And the Winner is…

Thanks to everyone who entered to win a copy of Blaine D. Arden’s bookThe Forester.

The winner is… KASSANDRA!

Congratulations to Kassandra! You will be contacted soon with your e-book!

I hope everyone has a great holiday:)

*Hugs*

Gabbi

Enter to Win a Copy of The Forester by Blaine D. Arden!!!

Hello Friends!

The fabulous Blaine D. Arden is graciously throwing a contest just for Top2Bottom readers! She’s giving away a copy of her book, The Forester! All you have to do to enter the contest is leave a comment and you’ll be automatically entered to win! The contest will run until Midnight tonight.

Here is more information about The Forester:

Kelnaht, a cloud elf, is a truth seeker caught between love and faith. Worse, a murder committed ten days before Solstice reveals an illicit affair between two tree elves he desires more than he can admit: Kelnaht’s former lover Ianys, who once betrayed him, and the shunned forester named Taruif, who is not allowed to talk to anyone but The Guide, their spiritual pathfinder. When Taruif turns out to be the only witness for the crime, Kelnaht has to keep Ianys from sacrificing himself and losing his daughter, while at the same time realising he’d gladly sacrifice himself to end Taruif’s loneliness.

Good luck to everyone who enters!

*Hugs*

Gabbi

Back to the Drawing Board by Blaine D. Arden

A while back, I thought I had a great idea for a story. I fell in love with a purple faerie called Wisc—Wiscojoiathéo, actually, which translates into ‘beneath the blueberry bushes’ and is a hint as to where he was conceived—and I couldn’t wait to write his story. A couple of days later, I had a full background for him. From his large family—complete with overbearing mother—to his love for designing, and his obsession with human technology. He was about to spread his wings—yes, wings—and discover a whole new world filled with humans and their precious technology. First part done, right?

The story was supposed to be a fantasy suspense, meaning something bad was going to happen to Wisc, and he would be in danger for most of the story. I was imagining scraped knees, bruised wrists, torn clothing, and a creepy guy who had it in for him. Oh, and a possible love interest in the form of some agent who’d save him, or help him save himself—he might be a bit on the innocent side and helpless at times, but he wasn’t going to be a damsel in distress.

I had plenty to write about, I thought, and chapter one was soon done. The basic story was set. He got lost, ran into creepy guy, and spent most of the chapter running from him, trying to find his way through a city he didn’t know to get back home.

Chapter two, I’d decided, was going to be from the point of view of the possible love interest. More action was involved, because mister agent was trying to find a thief, a spy, before meeting Wisc and falling in love. It all went well, and by the end of the chapter, he’d arrested Wisc—case of mistaken identity—and went home to his boyfriend.

Hold on? Boyfriend? What do you mean boyfriend? Oh, right, that’s not exactly what I called him, I called him a hot fuck. Still… he just met the faerie he was going to fall in love with, and couldn’t wait to go home to have some whoopee time with some hot fuck. Granted, the fuck was hot—at least, I thought so when I wrote it—and so was the bloke—according to Wisc’s possible love interest, also known as Callum.

And that was where the problems started, with a throw-away line at the end of the chapter that led to a hot sex scene at the beginning of Chapter Three. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed writing that sex scene, even if I wondered all through writing it, where the hell the story was going. As it turned out, that was only the beginning, because not even I realised until the almost end of that scene that Callum didn’t have a cock. I’d been so invested in fleshing out Wisc—the character I loved—that I’d left Callum to develop on page during the writing, and not once did it dawn on me that Callum was a transman. Of course, Callum was pretty pleased about passing so well even I hadn’t caught on until he hit me with the clue-bus.

I had to stop writing at that point. Not because the story wasn’t going where I thought I’d been taking it, but because I realised I couldn’t just let Callum develop as I wrote along. I wanted, needed, to know more about him.

And then I fell in love with Callum.

No problem, right? Loving our characters is pretty much a calculated job risk for us writers. A risk I’ve always been more than willing to take. No, the problem was that, suddenly, I found myself pushing Wisc’s story to the background. Don’t get me wrong, I still loved Wisc, but the more Callum revealed himself to me, the more I wanted to tell his story instead of Wisc’s.

After fleshing out Callum, I struggled with the story for a while as I tried to find the right balance between telling both men’s stories. But it didn’t work. As a last resort, I tried restarting chapter one, shuffling the scenes to get a better balance—writing one point of view per chapter obviously isn’t my thing. Still no luck. Not until a light bulb went off and I rewrote chapter one—again—starting the first scene from Callum’s point of view instead of Wisc’s. It still wasn’t smooth sailing, and I kept puttering away, kept changing things around. In the end, I completely deleted Wisc’s point of view scenes, and, slowly, everything fell into place.

