Mountain Lions, Jaguars, and Owls, oh my! with A.J. Marcus

September 30, 2015

Hey readers! Looks like I’m taking over the Dreamspinner blog for a few hours. I’m A.J. Marcus, and this is all to promote my new release “The Kachina Job.” This book marks the first time, although not the last time, that I’ve ventured into the world of shifter romance. I decided to go with some shifters that aren’t well explored in M/M romance and also decided to try my hand at a ménage story at the same time. When I got the responses back from my beta readers, I knew I’d done something right. And with the reviews I’ve seen so far…yes I read some reviews…the readers are pleased with the story and we might have to come back and explore some of the ideas I’ve tossed out in the world in future books.

Over the next few hours, with my series of posts, I’ll explore the various characters and the animals that inspired them. For folks who are familiar with my writing, you know that the animals are as important in my books as the people, and in a world where the people can become animals, it opens up a whole new palate of opportunities. I love what a lot of writers do with shifters, and then there are writers that make me cringe with what they do with shifters. I urge people to please study the animals they write about be it real animals or fantasy shifters. Understanding makes things that much more real.

In the case of the shifters in “The Kachina Job”, I’ve worked with both birds of prey and big cats in the past. I’ve had birds in my life for years, they are incredibly fascinating and even as a master falconer, I still learn things every day, when I choose to listen. With the big cats, I spent several years while I lived in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex being photographer for the Bridgeport Nature Center, now called CARE, Center for Animal Research and Education. The big cats are awesome, but I do urge folks not to try and make them pets. They are wild animals. A lion or tiger in your house will eat your couch, dog, and possibly you. At least with most raptors, they can learn to tolerate the silly humans they share the world with.

I tried to bring some of my knowledge of these incredible animals to my story with the three hunky shifters as they struggle to find the missing kachina and work out their feelings toward each other all before the evil werewolf can claim the power that will reshape the shifter world in his dark image.

Here’s the cover and the blurb for “The Kachina Job”

TheKachinaJob-Preview

Phillip Twohands is a thief and a weremountain lion. When he takes a job stealing an ugly kachina, he never realizes it will change his life forever. Daniel Hernandez is a werejaguar who is hired to steal the same kachina by the same werewolf who hired Phillip. When their paths cross, it becomes clear the tension between them is not all about rivalry.
The local sheriff, Shannon O’Flaherty, catches them in the act and has no choice but to take the two into his personal custody, which quickly ends up with the three of them in bed together.
When they learn the kachina has an ancient wolf spirit trapped inside, they rally to prevent it from transferring its power to the werewolf who hired them, but it will take all the strength in their new bond to succeed.

Here’s the buy link for “The Kachina Job”

Next post we’ll look at Phillip as a character and the mountain lion inside him.

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.

Lovers & Fighters Release Party Extravaganza! ft. Nash Summers

September 8, 2015

Lovers & Fighters by Nash Summers

Hey guys. I’m Nash. Thanks for stopping by.

I’m here to chat about my new novella that’s coming out tomorrow titled Lovers & Fighters.

You can also check out my pathetically small Pinterest inspiration board for Lovers & Fighters.

 

I wrote Lovers & Fighters about a year and a half ago. It was my first exploration into M/M contemporary in a slightly longer format. I have a tendency to write short stories. I think it’s because of my short attention span. I went through a lot of ups and downs with the story, mostly because I thought I created two almost unlikeable characters. Scott and Julian each have redeeming qualities, and hopefully most readers will enjoy their story despite their obvious flaws. Or maybe because of their obvious flaws.

At one point in the story, Scott reflects on his poisonous first love. I call the relationship poisonous because I viewed it as being manipulative, one-sided, and extremely unhealthy. I think a lot of people have been in relationships like this. Not necessarily abusive relationships, but ones where the love is so fierce yet completely unrequited.

 

Here’s a quote from Lovers & Fighters about first love, and first loss:

It felt to me like someone had ripped my heart out of my chest, like there was a vacancy there that I wanted to fill with all the bad things that embodied this talented boy I’d thought I loved.

