Tag Archives: Dreamspinner

Vasquez and James Road Trip Update! (with links to the strange and wonderful places they’ve been)

'68_Ford_Mustang_Coupe_(Cruisin'_At_The_Boardwalk_'10)Hello readers and fellow travelers! As many of you know, Luki Vasquez and Sonny James have been on a road trip vacation, celebrating their survival after yet another harrowing episode in Saving Sonny James, the fourth book in the suspense series. It’s been crazy fun–the boys have thus far visited across the Atlantic, the eastern seaboard, a future Yukon, the South Seas, and the lone star state. Here follows the precise links to “where they’ve been,” and the list of what’s yet to come. Please feel free to read up and join in. Most of the previous prizes have been awarded, but there will be more prizes to be had between now and the end.
SavingSonnyJames_bookmarkV_DSP

  • 10/18: Sonny James and Luki Vasquez start their trip home from France, taking the Chunnel train, at The Novel Approach. 1st prize Saving Sonny James signed paperback (or ebook if preferred) and $15 to spend at Dreamspinner Press; 2nd prize Saving Sonny James ebook
  • 10/19: Off the train at Ashford, Kent, England, heading for London, at Sinfully Sexy Book Reviews.
  • 10/20: London! Right here at this sylvre.com blog.
  • 10/21: New Hampshire (yes they will have made it back to the USA!), fittingly at the blog of New Hampshire writer, Jamie Fessenden.
  • 10/25: Uh-oh. On their way to Ohio, to visit at Elizabeth Noble’s blog, Emotion in Motion, when something crazy happens… Todd… Todd Ruger, is that you? Prizes not yet awarded!.
  • 10/28: New Zealand? How the hell do you get to New Zealand in a Mustang? Find out at Anne Barwell’s Drops of Ink.
  • 10/29: Back to the States once again–in Texas! San Antonio, the lovely, romantic Riverwalk, made (even more) famous by the sexy characters of our host, Carol Zampa!
  • 11/2: Chris T. Kat will be our host! Hmmm… what to do, what to do?
  • 11/5: Luki and Sonny will take Rhys Ford’s blog and San Diego, CA by storm. (They will… just wait and see. And I’m pretty sure a prize will be up for grabs, too.)
  • 11/8 through 11/11: Well, I’m going to Bent Con in Burbank (yeah, like Los Angeles and Hollywood, only not…) and since the Vasquez-James boys are my transpo, they’re going, too. I’ll post their odd adventures here, at sylvre.com.
  • 11/13, Recap, and a prize. Here again.

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Filed under Contests, Dreamspinner Press, Lou Sylvre, Saving Sonny James, Vasquez & James

We interrupt this HAHaT to bring you this breaking news…

Hi, I don’t really want to interrupt the Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia–see my feature post below. You can still read, comment, and possibly win, and anyway I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks to everyone who’s already done commented!

Reveiw and giveaway with the lovely Lou Sylvre

But I do want to briefly say, hey! Come see Monique Lehane’s great reviews of all three Vasquez and James Books (Finding Jackie today, 4.5 stars), and her interview of me, the culprit who penned those books. You can comment to win there, too!

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Filed under Finding Jackie, New M/M releases, Reviews, Vasquez & James

Book Sale at Dreamspinner (the best!)

Great Celebration Sale going on at Dreamspinner Press–voted the best M/M publisher in the Love Romance Cafe poll.

Of course those in-stock items include the Vasquez and James Series by yours truly, but also a lot of other great books full of every possible flavor of M/M romance. Authors like Jamie Fessenden, Andrew Grey, Sue Brown, Ruth Sims, Isabelle Rowan, Rhys Ford, Tj Klune, Eric Arvin, Anna Martin, Anne Barwell, Rick Reed, Elizabeth Noble, JL O’Faolain, and way too many to name. Get a bunch? Maybe enough to last until summer…

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Filed under authors, awards, Dreamspinner Press, M/M romance

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

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

Michael Murphy, author of *Little Squirrels Can Climb Tall Trees*, on reviews and New York and many things

Click the cover image for the buy link at Dreamspinner Press Store
Kyle Miller is a rare breed. Though born to conservative parents and raised in small-town Oklahoma, Kyle realized young that he had to escape rural America. Now he’s living in New York City, working as an ER doctor, and paying off his massive student loans. He’s never been on a plane and never seen a movie, but he is worldly enough to recognize attraction when it smacks him in the forehead. Not that he knows how he managed to crack heads with Joseph, who’s a good foot shorter than Kyle’s six and a half feet.

