Jana Denardo: Soldiers of the Sun: Let’s have a little music.

August 16, 2015

I’m very much a listen to music type of writer. I love having a sound track to write to. Part of the inspiration for this story had to be the swing band, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. I listened to a lot of their songs as I worked on both Snowbound and Soldiers of the Sun. As I researched music from the actual time period the series is set in, I found some pretty surprising offerings. For example, one of the songs Temple takes a stab at in the novel is far older than I expected. Who knew Just a Gigolo was originally sung by Bing Crosby?

 

 

Not only did I find a plenty of really interesting music, I also came across electro-swing. It seems the swing revival of the 90s morphed into something that has a lot of high energy music. There is even a revival of a Charleston-like dance.

 

That fact led to Temple’s enjoyment of dance, seen in Snowbound and getting more depth in Soldiers of the Sun. Temple is the dancer of the group. He absolutely loves it. He’s tried to teach Agni and Caleb how to dance but they are a couple of dead hoofers. Temple is hoping his new partner can cut a rug.

Music is threaded through the story. There are a few dances, some of which even allow for some relaxation and fun time for the team. Others have demons.

What’s your current ear worm? Have a good song to share? It doesn’t have to be of the 1930s era. I’m always on the look out for something good to listen to, so share!

Jana Denardo: Soldiers of the Sun: Meet the Soldiers

August 16, 2015

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

Jana Denardo – Soldiers of the Sun Demons!

August 16, 2015

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Jana Denardo Soldiers of the Sun Excerpt #1

August 16, 2015

Preparing to leave his little apartment within the walls of the Order of the Sun, Temple nearly slammed into his teammates Caleb and Agni. Caleb had his hand raised, presumably to knock. Temple eyed them sourly. “What are you two doing?”

“Taglioferro asked us along to meet your new partner,” Caleb replied, running his sword-calloused hand over his slicked-back blond hair. The gesture made Temple a little dry mouthed. Shaking the dirty thoughts out, Temple realized it made sense his teammates had joined him. Caleb was the team leader, after all. Surely he needed to be there.

“And since you’d be late to your own funeral, we’re here to hurry you up.” Agni made hurry-along motions exaggerated by the newspaper he had in hand—Temple’s paper, which he’d forgotten to pick up. Agni handed it to him. Temple set it on the door-side table, but not before he saw the headline about a couple of deaths of desperate men who’d died after drinking radiator fluid down at the Mon wharf. They had pulled out the potato they were using to detoxify the alcohol a little too soon. Under that was an article about another demon attack on a speakeasy. Hadn’t he and Caleb just cleared a speakeasy the other night?

“You’ll notice I am on time,” Temple grumbled, trying to lock his door. After a few moments of fussing with the key, a metallic clank echoed down the hall, telling him he was doomed. “Damn it, it broke again. Why do we have to live in such falling-down housing?”

“The building has been here a century. It’s bound to have problems.” Caleb shrugged. “Come on. I’m excited to meet our new teammate.”

“I’m nervous,” Temple said, walking down the old stone corridors. The Soldiers of the Sun’s complex had been built with castles in mind, well fortified but dark and cold. “How do I explain what happened to my last partner?”

Caleb shot him a look. “It’s not your fault Li died.”

Did Caleb think Temple blamed himself? Of course he did. Temple had said it more than once. Li had been the love of his life, and Temple watched him bleed to death. Caleb probably worried Temple wasn’t dealing with his guilt. His partners knew him pretty well, but he wished they were easier to hoodwink. He wasn’t well. The closeness he’d felt since all of them had become lovers was good, but it never lasted.

“We were outnumbered,” Caleb said as he opened the exterior door. The wind caught them in its maw, blasting through the open door. The sulfurous stench of the steel mills rode the frigid air.

“Then why does it feel like it is?” As Temple’s shoulders slumped, Caleb favored him with a sharp look. Agni’s face was inscrutable as always. After a brief silence broken only by the whistle of the wind through the buildings, Temple said, “Taglioferro is an understanding guy. He knows what we get up to, but it’s not always easy to find someone with our talents who wouldn’t want to beat us for being shirt lifters.”

