Tag Archives: novella

Five shinies for Anne Barwell’s On Wings of Song! (Release day review)

Five luminous stars to Anne Barwell’s On Wings of Song. This novella is not a story of hot love or love at first sight, but rather a tale of the tenacity of a first spark between souls. Here Barwell’s prose style pleases as always, but it’s her ability to ferret out the secrets of the heart that shines above all.

Many of us already know the author has a gift for finding the human truth in historical times and events, and especially for seeing past the walls that veterans of war often—of necessity—build around their hearts. In On Wings of Song, her time-travelling pen (or keyboard, perhaps) takes the reader back to one of the most remarkable verifiable events of modern warfare—the Christmas Truce of 1914. Entrenched soldiers of Germany, France, England, and Scotland (the later three allied) in a number of places along a battlefront that already foretold the later horrors of WWI came together across narrow strips of no-mans-land to celebrate together a few hours of peace.

When German soldier Jochen Weber and Englishman Aiden Foster meet that under that extraordinary circumstance, it isn’t football or cards that help them overcome the initial awkwardness of the exchange, but a mutual love of literature and Aiden’s exceptional musical voice. Before they part, they (like others) exchange uniform buttons as pocket mementos, and each hopes for a someday when in a more lasting peace they may see one another again. The remaining years of war leave both men scarred, and life after war holds new challenges and little time or place for true healing. Both men retreat into the silence in which those who survive years of the worst of human cruelty often cloak their hearts—how can anyone who wasn’t there truly understand? Yet a spark of hope lives Jochen and Aiden’s hearts, sharing space with memory of the “enemy” whom they befriended on dark Christmas on a battlefield.

Barwell’s careful, sparsely adorned prose gives the reader an inside look at the redemption of truly broken hearts when long-sheltered sparks meld into flame. The fire burns painfully until it warms and comforts. This is not a long, arduous read, rather a brief but revealing journey into the heart of these two men, Jochen and Aiden, who come to love despite time, distance, and irreparable loss.

I heartily recommend On Wings of Song to those who love men, who love men who love men, and who treasure stories that paint the darkness with light and life.

Here is the buy link: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=5869

It’s 25% off at the moment, so now is a good time to snap it up. Or if you feel lucky, Anne will be chatting at the Dreamspinner Goodreads “forum thingy” on 12/28/14 from 4-6 EST, and there will be a giveaway. Win or not, it promises to be a great conversation!

If you want a little more info, here’s the blurb:

Six years after meeting British soldier Aiden Foster during the Christmas Truce of 1914, Jochen Weber still finds himself thinking about Aiden, their shared conversation about literature, and Aiden’s beautiful singing voice. A visit to London gives Jochen the opportunity to search for Aiden, but he’s shocked at what he finds.

The uniform button Jochen gave him is the only thing Aiden has left of the past he’s lost. The war and its aftermath ripped everything away from him, including his family and his music. When Jochen reappears in his life, Aiden enjoys their growing friendship but knows he has nothing to offer. Not anymore.

And here’s Anne’s bio:

Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with two cats who are convinced that the house is run to suit them; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date it appears as though the cats may be winning.

In 2008 she completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher and a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra.

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

Visit Anne at her blog: http://anne-barwell.livejournal.com or her website: http://annebarwell.wordpress.com/. You can contact her at anne0@xtra.co.nz.

Happy reading!

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Release Party Tomorrow, for the new Vasquez and James Novella, Yes


Yes (A Vasquez and James Novella), is a Dreamspinner Press release. Starting 7/18 it’s available at the Dreamspinner Press online store.

Here’s where to find the party: Dreamspinner Press Blog
Wel’ll kick it off at 1pm Pacific, and stay through 7pm–that’s 4-10pm Eastern.

We’ll have a contest, excerpts, some bits and pieces of back story, maybe some talk about what the author (that’s me) is doing next. I know Wednesday is a busy day for most, but I’m hoping at least a few can attend, and we’ll see where the conversation takes us.

Another contest on Thursday and Friday–I believe there may be an early review available, and the characters and I will have something to say here, then we’ll guest post on a few friendly blogs with character interviews, and such.
The posts will be here at sylvre.com, and at:

More contest details available soon.

Saturday, I’m chatting on Goodreads at the Dreamspinner Press Discussion Board. And we’ll have more of the same, but different!

So… It’s going to be busy, but I hope at least one of these events will work for you, because I’d really love to have your company.

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Feature Author Andrea Speed: *The Little Death* (Dreamspinner Press)

Welcome Andrea Speed as featured author this week. Farther down the page you’ll find excerpts and an interview a little more about her work. Enjoy, and leave a comment or question if you wish, for Andrea or for me, Lou Sylvre. Thanks!

