Category Archives: just a category

Hopping for Visibility, Awareness, and Equality—Focus: Visibility (Or, on peeing in North Carolina and such)

Hello! It’s IDAHOT (International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia), and I’m here (with the rest of the hop bloggers and readers) to talk about visibility, awareness, and equality.HAPHOBIAUMBRELLA2016

Well, that’s a lot to talk about, so let’s break it down. Let me start today by talking about visibility, and specifically visibility in the United States.

This year, Trans-related issues are big on everyone’s radar, what with hater legislation (let’s call it what it is) about—of all thigs—bathrooms being very visibly bandied about and enacted in several states, with North Carolina’s HB2 taking a front and center position though Tennessee and eight other states including Minnesota have similar bills. Yes, visibility is an issue across the LGBT-QIA spectrum, but for now, let’s talk about Trans, baby.

“Some things are more important than a rock show and this fight against prejudice and bigotry—which is happening as I write—is one of them.”

~~Bruce Springsteen

Why focus on visibility?

As I see it from a historical perspective, because visibility is the crux of this focus on toileting. Conversely, invisibility has been both a product and a tool of hateful bigotry for… well, maybe as long as there have been humans who hated. If you are a member of any group that has been marginalized (to any degree) by the dominant culture, you very likely have experienced invisibility. Sometimes, it is a protective instinct to retreat into it. If a hypothetical ‘they’ don’t know that a hypothetical ‘you’ is African, Native, gay, lesbian, refugee, bisexual, HIV+, immigrant—anything that doesn’t match ‘their’ perception of ‘like us’—if ‘they’ don’t know, it is possible to avoid being excluded, ridiculed, ignored, followed around by the store detectives, or beaten to a bloody pulp. Sometimes, invisibility isn’t on purpose. ‘You’ can’t or won’t or just don’t happen to hide your color, country of origin, sexuality, gender identification, age (etc), and therefore the store employee skips over you, your job application gets lost, you speak and no one hears you.

But it shouldn’t be like this. Not only does rendering certain people invisible in society result in numerous individual violations of constitutional human rights, it attempts to rob people of status as human beings. You realize, don’t you, that in the sixties, if you had asked school officials about gay or queer students, they very likely would have said they didn’t exist?

I believe bigoted people feel threatened because trans (and other rainbow spectrum) individuals have shrugged off their cloaks of invisibility—a brave thing to do, dangerous, but life-affirming. People have embraced their identity and thus their humanity. “I am this person, exactly as I am meant to be.” That is a joyful thing, to be celebrated.

Except to the person who keeps their mind closed around the training tapes they’ve heard all their lives, which make it clear that if someone is different, they’re dangerous. If that’s the case, you’re likely to be afraid.

Two ways to deal with fear. One: find out why and fix it. This usually involves a willingness to learn and understand—to listen and truly hear. Two: turn it into something else—hate.

Hate= “it’s not me it’s you.”

So we have Hate Bill 2 and around 100 antil LGBT-Q spectrum bills around the US.

Getting back to North Carolina where you might have to flash your birth certificate to get into a bathroom (because hey, what’s more important for a state legislature to spend time on than where people pee?), just today I saw an article relative to North Carolina’s ridiculous law, being trans, and visibility. Singer Laura Jane Grace, founder of the punk band Against Me, decided they shouldn’t cancel their appearance. In her particular case, she thought another approach would be more effective.

She’s a trans woman, you see, so she burned her birth certificate on stage.

© Brian Ach, Invision/AP

© Brian Ach, Invision/AP

“Goodbye gender.”

~~Laura Jane Grace

Thank you for reading and hopping for the cause. Comment on this post and enter your name for a giveaway: $15 Gift Certificate Dreamspinner Press, ARe, or Amazon. I’d love to hear how you feel about visibility, whether you have experiences to share, news, or thoughts on the subject. Or, comment on any aspect of these issues, the hop, or my post.

Here are all the blog hop links, for your convenience! (Thanks all you bloggers!)


Filed under blog hop, Contests, homophobia, IDAHOT Blog Hop, just a category, Transphobia

Here’s my “Rainbow Snippet”–from Saving Sonny James

SavingSonnyJamesLGHi readers! This will be a quick post, but fun. I joined a facebook group called Rainbow Snippets, which believe is the brainchild of the talented author, Charley Descoteaux. I’m supposed to post a snippet here, and then link back to the group. So here is a tidbit from Saving Sonny James, the fourth book in the Vasquez and James Series.

No matter what else, one thing that would always be true for Luki was that he loved Sonny, and never wanted him to hurt or fear or even endure discomfort because of him. So Luki stood up and opened his arms—but tried to keep his pits under cover—and when Sonny stepped in close and melted against him, Luki squeezed him hard. Before he broke the embrace he kissed Sonny’s damp cheek, and then Sonny kissed his lips—put into it a little more than relief, a little less than heat. For just a moment, all the clouds that hung in curtains across Luki’s mind parted, and he saw a future—a day when trouble would pass and he and Sonny would have a happy day.

But not yet. Because some blond guy who reminded Luki too much of the infamous Richard entered the Cup O’ Gold and said—loudly and nasally—“I’m looking for Sonny James.”

