For those who wonder, Gay Romance University resumes class tomorrow with GRU 301; the text is Finding Jackie, Vasquez and James book 3 (for those that like to be prepared).
After GRU studies Vasquez and James we will be moving on to learning about Gay Romance from other characters, by other authors. Should be fun, starting later this month. Stay tuned. (I’m considering opening a new school also, Sexy Gay Romance University. Feedback on this idea welcome.)
I’m working on making a website, of which this blog will be a part, as will pages for the University posts, my published works, free fiction, featured authors, reviews, and who knows! I’m working on having some type of grand opening event. Ideas welcome!
Want to get your degree in Gay Romance Lit? Well, why not start by learning from the sweet and hot experts, Luki Vasquez and Sonny James. No, you’re right, the couple to the left is not Luki and Sonny, but they are sweet, and they are romantic, and I think they should have a book written about them. (I’m working on it.) Luki and Sonny are older (especially Luki) and more… well, I’ll get to that later.
As you may know, there are, to date, four installments to the Vasquez and James Suspense/Romance story. (If you wish to purchase the texts for home study, click on the image below. 🙂 )
There is one more book about the couple, the novella Yes,, and another book in the series entitled Because of Jade,coming in spring 2014. For this introductory bit of GRU’s Vasquez and James course, however, we’ll focus on the first book in the series, Loving Luki Vasquez.
One thing you will note about Luki and Sonny is that although they were certainly always hot (and sort of sweet), they were definitely not always experts in romance. In fact if you’ll turn to page 3 of your text (or just keep reading here), you’ll find an account of the events when they first met, accidentally, on the streets of (fictional) Port Clifton, Washington. To set the scene, Sonny—who lived in the area—was walking down the street in a not very good mood…
Then he saw a man.
Which in itself wasn‟t unusual, but this man, an islander, maybe Hawaiian, by the look of him, lounged cool and beautiful in loose summer whites, half-sitting on the fender of an ice-blue Mercedes, a strip of sand beach and the blue straits for a backdrop. Dark chestnut curls shining; straight, white teeth softly teasing a lush, plum-red bottom lip. His eyes, startling pale blue against brown skin, roved all over Sonny; the islander made no effort to pretend otherwise, and besides, Sonny could feel them. Their touch trickled over him like ice water, exciting every nerve he had, even those he‟d never heard from before.
Which scared Sonny, a recluse by choice—and, he knew, because he‟d always managed to be socially… well, clumsy. So, he turned to the weapon that had been his first line of defense since adolescence, when all the reservation had noticed that their star young grass dancer didn‟t mind being gay: a smart mouth.
“What are you looking at?”
Groan with me now, class. Good Lord, Sonny James! Could you be any less romantic?
But… maybe it was fate, because minutes later, the heretofore icy-hearted badass Luki Vasquez took a most uncharacteristic chance. You’ll find this bit on page 4 of the text, and Sonny has just witnessed hardcore Luki sweetly pick up a fallen teddy bear and return it to a child.
Sonny, angry with himself for blowing his chance to meet this chill but beautiful stranger—who might be trying to hide a kind heart—pretended he hadn‟t seen. He turned his faux-stoic shoulder and walked away. A little shaky, perhaps; already sorry. Three strides and he heard a voice, unexpectedly scratchy, even hoarse.
The man took a deep, lovely breath, flashed his cold-fire eyes at Sonny, and said, “I have coffee most mornings at Margie’s. In case you’re interested.”
Following that initial flubbed meeting and interesting invitation, Sonny and Luki met a couple of times on purpose and accidentally, with disastrous and somewhat humorous results, and on would think that would have been the end of it. Truth was, however, neither could forget the other. One day, they met by chance—and a kiss happened. Not love at first kiss, no, but a hint at what a romance between them might be. Beginning on page 16 of your book, Luki is disgusted with himself and decides a little tai chi practice on a mostly deserted beach would do him good…
By the time he‟d finished, the sun had risen almost midway. With heat and exertion, he‟d broken into a profuse sweat. He turned his face into the breeze, let it riffle his curls, took his shirt off, and tossed it to hang on one of his targets.
