Werewolves are sexy, right? And big and alpha and “insert your own cliché here”.
Maybe I’m wrong about that, recycling all the old chestnuts out of ignorance – the whole shifter genre is something I only looked at from the outside until quite recently (and the only shifter novel I’ve read is J L Merrow’s excellent Camwolf). Like so often with my writing, I sort of got nudged into writing in a new genre, in this case producing a short story about werewolves – gay werewolves, to boot, and in an urban setting. I was a total innocent abroad (story of my life!) and knew I’d have to learn a lot, quickly.
Then I had this mad idea about a society (almost a gentlemen’s club) of highly intellectual, genteel and gentlemanly werewolves, who could meet at a place resembling the Natural History Museum in Kensington, on nights of the full moon – for the purposes of hearing lectures and, if the rain sodden English clouds parted, for shifting.
It was the sort of story which grew in the telling and allowed me to both explore a new genre and have a bit of a pop at some favourite targets, including the tabloids (read the story and you’ll see why). On a more serious note, I could also explore the plight of the gay, closeted, Premiership footballer (and there are some, believe me). So, out of all these disparate elements, Wolves of the West was born. Because I didn’t know the genre well I didn’t know if there were any rules to play by, so I just went with my own shifter world view. (That’s the story of my writing life, too!)
People have asked me if Rory and George, the heroes of Wolves of the West, will be making any further appearances. The answer is “yes”...if I ever get around to finishing the WIP in which they appear. I do, however, have another shifter character appearing this summer, in the short story “Sollicito” from the anthology “Lashings of Sauce”. Not a wolf, this time. A sloth. And when you’ve stopped laughing at the idea, let me assure you – weresloths are sexy, too.
Sometimes your life is defined by the things you have to keep hidden, whether it's being gay or what happens when the moon is full.
“One of you has been indiscreet. Horribly so.” The chairman took a long, steady look at each of the assembled members. Rory racked his brains, but apart from having to relieve himself in the bushes at Wentworth he could bring no transgression to mind. He took a glance at his colleagues, all of whom looked equally perplexed.
“I refer to this.” The chairman held up a copy of The Sun , making another shudder of distaste fly around the table. He opened the tabloid newspaper gingerly, as if he feared catching mange from it. “The headline reads 'Wolf eats Sabrina’s Chihuahua'. I quote,” the chairman shivered slightly, “the lady in question. I'd just stepped out of the shower when I saw this brute eating my little Destiny'.”
Perhaps, of all those present, Rory was the only one who didn’t have to have it explained who Sabrina was. He followed all the England sports teams, was well aware, even before the chairman began his explanation, that the lady–euphemistic term–was the girlfriend of a premiership footballer.
The tabloids must have loved this story. It contained all the elements–scantily clad girl, pets, football–that meant so much to them. If only the wolf in question had been governed by some absurd EC rule they’d have had a full house.
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Friday, July 27, 2012
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Here's a little taste of my 2011 EPIC eBook Award Winner, THE BLUE MOON CAFE (best Horror Erotic Romance). I think this might be the only book in history that features a homophobic werewolf preying on gay men. This is one of my favorites creations because I think it’s a solid blend of horror and romance. The synopsis below, naturally, focuses on the romance.
Someone--or something--is killing Seattle's gay men.
A creature moves through the darkest night, lit only by the full moon, taking them, one by one, from the rain city's gay gathering areas.
Someone--or something--is falling in love with Thad Matthews.
Against a backdrop of horror and fear, young Thad finds his first true love in the most unlikely of places--a new Italian restaurant called The Blue Moon Cafe. Sam is everything Thad has ever dreamed of in a man: compassionate, giving, handsome, and with brown eyes Thad feels he could sink into. And Sam can cook! But as the pair's love begins to grow, so do the questions and uncertainties, the main one being, why do Sam's unexplained disappearances always coincide with the full moon? Prepare yourself for a unique blend of dark suspense and erotic romance with The Blue Moon Cafe, written by the author Unzipped magazine called, 'the Stephen King of gay horror.' You're guaranteed an unforgettable reading experience, one that skillfully blends the hottest romance with the most chilling terror...
(Gay / Dark Fantasy / Shapeshifter / Werewolf / Suspense / Thriller)
In his imagination, Thad pictured the two of them coming in his front door and Sam throwing him roughly up against the door, covering his face and neck with kisses while his hands roamed, tweaking a nipple there, fondling his balls here. In the pregnant darkness, the man would work Thad into a frenzy of carnal desire so great he didn’t know if they would make it to the bedroom or if they would consummate their passion right on the living room floor. He saw their muscles, slicked with sweat, working in unison like a machine to bring each other to dizzying heights of pleasure.
