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Remember when summer was about sleeping as late as you could get away with, biking to the library once a week, and spending as much of the remaining time as you could curled up in your secret private reading nook, devouring one book after another at a pace that made the librarian assume you were the supplier for your entire family?

I wish that had been my summer. Really. Instead, mostly I just heaved a great big ol’ sigh of relief when I tore August off the calendar. Here’s why…

My original contract for the SoulShares was for four books — Hard as Stone, Gale Force, Deep Plunge, and Firestorm. And it specified that I had 15 months to turn in all four books. Now, if I were able to write full-time, that would have been no sweat. But between the Evil Day Job and my family obligations, I generally only have a few hours a night to write. So after four books in 15 months (plus a couple of novellas), I was a great big stressball. But I had a new publisher who really, really wanted the fifth SoulShares novel, so I kept pushing, and turned in the manuscript for Blowing Smoke at the beginning of June. Then there was a short story to write, to submit for a Dreamspinner Press anthology (look for “Ilya and the Wolf” in Celebrate! — the Dreamspinner Press 2014 Advent Calendar anthology, and also as a stand-alone story, the beginning of December!). (Yes, it’s shifters. *grins* You’re welcome.)

Then July happened. I had to move, and downsized from a house to an apartment in a suburb a half-hour’s drive away, chosen because it was close enough to my son’s college that he could commute by bus and because they would let me keep my elderly golden-retriever mix, Fiona, and my Cornish Rex kitty, Grace O’Malley. One (small) carload at a time, we moved that house, all through the month of July. Three days before the final move, Fiona died. (Needless to say, between being burned out and dealing with the move and my sweet girl, not much writing happened in July…)

Then August happened. I started writing again (Bound in Oak, Tales of the Grove #3). The publisher with which Blowing Smoke had been resting comfortably since June announced that it was terminating all its freelance editors, including mine, and that all outstanding manuscripts would be reassigned to its staff of in-house editors. Now, there’s a very good reason why I became a lawyer rather than an accountant, but some numbers even I can crunch, and I realized that I would undoubtedly be an old(er) gray(er) lady by the time SoulShares #5, which had not yet gotten as far as first edits, saw the light of day. So I exercised my contractual right to pull the manuscript… and on Labor Day I sent it off to another potential home. Any and all crossed fingers, good wishes, prayers, and the like will be greatly appreciated, and hopefully I’ll have good news to report in a couple of months!

Now it’s September. I’m still working away at Bound in Oak (which may end up being a working title only, as Ellora’s Cave only wants titles to contain the word “Bound” if they’re BDSM titles, which this definitely isn’t), which I hope to have done by mid-October. And come visit me at the Midwestern Book Lovers Unite Conference, September 26 to 28, at the Minneapolis Airport Marriott — http://midwesternbookloversunite.wordpress.com/ — I’m hosting a table at the Dinner with the Authors, and I know this really great Mongolian restaurant five minutes from the hotel….

And finally… you’ve been waiting so long, and so patiently, for Blowing Smoke, it would be remiss of me not to leave you with at least a taste. Enjoy! — and comment!

 

 

Chapter Four

Greenwich Village
New York City

The first thing Lasair saw when he opened his eyes in the human world was an ass. A very nice, scantily-clad ass, although he might have been more appreciative if his face wasn’t bumping into it every few seconds. And if he felt even a little less as if he’d just been run over by the King’s best racing chariot and its entire eight-horse team. Over the thunder of his heartbeat in his own ears, he heard a muffled thumping noise and occasional grunts.

And a whimper. Culin was somewhere nearby.

Tipping his head back, Lasair saw a staircase, dull grey wood. Arching back as far as he could–not far, thanks to the chains–he could see as far as the floor at the bottom of the stairs.

He blinked. The floor glowed faintly, in the auroral hue of pure unbound magick. Not possible.

“Great, you’re awake.” The baritone voice was slightly out of breath, and the speaker sounded more than slightly put out. “Would you mind holding still until I get you upstairs? I’d rather not drop you on your head, you’d probably pull me down with you.”

I beg your pardon for occupying space. Lasair bit his tongue, kept the words to himself, and let his head drop. He could feel an arm now, wrapped around his thighs.

The jarring stopped, and he heard the creak of a door opening. His own personal scenery remained pretty much the same, but with poorer lighting. Then another door. Light. Furniture half-glimpsed, and other doors.

“Oh, fuck. The one door I forgot about.”

The floor suddenly came a head closer, and Lasair got a glimpse of beautifully muscled calves as his bearer bent his knees. There was a click, and another door opening.

Then, suddenly, Lasair was lying on his back, with Culin at his side. On a bed, he presumed. He was getting tired of presuming. The chains were bad enough–truesilver chains were forged to burn in the presence of a channeling, and they surely did–but being trussed like a roast made it much worse. He strained to sit up, but the chains made it impossible to do more than raise his head and shoulders.

