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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Eli Easton's "How to Wish Upon a Star" Blog Tour



How to Wish Upon a Star 
(Howl at the Moon #3)
by Eli Easton

Blurb:
Dr. Jason Kunik is working on the most earth-shattering genetics project ever, DNA mapping of a new species, the quickened—dogs who can shift into human form.  The problem is, no one knows the quickened exist and Jason can’t betray them by publishing his studies. When he moves to Mad Creek to continue his research in a town full of quickened, all he wants is peace, quiet, and to be allowed to bury himself in his work.  Perhaps if he figures how out the mutation is activated, he can silence his own inner dog forever.

Milo is a hospice comfort dog who has bonded with, and lost, many beloved patients in his life. He intuitively understands sickness and pain on a spiritual level most can’t see. When he gains the ability to become a man, he thinks he finally has everything he ever wanted. But being a man isn’t the same thing as being loved, and taking shelter in Mad Creek isn’t the same thing as finding a home.

When a mysterious illness hits Mad Creek and threatens all the quickened in town, it’s up to the scientist and the comfort dog to figure out what it is and how to stop it. Along the way they might discover that true love is possible—if you wish upon a star.

This is the third book in the “Howl at the Moon” series, but it can be read as a stand-alone.


Available for purchase

 


Excerpts


Dr. Jason Kunik paused with his pen poised over his notepad, waiting for an answer. The old bulldog, Gus, looked aghast. His cheeks quivered indignantly.
"But I... that's not... how can you...?" Gus sputtered.
"It's a simple question," Jason said impatiently. "Your primary caregiver when you were merely a dog. Mrs—" Jason shifted his notes to see the name. "—Mrs. Anderson. I want you to assign a percentage to the emotions you experienced for her before you became quickened. The choices are: A. childlike affection, B. dutiful, C. worshipful, D. romantic, E. sexual, F. resentful, G. obligated, H. grateful, and I. hostile."
Gus had once been a sixty-pound bulldog addicted to the couch. But he’d become ‘quickened’ due to the deep bond he had with his owner. That is to say, he gained the ability to shift into human form. Now he appeared to be a gentle-looking older man with white hair, blue eyes, a round face, and a serious belly. His expression was one of deep confusion, as if Jason were speaking Swahili. Jason nudged the paper in front of Gus closer to his hand and pen, silently willing him to pick it up and write something. Anything. Gus didn't.
Jason gritted his teeth. "If you have difficulty with the concept of percentages, might I suggest a one-to-ten scale? For example, if you felt resentful toward Mrs. Anderson an average of three times a week, you might assign that category a '2'. Three times a day would be an '8'. Oh, and sexual urges are defined as anything from an actual erection to obsessive licking. However—"
Gus covered his face with his hands, got up from the table in the Mad Creek diner, and stumbled to the door.
"Wait! I haven't gotten your blood and urine samples yet!" Jason called after him, standing up from the booth.
But Gus didn't turn around. He hurried out of the diner in an anxious trot. And now everyone in the place was staring at Jason like he had a forked tail and had just composed the 10 Satanic Commandments. With a grumble, he sat back down and arranged his papers and notepad into a neat pile that paralleled the lip of the table. Then he took the unused forms he'd given to Gus and placed each one in its respective spot in the stack before neatening the pile again.
The problem, as Jason saw it, was the diner. It was ridiculous trying to do serious research work in a public setting like this. Totally unviable. How could he expect his test subjects to discuss sensitive topics here? Worse yet, he had no control over the environment, and thus he couldn’t simply lock his subjects in until they responded.
