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Once upon a time there was an author. A very talented author. Someone who did an awful lot for other people - beta reading, opening her blog to guest posts, jollying folk along, and all the rest. The only thing she didn't do well was blow her own trumpet, although if they made 'Hiding one's light under a bushel' an Olympic event, she'd win gold. That author is my guest Elin Gregory, with her cracking new book, Bones of Our Fathers - which is out today!

Malcolm Bright, brand new museum curator in a small Welsh Border town, is a little lonely until – acting as emergency archaeological consultant on a new housing development – he crosses the path of Rob Escley, aka Dirty Rob, who makes Mal’s earth move in more ways than one.

Then Rob discovers something wonderful, and together they must combat greedy developers and a treasure hunter determined to get his hands on the find. Are desperate measures justified to save the bones of our fathers? Will Dirty Rob live up to his reputation? Do museum curators really do it meticulously?

Answers must be found for the sake of Mal’s future, his happiness and his


Mal couldn’t remember the last time he’d enjoyed an evening so much. Rob’s frank appreciation, and that it was ignored by the others apart from a few gibes at Rob’s expense, had filled Mal with a sense of confidence he didn’t normally enjoy and he played his pool with a flair that surprised him and made Betty nod approvingly. He had even held his own when the banter became more general.

“I’m not letting you upset Betty,” he’d said after an innocent question about her ‘Peaches’ nickname’ prompted a story about a house party when they were sixteen and Betty’s karaoke performance after a pint of peach flavoured schnapps.

“Knight in shinin’ armour is it?” Sion said.

“No, I have to work with her tomorrow. Besides, don’t some of the rest of you have nicknames? Dirty Rob, isn’t it?”

There was one of those tense and silent moments. It can’t have lasted more than a second, but it felt much longer and quite a lot happened. Rob’s lips thinned, Sion glared at Betty who flushed a very ugly pink and Morris emitted an anxious whine. Mal realised he had said absolutely the wrong thing.

“I—um—was called Rainbow in school,” he said. “Rainbow Brite? Like the cartoon.”

“We used to watch that.” Gary grinned. “Didn’t we, Rob?”

“Dammit, Gary!” Rob’s tone was aggrieved but his lips were easing into a smile. “Never out me as a Rainbow Brite fan, lapsed, when I’m trying to impress an attractive bloke.”

Elin Gregory lives in South Wales and has been making stuff up since she learned to talk. Writing has always had to take second place to work and family but, slowly, she is finishing the many novels on her hard drive and actually trying to do something useful with them.
Historical subjects predominate. She has written about ancient Greek sculptors, 18th century seafarers but also about modern men who change shape at will and how echoes of the past can be heard in the present. Heroes tend to be hard as nails but capable of tenderness when circumstances allow.
There are always new works on the go and she is currently writing more 1930s spies, adding to a series of contemporary romances and doing background reading for stories set in Roman Britain and in WW2.

BOOF 2.5-01
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So delighted to have George here today on the eve's eve of his release day for Up in the Air.

When you were last at my blog we chatted about watching your first story fledge. What does it feel like this time round?

Scarier! I was published in Anthologies before, so I didn't feel the pressure because there were other stories around mine. This time it's just me, so I am excited but scared to see what people will think. This story is also the first in a series, as I knew I wanted to write more about the guys. So I have a whole series planned which features the two main characters in this novella, James and Darren, and then the next story out will be James' best friend, Max and his adventures.

What do you think you've learned since you were first published?

I've learnt to stand up for my characters and story, but also listen to the feedback I receive. I've been very lucky to work with great editors and beta readers who've helped me strengthen my writing. Each time I get edits and comments back I read through them, let them settle then go back to read them again. I'll admit to scoffing at some things, but then appreciating the changes suggested. I've also been adamant at keeping things that feel right to me, not just because I want them there, but because it will be more relevant to the story later on.


What inspired the latest book?

This story came from an exercise in a NaNoWriMo book called 'Ready, Set, Novel'. I had to write a list of 20 items that I loved, then pick three out of a hat. I picked flying, kissing and mountains. I've flown a lot for my job to Johannesburg, and the idea of a passenger nearly missing a flight and then falling for an air steward came to me.

Did you know where 'Up in the Air' was going from the start or did it take an unexpected turn?

This story, and the subsequent stories in the series, have been in my mind for years. So the general plot has been there and I knew what was going to happen. However the journey the characters take has often led me to wonder who the writer is. They go their own way sometimes and I love how things evolve. Sometimes they do things I don't want them to, but I usually let it flow and see what happens. What I've discovered is that when something doesn't work in one place, it will usually work in another area of the story, so the characters usually get their own way.

Have you ever been writing and discovered something totally unexpected about one of your characters?

In this story, there's a scene in the hotel restaurant at breakfast, where at the end Darren said something which had me chuckling. It also showed another side of him which I hadn't expected to see. It was sweet and made me love him even more.

Which book do you wish you'd written and why?

Oh my gosh - I don't know if I could. I love to read and one of the things writing has taught me, is to appreciate how much goes into writing a book and the author's themselves. That said, The Signs of the Zodiac series by Vicki Petterson would be one! She is an amazing writer and the world she created is so rich, I'd love to have her talent and written those stories. Also, Sean Kennedy and his Tigers and Devils series, I've read them countless times and love the characters and world he has built too.

Have you got a secret you'd be willing to share?

I think I am quite open, and I probably post more on Facebook than I should! How about I was the boys dancing champion back in the day ... I think I was seven or eight. I remember looking around my competition and watching them copying me, which didn't make sense. However, I won and I still have the photo - somewhere! I wore this red trouser and white shirt combo my mum made me! I looked fab!

Thanks for dropping by, toots, and good luck with the book!


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I first met Anna at the Bold Strokes event in Nottingham last year - she was one of a number of charming people to grace that weekend. So glad she agreed to guest here at my blog to celebrate her debut release, Highland Fling. 

What inspired you to start writing?

Back in 2012, I stumbled upon a seminar held at De Montfort University, Leicester, run by Bold Stokes Books editor Victoria Villasenor. BSB authors were in attendance reading from their latest novels. It was a real lightbulb moment for me. I just thought I should be doing this!

Do you have another job, paid or otherwise, apart from being an author? If so, how do you juggle your time?

My background is in Museum/Heritage work. Up until fairly recently, I was part of a fantastic project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund called Untold Stories. Untold Stories recorded over one hundred oral histories from LGBT people in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. As part of this project I am really proud to have written and curated one of the few UK permanent LGBT exhibitions, now housed at Leicester’s LGBT Centre.

Right now, I am concentrating on writing my second novel, Love’s Portrait, due out next year, along with celebrating and promoting the release of my debut novel Highland Fling. So I have my hands full!

What does it feel like watching your first book fledge and leave the nest?

It is a mixture of joy, pride and of course nervousness! Highland Fling is very special to me. I love the characters and adore the setting of the Scottish Highlands. There is something very honest and heartfelt about Highland Fling, the characters are not afraid to show their flaws and hang-ups. I love their awkwardness, their humour and above all their struggles. I really hope that readers enjoy it. 

Are you character or plot driven? What do you do if one of your characters starts developing at a tangent?

I’m character driven. Highland Fling began by imagining a woman living and working in the Highlands, what her life was, who she loved. Then I gave her someone to love and together they built their story.

The process to writing Highland Fling was very free flowing. I had no overarching plan, or outline, the story developed as I wrote. I followed my characters allowing them to become themselves and to tell me their story. In other words I allowed, even at times encouraged them to go off tangent. That said, it wasn’t a particularly efficient way of working!

My second novel, Love’s Portrait, in contrast has a deadline and an agreed outline. There is very little wriggle room for my characters to go off tangent, so I’ll be gently keeping them in line. This is a new way of working for me. It will be interesting to see which method I end up preferring!

If you were in a tight corner and had to rely on one of your characters to save you, which would it be and why?

This is a really interesting question and it depends on the tight corner. I think Moira Burns, the outdoorsy capable Scot, who drives a Land Rover, chops down trees, and is kind of no-nonsense would be my first choice if the crisis required a practical hand. Although Eve’s best friend Roxanne Barns could always be relied on to rescue an awkward social moment with her humour and disarming candour.  And then if I needed simple words of wisdom to guide me through then I would turn to Eve Eddison every time.

If you had no constraints of time and a guarantee of publication, what book would you write?

Honestly, the one I’m writing now – Love’s Portrait. It combines my love of museums, and LGBT history, with a modern day love story. The essence of the story is that a museum curator and museum benefactor fall in love as they discover a painting’s tragic past. It has the potential to be really beautiful.

Is there a classic book you started and simply couldn’t finish?

Yes. The Well of Loneliness, by Radclyffe Hall. It is the main protagonist Stephen’s use of the word Invert that upset me when I first attempted to read it. It seemed such a negative term suggestive of a disorder of which one should be ashamed. I can’t see myself returning to it now either. 

What’s your favourite lesbian book? And why?

Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden. Annie is a young adult book written in 1982. It tells the story of two 17-year-old New York City girls, Annie and Liza who fall in love. It is my favourite book because it was the first lesbian romance I read. I was a teenager at the time and it meant the world to me. Its message to ‘let love win not ignorance’ is so consoling.

What’s your next project?

I have written a short story called Hooper Street which will be published by Bold Strokes Books in June 2017 in the anthology Girls Next Door. Currently I’m working on Love’s Portrait, a contemporary romance infused with a love story from the 1800’s. Love’s Portrait will immerse readers in an emotional journey, as the characters fight not only for love but also for our LGBT heritage. I hope it will be beautifully visual and sensual, as the past meets the present and emotions run high.

Highland Fling by Anna Larner

‘On vacation in the Scottish Highlands, Eve Eddison falls for the enigmatic forestry officer Moira Burns, despite Eve’s best friend’s campaign to convince her that Moira will break her heart.’ Published by Bold Strokes Books.

Highland Fling 300 DPI
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One of the great things for me about the 'Pride of Poppies' anthology project was getting to know Jay. He once did me the inestimable honour in a private chat of saying I was a ridiculous woman. He knows me too well. So pleased to have him back here today, not least because it means he has a new release.

So, old bean, is it still as exciting to publish your umpteenth story as your first?

Fourth as a definition of 'umpteenth' isn't in my dictionary 😉 but yes, it is still exciting. For one thing it's proof that I can still have the odd (sometimes very odd) idea crawling out of my brain cells; and then there is the excitement of hoping that my readers will like this one too. I know that 'Break of Another Day' is by no means a full-size book, but I really wanted to explore the questions left hanging in 'Across Your Dreams'.

When revisiting characters from a previous book, what are the challenges?

When I was writing Lew and Alan I found it relatively easy to drop back into Lew's point of view and to keep Alan in character; Alan is fairly much as other people see him, whether the reader is in his point of view or someone else's. With Jack the challenge was that readers have only ever seen him through other characters' eyes before: I had to get into his point of view and make it distinctive, and perhaps unexpected, while showing that other people would see him as the same exasperating devious git. (Jack is the character I'd like to be when I'm drunk; in my dreams, alas). The other challenge is working out exactly how much time has passed since the characters last appeared - this can be surprisingly difficult.

