February 12, 2016
Hello! My name is Nicole Godfrey and I’m one half of the author duo who wrote Hoofbeats.
From the beginning this was a story that spoke to my heart. I’ve read a few books with an American Indian as the lead character, and they always left me wanting to write my own. Hoofbeats was not my first, but the concept of a Horse Shifter/Horse Whisperer romance couldn’t be ignored once it took root. Not that I’ve ever been one to ignore a good story idea.
Passing the story back and forth between chapters proved a challenge, but through combined efforts we managed to find a way to tell a story that shows how wild horses are still being destroyed. That became the awareness we wanted to create, intertwined with American Indian mythology, and what could happen if horse shifters originated from one of the Native lines of North America.
The idea came along after I’d done a beta read for A.J. Marcus, my co-author. He wrote a book with three shifters, two big cats and an owl. The owl was a law man of the shifter world, and I thought the concept would be fun to connect several stories in the same universe. The characters have the potential to overlap in the future, but the stories stand on their own. For that reason A.J. and I have plans to writer several more novels with bird shifter enforcers. We are currently working on the second of these novels, starring a pair of golden eagle shifters. Well, in addition to our own solo projects, that is.
I have found that going to a coffee shop, staking out a corner with a tasty beverage, and writing for hours really helps me crank out the word count. The ear buds go in and I listen to a mix of all the different kinds of music I like on Pandora. Being at home generally leads to distractions, even when I’m alone. Coffee shops offer a small amount of social interaction, the opportunity to have writer friends come join me and do work, as well as getting to support local businesses. A well made cup of Joe can be quite inviting, and a change of scenery is never a bad thing either.
Overall, I guess you could say the right set of circumstances can lead you to the spark of an idea, which in turn can lead you to writing stories from your heart. A.J. asked me if I’d like to write a book with him, asked me to come up with ideas for shifters, and that was all it took to push the gears into motion. Generating ideas is my favorite part of writing, which A.J. knew, and shifters have always been a source of fascination for me. I attribute that passion to watching werewolf movies as a kid, specifically American Werewolf in London.
What kinds of movies inspire you? Like A.J. and I, do you have a passion for spreading awareness when it comes to the treatment of wild animals? Or do you have a special source of mythology that tickles your ideas into bold brilliance? Leave your answer in the comments below and we’ll randomly select one to get an e-copy of your choice from A.J.’s back list.
We’d love to hear about it, and how these things influence your choices for reading fiction. Leave a comment and we’ll do our best to address each one. Thanks for reading and we hope you enjoy Hoofbeats!
After a run of bad luck, gifted horse trainer Cole Frasier thinks he’s lost his touch. When he’s offered three times his normal rate to gentle a stallion, he needs the money badly enough he jumps at the opportunity, even if his boss is of questionable morality.
Once he meets Midnight Blood, he knows there’s something special about the horse, but he doesn’t know how special until he begins sharing dreams with the magnificent steed.
Derek Dancing Hawk is a horse shifter trapped in his horse form due to guilt over losing the wild herd he was guarding. When he meets Cole, as Midnight Blood, he wants to find a way to be human again. During a fight between Cole and the ranch foreman, he manages to shift and save Cole, but his transformation from horse to human is captured on camera. This not only gives Cole’s boss blackmail material, but also creates the need to warn the horse shifter council of the threat to their anonymity. The existence of shifters is a closely guarded secret, one they will go to great lengths to keep.
Check out Hoofbeats today!
A.J. has been writing to pass the time since high school. The stories he wrote helped him deal with life. A few years ago, he started sharing those stories with friends who enjoyed them and he has started sending his works out into the world to share with other people. He lives in the mountains with his extremely supportive husband. They have a lot of critters, including dogs, cats, birds, horses, and rabbits. When not writing, A.J. spends a lot of time hiking, trail riding or just driving in the mountains. Nature provides a lot of inspiration for his work and keeps him writing. He is also an avid photographer and falconer. Don’t get him started talking about his birds, because he won’t stop for a while.
Web Contact Info:
Nicole Godfrey is a writer who calls the beautiful city of Colorado Springs home, along with her fury children. She was born in Omaha, NE. and has lived in Florida and Tennessee. Her writing career started with poetry at a young age, leading to her first publication at the age of twelve. Poetry eventually evolved into the love of storytelling, and any good story, no matter the genre, is open to her creative mind. She has two short stories published through Colorado Springs Fiction Writers Group; A Page Lost in An Uncommon Collection, and The Power of the Word in Remnants and Resolutions: Tales of Survival.
When she’s not writing, Nicole actively participates in Amtgard and loves to play table-top RPG’s. Art has also been a part of her life since a young age, so she spends as much time as possible playing with different mediums.
February 12, 2016
If any of my family or anyone I grew up with reads Mute Witness (published by Dreamspinner’s sister house, DSP Publications and out on February 3, 2016), they’ll know I based the town in the book, Summitville, PA, on my own hometown of East Liverpool, OH.
In the book, I describe Summitville like this:
As Sean drove through the streets of Summitville, with their curves and rises as the concrete mapped out a destination on the hills, he couldn’t help but think what a contrast the little city presented: the beauty of the hills, rising up above the town, tree-covered, the Ohio River twisting through its valley, all scarred by the evidence of human habitation. The houses perched, clinging to the hillsides, most of them in need of paint or repair, the rusting carcasses of cars littering many of the driveways. People, too poor to afford air conditioning, sat on front porch stoops fanning themselves, staring dumbly at the traffic passing their homes. Sean wondered why he even bothered to live there. He was a good, if not great, writer, passable enough to maybe not write the great American novel as he had once dreamed of doing, but adequate enough to at least work at a larger newspaper in someplace like Pittsburgh or maybe even Chicago. But he knew the reason he stayed. And it wasn’t because his roots were here. Nor was it because of Austin, whom he had once figured would be happy to pull up stakes and follow him anywhere. Nor was it because of his job, which valued his writing ability at the majestic sum of $32,000 per year.
No, he stayed because of Jason. To be near his little boy. The only child he would ever have. He wanted to watch his son grow up, to shepherd him to adulthood, to make sure he grew up compassionate….
