Friday, October 28, 2011

Damon Suede

Jadette, thanks for inviting me back to share the story behind the story…

Grown Men came from a single simple point of inspiration which wound refracting in ways I’d never expected…

Over on the M/M Romance Group at Goodreads, the amazing moderators kicked off an enormous Summer anthology project called Hot Summer Days as a kind of collective gift to the robust community round those parts. The basic idea was that group members would post a photograph from the group’s ample offerings along with a “letter” asking for a story that the picture might inspire. Gay romance authors would choose pictures/letters and then contribute an original short…Such a cool idea. This happened in June, right before Hot Head came out, and I was wrapping up the research phase on a big steampunk novel so a sexy little short story sounded like just the ticket.

Well, one night eager to dive in, I was trolling the photos and I ran across this photo posted by the delightful Poppy Dennison. In terms of story requirements she had only said, “My momma always told me anything was possible...but I'm not too sure she'd considered these boys! Will you prove my momma right?

Now, here’s the weird coinky-dink: I know one of those guys in the photo in real life…Not well by any stretch, but we once shared a bottle of tequila at a party in L.A. a zillion years ago. In this image, he’s the photoshopped “giant,” but in the flesh he is a hilarious Cuban fireplug with a thing for redheads who had a lot to do with the early success of Titan Media. Going through the Goodreads photos, the moment I saw his scrunchy face and sick bod and the crazy repainting, I had to bite. :)

Okay… so I have this wacky photo and my gut instincts and not much else. Because of the tropical treetrunk and the bright sun, the image said beach to me. I knew the story took place somewhere tropical. And because of the freaky disparity in their sizes, sci-fi seemed like the logical step. Tropical science fiction. And of course, because I was writing for an anthology of shorts, I needed to keep it simple. To generate the heat between them, I needed to generate enough friction to struggle against and time pressures, so I knew that their circumstances had to get a little extreme and a little overwhelming.

From the moment I started writing it, Grown Men poured onto the page faster than I could control it. The setting and the worldbuilding just snicked into place like tumblers in a lock. Both my heroes seemed so strange and handsome and wounded in unexpected ways. I decided this would be the story of two men in the FAR future marooned on a tropical island in the middle of an alien ocean… compressed, claustrophobic, and intense. I decided that in this future, massive conglomerates have replaced religion, government and culture, and the only art still produced exists to advertise products. Dark satire with a creamy ironic center! :) I invented a company called HardCell that leases solar systems and grows employees in batches. My two mismatched heroes would be employees dreaming of corporate citizenship and suckled on glossy advertainment. The HardCell Universe invented itself as I watched. And then I found out that one of my heroes was mute.

Yes, mute.

Ox, the giant assassin who drops out of the sky onto an alien beach, is only one of two characters and he didn’t speak. What the hell? I kept trying to make him talk, but nope: he wouldn’t and didn’t. Okay, that complicated things a bit, because the only way to build the relationship was by indirection and projection by Runt, the other (smaller) hero. Runt’s mounting paranoia about this hunky, hulking menace got all bound up in the fact that he couldn’t find out the answers directly. The story deepened and doubled back on itself. I had originally planned it to be ten thousand words, but by week two drafting it, the story had reached eighteen thousand. 


It seemed totally rude to submit an overlong novella to an already filed anthology. I knew that Grown Men was likely to get twice as long before Runt and Ox had found their ways together. This “first transmission” from the HardCell universe deserved to be told properly. And so I decided to keep going, honor the characters and the plot and simply write a second “transmission” for the Goodreads anthology. Actually, I had learned so much about the slick HardCell Universe in the writing I’d done, that I was excited to explore another corner of its galaxy. Since the story needed to use the SAME image as its inspiration, I went back to Poppy’s original image. Still beach, obviously Sci-Fi and set in the same paranoid, satirical HardCell background. And since I still had a giant to deal with, I decided that this would be about Ox’s TWIN brother Beirn on the other side of the galaxy. And since I knew from Grown Men that Ox had some serious bad blood there, I made Beirn his polar opposite.

Where Grown Men was about two simple men left alone to carve out a new world, slowly learning to trust each other. Seedy Business was about a sociopathic mercenary and a skeezy sperm pirate who discover they’ve been triple-crossed and are marked for death and black-market organ auction. They’re complimentary but not supplementary, if that makes sense. Written in tandem, Grown Men had turned into this delicate romance told through a lens of anxiety and distrust. Seedy Business gave ugly betrayal a kind of fairytale shimmer. In the end, the two HardCell “transmissions” stood completely separate; they added some resonance to each other but they existed as individual tales…with only the twin’s relationship and the HardCell Universe connecting them.

Seedy Business came out in July, even though it’s the “second transmission” and it got a lot of people talking. Riptide is releasing Grown Men the 30th as part of their First Wave. What started as a simple tweaked photo posted as a creative challenge invented a literal UNIVERSE for me. Already, I’ve had people who’ve become fans of Seedy Business asking what’s coming next for its dastardly duo. I’m hopeful that folks who encounter Grown Men will wonder the same about Runt and Ox. If there’s interest I can imagine an entire series of books about love blossoming in different divisions(glamorous advertainers, insurance designers, hormone smugglers, clone farmers), leading all the way to HardCell head-office as pairs of rebellious men find a way to crush the company and save the Universe from the forces of bland commercialism. LOL Time will tell.