My first love took me this way. It wasn’t an unhealthy relationship, and we’re still friends, but the kind of longing I felt at that time for another person was something indescribable, and almost torturous. I knew I’d never be able to go on without him in my life. Mind you, I was sixteen years old, knew everything about everything, and thought my life would fall apart if my best friend was angry with me. So, I wanted to write a story about that kind of overbearing love, not necessarily first love, but consuming love. Lovers & Fighters is the result.

A few lovely readers have said that this story isn’t a romance, and that it is, instead, a love story. That’s given me a lot of food for thought. I completely agree with them, and thinking about it now, I think a good majority of the stories I’ve written, or plan to write, could be considered love stories instead of romances. Which makes sense. In person, I’m not romantic.

Sometimes when people I know ask me what kinds of stories I write and I say, “Romance”, they’re surprised. It might be because I’m an atypical romantic. Romance to me isn’t flowers or rom-com movies or wedding rings (not that there’s anything wrong with any of those things, of course). To me, romance is companionable silences while driving through the rain down a dusky stretch of road. It’s listening to my favorite album and holding someone’s hand. But it’s also drinking beer and playing a co-op FPS together.

I guess I think the word romance can mean absolutely anything to anyone.

 

Thanks for stopping by! If anyone out there in the great, big blogverse would like to tell me about their first love, or even their ideal version of romance, I’d love to hear it.

 

- Nash

Bowerbirds (Nested Hearts: Book Two) by Ada Maria Soto – Good morning, Goodnight , and Good Afternoon (and one more chance to win)

August 26, 2015

BowerbirdsFS

 

 

This is me wrapping up for the night. I know it’s late for some, very late for others, and midafternoon for still others. Thank you all who’ve dropped in to say hi and please keep commenting. If you want to have one more chance to win a copy comment here and tell me what you think might happen in Bowerbirds. Feel free to throw out completely outlandish, crack monkey ideas. Start with alien abduction and go from there.

I’m going to be heading to the Romance Writers of New Zealand annual conference tomorrow but I’ll check these posts during tea breaks and I won’t draw the giveaway winners until Sunday my time (Saturday for most everyone else.)

For all of you who went and bought a copy today thank you so very much. I really, truly, hope you enjoy it. A lot of work by a lot of different people went into getting this story out to you. Cooper West, Roan, my senior editor Tricia Kristufek, as well as an untold number of proofreaders put epic effort into cleaning up all my dyslexic inspired oops. And I can’t sign off without mentioning Paul Richmond and his amazing cover art.

So again thank you all, good night, and happy reading.

Ada Maria Soto

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Bowerbirds (Nested Hearts: Book Two) available through Dreamspinner Press

ThankYouComeAgain

Bowerbirds (Nested Hearts: Book Two) by Ada Maria Soto – Excerpt 3

August 26, 2015

I can’t help it, there’s nothing like a guy in a tux. I just had to get James and Gabe into formal clothes at least once. Then of course I had to get those clothes off.

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The doors slid open. A Town Car was waiting at the curb. They didn’t talk as they made the short trip to Gabe’s building. They just held hands and watched the lights go past outside.

They didn’t even talk as the elevator took them swiftly and smoothly up to Gabe’s place. The lights automatically came on as they stepped out of the elevator, neither too fast nor too bright; a soft fade-up to a warm glow.

Gabe stepped close and pulled on James’s bow tie until it came loose and slipped from around his neck. He let it drop through his fingers; it fell to the floor without even a whisper. He put the tips of his fingers to James’s cheek next. James leaned into them, noticing the way two were rough and two were smooth. Gabe must have been chewing on them again.

He reached up and pulled on Gabe’s tie. It slid from its knot more easily than his had. The silk was cool on the ends and warm where it had gone around Gabe’s neck. He let it drop from his fingers as well.

Gabe took a few steps back, and James followed as if being led in a dance. And he followed where Gabe led. It was so easy and felt so right. He usually avoided the easy path. Easy was usually wrong.

Gabe changed directions, moving quickly behind James and slipping his coat from his body. James shivered at the sudden change in temperature, from being wrapped in the sultry jacket to having only the fine linen shirt between his body and the air.

The chill left as quickly as it had arrived. Gabe stepped in close, pressing himself to James’s back, putting out a powerful heat. He leaned back, still feeling like he was in a dance that had no music with a rhythm that was in constant flux. But still Gabe was leading perfectly.

