Friday, June 29, 2012

Artificial Romance, a Guest Blog by Shira Anthony


Artificial intelligence (AI) is the subject of three of my favorite sci fi movies of all time:  “2001, A Space Odyssey,” “Blade Runner” and “The Terminator.”  All three movies involve self-aware computer “beings.”  Wherever you look, whether it’s in the toy store, on line communities, or science, AI is the big new thing.  My daughter just got a new iPhone that talks back to her (Siri).  So when my co-author, Venona Keyes, suggested a gay spy thriller featuring a microchip that is like a virtual hero, I said, “Way cool!”

“The Trust” is the story of Jake Anders, who was recruited into a CIA-backed agency, The Michelson Trust, by Trace Michelson, the grandson of the agency’s creator and the agency’s current director.  The flesh and blood Trace trains Jake and ultimately asks Jake to participate in “Project Resurrection.”  Jake receives one of two prototype Sim chips, the “Trace Sim,” created using the life experiences and personality of Trace himself.  But when Trace is assassinated, all that remains of Trace is embodied in the microchip Jake now shares his mind with.   Or so it seems, until the Sim chip becomes Jake’s reality.

So what happens when you fall in love with the artificial recreation of a man?  And what happens when that artificial man becomes real?  For Jake, he begins to doubt that Trace is really dead, and he goes on a dangerous journey across continents to uncover the truth behind the legacy of Trace Michelson and, perhaps find Trace himself.  Along the way, Jake discovers that the Trace Sim is capable of far more than anyone ever realized.

Is there a happily ever after for Jake?  Yes.  Definitely.  It’s a romance!  How do we get there?  That’s the fun part.  You’ll have to read the book to find out! –Shira

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Trust, by Shira Anthony and Venona Keyes
Blurb:   Eight years ago, Jake Anders was a college kid from the wrong side of the tracks. Then Trace Michelson recruited him into The Trust, a CIA-backed agency whose “executives” eliminate rogue biotechnology operations. Trace was everything Jake ever wanted in a man: powerful, brilliant, and gorgeous. But Jake never admitted his attraction to his mentor, and Trace always kept Jake at arm’s length.
Now Trace is dead and Jake is one of The Trust’s best operatives, highly skilled and loyal to the organization. But the secret agent has his own secret: six years ago, before he was assassinated, Trace designed a Sim chip containing his memories and experiences—and now that chip is part of Jake. It’s just data, designed to augment Jake’s knowledge, but when Sim becomes reality, Jake wonders if Trace is still alive or if Jake really is going crazy like everyone claims. He doesn’t know if he can trust himself, let alone anyone else.
To learn the truth about Trace and the chip, Jake embarks on a dangerous mission—except he’s not the only one looking for the information. Some of the answers are locked in his head, and unless he finds the key, he’ll be killed for the technology that’s become a part of him.
Now, more than ever, Jake wishes Trace were here to guide him. Too bad he’s dead... right?
*****************
(Pre-publication Excerpt, final version may change!)
Chapter One: The Hitman is Hit
Shit. Shit, shit, shit!
Blood gushed from his leg, and for just an instant, he watched it with growing anger. Watched it, that was, until the adrenaline kick-started his brain and he realized he would die if he kept bleeding like this.
Gotta stop the bleeding, he thought with desperation.
He dragged himself to the women’s bathroom, pushed hard on the door, and stumbled in. Between the sound of the door slamming against the wall and the sight of all the blood, the startled women inside screamed and ran out.
Blood coated everything he touched. He leaned against a stall door, and it swung open under his weight. One hand applying pressure to the gunshot wound, he elbowed the toilet-paper holder. He fell to the floor and the roll sprang free. He placed the cheap one-ply paper over the wound and pressed down hardit only took a minute before the roll was a deep crimson.
He tapped the microphone on his chest and shouted, “Agent down! I need an extraction, now!”
“Who’s down?” came the calm, even voice in his earpiece.
“I am. Sandoval fucking ambushed me. Caught me in the leg. Hit an artery.”
Anders, where are you?”
“I—” He broke off, looking up to see a slender man leaning casually against the stall door, grinning at him. The Silver Fox, Jason Sandoval. Sandoval wasn’t Jake’s target, but it seemed as though Jake was his. Jake had always detested Sandoval. Now he knew why.
“So… there you are. Thanks for leaving me a trail of bloody breadcrumbs to follow.”
“Agent Anders, where are you?” the voice in his ear persisted. He ignored it.
“Looks like ya got a bleeder there, Anders.”
They had never been friends, but they had been colleagues. Now, Jake wanted nothing more than to blow the smirk off the other man’s face.
Fucking traitor.
“I’ve had worse,” Jake lied. If Sandoval wanted him dead, he'd probably only have to wait a few minutes for him to bleed out. But that wasn’t Sandoval’s stylehe had never been a patient man, and Jake knew it.
