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I’m delighted today to be playing host to the lovely David Dawson whose latest release – The Deadly Lies – is now available!

This is the second in the Dominic Delingpole mysteries, the first of which, The Necessary Deaths, is a cracking read.

Welcome, David.

~*~*~

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

I sing bass with the London Gay Men’s Chorus. You could say some of my dance moves are pretty creative! I’ve been with them for five years, and it’s been a riot. This year we went on tour to New York and Chicago, and sang with the gay choruses in those two cities. It was exhilarating and very moving. The high point was singing in a Chicago school. We sang to both the lower school and the upper school, and did a workshop with their school choir. Ten years ago it would have been almost unthinkable for a gay choir to sing in a school. We must never forget how far we’ve advanced. Next year we’re off to mainland Europe.

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

Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty is a wonderful book – and I wish I’d written it! It’s set in 1980’s London, and recalls a brutal time in Britain’s history. But Hollinghurst writes it with great wit and pace. It’s not just a damn good plot, it’s also a great piece of social history. His novel The Stranger’s Child is also a very good piece of social observation, and a very complex structure, set in multiple historical periods. Hollinghurst handles the switch between periods deftly and with great lightness of writing.

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?

This is a great question for me, because I’ve just finished my first romantic suspense novel for Dreamspinner Press. The two Dominic Delingpole Mysteries are primarily thrillers, with strong love interest woven in. Dreamspinner asked if I could write a romance for my next novel, and I said yes! It’s been a steep learning curve for me, and involved reading lots of Dreamspinner’s great authors, to get the feel of structure. Yes, there are some structural differences. In a thriller or mystery, the jeopardy moments are usually to do with physical harm, or threat of physical harm. In a romance, the jeopardy moments are to do with heartbreak, or disappointment. Which means that for the romance I’ve drawn on a lot of personal experience! (Cue violins and tears).

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 very detailed spreadsheet, with information about all the characters. However, the physical details of my characters are less significant. It’s what they do that’s important. This hit home to me after I spoke to a number of readers about my first book: The Necessary Deaths. I had spent time trawling the Internet for gorgeous looking men (well someone’s got to do it) that represented my vision of a particular character. Then I would describe them in the book. The reality is, readers have their own image of what a character looks like. It’s based on what the character does, coupled with the reader’s own experiences of people they’ve met. I think it’s better I allow readers to paint their own pictures. I can guarantee every one will be different.

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’ve just sent Dreamspinner Press the manuscript for a new romantic suspense. It features two new characters; an American living in London called Luke Diamond who falls in love with an Englishman called The honourable Rupert Pendley-Evans. It’s got a very tense plot, and there’s lots of jeopardy on the way to true love!
The project I’ve now got my teeth into is a gripping tale based on a true story I was told this year. It’s my hardest project yet, because I got far too close to the real story, and I’ve had to distance myself to allow the drama to be told properly.

An Excerpt of The Deadly Lies

Dominic and Jonathan stood side by side on the sand, sharing the beauty of
the moonlight dappling the surface of the sea. The air was warm and still; the hubbub
of Sitges nightlife sounded muted and distant. Dominic slipped his fingers through
Jonathan’s, squeezed his hand tight, and kissed him on the cheek.
“Thank you, Jonathan.”
“What for?” he asked. “I haven’t done anything yet. I may yet need to protect
you from the perils of the night. I anticipate we will imminently be attacked by
international drug smugglers or carried off by white-slave traders to be sold in the
markets of Morocco as the playthings of Arab oligarchs.”
Dominic laughed, rested his head on Jonathan’s shoulder, and watched the
moon-silvered waves lap the shore.
“I think I want to say thank you for so many things. You make me very happy.
And I feel guilty I wasn’t honest with you about this evening, or the meeting
earlier—”
“What meeting earlier?” Jonathan turned to look at Dominic. “So your visit to
the antiques shop was just a cover story, was it?” His face appeared severe, but
Dominic was certain it was mock anger. He knew Jonathan too well.
“No, not entirely. I did go to the antiques shop, and I did find the gift for you I
was looking for. But the reason I didn’t tell you about the meeting—”
“Dominic, stop.” Jonathan kissed him gently on the lips. “We all have
convenient lies to tell from time to time. I am confident—no, more than that—I know
you love me enough not to want to hurt me. I know there’s some good reason for your
secrecy. I love you and I trust you. You don’t have to say any more.” He looked into
Dominic’s eyes. “But if I find it’s another man—”

~*~*~

Published: December 5th 2017
Genre: Mystery & suspense
Publisher: DSP Publications
Available in: paperback and ebook
67,000 words

The Deadly Lies is the second in the Dominic Delingpole Mysteries series. The first The Necessary Deaths was published a year ago, and won an FAPA award for mystery and suspense.

BLURB:
Dominic and Jonathan are on their romantic Spanish honeymoon, and things are perfect… except Dominic has kept a secret from his husband. He’s failed to tell Jonathan that he plans to meet his former lover, Bernhardt, who is speeding on his way from Germany to present Dominic with a mysterious gift.
But Bernhardt is killed in a suspicious car accident. Shortly before he dies, he sends Dominic a bizarre text message that will take the newlyweds on a hair-raising adventure.
Lies upon lies plunge Dominic and Jonathan into an internet crime that could destroy the lives of millions of people. What is the mysterious Charter Ninety-Nine group? And will their planned internet assault force Dominic to choose between the fate of the world and the life of his lover?

BUY LINKS:

Dreamspinner | Amazon US Kindle | Amazon US Paperback
Amazon UK Kindle | Amaon UK Paperback | Apple iBooks | B&N | Kobo

book title

Links to The Necessary Deaths
Blurb:
A young journalism student lies unconscious in a hospital bed in Brighton, England. His life hangs in the balance after a drug overdose. But was it attempted suicide or attempted murder? The student’s mother persuades British lawyer Dominic Delingpole to investigate, and Dominic enlists the aid of his outspoken opera singer partner, Jonathan McFadden.

The student’s boyfriend discovers compromising photographs hidden in his lover’s room. The photographs not only feature senior politicians and business chiefs, but the young journalist himself. Is he being blackmailed, or is he the blackmailer?

