I’m very excited to be able to welcome today Lloyd Meeker, one of the most versatile authors in the catalogue.
Lloyd credits Walter de la Mare’s “The Listeners” as the first poem to steal both his heart and his imagination. That was in seventh grade, and he’s never been the same since. At university he devoured LOTR in a single weekend. Then came Lord Dunsany’s The Charwoman’s Shadow, Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, and Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea.
He’s happily entangled in a life-long love affair with metaphor and the potent mystery of the Hero’s Journey, especially in its metaphysical and psychological aspects. He lives in southern Florida with his husband, reading, writing, practicing subtle energy healing, wallowing in classical music and celebrating a very active life among orchids, hibiscus and palm trees.
Welcome, Lloyd and thank you for answering my questions so gallantly.
Can you tell me a little about yourself? For instance, do you have to have a day job as well as being a writer?
I retired in 2011, and it took me a couple of years to get used to the change. From minister to software developer, with a bunch of odd stops in between, I’ve held a variety of jobs. Now I write stories, and it’s the best job in the world for me, even when I hate it. I’d starve if I had to live on my royalties, but no, no day job in the usual sense. I do work two days a week at a local historical site, which helps me support my writing habit.
I live with my husband Bob in Wilton Manors, FL, which is a pocket municipality in the Fort Lauderdale area. It’s Provincetown South, basically, as about three-quarters of our population is LGBTQ. I think there’s one straight person elected to the City Commission, but he’s not the mayor—we do try to be inclusive. <laughing>
When you aren’t writing, is there any other creative activity you enjoy? Have you ever written about it?
I’m taking Spanish lessons, and hope one day to get back to playing my octave mandolin. We have a large circle of friends and have a healthy social life. We’re also pretty active in our local leather community—others may disagree, but I consider that a creative activity. Certainly an adventure. I also practice a form of subtle energy healing similar to Reiki. I’ve done that since I was a boy.
I haven’t written about any of those activities as a story subject, per se, but power/energy and music often show up in my work. I’ve thought about writing a BDSM story, but at this point I haven’t come across one that was mine to write.
What are you reading? Can you recommend something that you wished you’d written yourself?
I just finished Lightning Rod, Broken Mirrors Book 2 by Vaughn R. Demont. I like his work a lot. It’s smart and exciting, his imagination is gripping and his craft is at a fine level. House of Stone and his Broken Mirrors series is a must read for lovers of spec fic.
Something I wish I’d written myself? Jackdaw, by KJ Charles is the most recent. It’s brilliant. Taking the heroes from the Magpie Lord series, which is wonderful in its own right, and casting them as the unlikable antagonists (not the same as villains!) in Jackdaw without altering or diminishing their character is the work of a master. I wish I could do that. Maybe one day I’ll be able to pull that off.
In that crucial inspiration stage of a new story which comes first? Plot, situation or character?
In a series like my Russ Morgan mysteries, the main character is already set, so the story idea comes already featuring that character. He’ll grow, but it will be his story.
In other projects, though, character and situation arrive together: “What if a person like this encounters a problem like that?” The plot/situation is of no interest to me unless I care about the character in the middle of it, and just having an interesting character means nothing until he has a story platform to stand and act on.
I should disclose that the traditional distinction between plot-driven and character-driven is an artificial duality to me. A good story requires both characters and plot. I want my story to be story-driven.
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?
They always develop beyond my first feeling/thought, never like Athena springing from Zeus’ head, already fully grown and wearing armor. Frankly, it takes some time for me to know a protagonist. That’s why I usually think about a protagonist and his challenges for months before I write a word. I love learning about the character as he or she grows in the story. That’s an adventure I get to share!
Is there any genre you would love to write, ditto one you would avoid like a rattlesnake?
I have sketches for a work of magical realism, and I’m really excited about it. It’s the kind of writing I’m reaching for as I mature as a novelist. I flatter myself thinking the intellectual and emotional challenges will one day be within my reach to handle well.