Have you made any terrible continuity errors? How do you ensure against contradictions?

I'm embarrassed to say that there are at least two minor contradictions even in something that got as much reading and re-reading as 'Across your Dreams' - they were addressed in the paperback edition, and I say 'at least' because I'm not sure I haven't left something out of place even now. Very easy when something covers a huge span of time, although I do make myself a chapter list when writing a novel, which effectively works as a continuity check.

'Intimate Meanings' takes place during November-February, so not so huge, but - perhaps because of that - I did perpetrate one enormous continuity slip. I wrote that story after 'Heritage of Heart', although chronologically it takes place beforehand, and my writing brain implanted a change in the earlier setting that only happened in the later one. It wasn't until Julie Bozza, my editor at Manifold, pointed it out that I realised. Editors (and proof-readers) are the best insurance - writers take note, and pay attention to what they say!

Do you get bored with your characters? How do you make sure they stay fresh for both author and reader?

I don't think I could get bored with my characters; at least, I can't have yet, or I wouldn't still be writing about them. The trouble is stopping myself from replaying the loop of favourite settings. I have a couple of failed starts for something featuring Lew and Alan in the 1930s which I have had to stop for the moment, as the chaps seem to spend all their time having breakfast. I think the thing about keeping characters fresh is that, while they are also - one hopes - loved as they are, there are only so many new challenges one can put in their way. It's all about finding the balance.

You've taken a minor character and made him the focus of this story. Was that always the intention at the time of writing 'Across your Dreams'? Will any other characters be cropping up in stories in the future?

Jack's whole appearance in 'Across your Dreams' was unintentional, in a manner of speaking - he was not meant to be like that, but when Russ walked into his shop and Jack shouted from the dark-room, there he was, completely himself without my having to think about it. It was only when people kept commenting about him after 'Across your Dreams' was published that I started wondering what would happen to him afterwards.

I may, one day, finish the 1930s stories with Lew and Alan, which will take them close to 1939; so I think readers will be seeing more of the 'Across your Dreams' team in 1939-1945, though what form anything will take I can't tell, right now. I hope there will be an appearance by Celia Vavasour in the not-too-distant future.

Will we be getting a follow up to 'The Peacock's Eye'?

It's possible. (Who spotted the clue in 'Across your Dreams'?). The year 1613 was very interesting for all sorts of reasons, and I do have an idea. However, whether it's an idea that will sustain a whole novel, or whether it will be another Espresso Shot, I don't know.

Finally, I'd like to thank Manifold Press for taking 'Break of Another Day' on to the Espresso Shots list, and to wish Manifold's two new authors, Heloise West and Dorian Dawes, all the very best!

Break of Another Day

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It's always a pleasure to meet different people through this here writing lark. They usually turn out to be nice, and Dorian is no exception. So...

What inspired you to start writing?

Telling stories and inventing characters and worlds has been something I've done ever since I was a kid. My sisters and I used to play in the woods and create long-running narratives over the course of entire summers. Writing fiction was the next logical step, and it's all I've ever really wanted to do with my life.

What does it feel like watching your first book fledge and leave the nest?

When I first got that acceptance letter, my boyfriend heard me gasping in the other room and rushed to make sure I was okay. He found me a quivering, sobbing mess. I had to reassure him that this was good news! This has been a lifelong dream for me and seeing my work finally get out into the world is humbling beyond words.

What was the inspiration for Harbinger Island? 

I'd been particularly hungry for something specific within the fantasy genre, something modern but filled with darkness and conspiracy. I wanted X-Files with magic! So I started writing out a scenario and tested the idea and world in a tabletop campaign for my gaming group. Later, I expanded the universe and penned additional stories within the setting and it pretty much evolved from there! 

Are you character or plot driven? What sort of characters do you like to write?

My favorite plots tend to be the ones driven by characters. People who do things, investigate, cause problems; they're the most interesting to write about. I also really love writing about good people who sometimes do horrible things and the fallout from those decisions and how they deal with that.

If you were in a tight corner and had to rely on one of your characters to save you, which would it be and why?

Professor Bartleby Prouse! He's had a lifetime collecting all manner of knowledge and some fairly dangerous artifacts. His ability to analyze a situation and call upon exactly what it needs makes him truly formidable. More importantly, it is his tenacity to protect others even in the face of overwhelming evil. The worse things get, the harder he fights.

What’s your favourite LGBT book? And why? 

I've been thinking about Exquisite Corpse by Poppy Z. Brite lately. It's about a gay serial killer and the relationship to his victims, with many parallels to the Jeffrey Dahmer case. It's a beautiful book filled with human ugliness, as erotic and seductive as it is barbaric and horrifying. I think it's important to me as the characters show more depth and humanity than they do in many works of token gay fiction. Poppy's characters are allowed to be horrible to each other, to display their naked raw vulnerabilities. They aren't polite or nice or meant to be good representation. They're just people, and that's what I want to write.

What's your next project? 

I've just finished work on a sci-fi adventure comedy following a transgender bounty hunter in her mission to uncover an ancient alien temple on a hostile planet. It's a significant tonal departure from Harbinger Island and it's a lot of fun. I can only hope people who follow my work aren't too terribly confused!
Buy Links for Harbinger Island:

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Delighted to welcome Heloise, who has a brand spanking new story - Ardent - out with Manifold.

Heloise, thanks for being my guest. What inspired you to start writing?

I always had a vivid imagination as a kid, and once I learned to read and write, I started putting narratives together from the books I read. Not fanfic, but kind of derivative of the things I liked reading about. I wrote pirate stories, caper, post apocalyptic, a gothic romance, and fantasy. It was both an escape and a way to cope, I think. Still is. Mostly I was, and still am, inspired by reading the words of others, but I found my own voice and narrative. I always wanted to be the mind behind the story—which was how I described wanting to be a writer to myself as a kid.

Does it feel different when you're launching your fourth book compared to the first?

Yes, I’m definitely much calmer about it, but still excited. Things have changed in the last two years in publishing, especially in the small press, so I never really know what to expect.

Why this particular setting and era?

I think Ardent sprouted from a seed dropped way back when in Art History 101 with a very long germination time. The first novel I ever finished was an Italian medieval mystery set in Tuscany during the time of Dante, and I spent a lot of time reading books backwards and forwards on that timeline. For me, I think all roads lead to Florence. There was so much going on during the Italian Renaissance, so many personalities, conflicts, innovations. Much of the material I found wasn’t taught in undergraduate classes, either. It would be difficult for me not to find a story to write by reading between the lines of this particular era in history.

Are you character or plot driven? What do you do if one of your characters starts developing at a tangent?

Character driven. Well, there’s quite a few characters in Ardent who have their own complicated stories to tell, and I was hoping they would continue to speak to me after Ardent was finished. There is so much more to explore here, from so many different perspectives.

If you were in a tight corner and had to rely on one of your characters to save you, which would it be and why?

Falcone. Who also has the most developed next story in this universe. Falcone is morally complicated, an abandoned child who had to learn to fend for himself, who also loves beauty and music. His loyalty and love, however, once earned, is unwavering, and he would do anything for that person who earned it.

If you had no constraints of time and a guarantee of publication, what book would you write?

My Italian medieval mystery ended up being a mess, but it was my learning project. The main characters are still compelling to me, as is the place and time. It occurred to me that I could create an AU with strong fantasy elements where Dante goes to hell and curses Florence by unleashing the inhabitants on them. I’d need the time to do submerge myself in the research and developing the AU.

Is there a classic book you started and simply couldn't finish?

Crime and Punishment *hangs head*

What’s your favourite gay fiction book? And why?

Only one? Okay, The Persian Boy. I re-read that one every few years. I love Bagoas’ voice. It’s not a romance, but the love story between him and Alexander makes the historical aspect even more compelling and vivid.

What's your next project?

Well, speaking of historicals, the rights for my short story from the Dreamspinner anthology Juicy Bits were just returned to me. I’m thinking of self-pubbing it as an erotic historical, as it’s not technically a romance. The premise for the anthology was to write just the juicy bits from a romance, so they didn’t have time to get to the learning to love part. I’m undecided about expanding it, as it feels complete to me as it is. But I’ll let that simmer on the back burner for a while, see what my subconscious comes up with. The story is called River Gods, set later in the Renaissance in Florence. There’s another murder mystery beckoning, set in this same time period and place, basically after Savonrola’s death. I’m also working on a novel for the Order of the Black Knights multiauthor series with Dreamspinner, and edits for the third novel in my Heart and Haven series with Loose Id.


In the village of Torrenta, master painter Morello has created a color that mimics the most expensive pigment of all, the crimson red. Master Zeno, from strife-ridden Medici Florence, tells him the color gives him a competitive advantage – but Morello must be careful. Fraud is ever-present in the dye and pigment markets.
As they work together in Torrenta, Morello falls hard for Zeno’s assistant, Benedetto Tagliaferro, a young man of uncommon beauty and intelligence. Benedetto is still fixed on his old lover, the master painter Leo Guisculo, and cannot return Morello’s affections.
But when Leo dies in a terrible accident, it’s to Morello that Zeno and Benedetto turn for help. And Morello soon finds that in Florence, every surface hides layers of intrigue.

charlie_cochrane: (jury of one)
So nice to have Ellie here today, just forty eight hours before we'll be meeting again at the Manifold Queer Company event.

Eleanor, what inspired you to start writing?

It feels like I've always been writing – I used to dictate stories to my mum when I was about four years old. Nothing complex or groundbreaking, but still, I was writing before I could write! I think I've always enjoyed creating worlds and people in my head, but daydreams can get sort of lonely. When I realised that writing stories was a way to invite people into those worlds, in the same way that reading allowed me to escape into other people's, that just really appealed to me. I love to explore these other lives, and I'm glad to be able to share them with other people!

What does it feel like watching your first solo book fledge and leave the nest?

It's taken me a few attempts to answer this question, because I get too excited and lose the words! It's an amazing feeling – I've wanted to get a book of my own published for at least 12 years – and I can hardly wait to hear what people think of the characters I've come to know and (mostly) love over the time I've been working on the book. That said, it's a bit scary, too – what if my little fledgling falls? But as much as I'd love to see everyone love the story, I'm realistic enough to know that everyone has different opinions, and that's fine by me. If one person likes it, I'll be thrilled! Not so long ago, I couldn't imagine that people would be reading my book, so to see it out there is just the best feeling.

Are you character or plot driven? What do you do if one of your characters starts developing at a tangent?

Usually, I follow that tangent! I'm very character-driven, and I find that once I have the right group of characters, they create their own plot. In fact, Submerge came about because I was asked to make a tutorial on how I use video game character creators to build up my characters. I sat down with one simple purpose in mind: make some throwaway characters you'll never use again. Easy, right? Even I can do that.

So I created this guy called Jamie with killer makeup game and a nosy streak. And a man in a bowler hat (randomly added by the game I was playing with), who I named Miles. Addie and Gina, in their original forms, soon followed, and that was the end of the tutorial. I knew I would never revisit these characters (after a quick demonstration of their use in a short story), so I encouraged people to have a go at their own interpretations of them.

I'm sort of glad nobody did, though, because it was probably only about two months later that those characters had become the central cast of Submerge.

