Tag Archives: interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Interview

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

Q: In what locale is your most recent book set? How compelling was it to set a story there? Do you choose location the same way every time? How?
A: The most recent – The Road to Byron – is a road trip up the east coast of Australia. It starts off near where I live on the Mornington Peninsula before the boys go in search of better surf beaches. So far all my books have been set in Australia and a few have some cross-over references – even if they don’t take place around Melbourne there will be a link. It’s home and what I know!

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

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

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

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

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

Q: I’m well known for demanding to know an author’s opinion about which of their characters is the sexiest, and I’m making no exception for this group. Who, how, and why?
A: Hmmm, I like a bad boy and people might be surprised that Galen in Ink might be my sexiest. There is something very sexy about a vicious vampire who skulks in the shadows. He’s pale, tattooed, slinky, long hair and very sharp teeth! But there’s also a new character on the horizon that I find very sexy – he’s not published yet, but hopefully will be soon. His name’s Sam – watch for him! *winks*

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

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

Ink (page 4)

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

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

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

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

I have a few other plot bunnies bouncing too!

An excerpt from The Road to Byron

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Interview

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

Q: In what locale is your most recent book set? How compelling was it to set a story there? Do you choose location the same way every time? How?
A: 3 is set in San Antonio, Texas. I chose San Antonio because it is my hometown, and I feel quite comfortable there. I typically choose locales based on my familiarity with them. I want the reader to get a good sense of the setting, so in order for it to be real for my readers, it has to be crystal clear to me. I aim for as much verisimilitude as possible in terms of setting.

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

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

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

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

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

Q: I’m well known for demanding to know an author’s opinion about which of their characters is the sexiest, and I’m making no exception for this group. Who, how, and why?
A: For 3, I would have to say that Dutch is the sexiest. First of all, physically, Dutch is the most impressive. He’s a tall muscle bear with crystal blue eyes. His presence is intimidating, but his character is kind and gentle, at least until he’s pushed too far. Then, watch out! Those characters whose physical strength is tempered by their kind hearts always melt my butter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Excerpt from 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I know, Spencer returned. It feels great!

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

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

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

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

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

The Interview

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

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

Q: In what locale is your most recent book set? How compelling was it to set a story there? Do you choose location the same way every time? How?
A: Pittsburgh and Ambridge, or at least the Old Economy part of the latter, was the locale of my most recent novella, The Darkest Midnight in December. It’s also set in the 1930’s. It was compelling for the story to have Old Economy, as its history played into the demon-hunting aspects of the story. It made a good counterpoint to the demons, as the founders of the village were a celibate Christian sect.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: I’m well known for demanding to know an author’s opinion about which of their characters is the sexiest, and I’m making no exception for this group. Who, how, and why?
A: This is always a ridiculously hard question to answer. Probably I’d have to give the edge to Arrigo, one of my Las Vegas vampires (see Crisis of Faith with Dreamspinner Press). He’s certainly been taking up real estate in my head the longest (I started writing him in the early 1990’s). Arrigo has the coloring I love, that dark olive skin, long, black hair and chocolate eyes. He’s been alive for nearly two thousand years, so to say he’s experienced in lovemaking is probably a wee bit of an understatement.

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

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

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

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

Excerpt from The Darkest Midnight in December

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“This bed better be movable,” he grumbled.

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

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Kim Fielding on writing for readers and other stuff, and a sweet excerpt from *Speechless*

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

Travis Miller has a machining job, a cat named Elwood, and a pathetic love life. The one bright spot in his existence is the handsome guitar player he sometimes passes on his way home from work. But when he finally gathers the courage to speak to the man, Travis learns that former novelist Drew Clifton suffers from aphasia: Drew can understand everything Travis says, but he is unable to speak or write.

The two lonely men form a friendship that soon blossoms into romance. But communication is only one of their challenges—there’s also Travis’s inexperience with love and his precarious financial situation. If words are the bridge between two people, what will keep them together?

Kim Fielding lives in California and travels as often as she can manage. A professor by day, at night she rushes into a phonebooth to change into her author costume (which involves comfy clothes instead of Spandex and is, sadly, lacking a cape). Her superpowers include the ability to write nearly anywhere, often while simultaneously doling out homework assistance to her children. Her favorite word to describe herself is “eclectic” and she’s currently considering whether to get that third tattoo.

Links:
http://kfieldingwrites.blogspot.com
https://www.facebook.com/KFieldingWrites

The Interview

Q: How important are character names, to you, and how do you go about naming them? What about titles?
A: Names are very important to me—they’re one of the first things I decide. They can tell you something about the age and background of the character, and I also try to choose names that tell you something about personality. For example, in my novella Speechless, one of the characters has aphasia and can no longer communicate verbally. His name is Drew. In an upcoming novel, Venetian Masks, Jeff is a very ordinary guy with a very ordinary name. His love interest is Cleve, which is sort of a play on words because “cleave” can mean either “to sever” or “to stick,” and it’s unclear whether Cleve is going to stick around.

As for titles, I agonize endlessly, but usually end up with one that pleases me. I have a bit of a weakness for puns and double meanings.

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 also very important to me because I see the scenes in my head, and also because they often dictate parts of the storyline. In fact, it’s very often a location that gives me the plot idea to begin with. Both Good Bones and Speechless happen to be set in Oregon. Dylan in Good Bones buys a farm that bears a distinct resemblance to the farm some of my family members own. My upcoming fantasy romance, Brute, is set in an imaginary city called Tellomer. And Venetian Masks is a bit of a travelogue, set in Venice—of course!—but with scenes in a few other central European cities as well.
I love to travel, and it’s often my travels that suggest story locations.

