Category Archives: Writers on writing

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

Elizabeth Noble on Reader Voices and appreciating reviews, and a tantalizing excerpt from *For the Long Run*

Click on the cover image for the buy link at the Dreamspinner Press online store.
After being bullied into the closet by his conservative senator father, Jay Molloy reconciles himself to a life of one-night stands instead of the loving D/s relationship he craves. When he meets the man of his dreams, trained Dom Eric Keger, all Jay dares to hope for is a quick fling. Eric has other ideas. He’s been hired by Jay’s father to run security at the family’s hunting resort, but now he has his heart set on Jay.

When murder victims begin to turn up at the resort, Eric and Jay start an investigation, but chasing down the killer proves less frustrating than dealing with Jay’s abusive, homophobic father. Exploring their new relationship would be hard enough on their own, but Eric and Jay also have to deal with politics, Jay’s fake fiancée, and a murderer who may be something more than human.

Elizabeth Noble started telling stories before she actually knew how to write, and her family was very happy when she learned to put words on a page. Those words turned into fan fiction that turned into a genuine love of M/M romance fiction. Being able to share her works with Dreamspinner is really a dream come true. She has a real love for all things sci-fi, futuristic, and supernatural and a bit of an unnatural interest in a super-volcano in Wyoming.

Elizabeth has three grown children and is now happily owned by three mutts, a foster mutt, and two cats. She lives in her native northeast Ohio. When she’s not writing she’s working as a veterinary nurse, so don’t be surprised to see her men with a pet or three. When at work she meets all sorts of interesting characters who often find their way into some story or another.

Visit her at her website, on her Facebook page, and her blog. You can contact her at elizabeth(dot)noble19(at)gmail(dot)com.

Q: How important are character names, to you, and how do you go about naming them? What about titles?
A: Titles are more important to me than the character names. I can’t write a book unless it has a title, and the title has some meaning to the story. I may be the only person who gets that meaning, but that doesn’t matter…lol

I don’t really have a system for naming characters and honestly some of them just come to me. Others are names I like (I keep a list of names I hear or see that appeal to me), and they almost never have some deep, hidden meaning. I’ve scouted through the data base at work too, picking out both first and last names for future use.

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: For the Long Run, which is released on September 12, 2012, takes place in a fictional town, on a fictional hunting resort in Montana. I chose Montana because a lot of people go there for big game hunting. One character grew up there, the other moves there. Part of the plot needed larger areas of secluded territory, which was another reason I chose Montana.

Q: How much power do you give your characters in steering the story line?
A: I don’t know as I consciously give them power, but I think they end up with it anyway. As a book is written and I get to know the characters better how they might react in a given situation becomes clearer. Sometimes that directly conflicts with the plot. Obviously something has to change and in most cases it’s the plot.

Writing in a series, which is my preferred style, characters grow, mature and sometimes change completely with their life situations more so than in a single book. It’s a balancing act, fitting fluid characters within plots and giving each equal importance.

Q: What is the most satisfying element for you in writing gay relationships, and why?
A: Not everyone writes same sex relationships, I like stepping off the beaten path so to speak. I love the fact that my characters are given a voice and in some small way help to break down prejudice and promote equality. It’s nice being able to take steps to a time people aren’t labeled.

I don’t think anyone will disagree that men and women are different. They think differently, act and react differently to different situations. Exploring how men face life and challenges as a couple is fascinating to me.

Q: Are readers involved in making your fiction—do they suggest stories or say what they’d like to read?
A: Good heavens yes! I’m deliriously happy when I received requests or suggestions from readers and ask for them any chance I get. I write for two reasons, one to please myself and two to please my readers. I have four published novels and one novella and every one to some extent was reader inspired.

Q: Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.
A: One of my favorite things to do has become the chats where I can interact in some way with readers. Some people seem to be intimidated and hesitant to email or participate in a chat and I wish they wouldn’t be. I may always be a writer, but I wouldn’t be an author without readers.

I love the sorts of sites that allow and encourage interchanges between the authors and readers. I’m adding a section to my website for comments/suggestions/wishes in general and I hope readers will take advantage of it. It’s a blog style and called Reader Voices, I’d love if you’d stop by with a comment/suggestion or request.

Q: What do you find useful about reviews?
A: Reviewers by nature are critical and detail oriented. What I enjoy the most about reviews is seeing someone notice little details I’ll add to a character or storyline, even if they don’t like that detail they did notice.

I appreciate their honesty and the fact they took the time to not only read one of my books but to make comment on it, good, bad or indifferent. Most reviewers give examples of why they liked or disliked a book. Invariably what I think is the big appeal for a character or book really isn’t and what I might worry is a weak point is what reviewers seem to home in on as what they liked the best. That becomes an invaluable tool while plotting a book and makes me try to look at something from different ‘directions’ so to speak.

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: The sexiest of my characters and my favorites are the ones whose stories are being told at the moment. Right now, that is Todd and Nick Ruger. Tomorrow it might be Cole and Dreyden, Jonas and Blair or… Comment by LS–I am amazed how many authors cheat on this question! Yes, Elizabeth, I mean you. Great non-answer, though! 😉 )

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 don’t know if they’re the hottest, but they are among my favorites. They are taken from the last few paragraphs of Chained Hearts.

Todd believed in him, and at the end of the day that was all that really mattered to Nick. The one chain Nick never wanted to be rid of was the one around his heart that was firmly anchored to Todd’s heart. As long as he could feel that chain and its connection, Nick would never give up on himself.

Nick was loved. It was all he’d ever really needed.

Q: What are you doing now, what do you plan to write next?
A: Ahh….well remember you asked! I have a few irons in the proverbial fire. On the front page of my website I’ve been posting word counts for a few of my in progress works.

I am currently working hard on book four of the Sentries series, Collared Souls. For those of you following the series we finally—finally—get some answers about why things are as they are. Okay, in all fairness I’ve known all along, but the Ruger men haven’t and they are learning a lot!

Earlier this year I started a scifi series called Novi Orbis and am working on book one, Into the Blue. Some of the series highlights are mind wipes, worm holes, exploring the unknown and dinosaurs. There are three books planned for this series. I hope to have the first book completed by the end of this year or early next year.

I have been plotting and planning an urban fantasy series with fellow Dreamspinner author, Anne Barwell, called The Sleepless City. So far we have five books planned. There are vampires, werewolves and ghosts, oh my. We’ve diverged somewhat from traditional vampire and werewolf lore, so hopefully readers will enjoy our take and changes.

Excerpt from For the Long Run

Settling at the bar, Jay ordered a beer, preferring local brews to the bigger name brands. While he waited for his drink to show up, he scanned the menu, not sure what he wanted yet. When his beer arrived, he swiveled the bar stool around and leaned back against the bar to watch the start of the game. People filtered in and out, and the barmaid brought him a second beer along with some nachos and cheese.

The door swung open and a gust of cool air hit him. Jay glanced at the man coming through. He was tall, maybe an inch or two taller than Jay, older, with light brown hair and dark brown eyes. His trim waist blossomed to a powerful chest, round, muscled shoulders, and beefy arms. Thick thighs were encased in his well-fitting jeans, giving just enough of a hint of their bulging muscles. Jay liked a man with muscle, and he definitely had a thing for powerful legs. The guy was easily half again as wide as Jay, and he judged him to be early to midthirties, making him roughly ten years Jay’s senior.

He was gorgeous and the type of man Jay fantasized about but never really felt he could win. Jay was nice to look at but nothing like this. He considered himself more average. He was in shape, but leaner. He’d never have the sheer bulk and powerful physique gracing this man.

The man settled in a corner, out-of-the-way booth and ordered a beer, gaze skimming the bar before coming to rest on the television and the game. Jay hoped he’d looked away fast enough and wasn’t caught staring at the newcomer.

Too bad Jay was being forced into a marriage he didn’t want, to a woman he barely knew or liked. He knew exactly what he wanted but doubted he’d ever get it: a man who understood him. One who knew what he wanted and went after it, knew how to take without violence. A man who took the time to learn what Jay wanted—needed—and had the smarts to provide it.

A man like that one.

Jay’s quick glances in his direction morphed into longer looks until he realized he was staring again.

The man in the corner nodded to him and tipped his beer bottle at Jay when one team scored a basket. Jay hadn’t turned away fast enough and had been caught staring. Cheeks burning, Jay smiled back and ducked his head, breaking eye contact. A few minutes later, he took a deep breath and turned his head, looking to the side. The man’s gaze at once flicked from the game to Jay, a slow, easy smile spreading over his face.

Jay’s radar tingled. He knew that look, and it made his stomach go giddy and his cock get warm and thick. He offered a shy smile back. This man was definitely the right type of man for Jay, on a few levels.

The man tipped his beer at Jay before wrapping his lips around the bottle neck, taking a swig and watching Jay with dark, smoldering, lusty eyes. Jay gulped and looked down again, picking at the material of his jeans where they covered his knee.

Jay waited, wondering what would happen next. Was this man a man who knew what he wanted and how to get it? When the man shifted around, planted both feet on the floor, and leaned forward, gaze moving from the television to Jay and back a few times before he settled on watching him, Jay decided maybe he was indeed a man who saw what he wanted and then took it. The thought of this big man pinning him to a bed or wall, taking him and giving to him made Jay’s heart race.