“Mostly it means we have to be discreet,” Agni said, turning his cool gaze on Temple. After a second his nose wrinkled. “You’re right. You have a problem.”

Temple made a face. “Go to hell.”

 

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

 

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

Jana Denardo – Soldiers of the Sun & Giveaway

August 16, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 photo oakland feb 1932_zpsrksmoueb.jpg

 

 

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

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

Down These Mean Streets with J.S. Cook

August 14, 2015

Skid Row Serenade is a novel about Tony Leonard, a down-and-out alcoholic war hero suffering from what nowadays we’d call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In the 1940s – when this novel takes place – it was more likely to be called ‘shell shock’.  During the war, Tony was a commando; he and others of his squad were taken prisoner by the Gestapo and tortured. Because of this, he is emotionally scarred, and can only face the outside world through a buffer of alcohol.

Skid Row Serenade is a noir novel, or what might otherwise be called ‘pulp detective’, a genre that hasn’t always enjoyed the greatest respectability. (When I was in academia, writing genre fiction was seen as something undesirable, almost shameful. You did it, but you never admitted to it, and among the academic community, it wasn’t seen as legitimate writing, not like literary fiction. Writing pulp was and still is too often regarded by intellectuals as the creative equivalent of picking one’s nose in public.) In its earliest incarnation, pulp referred to inexpensive magazines published from about 1896 through the 1950s. It was called ‘pulp’ because of the cheap, wood pulp paper on which it was printed – a direct contrast to the ‘glossies’ or ‘slicks’, magazines printed on high quality paper and often including lavish illustration. Pulps were priced at ten cents each, and within easy reach for almost all readers, unlike the slicks, which were typically twenty-five cents per issue. It doesn’t seem like much money to us nowadays in 2015, but in the dark and dirty 1930s, at the height of the Great Depression, a shoulder of lamb went for seventeen cents, and a dozen eggs were eighteen cents; bread throughout much of the United States cost eight cents. If you had twenty-five cents, you had a meal.

soupkitchen

Even though pulp fiction had a shady reputation, many of these inexpensive magazines played host to some of the greatest authors of the twentieth century. Writers such as Agatha Christie, (Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple); Dashiell Hammett, (Sam Spade, the Continental Op); Elmore Leonard, (Get Shorty, 3:10 to Yuma); and Raymond Chandler, creator of private detective Philip Marlowe.

Of Marlowe, Chandler said, “Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. He is the hero; he is everything.” Here is the detective as lone wolf, as modern knight errant, a man unafraid to tilt at windmills in pursuit of what he sees as justice.

Skid Row Serenade was directly inspired by Chandler’s The Long Goodbye—specifically, the character of Terry Lennox, the alcoholic war hero who befriends Marlowe and who calls upon him to whisk him out of the country when Lennox’s estranged wife is murdered. The story is told from Marlowe’s point of view, which got me wondering: what would the story look like if it were told from Terry’s point of view? In order to get into that 1940s detective vibe, I listened to the kind of music Tony Leonard – my version of Terry Lennox – might listen to: Billie Holiday, Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington. I immersed myself (as much as possible) in the culture of the 1940s, specifically the post-war era, when millions of armed forces personnel worldwide were being ‘demobbed’ and sent back to the everyday world they’d left at the beginning of the war. While I didn’t take up smoking again (I quit back in 2001) I did indulge in the cocktails Tony would have ordered: whiskey sours, champagne cocktails, martinis, and Raymond Chandler’s personal favorite, the gimlet.

What’s a gimlet? Half gin, half Rose’s lime juice. Shake over ice in a cocktail shaker; strain into a martini glass and enjoy. Trust me: it’s delicious.