A dot in the distance moving up the beach toward him. A person. Sonny, no flags in sight.
Oh well, no problem. If there was anything he knew how to do, it was shut out emotional disturbance. He‟d just continue with his practice, maybe work another form first, as if Sonny weren‟t there. But with Sonny‟s long legs, he covered a lot of distance in a short time, and now he‟d come almost close enough for eye contact. My God, the man is beautiful.
“Hey,” Luki said.
“Nice out, huh?” Oh, yeah. Great. Talk about the weather.
Sonny ignored the comment.
Thank you, universe.
“It‟s like dancing.”
The conversation seemed like some kind of mirror image of the last time they spoke, when Sonny was checking out colors, which certainly weren‟t all the same, or so Sonny informed him, leaving him to feel foolish. Nice thing was, now they were in his territory. But he had no taste for retaliation.
“It‟s been called that. Tai chi.”
“Oh. Yeah. I‟ve heard of it. Sort of dancing that can kill. Seems exactly right.”
Luki didn‟t know what he meant by that last remark, so he stayed silent.
“It‟s graceful, the way you do it.”
Luki remained at a loss for a response. Was that a compliment?
“I‟ve even thought about trying to learn it. But I could never get away from my studio—or maybe I should say get my studio out of my head—long enough for anything like that.”
Luki still said nothing, but now he subtly eyed Sonny from head to toe—a pleasant undertaking but one with purpose. “You‟re in good enough shape to do it well.”
Luki didn‟t know how he could speak and hold his breath at the same time, but it felt that way. “I could teach you a little,” he said, “right now.”
To his surprise and nervous delight, Sonny agreed after only a second’s hesitation. Soon Luki had him barefoot and mastering a perfect opening stance. From there, he taught him some traditional warm-ups—not part of the forms but a good way to get the feel of the art. Though his long, loose limbs gave him some trouble and made Luki want to secretly and fondly laugh, and though Sonny giggled—yes, giggled—at a few of the early warm-ups, he attended well and learned fast.
They‟d reached the last of the warm-up exercises: Pushing Chi. A little more complicated than the ones that came before, it took focused coordination. When Sonny could Push Chi with acceptable grace, Luki decided to introduce him to at least part of the Chen form: First, he revisited the simple but all-important Opening Movement. Then, Pound the Pestle, Lazy Tying Coat, and Six Sealing, Four Closing.
Single Whip led into White Crane Spreads Its Wings, the name of which made Sonny adorably… all right fine, adorably happy. The sequence involved motions that at first felt counterintuitive. Like probably every student in the centuries tai chi had been around, Sonny needed help with it. As he would with any other student, Luki stood behind him, using his own hands to guide Sonny through the move. He wondered if he could get away with teaching him all the rest of the moves in just that way. Perhaps for hours. Every day. For a long time.
As he was teaching and wondering and probably even almost smiling, a wind rose up, splashing spray and sand and whipping Sonny‟s long hair at Luki‟s face and right into his mouth. On the word “open,” appropriately enough.
Sonny spun around, gathering up his luxurious baked-earth red hair. Before Luki had a chance to close his mouth, Sonny kissed him. A passionate, seeking sort of kiss. A kiss that Luki instinctively returned, though kissing wasn‟t a large part of his intimate life, and especially not kissing on the beach.
Well! That is a nice development. After that, some very suspenseful things begin to happen, throwing Luki and Sonny together whether they (profess to) want it or not. One thing of course leads to another, and things heat up, leading to this, on page 48:
After a moment, that not-quite smile of Luki’s that Sonny had come to recognize appeared in his eyes. He laced his strong fingers into Sonny’s hair and rose up to meet Sonny’s lips in a long, soft kiss, keeping possession of his gaze all the while. “Sweet, so sweet,” he whispered. And then, his lips still moving against Sonny’s: “You can have my ass.”
London: Being the third stop in the Saving Sonny James Road Trip Blog Tour Vasquez and James adventure
Sonny slept the whole way from Ashford to King’s Cross Station in London. It wasn’t a long trip, but as they deboard Sonny thinks Luki must be getting tired of that scenario–he’d slept from France to England too.
