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I’m so glad this book is being released again, keeping its original cover. I love it to bits, especially Jasper because I feel a real kinship for anyone who takes comfort from tottering towers of books. Also with Lewis’s wildly embarrassing parents. 🙂

If you haven’t read it before, give it a go. There are riches within.

Stories That Make You Smile

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My guest today, Alexa Milne, isn’t known to me personally but I would so love to rectify that. How about it Alexa? Do you think you might make Queer Company 3 in 2018?

Meantime, many thanks for playing along and answering my questions.

~~~

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 was born in Wales in the area where my latest book, While You See a Chance is set. I’ve lived in the north of England for a long time but am still passionate about being Welsh and supporting my national teams. I’m retired after teaching for thirty years which means I don’t have an evil day job.
I started writing in 2009 when my favourite character was killed in Torchwood, my favourite show. I’ve written over a million words of fanfiction. I decided to try to write something original, and as I’d written m/m stories in fanfics, kept to that genre with my first novel, Sporting Chance.

I try to write most days but I’m not the most disciplined of writers and often have times when I write a lot or a little. I plan a little and create an A3 sheet for each story which I jot down things about the characters, backstories, events, motivations and friends and family.

 

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

I’m not sure whether this counts as a creative activity but I like researching family trees. I started doing my own way back in the eighties when you had to go to London and shift around their huge volumes or to local record offices which is my case took me to Cardiff, Newport, Worcester, Warwick, Taunton and Stafford and Lichfield.

I’ve since done a lot of other peoples’ trees and it can be fascinating. You’ll find a bit about genealogy in While You See a Chance as Sion Goff has returned to Wales to help solve a family mystery he has discovered. What he finds astonishes him.

 

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

I’m very much a punster with minimal plotting. Usually I get an idea of a meeting and the characters develop after that. Sometimes, there’s a setting as in another new book, My Highland Cowboy. The idea for that came from a TV programme and my love of Scotland. My WIP came from watching kitten cams as one of the MCs fosters kittens and this MC is based on a documentary I saw of a person who was adopted searching for his birth mother.

As I write romance the end is the same but how I get the MCs together is another matter. Sometimes I throw in obstacles or the characters do it themselves. Some stories are more about keeping them together than tearing them apart. I love a bit of hurt/comfort and angst.

 

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?

Sometimes a character arrives fully formed at other times they reveal themselves. I’ve changed what a character looks like often when it simply doesn’t fit. The physicality of a character matters to me. I tend to write about ordinary men rather than those with the perfect abs. I keep a spreadsheet of characters which often gets edited in order to remember about eye and hair colour or height and size as well as notes on their backgrounds.

Is there any genre you would love to write, ditto one you would avoid like a rattlesnake?

I taught history and I’d love to write a historical story but so far a plot has eluded me except for one set around the murder of Lord Darnley which maybe I’ll write one day. I’d also like to write some f/f romance. I’ve written a few fanfiction stories and have a few ideas. I doubt I’ll ever write m/f. I’ve tried on occasion and my beta readers say it’s awful.

What inspired you to write about older characters?

I have two books out soon. Once thing I’d noticed about the m/m genre was the lack of older characters and heading towards sixty myself, I decided to write a second chances story about two men who had been childhood friends meeting again nearly forty years later. The story While You See a Chance, out on general release from 1st May with Manifold Press, came from that and developed into exploring being gay in three different generations.

The inspiration for my other story, My Highland Cowboy, out on general release with Pride Publishing on 6th June, came from a report on the programme Countryfile about five years ago which discussed diversity in farming. I came up with the idea of an American style ‘dude’ ranch set in the Highlands of Scotland near Glencoe, an area I love. As I love opposites attract and MCs who’ve had to hide their feelings for some reasons, these ideas formed and drove the story.

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 have a list in which I try to include everything about each character in the story. My main problem is continuity of story. In the edits, I always end up having to rewrite events. Perhaps I need a chapter spreadsheet for this as well.

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?

My ideal team would be Captain Jack Harkness, The Doctor, The Winchesters with Castiel and more surprisingly Crowley, any of the Avengers, Canary and Snart from Legends of Tomorrow, Buffy and Miles, and lastly, Hermoine and Peggy Carter. I’m a bit of a geek.

