We are very happy to welcome Luki Vasquez and Sonny Bly James to the Smoocher’s Voice blog today. Sonny and Luki have been together for 11 years, and they have been married now for 10 years. In story book fashion, the two men’s eyes met across a parking lot, and that was the beginning of a tense and sometimes tragic relationship. Their relationship seems to be the epitome of William Shakespeare’s maxim “The course of true love never did run smooth.”
Jodi: Hello gentlemen. It is nice to meet you. Let’s start with introductions. Please tell us a little about yourselves.
Sonny: (Clears throat) Well, I waited for Luki to speak up, but it looks like he’s not going to, so I’ll begin. First let me say thank you, Jodi and Smoocher’s Voice, for having us on your blog—
Luki: Without Ms. Sylvre here trying to control everything—that’s what makes it nice!
Sonny: Uh, Luki, let’s not get into your attitude about our author. She’s been nothing but good to us, and please don’t interrupt. ‘Kay?
Luki: ‘Kay. Sorry. (He rolls his eyes here, so perhaps he is not totally sincere.)
Sonny: So, the basics. I’m nearly 40 years old! God that’s surprising, and what’s even more surprising is that Luki still acts like I’m the most beautiful man that ever walked the planet.
Luki interrupts: You are! And I love you.
Sonny: That’s great, honey. Thank you. But don’t interrupt, please! So... let’s see. Where was I? Um, I’m about 6’2” tall, and I tower over Luki, who is—
Luki interrupts again: Tower! Aren’t you exaggerating a bit! You’re only two inches taller than me!
Sonny: (rolls his eyes) Well, I know officially that’s true Luki, but... uh, I hate to break it to you, but I think you might have lost an inch or two. It happens with old age—
Luki: Old age! Dammit Sonny, I’m only 51!
Sonny: (just keeps talking) —you lose a little disk height in your spine, start to bend a little under the weight of the years.
Luki: Sonny, sweetie. You’re the one with the back aches.
Sonny: It’s not very nice to bring that up, Luki. I mean, it’s hereditary, they tell me.
Luki: Like, what, all tribal members of Yakama Nation have it?
Sonny: (Glares) Of course not! Do all blue-eyed people who are half Hawaiian go out of their way to be rude to their husbands during an interview?
Luki: (Hangs head, speaks very quietly) Sorry... And I don’t know. I’m the only person like that I’ve ever met.
Sonny: (Shakes his head) Damn, husband. You sure know how to annoy me. Good thing I love you so much. Now stop interrupting. I was going to tell the people we’ve been married for ten years, and we have one child, a little girl named Jade.
Luki: Small interruption?
Luki: Jade is absolutely a gift... That’s all.
Sonny: (smiles, nods) Yeah. That she is. About me, I’m a weaver of pictorial tapestries and other stuff. I hold a doctorate in fiber arts and I enjoy teaching at times. I inherited some land on the Olympic Peninsula from my uncle, and that’s where we make our family home. Um... your turn, Luki.
Luki: Oh! Well, I grew up in Nebraska. I’m considered a badass by most people.
Sonny: But he’s really soft and mushy and sweet on the inside.
Luki: (Looks horrified) Mushy! I am not mushy! And I used to be a federal agent, and I own a security company, and I play with guns for a living, and I like to cook, dammit, and that’s all! (Mumbling: mushy! He is so in trouble.)
Jodi: Luki, when you first met Sonny, you had left the ATF and were running your own security agency. Why did you choose this profession? Why did you leave the ATF?
Luki: I assume you mean, why did I choose law enforcement, in general?
Luki: Well... it kind of chose me, I guess. I, uh, have a lot of skills that come in handy, including various martial arts, handling weapons, and.... Well, believe it or not, being emotionally shut down can really help in the profession, especially if you’re dealing with major crimes—career criminals who are fairly good at getting away with what they do. My dad... spent a lot of time, effort, and resources making sure I’d be good at that sort of thing, and being an agent was the thing I was best qualified for.
Sonny: Honey, that’s not all there is to it. You know that. Think about what you promised me on our wedding day.
Luki: (Reaches over and grabs Sonny’s hand, brings it to his lips for a kiss and winks [I swear it] at Sonny. Then he holds Sonny’s hand in both of his as he continues.) Yes, Sonny’s right. He usually is. What he means is, I’ve got this... thing, this need or burning desire as some might say, to keep people safe—innocent people shouldn’t have to bear the brunt of other people’s bad behavior. It seems to be something that’s rooted deep in me—like an extra rib or something. So yeah, law enforcement was a good fit for me.
