Lasting Friendships with Melanie Hansen + Exclusive Excerpt and Giveaway

September 28, 2015

lasting friendships

Hey, everyone, I’m Melanie, a frazzled and busy mom of two preteen boys (Lord, give me strength!). My little family is also about to face our 8th Navy move in 15 years, so things are a little hectic at the moment. But today I’m so excited to talk about my recent release with Dreamspinner Press, Signs of Life, the second book in my Resilient Love series! I love Kai and Jeremy with all my heart; they are very, very special to me. Sometimes, very rarely, a story just flows, and writing it is easy and natural; that’s how Signs of Life was for me. Despite the heavy themes of grief and loss, something I really want readers to take away from this book is the delight Kai and Jeremy both take in their friendship with secondary characters Loren and Jase. That’s what I would like to talk about today in this post, the dynamics of their friendship, and I’m also going to share a deleted scene and an exclusive excerpt with you.

Along with the romantic relationship enjoyed by the main characters in Signs of Life – Jeremy Speer and Kai Daniels – a major element of the story is their friendships with others. In real life no couple in a healthy relationship exists in a vacuum, and in my stories, I try to weave in secondary characters who are very important to the main couple. We all have friends who fulfill various needs in our lives separate and apart from our significant others, and my book characters are no different.

Jeremy and Jase
Jeremy Speer and Jase DeSantis (my romantic lead from Everything Changes) are high school friends and lovers who reconnected as adults. They have some history, but they hadn’t been all that close in recent years. When Jeremy’s husband is fatally injured in a car accident, Jase is the first one Jeremy thinks to call, and Jase, being the innate caretaker that he is, drops everything to be there for him at Brent’s death and the immediate aftermath.

This deleted scene gives you a glimpse into their relationship, and how important they are to each other. Their friendship is one of the foundations of Jeremy’s character development, and although this scene didn’t make it into the book for several reasons, I love it, and I wanted to share it:
Jeremy couldn’t even count how many times he’d stumbled out of the guest bedroom in the middle of the night to find Jase already up, wrestling with his own demons. Jase would never talk about the war with him, though, his eyes haunted and full of pain.

