When Characters Surprise the Writer with CJane Elliott

August 21, 2015

When Characters Surprise the Writer

Hello all! I’m pleased to be back on the Dreamspinner Blog to talk about the release of the third novel in my Serpentine Series: Sex, Love, and Videogames.

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The Serpentine Series books are standalone contemporary novels set at the University of Virginia. Although many characters are in more than one book, each book can be read separately. Sex, Love, and Videogames features Jed Carter, who is the quiet nice guy Pete Morgan takes advantage of in Serpentine Walls. Its other main character is Charlie Ambrose, who is what U.Va. students call a “townie.” Charlie is biracial and grew up in a tight-knit African-American family and church community in Charlottesville. Besides the two main characters, the book is the story of Morocco Ambrose, Charlie’s cousin. She’s transgender and as extroverted as Charlie is introverted. Another extrovert, Jed’s best friend Myesha, rounds out the central cast of characters.

Writing Sex, Love, and Videogames surprised me. I couldn’t get a handle on Jed’s love interest. I thought it was going to be his older brother Kent’s college roommate, Tucker. But the story wasn’t going anywhere with that plot and I was having a hard time getting into Jed’s head. The light-bulb finally turned on when I realized I was again relegating Jed to the sidelines in favor of a more compelling character (Tucker), just the way Jed was relegated to the sidelines by Pete in Serpentine Walls.

With that realization, a character named Charlie emerged: a shy artist who isn’t part of the university crowd. Charlie was white when I first visualized him, but quickly he was in my head as biracial. And his amazing transgender cousin Morocco was right there with him. People think writers plan all this out in advance: “Aha! I know – I’ll have a biracial townie and his trans cousin in the Jed novel!” If I were to show you my first outlines of the story, Charlie and Morocco are nowhere to be found. But once they popped up, I went with it. And it turned out that Charlie and Jed are perfect for each other.

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I grew up in the DC area, which is quite diverse, and have had many close friends of other races and ethnicities. Still, I’m glad Dreamspinner has a Diversity Panel because even though I agree books need diverse characters, I live in fear of being unknowingly offensive or racist or whatever else I have unknowingly done. Members of the diversity panel read my draft and pointed out places where I put my foot in it, thus allowing me to withdraw my foot by hitting the delete button.

I struggled with how to write dialect without being too over the top. (For the record, we DO say y’all in Northern Virginia!) I was informed one of the terms I used to describe transgender was no longer welcome. I read books on being black and gay in the South and books on the transgender experience. I talked to people who live further South than I do about aspects of the culture there. (Did you know “bless your heart” means “screw you” in Southern?)

And all the while, Charlie and Morocco and their family were talking in my head and I knew them. I knew all about them and loved them. I want a Granny Myrt of my own. Or maybe not Granny Myrt until she evolves her beliefs about LGBTQ folks, but an Aunt Tawniece. I want Morocco and Myesha to be my besties and call me “girl.” I want to go out dancing with them and get our funk on.

Jed is still being outshined, because he and Charlie are never going to be as “out there” as Morocco and Myesha. But that’s okay, because Jed ends the story knowing who he is and where he wants to go in life, and having a great guy by his side.

Excerpt:

Jed made it out of the frat house and walked toward the dorm through the crowds of bid-night revelers. He hadn’t thought about how awkward things could get with him and Kent in the fraternity together. Frats meant parties, which meant alcohol and girls. Put Kent in the middle of that, with his “everyone follow me over the cliff” personality, and that was it. Jed was sunk. Dead meat. He’d either have to persuade Myesha to be his beard, or… come out?

Right. Get real.

As if summoned by the gay unicorn gods, Aidan Emery and his merry band of queers appeared, strutting down the sidewalk, laughing and singing. Jed’s insides contorted with jealousy. He wanted to stick out his foot and trip them for daring to be so openly gay and happy about it.

Coming out? To Kent and a bunch of Wahoos in SAE? To the rugby team? To the world in general? No way.

Jed changed course and headed to Lucky’s. He’d thought about going to lift weights at the university gym, but the truth was, he was tired of everything U.Va., with its fraternities, homophobia, and all the rest. He needed a videogame fix. Kent had told him Lucky’s had the best selection in town. The wind picked up, carrying with it a hint of snow. He pulled his coat closer around him and started a slow jog, relieved to be leaving the Grounds and the parties behind.

Ten minutes later, Jed reached Lucky’s, breathing hard but feeling more centered as he pushed open the door. He stopped to survey the scene, having never been there. The place was hopping—people eating, drinking, playing pool and pinball—and there against the far wall were huge screens and sofas for gamers. He went over to scope out the games.

