What Are AmberPax™ Collections?

Simply put, AmberPax™ Collections are groups of five stories centered around a specific theme. Each story within an AmberPax™ is released individually, on the same day as the others, and can be purchased separately, but these five stories can also be purchased as a single unit (the full AmberPax™) at a discount, currently 25%. Generally, an AmberPax™ is similar to an "anthology" of stories, but instead of the titles being released in only a single volume (file), they are also available individually. These AmberPax™ Collections are sold exclusively through our website and only in electronic format.

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Monday, 20 April 2015

Laurel Canyon by A.J. Llewellyn

I jumped at the chance to participate in the “Ooh to be Back in the 1960s” Amber PAX™ Collection of stories. I knew immediately I wanted to write about Laurel Canyon partly because I lived there for many, many years, and also because I am still obsessed with the historical aspects of the mythical neighborhood.  

In particular, I love the “Laurel Canyon” music that started in 1966 and swept through the middle of the 1970s. At first, I had some ideas about what I wanted to write and thought it would be fun to focus on a struggling musician rubbing elbows with the big names of the day including Crosby Stills and Nash, The Mamas and the Papas, Sonny and Cher, Joni Mitchell, Frank Zappa, The Beach Boys, and even Charles Manson, a struggling guitarist and songwriter, who would go on to mastermind some of the most gruesome murders the town has ever seen. According to the police, his failure to gain a recording contract with producer Terry Melcher (son of Doris Day) was the reason he turned on the very people he wanted to work with.

Ironically, Manson auditioned for Neil Young but failed to impress him. He wrote a song with Dennis Wilson called Never Learn Not to Love, which the Beach Boys recorded. Manson went berserk when he learned that he hadn’t been given a co-writer credit and threatened to kill Dennis Wilson. He showed up at Wilson’s house but Wilson beat him up! Shortly after this, Manson began orchestrating his murder spree and Wilson freaked out. According to the reports, Wilson became paranoid for a long time after this – and who can blame him?

As I started researching the Laurel Canyon era, I came across information about a riot on Sunset Boulevard that barely made a ripple outside of Los Angeles in 1966, but was a huge story locally back then. It changed everything. Teens were fighting for independence, gay rights was a hotly contested issue, America involving itself in a war that was not its own was a hot-button topic. Racial tensions were about to explode…

Wow. Some things have not changed, have they? 

I opened my story with the Sunset Riots – and was fascinated to find not only first-hand accounts of what happened that night of November 12, 1966, but also actual footage. This riot was preceded by a little-known riot in San Francisco – in August (exact day unknown) in the Tenderloin District. A group of transgender people were discriminated against at the Compton Cafeteria by the local police. A riot broke out. Some footage is available online and many photos too, but the police files have long been destroyed and no newspaper ever reported it.
This incident occurred THREE YEARS before the legendary Stonewall Riots. Just like the brave teens who fought for their right to see music on Sunset Boulevard three months later, many brave men and women fought for their right to buy a cup of coffee, regardless of their gender, race, mode of clothing or their sexuality. These men and women were defended by The Vanguard, a group that developed the first every GLBTQ Youth Group in America.

I hope you read Laurel Canyon and maybe it will help you listen to songs differently and perhaps not take that cup of coffee you drink at your favorite coffee house for granted. I know my thoughts have changed since listening to Buffalo Springfield’s song For What It’s Worth constantly as I wrote this story. I’d always thought it was about Vietnam, but it was, in fact, written by Stephen Stills in the days following the Sunset Riots.

There's something happening here
But what it is ain't exactly clear
There's a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware

I think it's time we stop
Children, what's that sound?
Everybody look, what's going down?

Stephen Stills, “For What it’s Worth

Taris West moves to Los Angeles on November 12, 1966, the very day of the Sunset Riots. Taris, his brother, and cousin, who make up a band called Go West, find themselves in the middle of the battle between teenagers and police. Although Taris is an eyewitness to the riot taking place on the corner of Sunset and Laurel Canyon, he is also eager to explore the mythic hills that are the home to many music legends.