“Not sure that’s true, but I admire your bravado.”
Again, the voice in his ear. “Agent Anders, who’s there with you?”
“What do you want, Sandoval?” Jake asked. He’d pretty much always suspected Jason Sandoval was insane. Now he was sure of it.
Who the hell is he working for? Foreign government? Private concern?
They had come here as a team, their mission to intercept a scientist who was in town for a conference. But things had gone horribly wrong. It had been a setup, the entire scenario. Three of their own agents had turned their guns against him and his backup team. But why?
Fucking traitors. All of them.
“Well, I could watch you bleed to death. Or I suppose I could just end it for you now. Seems a shame, though. You really were a first-class ops guy, Jake. Now your life is fading away, and I get to witness it.”
Jake slowly reached inside his pants.
“Now, now, Jake,” drawled Sandoval, “no cheatin’. Take that hand out of your pocket.”
“I’m trying to stem the bleeding at the pressure point.”
“Like hell.”
Jake withdrew his hand and flicked his wrist faster than the other man could follow, impaling him in the right eye with a knife. Sandoval staggered backward and out of the stall without uttering a word. Jake reached for his gun, but it was missing. When had he lost it? He needed to finish Sandoval off before he was the one lying on the floor with his brains blown out.
He heard the distinctive muffled “pflnk” of a silencer. With the last scrap of his energy, Jake pushed the stall door open in time to see Sandoval fall backward, hitting the tile wall and sliding onto the floor. He was dead.
“Jake,” came a familiar baritone voice. “Reduce your heart rate, just as I taught you. It will slow the bleeding.”
Jake closed his eyes, and in spite of the ice that flowed through his veins and the drowsiness that threatened to pull him under, he forced himself to meditate. He envisioned the frantic beating of his heart slowing down, imagined the damaged artery closing, the blood clotting, and the wound beginning to heal. The thundering rush of blood in his ears began to ebb, and the dizziness subsided. He slowed his breathing, and his heart steadied.
“Good work, Jake,” he heard the soothing voice say. It isn’t your time to be with me. Not yet.”
“Agent Anders! Agent Anders!” He wanted to swat the microphone away, but he didn't have the strength.
He blinked, trying to focus his uncooperative eyes on the figure that stood before him. “Trace?” he whispered as he passed out.

“Fucking traitor Sandoval,” Ryan Roberts growled from nearby.
“If Jake hadn’t killed him, I’d’ve gladly done it myself.” John CarsonJake recognized the voice.
“He’s a damn lucky bastard.” Ryan’s voice again.
“Un-fucking-believable. Got that tourniquet on and still had the presence of mind to write the time on his leg,” added Carson.
“I gotta hand it to ’imgot Sandoval once in the eye, then turned around and shot ’im to make sure he was deadall while he’s fuckin’ bleeding to death.”
“Gentleman, Agent Anders needs to rest.” A woman’s voice this time: soothing, no-nonsense, and familiar.
“Sorry, Dr. Carroll.” Carson sounded embarrassed, but Jake could hear the note of concern in his gruff voice. “We just wanted to be here when Jake wakes up.”
“He will regain consciousness when his body’s ready. He’s lost a lot of blood, and he’s been in surgery.”
“We’ll wait,” Ryan replied. Jake almost smiled to hear the stubbornness in Ryan's voice.
“Agent Roberts, Agent Carson, the director has called a meeting, and you both need to be in attendance.” Stephanie Carroll’s voice was now commanding.
Jake felt a strong hand squeeze his shoulder. “You better get your lazy ass outta here, Anders, or I’m gonna have to beat the crap outta ya.” The sounds of chairs scraping the floor and fading footsteps followed Ryan's words.
“It’s all right, Agent Anders. They’re gone,” Jake heard a few minutes later.
The dim light of the room was too bright. Jake squinted, blinked several times, and slowly opened his eyes. He had a splitting headache.
“Welcome back to the world of the living, Jake.”
Jake attempted to smile back at the gentle-voiced doctor, but it came out more like a grimace.
“Are you in pain?”
“My head feels like it’s gonna explode.”
“I’ll give you something.”
Jake watched as the tiny woman took a syringe and injected it into the IV in his arm. He felt warmth radiate from the site of the line as his muscles relaxed and the pounding in his head began to lessen.
“Thanks. I think I feel less ‘vincible’ now,” he said, managing a lopsided grin.
She smiled at him. “Jake, I really can’t tell you how impressed I am with the skills you exhibited under the extreme pressure of the situation.”
“I had help.”
“Oh?”
“The Trace Sim. He told me to slow down my breathing and meditate. I imagined my artery knitting itself back together.”
“Impressive. I didn’t think the simulation microchips were so detailed in their programming.”
Jake shrugged. “Neither did I. It’s like he was right there in front of me.”
“When our bodies are under acute stress, we often imagine things,” she replied in a kind but patronizing tone.