“Let me know if I can help you with anything.”

A handsome black guy stood next to the counter. He gave Jed a shy smile, and Jed smiled back. Zing. Jed had never thought about having gaydar, but this guy set something off in him that said they were playing for the same team.

“Do you have any suggestions?”

“D-depends.” The guy came to stand next to him. He was a couple inches taller than Jed and he smelled nice. Plus he had striking greenish-brown eyes. His nametag read Charlie. “W-what’re you into?”

You. Jed’s cheeks warmed. Damn stupid blushing. “I like Halo, Mass Effect, stuff like that. But I also like fantasy games. I was way into Oblivion in high school.”

Charlie picked out a game and handed it over. “You’d l-like this if you haven’t p-played it. It came out a c-couple months ago.”

“Dragon Age: Origins. Cool. I’ve been wanting to try this one. Thanks.” He followed Charlie back to the counter. “You go to U.Va.?” Jed wasn’t usually this forward in striking up conversations, but something about Charlie—his obvious shyness, his slight stutter—made Jed want to put him at ease. To Jed’s dismay, his question seemed to embarrass him.

“N-no.” Charlie shut his mouth in a grim line as he rang up Jed’s rental.

“Oh.” Jed cast around for something else to say but a bunch of high school kids rushed up to the counter, clutching games. Charlie didn’t meet Jed’s eyes as he handed over Dragon Age and turned to his new customers. “Um, thanks.”

Jed left Lucky’s, puzzling over Charlie’s response. So he’s a “townie.” So what? Oh well. The guy hadn’t seemed all that interested in Jed anyway. He lost himself in reading the game jacket as he walked back to the dorm.

Near Alderman Library, he heard, “Carter, you are so busted!” Bud weaved toward him on the sidewalk. “Where the hell’d you go?”

“Nowhere.”

“Like hell you did. I—oh.” Bud lurched and Jed caught him by one arm.

“Someone’s wasted. You need help getting back?”

“Naw, ’m’fine. But don’t cut out on us like that, boy. I love ya, man!”

Jed watched fondly as Bud stumbled off into the night, then hoofed it to his dorm room.

Time for videogames.

Buy Link for Sex, Love, and Videogames:

http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6757

 

How to reach CJane Elliott:

E-mail: cjaneelliott@gmail.com

Website: http://www.cjaneelliott.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CJaneElliott

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cjane.elliott

 

Contest:

Answer the question below for a chance to win any book from my backlist of novels and novellas.

Late teens and early twenties is the time when people start to figure themselves out, often breaking away from their family’s idea of them, or going outside of their childhood comfort zones. Jed and Charlie did all of these in Sex, Love, and Videogames. Now for the question:

What was one of your first experiences in your late teens or early twenties where you stepped beyond your childhood comfort zone and started to be an adult? And was it fun or was it depressing?

 

Where Buchanan House Came From with Charley Descoteaux

August 19, 2015

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Hi all! Charley Descoteaux here to chat with you about my new release, Buchanan House. I’m so excited to be here with you! The day job might make me slow to reply, so please bear with me. I’ll be popping in and out for the next few days.

 

Before I go any farther I want to tell you about the giveaway. At the end of this post I’ll ask a question, and every answer is a chance to win an ebook. I’m giving away one copy of every ebook on my backlist and that means there will be six winners!

 

I’m a huge fan of the Marvel movies, so I’m calling this an origin story for my contemporary Romance. ☺

Last summer I got a shiny new degree and a new Evil Day Job to go with it. Not as evil as my last one, but it still keeps me busy when I’d rather be writing. Before going back to cubicle-land I took a short vacation to the Oregon Coast. I love the beach and the Pacific Ocean, and as has happened before I was struck with inspiration while walking on the beach.

The original inspiration was for a murder mystery, but I let the guy live and turned it into a pure Romance. “Pure” as in that’s the main plot, not as in “pure as the driven snow.” Buchanan House has sexy-times but even though it deals with the effects of bullying it’s a sweet and almost lighthearted story. Due in large part to the location. Lincoln City just might be more accepting than Portland, if the number of same-sex couples openly behaving as couples was any indication. I saw so many men with men and women with women in those few days—it made me feel very much at-home, even though it was my first time there.

Since it was my first time, I did a lot of exploring. To the south of the hotel I found a secluded area that looked to be about the size of a suburban cul de sac. One of the homes was for sale and I thought about how cool it would be to write a story with a bunch of guys getting away from the city to live there. Nobody would believe a group of friends buying up all the homes in the neighborhood, though. What would they do for a living? How would they afford those rustic old homes (even if the prices made my m0uth water)? There aren’t a lot of good jobs on the coast so they’d have to bring a means of income with them—and since the largest industry on the Oregon coast is tourism, that question was answered fast!