BIO & Contact:

Damon Suede grew up out-n-proud deep in the anus of right-wing America, and escaped as soon as it was legal. Though new to M/M, Damon has been writing for print, stage, and screen for two decades. He’s won some awards, but counts his blessings more often: his amazing friends, his demented family, his beautiful husband, his loyal fans, and his silly, stern, seductive Muse who keeps whispering in his ear, year after year. You can get in touch with him at:
§  Goodreads
§  Facebook

Buy links:
Grown Men is available for preorder from Riptide Publishing, and (starting October 30th) at most online retailers including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance Ebooks, 1 Place for Romance, Rainbow Ebooks, etc.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Rick Reed and Caregiver

Today, I have the great pleasure to introduce an awesome author and an all around nice guy, Rick Reed!

He's talking about his latest release.  Please welcome, Rick Reed!


Picture it: Tampa Bay, Florida, 1991. A young man flees a troubled life in Chicago to begin anew on the Gulf Coast of Florida. White sand beaches and azure waters beckon. Shortly after landing in Tampa Bay, the young man, in a gesture of solidarity with his gay brethren who are dying by the thousands, volunteers to become an AIDS buddy, focusing his attention on one victim of the virus…

Actually, if you’ve read the blurb of my new novel, CAREGIVER, you might think that the above is an alternate synopsis I wrote for the book. But the truth is it’s about me. Like my main character in CAREGIVER, Dan, I too fled Chicago for a new life in Tampa, FL and I too joined a program that supplied AIDS buddies to those suffering from the virus. In 1991, the afflicted had a very bleak outlook. But sometimes, we meet a person who can overcome that bleakness with biting wit, humor, grace, and style. My buddy was just such a man—he left a mark on me that has stayed with me until this very day and will always be one of the most special people I have ever met.

My book is called CAREGIVER, but by the end, the reader will wonder who really is the caregiver.

It’s taken me twenty years to write about Jim, my AIDS buddy from 1991 (who becomes “Adam” in the novel), my funny valentine who ended up dying in the Florida State Prison—but I think the results are ultimately worth it.

In CAREGIVER’s first review by fellow author (and icon) Victor J. Banis, he says:

"Reed has a fine command of words that sometimes approaches the magical, and I think few readers will come away from reading this emotionally untouched... I could not stop reading until I had finished, and I don’t know how you can pay a writer any better compliment than that...I began by explaining my aversion to AIDS novels—but I’m not so great a fool that I didn’t know from the first page or so that this is a terrific work, insightful and bold, by a very talented writer..."

Read the whole review on Reviews by Jessewave:

It’s 1991, and Dan Calzolaio has just moved to Florida with his lover, Mark, having fled Chicago and Mark’s addictions to begin a new life on the Gulf Coast. Volunteering for the Tampa AIDS Alliance is just one part of that new beginning, and that’s how Dan meets his new buddy, Adam.

Adam Schmidt is not at all what Dan expected. The guy is an original—witty, wry, and sarcastic with a fondness for a smart black dress, Barbra Streisand, and a good mai tai. Adam doesn’t let his imminent death get him down, even through a downward spiral that sees him thrown in jail.

Each step of Adam’s journey teaches Dan new lessons about strength and resilience, but it’s Adam’s lover, Sullivan, to whom Dan feels an almost irresistible pull. Dan knows the attraction isn’t right, even after he dumps his cheating, drug-abusing boyfriend. But then Adam passes away, and it leaves Sullivan and Dan both alone to see if they can turn their love for Adam into something whole and real for each other.

BUY from Dreamspinner Press (the first 20 paperback sales will receive an autographed copy)
In ebook:
In paperback:

Amazon Kindle version:

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

An Appetite for Storytelling: The Petit Morts series

Today, I have some fantastic authors talking about their stories.  Here we go!!!!


Jordan Castillo Price: When I watch DVDs, if I find a show I like, I’ll usually watch it a second time with the commentary playing. As I listen to the writers and directors chatting about the various stages of production their projects go through, it always strikes me how difficult it must be to work on something as collaborative as a film or a TV series—especially a show with multiple writers. I’ve always wondered what it might be like to work with multiple authors—bouncing ideas off one another and sending each other into upward spirals with our contagious enthusiasm.

Since television writing seemed so collaborative by nature, an idea came to me that could only have been influenced by some of the series I grew up with in the 1970’s, like Love Boat and Fantasy Island. You have your characters and settings that stay the same from episode to episode, but then every week, someone new gets to fall in love, or have their fantasy fulfilled. We needed a setting—how about a chocolate shop? Sweets to the Sweet materialized. And we needed a recurring character. Enter Chance—sardonic, mysterious, and deliciously dark.

Then the stories began spilling out, quirky things with strange twists and hints of magic. The novelette form proved to be the perfect vehicle for telling unconventional stories in which we could take plenty of risks and try something different and fresh.

Since Josh Lanyon and I had previously worked together on the Partners in Crime series, he was the first author to hear my pitch about sharing a character as well as a series. Since we unveiled Petit Morts on Valentine’s Day 2010, Petit Morts has swelled to four talented authors and seventeen novelette-length stories.