Q: How much power do you give your characters in steering the story line?
A: I don’t give it—they take it from me! I start out with a very rough outline, but rarely stick to it very closely. Once I give my characters life, they run the show.

Q: What is the most satisfying element for you in writing gay relationships, and why?
A: I like to be able to depict the positive aspects of love, even when the people involved face serious challenges. I also like being able to free myself from stereotypes.

Q: Are readers involved in making your fiction—do they suggest stories or say what they’d like to read?
A: Not much, aside from requesting sequels—which is always flattering!

Q: Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.
A: Ideally, what I love to write is what readers will love to read. Also ideally, my stories can entertain, can stir emotions, and can maybe make people think about things in new ways. If my stories inspire people, even better. And of course readers are really important to me, because otherwise I’m just writing for my own amusement.

Q: What do you find useful about reviews?
A: I find reviews especially useful when people give specific constructive criticism. Also, if several reviewers say more or less the same thing—either negative or positive—that tells me I should probably listen.

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: Wow, this is a tough one! I guess I’d have to choose Drew Clifton from Speechless. What’s sexy about him is that, because he can’t communicate with words, he has to convey all his thoughts and feelings with his body and face. He’s also vulnerable yet very strong, which I find an irresistible combination.

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

Dylan buried his nose in Chris’s hair, inhaling deeply. He wondered vaguely if he could become drunk off the rich odors of drugstore soap and hard work and spicy meals, and a scent that spoke eloquently to him of Chris’s desire and need.

Good Bones

Q: What are you doing now, what do plan to write next?
A: A lot! My short story “Tyler Wang Has a Ball” releases October 8 in Dreamspinner’s Don’t Try This at Home anthology. In December, my story “Joys R Us” will come out in Silver Publishing’s holiday anthology. My fantasy romance novel Brute releases in December or January. Venetian Masks will come out in February or March. And my gay fantasy trilogy (Stasis, Flux, and Equipoise) just began production as audiobooks. I also have a couple other short stories in various stages of progress. Whew!
My next novel will be a sequel to Good Bones. I have another novel planned after that as well, a contemporary romance set in rural California, and involving a former mental hospital.

An excerpt from Speechless

Drew stopped at a Walgreens, where the stringy-haired woman behind the counter gave them a deeply skeptical look. Travis supposed they did look pretty disreputable. But they gathered up a basketful of Band-Aids and Neosporin and ice packs and other first aid supplies—which Drew cheerfully paid for with his MasterCard—and then headed to Drew’s house.

Drew took Travis by the hand and towed him to a neat bathroom with white tile, a claw-foot tub, and an antique shelf full of fluffy towels. He gently pushed Travis down onto the closed toilet and dampened a washcloth in the sink. And then he reached for the eye patch.

Travis jerked his hands up and grabbed Drew’s arms. “You can clean around it.

It’s… it’s gross.”

But Drew shook his head and twisted his arm away, then slid the strap off Travis’s head. He tossed it onto the counter and for a long minute just stood there, staring. Travis tensed, waiting for the revulsion and rejection. But instead, Drew leaned down and, light as a butterfly, brushed his lips over Travis’s empty lid. Then he stood straight again, and Travis took a deep, shuddery breath. “It doesn’t disgust you?”

Drew shook his head impatiently and then pointed to a scar that ran across the upper part of his forehead.

“Well, yeah, but yours is sexy. Sort of like a dueling scar from your student days at Heidelberg or a slash from an assassin’s blade when you were saving the Ark of the Covenant.” He paused. “Is it from the car accident?”

Nod.

“Well, it’s still sexy.” Travis lifted his hand and smoothed his forefinger across the length of the mark. “Sexy,” he repeated, aware that his voice had gone kind of gravelly.

After that, well… it sort of started out as the mutual administration of first aid for the various scrapes and bruises they’d acquired in the fight. But a thorough rendering of aid required removal of clothing, and then Drew apparently decided that kisses would do a better job of healing than would antibiotic ointments, and then…. How the hell had Drew managed to slip some K-Y and Trojans into their Walgreens basket without Travis noticing?

The bathroom floor was hard and cold, but Travis barely noticed as he was flooded with sensation. Drew was so tight and warm around him, uttering ragged sounds that weren’t quite words but didn’t need to be. His pale skin was so fine and smooth, and his nipples ripe like fruit. And afterward they stumbled to the couch and wrapped themselves in a fuzzy blanket and sort of floated for a while.

Travis was drifting toward sleep—Drew between his legs and leaning back against his chest—when he roused himself and kissed Drew’s mussed hair. “I gotta go.”

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Lee James on *Errors and Omissions*, characters powerful and sexy, and love

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

Rock star Brent Hunter has a plan to get back to the top of the charts—until his jet vanishes en route to London. Four months later, a phone call convinces Austin Hunter that his brother is alive and in hiding. That, or it’s all an elaborate and deadly confidence game.

Austin turns to private detective Kirk MacGregor to find the truth about his brother. As Kirk follows a trail of dead-end leads in the most perplexing investigation of his career, a strong attraction simmers between him and Austin, despite the fact they’re both married.

Together they unearth a tragic family history of violence, pure greed, and a thirty-year-old fratricide as they take on the coldest killer since Hannibal Lecter. But deadly foes have nothing on the painful truths and even more painful losses Kirk and Austin must face… and none of that compares to confronting what they feel for each other.

