NaNo? NoNo. with Xara X. Xanakas

November 10, 2015

If you’re one of the hundreds of thousands of NaNoWriMo participants this year, leave now. Seriously, come back next month. Why? Because today I’m going to waste your time.

For the rest of you, here’s some things to fill the time you’d normally spend interacting with your friends while they are writing like the wind. (Upside: the tons of new stories coming out of these dedicated individuals!)

“But Xara, what makes you qualified to talk about wasting time during NaNo?” you ask? Well, I am a four-time NaNo loser, two-time first day dropout and one time non-starter. Time Waster: Expert Level.

We can’t all spend our time doing nothing, but everyone needs some downtime every now and again. So, relax, unwind, grab a drink and a cookie, because we’re not coming up for air for a while. We’re going beyond the regulars (facebook, Twitter, tumblr, Pinterest…) and down some major time-sucking rabbit holes.

Pick up a(nother) hobby. Do some crafting. You can find literally thousands of free patterns out there for knitting, crocheting, and even basket weaving and Lego architecture. Or combine them: crochet a Lego blanket.

Did you know that there is actually a patent for a flame-throwing trumpet? Or a slightly different Advent Calendar – with a new condom behind each of the doors? (Overly optimistic or Challenge Accepted? You decide…) You could get lost (or inspired!) browsing through some Weird and Wonderful Patents or the Patently Absurd.

Some of those patents actually make it to production. Browse Yup That Exists or Shut Up and Take My Money for cool stuff you don’t really need.

Live vicariously through Texts from Last Night. (Or us some of them for prompts for your own NaNoNo.) Or find a new take on home repair at There I Fixed It.

Want to relax and read a little fanfic? Been looking for a story where Raoul hooks up with the Phantom instead of Christine? Archive of Our Own has it. No matter what you’re shipping, chances are, you’ll find it. Sterek is my poison. I have gotten lost for weeks (years?) in the astounding amount of creativity out there.

Or if you just want to wing it, The Useless Web will hook you up with a random time wasting site. Click away and have fun.

 

I started thinking about this post with the idea of just providing some fun time wasting sites, but it made me realize something. No matter what you are, or what you are into, remember: there is always someone else out there who enjoys the same thing as you, or is just as passionate about the same things you are. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

~xXx~

 

The Love of the Game with Elle Brownlee – Post + Giveaway

November 9, 2015

LoveoftheGame

Hello DSP readers! I’m Elle Brownlee, and I love baseball. I also love writing, and writing gay romance. These two loves lead to an inevitable conclusion: I wrote a baseball-themed book entitled Force Play.

I’ve always loved baseball. I was raised on it (I think it’s likely I heard my first game while in the womb). Baseball was something I shared with my family, and something I’ve taken pains to pass on to my niece and nephew. Many of my cherished memories are of going to Triple-A games as a kid, thinking it was the Big Leagues and believing our team couldn’t lose. Even if they did, we agreed they’d get ‘em next time, and we’d drive home listening to a different game all the way from another state far away crackling on the radio.

There’s always a game to be found during baseball season, and I’m always glad to listen along when one is playing. I know I’m not alone in thinking baseball games make the perfect ambient background noise for just about any task, from cleaning house to falling asleep with the radio tucked under your pillow. When you’re a fan of baseball the game itself gets deep inside you, down to your marrow, and there’s inherent comfort in having its reliable rhythm around.

That idea of being grounded by the game itself is what sparked my character’s journeys for Force Play. Harmon is at a major crossroads where the book opens, and Caleb is in a rut. Harmon wants to leave the game for good, and Caleb can’t walk away despite never being given the chance to shine. They argue, and clash, and sparks fly. But despite their differences, and different directions life has taken them, at their hearts they still have baseball. Baseball is the one thing that defines them separately, connects them to while they figure out being friends, and binds them as they start falling in love.

As I wrote Force Play I listened to old favorite games played by My Team. I’d steep a pot of tea, fire up Word, and stick Game 7 from the 2011 World Series in the DVD drive. (Psst, if you follow baseball, you’ll see I’ve just given away who I root for as My Team.) Often, as soon as the sounds of the game started filling the room, the words would flow, and Harmon and Caleb would be there telling me about their place with each other, and in the game. Even on days when writing was hard, I trusted my guys to show up the next day ready to give it and each other their best, because that’s what a true ballplayer does.

Baseball has so many stories to tell because baseball is about struggles and triumphs we can all relate to. So even if you’re not a superfan like me, there’s no need to worry. As the game begins and the sounds and rhythms surround you, you’ll understand what’s going on. There’ll be outs, runs, hits and misses—and I promise, the good guys win in the end.

Do you love baseball as much as I do? What is one of your cherished baseball memories—who does baseball connect you to? If you’re not a baseball fan (gasp!) what’s your go-to perfect ambient background noise?

I’ll be checking in to comment and I’m looking forward to your responses. I’ll also choose a giveaway winner from the commenters to nab the title of their choice from my backlist, so take a few swings or put on your glove. Play ball!

 

Find me all over the web. I’m always glad to chat—baseball and writing or both!

