Whether you celebrate Passover, Easter, chocolate bunnies, or are simply celebrating the gift of today, my wish is that you’ll find at least one moment of beauty in it to make a memory.
Psychosis is a dream breaking through during waking hours. – Philip K. Dick
Patrick Trafford has everything he could want or need in his life: a place to call home, a lovely garden to care for, and a friend named Chad, who is a constant and loyal companion, happily spending his days providing company while Patrick does what he enjoys. The only thing truly missing from Patrick’s life, when all is accounted for, is what it means to be entirely present in the world.
Because, you see, Patrick is a little unwell, and this is his story, the tale of a man who’d put his career before the life he’d built with the man he loved, denying who he was, hiding the life they shared with each other. This the story of the events that caused Patrick’s mind to seek refuge within the landscape of illusion, and is the story of the way Damien Abner finds his way through Patrick’s shadows and leads him back from the unreality in which he dwells.
Iyana Jenna has written a beautiful and heartwarming story of betrayal and tragedy and, ultimately, of hope and of recovery from the unforgiving grasp of mental illness. It’s a story that’s written in the language of compassion and emotion, and illuminates the power of faith and persistence. It’s the story of Damien seeing a lost man and becoming his compass, never giving up on the belief that he could help Patrick find his way home again.
If you’re in the mood for something just a little different, perhaps even unexpected, I can’t recommend this short story enough. I loved it, wish it’d been much longer, which is a compliment to how well it resonated with me.
Christianity has done a great deal for love by making it a sin. – Anatole France
When it comes to religion, Seth Wheeler can only be described as a devout Atheist, though that wasn’t always the case. Seth was a believer until the day he came out of the closet to his fundamentalist Christian parents and they, in turn, disowned their son for being gay. Seth made it through their abandonment with a few scars, but is doing alright by himself at Ink Springs, the tattoo shop he owns with his friend Lane.
Darren Romero is the man who moves into the vacant apartment across the hall after Seth’s friend Robyn moves out. When it comes to religion, Darren can only be described as a devout Christian—kind of goes with the territory seeing as how Darren’s a minister and all, which is the very definition of irony, isn’t it? Kind of like a cosmic joke: an atheist and a minister meet, and the sexual attraction between the two of them is like an act of God, something indefinable and out of control.
L.A. Witt has given Seth a lot to wrap his head around when it comes to Darren, not the least of which is that he’s a gay minister, but also that Darren’s version of Christianity is nothing like the version that Seth’s familiar with. Darren’s religion is the one that teaches love and patience and kindness and compassion, the one that doesn’t brag or boast, the one that trusts and perseveres even when he’s tested by those who call themselves fellow Christians. But that’s not Seth’s religion; Seth’s doesn’t trust in anything that looks like faith, and that’s where the conflict begins and ends for these two men who can’t resist the temptation of each other.
Covet Thy Neighbor is a book I don’t think is possible to read and feel entirely neutral about, which is one of the things I liked so much about it in the end. Whether you see yourself as a religious person or not, or whether you even consider yourself a spiritual person (which, in my opinion, is very different from religion) or not, I think it’s possible to find parts and parcels of one’s beliefs in Seth and Darren’s story, especially if you subscribe to the belief that loving someone is not a sin. It addresses prejudices in various forms, and is a book that questions The Book, which is filled with contradictions but is the basis for an entire belief system and defines the way those believers treat those who think differently.
I liked this one, liked the message and the conflict between the MCs and liked that it wasn’t about fixing the differences between Seth and Darren, but about accepting them and compromising in order to make them work.
I’m so glad to have Brita back as my special guest today to talk a little bit about herself, the creative process, what she has coming up next. And, if you read all the way to the end, you’ll get the 4-1-1 on some really great prizes she’s offering as she hops the information super-highway to promote her new release, Tarnished Gold.
Brita, why don’t we start of by having you tell us a little bit about yourself: stuff and nonsense and tidbits about your life outside of writing?
Well. I love to travel. My favorite modes are cruises and long road trips. Thankfully, my husband loves the same things. Over the years we have taken many trips and have two big ones planned for 2013.
In May, we are going to England, Scotland, and Wales. In September and October, we are taking a cruise from Quebec to Boston, then a road trip across New York State to visit family and friends, then on to Atlanta for GayRomLit in mid-October, and then finally, back home.
I love movies, particularly old ones and anything with Gerard Butler. My husband and I have a weekly date day, every Friday (we’re retired) and have done for nearly all of our marriage.
I read constantly, but not enough. I love romances, historicals mostly, but I also read non-fiction. History is a particular favorite.
Now that we’ve covered that, let’s get into the nuts and bolts about you as an author:
Q.) How long have you been writing?
I think most authors have written for most of their lives, as I have. I started with newspaper articles from the time I was in middle school. I wrote tons of short stories all through school and my English teachers were very encouraging.
As an adult, I’ve always kept a journal. Creatively, I started in the last four years. Before that, I raised my family, which didn’t give me much time for anything else. I admire anyone who has children at home and they maintain a writing schedule. God bless them.
Q.) Is there someone in your life who inspired you to write creatively?
I have to say that my husband is the person who has been steadily in my corner with encouragement. He knew that I wrote and always wondered why I didn’t take it further. It was him who said I should go for it and I did. Now, he is my biggest supporter and that means everything to me. I’m not sure I could do what I do without him.
Q.) What was your first published novel?
My very first novel was Serenity’s Dream, which is the first book in the Sapphire Club series. I just recently rewrote it and it came out in February.
Q.) You’ve written just a little bit of everything, it seems. Is there a recipe for your plots, i.e. do you get an idea for a storyline and then decide whether your characters are going to be M/F, M/M, M/F/F, etc., or do the characters come to you first?
I have written a variety of things, mostly historical, some contemporary. No, I don’t have a recipe. Each story is individual in its conception. Usually, I have the characters in mind first, then I design the story around them. A story blossoms after I decide what characteristics the players will have.
Once the writing is underway, the characters tend to guide me. I don’t have an outline that I must adhere to. I think that as the story takes shape, it tends to go off into directions that the writer couldn’t possibly have foreseen. Flexibility (no steadfast outline) allows me to meet the demands of the characters, rather than trying to press them into a mold that might not suit them.
Q.) What was your first published M/M novel/novella/short story?
Free Me for Amber Allure was my first m/m novella. It was part of a submissions call, asking for stories where the characters meet while on vacation. That book spawned its sequel, In His Arms. The word count limitation of the sub call kept the story rather narrow, so I felt that Bryan and Phil deserved the rest of the story, which is what the sequel does.
I get the rights to those books in mid-2013, and then I will rewrite them and submit them to another publisher.
Q.) From start to finish, how long does it typically take you to hammer out a first draft of a book?
It really depends on what I’m writing. For instance, for Tarnished Gold, I researched for a solid six months before I ever put a word of the story down. In a story like that, where it has so much historical detail, I couldn’t simply start writing. It is important to get the details right.
I placed my characters in the midst of real people and real situations and with that, you have to treat the circumstances with dignity. You have to know your stuff.
From the research phase, I went into the planning of the overall story arc. I knew I wanted it to span many years and with that, you have to mature the characters. Their experiences and attitudes have to be commensurate with their ages. Their appearance has to change as well as their lifestyle, at each stage of their life. They will drink champagne while successful, where they might drink beer while younger. They may become jaded as life slaps them around, where if pampered, they are less likely to feel the effects. There is no pampering in Tarnished Gold, though!
The first draft writing took about six months, then I went through the manuscript again to fill it in, put more meat on the bones, reword, etc. All in all, for the 105k novel, I had over a year into that book.
Q.) Let’s talk sex for a moment, shall we? Do you think there’s such a thing as too much sex in a story? As a storyteller, how, where, or do you draw a line in terms of content?
Yes, I do. By that I mean, frequency of sex in stories. I do think that the adage that sex sells is alive and well, and the more the better. I think sex sells, but it has to be within reason and not just sex for the sake of hotness.
When I first started writing for publication, I believed that, but not anymore. I truly work very hard to thicken the plot and have the sex as a meaningful thread within the story, rather than the story a thread to more sex.
I don’t have a limit as to content, it just depends upon the story, the characters, their attraction to each other, their sexual practices, the moment, etc.
Q.) Of all the characters you’ve created, do you have a favorite? If so, why is s/he so special to you?
I do have a favorite, which makes me feel rather traitorous. I’ve said this before, when Phillip Allard, Duke of Thornhill from Chocolate, Tea, and the Duchess was, for me, the character that spoke loudest to me. While that is, in many ways, still true, I have to say that Jack Abadie from Tarnished Gold continues to live in my head.
Jack is a man from a Louisiana family, raised on the property that my husband grew up on. Jack is gay, something his small hometown would never understand. He loves the relatively new entertainment medium, the flickers, and as he sits in the theater, he dreams of fame and fortune.
Grit and determination propels Jack through his salad days, props him up through disappointments, tragedies, and great triumphs. He also possesses a quality that many of us wish they had—the ability to travel his own path, without apology.