About the Author: Lee James is a retired civil rights lawyer who enjoys rose gardening, working in the yard, music, reading, and writing. He is married, and resides in a Twin Cities’ suburb.

The Interview

Q: How important are character names, to you, and how do you go about naming them? What about titles?
A: I want the names of my main characters to fall pleasantly on readers’ eyes and ears. The villain, however, must have either a Christian or a surname that will make a reader’s nose wrinkle; e.g., “Claggart,” in Melville’s Billy Bud, is a surname that makes me think of the sound some charming guy makes before spitting on the sidewalk. I keep a list of uncommon or interesting names that I’ve heard or read, and I spend a good deal of time choosing names that feel and sound right for the characters.

Book titles are also critical. I tend to dislike one-word titles; they do not, in my opinion, convey much to a prospective buyer. I think a title needs to encompass what the novel is about, or the underlying message, if there is one.

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: Errors and Omissions is Book One in my Los Angeles Private Eyes series. I chose The City of Angels primarily for its mystique, extreme wealth and abject poverty, crassness and breathtaking beauty; plus, as an M/M romance/mystery-thriller writer, nothing ever seems too strange or horrific in Los Angeles.

Q: How much power do you give your characters in steering the story line?
A: My characters get all the power. It’s simply the way I like to write fiction.

Q: What is the most satisfying element for you in writing gay relationships, and why?
A: The most satisfying element is depicting how two men can fall deeply in love, and stay together for a lifetime. (My husband and I have lived happily together for twenty-eight years.) I write M/M with the hope of chipping away at America’s Puritanical notions. In many ways, we are an intellectually advanced nation that’s emotionally locked in the nineteenth century. Cast-off those old, tired ideals!

Q: Are readers involved in making your fiction—do they suggest stories or say what they’d like to read?
A: Readers have commented on what they like and dislike about my characters, dialogue, story lines/plots, endings, and cover art. It’s become my practice to listen. I’ve not received story ideas, to date.

Q: Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.
A: Chatting with readers via e-mail, FB, Twitter, and on my blog (leejameswrites.blogspot.com) is one of the most enjoyable parts of writing. I always take the time to answer readers’ questions, or thank them for their comments. It’s been my pleasure to have gotten to know several readers; their careers, spouses, children, and new books they’ve read and loved.

Q: What do you find useful about reviews?
A: Those who are professional (paid or unpaid) in their reviews, who have read (not skimmed) and comprehended my work, and use constructive criticism are very helpful. Echo Magazine (Bob Lind), Hearts on Fire Reviews (Lucy, Aggie, et al), reviewsbyjessewave.com, mrsconditandfriends.com, pixie at goodbooksreviews, and The Novel Approach offer insightful and helpful reviews.

Then there’s internet vitriol. Anyone with A PC and an ISP has venues to offer critiques such as, “I skimmed it just to say I’d read it. I didn’t understand it. This book sucks.” Wow, how insightful… and telling.

Q: I’m well known for demanding to know an author’s opinion about which of their characters is the sexiest, and I’m making no exception for this group. Who, how, and why?
A: The novel I’m writing at the moment always has the sexiest main character/s. If the characters I’m creating turn my head, it’s my hope that they’ll do the same for readers.

Errors and Omissions‘ Kirk MacGregor (tall, blond, ruggedly handsome, with hidden assets), and Austin Hunter (dark-haired, blue-eyed, cowboy roughneck and vulnerable) were my first main characters, and many readers told me they fell in love with them. A Crack in Time’s Micha Dahl (young, full of life, wonderful to look at, but he doesn’t know it) who has a fling with USAF Lieutenant Trent Valiston (handsome, married, and a real tramt) held the “sexiest” titles at the time I was writing the short story. Readers will soon meet my newest and sexiest characters: Mike Holland, a smokin’ hot private detective, and drop-dead handsome actor Heath Mathis.

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’ll give you something warm (the hottest words are for sale) from my upcoming novella, Land of Dreams. In the following scene, protagonist Mike Holland and Heath Mathis meet for the first time. And yes, hot, sweaty sex ensues.

A young man, wearing clingy, white silk gym shorts, and a towel bunched across his shoulders, answered the door. His chiseled features and jade green eyes made him a work of art, Mike thought. He cleared his throat. “Heath Mathis?”

“Yes.” He toweled his curly blond hair, and then swiped at his pecs and six pack abs. “Pardon me. You caught me during my workout.” Heath took a closer look at the man outside his door. The guy stood at least six foot four, with bruising shoulders, a square chin, sinuous muscles, jet black hair, and turquoise-blue eyes. Heath’s heart skipped a beat: before him stood milk fed, Grade-A beef. He smiled.

Mike smiled back.
Oh shit, Heath groaned inwardly. The man had dimples that could stop traffic. It was lust at first sight.

© Copyright 2012 by Lee James.

Q: What are you doing now, what do plan to write next?
A: As mentioned, my next project, recently submitted to DSP for consideration, is Book Two in my LA Private Eyes Series, titled Land of Dreams. I’m presently working on Book Three of the series, Hard Luck and Trouble.

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MD Grimm on *Ruby: Lost and Found* and the hotness of love and devotion

Click the cover image for the buy link at Torguere Books
(Stones of Power – Book 1)

Morgorth is a mage on the planet Karishian. There is little else he hates more than the Stones of Power – gemstones which were infused with magick by the first seven mages ever born. So when a sorcerer gets ahold of a major stone – a ruby – Morgorth has no other choice but to go after him. But, to his irritation, he is not alone. Aishe is a dialen whose tribe was massacred by the sorcerer and now he is on a mission of vengeance. The attraction is instant between them but Morgorth keeps his distance. Because of a traumatic childhood and a deadly destiny, he has no desire for emotional complications. But Aishe’s very presence challenges Morgorth’s resolve.