Joseph is Kyle’s polar opposite in other ways too, well-off where Kyle is poor, and self-assured while Kyle is insecure. He’s also determined to show Kyle what a great guy he is and bring the confidence Kyle shows in the ER out in his everyday life. But Kyle’s hectic work schedule and inexperience with relationships won’t make for an easy romance.

Michael Murphy is somewhere between eighteen and eighty-eight – the number varies from day to day depending on his mood and his energy level. He first thought about writing when he was very young, but put the idea aside in order to celebrate his fifth birthday and then forgot about it for a year or two. Periodically he toyed with the idea but each time rejected it as pure folly. It wasn’t until he was an old man of twelve that he wrote his first book. A long dry spell followed before he wrote his next book. Whenever he needs a laugh he looks at those early writings. He has written science fiction, romance, and has collaborated on one non-fiction history book. He and his partner have traveled extensively, trying to cover as much of the world as possible. When not traveling, they live in Washington, DC with their best friend, a throw-away dog they adopted many years ago. To pay the bills, Michael is Director of Information Technology for a national organization based in Washington, DC. All in all he’d rather be writing full-time but hasn’t yet figured out how to make that a viable option.

The Interview

Q: How important are character names, to you, and how do you go about naming them? What about titles?
A: When I was growing up long, long ago – in a place far, far away – everyone had basic names. We were Mark, Mike, Bill, Steve, Joe. Names have become more creative and to some degree more international today than they were when I was growing up. I give my characters names that are basic American male names – except in an upcoming story due out I early 2013 that features an extended Italian/American family. There we have a Fabrizio, Alfio, and Antonio, among others.

All of this is a roundabout way of saying that I try to envision my characters and give them a name that seems to fit how I see them. In a way I’m a bit like Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple in that I think of people I’ve known over the years who have characteristics like the characters I’m creating and try out different names on those people to see if they work. If they do, I’ve got my character name.

I also have lists of the 100 most common American male names and female names that I keep updated and on hand in case I need names and am completely blank. I find myself referring to those lists quite frequently.

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 I grew up in New York State, a lot of my stories are based there. My young adult series starts out there and then in the next book moves west to California. Many of my stories (published and forthcoming) are set in New York City, a city that holds a special place in my heart. Surprisingly, I have not yet written a story based in Washington, DC. I say surprising because I’ve lived here for thirty years now so I’m fairly familiar with the area.

Q: How much power do you give your characters in steering the story line?
A: My characters (or my Muse, or some combination of the two) are in total control. When I write I don’t outline, I don’t start with any preconceived ideas. When I sit down to write I don’t even know what I’m going to work on that day. When I look at the computer monitor, my characters start telling me their story and I start typing, often not as fast as the are telling me their story. When I write I write quickly because I’m always anxious to see what is going to happen next.

I recently told another writer about how I write and she was appalled. She outlines everything from character names, characteristics, features, to full outlines for each chapter. I sort of vaguely tried that on my most recent book. Notes were made on everything – a total of 24 pages worth. It was sort of, maybe, kind of useful, but I don’t think I’ll do it again, at least not in the way I did it there. For me, personally, sitting at the blank screen and letting the characters just tell their own story is by far the easiest approach.

Q: What is the most satisfying element for you in writing gay relationships, and why?
A: For me, as a gay man, the most satisfying element in writing about gay relationships is depicting the intense intimacy that is possible between two men. Men have been acculturated to be masculine, in-charge creatures who never show emotion or vulnerability or anything like that. A gay relationship throws all of those cultural rules out the window so I love exploring the give-and-take necessary to make a relationship of two equals work.

