Title: Venetian Masks
Author: Kim Fielding
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 216 pages
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Betrayal, HEA, Italy, Mobsters, Vacation
Rating: Really Liked It
Guest Review by Heather C
Jeff Dawkins’s last partner left him with a mortgage he can’t afford and nonrefundable tickets for a month’s vacation in Europe. Despite a reluctance to travel, Jeff decides to go on the trip anyway. After all, he’s already paid for it. He packs a Kindle loaded with gay romance novels and arrives in Venice full of trepidation. There he meets the handsome and charming expat Cleve Prieto, who offers to serve as his tour guide. Jeff has serious misgivings—he wasn’t born yesterday, and something about Cleve doesn’t sit right—but anything is better than wandering the canals alone. With Cleve’s help, Jeff falls in love with Venice and begins to reconcile with his past. For the first time, Jeff finds himself developing strong feelings for someone else. But he can’t be sure who that person is because Cleve’s background remains a mystery embroidered with lies.
Then a dark figure from Cleve’s past appears, and Jeff must choose whether to let Cleve flee alone or to join him on a desperate run through central Europe. Maybe Jeff will finally be able to see behind Cleve’s masks—if he survives the journey.
Nikyta totally tricked me into reading this!
I went into this book completely blind and had no idea what it was about, although I did gather from the title that it might be set in Venice…
Poor plain ol’, boring Jeff. He’s been cheated on and dumped by his boyfriend, forced to sell his house, and now he’s on a plane traveling to Venice to begin his 4 week European vacation…alone. Shortly after arriving in Venice, he catches the eye of “Cleve”, a gorgeous, tattooed, American drifter who offers to play Jeff’s tour guide…for payment. Hmm, that doesn’t sound like a trusty, safe plan to me!
I immediately connected with Jeff. He is pretty much me (if I were a gay man), as we share many of the same neuroses. Plus, we both:
Work in IT
Live an unexciting existence
Have to plan for everything
Have never traveled anywhere alone
Carry our Kindles everywhere we go, although I haven’t maimed anyone with mine…yet
Then Jeff throws his brain out the window and agrees to give Cleve’s offer a try, while I’m screaming “NOOOOOOOOO, he can’t be trusted!!!!!” But Jeff sees Cleve’s sad eyes and decides to overlook all of his lies and half-truths, and squeezes Cleve into his travel budget…there’s just something about the gorgeous man… It truly was about the companionship, although it wasn’t long before it led to some sexy time…Cleve was never paid for sex!
Cleve…no way did I trust him in the beginning! And I don’t think I even liked him at first because of how much I didn’t trust him. Ooooh, but it wasn’t long before he stole my heart…I think I loved him before Jeff even loved him. And even though it was a bit insta-love-ish, I still loved Jeff and Cleve together and was cheering for them the entire time.
Sooooooo, I’m not going to tell anymore about Cleve or give away any spoilers about what happens next, but the lazy vacation romance suddenly turns into a twisted thriller. Huh? Didn’t see that coming. It did get a little outrageous…but who cares? It was fun and sweet and I couldn’t put it down…and that’s all that matters.
Posted by Nikyta in 41-75k, 5 Really Like It, Authors D-F, Contemporary, Heat 3 - Sexy & Mild, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between Tags: betrayal, Dreamspinner Press, HEA, Italy, Kim Fielding, mobsters, vacation
Title: An Unconventional Courtship
Author: Scotty Cade
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 230 pages
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Adorable!, Affair with the Boss, Businessmen, Co-Workers, Lots of Tension, On Vacation, Series, Sweet, Unrequited Love
Rating: Really Liked It
Guest Review by Heather C
Tristan Moreau loves his job as chief administrative officer and personal assistant to Webber Kincaid, President, Chairman, and CEO of Kincaid International. It would be the perfect job… if only he hadn’t fallen in love with his boss as well as the work. After two years, he’s still doing everything in his power to keep his feelings hidden—mostly because he wants to protect the reputation of his famous boss but also because he wants to keep his job.
Webber Kincaid has stayed in the closet, using his best friend and confidante as his beard. Everything in his life was working out just fine until he met Tristan Moreau. Within months, Tristan stole his heart and became his lifeline. But Webber knows the rules of the workplace better than anyone, so he’s kept his distance.
But two years is too long to wonder “what if?”—especially when business takes them to a private Caribbean island. When Tristan and Webber succumb to the tropical heat, their professionalism starts to backslide. It’s a seemingly impossible relationship, making a go at it under the paparazzi’s microscope. It may be the best—or the worst—business decision they ever made.