Jake guessed that she'd heard the recording of his call for help and had wondered why he'd spoken Trace Michelson’s name.
“He seemed so real. Not like the usual Sim.” 
Her answer was what he'd expected and hoped for: reassuring and kind. “The brain is an amazing organ. In times of severe stress, it can be a powerful tool to ensure survival.”
The tension in his shoulders abated with her words.
She’s right. It was probably a combination of the Sim and my own imagination. Either way, it worked, right?
She offered him a sympathetic smile. “You need to rest.” She checked the IV and made a notation on the chart at the foot of his bed.
She turned to leave, then paused as if considering something. “You know, Jake,” she said with a contemplative hand to her chin, “applying a tourniquet made from the toilet roll spindle and your torn shirt was quite remarkable, given the extent of your injury. But you didn’t really need it—the artery had already begun to heal on its own. It appears Dr. Michelson’s techniques are more effective than we originally thought. Quite fascinating.”
“Tourniquet?” It was the second time someone had mentioned it since he'd regained consciousness. But he didn’t remember a tourniquet, let alone applying one to himself in the heat of the moment.
“The one you placed on your leg before you lost consciousness.”
“I don’t remember that. The last thing I remember is Trace.”
“Writing the time you placed the tourniquet on your leg required true presence of mind, Jake,” she continued, undaunted. “We were able to quickly ascertain how long the circulation had been compromised.”
“I don’t remember that either.” He frowned.
She gave him another reassuring smile. “You really must get some rest now. I’ll be back to check on you later. Would you like something to drink?”
“Something more than ice chips?” he asked with a hopeful expression.
“I’ll see that you get some water.”
“Thanks.” He closed his eyes. He heard her walk out of the room and close the door behind her.
Tourniquet? Writing the time on my leg? And who killed Sandoval? I couldn’t have shot him; I didn’t have my gun….
It made no sense. An image of the man with dark hair and slate-blue eyes filled Jake’s mind. He'd seen that face many times while training with his Sim. He had known the real man himself years before—Trace Michelson had recruited Jake into the Trust. But for years, it had been only a virtual Trace who had inhabited his mind, training him, sharing his knowledge with his host as all Sims did.
This was different. He was so… real.
He forced his eyes open again and stared up at the ceiling. The gray acoustic tiles provided him with no answers.
“Idiot,” he muttered as he fought the overwhelming urge to sleep. “Of course he wasn’t there. He’s been dead for nearly five years.”
 ~~~~~~~~~~~~
About Shira Anthony:  In her last incarnation, Shira Anthony was a professional opera singer, performing roles in such operas as Tosca, Pagliacci, and La Traviata, among others. She’s given up TV for evenings spent with her laptop, and she never goes anywhere without a pile of unread M/M romance on her Kindle.

Shira is married with two children and two insane dogs, and when she’s not writing, she is usually in a courtroom trying to make the world safer for children.  When she’s not working, she can be found aboard a 30’ catamaran at the Carolina coast with her favorite sexy captain at the wheel.

Shira can be found on Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter (@WriterShira) or on her web site, http://www.shiraanthony.com. You can also contact her at shiraanthony@hotmail.com .

Monday, June 25, 2012

MA Church Talks about Reluctant Romance


Good afternoon! Who doesn’t love a story of someone being nudged, tugged and sweet talked into bed? Author M.A. Church is here to talk about Reluctant Romance, an anthology of stories about the edges where consent needs a push. Let's hear what she has to say.

The Reluctant Romance anthology features erotic stories in which the lovers may need a little extra persuasion to get them into their lover’s arms. Persuasion can take a lot of forms. Tell us about your story.

Well, in my story, "Changing His Mind," Zane’s been hurt, and badly. It affected him not only emotionally, but financially. To put it simply, he’s gun shy. His trust has been so severely abused he’s afraid to let anyone in, and he retreats.

Then he meets Neil, lol, who won’t take no for an answer. Neil knows Zane is shy and reluctant, but he doesn’t know the reason driving Zane’s behavior. Determined, Neil sets up a date between him and Zane. And doesn’t give Zane a chance to back out, lol. My story isn’t so much about reluctant sex as it’s about reluctance in general. And a man who just will not give up, lol.  I found a picture that inspired me for the story, too. It’s of a guy sitting on the edge of a pool, and he looks so lonely.

Because the story itself tells the tale, here's the blurb and an excerpt from "Changing His Mind":


Blurb:

Shy and afraid to trust, Zane holds everyone at arm’s length after his big secret is disclosed and his life is changed. Then he meets Neil who won’t take no for answer and is determined to change Neil’s mind about taking a chance on love.

Excerpt:

“Oh. Ohhh!” The blush was back and raging. “You’re gay? And you’re not… afraid to tell it?”

