Carole Cummings, DSPP's Genre Talk, Giveaways, Lex Chase

DSP Publications Presents: Genre Talk and a Giveaway with Carole Cummings and Lex Chase

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Wednesday greetings, Awesome Readers! Today here on Genre Talk, we’ve got DSP Publications author Lex Chase stopping by The Novel Approach Reviews as the 7th stop on a 9-part blog tour. So let’s just sit back and let her do all the work. ;)

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Hello Internet! I’m Lex Chase and Carole and Lisa are awesome enough to have me over for Genre Talk! I’m here to share a bit about my upcoming anthology Checkmate Ever After from DSP Publications. It’s a story about the dizzying highs, the terrifying lows, and the creamy middle of disgraced superhero Memphis Rook and his rise to redemption alongside his sidekick/boyfriend Hogarth Dawson. In Hogarth’s happy, perky, way too much caffeine, way to little sleep POV, he relays Rook’s dark and angsty story through the rose-colored glasses of a hyperactive chipmunk.

So, one of the Genre Talk questions that I decided to write an entire post about is “what makes your book different from other m/m books.” I had been filling out the question, but this post ended up falling out.

There is a book of every flavor, and a different reader a connoisseur. Cowboys? Check. Firemen? Check. Cops. Cooks. Spies. Spooks. Sports stars and porn stars.

Welcome to the buffet.

There is nothing wrong with any of those tropes. And Rule #1 of Geekdom is “Don’t Be A Dick.” So many people already write those, and they do it far better than I ever could.

Now, superheroes? That’s my thing. Give me any “Superheroes in [FILL IN THE BLANK]” trope and I eat it up like the fistfuls. I have a hardcore weakness for Superheroes In High School. Don’t judge. My favorite movie of all time with this trope being Disney’s Sky High.

I grew up reading comics, drawing comics, eating, sleeping, and breathing comics. I was once considered a local guru on what was the hottest, what was appropriate for kids, that subtitled anime actually taught reading comprehension and fostered intrest in foreign language. Yes. Really.

But my problem with LGBT representation in comics is…a complicated thing. There was either LGBT slice-of-life stories, which I did rather enjoy. But, I could see that in my own life. So. Eh.

Enter “Gay Superhero” comics. You have guys with packages as large as baseball bats and are a veritable fountain of fluids. Overdrawn muscles, veins upon veins, and perpetual “O” faces. Straight up fap material.

I wanted saving the day. I wanted messages of with great power comes great responsibility. I wanted to see guys that I, you, everyone could look up to. Guys people wanted to cosplay and kids wanted to dress as for Halloween. I wanted heroes. Not a porn star in a cape.

One of the things I love about mainstream comics such as Marvel and DC, these characters being larger than life, they still have very human issues. Issues like infidelity, conflicting political and religious views, dealing with grief, addiction, alcoholism, HIV/AIDs, even rape. These characters appealed to those that didn’t think they had a voice. These characters never failed their readers as the world around them did.

These characters taught us how to pick ourselves up. How to take a stand. And how to fly.

These characters were never meant to be just as dirty as your neighbor’s crusty Penthouses.

That’s where Checkmate Ever After comes in.

It’s my love letter to superheroes and pop culture. From the references to the comedy, the very real human issues, and everything in the middle.

Rook and Garth save the day with heroic deeds, and klutzy misadventures, but never with the “healing power of cock.” Rook and Garth are extraordinary guys living in a world that’s more extraordinary than they are, therefore making them just okay.

It takes the whizz! bang! of shiny flawless superheroes, and injects a dose of reality into them. Rook may be able to bench press a Buick with his pinky, but he still puts on his leather pants one leg at a time. Garth can barely pay his bills and is an utter penny pincher. But they still answer the call to danger without a second thought.

They’re the guys that I want to communicate to readers young and old, you can believe again. That there is good in the world.

So. What makes Checkmate Ever After different from most m/m? Well. There’s no cowboys or firemen. Cops or cooks. Spies or spooks. Sports stars or porn stars. It has two dorky superheroes in love doing the best they can with what they got. It’s got guys living in a larger than life world, and being the voice of those voiceless bullied kids that hid behind comics and sci-fi/fantasy novels. It’s being the voice of those voiceless kids that grew into equally timid voiceless adults.

At it’s core, fun story full of humor and heartbreaking peril. But at the end of the day, I want readers to take away one thing:

You are extraordinary.


Genre: Sci-Fi Superhero Comedy
Length: Novel Anthology
Published: December 15, 2015
Publisher: DSP Publications
ISBN: 978-1-63476-462-9
Buy: Paperback (and get the eBook for free!) or only the eBook

Blurb:

2nd Edition (Books One – Three)

The day disgraced superhero Memphis Rook literally fell into Hogarth Dawson’s lap, you could say it was fate. But the brawny Rook did nearly crush Garth’s pancreas. What started as two ships passing in the night ended on the weirdest adventure of their lives. Together, Rook and Garth form Checkmate, a daring super duo that keeps Axis City safe from a rogue’s gallery of nefarious villains, dastardly masterminds, and a coalition of calamity. Fighting evil wherever it appears-from reality shows to comic book conventions-Checkmate serves up knuckle sandwiches of justice. But by day, they’re a couple of broke losers who can barely afford a burger and navigating a weird thing called a relationship. Ain’t true love grand? Rook and Garth may be in over their heads, and even super heroes fail sometimes, but they’re ready to take a stand when no one else will. Don’t hate the players, because Checkmate owns the game.

1st Edition of Pawn Takes Rook published by Dreamspinner Press, 2013.

1st Edition of Cashing the Reality Check published by Dreamspinner Press, 2013.

1st Edition of Conventional Love published by Dreamspinner Press, 2014.

And the all new fourth novella Miracle in Axis City and bonus short What The Water Gave Me, exclusive to the anthology!


About the Author:

madison_parker_MG_4269-WEBLex Chase once heard Stephen King say in a commercial, “We’re all going to die, I’m just trying to make it a little more interesting.” Now, she’s on a mission to make the world a hell of a lot more interesting.

Weaving tales of cinematic, sweeping adventure-and depending on how she feels that day-Lex sprinkles in high-speed chases, shower scenes, and more explosions than a Hollywood blockbuster. Her pride is in telling stories of men who kiss as much as they kick ass. If you’re going to march into the depths of hell, it better be beside the one you love.

Lex is a pop culture diva, her DVR is constantly backlogged, and unapologetically loved the ending of Lost. She wouldn’t last five minutes without technology in the event of the apocalypse and has nightmares about refusing to leave her cats behind.

She is grateful for and humbled by all the readers. She knows very well she wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them and welcomes feedback.

You can find her in the Intarwebz here:
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/LXChase
Twitter: http://twitter.com/Lex_Chase
Tumblr: http://lexiconofkittens.tumblr.com
Instagram: http://instagram.com/lexachase
Site: http://lexchase.com


Who is your superhero? Is it someone fictional? Or someone in your life?

Drop your comment below and click the giveaway banner to enter for a chance to win a 25 USD Amazon Gift Card!


Follow the Checkmate Ever After Tour!

12/1 – Charlie Cochet’s Purple Rose Tea House

12/3 – Tali Spencer

12/5 – Sinfully Gay Romance Book Reviews

12/5 – Erin McRae and Racheline Maltese

12/7 – Aidee Ladnier

12/9 – Genre Talk on The Novel Approach

12/12 – Gaylist Book Reviews

12/15 – Checkmate Ever After Release Day!

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Hey, Genre Talk is now on Facebook! To keep up with all the happenings, and get a glimpse of future fun things, please LIKE our fanpage and JOIN our group. We look forward to seeing you all there!

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The Fine Print:

*Entrants must be 18 years or older to qualify
*Some residency restrictions may apply
*All comments must be relevant to the author’s prompt to be eligible (when applicable)
*The Novel Approach will not be held liable for prize delivery unless otherwise specified
*Void where prohibited by law

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Carole Cummings, DSPP's Genre Talk, Giveaways, T.A. Venedicktov

DSP Publications Presents: Genre Talk and a Giveaway with Carole Cummings and T.A. Venedicktov

DSP Publications

Hello, Awesome Readers, and thanks for joining us here at The Novel Approach Reviews for another edition of Genre Talk. Today we have double the fun as we welcome DSP Publications author (or is that authors?) T.A. Venedicktov, here to tell us all about the upcoming Science Fiction release, Chrysalis Corporation. We also have a fab giveaway, so let’s get right to the good stuff!

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Chrysalis CorporationChrysalis Corporation

Together, they can change the rules of the galaxy and the definition of humanity.

When Damion Hawk is offered an opportunity to escape the destitute life of a miner on Mars and become an elite Alpha Fighter pilot, he jumps at the chance. Within the Chrysalis Corporation, Damion must learn to work with his Core—a man with computerized implants, no human emotions—and no rights. But unlike other Fighters, Damion can’t treat Core 47 as a tool. He sees 47 as more than a machine, and he’ll take deadly risks to help 47 find the humanity inside him.

Fighters and Cores are designed to work together and enhance each other’s strengths in defense of their employer. Damion and 47 will need each other’s support as suspicions about the all-powerful Chrysalis Corporation arise. Someone wants Damion and 47 gone, and they need to find out who and why while hiding 47’s growing emotions and the love forming between them. If they can succeed, they might save not only themselves, but all Cores enslaved by the Corporation.

Chrysalis Corporation is available for preorder now from DSP Publications.

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Carole: Okay, so let’s get this out of the way first, to make things easier on our Awesome Readers: T.A. Venedicktov is, in actuality, two authors—T.C. Nocte and Ariana Juno. They are the twisted minds behind the soon to be released SF novel, Chrysalis Corporation. They’re two women with varied backgrounds yet share similar goals. They want to give readers new worlds and characters to fall in love with, whether it be sci-fi, mystery, paranormal, fantasy, or really anything Ariana comes up with. Chrysalis Corporation is the first novel in the Chrysalis Corporation series as well as their first novel to be published.

So! Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s move on to why we’re all here. So, TC and AJ—tell us about your genre.

TC: With the 10 or so different ‘stories’ that Ariana and I have written together over the years, Chrysalis Corporation is the only sci-fi one. All the others are mostly paranormal with a scatter of fantasy. We started writing CCorp about . . . 5 or 6 years ago. I grew up watching Star Trek, Babylon 5, Stargate, and many more, so my definition of sci-fi varies. While Ariana (as usual) created the idea for CCorp, I took on the technology and planet/moon communities and ran with it. Unlike the majority of sci-fi shows, movies, and books, CCorp is kept within our solar system (for now?) while all the others take place in other galaxies. I loved the idea of going outside our own writing galaxy and turning from our typical paranormal ‘stories’ and writing within the sci-fi genre. There are no limits when it comes to sci-fi, whether it takes place within our current timeline or in the far future.

AJ: I would define sci-fi as any story which treads the lines between space exploration and paranormal. The idea of the impossible, although science is catching up to most space stories, we’re still not there yet in our achievements. I found the inspiration in a blending of many ideas, books, and TV shows. I fell in love with the idea of trying something different. I don’t believe I’ve read a book like CCorp out there yet.

TC: That’s so true. I’ve also never read anything like CCorp before. There’s the saying that no idea is original. However, I think Ariana really hit the idea nail on the head and I very much doubt that we’ll be accused of stealing someone else’s idea. Especially since we’ve been working on CCorp for so long.

Carole: Interesting process, and the story definitely sounds unique. So, why M/M?

TC: Umm *laughs* Because it’s something that both Ariana and I are interested in. We actually met *mumbles* years ago on a storyboard site that I joined back in the day of text only internet. The subject of the storyboard was a combo of two things that I loved, the anime Ronin Warriors and the comic, Elfquest. When the storyboard eventually died years later, Ariana and I decided to continue writing together and our first ‘story’ naturally just ended up being M/M. And we haven’t stopped since.

AJ: I have written f/m, f/f, and m/m. This story evolved with a m/m story line. There are heterosexual characters in the novel. The main characters happened to end up being two males. I hope over time the sexual orientation in novels will not have to be segregated. We could have changed the story to a m/f approach but it would no longer be the story we loved.

TC: That is very true. M/F or F/F just wouldn’t work for CCorp. The main characters, Damian and Re-*coughs* 47, have the masculinity that’s needed for this book. It wouldn’t really work with any other gender coupling. For example, if Damian were female instead, I doubt there would be the roughness in the story that 47 needs to get past certain hurdles. Perhaps female Damian would be more emphatic towards 47 and all other Cores plight much sooner, or more so even. ((And yes, there are female Alpha Fighters and Cores. They’re just not really apparent in the first novel because the Corporation keeps them separated))

Getting into why CCorp needs to be M/M for it to work would take much more time. Maybe a long blog post on our website, we’ll see. *laughs*

Carole: We’ll all look forward to that. :) Okay, so now tell us something about Chrysalis Corporation. Something you really want readers to know about this story.

AJ: I would want people to know the book opens up many, many possibilities. We have rough drafts of several diverging paths this universe can take, and will take, if DSPP will have us as well as any fans of the series we pick up. I want readers to know not to expect a raging love story. Our characters help the story but they’re not magically in love.

TC: There have only been one set of characters where their love life is puppies and rainbows – in the beginning. It’s simple and beautiful – and it ‘ends’ in . . . never mind. Spoilers. We hope to introduce them to you one day.

Carole: Chrysalis Corporation is being published through DSP Publications, Dreamspinner Press‘s imprint for nonromance genre novels. Tell us about the relationship in Chrysalis Corporation and why it doesn’t fit the accepted definition of Romance in the M/M genre.

AJ: The DSP Publications label was a surprise to us, but a happy one. The conflict between Damion and his Core is more than just sexual. There are many layers of challenge for them to dig through. You want Damion to figure his problems out and have him admit his love. The challenge is Damion having to go against everything he knows and throw away everything he’s achieved. He’s a poor boy who has finally become an Alpha Fighter pilot. If Luke Skywalker had just walked away from being a pilot and gone against the Empire for a cute Twi’lek then we would have all been very disappointed.

TC: In all honesty, to be put under the shiny new imprint last year as new authors to the company was a complete and amazing surprise for us. We submitted to DSP and when we heard that we were not only going to be accepted for DSP but for a NEW imprint called DSP Publications – it blew my mind. And made perfect sense once I read back through it (the 1,000th time). Our two main characters – Damion and 47 – have a very slow bubbled ‘romance’. Between 47’s inability to ‘feel’ natural emotions and Damion’s constant ‘I’m straight, what the hell am I doing’ attitude, it’s not an easy or natural thing for them to do. But it was fun figuring it out. :)

Carole: It sounds it! So then 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 Chrysalis Corporation?

AJ: I had been in a slump of a sorts and reading a lot of novels off of both DSP and Amazon. I hadn’t found anything sci-fi in a while to catch my interest. Plenty of fantasy but sci-fi was not so prevalent. I think it was shortly after my first born came or before but I was flipping through a Game Informer and thought – what if we could plug into computers? It snow balled from there.

TC: *points to AJ* It’s all her fault. *laughs* It’s true. She comes up with all the initial ideas and I just run with it. Since we didn’t have something to work from in the sci-fi world, everything needed to be made to fit our needs. When I was on tour, I racked up so much ink and paper in hotel business lounges for research on all the planets AND all their moons. How did people evolve on each of these planets/moons? What did these places and people look like? How did the first pioneers adapt these ‘inhospitable’ planets into some place to live to thrive? I would spend entire shows (between ques) writing up these notes in my notebook. For every single planet. For every single moon, even ones we may never use – I wanted the info to be there.

Carole: So with all that going on, why did you feel this story needed to be told with the M/M dynamic?

AJ: The main reason we kept the M/M story instead of changing it to a F/M was the characters. Damion, Juni, 108, 47, all of them, plus more, became very vivid over the course of a year. It had no bearing on our own sexual orientations. The characters and their orientations became very set in stone through the progression of the story. It would have been forced and would have ruined the story if we changed it to F/M.

TC: (Over the course of a YEAR, AJ?? Seriously?!) Precisely, the dynamic wouldn’t have worked as well. Damion has to be a bit hard handed with 47 at times because as a Core who doesn’t have any emotions, he can be pretty damn stubborn. As I said before, the relationship for Damion and 47 was slow-burning. It’s a gradual process for Damion, who never really thought of himself as gay, but has an overwhelming pull towards 47 but doesn’t want the Core to think Damion just wants to use 47 like 47’s former Alpha Fighters did. Nor did Damion want to be the kind of Alpha that thought of their Cores as nothing but tools. He can see the humanity within 47 where many others Alpha Fighters use their Core as either a box wrench or a vibrator.

I think it enhances the story because it’s so much in the future that even as we’re making strides in today’s world with equality and equal opportunity for LGBTQ, there still will always be bigots. Even if it’s something that’s been considered ‘normal’ for hundreds of years.

Carole: Too true, alas. So will you write any stories not part of this universe? Or in a different genre?

TC: Will we write any stories not of this universe? *laughs* We have already. Many of them. One or two of them over 900 pgs and still not complete. We started off writing paranormal and stuck with that for a little while. We’ve done fantasy as well. We’ve stolen characters from other stories and made them human because, why not? As for whether or not some of them end up on the publishing block, (if they even can, some are way too in-cohesive [note: 900pg story and going]) it’s a possibility. We have Spook, Riders, Blood Brothers & Trifecta (which will probably be kept in the closet), Ashes, Just for Fun (which is where we write just to write), and many others.

Right now, all of concentration is on CCorp and the stories and characters within the CCorp universe and timeline. AJ has so many ideas for the CCorp Universe outside of the main story/timeline (a few that we’ve already written) that we’ll be busy with our boys and getting them into trouble. There’s SO much to tell.

AJ: I think as long as we’re able to put out quality work to submit to the company then, yes, we would write more. We also need to be able to write, something I’ve been lacking in time for lately, and so I hope we can give the readers more to read for CCorp and other universes sooner than later.

Carole: We’ll all look forward to that. Thanks so much to TC and AJ for joining us here on Genre Talk, and thanks to all you Awesome Readers for tagging along. There’s a giveaway to deal with yet, so don’t go away yet! For now, please enjoy this excerpt from Chrysalis Corporation then scroll down for the Rafflecopter widget and details.