Jay was never that lucky.

“Eric.” The man was standing beside Jay a few seconds later, hand extended, warm expression in his eyes and on his face.

Jay shook his hand, returning the smile with a shy one of his own. “Jay.”

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

Lisa Marie Davis on baby name books and big cities, etc. and an exerpt form *Love Less Complicated*

Click on the cover image for the buy link and Dreamspinner Press online store.
From college and AA meetings to his job working in a coffee shop, ex-con Gavin Chandler has a lot going on in his life. All he wants is to leave his past far behind him, especially the father who forced him to run drugs and sell his body. Romance doesn’t even register on his radar.

Then Braxton Irving, a self-employed security guard, shows up at the coffee shop, and Gavin finds he can’t deny his interest. After some serious soul searching, he finally asks Braxton out, and the two embark on a whirlwind affair.

But Braxton hasn’t been completely honest with Gavin about his motivation for coming to the coffee shop that day. Braxton’s feelings for Gavin are real, but so is his commitment to his work. Can their relationship survive once Gavin learns it was founded on a lie?

A self-proclaimed chocolate addict, with an almost obsessive love for gay men, Lisa Marie Davis mostly writes at night (all insomniacs should have a hobby!). Happily child-free herself, she indulges in spoiling her nephews, Zachary and Isaiah. The lone liberal in a fairly conservative family, she is quite happy being the standout and hopes to open some of the closed minds around her, with her constant arguments supporting GLBT rights.

Visit her blog at http://lisamariedavis.livejournal.com/.

The Interview

Q: How important are character names, to you, and how do you go about naming them? What about titles?
A: I love naming characters. In fact, the first thing that happens is a character names themselves and the details sort of build from there. I have several baby name books I flip through when I need inspiration and of course, there are about a million websites out there that are great for finding names with specific meanings. As for titles, those can be tricky. I usually try and find something that captures the overall theme of the story, but it’s not always easy.

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: Love Less Complicated is set in Boston. I like using cities like Boston, New York, and Chicago, because they are larger, well-known cities and it’s easier for readers to imagine the setting. I don’t have to spend pages giving a layout of the setting, because we can all conjure images of the cities I mentioned, whereas smaller towns or fictional communities require more detail. Sort of a cop out, but it’s one I’ll own up to.

Q: How much power do you give your characters in steering the story line?
A: They take total control. Total. On several occasions, I’ve had a layout in mind, for a story, but once the character starts calling the shots, things have changed completely. That’s part of the fun, taking the journey with a character that has very strong feelings about how their story should unfold.

Q: What is the most satisfying element for you in writing gay relationships, and why?
A: There are a lot of misinformed people in our society who believe gays can’t have meaningful, loving, lasting relationships and I have to admit, that is an unfounded concept that annoys and offends me. I like portraying characters that are capable of loving, mature, nurturing relationships to kind of drive home the point that two men are perfectly capable and willing to commit themselves to a relationship. That’s the intellectual answer. From a purely superficial standpoint, I have to admit, I do enjoy the idea of two, strong, sexy men taking delight in one another.

Q: Are readers involved in making your fiction—do they suggest stories or say what they’d like to read?
A: Actually, Moving Forward, the sequel to Dreams Come True, came about because several readers said they wanted to know what happened next with James and Payne. Their interest in the characters prompted me to return to the characters and see what was going on with them, in their new life.

Q: Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.
A: Writing (for me, at least) is a very emotional experience and I tend to become quite attached to my characters. They are real for me. I want to write them, share their story, in a way that makes them real for the reader as well. I want the reader to care about each character as much as I do, to feel for them, root for them, maybe even miss them when the story comes to an end.

Q: What do you find useful about reviews?
A: I like the reviews where the reviewer points out what worked for them, and what didn’t. It’s nice to see the contrast and that style of review lets me know what areas really need work in future books.

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, that’s a hard question! Yikes! I’ve always loved Slate from Come Back To Me. He’s rough, sexy, a secret paranormal agent who fights like hell to get back to the great love of his life. Zander from Jasper’s Journey is another character that has always stayed with me. He’s a reporter who was wounded while working in Iraq and after returning home, he works with Jasper to find the person responsible for murdering Jasper’s sister years before; he’s the quietly strong sort, confident, and intensely protective as he and Jasper begin falling in love.

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 think my favorite scene is from my latest release, Love Less Complicated.

“Need you, Braxton… please, I need you inside of me….” His plea ended on a whimper. He was too turned on, too needy and aroused, and Braxton seemed to understand how desperately their obviously mutual need craved satisfaction—he nearly toppled the nightstand in his scuttle to retrieve condoms and lube. His frantic search would have amused Gavin, but he was too lost in the moment, in the throbbing desire, to find anything remotely amusing, and Braxton cursed in relief when he finally found what he was looking for. He tossed the condom on the bed, and his hands shook as he popped open the lube and generously coated his fingers before claiming Gavin’s mouth once again in a kiss that could only be described as toe-curling. There was such fierce intensity to the kiss that Gavin felt utterly consumed by it, even as Braxton slipped a
clever hand between his thighs, where tender fingers began brushing gently over his puckered opening.

Q: What are you doing now, what do plan to write next?
A: I have been dealing with the worst writer’s block, but I have several ideas bouncing around. I’d like to get more into paranormal and maybe something with sexy cowboys.

An Excerpt from Love Less Complicated

“Gavin?” The voice was rich and warm, unmistakable. There was a hint of an accent, just a slight drawl that always reminded him Braxton had spent his first fifteen years living in Atlanta, and sometimes he still sounded like a country boy. It was damn sexy. “I just got your message, and I called to say I’d love to get together.”

“Ah… really? I mean… I wasn’t sure if you would….” He stumbled over the words, cursing himself for being so damn flustered.

“Are you kidding? Gavin, I wanted you to call. Hell, if you hadn’t mentioned going out, believe me, I would have, and actually, I’m hoping you’re free tomorrow night.”

“Tomorrow?”

“Honestly, I’d ask you out tonight, but I have a late meeting with a client.”

“Ah, no. No, I mean, tomorrow would be wonderful. I’d like that.” Christ, could I be more of a freakin’ dork? Why is he interested in dating someone who can’t even handle a phone conversation? “I work until seven. Maybe I could meet you somewhere around eight?” An hour would give him ample time to shower, change, and possibly have a nervous breakdown—how else did one deal with first-date jitters?

“Tell ya what. I’ll pick you up at eight. How’s that?”

“You don’t have to go through any trouble….”

“Gavin, it’s a date. Okay? I want to do the whole nine yards.”

“And the whole nine yards includes… what?” He couldn’t help but smile, because damn, he was honestly excited.

“Let’s see….” Braxton sighed dramatically, and something about the sound made Gavin feel warm inside. He rolled his eyes at himself. “I pick you up. We go out. We have dinner at a nice restaurant. Maybe we follow that with a movie. Or maybe dancing, if you’re interested. I wouldn’t object to a lovely walk, and maybe, if I’m really lucky, when I walk you to your door at the end of the night, I get a kiss.”

“A kiss?”

“A small one. Maybe. If you’re interested in kissing me.”

“It’s something I will certainly consider.” Hell, it was something he had already considered on more than one occasion.

“In that case, darlin’, I will see you tomorrow night at eight o’clock, and I am really looking forward to it.”

“Me too,” Gavin whispered. “Tomorrow night. Eight o’clock.” It’s a date. He found himself smiling as he told Braxton where to pick him up, and long after the call ended, he continued smiling, humming to himself, feeling genuinely excited.

He was taking the risk, going for what he wanted, and hell yes, he was terrified, but he wouldn’t allow something as mundane as terror of the unknown stop him from exploring what Braxton made him feel. Baby steps. Right? Start with a date. Just go out and have a good time and then decide what happens next and what Braxton needs to know. If the date was indeed successful, he would decide how best to share his past with Braxton, and then… well, if it did come to that, the next move would certainly be Braxton’s to make, but Gavin figured that was a bridge he would either cross—or burn—when and if he reached that elusive point. For now, just relax and take a leap. You’ve earned the right to find some happiness, Gavin. Don’t allow Daddy Dearest and his cohorts to stand between you and what you want, because no matter what does or doesn’t happen with Braxton, your life is finally your own, and you have every right to live it and live it on your own terms.

With that firmly in mind, he went back to work, happy and excited and eager to take yet another step in learning to live.

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Andrea Speed interview–excerpt from *Infected: Lesser Evils*

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

In a world where a werecat virus has changed society, Roan McKichan, a born infected and ex-cop, works as a private detective trying to solve crimes involving other infecteds.

Until recently, Roan was ahead of the curve when it came to reining in the lion that lives inside him. Now his control is slipping at the worst possible times. A new drug has hit the streets—one that triggers unscheduled changes in infected users. Street hustler Holden Krause gets attacked by one of his clients, then is surprised to find himself involved in an unwanted, unexpected relationship. And a serial killer begins targeting infecteds in their cat form—something that’s 100 percent legal.

