Hi guys, we have Brandon Witt stopping by today with his tour for his upcoming release Mapping the Forest, we have a brilliant guest post, a great excerpt and a fantastic giveaway, so check out the post and leave a comment to enter the giveaway! <3 ~Pixie~
Mapping the Forest
Happily ever after has no map, but sometimes fate sends a guiding light.
Gabe Rice, a seasonal ranger at the Rocky Mountain National Park, can’t seem to get his life on the right trail. He loves the rugged beauty of the land, and there is no place he would rather live than the mountain community of Estes Park. But after six years, Gabe is beginning to wonder if he’ll ever get a full-time position or find love. When Gabe sees Luis—and hears his gorgeous singing—he’s compelled to meet him.
Luis Martinez, the new owner of a hotel and steak ride business in Estes, left California and a career as a therapist for a fresh start in Colorado. But even the beauty of the mountains can’t help him forget the past or move forward. Unprepared for his strong attraction to Gabe, Luis is ready to run and hide from emotions he never thought he’d have again.
Suddenly the path ahead opens to a future that looks brighter for both of them, if they can find the courage to walk forward—together.
There are so many, many reasons that Mapping the Forest is dear to my heart. I’m thrilled to finally be able to share this book with you!
A common theme in my writing is Chosen Family. In real life, I have a wonderful actual family. Loving parents, a brother who is my best friend, and a nephew that rules my world. However, growing up in a conservative, fundamentalist family while gay comes with its issues…culminating in five years in reparative therapy. As a result, my gay friends in my early adulthood to now have formed my identity nearly as much as my family. Or, at the very least, they offered me freedom to learn who I was that I’d not experienced anywhere else.
During that time, I began an annual tradition called the Gay Boy Christmas Dinner. I love to cook, and I love Christmas. Each year, they’d come to my house, I would cook a feast, and we’d gather around the Christmas tree and exchange presents. Over the years, those presents became more joke-like and silly, and last year was the first time I allowed it to be a potluck type thing. (I may have control issues…)
When I was considering my first Christmas story, the Gay Boy Christmas Dinner (GBCD) seemed to be the logical place to start. Miracles of a Recently Fallen Spruce was the end result. It was short, sweet, funny, and captured the love I have for my friends and Christmas.
I’d been wanting to write a series based in Estes Park, Colorado—the town my family moved to when we left Missouri on my 18th birthday. Then the mix of friendship in Miracles of a Recently Fallen Spruce started to call to me and demanded to be a series. I contacted three of the original GBCD crew and asked if I could use them as inspiration for three of my characters. They, being the wonderful men they are, said I could. These aren’t biographies, not even close. They are just a play on my friends’ names, looks, and a couple of aspects of their personalities.
In all, there will be five books, each one following a different friend of the GBCD crew. Each will be able to be read as a stand-alone. However, you’ll have characters you know and love return in each book.
I’m extremely excited about my Rocky Mountain Boy series. While the first installment, Mapping the Forest, has some angst, it really sets the stage for me to play with a much more traditional type of romance than what I typically write.
Oh, and I almost forgot, in addition to shadows of my friends in the series, you will also see someone else you know. Alastair, my corgi, will be in all five books. While I didn’t ask his permission to use his likeness, he is getting payment through puppichinos from Starbucks!
I can’t wait to hear your thoughts of Mapping the Forest, which comes out November 4th. In the meantime, please follow along with the blog tour to get more behind the scenes insights, inspirations, and stories.
Luis, surely feeling the intensity of my stare, glanced up and jumped a bit. “Oh. Hey. Can I help you with something? Anything wrong?”
I moved forward, still trying to figure out the right words. What the hell was I going to say? It needed to be brilliant. Or at least make sense. I opened my mouth, settling on hello being the correct response, but a scream cut through the air before I could make a sound.
Both of us jumped and whirled toward the darkness. Without hesitating, Luis ran, dropping the wire brush he’d been using, as he passed me. For a moment, I thought about picking it up, then shook off the notion and followed Luis.
The screaming grew louder and more panicked the closer we got, though it sounded like a woman was screaming something over and over again, not in any physical pain.
Jordan beat both of us to the woman and had already taken her firmly by the arms as Luis and I pushed through the small crowd. “Ma’am, what’s his name?”
“Braden! He’s gone!”
A man stepped up from behind her and gripped her shoulders, looking terror stricken himself. “We’ll find him, babe. Just breathe. We will find him. He can’t have gone far. He’d never leave Brody for very long.”
I noticed the young boy between them, crying. One of the twins.
Luis addressed the man, bypassing Jordan and the hysterical woman. “What’s happened?”
“Our son. Braden. He’s wandered off.” The man gestured to the jeep behind him. “The boys wanted to play on the jeep, so we let them after dinner. We just got on, and Brody was asleep and Braden was gone.”
