3.5 Stars, JL Merrow, JMS Books LLC, Paranormal Romance, Reviewed by Kim, Short Story

Review: Trick or Treat by JL Merrow

Title: Trick or Treat

Author: JL Merrow

Publisher: JMS Books

Pages/Word Count: 22 Pages

At a Glance: A good read if your into quickies (no pun intended)

Blurb: The memory of this party could haunt him forever …

Dragged along to a haunted house by his mates, Sam’s at the Halloween party from hell — the guy he fancied has turned out to be a bigot, and Sam has just outed himself to his whole football team.

Escaping to the garden, he meets James, an enigmatic stranger with a mischievous smile, and the evening soon takes a turn for the better. The night may be chilly but the heat between Sam and James is hotter than Hades.

But James has a role to play in the evening’s ghostly entertainment, and it’s a story with a deadly ending. Unless Sam can change the script and stop history repeating itself, “till death do us part” will come sooner than he thinks.


Review: JL Merrow’s Trick or Treat starts off, interestingly enough, with Sam talking to a certain body part as he’s outside watering the vegetation. As Sam is zipping up his pants, an unexpected voice speaks to him from out of nowhere and scares the bejeezus out of him. Turns out it’s another young man, James, who’s out and about before the big ghostly show that’s suppose to happen at this particular haunted house.

Sam and James get to talking as they share a bottle of vodka, and before you know it… they’re bumping against each other. After they’ve finished having their fun, Sam is about to ask James if he’d care to see him again, when James suddenly turns to run off into the trees…

Now, at this point, Trick or Treat starts to pick up when Sam goes back into the house to meet up with the friends he showed up with, hoping that James is among the group of people that have gathered to watch the spook show. And… I have to stop right here so as to not spoil Trick or Treat’s surprising ending.

It’s a very short story, about 22 pages, and it did hold my interest throughout the reading, but I really would have liked to have found out more about Sam and James. Especially James and the situation he found himself in!

It’s a good read if your into quickies (no pun intended). Not particularly scary, but still a good Halloween read, or any other time, for that matter, when one feels in the mood for a paranormal story. Would I reread it again? That would depend on if JL Merrow wrote a sequel, because the ending was interesting.

You can buy Trick or Treat here:

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All Romance eBooks

Giveaways, Jeff Adams, JMS Books LLC

Guest Post and Giveaway: Rivals by Jeff Adams

Fate Making Up For Lost Time

Fate Making Up For Lost Time

Thanks to Lisa for letting me drop by to talk about the re-release of my short story Rivals. I’m excited to be here discussing a story that’s set in the holiday season, starting at Thanksgiving and ending for Christmas. In the spirit of the season I’d like to give away a free copy of the ebook to some lucky commenter on this post.


3.5 Stars, JMS Books LLC, Logan Zachary, Paranormal Romance, Reviewed by Taz, Short Story

Review: Dead By Dawn by Logan Zachary

Title: Dead By Dawn

Author: Logan Zachary

Publisher: JMS Books

Pages/Word Count: 20 pages

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Blurb: Skip Helsing is on vacation celebrating his new sunscreen. Little does he know trouble is brewing with his new “Youth Forever” formula, which allows for a newly-found freedom to a dangerous race.

Dominick wants Skip’s new formula for himself, and isn’t willing to share it with the world. As Dominick searches for Skip, a few innocent people are hurt as Skip enjoys body surfing at the resort. Continue reading

Hayden Thorne, JMS Books LLC

Excerpt and Giveaway: Henning: The Hunted Prince by Hayden Thorne

Being a prince in a past life and a different world guarantees nothing in 21st century Earth. One of the best things about writing YA fiction is the exploration of a teen’s relationship with the adults surrounding him. That ends up being great fun in comedy, and in my Masks series, we have Eric pretty much driving his family crazy with his attitude and his hundred and one misadventures. For my Henning series, I wanted to reverse things and explore a relationship between a boy and his guardians (one of whom is his uncle). In this case, Henning’s the normal one (or as normal as a reincarnated prince with powers can be normal), while his guardians – “chaperones” – are the ones driving him nuts. And it turned out to be just as fun writing it because in Henning’s case, none of his guardians are married or even parents. So while they’re utterly ignorant where raising a child’s concerned, they’re still as gung-ho as ever (turning to guide books for pointers), much to Henning’s horror. The fact that they’re also reincarnated officers with their own powers bodes nothing but ill for the boy’s teen years.

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4 Stars, Historical Romance, JMS Books LLC, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Rena, T. Nielson

Review: The Glass-House Murder by T. Nielson

Title: The Glass-House Murder

Author: T. Nielson

Publisher: JMS Books

Pages/Word Count: 156 Pages

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb: Meet Lord Henry Carlisle: gentleman, wastrel, and mystery-novel lover.

When his mother telephones him on a May evening to tell him they’ve just discovered a body in the glass-house, Hal does what he loves to do: he goes to investigate. As it happens, the local constabulary, headed by an unusually well-spoken, well-educated fellow named Sayers, is already on the case, and Sayers is a bit of a mystery all on his own. Continue reading

JMS Books LLC, Videos

Interview and Giveaway: Welcome Scott Alexander Hess

ScottBW_WebSize_0348TNA: Hi, Scott, thanks so much for joining us here at The Novel Approach today. We’re happy to have you with us. Why don’t we start by having you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Scott: I hail from St. Louis, but after two decades in Manhattan I consider myself a New Yorker. I received my MFA from the (amazing!) New School in 2009, which is what led me to writing novels. Prior I had written some screenplays and worked as a journalist. In Grad School, I fell in love again with prose, and became a die hard fan of William Faulkner and Cormac McCarthy (my two idols).

TNA: When you sat down to write what eventually would become your first novel, did you write with the intention of submitting it to a publisher, or was it a less deliberate process for you? If you could go back to the time period during which you wrote it, what advice would you give yourself, in hindsight? Continue reading

4 Stars, AR Moler, Genre Romance, JMS Books LLC, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Jackie

First Love Gets A Second Chance In AR Moler’s “Does the Feeling Go Both Ways?”

Title: Does the Feeling Go Both Ways?

Author: AR Moler

Publisher: JMS Books

Pages/Word Count: 124 Pages

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb: Deep cover DEA agent Landon Cross can’t seem to escape his past. First, his cover is blown by a guy he’d busted in another operation. Then, his rescuer is medic Trey Jernigan, his best childhood friend, first love, and a person Landon betrayed as teenager. Continue reading

Jeff Adams, JMS Books LLC

Hockey? Why Do I Write Books About Hockey Players? – Guest Post and Giveaway by Jeff Adams


Thanks, Lisa, for letting me stop by today! I’m thrilled to be here to talk about the Hat Trick series, including the just released Hat Trick 2: Playing the Rebound. I’ll check in periodically through the day, so if you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask. Plus, I’m offering up a free e-book of Hat Trick 2 to one lucky commenter.

One of the questions I often get about the Hat Trick series is “Why hockey?” Continue reading

Hayden Thorne, JMS Books LLC, Queerteen Press

Excerpt And Giveaway – Masks: Evolution by Hayden Thorne

22457655Today we welcome Hayden Thorne on the Masks: Evolution Blog Tour. Evolution is the sequel to Rise of Heroes, and carries on the story of teenage Eric, his boyfriend Peter, their friend Althea, and all the superhero and supervillain action Vintage City can handle.


JMS Books LLC, Paul Alan Fahey

Paul Alan Fahey Is Among The Living Today To Discuss “Too Long Among The Dead”, And There’s A Giveaway

Too_Long_Among_the_Dead_400x600[1]Thank you, Lisa, for having me here today. Really do appreciate this opportunity to talk about my new release, Too Long Among the Dead, a gay, contemporary, paranormal romance.

Too Long Among the Dead is a departure from my Lovers and Liars novella series. For one, it’s novel length by E-Age standards, and two, it explores the realm of the paranormal—a totally uncharted territory for me, but a story I’d been thinking of writing for some time.