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Pinterest

How Far We’ve Come with Aisling Mancy – Post + Giveaway

November 6, 2015

Celebrating the Release of A Solitary Man by Shira Anthony and Aisling Mancy!

 howfarwevecome3

A very special thank you to Elizabeth North, Lynn West, and all the folks at Dreamspinner Press for hosting Shira Anthony and me for the release of A Solitary Man! It’s great to be here!

My name is Aisling “Ash” Mancy and my name may be new to you. But my writing may not be. I write young adult works for Dreamspinner’s Harmony Ink Press label under C. Kennedy.

I have a unique writing background in a number of ways, not the least of which is that I was raised by a prolific author. I have also written in multiple mainstream venues for years, and spent way too much time on movie sets watching films come to life for the silver screen. Though I write for Harmony Ink Press and have spent the past four years concentrating on young adult works, I write primarily for adults—surprise!

Shira and I love to write romance but when we sat down to write A Solitary Man, we wanted to write more than a love story. We wanted to write a story to raise awareness about two very important issues: youth placed in solitary confinement and commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC). Both have devastating effects on our youth of today and leave everlasting invisible scars. In A Solitary Man, assistant district attorney, Chance Fairchild, and deputy sheriff, Xavier Constantine, are hot on the trail of a trafficking cartel whose interest isn’t only drugs, but also that of trafficking children. The story rocks some seriously hot sex and romance, but it also rocks a great mystery, spine-tingling suspense, and a lot of action—centered on these two serious issues.

While I have written GLBT content in the past, I’ve only written for the M/M romance community for a couple of years—and young adult works at that. When I peruse Dreamspinner’s wonderful library of works, it is readily apparent how much we, as authors, and you as readers, have accomplished to advance the rights of the LGBT community.

I’m old. I remember when no child protection laws existed, I remember segregation, and I remember when it was illegal to be gay in most states. Hell, I remember witchcraft was still illegal. While there have been qualified advances in the law over the past sixty years—most in respect to discrimination and hate crimes—progress in the recognition of rights and acceptance of the GLBTQIAP community has been slow. Very slow. In fact, most of the advancement has occurred in the past ten years. By way of example, intersex people were only granted negligible rights in 2006. We’re only now beginning to recognize the rights of transgender and transsexual individuals. And all of the aforementioned, from children’s rights to the rights of GLBTQIAP individuals is because we and our allies have come together to protect human beings.

The Supreme Court’s decision legalizing gay marriage is a historic event, to be sure. But it’s more than that. It ensures that every generation alive today lives in a time of profound change—not only one of change in perspective, but also one of behavior and the law. Now, more than ever before. As authors and readers, we bring awareness to the world. That makes me proud and I hope to bring you works that inspire you, give you strength and, above all, give you hope. Read more books! As tough as it may be, talk to people. Engage them in meaningful conversation. We’re changing the world one book at a time!

Comment below and let us know how else you think we’re changing the world for the better and don’t forget to enter for a chance to win! Thank you for celebrating the release of A Solitary Man with us! Go buy the book, read it, and become involved!

Now at Dreamspinner Press, ARe, Amazon, and Barnes &

Noble

Add A Solitary Man to Your Goodreads and Booklikes Shelves

Like A Solitary Man on Facebook

Thursday, October 29th Aisling is at The

Novel Approach Reviews

with A Brief and Frank Discussion of A Solitary Man

Friday, October 30th Aisling is at Jo

& Isa Love Books

with the Notes Behind the Music Playlist for A Solitary Man

Tuesday, November 4th Aisling is at Bike Book Reviews

Wednesday, November 5th

Aisling is at Joyfully Jay

Reviews

Shira is at Prism Book

Alliance

Friday, November 6th RELEASE DAY CELEBRATION!

Yarning to Write Kermit Flail with lovely Amy Lane!

Aisling is at Divine

Magazine

Aisling is on Dreampsinner’s Blog

Saturday, November 7th Aisling is at Love Bytes Reviews

Sunday, November 8th

Shira is at My Fiction

Nook

LIVE

FACEBOOK CHAT with Shira & Aisling 2-5pm EST

Monday, November 9th Aisling is at My Fiction Nook

Tuesday, November 10th Shira is at Bike Book Reviews

Wednesday, November 11th Shira is at Scattered Thoughts

and Rogue Words

TWEET, COMMENT, AND VISIT A SOLITARY

MAN’S FACEBOOK PAGE

TO BE ENTERED TO WIN A TOTE

BAG,

SIGNED BOOKS FROM SHIRA &

AISLING,

AND SWAG!

Dream Dishes: John Amory’s Vegetarian Antipasto Platter

November 5, 2015

Hi everyone! I’m John Amory, and I have a confession to make: I love to eat. I’m Italian (and from New Jersey), so it’s in my blood. No one knows how to eat better at the holidays than Italians, but all that heavy food can really take its toll from Thanksgiving to the New Year, when it seems like every week there’s some new feast, party, or family gathering. So I took my absolute favorite course, the antipasto, and modified it to make everything a little lighter and a little healthier, but no less delicious.