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Excerpt: “We will be reporting to Commander Sandrite to have your assignment made official and also to retrieve your room access card and pass for the Zodiac vessel.” The Core announced the orders in a monotone voice. Typical for a Core, or so Damion had heard. This was all completely new to him. His brow furrowed in confusion. He’d been working hard to eventually achieve command of “his own” Zodiac, but he hadn’t expected it to be so soon or to be receiving one in such a manner. All junior pilots had aspirations to be assigned to a Beta ship that they would share with other pilots before finally working their way to Alpha status and a Zodiac-class ship of their own.

Achieving Alpha rank so quickly was unheard of. Until today.

“A bit soon, isn’t it? I haven’t even met any other Cores, and I’ve only become part of the Beta squad.” Only top pilots—the Alphas—were paired with Cores. Ten Alphas were in command of a unit of twenty Betas each, along with working as a unit with ten other Alphas. This brought the Zeus attack fleet to a total number of 210 ships available for deployment. Unless there was a large battle or they had to practice maneuvers as a unit with their Alpha leader, Betas generally stayed on the ship and worked with simulation units, which had proved boring to Damion so far. Although that didn’t mean he was ready to become an Alpha.

“You do not need to,” the Core replied without looking at him. The doors opened, and the Core waited until Damion exited first before doing so himself. “You have already been chosen by a Core. Therefore there is no need for you to meet others. We are the ones who pick our Alpha Fighters. The Fighters do not pick the Core. It is not ‘a bit soon,’ as you say, for one such as yourself.”

The Core began walking down the corridor beside Damion, obviously leading him but not walking in front of him.

“Right, but how can I be chosen if none of the other Cores have met me?”

Damion was starting to feel even more unbalanced than before. He felt as if he were talking to a wall or a computer console, but knew that if he were truly going to be an Alpha, he would have to adjust to the way Cores spoke, no matter the frustration. If the Commander didn’t laugh him out of his office first.

“You were chosen before you arrived on the Zeus,” the Core stated as if it explained everything. He paused at Commander Sandrite’s gray office door.

Damion sighed as he pulled on the edge of his uniform to straighten out any remaining wrinkles. “I hope you’re not being extremely obtuse on purpose.”

The Core finally turned to him, his odd-hued eyes meeting Damion’s through a length of bangs. “What do you need me to explain? I assumed I was being clear.”

“You didn’t answer my question,” Damion replied, glancing at the door. A hint of excitement joined the nausea in his stomach. “There is no way someone can choose me if they haven’t met me. It’s impossible.”

“Nothing is impossible, and anything deemed such should be proven otherwise,” the Core stated matter-of-factly, some essence of almost emotion flashing in his eyes. He turned to the door himself. “As I have just proven.”

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Author BioAuthor Bio: T.A. Venedicktov is in reality two people.

A, Ariana Juno, is a full-time working single mother with a love of chai tea lattes and tumblr. When Ariana is not working or raising two amazing children, she is plotting with her co-author. Ariana has been in the medical field for fifteen years and has a love of travel. She lives in the Midwest and has an ice cream habit which calls for an intervention. Ariana daydreams most of the plots of the T.A. novels—daily, hourly, nonstop, which drives TC nuts at times. Even though Ariana’s constant stream of ideas for even more new characters and books may drive TC crazy, TC knows that without Ariana they wouldn’t be where they are today.

T, TC Nocte, is a full-time mom with a vast background in theatre. (No, not as an actor. She wanted to actually make money so became a touring theatrical carpenter.) TC has traveled all over the US as well as outside to multiple countries when she was still touring and strives to visit many more in her future. She’s the main headliner in regards to editing and keeping their writing in order, as well as trying to untangle all of Ariana’s random ideas. TC lives in Florida with her consort and his three human children that she has claimed as well as three cat babies. She’s been battling Primary Sjogren’s Disease (https://www.sjogrens.org/home/about-sjogrens/symptoms) and RA while drinking coffee and kicking ass.

The duo has been writing unprofessionally for over a decade together and hope to share their twisted but lovable characters with the world.

You can follow T.A. Venedicktov via their Website, Facebook, Twitter, or just drop them an Email. You can also find them at their DSPP Author Page.

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Want to win an e-copy of Chrysalis Corporation? Just give TC and AJ your ebook file format preference in the comments section then click on the Rafflecopter widget and post your entry. (Don’t forget to include your email address!) A winner will be chosen on Chrysalis Corporation release day, November 17th. Good luck to all!

Rafflecopter Giveaway

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Join us next time on Genre Talk when we’ll get Lex Chase to tell us what Rook and Garth are up to these days with their upcoming 2nd Edition release of Checkmate Ever After!

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Carole Cummings, DSPP's Genre Talk, J Tullos Hennig

DSPP Presents: Genre Talk With Carole Cummings and J Tullos Hennig

DSP Publications

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the latest edition of Genre Talk. Today DSP Publications author J Tullos Hennig—Historical Fantasy maven of the Books of the Wode series—has agreed to come and take the helm, and give us a historical perspective on Romance. (Romance. On Genre Talk! I know, right?!) So if any of you have ever wondered about the origins of Romance as a genre, and its various permutations over the years, buckle up—or, rather, unrip those bodices—and read on!

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ROMANCE—12th Century Style
J Tullos Hennig

So.

When I first pitched this particular idea to Our Fair & Fearless Leader (a.k.a. Genre Talk Co-ordinator Carole Cummings) she blinked at me. Said, “You’re going to talk about Romance for Genre Talk? You.”

Yes, I said. Why not?

At the time we were kvetching about the modern, (and bloody foolish, let’s just say it) notion that if a book or movie doesn’t open with the equivalence of a car chase and shootout, then ‘nothing’s happening’. We were coming up with examples, both written and filmed, where there was no shootout equivalent, but to say nothing was happening was just, well, wrong. The Lion in Winter (the original with Hepburn and O’Toole) was mentioned as a masterpiece of dialogue and in-depth characterization.

(And let’s get this out of the way right now… if you say to either of us that The Lion In Winter is one of those movies in which ‘nothing happens’, then you’d better duck. Seriously. Because there was a ton of happenings in that movie; those characters, that dialogue, and people who staged it told an amazing story.)

All asides aside, I mentioned to the FFL that watching this movie so long ago was the beginning of my fascination and admiration for Eleanor of Aquitaine and the early Plantagenets. And since Eleanor plays a minor, if rather influential, role in the upcoming Wode trilogy (including in the newest offering, Winterwode, now available from DSP Publications… and yes, that is a shameless plug, why?) then I can, in fact, talk about the modern genre of Romance, because Eleanor was instrumental in its invention.

This can be argued, certainly. Not only because everything to do with history will have many fiery-eyed historians fencing over it, believe me, but also this:

Either Eleanor did us an amazing service by breaking societal expectations and, through her patronisation of the arts, further arm a burgeoning cultural revolution based on secular ideals, reason, and the individuated journey, complete with personal sacrifice and fulfillment…

Or an overly idealistic woman, who had been thwarted once too often by society, her marriage partners, fate, and her own biology, decided to spearhead an idealised and over-entitled bit of claptrap that has spawned such things as Disney princesses and the oft-horrific ideal that if we don’t have a “Happily Ever After” then we have somehow failed as human beings.

(Neither argument is quite true, though I will admit subscribing to either theory on alternate Thursdays. ) ;)

But either way Eleanor, a powerful, amazing, and intelligent woman no matter how you parse it, is arguably the one who enabled a lasting portal into the ideal of modern romance.

A little context, first. Contrary to popular belief, life in the early Middle Ages wasn’t all about the “nasty, brutish and short”, and neither were its people. The years circa 1100-1250 A.C.E. are also known as the ‘12th Century Renaissance’. There was an upsurge of the sciences, particularly in the Middle East. Cross-culturalism was a fact, despite—and in some ways, due to—religious war and crusade. Expressions of the arts were in high esteem about this time, not only in the Middle East but Western Europe, with writers, musicians and poets—particularly the trouvère and the troubadour—thriving from high courts to tavern hearths.

And those expressions were changing. Before, they were articulated through the means of the Epic, or chanson de geste, such as The Song of Roland, or the vast amount of Matter of _____ (fill in the blank with some country’s name). They were focused on a hero—usually larger than life, with massive thews and equally-as-massive entitlement, real and imagined—and that hero’s involvement with societal, national and familial doings. Robin Hood began life in this vein; one of his major introductory tales is called A Gest of Robyn Hode.

The mediaeval Romance, on the other hand, had as its focus the individual and interior struggles of that hero. Take The Tale of Gamelyn (I’ve certainly taken it and ran!), which is classified as a Romance. There is no ‘romance’ in it—at least not the way modern audiences would describe it. The only mention that remotely resembles a lover is an unnamed wife he receives at the story’s end complete with his inheritance, therefore more prize than anything. But it is a Romance, by all the definitions of its time: it is a character study, a rather violent journey of an individual (Gamelyn) from dispossession into his own. It’s one of the original Cinderella-type stories, in fact (and without the nasty subtext of ‘just be a ‘good girl’ and take it, and you’ll get that prince’).

The original definition of the Romance could therefore be perceived in two words: character development.

This is where it gets a bit more tangly. From that surge of interest in the individual came interest in all the things that make up an individual: the interior strengths and weaknesses that come along with food, fighting and fornication. Learning was valued. Accepted values were more and more being questioned. The weather cooperated, too; the fire-blasted North had mostly recovered from the Norman Conquest, and pastures and crops waxed abundant. As did the people. All classes were living at a higher standard than before, so there was also the very real problem of lots of children. Territorial children. Daughters raised to manage their dower with iron fingers in velvet gloves, and sons who were raised to fight, covered in iron and leather with no velvet whatsoever. A bunch of bully boys with meat cleavers and pig stickers were, literally, terrorizing the country.

Kids those days!

The religious institutions came up with one answer: send ‘em on Crusade. Scorn nature and kill the godless infidels. But there was another answer, and it came from more secular means. Celebrate nature—in its place, mind—and perhaps nick some of the least offensive ideas from the godless infidels.

(Because, really, they weren’t that much more open-minded than a lot of folks today. Think more Team Bernard of Clairvaux vs. Team Peter Abelard.)

Yet despite what you might have gleaned from the musical Camelot, it wasn’t a King named Arthur who instituted the concepts of chivalry, May revels and ‘knights picking flowers’. It wasn’t even a man. The fiń amor or ‘courtly love’, in which the ideals of love for love’s sake were transliterated into a complex code of service to the object of love—be it unrequited amor, or open expressions of passion—were championed by a woman. Eleanor of Aquitaine. In fact, the court she held and inhabited in Poitiers, during the longest of her varied estrangements from her husband Henry II, was significant in its patronage of one of the original purveyors of the written Arthurian sagas—and likely fully imbibed Arthur and his Table with a concept of chivalry that would inhabit ages to come.

Also interesting is how the cult of the Virgin took possession of the hearts and minds of 12th century individuals. This is part of the conceptualisation of Marion into the outlaw ballads… and actually deserves its own lengthy discussion. Whilst it is easy to look back upon this cult/phenomenon with feminist ire (I’m quite guilty), it also speaks to the very real problem of an affluent society seeking ways to control the rampages of its more powerful citizens. Cast one’s less powerful members into a mould of inviolability, and give the ones in power something to defend and worship…

Therein, of course, lies a problem. Not only from the fact that the poor and anyone considered ‘the other’ are outside this set of protections, but the effects of such. Whilst Romance in its original meaning possesses the natural focus upon character and the individual journey, it also—with the Courts of Love—puts forth another ‘spin’: an ideal lifted above reality, based on longing for the unattainable.

By Church and State channelling an ‘angry young knight’s’ impulses toward Protect instead of Plunder, it also relegated the object of desire to just that: an object. A fantasy, pleasant but ultimately unattainable. A game, where the rules can nibble your ear or bite your arse.

Perhaps the Courts of Love was based on something as simple as Eleanor, thwarted of too many ambitions, having the very real desire to be cherished. We all do, in one form or another. Many of us, regardless of gender, even fancy the notion of being placed on a pedestal.

But the actuality of that pedestal has its drawbacks, many of them quite serious. Which is what I ultimately find fascinating.

So, yes, I can talk about Romance, despite the fact that readers will not find a modern genre romance in my books, but rather more old-fashioned notions of such. If you, like me, fancy the ‘more mediaeval’ definition of Romance-as-character-development, with an individuated journey of interior cogitations, personal struggles and sacrifice, within an oft-brutal lens of nature and reality… well then, you might fancy the Wode books.

For not only Robyn, Marion and Gamelyn are there, but so is Eleanor.

In fact, The Lion in Winter is perhaps a primo example of good, old-fashioned Mediaeval Romance.

Pax~ JTH

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tna-dspp--j tullos hennig for 10-14Robyn Hood is the undisputed ruler of the wild, green Wode. Reunited with his sister Marion and his lover Gamelyn, Robyn and his band of outlaws seek to raise the Ceugant—the magical trine of the Old Religion—against the tyranny of Church and Crown. Yet their forest kingdom is roiling with conflict. Marion has been made welcome, but old shackles and new fears hamper her true promise. Gamelyn is torn between oaths of heart and head—and the outlaws never let him forget he was but recently Guy of Gisbourne, defrocked Templar and Robyn’s fiercest enemy.

When a lone traveler is waylaid on the road, a common occurrence quickly proves uncommon. Knight and Maiden, Archer and Men, all are conscripted to aid a Queen’s—and ultimately a King’s—ransom. For beneath winter’s chill is awakening the deepest of magics, and there are those who seek the power of Robyn Hood and his Shire Wode for their own ends.

Winterwode, along with the rest of the Wode series, is available now from DSP Publications, Amazon, and most other retail outlets.

You can follow JTH via her website, Facebook and/or Tumblr.

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Now aren’t you glad your bodice was snug and secure? ;)

Many thanks to J Tullos Hennig for being here, and to Lisa and the crew at The Novel Approach Reviews for giving us a venue in which to talk about such fascinating subjects.

Next time on Genre Talk, Lissa Kasey will be here to talk about her new Fantasy/Paranormal release Evolution: Genesis. Thanks for reading and we’ll see you then!

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Carole Cummings, Giveaways

Guest Post and Backlist Giveaway With Carole Cummings

Author's Spotlight

Hi, everyone, and thanks to Lisa and the crew at The Novel Approach Reviews for letting me come and do this. I’m not wearing my Genre Talk hat today, but I’ve got some plans to make the semiregular feature even more exciting in 2016, with new authors, more interviews, and lots of giveaways of DSP Publications releases. The backlists are growing and we’re all looking forward to sharing them with all you Awesome Readers.

I am, however, a bit of a Luddite, alas. And in order to bring you all the things I want to bring you, I need to know how to do the giveaways properly, which means I need to learn how to use Rafflecopter. (Shut up, I’m tech-useless and it’s scary!) So today I’m breaking my Rafflecopter cherry, and you’re all my guinea p—er, I mean my awesomely patient helpers.

The prize is a book of your choice from my backlist. All you have to do to enter is use the widget to comment below. In keeping with TNA’s upcoming Flashback Friday theme, recommend your favorite M/M Speculative Fiction novel in the comments. Please include your email address, CC backlist title choice, and preferred file format, and that’s it! Shares and referrals are like hugs but are not required. This time. Mwa ha ha ha ha ha! (<—-evil laughter) A recommendation, though, is required, so c’mon, everyone—give us all some good things to read!

Okay, that should do it. (I hope!) A winner will be chosen on Sunday and notified shortly thereafter. Thanks for your patience, and good luck!

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A Rafflecopter Giveaway

Rafflecopter Giveaway

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Carole Cummings, DSPP's Genre Talk, Rick R. Reed

DSP Publications Presents: Genre Talk with Carole Cummings and Rick R. Reed

DSP Publications

Happy Tuesday, everyone, and Happy Release Day to Rick R. Reed! Rick has graciously agreed to come tell Genre Talk all about his new Horror-Romance, A Demon Inside, which is available for purchase right now from DSP Publications. He’s also brought us an excerpt, but first, let’s have a look at what Rick’s newest is all about.

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a demon insideA Demon Inside

Hunter Beaumont doesn’t understand his grandmother’s deathbed wish: “Destroy Beaumont House.” He’s never even heard of the place. But after his grandmother passes and his first love betrays him, the family house in the Wisconsin woods looks like a tempting refuge. Going against his grandmother’s wishes, Hunter flees to Beaumont House.

But will the house be the sanctuary he had hoped for? Soon after moving in, Hunter realizes he may not be alone. And with whom—or what—he shares the house may plunge him into a nightmare from which he may never escape. Sparks fly when he meets his handsome neighbor, Michael Burt, a caretaker for the estate next door. The man might be his salvation… or he could be the source of Hunter’s terror.

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Carole: So, Rick, you’ve visited with us before to talk about your Suspense-Thriller IM and how it was difficult to pin it to just one genre. Now you’ve got A Demon Inside, which is categorized as Mystery-Suspense but is pretty heavy on the Romance too. So if I ask you to tell us about your genre, which one(s) are we dealing with?

Rick: Do I have a genre? Am I restricted to only one? Can I check more than one box? See, I love writing—and reading!!—all different sorts of genres. My favorites for both are romance, horror, dark suspense, and thrillers. I suppose, since this post concentrates on my latest release, A Demon Inside, I should tell you about my love for horror. I think I love horror because it’s a very pure genre, with a very pure objective: does it frighten you? Just like the key question for comedy is: does it make you laugh? Horror has the same emotional touchstone, how the author gets you to that fearful place can vary, but he or she must hit that bottom line—to scare you. I find the best way to do that is to appeal to our universal fears, which have to do with protecting our own lives and those whom we love. Horror in a way is like romance, because it’s about distilled and universal emotions, often with the same signposts—rapidly beating heart, uptick in respiration, and so on….

Carole: You’ve been writing M/M for quite a while, since before it was really a genre. You must have seen a lot of changes from then until now.

Rick: When I first began seeing the term m/m romance, I wasn’t even aware I was writing it. I thought I was just writing stories about people I knew (i.e. gay people) and their desire to love and be loved, possibly the strongest and most universal of all desires. When it became a “thing” I realized that I didn’t always color within the lines (my endings might be happy for now, for example), but I think there is room for diversity in m/m romance, just like there’s room for it in life. And thank god for our differences, as well as what brings us together.

Carole: Tell us about A Demon Inside

Rick: I think A Demon Inside is a bit of a throwback to the gothic horror novels of the past, set in contemporary time and place. It’s the story of an outsider, a sheltered young gay man, fleeing the world and its pains to hide away in a big, old, and foreboding house he inherited. Of course, the house, he comes to find is not empty, but occupied by a presence more fearful than anything from which he tried to run. It’s a very traditional kind of horror story, but with a gay twist.

