First, I’d like to thank Jadette for having me here today! This should be an adventure. I’ll try to keep the spork-flinging to a minimum!
When the idea for “Dancing On Flames” first occurred to me, I wanted no part of it. Didn’t want to think about it, hear about, and I damn sure didn’t want to try writing it! As a het male, I couldn’t imagine what I could possibly bring to gay romance that hasn’t been done a hell of a lot better by Jadette Paige, Amber Green, KevaD, H.C. Brown, Margie Church . . . .
You get the idea. So I buried myself in other projects. Lesbian, ménage, straight, I wrote (and am still writing, in some cases) all of them. I even managed to publish most of what I wrote!
And the whole time, I had two werewolves prowling around my desk, eyeing me meaningfully. “When are you going to tell our story? Aren’t we good enough for you, Mr. ‘Manuscript Mage who can write any damn thing?’ Hmm?”
It was hard to argue with the logic, the ego stroking, or the none-too-subtle dare implicit in what they said. Not to mention that we’re talking about two werewolves. Not Twilight werewolves. These guys would look at that bunch and say, “Aw. Aren’t you precious,” with withering sarcasm. These are the kind of werewolves who top seven feet in their battle forms and are basically fangs, fur, and carefully directed fury.
When two of those are glowering at you and tapping their feet none too patiently, you do what you gotta do. So I sat down and kicked my brain in the gut until it threw up an idea I felt had merit.
Since I already knew who my heroes were, I needed a villain. But why stop at one? Why not throw up a whole bunch of red shirts and make it a party? It didn’t take me long to figure out exactly what I wanted from my bad guys. Pure, no-holds-barred, evil SOBs that the reader wouldn’t have any sympathy for. So I wrote some of the vilest bastards I’ve ever put to paper.
Now that I had the villains, I needed an insurmountable problem for my heroes to face. It seemed pretty apparent to me that werewolves, as a very small subset of the population, would have to be concerned about inbreeding and other genetic issues if they bred too closely with their own kind. For this reason, a practical taboo became law. The law became tradition. And to violate it became a death sentence.
But the two werewolves were awfully cozy. And that’s where things got . . . interesting.
Because I’m a married, het male, there was an awful lot I had to learn about the ins and outs (pardon the expression) of a gay relationship. I wanted to get the tone and the dynamics of the story and the characters’ relationship right, without intentionally or otherwise offering any disrespect or slight to my readers. So I had to ask questions. Lots of questions. Some of them painfully embarrassing and difficult to broach, especially over email.
An aside: Some things just don’t lend themselves well to text communication of any sort. It’s easy to say too little and come off abrupt or even offensive, or to say too much and stick your foot in your mouth while you’re trying to avoid exactly that.
So I asked around among some people I knew would be receptive to my questions and get where I was coming from. I got some great advice, but two of the real gems I mined out of this exercise came from Margie Church and Bryl Tyne.
Margie said, “Put your brain in a box. Don’t worry about what turns you on. Write what will attract your characters.”
Bryl said, “Love is love. Worry about the emotions, not the physical aspect.”
I took their advice and finished the story. Then I sent off copies to my beta readers with a pointed request that they skewer me when and where necessary. It wasn’t long before I had all their opinions together, and I blasted out a rewrite, incorporating most of the suggestions I got.
Now came the real test: submission.
I took a deep breath and sent it off to Bryl. I had gotten a pretty good cross-section of what was wrong, and right, with my story, but this was the sweaty-palmed, honest to God moment of truth. If it didn’t pass muster with Bryl, I wouldn’t have gone all crazy melodramatic and deleted all my writing or anything equally silly. But I sure would have been disappointed for a minute. Bryl’s not an ogre by any means; in fact, he’s about as far from the stereotypical editor as I can imagine. So his opinion means a lot to me when it comes to my work, and I started getting the shakes about fifteen seconds after I sent off the manuscript.
To counter the jitters, I threw myself into other stories, pointedly trying not to think about it. See how these things move in cycles? A couple of weeks after I sent it, he sent me back an email. He was going to recommend it for publication!
With a huge sigh of relief, I signed the contract and stopped stressing. And now, I’m proud to report that “Dancing On Flames” is available from Noble Romance Publishing! To celebrate the release, I’m giving away a copy of “Dancing On Flames” to one commentator today. Just leave a comment for your chance to win!
Thank you again to Jadette for having me here today. It’s been a lot of fun! I hope I’ll back here again soon!