If you were in a tight corner and had to rely on one of your characters to save you, which would it be and why?

Rachel Fairburn, without a doubt. She's a secondary character in Submerge, and she may be small but she is mighty. In internet meme terms, she looks like a cinnamon roll, but she could actually kill you (probably). And in less internet-centric terms... her friends don't call her 'Mighty Mouse' for nothing. Failing that, Jamie has some good rescuing qualities.

We were in 'Pride of Poppies' together. What made you want to write a contribution for that project?

I was beetling around on the Manifold Press site, trying to work out which book I should get next, and I saw 'Call for Submissions', so I clicked it. When I found out that the topic for the anthology was the First World War, my thoughts immediately rushed to the German side of the conflict – my great-great-great-grandfather came over to England from Germany a couple of decades before war broke out. My London-born great-great-grandfather therefore spent the war in an internment camp with other Germans who'd been living in the UK at the time – they were seen as people who couldn't be trusted to be on our side. So I was keen to represent that aspect of the war, as much as I could. Then it occurred to me to wonder whether being called up for war work might actually be an opportunity for self-expression for women who these days might identify as transgender men, so I had to write that idea, too! The fact that proceeds went towards the very worthy work of the Royal British Legion was the clincher, really. I couldn't submit fast enough!

Is there a classic book you started and simply couldn't finish?

I started a couple of Dickens books and just couldn't contend with all the misery, to be honest – and although I adore The Hobbit, I've never got past the first chapter of The Lord of the Rings. I know, I know – I'll hand in my geek card if I have to – but I always get lost around page 4 of the description of the mountains.

What’s your favourite LGBT book? And why?

Oh, that's a cruel question. I'm lucky enough to have read works by a range of authors in the genre – I quite like this one author called Charlie Cochrane, for example, of whom you might have heard – and even to have got to know a handful of them. I think there will always be a soft spot in my heart, though, for The Butterfly Hunter by Julie Bozza. It was the first book I bought from Manifold, who are now publishing Submerge, and really the first LGBT book I went out of my way to find. In many ways, this stage of my journey started with The Butterfly Hunter, and it's such a beautiful book...

What's your next project?

Well, I've already got the first draft for another story involving the cast of Submerge, so I'll have to see how the second draft of that comes out and whether anyone's interested in reading a sequel (though honestly, I'll finish it for myself no matter what). And, er, the outline for another one, because I really like these characters.

Right now, however, it is National Novel Writing Month – NaNoWriMo for short – so I'm doing something different. NaNoWriMo in 2011 sort of proved to me that I could write a story long enough to become a novel, and subsequent years have given me the kick I needed to keep writing and form good writing habits. I like to try to take part each year – even if I don't “win”, I'll always end the month with more words than I started with, and that's good enough for me! This year, I'm having a go at a historical novel (my first) set in 1950s Cambridge. Wish me luck!

Charlie's note - we will indeed!

Submerge, from Manifold Press


charlie_cochrane: (jury of one)

Carrying on from the first part of the interview...

If you had no constraints of time and a guarantee of publication, what book would you write?

Heather: We would like to write the book this project originally would have loved to have been able to do –to investigate the lives of all the officers and men on the three ships in the Droits de L’Homme action and all that could tell us about life for French and English sailors at the time.

Lorna: Several of the men we write about in Hornblower’s Historical Shipmates warrant books in their own right.  We uncovered so much fascinating information about them in the course of our research that we couldn’t squeeze into a single book.  Nicholas Pateshall in particular would be a fascinating subject for a biography.

Is there a classic book you started and simply couldn't finish?

Heather: War and Peace – like so many people, I think- and almost anything by Thomas Hardy in prose, though I admire his poetry very much.

Lorna:  I’m laughing because I’m not a fan of Thomas Hardy either.  I also have a violent dislike of Billy Budd, though I adore Melville’s White-Jacket, which is one of my favourite Age of Sail books.

Which book do you wish you'd written and why?

Heather: That’s a question I really had to stop and consider – I would like to have written Bleak House in a way because it’s a magnificent, complex and compelling work but one has to endure the character of Esther through all the sections of her narrative and she can cause one to want to pass the sick bag  at times. Sherlock Holmes perhaps, - that’s me along with untold millions of  other people, many of whom have had a go of course!

Lorna: I’m not sure I could pick a specific book, but two writers I really admire are the English author Alan Garner and the Scottish poet Kenneth White.  I can’t think of another author whose writing comes close to the vivid clarity and intensity of Garner’s spare subtle prose and White’s writing has a transcendental quality that is as beautiful as it is enlightening.

What’s your favourite gay romance/ other genre book ?                                                      

Heather: I am not sure I have one yet – I don’t think  I have read enough to  have a definitive favourite. I like tales set in the the long 18thcentury – no great surprises there !Though that is not  to say that I cannot be persuaded to read some thing set in another age  - like, say, Edwardian England, but as I say I am seriously under read in this  area – its so often the case I see some book cover on a website and think – oh that could be good -but life intervenes and I never  get further than that.

Thinking  back to earlier days and landmarks in my reading life, standout would be  Alan Hollingshurst’s  The Swimming Pool Library which was a landmark indeed in my reading of novels by  and about  gay men.

Lorna: I haven’t read much romance literature, but in terms of gay writers, I have loved Edwin Morgan’s poetry all my life.  Much of Morgan’s poetry was ambiguous as to the gender of the subject until he came out on his 70th birthday in 1990 and confirmed that “all the love poems which I have published are gay.”

At the other extreme I am a big fan of Patrick Califia who writes on sexuality, gender identity and BDSM.   In terms of genre fiction, I’ve read the entire works of Tolkien several times over, I adore Ursula le Guinn and I am a huge manga fan :)

What's your next project?

Heather: Well, concerning Navy boys, we have a paper coming up in Oxford in December  but if we ever get the opportunity and time we would like to write about some of the wives and mothers, sisters and daughters of men of the Indy and illustrate something of what their lives were like. Certainly it would be great to  use some of the other material that we have collected.

Lorna: As Heather said, we’d really like to write a book about the “Indefatigable Women”.  I’m also helping to organizing the Maritime Masculinities Conference in Oxford in December which Heather and I will also be presenting at and I have a whole pile of blogs posts I lined up that I need to write for various people.


Hornblower's Historical shipmates.

charlie_cochrane: (jury of one)
Am delighted to be featuring this book and its authors over the next week. Have known them both since before any of us were published and have to say they are jolly good eggs even if they support the wrong rugby teams!

So, gals what inspired you to start writing? 

Heather: I have always written- on the walls of my room at age 3,- which was sort of ‘pretend writing’- and then in exercise books and diaries. Ever since  I can remember words , in poetry particularly,  but almost in any category, have fascinated me.

Lorna: That’s a good question, I guess I’ve always written in some form or an other.  I’ve written all kinds of things in my time; academic books and papers, technical standards, reports, fiction, blog posts, personal writing.  I usually have several different pieces of writing on the go at any one time.

What inspired this book?

Heather: Some reasons not unrelated to Lorna’s  I will admit to - that Horatio Hornblower and Archie Kennedy and all were highly decorative is a great incentive. Above all though,  the character and life of the historical Edward Pellew. It seems  he has the habit of making friends  and influencing people still – even more than 180 years after his death!

Lorna: Yes, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to being drawn to the fictional characters in the first instance.  However that love of the Indefatigable’s fictional young gentlemen very quickly evolved into a fascination with their historical counterparts and once we started uncovering the extraordinary details of their lives there was no turning back.

What did it feel like watching your first book fledge and leave the nest?

Heather: I have written for publication before, though  in journals and other work – related projects rather than books ,but never felt so protective of any of it as I did about  this one – it was a long time in fledging and a huge amount of research but  it has finally found its wings !

Lorna: Like Heather, I’ve already published books and papers on a wide range of topics but there’s no denying that this one was special.  We both felt very strongly that we had a responsibility to tell the story of these men, who would otherwise have been forgotten by history. It’s been a huge amount of work, but also a real pleasure and a privilege to write this book.

If you were in a tight corner and had to rely on one of Pellew's midshipmen to save you, which would it be and why?

Heather: Oh, you are going  to ask us to chose between the boys? They almost of them would be brave and efficient but at a pinch I would choose Nick Pateshall- in a way he has rescued us already because  his marvellously large archive has given us so much evidence. He was a highly competent sailor  and knew what it was to take part in rescue – and he looked good in uniform too!  Though if Sir Edward  himself were about ….

Lorna: You can’t really ask us to choose! It’s so tough to pick just one because they were all so brave and courageous in their own way.  I think if I had to select one though it would be Will Kempthorne for his unshakable loyalty, his tenacity in the face of prejudice and misfortune and his undoubted courage.

Hornblower's Historical Shipmates


charlie_cochrane: (jury of one)

Sandra's first published story was in one of the UK Meet anthologies - I was lucky enough to be on the acquisitions team for that - so am delighted to welcome her here with her first full length book.

What inspired you to start writing?
Love of stories. Thinking back, my early education was very story-orientated – lots of “write a story about what's happening in this picture” and suchlike in infant school. I don't know if they do things the same these days, but it certainly left me with the impression that the whole point of learning to read & write was so that we could read & write stories! As an adult I find stories are a way to explore different ways of thinking, and understand other people: how they think, what their priorities might be, and how different life can be for them.

Do you have another job (paid or otherwise) apart from being an author? If so, how do you juggle your time?
Yes. I very recently changed to just having the one other job, which is part-time (I work there Mon-Thurs only). For the past 2.5 years I've also been helping my husband run a business – I was doing the majority of the admin & financial side of things, which is why I asked to reduce my hours at my dayjob. I haven't officially told my dayjob that we've closed down the business, as I'm enjoying having my Fridays for writing and writing-related work!
I don't keep all my writing-related work to Fridays though – I'd slow to the pace of a snail if I did. I use my breaks at work for keeping up with any reading I need to do for research, or for reading through drafts on my ereader (a technique I learned from Becky Black) and making notes on what to revise.

What did it feel like watching your first book fledge and leave the nest?
Oh, a whole gamut of emotions! Relief that someone other than me thought this was a story worth telling; worry that someone might pick up on a detail I've got wrong; excitement that I finally get to share this story with others, and might at some point be able to chatter to someone about my characters!
I've also felt a certain amount of pride in how much I've grown as a writer. When my short story Shelter From Storms was accepted for the UK Meet anthology Lashings of Sauce in 2012, there was a lot of structural editing needed, and several places where I'd accidentally switched point of view. Although Under Leaden Skies is longer, I'd learned enough that I found and dealt with all of those kind of problems early on in the self-editing stage.


Are you character or plot driven? What do you do if one of your characters starts developing at a tangent?
Very definitely character-driven – both with writing and reading. Even now that I do outline before starting my first draft, it's in a loose enough fashion that I can explore things off on a tangent. Sometimes I'll keep writing & following the tangent in the same document, other times I'll open a fresh document, or grab a notebook, and explore the tangent as a freewriting exercise. Very occasionally I've gone down the route of 'interviewing' my character to find out the root cause of the tangent. I usually find the reason for the diversion is an aspect of their character which I hadn't previously considered, and whether or not I use the material I gather in the eventual draft, it all helps towards ensuring characters are fully rounded rather than two-dimensional.