Before attempting this book, I’d never written anything long enough to be considered a novel—unless you counted my dissertation. (Please don’t count that. :)) And, to be honest, writing a novel absolutely terrified me. Here’s why.
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4 Stars, JMS Books LLC, Nico Jaye, Reviewed by Lisa

Nico Jaye Offers Up A Little Taste Of “Sex and Candy”

“Nothing is ever as good or as bad as it appears to be.” ― Jeffrey Fry

Title: Sex and Candy

Author: Nico Jaye

Publisher: JMS Books LLC

Pages/Word Count: 19 Pages

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb: Lee may be in a relationship with Tony, but that little fact doesn’t stop Lee when Tony agrees to allow him one wild night of no inhibitions. With excitement thrumming through his veins, Lee finds himself letting loose at Hard Candy, a popular cruise-worthy dance club known for its sweet Candymen and even sweeter one night stands. Under the club’s pulsing lights, he meets a mysterious man in leather, and things soon get hot and heavy as Lee rediscovers his submissive side under the Dom’s firm yet loving guidance.
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4.5 Stars, AR Moler, JMS Books LLC, Reviewed by Lana

AR Moler’s “Personal Protection” Heats Things Up And Leaves You Wanting More – Reviewed by Lana

“That was my first instinct — to protect him.” – Graham Greene

Title: TITLE

Author: A.R. Moler

Publisher: JMS Books LLC

Pages/Word Count: 49 Pages

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Blurb: Dr. Ryan Bergstrom has offended somebody, but he has no idea who is so upset with him. Ryan is a gifted medical researcher working on a drug that could slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Death threats and nasty pranks mean that the medical research firm has hired a bodyguard to make sure their golden boy is protected from his stalker.
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A.J. Corza, Chris T. Kat, Dreamspinner Press, GotYouCovrd, J.M. Snyder, JMS Books LLC, Paul Alan Fahey

A.J. Corza’s Got You Covered – This Week’s Topic – Different Types Of Art To Choose From

Book covers come in all shapes and sizes, all colors and textures. Book covers are a window into the author’s soul, a little glimpse of what is to come, and the artist who creates the cover is just the mouthpiece of the author.

Book covers can be paintings, drawings, photographs, collage, and most often these days, photo manipulated, or Photoshopped, for the laymen. It pretty much depends on what the author wants done, what their personal vision is. More often than not, the authors don’t tend to have a set vision for the cover because their mindset is more about the broad strokes of a full story. A cover artist certainly takes the entire story into consideration but tries to narrow that focus to one specific idea. Let me tell you, it’s really hard sometimes to do that. Trying to distill 300 plus pages of detail into one cover without overcrowding or muddying up the works takes talent and skill.

I feel for the authors out there, though. Thinking and eventually accomplishing your goal of writing a book, then actually moving on to publishing a book is a feat in itself, but then…gah, the cover? What sort of cover do you want? If you’re a lucky author going with a publishing company, generally you get assigned an artist. Tthey show you three or so mockups, you choose and bam, you can relax your brain. Freelance authors aren’t so lucky. Their choices are: ask a family member or friend (if they’re lucky enough), doing it themselves, or going out into the world and finding an artist.

If you choose to do the latter, that’s when the real fun begins. It’s a lot like finding a new dentist, painful in every way. First you go to Google, then you type in book cover artist, and then you get buried beneath the virtual onslaught of artists there are. As I said before all shapes and all sizes.

One such type is Collage:

It’s the same exact setup as your everyday craft store collage. Find pics that fit and slap them together. Well, you’d think that, wouldn’t you? But any person that does collage knows that you can’t do that at all. You have to have an eye for color, for shape, and mainly for form, otherwise you just get a huge ol’ mess that turns people off rather than encouraging them to buy. Both of these covers for Paul Alan Fahey were done by J.M.Snyder and are great examples of the collage feel. Both covers are clean, concise, and a unique melding of pictures. Especially Bomber’s Moon, which definitely has more of a cut out quality to it but manages to be interesting without looking like a 7th grader cut out a photo that they liked and stuck it on a cover. Even the lighting that hits each picture in a different way still manages to look cool and to convey a really different, distinctive feel. It somehow, to me anyways, makes it almost feel three dimensional, especially with the black sky.

3D Modeling is another route an author can go, and this cover done by Zathyn Priest is a perfect example of 3-dimensional artwork. Lots of color and motion fill the entire cover. You can practically feel the warmth that must be coming off the dragon’s skin. Did I mention I’m a huge fan of the dragon? 3D really gives the impression that both the man and beast are going to wander off the cover and nip you right in the tender regions, doesn’t it? I’m pretty much digging it myself. Especially since I can’t even begin to tell you how much time goes into creating 3D art. I took a class in it when I was getting my A.A., and it was not what I would call even in the realm of easy. Hell, I had a bitch of a time getting a ball to look right, let alone a dragon and a man. I honestly can’t recall if I’ve seen any other artists out there doing 3D work on book covers, but if this is the sort of art that gets you excited, we know of at least one artist now, don’t we?

Then of course there is photography. The saying that a picture can speak a thousand words is too true, even if it’s only the opening gambit on a 1000 page treatise about the mating cycle of a cricket. You can learn so much from one photograph if you just take the time to look. Especially if they are used such as they have been on this cover. Look at the subject closely: doesn’t his face speak to you of a life fully lived? He wears his time on this earth in the creases on his cheeks and the pinched line of his mouth. Don’t his eyes convey a certain curiosity mixed with inherent knowledge that brings about a clarity of view from living that life? (And yep I just used up all my 20 dollar words for the day) Doesn’t that make you curious also?

Painting is another way to go. Whether it’s a full line sketch, airbrushed into full blooming beauty such as The Wolf and His Diva written by Chris T. Kat artwork by Paul Richmond, or a combination of photography plus airbrushing, such as the cover done by Ravven for Born in Flames by Candace Knoebel. Painted covers can be stunning and beautiful and can make you just want to jump into that cover and travel to that world. They can make you yearn to meet the man looking so sweetly at the squirrel, or the fiery redhead half covered in dragon scales. The beauty of an artist that can paint/sketch/or combine either element with photography? They can pretty much make anything your little heart could desire.

The question is, though, as an author, how do you choose? And there’s no easy answer for that. You have to go with what your gut tells you, but always, always remember that what you love may not be what the masses will respond to. Your covers are the first introduction to your buying public, and it is absolutely imperative that you take them into consideration. If you have a cover that no one cares for, who’s going to buy the book? So be wary, gentle authors, and don’t skimp on quality. The only one that you will hurt in the end is yourself.

Have a great day and may the good books be with you!

All thoughts and comments are the reviewers only and not the viewpoints of others. If I’ve made you angry, stepped on any toes, or otherwise ruffled any feathers, I do apologize. This is just for fun, and written in the hopes that it will help fledgling book authors and artists to grow and learn.

Check me out on Facebook @: https://www.facebook.com/ajcorza

Hayden Thorne, JMS Books LLC, Reviewed by Lisa

Hayden Thorne’s “Icarus in Flight” Is A Beautiful Historical Romance

“Love for sale walked comfortably before the world—rouged and vulgar, stained and pitiful, deemed immoral and yet more welcome than the briefest kiss exchanged between two men.” – Hayden Thorne

Title: Icarus in Flight

Author: Hayden Thorne

Publisher: JMS Books LLC

Pages/Word Count: 252 Pages

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: James Ellsworth is a bit jaded, especially for his young age. He hates school and longs for his parents’ estate, where life is far more pleasant. Meeting new schoolmate Daniel Courtney is a much-needed distraction, one that will prove more and more engrossing as James and Daniel grow older.
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Hayden Thorne, JMS Books LLC

“Arabesque” – The Inspiration And A Giveaway From Hayden Thorne

I. Inspiration
Several years ago, I stumbled across an odd, surrealist take on Sleeping Beauty called Briar Rose by Robert Coover. It was a post-modern retelling of the folktale that went well beyond the usual princess – prince – curse – one true love conquers all trope; in fact, it was a bitterly humorous take on the folktale. Cyclical and repetitive, it shows a helplessly trapped situation the three main characters find themselves in. The prince is caught in the briars. The princess is lost in dreams as she waits for her savior. The old crone’s caught up in the princess’ dreams, telling the girl never-ending stories that further feed those dreams. What blew me away was the fact that Coover also made use of several old versions of the Sleeping Beauty folktale that added a pretty disturbing layer to his retelling. Incest and rape come up the princess’ dreams. That ties with certain versions of the folktale in which the princess wakes up from a hundred years’ sleep and finds herself surrounded by babies.