Josh Lanyon: I love creative collaborations -- short of actually cowriting! -- so when Jordan cooked up the idea of dark and delicious bittersweet short stories set in a shared and slightly supernatural world, I told her to count me in. One of the things I loved best about the series was the creative freedom. We agreed from the start that sex was not mandatory, that even happy endings were not mandatory. Of course most of the stories have ended up both sexy and surprisingly sweet in their resolutions. It's been a real pleasure being part of the series -- Sean and Clare have proved wonderful additions -- and I'm proud that these stories are something unique in m/m fiction.

Sean Kennedy: When I first read and loved the Petit Morts series I never thought I'd be asked to become a part of it.  Getting to play in someone else's sandpit was a lot of fun, although it could be tough at times to make sure your work fits in seamlessly with all the others!  What I loved about PM is that you could take Chance anywhere, and being from Oz and wishing there were more romances set here I loved making Chance work in both of my hometowns - Melbourne and Perth.  I'm not sure why one was set in a funeral parlour and another on a ghost tour, but maybe I've been a little morbid lately?  But what was most exciting was writing my final story - it sees Chance in a variety of locations, from Belfast in Northern Ireland to Auckland, New Zealand.  I got to explore Chance more as a character, rather than the people he affects.  It's sad to let go of him!

Clare London: I'm the new girl, the latest recruit, but I've been a fan of the series from the start. I love the way that Jordan creates individual delights for each story, but with a continuing thread of mystery and mayhem from Chance, everyone's favourite chocolatier. And I'm thrilled to have been welcomed into such great company, so graciously. "London Eye" gave me the opportunity to invite Chance to my home city, mixing his rather wicked, worldly and sexy manipulations with the prim British reserve. I wanted him to meet our characters, suffer our indomitable spirit, and learn some new, rather odd slang! And as an added bonus for me, I also co-wrote "Media Naranja" with Jordan, this time taking Chance and Hunter to sun and sangria in Majorca, where they prove - nay, insist! - that the most timid of people can still be seduced by holiday love and passion.  I've been seduced myself from day one by the Petit Morts series - and couldn't be more excited to be part of it.

The Petit Morts series:
#1: Hue, Tint and Shade by Jordan Castillo Price
Yellow is as yellow does.

#2: Slings and Arrows by Josh Lanyon
It's a fine line between "secret admirer" and "stalker".

#3: Moolah and Moonshine by Jordan Castillo Price
If you ever go to France, watch out for those ticklers.

#4: Other People's Weddings by Josh Lanyon
Pulling off the perfect wedding can be murder.

#5: Spanish Fly Guy by Jordan Castillo Price
A new twist on liquid courage.

#6: Pretty Ugly by Jordan Castillo Price
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder...usually.

#7: Sort of Stranger Than Fiction by Josh Lanyon
They always say to write what you know.

#8: One Less Stiff at the Funeral by Sean Kennedy
Chocolate makes everything better. Even a eulogy.

#9: Critic's Choice by Josh Lanyon
It was a dark and stormy night. No, really, it was.

#10: Wishink Well by Jordan Castillo Price
You can't get something for nothing.

#11: Happily Neverafterby Jordan Castillo Price
All's well that ends well.

#12: London Eye by Clare London
Give credit where credit is due.

#13: Spirits and Second Chances by Sean Kennedy
The past can come back to haunt you.

#14: Just Desserts by Josh Lanyon
Pick your poison.

#15: Loose Change by Sean Kennedy
If there's one thing you can always count on, it's change.

#16: Media Naranja (Other Half) by Clare London and Jordan Castillo Price
There's someone for everyone.

#17: Immortal Coil by Jordan Castillo Price
Love is more than skin deep.

Petit Morts Authors
Jordan Castillo Price’s influences include Ouija boards, Return of the Living Dead, “light as a feather, stiff as a board,” and boys in eyeliner. She lives in rural Wisconsin where she wanders through the woods and finds mysterious bones littering the ground.

Josh loves old books, old films, good wine and long walks on the bea--oh. Wrong bio. Josh lives in Los Angeles, the capitol of dark, gritty, and violent crime stories -- exactly the kind of thing Josh does NoT write.

Sean lives in the most isolated city in the world, and wishes he could get a better cup of coffee there.  He tries to write in between being bothered by two extremely clingy cats and the distraction of the TV set and internet.  His website needs to be updated more regularly but you can find it at

Clare’s pen name comes from the city where she lives, loves, and writes. She’s devoted to strong, sympathetic and sexy characters in her male/male stories – but, then, aren’t we all? Find Clare at and

Monday, October 24, 2011

Andrew Gray - Artisitc Appleal

Artistic Appeal is the follow-up to Legal Artistry, and the story behind this story is definitely in the characters.  The main plot elements come from the court case introduced in Legal Artistry.  In Legal Artistry, the initial court case was won, but in Artistic Appeal, the case continues through the appeals and eventually on to the Supreme Court. 

Nicolai is an art restorer and he also happens to be deaf.  One of my neighbors has an adult daughter who is deaf, and one evening when I was visiting, what inspired me was the amount of our conversation Darleen was able to understand. Through a combination of reading lips and body language she was able to understand the bulk of the conversation.  The rest of our visit was signed by her mother, and we had a great time.  With Nicolai, I wanted to bring some of Darleen’s spirit, vitality, and ability to read people to the character, and I’d like to think I did. 

Brian is inspired by a close friend who has been with his partner for almost twenty years, but before they met, Chuck was married and had two sons.  They are the light of both their lives, as are their grandchildren, and I wanted to bring the way Don adores his children to Brian and his daughter Zoe, who I modeled on my niece of about the same age.