To start, despite what every take-out pizza place in America will have you believe, antipasto is not a salad. It means “before the meal,” so it’s technically an appetizer course, traditionally served with pre-dinner drinks. It can range from meat and cheese platters to fried foods like calamari. These are the kind of antipasti I grew up with, and they’re what my family still serves at Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. But my version of an antipasto platter is composed entirely of vegetarian options, so you’re not stuffed before you even sit down to the table (and so you can drink more, which is what the holidays are really all about). Everything in this antipasto is easy to prepare and can be served all together on one big tray, or you can pick and choose individual dishes to liven up your store-bought platters.

Balsamic Garlic Cloves
Serves: 6-8

Please don’t be scared of this one. It sounds really intense to eat whole garlic clove cooked in pure vinegar, but I promise they get really soft and sweet and tangy. They’re delicious by themselves or smashed on a piece of toasted bread.

20-30 whole garlic cloves
1 c. balsamic vinegar

1. Peel garlic cloves, but don’t smash them. Leave them whole, but remove the papery covering. Place in a small saucepan.
2. Add balsamic vinegar until cloves are covered.
3. Bring to a boil over medium heat.
4. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 15-20 minutes, until garlic is tender.
5. Drain vinegar and serve once cooled. (You can reserve the reduced vinegar and use it for salad dressings; it has lots of flavor!)

Caponata
Serves: 6-8

This dish is an eggplant spread that I love to take to parties because you can make it a day or two ahead of time and refrigerate it, and it will taste even better than when it’s right off the stove.

1 large eggplant (equivalent of 1-1.5 pounds), peeled
1 small onion, chopped
1 large ripe tomato, seeded and chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 c. olive oil
3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. capers
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
Salt & black pepper

1. Cut peeled eggplant into cubes (about one inch).
2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about 6 minutes. Add eggplant and cook for another 4 minutes, stirring often. (The eggplant is like a sponge and will absorb all the oil. If the pan gets too dry and the eggplant looks like it is burning, add some water.)
3. Add tomato, garlic, capers, vinegar, oregano, and red pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often, until eggplant is tender and has begun to release oil, about 5-10 minutes. (For softer caponata, cover and reduce to low and cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.)
4. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and remove from heat. Stir in parsley and store in air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Serve cold or warm.

Marinated Artichoke Hearts
Serves: 6-8

You can buy artichoke hearts in a jar already marinated, but they have a weird texture that I don’t quite like, and they don’t taste the way artichokes were meant to: bright and green. So take the extra few minutes and marinate them yourself!

1 package (8-10 oz.) frozen artichoke hearts
1/2 c. olive oil
2 tsp. fresh thyme (or 1 tsp. dried)
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 tbsp. lemon zest
Salt

1. Thaw and cook artichoke hearts according to package directions. Place in small bowl and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, prepare the marinade. Simmer thyme, pepper, and lemon zest in olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat for 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat.
3. Pour oil over artichoke hearts, stir, and allow to marinate for at least 20 minutes (but up to a day). Sprinkle with salt before serving.

Assemble each of these components on a platter with your favorite store-bought additions: roasted red peppers, cheese (parmesan chunks, small fresh mozzarella balls), raw vegetables, olives, pepperoncini, crackers, dried fruits, whatever you like. Just don’t forget to add toasted slices of good Italian or French bread so everyone has something to build on!

Mangia!

Find John Amory online:

Twitter: @JohnAmory
GoodReads: www.goodreads.com/JohnAmory
Facebook: www.facebook.com/JohnAmoryAuthor
Dreamspinner Author Page: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/AuthorArcade/john-amory

Dream Dishes: Kelly Jensen’s Caramel Slice

November 4, 2015

A Taste of Home

My family moved a lot. From Australia to England, to Europe, back to Australia and then to the U.S. I returned to Australia for college and moved back to the U.S. fifteen years ago. In between all that moving I traveled. I’ve been to so many wonderful places and met the most amazing people. I’ve lived in farmhouses, chalets, cabins, beach houses, apartments, condos, manor houses and gatehouses, caravans, tents and a converted postal wagon. I lived on the beach for a month way back in…well, a long time ago.

As I examine my stories I can easily see the influence of my upbringing. So many of my characters are searching for a place to call home and for people they can call family. A constant during those years was my family. As a unit we were very close and, as we absorbed new cultures, we created our own traditions. One of the things I remember most clearly, though, is my mother’s cooking. My mum was an amazing and adventurous cook. She tried a lot of local recipes and to this day, I’ll eat just about anything. But she always balanced the new with the tried and true, and one of my favourites was her caramel slice.

Caramel slice is like a bar cookie. I think that’s how an American would describe it. It’s what my mum made for school bake sales and special treats. It’s what I make when I need a little taste of home, wherever I am. I’ve had to adapt the recipe as it’s hard to get some of the ingredients over here, particularly as I live in the backwoods of Pennsylvania. I did find Golden Syrup at my local supermarket recently, which may prove a disaster for my waistline, but it does get cold here in the winter. Stupidly cold.

(Yeah, I know, I’m not even that far north.)