Note: as is standard on this blog, all cover images are links to the book at the publisher’s site, in case you’ve decided to buy or just want to check it out some more.

Jake Falconer, a hard-boiled detective in Echo City, is struggling with his love of booze, a square ex (and a cop, no less) he can’t get over, and a murdered partner. In sashays Sloane, an homme fatal whose twin brother has gone missing. The search leads them to a sex club used for blackmailing the city’s most powerful, and soon Jake finds himself hip deep in sex and danger—it’s a good thing he’s no stranger to slogging through either.

Andrea Speed was born looking for trouble in some hot month without an R in it. While succeeding in finding Trouble, she has also been found by its twin brother, Clean Up, and is now on the run, wanted for the murder of a mop and a really cute, innocent bucket that was only one day away from retirement. (I was framed, I tell you – framed!) In her spare time, she arms lemurs in preparation for the upcoming war against the Mole Men. Viva la revolution!

Find Andrea at the following links:

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Excerpt from Andrea Speed’s *The Little Death*

I slumped back in my seat and pulled the flask out of the drawer. I had to fulfill the cliché, so it was a silver flask filled with cheap rotgut, which I swigged with abandon even while wincing at the taste.

So yeah, I’m the cliché, a private dick with a cheap office and a dead partner and more debt than I could possibly pay off in a month of Sundays. Not that you could tell from my door. Used to be there was a name painted on the window, but that wasn’t true anymore. The hail of bullets that killed Spencer, my partner in snooping, destroyed the original door, so this was the replacement. I was supposed to hire painters to replace the name, but what was I going to replace it with? Was I really gonna go from Spencer & Falconer, Private Detectives to Falconer, Private Detective? I had no choice, I’d hafta, or I’d hafta find a new partner. Yeah, right.

Maybe I’d just hafta retire, find a real job, one that didn’t cut your life span in half and leave you with more trouble than a nun with a grudge in hell’s half acre. The problem was I couldn’t do much else, and frankly I didn’t want to. As much
as I hated it sometimes, I was born to be a private dick. I couldn’t change that any more than a zebra could change its stripes.

Sloane had left me his brother’s e-mail and the header of the threatening mail, so I got out my laptop and had a look for myself. Phone calls might taper off, but spam was eternal, sure to continue on long after the world had imploded and was a scarred, barren shell.

The e-mail was a dead end. There was no name, and the e-mail address was one of those that hid your IP address and was just a random series of letters and numbers that ended with a domain name that seemed to indicate the e-mail was sent from somewhere in Eastern Europe, from one of those former Soviet countries that ended in -ia. There was no way I could track that, and while I was sure I could eventually find someone to ask about tracing the e-mail, I’d be an old man with a prostate the size of a grapefruit by the time they got back to me. That wasn’t worth pursuing.

I looked through Sander’s e-mail, though, but that was the funny thing. There was nothing in any of the files save the inbox and the junk mail folder. Even the trash had been emptied. Not that that meant anything—some people just never bothered to save e-mails—but it made me wonder if Sloane had gone through it, sweeping away anything that his brother might have gotten into that was the least bit hinkey. It was something to chew on.

I drained my flask and then realized there was only one thing left to do. Well, two things: the first was refill my flask. The second was go to Heat, see if I could retrace Sander’s steps the night he disappeared. I downloaded a hot picture of Sander from his Facebook page, although it could have been Sloane instead, since they were both hot in the same way.

I didn’t do the gay club scene, or any club scene, mainly because I wasn’t the type. Even if it wasn’t a cliché, I don’t care for people much. It seems like all they do is betray you, either in the form of a venereal disease or in the form of a
sexy guy who lets you take him home and then comes back later and fills your business partner full of lead. Even a misanthrope like me can think with his dick, but I paid for it. Or should I say Spencer paid for it—I lived to fuck again. Except I haven’t gotten laid since then. If you’re thinking it’s guilt, you’re giving me too much credit. It’s having to find a way to pay all the bills that’s been keeping me from seeing anything besides my own surly mug in the morning.

As it was, the city’s club scene, gay and straight, was dying. Everything in this city was dying, some of it slower than others, but in the end it was all bones and ashes. The gay clubs were doing slightly better, but only because some of the guys needed the scene—they hadn’t quite mastered Manhunt or Craigslist or didn’t want to—or were younger guys tired of Internet trolls. But I had the vague conception that they were sad places if you were over twenty-five, and at thirty-four I was entering “circling the drain” territory.

Maybe I should have changed clothes, looked less like me, but I wasn’t fishing for a trick, I had a job to do. So I stayed in my slightly baggy black suit and blue shirt, with my black duster on top of it all, and my tie so thin and black it looked like someone had erased a vertical line into my chest. I liked dressing black and blue, ’cause most of the time I was matching my bruises.