Gimlet_cocktail

Something interesting happened once I sat down to ‘write Tony’. Maybe it was because of the music, or maybe it was because of the drinks, but I honestly felt as if I were channelling him. Every time I opened my laptop, it seemed he was there, dictating his story to me. All I had to do was take it down. This seemed to confirm something writing teacher Julia Cameron says: ‘writing isn’t about making it up; it’s about taking it down’. I certainly felt that way with Tony living in my head twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

I wanted Skid Row Serenade to have the feeling of an old-time pulp novel, including the snappy patter the genre has always been known for. I wanted it to be funny, but funny with an undercurrent of grimness. For example, Tony muses on his dead wife Janet’s sexual escapades as he flees Los Angeles for Mexico:

“[She] prefer[ed] instead an endless parade of stout young swains eager to fuck her brains out,” Tony says, after Janet has been found brutally murdered, her head beaten to a pulp with what we later find out is a high heeled shoe. “Well, they were out now.”

I wanted the book to have the feeling of a Chandler novel, but not as an intentional copy. Rather, I wanted Skid Row Serenade to read like something Chandler might have written, if he had chosen to write The Long Goodbye from a perspective other than Marlowe’s. There are certain passages that deliberately echo Chandler’s style. For example, Tony’s thoughts as he regards Los Angeles from Mulholland Drive, high above the city:

“Down there, people were crying, being beaten to within an inch of their lives, being disappointed and abandoned, having their bluff called, letting their hair down. Somebody was sitting in an empty room watching the pulse and flicker of the disenchanted neon and waiting for a moving bar of light to fall at a predetermined point along the dank and rumpled sheets of someone’s lonely bed. People were being crushed, being knifed, stabbed and shot; people were bawling their eyes out and people were sitting in a bar drinking themselves into oblivion. People were laughing, celebrating, eating, toasting, gasping, breathing, and dying, and all the while the luminous flesh of the palpitating city didn’t give a sweet goddamn.”

At times, Tony finds himself in down-at-heel bars and taverns, looking for some liquid comfort, most likely in a bottle of gin or bourbon. He’s well aware that his drinking habits are not normal, but he knows he is powerless to do anything about it. His frequent forays into less-than-salutary places and situations see him doling out his usual caustic wit:

“Here.” The barman came back with a bottle of Wild Turkey and a glass. […]“Anything else?” he asked.

“Eternal youth,” I said. “Good teeth. Strong bones. A will to live. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Did I leave anything out?”

The novel noir’s most pertinent distinction is a protagonist who isn’t a cop or detective, but who can instead be seen as either a victim, a suspect, or a perpetrator. The noir character is typically weak, morally corrupt, and self-destructive. If he has morals at all, they are likely his own, drawn from his view of the world; there is little in common with the laws or social mores of the larger world. Because the protagonist is himself a victim (Tony is a horribly damaged prisoner of war turned alcoholic) he has no choice but to victimize others in order to achieve the objective of his own personal end game. Bad things happen to – and around – the noir protagonist, who is sometimes an unwitting patsy and the author of his own destruction.

But it isn’t all bad news for Tony: there is a luscious and brilliant detective to whom he becomes very attached, and while having an alcoholic for a boyfriend isn’t exactly the stuff dreams are made of, Skid Row Serenade definitely has a happily-ever-after.

****

Now it’s your turn… For a free copy of any book from my backlist, share your favorite cocktail recipes. What really inspires your inner tippler? Tell me about the first time you had it, who made it, and why you love it so much. Does it include exotic or bizarre ingredients like wood, cereal, or vinegar? Does it have hallucinogenic properties, like absinthe or a Mickey Slim? Or does it simply fly you to the moon? Leave your reply in the comments.

 

 

Image Credits:

Image 1: ”Volunteers of America Soup Kitchen in Washington, D.C.” by Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum – Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum (53227(291), 06/00/1936, 27-0692a.gif). Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Image 2: By The Delicious Life (Vodka Gimlet no. 5  Uploaded by admrboltz) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Under the Big Top with Jessica Walsh

July 29, 2015

Under the Big Top

Today is the day of my first Dreamspinner Press release – so please be kind and I hope you enjoy it.  I’m Jessica Walsh, from Minnesota and I’ve been writing published works for the last two years, however this is my first solo work.  Ironbound Kisses and my other work are all Urban Supernatural – you know, our world with a bit of fantasy and the unusual mixed in.  This is a genre I’ve always loved, because I always preferred to think that this world isn’t quite as normal as we all think it is.