Soon he’s rubbing shoulders with Neil Young, Stephen Stills, Frank Zappa, Sonny and Cher, to name a few. There’s also a slightly mysterious former Air Force officer named Winter, who’s moved to Laurel Canyon to pursue his own musical fortune. Winter is incredible, but he also has a weirdo roommate who puts off everybody he meets. There’s also something strange going on in Winter’s Laurel Canyon house. Somebody keeps bumping and scraping in the middle of the night and a mural above his bed keeps getting additions as Winter and Taris sleep.

Can these two broken men find acceptance, or even love, as history evolves right in front of their eyes? Can they make music together? And what about the burning civil rights issues of the day? Can a little canyon help mend bridges across the universe?

As Frank Zappa would say, “Laurel Canyon is freaky, man.”

Genres: Gay/Nostalgic Contemporary (1960s-Era)/The Arts 
Heat Level: 3 
Length: Novella (27k words)

*     *     *


...The line for a table seemed to stretch forever. It was like a sea of leather jackets and stovepipe pants, the faint scent of patchouli oil invading the more pleasant aroma of coffee. I couldn’t help thinking, Mom would love it here. The packed tables were filled with people putting away food like they were going to the chair. Just as we were about to give up and try someplace else, I locked eyes with a guy across the room. His hair was dark and not as long as mine—which reached my shoulders—but curled nicely below his ears. His piercing green eyes mesmerized me.

He beckoned us over to his table for four, which he was sharing with a couple of guys. A couple vacated the seats beside them. We scrambled to thread our way through the countless kids clustered around tables. When we reached the dark-haired guy, he stood and grinned at me.

“Hey, man, you’re welcome to share our table.” He shook my hand after I’d propped my guitar and duffle bag against the wall. “I’m Winter. James Winter, but I just go by Winter.” I liked his name. Ray, Will, and I introduced ourselves. “This is Brent.” He pointed to a guy with chestnut hair. He had the weirdest cut I’d ever seen, like he’d trimmed it himself with his eyes closed. Brent’s bushy beard needed some attention, and his T-shirt had seen cleaner days. The fearsome tattoos on his forearms were intimidating. He nodded to us and kept strumming his guitar.

Winter’s other friend said nothing. His face looked familiar. He seemed older than the rest of us, with his carefully combed mop of hair and a fake fur vest. I noticed the sheriff’s badge pinned to it. Although he had a huge smile on his face, there was fear in his eyes.

“This is Sonny.” Winter gestured to his friend.

“Nice to meet you.” Sonny shook our hands, but kept glancing around. I tried to place him and wondered if he was a politician. He gave off an air of authority, but couldn’t have been a real cop. The choice of the sheriff’s badge struck me as off considering the tension in the coffee shop and out on the street.

A harried-looking waitress came over to us. “What’ll you have?” she asked me.

“Coffee and a ham and cheese sandwich. Please.”

“Me, too,” Ray echoed.

“And me.” Will winked at her.

“You’re easy to please.” The waitress winked back at Will, who seemed to spark to life. He stared after her. Boy, he was getting over Jessamine fast.

A very pretty, serious-looking girl with dead-straight, long black hair parted down the middle, a luminous smile and a face full of pimples joined our table.

“Hi!” she said, taking a seat on Sonny’s lap. She, too, wore a fake fur vest and her black and white striped bell-bottom pants were the widest I’d ever seen.

Winter laughed. “And this is Sonny’s better half, Cher...”


Laurel Canyon by A.J. Llewellyn is now available at Amber Allure.

If you'd like the chance to win the entire pax collection, just leave a comment on today's post. On Saturday, a winner will be picked at random from all the comments made this week on the blog. Comment on all, and that's multiple chances to win!


  1. This is one of the reason I love reading historical fiction, I enjoy being taken to a time and a place which I have read about but not experienced. I have also listened to the music of these artists, but did not really know much about Laurel Canyon and the Vanguard. Thank you for sharing and for a chance to win this and the other books in this series.

  2. I honestly didn't know about these historical events. I love when I read a romantic fiction and learn something new as well.