My point with all this is that writing is an organic process, and whether a plotter or a pantser, things like this happen. It’s often the little things, like the ‘blind date that won’t go away’ thing that happened in Aliens, Smith and Jones and turned a short story into a novel. Whatever it is that turns our stories upside down, it keeps us writers on our toes. I’ll rant and rave about it when it happens, but it’s what makes writing interesting to me.
As for the hot fuck… he’s a bit of a slut who can’t bear being tied down—metaphorically speaking; he’s not opposed to bondage, at all—and he’s still in the story.

~~

Addendum (aka Further Proof that Writing Keeps Evolving):

Between writing this post and its publication, Callum and Wisc have decided to go their separate ways and are now both looking forward to starring in their own stories. The separation has been very amicably settled so far. Wisc took the title, the scenes already written have been split in half, with some overlap, and Wisc has generously granted Callum access to his great-uncle. And Julian? Well, as cute as he thought Wisc was, he wasn’t going anywhere unless he could stay with Callum.

~~

Blaine D. Arden is a purple haired, forty-something writer of gay and trans* romance with a love of men, music, mystery, magic, fairies, platform shoes, and the colours black, purple and red, who sings her way through life.

You can find Blaine at blainedarden.com, Twitter,Facebook, and Goodreads.

YAY! Look who is visiting us! Cornelia Grey

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Thank you for taking some down time and spending it with us. Let’s start this off with a beverage. We have coffee, tea, some sort of juice (I think it’s been in here a few weeks) and soda. What would you like?

Definitely tea. 🙂 I’m a bit of a hoarder when it comes to that. (And mugs. By now, I have to sneak new ones in the house, since my boyfriend keeps threatening to relocate my entire collection out of the window…! ^^) Last week, I came back to Italy from London, and half of my luggage was filled with tea boxes. Ditto when I went to Japan last April! I still have a small box of kelp and plum tea that I dare not taste… sounds quite an odd combination, don’t you think?

tea

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Well, let’s see! I’m a 25-year-old Italian, and I’ve spent the past five years bouncing back and forth between my hometown and London, where I’m currently a PhD student.

Last year, I completed my Creative Writing BA, did a few internships, and now, I split my time between writing, translating, and researching. I quite like constantly moving from the excitement and variety of London to the quiet and stillness of my hometown in the hills.

I studied fine arts for a long time, and I visit art galleries as often as I can (God bless London’s free museums!). I have a soft spot for the Italian Renaissance and will shamelessly drool on anything by Michelangelo, especially his later, rougher works; I also love the expressionists, especially Van Gogh and Egon Schiele, and odd performances and installations like the ones by Yayoy Kusama.

Theatre is another passion of mine; I used to perform in a theatre company, and I run to see performances whenever I can afford it. The latest play I saw was the ‘Tempest’ at the Globe Theatre, and it was absolutely wonderful – it moved seamlessly between touching and bittersweet and insane and hilarious. Plus Colin Morgan, playing Ariel, was just dreamy! 😉

I’m a little random and constantly hopping from one interesting thing to another like a hungry grasshopper. I love pizza and tea, I can’t help petting any animal that crosses my path (and that doesn’t chew my hand off if I try), and, of course, love cats… which I’m sure doesn’t surprise anyone :)!

When you received news that your manuscript had been accepted by Storm Moon Press, what were the first words that fell from your mouth?

Eh eh, actually nothing, because I was at the university’s library and I couldn’t really celebrate out loud. But I may have fist-pumped a little. 😉

What forces brought you over to the GLBT Genre? Do you focus on one part of the QUILTBAG or do you write various identities, expressions, or orientations? What made you want to write what you do?

I never really made a conscious decision to write GLBT fiction – it just happened. It started when I was 13 or so, writing fanfiction, which is a really good training ground to practice writing without yet having to worry about world- and character-building. There was a manga I really liked, and it featured two male characters that had this amazing chemistry and an intriguing past history that were just begging to be explored (they were Kurama and Hiei from Yuu Yuu Hakusho). I remember thinking: ‘if they were a man and a woman, it would be taken for granted that there’s something romantic going on between them. But, just because they’re two guys, it should all be brushed off? That’s not fair!’ So I set about correcting this, and writing myself the love story I wanted to read.

It was several years before I heard the term ‘heteronormativity’ for the first time, and I was able to pinpoint exactly what irked me so much. I get annoyed when, in movies, two guys have the deepest, most complex relationship, and it’s all brushed off – or even worse, made into a joke – because ‘ewww, no homo!’, while the male and female leads can look at each other sideways and, without having a scrap of chemistry or any reason except having the customary combination of genitals, automatically fall in love. There are still too many people who react with completely irrational hatred to relationships other than cis-het monogamy, and I really hope that writing about these can help improve the situation.

Actually, many of my characters are bisexual, even though I think it’s only been obvious in a couple of stories. Sometimes, they are bisexual but, for a series of circumstances, so far have only ever had romantic relationships with men; it’s a situation I’m familiar with and, according to some corners of the internet, it means they don’t have the right to identify as bisexuals. I am aware that there are several issues – such as, for example, bisexual erasure and discrimination – even within the QUILTBAG community, and I hope to explore these themes further in my future works.

