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 email@example.com
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
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….
Find me on:
On Facebook at Facebook.com/christopherkoehler
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.
Get the eBook!
Get the Paperback!
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 11, 2016
Sometimes stories grow organically from inside and others seem to spring from thin air. An idea will spark and from that a story will grow. The other type of story for me, stems from something I see or hear that makes me angry and really pisses me off. Fire and Rain is that last type of story. I was in my own home town of Carlisle, PA and saw a man curled up in the doorway of one of the downtown shops. It was after dark and I was walking in a bit of a hurry to get somewhere. I saw the man curled up out of the weather most likely to sleep when a police vehicle pulled up and the officers got out to move the person on. I have to admit that I probably would never have noticed the man if the police hadn’t appeared, but I did. I saw a dark ghostly figure rise out of a jumbled heap on the tile of the store entryway. He grumbled something and began to shuffle down the sidewalk. The cops knew him by name and told him to head on down to the Salvation Army where there was a shelter.
The whole scene tugged at my heart and made me angry. We live in a country with huge gas guzzling cars and people as rich as Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. Most of us have plenty of food and nice homes, cars, boats, you name it. Yet here are people with nothing and our solution is to move them to a shelter where they’ll be out of sight and out of mind. Sorry for the preaching, but this gets to me. Anyway, out of that scene came the idea for Jos and once I got to know him, he informed me that he has a young brother, surprise… surprise. I never saw that one coming.
That set the basic scene for the start of Fire and Rain. From there I learned what a hard long road it was for someone to make it from living on the streets being able to rebuild their lives and that it takes determination and the help of a lot of people who are willing to spend the time and give support and care. Each of my stories touch my heart in some way, and they all have a happy ending, even if the road to get there can be curvy to get out. But for me, this particular story, while it has a happy ending, also ends in a kind of social triumph for Jos and Isaac.
Check out Fire and Rain today!
January 9, 2016
New York City is one of those special places that offers seemingly endless inspiration. Famous landmarks, world-class restaurants, eclectic neighborhoods and hands down, some of the best people-watching in the world! For any writer, it’s a must. I could sit on a park bench in Central Park or in a SoHo café all day and never get tired of listening to the different dialects and observing the diverse crowds. People rushing to work in designer coats and fashionable boots or tourists in sensible walking shoes carrying selfie sticks. I can hear Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” and I swear I believe it when he sings, “if I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.”
That’s exactly how Rand O’Malley feels when he lands in Manhattan with two buddies and a big dream to take the music world by storm. A Kind of Truth pays homage to the brave souls who are willing to set fear aside to aim for the loftiest of aspirations. Rand is one of those guys. He’s willful, wild hearted, cocky and supremely confident that his band, Spiral, has what it takes to make it to the big time. Well… once he finds a reliable guitarist. Details that make most people stop and reconsider their motivation or sanity don’t stop Rand from taking chances and making wild leaps of faith.
I’ve been asked a few times if I’m like any of the characters I’ve written. I can say with the utmost sincerity, I am nothing like Rand, though I wish I was. Lol! I love being around people who exude a palpable energy and seem more vibrant when they’re engaging in the world around them rather than observing. Writers are generally consummate voyeurs. You might find me sitting on that park bench, but Rand wouldn’t last long enough for his latte to cool before he’d jump up to move on to the next location.
A Kind of Truth was an absolute joy to write. I loved setting book one of my newest series in my favorite U.S. city. I’ve made a point to visit NYC a couple times a year over the last decade or so. It was helpful to have a visceral understanding of the streets Rand and Will walked, the food they ate and the music they’re passionate about. Moreover, I loved these characters. Rand’s relentless energy and sense of humor contrasted well with Will’s serious nature. If you’ve read any of my previous books, you may have guessed this is an “opposites attract” story. The rock star and the geek. Ahh… it never gets old!
This is ultimately a story about finding your truth beyond the thrill of attaining a goal. It’s about the things we give away in order to achieve the impossible. And making room for what we learn we can’t live without to find our own kind of truth.
Travel is a huge inspiration to me. NYC is definitely number one on my list of places I love to visit. It’s followed closely by San Francisco, Washington DC, London and Paris. Do you see a trend? I’m a city girl! Walking through a crowd city and soaking up the sights and sounds is absolute heaven! I’d like to giveaway 2 $10 gift cards to Dreamspinner Press. For a chance to win, all you have to do is name your favorite place and why you love it. For example… I love Manhattan. It’s a walkable city with tons to do and see. Central Park is an absolute must. Here’s a picture of the park I took on my last visit in November. Gorgeous!