Carole: A Demon Inside is being published through DSP Publications, Dreamspinner Press’s imprint for nonromance genre novels, but at the same time, there’s as much Romance in this book as there is Horror, isn’t there?

Rick: There is. At its heart, as with almost anything I write, there’s a love story. What’s fun about this is the suspicion I build that the love interest could also be the source of the fear and danger.

Carole: Ah, keep ’em guessing, yeah? That’s why they call is suspense! ;) Speaking of, this is always my favorite question: 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 A Demon Inside?

Rick: Short answer: I don’t know how I thought of it, but I once had the realization that one of the most horrifying things I could imagine is to awaken in a pitch-dark room, thinking I’m alone but then to hear someone nearby whispering my name. Just the idea of that gave me chills…and Hunter experiences that in A Demon Inside…and it was really that little thing that inspired the whole story.

Carole: Wow, it is a little thing, but it packs a disturbing punch, doesn’t it? *shudder* And hearkens back to so many classic horror tales. So are there any movies or TV shows that have inspired you when it’s come to your horror works?

Rick: When I was a little boy, I was a huge, huge fan of the horror soap opera, Dark Shadows. I used to run home every day to watch it. I had Barnabas and Quentin posters on my wall, a scrapbook and even the series soundtrack album. I believe that series, and its trafficking on horror tropes, was definitely an inspiration.

I would also mention a couple of movies that probably also taught me a lot about horror and especially how things unseen can be scarier than in-your-face gore and blatant shock value. Those are: The Haunting of Hill House and Carnival of Souls. They’re both so moody, atmospheric, and truly nightmarish. They stick with you.

Carole: They really do. THoHH especially has one of the best opening paragraphs of all time, in my opinion. And no doubt your work will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with it.

Thanks so much, Rick, for being with us here today, and much success with your new release.

And thank you, Awesome Readers, for spending time with us today. Please enjoy the following excerpt from Rick R. Reed’s new release A Demon Inside, then scroll down to the bottom of the post for the buy links.

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Excerpt: Hunter stands in front of a blackened Beaumont House, transformed into a silhouette by the dying crimson sky behind it. One by one lights come on in the house, small pools of light. By themselves the double doors of the house open. Hunter backs away, then stands paralyzed, staring at the open doors as if they have issued an invitation to him, which, in a sense, they have.

The night air cools around him. The red sky deepens in hue, displaying swatches of lilac, deep purple, and blue. The orchestra of frogs, crickets, and cicadas grows louder in proportion to the quickly encroaching darkness.

Hunter shivers, and the house looks more and more tempting—warm. But he feels an unreasonable, unnamable dread. The warmth, he thinks, is deceptive. The house is calling to him, he’s sure, but it’s a siren’s call, with purposes he won’t even begin to fully understand until he’s walked firmly into its clutches.

Just as he is about to turn away, he glimpses figures moving inside. He turns back slowly and sees his parents on the curving staircase, about halfway up. They stare at him, their expressions impossible to read. His mother raises a hand, beckoning.

He needs no more incentive. He hurries to the house, picking up his pace as his parents turn, ascending the stairs into the shadows. As Hunter crosses the threshold, his parents vanish into darkness.

He can hear their whispers, though, as he mounts the steps. He gets to the top and sees them at the end of the corridor, watching him. Hunter feels tears gathering in his eyes and starts to run to them.

And slams into a mirror.

He steps back, disoriented, and looks in the opposite direction, but there is only a hallway, almost pitch black, awaiting him. Turning back, he looks again into the mirror and sees the same dark, empty corridor.

Suddenly he is surrounded by whispers, snatches of conversation, music… all of it fading in and out like someone spinning an old-fashioned tuning dial on a radio. Frozen, Hunter stands peering into the black, trying to force the rapid adaptation of his eyes to pinpoint the source of the noise.

Where has all the light gone that he had seen from outside?

He is seized by fear, his heart pounding, hairs standing up on the back of his neck, a scream trapped in his throat. All around he can feel a presence. Blindly he dashes down the hallway, hands outstretched, groping. Webs stick to his face, Insects attach themselves to him until all he can feel are sickening crawling sensations all over his body. Ahead in the dimness, something with a hairless tail and glowing eyes skitters into the darkness.

A light comes on at the end of the hallway. Gratefully Hunter lunges toward it.

He gasps when he enters the room. It is his grandmother’s bedroom, right here in Evanston. With his fist Hunter stifles the scream about to emerge. Nana lies propped once more on the pillows, her eyes engaging and imploring him.

“Destroy Beaumont House.” His grandmother makes the command over and over again, a litany, her voice dead and toneless. Soon other voices join in, people hidden in shadows in corners of the room. The chorus rises in volume until it hurts his ears.

And then it stops. Hunter moves toward his grandmother, but before his eyes she morphs into something else, something scaly with feral yellow eyes.

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A Demon Inside is available now in both ebook and paperback from DSP Publications and Amazon, as well as other retail outlets.

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Rick R. ReedAbout the Author: Rick R. Reed is all about exploring the romantic entanglements of gay men in contemporary, realistic settings. While his stories often contain elements of suspense, mystery and the paranormal, his focus ultimately returns to the power of love. He is the author of dozens of published novels, novellas, and short stories. He is a three-time EPIC eBook Award winner (for Caregiver, Orientation and The Blue Moon Cafe). Raining Men and Caregiver have both won the Rainbow Award for gay fiction. Lambda Literary Review has called him, “a writer that doesn’t disappoint.” Rick lives in Seattle with his husband and a very spoiled Boston terrier. He is forever “at work on another novel.”

You can follow Rick via the following links: Website || Blog || Facebook || Twitter || E-mail

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Thanks to everyone for joining us for this edition of Genre Talk, and thanks, as always, to Lisa and the gang here at The Novel Approach for letting us come and pretend we know what we’re doing for a little while. Please join us next time when we drag Luchia Dertien into our genre circus and sic the scary clowns on her, just for giggles. ;)

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Carole Cummings, Guest Contributor

Guest Post: Bullying (Or Not So Much) by Carole Cummings

Author's Spotlight

BULLYING (OR NOT SO MUCH)

Carole Cummings

So, I guess you’d have to live under a rock (or be a writer in the cruel, all-consuming throes of a developing story) to have missed all the #AskELJames … stuff. And if you’ve seen all that, you’ve likely seen the follow-up calls of shame on you or shame on us or shame on them and then the inevitable cries to STOP THE BULLYING!

And, on principle, I don’t necessarily disagree with any of them.

However.

When it comes to bullying, we’re not dealing with “principle”. We’re dealing with something a lot harder and colder and plainer. Or, well, we should be.

Now, there are several points to be made here, but the bullying accusation is what I want to start with. Because I’ve seen it so often over the past few years, and to be perfectly frank, it’s starting to lose its meaning. Which, to me, is a very, very bad thing. But probably not in the way you think.

Let’s start with a definition, because it’s always better coming from something official:

bully
verb
: to frighten, hurt, or threaten (a smaller or weaker person)
: to cause (someone) to do something by making threats or insults or by using force

bul·lied bul·ly·ing
transitive verb
: to treat abusively
: to affect by means of force or coercion

I want to concentrate on that top definition, because I think that one’s the key here: to frighten, hurt, or threaten (a smaller or weaker person).

And here’s where I disagree with those who define what happened to E.L. James as bullying, and are using it to make a point about “author bullying” or maybe “reader bullying” or even what the neo-Conservatives have started waving around when their beliefs are trotted out and exposed as the bigoted points of view they are. Because none of that is actually bullying. It’s unpleasant, yes. Hurtful, absolutely. Mean-spirited fuckery and a platform for asshole trolls, yup. Almost invariably unnecessary. Generally uneducated. Any adjective for “bad” one can come up with.

But it’s not bullying.

Now, I’m not here to pile on E.L. James, by any means, though I’ll admit I don’t like what she does. I personally think her lack of research and her callous treatment of her subject matter is unforgivable and potentially harmful. I think my teenaged daughter can out-prose her at her most (questionably) eloquent. I think she’s done actual harm to women’s issues by giving opponents a notorious, though admittedly shaky, set of clay feet upon which to lay their arguments.

That doesn’t mean I condone what happened with that hashtag. But it doesn’t mean I’m inclined to defend her from “bullying” either.

Because—and let me state this plainly and without question—what happened to E.L. James was not bullying. The people who participated in that hashtag were, by and large, indefensible jerks, but “jerks” does not automatically equal “bullies”. And, in truth, not all of the points brought up in all of that were indefensible. There were some rather valid arguments raised, and approached with perhaps some snarky wit but without rancor or foul invective. That’s called free speech and people are allowed to have it, regardless of whether or not we like what they say, or how they say it.

I know, I know, I can already hear the “but, but, but!” and I understand where the whole bullying thing comes from. I even empathize with it up to a point. But it doesn’t change the fact that we’re taking a very serious word here and trivializing it with “those people were mean.” And, yes, absolutely, some of them were. But they weren’t bullies. It’s a distinction I think is enormously important, because we’re losing the point of that word—bully—and we need that point with all its sharp edges.

Doxing is bullying. What happened to the women during GamerGate was bullying. What happens to the skinny gay kid who’s afraid to go to school for fear of getting pantsed or beaten up is bullying. What happens to a woman who’s groped on the subway is bullying. What happens to a person in an abusive relationship is bullying. What happens to people of color when confronted with a bigoted cop is bullying.

That hashtag? No. And saying it was bullying is saying that it’s just as bad as those situations in that paragraph above. It takes away the power of the word and therefore, the power of the people who are victims of real bullying who’ve already lost most of their power.

Look at that definition again—to frighten, hurt, or threaten (a smaller or weaker person)

Was E.L. James frightened? I suppose it’s possible, but I doubt it. There were no threats I could see, and I read—I think—the entire thread. Was she hurt? Maybe her feelings, because no matter my opinion of her talents as such, she is an author, and we’re a rather thin-skinned lot. Did she feel threatened? Again, it’s possible, but doubtful.

But here’s the key to this, and it’s really important—E.L. James, especially in the context of this internet Q&A, was neither a smaller nor a weaker person. If anything, she was the only one in the entirety of that situation who had any power. The woman is a multi-millionaire with the comfort of the knowledge that probably a good percentage of the people who participated in that hashtag free-for-all had most likely purchased at least one of her books, even if it was to make fun of it with their friends. Or seen the movie. A portion of the people engaging in the mockery on Twitter, statistically speaking, have put money in E.L. James’s pocket, have given her power, both as a wealthy person in a world where wealth already equals power, and as a best-selling author in an industry where that’s the only kind that matters.

But, most importantly, E.L. James, if she even read through the thread at all (which I doubt), was doing so from behind the safety of her computer monitor, comfortably ensconced… wherever multi-millionaire best-selling authors ensconce themselves. There was no danger. There was no threat. E.L. James was not and is not small or powerless. There was, therefore, no bullying.

And I need to say this again—I do not condone what happened, but if ever there was a subject that needs perspective, it’s bullying and what it really is and who really needs our protection from it.

Look, I’ve been on the receiving end of some pretty nasty commentary in my years of toddling about the troll-infested Lord of the Flies world we call the internet. I’ve been told I needed to be raped and die in a fire. I’ve been told the only good female brain is the one that’s scooped out to make room for a good skull-fucking. I’ve been told I should be beaten to death with my keyboard. And those are only the ones I remember off the top of my head. There have been more. And it’s not like I go to message boards or forums where you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a troll. This is just in the normal course of being an author who is accessible online. And who among us hasn’t gotten the one-starring troll treatment for no good reason?

Do I like it? Absolutely not. Do I think it’s fair? Nope. Do I think it’s nasty and hurtful and infuriating? Yes, yes, and yes.

But do I think it’s bullying? No. No. Because when I’m sitting in my home with my laptop and reading these things on my monitor, regardless of my actual size and/or strength, I am neither smaller nor weaker than the person saying them. In point of fact, intellectually speaking—which is the only part that matters on the internet—I’m betting I’m the much bigger and stronger person. And if worse came to worse, all I really have to do is turn the internet off and walk away. These trolls have no power over me but what I give them, and I refuse to give them any. Which means, by definition, I am not being bullied.

And neither was E.L. James.

Personally, I’d like to see that word—bullied—saved for the people who actually need it, not robbed of its power by those who get their feelings hurt because someone was mean to them on the internet. Those who truly are bullied have lost enough power already, don’t you think?

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5 Stars, Carole Cummings, DSP Publications, Literary Fiction, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Lisa, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Steampunk

Review: Blue on Black by Carole Cummings

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Title: Blue on Black

Author: Carole Cummings

Publisher: DSP Publications

Pages/Word Count: 380 Pages

At a Glance: Blue on Black is an alternate universe, twisted history, sci-fi/fantasy/steampunkish feast for the imagination and senses.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: Kimolijah Adani—Class 2 gridTech, beloved brother, most promising student the Academy’s ever had the privilege of calling their own, genius mechanical gridstream engineer, brilliantly pioneering inventor… and dead man. But that’s what happens when a whiz kid messes with dynamic crystals and, apparently, comes to the attention of Baron Petra Stanslo. Killed for his revolutionary designs, Kimolijah Adani had been set to change the world with his impossible train that runs on nothing more than gridstream locked in a crystal. Technically it shouldn’t even be possible, but there is no doubt it works.

Bas is convinced the notoriously covetous and corrupt Stanslo had something to do with Kimolijah Adani’s tragic and suspicious end. A Directorate Tracker, Bas has finally managed to catch the scent of Kimolijah Adani’s killer, and it leads right into Stanslo’s little desert barony. For almost three years, Bas has tried to find a way into Stanslo’s Bridge, and when he finally makes it, shock is too small a word for what—or, rather, whom—he finds there.

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Review: If ever there was a book written that deserves to be an illustrated novel, it’s Carole Cummings’ Blue on Black, an alternate universe, twisted history, sci-fi/fantasy/steampunkish feast for the imagination and senses that sends readers on a synesthetic journey to an Old West-like place that, had it ever existed in reality, would have changed our own world dramatically.

Blue on Black is a story that’s not so much woven together from beginning to end as it is deconstructed and put back together again. What I mean by that is the plot and characters, and how they relate to each other, are constructed of a series of knots at the outset that must be untangled in order for us to see the “big picture” resolve itself in the end. Everything in this novel is layered—the colors, the characters, the setting, the Tech, the grandiose scheme which has brought the outlier Stanslo’s Bridge and its robber baron, Petra Stanslo, to the attention of the Directorate—with a subtlety that makes you look just that little bit deeper to make sure you don’t miss a thing. Who are enemies, who are allies, and who is simply looking out for number one? When does servitude represent freedom and freedom, servitude? It’s a web we’re snared in from the start, and we must decipher it right along with our intrepid hero.

Stanslo is both the Pandora’s Box and the Prometheus in the novel, dictator of a place where life often means death, where language is mind control, where double-think and its controlled insanity is delivered with a feral grin. Stanslo has opened up his twisted mind and spilled out an insane amount of narcissism upon his world, using people as leverage to oppress and fear to motivate them to carry out his plans, leaving the reader wondering where is their hope. He is predator and scavenger, exploiter and extortionist, both law and lawlessness, and he has stolen the spark (a spark he’s having trouble harnessing, by the way) necessary to unleash a technology upon humankind that humankind will not appreciate. Rather than a tool of progress, the technology in this novel is the agent of greed and lust and evil, and there seems to be no way to stop Stanslo before his delusions of grandeur give free reign to unchecked horror.

This is where Bartholomew Eisen becomes integral to the story. Bas is a Grade 3 Tracker with the Directorate of the Consolidated Territories, which is a fancy way of saying he can not only sense Tech but can taste its colors, and by taste, can tell what sort of Tech a man or woman possesses. He’s been assigned to track a missing weatherTech, a case which ends up intersecting with another, a murder case he’s been investigating involving one of the most promising minds in gridTech ever to be born, Kimolijah Adani, and Kimolijah’s father Ajamil. And this is how Bas ends up in Stanslo’s Bridge posing as a gunslinger called Jakob Barstow.

Narrated with no small amount of sarcasm and tongue-in-cheek humor, not to mention a flair that invokes comic book storytelling, Blue on Black is motion and movement in not only in its crafting but in the very magic of its Tech. Kimo’s power is all about the kinetic energy that flows through and from him, which draws all manner of attention to him, not to mention attracts the bad to him like a negative to a positive charge. “Everything that leaks from the Bruise goes after gridstream,” and poor Kimo is the target of the worst of it.

The Bruise itself is a place, a contusion in the skin of this world from which mutant beasts escape, a place where Nature has been made wild and toxic, a foe of the humans who, in all its karmic glory, are the ones guilty of corrupting it in the first place. It is the place that has offered Stanslo the means to control and the method to compel his madness and incite his avarice, jealousy, suspicion, and obsession with his most prized possession, playing god in his own little corner of hell. But, as with all oppressors, a day of reckoning awaits, and it’s one of the book’s greatest and most satisfying ironies when it happens.

There is action and suspense and danger between the covers of this novel, and while there is something building between Bas and Kimo amidst the destruction, Blue on Black is not a love story, though it is the story of two men who don’t know they’re falling into something that could be love, and doing it quite humorously, I might add. Really, how could they know, though, when one of them is in denial of his feelings, and the other is so full of anger and distrust that there isn’t much room for anything else? You’ve heard the idiom about someone having a burr under his saddle (or in other ::ahem:: delicate areas)? Well, the burrs in this book aren’t figurative, they are literal, and they play far too significant a role in Kimo’s life for him not to be more than a bit prickly. Plus, it’s hard to know love in the presence of fear, and it’s also rather difficult to recognize it when fear and love present some of the same physical symptoms—another lovely irony that.

Blue on Black is yet another outstanding novel by this author. I have had the pleasure of reading all her published work to date and can say without reservation that each of her books is an experience that may make you think a little harder, but the payoff in the end is always well worth the journey.

When you’re in the mood for an Alt U, Sci-Fi, Action/Adventure trip into an (un)reality of (un)imaginably fantastic proportions, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Blue on Black.

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You can buy Blue on Black here:

OmniLit/ARe

OmniLit/ARe

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10264965_252539888266926_3416999939270236877_nCarole lives with her husband and family in Pennsylvania, USA, where she spends her time trying to find time to write. Recipient of various amateur writing awards, several of her short stories have been translated into Spanish, German, Chinese and Polish.