Another book I discovered, adored, and was inspired by was Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber, an anthology of feminist retellings of different folktales. Carter’s prose is difficult to slog through if you’re not used to it, but it works incredibly well in creating a certain atmosphere and tone in each story. Her stories are sensual, gothic, opulent, and somewhat angry. That last detail could be subjective. It was a tone I easily caught on to as I read every story, which was an exploration of female strength, oppression, and liberation.

In Coover and Carter’s books I discovered a different approach to writing folktale retellings. Things didn’t need to follow tried-and-true variations, and a writer can certainly venture down a different fork in the road. I learned that it was good to experiment with themes and tone while using familiar stories for my foundation.

II. Satire
Arabesque is a satire. More specifically, it’s a dark satire. Now our common interpretation of satire runs along humorous lines, and while that’s partly true, satire isn’t just comedy. From Wikipedia:

Satire is a genre of literature, and sometimes graphic and performing arts, in which vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, corporations, government or society itself, into improvement.[1] Although satire is usually meant to be humorous, its greater purpose is often constructive social criticism, using wit as a weapon and as a tool to draw attention to both particular and wider issues in society.

There are two kinds of satires: light (Horatian), which is gentle and humorous, and dark (Juvenalian), which is angry and bitter.

Arabesque is the latter, and I wanted it to be the latter. I’ve never written satire in the Juvenalian sense, and it was an odd experience for me. I wanted to express my disgust toward reparative therapy, which was the primary goal for my writing Arabesque. Along the way, homophobia and misogyny were instantly woven into the story, and it was inevitable since these three items are, to me, inextricably linked.

And in order to pull that off, I needed to step back and use the omniscient point of view, showing what went on with different characters, both major and minor. That “zooming out” approach helped me maintain a distant – even cold – voice that I thought would work well in satire. I wanted the tone to be dry and matter-of-fact, sometimes with a touch of dark humor here and there, but still overall critical of what I’ve always known to be the hypocrisies behind bigotry and especially among proponents of reparative therapy.

III. Fairy tales within a fairy tale
The book uses a number of other fairy tales mostly in brief references except for Roald’s nightmarish adventures, which make use of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” in a longer and more detailed way. Traditional fairy tales are, unsurprisingly, awfully heteronormative, and it was that which inspired me to explore historical fantasy for gay kids when I started writing and publishing gay YA fiction.
In Arabesque, I wanted to show how those classic fairy tales can be used to break Alarick and Roald, how neither boy can be a part of those stories of grand adventures and true love because they don’t fit the bill. They’re gay. Sucks to be them. If they don’t see themselves reflected in those stories – stories from their childhood, stories they’d always held dear – it could only be because these tales favor the status quo, and if they wanted to be deserving of hope, redemption, and edification, they needed to change their behavior. Or, according to the cursed cottage, they needed to grow up and get over themselves. After all, homosexuality’s only a phase.

IV. Hybrid of mythology and folktale
I chose 18th century Germany for the setting as my way of honoring the Brothers Grimm. We usually associate fairy tales with the Middle Ages, with the romantic images of elaborate headdresses and robes. But I prefer the image of 18th century court life as well as the 19th century bourgeois and the 19th century poor for my fairy tale settings. 18th century court life is much more excessive in terms of visuals compared to the 19th century, so I stuck to that period. Exploring the increasingly out-of-control decadence and corruption of Lambrecht’s court tied in with images of tall powdered wigs, hoops, lace, satin, etc., and it was rather fun juxtaposing immorality and hypocrisy with finery and wealth. I’ll admit that it was an odd, somewhat unnerving headspace to be in, considering I’ve never written anything that purposefully attacked and ridiculed certain behaviors and mindsets. But I wanted to do it; I wanted to express my disgust toward reparative therapy in a story. Treading unknown waters was a way of testing myself as a writer. In the end, despite the doubts, I found that I enjoyed stepping outside my usual comfort zone, and I wouldn’t mind doing something like this again.

The three goddesses who figure largely in Book Two were inspired by Greek and Roman Mythology. When I first self-published this book, I took the German words representing each goddess and turned them into names: Kummerene, Weisheitta, and Liebella. For the second edition, I dropped those names and simply gave them their corresponding English identities: Grief, Wisdom, and Love. Roald’s adventures, while a form of reparative therapy, are also allegorical once we figured those goddesses into the mix. You can certainly read them literally as goddesses representing grief, wisdom, and love, but you can also interpret them a different way. Are they all part of Roald? Or do they come from people who surround him? Alarick’s adventures are a lot more straightforward, but I wanted to keep Roald’s a little more open to interpretation.

V. Blue roses
I love blue roses. I love their symbolism. In Arabesque, they’re everywhere, and they represent impossible dreams. There’s not much to say about them other than they’re very much a part of the setting as well as a recurring little detail that says something about the principal players (and two minor ones): Ulrike, Amara, Alarick, Roald, Trennen, Wilmar, and even Grief herself. Whether it’s about reclaiming their humanity (Ulrike and Amara), surviving the darkest times to live and to love (Alarick and Roald), finding acceptance (Trennen and Wilmar), and looking past one’s cursed existence and feeling empathy for others (Grief), these characters are up against a number of odds stacked up against them. There’s redemption in the end, and it always seems to be impossible, just beyond their reach. It’s this struggle that the blue rose represents.

VI. Final word
I initially wrote Arabesque as an experiment. It was my first attempt at pure (dark) satire, at an omniscient point of view, and at a sustained dry tone. It was also my first attempt at self-publishing a book. The second edition’s been trimmed down quite a bit and also cleaned up with the help of an editor. But the lesson I got from this remains. It’s scary stepping outside one’s comfort zone, but it’s necessary, I think. I feel more confident in tackling stuff like this further down the road. I love knowing how many options I have in telling a story, and I feel I’ve grown as a writer from this experience. And even if I were to not write another book like Arabesque, at least I can look back and reassure myself with the thought that, once upon a time, I set out to do something I’d believed to be risky and unreadable, and I did it. It might turn off more readers than attract them – I can’t say for sure, but that wasn’t my goal when I wrote this book. In this sense, I can safely say that Arabesque would be my most personal book to date.

BLURB: An ambitious young princess, Ulrike, turns to the dark arts in order to become queen despite her younger sister’s warnings of a fatal consequence to mortgaging her soul. She succeeds, yet Ulrike finds herself trapped in a hateful marriage, her mind slowly being devoured by her powers, while conceiving and giving birth to a boy.

Alarick — “the bastard prince” — becomes the court’s favorite object of mockery because of the scandal of his conception, his mother’s spiraling madness compounding his ordeal. When Alarick falls in love with a childhood friend, Roald von Thiessen, the added sin of an unnatural romance gets caught up in a tumultuous aristocratic environment that’s rife with hypocrisy, cruelty, betrayal, and murder.

Forcibly separated from each other during a bloody uprising, Roald and Alarick become helplessly ensnared in nightmarish adventures designed to twist their characters and destroy their minds in the process. The young lovers fight for their souls and a way back to each other in a world weighed down by the forces of dark and light magic, and gods grapple with each other over mortal destinies.

Arabesque is more than a gothic, homoerotic retelling of the Snow White folktale. It is at once allegory and a darkly satirical account of contemporary issues such as misogyny, homophobia, and the process of reparative therapy.

Author Note: This is not a work of Young Adult fiction and is intended for a mature audience.

Arabesque was reviewed in February of 2012 HERE


Hayden Thorne, JMS Books LLC

“Icarus in Flight” – An Exclusive Excerpt And Giveaway From Hayden Thorne

The Giveaway:


Blurb: James Ellsworth is a bit jaded, especially for his young age. He hates school and longs for his parents’ estate, where life is far more pleasant. Meeting new schoolmate Daniel Courtney is a much-needed distraction, one that will prove more and more engrossing as James and Daniel grow older.