Q: Are readers involved in making your fiction—do they suggest stories or say what they’d like to read?
A: Sigh. This one is a tough question for me as a new writer. The answer ties in with the question and answer immediately below. I don’t know that many readers – hardly any. I would dearly like to know some and to develop relationships with readers so that they can tell me honestly what works and what doesn’t. I want to write books that people will actually read and enjoy, so I crave feedback and a relationship with readers. I’m looking forward to attending GayRomLit for the first time this month and hope to develop some of those relationships there.

Q: Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.
A: My first book did phenomenally well in terms of sales but it got mixed reviews. Some reviewers absolutely adored it and raved about it, while others attempted to verbally eviscerate me. The first negative reviews hurt – a lot. They felt like someone had just walked up to me and punched me in the gut with all of the strength that they had.

Slowly, since then I’ve come to realize that nothing will appeal to every reader. Some will like it, some will dislike it. It is impossible to please everyone. Still, I have read every negative review (many times) and have tried to learn from them. I’ve tried to see legitimate complaints and have tried to not repeat those mistakes in future writing. In a couple of cases I’ve tried to engage readers/reviewers in a discussion in an effort to better understand their concerns (absolutely not to argue). Unfortunately I’ve not had anyone follow through and give me substantive constructive criticism.

The most frustrating reviews of all has been people who wrote and left negative ratings – without ever reading the book! They gave a book a bad review and a one star rating based on what someone else had written in a review! I personally think that that is just wrong. If I rate a book I can guarantee that I have read the book. Also, I only rate books that I can give a 4 or 5 star rating to; if I don’t like a book, I don’t rate it because it could just be that my taste is different which is not a valid basis for giving someone a negative review.

So, in a very roundabout way to answer your question, I would like readers to be involved in my writing to some degree, but I have not yet found out how to make that work. I would like to find a beta reader who could be brutally honest with me and help me find holes, problems, and discrepancies, things that just don’t work. I got my spouse to help on my last book. He read it and gave me a long list of things to fix. He also hated the way I started the book, so I wrote a new beginning chapter – five times! I finally got one that he thought worked and I have to agree it makes the story stronger. That’s what I’d like to have for every book, but he is a busy professional with his own work and biomedical research writing so he doesn’t have the time to do this for every book.

Q: What do you find useful about reviews?
A: To date I’ve had something on the order of 50 reviews for my four books (I call a reader who left a written comment a reviewer, as opposed to someone who simply left a rating with no words). I’ve had about 150 people rate my books so far. Of the 50 who have written something, I found one to be absolutely incredible – detailed, thorough and helpful. I’ve found another that was negative but was detailed enough to show me what they objected to – and it was a fair point that I had not considered. One person wrote a very snide review/comment about how I used too many exclamation points. Fine. I can see her point, but I wish she had been a little less cranky in the way she handled the issue. There have been a couple of others that were helpful, but beyond that, by and large, the reviews I’ve had have not been very helpful to me so I’ve largely stopped reading them.

The reviews for my young adult fiction have largely been very positive (9 out of 10 reviewers give it 5 stars and glowing comments). My gay romance story has been quite different. At the risk of opening a can of worms, my observation has been that some women disliked the book, but gay men have raved about the book. I clearly used some buzz words or had an approach that did not easily straddle the line between the two genders. Some women did give it great reviews, so there is no universal. I don’t even know if that is a valid conclusion to draw from a very limited data sample. It is my understanding that the readership of m/m romance fiction is shifting. In the beginning the readership was 95% female, but over time the numbers have shifted and now closer to 50/50 male/female. My next book tries to find a middle ground that will work for both genders.

My first book moved from meeting to sex fairly quickly which some found objectionable. Numerous readers disliked the narrator (who was based on me, by the way – another reason why some of the reviews hurt). In the next couple of books that are in the editorial stage now, I’ve slowed things down so that sex doesn’t happen for a long, long time, after a lot of dancing around whether or not the interest was mutual and then what to do about it if it was.

This is all difficult for me. I grew up in the 1970’s when gay men had to be more furtive in their assignations. This meant that there just wasn’t much time to get to know someone before moving on to sex. You had sex with someone and then only later might get to know them. I know that this is completely foreign to a lot of people, but I’m a relic from a bygone era and without thinking I just wrote about what I know. I also believe that old dogs can learn new tricks, too.

