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Pack Up Your Troubles

By Charlie Cochrane

Blurb:

THIS GROUND WHICH WAS SECURED AT GREAT EXPENSE
An officer thinks he finds love in the trenches, but is it really waiting for him on the home front?

HALLOWED GROUND
A doctor and an army chaplain spend the night in a foxhole and discover there’s hope even in the darkest situations

MUSIC IN THE MIDST OF DESOLATION
And an old soldier discovers that there are romantic problems to solve even after you’ve cashed in your chips.

Available from Amazon.

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Returning to the Land of the Morning Calm

Release date: May 21, 2018
Series: N/A, stand-alone
Genre(s): Contemporary fiction, LGBT, Feel-good
Publisher: Beaten Track Publishing, UK
Pages: Approx. 200

Blurb:

Martin is eighty-four years old, a Korean War veteran, living quietly in a retirement home in upstate New York. His days are ruled by the routine of the staff. In his thoughts and dreams, Martin often returns to the Seoul of his youth, and the lost true love of his life.

Two close friends urge him to travel back to search for that love. What awaits Martin in Korea, more than six decades after he left the country on a troop transport back to the U.S.?

Returning to the Land of the Morning Calm is a story of friendship, love, and family, in all its many shapes, across time, generations and cultures.

book title

Available from the publisher, from various Amazons, from Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and iBooks.

My guest today not only wrote one of my top reads in the past 12 months but also, I’m happy to say, is a jolly good person to have a giggle with via Messenger! But that doesn’t tell you a whole lot about her so here is her author Blurb:

“Dal Maclean comes from Scotland. Her background is in journalism, and she has an undying passion for history, the more gossipy and scandalous the better. Dal has lived in Asia and worked all over the world, but home is now the UK.

She dislikes the Tragic Gay trope, but loves imperfect characters and genuine emotional conflict in romantic fiction. As an author, and a reader, she believes it’s worth a bit of work to reach a happy ending. Agatha Christie, English gardens and ill-advised cocktails are three fatal weaknesses, though not usually at the same time.

Her first book, “Bitter Legacy”, was a 2017 Lambda Literary Award Finalist for best Gay Mystery and was chosen by the American Libraries Association for their 2018 Over The Rainbow Recommended Books List.”

Welcome Dal. so pleased to be your host today!

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When you aren’t writing, is there any other creative activity you enjoy? Have you ever written about it?

Gardening, which is very boring of me. But it can be really creative, as well as energetic and nurturing and a bit of a puzzle sometimes. So great all round. But no I haven’t written about it.

What are you reading? Can you recommend something that you wished you’d written yourself?

I’m re-reading The Time Travellers Guide to Medieval England by Ian Mortimer. The conceit is that you’re going to travel there as a tourist and this is like a Rough Guide to help you fit it, like… the cultural dos and don’ts, and the importance of a chicken and what the concept of time meant then, and where to go to the toilet. It’s not a new book but it’s absolutely brilliant and yes, I definitely wish I’d written it

In that crucial inspiration stage of a new story which comes first? Plot, situation or character?

Probably plot, though character is close behind. I don’t have a complete picture of the plot when I start out – just a general one – and the twists and turns often come or change as I go. But a lot happens on instinct or by accident. I didn’t know for example that Object of Desire was going to be so much faster paced than Bitter Legacy, or a psychological thriller as well as mystery. But that happened I think because OOD takes place over a number of days (maybe that’s what makes it a thriller); BL’s plot covered months. That in itself changes the feel of a book I think. The faster and more urgent the plot, the less time the characters have for contemplation and thinky things, and in depth analysis of relationships etcs.

Sometimes it does become incredibly complicated writing largely as you go – trying to make sure multiple strands intertwine and all make sense and don’t leave holes. Trying to ensure every character has logical and believable motivations that fit who they are. And alibis. I talk to myself a lot. I’m very embarrassing to be around.

Do your characters arrive fully fledged and ready to fly or do they develop as you work with them? Do you have a crisp mental picture of them or are they more a thought and a feeling than an image?

When I start, main characters generally have basic characteristics, but as I write, nuances develop on their own. I didn’t know when I started to write, for example, that Tom Gray used to play football (soccer) recreationally before he modelled and then had to stop. Or that Ben and Jamie in Bitter Legacy both did martial arts.
I find that when any of my characters face particular situations, I do have a very definite idea about what they each would and wouldn’t do.

Tom the POV character in Object of Desire is a more astute observer of human nature than James Henderson in Bitter Legacy. They’re both definitely unreliable narrators of course, and Tom is even fooling himself a fair amount of the time. They both get a lot wrong. But James’s upbringing has made him a bit more of a Visitor To Planet Earth than Tom at times.

The side characters are probably less formed at the start and their little peccadilloes grow on the page, for example Alec Scrivenor’s devotion to Costa coffee in BL and Pez’s gimlet eye for trends in OOD.

All my characters do come to feel real to me though, so I get protective of them. Which is a bit disturbing when I think about it.

