Category Archives: Writers on writing

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.


Buy links:
eBook: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6464
Paperback: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6465


Excerpt:

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?”

Bio:
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.

Blog: http://anne-barwell.livejournal.com/
Website: http://annebarwell.wordpress.com/
Coffee Unicorns: http://coffeeunicorns.wordpress.com/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/anne.barwell.1
Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/115084832208481414034/posts
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4862410.Anne_Barwell
Dreamspinner Press Author Page:
http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/AuthorArcade/anne-barwell

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

Mending the Holes in History with Historical Fiction—article by Christopher Hawtorne Moss

Something a little different this week on sylvre.com—I’m delighted to welcome guest blogger Christopher Hawthorne Moss, author of Beloved Pilgrim, a YA transgender historical novel published by Harmony Ink Press. (As usual on sylvre.com, the cover image is the buy link, just click.)

Elias knows in his heart that despite his female body he is a man. When his twin brother dies suddenly he has the opportunity to live his truth by donning his armor and setting out for the adventure of a lifetime in the world-changing Crusade of 1101.

I remember when feminists coined the expression “herstory” to counteract the overt and subtle mascullinism of the word “History”. Of course, we all know that the “his” in “history” is not actually the masculine pronoun, but it was an acknowledgement that what we were taught in school was, in fact, the history of men. Women were a side issue. The impetus for developing “herstory” was to bring to light the equally central role of women in our past. The impact of this effort did more than just add female names and faces to the story of humanity. It helped change the way we looked at how we both learned of and interpreted our collective past. We stopped reciting the dates of battles and started looking at the records for clues to the actual lives of people of the past.

People who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer deserve a history/herstory too. There is even less record of our lives. Much of what we have in the records consists mostly of religious diatribes and criminal records, for that was the interface between the dominant culture and us: their attempts to control our behavior through threats and punishment. Sadly, there is little alternative if you want to tell our story. The evidence of our lives and loves is at best spotty.

That’s where I believe historical fiction can mend our lack of a history. Intelligent people realize that times change, but every type of person alive today has existed in every era. If the estimate that ten percent of people are GLBTQ now, then we were in those numbers at every point in the history of humankind. The capable storyteller can see the forest for the trees, that is, see just where and how people like us found a way to be no matter when. It is our job, in essence, to tell the stories of our forebears in sexual identity. That the people we write about may or may not have actually lived is irrelevant. They are our history… our story. As Monique Wittig wrote:

“There was a time when you were not a slave, remember that. You walked alone, full of laughter, you bathed bare-bellied. You say you have lost all recollection of it, remember . . . You say there are no words to describe this time, you say it does not exist. But remember. Make an effort to remember. Or, failing that, invent.”

Deprived of concrete records it is our job, and in the case of GLBTQ historical fiction sites such as Our Story – GLBTQ Historical Fiction, which I edit at http://www.glbtbookshelf.com, our purpose, to invent.

My novel, Where My Love Lies Dreaming, used the title of a Stephen Foster song to introduce the ourstrical, to coin a term, tale of two men from different cultures who make a life together in spite of intolerance and also in spite of the American Civil War. More ambitious, perhaps, is my current novel, Beloved Pilgrim, which attempts a plausible transgender character at the beginning of the 12th century CE. The main character is a woman who has known all her life that she is a man in heart and mind and takes the tragic event of her twin brother’s death to strike out as a knight, using his identity. The biological origins of transgenderism make it absolutely certain that people like this character did exist, everywhere and throughout time, and it is my job as a historical novelist to show how this could happen.

But where does plausibility come in? In the instance of Beloved Pilgrim clearly the surgical and pharmacological advances that would make sex reassignment possible are many centuries hence. Would a person even have the framework to realize he or she is not in the right body? The simple fact that ancient cultures, the Romans, Plains Indians, and Hindu, had transgender gods and traditions points to this being more than possible. On a practical level, could a female-bodied person really pass as a man? Yes. Our histories are full of examples of this, including surgeon James Barry, numerous Civil War soldiers, and others throughout time. The person would simply need to be clever and lucky. And as Elias tells Albrecht, people tend to see what they expect to see. I have a female body, but I was called “he” and “sir” just this morning.

It is the responsible novelist’s task to reason this out and represent it plausibly. It would be a mistake in Beloved Pilgrim for anyone to use the term “transgender”, an expression that will not exist for hundreds of years. But my own experience and my knowledge of historical examples tell me that the individual can and at least sometimes would have recognized when a body did not match a soul.

For more examples of how GLBTQ people may have lived and loved in times less tolerant and educated as now visit Our Story – GLBTQ Historical Fiction will provide a collecting place for that invention with book reviews and more. We want to hear about your work and your ideas. We want to know how you are writing another piece of “Our Story”.

Author Bio:
Christopher Hawthorne Moss wrote his first short story when he was seven and has spent some of the happiest hours of his life fully involved with his colorful, passionate and often humorous characters. Moss spent some time away from fiction, writing content for websites before his first book came out under the name Nan Hawthorne in 1991. He has since become a novelist and is a prolific and popular blogger, the historical fiction editor for the GLBT Bookshelf, where you can find his short stories and thoughtful and expert book reviews. He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his husband of over thirty years and four doted upon cats.

He owns Shield-wall Productions. He welcomes comment from readers sent to christopherhmoss(at)gmail(dot)com and can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

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Filed under guest authors, Writers on writing

Anne Barwell Interview: The many facets of her romance rainbow

Hello! Today I’m happy to share with you my recent interview with author Anne Barwell. One of the things I most enjoy about Anne’s writing is it’s diversity—she writes series, but they’re all quite different. I made her talk about that sneaky little habit! You can ask her disturbing questions too, if you like, in comments. 🙂
Note: Click any cover for a buy link to that book. For Anne’s bio (and other good stuff), visit her blog

Here’s the interview:

Q: You have, if I’m not mistaken, four different series in process. Please tell us a little bit about each one.
A: Five if you include The Harp and the Sea, which is our joint project… [LS—I’m so pleased to be working on this project with Anne!]

I’m still not sure how I ended up with so many series in progress. I blame demanding characters. Seriously though, one advantage I find with having more than one series in progress is that I have a hardcopy in front of me for the previous book while I’m writing the next one, which is so much easier when hunting for continuity details.

Hidden Places [series] is a contemporary fantasy which crosses through a portal into another world called Naearu. The main characters are Tomas, a writer, and Cathal, who is from Naearu. Part of the action takes place in the English village of Oakwood, part in Naearu. So far I’ve written two books in this series Cat’s Quill and Magic’s Muse. I have two more planned: One Word is Ethan and Donovan’s story and is a side story to Cat’s Quill. Dragon’s Price finishes the series and takes the characters back to Naearu.

Echoes is an historical series set in occupied Europe during WWII. Kristopher Lehrer is a scientist working on a top secret project in Germany. When his illusions are shattered and he discovers what the Nazis plan to do with his work, it isn’t long before he is on the run with both the Gestapo and the Allies after the plans he carries. Shadowboxing is the first book in the series and is set in Berlin in 1943. Winter Duet (which I’ve just submitted to Dreamspinner Press) is set in Germany in early 1944. The last book, Comes a Horseman, is set in France in mid 1944

.
Dragons of Astria is a fantasy series set in Astria, a land where dragons are real and magic exists, although it has been outlawed for generations. Aric and Denys are from two very different backgrounds, but their destinies are intertwined in more ways than one. A quest for a magical sword will affect not only their life together, but the future of the kingdom. A Knight to Remember is the first in this series, and there will be two more books: A Mage to Forget and A Sword to Rule.

The Sleepless City is an urban fantasy series which is a joint project with Elizabeth Noble. The first four books are set in the re-imagined city of Flint, Ohio, and the characters are vampires, werewolves, ghosts—and human. I’ve written the first book, Shades of Sepia, and book 2, Electric Candle, by Elizabeth is coming out on April 4th.

Q: Of your series, do you have one that is easier for you to write? One that is your favorite? If so, please explain your choice?
AEchoes, being an historical series, requires a lot more research than the others, but I was surprised how fast Winter Duet wrote once I got going with it. It’s difficult to pick a favourite, it’s like choosing a favourite child. My favourite tends to be the one I’m working on at the moment and yes I know that’s not helpful. Each of them have aspects I really enjoy, and I love all my guys but it is easier writing fantasy especially as I can build worlds and ‘make stuff up’ rather than worry about whether I’ve got the details of a time and/or place just right. Ben from The Sleepless City, as a Kiwi character, is very easy to write, but the US setting means a bit of research as it’s the little things that I really don’t know. I’m definitely setting my next contemporary series in New Zealand. But not just for that reason as I think there needs to be more M/M set locally.

Q: How do you balance your writing time between the different series? Do you find that your style differs from one to the next? If so, how do you get in the right mind set for the particular series you’re working on?
A: I didn’t intend to have four series on the go at once. My original plan was to have two and alternate them, and once I’ve caught up with finishing what I’ve started that’s what I’ll be doing with maybe a one shot—and yes I know they always turn into series—or two in between. Meantime I’m trying to write in a circle: Hidden Places book 3, </em.Dragons of Astria book 2, Echoes book 3 etc. That way I’m not leaving readers of those readers hanging around too long, or at least that’s the plan. There aren’t enough hours in the day with working full time [outside of writing] so a couple of novels a year is about as much as I can manage.

With the series being different genres, my style does differ between them. No too much so but more in what is needed for the characters and plot. The series tend to have a different feel to them, especially in the narrative/dialogue between historical/contemporary and high fantasy. Aric’s speech in Dragons of Astria is going to be more formal, and have no modern idioms compared to Tomas in Hidden Places, while Cathal from that series being between two worlds in a sense has a mix of both. It also depends on what story a particular book is telling. Magic’s Muse was slower paced but it was filling in a lot of gaps and building relationships which need to be in place for the final book in that series Dragon’s Price which will more of an action/drama.

I get in the mind set when I switch projects by firstly writing an outline, printing it out and scribbling over it, and writing a blurb. Usually I’m thinking through and researching/discussing ideas a couple of projects ahead of what I’m writing so I do tend to multitask a bit I guess especially if I’m working on more than one project at a time like I am now with Echoes and The Harp and the Sea.

Q: Your most recent release is Shades of Sepia, book one in a shared world series, The Sleepless City. How did you and your series partner, Elizabeth Noble, develop this concept? Any hints you can give us about what’s yet to come?
A: Elizabeth and I were chatting on IM one day and found we both had vampire characters we wanted to do something more with. One thing led to another and The Sleepless City was born. The mythos or ‘series bible’ is the product of hours of discussion, which is still ongoing.

The first four books in the series are an ‘arc’ and tell a complete story, and then we’re each writing books set within the universe. An arc seemed to be a good way to start the series and establish it and the characters. Shades of Sepia is Simon and Ben’s story, Electric Candle by Elizabeth which comes out in April is Forge’s. [LS—this book is now available for pre-order on Dreamspinner’s site.] I’m writing Family and Reflection later this year which is Lucas’s, and then Elizabeth will tie up the arc with the last book Checkmate. One thing I’m looking forward to in Family and Reflection, as there’s got to be some fun in amongst all the seriousness of the case they’re working, is that Ben’s friend Ange visits from New Zealand. She doesn’t know who or rather what they all are, so they’re going to try to keep it from her. Good luck with that one.

