Dreamspinner Press

Guest Post and Giveaway: It’s All Grist For The Mill with Charley Descoteaux

Thanks so much for having me back, Lisa!

Maybe you’ve heard the title of this post said before. Writers say it a lot, because it’s true. Sometimes we don’t realize just how true it is until we’ve finished a manuscript and go back for that final polish, before unleashing the story on our unsuspecting and beloved publisher. This happened to me with The Nesting Habits of Strange Birds.

This story came about with the help of a few strategic grists (if that wasn’t already a word, I want it to be now). First, I saw a picture on Pinterest that made me start writing.Phil introduced himself pretty much immediately. He was always Phil Brask, a guy who lives with his mentor in an historic Victorian in the Goose Hollow district in SW Portland.

I’m sure the setting for this story was influenced by the many (many, many) afternoons and evenings I spent at the Goose Hollow MAX Stop waiting to catch a train or a bus to or from a class. The neighborhood is beautiful, and I pondered the mysteries of the universe and plot structure and character agency (and how lawyers who teach can be stunningly sadistic)in Goose Hollow for many hours.

Phil also introduced me to Lee. He arrived in the plumber’s truck and rocked Phil’s world, in more than one way. Those two names might not seem like anything to grist over (ha! sorry, I’m on a roll here) but they are. I finished a twenty-one month program of study in June—Paralegal Studies to be precise. During that time I took a lot of notes, as you do when you’re trying to learn something. Another thing we all probably do when we’re writing on paper, is create shorthand for commonly-used words and phrases. I wrote PL instead of the word “paralegal” too many times to count, and somehow that came out as Phil and Lee.

I could go on, but you get the picture.


Blurb: All he ever wanted was to be a normal guy….

Phil Brask spends his days in the basement of his mentor’s Victorian home, converting legal documents into electronic format. When the pipe feeding the water heater bursts, Lee Redding arrives in the plumber’s truck and draws Phil away from the narrow focus of his computer and camera lens. Lee gives Phil hope for a life beyond the walls he’s constructed using the nesting habits of migratory birds and dense legal files, a guided tour through a world filled with romance and music…maybe even family. But there’s a reason Phil retreated behind those walls, why he panics at a simple touch.

Lee has a good life—working with his uncle and on his mother’s farm, playing bass in a horrible metal band, and hooking up when he pleases—but he’s always suspected something was missing. When he meets the hot photographer with the icy-blue eyes, he knows exactly what that something is. Phil isn’t like other guys, but neither is Lee beneath his carefree exterior. Maybe Lee’s the perfect guy to show Phil that everything doesn’t have to be done the hard way and “home” isn’t a four-letter word.

Here’s an excerpt from Lee’s point of view. The guys are at a secluded spot so Phil can take pictures of nesting great blue herons.


Excerpt: Phil didn’t stop until the birds quieted down. Lee thought he saw the parents fly away but couldn’t be sure because they weren’t close enough to where Phil stood. When the birds had been quiet for a while, Phil put the lens cap on, checked the tripod, and sat on the other side of the cooler.

“What’d you make for lunch?”

Phil snickered. “S-subway.”

He pulled a foot long sandwich from the cooler and nodded toward it, inviting Lee to do the same. Lee wondered again how long Phil planned to hang out because inside the cooler were four sandwiches, a large tub of what looked like potato salad, and a square of something wrapped in foil that Lee dearly hoped would turn out to be dessert.

They ate in silence and about eight inches of sub later, the young herons started up their racket again. Phil brushed his hands off on his jeans and jogged to the camera. Lee watched some of the feeding scene without magnification, and it was total bedlam up there. He could’ve sworn the parents walked right over the babies a few times.

He kept thinking it, but once the birds quieted down again, he just had to say it. He had to say something and didn’t want to press his luck and find out how Phil would answer a direct proposition out there in the middle of nowhere. They didn’t even have a blanket.

“Those are some strange birds.”

Phil nodded. “They’re c-cool though.”

“Yeah, they are.”

Phil had been looking directly into his face, those amazing light blue eyes meeting his own as they really hadn’t before. Lee felt it in every nerve ending. And then he let that slip out—not even trying to hide he’d meant more than just the freaky giant birds. He worried he’d gone too far, pushed a button again—didn’t some guys take deep eye contact as some kind of a challenge? Phil froze for a moment, and then turned back to his camera.

Author Bio: 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 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 my cages, I’d love to hear from you!

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presentThe Giveaway: THIS CONTEST IS CLOSED


16 thoughts on “Guest Post and Giveaway: It’s All Grist For The Mill with Charley Descoteaux

  1. Alaina says:

    I really, really want to read this!! I have seen several other posts about The Nesting Habits of Strange Birds and am really looking forward to it! Thanks for the chance to win!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good morning, everyone, and thank you for joining in on Charley’s giveaway. The contest is closed and the winner’s been selected. A copy of The Nesting Habits of Strange Birds goes to


    Congratulations, Tammy! I’ve already emailed Charley with your contact information, so expect to hear from her soon.


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