The good, the bad…and the adorable.
It’s a story that’s been told many times over again: employee-slash-personal-assistant falls for uber rich boss. Tristan Moreau has been deeply betrayed by a past lover who chose to be with a woman instead of a him. Now, seven years later, Tristan finds himself secretly in love with his boss, Webber Kincaid, and has been hiding it for the last two years. Then when Webber comes to Tristan and invites him to spend three weeks on his private island with him for work and relaxation, Tristan doesn’t know how he can keep his feelings from showing any longer. The conflict: Webber is supposedly straight and doesn’t even know Tristan is gay! Plus, there is the matter of Webber’s company and reputation to think about…
The Good: There was soooooo much sexual tension!! Seriously, all of the accidental touches and heated looks had me giddy. The guys didn’t even kiss until 37%!!! Plus, there was only like 5 minutes of angst that gets cleared up quite quickly. Honestly, I expected it to drag on for ages, but nope, it all gets fixed and sweetness ensues.
The bad: Speaking of the the sweetness, at times it was a bit much. Once these guys realize they are both in love with each other, its kinda insta-I-plan-to-spend-the-rest-of my-life-with-you-love. So it made me roll my eyes a few times, but Tristan and Webber were so cute I just accepted it and kept on reading. It did get a bit wordy at times, but I like this kind of wordiness, so it didn’t really bother me.
The Adorable: I adored Tristan and Webber! How could anyone not love them. They are both sweet and kind and Webber has to be one of the most romantic heroes I’ve ever read. He knows how to steal a
girl’s man’s heart! And all the romantic plans he made while courting Tristan…*sigh*…so romantic.
Moving on to the sequel: An Unconventional Union. I’m hoping for a beautifully, romantic wedding!
Disclaimer: This is not something I would normally like to read, but today, it was perfect for my mood. I recommend saving it for one of those days when you need something sweet and easy.
Posted by Nikyta in 41-75k, 5 Really Like It, Contemporary, Heat 3 - Sexy & Mild, Romance, Sex Freq 3 - Average Story to Sex Tags: Adorable!, Affair with the Boss, Businessmen, co-workers, lots of tension, On Vacation, Series, Sweet, ten, Unrequited Love
Marguerite Labbe & Kate McMurray visit to talk about their new anthology, Playing Ball + a (super awesome) Giveaway Opportunity!September 25, 2013
Whoohooo, today is the release day for the baseball themed anthology Playing Ball. And in honor of this day, Kate McMurray and I thought we’d get together to discuss our lifelong love of two teams in particular, the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox and some of the moments we remember in this ongoing rivalry.
So, I am a lifelong Yankee fan who went to college in Massachusetts and, in fact, dated a Sox fan for almost ten years. (He was one of my favorite people to talk baseball with, even after we broke up, although we were dating when the Sox won the ‘04 World Series, and we had plenty to talk about that season. I almost wanted to root for the Sox to break the Curse of the Bambino—grudging respect and all that—though it was hard after they swept the Yankees in the ALCS. NOT THAT I’M BITTER.)
Anyway, I remember one game I watched with friends in college, and the Sox won and must have clinched something, their spot in the play-offs maybe, and all the baseball fans poured out of the dorms and gathered in the courtyard to cheer and talk about it—these are things we did before social networking, I guess—and, as was inevitable, chants of “Yankees suck!” broke out in the crowd. It didn’t matter that the Yankees hadn’t been anywhere near the game we just watched. (It also didn’t matter that this was the late-90s when the Yankees were AWESOME. Statistically, I mean; I’m not just saying that. I mean: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/201305-were-the-1998-yankees-the-best-team-ever) This is the funny thing about being a Yankee fan. Because there are two pools of baseball fans: Yankee fans and fans who hate the Yankees. No baseball fan has ambivalence about the Yankees. I’ve been to a few Mets games, and there is always at least one guy who whips the crowd into a “Yankees suck!” frenzy, even if the Yankees aren’t there.
And I’m a lifelong Red Sox fan. Hell, it’s in my blood. When my Grandmaman emigrated to the U.S. she became a huge fan of baseball before she even learned English and settled right down in the heart of Red Sox country. She passed that love down to the rest of us, though my mother takes it to a whole different level. I remember when we were transferred to Ohio when I was seven and I teased my mom about becoming a Cincinnati Reds fans since that was the closest team just to watch her explode. See the Cincinnati Reds had beat the Red Sox in the 1975 World Series and my mother never forgot or forgave them even though we lived in Ohio for seven years. Her best friend came from New York and was a diehard Yankees fan and there were many summer nights where the two of them would watch the games, trying to encourage each others’ kids to switch team loyalties, and hooting/hollering the entire time.
