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Theo Fenraven on *Three of Swords* and letting characters speak

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An old houseboat, a hot young guy, a couple of murders, and more mysterious keys than you can shake a stick at: this is what awaits Gray Vecello after his grandfather, Graham, is killed on his way to pick up high blood pressure pills.

A letter Graham left behind sends Gray and his unexpected ally, Cooper Key, on a journey downriver in an attempt to unravel the mystery surrounding an unknown treasure. On the way, they encounter both friends and enemies, one of whom will target Gray and Cooper for death. One thing working in Gray’s favor: he has the sight, just as Graham had, but will it be enough to save them both?

Theo Fenraven has tried his hand at many professions since leaving school, almost none of which he was qualified for. He figured the worst that could happen was he’d be fired. Currently, he’s editing manuscripts for a popular online publisher. He’s also a published writer of romance, erotica, mysteries, and thrillers.

He’s acquired lots of hobbies along the way. In his youth, he hung out with musicians, sang, and learned to write music and play the guitar. He’ll still burst into song at parties if he’s lubricated enough. Then there was the time he tried horse breaking and nearly broke his neck on one hell of a rank gelding, but he survived and went on to caving, rock climbing, and, when friends bought a twenty inch ‘scope, astronomy. His biggest passion these days is photography, and he often posts his photos on his blog.

You can read more about Fen at his blog, http://theofenraven.wordpress.com, or say hi to him on twitter, @fenraven.

The Interview

Q: How important are character names, to you, and how do you go about naming them? What about titles?
A: Not surprisingly, minor character names come to me out of nowhere. Main character names, however, require much thought and agonizing over. It took me a while to come up with Talis Kehk for Phoenix Rising, but in retrospect, that name was worth every moment I spent thinking it up. And Artemis? That was borrowed from my favorite name and character in the original Wild Wild West: Artemis Gordon. Using that name was a tribute to him. As for book titles, I’m never quite pleased with them. I just do the best I can.

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: Three of Swords, is mostly set in Red Wing MN, on a houseboat. I’m familiar with and love the area. During the course of the story, the MCs travel downriver. To give the journey the proper flavor, it helped I had visited many times.

Q: How much power do you give your characters in steering the story line? That depends on the story, but often, I let the characters lead via dialog. They say things that suggest twists and turns and I gleefully follow while controlling the overall direction of the plot.

Q: What is the most satisfying element for you in writing gay relationships, and why?
A: I portray all gay relationships as utterly normal. To me, they are no different from straight or other relationships. Genitals may vary from couple to couple, but always, there is affection and hopefully, deep love.

Q: Are readers involved in making your fiction—do they suggest stories or say what they’d like to read?
A: At this point in my writing career, no. Although I have had readers ask me for sequels to stories that contain their favorite characters.

Q: Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.
A: Friendly but respectful. I like maintaining a distance between me and readers. In fact, I insist on it. While I am deeply appreciative of them―let’s face it, without them I am nothing!―my personal life is my own and I prefer to keep it that way.

Q:What do you find useful about reviews?
A: Reviews that are positive light me up inside. Reviews that are less glowing give me something to think about. As a writer, I can always improve and thoughtful criticism helps me do that.

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: All my characters are sexy. LOL My favorites are always the ones I’m currently writing, and that would be Cooper Key and Gray Vecello, an unlikely pairing that becomes more endearing by the day. I’m currently working on the sequel to Three of Swords, and I’m having fun revealing more of their past to readers.

Q: What are the fifty hottest words (approximate the word count) you’ve ever written, in your opinion. (Be sure to include citation).
A: Wow. That’s tough! ‘Sexy’ varies from person to person. For no real reason at all, I think this brief bit from Numbers is sexy.

Bracing the phone on my shoulder, I yanked the zipper down, pushed the denim out of my way, and reached inside my underwear to wrap fingers around a cock so hard, it hurt. “Tell me….”

“Every time you answered one of those number questions, I wanted to push my tongue down your throat. My favorite? Sixty-nine.”

Q: What are you doing now, what do plan to write next?
A: The Precog in Peril series will initially contain three books. After that, I’m not sure where I’ll go. I have no lack of ideas and I certainly plan to write many stories.

Excerpt from Three of Swords

It was raining the day we buried my grandfather. I twisted the program in my hands until it started to shred, keeping my eyes down and tuning out the pastor’s words about what a great man Graham Vecello had been. He’d never known him, but I had.
Grandpa Graham had been a holy terror to everyone in the family. He never just talked; he sniped and snarked and growled behind his whiskers. They told me he hadn’t been like that when Lizzie, his wife, had still been around, but after she died young, he’d gradually become meaner and more distant, and then he sold his farm, bought a houseboat, and retreated into weighty silence.

Mom and Dad continued inviting him to join us for major holidays, but nine times out of ten, he didn’t bother showing up, and the infrequent times he did, he sat in a dark corner glowering at the noisy young kids and leaving right after dinner. He scared the shit out of me, and after he disappeared into his watery hermitage, I was glad to forget him.
Mom placed a hand over mine, stilling them, and I sighed and shifted in the hard seat, wondering how much longer this would last. Gramps had been an asshole. I doubted anyone would miss him much, not even my father, who’d been the oldest of Gramps’s and Lizzie’s three boys.

The turnout for his funeral was small, and those who got up to talk about his life were few in number, so sooner than I expected, we trooped to the graveyard, where the pastor did some more talking, the clod of dirt was thrown onto the casket, and people finally drifted away as the diggers started filling in the hole.

Sharing a bright red umbrella, my parents lingered, and as a show of support, so did I, but I was already thinking about what I wanted for dinner and wondering if I should hit a couple bars tonight, hook up with some friends. Flipping up the collar of my leather jacket, I huddled deeper inside it while slipping cold hands into the pockets. Spring was cool and wet this year, and I was looking forward to the warmth of May.

Mom and Dad outstayed everyone, even the guys who covered the casket, but finally, we were alone, and they decided they could leave without censure. They’d put in their time, they’d shown everyone how much Grandpa Graham had meant to them, even if the last time they’d seen him had been four months ago.

Hell, how could they have known he’d get shot picking up his blood pressure pills at the drugstore? Wrong place, wrong time. They hadn’t caught the guy yet, either, and chances were good they never would. No witnesses, no weapon at the scene. Instant cold case.
We reached the cars, and I stopped beside mine, one hand on the door. “I don’t need to come back to the house, do I?”

They gave me matching frowns, and Dad said, “You haven’t been by in a while.”
Mom said, “You have to eat and there’s plenty of food.” Her eyes swept me critically. “You’re too thin, Gray. Have some dinner, talk with your relatives. Harper will be there.”

I liked cousin Harper. We were only a year apart in age; she was twenty-eight and I was twenty-seven. She came out my last year of high school. It took me somewhat longer.
I could stand to see Harper. “Okay.” I unlocked the door and pulled it open.
Mom had gone on with the umbrella, but Dad tarried. “You okay? Is there anything bothering you?”

I refused to meet his eyes. “Not a thing. See you at home.”

I slid behind the wheel and brushed rain-wet black hair out of my eyes, watching through the windshield as Dad joined mom in their sensible Toyota hybrid.

The last thing I wanted to talk about was that I’d known for two weeks Grandpa Graham, after whom I was named, was going to die, and I hadn’t done a single thing to stop it.

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Tia Fielding on *Technically Dead* and how shifters belong in Finland

Click on the cover image to buy the book at the Dreamspinner store.

When Brandon Roland’s parents kicked him out for being gay, he turned to prostitution to get by—something that almost cost him his life when he was attacked by strangers. Bran was saved by a vampire named Heath, and during their year together, Bran’s life was good—but then Heath sent him packing for reasons unknown.

That was twelve years ago, and Bran’s come a long way since then. He has an education, a job as a social worker at a vampire/human youth shelter, friends, and a tattoo he adds to annually to commemorate another year without the love of his life.

The trouble with being a very old vampire is that the older you are, the less you feel. Heath is over nine hundred—he was sure he’d never experience emotion again, but he never counted on Bran. When Heath accidentally stumbles back into Bran’s life, it changes more than either man thought possible—and then history literally catches up with them and turns their lives inside out.

Tia Fielding is a Finnish M/M-author, published by Dreamspinner Press. She hails from a middle-of-nowhere town surrounded by nature and dislikes cities with vigor. Because of this, she’s writing a shifter-series with the forests of eastern Finland as the backdrop. While she hasn’t picked one sub-genre within the genre, it will always be vampires that have her heart. When she’s not writing, Tia likes to read, watch her shows (but no soaps, please!) and she’s always ready to try out a new computer game.

Website and blog: http://www.tiafielding.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/tiafielding
Twitter: @tiafielding

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 important, I tend to name characters after people or based on meanings. Sometimes I pick a name at random, oftentimes the characters pop up in my head with “Hi I’m X.” It sounds crazy, but a lot of characters do that for a lot of writers. Story titles are different. Sometimes there’s a name that just pops up while I write, other times I ask the editors if they have ideas. For example “Technically Dead” was purely my title, while Tiglon By The Tail was a collaboration between myself and the editing team.

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’ve been writing my shifter series lately, so the locale is dear to my heart in so many ways. The series takes place in eastern Finland, which is basically where I live myself. I know the place, I have special insight to it, and it was clear that if I ever wrote shifters I’d want to have them live here. Now, writing book 3, it’s pretty much obvious readers are enjoying the setting as much as I do.

Locations just click. Occasionally I write about places I want to know more about and research to satisfy my curiosity, but mostly I grab hold of settings I see online or have been to. That said, I’ve never been to the US, so I do have to research a lot!

Q: How much power do you give your characters in steering the story line?
A: Pretty much all the power is theirs. It won’t work if I try to pressure or steer them. They keep surprising me quite often. For example, recently I was writing something and suddenly one of the main characters blurted out he had a son. I hadn’t known about that and it totally added a new element to the plot! Sometimes I have to say things like “You’re so not having sex yet!” or stomp my foot when they try to cut corners, but yeah, I have to admit 95% of the story comes from the characters.

Q: What is the most satisfying element for you in writing gay relationships, and why?
A: Probably the fact that I’m GLBTQ myself and since I don’t care about writing M/F or F/F, it still gives me a way to write something that’s close to my heart, stuff I’ve at least partially lived through at some point or have seen friends go through around me. It also gives me a way to set things straight with the universe if I think something that was “done wrong” to me just because who I am can be used in a good way in a story. I don’t know if that makes sense to anyone else, but it does to me! ^^

Q: Are readers involved in making your fiction—do they suggest stories or say what they’d like to read?
A:Sometimes. I love reader feedback so much that I try to listen to it. If it’s constructive in any way, I try and remember what they said and while I don’t write to meet people’s expectations, I do think it’s always important to listen.