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’ve not written any out and out villains but I love them in my favourite programmes. I love the characters who do good while retaining an element of being bad like Spike from Buffy, Loki from the Avengers, and Crowley from Supernatural.

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 have two WIPs. Half Full is about an MC who fosters cats, is mixed race and was adopted when little. There are other things I won’t disclose. The other MC provides the title. Jonah was thrown out of a home ruled by his grandfather when he was fourteen for being gay. Luckily, he got help and inspiration for his career from the people who found him and he’s always been one of nature’s optimists and loves helping people, especially children and amateur dramatics and is somewhat larger than life. There is a romance but also a lot about discovery. This one is at 70K words and getting towards completion.

The other WIP is about two younger men in their twenties, one a student and the other just graduated who meet on a bus. One has never considered himself interested in men but finds himself drawn to the other. There are lots of secondary characters and a secret one MC discovers which throws out every idea he’s ever had about his family. This one is at 20K and near the middle.

Could we please have an excerpt of something? 

Here is an excerpt from While You See A Chance.
While You See a Chance

“D’you want help with packing your shopping, sir?” the girl on the till asked in a sing-song voice typical of the area.

“No, thanks, I haven’t got much.” He pulled off a few plastic bags, a difference from the usual brown paper of American supermarkets. In a hurry, he didn’t pay much attention to the people around until a voice, that came from so long ago, distracted him. He lifted his head.

“You have to pay five pence each for those, sir. New rules.”

Sion turned his attention back to the girl. “That’s fine. Don’t worry.”

“You could get a bag for life, sir.”

“Whatever’s easiest.”

He glanced over to the other till in the direction of the voice where a large man stood stuffing his purchases into a bag. He stood well over six feet, with broad shoulders, which Sion supposed tapered down to narrower hips. A heavy suede coat covered the man’s rear, making it hard to tell. His luxuriant salt and pepper locks reflected the many shades that older ginger-haired men often had when mixed with grey. Strands curled over the fur collar of his coat. Something familiar about the man made Sion’s senses tingle.

The assistant at the other till spoke to the customer. “That’ll be eighteen seventy-four please, Mr Price, and I’ll see you at parents’ evening tonight. I hope Jamie’s been behaving himself this term.”

Sion’s breath hitched, and the girl on his till gave him a puzzled look as he turned away. The noise he’d made must have been more audible than he’d intended. Now he was absolutely certain of the man’s identity, even if he hadn’t seen his face. He leaned on the counter and took a deep breath, hoping to slow his racing pulse.

“Are you all right, sir?” the girl asked. “I guess with that accent you’re not from around here. On holiday, is it? It’s a lovely part of Wales, even at this time of year. Lots to do.”

“Yes, sorry, and no, I’ve just moved here,” he said, raising his head to meet her concerned gaze, but keeping his face down. “How much do I owe?”

The girl told him and he handed over the money in a hurry, not wanting to lose sight of the other man. Sion followed his childhood friend until he stopped behind a Land Rover near the entrance. Shaking slightly, Sion moved nearer.

“Phil?” he asked quietly, not wanting to make the man jump.

“What the – ?” Phil stared at him then rubbed his eyes as if he couldn’t quite believe them.

The shock on his friend’s face made Sion step back for a moment. He took in the figure in front of him. Phil had turned into a huge bear of a man, complete with beard. He’d always had the height, but now he had the breadth as well. Sion imagined his size might intimidate the small children in his charge. Now, Phil simply stared, his eyes wide with shock, then took a step backwards as if he’d seen a ghost.

“It’s me, Phil,” Sion said. He supposed he’d also changed over the last thirty years. His hair, now grey, was cut short at the sides but longer on top. He’d put on a few pounds since his teens, but remained lean and wiry, although more through luck and genetics, than diet and exercise.

“Bloody hell.” Phil continued staring, then put out his hand. Sion took it, and they stood shaking and saying nothing for an awkward moment. “My God, Sion, hmm, I’m sorry, I wasn’t expecting … What on earth are you doing here? Are you here for Christmas?”

“I’ve just bought a house locally. I’m back to stay. I guess I’m the last person you expected to find out shopping. Mind you, I could say the same for you. I thought you lived up north.”

“I’ve been back four years. I’m head at a local primary school. When Helen and I got divorced, I decided to come home to Wales. So, why on earth are you here of all places?”