Author of the Aisling and Wolf’s-own series, Carole is currently in the process of developing several other works, including more short stories than anyone will ever want to read, and novels that turn into series when she’s not looking.

Carole is an avid reader of just about anything that’s written well and has good characters. She is a lifelong writer of the ‘movies’ that run constantly in her head. Surprisingly, she does manage sleep in there somewhere, and though she is rumored to live on coffee and Pixy Stix™, no one has as yet suggested she might be more comfortable in a padded room.

…Well. Not to her face.

Carole is a Rainbow Con 2015 Attending Author

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Carole Cummings, DSP Publications, DSPP's Genre Talk

DSP Publications Presents: Genre Talk with J Tullos Hennig and Carole Cummings

DSP Publications

Hullo, J Tullos Hennig here, one of DSP Publications’ genre authors, temporarily taking the interviewer reins from Carole Cummings. There is something akin to kismet in my being the one to put Carole in the Genre Talk hotseat, since I sort of talked her into the gig in the first place. Because I knew she’d be bloody brilliant at it—almost as good as she is at telling a damn-fine story.

But before we get on with the interview, let’s have a glimpse of Carole’s latest damn-fine story:

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BlueOnBlackColor_resizedBlue on Black: Kimolijah Adani—Class 2 gridTech, beloved brother, most promising student the Academy’s ever been privileged to call their own, genius mechanical gridstream engineer, brilliantly pioneering inventor… and dead man. But that’s what happens when a whiz kid messes with dynamic crystals and, apparently, comes to the attention of Baron Petra Stanslo. Young and brilliant and killed for his revolutionary designs, Kimolijah Adani had been set to change the world with his impossible train that runs on nothing more than gridstream locked in a crystal that shouldn’t even be possible but nonetheless works.

Bas is convinced the notoriously covetous and corrupt Stanslo had something to do with Kimolijah Adani’s tragic and suspicious death. A Directorate Tracker, Bas has finally managed to catch the scent of Kimolijah Adani’s killer, and it leads right into Stanslo’s little desert barony. For almost three years, Bas has been trying to find a way into Stanslo’s Bridge, and now that he’s finally made it, “shock” is too small a word for what—or, rather, whom—he finds there.

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Jen: So, Carole, it sounds like you’ve all the marks of a fine Speculative tale in Blue on Black. What draws you to write in that genre?

Carole: Well, Speculative Fiction is a genre that’s pretty inclusive—SciFi, Fantasy, Paranormal, Steampunk… pretty much anything that relies on the incredible, the impossible, the extraordinary. Spec Fic uses things that aren’t found in our world—magic, alternate technologies, alternate races—and other fantastical elements in storytelling, wherein the fantastical elements themselves are part of the actual story and setting, not merely sidenotes or plot devices. That generally equals a lot of worldbuilding, which is probably the main component of Spec Fic that initially reeled me in and still keeps me coming back. It’s eye-opening and really quite fascinating to read about imagined worlds with completely different beings, histories, sociologies, religions, geographies, etc. To create such worlds and characters, and still maintain a reader’s ability to identify with it all, is a skill that’s beautiful to me to witness. It’s the sameness and the difference—I can relate to the sameness and be challenged by the difference. I think it’s helped me over the years to cultivate my empathy and to make me an open-minded person who’s willing to see all sides and take individual history into account when forming opinions.

Jen: This book focuses upon a dyadic between two male characters, and your previous releases do as well. I imagine the burning question is: why?

Carole: God, you have no idea how often I get that question, which is why I always ask it on Genre Talk, so authors can have a place to point and say, “here, go look there and don’t ask me again”. And I actually sometimes kind of wish I could write things that would contribute to the dearth of female heroes in today’s literature. But that right there is the reason, and though I do have some personal rationale for why I write what I do, the broader motivations are societal.

I was born into one of the first generations that told women we were equal, that we could demand equal treatment and equal pay, and that we didn’t always have to be the princess or the damsel. We could be the hero too. But at the same time, as a voracious reader, the reading material available to me had not yet caught up with that concept. It still hasn’t caught up. So in my preferred reading genre—Spec Fic, natch—I was still seeing only male heroes. John Carter, Frodo and Aragorn, Roland Deschain, Arthur and Merlin, all of the protagonists written by Bradbury and Asimov and Vonnegut, etc. And since that was all I was given, and since there were no female characters with whom I could identify in those works, I eventually learned to identify with the bolder, more forthright characteristics of the male protagonists. Having also been somewhat rough-and-tumble as a child, and having been surrounded by brothers and male cousins, and having been gifted with the kind of observation skills necessary to write characters in general, I felt like I understood men more than I understood women. So that’s what I started writing. It’s also why I don’t fit in with the Romance presses—my stories are more in line with most mainstream Spec Fic stories, with the exception of the fact that the love interest of the male protagonist also happens to be a male protagonist.

Jen: I understand what you’re saying, believe me! Let’s expand a bit more into the society—and story—in Blue on Black.

Carole: It’s… hard to describe. Kind of Fantasy, kind of SciFi, kind of Steampunk… it’s an amalgam. I like to call it Cowboys and Tesla Trains (thank you Jen, *wink wink*) because though it’s a tongue-in-cheek description, it’s also kind of accurate. I also like to call it BoB because it was a very difficult story for me to write and it sometimes made me feel better to say BoB is being a bastard today.

Anyway, it’s a story mainly about control and the kinds of people who want it, the kinds of people who have it, why they would seek it and what they would do with it. It’s not a pretty story, and I’m told some of the concepts might be triggery for some, but I feel like it says some important things about abusive situations, about what kinds of people might get caught up in one (anyone), what they’ll do to survive it (anything), and where the limits might hide (if there are any). It challenges what we would think of as “normal” and “healthy”, and shows us people who may function outside of those narrow parameters, but who should not be judged by them.

Jen: And Blue on Black is being published through DSP Publications, Dreamspinner Press’s imprint for nonromance genre novels. You’ve already talked some about the relationship in Blue on Black; what makes this novel a better fit for genre Spec Fic as opposed to genre Romance?

Carole: Basically, because I just don’t write romance. I never have. And I’ve tried! And while I like a good romance as much as the next person, my interests lie in characterization and watching a different world develop, in discovering what the characters are like and where they came from, watching them interact with their world and finding the similarities and differences in how we interact with our own. I love the possibilities of Spec Fic, and character-driven stories are like good wine for me. And since I write what I like to read, my stories—in this case Blue on Black—tend more toward exploring those possibilities and finding out whether or not the two protagonists will grow together during that exploration. That means the relationship takes a backseat to plot and worldbuilding and character development, which pretty much disqualifies it as a romance.

DSP Publications was a bloody godsend for me, because I often found myself disheartened by comments and reviews that basically said WTF, what’s all this worldbuilding doing in my Romance? and now I at least have the comfort of knowing that if that’s not what they were looking for, it’s their own fault for not paying attention to what my publisher is all about. ;)

Jen: It sounds as though the evolution of Blue on Black has its own story. Share some of that, if you would; give us a peek into some earlier concepts. Did it always resemble the present story? Was it always Blue on Black, or did it morph from something else entirely?

Carole: Augh. This story snuck up behind me, thunked me on the head and dragged me to my laptop, and by the time I realized what it was and where it was going, it already had me chained to the keyboard and wouldn’t let me put it down. This never ever happens to me, but it quite literally jumped me in a dream with the image of Bas up on top of a train (Karl Urban in Priest may or may not have had something to do with that image), with wild currents of electricity whipping around him and something sinister waiting at the end of the tracks. The rest is unending research into Tesla and his genius, and my own wild imagination, all peppered liberally with whinging and dragging my feet. (Did I mention this story was really hard to write?)

Jen: Though it doesn’t sound as though you found it hard to settle that Blue on Black was to centre on a relationship between two men. Out of all the excellent reasons to explore that dynamic, which ones played a necessary part here?

Carole: All of the stories that come to me these days involve the M/M dynamic, for the reasons stated above, but I think this one in particular needed it because a woman caught in the situation in which one of the protagonists finds himself would likely be, sadly, judged harshly and unfairly (and I’ll be interested to see how the character Mari is received). That’s all I’m going to say on that because a) more would be spoilery, and b) I don’t want to get into some kind of MRA –vs– SJW kerfuffle (though that’s admittedly highly unlikely in this genre and in this particular venue, but still).

As a general comment on M/M as a genre, and why Blue on Black is now a part of it, I think my participation is necessary because every story that features love between two people of the same sex—or someone of color, or someone with a disability, or someone whose “normal” is not your “normal” or my “normal”—is another tick in the advocacy column, another step toward acceptance and equality. It opens eyes and opens discussion. And I like to think I’m contributing to that in my own small ways.

Jen: In your opinion, what is the best trend you’re seeing in Spec Fic publishing today?

Carole: The best trend, I think, is the increased selection of reading material brought about by the advent of small presses. I have been unimpressed for a couple decades now by most of what’s coming out of the bigger NY publishers, and small presses are starting to assuage my unhappiness at getting less and less of what I want to read. Small presses so far are welcoming a lot of what the bigger presses turn their noses up at, and that’s awesome for me, because I want my stories, damn it!

Jen: So then, it also begs the question: what of the worst trend?

Carole: The whole “shorter is better” thing that’s been taking over every genre lately and treating character development like it’s some kind of superfluous indulgence. That says an event can’t be an interior revelation but must be some kind of physical exploit, and action can’t be an intense conversation but must be a car chase or a gunfight. It discounts nuance, it devalues subtext, it forfeits depth and caters to short attention spans. Spec Fic is supposed to challenge readers, not kowtow to them. Intricate plots, in-depth character development, immersive worldbuilding—I want it all, and I’m not getting much of it these days, though the small presses are making it easier to find now.

When I find a book or a series the size of a cinderblock, and the blurb gets me all a-quiver, and the writing makes me drool, I do a Snoopy-dance. I get visions of a lazy weekend (or even a week!) sinking into someone else’s world, getting to know some new characters and finding out everything about them so their reactions will be something that a) makes sense, and b) I can understand, if not empathize with. (Don’t slap a couple Elves into modern day NYC and call it Fantasy—tell me why those Elves are there, who they are, how their presence can make sense in this world and why it matters.) But the trend these days is toward “short and sweet” and cutting out character development and worldbuilding in favor of space battles and explosions. Publishing houses—even some of the smaller ones just coming up—don’t seem to want to make readers think, and a lot of readers will cut a bitch if you try to make them, and that’s a bloody shame, because that’s what Spec Fic is for! I don’t need to be dragged through a story behind a speeding train—I need to care about the characters, and if there is no time and there are no words spent on telling me why I should, there’s no real point for me. Today’s “tell it in 60K or less” means I don’t get many of the in-depth epics I grew up with, because authors aren’t allowed to elaborate unless they’re Stephen King or George R. R. Martin. And I miss my epics.

Jen: Me, too. Let’s go light a candle for them… and nurse a drink! But first I’d better do you proud, and be the proper interviewer, and share a bit from yours.

Because Blue on Black is epic-ly entertaining. Continue on, Fair Readers, and see for yourself. (And links available after the excerpt, natch.)

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EXCERPT – BLUE ON BLACK: It doesn’t start like this:

See, the thing is, it isn’t supposed to go this way.

He’s a goddamned tracker, he’s a goddamned good tracker, better than anything else the Directorate’s got, and the swagger that comes with that has been earned a hundred times over, sometimes in blood, though, okay, let’s not get all maudlin and dramatic. The point is, he’s not supposed to be caught wrong-footed. And he’s certainly not supposed to be staring down eight barrels of a spin-cylinder street cannon in the back of a train station in godforsaken Harrowgate.

That’s supposed to be the agent’s job. Poor guy. Stupid fucking idiot.

“You Barstow?” the man with the gun asks. He’s tall and rangy, rough-looking and sallow-skinned, with patches of beard going wild and scraggly. It’s dark and Bas can’t see the rest of his face very well, just a stubbled sloping chin beneath the shadow cast by his wide-brimmed hat. He looks tough as rusty nails and just as pleasant.

Steam hugs the ground and wreaths the hem of the man’s long dirty coat, clings, and thickens the reek of dirt and sweat that wafts from the man every time he moves. Bas can even smell it through the fug of smoke and engine grease coming from the station, and all of it combined pricks at his eyes and makes them water.

There’s no cleaner, deeper sense of Tech beneath any of it—no thick, sundrop yellow mutters of “psyTech” hazing at the periphery of his vision and scattering something earthy on the back of his tongue; no blue edging that says “kineTech” and somehow tastes of wet cedar. Bas’s mind decides “nonTech” before his eyes bother to fully assess his current situation. Still, though, the gun—Bas can see that just fine.

“Who’s asking?” Bas says from his crouch. He’s somewhat pissed off, so it comes out a growl.

Smooth, Bas, he tells himself. Keep it smooth. He can still salvage this.

“I en’t playin’ games.” The housing of the barrels turns and a cylinder clicks into place. “Are you Barstow?”

Bas peers down at the agent’s body, blood still seeping in a rivulet from the knife in his throat, the heat catching the chill of the desert night and wisping steam. Aaron, Bas thinks. The guy’s name was Aaron.

Bas didn’t know him well. Hadn’t cared to get to know him. Just another Directorate agent who’d maybe gotten a little too cocky. It happens.

“Yeah,” says Bas. “Yeah, I’m Barstow.”

He isn’t. No one is, not really. It’s a cover, a standard one used by trackers when they need a ready-made thug reputation as an in with bands of thieves and murderers, and then that same cover is handed over to the agents along with the case once the tracker’s job is done.

Bas is a tracker, not an agent. Trackers track. They don’t do the set-them-up-then-take-them-down part. They do the sniffing out and the pointing, and then they let the agents take over.

Except.

Bas knows the Barstow cover well enough to fake it. He’s been Barstow plenty of times. Hell, he’d done most of the legwork on this particular case, and he’d done it as Barstow. And someone needs to get into Stanslo’s Bridge.

“Well, Barstow.” It sounds like a sneer. “Ye picked up a tail.”

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Blue on Black is available June 16th from DSP Publications, Amazon, and most other major distributors.

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carole-cummings-6About the Author: Carole Cummings lives with her husband and family in Pennsylvania, USA, where she spends her time trying to find time to write. Author of the Aisling and Wolf’s-own series, Carole is an avid reader of just about anything that’s written well and has good characters. She is a lifelong writer of the “movies” that run constantly in her head. Surprisingly, she does manage sleep in there somewhere, and though she is rumored to live on coffee and Pixy Stix™, no one has as yet suggested she might be more comfortable in a padded room. Well, not to her face.

Free shorts, sneak peeks at WIPs, and other miscellany can be found via Carole’s website, blog, Facebook and/or Twitter.

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Thanks for joining us. Next time on Genre Talk, Patricia Correll will be talking to us about Fantasy.

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Carole Cummings, DSP Publications, Giveaways

Guest Post and Giveaway: The Wolf’s-own: Ghost Blog Tour With Carole Cummings

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I’m so pleased to welcome Carole Cummings to The Novel Approach today, not as an interviewer for DSP Publications’ Genre Talk, but to chat about a subject near and dear to my heart–symbolism–in a series that’s near and dear to my heart–Wolf’s-own. Enjoy Carole’s article, then be sure to click on the Rafflecopter widget below for a chance to win a signed copy of Wolf’s-own: Ghost, a full set of the four books in the series, or, the grand prize, a Kindle Fire.

Good luck!

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ALIENS AND OTHER PHALLIC THINGS—ER, I MEAN SYMBOLS IN SPECULATIVE FICTION

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with symbolism in literature. I love finding it. I love analyzing it. But I hate it when I’m told “This is the symbol and this is what it means. It doesn’t matter what the author intended. It doesn’t matter what another might see and extrapolate from the same image. This is what it means and there is no other answer.”

I had a professor once with whom I argued quite vociferously about the symbolism of the white whale in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. To this professor, the whale and its whiteness represented the juxtaposition of Evil hiding behind a façade of Good, how one cannot exist without the other, and just as Ahab wanted to be the instrument by which Evil was defeated, so too would the whale be the instrument by which Good fell with it. And since Ahab ultimately failed, Evil remains in the guise of Good, and humanity continues to fall.

Plausible, certainly. But still. I thought it was bullshit. I thought Ahab was a crazy bastard who had delusions of grandeur, and I saw the whale as something he couldn’t control—something beyond him, something with powers he couldn’t understand, something with motivations that were unfathomable. Something that was, when you think about it, godlike. And it was my theory that Ahab wanted to justify his need to slay his god, to—as mankind always does—exert his own will by thwarting his gods and turning that god into a demon to rationalize his megalomania.

It’s a theme that’s pretty much everywhere. Prometheus and his hubris in his attempt to touch the face of his god and getting brutally thwarted for it. Look at Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, for example, the full title of which is, of course, Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus. Here, again, a man attempts to wield powers reserved for gods, and not only is he punished, he’s punished by the thing he created with those powers. We see this same theme again in the not-really-a-prequel to Alien, Ridley Scott’s aptly named Prometheus, which was fairly universally hissed at, but thematically and symbolically speaking, it was pretty damned spot-on.

And it’s fitting how the symbolism in Prometheus piggybacks the violent aftermath of that hubris with the subsequent symbolism in Alien and gives us a look at how we keep reaching, and the gods keep trying to cut us off at the knees for it. Because the thread that links Prometheus to Alien is that weare responsible for the creation of the monsters, monsters which then tried to destroy us through symbolic rape. (Because gods throughout history and various religions are, by and large, weirdly rapey.) Seriously—look at the sets and the creatures and… pretty much everything. Penises and vaginas everywhere! And it’s not only about rape but brutal rape. (Not that there’s any other kind.) Brutal rape followed by an unwanted “pregnancy” that really doesn’t end well for anyone.

It gives whole new meaning to that final scene, where Ripley’s getting ready to put herself into hypersleep for the trip home. She’s down to her panties and a tiny tank—obviously asking for it, right?—when the alien drags its giant phallic head out from the guts of the little ship and tries to have its way with her. The fact that it doesn’t succeed, that Ripley thwarts the gods’ revenge, tells us how we’ve evolved intellectually since Prometheus and Frankenstein’s monster, how we’ve become less naïve about gods and their omnipotence, their right to punish us for our curious natures.

Not only does it turn the Prometheus theme on its head, but it says something quite profound about us and our gods, and who really wields the power in that relationship.