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: Another tough one to answer. I’m going to say that my sexiest character is Kyle, the young doctor from Little Squirrels. He wouldn’t define himself as sexy or even desirable when the story starts (part of the growth process of the story). He’s tall, has a nice body but not a hyper pumped overdone gym body – just a basic male body that’s been well maintained. He also has a cute butt, something I find very desirable in a man.

I’m going to cheat and pick a backup hottest character, a first runner up if you will. My first runner up would be Bill from my Most Popular Guy in the School trilogy. The first book in that trilogy is heavily autobiographical. There really was a Bill and he really was hot (he still is). He is the most delightful blend of jock and artist. Growing up he would play basketball and compete is all sorts of thing and then he would paint (beautifully). Today he still looks good and he is now a professional artist designing flatware.

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

I was a professor of penis, a connoisseur of cock, a devotee of dick, an epicure of erections. I had made it my life’s work to worship the male member. And what a member this one was.

The man’s dick screamed perfection. From the tip of the large circumcised head to the arcing length that ran several inches …

(Little Squirrels Can Climb Tall Trees, Dreamspinner Press, July 2012, page 5)

Q: What are you doing now, what do plan to write next?
A: Just this week I submitted my latest book to a publisher for consideration. It is a dramatic departure from what I have written previously so I have no idea if anyone will want to publish it as it is written. I took a real incident from 40 years ago and brought it into today. It follows a family as it self-destructs right before our eyes. But, since I always want a happy ending, I show that the demise of one family makes way for a new family to form, one that helps all participants in this story.

Beyond that, I’m proofing another story about the sudden and unexpected clash of two diametrically opposed cultures in the form of two young men who are trying to find their way in the world while also trying to figure out who they are and what they want.

What I write next is anyone’s guess. I have a list of something like 30 story ideas, so I guess its time to dig out the list and take a look.

Excerpt from Little Squirrels Can Climb Tall Trees

“OW!”

“Damn!”

I don’t know which of us was more surprised. From the look on his face, the other guy was just as unsure as I was.

It was a busy Sunday afternoon at the gym. Somehow—don’t ask me how—as I had started to get up from my weight bench, I hadn’t been paying attention and had banged my head into another guy’s just as he was doing the same thing from the bench right next to mine. Talk about timing!

We each rubbed our sore heads for a second, unsure who was at fault. And then the guy burst out laughing.

We’d never met before bumping into one another—literally—in the gym that afternoon. Some guys, when they get into the exercise zone, wouldn’t respond well in such a situation, but this guy laughed, and I guess it really was funny. His laugh was infectious and made me laugh as well, something I hadn’t done much of lately.

When he stood—this time without running into my head—and apologized, I noticed that the man was tall. Really tall. I mean really tall. Remarkably tall. Okay, so maybe he wasn’t Jolly Green Giant tall, but still he was so tall that to stand and look at his face, I had to lean my head back a little bit. And I’m not short. At five feet five inches tall, I’m basically average height. My guess is the guy was about six four or six five, maybe even six six. Still, that was a foot taller than I was, so I was looking up to talk to the guy, but it seemed to be worth the effort.

Our mutual apologies finished, we each continued on our way. I thought nothing more of it at the time since I was in my own version of the personal workout zone. I noticed the guy was very attractive but didn’t really give it much thought. I was no dog in terms of looks, but I was not in his league. Not even close.

So imagine my surprise when, after my workout, I was in the locker room changing, minding my own business (okay, okay, I know, but it really was true this time), and Mr. Tall, Dark, and Handsome walked in and opened the locker right next to mine. I don’t remember now who said what first, but we got into one of the most natural, comfortable discussions two strangers can have in the gym locker room. I think he said something about the odds of having lockers right next to each other and having bumped into one another on the floor of the gym. That topic could only go so far—in other words, not very—so he switched to another topic. TVs throughout the gym had all been tuned to CNN so everyone could watch the president address the nation on the latest economic crisis. Seemed like they happened every week or so lately. I had listened, as apparently had my tall locker-mate.