I had a great deal of fun with this story because all of my characters spoke to me, even the villainous ones, and I sincerely hope they speak to you as well.

Brian Watson knows close friends Gerald Young and Dieter Krumpf have an ulterior motive when they invite him to their Christmas party. Brian has taken over the case to secure the return of the famous painting called The Woman in Blue to Dieter, but they don’t want Brian to be all work and no play. They intend to set him up with a friend, but he’s not who catches Brian's eye. Instead, it's Nicolai, the deaf art restorer caring for the works already returned to Dieter.
But pursuing Nicolai won't be easy. A year ago Nicolai had to fight to regain his independence after a bad break-up, and he's reluctant to give up his freedom a second time. Plus, Brian has competition in Justin, Nicolai's ex, who wants him back badly.
Nicolai's reluctance isn't the only roadblock. Brian was married to a woman for almost ten years. Now he has to confess to his mother, his ex-wife, and his young daughter that he loves a man—all while conducting a potentially groundbreaking court case and trying to convince Nicolai that love isn't about co-dependence, it's about support.


Over the past year, his main companion outside of work had been Zoe, and Brian hadn’t realized how much he missed adult company and conversation until he was deep in a conversation with Harold about his upcoming deep-sea fishing trip to Florida. God, it had been a long time since he’d simply talked to another adult.
“I’m sorry to interrupt,” Dieter said, and Brian and Harold paused their conversation. “I’m taking Zoe up to the television room so she can watch her video.”
“Thank you,” Brian said, grateful to his friend. Dieter left, and Brian and Harold continued their conversation. After a while, Harold excused himself and got up. Brian, deciding he wanted another glass of wine, walked through the house to the kitchen. The room was full of people, and Brian poured a glass of wine and was about to leave when he lightly bumped into another man. Pausing to excuse himself, Brian stopped and the tall man turned around. Bright blue eyes stared into Brian’s, and for one of the few times in his life, Brian stared open-mouthed, completely at a loss for words. This man was stunning, rather than beautiful, with piercing eyes that nearly made him flinch and deep black hair that shone in the light against his olive-toned skin. “I’m sorry,” Brian said, for bumping him, and the man smiled slightly, nodding his head before turning away.
People shifted in the kitchen as glasses were filled and new faces moved to the bar for refills. Brian made his way back into the living room and nearly bumped into Gerald, thankfully not spilling any of his wine. “Who’s the man over there with the dark hair?” Brian indicated the man he’d seen in the kitchen.
Gerald smiled at him. “That’s Nicolai Romanov. He’s an art restorer, and he’s been helping Dieter with the paintings. He’s a really sweet man,” Gerald said, lowering his voice, “and very handsome. He’s also available, or so I understand.”
“What about the man with him?” Brian asked, his eyes following Nicolai and the other man around the room. They looked rather cozy to him.
“That’s Peter, and they’re not a couple. He’s a friend and sort of acts as Nicolai’s interpreter because he’s deaf. Besides, Peter’s as straight as an arrow, and if there were a lot of women here, Nicolai wouldn’t be getting as much interpreting time. Peter’s a bit of a ladies’ man. Come on, I’ll introduce you. Nicolai reads lips, so speak clearly and look at him, and you’ll be fine.” Before Brian could stop him, Gerald was leading him into the hallway where Nicolai was looking closely at one of the paintings. Gerald lightly touched him on the shoulder and stepped back.
“Nicolai,” Gerald said once he’d turned around, “this is Brian.” He noticed that Gerald made eye contact and spoke clearly, but not loudly, to Nicolai, who held out his hand.
“Very pleased to meet you,” Nicolai said slowly, his consonants very smooth, and it took some concentration, but Brian was able to understand him. Brian shook his hand and wondered what to say. Thankfully Gerald started things off.
“I work with Brian. He and I try to get art works returned to its proper owners. Brian is handling The Woman in Blue case for Dieter and me,” Gerald explained, and Brian saw Nicolai’s eyes light up.
“That must be exciting,” Nicolai said. “Dieter has told me about his great-grandmother. It is a very exciting story.” Brian saw Nicolai’s fingers and hands moving, presumably out of habit.
“Daddy.” Zoe barreled into him laughing before turning to her Uncle Dieter. “I turned off the player.”
“Zoe,” Brian said, still looking at Nicolai, “this is Mr. Romanov.”
“Hello.” She suddenly seemed shy, and Brian hugged her to his side.
“Nicolai, this is my daughter Zoe.” Brian made sure to face Nicolai so he could read his lips.
“Hello, Zoe,” Nicolai said as he signed, and Brian heard Zoe inhale in surprise as she watched Nicolai’s hands. “Zoe,” Nicolai said rather clearly as he slowly signed her name. Zoe brought up her hands and began to move them, mimicking the movements. Nicolai gently corrected her fingers, and soon Zoe could sign her name. “Nic,” Nicolai said and then performed the signs for his name. Brian found himself watching every movement of Nic’s graceful hands, trying to make the signs himself along with his daughter.
“Like this,” Nicolai told him, and Brian nearly jumped when the handsome man touched his fingers, lightly caressing his skin as he coached him through the signs. Brian repeated the movements for the three letters, and Nicolai smiled his encouragement. Brian wanted to ask Nicolai to teach him more signs, if only to get the other man to touch his hands again.