I chose ATF because, contrary to what a lot of people think, the agency is responsible for a huge portion of public safety, especially in the firearms division. And, since I was able to qualify as a firearms expert, I thought I could do some good. I did, too. But I left the agency because its figurative hands are tied in political knots, in particular in terms of their responsibilities with firearms. Bear in mind, I’m a gun owner, and I don’t think of guns as evil—but there’s a lot of bad people out there. In my experience, it’s way too easy for them to stockpile arms for their private wars, and way too hard to prosecute the law. It’s frustrating to try to keep the public safe from ill-intentioned people and have the US Senate cripple you. A lot of people don’t believe it when I tell them about it, so I wrote down this link to a NY Times article about it, and I keep it in my wallet. There’s more to it, but this is a good start for those who want to know.
So anyway. I left ATFE (the E is for explosives), but I still have this drive to keep people safe. I run an elite private agency, and I get to do that, sometimes. And it’s been pretty successful, and I’m my own boss. What’s not to like?
Jodi: Sonny, art seems to be a central focus in your life. Tell us a little about your art? Why have you chosen this medium and why do you create your own dye? What inspires your art?
Sonny: Taking that last question first, I’m most inspired by beauty. I want to be clear that beauty doesn’t mean perfection. Perfection would be boring as hell. A rose is more beautiful if one of the petals is twisted or torn. A man is more beautiful when his history has left its mark. Fortunately for me, perfection is nowhere to be found in nature or humankind, so I have much to choose from. Emotion inspires me as well, and color has emotional meaning for me. I can’t put that in other words, because it isn’t a thing of language. It’s what I feel.
You know, I never thought of doing anything but art. As an undergrad at Western Washington University, I studied all the basics, life-drawing, color mixing in light, and color mixing by pigment, art history, various media. I’ve done a few watercolors over the years, but I love the feel of certain textiles, and the way they bring the colors to life. My aunt was a Tlingit basket weaver, and I learned about natural dyes from her when I was just a kid. The first weaving I ever did was a few baskets with her help, too. I don’t know why but I was never driven to pursue Native American weaving arts per se—baskets and cedar bark clothing, or blankets, bead weaving, what have you. But I did love the rhythm involved in weaving. I love the way it occupies me completely, takes me out of myself so I don’t have to do any worrying or figuring about life’s problems. And strangely, that helps me solve any problems I have.
I first became fascinated with pictorial tapestry during an art history course. We looked at slides of a tapestry from the 16th century usually known as the Wawel Arras. I was struck by how three dimensional it was—the border of the tapestry actually looks like a three dimensional frame, but the central image group overlaps it. I admired also the way realistic images were juxtaposed or decorated with symbols. And the colors—using simple dyes, 16th century tapestry makers managed to create a palate of rich, vibrant, harmonious color. So I got myself a simple loom and turned out a few pieces, and by the time I started grad school there was no doubt in my mind what I wanted to do.
One other thing, I enjoy teaching. One good thing about being an expert in your field—everyone wants what you have, in the way of knowledge. Teaching, especially if I have a chance to know the students, is much like tapestry-making for me. You find the key pieces of knowledge that will help the student find their colors and images. There’s even a rhythm of give and take, forward and back. It’s good.
Jodi: Did your experience in Europe change your passion for art?
Sonny: No, not at all. Even though I was in Paris because of my art, I didn’t connect the bad experiences with it in my mind. The only thing that happened was I had to be patient, because at first, after I recovered, I didn’t have the stamina and nimbleness to weave as I usually do.
Jodi: Let’s talk a little about when the two of you first met. Neither of you were exactly looking for a relationship: Luki was not used to trusting people, and Sonny was living like a recluse. Why did the two of you decide to meet at Margie’s for coffee?
Luki: Sonny met me there because I asked him and he couldn’t resist.
Sonny: True enough, husband. And you asked me because you couldn’t help yourself.
Luki: That seems accurate. I still can’t help myself.
Sonny: And I still can’t resist. But I would like to make it clear why I had chosen to live mostly alone. You said Luki couldn’t trust. Well, neither could I. But the person I could trust the least was myself—I couldn’t take a chance I’d end up broken because I’d been a fool, so I didn’t risk anything. But when Luki looked at me, there on the boulevard, he really saw me—I could feel it. And when I saw him, I saw such beauty—physically, but something more. It might even be described as an aura, though not visual. And even though I didn’t think it through then, I think that somewhere deep down I was conscious of the idea that if such a man as Luki saw me, and even after I mouthed off, wanted to talk to me, maybe I might have something to offer. I told myself I wouldn’t meet him the next day. I told myself that right up until I sat down at the table and did indeed make a big fool of myself. (Sonny grins, and laughs, and then lets his head fall for a few seconds to Luki’s shoulder.)