Gabe stripped off his own jacket without ever taking his chest from James’s body. He let the jacket drop to the floor, not even bothering to toss it toward the hooks as he had with James’s.

He pressed his lips to James’s neck, right above his collar. James felt his toes curl and his body tingle. Gabe’s fingers were back, skimming along his cheek, and his thumb brushed across James’s lips. He flicked out his tongue to tickle it.

Gabe exhaled long and slow, his warm breath slipping under James’s collar. His fingers left James’s face and went instead to his throat, popping open the high collar buttons. James let out a long breath, unaware of just how constricted he had felt until that moment.

Gabe slid around him until they were once again face-to-face. He thought they might kiss, but instead Gabe just looked at him, eyes dark in the dim light. He felt his breath hitch and that tightening in his chest return. It was so much like the way Gabe had looked at him their first night. All those months ago now, standing so close that James had been able to smell the hint of peppers on his skin.

Now Gabe smelled faintly of fancy cologne that had nearly worn away.

He took Gabe’s hand and laced their fingers together as if they would dance. Gabe took his other hand, lifted it, and kissed his palm. James closed his eyes and nearly fell forward. Gabe kissed the heel of his palm next and then placed a kiss on the inside of his wrist. James whimpered softly. Somehow those three small kisses had his head spinning with greater pleasure than kisses in far more intimate areas.

Gabe stepped backward, leading them with just the knowledge of the dimensions of his own home.

He didn’t lead them to the bedroom, but rather to the large couch of cool leather draped with blankets of the same spun and woven silk as the one on Gabe’s bed. He sat on them and drew James onto his lap, giving James the height advantage for once.

James took it, tilting Gabe’s head back and into a slow, lazy kiss, their tongues just flitting around each other’s, chasing the flavor of champagne. Gabe’s arms went around his body, pulling him close. James’s fingers went into Gabe’s hair, tangling themselves in the dark curls, destroying the last of the control imposed by handfuls of hair gel that smelled slightly of mint and clashed with the cologne.

Gabe sighed into the kiss and held James tight.

He and Gabe kissed. He didn’t think about time; he didn’t think about anything beyond the feel of Gabe’s arms around him and the taste of Gabe on his lips, the sound of their tiny moans and sighs in his ears.

At some point Gabe pulled away from the kiss and took a deep breath. He leaned in, laying his head against James’s chest. James became aware of his own heart pounding strong and steady. Gabe looked up at him, a small soft smile on his lips. James kissed those lips, then stood. Gabe followed.

This time James took Gabe’s hand and led the dance toward the bedroom. There was no rush. He was content to keep kissing if that was all the night had in store, but he wanted to be lying down in Gabe’s arms while it happened.

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Bowerbirds (Nested Hearts: Book Two) available through Dreamspinner Press. BowerbirdsSmall

Bowerbirds (Nested Hearts: Book Two) by Ada Maria Soto – Plot or Die!

August 26, 2015

My evil enabler Cooper West and I spend a fair amount of time bouncing plot ideas and bits and pieces of WiPs at each other. She’s the one who talked me out of deleting Empty Nests. In the time we’ve been doing this it has become very clear that we have vastly different approaches in how we attack a project. She has her characters and a base idea then sits down to write. That is something I cannot do.

I’m a plotter. I’ve tried to just sit down and write a story. This is how I’ve ended up with a dozen barely started projects in my WiP folder. If I don’t have at least a beginning, middle, and end my project is dead before my fingers ever hit the keys. I blame years of theater and film training on this.

In my undergrad days I had a wonderful mad Russian for a professor, who despite being devout to Anton Chekhov who wrote four act plays, believed that plays should have three act and that the five acts Shakespeare is usually cut into is just completely mad. Of course this is the man who also said “Shakespeare wrote it wrong” when discussing Hamlet. In grad school my film writing professor was a BIG proponent of the three act structure as well as outlining. She believed that a step outline, giving brief notes on every single scene was necessary before getting anywhere near the actual meat of the writing. All this seems to have sunk in.