Not only does Morgorth begin to admire Aishe’s strength and mind, but he begins to see him as a friend. As their hunt continues and their time together lengthens, their bond deepens as does Morgorth’s fear. If he becomes the monster that destiny claims he will, would he hurt Aishe? Would he harm the one person who saw right through him? Who accepted him wholeheartedly? Determined to not let that happen, Morgorth keeps Aishe at a distance but when Aishe is kidnapped by the sorcerer, what will Morgorth do to get him back?

M.D. Grimm lives in the wet state of Oregon, and when Grimm is not reading, writing, or watching movies, Grimm dreams of owning a pet dragon. Grimm wanted to become an author since second grade and feels that those dreams are finally coming true. Grimm was fortunate to have supporting parents who never said “get your head out of the clouds.” While not liking to write in only one set genre, Grimm feels romance is at the core of most of their stories. Grimm earned a Bachelor of Arts in English at the University of Oregon and hopes to put that degree to good use in the literature world as well as the “real” world.

I’m at Facebook, Goodreads, and Livejournal. (no website yet)

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 to me. For me, names must tell something about the personality of the character. Either by the way the name sounds, what the name means, or both. Sometimes the names just come with the character when I create them, but other times I have to pull out my baby book of 35,000 names and look up what would fit the character best.

Titles are probably my favorite and most headache-inducing part of creating a story. Sometimes, I know the title before I even write the book, other times I have a tentative title and I can only finalize it after I’ve finished the story. I like creating titles that either play on words or connect wittily with what’s in my story. My Shifter series with Dreamspinner Press is one such example. My most recent release of that series was Blind Devotion. One of the main characters is blind but I also use that title to describe followers of a sect that desire the eradication of shifters. Titles are very important. If they’re clever, they capture readers’ attention and you potentially make a sale! And a new fan.

Q: In what locale is your most recent book set? How compelling was it to set a story there? Do you choose location the same way every time? How?
A: I had two releases in August, so I will talk a little bit about both. Blind Devotion is set in Montana. Ruby: Lost and Found with Torquere Press, is set on another planet, but it is a fantasy, not a sci-fi. Both settings were compelling and offered up their own challenges. With Blind Devotion, I let the criteria of the story help me determine where the story would be placed. I needed an isolated place where a small town of shifters could live in relative peace and secrecy. Montana fit the bill because it was far north and covered with national forests – a perfect places for shifters to run around on four legs. I had to do a lot of research on Montana, however, before I could start writing. I think that’s what makes me choose settings in places I have never been – so I can discover and travel, if only in my mind. It lets me learn and I love to learn.

Ruby: Lost and Found is, as I said, a fantasy, so that meant I was starting from scratch. I had to create flora/fauna, geology, continents, etc. I really had to create everything but, since it is the first book of a series as well, I have time to gradually evolve the world and present it to readers. This series doesn’t allow me to take anything for granted – the reader would know nothing of my world as they would most places on Earth. I want to make it as real to them as it is to me.

Q: How much power do you give your characters in steering the story line?
A:I’m a big fan of allowing the character to steer the story, instead of just reacting to what happens to them. But I do try to keep a good balance between outside events influencing my characters’ actions and my characters’ actions influencing the events. I do try to have an overall plot that is a guide for the character, but I make sure they have agency.

Q: What is the most satisfying element for you in writing gay relationships, and why?
A: I like to think love conquers all. Naïve, perhaps, but reality is a bitter pill sometimes, and I read and write to take me out of that reality and into a world where, despite everything, you do end up with your soul mate (or soul mates). Unfortunately in our society, there is a sort of “built-in” conflict with gay relationships and that makes me even more devoted into making sure, at least in my stories, the men (or women) end up together.

Q: Are readers involved in making your fiction—do they suggest stories or say what they’d like to read?
A: I haven’t had that situation yet. I’m still pretty new at publishing and I’m still building my fan base.

Q: Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.
A: Respect. For the author to respect the readers, and for the readers to respect the author. For the author: they need to respect the fact that readers might not like all their stories, or how they write, and that’s okay. You can’t please everyone. You shouldn’t try. For the reader: they need to respect the author and their craft. If they don’t like the story, okay, fine, but there is no need to attack or disrespect the author or their story. They need to remember that others might enjoy that story, and that their opinion is just that: an opinion. A preference. They have a right to that preference, but also a responsibility to give it respectfully.

I am a reader and an author, so I see both sides. If I don’t like a story, I don’t see a need to attack the author, or the story. It’s not my preference. There have been certain popular stories coming out recently (I’m sure you could guess what they are) that I have no interest it. But others love and adore those stories. Okay, fine. To each their own.

As an author, I love my readers. I really do. And it does hurt when a negative/hateful review comes out. But it would hurt less if it was respectful. I’ve read several of those reviews that don’t tear down the story or me but inform other readers why they didn’t like the story. I almost want to thank them for that review – even if it was negative – because I didn’t feel attacked.

Q: What do you find useful about reviews?
A: Well… it’s nice to see when my book is positively accepted. And sometimes it can help if the review is more critique then attack. I can see where the reviewer thought the story had issues and if I agree, I can make sure not to do it again. I don’t depend on them to tell me how to write – I write because I want to and because I need to. I don’t allow reviews to affect my confidence in my writing.