As Dominic and Jonathan investigate further, their lives are threatened and three people are murdered. They uncover a conspiracy that reaches into the highest levels of government and powerful corporations. The people behind it are ruthless, and no one can be trusted. The bond between Dominic and Jonathan deepens as they struggle not only for answers, but for their very survival.

Dreamspinner | Amazon US | Apple iBooks

book title

BIOG:
David C. Dawson is an award-winning author, journalist and documentary
maker. He lives near Oxford in the UK with two cats and his beloved Triumph
motorbike.
He writes mystery & suspense, with men in love at the heart of each story. His
books have been described as “real page-turners” and “un-put-downable”. His debut novel The Necessary Deaths, won a FAPA award for Mystery & Suspense.
One reviewer for his latest book The Deadly Lies described it as “very sexy”.
He campaigns hard for equal rights, and sings with the London Gay Men’s
Chorus.

SOCIAL LINKS

Website http://www.davidcdawson.co.uk
Blog http://blog.davidcdawson.co.uk/#home
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/david.c.dawson.5
Twitter https://twitter.com/david_c_dawson
LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/DavidCDawson

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comfy chairMy guest today is an author that I first met at this years UK Meet, and I most most intrigued to hear about his first release, The Necessary Deaths, which came out on the first of November and which I, for one, am gagging to read.

