Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Guest Blogger ~ Jason Edding, a new star!

JB: I'd like to thank ManLoveRomance Press debut author Jason Edding for joining me at The Sweet Flag today. Jason is the author of Dark Robe Heart: Dark Robe Society 1 part of the two author anthology, Space Escapes with Angela Fiddler. So, Jason, first, let's get the nittygritty out of the way, tell us a little about yourself.

JE: Thank you Jeanne for having me today. I was born in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. My family is fairly large. I have nine brothers and sisters, and while we still lived on the Cape, we had a virtual farm of animals living with us. Cats, dogs, a skunk, rabbits, a snake, a turtle and I'm not sure, but possibly one or two other wild animals. I was too young to remember all of these critters, because when I was four we moved to Maine. I started reading when I was pretty young and we moved around a lot, so books became very important to me.

JB: Can you tell us about the premise of your story? Since the title says Dark Robe Heart: Dark Robe Society 1 I'd suspect we'll be seeing another story in the series. Will this be a stand alone or do you envision doing it as another novella with one of MLR Press's wonderful cadre of authors?
JE: Jack Harrow is a clone who has escaped to find his own life. At first he thinks all he wants is to get away from it, but he realizes he wants to destroy the Dark Robe Society and end their total domination of the world. They are the world leaders. They control the military, and in fact there is nothing they don't control. He meets Edge Fland who has been sent to kill him and return with something Jack has that the Dark Robes want.
Yes, Dark Robe Heart is book one. When this story came to me, I envisioned a huge world and I keep telling a friend of mine, 'this story could go on forever.' I am currently working on the sequel. The title is Dark Robe Edges and will have not only Jack and Edge returning, but two new heroes: Alton Tees and Toren Mir. This story will tell how they go against the Dark Robes and their leader, the Hierarch Ernst Venderhem... As of yet whether it will be a novella or stand alone is up in the air. LOL

JB: Do you think you might incorporate your love of cats in your stories? I know this might sound a bit weird, but when we got our little kitties earlier this year, I wound up putting a cat in a sequel I was working on.
JE: I have another story on the back burner involving vampires and a young book collector, who just so happens to have a cat who has the same name as my kitty, so yes, I have every intention of having lots of cats in my stories. I have to plug them now and then. LOL

JB: Did you find your love of astronomy made it easier to write a story that takes place in space?

JE: I found that my love of astronomy spurred me on to write sci-fi. I have countless astronomy books and I'm always searching for more information. The universe is so vast and we'll never know it all. I've found the Hubble images of the universe to be thought provoking. And every time astronomers find a new planet out there, it's exciting! So, to answer your question, yes, it certainly helped me write.

JB: An author can choose the genres in which they write. What led you to write not only a sci/fi story, but one with gay characters?
JE: Hmm, writing sci-fi and gay romance. Well, I've always found it fun and interesting to write gay erotica. To write a love story between two men is something I've always wanted to do. To have them in a sci-fi, space, futuristic environment at the same time is just icing on the cake. Besides, it's really so much fun to create the passion.

JB: What's on the horizon for you? Will you be doing any stories not in the Dark Robe world?
JE: On my horizons. Well, I have the vampire novella/novel that I'm working on from time to time, and I've got an idea for a totally new sci-fi story that may or may not take place on the planet Saturn. I've always wanted to write a fantasy novel, but no plans for one yet. Those won't be in the Dark Robe world. However, in my mind, the Dark Robe world may be here for a long, long time.

JB: Now for something totally frivolous: What are your favorite scifi shows or films and if you could, what two heroes do you think would make a hot couple?
JE: Favorite tv shows? Hmm, I love Battlestar Galactica. I mean, I froth over it. The new version. Omg, what a fantastic show! Also I watch M*A*S*H five days a week. My mom and I would watch it together, and she has passed away. It's one of my ways of remembering her and her laughter. Two heroes that would make a hot couple... oh boy. Han Solo and Luke Skywalker. LOL That's my dream couple. I'd love to know what readers think.
Thank you Jeanne, this has been a great time for me.

