Tag Archives: Cat’s Quill

Ford, Noble, Barwell, Klune, Sylvre get together for a cluster… interview

We five authors had a lot of fun doing this, and we hope you’ll enjoy the results. Each of us came up with a question for the interview, and all of us answered every question. So let the games begin!

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As both a writer and a reader, what ingredients do you consider indispensable for a romance novel?

Anne:Interesting three dimensional characters and a ‘real’ relationship or building of one between them. I want to be able to care about the characters, even if it takes me a while to grow to like them. There also needs to be some conflict they need to work through whether it’s their history, a situation outside of their relationship or whatnot so that their HEA or HEA feels as though it’s deserved and worked for.

Lou:
Attraction
A common enemy or opposing force
Conflict between the parties to the romance
Resolution of that conflict
United victory over the external opposition
A final consummation or sealing of the new love.

Elizabeth: A solid plot and a good story with characters I have some sort of emotional reaction to, even if that means the character is a jerk.

I’m a huge fan of the happy ending, in some manner, and I’m not a fan of the tragedy. I read because I want to feel good, so the characters and the plot need to come to some logical end that is at least nice. I don’t mean they have to be ooey-gooey, just not in tears and emotionally wrecked at the end.

No matter the setting and world the characters must be believable and solid in their development and the development and progress of their relationship. I particularly need characters who can communicate and have a sense of humor.

T.J.: Believable characters. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been pulled out of a story when a character suddenly just does something that makes me go WTF!?!? It’s a bummer when that happens because it can definitely effect how I read and view the rest of the story. When I write, I have a long thought process for most scenes, where I will sit back when it’s finished and think “Okay, would (fill in the blank) REALLY do/say what whatever they just did/said?”

Rhys: A romance? Whoosh. Um. Keep track of the dead bodies. Never ever write about a ferret. And most importantly, I would say a sense of realism. I love happy ever afters as much as the rest but there’s something satisfying about seeing a relationship build over a series of books. And hot sex. Okay, that just helps.

Plot or character, which comes first?

Anne: A bit of both, depending on what I’m working on. I work a lot on what-ifs either with specific characters in mind or those characters show up and become a part of whatever happens or is going to happen. Once I have the basic plot, how the rest of the story develops is very much down to the characters and where they want it to go, often leading in directions I hadn’t thought of or where I hadn’t planned to go.

Lou: For me, character almost always come first. The characters demand my attention until I make them a story, but then they change the story as we go along until, in the end, it rarely resembles the story we started with.

Elizabeth: Ah, the old chicken or egg question…LOL For me it’s the plot and generally not even the entire plot. I’ll often come up with an entire plot idea based on some small scene or even a line in a scene or dialog. I’ll often imagine a character physically along with that little kernel of a plot idea, but I’ll develop the characters to suit the story.

T.J.: Characters, all the way. I have weirdness going on in my head where my characters “talk” to me and are born as such. Plot follows, but it’s usually only after I’ve already thought up how character will look/sound/act. But obviously, there have been moments where a set piece has come into my head and I love to find out how my characters will fall into it.

Rhys: I’d say the main characters. Mainly I write series so I need characters that can hold up over a few books. If they aren’t complex enough, then the plot of the book falls apart. For me, there are two sets of plots; the book’s plot which will be resolved at the end and the arc plot which should span over the series. There could be smaller sub-plots accompanying the main arc plot but they must supplement the overall story, not overwhelm the characters.

How do you name your characters, or do they already show up with their own names or ‘correct’ the names you’ve chosen?

Anne: Some characters turn up already named, others I have to hunt for. One of my favourite websites is ‘behind the name’ as it gives the meanings of the names and their origins which I like to keep in mind when I am naming characters. Others though, as I’ve said, just turn up with all of that in place and don’t care about what their names mean. I’ve also named characters, started writing and been told, in no uncertain terms, that no my name isn’t this, it’s this. I don’t tend to argue with them on that.