Luki: (Hugs Sonny quickly, and plants a quick kiss on top of his head.) Uh... When I saw Sonny that day, and spoke to him about Margie’s, I was pretty sure I was making a great big mistake. You see, I had schooled myself well, and I was quite used to being able to see a lovely man and not be moved by that at all unless I was at a club and thinking about hooking up for a few hours. But I couldn’t not look at him. He said, “What are you looking at?” And part of me wanted to pop him one, but this other part of me was hurt. And then I watched him some more, and there was some voice or something that told me he’d hurt himself when he said that, that he was... afraid maybe. And I wanted to have a chance for him to not hurt me, and I wanted to not be... a stranger who somehow managed to hurt him. Not a very good explanation, I know. Was it love at first sight? No. Was it lust at first sight? I’d have to say yes. But that’s not all it was. Something about him touched something about me, right in those first few minutes. Best I can do.
Jodi: That first meeting didn’t go very well. What prompted the decision to “try again”?
Luki: See all that stuff I answered to the last question. It didn’t go away. But when everything I did (even though it was all pretty out of character for me) failed, I did sort of give up and locked the feelings up. That chance meeting on the beach when I was doing tai chi pretty much unlocked them.
Sonny: You know, after Luki didn’t show the next morning, I pretty much felt heartbroken. And when several days went by and no word, I realized I’d once again blown it big time. I didn’t blame him, but I did realize he had pretty much nothing in common with me, so I decided to just let it go. That kiss, on the beach that day, I regretted it instantly. Not because I didn’t like it. Because I could have continued to touch him for days if I had the chance. But I do have a fair bit of self-control, and I told myself no, and to be honest, if that awful shit that happened in Margie’s apartment hadn’t thrown us together, I don’t think would have got together. But, damn, I’m glad we did!
Jodi: Tai chi is an important practice for Luki. Luki, what was going through your mind when you were teaching Sonny tai chi on the beach?
Luki: Oh, Saint Christopher help me. It’s a good thing I’ve been practicing and teaching tai chi for so long, because that enabled me to go through the moves with him in a more or less normal fashion. But every move he made was so naturally beautiful, so graceful—I know he thinks of himself as kind of a bumbler, but he’s not. I’ve never known anyone that so very securely occupies their own body. Sounds strange, but yeah. I wanted to touch every curve and angle, spend forever at it. I still do—and now sometimes I get to. (Luki smiles here and bobs his eyebrows, which is hella cute.)
Jodi: Sonny, did the tai chi lesson give you a different perspective of the badass façade Luki was portraying?
Sonny: I don’t think it did, Jodi. But I’ll confess, I kind of saw him as more human than that right from the start. If all I’d seen was badass, I wouldn’t have been so cognizant of his beauty, and as I said, that struck me right away, knocked me off balance.
Jodi: Luki, I know this is a sensitive issue for you, but can you explain how the assault when you were 13 changed the course of your life?
Luki: Wow. Good question. What really changed that night was my father, and how I looked at him. Sure, a trauma like that affects a person’s psyche, and it’s true—Ronny Jemison’s nasty words actually woke me up, made me see myself more clearly. Not because I hadn’t wanted to see before that, just nothing had made me need to see myself as gay, as different. Sometimes, I wonder how I might have changed if my father didn’t turn my entire life into a self-defense lesson after that. There’s just no way I can sort that out. As a result of what he said and did, I grew up a very capable man, careful, controlled in every way. I’m absolutely sure I wouldn’t have become that Luki if it hadn’t been for the incident and my father, but I would have been the same person. Where does that lead? I don’t know.
Jodi: Sonny, I know this is a difficult question for you, but can you tell us about Delsyn and how his life and death impacted you?
