Andrew Q. Gordon, Carole Cummings, DSP Publications, DSPP's Genre Talk

Guest Post: Genre Talk With Carole Cummings and Andrew Q. Gordon

DSP Publications

Ha, a weekend invasion from a couple of DSP Publications’ misfit toys! Hello, everyone! I’ve got Andrew Q. Gordon with me today, and because he’s awesome and generous, he comes bearing a gift. We’ve got a special price for The Novel Approach readers! So stay tuned ’til the end of the post.

For now, let’s jump right in and let Andrew tell us about his high fantasy novel, Book 1 of the Champion of the Gods series—The Last Grand Master:

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tna-dspp--andrew q gordon for 03-08In a war that shook the earth, the six gods of Nendor defeated their brother Neldin, god of evil. For three thousand years, Nendor and the Seven Kingdoms have known peace and prosperity and Neldin’s evil was nearly forgotten.

But then Meglar, wizard king of Zargon, unleashes the dark magic of the underworld and creates an army of creatures to carry out his master’s will. One by one, the sovereign realms fall as a new war between the gods threatens to engulf Nendor.

Leading the opposition to Meglar is Grand Master Farrell. Young and untried, Farrell carries a secret that could hold the key to defeating Meglar—or it could destroy the world.

Farrell is joined by Nerti, queen of the unicorns and Miceral, an immortal muchari warrior the Six have chosen as Farrell’s mate. As Farrell and his new allies make plans to counter Neldin’s evil, Meglar forces their hand when he invades a neighboring kingdom. Rushing to help their ally, Farrell and Miceral find themselves in the middle of the battle. Cut off from help, Farrell attempts an untried spell that will either turn the tide or cost he and Miceral their lives.

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Carole: Thanks for being here with us today, Andrew. How about we start off with genre, since that’s why we’re here. Tell us about yours.

Andrew: I write in many genres: High Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, and some Contemporary. I’ve got a definite Sci-fi story in my head that I want to write, but that’s so far down the future work in progress (FWIP) list that it’s hard to really say I write in that genre. But if I had to pick one genre as my primary one, it would be high fantasy. I’ve been a Tolkien fan for almost forty years and after his books, I read almost any fantasy book I could find. After reading Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar series, a story with a positive gay character, that sealed my love of the genre.

Carole: *high five* on the Tolkien! ;) So, was the Lackey revelation part of why you chose to write M/M?

Andrew: For me M/M is not so much a choice as part of who I am. The lack of positive images—and in many cases, no images—of gay protagonists, made me want to write about people like me as the ‘good guy.’ To me it’s personal. It’s who I am. I’ve spoken to other authors—men and women, straight and gay—and it’s the same for them. Either they are gay, or they have a child, sibling, best mate, whomever is important in their lives, etc., who is gay. We—and I include all the other authors in the MM genres—write as much to educate as to entertain.

Carole: Wow, I love that answer. Okay, so tell us about the Champion of the Gods series.

Andrew: The Champion of the Gods is a High Fantasy story that will be spread over 5 books. Book 1: The Last Grand Master was re-released February 10, 2015, and Book 2: The Eye and The Arm is due April 14, 2015. The series is going to follow Farrell, the last good grand master wizard on the continent of Ardus as he tries to stop Meglar from conquering the Seven Kingdoms of Ardus and ultimately the world.

Book 1 introduces us to Farrell, his life partner Miceral. We see them meet, fall in love, and ultimately experience how the war is going to test their relationship. There is a better than average chance Farrell won’t survive the final conflict, and that affects how he approaches his time with Miceral. We also meet his companions, Nerti, a unicorn, the giant peregrine brothers Grohl and Takala, and some of the lesser wizards who are helping Farrell prepare.

Book 2 begins the journey to the other continents of the world as Farrell and Miceral search for weapons to use in the fight. They are also searching for Farrell’s distant ancestor, the legendary wizard Grand Master Kel who disappeared two thousand years ago. Farrell is convinced Kel holds the key to many of the tasks he must complete before the final battle.