Q: What can you tell readers in advance about the two main characters in Shades of Sepia, Ben and Simon? (Make us curious, or make them irresistible!)
A: Ben’s a local guy – well local for me – as he comes from Wellington where I live. He’s very laid back but at the same time speaks his mind and doesn’t take any shit. He’s also a bit of a geek and collects comics/graphic novels. His passion is photography and that’s the really ironic thing about his and Simon’s relationship. The one person Ben really wants to photograph he can’t because vampires not show up on film. Well, not usually, there is a way around it but he’ll have to convince Simon first – and you’ll have to read the book to find out what I’m referring to 😉

Simon’s is very different to Ben, it’s one of the reasons they complement each other so well. Simon’s more serious, and carefully considers his actions before he takes them where Ben’s more likely to just decide and do it. Simon’s also got an old fashioned streak a mile high, which isn’t just because he was born in the late nineteenth century. He’s also got a dark side, not unexpected as he’s a vampire! But like Ben he’s fiercely protective of the people he cares about and won’t hesitate to put himself in the line of fire to do just that. As Lucas says, “You can argue over which one of you is going to play protective over the other one’s ass on a given day. Promise me I can watch?”

Q: What’s coming next from Anne Barwell? Anything slated for release in the upcoming months? (Please elaborate!) Also, what’s on the burner for the next year or so?
A: I’m putting the final touches to Winter Duet, which is the sequel to Shadowboxing and the next book in the Echoes series.

Here’s the blurb:

Germany, 1944. With Kristopher finally fit enough to travel, he and Michel begin their journey across Germany toward Switzerland and safety.
Separated in the middle of a warzone, after helping an injured RAF pilot, Kristopher is determined to find Michel again. But how far can he trust the man travelling with him? Whoever he is, he is definitely not the German soldier he appears to be.

Meanwhile Michel mounts a rescue mission. Time is running out. Loyalties are tested and betrayed as the Gestapo close in. Can he reach one of their own before information is revealed that could compromise not only his and Kristopher’s safety, but that of the remaining members of the Allied team?
Or is it already too late for all of them?

And an excerpt:

Kristopher dropped to his knees, and examined the boy. His eyes were glazed over and he flinched when Kristopher touched him. “He must have hit his head when he fell,” Kristopher said. He brought his hand away from the boy’s temple. It was covered in blood. “He needs help, but I can’t do much for him here, just try and stop the bleeding.” He quickly opened his satchel and pulled out a short length of bandage, bundled it into a wad and held it against the wound. It probably wouldn’t be enough to stop it, but it was better than doing nothing. Head wounds tended to bleed, didn’t they? It didn’t mean it was something serious, but it could be.

He let out a quick breath. Damn it. He wished he’d paid more attention when he’d watched Clara at work. Why had he agreed to disguise himself a medic? In this situation when that was exactly what was needed, he was next to useless.

“We can’t stay here,” Michel said. “Can you tie something around the bandage so it keeps the pressure on it when we move him?”

“Keep pressure on the wound while I look.” Kristopher searched around in his bag, ripped some more of the bandaging material, and tied it quickly. His hands were shaking, but at least there didn’t seem to be any blood seeping through the original cloth he’d put over the wound. “I think that should hold it for now.”

Michel handed Kristopher the flashlight and then lifted the boy into his arms. “What’s your name?” he asked softly when the boy opened his eyes and looked up at him.

“Fritz,” the boy replied, his voice wavering. He put his arms around Michel’s neck and clung to him. Thankfully he seemed more alert than he had a few moments before.

“Hello, Fritz. I’m Michel and this is Paul,” Michel said. “We’re going to keep you safe, I promise.”

“You promise?” Fritz’s earlier confidence was gone. “I didn’t think it was so dark. I know this place. I shouldn’t have tripped.” He glared at the ground. “Stupid thing. Stupid stupid. Everything looks different.” He sniffled loudly, and wiped one dirty hand over his face.

“Do you remember the way to the bunker, Fritz?” Kristopher asked. Michel was watching Fritz carefully, holding the boy close to him. His grip had tightened at the first sign of Fritz’s distress.

“I don’t need to put you down,” Michel reassured Fritz. “You can still guide us while I’m holding you.”

“I don’t want to walk.” Fritz bit his lip. He looked around and then pointed to a street to their left. “If we go down there it’s only about ten minutes away.” They’d never reach the bunker in time before it closed.

“There isn’t one closer?” Michel asked.
“It’s the one I know about,” Fritz said somewhat defensively. “Mutter told me if something happened I should go to it.”

“Where’s your mother now?” Kristopher asked. The light from the flashlight was dying quickly. They had to hurry.

“I don’t know. She went to get my baby sister but she never came downstairs.” Fritz stuck his chin out. “I waited like she said, even when I heard the loud noises and people crying.”

“You live around here?” Kristopher hoped Fritz’s family had survived this. They’d have to try and reunite them or at least find someone who could look after him before they left Stuttgart.

Fritz nodded. Whatever his wound, it seemed as though it was definitely superficial or he wouldn’t be talking as much as he was. “I went looking for her, and I couldn’t find her.”

“You sound much better, Fritz. Do you think you could walk?” Michel asked.

“I don’t want to lose you and Paul too,” Fritz said. He let Michel put him down and then put one small hand into Michel’s.

“You won’t lose us,” Michel promised. “Keep holding my hand and Paul will look after the flashlight. We can work together.”

“Michel’s very good at working together,” Kristopher told Fritz. He shone the flashlight around. The further out into the street they got, the more rubble there was. It wasn’t safe to move too quickly and at this speed they’d never reach the shelter before daylight. He glanced up at the sky. Most of the flashes of light seemed to now be focused toward the city centre. “I’m wondering if it’s safer to stay here, but get as far away from the buildings as we can, and wait for daylight.”

“We don’t know how long this raid is going to last,” Michel said, “but we need to make a decision.” Something creaked and groaned to the side of them. “Move!” Michel yelled. He picked up Fritz and ran back the way they’d come. Kristopher didn’t stop to see what was going on behind him. He followed.

Moments later, more rubble hit the street where they’d just been standing. If they’d stayed there they would have been buried in it.

Kristopher shone the flashlight on it and shivered. “I think finding the shelter is the least of our problems,” he said. “We need to get out into the open. It’s not just more bombings that could kill us, but the buildings that are already damaged.”

“I know a place,” Fritz said after Michel put him down. “I’ll show you.” He took hold of Michel’s hand again. “You and Paul are soldiers.” He pointed to the Red Cross on Kristopher’s arm. “You’ll stay and help look after all the hurt people, won’t you? Vater is a soldier too. He’s fighting at the front. Mutter says he’s very brave.”

“Yes, we’ll stay and help,” Michel said before Kristopher could say anything. He squeezed Fitz’s hand. “We’ll also help you find your mother, or at least someone who can look after you.” He looked over at Kristopher and gave him a questioning look.

“Of course we will,” Kristopher said, wondering why Michel felt he’d even had to ask.

My next project is On Wings of Song which is a WW1 novella which begins in France in 1914. I’ve had the idea for a while, and as this year is the centenary of the beginning of the war, it felt like the right time to write it. And of course The Harp and The Sea.

After that, and book 3 of The Sleepless City, I’m focusing on working on/finishing the series I already have in progress.

Q: To wrap up, please describe for me the single most satisfying thing about being an author. When and how does it happen?
A Seeing my ideas and characters take shape as I write, and having others enjoy my stories. It’s a scary thing putting a bit of myself out there, but even if each book just touches one person it’s worth it. I write the stories I want to read, or otherwise what’s the point?

LS—Your writing has certainly touched me, and I know I’m not alone, so thanks for taking the chance! And thank you, Anne, for being my guest today! Come back soon.

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Filed under featured authors, Interviews, New M/M releases, Writers on writing

A Chinchilla Shifter? Alex Kidwell on Gumption and Gumshoes

Welcome author Alex Kidwell, here with a few words on challenging oneself as an author, and about her new book. She’s also given us a great excerpt! Read on, and note as always, click on the image for the buy link at the Dreamspinner Press store.

Thank you so much for allowing me to be here today! I’m really excited to be talking about my latest novel, Gumption & Gumshoes. It comes as a whole different tone for me and one that I had a lot of fun doing. G&G started as a prompt from a friend for a chinchilla shifter. What it became was a lighthearted book that nods towards film noir and deals with August Mendez, an overweight, under-motivated guy stuck in a dead end job. August’s most notable quality, in his eyes, is that he actually dared to move an hour away from his close knit herd.

Oh, yeah. And he can change into a furry little chinchilla.

When he gets the chance to pursue his dream and become a detective, things do not go as smoothly as he expected. There’s a case to work, evidence to gather, and oh yeah, his landlord. Sam Ewing, a bitter, older divorcee who gives August all kinds of nervous butterflies. When the two of them start working together, things get really interesting.

One of the most fun things for me, as a writer, to do is to challenge myself to take on new ideas or genres. I’d never really thought about doing a shifter novel before, but from the moment I got the idea of August, I couldn’t put the idea away.

I’d like to share with you an excerpt from Gumption & Gumshoes. It shows the first time we see August shifting, during the course of one of his investigations.

It was dark outside, starting to spit rain. The cars sloshed through the streets, lights reflecting in puddles like melted crayons. Sighing, I tugged on my fedora and power-walked the two blocks to my car. The spot I’d managed to find that morning wasn’t the greatest. And now I was blocked in by an oversized truck and a stupid sporty car that looked like a penis replacement. Fan-friggin-tastic.

Two inches forward. Stop. Reverse three inches. Stop. Crank the wheel left. Forward two inches. Over and over again, while I muttered curses and tried to remember how much my insurance deductible was. Finally I eked out of the spot, pulling out onto the main road and making my way back toward the dry cleaners.

By then I was later than I’d wanted to be, and I barely got parked in a good spot out front when the outside lights were turned off. I could see Jake and a woman who must be Tina moving around inside the shop, doing their closing duties, I imagined. The car engine pinged softly as it cooled, the rain spattered the windshield, and I slouched down in my seat, watching.

Just like a real detective.

Sometimes my life got cool all at once.

And sometimes it was forty-five minutes of sitting in my car, staring at two people mopping a floor. No one was twirling a mustache or tying anyone to train tracks. No obvious signs of chicanery. Just two employees trying to close up shop after a long day.

Damn.

</
Just when I was about to call it a night, there was a flare of light from the alley beside the dry cleaners. I caught sight of Tina taking out two large trash bags to toss them into the bins. When she walked back inside, though, I could still see the faint outline of the door; she hadn’t closed it properly behind her. On purpose? Or maybe the stolen money was leaving with the garbage.