One particularly bad night, wanting and needing some physical forgetfulness, Jeremy made a clumsy sexual advance, pushing Jase back into the cushions of the couch and kissing him with a sort of panicked desperation. Jase cupped Jeremy’s face in his hands and responded briefly, letting Jeremy deepen the kiss, but when Jeremy reached between Jase’s legs to touch him, Jase caught his hand, kissing the palm and squeezing his fingers before gently pushing him away.
“Jase, please, I need you,” Jeremy begged, clutching at him. Jase disengaged Jeremy’s hands again and knelt on the floor at his feet, resting his hands lightly on Jeremy’s knees.
“No, babe, this isn’t what we need from each other right now,” Jase said softly. “Not like this.”
In an agony of embarrassment, Jeremy pushed Jase away and stood, bracing his hands against the nearest wall and breathing deeply, trying to find some control over his emotions and losing the battle. He felt Jase come up behind him and wrap his arms around his waist, anchoring him as Jeremy fell apart once again. He turned and buried his face in Jase’s neck as he sobbed, “I just miss him so much.”
Jase rocked him, rubbing his hands up and down Jeremy’s back, kissing the top of his head over and over as they rode out the storm together. Afterwards, weak with emotional overload, Jeremy let Jase lead him to his bedroom and pull him down onto the rumpled bed. Jase spooned up to Jeremy’s back and held him close as he whispered, “One day at a time, bud. One day at a time.”
Jase’s words, so simple yet so powerful, struck Jeremy like nothing else had. One day at a time. He didn’t have to worry about how he’d get through next month, next week or even the next fucking day. All he had to do was get through this day, and he needed to stop trying to use people, or drugs, or alcohol, to do it. If Brent could see him now, a sad, defeated and broken man, he’d be devastated.
For weeks Jase had been touting the benefits of yoga, so Jeremy tried it a few times, deciding it wasn’t for him. But running…running calmed him, focused him, quieted the noise in his head like nothing else could. He and Jase ran together as much as possible, and soon Jeremy was outdistancing him, running for hours, coming back to the apartment in a pleasant state of physical and mental exhaustion. He started sleeping better, and it was becoming easier to ride out the bad days.
Jeremy had learned to exist, and that was more than he could have hoped for a year ago.
When Jase got home from work one night, Jeremy told him that he was finally ready to move on. There was a flash of relief in Jase’s eyes, quickly masked, even as he protested that Jeremy could stay as long as he needed to.
“I have, Jase,” Jeremy said quietly. “I’ve stayed as long as I needed to. It’s time for me to make my own life and leave you to yours.”
“Will you move to your Coronado house, then?” Jase asked. They were sitting on Jase’s small balcony, sipping cups of coffee.
“No, I don’t want to live in San Diego anymore. Too many memories. I need a fresh start, a totally fresh start.”
“Where will you go? I assume back to Florida isn’t an option, for the same reason.”
Jeremy nodded. “I asked my realtor to look for listings in Northern California, and she actually stumbled across this.”
He pulled a folded piece of paper out of his jeans pocket and handed it over. Jase perused it with a raised eyebrow.
“Bend, Oregon?”
“Yeah. The city isn’t too big, but it’s big enough. And the running trails are supposed to be superb.”
“So you’re going to go up there and isolate yourself in this cabin in the woods – which is a fucking awesome cabin by the looks of it. ‘A Jacuzzi on the wraparound porch,’” he quoted from the listing using his best Robin Leach voice.
Jeremy shrugged, fighting a small smile despite himself.
“Fuckin’ moneybags,” Jase said without heat, tossing Jeremy’s paper back to him. Jeremy shrugged again. It was true enough.
“Jere,” Jase began tentatively. “I’m only saying this because I love you, man. I understand the fresh start, I do, but are you sure isolating yourself like this is the answer? How are you –“
“How am I ever going to meet someone?” Jeremy finished bitterly. “I don’t want to meet anyone, Jase. I had everything I ever wanted, and now he’s gone.”
“So you’re just gonna live the rest of your life alone, without companionship, without intimacy?”
“You mean without fucking? Oh, I expect that someday I’ll want to fuck. In fact, I already tried that once and got shot down.” Jeremy let his eyes travel with deliberate crudeness over Jase’s body, fury boiling through him.
“Jeremy,” Jase said earnestly, ignoring the insolent look, “you feel this way now, and I understand it –“
“Do you? Do you understand it, Jase? How can you possibly understand a goddamn thing about the way I feel? Stop shoving bullshit up my ass and let me live my life the way I fucking want!”
Now Jase was as angry as Jeremy had ever seen him, and he stood up and towered over Jeremy.
“And you don’t understand a fucking thing about me, Jere,” he hissed. “How I watched the man I love be blown into pieces right in front of my eyes, how I worked through my tears to keep him from bleeding to death right then and there. How I felt when I learned his heart had stopped twice on the way to Kabul. Fuck you!”
“But he’s alive, Jase, so fuck you!”
They were both breathing hard, staring each other down.
“Yes, he’s alive,” Jase finally whispered. “But he doesn’t want me. He’ll never want me. In a way he’s as lost to me as Brent is to you. I’ll have to watch him fall in love, and get married, maybe have children someday. I’ll have to watch him be happy with someone else. And that will fucking kill me.”
Jeremy watched the agony that suffused Jase’s face, and he set aside his own self-absorption long enough to come to terms with the fact that yes, maybe there were differing degrees of loss, but loss is still loss. He reached out and took Jase’s hand in his, squeezing his fingers.
“Jase,” he said gently. “I’m sorry. I truly am.”
Jase blinked back tears, then squeezed Jeremy’s hand in return and sat back down.
Jeremy blew out a breath. “I’m not ready for anything else, and I don’t know if I ever will be. If I even want to be, Jase. And besides, I don’t see you taking your own advice. Since I’ve been here, I haven’t seen you go on a single date.”
“I’m not ready either,” Jase said ruefully. “But at least I’m open to the possibility. I’m sorry I brought it up, but I’m worried about you. You’re just going to go stick yourself in BFE, man, and I don’t think that’s right.”
Jeremy opened his mouth to argue, and Jase held up his hand. “But it’s your life, babe. I’ll leave you to it. And I hope you know I’ll always be here for you.”
Later that night, Jeremy packed up his belongings as quietly as he could and stole out of the apartment, not before leaving Jase’s spare key on the counter along with a note: Thanks for everything.

Kai and Loren
Kai and Loren have a slightly different relationship than Jeremy and Jase do. They met as adults, each carrying some emotional baggage, and have been extremely close for eight years. They do most everything together, such as camping and hiking, or simply hanging out. Their friendship also contains an element of sexual intimacy, although Kai hates to classify Loren as a “fuck buddy” – he’s so much more than that.