Q.) In the same vein, of all the books you’ve written, do you have a favorite cover?
I do. I absolutely love the covers for For Men Like Us and the new one for Tarnished Gold. Anne Cain created wonderful representations of the stories for each one. I love them so much, I have them framed and hung on my wall at home.
Q.) If there were any one person (past, present, or even fictional) that you could sit down to dinner with, who would that person be, and why?
My love of history compels me to say Abraham Lincoln. I am fascinated by him and his wife, Mary. We traveled to Springfield, Illinois to visit all the prevalent spots, as well as Washington, DC—Ford’s Theater, Peterson House, and of course, the White House. We even visited Hildene, Robert Lincoln’s home in Manchester, Vermont. That was a fun day that we share with my brother and his wife. Makes me homesick thinking about them.
I would love to speak with Abraham Lincoln, though. He was a brilliant man, despite the fact that he came off as a country bumpkin.
Q.) What makes you laugh?
I laugh a lot, so many things strike me funny. Fiona, our grandpuppy is a constant source of humor and wonder.
One recent thing that gave me a real giggle:
My daughter and our grandson, who is 14, were talking about the day he would start driving.
Him: “If you think I’m going to go to the store for you, you’re wrong.”
Her: “No worries. If you think you’ll get the keys to my car, you’re wrong.”
One for the Mom!
Q.) Have you ever read something, a line or passage from a book, and thought, wow, I wish I’d written that? If so, what was it?
LOL Every book I read I find a line that I wish I had written. Often what I do is write it down and then study it. It does help the writing.
Q.) Would you like to talk a little bit about your upcoming release Tarnished Gold?
I would love to. First, there is the blurb:
After years of hard work and a chance invitation to a gay gentlemen’s club, Jack is discovered. Soon, his talent, matinee idol good looks, and affable personality propel him to the height of stardom. But fame breeds distrust.
Meeting Wyatt Maitland turns Jack’s life upside down. He wants to be worthy of his good fortune, but old demons haunt him. Only through Wyatt’s strength can Jack face that which keeps him from being the man he wants to be. Love without trust is empty.
As the 1920s roar, scandals rock the movie industry. Public tolerance of Hollywood’s decadence has reached its limit. Under pressure to clean up its act, Jack’s studio issues an ultimatum. Either forsake the man he loves and remain a box office darling, or follow his heart and let his shining star fade to tarnished gold.
I’ve always been an old Hollywood trivia buff. Stars like Charlie Chaplin and Wallace Reid have fascinated me since I was very young girl. I remember summer mornings in front of the TV, watching Charlie Chase and Buster Keaton.
I have read the biographies and autobiographies of tons of early Hollywood stars like William Haynes, Charlie Chaplin, Rudolph Valentino, Ramon Novarro, and so many others.
From early in my writing career, I knew I wanted to write a book set in early Hollywood. While I was never terribly interested in the glamorous women of Hollywood, my interest fell to the enigmatic matinee idols.
My story is dedicated to William Haynes, who was the first openly gay Hollywood star. Billy didn’t give a damn what people thought and he stuck to his guns. When the system changed after many years of tolerance, Billy told them what to do with their changes.
In Tarnished Gold, Jack Abadie is tough, while negotiating the minefield that comprised Hollywood in the ’20s and early ’30s. Jack falls in love with Wyatt Maitland and with that, he sees his life clearly defined, more so than ever before.
Wyatt “gets” Jack, the man. He understands him and helps Jack to get himself. In return, Jack fills the emptiness in Wyatt.
Their relationship isn’t all roses, but they truly present a united front when the world tests their mettle.
The story spans many years—from the 19teens to the 1930s, then the epilogue takes the characters into the 1950’s. They evolve, mature, and on occasion, thumb their noses at the powers that be.
The story covers Jack from the time he leaves his childhood home to later years. I kept meticulous notes, because it’s easy to get lost in the details in a novel of this length.
The cover is absolutely beautiful too. Anne Cain knocked this one, and For Men Like Us, out of the ballpark. I love them both so much.
Anne also created my wonderful contest prize—an 8×10 glossy of Jack Abadie, that will be autographed for the recipient.
Q.) Do you have any more new projects in the works you’d like to give us a little teaser of?
Several actually. I am totally rewriting what was once Love Immortal. I got my rights back in November, 2012, and want the book better than it ever was. I intended to write a sequel, but then I didn’t feel I was with the right publisher. LI was 27k and the newly renamed novel, Mysterious Moonlight, will be over 60k, with a much meatier story and the sequel added in the volume. I will submit to Dreamspinner upon completion.
I am writing a saga that starts in 1754 and it will tell the tale of generations of one family who live and work a homestead in Upstate New York. The stories will span more than 100 years. I’ve done many hours of research for this series and I’m very excited about it. No publisher in mind as yet.
I’ll also be rewriting Splendid Captivity, which I now have the rights to. That one will get more story and expansion and then I will sub it to a new publisher.
Thanks so much for being here with us today, Brita. How about an excerpt from Tarnished Gold?
“Mr. Abadie, did you fall in love with either of your co-stars?”
Jack smiled, glanced at Maitland, then at each of the ladies. “I fear I’ve fallen for both, but they won’t have me.”
Lita and Mary giggled. A lady from the audience stood and shouted, “Marry me, Jack.”
The crowd erupted into thunderous applause.
“It’s a bit too soon, my dear, to consider marriage, but thank you for asking,” Jack answered with a wink. The woman giggled and fanned herself.
After several more questions in the same vein, Jack whispered, “Please, no more,” and Maitland, for the next hour, again focused the questions on the serial.
Maitland checked his watch. “It’s time to wrap up here, if you are to get to the train station on time.”
Jack watched the man put his watch back into his pocket, and only then realized that for several minutes, he’d watched Maitland’s every movement.
Hoping the man hadn’t noticed his rudeness, Jack tugged his own watch from its pocket and raised a brow. “Yes, I believe you are right,” he said with a smile. They were due to leave within an hour.
Maitland stepped up to the microphone. “Our stars must leave now, as they are about to embark on a very long tour to celebrate A Charmed Life. Thank you again for coming, and please enjoy the reshowing of the serial.”
With waves and blown kisses, they all stepped back behind the curtain.
All told, for two hours work, Jack received his first dose of true adulation and attention from a real audience. He’d work very hard not to take it for granted, but it felt damned good.
Wyatt Maitland and Jack escorted the ladies to their car.
“I’ll see you at the station,” Jack said to Lita, who’d gotten quite teary-eyed. Mary, who played a less than sympathetic character, wasn’t going on tour, leaving Lita none too happy about her exclusion.
After the ladies’ car pulled away, Jack walked to his car, and to his delight, Wyatt followed. Jack dug into his pocket for his keys, then stuck his hand out.
Wyatt took it, holding Jack’s hand in his firm grip well past the time it took to shake it.
Even behind tortoiseshell glasses, the man’s blue eyes bore into him, as though he could read what was in his heart. Impeccably dressed in a fashionable single-breasted suit and straight, wide-legged trousers, Maitland struck a delightful view.
My newest releases:
For Men Like Us takes place during the Regency in England. You can find it at Dreamspinner Press. Just click the title to be magically transported.
Blurb for For Men Like Us:
After Preston Meacham’s lover dies trying to lend him aid at Salamanca, hopelessness becomes his only way of life. Despite his best efforts at starting again, he has no pride left, which leads him to sell himself for a pittance at a molly house. The mindless sex affords him his only respite from the horrors he witnessed.
The Napoleonic War left Benedict Wilmot haunted by the acts he was forced to commit and the torture he endured at the hands of a superior, a man who used the threat of a gruesome death to force Ben to do his bidding. Even sleep gives Ben no reprieve, for he can’t escape the destruction he caused.
When their paths cross, Ben feels an overwhelming need to protect Preston from his dangerous profession. As he explains, “The streets are dangerous for men like us.”
Blurb for Serenity’s Dream – Lucien and Serenity
Lucien was quite happy in his life running the Sapphire Club and has no need for the frigid wife who deserted him the day after they were married.
Can Lucien teach Serenity that her fear of the marriage bed is unfounded? Will Serenity’s secret be the death knell for their marriage?
You can purchase Serenity’s Dream – Lucien and Serenity at Amazon
About Brita Addams:
Born in Upstate New York, Brita Addams has made her home in the sultry south for many years. Brita’s home is a happy place, where she lives with her real-life hero, her husband, and a fat cat named Stormee.
She writes, for the most part, erotic historical romance, both het and m/m, which is an ideal fit, given her love of British and American history. Setting the tone for each historical is important. Research plays an indispensible part in the writing of any historical work, romance or otherwise. A great deal of reading and study goes into each work, to give the story the authenticity it deserves.
As a reader, Brita prefers historical works, romances and otherwise. She believes herself born in the wrong century, though she says she would find it difficult to live without air conditioning.
Brita and her husband love to travel, particularly cruises and long road trips. They completed a Civil War battlefield tour a couple of years ago, and have visited many places involved in the American Revolutionary War.