Sion had to collect his thoughts and process that information. Phil and Helen had split up? Come on, get your act together. “I decided to move back after … It doesn’t matter for now, it’s a long story. Look, why don’t you and I have dinner tonight and catch up? There must be a decent local restaurant – unless you’re busy, of course. Sorry, that was presumptuous of me.”

Phil lifted the bag into his car then slammed the boot closed. “No … I mean yes. I’m sorry, I can’t do tonight. I’ve got to get going. I slipped out at lunchtime to get a few bits and pieces for parents’ evening.”

Sion heard the shake in his old friend’s voice, but resisted the temptation to reach out and touch him again. “It’s okay,” Sion said, reaching into his pocket for his wallet. He took out a change-of-address card. “I live here now. Call me any time.”

Sion waited while Phil parked the trolley in the bay to the front of the building and returned to his car.

“I will, but I’m not sure when. It’s a busy time of year, leading up to the holidays.” Phil glanced at his watch. “I’ve got to go.”

Sion moved closer and this time touched the other man’s arm. “It’s so good to see you again.”

Phil continued to stare at the ground, obviously unable to look him in the eye. “You too, but I must get off. I’ll call as soon as I can.” Phil jumped into his car without looking back.

Sion watched the Land Rover pull out of the car park before returning to his SUV. Sitting in the driver’s seat, he reached for his wallet again. Tucked away inside, he found the photo he’d carried with him for over thirty years, taken the day before he went off on his own to Oxford University. Everyone had called them the Three Musketeers, himself, Phil and Helen, always together, sharing everything except their deepest darkest secrets. Sion had loved Phil with a passion, but had never told him. Phil and Helen had gone off together to Manchester University, and had married not long after they’d graduated. Not wanting to stay, Sion had emigrated to America to lecture in history at Yale.

Leaning back in his seat, he thought back to the conversation he’d had with Helen the day before he’d left for Oxford. He’d often wondered if she ever told Phil about his confession that, being gay, he could never feel that way about her. Sion hoped she hadn’t. He’d been surprised to hear of their engagement, but hoped she’d come to love Phil. For the truth and tragedy of Sion’s life was that he’d only ever been in love with one person, and he’d just watched him drive away.

While You See a Chance

Blurb

As children growing up in South Wales, Sion, Phil and Helen were known as the Three Musketeers, always together and never apart – but time moves on. Sion left to lecture in history at Yale. Phil married Helen because it seemed the obvious thing to do, and they settled down to life in Manchester.

Now all three are approaching sixty. After the death of his partner, and wanting to solve a family mystery, Sion returns to his childhood home to start again. When Helen announces she wants a divorce, Phil also returns home, to a new teaching job, and to renovate the ruin of a house he and Sion once dreamed of living in.

Neither man knows the other is back. Neither man knows how the other feels. With so much unsaid, and so many years apart, can Sion and Phil finally face the truth and take a chance on finding happiness together?

myBook.to/WhileYouSeeAChance links to all amazon but just in case

Amazon US – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XW5694F/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1491058183&sr=8-3&keywords=alexa+milne

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06XW5694F/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1491058376&sr=1-1&keywords=alexa+milne

Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/714329

 

My Highland Cowboy

Blurb

Duncan McLeish owns a ranch. Unlike most ranches, this one is in the Scottish Highlands. Having inherited a failing farm from his grandfather, he turns it into a successful business. He has friends, he loves his home, but he’s lonely, and not even infrequent trips to Glasgow and Edinburgh slake that thirst to find someone. Then Drew Sinclair walks into his life.

Drew Sinclair is tantalizingly close to getting his clothes brand noticed in the industry. He and his business partner, Joy, design individual dresses, while on the side, Drew designs and produces a line of men’s lingerie. He visits Scotland to design dresses for his sister, Jenna, who is marrying Duncan’s best friend at Christmas.

Duncan and Drew have nothing except their Highland upbringing in common, but they say opposites attract, and the attraction is immediate. Is this simply a summer fling, or can two men who live such opposite lives, miles away from each other, find a way to love?

Publisher link for pre order from 25th April – https://www.pride-publishing.com/book/my-highland-cowboy

Link to all Amazon – myBook.to/MyHighlandCowboy

Author Info:

Originally from South Wales, Alexa has lived for over thirty years in the North West of England. Now retired, after a long career in teaching, she devotes her time to her obsessions.