Q: Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.
A: As an author I’d love to get more emails from people who enjoy my stories. They give me a boost to write much more than the random positive review does. I would also like to add that readers should always rate the books they like either on Amazon or Goodreads (or wherever they bought the book) just because it adds to visibility. Oh and readers actually buying (and not pirating) the books makes us authors happy.

Q: What do you find useful about reviews?
A: Constructive criticism. If the critique is made in a way that doesn’t seem mean or petty or just outright bullying, then it’s useful.

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 no… this is a bad, bad question…. I’d have to say Heath first, my vampire in Technically Dead. He’s hot because I know him so well in my head. I also think Thom in By Any Other Name is a total sweetheart and sexy as hell. But I tend to find all my characters hot one way or another so this is a tricky question!

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 the beginning of my favorite scene (which is later mirrored in the book as well, so it has a lot of meaning) from Technically Dead. It starts from page 33 in the book. As such, this isn’t much as I tried to keep it short, but what happens after this bit… 😉

An hour later, Bran was pleasantly buzzed, very turned on, and he had a twink rubbing his ass against Bran’s crotch on the dance floor. So maybe Bran was a bit older at thirty-two, but this guy didn’t seem to mind at all. In fact, if there hadn’t been layers of leather and denim between them, Bran would have been inside the kid by now.

Q: What are you doing now, what do plan to write next?
A: I’m struggling through the third Finnshifters book at the moment. It’s been something I’ve worked on for a while now and my depression likes to mess with my creativity. The next hurdle will be NaNoWriMo, and I’m going to write outside my element (although still M/M) and that should be fun! We’ll see if anything publishable comes out of it this year, but at least I’ve tried. 🙂

An Excerpt from Technically Dead

An hour later, Bran was pleasantly buzzed, very turned on, and he had a twink rubbing his ass against Bran’s crotch on the dance floor. So maybe Bran was a bit older at thirty-two, but this guy didn’t seem to mind at all. In fact, if there hadn’t been layers of leather and denim between them, Bran would have been inside the kid by now.

“Shit,” he hissed, feeling the leisurely roll of the firm bubble butt against his cock.

The kid tossed him a cheeky look over his shoulder, then stepped away and headed for the back rooms. Okay, then…. He didn’t bother adjusting himself—the leather was tight enough not to be comfortable before he actually got rid of the boner, and he had no intention of letting it wait for much longer.

Bran followed the twink into the back room and saw him leaning on a wall near the back. It was a spot surrounded by mixed couples, vampires and humans. Well, if the twink got his rocks off by seeing some bloodsucking happen, who was Bran to deny him?

In less than thirty seconds, he found his back pressed against the wall, his leather pants opened, and his cock being sucked very enthusiastically by the kid. A male vampire sucking a guy’s neck only an arm’s length away from Bran finished his feeding just as the human came almost violently all over the vampire’s fingers.
Bran knew why the guy looked so dazed. He knew so well…. The rush you got from the bite was what led people into trouble. It had led Bran to trouble and heartache.
The boy moaned around his cock and made Bran’s thoughts snap back to the action happening below his waist.

The vampire and the human turned to look at them, smiling just a little. The human looked like he was having the time of his life, while the vampire licked his lips, the tips of his fangs still showing. There was a bulge in the vampire’s jeans, and for a moment Bran thought he was going to approach him. Instead, the vampire stepped closer and took a whiff of his scent, and the invisible barrier formed between them.

Bran sighed, turned his gaze away, and tried to concentrate on the warm mouth instead of wishing that the cool fingers and cock were at his disposal. Fucking hell….

“I wish I could,” the vampire suddenly whispered into his ear, his cool breath, although warmed by the blood he had just been drinking, sending sudden chills through Bran’s system. Maybe he wasn’t that good at hiding his true emotions, like the fucking omnipresent pain he felt that he couldn’t have a vampire when he craved one’s touch more than air. Bran looked at the vampire, trying to keep the pleading from his gaze; he wasn’t going to beg. Not again. He’d never sink that low again….
With a pointed look, the vampire blew cool air against Bran’s neck, and suddenly Bran came so hard only the vampire’s cold palm pressing him to the wall held him upright.

“Wow….” The man at Bran’s feet blinked up at him. “Damn, I’m good.”

Bran opened his eyes, noticed that the vampire and his human were gone, and forced a smile at the twink. “Sure, thanks…. Eh, did you…?” He was a gentleman, after all.
“Oh, yeah, man, you’re hot when you come.” The boy grinned, digging a tissue from his pocket and then wiping his hands clean.

Bran thanked him again as he did his fly up, and then headed back to the club. He didn’t have heart to tell the boy that despite his skills in cocksucking, the best orgasm Bran had had in years wasn’t due to him but the vampire whose whisper reminded him of another cool breath on his neck.

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Tinnean on *Call Me Church*, creative titling, and the lack of unexpected pregnancies in gay fiction

Click on the cover to buy this book at the Dreamspinner store.

It’s the height of the Depression, and people are desperate for a distraction from their lives. Film director Church Chetwood wants to help them forget—and he manages it with his documentaries and travelogues. But when the saber-tooth tiger he captured escapes, Manhattan’s grave situation only worsens. Now Church is facing ten years up the river.

Black Tuesday left John Smith a homeless sixteen-year-old orphan, and in the past four years he’s survived as best he could. When his path crosses Church’s, Johnny’s looking for a meal, nothing more. Surely after all he’s done, no one could love him—especially not Church, who insists he isn’t “like that.” But Church does have a plan to get away. Maybe if Johnny’s lucky, Church will let him tag along.

Tinnean has been writing since the 3rd grade, where she was inspired to try her hand at epic poetry. Fortunately, that epic poem didn’t survive the passage of time; however, her love of writing not only survived but thrived, and in high school she became a member of the magazine staff, where she contributed a number of stories.

It was with the advent of the family’s second computer – the first intimidated everyone – that her writing took off, enhanced in part by fanfiction, but mostly by the wonder that is copy and paste.

While involved in fandom, she was nominated for both Rerun and Light My Fire Awards. Now she concentrates on her original characters.

A New Yorker at heart, she resides in SW Florida with her husband and two computers.

Ernest Hemingway’s words reflect Tinnean’s devotion to her craft: Once writing has become your major vice and greatest pleasure, only death can stop it.

She can be contacted at tinneantoo@gmail.com, and can be found on Live Journal and on Facebook. If you’d like to sample her earlier works, they can be found at http://www.angelfire.com/fl5/tinnssinns/Welcome1.html.

The Interview
Q: How important are character names, to you, and how do you go about naming them? What about titles?
A: This is an interesting question. I just did a blog on this very topic. Names are just as important a part of the character as eye or hair color. Yes, a rose would smell as swell, but would we be inclined to take a sniff if it was called stinkweed? I have links to naming sites online as well as the book 20,001 Names for Baby, which is really helpful in that I can find both first names and surnames from the book. What’s difficult is when names need to be changed because they’re too similar and there’s a possibility of confusing the reader. (i.e. Emma/Elle, Hughes/Hayward/Humphrey) I’ve had to come up with something else, and it takes a while to get used to the new name. One of the things I enjoy the most is playing with names. In a story I’ll post online, a character’s parents are Elizabeth and Bernard—Betty and Barney. And in another story a young woman calls her future father-in-law “Father Marcus”. After I’d written that, I wanted to change his name to William in the worst way. *g*

Regarding titles, I’ve found that I can’t write comfortably unless I have one of some sort, even something as lame as Looking for a Title. I get titles from lines of poetry (“Ah, Me! Full Sorely is My Heart Forlorn”) or songs (“Blue Champagne”, “Blue Velvet”, and “Blue Moon” and yes, that was a trilogy), although sometimes the stories name themselves, (Call Me Church for instance.) No matter how they’re named, once I’ve titled them, the title generally stays. However… (You knew there’d be a however, didn’t you?) On occasion the story itself will change its mind. A novel that will be out in February/March started life as Here Comes the Groom. From there it went to The Wedding Vow, Brown-Eyed Handsome Man, and finally settled on Two Lips, Indifferent Red, which is from Twelfth Night.

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: Call Me Church is set in Manhattan in 1933. This was the only locale where it could take place. And that’s how it works for me: the story chooses its own location, which in some cases becomes a secondary character. Lately, though, I’ve found it’s easier to create a city (as in Two Lips) or towns where I can come up with malls, streets, schools, and even beaches.

Q: How much power do you give your characters in steering the story line?
A: Seriously? I’m just along for the ride. They’ll let me write until there’s something they object to, and then they’ll drag their heels. It can reach a point where I’m no longer enjoying what I’m doing, so I’ll have to stop and try something else until we’re all happy. It can be as simple as introducing another character, but it can be as complex as tossing out an entire chapter and starting from scratch. But you know what’s the best? It’s not written in stone that I have to continue that plot thread. I can change it as often as necessary. (And believe me, there are times when it’s really necessary!)

Q: What is the most satisfying element for you in writing gay relationships, and why?
A: I read a lot of Harlequins back in the day, and what I find most satisfying about the gay relationships I write is: 1. There won’t be any unexpected pregnancies; 2. My characters are not simply gay, they’re people who just happen to love someone who’s the same sex; 3. I like to think that none of them are TSTL—too stupid to live; and finally 4. No unexpected pregnancies. *cough*

Q: Are readers involved in making your fiction—do they suggest stories or say what they’d like to read?
A: Yes, on occasion, although the decision as to whether to go their route or not remains mine. In one story, I mentioned Character A was going to take Character B home to meet his family, and because I was tired at that point, I left it at that. Sometime later, a reader wrote me and asked what happened, and since I’d had some time to recoup, I went back and fleshed out a whole ’nother chapter. I’ll also ask on LJ. I was giving a character ringtones for his phone for the people in his life, and I asked my flist what they thought of a selection of music. Their input is valuable in that it gives me something to consider.

Q: Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.
A: For me it would be a matter of trust. I’d like my readers to trust me enough to know that I won’t lead them down the garden path, and as a result of that they’d be willing to give whatever I write—contemporary, sci-fi, historical, even f/f— a try.

Q: What do you find useful about reviews?
A: I found a review for Fifty Shades of Grey very helpful, in that it included a list of words that were repeated ad nauseum. This led me to realize that in Two Lips, people did an awful lot of smiling: I smiled, he smiled, she smiled. I went back and reworked the majority of them, thereby fleshing out the sequences.

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 like asking a mom who her favorite child is. (Okay, okay, but if any of my characters ask, you have to promise you’ll tell them I think they’re all sexy.) I’d have to say Mark Vincent and Quinton Mann in my Spy vs. Spook series. These two men are adults in the prime of their lives, and being in the intelligence community, they’re both competent and willing to do whatever they have to in order to protect the other. There’s also the fact that while they haven’t said those three little words, (no, not “You’re a dope.” *g*) their actions more than show it.

Q: What are the fifty hottest words (approximate the word count) you’ve ever written, in your opinion. (Be sure to include citation).
A: Not sure if this is what you want, but in my own work I tend to prefer what’s hinted at, so I’d have to go with this, from Yours, Jason, a novella that will be out in December.