“Fought that battle years ago. No, I’m not ashamed. I’m out and proud. What about you?” Neil shifted in the chair and watched as Zane’s eyes traveled up his legs to his package.

“Me?” Zane squeaked, jerking his eyes back, as though he’d been caught eyeing Neil’s bulge. “I, ah, I’m… oh my God.”

“Please tell me you’re gay—or I just may have to go shoot myself. In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been flirting with you for the better part of a week. I didn’t think my gaydar was that off.”

Zane flashed a grin. If this guy wasn’t gay, Neil would eat his towel. And his water bottle.

“Oh my God.” Zane gasped again, turning pale. “Do I come across as gay?”

“Man, calm down. It’s not like you have a huge flashing neon sign above your head screaming GAY in big capital letters.”

Zane’s lips twitched as color crept back in his face. “Sorry. It’s just that… I don’t normally go around… Okay yeah, I’m gay, but I like to keep my private life private.” Zane’s lips flattened out.  “Let’s just say I had a bad experience and leave it at that, okay?”

“Trouble at the job?”

“No.” Zane shook his head, his eyes sad. “That’s not an issue, not anymore.”

“Okay, I see the big sign saying back off, so I’ll drop it.” Neil leaned closer. “But only if you agree to have a drink with me tonight.”

* * * *

“I, uh, I… Oh my God.” Zane dropped the tablet in his lap. Yes, he knew Neil had been flirting; he would’ve had to be blind, deaf, and dumb to miss it. Subtle wasn’t Neil’s middle name.

“You say that a lot, usually about the time that cute blush pops up.”

Zane buried his head in his hands. How the hell did someone deal with a person like Neil? He had enough confidence for two people, and Zane himself had none. Not that he had much before. Thanks to his ex that was in short supply—the man had hacked his way out of Zane’s heart with a butcher knife.

“Neil, I’m sorry, but I don’t date.” Zane lowered his eyes. Now this dark, sexy god of a man would find someone else to pursue, he was sure of it. Maybe that was for the best.

“Okay then, we won’t call it a date. How about a non-date date?” Neil stood up and walked to the edge. “I’m getting in for a little while. Man, I’m burning up.”
Zane’s mouth dropped open. Didn’t Neil hear what he just said? “But, but—”

“Hold that thought.” Grinning, Neil left a flabbergasted Zane. After swimming a few laps, he returned.

“Ah, Neil—”

Neil grabbed his towel. “I’ll see you at seven, dress comfortable.”

“Oh my God, would you just—”

“I know which apartment you live in, too, if that’s what’s got you worried. I’ve seen you leaving. Listen, I’ve to go, but I’ll see you tonight.”

Neil turned and walked away, before a tongue-tied Zane could figure a way to back out. Hopefully he wouldn’t have to drag Zane out of the apartment this evening. But if he had to, then he was willing to do just that. One thing for sure, he was going to have to work for this guy. But something told him Zane would be worth it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

What are some of the other stories in the anthology about?

I have my copy, but haven’t had a chance to read any of the stories. This anthology is by the Wednesday Briefers, and I’ve read enough of their stories on Wednesdays to know how good this group can write, lol. [Interviewer confession: I am also a Wednesday Briefer, though not in this anthology, but yes... they're good!] We have another anthology coming out in October that will have a Halloween twist. Zane and Neil will be back for that one, too.

Themes of dubious consent or reluctance are a staple of romance, not just m/m but traditional romances also. What do you think makes reluctant sex so darn sexy? 

I find the push and pull of reluctance fascinating. For every step forward the character who’s reluctant takes, he takes two back, lol.

Writing is a solitary, often frustrating, and woefully underpaid profession. That said, a lot of people want to do it, so there must be an upside other than the obvious, which is that being a writer makes one sexy. So why do you write?

The urge. *Laugh* That’s the best way to put it. The urge to create something and someone, then throw them in the middle of a situation and watch them deal. I like to see how they handle things. I know, I know, I talk about my characters like they’re real. They often are real to me; some more than others.

Time to fess up. Is there an actor or a book character (other than your own) you have a crush on?

Oh, that’s an easy one: Vin Diesel and his character Riddick. I usually like long hair on a man, but Vin Diesel rocks the bald look. And my God, that voice of his. *shiver* It’ll make your eyes roll back in your head, lol.

Vanilla ice cream?  Or chocolate?

Mmm, vanilla. I love chocolate, but for some reason I don’t care for chocolate ice cream. In the freezer we usually have at least two cartons of ice cream, lol.

Pet peeves—we all have them.  Care to share one of yours?

Any kind of waiting. *laugh* I’m pretty easy going, and rarely get mad. But by God, if I’m told someone will be at my house at a certain time, I expect them to be there. Or call and let me know if they’re running late. Repair calls, and their four hour time span where they could show up any time, makes me nuts.