When his father dies, James is thrust into a position of responsibility, not just to his estate, but to his mother and sister as well. He leans as much as he can on his friendship with Daniel, but young Courtney has his own problems. His brother, George, is all Daniel has left in the world, and when he loses his brother to a freak accident, Daniel is left alone and without prospects.

All the while, the two young men are discovering a relationship that their Victorian world will never approve of. Trying to deal with their loss and their love drives them apart — James to a life of debauchery, Daniel to a life of study and work.

As they grow older, James and Daniel discover that life is not what they thought it would be when they were schoolboys together, and that, even as they try to make their own way, they always come back to one another.


Icarus in Flight (from Chapter 24)

James managed to learn more about Rafaele. It took a series of private parties and furtive exchanges between him and two fellow exiles whom he’d long known.

They were young Oxford men “of his sort” who skulked in the shadows as he did, fumbling in the dark for a happier turn of fortune for themselves in their intimate lives.

To one friend, Charles Brandon, he usually repaired for more open conversation.

Charles had taken up residence near the Campo del Traghetto, opting for San Marco and the Dorsoduro’s “religious orgy of churches dedicated to saints of every persuasion, all outbidding each other for a chance to raise their voices the loudest heavenward,” as he so dryly described it. James found his friend’s situation a source of endless amusement—a condemned soul living comfortably within the shadows of all these churches. Charles also took perverse delight in throwing his windows wide open against the night air and standing a few feet within, arms spread. He’d be naked and brazenly challenging La Salute’s silhouette across the Grand Canal, her volutes breaking the night sky with their exaggerated scalloping. He often called these exhibitions “sensual cleansing.”

James himself opted to stay where he’d hoped to find permanent settlement, temporarily taking up lodgings with a Signora Turrini in Castello. He made frequent visits to Charles. The two young men often wandered off to various parts of Venice.

“Still pining after Ganymede, are we?” Charles noted with a sidelong glance. James sat across from him, slouching on a satin and lacquer armchair with stiff cushions.

“Curious is more accurate,” James replied, unfazed. “I was his, uh—”



Charles threw his head back as he laughed. “Protector!” he echoed. “Yes, of course! Protector.”

James watched him, a touch irritated. “Have you any news of him? It’s been a year at least.”

Indeed, Charles had news of the boy. Rafaele, he claimed, was set to marry a young lady on whose moneyed shoulders hopes for his family’s advancement were placed.

James listened to all these in some surprise. “Are you certain?” he asked.

“His story’s known around here. Well—save for his old habits, thank God.” Charles smirked over his wineglass. “One can’t help but spread the word, I suppose, with his story being the stuff of vapid romances—abandoned mother and son, poverty, beautiful girl and charming boy, love amid the lire—”

“He never said anything about the lady.”

“I don’t believe he even considered an attachment to her when you were here. One can only presume that his schedule since you left was quite—filled.”

“An attachment! What, in a year’s time?”

Charles nodded, refilling his glass with an air of tired detachment. “I’ve seen shorter engagements. This is nothing.”

“How long have they known each other before this?”

“About half a year, I think. No, wait. I believe it would be closer to three months. That is, if one were to believe wrinkled old gossips with far too much time on their hands.”

“This is absurd!”

Charles emptied his glass in two massive gulps. “Let him be, James. He was a whore once. He seems happy being where he is now.”

“I’ve no intention of chasing after him, knowing his plans. I find the mere suggestion offensive.”

“All the better for everyone, I daresay, blunted hopes and all.”

“You think me desperate.”

Charles eyed him, his gaze steady and probing. “I think you naïve, actually, which can be exasperatingly charming at times.”

James stared at the wine in his glass. What a preposterous situation, he noted, for Rafaele to mimic Daniel even to this point—a marriage of convenience. A perfect doppelganger, indeed.

About Hayden Thorne: I’ve lived most of my life in the San Francisco Bay Area though I wasn’t born there (or, indeed, the USA). I’m married with no kids and three cats, am a cycling nut (go Garmin!), and my day job involves artwork, great coworkers who specialize in all kinds of media, and the occasional strange customer requests involving papier mache fish with sparkly scales.

I’m a writer of young adult fiction, specializing in contemporary fantasy, historical fantasy, and historical genres. My books range from a superhero fantasy series to reworked folktales to Victorian ghost fiction. My themes are coming-of-age with very little focus on romance (most of the time) and more on individual growth with some adventure thrown in.


LGBT teens have all sorts of stories to tell. They’re heroes not only of contemporary adventures or of fantasy and magic, but also of history. The rules might be different – stricter, a bit more frightening given 19th century laws, for instance – but there are still dreams to be shaped, character to be developed, and all of these done within the parameters set by the genre. It’s going to be a challenge, sure, but if it means allowing LGBT kids their own time in the “limelight” of, say, the Victorian stage, I’m game.

Iyana Jenna, JMS Books LLC

Iyana Jenna’s “A Single Black Rose” Means Danger

“Lust is a dangerous thing. It can make you believe things that are not real. It can seduce your mind and lead it blindfolded to the cliff that will be its demise.” ― Alessandra Torre

Title: A Single Black Rose

Author: Iyana Jenna

Publisher: JMS Books LLC

Pages/Word Count: 16,604

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Blurb: When actor Sean O’Reilly receives a flower bouquet containing a single black rose on set, he assumes they’re from his boyfriend Nate. But they aren’t. Flowers keep arriving for him after that, each with a black rose in the arrangement. Soon other things arrive as well, such as photos and a recording of Sean’s voice. As the number of flowers dwindle with each bouquet, Sean begins to worry they’re supposed to be some kind of a countdown … but to what?
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JMS Books LLC, Paul Alan Fahey

There Are Mixed Blessings To Be Found In “A Christmas In Kent” by Paul Alan Fahey

“What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future. It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace.” – Agnes M. Pharo

Paul Alan Fahey has followed up his latest novella in the Lovers and Liars Wartime series with Christmas in Kent, a delightful little holiday coda that’s as cozy as a fire in the hearth and as merry as the holidays could possibly be in World War II England.

Glad tidings of great joy have befallen the little family that will continue to grow through the loving ties that bind them all together, not only by biology but by the unconditional acceptance of Leslie and Edward and the love they must hide from the rest of the world.
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JMS Books LLC, Liam Livings

Liam Livings Finds A Little “Christmas Serendipity” This Holiday Season

“Of course, that’s how life is. A turn of events may seem very small at the time it’s happening, but you never really know, do you? How can you?” ― Tom Xavier

Blurb: In a snowy small town in England just before Christmas, handyman Christian thinks the world has ended — his parents are still getting used to his being gay and have disinvited him to their Christmas. Former waiter David has just been fired and is still getting used to the fact that his useless, cheating, money-grabbing, waste-of-space boyfriend has just dumped him. Their mutual friend Cathy steps in and invites the two strangers to a non-family Christmas at the flat she shares with Tony.

With Cathy’s organizational skills and enthusiasm, these four spend Christmas together, making the best of it and getting to know each other. A spark of attraction clearly brings David and Christian closer, and spending the festive season together may be just what these two refugees need to calm their troubled souls.

But the past still haunts them both and threatens to be their undoing. Is love enough to overcome the burdens they bear? Can they find a happy Christmas together after all?
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JMS Books LLC, Liam Livings

Liam Livings Is Here Today To Offer A Little “Christmas Serendipity”, And A Giveaway

LL: Thanks to Lisa for having me here, my first time at The Novel Approach.

TNA: Thanks for being with us today, Liam. It’s lovely to have you here to tell us a bit about your new holiday romance Christmas Serendipity and to answer a few questions about the book.

TNA: How did you came up with the idea for the story?