The ingredient I have the most trouble with is the desiccated coconut. You cannot substitute the flaked coconut readily available in American supermarkets, either the sweetened or unsweetened variety. It’s too moist and altogether the wrong texture. So the recipe below is half my mother’s and half a biscuit base (cookie?) borrowed from elsewhere and further tweaked to fit!

 

Where to find me:

Website | Facebook | Twitter

 

Caramel Slice (Dessert)

Prep time: 15 minutes. Cooking time: 20 minutes and another 10 for the chocolate. Cooling/setting time: 15 minutes and then at least an hour. Makes about 20 ‘slices’.

Ingredients

Biscuit:

1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
4oz (I stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 tbsp ice water
1 large egg yolk

Caramel:

2x 14oz cans sweetened condensed milk
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
6oz unsalted butter, diced
2 tbsp golden syrup (Lyle’s) or dark corn syrup
1 tbsp vanilla extract

Chocolate:

6oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
3 tbsp whipping cream

 

Preparation

Biscuit:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Blend the first 4 ingredients in a food processor. Add butter. Pulse until it looks like breadcrumbs. Add the tablespoon of ice water and egg yolk. Blend until clumps form. Press the dough onto the bottom of your pan and bake for about 20 minutes. Cool completely.

Caramel:

Stir the first 5 ingredients in medium saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the butter melts. Take care to stir across the bottom frequently as the sugar will settle there and burn, putting little black lumps into your caramel. Bring the mixture to a boil. Stirring constantly, boil gently until the caramel is thick (if you’re the type to use a thermometer, temperature should be around 225°F). Should take about 5-6 minutes. Pour the caramel evenly over the biscuit base and leave to cool for about 15 minutes.

Chocolate:

Melt chocolate with cream in microwave in 15 second intervals, stirring occasionally. Spread chocolate over warm caramel and refrigerate for at least an hour. Overnight is best, but it’s hard to wait!

Cut into 2 inch squares. Makes about 20. ☺

 

Dream Dishes: Antonia Aquilante’s Struffoli

November 2, 2015

I come from an Italian-American family, which means we all gather around a table filled with a lot of food at the holidays. Much, if not most of it, is traditionally Italian. We even eat a pasta course before the turkey on Thanksgiving (and on Christmas too!), and Christmas Eve means eating fish. We eat holiday meals that are in multiple courses and take hours and are always accompanied by so much talking and laughter. I love those meals. And I love preparing for them too, helping with the cooking and setting the table for the family. I enjoy cooking and baking anyway, but I always enjoy it more at the holidays.

As much food as we have at those holiday meals, we have as many desserts. We bake for days beforehand – cookies, brownies, cupcakes, cheesecake. Some desserts are made every year; others are tried on a whim. I have a fondness for the recipes we make each year, the traditional Italian recipes that have been passed down in my family and have been made year after year since long before I was born. I love them not only because they’re delicious, but also because of the history in them, the sense of connection and family I feel preparing them.

The recipe I’m sharing with you today is one of those recipes. They’re a Southern Italian dessert called Struffoli. Struffoli are little balls of dough that are fried so they’re crunchy on the outside and light on the inside and are then coated in honey. They’re easy to make, which is good because a batch never lasts long in my family. If we make them too long before Christmas, they disappear and we always end up having to make more.

IMG_8380

 Here’s what you need:

3 eggs

1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder

1 tablespoon Butter, softened

1 teaspoon sugar

2 cups flour **

Vegetable oil for frying

1 cup honey

1/2 cup sugar

colored nonpariel sprinkles

Whisk together eggs, butter, and 1 teaspoon of sugar until foamy.  Add baking powder and mix in. Add flour.  Work the mixture into a soft dough with your hands.  Divide the dough into 4 pieces.  On a floured surface, roll each piece into a rope the width of your index finger and 12 inches long.  Cut the ropes into 1 inch pieces and roll into balls.

Heat the oil to 375 degrees in a large sauce pan or a deep fryer.  Fry the struffoli a few handfuls at a time until they puff up and are golden brown.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the struffoli to a paper towel to drain.

Combine the honey and the 1/2 cup sugar in a large sauce pan over low heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved and keep it warm over low heat.  Add the fried struffoli, a few at a time, to the honey mixture and turn them to coat on all sides.  Transfer the struffoli to a large platter and mound them into a pyramid.  Sprinkle with the colored sprinkles and let stand 1 to 2 hours. (Or eat them warm – that happens in our house too!) The recipe makes about 48 struffoli.

** Struffoli can be made gluten free, and they turn out just as tasty. Substitute gluten free flour for the flour in the recipe in the same measure. Depending on what gluten free flour you use, you may need to add 1/2 teaspoon of xanthan gum with the flour.

 

The holidays are my favorite time of year, and I’m happy to have the chance to share one of my family’s recipes with you. I hope you enjoy this holiday treat as much as we do, and I hope you have a lovely holiday season!

 

Find Antonia here:

Website: www.antoniaaquilante.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/AntoniaAquilanteAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/antoniaquilante

If Amy Lane Weren’t a Writer, She’d Be…

November 1, 2015

*This is the English translation of a German interview with Amy Lane*

A big thank you to Amy, who agreed to do this interview and answer the questions of her readers. I also want to thank you, the readers, who came up with the questions and thus made this interview possible.