And the movie relayed all of it without once preaching at the audience with words that would just as likely have been either ignored or mocked. It did it with images, with subtleties, with symbols the conscious mind might never see clearly, but that the subconscious can’t help but assimilate. Maybe another viewer would never see that symbolism, and maybe, even if they did, they wouldn’t agree it’s there or that it means what I see in it. But that’s the point—that’s what I see. That’s what it means to me. No one has to agree with me for me to see it there and to take the meaning from it that I do.

Speculative Fiction—whether it be literature or film or any other medium—has a rich history of taking these kinds of broad concepts and encapsulating them into symbols that resonate. Tolkien symbolically warning the world of the dangers of Industrialism in The Lord of the Rings. The proliferation of shadow imagery throughout Ursula K. Le Guin’sA Wizard of Earthsea giving us hope because a shadow cannot exist without light. The systematic oppression and attempted genocide of magical people in the BBC series Merlinas allegory for the discrimination of the LGBTQ community. The shadow of a Guinevere slipping ever-so-briefly but still heartbreakingly and inevitably between Arthur and Bedwyr in Mary Stewart’s Crystal Cave series. The hybrid mockingjay in Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games, accidentally created through the Capitol’s attempt to—quite literally—steal the opposition’s voices, its ultimate failure and then its subsequent neglect. Much like how Katniss herself was created.

Are these symbols definitive? Did the creators put them there on purpose? Do they mean what I think they mean?

Who knows? Some of them, probably yes, since the authors have told us so. But that’s the great thing about symbolism—even if the author put it there and knows exactly what it means and why it’s there and what it’s meant to convey, it doesn’t matter if a reader gets something else entirely out of it. Maybe the shadows were merely moody setting. Maybe the mockinjay was just a pretty bird. Maybe Ishmael was simply telling us the mother of all fish tales. (“No, seriously, it was this big!”)

To me, that’s the best part. It’s all subjective, like pretty much anything that’s interesting and has resonance. The Prometheus theme I saw in Moby Dick helped me to appreciate the tale in a way the Good –vs– Evil theme upon which the professor insisted just couldn’t. It gave new depth to Ahab and helped me to understand him as a person, terribly flawed and kind of awful, but still sympathetic because who wouldn’t like to look their god in the eye, if they had the chance? Who wouldn’t want to rage and scream and throw their harpoons at the unfairness of a force of nature? What I saw in the symbolism of that book took it from an ordinary academic assignment and elevated it to something that has stayed with me for the *mumblety mumble* years since. It showed me that we will see what we will see, no matter what the “right” answer may be, and we will take away from a story what it’s important for us, as individuals, to take away.

I came here today to talk to you about symbolism in speculative fiction, and more specifically the symbolism in Wolf’s-own. And there’s a lot of it—some of it was intentional; some of it I only realized was there well after I’d written it. I had a whole list to go through—the symbolism of twins and how Shig’s arc parallels Fen’s; the real meaning of those petals that keep haunting Fen; Morin and the fish; Fen’s dreams; the scent of almonds; the colors of the moons and the names of the gods; Malick’s hand around Fen’s throat.

There’s more. And believe me, like any author, I could go on and on and on about what all of it means and how understanding it all could enhance a reader’s perception of the overall arcs. I’m not going to do that, though. Because, in the end, it doesn’t matter. The symbolism in Wolf’s-own is really what you make of it, not me. I hope you give it a try. And I hope you get out of it exactly what you want to get out of it.

Me, I’m just going to float off on Queequeg’s coffin and ponder Eve’s “apple”. Or maybe two dragons—one red, one white—battling it out beneath a mountain. Or maybe even the poignant thwip-thwip-thwip of a moth’s ragged gray wings and the pursuit of a freedom that’s being sought in all the wrong places. Maybe none of those things mean anything to anyone else, but that’s okay—I know what all of them mean to me.

For what it’s worth, that professor and I never did agree on Moby Dick. But I aced the class anyway. ;)

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The Wolf’s-own series (Ghost, Weregild, Koan and Incendiary) can be purchased in ebook and paperback through DSP Publications and Amazon, as well as most major outlets.

Wolf's-own

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carole-cummings-6About the Author: Carole lives with her husband and family in Pennsylvania, USA, where she spends her time trying to find time to write. Author of the Aisling and Wolf’s-own series, Carole is currently in the process of developing several other works, including more short stories than anyone will ever want to read, and novels that turn into series when she’s not looking.

You can follow Carole via her her website, Facebook, blog, or Twitter.

(She also has accounts on Google+, Tumblr, LinkedIn and Pinterest, but has no idea how to use any of them. Shut up.)

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THE GIVEAWAY:

Rafflecopter Giveaway

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Carole Cummings, DSPP's Genre Talk, Rick R. Reed

DSPP Presents: Genre Talk With Carole Cummings and Rick R. Reed

DSP Publications

Hullo, all! Since Lisa has yet to bar the doors of The Novel Approach, I’m here today with DSP Publications author Rick R. Reed to talk about suspense and serial killers and anonymous hookups. But all in a good way! (…Wait, is there a good way to talk about serial killers? 0_o Eh, Rick will figure it out.)

But first, let’s take a quick look at what Rick has in store for us with his new release, IM:

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IM-400x600The Internet is the new meat market for gay men. Now a killer is turning the meat market into a meat wagon.

One by one, he’s killing them. Lurking in the digital underworld of Men4HookUpNow.com, he lures, seduces, and charms, reaching out through instant messages to the unwary. When the first body surfaces, openly gay Chicago Police Department detective Ed Comparetto is called in to investigate. At the scene, the young man who discovered the body tells him the story of how he found his friend. But did this witness play a bigger role in the murder than he’s letting on?

For Comparetto, this encounter is the beginning of a nightmare—because this witness did more than just show up at the scene of the crime; he set the scene.

Comparetto is on a journey to discover the truth—before he loses his career, his boyfriend, his sanity… his life. Because in this killer’s world, IM doesn’t stand for instant message… it stands for instant murder.

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Carole: Thanks for being here with us, Rick. How about we kick things off with the basics: tell us about your genre.

Rick: Thriller, suspense, horror…I think there are many overlaps here (even with mystery) and they all fascinate me. I think IM falls as much into the psychological suspense category as it does the thriller category. Either way, the book (and the genre) are marked by escalating peril (suspense) and, usually a sense of dread. What should keep people turning the pages in any good thriller is an investment in the characters, so you need to keep reading to discover what happens next.

Carole: Why M/M?

Rick: I write M/M or gay fiction because I’m a gay man myself. I have an investment in telling the stories of my “people” in a way that I hope is entertaining, thought-provoking and, more often than not, touching.

Carole: I’m sure your fans would say your work is all those things, Rick. So tell us about this release in particular. Tell us about IM.

Rick: It’s been a long journey with IM, because this is its third edition. It was originally published in 2007 as a paperback by the Quest imprint of Regal Crest Enterprises. The book struck a chord because it plays on both the fear and excitement of anonymous online hookups, a form of meeting up that continues to grow. This new edition is, if I may say so, the most awesome edition. Starting with the arresting and gorgeous cover design by Reese Dante, the book has been thoroughly re-edited, so I think this is the best possible version of IM for readers.

Carole: IM is being published through DSP Publications, Dreamspinner Press’s imprint for nonromance genre novels. Tell us about the relationship in IM and why it doesn’t fit the accepted definition of Romance in the M/M genre.

Rick: I was thrilled that one reviewer recently compared the terror in IM to that found in The Silence of the Lambs, one of my favorite thriller/horror tales. I suppose IM fits better at DSP Publications because of the escalating suspense and sense of dread that defines the plot arc. We have one twisted serial killer at the heart of things—and a compelling mystery: is this killer even alive? Or was he murdered himself? The romantic aspect of the story is strong (it’s between the Chicago cop investigating the case and the love interest he finds along the way—a librarian who helps him with more than just research). Because the suspense of the story is so predominant, the romance naturally takes a back seat, so I think that’s why IM is such a splendid fit for the new imprint.

Carole: Okay, you’ve told us about the journey of IM’s publication. Now tell us about the evolution of the story. What was its earliest incarnation as a concept and when did it begin to take the form of IM?

Rick: It occurred to me, when I was younger and single and guilty myself of doing a little hooking up online how anonymous it all was. How you could, on many of these sites, interact via the site with instant messages and in no time at all, have a stranger at your door. While that stranger could be key to all sorts of earthly delights, he could also be your worst nightmare—and thus, a story was born. Add to that the fact that these online connections are difficult to track, and you have an almost perfect crime scenario—something very tempting for a psycho killer.

Carole: In today’s online/high tech world, a plot like this would seem to have such broad appeal, whether in mainstream or gay lit. circles. Why did you feel this story needed to be told with the M/M dynamic?

Rick: I think that’s fairly obvious. While I’m sure online hooking up takes place all the time in the straight community and even the lesbian community, I think it’s pretty safe to say that it’s nowhere more prevalent than in the gay male community. It’s that two-sided coin of risk/excitement versus danger/peril that, I think, makes the story work particularly well with gay men as antagonists and protagonists.

Carole: So, besides the obvious Awesome book, you’ve gotta read this! every author hopes a reader gets from their book, what’s the one thing you’d like to see readers take away from IM?

Rick: I think one thing people have told me, over and over, is that IM made them think twice about hooking up online. You just never know, with such anonymity, what you might be getting yourself into. You could end up with a future lover, future fuck buddy, future husband…or having no future at all. It’s the chance you take when you roll the dice online.

Carole: Excellent advice, Rick. Thanks for chatting with us today, and happy hookup—er, I mean best of luck on your release! :D

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Rick R. ReedRick R. Reed is all about exploring the romantic entanglements of gay men in contemporary, realistic settings. While his stories often contain elements of suspense, mystery and the paranormal, his focus ultimately returns to the power of love. He is the author of dozens of published novels, novellas, and short stories. He is a three-time EPIC eBook Award winner (for Caregiver, Orientation and The Blue Moon Cafe). His novel, Raining Men, won the Rainbow Award for Best Contemporary General Fiction.Lambda Literary Review has called him, “a writer that doesn’t disappoint.” Rick lives in Seattle with his husband and a very spoiled Boston terrier. He is forever “at work on another novel.”

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Buy IM now in ebook, paperback and Kindle.

Follow Rick through his website, his blog, or through Facebook and/or Twitter.

Join us next time on Genre Talk when Andrew Q. Gordon will come bearing yet more gifts!

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A.J. Marcus, Carole Cummings, DSP Publications, DSPP's Genre Talk

DSP Publications Presents: Genre Talk With Carole Cummings and A.J. Marcus

DSP Publications

Hi, folks! You may remember the last time A.J. was here, when we talked about Eagle’s Blood and nature and falcons. This time, A.J. is talking about the inspiration behind his upcoming (March 24th!) release, Grizzly Discovery, and since he’s more interesting than I am, let’s just turn the post over to him. :)

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Inspiration: Bears

by A.J. Marcus

With my second Mountain Spirit Mystery, Grizzly Discovery, I thought it was a good time to write about my inspiration for writing the book…bears. Not the muscular hairy guys that star in the book, but the huge animals that roam the mountains where I live. Although I haven’t had a lot of bear encounters while hiking or hunting in the mountains, I’m always on the lookout for them. Although none of us saw them, I did get blamed the last time the bears broke into the shed and threw garbage all over the place…long story but I was exonerated by a bent latch and deep claw marks in the door.

I’ve got friends, a couple of whom work for the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife. Around here it’s hard to go long without hearing something about what the bears have done. Many of those stories have been incorporated into my books. Officially the last grizzly bear in Colorado was poisoned by a government trapper in 1952, then another last grizzly was killed in 1979. With the amount of forest and open space in Colorado, the odds are there’re still a number of grizzlies in the state. A lot of folks talk about the grizzlies they see, they’re just careful not to talk to officials about them, so there are no official records. Also a lot of the officials don’t like to make a fuss because if they do, then they have to do something about it…like we see in Grizzly Discovery. Thanks to the internet, there are groups around, like the Colorado Grizzly Coalition that are out and gathering information about sightings.

More common in Colorado, are the black bears, which actually come in a wide variety of colors. Ironically, I’ve seen more black bears in the city limits of Colorado Springs than I have in the mountains to the west. Bears love garbage. Bears love picnics…Yogi, please stay out of my lunch. I honestly think that most of the bad encounters that happen between bears and humans are due to human stupidity. We were watching bears, from a safe distance, in one of the city parks one day when some guys in fatigues, probably from the nearby military base, came up and asked if we thought they might be able to pet the bears…a momma and two little ones. We urged them not to, they got bored and drove off. If my friends and I hadn’t been there, not sure how that would’ve ended. Unfortunately when those sorts of things happen they end badly for the bears.

As we explore in Grizzly Discovery there is a major black market trade in bear parts, particularly to the Far East for their traditional medicine. Poaching is a real problem anywhere there are bears or other wildlife that people believe can provide cures that modern medicine can’t. The problem with this is that a lot of the time no scientific evidence existsto support the idea. I’m sorry, the bear needs its gallbladder more than you do…and don’t even get me started on tiger penis soup. One of the many reasons I enjoy writing this series of books is I LOVE WILDLIFE. I think the animals we share the world with have as much, and in a lot of cases more, right to continue living as the humans do. I’m hoping that my readers get some of my love of nature through my words.

Grizzly Discovery will be available March 24 2015 from DSP Publications

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tna-dspp--aj marcus for 03-11Grizzly Discovery Blurb: Landon Weir and Brock Summers are happily settling into their life as a couple, easily balancing Landon’s work as an animal rehabber with Brock’s career as a Colorado Parks and Wildlife Officer. When they find a bear shot and skinned, they set out to discover who’s behind the heinous act.

Events force Brock to come out to his boss, causing him and Landon to rethink how public they want to make their relationship. As more bear sightings – and more carcasses – show up in the area, Brock is attacked by a black bear he’s trying to release back into the wild, but his injuries don’t prevent him from helping Landon and their friends with the investigation. Despite leads being thin on the ground, the two men try to uncover the poachers before more bears are killed. But when the evidence points them in an unexpected direction, Teller County’s bear population may not be all the killers have in their sights.

Pre-order Grizzly Discovery HERE!

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aj-marcusAbout the Author: A.J. has been writing to pass the time since high school. The stories he wrote helped him deal with life. A few years ago, he started sharing those stories with friends who enjoyed them and he has started sending his works out into the world to share with other people. He lives in the mountains with his extremely supportive lover. They have a lot of critters, including dogs, cats, birds, horses, and rabbits. When not writing, A.J. spends a lot of time hiking, tail riding or just driving in the mountains. Nature provides a lot of inspiration for his work, and keeps him writing. He is also an avid photographer and falconer, don’t get him started talking about his birds because he won’t stop for a while.

You can follow A.J. through his website, on Twitter, or by liking his Facebook author page. Or you can always email him at andy AT ajmarcus DOT com.

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Thanks for stopping by, everyone! Join us next time on Genre Talk, when Rick R. Reed will talk about his upcoming release, IM!

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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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Andrea Speed, Carole Cummings, DSP Publications, DSPP's Genre Talk

DSP Publications and Carole Cummings Present: Genre Talk With Andrea Speed – Infected: Paris

DSP Publications

Genre Talk with Carole Cummings and DSP Publications Author Andrea Speed

It’s Wednesday, which means Lisa has once again allowed us to invade TNA. This time, we’re coming on like a virus with the woman who’s made the word “infected” into something gripping in the best sense of the word. The fabulous Andrea Speed is here today to talk about her DSP Publications upcoming (February 24th) release Infected: Paris!

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infected-parisIn a world where a werecat virus has changed society, Roan McKichan, a born infected and ex-cop, works as a private detective trying to solve crimes involving other infecteds.

Roan is working a frustrating stalker case, with no shortage of suspects and little solid evidence, when he comes across a startling eyewitness living in his car across the street from the scene. A tiger-strain infected, the only one Roan’s ever met, Paris Lehane is a former Canadian golden boy who suffered a breakdown after becoming infected in college.

While Roan’s ex, Diego “Dee” Cole, warns against falling for the infected Paris, a man doomed to die, Roan struggles with his attraction and the knowledge that no happily ever after is possible for them.

But is the knowledge enough to discourage him from following his heart? Roan helps Paris out of homelessness, and maybe a special hospital can help Paris with the infection, but Roan’s got his hands full with this case, and there’s no end in sight.

You’ll find buy links at the end of the post, so sit back and let yourself succumb to this most virulent strain. (See what I did there? *nudge nudge*)

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Carole: The book sounds like a great addition to an already well-loved series, Andrea. For those who haven’t tried it yet, tell us about the genre of this latest.

Andrea: You know, I have a hard time picking a genre for this book. I would guess it’s mystery, with a hint of science-fiction and horror. And I love all these genres! Murder mysteries are just fun to read, at least for me. Same with science fiction and horror. In fact, I will beat the drum for all genre writing over “mainstream” or “literary” writing, for the simple fact that the holds are not barred in most genre writing. Almost anything can happen, and I think that’s amazing. Also, you can talk about contemporary or constant issues, but in coded ways, and it often makes it easier to take for the audience. Nobody wants to be lectured at. But dress it up as, say, an orphan wizard learning his place in the world, and you have something that tastes great, and yet never seems preachy.

Carole: So, why M/M?

Andrea: Why not?

Carole: I know, right?! Okay, so let’s get to the meat of things—tell us about Infected: Paris.

Andrea: This isn’t your typical shapeshifter book. The virus in this story – and there are different strains of cat (cougar, leopard, tiger, panther, lion) – is terrible. You are not consciously aware when you’re a cat, and it hurts. In fact, it ends up killing you, and if you’re really unlucky, you may kill other people as well on your way there. Being infected makes you a pariah. Society is learning to deal with this new thing, and while it has to some degree, it still has a long way to go. Except for the cult that worships the virus as divine, but that’s still not ideal.

And the virus is the only fantastical element of this story. So if you’re expecting vampires or some other urban fantasy stuff, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but it’s not. I try and treat the virus as realistically as possible within the context of the story.

Carole: Infected: Paris is being published through DS PPublications, Dreamspinner Press’s imprint for non-romance genre novels. Tell us about the relationship in Infected: Paris and why it doesn’t fit the accepted definition of Romance in the M/M genre.