LL: I watched the opening scene unfold before my eyes during summer 2013. We were on holiday in Cornwall, having a drink in the outside area of a pub, and I watched two women frantically drinking sangria before one of them started her shift in the pub. Later the woman who had started the shift returned to her friend to pass her cashpoint card and her PIN. Shortly afterwards the same woman returned, announcing she’d been sacked. I remember thinking, that’s an interesting place to start a story.

TNA: Do you think this story would have worked as well in any other setting besides the holidays?

LL: I’m not sure it would have done. Having the character spend 23 December to Boxing Day together probably wouldn’t have happened at another time of the year without them all going on holiday together. Which as it’s quite last minute, would have been unlikely. I think the Christmas element gave the opportunity to include buying gifts for one another, and that can show how thoughtful, or otherwise, the characters are about each other’s gifts.

TNA: Which, if any, of the characters was most difficult to write?

LL: Christian was the hardest to write, as he’s quite shy and doesn’t talk much. That’s nothing like me. However, I have met people who’ve been thrown out of their parents’ home after coming out, so I used that to flesh out his emotions.

TNA: If you were choose, what would you say is your favorite scene in the book?

LL: I like the scene when David & Christian are getting to know one another, talking about Christian’s love of Madonna and their shared interest in music concerts. I like that awkward tentative first steps of getting to know someone, when you want to tell them all about yourself, but you don’t want to tell them everything, and scare them off. Christian’s enthusiasm catches himself, and he feels he’s over-shared, but David finds it adorable.


About Liam Livings

Three things about him – there are five more on the website, one is a lie.

1) He lives, with his partner and cats, where east London ends and becomes nine-carat-gold-highlights-and-fake-tan-west-Essex.

2) He was born in Hampshire with two club feet (look it up, it’s not nice) and problem ears, needing grommets: this meant he was in plaster from toe to groin until he was two, and had to swim with a cap and olive oil soaked lamb’s wool over his ears – olive oil bought from a health food shop, before it was sold by supermarkets.

3) He started writing when he was 14: sat in French lessons during a French exchange trip, for want of anything better to do, he wrote pen portraits about his French exchange’s teachers. He wrote for his school’s creative writing magazine and still writes a diary every day.

How to get in touch with Liam Livings:





Blurb: Christmas Serendipity

Just before the Christmas holiday, in a snowy small town in England, refugees of Christmas bad luck, handyman, plumber Christian and office worker David find themselves thrown together at miss Organiser, Cathy’s non-family Christmas.

Christian thinks the world has ended as his parents get used to him being gay, and disinvite him to their Christmas. David has just been fired from his waiting job, and is still getting used to the fact that he has dumped him. Although David’s ex was a useless cheating, money grabbing waste of space, he was at least, David’s useless, cheating, money grabbing waste of space. And now David doesn’t even have that. He’s not in the mood for a night out with his best friend, camp Tony, just before Christmas. Instead they retire to Cathy and Tony’s place, to find a quiet Christian.

With Cathy’s organizational skills and enthusiasm, these four spend a non-family Christmas together, making the best of it. Together they drink, eat and play their way through Christmas, surprising each other at how it turns out, and how well they all get to know one another during the short break.
Refugees of serendipity and luck, David and Christian realize that spending the holiday season together may be just what they both needed, when they both needed it. They find that apart from both just escaping from awful relationships, they also have much more in common.


We talked late into the night, moving onto Cathy’s special Christmas spirits. “Only to be drunk at this time of year,” she explained. She appeared with a tray of snowballs—yellow advocaat and lemonade, foaming with a little red cherry perched on top of each one. “This’ll send us to sleep,” she advised.

We took it in turns to throw more wood onto the fire, until we ran out. Cathy announced she was going to bed. She’d made up the spare room for Christian, and she pointed to the sofa in the corner for me.

I looked at her, feeling slightly light-headed from the alcohol, and started to ask if she’d show me how to make it up. Before I could say anything more, somehow she’d managed with just one hand, to turn it into a bed and cover it with perfect duvet and pillows.

“Thanks, Cathy. Night.” I stood up, a little unsteadily.

She kissed my cheek. “Night boys.” And she made her way up the stairs.

Tony followed, waving goodnight to us both.

And then there were two. I’ll admit I did consider, for a brief moment, just following Christian to his room. But I decided he wasn’t that sort of boy, and really, neither was I. So instead, I opted for an awkward goodnight hug/kiss, standing over the remains of the Indian takeaway in the middle of the floor. The gentle glow from the fire and a few candles around the room gave the only light. He kissed my cheek and I his, before lingering for a moment too long on his neck, holding the hug as long as I could manage without seeming creepy. I felt his breath on my neck and I felt myself responding in my boxer shorts. We both pulled back and stared into each other’s eyes, his warm breath mixing with mine as I breathed in and out. He smiled. I stared into his deep blue eyes and kissed him again, this time with our tongues exploring each other’s mouths. He gently bit my bottom lip and a jolt went to my groin. I felt his hand on my bum, trying to pull me towards him, despite our legs being a few feet apart, separated by the takeaway. We fell onto the sofa, his small frame landing gently on my muscly chest. He sat astride me, leaning down and continuing to kiss me. His hands caressed my pectoral muscles under my T-shirt, tweaking my nipples, harder and harder.

Maybe he was that sort of boy, and maybe I was too.


Christmas Serendipity will be published by JMS on 8 December.

JMS Books



The Giveaway:

Liam would love to offer one lucky reader the chance to win an E-copy of Christmas Serendipity. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post and you’re automatically entered in the giveaway. Comments must be received by 11:59pm Pacific time on Thursday, December 12, 2013. One winner will be selected at random on Friday, the 13th, and notified via email for prize delivery.

Good luck!

Iyana Jenna, JMS Books LLC

Iyana Jenna Is Bringing You “A Single Black Rose” Today, And A Giveaway!

Sometimes I think perhaps I’m this weird and obsessive person who is probably, given the chance, a bit stalkerish. Just look at two of my latest releases. First was A Midnight Caller, and now this one, A Single Black Rose. There is one similar theme in both stories: stalking. I just hope people won’t be thinking the same with what I think. After all, I just wrote those stories with characters that are quite disturbing.

In A Single Black Rose, the stalker is Gene Scott. He worships an actor, Sean O’Reilly. He doesn’t only follow Sean around; he also has a blog dedicated completely to Sean and writes things about him and Sean that only happen in his mind. One day he starts sending flowers to Sean, as Gene finally decides he’s got to have Sean.

Next, there is Simon Scott. He is Gene’s brother. Simon knows there is something wrong with his little brother, but he helps him anyway. Simon has his own reason to do that.

Our protagonists are the couple Sean O’Reilly and Nate Matthews. The stalking problem leaves both of them troubled, not only Sean but also Nate who does anything he can to stop something bad from happening to his boyfriend. When it happens anyway, Nate knows there is nothing else he can do but find Sean before he loses him forever.

A Single Black Rose


When actor Sean O’Reilly receives a flower bouquet containing a single black rose on set, he assumes they’re from his boyfriend Nate. But they aren’t. Flowers keep arriving for him after that, each with a black rose in the arrangement. Soon other things arrive as well, such as photos and a recording of Sean’s voice. As the number of flowers dwindle with each bouquet, Sean begins to worry they’re supposed to be some kind of a countdown … but to what?

Fan Gene Scott worships Sean. He maintains a blog dedicated to the actor and writes out all his fantasies there. He wants Sean to belong to him, and only him, and he’ll do anything to make the actor his own. He can’t accept the fact that Sean has a boyfriend. To Gene, Nate might as well not exist.

Despite increased security and all efforts to keep him safe, Sean vanishes, and Nate feels as if his world has come tumbling down. When the police response is too slow for him, Nate enlists the help of his producer and bodyguard to find Sean. Will he manage to find his lover before Sean disappears forever? Or will Gene finally get what he’s always dreamed of, and make Sean the love of his life, instead?


Note: may contain sexually explicit scenes of a homoerotic nature.

Gritting his teeth, Nate hisses under his breath. He is standing in front of a cop, giving his statement on what has just happened. Not that there’s much to say. His mind keeps replaying that scene when Sean turned to him, his face ashen, and Nate wishes with all his heart that he was the one who had opened the door, the one who found the flowers instead of Sean, sparing him the shock of seeing the seemingly innocuous pink bouquet with its single black rose.