As for the circus, where this novella takes place, this is the first time I’ve written a story in such a setting, and yet it seemed to fit perfectly because the circus is supposed to be a place of magic anyway.  So I had a lot of fun pulling back that curtain to show the back area – something we don’t generally see.  In Minnesota we only really have one circus and it’s not in the best area and shows like Cirque De Sol weren’t exactly what I was looking for.  So instead, I found my research in the oddest of places – Netflix, PBS and a few scattered childhood memories.

The whole magic of the circus is being able to get your popcorn and candy and spend a couple hours watching normal people do almost magical things before your very eyes.  There’s something about seeing real people do it in front of you that trumps the feeling of watching it on screen.  Sure, with television and movies the effects might be flashier, but there’s times when a little ‘in person’ magic can also be just as stunning.  Be it stunts, extreme skills with sharp objects, or tamed animals that act like docile pets, you have to admit that it’s easy to lose yourself in seeing these performers show off their skills.

I had the most fun with Thomas, the main character.  Since he starts the story interviewing for a job at the circus, his curtained view of that world is immediately taken away.  He, and the reader, get to almost immediately see the reality of circus life with the hard work, traveling and living in trailers behind the large tents.  The magic and performance is quickly stripped away for hard work and very simple lifestyle.

But what Thomas soon comes to discover is that there’s still something hidden at this circus and there’s still magic and mystery hiding in the trees and one of the trailers.  So even in the background, behind the scenes where it’s all pulled away, there’s still something left to be discovered.

Part of the fun of writing in Urban Fantasy relates back to a very personal part of my childhood.  I grew up needing glasses from the time I was three because I naturally saw double.  This meant, at night, when I wasn’t wearing glasses it was really easy to see that monster hiding behind my door, in the corner of my room and my closet.  And even if you showed me it was a pile of clothes in the morning, when the lights went out I was positive it was there.

As I got older and grew out of being scared of the monsters, glancing twice at shadows and things that looked strange was a second nature to me.  I’ll still do it now when I’m sitting at home or work and I hear a strange sound, even though I’m alone.  Call it ghosts, fairies or the house settling, I notice it a lot.  And it’s now become more of a game to make up stories about what might actually be there just beyond my sight.  Maybe there is a ghost rummaging through the fabric in my sewing room at night.  Maybe there is a fairy hiding in the rafters of our basement, taunting our kitties who can’t quite jump high enough.  Or maybe my house is just far too old for any of that and the wood creaks and the pipes clang.  Whatever the story, it’s a fun ride for the imagination, and more than a few of those thoughts have formed into outlines waiting to be written.

***

stsv2cover (1)

Aside from Ironbound Kisses I’m currently working on an ongoing series with another Dreamspinner Author: Briana Lawrence .  She and I have been together for almost 14 years and actually met through our love of writing.  We spent years writing fanfiction together before we moved on to our own original works.  Seeking the Storyteller is the beginning of our long series set in Minnesota and also has a twist of supernatural in it, though this time it’s not as subtle.  We introduce a being called the Storyteller, who lives in a room of endless books full of the stories of people’s lives.  He has the power to read all those stories and change them, however he feels fit.

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You can find both of us, most days, either at or preparing for our next Anime Convention.  We wear costumes, sell our books and crafts in Artist Alley and can generally be found having fun with other convention goers all over the US.  So I suppose, in a way, I’m still working the fun and magical into my life – now I’m just doing it with a notebook and a couple Disney Princess dresses I’ve made.

***

So, what kind of magic is hiding at the edge of your world?  Are there dragons hidden in the marsh along your jogging path?  Fairies hidden in the cupboards above the work coffee machine?  Or maybe your dog chases little imps around the backyard trees.  Whatever it is, maybe you should take a second glance, because otherwise you might just miss it.

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Author facebook: https://www.facebook.com/storytellerhuntersseries

Blog: http://snowtigra.blogspot.com/

Website: http://www.sewntogetherreflections.com/books

 

Get Ironbound Kisses today!