They aren’t in love, but they love each other very much. Loren is Kai’s emotional support, the one he goes to when he has a problem he needs to talk out, or when he just needs a shoulder to cry on. When Kai first meets Jeremy, things are pretty rocky between them, so Kai turns to Loren more than once for a sympathetic ear and, yes, some plain talk. Loren isn’t afraid to call it as he sees it because he cares about Kai’s well-being. In this exclusive excerpt from Signs of Life, Kai has just had another upsetting encounter with Jeremy:

“You’d think he could have shared that little tidbit of info with you before he let you suck his dick,” Loren said caustically, looking up at Kai from his sprawl on Kai’s couch. It was a couple of days since the evening at Jeremy’s house, and this was the first time he’d been able to pin Loren down to talk about it.
He handed Loren a freshly opened beer and then plopped down beside him, taking a huge slug of his own.
“Honestly I think the whole evening took him by total surprise, from issuing the dinner invitation in the first place to the sex. I don’t think he’d planned it, Loren, in order to spring his ‘conditions’ on me after he got his rocks off at least once.”
“You’re nicer than I am, Kai. I’d have told him to get bent.” Loren drank some beer and then grabbed the TV remote, flipping on the TV and mindlessly scrolling through the channels so fast it made Kai dizzy.
“No, you wouldn’t have,” Kai retorted. “Jesus, the dude has suffered almost unimaginable loss. You can’t blame him for being closed off, cautious of letting anyone get close to him again.”
“He treated you like shit at the club, and what he did the other night wasn’t a whole lot better, Kai. Handing you your clothes and pushing you out the door like a john who was getting rid of a trick. Don’t let him use his loss as an excuse to be an asshole.”
“Would you turn that shit off?” Kai wrestled the remote away from Loren and clicked off the TV, throwing the remote into the chair the farthest away, knowing Loren was too comfortable and lazy to get up and go after it. “I want to talk to you about this!”
“The more you tell me, the more I want to go kick the dude’s ass,” Loren grumbled, but sipped his beer and looked at Kai expectantly. “So talk.”
Kai took a sip of his own beer, marshaling his thoughts. “He told me that the night at the club was the first sex he’d had since his husband died. When did we go, about two and a half, three months ago?”
“Something like that.”
“And he said his husband died more than two years ago. I’m the first one he’s even tried with since he lost his husband.”
“You think that makes me feel any better?” Loren asked. “To know you’re basically his rebound, his stepping stone from ‘unimaginable loss,’ as you said, back to the wild and wonderful world of dating and sex?”
“He’s got to start somewhere, Loren,” Kai said quietly. “You know I’m tough, and resilient, and obviously now I know the score. I think I can be good for him, and I won’t let him hurt me.”
Loren set his beer down on the coffee table and took Kai’s from his hand, putting it down next to his. “I know this will fall on deaf ears because you really can’t seem to help yourself, but you don’t have to save the world, Kai. You don’t have to be his little experiment boy.”
Kai sighed and leaned his head on Loren’s shoulder. “It’s not just that. I really like him, Loren. I don’t know why, exactly, but I do.”
“I know why. Because you want to fuck him,” Loren said.
Kai didn’t answer, and Loren heaved a sigh of his own. “Okay, have fun with that. Get laid, have a great time. But if he breaks your heart, so help me, I’ll break his goddamn face.”
Loren’s voice was fierce, deadly serious, and affection for him clogged Kai’s throat for a minute, making his own voice hoarse as he replied, “I know you will, man.” A short silence fell and then Kai asked, “Don’t you ever get tired of putting my broken pieces back together?”
Loren put an arm around him and hugged him close, kissing the top of his head. “Never,” he vowed in a whisper, then shoved Kai away and lunged for the remote, laughing at Kai’s curses, both of them letting the emotional tension relax into the comfort of easy friendship.

As a military brat and now a military spouse, building lasting friendships have been an ongoing challenge for me my entire life. My childhood and high school years were filled with transfers, both my family’s and my military friends’ families. Sadly, I’m not in touch with anyone from back then, even with the advent of social media.
During my 15 years as a Navy spouse, in each of our duty stations I’ve found that other military spouses hesitate to make friends with each other, because we’re eventually going to leave anyway. Oh, we’re friendly enough and we have our kids in common, but there’s nothing lasting about it. I think that’s partly why I’m fascinated with the idea of exploring close friendship in my stories.

More recently my online friends have become precious to me, because I can “take” them with me everywhere I move to. In fact, when we face another Permanent Change of Station within the next several months, and it’s such a relief to know that I don’t have to worry about losing touch with “my girls.” They’re always a tweet or a FB message away!

 

*Giveaway*

I’d love to hear about your experiences with friendship, the longest-lasting one you’ve had and why you’re so close. Please share in the comments! 2 lucky winners will be given a $10 Dreamspinner Press gift cards!

 

meljhansen@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/MelJoyAZ

http://www.melaniejhansen.com/

Signs of Life at Dreamspinner Press

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In the Face of Danger with Shelter Somerset

September 27, 2015
Inthefaceofdanger

Hi everyone, my name is Shelter Somerset, a writer with Dreamspinner Press since 2011. Thank you for wanting to learn more about my latest novel, Predator in Paradise, due out Sept. 25.