An article on rustwire.com “East Liverpool and the Unforgiving Economy of Rural Appalachia”, (from 2014) describes East Liverpool today sadly, yet accurately. Just a disclaimer—this little town is where my roots and most of my family and some dear old friends are, so I don’t mean to disparage, but only to illuminate my inspiration for the fictional town of Summitville. I think it’s interesting to see how a kind of grim story arose from these grim surroundings.
But, like the fictional town and the real one, and the book and real life, where hope lives, redemption can arise. Read for yourself and see.
“About 100 miles Southeast of Cleveland, nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, along the Ohio River sits the small city of East Liverpool, Ohio. Once known as the pottery capitol of the world, many of the China and glassware factories have closed, as have the steel mills where many East Liverpool residents once worked. In its heyday during World War II, almost 50,000 people lived in East Liverpool. Today the city’s population tops off at just above 10,000.
“Nearly 30 percent of all residents live below the poverty level. The per capita income is just more than $16,000. The unemployment rate is 13 percent. It’s a city where almost every second or third house seems to be abandoned, and not just abandoned. Some are burnt out. Some are falling down. The locals talk about the incessant and merciless drug traffic. They say dealers have come up to the city from the east coast – having found a robust market for heroin and other opiates. The drug trade wreaks constant havoc on the streets. In late September, five people were shot there in a single night.”
The abuse of a little boy turns a community against a loving gay couple, and nobody comes out of it unscathed.
Sean and Austin have the perfect life: new love, a riverfront home, security. Their love for one another is only multiplied when Sean’s eight-year-old son, Jason, visits on the weekends.
And then their perfect world shatters.
Jason goes missing.
When the boy turns up days later, he’s been so horribly abused he’s lost the power to speak. Immediately small town minds turn to the boy’s gay father and his lover as the likely culprits. What was a warm, welcoming community becomes a lynching party out for blood.
As Sean and Austin struggle to stay together amidst innuendo, the very real threat of Sean losing the son he loves emerges. Yet the true villain is much closer to home, intent on ensuring the boy’s muteness is permanent.
DSP Publications ebook: https://www.dsppublications.com/books/mute-witness-by-rick-r-reed-206-b
DSP Publications paperback: https://www.dsppublications.com/books/mute-witness-by-rick-r-reed-207-b
Note: When you buy the paperback from DSP Publications, you get the ebook for FREE.
RICK R. REED is all about exploring the romantic entanglements of gay men in contemporary, realistic settings. While his stories often contain elements of suspense, mystery and the paranormal, his focus ultimately returns to the power of love. He is the author of dozens of published novels, novellas, and short stories. He is a three-time EPIC eBook Award winner (for Caregiver, Orientation and The Blue Moon Cafe). He is also a Rainbow Award Winner for both Caregiver and Raining Men. Lambda Literary Review has called him, “a writer that doesn’t disappoint.”
Rick lives in Seattle with his husband and a very spoiled Boston terrier. He is forever “at work on another novel.”
Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/rickrreedbooks
February 11, 2016
Hi everyone, this is Jackie Keswick – writing from England, where it’s damp and grey and chilly. Just the weather to stay indoors with a huge mug of hot chocolate and a good book. I’ve come out to hang out with all of you, though, and I’m very pleased to be here since it’s the release day of Ghosts, the second instalment in The Power of Zero series.
Ghosts is the book I hadn’t actually planned to write. Until quite a few of you asked about Nico and Daniel, the boys Jack and Gareth rescue from a pimp in Job Hunt. The questions got me wondering what was happening with Jack, Gareth and the boys between the end of Job Hunt in October and the beginning of House Hunt in April. So Ghosts turned into a bit of a bridge between the two longer books, and into a contemplation of families and Jack and Gareth’s relationship. It’s set between Christmas and Valentine’s Day and before I do anything else, I need to warn you: do not read Ghosts when hungry!
Because there’s food. Delicious food. And lots of it.
You see, growing up hungry has left Jack Horwood with an appreciation for good food. Which plays right into the hands of Gareth Flynn, who takes looking after people damned serious. And who loves nothing better than to hang out in his kitchen after a hard day’s work.
Gareth has another endearing habit, one he developed during his time in the Army. Every Christmas he holds an Open House, a Christmas dinner for anyone who can’t make it home, can’t cook or would otherwise be alone. It’s a celebration for the family he’s made for himself over the years, and it gives him the chance to spend the coldest, darkest parts of December in the kitchen surrounded by relishes, pickles and chutneys, mince pies, fruit cake and chocolate truffles, clove-studded, honeyed hams, Cumberland Sauce, roast goose and venison pie.
It’s all a far cry from Jack’s way of celebrating Christmas, which usually consists of brewing a large pot of coffee, settling down to work and ignoring the whole circus completely. Not surprising for a man who associates Christmas with unpleasant life changes. Jack lost his home on Christmas Even when he was eleven. Years later, he almost lost Gareth and that failure still haunts him. As for family… don’t go there. Jack really doesn’t want to remember the scariest, loneliest Christmas he’s ever spent. It’s much easier to leave those ghosts well buried.
Except now there’s Gareth and Gareth values family. He makes no distinction between the family he was born to and the family he’s made for himself – something Jack finds tricky to wrap his head around. Being there for Nico and Daniel distracts him from the stuff that makes no sense, and of course he’ll never say no to sampling Gareth’s cooking.
I blog about English history and traditional English food in my other life, so writing Ghosts was pure indulgence for me. It gave me a chance to dig out my favourite recipes and experiment a little, never mind that it was the middle of summer. One of the dishes Gareth makes for his Christmas Eve dinner with Jack is this stunning looking, smelling and tasting celeriac soup that’s rather boldly labelled “Christmas” in my mind, but is too delicious not to share. If you live in the northern hemisphere, then celeriac is very much at its best right now and well worth cooking with. So imagine it’s Christmas and cold out – or simply stick your nose out the door to remind yourself – and then turn your kitchen into orange-and-fennel-scented heaven.
Here’s what you need to feed maybe six… though I’m sure Jack can polish off most of that quantity without breaking a sweat.
- The peel from half an orange (leave as much of the white pith behind as you can manage)
- 2 leeks, trimmed, washed and sliced thinly
- 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
- 6-8 garlic cloves, sliced
- 1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped
- 1 head celeriac (about 1kg or so), peeled and chopped
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon saffron threads
- 1 teaspoon sugar (soft, brown if you have it)
- 2 litres vegetable stock
- 250ml dry white wine
- Olive oil, salt, pepper
- To serve: a handful of chopped parsley, a few spoonfuls of double cream
First, dry the orange peel in a medium oven. This takes about 30-40 minutes and your kitchen will smell like Christmas and good things. Don’t let it burn.