Unfortunately, the small hotel room he occupied in Mad Creek was out of the question—there was no space and it had a lingering odor of wet cat. He spent as little time there as possible. The cabin he'd rented wasn't ready yet, and he was impatient to start his work. So he thought he could make do with the diner in the interim.
But so far, Gus was the fourth quickened to walk out on him without offering even a smidgen of useful data. It was hardly a propitious start to his critical research in Mad Creek.
"Excuse me."
Jason looked up to see a handsome young man standing at his booth. He had a baby girl with black hair and startlingly blue eyes balanced on one hip. The human infant carrier had long brown hair, diagonal bangs across his forehead, a narrow face, and hazel eyes. He was lanky and had an earthy vibe that Jason could smell.
No, not smell, for God's sake. Jason was a scientist, not a bloodhound. It was a mental impression, that was all.
"Yes?" Jason snapped, still in a foul mood.
"Um... Yeah. I couldn't help but overhear your conversation with Gus. I know it's none of my business, but... I wondered if I could talk to you for a moment? I'm Tim Beaufort, by the way. And this is Molly."
Tim waved the baby's little hand in a ridiculous manner. Jason didn't know anything about babies, but he could tell this one was a baby quick. Tim, on the other hand, seemed entirely of the species homo sapiens.
"Very well." Jason waved at the booth seat opposite him. He didn't have another appointment for thirty minutes anyway.
"Great. Just let me grab my lunch." Tim flashed a smile that looked forced, went and got a plate that had a salad and half sandwich on it, and slid into the booth. It was a bit of a juggle with the baby, and the plate tilted precariously. Jason grabbed it. The last thing he needed to cap off this wasted morning was dressing all over his papers.
"Thanks." Tim didn't look the least bit embarrassed about his clumsiness.
"So," Jason prompted, setting the plate carefully on the table.
Tim gave him an unfriendly look. "So. Don't you think—"
"Wasn't Gus just sitting here?" Daisy, the waitress, arrived at the table looking perplexed.
"He left. Sorry, Daisy," Tim said.
"Oh, don't be sorry, Tim! I'm glad you met our Dr. Kunik. Jason and I went to high school together. Didn't we, Jason? And now he's got a PhD and everything!" Daisy said this loudly, and Jason felt a wave of self-consciousness. He didn't like being the center of attention. It made his inner anxiety—his inner dog—grow restless. His fingers nervously straightened the stack of papers once again. Focusing on a neat and orderly environment was one of his coping mechanisms.
"Oh? That's nice." Tim didn't sound impressed.
"And Jason, have you met Tim before?" Daisy went on. "He's married to Lance! You know, Sheriff Beaufort? He was in school at the same time as us. And isn't Molly the sweetest, cutest, wabba-bubba, pookie-dookie...." Daisy's words disintegrated into an annoying babble as she tickled the baby's stomach and chucked under her chin, possibly checking for glandular irregularities. The baby gurgled happily. It sounded a little like a dog's excited whine.
Hmm. Jason wrote it down. His research was focused on the newly quickened, what he called ‘prime progenitors’, those who had been born ordinary dogs. So he hadn't given much thought to quickened children. But now that he was here in Mad Creek, all sorts of new opportunities for research were occurring to him. There might be clues to the dog-human transition observable in the infants of the—
"Dr. Kunik?"
Jason looked up from his note-taking to find Daisy and Tim looking at him. "What? What did I miss?"
"I asked if you wanted to order some food?" Daisy said.
"No, no." Jason checked his watch. Sufficient time had passed to allow for another dose of caffeine. "I would like another cup of coffee, however."