Which was enough to let him see where he was, and who had carried him up the stairs. He was in a small bed-chamber, lit by pale sunlight from a single window. The first human male he had ever seen looked down at him, wearing nothing but short trousers of some soft fabric and a deep frown. His hair was nearly dark enough to be chort-gruag, bark-hair, like the tree folk out of legend. But on this male, it was nothing to be scorned. It suited him. So did his mustache, a rarity among Fae. Eyes of dark green watched him warily, glancing every so often at Culin.

He must be ravishing when he smiles.

“Do you have a key to those chains, or do I need to cut them off?” The male’s voice was rough, almost harsh.

“If I had a key, believe me, I wouldn’t be in this situation.” Lasair winced. He didn’t remember most of his transition, other than the agony of the beginning of it, but whatever had happened to him after that had left his head feeling as hollow as the inside of a great bell. And any word, any sound from him was a mallet pounding on the bell.

“All right. Wait here.” The male’s stare raked him from his head to his feet; he put up a dark brow, turned, and left the bedchamber.

Culin whined softly.

“It’s all right.” Lasair murmured. “It’s going to be all right, tréan-cú.” He had called Culin strong, a strong hound, since the pup’s birth. Names channeled power, even names given by one with little magick of his own.

Now all I have to do is be right.

When the male reappeared, he was carrying a long-handled pincers with a metal beak. This he fitted to the chains, and started to bear down on the handles. Doing so brought out splendidly defined arm muscles and a thin sheen of sweat. I would give my left nut not to feel like I’ve been pounded flat and scraped up off the stable floor right now.

“These are stronger than they look.” The male checked the wicked beak of the pincers, running long, slender fingers over the cutting edges as if he expected to find them notched by the chain.

Humans were very different from the way Fae lore drew them, at least if they were all like this one. This male was as handsome as any Fae, in his way, and the measuring intelligence in his gaze was as exciting as his strange beauty. “They’re meant to be. But you ought to be able to cut them.” Now that the links had no magick running through them, and had been given no new purpose to know.

One dark brow went up as the male re-set the pincers. “Mind if I ask what you were doing chained up in my basement at six in the morning?”

“Yes.” Shit, I should have expected that. One thing the old stories weren’t going to tell him was what humans thought of Fae, several thousand years after their parting of ways. Even the most trusting Fae–assuming such an exotic creature existed anywhere–would be skeptical under the circumstances. And he had even less reason to be trusting than most.

Why had he forgotten that?

I thought maybe I was going to make it through this week without writing about depression. So many other people are speaking far more eloquently than I possibly could, there seemed to be no point to adding my voice to the chorus. Then I read a re-post, by a friend of mine, of a blog post which essentially said “Depression did not kill Robin Williams. He died by his own choice.” The original blogger went on to say that it was unfair to people suffering from depression to tell them that they had no control over their illness, that medication and therapy and spirituality were useless and that it was their neurochemistry that was going to determine whether they lived or died. That telling them this was taking away their hope. And that Robin Williams had chosen to ignore joy and hope and offers of help. Had chosen to let his illness win. The implication being that he had been free to choose otherwise. I knew in my heart that while there were certain points of truth in that post, from my perspective, it was basically, fundamentally wrong. But I didn’t want to post anything until I had in my head a clearer idea of what was wrong about it. Now I do.

First, I guess it’s kind of obligatory to establish my credentials, to be speaking about this subject at all. That’s hard to do, because to fully explain myself would require me to tell several stories that aren’t mine to tell. So I’m going to have to ask you, dear readers, to trust me a little, here. My part of the story, I can tell you. I’ve suffered from depression since the age of 17, had what I think was a nervous breakdown at 29. I was off antidepressant medication for most of my forties (kind of a miracle, given that my forties were also The Entire Freaking Decade of Perimenopause) but had to go back on for a while when my father died unexpectedly, three days before I turned fifty, and I found myself staring off into space during a dance class I was supposed to be teaching, wondering why the hell I should bother getting up out of my chair. As for the rest, yes, I have been affected, deeply so, by the suicide attempts of several people very dear to me. Affected to the point where my therapist tells me I have most of the symptoms of PTSD. So I think I can speak from the perspectives of both the depressive and the ones who are (nearly, in my case) left behind.

Addressing the original blog post: It would be wrong, yes, to tell someone with depression “This illness is going to kill you.” Just as it would be wrong to say the same thing to someone with cancer. But that’s only true when you’re talking to the living. It’s another matter entirely when you’re talking about the dead. To tell someone with depression who is still living, “You have control, you have a choice,” is at least arguably true, and may be helpful, may give them strength. (Although it could have the opposite effect, more about which in a minute.) But to say of someone who has taken his own life (I’m sticking with the male pronoun here for the sake of simplicity and in deference to Mr. Williams) “It was his choice, not his illness,” is passing judgment, when we have no idea what was in his mind in his final moments. I know there are people out there who call themselves Christians who have no trouble with that notion. But my Christ is the one who said “Judge not,” and I try to honor that. Yes, even though I was nearly left behind twice.