Bowerbirds ScrivI don’t think my books necessarily have that nice three act structure by the final draft but they certainly start like that. It’s one of the reasons I love Scrivener writing software. I can take that bullet list, make each bullet an individual file, then write whichever bit has my attention that day without losing track. I learn things about the characters as I go and what looks like a little jump on a bullet list can easily turn into a 5,000 word chapter. For Bowerbirds the original bullet list for chapters 3 and 4 went Date Night, Phone Breakup, Dinner. It took me a little over 13,000 words to get through those three points and made up the first half of act 2.

I do wish I could just sit down and write and have the story flow organically from me, or something like that. I tried it with my YA project last year. 12,000 words in it crashed and burned. I know where I wanted to start from and I know how I wanted it to end but that entire middle bit just didn’t happen. I have an M/F/M story I started when I was nineteen. I have a ton of backstory for each of the characters, a poetic beginning and nothing past about 2,000 words.

So if you hear me say ‘I don’t have any ideas for story XXXXX’ what I’m probably saying is ‘I have a bunch of random disjointed scenes in my head that involve the same characters but I have no clue how they intersect and until I do I’m not going to get anyone’s hopes up’.

By the way. I don’t have any ideas for Nested Hearts: Book Three, but I think Book Two wraps things up in a nice way.

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Bowerbirds (Nested Hearts: Book Two) available through Dreamspinner Press

Bowerbirds (Nested Hearts: Book Two) by Ada Maria Soto – James and My Dad + Excerpt 2

August 26, 2015

 

Empty Nests and Bowerbirds in an odd way is for my dad. He wasn’t a single parent and rumor aside not gay (I don’t think, there are days), but he did end up primary care giver the first couple years of my life. It was supposed to be my mother but my father got injured and lost his job just a few days before I was born. My mother was out of work and it became a matter of who could get a job first. This meant my mom going back to work when I was six weeks old and my dad left holding the baby.

This was in the early 80′s, long before the internet and easy access to stay at home dad groups. My dad was the youngest in his family so had no experience with kids. His family was an hour away and my mom was not on good terms with her family. Add in that my dad came out of a very machismo oriented background and he was left reasonably alienated.

I like to think (and it’s my opinion that matters in this) that he handled it pretty well. I think his sense of humor helped a lot. When my mom would tell him to go check the baby he’d get a pen and draw a little check somewhere on me. It’s funnier if you know my dad. I’m surprised with myself that I managed to get two years into doing the parent thing without giving into the temptation. By this point my kid would probably take it as permission to draw allover herself and anyone else. He delivered bottles as if he was a French waiter, rushed back to the park to retrieve forgotten stuffed animals, made up bedtime stories, and read Elephant Goes to School about fifty million times without going completely nuts.SimpsonsDad

He also took a lot of grief from other guys and didn’t get a lot of respect when he explained that two year gap in his resume. But he kept his chin up, pushed through, and I don’t think overly messed me up which in this day and age counts for a lot.

So James is for my dad and all of the dads who have stepped into what much of society still thinks of as a female role.

######

James bent backward and listened to his spine crack. Despite the noises, his back was in better condition, or at least a few decades younger, than Mrs. Gonzales’s, which was why he was helping her lug bolts of fabric up the stairs. It was her second granddaughter’s quinceañera in a couple of months, and she was sewing all the dresses, which meant stitching up about a million miles of pink satin and tulle.

At least Mrs. Gonzales’s granddaughter was shorter than he was. With Mrs. Maldonado’s granddaughter’s prom dress the previous year, he’d been roped into acting as a living dress stand while it was hemmed, instead of just helping with the hemming. Dylan still had the photos hidden somewhere. He didn’t actually mind helping out with things like hauling groceries, rolling tamales, or handstitching a million seed pearls onto white taffeta. The women of the building had acted as Dylan’s aunties and grandmothers over the years, providing babysitting, hand-me-downs, advice, and more than a few meals when he and Dylan got truly desperate.

Mrs. Gonzales let them into her apartment where the Virgen de Guadalupe stared at him from at least three walls.

“¿Dónde los quieres?”

“Con los demás.”

James put the bolts of fabric on the table with a half dozen others while Mrs. Gonzales went into her kitchen to make them both some coffee.

He followed her into the kitchen, which was identical to his, where she poured them both thick black coffee, then stirred in condensed milk until it was nearly white. “James, I’ve been seeing you with a man lately? The women are saying you have a boyfriend?”