Nate is angry with himself, feeling like a failure even though he knows what happened wasn’t his fault. There was no way he could have predicted that the pervert was going to put the flowers inside their SUV. He runs his fingers through his hair, ends his statement, and turns to go to Sean who is sitting slumped on the pavement with Osborn by his side. Sean is staring ahead of him, his face expressionless, his hands clenched tightly into fists. Osborn is talking to him but Sean seems to not be aware of him, or of anyone else around him for that matter.

“Excuse me, Mr. Matthews.”

A man stops in front of Nate, a reporter, judging by the tape recorder he holds in his hand, and Nate feels his temper rising. This is so not the time for an interview and how in the world did the media get to hear of this so quickly anyway? Fucking reporters.

“Yeah?” Nate asks impatiently.

“Scott, Eugene Scott from The Vancouver Daily.” The man is tall, almost as tall as him, and Nate rarely meets someone who is the same height as him here in Vancouver. “Are these the first flowers Sean got from the stalker?”

“We don’t know if he’s stalking Sean or not.”

“But it’s obvious that he is, right?”

Nate frowns, looking at the reporter more closely, “No, it is not obvious that he, or she, is stalking Sean.”

“Oh, it’s just — but back to my question –”

“No, they’re not,” Nate cuts him short. He really wants to get this over with without being downright rude.


“These are not the first flowers.”

Scott nods. “Any weird thing?” he asks.

“What do you mean?”

“You know, if there’s something strange with the flowers or –”

“They’re just flowers, okay? Look. I’m tired and I really don’t have anything more to say. If you’ll excuse me.” Nate walks past Scott, going toward Sean who is still sitting at the same spot, alone. Nate glances over at Osborn who is now with the police, presumably giving his statements to them.

“Sean,” he says softly as he sits beside Sean on the pavement. He puts his hand on Sean’s knee, stilling it.

“Nate –” There’s a tremor in Sean’s voice.

Nate turns his head toward Sean who is looking even more agitated than before.

“Hey, man.” He puts his arm around Sean’s shoulders, pulling him close, kissing him on the temple. He can feel Sean shaking. “I’ve got you.”

“They found a picture,” Sean says abruptly. “Inside the flowers. The police showed it to me.”

“What picture?” The police didn’t say anything to him about that. Nate’s stomach sinks. Sending flowers is one thing but pictures? Of Sean?

“It’s one of me. Sleeping. Inside the house.” Sean’s voice is bordering on the hysterical now. “Whoever it is must have used a long-lens camera or something. How could they get through the gate, Nate?”

“Ssh, baby.” Nate tries to put as much reassurance as he can in his voice. Someone has to remain calm even though Nate is feeling anything but. He puts both his arms around Sean, can feel him trembling, and holds him even tighter. “Breathe with me, c’mon.”

Sean stills and takes a deep breath. “Can we go home now? Have the police finished with us?”

“Yeah. Yeah, I think we can go home now.” Nate stands up and holds out a hand to pull Sean up. They hold each other tight for a moment longer, both of them unaware of a pair of eyes watching them from a distance.


JMS Books


All Romance e-Books

About the Author

Iyana lives in Jakarta, a city famous for its traffic jams, a lot of cars and motorcycles, and people selling stuff on the roads. You can spend two hours on the road going to a place you can reach in half an hour in a normal situation. Thanks to the traffic jams, though, Iyana can come up with a lot of stories, mostly shorties, as she prefers to spend the time during her trips writing into her cell phone rather than sleeping.

Another thing Iyana loves is kitties. Right now she has five of them. Their names are Larva, Nyil, Cil, Mermood, and Horus. When she doesn’t write, she plays with them, or they would play with her when she writes.

Author’s Links:


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JMS Books LLC, R.W. Clinger

Some Sex And Other Stuff Happens “Below the Boarder”

“Nothing takes the taste out of peanut butter quite like unrequited love.” – Charlie Brown

Below The Boarder begins like a stereotypical opposites attracting story. Hot, hunky mechanic Dayton O’Hare moves into college professor Noni Spiro’s attic room and becomes a boarder. The attraction is immediate and the seduction dance begins despite the approximately 20 year age difference. The two men fall into a sort of relationship. It is undefined. Are they lovers? Boyfriends? Tenant and Landlord with benefits? Nino would like a little more clarification of what they are, but Dayton isn’t willing to give it a name.
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JMS Books LLC, Paul Alan Fahey

“A Manx Tale” Is Mystery And Danger Between Lovers And Liars In Wartime

“There is no traitor like him whose domestic treason plants the poniard within the breast that trusted to his truth.” — Lord Byron

Blurb: Caroline and Cyril have recently wed and are honeymooning on the Isle of Man, a glorious spot in the middle of the Irish Sea marked by picturesque villages, rocky cliffs, and bracing winds. Caroline is immediately drawn to the island’s history of rampaging Vikings, tales of mermaids and legendary kings, and the friendly inhabitants with quaint superstitions and proverbs. In no time, she falls in love with her surroundings.

But unexplainable events unfold, convincing her sinister forces are at work. Part by accident and part by design, Edward and Leslie join the couple, and together they must identify a turned British agent, retrieve a top secret document, and learn the true meaning of the phrase, “It all comes back to the camps.” Will logic and reason prevail, or will a bit of magic and island whimsy save the day?
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JMS Books LLC, Paul Alan Fahey

Paul Alan Fahey Talks “Lovers & Liars” And Would Love To Give Away A Book

A_Manx_Tale_400x600TNA: Hi, Paul, thanks so much for being here with us today. Why don’t we start out by having you tell us a little bit about yourself? Hobbies, interests, odds and ends things that make you, you.

PAF: Hi, Lisa, I’m so glad you asked me to be here. Wow. That’s an interesting question. Hmm. What makes me, me? I guess part of who I am came from the way I was raised, a kind of a nomadic existence in the 1950s. My mom was a single mom and during those times it wasn’t cool to be raising a child alone without a father, 2.4 brothers and sisters and a cat or dog that didn’t shed. We had the dog, a little Maltese poodle we both loved dearly and who traveled with us during those years, but unfortunately, he shed. :)

I was the first in my lower middle class family to get a college education and that was mainly due to my grandparents who helped us when Mom had difficulty finding a place to live or gainful employment. After college, I joined Peace Corps and spent almost five years living and teaching in Haile Selassie’s Ethiopia. When I was 13, I wrote my first storybook about a train that toured African game parks. So I guess it was kind of prophetic that I ended up in the land of thirteen months of sunshine—if you don’t count the two very heavy rainy seasons.

Until I retired, I taught adults with learning disabilities, physical disabilities and emotional problems in two community colleges in California, so I guess you could say my love of diversity continued on in my professional career and played a large part in what friends I made and what job choices I made.

I’ve been writing fiction for the past twenty some years, so I’m kind of a newbie, having only a stack of some very boring and sleep inducing professional journal articles under my belt up to that point. Oh, and a master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation, but they really don’t count as writing. (Please yawn here.) I started writing fiction when my mother passed away. It seemed to be the only way I could deal with my grief by making up worlds where I had control over what happened to the characters. Then of course, being gay and living through the worst of the AIDS crises in the mid-1980s did a number on most of us, so I imagine those terrible times contributed to my need to control the world around me since we had absolutely zero control over AIDS. I guess, like everyone else, I’m the sum total of my experiences both good and bad.

TNA: Do you remember when the writing bug hit you? Do you remember the first story you wrote that you allowed someone to read for something other than a school assignment?