And as for BITTER, I will never forget the 7th Game in the ACLS of 2003. We were sure that this was the year. It seemed like we always thought that this could be the year. But in 2003 it was feverish. The entire clan gathered at my mom’s house for Game 7, kids, grandkids, even the family members who weren’t huge baseball fans. (I cannot believe such a creature actually exists.) My son wasn’t even a year yet, trying to sleep on my lap as we followed each pitch, every damn swing. And when Aaron Boone got that damned home run the living room exploded.
I have a good friend who lives in the Boston suburbs, and she and her husband are rabid, fanatical Sox fans. Their home office is completely Boston sports themed, with an entire wall taken up by 2004 World Series memorabilia. I am not making this up. I usually sleep in that room when I visit and it is terrifying. They come down to New York once a year or so for a game and usually invite me to tag along, so all of the Sox at Yankee Stadium games I’ve seen in person have been with them. There was a time when you could get bleacher seats at any Yankee game for 5 bucks, so I saw a few rivalry games that way. This is no longer true—I don’t think you can get even a hot dog for $5 at the new Yankee Stadium, no joke—but I saw some great Sox vs. Yankee games from the noisy bleachers, when people would get rowdy (and get tossed out of the stadium) even after the stadium banned the sale of alcohol to the Bleacher Creatures. (Not that one couldn’t get drunk at one of the many sports bars across the street before the game.)
Sadly, I have never seen a live game between the Red Sox and Yankees. Being a military brat we were rarely stationed anywhere close to a baseball stadium. Except for the year we lived in New York when sadly I think my parents thought I was too young to enjoy a live baseball game. And now that I’m settled in Maryland most of the games we catch are at Camden Yards. (Another beautiful, old stadium.) And home is the Great North Woods of New Hampshire and nowhere close to Fenway. However, I do get a lot of grief for being a Red Sox fan from my Orioles fan buddies. Speaking of memorabilia, my brother-in-law on my husband’s side of the family is from New York and passed his love for the Yankees down to my niece who is one of the sweetest girls you’ve ever known. She came to my sister’s house for a party and hanging in the garage was a sign proclaiming, “Yankees Suck.” The poor child was shocked down to her toes and I took her aside and told her not to let it get to her. Even if this house was Red Sox territory, she was still welcome and she should wear her cap with pride.
But it’s all in good fun. My Sox fan friends and (and my Mets fan friends) and my Yankees fan friends can talk baseball all day long, and it gets heated sometimes, but we joke around about it, too. But the Yankees are one of the greatest sports franchises of all time, and I will not hear arguments to the contrary.
My dad has a tee-shirt that says, “I’m a fan of two teams: the Yankees and whoever is playing the Red Sox.” I think that about sums it up.
LOL, my sister has almost the exact same T-shirt, only with the opposite sentiment.
Seriously though, I love the rivalry, I love the history between the two teams, and the grudging respect. I love that Fenway played “New York, New York” after 9/11 and New York played “Sweet Caroline” after the Boston Marathon bombing. How many other teams/rivalries have that same kind of vibe?
Well, that’s our little take on being fans and rivals, though I think we could’ve gone on forever if given the chance. But we channeled our love for baseball into our anthology. Kate McMurray’s story is “One Man to Remember,” a wonderful historic tale set in 1927 New York. The characters are so memorable and she really captures the time period.
It’s 1927, and in New York City Babe Ruth and the Yankee’s unstoppable batting lineup, Murderers’ Row, is all anyone can talk about. Across town, the Giants’ rookie infielder Skip Littlefield racks up hits, creating a streak to rival the Babe’s. Worried his secrets could get out, he avoids the spotlight, but he catches the attention of lauded sports reporter Walter Selby, a notorious dandy whose sexuality is an open secret. Skip reluctantly agrees to an interview, and mutual attraction is sparked. Skip can only hope the more charismatic stars will draw attention away from his romance with Walt. Otherwise, his career and everything he loves is at stake.
My story “Wild Pitch” is about two retired players and best friends who have gone on to coach rival Little League teams in Vermont.
Ruben Martell fell in love with Alan Hartner during their years playing baseball. They stepped over the foul line once, but the encounter left them struggling with heartache and guilt, turning away from each other to focus on their families. Now retired from the majors, they run a batting cage together and coach rival Little League teams as they juggle fatherhood and being single again. Though Ruben has never given up hope that Alan might look at him as more than a friend, Alan seems determined to keep things the way they’ve always been. But long-buried feelings and desires have a way of resurfacing, and Ruben can’t wait forever.