What inspired you to write about modelling?

An article I read about the realities of male modelling which was fascinating – both male and female attitudes to modelling and male models were very different. And the attitudes of men and women to being models was different. As I read, Tom and a basic plot began to form. I could seriously bore the arse off you with the realities and the psychology behind it. Elin,where are you going?

Just kidding! 🙂 Male models are lovely but my rather atrophied mothering instinct makes me want to give them soup and a roll. Do you find there to be a lot of structural differences between a relationship driven story and one where the romance is a sub plot?

Well I think what I write is a kind of hybrid. Neither fish nor fowl. It’s not a romance and it’s not a mystery so I’m not sure what it is exactly. A romstery? A mysmance? I imagine, with some longing, that it would be easier to write one or the other, than try both equally at the same time. But I follow both basic structures – mystery and romance — and sometimes they do fight with each other. I’ve learned a lot about it from working with Nicole Kimberling at Blind Eye Books who has a lot of knowledge and astonishing instincts.

I write far too much as well and I’m going to try to do better on that score in my next effort. I wrote 25% too much for Object of Desire including a sex scene that lasted for more than 20 pages. (My editor tried to save it but alas… ah, the guys were probably chafing by then anyway)

20 PAGES!! What would they even … no, never mind, I don’t need to know. But I would like to know what measures do you take to keep track of those annoying little details – eye colour, car type, name of ex-spouse’s dog – that are so easy to drop into text and so easy to forget about on the next book in the series?

I’ve only done two books so far so I don’t have very much to keep track of. But I’m very anal about details so I’ll go back and check whenever a date or description comes along. I actually have to admit I have detailed timelines of each book and the characters entire histories, most of which never get near the actual story- that’s how anal I am. Sometimes I mess up, but up until now, its been caught in the edit thankfully.

Maps *nods* I spend far too long drawing maps. Villains are incredibly important in fiction since they challenge the main protagonists and give them something to contend with beyond the tension of a developing relationship. The cruel sea. The serial killer. The society itself. Your hero’s inner demons. What sort of villains do you prize?

Complicated ones. Human ones. Ones who don’t twirl the ends of their pantomime moustaches. Occasionally ones you can understand and even sympathise with – though that’s not something you can do often as a writer I think. I especially like villains who care – who have some personal stake in the story and the hero/es be it positive or negative. I think when you’re talking about an inanimate villain like the sea as you said, that’s one thing, but I need three dimensions if the villain’s human.

What are you working on at the moment? Can you discuss it or do you prefer to keep it a secret until it’s finished.

I’m starting the third book in the Bitter Legacy universe set after Object of Desire and the POV character this time is Will Foster, now back in the Met. I think there are still some legs in his relationship with Tom and there are loose ends all over the place. So we’ll see how it pans out. There’s a large cast of main, secondary and tertiary characters though over both books so it’s going to be a challenge deciding who and what to put in. And an established relationship is new ground for me. I may run away to sea if it gets too tough.

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Title: Object of Desire
Genre: Gay, m/m, thriller, psychological thriller, mystery

Blurb:

Tom Gray is one of the world’s top models – an effortless object of desire. Self-contained, elusive and always in control, he’s accustomed to living life entirely on his own terms. But when Tom comes under suspicion in the gory death of his employer, his world spirals into chaos.

Someone’s framing him. Someone’s stalking him. And as old secrets come to light, Tom finds his adversary always one step ahead.

Will Foster is the only man Tom trusts to help. But Tom brutally burned all bridges between them two years before, and Will paid a bitter price. If he wants to survive, Tom must prove his innocence to Will–and to the world.

Buy links:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/807492

Print: $18.95
Digital: $6.99

You can follow Dal on these social media links:

Author: Dal Maclean http://www.dalmaclean.com
Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15408926.Dal_Maclean
Author Twitter: @MacleanDal – Dal Maclean
Author Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/people/Dal-Maclean/100010371585020
Author Insta: dalmaclean

I used to enjoy doing this so I think I’ll start doing it again – though not necessarily on every Saturday.

What I’ve read:

Hunger Makes The Wolf Blood Binds The Pack

Two books telling one excellent story. Sort of Dune meets Firefly plus some really pointed references to historical abuse of workers that made me cringe with anticipation because I’d recently read some articles on the US Coal Wars in the early 1900s. There are some LGBT relationships but the most important thing is friendship, mutual trust, and cooperation. At the heart of the story are two women – hard-nut Hob and initially-domesticated Mag who discovers a diamond core after a horrific experience. Best friends and nearly-sisters, their support for each other spills over to the community around them. Then there are the Wolves, the mercenary gang Hob belongs to, who perform tasks for pay up to and including murder, if they feel it justified. Some of the wolves are so memorable that I desperately want to see another book about them.

The story isn’t a romance, although there are romantic elements, but it ticked every single box on my checklist of what I hope for when I open a sci fi or fantasy novel.

Snippet!