Thank you so much for stopping by today! I’ll be checking in often to say hello, so please be sure to leave comments!
Lane Hayes xo
A Kind of Truth is available now! In English & German (Die Wahrheit, die ich meine…)
Contact the Author:
Lane’s Blog: http://lanehayes.wordpress.com
Facebook: LaneHayesauthor or Lane Hayes
*Here’s an inspiration pic of Rand, by the way ☺. Swoon…
December 23, 2015
Cooking, writing, romance. Delectable.
I can’t believe it. Six books. Actually more than that, when you count the missing scenes and freebies along the way. Working on this series has been nothing short of a joy for me, a real dream-come-true to combine my passions into one project. I’ll share a little about the inspiration for this book with you now, and then in later posts today, I’ll share more of my own joy of cooking, some recipes and more!
A bit about the book:
Thom Kennedy Leyton returns to San Francisco to take up the reins of Graze, one of the city’s best restaurants, years after he lost his job when his innovative new set of recipes was stolen. Thom’s loss of self-esteem eventually caused his boyfriend, Blake Warner, to end their relationship, sending Thom into a deep depression.
Now, cured of fifty excess pounds and any attraction to Blake, Thom’s back in town. Blake catches him off guard when he visits Graze several days in a row, and Thom lets himself get caught up in Blake’s allure, despite knowing better. Thom juggles a renewed relationship with Blake, a Christmas visit from his parents, and an important holiday menu based on a Twelve Days of Christmas theme.
When an old acquaintance reveals that Blake knows more about the theft of the recipes than he lets on, Thom doesn’t know whom to trust. But the truth isn’t quite that simple, and Thom won’t be able to decide if Blake deserves a place in his life until he learns exactly what happened years ago.
I love to cook. If you’ve met me, you probably also know I love to eat. I have food and cooking scenes in all of my books, so it was inevitable I would write a series featuring chefs and winemakers, and other men in the restaurant world.
For this sixth installment in the Delectable Series, I needed to come up with some familiar, yet completely different. Another story about another chef just wasn’t going to do it for me or for fans of the series.
I decided to set myself a challenge: a new chef trying to convince his bosses to take a big chance on a vegan Twelve Nights of Christmas menu. Not only is Thom Kennedy trying to earn his way back to the top, but he’s chosen an incredibly tricky and risky way of doing it.
Thom actually had it easy. I was the one struggling to create a menu as elaborate as Thom needed. Not being a chef myself, coming up with a dozen unique vegan dishes worthy of a holiday special event taxed my brain more than anything I’ve written. I probably spent more time creating the menu than writing the story.
I did not consult with any professional chefs, so my imaginary Twelve Courses may not even work in actuality. That’s why I haven’t included any recipes this time around, though I will be sharing Blake’s Lobster Grilled Cheese Menu on my blog for release day.
Find EM Lynley online:
Email: emlynley @gmail.com
At EM Lynley’s Amazon Page: http://bit.ly/amz-eml9
At Dreamspinner Press Author Arcade: http://bit.ly/dsp-eml2
Free Reads at EM’s website: http://www.emlynley.com/free-reads
At her temporary blog: emlynley.wordpress.com
December 23, 2015
Hi, all! Shell Taylor here! I’m so, so excited to take up some of DSP’s space today and share with you a little bit about my newest release, Resurrecting Hope. It’s the second in the Home for Hope series, which focuses on the individuals who filter in and out of the Center for HOPE, an LGBT center for at-risk youth.
The first book, Redeeming Hope, told Elijah Langley’s story of redemption after losing his first love and subsequently closing himself off from the world. Through a chance meeting, he eventually became involved with HOPE and more importantly (for the purposes of our story at least) HOPE’s sexy owner, Adam Lancaster. These two were supposed to get their happy ending and move aside for other patrons of HOPE to have their story told, but generous, kind, empathetic, and trustworthy Adam had his own story that never seemed to fit anywhere in Redeeming Hope.
Did everyone see that plot bunny hop across the screen? Because that’s pretty much what happened. Adam’s traumatic childhood and transformation into the man he became had to be told. Needed to be told. Screamed at me to be told. And I’m so glad it did.
Writing Resurrecting Hope was quite possibly the most enjoyable writing experience I’ve ever had. I don’t know if it was pure adrenaline from just having signed my first book contract with Dreamspinner or the fact that I knew Adam’s background and struggles from the very first word of Redeeming Hope, but Adam’s story poured out of me with ease.