Comments welcome! 🙂


Filed under Dreamspinner Press, just a category, Lou Sylvre, Saving Sonny James, Vasquez & James

Easter Eggs: a post by Anne Barwell—*Family and Reflection* blog tour

It is my true pleasure to host Anne Barwell today, as she stops on her tour celebrating the upcoming release of Family and Reflection, book 3 of the popular Sleepless City series, available for pre-order now at the Dreamspinner Press Store. Read on to find out what the heck Easter eggs have to do with books. 🙂 (Also, the blurb, buy links, an excerpt, and a few facts of interest about Anne Barwell.)

Thanks, Lou, for hosting me today.

Something that sneaks into most, if not all of my books, is an easter egg reference. I’m not referring to the chocolate goodies associated with the Easter Bunny, but intertexual references to other books I’ve written. My stories take place in the same universe, so occasionally a character or place from another series has a cameo in the one I’m writing.

A couple of characters from The Sleepless City— a series which is a joint project with Elizabeth Noble— have turned up in other books but so far, only a couple of readers have picked up on it. Often the cameo isn’t something I planned from the outset, but sometimes it’s deliberate either because I’m setting up for something I haven’t written yet, or I need a character in a certain place or time, and I figure as I have an existing one who is there already, why create another? One character—I’m not saying who as that would give too much away—had a blink and you’d miss it cameo in my WW2 book Winter Duet, and a much bigger than I intended one in my WW1 novella, On Wings of Song. Another has turned up in my current WIP One Word, so it will be fun seeing if anyone notices her when things get that far.

On the flip side, there’s also a reference in Family and Reflection to another story I’ve written. It is a very small one, but the clue is that I don’t reuse character names. If you think, “isn’t that the same name as so-and-so in such-and-such a story?” then it probably is the same person.

That’s one cool thing about writing characters who are vampires. There’s a lot of history to play with…

Family and Reflection
Book 3 of The Sleepless City, Sequel to Electric Candle

For as long as Lucas Coate can remember, werewolves have been taught to mistrust vampires. Lucas is an exception—he has close friends who are vampires. The werewolf pack in Flint—and their leader, Jacob Coate—have made it clear that Lucas’s association with vampires is barely tolerated, and another transgression will be his last. When Lucas finds out about the plague of werewolf deaths in the area, he wants to help even though his own life may already be in danger.

Declan has been away from Flint for ten years, but he isn’t surprised to learn that the internal politics of the Supernatural Council haven’t changed for the better. When a series of burglaries hit close to home soon after he arrives, Declan—a vampire and professional thief—is their prime suspect, although for once, he isn’t responsible. With the council keeping secrets, no one is safe. Time is running out, and for Lucas and Declan, everything is about to change.

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Declan turned the page of his book, read the first paragraph, then shook his head. He wasn’t sure why he’d bothered, as he couldn’t for the life of him remember what had happened on the previous page, let alone in the last few chapters. He closed the book with a thump, got up from the table, went over to the fridge, and opened it.

He wasn’t hungry, but if he had been, the mold-covered plate on one of the shelves would have put him off whatever else had taken his fancy. Someone really needed to have a word with Lucas about leaving his science experiments to breed. Declan lifted the plate somewhat cautiously and sniffed it, then wished he hadn’t. City coroner or not, this wasn’t… normal. Normal people cleaned out their leftovers before they got the chance to become strange new life forms.

Even if, in this case, his definition of normal was a werewolf.

But, despite his reaction, Declan couldn’t bring himself to throw the—whatever it was—away. To him it was disgusting, but to Lucas it might be some new discovery crucial to whatever he was currently working on. And Declan didn’t want to upset Lucas. In the short time they’d known each other, he’d become quite fond of Lucas, and enjoyed the time they spent together.

Declan sighed. He returned the offending thing to its previous resting place, ignoring the visions of reanimated zombie leftovers creeping up the stairs to attack him in the middle of the night, and instead got a wineglass out of the cupboard. He poured himself a decent-sized portion of his favorite red beverage and settled back down on the chair he’d recently vacated. As much as he enjoyed a good vintage wine, there were times when one had to quench one’s other thirsts. He sniffed the glass and savored the aroma before swallowing.

Hmm, not bad. It was amazing the standard of blood available to purchase through the right sources. It made it so much easier to feed than it used to be, and less messy too.

He heard the light step on the stairs and human heartbeat long before Ben reached the kitchen and stood awkwardly in the doorway.

“Hello, Ben,” Declan said. “Don’t worry, you’re not disturbing me.”

“If you’re sure?” Ben Leyton ran one hand through his thick dark hair. He looked tired. “I couldn’t sleep, so I thought I’d make a Milo and see if that helps.”

“I heard Simon having a nightmare earlier. He never did sleep well on anniversaries.” He’d known Simon Hawthorne a long time; Jonas Forge had introduced them shortly after Simon had been turned. Declan had also helped Simon through a dark part of his life, triggered by the events he suspected had prompted this particular nightmare, given the time of year. “I also don’t mind if you turn on the light.”

Although Declan didn’t need much light to see, especially with the full moon casting its glow into the room, Ben would appreciate more illumination.

“Yeah, well, they’re the worst times for most people, I guess.” Ben flicked on the light switch before walking across the kitchen. He filled the kettle and put it on to boil before reaching into the cupboard and bringing down a green can. “Do you want some? It’s a chocolate drink.”

“Thank you but no.” Declan indicated the glass in front of him.

The loud howl almost made him jump, and only years of practiced self-control stopped him. Even so, Declan’s hairs stood on end on the back of his neck, and the howl sent a shiver through him.