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 goddess!! Now all my characters are glaring at me – daring me to choose favorites!

To make things easier, I will only choose from those stories that have been published (I have several written but not ready for publishing yet). Right now I’m partial to Morgorth, the protagonist in my Stones of Power series with Torquere Press, of which Ruby: Lost and Found is the first book. He might not be gorgeous or traditionally handsome but he’s a mage which means he can use magick like most warriors use swords. He’s sexy because he doesn’t think he is – he’s grumpy, angry, and often broods. I think he’s sexy because of how he changes during the course of the series and his growth as a character – mostly due to his relationship with Aishe, his mate. Sometimes the sexiest characters are those who aren’t traditionally sexy.

Q: What are the fifty hottest words (approximate the word count) you’ve ever written, in your opinion. (Be sure to include citation).
A: Now that is a hard one – I have too many, but I’ll choose some that I’ve written very recently. (50 words really cramps my style…) This little sample comes from Ruby: Lost and Found, published by Torquere Press:

“I love you,” [Aishe] said in a pained whisper that slammed me […]. I believed him […]

“We were meant for each other,” he continued […]”I’m staying with you; […] You don’t have to be alone anymore. I trust you, Morgorth. […] “You don’t think much of yourself, but I think the world of you. You’re beautiful.”

(Yes, I cheated with the […]) And why didn’t I use a sex scene? Well, this precludes a sex scene AND all of my sex scenes were certainly more than 50 words and… well, what is hotter than a declaration of love and devotion?)

Q: What are you doing now, what do you plan to write next?
A:Right now I’m working on the second and third book of my Stones of Power series as well as finishing book five and six of my Shifters series. I’m also working on outlines of a couple of other books that have nothing to do with these stories. I’m always keeping myself busy.

An Excerpt from Ruby: Lost and Found

Someone roared and the weight lifted. The stars before my eyes faded and I looked over to see Aishe actually straddling the revenai’s wrist, stabbing it with a short sword, causing black viscous blood to gush. I sucked in a breath and struggled to my feet just as Aishe leapt off of the revenai. Another hand came to grab him. He ducked away and rolled and I kept on the opposite side of him, trying to divide the demon’s attention. Five heads were enough to deal with.

Aishe and I couldn’t keep this up and I tore through my brain, trying to find a way that would end this conflict as fast and as bloodless as possible.
Before I’d found a satisfying idea, the demon got a hold of Aishe and proceeded to squeeze the life from his body. Fury so intense I wondered why I didn’t explode whirled through me and I created a blade of pure force and flung it at the revenai’s arm, cutting it cleanly in half. The monster roared, Aishe fell, and more blood gushed.

The dialen didn’t move.

“Hey! Demon shit!” I bellowed, my magick amplifying my voice. The revenai turned to me, the lust for death in its eyes.

“Follow me if you have the guts!” I ran deeper into the forest, hearing the lumbering beast close behind me. Fury gave me power and focus and I used it. I gasped for breath, my muscles burning, as I emerged at the river where only minutes before I had seen Aishe naked. I ran along the bank, the revenai emerging seconds later, lumbering awkwardly, ripping up trees as it went. I swung around and churned the water, lifting it into the air and flinging it at the charging revenai. I continued to lash the monster with water and it swung its hands around uselessly, becoming more enraged. When I had enough water whirling around the revenai, I took a deep breath and blew it out, causing the water to freeze.

The revenai’s thrashing ceased and the drool froze on its lips. I knew it wouldn’t hold but maybe it would contain the thing long enough for me to find out what to do with it. And to find out if Aishe was even still alive. I ran around the large frozen demon and nearly collided with the dialen as he emerged, whole, from the trashed forest.

I skidded to a halt and my heart was drumming in my chest, relief making me dizzy.

“Thank the Mother,” I gasped and before I could think better of it, I flung my arms around the dialen and hugged him hard. It lasted for about a second before I jerked back as if electrocuted. I grimaced and Aishe looked shocked.
I took several steps back. “Sorry, I… you all right?”

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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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Rhys Ford on *Dirty Secret* and the flavor of sound

Click on the cover image for the buy link at Dreamspinner Press store.
Loving Kim Jae-Min isn’t always easy: Jae is gun-shy about being openly homosexual. Ex-cop turned private investigator Cole McGinnis doesn’t know any other way to be. Still, he understands where Jae is coming from. Traditional Korean men aren’t gay—at least not usually where people can see them.

But Cole can’t spend too much time unraveling his boyfriend’s issues. He has a job to do. When a singer named Scarlet asks him to help find Park Dae-Hoon, a gay Korean man who disappeared nearly two decades ago, Cole finds himself submerged in the tangled world of rich Korean families, where obligation and politics mean sacrificing happiness to preserve corporate empires. Soon the bodies start piling up without rhyme or reason. With every step Cole takes toward locating Park Dae-Hoon, another person meets their demise—and someone Cole loves could be next on the murderer’s list

Rhys Ford was born and raised in Hawai’i then wandered off to see the world. After chewing through a pile of books, a lot of odd food, and a stray boyfriend or two, Rhys eventually landed in San Diego, which is a very nice place but seriously needs more rain.

Rhys admits to sharing the house with three cats, a black Pomeranian puffball, a bonsai wolfhound, and a ginger cairn terrorist. Rhys is also enslaved to the upkeep a 1979 Pontiac Firebird, a Toshiba laptop, and a red Hamilton Beach coffee maker.

Rhys blogs at http://www.rhysford.com.