“I’m sorry, Luki.”
Luki looked slightly up into Sonny’s eyes, something close to confusion written on his face. “I don’t mind, baby. If you need to sleep, sleep. Gather your strength.”
“C’mon, Luki. Don’t pretend I’m not boring you silly.”
“True story is, Mr. Sonny James, you’re an awful sweet husband to cuddle, and your various snores keep me interested.”
“I don’t snore.”
“Will you teach me how to record with my phone, so I can play it back it next time?”
They’ve arrived in London just as dark has fallen, though the lights of the millenium city keep the deepest dark at bay and almost hide the moon and stars. They’ve contacted Brian Harrison, Luki’s former agent who, in the tale told in Finding Jackie helped rescue Luki’s teenage nephew from a nightmare. He left Luki’s employ and came to London to escape Jackie, because–even though he’s only a few years older–he knew the feelings he had for the childlike but scarily mature seventeen-year-old would have to wait until Jackie dealt with demons and came of age.
But instead of breaking the fever, the separation has cured Brian’s feelings into a low-level but ever present yearning, a haunting kind of love. Sonny never knew him well, but he knew the story, and the minute he saw Brian’s face in the light outside Cannon Street station, he read the loneliness there and understood its source. He glanced at Luki to see if he read his former agent as well. An expression passed over Luki’s face, perhaps of puzzlement. It seemed he knew something wasn’t right, but he didn’t know what.
“Hey, Luki! Sonny! It’s good to see you. You look tired–probably too much travel. I didn’t even know you guys were over on this side of the Atlantic. Did you go to France for a delayed honeymoon, or something?”
“Well–” Luki started to answer.
“Yes,” Sonny interjected. “Paris is something else.” He had no desire to relive for Brian the nightmare Lou Sylvre (their author) had put them through in Saving Sonny James.
“Well,” Brian chuckled, “I’ve never been there. Maybe someday… if I ever have a honeymoon…”
“He’ll be eighteen in a couple months, you know.” Sonny wanted to chuckle seeing Luki’s surprise, quickly followed by the dawn of understanding, but he didn’t want to seem flippant.
Brian stayed silent as they walked away from the station entrance, then said. “I hope you don’t mind–we’re not far from my neighborhood–I share a flat near the college with some other students. I thought we’d just take the bus.”
“Sure,” Luki said. “So how are you doing? School? Everything else?”
“School’s good–a lot to learn as you probably already know, boss.” He smiled.
Luki raised his eyebrows and nodded. “Yeah, a lot of new stuff since I was in school, and I’m sure you’re better suited to learn it. But what about everything else?”
Brian laughed, low and not really with much humor. “Well, I know he’s going to be eighteen soon–thanks for the reminder Sonny–but I’ll wait. He’s got other stuff to figure out. I send him a card every now and then, he texts me thanks, but nothing else.”
“Sorry, Brian,” Luki said.
“Brian,” Sonny said, “if it’s meant to be it will. If you’re waiting, it’s only because you choose to wait, and think it’s worth waiting for something that’s not a sure bet. I’d lay my money down betting someday the two of you will have something together, but of course none of us know.”
“Hey, Luki, ever eat a lamburger?”
Sonny smiled, understanding Brian’s remark as a permanent change of subjct.
Luki looked a bit lost, “Um…”
“I know a place, called The Don Bistro, where they serve a fabulous one. I think you’ll like it as much as much as Dick’s Drive-in’s hamburgers.”
They stopped first at Brian’s apartment, and Sonny felt a little shell-shocked. Luki looked a lot shell-shocked. After they’d taken in the smell, the stack of fly-strewn dishes, and the apparently drunken state of two of Brian’s roommates, they looked at each other and by unspoken agreement kissed each other to keep from embarrassingly loud laughter.
Luki whispered in Sonny’s ear. “Oh my god, baby, I’ve never been so glad to be forty-two!”
Brian said, “Uh… well, listen if you guys aren’t too tired for another bus ride, let’s go eat.”
They did. The Don was fabulous. Luki had the recommended lamburger with carmelized onions, and Sonny had a rib-eye, Scottish beef, with mushrooms. They both had fries and local beer chosen by Brian. Brian, it turned out had become a vegetarian, and had risotto with veggies and gorgonzola, and bean salad.