One object in the book also has its own origin story: the hand carved bench on the front porch. Last year when I celebrated the release of The Nesting Habits of Strange Birds I had a wonderful time with a Goodreads chat. A lot of fun people gave me great ideas for an object to honor Eric’s grandmother. Penumbra suggested a bench, and I love the way it appeared in the story. It’s almost the headstone Eric would’ve chosen for his grandmother if it had been up to him, but a little more fun than that.

Okay, I think I’ve gone on long enough. If you have any questions you’d like to ask, about the book or me or what I’m working on now, please don’t be shy! I might be slow, but I’ll be happy to answer.

 

As for my question, I’d love to hear an origin story of yours! Do you have an object or a superpower with a story? If not, make one up! The more outlandish the better!

On Saturday the 22nd I’ll choose the winners by random number generator so don’t forget to include your Dreamspinner Store account email address with your stories! Each winner will get an ebook from my backlist (every book except Buchanan House, in order of release)!

 

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Here’s a little about Buchanan House—the blurb and an exclusive excerpt!

 

Blurb:

Eric Allen, thirty-three-year-old line cook, moved in with his grandmother, Jewell, after a disastrous coming-out when he was in middle school. She raised him, and he cared for her when she fell ill. When Jewell died she left everything to Eric—angering his parents and older brother. The inheritance isn’t much, but Eric and his bestie Nathan pool their money and buy an abandoned hotel on an isolated stretch of the Central Oregon Coast. The hotel isn’t far from Lincoln City—a town with its own Pride Festival and named for a president—so they christen it Buchanan House after James Buchanan, the “confirmed bachelor” president with the close male friend.

Eric and Nathan need a handyman to help them turn Buchanan House into the gay resort of their dreams. Eric finds Tim Tate in the local listings and over the months leading to opening weekend Tim reveals himself as a skilled carpenter with many hidden talents. Eric falls hard for Tim, but before he can see a future with the gorgeous handyman he has to get over twenty years of being bullied and shamed by his birth family. It would be much easier if Eric’s brother Zach weren’t trying to grab part of the inheritance or ruin opening weekend.

 

This excerpt is from one of Eric and Nathan’s days off—they’re in the backyard of Buchanan House, watching a lone surfer.

 

Nathan rested the cookie plate on top of his mug and brought his own binoculars to his eyes. “Wow. Is that…. Yes, I do believe that is Tim Tate, superhero, handyman, and also, apparently, surfer dude!”

Nathan sounded inordinately pleased to announce what Eric had seen for himself. Which probably meant he’d already known it was Tim. Somehow. Eric pointedly ignored his tone, but kept watching Tim walk toward the rocks south of Buchanan House.

Tim didn’t seem to be in any hurry. He stopped a few times to look at things the tide had washed in, poking the sand with his foot and once bending at the waist for a closer look. Eric wondered if he’d found any tsunami debris. Signs were posted anywhere tourists were likely to pull off the Coast Highway, along with Tsunami Debris Watch depositories. Eric wanted to find something with Japanese writing on it, an object that had traveled all the way across the Pacific to reach him, but had yet to see anything even close. Not that he’d had a ton of time to walk the beach or participate in Lincoln City’s nightlife, but he hadn’t exactly been a hermit either.

Eric thought he should stop spying on Tim but couldn’t bring himself to lower the binoculars. Tim seemed more relaxed than he was at Buchanan House, his walk more athletic, graceful. On workdays, Tim wore comfortable, almost loose jeans, and T-shirts either under a flannel or over a thermal. He almost looked like a different man. Eric had tried to get a feel for what the body beneath the clothes looked like, without being caught staring, but hadn’t enjoyed the level of success he’d hoped for. After seeing Tim in a wetsuit, Eric knew his fumbling guesses hadn’t even been close. The suit clung to Tim’s broad shoulders and chest, tapering to trim hips, only to bulge again over his defined thigh muscles. He looked like a god.

“Mm-mm-mmm. That is a tasty dish.” Nathan bumped his shoulder into Eric’s.

Before Eric could respond to Nathan’s teasing, Tim unzipped the top of his wetsuit. Eric stood, transfixed, as Tim peeled the top half from his body and let it hang around his waist like the bib on a pair of overalls. It was like watching a live-action ad for Men’s Fitness. Tim’s upper body was sculpted to lean perfection—he looked strong and athletic, but not bulky.