Next, heat a splash of olive oil in a large saucepan and soften the leeks, carrot, garlic and red pepper. You want a medium heat under the pot and the vegetables should be soft-ish after about 10 minutes.
Now add the fennel seeds, saffron, orange peel, celeriac and sugar and fry for about 5 minutes until the celeriac is nicely coated and you can smell the fennel. Then add the stock and another glug of olive oil and simmer briskly until the celeriac is soft. 30 minutes should do it.
When the celeriac is almost there, add the wine and the parsley stalks. Cook for a couple more minutes, then blend the soup and push it through a sieve. Add a couple of spoonfuls of cream and the chopped parsley, plus salt to taste. You should be left with something velvety soft, gorgeously coloured and tasting like… mmmmh.
So that’s the soup taken care of. And what of Valentine’s Day? Is the pink festival as off the menu for Jack as Christmas? Or is Gareth whipping up something special? Well… maybe. See if you can guess and let me know what you think. For now, I’ll keep mum on that one, except to say that love comes in all shapes and sizes. And sometimes it’s heart-shaped.
Get your copy of Ghosts today!
The Power of Zero: Book Two
Jack Horwood doesn’t do families. Or Christmas. From the time his mother sold him to her pimp to the moment he walked out on the man he loved, Christmas has always been about change and painful choices. This year seems no different. Helping Daniel and Nico recover from their imprisonment and hunting down those responsible puts Jack in a frame of mind he doesn’t want to inflict on anyone. Least of all Gareth and the tentative relationship they’ve started to rebuild.
But Gareth, for whom Christmas is all about new beginnings, won’t let Jack take the easy way out. He makes him face his ghosts instead. Even when said ghosts invade their bedroom.
When Daniel’s parents are found, Jack is determined to settle the matter without involving Daniel at all. But fate decrees otherwise, and it’s Gareth who helps him finally understand that the strongest bonds are those forged together. Once he gets that, Jack can step up and make a decision designed to lay his ghosts to rest—for good.
About Jackie Keswick:
She’s worked in a hospital and as the only girl with 52 men on an oil rig, spent a winter in Moscow and a summer in Iceland and finally settled in the country of her dreams with her dream team: a husband, a cat, a tandem, a hammer and a laptop.
When she’s not working or writing, she… doesn’t exercise. Instead, she cooks and researches English history and traditional English recipes. She has a thing for green eyes, all things suede and cyclist’s tight butts, and is a great believer in making up soundtracks for anything and everything, including her characters and the cat. And she still hasn’t found the place where the bus stops.
For questions and comments, not restricted to green eyes, bus stops or recipes for traditional English food, you can find Jackie Keswick in all the usual places.
February 10, 2016
Hi! I’m Lane Swift, and I’m excited to be able to share some of the things that inspired the writing of my newly-released novella, Dormant Heart.
About a year ago, someone on my Facebook feed linked to an article posted on “We The Urban,” a Tumblr account dedicated to fashion and art, showcasing the photography of Katerina Plotnikova.
The photographs were amazing. Plotinikova had photographed models in fairytale-like poses with various animals, from foxes to bears to snakes. They were romantic and utterly compelling. A friend of mine, similarly moved, left a comment on the Facebook post along the lines of, “I need the story! Except with a man, and he can’t speak.”
I don’t know what possessed me to think I could write that story, except that I had building work going on in my house at the time, and I was stressed, and looking for a light-hearted project to work on. In the end, that obscure plot bunny became Dormant Heart and it turned out rather deeper and more emotional than I thought it would.
It was an easy decision to set Dormant Heart in the woods on the South Downs, which are a few miles from where I live in Hampshire, in the south of England, and somewhere that I regularly cross-country run. England is a small country, and it might be hard to believe that it’s possible to get lost in our tiny stretches of countryside. Believe me, it is. Only last weekend, I got lost in the woods on a run and ended up trespassing on a country estate, in the middle of a shooting range, a field away from a huge herd of deer!
Once I had the setting, Josh had to have a reason for being lost in the woods with a camera. That was as much as I had of a plan!
I’d intended to write a short story, 20k words maximum, told entirely from Josh’s point of view. But as Callum started to evolve as a character, I realized he needed a “voice,” so to speak. So, the second half of the story was written from Callum’s point of view, and the word count went up to 30k. Then my first reader told me that I’d ended the story too soon—and there were other scenes that needed more detail. By the end, this short story had grown into a novella of 50k words. Almost a novel! All that, through banging and drilling and regular interruptions for cups of tea and biscuits (English builders really do need to be fed and watered every couple of hours).
Ordinarily, I like to work in silence. However, I always, always make a playlist for whatever story I’m writing, and use it to get me into a mood, or zone. I might play the music while I’m running, or doing things like driving, housework or cooking. For Dormant Heart, I listened almost exclusively to London Grammar, particularly their songs, “Hey Now” (the live KEXP version on Youtube is stunning), “Wasting My Young Years” and “Night Call” (a Kavinsky cover).
I like a wide variety of music, from many eras, and usually my playlists feature at least ten or fifteen songs, each from different artists. But London Grammar’s songs seemed to completely capture the mood of this story, most especially Callum’s mental state. I have no doubt that in this instance, the music definitely shaped the direction the story took, and inspired its overall tone. Again, this wasn’t what I was expecting to happen. London Grammar’s musical style isn’t one I usually listen to—it’s described as ambient or trip hop (don’t ask me to explain what that is!). Nonetheless, I haven’t tired of their sound, despite the hundreds, maybe thousands, of times I’ve listened to their songs since April last year.
(I did also listen to Don Henley’s song, “Boys of Summer” more than several times. You’ll find out why if you read the story!)
What about you? I’d love for you to tell me about a song that has inspired or inspires you, and in what way. Leave your answer in a comment before 14th February for a chance to win a $10 credit for Dreamspinner Press.
Check out Dormant Heart here!
Amateur photographer Josh Thornton is out but not so proud. He’s estranged from his family, his boyfriend dumped him, and his job at an estate agency is in jeopardy—especially after he crashes his boss’s car in the middle of nowhere on his way to Hartley Manor.