When the kiddo and I go to the mall I tell her what time I want to leave, and I expect her to be ready to go at that time. Silly, right? Expecting a teenager to do what they’re told, lol. I *have* threatened to leave her before. That got her butt in gear! 


Where can you find the Reluctant Romance anthology?  Just follow these links:

Amazon
AllRomance

And This Blog's Winner Is...

Thanks so much for all the comments on the Manga and Romance Blog Hop post. Seeing as I had no books or other cool swag to offer, I ponied up for a $20 Amazon gift card. Everyone who gave me an e-mail address was entered in the drawing in the order they commented. This morning I visited random.org and generated a number... and the winner is:

VampWriter!

I truly appreciate everyone who visited and left a comment. This was my first blog hop and it was great fun!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Yaoi, True Love and The Prince of Winds

Welcome! This weekend it's time for the Manga and Romance Blog Hop. Check out the link for a list of prizes and how to win. The Grand Prize is fantastic! I'm also giving one commenter on this blog a $20 Amazon gift card. To be eligible for the gift card, just leave a comment and join this blog--and leave your email, or I won't be able to send it to you!

Now, about manga and romance.  I write m/m romance, but for years I’ve been a not so secret fan of anime and manga. The combination of story and words sweeps me away and I adore the sheer enthusiasm of the storytelling.

Yaoi plots are unapologetic. Even when there is coercion, as in Okane Ga Nai, one of my favorite yaoi animes, the theme is one of overwhelming passion. All is forgiven in the face of love. Is the story morally problematic? Yes, and we can discuss that some other time. But the story also fits into a grand tradition of being swept off one’s feet and carried away by the force of all-consuming love.

Who doesn’t want a little of that in their life?

I write gay male romances in part because I want to capture some of the joy and wonder of yaoi. Anime and animated stories create a sense of drama and grandeur I also like to find in the fiction I read. Some of the visuals and world-building are astounding. They inhabit the same literary space as fantasy and science fiction, grand adventure novels and edgy pulp fiction. Using visual elements and techniques, they achieve the heights of atmosphere, tension and theme.

In my soon to be published novel, The Prince of Winds, the title character, Melkor, is consumed by passion. He takes one look at a young, fallen enemy warrior, Rimmon, and he’s determined to have him. From that point on, there can be no one else. Their first kiss is a yaoi moment. Melkor’s ardor is unrelenting. The path to love is not smooth, of course, or there would be no book, but the novel’s focus is as pure and true as those of my favorite yaoi manga.

Boys in yaoi tend to be beautiful, and the genre’s fans love them for it. Boys can be soft, sensitive, or fragile. They can also be caustic, witty, devious and flat out hilarious. Sometimes the boys are damaged or broken, and their stories will break your heart. But they’re never self-conscious. Yaoi celebrates itself. I love that about yaoi.

What yaoi shares with early pulp fiction and the bodice-rippers of yore is a sense of pure escapism. Boys and men fall instantly in love . . . or maybe it’s lust. No, it’s love! They love with a force that cannot be denied. The pursuer is tireless in his pursuit; his beloved resists with valiant confusion. True love, of course, prevails, even when the ending is sad. But usually yaoi is like another of my favorites, Dou imo Nara Nai. I challenge anyone to find a story more filled with humor and joy. 

And that's why I love yaoi.


Thank you for visiting, and remember to leave a comment for a chance at the grand prize.  Check out the links below to read more from the Manga and Romance Blog Hop.


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Captive Hearts Fan Art

A few people have read Captive Hearts and one of them sent me this illustration of Julissa, Aurelia and Adora.  She created it using an online dress up game. My jaw dropped when I saw my characters in such beautiful color.

How cool is that!  Thanks, Bailey!

In Uttor.  Dolls designed by Bailey Zweifel.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

YAM LGBT Blogathon: Identity and Power in The Heritage of Hastur


For this post for the YAM LGBT Blogathon, I’m putting on my literary hat.  Though I have a lot of fun with writing fiction, I take literature seriously. The words we create and the words we read reveal everything (yep, everything) about who and what we are.

Genre fiction is no exception. I think genre fiction is too readily dismissed by literary pundits. Genre is, for a lot of the population, where it’s at.  “It” being us, as in where we are on the continuum of cultural progress or decay. Being an optimistic sort, I like to think we’re making progress. It would be sad if we weren’t advancing toward something better.

As a child, I read pretty much everything (yes, I had uncommonly permissive parents), but I gravitated toward speculative fiction.  When I read Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Heritage of Hastur, probably the best of her Darkover novels, I was a teenager and already deeply romantic. I fell in love with the parallel tales of two young men, Lew Alton and Regis Hastur, as they grappled with alienation and discovered who and what they really were. They had exceptional abilities to uncover, of course (most speculative main characters have exceptional abilities), but they also grappled with sexual love.  Lew was the more traditional character, with a traditional male-female romance.  Regis was more confused, reluctant to admit or pursue his feelings for his paxman, Danilo. 