To celebrate the release of PLAYING BALL and our blog tour, Shae, Kate, Kerry, and I have put together a pretty awesome giveaway.
Grand prize: A print copy of PLAYING BALL signed by all four authors, a unisex BBQ apron featuring hot athletes from Originals by Lauren, and swag from all four authors.
Runner-up prize: An ebook copy of PLAYING BALL and swag from all four authors.
The giveaway will run from 12AM Central on September 21, 2013 to 12AM Central on October 11, 2013. To give an opportunity for the authors to get together to sign the book and gather swag, the winners will be picked and the prizes shipped after the end of GayRomLit 2013.
But there are some rules:
You must be a resident of Earth, 18 years or older, who lives in a place where the viewing of adult material is legal. By entering the giveaway, you are indicating your agreement to the rules. Winners must provide a physical mailing address to receive their prizes. If a winner does not respond to the prize notification within 48 hours, the prize will be re-awarded.
Back for the 3rd Part — “Revenge of the Spec Fic Nerds” — J Tullos Hennig & Carole Cummings talk about Worldbuilding!September 24, 2013
Revenge of the Spec Fic Nerds!
Two old Speculative Fiction Nerds walk into in a bar…
No. Really. We met in a bar and realised we had one major thing in common: words. Preferably wrapped about fantastic worlds like some insane crazy quilt.
CC: All right, we said we were going to talk about worldbuilding this month, or at least partially, because it’s perhaps one of the biggest aspects of Spec Fic. While we usually start out with an OED definition of our topic, I’m afraid the OED doesn’t have one for this. So you’ll just have to trust us on this one:
~1 Worldbuilding noun \ˈwər(-ə)ld-bil-diŋ\
The process of inventing a world or universe to serve as a base upon which a fictional story is set. History, biology (and its evolution), psychology and sociology (and their evolution[s]), ecology and geology are all crucial components of inclusive worldbuilding and, when used effectively, can enhance and enrich a fully realized fictional world.
CC: No, we’re not going to tell you how to build a world, and we’re not going to cram in not-so-sly promos of the worlds we’ve built in our own books. Except, I did build this really cool world, and you can read all about it in my book. Here, let me paste in an excerpt and a link to—
CC: …Er. Yes, Jen?
JTH: Don’t give me that innocent look. No. Down, girl.
CC: *pours JTH honking-big glass of wine and grins endearingly*
JTH: *sips wine* Still no. And that grin isn’t half as endearing as you think it is.
CC: *grumbles* Okay, fine, we’re really not here to talk about our own worlds, and we’re not even really here to analyze the worlds of other authors. We’re here to talk about worldbuilding in Spec Fic and why writing it—and reading it—takes a different kind of mindset than it would in something like… oh, say, a historical memoir or a contemporary romance. We’re also going to talk about why anachronisms aren’t always anachronistic, even if they look like they are, and why—even when building a world encompasses the exposition of same-sex sexuality—the term “gay” does not necessarily apply.
JTH: And also, eventually, why worldbuilding can be its own most craven enemy, leading to such things as the Backstory That Drones On And On And ON, the World Without A Plot, and the World That Tells You–Every Stinking Paragraph–Just How Amazing It Is.
*looks at all the capitals* Bloody damn, that was exhausting.
CC: Have some cheese with that whine?
JTH: As long as it isn’t Cheetos…
CC: *lobs cheese*
JTH: *catches it* But then, worldbuilding is bloody exhaustive work and we should all cast a suspicious eye upon those who say otherwise. Which end upon the hard part descends hinges on how you work and write… but if you don’t do the work, it shows. And we have an entire rich world to base us in creating our own; SF is all about the mining and resculpturing of mythic encounters. It questions valued paradigms. There is, of course and like everything, a caveat to this: so much of SF started with a bunch of upper class white guys–many of them Victorians envisioning Other, and often in a less-than-culturally-balanced way. Nevertheless, some of the most amazing worlds were born in the breath of folk tales and faery stories. Perhaps all of it, when you break it down to its essential bits…
But it’s a different kind of work than, say, the work you have to do on an historically-based event. There is no less of a world being built (rebuilt?) in historical fiction but your… ‘map’ changes. The rules by which you have to abide can be fairly binding. You can wriggle around a lot of the Rules by putting a fantastical element into the history. Steampunk and alternate history are two good examples of this. I detest bunging everything up into tidy boxes, BUT. A magical element is not license to run amok. There has to be some sort of internal consistency, some sense to be gleaned from even a wild world, however anarchic or anachronistic.