Andrew grew up in western Michigan with a father who loved to tell stories and a mother who loved to read them. Since then he has lived throughout the country and traveled throughout the world. He has a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and works in information systems for a large corporation. Andrew's hobbies include collecting antiques, gardening, and leaving his dirty dishes anywhere but in the sink (particularly when writing) He considers himself blessed with an accepting family, fantastic friends, and the world’s most supportive and loving partner. Andrew currently lives in beautiful, historic Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Shelter Somerset - Between Two Promises

I had a few half-written novels tucked inside my desk drawer when one night the idea for my Amish Series struck me. I literally jumped out of bed and began writing a synopsis. Sixteen pages evolved into more than two-hundred, and six months later I had my first completed manuscript, Between Two Worlds. The sequel, Between Two Promises, followed five months later.

I cannot explain what compelled me to finish the Amish Series while I had four unfinished novels still begging for my attention. I suppose I felt a deeper connection with the characters in my Amish Series. I have always been fascinated with the subsistent lifestyle of the Amish and how, in most cases, they eschew government aid. They are virtually a stateless people.

For several years I had been searching for books about the subject of the Amish and homosexuality. Other than the typical banal nonsense, I found nothing. That’s when I decided if I want to read something about homosexuality inside the Amish community I’d have to write the book myself.

Between Two Promises continues with the story of Aiden and Daniel, two lovers lost between two worlds. Neither belong anywhere. Aiden is agnostic and gay, yet fails to follow the typical gay tenets. He feels a stronger bridge with the Amish community than with his progressive Chicago neighborhood. Daniel, Amish and gay, similarly struggles with his identity inside his austere community. I draw a parallel between the Amish and the gay communities. While they may seem as opposite as two cultures can be, both have their own strict set of “ordnungs” one must obey to fit in. I enjoyed exploring the theme of “man versus society.” Post-modern society has, in many ways, gobbled up the individual. I struggled alongside my characters to find a place where they can be individuals while fighting off the thorns of conformity.

Daniel Schrock and Aiden Cermak have forged a life in the rural Montana foothills, but a shadow still lingers, made stronger when a letter arrives from Daniel's brother Mark inviting him to his Christmas wedding. Daniel fears returning home might force what he wants to avoid: telling his family about Aiden and facing the dreaded Amish shunning.
Despite the uncertainties, Daniel and Aiden head to Illinois, where frustration will not only endanger Daniel's relationship with his family and the church community, but his bond with his boyfriend, who leaves Daniel with a choice: him or the Amish. Before Daniel can stop Aiden, he's gone... and threats from the past resurface, crystallizing Daniel's fears about a murderer still at large.
 As he desperately searches for Aiden and the identity of the suspected killer, Daniel will have to decide if love is important enough to risk losing everything he knows. Will Daniel choose to keep his commitment to the Amish church or will he stand by the promise he made to Aiden that first night they made love?