I’m ping ponging between tasks today, because I have a child unexpectedly returning to the nest for a couple of days before he goes to see a friend. I’ll have to feed him up so he can build up his strength before the two of them spend 72 hours straight playing Skyrim, or whatever the cool kids are playing now.

Anyhow, though he’s most welcome, my mind isn’t really on my work. But I am trying so, to show good faith, here’s a little bit of Midnight Flit:

“Have you a light?” Falk leaned against the window at Briers side. He withdrew a cigarette from his silver case and tapped the end on the edge of it. Briers grinned at the familiar affectation and offered a box of matches.
“Thank you,” Falk said and lit the gasper then continued in smooth unaccented Serbian. “I hope your young lady has taken no harm from her experience?”
“None at all,” Briers said. “Though I believe she may be a little more wary about whom she allows into the compartment in future.”
“That’s hardly fair,” Falk’s protest was quiet but earnestly meant. “He was lying in wait for them. I’d heard someone enter the compartment before they did and I thought it was you.”
“Ah, yes, well.” Briers grimaced. “Possibly I’m being a little over-protective.”
“You?” Falk snorted. “I don’t believe it. No truly.” He snorted again. “And your companion is chafing at your concern? I can imagine how galling it might be to be with someone who treats one as a child.”
“That’s not fair!” Briers scowled at him, then whispered, “And she’s already given me a right ear-bashing about it. Bless her. And how are you getting on with the other people in your compartment?”
Falk grinned. “The young Russian reminds me of a weimaraner I had when I was a child. The least graceful creature I have ever met but filled with boundless and genuine goodwill. The musician … interests me.”
“I what way? Professional or personal?”
Falk met his eyes with the smallest of smiles. “In every way. He is wary, I feel he has something to hide. I would like to find out whether it is the same secret we share or something more reprehensible.”
“And what do you plan to do?”
“Cultivate an aquaintance, of course. ” Falk blew smoke towards the window.

It’s nice spending time with old friends.

Communication

 

They say communication is key but all too often in daily life our communication skills let us down. We can’t find quite the right words to express ourselves, or we find we’re talking at cross purposes with the other person or the emotional barometer of the other person suggests that we’d best go along with what they want because, at that moment, their needs are more important than ours. Language doesn’t help. I remember my feeling of the world turned on its ear when I discovered that in America a frown is this facial expression:

Whereas for us frowns happen above the nose and can signify anything from extreme displeasure to puzzlement to concentration. It’s perfectly feasible for someone to frown and smile at the same time, on this side of the pond. Put this in a book and Brits will understand but you’ll have loads of confused American readers. Now I understand about American frowns when I see it in a book rather than a dignified little crease forming between the eyebrows I’m imagining this sort of expression:

 

Probably not what the writer intends, but how do I know? Human interaction makes misunderstanding inevitable and it’s a very useful weapon in the writer’s arsenal.

How many books have you seen that have, as the major crisis, a miscommunication between the protagonists? Perhaps due to a misunderstanding or just, as one reviewer put it, “because they just can’t talk to each other like fucking adults”. I like my characters to communicate like fucking adults, maybe because it’s such a hard thing to achieve in real life, but it can be fun to let themselves wind themselves up a lot first. I’ve been winding up Briers and Miles like nobody’s business and, while they are prone to talk through their problems, conditions aren’t ideal for a heart to heart. Eventually,they have to grab their moment:

Briers expression was tense and there was a crease between his brows that made Miles frown in response. He didn’t feel any need to ask what Briers was talking about but this was a bad place and a bad time.
“I don’t feel it’s appropriate in present company,” he whispered with a nod towards his sleeping mother.
“No,” Briers shook his head. “We need to clear the air and this is probably the only opportunity we’ll have. Miles, I love you like a rat loves Cheddar but I’ve got an inkling that, right at this moment, the feeling isn’t reciprocated. What have I done to upset you.”
“Done? Nothing,” Miles drew a deep breath. “Nothing in particular. I’m horribly on edge. This whole situation is very uncomfortable, and frankly I’m worried sick. So when you talk over me, or patronise me or – in short – behave like most men do with their wives – it is a little … irking.”
Miles became aware that Briers jaw had dropped. “Talk over – I don’t.”
“Yes, you do. Think about it. When we were at dinner–”
“That’s just playing a role!”
“See! You did it then.”
Briers rocked back in his seat. “Oh heck. So I did!”

See I used frown there. >:| Lets turn one upside down

 

Thoughts

I’ve been having a whole load of very confusing thoughts lately. Part of it is due to recent terrible upsets amongst the group of people I see most frequently online, some of whom are friends and most cherished. Part of it is due to my own rather uncomfortable mental health issues, where on any given day I yoyo back and forth between the numb apathy of depression and the hyper-awareness of anxiety. Neither are helpful when trying to create entertaining fiction.

This could be why I’ve written myself into a plothole in no less than THREE separate stories and I am REALLY  struggling with the temptation to pack it all in and write fan fic instead.