Would you care for some cookies? We have chocolate chip, peanut butter, oatmeal with or without raisins and a package of mystery ones. We have cake too. Your choice.

Oooh, cake please! My favourites are the soft spongy ones, without any filling, either lemon or chocolate. My French roommate is a cake fairy and often bakes those. Needless to say, with 7 flatmates, the cakes never last long… 😉

angel food cake

How many hours a day do you spending writing?

That really depends. When I’m on a roll, I can spend five or six hours writing (which is not as good as it sounds, because I also have to work on my PhD and translate in order to pay for, uh, food and stuff, so I can’t devote all my time to writing); and then when I’m stumped, it’s a miracle if I can squeeze an hour of work without interruptions.

I am embarrassed to say that I usually swing like a pendulum on steroids from one extreme to the other, and never really settle on a sane middle ground for long. I am working on it, though, because freelance work and academic research absolutely require better time management skills. In fact, I am testing out a schedule this summer – and if any of you have any tips, by all means go ahead and share! 🙂

Do you write right through or do you revise as you go along?

My first drafts are just this side of unreadable. I’ve discovered that what works best for me is to just get the ideas on the page as fast as possible, otherwise I’m going to lose track of what I wanted to say and stumble to a stop. Plus, it really takes the pressure off: the chance of just getting it out there, knowing that I will be back later to sort everything out, gives me a lot of freedom. So, the first drafts barely have any punctuation, there are typos, repetitions, entire chunks of prose that will be surgically removed later because the complex feeling I wanted to convey can actually be summed up in one more refined sentence; usually the text is part in Italian and part in English, depending on what language I’m thinking in at the moment.

When it comes to plotting, do you write freely or plan everything in advance?

I’m definitely a plot person. I didn’t always use to be, but now, I firmly believe that a solid, balanced structure is the backbone of a good story. I like to sketch down the plot diagram, with the tension growing and growing until it peaks in the climax, and then set out to put in place the key elements: the inciting incident, the turning points, the escalation of disaster, and the final explosive resolution. The first couple of days are devoted to working on the plot to make sure it’s airtight, that every step is logical and the escalation is as urgent as possible – I don’t want any lagging tension!

After that, I like to figure out what the scenes will be and in what order. If I can’t fit them all on a timeline, then I make little cards I can shuffle around as I please. I have rough summaries of what’s going to happen in each scene – this is also the stage where the rough character ideas get fleshed out and I get a clearer sense of who they are.

And that’s when I finally start writing, picking up from whatever scene strikes my fancy and usually working bouncing back and forth – very rarely in chronological order. In fact, usually the very opening scene is the last thing I write! It’s a lot of pressure having to get the hook right to instantly suck the reader into the story, and I don’t want to get stuck on that halfway through the work. 🙂

Of your characters, do you have a favorite and why?

This is a difficult one! I am a bit smitten with all of my characters, each for different reasons. 🙂 A few months ago, I would have answered James Campbell, the bandit from my Bounty Hunter short story (and its upcoming sequel!). It’s probably because I was writing from William Hunt’s – the other character – perspective, and I could clearly see why William was in love with James, and I was a little bit, too.

But, in the sequel, I was writing from James’ perspective, too; and the result is that now I’m a little bit in love with William, instead, and I’d say he’s my favourite. Now I can see him through someone else’s eyes; I see how beautiful he is, I see how hard he tries to carry on and do the right thing no matter how much it pains him, I see him struggle with his decisions, and I love him for it. I love his determination, how strong and reliable he can be, and also how he loses his temper sometimes and takes the occasional wrong turn, but then tries his best to fix things. And I love how he tries to always put James’ choices and freedom first, even though it’s the hardest thing he’s ever done. And he’s all dark and mysterious and rough and handsome, too – which never hurts, right? 🙂

Writers often go on about writer’s block. Do you ever suffer from it, and what measures do you take to get past it?

I suppose so, yes. I guess everybody has their slightly different brand of writer’s block… mine is not a lack of ideas, but rather a sort of paralyzing procrastination that prevents me from getting those ideas on paper. I think it stems a bit from performance anxiety, really! I remember that, back when I was just writing for myself, I used to write smoothly and serenely. Now that I know that editors will look at it, and then readers, and that everyone will expect it to be somewhat better than my last story – now that I’m acutely aware that there is a certain standard I need to achieve… well, gosh, that can be quite intimidating sometimes! (Of course, I get it multiplied by 100x when it comes to academic papers. Somebody break out the chocolate cookies, stat!)

