July 29, 2016
C.B. Lewis joins us today to talk about new book Time Lost and writing time travel.
Don’t write time-travel. Just don’t. Consider this a little bit of sage advice from someone who has fallen headlong down the rabbit hole of paradoxes and the butterfly effect and can’t get back out.
I’m C.B. Lewis and apparently, I am a complete masochist, because I’m delighted to announce the release of Time Lost, the second book of my time-travel series, Out of Time.
Time Lost begins with DI Jacob Ofori dealing with what appears to be a missing person case. Of course, things are never that simple, especially when he has to investigate the Temporal Research Institute, the place where his missing person worked. Kit Rafferty is the unfortunate technician who gets a bit too caught up in the investigation and his attraction to Jacob. Despite their best intentions, Jacob and Kit are drawn to one another, risking their careers and reputations, in the middle of an investigation that could change history.
Both Time Lost and Time Waits (Book #1) messed with my poor wee writer brain. I started the first story for the Out of Time series years ago (let’s call it the Mark 1), but then realised I wanted to know more about certain characters who would appear in it. So I started sketching out characters. Next thing I know, I’ve written a 300+ page novel which was only meant to be backstory to Mark 1: Time Waits. (For those who haven’t read it, time-travel conspiracy theory turned adventure turned romance with a dash of spy-lite thrown in)
With that out of the way, I was sure I could go back to Mark 1, because I had the characters and I had some of the layers of history all sorted. Right?
HA! Dead wrong!
Trouble is when you go back 20 years in a story to Point A, you can’t just jump to Point X with no explanation. Time is linear, after all, and one event will lead to cascading ripples, and everything changes. So I figure, hey, I know the history of everything that happens between Time Waits and Mark 1 and why certain changes have happened. Can’t hurt to put some of it down in writing.
And so, Time Lost was born.
So, logically, you’d think I would be back to Mark 1 now, wouldn’t you? Turns out that the writer part of my brain is much more interested in time-hopping than I am, because it has just handed me another story, set between Time Waits and Mark 1, and honestly, I think my head is going to essplode with too many ideas.
Time-travel bad, tree pretty.
Just to wind things up here, you can go straight into Time Lost without reading Time Waits, but if you haven’t and you want a chance to dip a toe into the world of the TRI, I’m giving away a digital copy of Time Waits. To win it, I’d love to hear about your favourite point in history and whether or not you would actually want to go back to it if you had the chance. Comment for a chance to win
Check out Time Lost today!
What began with a dead intruder and a missing scientist quickly becomes the most perplexing case of Detective Inspector Jacob Ofori’s career. Nothing about it makes sense, from the incredibly advanced technology found on the intruder to the scientist’s mysterious workplace, the Temporal Research Institute. Jacob’s gut tells him the TRI is hiding something, and the questions keep piling up: Who would abduct Sanders? What is the strange gate in his basement laboratory? How does it connect to similar gates in the TRI?
TRI engineer Kit Rafferty only wanted one night with the sexy older policeman, but Kit’s mouth tends to run away with him when he gets excited, and nothing gets him more excited than cutting-edge tech—like the intruder’s cybernetic eye. Suddenly Kit is pulled into the investigation—and into a relationship that could jeopardize both of their lives. Kit hates lying to Jacob, but he cannot reveal what really goes on at the TRI—time travel. Faced with time-jumping criminals but unable to share that knowledge with Jacob, Kit turns to a man who knows time travel firsthand: Janos Nagy.
C.B. Lewis is small and Scottish and can often be spotted perched around historical monuments with her notepad and pen. She loves to travel and just has one continent left to complete her travel bingo card. There are no cats, no puppies, no significant others, only a lot of ideas and an awful lot of typing. And occasionally, cake. Never forget the cake.
July 28, 2016
C. J. Anthony joins us today to chat about her story for Christmas in July – Falling for Santa Claus!
Hi, I’m C. J. Anthony, I’m a new author at Dreamspinner with my first release out July 24, called Falling for Santa Claus…
This is the sixth stop on my blog tour. I hope you’ll prop your feet up, grab some ice cold lemonade or ice tea, turn that AC up to it’s coldest setting and blast it while you follow along. You’ll get to find out more about the story, why I wrote it and also a little extra side story about what Jack, Nick and the other residents of Great Falls are up to this summer. At the end of the tour, I’ll be choosing two winners from all the comments on all of the blogs (which means every time you comment on a different blog, you get another entry!) and they’ll receive a special Christmas in July gift from Santa himself. Blog links are listed below.
This is my first book with Dreamspinner, and I’m so excited! I’ve been reading M/M gay romance since 2011 and Dreamspinner has always been one of my favorite go-to publishers.
My book is Falling for Santa Claus, and yes, that’s right… it’s a Christmas story released in July! My main focus for the story was just to write a warm and fuzzy Christmas story. It had been a while since I’d written anything and I decided something light and fun and short would help get me back in the groove.
It does actually take place during the Christmas season, in a very small, very nosy fictional town in Vermont called Great Falls. The town holds a lot of festivals and celebrations throughout the year and Christmas is of course no exception. There is a Christmas parade (featured prominently in the book), and they also decorate the town all up in lights and festive decorations. They hold a town Christmas party where many of the people go from house to house during an evening—sort of a Christmas party crawl, I suppose could be another name for it.
I live in a small town (not as small as Great Falls) and while my town doesn’t do Christmas up quite as festively as Great Falls, there are a few events the town does. There’s a decorative light display at our fairgrounds. Local organizations hold craft fairs. We do have a small parade, I think.
As for my own traditions, I try to always put my tree up Thanksgiving weekend, though I’m not always successful, depending how busy the weekend is. I don’t do Black Friday sales anymore but I did when I was younger, with my mother. Every Friday after Thanksgiving was spent in line outside a store at 0-dark thirty waiting for the store to open. (Of course Black Friday has changed so much since, with stores opening Thanksgiving Day, etc.)
We always opened our own gifts on Christmas Eve with hot chocolate and cookies. Christmas morning was for “Santa” gifts, when I was young enough to believe. Christmas day is dinner at my aunt’s house, and the food is always family Italian dishes.
What are some of your own Christmas traditions? Or fun Christmas events in your town? Enjoy the excerpt below and then comment below, I’d love to hear about everyone’s holiday traditions.
Reluctantly I got up, only to discover I was out of coffee. I’d forgotten that the general store had been so crowded Wednesday with people getting last-minute essentials for their Thanksgiving meals, that I had turned around and walked out without even grabbing a cart. Hence, the empty coffee canister today. Crap. With a sigh I headed upstairs, got dressed, and walked the three blocks to Mabel’s. At which time I discovered—too late—why Nick had told me to stay away from town. The streets and tiny shops were flooded with people. Every single man, woman, and child who resided in Great Falls was bustling about, yelling and carrying packages. Black Friday sales were apparently not just for big city stores. All of the shops had huge signs of 50% off and Buy One, Get One Free. It was only seven thirty in the morning, and every store had lines of people out the door waiting to check out, because there was no room for everyone to crowd inside. I laughed at how ridiculous it was. In Chicago, customers who had made it outside the store with their item but hadn’t paid for it yet would keep on walking—if not running—to get out of there before they were caught. But not in Great Falls. Here everyone was so honest and faithful they all lined up and patiently waited to pay for their purchases. No, wait. These people were far from patient. In fact this was a side of the townspeople I had not seen before. People were barking at each other, pushing and shoving. Good God, Mrs. Glassman just tackled Herb in an attempt to grab a Magic Bullet Pro 900 blender out of his arms!
It felt like I was in the twilight zone…. Where had my nice, quiet, friendly town gone? What alien ship had come down and replaced all of the residents’ souls? I guess no town was free from the greed of Black Friday.
I managed to squeeze and push my way to Mabel’s, which, thank God, was open and completely empty.
Mabel smiled and poured a cup of coffee for me. “Mornin’, Jackie.”
I sat down at the counter, inhaled a big whiff of coffee, and sighed. “Good morning, Mabel. How come you’re not out there with everyone else?” I asked as I took a big gulp of the hot, energizing elixir.
“Because in about an hour or so, they’ll all be heading in here for coffee and breakfast.”