Callum Black works at the English country estate and lives there in an isolated cottage. Left mute by a childhood accident, he’s more comfortable in the company of animals than people. But when Josh—literally—crashes into his life with his camera and his friendship, Callum realizes his peaceful solitude has been more than a little lonely.
Josh’s affection for Callum deepens even as he’s consumed by doubts over Callum’s sexuality and whether Callum could ever love him. And Callum is haunted by the secret that stole his voice—a secret that keeps him tethered to Hartley Manor. When the past comes hurtling painfully back into the present, Josh and Callum have to overcome their fears and breathe life back into their dormant hearts in order to have a chance at their own picture-perfect future.
You can find out more about me, Lane Swift, at:
Or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
January 29, 2016
Hey y’all! Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Michael Rupured, author of Whippersnapper—a new release from Dreamspinner Press. I’m mighty pleased to meet you.
I was born in North Carolina, grew up in Kentucky, and for going on twenty years now, have called Georgia my home. Whether by accident or design, a touch of Southern flavors everything I write. Whippersnapper reeks of the stuff.
My earlier books aren’t all that Southern. A desire to show how much gay life has changed in my lifetime motivated me to write them. The semi-historical stories take place in Washington, DC and New York City. Though below the Mason-Dixon line, diehard Confederates haven’t considered DC a Southern city since the War of Northern Aggression.
Writing about real people, places, and events created a lot of extra work and stress. Concern about getting things right kept me awake at night. After Happy Independence Day, I wanted to write something less constrained by matters of fact.
Mom suggested a funny story. She’s my biggest fan and has enjoyed the humor sprinkled throughout my previous novels. The multi-talented Charlie Cochet suggested a contemporary story about a May-December romance where the older guy talks about how things have changed. The more I thought about it, the more the idea appealed to me. Whippersnapper was born.
Whippersnapper is a contemporary story set in Fallisville, Kentucky—a fictional town midway between Lexington and Cincinnati. None of the characters are real people. Making everything up made Whippersnapper the most fun I’ve had with a writing project since a college creative writing class I took forty years ago.
Two gay men see each other at the gym. Crotchety Oliver Crumbly is set in his ways and bitter after a string of failed relationships. Tellumo Magnamater has a thing for older men and likes what he sees in Oliver. Unfortunately, Tellumo exemplifies everything Oliver hates about the younger generation.
Peggy Tucker also sees Tellumo and Oliver at the gym, but she has no idea they are gay. Determined to marry again, Peggy sets her sights on Oliver, one of the few eligible bachelors in Fallisville.
The premise still cracks me up.
I should clarify that Whippersnapper is NOT an MMF story. Tellumo might be open to the idea, but Oliver wouldn’t stand for it, and Peggy—an active member of the Trinity Baptist Church, for Christ’s sake—has never been that kind of girl.
Do our three protagonists find love? Who lives happily ever after? I’m not telling. To find out, you’ll have to read the book. Tellumo, Oliver, and Peggy will show you around Fallisville, introduce you to their friends and family, and fill you in on the rest of the story.
An appropriate setting is one of many characteristics of the Southern novel. Fallisville fits the bill. What else do you expect to see in a Southern novel? Leave your answer in a comment for a chance to win a $10 credit from Dreamspinner Press.
Check out Whippersnapper today!
January 22, 2016
I’m here to celebrate the release of my latest novel, Yesterday, a period piece set in Karachi, Pakistan. You’re probably wondering how or why I chose this locale. A writer’s brain is a weird and unpredictable part of our anatomy (at least mine is). It can draw inspiration from memories buried so far back in our subconscious we don’t even realize they exist—until a prompt comes along. It can be anything from a song to a smell, but once it’s unleashed, there’s no stopping the ideas from flowing. This is the magical part of writing I love. In the case of Yesterday, my trigger was a photo I’d unearthed while cleaning out my closets in preparation for my latest move from one suburb to another.
Several decades ago, before the Middle East was a tinderbox, and the most dangerous thing about traveling to that region of the world was heatstroke, my stepfather was assigned to a business posting in Karachi, Pakistan. Much like my character, Grady Ormond, I wasn’t thrilled by the prospect. The thought of spending any amount of time (I was also on break between high school and college) in a desert climate with no friends, other than my sister, and very little understanding of the culture or language, wasn’t my idea of a good time. I’d left a boyfriend behind as well, and in those days, there was no social media to keep us in touch. We had to resort to letter writing, something I didn’t mind, but he wasn’t too keen on the idea. Separation was bad enough, but imagining worst-case scenarios (cheating etc.) was depressing. I was stuck trying to figure out positive ways to keep my overactive mind in check. There was always reading, but since romance was my favorite genre and every bodice-ripper had a jealousy arc, I ignored the paperbacks in favor of exploration.
At the time, I didn’t know Pakistan was a melting pot of faiths and cultures. Having been occupied at one time or another by different empires—India, Persia, Turkey, Arabia, Mongolia, and Great Britain—it’s ethnically and linguistically diverse. The religion is primarily Islam, but when I was there, it wasn’t uncommon to have Hindus and Christians living side by side. The political atmosphere was very different in those days and foreigners could walk the streets without worrying about suicide bombers or being kidnapped.
We played it safe the first week, joining other expats at the American Club, lazing in the sun, and sampling the different varieties of food. I ignored hot dogs and hamburgers and reached for the Chicken Tikka instead, falling in love with the new flavors from the very bland to the tongue-scorching vindaloo.
The next week our parents allowed us to explore the city (with a guide), and our first stop was the Empress Market. Hypnotized by the exotic, I tried on bangles, earrings, scarves, and necklaces. Shopkeepers showed me how to turn lovely gold-threaded fabric into a sari, and I insisted on wearing one over my shorts and T-shirt, adding to the fun by parading up and down the aisles in my new outfit. We bought hand-tooled slippers, admired the colorful pottery and metal work, tiptoed warily around the animal cages, praying none of the cobras would leap out of their baskets, and I ate more street food than was smart. It was a magical place and I tried to share some of my exploits through the voice of my character, Grady.