We don’t know what kind of pain Mr. Williams was in, in those final moments. We’re slowly starting to come to some kind of societal consensus, I think, that someone who is in unbearable physical pain and sees no hope of respite may be justified in choosing to end that pain. Why do we assume that emotional, spiritual, mental agony is easier to live with? Or that there’s some kind of special moral imperative that emotional pain can never be too much? Might it not be true, at least in some cases, that we are the ones who are being selfish, if we sit in judgment on someone who is suffering, emotionally or spiritually or mentally, beyond what he can bear, and tell him that he is being weak and cowardly by not staying alive for OUR sakes? And if it’s true in some cases, then it stands to reason that we can’t know for certain whether it was true in the case of any particular individual who takes his own life. Judge not.

And I mentioned earlier, it might NOT always be a good idea to remind a living person with depression that he has control over his illness. Every person with depression is different, at least in some ways. And purely from my own perspective, when I’m at a low point, nothing makes me feel like more of a failure than the thought that I SHOULD be controlling this, I’m ABLE to control this, I’m just such a total fuck-up that I CAN’T control this. I’ve failed at everything else, now I’m failing at being in charge of my own thoughts and emotions. It’s just one more judgment against me, one I’m entirely ready to believe when I’m that low. Not all depressives think like I do. I know this. And if someone has let you know that this sort of reminder is helpful to them, then go for it. But please, don’t sit in judgment on the dead.

Cormac McCarthy’s THE ROAD is, to me, the most perfect description of depression ever written. The blasted landscape through which the father and the son travel in that book is a pitch-perfect externalization of the internal landscape of depression. Bleak, hopeless, colorless, a world in which the most valuable piece of wisdom a father can pass to a son is the proper technique to blow one’s brains out with a single shot before the cannibals turn you into meat on the hoof, and in which finding a place of rest and respite is a terrible thing because you know it will be stolen from you. Yet, ultimately, it speaks of hope, a hope that the reader has to accept because it’s not a pretty hope, a unicorns and rainbows hope, it’s a hope almost as desolate as the despair that came before it. Because (spoiler alert!) the father dies. But… he brought his son to a place where he would be taken in and cared for before he died. Ultimately, his best was good enough. Everything he had was enough.

Who are we to say, in the end, that Robin Williams didn’t give everything he had? Or that it wasn’t enough? Rest in peace, Genie. And may someone, somewhere, be making YOU laugh.Genie

 

 

 

 

Writing about… NOT writing

Muirfinn

 

Today I go back to writing, after a self-imposed one-month hiatus. (Well, mostly a hiatus… more about that later.) I had to move out of my home of 15 years and downsize into an apartment, over the course of the month of July. I figured, mostly correctly, that my Muse would spend July sulking – I’ve hated moving ever since a two-year period 30 years ago when I lived in six places over the course of two years. Add in the fact that this move was involuntary, and you have a perfect recipe for a sullen, pouting Muse. So it seemed like the perfect time for my first real break in close to three years of doing my damnedest to write Every. Single. Day.

Easier said than done.

I really intended to stay away from my next project. My last big project, the fifth Fae novel, was one of those stories where what starts out as a perfectly clear vision ends up feeling like wading through quick-drying cement, and I thought some “down time” was going to feel fabulous. And I was kind of right. I made it almost halfway through my “vacation” – it was almost two weeks before Muirfinn and Cass started hectoring me. I tried to placate them by outlining. Look, I’m not REALLY writing, I’m just, um, getting some ideas down. But one thing led to another, and pretty soon I was cruising Tumblr for pictures of hot models. And Googling the ferry and bus routes serving the Isle of Lewis. And checking out traditional homes in the Hebrides. And checking sunrise and sunset times (if you’ve read either of my Tales of the Grove novellas, you’ll know why that matters).

In other words, so much for all my good intentions. And the boys STILL wouldn’t let me be. Outlining wasn’t good enough for them, no sir no ma’am.

I’m not sure why I still set up these little tests for myself – “I’m a real writer if I do X.” Because I’m probably a “real writer” by any measurement that doesn’t involve hitting one or more national best-seller lists, winning a major national book award, or being able to quit my Evil Day Job. But I do. I test myself. And now I’ve passed another test. “I’m a real writer if I can’t stay away from the friggin’ computer for more than 10 days at a time.”

*rolls up sleeves* Back to work… I hear a reclusive Gille Dubh and an emotionally scarred artist yammering at me….

Banner

 

Catch up with the summer SoulShares blog tour! – and don’t forget to get your Rafflecopter entries in at each stop for a chance to win ALL FOUR SoulShares novels!

