with the kids, paying no further notice to Babe standing on the bed and Racko sitting braced on the coolers. They drove off. Matt ran for his truck.
“Sturgeon?” Two members of the Milwaukee Spear and Beer Crew ran over.
“Picky’s got a big one! Follow that grill!” Matt made a last dash to snap a padlock on his shanty. That took all of ten seconds. He got into his truck and drove after the Tipps. Three more vehicles roared to life and fell into line behind him.
As he made his way to the road, he looked back, despite himself, at Lutz. His nemesis stood, flimsy rod and reel in hand, over the hole Racko had drilled. A solitary figure looking after the departing trucks. The puffy hood of his oversized down parka concealed whatever expression Lutz wore. Matt stuck his hand out the window and flipped him off.
Idiot. That space on the ice had been empty for a reason. Dumb Lutz had drilled his hole over rocks.
Tali Spencer delights in erotic fantasy and adventure, creating worlds where she can explore the heights and shadows of sexual passion. A hopeful romantic and lover of all things exotic, she also writes high fantasy and science fiction. If you would like to see inspiration pictures for her characters, or glimpse how she envisions her worlds, check out her Pinterest boards.
Tali’s books include the Pride of Uttor series: Captive Heart, Dangerous Beauty, Adored, and Victory Portrait, all with Resplendence. Her gay male high fantasy stories, Thick as Thieves, Sorcerer’s Knot, and The Prince of Winds, are published by Dreamspinner Press. She often publishes in anthologies, and puts up free stories and excerpts on her blog.