Sometimes, the (very unproductive) response to performance anxiety is to just retreat in one’s shell and keep procrastinating, because until something is actually on paper, there’s always the chance that it will be better, that it will be the best thing ever.
Of course, this is a very bad course of action, because any story actually on paper is better than a story that hasn’t actually been written. And besides, the way to improve is to keep practicing and work through the challenges, not panic and drown in chocolate chips. 😉

So, I don’t really have any magical remedy for it. When I’m sick of my procrastination, I just make myself sit in front of the computer, open the document and just remain there until something gets done. The first paragraphs are torture, and they take ages to complete, since I keep finding excuses to stop and procrastinate some more to escape the stress. But really, it’s just a matter of being stubborn – and after the first bumpy page or so, usually the juices start flowing more freely, the words start pouring on the page and suddenly I can’t remember why I was even so reluctant to get writing in the first place. And that, dear friends, is the best feeling in the world! 🙂

Do you have a particular spot in your house that you call your comfy zone? (The place where you write.)

Not really! I haven’t really had one in a while because of student life – you move around a lot and you always have to share your house/room with other people, and you usually never get to have a decent desk and chair. For a year or so, I was always using the computers at the university library, since I went there with another student and we worked quite well spurring each other on. Then, for a few months I was routinely taking over the couch in the living room at night, and writing with the laptop propped up on a chair. Often I just sit on the bed with four pillows piled behind my back, but then I get the worst muscle pains and I end up crawling around like a turtle for a week. 🙂

Now that I’m back in Italy, living with my boyfriend, I’m trying to create a corner just for me, so I can get into the habit of using it as an office of sorts. I’ve only just started setting it up two days ago, so it’s still work-in-progress… but here’s a pic! Top2Bottom - Cornelia Grey Picture

When you’re in the mindset to write, do you put a sign up that warns others not to disturb you while at work?

Not really – I don’t really have a place where I can lock myself in. And it doesn’t even work – people see you at home on the computer, and they really struggle to see that as being ‘at work’, so they just interrupt you whenever, even just to chat for a minute, because it doesn’t look like you’re really ‘doing anything’ anyway.

The strategy I’ve come up with is simple: I work at night, when everyone is asleep and no one can interrupt me. In London, since my roommate is sleeping, I take over the living room and write peacefully until dawn – we’re 7 flatmates in the house, so it’s pretty much the only time there is any peace and quiet in the house! 😉

Then, I take a break around 5:30 when one of the guys comes back from the club where he works. We have a snack and chat for a bit, and then he goes to sleep and I get back to work until the first flatmates start getting up to have breakfast. Then, it’s my clue, and it’s my turn to go to sleep. 🙂 I have to say, it really messes up my schedule, but it works wonderfully!

How would you describe your sense of humor? Who and what makes you laugh?

I’m not quite sure! I laugh easily and find a lot of things funny, and I tend to play the jester whenever I’m with friends. I find that being silly and using self-irony is a good way to break the ice and put people at ease, and I’m unnerved when people instead try to mock and embarrass others in order to be funny.

I really like what I would call ‘Italian humour’ – it’s a sort of bittersweet humour, about the little petty dramas of everyday life, often paired with subtle social or political satire. For example, the humour of the characters of Pulcinella, from the Commedia dell’Arte, or Fantozzi, from the movie series.

What question is your most frequently asked as an author?

Curiously enough, in Italy, the question I get most often is: “So how much did you have to pay?”. Unfortunately, over here the concept of ‘vanity press’ is still not well known, and many people believe it’s normal to have to pay in order to get published. There have been a few cases in which publishing houses have sued websites for listing them as ‘vanity presses’, even though it was true (and in fact they lost the suit, but still).

I did fall into that trap as well when I was 16 and didn’t know any better. There are even a few new-sprung self-proclaimed literary agencies that follow the same policy, charging hundreds of euros simply to read someone’s manuscript. I sincerely hope these practices will soon be weeded out, because I think it’s a terrible way to take advantage of people who just don’t know any better.

What are you working on now?

I’m actually working on a steampunk series that’s been a long time coming. Over the past two years, I wrote three novels and the full outline of a fourth, and then just… left them languishing in their folder. I’m pretty much specialized in short stories, and such a big project is a little bit daunting, I suppose. But I believe that it’s important for authors to constantly push their boundaries and never settle in a comfort zone, so this is a step forward I am determined to take. So, I am currently halfway through the revision of the first book, and I hope to be finished with them in the Fall – so stay tuned! 😉

Writing is obviously not just how you make your living, but your lifestyle as well. What do you do to keep the creative “spark” alive, both in your work and out of it?

Usually, I don’t really need to keep it alive – if anything, I need to try and tone it down, because the creativity wants to pour itself in a dozen different activities, and there is just not enough time to do everything. I’d say the hardship is to keep the spark “focused” on the same activity for long periods of time: no, Cornelia, you’re not allowed to drop everything and make a bouquet out of recycled paper / try that new stitch on a scarf / decoupage a jewelry box, you have to finish the chapter and that’s final!

Inspiration for creative stuff is everywhere – I can’t go for a stroll or browse a magazine without ending up brimming with ideas and possible projects. The problem is that the creative genius is adept at starting a billion things and then just abandoning them unfinished to move on to newer, shinier ideas. Learning the discipline to finish what I started has probably been my greatest conquest in recent years, and I’d say it’s an ongoing struggle.

