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Mark Jennings is at a crossroads. His finance job in the Atlanta nonprofit scene stresses him out, his mother is dying, and his relationship with Brian Jacobs has crashed and burned. He needs a distraction, some way to relax, and a massage seems like just the thing. He never expected his massage therapist, Antonio Roberto, to become his best friend.
Despite their differences—Antonio is a divorced single father—the two men forge a firm friendship that weathers Mark’s reconciliation with Brian and Antonio’s questionable taste in women. Over the years, Antonio remains constant in his support, though others in Mark’s life come and go through a revolving door.
When a young boy runs away from the group home where he works, Mark finds another door opening. Through it all he holds on to the things his loved ones taught him—about family, about friends and lovers, about life and death. Most importantly, he realizes that sometimes the greatest gift of all is a second chance. Second Chances” will be out on October 17th from Dreamspinner.
T. A. Webb is the writing name for the Mean Old Bear That Could. By day, he’s the director of finance for a non-profit agency. He’s worked with people living with HIV/AIDS and with children in the foster care system for over twenty years, and takes the smaller pay for the chance to make a difference for those who can’t help themselves. After hours, he’s the proud single papa of four rescue dogs, was born and raised in Atlanta, where he still lives, and is a pretty darned good country cook.
His sister taught him to read when he was four, and he tore his way through the local library over the next few years. Always wanting more, he snuck a copy of The Exorcist under his parents’ house to read when he was eleven and scared the bejesus out of himself. Thus began a love affair with books that skirt the edge, and when he discovered gay literature, he was hooked for life.
Q: How important are character names, to you, and how do you go about naming them? What about titles?
A: Character names are very important. Once I get in my head who they are, then they start talking to me and the story is off and running! I fill in the blanks of their personalities, and the names just kind of come to me. Same with titles – I start with something generic until the story really cooks, then the name comes to me kind of organically.
Q: In what locale is your most recent book set? How compelling was it to set a story there? Do you choose location the same way every time? How?
A: My most recent book, Deep Blues Goodbye, is set in New Orleans. It’s an erotic urban fantasy, vampires and werewolves set on an unaware world. And what better place than New Orleans with the voodoo that we do so well? I like to set stories close to home – Atlanta for me – or where they make most sense. Second Chances is set in Atlanta, as is the short I have in the IRM Winter Anthology, His Name was Harley Manfield.
Q: How much power do you give your characters in steering the story line?
A: All the power. I’m a “pantser” – I write by the seat of my pants. The characters talk to me and set the action. They live and laugh and love and sometimes die and I have no idea what’s gonna happen until it does.
Q: What is the most satisfying element for you in writing gay relationships, and why?
Q: Hmmm. I like to tell the history, how the characters got to the place in their lives where they are today. And then how that history led them to interact with each other and fall in love or whatever they do. It’s all about the build-up for me.
Q: Are readers involved in making your fiction—do they suggest stories or say what they’d like to read?
A: Not yet. So far I’m still a newbie, so nobody cares yet!
Q: Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.
A: Wow. Should there be a relationship? Other than that the author writes for readers, and readers read. I’ve been a reviewer for a couple of years and a reader all my life, and have always thought that authors don’t owe me anything except a well-written work. Today, though, it seems with the internet everyone thinks they own a piece of each other. Well, I disagree. Read me or not. Like me or not. But it’s my work that you should [be] worried about.
Q: What do you find useful about reviews?
A: They can tell a writer if they are on track with their stories. I write reviews, and my goal is always to tell other readers the good about a book, and what I think might be improved. But I refuse to write bad reviews or talk about the author. So the feedback – as a writer – it tells me if I am doing a good job communicating my story. If I am, great, but if I’m not, I need to get better. And even with a good review, I need to get better!
Q: I’m well known for demanding to know an author’s opinion about which of their characters is the sexiest, and I’m making no exception for this group. Who, how, and why?
A: In Deep Blues Goodbye, we have a boatload of sexy men. My personal favorite is Travis. He’s tall, dark and handsome, and just now getting that he can have a life after being turned into a vampire. But Sam is a special guy too. He’s always willing to look inside himself and learn something new. In Second Chances, it’s Brian. He’s loving, knows he fucked up, and still comes back for more.
Q: What are the fifty hottest words (approximate the word count) you’ve ever written, in your opinion. (Be sure to include citation).
He pushed up into my hand and I shoved a hand inside his jeans. “Think you can come in the next two minutes?” He groaned and nodded. This was my new favorite game. Giving him a time limit, and if he didn’t get off within that time, he didn’t get to. ’Til the next day. He’d gotten very good at this game.
From Second Chances
Q: What are you doing now, what do plan to write next?
A: I have *gulps* six things going on at once now. I have two shorts for a new YA anthology to finish, the new book in the Altered States series, a novella about two porn guys and the man who brings them together in love, a 1940’s story called Buzz and Tommy’s Summer, and a book with another writer that’s a fun semi-paranormal piece. Then another book in the series and a follow-up to Second Chances that tells Robbie and Jason’s story. Then…another Altered States book and a paranormal book I woke up with already all plotted and told in my head!
I wondered if praying that she wouldn’t pull out of this episode made me a terrible son. I didn’t dare breathe a word of that to anybody, but fuck it, I could stand here and by God take a minute to suffer and let my heart bleed in private. Pull all the jagged pieces of my soul together and cobble them into something resembling the man everybody knew as Mark Jennings before I had to go in and be him.
But after a few minutes and a few more deep breaths, I pulled it together. Took the piece of me that was the good son, attached it to the responsible work Mark, the peacemaker brother, the single gay man pieces. Looked at all the parts tiredly, and once they fit into something that approached a whole man, I slipped back into my skin. I took a deep breath and opened the door to Mom’s room.
Dad was there. It may have been too early for any of my brothers and sisters, but that was almost a relief. Today it would be nice just to have some time with him while I still felt so tired and raw.
“It’s good to see you, son.” He hugged me and eyed the sack I brought in from Huey’s. He loved the beignets and the muffaletta sandwiches I’d gotten into the habit of picking up for our dinner.
I handed him the bag. “You too, Dad. Looks like everything’s about the same here, huh? Thought I’d come and keep you company.”
“But I know you’re tired. I told you to go home after work and I’d call you if anything changed,” he fussed as he dug around in the bag.
“Just hush and eat. Where is everybody?” I plopped down in a chair and kicked my shoes off. I’d been at this damn hospital enough to know how to make myself comfortable.
“You’re it right now.” He plowed into the food like a hungry bear, and I knew he’d probably skipped lunch to sit with her. Again. “Patty was here earlier, and Robert. Said he and Jennifer’d be back tonight. The doctor was in today, said she may wake up tomorrow some time.”
I didn’t want to talk about that right now. More than anything, that subject threatened the fragile internal balance I’d forged, so we talked about little crap. What my day’d been like. What had to be done around the house when he made it back there.
But we also slid in some of the more important things, too. How was he holding up. Was I okay. Had I heard from Brian. Things he would share with me, the responsible son. My brothers and sisters, while I loved them, always made everything such fucking drama, and found reasons to let me handle the hard things. You know, since I didn’t have kids and a wife, or a husband, or a boyfriend. At least that’s what Brenda and Sam and Linda thought. Robert and Patti, at least, pitched in as best they could.
But it was also our way to ignore the big things without telling each other to fuck off.