This tall guy standing next to me clearly knew his current events. He made some observations, asked me some questions, and dropped in some facts about the issue the president discussed that were so far beyond what any of the talking heads had said after the speech that it was obvious he really knew his stuff or was one damned good liar. I came down on the side of his being really smart and well informed.

And his smile. Oh, dear God! That smile.

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T. A. Webb (aka the Mean Old Bear That Could)–on *Second Chances* and “pantser” style writing

Click the cover image to go to the buy/preorder page at Dreamspinner.

Mark Jennings is at a crossroads. His finance job in the Atlanta nonprofit scene stresses him out, his mother is dying, and his relationship with Brian Jacobs has crashed and burned. He needs a distraction, some way to relax, and a massage seems like just the thing. He never expected his massage therapist, Antonio Roberto, to become his best friend.
Despite their differences—Antonio is a divorced single father—the two men forge a firm friendship that weathers Mark’s reconciliation with Brian and Antonio’s questionable taste in women. Over the years, Antonio remains constant in his support, though others in Mark’s life come and go through a revolving door.
When a young boy runs away from the group home where he works, Mark finds another door opening. Through it all he holds on to the things his loved ones taught him—about family, about friends and lovers, about life and death. Most importantly, he realizes that sometimes the greatest gift of all is a second chance. Second Chances” will be out on October 17th from Dreamspinner.

T. A. Webb is the writing name for the Mean Old Bear That Could. By day, he’s the director of finance for a non-profit agency. He’s worked with people living with HIV/AIDS and with children in the foster care system for over twenty years, and takes the smaller pay for the chance to make a difference for those who can’t help themselves. After hours, he’s the proud single papa of four rescue dogs, was born and raised in Atlanta, where he still lives, and is a pretty darned good country cook.

His sister taught him to read when he was four, and he tore his way through the local library over the next few years. Always wanting more, he snuck a copy of The Exorcist under his parents’ house to read when he was eleven and scared the bejesus out of himself. Thus began a love affair with books that skirt the edge, and when he discovered gay literature, he was hooked for life.

T. A. can be found at Facebook under AuthorTAWebb, tweeted at #TomBearAtl, or if you really want to, you can email him at AuthorTAWebb@aol.com.

The Interview

Q: How important are character names, to you, and how do you go about naming them? What about titles?
A: Character names are very important. Once I get in my head who they are, then they start talking to me and the story is off and running! I fill in the blanks of their personalities, and the names just kind of come to me. Same with titles – I start with something generic until the story really cooks, then the name comes to me kind of organically.

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: My most recent book, Deep Blues Goodbye, is set in New Orleans. It’s an erotic urban fantasy, vampires and werewolves set on an unaware world. And what better place than New Orleans with the voodoo that we do so well? I like to set stories close to home – Atlanta for me – or where they make most sense. Second Chances is set in Atlanta, as is the short I have in the IRM Winter Anthology, His Name was Harley Manfield.

Q: How much power do you give your characters in steering the story line?
A: All the power. I’m a “pantser” – I write by the seat of my pants. The characters talk to me and set the action. They live and laugh and love and sometimes die and I have no idea what’s gonna happen until it does.

Q: What is the most satisfying element for you in writing gay relationships, and why?
Q: Hmmm. I like to tell the history, how the characters got to the place in their lives where they are today. And then how that history led them to interact with each other and fall in love or whatever they do. It’s all about the build-up for me.

Q: Are readers involved in making your fiction—do they suggest stories or say what they’d like to read?
A: Not yet. So far I’m still a newbie, so nobody cares yet!

Q: Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.
A: Wow. Should there be a relationship? Other than that the author writes for readers, and readers read. I’ve been a reviewer for a couple of years and a reader all my life, and have always thought that authors don’t owe me anything except a well-written work. Today, though, it seems with the internet everyone thinks they own a piece of each other. Well, I disagree. Read me or not. Like me or not. But it’s my work that you should [be] worried about.

Q: What do you find useful about reviews?
A: They can tell a writer if they are on track with their stories. I write reviews, and my goal is always to tell other readers the good about a book, and what I think might be improved. But I refuse to write bad reviews or talk about the author. So the feedback – as a writer – it tells me if I am doing a good job communicating my story. If I am, great, but if I’m not, I need to get better. And even with a good review, I need to get better!