What kind of books do you like to read outside of the GLBT Genre?

I love fantasy books, but not high-fantasy – more like weird fantasy, the ones with strange creatures and weird worlds and preferably a good pinch of humour and irony. I’m also very fond of the steampunk genre, with its strange machines and resourceful characters; and I love the classics, especially Italian literature dealing with historical and social issues.

Pick one: Scientist, Astronaut, Retail, or Horse Trainer.

I’m going to have to steer clear of retail – after two summers of drama in the Supermarket of Doom near my town, I’ve decided I’d much rather muck stables for the rest of my life!

I find science endlessly fascinating, but that’s mostly because I don’t understand the least thing about it. I mean, I’m still half-convinced electricity is actually black magic and chemical reactions are the work of wizards. 😉 So, I suppose I’m probably not the best person for the job… and there go my chances at being an astronaut, too!

I love animals, so horse trainer would be wonderful. However, I have to confess that my one and only experience with horses was when I was 8 and tried to ride old Tex, my aunt’s white-and-brown leopard… I just clung on for my life and couldn’t even persuade him to move! Do you think I could just… pet them and sneak them treats? 😉

Aside from writing, what else do you enjoy doing?

Quite a few things! I enjoy most creative hobbies and crafts, really. I used to act in a theatre company, paint and sew handbags, but I haven’t really had time for those in the last couple of years. At the moment I’m focusing on knitting, which is quite handy to carry around with me, so I can sneak in a bit of work on the bus or in waiting rooms.

When I’m in Italy, one of my favourite ways to relax is to hang out with my grandma on her balcony, basking in the sunshine, chatting and pottering about with the plants. She’s also very fond of crafting projects, and we should really stop hanging out on websites about creative recycling – we have to stop keeping stuff because ‘it might come in handy someday’… 🙂

Any special projects from you at Storm Moon Press that came out recently or will be coming out soon we should watch for?

Actually, yes! After much cajoling, my first sequel is finally about to be released. I often get sequel requests from the readers, and I’d very much like to oblige, but alas – I always end up getting sidetracked by a new shiny project instead! This time, however, I finally managed to buckle down and get it done. It’s the sequel of Bounty Hunter, my Western short story about bandit James Campbell and the bounty hunter on his trail, William Hunt. It will be out this winter – and a steamy encounter in a stifling hot Mexican prison is just what’s needed to warm up a chilly day… 😉

Can you please tell us where we can find you on the Internet?

Sure thing! Here are the links:
Website: http://www.corneliagrey.com
Twitter: @CorneliaGrey
Livejournal: http://corneliagrey.livejournal.com/
Blogger: http://corneliagrey.blogspot.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/corneliagrey

It was a pleasure having you here with us today. Please come by and let us know how you’re doing from time to time. OH! And before you leave, can I get your help here in the kitchen? Thanks!!

Ehehe, unfortunately I seem to be the only Italian woman I know who is absolutely hopeless when it comes to cooking… did I mention I once managed to set the spaghetti I was cooking on fire? Are you sure you want me to help in the kitchen? 😉

Blaine D. Arden!!

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Thank you for taking some down time and spending it with us. Let’s start this off with a beverage. We have coffee, tea, some sort of juice (I think it’s been in here a few weeks) and soda. What would you like?

Tea, please. Preferably, herbal tea, but I’ll drink almost anything where tea is concerned.

tea

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m a purple haired, forty-something, genderqueer writer of gay and trans* romance with a love of men, music, mystery, magic, fairies, platform shoes, and the colours black, purple, and red, who sings her way through life, and wants to be in a band when she grows up.

I little over twenty-four years ago, I met the love of my life, moved in with him less than two months later, and married him August the year after that. Together, we’ve tried to turn two mischievous boys into polite young men and managed to gain a foster son along the way as well. Now we form a five-adults-household… in theory. In practice, only our dog could be considered an adult.

When you received news that your manuscript had been accepted by Storm Moon Press, what were the first words that fell from your mouth?

The first sound was a loud and enthusiastic SQUEE, but the first words were probably, “Honey, come read this,” while barely unable to contain further squeeing (as to not deafen hubby). We were at a campsite at the time, but had few neighbours, so I don’t think I startled any of them.

What forces brought you over to the GLBT Genre? Do you focus on one part of the QUILTBAG or do you write various identities, expressions, or orientations? What made you want to write what you do?

Forces? I’d say the media, or rather the very annoyingly negative portrayal of homosexuality in the news. Which is also how I started writing gay characters in lead roles and gay romance. I was a young, dreamy, and naïve sixteen-year-old, and it was the mid-eighties, so most of the news was about AIDS at the time, but it irked me. I couldn’t stand the way gay people were treated, and I wanted to change that. I wanted to show the world how beautiful love between men could be.

I mostly focus on m/m, but I’ve started writing trans* stories as well. The part of trans* that I draw from features stories that are still m/m at heart. It was my first love, and will always be precious to me.

