“Zipper Fall” release party from noon till dinner EST!

September 22, 2013

Hi everyone, Kate Pavelle here. I hope you can stop by for a launch party for “Zipper Fall,” the 2nd book in the Steel City Series. I’ll be online from noon till dinner today, and will check in after dinner for a bit. There will be excerpts, give-aways, and questions both asked and answered! This is a new thing for me.
I hope you can stop by! Just use the following address: http://blog.dreamspinnerpress.com/blog
See in after lunch!
Kate

Zipper Fall cover

Release Party Like Fire Through Bone: tackling the tough issues or writing about slavery

September 13, 2013

All right, one last post on a really tough issue before we call it a night.

In general I don’t go in much for non-con or rape fantasies.

I will admit though every once in a while I like indulging in the fantasy of sexual slavery. There is something about having total control over a person, being able to bend them to your will and take what you want without care for their feelings or their desires that can tap into the very darkest parts of my sexual appetite when played out in the safety of my mind or on the pages of a good piece of erotica.

As a historian though I am all too aware of the real world history and cost of slavery.   Owning humans as chattels degrades not just the people who are held in bondage but also the ones who hold them. A society which allows slavery is a society which will allow for a certain level of cruelty to be normalized. For in a society where it is acceptable to buy and sell humans like cattle it also often becomes acceptable to abuse, maim and murder them as well.

As Ira Berlin states “In saves societies by contrast, slavery stood at the center of economic production, and the master-slave relationship provided the model for all social relations: husband and wife, parent and child, employer and employee, teacher and student.”  This is a chilling world view but it does highlight the ways in which the mindset that allowed one man to own another outright affected everyone within that society.

During the editing process my editor mention that several of the characters are referred to as “good master” even though they do thing we would see as terrible or abuse.  They have slaves beaten, solid off to people who will abuse them further and subject their slaves to a thousand tiny acts of degradation daily.

This was very intentional on my part because in the grand scheme of things these characters are “good masters” but they are still people who see nothing morally wrong with owning other human beings and treating them like objects.


It is easy to condemn the beating, mutilation and forced rape of slaves. I think though the fact that Vasilios has to go to his knees every time he enters a room and cannot make eye contact with his “betters” and this is seen as so normal that no one questions it, is more indicative of the kind of damage slavery does to a society at large.

The elephant in the room while writing about Vasilios’ time in captivity is rape. Slaves are not capable of consent. They can not say no especially to their masters but to any free person. For a slave to say know would be to risk severe punishment and would go totally disregarded anyway. A table does not consent, a horse does not consent and in a slave holding society slaves have no more right to consent than a table or a horse.

One of the things that was important to me while writing Like Fire Through Bone was to portray slavery as corrupting and degrading as it historically was and still is.

Vasilios has had sexual encounters with his master but I want to be clear that he in no way consented to them. He submitted to them out of a sense of self preservation and because he knew as owned property he could not say no to his master’s demands.

Further he and Markos can not further any kind of relationship with each other as long as Vasilios is held as a slave. As Markos points out if they were to become involved romantically or sexually before that neither could be completely sure that where wouldn’t be cohesion involved at some level. Markos is an extremely powerful man and business partner to Vasilios’ master. For Vasilios as a slave it would be almost impossible for him to say no to Markos if Markos where to make a pass at him and Markos knows this.
Stories that deal with slaves are a huge part of the romance genre but often these stories do not deal directly with issues like a slaves inability to consent. On the other hand the fantasy of sexual slavery is a potent one. Going into writing Like Fire Through Bone though I wanted to do something more realistic.

So what do you think? Do you prefer a more historically accurate portrayal of slavery? Or do you like like the fantasy better, where the pretty slave falls for his sexy master? Why or why not?

Release Party for Like Fire Through Bone: Let’s Talk Cover Art

September 13, 2013

I was originally going to talk about music but I can’t figure out how to embed the media player so let’s talk about cover art first.

I’ll admit it, I totally judge books by their covers.

As a reader browsing through a brick and mortar bookstore I am far more likely to grab a book that has an exciting or beautiful cover. As a die hard fantasy  and science fiction fan I’m going to be drawn to cover to portray something new and fresh from the genre. A cover with bulky space Marines isn’t going to attract my attention the same way a cover depicting a character walking the streets of a futuristic Delhi would.

When it comes to romance novels I’m just as picky. I’m not a fan of covers which show over developed pectoral muscles as their primarily attraction since they are a dime a dozen in the m/m romance genre. I am much more likely to be attracted to interesting covers even if they are not “sexy” per say. In fact a cover which doesn’t immediately scream “romance” to me is going to be more attractive because it will grab my attention and making me at least read the blurb.

Unless I know the author or have had the book recommended to me the cover art may indeed make or break my decision to buy the book. I know this about myself therefore I take the designing of the covers for my own book very seriously.

Working with a new publisher and new set of cover artists is always a little nerve wracking and the cover art is such an important part of the process that when I sent off my survey form for the cover art of Like Fire Through Bone I was mostly just anxious about how it was going to turn out.

I tried to give as much details about each of the characters as possible along with the over all feeling I was going for.

I really wanted to cover to emphasize the plot and tone of the book over the sex appeal of the characters.