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Are you intrigued by the novel’s cover? I hope so. I like to think it’s an exciting tale that ventures a little outside of what you might expect for this genre.

Owen Underwood and Dwayne Bosco, basically the only characters in my novel, have been together a little over 10 years. Like many couples together a long time, they are growing apart. Work gives them little time to sort out their differences. So Owen leads Dwayne into the California wilderness for a chance to reexamine their relationship. Neither expects to come face to face with terror.

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This is my eighth novel, and I have to admit, writing it was no easy task. I truly immersed myself in Owen and Dwayne’s harrowing experience. Midway through, I broke out in hives! That never happened to me before. After numerous trips to the doctors and even the emergency room, no one could figure out the cause. I can only guess the stress of writing Owen and Dwayne’s story was to blame. But don’t let that scare you off! I’ve never heard of a reader getting sick from a book—at least not literally.

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One of the fun things about adventure stories is you can “referee” while you read; in other words, you get to figure out what you would do in place of the characters’ actions, or maybe you agree with them. If you get a chance to read the novel, I’d love to hear how you would have survived Owen and Dwayne’s ordeal, and what you would have done differently. Did you think their actions were appropriate? Did you see a way out that maybe they missed? What did you think of their relationship?

Thank you for your interest in Predator in Paradise, and I look forward to reading your thoughts and to share some more of my own.

Best Wishes,

Shelter Somerset

Where to buy Predator in Paradise:

You can follow me on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/ShelterSomerset

Artistic Inspiration with Lane Hayes – Post and Giveaway

September 25, 2015

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Hello! I’m Lane Hayes and today is a very special day.  Sure, it’s 3 months till Christmas, Halloween is just over a month away and the kids have finally settled into their school routine (phew!) but it’s also Release Day for Better Than Safe, book #4 in the Better Than Stories series.  Woohoo! This book is Paul’s story.  You may remember him from Better Than Friends, but if you’re new to the series, don’t worry. All the books are standalones.  You won’t miss out if you haven’t read the others first, but hopefully you’ll be interested in taking a peek at the other boys’ stories too. ☺

Better Than Safe is ultimately a story about facing fear and finding things may just be better than expected.  Paul is one of those very “together” guys.  He’s a wealthy, worldly, successful executive for an advertisement agency specializing in haute couture.  The world of high fashion may appear glamorous but Paul knows it can be sheer bedlam. Which is why he’d love to meet a nice, easy going, uncomplicated man.  Instead, he meets Seth.  Seth is the very opposite of everything Paul is sure he wants in his life.  But he may be exactly what Paul needs. If you’re familiar with any of my books, you’ll know I adore the “opposites attract” trope. I love the feverish tension when two unlikely men find they simply can’t stay away from each other. In Paul’s case, he’s sure he has nothing in common with Seth.  Except fashion, art and perhaps a heavy dose of physical chemistry.  Not a bad start.

I’m often asked what inspires me.  For me, it always begins with the city in which the story takes place. The Better Than Stories are set in Washington DC, which may conjure images of political intrigue for some, but let’s not forget that DC is also home to the Smithsonian, the largest museum and research complex in the world. For an art lover, it is paradise! I’ve been hoping to find a way to tie in my love of art to one of my books and Better Than Safe gave me the perfect opportunity.  Seth is an artist, Paul is an art enthusiast. Like me, he’d like nothing more than to spend a day getting lost in a museum.  Paul appreciates the nuances of the creative process.  He understands the quirkier mindset and oddball communicative style that often leads to a masterpiece.  And he knows how to “read” art. The heavy-handed brush stroke, the use of color, movement and composition.  In the world of art and to some degree, in life, Paul is the consummate observer.  Seth is a doer. He’s manic, wild and difficult to know. At one point, Paul likens him to a beautiful bird with a broken wing… able to fly at a moment’s notice, and yet not always sure of his own strength.

Finding an unexpected piece of you in someone else is true romance. I love stories of self doubt and personal tension in which a character is certain they have all the answers, only to discover they really don’t know a thing.  The process of leaving oneself open to possibility is the beginning of a new start.  And ultimately, it’s better than being safe.

Giveaway Opportunity!

Books are my first love, but art is a strong second. One of my favorite places is MOMA in New York City.  I love modern art in particular.  Seeing my favorite Picasso’s on exhibit is a thrill to me. It never gets old!  I’d like to giveaway 2 $10 gift cards to Dreamspinner Press.  For a chance to win, all you have to do is name your favorite pastime and give an example.  For example… I love modern art. One of my favorite pieces is this one by Pablo Picasso.