Lou: Naming my characters is almost a ritual with me. I struggle (though I enjoy it) to find a name that is right — representing ethnic origin and character traits, having the right sound, and interacting with other character names the right way. My first resource is a baby name book that I’ve had for years, but sometimes I use other sources, too. In the process, I almost always learn more about my character (by knowing what does and doesn’t fit), or at the very least solidify the character in my mind. Sometimes, a lesser character comes with a name: Margie, Jim Ladd, and (believe it or not) Mack Money. For the dog in Delsyn’s Blues, a reader named him in a contest. That was fun.

Elizabeth: I don’t have any specific ritual I go through to name characters and often the names just pop into my head. If I have the wrong name I know it and keep searching until the correct one shows up. Sometimes I use online name sites if I want a certain meaning or nationality.

Another trick I’ll do is go through the data base of names of at work and pick a first and last name that appeals to me. I’ll sometimes read movie or TV show credits for names. I keep a list of names to peruse when I’m naming characters.

T.J.: As a writer who has somewhat…different names of characters, I’ve been asked how I get the names that I do. (I anticipate that won’t change when This Is How We Burn The World comes out and people get to meet Seven, and the Clock Twins, Tick and Tock.) They generally show up in my head already named, but sometimes some tweaking is in order. For some reason, I’m drawn to “A” names for secondary characters and I have yet to figure out why.

Rhys: I usually “taste” a character’s name. It’s rare that I change something once I start writing. It has to fit the person before I start. I know the character. Then I name him or her.

Lion and Unicorn battling over the Crown

What is a “classic tale (fairy or otherwise)” that you’d like to retell. And how?

Anne: St George and the Dragon. I’d rework the story a bit though so that the so called dragon slayer really isn’t one and the dragon is a shifter and so naturally there’s a HFN in there for both of them. After all fairy stories and the like are only based on the truth and the actual story behind it can be quite different. *sigh* I’m going to have to write this one now at some point. Thanks, Rhys 😛

Lou: I don’t have anything specific, but I really love TH White’s The Once and Future King. Let’s face it, it’s chock full of little tales that could be—should be—gay.

Also, on a completely different note, there is a beautiful Iroquois tale that has at least a couple of versions for each of the nations about a young man who falls in love with a salmon wife. He sees that beneath the lake is a mirror-image world (and here we all thought it was reflection), and he goes to live with her there. No, he doesn’t drown! Why would you think that? ;-)Anyway, I think it would be very fine if the mirror-world lovers were both fine young men.

Elizabeth: The Three Musketeers. Well, I think instead of bromance there’d be more actual romance between the Musketeers. It sort of screams for it. I’m not sure who I’d pair with whom yet, but, yeah, that would be cool. My second choice would be the Atlantis legends.

T.J.: Sleepy Hollow, hands down. The original scared the crap out of me when I was a child and I recently read an M/M take on it that I though could have been so much more than it was. I’ve stewed on the idea for quite some time, even having gone as far to write a general outline, but I’ve stopped time and time again, just because I don’t think it’d be right to mess with what is obviously a classic.

Rhys: Damn it, I came up with this question and I don’t have an answer. What a fricking fail! Um… I would say a more current tale that I would love to re-tell is The Treasure is the Rose by Julia Cunningham. Fantastic book. Perhaps the Wizard of Oz. Less… psychotropic drugs but still, that would be fun. I would love to take a stab (no pun intended) at the Ninja Circus, an old Japanese drama about a group of assassins traveling from town to town as an entertaining troupe.

Is there a particular genre or sub-genre that you’ve always wanted to write in but have not done so yet? What would it be?

Anne: Gothic. I’d love to write a ghost story, but give it a bit of a twist and throw some romance into the mix.

Lou: Space opera!

Elizabeth: Space opera! I’ll have to second that.