In May, 2013, they are going to England for two weeks, to visit the places Brita writes about in her books, including the estate that inspired the setting for her Sapphire Club series. Not the activities, just the floor plan. :-)
A bit of trivia – Brita pronounces her name, B-Rita, like the woman’s name, and oddly, not like the famous water filter.
Please visit me at any of these online locations:
And now, the part about the Giveaway:
2.) Signed 8×10 glossies of Jack Abadie
3.) Grand Prize is a Kindle, along with the winner’s choice of five (5) of my backlist titles, sent to them by email.
Easy. Leave a comment at one or all the stops. At each stop, a random commenter will be selected to win their choice of backlist book **(Tarnished Gold excluded.)** This selection will be made daily throughout the tour, except where blog owners wish to extend the eligibility. Be sure to leave an email address in your comment.
All names of commenters and their email addresses will be put into the drawing for the Kindle, even if they have won the daily drawing. The more comments you make the more chances you have to win.
Other prizes include five (5) 8×10 glossies of Jack Abadie, signed. The winners will be selected on April 10, 2013, from all the commenters at all the stops, and notified by email.
The Grand Prize winner will be selected on April 10th and notified by email. Once I have heard from the winner and obtained a shipping address, I will order the Kindle and have it shipped directly to the winner. They will also be eligible to select five (5) of my backlist titles and I will email them to the winner.
**Contest valid in the United States.
Full schedule for the Tarnished Gold Virtual Book Tour
Today and tomorrow, March 26 and 27, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments and weigh considerations that, provided these men and women whose job it is to promote justice for all, will fall on the right side of history and bring same-sex couples into the fold of equality that I, and everyone like me, takes for granted.
It is my fervent hope that these nine justices will see DOMA for the hypocrisy that it is; that it’s nothing more than a prejudicial forum based in the irrational fear that same-sex couples being recognized under the law as husbands and wives will somehow be detrimental to the sanctity of my marriage, when, if DOMA were truly concerned about the state of marriage in this country, they would see that their focus would be better concentrated on why 50% of heterosexual couples don’t seem to hold the vows of marriage and all the legal benefits it offers in such high esteem.
My husband and I both are supporters of marriage equality because when it comes down to it, there is no single entity or focus group on this planet that needs to defend what we’ve built over the past twenty-plus years. The only two people who need to defend my marriage are my husband and me. We neither need nor want the so-called protection this group seems to feel obliged to offer on our behalf because, let’s face facts: This isn’t the defense of marriage; it’s the defense of the right to use religion as a basis for hatred and superiority. It’s not sanctity, it’s sanctimony, and I hope the Supreme Court sees it for what it is.
We and our three children have been a family for more than two decades, and we will continue to be a family long after everyone is allowed to marry the person they love, regardless of whom they are.
But the eyes are blind. One must look with the heart. – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
This is the incredibly sweet and sometimes poignant story of a man, Isaac Brannigan, who was blinded in an automobile accident when he was just eight years old. Isaac has managed to adapt well to the life he knows, but he’s also a man whose life has adapted him into a person who has insulated and isolated himself from anything that might resemble a deep emotional attachment to anyone but his sister because, for Isaac, loving simply isn’t worth the inevitability of losing.
Blind Faith is the story of a dog, Brady, a canine companion that’s brilliant and loving, but, sadly, is also underappreciated. Brady is very well cared for, it’s not that Isaac neglects or abuses his dog in any way, it’s that he refuses to form any sort of emotional attachment to Brady; the dog is merely the eyes Isaac needs when he’s out in the world, but to call Brady a true companion would be overstating their relationship. That doesn’t at all mean, however, that Brady hasn’t bonded with his moody and enigmatic master, and it’s the loyalty and bravery of a dog who gives everything and demands nothing that eventually teaches his owner a little bit about unconditional love.
When new vet in town, Dr. Carter Reece, begins making his weekly house calls to check in on Brady, he immediately intuits that there’s something off about Isaac and his relationship with the dog. As the two men begin to draw closer together, or at least as close as Isaac will allow before he pushes Carter away, it becomes clear that the one deal breaker on the bumpy road to romance may very well be the dog that Carter comes to love and admire and respect as much as, if not more than, anyone he’s ever met. To see Brady cared for but not overtly appreciated confounds Carter almost as much as the dog’s owner does. When Carter finally decides to confront Isaac about it, that confrontation is the turning point in their relationship, for better and for worse.
There really wasn’t a lot not to like about this story, especially if you’re an animal lover and/or a lover of stories that get straight to the heart of the matter without torturing you too badly to get there, and the heart of this matter is that sometimes blindness goes far beyond a man’s inability to see. That message is wrapped up and delivered by two men I was really rooting for, a sister I loved for not letting her brother get away with anything, and a four legged furry critter who really stole the show.
The chief evil of war is more evil. War is the concentration of all human crimes. – William Ellery Channing
Brom Donker is a survivor of the American Civil War. Well, at least some parts of him survived; other parts, important parts such as his left arm and both legs below the knees, became sacrifices to an experiment by the Confederacy to create a better breed of prosthetic limb. It was unfortunate for Brom that the doctors elected to use Union prisoners of war to practice upon. It’s also too bad that the limbs Brom lost were perfectly healthy at the time, and were replaced with prototypes that left him broken in every way—mind, spirit, and body—by the war’s end.
Not settling for anything less than doing everything possible to help his son, Brom’s father finds a doctor who gives him a second chance at something resembling a normal life, which leads him indirectly to Simon Wain, the man who becomes Brom’s mechanic, doctor, and secret fantasy, but that’s not something that can ever come to fruition because Brom can’t overcome the fear that Simon will see him as less of a man for not being whole.
Brom’s life has been reassembled as well as it can be, and he’s become an agent with the Pinkerton Agency, which is where he’s earned the nickname the Tinkered Pinkerton, for obvious reasons. He and his agents are on a mission to keep a cache of Union weapons from falling into the hands of a Confederacy that doesn’t want to accept they were defeated in the war between the North and the South, and now the Southern rebels have enlisted help from a rather unexpected source to help them carry out their plans to rise again.
The Tinkered Pinkerton was a fun story but then again, I love Steampunk so that’s an auto-bump for it right there, but beyond that, I liked the imaginative way in which the author wove the story into this particular time in history and then pulled in a little North American folk legend along with the steamwork devices to make it just that much more unique.
Though I’d have loved to have seen some of the plot expanded just a bit more, perhaps digging a bit deeper and offering a little more detail about Brom’s military service and the events that brought him to where he was, as well as offering a bit more background on Simon to flesh out these men a smidge more, I have to say that there was enough tension and chemistry between them that I was able to buy into their feelings for each other, and could appreciate the conflict they both experienced in their attraction.
Apart from those very personal preferences, however, I found this one to be pretty enjoyable.
Yeah, me too! So here’s the scoop. Rhys Ford has generously offered to let me ask Neko a few questions. Whether she’ll deign to answer them is another question entirely, but you know, who has a better insight into Cole and Jae’s relationship than the four-legged, furry brains of the operation? :-D
If you have any questions you’d love to ask her about the Misters McGinnis and Kim, leave a comment on this post, or Click Here and leave your comment on Rhys’ blog.
And don’t be shy, please. I’m going to ask her how she feels about that whole bed destruction business. :-D
Courage is not defined by those who fought and did not fall, but by those who fought, fell and rose again. – Author Unknown
Being heroic doesn’t always mean being the bravest or the boldest or the strongest, or even the wisest. Sometimes acts of heroism are performed by the one who simply doesn’t stop to think at all, but is the one who rushes in when the wisest would run away. The most daring of all heroes doesn’t leap into battle with an absence of fear but with the presence of hope and faith, doesn’t think about sacrifices or the statistical probabilities of success and failure. The most daring are the ones who believe in the power of friendships and family and love’s ability to triumph over all, and then does everything in his or her power to defend them.
There are many heroes on Kane’s journey to the other side of reality, in pursuit of his injured prince. Of course, there are enemies too, those bent toward a single goal: to ensure that the tide of events will turn in the favor of the oppressed, though the aggressor’s motives are far from selfless or honorable. For every wrong there is a price that must be paid. For every wrong that is righted, there is a cost that is often far greater than would seem possible to pay. There are gains and there are losses in this installment of John Goode’s “Lords of Arcadia” series; there are revelations and mysteries yet to be solved; there is strength in numbers that is found in one but shared with all; there is a battle looming on the horizon, a battle of the lust for absolute power that has corrupted absolutely.
This is where high fantasy meets the reality that love and a deep and indefinable connection can be found in the most unexpected of places. It is a journey that defies the precept that only men can be heroes and that women must be the damsels in distress. These are partners and lovers and friends and former adversaries together, who find the will to stand up and fight for their choices through terrific acts of valor and against a slew of dark and deadly magic.
Eye of the Storm is a swashbuckling adventure with epic battles and even more epic resurrections, a blend of fairytale and mythology that the author has woven together into a love story between the heir to the Arcadian throne and the human boy who is proving with more and more certainty that he is so much more. It is a love story that triumphs in the face of the improbable and discounts the probability of the impossible, two souls that have now become one and must now face a formidable foe, one that wants what Hawk has and is willing to do anything he can in order to get it.