His hair sent drops of water sliding down his chest, and Eric thought about licking the salt water from his warm skin, peeling the rest of the wetsuit away, and—

Nathan’s soft laughter interrupted Eric’s fantasy. He practically pushed the binoculars away from his face. Normally he would’ve had the strap around his neck, but because he hadn’t taken the time, the binoculars fell to the ground, landed on his foot, and flopped into the future garden. Eric kept from shouting curses only with great effort. The last thing he wanted was for Tim to see them standing there, binoculars in hand, ogling him like a couple of perverts.

“Yeah, sweetheart. There’s your dessert right there.”

Eric wasn’t sure if Nathan was ignoring his ridiculous move with the binoculars, or if he hadn’t seen it. The show on the beach was definitely more interesting. “Put down your binoculars. He’ll see.”

“And so what if he does?” Nathan let his binoculars rest against his chest, dangling safely from the strap. And then he waved.

“Nathan,” Eric hissed.

Tim obviously saw him. He stopped walking, frozen in place with his surfboard under his arm, still connected to his ankle with what looked like a chain. Slowly, Tim raised a hand to shield his eyes from the sunlight, but who else would it be? Who else would be in Buchanan House’s backyard in his pink robe after noon on a Sunday? When Tim waved back, Eric’s heart sank a little. Of course he was attracted to Nathan. Who wasn’t?

With the notable exception of me, naturally.

Nathan was six one, handsome as a movie star, and never tried to hide he was ripped to boot.

Eric picked up his binoculars and headed back into the kitchen. He limped a little, but not only because his foot hurt. Obviously Little Eric didn’t get the message that this Tim, just like the last one, was nothing more than a fantasy that would end in disappointment, if not outright humiliation.

Thanks for reading!

I hope you’ll share an origin story with me—I love giving books away as much as I love stories.

 

Don’t be shy, either here or on Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads—I’d love to hear from you!

 

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/charley.descoteaux.3

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/CharleyDescote

Goodreads: http://tinyurl.com/aqe7g7r

Blog:  http://cdescoteauxwrites.com/

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For the Love of Flying with EM Lynley

August 17, 2015

For the Love of (1)

I’m EM Lynley and today I’m thrilled to be talking about my brand new release ONE MARINE, HERO.

Thanks so much for stopping by!

This book is one I’m particularly proud of and I hope you’ll find it as enjoyable to read as it was to write.

The spark for this book hit me last fall during San Francisco’s Fleet Week.

If you’ve never been to a Fleet Week, you are missing out! You’ll find a dozen ships, even more aircraft, and tens of thousands of sailors and Marines all converge on the city. And since the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, it’s even crazier here in San Francisco.

But most of all, I love visiting the ships during Fleet Week. This year I visited the newly commissioned USS America, an amphibious assault ship. I didn’t know quite what that meant until I arrived. Basically, this ship serves as a support base for Marine units to stage an attack.

After making my way past displays of armored vehicles and light assault vehicles (tanks, to the rest of us), I arrived on the lower deck, where a number of helicopters were displayed. Pilots and members of the air crew answered questions from visitors. I was listening to other people (mostly men) asking questions, when it hit me that helicopters were a hell of a lot more interesting than I’d realized.

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In fact, a helicopter pilot would make a fantastic main character for a book.

Up on the flight deck, about a dozen smaller helicopters were on display. Now I started taking notes and asking my own questions. To my surprise, the pilots were really thrilled to answer questions, talk about the capabilities of their aircraft, and even let visitors climb inside a few different ones. I happily spent about three hours moving between Cobras, Hueys, Super Stallions, and more. I took a lot of photos and, of course, asked how I could get to fly on a Marine helo. (The answer is, you can’t. Even the pilots’ own families can’t get on board, partly for security reasons and partly because the demand would be incredible.)

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By the time I got home, I was dying to include a Marine pilot in a story.

And that’s when I got the idea of writing about a former combat pilot who comes home to fly Marine One, ferrying US government officials around and dealing with the drastic transition between those two jobs.

If you’ve read one of my books before, you know I love to do research. Not much can beat spending several hours talking with Marine pilots, but I can tell you that flying a helicopter definitely does. I took a couple of helicopter flying lessons while working on this book, and it has been one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done in my life!

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Why Marine One?

That answer takes us a bit farther back than last fall.

I’ve never followed politics much, but like nearly everyone around the world who watches international news, I had a strong image of the President of the United States getting into a green-and-white helicopter on the South Lawn of the White House and being whisked away to attend to some vital presidential business. I had a vague notion of the helicopter being called Marine One, but beyond that, I never thought much about it.