It’s not that Like Fire Through Bone isn’t a sexy book because I think there is great chemistry between Vasilios and Markos and multiple hot sex scenes. On the other hand though the book is not all about the romance as much as it is about combining plot with romance I wanted a cover to reflect that.

What I got back from the talented Brooke Albrecht was four different but equally lovely covers. Two of them really jumped out at me though. In one I loved the cover model and felt like he was closest to my mental picture of Vasilios. The other I was totally in love with the color scene and lettering.

I asked if they could be combined and the cover that resulted was the one we went with. I love it. I think it is a beautiful cover.


“Wow” my brother said to me when I showed it to him “I could see that being a paperback novel in the fantasy section of any bookstore. I’d probably pick it up and read the back too.”

That made me so happy for all sorts of reasons.

So what do people think? What role does the cover art play in your decision whether to buy a book? What kinds of things do you love or hate to see on covers of m/m romance book?

It’s A Release Party!: Like Fire Through Bone

September 13, 2013

Hello all!
I am E.E. Ottoman and I am here to talk about Like Fire Through Bone cones out on Friday 13th, today! I am so excited about this release party which will be going all day and include an awesome coupon code for 25% off all Angel and Demon stories at Dreamspinner somewhere along the way.

You can buy Like Fire Through Bone as an ebook here or as a paperback

First let me introduce myself. I am a graduate student in my late twenties, studying history and living in the greater New York City area. I am a cat lover and an avid home cook. I love menswear and fashion and try to dress as fashionably as possible. I adore all things history, am a big opera fan and love reading mythology. My idea of a perfect day out is a trip to a great museum or art gallery followed by a stunning meal. I am definitely a fantasy author and I love relationships between people and portraying them in all different varieties so romance is an incredibly exciting genre for me.

But enough about me, let’s talk about the book:

Like Fire Through Bone is my first full length novel, although I have written multiple short stories and novellas before this. This is also my first book working with Dreamspinner Press.

When I set out to write it I didn’t set out to write a full length novel. In fact I was aiming for 30,000 words.

I originally had something of a Byzantine/Roman Empire world in mind. I wanted to write a short fantasy adventure story so I came up with a demon who had been terrorizing the capital city stealing away children in the night. The demon was based on old Christian folklore from the Middle East. I came up with two main character Vasilios was a household eunuch who held a kind of secretarial position for a wealthy merchant and Markos who was a General in the Imperial Army.

My original plot outline was simple, they were going to exorcise the demon and then get together as a couple.

I knew Vasilios would have prophetic dreams about the demon and I assumed as soon as he went to Markos with the that information the story would pretty much wrap itself up.

Except it didn’t work like that.

As soon as I started writing Vasilios I realized he was a far more complex character than I had originally intended. I was going to have to deal with his trust issues, his relationship to his master, his relationship to his status as a eunuch, and most importantly the fact that he was a slave.

My outline expanded to deal with the question of Vasilios’ servitude and the real tough questions of portraying slavery in any story.

Then Aritê came into the story. She was originally supposed to be a character mentioned in passing but who never got any actual on screen time, as it were.

As soon as I wrote the scene were Thoefilos describes her though I knew they were going to have to go out into the desert to find her.  With her Aritê  brought the question of faith and the complicated role faith plays in the story.

Suddenly I found myself writing scenes with angels in them and realizing that in some ways the story was also about Vasilios’ faith journey and his relationship with faith, belief and surrender.

At this point the story was over 60k word, twice what I had originally set out to write and I knew they were going to have to out back out into the desert again but this time to a monastery in search of a half-snake monk …

What really surprised me the most about writing the initial draft of the story was how fast it came together. For all that it ended up being almost three times longer than the story I had set out to write, it only took a couple weeks to knock out the first draft.

I wasn’t really sure what to do with it after I had written the first draft though. Going back over and editing something of that length seemed too intimating to me and I had no real idea if anyone asides from me would like it.

The story dealt with some heavy issues like slavery and religion. It also starred a fully castrated main character. As an author I was pretty much unknown in the m/m romance genre and unsure about how much I could get away with.

So I let it sit in my edits folder and went on to write other shorter works. At some point though I mentioned its existence in passing to the amazing LJ LaBarthe who was, to my shock, excited about reading it. She offered to beta read it for me and do some historical facts checking which I desperately needed.

Her enthusiasm made me reconsider. I dug the manuscript out and read over it. I was shocked by how much I liked the story and set about editing it.

Originally my world building had been very Euro-centric. Reevaluating I went back and did some research widening my inspiration pool to include some amazing non-European civilizations and cultures. I also reevaluated my reasoning for making my cast white. “Did my characters need to be white?” I asked myself and discovered that they didn’t.

I also broke the story up into chapters.

When I was done going over it I sent it off to LJ who went over it with a fine tooth comb, doing an especially good job catching, correcting or adding historical details.

We had some great back and forth over different articles of clothing, some of which I made up and some of which are historical, different foods, and what the monitory system for my world was like.

When she was done I went over it again this time looking for consistency in overall tone and overarching themes. I added the second sex scene since I felt there were things that hadn’t been addressed in the first one.

Finally I submitted it to Dreamspinner Press and kept my fingers crossed that they would take a chance and accept it.

Which they did!

It might not be as related to my process of writing but I am genuinely curious, what do all of you love in fantasy? What attracts you to the sub-genre of fantasy romance? Or if you are not ordinarily into the sub-genre  what makes you interested in Like Fire Through Bone?