After a fabulous dinner completed by great conversation and Luki’s repeated promise that he’d rehire the young man whenever he wanted, they thanked Brian, Luki slipped money into Brian’s coat, and they decided to get a hotel room rather than try to brave Brian’s apartment for the night.
On the street, watching for a cab, Luki put an arm around Sonny–protecting him from anything that might be hiding in the fog, Sonny thought.
Luki said, “I know a place I think you’d like, Sonny. Called the Hand and Flower. It’s a bit out of the way–Chelsea, I think. But we’ll have time to get to the airport tomorrow without rushing. What do you think? Not exactly luxury, but… history, and, um… beauty, maybe.”
“I think so. I can’t explain.”
They went, and Sonny did love the polished wood, decorative iron work railings, lush colors and papers on the wall. The Hand and Flower had history, and that made it feel rich to Sonny, luxurious even though the quarters seemed a bit cramped.
He walked around the small suite, carrying his bottle of wine, but when he saw the bed…
“Luki, let’s go to bed.”
“You’re tired again, baby?”
“No. I don’t think so. Not at all, at the moment. See?” He looked down at the bulge that had developed behind his zipper.
Luki’s eyes followed Sonny’s lead, seemingly of their own accord, though Ms. Sylvre always says that can’t be true–autonomous body parts and all. Still, Ms. Sylvre never has had an erection, or (apparently) unruly eyes that go where their lover leads.
“Yes,” Luki said. “But I’d like to see more.”
Sonny smiled, giggled even, and with a flourish of his free hand, reached for his zipper. Ever so slowly, he un-zipped, revealing–yes, you guessed it–red silk beneath. He took his hand away, pushing his jeans down just a bit, and his penis gave a mighty push at the silk, trying to break free (ABP again), but only succeeding in peeking out.
Luki’s breath escaped in a loud puff, and he took the wine bottle from Sonny and plunked it on the side table. Then he pushed his body against Sonny until his sweet, beautiful husband fell back on the bed, his mouth already wet and craving a taste of his favorite dessert–husband, hot and a la creme.
Just Eight Days until Saving Sonny James is officially released by Dreamspinner Press (Yes that’s a buy link, and it’s already available on pre-order… jus’ sayin’). Between now and then, I’ll put together a calendar of related events, which should include some fun stuff including giveaways, and character shenanigans. I’ll be posting information here, facebook, Goodreads, The Romance Reviews, and possibly elsewhere, too. Keep an eye peeled, because I truly hope you’ll join me for some good times. Meanwhile: beautiful cover! (Again)
“You said you had something to tell me.” Aric cleared his throat, not wishing to reminiscence about such things, at least not now. He was losing his mind, he must be. This was a dream, it had to be. Yet why did it feel so real? “And my name is not Brandric. It’s Aric. Brandric is what my father calls me.”
“Aric, then.” The dragon inclined its head again, lowering its voice. “Your sister is to marry the prince of a neighboring kingdom. This must not be allowed to happen. It will not unite your kingdoms, but is merely a ploy to gain your father’s trust.”
“I already know that.” Aric had heard two of King Malachite’s men talking. Once the marriage had taken place, King Malachite planned to invade Astria and claim it in the name of Logan, his own kingdom. “He… they talked about using magic.” Aric had told his father about what he’d overheard, but he hadn’t been believed. King Malachite, King Brandr assured his son, would not attempt to betray Astria by using the evil that was magic. Nor would he use their children’s marriage to gain control over Astria. He was an honorable man who had stood by Astria and its people many times, their armies united against a common foe. Together they had triumphed over those who might use magic against them, and worked to rid both their lands of the threat of dragons.
Aric had never trusted King Malachite. There was something about the man that made his skin crawl, but if asked to explain, he couldn’t. Only two people had ever believed him: Georgia and Aunt Hannah.
“The only way to fight magic is with magic.” The dragon looked around, then cocked its head to the side as though listening to something Aric could not hear. “You must seek the Sword of Sherwin, Aric. The quest will not only save your kingdom, but also your sister.”