"Sure thing."
Daisy left them alone. Jason wasn't entirely sure he wanted to be alone with Tim. But he was mildly curious about Tim's relationship with Lance Beaufort. Jason remembered Lance all right. He hadn't been a bully exactly, but he and Jason were far from friends. Jason's mother moved them to Mad Creek when Jason turned twelve. "You need to be among your own kind,” she told him. Ha! As if Jason's inability to relate to others was because he didn't know other quickened. As it turned out, he wasn't any more of a social butterfly with the teenagers of Mad Creek than he had been with humans his age.
Lance had been in Jason's class back then. He was intense, unwelcoming, and xenophobic about outsiders, and he didn't like the new kid. He must have really changed if he'd ended up married to a human male.
"You don't know much about the quickened, do you?" Tim asked Jason in a quiet voice, as if not wanting the others in the diner to hear.
"I-I beg your pardon?” Jason sputtered. “I know more about them than anyone on earth!"
Tim looked dubious. "Huh. Okay. Well. First of all, if Lance heard you talking about the... you know... like you did with Gus, in the public diner, he'd pitch a fit." Tim looked around. "There's at least one couple in here I don't know. They're probably tourists. We're very careful not to let outsiders know about... things."
Tim was looking at a young couple, dressed like hikers, who were across the room.
"I wasn't speaking loudly," Jason huffed.
Of course he knew better than to talk about the quickened with outsiders. Then again, he hadn't noticed Tim earlier, either, and Tim was human and had been sitting right behind him. That wasn't good. He had to be more careful. He realized he felt at ease simply being in Mad Creek. It’d been years since he'd been able to discuss the quickened with anyone at all. He forgot not everyone in town was in the know. Still, he wasn't going to apologize to this stranger.
"Second," Tim went on, "I don't think Gus understood half of what you said. And what he did understand was a little...."
"A little?"
Tim sighed and leaned back against his seat. He shifted the baby in his lap and bounced her. She was currently gnawing intently on one fist. "Um... harsh? Gus works for me so I know him pretty well. He has very sentimental feelings about his previous owner, Mrs. Anderson. And he's still very emotional about it even though she's been gone for several years now. Your questions upset him."
Jason felt a flash of annoyance. "I assure you, my questions are both logical and necessary. I'm attempting to do serious research. But I admit, interviewing qui—my subjects—has been difficult. I sense I’d be better off trying to count a dump truck full of worms.”
Tim smiled. It was a warm, genuine smile. "Yeah. The, um, people who live here can be a handful, that's for sure. Isn't that right, punkin'?" He bounced the baby, her tiny feet pushing her up and down on his thighs. Her fist fell from her mouth, stretching a long strand of drool as she grabbed for Tim's chin. But Tim didn't seem to mind.
Jason’s temper waned as quickly as it had flared. Tim had a point. People skills had never been Jason’s strong suit. He'd always been more comfortable with his test tubes, computers, and microscopes. But the time had come to collect data of the personal kind, and his work was too important to fail because Jason Kunik was an ineffectual communicator.
For the hundredth time, he lamented the fact that he was his own entire team. Most researchers would have staff for things like this. But the secrecy of his work left him without any such resources. Unless he could find some promising young science students among the quickened of Mad Creek, he was a one-man expedition into the vast uncharted territory of a new species. It was daunting, to say the least.
Daisy came and refilled his coffee. She brought Tim a fresh glass of water too. Then she tickled the baby's glands some more before leaving.