Spark: Release Party & Sensitive Topics

September 2, 2013

As I finish up my release party today, I’m getting ready to send my daughter off to middle school, one of those things that many parents dread. It’s more scary than it is to release a new book out into the wild, but I’m so glad you’ve been here to help me celebrate this wonderful day. Thank you. I’ll give you another little taste from Spark, one that deals with family, but first, I’d like to talk about sensitive subject matter.

I’m used to writing about sensitive issues, controversial topics, and even kinks that are squick-worthy to some, but not to all. When I wrote Spark, knowing from the start that it was going to be a trilogy inspired by something that actually happens in Fusion of North Star (book 2), I knew I was going to need to touch on sensitive topics.

Bisexuality. What? How is bisexuality a sensitive issue? To me, it’s not, but it is often one of the less visible letters in GLBT. And there are a lot of assumptions made about bisexuals that are far from true. Kevin Magnus just so happens to be bi. When we meet him in high school, he’s only dated girls. He’s never even been attracted to boys, until he meets Hugo Thorson. (Ooo, just writing that makes me excited! Self-discovery is wonderful.)

Kids. Wait. Before you run away, please hear me out. Over the years I’ve heard people talk about their dislike of kids in fiction. Spark (and all of North Star) is not centered around kids, but Kevin does have children who are part of the story. No matter what, Kevin is their dad, and one of his internal struggles his entire life has been to not turn into his distant father. Kevin would never abandon his children, so his kids are present. I’ve occasionally been the reader who rolls her eyes when a three-year-old talks like she’s twenty-three, but hopefully my child development degrees have helped me create kids who act developmentally appropriate.

The over-arching theme of North Star is family. I use that term loosely at times, meaning community, neighborhoods, and chosen family. I also use it in the more formal sense: family of origin as well as the family you create when you move away from your family of origin.

As an adult, Hugo’s family (aside from his mom and sister) really consists of Summer and Gilbert. Summer is Hugo’s best friend who is practically a sister, and Gilbert is the friend who understands Hugo in a way he doesn’t even know himself.

Kevin’s family consists of his almost-ex-wife Erin and their two kids, Brooke (10) and Finn (5). Brooke and Finn meet Hugo, who isn’t sure he wants anything to do with kids, and Summer, who is a kindergarten teacher that thinks kids are the greatest thing on earth. So how do you start a romance between a guy who’s not sure he even likes kids and a man who already has two kids of his own? You’ll have to read.

Separation/Divorce. That’s the third sensitive topic Spark deals with. Kevin is weeks away from finalizing his divorce when he meets up with Hugo seventeen years after their high school romance ended. Erin and Kevin have both agreed to start dating other people. Their romance was over long before Kevin asked for a divorce. They’d had a loveless marriage for years, and Erin even buys him a box of condoms (scene from book 2, Fusion), reminding him how often newborns wake up in the middle of the night. Erin is dating as well, so neither Erin nor Kevin see dating as cheating because of their agreement.

Erin is part of this story as well. She needs to be, because Kevin and Erin are still raising their kids together. That parenting relationship doesn’t dissolve as easily as a marriage does, or at least that’s the hope, even if in real life that happens a lot.

I truly enjoy writing about more than just a couple. I like writing about all the people surrounding the couple, because they make life richer, more complicated, and certainly more colorful. I can’t help but think of the saying “No man is an island” right now. It’s very true. We are shaped by the people around us and our experiences with them. I find writing about all those players to be very rewarding, and I believe it gives readers a richer understanding of the characters they get to know in fiction.

Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 16 where Kevin and Hugo’s families meet.

As Hugo and Kevin chopped a variety of veggies to wrap in foil packets for the grill and Summer added seasoning, the adults took some time getting to know each other, covering what they did for work and fun as well as where they were originally from. They inevitably tried to play Six Degrees of Separation with the people they knew from the various towns in Minnesota they’d each lived in over the years but could only come up with one connection which seemed to be at least eight degrees away. Unless you counted Myles, but they didn’t.

“I should get Brooke and Finn down here. I put in The Princess Bride so we could have a few uninterrupted adult minutes. You ready to meet them?” he directed at Hugo and Hugo alone.

He finished a swallow of wine and nodded. “Sure.”

Kevin climbed the stairs two at a time, Hugo watching after him, unable to keep from noticing how Kevin’s pants seemed to hug him in all the right places. And the bare feet on the wooden stairs distracted him again, so he missed Summer’s patter of conversation beside him. Kevin disappeared around the corner, no longer visible from the dining area where they were now seated. Hugo’s knee started bouncing, and Summer pressed a warm, calming hand to it.

“You’re not here on an interview to be their dad, okay?” she reminded him. “You’re just an old friend. Nothing else, so don’t work yourself up.”

“You’re right,” he whispered. “You’re always right.” He took a deep breath and slowly let it out through his nose, relaxing the muscles in his neck at the same time. With all the thinking he’d done in the last day about their past, his feelings for Kevin seemed to be reignited and burning white-hot, but he couldn’t get ahead of himself. “What do you think so far?” he asked, beyond curious.

“He’s hot and nice. His smile is amazing, and so are his gray eyes.”

Grey, ringed in midnight, he thought and was glad he’d kept his description to himself. “Okay, I already know all that. What do you think of him?”