JB: You're quite welcome. I always love having guys visit The Sweet Flag!
Jack shrugged. "When one show stops, another begins soon after."
"Shit, I'm living in here." Edge guzzled his liquor, until only half still remained.
"I found a contact with the information we need," Jack told him, fingering his bottle.
Edge leaned close. "Yeah? Where?" He looked around the dim joint.
"The owner. Don't worry about that part, the less you know for now, the better," Jack replied quickly.
Edge smiled at Jack and shrugged. "Too many secrets spoil the fun, Jack."
Jack placed his hand on Edge's. "I'm glad you liked the show, because they've already picked the next two guys to fuck."
Edge clanked his bottle against Jack's. "Good, I'm not even close to being satisfied. That young guy had a hot cock and a sweet ass; I'm surprised he's down here." He threw his head back and stretched to the ceiling. "Hot ass...wonder if I could get him out of here and to our bed."
Jack nodded slowly. "That young guy has probably been bought and sold more times than you've pissed on the ground," Jack told him. Edge had told him he liked to be one with nature, back on Earth. Jack had wished he had been there to see it, but hearing it was the next best thing.
"Good, there'll be a new show soon." Then he added, "Part of the deal I made was that the next two men to go into that cubicle to fuck will be you and me." Jack grinned, but he was frowning behind the mask.
"What?" Edge's mouth dropped open and he let his bottle drop, spilling half of its contents across the table and his lap.

Copyright 2008 Jason Edding

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Jules Jones ~ The British are coming!

Morning (or evening) to everyone, and thanks to Jeanne for inviting me. Jeanne's suggested that I talk about some of my stories, so I thought I'd do a slightly different version of that old favourite, "where do you get your ideas from?" But if anyone's got general questions or comments about any of my books and stories, go ahead.

I write cross-genre romance, and while I'm published by a romance house (Loose Id), I started on the science fiction and fantasy side. I've been a speculative fiction reader since I was old enough to read, but I got started writing fiction about twelve years ago, when I discovered fanfiction -- specifically, fanfiction for an old sf show on the BBC. It was dark and political and had some fascinating characters and world-building, and it left a lot of loose threads waiting to be picked up by fan writers who wanted to explore that world.
When I started getting ideas for stories with original characters, they were by and large speculative fiction -- science fiction and fantasy. But they were speculative fiction about relationships between people, stories that reflected some of the books I'd loved best as a reader. Not always romantic or sexual relationships, but very much about people learning to make things work between them. So it's not a surprise that the first stories I sold were cross-genre erotic romance, and that's continued to be a strong strand in my output. But as I keep writing, I keep exploring different aspects of my chosen genres. Each book is a learning experience, a chance to develop new skills and techniques.
My books range across a variety of styles of SF&F. The Syndicate, my first full-length book (and Loose Id's first m/m title) is slapstick comedy about geeks in space. It's silly, over the top, and was enormous fun to write. It's also, in the third book in the series, a gay inspirational romance. At the time Alex and I wrote volume 3, theAnglican communion was having a family fight over the acceptance of gay church members, and I wanted to show a future where it was no longer an issue. So there are a lot of anachronistic jokes about potential culture clashes at a mixed Anglican-Methodist wedding, and not a mention of the fact that it's two men getting married.
The Buildup series, Mindscan and Pulling Strings (and maybe one day I'll break the writer's block on the third book) is dark space opera with strong political undertones. It's essentially looking at some of the same themes that attracted me to writing in the first place, only with my own characters and stories rather than with someone else's universe. And, of course, a romantic couple in each book who manage to win their way to an ending that's at least happy for now, with hopefor the future.

I had a change of pace and shift of genre with the Spindrift stories.These books are fantasy, a reworking of British and Irish mythology in a modern setting. I took the legend of the silkies, the fairy people who live as seals but can shed their sealskin to appear human, and wrote a story of silkies in the present day -- a people who are dying out as the magic fades away, but who remain yet, hidden amongst human friends in a Scottish fishing village.