Alexa began writing when her favourite character was killed in her favourite show. After producing a lot of fanfiction she ventured into original writing. She is currently owned by two mad cats and spends her time writing about the men in her head, watching her favourite television programmes and usually crying over her favourite football team.

Links:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/alexa.milne.5

Twitter – https://twitter.com/Alexa_Milne

Blog – http://alexamilne1234.blogspot.co.uk/

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8306423.Alexa_Milne

Email – alexamilne1234@outlook.com

 

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My guest today is one of my favourite writers in this multifaceted genre and also, coincidentally, one of my favourite people 😀

Chris Quinton is here today to tell us about her book Love in Three Moves and to answer some questions about her writing process.

Welcome Chris.

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 don’t have a day job, which should give me plenty of time to write. Of course, it doesn’t work out that way – I have back problems which mean I can’t sit at a keyboard for long. I’m also a sloooow writer, which doesn’t help.

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

I like to quilt, and to knit, though the latter is only an ongoing supply of fingerless mitts [totally idiot-proof to make]. Back when I was more mobile, I was a 15th century re-enactor, which I loved. I got to spin, embroider, and dance. I have a few ideas to use a re-enacting scenario, but they are too vague to be even a plot bunny for now.

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

Oh, Gods, the list of wish-I’d-written-it books is far too long! Let’s go with anything by CJ Cherryh for SFR and Fantasy, Lindsey Davis for Historical, Dorothy L Sayers for Mystery. On the reading front, I’m rereading CJ Cherryh’s Foreigner series for the umpteenth time. IMO she is right at the top of the list of the best SF writers of all time.

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

Situation and characters first, then the plot grows organically. But with pruning and training as required. I often have to backtrack and add in elements that occur to me as I’m going along – the definitive description of a Pantster…

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?

I usually have a pretty clear image of them and what makes them tick. Odd quirks might appear as the story grows.

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.

At the moment I’m working on Interface, an SF story set in a distant part of the galaxy…

Could we please have an excerpt of something?

Here’s a short piece from Love In Three Moves, three short stories charting the ups and downs in a love affair… This is from the first one, It Takes Two:

“It’s me,” David Grainger called as he opened the front door and walked into the large studio apartment. “Are you back? Babs has been nagging me again. Did you get the Stravinsky commis – ?” He stopped in his tracks. Yes, Ben was back from Geneva. The room looked like Selfridges at the end of a sale day. Cushions, bedcovers, pillows and odd items of clothing lay scattered over floor and furniture, and the warm air was heavy with an exotic, expensive perfume. But over all hung the scent of sex.

Who was it this time? David wondered, irritated. Roger, Melanie, or both? Not that he gave a damn who Ben took to his bed. No, he was peeved because he’d heard nothing from the man for several days. Phone calls and texts had all been ignored, and Barbara wasn’t the only one pissed off about it. Important matters hung on the success of Ben’s trip to Switzerland. Sometimes the man was an irresponsible pain in David’s arse.

Fastidious as a cat, he picked his way across the room, nose wrinkling as the assorted aromas assaulted his nostrils, and David thanked whichever gods looked after dissolute idiots that the used condoms had ended up in the waste bin and not on the floor.

Ben, the other half of Grainger & Tremayne Antiques, enjoyed a varied love life. Ten years of friendship, five of which included a highly successful working partnership, meant they’d shared keys long ago and had free range of each other’s homes in the same Canary Wharf up-market apartment block. It wouldn’t be the first time David had strolled in at the wrong moment. He was bisexual himself, but his own exploits in the relationship arena were a lot less adventurous. Or numerous.

“Ben? Are you still alive?”

 

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Buy Links

Amazon https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XTBV4KB

Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/713621

Kobo https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/love-in-three-moves

 

BLURB

 

Love in Three Moves – Three short stories chart a passionate love affair: yet true love rarely runs smoothly.

It Takes Two

David Grainger and Ben Tremayne are perfect partners in business and friendship – and finally they give in to the temptation of taking that further. Their passionate love has been brewing for a long time, and everything about their new affair is wonderful – until it isn’t.