Carole: So definitely the highest of high fantasy. Awesome. Now, the Champion of the Gods is being published through DSP Publications, Dreamspinner Press’s imprint for nonromance genre novels. Tell us about the relationship in The Champion of the Gods and why it doesn’t fit the accepted definition of Romance in the M/M genre.

Andrew: A M/M Romance book means the romance is the primary plot device. Getting the two main characters together and keeping them together is the resolution to the story. That isn’t the case with the Champions series. In Champions, getting Miceral and Farrell together is just the start. Together they are going to take on the enemy who is trying to turn the world into an extension of Neblor (their world’s equivalent of Hell.)

In this, Champions is similar to stories like David Edding’s Belgaraid, or Tolkiens Lord of the Rings. There is an ultimate evil to be fought, and the main character is the one to do the fighting. Unlike those stories, however, Farrell isn’t a normal hobbit taking on the all-powerful Sauron, or Garion, a young but really powerful wizard about to take on a God. Farrell is a powerful wizard chosen by his gods to fight another powerful wizard, Meglar, who was chosen by his god.

So the romance is there, but it’s a small part of the story instead of the main conflict and source of tension.

Carole: Mm, sounds like one of those meaty plots a reader can really sink their teeth into. So tell us about the evolution of this story. What was its earliest incarnation as a concept and when did it begin to take the form of Champion of the Gods?

Andrew: Like most stories, Champions didn’t pop out like Athena from Zeus’ head. It took years to fully form. The initial version was a scene that will never make it into the book/series. That was a battle scene where the two sides have been fighting and Farrell activated a defensive spell to bar Meglar’s army from pursuing his forces. Only several of Meglar’s warped creatures scurried through before the wall was dropped. As the enemy pursues the tired rear guard, Farrell sends magical help. In the end, it looked very pretty and what not, but in practice it was completely silly in the context of the story that evolved.

Since then I’ve tweaked and changed and fixed and altered and…you get the idea. One thing I did that I’m glad for, is I wrote almost all five books before I submitted the first one. The end and epilogue are written and all that remains is to weave the final strands into the story and all five will be done. The benefit, I found, was to find ‘problems’ in the earlier books that would have boxed me into a corner. For instance, in book three I wanted to do something, but it was in total conflict with something earlier, but the new twisted needed to remain to keep the story from turning contrived. So, during the rewrite of book 1, I made changes that helped keep the story on track. I’ve also been incorporating those changes as I go over the rough draft and clean it up before submission.

That is when the story started to resemble what you see now.

Carole: Which begs the question: do you have a file of scrapped scenes on your hard drive somewhere, and how often do you use it?

Andrew: I have a fairly large file of ‘unused’ scenes. Pretty much because I wrote the entire series before I started to publish it, I have been pulling scenes out and saving them for future use. Not so much in Book 1, but quite a bit in books 2 & 3. In Book 3 that I’m finishing up the third draft right now, there was a major shift in how I presented a situation. It was more than just a tweak or a change of scene. I ended up fundamentally changing the cause/effect of a fairly key element of the story. It kept the element intake, but it made it more ‘believable’ in my mind. That said, there was a lot of information that I need to work into the overall story in order to get the end to stay on track. Enter the file of misfit scenes.

I’ve cut those sections, titled and put markers in the rest of the text to ensure I know where to find the scenes and more importantly, where to put them. I’ve used a fair number of misfit scenes so far, but I expect several will end up on the cutting room floor.

One last thought on this, there are some scenes that won’t make it into the books but they are nice background stories for the universe. At some point I might go back and use them either as blog posts or short stories to give a bit more depth to the to the overall world.

Carole: And I’m sure you’ve got fans who would just love to get their hands on those scrap files, Andrew. ;) One more question before you go: Why did you feel this story needed to be told with the M/M dynamic?

Andrew: I really can’t say why it was important for the story, but it is necessary for more than just – I wanted a gay character in my epic fantasy story. Suffice it to say, there is a reason why the gods made sure Farrell was attracted to men, and a reason why they sent him Miceral. Anymore and I’d give away something I want to hold onto until book four.