Would you care for some cookies? We have chocolate chip, peanut butter, oatmeal with or without raisins and a package of mystery ones. We have cake too. Your choice.

Oh… my diet screams go for the oatmeal ones, the plain ones. But I can smuggle a bit now and then, so, got any chocolate cake? *licks fingers at even the idea of digging in*

chocolatecake

How many hours a day do you spending writing?

Between appointments running my family—which often means staring at my men in the hope they’ll do my chores, and make sure they don’t forget their appointments and actually get out of bed in the morning—I strive for a full day of writing, but it varies a lot. Some days, I can manage six hours of writing, while others I get barely two.

Do you write right through or do you revise as you go along?

I mostly write right through. Though, with shorter stories, I’ve been known to revise while writing as well. I try not to go back and make changes as I write, but sometimes I can’t avoid it. If the bit of plot changes the story in a major way and a simple note doesn’t cut it, I might as well go back and change it immediately.

When it comes to plotting, do you write freely or plan everything in advance?

I tend to make backgrounds of my characters and put down some basic plotty things, like the world they live in, some rules about their culture(s), their magic. Other than that, I write freely. I’ve tried planning in advance, but I can’t seem to do it. It doesn’t work for me.

Of your characters, do you have a favorite and why?

You’re really asking me to play favourites? Damn, and after I’ve managed for years not to do that to my kids…

I once said that the Guide from The Forester was my favourite character, but I can’t help say that right now, Callum from my WIP Wisc’d Away is my favourite. I just absolutely love him. He’s a transman nearing forty, working as a field agent for a security company. Though he pretends it isn’t, his upcoming birthday is a bit of a thing for him. Mainly because his stepsister—and boss—has been threatening to put him on desk duty permanently if he can’t cut it in the field anymore, just ’cause he broke his leg while scaling a building. He’s a driven workaholic (is there any other kind?) in an open relationship with a man who won’t be tied down, about to fall for a purple faerie…

I love him because he’s the sort of guy I wish I could be… well, maybe not the scaling buildings part. I don’t tend to do well with heights.

Writers often go on about writer’s block. Do you ever suffer from it, and what measures do you take to get past it?

Writer’s Block, for me, is mostly a motivation and concentration problem. Something I suffered from a lot the first few months of this year. I’ve been tired a lot, and really struggled to get something on paper. The only measures I’ve taken is just sticking to it. I didn’t care how long I stared at the screen, I needed to get the story done. Can’t say it worked very well, since it took me more than two months to write a 16K story. So, I could do with some tips.

Do you have a particular spot in your house that you call your comfy zone? (The place where you write.)

My office. I’m surrounded by all sorts of ‘me’ things there. I can look out the window and see the sky (yeah… rest of the view isn’t that impressive), or watch at the bits and bobs I’ve hung on my walls. Everything I need is within easy reach.

When you’re in the mindset to write, do you put a sign up that warns others not to disturb you while at work?

It’s no use. No matter where I sit, there’s always someone who seems to have forgotten that mummy is working, and will start talking to me until I glare at them. Of course, by then, my concentration is shot anyway, so I’ll ask them, in a very unfriendly tone, what they want, so I can get back to writing again… hopefully.

When I put up my noise reduction headphones they tend to get the hint quicker, but I can’t wear them all day, I need to have time without hearing my own heart beat while I work. They’re a brilliant short term solution, though.

How would you describe your sense of humor? Who and what makes you laugh?

Dirty, and a bit black, I think. A lot makes me laugh, even things I really don’t think should be laughed about, but I love the way my husband makes me laugh. Because he’s a very quiet sort of man, you don’t always expect it, but I think he’s very funny.

What question is your most frequently asked as an author?

You write in English? Somehow, that seems more important than the fact I write about men falling in love with men.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on Callum’s story. I wrote most of that story during NaNoWriMo, but I started out from the wrong POV, so I still have plenty to do.

As I mentioned above, Callum is a security agent, and he and his team are looking for a thief who manages to break in to highly secured buildings, and whom they can’t seem to catch. It involves espionage, a plan to kill the Faerie Ambassador, and a young Faerie who seems to be the only one capable of solving the case, and who manages to steal Callum’s heart. In short.

I’m also working on the third part of my Forester trilogy. The second part was recently acquired by Storm Moon Press and will be released in December.

Writing is obviously not just how you make your living, but your lifestyle as well. What do you do to keep the creative “spark” alive, both in your work and out of it?

Nothing consciously, really. Even the littlest things can spark my writing. My mind constantly comes up with new ideas, that I often have to write down and shelf for another time. I do need to quiet my mind down regularly, though, to keep from tiring myself out. My singing lessons are really good for that, because my singing teacher is constantly trying to make me be in the here and now, instead of constantly living in my head.

What kind of books do you like to read outside of the GLBT Genre?

I’m reading PG Wodehouse at the moment. His The World of Blandings is hilarious. Aside from that, I love Fantasy and mysteries.