First of all, name one thing readers would be surprised to know about you. 

I was very surprised to be labeled „the queen of angst“ when I first started out—I would cry as I was writing some parts of my books, but I considered what happened there a very natural part of the plot. On the whole, I’m sort of a snarky, sarcastic person, so I don’t seem like the kind of person who would sit around brewing tea from the tears of my readers.

If you could meet any writer, alive or dead, who would it be and why? 

Jane Austen, of course. I’d like to tell her that the thing that she saw in her tiny corner of the planet was really the big driving machine that ran the world.

What made you start writing M/M novels? How long have you been writing, and was it a long process to become a published author? 

Well, originally I was writing what I thought would be a het vampire romance, and then, as I was writing, I realized my male vampire had been carrying on an affair with a male elf for 150 years prior to the beginning of the story. (Yes—I was surprised too.)  Anyway—I self-published that story, and the subsequent five books that followed, and in every story, M/M seemed to be an organic part of the story. But writing was a hobby, really, until I saw I saw a Tweet from the editor in chief at Dreamspinner Press—it said, „We want to see a fic written to THIS:“ and it featured a very sexy vodka commercial.  I wrote 750 words and sent them in—just for fun—and the response was, „Oh, Amy, we’ve been waiting for you to write for us!“  I hadn’t realized that my self-published work had attracted their attention, but once I’d made contact, there was no going back. Those 750 words eventually became Gambling Men, but by then I’d already written over 10 works for Dreamspinner Press.

Complete this sentence: If I weren’t a writer, I would still be teaching.

I hope this question is not too personal; if yes you of course don’t have to answer it. How do you unite your writing with your private life (family, friends, partner, etc.) without neglecting anyone or anything? 

I don’t. I mean, I try, but housecleaning has become non-existent in my house, and my kids haven’t eaten on the kitchen table in—literally—years. That being said, I attend every soccer game, every dance recital, and talk to the kids to and from school every day. We go out on the weekends and enjoy ourselves, and I try to spend at least an hour every evening at least relaxing with the family. So, it does impact my family interactions, but I do draw the line. My kids will only be young once and I want to spend that time really enjoying their company.

When you write a book, do you plan it before you start writing or do you let things just develop themselves? Do you work at several books at the same time or do you rather focus on one? 

I write one book at a time, from beginning to end, and I usually start with a beginning, middle, and end in mind, and then as I write I fill in the blanks.

What are some of the most awesome/coolest things you’ve learned in the process of research?

KY Jelly has been around since the early 1900ds.

Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way? 

Well, I taught literature for nearly 20 years—that influenced me in a big way, as did old Harlequin romances and every song I’ve ever heard.

Which novel or series did you enjoy writing the best?

That’s easy—whichever one I’m working on now!

Be totally honest, what’s the most difficult part of being a writer? 

Not eating. I schedule exercise into my week as much as I can—but I am working from my kitchen, and I eat way too much.

What character from one of your books would you like to have come alive and be real? Why?

Green, from my Little Goddess series. Because he rules with kindness, and he’s very wise—but very human. He still makes mistakes.

Which character do you think most closely resembles your own personality?

Auntie Beth from the Triane’s Son books.

If you get the chance to end up in one of your books which would it be? Why? 

The Little Goddess series—because I want to be a ass-kicking sorceress with four amazing lovers!

You’ve just inherited a sheep farm. What do you do now?

Figure out how to turn it into a fiber mill and totally change my vocation.

Have you ever got insulted because of your books? Or have your books ever got insulted? If yes, how did you react to it? And how do you react to negative reviews although it’s obvious the writer just want to do your book poorly? 

My books get insulted all the time—and mostly, I just rant in private to my friends and family, and smile in public. It helps when you accept the fact that not everybody is going to enjoy what you write—that’s a simple fact of life. Some people are mean and horrible about it, and some people simply go, „Not for me.“  I prefer the second approach, but I’m always ready for the first.

Last week DSP published the german translation of Making Promises. It’s the second book of the series Keeping Promise Rock. What part of the novel was the most fun to write and why? What made you struggle the most? 

I loved writing all of this book—but I think the hardest part was making the timelines fit. Some of Making Promises and Keeping Promise Rock were concurrent, and I had to make sure the overlapping parts matched.

Who surprised you the most when you were writing this book, which character had you saying “okay wow! That was unexpected?”

Mikhail—I did not expect to love him nearly as much as I did.  He was snarky and sarcastic and he had such a guarded heart, but once he let Shane in, he was all in. I loved him so much.

Who was the most difficult character to write in this series? And why?

Mikhail—because he was so hurt, and he was going to hurt Shane no matter how I wrote it. I loved that character but he did not make it easy on me.

If you had to pick a theme song for this novel, what would it be?

I think I picked a lot of them. Every chapter title was a song title, if I remember aright.

If there was one thing you’d like your readers to take away with them from this book, what do you hope it is?

You don’t have to shoot bad guys to be a hero. Sometimes being a hero is being the right person for the person you love.