If you don’t love to-be-continueds, you won’t love that you’ll have to wait to see what’s coming next for Kane, Hawk, and their band of diverse allies. If you don’t mind a cliffhanger, however, and love a great adventure, then dig in.
Every fairytale had a bloody lining. Every one had teeth and claws. – Alice Hoffman
Welcome to a contemporary fantasy, where fiction becomes fact, and the pages of borrowed imagination become the amorphous fabric that veils the arcane realms from the sight of mundane mortals. If, that is, you’d classify Athens, Iowa and its residents as mundane.
Kane Vess has lived there for the entirety of his sixteen years, with his flautist father, and though this small town in the middle of nowhere boasts its fair share of curiosities, Kane being the only openly gay teenager in town isn’t quite special enough to be one of them. It takes much more than that to make an impression upon the hippie population in Athens, but I can guarantee that even this town, with all its normal eccentricities and idiosyncrasies, hasn’t encountered anything, or anyone, nearly as remarkable as Kane is about to.
Hawk’keen Maragold Tertania, Hawk for short, is a new boy at Peter Quince High School, and he’s unlike any boy Kane has ever seen, for reasons not the least of which include the fact that Hawk plunged a sword through Kane’s chest upon their initial encounter. It’s a first impression that nearly precluded a second, if it weren’t for the fact that Kane was unintentionally uncooperative with Hawk’s deadly intentions. Hawk is a prince with two rather well-known parents and an even better-known enemy in the form of a trickster who is on a mission to stop the prince’s ascension to the throne of Arcadia, but it’s the enemy within his own ranks whom Hawk should fear most, for it’s jealousy that prompts a betrayal, which could very well be the death of him.
Distant Rumblings (Lords of Arcadia: Act One) is the story of a motherless boy who believes himself to be nothing at all special until he is met with the improbable, the impossible, and the unbelievable, yet proves that he is nothing less than brave and pure of heart—the only things a true hero need be when he sets upon a journey of discovery that will take him to new and dangerous places where he’ll encounter wicked and wondrous things and the best I can hope for, in the end, is that he and Hawk will survive it.
It’s the beginning of a journey that incorporates more than a little A Midsummer Night’s Dream with elemental magic and a touch of suburban fantasy, and then weaves it together into a fairytale romance between a Fae prince and the boy who has bewitched him. It is a story of treasonous acts and boundless courage in the face of ultimate fear—a magic with which it is impossible for a simple mortal to compete but one he is now going to face for the sake of another. If, that is, Kane is nothing more than a mere human. There is a mystery there yet to unfold, no doubt.
John Goode has woven an irresistible tale of magic and mayhem and music that has charms to soothe the savage breast—or, rather, to ensorcell the unsuspecting faerie. He has rent the thin fabric between what is real and what is imagination, stumbled upon a looking glass world into which Kane has now stepped, a world that I’m traveling to just on the other side of soon.
Fate controls who walks into your life, but you decide who you let walk out, who you let stay, and who you refuse to let go. – Author Unknown
Dustin is a man who can’t seem to get out of his own way. He is a man who performs random acts of blindness to escape the feels he doesn’t want to feel, with a tide of alcohol, a pharmacopoeia of drugs, and a slew of nameless, meaningless sex that signifies the distance between what he will allow himself to need and what he doesn’t even realize he desires. But a man with a past like Dustin’s is bound to be left with more than a few scars.
Nicolæ is the man who very much gets in Dustin’s way. He is a man who performs random acts of kindness to encourage people to pursue the sun that hides behind the clouds of their own impairments, and the needs that he recognizes with the gift of insight that far exceeds the limitations of 20/20 vision. Nicolæ may be blind, but his blindness is not a handicap to his ability to see and sense a longing in the complete strangers whose lives he touches. He is the gypsy gardener who travels through life planting the seeds of hope, as well as a seed of uncontrollable curiosity in a man whose past has cultivated nothing but a thicket of pain and sorrow, but who is now ripe for the possibility of growing something new in the soil of longing, if only Dustin can find the patience he’ll need to let this seed bloom.
Înflori is a story that blends a bit of the mysterious with the average, everyday weaknesses that make us all human: fear, memory, regret, if… If–a seemingly innocuous and insignificant word we use to try and make sense of the things that happen to us, to mourn the twists and turns of events, a word that Fate so often uses to upset the balance of things that are beyond our ability to control. It is a story of stereotypes and the way in which prejudice blinds a person, keeps them from seeing the man behind the intolerance, believing that where a man comes from dictates how he should behave, and even whom he should love. But then the man refuses to color inside the lines that people use to try and define him and the vision of the one who means everything obliterates the want of anyone or anything else.
A.F. Henley delivers yet another romantic tale in which the journey of a broken man begins with a simple patching of the smallest cracks and builds to the reconstruction of that man’s entire existence, ending with a bond that feels like the beginning of a new adventure, one that begins to feel a lot like home. It’s a story of the slow and careful and deliberate way Nicolæ teaches Dustin how to love, but even more than that, how to live.
Who’s been chomping at the bit for more Cole and Jae? You definitely won’t want to miss this one!
You know… in case you want a copy. *grins*
For ex-cop turned private investigator Cole McGinnis, each day brings a new challenge. Too bad most of them involve pain and death. Claudia, his office manager and surrogate mother, is still recovering from a gunshot, and Cole’s closeted boyfriend, Kim Jae-Min, suddenly finds his teenaged sister dumped in his lap. Meanwhile, Cole has his own sibling problems—most notably, a mysterious half brother from Japan whom his older brother, Mike, is determined they welcome with open arms.
As if his own personal dramas weren’t enough, Cole is approached by Madame Sun, a fortune-teller whose clients have been dying at an alarming rate. Convinced someone is after her customers, she wants the matter investigated, but the police think she’s imagining things. Hoping to put Sun’s mind at ease, Cole takes the case and…
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Look, look, look! Goodies. And good goodies too! :-D
Pride does not wish to owe and vanity does not wish to pay. – Francois de la Rochefoucauld
But for the unforgiving whims of fate could a man’s quiet seafaring existence be suddenly and inexorably altered by happenstance, by an event so incapable of being foreshadowed that he finds himself in the service of the heir to the throne of England before he can even fully reconcile himself to the idea of being the First Gentlemen to a prince.
Emmett Fielde sailed on his father’s ships and trained himself in the ways of accounting for the business until the day he and young Aleyn, the cabin boy Emmett offers his protection in an effort to save the boy from a life of a very different sort of servitude, make a trip into the city and come face to face with their destiny.
Prince Andrewe is the epitome of everything that defines both the good and the bad of monarchical rule. He possesses a cool and regal beauty, and has been well groomed from birth to assume the yoke of the throne upon his father’s passing. But he is also spoiled and arrogant and fairly drips with a sense of entitlement and the expectation of unquestioned obeisance, something which does not bode well for Emmett’s smooth transition into his new role as his prince’s keeper.
Honour is a story of pride and of the way in which that single word becomes an agent of indignity and betrayal. It is a story of respect and the way in which that single word becomes an agent of conflict and chaos between a commoner and his prince. It is a story of duty and the way in which that single word obliges and dictates the difference between free will and the absolute absence of choice. Or worse—the absolute presence of choice but opting to ignore one’s heart and conscience in favor of vanity. It is a story of regret and the way in which that single word brings a man to his knees in despair, knowing that he would rather die than to live in a world where love exists and remains out of his reach. Ultimately, it is a story of redemption and the way in which that single word becomes the catalyst for a love affair that is the difference between the wish to possess and the need to belong.
A.F. Henley has written the story of a man who is not only a traitor to his prince but to his own heart, as well. The writing is lush and lyrical, erotic and romantic, rife with emotion and conflict between two men who must fight for every moment of unity while, at times, they seem bent upon tearing themselves apart.
I loved this story for exactly what it was: a grim fairytale with as happy an ending as was realistic for the prince and the man he refused to live without.
Grief is the price we pay for love. – Queen Elizabeth II
Quinn O’Malley knows a little bit about grief; it’s buried him, after all, under the pale ash of a life devastated by the very act of surviving when the one he’d lived for, the one he’d loved for, left him; and with that death, stole all the color and definition from the world.
Alex Kidwell’s After the End is this: a story of grief and of survival and of renewal, told in the juxtaposing voice of a man who understands moving through each day but doesn’t understand the meaning of the words “moving on”. For Quinn, those words somehow translate to betrayal and forgetting, and when a man as alive and as vibrant as Aaron Paterson slips the bonds of being, he leaves a gaping hole in the fabric of all the other lives his was meticulously and joyously woven into, and he is impossible to forget, let alone attempt to replace. There is only the pain of remembering and the bitter aftertaste of regret left for Quinn to sustain himself on. But the dichotomy of it all comes in the form of a man who sweeps in and slowly, meticulously begins to leach the weeping wound that’s been Quinn’s existence for the past two years.