Pick one: Scientist, Astronaut, Retail, or Horse Trainer.

Scientist. Just the word is enough to make me think of Rodney McKay and Sheldon Cooper. Great characters, both of them.

Aside from writing, what else do you enjoy doing?

I sing in a choir and have singing lessons—I hope to be in a band some day, but I can’t seem to find the time to actively look for one. I’ve also taken up knitting earlier this year. A friend challenged me, and I have to admit, it’s a nice way of winding down. And I read… a lot. Not a day goes by without reading at least a page or two.

Any special projects from you at Storm Moon Press that came out recently or will be coming out soon we should watch for?

At the end of April, Legal Briefs came out. It’s a Storm Moon Press Charity anthology, of which all net proceeds go to Lambda Legal. It’s a mix of m/m, f/f, and trans*. It’s legal themed, which was a challenge for me, since I didn’t know much about any legal system, aside from attending a truancy hearing once. “Oren’s Right” is a trans* story about Legal researcher Daru em Caron, who starts his first day at Surim Court by getting shot as he protects Defender Illan em Murq, his idol and team member. Daru can’t help falling in love with his idol when he sees the human behind the Defender, and the attraction seems mutual. But Master Illan is skittish about being touched after suffering a bad experience, and Daru has to work hard to break through his defenses and show Illan he is no less than any man

I don’t have anything coming out soon, but in December the second part in the Forester trilogy—The Forester: Lost and Found—will come out. I’ve never written a series before, and getting back into my characters’ heads after a year wasn’t easy, but once I finished the first draft and started editing, it was much easier to connect with Kelnaht, Ianys, and Taruif again. In this part, Truth Seeker Kelnaht struggles with a missing stripling, sneaking around to find some quality time with his lovers, and waiting for the elders to decide whether or not to reduce Taruif’s sentence.

Can you please tell us where we can find you on the Internet?

You can find me at blainedarden.com, Twitter,Facebook, and Goodreads.

It was a pleasure having you here with us today. Please come by and let us know how you’re doing from time to time. OH! And before you leave, can I get your help here in the kitchen? Thanks!!

It was fun. Thanks for having me! *eyes widen at the sight of the kitchen* Oh, man! Buddy from Cake Boss would be appalled to see your work surfaces. *grabs a towel and wonders where to start*

dishes

Aliens, Smith and Jones by Blaine D. Arden


Title: Aliens, Smith and Jones
Author: Blaine D. Arden
Publisher: Storm Moon Press
Pages: 200 pages
Characters: Connor Smith & Noah Jones
POV: Third Person
Sub-Genre: Science Fiction
Kisses: 3.5


Blurb:

Connor Smith works for Primrose, an organization tasked with monitoring and tracking aliens and alien technology. It’s a job that doesn’t know the meaning of “nine-to-five”. It also doesn’t leave much room for a social life, a complication that Connor hasn’t minded, until now. At the prodding of his best friend, Connor reluctantly puts himself back in the dating pool, even though it means lying about his remarkable life.

Elsewhere, Noah Jones has led a remarkable life of his own. Stranded on Earth in 1648, Noah was forced to transform himself permanently into human form to survive. He soon learned that in doing so, he’d become effectively immortal, aging only at a glacial pace. Alone, with no way to contact his people or return home, Noah becomes a silent observer of human civilization — always in the world, but never of the world. Then, hundreds of years later, he sees a face in a crowd and instantly feels a connection that he thought he’d never feel again. But he’s too late: Connor’s already taken.

Destiny is not without a sense of humor, though, and the two men are pulled inexorably closer, snared by the same web of dangers and conspiracies. Worse, Primrose is now aware of Noah, and they aren’t ones to leave an alien unrestrained. So while Connor struggles to understand the strange pull he feels toward Noah, forces without as well as within are working against them to keep them apart.

Review:

Having read some of Blaine D. Arden’s other tales, this one seemed a much more dry read than they were. I was a little disappointed by this story. It had a great deal of possibility, an interesting plot and storyline, and an original character in the way of Noah. I found Noah to be well written in that his experiences were believable, even down to why he chose “Noah” for a name.

Unfortunately, I just couldn’t get into the story. The start was intriguing, and the way Connor and Noah first meet is very interesting, but the bad guy is given away to the reader far too early (even though the main characters remain unaware).

Overall, it was enjoyable enough, but I marked it down 1/2 a kiss for the too-early reveal.

Reviewed By: Alison

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Legal Briefs by Cari Z., Kelly Rand, Stella Harris, Blaine D. Arden, Salome Wilde and Gryvon


Title: Legal Briefs Anthology
Author: Multi-Authored Anthology
Publisher: Storm Moon Press
Pages: 100
Characters: Multi-Characters
POV: 3rd
Sub-Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance
Kisses: 4.5


Blurb:

All net proceeds from the sale of this anthology will be donated directly to Lambda Legal!