A genre I doubt I’ll ever tackle (never say never, right?) is YA/NA. I haven’t the mindset. By definition the protagonist has to be immature, and as entertaining as the story might be I get too impatient with the characters’ mandatory immaturity. The whole point of those stories, it seems to me, is that the characters are still too young to get over themselves without unnecessary drama.
Sometimes as I read a YA/NA story I think, “Yes, and it will be much more interesting to meet you when you’ve actually grown up.” Especially male characters. The male brain doesn’t finish maturing biologically until 25 or so. Until then, as wonderful as a young man might be, he’s just not playing with a full deck, emotionally or mentally. I’m sure I’ve offended a big chunk of your subscribers by saying that, but I figure you—and they—deserve my honesty.
While I’m on my rant, I’ll add that one of my biggest peeves in romantic gay fiction is how protagonists supposedly in their 30s and 40s still act as if they’re in their early 20’s. It’s infuriating to me and I think insulting to gay men.
While that chronic immaturity allows an author to employ shallow tantrums, buying into cheap misunderstandings without actually taking time to find out the truth like an adult would, or trading on emotional fragility and never-ending angst as plot devices, is, as I say insulting to gay men in general.
Just as most straight guys worth knowing aren’t shallow, posturing buffoons like their depictions in American TV commercials, most gay men worth knowing aren’t emotionally damaged children in need of rescue or redemption. I’d love to see more stories about emotionally mature gay men.
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?
Yes. Again I’m probably jumping into chummed water, but here goes.
It’s certainly not inevitable, but a romance or relationship-driven story is much more likely to fall victim to a familiar (and seductively convenient) set of devices used to drive the story forward. Here are a few overused (imho) ones:
- The Big Misunderstanding/Betrayal That Tears the Lovers Apart
- The Thing/Love We Can’t Talk About Because if We Did the Story Would be Over
- The Awful (but please, not TOO terribly Awful!) Secrets from the Past
- The Crippling Unworthiness Wound
- The Catastrophic/Chronic Inability to Trust
Sometimes these are so obviously engineered to provide plot that I shake my head as I read. A relationship-driven story doesn’t have to be device-driven. I believe there’s a big difference in quality of story when it’s not.
When writing series, 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?
I use Scrivener. It’s got built-in functionality that allows me to keep track of characters, their backstory, attributes, locations they’ve lived and when, the works – anything I need. If the ex-spouse’s dog is important to the story, its name will be on the character sheet and I can refer to it any time.
I’m no farther than number two in a series, so I haven’t run into the more serious continuity problems. I may eventually need to print up those pages into a binder, organized by book or by character. That would take no more than half an hour. Scrivener is an incredible application.
Put together your ideal team of men/women drawing from all and any walks of life, fictional or non-fictional: who you would want to come to your rescue if menaced by muggers/alligators/fundamentalists?
What an interesting array of threats! Let me draw from characters I’ve written.
Muggers, I’d take Marco, the LAPD detective from The Companion, or Deputy Sheriff Heath Baker from Blood and Dirt. The muggers should start running right now.
For alligators, I think I’d call on Delen (rhymes with Helen), the nature witch from my current WIP. She could talk the alligators down, no problem.
For fundamentalists, I honestly don’t know. They’re the toughest of the lot. To be an extreme fundamentalist requires a certain level of intellectual dishonesty, so there’s no basis for logical engagement. Unexamined belief (religious or otherwise) is prejudice, and probably the most dangerous force in the world. I guess I’d call in every magician I’ve ever written – Talak and Yurud from Blood Royal, Arden and Toral from my first book, The Darkness of Castle Tiralur. (Mercifully Tiralur is out of print, but the characters are still good friends of mine.) I might need all of them to take on fundamentalists!
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?
I hope I never write what I would call a villain, as all I can think of is Snidely Whiplash tying some fair damsel to the railroad tracks. His morality is one-dimensional. Antagonists can be deadly, but in my mind should be more complex when it comes to the morality of their actions. In general, I’m most interested in the antagonist who is convinced he is doing good even as he commits evil—like burning someone at the stake, convinced it’s the only way to save their soul. That’s very compelling to me.