If you were in a tight corner and had to rely on one of your characters to save you, which would it be and why?
Oooh, tough question! It would depend on the situation as to which character would be best suited to helping me. Teddy is good at snap decisions, and has good instincts, but he doesn't always remember the wider picture. Huw is great at thinking around a problem from all angles, but needs time to do that. Sylvia is utterly brilliant, provided she's within her comfort zone. Her upbringing didn't do a lot for her self-confidence, so although she does have a lot of strength and capability, she often seeks reassurance first.
All things considered, I think I might choose Grandfather. He's seen a lot in his time, and dealt with a lot of tough situations. He's also good at keeping his cards close to his chest. There were several times during the writing of Under Leaden Skies when I was surprised by how his character developed, and I think he's got more secrets to share yet...

If you had no constraints of time and a guarantee of publication, what book would you write?
All of them!
Seriously, I'm one of those people who have a plan for when I win the lottery. Among other things, mine involves being able to shut myself away in a room and *write*. I hope I do manage to write all my ideas out at some point during my lifetime, but the two which I keep putting off due to the length of time needed for research are:
- cold war spy thriller (I have the plot, but it's all the detail I need to research – not just about spycraft, but about life for adults in the 1980s as I was only a child then)
- massively epic fantasy story which draws on Welsh myths and history, but focuses on a small group of main characters rather than the huge casts you tend to find in epic fantasy (writing this would probably involve several years of preliminary research just finding and learning the amount of myths and history I'd need).

Is there a classic book you started and simply couldn't finish?
Most “classics” I don't even get as far as starting – it would be quicker to list those I've finished.
I think it comes down to style: like I said above, I go for character-driven stories. I find older works are more plot driven, and also the prevalence of omniscient point of view creates distance between the character and reader.
I also have less patience these days – if a book doesn't grab me within the first few pages I'll probably put it down in favour of another.

What’s your favourite gay romance/other genre book? And why?
I have to pick one?!
I hope you'll forgive me for immediately choosing one of Alex Beecroft's stories rather than your own, Charlie... It was Alex's writing which pulled me into this genre all those years ago and whilst I love and adore virtually every word she's written, it will be a long time before anything gets near to knocking her two Under the Hill books off the top of my list. I can't really separate them, as they're one story, and as I've said probably multiple times since I first read them, it's like she looked into my head and pulled all my favourite things into one story. If the plot and the characters weren't enough to make me love them, Alex's beautiful prose is the icing on the metaphorical cake.

What's your next project?
I've just finished working on a short story, Man of War, which has been accepted for Manifold Press's Austen-verse anthology A Certain Persuasion, due for release in November. The story follows William Price (from Jane Austen's Mansfield Park) after he joins HMS Thrush, and follows his friendship with a young sailor who isn't all he seems to be.
I'm currently in first draft stage of an m/m contemporary romance set in the area where I live. I have several ideas for stories set here, and a plan to have them all inter-link with main characters from one popping up as secondary characters in another. I really enjoy reading series like this, so I thought I'd have a go myself by linking up all the ideas I have for contemporary-set tales.
And I'm also in early-research stage of a sequel to Under Leaden Skies. I've got a lot of ground to cover for that, so I don't expect to be drafting that until at least the end of the year.


Under Leaden Skies

Love. Loss. Betrayal. Forgiveness. Honour. Duty. Family.

In 1939, the arrival of war prompted ‘Teddy’ Maximilian Garston to confess his love to his childhood friend, Huw Roberts. Separated by duty – Teddy piloting Sunderland flying boats for RAF Coastal Command, and Huw deep underground in a South Wales coal mine – their relationship is frustrated by secrecy, distance, and the stress of war that tears into every aspect of their lives.

After endless months of dull patrols, a chance encounter over the Bay of Biscay will forever change the course of Teddy’s life. On returning to Britain, how will he face the consequences of choices made when far from home? Can he find a way to provide for everyone he loves, and build a family from the ashes of wartime grief?

Amazon UK (
Amazon US (
Smashwords (

charlie_cochrane: (jury of one)
Okay, I'm declaring a bias right now. I bloody love Elin Gregory, from her adorable little home made sheep that nearly caused a riot at UK Meet 2012, to her skill as an author, the light of which she always hides under a bushel. Am delighted to have her and her new release here today.

Hi Charlie. Thank you so much for inviting me to your blog to talk a little about my new book Eleventh Hour. Also thanks for making it easy by providing me with some very interesting questions.

What inspired this book?

Loads of things. But mostly the recollection of an amazing gentleman I saw around town for a couple of months some years ago. He was very tall and broad shouldered with a military bearing and was often with his grandson, who appeared to be about ten. They would stride down the street chatting, or stroll into one of the shops and the gentleman always seemed perfectly at ease and very comfortable whether he was wearing tweeds and cavalry twill slacks, or a floral frock and a wig. The little boy seemed perfectly at ease too. I loved that and loved that the gentleman could wear whatever he wished with pride. From that it was a short hop to imagining a historical scenario where someone was enabled to do that, yet kept his enjoyment of it a secret.

Another great source of inspiration was Underground, filmed in London in 1928, the year in which the book is set.

Not only is it a super story with loads of excitement and conflict but it’s filled with brilliant details of everyday life. It’s available on DVD from Amazon and really worth a look.

If you could cast this as a film, who'd play Miles and Briers? And who'd be the landlady?

The landlady is, in almost every respect, Irene Handel. Here she is in a cameo role in The [proper] Italian Job:

Okay the clothing isn’t right but the accent and clutter is. (Charlie's note - I love Irene Handl, too!) Just imagine black taffeta and a pug as well as the pussies. Incidentally the character with Michael Caine’s Charlie Croker is referred to throughout as Camp Freddie, and is the toughest most competent person in the film. As for who would play them, I have very sharp images of them in my head so it’s quite difficult to imagine who could stand in for them in a film. Maybe young Ray Milland for Briers?

And Miles – I don’t know. Maybe the fabulous Barbette, a circus performer who wowed audiences in her skimpy costumes before whipping off her wig to reveal the truth? Here she is pictured by Man Ray

Have you ever been writing and discovered something totally unexpected about one of your characters?

Yes, and this is your fault. Here’s an excerpt :

"Dear God in Heaven." Siward sighed. "Don't think I'm doing it because I like it. I just happen to be very, very good at it."
"And how did you discover that?" Briers asked. "No, honestly. I'm genuinely curious, not poking fun." He turned a little on the broad seat and studied Siward's profile. "We're going to be in close quarters for a while and I like to know a bit about the people I work with. Was it at school?"
Siward's flush was immediate. Even the narrow strips of skin visible between his cuffs and his driving gloves went pink. "I didn't go to school. I had rheumatic fever when I was six and again when I was nine, so I stayed with my parents and we hired a local tutor wherever we happened to be. Hence all the different languages, I suppose. No, it was when I went up to Cambridge. I read English and wasn't doing too well. My supervisor – dear me, even he was a war hero – suggested I join the Shakespeare performance society. He felt it might give me more insight. I'm not sure it worked as he intended but, over my time there, I think I played all the main female leads – Viola, Ophelia, Rosalind, Beatrice, even Lady Macbeth. I enjoyed the challenge but that was Shakespeare, with all the weight of tradition of men playing female roles. Out in the street, it's something else entirely."
"We all have to play roles in this business," Briers said. "Just remember you are doing something unique. Something I most certainly couldn't do."
Siward replied with a peevish snort. "Well, no, because you are a proper stalwart type. You don't get people sneering at you barely behind your back. I bet you played rugger and boxed for your college."

The supervisor who gave Miles such good advice was, naturally, one Jonty Stewart. I expect he spent a little bit of time rolling his eyes at this particular dunderhead.

Which book do you wish you'd written and why?

Who wouldn’t have wanted to write something as wide ranging and academic as The Lymond Chronicles? Such marvellous characters, settings and world building, so many horrific and funny and exciting set pieces, a plot that’s complex enough to make your brain hurt and a bisexual hero. For its time – the first book was published in 1961 – it was really brave. I love it to bits, even though Lymond would be considered a bit over the top. He’s like a Renaissance James Bond with a keen sense of the ridiculous. By modern standards he’s a total Mary Sue, but I don’t care.

But what I would really REALLY like is to be able to write my own books in my own voice. If nobody else ever reads them, so be it. I’m so much happier when I can write, when I can put the stories seething in my head down on paper. It really is the most fun anyone can have. If anyone else reads them and likes them, that’s a great bonus.

Which book do you wish somebody else would write?

If there’s a book I’d like to see I usually plan it myself and add it to my WIP folder. But if someone would like to write a sequel to Sollicito [hint hint] I would be very happy to read it.


Borrowed from the Secret Intelligence Service cipher department to assist Briers Allerdale – a field agent returning to 1920s London with news of a dangerous anarchist plot – Miles Siward moves into a ‘couples only’ boarding house, posing as Allerdale’s ‘wife’. Miles relishes the opportunity to allow his alter ego, Millie, to spread her wings but if Miles wants the other agent’s respect he can never betray how much he enjoys being Millie nor how attractive he finds Allerdale.
Pursuing a ruthless enemy who wants to throw Europe back into the horrors of the Great War, Briers and Miles are helped and hindered by nosy landladies, Water Board officials, suave gentlemen representing foreign powers and their own increasing attraction to each other.
Will they catch their quarry? Will they find love? Could they hope for both?
The clock is ticking.
68,000 words/ 248 pages
Publication 1 August 2016
charlie_cochrane: (jury of one)
I am mega delighted with knobs on to welcome Joe Cosentino to my blog. He says, "It’s my first time. I feel like a virgin! Thank you for having me. Well, you know what I mean."
What inspired you to start writing?
I was a hammy little kid, always singing, dancing, and telling stories. With an incredible imagination, I remember telling neighbors that my cousin and I were international spies. At a very young age I began reading mystery novels, which inspired me to write myself. I remembering writing a murder mystery play, starring me of course, and putting it on at my school to the horror of my teacher. I’m sure it’s no surprise that I majored in theatre at college and became an actor working in film, television, and theatre opposite stars like Nathan Lane, Rosie O’Donnell, Bruce Willis, Holland Taylor, and Jason Robards. After receiving my MFA, I began writing plays and later novellas and novels. I’m currently writing screenplays too.
Do you have another job (paid or otherwise) apart from being an author? If so, how do you juggle your time?

My mother says I don’t have “a real job” like my sister the accountant. I’m a college theatre professor/department head like Martin Anderson in my Nicky and Noah mystery series. That keep me busy during the day. I write at night after my spouse has gone to sleep and the house is quiet. I’ve been known to act out the scenes in my books aloud, so luckily my study has thick walls.

What did it feel like watching your first book fledge and leave the nest?