“So far, so good. He seems… kind, warm. But I’m withholding my judgment like you asked me to. I’m going to give him the whole night until I’m even going to let myself go there and just be your best friend, okay?” Hugo nodded and took a quick, nervous sip. “Really, I’ve spent most of my time watching you, so far. Considering you haven’t seen him since you were eighteen, barring the other night, I’d think you guys had known each other forever. Well, except for the little moment you had back there where you were drooling over him.”

Hugo threw a cocktail napkin at Summer’s face and shook his head, ready to start berating her for being too harsh when a tall but slight girl with waist-length dark hair slowly walked down the stairs as if she had just woken up from a nap. Behind her, following quickly, was a cherubic-faced, strawberry-blond boy who easily overtook her. Kevin trotted down in bouncy movements to land at the bottom of the stairs at the same time as the girl.

“Brooke and Finn, I’d like you to meet my good friend Hugo and his friend Summer.”

The children were very polite, saying, “Pleased to meet you,” in unison. Obviously Kevin’s father had ingrained good manners into these kids before he died. More likely, it was Kevin and his ex, Hugo corrected his thoughts. Kevin rested his large hands on his kids’ shoulders in what seemed like a comforting gesture and gently squeezed when they spoke. All his motions did was distract Hugo from the children and draw all attention to Kevin’s hands. When had they gotten to be so big? The sight took his mind to dirty places it shouldn’t be while meeting children.

Hugo returned to pleasantries as best he could but was more than relieved when the teacher side of Summer came out, naturally moving the conversation on to things the kids were engaged in. It was as if a switch had been flipped, and Kevin’s kids came to life, talking animatedly and pulling Summer into the backyard to show her their sea glass collection.

“Sea glass?” Hugo asked Kevin skeptically. “Don’t you need a sea for that?”

“It’s just tumbled glass they find washed up on the beach. They love the stuff, and we spent most of today digging in the sand. I think Brooke wants to make some jewelry for her friend. Something about BFF necklaces, whatever those are. Finn just likes to dig in the sand and water. He’d be just as happy finding fish skeletons and chunks of concrete.”

“Best friends forever,” Hugo informed, but Kevin looked at him with a very puzzled expression on his face. “BFF means ‘best friends forever.’ Just thought I’d help decode the kid-speak for you.”

“Thanks. They say things I have no clue about sometimes. Well, at least Brooke does. Finn isn’t quite there yet, but Brooke is using abbreviations that make no sense to me half the time. I just figured out what ‘LOL’ meant on our drive back to the lake.”

“Seriously?”

“Yeah. I’m kinda pathetic when it comes to pop culture.”

“Well, I can help with that,” Hugo flirted, smiling over his wine glass as he took another sip. “They seem like great kids. I have two nieces. The youngest is about Brooke’s age, but the oldest is getting into the testy teen years. Nothing seems to please her unless it’s related to technology. Sometimes I just end up texting her while in the same room to draw her out. It’s unconventional, but worth doing to be a part of her life.”

“Do you see them much?”

“Yeah. Quite often. Charisse and her family live in Robbinsdale, right on Twin Lake. I’m their unofficial baby-sitter and chauffeur when she or her husband needs help. They’re almost too old for a baby-sitter now, but I go and hang out with them.”

“So you’re good with kids?”

“I’m… I’m good with my nieces because I know them,” Hugo answered with uncertainty in his tone due to his lack of confidence in where the conversation was going. “I mean. I don’t have a ton of experience with kids aside from the girls. It’s hard to say if I’m good with kids or not based on nieces I held before they were even an hour old. They’ve never not known me.”

“Well, don’t be intimidated by my kids. Brooke is a bit slow to warm up to new people, but once she does, you won’t be able to get her to stop talking about things that interest her. Not so much about herself. And Finn is pretty much a bundle of energy all the time, but easily entertained.”

“I’m sure Summer will be able to keep up with them.”

“It already looks like it. She seems to know you really well,” Kevin observed.

“Yeah. Probably better than anyone aside from my sister.”

Kevin sipped his wine and took a quick look down toward the water. Hugo looked as well and saw Summer and the kids huddled over what must’ve been the beach glass. Summer picked up a piece of something cobalt-blue and held it up to the sun. Brooke’s face lit up, and Hugo watched as she animatedly told a story he couldn’t hear, but he suspected from all her pointing and mimed swimming that Brooke had seen the piece deep in the water and had to dive to get her hands on it. Summer beamed, smiling and laughing. Finn seemed to try to get in on the retelling of the story, but Brooke rolled her eyes and sat next to Summer while Finn took center stage. Hugo loved watching Summer with kids.

I’ve lived away from my hometown and family since right after my eighteenth birthday, so I’ve had to create a chosen family. I have friends nearly 20 years younger as well as 20 years older and everything in between. What sort of people make up your own chosen family?

This is the last chance to enter to win by commenting. I’ll post winners tomorrow. Thank you so much for allowing me to play with you today. I hope you enjoy Spark as much as I enjoyed writing it, and look for Fusion coming out sometime in November.