One of the staples of silkie mythology is the silkie woman whose skin is stolen so that she cannot return to seal form, forcing her to remain on land as wife to a human man. But my stranded silkie is a man, his skin stolen in mistake for his sister's, in a community where such theft has not been known in generations; and the refuge he finds while his friends look for his lost skin is with another man, a stranger to the village who finds himself trusted with its greatest secret. On the surface it's lighter in tone than Buildup and much more slice-of-life, and there's a much more unequivocal HEA ending for the central couple, but it's also a look at the problems faced by people who want or need to live in two worlds. You can see a more detailed discussion of where this and some similarly themed short stories came from in a blog post I wrote to answer a piece of fanmail: http://julesjones.livejournal.com/273475.html

I stayed with shapeshifters in a contemporary world when I wrote my next book, Dolphin Dreams, but this was another development in my writing range -- it was the first time I wrote a menage a trois romance. That was an interesting thing to handle, as I needed to develop a balanced relationship where nobody felt like a spare part brought in to make up the numbers. Writing it was also interesting from another perspective, as when I started researching real dolphin biology and social behaviour to do my world-building, I found a lot of nifty stuff that fitted neatly into how I wanted the story to go. Sometimes you get lucky this way, and your research gives you even more ideas for the book.
And after that I moved out of sf&F altogether, with my take on that classic romance plot, the tycoon/secretary. In Lord and Master, my tycoon and secretary are both openly gay men, and with more in common than their gender and sexual orientation. What separates them is a gap in age and experience, the tycoon a self-made millionaire in his forties who's built up his own engineering consultancy firm, his secretary the newly-qualified young scientist he's just hired as his research assistant -- a man much like himself twenty years earlier.

This started as a very short erotica story about a young man who got involved in a friends-with-benefits affair with his older boss, but then fell in love and has no idea if his feelings are reciprocated. But as sometimes happens, I then wanted to write more about the characters -- how they got into that situation, and what happened next. And in the two years the story had been in submission to various anthologies, the UK Civil Partnership legislation had passed through parliament. That was an interesting plot hook to base the story around, all by itself. But I wanted something more for the conflict in the story, and so as I developed the book, something else crept in -- the downside to the creativity that had made Steven successful in business...

The next completely new book I work on will be an urban fantasy. It started as so many of my stories have -- a single scene, a sudden mental image of characters doing something, and the need to know how they got there and what happened next. In this case, a protagonist who has befriended a local homeless man is asked to help a mutual acquaintance who has been badly beaten -- and discovers that the reason they've asked him for help rather than going to the police is that there are dragonfly wings under that long shapeless coat the man always wears. _Someone_ has collared and bound a fairy, in 21st century inner London. I've got about 15,000 words so far, although I set it aside for a while to work on more material in the Lord and Master series.
And that's the theme that runs through much of my writing. It covers a broad range of sub-genres, and more than one genre, but it's largely character-driven. One of my sf writer friends says that writing is chasing your characters up a tree and throwing rocks at them to see what they do -- and that does describe a lot of my writing. I hope it's as interesting to read as it is to write.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

World-Building in Speculative Fiction - Astrid Amara

We're waving the Flag today for Astrid Amara

What is it that excites readers about speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, horror)? Is it the sense of escapism into a world that is almost like ours, some place familiar and yet different enough to awaken the dormant explorer within us? Is it the expression of imagination, striving to define not only characters, but the very nature of the society in which they live? Or is it an opportunity to derive meaning through metaphor?

As a reader, I am most enchanted with spec fiction that takes me to a unique alternate universe - a place where the basic rules are different. Where the devils of hell won the battle in heaven. Or where the machines are run by biological components instead of the other way around. Or where the glittering future of space is sooty and tarnished with the messy detritus of our industrial past.

As a writer, I strive to create realistic worlds that are similar enough to our own that I can feel comfortable in them, and yet with enough difference to transport me outside my own realities. In Intimate Traitors, I visualized a plausible future of nanotechnology, oppressive governmental regime, and computers embedded in end-users to present a world that seemed plausible and yet foreign.