Heat was just what I expected: noisy, hot, filled with wannabes and never-weres, posers who thought all they needed were designer jeans and too-tight shirts to make up for their fatal lack of personality. I should have asked if it worked, ’cause I could use all the help I could get.

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Jessica Skye Davies’ *Possession*

Scroll down for an author interview and some excerpts (yes, teasers).

Possession by Jessica Skye Davies (cover by Paul Richmond) Dreamspinner Press

Confirmed skeptic Tyler Ward dismisses his horoscope when it warns against bringing home anything “impish.” Then he finds an antique cast-iron doorstop shaped like Punch from the Punch and Judy puppet show, buys it as a reminder of his youth in England, and mysterious misfortunes begin to befall Tyler the very next day. His longtime partner Kevin begins to believe an unseen force is out to hurt Tyler… does he believe enough to find the truth?

Jessica Skye Davies has been a writer since her first works were “published” in her grandparents’ living room and written in crayon. Today she is a former administrative assistant who is now happily pursuing a degree in social work. She is a lifelong native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where she has been active in the local GLBT community for a number of years. Outside of writing, Jessica has a wide range of interests and hobbies: from Mozart in a music hall to punk in pubs, from Shakespeare to Vonnegut, from nights on the town to afternoons at country farm markets. She enjoys working on both sides of a camera and studying other cultures, languages and history. She loves meeting new people and exploring new places, always open to whatever elements might inspire her next writing project.

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Possession—excerpt #1 (and so it begins…)

It was a sunny Saturday afternoon in the Westcroft neighborhood. A mild autumn breeze stirred Tyler Ward’s dark curls as he strolled along, crunching the dry fallen leaves underfoot. The trendy end of the city was a cross between an artist’s village and boys’ town, a close-knit community that often felt like one big family. Most every storefront on charming yet chic Aspen Avenue was a small, locally owned business that proudly sported a rainbow flag on the premises, and everyone knew their neighbors.

Tyler rolled his eyes as a particularly flaming couple across the street circumvented a ladder leaning against a building, despite having to walk into the street to do so. Some people were so gullible about that sort of thing. Wasn’t it more dangerous to walk into the road and risk being hit than to walk under an empty ladder and risk some vague, mystical punishment of “bad luck”?

The smell of fresh roasted coffee from the Celestial Café, a block down the street, was a perfect complement to the scent of turning leaves in the cool, crisp air. Tyler’s stomach rumbled slightly; it was definitely time for his Saturday afternoon snack. Tyler knew most everybody in their little “gayborhood”—many of the shop owners were good friends of his, and Saturday was usually his day to visit and shop with friends.

“Hey, Ty.” Lukas Zamora, the owner of the café, smiled from behind the counter. Tyler could always be trusted to show up on a Saturday afternoon while business was slow. Lukas put down the local indie paper and automatically poured a cup of hot water, knowing exactly what British expatriate Tyler would be having.

“No extra business from the fair on Chestnut?” Tyler asked, sitting down at the bar.

“Yeah, we were pretty busy earlier. Probably pick up again when they all come back to their cars this evening. Oh, Ty, if you’re shopping, this isn’t a good day for you to… um…. Wait a minute,” Lukas said, pulling up the astrology website on his ever-present laptop. “Here: ‘not a good day to bring home anything impish’.”

“Well, I wasn’t going to hit the sex shop, but now you’ve mentioned it….” Tyler grinned at Lukas.

“Hey, it’s serious, man. Says here it could have ‘disastrous and far-reaching consequences’. See, Mars and Saturn are conjunct right now with Uranus, during a freakin’ Jupiter retrograde. And I think Mercury is also square Saturn, which just reinforces the whole point. You being a Capricorn and all….”

Tyler quirked his brow and smirked at his friend. “Just give me my cuppa, yeah, mate?”

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” Lukas said, handing Tyler his usual cup of Earl Grey with vanilla syrup mixed in.

“I consider myself duly warned.” Tyler nodded gravely, handing over a five, taking a peanut-butter brownie, and telling his friend to keep the change.

“You and Kevin coming over for dinner tomorrow?” Lukas asked, putting Tyler’s change in the tip jar, where he knew it would end up even if he’d forced Tyler to take it. Tyler and his partner, Kevin Strabane, had been joining Lukas and his partner, Daniel, for Sunday evening dinners for the last few years. Daniel worked in Kevin’s art gallery and was also a former Briton who had been one of Tyler’s first friends in the US.

“Yeah, of course,” Tyler said, munching on his snack at the counter. “What are you cooking?”