Spark: Two Stories in One

September 2, 2013

When I set out to write North Star and Spark in particular, I knew one of my challenges was making it believable that Hugo Thorson and Kevin Magnus could have such a strong connection once they see each other again after their high school romance ended. I could’ve easily written a paragraph or two about how they’d been hot for each other as teens, but I knew that would create a paltry connection for readers compared to what the characters’ emotions truly were. I wanted readers to see how intensely these men loved when they were boys, so my path was pretty well set up for me. I have basically written two love stories in one book between the same men.

About a third of Spark is the coming-of-age story of Hugo and Kevin. I wanted readers to understand the foundation these men will eventually be building on. They meet in high school and start out as friends. Eventually it becomes more, but that doesn’t mean things go smoothly for them. At all. There are several challenges they have to navigate, and the issues that arise are challenging for adults, let alone sixteen-year-olds.

Another reason I wanted to explore these two men as boys was to see where they started. Family is very important to this story and these characters, and their history certainly affects them for the rest of North Star, from interpersonal dynamics to what they value.

Then Hugo and Kevin meet again years later, and they both feel their attraction almost immediately reignite. That doesn’t mean there aren’t doubts or real-life obstacles to get in the way. There certainly are, because life at thirty-five is often more complicated than it was at sixteen. At least for the weekend at the lake when they meet again, they try to make it as simple as they can. They’re just two men attracted to each other. After that weekend, they need to figure out how a relationship could possibly work.

Here’s a little taste from Spark, Chapter 4 of Hugo and Kevin’s first conversation after a seventeen-year separation. You can read it, or you can listen to me reading it by clicking the link below. Or you can even read and listen at the same time. I apologize ahead of time for not sounding like a sexy man at all.

Listen to Posy Read.

Kevin laughed deep and warm in his chest and stopped walking, pulling Hugo to a stop with him. “God, Hugo. I missed you. You always did know what to say to make me feel better. How the heck did we ever lose track of each other after everything we discovered together?”

Hugo shrugged, not knowing how to answer after their gradual drift from talking on a regular basis during their first month in college to nothing by the time winter break came. Hugo’s mom and sister had moved to the Twin Cities mere months after Hugo left for college, and that certainly hadn’t helped matters. But it was more, he realized.

“We just had different lives, I think,” Hugo said with a shrug. “We went our separate ways after I said good-bye to you in your driveway.”

“I still regret not kissing you that day. I should have just said ‘screw it’ and kissed you like I wanted to, even if my dad was right there.”

Hugo looked up the few inches to meet Kevin’s gray eyes and tried to smile, but it probably came across more as sadness than a smile. He couldn’t believe Kevin still thought of that day too. He wondered if Kevin’s mind ever drifted to the kiss in the wooded meadow when he was bored in a meeting or like Hugo’s had that very afternoon in the car. Slowly, he felt the corner of his mouth turn into something akin to flirty, and he asked, “Oh?”

“Yes,” Kevin said as his warm thumb trailed across Hugo’s jaw toward his chin. “I’ve thought about that day a lot, about our last kiss and how I wish it never would’ve ended. Damn the rain. Would you mind if I showed you how I’ve always imagined that moment in the driveway would’ve happened? Or are you with someone?”

“No. I mean, yes, you can show me,” Hugo stammered, his heart beating hard against his chest.

Kevin’s smile lit up his face, and he looked so young just then, the careworn lines that had appeared between his brows while talking about his father smoothing.

“Okay, so maybe this isn’t exactly like I would have said things back then, but this is how I wish I would’ve done it. Ready?”

Hugo nodded and licked his lips, drawing Kevin’s attention to his mouth.

“So pretend we’re standing next to my open trunk,” Kevin directed as he led Hugo near the tail end of a car parked in a driveway close to the roadside. Kevin tilted his head left and right, shaking his hands out loosely next to his body as if trying to get into character.

“Hugo,” he started, somehow pulling youthful nervousness into his voice, “we should plan on getting together in a few weeks.”

“Sure,” Hugo answered, ready to play along with the conversation he barely remembered. He recalled the feelings he’d had, though: excitement about leaving Austin but sadness about leaving Kevin. “I can get a ride down to St. Peter, or you can come up to Minneapolis. It’s not that far.”

That drive never ended up happening for either of them because Hugo auditioned for a play in the U’s theater department and got a lead role as a freshman, something unheard of. He had no time to get together on weekends because he had homework to do and lines to memorize and blocking to learn and sets to help build.

“Seventy miles or so.”

That’s where Hugo vaguely remembered Kevin’s dad clapping his big hands and telling Kevin he’d better hit the road. Now there was just the sound of far-off waves and traffic from the highway on the other side of the trees peppered with exploding fireworks.

“I’d love that,” Hugo said, regretful he hadn’t taken the time to find a ride and just go. “I’ll make it happen,” he promised, and he wished he’d kept it.

Kevin looked at Hugo with such intensity; even in the darkness surrounding them, Hugo could see how blown Kevin’s pupils were.

“It’ll happen this time,” Kevin whispered against Hugo’s mouth, lazily closing his eyes as he spoke.

Hugo tasted Kevin’s breath on his tongue, remembering it, even with the faint scent of lemon lingering. A silvery thread of his memory seemed to actually weave this moment to the moments in his past, pushing Hugo back into that world, filling him with all those emotions he had for Kevin when they were just boys. Kevin was the only man Hugo had really and truly been in love with. He was the ruler every single boyfriend since had to unwittingly measure himself against. And none, not a single one, had ever gotten anywhere near.