Similarly, in A Policy of Lies, I took trends in computer development and transported this to a satellite in space, complete with mining moons, all-powerful corporate oversight, and a futuristic insurance agency where if you sign a life insurance policy, the company literally owns your life.

Both of these are exaggerations of modern realism. It is world-building on a small scale. Nearly real, but different enough to add a challenge as a writer to create more than just plot and character – to create society, and cityscape, and political structure.

But it was with my fantasy novel The Archer's Heart that I had the most fun, creating a complete universe from scratch. Although based heavily on Indian epic tradition, I created a world and a society where caste defines all, where mystic powers are wielded by the nobility, and immortal demons themselves are transformed by the power of words into weapons of mass destruction.

In fantasy, the setting must become one with the story itself, and therefore, if the world-building is dull, then the story itself suffers. The two should build off each other, enhancing the quality of the character's journey until even the oddest settings become the only settings that story can take place in.

In my latest release, Hell Cop, I worked with two talented authors, Nicole Kimberling and Ginn Hale, and together we created three novellas that interact in the same alternate world. This gritty urban setting has a sorcerer-elite class, demons whose parts run their technology, and whose psychic powers can unravel mysteries. This was a great experiment in world-building; can three different authors make up a new universe and have all the rules apply equally? I think we pulled it off, and had a lot of fun doing so!

When I'm writing, I constantly ask myself the question: has this been done before? Because I want something fresh if I'm going into another world. And then I ask, am I faithful to the realism of my own world? Because nothing takes a reader out of the story faster than breaking one's own rules within the setting.

And the beauty of world-building a story with the author's unique mark is that it can be so much more than mere setting. It is the metaphorical power of fantasy and science fiction that allows for a world to be twisted around the character's experience, and serve as allegory for the theme of the story as a whole.

In realism, we see a person react to specific circumstance and illustrates the economic, political, and social conditions of our world today.

But since so much of fantasy is archetype-based, readers get more than just plot; they get a psychological journey, and an opportunity to question universals. It represents more than just one person, but what it is to be human, and the vivid, raw truth of what it means to live and breathe, fall in love and fight for one's dreams.

Wow. I didn't even mention that all my stories involve hardcore anal sex, did I?

Heh. But they do that as well. And again, that's the beauty of speculative fiction – if you're going to write an anal sex scene… why not put it on the moon? Oh the glories of fiction!

So there's my rant, but monologues are boring. What do you think? What is it that you enjoy most about stories set in alternate universes? When is some fabrication too much? And what are the worlds that stick in your mind as real places, as real as the emotions, the situations, and the characters themselves? I'd love to hear from you!

And I would be remiss if I didn't now thank Jeanne for the honor of being a guest blogger! Thank you so much.

About Astrid Amara
Astrid is the author of four science fiction/fantasy novels, all with gay protagonists:
Intimate Traitors
Hell Cop
(all available through Loose Id);

The Archer's Heart available through Blind Eye Books
She is also the author of two short stories in the gay fantasy anthology, Tangle, also available through Blind Eye Books.

Check out her website at: http://www.astridamara.com/ and help her Porn for Ponies campaign! That's right – every porn-y novel you buy puts more money in her savings to rescue an old, decrepit, bite-y pony!
Astrid's blog: http://astridamara.livejournal.com/

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Guest Blogger Treva Harte ~ Multi-talented Multi-tasker

I know it says Tuesday, but I wanted to make sure that we got an early start!

I'd like to welcome Treva Harte, Editor-in-Chief and one of TPTB at Loose Id and author of award winning m/m romance and other erotic romances with a paranormal twist.

Treva Harte lives near a city with many, many attorneys. Thanks to Loose Id and her writing, she can be a recovering attorney and now spends her time writing, editing, raising adolescents, taking care of an elderly mother and dealing with a hyperactive husband (who says he's just very energetic). She is also co-owner and Editor-in-Chief of the e-publishing company
Loose Id.
She and her husband both like writing in whatever time they have left, so they often fight over—sorry, since he is still a practicing attorney they NEGOTIATE—keyboard time. No wonder Treva’s particular brand of sensual romance is a bit offbeat and usually mixed with fantasy.
Treva is multi-published with several e-publishers in print and e-book, a member of RWA, WRW and PAN, and winner of the CAPA 2003 award in the “Erotic Fantasy Romance” category.