Lukas shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ll probably figure that out when I’m in the store at one in the morning.”

“You need to let other people close up shop once in a while, mate. Well, I’m off. See you guys tomorrow,” Tyler said, finishing his brownie. He headed across the street, sipping on his tea and leisurely window-shopping the avenue. He was tempted to try on a new pair of shoes, the red-brown alligator oxfords in the shoe boutique window really catching his eye, but his shoes already outnumbered Kevin’s by about five to one.

Instead, Tyler continued on to the vintage clothes shop a block up. Stefan, the shop owner, couldn’t wait to show him the collections of Levi’s he’d just gotten in, and Tyler ended up gleefully taking two pairs of the jeans, along with a dark brown corduroy jacket, a belt, and a couple of autumn-toned scarves.

Tyler and Stefan chatted for a bit about news in the neighborhood and around their little circle of friends. Tyler couldn’t help snickering and grinning at the aging drag queen that passed by the shop, waggling fuchsia fingernails at Stefan through the window. Stefan just smiled back politely before shooting Tyler a glare.

“Aw, c’mon, don’t you like Tierra?” Tyler cackled. “I guess I oughta get outta here, though. I think she wants to stop in while you’re not with a ‘customer’.”

“Sometimes I really hate you, Ty,” Stefan muttered.

“Yeah, of course you do, Steffers. You won’t be saying that when I’ve brought you some of Kev’s pumpkin bread.” Stefan was an absolute addict for Kevin’s sweet autumn breads, as were most people who’d ever tried them. “Okay, I’m gonna go poke around in the antiques for a bit. I’ll ring you sometime this week,” Tyler said.

“Alright. No, wait, don’t call me till like Thursday. Lukas told me this morning that there’s something bad about communication for people born too close to each other’s signs or something.”

“Bloody hell. You two are too susceptible to that shite. He told me not to bring home anything impish, for fuck’s sake. What’s that even supposed to mean?”

“I dunno. Don’t pick up any flavored condoms?” Stefan grinned.

“Yeah, well, Kev and I don’t need those anyway. I’m leaving now. I promise I won’t ring till Thursday.”

Tyler just shook his head at all these silly ideas as he crossed the street again to the antiques shop. The prices were a little high-end for him, but he hadn’t been in there in ages, and he really enjoyed just looking at the old and odd things acquired there. He quietly wandered about the three levels of the old house-turned-shop for a little while, looking at hand-painted fireplace screens and paintings of people’s grumpy-looking grans, barley-legged tables and cut-glass wine sets, old porcelain dolls and heavily embroidered ottomans. The soft hum and vibration against his thigh told him Kevin was calling, and Tyler started back down to the main level of the shop as he answered and told his boyfriend he’d be home in about ten minutes.

Just as Tyler hung up, though, something caught his eye. In front of the shop’s downstairs fireplace, amongst several sets of fireplace tools, was a painted cast-iron figure of the mischievous puppet Mr. Punch, in cameo. The prominent chin and drooping jester’s hat made the form of a crescent moon, with a hooked nose, hunched back, and evil grin. The words DON’T YOU TELL were painted along the base of the figure.

It was a rather grotesque thing and patently creepy, but it made Tyler chuckle. Out of pure curiosity, Tyler moved closer to look at the tag, which simply said, “19th Century English Punch doorstop: $50.00+.” It was an incredibly low price for anything in that shop, and Tyler felt like he really couldn’t resist. Sure, it was ugly and disturbing, but Punch and Judy shows were so nostalgically British that Tyler just had to have it as a little reminder of home.

As he signed the check and handed it to the old woman who ran the shop, he couldn’t help grinning as he thought of that horoscope’s warning. It didn’t get much more impish than Mr. Punch. Maybe this would show Lukas and Stefan to see reason when nothing bad happened just because he brought something “impish” home. Because, of course, nothing would happen….

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Another Possession excerpt—a sweet one (rated X minus, but still if you’re under 18 walk away)

Tyler stirred a bit, yawning, and felt Kevin’s arm tighten around him. “Morning, old man,” he murmured.
“Are you okay?” Kevin asked immediately, his voice still gravelly from sleep.

“Yeah, it’s fine this morning. Guess I just needed to sleep it off, y’know?” Tyler said, turning to face his lover so he could meet his eyes.

“Glad to hear that,” Kevin said, relieved. “I hate seeing you hurting.” He brushed a stray curl back from Tyler’s forehead before kissing the soft skin his fingers had traced.

“Nothing hurts too much when you’re near me, Kev,” Tyler said honestly.

“I’ll always be near you,” Kevin vowed, softly kissing Tyler’s jawline.