When you began this series did you have a clear vision of how it would begin and end?

No—but by the time I was done with the first book, I did. The last book was exactly as I imagined it.

Can you give your readers any insight as to what we have to look forward to in the rest of the series?

Well, book three is Living Promises, and that’s Jeff and Collin’s book, and book four is Forever Promised, which is sort of a wrap up of all three couples, as well as Andrew and Benny, who give Deacon and Crick a very special gift.

Last but not least: What book will be published next, and what are you working on right now?

Next out from me is a story called Winter Ball, which I love very much, and I’m working on a category romance right now from Dreamspinner Press, called Tamale Boy and the Spoiled Brat.

Bugs and Hisses Free Fiction: Reported Lost by Anne Barwell

October 31, 2015

To celebrate Halloween this month, some of our paranormal authors will be sharing with us some free fiction.

 

“Got you!” Rupert Milne muttered under his breath.

Ghosts could be pesky things and next to impossible to spot, unless they wanted to draw attention to themselves.

This one appeared to be a man in his thirties, his dark hair cut in a style popular several decades ago. While age could be deceptive—Rupert appeared to be in his fifties but was closer to four thousand and fifty—the ghost’s clothing confirmed it.

Rupert slid into the seat next to the spirit.  He’d always admired the way they could appear to be sitting on furniture although they were incorporeal. But Halloween was fast approaching; a night that often changed the rules.

“Good evening,” he said pleasantly. “Nice trick you have there, turning pages without touching them.”

The ghost looked up in surprise. “You can see me?” His eyes narrowed. “You’re not human,” he said flatly. “Who sent you?”

Rupert sighed. Better to get the formalities out the way first. He lowered his voice to make it harder for a human to overhear his side of the conversation.  “Would you mind telling me why you’re haunting this library? It’s creating attention that is better avoided. My name is Rupert Milne, and I have some experience in this kind of thing.  I’d like to help if I can.”

“How can you see me?” The ghost wasn’t going to let go of that one. “You’re not human. You feel…different. You’re not one of those with powers either. They can see me, but most of the time they don’t say anything.”

That’s because they don’t realise they’re talking to a ghost.

“Yes, yes, of course they can see you.” Rupert didn’t have time to go into Paranormal 101, and doubted the ghost would appreciate it. “I’m not going to hurt you. I just want to help you work through whatever or whoever is keeping you here.”

“You haven’t answered my question.”

One of the librarians walked past pushing a book trolley. She frowned in Rupert’s direction, probably wondering who the crazy guy was talking to himself. He waved cheerily and turned his attention back to the ghost.

“I’m a vampire. That’s why I can see you.  I overheard one of my students talking about you, which is why I’m here.”

“Someone noticed me!” The ghost glanced around, panicked.  At least he was more worried about that than the fact Rupert had just outed himself as a vampire.

“You pulled books off shelves.  People talk.”

“It was an accident!” The ghost sighed. “I’ve been here so long and I’m tired. I just want to move on.”

“I know how you feel.” Rupert had been teaching at Victoria University for over twenty years. It was almost time for him to move on too, before someone realised he wasn’t getting any older. “Why don’t you introduce yourself and tell me your story, hmm? Then I’ll see what I can do to help.”

The ghost smiled, a glimmer of hope in his eyes. “My name is Bernard Pollard and I was on the Wahine when it went down in Wellington Harbour in 1968.”

 

***

 

“I shouldn’t be here.”

Joseph Tomley gripped the top of his walking stick. His breath came in gasps. Rupert hoped it was nerves, and not a sign that Joseph was about to expire on the spot.  While breaking into the library after hours hadn’t been that difficult, Rupert didn’t want to have to explain a dead body to whoever was in charge of security.

“Yes, you should.” Rupert guided him to the corner, and sat him down under the large windows. Although the building was dark there was enough light coming through them so Joseph could see.

Rupert had figured with it being Halloween, it was easier for the two men to meet close to midnight.  At least this way they’d be able to talk to each other directly. Rupert had acted as a go between for this kind of thing before and it wasn’t something he enjoyed.

Joseph paled when Bernard stepped out of the shadows.  “Bernard. Oh my God. It is you.”

“Joseph?” Bernard said, his voice cracking. “You… I waited but you never came.”  He bit his lip, brushed one finger across Joseph’s wrinkled cheek, and sat down next to him. “I… can touch you…”

“Halloween,” Rupert told him. “You only have a short time. Make the most of it. I’ll be close by if you need me.”   He headed toward the fiction collection, his attention taken by a familiar name on one of the books in the romance section.

He’d read at least one chapter of a book he wished he’d never opened before he caught a glimpse of someone behind him.

“Thank you.”  Joseph and Bernard stood together, in appearance a young man with his arms around the waist of someone old enough to be his grandfather. Both had tears running down their cheeks.

“It’s almost time,” he reminded them.  “I’m sorry.”

Bernard smiled. “Don’t be. I know now he didn’t forget me, that he never stopped loving me. I’ll wait for him.”