He accepted a cup of coffee. “I might.” He supposed it had to happen sooner or later. Every other person had been the center of gossip in the building at one point or another. James had managed to avoid it, mainly by being the most boring person on earth.

“You might? I think you do. He looks handsome.”

James pretended to think about it. “I guess. If you like that type.”

“And he looks rich?”

James blew on his coffee. Mrs. Gonzales always made it nuclear hot. “He might be, a little.”

“Rich is good.”

“It’s not important.”

“Rich is good. Rich can take care of you and Dylan.”

James rolled his eyes. “I don’t need anyone taking care of me. I’m not looking for anyone to take care of me. And I take care of Dylan just fine.”

Mrs. Gonzales patted the air in front of James. “Of course you do, but it’s good to have help. If someone wants to take care of you, you should let them. If they’re also kind, and handsome…?”

James sipped his coffee, having no desire to respond to that comment.

“What’s his name?”

“Gabe. Gabriel. Juarez.” He figured the best thing to do with gossip was to feed it as much detail as possible. It seemed to burn out quicker once there was less to speculate on.

“And where’s he from?”

“He grew up in the Bay.”

“Have you met his family yet?”

That was something that hadn’t been brought up except for a quick mention of his sisters. He’d heard more about Gabe’s godchildren. “No, no I haven’t.”

Mrs. Gonzales gave a slightly disapproving squint. “Make sure he does that soon. A man who is ashamed of his family is not a man you should be associating with.”

“I will keep that in mind.”

“Good. Now, what does he do? He better have a good job. Rich without work is begging the devil for trouble.”

James took a deep breath. He was surprised Dylan hadn’t blabbed it around the building. He was as bad a gossip as the rest of them. “He’s the chief financial officer of TechPrim Industries.” He got a slightly questioning look. James pulled his phone from his pocket and showed her the logo on the back. “TechPrim.”

Her eyebrows went up. “He better be taking care of you, then.”

“I don’t need to be taken care of.” James tried not to raise his voice. “I am not a child. I have a job. I manage.”

“Doesn’t mean you should turn him away if he offers. It can be nice to have someone who wants to be helpful.”

“Fine.” He didn’t want to start a fight.

“And if he causes you trouble, you send him to me.”

James stuffed down a laugh. Facing Mrs. Gonzales was a proper threat. Every male under the age of eighty feared her disapproving gaze, which could leave even the most hardened soul squirming like a child.

“I’ll be sure to warn him.”

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Bowerbirds (Nested Hearts: Book Two) available through Dreamspinner PressBowerbirdsSmall

Bowerbirds (Nested Hearts: Book Two) by Ada Maria Soto – The Delicate Art of the Romantic Gesture

August 26, 2015

 

hannible flower crown

For lasts Mothers’ Day my partner gave me Hannibal season 1 and 2 on blu-ray. Mothers’ Day before that is was South Park: The Stick of Truth. (My birthday present was tickets to see Book of Mormon.) Why do these count as appropriate Mothers’ Day gifts? Because my partner knows me. He knows what will make me smile and what will make me laugh, not just in terms of the gift but because they were Mothers’ Day gift. The tag attached to Hannibal even read ‘A totally appropriate Mothers’ Day gift’.  I take it as a sign of his love for me.

It wasn’t always like this. We’d only been together a few months when our first Christmas rolled around. I’m sure we scratched our heads and did our best. I know for a fact he’s never used what I gave him that first Christmas because I packed it when we moved two years ago and it’s sitting in the back of a kitchen cupboard.

We’ve gotten better though. I know I can make my banana bread for just about any special occasion and he’ll be perfectly happy. (I’ve been forbidden from making it on non-special occasions because he will eat an entire loaf of it.) And he knows that I like nerdy stuff with directors commentaries and hours of behind the scene footage. I’ve probably listened to every second of Lord of the Rings commentary twice.

What does this have to do with Bowerbirds? It goes back to those awkward not quite right early gifts. James and Gabe have some disagreements over what is a romantic gesture and what is stepping over lines forcing them to have better ideas about where their boundaries are.

 

What’s the best gift you’ve ever gotten, romantic or otherwise? What’s the worst or weirdest? Answer and be in to win a copy of Bowerbirds.

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BowerbirdsSmallBowerbirds (Nested Hearts: Book Two) available through Dreamspinner Press