Q: I’m well known for demanding to know an author’s opinion about which of their characters is the sexiest, and I’m making no exception for this group. Who, how, and why?
A: In Deep Blues Goodbye, we have a boatload of sexy men. My personal favorite is Travis. He’s tall, dark and handsome, and just now getting that he can have a life after being turned into a vampire. But Sam is a special guy too. He’s always willing to look inside himself and learn something new. In Second Chances, it’s Brian. He’s loving, knows he fucked up, and still comes back for more.

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

He pushed up into my hand and I shoved a hand inside his jeans. “Think you can come in the next two minutes?” He groaned and nodded. This was my new favorite game. Giving him a time limit, and if he didn’t get off within that time, he didn’t get to. ’Til the next day. He’d gotten very good at this game.

From Second Chances

Q: What are you doing now, what do plan to write next?
A: I have *gulps* six things going on at once now. I have two shorts for a new YA anthology to finish, the new book in the Altered States series, a novella about two porn guys and the man who brings them together in love, a 1940’s story called Buzz and Tommy’s Summer, and a book with another writer that’s a fun semi-paranormal piece. Then another book in the series and a follow-up to Second Chances that tells Robbie and Jason’s story. Then…another Altered States book and a paranormal book I woke up with already all plotted and told in my head!

I wondered if praying that she wouldn’t pull out of this episode made me a terrible son. I didn’t dare breathe a word of that to anybody, but fuck it, I could stand here and by God take a minute to suffer and let my heart bleed in private. Pull all the jagged pieces of my soul together and cobble them into something resembling the man everybody knew as Mark Jennings before I had to go in and be him.

But after a few minutes and a few more deep breaths, I pulled it together. Took the piece of me that was the good son, attached it to the responsible work Mark, the peacemaker brother, the single gay man pieces. Looked at all the parts tiredly, and once they fit into something that approached a whole man, I slipped back into my skin. I took a deep breath and opened the door to Mom’s room.

Dad was there. It may have been too early for any of my brothers and sisters, but that was almost a relief. Today it would be nice just to have some time with him while I still felt so tired and raw.

“It’s good to see you, son.” He hugged me and eyed the sack I brought in from Huey’s. He loved the beignets and the muffaletta sandwiches I’d gotten into the habit of picking up for our dinner.

I handed him the bag. “You too, Dad. Looks like everything’s about the same here, huh? Thought I’d come and keep you company.”

“But I know you’re tired. I told you to go home after work and I’d call you if anything changed,” he fussed as he dug around in the bag.

“Just hush and eat. Where is everybody?” I plopped down in a chair and kicked my shoes off. I’d been at this damn hospital enough to know how to make myself comfortable.

“You’re it right now.” He plowed into the food like a hungry bear, and I knew he’d probably skipped lunch to sit with her. Again. “Patty was here earlier, and Robert. Said he and Jennifer’d be back tonight. The doctor was in today, said she may wake up tomorrow some time.”

I didn’t want to talk about that right now. More than anything, that subject threatened the fragile internal balance I’d forged, so we talked about little crap. What my day’d been like. What had to be done around the house when he made it back there.

But we also slid in some of the more important things, too. How was he holding up. Was I okay. Had I heard from Brian. Things he would share with me, the responsible son. My brothers and sisters, while I loved them, always made everything such fucking drama, and found reasons to let me handle the hard things. You know, since I didn’t have kids and a wife, or a husband, or a boyfriend. At least that’s what Brenda and Sam and Linda thought. Robert and Patti, at least, pitched in as best they could.

But it was also our way to ignore the big things without telling each other to fuck off.

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Zahra Owens! On *The Hand-Me-Down* and “Mr. Sex-on-Legs”

(As always on Sylvre.com, click the cover image for the buy link.)

The Hand-Me-Down

When a volcano erupts in Iceland and leaves globetrotting headhunter Jez Robinson stranded in Barcelona, he isn’t sure what to do. He has a hard time sitting still, so deciding to make the best of his situation, he pays a visit to his old friend Nick Stone, a retired porn star he shares a history with. Only the visit doesn’t go anything like Jez expected.