Either way, I knew I had to get in that alley. I could see Tina and Jake turning off lights, moving toward the exit. I took my chance to duck out of my car, cursing quietly when it dinged at me for leaving the keys in the ignition. I darted into the alley, my eyes taking far too long to adjust to the dark. Tripping over my feet, I almost slammed my head into a wall, barely getting my hand up in time to save my nose. There was a flare of pain on my palm, and I hissed in a breath, looking down to barely make out the shimmer of blood. I’d scraped the skin off. Fantastic.

Shaking the sleeve of my hoodie down to cover it, I kept going. I wanted to take a look in those trash bags. The dumpster was sitting open, and I grabbed the closest garbage sack. There was the distinct sour scent of rotting things all mixed together with the pervasive piss smell all alleys seemed to have. Choking a little, eyes watering, I hauled the bag out and ripped it open. It was a lot of paper, huge clumps of lint like basketball-sized tumbleweeds, and I dragged it a little closer to the seam of light creeping out from the ajar door.

I dug through the garbage. There seemed to be a lot of receipts, huge handfuls of them, like they’d been ripped from a book and stuffed in here. I frowned, uncrumpling one, tipping it toward the light so I could read it better. It was just tallying up an order, although I had a momentary thought that it seemed like Petros was charging an awful lot for laundry.

“Hey!” The sharp voice broke my concentration, and I dropped the receipts I was holding, scrambling back. Jake was in the doorway, scowling at me. “What the fuck are you doing?”

Shit, shit, shit. I shoved myself away, stumbling as I struggled to my feet. I saw Jake’s big, meaty hand reaching out for my hoodie. Christ, if that guy caught me, I was mush.

So I took off running. I didn’t run a lot. Or ever. But now the not-so-jolly giant was chasing me, so it seemed like a really good time to start. Heaving in panicked breaths, my sneakers skidding on the wet pavement, I darted out across the street. Horns blared but I didn’t dare stop. I could hear him on my heels, cursing, the sound of his footsteps pounding behind me.

I was going to die. Holy fuck, that giant-ass man was going to kill me.

And that was when I realized I didn’t have my keys. I couldn’t get into the building.

Fuck.

Changing direction at the last second, I dodged into the alley that ran alongside my building. If I could double around, maybe get lost in the foot traffic the next street over, I could shake him. My heartbeat was throbbing in my ears, a stabbing pain in my side with every heaving breath I took. The fear slamming through me with every step, though, kept me desperately throwing myself forward.

The alley wasn’t very long. There were dumpsters and closed doors that I staggered my way past, no help in sight. It was pitch-black; I didn’t see the fence until I slammed into it full force. “No, no, no,” I muttered, frantically grabbing at the chain link, pulling it like I was suddenly going to Hulk out and be able to yank it out of my way.

I was trapped.

There were seconds until Jake came around the corner. There was no way I could face him like I was. So I did the only thing I could think of.

I changed.

It started as an itch in my nose, a prickle along my skin. The world got very big very quickly as I shrank down, the ground rushing up to meet me. The night world flared to life, scents and sounds filling my senses. And then I wasn’t human anymore. My nose twitched, ears pricking at the sound of footsteps. Two sets. I could smell one sweaty human; he stank like cigarettes and jerky. Jake appeared at the end of the alley, searching for me. But there was another man there, the tang of soap and beer, but more importantly behind him was an open doorway.

I zoomed off, nails skidding on the cement, hurtling myself toward the escape. There was the thunder of boots in my way, and I squeaked aloud in terror as I tried to correct course. Before I was stepped on, though, a hand reached down, wrapping around me. There wasn’t time for me to react before I was pushed gently into a huge pocket and left there to tremble. I had no fucking clue what had just happened.

Well, I did. I was a chinchilla in someone’s pocket.

Fuck.

Thank you again for letting me stop by and talk a little bit about G&G! It was a blast to write and I really hope people enjoy it as much as I did.
If anyone has questions or comments for me, I’m more than happy to chat.

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Filed under Author, guest authors, M/M romance, New M/M releases, Writers on writing

Ellen Holiday on characters always getting their way and lots more, and a so-fine excerpt from *Inside the Beltway*

Click on the cover image for the buy link at Dreamspinner Press!

Senator Davis Hudson has a silver tongue that has so far kept the stress off those lesser political organs, the heart and the brain. But he’s just made a political speech that will transform him from a Senate back-bencher to a public figure and presidential contender—whether he’s ready or not—and suddenly he wants his words and actions to mean something. It’s a crucial time in his political career, and Davis needs all the publicity he can get. He just doesn’t expect the highlight of his first CNN interview to be the conversation he has with makeup artist Kurt Lamb.

Kurt is smart, politically savvy, and uninterested in being part of a congressional sex scandal, which is why he tolerates being Davis’s dirty little secret. Despite the poor timing, Davis falls for him hard.

But Kurt isn’t the only skeleton in Davis’s closet. Davis’s ex-wife isn’t happy that he’s pursuing the presidency now, after all her years of hard work, and he has at least one more enemy on the Hill. Between them, they have all the tools they need to ruin a presidential candidate—and maybe his shot at happiness too.

Ellen Holiday started writing at the age of five and never stopped. Her passion has always been for romance, for the magic moment when words are no longer needed, breath stops, and the whole world consists of two souls connecting. Writing that moment, and all the madness surrounding it in every situation, remains her passion every day of her life.

She works in Washington, D.C., where the mix of history, beauty, and politics keeps her constantly intrigued, and lives just west of the city with her husband, with whom she shares a love of science fiction, gaming, and all things geeky. They also share plenty of romantic moments of their own.

Ellen Holiday can be contacted at ellenholidayz(at>gmail(dot)com.

The Interview

Q: How important are character names, to you, and how do you go about naming them? What about titles?
A: Most of my character names come to me, I don’t go searching for them. I can go from a face to a name, or just listen to another character all my new character by name, and I know who they are. Occasionally I have to go in and tweak them, but I don’t do a lot o research into finding the appropriate character name. They are who they are; I just write their stories.

Titles are very, very tricky beasts! I have a terrible time with them, and sometimes I have an easier time writing a story to go with a title than vice versa. The short stories I’ve published for Dreamspinner — “Touched by the West Wind” (for the Cross Bones anthology) and “Rainy Days and Star Charts” (for Higher Learning) are my favorite titles; my least favorite right now is the working title for the novel I’m currently writing, as it doesn’t quite convey what I’m going for, but it’s close enough for now.

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: “Inside the Beltway” is set in Washington, D.C., which is where I work; I was so happy to be able to write a political novel and to have it read realistically for the world I encounter every day. D.C. is like a different planet sometimes, but it’s such a fantastically layered and interesting place, and there’s so much going on here that I want to be able to convey. Both my current projects are also set in D.C., but I’d also really like to set a story or two in the Boston area, where I grew up and went to college. My other hope is to set a story in Japan, where I lived for a year. I’m fluent in the language and very interested in the society there, so I am hoping I can come up with a story that rings true to that country, as well. It’s incredibly important for me to be able to see the locales I’m writing about, and it’s also really fun for me to revisit places I’ve been with my stories. When I was a kid I did a lot of imagining love stories set in various places I visited and vacationed. So in a way I’ve been doing this my whole life.

Q: How much power do you give your characters in steering the story line?
A: They can do whatever they want, but I’ll go back and mess with them later if they’re not moving the story along. The most frustrating thing for me is how very much my characters want to be happy, and I just can’t let them be totally happy if I’m going to write a good story, no matter how much I may personally want to see them do well.

Q: What is the most satisfying element for you in writing gay relationships, and why?
A: I absolutely adore writing the self-discovery aspect of relationships. Questions of identity — who am I, how much of myself is immutable, what of myself do I show the world, etc. — hold enormous fascination for me, and for a person to fall in love requires a leap of faith, to show to another person his secret heart and hope that the feelings are returned. As each of my characters falls in love, he discovers something about himself that he didn’t know. Sometimes that’s “I can fall in love with a man,” sometimes it’s “I see myself as belonging to this or that group,” or “the boundary between my public and private selves lies in a different place than I thought.” These questions are ones all of us, not just gay people, struggles with, but I think writing gay relationships gives me a framework as a writer to deal with them directly and overtly. So that’s what I find satisfying. That, and all the inherent hotness of gorgeous men together — which contains elements of power dynamics and gender roles, which are also questions of identity, but they become more accessible because they’re, ahem, packaged in such an appealing way.

Q: Are readers involved in making your fiction–do they suggest stories or say what they’d like to read?
A: I absolutely love hearing from readers! I’m relatively new on the scene, so I have yet to build up a lot of fans, but absolutely everything I hear from readers is taken to heart. I’m not one of those people who shuns reviews (though perhaps I should) — reviews have taught me a lot about what readers are looking for, what aspects of my writing they find appealing and what they don’t. And I learn from them, above and beyond the boost or injury to my ego.

As for more direct suggestions, one of the ways I’ve been able to draw some people to my blog is by asking for direct writing challenges. I encourage anyone and everyone reading this to visit ellenholiday.wordpress.com and look for my writing challenge posts!

Q: Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.
A: I don’t know that I can speak to an ideal, but I can certainly say that I’m so delighted when readers take the time to leave a review or a rating or drop me a line or a tweet (@ellen_holiday!). I’m always so glad to hear from folks and have had some wonderful conversations with readers. There was a gentleman from England who emailed me, saying he wished he could vote for a politician like Davis Hudson (the protagonist of “Inside the Beltway”) – that was a great compliment! So readers, if you like what an author has to say, don’t hesitate to drop them a line. They may not all respond — they might be too busy writing the next book you’ll love — but it will give them great validation and motivation to keep writing.

Q: What do you find useful about reviews?
A: Oh, everything! As I mentioned above, I am happy to read both good and bad reviews of my work. Among other things, it gives me a snapshot of what people are looking for in their stories. And sometimes that’s different things. I have had reviews that have said Davis was a truly good politician and good man, and those that said he was smarmy and unlikeable. So sometimes it’s a wash, but when there is a trend among reviews, it’s definitely something to keep in mind for next time. Do I want to craft a story absolutely everyone will love? Of course. Am I likely to do that in this life or the next? Probably not. So I take reviews as a general idea of what at least part of the reading public is thinking. And it’s good stuff to know when I’m crafting plots.

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: Oh, it’s so hard for me to decide! I have a thing about writing “real” men, not underwear model types, so for each of my characters I can tell you at least one of their physical “flaws.” If I have to choose a character that’s already been published, I will say Kurt Lamb, Davis’s love interest in “Inside the Beltway.” He’s tremendously smart and self-assured, but he has this dry wit and this way of smiling that is just brain-meltingly hot. I describe it as “wolflike” in the book. He’s like this lean, sexy wolfman who keeps making Davis’ heart skip a beat, and he does the same for me.

For the stories I’m currently working on, the hero of my next novel, Ryan Ryder, is a bit of a challenge for me. He holds opposite political views to my own, which makes him annoy me no end, but he’s incredibly funny and sarcastic and a joy to write. So I have a bit of a crush on him too, despite the fact that if he were real, I think I would want to smack him silly. Well. I’d want to do something to him.

Q: What are the fifty hottest words (approximate the word count) you’ve ever written, in your opinion. (Be sure to include citation).
A: Oh, dear lord! I’m sure I haven’t the slightest. Every time I write a love scene it’s the hottest thing I’ve ever written. The sex you’re having now is always the hottest sex ever. (LBS shakes her head sadly and responds to Ellen’s last sentence, “‘taint necessarily so.”)