He hadn’t pictured Edith greeting them at the door and the poor little Chihuahua manically jumping up and down on him, whining to be taken outside—immediately. So, with reluctance, Thad flipped on the overhead light so he could find her leash. He looked back at Sam, who waited outside in the shadows. “You can just go on in and have a seat on the couch. She won’t take me more than a minute.”
“It’s okay. I can wait out here.” Sam groped in his pocket and brought out a pack of cigarettes. He extracted one, lit it, and exhaled a plume of blue gray smoke into the night air. Thad was both repelled and attracted by the site of Sam lighting up.
Ugh. A smoker. Something I will have to work on changing. He then couldn’t deny the “bad boy” thrill the site of the man smoking gave him. Or maybe not.
Thad ducked back in and stooped to affix harness and leash to Edith, who was all but hopping up and down with impatience. She whimpered and stared desperately up at him.
“I know, I know,” Thad soothed. “Small bladder.”
The two stepped outside and Edith froze when she saw Sam. Her eyes widened and the hackles along her neck and back went up. She immediately began a furious yapping, baring her teeth, and lunging toward Sam, her tiny frame testing the endurance of the leather leash. Thad was surprised the old girl had so much fury and strength within her seven pound frame. He sent a weak smile Sam’s way to apologize for her behavior. “I don’t know what’s up with her. She’s usually not like this.”
“Maybe it’s the dark. I’ll walk over here.” Sam hurried back down the walkway until he stood near the street, the orange tip of his cigarette glowing in the dark.
Thad squatted down to comfort the little dog, shaking with fury and what seemed like terror. He had acquired Edith as a puppy and had made sure she was well socialized from about eight weeks old on, taking her everywhere with him and exposing her, over the years to all sorts of people, other dogs, and even cats. He had never seen her behave like this. Great! I finally find a man I think I could be nuts about and my dog doesn’t like him. Something I’ll have to work on. Thad walked Edith in the opposite direction from Sam and she calmed down enough to re-establish her original goal and to take care of it.
“I’ll put her in the bathroom,” Thad called to Sam as he headed back to the apartment. “Give me just a sec. I’ll leave the door open and then you can come in.”
Thad hurried to make a bed of towels for Edith in one corner, then rushed into the kitchen to put some peanut butter in her little Kong toy. He presented it to her. “Here, now I’ve been nice to you. Now you be nice to me. No more trouble from you.” He took one last glance back at the dog, busy with getting peanut butter out of her toy, before closing the bathroom door.
Sam leaned against his front door, smiling. He didn’t look tired in the least, even though it was near two in the morning and he had worked all evening. The color in his cheeks was high, his lips full and slightly parted, and the way he stared at Thad was all invitation. Thad simply wanted to get lost in that big, furry body.
But he was still a little flustered. “Sorry about that. She isn’t usually so unfriendly. I don’t know what got into her.”
“Don’t worry about it. I’m not much of a dog person—maybe she knew that. And maybe you don’t know what’s gotten into her, but I have an inkling you have a very good idea what’s going to be getting into you.” Sam winked and then laughed.
“You dog!” Thad crossed the room, flicked off the lights, and pressed his body against Sam. The kisses, against the door, just as he had imagined, commenced. Thad was, for once, grateful he didn’t have a job to go to come Monday morning, because he knew his face would be red and chafed from the pressure of Sam’s beard. This way, he imagined he would smile with fond memories every time he looked in a mirror.
They kissed for what seemed like the next hour, until both of them panted and half their faces were wet with the other saliva. Without ever leaving the front door, shirts had been undone and pulled open, flies opened, and shoes kicked into corners.
Breathlessly, Thad forced himself away from Sam and said the three little words every man longs to hear: “To the bed.” He grabbed Sam and tugged him toward the bed that occupied one corner of his studio. They fell upon it, laughing and tearing at each other’s clothes...
[WITHHELD IN THE INTEREST OF THOSE WITH DELICATE SENSIBILITIES. YOU WANT TO GO THERE, YOU HAVE TO BUY THE BOOK!]
...Sam and Thad lay on their backs, breathless. Thad spoke first, but only after several minutes had passed, long enough for him to process what had just happened and to allow his respiration to return to a somewhat normal pace. “That was amazing. I’m no Mary Poppins, but I can honestly say I don’t know when it’s been that good for me.” Thad let out a long, quivering breath. “You’re right; you are an animal.”
Sam laughed and the sound was comforting, here in the pale, silvery light from a waning moon outside. Thad snuggled into the crook between Sam’s chest and arm, resting his head on the fur that blanketed Sam’s chest. This, he thought, surprising himself, is just about as good as the sex.
