Audio coffee break, anyone?

Another first! This time, first radio interview and first appearance on a podcast combined! I manage to trip up over my tongue a few times, but overall, I think I did okay! Huge thanks to Jessie who was a wonderful hostess, totally making me feel at home.

You can listen here or look for Jessie’s Coffee Shop on iTunes, or wherever you find your podcasts!

(Also author friends? Jessie is always open to new guests and serves a mean cup of coffee!)

Talking Ugly Sweaters with Sera Trevor!

In case the fact I’ve written a three-book series about Christmas sweaters didn’t clue you in, I have important opinions about seasonal clothing choices. Asking me about them is Sera Trevor, who interviewed me about the For the Love of Christmas! series on her blog.

Check out the interview here.

In Sera’s words, ‘I’m very pleased to have Gillian on my blog to answer a few questions about ugly clothes, the perils of the holiday season, and how to deal with self-doubt.’ Spoiler alert: It involves David Hasselhorf.



Rainbow Gold Reviews Trans Aware Event

I spent most of August chasing my tail (RWNZ conferences will do that to you). Now that I’ve got some time to catch up, I wanted to point you towards the Rainbow Gold Reviews blog. In response to President Trump’s actions, they decided to host a week long event highlighting trans authors and books with trans characters. They got such an overwhelming response the event extended into two weeks—two weeks of guest posts, interviews, book reviews and giveaways. Sadly, I’ve left this too long for the giveaways I’m sure, but I highly recommend checking out the event.

I’ve already highlighted Elliot Cooper’s contribution, but there are some very cool contributions. I love the honesty of Jenn Polish’s Transition on Trains: On Being a Non-binary Author,  and in Victor Alexander’s interview. I’m in there too. Gatsby, a side character in The Wing Commander’s Curse, happens to be trans—and happens to be serving in the military. Timely! Honestly though, I think I gained more than I gave. Reading the guest posts and interviews challenged me. I’m in awe of the honesty and courage of these very talented authors.


In order of posts, earliest through latest:

J.S. Fields: Interview.

Angel Martinez: Guest Post

L.A. Witt: Having her Back. Book Review by Dana.

Jeff Adams: The Inspiration behind Hat trick Book 3: Penalty Shot.

Francis Gideon: A Winter in Rome. Book Review by Eloreen.

Jay Northcote: Interview and Starting From Scratch: Book Review by Bethany.

Aidan Wayne: Grounded. Book Review by Wendy.

Missy Welsh: Why I Wrote a Romance Featuring a Transman.

Joe Cosentino: Books of Inclusion.

Gillian St. Kevern: Interview

Christopher Hawthorne Moss: A Fine Bromance. Book Review by Dana.

Jenn Polish: Transition on Trains.

Elliot Cooper: Are Your Books Trans Enough?

Julie Aitchenson: Guest Post.

G.R. Lyons: Life in Transition.

Allan Hunter: Identifying as Genderqueer rather than Transgender

Fifi Frost: Trans-trap. Book Review by Wendy

Anna Martin: Guest Post. The Impossible Boy: Book Review by Bethany.

Francis Gideon: Hopeless Romantic. Book Review by Dana 

Victor Alexander: Interview


Interviewed by the Interviewed!

No, my fingers didn’t slip. This week’s interview is with me! Since I can’t interview myself, I invited previous blog guests to turn the tables and give me a question. They came up with some really great questions! I enjoyed my turn in the interview hotseat and think that you’ll agree that the questions everyone gave me were a lot of fun! Topics span from my latest release, Morgen Curse, to my writing in general–and beyond!

Joe Cosentino, author of many, many books! My favourite is the In My Heart Anthology.

Since turnabout is fair play, I have a question for you. I read and loved Thorns and Fangs, and felt the sexy steam sizzling off the pages of the book. How do you make such dark, vampire characters so intoxicating and appealing? Were you influenced by my favorite television shows Dark Shadows and Dante’s Cove?

I’m really pleased you enjoyed Thorns and Fangs, Joe! But serious confession time here. While Dark Shadows is on my radar (I have heard so much about it from you and other sources that I really want to actually watch it), I’ve never actually seen it. In fact, there is a lot of television I haven’t seen.