Ben looked so good in the black suit he’d chosen that Jason couldn’t help dropping to his knees, unzipping Ben’s fly, and blowing him there in the upper level hallway.
“Whoa!” Ben leaned back against the wall, trying to catch his breath.
Jason grinned up at him and caught a stray drop of come from the corner of his mouth.

Q: What are you doing now, what do plan to write next?
A: Right now I’m working on the fourth book in the Spy vs. Spook series, called Complications. The first chapter picks up immediately after the events in the Black Coffee chapter of Not My Spook! The second chapter goes ahead seven months, and then the rest of the book should be two years down the road.

I have an idea for a western that takes place in 1870, (I’d love to name this Green Grow the Lilacs, but since that’s the play Oklahoma was based on, I’ll have to come up with something else.) and I’m giving some thought to the back story. Then there’s what I like to call my gay vampire story. *g*

There’s also the sequel to Call Me Church, which begins with them in the South Seas. This is another one that has no title as yet, but maybe something like Johnny and Church and the Search for the Treasure of the Hidden Temple? *falls down laughing*

Exerpt from Call Me Church

Chapter 1

Life during the Depression was hard. There wasn’t much to be happy about, to entertain us, so when Church ‘Chet’ Chetwood, the renowned film director, returned from the South Seas with what he claimed was the most astounding find in ten thousand years… well, everyone wanted to see it.

No one expected a throwback to the Ice Age to suddenly appear on Manhattan Island, and people stormed the box office to buy tickets.

I’d wanted so badly to go see the creature that was supposed to be extinct, but I couldn’t afford it. Well, I could barely afford to eat.

For once God was on my side, although so many others weren’t as fortunate. I wasn’t there when “Chetwood’s Kitty” somehow managed to escape from the theater where it was being exhibited.

The buildings along 42nd Street still bore splatters of dried blood from the path the giant saber-toothed tiger had taken. It had torn apart dozens of homeward-bound workers. Bodies had been disemboweled, decapitated, literally torn limb from limb. Cars had swerved to get out of the path of the infuriated creature. They’d run over pedestrians and had crashed into buildings, into the beams of the el, into buses, into one another.

A few days later, while I was scrounging in an alley, I’d come across the torso of a woman that had been somehow overlooked in the cleanup. Razor-sharp claws had shredded the shirtwaist she’d worn and the flesh beneath it, and the expression on her face revealed her pain and terror. I’d wheeled around and thrown up, although there had been little in my stomach.

The sabertooth had escaped to Central Park, and for three days the city was under martial law. That hadn’t helped the people who lived in Hooverville, in the drained reservoir. Six of them had been slaughtered before the Army had tracked down the sabertooth and fired enough rounds into it to bring it down.

I followed the story whenever I came across a discarded newspaper. The Daily News, being just a step up from a scandal sheet, had the juiciest stories. Its reporters told in gory, minute detail all the carnage that had descended upon New York City in those three days.

The survivors, as well as those who had lost loved ones, were among the many suing Church Chetwood, along with the city, the state, and the federal government, which was out to get him for bringing an unlicensed animal onto American soil.
However, no one knew where Mr. Chetwood was.

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TJ Klune on *Burn* and the voices in our heads…

A Click on the cover image takes you straight to the buy link at Dreamspinner.
Book One of the Elementally Evolved series

Set in a world that closely resembles our own, Burn is a story of redemption and betrayal, of family and sacrifice, which leads to the greatest question of all: how far would you go to save the ones you love?

Fifteen years ago, Felix Paracel killed his mother with fire that shot from his hands. Since then, he has hidden from forces bent on exploiting him and his fire and wind Elemental abilities. But Felix’s world is about to change, because he is Findo Unum-the Split One-and his coming has been foretold for generations.

Though Felix’s arrival brings great joy to the Elemental world, it also heralds a coming darkness. No one knows this better than Seven, the mysterious man who rescued Felix from that horrible fire years ago and then disappeared; Seven, who has returned to claim what’s rightfully his: Felix’s heart. But even as Felix begins to trust Seven and his feelings about his place in the world, the darkness reveals itself, bringing consequences no one could have predicted.

When TJ Klune was eight, he picked up a pen and paper and began to write his first story (which turned out to be his own sweeping epic version of the video game Super Metroid—he didn’t think the game ended very well and wanted to offer his own take on it. He never heard back from the video game company, much to his chagrin). Now, two decades later, the cast of characters in his head have only gotten louder, wondering why he has to go to work as a claims examiner for an insurance company during the day when he could just stay home and write.

He lives with a neurotic cat in the middle of the Sonoran Desert. It’s hot there, but he doesn’t mind. He dreams about one day standing at Stonehenge, just so he can say he did.

TJ’s Blog: A Fistful of Awesome.

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. The names, at least to me, tell part of a story themselves. Bear, Otter, and the Kid, while nicknames, showed a bond between these three given that they named each other. I try to keep the names from being to off the wall, because I do like the sense of realism in my stories (yes, yes, I know I have a character named Seven—but trust me, there’s a specific reason he’s named that. And yeah, that’s me being a teasing asshole yet again).

As far as titles are concerned, the title is something that usually comes to me even before I start writing the story. Titles are important because in all reality, they’re the identity of the story. The only time I’ve ever changed a title to a book of mine was to the upcoming Into This River I Drown, which was originally titled Blue Ford. The story changed in such a way as I was writing it that the Blue Ford title no longer fit.

Q: In what locale is your most recent book set? How compelling was it to set a story there? Do you choose location the same way every time? How?
A: My most recently completed book is Just The Way You Are, which is set where I live, in Tucson Arizona. As much as BOATK was based upon my earlier life in Oregon, Just The Way You Are is based upon how my life is now, with some obvious creative changes. As much as I like to bitch and moan when it’s July and 110 degrees outside, there’s really no place like the desert. Tucson is such a quirky town. There are a million people here, but it’s still got a small town vibe, which I really dig. It’s a little more liberal than the rest of Arizona (which is a good thing, seeing as how the state seems to be bent on showing the rest of the country what it looks like to take one step forward and sixteen steps backward).

I choose the locations for my books based upon the scope of the story. Into This River I Drown is set in the fictional Oregon town of Rosedale, which, geographically (at least in my head) is only a couple hours’ drive from another small town: Seafare, from the BOATK stories. They don’t exist in the same universe, but I couldn’t help but to reference Seafare in ITRID. BOATK and ITRID are set in small towns because they’re meant to be small town stories, though the boys from ITRID will travel a lot further than Bear and Otter ever did.

Q: How much power do you give your characters in steering the story line?
A: As much as they want or need. I go into the majority of my works with an outline as to where I want the story to go beginning, middle and end. But more often than not, there are detours into places that I never thought about when I started. The best example of this is Into This River I Drown. The book started as an ode to my father but turned into something so much more, specifically because of the characters and the direction they wanted to go versus the direction I wanted them to go (and, it should probably be mentioned, that I can’t ignore the fact that I’m apparently a sadistic bastard who has no problem putting people through the ringer; ITRID is going to be nuts).

What a lot of people don’t realize is that the majority of authors are probably certifiable with the amount of voices we hear in our heads. I have no shame in admitting that I have conversations with my characters. I laugh with them, I argue with them. Sometimes they piss me off, other times they make me cry. But I know what each and every one of them sound like (especially the Kid—I’m pretty sure I’m stuck with him for the rest of my life, given how he never seems to go too far away. But what’s funny about him is that I hear him as being older now, knowing that his story will be coming up soon. He’s no longer nine years old to me, but almost a man; I almost feel like a parent).

Q: What is the most satisfying element for you in writing gay relationships, and why?
A: The most satisfying part for me is that relationships happen like those we write about every day. Yeah, some of the plots can be far-fetched and may not be the most realistic thing in the world, but it always boils down to boy meets boy, boy and other boy make sex face at each other, boy and other boy then fall in love and live happily ever after forever and ever. For too long, it seemed as if GLBTQ portrayal in books and other media were all about the tragedies of being gay, either because of violence, hatred, or illness. It’s nice to be able to write and read about the realities of being gay in the 21st century. Even though there still is violence and hatred and illness, that does not have to define who we are, given that we are more than that.

Q: Are readers involved in making your fiction—do they suggest stories or say what they’d like to read?
A: While I appreciate my readers more than anything, I really try to write what I want to write and not necessarily cater to others. If my readers had their way BOATK3 would be written, Burn wouldn’t have ended like it did, and Julie McKenna would have been run over by a herd of rampaging buffalo, only to survive, stand up, and then get mauled by fourteen rabid raccoons. You know you’ve done your job when you’ve written a despicable character this is universally reviled (I could try to argue here that maybe she’s just misunderstood, but that’d be a bunch of bullshit. I hate her face).

That being said, I always like to hear from readers about what they like or dislike (and you’d be surprised how many emails I get from both sides—I seem to have one of those faces where people seem to think they can tell me whatever they want, which I think is awesome…for the most part. I don’t think I ever received a higher volume of mail then when after Who We Are came out and people read about Mrs. Paquinn. I was pretty sure I was headed toward a Misery type situation right then, especially when I received an email that contained a single line: “You shouldn’t have done what you did to Mrs. P.”

Yikes.

Q: Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.
A: In an ideal world: readers would read and writers would write, though I don’t know how practical that would be. There has to be a fair amount of interaction between the two groups. After all, books won’t sell themselves.

There’s always going to be a fine line between reader/author contact, and unfortunately, that line gets crossed on both sides more often than it should, and it seems to be happening more and more. In the days of people paying for reviews, the so-called GR bullies and people who make websites about so-called GR bullies, to authors behaving badly and the snipe and snark and viciousness on both sides, it’s a wonder the world hasn’t exploded, or at least collapsed in on itself. Maybe that’s the price (upside? downside?) of social media, that everyone is entitled to share (and can and will share) their opinion about anything or everything.

I like talking to my readers, and I do so through Facebook and GR quite often. I don’t typically comment on reviews of my books (either good or bad), because again, I don’t think the review is for me. This is knocking any other author that does that, just my personal preference. But, of course, I’d be nowhere at all without the people that have bought my books, so I love ‘em to pieces and would have all of their babies had God seen fit to give me ovaries; alas, I am but a man.

Q: What do you find useful about reviews?
A: Aside from the day a book comes out, I don’t really focus on reviews, to be honest. Reviews, at least to me, are for other readers, and not necessarily for the authors. When BOATK first came out, I obsessed about reviews for a few weeks until I realized there really was no point in it. I am eternally grateful when someone takes the time to write a review for something I wrote, no matter if it’s good or bad. I don’t think reviews are the best place to look for critique when it comes to writing. That’s what my Beta readers are for, and they kick my ass enough, and I know them well enough to know they won’t sugar coat anything.