Tyler’s fingertips under Kevin’s strong chin brought their lips together. It wasn’t long before it was more tongues than lips, and not long after that before Tyler was rolling onto his back and all but dragging Kevin on top of him, his hands greedily roaming his lover’s chest.

“Want you even nearer,” Tyler murmured.

Kevin responded by wrapping Tyler tighter in his arms and going in for a long, deep, passionate kiss.

“Nearer,” Tyler breathed when he finally had use of his tongue again, canting his hips upward so that their rigid cocks pressed together served to reinforce his point.

“You sure, angel? I was a little worried that maybe Saturday night was why you were hurting yesterday, I don’t want to cause you pain,” Kevin said, managing to keep his voice more steady than he felt. He was more than ready to sink into Tyler’s beautiful body then and there, but with Tyler only just coming off an attack, Kevin was also more than prepared to exercise unlimited self-control.

Tyler just shook his head, though. “It’s fine, really. I want you in me, Kev. You know I’d tell you if I thought it was still dodgy. C’mon, please? You’ve got me all hot and bothered. Don’t be a cock tease now!”

Kevin couldn’t help grinning at Tyler’s precious pout. “Well, if you promise me you’re all right, I suppose I could see my way to doing something about this for you,” he said, cupping Tyler’s groin.

“I’ll swear on a stack of Playgirls,” Tyler said vehemently, snagging the lube from the nightstand and pushing it into Kevin’s other hand. “Get on with it, then!”

Kevin laughed out loud at that, but complied, circling a lubed fingertip around Tyler’s opening a few times before seeking entrance. “Demanding little bitch. And I thought you got rid of all your Playgirls when you met me.”

“Kept a small stack for swearing on at need.” Tyler smirked, then gasped as Kevin pressed another finger into him. His gasp melted into a long groan when Kevin ducked his head and Tyler felt a hot tongue lapping at his shaft.

Once he was sure he had him properly lubed, Kevin gathered Tyler into his arms, murmuring, “C’mere, beautiful.”

Tyler wrapped his arms around Kevin’s shoulders and his legs around Kevin’s waist, taking Kevin’s kiss for all it was worth as he felt his partner slowly, gently filling him. “Two halves whole,” Tyler said softly, smiling as Kevin hit bottom and stayed there for a few moments.

“Love you so much, Ty,” Kevin mumbled, his face buried against Tyler’s neck. “Love you always.”

“Love me, Kev,” Tyler whispered.
Kevin kept the pace slow and gentle, not only because of Tyler’s back, but because, more than anything, he wanted to express physically how much Tyler really meant to him, on a level beyond the teasing and dirty talking, grasping and thrusting. There was hardly a moment when his lips weren’t in contact with his lover’s body, kissing, suckling, and generally worshiping every bit of skin he could reach.

Even with the lazy morning pace, it still didn’t take long for the intensity of their feelings to take them both to the edge of physical completion. Then it was just a few deep thrusts and several gentle tugs, and they were both in the profound rapture of a shared orgasm.

Despite his boneless, blissed-out state, Tyler didn’t let go of Kevin afterward as they gradually drifted back down from the peak. After a while, Tyler moved to comb his fingers through Kevin’s shaggy locks and kissed his lover’s temple before Kevin lifted his head from Tyler’s shoulder and kissed him back fully.

“I never really knew what sex was till I met you,” Tyler said softly.

Kevin grinned languidly, watching the love glow in Tyler’s expressive eyes. “Scared the fuck outta me that first time. I thought for sure I’d done something wrong and I’d never see you again.” The first time he had made love to Tyler had been one of the best experiences of his life, until he had glanced down and saw a tear slipping down his lover’s cheek.

Tyler smiled back and shrugged. “I’d just realized there really was such a thing as a soul mate, and that I’d found mine. Of course I was teary-eyed.”

Kevin just wrapped Tyler in his arms and held him tightly. There was a question practically on the tip of his tongue, one he’d wanted to ask for years, but he never seemed to have the courage to just say it. One day, Kevin promised himself, like every other time, and instead just whispered, “I love you.”

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The busy mind of Cornelia Grey (the author interview)

First, Cornelia, welcome! Thanks for allowing me to feature you as an author and discuss your work. In a bit I’d like to talk about Apples and Regret and Wasted Time, and maybe a bit about some of your other stories. But first, perhaps you can give readers a bit more information about you as a writer:

Q: I know of several short stories (in addition to Apples and Regret) that you’ve had published. If readers look at several of your stories, will they find a common thread, or theme? How do your stories come in to being—do you create characters and the story grows up around them, or do you start with a plot and invent characters as they’re needed? (Or some other mixture?)
A: I noticed there’s definitely a common theme. My stories are mostly set in alternative realities, worlds that are either urban fantasy, post-apocalyptic, steampunk… or just plain weird . And often these worlds’ societies are flawed, deeply unfair, crushed under some oppressive power. The stories revolve around the underdogs, random and unconventional, who strive to fight against this oppression, even if in small ways. Another common element in my stories is that the protagonist is originally on the side of the oppressors, or at the very least completely uninvolved in the events, and his perspective changes completely when he gets to know the underdogs. This is a storyline that comes to me naturally, and even though I’ve used it more than a few times, it’s still my favorite.