Breaking Point

Ben hasn’t seen his ex-lover David, for a year. He lives alone with his remorse for breaking up their affair, overwhelmed by his fear of commitment rather than his love for David. When, out of the blue, David asks him for a favour, Ben grudgingly agrees. The simple errand takes a complicated turn.

Clue Game

Once instrumental in reuniting Ben and David, their friend Barbara Curtis now needs the couple’s help with her own love-life. Despite being in Paris on their pre-honeymoon, Ben and David are caught up in the ensuing puzzle, involving a Paris art gallery, the works of Shakespeare, a devious crossword, a pair of precious earrings – and satisfaction for Barbara’s heart.

Chris Quinton – a Bio

Chris started creating stories not long after she mastered joined-up writing, somewhat to the bemusement of her parents and her English teachers. But she received plenty of encouragement. Her dad gave her an already old Everest typewriter when she was ten, and it was probably the best gift she’d ever received – until the inventions of the home-computer and the worldwide web.

Chris’s reading and writing interests range from historical, mystery, and paranormal, to science-fiction and fantasy, writing mostly in the Gay genre. She also writes the occasional mainstream novel in the name of Chris Power. She refuses to be pigeon-holed and intends to uphold the long and honourable tradition of the Eccentric Brit to the best of her ability. In her spare time [hah!] she reads, or listens to audio books while quilting or knitting. Over the years she has been a stable lad [briefly] in a local racing stable and stud, a part-time and unpaid amateur archaeologist, a civilian administrator at her local police station, and a 15th century re-enactor.

She lives in a small and ancient city not far from Stonehenge in the south-west of the United Kingdom, and shares her usually chaotic home with her extended family, three dogs, a Frilled Dragon [lizard], sundry goldfish and tropicals.

Her blog/website is: http://chrisquinton.com

Her Facebook is https://www.facebook.com/chris.quinton.1

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I’m off to my compulsory Welsh class shortly – aka dosbarth Cymraeg gorfodol – but first I’m going to allow myself a bit of a squee. The Bones of Our Fathers [contemp m/m] is finally finished bar the annoying whizz through to insert missing commas and work out why Scrivener has exported it with all my italics as underscores instead. It’s a shade under 80k words and will probably be 80k when I’ve looked it over and added the inevitable “OMG they never mentioned that again” bits.

And because that is nearly done, I thought I’d mention some of the other things in the pipeline.

Calon Lan – only with the proper little ^ over the A – is with Manifold Press and will be published later this year. I think maybe August 1st but making no promises. This is the historical Great War m/m story told from the point of view of the sister of one of the protagonists.

Manifold Press has a call out for submissions for a WW2 themed anthology called Call to Arms. I’ve got a story almost ready to go to submission for that.

I’m a couple of thousand words into Eleventh Hour #2 – I’ve missed Miles and Briers – but I still have no title. I sort of fancy Midnight Departure because that happens. I think it will be shorter than EH#1 but who knows.

Close Shave – sequel to Bones is around 35k words and I have bits and pieces and plans and plots for at least 4 more books and a couple of short stories.

A Fierce Reaping [hist m/m set in post-Roman Britannia] is still at 65k words and needs 30k of those editing out and another 70k adding to tell the whole thing. Not sure what to do with that one. I’ve also got plots and plans and resources for The Hounds of the North [hist m/m 1st century Rome and Britannia] and The Shepherd’s Hut [hist m/m WW2 set near Eastbourne].

Now I just need to get my head down and write.

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Transgender Day of Visibility

March 31st is the annual Transgender Day of Visibility and I think that it’s more important to celebrate it this year than ever.

If you don’t already know, here is an easy peasy infographic to tell you why:

I would be very interested in hearing how the experiences described in that picture compare with the experiences of transgender individuals in the UK. I would hate to think that things are as bad here, especially since, according to the Independent, the number of British people who wish to change their gender has soared.

I should say that ‘wish’ is the wrong word there. It should be ‘need’ and nobody should suffer for wanting to live their lives truly and honestly as themselves.

One person who was brave enough to do this is Caroline Paige.