I haven’t written a serial killer, and probably never will. They don’t interest me. I could write an impartial antagonist such as the ocean, but Nature can never be truly evil, even if climate change destroys the entire human race. Gaia always bats last!
Societal pressures can be evil, for sure. Inspired by the terrifying militarization of police forces in the US, I’ve thought about writing a police state novel, but nothing concrete has come to me yet. In that case the antagonist would believe deeply in an “us vs. them” paradigm, certain that extreme force was required to maintain essential order and decency. He would have to believe that “the public” was somehow inherently wrong, misled, bad, or just dangerous, and therefore every citizen posed a potential threat to everything he stands for.
The hero’s inner demons? Yeah, they’re always in the mix. Regardless of what challenge he may attempt externally, those internal demons are what his character growth is about.
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 can say something without giving too much away. I’m currently working on the sequel to my m/f romance Blood Royal, which is being released by Wild Rose Press soon. It picks up even before the epilogue of BR occurs, and builds toward the lineage that will one day rule the House of Albessind. The story is about love, political intrigue, love, murder, love, individual power, love, magic exercised by will/spells vs. magic that springs from nature, and of course love.
Could we please have an excerpt of something?
Yes, certainly! Here’s an excerpt from Blood and Dirt, my second Russ Morgan mystery, just released by Wilde City Press. This is the third excerpt so, if you would like to read them in order, you can find the first here with Clare London and the second here with Jon Michaelsen.
Russ has been gently but relentlessly pursued by Colin Stewart, a young paralegal he met in the first mystery, Enigma. Russ is attracted, but has resisted getting involved because he’s afraid. In this scene they’ve gone on a hike in the Flatirons, near Boulder, Colorado.
I worked hard to keep my breath rhythmic and steady, if only so I wouldn’t embarrass myself with ragged gasping. Men at different ages had different things to prove, I mused, focusing on my diaphragm to push used-up air out of my lungs.
At twenty, few men needed to prove they could get an erection; at seventy, it might be different, setting aside magic pills. On the other hand, at twenty it was hard to prove excellence in your chosen field, if you even had a chosen field at that age. At seventy, you’d probably have made peace—or at least a truce—with your career. From my vantage point at fifty-three, I seemed obliged to prove most everything. I was about to draw some deep conclusion to my train of thought, but some scree gave way under my boot and derailed it. I nearly fell on my face.
Here on a steep Flatirons trail outside Boulder, Colin Stewart didn’t need to prove he was equal to the climb, whereas I felt obliged to keep up with him even though he was half my age. Pride can be a bigger bully than a drill sergeant.
Colin’s sturdy calves bunched and released as he clambered up the escarpment ahead of me, his hiking boots bouncing from one toehold to another. The trail wasn’t heart-stoppingly difficult, even for me, and following his firm shorts-clad backside at close range certainly made the tougher parts of the trail more rewarding. The Sunday morning sun, still fairly low behind us warmed our backs and turned the fine hair on his tanned legs to spun gold. Lust for spun gold was another powerful inspiration to keep up.
As I pulled myself up around a boulder already May-morning warm, I admitted that hiking with a young man who, for some unfathomable reason, found me desirable was the standard stuff of midlife fantasies. Most gay men my age would be trembling with excitement, asked out on a date with an adorable young thing who made no secret he wanted more than just a date. But adorable and young as Colin was, he definitely wasn’t just a thing. He deserved much more than I could give him.
The trail’s incline eased, and I filled with more gratitude than I should have felt.
The way I saw it, the reality of a fifty-something-year-old man being pursued by someone as young, intelligent, and sweet as Colin Stewart posed a much more complex problem than any midlife fantasy. I had serious reservations. When I thought about a relationship with him, I immediately felt responsible for his happiness, and my sobriety had no room for such bald codependence. Worse, I was fighting a losing battle to suppress an old shame I didn’t want to face.
Sweat tickled down my spine in a steady little stream. With a mixture of relief and arousal, I stared at a moisture- darkened V forming on the back of Colin’s khaki shorts, starting just below his belt. Never mind he was carrying our lunch and all the water in his daypack. At least he was sweating, too. It seemed only fair.