 

Smoocher’s Voice – http://www.smoochersvoice.com/2014/07/guest-post-excerpt-from-soul-shares.html

 

Jade Crystal at Bound By Blood – http://boundbybloodblog.com/2014/07/01/rory-ni-coileain-talks-about-writing-and-inspiration-soulshares-series-blog-tour-and-giveaway/

 

Hearts on Fire – http://heartsonfirereviews.com/?cat=150

 

Nephy’s World – http://www.nephylim-author.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/artist-allan-penn-publisher-ravenous.html

 

For a terrific review of FIRESTORM (five stars and a TOP PICK from Susan at The Romance Reviews), check out  http://glbt.theromancereviews.com/viewbooksreview.php?bookid=13354

 

Finally, buy links for all four of the SoulShares, on Amazon and at the Ravenous Romance Web site (where if you buy four books, your fifth is free!)

Amazon:

Hard as Stone: http://www.amazon.com/Hard-as-Stone-ebook/dp/B009SX91JQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1355285138&sr=8-1&keywords=hard+as+stone+rory+ni+coileain

Gale Force: http://www.amazon.com/Gale-Force-Soulshares-ebook/dp/B00BSEDKB8/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1363476525&sr=8-3&keywords=Gale+Force

Deep Plunge: http://www.amazon.com/Deep-Plunge-SoulShares-ebook/dp/B00EV7OAYU/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1377825393&sr=1-1&keywords=Deep+Plunge+Rory+Ni+Coileain

Firestorm: http://www.amazon.com/Firestorm-Soulshares-Rory-Ni-Coileain-ebook/dp/B00IOWB2BW/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1393540924&sr=1-1&keywords=rory+ni+coileain 

Ravenous Romance:

Hard as Stone:  http://www.ravenousromance.com/fantastica/hard-as-stone.php

Gale Force: http://www.ravenousromance.com/fantastica/gale-force.php

Deep Plunge: http://www.ravenousromance.com/fantastica/deep-plunge-soulshares-number-iii.php

Firestorm: http://ravenousromance.com/fantastica/firestorm-soulshares-number-iv.php?keyword=firestorm&search_by=all

Congratulations to GIVE A RUSH! And thank you to everyone who entered, and everyone who checked out the teaser from BLOWING SMOKE (which you’re still free to do any time you like!) Stay tuned — I’m starting a blog tour with Pride Promotions on July 1, so I’ll be popping up where you least expect me!

Happy Prideanniverthday!

TiernanMikeGrell

 

This weekend hits a lovely trifecta — it’s Pride weekend, and tomorrow (June 28th) is both my birthday and the second anniversary of the day I signed the contract for my first books, the SoulShares series (featuring the exquisite Tiernan Guaire, pictured above.) To celebrate, I’m offering y’all, in a very hobbit-y fashion, presentses! — an (unedited) excerpt from Blowing Smoke, the fifth Fae novel and the first in the Broken Pattern series, and a giveaway. Comment below with your e-mail address by 8:00 p.m. Central time on Sunday, June 29th for a chance to win YOUR CHOICE of: (1) an autographed paperback of your choice of any one of the SoulShares novels (Hard as Stone, Gale Force, Deep Plunge, and Firestorm), (2) Kindle copies of both Tales of the Grove novellas (Heart of the Oak and Tempted from the Oak), or (3) an autographed (by me) copy of the lovely picture above, drawn for me at ComicCon Minneapolis by the amazing Mike Grell).

Happy Pride! And it’s been an amazing couple of years, and I’m looking forward to many more!

 

Excerpt from Blowing Smoke, Chapter Two:

It took a while to get up all the glass slivers, find the mop, and mop the floor, but it was time well spent. Ever since coming home to the stench it had cost him five grand to get rid of, Bryce had a horror of having anything around the apartment that might smell.

He stowed the mop back in its cupboard. There was a place for everything, and everything in its place, especially in a little New York apartment.

Of course, he’d been that way for a long time. His grandfather had moved in with them when he was seven, after his first stroke, and overnight his room had become the one place where he’d been able to have things the way he wanted. Most of the time, anyway.

He limped back to the table, nursing a bruise on his hip where he’d fallen against the counter. Funny how he’d never managed to pair up with a man as fastidious as he was. Or even close. Aren’t we all supposed to be fussy? He usually drove most of the men he picked up, or who latched on to him, completely bugfuck crazy in the space of a few days.

Terry hadn’t minded, though. He’d been perfectly happy to let Bryce be Bryce, all the while scattering costume sketches and leotards and water bottles and leg warmers everywhere. On purpose, sometimes, he suspected. There had been one time, when Bryce had started to pre-heat the oven for coq au vin, and the strange smell that had filled the apartment had turned out to be roasted ballet slipper.

Bryce’s throat felt tight. He tried so damned hard to drag me out of myself. Drag my head out of my ass. Why the hell did I throw him out? He still couldn’t remember, even after almost a year. He’d asked Terry, but Terry hadn’t wanted to talk about it. Bryce supposed he wouldn’t, either, under the circumstances, but it still would have been nice to know, to get back some of those lost memories, even second-hand. Even painful ones.