When I was 12-14, my family was living in a small pacific island nation, that had three radio stations, one movie theatre in the capital city, and that was it as far as broadcast entertainment went (also, that one movie theatre played the same movie the entire time we lived there). I got out of the habit of watching TV and…never really got back into it.

Elliot Cooper, author of The Clockwork Menagerie.

MorgenCurse-MediumIs your sequel going to feature the same main characters as Deep Magic?

Morgen Curse doesn’t feature the same main characters as Deep Magic, but it does open the door to a meeting between them all … which is going to be amazing.

Deep Magic involved Welsh mythology. With the sequel, did you have to do any additional mythological research? And did you incorporate any other myths or legends?

I did research, but it wasn’t mythological. Morgen Curse is set on and around the Antipodes Islands, an uninhabited island group in New Zealand waters. Most of my research was centred around wikipedia, the Million Dollar Mouse and questioning my mum and stepdad about their experiences visiting other island nature reserves (having scientists in the family really came in useful!).

I did consider incorporating Maori mythology into the mythos of this world via Zane, who, despite his European name, has Polynesian blood, but I decided against it on the ground that I’d need to do a lot more research in order to do it properly, and I think that might be better suited for another story. I’m worried about moving too far from the original heart of Deep Magic.

Kaje Harper, author extraordinaire! I am really excited about the continuation of Kaje’s Tracefinder series, Changes, coming soon.

 When you write main characters with magic or powers, do you deliberately think about giving them human flaws so the reader will empathize?

I don’t think about it in terms of flaws, but I start character building with a problem. What does my character want? What is stopping him from getting it? Usually the problem stems from something internal because those problems are a lot harder to overcome and necessitate growth–I am a huge sucker for character growth.

I agree that flaws are especially important for characters with powers based on my own initial impression of Superman as overpowered and uninteresting. It wasn’t until I picked up an issue and discovered that he struggles to talk to his boss, and that he and Lois have to work at their marriage, and that he has a lot of difficulty coping with loss that he became real to me–recent terrible costume choices aside (Superman, please. You are stealing Kon-El’s fashion choices! Do you not remember the trainwreck that was 90s Superboy?)

Do you avoid reading paranormal while you are writing it to keep your world-building focused, or is it not an issue?

I did when working on Thorns and Fangs, aside from re-reading Dracula and Carmilla to put me in the vampire mood–and I think this was a mistake. Not only did I miss out on some amazing reads, but seeing what other people are doing in the genre since I published has given me increased drive and enthusiasm that I wished I’d had earlier! Rather than feeling discouraged, I am impressed and challenged to make my stories even better.

I know that a lot of authors fear accidentally plagiarising others, but spotting similarities between my work and other writers that happened completely unwittingly has made me think it is better to be aware of possible similarities so that you can concentrate on giving them your own unique spin rather than remaining ignorant and potentially being blindsided by them.

I made the conscious decision while working on Deep Magic to seek out other merman stories and I am really glad I did. Reading Arielle Pierce’s In the Lonely Sea and The Song of the Sea in particular really brought the Welsh Coast’s intertidal peculiarities home to me in a way that no amount of wikipedia articles and pinterest boards could. Deep Magic is a much better story for it!

What was the first book you read that left you wishing the magic or world in it was real?

I feel like I talk about The Changeover by Margaret Mahy a lot, but the first time I picked it up, I felt like it was written for me. It’s a YA coming of age story that combines rite of passage with saving a younger brother from an awful vampire-like monster. Laura, with her wooly hair and chaotic family was instantly relatable, and I loved the way she took in witches and magic with perfect composure. Sorry, with his decision to work for the Department of Conversation, also struck a chord (one that echoes in Morgen Curse — my mother and stepfather both worked for DOC ). Most importantly, they were New Zealanders, and at that point, attending my second international school in Singapore, the only kiwi in my class, that meant a lot.

I don’t think I consciously wished The Changeover was real, it just seemed real to an extent that influenced me. I found out years later that it was set in the city I went to University in, and I suspect that I had a flat in the house the witches lived in–I once found a figure made of sticks left in a bath in a garden and occasionally there would be rune like marks in chalk on the front steps or path.

Sam, editor at NineStar Press.