The Interview

Q: How important are character names, to you, and how do you go about naming them? What about titles?
A: Damn, so very important. It sets the tone for the character. There’s a certain flavour to a sound and even while it’s written word, that sound still resonates. In Sinner’s Gin, my upcoming series, I went back and forth on the lead character’s name until I finally decided on Kane. It said solid and protector. Cole from the Dirty Mysteries wouldn’t have the same feel if I named him Irwin. Not that there isn’t a place for an Irwin, it just didn’t lend itself to the “feel” I needed the character to have.

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 Cole McGinnis mysteries are set in Los Angeles. The setting is important because it boasts a large Korean population and much of the series’ complications come from the cultural conflicts Cole and his lover, Jae, experience. Also, Koreatown, and Los Angeles as a whole, has a rich history of triumph and tragedy which makes for a fascinating backdrop when I’m busy killing people off.

Sinner’s Gin, the first of four books in the SG series, is set in San Francisco. It has a slightly different feel, less about the cultural aspects of my characters and more about the familial strengths and weaknesses they have. Still, more murders but personal demons really drive the story for Miki and Kane.

Q: How much power do you give your characters in steering the story line?
A: I wouldn’t say they have power but there’s definitely a “truth” in how each character would behave. Consistency in characterization provides a stronger story. If a character isn’t tolerant of tomatoes to have him suddenly become a master lasagne maker mid paragraph doesn’t make any sense. So I think I’d prefer to say, once a character has been established, it’s up to the writer to feel their way through the circumstances and have the character(s) react true to their nature.

The cat however always will puke in the most hard to reach places. That’s just how it goes. To write it any other way would be silly.

Q: What is the most satisfying element for you in writing gay relationships, and why?
A: Aish, hard question. I think there’s an enchantment in seeing two men… men who are traditionally the “strong and solid” half of a couple… being made more vulnerable because both have to open up. Not to harp on the word traditionally but a woman with a man allows a softness to be explored, an accepted avenue if you will. By both partners being male, I think it shows a deeper break from the masculine archetype. There is no typical hetero conduit for the reader to have the character’s heart and vulnerability exposed. This is probably not making any sense and really for a writer, I’m probably botching the shit out of this but I think writing masculine characters exploring their love and vulnerability without the option of a feminine outlet is a challenge and satisfying.

If I’ve botched this, then I’m going to claim moon madness and possibly a lack of coffee. Yes, lack of coffee. I’m going with that.

Q: Are readers involved in making your fiction—do they suggest stories or say what they’d like to read?
A: Nope, haven’t really had a lot of input in that regard, mostly probably because I’m usually head down and writing. I’ve written pieces that were reader-driven and it’s more difficult because it creates walls in my mind. It also makes me grumpy and I start to rail at my word choices. There has been interest in Bobby’s story and I can honestly say we’ll explore that. *grins* I haven’t made up my mind yet if I’m going to say why Ben shot Cole. I do know why. I just haven’t decided if I’m going to share it. I probably will. Maybe.

Q: Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.
A: The ideal relationship? Oh God, such a loaded question. Basically what it comes down to is, I, as a writer, have an obligation to entertain and provoke thought. I am asking people who go to work every day to GIVE me one to two hours they’ve spent earning their money for a few hours of reading. That is a lot to ask. I have to caretake that work they’ve done by producing the best product I can. They buy my words. I might share some personal things on my blog but the bottom line is, they are purchasing a story from my imagination. I can’t think of a greater responsibility than to exchange someone’s hard work for my words.

As an author, be nice. Don’t say bad things about other people and for God’s sake, be courteous. Remember to be polite and say thank you. Okay pretty much how you should treat people in general but pull up your socks, make sure your hair is combed and smile pleasantly even when someone is stepping on your book. Nothing good can come of foul discourse.

Q: What do you find useful about reviews?
A: Reviews are great to build up an ego and shatter your heart. People are either going to like to hate a book or perhaps even not care enough to have an opinion but either way, they’ve spent the time and money on your book and then expressed their opinion. Not every book is going to make everyone happy. And if one reads a thoughtful review, an author might learn what works and didn’t work in the story. Take everything with a grain of salt however, remember that salt also makes the meat tastier. Use reviews to make your books tastier but only use a little bit. Decide what is valid and isn’t. Or you’ll oversalt your book and no one will like it.

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: Wow, um… I’d have to say Miki. I like his belligerence and unconscious strength. I kicked the shit out of him and he emerged stronger for it. I liked his street rat-ness.

Q: What are the fifty hottest words (approximate the word count) you’ve ever written, in your opinion. (Be sure to include citation).
A: Damn, I’ve written so many words. I’d have to say right now what I’m happiest with is a piece of Dirty Secret. A part of a love scene between Cole and Jae.

I licked him.

And held an explosion of stars on my tongue.

I didn’t want to swallow. Ever. But I did, knowing there’d be more. If I had my way, I’d die with Jae’s taste in my mouth. It was scary, how fast I was falling…how quickly I’d fallen.

Fuck, it was going to hurt when I hit the ground. And fuck me if I didn’t care.

Q: What are you doing now, what do plan to write next?
A: Right now I’m at the front end of Dirty Laundry, book three in the Cole McGinnis mysteries and following that, I’ll be working on Whiskey and Wry, book two in the Sinner’s Gin series. I’m also thinking of doing a short story for an anthology. I’ll be at Yaoi Con and GayRomLit so look for a round, exhausted and possibly whiskey drunk hapa girl wearing a Dorthi Ki Seu t-shirt.

Thanks for letting me playing in your sand box and you owe me these questions from you on my blog!