I didn’t realize it at the time, because I wasn’t looking for thematic development in my reading material in those days, but the novel closely tied the discovery of sexual identity with the unleashing of dangerous power. This is particularly true in the case of Regis, who believes he is giftless, devoid of the powerful laran ability that has kept his family in power for centuries. When Danilo goes missing, however, and Regis risks everything to find him, his gift begins to awaken.  The strong barriers he’s erected against his feelings for other men—he had a childhood crush on Lew—also bottle up his gift and it’s threatening to destroy him if he does not find a way to release its terrible energy.

Lew, in the meanwhile, unleashes a catastrophe.

Sexual energy is powerful stuff. Who can say how much of human history it has driven, created and warped? What stuck with me about The Heritage of Hastur was the deep connection between embracing oneself as a sexual being and controlling powerful forces. The novel showed two young men, one of whom succeeded and the other who could have. The gay relationship was tender but conflicted, and it was not an easy path for Regis to find himself. But he did. And that was his triumph.  He found his power when he accepted himself.

I often found myself recalling that lesson over my formative years, whenever I would hear people say gays should reject their sexuality. Priests told me gay men should be celibate (that would have killed Regis). Politicians wanted queers to be invisible. Others simply wished they’d shut up and go away. Because of Bradley’s book and others like them (the books of Thomas Burnett Swann were another big influence, like the one in the picture, about the gay pairing of Biblical David and Jonathon), a generation of science fiction and fantasy readers grew up with quite different views of how society could and even should be. 

By the way, in case you haven't noticed, none of the covers of these books suggest a male-male relationship. They were published at a time when gay relationships were not just in the closet, the door was also locked. Publishers and the authors themselves often had to fight just to put the books out there.

What makes humans powerful and amazing is our spirit. The human spirit is the most powerful thing I know. Why would anyone want to cut another person off from what makes them unique and whole?  The Heritage of Hastur exemplifies that argument, and I’m glad that as a kid I had the chance to read it.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Captive Hearts

Yes, it's true! I'm dancing again!  Resplendence Publishing has accepted Captive Hearts, my male/female fantasy romance novel, for publication. It's scheduled for release in late August. That's right, just a couple months from now. Sometimes things move slowly, but for me right now they're moving very fast!

I couldn't be happier.  My first successes in trying to get my work published have been my gay male stories, so I focused there.  Still, I love my male-female couples just as much and looked patiently for a good home for Julissa and Gaspar's story. It may be pure escapism about a virginal princess who falls into the hands of an enemy and, of course, discovers great sex and saves an empire, but Jules also uncovers painful truths about her family and faith.

I'm hoping Resplendence will eventually be home to the other Uttor books.  I looked for a publisher who would accept gay male as well as male-female romances for this series.  A few of you know just how big a world Uttor is and the many kinds of stories it spawns. It's a world underpinned by lion-shifters and prescient Prophetesses.  But the core stories are about the people inhabiting that world, the power of passion, and the resilience of the human heart.

You can find an excerpt of Captive Hearts here.

One thing for sure: between Captive Hearts, Sorcerer's Knot and The Prince of Winds, I'm going to be rather busy from now until August!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

10 Reasons Why I Love Matthew Sweet

While I love many musicians, I have an especially soft spot for Matthew Sweet. His album Girlfriend is brilliant, and in my opinion the best breakup album ever. He's also a genuinely nice and interesting human being.  Here are the top reasons I love Matthew:

1. His music rocks.  I mean that literally. 

2. "Someone to Pull the Trigger" 

3. He loves anime!  Check out his videos for "Girlfriend" and "I've Been Waiting"

4. How can I not love a man who unwinds by making ceramics?  I mean, look at this adorable cat.  Yes, I own one.

5. Great smile and sense of humor.  My husband and I always come away from a concert saying Matthew would make an awesome friend.

6. "I Thought I Knew You"

7. He has a tattoo of Lum Invader, one of the best anime characters ever.

8. "Under the Covers, Vol. 1 and 2"  Hits of the '60s and '70s performed with Susanna Hoffs.

9. His full name is Sidney Matthew Sweet.  So few Sidneys in the world today.

10. In his own words: "That's the kind of music I love: when an artist seems like they're really feeling something."  And I always do.

Last night I was at the World Cafe in Philadelphia to experience Matthew and his band playing the Girlfriend album straight through.  At the end, he added other songs from other albums, every one of them a gem.  Of course I own all those albums, and love all those songs.  