 

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Thank you so much for stopping by today! I’ll be checking in often to say hello, so please be sure to leave comments!

Happy Reading!

Lane Hayes xo

 

Better Than Safe is available now!
Dreamspinner Press:
http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6826

Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/Better-Than-Safe-Stories-ebook/dp/B015G8RRRO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1442596983&sr=8-1&keywords=lane+hayes+better+than+safe

Contact the Author:

Lane’s Blog: http://lanehayes.wordpress.com

Twitter:  LaneHayes3

Facebook:  LaneHayesauthor or Lane Hayes

Email:  lanehayes@ymail.com or lanehayes3@gmail.com

 

*Here’s an inspiration pic of Seth, by the way ☺.  Kind of gorgeous, eh?

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Dream Home with Caitlin Ricci – Blog Post and Giveaway

September 21, 2015

DREAM HOME

Hey everyone! I’m Caitlin Ricci and today I’d like to talk a little bit about my new contemporary gay romance novel, One More Time, which comes out through Dreamspinner Press on September 21st. Thank you for joining me today and I hope you’re having a good time wherever you are in the world.

When I was ten the Navy transferred my mom and I to Colorado and back then I thought everyone had a horse and I would be going to school with a bunch of cowboys and since I had been riding for years at that point I was ectatic. I really thought this would be my chance to have a horse in my backyard that I rode to school every day. Well, that wasn’t really the case of course but there are plenty of horses around and I fell in love with the mountains instantly. I’d always been a water baby up until moving here since we’d been on the coast constantly. In Colorado we have rivers and some lakes but most of the water I see everyday is man made reservoirs so that changed my mind in a hurry about going into that water anytime soon.

What didn’t change though was my love of horses, and of small towns, and in Colorado I found a newfound joy in getting to go riding in those mountains. Camping with horses and taking day trips into the mountains is a big thing here whereas everyone back east that I knew thought that going on an hour long trail ride into the woods was a highlight. I got a new perspective here and I found my love of small towns again. I’d grown up in one in Maine and the lack of people and cars had always made me happy.

I knew I wanted to write about a small Colorado mountain town at some point but it wasn’t until I wrote Weathering the Storm, a young adult novel through Harmony Ink Press, that I really got to start playing with that idea. And in that novel Caleb and Trent came into existence. They were supporting characters but people kept asking for their story while I was doing edits and I knew I wanted to spend more time with them, and with my new little town of Thornwood. I wanted to go live there and never leave, especially when I gave Caleb a large cabin overlooking horse pastures. That is a my dream property.

And since I fell so hard for Trent and Caleb, and Thornwood too, I knew that this was going to be the start of a series of novels all taking place in my tiny town in Colorado.

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To win an ebook copy of any book from my Dreamspinner or Harmony Ink back list please answer this question in the comments: Now that you know my dream home, what would yours be?

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Thank you for joining me today. Please keep in touch. I’d love to hear from you.

My email is: authorcaitlinricci@gmail.com

You can keep up to date with all my latest news here: www.caitlinricci.com

If you like facebook I’m here: https://www.facebook.com/caitlin.ricci.7

Twitter users? Join me here: https://twitter.com/CaitlinRicci

One More Time at Dreamspinner Press.

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Building Love with Avon Gale

September 20, 2015

Building Love

Hi there! My name is Avon Gale, and my first novel, “Let the Wrong Light In,” comes out on Friday. Yay! Dreamspinner was kind enough to offer me a blog post to say hello and tell you about the book. It’s my first novel, and I’m very excited to share it with you!

The story is about Avery Hextall, a promising junior associate at a commercial architecture firm, who has a stuffy, uptight project manager named Malin Lacroix that he can’t stand — and yet, totally wants to bang. When Avery’s design for a new performing arts center is chosen by the firm, Malin and Avery are forced to work closely together to see it built — and find themselves rushing headlong into a secretive, risky relationship that could cost them both their careers.

In order for them to have a future together, bold, impulsive Avery will have to come to terms with his own insecurities and help the emotionally-distant Malin move beyond a devastating tragedy from his past.

In the book, I use a lot of metaphors relating the characters to different aspects of buildings and architecture. Avery is an extrovert and a people-pleaser, so it made sense to me that he would be interested in commercial architecture, and in creating shared spaces for communities.

Malin, however, is an introvert who is more comfortable in his own head than with other people, and he began his career in residential design. Houses are symbols of our subconscious, and I thought it fit well with Malin’s personality that his initial interest in architecture would be residential in nature. How Malin eventually ends up as a project manager in a commercial firm is a part of their story.