I had written a successful Off Broadway one-act play, AN INFATUATION, then adapted it into a novella. When I received the acceptance email from Dreamspinner Press, I did the happy dance on my desk. Loosely based on my years in high school and my ten-year high school reunion, I’ve received countless comments from readers about how it made them laugh, cry, feel romantic, and changed their lives. The e-book did so well that Dreamspinner Press partnered it with my novella loosely based on my days as a theatre major in college, A SHOOTING STAR, into my own anthology paperback, IN MY HEART. Dreamspinner Press is also producing an audiobook version coming out soon. I wrote two more novellas published by Dreampinner Press. In A HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS, an American law student takes a trip to the romantic and gorgeous island of Capri, Italy, where he embarks on a relationship with his captivating third cousin. THE NAKED PRINCE AND OTHER TALES FROM FAIRYLAND is my gay take on my favorite beloved fairytales like Cinderella, Goldie Locks and the Three Bears, Pinocchio, Jack and the Beanstalk, and The Snow Queen.

In the straight world, with gay supporting characters, I wrote the Jana Lane mysteries. As a kid I was infatuated with child movie stars. So my character Jana Lane was the biggest child star ever until she was attacked on the studio lot at eighteen years old. In PAPER DOLL Jana at thirty-eight lives with her family in a mansion in picturesque Hudson Valley, New York. Her flashbacks from the past become murder attempts in her future. Jana ventures back to Hollywood, which helps her uncover a web of secrets about everyone she loves. She also embarks on a romance with the devilishly handsome son of her old producer, Rocco Cavoto. I was thrilled when The Wild Rose Press picked up the popular series! In PORCELAIN DOLL Jana makes a comeback film and uncovers who is being murdered on the set and why. Her heart is set aflutter by her incredibly gorgeous co-star, Jason Apollo. In SATIN DOLL Jana and family head to Washington, DC, where Jana plays a US senator in a new film, and becomes embroiled in a murder and corruption at the senate chamber. She also embarks on a flirtation with Chris Bruno, the muscular detective. In CHINA DOLL Jana heads to New York City to star in a Broadway play, enchanted by her gorgeous co-star Peter Stevens, and faced with murder on stage and off. I am currently editing RAG DOLL, where Jana stars in a television murder mystery and once again life imitates art.

Are you character or plot driven? What do you do if one of your characters starts developing at a tangent?

With mysteries I’m more plot driven since I outline the clues, red herrings, murders, plot twists and turns, secrets, reveals, and of course the shocking ending. When writing a romance novel I’m more character driven and let the characters help show me the way. If they develop a tangent, I follow. That happened in my Cozzi Cove beach series published by NineStar Press (COZZI COVE: BOUNCING BACK, COZZI COVE: MOVING FORWARD, and the upcoming COZZI COVE: STEPPING OUT). Handsome Cal Cozzi runs a gay resort on a gorgeous cove on the New Jersey Shore. Cal, his lover, his sister, and the guests at Cozzi Cove became so real to me that they dictated their stories, and they’re incredible!

If you were in a tight corner and had to rely on one of your characters to save you, which would it be and why?

Associate Professor of Play Directing Nicky Abbondanza in my Nicky and Noah mystery series published by Lethe Press is hysterically funny, good-looking, sexy, and uses his theatre skills (like impersonating others) to solve murder mysteries. I adore Nicky and would love him by side. In Drama Queen theatre college professors are dropping like stage curtains. With the inept local detective more interested in getting into Nicky’s pants than solving the murders, it is up Nicky to solve the case, while he directs a murder mystery onstage. Complicating matters is Nicky’s intense crush on Assistant Professor of Acting, gorgeous Noah Oliver, the prime suspect in the murder. Drama Queen (Divine Magazine’s Readers Poll Award for Best Mystery, Best Crime, Best Contemporary, and Best Humorous Novel of 2015) is available as an e-book, paperback, and audiobook performed by Michael Gilboe. In Drama Muscle Nicky and Noah (now a couple) have to use their theatre skills to find out why musclemen are dropping like weights in the Physical Education department while Nicky directs the Student Bodybuilding Competition. The novel is available as an e-book now on special discount at Lethe Press for the paperback at only $6, and soon to be an audiobook performed by Michael Gilboe. In Drama Cruise (releasing soon), Nicky and Noah go on a cruise to Alaska, and discover why college theatre professors are going overboard like lifeboats while Nicky directs a murder mystery dinner theatre show onboard ship. I am currently finishing Drama Luau, where Nicky directs a luau show in Maui and has to figure out why muscular male hula dancers are dropping like grass skirts.

If you had no constraints of time and a guarantee of publication, what book would you write?

What I’m writing now. I never think about whether one of my books will sell or not, or how long it will take me to write it. I write the kind of books I love to read: fast-paced, romantic, funny, surprising, and entertaining with loveable characters in interesting locations.

Is there a classic book you started and simply couldn't finish?

Many! I think the Emperor’s New Clothes syndrome is rampant in literature. Just because a revered critic or a large audience love a book, that doesn’t mean the book is for everyone. On the other side of the coin, I can’t understand why some people write scathing reviews of books. If you don’t like it, put it down and read something else. Different books speak to different people.

What’s your favourite gay romance/other genre book? And why?

I just finished reading Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City books for the third time. I love the quirky characters, surprising storylines, political messages, romance, and locations. When readers compare my books to his, I am incredibly flattered.

What's your next project?

I am currently writing screenplay adaptations of some of my books. Hear that film and television producers. I’m available!
Bestselling author Joe Cosentino was voted Favorite Mystery, Humorous, and Contemporary Author of 2015 by the readers of Divine Magazine for Drama Queen.

Drama Queen and Drama Muscle - Nicky and Noah mysteries

charlie_cochrane: (jury of one)
Delighted to have fellow Lethe author Jon as my guest.

What inspired you to start writing?

I’ve always had an active imagination, at least that’s what my parents said when I was little. I used to go around telling made-up stories. In fact, one of my late grandmother’s favourite pastimes just before going to sleep at night was when I’d sit on the edge of her bed and recite the stories I’d made up. She encouraged me to start capturing them on paper, and I think I wrote my first story when I was about seven or eight.

What did it feel like watching your first book fledge and leave the nest?

An absolutely incredible feeling! A writer understands there never really is a “first book” in that often, there are many starts and stops to eventually get to the one book that you are confident in sharing with people. I’ve written several novels over my lifetime, starting in my early teens, but published none of them. In fact, I didn’t even publish my first full-length novel until late 2014 with the release of my gay police-procedural mystery/thriller, Pretty Boy Dead, the first in the Kendall Parker Mystery series.

Why this particular setting and era for Prince of the Sea?

I’ve been in love with Tybee Island, Georgia from the moment I visited the quaint little islet in my twenties; (I’m in my fifties now). I’ve always wanted to use the beautiful setting in a story, but I needed to wait for the right plot. The theme of Prince of the Sea had been percolating in my head for several years before I actually sat down to write the prose. It took a while because I needed to flush out the paranormal elements to be more cursory, and the mystery/thriller plot twist that would work in such a quiet, romantic place.

Are you character or plot driven?

What do you do if one of your characters starts developing at a tangent? That’s a tough one; some of my stories are definitely character driven, such as my Kendall Parker mystery series. Though some might argue the mysteries are plot driven, I’ve intended to focus on the series’ protagonist, Homicide Detective Kendall Parker – how he responds to situations in life based on his personal experiences, his values, etc., with plot being a very integral component to the novel, but secondary.

If you were in a tight corner and had to rely on one of your characters to save you, which would it be and why?
Most definitely the one I’d want to save me is homicide detective Sgt. Kendall Parker of the Atlanta Police Department. He may be a little rough around the edges, but he’s loyal to a fault. He tough, but fair, a former army veteran with a heart of gold; big and muscular, standing at 6’4”. He’s the kind of man who would lay down his life for his friends. He may not start the fight, but he’ll definitely end it.

If you had no constraints of time and a guarantee of publication, what book would you write?

I guess I would write my life story; a semi-fictional account of my life’s experiences growing up in a conservative, southern family.

Is there a classic book you started and simply couldn't finish?

Moby Dick. Not matter how much I tried, I just couldn’t get through it.

What’s your favourite gay fiction book? And why?

Oh, man, there are so many. If I had to choose just one, it would have to be The Front Runner by Patricia Nell Warren. It was the single, most influential novel that I read in the teens which helped me realize it would be possible to fall in love with another man. Until reading the novel, I’d been subjected to all the horror stories, taunts, news reports that labelled homosexuality as a mental disorder (I came of age in the mid-70s).

What's your next project?

Prince of the Sea will be released via audio later this month, which is really exciting as the release with be my first in audiobook. I’ve preselected a narrator with my publisher, Lethe Press, but won’t be able to share more until later. Also, I am currently writing the second Kendall Parker Mystery.

PrinceoftheSea_fullres6 x 9 300 dpi_FINAL
charlie_cochrane: (jury of one)
See that there person hiding their light under a bushel? That must be my old mate Elin, and it's a pretty big bushel cos she's got a pretty big talent. Delighted to have her here today. Over to you, my dear...

Hi Charlie, thanks so much for the invitation to talk about books and pirates. Not the ones who have been all over Facebook lately but their eighteenth century brethren who were, it must be said, often equally dishonest and grasping but sometimes with a little more reason other than blatant entitlement.

When you were her previously we chatted about watching your first book fledge. What does it feel like with subsequent ones?

Every single book is edgy but some of the surprise is gone. All the same things need doing, there are the same decisions to be made. For instance there’s the very fine line to walk between spamming the internet with appeals to ‘buy my book’ and doing not quite enough so nobody knows about it.

What do you think you've learned since you were first published?

There’s the perennial – not everyone will like your book and that’s FINE. One star reviews are inevitable because all people are different and what makes one person clap their hands with glee will have another clapping his/her hands over their eyes with a scream.

What do you wish you'd known when you were first published?

See above. Also there’s no point trying to please the market if you’re a slow writer. Shifter stories might be big now but who knows what will be big in 2/3 years’ time when I finish the book I start now? Best to write a story that really interests me and write it as well as I possibly can, than rushing it to try and please a mythical reader who probably doesn’t exist.

Did you know where On a Lee Shore was going from the start or did it take an unexpected turn?

I knew the start, some of the more exciting bits in the middle and the last page. For instance the very first scene I wrote was the beginning of the pirate attack on the Hypatia. But the route I took to get from one scene to the next was a bit unexpected. There were also more jokes than I thought there would be. Dr Saunders took me by surprise a few times, likewise Lewis and Protheroe.

How would Kit Penrose have got on if he served with Sir Edward Pellew?

Kit would have been such a Ned fanboy. He’d have hung on every word, repeated his reminiscences, re-enacted his engagements with bits of ship’s biscuit and the cruet until Griffin grew too exasperated to put up with it any more and insisted Kit pay attention to HIM. Now, Griffin – no, I don’t think he would have done well under Pellew. He’d have insisted on knowing ‘Why” and thought he knew better.

If you could borrow a fictional Age of Sail hero to put in your books, who would it be and why?

Stephen Maturin. He and Saunders would have a marvellous time just generally bitching about everything and sounding out each other’s ideas on political philosophy. Also experimental surgery, assuming they could persuade anyone to let them give it a try. They’d both love that.