Although I knew Adam’s childhood, it wasn’t until I was listening to the song Say Something by A Great Big World that the rest of the story came together. The image of Elijah screaming these words at Adam, pleading for him to share his deepest insecurities, was so clear in my mind. The cover LC Chase beautifully designed captures a tender moment of Elijah comforting Adam right after that confession. I can never thank her enough for bringing that moment to life so perfectly for me.
I hope you all enjoy the book. Be sure to pick up Redeeming Hope first if you haven’t read it already! I’d love to hear from you guys. Anyone who comments and tells me about their favorite childhood memory will be entered for a chance to win a copy of Redeeming Hope!
And I love chatting with people, so feel free to come find me! I mostly hang out on Facebook, but I do flaily things with Marvel, OUAT, mooshy boys, and randomness on Twitter and Tumlr!
Pre-order your copy of Resurrecting Hope here! Available December 25th, 2016!
December 11, 2015
If you’re a New Yorker, there are certain things you pick up over time.
The accent. It’s like going to the bodega or the cawnah staw to get a cuppa cawfee and then releasing questions or comments at a speed that’s somewhere between an audio cassette on fast forward and a machine gun. “Wassup? Howya been? Whaddya doin? Didja heah?” Or, of course, just giving the quintessential New York head bop (that is my favorite.)
How to make a proper deli sandwich. It’s important, okay? Deli food is a big part of NY culture (bodegas, bagel shops, salumerias, kosher delis… trust me, it’s a thing). And it’s not just about meat quality, although that’s numero uno. It’s about the thinness of the meat (nearly translucent), the way the meat is layered, and the bread.
You know that everyone, everywhere, will ask you at least once “Where are you from?” And this question isn’t referring to just your address or the borough you just rode in from on the subway. They’re asking where your family is from. What’s your “old country”? Where do your roots lie?
The last question is kind of a big deal, and it plays into SUNSET PARK. I have written stories set in New York before, but writing from the point of view of someone living in New York City but who wasn’t born here is an interesting experience. For me, NYC is not just a setting or a backdrop. It plays into who my characters are as people and the little idiosyncrasies that make New Yorkers a distinct group.
One of the main differences I’ve discovered between NYC culture and culture in the South, is that many New Yorkers celebrate their ethnic identities and nationalities rather than only identifying as American. They tend to play a lot of value on family history—where they, their parents, or their great-great-grandmother came from. Whether their family fled Europe in the years leading up to WWII, flew over from Puerto Rico in the 1950s, or came on a boat during the Irish potato famine in the 19th century, many people are knowledgeable about their family history.
Then there’s the matter of the borough you live in, which one you grew up in, whether you’re blue collar, white collar, or a city worker—all important aspects of the people who live in the city, and they all play into how people interact with their environment and how they perceive others.
So, how would a transplant view these customs? How will David deal with falling for a man who may not consider his queerness to be the most prominent part of his identity, when he feels it has shaped who he is from the very beginning? Tell me what you think in the comments, and please enjoy the below excerpt from SUNSET PARK.
“You’re not eating the bread?”
“Um, no. I’m already gaining eighty-seven pounds by eating all of this caloric stuff. I at least want to avoid the carbs.”
“God, you’re pathetic.”
Raymond shook his head and snagged a piece of my bread. It was still drenched in sauce and had remnants of pepper and onion on it. We kept walking, and before long, he paused at one of the many cannoli stands. Before I could protest, he bought two and thrust one into my hand.
“You’re determined to make me fat.”
“Shut up and eat.” I didn’t protest too vehemently. It was delicious.
“So what were you thinking about before? You were staring into space.”
“Nothing pressing,” I said. “I was just thinking about New York and how different it is from where I’m from. It’s so diverse, and people celebrate every part of who they are. It’s not just this… blend.”
“What do you mean ‘people celebrate every part of who they are’?”
I regarded the question, the fragments of my own thoughts, and the people around us. “Just… well, take you, Michael, and Nunzio for example.” I raised my voice as music exploded from a nearby booth. “You have all of these different identities. Being gay or bi is just a fraction of who you are. You’re primarily New Yorkers, but also Puerto Rican or Italian, lapsed Catholics, and then there’s the other parts— sons and brothers, teachers, gamers, etcetera.”
“Uh-huh. Is that a bad thing?”
“No, it’s not a bad thing.”
Raymond stopped walking, and I realized we had reached the end of the festival’s line. The evening was growing darker, and I was momentarily distracted by the stretch of the street going back toward the west side. Colors, lights, smells, and sounds, and a constant motion of people meandering along the festival route.