To stop the murders, Roan has to work outside the law. But his newfound thirst for violence makes him worry he might be more like the killer than he thought, and his reluctance to talk about it with his husband, Dylan, puts an extra strain on their relationship. So Roan isn’t just fighting the killer and struggling with his mutating virus… he’s trying to save himself.

Andrea Speed writes way too much. She is the Editor In Chief of CxPulp.com, where she reviews comics as well as movies and occasionally interviews comic creators. She also has a serial fiction blog where she writes even more, and she occasionally reviews books for Joe Bob Briggs’s site. She might be willing to review you, if you ask nicely enough, but really she should knock it off while she’s ahead.

http://www.andreaspeed.com/

The Interview

Q: How important are character names, to you, and how do you go about naming them? What about titles?
A: Usually names come to me when I’m writing, and I’m glad, as they’re very vital in telling you about your character. For instance, everyone in the Infected series has a very telling name: Roan is named after a rough approximation of his haircolor, and has a Scottish surname that nearly everyone pronounces incorrectly, so you know right away you’re dealing with a stubborn Scotsman who doesn’t suffer fools gladly, yet must suffer them a lot. Paris had a slightly exotic name, pointing towards his exotic (tiger) nature and appeal. Dylan has actually changed his name to his mother’s surname to escape his younger, more troubled self and his violent childhood. And Holden’s real name is known to a select few, while he’s mostly known by his street nickname, Fox, giving him a complex identity all based on what name a person calls him. So names are super important, and everyone has their name for a specific reason.

As for titles … wow, do I struggle with those. I don’t know why, but that’s usually the last thing I come up with. I’m really bad with them. This is probably why nearly all the Infected chapter titles are song titles.

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: Since the latest book is Infected: Lesser Evils, that would be alternate universe Seattle, much like the real one, just with some places and street names swapped or invented, and cat virus infected people walking around. It seemed a natural to set Infected in Seattle (and Washington State as a whole) because I lived there, still live in Washington State, and I knew going in that the whole thing would have to be set in progressive city, where you got the good (an infected cop, for example) with the bad (a whole religious cult built around infecteds) of an open door policy. A city that was slow to embrace societal shifts would shut down about half of the plot points immediately, so the story had to be somewhere where people would try very hard to accomidate the different, but go overboard perhaps, in some circumstances, and trigger a backlash in other ways. Places where the different would have no choice but to go completely underground is a different story, and frankly, Roan wouldn’t stand for it. He’d have gotten the hell out of there first thing, and I would have to put the plot into pretzel like contortions to make him stay somewhere he didn’t want to be, because he’s an especially willful character.

And that speaks to locations in general. They can have a profound effect on a story and a character, depending on how close to reality you get with your tale. Now I enjoy writing science fiction – places that don’t exist, don’t exist now, or can’t exist – and horror – places that don’t exist, places that have taken a turn for the crazy – and those genres allow you to do whatever you want to whatever you want (same with fantasy). But if you want to try and stick to as much realism as possible, that’s hampering. Not in a bad way at all, though, because sometimes that forces you to be more deliberate in your choices, and to think through the repercussions. “If x happens, then y has to occur, and it’ll probably all become z”. That can spur new ideas.

Q: How much power do you give your characters in steering the story line?
A: They have a lot, whether I give it to them or not. So they might as well have it.

Q: What is the most satisfying element for you in writing gay relationships, and why?
A: That they’re relationships like any other relationship. No matter the genders involved, they all have rythyms, peaks and valleys, and some work, and some never can. No different from anyone else’s relationships.

Q: Are readers involved in making your fiction—do they suggest stories or say what they’d like to read?
A: Sometimes I do get suggestions from readers on what they might like to see characters do, but I’m not sure I’ve ever used one.

Q: Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.
A: Friendly, cordial. But not so friendly restraining orders are involved.

Q: What do you find useful about reviews?
A: That they exist and can help spread word about your book. Sometimes there’s constructive criticism that works as well.

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: Sexiest? Well, that depends on a lot of factors. Paris was pretty much made to be the most attractive guy on the planet, and holy hell, is he ever, but I suppose for me personally, I’d have to pick Roan, for his sense of humor and his general refusal to let people hold him down. Also our taste in noisy music is similar. Which is a super boring answer, but there it is.

Q: What are the fifty hottest words (approximate the word count) you’ve ever written, in your opinion. (Be sure to include citation).
A: Eeee … this might qualify as a spoiler, since its in the new book, Infected: Lesser Evils. So can I just say read it, and hopefully you’ll know it when you read it? (Really, Andrea? I think you cheated, here, bigtime. But okay, I’ll read it and let you know.)

Q: What are you doing now, what do plan to write next?
A: Right now I have some many irons in the fire I t’s crazy. I’m working on more Infected, of course, including a Paris prequel and a possible Holden solo story, and I have more coming up in my Josh of the Damned comedy-horror series. Oh, and there’s this fantasy novel in the works, and a science fiction one as well. So I hope I live long enough to write it all down.

Excerpt from Infected: Lesser Evils

Roan knew he should never have taken Nadia Rubin’s case the moment he took it.
She couldn’t afford him, she’d know he was taking pity on her and would probably resent it, and it wasn’t his usual thing anyways. She was asking him to be a bodyguard as much as a detective, and that really wasn’t his thing.

Still, how did you turn down a fellow infected? Especially when they were being threatened by another infected. It almost felt like a duty.

What she was, was a waitress who wasn’t wearing enough makeup to cover all the broken blood vessels beneath her eyes, indications of past beatings. She was a cougar strain, in the midst of a divorce from her abusive husband, Mike Oliver, who been threatening her. The problem was, the threats were obscure and personal—leaving dead flowers inside her car, leaving dead mice on her porch, flooding her e-mail with spam, putting dog shit in her mailbox, throwing red food coloring on her door—and to get him arrested she’d have to prove he did it. The cops had talked to him, but it had had no effect whatsoever, and she was sure he was going to ratchet things up, mainly because she’d finally got a restraining order. Right now she had no idea where he was living, as he’d been evicted from his last apartment, and all his family lived in Alabama or Virginia. What she wanted Roan to do was twofold: find where Mike was, and catch him in the act of vandalism. If she could prove something, she could get him arrested for harassment and violating the restraining order.

Oh, and he was cougar strain too. Apparently they’d met through the Church of the Divine Transformation. Sometimes Roan wondered if the universe took perverse pleasure in mocking him.

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Isabelle Rowan on the sexiness of bad boys and vampires; excerpt from *The Road to Byron*

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

Matthew Kellett and Craig Jeffries are lifelong friends and neighbors. They thought they knew everything about each other, but some secrets seem too big share. Craig hides the truth about his father—but Matthew’s secret is his own.

To celebrate their high school graduation, Craig, Matthew, and Craig’s girlfriend take a road trip up the east coast of Australia to Byron Bay. Then one night on the beach, everything changes: Matthew meets Damien, a college student who senses what Matthew is hiding. Though the connection between them is undeniable, Matthew scrambles to keep it secret. It will take a shocking revelation from Craig and a lot of courage to get Matthew back on the road to Byron—and the boy waiting there.

A black cat for a witch may be a cliche, but add a whole bunch of tribal tattoos and an intolerance to garlic (seriously) and you have Isabelle Rowan.

Having moved to Australia from England as a small child Isabelle now lives in a seaside suburb of Melbourne where she teaches film making and English. She is a movie addict who spends far too much money on traveling… but then again, life is to be lived.

Website: http://www.isabellerowan.com/index.html

The Interview

Q: How important are character names, to you, and how do you go about naming them? What about titles?
A: I don’t have a character until I have their name. I will often try a few names on for size and if they don’t fit the muses will not co-operate! I also like names that can be shortened or made into a nickname because that can say so much about relationships, tone, etc.
Book titles… argh! These are so difficult. Like character names, they will usually change several times during the writing process until one appears that feels right. A Note in the Margin was probably the easiest because the whole point of the story is that there is more to the story than the text itself –you need to read the notes in the margin. The hardest was the most recent The Road to Byron. Don’t know why, but that one was changed so many times and when I finally decided it was like, well duh, of course that’s its name!

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 most recent – The Road to Byron – is a road trip up the east coast of Australia. It starts off near where I live on the Mornington Peninsula before the boys go in search of better surf beaches. So far all my books have been set in Australia and a few have some cross-over references – even if they don’t take place around Melbourne there will be a link. It’s home and what I know!

Q: How much power do you give your characters in steering the story line?
A: They have total control! If a muse has something in mind there is nothing I can do to change it and believe me, I’ve tried!

Q: What is the most satisfying element for you in writing gay relationships, and why?
A: I think it’s that the human experience is universal and a huge part of that is love, regardless of gender.

Q: Are readers involved in making your fiction—do they suggest stories or say what they’d like to read?
A: Most definitely! I love to get feedback and character questions/suggestions. I was writing a fanfic and had planned for a main character to die. When that was suggested at the end of a chapter the comments made me keep him and I’m so glad I did!

Q: Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.
A: Mutual respect and openness. I love to hear what people think and will always listen!