PAF: The book about Africa was a 7th grade English assignment so we can’t count that. I think my writing experience was jumpstarted in Africa by what I was seeing and experiencing daily. I wasn’t’ one to keep a journal, but I did write air grams home every week to my mother, grandmother and to other relatives but not to close pals my age. (I remember being a loner in college, mainly because I had to commute such a long distance from our home on the San Francisco Peninsula to college in the city, so I didn’t make a lot of friends easily.) But in the weekly air grams, I chronicled the unique events of the day: my teaching, the students, the trips I made to East Africa, Egypt and the Middle East on vacation, and the general unrest in the country. At that time I was stationed in Asmara, Eritrea, a part of Ethiopia via His Royal Majesty’s say so. (Most Eritreans hated Ethiopians and Haile Selassie.) In later years I would write more about these times either in short memoir or through fictionalizing the characters and the events. I wrote many short stories with my mom in mind, a sort of freewheeling sprit not unlike the fictional character Auntie Mame. My mother was very much like her. If we ever had two nickels to rub together, we’d laugh at our bills and rush off to a late night movie. That’s another thing: movies and books. I grew up on some of the great films of those years and today still spend hours watching them on DVD and incorporating some of film technique into my fiction writing. I also love live theater. (When I was four, Mom took me to see Mae West in a live production of Diamond Lil. I must have been the only child in the theater.) So for hobbies and loves, movies, books and theater are all tied together.

TNA: Who would you say was your biggest supporter when you started writing creatively?

PAF: I’d have to say a writing instructor I had in the 1990s. I enrolled in a writing class at Cal Poly. My instructor, Ingrid Reti, was so excited about the process of putting words together in unusual and striking ways, and was so supportive and accessible to her students, that in later years we became great friends. Ingrid was the kind of person who always asked you first what YOU were writing and never spoke about herself or her work, even when she published her poetry books or her gorgeous coffee table book, Steinbeck Country—she was an expert on all of his novels and short stories. She also never spoke about her background as a young Jewish child living in Nuremberg during the worst part of the Hitler years or her terrifying journey to England on the Kindertransport. We discovered all these things after her death from her daughter.

TNA: If you had to choose, which of your books would you say you’re the most proud of?

PAF: I’m very proud of our nonfiction anthology, The Other Man: 21 Writers Speak Candidly About Sex, Love, Infidelity, & Moving On. (It’s a 2013 Rainbow Award Finalist.) Proud because I was handed this project by a much-admired writer and essayist, Victoria Zackheim. Victoria edited the wildly successful anthology, The Other Woman, and asked me if I’d like to edit the gay companion, The Other Man. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity then immediately wondered if I’d be up to the challenge since this was a new experience for me. I was terrified I’d let her down, afraid that the book wouldn’t see a publisher and…well, you get the idea. But then I started contacting writers and asking them to contribute and it was amazing how positively they responded. Along the way I met some wonderful writers like Christopher Bram, author of Gods & Monsters, Armistead Maupin and Edmund White, as well as the playwrights, Charles Busch, Mart Crowley, and Christopher Durang, and the list just went on and on. If this was my Andy Warhol 15 minutes, I can tell you it’s lasted three years throughout the process of getting the book published and it’s still going on with the promotion. So, yes, The Other Man would have to be the highlight of my writing and editing experience so far. It’s been quite a ride.

TNA: Those of us who don’t write tend to picture authors sitting down at the PC and effortlessly laying down a story start to finish. In correcting that misperception, what would you say is the most difficult part of the writing process?

PAF: I can tell you for me it isn’t effortless. Far from it. To begin with, I’m not a writer who writes every day. My husband, Bob, and my kids—read shelties here—are really my world and writing is somewhere down the priority list after them. I know this isn’t the typical response from writers who often say things like writing is my life, or there isn’t a moment I’m not writing, or I’ve been writing since birth. That just isn’t me, and won’t be at any time in the future.

The biggest challenge of being a writer for me is dreaming up a story that I think readers will like. And that takes time, especially when I’m working with the same characters in a series that spans several years. Characters who grow, change, do unpredictable things, and talk to me constantly and tell me what they are happy doing and what they absolutely will not do. I know it sounds schizophrenic but they call the shots most of the time.

So back to the process. When I begin a story I do a lot of thinking first. A lot of what-if-ing. I don’t want to bore anyone here but this, in brief, is what I do BEFORE I start writing. I write my novellas, especially the books in the Lovers & Liars Wartime Series in three acts. First I want to know the specific setting and how the story begins. Then I want to know the event at the end of Act I that shifts the action and moves it into Act II. If I can figure out the ending, that’s great. If I can figure out the major turning point that swings the story arc into Act III, that helps me tremendously. Of course this short outline is not fixed in stone. I often shift turning points and events as I write, but I try not to start until I have most of these story points down. If I can come up with the book’s theme, that’s truly a bonus, and I try to layer it into each scene through metaphor, dialogue, motifs, etc.

TNA: The Lovers & Liars Wartime Series is set in World War II England. How much research has gone in to writing the series?

PAF: I have to do a lot of research in the thinking stage before I write. I also have to do a lot of rechecking as I’m writing because it’s so easy to introduce elements into a story that are either a bit off or wildly inaccurate. As an example, I had a specific English village in mind for Caroline’s cottage in the first book in the series, Bomber’s Moon. I did quite a bit of research online and looked at photos from the 1940s to get the details right. Yet in the second book, Weep Not For the Past, I mistakenly ran a river through the town when there wasn’t one. Up to that point I was ready to name the village, but realized I’d best keep it generic if I didn’t want to run into trouble somewhere down the line from UK readers familiar with that area in Kent. (So for now, Caroline’s cottage is unnamed and somewhere in Kent.)

Two books have been great references for Lovers & Liars in terms of “getting it right.” One is Sarah Water’s brilliant wartime novel, The Night Watch, about women in love with other women and working as ambulance drivers during the London Blitz. The Night Watch got me thinking about gay men and their relationships during this very repressive period and in a country that sent homosexuals to prison at the least provocation. What was life like for them? Of course living as a gay man through the 1950s and 60s in a sexually repressed America gave me quite a bit of empathy to start with, but The Night Watch was the inspiration for the series, sort of the other side of the coin.

The Timetables of History, a huge reference that lists practically every aspect of each year from ancient times to present, was invaluable in the writing. For example, for the 1940s, I not only discovered the critical war events for that year but also what people were reading, what movies they watched and the songs they sang. This type of detail made the period come alive for me and also suggested some fun and interesting bits for characterization and dialogue that added to the atmosphere of the times. Anyone who is a writer of historical fiction should grab a copy of this indispensible resource.

TNA: What is your favorite sort of story to write, contemporary, historical, or do you like dabbling in all sub-genres?

PAF: Most of my early fiction was contemporary lit and written from the female point of view. But I think during the past few years, I’ve truly found my writing niche in gay historical romance, especially within the WW II period. Given that I was born during WWII and my father and stepfather both served in the military—one in Europe and the other in the South Pacific—I must have come by this obsession naturally.

TNA: Do you still, even now, feel nervous when you submit a new manuscript for publication? Is there still that fear that it won’t be accepted?

PAF: Absolutely. I love working with JM Snyder at JMS Books. She is the ultimate professional and I respect her tremendously. But I always worry she might not like the next book in the series. So far, that hasn’t been the case, but I’m very neurotic in that respect. Being a fallen away Irish Catholic and superstitious to the hilt doesn’t help much either. I was born a worrier and I doubt I will ever break this habit.

Along with this initial fear that no one will like what I’ve written—I’m talking readers here as well—my other hat as an editor often kicks in, and I try not to send anything in to my publisher unless I feel it’s properly edited and the ms is the best it can be. So, yes, I worry all the time about getting my work published. (People who know me well know I worry about everything so thinking someone will hate my work fits in nicely with who I am. )

TNA: What are some of the primary qualities you’d say all of your MCs share?

PAF: I think mainly it’s having a sense of humor. I’m so glad you asked me this question, Lisa, because the one thing I want to convey to the reader is that my books are not heavy reads full of misery and sadness. True, these were terrible times of unbelievable horror, yet the British soldiered through the war in such an incredible way that I try to use humor to lighten the atmosphere when the characters are together. One thing I love doing is getting the dialogue as right as I can. And it’s interesting how much humor my characters find in these scary situations. Again, they talk to me on a regular basis once I start a novella, and I just follow their lead. If Caroline and Cyril, while honeymooning on the Isle of Man, want to have a silly conversation about fish when the atmosphere around them is full of danger and intrigue, I go with it. If my characters end up on a lonely coastline in the lantern room of a lighthouse with German bomber planes headed their way, there’s always time for an intimate, playful scene between the male lovers.