“I….” Aric stared at the dragon. He’d heard of the sword, of course he had. It was an old tale told to him by both his aunt and his mother. The sword was a thing of power. “It doesn’t exist. It’s just a story. Or if it did, it was lost generations ago.” He shook his head. Surely the dragon couldn’t be serious?
“Then it is time it was found again, isn’t it?”
“You make it sound simple. It’s not.” Aric looked up at the dragon. Its eyes were the same color as its scales. They seemed to bore into his own, searching his heart, and his soul. There was something ageless about it, powerful yet lonely. He shivered, and averted his gaze.
“You see what others don’t, young Aric.” The dragon opened its wings. Aric gasped. They were the length of several men, black cobwebs of fine leather and scale. “Follow your heart, and trust your instincts.”
“But I don’t know where to look.” Aric wanted to believe the dragon, he truly did. Georgia couldn’t be allowed to marry Prince Thorold, and Aric could not stand by and let his kingdom fall. Killing dragons had only been part of the oath he’d taken. He might not intend to keep that part of it, but he certainly would keep the other.
The dragon had already begun to flap its wings. It was preparing to leave, and Aric knew once it took flight he’d never be able to stop it. “Follow your heart, Aric. Do what is right.”
Aric stumbled back, his sword falling to the ground. He couldn’t kill the dragon, but more than that, he didn’t want to. “I don’t know where to look,” he yelled after it. The dragon did not reply but instead took to the air, gliding, hovering above him, its movement graceful, majestic. Something about it called to him, touched him.
What is the title of your book?
Finding Jackie (third book in the Vasquez and James suspense series)
How did you come by the idea?
This book follows a couple of threads from Delsyn’s Blues. It struck me that major events involving marriage proposals and gun battles with the children of a mafia style hitman would not go without consequence. I also wanted to send main characters Luki and Sonny. on a road trip!
What genre does your book fall under?
It’s M/M, Romance/Suspense
Which actors would you choose to play your characters if it were a movie?
Someone asked me this before, and I really had a heck of a time coming up with an answer. Luki’s looks are so singular, in a way, especially his dark skin tone and very pale blue eyes, that it’s hard to think of anyone else looking like him. So I went shopping for a star! I came up with two possibilities, neither perfect both fun. 😉 First, Johnny Depp can play Luki. Well, because Johnny Depp can play anybody. Or, alternatively, how about Jason Momoa? He’s half Hawaiian, half European—like Luki. Skin and hair color about right and he’s well… here’s a picture. Needs a scar, and a bit more muscle, etc., but a decent candidate, wouldn’t you say? I wouldn’t mind doing the interview! For Sonny, I say Johnny Depp is a possibility (heh-heh), or how about this guy, Jay Tavare? Yeah, Sonny’s gorgeous.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
The wedding is perfect—almost—but Luki and Sonny’s honeymoon is derailed when sixteen-year-old nephew Jackie is lured into capture and torture by a sadistic killer, and must be rescued from a compound in the desert-dry Umatilla Forest.
Will your book be self-published or traditional?
Dreamspinner Press will publish it in May or June 2013. They’ve published the other Vasquez and James books as well.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I really don’t remember. I started the book—just snatches here and there—but got to work on it more in earnest after Delsyn’s Blues was released. I was interrupted to work on Yes: A Vasquez and James Novella. It did take me longer than usual, for some reason.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Well, because the reading I can do is limited, due to time, I’m sure there are books I don’t know of that would fit the bill. With the hope that Rhys Ford doesn’t mind, I will say that her Dirty Kiss and Dirty Secret have some similarity—at least in terms of the “badass” main character. Other than that I don’t know—but I’d love to hear from someone else what they think!
Who or What inspired you to write this book?
The characters, Luki Vasquez and Sonny James. They constantly inspire me.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
The romance between Luki and Sonny is always evolving, growing stronger, and they just get sexier together. There’s some erotic scenes, some funny ones, and some edge-of-your-seat fear. And then there’s some scenes that are just plain sweet. I think it will be hard for a reader not to fall in love with these beautiful men. And of course, they get married in wonderful Hawaii. Yes!