However, I am also an avid reader and it’s an interesting position to be in, being both a published author and someone who writes reviews for books. On one hand, I am very well aware of the time and energy that goes into writing a book, and how scary it can be to let that book out into the world. On the other hand, I am very opinionated about what I read. It can be a difficult position to be in, but I like to think I’ve found a bit of middle ground with it. I won’t write reviews to books I didn’t enjoy, or even rate them, because I don’t want it to be seen as an attack on another author, but I will praise a book to high heaven if I think it awesome.

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: Seven, from Burn. He’s a hardcore badass, extraordinarily possessive, and a man who is not afraid to lead his people or protect what is his. He has so many layers, the depths of which readers haven’t even seen yet. I’m starting to think that the Elementally Evolved Trilogy is about him more than anyone else, even Felix. (I know, I know: I keep teasing. But I promise, it’ll be worth the wait when Book II is finally finished.)

Q: What are the fifty hottest words (approximate the word count) you’ve ever written, in your opinion. (Be sure to include citation).
A: From the upcoming Just The Way You Are:

Sweat formed between us, my cock trapped against his stomach as he slid into me, creating a delicious friction that I didn’t want to push away. I felt fluid and slippery, and he growled against my neck, his breath light and quick as his hips snapped back and forth.
“I’m going,” I whispered.
“Go,” he panted.

Q: What are you doing now, what do plan to write next?
A: Now, is all about Elementally Evolved Book II: Break. I’ve got to finish that story before I can start anything else. After that, I plan on heading back to Seafare for BOATK3 (of which I’ve got a pretty good amount of the story thought up in my head—oh man, the angst that’s going to happen in Ty and Dom’s story is going to be something else, that’s for damn sure. I’m excited and dreading it all at the same time). My next release will be the previously discussed Into This River I Drown, followed pretty quickly by Just The Way You Are. I’m also working on another project, though I think I’ll keep it under wraps for now.

An Excerpt from Burn:

I turned to face the crowd behind me and was unsurprised when my stalker
smiled at me from the front of my audience. Funny, I hadn’t seen him standing there
before.

“I’m going to my home,” I called to him.

“I know where you live,” he reminded me, his voice highly amused. The people
around him suddenly looked at him with newfound respect. They hadn’t expected a
second act to this farce.

“I know, but could you just stay away?” I pleaded.

“Do you really want that?” he asked me sharply.

I thought for a moment. “Yes, I do.” My heart hammered in my chest.

“For how long?” he asked.

“You’re not giving up, are you?” I asked him, suddenly feeling very tired. Or
resigned. I didn’t know which.

“Never in your life,” he said, his deep voice rough and wonderful. “You belong
to me.”

“I don’t belong to anyone,” I told him. The heads of our audience swiveled back
and forth like they were watching a tennis match.

He cocked his head. “Oh, you most definitely do. It’ll be easier for both of us if
you just stop fighting me on it.” He flexed his arms against his massive body.

Bastard was cheating.

I grinned at him. “Where’s the fun in that?”

“Come over here,” he ordered. “Now.”

I didn’t dare disobey. As I walked up to him, our audience turned their heads,
watching every step I took. I saw them only out of the corners of my eyes because I
was focused on him. I reached him and put my hands on his chest as his arms folded
around me, the top of my head barely reaching his chin. His body was hard as a rock,
and it felt like hugging human granite. He reached down and rubbed the back of my
head through the hood of my sweatshirt. I stared up at him, and he watched me back,
and I knew I couldn’t (wouldn’t) fight this again. His face lowered to mine, and his
lips brushed against my lips, and I could feel the flash inside me, the flare threatening to rise. But still, our eyes remained open, the ocean looking back at me. I gasped at a thought, a memory—the giant—but it was lost as he brushed his lips against mine again, never fully pressing, only promising. Nothing in my life had ever been more erotic than that moment: the ghosting of his mouth over mine, the feel of his body under my hands, the way he held the back of my neck. I shivered in his grip. I wanted to climb up him like the mountain he was and wrap my legs around his waist and let him rub against me in the alley. That’s why I stepped back; it’s why I stepped away.

He looked down at me, a knowing smile on his face.

“You said I was your Iuratum Cor,” I breathed at him. “And you were mine in return.”

He nodded.

“What does that mean?”

His eyes flashed. “It’s Latin. It means ‘heart sworn’. You belong to me. And I am
yours.”

I turned and ran.

“Soon, Felix,” he called after me. “I’ll see you soon.” His voice was sure,
confident.

I ran faster.

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

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

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

The Hand-Me-Down

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Interview

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

Q: In what locale is your most recent book set? How compelling was it to set a story there? Do you choose location the same way every time? How?
A: Locations are part of the plot. They almost always become a character. My latest book, The Hand-me-down, is set in Barcelona and New York. I love New York to bits, yet New York became a very dark, menacing city for some reason. Barcelona is the bright sunshine place in the novel and although not so nice things happen in Barcelona too, it’s still the brightness to NYC’s gloom.

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

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

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

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

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

Q: I’m well known for demanding to know an author’s opinion about which of their characters is the sexiest, and I’m making no exception. Who, how, and why?
A: Right now, Mr. Sex-on-legs for me is Nick from The Hand-me-down. I’m sorry I had to kill him. He’s pushing fifty, elegant, tall and slender, impeccable dresser, full white beard and white floppy hair. I like my men mature (if you didn’t know that, you’ve never read anything I write) and a little ambiguous. In this case, it seems he doted on Jamie, his longtime lover, and gave up his entire life to take care of him, but was it in Jamie’s best interest? Read it and find out.

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

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

An Excerpt!
From: The Hand-Me-Down

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Filed under Dreamspinner Press, featured authors, Writers on writing

Jake Mactire author interview (cowboy romance from a guy who knows)

LS: Jake, welcome to the blog! I’m very pleased to have the opportunity to feature your writing, and I’m looking forward to some interesting Q and A.
JM: Thanks Lou! It’s great to be here

Q: Before we talk directly about your novels, Jake, I’d love to hear a little bit more about you. Your bio certainly piques interest. You now live in Seattle—close to my adopted home, incidentally. I always give a bit of a cheer when I run across another Puget Sound author. Is this where you’re from? Have you lived many places? Maybe you can talk a bit about how “home base” affects your writing, whether that’s Seattle, or wherever?
A: I’m originally from the Midwest. I grew up on a ranch just outside a small town of 2500 on a good day. I’ve lived in Seattle for eighteen years now. I love it, including the rain! I really enjoy the outdoors, and Seattle is great in that I can be by the ocean in about 15 minutes and in the mountains in about 45. The Methow Valley, the place which has inspired the Jeff and Mike books is about three and a half hours away. It’s one of my favorite places in the world. The laid back, live and let live atmosphere of Seattle has been a big influence on my writing. I have some of my best inspirations when I’m outside, kayaking, skiing, or hiking.

I’ve lived in quite a few places. I was an exchange student in Finland, studied in Mexico, worked in both Ireland and India, and in the US have lived in Michigan, Arizona, California, and Washington.

Q: Do you care to say what your “boring day job” is? Tell us anything about it, or how it affects your work as an author? Do you plan to be a full time writer, and if so, have you progressed in that direction?
A: Sure, I’m a software test engineer. I worked for quite a while for a very large software firm headquartered in Redmond WA. The sixty to eighty hour weeks took their toll, and I left several years ago. During my ‘break time’ from work, I wrote. I really enjoyed it and want to continue to write. Now that I’ve gone back to work (still testing software, but at a much more relaxed company) I don’t have all the time I’d like to write. I would love to be a full time writer. I am thinking of buying property in the Methow Valley here in Washington and that would give me the perfect place to write.

Q: You’ve done a lot of wonderful travelling, and you’ve found that to be a boost for your writing. What travel destination has most influenced you as a writer, whether it be the scenery, the people, or something less solid—a feeling, or attitude? Explain, if you would, please.
A: I’d have to list a couple of places. One was Phoenix, Arizona. I went to grad school there and I was dealing with coming out at that time. I had participated in high school and college rodeo for a while and most of my friends knew it. One of my friends had figured out my story so to speak and asked me to take her country and western dancing. She picked the place; it turned out to be Charlie’s, a gay honky- tonk. I remember standing there with my mouth open watching all the cowboys and some guy came up and asked me to dance. We got to the dance floor and he asked me “Lead or follow?” I asked “What do ya mean, follow?” Being from a small town and never having been to a gay bar, it didn’t even occur to me men could follow in dancing. Well, one thing led to another and I got involved in gay rodeo. I kept on rodeoing in the IGRA in California and Washington too. The friendliness and camaraderie of Charlie’s really has influenced my writing. The Methow Valley has also influenced me quite a bit. It does have places like local artist’s galleries, bakeries manned by guys in tie dyed clothes with pony tails, and rodeos with cowboys. As far as foreign places I’d have to say Scandinavia. It was really refreshing to see how accepted gay folks are there.

Q: Before I ask about Twisted, your latest release, let’s talk just a bit about the book that came before it—Two Sides of the Same Coin. It’s set in the Methow (for the unfamiliar, that’s pronounced like the two words, met + how), a broad valley that perhaps epitomizes wide-open western beauty. In it you’ve dropped these two men, gorgeous, different, capable, grieving, and needy, and mixed up for them what, judging from the excerpts, promises to be a memorable romance. Enduring, I hope. Sexy, I’m absolutely certain. Considering these elements, the plot or story line, the main characters, and the powerful setting, what came first when you got your idea to write this? How much did the characters control or fight for the storyline you had planned? How strongly did the Methow influence the events, or the characters’ emotions?

A: One weekend I went camping in the Methow Valley, in the eastern part just outside the North Cascades National Park. While I was hiking the idea for the story for Jeff and Mike came to me. I ended up hiking about twenty miles in the three days I was there and by that time I had a pretty good outline. I was surprised when I began to write as the characters really had to have their say. I hadn’t planned Jeff to be so ‘act first and think next’, but it is in character with a lot of cowboys I know. Mike ended up being a lot more stable and grounded than when I first envisioned him. When they meet, there’s an instant attraction, and the sparks begin to fly pretty quick. They compliment each other very well, and that came up as I was writing them. Jeff’s super self confidence is balanced by Mike’s mild insecurities. On the other hand Mike is very grounded while Jeff is impulsive. The characters actually controlled and wrote much of the story. I found that a bit surprising, but it worked out well. The Methow was the inspiration and the perfect setting.

Q: Paul Richmond’s unique style graces both of these covers, identifiable as his work from first glance. How much input did you have into the elements, colors, or other considerations for the covers? What was your reaction when you first saw them?
A: When I first saw the sketches for the covers, I was just blown away by how good they were, especially the first cover for Two Sides of the Same Coin. Paul really seemed to capture their personalities in his cover art. I had described what I thought would be the ideal cover in both scenarios and he brought it to life.