I shuddered. “I hope you don’t have any specials today. They’ll be ripping the food out of your hands.”
Mabel cackled. “Nah, they’ll have cooled off by then.” Then she frowned as she stared out the window. “At least… I hope so.” A second later her wide grin was back as she turned toward me. “So what can I get you, Jackie?”
“I’ll take a breakfast sandwich with egg and ham to go. And another coffee, also to go. I think I’m going back home and staying there for the day.”
She cackled again as she headed back into the kitchen.
A bit later she handed me my sandwich in a bag and the coffee in a to-go cup.
“Jackie, don’t pay this morning no mind. Be sure to come back through town later this evening,” she said softly as she winked at me.
When I got outside, I took one look at the crowd and turned in the opposite direction, toward the library. It was closed for the holiday weekend, but I had plenty of work and administrative duties I could get caught up on. I ended up working all day, eating lunch from the vending machine, so it was pitch-dark out when I finally locked up about six and started home. I’d only walked a block when I had to stop and stare at the scene before me. The streets were nearly empty, normal traffic for six o’clock in the evening. But the town! What a complete difference from this morning. Every house was lit up with white and red and blue and yellow and green and all the twinkling lights of Christmas. There were pine wreaths on doors and garlands around lampposts. Lighted reindeer sculptures and cheery plastic Santa Clauses adorned front yards. A light snow began to fall, right on cue. It was all so perfect, like a scene out of a movie, or better yet, a living, breathing snow globe. As I walked, I saw neighbors helping each other. Even Herb was helping Mrs. Glassman string lights up to the top peak of her house.
It took me twice as long as usual to get home because I was soaking in all the spirit and joy that exuded from every house. People waved and yelled hello, and I waved right back. My face muscles ached from smiling so much. I was so glad Mabel had told me to come back tonight. No matter the issues that came with living in a small town like Great Falls, moments like these made it all worth it.
Check out Falling for Santa Claus today!
When Jack Frost’s aunt dies and leaves him her house in the tiny town of Great Falls, Jack seizes the opportunity to escape the rat race of Chicago for the quaint village he loved as a child. On his first night he’s welcomed by a baseball bat and a trespassing warning from Nick St. James—longtime Great Falls resident and infamous curmudgeon.
Jack wants to give Nick the benefit of the doubt—he can’t deny his attraction to the big man—but after several run-ins with Nick’s grumpiness and closed-off heart, he’s ready to give up. Only after discovering the secret Nick’s been covering up for years does he vow to break through Nick’s walls to find the loving man hiding behind them.
Follow the rest of the tour:
C. J. Anthony started reading and writing at an early age. She attributes her love of reading and romance to her mother who not only taught her to read but also made countless trips to the library lugging piles of books home for her to read. She loved getting lost in the people and places and adventures she found in books. It wasn’t a far jump to start writing her own stories, early childhood tales about flower families and travelling to the moon with her best friend.
C. J. has always been a hopeless romantic, believing in true love and soul mates, and HEAs with a little humor and a little angst along the way–life is never perfect, after all, but everyone deserves a happy ending and someone there to catch them when they fall. Her favorite stories to read and write revolve around the idea of “opposites attract”—couples who start out as two people who couldn’t be more different from each other. They might appear to be the odd couple to the rest of the world, but to each other they are perfect, creating their own happy ever after with a little hard work and a whole lot of love.
Not surprisingly, C. J. is a big lover of Rom Coms—she’ll gladly take Julia Roberts standing in front of Hugh Grant asking him to love her, over car crashes and shoot-em up movies any day. She also watches way too much TV and every singing reality show there is. She loves music and musicians of all genres with the attitude that nothing is a guilty pleasure and all music has a purpose even if it is just to make you dance and laugh.
She spends most of her time juggling a day job and a commute and freelance design work on the side and falling asleep on her couch.
You can find C. J. at:
@C_J_Anthony on twitter
July 27, 2016
Liquorice Allsorts are one of my favourite candies. I adore the combination of flavours and textures. Strong aniseed layered with fruit and coconut; chewy liquorice and soft gelatine. My reading tastes are similar. I read widely, across most genres. I will follow space opera with contemporary romance, then pick up a supernatural thriller, follow that with some epic fantasy, read something kinky, then settle in with a lush historical. So it comes as no surprise that as a writer, I also like to cross genres and mix things up.
My first published book was a post-apocalyptic love story with aliens. I kinda knew at the time it wouldn’t be a bestseller—that it would be too weird for most folks. But I loved writing it! I followed that one up with a story about, um, kinky robots. Then some more science fiction romance (the Chaos Station series co-written with Jenn Burke). Next up was contemporary romance—and even there, I had to mix it up. I wrote about a forty-five year old, then a pair of college students. Then an established couple.
Last week saw the release of my first story featuring a questioning character—Marc, a twenty-something accountant who has been so focused on his career, he’s found it easy to ignore the fact women just don’t do it for him. Then he meets Henry and it’s as if the sun has peeked between the clouds. It’s revelation time and Counting Fence Posts presents him with a chance to form a new plan. The story is told from Henry’s point of view, because I like to look at some characters a little sideways. Also, Henry’s perspective is as important as Marc’s—as their relationship will be made up of not one, but two people.
Writing Henry and Marc gave me a chance to talk about sexuality, which is something I don’t often do in my stories. Happily, most of my LGBT characters live in worlds (and neighbourhoods) where their sexuality is nothing but their own business. It would be naïve and perhaps neglectful for me to assume every character exists in such a state of bliss. The most important aspect of writing Counting Fence Posts for me, however, was staying true to my characters. To present their thoughts, feelings and questions. To explore their anxieties, as if they were real people, while keeping in mind that everyone is a different allsort. Our layers and flavours unique.
Today sees the release of my first paranormal tale, Best in Show. This one was so much fun to write, and a completely new field for me. I’d long wanted to write a story about a cat who was actually an alien in disguise. When I saw the Dreamspinner Press call for stories about unusual shifters, my cat character locked himself up in an animal shelter and said, “Write me out of this situation.” So I created a mystery writer who didn’t really want a pet, but ended up with one anyway.
For all my varied reading tastes, I don’t often pick up dark, angst-ridden stories. When I read paranormal, I look for books that take a lighter view. I also really enjoy writing humour. So Best in Show is paranormal “lite”. There are shifters and magic, but essentially, it’s the story of how fun-loving prankster Mac sweeps into the life of lonely mystery writer Julian and shakes things up. Mac plays the part of the sun peeking through clouds, because I love stories like that—where one character shows the other a new way of seeing things. Doing things. Mac has his own issues, of course. He’s human—mostly. But for Julian, he’s that absolutely necessary ray of sunshine.
I have plans to continue both of these stories, which means I’ll be writing a little more questioning and a lot more magic and mayhem. Then I might write Indiana Jones in space, or the post-apocalyptic Christmas love story with magic I’ve been fiddling with. Or maybe another contemporary. Or the dragon shifter book I almost have plotted.
I’d love to hear about your reading choices. Do you mix it up, or stick to a couple of favourite genres? Comment below for a chance to win a title from my Dreamspinner Press backlist.
(Follow the rest of my tour for character interviews, behind the book posts, playlists, excerpts and another giveaway.)
Check out Counting Fence Posts!
There are over two hundred thousand fence posts between Syracuse and Boston. Henry Auttenberg likes numbers—it’s his job—but he isn’t going to count them all, even if the view outside the rental car is less confounding than the driver, his attractive but oh so obnoxious colleague, Marcus Winnamore. It’s Christmas Eve and Henry would much rather be home with his family. When the blizzard that grounded their flight forces them off the road, however, he’s stuck with Marc until the storm passes—or a plow digs them out.
As the temperature outside plummets, the atmosphere inside the car slowly heats up. Henry learns the true reason for Marc’s chilly distance—he’s not exactly straight…maybe…and he’s been fantasizing about Henry’s mouth, among other things. Confession laid out, Marc is all for sharing body heat…and more. Henry isn’t interested in being an experiment, but as the night and cold deepen, he could be convinced to balance certain risk against uncertain reward.
Check out Best in Show!