Caroline’s story in her own words is well worth a read – you can find it here – but here is her comment about TDOV:

Visibility was important, but it wasn’t enough, people still needed to understand. I volunteered my story publicly, revealing the good and the bad, and people listened, they understood, they appreciated being given the awareness and opportunity to respect difference. The military evolved, in fact it became a leader in diversity and inclusion, a safer place to be openly transgender, or gay, or just different. This is the power of visibility and revealing lived experience, the power of seeing, of understanding, of change. This is the purpose of TDOV.

The courage, the absolute bravery, of both Caroline and the people I see every day on facebook or Twitter, people who have made the decision to live their lives as they should be lived, is inspiring and heartwarming. And I offer them all my love and support in my small sheepish way.

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Smashwords are celebrating Read an Ebook Week from 5 to 11 March 2017 – and what that means for readers is deep discounts on awesome titles!

Manifold Press is participating, with all of our titles, backlist and new, discounted by 25%. (The only exception is our charity anthology, A Pride of Poppies.) Now is the time to stock up that TBR pile, and maybe try some new stories you’ve been pondering.

Browse the Manifold Press catalogue on Smashwords – or browse the full catalogue of all the discounted ebooks across the site. We’re 100% sure you’ll find something to love!

PS. That 25% discount includes Eleventh Hour if you fancy a copy.

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comfy chair My guest today is an old friend and a person whose work I adore, so please join me in welcoming Heloise West to the Comfy Chair.

Welcome, Heloise and thanks for answering my questions.

~

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

Situation and character strike me first. For Ardent, the origin scene was Benedetto working to make that fine pigment wash, sandwiched between two situations—the death of the master painter and the arrival of a new master, the latter of whom he’d taken temporary solace from the pain of a bad breakup. My old historical critique group sent me back in time to get up to that point—I do sometimes start too late in the story, or stick too long with the first moments of the scene that’s risen to the surface, not seeing that it’s not the first scene, just a pivotal one.

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?

 In my first novel, Hitting Black Ice (contemporary romantic suspense from Loose Id) Hunter pretty much arrived fully fledged. I knew he had a traumatic background and an idea of what it was, but he always had that bubble-off-plumb sense of humor, calling himself Mata Hairy at one point when he’s taken up a bit of recon.  The love interest in trouble was a mystery man, even to me, and readers wanted to know more about him, so he got more screen time in the sequel.

In Ardent, Morello was the less complicated of the two and determined to both do the right thing and to have what he wants.  He was easier than Benedetto, who had to be equally determined though his needs and wants were at war with each other on a larger scale. It was hard to keep Benedetto from being a flake, but I like the way he turned out.

Is there any genre you would love to write, ditto one you would avoid like a rattlesnake?

Historical mysteries are my heart and soul, and I’m hoping to find a slice of time to work on a few of them soon. I can’t seem to make myself write straight romance, but I have a few bunnies hopping around. I have to say I avoid writing science fiction like a rattlesnake because I’m so bad at science in general. I’d definitely be putting the fiction in science, lol.

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!! I got to a point in a recent manuscript, the third in the contemporary romantic suspense series, when I had a very strong feeling, wishing it was a plain old mystery I was writing and not a romance. (I always, always wanted to do the “Ellis Peters thing.”)

 I use beat sheets and structural how-to books for some books and veering off from the romance arc has been appealing lately.  Sometimes I lay scenes out physically with post-its and huge sheets of paper taped to the wall, scribbling all over the place. It’s tempting to follow the nonromance arc and see where it goes.

I think it’s the emotional map that’s different.  In a romance, you’re focused on just these two and whatever emotional landscape they share between them. That takes precedence. This landscape is different in a mystery, everyone’s emotions are important to solving the crime/mystery, how they felt about the victim, their reaction to the crime. A puzzle with more pieces, I think.

I’ve got to get these mysteries down and work on them so they won’t jump in front of the romances. I feel like an overburdened bookshelf some days. Most days, lol. I write slowly, so there’s quite a backlog messing up the works.

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?

Sharp-eyed critiquers and beta readers. I’m too disorganized to make and keep a series bible.  Thank goodness for the search capability in Kindle, so if I do question something, I can check it faster.

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?

At this point, I find myself wrestling with three main characters who have done something awful and unforgivable, and they aren’t straight and narrow good characters to start with. But somehow I have to redeem them, bring them back from doing more damage to the world or themselves. It’s damn hard. It goes against my own McJudgey morality, but it’s doable because, hey, it’s fiction, and I still have to make this redemption believable and the characters really have to work at making it realistic, too.  I think that’s more interesting and challenging than plain evil. Though I do have a particularly nasty villain in If I Were Fire, a novella set in 18th century Tuscany (from Dreamspinner Press). He was fun to work with. But no one wants to romance him–ick!