I looked up at Raymond and the play of light across his face, becoming aware of how close we were standing and the furtive glances we were receiving from the woman at the nearest game booth. I had tried to make this outing seem less like a double date by inviting our friends, but everyone had backed out of traveling way downtown on a Sunday. And the more he purchased my food and drinks, the harder it was to shake the feeling that it was a date.
But I knew it was just me assigning meanings that weren’t there. Again.
“What were you thinking about it, then?” Raymond pressed.
“I told you it’s nothing bad. I was just wondering if that’s why being out is so monumental to me but not to Michael. Being a gay man has always been my primary identity, but for him it’s just one of many facets. I was trying to figure out if that’s why his lack of absolute outness as a gay man doesn’t make him feel like he’s pretending to be someone he isn’t.”
“Is that how you would feel?”
“I think so, yeah.”
Raymond looked at again, his eyes drawing to a young couple with three small children crowding by their legs. “I think… you think too much.”
“Oh, that’s so helpful. Thank you for the insight.”
Raymond grinned and leaned against a lamppost. “You do. You always want to figure things out and ask yourself what they mean instead of letting things be the way they are.”
“Inquiry is good,” I said like a good little Common Core educator. “It’s how we explore the world around us.”
“I’m not saying it’s wrong to be curious and ask questions, but you do it because you want to make everyone fit into certain boxes, and that’s unnecessary. You don’t have to understand why Michael is the way he is. He’s never going to sit down and help you figure it out, and in the long run, how he chooses to live his life doesn’t affect yours. So who gives a damn?”
“I can’t help it, I guess. I just want to know why people make the choices they do. Maybe if I understood, I wouldn’t be so frustrated when people don’t agree with my point of view.”
“You get frustrated by that because you’re a control freak and you like being right.”
“Tell me how you really feel.” Raymond finished his pastry and slid his hands into the pockets of his hoodie. “Just being honest, man.”
A breeze caused the overwhelming smell of food to waft in our direction. The chill made me want to move closer. Press into his side or his chest, and pretend that was okay. Like platonic friends kept each other warm on fall nights in New York City.
Get your copy of Sunset Park today!
Santino is a writer of queer romance heavily influenced by the gritty, urban landscape of New York City, his belief that human relationships are complex and flawed, and his own life experiences.
November 11, 2015
Hi, all. I’m here to talk about my new release, Like No One Is Watching, which is the first book in a new series titled Dance, Love, Live. The series is about a group of friends, most of them dancers, but also instructors, former dancers, or those whose lives have been overrun by the passion most dancers have for their art. Oddly enough, the series came about because I thought I had lost my own passion there for a minute.
There was a day, a while back, when I was going about my routine, trying to come up with a new story idea to get myself out of a rut. I wanted something that would write itself. Something I didn’t have to think too hard about. Something I wouldn’t have to spend hours researching. But my life, I thought, as I looked around my daughter’s dance studio (I was cleaning it at the time) was so devoid of anything, lately, other than sitting at my computer writing stories…or trying to write stories…that I just didn’t have anything interesting to bring to the table.
As I stood there, gazing through the mirror at the rest of the room, a spider flitted across the floor about ten feet behind me. It was big enough for me to see it in the mirror ten feet away. Knowing the studio’s Director as I do, I hunted that sucker down and evicted its ass before she got back, thereby avoiding any awkward moments when a grown woman in charge of a gaggle of tutued young ladies had to try not to freak out over it.
I was still standing there, writing the spider scene of this story in my head when my fellow cleaner (aka: Husband) came along and asked me what the ever loving heck I was doing leaning on my broom staring into space.
For weeks before that day, I hadn’t felt much like a writer at all. I’d spent many an hour doing just about anything I could find to do other than write. I felt like I was losing it. But when he asked me that, and I answered “writing” without even missing a beat, I realized there are some things, once they are in your system, in your blood and under your skin, they never go away completely.
And there it was. The opening scene of book one, the theme for the series, the setting and characterization for the first book. I had the landscape. The rest was details. I hope you like the first act, because it rekindled that need to do what I do, even when I should be doing something else.
So what is it in your life that drags you away from the everyday and burrows into your soul so that you can’t let it go or walk away, or finish folding the laundry and washing the dishes? For me, it’s writing.
If you want to read the book, you can find it here: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=7060
If you’d like a copy of something else from my back list, talk to me about your passion in the comments, and let me know what you’d like to read, and I will chose one winner at 9:00 AM Eastern November 12.