Two very separate and distinct forces of nature have cut a swath through Quinn’s life, though they are similar much in the same way a hurricane is to a typhoon; you are either swept up in their power and embrace what they wreak, or you get out of their way. Quinn embraced the first storm with everything he had and was left with nothing but pain and memories for his efforts, left behind to attempt to rise from the wreckage of loving with abandon and then being abandoned by that love. When the second storm blows in, Quinn does everything in his power to close himself off from what he believes can be the one and only ending, but Brady Banner is nothing if not persistent and is patient enough to wait, to carefully begin to thread his way into Quinn’s life until, in the end, that thread is indispensible to the warp and the weft of Quinn’s remade existence.
After the End is the eloquent fairy tale of the knight who lays siege to a fortress and slays dragons to rescue a man who didn’t realize he was even in danger of being wholly consumed until he was kissed awake and with eyes wide open, was finally able to see the ghosts of his past and his present, and could see that allowing himself to move on didn’t mean forgetting; it meant healing. Brady delivers Quinn from the “I was” to the “I am”, from the end to the beginning, transforming the tense of his existence from past to present so that he was finally to embrace what could be.
Alex Kidwell brings friendships and family together to tell an utterly romantic story filled with universal truths and emotions, and does so with words that I didn’t read so much as feel; this is a story that washed over and through me, and I was reaching for the tissues before I even made it out of chapter one. This is a book that exemplifies the difference between reading a book and living a story, and is the difference between words written on a page and a portrait being painted with words, in all their contrasting colors, from the blacks and grays of sorrow to the rich and vibrant and sometimes violent tones of happiness and love and guilt and anger and hope and fear and redemption.
It is a story that introduces this profound truth: when life’s music inevitably changes, so must the steps we use to dance our way through it.
One must do violence to the object of one’s desire; when it surrenders, the pleasure is greater. – Marquis de Sade
Nick is perhaps the baddest of the bad boys at Market Garden, the man who doesn’t mind at all doing a little violence—for the right price, that is. He’s introduced briefly in the first two books of the Market Garden Tales series as one of the kinkier men who services the johns looking for a little, or a lot, of pain with their pleasure, and let me assure you Nick is a Dom and a sadist who really, really loves what he does. He is a master of his craft in much the same way an artist excels in transforming a once unmarred canvas into something that begs to be appreciated for the sweat, tears, sometimes even blood that went into creating it, but how much of what he does is simply part of the act he’s being paid to perform? Oh, there’s no mistaking Nick is a sexual dominant in every sense of the word, but there’s a difference between playing a role because the money dictates it, and fulfilling a need because the mind and body demands it.
That difference is a line Nick has never toed before, but all it takes is one man, a man whose needs as a purely trusting and giving submissive causes Nick to err on the side of fear and caution, because Spencer is the one man who has come along and unintentionally erased all the boundaries of sex for money and sex for the pure and unadulterated want of another human being who is more than simply an outlet for a fantasy. Spencer is the man who blurred those lines with a single kiss, in turn causing Nick to immediately and unflinchingly redraw them; not as mere intangibles but as a wall of silence and distance between himself and the temptation Spencer represents.
L.A. Witt and Aleksandr Voinov are exploring the Gordian knot of sex and love, and sex in which there is no emotion involved at all, only the physical act of pleasure that’s separate from the emotional act of being connected to someone else because it’s a choice and not a career obligation. Jealousy is not a factor in this equation for Spencer; possession is everything in this equation for Nick. For the sub and his Dom, it adds up to the promise that they’ve each found something they want beyond a simple business arrangement.
If you haven’t found the love for the Market Garden boys yet, then don’t start here. Get to know Tristan and Jared in Quid Pro Quo and Take It Off first; they’re very well worth introducing yourselves to. Whenever you do choose to impose yourself upon this world of high priced, top shelf rentboys, I will only say to be prepared for an extreme ride of the erotic variety, in which sex is a game of strategy and is played for maximum effect.
To quote the ever eloquent George Takei, “Oh myyyyy.” That’s pretty much it. Well, that and “Have mercy.” I don’t know who first said that one, but I did, at least a half dozen times while I was reading this book.
Oh, look, it’s another giveaway. That’s fun to say. :-D
Return to the Mountain will be available next week, and you might be the lucky reader who wins a copy at Stumbling Over Chaos. Just swing by and leave your name for a chance to win an e-copy. This is the fifth book in the Mountains universe, but it’s Gary and Seth’s first novel. The book stands alone, but you might recognize some familiar faces from my other works. Keep an eye out for the secondary characters!
Caddy Gary Richardson hungers for the lush life of the wealthy golfers he escorts around the course at Wapiti Creek. The contrast between his tiny trailer at the edge of a mountain town and the luxurious ski and golf resort is something he’s learned to live with but not like. Gary wants the fancy condo and late-model car not just for himself but for his childhood friend turned lover, Seth Morgan…
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then murder’s out of tune, And sweet revenge grows harsh. – William Shakespeare
The stylized atmosphere of L.A. Witt’s novella Mayfield Speakeasy most definitely lends itself to that noir-ish feel of Hollywood’s classic crime dramas, with rival gangsters, and hardboiled detectives, and femme fatales, and the bartender who “don’t want no trouble”; he just wants to dispense a little illegal entertainment of the liquid variety to his rather shady clientele.
Set in the waning years of the Prohibition, Walter Mayfield is the proprietor of the illicit club that’s become neutral turf for the Abandanato and O’Reilly gangs, a place the flatfoots generally overlook because when the goons are drinking, they ain’t out on the streets conducting their special brand of misery business, if you catch my meaning. Walter runs the place with his brothers, John, a generally law abiding citizen, and Billy, the black sheep of the family who’s felt the chokehold of the long arm of the law on more than a few occasions. But Walter hasn’t seen much in the way of trouble, really, until Detective Joe Riordan and his partner, Danny, belly up to his bar and serve up what amounts to a whole lot of trouble for Walter.
Seems there’s someone with a special kind of love for killing women who each have a common thread that links them all back to John Mayfield—husband, father…guy who can’t seem to keep it in his pants. Joe’s on the case, doing everything within his power to keep another murder from happening, and Walter’s the very man Joe needs. Eventually, in more ways than one.
A murder mystery with plenty of the usual suspects, wrapped around more than one illicit love affair, all set in the 1930s, where crimes of passion pit brother against brother and tear a family apart, a time when a crime of passion meant nothing more than two men falling in love. I can’t decide which I liked more: the relationship part of the story, or the criminal investigation that sparked it. Whichever it is, L.A. Witt has offered a gritty little erotic drama that made me glad a nice girl like me got to hang out in a place like that for just a little while.
Through humor, you can soften some of the worst blows that life delivers. And once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it. – Bill Cosby
Between the days of April 29 and May 4, 1992, Los Angeles, California burned as the worst display of human aggression and mob mentality in recent years wormed its way into the American conscience via mainstream media. Looting, rioting, beatings, and senseless killings all took place over the course of those long days more than twenty years ago, when the LAPD was both under the microscope and behind the eight ball trying to reclaim peace and order among its citizens. It was a time when Rodney King and Reginald Denny became the names and faces of a city under siege.
Philip Noland and his mother have been traveling back and forth to L.A. for his mother’s cancer treatments, but little did they know that upon this particular arrival, they were in for an unexpected adventure, when a wrong turn off the freeway lands them in the very midst of a battle-torn neighborhood to fend for themselves. So how could they ever have suspected, then, that out of that darkness would come light in the form of a young boy named Ambrose, who becomes the spark that brightens an otherwise bleak night?
Your Mother Should Know sounds like it should be a very heavy book, doesn’t it? But I can tell you it’s very much not. Though the setting is undeniably dismal, the verbal sparring between Philip and his mother brings laughter to what is otherwise a really unfunny situation. And guess what? They survive. I couldn’t help but love Philip’s mom for her spunk and her strength and her desire for nothing more than to see Philip happy before she breathes her last, doing her level best to drive Philip a little bit crazy in the process. And happiness, that’s something that seems more like a possibility than a wish when Philip meets Ambrose’s father at the hospital on that fateful night.
Your Mother Should Know is a relationship book, but not at all in the romantic sense of the word. This is a book about the bond between a mother and son. For Ambrose, it’s a book about taking that bond in whatever form he can find it.
It’s a book about the inevitability of loss and the way in which love and guilt and the weight of responsibility plays out in that singular bond, when role reversal means the son becomes the caretaker to the parent. It’s also a book about survival, the sort of survival that means we all find the strength to go on in spite of life trying its best to knock us down. And it’s a book that contrasts the worst with the best in all of us.
It’s difficult to say whether the plot of this short story is driven by the characters, or whether the characters drive the plot. Either way, it worked for me.
So when the last and dreadful hour This crumbling pageant shall devour, The trumpet shall be heard on high, The dead shall live, the living die. – John Dryden
My experience with zombies pretty much begins and ends with the movies Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland, which not only gives you a good idea of my highly warped sense of humor, but also clues you in to the fact that I…am pretty much a wuss. If I can’t laugh at the zombie apocalypse, then I don’t want anything to do with it. I like my brain exactly where it is, inside my cranium, thank you, and I have no desire to pollute my denial of the looming undead disaster with visions of the boogeyman tapping my noggin like a keg and sucking my gray matter out through a straw. It’s a personal preference, what can I say? So for me to actively choose to read a zombie book is kind of rare. Not unheard of, mind, but rare.