Solitary mystery writer Julian Wilkes doesn’t want a pet, but his sister persuades him to visit Lingwood Animal Rescue, where he is immediately taken with a large ginger tabby cat. Before he can settle into the joys of cat ownership, however, he discovers something very unusual about his new companion.
Macavity Birch is cursed. By day he is a large tabby cat. At night he can be himself—a human male with ginger hair and oddly yellow eyes. He didn’t mean to end up in the animal rescue, but he never meant any harm when playing the prank that resulted in his curse, either. Happily, Julian adopts him. But while exploring his host’s home, he discovers the diary of a long-dead relative.
Unfortunately, not all of Mac’s ancestors are dead and buried. His great-great-great-grandmother is very much alive, and she’s a powerful witch who doesn’t take kindly to the sharing of family secrets. When Mac reveals himself to Julian in order to save him from bigger trouble, he achieves just the opposite, plunging Julian deeper into a magical mystery with him.
If aliens ever do land on Earth, Kelly will not be prepared, despite having read over a hundred stories of the apocalypse. Still, she will pack her precious books into a box and carry them with her as she strives to survive. It’s what bibliophiles do.
Kelly is the author of a number of novels, novellas and short stories, including the Chaos Station series, co-written with Jenn Burke. A lot of what she writes is speculative in nature, but sometimes it’s just about a guy losing his socks and/or burning dinner. Because life isn’t all conquering aliens and mountain peaks. Sometimes finding a happy ever after is all the adventure we need.
July 26, 2016
Way back seven years ago, when we first published Checkmate, Mary Calmes fell as in love with Teodoro as we are. She deployed her secret superpower for finding the perfect image for characters she loves and provided us with visual inspiration for the rest of the stories in the series. She did such a perfect job (as always) that we wanted to share those images with you. Obviously they aren’t all in period clothing, but that’s why we have imaginations, right? We can picture them in period costume–or in no clothes at all.
Teodoro de Ciéza de Vivar is a Spanish sword-for-hire who lives in Madrid with his son. He’s dark and magnetic and everything you could hope for in a swashbuckling hero.
Lord Christian Blackwood, Viscount Aldwych, is about as far from Teodoro in looks or experience as you can get. He’s English, young, inexperienced in the ways of the sword, and probably more naive than he has any right to be.
Esteban de Ciéza de Vivar is the son of Teodoro’s late wife and lives with Teo in Madrid. He’s fourteen when the story starts, although as the series progresses, he turns into the young man in the picture. He adores his guardian and wants nothing more than his approval.
Gerrard Hawkins is Christian’s bodyguard and friend. He has never been a lover of men, but he has enough respect for Christian not to question his tastes. His hair is a little darker than in this picture, but Mary nailed the world-weary alpha male.
Raúl is Rom, but more than that, he’s a healer and a bit of a mystic, and if Esteban is to be believed, there’s nothing he can’t do. He’s Teodoro’s best friend, and not above a bit of emotional blackmail if it means he will see Teo happy and settled.
Aristide took his name when he broke with his family at nineteen. He lives and works now in Paris as a Royal Musketeer. His honor and the bonds of military brotherhood he shares with Perrin and Léandre are the two most important things in his life.
Léandre made his way to Paris after leaving the monastery in disgrace. Now a valued member of the Royal Musketeers, he shares his lodgings (and his bed) with Aristide and Perrin.
Fleeing a past he would rather forget, Perrin chooses blunt speech over any form of flattery or polite speech. He prefers actions to words when whenever possible. (Can you tell Perrin is Mary’s favorite?)
A simple blacksmith, Benoît of Montredon doesn’t know how he got mixed up with politics or musketeers, but he’s quite sure he doesn’t belong there, especially when he starts having feelings for a certain musketeer.
Check out Checkmate today!
When sword-for-hire Teodoro Ciéza de Vivar accepts a commission to “rescue” Lord Christian Blackwood from unsuitable influences, he has no idea he’s landed himself in the middle of a plot to assassinate King Philip IV of Spain and blame the English ambassador for the deed. Nor does he expect the spoiled child he’s sent to retrieve to be a handsome, engaging young man.
As Teodoro and Christian face down enemies at every turn, they fall more and more in love, an emotion they can’t safely indulge with the threat of the Inquisition looming over them. It will take all their combined guile and influence to outmaneuver the powerful men who would see them separated… or even killed.
Growing up in Chicago, Nicki Bennett spent every Saturday at the central library, losing herself in the world of books. A voracious reader, she eventually found it difficult to find enough of the kind of stories she liked to read and decided to start writing them herself.
When Ariel Tachna was twelve years old, she discovered two things: the French language and romance novels. Those two loves have defined her ever since. By the time she finished high school, she’d written four novels, none of which anyone would want to read now, featuring a young woman who was—you guessed it—bilingual. That girl was everything Ariel wanted to be at age twelve and wasn’t.
She now lives on the outskirts of Houston with her husband (who also speaks French), her kids (who understand French even when they’re too lazy to speak it back), and their two dogs (who steadfastly refuse to answer any French commands).
July 25, 2016
Jayce Ellis joins us today to chat about new book “Alex’s Law”!
If anyone had told me a year ago when I started writing Alex’s Law, that it would actually be accepted, let alone actually published, I would’ve told them that I wanted whatever they were smoking. For the record, I don’t smoke. But the idea of being an actual author, with my name on a book available for public consumption, was a pipe dream if I ever had one. In the far recesses of my mind, it was always a possibility, just like becoming a professional clarinetist, or even a singer. My singing voice sounds like a dog screeching. It is not pretty. I’d minored in English in college (originally it was a major, but I got lazy and didn’t finish), but it had been my “love” major. Politics was my “job” major. I never expected it to go anywhere.
One fateful day, I was on the Dreamspinner website decided to click under submissions. Why not? What’s the worst that could happen? I mean, aside from them crushing my nascent dream before it began. Seriously though, I would’ve been perfectly content with a polite decline with some suggestions on how to improve. What I got, the reality of Alex’s Law now being available, is way more than I ever expected. So, what was the actual writing process like?
In every way possible, it was the best case of the blind leading the blind. I had no clue what I was doing. I had no clue how to put together a character arc, a story plot, subplots (OMG, what the heck are those?), or anything. And the amazing words and sentences and phrases and everything swirling around in my head turned into complete gibberish on the page. I spent a significant amount of time spent pounding my head on a desk. A solid, cherry wood desk older than me. Not my brightest moment.
Then my husband asked me, “So what do you see these guys as really looking like?” And that switch, from having an abstract idea in my mind to an actual representation, did wonders for me. If you’re interested, check out my Pinterest board for Alex’s Law to see the inspiration for the characters in this book. Once I had real people in my head, I could see real interactions in real situations, and then was able to put something semi-coherent together. I hope you like what I came up with.
Now, I am a series lover. I read series. I devour series. If I see that the book I’m reading is book ten, best believe I’m going to grab books one through nine first. And, with any luck, I’ll read them all in a weekend. Considering how much I toiled putting together 18,000 words, my respect for those authors who write full-length novels, multiple times a year (Charlie Cochet, I’m looking at you), only to have readers like myself consume them in one morning with a cup of coffee and a bagel, has grown exponentially. So, right now I’m working on what will hopefully be book two of this series, with the working title Bailing Out. It is a full-length novel, and with any luck I’ll have it out for consideration by the end of August. If they like it, there are a few more ideas that I have on tap, including (crossing my fingers) a longer novella with Alex and Law. Because in my first draft, many, many moons ago, I had a second subplot—yes, I know, two subplots is absurd. Told you I was a newbie—that delves a little bit more into their backgrounds and their families, that was just way too much to put in this little ditty.
So, let’s wrap this up. Since Dreamspinner has done me the greatest honor in publishing this, I’d like to give something back to the amazing readers. I am doing a $25 giveaway card for Dreamspinner Press books. Given how often they have sales, you can stock up on the cheap. All you have to do is two things. One, leave me a comment below. Tell me when you went after a dream that you thought you’d never achieve, and tell me how that worked out for you. Hopefully we’ll get a lot of positive stories, but they don’t have to be. And two, you can either like my Facebook page, or follow me on Twitter, or sign up for my newsletter. Each other gives you another entry, but everyone who comments will automatically be entered. It closes on July 31, 2016.