Lucas howled again. Frustration, anger, and loss all rolled into a sound that was pure wolf.

Declan knocked his glass over, spilling its contents. Without thinking, he moved at vampire speed, catching what was left of the blood in his palm and drinking deeply.

The glass fell to the floor, smashing into tiny pieces. He ignored it and finished the blood, then wiped the back of his hand across his mouth. A low growl escaped his lips. He knew his eyes were completely green. They tended to do that when his fangs extended.

When he looked up, Ben was staring at him, his eyes wide. “I’ll clean up the mess, shall I?” Ben said hurriedly, already heading for the broom.

“Don’t worry,” Declan said. “I’ll do it. Make your chocolate drink, mon ami. It’s my mess, so my responsibility, yes?”

Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with two cats who are convinced that the house is run to suit them; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date it appears as though the cats may be winning.

In 2008 she completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra.

She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth.

Anne’s books have twice received honorable mentions and twice reached the finals in the Rainbow Awards.

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Filed under Dreamspinner Press, featured authors, just a category, M/M romance, Upcoming release, Writers on writing

Featured Author: A.E. Via

AE VIA Release Day Tour

~ A.E. Via ~
Edited by: Tina Adamski
Cover Art by: Jay Aheer
PAGE COUNT – 300 pages
Release Date: March 27, 2015


Life isn’t always fair, and that’s something that Llewellyn Gardner knows about first hand. His life was on the fast track until one night of extreme passion changed everything.

Now eight years later, he’s still living with the aftershocks of that night. Everywhere he turns or runs, there’s another reminder. What the hell do you do when you try to drown your demons only to find out they can swim?

Shane Smith, Jr. owner of Smith Construction, could see the emotional turmoil within his new employee — it’s why he hired him. There was something about the gorgeous, misunderstood man with the overly expressive eyes that came to their small town with a past no one was willing to overlook. Shane could see the good in Llewellyn, and those eyes of his were a clear window to his soul. Shane wasn’t going to let the man live a future of solitude because his past had been plagued with deceit.

Llewellyn wasn’t sure what to think about Shane. After years of protecting himself from being tricked twice, he was now faced with worry again. What would happen to him if Shane didn’t believe his truth, and walked away? Llewellyn wasn’t sure he’d be able to survive being left alone. Again.


DEFINEDBYDECEIT-JayAheer2015-finalcover“Thinking of going in? Or are you just gonna block the entrance?”

Llew turned at the sound of the sure voice behind him. Since he seemed to tower over everyone he looked down at the pretty brunette with dark brown eyes to match. “Um. Sorry.” Llew mumbled quickly moving out of her way.

“Well don’t be sorry shuga’, just escort a lady inside.” Llew didn’t blink as he watched the lady stalk towards him. Her full chest sat above an extremely narrow waist. It almost looked unnatural. She dressed and wore the amount of makeup that a grown woman would, but her smooth face and approach screamed her real age. She was jailbait if he’d ever seen one. Llew gave her a slight head nod and turned to leave when his elbow was hooked.

“I saw you in the general store applying for a job. You musta’ jus’ got into town, because if not I’d have known, honey. So you got kin here?”


The laugh was an all-out immature giggle and it graded on his nerves. “Cat got your tongue, darlin’”. She moved in even closer and dragged a long red nail down Llew’s arm, tilting her head back to look up at him. “You want me to beg, huh? Come on now, handsome. Escort a lady to a movie… then maybe -”

“Maybe when he sees’ a lady… he’ll escort one.”

Llew diverted his attention away from the overzealous minx that was practically humping his leg and focused on the beautiful man approaching with another guy in tow. His voice wasn’t overly deep like his own, it was a smooth and melodic southern drawl. Like he could be a singer or a poet. He walked with an unhurried gait that was a mixture of ‘I’m in charge’ and ‘you’re on my time, not the other way around’, and Llew found it sexy as fuck. His tall friend chuckled behind him, moving away to purchase their tickets. Is he on a date? No, their demeanor definitely said ‘friends.’

“Mind ya’ own business Smith, Jr. I saw him first.”

Smith, Jr.

The man hooked one thumb in his pocket not the slightest bit fazed at the remark. But Llew was thrown. Was this guy actually gay or was she being a smart aleck? The man gave him nothing to go on. He moved closer towards them and Llew got a nice whiff of his spicy, bold cologne when a cool breeze blew his way. It was an interesting contradiction, because the man’s entire persona said ‘cool and composed’.

“Mosey along, Sallie Ann. Don’t make me ring ya’ daddy. He told me keep an eye on you while he’s gone and I agreed. He’d be rather put out if I didn’t follow through on my promise.”

She reluctantly let go of his arm, letting loose a long drawn out huff of annoyance. Llew didn’t bother watching her walk away. She was irrelevant. With his hands tucked deep in his pockets he eyed the man in front of him with a mixture of curiosity and wistfulness.

“Sometimes a person has gotta’ run interference with that girl. She’s usually not that bad but her daddy’s outta’ town, so ya’ know how young girls can be.”

Actually, not really.

“Hi. I’m Shane Smith, Jr.” he stuck out a large, calloused hand and it took Llew a couple seconds to process that he was going to touch him. Llew shook his hand, his mouth still closed tight as he watched the man’s eyes. They were light brown and full of humor and amusement. He immediately thought that this was obviously a guy who had little worries if any in life. Wait a minute…Smith….Jr. Is he the owner of? He let go of the strong grip on his hand and wished he’d been able to hold it a little longer.