Q: What are you doing now, what do plan to write next?
A: I’ve just completed the manuscript to a novella called “Small Miracles” that I’ve sent to my beta and am hoping to submit soon. It’s about a runaway who is living on the streets. He has a chance encounter with a man at a bar that turns into a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but after what he’s been through, he has trouble believing something good could ever happen to him. It’s a bit of a fairy tale, but a very romantic one.

My next novel is about a talk radio host whose political and personal views are thrown upside down when one of his callers challenges him to meet face-to-face. It’s a really intimate love story with a bit of a political edge, which is one of my favorite things to write (as you might have guessed!) It’s about two-thirds done and I’ll probably finish it early next year.

An Excerpt from Inside the Beltway

Kurt laid his bag on the kitchen table and strode into the kitchen area. Leaning backward against the rim of the sink, he raised his eyes to meet Davis’s. “Look,” he said, “I didn’t want to say anything in front of your driver, but I thought that I ought to apologize.”

Thrown for a loop, Davis frowned. “Apologize? You don’t have anything to be sorry for.”

“Yeah, I do.” Kurt sighed. “I shouldn’t have sent that text. I shouldn’t have told you I thought about you. It was a stupid thing to do. I got the feeling I made you uncomfortable, and that wasn’t my intention.”

Davis kept watching the flex of his elbows, the way his wrists wrapped neatly around the edge of the counter and extended into those long, nimble hands.

Kurt was still talking. “I honestly like you, Davis. You’re just an amazing man, and I do have to admit that if things were different I might not hesitate to be a little more forward.”

The way those hands had felt, familiar and warm, against Davis’s face….

“But I’m aware that things are the way they are, and I don’t want you to think that I’d do anything to jeopardize our friendship or to make you feel like I was making a move that wasn’t welcome—”

Davis strode across the kitchen. Kurt’s breath, mid inhalation, became a quick gasp. Davis tipped his chin up quickly and brought Kurt’s still open mouth to his.

His lips on Kurt’s were a revelation, and Davis was hungry all of a sudden, drowning all of a sudden. He couldn’t breathe, didn’t ever want to break the surface. Kurt’s eyes closed sometime before Davis’s did, because Davis remembered seeing his eyelashes bob and droop. But then the world was dark, and all he knew was that there was a chest against his, strong hands on his arms, the counter a cold bite against his own hands. And Kurt was opening up to him, lips sliding apart beneath his, a small sound slipping out from his throat in the sudden devastating quiet of the small kitchen.

Kurt had been the one to gasp, but now Davis couldn’t breathe. He was taking in little sniffs of air through his nose, but they weren’t enough to fill up his lungs. Nothing was. Kurt’s lips were drawing out every inch of breath and life from him.

I’m going to die, he thought wildly. This man is going to kill me.

His fingers scrabbled hard for a place to hang on and found it in the collar of Kurt’s shirt, green and still damp and smelling of makeup. Kurt’s lips were warm and giving, utterly selfless. They didn’t demand a single thing of Davis, just gave and gave, and Davis was sure no one had ever been so generous to him in his life.

He broke off, staring at Kurt, lips swollen, eyes wide. “Oh my God,” he heard himself say briefly before his lips found Kurt’s again.

Kurt lifted his hands to Davis’s hair, brushed fingernails over his scalp. “It’s okay,” he whispered, words breaking against the assault of Davis’s mouth. “It’s okay. I’m right here.”

“Why—” Davis fought for breath. “Why are you saying that? Why—” He couldn’t stop kissing him, couldn’t stop taking in those lips, the lips that always gave.

“Shh.” Kurt’s hands tightened, held him still. He brushed his mouth against Davis’s once more. “You’re kissing me like I’m going to disappear. I’m not. I’m staying right here. Relax.”

“You don’t understand.” Deprived of the oxygen of Kurt’s touch, Davis wheezed. “You don’t. Once this stops, it can never happen again.”

“Sure it can.” Kurt was grinning, redness painting his cheekbones. He ran his hands across Davis’s neck to his jaw, dancing them across the subtle fuzz of his five o’clock shadow.

It felt good, too good. Davis shuddered head to toe. A sick feeling lurched in his stomach, and reality broke over him like a wave. He pushed away. “No, it can’t,” he said loudly, very nearly shouting. “This is a one-time mistake, and that’s all it can ever be.”

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

Anne Barwell on writing mythic places and magic men, and a sweet excerpt from *Magic’s Muse*

Click on the cover image for the buy link at Dreamspinner Press store

Sequel to Cat’s Quill
Hidden Places: Book Two

Tomas and Cathal have escaped from Naearu, Cathal’s mystical homeworld, but happily ever after is never as straightforward in real life as it is in books. Then again, most people don’t deal with the complication of a lover who’s magically bound to a tree or have an interfering cat for a cousin.

With Naearu’s police force, the Falcons, still after Cathal, he can’t go home. Now that he and Tomas have consummated their relationship, Cathal’s abilities are evolving and changing to the point that Tomas can sense them. And until the oak portal closes, Cathal—and his new life with Tomas—are in limbo, as Cathal can’t expect Tomas to stay with someone who can never venture past the property line. Will he and Tomas ever get to follow through on their engagement?

Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand, sharing her home with her twin daughters, at least during the holidays, when one of them isn’t away at university. Her son has left home and started his own family, although she claims she is too young to be a grandmother already. Her three cats 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 and has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and a librarian. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction club and plays piano for her local church and violin for a local 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.

Links:

The Interview

Q: How important are character names, to you, and how do you go about naming them? What about titles?
A: I need a title to start writing, and planning a story. The same with characters, although some of them change until they feel ‘right’, while others just turn up and that’s who they are. It’s the same with titles; some stories just come complete with a title, others I have to hunt for them until I know I have the right one. For the characters who aren’t so cooperative, I use name sites, and often the meaning behind the name is the final decider.

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: Magic’s Muse is set in a small English village called Oakwood which is on the outskirts of London. It doesn’t exist, although it draws inspiration from similar places. When I had the idea for Cat’s Quill, I knew it had to be an English village because of the feel of it, and the history. Setting it here wouldn’t have worked, we don’t have the mythology and history I needed – which is expanded upon more in Magic’s Muse. The fun part of this series is going to be in the last book when they return to Cathal’s home world of Naearu, a land which has embraced magic rather than science.

Often when I get an idea for a story, the location comes with it. The Echoes series was dictated by history as it’s set in WW2, and when I wrote Slow Dreaming I knew it would be set locally, and the Petone foreshore was perfect for the beach scenes.

Q: How much power do you give your characters in steering the story line?
A: *laughs* That sounds like I get a choice in the matter. I like to outline my stories, but have found out the hard way that it’s best just to ‘signpost’ those, as things always change I start writing as the characters run with it, and often in the opposite direction. When I was writing Shadowboxing I had a particular idea as to how a certain scene was going to go. Kit disagreed, and the writing stopped flowing until I backed down and gave him what he wanted. Still, outlines are nice, and I like a few illusions

Q: What is the most satisfying element for you in writing gay relationships, and why?
a: I like exploring relationships, and how various situations impact on people and those they care about. In writing gay relationships, I don’t have to worry about gender stereotypes, and can focus on the characters without any of that stuff. Also, they are the characters who turn up and want their story written, so I just go with the flow. I write what I want to read, and it’s great to able to add to a genre I enjoy reading.

Q: Are readers involved in making your fiction—do they suggest stories or say what they’d like to read?
A: It makes my day when readers want to discuss what I’ve written and I know they’ve enjoyed and got involved with my characters and storyline. I do work some ideas from readers into my stories. My current story about dragons came about because of a comment TJ Klune made in a chat, asking what fairy story I’d like to re-write. It’s kind of a George and the dragon story except that Georgia is the prince’s sister, and the dragon―well that would be telling.

The next installment of Hidden Places is called One Word, and came about in part because a friend at work read Cat’s Quill and wanted to make sure I was going to give Donovan his own happy ending. This is his and Ethan’s story.

Q: Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.
A: An open relationship, where the author is free to be true to what she/he wants to write, and where readers feel free to give honest constructive reviews. Emphasis on constructive. It saddens me that as writers, if a reader reviews a story (which often sounds nothing like what we’ve actually written) an author often doesn’t feel as though she/he can reply to it. Tactful honesty should be a two way street. As a reader I love to be able to chat to authors about what they’ve written, and the same is true in reverse.

Q: What do you find useful about reviews?
A: I take a lot from a well thought out constructive review. While it’s impossible to write something that is going to please everyone, knowing that my characters have got under someone’s skin is a great feeling even if they don’t always agree with what the characters have done. It means I’ve succeeded. It’s also a good heads up for ‘okay that didn’t work’ so I’ll keep that in mind for next time.

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: You expect me to choose? That’s something that is going to change the more I write, and depends whom I’m writing at the moment. I do admit, however, for having a soft spot for Michel in Shadowboxing. He has a lot of depth to his character, is very self-aware, and ready to take risks to protect the people he cares about. Plus he’s very easy on the eyes, which doesn’t hurt. Simon in The Sleepless City is coming very close though, and then there’s Aric and Denys who―stopping now while I’m ahead as I’m getting glared at by several SOs.

Q: What are the fifty hottest words (approximate the word count) you’ve ever written, in your opinion. (Be sure to include citation).
A: From Slow Dreaming:

Moments in time,” Sean sang softly, letting his breath brush over Jason’s skin. Was that what the two of them were? Moments in time, overlapping for just a few days? Unable to resist, he followed the outline of the tattoo with the tip of his tongue.

Jason groaned loudly. “Make love to me, Sean,” he whispered. “Take me, please.” He reached behind him, searching for Sean’s hand, linking their fingers together. “I want to be able to see you, though. I want to be able to remember this, to remember you like this.”

Q: What are you doing now, what do plan to write next?
A: My current WIP is A Knight to Remember, a fantasy story complete with dragons, and a quest for a sword. I’m hoping to have it finished by the end of the year. Next year I’m planning to work on Winter Duet which is the sequel to Shadowboxing, and a couple of projects with other Dreamspinner authors. The Sleepless City is an urban fantasy series―with vampires, werewolves, ghosts and more―but with a few twists, I’m writing with Elizabeth Noble. We’re aiming to have the first two books finished at the same time (we’re writing one each), to start the series with a good-sized introduction for readers. I’m also co-writing The Harp and the Sea, a historical story, with magic, set in Scotland, with Lou Sylvre. (LS—Yeah! *claps hands*

I seriously need more hours in the day…

Excerpt from Magic’s Muse

Cathal smiled. He removed the pencil from behind Tomas’s ear and placed it on the desk. He’d chewed the end of it again. “What I’ve read of it so far is very good, and I’m not just saying that because I love you.”

Cathal smiled. He removed the pencil from behind Tomas’s ear and placed it on the desk. He’d chewed the end of it again. “What I’ve read of it so far is very good, and I’m not just saying that because I love you.”