Q: Now, in Twisted, we meet back up with Mike and Jeff a couple of months down the line. Everything about the life they’re building together seems to balance, from their roping skills (the header and the heeler), to who dominates their kisses. They have a happy Christmas, they’re looking forward to the start of their dream dude ranch, things are good. But, oops, there’s one big problem in paradise: a serial killer. OMG! How did this idea come to you?
A: Good question! A few years ago I took the Trans-Siberian Express train from Moscow to Beijing. I broke the journey in Novosibirsk, Irkutsk, and Ulaan Bataar. In preparing for the trip I went to a second hand book store in Moscow which had a section in English. In that section there were two true crime books about serial killers. I bought them and there were chapters on the gay serial killers Larry Eyler and Randy Kraft. That gave me the idea. I had a lot of time to think about it; the train trip was seven days.

Q: Presumably, you sound like an authority on the cowboy stuff because you are—you’ve lived it. But hopefully, you had to research serial killers, and/or catching them? Anything special that you did to make sure your writing about this was authentic? Do you find in general that you do a lot of research for your writing, and how do you go about it?
A: I do quite a bit of research for my books. The serial killers was one area I really knew nothing about and ended up spending a lot of time online doing research. I also read several books by crime profilers who study serial killers. Other things I’ve researched are things like bronze casting. Since Jeff is an artist, I wanted to make that part of the book realistic. In Twisted, Jeff suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I ended up talking with a friend who is a Psychiatrist several times at length about PTSD, the symptoms, and therapy for it. The cowboy stuff is the easiest for me, I really don’t have to research that. I end up talking with friends and beta readers quite a bit too as part of my research. Occasionally I have to laugh, in a review on Amazon, someone said the books were unrealistic in that Mike came out after meeting Jeff, and someone that closeted would never come out. I’d talked to about ten guys who had come out like Mike did, after meeting someone special. So I tend to do quite a bit of research about things in the books prior to and while writing.

Q: Time for my famous, unavoidable question, Jake—I ask everyone, the rules are always the same, and they’re simple. 1. You must really choose. Waffling and hedging are okay, but in the end you must name a single name. 2. This is an essay question. No one-word answers. Choose, and explain. Here’s the question: Who is sexiest, Mike or Jeff?
A: LOL, I reckon I can’t leave that one up to the reader, can I? That’s a tough one since they are a lot alike. As part of the hemming and hawing prior to the selection of just one, I’ll have to say that I find both very sexy. I like Jeff’s self confidence and the way he walks around in various states of undress and is a bit unpredictable. I find the easy rapport he builds with people, like the kids in the bakery in Winslett, and the guests of the ranch very appealing.

That being said, I’d have to say to me, Mike is the sexiest. According to my friends and rodeo buddies who’ve read the books, I’m quite a bit like Jeff. I imagine that when thinking up the ideal man for Jeff, I envisioned him according to my tastes. First of all, I imagine Mike to have a beautiful smile. Jeff describes it as ‘lighting up his face’ when they’re out riding fences. I have a huge weakness for a guy with a captivating smile. I like the fact that Mike is willing to go after what he wants (in this case, Jeff). I think the fact that Mike can be submissive to Jeff and not feel he is giving up his masculinity is very hot. (Am I revealing a bit too much about myself?) Physically, Mike has hair on his chest and backside (not back!) which I find very alluring. Envisioning Mike, while he and Jeff are two-stepping or ‘rubbin’ belt buckles’ as they call it, is another big thing for me. Mike follows and there is just something really special about having a hot, hunky guy in your arms as you guide him around the dance floor.

I hope that answered the question!

Q: Do you have any upcoming releases, or things in process that your readers can look forward to? A longer range plan? Also, if you have any guest blog appearances, contests, chats, or other promos your readers might enjoy, let us know!
A: I have a third Jeff and Mike novel, Stickmen, which is being read by my beta readers. Then some editing, they’ll look at it again, and I’ll do some more editing and then submit it for publication. Keep your fingers crossed for that. I also did an outline for a spin off book featuring a character from the Jeff and Mike books. One of the guys there has a story that needs telling. I occasionally think about writing a hard boiled detective novel set in prohibition era Detroit, and also have a fantasy novel in mind. So it looks like I may have to write full time just to tell all the stories I have!

LS: Jake, thanks for coming and sharing your work. It’s been a delight. I hope you’ll come back.

JM: Thank you, Lou! It’s been a pleasure and I would love to come back sometime in the future. One of the greatest things about writing is meeting readers and other authors like you! Thanks again!

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Interview with Talia Carmichael—some ideas about love, family, and romance

LS: Talia, welcome to the blog! As you know, we’ve had a few obstacles arise as we tried to get to this point, and I’m very glad I’m able at last to ask you some questions and feature your work. Thank you for your patience and for being here.

TC:Yes we indeed did have a few but it all worked out. I’m happy to be there. Glad we are able to have this interview. Thanks for having me as a guest.

Q: Your bio is an intriguing paragraph, Talia—one that will certainly engender a question or two—but it doesn’t mention where you’re from or where you live and write. Many of the authors I’ve spoken too have said that their physical surroundings, whether staying the same over time or changing often, has lent some quality or content to their writing. Are you willing to share the geography in your life? Has it made a difference in the writing either directly, in voice or tone, or in some other way?
A: I currently reside in New York. And yes it does affect my writing in that NY is indeed a melting pot of people, geography and things that fill you. I’ve been lucky enough to find people in NY who have become an extension of my already large family. We are close and spend lots of time together. This is portrayed in my books—the feel of family and friends who are family even if not by blood but by heart and soul.

Q: You said that your writing “encompasses all that falling in love or lust entails.” Wonderful pool of material, and judging by the bits I’ve read that’s an apt description. But under the romance umbrella you write in many sub-genres—you mention futuristic, fantasy, and paranormal. Do you find that addressing romance, “love and lust,” requires a different approach for these different types of stories, or is it more of a commonality? What genre do you find the easiest to write in? Which do you most enjoy?
A: No I don’t find it needs a different approach. Even a being who is from the future, in fantasy or paranormal there is the one common thread they want to find love. Love is a complex thing that no one no matter how powerful can control. Maybe it will be instant they find their mate but still the road to getting to that happily ever after will be filled with the twists and turns of love. It can also be easy by just meeting eyes and know you are meant for each other. The wonderful thing is all about the journey easy and smooth or hard and difficult. Or anything in between. Love is wonderful to experience.

Q: You also write ménage themes. Is it more difficult to tease out the happy ever after when you’ve got more than two lovers involved?
A: No it’s not. Again it comes back to love no matter how many it is about finding those you click with. Then coming together to make a life and find love to their happy ever after.

Q: The two books you’ve shared with us here, according to the blurbs, involve friends turning lovers, or something similar. Is that the basis for the Something in Common series?
A: Although one of the books published so far is about, a friends to lovers theme that isn’t what the series is about. The basis for series is exactly what the series name states—it’s all about something in common. With the books published Detour is about a detour that causes a chance meeting between strangers. Sparks is about friends to lovers. The other books I have planned in series have the men meeting for a variety of reasons. They could be strangers, adversaries, friends or any number of things but all come back to thread of something in common.

For the Something in Common series I wrote a series blurb that’s on my site that says best what the series is about.

Something in Common—Series Blurb
When you first meet a person you might say “they are so not my type” or “we have nothing in common” yet as you get to know that person you can find that your differences are what makes your relationship work. That just that one common thing makes what you have together work. This series explores couples who might seem to have nothing in common and showcase that they do. Finding that other person that is for you is an adventure with twists and turns.

Embracing that “Something in Common” is exhilarating and can lead to a lifetime of love. This is what the Something in Common series is all about.

Q: Your characters seem richly drawn, and quite individualistic. In general, are your stories generated and driven by plot or by character? It there a typical way in which new ideas come to you?
A: Thanks I do strive to make them real so you feel you know them. My books are drive by both. In my opinion there is not one without the other. Without a balance between plot or character the stories isn’t a full one. That’s just my opinion.

New ideas come to me by any numerous ways. I can see something and it will give me an idea. Or I could dream and have a new idea to pursue. I take in everything around me.

Q: Okay, I’m warning you ahead of time, Talia. This is my infamous question. Some writers enjoy answering it, some clearly don’t like having to choose. The rules: Whereas you can fudge a bit, you can’t cheat—you have to choose an overall favorite; and, these are essay questions, requiring explanation; and, this is intended to be subjective in the author’s own eyes—no fair telling what you think readers like. So, here they are. Who is the sexiest, Bernie or Thomas? Robert or Miguel? Out of all four?
A: Uh huh not answering this. That is like trying to choose between who is your favorite child or niece/nephew, sibling, parent. Not a question I can answer in all honesty. I think it is best to leave it to the readers.
(Note by LS: Talia is my first ever refusal on this question. I hope she doesn’t start a trend!)

Q: What’s coming up, Talia? Anything on the near horizon? More in the Something in Common series? Longer range plans?
A: I have books in some of my series I started last year. Also this year I will be launching 2 new series set in the same towns as some of my previous series. They will feature a new set of characters and what is happening in their lives. There maybe a cross over between series here or there. Below is what I have confirmed as contracted so far. I’m awaiting a response on a few the submissions I have out to my various publishers.
After the Fall—(The Right Choice #1) – April 9, 2012
Wicked Intentions—(Bonds of Justice #1) – June 18, 2012
Opposing Rhythms—(Impressions #3) – July 16, 2012
Long Hard Ride—(Prentiss #2) – August 6, 2012
Wicked Alliance—(Bonds of Justice #2) – September 3, 2012
Yes I do plan for there to be more Something in Common series coming. I’ve already completed book 3 and 4 is series. I’ve started book 5 because the characters wouldn’t stop talking to me. 🙂

My longer range plans are to just keep writing. There is no feeling like creating a story and putting it to paper.

LS: Thanks again for coming to the blog an letting me feature you and your work on sylvre.com. I hope you’ll come again.
TC: Thanks so much for having me Lou. It was fun and I’d love to come back again.

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J. L. O’Faolain—A New and Again Provacative Author Interview

LS: Welcome back to the blog, J.L.! You are the first to make an encore appearance at sylvre.com. I’m looking forward to catching up, perhaps learning a bit more about you as an author, and getting some updates about the work you have out and what you’ve got planned.

JLO: It feels good to be back. I love joining you here!

Q: I realized that during our last interview I never asked about your origins, J.L., and I’d like to remedy that. I see you were brought up in the South. What part of the country do you live in now? You’re Section Thirteen series is set in New York City, quite a ways from your original home. How do you find your southern roots influences your writing, if at all, even when your characters are at play someplace quite different?
A: I’ve lived in the same region of the South all my life. I still hang my hat in Central Mississippi, though I’ve entertained thoughts of leaving since I was around five or so! Lol

When it comes to writing about different places, I try to picture what those places look and feel like. This usually involves research, though sometimes I research things as I go, then make corrections as needed. I’ve always had a vivid imagination, and used to pretend I was a world traveler. Fantasizing myself in far-off places is no great stretch for me after all these years.