“And you are?”

Llew swallowed before answering. “Llew.”

Those eyes twinkled again and dark brown brows rose up in question. “Llew…just Llew.”

It was a humiliation when a man hated to tell someone his name. But by doing so it meant that they would soon know who he really was. Know who he was classified as. He didn’t want this man to know that, god help him he didn’t. But lying wasn’t an option. Fuck it. “Llewellyn Gardner.”

So many broke eye contact with him and Llew was more than intrigued that Mr. Shane Smith, Jr. was staring at him just as hard as he was staring back. He didn’t know why he was looking at him that way but he didn’t mind it.

“Now that’s a name.” Smith smiled beautifully.

Llew wasn’t sure if this guy was flirting with him or not, he’d been in a place where flirting didn’t exist for so long, he’d forgotten what it looked like…what it sounded like. The way Shane Smith, Jr. was smiling at him it sure seemed like it. Llew could imagine himself with a strong man like this. A man who was gorgeous but didn’t know it. Not overly done up in fancy digs, he was dressed like a working man but he wore that look well. He appeared simple but confident, like a man that followed his own counsel and was not easily persuaded. But Llew wouldn’t dare get his hopes up. As soon as word got out that there was a newly registered sex offender in their quaint little town, Smith, Jr. might be leading the lynch mob to run him out of there.


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1450800_225532627620034_2097788792_nA.E. Via is still a fairly new author in the beautiful gay erotic genre. Her writing embodies everything from hopelessly romantic to spicy to scandalous. Her stories often include intriguing edges and twists that take readers to new, thought-provoking depths.

When she’s not clicking away at her laptop, she devotes herself to her family—a husband and four children.

While this is only her seventh novel, she has plenty more to come. So stalk her – she loves that – because the male on male action is just heating up!

Go to A.E. Via’s official website for more detailed information on how to contact her, follow her, or a sneak peak on upcoming work, free reads, and where she’ll appear next.

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Gay Romance University 601—Once you have your scientist, keep him happy… and alive! (Course lessons drawn from Shadowboxing, first book in Anne Barwell’s Echoes series)

Please take your seats people, we want to get started…. What’s that? Boxer shorts? Certainly they’re allowed…. Yes, sir, briefs, certainly. Sure, speedos are not only allowed but encouraged. Be comfortable, but do pay attention in class.

Even though Kristopher Lehrer’s last name means ‘teacher,’ as we examine the early pages of our textbook, Anne Barwell’s novel Shadowboxing, it is Kristopher who is most in need of schooling. Oh, he is a learned man, it’s true—a physicist working on an important, possibly world-altering project. Unfortunately Very Important Projects often become the clouds where a scientist’s head is most comfortable. Kristopher’s attitude, as the novel opens, is reminiscent of the fearless forward motion of a horse with blinders.

To illustrate, consider this: Kristopher’s friend—the man that could have been his first true love if Kristopher had been honest—is Jewish, and in World War II Germany the yellow Star of David he must wear means that he is in danger every time he steps out in public. And, though David is a respected physician, he can no longer practice medicine for the same reason. Yet when Kristopher meets him for coffee he has no clue why his friend is upset, or scared. Read along in your text (or look over your neighbor’s shoulder if you haven’t yet picked up your text). We look at what happens with David challenges Kristopher’s naivety, beginning on page eight.

“Have you any idea what kind of people you are working for?” David spoke quietly, as always, but there was an underlying tone of fear in his voice that Kristopher didn’t remember hearing before. David’s emotions were always controlled; it was something that Kristopher had envied. “Have you any idea of their real agenda?”

Kristopher snatched his hand away, trying to ignore how fast his heart was beating. Why had David come to him? Surely he couldn’t have presumed to use the closeness they’d once had to further whatever agenda he had? “I’m a scientist, David, trying to make the world a better place, just as you are. We are working for the advancement of science and for the good of the Fatherland.” The last sentence came out sounding like the mantra it was. Any doubts that Kristopher had were always dealt with efficiently when he repeated those words. While he knew the potential danger of the device they were working on, the chances of anyone considering utilizing the catastrophic component of it were remote.

“You always were naïve, Lehrer.” David raked a hand through his hair and replaced his glasses, adjusting them when they slipped down his nose. “Wake up and take a look at what’s going on around you before it’s too late.” An edge of desperation and fear sharpened his voice as he lowered it to almost a whisper; it sounded as though he was talking about the end of the world.

“Too late? Too late for what?” His earlier fears of being used vanished at David’s tone. Kristopher’s voice rose in pitch, all attempts of hiding his conflicting emotions lost as he tried to desperately work through his rapidly escalating confusion.

David shook his head, unwilling to say more, his eyes darting nervously around the small Kaffeehaus before his gaze settled on the man who had entered several minutes earlier. “I have to go. I’ve said too much already.”

“Wait!” David was already halfway out the door before the word was out of Kristopher’s mouth. He pushed his chair back, ready to follow his friend, then hesitated, suddenly unsure as to what had just happened.

A week later, dining at home with his sister Clara (whom he loves and depends on) and his father (with whom he has a strained relationship), he is shocked to hear that David has disappeared, and clueless as to why such a thing had happened. What’s more, he is just as dumbfounded when Clara says (on page 11)…

“Poor Kristopher.” Clara rolled her eyes. “You’re so involved in your work that you haven’t noticed what’s going on around you.” There was no teasing in her voice now. Whatever this was about, it was something very serious. “It’s because he’s Jewish, of course.”