Q: What do you find useful about reviews?
A: Reviews terrify me! When A Note in the Margin was released it never even crossed my mind that there were people out there who might want to review it. Luckily I have a wonderful publisher who sent me the link to my first review and, even luckier, it was a good one! Reviews vary greatly and I have almost learned to take the good with the bad. Constructive criticism is very useful; I take their advice to heart and always try to improve.

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: Hmmm, I like a bad boy and people might be surprised that Galen in Ink might be my sexiest. There is something very sexy about a vicious vampire who skulks in the shadows. He’s pale, tattooed, slinky, long hair and very sharp teeth! But there’s also a new character on the horizon that I find very sexy – he’s not published yet, but hopefully will be soon. His name’s Sam – watch for him! *winks*

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

Dominic carefully unbuttoned his shirt and slipped it down to fall on the back of the chair then waited for Michael to begin. It had been a long time since Dominic had felt nervous and it surprised him that he could still feel the flutter of anticipation. So intent was his focus on the movement of Michael’s hands that he was startled when the fingers actually made contact with his bare skin. He closed his eyes. It was such a simple touch, just fingertips marking out the boundaries of the proposed tattoo, but it sent a deep shiver through Dominic’s long neglected body and sparked a different hunger.

Ink (page 4)

Q: What are you doing now, what do plan to write next?
A: I have a few things on the go at the moment.

~ The Red Heart – a new novella about a young Goth called Daniel who is joined by Sam, an ex-military drover, as they walk the desert of central Australia to Uluru.

~ Book 3 in the Margins series – this one will be mainly about Jamie, but David, John and Adam will all be there too.

~ “Snowman” – I’m expanding my short story into a novel because Caleb and Paul have a lot more to their story.

I have a few other plot bunnies bouncing too!

An excerpt from The Road to Byron

The exertion of swimming felt good. The steady stroke always calmed Matthew and his breathing fell into a relaxed rhythm. Side by side they swam, catching sight of the other when their need to breathe matched up. Matthew’s discomfort dissipated as he was buoyed on the water, enjoying the cool slide over his body. It was only when a hand touched his skin that he stopped.

They were in deeper; not enough to have to tread water, but enough that it lapped against their chests.

“What’s up?” Matthew asked noticing the questioning look in Damien’s eyes.

“Why didn’t you come over last night? Seriously?”

It was a simple enough question and one that should have been easy to answer, but Matthew shrugged and looked back to the shore. This was new territory, unchartered territory for Matthew Kellett boy from the suburbs who all the girls liked, but never seemed to get very far with. Finally he turned back and said, “I wanted to.”

“You should have.” Damien smiled and seemed relieved to see Matthew smile back.

“Yeah, I guess I should have.” The words were barely spoken when Matthew felt the soft touch of a hand on his side. He tried not to react as their warmth was swapped skin to skin in the cool water. He knew Damien was waiting for him to do something. Anything. But Matthew stood unable to move, not even when the pad of the thumb stroked slowly over his belly.

“Am I wrong? Do you want me to stop?” Damien asked quietly.

Matthew gave a slight shake of his head. Is the water warmer? It feels warmer, he thought and looked into Damien’s eyes. Stormy blue. Then those eyes grew closer and lost focus as lips brushed his. It was just a light touch as if testing the waters. As if Damien was waiting for Matthew to pull back and make an excuse or react with a punch. But neither happened.

The kiss felt right and, for once, Matthew didn’t allow all the doubts he’d felt before stop him. With eyes open the barest crack he returned the kiss; just as soft and tentative. When his eyes closed Matthew noticed the slight taste of salt water and then the rub of stubble at the edges of soft lips. As the warm tongue parted his lips Matthew welcomed it and met it with his own.

For the first time Matthew was able to actually stop thinking about what he was doing and just enjoy how it felt.

The hands that moved below the surface of the water were as slow and soft as the light current. Damien’s fingers brushed over Matthew’s belly and down where they remained still just above the waistband of his board shorts. The pair swayed in the gentle waves and Damien eased back enough to whisper, “You’re allowed to touch me.”

All the air disappeared from Matthew’s lungs and he leaned a little closer momentarily trapping Damien’s fingers between them. As their lips met again Matthew finally touched the other man’s skin. His palms pressed against Damien’s sides, holding him, feeling the taut muscles beneath them.
But the kiss ended all too soon.

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Jacob Flores: *3*, *The Gifted One*, and what might melt his butter

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

Justin Jimenez has loved his partner, Spencer Harrison, for ten years. He’ll do anything for him—including bury his feelings for a man he met while he and Spencer were separated last year. Justin never planned to fall in love, and he certainly never planned to tell Spencer about it—but when a phone call wakes them in the middle of the night to inform Justin that his former lover, Dutch Keller, has been in an accident, he doesn’t have a choice.

Justin’s revelation shatters the fragile relationship he and Spencer were trying to rebuild. The weight of his guilt—both for hurting Spencer and for leaving a heartbroken Dutch to find solace in a bottle—crushes him. But what Justin doesn’t know is that Spencer and Dutch guard an explosive secret of their own. All three men are tangled in a communal web of lies, and unless they find the events in their lives that ultimately led them to friendship, passion, and betrayal, they won’t see the love at the heart of the pain.

Jacob Z. Flores lives a double life. During the day, he is a respected college English professor and mid-level administrator. At night and during his summer vacation, he loosens the tie and tosses aside the trendy sports coat to write man on man fiction, where the hard ass assessor of freshmen level composition turns his attention to the firm posteriors and other rigid appendages of the characters in his fictional world.

Summers in Provincetown, Massachusetts, provide Jacob with inspiration for his fiction. The abundance of barely clothed man flesh and daily debauchery stimulates his personal muse. When he isn’t stroking the keyboard, Jacob spends time with his husband, Bruce, their three children, and two dogs, who represent a bright blue blip in an otherwise predominantly red swath in south Texas.

You can follow Jacob’s musings on his blog at http://jacobzflores.com or become a part of his social media network by visiting http://www.facebook.com/jacob.flores2
or http://twitter.com/#!/JacobZFlores.

The Interview

Q: How important are character names, to you, and how do you go about naming them? What about titles?
A: Great question. Character names and titles are pretty important to me. For the main characters, their names have to sound good together, as if not just the characters as people belong together but so do the names, like Romeo and Juliet or Bo and Hope, for soap opera fans. When I’m naming a character, I choose a name that is significant to the character’s personality. I sometimes consult my Character Naming Sourcebook and research various names until I find one that matches the character’s personality. If I’m using a nickname, I choose one that captures the essence of the character.
Book titles are just as important. I want the title to reflect the theme of the book. For example, my upcoming m/m/m novel slated for release by Dreamspinner in September/October is titled 3. While the title may be simple, it also reflects the inherent complexities and conflict in a relationship between three men. Most of us are familiar with how difficult a relationship between two individuals is. When you add one more to the mix, the struggles magnify exponentially.

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: 3 is set in San Antonio, Texas. I chose San Antonio because it is my hometown, and I feel quite comfortable there. I typically choose locales based on my familiarity with them. I want the reader to get a good sense of the setting, so in order for it to be real for my readers, it has to be crystal clear to me. I aim for as much verisimilitude as possible in terms of setting.

Q: How much power do you give your characters in steering the story line?
A: It really depends on the character and the story. After I create character sketches for each character, I create a plot outline that provides me the direction I need to move the characters from exposition to the novel’s climax and finally to its ultimate conclusion. Once I have a general idea of where I want the characters to go, I let their interactions dictate how I get there. For example, I had envisioned a different ending for 3, but by the time I got to the last third of the novel, I knew my original ending wouldn’t work. The characters had evolved past my original ending. I think if I would have concluded it the way I had first envisioned it, the reader would have felt the ending to be disingenuous.

Q: What is the most satisfying element for you in writing gay relationships, and why?
A: As a gay man, it’s very satisfying. I get to share with the world what a gay relationship is really like. While it may involve two men (or sometimes three), trying to find love, it makes the struggle universal. All of us want love. The only real difference is that some men prefer that happily ever after with another man.

Q: Are readers involved in making your fiction—do they suggest stories or say what they’d like to read?
A: Right now, no. I’m still new to the genre to have such a fan base. If I were ever lucky enough to have such devoted followers, I would take their considerations into mind. In fact, when I wrote my episode of Boxer Falls, which is a “gaytime serial” on Goodreads, I took the wishes of the fans into consideration. They love Oz and Quinn as characters, so I made sure those two characters were spotlighted. I even nudged Oz and Quinn’s relationship along a few steps in the process.

Q: Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.
A: The ideal relationship would be that the readers loved everything the author wrote. LOL! But I know that’s not going to be the case. You can’t please everyone, but I hope that the readers would be invested enough in my book to understand the choices the characters made. On the same token, authors wouldn’t be successful without our wonderful readers. The relationship needs to be symbiotic, a successful joining of creative minds traveling together on a wonderful journey.

Q: What do you find useful about reviews?
A: Like I said before, I’m still new, so I don’t have many reviews. However, I did self-publish a novel titled Moral Authority. I got some great reviews on that book. It’s a dystopian tale reminiscent of George Orwell’s Nineteen-Eighty Four with a gay twist. But the reviews that offered some constructive criticism made me re-think certain approaches to plot and character development. Sometimes, what we as authors think will work may not resonate with some readers. It’s the author’s job to make the book resonate with as many readers as possible, in my opinion. So, while constructive reviews may be hard to read at times, I use them as learning tools.