Please join me in welcoming David Dawson.

~~~

Hello, David. 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 work as a documentary film maker. I was with the BBC for about twenty years, firstly as a trainee journalist then in television making documentaries, before going freelance. I’ve filmed all over the world, as a director and a producer, most recently making educational and charity videos.

I’m still producing videos, but my son is steadily taking that over from me, although I do some camera operating for him sometimes; it’s great being directed by your son!

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

I sing bass with the London Gay Men’s Chorus. They’re a great bunch of guys and they’ve been my strength and support over the last few years. We’ve sung in all sorts of places including: at Sandi Toksvig’s wedding to Debbie, at the West London Synagogue for World Aids Day, in St Paul’s Cathedral for Age UK and outside the House of Lords when the House debated the Equal Marriage Bill. Next year we’re off to New York and Chicago to sing alongside the Gay Men’s Choruses there. No, I’ve not written about the Chorus – yet. Look out for their appearance in a future mystery!

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

I’m re-reading Holding the Man by Timothy Conigrave. I’d read it a few years ago, and when I saw they’d made a film of the book, I worried they’d spoil it. Not at all. If you see the film, or read the book, be ready to weep buckets!
I aspire to the beautiful prose style of Armistead Maupin. He just gets better and better. His more recent books surpass the early Tales of the City books. Those early books were great fun, but it’s clear that with maturity, comes reflection and insight.

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

Oh that’s a tricky one, because they’re like Siamese triplets. They’re inseparable. I suppose for me the plot and core characters are born pretty well simultaneously. That is, I know who’s going on what journey and where they’re going to end up. Once I’ve fleshed out the characters in my head and on paper, I invent situations for them to deal with, on the journey through the book. Then the supplementary characters evolve, as the plot evolves. Sometimes I’ll experience a situation with someone in real life, then I’ll work out how to write it into a book.

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 like to spend time on developing histories for all my characters, I use pictures a lot for that, and names are very important. Once I set those, I’ll go for a ride on my motorbike, or cycle somewhere, and think about the character and about what has already happened to them. It helps so much in creating their motivation for doing things, or explaining why they react in a certain way to new situations. Once I’m writing the story, I’ll add to that back-story as events unfold. I have a spreadsheet full of character descriptions and images, to remind me when I forget what colour their hair is!

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

I’ve got an idea for a series in the science-fiction/supernatural genre, which I’m developing at the moment. There was a BBC drama series many years ago called “Out of the Unknown” which had a huge influence on me.

It took ordinary everyday circumstances, and then twisted them slightly, creating daytime nightmares. I think they’re far spookier than the usual night-time stuff.
I don’t think I’m cut out for historical drama/romance. My son’s the historian, not me! That said, I’ve been thinking about a thriller series set around The Chilterns during the Second World War. The Ministry of War had some very interesting places tucked away in this countryside, including what was called “Churchill’s Toyshop”, where boffins invented all sorts of amazing devices to defeat the enemy.

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?
Pretty well all decent novels are relationship driven. Even Tom Hanks, the lone survivor in Castaway, had the inanimate volleyball Mr Wilson to talk to!

The Necessary Deaths has a strong romantic plotline in the developing relationship between Dominic and Jonathan. The extraordinary circumstances that they’re plunged into test their relationship and develop it further, in a way that probably wouldn’t have happened otherwise. I give the romantic story plenty of room to breathe, because it’s integral to the thriller. The romance between Dominic and Jonathan is what motivates them to react in the way they do.

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?

Yes, I have acute OCD on this! I have a spreadsheet full of detail and photographs about every character, even the minor ones. As soon as I write a new piece of description in the story, I add it to the spreadsheet. Photographs of people also help me imagine their back-stories, and how they might react to situations. One of my favourite tasks is to spend an evening scouring the internet for photographs of gorgeous men who might fit certain characters! It can be very distracting…

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?

George Clooney can come to my rescue! Every time. He’s been a hero of mine ever since he rescued the boy from the storm drain in episode seven, season 2 of ER. In fact, I’m such a big fan, he’s a major character in a short story of mine that Dreamspinner Press is publishing in its Love Wins Anthology for Orlando this December.

But you want a team? Well, I think Dame Maggie Smith would stand up to any mugger, any day! She and George would make a fabulous team. In fact, I wonder why they haven’t been paired on screen already!

clooney-smith

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?

Villains have got to be credible, so they need reasons for being bad. No one is all good, or all bad.

In The Necessary Deaths, the principal villain is motivated by ideology, and is very bad. But they still have a seductive side, which makes them intriguing and even appealing. Everyone has the capacity to be a villain, circumstances and back-story dictate whether the transformation to the dark side happens or not. In the second Dominic Delingpole Mystery I’m tackling this whole issue, which I think is fascinating.

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.

The Dominic Delingpole Mysteries will unfold over five books. I’ve plotted the overarching story, and I’m just finishing the second book in the series. I’m also working up the World War Two science fiction tale in the background, it’s quite a juggling act I can tell you!

Could we please have an excerpt of something?

From The Necessary Deaths:

“Mrs. Gregory,” said Dominic. “I would be very happy to have you as a client, but I’m not sure in what way I can act for you.”

Samantha smiled. “And neither am I just at the moment. Let’s call you a professional friend. I have no one else who I can turn to, and your legal mind will help me to see things a little more clearly. As you can tell, I’m a little emotional just now.” She turned away to wipe a tear from the corner of her eye. Then she looked at him steadily.

“Simon and I are very close. Ever since Richard, his father, died in a climbing accident, we have been a very tight family unit. I’d like to think Simon and I can tell each other everything.”

Dominic wondered if she was keeping up a brave front, or whether she really believed Simon told her everything. Her comments clearly contradicted what Simon’s housemate Jay had said an hour ago. Dominic decided that, as she was his client, he owed her the duty of honesty, and he should tell her about what he had learned in the last few hours.

“Samantha, I’m afraid I believe Simon may not have confided everything in you in recent times. I went to see John this morning before coming here. He told me about their relationship and how Simon was not yet ready to tell you.”

Samantha smiled.

“Dominic, I’m his mother. Do you think that I didn’t know?” She sighed. “I knew he was finding it difficult to tell me, and I was waiting for him to pick the right time. I didn’t want to rush him.” She paused. “But yes, you’re right, and I am wrong. Simon hasn’t confided everything to me; I merely know and am waiting for him to tell me. John is a lovely boy, and I was just pleased to know that Simon is happy.”

Samantha narrowed her eyes slightly as she asked, “But why do you think that means he must have kept other secrets from me? Surely you of all people must know how difficult it is to come out?”