First Nick introduces Jamie, his much younger lover, a man so painfully shy he can’t even bring himself to talk to strangers. The love he and Nick share is plain to Jez, but also puzzling, because Nick was never the monogamous type. Then Nick tells Jez he’s dying and wants Jez to look after Jamie.

In his whole life, Jez has never committed to so much as a house plant, so at first he refuses. But Nick and Jamie are insistent, and soon Jamie worms his way into Jez’s graces and his bed, determined to do the convincing Jez’s heart needs.

Zahra Owens is a multi-lingual globetrotter who loves big cities, but also has a weak spot for the wide-open spaces that are so rare where she lives.

She likes her men either tough on the outside but with a huge soft center, or strong, silent and damaged. She makes it her personal goal to find them their happy-ever-after, the road there often leading via hospital beds, villas with gorgeous vistas or ranges full of horses.

Zahra is a proud member of the Rainbow Romance Writers, the Romance Writers of America, and is also a member of RWA’s Professional Author’s Network.

If Zahra had her wish, a day would have at least 36 hours, because how else would she find the time to finish all the novels still inside her head?
You can find Zahra at Zahraowens.com.

The Interview

Q: How important are character names, to you, and how do you go about naming them? What about titles?
A: The character names almost always come right after the basic premise of the book. If the names are wrong, the characters won’t talk to me. While I was writing my cowboy novels, one minor character wanted to be called Cooper. I’d already written a Cooper, as a main character in a novella called Balance, but I figured, what the heck, it’s a minor character. BUT…it turned out he had his own sob story, and wanted me to tell it. So I’m writing another Cooper… Totally different character from my other Cooper so I hope people won’t expect him to be the same!

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: Locations are part of the plot. They almost always become a character. My latest book, The Hand-me-down, is set in Barcelona and New York. I love New York to bits, yet New York became a very dark, menacing city for some reason. Barcelona is the bright sunshine place in the novel and although not so nice things happen in Barcelona too, it’s still the brightness to NYC’s gloom.

Q: How much power do you give your characters in steering the story line?
A: Every story I start, I tell myself I’m going to tell it the way I want it and every time I fail. These characters live. I admit it’s in my head, but they have their own will and if I fight them, the story won’t get written.

Q: What is the most satisfying element for you in writing gay relationships, and why?
A: I just love seeing my guys get together, especially if the road to happiness is full of potholes and detours. I love that there are a lot of clichés in gay romance, but you don’t need to follow any of them, especially not where characterization is concerned.

Q: Are readers involved in making your fiction—do they suggest stories or say what they’d like to read?
A: When I was still writing fanfiction, they did, but not anymore. Everyone is allowed to make suggestions, but they don’t do it, not even when explicitly given the chance.

Q: Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.
A: Very selfishly I’d like a reader to love or trust me enough to buy anything I bring out, even if, at first glance, it isn’t their cup of tea. As a reader, I have a few authors like that (not naming names, because these people know me!). Also, I’d like to get some feedback from them. Just honest, tactful, right off the cuff feedback.

Q: What do you find useful about reviews?
A: A well written review makes you think about what you’ve written and helps you to see how other people view your work. “OMG I love your story!!!” is as useless to me as “Your story stinks” if the reviewer doesn’t tell me why he loved or hated the story, but I’ll gladly accept the first one for what it is!

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. Who, how, and why?
A: Right now, Mr. Sex-on-legs for me is Nick from The Hand-me-down. I’m sorry I had to kill him. He’s pushing fifty, elegant, tall and slender, impeccable dresser, full white beard and white floppy hair. I like my men mature (if you didn’t know that, you’ve never read anything I write) and a little ambiguous. In this case, it seems he doted on Jamie, his longtime lover, and gave up his entire life to take care of him, but was it in Jamie’s best interest? Read it and find out.

Q: What are the fifty hottest words (approximate the word count) you’ve ever written, in your opinion. (Be sure to include citation).
A: “Touch yourself,” I said in a voice that was definitely a few notches below my usual commanding one. He complied teasingly, smiling slightly as he used as few fingers as possible to move the skin over his erection, like he was trying not to obscure my view. He was so hard I could barely tell he was uncut. “Does it feel good?”
(This is hard! To choose, I mean…) From The Hand-me-Down.