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.

So, yeah, the three main characters from the novels I’ve been working on and about to embark on: The third in the Heart and Haven series, Nick, is on submission, but it’s bounced back to me once for clarification edits—it might come back again. Nick is…complicated, and not in a good way. He was the antagonist in Hitting Black Ice, but he got a shot at redemption and took it. (My editor liked him.)

ootbk

The second novel is William, from the Order of the Black Knights multiauthor series, the brainchild of Thianna Durstan. The knights traded their souls to become warriors in an evil wizard’s army during the middle ages. They are doomed to be killers and mercenaries to the end of time, unless they can forgive their enemy and free themselves from the curse and the cycle of rebirth. I’m half way through this one.

Falcone, from Ardent, has a mystery to solve and love to redeem him, like the guys above, but he’s not easy to get along with. He was born in the slums of Florence and has lived on the streets most of his childhood. From Ardent: “Of loving parents he had no experience, Leo had once explained, a man-child who craved the light, but feared to leave the familiar darkness.”

Could we please have an excerpt of something?

In Ardent, Chapter Two, Benedetto wants Morello to teach him to swim…

“Some find it strange to put their faces in the water,” Morello went on in a slightly lecturing tone. It gave him distance from the beautiful man naked beside him. Why had he thought this would be a good idea? “Or their whole heads. Hold your breath and – ”

“I’m not an infant,” Benedetto scolded lightly. He took a breath and sank beneath the surface completely.

When Benedetto rose again, the water running loving tongues down his body, Morello said, “Then on to floating. If you relax, the water will buoy you up, like so.” He went face down into the water, arms and legs spread out, acutely aware of his naked ass, but he liked being naked with Benedetto. He floated there a few moments before turning onto his back and beginning to move his hands and feet slightly in the slow-moving water. “Now you.”

Benedetto flopped down face first in the water, thrashed about, then stood again, chagrined. “You make it look easy.”

“Let’s go deeper.” Morello pulled him a few arm’s-lengths farther out into the river. “Maybe you don’t trust me.”

“I trust you,” Benedetto said quickly.

Morello thought his answer more polite than true. “You can trust me. I would not hurt you for the world, Benedetto. I won’t let you drown. Is that what you fear?”

“I don’t know why or what I fear,” Benedetto murmured. “I think I can trust you, Morello. I want to.”

“On your back,” he said gently, trying not to think about whispering those very words by lamplight, in his own bed, Benedetto spread out against the bolsters. Well, his imagination had ever been his master, had it not? Morello put his arm under Benedetto to support him, and the man did not thrash about as he had before. He put his hand to Benedetto’s flat, hard stomach, and did not allow it to wander. “Gently. Relax. Close your eyes if that helps.”

###

Ardent from Manifold Press

Cover image: © Kiril Stanchev | shutterstock.com

Cover design: © Michelle Peart 2017

Historical M/M Romantic Suspense

Renaissance Florence

In the village of Torrenta, master painter Morello has created a color that mimics the most expensive pigment of all, the crimson red. Master Zeno, from strife-ridden Medici Florence, tells him the color gives him a competitive advantage – but Morello must be careful. Fraud is ever-present in the dye and pigment markets.

As they work together in Torrenta, Morello falls hard for Zeno’s assistant, Benedetto Tagliaferro, a young man of uncommon beauty and intelligence. Benedetto is still fixed on his old lover, the master painter Leo Guisculo, and cannot return Morello’s affections.

But when Leo dies in a terrible accident, it’s to Morello that Zeno and Benedetto turn for help. And Morello soon finds that in Florence, every surface hides layers of intrigue.

75,600 words

Publication February 1, 2017

Preorder links:

Barnes and Noble

Manifold Press

Kobo

 

About Heloise West:

Heloise West, when not hunched over the keyboard plotting love and mayhem, dreams about moving to a villa in Tuscany. She loves history, mysteries, and romance of all flavors. She travels and gardens with her partner of fourteen years, and their home overflows with books, cats, art, and red wine.

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