IronboundKissesFS

The Royal Treatment with John Wiltshire

April 27, 2015

The Royal Treatment

 

Readers who know me well will probably be amazed at me doing this blog post. My name is John Wiltshire (http://johnwiltshire.co.nz/), and I’m a social media virgin. There, confession over, apologies made in advance if I press the wrong buttons and end up answering questions that were never asked. I’m only here today because the sequel to my novel A Royal Affair is out today. Aleksey’s Kingdom picks up the tale of Nikolai Hartmann and King Christian X (Aleksey) two years after Nikolai finished narrating the events of the first book, which took place in Hesse-Davia. I very much wanted A Royal Affair to be a complete and satisfying read without the need for a sequel, and I think I achieved that. The novel has an almost lyrical, fairytale ending as Nikolai and Aleksey carve their new life in the freedom of the great woods of the New World.

However, although it has a romantic ending, A Royal Affair is an exploration of conflict—political ones, the war in which the protagonists are engaged and the reformation they attempt in Hesse-Davia, but also a very personal one between Nikolai and Aleksey. At the end of the novel, they are still two very different men with very different experiences and outlooks on life. So, leaving them in a perfect relationship in the dreamlike innocence of the New World and just concluding ‘they lived happily ever after’ would have been a denial of this central premise. I’m fascinated by the idea of what lies beneath the surface of things, what you discover if you journey into the heart of darkness. In other words, I couldn’t help but picture Aleksey’s face, tool (hammer) in hand, as he was expected to build and live in a cabin in the woods…So, the personal conflict for Aleksey’s Kingdom was very easy to establish—these men haven’t changed who they fundamentally are, and Aleksey, a king and the general of a victorious army, is now stuck in the middle of nowhere with nothing very much to do. I envisaged mischief ensuing.

I then had to plan the dramatic clash—the plot. I’d recently watched a little-known (well, I’d never heard of it) film called Ravenous (1999), in which a group of soldiers travel to an outpost to unravel various nefarious goings on. There’s nothing better for any plot than to have a small group of people trapped together with mysterious emanations (and possibly cannibalism). Today, such stories need to be set in space (or perhaps the Arctic) to establish such a profound sense of isolation, but in the late seventeenth century everything was unknown and can be used to create a wonderful sense of fear and menace. It’s no coincidence that the most infamous witch trials in history took place in the New World at this time—Salem. So, I borrowed the very basic premise of Ravenous, mixed it with the atmosphere and hysteria that surrounds The Crucible and had the skeleton outline for my story. I also have to give credit to John Connolly, one of my favourite authors, who explores the idea in his novels that evil does exist in this world—that the fallen angels still walk amongst us.

So, in Aleksey’s Kingdom, Nikolai and Aleksey join a small band of soldiers and colonists travelling to a deserted outpost that lies alongside a vast waterfall on the border between the English and French occupied regions of the New World. The falls, which dominate the book, are real, and based on Niagara. I once visited this out-the- world place and, for a dare, paddled in the river above the drop off. I leave it to Nikolai to describe the impression that foolish action had on me…This natural cataclysm comes to represent the great metaphorical descent he has to make to save Aleksey—his own personal journey into the heart of darkness and the final abandoning of his scientific, rational way of seeing the world.

I think most of my readers have worked out by now that I don’t write conventional m/m fiction. I’m rather proud of the eye scrawled in blood on the cover of Aleksey’s Kingdom—thanks to L.C. Chase, who did such a great job bringing this to life. Trust me that smear of blood sets the tone for this novel. It’s not a book for the faint-hearted. No adorable presents are exchanged; no romantic dinners eaten; no babies adopted or fluffy kittens were purchased during the making of this novel. There is death and horror—after reading one scene, my editor came back to me and exclaimed, “You have to leave this out; you’ll have no readers left!” The scene is still in. I have faith. And sometimes, as with soldiers in war, there’s great humour in adversity. I find Nikolai extremely amusing, and I know Aleksey secretly does, too. Ultimately, this novel is about bravery and sacrifice. It’s about Nikolai and Aleksey, Faelan, Xavier and Boudica. It’s about love. Always love.