Jason neatened his papers again. He took a drink and sighed into his cup, discouraged.
"Let's start over," Tim suggested. He leaned over the table and held out his hand with a smile. "Hi, I'm Tim Beaufort. Sheriff Beaufort is my husband, and this little angel is Molly, our daughter."
Jason briefly shook the offered hand. Unlike most quickened, he avoided touch. "Hello, Tim. I'm Jason."
"Hi, Jason." Tim looked like he was getting ready to ask questions, but Jason had a few of his own.
"The infant," he gestured at the baby. "She's a qui—"
"Yes." Tim looked around nervously. "Yes, she is a... you know."
"And you are not."
"Nope."
"Also, you're married to Lance Beaufort. Not a uterus in sight."
Tim chuckled. The baby made a bright sound and reached for his throat as if she wanted to feel his laughter. "That's very true. As a couple, we are short one uterus. Molly was born to Lance's brother, Lonnie, and his wife, Truly, who are both... you know." His eyes sparkled mischievously. "It was Truly’s second pregnancy. She had three babies the first time and this last time they found out she was expecting four. She was overwhelmed, to put it mildly."
Hmm. Interesting. Jason wrote it down. Now that Tim mentioned it, Jason recalled there had been quite a few twins and triplets when he'd gone to school here, but he hadn't thought about that for years. Multiples were yet another canine trait and always of interest to a geneticist. If he could compare the DNA of one dog who had gotten the spark and become quickened with that of a litter mate who had remained an ordinary dog, it might help him identify the genes affected by the mutation. Litter mates were not identical twins, but even so, having the same mother and father would at least ensure some level of commonality in the DNA.
Tim was still going on. "Of course, we didn't just say 'Hey, four babies! You won't need all those. Think of the college tuition!' But it was decided before they were born. Well. When I say decided." His tone was wry. He looked up at Jason. "Do you know Lily Beaufort?"
Jason tried to recall her. There were a lot of Beauforts in Mad Creek. "No?"
Tim snorted. "You will. Believe me. She's Lance and Lonnie's mother. Anyway, it was more or less agreed upon before the babies were born that Lance and I would raise one of them. You'd think that would be weird, but we all live in the same town, and Molly gets to have play dates with her siblings. Don't you, punkin'? Plus, Lonnie and Truly have been amazing. They really wanted to help Lance and me have a family. And, oh my God, Lance? Mister 'I'm the Sheriff so I don't have time for a personal life'? He's the most ridiculously smitten daddy you’ve ever seen, from the very first second she laid eyes on us."
"That's.... Yes, good for you. But I really need to prepare for my next—"
"And then this little devil appeared." He bounced Molly again, beaming at her. "She picked us to be her parents, that very first day at the hospital."
Jason couldn't help himself. "A newborn picked you. Did she say 'forsooth, I am your long-awaited child’?"
Tim laughed. "No. She opened those gorgeous blue eyes, looked up at Lance and me, and raised her arms as if she wanted us to pick her up. The other three couldn't have cared less that we were there."
"They can raise their arms when they're that small?" Jason was dubious.
"Swear to God." Tim gave him a dire look, as if the story was the stuff of myth and legend on par with the Epic of Gilgamesh, and he was committing blasphemy by doubting it.
"Perhaps it was a fortuitous bout of gas," Jason suggested.
Tim cocked his head and studied Jason's face. "I get it. Scientist. You don't believe in fate or magic."
"Not even remotely."
"Yet you are... you know... yourself. Aren't you?"
Jason could hardly deny that he was quickened. Most of the town knew his mother and her history. But it had been so long since he'd admitted it to anyone out loud. He blinked rapidly. "Yes. I am," he said tightly.