“I just go with my instincts.” Sam stroked Thad’s hair gently. “If that makes me an animal, then I am guilty as charged.” He moved slightly away from Thad. “Don’t kill me, but do you mind if I have a cigarette? I can go outside if you want.”
Thad shook his head, grinning. “A smoke after sex. That’s so cliché. But go ahead. Normally, I wouldn’t allow it, but I’ll make an exception for you…Sam.” Thad liked how the name felt on his tongue.
“Grazie.” Sam turned to sit up and grope in his pants pocket, bringing out a pack of Marlboro Reds and a lighter. He leaned back against the headboard and lit up. The room filled with the acrid stench of burning tobacco and paper and instead of being repelled, as he normally would be, Thad moved close to Sam again, taking up his newly claimed spot on the man’s chest. He stared up at him, watching him smoke. Lazily, he traced circles in the hairy mat covering Sam’s chest. His fingers stopped when he caught sight of a design on Sam’s left pectoral, something he had hadn’t noticed in the dim light or perhaps because it was all but hidden by the forest of hair. Thad got up on one elbow.
“You have a tattoo?”
In the dark, Sam nodded. “I’ve had it for years, way before tattoos were all the rage like they are these days.”
“Especially here in Seattle.” Thad often wondered if there was some requirement that all citizens of Seattle must have at least one tattoo. “What’s it of?” Thad strained to make out the design’s contours in the dim light and couldn’t.
Sam leaned forward to switch on the little bedside lamp. Thad squinted at the sudden light source, then directed his gaze down at the muscled chest before him. “What is it?” Thad traced the design with his fingers, lowering his head to peer more closely at it. He nipped at Sam’s nipple and Sam laughed.
“It’s Lupa, the she-wolf who suckled Romulus and Remus, the twins who founded Rome in mythology. Cool, no?” Sam flexed his chest so the wolf seemed to move. Two cherubic twin boys below the figure suckled at her teats.
“It’s kind of weird. But it suits you.” Thad reached over Sam to turn off the light again. “What brought you to America?”
Did Thad detect a slight stiffening when he asked the question? He had only meant to further their little post-coital conversation. “I don’t mean to put you on the spot,” he hurried to say, wondering if he had imagined the slight body language. “If it’s none of my business, just say so.”
Sam relaxed against the bunched up—and damp—pillows. “No. It’s okay. We came from a small village in Sicily. Lots of mountains, rocks, olive trees…not much else. You would probably think it’s pretty, but me, I was bored. We just decided one day to go, to come to America, to see if we could make a go of it here. We tried New York City first, but it was too crazy there. Too many people, too expensive. We wanted someplace where everything was not concrete, where there was some nature. Seattle was, how would you say? A natural choice.”
Now it was Thad’s turn to stiffen just a bit. What was with all the ‘we’ this and ‘we’ that? His feelings, briefly at an all-time high, sunk. Was Sam married? Did he have a lover? Was Thad just that night’s side dish? Sam’s olive cake with Marion berries? Would Sam soon be getting up to hurry home to someone who was sleeping with one eye open, waiting for the sound of his key in the door? Thad did not want to come off as suspicious, but he couldn’t resist his next question and thought he might as well get everything out in the open right from the start.
“You said ‘we’. Who’s ‘we’?” Thad tried to bite his lip to keep himself from saying it, but he couldn’t resist the impulse. “Wait. Don’t tell me. There’s a boyfriend—or a wife—right?” Thad held his breath, waiting for the bad news to be delivered. It wouldn’t surprise him, but it would certainly deflate him. And it would be just about right for how his life had been going lately.
Sam chuckled and took a last drag off his cigarette. He got up and went to the window to flick it outside. His ass, high and firm, glowed in the moonlight and Thad wondered if he would have to rethink his policy of not dating committed men. Hell, with that ass, I may have to rethink my policy of being a total bottom.
He’s not talking because he’s trying to think of the right way to tell me. Thad clutched a pillow to his chest, almost as if he was bracing himself for a blow, which he was.
Sam weighed down the bed as he slid back in beside him. “You silly boy. There’s no one else. I said ‘we’ because I have a son. He came with me.” Sam took Thad’s face in his hands and snatched him up in his dark-eyed gaze. “There’s no one else.” He let go and Thad immediately missed the contact. “I travel light. I usually like, um, no complications? But when I saw you, I couldn’t resist.”
It wasn’t until they were drifting off to sleep that the paranoid side of Thad caught up with him again, causing him to wonder if the fucking was a way to stave off further conversation. Who was this son? Did Sam really just come to America for a change? How many people actually do that…or can even afford to? Stop it, now. He’s here with you now…
And the men drifted off to sleep together...
Monday, July 23, 2012
Greetings Guys Like Romance, Too! followers!