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: For 3, I would have to say that Dutch is the sexiest. First of all, physically, Dutch is the most impressive. He’s a tall muscle bear with crystal blue eyes. His presence is intimidating, but his character is kind and gentle, at least until he’s pushed too far. Then, watch out! Those characters whose physical strength is tempered by their kind hearts always melt my butter.

Q: What are the fifty hottest words (approximate the word count) you’ve ever written, in your opinion. (Be sure to include citation).
A: This is a scene from 3, where two of the main characters, Justin and Spencer are having a three-way with their best friend Tyler.

“Fuck me,” Tyler moaned. He took Spencer’s cock out of his mouth and looked back at Justin with pleading, wild eyes. “Fuck me hard!”

“Beg for it,” Justin demanded. “Beg for me to fuck your man pussy.”

“Fuck me,” Tyler begged. “Fuck my pussy like the whore I am.”
–From 3 by Jacob Z. Flores

Q: What are you doing now, what do plan to write next?
A: Actually, Dreamspinner just accepted my paranormal romance tentatively titled The Gifted One, which should be out in March/April.

Here’s a blurb:
Though Matt sees himself as an ordinary man loved by the family who adopted him, he is unaware that he is the Gifted One. His unknown blood lineage makes him a seventh son of a seventh son. Within him rests the unlocked potential of a positive force for good. His promise as the Gifted One grants him special favors from heaven in the form of his own personal savior, the Archangel Gabriel, but it also marks Matt for death from the wicked, who attempt to kill him every year on his birthday.

Being the Gifted One and dodging demonic attacks aren’t Matt’s only problems. He has fallen in love with the Archangel Gabriel, who was sent by heaven to protect him. Gabriel returns Matt’s love, defying divine law and placing them both in danger from demons and angels alike. Heaven fears that Matt and Gabriel’s union will result in an evil similar to that of a fallen band of angels called The Watchers.

Can Matt survive the rising ancient evils that have hounded him since birth? Will heaven allow Matt and Gabriel’s love to exist? Or will both heaven and hell turn being the Gifted One into a curse?

An Excerpt from 3

“Watch your step,” Justin told him. His eyes were as refreshing as a coastal breeze on a scorching day, and their brown hue reminded him of the cool, packed sand that lay between the ocean’s edge and the sandy beach. When his family went on a summer vacation that involved a beach, that is where he stayed—at the water’s edge. While his brother and sister swam in the ocean and his parents lay out on their beach blankets, he sat in the cool, wet sand, thrusting his toes into the velvety folds.

He felt safe, as if by sinking his toes into the sand the earth had somehow claimed him as its own, grounding him and giving him the companionship he lacked in his family or at school.

When he gazed into Justin’s eyes, as he looked back to make sure Spencer didn’t trip over any one of the inebriated patrons in the small stairwell, he felt transported back to that beach, toes in the sand and connected to another life force much greater than his own.

Going past the small series of stairs that led to a walkway, they skirted the packed dance floor where the gays were getting down to Cher’s “Believe.”
Justin surprised Spencer by pulling him onto the dance floor, where they joined their gay brethren in their fevered adoration of the ultimate gay icon.

Rarely, if ever, did Spencer dance at the clubs. He preferred observing the standard mating ritual as the dance partners gyrated on the floor with the express purpose of gauging each other’s sexual prowess through thrusting hips to the syncopated beat.

He found the custom distasteful, yet here he was grinding in sync with Justin, whose hands rested on Spencer’s hips and whose crotch was currently scraping against his ass.

What has gotten into you? his mind asked him. Since when do you engage in such immature and improper activities? You’re practically copulating on the dance floor?

I know, Spencer returned. It feels great!

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Jaime Samms interview, and bittersweet beauty *Angel Elegy*

Click the cover images for buy links at Dreamspinner Press store.

Twin Angels Jophiel and Ariel are servants of Heaven bound to help the humans of a world headed for ruin. But for them to become the independent Angels they need to be, their bond must first be broken.

Jophiel takes his duties seriously, answering a call from an artist struggling with his dominant, sadistic nature. But Ariel, embittered after being tortured and killed by human captors and returning to Heaven in shame, hesitates. The choice is taken from his hands when he is sent to Earth, wingless and without any memory of who or what he is. Until he regains the faith in the humans he’s meant to help, he’ll never reach his full potential and be readmitted into Heaven. From somewhere within himself, Jophiel must find the courage to let go of his twin and trust Ariel to be strong enough to Rise again… or they will never be together.

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.

Jaime has been writing for various publishers since the fall of 2008, although she’s been writing for herself far longer. Often asked why men; what’s so fascinating about writing stories about men falling in love, she’s never come up with a clear answer. Just that these are the stories that she loves to read, so it seemed to make sense if she was going to write, they should also be the stories she wrote.

These days, you can find plenty of free reading on her website. She also writes for Freya’s Bower, Loveyoudivine Alterotica, Pink Petal Books, Dreamspinner Press and Total E-Bound.

Spare time, when it can be found rolled into a ball at the back of the dryer or cavorting with the dust bunnies in the corners, she’s probably spending reading, drawing, gardening (weather permitting, of course, since she is Canadian!) or watching movies. Well. She has a day job or two, as well, and two kids, but thankfully, also a wonderful husband who shoulders more than his fair share of household and child care responsibilities.

She graduated some time ago from college with a Fine Arts diploma, with a major in textile arts, which basically qualifies her to draw pictures and create things with string and fabric. One always needs an official slip of paper to fall back on after all….

The Interview

Q: How important are character names, to you, and how do you go about naming them? What about titles?
A: I have found that in my contemporary books, I just like to make sure I haven’t already used a name in any significant way. In my fantasy stuff, I put a little more thought into it, though. I like the names to mean something. As for titles. OMG. I have the worst time coming up with them, most of the time.

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: I think the immediate setting of the Main Character’s actual apartment in Stained Glass was very important, but the world at large is usually pretty generic. If I have to use elements like laws or school customs, I usually use generic Canadian, because that’s what I know. I only set things in the States or elsewhere if I have to. As to how I decide, if it’s not generic Canada, then the plot or characters let me know where it is.

Q: How much power do you give your characters in steering the story line?
A: Better to ask how much power they give me. Lol! When I try to steer, we inevitably go off the rails. Better to let them have their own way.

Q: What is the most satisfying element for you in writing gay relationships, and why?
A: That moment in the story when the main characters realize they are together because that is the right place for them to be, that’s magic. I don’t think it would be any different if I wrote het or f/f. Gender isn’t the issue. The magic is the issue.

Q: Are readers involved in making your fiction—do they suggest stories or say what they’d like to read?
A: They always suggest. It isn’t that I don’t listen. It is more like some characters speak to me and I tell their stories, some do not. I can’t force a character to talk to me. But there are characters I’ve lived with a long time, secondary characters or main characters I had thought I was done with, who come back, years after the fact and whisper in my ear, and I’ll do my best to accommodate them. If a reader asks for the story of a character I can’t feel, I’m happy to chat about the characters, happy to discuss the story and the possibilities, but I never make promises.

Q: Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.
A: Respect.

Q: What do you find useful about reviews?
A: When I’m looking for a book to read, I sometimes glance at them if I’m waffling about whether to pick up a title. More often, I’m like any other reader. I have my go-to authors who I know I don’t even have to read the blurb, I’ll more than likely love the story.

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: Well, on the manly-men side, there is Vance Ashcroft, country music mega-star and ever-so-slightly, hide-the-truth-in-plain-sight closet queer. He’s everything a country boy should be and then some, with a crooning baritone and silky amber locks to run your fingers through.

On the Fem side, we have Mac, coming in Still Life in December, from Total E-Bound. He’s butch in the every day, but looks killer in a pair of hose and heels, and a mini skirt to show off his sculpted legs. And he has just enough of that vulnerable, love-me-keep-me vibe to drive any top’s fantasy.

Q: What are the fifty hottest words (approximate the word count) you’ve ever written, in your opinion. (Be sure to include citation).
A: That’s so hard to say. Fifty words is like…nothing…lol! I found 92, from my WIP, and I can’t really think about anything else right now, so this probably means more to me than it will to anyone else, but here, Stanley has just finished helping Damian remove his eye make-up.

Stanley was entirely too close when those lashes fluttered and he found grey-green eyes gazing up at him.

“Done,” he whispered.

Damian licked his lips, a tentative smile dancing over his features. “Lip gloss.”

“How do you get that off?”It was Stanley’s turn to breathe too shallowly. Stanley’s turn to find himself slightly too shaky.

“Best way I know.” Damian cupped one towel-wrapped hand at the back of
Stanley’s neck and drew him the rest of the few inches down until their lips met.

The gloss tasted like strawberries and confectioner’s sugar. And whiskey. He moaned.

Q: What are you doing now, what do plan to write next?
A: Right now, I’m working on a Goth rock singer and his Manager, the manager’s Country music signer best friend and sometimes fuck-buddy, and the rock singer’s puppy-love guitar player. I’m in the middle of tossing them all in a big sac, shaking it up a bit and seeing who falls out with whom.