Sonny: There is nothing about me, except my weaving, that Delsyn didn’t impact. I loved the boy, and when I saw his life turning out like my childhood, I talked to my uncle Melvern and he helped me bring him home to raise him—I was still underage and couldn’t have made that happen on my own. He was a lot of fun, but he was also a responsibility that I was by no means ready for. I was still trying to work out the shit from my own younger days. I always felt like I was floundering with my responsibilities toward him, and that made me want to escape my self. I won’t go into what I did because of that, but you know if you’ve read Lou’s books. By the time I grew up enough to really care for him—he’d become so independent that he wouldn’t let me. And, lest you or the readers don’t know, raising a child is like a contract between you and them. If they won’t let you parent them, there’s no way you can do it. I started to think things were getting better—I had Luki and we were becoming a family. Then he died. Every part of me hurt for his absence. And every self-doubt I’d ever had surfaced. I crucified myself on should have, and why, and if it wasn’t for Luki, that time, I would not have come out of it.
Jodi: Luki, your life has been tumultuous throughout the past 10 years. Sonny, of course, has been a constant strong presence. Do you feel you have changed a lot as a person because of Sonny?
Luki: Can I just say yes, and leave it at that? No, I’m kidding. I haven’t changed. Not really. I feel like I’m a little closer now to being outwardly the person I always have been, inside. Sonny changed me because he loved me, and saw me as beautiful—which still amazes me. But also he changed me because he was somehow capable of allowing me to love him, at first, in the limited ways I would let it be manifest.
Luki: Yes, Manifest. I went to college. One thing I know now, Jodi, is it’s not possible to be open to love, but not open yourself to pain and fear and grief, or joy and laughter and peace. So yeah. I was living a grainy film noire, and Sonny rendered me in full color HD. Right?
Jodi: Sonny, how has your life changed because of Luki?
Sonny: First, let me say something. I have most certainly not always been there for Luki. Luki is the one who always lets his doubts or fears go in order to be there for me, to make sure I’m okay. I can’t begin to tell you the number of times when he’s let me crawl up under his shelter until I’m able to deal with life again. Yeah, I know he’s full of self-doubt, and has way more anxiety than shows, but when I need him, he’s strong.
Luki: When you need me, you make me strong, baby. That’s how it works.
Sonny: Yeah, I suppose so. But really, that’s how Luki has most changed my life. Only one other person in my life had ever let me need, not thought less of me for it. That was my uncle, Melvern. But I was young then and couldn’t take advantage of what that meant. But Luki loves me thoroughly, through and through, and he lets me need him without making me feel like I’m less. He makes it safe for me to let him love me, and for me to love him without reserve. Of course there are a lot of other ways he’s changed me, but that’s at the heart of it.
Jodi: Not to put you on the spot, but Sonny what is one of your favorite things about being married to Luki?
Sonny: Just one? Really? Okay, well... if I have to choose, I kind of like the sex. (Sonny starts laughing like Woody Woodpecker, and Luki smiles, watching him out of the corner of his eye.)
Jodi: Luki, smiling is not something you used to do a lot. What does Sonny do that makes you smile?
Luki: He calls me husband, and says things like, “I kind of like the sex.”
Jodi: Tell us about Jade and how she has impacted your lives and household.
(Both are quiet for a few minutes. They exchange looks, hold hands. Luki fiddles with Sonny’s wedding ring. Finally Luki speaks up.) I can’t begin to tell you what it’s like to have a little girl to love in a brand new way. She teaches me, both of us I think. (Sonny nods.) Sometimes I even remember how full of wonder the world was when I was six years old.
Jodi: What is next for the two of you and your family?
Sonny: (smiles) Raising Jade. Getting a couple rocking chairs so we can grow
Luki: Jade wants a horse. That’s going to come before the rocking chair part.
About Lou Sylvre
Lou hails from southern California but now lives and writes on the rainy side of Washington State. When she’s not writing, she’s reading fiction from nearly every genre, romance in all its tints and shades, and the occasional book about history, physics, or police procedure. Not zombies, though. Her personal assistant is Boudreau, a large cat who never outgrew his kitten meow.
Lou plays guitar (mostly where people can’t hear her) and she loves to sing. She’s usually smiling and laughs too much, some say. She also loves her family, her friends, the aforementioned Boudreau, a Chihuahua named Joe, and (in random order) coffee, chocolate, sunshine, and wild roses.
Check out her Web site at http://sylvre.com/.
Reclusive weaver Sonny Bly James controls every color and shape in his tapestries, but he can’t control the pattern of his life—a random encounter with Luki Vasquez, ex-ATF agent and all-around badass, makes that perfectly clear. The mutual attraction is immediate, but love-shy Sonny has retreated from life, and Luki wears his visible and not-so-visible scars like armor. Neither can bare his soul with ease.