Thanks for listening to my ramblings and musings. I can’t wait to see what you guys have to say about chasing your dreams, and thanks so much for all of your support.
Check out Alex’s Law today!
Alex Corrigan is in love with his boss, Judge Lawson Daniels, and thinks those feelings are returned. That assumption is sorely tested two days before the court holiday party they’re organizing together, when the venue calls and cancels, followed by a snafu with the caterer. Alex could handle that, but after an intimate dinner followed by a decidedly unromantic e-mail, he’s left wondering about the future of his employment as well as his relationship with the debonair older man.
Law can’t wait to see his clerk again. But Alex is cold and distant in the light of day, and Law doesn’t understand. The party looms in the background, but Law’s excitement is turning to dread. On top of that, someone is sabotaging them, trying to get Alex fired and drive Law off the bench. If there’s any chance for a happy holiday for Alex and Law, they’ll have to find out who.
About Jayce Ellis:
Jayce Ellis has three loves: her husband and her two turtles. Hubby loves her back. The turtles she’s not so sure about, but they do love their sports (Bay Area teams FTW!). She still hasn’t figured out why she lives in Northern Virginia, where there’s weather, instead of California, where she’s from, and where it’s just…pretty. Jayce spends her days divorcing happily-married couples (or so she’s been told), and her nights talking maniacally to herself. Thankfully the recorder catches her rumblings and magically turns them into words on a screen. Painting nails is way easier when you don’t actually have to type, and with well over 500 polishes to get through, there’s a lot of painting going on.
Notwithstanding her no-good, very bad, horrible day job, Jayce seriously believes that true love conquers all. Even Maleficent said it. Sure, she was having an epic Mean Girls moment at the time, but she still said it. And she’s right. The only thing Jayce loves more than writing about true love conquering all, is hearing from readers who feel the same way. Drop her a line; she’d love to hear from you.
July 24, 2016
B. Snow joins us today to talk about Have a Hygge Holiday!
Hi, all, I’m B. Snow, and I’m here to talk about my new release, Have a Hygge Holiday.
“What the what??” I hear you ask. “What does that mean? And how do you even pronounce it??”
I’ll answer both those questions further down in the post, but first I’d like to talk a little about Dreamspinner Press and a recent epiphany I had. It’s germane, I promise.
I submitted Have a Hygge Holiday to Dreamspinner’s Advent Calendar with the expectation that it would be rejected, because it’s not the sort of story most people want to read around the holidays. Not to spoil it for anyone, but there are no Christmas miracles, no sweet scenes of reconciliation, no realizations about the value of family. Of course it has [SPOILER ALERT!] a happy ending, and some funny parts, so although it didn’t make it into the Advent Calendar, Dreamspinner very kindly contracted it for their Christmas in July promotion.
And now I’ll go off on another tangent (but it will all make sense in the end, I swear!). In real life, I know a lot of authors who write het romance. I’ve heard some of them speak about the large number of changes their editors have asked them to make in their stories. Sometimes these published authors suggest making plot or character changes to your story in order to make for a better pitch to an editor or agent.
I understand that editors, agents, and publishers do make their living by selling books. I know they’re trying to make your story the best it can be so it will sell well. And I know writers support each other by helping make each other’s books better, AND by helping fellow writers sell those books, first to an editor/agent, and then to readers.
That said, I find it kind of strange when authors are asked to change their plots or characters, and I recently realized why authors of het romance don’t seem to find it as strange as I do. It’s because most of them are used to working with traditional publishers, and I’ve worked mostly with Dreamspinner.
Yes, technically Dreamspinner is a traditional publisher. But* their editors have never asked me to make any huge changes to a story. They’ve asked for clarification of scenes, or corrections of historical elements, or elaboration when a character’s motivation isn’t clear, but they’ve never asked me to rework the plot or change a character or add a sex scene. They’ve never finalized a blurb without asking for and incorporating my input. And the Dreamspinner art department has never asked me to accept a cover I wasn’t 100% happy with. I’ve heard other traditionally published authors talk about ALL these things.
My theory is that Dreamspinner doesn’t ask for big changes because they publish gay romance.
Gay romance is already outside the box. Readers of gay romance have already shown they’re looking for the unusual, the unpredictable, and Dreamspinner gives them that. They trust the stories their authors tell, even if those stories can be a bit bizarre (time-traveling codpiece, anyone?). They don’t reshape manuscripts to fit into an upcoming theme or some recent trend. They’re willing to take a chance on the different, to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go….well, you get the picture.
They’re willing to accept stories by authors who don’t write a lot, stories with unpronounceable titles using words that no one outside of Scandinavia has ever heard of. Stories like Have a Hygge Holiday. (See? I told you I’d get to the point. Eventually.)
Have a Hygge Holiday is about the winter holidays, family and traditions, candles, decorations, hot drinks, good food, and being with the people you love. Hygge (pronounced kind of like “hyoogah”) is all of that. It’s a Danish word that has no English equivalent, but the closest definition might be “coziness”. This video has some examples of hygge, which is really the only way to explain it.
The story is one I’d been trying to write for a few years but could never get quite right: a relationship between two young men of different religious and cultural backgrounds, and the comedy of errors that follows when their families clash during the holidays.
I’ve never had that clash myself, despite being Jewish and married to a man who is Catholic. To paraphrase the dedication of the book, our families are not the families in the story. However, some elements of the story are drawn from real life. The amount of oil used to make latkes, for example, and growing up without lights on the house in winter because that would have meant we celebrated Christmas, which we didn’t.
Now that I know about hygge, I think EVERYONE should put lights on their houses for winter, and string light balls from their trees.
There’s a reason Yule logs and Hanukkah candles happen around the same time of year. Humans have a need to bring warmth and light to the dark and cold of winter. Whether you celebrate one of the winter holidays, or all of them, or none of them, you’ve probably still been doing hygge all this time without even knowing it.
Here’s an excerpt from the beginning of the story (before the hygge really gets going):
Turn around and walk away.
Niall stood outside the door to Josh’s apartment, his finger an inch from the doorbell, while an argument waged silently in his head.
It’s just for a week, Niall’s rational side countered.
It’s wrong, and you know it.
Niall sighed. Catholic Guilt didn’t automatically disappear when you stopped going to church. It was ingrained. Possibly genetic.
That boy thinks he might have a future with you, Guilt said, and if you spend the holidays with him, it’s going to cement that thought in his head. And his heart. And you don’t feel the same, so you should not be here.
You don’t know that, Niall replied silently, his finger moving a millimeter closer to the doorbell. I might feel the same. We only met six weeks ago. It’s not like I know everything about him.
Niall’s phone buzzed, making him jump. He pulled it out of his pocket, and swore as he looked at the caller ID. He turned and walked down the hall away from Josh’s door before hitting the Talk button. “Hi, Mom.”
“Niall, sweetie! Where are you?”
“I’m at Josh’s.”
“Put him on the phone.”
“No, I mean, I’m just outside his door. I was going to—”
“Let him know you changed your mind. That you decided to spend the week with your family. If he has any kind of appreciation for family, he’ll understand.”
Perfect timing. And it’s a perfect excuse.
Niall looked back at the door.
You can call him later and explain that your parents called, that your mom guilted you into staying with them for Christmas. It’s not even a lie.
“You should be with your family for Christmas,” his mom went on, as relentless as she’d been every time she’d called over the past three weeks. “We never get to see you anymore—”
“I see you every Sunday for dinner,” Niall said.
Don’t snap at your mother.
“And Molly’s going to be in town. You can go to the movies or something.”
“Mom, I’m not going to the movies with Molly. We’re both nearly thirty, not sixteen, and I’m gay.”
“Don’t be silly, sweetie, you always had a girlfriend in high school.”
“And I always had a boyfriend in college. I know you think it’s a phase—”
“You can explain it all to me when you come over. You have to go somewhere since you had that pipe break. You really should have demanded that they get it fixed before Christmas.”
“Like I told you yesterday,” Niall said, fighting to keep his voice low, “I’m going to spend the week with Josh.”