Painful? Who am I kidding? I’m a dick. I probably laughed when I did it. Though he couldn’t have treated Terry any worse than he’d treated the parade of men who had followed him–

Bryce froze. What was that?

A barely audible sound, but he realized it had been there, on the very edge of his hearing, for a while. A soft whimpering. And, just as he started giving the sound his full attention, a tiny howl.

What the hell? The guy on the second floor, whose name Bryce had never bothered to ask, had a Rottweiler, but it had a bark like you’d expect from a monster that size and he’d never heard it whimper or howl. Besides, the noise sounded like it was coming from downstairs, not upstairs.

Fucking wonderful, an animal of some kind trapped in the basement. The landlord had a strict policy, all vermin were supposed to be reported to him so he could take care of them before the city caught wind of any problem. Not that Bryce gave a shit about anyone’s policy, but having someone other than him take care of rodents in the basement was his idea of common sense.

Another faint howl.

Rats don’t howl.

No, but dogs did. Bryce hated dogs. Not just Cujo upstairs, he’d hated them all as long as he could remember. His grandfather had kept mastiffs, before his stroke, and Bryce had been about four years old the day one of them had run him down on the front lawn until he tripped and fell, and had gone for his throat. He’d pissed himself from fear before his grandfather called the dog off. His mother had demanded the dog be put down, his grandfather had laughed, and dear Daddy had taken a belt to him for wrecking his new trousers.

The howl didn’t sound like a mastiff, though. Not even close.

I should at least find out what it is.

Bryce methodically unlocked all the locks on the front door, turning the second deadbolt on his way out so the door wouldn’t lock behind him and leave him in the foyer in his underwear. The door to the basement was closed, but not locked; he let himself in and left the door ajar.

The whimpering continued. Bryce reached around the doorjamb and fumbled for the light switch. The light didn’t stop the sound, either. Frowning, he bent to peer down the stairs.

A man lay unmoving on the grey cement of the basement floor. A man with long blond hair curling in soft waves around his face and an amazing body in what looked like someone’s idea of a Ren Faire costume, dark green. Wrapped around in silver chains, so tightly he wouldn’t have been able to move even if he’d been awake, and the linen charred where the chains touched it. And a whisker-faced brown and grey puppy lay on the man’s chest, sprawled out on its side, shivering, its belly rising and falling with rapid panting breaths.

Bryce took a few steps down the stairs. The pup stirred, raised its head maybe an inch, and howled. Not really a howl, more like a pitiful wail. Then it turned away from him, nosing at the man, crying.

He was confused as fuck, and he didn’t like the feeling. What the hell was going on with the man? He tried to imagine some combination of circumstances that could have ended with a Robin Hood type–a fucking gorgeous Robin Hood type, probably a model, just the kind to put a tent in his shorts under other, less bizarre circumstances–chained up in his basement. Unconscious. Smelling of smoke. With a dog. He came up blank.

Great, now the puppy was looking at him. There was something strange about its eyes, he could see that even from this distance. It was having trouble holding its head up, too, he thought.

What the hell am I supposed to do about this? About a dog he was supposed to hate, and a man he was supposed to… well, what? Catch and release?

One thing, at least, was clear. Bryce owed the intruders as much as he’d ever owed anyone else.

Nothing.

Clear, right?

 

HardWork

 

This summer is a little unusual for me. For the first time in a couple of years, I’m taking just a little bit of a writing vacation. Well, technically, I suppose it’s more like a “staycation” – the only immediate things on my plate are a short story with an August 1 deadline and prep for a couple of blog tours later in the summer. I need the breather, as I’m also getting ready to move (pretty much all through the month of July).

Plus, I just passed through a very unpleasant time in my writing life. I hesitate to call it “writer’s block,” because it wasn’t, really. The ideas were all there, I knew where the story had to go, I loved the characters (yes, even Bryce). But writing was almost physically painful. The only physical analogy I’ve ever come across that kind of gets the feeling across is an unfortunately crude one – dry-humping. An activity that’s supposed to be exquisitely pleasureable, that you remember as being exquisitely pleasureable, yet it’s somehow reduced to sheer effort and a lot of pain.

How did I get to this point? I didn’t realize it while I was in the middle of the desert, but basically, I let being a writer pull me away from writing.

It all started innocently enough. I was writing merrily away on my fifth Fae novel, the first in a new series for Ellora’s Cave, but growing out of the SoulShares series. And I started getting a little hung up on finding the right balance between explaining references to the original series and moving forward with the new story. Then I started noticing all the articles and blogs and links on “the craft of writing.”  I saw articles posted by all kinds of helpful people and pages on structuring your story, outlining, research. The appropriate ratio of explicit content to non-explicit content. The story arc of a romance. Tension between the protagonist and the antagonist. Tropes we love. Tropes we hate.