CC: It’s tempting to shove dragons and magic and the Fae Folk (or spaceships and laser guns) into a story and think: “There, I’m done. I can do what I want, now!” But no. No, no, no, noooooo. Just because it’s a Spec Fic story and there’s more license for playing with the development of the world, does not mean there don’t have to be rules. Every world has to have rules—gravity, physical limitations, societal expectations, etc.—and just because a world is made up, that doesn’t give it a free pass. There still has to be a basis in the reality of that particular world.
Given that, Anachronism is still one of those words that gets thrown around entirely too much. I’ve seen complaints about an anachronism in a book that “threw a reader out of the story”, and when I go and have a look, I find that the word or situation in question wasn’t anachronistic at all. What a reader might think is an anachronism isn’t always anachronistic:
A world wouldn’t develop mass transit before it developed mass communication, WTF!
It wouldn’t? Why not? It’s a completely different world—why wouldn’t it develop technology on a completely different timeline and in a completely different way?
A hospital scene in Medieval Japan, WTF!
And…? First of all, if it’s a Spec Fic story, it wouldn’t really be Medieval Japan, would it? And second of all, Medieval Japan had hospitals.
JTH: So much of Spec Fic is based on medieval places; it’s far too easy to fall into those assumptions and expectations… in a genre where expectations are supposed to be shaken and questioned! And if you have a race, say, of telepaths that cannot physically teleport, then they don’t need artificial mass communication… but they just might have to get somewhere quickly. So I guess my question is: who wasn’t doing the work? There’s a problem on both sides of the author/reader dynamic: the tendency to be unwilling–or just too lazy–to submit to the world being built.
The writer has a lot more to prove, a lot more trust to garner–and they should. A writer’s job is to make absolutely sure their wild and fantastic world has some kind of interior logic that holds water, and all the while be preemptive in making sure that said logic is presented in stable and hopefully non-intrusive fashion. On the reader’s side, they need to agree to let the author take them on a journey of some kind–and often in SF that means being thoughtful and open-minded. Lack of know-how on either side can sabotage the trust.
And there’s always going to be someone–author or reader–who pulls something out of their arse without checking to make sure whether they’ve mined gold or crap.
CC: And writers get bent on the weirdest things. For example, I was watching a conversation on one of my writers’ groups in which the OP asked if she should stay away from using the word “earth” in the fantasy story she was writing, and whether or not it was anachronistic. And I kind of watched the comments build and multiply, all the while boggling that everyone seemed to think it was a huge mistake to use the word in a story that didn’t take place on Earth, and not a single person seemed to twig to the fact that, in its nonProper Noun form, “earth” is just another word for “soil”. Yes, someone thousands of years ago named our planet after it, but the primary definition of the word originated from the Greek “eorthe/ertha” and “erde”, both of which mean “ground”.
The thing is, writing a Spec Fic story without inventing a whole new language for the world in which the story is based—and then writing the story in that language—is anachronistic in and of itself. We’re already putting English words in our characters’ mouths, when they obviously shouldn’t be speaking English. The Lord of the Rings, for instance, wasn’t written in Westron, so technically, the entirety of the text is one giant anachronism. So you do have to give a Spec Fic story some leeway when it comes to language.
JTH: And Tolkien wasn’t building a world that was separate from OUR world; he was doing a myth of prehistory. So he could get away with a lot of things he shouldn’t have been able to had he been doing a totally different world… and had he not been a Fantasy Trailblazer and White Dude. 😉 A Fantasy based firmly in history has to be somewhat conversant with that history… (And truthfully, Tolkien kind of did what he bloody wanted with some of his ‘consistencies’. Being Fantasy Trailblazer garners respect, but does not get you off the hook, White Dude.)
CC: Yeah, there is certainly that. Calling a story Spec Fic does not mean it’s a free-for-all when it comes to building the world on which the story takes place. The religion of that world is a four-god system that never heard of Judeo-Christianity? Then having your character say “jeepers creepers” is anachronistic. Why? Because it’s a slang phrase meant as a nonblasphemous alternative to saying “Jesus Christ.”
JTH: Or Jeezy Creezy, as Eddie Izzard would say. (And if you’ve not heard of him… run, don’t walk to your retailer of choice, and grab one of his comedic DVDs.)
CC: In your mind!