He twisted to look down at me, his face damp, radiantly happy under the wide brim of his hat. “Let’s stop for water,” he said. “Even on a trail like this, it’s important to stay hydrated.”
“What do you mean, even on a trail like this?” I panted, trying not to feel embarrassed.
Colin laughed, pulling a big blue bandana from his hip pocket and tilting his hat back to wipe his forehead. “I didn’t mean it that way. Really. This is work for me, too.” He hitched his pack into place. “I meant a short outing. We’ll be back in Denver in a few hours.”
“Still plenty of time to see the rest of my life flash before my eyes, I guess.”
“You’re doing great,” he said, holding out his hand to me. I took it, and he pulled me up next to him. Close. He cocked a thumb at his backpack and turned away from me. “Dig us out some water.”
As I pulled out a bottle, I admitted he was right. I was in much better than average shape for my age. But I wasn’t twenty-five like Colin, and he certainly wasn’t fifty-something. And therein lay the root problem for us, as I saw it.
Us. I handed Colin the water and watched him tilt his head back to drink, watched his throat move as he swallowed. I wanted to feel that motion under my tongue. There couldn’t be any “us,” not in the long run.
He must have felt me staring, because he gave me a knowing smile and slowly licked his lips. “Like what you see, Russ?”
“You know I do.”
“Well, I like what I see, too.” He handed me the water bottle, staring me in the eye. “A lot.”
I couldn’t bring myself to accept what he said was true, but I knew he wasn’t lying. His aura showed no guile when he said it, not a flicker. I got vertigo when he talked like that. I took a long pull of water, not wanting to think about what the lust in my own aura might look like in that moment.
“Time for us to get back on the trail, don’t you think?” It was lame of me to change the subject like that, but I wasn’t feeling brave. Colin gazed at me for a moment, eyes cool, and shrugged.
Ashamed of my cowardice, I stuffed the water back in his pack and off we went again.
“I love the climb, but I love the view from the top even more.” Colin made a slow three-sixty, turning first to the mountains and foothills to the north, then the flatland stretching out to the east under its Front Range brown cloud, and finally, endless mountains to the south and west.
“It’s magnificent,” I agreed, pulling in lungfuls of air so fresh the ozone stung my nostrils.
“That’s what I wanted to do to you, too,” he said, not breaking his gaze from the higher hills behind us. “First time I saw you, I wanted to climb you so bad.”
“Climb the mountain just because it was there?”
“Not at all,” he said, turning to scowl at me. “And it’s not just physical. When you told me about how you read auras and what it felt like, that was it. I wanted to move in with you right then.” He laughed. “And climb your mountain.” He gave me his evil grin, the one that scared the crap out of me because it cut straight through my rational defenses to fire me up. “I’ll bet the view from your peak is fabulous. Bet I’d see shooting stars from it.”
I laughed in spite of myself but kept staring at the snow-covered peaks to the west. I could feel Colin’s eyes on me as he waited for me to say something. I filled my lungs with air and let it out slowly, grateful I was no longer panting. He deserved my honesty, if nothing else, even if I wasn’t proud of what I had to say.
I turned to face him. “We should talk.”
by Lloyd A Meeker
Family squabbles can be murder. Psychic PI Russ Morgan investigates a vandalized marijuana grow in Mesa County Colorado, landing in the middle of a ferocious family feud that’s escalating in a hurry. Five siblings fight over the family ranch as it staggers on the brink of bankruptcy, marijuana its only salvation. Not everyone agrees, but only one of them is willing to kill to make a point. Russ also has a personal puzzle to solve as he questions his deepening relationship with Colin Stewart, a man half his age. His rational mind says being with Colin is the fast track to heartbreak, but it feels grounding, sane, and good. Now, that’s really dangerous…
Blood and Dirt is currently available from Wilde City Press:
You can get more news of Lloyd’s upcoming projects at the following web locations:
Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.to/MBe1gp