TNA: Of all the characters you’ve created, do you have a favorite? If so, who and why?

PAF: It would have to be Caroline hands down. I identify closely with her take on the world. She’s carefree but not careless. She accepts Leslie and Edward as lovers and welcomes the couple into her home without a second thought. She’s not judgmental but kind and understanding, and above all she enjoys a stiff drink and, well, stiff other things, too. She’s tough when she has to be, but sophisticated and witty in dealing with friends and foes alike. In some ways, she reminds me of my mother. Not such a stretch since many of my characters, including the male ones, are composites of my freewheeling mom and myself. I don’t need a psychiatrist to tell me that.

Caroline’s the most fun to write and she seems to be taking center stage with greater frequency in each subsequent novella I write. I’ll have to talk to her about that some day. Right now I’m having too much fun with her.

TNA: Would you care to share a little bit of information on any of your current WIPs?

PAF: I just finished a Christmas story, A Christmas in Kent, out December 8th from JMS Books. The story continues the Lovers & Liars saga. Here’s a teaser:

“December 1941. Caroline, Cyril, Edward, and Leslie are home for Christmas from their recent exploits on the Isle of Man. On the surface all seems right within Caroline’s world, yet there’s something bothering her that can’t be ignored much longer. Christmas in Kent will indeed be full of surprises.”

I’m in the thinking stages for the next novella in the series. It’s now 1942 and the story will have our cast of characters somehow involved in the plot to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich, “the blond beast,” who was one of the prime architects of Hitler’s final solution to exterminate the Jews.

TNA: Where can readers find you on the Internet?


Author website

JMS Books



A_Manx_Tale_400x600TNA: Would you care to share an excerpt from A Manx Tale with us?

PAF: You bet. Here’s a chapter that sets the mood and tone of the piece. Caroline and Cyril are honeymooning on the Isle of Man. What really got me interested in this particular setting was the fact that during the war, the British interned “suspected enemy aliens” in neighborhood camps around the island. Once I knew that, I was off and running.

Excerpt from A Manx Tale (release date: November 3, JMS Books.)

Chapter 2: What We Know About People

Cyril took Caroline’s hand as they ran across the green, mainly to avoid the harsh winds blowing in from the sea. Tummies full from a dinner of kippers—a local specialty at The Black Dog Inn—the pair decided on a leisurely walk before bedtime. Caroline had never had kippers for dinner, only breakfast—being the well brought up English lady she was—but nothing could match the Manx kippers served fresh from the sea and smothered in butter. In a very short time, she’d grown to crave them.

The couple had gone some distance when they came upon a large neighborhood square consisting of several blocks of houses surrounded by barbed wire and patrolled by sentries. This was Hutchinson Internment Camp, one of the many such places scattered about the isle. Since the beginning of the war with Germany, the camps were deemed necessary “in defense of the realm and in order to detain anyone suspected of being a danger to the public safety.”

“Listen,” Caroline said, grabbing Cyril by the arm and stopping him from moving on. “Is that Bach?”

“Sounds like it. A violin for sure.”

“And notes from a piano,” she said. “It’s coming from one of the open windows. “Wish we could get closer, take a look inside. If only—”

“Uh—huh. That’s the reason for the barbed wire, love. It’s to keep them from getting out. Not us from getting in.”

“I know,” she said. Caroline brushed his cheek with one of her long, lacquered nails. She loved the lean look of his face, the longish dark hair touching his coat collar, even his beaked nose lent him character and made him quite sexy. Even if it does remind me of that chap who plays Sherlock Holmes in the cinema. “Have I told you today how much I love you?”

“About every hour on the hour.”

She nudged him in the ribs. “Don’t press your luck, fella,” and then she pulled his face to hers and kissed him.

“Maybe we should cut this walk short,” he said. “I think I’m working up an appetite.”

“We’ve already eaten, silly.”

“I wasn’t thinking about food,” he said.

She jabbed him a bit harder in the ribs. “In time. In time. Just a few more minutes.” She craned her neck and looked upward to the second floor. “Someone has etched a bird in that blackened window. Such beautiful detail. Edward would appreciate the art here. And the music. I read in the local news that Hutchinson is known for its exhibits, concerts, and even theatrical productions. You’d never know it, would you?”

Cyril shifted his weight from one foot to the other, seemingly anxious to start home. “Well, they have to do something to occupy their time.”

“And that’s the point, isn’t it? Just marking time.” Caroline grew misty eyed and turned away looking out toward the green. “This is the view they see day after day. The wire fence, the street with people walking by free to do whatever they please, and then beyond the road the blasted sea. I’d go crazy.”

“Most probably, love, but you aren’t an enemy alien. Come on, let’s turn back.”

Caroline couldn’t let his remark go. Hadn’t she always spoken her mind? “I think it’s wrong, this whole internment program. It’s demeaning.”

“What would you do then, love?” he said. “Take a chance on letting people with connections to enemy countries roam our streets and plot against us?”

“No, of course not, but many of the detainees are Jewish and confirmed anti-Nazis. What harm can they do? They’ve left their countries for sanctuary and not to conspire against us. Many are even naturalized British citizens.”

“You’re only repeating propaganda, what oppressed people always say. Besides, it’s not what we know about people, but what we don’t know that would terrify us if we did.”

“Sounds like a quote from a boring philosophy professor past his prime, or maybe something you’d read in a fortune cookie.”

“In our business, we know people aren’t always what they seem,” he said.

“Yes. I’ve learned that lesson the hard way. Sometimes I hate what we do in name of King and Country. All the lying and subterfuge. But I still think the practice of locking people away without any rights based on where they were born or—”

He shook his head. “I should know better than to argue with you. Besides, there are reasons those individuals are locked away, as you say. Someone thought they were a threat to our government.

Besides, they do have it quite nice. They all have their roles inside. Some are house leaders, cooks, and even orderlies who make their lives run smoothly. They have jobs in the camps based on life skills.”

“Right,” she said, “and they offer art classes, lectures, watch movies, and live the high life. It’s all one big game of happy families. Yes, husband mine, I’ve heard that government propaganda as well. They might as well be chained to the wall behind prison walls for all we care.”

“Thank you, Alexander Dumas.”

“You’re very welcome.”

“Listen, dear heart, little by little and once they’ve been vetted, we’ve started letting them out, sending them back to—” He fell quiet a moment. Then, “Are we arguing?” he asked. “Is this our first marital quarrel?”

“Could be.” She turned away from him and leaned back against the fence. “This just feels wrong. Someday—”

“Someday these policies will make sense, and we’ll be glad then we had them in place,” Cyril said. He pulled her toward him and wrapped his arms around her. “We need to go back. It’s getting cold.” The night had turned damp. A misty fog hovered above the sea and was moving in to shore.

“Cold, yes,” she said absentmindedly, wondering about one of the houses near the end of the block. “At least the others have some light peeping though. What do you make of that one completely in the dark?

“Probably unoccupied,” Cyril said. “Come on. Let’s get hopping.”

“Yes, you must be right. It just looks so…I don’t know. Forlorn,” she said, and shivered. “There’s a local myth about the fog. Want to hear it?”

“You can tell me about it later. Much later,” he said practically dragging her along.

“And you know something else?” she asked.

“No. What?”

“In my head I know you’re right. With so much hate and misery around us, we can’t afford to take risks. It’s just some of the internees don’t belong in there.”

“I know,” he said.

“You do?”

“Yes, but I still believe quite a few of them do…belong in there. For now.”

“Then why let me go on as I did,” she said, “especially knowing I would agree with you in the end?”

“It’s more fun when you get your dander up.”

“You, too,” she said. “Do you think it will lift its lovely head again any time soon—your dander, I mean?”

“I wouldn’t be in the least surprised.”

“I’m thinking a good old fashioned spanking is just what I need,” Caroline said, “in the privacy of our room, of course.”

“You know,” he said, “I was thinking the exact same thing.”

* * * *