What a great night.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Bullet and Other Stories--Interview with Marshall Payne


Today I get to interview my good friend, Marshall Payne, a fellow member of SFWA and writer of some of the quirkiest and most dazzling short science fiction and fantasy I’ve read. Marshall’s published dozens of short stories ranging from the bizarre to the thoughtful and wacky.  Not only does Marshall write genre fiction, he’s read a ton of it, having served for a long time as an editor and reviewer for The Fix and Tangent Online.  He’s here to tell us about reading, writing and life . . . and also about his upcoming fantasy novel, Petrol Queen, and his first collection, Bullet and Other Stories.

Your published work so far has been in short fiction.  How many short stories have you published?

Forty-three to date, in such markets as Aeon Speculative Fiction, Talebones, Brutarian, and two of the Triangulation anthologies to name a few. More than half of them are science fiction, the rest fantasy and horror. My Brutarian sale got me into SFWA. An 800-word horror story that I wrote one Saturday evening and sent off the next day and sold it. I got 18 cents a word for that one. If only they all paid that well and life were always that easy. If only . . . It took me 600 rejections to make my first pro sale. So it goes.

Many of my visitors read and write gay male fiction.  Do any of your stories feature gay men or have a gay theme?

Yes, I have a story called “Edward’s Second Shot” in Wilde Oats. It’s a time-travel tale about how King Edward the Second was saved from a horrible death and brought hundreds of years in the future. Edward runs off from his caretaker, who later finds him in a gay biker bar where he’s made many new friends. I’ll be including it in a future collection entitled Pandering Dwarves and Other Time-Travel Tales.

Your first collection, Bullet and Other Stories, just came out as an eBook. What can you tell us about that?

It’s a collection of six science fiction stories that run the gamut of my various narrative styles. Included of course is “Bullet,” which was published in End of an Aeon, along with “Sausages” from Talebones, a gonzo generation-ship piece where I wink a lot at the grand master of reality problem stories, Philip K. Dick. “The New Elementals” is a flash piece about an uptown girl and a downtown boy and their ill-fated romance―she’s light waves and he’s radio waves. “Vector” features a bit of gay prison sex in an intergalactic setting and a young male courtesan trying not to spread the demon goddess who lives within him. It’s available on Amazon.com and Smashwords.

Tell us more about Petrol Queen.  The novel tackles serious issues, but what I found most fascinating about it is the crazy way you mash familiar fantasy tropes with contemporary characters.  Is this by design?  Or did it just happen?

With Petrol Queen I purposely set out to write a secondary-world contemporary fantasy that’s not really urban fantasy (no vampires or werewolves). It has a gritty, industrial setting, which I use as a backdrop to show the struggle of the have-nots of society and the revolution they foment to overthrow the powers that be.

Instead of vampires and werewolves, I created my own supernatural creatures. At the forefront is Corona, a half-haint caught between life and death, trying to maintain her corporeality as she struggles to get by as a street hustler. There’s also the highly-sexed paquoes who communicate telepathically and are used as seers, and the sky-haints, creatures born of the industrial smog above the city of Brotos. And I found a new twist on dragons. Now long extinct, except for their queen, their liquefied bones and magic are being pumped from the ground to fuel the military’s supersonic fighter aircraft. The queen dragon J-mu lives on inside the refinery’s owner Ziane Kont, whose daughter Lana is next in line to carry the dragon spirit and is horrified by the thought. Petrol Queen is a dark fantasy with sly humor and hope.

I’ll be putting Petrol Queen out in eBook soon, along with its two sequels, Corona and Corona Rising.

You’ve chided me about not sending out my stories enough. What can I say?  I’m shy.  You definitely aren’t.  Tell us your philosophy on getting your work out and getting it published.

It helps to have a lot of short fiction ready to go out, but back when I was concentrating on short fiction I tried to keep twenty or more stories making the rounds. Like most writers, I’d start at the top and work my way down. I’d have long dry spells where I couldn’t sell a fire extinguisher to a burning man. But then the pendulum would swing back and I’d start selling like crazy. I sold eighteen stories in 2008, the year before that only three despite subbing the same amount. The magic eventually works if you keep rubbing the lamp.

Following up on that, eBooks: the salvation of modern literature or the end of civilization as we know it?

I was one of those people who swore he’d never go ebook. It’s true, eBooks are the death of civilization. They spread mites, scurvy and cause rickets in the young and old. Ebooks will make you go blind! Then I bought a Kindle. I don’t think I’ve picked up a dead-tree book since, except to move it out of my way. Anyone who says they loathe eBooks and eReaders, I ask them if they’ve really tried them? It took me one day with my Kindle to make a believer out of me!

As far as self-publishing my own eBooks, I’m just getting started, but I see a bright future. Sure, there’s a lot of junk out there, but there’s also some good stuff, too. Like everything else, water seeks its own level. The trick I think is to turn out a good product and do everything you can to help word of mouth garner a growing readership. Also, some of my fiction is of such a nature that traditional publishers would probably never touch it, but I’m convinced there’s a readership out there. Ask me again in five years, but till then I’m going to give it my best shot.