After this, I am dying a little bit inside to get back to Rainbow Alley and give some of those boys their happy endings. And, there’s this thing with a couple of cowboys I wrote about long ago in the way back of beyond, Miles and Dillon from The Runaway. Oooh, and the futuristic one with the really Dominant Dom and his sub who doesn’t yet know he’s a sub. And the mer-shifters…and the dragon shifters. Two universes of dragon shifters, even. And the east coast fisherman and his bartender…and….and….

An Excerpt from Angel Elegy

“YOU can’t expect me to leave him there!” My voice rose, anger elevating it to Haniel’s level. “Do you not see what that human is doing to him?” I’d come home empty-handed, but I was not going to leave the younger Angel to the mercies of a man who had no scruples against using him in such hurtful ways.

“I see an Angel who answered a call,” Haniel said quietly. “I see a young, troubled man and an Angel trying to help him.” But his voice was as filled with sadness as my heart was with fury.

“He’s brainwashing Jophiel. Our brother thinks what that creature is doing to him is okay, Haniel, and it isn’t.”

“I understand your concerns, Ariel.” He looked at me with such sympathy.

I could claw his eyes out for turning that pity on me rather than using his sense of truth to help our fellow Angel.

“But you speak from the heart of someone who feels more than brotherly love. There are things you cannot see past that barrier.”

“You have never set foot outside this sanctum,” I spat. “You have no idea. My concerns—” I shot a hand out, and a flash of livid light splashed across the open expanse of the sanctum. “You don’t know, Haniel.” Anger tossed me about, breaking down my ability to think, forcing me to sporadic movement across the limitless space. “You just don’t—” I stopped and then winged back to stand once more before him. “And Jophiel will not stop that man from doing anything he wants, all in the name of art and creativity. He’ll twist everything that’s good and giving and honest in him. He’ll—”

“Break him?”

“Jophiel doesn’t understand what’s happening. He’ll just give and give—”

“Like you did?”

I whirled, fury giving me power, sparking in my gut and drawing my wings out to full splendor. “This is not about me. It’s about him, and the false safety everyone thinks is down there because Michael and Gabriel stayed behind. Angels aren’t safe. We never will be safe. Not among humans.”

Deeper sadness infused Haniel’s eyes, burning the blue to dark indigo. His wings drooped slightly, silver tips disappearing into the hazy divide between the worlds. “You have lost your Faith.”

“I have lost nothing!” Panic rose to fill the spaces left empty by anger. “I know. I was there.” The memories crowded, one piling on top of the next: the clipped wings, the pain, the annihilation of every good thing….

Until a bullet in the back was not betrayal. It was freedom.

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Jamie Fessenden interview, *By that Sin Fell the Angels* excerpt, and other stuff

Click the cover image for the buy link at the Dreamspinner Store.

By that Sin Fell the Angels is published by Itineris Press, an imprint of Dreamspinner Press that presents quality GLBT faith-based fiction.

It begins with a 3:00 a.m. telephone call. On one end is Terry Bachelder, a closeted teacher. On the other, the suicidal teenage son of the local preacher. When Terry fails to prevent disaster, grief rips the small town of Crystal Falls apart.

At the epicenter of the tragedy, seventeen-year-old Jonah Riverside tries to make sense of it all. Finding Daniel’s body leaves him struggling to balance his sexual identity with his faith, while his church, led by the Reverend Isaac Thompson, mounts a crusade to destroy Terry, whom Isaac believes corrupted his son and caused the boy to take his own life.

Having quietly crushed on his teacher for years, Jonah is determined to clear Terry’s name. That quest leads him to Eric Jacobs, Daniel’s true secret lover, and to get involved in Eric’s plan to shake up their small-minded town. Meanwhile, Rev. Thompson struggles to make peace between his religious convictions and the revelation of his son’s homosexuality. If he can’t, he leaves the door open for the devil—and for a second tragedy to follow.

Jamie Fessenden set out to be a writer in junior high school, but it wasn’t until he met his future husband, Erich, almost twenty years later, that he began writing again in earnest. Ten years later, with the legalization of same-sex marriage in their state, Jamie and Erich have married, rescued a black lab pup from the SPCA, and purchased a house together in the wilds of Raymond, New Hampshire. Jamie currently works as technical support for a computer company in Portsmouth, NH, but fantasizes about someday quitting his day job to be a full-time writer.

Visit Jamie at http://jamiefessenden.wordpress.com/

The Interview

Q: How important are character names, to you, and how do you go about naming them? What about titles?
A: Very important. I spend a lot of time on baby name websites, searching for names that resonate with the character. Often, I’ll narrow it down to a few and then spend a few minutes saying the names to myself out loud, while visualizing the character, to see which one fits the best. On more than one occasion, I’ve changed a character name while I’ve been writing the story, because he or she seemed to outgrow the first one I chose. Titles are extremely important, but I’m really awful at coming up with them. I often ask friends for suggestions.

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: I’m currently working on a cyberpunk novel set in a near-future Seattle and Vancouver. In a science fiction or fantasy novel, of course, the locale is often part of the story and can strongly affect the plot. Certainly the streets of Seattle and the surrounding countryside had a huge impact on the chase scene I wrote for part one! I’m also working on a contemporary psychological drama. For most contemporary stories, I prefer to use New Hampshire as the setting. This is partly because it’s what I’m familiar with, but also because I love the New Hampshire countryside and have a strong desire to convey the beauty of it in my work.

Q: How much power do you give your characters in steering the story line?
A: Quite a lot. If I write a scene in which the characters don’t seem to be acting naturally, I go back and rework it until it works for them, even if it means changing the direction of the story. It always improves the story to pay attention to what’s right for the characters.

Q: What is the most satisfying element for you in writing gay relationships, and why?
A: When I was a teenager, just coming to terms with my sexuality, nearly everything I read was about heterosexual characters. I felt extremely isolated, because it was almost impossible to find gay characters in fiction who weren’t miserable and alone. All I wanted was to read about gay characters who found someone to love and lived happily ever after. In early stories I wrote, I tried to write about straight characters, but it really didn’t feel right to me, so I eventually realized that I needed to write the type of stories I wanted to read: stories with gay protagonists that have a happy ending.

Q: Are readers involved in making your fiction—do they suggest stories or say what they’d like to read?
A: I’m afraid I have so many stories in my head struggling to make it out onto paper that I don’t really have the time to write what other people suggest. My usual reaction is to tell them, “That sounds like a great idea! You should write it!” (An exception to this might be requests for a sequel!) I do listen to feedback on my stories, though. If somebody tells me that something really didn’t work for them, I certainly give it serious thought and consider how I might do things differently in future stories. I don’t believe in turning my nose up at suggestions that will improve my writing, even if they sometimes sting a bit.

Q: Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.
A: Ideally, readers will provide useful feedback for an author about what does and does not work for them, and the author will be responsive to that, taking into account things that pushed a lot of readers’ buttons, for instance, and learning to work with that. I’ve also had readers nudge me to get back to work on my cyberpunk story and I think that’s great! I love knowing that there are people out their interested in knowing how the story will work out.

Q: What do you find useful about reviews?
A: A useful review is one that points out flaws in the story or characters in a way that’s specific enough that it suggests a way to fix the problem. “The story was terrible,” isn’t particularly helpful, but “The ending was confusing,” certainly can be, and so can, “I wasn’t sure if they were really committed to each other.” One of the best reviews I ever received was from someone who pointed out specific details of the time period and culture I was depicting that I’d gotten wrong. They were things that only someone living in England might pick up on, and I just wish I’d received that feedback before the story went to publication!

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 think perhaps Josh, from “Saturn in Retrograde.” I grew up in rural New England and the guys I was attracted to when I was young tended to be a bit rough around the edges: crude, rugged, often dirty from working on cars or other manual labor, often sweaty. Josh is a college nerd, but he lives in a single room and he’sA: a slob, leaving his dirty clothes everywhere. (But of course, he’s still gorgeous!) When Patrick is caring for him, after Joshua becomes seriously ill, he ends up cleaning the apartment, in order to make it more livable. This sort of detail is unappealing to some readers, but to me it makes the characters real. They aren’t fashion models. They’re just regular guys. And it’s that extra level of reality that makes a character sexy to me. Judging from some reader comments, I’m not completely alone in this.

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 the gym shower scene in “Saturn in Retrograde”:

While Joshua’s own eyes were closed, his face tilted up into the shower spray, Patrick took in the young man’s naked body and marveled at it. If Joshua had reminded him of a Roman senator when they first met in the lab… naked, he was a Roman god.

Too late, Patrick realized that Joshua had opened his eyes and was watching Patrick’s eyes drinking him in. Patrick glanced quickly away, embarrassed, but Joshua said softly, “It’s cool.”

“What’s cool?”

“I mean… you can look.”

Q: What are you doing now, what do plan to write next?
A: While I’ve picked up the cyberpunk story again, the one I’m really caught up in is a psychological drama about a psychologist who’s fallen for a man with repressed memories of child sexual abuse. I’m excited about it, because it gets very dark, but unlike my novel about teen suicide (“By That Sin Fell the Angels”), this one also has a romance at the core of it. The working title is “Billy’s Bones,” but I’m planning on changing that.