… as he is when his father says…

“They are Jewish, Kristopher. What other reason is needed? Better that they are rounded up and sent somewhere more suited for their place in the scheme of things. We must not lose sight of the fact that the Jews are nothing more than parasites interested in taking control of the economy for themselves.”

We, the readers can take our first lesson from this, and the downhill spiral of father-son relations that follow. Please take this down in your notebooks. It will be on the test:German_Experimental_Pile_-_Haigerloch_-_April_1945

The longer you keep your head stuck in the clouds of denial (about anything, really), the more it hurts to pull it out.

Our next unit of study follows Kristopher as he goes about his work the next day. The clouds around his head have been disturbed, but not quite dislodged. Feeling cranky and a little wooly due to a poor night’s sleep, he enters his boss’s office when the boss is out, and rather clumsily knocks a pile of papers on the floor, and reads this sentence on one of them:

Cue ominous music.

We look forward to putting these plans into reality. Such a device will ensure the continued success of the Fatherland during this war against our enemies.

Kristopher’s head falls from the clouds with a mighty thud, which hurts and can’t be ignored even by a dreamy physicist.

Gott im himmel, as my very German mother would have said. Here Kristopher had been, believing he was working on nuclear fission for peaceful purposes, and suddenly he realized he’d been living in a lollipop world.

For a number of minutes, our scientist is unable to think straight. He knows what he saw, but he’s unsure of what he might do about it, or even how to keep from getting in trouble for standing in his boss’s office with his pants down (figuratively of course, because that would be far too weird).

But a guard comes along, Obergefreiter (Sargent) Schmitz, and helps him organize his brain and move his body, thank goodness. Of course, at first, Kristoffer is afraid that Schmitz will actually contribute to his danger, but he soon realizes he was lucky the Obergefrieter came along. He leaves the office that day still waffling about what to do. Like most ordinary Germans of the day, he loves his country and has some significant blind spots about it—a phenomenon not unknown at any age of the world in just about any country, including all of those where readers of this blog might be living today. But you don’t become a leading physicist if you are slow-witted. Once Kristopher’s sight is forcibly cleared, he cannot escape the truth about the leaders of the Nazi regime and what their intentions are.

After much soul-searching, presumably some hand-wringing, and a few horrid nightmares, Kristopher Lehrer confronts his boss… and is told in no uncertain way to mind his own business. The encounter goes from bad to worse. (You can read about this in home study, chapter three of the text.) When he is discovered in the room with his dead boss by the same Obergefreiter Schmitz, he figures his number is up.

Thank heaven for pleasant surprises, large and small. When Schmitz asks Kristopher if, as smart as he is, he can come up with no better plan than to threaten the guard with broken glass, here’s what happens (at the beginning of chapter four).

“My plan? […] I don’t have a plan. […] Do you honestly think I would be standing here waving a piece of broken glass if I had a plan.”

“Good point,” Schmitz admitted.

[Text elided by blogger… er, I mean university professor Lou Sylvre. Kristopher says:]

“Have you come to hand me over to the Nazis?” Whatever happened he didn’t intend to go easily.

The corner of Schmitz’s mouth turned up in a half smile before he shook his head. “I’m here to help you, Herr Dr. Lehrer.”

“You expect me to believe you?” Kristopher wished the desk behind him would disappear into thin air, although it still wouldn’t be of much help as Schmitz was blocking the path to the only door. “I know you’ve followed me for the past week.” He noticed the slight look of surprise on Schmitz’s face with a degree of satisfaction.

“You need to trust me, Dr. Lehrer.”

You may guess that Kristopher isn’t so sure that’s the best course of action, but like people everywhere when they’re in danger and want to trust someone, he looks for a way to do so.

“Give me one good reason.”

“The Nazis will be here in, Schmitz said, consulting his watch, approximately ten minutes. Either you trust me, or you tell them what you’ve just told me. I doubt they will believe your story.”

His voice softened. “I do.”

Now, students, you may have guessed that the Obergefreiter isn’t really the Obergefreiter. His real name is Michel, and he’s not even German. And his interest in Kristopher, like Kristopher’s trust of Michel, soon weaves into a whole new feeling. After negotiating much hell and highwater together, Michel soothes a startled, overwhelmed Kristopher in his own native tongue.

“A l’aise, Kit. Je suis ici… Ssh, tout est bien.”

Yes, Michel is there and all is well for the moment. There’s a whole lot more trouble to face, more evil to evade, more heroes to meet—all kinds, German, foreign, soldiers, everyday people. But Michel does whatever he needs to do to keep Kristopher alive. And since this is Gay Romance University, it isn’t giving away secrets to let you know, that once Michel has WinterDuetLGseen to the matter of Kristopher’s continued existence, he gets the opportunity to use a little French term of endearment.

“It’s all right, mon cher. I love you. I’m not letting you go.”

That is the end of our lesson, today. If you are interested in learning more on the subject, click the cover image above for a link to the blurb and purchase links. (And while you’re there, check out the continuation of this beautiful story in book two of the Echoes of War series, Winter Duet.

I thank Anne Barwell, Kristopher, and Michel for the privilege of treating the serious story of one of the world’s most painful times with a bit of irreverence. Truthfully, the heroes in this story are a reflection of all the real life heroes on every side of that war and every other, especially the quiet ones not lauded in headlines. They all deserve our gratitude, and I take no such service or sacrifice lightly.