On A Lee Shore
by Elin Gregory

Blurb: “Give me a reason to let you live…”

Beached after losing his ship and crew, and with England finally at peace, Lt Christopher Penrose will take whatever work he can get. A valet? Why not? Escorting an elderly diplomat to the Leeward Islands seems like an easy job, but when their ship is boarded by pirates, Kit’s world is turned upside down. Forced aboard the pirate ship, Kit finds himself juggling his honor with his desire to stay alive among the crew, not to mention the alarming—yet enticing—captain, known as La Griffe.

Kit has always obeyed the rules, but as the pirates plunder their way across the Caribbean, he finds much to admire in their freedom. He deplores their lawlessness but is drawn to their way of life, and begins to think he might just have found a purpose. Dare he dream of finding love too? Or would loving a pirate take him too far down the road to ruin?


Amidships the party was getting rowdy as the musicians sawed, pounded or whistled. One crew challenged the other to wrestle and made wagers on the outcome. It looked like anarchy but there were men in the waist of the ship who stepped in if the struggle got too aggressive. Kit found himself laughing as he watched Saunders, bottle held safely out of the way, battering a brawny pirate about the shoulders with the despised volume of Homer.
Saunders spotted Kit, abandoned the brawlers and made his way to his side. He offered O'Neill a swig from his bottle and leaned back against the transom.
"What a to-do," he said. "Damn fellow knocked my bottle over, would have spilled it if I hadn't looked sharp."
"So inconsiderate," Kit nodded to the book, "and he made you lose your place."
"Hanging is too good," O'Neill commented as he offered the bottle to Kit who shook his head. O'Neill passed it back to Saunders.
"Barbuda," Saunders said suddenly. "That is our destination. There I should be able to replenish our medicine chest—try as I might the men will keep catching things. While we are in port they will have the opportunity to catch some more I wouldn't wonder. "
"Something to look forward to then—you and your syringe." O'Neill grinned as Kit shuddered. "And what will you do, Mr. Penrose?"
"He will give his parole," Saunders said, "as befits an officer of His Majesty's Navy, and will accompany me to Willaerts coffee house to see if we can trade this unlovely item for something more elevating." He waved the book again. "Or he will not give his parole and will spend our time in port chained to a long gun—possibly. It depends on our lord and master's whim."
Kit's spirits had sunk to hear that and he shook his head. "You must see that I can't give my word not to try and escape?" he said. "I can promise to guide the ship to safe waters but I won't take part in acts of piracy or neglect my duty to return to my post."
"You're a fool then," O'Neill said, without rancour. "This can be a fine life for those of us cast out. Half the men on board here would be hanged or starving, else. True there are a few who would knife a blind beggar for half a groat but most are just getting along."
"Indeed we are," Saunders said. "I too, Kit, was once part of your glorious institution," he said the word with great relish, "His Britannic Majesty's Royal Navy, but I too fell foul of the authorities. I lost the life of a man rather than, as in your case, Kit, losing a mere boat. That I had a drink or two taken was seen as the reason for his demise, though a far better and soberer doctor than I would have been hard pressed to save him. So—they consigned me to Gehenna."
"Gehenna? I wouldn't have described the Africa as Gehenna," Kit said. Saunders had mentioned the wreck of the Malvern so he was half expecting a reference to the cities of the plains. Gehenna had thrown him.
"Hah! No! You're right. The Africa is an abode of angels. I was referring to the Army!" Saunders rolled his eyes and took a drink to wash away the memory. "No wonder I ran away to sea. Come, Kit, you must have a drink with me to celebrate our disgrace and our subsequent escape from tedious respectability."
Kit took the bottle, containing God knew what. "To tedious respectability," he said and made a creditable mime of taking a sip until O'Neill slapped him hard on the back. Kit choked down a mouthful and coughed.
"Well done, Lieutenant Penrose, sir," Saunders crowed. "We'll make a pirate of you yet."
"If I live!" Kit wiped his tongue on the back of his hand. "Trying to drum up trade, sir? That's truly awful."
"Isn't it though?" O'Neill said taking the bottle. "Now you hit me while I take a swig."
"The thing is," O'Neill said when Saunders had gone for a refill, "that the people who start the wars, who tell us they are necessary and just and glorious, aren't the ones fighting and dying. Nor are they the poor damn sods holding a man down on the table while some other poor sod, like old Will Saunders there, digs a musket ball out of his privates with a blunt knife. If they were they might not be so quick to break the treaty or cross the border or decide we need a change of government."
Kit eyed him anxiously because that was deeply seditious talk and at home could have O'Neill and anyone who listened to him taken up in short order. But O'Neill was staring into the distance lost in thought and Kit stepped aside to check the compass.
"If we are going to Barbuda," he said, "I'd better check our heading."
"Wait a bit," O'Neill said. "La Griffe needs to say his piece. Here, take the tiller, I need to piss."

Buy Links:

Amazon UK
Amazon US
All Romance eBooks
charlie_cochrane: (jury of one)
Am welcoming another fellow Lethe-ite today. Christopher Calix is the author of Dead Celebrities.

What inspired you to start writing?

I had too many stories, fantasies and scenarios in my head to not write. I’ve written since I was young, but it took a while to master the discipline of actually finishing what I started.

Do you have another job (paid or otherwise) apart from being an author? If so, how do you juggle your time?

Unfortunately, yes, I have a real job. I do much of my writing after work and on weekends.

What did it feel like watching your first book fledge and leave the nest?

Totally and absolutely surreal. I didn’t believe it was truly happening until I held the physical copy in my hands. The strangest part was hearing a sample of the audio version. Another voice reading my words was a very odd and exciting thing.

Are you character or plot driven? What do you do if one of your characters starts developing at a tangent?

I think you have to be both. They both drive each other. A character’s agenda and personality will dictate the plot, and the events of the plot will inevitably change and alter the character.

If you were in a tight corner and had to rely on one of your characters to save you, which would it be and why?

That’s tough as many of my characters are slightly terrible and not to be trusted. I would probably go with the protagonist, Carter. As long as he was sober at the time.

If you had no constraints of time and a guarantee of publication, what book would you write?

Something gay, gothic, glamorous and gory.

Is there a classic book you started and simply couldn't finish?

Great Expectations. Aside from Bleak House, Dickens has never been my bag.

What’s your favourite gay romance/other genre book? And why?

City of Night by John Rechy. One of the first gay novels, it’s a harrowing, beautifully written detailing of gay life on the outskirts of society in the 1960s. Truly haunting.

What's your next project?

A follow-up to Dead Celebrities.

charlie_cochrane: (jury of one)

Delighted to have fellow Lethe author LA Fields here today, having my author questions inflicted on her.

What inspired you to start writing?

It was a whim a time or two when I was young, but once I hit about twelve, I found fanfiction and have been writing ever since. I quit fanfiction by age sixteen and started writing original stories, but then again one of my more recent books is a Sherlock Holmes pastiche, and just because it’s a fancy word doesn’t mean it’s not still fanfiction. The most recent book is a thinly veiled real-person fanfiction at the most basic level: a retelling of the infamous Leopold and Loeb crime. Again, in-depth research doesn’t save it from being fanfic. The writing matures but the drive behind it never does: I like something, I want to spend a year reinventing it, I don’t know where that compulsion comes from, but I don’t fight it; it’s my favorite thing about me.

Do you have another job (paid or otherwise) apart from being an author? If so, how do you juggle your time?

Yeah, right now I’m basically a secretary (I’m A.E. Housman in the Patent Office after getting burned out of school; he failed his final exams, I had to leave a PhD program because it gave me nothing but an abusive poverty stipend, and required more pointless work and endless teaching than would ever pay off with the horrible adjunctification of higher ed). I do some copywriting for this job, I’ll segue myself into better-paying copywriting gigs when I can, but the job I have now has a lot of free time trapped at a computer, so I get in daily writing quotas at my desk.

Right now I also spend three weeks a month ghostwriting smut stories for someone else’s Amazon self-pub penname, and I’ll do that until I’m out of debt from the den of thieves that was grad school. I spend the fourth week of each month writing a chapter of my next book, my eighth. If I factor in the word count of the ghostwriting gig, I’ve written at least two more books, but the filler-foam-peanut writing I do purely for money doesn’t count to me the same way, not for copywriting or ghostwriting. I’ve got these pesky principles about the difference between what is profitable and what is valuable, and I can’t seem to shake those things off.

What did it feel like watching your first book fledge and leave the nest?

I have felt irrationally immortal and superior ever since! It changed me from a wannabe into a writer, and I’ve never felt like a fraud for even a minute since then when it comes to writing fiction. Now that book is ten years old, and it’s like having a diary from childhood that I can unearth and treasure whenever I think something from my past is lost or unrecorded. Nothing is lost because I put it into a book; I love that thing. And I love who I was when I made it: so unaware of what life would bring, but still with the weird power of pattern and prophesy. I knew myself pretty well, I just didn’t know what that would do to me once I got out into the world. That first book was written when I was 18, I plan to finish writing the series before I’m 30, so I can seal up my extreme youth in that time capsule I call The Disorder Series.

Are you character or plot driven? What do you do if one of your characters starts developing at a tangent?

Character driven; I don’t even like plots, I skim them in other books; plots are only devices to reveal and showcase character for me. If a character starts developing weird, I either don’t have my head in the game and I’m not really invested in who or why they are, or they’re right and they’ve just surprised me (which is the best—only Pygmalion and Gepetto know how amazing that feels better than I do). It’s happened to me recently, in fact, with the intended end of The Disorder Series; it’s not going to end like I thought it would when I was a teenager, but then the characters aren’t teenagers anymore either, and they’re also a little disturbed by what’s happened to them, and how they’ve adapted to it. That series has always been about weird adaptation and survival, so it’s fitting.

What inspired this book?

This new book, Homo Superiors? A pointless murder inspired this one. I got interested in Leopold and Loeb when I was fourteen, the age of their victim, and it’s been an interest I’ve held for more than a decade since. They’re part of the reason I moved to Chicago for a few years, so I could visit the case-related graves in Rosehill Cemetery, and know the place where they lived. By the time I was experienced enough at writing and research to do justice to my obsession with these two killers, the full transcripts of the trial and psych reports were online, and that’s about 4,500 pages of prime source material (without the moral or social slants all the other treatments of the case often bring to the L/L canon).

That infamous case, with so many points of scandal and outrage, has always been treated more for its courtroom spectacle than its origins. The big question with such a senseless ‘thrill kill’ is why. I know why, and that’s the reason I wrote my book. No one else has thought of it quite like I do. For example: I had to dig deep to find out what exactly killed Nathan Leopold’s mother when he was sixteen; that’s not irrelevant when it comes to how a young man’s life takes such a horrifying turn. The best representation so far is John Logan’s Never the Sinner—that play (though I’ve only read it and never seen it performed) does an amazing job of dicing the public and private aspects of the case into a tight story, giving equal time and importance to both sides. My book goes way far in the private direction; I don’t even touch the case or the fallout. My book is about how two boys went from wunderkinds to killers. That’s my fascination, and so that’s where I’ve focused.

If you had no constraints of time and a guarantee of publication, what book would you write?

I kind of do have that. I have as much time outside of work as I want to spend on writing, and my publishers rarely turn me down. The next idea I’m excited about is a collaboration with my best friend (all we know about it now is that it’ll be a Murder Book of some sort); it would be nice to really invest in something like that, with all the research and refining and revising that I usually do in very minimal, organized amounts when I’m the sole author. What happens to that when I’m working with someone else? I want to find out, and for sure it’ll produce a unique kind of book that I could never accomplish alone.