That changed when I was lucky enough to get a job at the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Though the offices are located in the Old Executive Office next to the White House, we were part of the White House complex. It was a thrill to be so close to the inner workings of Washington.

Even more exciting were the perks that came with the job, including attending any ceremony on the White House lawn, including welcoming receptions for visiting heads of state where the president and the foreign leader would inspect US troops and color guards and military bands.

And maybe one of the coolest is getting to stand on the South Lawn when the helicopter lands

One of my favorite Marine One touchdowns was when my mother came for a visit. I knew that Marine One was due to land shortly after her arrival, so I whisked her from the airport and to the White House. She was surprised (and impressed) that after being in DC for an hour she was already seeing the president live at the White House.

I was just as thrilled at being able to include her in such a special opportunity. I think at some level she doubted I could get her into the West Wing and then to the South Lawn. She was really proud of me that day too.

I hope that you’ll feel some of the excitement of both the helicopters and White House events when you read One Marine, Hero.

***

And you knew there was going to be a contest, right?

Are you a fan of military men? Tell me why and which branch of military you like best for a chance to win one of my backlist titles.

Thanks for stopping by today!

I love getting e-mails from readers, so don’t be shy.

You can also visit me online

E-mail: emlynley@gmail.com

Website: http://www.emlynley.com

Blog: http://emlynley.livejournal.com

Twitter: @emlynley

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/emlynley

Jana Denardo: The Inner Workings of a Demon Hunting Team

August 16, 2015

Probably the best way to get to know the boys is to let them tell you what it’s like to be part of a Soldiers of the Sun team, especially one waiting to be assigned a new member so I’ll let them take it away.

Caleb – I’m the leader of the group and it’s something I take seriously out there. I expect all the members to be their best but ultimately I’m the one who has to make the toughest choices. It’s good though because I can trust Agni and Temple to do what they do best. They have never disappointed me.

Agni – Good to know. Sometimes the hardest part is remembering a team only works when we work together. I don’t have the ego that says I can’t take orders. I’ve seen teams like that and they are usually quick to lose a member. I worried a little about that when I first met Temple since he’s so loud and always in motion. I worried about nothing. The hardest part of dealing with Temple is getting him to exercise. He’d rather just depend on his big gun to get him out of trouble.

Temple –You’re such a wet smack, Agni. It is tough working in a team sometimes because your teammates pick on you until you think about feeding them to the demons.

Caleb – Temple, Agni, must you?

Temple – Of course we must. To be fair, the teasing isn’t out there in the field. I know I can trust them. My biggest fear there is accidentally plugging my partners. That chopper of mine puts out so many bullets, it’s a real danger. And I’m really worried about our new partner. We know nothing about him.

Caleb – General Taglioferro hasn’t even told me yet what to expect. I think our new partner will be another long range fighter like Temple as Agni and I do better close up. It always helps to have a balance in styles.

Temple – I’m also worried about the new partner finding out about us pitching woo. That could kill the team instantly.

Agni – Always so positive but you make a good point.

Caleb – We’re careful. I don’t think we have much to worry about there. Temple might just have to put the kibosh on his flirting for a while.

Temple – With you two, yes of course. But does that mean I can’t flirt with the muffins?

Agni – Could we stop you?

Temple – Absolutely not!

Caleb – We knew that.

 

Jana: With that, I’ll leave these three to get back to work. Let’s do the novel giveaway now to top off the night. We all have our favorite character tropes and group dynamics. Temple allowed me to combine characters of two like working with, the sarcastic wit and someone trying to cope with a rough childhood. I also love working with diverse groups which is what I could do with this team. So what are your favorite sorts of characters? I’ll leave the giveaway open til morning. And sorry for not sharing pictures of them. Half way through the pictures stopped showing even though they were fine earlier even if I had to use more than one method. Ah technology.

Thanks for being here with me tonight!

Soldiers of the Sun – eBook http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6759

Soldiers of the Sun- paperback – http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6760

Jana Denardo – Soldiers of the Sun Excerpt #2

August 16, 2015

“That was not how the New Year should be welcomed.” Temple sighed, undoing his bow tie. He and his partners shuffled through the quiet corridors of one of the male wings of the Soldiers of the Sun’s home base.

“I definitely had other ideas myself,” Agni said, and Temple looked back over his shoulder at him.

“Oh, really? And here I thought you were the staid, boring type who probably turned in at nine.”

Caleb suppressed a grin. That baiting sounded much more like the Temple he knew so well.