Hugo took in a quick breath and pushed forward, capturing Kevin’s mouth with his own as his fingers threaded through thick blond waves and shorter razor-cut strands; his hands landed on Kevin’s neck. Hugo thumbed over Kevin’s ears, allowing the pads of his fingers to tease the fine hair along his earlobes.

They fused their mouths, opening and closing with lips caressing, teeth nipping, and tongues pushing against each other in an attempt to taste the familiarity that was new again.

Kevin trailed his hands down Hugo’s back, kneading his fingers against Hugo’s ass once he got there, then pulling them closer. Hugo felt Kevin starting to firm up beneath the thin material of his shorts, and he wanted so badly to thrust. He barely restrained himself.

They stood on a darkened road and kissed how they both wished they would have years ago, giving to each other more than they took away. But by doing it that way, Hugo felt more content than he had in years.

“Come back to my place?” Kevin panted against Hugo’s temple. “Please, Hugh?”

Hugo nodded as he tried to catch his breath and then nodded again.

You know those moments when you see someone after years and years? They can sure be awkward. Or they can be great! What sorts of experiences have you had? For the record, I’ve avoided high school reunions for this reason. If you share, I’ll enter you in a drawing for one of three free eBook copies of Spark.

Oh, and just for the heck of it, click here to listen to me read another clip from Chapter 4 that I lovingly call buttboy1978.  :)

~Posy Roberts

Spark: Character Inspiration & More

September 2, 2013

Spark is story about Hugo Thorson and Kevin Magnus at two different times in their lives: their teens and their mid-thirties. Gladly, I no longer look like I did when I was sixteen, because it was the eighties and I permed my hair, wore more makeup than was good for me, and thought shoulder pads were still cool. At least Hugo and Kevin were teens in the nineties and missed out on mullets, but that did leave me with the opportunity to find two very different looks for both of my main characters.

I had a lot of different faces representing Hugo and Kevin at different stages, and I also had a lot of hairstyles as well. Kevin had longer hair in his youth; Hugo had shorter. As adults, they switched. I knew the overall look I was going for with both of my characters, even if I couldn’t always find the exact face to fit. I’d like to share a few with you here.

Hugo has blue eyes, pale skin, and dark hair that is almost blue-black. As an adult, he has very defined cheekbones, and the model, Miles McMillan really became Hugo to me. While Miles has hazel eyes, in my head I always made them blue.

I described Kevin as an all-American golden boy. And while his long hair in his youth made him look more rebellious than he ever was, his father hated that image. Kevin secretly loved that his father hated his longer hair, but as you can see by the photo on the right, he cut his blond waves off as he matured into adulthood.

I could look at photos of these men for a very long time and not tire of it, but I realize some people may not quite get the Hugo in my head being represented by these photos. The joy of reading a book is that we get to create our own dream man, so if the images that inspired me to write don’t work for you, make your own. I’d love to see those images, in fact.

I also made very good use of my Pinterest boards to keep track of other images I wrote about in Spark. I have locations, items used by characters, food, dishes, and even images that just give the feel of a scene or two.

Since I live within driving distance of most of the locations in Spark, I was able to take several day trips and photograph important places. I used some of those photos of where Hugo and Kevin lived as teens to help create a video while I read an excerpt. If you’d like, go here to see it. I know the production value has a lot to be desired.

Here’s another little taste of Hugo’s impression of Kevin that takes place right after the reading in the video. You can read Chapter 1 here.

Kevin’s hair was much shorter than it had been when they first met, now cropped along the sides and back with thick, long strands pushed back off his forehead. It was still the same golden-blond that had attracted Hugo so many years ago when they introduced themselves on Kevin’s first day working at Hormel. When Kevin had stepped into the room where a nearly sixteen-year-old Hugo was just starting to hand-wash the delicate blown-glass vessels used in research and taste testing, Hugo almost broke a large beaker which probably cost more than he made in a week.

Nineteen years prior, Kevin had silky blond hair just skimming past his shoulders, which he had pulled back to look more office appropriate, but wispy bangs escaped the binding, framing his eyes and dark-blond brows. His eyes were gray and piercing, ringed in blue so dark it looked like the color of the sky at dusk right before it turned black. He was beautiful, but not classically so. His lips were too full for a man’s face, too full for him to not be called pretty, at least. But his long nose, high cheekbones, and strong jaw gave his face masculinity, even if all those distinctive lines did were draw Hugo’s focus right back to those pink, parted lips.

Question time: In your youth did you have a regrettable hairstyle? I certainly did. Answer and I’ll enter you in a drawing for one of three free eBook copies of Spark.

I can be found a number of other places too. My websiteFacebook, and Twitter. My website has a listing of everywhere else I can be found.

Spark: Cover Inspiration

September 2, 2013

Find an image to represent your novel. Sounds easy enough, right? But I had no clue what I wanted on the cover of Spark. None. And it was driving me nuts.

I finished the first draft of Spark in June 2012, and I had seriously considered the images I wanted on the cover for nearly a year with no luck. That’s very unusual for me. When I wrote Fall Into You, I knew red Doc Martens were somehow going to be part of the cover. They just had to be. So when nothing came to me for this book over all those months, and then I was “suddenly” asked what I wanted, I did my best to complete the paperwork the art department sent me. My responses ended up being a rambling mess, which showed just how clueless I was.