Q: What are you doing now, what do you plan to write next?
A:I’m half way through my fourth cowboy novel, which will be called Moon and Stars. It’s not flowing as it should. I had a deadline and watched it fly by… Not good! But it will be written. “Cooper” demands it!

An Excerpt!
From: The Hand-Me-Down

WHEN the plane touched down in Barcelona, it was the middle of the night, but I was still on New York time, so I was actually less tired than I would be after a hard day’s work. Traveling first class had its perks, not least the almost personal service the airline provided in the form of a charming and rather buff male flight attendant who made sure my every need was met. Okay, maybe not my every need. His service didn’t provide that. He did, however, make sure I slept soundly for a good three hours in a seat that was more comfortable than the one in my own living room, and that when I woke, the meal I’d skipped was still hot. He also made sure the cabin lights were low, and the only sound was the humming of the engines. His perfect service even made sure I barely registered there were other businessmen sharing the cabin with me. For once, during my waking hours I actually got some work done. I kept thinking the flight attendant could make some rich guy a very attentive but inconspicuous butler. And he was a treat to look at as well.

Walking down the concourse on route to the baggage claim, I felt more invigorated than a transatlantic passenger had the right to be, and as I passed the droves of cattle car passengers and their tired kids, I tried not to smile too much. At least they didn’t do this once a week. I was so used to the time change it no longer bothered me. If all went well, I’d be back in the Big Apple before the weekend with time off to go clubbing. That was all in my future. For now, it was business all the way.

At immigration, a few words of Spanish, a stern, businesslike look, and my almost-full passport made the immigration officer put aside his prejudice against my shaven head and muscular bad-boy physique as he returned my passport to me, and let me enter the country. Luckily my numerous tattoos were covered by my travel attire, or he might have had a different reaction. I picked up my garment bag and the small suitcase I could hook my laptop bag to, and briskly walked toward the terminal’s outer lobby, where a portly driver stood with my name printed on a placard. Jeremy Robinson. But friends call me Jez.

“Good flight, sir?” the driver asked in heavily accented English after I had settled in the back of his car.

“Perfect, thank you,” I answered. I recognized the logo on his lapel as the one from the company I was going to visit. “Will you be picking me up in the morning?”

“Yes, sir. When would you like me to be there?”

“Eight is fine.” That would give me time to review some of my notes while driving, and would take into account that traffic in downtown Barcelona was notoriously difficult to predict. Also, I preferred to arrive early and see how ready they were for my arrival. I admit that seeing them scurry around nervously while I keep my notorious cool strokes my ego.

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Dirty Secret released! Rhys Ford’s Cole MacGinnis is back

Okay, I love Rhys Ford’s characters Cole and Jae, and I love the way she writes them. I’ve been waiting for this book, and you can bet I’ve already got my copy. Recommended read! (Click on the huge and beautiful cover image to go right to the buy link at Dreamspinner Press.)

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Need some hard questions! Will you help me find them?

Yes is coming, as you know, and I’ve made no secret of the subject matter. Cancer. Luki has it, and he and Sonny have to figure out how to live with it, and love through it. A tough assigment.

On Thursday and Friday, July 19th and 20th, I will make a blog tour visiting a few of the characters in Yes on short a blog tour of sorts. I plan a mini-interview with each. Here are the four characters I want to talk to:

Luki Vasquez (the badass, the star as usual)
Sonny James (Luki’s lover, the artist, the reason the star shines, metaphorically speaking)
Kaholo (Luki’s sweet and dependable uncle)
Ruthie (the wife of Luki’s nephew, and more importantly the mother of a very important infant)

What should I ask? I don’t want to cause any one of these characters more pain or sorrow, but… well, maybe there are some things we want to know.

If you have a question for a character, leave a comment, or email me at lou(dot)sylvre(at)gmail(dot)com.

Thanks!

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Filed under Dreamspinner Press, Lou Sylvre, M/M romance, Vasquez & James, Yes