His mom went quiet. Niall could practically hear the wheels turning. “Is he the thirty-five year old accountant?”
“No, he’s the twenty-six year old social worker.”
“That you’ve only known for a few weeks.” She couldn’t seem to remember that he was gay, but she sure could steel-trap the inconvenient details. “I’ve made up the guest room. It’s all ready for you.”
“Josh has a guest room.”
“You’d rather spend Christmas in a stranger’s guest room than with your own family?”
Oh, dear God. Niall banged the edge of the phone against his head a few times before saying, “Hey, hi, Josh! Mom, I gotta go, love you, bye!” He ended the call and shook his head.
You lied to your mother.
Josh might open the door. Any second now.
But he didn’t.
Niall banged the phone against his head once more as he walked slowly back to Josh’s door. Maybe he should start therapy. There had to be some professional who specialized in guilt removal, Catholic or otherwise. But before he could think about entering therapy, he had to decide if he was going to enter Josh’s apartment.
To celebrate the release of Have a Hygge Holiday, I’ll be giving away a $10 gift certificate from Dreamspinner Press. For a chance to win, please leave a comment below, telling me about the hygge you do every year, or the hygge you’d like to do sometime in the future. For my own house, I aspire to the description of Josh’s apartment in all its hygge glory, but first I’d need to clean and unclutter**. So it’s going to be a long road.
In your comment, please make sure to include the email address you have registered with Dreamspinner Press. The drawing will take place 72 hours after this post goes up.
You can find me using one of these methods:
Thanks for reading!
* Dreamspinner Press editors do take me to task over how much I use “but” in my writing. I’ve had to perform many a butectomy during editing…..
** For help uncluttering, I recommend Unfuck Your Habitat [link: http://unfuckyourhabitat.tumblr.com/]. If I went to that tumblr every day, my house might be hygge-ready by Halloween.
Check out Have a Hygge Holiday today!
Niall is having second thoughts about spending the holidays with Josh. If Josh’s sweet nature masks the fact that he’s a spineless pushover, Niall doesn’t want a long-term relationship with him. Guilt—an annoying voice in his head—agrees, telling him to end it before Josh gets hurt. But then Niall sees how Josh has turned his apartment into a cozy, inviting nest for winter, based on the Scandinavian tradition of hygge: curling up with good food, candles, music, hot drinks, family, and friends.
Niall decides to stay, telling himself he’ll discover the real Josh when the two of them are together for a week, but two become four when Niall’s Christmas-crazy parents show up on Josh’s doorstep, and four become five when Josh’s father arrives to celebrate the last night of Hanukkah. The two sets of parents clash over decorations, food, and public displays of affection. Their bickering drives Niall crazy, as does Josh’s calm acceptance. If something doesn’t change, Niall will walk away from all of it, including his future with Josh.
July 23, 2016
T.J. Masters stops by today to chat about new book Diary Dates and how the story came to be.
This Saturday sees the release of my latest story Diary Dates by Dreamspinner Press. The story centres upon postgraduate student Andrew Chin who arrives in London not only to study, but to explore life away from his traditional family in Singapore. His adventure begins at the airport, where he finds the diary of a wealthy British businessman and endeavors to return it.
James Howard is twice Andrew’s age, and he’s not used to selfless youngsters. Despite a rocky first meeting, the two develop an unlikely friendship as James introduces Andrew to the city. James is looking forward to the festivities leading up to Christmas in London and maybe a celebration with Andrew. But will a nasty bout of the flu ruin their romantic holiday?
Not if Andrew has anything to say about it.
Reading some of the things that editors and proofreaders have said about this tale I’ve been made aware of how the writer has to bring so many strands, so many different coloured threads together to create the final picture. The idea for the story came from a close friend who happens to be Malaysian. The ‘hook’ of the diary came from my own interest in all kinds of diaries, journals, logbooks, daybooks and Commonplace books. The setting of the London Christmas season is one which excites me every year and I cannot let the season pass without a visit to see the lights.
The May to September relationship is one which I am personally qualified to write about and even the characterisation of Young Andrew comes from personal experience. The student is based almost entirely on a real Singaporean Chinese student who travelled to London a few years ago to study for his Masters degree. The real Andrew and the fictional one share many common traits and I am all the better for having met him. While he was here Andrew visited on most Saturdays and I came to admire his impeccable good manners and learned a lot about Chinese culture and tradition. One of the key virtues of Chinese culture is filial piety. This has its origins in Confucian philosophy and is the virtue of respect for one’s parents, elders and ancestors known a xiáo.
There was a strange twist to one of those threads after the story had been completed. My real life Andrew had to cut short his studies following the sudden death of his mother back home and I was sad to see him go. After the final edits were done and the story was ready for publication I suddenly had a call from Andrew. After three years away he had returned to London to do a presentation which would allow him to achieve his degree. We met and had a great reunion. He was touched that I had written him into the story and he thoroughly approved of his alter ego.
Have you ever experienced a complete stranger coming into your life for a short time and leaving you changed in some way? If so I would love to hear about it.
Andrew remembered the diary. Eager to get it back to its owner, he called the number he’d found in the book, but it went to voice mail.
A well-spoken masculine voice confirmed that it was the phone of James Howard. Suddenly feeling self-conscious, Andrew hung up while he decided what he was going to say. In the end he left a simple message telling Mr. Howard that he had found his diary at the airport and wanted to return it as soon as possible.
Jenny suggested they go out, so they left everything and ventured out into the busy London streets. After walking around, taking in the sights, they grabbed a sandwich for lunch from a coffee shop. Just as they were trying to decide where to try next, Andrew’s phone rang and he recognized the number on the screen as the same one that he had dialed earlier. Feeling a little nervous, Andrew answered. “Hello?”
“Hello, yes. You left a message earlier about my diary.” The man sounded business-like.
“Oh, yes, I think you left it at the airport. How can I bring it to you?”
“Thank you for calling me. My whole life is in that book. I will pay you a finder’s fee, of course. Can you bring it to me at my office?”
“I’m sorry, what is a finder’s fee?” Andrew had never heard the term before.
“I will pay you a reward for bringing the diary to me.” The man sounded a little impatient.
“Ah, no, Mr. Howard, I do not want any reward. Just to give your book back to you.” Such a thing had never occurred to Andrew, and it was certainly not what he intended. “I have only come to London today, but if you can tell me where to come so I will bring the diary to you.”
“My office is near Euston Station. Can you come there?”
Andrew remembered the name from the journey earlier. “Yes, I think that is not far. When can I come there?” He hoped that the man would not say now, because Andrew needed to go back to the flat to collect the diary first.
“I’ve got meetings this afternoon. Can you come at five o’clock?”
“I’ll text you the address. When you come to reception tell them who you are. They’ll be expecting you.”
“Okay, Mr. Howard. I’ll go there at five o’clock.”
For a moment Andrew thought the man was going to hang up without saying anything more, but then he suddenly asked, “Can you tell me your name?”
“Oh, sorry, sir. My name is Andrew, Andrew Chin.”
“Yes sir, I arrived from Singapore today.”
“Okay, Andrew, I must go. Thanks for contacting me.”
“No problem, Mr. Howard.”
The man at the other end had already hung up. Andrew, in his usual kind way, assumed that the man’s abrupt manner on the phone was just because he was a busy, important person.
Andrew told Jenny what was going on, but she said she couldn’t go with him because she was having a tryout for a waitressing job later. A text from Mr. Howard provided Andrew the address of his office. After looking it up, he decided that he could make his way there on his own.
They wandered the streets for another couple of hours and then went back to the flat so that Jenny could get ready for work. While he was waiting, Andrew looked up James Howard’s company on the Internet. It was a world leader in technical ceramics and Mr. Howard was the company’s CEO.
Jenny had warned him that he would arrive at his destination far too early if he left just after four, but he was nervous about being late. So it was that just half an hour later he arrived at the address and found himself in front of a modern office building.
He still had another twenty minutes to wait for the appointed time. Not wanting to be seen yet, he carried on walking until he reached the end of the road, where a low wall marked the boundary of another building set back a little from the road. Sitting himself down on the wall, Andrew took off his rucksack and removed Mr. Howard’s diary in its protective plastic bag.