Half a Million Dead Cannibals is a zombie book. I read it. And I purposefully chose to read it because Kari Gregg, if you’re not familiar with her work, writes some really good erotica interspersed with great characters and the ability to tell an absorbing story, and this book did not at all disappoint in any of those departments. The only place this book failed me was in that it wasn’t long enough, and now I want a sequel but don’t know whether I’ll ever get one.
HaMDC is the story of a global plague that strikes a few months before the story begins, a plague that wipes out scores of people around the world—now, if only those folks had just stayed dead… But no, this particular brand of Armageddon morphs and mutates its victims into slavering, lurching, mindlessly aggressive monsters that belly up to the all-you-can-eat-people-buffet and start to munching.
This is the story of two men, Riley and Graham, who meet in the worst of circumstances and then stay together, because having someone at your back who isn’t trying to eat you as a tribute in this version of the ultimate hunger game means the difference between living and not being alive.
Graham is big, butch, and ex-Navy. Riley wears nail polish and eyeliner. They are virtual opposites, but to underestimate Riley simply because he doesn’t look like a man who is capable of taking care of business is to be as wrong as is humanly possible. Riley is a force, and Graham, as straight as he may be, or at least seems to be, is attracted to that force in a very human way. This is the story of Riley and Graham’s fight for survival, but it’s also the story of how the two men come to need each other in a visceral way, ultimately becoming each other’s reason for fighting and surviving.
This is a story of the complete deconstruction of humanity, not only of the undead population but also of the survivors who now live in a state of vigilante rule; society has devolved into a survival of the fittest, kill or be killed mentality where having simple things like basic necessities makes a man a target for death of the permanent kind, not of that other far more gruesome kind.
Riley and Graham’s flight from the city to take to higher, and far safer, ground was a study in nail-biting action and edge of my seat tension. This is one of those books that for better, or sometimes very much for the worse, plays out like a movie in the imagination. It was pretty much everything I was anticipating it would be, but Riley and Graham and the chemistry between them was very much a nice bonus. Theirs is a relationship that was bred in the need for human companionship in an inhumane world, but grew into the simple but no less profound need of loving someone who can give you faith in any future at all.
Before we start, here is the blurb for Tarnished Gold:
In 1915, starstruck Jack Abadie strikes out for the gilded streets of the most sinful town in the country—Hollywood. With him, he takes a secret that his country hometown would never understand.
After years of hard work and a chance invitation to a gay gentlemen’s club, Jack is discovered. Soon, his talent, matinee idol good looks, and affable personality propel him to the height of stardom. But fame breeds distrust.
Meeting Wyatt Maitland turns Jack’s life upside down. He wants to be worthy of his good fortune, but old demons haunt him. Only through Wyatt’s strength can Jack face that which keeps him from being the man he wants to be. Love without trust is empty.
As the 1920s roar, scandals rock the movie industry. Public tolerance of Hollywood’s decadence has reached its limit. Under pressure to clean up its act, Jack’s studio issues an ultimatum. Either forsake the man he loves and remain a box office darling, or follow his heart and let his shining star fade to tarnished gold.
I liken writing a book to raising children. They are born, they grow, they mature. They change as time goes on, adopt traits of the parents and even their friends. You want to shut them away in a room, protect them from the bullies, but reality is that, in the end, they were born to fly the coop and join the world.
Books start out as a blank page, with sometimes nothing more than a title (that is if you aren’t me, who never has a title to start with) and your name, much like the tests you took in school. With a spark of an idea, you begin, with the hope that what you have in your head translates to the written page.
Most books begin with research. As I discussed last month, research is mandatory for historical novels, and in my opinion, contemporaries as well. For Tarnished Gold, my novel set in the golden age of Hollywood, I dug into some of the books that I’ve collected over the years, as well as purchased many more.
I spent some time on the phone with Damon Suede, who is an ace at anything Hollywood related. Damon was a great source of encouragement and knowledge, and he guided me to many books that became indispensible in helping me shape Jack Abadie’s story.
I also tapped my own knowledge, as I have been an old Hollywood buff since I can remember. As a girl, I spent many a summer morning watching Charlie Chase, Mae West, and Buster Keaton on television. The movies were old then, but I loved them. The affected speech, the camp, the melodrama, and the slapstick comedy. I was in with both feet.
I’ve always read biographical books and have indulged my onetime dream of stardom vicariously through the lives of those who actually did something about it. Acting in high school does not a star make—but I digress.
Biographies are a wonderful way to discover what makes people tick, why they do the things they do. But that isn’t enough to create a world, or rather, recreate a world, in the case of Hollywood. I read about the men and women who shaped Hollywood in the early years—Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks (be still my heart!,) Charlie Chaplin, Rudolph Valentino, Ramon Novarro. These folks not only acted, but they set the tone for those years, the early years, in an industry that was in its infancy.
I determined early on that my character, Jack Abadie, would rise to a pivotal position, but I left that undefined for much of the planning and writing process. I like to have my characters guide me and Jack knew exactly where he wanted this story to go.
For years, I’ve known about an actor by the name of William Haines. Billy was as handsome as Valentino and Ramon Novarro, more talented than Clark Gable, who came on the scene just as Billy ended his acting career, and was as determined a man as I’ve ever read about.
Billy Haines was the first openly gay actor in Hollywood. He was fiercely loyal and indulgent of his partner, Jimmie Shields. They were a couple from 1926, until Billy’s death in 1973. Billy accommodated his employers, but he was uncompromising in his beliefs, particularly about his homosexuality. When Louis B. Mayer insisted that Billy marry a woman and banish Jimmie from his life, Billy’s answer was, “I’m already married.”
I wanted Billy’s qualities to permeate my character Jack. While yielding to reason, Jack doesn’t suffer fools. He learns his craft, he sees the obstacles a mile away, and he avoids all that will deter him from his ultimate goals. Yes, Jack has many goals. Some stay constant, while others change or fall by the wayside, depending upon their importance.
With this much established, I went to work creating the foundation upon which Tarnished Gold is built. I can honestly say that this is first novel that I’ve written, where I could actually see the building blocks as I laid them into place.
The story takes place over the course of forty years, taking into consideration the epilogue, which starts twenty-five years after the end of the main book. Jack is a young man when the book starts—green, anxious, in love with his best friend, and above all else, star struck. He spends many hours in the balcony of the Prytania movie theater, watching Wallace Reid, his all-time favorite actor. He wants to be Wallace Reid one day and he has a plan to make that happen. In creating the feeling for Jack in the balcony of the theater, I recalled the many Saturday afternoons my husband and I have spent at the Prytania.
First thing, I had to create Jack. He had to start out as a twenty-one year old kid, who had no idea how to groom his hair or dress for the world without his mother’s help. He had to have classic good looks, along with a healthy dose of charming naiveté.
I am a huge fan of John Barrowman, Captain Jack from Torchwood. It is John that I imagined in the role as Jack Abadie. It is Captain Jack from whence Jack’s first name comes. Smiling John, in my head, became Jack Abadie for me.
Before I start to write any book, I create an index card for each character. On that card (and sometimes cards,) I write all the characteristics that the character should possess, and which I must portray. As the writing proceeds, more and more gets added to the card.
At first, I create the main characters, as I pull in secondaries when I need them. My index card system for each book consists of character outlines, scene ideas, notes about how a certain premise should play out, as well all my ideas for plot twists and turns. As a visual person, I have to “see” my characters. Many times, I have an actor in mind, but sometimes, I will search stock art to find the look I want.
Having lived in the Deep South for many years, I am familiar with the plantation system that existed well into the twentieth century. My husband’s grandparents worked on the Willswood sugar plantation in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. Uranie Madere Berthelot cooked for the men who worked the fields, while Wilfred Berthelot was a carpenter.
After the schoolhouse burned down, my husband’s mother went to school in the front room at the overseer’s house, a home that my husband later grew up in when his grandparents bought the structure, tore it down, and rebuilt it on their own property. Fifty years later, my mother in law took up a smaller residence and that front room served as both of my daughters’ bedroom. We lived in that house for twenty years.
It is from Willswood Plantation that Jack emerges, excited to tackle a world he knows nothing about. His father, Wilfred, is a carpenter, while his mother, Amelie, cooked for the men who worked the plantation. Jack’s brother Andrew, has Wilfred Berthelot’s middle name. Amelie was the name of a woman who lived next door to us. I make mention of Mrs. Faucheaux (Foe-shay)—she was another neighbor.
One of my husband’s least favorite memories of summer in the Deep South is of bathing, then sweating profusely before he was finished dressing. Jack experiences this as well. Jack never quite forsakes his Cajun roots. Therefore, he uses the endearment cher—dear in French.
Well into the book, someone tells Jack that he works too hard. His answer? “You can sleep when you die.” My mother in law used to say that all the time.