I think part of it was intimidation, because what I chose to represent Spark would affect everything else in my North Star trilogy. So I wasn’t just visualizing one cover; I had to consider three or at least find something that could be carried over to pull the entire trilogy together. The only thing I truly knew was what color I wanted each of the covers to be.

The wonderful designer, Anne Cain and I both agreed a simple, conceptual cover was going to work best. As I was writing to her about more thematic ideas from the book, I finally had a brainstorm, right there as I was composing my email. I’m so glad I went with my gut and just started typing away.

The golden spiral.

So what’s that? It’s based on the golden ratio of 1:1.618…, phi (φ), and it’s related to the Fibonacci sequence. As much as I love math, I’m sure I’ll mess this up, so watch this short video hosted by Hank Green who explains the Fibonacci sequence and how it relates to the golden ratio and golden spiral.

This number relationship is used to create a golden rectangle, which the lovely golden spiral fits right inside. Everything is related. This spiral occurs in nature in pinecones, galaxy formations, flowers, veggies, pineapples, some shells, ears, fingerprints, and more. Artists and architects use it, and there are even bridge arches designed based on the curve.

The golden spiral is also related to the golden triangle, which easily becomes a pentagram or star. Yeah, I nearly fell over when I read about that considering my trilogy is called North Star. It’s crazy. Of course, once you start looking for something, you find it everywhere you go. Still, I think the mathematics of all of this is truly fascinating, especially how it relates to art, nature, and what people consider pleasing to the eye. It’s pretty amazing no matter how you slice it.

But why did I want to use the golden spiral as inspiration for my book cover? Fire or sparks would’ve seemed more appropriate based on the title, I suppose. Yet that didn’t work for Anne or me because it was too literal. The golden spiral was a great jumping off point, so I finally had that image in my head that I’d been searching for. The lovely thing is that Anne is going to use portions of the golden spiral for all three covers, so I have that element spanning all three books. I found the connection I had been seeking.

One of the reasons the image works so well for me in Spark is that the main characters’ lives have spiraled around each other for years. Hugo Thorson and Kevin Magnus met as teens, fell in love, and grew together. Then college and adulthood separated them, but they continued to grow and were still influenced by each other despite no longer being together. In their thirties they meet again at a Minnesota lake and both find that they’re still just as attracted to each other. The question they need to decide is if they can possibly join their lives and grow together. It’s also a lovely tie-in that Hugo and Kevin spend time digging in the sand at the lake with Kevin’s kids.

As I continued to edit the rest of the books in my trilogy, I realized the theme of spirals or portions of spirals, like arches, kept popping up again and again. This was after Anne had already worked on the cover for Spark, so it almost felt like fate had a hand in that moment of inspiration while composing that email. Beyond that, North Star is truly about Hugo and Kevin growing, and when you see how quickly those Fibonacci numerals add up, I can’t help but give a little chuckle. Granted, growth isn’t quite that dramatic for Hugo and Kevin, but the math is still inspirational to me.

I’m beyond grateful for Anne Cain’s talent. I think she did an amazing job.

And in case you hadn’t noticed, the Dreamspinner Press logo looks an awful lot like a golden spiral. Doesn’t it?

So, what do you think makes a good cover for a book? Are those criteria different for a romance novel than another genre? I’d love to hear from you, and I’ll enter you in a drawing for one of three free eBook copies of Spark.

And if you’re a math nerd like me, where else have you seen the golden spiral?

~Posy Roberts

P.S. If you want to watch more videos on the golden spiral, check out this mind blowing one by Vihart that shows how the golden spiral shows up in plant life.

Winners!

April 7, 2013

Thanks to everyone who stopped by and commented today. The 3 winners are uwalumni2, Juliana (oceanakers) and Carolyn (caroaz).  Fire Horse releases on Friday (4/12) so you can expect to hear from me at that time. Better yet, send me an email at  mickie.ashling at gmail.com and let me know the format of choice.  Please include your address if you’d like a paperback.

Analyzing Emory– One More Excerpt

January 4, 2013

I want to thank everyone who popped by today. Before I sign-off, I thought I’d leave you with one last excerpt. This is from Chapter 4. Emory and Kyle are each working through their feelings about their one-night stand. Ben is Emory’s best friend and co-worker at the music store.

Excerpt #2 (PG)

“Seriously, dude, this pouting, petulant thing you have going on is really wiggin’ me out.”

Startled, Emory almost dropped the stack of CDs he was holding as he organized the New Release rack. He turned and scowled at Ben.

“I am not pouting and petulant!”

“Riiiight.” Ben crossed his arms over his chest, leaned further back in his chair, and kicked his feet up on the counter. “What the hell did you get up to over the weekend?”

“What do you mean?” Emory shoved a few more CDs back into their correct rack a little harder than necessary before he turned to face his friend.

“I mean something must have gone down this weekend. First you don’t return my calls all day Saturday. Then when you finally do call, it’s to cancel coming over to hang out on Sunday. And today”—Ben surveyed Emory, shaking his head—“you’re just all… weird.”

“I am not and screw you.”

Ben just chuckled, taking no offense whatsoever. “You told me you were going to hit up Spin Friday night. What happened? Did someone actually have the audacity to turn you down or something? Is that why your panties are in a bunch?”