“That’s good to know.” Tomas threaded his fingers through Cathal’s hair, playing with it. Cathal had suggested shortening the length, as it was longer than what he’d observed to be the norm in this world, but Tomas would have none of it. He liked it the way it was, so unless it was something Cathal really wanted to do, there was no need for it to be cut. Apparently there was a wider variety now in what was considered fashionable than there was the previous time he’d visited. He’d worn it longer then too, and no one had commented, although he’d noticed the sideways looks he and Christian had received because of their dress and manner of speech.

“Can I read what you’ve written today?” Cathal was keen to see how the story was progressing. It was very different being able to read something as it was written, rather than having to wait until it was finished. It reminded him of when he was a child and his mother would tell them a story by the fire each night, careful to leave it in such a place so they’d want more.

“Of course.” Tomas leaned over and tapped several keys on his laptop. A whirring sound filled the room, and the printer began to spit out pieces of paper covered in writing. He’d shown Cathal how the machine worked earlier that morning. With every visit to this world, it seemed as though the devices they used became smaller and could do so much more. There were still so many new things to learn about and discover. Even the technology with which he thought he was familiar had changed, although he hadn’t had the opportunity to ask as many questions as he’d like. Taking things apart to find out more had gotten him into trouble ninety years ago, and he wasn’t about to test the theory that it might again.

Cathal got up from Tomas’s lap and retrieved the papers once the machine had done its work. He flopped down on the bed, already beginning to read what was written on them and losing himself in the words. “Oh, you’ve written the kiss!” This was what he and Tomas had role played, and the last time he’d seen it had been as handwritten notes in Tomas’s journal. Now Tomas was “taking dictation again”, he’d reverted to using his laptop instead of writing longhand, as he said it was faster and easier to edit later.

“And more.” Tomas didn’t move from his chair but instead watched Cathal read, chuckling at the way in which he devoured the new material.

“Deimos isn’t as good at keeping secrets as he thinks, is he?” It was very apparent, the more Cathal read, that Deimos was not of this world. His speech slipped into more of an old-fashioned pattern on several occasions. He also seemed unaware of some of the things of which Mark spoke, but that was understandable, as Cathal hadn’t heard of some of them either. What was 3D, and who was Harry Potter? How could so much have happened in this world in such a short time?

“Neither were you, my love.” Tomas stretched his arms out and took another sip of coffee. “I didn’t realize just how much at the time, but as they say, hindsight is twenty-twenty.”

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Filed under Dreamspinner Press, featured authors, M/M romance, Writers on writing

Vastine Bondurant interview, and a sexy-sweet excerpt from “Purly Gates”

Click on the cover image for the buy link at Amazon.

A lonely stretch of beach becomes a hiding place for two men who, when their paths cross, are determined not to be ships just passing in the night.

Purlman “Purly” Gates—dark, brooding, mysterious, hiding from his past and the hefty price on his head—is hopelessly attracted to the young man who strolls the beach every morning. At the risk of his own exposure and its deadly consequences, Purly succumbs to his desire and sets out to lure the beautiful enigma into his lair.

Lucky Cleary wants the swarthy stranger who watches him from the shadows of the cottage deck, and his morning promenades finally pay off when the man steps out onto the beach and into Lucky’s life in a move to bring their paths together.

But Lucky has a secret as well—a past mistake following close behind him, promising certain death if it catches up with him.

LS: Here is where you might ordinarily see a bio of the featured author. Vastine Bondurant, however, shall remain cloaked in tantalizing mystery–a bit like her sexy characters… No bio…

The Interview

Q: How important are character names, to you, and how do you go about naming them? What about titles?
A: Names, to me, are very important, almost as important as plot, because a name can say a lot about the character. Almost all my characters are name after real people, and I love listening to stories of the past from family and friends, and using names I hear. Titles? Oh, yes, crucial. That one little handful of words that have to CATCH a reader’s eyes. Oddly, so far, my titles on published works have been the characters’ names.

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: A secluded beach was my most recent locale for Purly Gates. And I chose it because I patterned my character Lucky after Rudolph Valentino who used to walk his dogs on the same beach every day. Other locales? Very compelling, for me. The scenery, the setting, are characters themselves.

Q: How much power do you give your characters in steering the story line? A: Oh, heck. I never intend to give them very much power, but they always take over.

Q: What is the most satisfying element for you in writing gay relationships, and why?
A: I’ve tried for a long time to answer that for myself. Something about it is so highly sensual, the chemistry between two men. I cannot put my finger on what satisfies me so about it, it just feels right. Maybe simply the mystery of it all, the NOT knowing why, is the beauty for me.

Q: Are readers involved in making your fiction—do they suggest stories or say what they’d like to read?
A: I’ve never been asked that before, but what an interesting question! To date, I don’t recall a reader suggesting anything for me to write. But, honestly, I think I’d enjoy that.

Q: Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.
A: Oh, wow. What a cool question. I suppose the ideal is for the readers to feel as if they know the author. For them to be comfortable, to feel free to do as the question above stated—to feel free to suggest what they’d like to see in my stories. But, above all—respect, both ways.

Q: What do you find useful about reviews?
A: I’m one of those oddballs who loves reviews, good and bad. Who does not love a good review, a bit of praise, feedback to let the author know what a reader liked and why. But, just the same, a respectful not-so-good review can be valuable. I love using them as meters when I doubt elements in a story. If readers doubt the same things, I give credence to that. And I use it to make the next story 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: Oh, heck, no fair. I only have one book under the Vastine name. (LS: And that book has at least two sexy characters from whom to choose, Vastine. Jus’ Sayin’.)

Q: What are the fifty hottest words (approximate the word count) you’ve ever written, in your opinion. (Be sure to include citation).
A: Oh, no. Thinking, thinking. Have I ever written any hot words? Honestly, the hottest words I ever wrote were under another pen name, and Vastine is the guest today. LOL. And, to date, I’ve not reached a heat level in my writing. (LS: Ahem. I direct the reader’s attention to the excerpt below from Purly Gates. Steamy. Yes, hot and sweet. Right?)

Q: What are you doing now, what do plan to write next?
A: Right now, working between two WIPS (one C. Zampa and one Vastine), and I don’t spill too much about my works-in-progress. I won’t allow myself to think of ‘next’ because my attention span is so short, I’m afraid I’ll just sort of wonder away and not finish the current works if I think very far ahead. Lol…

Excerpt from Purly Gates

Purly’s body felt so right. Warm. Strong. But it was a strength that couldn’t, even if it wanted to, hide its gentle core.

At first Purly stiffened with Lucky’s sudden move to lay against him but, after only a moment, he sighed and wrapped both arms about Lucky and pulled him closer.

Melted so comfortably, so safe, with the surprisingly smooth lines of the man’s body, Lucky realized he wanted—really wanted—this man. Oddly, not only to fuck but to…love? That seemed impossible, yet no other emotion fit the perfect light spreading through his veins at the sound of the even breathing and the steady, robust heartbeat. At the peace in being circled by the man’s embrace.

And, although a very hard-to-ignore erection rested just beneath Lucky’s arm, it touched him that Purly hadn’t made an advance to relieve it. The gentlemanly abstinence did touch Lucky, but it didn’t curb his own desire.

Purposely he pressed his arm a bit more firmly into the tempting hard-on and murmured, “Your music has stopped.”

A delicate chuckle rumbled from Purly’s chest to Lucky’s cheek. “It stopped a long time ago.”

“Hmm.” Shifting in Purly’s arms to intentionally touch his lips to the pulse at the man’s neck, Lucky sighed. “Will you play it again for me?”

The pulse accelerated beneath his lips, the strength of it—so virile, so primal—aroused Lucky.

He unwrapped his arms about Purly’s waist to allow him to rise from the divan and hungrily followed his stride to the phonograph.

Damn, those muscles—the arms, the thighs, the back, the ass—captured in the subtle glow from the lamp.

Lucky stared, devouring every detail of Purly’s body as the man wound the crank on the phonograph and lovingly placed the needle on the shiny black disk.

Purly ambled to the kitchen table, pulled a Chesterfield from its pack and lit it.

His muscles showcased in the pale light teased Lucky’s desire to an unbearable level.

He would make the first move.

Just as Purly turned and made a step to cross the room, Lucky stood and shrugged out of his shirt, allowing it to drop to the floor.

Purly stopped, clearly surprised. Hesitance registered in the dark eyes, but only for a moment as though he’d merely resisted for want of an invitation.

That passionate, brooding piano melody filled the room, stroked Lucky’s senses, taunted him.
Cupping his cock, he fondled the increasing stiffness through the fabric of his trousers.

Purly said nothing, only watched while taking a long drag on the cigarette.

After slowly blowing the smoke into the air, he returned the cigarette to the ashtray. “Lucky, after what’s happened to you…”

A slight, almost indiscernible quaver in the soft, satiny voice was the first sign of any nervousness from Purly.

Lucky smiled. “This is what I came here for.” While his stare locked with the onyx one, Lucky unfastened the belt then the trousers and wriggled out of them. They slid to the floor in a cloud of soft white at his feet.

Under the black gaze, Lucky trembled and smoothed his palms over his chest, lingering over the sensitive flesh of his nipples, kneading the hard buds between his fingers. The exquisite pressure increased in his balls, and he slid his fingers along the line of his belly to his cock. Wrapping it in his fist, he slowly stroked the warm shaft and moaned almost under his breath, “Please.”

He shook, every inch of him—scared, excited, ready—when Purly approached with the purpose and sensual sway of a huge cat that, having found its prey, was going to consume it.

Lucky headed for the small bedroom, the glorious beast following close and quiet.

Sinking onto the bed and reposing on the cool, rumpled covers, Lucky spread his legs and arched his body while massaging his aching erection. “I…want to see you.”

“See me?”

“Naked.”

Purly straightened and tugged at the hem of his undershirt, pulled it over his head and dropped it to the floor. Without shifting his gaze from Lucky, he slid the white shorts along his hips and down his legs then stepped out of them.

Glorious. The solid physique of a gladiator, a prizefighter with pride in his posture, pumped for the match. Compact yet perfect proportioning from the imposing chest and shoulders, the tightly chiseled abdomen to the narrow hips.

Purly rested his palm on Lucky’s belly, caressed the lines of it with the awed but unsure touch of one daring to graze a master’s painting. “You are so beautiful.” Yet the words were a kiss, not a condemnation or a curse as it had seemed with Lionel. “But, Lucky, after what you’ve been through—”

“Please.” Reveling in the tiny spears of fire teasing his skin and the wonderful heaviness in his groin, Lucky arched his body into the warm, exploring palms. “I told you. This is what I want.” What I need, what I need so badly. Clutching Purly’s hand and squeezing his fingers, Lucky pleaded. “Please. Oh, God, please don’t be afraid to touch me.” And, until that very moment, Lucky hadn’t realized just what he did seek from this man. “Please make Lionel go away.”

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Chris T Kat on writing D/s stories with brat characters, and a sweet excerpt from *Silver Lining*

Click on the cover image for the buy link at Dreamspinner Press.