I thought I’d take this opportunity to talk a little about the architecture that’s described in the book. I’m not an architect (too much math!) but I do have an art history degree, and one thing I’ve always loved is writing about art/architecture. I primarily studied ancient art, but I did have to take a few classes in modern and I always really enjoyed them. It’s helpful to me to have reference photographs to work with, so when I sat down to write I went looking for some examples of modern architecture, both commercial and residential, as research for the novel.

While the performing arts center that Avery designs is fictional, I based it on the work of architect Moshe Safdie. Safdie designed the Kauffman Performing Arts center in Kansas City and the United States Institute of Peace Headquarters in DC, as well as various other community buildings throughout Canada, the US, and Israel. He’s noted for his use of strong geometric patterns and bold curves, and glass and windows feature heavily in all of his designs —  much like Avery’s.

Safdie’s goal as an architect is to provide meaningful, inclusionary spaces for communities to come together, and he’s also known to embrace sustainability and incorporate green spaces into his building plans. This also reminded me very much of Avery, and while the Knight Performing Arts Center isn’t based on one particular building, Safdie was definitely my inspiration.

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United States Institute of Peace (Moshe Safdie)

Also, while on a boat tour of the city of Montreal in 2012, it was seeing Safdie’s Habitat 67 that made me want to write a book about architects! Initially my commercial architect was going to be French-Canadian like Safdie, but characters are contrary creatures and Avery just wouldn’t cooperate. So I decided to make my project-manager and residential designer French-Canadian, instead. Hence, Malin Lacroix.

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Habitat 67, Montreal (Moshe Safdie)

As for Malin, his designs were based on mid-century modernist architects like Craig Ellwood and A. Quincy Jones. Both were noted for their use of strong lines, light and glass, and Ellwood has a great quote about how truly great architecture should invoke strong emotions from the viewer.

As Malin’s emotions are definitely tied up with one particular house in the story, I thought that was particularly fitting for him. I also saw a great picture of Ellwood smoking, which immediately made me think of Malin. Some of Ellwood and Jones’ work is a bit too dated now to be entirely what I saw in my head when I thought of Malin’s Berkshire House, but the general ideas are there.

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Daphne House (Craig Ellwood)

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Holmby Hills Home (A. Quincy Jones)

I had a lot of fun looking for the reference photos for the various buildings and design styles in the book, and if you’re interested in looking at any of them, I’ve got a board on my Pinterest devoted to locations. And if anyone finds a house that looks like the one described in the novel, send it my way as I’d love to see it!

What kind of building would you say best describes you, and why? Sleek and modern, overwrought and gothic (that’d definitely be mine), classic and elegant? Would your building avatar be made of glass, include water slides for no reason (because mine would), have soaring towers and spiral staircases? The possibilities are endless! Leave a comment, and a picture or link if you like! One commenter will be chosen at random to win a copy of the book.

Let the Wrong Light In is available for pre-order on Dreamspinner’s website, and will be released on September 25th.

I love talking to people basically all the time, so hit me up on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest and come say hello! You can also find me on my website, www.avongalewrites.com.

Fight For Your Right with Evan Gilbert

September 18, 2015

Fight ForYour Right

 