There was a French girl I befriended at the club. She was older than me and much more sophisticated. Her English was terrible and my French was atrocious, but we managed to communicate. She eloped with her Pakistani boyfriend while I was there, and they lived in a tiny apartment with hardly any furniture. His parents were against the marriage so they made do with very little. At the time, I thought it was romantic as hell to live on love and not much else. I was pretty clueless in those days. Her husband was tall and very good looking, made even more attractive by his Brit accent and his impeccable manners. He was always dressed in a long white tunic and flowing pants, the salwar kameez I describe in my novel. In truth, a lot of Prince Kamran’s physicality was modeled after this man who made quite an impression.
Through our new friends, we were introduced to other people our age. I went out on a few innocent lunch dates with an Iranian student who shared interesting facts about his country and culture. He was very nice and I would have probably given some serious thought to his tentative advances if not for the fact that I had a boyfriend back home. I thought of him often when Iran was going through its political turmoil.
We learned that Pakistani beaches were famous for green turtle migrations. One such beach, Hawks Bay, was twenty kilometers from the city, and my sister and I were invited to observe this phenomenon firsthand. Here’s a short excerpt from the novel that describes Grady’s evening.
The turtle experience was as fascinating as I’d hoped, except for the buzzing mosquitoes determined to eat me alive. What made it worse was that I was the only one who was sweet enough to be targeted by the bloodsuckers. After a certain point, I resigned myself to being a lumpy mess by the time we got back on the yacht. Hopefully one of my companions would produce some home remedy to get rid of the itch and red spots.
Gus stayed on the yacht, but Jon came along to navigate the dingy, which was parked on the sand where we could see it but not in the pathway of the turtles. It was quite a hike from sand to sea, and I could understand how a lot of the hatchlings would fall into the mouths of predators before reaching their goal. It looked like a marathon crawl from where we were hiding, but they’d been doing this for centuries, and when they started to move, they came out in droves. One minute the sand was smooth and bare and the next covered with moving amniotes raring to go home. The moon was doing its job that night, shining brightly on the water to guide the little critters to the deep. I was pretty stoked with the idea of capturing something like this on film. Kam watched for a while but got bored midway and fell asleep. It was past midnight, and we’d had a long and emotional day. Jon was beside me, though, handing me whatever I needed to make sure I got it all on film.
Several hours later, everything stopped. The sand looked like a blanket of silk again, and the whole experience felt like a dream. The moon was starting to wane, and soon the sun would be rising, which was probably what put everything to a grinding halt. We shook Kam awake and made it back to the yacht without any problems. Back on board, I stripped and stood under the shower for as long as possible, trying to find some relief. My arms and legs were covered in red splotches. My torso was fine, thank the Lord, but the rest of me looked like I had a bad case of hives or measles. I popped a couple of aspirin when I got out of the shower and went up to the galley hoping Gus could recommend something to make it go away.
He took one look at me, mumbled a few choice words in Italian, removed a big bottle of vinegar from the pantry, and poured it on my skin. I howled like a banshee, but after a few minutes the pain subsided and so did the itch.
As it turned out, my summer in Karachi gave me a new appreciation and awareness of a previously unknown section of the world. The knowledge I gained at that time has stayed with me through the years, and the savory cuisine from that part of the world remains on my list of favorites.
The world has changed a lot since then. Good people who fall into a certain demographic are automatically shunned or condemned because of the radicals in their faith whose sole purpose is to stir up hate and dissent. As a writer, I’ve never shied away from including characters and situations as diverse and interesting as the people I’ve met in my life. I hope you have an opportunity to pick up a copy of Yesterday, a love story between two very different men who dare to take a chance.
Answer any of the questions I’ve posed in italics, and your name will go into the drawing for a $15.00 DSP Gift Certificate. The winner will be chosen in three days.
Have you ever found yourself in a situation totally out of your control?
Do you like food from the Middle East? What’s your favorite dish?
Ever see a live cobra outside of a cage?
Have you ever been attracted to someone you can’t have?
Would you travel to an exotic locale if given a chance? If so, where?
Do you enjoy stories with diverse characters?
In June of 1978 Grady Ormond, eighteen-year-old son of diplomat Peter Ormond, accompanies his father to his new posting as US Ambassador to Pakistan. Neighboring Iran is on the brink of a civil war, with the monarchy in danger of being overthrown.
Grady will be leaving for New York City in late August to study cinematography and has been warned to keep his homosexual orientation tightly under wraps while on vacation. Repercussions in the predominantly Islamic region could be severe.
On their first night in Karachi, his father hosts a cocktail party to meet the local dignitaries. Grady is introduced to His Highness Prince Kamran Izadi, nephew of the shah of Iran. Twenty-three-year-old Kamran has recently returned from the UK, where he spent eleven years, first as a student, and then as a financial analyst.
The attraction is immediate—unforeseen and dangerously powerful—but neither one dares to make a move. Odds are so stacked against them it’s futile to even entertain a friendship, but they do, and their world tilts precariously.
With his country in turmoil and Grady about to leave for college, Kamran makes a decision that will change their lives forever.
Mickie B. Ashling is the pseudonym of a multifaceted woman who is a product of her upbringing in multiple cultures, having lived in Japan, the Philippines, Spain, and the Middle East. Fluent in three languages, she’s a citizen of the world and an interesting mixture of East and West. A little bit of this and a lot of that have brought a unique touch to her literary voice she could never learn from textbooks.
By the time Mickie discovered her talent for writing, real life got in the way, and the business of raising four sons took priority. With the advent of e-publishing–and the inevitable emptying nest–dreams of becoming a published writer were resurrected and she’s never looked back.
She stumbled into the world of men who love men in 2002 and continues to draw inspiration from their ongoing struggle to find equality and happiness in this oftentimes skewed and intolerant world. Her award-winning novels have been called “gut wrenching, daring, and thought provoking.” She admits to being an angst queen and making her men work damn hard for their happy endings. Mickie currently resides in a suburb outside Chicago.
Get your copy of Yesterday now!
January 22, 2016
Hello, everyone in DSP/Harmony Ink-land. Christopher Koehler here today to talk about my latest release, All That Is Solid Melts Into Air, the second installment in The Lives of Remy and Michael. I appreciate having the chance to talk about ATISMIA today. I hope you don’t mind me abbreviating the title like that, but it’s a mouthful.
What inspired ATIS? Where did I get the idea?