Riley doesn’t understand why his relationship with Scott went downhill overnight. For weeks, he’s been trying to get the other man to talk to him, but Scott is distant—most of the time he just ignores Riley completely. It isn’t until a mutual acquaintance arrives at their home that Riley understands the pressure Scott has been under—and the danger they’re both in.

A Bittersweet Dreams title: It’s an unfortunate truth: love doesn’t always conquer all. Regardless of its strength, sometimes fate intervenes, tragedy strikes, or forces conspire against it. These stories of romance do not offer a traditional happy ending, but the strong and enduring love will still touch your heart and maybe move you to tears.

Chris T. Kat lives in the middle of Europe, where she shares a house with her husband of almost 15 years and their two children. She stumbled upon the M/M genre by luck and was swiftly drawn into it. She divides her time between work, her family—which includes chasing after escaping horses and lugging around huge instruments such as a harp—and writing. She enjoys a variety of genres, such as mystery/suspense, paranormal, and romance. If there’s any spare time, she happily reads for hours, listens to audiobooks, or crafts.

Visit her blog at http://.christikat.livejournal.com/ or add her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/christi_kat. You can contact her at christi_kat25 (at) yahoo (dot) com.

The Interview

Q: How important are character names, to you, and how do you go about naming them? What about titles?
A: I have a list with names that I like. When I start a new story I name the first character and then see what other name sounds good in combination with the first character’s name. I usually go for common names. I also have a very soft spot for nicknames.

Titles… oh well. Very rarely do I know the title in the beginning. Most of the time I play around with various titles in my head until I finally settle on one. I want the title to reflect an important part of the story. Example: I chose Seizing It because Kit eventually seized the opportunity to crawl out of his shell and trust Dale.

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: Silver Lining is set in Atlantic City. Most of my stories are set in and around that area because that’s the part of America I know from personal experience. I feel more comfortable describing neighborhoods, etc. I’ve seen with my own eyes. I hope to expand my horizon in the next couple of years. 😉

Q: How much power do you give your characters in steering the story line?
A: It depends very much on the story. Sometimes I outline the complete story—or rather I have the finished story in my mind and quickly jot down the important parts—and stick to it. Of course, sometimes the characters invent a new obstacle to overcome or discover a kink but I still follow the outline.

On other occasions I only know the beginning, the end and a few key scenes, which allows the characters to steer the story line much more. It can be fun to allow my characters so much power but it can also lead to me tearing my hair out because I have to rewrite scenes or can’t figure out how to get from A to B.

Q: What is the most satisfying element for you in writing gay relationships, and why?
A: I don’t have a real answer to this question. Even at a very young age I often thought after reading a book“oh, this is a good story but I would have liked it better if the two men had become a couple”. That’s how it always worked for me, no matter whether it was a book, a TV show or a movie. When I found yaoi mangas and after that the slash section of fan fiction I thought I was in a dreamland! Finally I’d found the stories I had craved for so long. I was so happy to see these stories that I soon started writing them myself. So, I don’t have an elaborate answer to your question, these stories are simply what I like to write (and read).

Q: Are readers involved in making your fiction—do they suggest stories or say what they’d like to read?
A: I haven’t had this experience since I’ve been published but when I wrote fan fiction my readers very often suggested stories or told me how they wanted a WIP (work in progress) to go on. Sometimes I listened to them and sometimes I didn’t…

Q: Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.
A: It should be based on mutual respect. I like to connect with the people who read my stories, to know what they liked and what not. As a reader I’m mostly shy but if I found an author whose books I like I’m very loyal.

Q: What do you find useful about reviews?
A: Since I’m very new to the business I haven’t received so many reviews yet. So far I can only say that I like when the reviewer explains what worked for him/her and what not.

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: They are all sexy in their own distinctive way but if I have to name one character, then it’s Andrew who is one of the main characters in A Purrfect Match, which will be released in December / January. He’s a tall, lithe blond man with a deep chin cleft and an easy smile. He’s stronger than he appears and embraces his sexuality (and kinks) openly.

Q: What are the fifty hottest words (approximate the word count) you’ve ever written, in your opinion. (Be sure to include citation).
A: I love to write D/S themed stories (with one of the characters being a “brat”) and the citation is from a story called “Flying Apart.” The characters are Ben and Joey. The line “obey me” sparked this particular story–it was a challenge in a yahoo group I belong to. Here’s the citation:

An excerpt from Silver Lining

In a low, hoarse voice, he demanded, “Leave your hands up. Don’t touch me.”

“I can’t! You have to restrain me!”

“I will do no such thing. Obey me,” he said softly.

Joey brought his hands up over his head, the soft command anchoring him in a way impossible to explain.

Q: What are you doing now, what do you plan to write next?
A: I’m writing the sequel to Secret Chemistry, which is scheduled for release in January. As for my next project—I’m torn between three other stories. One would be a sequel to a cop story (even though I haven’t submitted the first manuscript yet but I do like the characters very much), another one would be a fantasy story with elements of a D/S relationship and the last option would be a romance in which the main character would be handicapped.

“I’m not going to leave you and the same goes for you. You’re it for me.”
He said it with so much conviction, so much compassion, that I burst into tears. Scott was all I’d ever wanted. He was fun to be around, had an easygoing attitude, and it didn’t hurt that he had a body to die for. I never got what he saw in me. I was a whole head shorter than him, skinny, and never found the time to get a haircut, which naturally led to my curls growing into a barely tamable mane.

“You can’t say something like that,” I whined. “We’re only nineteen. All nineteen-year-olds promise each other to stay together forever. It never works.”

“That’s not true and even if it were, then we’ll be the exception to the rule.”

“You can’t just―”

He silenced me with a kiss. He deepened the kiss and the whole incident ended in us doing more fun stuff. I still flipped from time to time, but after a few months I stopped running. Scott told me he was proud of me when I stayed for the first time. I jumped him for that, muttering, “I don’t get why you put up with me.”

“I have a thing for drama queens,” he deadpanned.
For a fleeting second his comment hurt, then I discovered the mischievous twinkle in his eyes.

“Asshole.”

He grinned at me before he lavished my asshole with attention.

I got better at the not-flipping thing, though I never got the hang of the not-being-jealous thing. To be fair, Scott never gave me a reason to be jealous. It was merely the way other guys or girls looked at him, the open hunger in their eyes. The man was mine and mine alone. I never failed to make this clear to whoever dared to sidle up too close to him.

“Ri, cut it out, it’s not a pretty sight,” Scott always said in those moments.

I made a show of batting my lashes at him, all fake innocence.“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Scotty. Aren’t you the one who always tells me I’m the prettiest thing you ever saw?”

“You’re a scamp.”

I gasped in shock, put my hands above my heart, and widened my eyes before I gazed up at him.

“Me? You’re wounding me.”

“I am? Hmm, would it help if I tell you that you’re the prettiest scamp I’ve ever seen?”

“I don’t know, big guy, I really don’t know.”

Scott pulled me into his arms, kissed me thoroughly, and asked, “You made up your mind now?”

“Yeah, I’m keeping you even if you suck at giving compliments.”

That was how we worked. Scott was the calm one, grounding me, loving me in a way I never fathomed anyone would. If anything, we grew closer over the years. We forged a bond that nothing could ever destroy. Or so I thought.

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Filed under Dreamspinner Press, featured authors, M/M romance, Writers on writing

Cornelia Grey interview: the joy of short stories and more–also an excerpt from *Bounty Hunter*

Click on the cover image for the buy link at Storm Moon Press
Bounty Hunter by Cornelia Grey It wasn’t so very long ago that James Campbell and William Hunt were lovers. They met at the horse ranch where they both worked, training and transporting stallions and mares all across the state and sometimes farther. But then, James discovered his employer’s secrets and the truth behind the job he loved so much. The knowledge was too much, and James had to do something about it.

Now, James Campbell is a wanted man. Every bounty hunter in the area is hot on his trail, eager to be the one who finally brings him in. William, though, is determined to get there first. But when he finally catches up to James, he’s torn between finding revenge for James’ betrayal and helping him escape. Because his feelings for James are as strong as ever, and because he’s not convinced that James was entirely wrong…

Cornelia Grey is a creative writing student fresh out of university, with a penchant for fine arts and the blues. Born and raised in the hills of Northern Italy, where she collected her share of poetry and narrative prizes, she is now based in London. After graduating with top grades, she is now busy with internships – literary agencies, publishing houses, and creative departments handling book series, among others. She also works as a freelance translator.

Her interests vary from painting to photography, from sewing to acting; when writing, she favors curious, surreal poems and short stories involving handsome young men seducing each other. She loves collecting people’s stories and re-discovering lost tales that deserve to be told.

The Interview

Q: How important are character names, to you, and how do you go about naming them? What about titles?
A: I guess that depends on the story! Sometimes, the title is all I have; I’m still working on the plot and I don’t even know how everything’s going to end, but the title is summing up the theme of the book, the main focus I have to bear in mind as I go along. Take, for example, three titles in an ongoing series of mine (of which only one has been published so far!): The Mercenary; The Stray; The Traitor. They describe the different ‘roles’ my protagonist finds himself stuck in, which are often imposed onto him from the outside.

Sometimes, instead, the title is the very last thing I know – in fact, I end up reading and re-reading the finished story looking for something that sticks out, maybe some peculiar expression that might sum up the ‘feel’ of the story.

I have a simlar approach when picking names. When the character’s appearance and personality are quite well-rounded in my head, I go through my name lists until I find something that fits. There’s usually just one name that jumps out and makes me go, ‘ah, so that’s who you are, my friend!’. Sometimes it feels more like digging out something that was hidden rather than making up something new.

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: The one thing that most of my settings have in common is – they aren’t real. But they usually aren’t 100% fantasy either. Let’s just say I like – tweaking reality, adding stuff to it, bending its rules. It’s probably got something to do with my love for magical realism. I always find it especially intriguing: there’s a base of reality, so you come into it with all sorts of logical expectations, and yet at every turn there might just be something unusual, absurd, magical popping up and turning all your certainties upside down. I find it exciting, that added layer of possibilities to a world that already offers so many; I love the added degree of freedom it allows, and the fun that comes with playing with the expected and unexpected, the unreal juxtaposed on the real.

In fact, most of my stories are set in a world that’s never grounded – no dates, no exact locations, no names, no definite reality. I like that, and I think it works for me because I mostly write short stories, and they have different rules than full-length novels. I love the idea of tuning in to whatever’s happening, wherever’s happening, and simpy watching it unfold for a while before departing again. Not every question is answered; this isn’t a full meal, it’s a bite, a savoury morsel. The story I’m currently editing follows this rule, too. It’s set in a circus – an old-fashioned circus, in a setting that has some historical features, but remains open to other possibilities. The atmosphere is steampunk-ish, even though there are no actual steampunk elements. I’d been wanting to play with a circus setting for a long time, and while I hope to use it in a longer piece soon, this was a very enjoyable start!

I guess I could sum up this ramble by saying that I really enjoy speculative fiction, and I similarly enjoy speculative settings – the ones that always leave you guessing!