Carole: Perfect, Andrew, and thanks so much for being here with us today.

Readers, as promised, Andrew has generously arranged for a special sale price for you, and we’ll tell you more about in a moment. For now, please enjoy this intriguing excerpt from The Last Grand Master:

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Excerpt: “Prince Jursten.” Farrell’s voice drew all eyes to him. “I’d be remiss in my friendship if I didn’t warn you about your dinner companion.”

Alicia’s jaw tightened so much her lips almost disappeared. Ignoring the daggers she shot him with her eyes, he plastered his best court smile on his face. “She’s an expert conversationalist who will surprise you with her wit. Don’t let the pretty face fool you; she’s even smarter than she is lovely.”

For the first time since Farrell met her, Alicia blushed.

“And how is that a warning?” Jursten turned back to Alicia. “A compliment such as that is hard to disagree with.”

The color deepened in Alicia’s cheeks, prompting her to glare at him. “It would appear….”

“Princess, did you tell Jursten we might go riding tomorrow?” Farrell arched an eyebrow, daring her to risk her invitation.

Peter sniggered next to him, then busied himself arranging his silverware when his sister looked his way. Jursten looked from Farrell to Alicia, then back.

He grinned at Farrell before turning to his new companion. “How badly did you make him blush?

“He was almost as red as Prince Kerstand’s shirt.” She pointed to the scarlet tunic signifying Honal’s royal colors. “But it was an innocent mistake. Twice he answered the door shirtless and sweating. What else was I to think other than my virtue was at stake?”

Miceral roared, but Farrell kept his smile without turning red. “Help me out here. Miceral, what was that comment she made about us being—”

“That was an honest mistake too.” Alicia looked fit to burst as she spoke through clenched teeth.

“Payback?” Kerstand asked.

“Of course.” Farrell nodded seriously. “She delighted in making me squirm. I thought she enjoyed the feeling. I guess I was wrong.”

Jursten took Alicia’s hand and patted it fondly. “Maybe later I can tell you some of the things I said to embarrass him. For instance, the time he met the Count of Durtress’s youngest son. Poor Farrell’s eyes nearly popped out of his skull when he heard the young man was interested in him.”

Farrell rolled his eyes but stopped when he saw Miceral staring at him.

“Son of a count?” He smirked. “How come I never heard this one?”

“Because the oaf had cabbage between his ears and couldn’t speak in complete sentences.” Farrell tried to frown but couldn’t keep it from turning into a smile. “But he was nice to look at and—”

“Oh my.” Alicia giggled. “You can make yourself blush. I’m impressed.”

“To be fair to Farrell,” Jursten said, drawing attention back to him, “Fentar was quite handsome and athletic. If he understood politics a bit better, he might have gone far.”

“What happened to the strapping young Fentar?” Alicia turned her head slowly toward Farrell, eyebrow raised.

Farrell cocked his head to the right, looking toward Jursten. “He did join with the son of that Arvendian clan chief, Gelg, didn’t he?”

“Sub-clan chief,” Jursten corrected. “They counted his strength and athleticism more highly than having an advanced degree.”

“Poor Fentar.” Farrell sighed.

“Why?” Alicia looked confused. “Sounds like he found his perfect mate.”

“Oh, he did.” Jursten laughed. “It’s just, well, Endor is one of the few kingdoms devoted to the God of Wisdom. Fentar wasn’t an especially adept follower and never really fit in at court.”

“If I recall correctly”—Farrell smiled at his friend—“you arranged for Gelg to bring his son to court when you knew Fentar would be there.”

“Your memory is somewhat selective.” Jursten turned to Alicia. “Fentar was very taken with Farrell. I mean, he swooned whenever Farrell came near. It was… embarrassing to his father and my father. Farrell heard that Gelg’s son was attracted to men and was looking for a mate. He let drop that bit of information in a most suggestive way.”

He glanced at Farrell, who shrugged. “What? Your father was about to exile Fentar. All I did was mention how it might be a good match.”

“Wait.” Alicia put her free hand up, leaving the one under Jursten’s. “How did you know Gelg’s son was looking for a mate?”