Andrea: While the relationship between Roan and Paris is very much the bedrock of Roan’s humanity and continuing sanity, it’s not really front and center. It’s the spine of the book, but not the meat. That’s devoted to establishing the characters, the world they live in, and the mystery. So while it’s clear they love and depend on each other, there just isn’t any on page sex.

I kind of thought it was odd that Infected: Prey was originally published by a romance publisher, because it isn’t really. It’s an alternate universe mystery, where the relationship is important, but it’s not the most important thing going on. In a way, this is my homage to the hard boiled mysteries of Raymond Chandler (but gay) and the gay mysteries of Joseph Hansen. Although I doubt I belong in their company. But it’s something to aspire to.

Carole: Oh, I think you’re doing just fine. ;) Now 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 Infected: Paris?

Andrea: Well, I first started thinking about this story after reading an article about gene therapy. I thought it would lead to interesting complications if someone decided to use a live virus for the hell of it, or to prove a theory, or build a better person. First I thought of werewolves, but I didn’t want to write about them, so I changed it to werecats. Then I wrote the novel, wasn’t happy with it, and set it aside for a year or two. I eventually figured out the story didn’t work because I had the wrong character in the lead. So I rewrote it, and this time Roan showed up, and that was that. I wrote out the plot before I had the character. I’m just lucky he showed up when he did.

Carole: As are your fans, no doubt. So with all that in mind, why did you feel this story needed to be told with the M/M dynamic?

Andrea: Roan is an outsider in many respects. He’s an orphan turned foster child, turned medical pariah, as most virus children – kids born infected with the cat virus – are too damaged to survive or function successfully for long. But Roan was a one in a million, because he was born not physically or mentally deformed, but then no one knew what to do with him. He wasn’t like other virus children, but he wasn’t a normal child either. He had no known family, and the medical establishment wasn’t sure what to do with him. He grew up in hospitals as well as the few foster homes willing to take him (there weren’t many of those), and he was treated like medical waste with a short shelf life. When the character occurred to me, I knew he was gay right away, because of course he would be. His life has been defined by narrow odds, and I have a hard time imagining him being in any kind of majority group. He’s very punk rock, and he learned early on to revel in his misfit role, and of course there’s something in him that just loves to fight. Roan just wouldn’t be Roan if he were straight, or even bi. That would be a different character entirely.

But I also knew that having a human connection was very important for him, beyond even that of your average person. Roan has always longed for a permanent home, but not one made of bricks and mortar. Home to him is a person, someone he could love and trust, someone who wouldn’t let him down as so many people and things have done in his life. So he would have a relationship, and a pretty solid one at that, especially if he found someone he could trust. And Paris is definitely a man he can trust, a man who helps keep him emotionally grounded. Roan is very much a character who needs someone else in his life. Because his fighter impulse could spin out of control if he didn’t have a solid reason to hold it back.

Carole: Sounds great, Andrea, and I know fans of the Infected series are looking forward to this latest addition. One last question before we go. If you could give out only one piece of advice, what would it be?

Andrea: Be yourself. Which is a bland, blah sentiment, but I goddamn mean it. If you want to be a writer, painter, cartoonist, professional knitter or curler, go for it. What’s holding you back? You’ll be ridiculed/you’re not good/there’s no way you’ll make enough money at it … so what? You shouldn’t let that hold you back. Nor should the “everything’s been done” thing either. So what? It hasn’t been done by you – that alone makes it different. Life is very short, and you can’t keep wishing you would do something while putting it off for one reason or another. To hell with that. If you have a passion, pursue it before it’s too late. Do it now!

Carole: Excellent advice, Andrea. I hope all those creative souls out there take it to heart. Thanks so much for being with us today, and best of luck on your upcoming release!

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Author BioAndrea Speed was born looking for trouble in some hot month without an R in it. While succeeding in finding Trouble, she has also been found by its twin brother, Clean Up, and is now on the run, wanted for the murder of a mop and a really cute, innocent bucket that was only one day away from retirement. (I was framed, I tell you – framed!)

In her spare time, she arms lemurs in preparation for the upcoming war against the Mole Men.

Viva la revolution!

Preorder Infected: Paris HERE.

You can follow Andrea Speed via her website or on Tumblr or 8Tracks.

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Be sure to stay tuned for the March edition of Carole Cummings’ Genre Talk with DSPP author A.J. Marcus.

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Carole Cummings, DSP Publications, DSPP's Genre Talk, Yeyu

Guest Post: Genre Talk With Carole Cummings and DSPP Author Yeyu

DSP Publications

Hello and happy Humpday, everyone! I’m here today with DSP Publications author Yeyu to talk about her new release The Relics of the Gods (Between Heaven and Earth Book 1) and something I bet you haven’t thought about before—Chinese Historical Fantasy.

I know, right? You’re all in for a pretty awesome glimpse into Chinese history and literature. So buckle up, because I think you’re going to be as fascinated as I was.

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o-the-relics-of-godBlurb: What is worse: Being so broke you can barely afford food, getting hired for dangerous missions way out of your league, suffocating under mountains of unanswered questions—or wanting to sexually dominate someone who can kill you without lifting a finger?

Lu Delong is a mercenary who evaluates antiques most of the time and deals with the paranormal on rare occasions—even though it’s supposed to be the other way around. When he joins a dangerous quest for an ancient artifact, he meets and becomes strongly attracted to a mysterious and powerful immortal named Cangji. Despite his friends’ warnings and Cangji’s icy, unsociable demeanor, Delong is unable to resist befriending him. However, Cangji is deeply involved in a matter beyond mortals, and Delong is drawn into a chaotic struggle by both visible and invisible forces.

Always the pacifist who wanted to live a simple human life, Delong never imagined he’d end up involved in a conflict that will affect everything from the lowest insects on earth to the highest gods in heaven.

Buy links etc. can be found at the end of the post, so let’s get right to it.

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Carole: Thanks for being with us today, Yeyu. I’m a huge Fantasy geek, so I was excited to see your novel The Relics of the Gods (Between Heaven and Earth Book 1) released. For those who don’t have much experience with the Fantasy side of literature, explain to us what your genre is all about.

Yeyu: The genre I’m writing in is fantasy, but rather than being a Western fantasy, what I’m writing is more akin to (modern) Chinese historical fantasy.

Granted, the amount of research I’d have to spend on Western historical fantasy would probably be about the same as what I’d spend on a Chinese historical fantasy, and I may even have a less painful time for a Western historical, since most of the materials I used for my research are in classical Chinese and trying to read those gives me massive headaches. However, I’ve always been quite fascinated by the Chinese fantasy genre.

Being raised under Chinese values and culture, I grew up watching cartoons and reading comics of the classic Journey to the West alongside Disney. While I can’t claim to know/remember every detail of how the story went in Journey to the West, it nevertheless left a deep impression on me.I remember that I used to watch the cartoon about the Baigujing (white bone spirit) over and over again, and even though it has been a long time already, I still vividly remember how the story went. Several famous scenes such as the one involving the white bone spirit are pretty much as familiar to the average native Chinese-speaker as the classic Disney cartoons are to the current generation. Everyone remembers there are powerful magical tools, immortals/gods, Chinese alchemy, monsters, mythology, etc. As such, Journey to the West has a sizable influence on Chinese culture. It has been played time after time for entertainment purposes ever since it was writtenin the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), and it is also the shining example of the Chinese fantasy genre better known as shenmo(神魔)fiction, or literally, gods & demons fiction.

Of course,Journey to the Westdrew on earlier classics such asIn Search of the Supernatural (compiled 350 CE), which traces its influences all the way back to a book that pretty much shaped all East Asian folklore, The Classic of Mountains and Seas (written 4th century BCE, the Nine-Tailed Fox being the most famous folklore). Needless to say, I have not read those classics because I lack the Chinese proficiency to understand the cryptic words without banging my head against the wall in frustration. However, much of my research is based on the accumulated folklore/mythology recorded in those ancient texts.

So how does modern Chinese fantasy differ from classical fantasy? Well,in the 1930s, Chinese fantasy eventually transformed into what is commonly called “xianxia”(仙俠) fiction, which literally translates to “immortals & heroes” fiction, which somewhat combines the shenmogenre with the somewhat better-known wuxia genre (think “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” for wuxia). Immortals & heroes fiction, despite having elements of magic and the supernatural, usually focuses on the process of understanding “Dao”as characters journey and experience the secular society. Gods are referenced, and the outcome of events are already predetermined by fate so some immortal/highly trained people can see the predestined future. However, gods or even the notion of becoming immortal bear little importance to the general plot. Instead, much of the story’s focus is “heroism”, so it is more similar to its less fantastical counterpart.

With the rise of online serial fiction in recent years, however, a new genre emerged from the immortals & heroes genre—xiuzhenfiction (修真), which literally translates to “training to become immortal” fiction. Unlike traditional immortals & heroes fiction, xiuzhenfiction approaches fantasy in a manner that is more similar to the gods & demons fiction mentioned before, where gods are frequently mentioned and also play an integral role to the plot.The main focus of the story, as the genre name implies, is to become so powerful the main character eventually attains immortality (as opposed to performing acts of heroism). As such, there is almost always a systematic “level-up” system which has its roots in Daoist internal alchemy. As the setting is not limited to historical China,xiuzhen fiction is pretty much the biggest and most popular fantasy genre in the Chinese community, with several subgenres of its own (note that the highly popular wuxia genre is not thought of as “fantasy” in the community. Instead, it is considered supernatural fiction, and it is an independent genre by itself”).

The story I’m writing is in the mythological subgenre of xiuzhenfiction, which, in my opinion, is a pretty good representation of Chinese culture. I enjoy reading stories and playing games with that setting, and as mentioned several times elsewhere before, I also happen to have a grand vision to share my culture with anyone who is interested in seeing what it’s about. So, when I was almost finished writing my Chinese historical Erasing Shame, I thought: why not write a Chinese (Daoist)fantasy after this? At the moment it didn’t seem there were many English ones available. And thus, I ended up writing this genre, not only to share my culture with non-Chinese readers, but also provide a story that is familiar to ethnic Chinese who can’t read Chinese.

Carole: Wow. So with all that going on, why M/M?

Yeyu: I’ve been a fan of BL since I was 10 years old or something. I am now 24 years old and still an avid fan. I don’t know why either, haha. I just don’t feel that same kind of excitement with M/F fics.

Carole: Many would agree, Yeyu. That’s why we’re all here! ;) Okay, so, let’s move on to The Relics of the Gods. How is this book different from a lot of Western fantasies?

Yeyu: The Relics of Gods is about an average-ish half-human and half-deer mercenary’s quest to woo a powerful immortal. Unlike most fantasy stories, the story’s main character is not really on a quest to save the world. He’s not anangsty or angry anti-hero, per se, but I think readers who finish the book will know what I mean.

Also, as the synopsis implies, the main character prefers being dominant in bed and the love interest is the “bottom”—there will be no switching. This is not a BDSM book and the sex they have probably doesn’t even count as D/s, and there is no D/s dynamic outside of bed (in my opinion, anyway). So, despite writing BL, which means my story does adhere to some “yaoi” tropes, I have a feeling traditional yaoi lovers who embrace the fragile but beautiful uke & tough and alpha seme trope will not really enjoy my story, just as I don’t enjoy reading mainstream dynamics. The main character is also nowhere near being an alpha dude, so I suppose a lot of mainstream M/M readers will not enjoy the story as much.

Carole: The Relics of the Gods (Between Heaven and Earth Book 1) is being published through DSP Publications, Dreamspinner Press’s imprint for non-romance genre novels. Tell us about the relationship in The Relics of the Gods and why it doesn’t fit the accepted definition of Romance in the M/M genre.

Yeyu: Although romance drives my story, there isn’t a lot of “romance” in the book. In fact, the love interest spends a lot of time off-page because I wrote the story entirely from the main character’s point of view. One of my readers even told me she would enjoy the story even without the romantic element, so I’m assuming she didn’t see a whole lot of romance in the story. While that perplexed me, since personally I think the story is by far the mushiest and fluffiest tale I’ve written, I suppose other romance readers probably also won’t find my book a “romance” book. I can easily imagine them criticizing the story for containing few scenes of emotional connection or interaction between the MC and LI. They are right, but that means they probably aren’t my target audience.

If I had to put my finger down on it, my book is kind of like those chivalric romances—it is“romance”. Just not quite a book of the romance genre, in a modern sense. Instead, it is more of a genre fiction with action & adventure. As such, I think DSP Publications is a perfect imprint for my story. People will want to pick my book up because they know romance is secondary to the plot, and they would hopefully have a more pleasant reading experience now that their expectations are in the correct place. I’d hate to let any reader waste their time and money on a novel they don’t enjoy.

Carole: So, what do you think, say Amazon would recommend alongside your book? “If you liked ________, you love The Relics of the Gods.”

Yeyu: I don’t have any examples of books in the genre I write, since I don’t think there are any English fictions specifically in my genre (I haven’t looked hard, though.) I suppose the closest story that is also available in English is The Journey to the West, but as I’ve said earlier, xiuzhen fiction is quite different.

Carole: Good point. It’s tough to be original! :) All right, 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 The Relics of the Gods?

Yeyu: Other than wanting to share Chinese culture, I wanted to write a dynamic I wanted to read. This is because my tastes in M/M dynamics are very, very niche. Like almost impossible to find niche. Where most people expect BL (and its more notorious counterpart “yaoi”) to have that emotional, lovesick and often dude-in-distress uke and cool, powerful seme, my tastes are what you would call “reverse mainstream”. Thus, while mainstream fiction often has a powerful and gorgeous top sexually dominating a weaker, normal-ish guy, I wanted to imagine a normal-ish guy dominating a super powerful and gorgeous bottom. I wanted D/s-y dynamics in bed, but with non-traditional tops and bottoms.

I also wanted to strictly read from the top’s POV.

As you can predict, I had difficulty finding such stories. I can sometimes find similar tropes in Chinese BL, but those are few and far between, not to mention the plot or writing won’t necessarily be to my taste.So, I ended up writing such a dynamic myself.

Moreover, before I wrote the book, I was pretty influenced by Nanpai Shanshu’s The Grave Robbers’ Chronicles as well, so I started off wanting to write something semi-similar as it is another genre in Chinese fiction I really enjoyed. (For those who know what that fic is about, yes there is a strong similarity between two important characters that spawned many fanfictions, but I always liked those character tropes in pairings and always ship pairings like that in fandom—it was the reason I picked that book up in the first place, to read it as a BL story….)

Carole: Ah, “I write what I like to read”, the anthem of so many authors. Is this why you felt this story needed to be told with the M/M dynamic?

Yeyu: There is no particular reason. My story is M/M for the same reason most genre fiction is M/F…which is no reason at all, except I felt like it because that’s what I like to read. I write what I want to read.

Homosexuality is not an issue in my fiction because it was actually pretty common in the Ming Dynasty, which is the time period my story is set in. So many government officials and rich nobles played with men and even some emperors did, too—no one in their right mind during that era would truly outlaw homosexuality. If there was any law trying to curb gay sex during that time, it did not work. Gay sex was apparently so rampant during the Ming Dynasty it disgusted Western visitors.

Of course, gay relationships were usually in a heteronormative sense where one guy had to be the “woman” and would be somewhat looked down on by the society thanks to widespread misogyny, but in general, same sex relationships were not taboo as long as it did not interfere with marrying and having children. Furthermore, the Confucian value of filial piety to the parents is usually ignored in Chinese fantasy fiction, as many fantasy main characters are orphans and all will leave their family behind to train, so there are no filial piety issues. Not to mention, Chinese fantasies are often Daoist/Buddhist and not necessarily Confucian-influenced. Altogether, there is no real obstacle to M/M in Chinese fantasy.

In fact, there would actually be slightly more obstacle in writing a M/F romance if I wanted to be strict in terms of how the historical society functioned (which few modern Chinese authors take into consideration), since most “cultured” Han Chinese women during the Ming Dynasty stayed home with those horrid bound feet and all. As such,the woman in a straight couple would likely face more criticism than a gay couple would, since no one would know the two dudes are gay. Even if they knew, as I’ve mentioned, it’s not that big of a deal. Sure, some scholars may be disgusted or some idiots would mock feminine men, but that’s about it.

Carole: Okay, we’re wrapping up here, but before we go—give us the answer to a IAQ (Infrequently Asked Question™) about this book that no one will probably ever ask you about, but you think is pretty cool.

Yeyu: I mentioned Duanwu/Dragon Boat festival in the story and it was really minor. However, I’d like to mention that there are actually two versions of the historical origin of the festival and how the dragon boat racing came to be (both related to a deceased official—the more widely known official to be Qu Yuan, and the other to be Wu Zixu). What’s more, some modern scholars suspect that the original reason people engaged in dragon boat racing was actually not related to any deceased official, but rather it was a practice from prehistoric times when people still worshipped dragons. The theory was the Han Chinese government wanted to exert Confucian values and came up with origin stories to link the dragon boat racing to actual history as opposed to mythology.

Carole: Wow, Yeyu, that was as fascinating as I thought it would be. Thank you for taking time with us today, and thank you to Lisa and the TNA gang for having us. A preview of The Relics of the Gods (Between Heaven and Earth Book 1) is available on Amazon.

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Author BioAbout the Author: Yeyu wrote her first story when she was 7, and she has been creating stories on-and-off ever since, be it writing fanfiction or drawing original manga. She finally ventured into writing original fiction in high school, and stuck with the form.

Most of Yeyu’s childhood was spent overseas, but she is currently living in a small East Asian island most commonly known as Taiwan, where she was born.

When Yeyu isn’t writing in her spare time, she is probably reading, gaming, or sleeping. No cats, sadly.

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Order The Relics of the Gods (Between Heaven and Earth Book 1) now in ebook and paperback HERE and HERE.

Follow Yeyu on her website and on Twitter.

Next time on Genre Talk, Andrea Speed talks Paranormal!

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A Sneak Peek At The Coming Week, Amanda C. Stone, Amber Kell, Carole Cummings, Charlie Cochrane, Garrett Leigh, Hayden Thorne, Izzy van Swelm, Lexi Ander, Maggie Kavanagh, Rick R. Reed, Sue Brown, Yeyu

Here’s A Sneak Peek At The Coming Week

Sneak Peek

Happy Sunday, everyone, I hope you’ve had a lovely week. 

Coming up in the week ahead, we’ve got plenty of great stuff in store for you to enjoy, more guest authors, interesting articles, interviews, reviews, and, thanks to the generosity of our guests, more giveaways just because they appreciate you, their readers.