Q: How much power do you give your characters in steering the story line?
A: It is limited, I have to say, since most of the time I come up with the entire plot before they actually have the chance to have their say – namely, before I start actually writing. It is mostly a bunch of adverse circumstances that I throw at the unsuspecting characters: they find themselves neck-deep in it before they can even realize what’s going on and they are swept along for a ride they didn’t expect, much less choose or want. So they don’t really have much of a say on that part, or on all the things that will inevitably go wrong along the way. But when I put them in an impossible situation, when it looks like there is no possible way out, that’s when they kick in and surprise me, finding unexpected, unpredictable, sometimes absurd solutions. Their outlandish flights of fancy allow them to overcome the squared, grey, rigid reality around them, and I always rely on them.

Q: What is the most satisfying element for you in writing gay relationships, and why?
A: Personally, I am very fascinated by alpha males. And I am even more fascinated when two alpha males collide. You know when two alpha lions meet, and their very instinct brings them to clash, to fight for dominance? That kind of electric, primal conflict is spellbinding. In my stories, I love to throw two alpha males together in difficult situations, and I love to watch them butt heads and get all growly and angry. They don’t dislike each other; but it is a challenge to learn to work together, to make their rough, sharp corners fit together in some sort of stabile combination. I love conflict, and as much as I like putting my characters in impossible situations – I’ll never be a writer of strictly domestic, quiet, relaxing stories; it’s life-or-death, razor’s edge, last-minute situations all the way – it’s even more fun if that’s complicated by an explosive inter-personal conflict. The poor guys just can’t catch a break. So they argue and fight, they are stubborn and hostile and yet at the same time they’re fiercely loyal and protective of each other almost to a fault. It’s this kind of incendiary interaction that keeps me hooked :)!

Q: Are readers involved in making your fiction—do they suggest stories or say what they’d like to read?
A: A little, yes! Mostly, I get many requests for sequels to my short stories. Often I’m tempted too; as I was mentioning, my short stories are often but a bite of something much bigger and more complex. I get to describe glimpses of fantastic worlds, introduce strange characters, hint at legends and mysterious pasts… and I’m left wanting more too; I want to keep exploring that world, to know more about those characters, to learn everything there is to know. But unfortunately, I am also very easily distracted: when I get a new shiny toy (= a brand new sparkling idea) all I want to do is dive into that next world that I still know nothing about and explore that. Since I have more ideas than I can write – I currently have 12 full plots competing for my attention, and clamoring when they get bumped back yet again in favour of the latest idea! – I end up never having the time to go dust off a world and characters I’ve already played with to see what else they might have to say. I’m terrible, I know! But I keep them neatly lined up on their shelf anyway, and dust them every now and then. They are always ready for action. So, dear readers, please don’t give up hope – hopefully I’ll get around to writing one of those sequels someday 🙂

Q: Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.
A: I never really stopped to think about this! I guess an ideal relationship would be one where I behave and write all the requested sequels instead of chasing after the latest sparkly toy that strikes my fancy. Then obviously the readers would unconditionally love every word I ever penned, including grocery lists, drunken texts and the like, monarchs and presidents would offer conspicuous sums of money and private kingdoms for me to write their biographies, and my notebook from first grade with my early short stories would be framed and exhibited at the National Library with the Magna Charta. Well… you did say ideal ;)!

Q: What do you find useful about reviews?
A: You know how, after you’ve been working on a story for a while, you sort of get… blind spots? There are things you won’t see, you won’t notice, simply because you’ve had the text before your eyes for too long. I love how readers can spot details, connections or mistakes that I was completely blind to. Once a reader pointed out a clever symbolism in one of my stories that I had absolutely never noticed, let alone put there on purpose! Another pointed out a logical flaw in the actions of a characters, wondering why he’d done a certain thing when he had much more pressing priorities; well, I had no idea. Once she pointed it out, it was glaring and I was left wondering the exact same thing: but I had honestly been completely blind to it before. Reading reader comments and considerations about my stories, I’m often able to see them from a completely different perspective, seeing sides of them I had never noticed or considered before, finding new interpretations. It’s amazing how much readers can teach me about my own stories.

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: Oooh, that is a tough question! I find all my boys super-hot. But I guess Captain Jonathan Tea, from my steampunk short story ‘The Tea Demon’, has an edge! He has green eyes, and luscious long brown hair tied in a braid – which, I’ll admit, is a recurring feature among my characters. He’s sarcastic and smart and annoying and intriguing; he can set things on fire with his eyes, and he loves a cup of fine tea. But what gives him the edge is that he’s a rogue, a pirate, the captain of a gorgeous flying ship, sailing across the beautiful Sea of Clouds… who wouldn’t want to be whisked away on such a ship?

Q: What are the fifty hottest words (approximate the word count) you’ve ever written, in your opinion. (Be sure to include citation).
A: Oh, that’s a tough choice! I’m not sure I can pick a favorite. But since I was mentioning that my favourite character is Captain Jonathan Tea, and that said captain also has the tendency to set stuff on fire with his eyes when he’s angry, I thought it would be appropriate if he was the one to carry the ‘hotness olympics’ torch… 😉

Jonathan was spread under his gaze, the most inviting offer: pale skin glistening with sweat, his chest heaving, every muscle tense as he panted and writhed under Eric’s slow torturous thrusts. He slit his eyes open, looking at Eric from under his messed up bangs. His face was flushed, an enticing blush spread on his cheekbones, his lips bitten red. He looked utterly undone as he gasped, his thick cock leaking a streak of precome on his well-defined abdomen.
– The Tea Demon, Dreamspinner Press

Q: What are you doing now, what do plan to write next?
A: At the moment, I’m in the editing stage of a short story for Storm Moon Press’ second gun kink anthology. I already contribuited a story to the first, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to write another gun-centric story; turns out this kink definitely does it for me!

As I was mentioning, it’s set in a strange, old-fashioned circus. Benjamin Pepperwhistle has wanted to join one all his life and, when the Fantabulous Circus of Wonders arrives in town, it’s just the chance he was waiting for. See, Benjamin has… a thing for guns, and it just so happens that Cole Beauchamp, the greatest pistoleer of all times, is a performer there. Benjamin is hellbent on becoming his assistant – except that Cole’s temper is explosive like his gunpowder, and Benjamin’s interest toward the pistoleer (and his gun!) soon turns out to be less than platonic…

The next project I have lined up is, surprisingly – a sequel! It’s a sequel for my short story ‘Bounty Hunter’, which was, incidentally, the first gun-kink story I wrote. We left our protagonists, James Campbell and William Hunt, in quite the pickle – and several readers have been asking to know what will become of their relationship. I was about halfway through when I abandoned it to work on the new shiny circus story… but I will get back to it as soon as this is done. Pinky swear!

An excerpt from Bounty Hunter

The man walked in the saloon, the wooden doors swinging heavily behind him. Gravel crackled under his boots as he was welcomed by the reek of cheap alcohol and gin sweat. The handful of drunken men barely spared him a glance. Someone was singing a crooked, out of tune, love song. Worn out cards slapped on wooden tabletops, the tired clinking of glass against glass as someone poured a drink.

William Hunt didn’t pay attention to any of it.

He had the best part of a whiskey flask in him, a gun heavy at his side, the stubble of four days on his face, and a sure lead. A lead he might have dragged out of a whimpering man, pressing the barrel of his gun hard into his cheek and wondering out loud whether at this particular angle the man’s eye would explode as the bullet tore through it before it blew up his brain. The man couldn’t speak fast enough to tell William what he wanted to know.

William hadn’t shot the man, of course. He hadn’t even intended to. He was just good at knowing what it would take to make a man talk; it came with the job after all. This one you could scare into spilling, that one you had to beat up, that one would crack after you broke a couple of fingers.

Whatever it took to get information.

William knew where James Campbell was holed up, and that was all he needed.

Worn steps creaked under his boots as he climbed the stairs. He bumped shoulders with a pudgy man coming down, wobbling, drunk off his ass, still trying to shove his shirt back into his trousers. He was escorted by a giggling woman whose hand was discreetly rummaging in the man’s pockets, relieving him of various possessions. William just walked on. He had business. Plus, truth be told, his sympathies went to the woman.
The lights were off, but there was still enough dusty sunlight coming in through the dirty window to see. The corridor was narrow, all the doors closed, scratched wood too thin to stifle the noises coming from inside the rooms: grunts and creaks and the choreographed high pitched moans of the whores. The third door to the left, the whimpering man had said, so William walked to it, stopped, and listened.

It seemed Campbell was having fun. It was no different from the sounds coming from the other rooms. It looked like William had gotten there at the best moment, too. He lifted his hand, placed it on the scraped wooden door, and heard the slamming of the headboard against the wall increase in speed and the woman’s wails rise in volume. They sounded oddly authentic and, despite himself, William found himself listening closely, trying to catch a hint of James’ voice. He remembered James’ low, guttural sounds, the harsh quality of his voice as he moaned in William’s ear, the broken words that started slipping from his lips in an uncontrolled litany when he was about to come. And more than his voice, his body—the span of tanned skin and taut vibrating muscle under William’s hands, his muscular chest heaving as he gasped, coated in a sheen of sweat. His blond hair ruffled and wild around his face as he looked up at William with glazed blue eyes, his strong legs tight around William’s hips as he pulled him in, strong and demanding and wild.

William could hear deep moans coming from inside the room, in a rich voice that made his skin prickle. He pressed his fingertips to the door, feeling splinters graze his skin, and swallowed.

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Dean Ocean on telling his own story, and an excerpt from *Holbrook Academy*

Click on the cover image for the buy link at Dreamspinner Press store.

Growing up is hard. Growing up in a society that silences anyone different is next to impossible. In 1925, the quiet, artistic Paul Blakely is turning seventeen and still hasn’t figured out what he wants to do with his life. His childhood at the prestigious Holbrook Academy is drawing to an end. Together with his friends Freddie and Emmett, he struggles to fly under the radar of schoolyard bullies who target them because they don’t fit in. Paul coasts through life a constant observer, never taking part—until he meets William Coleridge II.

Bold, good-looking, reckless Will is the only son of a hero from the Great War. In other words, he’s everything Paul is not, so when he tries to make friends, Paul is suspicious… but Paul can’t hold out against Will’s charm forever. As they grow closer, Paul finds himself discovering who he is, what he stands for, the meaning of friendship, and the true power of love. Knowing Will helps Paul answer questions about himself he didn’t know how to ask, but can he trust his heart to someone so impulsive?

My name is Dean Ocean. I am from Idaho. My favorite hobbies include anything I can do with one of my (several) dogs. In another life I was Daryl Dixon, in this life I’m a horse trainer, turned dog trainer turned author (because college was expensive and I should probably make use of that paper).

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Q: How important are character names, to you, and how do you go about naming them? What about titles?
A: I go back and forth on this subject. I know most people talk about their process like it’s a sacred art, and how characters “speak” to them in their subconscious. I am not one of those writers. I don’t take myself, nor my characters and by extension work, that seriously. I get asked a lot what I write about, or why I write what I write. And the only answer I can give is “I don’t know, it’s just an idea so I write it.” That sounds a lot more zen then it actually is.