T.J: Horror. Man, would I give my left arm to be able to write in horror. I’ve read every Stephen King book countless times and I always wished I could write a good horror story. I think that horror can definitely be effective in the long story/novella format i.e. Edgar Allen Poe, and I still hope to one day sit down and write something that’ll scare the bejesus out of everyone, myself included.

Rhys: Wow, I have no answer for this one either. I’ve written in a lot of genres. I would say I’d love to Regency romance (in the style of Loretta Chase). So much discipline and knowledge needed for those. And the language shifts. Totally daunting. And of course, as a male-male romance.

Anne Barwell is the author of Cat’s Quill, Tj Klune is the author of Bear, Otter, and the Kid, Rhys Ford is the author of Dirty Kiss, Elizabeth Noble penned Marked Yours, Together Bound, and Strays, and I wrote Loving Luki Vasquez.

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4 Author Chat Oct 8th at Love Romances Cafe—You’re invited

On October 8th, we’re going to be chatting at Love Romances Cafe. Hours are noon-6 eastern (9-3 Pacific). We hope you’ll join us.

Participating authors:

Elizabeth Noble author of Marked Yours and Strays

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Tj Klune author of Bear, Otter, and The Kid

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Anne Barwellauthor of Cat’s Quill

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Lou Sylvre author of Loving Luki Vasquez

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As you see, quite a variety of styles and themes. We’ll be chatting about what’s out, what’s soon to be out, what we’re working on, but also about whatever you’d like know.

We’ll be having contests, posting excerpts, and blurbs, and who knows what else. I really, really hope you’ll come and chat with us!

Oh, yeah, one more thing. Here’s the link to Love Romances Cafe, and you have to join to chat. Of course you can unjoin later if you want, but they have some great promos there, from time to time.

Leave a comment here if you have any questions.

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Anne Barwell’s *Cat’s Quill* (Dreamspinner Press)

Scroll down this page for an interview with the author and two excerpts.

Cat's Quill Cover

Tomas Kemp has two successful novels to his name and the true belief that a successful sequel is only a matter of a little inspiration. When Tomas meets a mysterious stranger under the branches of an old oak tree, he feels compelled to tell him about a book he holds dear and the sequel he wants to read. But Cathal doesn’t share that deep belief that the sequel Tomas seeks ends happily. Cathal has seen enough of a world where stories are real to know that happy ever after is sometimes the dream that won’t come true.

But stories have never let Tomas down, and as he follows Cathal across the reality shift between their worlds, he learns that Cathal is right: Happy ever after is never just given—but sometimes, it can be fought for and won.

Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand, sharing her home with her twin daughters, at least during the holidays, when one of them isn’t away at university. Her son has left home and started his own family, although she claims she is too young to be a grandmother already. Her three cats are convinced that the house is run to suit them; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date it appears as though the cats may be winning.

In 2008 she completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching and has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and a librarian. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction club and plays piano for her local church and violin for a local orchestra.

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

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Anne Barwell—the author interview

Q: Anne, after reading through your bio, I had to stand back and shake my head to clear it. What a fascinating and dizzying lot of experiences and interests! Can you talk a little about your interest in music? Does that influence your writing—and in particular did it influence Cat’s Quill?
A: I’ve loved music for as long as I remember. I started out learning piano and then violin a bit later so have been playing both for nearly 40 years now. Although I have played piano as part of a group – both for church and rehearsal pianist for music theatre and gang show – it’s more or a solitary instrument where the violin I enjoy playing as part of a group or orchestra. I tend to listen to music while I write and certain pieces I associate with different characters and relationships. Other pieces breed plot bunnies. I blame Iris by the Goo Goo Dolls for Cat’s Quill. It’s not just the feel of the song, but the words – “I’d give up forever to touch you – I just want to know who I am.” At first I thought it was about Cathal who has to hide who he really is from Tomas but then the more I wrote I realized it really was about both of them, with Tomas trying to come to terms that he’s gay and falling in love with Cathal. When I was writing Cat’s Quill, I was reading about Maori music instruments for a music paper and was fascinated by them and the legends behind them. The flute that Tomas finds by the old oak is in part based on that.