Is there a classic book you started and simply couldn't finish?

The first book I ever quit was Great Expectations, and I know enough after two decades spent as an English major that it’s a pretty ironic one to ditch. BUT: Dickens was paid by word quantity, and so am I with my ghostwriting gig, so I know good and goddamn well how much of those Dickensian behemoths are filler for the sake of paying bills. I’m okay with Dickens, writer to writer and shill to shill, but I don’t like his work and I won’t try to read any more of it.

What’s your favourite gay romance/other genre book? And why?

I love books with gay characters, but almost never pure romance. I think most fictional romance is boring, happy endings are boring, but I do have an answer: Poppy Z. Brite’s Exquisite Corpse. You want genre, we’ve got horror: there are serial killers targeting gay men; some of those killers are other humans, but one of them is a plague. You want romance, we’ve got that too, kind of: with one couple we have murder husbands the likes of which mere Hannibal fans have barely seen (talk about real-person fanfiction—what if Jeffrey Dahmer and Dennis Nilsen had met? They’d certainly have a lot to talk about), with the other couple you get nothing but the B-side of romance, the passionate aftermath (they’re broken up from page one to done, but the relationship was so intense that neither man is truly out of it; they can’t stop thinking about the other). That’s the kind of romance I like to see: intoxicating, destructive, undeniable. True love! Not at all a guarantee of happy endings, but worth it every time.

What's your next project?

Finish my youthful Disorder Series, then an annotated edition of America’s first gay novel, then the Murder Book collaboration with my friend, and then an existential crisis because I don’t know what comes after that. Probably a break-down or an overdose or a mid-life crisis; I’ll worry about that if/when I actually run out of projects and can’t come up with any more.

Homo Superiors

charlie_cochrane: (jury of one)

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A five-part series wherein I examined the pitfalls both real and imagined and difficulties both encountered or merely anticipated to being a gay author in the 21st Century, and attempted to discuss how said pitfalls and difficulties could be used to our advantage, thereby employing the old adage "Making lemons into lemonade." (All Hail Beyonce!)

The Toad in the Well


When Words Don't Always Work

And so the Pink Lemonade Tour comes to a close. My very first virtual book/blog tour. A special thank you and round of applause to all the kind artists (writers, readers, editors and/or critics) who hosted me:

05/17/2016: The Purple Rose Teahouse

05/18/2016: The Novel Approach

05/19/2016: Rick R. Reed Reality

05/20/2016: Meg Perry Books

05/21/2016: Jon Michaelson's Murder Blog

05/22/2016: Charlie Cochrane Today!

By what metric to measure success? I hope it got me some exposure. Maybe some sales. Cheap as Beasts, currently a finalist for the Lambda Literary Awards Best Gay Mystery of 2015 (yeah, I like saying that—and, in a few weeks, I won't be able to any more…), popped up into the Top 100 sellers on Amazon Kindle's Gay and Lesbian Mystery ranking (for a moment or two) yesterday. There were some very nice comments! But nothing went viral (not expected but always hoped)…Ah, well.

There's actually a lot to celebrate. I finished my first blog tour! I actually did it; that's something. I joined twitter. I learned a little more about html. And I interacted with industry people and readers. I shouted my name, mostly into the void, but there was an echo, however faint. So, two steps forward!

Now, of course, I'm bracing for the inevitable step back.

There's been a lot of that lately. For instance, And, about a week after CAB was named a Lammy finalist, my latest book proposal was rejected. Which actually inspired the blog tour. So, y'know, Lemonade!

I'm currently reading and really enjoying John Loughery's The Other Side of Silence, which recounts the often "two steps forward, one step back" (and, occasionally, one step forward, two steps back) progression of gay civil rights. For instance, he tells of the Krewe of Yuga, generally considered the first gay Mardi Gras organization (circa 1958), which was all but obliterated by a savage and demoralizing police raid of a ball in Jefferson Parish. But the brutal demise of Yuga is considered the impetus for the various gay Krewes that sprang up in its aftermath. So, one step forward, one step back, and two more steps forward.

I'm also currently at work on various projects. I've actually even made a year-long calendar with benchmarks and goals and even a few days off. So, apparently I'm beginning to take this writing thing seriously. As I've confessed elsewhere, though, my muse is a cruel bitch (pardon my Taiwanese), who enjoys abandoning me for weeks at a time and then waking me up in the middle of the night to get to work. I hope my schedules aren't but a vain attempt to tame her.

Thanks for coming on this journey with me, those of you who visited daily, and thanks for dropping by, those of you who caught only one or two entries or are stumbling onto me for the first time now. I'm leaving you today with an excerpt from Every Unworthy Thing, the sequel to Cheap as Beasts (a current finalist for the Lambda Literary Awards Best Gay Mystery of 2015! Ah, that may be one of the last times I get to say it!).


Jon Wilson is the author of Cheap as Beasts, a current finalist for the Lambda Literary Award Best Gay Mystery of 2015 (Oh, said it again!). He's also written a follow-up volume, Every Unworthy Thing, as well as two westerns. He lives and works in Northern California, where he's found a new found pleasure in screaming into the void. Listen closely. Can you hear him?

If you missed any part of The Pink Lemonade Blog Tour, you can find them HERE (Part 1), HERE (Part 2), HERE (Part 3), or, alternately, HERE (Part 3), HERE (Part 4) and HERE (Part 5).

I'm giving away a signed copy of both the Declan Colette books. Just leave a semi-cogent comment (which, I suppose, means I'll have to allow "YOU SUCK!") to any of the five parts in the Pink Lemonade Blog Tour to enter (if you leave multiple comments or comment each day, you get entered for each comment)!



EXCERPT: Every Unworthy Thing

Out on the street, I decided I ought to fill the tank thinking vaguely of Jack’s on the corner and a Denver Omelet with home fries, but just after turning the corner onto Bush, heading west, an old Model B sedan pulled alongside me, slowing to match my pace, and a window lowered allowing a man riding shotgun to ask if I was Declan Colette.

I tossed him a glance without really devoting too much pivot of my neck, just enough so he might catch a glimpse of my frown, and kept walking. Not that I generally object to men calling to me from cars—but that Ford was Lincoln green and in need of a thorough wash.

The car sped up enough to allow it to turn into the alley a half block farther along. It stopped, blocking my way. This time the man riding shotgun opened his whole door and climbed out, waiting with a foot on the running board, one long arm propped on the roof of the car and the other atop the door frame. He was tall and spindly, with a long pointed chin and nose to match. His suit, likewise, matched his car. Both had certainly been all the rage back in 1929.

“You’ll want to look into your manners,” he told me.

I proceeded right up to him, stopping with about a yard of sidewalk between us, smiling to show it wasn’t personal. “Mrs. Post might assert that one should offer his own name before demanding another’s.”

He scrunched his face up like I was speaking Chinese and before he could reply, the rear door opened and another fellow climbed out. This one was shorter of stature, but apparently quite equal in taste. Or lack thereof. He clearly patronized the same haberdasher. Stepping aside, he gestured toward the open door. “Get in.”

A third fellow was seated in the backseat on the far side, which put the occupancy, including the driver, at four already. Not that my hesitation stemmed from any notion of overloading that old workhorse. But I was definitely hesitant.

I hefted my shoulders then let them drop. “I prefer to walk.”

The shorter man reached out to take hold of my shoulder, hoping, I gathered, to offer some witty remark such as, “Cut the comedy.” He succeeded at neither task. I slammed my right fist into his chin, shutting his mouth and sending him stumbling toward the street. He sat down on the pavement just before reaching the gutter. Tall Skinny then decided to join, but before he even got his shoe off the running board, I swung my elbow back into the side of his neck. He crumpled, and I used both hands to shove him into the front seat. I slammed the door, bearing down on it with my full weight when his shins kept it from closing properly. He cried out, but not loud enough to mask the sharp click which drew my attention to the backseat. The guy still seated there had produced an old Fitz Special, cocked and pointed in my direction.

“Play nice.”

I stopped trying to close the front door and stepped back. The door swung wide, and Tall Skinny slid out, cussing and groaning about his legs. The other guy, let’s call him Shorty, got up and moved toward me. Both were scowling, but all my attention was taken up by the man with the gun.

“You want me to think you’ll use that?”

He shook his head, not in answer to my query, but in judgment of it. “Like I’m worried some spook might get my license number. Get in!”

I did so. Shorty followed me. That made the backseat snug if not exactly cozy. Tall Skinny crawled back into the front, all the doors were closed properly and we proceeded down the alley to Sutter.

The man with the Fitz Special slipped it over so that the barrel was tickling me just below the ribs. “What sort of armament you packing?”

“Five minutes ago, I would have said my cheerful demeanor. Now, I’m afraid all I have left is my unrivaled wit.”

He brought his other hand across to pat my chest, both sides, doubtless expecting a shoulder holster and accessories. But my own Colt—and the two Lugers—were all locked up safely at the office. He slipped his fingers into my jacket pockets and apparently decided that was enough for now. He sat back, the barrel of his gun still aimed at my kidney.

“How about you spare us your wit and we enjoy the scenery?”

I made a face, just so he’d know I’d taken his recommendation into account. “I don’t suppose it would get me anything to ask where we’re headed.” We’d made a right, reached Scott and turned left, then west on Geary, possibly going to the beach to enjoy the sunset.

Fitz Special sighed, offering me another disparaging shake of his head.

I sat quiet and so did they, for a mile or so. Rush hour traffic necessitated repeated starts, stops, and other variations of momentum. A speeding roadster cut us off as we were heading south on Masonic, eliciting a grumbled stream of invective from the driver, which in turn loosened other tongues.

“That bum did a number on my shins.” That was from Tall Skinny up front, the one I’d slammed the door on. He had his pant leg up, inspecting his shanks. “I’m bleeding.”

Shorty, on my right, snickered, which struck me as crass considering I’d actually managed to knock him down. Fitz Special, on my left, snarled at Tall Skinny, “Quit your bellyaching.”

The driver, who was the only one whose face I had yet to see, put in, “It’s pretty bad, Halley. There’s blood on the carpet.”

Tall Skinny appealed to him. “It is bad, ain’t it?”

Fitz Special, or Halley, according to the driver, wasn’t buying. “Maybe next time you’ll be more careful.” That brought another snicker from Shorty, and Halley told him, “And you, Ned.”

I leaned toward Ned, tsking with ample derision. “Ned.”

He was a young guy, probably the only one in the car younger than me, which made his suit that much more ridiculous. His face was full and round, with a pug nose, the mouth of a malevolent cherub, and no real chin to speak of. But he was excitable, like all kids. His face, pale except for where my knuckles had landed, went full red when I sneered his name like that. He jerked his left elbow hard into my right shoulder.

“You want to try again, old man?” Like I said, an excitable kid. I’m only thirty-one for Christ’s sake.

“Can it, Ned,” Halley told him.

I smiled. “Yeah, Ned, another kiss like that one I gave you, and your chin won’t be nothing but a bump on the back of your head.”