Here’s what’s on tap:

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MondaySue Brown kicks off our week, talking about breaking rules on the Stolen Dreams blog tour

Charlie Cochrane is also with us on the Lessons for Survivors blog tour, sharing a deleted scene featuring Jonty and Orlando

TuesdayAmanda C. Stone will be here with a short Q&A on The Adventures of Cole and Perry blog tour

Garrett Leigh also joins us today on the Rare audiobook tour

WednesdayMaggie Kavanagh drops by on the Double Indemnity blog tour

Hayden Thorne will also be here to talk about the re-release of the gorgeous (not that I’m biased) YA Historical Fantasy novel The Twilight Gods

Carole Cummings is also here today with a little “Genre Talk”. Joining her is DSP Pubications author Yeyu – the topic: Historical Fantasy

ThursdayLexi Ander stops in on the Songs of the Earth blog tour to talk about world-building

Amber Kell also joins us to talk a bit about magic on the Porter’s Reaper blog tour

FridayRick R. Reed joins us on the Blink blog tour to talk a bit about writing what you know

Saturday – And finally, debut author Izzy van Swelm is here today to close out a week of outstanding guests on the Soul Mate for SIN blog tour

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And that does it for this week. Until next time, happy reading!

 

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Carole Cummings, DSP Publications, DSPP's Genre Talk, John Inman

Guest Post: Genre Talk with Carole Cummings and DSP Publications Author John Inman

DSP Publications

Greetings all, and we hope you had a fantastic New Year! I’m here today with DSP Publicationsanswer to Stephen King, John Inman, author of the newly released horror novel Willow Man. Actually, he’s kind of DSP Publications’ answer to lots of things, so let’s get right to it, shall we?

Carole: You’ve written a range of works in different genres, from romance to mystery to zombie humor, and now horror. The common thread through most of your work seems to be gay lit, so with that in mind, tell us about your genre.

John: The way I see it the gay genre isn’t much different than straight lit as far as the writing goes. The same principals of construction apply. The same plot devices are brought into play. It’s still just as tricky in gay lit as it is in straight to create a story line from start to finish that doesn’t fall flat on its face somewhere along the line. The only real difference is that in the gay genre, a predominance of the characters are gay, natch. And being a gay man, that to me is what makes the writing of gay lit fun. I don’t have to pretend to be anything I’m not. I can truly draw from my own experiences, whereas delving into the thought processes of a straight person always makes me feel like I’m walking on pudding, just a teeny bit unsure of every step I’m taking. When you say, “tell us about your genre”, the first words that come to my mind are this — writing gay lit makes me feel at home. It’s where I belong. It’s where I love to be. And that’s what this genre means to me.

Click Here To Purchase

Click Here To Purchase

Carole: Tell us about Willow Man.

John: The idea for Willow Man was born from an actual experience of mine. One September morning all the way back in 1978, I was standing at my dining room window when I heard a loud boom in the sky. Looking up I saw a jetliner, with flames spewing from the side, angling down toward the earth. And to my left I saw a small plane tail-spinning straight down in freefall. When the jetliner struck the earth less than half a mile from where I stood, shaking the very floor beneath my feet, the explosion was deafening and the sky across the city grew immediately dark with black, billowing smoke. 144 people died that day when PSA Boeing 727 Flight 182 collided over San Diego with a small Cessna. It was 9:01 in the morning. I’ll never forget it. When the idea to write a horror story came to me, I knew, since that plane crash was one of the most horrific things I had ever witnessed, I would somehow have to incorporate it into the story. So I did. There was no prisoner on board PSA that day as depicted in the book, or none that I know of. Nor was there a detective taking him to justice. But I thought, what better way to bring a monster to life? And wouldn’t it be fate’s greatest irony, to let the one truly evil man on board be the only one to survive the crash? In malevolent spirit, at least. And now that I had the bad guy, I had to find his adversaries. And to me, one of my favorite aspects of horror stories is the juxtaposition of good and evil, purity and cruelty. That’s why much of the story is told from the viewpoint of children. For what good is horror, without innocence for the horror to prey upon?

Carole: So, as with most DSP Publications books, we shouldn’t mistake this for a romance, then.

John: While there is a love story in Willow Man, it is most certainly not the main crux of the story. I suppose that is why this book fits better in the DSP Publications imprint, rather than the more Romance-oriented DSP. But to be honest, it is a fine line that is often a little blurred in my mind. Why DO some books fall under Romance, while others don’t quite make the cut? And rather than drive myself nuts worrying about it, this is where a writer’s faith in his publisher comes to bear. I leave it up to DSP to steer my books in whichever direction they choose. Hell, I’m just thrilled to death to be published at all. And the wise souls at Dreamspinner Press know what they are doing far more than I do. I just write. That’s all I do. That’s all I WANT to do. I envy those writers who are masters at marketing themselves. I truly do. But that’s not me. I don’t much worry about the business end of the trade. That’s why, when you are lucky enough to find a publisher you trust completely, as I have done, you can just concentrate on the writing. And to be able to do that, my friend, is a treasure like no other.

Carole: So, you’ve told us about that horrible plane crash and the inspiration for this story—how did it evolve from that devastating scene you witnessed and into Willow Man?

John: This story was a long time coming. I have worked on it off and on for several years. Long before I was ever published at all, in fact. It is one of my first submissions to DSP and they held it for years while waiting for the new imprint to come to fruition. And as I was saying earlier about trust, DSP was exactly right in holding back on its release. Because of that decision, Willow Man now has a truly comfortable home with DSP Publications. Before, it would have been a DSP novel that would never have really fit in with the rest of DSP’s romance-driven catalog. It’s hard to carry a romantic storyline within the confines of a true horror story, because horror is just too overpowering for romance, I think. People who buy romance novels, want romance. People who buy horror, want horror. Maybe now, with DSP Publications alive and kicking, we writers can play with both themes at once, within the boundaries of the same book, dropping in just enough of one to season the taste of the other. It makes the writing a lot more fun to know you can go wherever it is you want to go without the restrictions of a strictly romantic plotline hanging over your head. But don’t get me wrong. I love writing romance. The more sugary the better. The wooing, the winning, the sex, it’s all great, and I get as gooshy as the next person reading it. But with DSP Publications up and running, it’ll be fun to be able to spice up those stories with a little gore and mayhem now and then. I’m smiling right now because just thinking about it makes my fingers itch for the keyboard.

Carole: Okay, you had a novel just waiting around for years, waiting for a suitable publisher to invent itself because before now, one simply didn’t exist. Why wait? Why not just change it and mainstream it? Why did this story need to be told with the M/M dynamic?

John: I have been writing my entire life. Short stories and poems when I was a kid, novels as an adult. As an adult, almost every book I have written, and that numbers about 20, was told under the umbrella of a M/M dynamic. Probably because, as they say, you should write what you know, and since I’m gay, what the hell was I supposed to write about? Lumberjacks? Well, maybe SOME lumberjacks. Heehee. Wait, I’m getting off track. The simple truth is, I was writing M/M before I ever knew there was an actual market out there for it. God knows I wasted enough years sending manuscripts to the wrong publishers. Which reminds me, by the way. A good tip for aspiring writers? Research publishers before you waste their time and yours sending them stuff they don’t deal with. I learned that one the hard way, but then, I’ve always been a slow learner. And truthfully, the whole marketing thing is a huge mystery to me anyway. Like I said before, writing is what I love. I leave all the other stuff to wiser heads than my own.

Carole: And lastly—here’s a question authors either love or hate, but I think it’s one of the first ones we answer for ourselves: Why do you write?

John: And there it is. The million dollar question. Why do any of us do what we do? Why does my next door neighbor edit chemistry textbooks for a living, and pride himself on doing it the best he possibly can? Why does my partner tear himself up running marathons at the ripe old age of 65, and then come home so tired he can barely walk but still beaming like a lighthouse with a million-watt grin on his face? I write because it is something I was born to do. I can think of no other reason. I did it as a child. I do it as an adult. I’ve grown tired of a lot of things in the long course of my life, but writing is not one of them. Every minute of the process is fun. Even the minutes when I’ve lost my way and I find myself pulling my hair out trying to find my way back. Yep, believe it or not, even that is fun. Well, maybe a few days later it’s fun. Writing is also heart-wrenching at times. Bad reviews. Poor sales. Rejection slips. Computer crashes where you lose four chapters and head straight for the scotch before girding your proverbial loins and sitting down to rewrite the damn things all over again. A lot of being a writer hurts. But then one day you get an email from a reader in Casper, Wyoming, and she thanks you for helping her come to grips with the fact that her son has just told her he’s gay. Or you find a letter in the mail from a young man in Altoona, PA, who says your writing inspired him to want to be a writer himself. Or you get a note from a young woman in Brussels who is sick with cancer, and who tells you your book made her laugh for the first time in months. I’ve received those letters. And there’s your answer. That’s why I write. That’s EXACTLY why I write.

Carole: Awesome! Thank you, John, for spending some time with us and answering questions. And thank you, Lisa and TNA readers for stopping by. A preview of Willow Man is available on Amazon.

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Author BioJohn Inman grew up on a tiny 60-acre farm in Indiana. His childhood was a happy one. He spent most of it barefoot with a cane pole over his shoulder, fishing and roaming the countryside and dragging home every wild creature he could get his hands on hoping to make it a pet, much to his mother’s horror.

Longing to see the world (what kid doesn’t?), he joined the Navy two minutes after graduating from high school. The Navy carried him all across the Orient before finally landing him in San Diego, California, a city he fell in love with at first sight. He lives there to this day with his husband John (yep, John and John), and an assortment of pets they’ve happened to adopt along the way, (Yep, he’s still doing that too.)

The one great longing that has stayed with John his entire life, from his childhood on the farm, to his years in the Navy, and all the way up to retirement from the working world, was the need he felt to write fiction. And he did. He wrote every chance he got, from elementary school all the way through to Social Security.

John calls this passion of his a wonderful addiction, and he thanks God every day that he suffers from it. Since he can’t think of a happier way to spend his remaining years on this marvelous planet, you can now find John seven days a week, merrily slogging along on his computer, doing what he most dearly loves to do.

Writing. (And there’s usually a pet on his lap while he’s doing it.)

Order Willow Man now in ebook and paperback HERE and HERE.

Follow John at his website or on Facebook.

Next time on Genre Talk, Yeyu gives us a fascinating education on Chinese modern fantasy.

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A Sneak Peek At The Coming Week, Carole Cummings, EM Lynley, Ines Johnson, Jaime Reese, John Inman, Morticia Knight, Shae Connor, Sid Love

Here’s A Sneak Peek At The Coming Week

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Cheers, everyone, I hope you’ve had a lovely weekend filled with plenty of good reading. We have a great week in store for you: more reviews, guests, giveaways, and who knows what else? We’ve learned to expect the unexpected too. :)

Here’s what we have on tap in the week ahead:

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MondayShae Connor kicks off our week with a guest post and giveaway on the Unfortunate Son blog tour

TuesdayMorticia Knight drops in with an exclusive excerpt and giveaway today on the Copping an Attitude (Sin City: Book Two) tour

WednesdayCarole Cummings is back with more Genre Talk. Her guest today is DSPP author John Inman, who’ll be discussing the Horror genre

ThursdaySid Love joins us today with an interview on his Let it Go blog tour

Friday – We’ll be participating in the cover reveal for Jaime Reese’s new novel A Restored Man today

We’ll also be hosting EM Lynley on her Dirty Dining blog tour

Saturday – Finally, to end our week, author Ines Johnson is back with an exclusive excerpt and giveaway of her novel The Pleasure Hound (Book Three)

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And that does it for this time around, friends. Until next week, happy reading!

 

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A.J. Marcus, Carole Cummings, DSP Publications, DSPP's Genre Talk

DSP Publications: Genre Talk With Carole Cummings and A.J. Marcus

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GENRE TALK with Carole Cummings

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Hey, all! Lisa went and left the door unlocked again, so here I am! And I’ve dragged fellow DSPP author A.J. Marcus with me to leave cigar burns in Lisa’s furniture and drink all her beer talk about Mystery! (As in: who left cigar burns in Lisa’s couch and drank all her beer?!) And Suspense! (As in: will Lisa kill Carole with the candlestick, the rope or the poison?!) Continue reading

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Carole Cummings, DSP Publications, DSPP's Genre Talk, J Tullos Hennig

DSP Publications Presents: Genre Talk With Carole Cummings and J Tullos Hennig

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GENRE TALK with Carole Cummings

Hullo, everyone! Lisa and the gang at TNA have kindly agreed to allow me to come natter once or twice a month about genre fiction within the LGBT spectrum, so I’ll be dragging the DSPP authors along with me to answer a few questions and talk about their genres and their books. Continue reading

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Carole Cummings, DSP Publications

Guest Post: Introducing DSP Publications by Carole Cummings

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So, by now you might have heard that Dreamspinner Press is branching out again. In addition to their YA imprint, Harmony Ink, last month saw the launch of DSP Publications, an imprint dedicated to genre fiction such as Science Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery, Paranormal, Horror, among others.

I know some are wondering why. Dreamspinner already publishes a multitude of genres under their M/M Romance umbrella, so why bother making a whole new imprint? Continue reading

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Carole Cummings, Charlie Cochet, Cornelia Grey, Eileen Griffin, Jack Byrne, L.A. Witt, Liz Borino, Mia Kerick, Mickie B. Ashling, Nikka Michaels, Rain Carrington, Sneak Peek, Sue Brown, Whitley Gray

A Giveaway and A Sneak Peek At The Coming Week

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Hi, everyone, and welcome back to another look at what we have coming up for you in the week ahead.

First, though, in case you missed it, The Novel Approach is hosting a giveaway over at Mary Calmes’s Blog for our Book of the Month picks in October. There’s a chance to win TWO of the dozen e-books we each selected as October’s best, so be sure to head on over there before Midnight Pacific time on November 4 to enter for a chance to win.

Good luck!

And now, here’s who we have in store for you in the coming week, more great guests, interviews, blog tours, giveaways, and, of course, reviews.

 

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MondayNikka Michaels and Eileen Griffin stop in on their In the Fire blog tour

Cornelia Grey is also our guest on the Circus of the Damned blog tour

TuesdayMickie B. Ashling is here on the Cutting Out blog tour

Whitley Gray drops by with an interview on the Crash Pad blog tour

WednesdayL.A. Witt is our guest on the Starstruck blog tour

Rain Carrington comes calling to do a little promo for her two upcoming releases, Crazy Little Man Called Love and Road Runner

ThursdayCarole Cummings is our guest today to talk a little bit about the launch of Dreamspinner Publications

Charlie Cochet is also here today on the Rack & Ruin blog tour

FridayMia Kerick drops in on the Random Acts blog tour

RJ Scott joins us on her Darach (Fire: Book Two) blog tour

SaturdayLiz Borino makes TNA a stop on the No Time for Secrets blog tour

And finally, Jack Byrne is back to talk about the new anthology Hot Off the Press

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And that does it for this week. Until next time, happy reading!

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Carole Cummings, Dreamspinner Press

Come In, Have A Seat, And Say Hello To Carole Cummings. She Comes Bearing A Gift!

We’re pleased as rum punch to have Carole Cummings as our guest today at The Novel Approach! She’s here to talk a little bit about her newest novel The Queen’s Librarian, as well as offer the chance for one lucky reader to win an E-copy of the book. Make sure to check out the contest details after the excerpt!

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Carole, tell us a little bit about yourself: when did you begin writing creatively? Was there any one person who influenced and encouraged you?

I started writing stories as soon as I could pick up a pencil and make it make the shapes I wanted. I don’t recall a time in my life when I wasn’t writing.

I wasn’t very good at sharing my writing with others unless I absolutely had to, and since I absolutely had to in some of my classes in school, I did eventually end up with a particular teacher who said, “You realize you’re pretty good at this, right?” and I kind of blinked and said, “Uh.” At which he snorted and told me to take his word for it. I didn’t (because writers never really do) but I kept writing (because that, writers always do). He eventually got me into some advanced coursework and wrote one of my recommendation letters for college, where the same professor who told me what my name is in Elvish also told me I should be submitting some of my papers to a couple of small publications that accepted short stories. I didn’t (because I still wasn’t good at sharing my writing unless I absolutely had to), but I did eventually end up submitting to a couple private literary organizations that didn’t threaten publication as a “reward” because he just would—not—let—up. As a result, I won a few amateur awards and an extended scholarship, so I had to put up with my professor being smug for-freaking-ever. Anyway, that’s how I learned to appreciate editing and critique, and though it took me a while longer to learn to deal with sharing in general, I respected both of those men very much and I make myself remember their words any time I find myself questioning the sharing part now.

What do you love most about writing stories in the Alt U/Fantasy sub-genre? Is there something more personally satisfying for you, as a storyteller, to write beyond and outside of the world as we know it?

I think, in a lot of cases, it’s an opportunity to point out some of our less attractive societal behaviors in a way that applies and yet doesn’t apply to a different society that doesn’t have our history. In most of my m/m stories, for example, you’ll find societies that don’t have the same prejudices against what we in our world call homosexuality. In those worlds, where there were no “prophets” telling early inhabitants that they must propagate the species at all costs and thus creating a “wrongness” in natural sexualities, the prejudices never surfaced against natural biological and physiological preferences. There are, certainly, other prejudices that are analogous, but the worlds in my stories don’t generally have that particular prejudice because it didn’t evolve in those cultures. They don’t react in the same ways because they’re not us. It’s very interesting to hypothesize different evolutionary, psychological and societal processes and figure out how they apply to the world I’m writing and the characters that exist there.

A lot of the stories I see labeled “fantasy” are really just stories about humans on a human world reacting in human ways. For me, that kind of defeats the purpose. I like to be presented with a world and its various histories and cultural reactions and then extrapolate how those histories and reactions would factor in with my characters’ own personal histories and reactions. It’s like my own little psychological and societal petri dish.

Tell us about your writing process: Are you a plotter? When writing a series as detail oriented and as epic as Aisling and Wolf’s-own, do you plot book-by-book, or plot the entire series beginning to end before you begin writing?

I really can’t plan too far ahead, because my characters are the ones who determine where the story will go next and they rarely consult me. I know people say “You’re the author, you have the power!” but that’s just not how it works for me. At least, not if I want to allow my characters to become real people on the page. Their motivations and experiences and wants and needs, not mine, are what matter in the world of that story, and since they have all of those motivations and experiences and wants and needs, I can’t control them any more than I can control the guy sitting next to me on the bus. I think of myself as a channel more than an author.