Most of my books are spinoffs from earlier novels. That is, minor characters in an earlier book getting their own novel. Dreamspinner/Harmony Ink call these spin-offs. Sometimes the plot remains elusive, as in the case of Settling the Score, the fourth and final book in the original CalPac quartet, which is why Stuart’s story took so long to write. Stuart popped in and out of all the previous three novels, always the supporting character but never a protagonist until the very end. The inspiration for each novel came from Rocking the Boat, really.
I wrote First Impressions as a stand-alone, and in that case, I found inspiration in Pride and Prejudice and in my life at that time. Yes, my social life at that time resembled a Jane Austen novel, and let me tell you that was no end of fun. No joke. If life was Pride and Prejudice, my husband and I represented Mr. and Mrs. Gardner, Lizzy’s aunt and uncle, or uncle and uncle as the case may be, the sane and stable married couple. From the safe vantage point of our union, we watched the shark tank of the gay urban scene. As Austen said, for what else do we live but to make sport for our friends and laugh at them in our turn?
But for ATISMIA? This novel is a direct sequel to Poz and I’ve never written a direct sequel before. When I finished writing Poz, I was done with the story, but if you paid close attention to the final paragraphs, you could tell I wasn’t done with Remy and Michael. If you paid close attention, you might also have figured out how, at least to an extent, ATIAMIA would end, so don’t blame me for any feels you’ll have or have had. Notice how cagey I’m being? It releases today and I’m not spoiling anything. I’m evil that way.
I actually had the outline for ATISMIA underway before I finished Poz. I’d go to write something in Poz and realize that no, that was beyond the scope of Poz and needed to be told later in Remy and Michael’s lives. But wait, Christopher, I can hear you objecting from here. What if it’s much later in their lives? That’s why there’s a third book planned. You want details? You’ll have to check out my blog for details of the blog tour.
I’m evil that way, too.
So by the time I was done with Poz, I was outlining ATISMIA. By the time Harmony Ink had sent me edits for Poz, I was writing ATISMIA. The continuity is that direct, and to my regular readers I must apologize for that. You’re used to my books being more or less stand-alones. To new readers, if you go back and start with Poz, ATISMIA will make more sense. I don’t usually do this to readers. I hope you’ll bear with me, but at least Poz is on sale at Harmony Ink through January 23. Why? Because—shameless plug—the American Library Association named it to its Rainbow List for 2016.
What does the title mean?
The title—All That Is Solid Melts Into Air—refers to the changes that Remy and Michael face in their lives and in their relationship throughout the novel. I felt bad for what I did to them, but not so bad that I held back. If you recognize where I lifted the title from, leave a note in the comments. There are Easter eggs littered throughout my books and no one ever calls me on them. It’s a great disappointment.
The Inevitable Soundtrack To The Book Question
I’m inevitably asked what music I listened to while I wrote a book, but before I answer it, I’m going to ask you what you listened to when you read it. Leave your replies in the comments, if you’d be so kind.
Here’s what I’m pretty sure I listened to while I wrote ATISMIA, because I failed to make a list. (Memo: Make a list for next time…anyone feel like keeping track to see if this actually happens?)
Bad Romance (Lady Gaga…I know, right?)
Cell Block Tango (“Chicago” Soundtrack)
The Killing Moon (Echo & the Bunnymen)
Out of My League (Fitz + The Tantrums)
Paris (Magic Man)
Summertime Sadness (Lana del Rey)
Transmission (Joy Division)
The Whole of the Moon (The Waterboys)
All of which probably explains why the book ends the way it does.
The thing is, though? I’ll listen to one song over and over and over before moving on to another.
Anyway, music is a huge part of my creative process, along with winking references to friends’ books, particularly if music is involved. Astute readers will have picked up on Outbreak Monkey in Poz and Kill The Wendybird in ATISMIA. I felt so bad for my editors in ATISMIA. Those heroic people checked everything I mentioned, and that included bands. One tried to find Kill The Wendybird in the International Music Database. The Wendybirds are from Settling the Score. They’re so alternative Sirius XM doesn’t even play them (h/t Jamie!).
I’m currently writing…
I needed a break from Remy and Michael, so now I’m working on a bit of Arthurian bit of fluff called Bullsh*tting Your Way To Camelot. There are people in the Arthur legends who show up in the historical record, specifically King Urien of Rheged, and his sons Ywain ap Urien and Ywain the Bastard, who preferred to be called Ywain the Adventurous for obvious reasons. Of course, where history goes off the rails is that Urien was allegedly married to Morgan le Fey. After that, everything’s just sort of bullsh*t….
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On Facebook at Facebook.com/christopherkoehler
January 18, 2016
Hi there! I’m L. J. LaBarthe and I’m here today to talk about my new release, “Song of Song.”
“Song of Song” is a science fiction novel. I’ve always wanted to write a sci-fi, as I love sci-fi myself. I grew up watching “Star Wars,” the original “V” series’, “Blake’s 7,” the 1980s mini-series “The Martian Chronicles” starring Rock Hudson (one of the last things he made before he died), and more. My father was an avid fan of sci-fi, he loved “Buck Rogers,” which never really appealed to me at all, and “Battlestar Galactica,” which I liked (although I preferred the remake!) My mother was and still is an avid “Doctor Who” fan, and I read a lot of fantasy and sci-fi books while I was growing up… and I still do!
So as you can see, sci-fi is a genre that is near and dear to my heart. It was only going to be a matter of time before I sat down and wrote one myself, and “Song of Song” is the result. It’s set in the future, a future where the rich have taken over Earth, sending the poor to live in off-world colonies and eke out their own existence, while the rich use Earth as their own paradise and playground. To support the wealthy families, there are groups of genetically engineered humans called Boxies, who live in what are called Box Towers and do things like mechanical repairs, laundry, clothing alterations, and things like that. One Boxie, named Dex, decides to escape with his only companion and friend, an AI cat named Manx.
As AI pets are not permitted to Boxies, Dex decides to run away with the help of his friend, and soon finds himself on board the sentient and organic spaceship Fa’a with her crew. He’s instantly physically attracted to the man who designed and built her—Song. Despite all manner of threats and trouble, the two of them manage to get together and fall in love, even when it seems that their burgeoning relationship may be destroyed by outside nefarious forces.