 Does your travel impact your writing at all, and if so, how can we see that influence?

I’ve been travelling since such an early age that it is hard for me to identify all the ways travelling has influenced me. Living across cultures and attending schools with classmates from very different countries and with very different belief systems meant that I am very conscious that there is more than one way of interpreting events! My characters often have opposing viewpoints, and my stories sometimes have loose ends that don’t tie nicely together as a result. I suspect that’s symptomatic about my ambivalence about my place in the world! I’m a New Zealander who has lived longer outside her country than in it. People tell me I’ve lost my accent, and I actually had to recruit a New Zealand beta-reader for Morgen Curse because I was not confident in my ability to write a kiwi character!

On a more positive note, loving to travel has helped me write settings because I know what I notice and enjoy when visiting a new place for the first time. Deep Magic was an absolute blast to write, because immersing myself in the Llyn Peninsula allowed me to indulge my travel fix. Olly, returning to Wales after a long absence and being something of an exile himself, was very easy to write, as I could relate to his desire for a place to call home very easily!

If you had only one book you could read for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Okay, now this question is just plain mean. I’m torn between either The Complete Jane Austen (she is amazing, and her comedic timing is perfect), or the Collected Works of Dorothy L. Sayers (mystery plus a slow-burning romance between two amazing characters). Bur seriously, just one book!? You are an evil, evil person, Sam.

Pascaline Lestrange, author of His Vampire Lover:

There’s a lot of supernatural creatures with definite sex appeal out there. What is it about vampires that you find so appealing?

This is another really good but really tough question! Much as I love the novel Dracula, I don’t find Dracula sexy. There is something compelling about his inherent danger and the threat he poses to the unknowing characters. Carmilla has the same element of danger, but Carmilla herself does more complicated things for me.

Some modern vampires are more uncomplicatedly sexy in their appeal, but for me, there is a tendency for them to lose their appeal once they become mundane. I think it all comes down to the combination of danger and the unknown.

And that’s the interview. My cold seems to be finally, finally, on the mend. If you’ve got a question you’d like me to answer on camera, let me know!

In the meantime, Morgen Curse is now available on iBooks! You can find it here.


Elliot Cooper and Cats: The Clockwork Menagerie part 2.

I am feeling thoroughly spoiled right now. I’ve got a cold, and my roommate went out to get me lemon tea and cough syrup before she went out. Not only that, but my ARC copy of The Clockwork Menagerie arrived, and it was just as much of a pick-me-up as the tea. Honestly, I think Elliot Cooper might have written the perfect bad day book. The Clockwork Menagerie is charming and sweet, a quick read that very quickly replaced my self-pity with a warm glow of contentment. It is a cup of tea in book form, a story I am sure I will be returning again and again. Elliot, thank you for this lovely story!

Elliot: That’s high praise! Thank you 😀 I got the same feeling on my final reread, so it’s good to know it brought out the same feelings for you when you needed them.

theclockworkmenagerieWhen we last talked during The Clockwork Menagerie Cover Reveal, you said that the catalyst of the story was the cat, Ophelia. Even knowing this, I found the way that the story unfolded was a lovely surprise! I don’t want to say too much and spoil it for other readers, but I loved the form Ophelia’s involvement took. You are definitely a cat person, if you can create a mechanical cat that still does the cat thing of being sick in inconvenient places and make her thoroughly sympathetic.

Elliot: LOL yes, poor Ophelia and her mechanical “hairballs.” That was a little comedy relief that I wanted to make sure was tied to the plot. Much like real life, getting sick wasn’t exactly her fault.

The other thing that made the story for me was your deft touch with characterization, which allowed you to set the stage for the conflict between Clement and disgruntled client, Lady Archington, and also between Clement and Duke, and then step back to let events play out in a thoroughly natural way. It’s one of the cases where events and characters blend so perfectly that it’s hard to imagine how the story came into being. Characters first? Plot? The characters suggested the plot?

Elliot: Thinking back, I believe it was a case of the characters suggesting the plot in the end. I had originally imagined the story to be a longer novella with all manner of fantastical obstacles/chase scenes/near misses, but when I sat down to write…that angle was just too much and the characters didn’t allow for it.

