Xylophone–Coming in December from Dreamspinner Press
Daren Boothe has a secret. It centers on an unlikely object: a xylophone. And it’s reflected in his professional alter-ego, an androgynous but extremely sensual performer named Pepper Jack. When Dare begins his second (and considerably more wholesome) job playing clarinet in a polka band, he meets an unassuming young man who takes his grandmother out dancing each week — a man who also has a secret and is about to change Dare’s life.
Jonah Day immediately recognizes the clarinetist. Three years earlier they’d crossed paths in a therapist’s office, but they’d both abandoned that route to mental health. Neither was ready then to open up about the psychological traumas that haunted them and were adversely affecting their lives.
Dare and Jonah, both in their twenties, are survivors of sexual abuse. Still struggling to heal their wounds, they turn to each other — or Jonah suggests they do. Dare balks at first but then, almost in spite of himself, gives in. The men begin to confide in each other. Understanding and empathy come instantly, accompanied by ambivalence about their growing attraction. But the repercussions of their victimization are many. Soon, the very experiences Dare and Jonah share threaten to drive them apart. Only learning how to “play past the past” will sustain and strengthen their bond.
Q: How important are character names, to you, and how do you go about naming them? What about titles?
A: Titles are, to me, far more important than character names. Often a title comes to me first, sparking the story. All that concerns me about names is that I haven’t used them before, they seem age-appropriate, and I mix in non-Anglo surnames. (I grew up in a very ethnic city.)
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: Almost all my stories take place in Wisconsin – cities, small towns, and rural areas. I guess I see a Midwestern setting as part of my “brand” (whatever the hell that is!)
Q: How much power do you give your characters in steering the story line?
A: It isn’t a choice. The buggers just take over!
Q: What is the most satisfying element for you in writing gay relationships, and why?
A: I could make something up, but truthfully, I just don’t know. Must be my inner gay man. (I’ve been aware of having one since I was in my twenties. In fact, straight men have even pointed it out to me.)
Q: Are readers involved in making your fiction—do they suggest stories or say what they’d like to read?
A: Not too much. I have a very wayward imagination. Once in a while, though, people express interest in a sequel, and I take that into consideration. It was reader interest in my steampunk novel Mongrel that spurred me to start writing Merman (which is nowhere near finished, by the way — gah!)
Q: Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.
A: Interactive, in a way marked by mutual respect and appreciation. A sense of humor doesn’t hurt, either. 😉
Q: What do you find useful about reviews?
A: I don’t read reviews of my own stuff unless I’m specifically notified. Too many authors go off the rails because they’re constantly trawling through and fretting over their reviews. I don’t need that kind of distraction. But I’ll check out reviews of books I’m considering buying or have read.
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: Jackson Spey, my urban wizard (who happens to be in the short excerpt below). I’ve loved him for a long time and made no secret about it. Ex-biker with a colorful past, hot and powerful as hell, a little rough around the edges, a lot intelligent. He’s currently in his early forties, and he’s grown increasingly complex over the years. Now he’s married, going through a midlife crisis, and has a surrogate son. Can still work some phenomenal magic, though, and doesn’t take any crap from anybody.
Q: What are the fifty hottest words (approximate the word count) you’ve ever written, in your opinion. (Be sure to include citation).
Jackson’s expression didn’t change. His face remained impassive yet somehow eloquent. Only his shallow breathing belied his blank composure. “You have no idea,” he whispered, “how much I’ve wanted to feel your mouth on me again. It’s been a kind of torture.”
Those words pulled the trigger. Adin’s fingers dug into the tendons of Jackson’s neck. “You want my mouth on you again? I swear I’ll worship you with it.”
He crushed his lips against the lips of his best friend.
~ from Obsessed
Q: What are you doing now, what do plan to write next?
A: I’m waiting on edits for my next Dreamspinner release, Xylophone. And I’m trying to pull together that sequel to Mongrel.
An Excerpt from Xylophone
The following week I got off the bus just a few doors down from Over the Rainbow resale shop. Since I had a bus pass, I wouldn’t have to walk the remaining distance, maybe a mile or so, to my house. This mattered, because I was carrying my clarinet. Not that it was heavy, but I was afraid someone might snatch it from me. I was even more slightly built than most girls my age. If I’d been mugged (and it never occurred to me most muggers weren’t after clarinets), I couldn’t have hung on to my most treasured possession.
At first I dawdled on the sidewalk, hugging the case to my chest, and studied the stuff in the windows. A manikin wearing a polka-dot bikini and a Creature from the Black Lagoon mask. A barbecue grill heaped with molded plastic food and a rubber plucked chicken. Painted wood fish and frogs sitting on the rungs of a swimming pool ladder. African-looking busts draped in costume jewelry. An old-fashioned picnic basket stuffed with garden tools. A red bicycle. An alto sax with silk flowers erupting from its bell.
Beyond this summery mad mess, the shop looked dim and dingy inside. But a multicolored OPEN sign hung crookedly on the door. I set my clarinet case at my feet, cupped my hands around my eyes, and peered inside. The ceiling lights were on. I saw shelving units, brimming with merchandise, set at odd angles to each other, and more weird stand-alone displays, and even a few racks of clothing. But no one was manning the old office desk that sat near the wall to the left of the door. It must have been the checkout area, I thought, because a scrolled brass behemoth of a cash register weighed down a counter behind the desk.
Someone had to be there.
I crept inside…and immediately heard it. Magical music dancing behind the buzzer sound that wavered from somewhere in the back of the shop. Notes like a fusion of dripping water and muffled bells.
He’d seen me. I didn’t know it then but I know it now. He’d seen me staring enrapt at the junk in the windows, a clarinet case clutched to my heart, and he’d scurried away to set his trap.