While I was writing, I had a variety of DVDs on as background noise, things that are both dear to my heart and inspired me to come up with ideas. I alternated between “Star Wars,” “Babylon 5,” and “Blake’s 7,” which makes for quite a mix of dystopian sci-fi, wartime futuristic sci-fi and a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away sci-fi. All of it did help keep me in the zone, though!
So what’s your favorite sci-fi show or film? Do you prefer the modern ones or the older films, the more kitschy and schlocky ones? (“Planet of the Apes”—the original one with Charleton Heston, “2001: A Space Odyssey” “Alphaville,” “Solaris,” “Logan’s Run,” and “Dark Star” are all favorites of mine from the 1960s and 1970s.)
Leave a comment about your favorite sci-fi TV show or film or both to go in the draw for a copy of “Song of Song!”
You can find me on social media too at the following locations:
Get your copy of “Song of Song” today!
January 17, 2016
Howdy, y’all. I’m BA Tortuga and I write cowboys.
Does anyone else find these introduction things weird? I never know whether to be all “Oh, y’all know me” or “Hey, I’m the big redneck lesbian writer with a thing for blonde bombshells”. It always ends up just being “hello, I’m a huge dork, pleased to meetcha.”
At any rate, I’m here to talk to all y’all about my new book, Refired. It’s a new type of book for me, and it has been from the beginning. Of course, everything about my life right now is new, sort of, so that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.
You see, Josh and Kris, the heroes of Refired weren’t born from eavesdropping or from seeing some beautiful person.
They were born from a piece of pottery.
Wedding vases are vessels with two spouts, traditionally intended to be used at a marriage ceremony for the bride and groom to drink from. The story is, if neither of the couple spills a drop, then their relationship is eternal.
Now, whether or not a particular tribe followed this tradition (it was mainly Pueblo and Navajo), many Native American artists choose to design pottery in the two-spout shape.
Why is this important to me?
Well, I just recently said goodbye to my home state of Texas and moved with my wife to the New Mexico mountains. I’m smack dab between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. We spend hours at weird antique shops, little art galleries and estate sales learning about the local art, talking to collectors and artists and gallery owners, and just immersing myself in this entirely new culture.
I’m a newlywed and, of course, we bought pottery for our wedding (we also ended up buying a piece of bear sculpture, a weird cribbage board, and this amazing left handed, finger warming coffee cup). I love the story behind the wedding vase, and more than that I love the idea of art and love and what if…
What if there was this pair of former lovers that owned a failing art gallery in Austin? What if one of them was a recovering alcoholic? What if they had trust issues that were near insurmountable?
What if they headed to Santa Fe on one last trip?
I started this book as my goodbye to Texas – and to Austin in particular. I wanted to give a nod to the city that I called home for twenty years, to the state that will always be where I call home. It’s my wave and hug, my fond farewell.
I ended Refired as a love letter to my new home, as a glorious welcome to this place with skies that never end, with my watermelon mountains, with the most welcoming, friendly, accepting people I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. This is a place of amazing food, stunning artwork, and a landscape unlike anything I’ve ever had the joy to experience. This is a passionate kiss, a clench, and the beginning of a promise about loving this land.
See? This is what happens when you marry a New Mexican.
You keep falling in love, over and over again.
Here’s the opening of the book, before you get to meet Josh and Kris. Why share this? Because this is how the story started, y’all.
“What are you doing, Cypress?” Naki leaned against the doorframe of the studio, watching him with her button black eyes. “You don’t seem the wedding vase, traditional type.”
“I need to do it. You know how that is?” He felt the urge like a fever in the base of his spine. Two spouts, one handle—Naki was right. Traditional Pueblo design wasn’t his thing, but it was what the clay needed.
“Need, as in you got a commission, or need, as in the muse is going to peck your eyes out with a skewer if you don’t?”
“God, you are a sick, sad broad. I adore you. Skewer. This is totally a skewer moment.” He smoothed out another set of coils, then stretched and listened to his back pop. “Someone will love it. I’m going to paint it with rainbows.”
“You’re so queer.” She came farther into the studio. “I’m going to go take photos in the trees. I need a model that’s willing to get naked.”
He grinned over at her. Cypress had zero issues with naked. None. “Go grab that wet cloth for me and wring it out?”
“You’ll do it? You totally rock.” She went to get the cloth for him. “I want to do this thing that evokes Pan. You’ll wear horns?”
“I can’t think of anything I’d rather do with a nearly snowing afternoon.” He wrapped the vase up, protecting it. “If I freeze to death, you’ll have me cremated?”
“I won’t let you freeze. I adore you, and you’ll do anything for art.”
“Truth.” He grabbed his coat and yanked on his boots. “Let’s go play Narnia, shall we?”
Someone would want the wedding vase.
Someone would come for it.
Refired releases on January 18, and I hope all y’all love it.
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Official blurb: When Kris Cerny walks back into Two Spirits, the art gallery he owns with Josh McPhee, all he wants is a clean break. Austin’s booming real estate market means the building he bought years ago is worth a fortune, and with the sale, he and Josh can finally go their separate ways. They won’t be reconciling, right? Josh may be sober now, but an addict is always going to be an addict, and Kris can’t take that chance again.
Josh isn’t willing to sell. Not yet. He’s discovered a new artist in Santa Fe he knows will put Two Spirits in the black, and if he can just make a success of the gallery, maybe he can earn Kris’s respect, if not recapture his love. He need
Kris to give him time for one more buying trip, one more gallery show. Josh wants nothing more than a final chance to make things right. Kris agrees to let Josh have this last ditch effort on one condition– he wants to go along for the ride. On the way Josh hopes they’ll find the next big thing in the art world as well as peace, forgiveness, and a love he thought was lost forever.
Also, I’m at the following social media places. Come play with me!
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/BATortugaBooks?fref=ts
Much love, y’all.
January 15, 2016
I’m Shira Anthony, and today is release day for First Comes Marriage, the second book in Dreamspinner Press’s brand new Dreamspun Desires of sweet, tropey, feel-good romances! I can’t tell you how much fun I had writing this story—it took me back to my romance roots and the days when I gobbled up Harlequin romances like they were salt and vinegar potato chips.
First Comes Marriage is a gay romance take on the classic category romance. What is a “category romance”? Honestly, I didn’t know this myself until a few years ago, but a “category romance” is also sometimes called a “series romance.” The term comes from the old tradition of publishing a certain number of books on a monthly basis in a certain category. You remember these. When I was a kid, they were the Harlequin and Silhouette romances that were shipped, 4 books a month, on subscription.