Until next time,
Best, J.S. Wayne
In the aftermath of a raid on a band of child slavers, Russell and Ion of the Chosen of Fenrir find themselves baring their hearts and souls—and their bodies—to one another. In doing so, they violate one of their clan's most sacred laws: Look not to your own kind for love.
Now, one will lay his life on the line on the Path of the Flame Dance, where the Earth Mother will judge whether the love they have is worthy—or a betrayal of their own blood. The other must watch as his lover walks the fire or perishes in the attempt.
Stand or fall, the two warriors will never be the same . . . .
Ion slipped silently over to the large, smooth log Russell sat on and folded onto it with a small huff of relief; his feet and back ached from the exertions of the night, and it felt sinfully good to finally be able to relax for a while. He would rather have had his chest gouged open with a dull, silver spoon than admit it, but he was privately very glad Russell had insisted on letting the children sleep and getting an early start in the morning.
He studied Russell's profile in the firelight. Russell gave no sign he was aware of Ion's presence; his jaw was set firmly and his eyes seemed to shimmer with moisture. It had to be a trick of the light; Russell's seemingly inexhaustible good humor made the possibility that he could be on the verge of tears about as likely in Ion's mind as the chance that he might suddenly turn into a vampire.
Maybe it was the smoke stinging his eyes. Sure. That had to be the answer.
"We did good tonight."
Russell didn't say a word. He didn't react in any way; his gaze was locked on something far beyond the camp, somewhere Ion couldn't follow, seeing a terror that Ion couldn't ward.
After a long while, Ion placed his hand on Russell's shoulder. The hard muscle he encountered surprised him. While he hadn't thought Russell was soft, exactly, he hadn't expected the wiry muscle he found. To his astonishment, he realized that the other man felt good to his touch.
Russell reached up and laid his hand over Ion's, eyes locked on the blaze before him. His throat worked and he spat into the fire. “Those kids have a long way to go before they come back from this," he said heavily, turning his dark blue eyes toward Ion.
The pain in those eyes blistered through Ion as keenly as a dagger slice, even though they were not in wolf form and Russell’s mind was therefore closed to him. He would not have wished what he knew Russell had to be feeling on anyone; he carried a similar, if heavier, burden and knew better than he'd ever wanted to how that load weighed on his shoulders. To try to bolster Russell's spirits, he pointed out, "You were very good with them. A lot better than I could ever hope to be."
Russell didn't reply, but a tear ran down his face, gleaming in the firelight. Ion foundered for a moment and pressed on. "Those kids are going to get the best night's sleep they've had since they were taken, because of you. They trust you."
"Is that enough?" he asked. "There are still so many things that could go wrong between here and the nearest town. What if we lose one? Or all of them?"
Ion nodded heavily. "Remember what I told you earlier, about how I hoped you'd never understand how I feel?"
"This is how it starts. You care about someone enough to be afraid of losing them." Ion felt a memory surfacing, and spoke quickly to quash it before it could take over, as it usually did. "You do your best, but it's not always enough. That's when you have to remember, you can't control everything."
Russell's voice was low and cold. "I will not let anything happen to these kids. They've already been through something horrible." His hand clenched Ion's as if trying to draw Ion's strength into him. Ion felt his heart stutter and skip at the gesture of trust. "Those kids will make it home."
Ion leaned close. "Russell . . . ."
He turned around. Their lips brushed, firing a pulse of electricity to every part of Ion's body. This close to Russell, he could smell the aroma of blood overlain by wood smoke that clung to the Chosen's skin. Under that lingered a scent like musk and clove that was uniquely his own. His clean breath felt hot on Ion's chin, and Ion's heart began to pound as a perplexing array of mutually incompatible emotions warred inside him.
Russell pulled back slightly and his eyes narrowed for a second as he stared deep into Ion's own, as if searching them for a signal that Ion couldn't be certain he was giving. Then he seemed to come to a decision, leaned forward again, and pressed his mouth to Ion's, opening to offer Ion his tongue. The taste of him was like nothing Ion had ever known; he tasted of spice, wild mint, and the smoked venison they had eaten before they left the caverns earlier tonight. But there was something else, something there Ion couldn't define in Russell's unique flavor that stirred the embers of Ion's uncertain emotions into a roaring blaze of need.
His own reaction came as a shock. He would have expected to be utterly repulsed; instead, he found he rather enjoyed Russell's expert kisses. The sensation felt astonishingly good, in a way that shook Ion to his core. He couldn't think of anything except the brilliant shimmers of desire that Russell's tongue was sending through his body.
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