Carson here to introduce to you another blog tour day! Today we have J.P Barnaby stopping by to tell us about her six book series Little Lost Boy. So without further delay...take it away JP!
Little Boy Lost is a coming of age story about two teenage boys—Brian McAllister and Jamie Mayfield—growing up gay in rural Alabama. The six book series chronicles their lives as they navigate through peers, parents, and porn, desperately searching for the perfect combination of circumstances in which they can be together. Through their journey, they find friends, pain, acceptance, loss, and most importantly, themselves.
Creating Characters to Identify With
“As a gay man who was told at 15 by a Baptist preacher that god gave his mother a seizure because he had touched another boys penis and then went to a "Pray away the gay" camp with my boyfriend in our early 20's ran by Focus on The Family because my BF's parents said we’re going to hell if we didn't change our ways, you have no idea how close to home this series hits to my heart. When I read every book, I came to feel like they were kids I know not just characters on a page. Your writing has captivated me and moved me in more ways than you will ever know. Thank you.” – Jason
“I watched a 19 year old boy sit on my couch and cry while reading J.P. Barnaby's Enlightened. On the small island in Micronesia where he's from, there was no one to talk to about his feelings or fears. There were no gay couples to give him hope. Silly romance novels gave him the courage to come out, come to ALSO and not take his own life when the voices in his head said "you're an abomination and you're going to hell".” – Lori
“I just wanted to say that the realism JP mentioned in her reply above is SPOT ON. I find that I cry every 5 minutes or less, because it feels like she is telling my life story. Although the angst may seem contrived or endless… that’s because it is. When I was Brian’s age, there was no end to the drama. And it’s because I had no resources to help me be a well-adjusted sexual person in my little town in Georgia.” - Devon
“Your books give young gay guys hope and strength to be who they are. I know if I would have read your books when I was a 19 year old, pre-out guy, I wouldn’t have tried to kill myself. Your book gave me hope that a regular guy like me from nowhere could find a guy and be happy. Maybe go through shit up to his ears and still come out on top.” - Chris
Thousands of articles have been written about character development, it is one of the most important elements of your story. Most romances are character-driven rather than plot driven because you know what the plot is going to be: person A falls in love with person B, something bad happens and they can’t be together, they resolve the problem and live happily ever after. The difference is in the characters. Characters that stick with people, characters that people remember are the ones they identify with and the ones they care about.
Characters in a book are fictional, but when you can get readers to care so much about them that they believe the characters are real, then you’ve done your job as an author. Jason from Texas once sent me a message telling me that he’d seen an obituary for a Mayfield and wondered if that person was related to Jamie Mayfield from Little Boy Lost. That is a powerful indicator of how deeply Jamie affected him. When your readers start thinking of your characters as real, then the character has left an impression.
One way to imbibe your character with life is to make them human with realistic values, vulnerabilities, and flaws. Perfect protagonists are boring and sometimes go beyond the realm of believability. Superman may always fight for truth, justice, and the American way, but regular men and women have crises of conscious. In the Little Boy Lost series, Brian McAllister grew up in foster care after his parents were killed by a junkie. He has nightmares about sitting with his parents’ bodies until a neighbor found him. His love for Jamie and his fear of being outed also make him a character we care about. We want to help him, and sometimes we want to hug him and tell him that he’s going to be okay.
Micah is also an interesting and popular character from the series. We love watching him find love for the first time with Alex because he’d played loose and fast with guys for so long. Love was something that had never crossed his mind. While Micah and Alex are secondary characters, their feelings and their actions are important. A strong supporting cast of characters can give your protagonists and your novel a solid foundation.
Three dimensional characters are important in fiction. Your readers should be able to imagine them and see them from all sides. Brian wanted to be an architect. Brian loves to read, but can’t afford to buy new releases because he’s trying to save money for college. In later books, Brian knows Karate. All of these little pieces, which are unrelated on the surface, come together to make him the unique character that he is. His voice in the first three books is distinctly different from Jamie’s voice in the last three because they are completely different people.
Give your character distinctions to set him apart from every other gay fiction character, make him inherently good but vulnerable, give him a good heart, but expose his flaws. Know your target audience. Gay romance novels, while they are predominantly read by women, also have a male audience. Representing them accurately and responsibly is important. In this way, you will endear him to your readers and they’ll remember him long after they close the book.
About J. P. Barnaby
As a bisexual woman, J.P. is a proud member of the GLBT community both online and in her small town on the outskirts of Chicago. A member of Mensa, she is described as brilliant but troubled, sweet but introverted, and talented but deviant. She spends her days writing software and her nights writing erotica, which is, of course, far more interesting. The spare time that she carves out between her career and her novels is spent reading about the concept of love, which, like some of her characters, she has never quite figured out for herself.