And just as I was pretty sure I’d never written anything correctly in my life, I found help with…  marketing. How to tweet to best advantage – when to favorite, when to retweet, how to create an attention-grabbing profile page, making the hashtag your friend. How to leverage LinkedIn and Google+. Getting the most exposure for your YouTube channel. Building buzz on Goodreads. Optimizing your Amazon footprint to take advantage of its recommendation algorithms. Maximizing my Pinning so as to reach my target audience. (I do have a Pinterest account, born of a night of too much champagne and quite a bit of unfounded optimism… I don’t even remember the password, much less how to pin anything – sorry to disappoint all of you who have started following me there!)

And I wasn’t doing any of that stuff.

And then came… the phone call from my mother. “So how are your sales doing, sweetheart?”

Crash. Burn. Ouch.

*insert uncontrollable sobbing here*

Bottom line, I got completely sucked into other people’s ideas of the “how” of writing, and completely lost my own sense of the “why”. I write because I love it. I never expected to be published; I was lucky enough to be noticed by an editor who loved what I was doing, and I continue to be lucky enough to work with editors who love what I write and help me make it even better. When I forget that, when I stop concentrating on my writing (and, okay, on conventions, I love conventions, I could live at conventions and be completely happy), when I fixate on mastering social media technology and maximizing online presence…. on selling books, instead of writing them, the joy goes out of it. And I need the joy, to make the rest of it work.

I have it back now, by the way. The joy. Rory’s got her groove back. *winks* Wait till you see this story. Hint:  shifters. Yes, shifters. Gotta run, time to write…

 

Thank you to everyone who commented on my entry in the Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia! — I’m pleased to announce that thanks to all y’all, I’m $36 in debt to the Ali Forney Center in New York City!

And the winner of her choice of my books is — Shirley Ann Speakman! Check your e-mail, darlin’….!

And thanks again to everyone who participated!

I couldn’t say no, when asked by Susan Mac Nicol to participate in a blog hop. (Of course, it didn’t hurt that she asked Toby to bat his eyelashes at me to seal the deal…. or maybe I just imagined that part.) My only obligation (apart from finding and tagging the next generation of participants) is to Tell All about my writing process. I’m not entirely sure “process” is the right word to use, in my case – I’m reminded of my priest, when she’s asked why she’s an Episcopalian, she generally replies “Because I can’t stand organized religion.” But I’ll give it my best shot!

What am I working on? I’m currently on Chapter 26 of Blowing Smoke, which is the first in a new four-book cycle of Fae novels, the Broken Pattern. All the Fae novels are SoulShares stories, really, but only the first four are the “official” SoulShares four-book cycle. (I feel a little like George Lucas. “No, only the first movie is Star Wars. Oh, okay, the first three are the Star Wars trilogy. Oh, wait, now there’s the Star Wars original trilogy and the Star Wars prequel trilogy.”) After I finish with Blowing Smoke, it’s going to be an interesting summer, since I’m moving all through the months of June and July and I really don’t want to be fighting with deadlines till I’m done. But I want to work on a shifter short story to submit for a DSP Christmas anthology, and that has an August deadline, so I suppose there’s no getting around that. Then it’s on to Bound in Oak, the third Tales of the Grove novella.

How does my work differ from others of its genre? Is it really bad of me to say that I have no idea? I’ve always had a problem with reading while I’m writing – I soak up literary styles like the proverbial sponge, and I’d purely hate for anyone to think I was plagiarizing them. But after I’d been writing for a year or so, I realized I was having serious withdrawal symptoms, so I started (in my copious spare time, cough cough) reading contemporary m/m. And I found out that I’m pretty safe with that. But I still don’t dare go near paranormal. So I guess you’ll have to tell me how I differ from other paranormal/urban fantasy m/m writers!

Why do I write what I do? Oh, wow. Let’s see… I got back into writing after about 30 years away, role-play writing on Facebook, just for fun. Strictly m/f, because those were the authors I was reading at the time, and I honestly didn’t think I could write m/m. I’m a stickler for accuracy, and for fairly obvious reasons, both anatomical and social, I didn’t think I had it in me to write m/m. But a dear friend begged to differ, and begged me to try. So as a surprise for her, I found a writing partner and gave it a shot. And I’ve never looked back. And it’s funny – another dear friend of mine, the only gay man I could even think of asking to, um, fact-check my first book, read the first few chapters, and his first comment was “Who are you? – have you been a gay man in drag for the last 20 years and you just never told me?” And there are days when that’s very much what it feels like. Writing m/m is a continuous voyage of self-discovery, and I love every minute of it. And I love the community I’m part of, too.