“I feel so foolish.” Joseph kissed Bernard softly. “This library was always our place, so I avoided it because I couldn’t bear the memories. I’d lost you, and I couldn’t tell anyone about our relationship. Then it was too late.”

“And I waited for you here because it was our special place. We were both idiots.” Bernard took a step back. “Good bye, my love. I’ll see you again soon.”  He turned and walked toward the back wall, before disappearing from sight.

“I love you too.”  Joseph watched that section of wall for a few moments but Bernard was gone, at least for tonight.  “Thank you,” he said again. “From both of us.”

Rupert nodded.  It was never easy losing the person you loved, and these men had done it twice.  “I’ll take you home now.”

Joseph smiled, although his eyes were sad. “You already have.”

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Bugs and Hisses Free Fiction: Finding You by Santino Hassell

October 31, 2015

To celebrate Halloween this month, some of our paranormal authors will be sharing with us some free fiction.

Finding you image

Note: This is a follow-up to STYGIAN and contains spoilers.

 

The world had changed a lot in forty years.

There were fewer trees and more people, and most had developed addictions to mobile telephones.

In the time it had taken Hunter to stagger through the department store, his unkempt appearance had barely garnered any stares. Everyone was too busy staring at the slim piece of technology that ran lives.

He’d never noticed this in the young men he’d lured into the woods over the past few decades. But those boys had all been dreamers. Fragile people with creative impulses and gentle souls, who were easily enraptured by something like Hunter. They’d mistook his oddness and isolation as a reflection of themselves only to realize too late that you could not be kindred with a monster.

Your drama won’t help you find the little drummer boy.

Laurel’s voice was so vivid that he nearly turned to see if she’d risen from her shallow grave by the river to follow him from Logansport. But it wasn’t so. It couldn’t be. Her skull had been crushed to bits by—

—his beast of a boyfriend.

Hunter’s canines throbbed. His nostrils flared.

The need to inflict violence on Kennedy tripled even though Jeremy was the real prey.

Drummer boy is just as guilty if not more so, you damn fool. There’s nothing romantic about revenge. Stop thinking with your barely beating heart, and go have a drink before withdrawal kicks in.

It was the best advice Hunter had ever received from an auditory hallucination. Blood withdrawal would just take him to the gray place in his mind, and then he’d never find Jeremy. The blood connection was a necessity to keep him reasonably functional around people.

Lashing out at strangers in a big city was out of the question. What he needed was a willing victim.

But first he needed clothes.

Look to the left, and you’ll find your way to both.

“Hi.” He spoke so softly the sales clerk didn’t even turn. “Hello?”

This time, the clerk spun on his heel. He was the same height as Hunter but with an aggressively curly halo of light brown hair, reddish-gold eyes, and a wide mouth that, again, brought back memories of Jeremy. The vague resemblance shattered once the clerk cocked his head, raised a brow, and looked Hunter up and down with brazen intrigue.

“Yeah?”

Hunter closed his hands into fists. Speaking was harder than he’d expected, but he hadn’t been in society since the 70s.

Speak, fool. Ask for help. You’ll never pick anything on your own, and you know it. Decisions aren’t your strong suit.

“I’m slightly overwhelmed and wondered if you could help.”

“Overwhelmed?” The guy looked around the clothing section of the store. “I guess it is a little messy.”

“No, I—“ Hunter swallowed with difficulty. His throat was dry. “This may sound strange, but I need clothing and I don’t know what to buy. There’s so much.”

“I’m not a personal shopper or anything but you’re hot, so I guess?”

There was a certain amount of insolence in the hip-swaying youth that both appalled Hunter and turned him on. The boy was gum smacking, bubble popping, and had a little jaunt to his step as if a secret song played in his head. He was also shamelessly and blatantly queer.

How must it feel to live in a small town and be so oblivious, or uncaring, about the judgment of your peers? That question had plagued Hunter through his youth—before Laurel and the turning of his humanity—and it had returned constantly during his slow journey from Logansport to Center. The vampirism had melted away his serotonin, his impulse control and humanity, but it had also turned him into a more androgynous version of the person he’d once been. And he’d worried… that someone would identify his queerness. Lean out a window and lodge a rock or swerve in his direction for a laugh, and then he’d become an animal and leap onto the roof to tear them through the windshield.

A police pursuit would severely hinder his ability to find Jeremy.

“Formal or casual?”

“I’m sorry?”

The clerk—Jaret according to his nametag—glanced over his shoulder. “You wanna be fancy or you just need something that doesn’t look like you’ve spent the day rolling around in the grass?”

“The second. Please.”

“Kay.” Jaret whistled to himself and led Hunter through packed aisles full of denim, plaid, T-shirts with large colorful graphics. “I’m thinking black. Black and silver. Or black and red.”

“Why?”

“Because you look like the guy every Goth kids wants to grow up to become.”

Hunter didn’t know how to take that comment, so he said nothing. He trailed behind the clerk with his hands in his pockets and his shoulder slightly hunched, and wished it were possible to not stand out so much. He had a plan, and that plan would be impossible if he drew unnecessary attention. The tricky part was that he’d been isolated so long, he had no idea how to blend into this world. It was familiar and foreign. Things had been much simpler in the woods stretching gently along the Sabine.