Click the cover image to go to the buy/preorder page at Dreamspinner. Mark Jennings is at a crossroads. His finance job in the Atlanta nonprofit scene stresses him out, his mother is dying, and his relationship with Brian Jacobs has crashed and burned. He needs a distraction, some way to relax, and a massage seems like just the thing. He never expected his massage therapist, Antonio Roberto, to become his best friend.
Despite their differences—Antonio is a divorced single father—the two men forge a firm friendship that weathers Mark’s reconciliation with Brian and Antonio’s questionable taste in women. Over the years, Antonio remains constant in his support, though others in Mark’s life come and go through a revolving door.
When a young boy runs away from the group home where he works, Mark finds another door opening. Through it all he holds on to the things his loved ones taught him—about family, about friends and lovers, about life and death. Most importantly, he realizes that sometimes the greatest gift of all is a second chance. Second Chances” will be out on October 17th from Dreamspinner.
T. A. Webb is the writing name for the Mean Old Bear That Could. By day, he’s the director of finance for a non-profit agency. He’s worked with people living with HIV/AIDS and with children in the foster care system for over twenty years, and takes the smaller pay for the chance to make a difference for those who can’t help themselves. After hours, he’s the proud single papa of four rescue dogs, was born and raised in Atlanta, where he still lives, and is a pretty darned good country cook.
His sister taught him to read when he was four, and he tore his way through the local library over the next few years. Always wanting more, he snuck a copy of The Exorcist under his parents’ house to read when he was eleven and scared the bejesus out of himself. Thus began a love affair with books that skirt the edge, and when he discovered gay literature, he was hooked for life.
T. A. can be found at Facebook under AuthorTAWebb, tweeted at #TomBearAtl, or if you really want to, you can email him at AuthorTAWebb@aol.com.
Q: How important are character names, to you, and how do you go about naming them? What about titles? A: Character names are very important. Once I get in my head who they are, then they start talking to me and the story is off and running! I fill in the blanks of their personalities, and the names just kind of come to me. Same with titles – I start with something generic until the story really cooks, then the name comes to me kind of organically.
Q: In what locale is your most recent book set? How compelling was it to set a story there? Do you choose location the same way every time? How? A: My most recent book, Deep Blues Goodbye, is set in New Orleans. It’s an erotic urban fantasy, vampires and werewolves set on an unaware world. And what better place than New Orleans with the voodoo that we do so well? I like to set stories close to home – Atlanta for me – or where they make most sense. Second Chances is set in Atlanta, as is the short I have in the IRM Winter Anthology, His Name was Harley Manfield.
Q: How much power do you give your characters in steering the story line? A: All the power. I’m a “pantser” – I write by the seat of my pants. The characters talk to me and set the action. They live and laugh and love and sometimes die and I have no idea what’s gonna happen until it does.
Q: What is the most satisfying element for you in writing gay relationships, and why? Q: Hmmm. I like to tell the history, how the characters got to the place in their lives where they are today. And then how that history led them to interact with each other and fall in love or whatever they do. It’s all about the build-up for me.
Q: Are readers involved in making your fiction—do they suggest stories or say what they’d like to read? A: Not yet. So far I’m still a newbie, so nobody cares yet!
Q: Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers. A: Wow. Should there be a relationship? Other than that the author writes for readers, and readers read. I’ve been a reviewer for a couple of years and a reader all my life, and have always thought that authors don’t owe me anything except a well-written work. Today, though, it seems with the internet everyone thinks they own a piece of each other. Well, I disagree. Read me or not. Like me or not. But it’s my work that you should [be] worried about.
Q: What do you find useful about reviews? A: They can tell a writer if they are on track with their stories. I write reviews, and my goal is always to tell other readers the good about a book, and what I think might be improved. But I refuse to write bad reviews or talk about the author. So the feedback – as a writer – it tells me if I am doing a good job communicating my story. If I am, great, but if I’m not, I need to get better. And even with a good review, I need to get better!