As for my southern roots, I’ve never been much of what most people would call a ‘true Southerner’. I don’t have quite the same drawl that people in this area carry. I tend to enunciate carefully, and it makes me stand out. It’s something I was teased about all my life. Most people assumed I grew up somewhere else before living in Mississippi, but I’ve never been outside the state for an extended period of time.

Q: A little bit about your writing technique, perhaps: one of the things that happens when authors write in “other worlds,” be they space, or ghostly or Sidhe, etc., is that the stories require more description, so the reader knows where they are and what it’s like. Reading your work, I always feel like I’m right there, so much so that the settings begin feel familiar to me. Can you tell us a bit about how you accomplish that without resorting to long descriptive passages.
A: I tend to babble on about a subject in a conversation, so I keep that in mind while I’m writing so I get the point across without boring anyone. It’s good to hear I’ve been successful with that so far. Again, this comes back to me picturing things happening as I go along. It always feels more like I’m the narrator following along with events as they unfold. The twists and turns surprise me often enough. I’ve never deluded myself into believing that I have total control of a story, and what happens inside of it. I’m more of a cataloger than anything else. It’s just nice that my characters are willing to allow me the chance to tag along.

I’m grateful.

Q: On the fantasy aspect of your writing, you delve into a sort of Fey underground, including everything from Pixie’s to Titania’s wolves. How much research do you do—or have you done—into the old lore, ancient stories of Faerie? Do you have a favorite source? When you create one of your otherworldly characters, or settings, how close do you try to stay to the spirit of the legendary beings and places?
A: These types of things have always fascinated me. I grew up on them, much to everyone’s chagrin. Believe it or not, I’ve been so heavily involved with this kind of stuff for so long that I often just recall things as I go. If I need to do research, usually it’s just for some specific details that escaped me.

My favorite source is actually just Wikipedia, or a search on Google. I’ve very grateful to have the Internet at my fingertips. I never enjoyed having to pour through tomb after tomb for school projects. The tedium would get to me. I try to stay true to the spirit of the lore, though. Sometimes, things deviate, but no one from any gender, species, or race has ever behaved in a straight line, so when things seem contrary, it’s only because any sentient creature is contrary by nature.

Q: During our last interview, I asked about romance, and you said that it would develop in the series over time, that if readers read more books they would see how important it would be. (Also, that sex got hotter farther into the book.) In The Thirteenth Pillar, main character Cole definitely seems to be involved in romance, or at least sex. I don’t suppose I can ask whether the discarded (or departed) lover Corhagen ever makes a come back? Or was he ever really a lover? Is the current love or sexual interest long term? Well if you can’t answer that without giving away too much, how about this: how did you ever get the idea to have Corhagen summon Joss and Cole with his summoning spell just at the least opportune moment. Interestingly, Corhagen does seem to really mind…
A: Corhagen sees his past with Cole as something he’d like to forget. Cole sees them as former lovers. I do see Joss and Cole as long-term, but as I stated above, I don’t have control over these things. That will no doubt sound exceptionally weird, but I do hope for the best when it comes to them. Corhagen…

I just don’t know. Something tells me he and Cole would never work out, no matter what the circumstances. Then again, I’ve been proven wrong before. As for the summoning spell, Corhagen just has terrible timing. That wouldn’t change no matter who he slept with!
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Cover: The Thirteenth Pillar (#2 in Section Thirteen Series)

***************************************************************

Q: Your cover for The Thirteenth Pillar is just superb. Although I do enjoy Paul Richmond’s art in general, your covers seem to hit the nail on the head even better than most, and they’re quite graceful. Can you tell us anything about the cover for Pillar? Did you specify the elements? Have any input into color scheme, etc? What was your reaction, initially?
A: I love Richmond’s work. His art is superb, and it always feels as though we’re on the same wavelength whenever it comes time for me to describe how I would like the cover to be. When I saw what he’d done with the cover for ‘The Thirteenth Child’, I was breath-taken.

I had two different covers in mind for ‘The Thirteenth Pillar’. Both, I thought were good, but the one Dreamspinner Press went with is most definitely the steamier of the two. I try to describe something that is both eye-catching, and relates to the story at the same time. In short, both are beautiful, and I can’t wait to see what Richmond does in the future. If he just so happens to read this, I like to take the opportunity to tell him thanks for all his hard work. You rock out loud, dude!

*air guitar*

Q: You’ve written something very different in Blue Ninja, and that will be coming out late this spring, I understand. I’m going to post an excerpt, below, and here’s a blurb:

Ichikawa Aoshi is a twenty-three year old nukenin, a ninja on the run. Hiding in plain sight under the nose of the clan who wants him dead, he has managed to carve a life for himself in Tokyo working with a small band of misfit rejects. Among them is his friend and mentor, Aoi, who helped Aoshi find solace after several years of running non-stop. Together, the team of elite specialty ninja tackle jobs no one else in the criminal underworld will touch, but only for a price. Because of his youthful appearance, Aoshi’s most recent mission has lead him to a typical Japanese high school to catch a sexual predator responsible for driving a student to suicide. While there, his search leads him to make a startling discovery about himself that will affect the lives of his friends and every ninja clan across Japan.

Deep inside Aoshi’s chest beats the hungry heart of a lustful deity. Imprisoned in his bloodline for centuries, the Kyuubi-Onna, or Nine-Tailed Woman, whom his clan once worshiped, has been freed seemingly by chance. With her power steadily growing, Aoshi finds himself the bearer of a force he can barely comprehend and wield with only a minimum of control. Enraged at her incarceration, the Kyuubi-Onna only wants revenge, but the Hyakuzyu Tenko clan that Aoshi once hailed from has other plans. Hoping to appease her vessel, the shadow masters of Aoshi’s former clan offer him asylum and a promotion within their ranks in exchange for his return. Events grow more complicated, though, when a former rival swears to kill Ichikawa even at the cost of becoming a rogue ninja himself.

With enemies on all sides and rumors of a war between clans, Aoshi plays a very dangerous game, pitting his enemies against each other while his allies quickly get dragged into the front lines. Against his better judgment, Aoshi begins to feel the rush of the Kyuubi-Onna’s power as her wants and desires pull his heart in two different directions.

Aoshi has lived the life as a killer but can he survive being the servant of a goddess whose lust for male flesh is matched only by her fury?

Q: Can you give us a bit of background on how this story came to be written? Were your characters developed first, or plot? How do you see this as similar to, and different from, your Section Thirteen books? Will there be a Ninja series?<<
A: Blue Ninja is a three-part story. It was originally posted on adultfanfiction.net. During the fall last year, I went through and made a few changes and corrections, then submitted it. It’s been taken down from the site since then.

Blue Ninja is a different story from the Section Thirteen series, though they share similar themes. I first wrote Blue Ninja as a method of coming to terms with my sexual orientation. It was essentially my way of saying ‘This is who I am’ to myself. The story takes place in modern day Tokyo, and involves different clans of ninja who have maintained a delicate peace with one another for four hundred ears. It’s a mesh of mystery, urban fantasy, action, adventure, science fiction, political thriller, and even satire. If you are a fan of anime or manga, part of the fun while reading it will be spotting the inside jokes and references, but I kept those farther back for the readers who aren’t familiar with the genre, so they can still enjoy a good book without missing out on some of the subtext.

Both the characters and the plot evolved over a period of time, but the characters were there before I fully understood where the whole of the story would go. More characters followed after, until I had a whole cast of them. Balancing them all out was no small task. I’m anxious about how people will respond to this. I hope it does well. This is one book that’s rather personal for me.

Q: Well, my infamous question has rolled around—you know the one about which of your characters is the sexiest. In this case, I have to change it a little. Heck, I think we know in the Section Thirteen books Cole is the sexiest at least over the long haul (correct me if I’m wrong). But how about this: Is James Corhagen sexier, or Joss Vallimun? You did, in your last interview described Joss as “primal manliness.” Sounds pretty sexy. Can anyone compete? Anyway, this is an essay question, J.L. Please elaborate.
A: Eh, I’m still partial to Vallimun. Corhagen is far too repressed. Staffelbach has grown on me fast, though, and I see big changes for his character, and how he fits into the Section, later on.

He’s just too adorkable!

I wouldn’t mind seeing Cole hook up with both of them at the same time, to be quite honest!

Q: Finally, how about a little look into the J.L. O’Faolain crystal ball? We know we can look for Blue Ninja this spring. What else is coming up for your readers? And if you have any “appearances,” or guest blogs and such coming up, we’d love to hear about them as well.
A: I have one other blog appearance in February that I have to double-check on. Right now, I’m working on the sequel to Blue Ninja, and the first in a new storyline about superheroes. I’ve been a writing madman as of late, forsaking our mother star to lurk in my quiet den of corrupted decadence!

(That was a little too ‘purple’, I’m sure!)

I’ve had a lot of fun writing the superhero story, though. It’s about a superhero who is something of a poster boy for the organization he works with for being the first openly-gay hero to join their ranks, and also for being the only hero who supposedly has a legitimate super-power. He and his best-friend/roommate/unrequited love interest are charged with bringing on board a super-powered former criminal, and showing him the ropes.

Action, explosions, hijinks, and lots of sex ensue.

LS: Thanks for coming back to visit and let me badger you with questions. I enjoyed it, and I’m pretty sure readers will. I hope you did, too, and please come back again!
JLO: Anytime you’ll have me! It has been a privilege.

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Author Interview: Kate McMurrray—a Renaissance Woman in Brooklyn (or, A Plotter Not a Pantser)

LS:Kate, welcome. I’m happy that I was able to persuade you to visit and let me ask some questions.

KM:Hi, Lou. Thanks for having me!

Q: Your bio is so very brief, Kate, that it begs fleshing out. I hope you won’t mind a few inquiries. You mention a variety of interests—violin, crafts, power tools—and that you are a non-fiction editor in your day job guise. I snuck around and saw that on your blog you refer to yourself as a Renaissance woman. I love that, but I really hope you’ll elaborate.
A: The short version is that I like to keep busy. I thrive when I have a little too much to do, and I have one of those brains that needs to be engaged all the time to stave off the dreaded boredom. So I have many hobbies. I work, I write, I knit sometimes. I’m a sucker for a fun DIY project. I played violin for fifteen years before giving it up when I graduated from college, but then I decided maybe four years ago to pick it up again as a New Year’s resolution. I, conveniently, live a few blocks from a music school, so I started taking lessons, and I got a lot out of that. I actually recorded my own music for the Across the East River Bridge book trailer, but the lack of soundproofing in my 100-year-old apartment building plus noisy neighbors meant the recording had too much ambient noise, so I went with a professional recording. Not that I even sounded anywhere near as good as the other recording. Actually, the trailer is a good example of how my brain works: I decided it was a good excuse to learn how to make videos, so I spent a weekend learning iMovie, et voila! Book trailer! I also like to bake, I’m pretty handy with pencils and water colors, and I read 2-3 books a week. What I don’t do is sleep much. 🙂

Q: I’m wondering, what sort of non-fiction do you work with? Are books about your various interests represented in what you edit? Academic writing? Where does fiction writing fall in the hierarchy of your interests? Do you ever hope to write full time?
A: I’ve spent most of my publishing career editing textbooks. I got my start in college-level science/tech books, but these days, I edit textbooks for the grade-school set, mostly in language arts. It’s fun, I like the work. It’s really different from trade/fiction publishing, though. Well, the basic process of assembling a book is the same, but it’s a whole different world in terms of how books are acquired and marketed. I do some fiction editing on the side, too. Writing is a big priority, though. I spend as much of my free time as I can writing, and I love it. I would love to be able to write full-time, and maybe I will someday, but in the meantime, I have to pay rent, and there are worse things than spending all day manipulating words. (I’m also the rare bird of a writer who really enjoys revising, I’ve found; it’s a good blend of my skills, I think.)