Dominic blushed briefly. “Everyone’s circumstances are different, of course, and for young people it really is much easier….”

“Oh nonsense! Can I just say that I think it’s a bit rich for you to judge Simon when you’re so secretive about yourself? We spent nearly three hours in the car together last night, and I still don’t know whether or not you have a boyfriend!”
This time Dominic’s face turned crimson.
“Samantha, could we just get back to—”

“Well, do you?”

Dominic sighed. “I think it’s my turn to acknowledge that I am wrong. Yes, I do have a partner, and no, I am not very open about it. In this day and age, it probably is unnecessary for me to be quite so discreet. But after a while, it gets to be almost a habit.”

Samantha giggled. “Oh, Dominic, how delightfully bashful you are! I imagine that it’s rare you have a conversation like this with your clients.”

Dominic smiled. “Samantha, I can tell you truthfully that I have never had a conversation like this with my clients. You must meet Jonathan some time. I think you two would get on like a house on fire.”


A young journalism student lies unconscious in a hospital bed in Brighton, England. His life hangs in the balance after a drug overdose. But was it attempted suicide or attempted murder? The student’s mother persuades British lawyer Dominic Delingpole to investigate, and Dominic enlists the aid of his outspoken opera singer partner, Jonathan McFadden.

The student’s boyfriend discovers compromising photographs hidden in his lover’s room. The photographs not only feature senior politicians and business chiefs, but the young journalist himself. Is he being blackmailed, or is he the blackmailer?

As Dominic and Jonathan investigate further, their lives are threatened and three people are murdered. They uncover a conspiracy that reaches into the highest levels of government and powerful corporations. The people behind it are ruthless, and no one can be trusted. The bond between Dominic and Jonathan deepens as they struggle not only for answers, but for their very survival.

Buy Links:
Dreamspinner | Amazon UK | Amazon US | B&N | iTunes

BIOG:

David C. Dawson is an author, award-winning journalist and documentary maker, living near Oxford in the UK.
He has travelled extensively, filming in nearly every continent of the world. He has lived in London, Geneva and San Francisco, but now prefers the tranquillity of the Oxfordshire countryside.
David is a Mathematics graduate from Southampton University in England. After graduating, he joined the BBC in London as a trainee journalist. He worked in radio newsrooms for several years before moving to television as a documentary director. During the growing AIDS crisis in the late eighties, he is proud to say that he directed the first demonstration of putting on a condom on British television.
After more than twenty years with the BBC, he left to go freelance. He has produced videos for several charities, including Ethiopiaid; which works to end poverty in Ethiopia, and Hestia; a London-based mental health charity.

David has one son, who is also a successful filmmaker.

In his spare time, David tours Europe on his ageing Triumph motorbike and sings with the London Gay Men’s Chorus. He has sung with the Chorus at St Paul’s Cathedral, The Roundhouse and the Royal Festival Hall, but David is most proud of the time they sang at the House of Lords, campaigning for equal marriage to be legalized in the UK.

You can follow David at the following sites:
Facebook | Twitter | Website | Blog

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I absolutely love Shakespeare and am always pleased when his work is taken as a starting point for other fiction. So this week and next I’m delighted to be hosting th authors who contributed stories to A Summer’s Day, an anthology of Shakespearean stories with a bit of a twist. As if that wasn’t exciting enough, all the profits from sales of this book will go to the It Gets Better project!

I’ll be taking the authors in the order in which their stories appear in the book so today I’m pleased to welcome Rory Ni Coileain who penned “Deeper Than Did Ever Plummet Sound”

Good morning, Rory. Can you tell me what led you to pick your source material for your story?

I have always loved The Tempest. Apart from being a fascinating glimpse into a magickal mythos created entirely by Shakespeare (as opposed to, say, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which borrows a number of characters), it’s an incredibly malleable story. I’m in love with a two-novel set by Dan Simmons (one of the most literate authors out there), Ilium and Olympos; the main story is based on the Iliad and the Odyssey, but there’s a major subplot based on The Tempest. And I’ve never tried a May/December romance, but Prospero and Ariel were a natural combination!

Shakespeare definitely has a way with words. What is your favourite insult/endearment/inspiring passage/? Which bit do you wish you had written?

I lifted my favorite tirade and gave it to Clarence in “Deeper” – it’s from King Lear. And Clarence is based on Sir Ian McKellen, and oh, can I ever hear it in his voice: “Thou’rt a knave; a rascal; an eater of broken meats; a base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited, hundred-pound, filthy, worsted-stocking knave; a lily-livered, action-taking knave, a whoreson, glass-gazing, super-serviceable finical rogue; one-trunk-inheriting slave; one that wouldst be a bawd, in way of good service, and art nothing but the composition of a knave, beggar, coward, pandar, and the son and heir of a mongrel bitch: one whom I will beat into clamorous whining, if thou deniest the least syllable of thy addition.”

What are you working on now?

UNDERTOW, number seven in my SoulShares series, just came out on July 19th, so I’m still doing publicity for that, and working on STONE COLD, number eight in the series. The SoulShares are urban fantasy – or paranormal, depending on your definition, I suppose – the world of the Fae split off from the human world more than 2,300 years ago, but every once in a while a Fae leaves the Realm voluntarily (rare) or involuntarily (much more common). And his soul is split in half, with half going through the Pattern and out into the human world, scattered at random through space and time to be reborn in a human. So if the Fae ever wants to be whole again, he has to find his SoulShare and join with him. Trouble is, Fae don’t believe in love… oh, and there’s a world-killing monster that was exiled from the Realm when the worlds split, and it’s ever so eager to get back and finish what it started…

Could we please have an excerpt?

Here’s a bit of a conversation between Clarence and his old school chum Jeremy, the director of the story’s production of The Tempest, the subject of which conversation is Troy, an actor who is doing his best to ruin the production out of sheer jealousy:

“Clarence.” Jeremy set down his bottle and extended his hands, palms down, patting the air as if he were trying to calm a possibly-but-maybe-not-harmless lunatic. “Are you saying you’re… not happy? With the production?”
Clarence snorted. He couldn’t help it. “Jeremy. My dear. Old. Friend.” He shook his head, setting the glass down and pushing it aside, hoping the bartender would notice and send over a replacement. “I cannot recall the last time I was happy with any production. I would be delighted to simply be not unhappy.”
“Would you give me a hint, at least?”
“Oh, for God’s sake. Troy sodding Miller.” That sounded marginally better than admitting he was pining after Jaymes.
Jeremy made a sound that reminded Clarence of a wet bladder being stepped on. “You would have to notice, damn it. My hands are tied.”
Clarence rested his chin on the heel of his hand with a sigh. “Let me guess. He’s connected.”
“How did you know?”
“There were three possibilities, dear boy. One was that he was outrageously talented and you simply couldn’t mount the production without him. Having been in a position to observe him over the last several weeks, I was able to rule out that option the moment you opened your mouth.”
Jeremy’s eyeroll was highly enjoyable. Clarence picked up his glass and shook it gently, setting the ice cubes clattering. Unfortunately, the bartender appeared to be preoccupied.
“The second possibility was that he was sleeping with the director.”
Perhaps it had been wicked of him to wait to deliver option number two until Jeremy had started to drain the last of his Guinness. However, wickedness was one of the perquisites of age he quite enjoyed.