“Okay.” Emory whipped around, and at the last second refrained from winging the CD he held in his hand at Ben’s head. “My panties are in no way bunched, fuck you very much.”

“Ah, there we go.” Ben grinned, pushed his feet off the counter, and launched himself into a standing position. “There’s the sarcastic, razor-sharp wit sprinkled with just the right amount of profanity that I know and love!”

As much as Emory wanted to resist, he couldn’t help smiling.

“And Benji even gets a smile.” Ben’s eyebrows wiggled comically as he swaggered across the store isle. “Seriously, bro, I was getting concerned with all the moping into the CDs.” He slung an arm around Emory’s shoulders, and his face became more serious. “You sure you’re okay?”

Emory took a deep breath and sighed. All kidding aside, Ben was his best friend and really the only person he trusted. “Yeah… no… I don’t know.”

“I take it Friday night didn’t exactly go to plan?” Ben stepped back, removing the handful of CDs Emory still clutched “Come and take a load off. These CDs will still be here in need of being put away after we’ve talked.”

Alternative Scene was currently devoid of customers. Clearly Monday morning was not when people decided they needed to pick up a few new CDs. Emory and Ben made their way back behind the cash register, plopped down in the two chairs that were always there, and propped their feet up against the counter. Ben gave Emory a pointed look, and Emory knew that was his cue to start talking.

“So, I was at Spin on Friday—”

“Planning on picking up your usual one-night stand?”

Emory smirked but gave an affirmative nod. Ben might be straight with a girlfriend, but he was open-minded, nonjudgmental, and understood how Emory operated.

Emory blew out a gust of air. The thing was, nothing had been usual about his encounter with Kyle. He had spent all weekend in a funk trying to wrap his mind around it. He couldn’t understand why the psychologist had gotten under his skin. The sex had been mind-blowing. That wasn’t the problem. It was everything else. Not only had he stayed the night at Kyle’s place, he had actually stayed for breakfast as well. He tried to rationalize it to himself later, that it just would have been too rude to run out before eating, but he knew that was bull. It was a little awkward at first, and Emory hadn’t had a clue how to act, having never had a conversation with anyone post fucking before, but in the end, he had enjoyed the meal. It had been… nice. What had him most on edge, though, was when Kyle asked to see him again. He must be going insane, because for one brief, crazy, nanosecond, he almost thought he had wanted to say yes. Emory still didn’t know what had come over him when he kissed Kyle good-bye.

Ben looked at him expectantly, and after steeling himself, Emory opened up his mouth and summarized his Friday night for his friend. After he had finished telling his story, leaving out most of the naked, gory details, Emory waited for Ben to say something.

“So, you’re telling me that you went home with a gorgeous, smart guy who lives in an amazing loft apartment, who was great in bed, and didn’t just want to fuck you—he was more considerate and wanted to see you again—and breakfast was included?”

Emory opened his mouth, then snapped it shut. He didn’t remember the words coming out of his mouth quite like that.

“I know you have your ‘no muss, no fuss’ credo or whatever about getting involved with people.” Ben waved his hand in a dismissive gesture. “But tell me again why seeing Dr. Psychologist-Dreamboat-Great-In-Bed-Brunch-Chef-Extraordinaire again would be a bad thing?”

*****

Kyle spent the weekend unpacking the rest of the boxes that littered his apartment and getting everything arranged just so with almost psychotic determination. Not doing so gave him too much time to think, and for the past thirty-six hours all he’d been able to think about was Emory. Emory’s smile and eyes. Emory’s sharp tongue and humor. Emory naked and writhing on his bed. Emory who had sex but not relationships. Hell, he didn’t even know Emory’s last name.

Kyle broke down the last box with more force than was necessary. Besides the large pile of cardboard he would need to take out for recycling, thanks to his manic cleaning and desire to stay occupied, his apartment was now in live-in condition.

He was exhausted and glad it was already early evening. He would make something simple for dinner and then get a good night’s sleep. He didn’t start work for another week, but he had promised Richard he would meet him tomorrow at the GLBT Center to get a tour of the place and discuss how he would fit into the program. The Center, completed about five years ago, was Richard’s labor of love. He had left his high-powered career in finance, where he had managed large fund-raising campaigns and capital endowments, and used his knowledge to raise money to build a multifunctional GLBT Center for the Chicago area. The inviting, modern architecture and enormous plate-glass windows housed not only a community center with support groups, activities, and programs, but also a shelter for gay and lesbian youth, a free health clinic, and educational and career services. It was truly a one-stop shop, and Kyle was the newly appointed resident psychologist.

After shoveling some spaghetti into his mouth and plopping down in front of the television, Kyle found his eyelids drooping by nine. He grimaced as he stood up, his back protesting over lifting one heavy box too many and spending much of the day hunched over, and made his way to the bedroom. He paused when he got within several feet of the bed. He knew he should change the sheets. He should have changed them Saturday. Steeling his jaw, Kyle stripped off his clothes, leaving them strewn on the floor, and climbed between the sheets nude. He rationalized he was too tired to change them now, and his exhausted brain refused to analyze how crazy it made him that he loved still being able to smell Emory on the pillow next to his.

******

It’s been great hanging-out with all of you today! Don’t forget to leave a comment if you’d like to be in the running to win a copy of Analyzing Emory and stop by my blog, Twitter or Facebook and say hello!

Thanks all!

xo,

Lily