Q: You live in Brooklyn—have you always lived there? Obviously, the area is key to your novel Across the East River Bridge, and the importance of the sense of place becomes even more obvious in the excerpts we’ll be sharing. Do you place all or most of your work here? Perhaps you’ll be willing to talk a bit about how you work with setting and location, what it means for you when you’re writing and how you hope it will influence the readers’ experience.
A: I’ve been in Brooklyn about five and a half years now. I grew up in the New Jersey suburbs, then I lived in Massachusetts for a while, and then I moved to Manhattan almost ten years ago. I did the small-apartment-in-a-not-so-great-neighborhood thing for a while until the neighborhood started improving and I got priced out of it, as is the way of things in New York. I moved to Brooklyn after that, and it was fortuitous in the long run; I love Brooklyn, and I feel more at home here than I’ve felt anywhere else.
I place a lot of my stories in NYC. Most of Blind Items takes place in Brooklyn, and Kindling Fire with Snow is set in my neighborhood. I find that a lot of media—books, movies, TV—gets the finer details of New York wrong, and part of me is always trying to convey New York as I experience it. And I personally love stories with a lot of nitty gritty detail, particularly of the setting, so I want my readers to be able to “see” what my characters do. (Plus, with some notable exceptions, most NYC stories are set in Manhattan. So I want to represent my adopted borough.)

Q: Not being familiar with New York at all, I fell back on my usual habits and turned to Google for enlightenment about the book’s geography. But I ended up confused—there are four East River Bridges! Maybe you can explain?
A: I think there are actually maybe eight bridges that cross the East River; I can’t remember off-hand. But the bridge referred to in Across the East River Bridge is actually the Brooklyn Bridge. During its planning/construction, it was named the East River Bridge because it was the first bridge built to cross the East River, connecting Manhattan to Brooklyn and beyond. Before that, commuters traveled mostly by ferry, which was especially problematic in the winter when things got icy, plus the East River can be tumultuous. The historical part of Across the East River Bridge takes place in what is now called Brooklyn Heights in the 1870s, when that first East River Bridge was under construction.

Q: Your main characters in Across the East River Bridge seem to flow together quite seamlessly while still maintaining strong, unique personalities. Did you draw these characters to fit your story, or did they come into being and then draw you into the ghost tale? Is your fiction typically character driven, or based first on plot?
A: AERB started more with a situation. I’d been sitting on an idea for a ghost story for awhile, and I wanted to write an enemies-to-lovers story, and I had read an article on Victoria Woodhull—a historical figure who has fascinated me for a long time; she was a businesswoman and free love advocate in New York City in the 1860s and 70s—and things sort of fell together. As I wrote, Finn emerged as the more skeptical/cynical one of the pair, and Troy is more arrogant but fun-loving, and I liked the dynamic of those personality types together. So to answer your question, I would say my fiction is probably more character driven, but plot is important, too. (I’m more a plotter than a pantser; I do a lot of outlining and brainstorming before I start writing.)

Q: It doesn’t seem that your other work has a particularly strong paranormal strain. How did the idea to write a ghost story, and this ghost story in particular, first take hold in your imagination?
A: This was my first attempt at paranormal. My interest in the ghosts probably stems more from my interest in history, although I think one of the fun things about writing fiction is exploring the unknown. I don’t know if ghosts exist, nor do I know what happens after we die, but there are tons of stories circulating about haunted places in the city. And I’d read a few novels with ghosts and liked the idea of the dead being able to convey important information to the living. So once I thought up this haunted museum, I thought, “Well, obviously, in this universe, the ghosts are real and they’re going to help solve the mystery.”

Q: Kate, this is the question I subject all my interviewees to: who do you think of as sexier, Finn or Troy? A couple of rules apply, here. First, it’s an essay question—no one word answers. Also, you can’t say “both”, that’s cheating (though it’s okay to blur the lines a bit as long as you explain).
A: Hee. Troy is probably more the type of guy I would go for. He’s a big guy of the tall, dark, and handsome variety, plus he wears glasses, and I’m a total sucker for a hot guy in glasses. (In the book, I describe him as looking like Clark Kent, and in my head, he looks sort of like Brandon Routh in the Bryan Singer Superman movie, plus 8 years or so.) Finn’s more disheveled and less fashionable, though there’s certainly something to be said for that, too.

Q: While we’re on the subject of characters, it strikes me that as writers and as readers people often develop unique relationships with characters and learn from them as we write or read along. Can you think of something you’ve learned from a particular character—whether one you wrote or one you read—and share what it was and how the learning happened?
A: Probably Drew from Blind Items fits this more than anyone. That novel went through many drafts, and the final product doesn’t resemble the first draft much, but Drew was the constant. Through the revision process, I joked with my writers group that he was kind of a Gary Stu. He’s not really a stand-in for me, but there is a lot of me in that character. Still, he’s pretty different from me, too—in more ways than just the obvious!—and writing that novel taught me a lot about voice and point of view. For example, I wrote the previous drafts in third-person, and I had it close to finished but there was something that still didn’t quite work. I couldn’t put my finger on the problem and agonized over it for weeks. Then one day, as an experiment, I started rewriting the novel in 1st person from Drew’s POV. That fixed it; the story just flowed after that. Some scenes I didn’t even have to rewrite that much, because Drew’s voice was already right there on the page. It’s a weird thing to say about a story you’re writing, but I felt in that last rewrite like Drew was bursting out of the story. Writing that was an interesting experience.

Q: Your cover for Across the East River Bridge was designed by Valerie Tibbs, and that artist has also done at least one other cover for you. It’s great work, balanced and illustrative, setting the tone for the novel. How did you react when you first saw it? How much influence were you given as to style, elements, color?
A: I had a little bit of input—I wanted the Brooklyn Bridge on the cover!—but the final product was all Valerie. (I will tell you a secret, though. I was surprised when saw the cover because one of the models bears not a small resemblance to an ex-boyfriend of mine, which is a strange thing to see on the cover of an erotic novel you wrote).

Q: Kate, we’re going to share a little bit from your novel Blind Items (Rainbow Awards Honorable Mention) below, sort of an extra prize for readers, here, but you have several other published works as well. I will vouch that, in this readers’ opinion, “A Walk in the Dark” is a fun, sweet short piece that has the power to perk up flagging spirits. What else is out there that you’d like readers to know about?
A: Thanks! Well, as mentioned, I have a novella about two guys trapped in a Brooklyn apartment during a blizzard called Kindling Fire with Snow and also my novel The Boy Next Door which is about two guys who were childhood friends but haven’t seen each other in a long time until one of them moves back to their hometown and they end up as neighbors.

Q: And what’s coming up, Kate? Anything soon to be released? What can readers look for in the next year or so? Anything else you’d like to say to your readers?
A: There are a bunch of things up in the air at the moment, but, among other things, I’m currently working on the sequel to The Boy Next Door (this new book is Neal’s story); a romance between two professional baseball players (I’m a huge baseball fan, which readers may have picked up on, so this was inevitable); a crazy fantasy thing with gods and mythology and reincarnation and magical objects that is way outside the scope of what I usually write but is a ton of fun; and an angsty contemporary friends-to-lovers story that takes place in Chicago. Information about these will be on my website as I get more details.

LS: Thanks for being here Kate, and for letting me delve a bit into what makes you tick as a writer. I appreciate the opportunity to feature your work, and I hope you’ll visit again!
KM: Thanks again for having me and letting me be all wordy and talkative on your blog!

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S.A. Garcia Author Interview (Fantasy? Sci-fi? Macabre? She writes it all!)

LS: Welcome to the blog, S. A. I’m glad for the opportunity to hear you talk about your work and your unique approach to M/M Romance.

SG:Thanks for this opportunity to come toot my own horn. Sigh, I do realize I don’t write normal m/m tales. My joke is I need to write a modern day tale set in Kansas about a fireman rescuing a kid from a tree and then being attracted to the kid’s policeman stepfather who thinks he might be gay but is still married to his high school sweetheart. That is never going to happen. I’m more concerned about whether a secluded doctor in a remote Scottish castle will hook up with the unstable descendent of H.P. Lovecraft and… you get the picture. As writers we all have different approaches and my stories tend to sneak in through the crooked back door.

Q: Before we start talking about your work, I’d like to ask a few questions about your background and life as an author. To begin, I’m curious about where you’re from. Your bio leaves that information out! Are you willing to tell where you’re from? Other places you’ve lived, and where you live now? Most authors I’ve asked say that their hometown, so to speak, greatly influences their writing in one way or another. Is that true for you? Please elaborate.
A:Nothing too exciting there! I was born in a blizzard in Racine, WI. My father was stationed there as a Marine Corps recruiter. When he retired in 1963, the family moved back to the Philadelphia suburbs. Both parents were from Philadelphia and they wanted their kids to be near the grandparents. Like I said, I’m pretty dull. I spent the first 29 years in Pensylvania and the last 22 years in New Jersey in the small, battered riverside city of Burlington.

Where I live really has no impact on what I write, although I really want to set a scary story in the Pine Barrens. No, it will not involve the Jersey Devil, but the story will involve how lost one can become in that eerie wilderness. When darkness falls there, it falls like black wool, thick and dense.

In my case where I have traveled has had a huge impact on my writing.

Q: You used to run an Indie music magazine! That’s something not everyone can say. You mentioned that the people you met in the process allowed you to accumulate potential characters. Have you found a way to use them? There’s a lot more involved in running a magazine, small or large, than meeting people, travel, deadlines, and of course writing. Besides finding characters, are there other ways in which that experience helped you become an author, or define yourself as an author?
A: The traveling really has greatest impact on my writing. What a great perk. For instance, we had planned to do a cover story on the Cranberries. Whoops, no one had contacted us when the band was in the States doing publicity. The publicity person asked, “want to travel to Dublin over the weekend to do the interview?” I countered with, “Fly us in and arrange for us to stay the week and it’s a deal.” The record company covered the air fare and we paid for everything else. Boom, instant vacation and the chance to travel around Ireland. Ireland is the star of a story I’m not quite ready to speak about yet.