While they run from desire, they can’t hide from the evil that hunts them. After it becomes clear that a violent stalker has targeted Sonny, Luki’s protective instincts won’t let him run far, especially when Sonny’s family is targeted as well. Whether they can forgive or forget, Sonny and Luki will have to call a truce and work together to save Sonny’s nephew and fight an enemy intent on making sure loving Luki Vasquez is the last mistake Sonny will ever make.
Sonny James and Luki Vasquez are living proof that the course of love never runs smoothly. Ambushed by grief, Sonny listens to a voice singing the blues from beyond the grave. While revisiting the sorrows and failings of his past, in the here and now he puts up a wall against love. Just when Luki chips through that barricade, the couple becomes the target of a new threat from outside: an escalating and unexplainable rash of break-ins and assaults.
Thoughts of infidelity rise between them, a threat that may strain their newly mended love past its limits. To come through the trials alive and together, Luki and Sonny will have to unite against enemies who were once friends and overcome crippling hatred and overwhelming fear. If they succeed, maybe then they can rekindle the twin flames of passion and love.
Luki Vasquez and Sonny Bly James finally have their Hawaiian wedding, and it's perfect, almost. But their three-phase honeymoon is riddled with strife. Luki's status as a working badass spells discord for the newlyweds. A former informant from Luki’s days with ATFE brings a troubling message (or is it a warning?) from a Mob hit man. When Luki’s sixteen-year-old nephew, Jackie, is lured into capture and torture by a sadistic killer, the honeymoon is well and truly over.
The couple put aside their differences and focus on the grueling hunt, which takes them from leather bars to dusty desert back roads, and calls on Sonny’s deep compassion as well as Luki’s sharpest skills. Their world threatens to fall apart if they fail, but their love may grow stronger than ever if they succeed in finding Jackie—before it’s too late.
Luki Vasquez and his still newlywed husband are back home after pulling off a harrowing desert rescue of their teenage nephew Jackie. But the events of the last couple of years have begun to catch up with Luki—loving Sonny James and letting Sonny love him back has left gaps in his emotional armor. In the gunfight that secured Jackie’s rescue, Luki’s bullet killed a young guard, an innocent boy in Luki’s mind. In the grip of PTSD, memories, flashbacks, and nightmares consume him, and he falls into deep, almost vegetative depression.
Sonny devotes his days to helping Luki, putting his own career on hold, even passing up a European tour of galleries and schools—an opportunity that might never come again. But when Luki’s parasomnia turns his nightmares into real-world terror, it breaks the gridlock. Sonny realizes what he’s doing isn’t working, and he says yes to Europe. Enter Harold Breslin, a dangerously intelligent artist’s promoter and embezzler whose obsessive desire for Sonny is exceeded only by his narcissism. When Harold’s plan for Sonny turns poisonous, Luki must break free of PTSD and get to France fit and ready in time to save his husband’s life.
Professional badass Luki Vasquez and textile artist Sonny James have been married for five years, and despite the sometimes volatile mix, they’re happy. From their first days together, they stood united against deadly enemies and prevailed. But now the deadly enemy they face is the cancer thriving inside Luki, consuming his lungs.
As Luki’s treatment proceeds, Sonny hovers near, determined to provide every care, control every thread of possibility just as he does when he weaves. But he can’t control the progress of the cancer or how Luki’s body reacts to the treatment regime. Sonny tries, but Luki dances with cancer alone—until he gets a startling reminder of the miracle of life. With renewed determination and mutual love, the two men emerge from their coldest winter into a new spring day.
Through June 2013, 100% of author royalties for this title will be donated to a charity for cancer research.
Luki Vasquez receives the news he’s still cancer free after five years, and he wants to celebrate with his whole family. He and his husband, Sonny James, take a road trip south, intending to gather at the home of his nephew Josh, Josh’s wife Ruthie, and Jade—a little girl who was still in the womb when she and her mother helped Luki beat lung cancer.
Halfway to their destination, Luki learns Josh and Ruthie have met a tragic death. The horrible news lays Luki low, but he pulls himself together in time to be the family’s rock and see to the dreaded business of tying up loose ends. The most important business is Jade, and when Luki and Sonny head home, they take Jade with them.
Luki and Sonny must combat self-doubt and fear and help each other learn to parent an unexpected child—and they must also nourish the love that has kept them whole for the past ten years. A relative’s spurious claim to Jade threatens the new family, and even if they prevail in court, they could lose their little girl unless they can rescue Jade from evil hands and true peril.
Prize: Luki and Sonny Prize Pack