I wanted it clear though, that my writing process isn’t so much about truth in art, or any such thing. I am the guy who has an idea, so he sits down and writes it. There’s no mysticism involved. However, that being said, Names have power. It’s an idea prevalent in almost all religions to date. And certainly is carried through in our culture where names can be a form of social branding (re: celebrities.) But I believe Jim Butch[er] put it best when he wrote in The Dresden Files when he said that names have a certain power to them. When I first read that it stuck with me. I had always been particular about naming characters, but mostly because I felt that certain names carried with them certain ideas, certain preconceptions. And I wanted the right preconceptions to go along with each character. And then upon reading that idea through Butcher’s work, I became very aware that what I was considering a preconception, by another turn could be called power.

So the simple answer is that; yes, I take naming characters very seriously. And put a great deal of thought and effort into figuring out those names. In fact in my first novel, Holbrook Academy, if you pay close attention each characters name has a Literary connection. It doesn’t impact the story one way or another if you catch it, or don’t. It’s simply there for my benefit, and for those like me who obsess over subtext.

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: Holbrook Academy is set in 1925 England. At a prestigious boarding school that shares a name with the title of the book. The school is located in a renovated castle in the English countryside, just north of Wales. The bulk of the book takes place in and around the school. For me the most significant part of all of this is the time. I needed a built in class system that was endemic in its use and still controlled much of the world the characters would be living in. It made perfect sense for this to lead me to England. My mother was born in England, and the bulk of her family still resides there. It’s a country I have visited, and have maintained a long distance love affair with for years. And at this time in England’s history she was recovering from the first World War. This was a time when a lot of things were changing in England. The old and new worlds were colliding and as society changed, and the ideas of the monarchy and aristocracy were slowly ebbing away there was a weird period of in-between. The emphasis on blood and old versus new money were being erased. This makes it a socially interesting time to set a story about growing up and figuring out who you are. Because England was in essence doing the same thing. And while there is little mention of it in the book its self, to me the historical context of that day in age played a very important part in Paul’s, the main character’s, ideas and decisions.

Q: How much power do you give your characters in steering the story line?
A: This goes back to my whole approach to writing. I don’t see the characters are having their own powers/identities. To me, it isn’t about “oh this character was speaking to me”, in fact I find that kind of phrasing rather off putting from other writers. Because it’s not a sentiment I can relate to in anyway. I pride myself on having fully fleshed out and developed characters, who are as real to the readers as they are to one another, but they are just figments of my imagination. Like I said before, I do not believe what I do is mystical, or in anyway some sort of spiritual experience. I get an idea for a story I want to tell, and I tell it. Often during the writing process the ideas flesh out, change, take a different shape as I become more invested in what I am doing, but none of this has any sort of magical persona about it. I am a writer because it’s what I do, not because it’s some sort of spiritual calling.

Q: What is the most satisfying element for you in writing gay relationships, and why?
A: As a mostly gay man, I find writing gay relationships more or less something I can relate to. I was always told growing up when writing that the best works come from writing what you know. So naturally, writing gay romantic relationships would be what I know, on a personal level. On a more intellectual level, for me, the idea is to portray a relationship as real as any other. I don’t like the notion people and society have that some how gay relationships are different from heterosexual relationships. Either less or more significant. They aren’t. They are exactly the same. They are comprised of people. People who make mistakes, care too much or too little, say the wrong things, lie, tell too much of the truth and generally go about making one another whole and tearing one another apart at the same time. The genders behind any given relationship are irrelevant, it’s about people, not sex.

Q: Are readers involved in making your fiction—do they suggest stories or say what they’d like to read?
A: Readers? None at all. I don’t give my audience any control over what’s happening. It isn’t their story I am telling, it’s the one I came up with. I am sort of a control freak like that. However close friends have a huge impact on my work. I often look to them for feedback on pieces, just so I can see if what I want to come across, is actually making it through the text (when you’re as fixated on subtext as I am, this matters a whole lot.) And by turn I indulge these same friends to make suggestions to current projects, or for new ones. I feel it’s the least I can do after harassing them during the early stages for feedback. And in general for tolerating my weirdly needy and alternately distant behavior.

Q: Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.
A: I have no idea. To be honest I’ve never given it much thought. I’ve always felt like “here, this is my story. Take it or leave it.” But as I am now attempting to make a more proactive use of my eduction, I feel like I can’t simply throw things out to the Universe and hope it sticks. And for me, personally, I strive to make the reader see the story from my perspective. I want them to see it, feel it, and experience it the same way I intended. This is probably due in no small part to being a control freak at my core (but I think at our cores, all writers are – after all we’re manipulating whole worlds and lives for our own amusement.) For me, I think the relationship I want with my readers is one of mutual respect and loyalty. I will continue to write things they want to read, and they will in turn continue to hopefully support that habit. But should I ever be lucky enough to warrant speaking at panels, or conventions (or meeting any readers through any other means, even at Starbucks) I would like it if my readers felt like they knew me, as a person. I’m not interested in being any one’s hero, it’s not a job I am in anyway qualified for. But I would really enjoy it if my readers approached me and talked to me like I was their friend. I was someone they’d want to have a beer with, and if they are buying all the better!

Q: What do you find useful about reviews?
A: For me reviews are kind of a double edged sword. A good review can elevate my sense of self esteem, and my confidence that I am making the right steps in my career. A good review can carry a lot of self-confidence boosting goodness in it. A bad review on the other hand I don’t think is useful. Constructive criticism from editors and friends goes a long way to helping me look at my work from a different perspective. But for me a negative review would be difficult to stomach. Mostly because I have one of two reactions to negative reviews: “You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about” or “Crap, I’m screwed.” Usually the latter eventually boils down to raw anger like the first, and I end up right back at “well you have no idea what you’re talking about.” So for me the negative reviews aren’t constructive, they just stir up a lot of negative emotions, and determination to force the person to eat their words. For some writers this might be a good thing, for me awakening any sense of malice tends to be counter productive, or end poorly for whomever I’m writing about. I avoid reviews of all sorts for that very reason. Fanmail on the other hand I absolutely love. But who doesn’t?

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: I suppose that depends on your personality type. For me the two main characters in Holbrook Academy are so vastly different from one another, that they fall into two categories. While on the outside, physically I suppose Will is the more attractive. He’s better built, oozing with charm and confidence. Which naturally translates to a sort of magnetism. Will is bold and outgoing, which sometimes overshadows the introverted, quiet Paul. Paul is the consummate observer. He’s intelligent, with out having to boast about it, he’s talented and thoughtful. Physically he’s different from Will, with dark hair and bright blue eyes. Which aesthetically is a combination I find highly appealing. But Paul is shorter than Will, with less muscle tone and narrower shoulders. If I was told I had to date one of them, I’d likely date Paul. Will is too much like myself for us to get along for an extended period of time. We’d end up in a fist fight in short order.

Q: What are the fifty hottest words (approximate the word count) you’ve ever written, in your opinion. (Be sure to include citation).
A: I have no idea. That isn’t a cop out. That’s the truth. I don’t write sex scenes if I can at all avoid it I find them stressful. As a result even when I am told any given sex scene is incredibly hot etc by others, I find them trite and dismal and they often just conjure back up the feelings of stress I went through in writing it in the first place. So I will pass on this particular question, as I truthfully have no answer. For me the sex scenes I write aren’t sexy, they are nothing but stress.

Q: What are you doing now, what do plan to write next?
A: Currently I am attempting to finish a short story for the Talk Like a Pirate day promotional from Dreamspinner. (LS–this interview was completed some time ago by Mr. Ocean. Talk Like a Pirate Day was Sept. 20. If you’re interested in finding the story, contact the author, Dean Ocean.) I also have been working on a WWII epic off and on over the last year that is slowly working its way to completion. And most recently I began work on a Sci-Fi project that has gotten some promising interest though it’s just a chapter or so into the actual writing. I have ADHD, pretty severe ADHD actually. And I am un-medicated (I don’t take medication if I can at all avoid it, so far I am pretty high functioning in-spite of my brain chemistry’s best efforts). This means I tend towards having writing ADHD as well. I jump around working on multiple projects at a time to avoid getting burnt out on any one particular thing. The next thing I will actively have viewable for public consumption will be the short story “Modern Privateer.”

Excerpt from Holbrook Acadamy

Professor Wick began the period promptly at 10:00 a.m.

“Is everyone ready for some algebra today?” he asked. There was a collective groan from the students, followed by the sounds of books being set heavily on old wooden desks.

I sat in the back of class, as always. I sometimes found it hard to concentrate, and when you sat in the back of the class and kept your head down, there was less of a chance of being singled out and humiliated. Professor Wick was not prone to doing this as often as some teachers. The period slipped by slowly, I tried to take notes, but they eventually deviated into nothing but senseless doodles, so I gave up. Professor Wick wrote on the chalkboard hurriedly, and his handwriting, much like his speech, was garbled and made almost no sense. As he almost never turned around to look at the confused expressions on his students’ faces, he didn’t slow down or offer much explanation.

Thirty minutes into class, I had resigned myself to my fate. I had already managed to fill an entire sheet of paper with doodles, including a less than appropriate drawing of a menacing letter A eating the number three. It was at exactly 10:33 a.m. that the class was disrupted. The door to the lecture hall opened and then closed loudly, and in walked someone unlike anyone I’d ever known.

He was tall and lean; he walked casually, as if he wasn’t in any hurry to get where he was going. He had sand-colored hair that was longer than any other boy’s at Holbrook. He wore his tie lose, and the top collar button was undone on his shirt. I could see the tails of his shirt poking out from under the sweater we all wore as part of the uniform. He’d slung his blazer over one shoulder, and it swung behind him as he moved. He headed directly toward the professor, who still scribbled, unaware of anything going on, across the blackboard.

It wasn’t until the whole class had erupted into rumors and whispers that Professor Wick noticed anything was going on. He paused and then turned to stare. His awkward face was scrunched, and when he pushed his spectacles back up his nose it squished some of the longer hairs on his eyebrows. He scratched at his cheek with a chalk-covered finger and left a thin white line of residue behind. He took a folded slip of paper from the new boy’s hand and read it over carefully.

“Very well. Welcome to algebra, Mr. Coleridge. I believe there is a seat available in front of Mr. Blakely.” When Professor Wick pointed at me, I shrank further into my seat.

The new boy, Coleridge, nodded and headed back toward my seat with the same casual stride he’d used before. He clearly didn’t seem interested in hurrying so the lesson could continue. As he neared my desk, I noticed his skin was tan, as if he’d spent the entire summer on the beach. I also saw that his eyes were brown; they were a different shade of brown than any I’d known. They were almost like melting chocolate and caramel—strange warmth came from them. He must have caught me staring, because, just before he sat down, he smiled at me. His smile was different as well—lopsided, as if he only used one half of his mouth to do it, and the side that smiled had a dimple in the cheek.

My face felt hot as I turned my eyes back to my drawing page. I spent the rest of the class with my head down. When I dared to steal furtive glances at the new boy, he didn’t appear any more interested in the science of mathematics than I was. He was sitting back in his seat with one arm draped over the back and the other propped on the desk, with a pencil twirling in his long fingers. Once he glanced back at me and smiled. I stopped watching him after that.

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