Author Bio

Rory Ni Coileain majored in creative writing, back when Respectable Colleges didn’t offer such a major, so she had to design it herself, at a university which boasted one professor willing to teach creative writing, he being a British surrealist who went nuts over students writing dancing bananas in the snow but did not take well to the sort of high fantasy she wanted to write. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa at the age of nineteen, sent off her first short story to an anthology being assembled by an author she idolized, received one of those rejection letters that puts therapists’ kids through college (Ivy League), and found other things to do, such as going to law school, ballet dancing (at more or less the same time), and nightclub singing, for the next thirty years or so, until her stories started whispering to her. Now she’s a lawyer and a legal editor, and the proud mother of an about-to-graduate filmmaker, and is busily wedding her love of myth and legend to her passion for m/m romance.

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Soulshares/
Twitter: @RoryNi
Blog: http://www.rorynicoileain.com

A-Summers-Day-Customdesign-JayAheer2016-finalcover

 

Release Date: 12th of August

Cover Art: Jay Aheer Simply Defined Art

Genre: MM Mixed*

We have modern retelling of some plays, interpretations of others and one of the sonnets, and delightful referencing of anything Shakespeare.

There is gentle YA romance next to very hot 18+ stories and all kinds of relationships – first love, May/December, interracial, second chances, happy endings and even a tragic one.

We’re travelling from Ancient Rome through Renaissance England to modern day UK, Venice Beach and other places in USA, Vancouver and Havana.

There’s fun, drama, tears, angst, joy and, above all, lots of true love.

Note: All proceeds of this collection go to the It Gets Better Project™.

Buy Links
amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/Summers-Day-Shakespearean-Anthology-Twist-ebook/dp/B01JH97LVA
amazon.co.uk:https://www.amazon.co.uk/Summers-Day-Shakespearean-Anthology-Twist-ebook/dp/B01JH97LVA
amazon.de: https://www.amazon.de/Summers-Day-Shakespearean-Anthology-English-ebook/dp/B01JH97LVA
amazon.com.au: https://www.amazon.com.au/Summers-Day-Shakespearean-Anthology-Twist-ebook/dp/B01JH97LVA
amazon.ca: https://www.amazon.ca/Summers-Day-Shakespearean-Anthology-Twist-ebook/dp/B01JH97LVA
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/655310

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My guest today goes under the name of Ruff Bear in most places though, as so many of us do, he has another name for those boring administrative things that aren’t nearly as much fun as being a creator of truth and beauty. Sadly Facebook doesn’t have much truck with truth and beauty and insists on the workaday name so I’ve invited Bear to my blog so he can talk about the real him for a while.

Welcome Bear.

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 have been writing since I was a teenager and had my first work, a poem, published when I was 17. Although encouraged by my writing instructors, I was uneasy about the difficulties of establishing a writing career. I spent over 30 years working in higher education as a professor of political science and a student success specialist. In June 2014, I decided to fulfill my teenage dream and become a fulltime writer.

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

I enjoy gardening, cooking, travelling, reading books on world history, working out, and submission wrestling. I have written about travel and have a work in progress about the adult wrestling culture.

Bear is also a cracking photographer. Check out more of his work on the Bearly Designed website.

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

I am finishing up a collection of short stories and novellas by Robert Heinlein.  I read half of it and then switched to Neil MacGregor’s Germany: Memories of a Nation. I wish I could have written anything by Doris Lessing or Gabriel García Márquez. She blows me away with her range and he blows me away with his imagination.

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

Usually character comes first but sometimes I think of a situation I really want to explore. I never know what the plot is until I start writing.

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 know my characters completely the minute they set foot in the story. Well, maybe I don’t know their latest colonoscopy results.

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

Eventually I am going to get around to erotica in the D.H. Lawrence and Henry Miller sense. I can’t see myself writing horror, crime, or anything with a lot of blood and violence. I admire 19th century horror novels like Frankenstein and Dracula, but the horror isn’t the creatures but how people reacted to them.

I feel very alive when I visit deserts, but desertification is one of many problems facing the world due to climate change, inaction and greed. I wanted to tell a story about the consequences of that inaction and how it could lead to the near destruction of humanity. As someone in love with world history, I wanted to write about cycles in history but projected into the future. As a political scientist, I am drawn to study political change movements, the social contract and empires. I practice Taoism and wanted to create characters that reflected the promises and cautions of that philosophy.

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? 

A relationship driven story almost has to be episodic and removes the opportunity to develop a lot of intertwining themes. Even sub plots have to tie into the main relationship. Romance or relationships as sub plots add layers or help explore themes creating a richer 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 do one reading that is solely to insure continuity and reveal repetitious descriptions. It drives me crazy that even the best television series will do things like mention a sibling and then next season say the character is an only child.

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?
Calvin and Hobbes. They always come up with some way to deal with adversity by ignoring convention, usually by creating a distraction that stops anyone else in his tracks. And I have seen film of a leopard hunting and killing a crocodile in water near the riverbank; tigers are larger than leopards and alligators are smaller than crocodiles, so Hobbes can handle them.

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?

Women, getting stuff done, deviously, since, well, forever really.
[Sian Phillips glorious as Livia Augusta in I, Claudius]


Devious men (devious women are never villains), indecisiveness and inaction in the face of crisis, social norms and customs that have lost their meaning, active engagement in any of the Seven Cardinal Sins except lust.

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 am ghostwriting the memoirs of a couple who have lived and traveled widely. I am finishing up the first prequel short story for The Secret History of Another Rome, researching the two sequels, and making notes for more prequel stories. I am finishing a short story about a woman protected by spirits. And I am waiting for my husband to finish the first draft of a science fiction novel we are co-authoring called Crossing Xavier.

Could we please have an excerpt of something?

From The Secret History of Another Rome (the beginning of The Fifth Moment)

Octavian’s mother told her five-year-old son they would be leaving home to live elsewhere. She said it would be a great adventure and they could spend as much time as they wanted together once they arrived. In the meantime, he spent several days with his grandmothers visiting gardens and going on drives in the open air vehicle that was fueled by used cooking oil. One evening, the entire family ate at his great grandmother’s house and stayed up late talking and amusing the child.

One day the boy’s mother instructed him to make sure he said goodbye to his friends after they were done playing in the fields. Octavian couldn’t explain why he was leaving, only that his mother said they were. It wasn’t too unusual for a family to move from a community since opportunities came and went. Still, so far in their young lives, Octavian’s friends had only seen off one other, a girl who left for the interior when her mother was needed at a family cattle ranch when her aunt could no longer manage the place alone. When he said his farewells, the boy with long, bright auburn locks did not know it would be more than two decades before he saw another person less than seventeen years old.