My stories always start with a character who pops into my head for whatever reason and then proceeds to tell me all about himself and his world and what his major gripe is. When he’s spent enough time beating the crap out of my backbrain and filling in details about where he’s been and where he is right now, then I can start writing where he’s going and hope I make it through to wherever he needs to end up. But even when I start a story thinking I know how it will end, the characters always change it along the way and it never ends up where I thought it would.

The Queen’s Librarian is, in comparison to the Aisling and Wolf’s-own series, much more lighthearted. Why the break from drama and intensity?

Though it’s definitely very different than what I’ve thus far published, TQL is not actually different than probably at least half of what I write. It’s actually closer to what the inside of my head looks like than the more dramatic stuff I’ve published over the past few years.

I need things like TQL to keep me on an even keel when I’m writing the darker stuff. I wrote chapters of TQL in between chapters of Wolf because I needed to hide from the Fen-angst every now and then or my head would go ’splody. Probably close to half of the stuff I have on my hard drive is just as absurd and fluffy as TQL. I just haven’t inflicted it on other people as much. ;)

Did you perhaps channel a little bit of Jane Austen while writing this book?

Ha! Maybe in the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies vein. I’ve been saying TQL is kind of Wooster and Jeeves meet Monty Python and Doctor Who. Because, again, that’s just what the inside of my head looks like.

Are you planning to bring Lucas and Alex back in a series of sequels? Because I don’t mind telling you, you really, really should. I’m very much interested in Lucas’ new line of work!

Hee. Thanks. It’s certainly possible. I hardly ever end a story at an END, it’s almost always a beginning, because unless the world blows up and everybody dies, the stories go on, whether I’m there to tell them or not. Unless a character is dead, he hasn’t reached an end, he’s only started a new chapter.

I’d kind of like to see how Lucas’s next chapter goes and how he handles his new job, too, and he and Alex and Laurie were all kinds of fun, so I hope to get back there eventually.

Can you tell us what Fen and Malick are up to these days?

Fen, I think, is training the ever-loving crap out of Morin, because he’ll want to make sure Morin is the best and deadliest general to ever stage a coup, and Fen will want to make sure he doesn’t lose anyone else. Malick is probably watching and drooling and trying to talk Fen out of his trousers every time Fen does an especially acrobatic move or a particularly impressive twirl with a knife.

I also picture Fen, post-Incendiary, spending a lot of time with the governor of Tambalon, learning about politics and trying to get all his ducks in a row before deciding how he wants to help Morin when they go back to Ada. Malick, for all his cavalier “everybody wants me and I have the hottest boyfriend ever,” is actually probably very busy forming alliances, calling in favors and plotting how he’s going to help Fen get exactly what he wants. Because anyone who doesn’t think Fen was the boss in that relationship wasn’t paying attention, and Malick is all about getting Fen exactly what he wants.

How about Wil and Dallin?

I actually wrote a goofy little thing (I’ll have to see if I can find it) where the Old Ones are training Wil in how to use his magic, and he’s not taking instruction very well. They had him practice turning a small pond into a fountain. He got bored and froze the fountain in mid-splash. According to Thorne, “The fish looked… surprised.” Dallin, when Thorne is telling him this, is trying to be very sober and concerned, but on the inside, he’s rolling on the floor. That’s kind of how I picture them: Wil being very much Wil, and Dallin making sure he’s at Wil’s back in case anyone tries to make Wil not be Wil. I picture them traveling around their world and righting wrongs, with Dallin being careful to make sure Wil doesn’t get shot in the back while he’s stretching his wings.

Of all the characters you’ve created, is there one who’s nearest and dearest to your heart?

Ooh, tough question! Generally, it’s whatever characters I’m writing at the moment, but if I had to pick one… Actually, I’m not sure I can. I have a soft spot for Umeia because I think most readers misunderstood her because they humanized her and she wasn’t human, she was an immortal demigod. What she did, she did for the love of her brother and she wasn’t actually wrong, in the grand scheme of bigger events. A lot of readers despised her because of what Malick called a betrayal, but when looked at from the amoral viewpoints of the gods of that world—which was how Malick and Umeia both were supposed to have been looking at things—Malick was actually the one who was being too “human” about the situation. If looked at from Umeia’s POV, Malick was being a sentimental idiot and putting himself in a hugely dangerous position; Umeia was really only trying to save him.

There’s also Ailin and Garreth from Impromptu because their story has stayed with me for so long. I wrote their novel—of which Impromptu is a part—a long time ago and then lost it in a computer crash. I work on rewriting it off and on between other projects. I’m almost done, but other things keep horning in.

Do you have a favorite fictional character (outside of those you’ve created)? If so, who is it, and why?

Everything always comes back to Frodo, and I think there are bits of him in at least one of the protagonists of all of my stories. (I’m talking Frodo of the books, not the movies; there’s a huge difference.) I’ve admired that character since I was ten, and first loves tend to have staying power.

Tolkien, for all his truly amazing work, was better at giving his world depth than he was his characters, but it’s there nonetheless; it shines through despite the obfuscation of superficial exposition. Frodo was a gentle soul with a core of adamant. He took on the most horrible, evil and debilitating thing that existed in his world and gave up his Self to defeat it. (And don’t talk to me about how Gollum saved Middle-earth; I could write dissertations on why that’s a depthless load of bull, and Tolkien himself said it had been horribly misunderstood, so neener.)

If you could sit down to dinner with anyone, either real or fictitious, who would it be, and what would be the one question you’d be dying to ask?

Yikes. Another tough one. It’s really hard to narrow it down to just one. John of Patmos would be one, because he was a crazy bastard and a conversation with him would be enormously interesting, if probably somewhat boggling. Carl Sagan would be a must, and Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of those brilliant minds who can put enormous concepts into understandable shapes, and I’d love to just sit and listen to them talk about the universe. Geoffrey of Monmouth, because he was a fount of history and the first authority on King Arthur, and I would love to know how much of that history was based in fact. In that same vein, I’d love to meet Merlin, though I think he’d be a scary BAMF. Socrates and Plato, for obvious reasons. Some literary heroes like Alexandre Dumas, along with several of his characters. Virginia Woolf, Edgar Allen Poe (though I might need a Zoloft afterwards), Lord Byron (OMG, how fascinatingly fun would that be!), Chaucer (hilarious!). Neil Gaiman would probably be fun and Terry Pratchett… well, that would be like sitting down with a minor god. Can you imagine going out for drinks with him and Death? *falls down*

Yeah, I’m apparently greedy and incapable of picking just one.

How would you describe your sense of humor? What makes you laugh?

Ha. Probably “inappropriate” works best. Maybe “absurdist”. I see humor where it sometimes doesn’t belong, and subtle non sequiturs will generally have me on the floor with everyone else looking at me like Uh, yeah, it wasn’t that funny. There are tons of one-liners in TQL, but the stuff that was going on inside Lucas’s head was what really entertained me.

Do you have any works-in-progress you’d like to tell us about?

There are a few. I’m working on one that’s leaning toward steampunk but isn’t really; it’s more fantasy, but it involves a train and mechanical technology, so it’s on the line. It will be called Blue on Black mostly because it enables me to refer to it as BoB. (As in BoB is being a recalcitrant bastard today.) Kimo is a mechanical and technical genius who disappeared a few years ago, and Bas is the guy sent to find him. It’s gone in directions I really didn’t want it to, but as I said, BoB is a recalcitrant bastard and a bossy jerk and won’t let me walk away from it with a little bit of dignity, so I imagine it’ll be done soonish. (Whether or not I work up the chops to let anyone else see it will be another question entirely.) In between chapters of that, I’ve been playing with a contemporary fantasy in which Emory fancies himself the real Harry Potter (only not nearly as cool) and who was supposed to have died when he walked out in front of a bus. He kind of did die but really didn’t and now the Reaper whose job it was to cross him over is very confused. Shenanigans and lurve ensue. And, like I said, I’m actively working on Ailin and Garreth’s story, and I hope to get the rewrites on it finished after I’m done with BoB.

Where can we find you on the internet?

My site is http://www.carolecummings.com. You can find all the other places I haunt through the links page there.

Would you like to share an excerpt from The Queen’s Librarian with us?

Sure! I’ve got the whole of chapter 1 up on my site, if you’d like to see what comes before this. This is from chapter 3. I wish I could include the entire scene, because it’s one of my favorites just for its sheer silliness, but here’s a taste:

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“Lucas! Lucas Tripp!”

“Yes, Lucas, come in here,” Laurie called. “Stop hiding out in the hallway and come let your mother take care of you.”

Lucas was rather surprised the Glare of Death wasn’t melting the lenses of his spectacles and burning a hole through the wall and right between Laurie’s eyes. He squared his shoulders and put on a smile as he stepped into the room, only barely keeping his feet when his mother sailed out of her chair and came at him like a very elegant, silk- and lace-draped battleship.

“What have you done to your lovely face?” she wailed as she took Lucas by the shoulders and shoved his face into her bosom. “Oh, I knew you shouldn’t be down in that dangerous little house all by yourself with that treacherous loft and all that splintery wood, and that dreadful cat! Was it the cat? It was the cat, wasn’t it, oh my poor baby, let me look at you.”

She shoved Lucas back again with enough force that his spectacles slipped down to totter at the end of his nose. “It’s a scratch,” he told her, probably a little bit desperately, though he’d never admit it, because then Laurie would think he’d won, and that was just unacceptable. “And I didn’t even get it at home, my house is not dangerous, for pity’s sake, Mother. I was just being clumsy, that’s all, and you know, you’re really kind of hurting my arms a little, and really, how are you so strong?”

Mother didn’t appear to have heard any of it—she gripped harder. “You’re moving back in here straight away, and you’re putting that awful creature right back out in the barns where it belongs. Alex Booker,” she intoned, turning an imperious glare across the room, “what in the world were you doing while that horrible monster was attacking my son?”

Alex gulped. Lucas didn’t blame him—anyone would. “It wasn’t—”

“Yes, Alex,” Laurie said with a tilt of his head and really quite a believable indignant glare, considering he was an evil Goblin King, “what were you doing while Lucas was being attacked by that horrible, awful fiend and almost losing an eye?”

Mother’s glance snapped back to the plaster on Lucas’s cheek, then widened, even as her grip tightened another notch. She was cutting off circulation now; forget the eye, Lucas was going to lose an arm, he just knew it.

“Your eye!” Mother shrieked. “It’s what they do, you know, they go for the eyes, oh, Lucas, my poor b—”

“It wasn’t Cat!” It had come to this—Lucas was defending a cushion with legs who had basically come with the carriage house because she wouldn’t leave when he’d moved in and only “allowed” him to share “her” space because he was sometimes useful to her. “It was a bush, Mother, a simple thorny bush, and it wasn’t at home, it was at the Duck, and I got a scratch—on my cheek, not my eye—because I was being clumsy and couldn’t get my sleeve unstuck from some prickers when I was—”

He stopped himself short. Because he wasn’t about to tell his mother that he’d been weeing outdoors “like a peasant” or that he’d been weeing at all. There were some things, though Mother was no doubt aware of their existence and necessity, Lucas had no intention of acknowledging in her presence, and what he had in his trousers was one of those things. He’d never be able to use it again—for anything—if he had to admit that she knew he had it. And that would probably disappoint Alex. Well, and Lucas too.

“Really, Mother,” Lucas said, trying to gently twist out of her clutches without looking like he was having some kind of spasm. “I mean, you know, ow.”

“The Duck?” said Laurie. “Do you mean the Drunken Duck?” His eyes were wide and his smile was pure evil. “So you were out rowing with cutthroats and ruffians. At a tavern!” He looked at Alex. “Which still doesn’t explain why you haven’t a mark on you, Alex.”

And why did everyone seem to think that, if Lucas had been fighting, it would have been Alex’s “duty” to step in and save him? There were dozens of insults in that assumption; Lucas couldn’t decide which one to start with.

“Yes, funny that,” Alex retorted, relaxing back into his chair with a small smile that had to mean some kind of trouble. He set to casually straightening his cuffs. “Because, since you brought up marks and all, I was just noticing that strange little bruise below your left ear.” He smirked a little when Laurie too obviously stopped his hand from reflexively reaching up to cover the mark. “Sort of looks like a love bite, but since I’m certain the Prince of the Realm wouldn’t dream of going about corrupting the innocent daughters of his mother’s subjects, that can’t be right, can it? I mean—ha!—whatever would the Queen say if she got it into her royal head that her only son was the randiest horndog to have ever, say, blown up a baking hall?” Alex took a prim sip of his tea. “I saw Miss Maida the other day when I had business in Applethrow. She sends her, um….” He cleared his throat. “… regards.”

And now Lucas couldn’t decide between boggling and smirking. How did Alex know all this stuff?

It had the desired effect on Laurie—he shut his mouth and glared then shot a quick cowed glance at Lucas’s mother. She didn’t notice. She was busy looking at Lucas with… drat. She was going to pull out the tears.

“You went to a tavern?”

She said it like she was talking about the third portal of the Netherworld—the one where all the debauchers and lusters went to cool their heels for eons until the Sentinel Wardens decided they were sexually frustrated enough and sent them off to the second portal to spend another few eons with the proselytizers and the radicals.

Lucas didn’t want to spend eons with the proselytizers and the radicals.

“Laurie’s got a love bite,” he said weakly.

“The Drunken Duck?” Mother sniffed. “The Drunken Duck?”

“It’s an inn!” Lucas defended. “And maybe it has a, um, you know, a sort of hall-type room, which might almost resemble a tavern, but there are more rooms in the place that don’t resemble a tavern, so it’s really just an inn with what some might consider one tavern-ish room among lots of other untavern-ish rooms, which by its definition doesn’t necessarily make it—”

“Isn’t that where Mister Singer met his unfortunate end?” asked Laurie.

Lucas couldn’t tell if it was a deliberate prod or if it was simply one of those occasions where Laurie’s mouth hadn’t bothered to check with his brain before engaging. Either way, it made Lucas clench his teeth, and the headache that Miss Emma’s tea had almost killed came roaring back to life to pulse red and hot behind his eyes.

“Laurie,” Lucas said slowly, “I swear, if you don’t shut your mouth, I will kick your arse so hard you’ll have to reach—bottom!” Lucas snapped wide eyes back to his mother. “I didn’t say arse, I said bottom!”

Oh my god. He’d just said “arse” in front of his mother. To his mother. Twice. He’d gone a little light-headed, so he almost didn’t notice the squeals and shrieks coming from the south garden, or the bobbing heads that a moment later passed by the sunroom’s large eastern window on the way to the front door. He was too caught up in trying to turn back time so the past eternity had never happened at all.

“Oh look, Nan’s here,” he said, and he didn’t even care that it was so obviously wretched. Bugger not letting Laurie win—this one had been over before Lucas had even stepped into the room.

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This Contest Is Now Closed.

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Carole Cummings, Dreamspinner Press

Carole Cummings’ “The Queen’s Librarian” Puts The Fun In The Fundamental Of Reading

Books may well be the only true magic. ― Alice Hoffman



In our own world, perhaps, yes. But in Lucas Tripp’s world… Well, in Lucas’s world true magic is not confined entirely to the books for which he has a special love, the books for which, as his queen’s librarian, he is solely responsible. In fact, the true magic one can find outside of his books is the kind that makes Lucas’s world of Daimins and stone circles and faerie mounds the sort of place where everyday mundane cares must collide with the mystical. It is the place where books are history, and books are mystery, and books, or one book in particular, at least, is the key to…everything.

Of course, we all know that legends and myth and folklore and fairy tales are largely made up of truths. Well, the truths about Lucas’s adventure are these: His life has become an Occam’s razor of discovery, a place where he must suss out everything that isn’t until he lands on the very best answer for exactly what everything is—which is a tad confounding really, until he uses his heart’s key to unlock the answers. In following his adventure, we learn that his land is drenched in a generations-old cursed, and that it’s possible to be both pragmatic and impractical, and that licking his lover, Alex Booker, in public probably isn’t okay, and that sloppy drunks don’t have to make sense, and that suitors can be pretenders and pretenders can be suitors, and that ale and fairy trees aren’t very good for a person’s clothing or, well, his person either.

We learn that Lucas thinks he may be living in a romance novel, but that’s okay because, oh, how much is there to love about that romance? It is divine, really, as we also learn that Lucas and Alex’s world is like one long and spontaneous smile: lighthearted, whimsical, magical, and romantical all at once.

Just when we’d gotten used to Carole Cummings’ spectacular brand of darkly atmospheric fantasy, she has broken form with The Queen’s Librarian, and I must say that the difference is most definitely delectable. I fell truly, madly, and deeply for Lucas and his Alex, and for the just-this-side-of-impossible world in which they live; fell just a little bit for a Prince, too, who might not be the brightest jewel in the crown but is certainly colorful; fell for the humor and the magic that made this world come to life, and I am most certainly waiting to see what may come next for Alex and his squire, scholar, and soon to be something more in his majesty’s service.

Reviewed by: Lisa

You can buy The Queen’s Librarian here:

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Anne Tenino, Carole Cummings, Storm Moon Press

We’ve Got A Couple Of Fun Things Coming Up This Week, But Boy Oh Boy, Just Wait Until August!

As you may or may not have heard, Jay of Joyfully Jay Reviews and I have cooked up something special for readers this year in our Joyful Approach Countdown To GRL 2013. When we first began discussing the project and whether it was something we could pull off successfully, we never imagined that we’d get the sort of response that came pouring in from participating authors. In less than eight hours, we filled our original forty-two time-slots, quickly bumped it up to FIFTY, and still have authors on our waiting list over and above that fify cap, authors whom we both dearly hope to be able to accommodate as we fill our calendars for the seven weeks between August 19th and October 6th.

Be on the lookout for announcements in the coming weeks, including a list of participating authors and the dates they’ll be scheduled to appear both here and at Joyfully Jay!

But on to what’s on tap for this coming week: on top of some really great reviews, we’ve got Anne Tenino here tomorrow to talk about her newest release, Sweet Young Thang, and she’s also bringing along a goodie or two.

On Thursday, we’ll have a guest post from Storm Moon Press, as they continue their Big Damn Heroine tour.

Then, on Friday, Carole Cummings will be our guest, and she’ll be offering one lucky reader the chance to win her latest novel The Queen’s Librarian.

So be sure to stay tuned, and have a great week!

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