Monthly Archives: October 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Interview

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

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

Q: In what locale is your most recent book set? How compelling was it to set a story there? Do you choose location the same way every time? How?
A: Errors and Omissions is Book One in my Los Angeles Private Eyes series. I chose The City of Angels primarily for its mystique, extreme wealth and abject poverty, crassness and breathtaking beauty; plus, as an M/M romance/mystery-thriller writer, nothing ever seems too strange or horrific in Los Angeles.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: What are the fifty hottest words (approximate the word count) you’ve ever written, in your opinion. (Be sure to include citation).
A: I’ll give you something warm (the hottest words are for sale) from my upcoming novella, Land of Dreams. In the following scene, protagonist Mike Holland and Heath Mathis meet for the first time. And yes, hot, sweaty sex ensues.

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

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

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

© Copyright 2012 by Lee James.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Interview

Q: How important are character names, to you, and how do you go about naming them? What about titles?
A: Character names are VERY important to me. For me, names must tell something about the personality of the character. Either by the way the name sounds, what the name means, or both. Sometimes the names just come with the character when I create them, but other times I have to pull out my baby book of 35,000 names and look up what would fit the character best.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: I’m well known for demanding to know an author’s opinion about which of their characters is the sexiest, and I’m making no exception for this group. Who, how, and why?
A: Oh goddess!! Now all my characters are glaring at me – daring me to choose favorites!

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Excerpt from Ruby: Lost and Found

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

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

The dialen didn’t move.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Interview

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

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

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

Q: In what locale is your most recent book set? How compelling was it to set a story there? Do you choose location the same way every time? How?
A: Since I grew up in New York State, a lot of my stories are based there. My young adult series starts out there and then in the next book moves west to California. Many of my stories (published and forthcoming) are set in New York City, a city that holds a special place in my heart. Surprisingly, I have not yet written a story based in Washington, DC. I say surprising because I’ve lived here for thirty years now so I’m fairly familiar with the area.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: I’m well known for demanding to know an author’s opinion about which of their characters is the sexiest, and I’m making no exception for this group. Who, how, and why?
A: Another tough one to answer. I’m going to say that my sexiest character is Kyle, the young doctor from Little Squirrels. He wouldn’t define himself as sexy or even desirable when the story starts (part of the growth process of the story). He’s tall, has a nice body but not a hyper pumped overdone gym body – just a basic male body that’s been well maintained. He also has a cute butt, something I find very desirable in a man.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt from Little Squirrels Can Climb Tall Trees

“OW!”

“Damn!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Interview

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

Q: In what locale is your most recent book set? How compelling was it to set a story there? Do you choose location the same way every time? How?
A: The Cole McGinnis mysteries are set in Los Angeles. The setting is important because it boasts a large Korean population and much of the series’ complications come from the cultural conflicts Cole and his lover, Jae, experience. Also, Koreatown, and Los Angeles as a whole, has a rich history of triumph and tragedy which makes for a fascinating backdrop when I’m busy killing people off.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: I’m well known for demanding to know an author’s opinion about which of their characters is the sexiest, and I’m making no exception for this group. Who, how, and why?
A: Wow, um… I’d have to say Miki. I like his belligerence and unconscious strength. I kicked the shit out of him and he emerged stronger for it. I liked his street rat-ness.

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

I licked him.

And held an explosion of stars on my tongue.

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

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

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

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

An Excerpt from Dirty Secret

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

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

I licked him.

And held an explosion of stars on my tongue.

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

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

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

Then he giggled.

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

My tongue on his balls ended that quickly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tali blogs at http://talismania-brilliantdisguise.blogspot.com

The Interview

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

Q: In what locale is your most recent book set? How compelling was it to set a story there? Do you choose location the same way every time? How?
A: The Prince of Winds is a fantasy set in the world of the Known Sky. It’s an ancient world of gods and magic. I created a setting with vast landscapes ranging from desert to mountains to a tiny, isolated island. My settings are usually important to the story and I work to get them right. I may revisit a setting in a series—I have a series set in the medieval polytheistic empire of Uttor and am building another around the Known Sky—but my stand alone books each have a distinct world. I like to mix things up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt from The Prince of Winds

“Please… I can’t stand this!”

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

“Anything!” Rimmon gasped.

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

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

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

“What’s… a kadezh?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Interview

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

Q: In what locale is your most recent book set? How compelling was it to set a story there? Do you choose location the same way every time? How?
A: My most recent book, Deep Blues Goodbye, is set in New Orleans. It’s an erotic urban fantasy, vampires and werewolves set on an unaware world. And what better place than New Orleans with the voodoo that we do so well? I like to set stories close to home – Atlanta for me – or where they make most sense. Second Chances is set in Atlanta, as is the short I have in the IRM Winter Anthology, His Name was Harley Manfield.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Second Chances

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Filed under featured authors, just a category, M/M romance, Writers on writing