*cough* Sorry. Had myself a brief Izzard Moment. Anyway.
There are tons of words and phrases like that, and sometimes readers will trip over them, and sometimes they won’t. But it’s the author’s job to be aware of language and to use it properly. And then not get all bent out of shape when someone does trip over an anachronism the author used, however inadvertently, because let’s face it—not all of us have a 5,000,000 word vocabulary and the brass to use it. *pokes JTH*
JTH: Kept me off the streets. Dirt roads. Whatever. I do believe I was the only kid I knew who had a dictionary on the nightstand–and read it. Of course, reading the dictionary means that you end up not knowing many kids…
And language… that is a whole ‘nother thing all it’s own… and I really-really want to dive in headfirst, but will restrain myself for another visit to the Armchair. I’ll just leave it for now that language can be anachronism. Or, given the proper basis, not. Anachronism is like… a debate, perhaps, and the entire hinge upon which it swings seems to be the validity of the defending argument. Does the author make the world-logic compelling enough to take in the use of this device, or wield that equipment? Are they insecure in their world and having to desperately defend it by bludgeoning the reader? Is the reader willing to go in and be convinced–or do they, too, have some underground agenda of needing to have their own world validated, and so much that they can’t wake up to another one?
Or did just some unfortunate fuck-up happen that nobody caught? Because, well, it does.
CC: When the author ventures out of that reality, that’s when it’s okay to call a Spec Fic story on anachronism. Authors know their worlds better than anyone else ever will, but sometimes we spend so much time in them, we don’t pay enough attention to the one everybody else lives in. So yeah, things—like a phrase or a word or a concept—can get by an author and no alarm bells will go off until a reader catches it.
On the other hand, just because a character in a SF world that looks like a 4th century Mesopotamia discovers a device that looks suspiciously to the reader like a battery—and probably starts a big war or has to keep the device from Evil Bad Guy, because we can’t forget about the High Stakes Endgame—that doesn’t make it anachronistic. If the possibility of that device is built into that world, the author has done their job and it’s the reader’s responsibility to roll with it. And if the reader still can’t buy it? Look it up. It’s sometimes surprising how many “unbelievable and anachronistic” things are actually neither. ‘Cause, you know, there is such thing as the Baghdad Battery. Oh, and hey, historians are pretty sure it’s from the 3rd century.
JTH: So it seems, when you get it whittled down, it’s cultural anachronisms in SF that can be the worst offenders, eh? If a reader or writer makes the assumption that things are expected to be nothing more than status quo, set in the stone of our own culture’s baggage… that’s when things can get really dicey. Like assuming another religion will of course look at things the same way as ‘your’ religion does. Like deciding that every being living on an entire planet will act the same and look the same. (Yes, Gene Roddenberry, I love you but am looking at you.) Like being irritated when words have apostrophes or are difficult to pronounce, and…? *pauses and toasts CC*
CC: And here’s where we get into “gay”, and why it really isn’t. At least, in a Spec Fic story that’s not based in our world.
Our history is not the universe’s history. If there are other populated worlds out there, chances are not all of them came up with vengeful gods who hate it when people stick their twigs in what they perceive as the wrong knothole, or eschew twigs altogether.
I like to think that other worlds wouldn’t develop our same prejudices. I like to think alien societies would be smarter about sexuality than we are. So when I’m confronted with a story that supposedly takes place on another world entirely, and yet that world includes all of the societal absurdities of ours, I have to hold back a few emo tears. Because what’s the point? Spec Fic, you know?—where the ‘spec’ part is short for speculative. If there’s no speculation, what’s so speculative about it?
“Gay”, as a cultural concept, is characteristic of our world, and the prejudices that—unfortunately still—come with it progressed from a societal evolution unique to us. Or, at least, I certainly hope we’re the only idiots in the universe to have hissies over who sleeps with whom. But I digress. And don’t mistake “gay” for a blanket synonym for “same-sex relationships”, not in Spec Fic. In Spec Fic, same-sex relationships are often part and parcel of the cultural norm—sometimes the expectation.
JTH: I think it’s that language thing again… and one that belongs to our more recent cultures. Gay, for instance–relatively recently and in the more dominant cultures of this world–has been claimed by a disenfranchised group of people as a statement and an identity. It seems to me somewhat discourteous–and disingenuous–to just hie off with that identity and use it as nothing more than a keyword. There has to be context. There will be subtext–either read into it or there waiting to be read–and we all need to be damn sure of what that subtext is saying. If history is taken from an identifier, then to some extent some of the identifier’s meaning is ripped away as well.