A story I’m working on has a scene set in Paris. I was lucky enough to stay in Paris for a week, so I have a great sense of what I describe.

As far as characters, Amando from Temptation of the Incubus is roughly based on a singer I was good friends with who adored himself. This singer was a deliciously androgynous dude, long red hair, leather and eyeliner, and he fell into a pout if he wasn’t the center of attention. I’m not finished mining his character.

The amusing thing is we were terrible business people because we trusted people. That sounds harsh, but it is true. For example, we discovered that a print broker who we considered a friend wasn’t finding the cheapest printing for us. At one point we nearly went bankrupt because he had us paying $25,000 for one issue’s print run. I started investigating and discovered that we could have the magazine printed in full color for $9,000 at another press house. Something like that hurt on a financial and, even worse, a trust level. I put a little of that trauma into the character Mads from Temptation of the Incubus. He had a business partner screw him over, which tainted his trust in people.

We also sucked at self promotion. It always seemed rude to toot one’s own horn. I’m still getting over that problem.

A rock and roll character driven story still lurks inside of me. I wrote a short story touching on characters from that time frame but ahh, there is so much more to explore. I’ve read a few m/m novels set in the sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll realm, and shook my head in despair. I’ll be nice and clam up.

Q: Your work—content, style, and prose—is unusual, and probably even more so in the M/M genre. To me, Divine Devine’s Love Song has a certain “Cyber Punk” feel to it. Are you familiar with that term, and if so, do you feel it describes your work? If a potential reader asked you to describe this novel other than content, how would you describe it?
A: I never in a million years thought I’d ever write anything vaguely “cyber punk,” but then Divine Devine came along and bit me in the ass. I’m a devoted reader of sci-fi and fantasy. When a teen, I devoured sci-and fantasy as an escape mechanism just like every other closeted geek. Never had a problem writing fantasy, in fact many of my abysmally written m/m tales from 30 years ago are fantasy-driven, but sci-fi? Ouch. I gave it a shot and aside from the length, I’m happy with Divine Devine’s Love Song. The story should have been longer. Tren and Shatter needed more time to develop their relationship.

Many of the political demons which bother me in this time frame haunt this novel. Corporate greed, disregard for the environment, disenfranchising of dissenting voices, yes, they all were stirred into the novella.

How would I describe the novel? An anti-hero hacker meets the alpha male warrior of his dreams and discovers his own inner hero. Okay, lame-o!

Q: Getting down to the nitty gritty about your novel, Divine Devine’s Love Song—Where did this complex story have its origins (an event, a dream, a conversation, or…)? Perhaps you’ll share a little about how you go about taking a kernel of an idea and turning it into a work of fiction.
A: A few years ago there seemed to be a huge interest in the post-apocalyptic in the m/f world. I also saw submission calls for m/m post-apocalyptic stories. I thought what the hell, I’ll give it a shot. I wanted to write a story using more intrigue than slam-bam action. I didn’t want to create a world where danger via the threat of cyborgs or the like lurked around every corner. I wanted an amplified version of our current world but gone to completely hell. People are still the worst predators. They make machines look puny. Human cruelty trumps other power.
No wonder I like bunnies as pets.

Q: Divine Devine’s Love Song is post-apocalyptic, and not mutated human life seems to be hanging by a thread. Yet, when I read this material I have a feeling of lush, almost jungle-like density of life—in whatever form. I’m also taken by the apparent beauty of things that are perverted from their natural forms, like the Howlers. I realize those feelings may be my experience alone, but in any case, can you talk a bit about how and why you created the atmosphere in this sci-fi?
A: You are not alone. Despite my fear of hurricanes and tornadoes, I love the Sea Howlers. In the novella, the Native Americans regard them as earth spirits seeking revenge against what damage has been done to the ocean. The Howlers own an elegant beauty poised to destroy humanity. If we’re going to be snuffed out, let it be by nature’s cruel grace.
Yes, certain types of greenery such as kudzu has taken over areas to the point of lethal suffocation. I will say watching shows that described what will happen when humans are gone influenced my thinking. I loved thinking about tidy garden herbs growing into proud bushes. I saw that in Italy in a 1600’s mountain top ghost town. The rosemary bushes had developed into tall hedges. Lovely. I hugged them.

Actually if nature rebels against us, so be it. We’re only guests on this planet.

Q: Temptation of the Incubus seems to be really a bird of a different color from Divine Devine’s Love Song. Supernatural, macabre, and humorous, if the excerpt is anything to judge by. Although your writing is certainly your own, there are a couple of author’s that spring to mind when I consider this piece. Rather than guess, though, I’ll ask! Were there any particular authors that influenced you in this particular style of writing? Perhaps you can share some things about the origin of this story, and what you most enjoyed about writing it.

(Readers, here’s the blurb for Temptation of the Incubus: Hybrid incubus Amando Renato is a true man-eater. Consuming life force to exist makes committing to romance a difficult task. The ancient Amando fears he is destined to be lonely, until he meets electrician Mads Massimo, a human who innocently bites back. Is their love a match made in Heaven or Hell?)

A: Anne Rice. The Vampire Lestat is one of my favorite books, and I have always dreamed of writing a an outrageous character along the lines of her Brat Prince. Hello Amando.
The story’s origins started in a fan fic group. There was a call to write a story with one of the heroes being “working class.” An early, unfinished version of Mads was born in that short story, but I realized even back then that Amando felt determined to be the star. Over time I realized that I loved the characters. They deserved something beyond a short story which led me to grow their story into a novel. Odd thing is as the novel developed so did the morbid comedy. I quite enjoy how the black humor turned out although Amando’s back story is one of the most violent things I’ve ever written.
I keep saying this, but writing Amando gave me true pleasure. He wrote himself. Writing him involved throwing aside any self censoring and taking off at light speed. He’s one of those vivid characters a reader needs to click with or the story fails even if Mads is the story’s true hero. Wait, that’s not fair , at the end they both are heroes, only as usual Amando wants everyone to know about his status.
Amando and Mads will return.
Q: So sorry, S. A., but I have this question that I ask everyone, and you cannot be granted an exception. You have to answer this even if it seems like you are not the right person to ask. Keep in mind here that there are rules. (1)These are essay questions, so one word answers are not allowed. (2)Fudging is allowed, cheating is not. In other words, you can’t say “both.” Here’s the question(s). Between Sam Devine and Pokatawer who is the sexiest, and why? Between Mads Massimo and Amando Renato, who has the greater sex appeal, and why?
A: Oh you cruel interrogator! Sam, Pokatawer, Mads and Amando stare at me in horror. Wait, Sam and Mads just shrugged and went off to have a drink. They know what I plan to say.
Pokatawer is sexier than Sam, and Sam would be the first one to shout the news.
Humble, sweet Mads doesn’t regard himself as sexy, although he’s wrong. Amando is walking, breathing sex. As an incubus, for him it’s all about sex. If I say differently, he’ll pout at me.
Oh no, now Pokatawer and Amando are sizing each other up. Time to leave them work out their little battle. If they plan a Zoolander-style walk-off I’m not cleaning up the mess.
Q: Is there any other work that’s out and available you’d like readers to know about? (If so please tell what it is and where to find it.)
A: My first novella Canes and Scales is quite popular with readers. That was my venture into a romantic fantasy world detailing the relationship between a heroic serpent prince and a half Elf, half human bed slave descended from nobility on both sides who owns major issues with life. I battled to keep Linden from turning into a heroic cliche. The conflicted Alasdaire never failed to supply intrigue and drama. He owned no chance of turning into a cliche. And whoo-hoo, they loved to make love.

I definitely plan to revisit Linden and Alasdaire. Let’s see, Prince Linden is now the King but he has many enemies. Alasdaire is the half human heir to an Elven throne. Everything sounds poised for messy political intrigue.

To Save A Shining Soul is a romantic fantasy set in hell. It’s also a comedy. I think the story confuses people. The sales on Amazon look like the stock market, up and down, up and down, lately more up than down which is pleasing. Part of me wants to team up Amando and ex demon Marius for a wild supernatural adventure set in the jungle. That will probably happen when I’m 60.

Q: What’s on the horizon, S.A.? Can readers look forward to some more releases in the coming months? Any new projects just getting off the ground that you feel comfortable sharing?
A: I hope they can! I am in the dreaded waiting and crossing my fingers mode about one novel, and two others are in the intensive editing stage. I hope to send them off before the year’s end. It seems when I talk about specifics, karma bites me in the ass. Therefore I am not revealing any more details except that the two in editing mode are, gasp, contemporaries. No kids in trees.
What me superstitious? Damned skippy I am.

I can talk about the other numerous WIPs stamping their feet in heated irritation. One embraces a haunting H.P. Lovecraftian romance set in Scotland. At 50,000 words it’s damned close to a finish but it needs one crucial missing backstory chapter and ouch, a solid ending. Hello, I need to write the ending to know if I have discovered the correct resolution.

Another involves a noble painter in Victorian London saddled with a muse whom the painter fears is driving him insane (36,000 words and wandering badly). Then there’s the vampire trilogy that I have worked on for years (280,000 words). These are nasty, violent vampires, so I wonder who will accept the tale. Wait, there’s another demon story pouting in the corner (150,000 words). I wrote that during a lurid purple prose phase which means heavy editing is required. Time to call in Adverbs Be Gone squad.
This past summer a m/m romance/horror novel which I love to pieces was rejected three times. I spent too much time fussing over the story. I am putting that on hold because one editor’s suggestions were great but basically they point to a complete restructuring. My head can’t handle the stress.

I also spent entirely too much time writing a 25,000 word free novella. Readers loved it, but ding, ding, ding, free is the important word in the mix. With regard to writing, the summer of 2011 wasn’t managed in a smart manner.
And then there are the planned sequels and screaming plot bunnies ripping at my ankles. One story, The 3:05 Solution, is trying to push in front of my other WIPs. Bratty thing! The story might win. The story is a determined bugger and I love the premise. The idea sprang directly from a dream. I got up, wrote it down and now the first chapter percolates in my brain’s basement.

Sorry, folks, like it or not, I don’t plan on vanishing anytime soon. I need to hunker down and finished my WIPs. I figure I’m 51, and have been writing for years. I need to keep going. Writing has always been a part of me, and I love it for being there when I need to escape. I just wish I’d discovered the nerve to start pushing the stories out the door a little sooner in life.

LS: It’s been a pleasure to have you here on sylvre.com, S.A. I hope you enjoyed it as well, and I hope you’ll come back and visit again.

SG: I enjoyed this opportunity to blather away! You asked me excellent questions which made me really examine my work. Hope I didn’t ramble too much. Of course I am more than pleased to visit again. Wish me luck in 2012! Damn, sounds like Pokatawer and Amando are conducting that pesky walk-off. Sam’s, “Youse go like a pro, Po!” is unmistakable. Better break it up. Bye!

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