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Filed under Gay Romance University, just a category, M/M romance

So my German ancestors worshipped (sort of) the bunny… the cause of all the confusion!

Pre-read disclaimer: This is just for fun. I’m making fun of no tradition or belief.

So, I think Easter Bunnies and eggs are a fun tradition, for children in particular, and as for me, all the flowery spring-ish-ness is delightful, coming on the heels of winter. But, let’s face it. Easter Bunny is even more confusing than Santa Claus. Not only does he or she live forever and travel the world in a day, but he’s apparently hugely oversized and lays (okay maybe brings) colored eggs. If the child happens to be from a family that also commemorates that traditions commemoration on the day of Easter, the poor young person may also conclude that these eggs or bunnies (possibly wearing straw hats or bib overalls decorated with daisies) has something to do with raising a person from the dead, and these days most kids associate dead men walking with zombies. Conclusion: if you see the Easter Bunny, run, as someone is surely coming right behind to eat your brains.

Why bunnies and eggs? People ask every year, and of course the answer is “pagan, pre-Christian, all mixed up with a Christian holiday.” Blah blah blah. This year, however, I learned that it is my maternal ancestors who are to blame.

From “According to the University of Florida’s Center for Children’s Literature and Culture, the origin of the celebration — and the origin of the Easter Bunny — can be traced back to 13th-century, pre-Christian Germany, when people worshiped several gods and goddesses. The Teutonic deity Eostra was the goddess of spring and fertility, and feasts were held in her honor on the Vernal Equinox. Her symbol was the rabbit because of the animal’s high reproduction rate.”

Ach, du liebe.

So anyway, the gist is bunnies have about as much to do with resurrection of dead kings as alpha bravo has to do with the revolutionary war. And if you don’t understand why I bring up that last point, visit Rainbow Gold Reviews on facebook.

And finally: HAPPY EASTER!

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Rainbow Gold Reviews? If you’ve checked out their facebook events for this week, you’ll know why this is here!

Proverbs 10:12

Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers all wrongs.

Here’s the Rainbow Gold Facebook link, if you’ve an inquiring mind and have become curious!

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by | April 2, 2014 · 5:18 pm

New Year 2014

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by | December 31, 2013 · 12:49 pm

Anne Barwell talks about music, magic, and sex. And history. And her new book *A Knight to Remember*

Welcome Anne Barwell to I have an unusual advantage in this interview, because you and I are acquainted, and in fact we’re currently co-writing a book—an honor for me to have that opportunity. But in regard to the interview, knowing you gave me the material to ask some tough questions. So, double thanks to you for visiting and having the good grace to put up with my probing.

Q: You are a musician, and that has a prominent role in your life. Is music a particular muse for you. Some author’s have “soundtracks” for their books. Do you? Do you play particular types of music while writing? How does musical thinking show up in your writing?
A: I always have music playing in the background when I write, and I tend to associate songs with characters, stories and relationships. I tend to play different ‘soundtracks’ depending on what I’m writing. For example Evanesence’s songs are great for writing angst, and I’ve been listening to a lot of Nickleback while writing the end of Shades of Sepia. My daughter introduced me to Ed Sheeran a while back and a couple of his songs are perfect for Simon and Ben’s relationship. I can’t listen to Glass Tiger’s ‘Touch of Your Hand’ without thinking of Kit and Michel from Shadowboxing.

Several of my characters are musicians and on more than one occasion music plays a part in the story, or there’s a reference to it. In Shadowboxing, Kit plays the violin, and Michel the flute. Music plays a part in the sequel Winter Duet too, and that’s reflected in the title. In Slow Dreaming, Sean is a songwriter/musician and Jason is haunted by a song. Simon in Shades of Sepia plays piano when he’s working through things―the music scores Ben notices on the piano are ones I own and play on occasion. The ring tone on Ben’s phone is also set to play ‘Slice of Heaven’, which is a local song by Dave Dobbyn and Herbs, when his friend from NZ texts.

Q: What about magic? Magic is everywhere in your books—even in your sci-fi Slow Dreaming the science seems nearly magical. Why do you like including that element in your stories? Off topic a bit, but if you could have one magical ability, or one thing in your real life world that worked through magic, what would it be and why?
A: I love the idea of magic, of something almost otherworldly and the idea of there being something not quite explained out there. Reality isn’t a fun place to be some days, and being able to imagine something a bit different can be very freeing. Explaining that magic in too much detail, even if it is supposedly based in science, can destroy some of that escapism, although in saying that, I still think there needs to be a middle line. An explanation of ‘that’s a myth’ doesn’t cut it for me; there has to be a mythos for whatever world I’m writing in, and I’m careful to be consistant. There’s the whole thing about suspension of disbelief attached to SF and fantasy and I think we all want to do that on some level at least once in a while. I know I do. I’m also not a big reader of hard science SF; I prefer the ones which drift closer to fantasy. My reading/writing is very character driven.

Besides it’s fun watching characters who are very hooked into ‘there has to be an explanation’ trying to get their head around magic. *Pets Ethan from Hidden Places. Poor guy has only experienced the tip of the iceberg in what I’ve written of that series so far.