The Harvest Sunrise Inn Bed and Breakfast was a converted Victorian farmhouse on the southern outskirts of Henry. A sense of repression settled over Aiden as he and Daniel stepped inside the lobby. Decorated with rich, ornate furnishings, the inn contrasted sharply with the surrounding simple farmland.
But the unease pestering him came more from Daniel than the old house itself. While Daniel checked in at the front desk, Aiden worried Daniel was embarrassed about their sharing a room together. The innkeeper seemed unconcerned. With a kindly smile on his chubby face, he handed them a key and showed them the way to their room on the first floor.
The first things Aiden noticed were the two separate twin beds.
“Was this the only room they had when you made reservations?” Aiden asked once the innkeeper had left.
Daniel ignored his question. He tossed his suitcase onto one of the beds and began stuffing his clothes into the drawers of a cherry dresser.
Sachets of clover- and vanilla-scented potpourri lay on the pillows. Bowtie quilts were tri-folded at the bottom of each of the beds. Aiden thought it was all very quaint; perhaps too quaint for him and Daniel. Aiden understood how awkward staying at the Schrocks’ would’ve been, but he wondered if Daniel had purposely reserved a room with two beds instead of one.
“Maybe we can push the beds together,” Aiden said, letting his laptop case slide off his arm onto the other bed. He set his black duffel bag with the wide turquoise stripe that seemed to always annoy Daniel on the twill carpet.
“We should leave the beds as they are,” Daniel said after a pause.
“I’m sure the innkeepers won’t mind,” Aiden said. “We can move them apart before we check out next week.”
Daniel completed unpacking. “That won’t be a good idea.”
Aiden watched Daniel yank off his boots and nudge them against the canary yellow wall by the door. When he failed to say anything further, Aiden said, “Daniel, I want you to promise me you won’t brush me aside during our stay here.”
Without looking at him, Daniel said, “What do you mean, brush you aside? If you’re expecting me, in front of everyone, to take you in my arms and—”
“No, I don’t expect that, Daniel. But, please, don’t ignore me. Don’t treat me like I don’t exist.”
“Of course I wouldn’t do that.”
Aiden felt achy and tired. The long three-day journey from Montana had sapped his energy. They had driven near straight through, without stopping for sightseeing. Each morning by six, they were on the road. Snow through much of Minnesota and Iowa had made traveling slow and stressful. Supper with the Schrocks had gone smoothly enough. There was so much commotion in the house with preparations for Mark’s wedding, the baby, and visiting relatives that little focus seemed to be on him. He had been both relieved and disillusioned. Had he expected more?
When Daniel had presented the family with the furniture Daniel had crafted without saying they were from the both of them, including the stuffed animals Aiden had filled Gretchen’s toy chest with, Aiden had flinched. Already he felt pushed into the background, like the bare-limbed elms and hickories of the harsh winter landscape.
One concession was Samuel. He’d seemed sincerely repentant for having tossed Aiden out of Henry last year. Aiden was glad they’d put past unpleasantness aside, at least tacitly. Maybe the Amish do have a sense of forgiveness others lacked, Aiden considered. He tried to gather contentment from that thought while he unpacked in silence.
He wanted to mention his musings to Daniel but decided not to. Daniel’s brusque expression suggested he carried his own worrisome notions on his shoulders. Instead, Aiden edged behind Daniel while he hung his Sunday Amish suit in a closet.
Daniel’s muscles twitched under Aiden’s kneading fingers. Daniel relaxed and roved around his neck. Aiden hoped massaging him would assuage any hurt between them. “How’s that?”
“Feels good,” Daniel said.
Aiden walked his fingers down the side of Daniel’s neck and reached his hand over Daniel’s shirt, the one Aiden had bought for his birthday in August, and began unfastening the buttons. Daniel’s firm pectoral muscles twitched. He caressed his rippling abdominal muscles, naturally built from years of manual labor. He stood up on his toes and swiped his tongue across Daniel’s ear.
“Best be careful, people might hear,” Daniel said. “I got relatives staying here.”
“No one will hear behind these old sturdy walls.”
“Sill not proper, not here.”
Aiden sighed. “You know, Daniel, I don’t like hiding things.”
“Hiding?” Daniel nudged Aiden’s hand from his chest, sat on the edge of the twin bed he had claimed, and rebuttoned his shirt. “What are we hiding?”
“We’re hiding who we are.”
“Aiden, not that again.”
“I know how hard coming out to your family would be. But how fair is it to pretend, to either of us, to go on hiding like this? How long will we have to do it?”
“You act like you’re the only one who never hides things.” Daniel lay back on his bed and eyed Aiden. “You’re not always so open.”
Aiden plopped down on the quilt beside him. “What do you mean? When have I ever hidden anything?”
“What about those threatening messages you got last year when you still lived in Henry?” Daniel said. “You never told me anything about those until after we ran into each other in Glacier. You kept that from me for how long?”
Aiden rolled to his back and stared at the ceiling. He’d been leery when he’d first told Daniel about those threats. Shortly after Aiden had saved the Schrocks from the drunk driver, he had accepted a position with The Henry Blade, the town’s only newspaper. While there, he uncovered the suicide of a seventeen-year-old Amish youth from eight years before, Daniel’s second cousin, Kyle Yoder. His subsequent investigation into the unusual death led Aiden to believe he had been murdered. Pressure from his boss about the investigation forced Aiden to resign from the newspaper. But not before he received three mysterious threats. He guessed the threats most likely stemmed from his investigation into Kyle’s death. Either that or someone in the community suspected Aiden of being gay and resented him.
After their unexpected encounter at Glacier National Park in June, Aiden had shown Daniel the stored pictures of the threats he’d taken with his digital camera. The pumpkin someone had smashed against his bungalow and the message someone had spray painted in red block lettering on his front door: GET OUT OF TOWN. And there was the note someone had left in his mailbox with the same threatening message as the one on his door, punctuated with the homophobic, although archaic, name-calling “to the Sodomite.”
In typical Amish fashion, Daniel had remained impassive while he examined the photos. When he finished, he handed Aiden the camera without a word. But the mechanisms in Daniel’s mind were churning. His temples crinkled with thick, twine-like veins, his eyebrows fused together. And the incessant beard-tugging. Ultimately, he seemed to want to forget Aiden had ever mentioned it; bury another ugly reality under a mound of dirt.
And in that case, Aiden agreed.
“Totally different situation,” Aiden said, leaning on his elbow to stare at Daniel’s terse face. “We weren’t even together then. Besides, you already had enough burdens with me digging up Kyle’s death. I decided to show you those stupid threats so many months later because… well, I didn’t want any secrets between us. There wasn’t anything you could’ve done about it anyway.”
Daniel glared at Aiden. “There was a lot I coulda done.” He pushed himself off the bed and, grabbing a handful of bedclothes from the dresser, marched into the bathroom.


Shelter Somerset enjoys writing about the lives of people who live off the land, whether they be the Amish, nineteenth-century pioneers, or modern-day idealists seeking to live apart from the crowd. Shelter’s fascination with the rustic, aesthetic lifestyle began as a child with family camping trips into the Blue Ridge Mountains. When not back home in Illinois writing, Shelter continues to explore America’s expansive backcountry and rural communities. Shelter’s philosophy is best summed up by the actor John Wayne: "Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway."

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Tia Fielding and By Any Other Name

When I was sixteen, our local, tiny writers’ ”club” had this end of the summer event. There were a couple of less known writers there for workshops, and I was the only member under 30 to attend.  The local paper ran an article about the event, and of course I was the curiosity who got interviewed right after the organizers. My mom still has the clipping somewhere. Me, looking awfully uncomfortable and young, trying to look good for the camera.

The gist of my little interview was “I want to write a novel one day. Just to get one published is my ultimate dream.” and now, about fifteen years later, I’ve finally done it.