Agni huffed. “I suppose that means you don’t want to see what I would have done. My blood’s up a little too much to go right to sleep.”

Temple’s green eyes lit up. “I didn’t say that.”

“So I’m not getting sleep anytime soon?” Caleb eyed his partner as he unlocked the door to his apartment. Sometimes Agni surprised him. Caleb thought Agni only entered into this three-way partnership because Caleb asked, but he was beginning to think Agni truly enjoyed having sex with Temple too.

Temple stuffed his tie into his pocket. “You can sleep on the couch, I suppose.”

“As noisy as you are, if I chose that option, do you really think I’d get a moment’s rest?” Caleb slipped out of his overcoat and dress jacket, putting both on the coat rack by his door.

“Then you’ll have to join us.” Temple ran his hand across Caleb’s shoulders.

“Naturally.” Caleb turned and studied Temple’s face. “Are you okay?”

Temple shrugged. “I’m not perfect, but I will be eventually. Don’t want to talk about it now.” He fisted his fingers in Caleb’s starched shirt, pulling him forward into a kiss. “And I get the middle tonight since I earned it. All you did in the fight was stand there looking pretty.”

“And how was I to know which way the demons would run?” Caleb protested, breaking free. He caught Agni’s hand, tugging him toward his bedroom.

Temple followed behind them. “You’re smart. It sounds planned to me.”

“Keep talking, Temple, and your boyfriend for tonight will be found at the end of your wrist,” Caleb volleyed back.

Temple pouted, but he didn’t look particularly sad. “Ouch, you can be so mean.”

Caleb couldn’t hide his grin. If baiting Temple made him less morose, Caleb was happy to do it. It was so very easy to get his goat, anyhow. “You love it when I am.”

“Do not.” Temple’s sulk deepened.

“I have to side with Caleb. You thrive on us being hard on you.” Agni reached back to swat Temple’s arm.

Temple narrowed his green eyes. “I’m beginning to think my hand is the better choice.”

“At least your hand wouldn’t be mean to you,” Caleb agreed.

“And it would do exactly what you want.” Agni grinned.

“You two are just lucky I like you,” Temple huffed. “And I know you’re both damaged, and this is the only way you can show affection.”

Agni wiggled free of Caleb’s grasp, heading for the nightstand. He got out the jar of lubricant and put it in Temple’s hand. “Have fun.”
“And I’m not damaged. I barely remember being at the not-so-nice orphanage,” Caleb said.
“I was thinking more that someone at the orphanage dropped you on your head as a baby,” Temple said, taking off his ichor-splattered dress shirt, dropping it to the floor. His nipples stood up in the chill of the room. He went over and played with the heater controls.
“Go enjoy that jar.” Caleb shoved him.
Temple tossed the jar onto the bed, then tackled Caleb back onto the mattress.

Jana Denardo: Soldiers of the Sun: Meet the Soldiers

August 16, 2015

Let me introduce you to the characters because they’re who we’re here to see.

 

Caleb Davies is the team leader. He’s an orphan from Wales originally. The Soldiers of the Sun routinely search for kids who can see demons and Caleb was adopted by an officer. He’s been raised within the organization since he was a kid and was close to his adoptive father. He was put together with Agni and Temple in London a few years back before being sent to America to fill the greater need for soldiers there.

 

Caleb takes his responsibilities as leader seriously even though he feels like he’s herding cats when it comes to getting Agni and Temple to cooperate. He’s bright, outgoing and thoughtful. He doesn’t mind the research and is highly skilled with swordplay and hand to hand combat. He likes sports, misses cricket something awful in the States. He’s a huge movie buff and goes whenever he gets a chance.

 

Agni Pradesh is the scientist of the group. Originally from Bombay, he was sent to London by his family when the Soldiers asked for someone from his family to join the London branch. His family have been demon fighters for generations. He’s the reader of the group. He’s never met a research project he didn’t want to dig into and he works with the scientific branch whenever he can just for the fun of it.  Agni misses his home but loves where he is at the same time. His apartment reflects his Hindu beliefs and culture which he loves sharing with Caleb and Temple. He’s the quiet, stoic one, though he enjoys winding Temple up.

 

 

TempleChevalier is from Paris. His family has been in the Knights Templar from the very beginning as far as they can tell. His upbringing was harsh, suffering abuse from a family member that he never told anyone about. He ran away from home at sixteen and joined up with the Soldiers in London. Their more inclusive and forgiving system of doing things suited him better. Caleb has described Temple as a human Irish Setter and that isn’t just because of his auburn hair. Temple is all enthusiasm and friendliness. He’s the talker and joker of the group and he’s not quite aware that his partners realize he does this in part to hide the emotional pain he’s in. Temple suffers from PTSD and hypersexuality syndrome, neither of which would have been well understood in the 1930s.