A few days later Octavian found two trunks sitting in the parlor near the front door. It already had been an unusual morning. Instead of giving him his usual short trousers and a shirt to wear, his mother laid out a red piece of clothing that looked like a long shirt without sleeves, an off-white, hooded robe that went down to his ankles, and a light brown leather belt. He asked her what the shirt-like thing was and she said it was a tunic. She said from now on he would be wearing these clothes. It was odd. Mother was wearing a shirt and pants.

After breakfast, the day became even stranger. They traveled some distance to the far side of Mandela beyond Table Mountain to a flat expanse with a modest, white-washed building on one side. Mother told him this was an airstrip. Sitting in the flat, dusty field was a large, metal machine that had wings like a bird, but with upturned ends. He recognized the lettering painted above the windows near the front of the long, silver tube that made up the bulk of the machine. It was Arabic: امبراطورية روما في الإسكندرية. Octavian had been learning Arabic for as long as he had been speaking English and Spanish. The elegant script said Empire of Rome at Alexandria.

Octavian had heard the Empire mentioned by his elders. They did not speak well of it for the most part. His mother, however, used maps depicting the territories of the Empire in her lessons with him. The intelligent child put the pieces together.

“Mother, are we moving to the Empire?”

“Yes, Octavian. Very good of you to sort that out by yourself. We are going to Alexandria, the capital city of the Empire. We will live there.”

“Hmm.”

“Are you ready to go into the plane.”

“Plane? Is that what that is?”

“Yes. It is an airplane, but people just call it a plane for short.”

“Like calling Michael Mike.”

“Yes,” she said. Octavian realized he probably would never see his friend Mike again. “Let’s go. I packed a lunch for us that we can eat in the plane.”

“That sounds like fun.” Octavian enjoyed picnics, but had never had one inside a machine.

Octavian and his mother climbed the stairs and entered the cabin. They were greeted by a member of the flight crew, a smiling, friendly, dark-haired woman wearing a sea green tunic who spoke English with a bit of an accent. “Welcome aboard. I am honored to meet you and travel with you to the city. Please find seats in the passenger cabin. I will speak with you momentarily.”

Octavian’s mother led him into an area in the front of the plane with six large, reclining seats covered in a durable, nubby fabric.

“Here are some blankets and pillows,” the flight assistant added. “I admit the fabric can be a bit scratchy on the seats, so you may want to cover them with one of the blankets. The pillows are a good support for your lower back, as well as your head.”

She disappeared again as Octavian and his mother settled in. His mother was just removing lunch from the bag she had brought with her when the attendant returned. “Oh, I guess they didn’t tell you we provide meals. No worries. I am sure you will be hungry again toward the end of the flight.”

“Flight?” Octavian sputtered. “This machine really uses its wings to fly?”

“Yes, dear. Do you remember a few months ago when I was away for six days? I rode in an airplane to Australia and back. I wanted to be certain I knew what it was like before we moved.”

“And?”

“And I think it best if I give you something after lunch to help you sleep. Even though we will be crossing Africa instead of the southern oceans as I did, there is not much to see and becomes boring rather quickly. You have never been in a confined space like this for any length of time. I don’t want you to become over-excited or ill.”

“But I want to see things, even if it is just clouds and sky.”

“You will be awake while we finish lunch. And I promise to wake you for the last hour of the flight so you have time to see what you want to see.”

Octavian knew his mother always thought matters out carefully and would not bow to him arguing further. Besides, while they were eating, the woman in green came around to ask them to use the belts attached to the seats before takeoff. The boy wondered why they should strap themselves in if they were going to remove their clothes and wasn’t sure why removing their clothes was necessary. However, he saw his mother connecting the ends of her seat belt without stripping. He must have misunderstood.

The engines made a thundering sound. Within minutes, the plane started moving. The machine picked up speed running down the flat, dusty field. Octavian was in awe watching the trees and ground go by so quickly. Suddenly, the airfield was pulling away and the plane was climbing. The boy felt the partially eaten meal settle in his stomach. He couldn’t take his eyes off the window as the landscape became smaller. The plane banked and he could see Cape Town and its harbor, then Mandela, his home community. He could even see his great grandmother’s house set amidst the fields.

As amazing as it was, take off and climbing above the spare clouds was disorienting. Octavian decided it probably was best to relax. After lunch, he took a small red tablet. Funny, he thought. Tablet means a small pill and an electronic screen for reading and writing in English and tableta could mean both in Spanish, too. Those sorts of connections always fascinated the child. Within minutes, however, all thought slipped away and he was curled up in the seat with two blankets and three pillows.

The Secret History of Another Rome

Blurb:
In the mid-2600s, Ranulf becomes Supreme Pontiff of the Empire of Rome at Alexandria, a patriarchy run by priest-bureaucrats called Librarians. After twenty-two years on the throne, Ranulf’s memories flood back to him, from the time he moved to Alexandria with his mother to his present situation resulting from his choices, his training and his relationships. Ranulf’s life has been a quest for truth, not the half-truths of the Librarians and their Secret History, but an understanding of how action rather than static dogma is the path to the future. Guided by mysterious strangers from another time and his own innate curiosity, Ranulf searches for this understanding. Why do the Librarians hide facts from their ruler? What will Ranulf do as he gradually uncovers the truth? How will he respond when he finally understands?

Buy Links:

Kellan Publishing | Amazon UK | Amazon US

Author Bio:

Bear was raised in the Baltimore-Washington area. He has lived in the Albany, NY, area for 20 years. He has been writing since the age of 13 and had his first work, a poem, published at 17. Bear has worked 30 years in higher education as a professor of political science and a student success specialist. He has lived overseas in China, Hong Kong, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.

Bear currently works full time as a writer of plays, non-fiction, poetry and fiction. The Secret History of Another Rome is his first completed novel. He has written three full-length plays and a one-act play that is the start of another long play. Bear also writes political essays, which have been published at http://www.dailykos.com/user/Ruffbear7 and http://www.opednews.com/hkbearmcneelege. One essay was published in River & South Review’s Winter 2014 issue and a poem was published in December 2014 by Silver Birch Press in their I Am Waiting series. He is completing work on a non-fiction book on the changing definition of democracy and writing several novels and plays. Additionally, he sells blank note cards and prints featuring his original photography at http://www.bearlydesigned.com.

Bear enjoys gardening, cooking, travelling, reading books on world history, working out and wrestling. He and his spouse were married in 1996 in a Christian-Taoist ceremony in a beautiful state park. They enjoy taking care of their 95-year-old house and their three cats: Rani Dolly Lama, Buster Amarillo Spotbelly and Miss KayKay Snugglegrumps.

Links:

Author Page

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Daily Cos

LinkedIn

Pinterest