JB: First, thanks so much for taking time out from what must be an insane schedule to join me here. That leads straight into my first question: As EiC and owner of a large and growing e-book publisher, what made you decide to continue writing and how the heck do you manage to do all this?

TH: And thank you for letting me have this interview. My writing is what keeps me hovering on the fine line that separates the sane from insane. Or if it hasn’t, no one has dared to tell me yet. When all else fails in my life I go and create another world and let out the problems in a hopefully creative way.

How do I manage all this? Um, mostly if I don’t think about how much I do, things go much better. Until February of this year I was working my law job, writing and being EiC along with taking care of the family—and they require much maintenance. I can juggle a lot but I really was pretty much at the end of my rope…or maybe out of balls, if we want to keep the original cliché going and add a nasty innuendo. In comparison my life is now easy. I can allow myself a half hour walk every day to keep me going. This is luxury.

Mostly I just sit down every morning, figure out what needs to be done, when it needs to be done and then do it. If an emergency hits or there is too much, then whatever I can’t do waits until the next day. And if it slips my mind, I have people who can whack me and remind me I forgot to do something. Really, how else can you do anything?
JB: Although you have written other erotic genres, most of your books involve LGBT relationships and your most popular series involves werewolves. Why LGBT in particular and why paranormal?

TH: To be honest, I have only one story that is purely LGBT and that was a very short story called Hunted Down in my Alpha werewolf series. My other recent stories tend to have many pairings and relationships between many characters, including between men, a man and a woman, men and a woman, weres and non-weres…

Paranormal frees me to look at human relationships in different ways. Ditto LGBT. I’m always interested in the conflict within what is or what will become a loving relationship and using the two elements you mention certainly can change how you look at the nature of the conflict. Besides, it’s kinda hot.

JB: I always hate being asked the question who is your favorite hero or heroine in your books, so let me rephrase the question : Briefly, what do you like most about each of your heroes?

TH: Hmmmm. Someone once told me what my heroines are like and I was fine with that. Now I’m trying to think of what characteristics all my heroes have so I can figure out what I like about them.

I think most recently what I like about them is that they have very strong emotions that they don’t necessarily talk about but they learn to deal with as the story progresses.

JB: Putting your publisher's hat on, do you see any genre's popularity dying? And any guess for the next flavor of the month?

I’d have to talk purely as an epublisher because I can guess at what mainstream print publishers are struggling with and those tend not to be our issues.

High fantasy may not be losing popularity but it tends to not do well at Loose Id. I have some ideas about what stories may become more popular now that the economy is tough, but I eagerly await whatever the next hot trend will be. I do think that readers dealing harder times will be looking for different books than when things were good – whether that means escape fantasies a la Depression-era movies or more true-to-life stories with a HEA or something else.

If I really knew what would be popular next I would be making a ton more money than I do now. Loose Id is going to be open to changes in reader expectations.

JB: Are you working on any more werewolf stories right now?

TH: Indeed. I have another WIP to follow up on my last story. It’s tentatively titled Heal. However I may need to take a break from that because I’m discussing doing a story as part of another series for early next year. It will probably have nothing to do with weres and would likely be a contemporary.

JB: Are all your stories with Loose Id?

TH: No. I have two other publishers (thanks, Changeling Press and Liquid Silver Books!) I am currently with and I was published elsewhere before Loose Id came on the scene.

JB: Anything more you'd like to share with us?

TH: If you want to read about what I’m talking about in epublishing you can check with the blog I have with Margaret Riley of Changeling Press called Loose Change:

If you want to know what I am doing with my writing you can check my newsletter:

And I’ll be hanging out at Gaylaxicon in Bethesda next weekend. Several Loose Id authors will be there so if you are, too, be sure to say hello.