How does my writing process work? Saving the hardest part for last. (Incidentally, in her blog, Susan posted a picture of her lovely writing nook at this point. I’m not going to do that, because I’m too busy trying to write to evade the men in white coats with butterfly nets who would be descending on me in hordes.)
I usually get story ideas in one of two ways. Most often, I’ll hear characters talking to me before anything else. (I am, incidentally, a firm believer in muses, even if I’ve never gotten a good clear look at my own.) Once I know the characters, I start trying to work out what it was that made them who they are, or what got them to the point they’re trying to tell me about. That’s their story. So far, my characters have been kind to me for the most part, and have told me stories that fit into either my Fae stories or my Gille Dubh stories. I don’t have nearly as much time to write as I’d like, and if I had a bunch of unruly guys trying to tell me stories in a half-dozen worlds at once, I think I might have to be sedated.
Sometimes, though, it’s the story idea that comes to me first. And then I have to work backwards from there, to figure out who would be telling that particular story, and how they got involved in it. That’s the case with the short story I want to start after I finish Blowing Smoke – I was given the premise of “Christmas outside the United States”. And at a panel I was on at RainbowCon, the idea came up of doing a benefit anthology of HEA m/m stories set in Russia and the Ukraine, and the two ideas merged perfectly. Like chocolate and peanut butter. Only including a hot wolf shifter, which is a trope I’m pretty sure never came up in the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups commercials. Unfortunately.
The actual “writing it down” part of the process is fairly straightforward. I’m mostly a pantser, but I’ll usually outline the first five or six chapters of a book, very generally. Maybe a paragraph per chapter, sometimes just a sentence. By the time I’m on four or five, the next four or five have usually come to me, so I add them in. A few more chapters, and I’m ready to fill in the rest of the book. Though the outline of the last third of the book or so is never set in stone, because later chapters tend to calve off new chapters I hadn’t planned on. And in Blowing Smoke, I’m encountering a new phenomenon (new to me, anyway) – usually, my chapters are each told from a single point of view. There are unquestionably writers who can do head-hopping and not be confusing, but I’m not one of them. But the later chapters in Blowing Smoke are breaking up into scenes, each scene with a different POV character. We’ll see how that works out…
And now I turn you over to my fellow hoppers, my partners in crime, my willing victims- er, dear friends. (A number of whom are, I think, still either at or recovering from RT2014, so it may be a little while before their posts are up!) Angel Martinez, Dean Pace-Frech, Leta Blake, Nicole Dennis, Pamela Pelaam-One, you’re up!

 

 

Welcome to my stop on the Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia! May 17th is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia – find out all about it, including all the events going on all over the world, at http://dayagainsthomophobia.org/.

HopBadge

The Hop doesn’t end today, though! The HAHAT is here until late in the day on May 27th. And if you comment at the end of this post, with your e-mail address included (even if you know darn well I have it already *winks*) two things will happen. One, you will be entered in a drawing to win your choice of any of my books (listed off to the right, I’ve finally learned to put badges on my Web site, I’m so proud of myself….) And two – for everyone who posts, I’ll contribute a dollar to the Ali Forney Center in New York City (http://www.aliforneycenter.org/), a safe space for homeless LGBTQ youth. (Heck, if you’re the drawing winner and you already have all my books, I’ll add the value of the book to the donation!) I’ll put up a post on the 28th, announcing the winner. I’ll also e-mail the winner, so don’t forget to include your address.
And, to get you back to the main post for the hop when you’re done here, to find all the other terrific authors who are participating – http://hopagainsthomophobia.blogspot.com.
Now, to the point. The reason we’re all here.
I’ve been struggling with writing this post. I really have. Trying to find something meaningful to say, to people who have probably experienced a lot more trauma because of other people’s misunderstandings and phobias and hatred than I ever will. (Well, okay, genderfluidity has contributed to the loss of a couple of marriages and any kind of meaningful sex life, and the one date I’ve been on since my last divorce couldn’t handle a book cover with a shirtless guy on it, but still, that’s small potatoes.)
Finally, though, it dawned on me. I’m a writer. That’s what I do, that’s how I let what’s inside of me out. So I’m going to share a bit from one of my books. In Heart of the Oak, Trevor, an American architect on holiday on the Isle of Skye. He’s met a tree spirit, a Gille Dubh, or Dark One, named Darach. At this point in the story, they’ve been lovers, but Trevor has seen something about Darach, something so alien, non-human, that he’s terrified. He’s running. He’s on the bus back to Glasgow, ending his holiday early, haunted by his dreams. And Maggie is the grandmotherly bartender he met at a pub several nights before. I’m going to let the two of them say what I think needs saying.