Q: I found myself fascinated by the main characters in Cat’s Quill, and I’m always interested to know how authors populate their stories. Did you have the story in mind and create the characters to fill their roles? Did the characters come to life first and help invent the story? Perhaps you’d just share a little about how these two very different men made their way onto the page.
A: Cat’s Quill started life as a fanfic. It was originally going to be a three chapter story I was going to write during uni break but a few pages in it became very obvious that there was much more to this story than I’d originally intended and that these characters had taken on lives of their own. They also had their own very specific ideas on what was going to happen. I remember arguing with Tomas and telling him that no, he couldn’t follow Cathal into his world – you can see who won that one. I usually write stories with a variety of POVs, but Tomas wanted to tell this one entirely, so the reader doesn’t find out what exactly is going on until he does. Tomas also had a few quirks I hadn’t expected and had more insecurities etc, although he grows as a character quite a bit as the story progresses. Cathal is the first person he’s trusted for a very long time. They fit together and balance each other out although as Christian points out, they’re both pigheaded and stubborn. This story also introduced other characters who were only supposed to have a cameo and now are major characters and in for the duration of the series – Mikey and Will for example, and Christian…he didn’t figure in at all in the original idea.

Q: Cat’s Quill, as the blurb says, shifts between two worlds—clearly fantasy. Is Cathal’s world Faerie, or some similar place, or is it wholly your creation? Are there specific authors or books that influenced you or spurred you to write fantasy fiction?
A: Keats’s poem La belle dame sans merci was a big inspiration for Cat’s Quill. Originally Tomas was going to be sitting under the tree reading it when he meets Cathal, with echoes of the poem in there, but instead Cathal decided to be a big fan of the poetry of the romantic era. I was doing an English Literature paper on the romantic poets at the time and a Music paper on the romantic era so that gave me a lot of knowledge (and inspiration) to draw on too. I’d loved Keats’s poetry even before that though. I’ve always read a lot of science fiction and fantasy, more science fiction to start with, but more fantasy now, mainly because there is more of it about I suspect. I love the idea of alternative worlds where things are different from here; throw in a scenario of a fish out of water and a bit of what appears to be time travel and I’m hooked. So to answer your question, Cathal’s world is a mix of Faerie and medieval fantasy/history and partly my creation.

Authors and books that have stayed with me and inspired me to write include Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising series, Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time series and Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series.

Q: Obviously, romance is a very strong factor in Cat’s Quill. Would you talk a bit about the idea that a romance might exist between an author and his muse?
A: I like my happy endings, but I also believe that the characters need to do some work in order to achieve it. Anything worthwhile is worth fighting for. I think that muses come in all shapes and forms, and that it’s whatever inspires you to write. In Tomas’s case, he’s lost his way a bit because he’s fighting himself rather than not being true to himself, which is why he has writer’s block. The annoying little voice in his head is part muse, part conscience and partly his struggle between who he really is and the façade of disinterest bordering on rudeness that he hides behind. The attraction between Tomas and Cathal isn’t just physical, it’s two people recognizing, partly subconsciously something they’re missing and need in the other and reaching out for that; it’s a connection on an emotional level. At the point of their story where I am now – just having begun to write the sequel – Cathal is Tomas’s inspiration to write. He’s in a better place, their relationship and the knowledge that he is loved and can love has made Tomas realize his own value, and in being able to be true to himself, he can now reach inside and tell the stories he wants to tell rather than the ones he feels he should. So in that way Cathal is Tomas’s muse and there’s very much a romance between them.