Beyond the initial search for the owner’s details, Andrew had left the book unopened. Once he had realized that the book was a diary, it became a private thing. Now, however, the thought that the diary was about to pass out of his hands again nudged Andrew to take a look at it. If nothing else, he wanted to see whether the diary would give him any clues about the man he was about to meet.
The thick band holding the book closed was essential, since it held so many loose bits of paper and business cards between its pages. Removing this carefully, Andrew ran his slender fingers over the spine and cover. The black surface felt almost like fine leather, although it was too thin to be real. All the entries in the diary were neatly written, probably with an ink pen. This idea seemed a bit old-fashioned, but at the same time quite stylish. The multiple appointments on almost every page showed that this James Howard was indeed a busy man.
One of the most telling things was the odd pages, which were full of doodles. These were either geometric patterns or tiny drawings, but all quite neat. Maybe some of those meetings were not so interesting.
Another curious observation was that there was little difference between some of the weekend pages and those for the weekdays. Did this man never take a day off?
Check out Diary Dates today!
Author T.J. Masters recently and somewhat reluctantly passed his 60th birthday. After a long and happy teaching career T.J. wanted to follow a new path before senility set in. Books and stories have been a lifelong passion and there are many tales waiting to be told.
As a happily partnered gay man T.J. chooses to write what he knows best. His overactive and ever exploring mind is probably described by the Oscar Wilde quote that “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars”.
July 22, 2016
Sandra Bard joins us today to chat about new book Finding His Feet, out this week!
Hi, I’m Sandra Bard and I’m here to talk about my second release from Dreamspinner, Finding His Feet.
First of all, Hayley, thank you for inviting me and for putting up with all the absurd questions I’ve thrown your way. I should also thank the wonderful team of editor and cover designers I worked with when this book was going through the different stages. Couldn’t have done it without you.
When I first started the book, my real life was suffering; a difficult job, with an impossible task of pleasing more bosses than I had students to teach. Each day was a dreadful experience, of getting up and going to work wondering what impossible request needed to be fulfilled. So many responsibilities, to my staff, to my students, to myself.
The book as written while I was fighting a silent war with a lot of people. Kaden, my main character, battled hardened and scarred, put on his high tech armor and went out to pretend he was alright, trying to keep himself useful in a world where he was afraid he would be discarded.
I would take the office laptop, a large piece of hardware that was probably new a good fifteen years ago and would type up at least a couple of paragraphs in-between lectures, paper marking and impossible administrative documentations. I even took my tablet with me to meetings and would type out a couple of lines between nodding my head at things like, ‘if you shift your work hours from seven to six, maybe you can complete all the necessary teaching hours’ to stop myself from screaming at idiots who did not know that each day only had 24 hours.
They became characters in my book, nothing major but they helped me shape my alternate world where war was a norm, where people accepted it.
Then of course, I had to travel for workshops and to teach in different locations. My laptop, a seventeen inch monstrosity which sounded like a hair dryer stayed home. Instead, I had to do my writing on a tablet, which was six years old and weighed too much to be held in one hand. I spent so much time in trains, my main characters met on a train. (This might have been where my idea of two distinct types of armor came from.)
Shun is the opposite of Kaden in many ways, he is light and laughter, cheerful and friendly and open… or so it would seem. But deep inside, Shun is as much a survivor as Kaden, having lived through his own war, with his own set of beliefs about how to live. He has his own secrets and his own agenda but not willing to compromise being human for the sake of that.
Kaden and Shun go through a lot of rough spots and their life is made even more interesting by the two cadets Kaden is in charge of, Wayland and Bradley. Kaden, not the greatest person in charge of his life, now has to be responsible for more people.
Some of my fights with my brother and sister played a hand in shaping this sibling rivalry. As the eldest in the family I was expected to be sane, in control, lead by example and pick up the slack for everyone else. On top of my dead end job, the pressure was enormous.
Wayland is loosely based off a student of mine, a large eyed, earnest, small made thing who stood in front of the class once and preached to me about the evils of war while wiping away tears. (It was an oral exam not anything else.) Wayland has strong opinions about life even if they aren’t the ones needed to survive a war. Bradley was inspired by one of my close staff members, who is unsure about life but has a practical eye and the knowledge that life is not always nice.
As events build up, Kaden finds himself making more and more decisions, some of which might not be right. Through the course of Finding His Feet, Kaden slowly changes, to learn that there is more to life than fighting and being useful. Shun also changes in his own way, learning to look at the world from another person’s perspective and gaining something in the process, people to care about and love.
In the end, this is about two people saving each other and finding happiness in a bleak situation.
I made some changes to my life in the end, I changed my job (actually, I quit and stayed home for a month and actually finished writing this) and found the strength to tell several people to leave me alone. I learned to ask for help and to tell when I’d had enough. And my characters grew with me. So this is also the book that helped me preserve my sanity while I was struggling to find my feet and stand on my own against a hostile world.
“I don’t see myself going over there to talk I,” Finzer spat, stressing peace as if it made his body cringe. “Not even if they ordered me.”
“But I hear you moved your wife and kid to a farm on the outskirts,” Alden said mildly, and Finzer flushed and looked away.
“I’m just protecting the next generation of fighters.” Finzer sounded impassioned, though he didn’t look all too happy quoting government propaganda.
“I for one would be happy if my kid didn’t grow up to be the next weapon,” Alden said firmly.
They all knew the government’s interest in armored warriors reproducing was to have more fighters for the future and not a sudden concern over the fall in the birthrate, as publicly claimed. The war between Joscal and the newly independent state of Haria had been going on for 130 years, and both sides expected it to last a hundred more. The Joscalian Army fought with all they had, sacrificing countless soldiers, not just armored units, for the sake of maintaining their border, while the Harians hid behind their remote drones. It was common knowledge that over a hundred million Joscalians had died in the first ten years of the war alone, and nowhere in the country was safe to bring up children.
Kaden snorted and looked away. He didn’t have kids… so not his concern.
“They’re even talking about sending a joint team to salvage what they can from Ground Zero,” Elisha added, sounding amused. Ground Zero was the starting point of the second phase of the war, when Haria had bombed the peaceful Joscalian island of Compen. Situated on the border between Joscal and Haria, it was coveted, and now officially out of bounds to both countries since the incident. “From what I hear, there’s not much to salvage, anyway. They’re even talking about letting some refugees settle near Compen Beach Town, but the island is still off-limits.”
“Makes sense.” Kaden nodded. “No one’s going to hand over that island unless they’re sure there’s nothing worth taking.”
“So everything’s in the planning stage, which is why there’s this long calm,” Claina concluded.
“It’s called a cease-fire,” Elisha told her sharply.
Kaden wasn’t sure he believed it. “Or they’re planning the biggest counterattack ever, and we need to be ready.”
“There is that.”
“From what I hear, our side is the one resisting the change in borders,” Alden added thoughtfully.
“Well, it is our country,” Finzer said firmly. “All of it.”
There was the sound of quick steps and everyone turned to the entrance to see a junior office helper walk in.
“Instructor Kaden Pace,” the helper said.
“Instructor… when did you become an instructor?” Finzer asked the same question Kaden was about to ask.
“I’m not.” Kaden got up and moved to the messenger. He took the message pad from the cadet and frowned. It read To: Instructor Kaden Pace. “Huh.”
“What does it say?” Elisha called, and Kaden realized everyone in the room had ceased whatever they were doing, which wasn’t much, to see what was about to happen.
“That….” Kaden frowned as he read the rest of the message. “I’ve got a mission.”
“That’s great,” Finzer said, and the others added their voices.
Though Kaden wasn’t exactly best friends with the rest, he spoke to them and hung around with them on a regular basis. Recruited at roughly the same time, they had been in a few skirmishes together.
“But it’s an observation mission. Two cadets, Bradley and Wayland Olgesh, who are in training. I’m supposed to watch over them until they achieve their Second Level Competency Grading.” Kaden frowned.
What the fuck was that? Then he remembered that was the same exam he’d taken in his third year of training, then called the Level Clearance 2. He’d been so young then; it had been close to twenty-three years ago, and he’d struggled over the obstacles and the stupid mission he’d been assigned. In a way, he’d expected battlefield missions to be as easy as his very first training operation, so simple to complete under the guidance of his now long-dead mentor.