An Excerpt from By that Sin Fell the Angels

JONAH woke to the sound of his mother screaming. He jumped out of bed, grabbed his robe, and nearly collided with his mother’s twenty-six-year-old boyfriend in the narrow hall outside his bedroom door.

“Christ!” Bill snarled, though Jonah couldn’t tell if it was aimed at him or at his mother. The man rubbed his eyes, growling like a bear awoken from hibernation. “What the fuck is all the racket about?”

Bill was naked, though apparently too groggy to care. He staggered down the hall ahead of Jonah and stopped at the entrance to the kitchen. The boy had to stretch his six-foot-two frame to see over the man’s freckled shoulder.

Shirley Riverside was standing against the wall near the fridge, her gaze fixed on the floor, her mouth trying to say something. But no sound was coming out. Jonah had never seen her looking so frightened.

Pressing up against Bill’s back (but not too close) he was able to see that his mother had walked through a puddle of something in the early morning half-light. Her bare feet had left a trail of dark prints on the worn linoleum. Her hand was still on the light switch beside her, the one she’d turned on to see what she’d stepped in.

It was blood.

Somehow a large puddle had formed in the center of the floor. Jonah saw something small drop into the pool, causing ripples to spread on its surface. The boy looked up and saw that the blood was seeping through the suspended ceiling, spreading along the seams between the tiles and collecting at the corners to drip down.

“Jesus H. Christ,” Bill muttered, and it was an indication of how frightened Shirley was that she didn’t rip him a new one for taking the Lord’s name in vain. Never mind running around bare-assed in front of her son. “Call 9-1-1,” Bill ordered. Then, when she didn’t appear to hear him, he added impatiently, “Can you do that?”

Shirley was staring at her bare feet now, as if she wanted nothing more than to get the blood off them, but she nodded mutely.

Jonah had to flatten himself against the wall to let Bill get past him. The man turned on his way to the bedroom and pointed at the boy. “You’re going upstairs with me to check it out, soon as I get some pants on.”

Jonah didn’t see any reason to argue. “Okay.”

He was disgusted with himself for letting his eyes linger on Bill’s tight ass as the man turned to enter the bedroom. Jesus, forgive me for lusting after my Mom’s boyfriend. But Bill wasn’t all that much older than Jonah, and hours of putting up sheetrock had made the man lean and muscular.

A few moments later, Shirley was sobbing into the phone as she tried desperately to wipe the soles of her bare feet with a wet paper towel. Her hand was covered in blood.

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Jana Denardo: *The Darkest Midnight in December* and 50 sizzling words

Click the cover image for the buy link at the Dreamspinner Store.
The year is 1930, and something is hunting infants and young couples in Economy Village, PA. When a local priest begins to suspect a demon may be the culprit, the sheriff calls in a team of Soldiers from the Sun.

Caleb, Agni, Temple, and Li specialize in demon hunting, but they can’t rule out an old religious sect as the true culprit. Prejudice, distraught parents, and angry townspeople don’t make the team’s job any easier. And if something goes wrong, they’re on their own, because by the time their backup arrives, it will be too late.

Jana Denardo’s career choices and wanderlust take her all over the United States and beyond. Much of her travels make their way into her stories. Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Mystery have been her favorite genres since she started reading, and they often flavor her erotic works. In her secret identity, she works with the science of life and calls on her medical degree often in her stories. When she’s not chained to her computer writing, she functions as stray cat magnet. She’s also learning that the road to enlightenment is filled with boulders she keeps falling over and that the words gardening and Zen don’t go together no matter what anyone says.

My web presence:
http://jana-denardo.livejournal.com/
http://twitter.com/#/JanaDenardo

The Interview

Q: How important are character names, to you, and how do you go about naming them? What about titles?
A: You started out with a toughie. For me, the process of naming a character is very difficult. I often take days, if not weeks, to find the right name, sometimes even going so far as to put in a generic name to switch out later, once I know more about the character. I also try to find one that fits ethnically, if that’s important to that character.

Titles are even harder. I’m a little ashamed to say that, sometimes, there is much whining and begging for help in that department on my blog. (Bet my first readers will say it’s more than sometimes).

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: Pittsburgh and Ambridge, or at least the Old Economy part of the latter, was the locale of my most recent novella, The Darkest Midnight in December. It’s also set in the 1930’s. It was compelling for the story to have Old Economy, as its history played into the demon-hunting aspects of the story. It made a good counterpoint to the demons, as the founders of the village were a celibate Christian sect.

I don’t choose the setting the same way every time. Sometimes, especially if the setting plays a role in the story, it has to be a very carefully considered locale. Sometimes, it’s a place I just vacationed in, like with “Haunted” in Dreamspinner’s Two Tickets to Paradise anthology, or is a place I’ve lived in. I was born and raised in the Pittsburgh area, so I knew something about the area I was writing about for The Darkest Midnight in December. Also, I look at the characters’ jobs, and set my stories somewhere appropriate to that in some cases, like the holiday story I just finished, where a mountainous area was needed.

Q: How much power do you give your characters in steering the story line?
A: I give them most of the power. I’m in Stephen King’s “Let it Spin” camp, so I follow where the characters lead me. Of course, I have ideas where a story will start and end, but the rest is from the characters as they come to life.

Q: What is the most satisfying element for you in writing gay relationships, and why?
A: I’ve never really thought about it. I write all kinds of characters of various orientations. I started emphasizing gay relationships about fifteen years ago, when various writing instructors, writers groups and first readers told me that I couldn’t write gay characters and be taken seriously along with a whole host of other narrow-minded crap. I said, ‘Watch me.’ I’m ornery that way. I won’t say that’s satisfying except in the most cynical of ways, but it really is one of the reasons I started writing in this field. I hate seeing people marginalized. I think if I had to pick one thing that satisfied me most, it is the opportunity to show love is love.

Q: Are readers involved in making your fiction—do they suggest stories or say what they’d like to read?
A: So far, not so much and I’ve tried to engage them in this sort of thing on my blog. In my non-pro stuff, yes, they do. I, at least, try to get ideas from my first readers and friends on my blog. It’s been surprisingly unsuccessful. I could only wish it was like the fanfiction side of life, where people offer me all sorts of ideas.

Q: Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.
A: For me, that would be the moment when they tell me they were up all night or late to work so they could finish the story. Or maybe when they didn’t quite want to finish the end because they didn’t want to say goodbye. If I can give them a story that touches them and they, in turn, want to tell others about the book, I think the ideal relationship has been reached.

Q: What do you find useful about reviews?
A: I know a lot of people don’t care for reviews, especially reader based ones like Amazon and Goodreads (and I’ve seen those sites light up like New Year’s Eve when someone feels their review has been ignored or disputed). Even with those sites, I can often find something worthwhile in a review, be it good or bad. All reviews, regardless of source, should reflect something of my writing that I need to know. Sometimes, it’s a weakness, and even if it hurts to hear it, there have been many cases where I have to agree about the weakness and hope to do better next time. Of course, if it’s a positive review, that’s enough to make me grin all day. That said, probably very quickly there will be a time where I do not even look at them for my own peace of mind. The reviews are more for the reader than they really are for me.

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: This is always a ridiculously hard question to answer. Probably I’d have to give the edge to Arrigo, one of my Las Vegas vampires (see Crisis of Faith with Dreamspinner Press). He’s certainly been taking up real estate in my head the longest (I started writing him in the early 1990’s). Arrigo has the coloring I love, that dark olive skin, long, black hair and chocolate eyes. He’s been alive for nearly two thousand years, so to say he’s experienced in lovemaking is probably a wee bit of an understatement.

Q: What are the fifty hottest words (approximate the word count) you’ve ever written, in your opinion. (Be sure to include citation).
A: Another really tough one. This is from “Snowbound” in the Dreamspinner anthology, Necking. (The same characters are in the prequel The Darkest Midnight in December.)

Taking hold of Temple’s hips, Agni complied, pounding into
Temple, raw and unbridled. Caleb felt the transmitted force. It took
Temple a few moments to get the fast rhythm but he matched it, diving
into Caleb deep. Temple’s breath rasped in Caleb’s ear. Caught in the
middle, the redhead’s moans dissolved into a symphony of inarticulate
cries until one final sharp one as he emptied into Caleb.

Q: What are you doing now, what do plan to write next?
A: I’m going to be doing Nanowrimo in November, and I do erotica every other year, so I’m currently trying to figure out what to write. Another story with my 1930’s demon hunter series? A modern day demon hunter story also set in Pittsburgh? A traditional fantasy story?

I’m also working on finishing a novel length story for my Las Vegas vampires and I’m within 10K of finishing an urban fantasy novel featuring an injured Iraqi vet and that story has become very special to me. I did my residency in VA hospitals and had wanted to go into service myself. Veterans, their service and sacrifice, mean a lot to me, so the characters in this story do as well.

Excerpt from The Darkest Midnight in December

“How many babies have gone missing?” Li asked.