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

Years ago on the writer’s workshop OWW, someone told me that I was trying too hard, trying to make my fiction too complex. Which was a nice way of saying my prose was too purple. I think most writers go through that. While I’m definitely not a fan of stark, overly simple prose, I’ve grown exceedingly tired of fiction that smells of the lamp. In my reading I’m delighted when I can find a writer who employs the perfect metaphor that’s not strained, a narrative with the right amount of eyeball kicks and zingers, a style that illuminates the story’s characters without hiding them behind excessively ornate language while still being expressive. The perfect style rides the middle between the two extremes. That’s the kind of writer I decided I want to be.

Best compliment? That I have uncommonly original ideas and can write snappy dialogue. I believe you mentioned that a time or two. I hope I remembered to say, “Thank you!”

Because we’re friends, I know you have been or still are a rock musician, writer, cat lover, Texan and like to tilt at windmills.  How have some of these experiences shaped your fiction?

I think all my years of being a performing musician gave me a certain confidence that bleeds over into my writing. And I imagine all the bars I’ve played in, and strange people I’ve met there, have found their way into my fiction. You can almost always tell a writer who hasn’t seen much outside of the classroom, library and genteel wine-and-cheese party. Not that I don’t value those experiences, but since I often write about the grittier side of life, there’s nothing like having lived it. Still, I like sending a street-wise strumpet to a soignée dinner party in my fiction. Or a refined matronly type to a den of iniquity. Contrasting disparate American cultures is fun to play around with. I do a lot of that in Petrol Queen, and since the setting is a secondary world, it affords me more freedom of invention.

I’m working on another novel series that begins with Jimmy-Don and the Texas Hill Country Ordeal. This is more of a straight-ahead urban fantasy, sent in San Antonio. The cast is mostly Hispanic to reflect the culture here. Jimmy-Don Autry is the stage name of singer-songwriter Jaime Jimenez, who claims to be the bastard son of the late Gene Autry. Jimmy-Don likes to be fanciful with the “truth.” Much of my musician experience went into creating his character. There’s magic, mayhem, Kafka and Johnny Cash. The first book in the series is finished, and I hope to have it out after Petrol Queen.



If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, fictional or real, who would it be?

Frank Zappa. The man had a great mind and a singular wit. And it would be a chance to prove, perhaps, that I’m half as unorthodox and idiosyncratic as he was. Maybe he could bring Captain Beefheart with him in case things just aren’t weird enough.

[Here's a Zappa quote: “I don't care whether I'm remembered. As a matter of fact, there's a lot of people who would like to forget about me as soon as possible, and I'm on their side!]

I love discovering new writers and their work, so help me expand my bookshelf.  Name and tell me more about one book you recently read and loved.

Naming specific books is hard, but I will name a couple of writers who do the sort of thing I’m always on the lookout for: Michael Swanwick and Paul Di Filippo readily come to mind. I like wild, inventive ideas, a healthy amount of decadence, and an acerbic wit in fiction. These two authors almost always satisfy my off-beat craving while employing interesting characters. It always comes back to the characters, though. Any of the above fictional attributes are worthless without characters to bring them to life.


Any pets that you would like to tell us about, share a pic?

I live with novelist Jaime Lee Moyer and our two cats, Gilly and Morgan. Two SF/F writers, two cats. A perfect balance.

Where can your readers stalk you?

Not in the nightclubs any more, as I lead a quieter though no less incorrigible lifestyle. I have a blog on LiveJournal called Marshall’s Super-Sekrit Clubhouse, where I do sundry weirdness and even the occasional thoughtful post on writing. I have a website.  I’m also on Facebook. I’m on Twitter, too, where I’m still trying to figure out how to pin down the meaning of life in 140 characters or less…and failing.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Here’s an excerpt from “Bullet”:

Eighteen years ago I found myself on the moon, firstborn, tits at twelve. We’d given up our view of the Pacific Ocean for a sterile moonscape. My father was reassigned to LB9 and permitted to shuttle the family with him: Mother, the two brats, Timothy and William, and me.

Our living quarters were tiny with no right angles—anywhere!—designed as a psychological inverse to the monotony of lunar life. But our quarters were still a series of dreary pentagons, where five walls could never become a home.

I remember Father going to work each day after gulping four cups of coffee. Though I knew he was one of the test pilots conducting the experimental velocity tests that approached near light speed, I was unaware of the risk involved, the shortcomings of physicists and their formulas. But my father was a special kind of man. Though he often drank too much, and some called him arrogant, it was inevitable that he would be lead pilot for this landmark mission. He was the finest of the fine.

~~~~~~~~~~~
Thank you, Marshall, for stopping by and sharing your work with us. You're proof that a writer's life can be both work and a heck of a lot of fun!