Q: I just have to mention this. In creating Cat’s Quill, you put yourself in the role of a writer writing about a writer writing about a writer. Confusing? Easy? In this case, how similar are the stories—the one you wrote in Cat’s Quill, the one Tomas is writing, and the one Tomas’s character is writing? How does that relate to the magical aspect of the fantasy?
A: I found my original notes for Cat’s Quill a few months ago – the working title for it was Forever. It was an idea that came to me at 2 in the morning and I had to get up and write it down. The first two paragraphs of the three handwritten pages are similar to what happens in Cat’s Quill but beyond that it’s very different. I’ve since come to the conclusion that that version of the story is the one that Tomas is writing – Mark and Deimos’s story. That story is very much more fantasy than Cat’s Quill ended up being in that Deimos ends up giving up his immortality to be with Mark, the man he loves. Cathal’s situation is a little different and not so easily resolved, although there were echoes of one story in the other, and still the fantasy element in Cathal and Tomas’s story although not in the way Tomas was expecting. I enjoyed writing about a writer, and especially the issues that Tomas has with his muse; it’s something I could relate to as mine can be demanding and loud when it suits them to be, and it was a chance to explore that without coming across as totally crazy 😛 Tomas needs to finish writing his story in the sequel. I have the last scene in my head for it, with him in a bookshop signing copies of his new book and Cathal standing a short distance away, leaning against the wall, watching him. I’m not sure about what Mark is writing, exactly, but I’m sure if I need to know I’ll find out in time or as Tomas works on his book. Or maybe he’ll just keep that one to himself.

Q: I love the cover—the misty look, the tree, and of course the cat. Who is the artist? Do you feel the cover does a good job of conveying the atmosphere of the story? Tell us about the way the two characters are posed around the tree. Hanging on and pulling away at the same time?
A: Anne Cain did the artwork for Cat’s Quill. I think she captured the feel of it perfectly. I was blown away by how much input I had towards the cover. The art department at Dreamspinner Press asked me what my ideal cover would look like and Anne’s cover was exactly it except for the fact that she added them holding hands which was just perfect. The oak is the portal between their worlds, and the constant in each. Both Cathal and Tomas don’t ‘fit’ the expectations they or others have put on them; they’re searching for something or someone and in finding each other, find themselves. They can’t just belong to one world or the other; there are ties to each which will constantly draw them back. But I’m getting ahead of myself and the rest of their story which hasn’t been written yet. Oops.

Q: Will Tomas and Cathal be back? Spin-offs? What do you have coming up for your readers?
A: I’ve just finished writing a m/m historical drama called Shadowboxing which is set in Berlin in 1943 so am planning to submit it shortly. It’s also the first of a trilogy (I seem to write those for some reason), and I have learnt a lot more about the time period and WW2 than I ever intended. I’ve done a lot of research for this one as I want the historical detail to be as right as I can get it although of course not at the expense of telling the story. Here’s the blurb for it:
Berlin, 1943. An encounter with an old friend leaves Dr. Kristopher Lehrer, a German physicist, with doubts about the project on which he is working. After a confrontation with his superior goes horribly wrong, Kristopher and Michel, a member of the Resistance, find themselves on the run and hunted for treason, and a murder they did not commit. The Gestapo and the Allies both want the knowledge and plans that Kristopher possess as these have the potential to build a weapon that could be used to win the war.

Michel contacts the Allied team, hoping that they can work together but it is not long before the so called simple mission becomes anything but. With both men realising that they can no longer ignore their growing feelings for each other, they must fight not just for a chance of a future together but their very survival.

Now that Shadowboxing is almost ready to go, I’ve started writing the sequel to Cat’s Quill which is called Magic’s Muse. This one is from Cathal’s POV so as well as moving the story forward it will also fill in a few of the gaps from the first book as the reader only knew as much as Tomas did at the time. Magic’s Muse is set in Tomas’s world, but the third book (it’s a trilogy, unless the muses decide they want more) will be mainly set in Cathal’s world. It’s called Dragon’s Price.

I have several other projects in the pipeline I want to write, one of which is a gothic/SF/time travel/psi powers story set in Wellington, called A Wind of Roses. This one, I suspect, will be the first part of an ongoing series which I am quite excited about. I just need more hours in the day!