***

To celebrate the publication of Aleksey’s Kingdom, I’d like to give away a copy of the first in the series: A Royal Affair. I said earlier that I’m fascinated by the concept of what lies beneath the surface of things—the journeying into literal and metaphorical darkness. To win a copy of A Royal Affair, comment on this blog post and let me know of a book you love that you think also explores these themes. We’ll pick the best answer and a copy of A Royal Affair will be winging its way to you.

***

I have a very active fan club on Goodreads, where they discuss all the novels (https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/151017-john-wiltshire-fan-group). Tempers flare; emotions heat up, because these books are controversial. I have a feeling there will soon be a very long thread on Aleksey’s Kingdom, especially after some of the scenes in it. This is your chance to challenge me—ask me anything…I could give some hints to up-coming events in the More Heat Than the Sun series about Benjamin Rider and Nikolas Mikkelsen (Book 8 of which is currently being written). Or I could chat about my new novel set in New Zealand (where I’m currently living): Ollie-Always.

I love discussing books (especially mine). I’m sitting comfortably, so let’s begin…

Illusions – Excerpt – First Kiss

February 13, 2015

Hey Guys, It’s S.A. Ozment here again chatting about Illusions. Let’s look at another excerpt from the book.

*Disclaimer* The following excerpt contains adult language.

Illusions
S.A. Ozment

As Skylar neared the gazebo, he heard something behind him. Immediately thinking it was Emma following him, he said, “I swear to God, if that’s you, Emma, I may….”’
“May what?”
Skylar swung around at the sound of Aiden’s voice.
Smiling, he said, “May… nothing… never mind. There’s a fan who insists on following me around. I thought you were her.”
“Nope, not a fan. And definitely not a ‘her,’” Aiden teased.
“Hum… wonder if I could change that?” Skylar said with a smile.
“What? The fact that I’m not a fan or the fact I’m not a ‘her’?” Aiden asked.
“A fan,” laughed Skylar.
“Keep it up. You are definitely headed in the right direction,” Aiden said as he walked closer to Skylar.
Skylar, whose heart rate started skyrocketing, tried to make himself chill out as he asked, “Want to have a seat in the gazebo or do you have to get back?” He looked toward the house.
“No, I’m on break. I saw you walk off down the path and thought I’d take the chance to follow you.”
“I’m glad you did,” Skylar said with his heart in his throat. Okay, this crap needs to stop. Since when do I get nervous over a little flirting?
Aiden and Skylar walked over to the gazebo. They managed to stay a good distance from each other, as if they were afraid to touch in any way. Once inside the gazebo, Skylar went to stand against one of the beams, setting his drink down on the railing.
“It’s sure is beautiful out here tonight,” Skylar said as he looked up at the moon.
“It sure is,” Aiden whispered as he gazed at Skylar.
Noticing the tone change in Aiden’s voice, Skylar turned to see Aiden walking closer to him. Within a second Aiden was standing directly in front of him. The closeness was intoxicating as the ache inside him magnified and began settling in his groin. Skylar reached out to touch Aiden’s cheek. Very tenderly he began running his finger down the side of Aiden’s jawline. Both men held each other’s gazes and tried to steady their breathing.
Skylar continued to draw Aiden’s face with his fingers as if he wanted to memorize it forever. His finger reached Aiden’s lips and lingered there as the touch of his lips sent jolts through Skylar’s body. Aiden opened his mouth slightly to capture just the tip of his finger in his mouth.
Skylar gasped. He had a hard-on so rigid, he felt like it might burst out of his jeans. Groaning slightly, Skylar leaned down and replaced his finger with his mouth. Grabbing Aiden’s upper lip with his mouth, Skylar moved his lips around until he had completely covered Aiden’s mouth. Instantly, Aiden opened his mouth, and Skylar pushed his tongue inside.
Taking their time, the kiss was slow and deliberate. Skylar pulled Aiden closer to him as he worshipped his mouth with an intoxicating, slow movement that drove both of them crazy. Gasping and straining against each other, the kiss deepened. Aiden moaned as he pushed Skylar back against the pole, the kisses becoming more desperate.