Evan Gilbert here. My latest novella, Love Turned Blue, releases on September 16, 2015 amid the continuing brouhaha of religious objection to the Supreme Court’s decision this past June affirming the constitutionally protected right of same sex couples to marry. The movement is currently personified by Kim Davis who, as I write this, has just been released from jail after defying court orders to issue marriage licenses in her capacity as a county clerk. Ms. Davis has essentially declared that God won’t allow her to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples. She claims God’s law and her sincerely held religious beliefs trump the US Constitution and the rights of LGBTQ individuals.
I have deep roots in the African-American community, where there are a lot of Kim Davises running around.  They take heated exception to any comparison between the campaign for gay rights and the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. The church is still the centerpiece of the community, and homophobia is perhaps a bit more heavily entrenched here than in the rest of American society. Such attitudes have always made it very difficult for gay African-American men to form committed relationships with each other. Unfortunately, even in today’s more open society, there are still gay black men who are afraid to come out of the closet, and who cheat themselves of the joys and benefits that come from having a loving spouse or partner in their lives.
Slade Thompson, one of the main characters in Love Turned Blue, started his adult life as such a man. He married a woman to please his parents, believing rightfully that they would disown him if they found out he was gay. He deprived both himself and his wife of real love and affection for many years. Fortunately for them, Slade eventually grew to embrace his same sex desires and embarked on a path that eventually brought him to Bruno. But he also brought along the fallout from his failed marriage, including a bitter teenaged son who hasn’t forgiven him for the turmoil he created.  These are not exactly the optimal circumstances for beginning a good, strong relationship.
Three people in my life inspired me to write Love Turned Blue. Two of them are middle-aged black men who have been in love with each other for fourteen years. They are a faithful couple, but they live in separate apartments and won’t even consider tying the knot now that their right to marry has been secured. They are afraid their families will be devastated if they live openly as gay men. The third person is also a gay middle-aged man. He grew up in the church and is a devout Christian. He firmly believes the Biblical admonition of homosexuality as an abomination in the eyes of God. He’s told me how lonely he is and how he longs to have a man in his life. But he denies himself that companionship because he believes the only way he can avoid violating Biblical law is to refrain from all homosexual activity.
The LGBTQ community’s fight for rights and equality is far from over. It is still legal in most of this country for a man to be fired from his job for being gay. Local, state, and federal legislatures are considering laws that would allow people with “sincerely held religious beliefs” to discriminate against LGBTQ citizens. Conservative courts will likely find ways to uphold many of these laws. In short, there is still a lot of stigma out there for people who don’t fall under the heterosexual banner. Thankfully, there are many LGBTQ men and women who continue to stand up and live their lives proudly. We need more movies, television shows, and stories about men and women of all ages and races who are not afraid or ashamed to be who they are. And that’s why I love writing about diverse men who find love and happiness with each other.
So, what do you think about gay love and marriage in the good ol’ USA? Should the right to religious freedom supersede the right of a gay man to live where he chooses or to marry the man he loves? I’d love for everyone to share their thoughts, so please leave a comment. You’re also welcome to write me directly anytime at EvGilvibes@gmail.com.

Stalked by Susanna Hays – The Work Process

September 17, 2015

How I came up with the idea for Stalked originally came from an open submission call from another site. It was stated that they wanted a unique spin on shape shifters that did not use the alpha/beta/omega tropes, and I thought I’d give it a shot. This was new territory for me because, as stated previously, I never wrote about shifters before.

 

When working on Stalked, I just recently bought Scrivener, which was a new program to me at the time. I instantly fell in love with it, and even more so when working on my second novel and using much more of the features provided. The program is about $40 USD and I highly recommend it to those who love to outline and have many files for one story. I am currently using it as a virtual trapper keeper for all my stories since I sometimes like to flop to different stories at the same time.

 

My favorite parts in writing Stalked has to be the silly dialogue between Yori and Bryce. I love writing banters and silly lines, so their dialogue was something that was part of my comfort zone. I also liked writing how protective Bryce is of Yori.

 

When it came to actually submitting my work, it was very nerve wracking. Working with Dreamspinner though has been an amazing experience, and I’m so glad that they gave me such a great opportunity. I am proud to say that I am continuing to work with them and that they are helping me grow not only as an author, but as a writer as well.

 

Stalked By Susanna Hays – Thoughts After Publishing

September 17, 2015

For Stalked, I did not create an outline like I did for my second novel. I found it much more difficult this way, and for new authors who are struggling, I would suggest working with an outline since it does keep things better organized.

When creating my characters, I would fiddle around in the Sims until I created a character I liked. I would then look at Pinterest and try to find pictures that closely resembled the ones I made in Sims.

 

Yori is a different type of protagonist than I usually create. He is shy and more dependent compared to the protagonists I’ve created in the past. The reason for this is that I really wanted to get out of my comfort zone when creating the characters. This is the first shifter story I’ve created as well (I tend to write more in the way of vampires and ghosts), so this story as a whole was a bit more challenging to me.

 

Bryce was difficult for me to work with. I wanted him to be a supportive boyfriend, but I had a difficult time finding ways to make him interesting. It took many tries to try to get his personality down. With him and Yori being a couple right when the story starts, there wasn’t the UST that I would rely on like in my past stories.  Instead, I worked on keeping their relationship strong after being together for so many years.

 

Lance was a character I just went all out with and had fun with. I gave him the hammiest lines and went crazy with him to contrast against Yori and Bryce. Basically, I wanted him to be the opposite of Bryce, but still give them some similarities. He was enjoyable to create even with some of his cringy lines.

 

Things I would go back and change would be to not try to go out of my comfort zone so much in one story. I think I should have toned it back a bit when it came to that so it wouldn’t have been as much of a challenge to write, but I found it to be a great writing experience as well.

 

yori

Stalked by Susanna Hays – Release Party

September 17, 2015

Hi,

My name is Sue and I am here to talk about my first novel, Stalked.

The story follows Yori Tanaka, a young man who suffers from crippling anxiety and also carries the gene known as the “Beast Syndrome.” He watched his father suffer through this terrible mutation, and is now worried that the same thing will happen to him.