We at Storm Moon Press are aware of the legal struggles many within the QUILTBAG face, and we know the valuable service Lambda Legal provides. With that in mind, we collaborated with six of our favorite authors (actually, all of our authors are our favorite!) who graciously agreed to donate their time and creative ability to help us create this anthology of legal-themed short stories specifically to help benefit such an excellent organization.

In Honest Lawyers, court reporter Luna is flattered by law student Craig’s attentions, but the fear of rejection makes her nervous about opening up to him about her status as a trans woman. Evan defends himself in a barroom brawl and 24 Hours later has to defend himself again, this time to his drunken attacker’s lawyer, who fortunately has as little patience for his client as Evan did. Lawyer Melanie is starting to come to terms with her attraction to women, something her new Study Buddy April is happy to help with.

Master Illan is a powerhouse in the Surim court, but it’s newcomer Daru who proves to be His Best Defense against threats both without and within. The moment Candy LeBon walks into Detective Calvin Guy’s life, he suspects a Double-Cross, but even he’s unprepared for the extent of twisted path she’ll lead him down. In Henry’s country, his attraction to Abel is Against the Law, but his secret is kept safe by another who harbors same-sex attractions—Henry’s wife.

Review:

Honest Lawyers by Kelly Rand

Luna is a trans woman with boobs and a penis. She’s a diligent court reporter who notices a court clerk Craig looking at him. A talk in an elevator leads to an impromptu date night. It seems Craig is not fazed by Luna’s secret.

This is a wonderful beginning to this anthology. Legal matters are only skimmed, though. But it’s all right when you have such great warm characters to cuddle up with. This is a short tale about two people getting acquainted and perhaps finding something lasting.

24 Hours by Cari Z

Evan McKay saw a gay bashing outside a club and jumped into the fray to help. In the process he got injured. Unfortunately, the dick is rich and powerful, and he’s sicked his lawyer, Don Delour, on Evan. Surprises are in store when it seems Don is on Evan’s side. When Evan gets a chance to thank Don properly, something good seems to be in the making.

Life can change so quickly. When you do the right thing, sometimes the chips fall where they may, seemingly making matters worse. But Evan does the right thing anyway. That catches Don’s attention. The legal settlement isn’t long but enough to show what both men are made of. These two are good together. Evan is sweet and Don courageous. They make a nice pair, and this is a good story.

Study Buddy by Stella Harris

Melanie is a paralegal who has recently figured out she’s a lesbian. Being a virgin, she has devised a plan to learn more about girls. Phase one, strip joint. Phase two, a gay bar. Phase three… in the works. But in between best laid plans comes surprises.

This short story has zero law in it. This is Melanie’s sexual awakening. She’s an adult and as such thinks about her sexual journey a bit too much, getting rattled by lap dances and sitting alone in a gay bar. But a girlfriend can be found if she only opened her eyes. Thankfully she does. This is an okay story, a hot little number. Not much law in this, however, apart from the job which is only referred to.

His Best Defense by Blaine D. Arden

Daru is new to Surim Court, but he’s idolized the famous Defender Illan for years. Now he’s finally on his team. On his first day on the job, Daru thwarts an attempted assassination against Illan, and this bonds the two men together, even though Illan fights his growing feelings. There are actually a few law cases here, in this fantasy world of crystal technologies, and one of them is the attack on Illan that caused Daru his injury.

This is my absolutely favorite story of this bunch. Wonderfully detailed world and two hot guys who desire to be together despite their working relationship. This reads like a courtroom drama, a suspense thriller, and an erotic romance. For such a short tale, this manages to grab you from head to toes right from the beginning. Highly recommended!

Double-Cross by Salome Wilde

Cal is a detective who sets out to investigate the theft of some money from an Irish crime boss, Callaghan. The lead suspect is Candy LeBon (awesome name) who has a few surprises underneath her pretty dress. But there are other suspects too, and when one of them ends up dead, Cal has to suspect everyone.

I wouldn’t call this a legal story. More like a cop drama. This has the cheesiest lines I’ve read lately, and it’s oh so much fun. The old-fashioned detective stories’ lingo is definitely handled well here. The mystery’s entertaining, with a femme fatale who isn’t a femme at all. The clichés of the genre are used to their advantage here, to amuse, and the author does it well. Recommended.

Against the Law by Gryvon

This last story depicts a world where religious law is paramount: The Holy Roman Empire. Henry is part of the elite, but he’s gay, an offense punishable by hanging. One night at a party he meets Abel, a young man with similar inclinations. They begin an illicit torrent affair—until they’re caught in flagrante by Henry’s father. Abel manages to escape but Henry is destined for the jail cells and the hangman’s noose.

As a conclusion to this anthology, this story was intriguing. It shows a world where religious law means there’s no freedom and certainly no justice. When it’s punishable to love and to be who you are, that’s when society has taken the wrong turn. Abel is full of passion, and Henry can’t resist. The question is can Abel save Henry from the final judgment? This was a hot little story in a fascinating setting.

Reviewed By: Susan

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