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My guest today is Andrew Peters a young man who has a number of very well received books in his backlist including a critically acclaimed series about feline shifters and two fascinating YA books based on the Atlantis myth. I’ve known Andrew for a while now and have been following his publishing career with glee, but I was surprised and touched when he suggested that we did a ‘read and interview ‘ swap in celebration of his latest release, Banished Sons of Poseidon, the second of his Atlantis books. Since this was on my ‘to read’ list anyway I was delighted to get an ARC. [Honestly if you haven’t yet tried the series give it a go. The first book is The Seventh Pleiade which can be found here.]

Anyway – here we go with the questions. Many thanks to Andrew for suggesting the format.

So first of all – subject matter. At first sight a YA treatment of the Greek myths and a contemporary paranormal series about shifter politics seem an odd mixture but I noticed a theme in both series of ordinary humans faced with something beyond their experience and having to come to terms both with it and their own response to it. Does that theme fascinate you or is that just the way the stories pan out?

That’s an interesting observation. It’s not something I’ve reflected on before in quite that way. I approached my Werecat series from a lost myth and mysticism point-of-view, so I usually talk about those things being a common thread in the two series.

I’m a diehard fan of underdogs, and perhaps that attitude touches on the theme you mention. One thing that led me into writing fantasy was the lack of gay heroes in commercial lit, and more generally, the tendency of fantasy heroes to be a bit too perfect for my taste. It’s not engaging for me to write or read about a hero who has all the tools and privileges to get the job done. I’m more interested in the hero’s flaws and his moral dilemmas and the possibility of someone who doesn’t fit the mold accomplishing feats that better the world.

In both series you have been faced with the problems inherent in keeping track of a large cast, their names, appearance, quirks and relationships. How on earth do you do this? I ask from the POV of a person who once found she had used the same name for three different bit part characters in the same novel.

I appreciate that confession. I spend a lot of time coming up with character and place names that don’t sound similar to something I’ve used before. I even go through the alphabet so that they don’t start with the same letter. That’s as much for my own benefit as the reader’s. 🙂

For The Seventh Pleiade, I made a character spreadsheet, and I also did some fun things like have each character answer a magazine-style quiz. Vanity Fair has a feature where they ask celebrities to respond to the famous Proust Questionnaire, and they do these great, satirical “intelligence reports” comparing the quirks and habits of political candidates or pop culture personae. I think it’s a great exercise for writers to put their characters through those tests. (Here’s a link to one of VF’s Proust Questionnaires: http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2014/11/amy-poehler-proust-questionnaire)[Note from Elin: I have no idea who Amy Poeler is but I would not trust this person to babysit]
Believe it or not, I trimmed the number of characters in The Seventh Pleiade during rewrites. I realize that my tendency to create a cast of thousands can be intimidating. Most of the time I can’t help myself. I love stories with epic casts of characters like Russian novels and fantasy works by Tolkien and George R.R. Martin.

In The Seventh Pleiade the hero is the well born youth Aerander but in the follow up, Banished Sons of Poseidon, you change the focus to Dam, his cousin, whose reputation was less than stellar in the first book. What is it about Dam that made you feel his story had to be told?

Dam grew on me as I was writing The Seventh Pleiade, and I was surprised by the intensity of the interaction between him and Aerander. I think what happened was that mysterious phenomenon of a character telling the author what was really going on in the story. In this case, it felt like Aerander told me that in the midst of the big disaster he’s trying to stop, his relationship with his cousin Dam was really central to him emotionally. Banished Sons of Poseidon allowed me to explore that relationship further and to iron out the unfinished business between the two boys.
I also felt that Dam deserved the opportunity to explain himself. It bothered me to hear that some readers responded to him negatively in the first book. He does start out as a dark, troubled character, but my hope was that my treatment of him opened up a more nuanced response to his actions.

In your Atlantis series I noticed many familiar names and terms but all had been treated in a unique way. How difficult was it to come up with new ways of handling the old concepts and were you ever tempted to cut corners and go along with Plato?

I was probably rather fanatical about that balance because the premise of the books is that Plato’s account is an authentic history, but relying on nine thousand years of oral histories, the story got stretched into a tale of Greek nationalism and left out some rather important bits.
Plato’s account is quite intriguing in that he gives us an unusually detailed description of the size, geography, and even the city plan for Atlantis. But with the exception of the inviolable Poseidon, he tells us very little about the histories of the people who inhabited the kingdom. He merely lists these wonderfully eccentric names for Poseidon’s wife and sons, which for me were too good not to use in the story. I invented Aerander and his contemporaries of course since they were dozens of generations removed from the country’s founding fathers. I also introduced the idea of people of different nationalities and cultures living in Atlantis because that seemed important to depict life in a kingdom that had conquered the globe.

In terms of the downfall of Atlantis, Plato invokes the familiar theme of hubris and Zeus’s retribution. That was something I wanted to portray with a little more light and shade. It seemed too neat to me, and in Plato’s account, he leaves the story unfinished at a critical moment. That made me think that maybe he was hiding the truth of what really happened, or maybe he was hiding that he didn’t really know. I happily filled in a conspiracy to explain the “true” story of Atlantis’s downfall. It’s a long way around your question, but I felt like I was on a bit of a mission to show what really happened to Atlantis so the creative liberties felt like opportunities more so than challenges.

Your Atlantis books are Young Adult and so are fairly chaste in their depiction of relationships. Your werecats have a more contemporary vibe. Are you able to maintain the mindset required to write one or the other or did you sometimes think “oh dear, I’d better tone this down/spice this up?”

I think I’m on sturdier ground with the “fairly chaste” approach. With me, sex scenes can get a little purple. One reviewer (from Kirkus) used the term “Chatterly-esque,” which I suppose could be flattering in some circles but not especially in the Young Adult universe.

I admire authors like you who can write intimate moments elegantly. I got a lot more practice writing sex in the Werecat series, and hopefully that shows. That story is more action/adventure than romance or certainly erotica, so I wrote sex on the page when it made sense for the story. It did take pushing myself a bit.

As a life long storyteller [*nods* yes I have read your FAQ on your website] is there one story you’ve been longing to tell for years but haven’t got round to yet?

I’m glad someone is visiting my website. I shelved a half dozen or so stories that I haven’t gotten around to. A lot of my early work was on the absurd side, and I left it behind when I took the dive into the more sober realm of fantasy.
Maybe we’ll look back at this interview in ten years and say: you heard it here first. I’ve had this silly idea of writing a horror spoof based on zombie squirrels. Or maybe the literary world will get lucky and never have to deal with that title. Aren’t you glad you asked? 🙂

Google image search ‘zombie squirrels’ and this is probably the least distressing result.


I know that you work with LGBT youth. What advice would you give to young and aspiring writers? What advice did you find most useful to you when you were starting out? The two aren’t necessarily the same – the state of the publishing/marketing business changes yearly.