 

Temple is extremely outgoing by nature and is the one bisexual in the group. He does have a reputation a ladies man and his partners are willing to look past that, thinking it’s part of his attempts to cover up his pain. He truly loves is radio dramas, music and dancing. Never interrupt one of his dramas and dance with him when he asks and he’s a happy man.

 

 

 

So if you have any questions on how the gentlemen live their daily lives this is the time!

 

Jana Denardo – Soldiers of the Sun Demons!

August 16, 2015

Paul Richmond also did the cover for Soldiers. It’s also pretty amazing. Have a look at one of the battles.

 

 

I thought you might like a look at the villain of the piece, so here’s a drawing of him from an actual demonic lexicon. Hint: he’s a prince of hell and he is so much more powerful and dangerous than the lower level demons, Caleb, Agni and Temple are used to fighting. He is not really a looker.

 

 

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v170/DocDana/DocDana151/Astaroth_zpsgyipbsjl.jpg

 

So not only do they have to deal with having a new, untried partner and Temple’s past coming back to haunt him, the trio has to face this guy. He is most definitely not a looker but his ability to grant knowledge and wishes, at a high price that is leaving dead bodies all over Pittsburgh makes up for that.

 

The trick with this prince is that stopping a devil of this magnitude might be impossible. That leaves the team struggling to do the detective work to figure out who is summoning him and put an end to it before they end up soul-devoured and dead out in the cold.
As I said earlier, the action-adventure aspects of this series are every bit as fun for me to write as the romance, which is a bit atypical to say the least. And he’s just one of the demons that plague Caleb, Agni and Temple. What a way to begin a new year and a new partnership.

 

For a final picture, unemployment lines like this play a pivotal role in keeping the demon happy.

 

So what have been your favorite demon stories as villains (or otherwise), in any genre?

 

 

Jana Denardo – Soldiers of the Sun & Giveaway

August 16, 2015

Switching gears, let’s talk about the novel, Soldiers of the Sun. Technically it’s the third in the series, but as mentioned, it’s a stand alone and the first full-length story. (And hey at the end of this post will be a giveaway!). Paul Richmond did another fantastic cover for Soldiers. Have a look at it. Just love it, especially the menacing shadows.

The original inspiration for the whole Soldiers of the Sun series was Dreamspinner’s Necking anthology, looking for polyamorous relationships. Simple enough, so very open ended. I have a thing for groups of warriors fighting the supernatural so making the trio demon hunters was a natural for me.

As to why I set it in the 1930s, I have a lot of theories. The leading one is my brain hates me. It’s a time period in which I had done no research. I suspect it went a little like this: Hey you like research. It’s only a short story. You can do enough research to handle that without much pain.

The research ballooned to a lot of work but I do like research. That really is half the fun. I set the stories in the Pittsburgh area because I grew up there and why not learn about the history of my own stomping grounds? Of course it’s still tricky to write historicals because it’s so easy to get accidental anachronisms in there. I’m very glad for eagle-eyed editors.

I tried to research the lingo and lucked into a website that documented where they culled the slang from, movie-wise. That was helpful. I also ended up watching some movies from the time period, even though that’s not my thing other than the horror flicks. Still, it’s a good view into the lingo and the clothing styles, or at least the styles of the wealthy, which I just happen to have in this story.

Caleb, Temple and Agni live in a world of repression and depression. They are lucky the Soldiers of the Sun is a fairly inclusive organization, religious- and gender-wise. They have male and female teams and represent a wide range of beliefs. This has not, however, left them untouched by the Great Depression. Even their headquarters is showing signs of not having enough money for upkeep. Temple especially is infuriated by Prohibition. At least the Soldiers are savvy enough to have relaxation times for them, including Temple’s favorite: dancing. However, the biggest piece of luck they have is the generals are content to look the other way when it comes to their homosexual soldiers and tries to keep them together in teams. That said, they certainly are not living openly but what happens behind closed doors is ignored by the organization.

The Depression plays a large role in the story. Without giving away too much, it is the impetus of why the villain of the piece has been summoned from Hell. This Devil is known for granted wishes and money and keeping your fortune is something he can help you with. You can see the appeal. Caleb, Temple and Agni have their work cut out for them.