IllusionsFS

Genre: M/M Romance, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Novel
Release Date: February 13, 2015
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Art: Christy Caughie

Link: e-book  http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6041

Link: paperback http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6042

BLURB

Ever since arriving in Hollywood, Skylar Murphy has been loving life. He’s starring in a hit television show and on the verge of grabbing the lead role in the most anticipated movie of the decade. Poised on the edge of superstardom, he doesn’t want or need any complications to distract him from that goal. Whether he’s sleeping with a woman or a man, his noncommittal, no-strings-attached love life suits him perfectly, and despite his rep for playing gay roles, the world still thinks he’s straight.

At the launch party for his new show, Skylar meets Aiden Moore, an openly gay firefighter by day and cater waiter to the stars by night. Skylar is immediately attracted to him, but Aiden rejects him. When an arsonist appears to have targeted Skylar, their paths keep crossing. Always up for a challenge, Skylar works to win Aiden over, and he agrees to a date. Soon enough they can’t stay away from each other. Despite hiding their relationship away from the ever-present paparazzi, they’re happy together until a jilted fan joins forces with the arsonist to sabotage their future.

Illusions – Unattainable Love

February 13, 2015

Have you ever wanted to be with someone until you were? Have you ever wanted someone that you considered unattainable and when you had them, you lost interest? I think I’ve spent my entire life looking for that unattainable man. I even wrote a book (that I still need to finish) titled The Quest for the Unattainable Man. So it’s no surprise to me that the books I write always have an unattainable person.

Unattainable can mean many things. It can mean that person is not available physically, emotionally or maybe it just means that person simply doesn’t know you.

In Illusions, Skylar is what I like to call a “commitment-phobe”. He  wants what he wants when he wants it and with no complications. It’s only when he meets Aiden that his rules for dating get a bit out of whack. Along with every other rule he’s created in his mind. One of Skylar’s self imposed rules is that he won’t date fans. THAT came specifically from one of my actor friends from many years ago.

This friend of mine (I won’t give his name because he might kill me..LOL) told me years ago that he would never date a fan. I asked why not? Fans are people too and who knows, you might fall in love with one.  He said, I’ll give you three reasons right now. One, they usually have you so high on a pedestal that you will never be able to live up to that image in their mind. Secondly, some had already decided that they love you and have preconceived notions from day one. And last but not least, he said that he didn’t date fans because heaven forbid they think you are the character that they fell in love with and upon learning you are nothing like that character, they freak out. So dating/sleeping with fans was a no go for him. Now, bear in mind, this was right before he left with a beautiful blonde fan and walked in with her the next morning. I didn’t say word but he came over to me and said, “just so you know, I didn’t sleep with her.” Yes…and I was born yesterday. :)

But the point of my story is rules are made to be broken.

Have you ever wanted someone that was unattainable to you? Please share your story. I don’t want to be alone in my quest. :)

IllusionsFS

Genre: M/M Romance, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Novel
Release Date: February 13, 2015
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Art: Christy Caughie

Link: e-book http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6041

Link: paperback http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6042

BLURB

Ever since arriving in Hollywood, Skylar Murphy has been loving life. He’s starring in a hit television show and on the verge of grabbing the lead role in the most anticipated movie of the decade. Poised on the edge of superstardom, he doesn’t want or need any complications to distract him from that goal. Whether he’s sleeping with a woman or a man, his noncommittal, no-strings-attached love life suits him perfectly, and despite his rep for playing gay roles, the world still thinks he’s straight.

At the launch party for his new show, Skylar meets Aiden Moore, an openly gay firefighter by day and cater waiter to the stars by night. Skylar is immediately attracted to him, but Aiden rejects him. When an arsonist appears to have targeted Skylar, their paths keep crossing. Always up for a challenge, Skylar works to win Aiden over, and he agrees to a date. Soon enough they can’t stay away from each other. Despite hiding their relationship away from the ever-present paparazzi, they’re happy together until a jilted fan joins forces with the arsonist to sabotage their future.