An Excerpt from Dirty Secret

“No, let me look at you,” I murmured. “Let me…taste you.”

Jae’s pale skin shone under the soft light. He was a contrast of cream and pearl against the dark green sheets with splashes of darker rose on his chest, his nipples hardening as I watched. His slender cock glistened at its wet slit, already damp from need. I was torn between smearing his seed over the bulb and watching him writhe or licking him clean so I could have him in my mouth as I kissed his body.

I licked him.

And held an explosion of stars on my tongue.

I didn’t want to swallow. Ever. But I did, knowing there’d be more. If I had my way, I’d die with Jae’s taste in my mouth. It was scary, how fast I was falling…how quickly I’d fallen.

Fuck, it was going to hurt when I hit the ground. And fuck me if I didn’t care.
I started at his thighs, hooking my thumbs under his knees so I could pull his legs apart. He resisted, briefly, then let me in with as his shyness turning his face nearly as pink as his lips. There were times when he couldn’t watch me love him then there were moments when he was bold and needy. Tonight, he looked away, closing his eyes so his dark lashes shadowed his cheekbones.

I knew this side of Jae. Vulnerable, a little scared to trust and trembling under my questing mouth and fingers. Stroking his thighs as they parted, I laid a gentle kiss on the tender skin above both his knees. He squirmed and I nipped him, growling softly to keep him still.

Then he giggled.

It was definitely a giggle. Hardly a manly chuckle or a hearty guffaw. No, it was a bubbling pop of laughter he cut off by biting his lip and staring down at me with a barely repressed smirk. The honey gold his eyes flashed and Jae dropped his head back onto the pillows, his body shaking with mirth.

My tongue on his balls ended that quickly.

“Yeah, laugh while you can, monkey boy.” I played with them, rolling one to the side with the tip of my tongue. My hands remained on his thighs, stilling his quivering with a firm touch. I teased him, never touching his cock until I crawled up to his belly. Then I only brushed my fingertips along his shaft before grabbing at his hips. Biting at the skin around his belly button, I murmured, “Stay still, damn it.”

The rough and soft of a man’s body was an erotic thing. I loved the heady scent of Jae’s warm skin and the rasp of his sparse body hair on my hands and mouth. Plum-coloured nipples were a delectable treat, hardened to tight tips with a flick of my fingers. The muscles of his stomach jumped with every kiss I ghosted over his ribs and the dark hollow of navel was a thing of beauty, flat with a slight dip to it and a lip of skin begging to be gnawed on.

He was also slightly ticklish so my mouth on his belly button made him squirm, even more so when I cupped him and squeezed lightly. I nibbled, taking my time with the taste of him, fondling him slowly. His hands drifted down to my shoulders and I bit harder, loving the feel of his fingers digging into the meat of arms.

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Tali Spencer on the Prince of Winds with a super sexy excerpt

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

Rimmon may be an eagle warrior, but he’s never known war, and he’s never known love—until his kingdom’s army is destroyed by Ekari, the demon of winds, and he is captured by Melkor, one of the Iron Horde that has been killing off the world’s gods. Although those gods have cursed Melkor and his brothers to be conquerors and to never be loved, Melkor hopes to overcome his fate and carries Rimmon off to his island. There, Melkor heals Rimmon’s wounds and teaches him about sexual pleasure, earning the young warrior’s trust and fanning the flames of an attraction both men yearn to embrace. But the curses of vengeful gods are difficult to break, especially when Rimmon discovers Melkor is the wind demon who destroyed his home.

Tali Spencer is fascinated by swords, mythology and everything ancient and magical. Thanks to a restless father, she grew up as a bit of a nomad and her vagabond youth lives on in a tendency to travel whenever she can. She’s not afraid of planes, horses, trains, or camels. Her preference is for ships, however, and few things relax her like a week or two at sea. On land, her favorite destinations are castles, museums and cozy Italian restaurants. An irrepressible romantic, she and her true love reside in Pennsylvania, where she creates alternate worlds through which her characters can roam, brawl, and find themselves in each other’s arms.

Tali blogs at http://talismania-brilliantdisguise.blogspot.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 part of the character description. Because names contribute to how the reader envisions the person, I put thought into it. Because I write primarily fantasy, sometimes I make a name more Anglo-Saxon if I want the character to feel more familiar to my primarily English-speaking readers, or I make a character more exotic by giving them unusual names. I own a dozen name books and keep a legal pad on which I jot down possible names as I come across in my research. As for titles, I think they’re important, but I have no system at all for the darn things. I just hope something comes to mind before I submit the book!

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 Prince of Winds is a fantasy set in the world of the Known Sky. It’s an ancient world of gods and magic. I created a setting with vast landscapes ranging from desert to mountains to a tiny, isolated island. My settings are usually important to the story and I work to get them right. I may revisit a setting in a series—I have a series set in the medieval polytheistic empire of Uttor and am building another around the Known Sky—but my stand alone books each have a distinct world. I like to mix things up.

Q: How much power do you give your characters in steering the story line?
A: If a character comes to me with a distinctive voice and forceful personality, I give them lots of power. Characters are why readers invest in stories, so why not let those characters have a say? They’re functions of my subconscious anyway, so I just figure it’s another manifestation of my muse. 

Q: What is the most satisfying element for you in writing gay relationships, and why?
A: Nothing makes me happier than to present men in positive, life-affirming roles. I think all humans should strive for heroism. My books aren’t about being gay so as much as they are about characters who happen to be gay. The most satisfying thing is when they not only get to save each other, but make their world a better place for all who live there. I want to show that gay men have the same power as any other man or woman to make the world strong and safe.