One magical ability? I’m torn between two of them. Being able to portal from one place to another would be cool, especially with the price of travel at present. I often feel a bit isolated from the rest of the world here in NZ. The other would be the ability to stop time for a while. I have a ‘to do’ list so long that I’m probably never going to get through it in my lifetime.

Q: History and the lore that surrounds and informs also seems to contribute a lot to your stories. How much do you rely on factual history and regional lore for underpinnings—even in your stories that are fantasy or sci-fi? If your lands, your characters, your stories don’t conform, are you more apt to change your story to fit the research, or to go with your new creation? Why? Can you give an example?
A: I’ve always loved history, and mythology. When creating a fantasy world, or characters, I’m very much aware that I’m only telling a part of their story, a snapshot of their life, so to speak. A person’s history is a huge part of them, and experiences influence decisions that are made and how a person acts. I can’t just look at an isolated week in their life without an idea of how they came to that point and what might happen next. I want to know what their history is even if a lot of it doesn’t make it into the story. It’s too much a big part of them for me to ignore. The same goes for the society in which they were brought up. Something that we take for granted isn’t necessarily going to be by someone else.

For example in Hidden Places, Cathal comes from a land a little different from ours, Naearu. While our world’s advances have come through technology, his has used magic, although in some cases it might be argued that it’s different names for the same things. We take cars for granted; he hasn’t been in one before. His usual mode of transportation is a horse; his partner Tomas isn’t at all keen on the idea because he has very little experience of them.

As for changing story to fit research or vice versa? In a fantasy story I tend to do a little of both, depending on what I need to happen, and I build the world with the story in mind. I like to mix world building with a bit of fact, even in fantasy stories. Both Naearu (Hidden Places) and Astria (A Knight to Remember) have a basis in the medieval period, and existing mythologies although of course with a few changes. I like to start with something factual and add in ‘what if’s.’

With a series like Echoes, which is set against an historical backdrop of something that did happen, I have to change the story to fit the research. I want this series to be as accurate historically as I can get it. Shifting D Day to another location or time isn’t going to work! But in saying that the research can often provide interesting bits of plot that I hadn’t already anticipated. It’s a two way street.

Q: You’ve made no secret that before publishing your fully original fiction, you wrote fanfiction,. What universes did you dabble in?
A: I wrote mainly in Gundam Wing and New Series Tomorrow People but I dabbled in Highlander, Stargate, Roswell, Torchwood and Weiss Kreuz. I’m also a bit of a crossover junkie, so wrote a fair amount of that. These shows are also all SF and/or anime, which is a lot of what I watch and read.

Q: You won an award for writing love or sex scenes in fanfic—what type of award was it (i.e. reader poll, jury, etc)? Writing in which AU? What was it about your erotic writing that was commended? Can you share say 10 to 20 lines from that writing?
A: Goodness, I had to think about that one as it was about ten years ago now. It was a jury judged contest and I was writing Gundam Wing. An AU set in Wellington actually. I don’t remember the details of what was commended as it was a long time ago and the site is no longer there, but I got teased about my win as I was more known in the fandom for writing action/drama, and whumping (hurt/comfort).

Trowa understood about the importance of listening. Remembering my reaction, he’d asked my permission, and then waited for my response. He didn’t presume to know my preferences and desires. I leaned into his strong embrace, allowing the spice of his aftershave to blend with that of the sea. The wind howled around us but I didn’t care. Trowa’s presence offered me an anchor, a previously elusive calm in the centre of the storm. Before I had been content to just be. Now I wanted more.

Lips brushed against mine then withdrew. “You still taste like the sea,” he said, breaking the kiss before leaning in to sample again. After last night it would have been surprising if he’d stopped to ask permission for this.

He explored my mouth with his tongue and I shuddered in pleasure. His hands shifted to grip my bottom, using the action to pull us closer. I stroked his hair with my fingers, moaning as the kiss deepened. It was wet, sensual, and full of unspoken desire.

The heavens opened and the light drizzle turned into a downpour.

Neither of us moved.

Silver white highlighted the sky before surrendering to darkness, the low rumble that followed closely behind a foreboding of the coming storm.

The rain eased back into an infrequent patter but only offered a brief respite. Announcing its arrival with the salt and wildness from the sea, the southerly wind was a reminder that nature wasn’t about to give up in her attempt to take back that part of the city that had once been rightfully hers.

Q: Your books now are not brimming with graphic sex or intimate love scenes. Why not? How much sex do you think strikes a good balance for M/M romance in general? Is this any different than what you would hope to find if reading traditional het romance? How do you know when you have the right number of erotic scenes in your own books?
A: I tend to read for character and plot, and write the same way, and although sex is a part of a relationship, if there are too many sex scenes in a story I start to skim them. Sorry! I’m one of those readers who wants plot in my PWP. LOL. I tend to write sex/intimate love scenes if the story calls for it or the characters really push. Some characters are way more pushy than others. I don’t think there should be more sex scenes just because something is M/M and I’ll skim het romance too (although I must admit I hardly read the genre) if I get bored with the number of sex scenes. I’m more interested in the give and take of the relationship and the characters than what they do in bed. If they want to go at it like bunnies, I don’t want to read about every time they do it. Fading to black and/or offscreen works quite well – it gives them some privacy too which I think is important.

I know I have the right number of erotic scenes in my books when it feels right. I know that’s not helpful, but that’s how it works. If I have too many I know I’ll have one of my betas on my arse asking me to justify it too! Some characters tend to push for more than others, so it’s also down to what feels right for the situation and the characters. My current WIP, Shades of Sepia, has four which is rather a record for me. I’d say vampires are pushy but in this case his partner, who is human, wasn’t much better. One doesn’t argue with vampires, right?