Thanks Anne, for sharing your time and your thoughts.

Thanks, Lou, for the opportunity to do so. I’ve enjoyed answering your questions.

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An Excerpt from Anne Barwell’s Cat’s Quill

“Friendship is built on trust.” Tomas shrugged, his gaze settling on the book in his lap. His fingers brushed against the worn edges, seeking solace in something familiar. “You are asking me to trust you, but you will not do the same in return.”

“Cannot,” Cathal corrected. “It is the way things are.” He looked down, his gaze following Tomas’s to rest on the picture of the dragon that was the centerpiece, the other illustrations mere shadows bordering it. “I enjoyed the story. The main character risked everything to be true to himself, to follow the path he was meant to, not the one dictated to him.”

“Yes, he did.” That was one of the things that had drawn Tomas to the character of Christian. The setting was wonderful, dragons and knights, mythical lands to explore, but it was Christian who had haunted him, spoken to him, made it impossible for Tomas to put the book down or part with it. That and a hope that one day he might find someone or something he would feel that passionate about to fight for in that manner. “He was prepared to give up forever for the person he loved.”

“He lost her,” Cathal said quietly. “Would you give up forever if you loved someone like that, Tomas?”

“Would you?” Tomas countered.

“I have never been in love. It is not a question I can answer.” Cathal pulled up several blades of grass, arranging them in a circle on the ground in front of him. “None of us know how we will react unless we come face to face with any given situation. We can hope and guess, but we cannot be certain.”

“That sounds very cynical.” Tomas picked a daisy and placed it in the middle of the circle, pointing to it. “The flower represents the dragon on the cover of the book. He is surrounded by an unbroken circle of shadows, an eternity that can’t be changed.” Tomas removed a blade of grass, breaking the circle. Letting it rest on the palm of his hand for a moment, he took a deep breath and blew, watching it be carried away by the wind. “Now his future isn’t so certain. It only takes one blade of grass or one gust of wind, and everything is different.”

“Or merely the idea that things can be different.” Cathal smoothed over the remainder of the circle of grass, using his hand to flatten it so that it no longer existed. The flower he picked up and put in his pocket. “I’m keeping it safe,” he explained.

“Safety is an illusion.” Tomas couldn’t help but smile at the serious look on Cathal’s face. “Nothing lasts forever, only in our imaginations, and even we grow old and die. That flower will wilt now it has been picked. You’ve already squashed it by putting it in your pocket.”

“I thought I was the cynical one.” Cathal met Tomas’s smile with one of his own. “Not everything grows old and dies, Tomas. I expect in Christian’s mind, his love remains the same, his memories keeping her alive. They say if you don’t forget someone, they never truly die. I don’t think he would have forgotten her, the same way she never forgot him.”

“He might have found a way to come back to her, for them to be together.” Tomas preferred a happy ending in his fiction; reading was supposed to be a means of escape from the realities of life, rather than reinforcing the futility of it all.

“So romance is allowed in fiction but not in reality?” Cathal raised an eyebrow.

“I know the difference between the two,” Tomas said firmly. “And never the twain shall meet.” He picked up the book to put it safely in his bag. “So you don’t think there was a possibility that things might have been different after the book ended?”

“Once a book ends, the story is finished.” Cathal’s tone suggested that this was a statement that was not open for argument or discussion.

“Some books have sequels.” Tomas had never taken any notice of that tone when anyone else had used it. He wasn’t about to start now.

“The story is finished,” Cathal amended. “Some stories take longer to tell than others. Unfortunately often the true story is rushed and not told properly, and so the endings are lost. This one was finished.”

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Another Cat’s Quill Excerpt (Oooh, a sweet kiss!)