Q: I’m well known for demanding to know an author’s opinion about which of their characters is the sexiest, and I’m making no exception for this group. Who, how, and why? A: In Deep Blues Goodbye, we have a boatload of sexy men. My personal favorite is Travis. He’s tall, dark and handsome, and just now getting that he can have a life after being turned into a vampire. But Sam is a special guy too. He’s always willing to look inside himself and learn something new. In Second Chances, it’s Brian. He’s loving, knows he fucked up, and still comes back for more.
Q: What are the fifty hottest words (approximate the word count) you’ve ever written, in your opinion. (Be sure to include citation).
He pushed up into my hand and I shoved a hand inside his jeans. “Think you can come in the next two minutes?” He groaned and nodded. This was my new favorite game. Giving him a time limit, and if he didn’t get off within that time, he didn’t get to. ’Til the next day. He’d gotten very good at this game.
From Second Chances
Q: What are you doing now, what do plan to write next? A: I have *gulps* six things going on at once now. I have two shorts for a new YA anthology to finish, the new book in the Altered States series, a novella about two porn guys and the man who brings them together in love, a 1940’s story called Buzz and Tommy’s Summer, and a book with another writer that’s a fun semi-paranormal piece. Then another book in the series and a follow-up to Second Chances that tells Robbie and Jason’s story. Then…another Altered States book and a paranormal book I woke up with already all plotted and told in my head!
I wondered if praying that she wouldn’t pull out of this episode made me a terrible son. I didn’t dare breathe a word of that to anybody, but fuck it, I could stand here and by God take a minute to suffer and let my heart bleed in private. Pull all the jagged pieces of my soul together and cobble them into something resembling the man everybody knew as Mark Jennings before I had to go in and be him.
But after a few minutes and a few more deep breaths, I pulled it together. Took the piece of me that was the good son, attached it to the responsible work Mark, the peacemaker brother, the single gay man pieces. Looked at all the parts tiredly, and once they fit into something that approached a whole man, I slipped back into my skin. I took a deep breath and opened the door to Mom’s room.
Dad was there. It may have been too early for any of my brothers and sisters, but that was almost a relief. Today it would be nice just to have some time with him while I still felt so tired and raw.
“It’s good to see you, son.” He hugged me and eyed the sack I brought in from Huey’s. He loved the beignets and the muffaletta sandwiches I’d gotten into the habit of picking up for our dinner.
I handed him the bag. “You too, Dad. Looks like everything’s about the same here, huh? Thought I’d come and keep you company.”
“But I know you’re tired. I told you to go home after work and I’d call you if anything changed,” he fussed as he dug around in the bag.
“Just hush and eat. Where is everybody?” I plopped down in a chair and kicked my shoes off. I’d been at this damn hospital enough to know how to make myself comfortable.
“You’re it right now.” He plowed into the food like a hungry bear, and I knew he’d probably skipped lunch to sit with her. Again. “Patty was here earlier, and Robert. Said he and Jennifer’d be back tonight. The doctor was in today, said she may wake up tomorrow some time.”
I didn’t want to talk about that right now. More than anything, that subject threatened the fragile internal balance I’d forged, so we talked about little crap. What my day’d been like. What had to be done around the house when he made it back there.
But we also slid in some of the more important things, too. How was he holding up. Was I okay. Had I heard from Brian. Things he would share with me, the responsible son. My brothers and sisters, while I loved them, always made everything such fucking drama, and found reasons to let me handle the hard things. You know, since I didn’t have kids and a wife, or a husband, or a boyfriend. At least that’s what Brenda and Sam and Linda thought. Robert and Patti, at least, pitched in as best they could.
But it was also our way to ignore the big things without telling each other to fuck off.
(As always on Sylvre.com, click the cover image for the buy link.)
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.
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!
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.
Hi! Welcome to the Follow the Rainbow Blog Hop! Before I answer the essay question posed by the hop organizers, just in case you don’t already know I’m going to tell you about the other important stuff—prizes! The hop is the brainchild of Rainbow Book Reviews, and they’re set to give away four $25 book gift certificates, good at Amazon or All Romance. Nice, huh? To be eligible for one of those prizes, follow this link and comment: Rainbow Book Reviews Follow the Rainbow Blog Hop. But that’s not all! Your comment there also puts you in the running for prizes from a whole long list of participating publishers—Dreamspinner, Bold Strokes, Silver, Torquere, Untreed Reads, Riptide, Amber Allure, Less than Three. (I think I got them all).