By Any Other Name came to be in a way that surprised me. I had this vague idea, but from the beginning I decided that I wouldn’t just write it. No, I’d plan it carefully (totally unlike me by the way, I never plan a thing, instead I just do…) and use November to write it, because some writer friends were doing National Novel Writing Month and well, I’d wanted to attend it for a couple of years.

I ended up making notes and whining and making more notes for better part of three months before November finally came. By the time I was able to start writing, the story poured out of me, and I had 50 thousand words to win in NaNoWriMo in 14 days.

Later on, during the editing process, I added plenty to it, but that was after my publisher asked me if I wanted it to be a novel, because as it was, Dreamspinner Press’ novels are over 60k words long. I jumped to it, and finally, a little more than nine months later my baby, By Any Other Name, was born.

My original idea was to write the sequel to BAON this year during NaNoWriMo, but I’m going to write something else instead. There is a sequel in my head though, I just need to fish it out, eventually.

BAON is basically a story about love, friendship and the healing process. I didn’t want it to be too heavy or concentrate on the abuse Skye suffers. There needed to be hope, and I wanted to show a person who is almost healed, who just needs the final nudge. That was where Thom and Dru came in.

I wanted to write a ménage, because I enjoy reading them myself, but I didn’t want there to be instant solutions or instant sex. Those I had read enough in my foray into finding good M/M/M-fiction. I hope By Any Other Name delivers a good story, likeable characters who seem real, who are confused and insecure at times. As humans, we all go through insecurity, even when it comes to the person we just know is the one for us, if we’ve been lucky enough to find them.

Maybe the message of BAON should be that love doesn’t heal you, but it does give a bloody good nudge to the right direction?


Dru and Thom have been together for three years, and despite Thom’s occasional bouts of insecurity and Dru’s fear of rejection, their relationship is rock solid. Then Dru’s long-lost friend, Skye, suddenly reappears, shocking them both. Skye suffered years of inconceivable abuse before escaping it, and while he’s back on track, he has nowhere else to go as he begins to rebuild his life. 

Dru, Thom, and Skye each want to belong somewhere, to belong with someone—or someones—with no fear of being hurt, set aside, or left behind. It’s a challenge with daunting odds, especially for Skye, who’s never loved before. He’s determined not to come between his two friends who so clearly belong together, and it will be up to Dru and Thom to conquer their fears and convince Skye to stay.

Funny thing, how life turned out. He had never really thought about the whole cycle of things, but it was there. He had left Rowan Falls and Dru, and now he was going back to some fifty miles from Rowan Falls and to Dru. He hadn’t been sure about going back at all. Hell, who knew what Dru would think about him and how he had just vanished? Maybe he had been torn and hated Skye for leaving like that? Maybe he had felt betrayed?

The train of thought led Skye to berate himself; who knew if Dru even cared after the initial disappointment? 
Or maybe he had been happy to get rid of the poor kid who always hung around him? Why would he do this, except out of charity? He wouldn’t, not when he had a new life and all. Skye had gone online too, to do some research of his own on Doctor Al’s computer. Dru had a business that seemed to be doing well, or so 

Al had said after gathering information online. He also had a boyfriend. Or a partner—that was probably the right word for what that Thomas person was. Not only would Skye be living with Dru but with this Thomas, whom he had never met. The thought made his heart skip a beat and his breath catch in his throat.

“Skye, you ready?” one of the nurses, Tim, asked from the doorway of Skye’s room.

“Yeah, I am,” Skye said, clearing his throat as he glanced around and grabbed his duffle bag from the bed.

“They want you in the cafeteria.” Tim grinned, and Skye rolled his eyes. Whenever someone was released from Haven because they were doing well and going home or wherever, there was a little party. The other nutjobs would say nice things about the one leaving, and there would be cake. No balloons, though, not after Mr. Skittles had gone nuts and run into a wall the year before, when Melinda was released. Damn, that man was crazy—and apparently had a fear of balloons. Reminded him of clowns. Coulrophobia was something not to laugh at. Even the thought of that made Skye snort.

When Tim looked at him inquisitively, he mouthed “clowns” and made the nurse chuckle too. They had had this conversation before. It wasn’t clowns or balloons Skye was afraid of. His fears had to do with darkness, basements, small spaces, being confined, and anything overly religious in the Christian way. It made him want to puke, run, and faint in no particular order.


Tia Fielding lives in a peaceful little town in a small country in northern Europe. She loves nature, her horses, cats, and even the yappy little thing that occasionally gets called a dog. Tia learned to read before she went to school at the age six and began writing as soon as she figured she had stories to tell around the mature age of seven. Stories about horses, adventures, and ghosts might have turned into hot GLBTQ-romance, but she still has a wicked imagination and, hopefully, more stories to tell.

Visit her at and by Twitter @tiafielding.

Published stories: 

By Any Other Name (M/M/M-novel, contemporary) (ebook)
Auld Lang Syne (M/M-novella, contemporary, cowboys)
Unwind (M/M-short story, contemporary)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Charlie Cochrane's All Lessons Learned

To understand how I came to write All Lessons Learned you have to understand how I came to write the Cambridge Fellows series (of which this is the eighth book). I’m a huge fan of the classic detective novel (Agatha Christie and the like) and it’s always frustrated me that there weren’t a pair of gay detectives solving those cosy crimes. After reading Death at the President’s Lodging (which has got one or two really ‘slashy’ scenes) I became inspired to write my own.