 

“Trevor? Lad?”
There was a hand on Trevor’s shoulder. He woke with a start, tears streaming down his face and his breath catching.
In the seat beside him sat Maggie, the bartender from the Broadford Hotel, regarding him with a grandmother’s concern. “Is everything a’richt, lad? I thought I saw ye get on th’ bus in Kyle, but ye were gone sae quickly, I wasnae sure.”
Trevor would have laughed, if the last remnant of the dream in his memory had left any laughter in him. “No, Maggie, not really. But I’m glad you’re here, I didn’t mean to run out on my bar tab.” He shifted his weight to enable him to get at his wallet.
Maggie laid a firm hand on his arm. “Money is th’ furthest thing from my mind, this maement.” Her brows went up and didn’t start to lower until he eased his hand away from his pocket. “Guid lad. Now, what has ye in such a state? Surely ye werena planning tae leave sae soon?”
His throat went tight all over again and he had to cough before he could answer. “I wasn’t, no. But I have to.”
“Naething’s wrong tae hame, I hope?”
Only everything. “No. Thanks. I just have to leave.”
Blue eyes narrowed almost imperceptibly. “Have to?”
Trevor nodded miserably. His head fell back against the seat. He closed his eyes for the space of a deep breath. Any longer and the dream started crowding back into his mind again, Darach pacing the bounds of what had become a prison.
“Wi’ ye humor an auld woman, and let me tell ye a bit story?” Her voice was oddly gentle, her gaze a little less piercing.
“Sure.” Maybe hearing a voice that wasn’t leaves and wind would help chase the dream away.
“Nae sae much a story as a memory.” Maggie smiled and the lines around her eyes creased and deepened, but it was an unreadable smile even so. “Ye remind me of anither lad, years ago. Near enough your age, he was, but a ginger. Though he hated tae be called such.” She laughed softly, nearly inaudible over the motor. “He was a sweet lad and a gentle one, wi’ no taste for the tales of gingers stealing souls or haein’ none themselves, e’en in jest.”
Trevor managed a little smile and the old woman nodded as if encouraged, even as her own smile faded.
“A sweet lad he was, but one who ever kept himself to himself. Feared tae be known for wha’ he was. For back in that day, ’twas few there were on this island who would hae left him untroubled had they known.”
Oh, Christ, she knows. “Is it any different now?”
“Among the young, aye. And those of us wi’ the sight tae see past the ends of our own noses, and our own pasts. But this was monie a year ago, and folk were nae sae forgiving as a’ that.” Just for a moment, Maggie’s lips tightened into a thin line. “And this lad, his life was unco’ lonely, and full of the thoughtless cruelty of others, who would speak athout knowing hae they wounded him. Until he fell in love.”
“Why would that remind you of me? No offense,” Trevor added hastily, wishing he could take back the edge to his words.
Maggie completely ignored the interruption. “For years, he kept that love close tae his chest. For ’twas a lad he’d grown up with who took his heart, and he kenned that tae speak it would be his ruin. But the day came when the other lad was tae be wed.
The night before the day, a group o’ them went up tae Portree. For a celebration.”
A chill rippled down Trevor’s spine. “What happened?”
“I dinna ken.” Blue eyes welled up with tears. “But he was pale and drawn, at the wedding and left airlie. And when I came tae hame masel’, that night, ’twas I wha’ found my own son hanging from th’ shower head, and it too late to do aught.”
“Dear God.” Trevor reached out and rested a hand on Maggie’s, where it was clenched into a fist in her lap. “I’m so sorry.”
Maggie shook her head, wiping at her eyes with her free hand. “Dinna be sorry. Only keep your own feet off that path.”
“But I—”
“Follow your heart, Trevor, lad. Dinna hide from it. And for the guid God’s sake, dinna run from it.”
Trevor wanted to close his eyes but Maggie’s wouldn’t let him. “Thank you.” No sound came out but Maggie nodded as if she’d heard, patted his hand gently and eased out of the seat beside his, leaving him alone with his thoughts.
He almost called her back. What if my heart has gone somewhere I don’t dare follow? he wanted to ask. Into another heart, the heart of an ancient oak.
But she was gone. He settled back in the seat, drawing a deep, unsteady breath, and closed his eyes. Deliberately, knowing what was coming.
Again he watched Darach in the moonlight, pacing. Seeking. Alone. So unlike the memory of what had actually happened, the light in the tree spirit’s eyes at the sight of Trevor. The light had stayed there, too. All through their lovemaking. Both times. He came back to life, he rediscovered what it was to be alive.
But Darach hadn’t known the full joy of that life until he shared it. With me.
The light had left those beautiful eyes, though. It’s not what you did, it’s what you are. Dear God, had he been that afraid? Had he really been so cruel? To someone who had given him his heart?
Someone he needed. Someone he loved.
Awkwardly Trevor levered himself out of the pair of high-backed seats. Across the aisle, Maggie caught his eye and nodded. He nodded back, then made his way up the aisle for a brief and urgent conversation with the driver.
Minutes later he found himself at the side of the road, cursing the lack of reception on his phone as the bus rumbled off. He hefted his bags, walked a hundred yards or so up the road, set them down and tried again. He had to reach the bus company, warn them to expect an unscheduled roadside pickup.
He needed to get home.

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