“And you,” Halley told me.

But the fact is, their being so free with names had me worried. They either expected me to be so overjoyed with where they brought me to forgive them any rudeness in their invitation, or they knew it was going to be a one way trip. For me.

charlie_cochrane: (jury of one)
I got to know Derek through those two crazy kids Clare London and Liam Livings. Am dead chuffed to have him as a guest.

What inspired you to start writing?

Writing – story telling - isn’t really something I was inspired to do. It’s just something I have always had to do. Like breathing, or smiling at kitten videos.

My first memories were of the library my dad used to take me to. I learned that stories were magical things that could help transport you to another place, or make sense of the place you were in.

And I’m Irish – my whole family are story tellers. We talk to, over, around and into each other. Even a trip to the butcher could – when my mother told it – become something funny and exciting.

So writing was just a way to record the stories my head was filled with anyways, and the fact that so many other people have enjoyed those stories has made me very happy.

Do you have another job (paid or otherwise) apart from being an author? If so, how do you juggle your time?

Yes, I am not J.K. Rowling, and thus am required to have another job.

So how do I go about juggling time? Well, it’s all about organisation and discipline, I’m told. I wouldn’t know, as I have neither, usually, but with me, once I have a story, I have to be pulled away from it and into the real world, otherwise I’d stay there forever.

I work in finance, and life is insanely busy, with a lot of travel, but I have a very understanding husband who accepts that he’ll see me when he sees me, and that dinner will be sandwich based for the next few years.

I write for an hour before work each day – usually on the commute to the office – and an hour each evening. I’ll also pull the odd weekender if I’m really on a roll, but for me the key is little and often.

Then, when I’m into redrafts and edits, I’ll lock myself away for a couple of days and do nothing else. This is the bit where I go neurotic and obsessive, but I don’t stop writing ever, and wherever I am.

Death of a Diva was mostly written in London and West Sussex, but had parts written in Berlin, Malta, Tel Aviv, Dublin New York and halfway across the Atlantic Ocean.

The second Danny Bird mystery was partially written in Hong Kong and New Zealand as well as New York, so I’m now on the look out for somewhere glamorous to work on Dany Bird 3…

What did it feel like watching your first book fledge and leave the nest?

“Death of a Diva” was accepted for publication at possibly the worst time in my life.

My mother had just died, and I was unable to understand joy or hope, and then this thing – this Dream Come True – happened, and I was simultaneously overjoyed, guilty, terrified, excited, and heartbroken that my mam wasn’t here to share it with me.

I was very lucky to have the support of a great publisher in Fahrenheit Press, and of a Network of publishing passionistas in an amazing group called BytetheBook, who reminded me constantly that the book is the thing.

And now, the book feels like a child of my own.

Parents love their children with all their flaws, and every time I re-read it, I think “Oooh, I’d change that,” or “I wish I hadn't said / done / hinted at that,” but it is what it is, and it has done the one thing that makes me happier than anything in the whole world, and that would have made my mam beam: It has found an appreciative audience, it is loved, and it now has – if it isn’t too poncey a thing to say – a happy life of it’s own.

And what could any parent ask for beyond that?

Are you character or plot driven? What do you do if one of your characters starts developing at a tangent?

Danny Bird came first. I wanted to write about a character who was honest, decent, not always perfect, and – almost incidentally – gay. He’s happy with his life, and all seems well.

Then, in the space of a single day, he loses his boyfriend, his home, and his job.

And I wanted to know, once I’d done that to him, what would happen next, so from that desire, the plot sprung.

I believe that Genre fiction has to have a brilliant plot, but what amazed me was the characters that came to surround Danny and to weave their way through the story. There’s Lady Caroline (“Caz”) his best friend, Ali the bolshy barmaid, Nick the too-pretty policeman, Ray and Dash (The ASBO twins) Danny’s nephews, who will do anything to help him, from a spot of topless bar manning to a bit of breaking and entering.

And half the time I don’t even know where the characters come from – they just arrive.

So, I’m plot driven, but what elevates the plot to somewhere amazing is the characters, who make it all feel even more real.

Not really an answer, but that’s all I’ve got.

And if characters start going off on a tangent? I let them. I always have a rough map of where I want to start and end, and how I intend to get there, so a few tangents don’t worry me, cos I can always get back to the road eventually.

Sometimes, the tangents result in really great ideas forming. And if they don't? There’s always the edit…

If you were in a tight corner and had to rely on one of your characters to save you, which would it be and why?

I can’t pick one.

Danny is loyal and true and honest, and a decent boxer, so he’d be good in a physical fight.

Caz has the unshakeable confidence in her own right that the aristocracy has, and a sharp tongue, so she’d be good if I needed to intimidate someone.

But Ali – the bolshy barmaid with the crew cut and the permanent sneer – has had decades of dumping drunks out of pubs, so there’s probably not much she couldn’t handle.

Can I have all three?

If you had no constraints of time and a guarantee of publication, what book would you write?

The ones I’m writing now.

I wrote Death of a Diva for my own entertainment, with no expectation of publishing.

I loved it so much, I started plotting and preparing #2 before I’d even been offered a publishing contract by Fahrenheit Press, and I’m already plotting number three, so – even if I hadn’t been published – I think I’d have wanted to write these stories, because they feel organic and they pull together some of my favourite things: Crime, mystery, humour, plotting that keeps moving and that is fair and satisfying at the end, London, romance, and pubs.

Is there a classic book you started and simply couldn't finish?

“The mystery of Edwin Drood,” but I found out later that I wasn’t the only one who couldn’t finish it. (Charlie's note: groan.)

What’s your favourite gay mystery/crime book? And why?

Just one? That’s impossible.

Blue Heaven by Joe Keenan: Not strictly a mystery novel, but it’s about a scam to perform a marriage of convenience for the hugely expensive wedding gifts, and how it all unraveled – slowly at first and then in cascades – and it is the first book I was ever asked to stop reading on a bus, so hysterically did it make me laugh. Keenan went on to script edit Fraser, but he has never been sharper, wittier or more brilliant than here. If you haven’t read it, you have to do so. Now. Go on…. I’ll wait

Fadeout by Joseph Hansen (or any of the Brandstetter series). A proper noir gumshoe series that features a very Butch Gay Detective. Very much of their time, but that, in a way, makes them even more important, as we should never lose sight of the struggles that brought us from “The Twilight World of the Homosexual” to a point where a Gay detective is a cool thing to be.

Any of The Burglar series by Lawrence Block (which feature a wonderful Lesbian sidekick who runs a dog grooming parlour). The plotting, humour and style in these is just brilliant. More so if you’re a book lover as they often have references to, homages on, or pastiches of classic genre styles.

A Slow Death by James Craig. ThIs is a gritty, violent and gripping crime novel that just happens to have a detective who’s gay. Brutal, brilliant and bolshy. I loved it.

What's your next project?

Death of a Diva” comes out in print this summer, which is hugely exciting.

The second Danny Bird book will follow soon after, and the initial buzz is that people think it’s even better than the first, which is brilliant, as I wrote it at a very difficult time, so it will be nice if it succeeds, as it will bring some thing positive out of the darkness.

I’m working on the plotting and ideas for DB3 and also on a stand alone Psychological suspense story that I’m enjoying.

Other than that, the patio needs power washing, the hall needs painting, and the garage needs clearing, so they’ll be near the top of the list.

charlie_cochrane: (lil audio)
Let me state here and now that I love Victoria. And I love her hubby too! Even though they both look ten years younger than they are. I'm delighted to have her as my guest today.

So, Victoria, what inspired you to start writing?

Honestly…boredom! It happened without warning about three and a half years ago during a quiet period at work. I’d run out of things to look at on the Internet and was desperately trying to think of something to do to pass the time. A comment made by a colleague, joking that I should be a writer, inspired me and I began to write my first story. Once I’d started I couldn’t stop. I absolutely loved it and couldn’t believe I’d never thought to try it before. Writing has been a huge part of my life ever since.

What did it feel like watching your first book fledge and leave the nest?
It was one of the most terrifying, but also one of the most thrilling things I’ve ever done. Seeing The Strawberry Farm for sale on Amazon and listed on Goodreads felt surreal at first. I kept checking the sites to make sure I wasn’t dreaming! It was then that it hit me just how far I’d come on my journey as a writer. It was a very special time.

Why this particular setting and era?
For the Love Unlocked anthology, our brief was to write a story inspired by the Love Lock Bridges. I’d spent some time in Paris the previous year and had actually walked along one of these incredible bridges. Inspired by my time there, I decided to set Writer’s Lock in modern day Paris.

Are you character or plot driven? What do you do if one of your characters starts developing at a tangent?
Character and plot usually happen simultaneously for me. I don’t always start with the same one first, it depends on what has inspired me.
As for the tangent, I have a wonderful character who has a nasty habit of going rogue on a regular basis! His name is Max and he’s the main character in a series I am currently writing. At first I found his rogue tangents difficult to handle, and was particularly annoyed and frustrated with him when his actions caused an important new character to be discovered. It happened early on in the sequel and caused me to have to completely rewrite my plan for the story. I have since learned to plan less so there is room to let the story go where it needs to when this happens. Some of my best writing has happened when a character has gone rogue, so I now embrace it. It’s definitely exciting when it happens!

If you were in a tight corner and had to rely on one of your characters to save you, which would it be and why?
Oh my goodness, I think I’d be screwed, they’re hardly the most reliable bunch! There isn’t a clear candidate from my main characters, most of them would be hopeless in a real crisis. I would have to pick a minor character and that would be Mirabelle from Writer’s Lock. She has supported Laurent a great deal over the years and always sees through to the root of a problem in a no-nonsense sort of way. However, for pure entertainment value I’m tempted to pick Max, my rogue character. His heart is in the right place, but he hasn’t got a clue how to get out of a tight corner effectively and has a knack of making things far worse than they need to be!

If you had no constraints of time and a guarantee of publication, what book would you write?
A thriller based around FBI agents or the military. It would take a lot of research for me to be able to do this effectively, and that’s something I don’t have enough time to do currently.

Is there a classic book you started and simply couldn't finish?
This is probably going to make me very unpopular, but I find anything by Jane Austen difficult to get enthusiastic about and tedious to finish, particularly Mansfield Park.

What’s your favourite gay fiction book? And why?
That is such a difficult question to answer. I have lots of favourites and all for very different reasons.
After much deliberation, I’m going to pick the book I’ve found myself thinking about the most since finishing it, and that’s Dark Soul by Aleksandr Voinov. It hooked me from the first page and took me through a vast range of emotions at a deeper level than most novels. The characterization, pacing and tension were some of the absolute best I’ve read. I loved the fact that it kept me guessing until the very end and it is one of the few books I literally couldn’t put down.

What's your next project?
I am currently working on a collaboration with Shayla Mist that we’re having a lot of fun with. As for my solo projects, I’m editing a novel about a musician (Max) who is exploring and coming to terms with his sexuality, and am hoping to have that published later this year. I’m currently writing the sequel to that novel and am also working on a m/m science fiction story that is in its early stages.

Writer’s Lock by Victoria Milne was released on 14th February and is available from Beaten Track Publishing and all the usual outlets.


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