Caleb tapped the briefcase holding a stack of files given to him by General Taglioferro before they left their headquarters in Pittsburgh. “Three and several couples. The local priests and police think it’s all the work of demons.”

“I was too busy packing.” Temple patted the box that held his Tommy gun and ammunition. “I didn’t get a chance to check out what the Order already knows about what’s going on here.”

“Once again, Li, your partner was napping.” Agni leveled a look at Temple who wrinkled his nose.

“We’ll bring him up to date once we get there.” Li pulled his coat tighter as the truck taking them from train station to hotel lurched down the road. “I just want to know why we have to ride in the bed with the luggage.”

“We all wouldn’t have fit.” Caleb shrugged. “And the driver they sent didn’t want any demon hunters in the cab with him, like we’ll infect him with our ability to see the demons or something.”

“Idiot. Who does he think is going to save this dumb town?” Temple grumbled.

“I also think he wasn’t too keen on our partners.” Caleb glanced over at his Hindu partner. Agni’s dark skin peeked out from where he had a scarf wound around his hooded head.

Temple snorted. “Big surprise. One of Father’s biggest complaints about me joining the Soldiers of the Sun and not the Knights Templar was that we welcomed all faiths, all cultures. I thought he’d go apoplectic when he found out I have a Chinese partner,” he said. The wind nearly whipped away his whispered, “too bad he didn’t just die from it.”

The four demon hunters hunkered down, trying to keep out of the wind as the truck wound its way through Ambridge, Pennsylvania. The store fronts winked by with promises of Christmas treasures on offer. The holiday was only a few days away. None of them, Temple in particular, had wanted to leave home before Christmas. There was no guarantee they wouldn’t be spending the holiday holed up in their hotel, nursing demon-inflicted wounds.

The brick hotel looked hospitable enough, and the truck owner was quick to help them off his truck and inside, away from him. It wasn’t an entirely new reaction. As Soldiers of the Sun, they had long since gotten used to people being wary of them. The hotel staff shunted them upstairs just as swiftly to adjoining rooms. Temple scowled at the metal bed frame of his twin bed in the room he shared with Li.

“This bed better be movable,” he grumbled.

“If you keep me awake, that adjoining door will be a pathway to your doom,” Agni warned grimly.

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JL O’Faolain’s new release: *Push Comes to Shove* (and he just says the darndest things)

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

Super-powered superhero Push and his human partner, Scratch, have been best friends and roommates for years. Push is the gay posterchild for the Real-Life Superhero Association. Unfortunately, Scratch is straight, which makes Push’s suppressed feelings for him problematic—but not as problematic as their next assignment.

Push and Scratch’s job: rehabilitating Wrath, a recently released supervillain, complete with super powers of his own. It’s not easy to trust someone who used to be on the other side, and Wrath’s presence creates just the wrong kind of friction.

When a bank-robbing practical joker throws a wrench in their plans and leads them on a wild chase across the southern United States, Push, Scratch, and Wrath have to leave their baggage behind and work together. But there are more secrets and danger awaiting them, and super powers may not be enough.

J.L. O’Faolain was born the youngest, with four older sisters, in the backwoods of the Deep South. Those that have braved getting to know him have attributed this to being the root of his growing insanity. A teased bibliophile in his youth, O’Faolain spent his years prior to getting published as a cook, laundry man, delivery boy, grease monkey, and retail stocker. He has a plethora of skills and abilities, none of which would work well on a job application. In his spare time, O’Faolain enjoys weightlifting, philosophy, deconstruction, reading, writing, porn, and the Internet in general. Aside from becoming a successfully published author, he would very much like to pilot a giant robot while Two-Mix’s “Rhythm Emotion” is playing in the background. Either that, or travel the world in a dirigible. In short, the general consensus by all, including himself, is that he is a mighty strange fellow.

Website:
www.manicexpression.webs.com

The Interview

Q: How important are character names, to you, and how do you go about naming them? What about titles?
A: The titles of my books tend to run along a theme, or have some sort of pun to them. As for the names, they can range from significant to apathetic, depending on my mood and the story’s theme. I do like the idea of a pale sidhe with the name Cole, though.

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 Section Thirteen files are set in Manhattan, a place that I, believe it or not, have never seen outside of pictures and videos. In October of 2012, though, the first of a new, shorter series will be released, the title of which is Push Comes to Shove. This is set primarily in a small fictional Arkansas town. I liked the idea of a story about superheroes. I love comics, and the idea of a superhero team operating in a small Southern town, where they have to contend with small-town mentality, appeals to me.

Q: How much power do you give your characters in steering the story line?
A: I’ve learned the hard way not to argue with my characters much. If they want something, there’s nothing I can do to stop them. Watching them endure the consequences of their actions is the fun part. I’m a bit of a sadist that way.

Q: What is the most satisfying element for you in writing gay relationships, and why?
A: I knew from a young age that I wasn’t totally straight, though ‘gay’ didn’t quite fit. After I got into college, I found out about bisexuality, and more of what it meant. Because of where I grew up, and the sort of family I had, it wasn’t something I could be open about or explore. When I finally got away, this was the first thing I began looking into. Writing gay and bi relationships lets me explore things from a fictional standpoint that I missed out on.

That, and I enjoy writing porn.

Q: Are readers involved in making your fiction—do they suggest stories or say what they’d like to read?
A: I take things into account, but stories flow on their own, like streams. You can drop stones in them and see what happens, but they’ll keep on churning. Sometimes, a suggestion will stick in my head, and come out in some way.

Q: Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.
A: An ideal relationship between an author and said readers is probably best compared to a dysfunctional family unit, except the screaming takes place over the internet rather than via phone calls and Thanksgiving dinners.

Q: What do you find useful about reviews?
A: Believe it or not, I enjoy reading negative criticism. Its always fun when someone enjoys my work. That’s a thrill to hear about, but knowing other people hated it has its merits. Media that no one criticizes tends to fade quickly. Fame, as they say, is fleeting, but infamy sticks like glue.

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: Cole is definitely one, but we may be looking at a contender this fall. I think it falls to whether fans prefer sidhe nobles to long-haired pyrokinetics from the Big Easy that have tragic back stories.

Q: What are the fifty hottest words (approximate the word count) you’ve ever written, in your opinion. (Be sure to include citation).
A: Hmm, I think you must enjoy making this difficult for me. (Lou’s note: Yes I do, absolutely!)

“I love you,” Shinichi gasped, once the hair on his boyfriend’s hair and chest was spotted with cum. “Gods, I love you so much I think it might kill me sometime.”

“You need someone to take care of you,” Allen said matter-of-factly.
“I need you,” Shinichi countered, snuggling up next to him. “You’re my hero, remember?”

Allen laughed and placed a kiss on Shinichi’s forehead. “Even heroes need someone to save them every now and then.”

Push Comes to Shove

Q: What are you doing now, what do plan to write next?
A: I’m working on the next Section Thirteen book, as well as one or two other things. Those are surprises for later.

I recently had a book released by No Boundaries Press called Blue Ninja, which is available here at the No Boundaries Press online store. Click the cover image to link to the store.

Excerpt from Push Comes to Shove

“Just like that!” the photographer called out excitedly. “Turn towards the camera a bit. Make sure your face is in the light.”

Nervous, Push did as the photographer asked while beads of sweat popped out of his forehead underneath the dusty cap of brown hair. He had never been comfortable on camera, and had to remind himself continuously that this was for a good cause while the man behind the camera clicked away. The front of his costume had been raised up slightly to expose the rock-hard abs underneath. Not that the spandex did much to conceal them. His blue uniform conformed to the contours of his body so tightly that he might as well have been wearing nothing at all.

But, he wasn’t going to argue with a professional about what looked good on a calender.

“Excellent! Now, lower your chin a bit.”

Push did as he was told. “Raise the shirt up a little bit more,” said the photographer, giving signals with his hands. “Now, Push. Give us that smile we wanna see!”

Impishly, he squinted his eyes slightly and grinned, raising the corner of his mouth into a smirk just as the flash went off. Spots swam in front of his face, but he held the pose. Next, the man wanted him to pull the front of the shirt up over his shoulders. The fabric was a new type of spandex with memory cloth woven into it, so it held up very well, both during fights and for when photo shoots demanded he look sexy.

Push felt ridiculous.

Over and over, he turned, flexed, and posed however the photographer demanded. At five feet and six inches, Push wasn’t the epitome of manly sexiness that the camera guy insisted he was. True, he kept his body in tight shape, but it couldn’t compensate for how small he looked in comparison to the average guy on the street. Adding to this, the studio was very cold. Goosebumps kept popping out over his arms and legs, a testament to the fact.

Down to his underwear, the photographer started insisting he remove the goggles. Fortunately, before he could explain, Annette came to his rescue.

“The goggles stay on,” the RLSA personal assistant said firmly. “They’re a part of his identity.”

The photographer started to object, but Annette had his contract with the studio in her hand between blinks. “It’s stated right here,” she reminded the willowy camera man. “The goggles remain on at all times.”

Annette looked over at him, then. “And in any case, I think we’re about done for today. Push has a meeting to get to, and there’s no way we can publish the underwear photos in the calender. The council was adamant that we keep things PG-rated.”

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