The character Eric is named for my dear brother, while Matthew in the book is named for Eric’s son. As a homage to my New England roots, I named Jack’s character in Plantation Bride Charlie Moon, after my great grandfather. He was a farmer in Stephentown, New York and became father to my grandmother in 1911. In 1925, his wife Clara died at the age of 34, after giving birth to her eighth child.
Charlie worked hard to keep his young family together, but in 1927, he succumbed to pneumonia at the age of forty-two. Theirs is a tragic, yet heartwarming story that I would love to write about one day.
Over the course of many years, Jack Abadie matures. As a writer, it was fun to see that progression, the change in attitude, the resignation that we all must experience when we discover that the world doesn’t revolve around us.
Jack goes to Hollywood with a Cajun accent, saying things like N’Awlins and Catlic (Catholic.) He favors gumbo and jambalaya to any food anyone can cook. He knows nothing other than the plantation and the close-knit family from which he kept the secret of his sexuality, save his brother who was his lifelong ally. Hollywood could have eaten him alive, but his Louisiana roots, and Wyatt, kept him grounded.
This phase of Jack’s journey is loosely based on my own experience when I left home at eighteen for the bright streets of Boston. I’ve often said that we possess our most bravado when we are young and know no better. I struck out and found a boarding house for young college girls and those who worked in offices in town. Great camaraderie, but put a naïve young girl out into a world so different from what she’s known, and well, situations happen. One grows up fast, as I did and as Jack did in Hollywood.
When a writer writes a story like Tarnished Gold, you can’t help but invest a part of yourself in it. You draw upon your life experiences, the many people that have passed through your life, your knowledge of how life works.
Tarnished Gold is emotional in that Jack must find himself and where he fits. Life doesn’t fit us in, we must adapt, as Jack learns, as we all learn.
I grew to love Jack deeply, as I did Wyatt Maitland, the man who is truly Jack’s other half. Writing these two men, the evolution of not only their relationship, but of the times in which they lived, made me recall many things in my life, good and bad. Sometimes it’s nice to do that. Reminds you of what is truly important and what doesn’t really matter at all.
One thing is for sure—what matters today likely won’t matter a year from now. It is good to keep that in mind when we are obsessing over the small things.
Jack Abadie confronts all the things we do—love, loss, tragedy, indecision, unreasonable expectations, reality, all against the backdrop of the most artificial place in the world, Hollywood. Yet, he emerges a very real person, one with uncompromising integrity. He is true to himself and takes with him the lessons of old, those things his mother taught him.
I hope you enjoy Tarnished Gold. I certainly enjoyed writing it for you.
Preorder Tarnished Gold at Dreamspinner Press. It will be on virtual bookshelves on March 25, in ebook and print. The first 20 people who purchase the print version, will receive a signed copy.
Until next month, read, read, read.
“Can you do me a huge favor?” Matty asks,
poking his head into my bedroom and looking paler
than La Toya Jackson with a stomach virus.
Matty has never been shy about asking for favors.
That’s the territory that comes with being roommates
and best friends for four years, the expectation of
favors. Like having a boyfriend you can depend on,
but without the sex, intimate connection, or expensive
birthday gifts. My favors for Matty have run the gamut
from 4 a.m. airport drop offs to plucking some really
unfortunately placed back hairs before we went to Gay
Days at Disney World, which led to even more favors.
The weirdest of which involved my driving Matty and
the eerily youthful-looking thirty-five-year-old man
who played Peter Pan to what would later become the
worst date in Matty’s dating history. So I’d learned
years ago to brace myself when those words came out
of Matty’s mouth: “Can you do me a huge favor?”
I pause the episode of The Real Housewives of I-don’t-
even-know-where, and answer a tentative
“It’s a work thing, so I’ll throw you forty bucks.”
This is a relief to hear, and not just because it
involves forty bucks—although I could certainly use
that, as I am currently living off of cater waiter gigs
I’ve found on Craigslist. More importantly, however,
Matty works as a reporter for a very popular
entertainment show called The Star Report. They’re
sorta like Entertainment Tonight, except more popular
and without Billy Bush’s uncomfortable energy.
I’m an aspiring writer myself, and this wouldn’t
be the first time I’ve covered something for Matty. I
wrote a really positive review for the movie New Years
Eve, which went kind of viral because it was literally
the only positive review for New Years Eve. What can
I say? I’ve got a soft spot for movies about the
holidays and Robert De Niro in hospital beds. Besides
that, my professional writing experience has, up until
now, been limited to a Live Journal I kept during my
first year living here in Los Angeles that as of today
still has only twenty views. One of these days,
however, I’m going to write a book.
“Sure. What is it?” I ask, hoping he’ll say the two
words I’m basically always waiting to hear: Meryl
“I’m scheduled to go to the press junket for this
new Taylor Grayson movie. It’s called The Last…” He
continues, but I’ve stopped listening. Taylor Grayson
is one of the most beautiful movie stars in the history
of beautiful movie stars. In fact, People magazine has
ranked him “Sexiest Man Alive” every year since I
was a freshmen in college and he was playing one on
TV. Matty continues explaining the favor, but I’m lost
in thought, remembering that scene from The Yard, a
movie where he played a talented college football
player who did something important that I can’t
remember. What I can remember is that I spent the
whole movie replaying his four minute shower scene,
where steamy close ups show tiny beads of hot water
dripping down a perfectly tanned six pack
Michelangelo couldn’t have carved if he’d tried, and a
thirty second shot of his gorgeous round butt that may
or may not have been paused on my DVD player for
most of 2009.
“So will you do it?” Matty asks, his story
apparently finished. I look up at him, having not heard
a word he said, and reply, “Sure.”
Matty looks at me closely, the way he always
looks at me when he knows I’ve not been listening.
It’s almost as if he’s trying to look into my soul, but in
actuality I know he’s really just thinking “Why doesn’t
this asshole ever listen to a word I say?”
“Okay, cool. So you’ll need rubber rain boots, a
machete, and about three and a half feet of knitting
yarn.” Matty says, nonchalantly.
“Sorry. I wasn’t listening. I got distracted.”
Matty rolls his eyes and explains the situation.
The Star Report is scheduled to interview Taylor
Grayson about his new movie The Last Hero at a press
junket at the Beverly Hills Hotel. It’s a standard junket
interview: reporter comes in, has four minutes to ask a
series of approved vague questions, then leaves. Matty
is supposed to go, but because he’s come down with a
stomach flu, he needs a replacement, and no one else
from the blog is available.
I remind Matty that I’ve never done on camera
interviewing before, or anything on camera for that
matter…unless you count the video tape of my
exceedingly underwhelming performance as Tevye in
my high school production of Fiddler on the Roof—
which, for the record, I do not.
As usual, Matty’s perception of my ability is a lot
better than my own. Matty has a way of being so
confident in people that it almost seems offensive, like
“How dare you think I am that smart? Haven’t you
listened to a word I’ve ever said? Don’t you know me
“You’ll be great. All you have to do is be excited
to talk to the star and excited to talk about the movie.
Both of which you can handle. Need I remind you, it is
Taylor Grayson? I’m sure you can muster up some
enthusiasm for him.”
Matty has a point. It wouldn’t be hard to get
excited over Taylor Grayson. For one, he would be the
most famous person I’ve ever met, and two, I’m
already getting aroused just thinking about him.
“What would I ask?” is the next question I direct
to Matty, attempting to steer the subject away from
anything having to do with the way Taylor Grayson’s
biceps seem to stretch out every shirt sleeve he wears
to what must be the verge of ripping out completely.
“Standard press junket questions… What was the
hardest part of making the movie? Why did you take
this role? Who was your inspiration for the
character…he plays a firefighter, by the way.”
I nod, as if I’m hearing about this for the first
time. It isn’t that I’m some psycho Taylor Grayson
stalker by any means, far from it…but I’d be lying if I
claimed I hadn’t masturbated, on multiple occasions,
to the moment in his new movie trailer where he does
something like forty pull ups without taking a break.
Taylor Grayson is a lot of things to America—
internationally beloved movie star, magazine cover
model, tabloid favorite—but most of all he’s a member
of just about every gay man and straight woman’s
“So will you do it?” Matty asks me, with a look
that combines the eyes of a sad puppy and the face of
someone wanting you to do their job for them.
How often, I think to myself, does one come face
to face with one of his ultimate sexual fantasies? Sure,
I live in Los Angeles, but it’s still not every day. I saw
Brad Pitt in a Trader Joe’s once, and I still talk about it
at dinner parties…and, to be honest, I’m not even
100% sure it was Brad Pitt. At the very least, this face
to face, this one on one with Taylor Grayson could be
just that—wonderful dinner party conversation. Like
the latest Pink album or whatever crazy thing Sherri
Shepherd has recently said on The View.
I worry, for a moment, about the age old advice:
“Never meet your idols.” But Taylor Grayson isn’t my
idol, he’s just someone I find very hot. Very, very,
insanely, drop dead, getting hard even thinking about
him…hot. Without a second thought, or a single doubt
in my head, I answer an immediate and eager: “Yes.”