“Hey, I remember those missions,” Elisha chipped in enthusiastically. “Mine was to guard a supply train from Morgan to Jalen.” Kaden remembered that she had not been a part of their camp during training but had transferred from Morgan after her marriage. “Nothing happened the entire way, not even raiders, but my mentor, Lavinia, was there. Felt better knowing she was watching my back.” She sighed. “She’s retired now, and I think one of last year’s cadets matched up to her armor.”
“Mine was to take a bunch of senior citizens from one of those old hospitals being evacuated to another,” Finzer said quickly, probably to break the depressing memories. No one wanted to talk about a time when their armor was going to be taken away. “I was glad Alden was there, because there was this particularly feisty old gal who kept pinching my bottom.”
“Your armor doesn’t expose your bottom,” Kaden blurted out, caught up in the moment despite himself.
“Well, it did, for that mission.”
The messenger cleared his throat pointedly, and Kaden looked at the pad in his hand. “This isn’t a real mission. I’m playing babysitter for two kids who’re going to go get their nature badge or something.” The administration never paired kids together unless there was a good reason. The kids were most likely too young to be married, so siblings, probably twins. Wonderful. He was stuck with a pair of boys—double the trouble.
Contest time! Comment by sharing an impossible situation you were in or having far too much work and being stuck juggling it all. One lucky winner will win an ebook copy of Finding His Feet!
Check out Finding His Feet today!
Cover artist: Stef Masciandaro.
Release date : July 18th
Kaden Pace, a soldier injured while on a mission, hides the extent of his damage by wearing his high-tech armor, desperate to prove his worth to his administrators and make himself useful in order to hold on to his independence. But during a simple assignment to escort two cadets across the country to retrieve the armor of a dead warrior, things start to fall apart.
They meet Shun, a young man with a secret, who steals the armor they were supposed to recover. Chasing Shun brings them to an abandoned beach town, where they encounter even more trouble. Stranded in the deserted city, Kaden finds himself relying more and more on Shun, the person he’d come to capture, while fighting off an invasion from the neighboring country.
But even when he returns to his camp, Kaden’s problems are not over. Now he has to find a way to save Shun, whom he’s growing to care for, and keep his team alive as they make one last-ditch attempt to get back the armor Shun stole. Armor that is now in enemy hands, on an island in the middle of the sea, at ground zero where it all began.
Sandra Bard started writing when she was quite young because there was always a story inside her head, but never thought of writing for an audience until recently. She only decided to try her hand at writing for the sake of being published after a series of events left her with some free time and in between jobs. Now she has three jobs but writing is still her most favorite thing to do. Sandra grew up travelling the world from Africa to Asia and, though she now lectures full time at a university, dreams of having a job that wouldn’t tie her down to one place. She enjoys reading books, watching anime and, occasionally, visiting a fan-fiction site. She also dabbles in tai chi and yoga in the hope they would keep her flexible and help lose weight. She lives with her pets (fish, cats, and dogs) and has been a volunteer for an organization that takes care of stray dogs (there are many, where she lives) for over ten years.
July 21, 2016
Hi, I’m Louise Lyons, and I’m here to talk about my new release, Cervena. This is my third novel with Dreamspinner Press and I’m very excited about its release.
I wrote the story around the middle of 2015. I’d be looking through some old photographs of a trip I took to Prague in around 2003, and as I was remembering the city and the things I saw, an idea for a new story started to form in my head. Prague is an interesting city and I wandered away from the typical tourist areas one afternoon, to see how the real people lived, which gave me the opportunity to see different “Districts” of the city.
Most of Cervena revolves around the city center where Joel lives and works. Cervena (Czech for “red”) is the name of the nightclub Joel jointly owns with business partner Karel Doubrava, although Joel’s journey takes him out of the main part of the city later on, and eventually to London where his family live.
Within a few hours of starting to make notes, I had an outline for a whole book, and started noting down key events. I was in the middle of writing something else at the time, and Cervena was insistent that I hurry and finish it, so I could start on this new story. I quickly finished the novella I was working on, and put another novel on the backburner so I could get down to it.
My main character, Joel Jones, and his love interest Sasha grew in my mind until they seemed like real people, and I couldn’t get the words down fast enough. Joel is in his thirties, a real good guy and gentle soul, although he can step up to the plate when he has to, much as he prefers to avoid confrontation if he can. He resists his attraction to Sasha for some time, concerned about their fourteen-year age difference and his worry that Sasha might accept a date with him out of gratitude, after Joel took him off the streets and gave him a job and a home. But eventually Joel gives in and blurts out his thoughts on how he’d like them to have dinner together. It’s not all sweetness and love from there on, however.
The story has a lot more drama and angst in it than most of my published works, with events threatening to tear Joel and Sasha apart several times. So do they get a happy ending? Of course they do! As much as a tormented them along the way, I wanted them to end up happy.
I finished writing Cervena towards the end of last year and once it was submitted, of course I had lots more to work on.
Since then I’ve released several novellas and written a couple of short stories for anthologies. Right now I’m working on a new novel with a paranormal theme to it, which is new to me. I was actually inspired to write it more than a year ago and had made notes and written a few pages, but at the time it wasn’t going that well and I put it aside and wrote Cervena instead. So now I plan to finish it and have completed four chapters so far.
The Power of Will is set in my favorite place in the world—Keswick in Cumbria, UK. My main character, Tyler Marsden, has broken up with boyfriend Pete and moved to a new town to get away from the memories. He finds a tumbledown cottage which he plans to renovate after moving in and starts up his handyman business again, which quickly begins to do well. He soon finds a friend in disabled neighbour, Jonathan, another gay man. The pair confide in each other and become close, but there’s no romance there. The romance in Tyler’s life comes from another direction entirely.
A few strange things happen in the cottage, which Tyler initially ignores. But he’s led into the cellar where he finds a journal written a century ago, by one William Bartlett. Curious, he begins to read the journal and his heart aches for the young gay man who hid what he was for so long, until he fell in love and was unable to keep his budding relationship quiet. Shunned by everyone, including his lover, he was eventually unable to go on living. The journal is filled with his memories and the last year of his life.
As Tyler reads his story, his previous scoffing at the supernatural is forgotten as he becomes convinced William isn’t just a memory, but something more.
I won’t give away any more than that, but I’m excited about this new work, and intending to finish and submit it in the next few months. Watch this space!
And now for a Giveaway! I’m offering up an eBook of anything from my backlist to one lucky commentor on the post. As I said earlier, I visited Prague some years ago, which eventually gave me the idea to write my new novel. To be in with a chance to win, tell me about a city or country you’ve visited that holds a special place in your heart.
How to find me. If you haven’t looked me up on social media before and want to chat or follow what I’m doing, you’ll find me here:
Check out Cervena today!
When Joel Jones finds homeless Russian Sasha outside his gay nightclub in Prague, he cannot find it in his heart to turn him away, so he offers him a home and a job as a dancer and stripper.
Despite a fifteen-year age gap, romance develops between them but is interrupted when Joel has to return to England for many weeks to deal with a death in the family.
Upon his return, Joel is horrified to discover his business partner, Karel, has gambled away the club’s money and put them all at risk. Joel buys him out of the club, but when Karel continues to gamble, the people he owes pursue Joel for the debt instead—and they’ll stop at nothing to get paid.
Suddenly Joel and those he cares about—especially Sasha—are in danger, and Joel finds himself with no choice but to seek the help of known criminal, Vincenc Jankovic. Ensuring a happy future for himself and Sasha will mean a struggle and some difficult decisions, but Joel is determined to protect what they’ve built together.
July 19, 2016
Leigh Carman joins us today to talk about her new sports romance, Match Point.
Hello fellow Dreamspinner lovers! I’m Leigh Carman and I’m so excited for the release of Match Point, my sports romance with Dreamspinner Press. This is my first release with DSP, and it’s been nothing less than incredible. I am literally still in shock and awe that my book will be alongside some of my favorite gay romance authors. If there’s one thing a reader knows when purchasing a Dreamspinner book, it’s that you will get nothing but the best.