Category romances were sweet, funny, standalone stories that were low on the angst and with a feel-good happy ending. Full of classic romance tropes (millionaires, exotic locations, mistaken identity, arranged marriages, you name it), these babies were shorter than the average novel, all the covers looked alike, and some were numbered like magazines. They became a genre unto themselves.
My contribution to the Dreamspun Desires line grew out of a conversation at the Romantic Times (RT) conference in Dallas of this year, by far the biggest general romance conference in the world. I mean, that baby is HUGE, with hundreds of romance authors from every subgenre you can imagine including, of course, gay romance. I was having something to eat with Poppy Dennison, Dreamspinner Press’s PR guru, and a number of other Dreamspinner writers. With all the amazing and sexy posters of romance book covers plastered all over the hotel, I had that Harlequin vibe going. You know the one: warm and fuzzy, sexy, fun and easy reading. The very definition of a category romance.
So I kvetched to Poppy about how I was getting worn out writing angsty romances (Blue Notes or Blood Series, anyone?). You know those too—books that rip your heart out and put it back together piece by piece. Stories of heroes with deep, dark secrets, horrible childhoods, illnesses, and lots of pain. Happy endings, for sure, but very hard won happiness. Don’t get me wrong. I love angsty romance (and I’ve got plenty more planned), but they do take a lot out of me to write, especially when they deal with issues close to home.
I told Poppy I wished I could write a warm, fuzzy romance like the ones I used to read as a kid. Poppy (love that woman!) asked flat out, “Why don’t you?” She then proceeded to tell me about an idea she had to create a line of gay category romances for Dreamspinner. I took that conversation to heart and started thinking about what tropes I’d like to try writing. And on a three week vacation on our boat, I wrote about 80% of First Comes Marriage. A perfect setting to write that book, by the way. Romantic and relaxing.
My story takes a few familiar romance tropes and turns them on their head. Marriage of convenience? Check. Billionaire playboy? Conniving stepgrandmother? Check.
Jesse Donovan, the billionaire heir to his grandfather’s boat building business, must get married or he’ll lose control of his company under the terms of his grandfather’s will. Chris Valentine is a struggling novelist working as a barista in New York City. When handsome, charming Jesse proposes, Chris thinks it’s a joke! Chris finally gives in and marries Jesse. But the more time they spend together, the more Chris comes to genuinely care for New York’s most eligible “straight” bachelor. But this marriage is just business, isn’t it?
Dreamspun Desire books are available individually in paperback and ebook, and as part of a subscription where you get 2 books a month in ebook or paperback for 30% off the cover price. I’m a subscriber, by the way. Gay romance in the old category romance style? Right up my alley as a reader, too. So you bet I’ll be reading these in between working on my own projects.
What’s your favorite romance trope? Comment with your answer below and you could win your choice of any of my back catalog titles in ebook format (so anything except First Comes Marriage). I’ll choose a winner after midnight on January 17th.
I’ll leave you with a taste of First Comes Marriage. Chris’s first hint that his pretend marriage to billionaire Jesse might be a bit more of a challenge than he realized. Hope you enjoy it! -Shira
Excerpt from Chapter Six:
Now, standing in the conference room of Windview Enterprises’ corporate headquarters near South Ferry in Manhattan, one of the matching platinum bands Jesse had bought for them in his pants pocket, Chris wondered if he’d wake up from the dream. The floor-to-ceiling windows looked out over Wall Street and the East River through the forest of high-rise buildings.
“Do you, Jesse Chase Donovan, take Christopher James Valentine to be your husband, in love and in friendship, until you are parted by death?” the judge asked.
“I do.” As Jesse slipped the ring on Chris’s finger, he met Chris’s gaze with such intensity that for an instant, Chris could almost forget the entire ceremony was a ruse to ensure the future of Windview remained firmly in Jesse’s control. Damn the man for being so attractive. Damn him for being a nice guy, because that was the worst part of it. And the part that had you agreeing.
“And do you, Christopher James Valentine, take Jesse Chase Donovan to be your husband, in love and in friendship, until you are parted by death?”
Chris swallowed hard and prayed he didn’t look as incredibly nervous as he felt. “I do.” His hand shook as he took Jesse’s hand and put the ring on his finger.
“Congratulations, Chris and Jesse,” the judge said.
Chris caught Val’s eye for a split second, and he half expected her to urge him to kiss Jesse. But it was Jesse who took charge and blindsided Chris with a kiss.
It started sweetly enough, just Jesse’s lips against his, but instead of releasing Chris, Jesse pulled him tighter against him and pressed his tongue into his mouth. Jesse tasted fucking amazing. Chris didn’t hesitate—their tongues tangled and danced. This close, Jesse smelled good and felt even better. Chris was barely aware of slipping his hands around Jesse’s back before resting them on lean hips. He didn’t think twice as his body and Jesse’s responded in kind.
Someone giggled—Chris recognized Val’s voice—and Jesse pulled abruptly away. Their eyes met for a split second, and Chris thought he saw a mixture of desire and surprise in Jesse’s deep blue eyes. The next thing Chris knew, Val had thrown her arms around him and only his racing heart and tingling lips told him he hadn’t imagined the entire thing.
“Oh, Chris,” Val cooed. “You really did it!”
“Yeah” was the only response Chris could manage. He was still thinking about Jesse’s mouth.
“I guess I was wrong about him being straight,” she whispered mischievously.
Chris was thrilled when Terry grabbed him in a bear hug, because he had no idea how to respond to Val’s comment. He also wasn’t sure if he should be pissed off with Jesse for the show. He supposed if this was going to work, Jesse needed to make the marriage look real. Still, how difficult would it have been to warn Chris that he had that up his sleeve?
About Shira: In her last incarnation, Shira Anthony was a professional opera singer, performing roles in such operas as Tosca, Pagliacci, and La Traviata, among others. She’s given up TV for evenings spent with her laptop, and she never goes anywhere without a pile of unread M/M romance on her Kindle.
Shira is married with two children and two insane dogs, and when she’s not writing, she is usually in a courtroom trying to make the world safer for children. When she’s not working, she can be found aboard Land’s Zen, a 35’ catamaran, at the Carolina coast with her favorite sexy captain at the wheel.