Yori Tanaka lives with crippling anxiety, knowing he carries the “Beast Syndrome” gene yet still unsure what activates it. Thankfully, his boyfriend, Bryce Green, is down to earth and has been more than patient and supportive for the last five years.

But their lives are about to change. When Lance Haney, an old friend, rolls into town, Yori is excited to see him at first—until Yori learns Lance’s motives. Full of malice and bad intentions, Lance plans to activate Yori’s “Beast Syndrome” gene, and Yori’s greatest fear is about to become a reality.

The story is 156 pages long and is a quick read. I’m excited to discuss Stalked and answer any questions about it.

Racing For Love: If I Were Fire by Heloise West

September 16, 2015

 If I Were Fire

Hello all, I’m Heloise West, author of If I Were Fire, a novella set in 18th century Tuscany.

I wanted to give some background to the story and to enlarge on one aspect of it—the horse races (called palio) that the people of Siena live for every year. For the novella, the race has already happened, and the characters are dealing with the aftermath.

More than one race is held during the year, but it’s the July 2nd and August 16th races that are the most important. We spent a week in Siena a few years ago in September and not long after the last palio. The winners were still celebrating, marching through the streets and singing, banging drums, pots and pans, sucking on their pacifiers, and wearing cardboard stove pipes.

I did say pacifier, and we’ll get back to that ;) .

Because our hotel was in the Wolf contrada, I made Amadeo Neruccio, one of the major characters in the novella, a member of the Wolf.

The races go back to before the 13th century and are dependent on an interesting aspect of Siena, the contrade. In the 21st century, Siena’s streets are made up of separate districts, each with their own church, museum, and history. In the 12th and to the 18th, there were more than 59 of these contrade, though now there are only 17. One theory of their origins has it that they began life as military groups, each district with its own warehouse of weapons to draw on in case of attack. Siena is also divided into thirds, terza, which date before even the 12th century and the original site of the Roman colony Saena Julia (maybe in the time of Sulla). Before that, an Etruscan hill fort stood in its place.

All these Italian communes have long, long histories and consequently long memories.

Governor Violante Beatrice, a widow of one of the last of the Medici, was sent to Siena from the Tuscan court to keep her out of the trouble in the early 1700s, a few years after the events of this story took place. She reorganized the contrade and the palio, giving both the shape and form they have in present day Siena.

The races are called palio for the banner that is the prize. The tradition lasted over the centuries because of the religious significance attached to them, as the races are dedicated to specific saints. The communes of Tuscany once all ran the palio in their towns, but apparently Mussolini (1935) declared the term to be used exclusively for the Sienese palio.

As inauspicious as that is, Siena is the town that has preserved this ancient tradition, not for the tourists, but for themselves. The palio and the contrade are not for the tourists. It’s worth repeating. With a cold glance, they shut you out from the casual observance of their community rites of the palio, the contrada. A friendly smile from an outsider will be ignored.

I didn’t care. I was just thrilled to be there. We arrived on a Sunday morning and slept the day away to get rid of the jet lag. That evening, in warm but temperate southern Tuscany, we sat in the Campo, had a glass of wine and reveled in the soft evening. The Campo was well lit and with lots of people around sitting at the outdoor cafes, or having an after dinner walk, old people arm and arm. We heard whistles and singing, drums and cymbals, and a parade of people, old and young, marched by chanting the contrada songs their parents and grandparents taught them. The pacifiers represent the contrada reborn in the palio win. Various other items like the chimney stove pipes represent the symbols of the particular contrada and the past trades of those districts.

The palio goes on in the hearts and minds of the Sienese all year round, beginning again with the last win. It’s complicated and entrenched, but not so entrenched that outsiders can’t become contrada members. “Seven Seasons In Siena: My Quixotic Quest for Acceptance Among Tuscany’s Proudest People” is a wonderful memoir by Robert Rodi, an American and a gay man, who falls passionately in love with Siena and becomes determined to become a member of the Caterpillar contrada.  “La Terra In Piazza” is a detailed and complicated (in a good way) interpretation of the palio, by Alan Dundes and Allesandro Falassi. This essay is a blend of information from those books and my own memories.

Two fictional favorites of mine about historical Siena are: “The Daughter of Siena” by Marina Fiorato and “Juliet” by Anne Fortier. The former is a fiction about how Governor Violante Beatrice managed those changes to the ancient city’s tradition with a romance/mystery at the heart of it. The latter is a bit of a parnormal take on the Romeo and Juliet story, as tradition has it the story of the doomed lovers originated in Siena, not Shakespeare’s Verona.

What’s your favorite city (that’s not your hometown) and why?

 

IfIWereFireFS

 If I Were Fire is out now! Get your copy today!