Luis flinched. “You had them on the jeep? We lifted the stairs so that—” With a swiping motion of his arm, he cut himself off, then addressed the crew, his voice trembling in anger. “Jack, Sean, and Britt, grab the flashlights, and we’ll split into groups.”
I closed the distance to Jordan. She’d already let go of the woman, who was now on her knees holding her other son tight in her arms.
Jordan glared down at the woman and then up at me. “As if that helps anything.”
I ignored the comment, though I couldn’t disagree. “You have your flashlight in your—”
“Of course I do.”
“Split up or together?”
She didn’t pause. “Split up. There’s only two dangerous parts, really. The cliff and the woods, if that mountain lion is hanging about. I’ll take the cliff.”
I nodded. “Sounds good.”
Within moments, I was back in the trees Jordan and I had explored earlier. Over the past few summers working in the park, the two of us had done several missing person searches. Enough to know that every moment mattered.
Chances were low that anything bad would happen. True, if they had spotted a mountain lion around lately, that increased the risk. Especially for a young boy out on his own, but it would be a rare lion to have stuck around through the noise of people eating and Luis’s singing, no matter how beautiful it was. Honestly, the only real risk was the cliff—all it took was a moment, a slip on slick grass, the stumble on a rock, for a person to fall. And we wouldn’t have heard anything, not with the fire and the guitar. The thought filled me with enough fear that I nearly turned back around to help Jordan cover more ground.
I didn’t. We had a plan, and I would stick with it.
I was nearing the barbwire fence we’d come across before. If the twins had come down this far with their parents earlier, there was no doubt where a little boy would wander off to later. Why explore around a jeep when untold mysteries were just past the fence. I spared a brief contemptuous thought for the parents, then shoved it aside. I’d seen parents do a lot stupider things with their kids in the wild than leaving them unattended in a jeep. Memories of other cliffs shot through my mind, and I pushed those away as well.
I’d been so caught up by the notion of making it to the fence that it wasn’t until the others’ cries reached me that I realized I’d not been calling the boy’s name. Like I hadn’t done this countless times before.
What had the boy’s name been, again? Brody?
No, that was the brother. I paused, listening to the others’ yells. Braden. Right.
“Braden! Where are you, buddy! Everybody is looking for you.” I kept my voice calm, making sure I didn’t sound angry or even agitated. Nothing that would make the kid feel the need to hide.
I reached the fence, pushed down on the barbed wire, and stepped over. Pausing I aimed my flashlight back on the wire. I could swear it was bent more than it had been earlier. Although, maybe I’d done that in my haste to get back to dinner; it might have twisted when it had caught on my jeans.
“Everybody’s worried about you, Braden. Can you hear me?”
I kept going farther into the woods. Far enough that the lights of the jeeps and building couldn’t be seen, and not even the sound of people’s cries carried through the dense pine needles. And, man, was it dark—even most of the starlight was cut off by the overhead branches.
What little boy would wander out this far? I would have been scared shitless as a kid to be alone in the dark woods. I nearly turned back, certain either Braden hadn’t come this way or I’d missed him somehow. Or he had decided to play at the cliff.
Just a few more yards. Maybe just past the place ahead where there seemed to be a dip in the shadows. Like a beginning of a hill or something.
I reached the spot and paused. Sure enough, the land took an abrupt dive downward. Not enough to classify as a cliff or anything, but enough to make one hell of a sledding hill in winter.
I strained my ears. It didn’t make sense that the boy would be out here, but I couldn’t shake the feeling he was close. That another soul was nearby.
“Braden?” I barely let my voice be louder than a whisper. “Braden?”
Again I strained.
And I heard it. Something. Just the crackle of leaves. And maybe breathing.
Closing my eyes, I listened again.
There it was. Just off to the right, not far down the steep hill. I swung the flashlight toward the sound.
I caught the glint of eyes before anything else. I flinched, thinking I’d found the cat, but I shook it off and looked again. It wasn’t that type of glint. “Braden?”
A little sob cut through the darkness.
Keeping my flashlight trained on the spot, I carefully rushed down the slope.
Sure enough, the kid was curled up at the base of the tree, eyes huge in pain and fear. “Am I in trouble?”
Relief flooded me, quickly followed by irritation again. Part of me wanted to tell the kid that yes, he was most definitely in trouble. “No, buddy. Are you okay?”
Another sob. He looked like he was trying to decide if I was safe or not. “I hurt my leg. I slipped and fell on something.”
I sighed. “It’s all right. I’ll carry you back.” I bent, transferred the flashlight to my mouth and bit down, then swooped the boy up into my arms.
Brandon Witt’s outlook on life is greatly impacted by his first eighteen years of growing up gay in a small town in the Ozarks, as well as fifteen years as a counselor and special education teacher for students with severe emotional disabilities. Add to that his obsession with corgis and mermaids, then factor in an unhealthy love affair with cheeseburgers, and you realize that with all those issues, he’s got plenty to write about….
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(Ends 4th November 2016)