Jursten smirked. “Gelg wanted to match him with Farrell, who of course had enough of the handsome but dumb-as-a-stone type.”

“So why did you get involved?” Miceral’s expression told Farrell he’d have to give more details up when they were alone.

“Um… well….” Jursten suddenly looked uncomfortable.

“Jursten owed me a favor.” Farrell earned a look of gratitude from his friend. “I ran interference when a particularly obnoxious mother wanted to pair her equally obnoxious daughter with Jursten at a state dinner. I made sure she sat next to me instead.”

“And that helped how?” Alicia seemed amused and kept stealing glances at Jursten.

“Sitting next to the Prince of Haven is an honor every mother dreams of for her unmarried daughter.” Jursten’s chuckle became a full laugh.

“Unless the prince isn’t interested in women.” Farrell tried to look innocent. “Then it becomes a wasted social opportunity.”

“It sounds like you two have quite an interesting history together.” Alicia smiled coyly at Jursten.

“Jursten was my first real friend.” Farrell turned serious but still smiled. “He wasn’t a teacher, mentor, vassal, subject, court dandy looking for something, or any of the other people I dealt with on a daily basis. We were both young, and aside from him trying to fix me up with all sorts of hideous men—”

“Please, you told Duchess Helena I mentioned her daughter to you fondly.” Jursten rolled his eyes. “Do you remember how much trouble we both got in when Father had to deal with the old battle-ax?”

“Not attractive?” Kerstand asked.

“She was forty-three and I was twenty-four!” Jursten pointed at Farrell. “He knew the Duchess was desperate to find a suitable husband for Jonice, and his little comment had the old woman practically sprinting for my father’s chambers.”

“That was the closest Clement ever came to yelling at me.” Farrell nodded at the memory. “But the two-hour lecture on the finer points of marriage diplomacy was enough that I never did that again.”

Alicia turned to Jursten. “You will have to tell me more about your adventures.”

Peter rolled his eyes, but his sister kept flirting with Jursten and didn’t notice.

“After dinner,” Jursten said, smiling back, “it would be my pleasure to regale you with some of our more amusing adventures.”

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Author BioAndrew Q. Gordon wrote his first story back when yellow legal pads, ball point pens were common, and a Smith Corona correctable typewriter was considered high tech. Adapting with technology, he now takes his MacBook somewhere quiet when he wants to write.

He currently lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his partner of nineteen years, their daughter and dog. In addition to dodging some very self-important D.C. ‘insiders’, Andrew uses his commute to catch up on his reading. When not working or writing, he enjoys soccer, high fantasy, baseball and seeing how much coffee he can drink in a day.

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Get your copy of The Last Grandmaster for only $.99 (this week only!) at DSP Publications and Amazon.

Want to make sure you don’t miss Book 2 of the Champions series? Follow Andrew via his website, or like his Author Page on Facebook.

You can also follow Andrew on Twitter, Google+, or his personal Facebook page.

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3 thoughts on “Guest Post: Genre Talk With Carole Cummings and Andrew Q. Gordon

  1. “For me M/M is not so much a choice as part of who I am. The lack of positive images—and in many cases, no images—of gay protagonists, made me want to write about people like me as the ‘good guy.’ To me it’s personal. It’s who I am. I’ve spoken to other authors—men and women, straight and gay—and it’s the same for them. Either they are gay, or they have a child, sibling, best mate, whomever is important in their lives, etc., who is gay. We—and I include all the other authors in the MM genres—write as much to educate as to entertain.”

    THIS.

    As a twenty-something gay man, I know I’m not the “typical” audience for M/M literature. People are often surprised to hear I read it, but I am so glad I stumbled across it. Gay romance is, for me, not about sexy guys so much as it’s about being able to enter into a world where gay men can be triumphant heroes. It is sooo refreshing – and empowering – to be able to read something where “someone like me” not only exists, but is more than a comedic charicature out on the sidelines.

    THANK YOU Andrew Gordon, and everyone at Dreamspinner Press, for helping me enjoy these experiences.

    Liked by 1 person

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