And more boring. We should have been out of the hellhole of that town all along. We could have found others.

He silently shushed Laurel’s voice. Being around others like them, like him, was frankly terrifying. The creature that had turned her had been a monster.

Jaret held up a pair of jeans, scowled, and tossed it back to the rack. He repeated this three more times before heaving a tragic sigh.

“Everything here sucks.”

Laurel’s voice murmured an encouragement so vague all he got was a hint of the suggestion. His heart sped. Anticipation caused his canines to extent slightly.

“Maybe you can take me somewhere else.”

Jaret didn’t need to be drawn into a mind-controlled daze to nod in agreement. His sassy smirk made it clear he was more than willing. And when their hands clasped, and their fingers squeezed together, Hunter allowed Jeremy to drift from his mind.

There was time to find him later.

***

Find out more about Santino Hassell here!

Bugs and Hisses Free Fiction: Shadows by F.E. Feeley Jr.

October 31, 2015

To celebrate Halloween this month, some of our paranormal authors will be sharing with us some free fiction.

 

Hurrying off to a destination that I did not want to be at in the first place, did not help the apprehension that I had been feeling lately.  I just knew I was being followed.  As my feet carried me along winding streets littered with the leaves off of fallen trees, the only sound I could hear was the thump in my chest and the breath from my lungs. All around me, night had descended and with it, a cool damp wind shuttled down between rows of houses to stir the barren branches up overhead.  Occasionally, the snap of a twig underfoot caused me to jump, and twist on my heels to peer into the empty street behind me.  I would stand there for a few moments, peering into the darkness with my heart in my throat before the cold wind encourage me onward.  I just knew someone was out there, staring at me. Measuring my footsteps, following close behind.

“It’ll be fun, he says. There will be lots of people there.” I muttered to myself on the third spin around.  It was the night before Halloween.  And my boyfriend’s best friend was throwing a costume party.  I tried to beg off, to feign sick, and even threw off the offer of a ride when he called earlier that day to insist that a make it. I wished he’d come with his goofy grin and his pickup truck.  Now, walking alone down a darkened street decorated for tomorrow  nights trick or treaters, I am scared out of my mind.

My boyfriend of two months was always patient with me. Even as of late when I stared into the corners of a dark room, swearing under my breath about something moving. About something watching me. He’d laugh and turn on the light. Check the closet and even look under the bed.  And there was nothing, of course.

“There isn’t anything there, Ichabod.” His pet name for me since I told him that I was afraid of the dark.  We’d been dating two months, when I started having this problem.  Three months, when I blurted it out and six months later, he was still patient with me.

“You are the strangest man I’ve ever met.” He’d say lovingly and give me his impish smile. That smile warmed by heart and steeled my spine a little, now.

“There is no one there.” I say, my words coming out of gritted teeth.  When he reminded me of my little fear after my refusal to accept his offer for a ride, I’d laughed it off.  Of course, that had been when the sun was out.

I clench my hands, angry at myself before moving on.  However, my body was no as easily reassured.  In fact, despite the cool wind, I had broken out into a sheen of sweat that was starting to make my shirt stick to my back.  I shivered as wind came rushing down the lane toward me.

The moon all the while, had been playing peekaboo behind steadily moving clouds. The effect, was elongated shadows that curled and twisted from previously illuminated spots that I could not ignore.  I wanted to turn around, to just walk the few blocks back home, lock the doors, and wait for the angry phone call from my boyfriend.  I wanted to weather that storm instead of the internal one that was raging between my ears.  However, the idea of seeing the disappointed look on his face when he eventually showed up, steeled me against it.

“It’s just a couple more streets.”

I buried my head, bit down on the inside of my mouth, and picked up the pace.  Somewhere in the distance, a dog barked and a cat wailed its disapproval. Somewhere else, a car door slammed and the ambient sounds of voices greeting each other drifted upon the wind.  I rolled my eyes at my silliness as the sound was coming from just up the road a bit.  I quickened my pace, one that would make a mallwalker proud, and joyfully headed toward the sound.

I came around the corner and just then the moon decided to dive back behind a cloud. And Just then, I saw it.  Right out in front of me in the shadows cast darker by a huge tree.  It wasn’t a person. It wasn’t an animal. It was nothing. Long and tall and nothing. Just blackness. A void.  I froze mid-stride, my body going into high alert and screaming at me to run.  But I can’t feel my feet.  The dark isn’t just just a what. It’s a who.  It sees me. It knows me. It elongated, stretched, pushed itself up and out, blocking my view.  I stood, transfixed by it like a rabbit caught in the glare of a snake.  And like a snake, it made no sound as it uncoiled like smoke upward, outward, stretching and fanning wide.

And then it begins to move forward.

“Oh, God.” I whisper.

It wanted me.

I step back. One foot. And then the other.  But I didn’t have time to turn. I didn’t even have time to scream.

As the darkness descended on me and the cold swept my soul from my body I had one last glimmer of triumph. I had been right all along.

Dammit.

Read more of F.E. Feeley Jr.’s works here!