Instead of answering, Tomas dug into his bag and pulled out his writing journal. Leafing through it, he found the scene he was working on and handed the journal to Cathal. “I have the same problem with this scene,” he explained. Damn his bloody muse, who sure as hell wasn’t going to take the same excuses Tomas had made last time, especially after what he’d just admitted to Cathal. “I umm….” He swallowed, noticing how Cathal seemed to be almost devouring the words he was reading, even though it was a snippet out of context. “I’ve never been kissed by another man,” he finally said.

Cathal looked up at Tomas, his voice soft, wistful. “Neither have I.” His head lowered again quickly, his attention once more taken by the words on the page in front of him. “I really like this,” he said finally, the journal still open on his lap. “They both feel so awkward and yet it’s obvious they have some kind of feelings for each other.” He blushed, pink dusting his pale skin to spread from his cheeks down his neck and throat to disappear into the top of his loose shirt. “At least it reads like that to me.”

“They do,” Tomas said, crossing his legs at the ankle and then uncrossing them again. “I just….” How could he explain this without feeling like a complete idiot? “I don’t want to ruin it by writing something I know nothing about.” God, why had he put it like that? Maybe it wasn’t too late to just ignore this whole conversation and find a large hole to bury himself in.

“I see.” Cathal wiped his palms on his trousers and then turned the page of the journal back and forth, his eyes scanning the words again. “Maybe I could help?” he suggested. “Can you tell me what the story is about so I can get more of an idea of what this kiss should, er… involve?”

“Involve?” Tomas’s voice sounded strained to his own ears. He coughed, clearing his throat before speaking again. “Umm, it’s about a writer who meets someone he thinks might be a muse.”

“I see.” Cathal nodded slowly. “Why does he think that?” He edged closer to Tomas, the book still balanced carefully on his lap.

“He’s drawn to this person he’s not long met.” The explanation sounded somewhat weak now that Tomas had to actually explain it to someone else. “It’s like they have a connection….”

“Like Alan and Roger in your other book?” Cathal frowned. “That doesn’t explain why—” He checked the name. “—Deimos might be a muse though, but then I haven’t read enough.”

Tomas opened his mouth to explain more, how Deimos seemed to appear and disappear out of thin air, how he seemed otherworldly, how Mark kept thinking about him all the time. Cathal placed one hand on Tomas’s knee, his breath warm against Tomas’s face. “Cat? What are you doing?”

“I’m getting into character.” Cathal reached over and brushed Tomas’s hair from his face. “You’re a writer, so you need to be Mark. That leaves me the role of the muse.” His voice was barely a whisper. “This scene is too good for it to be abandoned like the other one.” His eyes dropped to the page and back again. He licked his lips, his fingers tightening on Tomas’s knee. Tomas’s breath hitched.

“Yes, it is.” He swallowed again, reaching out his own hand to caress Cathal’s cheek, echoing Mark’s actions in his book. “I don’t want you to leave,” he whispered, his words following the script, his heart speeding up.

Cathal closed his eyes as he followed Tomas’s cue, slipping into a role that could have been written for him. “I think I’m in love with you,” he murmured.

Their lips brushed together, tentatively, awkwardly. Tomas pulled away, unsure, his breathing growing ragged, Cathal’s skin warm under his fingers, soft but for the slight stubble across his lower cheek, blond facial hair almost invisible. Tomas leaned in again, his lips parting this time in invitation as he pressed their mouths together. Cathal moaned softly, opening his own lips, leaning into it, his fingers threading through Tomas’s hair.

Wet skin, soft and inviting, tasting of coffee and something else Tomas could only describe as uniquely Cathal. It felt right, better than anything Tomas could have imagined. He whimpered, pulling Cathal to him, convincing himself for that moment they weren’t playacting, that this was real, that the man in his arms was someone who loved him.

The need to breathe drove them apart. Cathal’s eyes opened with a start, searching Tomas’s. “I’m sorry,” he whispered.

“Don’t be.” Tomas traced Cathal’s lips with his fingers, committing the scene to memory, allowing himself a photograph he realized he wanted frozen in his mind forever. “I’m not.”

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