"So how can you not believe in magic? I've always found this whole place rather magical myself."



Milo put a hand over the keyboard as if to break Jason’s never-ending focus.  “Why ask so many questions, Jason? What is the work to do?”
“Do you mean, what is my work for? What am I trying to accomplish?” Jason corrected.
“Yes.”
Jason tried to at least hit CTRL-S to save his progress in Excel, but Milo threaded his hand through Jason’s. By now, Jason was so used to Milo’s touch, he didn’t think twice about it. He held Milo’s hand. Milo’s body temperature ran warm and touching him was like touching a man-shaped heater.
“Well, Milo, I’m glad you asked me that. It’s good for a man to be curious about what’s going on around him. And I’d like it if you took an interest in my work.”
Milo gave him a look of disbelief. “Jason, I answer every question.”
It was remarkable how adept Milo was at throwing shade, seemingly unconsciously. Jason couldn’t hold back a smile. “Yes. You’ve already shown an interest in my work. Quite right. Well, to answer your question, the point of all this is that I’m trying to determine how an ordinary dog, like you were, Milo, gains the ability to change into a man. What triggers that process.”
“Oh, that. I know that,” said Milo, very matter-of-factly.
Jason chuckled. “Well that would be nice, Milo. But I don’t think you really do know. Not the way I mean.”
“How do you mean?” Milo squeezed Jason’s hand as his feet started to kick under the table restlessly.
“I mean the actual scientific process, what happens inside the body.” Jason waved his free hand up and down to indicate Milo’s physique. “Inside the cells.”
Milo looked befuddled, as well he might. “Oh. I don’t know that. But I do know why it happens.
Jason was curious. “Why do you think it happens, Milo?”
Milo got a bashful look on his face and he leaned in to whisper, as if it were a great secret. “You make a wish on a star.”
Jason turned his face away and pretended to look out the window. Laughter bubbled inside him, and he had to swallow hard to keep it down. Milo was so serious. It was adorable. If you were the sort of person who found things adorable. Which Jason wasn’t. It really wouldn’t do to laugh in Milo’s face.
Milo continued, pointing towards the window. “You go outside at night and pick a good star. You look at it and make a wish. That’s how I became a man.”
Obviously, Milo was not educated enough to understand the difference between fantasy and reality, or cause and effect. Maybe he had made a wish and assumed it had come true. Still, it was odd. No dog, no matter how smart or sensitive, would think to look up in the night sky and ‘make a wish’. Did dogs even know what wishes were?
“This is important, Milo,” Jason said carefully. “You’re sure you looked up at a star, and made a wish, before you ever shifted into a man’s form, or before you even had any symptoms of it? The itching under the skin? The noticeable change in the ability to think or understand speech?”
Milo thought about it. “I could understand what people said sometimes. But I was just a dog.”
Jason hummed. “Who suggested such a thing? Did you hear one of the nurses talking about it? One of the patients?”
Milo’s lips somehow turned up and down at the same time, resulting in a sad little smile. “An angel told me to.”
“What?”
“When she came for Parker. I was so, so, so sad.” His lower lip trembled and he blinked rapidly. He looked down and picked at a thread on his jeans. “She told me: ‘Oh little pup, don’t cry. Make a wish upon a star, and if you want something badly enough, it will happen.’ It came into my head what she meant. How to do it. So the next night, when Sally took me for a walk, I made a wish upon a star.”
Wow. That was…. Jason rubbed his forehead with his fingers. Sad. But also more than a little ridiculous. Where did he even start? “Milo… there are no such things as angels.”
Milo looked at Jason with his thousand yard stare. “But I saw them.”
“You saw them.”
“At the hospice. They come when people die.”
Jason felt a flash of annoyance. Probably some nurse at the hospice had talked about angels and heaven and all that rubbish, and Milo had bought it hook, line, and sinker. Of course he had. He was a dog. He would believe anything human’s said. “You, personally, saw angels? I suppose you can describe what they look like?”
Milo wrinkled his nose. His eyes looked past Jason as he tried to remember. “You don’t see them here.” He pointed to his eyes. “You see them here.” He tapped his belly.
“You saw angels with your stomach,” Jason said flatly.
Milo tilted his head and bit his lip. He looked at Jason from under his lashes, guiltily, as though he could tell he’d said something wrong, but he didn’t know what. 

“I want some cheese,” Milo said. He stood up and wandered off towards the kitchen.







The Howl at the Moon Series





About The Author



Having been, at various times and under different names, a minister’s daughter, a computer programmer, a game designer, the author of paranormal mysteries, a fan fiction writer, an organic farmer and a profound sleeper, Eli is happily embarking on yet another incarnation as a m/m romance author.

As an avid reader of such, she is tinkled pink when an author manages to combine literary merit, vast stores of humor, melting hotness and eye-dabbing sweetness into one story.  She promises to strive to achieve most of that most of the time.  She currently lives on a farm in Pennsylvania with her husband, three bulldogs, three cows and six chickens.  All of them (except for the husband) are female, hence explaining the naked men that have taken up residence in her latest fiction writing.


You can find Eli at 

         



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1 comment :

  1. Judging by the excerpt, book sounds very intriguing, looking forward to reading it!

    ReplyDelete