I’m also usually a plot person. I tend to think up an ending, the more climatic and explosive the better, then a beginning (in this order!) and then I plan out the intricacies that come in between. By the time I start actually writing, the skeleton of the story is ready, complete with a fairly accurate bullet point list of the scenes. I like to have the full movie, complete with sound and fancy special effects!, all flowing in my head before I start putting it down on paper.

The characters sort of come naturally as the plot flows. Often I don’t know much about their back-story – heck, sometimes I don’t even know their names! – as if I was stumbling across two strangers at the beginning of the story and just stalked them around to see what they’ll do. I think that sums up rather nicely how the whole process works for me, actually – the story’s unfolding almost by itself and all I have to do is keep lurking and be quick to take notes.

Q: In the excerpt from Apples and Regret and Wasted Time, the language is in some places (particularly the line that contains the title phrase), gorgeously sensual. Is that something readers will find throughout your work? If so, perhaps you can talk a bit about what influenced you in that direction. Does it affect the way you see or “feel” your characters? (Their emotions, their actions, their sex?)
A: Thank you for your kind words! To be honest, the issue of language is a little complicated for me. My mother tongue is Italian and I’ve only been writing in English for a couple of years, so my control of the language is still a bit limited. I can never tell if a sentence sounds English or if it sounds like Italian translated into English, for example, so especially in my first stories I had some funny sentence structures floating around. Italian has long, convoluted sentences, and that doesn’t quite make sense in English. Plus I tend to use lots of Latin-derived words, because they remind me of Italian and therefore come easy, while in English they tend to sound obscure and overblown.

I think I keep improving, though – if I read stories I published last year, I can now catch some sentences that sound odd and that I would phrase differently today. I notice my latest stories have a much cleaner use of language, without all the twists and twirls of my Italian writing. I manage to keep things simpler and more effective, and I think it results in a sharper, more incisive writing style.

However, I think the poetic undertones that Apples has are a little unique among my stories . I was caught up in the atmosphere of the story as I was writing it, suspended in its dream-like, foggy scenario: I think that bled into the use of language, shaping it to enhance that particular mood. I notice it with every story, really—the language changes subtly to suit that particular piece’s atmosphere. I don’t plan it rationally, it just comes out that way. A story I just finished, for example, set in the Wild West, has a dry and dusty feel to it, and the language is accordingly grating and sparse. It seems like it all comes instinctively together to bring out the atmosphere I have in my head—use of language, dialogues, setting, the character’s attitude, their approach to sex…

Q: About the characters in Apples and Regret and Wasted Time—in the blurb and in the excerpt, the characters are not named. Are readers given their names in the story? If so, can we have them here? If not, why not? How do you think that changes the way we see them? These characters both seem the type that I, rather crudely, would describe as badass. In the excerpt, it’s apparent that history, as well as strong physical attraction, draws them together. Without giving away the story, can you tell us anything about that history, and the roots of that almost irresistible attraction? How much of that need for one another is emotion deeper than sex?
A: No, we never learn their names. Truth to be told, I never picked any. I just never felt they were necessary. The story was much shorter in its original version, and when I decided to expand it I wondered whether the absence of names would work in a longer piece or whether it would become heavy for the readers: but I just couldn’t imagine forcing names into it. It would change the whole tone of the story, I believe, and make it weaker. It was also an interesting experiment for me: I wondered if readers would relate to the characters even without knowing their names. I know I certainly do. I always wonder exactly how much we have to know of someone in order to care for them, how much is necessary to reveal about a character in a story to make him or her a ‘real’ person, someone the reader can relate to, can grow attached to.

I’ll hide behind a no comment regarding the characters’ history—there are hints scattered around the piece, and I’d rather let the readers dig them out and piece them together as they please.