Here’s where they patrol nightly.  photo aerial of oakland 1930_zpsyhjtrcsl.jpg

 photo oakland feb 1932_zpsrksmoueb.jpg

 

 

The end result of all the inspiration was a team of demon hunters in the 1930s, keeping the city safe at a time when my grandmother was young. In fact, she and her friends make a cameo appearance in the Phipps Conservancy – a place you should check out if you’re ever in Pittsburgh. She was thrilled I put her in the story but sadly Grandma passed before this came out (August is her birth month) missing it by just a few months. She was would have been 100 and the novel is dedicated to her.

What draws you to historical fiction? Curious minds want to know. I’ll be giving away a copy of Snowbound to one lucky commentor.

Jana Denardo – Snowbound

August 16, 2015

Even though Snowbound was written before The Darkest Midnight in December, it takes place a year later and has something the novella doesn’t: a threesome. The trio is reeling from a loss when they find themselves stranded up on Mount Washington in a blizzard. All they want is to get home and lick their wounds but their headquarters is over in Oakland. Today, it’s just an annoying drive plagued with one-way streets but in the 1930s, it would have taken considerable effort to get there, including going down one of the Inclines, the funicular trains that dotted Mount Washington, and then across the rivers.

Before I go further, let’s have a look at the fantastic cover Paul Richmond did.

 photo SnowboundFS_zpsctqrarxj.jpg

Isn’t it great?”

Caleb, Temple, and Agni are more than glad to have a little forced time off. They’re all hurting, Temple most especially who suffers from PTSD, or shell shock as it was called then. He deals with his pain the only way he knows how, by trying to get intimate with his partners. I’ll talk more about this aspect of Temple later as it’s important.

I didn’t want them to just fall into bed immediately. It seemed like a very unlikely thing for them to do given the year in which this story is set and the level of repression in that time period. Also, they have a great working relationship and would have to wonder what this might do to it?

Caleb and Agni are aware Temple is in pain and aren’t sure if this is a good idea, not to mention the two have been lovers for some time. If this is a mistake will their relationship survive it? Is this really the right move for Temple? At this time period PTSD wasn’t particularly well understood and they are all young with a lot to learn. And of course, the big question, will they even live long enough to see it through?

What are some of your favorite hurt/comfort stories out there and what attracts you to the hurt/comfort trope? The comments will be open until tomorrow to give everyone a fair chance.

Jana Denardo Snowbound – Excerpt

August 16, 2015

Swing music blared out of the static Temple had been dialing through, making him grin. “That’s better. I want to dance.”

“Must you do that here?” Agni asked. “I was listening to the orchestra before you barged in.”

“You go be boring somewhere else.” Temple waved him off. “I’m going to dance and this is the only radio, so….”

Agni cast a look at Caleb. “I’m regretting not taking him up on his earlier offer.”

When Temple perked up, Agni added, “On going out in the snow. I could have buried him up to his eyes. Maybe that would have kept him out of trouble.”

“I honestly doubt it,” Caleb replied as Temple started gyrating to the music.

Agni lost interest in his book and his tea as he watched Temple. Caleb knew the look in Agni’s dark eyes: honest amusement. “You look very silly dancing by yourself, Temple.”

Nonchalantly Temple danced his way over to the bay window. He pulled the curtain shut, then spun over to Caleb, yanking him up from the couch. “Dance with me.”

“I don’t know how to swing,” Caleb protested, stumbling after Temple.

“I’ll teach you.”

“I’m a horrible dancer.”

“He really is,” Agni put in.

“Nonsense, you’re trainable,” Temple assured him. “I’ve seen you fight. You know how to move. You just have to figure out how to do it to music.”

“Don’t blame me when you lose a toe,” Caleb said, trying to find the beat in the wild music. He gave up and let Temple spin him around.

Agni laughed, watching them. Temple managed to make the complicated dance steps look easy, but Caleb felt like he was wrestling a many-armed demon. The occasional seductive touches Temple lavished on him only served to help that image. Finally Caleb managed to trip them both, and Temple ended up half-over the back of the couch.

Temple buried his fingers in Agni’s curls while he dangled over the couch, trying to drag Agni in for a kiss. Agni put his hand over Temple’s face.

“Don’t even think it.”

“Come on, dance with me, Agni. You’re right, your partner’s awful. He’s going to maim me.” Temple pouted.

“I warned you,” Caleb snorted.

“I’m busy, Temple.” Agni hefted the book he hadn’t been reading for a while.

Temple pushed it down, leaning in for that kiss, then froze. He cocked his head, listening intently. Caleb shut the radio off. The sounds of screams echoed loudly in the night. Cursing, the trio ran for the door where boots, winter gear, and weapons waited for them.