In saying all this, I know there are readers out there who love heaps of hot sex in what they read, and I was a bit nervous about being vocal here about what my reading/writing preferences are, and I can’t stress enough that reading/writing is a very personal experience. I write what I want to read – I think most authors do or what’s the point? We’re all different and if there was only one type of book out there, the world would get be a really boring place. That’s one thing I love about this genre; there’s a big range of subgenres within it.

Q: You’ve said, I believe, that sex scenes should move the story forward. How would that be accomplished? What about the romantic relationship? At what point is sex a must for developing the love between two men, and why not earlier or later?
A: The characters I write tend to intertwine their romantic relationship and making love. Sex is intimacy and a cementing of that relationship; that this is forever. They have romantic streaks a mile high although they’d most likely deny it. In my stories most of the sex scenes do drive the story forward, but if I gave specifics in A Knight to Remember and Shades of Sepia, that would be spoilers! Well, for most of Shades of Sepia, anyway. For the rest the guys are being a) horny and b) it shows how their relationship is growing as they’re getting rather more kinky as they go along.

As to the timing of the sex, that depends on the characters and the situation in which they’re in. There’s no sex in Cat’s Quill, as it wouldn’t have fit with the story. They’re still getting to know each other and when the truth comes out about who Cathal really is, they’re running for their lives and that’s rather more of a priority. Magic’s Muse, the sequel, is more relaxed, and they have the time to explore each other sexually so they do. A lot. Although most of it is offscreen as that’s what these guys prefer. I like to listen to my characters. My sanity is better for it.

In Shadowboxing, Kit and Michel are in a very different situation. For a story set in a time and place where any hint of a relationship between them could lead to imprisonment or worse, a lot of sex would not only be unrealistic, it would be dangerous and stupid on their part. They do finally consummate their relationship toward the end of the book but even that’s a risk. They don’t need to have sex to know they love each other, they’ve already put themselves in harm’s way to save the other and I think that speaks far more than an onscreen sex scene ever would.

Jason and Sean in Slow Dreaming had to grow their relationship quickly and that included the sexual side of it. They were on a tight time limit, as potentially they only had a few days together. Better to have loved briefly and lost than not have loved at all. Not saying anymore about that one or we’re getting into spoiler territory again!

Q: Please share an erotic scene (or some lines from one) from your new release.
A: Here’s Denys’s and Aric’s first kiss from A Knight to Remember:

“It’s done?” Denys sounded relieved.

“It’s done.” Aric turned to look at him, trying to manage a smile. Denys was staring at the blood on Aric’s hand. His nostrils flared. He took a deep breath.

Then, without warning, he leaned forward, closing the distance between them, and kissed Aric. Hard. Without thinking Aric returned it, savoring it.

The bandage slipped, his grip on it faltering, his world narrowing to the man next to him, to the smell and taste of him.

Denys pulled away quickly. “Oh God,” he murmured, his face bright red. He pushed Aric away, grabbed the bandage, and pressed down on the wound himself. “I… I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to….”

Aric stared at him. He put his fingers to his lips. What had just happened? “You kissed me,” he said lamely.

“Forgive me.” Denys was breathing heavily, his eyes glazed over. “I didn’t mean to. It just… happened.” He made a choked noise and turned away.

“Do you regret it?” Aric asked. Denys had kissed him, and it had felt good. More than good.

“Do you?”

“No.” His mind made up, Aric swallowed hard. He cupped Denys’s chin, so that their gazes met. “You took me by surprise, that’s all. It felt good. Very good. So much so that I think we probably should do it again,” he whispered.

And with that he leaned in and brushed his lips against Denys’s once more.

Sometimes actions spoke so much louder than words.

Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’ve just finished the first draft of Shades of Sepia which is book 1 of a joint project with Elizabeth Noble. It’s an urban fantasy series is called The Sleepless City and we’re writing alternate books.

Here’s the blurb:

A serial killer stalks the streets of Flint, Ohio. The victims are always found in pairs, one human and one vampire.

Simon Hawthorne has been a vampire for nearly a hundred years and he has never seen anything like it before. Neither have any of others who make up the team of supernaturals he works with to keep the streets safe for both their kind and the humans who live in this city.

One meeting with Simon and Ben Leyton finds himself falling for a man he knows is keeping secrets, but he can’t ignore the growing attraction between them. Ben has only recently arrived in Flint, and finding it very different from his native New Zealand, but there’s something about Simon that makes Ben feel as though he’s found a new home.

After a close friend becomes one of the killer’s victims, Simon is torn between revealing his true nature to Ben, and walking away and avoiding the reaction he fears. But with the body count rising and the murders becoming more frequent is it already too late to prevent either of them from becoming the next victim?

Next up writing wise is The Harp and the Sea – the Scottish historical fantasy you and I are co-writing, and Winter Duet, the sequel to Shadowboxing.

Q: What question do you wish I had asked, but I didn’t, and what would have been the answer?
A: Interviewing some of my characters might have been fun. They love that kind of attention, but then maybe that’s a good thing as they’d probably give out loads of spoilers 😉

Seriously, though, we should organise something like that for another time.


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Happy New Year 2013!

May 2013 shine for all our relations and friends!


by | January 1, 2013 · 9:33 am