Q: “Wasted time” implies that the character turns back to a forgotten goal, or perhaps a new goal that he now realizes is where he should have been heading all along. Is that accurate? Are they both headed in the same direction? Don’t answer this if it gives away too much, but I really want to know if there’s a HEA… ?
A: Well, together with the publisher, we decided to list clearly as a warning that this story doesn’t have a traditional happy ending. A HEA is sort of taken for granted in the romance genre, so we wanted to avoid disappointing readers who might expect it. Personally, I’m a big fan of unresolved endings – I don’t really believe in happy endings, but not in unhappy endings either. My favorite endings are always a little open, more of a ‘to be continued’: maybe the couple is happy for now, but – for example – they have just gotten together and we have no clue whether they’ll be together forever or if they’ll amicably part ways in a few weeks or if they’ll end up slaughtering each other with a machete… you get the idea.
Apples and Regret is the one story where I got to indulge this predilection of mine to the fullest.

I also like to explore romances in which life, for one reason or the other, takes precedence on the love story, and the lovers are forced to adjust their priorities… and the relationship doesn’t make it to the top of the list. In my opinion, it doesn’t make the romance – the love – any less important, any less true. I’m in a similar situation in my life – I’m still building my future and looking for my place in the world, and life is tugging me and my partner of six years in opposite directions. Romantic comedies make it look like dropping everything to just bask into each other’s undying love is the simplest thing in the world, but I believe life is more complicated than that. So I guess I’m trying to explore that kind of situation, and maybe learn from my characters how to find solutions: I tug them in opposites directions, heck, I tie them to two freight trains heading to opposite hemispheres, and see how they sort things out…

Q: The cover to Apples and Regret ranks, in my mind, high as one of the best I’ve ever seen. Enticing and beautiful almost to the point of being hypnotic. Who did the art and design? How involved were you in the design—choosing elements or style, for instance?
A: I have to say, I was astonished when I saw how gorgeous the cover was—and for a short story, no less! I couldn’t have asked, or hoped!, for anything better. The artist is the incredibly talented Nathie—I highly recommend you go check her Deviantart gallery. (http://nathie.deviantart.com) She’s an amazing artist, and I’m especially in love with the anatomy of her gorgeous characters.
The process was really straightforward – my editor had the idea for the composition, which I immediately fell in love with, and the rest is all thanks to Nathie’s talent. I gave my input on the character’s face, but that was all – Nathie just seemed to automatically tune in with the atmosphere I wanted to create in the story. It was amazing to work with an artist who seemed to simply read my mind and draw exactly what I wanted, even though I hadn’t quite figured it out myself. I’m really looking forward to working with her again in the future!

Q: You have stories in a couple of Dreamspinner Press anthologies, A Brush of Wings (“Angel Blues”), and Making Contact (“Making Contact”), both released in 2010. Also, in March of this year, Samhain Publishing released “The Mercenary” as a stand-alone. Do you have other published work? Anything new coming up? Are you working on (or do you have plans for) any novella or novel length fiction? Is there anything you’d like to add, now—something I’ve missed that readers really should know about Cornelia Grey, Author?
A: I do have a few things coming up, actually . Storm Moon Press recently released the Wild Passions anthology, which includes my story “City of Foxes”, a gritty urban fantasy involving fox people. This August, Dreamspinner Press will release a pirate anthology, Cross Bones, with my short story “Worth the Price”, and I have another pirate story scheduled for release with them as a stand-alone. The title is “The Tea Demon”, and it’s an odd mix of steampunk, humor and, well… really random randomness! I definitely had fun writing that one 😉

While I have a few novella-length plots sketched down, waiting to be written, I tend to do better with short stories—mainly because they come with a deadline, and I work better under pressure. Also, I have the attention span of a drunken squirrel, so I tend to get sidetracked while working on longer stories – newer, shiny ideas keep fizzing up all over my brain and I end up dropping my current project.

However, I’m currently working on my final project for university, which is a novel-length manuscript. It’s a steampunk mystery, with a good sprinkling of irony and not taking things too seriously. As expected, after working on it for months, now I keep thinking of new exciting projects I’d like to get started with. But the project is due in January, so I do have a deadline to rein myself in—even though I’ve already managed to drop the project for a week and sneak-write the Wild West story I mentioned earlier. I have just no self-control. I foresee interesting months ahead….

As a last random bit of information, I thought I’d mention that I find it essential to have a writing soundtrack as I write. Headphones and music play an essential role in helping me disconnect from my everyday routine and delve in the story’s atmosphere. While each scene tends to have its own specific song, that remains on a loop until that one scene is over, the general soundtrack is made up mostly of classic rock and blues songs—Robert Johnson, Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Jimi Hendrix… And with that, I’ll leave you all with a very heartfelt: rock on!

Thanks, Cornelia, for agreeing to be featured on the blog, for taking the time to answer our questions, and letting us get a peak at your work and your author’s mind. Best of wishes with your work.

(Readers: if you’d like to ask Cornelia a question of your own, or comment, please feel free. The link to comment is (unfortunately) in rather small print, below the title. Welcome!)