*Excerpt posted with permission from Riverdale Avenue Books*
Hi, Jeffery, welcome to The Novel Approach, I’m so glad to have you here today. Before we start the Q&A, why don’t you start out by giving us the Jeffery Self story?
A. This is the first book I’ve had published. I technically wrote my second book before this first one but it doesn’t come out until May. It’s called Straight People: A Spotter’s Guide and is a humor book in the style of a bird watching field guide about straight people from my not straight point of view.
Before all of this I’ve mostly worked as an actor and sometimes writer. I had a sketch comedy show on Logo for a couple years with my friend Cole Escola, and on it we wrote/directed/edited/produced a half hour of REALLY weird comedy all out of my apartment in Manhattan.
Since then I moved to LA and have acted on other people’s TV shows like: 90210, Desperate Housewives, 30 Rock, etc.
Q. Being an actor yourself, how much of Taylor’s struggle could you relate to on a personal level?
A. I’ve never been closeted as an adult, like Taylor, so my struggles aren’t very similar to his. He’s also a world famous, super successful movie star…. another thing I am very much not.
Q. Well, I warned you this one was coming, so I might as well just get it out of the way: What made you decide to take the “50 Shades” erotic phenomenon and tell it with Alex and Taylor?
A. I was fascinated by the whole “Fifty Shades” craze for the way it was making readers, a lot of whom weren’t used to reading erotic fiction, look at sex in very obvious terms. More than anything, however, I was attracted to the romance novel genre and the over the top, exciting, high stakes, sexy, campy world one gets to create.
Alex and Taylor were my immediate idea of a way in. I’m really turned on by a lot of gorgeous A list movie stars (who isn’t?) and I think that everybody loves to imagine that some of the biggest movie stars in the world are secretly gay. So that sense of mystery really appealed to me.
Q. Will you share a little bit about the process of telling the story?
A. I definitely wrote Alex as a version of myself. So I mean half of the book is basically my own personal fantasy of myself and Channing Tatum.
Q. Whatever happened to Josh? (Sorry, Taylor, but I can’t help but wonder.)
A. Josh gets his heart broken but he’ll bounce back. He’s a gorgeous, sweet guy in LA who is ACTUALLY genuine. There are literally like three of those kind of people here.Q. What’s the best thing that’s happened to Taylor since he made the decision to come out? Is he kind of surprised that it ended up being somewhat non-eventish in terms of your career and how you were accepted?
A. I think more than anything it’s a lesson on forgetting what your hang ups and fears might make you believe. Leaving honestly is a pretty easy way to live, once you actually do it.
Q. How long did it take you to write “50 Shades of Gay”? What were the easiest and hardest parts of the story to tell?
A. I wrote it rather quickly and I think that came from the first person narrative. When you get the character’s voice in your head and you just start telling the story it’s hard to stop.
I’d say the hardest part was letting myself get comfortable with writing the sexy parts, and not immediately saying to myself: “Is this too much?” but instead “this could be hotter”.
Q. What did you ever do with that contract Taylor wanted Alex to sign?
A. They left it somewhere in La La Land.
Q. This question is for Taylor: Do you remember the exact moment you realized you loved Alex and were going to lose him if you didn’t make some changes?
A. When he told me he was moving to New York, I realized it was now or never. I’ve never been one to really over-think something… so, as usual, I just leapt.
Q. Jeffery, if you were to write a few short sentences that would give us an idea of what life is like for Alex and Taylor right now, what would that be?
A. Alex and Taylor move to New York at the end of the book but remain bicoastal. I think more than anything their lives improve for the better as they both finally learn how to ask for what they want and how to tell the truth.
Q. Does Taylor “do romance” now? I mean, you know, besides that whole coming out on national television thing.
A. Defintely. Before Alex, Taylor had never allowed himself to “do romance” before and I think that was a trust thing. Taylor has never been able to trust anyone, for fear of their exposing his secrets or trying to get something out of his fame and stature. With Alex, however, he finally meets a good hearted person who he feels secure with and once that happens, romance comes naturally.
Q. What’s next for you now that you’ve told Alex and Taylor’s story? Do you have any other works-in-progress?
A. My Straight People: A Spotter’s Guide book comes out in May and I’m in a new movie coming out on MTV this spring called Made: Ladies Man. I do NOT play the ladies man ;-)
Q. Would you like to tell everyone where they can find you on the internet?
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer some questions today, Jeffery!
Little by little the pieces and squares began to come to life and exchange impressions … Everything had acquired sense and at the same time everything was concealed … Only in the final instant was their secret spectacularly exposed. – Vladimir Nabokov (Chess)
I may very well be the one and only grown woman on the planet who has never read E.L. James’ 50 Shades of Grey. If you think that’s a heaping bit of hyperbole, well, it probably is, but I can at least say without the slightest exaggeration that I’m the only woman in my immediate family who hasn’t read it. Truth. And having made that point clear enough, now let it be known that my thoughts on Jeffery Self’s 50 Shades of Gay are not at all being influenced by any sort of comparison between the two books. Let it also be known that I can say with utmost confidence, never having read the other, that this version of the story is probably at least…100% more gay than the original. Just a guess. I don’t know much about the other, but I do know it’s a boy/girl story, so there.
What’s most definitely not a guess, though, is that I thought Jeffery Self’s version of events was pretty darn fun, and funny, and erotic, and if it maybe—just the teeniest bit—satirizes the one that started it all, I’m pretty much on board with that, even if it does give Christian Grey fans a wee case of the snits, and that’s okay. I’m very protective of the books I love too. But they do say impersonation is the sincerest form of flattery, after all, right? And, oh yes, where Alex and Taylor are concerned, turn-about is also really, really fair play.
50 Shades of Gay is narrated by loveable virgin and aspiring writer, Alex Kirby, a Michigan transplant to LaLa Land, who’s making ends meet as a cater waiter until he gets his big journalist break, which, as it happens, comes when his reporter roommate and all-around best friend Matty gets sick and asks Alex to fill in for him in an interview session with über-hunkalicious movie star, Taylor Grayson. Okay, maybe it’s not a big break, but it certainly is pivotal, even if it’s not quite pivotal in a journalistic sense, and even if the ultimate lesson nearly turns out to be that sometimes fantasy and reality are things best left unmet; otherwise one tends to influence the other until neither is quite capable of measuring up, which eventually leads to a lot of pain of the decidedly non-sexy variety for these two guys.
Taylor takes a rather instant and intense interest in Alex during that blink-and-you’ll-miss-it interview, and really, why wouldn’t he? In a town and in a business that’s a constant stream of mouth-spewing and spinning various forms of artifice into truth, Alex comes across as a refreshing breath of sincerity, albeit a not so slick sort of sincerity in that particular moment, but genuine nonetheless, and Taylor’s not about to let Alex get away until he’s had the chance to get a better feel for exactly who Alex is.
You can all probably guess right here and right now that Taylor Grayson is hiding a big fat secret from the world. Two big fat secrets: one that he’s gay, and the other that he’s into a bit of the kinkier side of sex. But you know what? That’s not even all there is to the enigmatic Mr. Grayson— He also has a deep-seated aversion to intimacy of any sort. And the most gnarly secret of all, the one that puts paid to any of Alex’s hope for a relationship, is the one that he discovers in quite possibly the most humiliating and painful way possible. Imagine all the conflict that combination breeds when Taylor sets his sights on perhaps the only man in Los Angeles who’s not looking to be anyone’s contractual obligation, even if that anyone is gorgeous and sexy and loaded, and has been the object of plenty of Alex’s masturbatory fantasies over the years.
And imagine Taylor’s surprise when Alex won’t sign on the dotted line and play the good little submissive the way he’s expected to. There’s nothing quite like having the tables turned, when the master gets schooled, and having options thrust upon you that force you into making a choice and shows you the difference between giving up a little control, or risking losing it entirely. It’s not an easy lesson to teach a man who’s in the business of controlling every aspect of his life in a business that has little to no regard for personal boundaries.
And then I cheered, because this is the part where Alex gets total props for taking Taylor on, beating the Dom at his own game of control, and finally making the man see that love should never have to be a win-lose proposition. Or even worse, what was very close to being a lose-lose proposition. Sometimes love, like chess, is a game of strategy and sacrifice, except in this game, Alex and Taylor both win.
In case it’s not all that obvious, I was so rooting for these guys. If you’ve read E.L. James’ books and any of this plot sounds at all familiar to you, then I can’t guess how you’ll react when/if you decide to read 50 Shades of Gay. Maybe that’ll depend upon how much you liked the “Grey” series. One thing I can say for sure is that I have a very distinct feeling that Alex and Taylor’s romance progressed quite a bit differently than the one in 50 Shades of Grey. Again, just a guess, but again, hello, boy/girl. 50 Shades of Gay ends up a case of complete role reversal for Taylor and Alex, then in a system of checks and balances, and I liked it in all its erotic potential.
After all, truth isn’t always stranger than fiction; sometimes truth just becomes the fiction.
And this fiction was truthfully a lot of fun for me.