So why would a girl want to write gay romance? I’m sure everyone asks this at one time or another. I hear the question all the time from friends, family, and readers of my M/F romance. Well, I’m not sure if there’s a single answer to that question. Don’t get me wrong, I love my M/F romance, but there’s something about M/M romance that gives me, as an author, an extra layer to my characters that I can work with. The relationship between two men is obviously much different from that of a man and a woman, and I’m not speaking sexually. I love to explore the masculine side of romance. Even in my M/F books I’ve been told my male characters sound like they’ve been written by men.
Maybe it’s because I’ve never been a gushy, flowery, girly girl and I don’t like reading about men waxing poetic about their beautiful delicate woman. Maybe it’s because I’m a total dude when it comes to romance, no flowers, no jewelry, and no gifts necessary to make me happy. I pretty much don’t even care if I get a card on an anniversary.
So, I don’t know specifically why I prefer writing gay romance. I do know that I don’t care for the story of a man swooping in to save the woman every single time. I guess you could say from a writer’s point of view, a relationship between two men is more balanced. No one has to be the hero. Or both can be the heroes. Or yes, it can be traditional and one of the men can be the hero. Any way you cut it, to me the story is more about the dynamic between the two men than the situations they’re placed in. Does that make sense?
I like to dig deep into the emotional side of men. We all know that most men are raised to hide their emotions from other people, so it takes quite a bit of work to get their feelings out of them. That’s what I love to do. Put the screws to my guys and tighten them until they have no choice but to acknowledge what they’re feeling. Get them to face their fears, question their masculinity, and delve into the fear of losing their masculinity if they show any emotions whatsoever.
That kind of makes me sound like an evil scientist, doesn’t it? But in truth, that’s what writers are. We create characters we love only to hurt them, drown them, wring them out, and see what we’re left with at the end. Hopefully, they are made stronger, better, more real after their journey.
Match Point is a pretty emotional journey, and a study in two men who finally acknowledge that their self-destructive behaviors stem directly from feelings they’ve ignored for too long. I hope you love Dex and Finn, I know I certainly do.
Currently, I’m working on three more sports romances to complement Match Point. One sport for each of the four seasons. Beach volleyball is summer, football is autumn, hockey for winter, and baseball for spring. There are characters who appear in the book prior to their own, so keep your eyes out for anyone in Match Point who might have a story to tell.
Here’s a peek…
“Get it. Get it. Hurry, hurry!”
I scramble for the ball while Coach yells out encouragements—or possibly reprimands. I can never be sure which. Either way I’m on top of my game today. I hustle to the net, get under the ball, and bump it with my wrists, arcing it high for Dex.
Dex waits for it to come down and lifts it using his fingertips. As the ball goes in the air, I take a running jump, curve my body so it doesn’t touch any part of the net, and smack the ball over our opponent’s head. It hits the sand.
“Yes,” Dex shouts and holds up a hand for me to high-five. Grinning, I reach out and slap my hand into his. Dex holds on to it for a brief moment. The contact is quick—less than a second—but the heat that sears through my palm leaves a lasting impression. It’s time to switch sides and it’s my turn to serve. Dex puts his hands behind his back and gives me the signal to hit it left with no spin. I toss the ball up and hit it over the net.
Beautiful. Our opponent drops to his knees and makes the save, but he can’t get to his position quickly enough to reach the ball his partner perfectly sets for him. Dex cheers and pumps his fist in the air. I grin at his enthusiasm. Watching Dexter Savage have the time of his life is mesmerizing. It infuses me with an energy I’ve never felt before. I no longer see Dex as just another charming guy. He has me spellbound and hanging on his every word.
“Nice whiff, dickhead,” I call out when he misses a dig and comes up with a mouthful of sand.
I can’t have him thinking I like him or something.
Dex laughs and spits out the sand. “Shut up, Callahan.”
By the end of the day, we should be exhausted, but we’re riding high on winning the New Orleans Open, and on the thirty-minute ride back to the hotel on the river, we both get our second wind. Dex is literally bouncing around. He’s so full of energy, he’s making me dizzy.
“Come on, Finn. Let’s go out to celebrate. This is New Orleans, The Big Easy. There’s sin on every corner and a ton of awesome clubs here.”
I roll my eyes. “I doubt your idea of an awesome club is the same as mine, Savage.”
“What?” Dex squints at me. Then his eyes widen almost comically. “Oooooohhh. You don’t think I can handle a gay club?” A slow, snarky grin spreads across his handsome face, and my breath hitches.
I shake off my dirty thoughts to get back to the subject at hand. “No. I don’t. God. I can’t even think about you going into a gay club without laughing.”
Or getting hard and groaning.
“Hmph.” Dex levels his intense hazel eyes at me and quirks one eyebrow in challenge.
“Yes, Finn,” he sings gleefully.
Dex chuckles and nods his head. “Oh yes. Pull out your sparkly top, baby, because we’re hitting the gay clubs tonight.”
“Fuck you, Savage. I don’t own a sparkly top.”
Dex gives me a disgusted look. “What kind of gay man are you?”
“Not a very good one, I guess.”
One who crushes on his straight teammate, that’s what kind of gay man I am. A stupid one.
After five minutes of back and forth, I finally get Dex to let go of the idea of cruising gay clubs tonight, but only on the promise that I’ll take him to one when we get back to LA. I’m hoping he’ll forget by then, because seeing his gorgeous ass shaking on a dance floor while hot, sweaty guys grind on him? I’d implode before the night was over.
We change and grab a cab, and Dex directs the driver to head toward Bourbon Street. “Really, Dex? Bourbon Street? Can’t we go somewhere a little less—”
“Less fun? No, Callahan, we can’t. You’re having fun if it kills me. Tonight I’m officially removing the stick from your ass….” Dex twists his head and shoots me a scorching look that has my dick throbbing painfully in my shorts. “Even if I have to pin you down to yank it out.”
I swallow, and my mouth suddenly disconnects from my brain as every drop of blood in my body turns to lava and collects in my groin.
“Whatever, Savage,” I mumble, turn to the window, and shift my hips so Dex can’t see my now fully hard cock.
Dex laughs and shoves my shoulder. Does he not know what he’s doing to me? I sneak a glance at my teammate. He’s looking out his own window, eyes glittering, smile as wide as a kid on Christmas morning.
No. He has no clue. He’s truly excited to go out and have fun. In fact he’s practically bursting out of his skin, he’s so wound up. But then, Dexter Savage always was the life of the party. He’s comfortable in his own skin. It’s what makes him so attractive. Well, besides the tousled, just out of bed hair, the perfectly straight nose and full mouth, and the body to die for. But his outgoing personality was what had me crushing on him in college—and the reason I hated his guts. I watched him every day at practice as he charmed everyone around us, and knew he would never be available to me.
“Here it is.” Dex throws some money at the cab driver and leaps out of the car. I take a look at my surroundings and thump my head on the glass. We’re on a street thick with pedestrians clutching hurricane glasses and sipping through long straws as they mingle in the crowd. Neon signs line the business fronts on both sides of the cab, each promising a different kind of debauchery inside.
Dex leans down and sticks his head in the backseat. “What are you waiting for, Callahan? Let’s get this party started.”
Ugh. Tonight is going to be pure torture.
Check out Match Point today!
Two stubborn men.
One is a rude jerk. The other, the life of the party.
It was hate at first sight.
Pro beach volleyball players Finn Callahan and Dexter Savage have been rivals since college. While Finn always comes out on top on the court, Dexter’s carefree and fun-loving personality earns him scores of adoring men and women. And as much as Finn fights to deny it, there’s another reason for the tension he feels when Dex is around. Hate wasn’t the only thing he felt when he first laid eyes on his opponent.
When they’re forced to team up, the two men must bury their differences—on and off the court—if either of them is going to succeed professionally.
Leigh Carman is the pen name for the M/M romances written by bestselling Contemporary romance writer, Heather C. Leigh.
She lives outside Atlanta with her husband, 2 kids, and French bulldog.
She is leaving explicit directions in her will for her friends to discreetly scatter her ashes around Fenway Park. Then they are to sit back, watch a game with a beer and a Fenway frank and have a wicked good time.