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Excerpt from The Mercenary—a sizzler! (Rated 18+)

“Asher,” Gabriel repeated, breathless still. Asher could not suppress the shiver that raked his body, ensnared by the way his name sounded on those full lips. Gabriel looked at him with near-scorching intensity, distant thunderbolts rumbling deep behind his irises. His eyes had darkened to a deep shade of auburn. And then—then he said:
“Fuck me.”

Asher’s mouth went dry. He hesitated, suddenly all too aware of his own body—the heightened awareness that came only from the thrill of a fight, the rush of a kill—blistering energy thrumming in his veins, the heady rush of adrenaline-like stoked embers at the core of his brain. “More could come,” he rasped, his voice suddenly rough. His throat felt tight.

Gabriel’s eyes gleamed dangerously in his blood-spattered face. “Shut up,” he all but growled, an untamed grin curling his lips upward in the most infuriating, enticing of ways. He fixed his eyes on Asher’s as he discarded his cloak and shrugged out of his harness. Slowly, deliberately, he unbuttoned his tattered waistcoat and crumpled it in his hand, throwing it to the floor. He was left in a thin button shirt—its sleeves rolled up to reveal the soft crook of his elbows, the hint of strong biceps.

“Fuck me,” he repeated, his mouth a slow sin. His face was sharp and beautiful, pale skin a stark contrast with the dark bloodstains, his eyes smoldering embers staring at Asher from under his tousled locks, provocative, near damn intoxicating—
And Asher was yanking off his own coat, unfastening the thick leather protections that covered his chest. He stripped to a rough cotton shirt that stretched over his muscles, a sleeve ripped to reveal the brass gleam of his arm, a threatening confession in the half-darkness of the room. He grabbed Gabriel’s wrist, gracelessly dragging him close—their mouths clashed together, tongues exploring each other, teeth bared to sink in chapped lips, hot and messy and filthy of all the promises Gabriel’s half-lidded eyes seemed to bear. Asher’s fingers caught in thin fabric as they searched for warm skin—he ripped his hand free and impatiently slid it down the small of Gabriel’s back, past the loose edge of his trousers. His middle and index fingers tucked with ease in the warm crevice between Gabriel’s buttocks, thumb pressing a dimple in the soft flesh of a cheek. Gabriel licked Asher’s lips open and moaned in his mouth, wet and demanding, his taste a cinnamon wildfire seeping into Asher’s bloodstream, sizzling up his nerves to claim his brain, reaching down to his groin—

Gabriel groaned, half in pain, half in fervent lust—a hint of manic laughter twinkling in his eyes as he landed heavily on the crate, his arms not quite fast enough to prevent his chest from smacking against the hard wood. He braced himself with one arm and fumbled one handed with the fastening of his trousers as Asher held him down. The cold weight of the brass arm anchored him firmly as Asher all but wrenched his own garments open. Gabriel’s flesh was firm under his hand, sharp hipbone pressing against his palm as he traced his side, pushing obstructive fabric out of the way before finding a hold—his tanned knuckles a stark contrast where he grasped Gabriel’s fair skin.

Spit was all he had, hard to gather through the sudden dryness of his throat, and it wasn’t quite enough—Gabriel was tight, far too tight where he clenched around his fingers. Yet he moaned, using the leverage of his arms to push himself back, inciting Asher’s movements with small, ragged sounds that told him don’t you dare stop, laced in wordless threats. Asher wasn’t sure he’d manage to in any case, the warm body spread beneath him a much greater temptation than he could resist. He guided himself, slow burning hunger mounting with each of Gabriel’s pleas—it was three attempts before he felt Gabriel’s tight muscles yield to his flesh, allowing him inside. He stroked the soft skin of Gabriel’s hip with his thumb as he heard his ragged moan, the only comforting gesture he could muster, his brain burnt to near ashes by a breathtaking wave of need.

And it was the hot, heady clasp of flesh, muscles rippling and releasing in a stuttering rhythm that grew stronger at each beat, Gabriel’s pale skin vulnerable under his touch, Gabriel’s gasps and moans and strained murmurs. Asher could see the tension build in Gabriel’s shoulders, the taut muscles in his back, the ring of muscle obscenely stretched around his cock, and God—he leaned forward, hand braced on Gabriel’s nape, holding him down, his cold brass hand clutching Gabriel’s hip. It was too hard, he reckoned somewhere in the turmoil of his deep-sea thoughts, bound to leave bruises in its wake. And Gabriel, Gabriel, strong and demanding under his hands, writhing and pressing back against him, his muscles tense and vibrant with unrequited energy, sharp and breathless as he commanded, “Harder,” and “There,” and “Don’t stop, God—don’t stop.”

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