I had an era I loved (the Edwardian, when many of my favourite authors like Conan Doyle were writing) and a setting (Cambridge, my university) and the rest just followed. It wasn’t hard to create a couple of contrasting Edwardian gentlemen, both of them bright, handsome and keen to put their brains to solving mysteries. And a single sex, ivy clad Cambridge college was an ideal place for a pair of male lovers to hide their relationship, one which started in “Lessons in Love”.

The series grew, the mysteries multiplied, but at the back of my mind there was always a little warning note. 1914 isn’t far away. And right from the start of publication I had anxious readers asking what would happen to Jonty and Orlando during WWI. I even had a list from my 18 year old daughter of all the ways they could avoid having to fight, such as working in Room 40 with the intelligence services. I had to bite the bullet, shift the story sequence forward a few years and tackle the problem.

That didn’t become any easier as I tackled the research. I get bored with history books, so I go for primary/close secondary sources. Recollections from old soldiers, collections of letters, photographs, poetry from the era; the more I read the more my heart broke at the thought of the waste of young lives. (Don’t get me started on Wilfred Owen or I’ll start blubbing.) Somehow I had to reflect that in All Lessons Learned, without making it so realistic that my readers were horrified or so sad that they felt betrayed.

Writing the book was always a bit of a tightrope act, balancing the needs of the story with the historical background and weighing up just how far I could go and still deliver a happy ending. Even then I had to give a “three hankie” warning to go with the publicity, alongside a reassurance that readers had to trust me.

I felt so relieved when the book was done. Now I can go back and fill in some of the gaps in the Jonty and Orlando timeline, although I haven’t written WWI out of my system. I’ve done a novella and a short story since then, both with a Great War theme and I’m sure I’ll return to it. How could I resist its siren (bugle!) call?


The Great War is over. Freed from a prisoner of war camp and back at St. Bride’s College, Orlando Coppersmith is discovering what those years have cost. All he holds dear—including his beloved Jonty Stewart, lost in combat.

A commission to investigate a young officer’s disappearance gives Orlando new direction…temporarily. The deceptively simple case becomes a maze of conflicting stories—is Daniel McNeil a deserter, or a hero?—taking Orlando into the world of the shell-shocked and broken. And his sense of Jonty’s absence becomes painfully acute. Especially when a brief spark of attraction for a Cambridge historian, instead of offering comfort, triggers overwhelming guilt.

As he hovers on the brink of despair, a chance encounter on the French seafront at Cabourg brings new hope and unexpected joy. But the crushing aftereffects of war could destroy his second chance, leaving him more lost and alone than ever…

Buy link: (e-book February 2011, print January 2012)


Orlando took a final tour around the garden before settling down in his study with the McNeil case. Spring was in full bloom, the late-flowering cherry a mass of sumptuous pink blossoms and the tulips still a mass of colour. The daffodils had gone, no longer standing proudly like trumpeters waiting to give the last post, but one or two late narcissi could still be found if you tried hard enough. He’d not yet got the bulbs planted in Jonty’s patch—that was a job for later this year—but there were plenty of buds on the shrubs. It would be fine, given a bit of time.

Orlando started reading Mrs. McNeil’s notes, a disconnected narrative of Daniel’s service history, interspersed with recollections of how much her son had loved France as a child, but he was unable to concentrate on them. His eye kept straying to the little writing desk, the one which had been his grandmother’s and which had been privy to all her secrets, given her habit of hiding important letters in a concealed drawer. Now it kept all the correspondence he’d had from Jonty when they’d been apart.

They’d always known, of course, from the moment that war was declared that things had changed somehow, even if the early part of the war saw only their relocation to London. They’d lived with the Stewarts and life had been much the same as when they’d been in Cambridge, except for the lack of dunderheads. When they’d put their names down to fight, that change had become more marked, given the increased chance of one of them not returning. From that moment, even though they were still together in training, Jonty had written to him every week.

He opened the little desk and took out the precious contents.

What do they use to make these uniforms? Scouring pads?

Orlando had often tried to figure out how Jonty had managed to get away with some of the comments he’d smuggled past the censors. Some of the letters had evaded other eyes entirely, delivered by hand or left under pillows.

Do you remember how you said you’d have liked to serve under the old King George, fighting Napoleon on land or sea? We have a new King George now and you’re to have your wish.

Their eventual parting had been so painful, preceded as it was by snatched nights of shared passion and tender longeurs—giving and receiving each other’s bodies, lying in one another’s arms without speaking, reacquainting themselves with every inch of each other, lest they be parted. Lest they might then forget. The last meeting, on a crowded railway station, had been almost wordless, from both necessity of discretion and aching in their hearts. They had shaken hands, exchanged notes and gone off into the smoky night. And each note had been almost identical.

I love you. Do not forget me. Love again if I don’t return.

Author bio:  

As Charlie Cochrane couldn't be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice—like managing a rugby team—she writes. Her favourite genre is gay fiction, predominantly historical romances/mysteries. She lives near Romsey but has yet to use that as a setting for her stories, choosing to write about Cambridge, Bath, London and the Channel Islands.
A member of the Romantic Novelists’  Association, and International Thriller Writers Inc, Charlie's Cambridge Fellows Series, set in Edwardian England, was instrumental in her being named Author of the Year 2009 by the review site Speak Its Name.