On top of all that, if you comment here, I’ll put your name in the hat for my own drawing, prize is an ebook ofYes: A Vasquez and James Novella (the latest release in the series). (If you already have Yes, we may be able to work a deal for one of the other Vasquez and James books.
Okay, now down to the Blog Hop Question. The instructions tell me to write about what writing GLBTQ means to me. Um. Well. As a bi woman who has lived much of her life as a lesbian, you would think I would say it gives me a chance to create lesbian role models and beautiful lesbian relationships. However, I have in recent times only written M/M romance. So I’m going to cheat a bit and write about “why” I write M/M romance. Of course the short answer is because I love to write and this is what I’m loving to write right now—probably will be for a good long while, if the multiplying ideas and plot bunnies are any indication. So, other than sheer love of the act, why do I write M/M romance?
Why is always a trick question, I think. So often, as soon as I say, “this is why I did it,” I realize there’s a thousand other answers equally true. Nevertheless, here’s the answer:
I find it unavoidable.
No bull, this is true—for me, for right now I cannot not write this stuff.
This situation of inevitable M/M romance production started when I was writing a YA fantasy, a book meant for the young end of that readership spectrum. The book had no romance (I don’t believe the average 12 y/o boy wants to read romance of any kind) although I did have an idea that romances might flourish in later installments in the series. One night, while I slept and the characters talked quietly amongst themselves in their word document, a couple of really, really fine adult male characters (both of whom I was secretly in love with) fell in love with each other. They were so hot for each other strange things happened, and they became tongue-tied when they met up. One of these guys was a tall Native American (like Sonny James) firefighter from northern California (not like Sonny James) who also happened to be a shape shifter—his alter ego being a California Condor. The other guy was a very self-possessed ultimate warrior with a limited talent for reading minds—sometimes for some reasons. (Oh yeah, also he’s 200 years old, from another world, and works for the Premier Wizard.)
When those two fell in love I was virtually paralyzed as far as writing the book I’d meant to write. I had to stop working on the book, scratch out a quick, hot love story for the guys, promise I’d see them later, and then finally get back to my YA Fantasy. But I had never heard of M/M romance as a genre, and I’d never heard of publishers that not only accepted but solicited such stories.
At the time, I wrote short stories with some regularity, and published them in small markets. I wrote two blatantly M/M stories, one a humorous romance, and one an angsty romance. I wrote another humorous story in which the protag is gay, but that wasn’t the central theme of the story, and there was no romance. Finally I wrote a dark paranormal pseudo-historical fantasy (I know, too many adjectives) that I can best describe as murder/romance, very creepy but one of my faves. All that time, I still didn’t know I wanted to write M/M romance.
But then I did know.
Loving Luki Vasquez is a direct descendant of that original pair of demanding lovers that were born (in full, rampant, sexual heat) in the manuscript of that YA fantasy—maybe a couple of generations removed. It almost wrote itself—at least in the sex scenes—and I started looking for a place to submit. When I ran across Dreamspinner, I almost thought, “No, that’s too good to be true!” Once I had that novel submitted and accepted, I realized that Luki and Sonny had more stories. I also realized that, while they don’t think of me as their slave, I am an indentured servant. I hope I can buy my way out soon.
Ah, but if I do… I have other gay men standing around making romantic and or sexual overtures toward each other, keeping each other occupied by making up stories together that I will then be forced to write. Forced to write because the stories are compelling, because the love and pain the characters endure are not so much gay as human, because passion and heartbreak and sickness and health and friends and children and parents and pets and—deep breath—are no different for gay men and their loved ones than they are for anyone else.
So that’s why I write M/M Romance. That’s what it means to me. Good thing I enjoy it!
(See my free fiction page for some of the stories I mentioned above, if you are interested.)
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:
This blog is not pornography, however it will from time to time include material suitable for adults. If you are not of legal age in the country where you live, please leave the site. Thank you. Others, proceed at your own discretion, and please enjoy!