Q: Are readers involved in making your fiction—do they suggest stories or say what they’d like to read?
A: My readers are more influential than they know.  I value feedback tremendously and sometimes I will take a hint and run with it. I wrote my M/F novel Captive Heart after a reader of one of my gay male stories said she wanted a story about Gaspar. I think she wanted Gaspar to be gay, but he wasn’t. Readers clearly wanted a gay story in that world, so I wrote another novel, Dangerous Beauty, set there. Did I write it for any particular readers? Not really. I wrote it for all of them. But I’m definitely inspired by knowing what readers want.

Q: Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.
A: Open. Respectful. Playful, even. I believe readers and authors should both be having fun. I’m so shy it’s crippling in some ways, so I am much more terrified of my readers than they are of me. I have wonderful readers so far and it makes me happy to know I’m writing stories they enjoy.

Q: What do you find useful about reviews?
A: They tell me people are reading my books. They also tell me if readers are picking up on my themes and characters. That means a great deal to me. But I generally don’t find out about reviews unless someone else tells me about them. My husband reads them to me on Saturday mornings, if he finds any, and I listen when reviewers say I rushed things, or they didn’t quite buy something, or if they think I did something particularly well. I want to improve as a writer, but I’ve learned not to dwell on ratings and things outside of my control.

Q: I’m well known for demanding to know an author’s opinion about which of their characters is the sexiest, and I’m making no exception for this group. Who, how, and why?
A: For me, Muir, the tragic sorcerer in Sorcerer’s Knot. He’s got that dark, haunted by his past vibe I find incredibly appealing. And a hot body. With scars. I don’t mind scars.

Q: What are the fifty hottest words (approximate the word count) you’ve ever written, in your opinion. (Be sure to include citation).
A: From a WIP to be published next year, “Victory Portrait”:

For a moment they locked eyes, true creature to true creature. Young stag to old wolf. Arrento’s blood rose to the hunt. It took nearly a minute before the slave looked away first, color rising to fill his cheeks. Pre-cum dripped from his cock like honey from a wand, begging for the artist’s brush—or a general’s hungry tongue.

Q: What are you doing now, what do plan to write next?
A: I’m wrapping up a sword and sorcery romp of a book called Thick as Thieves, featuring a barbarian who takes a unicorn horn up his ass and becomes a sex-crazed adventurer. He hooks up with a thieving male witch who harbors a secret that can only mean trouble. So naturally they team up to run headlong right at it. It’s a M/M romance with laughs and bite. After that, I’m writing a M/F story for my Uttor series.

Excerpt from The Prince of Winds

“Please… I can’t stand this!”

“Just give me what I want,” said Melkor. He drew the tortured nipple into his mouth and began to suck. Each pull on the nipple sent bolts of pleasure directly to Rimmon’s cock. With skilled fingers, he gently toyed with his captive’s high, tight balls.

“Anything!” Rimmon gasped.

Melkor released the nipple then, though he continued to lick it. “I want… to watch you… change.”

“Change?” he gasped. He moaned as Melkor moved. His hand stayed on Melkor’s arm as it moved down his body. Just let the man touch his cock… suck it, swallow it, anything, so long as he gave him release!

“Yes, Akel. From a warrior… to a kadezh.”

“What’s… a kadezh?”

That firm Hordish hand wrapped tightly around his cock, claiming it. Releasing his balls, Melkor nudged his legs apart and knelt between them. A probing finger, slippery with something, spit or cock juice, slipped under his ass, into his crack.

“A kadezh is a male who offers up his body in a temple as a vessel through which to commune with the gods.”

A whore, then. Rimmon wondered how many Melkor had known, and tensed. “No, Melkor, please….” He thought his erection would surely balk at his being compared to a temple prostitute, but it didn’t. His tormentor worked his cock with one hand, tender, long strokes—squeezing droplets of pleasure from his engorged tip—while the other plied his asshole with knowing touches, making it wet with those same drops, teasing the sore rim.

“In time you will flower for me as a kadezh should,” Melkor growled, so low the sound was nearly a purr. “Let me into your chamber, beauty”—he pressed, his fingertip pushing into the throbbing circle of his anus—“open the gate, welcome me, and I will bring you with me into paradise.”

Blinking tears, Rimmon gulped deep breaths, his anus burning brightly to accommodate the invading digit. Melkor murmured with pleasure, “My beautiful eagle!” and pushed harder, deeper. Only inchoate sounds emerged from Rimmon’s throat as Melkor’s finger circled and explored his rectum, brushing something within him that left him gasping at the pleasure that shot through his cock and nipples. Sensation piled on sensation, building inside him. The fingers pumping his cock did so with fresh vigor.

“Feel it, beauty? This is just the smallest taste of the pleasure that awaits you—your body shall be my paradise, my temple, my world….”

Something happened then… pleasure expanded not just through his loins but his whole body, his entire being. Wave upon wave carried him up and up, and when he crashed down, carried him up again. Whatever Melkor’s finger was gently rubbing inside him cascaded along the canyons of his loins. Commanded by Melkor’s fist, Rimmon’s cock erupted, and he ejaculated in a hard, hot stream, again and again, coating the lord’s hand, his own belly, and possibly the ceiling. His asshole clenched about the finger that slowly continued to circle until it gradually eased from his body.

He was still gasping, ashamed and amazed, when Melkor lowered onto his elbows over him. “My warrior,” his dark lover said, kissing Rimmon’s lips softly, then deeper still. “My kadezh.”

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