It’s interesting because some of the earliest advice and feedback I received was not especially encouraging, and I try to not continue that negative cycle when talking to writers who are starting out. I’m thinking about my college writing classes which were pretty brutal and competitive and the cynical attitude of older writers I came in contact with who basically told me: “Enjoy writing now. The fun ends when you get published.”

I kind of filtered through that, and I certainly did receive some great advice along the way with regard to staying disciplined as a writer, reading as much as you can, being experimental (for example, I can’t write poetry to save my life, but I do it as an exercise to strengthen my writing), and taking advantage of the opportunities that come your way. Regarding the latter, some simple, sage advice that stayed with me was: Just get your work out there. Doesn’t matter big or small the platform. Every publication is an opportunity to connect with readers.

Will there be a follow up to Poseidon? I really hope that there will be. I can’t really say any more without spoilers but you left me with some questions unanswered and that’s always a good sign.

Great to hear the story left you wanting more. I mention in my author’s note to Banished Sons that I hadn’t expected to write a follow up to The Seventh Pleiade, so I’m hesitant to give you an unequivocal no. But I’m afraid I don’t have immediate plans to return to those characters and that setting. I have a bunch of other things brewing on my writing stove right now. But who knows what the future holds?

What can we expect from you over the next couple of years? Also what are you working on at the moment?

I’m quite excited about 2016 because I have two books coming out. The first is Poseidon and Cleito, which takes the Atlantis legend from its pre-formative years. The second is The City of Seven Gods, which is a strange, gritty, sort of ancient world alternative history novel. They’re both openers in two different series so I’m going to have my hands full! Right now, I’m finishing the final installment in the Werecat series.

Many thanks, Andrew, for answering my questions so gallantly, and good luck with your releases next year.

Author Bio:

Photo by Larry Black

Andrew J. Peters is the author of the Werecat series, The Seventh Pleiade and its forthcoming follow-up Banished Sons of Poseidon.

He grew up in Buffalo, New York, studied psychology at Cornell University, and has spent most of his career as a social worker and an advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth. A lifelong writer, Andrew has been a contributing writer at The Good Men Project, YA Highway, Reading Teen, Dear Teen Me, La Bloga, and Layers of Thought among other media. Andrew lives in New York City with his partner Genaro and their cat Chloë.

Website : Facebook : Twitter : Goodreads

After escaping from a flood that buried the aboveground in seawater, a fractured group of boys contend with the way ahead and their trust of an underground race of men who gives them shelter. For sixteen-year-old Dam, whose world was toppling before the tragedy, it’s a strange, new second chance. There are wonders in the underworld and a foreign warrior Hanhau who is eager for friendship despite Dam’s dishonorable past.

But a rift between his countrymen threatens to send their settlement into chaos. Peace between the evacuees and Hanhau’s tribe depends on sharing a precious relic that glows with arcane energy. When danger emerges from the shadowed backcountry, Dam must undertake a desperate mission. It’s the only hope to make it home to Atlantis. It’s the only way to save Hanhau and his people.

Bold Stroked Books | Amazon US | Amazon UK | B&N | Indie Bound

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comfy chair

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.

CHAPTER TWO

Sunday

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.”

 

~

Blood and Dirt: a Russ Morgan mystery

by Lloyd A Meeker

Blurb:

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:

http://www.wildecity.com/books/gay-romance/blood-and-dirt/#.VdZ8J3jvdLo

~

You can get more news of Lloyd’s upcoming projects at the following web locations:

Website: http://www.lloydmeeker.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LloydAMeeker

Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.to/MBe1gp

 

 

 

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A Tiger Moth releasing 20,000 poppies over the Light Dragoons barracks at Swanton Morley. Pic from Norwich Evening News

Today’s guest is Lou Faulkner. Welcome, Lou and thanks for answering my questions.

What inspired you to write your story for the anthology?

A memory of a joy-ride in a Tiger Moth, and seeing the earth fall away under me while becoming immeasurably bigger. A book on the work of reconnaissance airmen in the Battle of the Somme. A line in that book saying that pilots and observers had to have complete trust and confidence in each other. Looking at the cover illustration to that book, and realising that yes, they really did fight their aircraft with the observer standing on the rim of his cockpit without safety harness of any kind, while the pilot had no guns of his own. No kidding they needed to trust each other.

Could you tell me a little about it?

It’s the last twenty-four hours before the Battle of the Somme begins, and as always, the airmen of the Royal Flying Corps leave the ground not knowing whether or not they will return alive – or whether their greatest risk comes from the enemy, or from the uncertain technology of their own aircraft.

Could you please tell me about your other work?

I write mostly military history. The built-in conflicts are legion, between nations, and between honour, duty, and common humanity.

What are you working on at the moment?

A novel set during the mid-eighteenth century. France and Britain, as so often, are slugging it out, this time for the rule of the high seas, while the scientific discoveries of the Enlightenment gather pace all over the known world.

Please could we have an excerpt?

From the Pride of Poppies story:

They sat for a moment in silence, drinking in the stillness, the lack of vibration, and dear God, the safety of home. Then Mitchell took off helmet and goggles, half-stood and shrugged out of the bulky jacket and chucked it onto the concrete. Vince’s joined it a moment later.

The air was warm and damp on Mitchell’s face, after the chill of the upper air; somewhere high above, where they’d been just a few minutes ago, a skylark was singing.

“You’re landing’s improving,” said Vince judiciously.

“Thank-you, O gracious one.” And Mitchell sketched a half-bow before clambering out onto the wing-step, from where he jumped to terra firma.

The first time he had come into this airfield after his initial familiarisation flight, he had made one of the worst landings that ever a man walked away from. A sudden gust of wind, an up-draught from the line of trees that had not yet been felled, as the airfield was then so new; the squadron’s old BE2c had been tossed up thirty feet and he’d tried to side-slip the height off instead of going round again.

“Bloody Australians!” his flight-commander had roared as he scrambled out from the twanging wires and creaking undercarriage of the all but undamaged machine – “D’you always have to fly upside down?”

~

Author Bio:

I live in a small house (full of books) with a big garden, in Australia. Writing is the only way I know to stop the ideas from bugging me.

~

A Pride of Poppies – an anthology from Manifold Press

Modern GLBTQI fiction of the Great War

Ten authors – in thirteen stories – explore the experiences of GLBTQI people during World War I. In what ways were their lives the same as or different from those of other people?

A London pub, an English village, a shell-hole on the Front, the outskirts of Thai Nguyen city, a ship in heavy weather off Zeebrugge, a civilian internment camp … Loves and griefs that must remain unspoken, unexpected freedoms, the tensions between individuality and duty, and every now and then the relief of recognition. You’ll find both heartaches and joys in this astonishing range of thought-provoking stories.

An anthology featuring authors:

  • Julie Bozza
  • Barry Brennessel
  • Charlie Cochrane
  • Sam Evans
  • Lou Faulkner
  • Adam Fitzroy
  • Wendy C. Fries
  • Z. McAspurren
  • Eleanor Musgrove
  • Jay Lewis Taylor
  • Available from May 1st from: Amazon US ~ Amazon UK ~ Smashwords

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