I can talk about a gay 12th century English outlaw–but do I use that terminology in the text proper? No. There are words from that century that are more appropriate–and many of them unfortunately brutal–but with some attention their meaning can make them pertinent to a struggle the modern reader can identify with. The cultural and language markers cannot be the same… but the subtext and questions within them can make them even more accessible.
As Spec Fic writers–and readers–we need to build upon existing identities… but we also need to know when to let them hold their own place. We need to build new identities as we’re building new worlds–and look for answers to old, troubling questions whilst we carry on our attempts to make some sort of sense within them.
And for you, Dear Readers:
What books and/or stories made you question your paradigm? Made you ‘wake up’ and ask questions about what was wrong–or right–about your own world?
Carole Cummings lives with her husband and family in Pennsylvania, USA, where she spends her time trying to find time to write. Author of the Aisling and Wolf’s-own series, Carole is an avid reader of just about anything that’s written well and has good characters. She is a lifelong writer of the ‘movies’ that run constantly in her head. Surprisingly, she does manage sleep in there somewhere, and though she is rumored to live on coffee and Pixy Stix™, no one has as yet suggested she might be more comfortable in a padded room. Well, not to her face.
J Tullos Hennig is suspected of having written since in utero. JTH was a professional writer 30 years ago, but Very Bad Luck prevailed so the publishing ground to a halt. JTH also tried to stop writing, but resistance is, yes, futile… and here we are. JTH has recently re-imagined the legend of Robyn Hood in a duology of Historical Fantasy; Book 1, Greenwode was published by Dreamspinner Press in January 2013. The second book, Shirewode was released on September 9th. JTH is presently working on the introductory book of a Speculative Fiction series.
Goblins: The Beginning
From the mind of the girl who wanted to abandon the real world, and run away with the goblin king…
Hello, readers! Melanie here on The Armchair Reader. I’m going to talk a little about the inspiration that kick-started my Goblins series.
I’ve always loved fantasy, and history. Unfortunately my dry and British self-deprecating humour never led me to take my own work seriously. I thought high fantasy should contain a level of seriousness, but I couldn’t actually write that way.
After writing in contemporary for a while, and using a lot of humour, I decided to take another stab at fantasy, but this time I’d make it different. What if I brought modern humour and concepts into a historical, fantasy setting? And thank goodness, that style works for me.
I’d say that Goblins has one foot in contemporary, another in fantasy, and a third foot in historical. (I’ll stop talking about appendages now, before I get carried away!)
The concept behind the first story, Wulfren and the Warlock, which spawned the Goblins series, can be boiled down to three main inspiration elements.
I love big, knobbly, spooky-looking trees. I spent a lot of time in the woods (still do) and was always hoping that magical creatures would reveal themselves–pah ha ha!–to me, and invite me to live in their secret forest realm. (Still hope for that, too!)
So, a forest, and a magical one at that. When I opened my ye olde book of English folklore, I kept reading about Epping forest, which was absolutely humungous back in the day. Epping forest once stretched from Bow in London up to Cambridge and Colchester. Within the forest, dark glades of oak, elm and beech trees sheltered who knew what; hermits, vagrants, gypsies, outlaws, highwaymen, and…
Magical creatures? Why not?
The film A Company of Wolves is a classic, a romantic horror, a coming of age Red Riding Hood tale. As anyone who’s read my other works knows, I’m a huge fan of androgyny, especially fey men with long hair. When I first saw the little wolf girl (pictured above, played by 80s popstar, Danielle Dax) I knew that was exactly how my Goblins would look.
Lithe, pale figures in the forest, with long, dark 80s hair. So, a bunch of goths dressed in leaves, basically. My Goblins are the rockstars of their forest.
And why not? Don’t rockstars work well as goblins?
Since gazing wide eyed at Jareth the goblin king as a child, I’ve always been baffled by the silly girl’s choice to reject him and live in the real world instead. Is she mad? I adore Labyrinth, and have always been drawn to baddies with big hair. (What? Sue me.)
Faery courts and royalty are another weakness of mine. I love everything, all the folklore, all the legends. Usually I’d be swooning over the baddies most. I decided, in my stories, I’d focus on the ‘baddies’, on the dark and dangerous creatures. They’re the ones I’d want to know more about.
And I could have my own goblin king!
Then I thought, what if my goblin king had sons? What if one of those sons got into mischief, and unwittingly fell in love with a human? It’d be taboo. Severely frowned upon. What would happen if he disobeyed the goblin king?
And thus began my first story! Except I had so much fun creating and writing the characters that suddenly I wanted to tell their stories, too. Before I knew it, the whole set of tales had evolved into a series. (I can’t help myself!)
There was just too much goodness from the era that I couldn’t fit into one story; witches and witchcraft, princes and royalty, cavaliers, the new model army (no, not the goth band!) not to mention elves and highwaymen.
The stories are relatively light-hearted and fun, despite having a themes of mild horror (noose and gibbet, anyone?) throughout, as the goblins discover more about humans than they’d been prepared for.
Catch up with me on my Goblins blog tour for more about the series and its history, and a special giveaway.
In the 17th Century, the ancient sprawl of Epping forest is bursting with magic and those who go unseen by human eyes: the elves who rule the summer court, and the goblins who rule the winter court. It is said that if a human catches the eye of one of the fey, they are either doomed or blessed.
Wulfren & the Warlock
When Wulfren wakes from a strange dream of a human captor with long silver hair, and grey eyes, his brothers tell him they rescued him from a warlock, and take Wulfren back home to the goblin king’s palace. But Wulfren isn’t so sure the matter is that simple. Why was he missing so long? What are the strange dreams of the beautiful man with the silver hair? Dalliances with humans are severely frowned upon, especially by Wulfren’s father, but Wulfren is willing to risk the scorn of his family to find the human who haunts his dreams.
Quiller & the Runaway Prince
After a hard winter, Quiller is sent deep into the forest on a family errand, and is surprised when a human stumbles into his path. Quiller swoops in to pester him, perhaps even eat him, but there is something special about the human: his scent is royal, though he protests that he is not, and soon Quiller finds himself agreeing to help the human with his troubles—in exchange for a kiss.
To celebrate the upcoming release of Strange Angels, I decided to talk to a couple of characters in the book. Today’s it Bob, bar owner and supposed fallen god, although he is a slippery one.
Andrea: Thanks for talking to me, Bob.
Bob: No problem, mate. Love the sound of my own voice.
Andrea: Now you supposedly own a bar called The Way Station. But I can’t find any proof that it exists.
Bob: It exists, but only for people who need it.
Bob: Can’t explain it.
Andrea: So only people who need your bar can find it? Doesn’t nearly everyone need a bar at one time or another?
Bob: You don’t come to my place for drinks.
Andrea: What do you come for then?
Bob: Ah, but that would be telling.
Andrea: So I will find your bar if I need it, but I can’t know what I’d need it for?
Bob: Now you got it.
Andrea: Rumors have it you’re a fallen god. Which one?
Andrea: What kind of answer is that?
Bob: I’m a fan of the game, mate. If I tell you right out, where’s the fun for me?
Andrea: I didn’t realize conversations were games.
Bob: Sure they are. There’s give and take, right? That’s sort of game. There’s also rules to conversations, and rules to games.
Andrea: What’s the rules of this conversation?
Bob: No idea. I’m making it up as I go along.
Andrea: Fine. Can you tell us anything about the rumor?
Bob: Fallen god’s a funny phrase, isn’t it? It’s like, what, Thor tripped and fell over an ottoman? Seems weird. I mean, he’s Thor. How’s a pratfall gonna hurt him?
Andrea: You’re not Thor, are you?
Bob: (Laughs) Do I look like a big Norseman with daddy issues and a constant case of the frizzies? Nope.
Andrea: The frizzies?
Bob: Yeah. He’s just one big magnet of static electricity. Never shake his hand unless you like getting fifty thousand volts through you. Although it wakes you up a lot faster than coffee.
Andrea: You’re never going to answer a single question seriously, are you?
Bob: Nope. Where’s the fun in that?
So ends the interview with Bob, one of the many weird gods (?) featured in Strange Angels. Good luck on finding his bar, although if you do, good luck on ever getting a straight answer out of him.
Death is the family business, and Brendan Connolly is about to come into his legacy. Nobody warned Bren that Dad was a death god, or that someday he’d inherit his powers. So far, falling in love with the angel sent to protect him has been the only good thing to come out of this whole mess.
Bren’s guardian angel, Lorygdarain, knows the aura of a ticking supernatural time bomb when he sees one. Add to that the angel’s first taste of the human emotion called love, and protecting Bren from the god who killed his father could be Dar’s hardest job in an eon.
Snakes, amnesia, and a mysterious god named Bob might not be much of a rescue plan, but one guardian angel can only do so much. With a veritable pantheon on his heels, and the universe hanging in the balance, Bren must learn to lock and load the most dangerous weapon of all: himself.