Speaking of perfectly blended, I loved how Clement and Duke’s personalities were so well matched, each appreciating what the other had while providing what he had not. Despite this, their misunderstanding felt totally natural and not forced. I loved their slow move towards understanding–and I loved that Clement stayed true to his artistry and integrity. It’s really easy to see a parallel there with writing. What does being true to your art mean for you?

Elliot: Not giving up on it and doing what’s right for the story. The second is kind of nebulous. Sometimes it can mean going with my gut, other times it means listening to feedback from others and reevaluating my point of view. There’s an important balance there that’s going to be different for each project.

It also has a bit to do with not letting publishers force me to add extraneous things to my work (like sex scenes in a sweet story) or remove things that are important (like sex scenes involving character development in an erotic story). I keep seeing authors mention this sort of thing, especially the former, and I hope I never have to deal with it.

Duke might be the better businessman of the pair, but I loved that he was equally as awkward as Clement when it came to the tricky business of feelings. We saw less of him, but I adored that his choice of employee was the unconventional Miss Rigby. I’d really like to know how they first crossed paths!

Elliot: Minnie had a falling out with her captain and quit being an air pirate. I always kind of imagined her trying to steal from Duke–sneaking in to dismantle some of his automatons to steal key parts to flip–and him catching her and offering her an honest job. Eager to more fully escape her past, she accepted. 🙂

Actually, on the subject of Duke and Miss Rigby’s pasts, I really enjoyed how much world building was packed into the story. I have to ask– is Elsa correct in her theory about Captain Herringbone?

Elliot: I’m afraid to say! I’m actually developing a story featuring Elsa and Minnie. Elsa’s theories are going to play a key role. 🙂

Before we leave The Clockwork Menagerie, I believe you promised me a picture of your cats. Cats please!

Elliot: Kitty time! Gaius is the black cat and Padme is the tabby.


The Clockwork Menagerie ends with a preview of Junk Mage, your upcoming romance between a cyborg and a technomancer. I’ve got a lot of questions, but I’m going to start with the obvious. What is a technomancer? And wow but Quillian Defote is an amazing name. Does Quillian have a nickname?

Elliot: In the world of Junk Mage, a technomancer is a mage who can manipulate technology. So Quillian, who goes by the nickname Quill, is able to repurpose tech objects into other tech objects or otherwise enhance them.

I’m glad you like his name! I felt like it was both mage-y and futuristic sounding, plus a little over the top like Quill’s personality.

Cyborgs take many forms, but what form does yours take? Besides polished silver hand and possibly bionic eyes?

Elliot: Primarily the cyborgs in Junk Mage‘s setting have visibly bionic parts with metal casings and so on, but some also have internal parts. There’s an overarching marriage of tech, magic, and biology in the universe. It’s mentioned that some people acquire bionic parts for cosmetic or job performance reasons, not just to replace missing or damaged parts.

Although you described Junk Mage in our last interview as another sweet romance, the tone feels very different in the sample–perhaps because we’re seeing the meeting of two strangers rather than the gradual understanding between longstanding rivals. What challenges did writing Junk Mage pose? How did you overcome them?

Elliot: Junk Mage is more action adventure romantic comedy, whereas The Clockwork Menagerie is character driven drama. So the tone of the stories is definitely different. I think you’re right, too, that the type of relationship has a lot to do with it.

My biggest challenge with Junk Mage was showing enough personality and motivation in the major non-POV characters. I hadn’t worked in first person in a while, but Quill’s voice is so strong and vibrant that it didn’t make sense to use any other POV. I tweaked a few things after my beta readers and critique partners got back to me, and I think the secondary characters come across more strongly for it.

And before we say goodbye, what are you enjoying currently? Please share a recommendation of a book, TV show or game that you think might appeal to readers of The Clockwork Menagerie.

Elliot: I confess that I don’t read a lot of sweet or light-hearted romance. And I have a bad habit of reading several things at once, usually varied works that have nothing to do with each other so I can pick up whatever suits my mood.

Right now I’m reading: Perihelion by Tami Veldura (sci-fi), If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo (contemporary), The Misbegotten by Justin DePaoli (fantasy), Bump in the Night edited by Rachel Haimowitz (horror), and The Indestructible Jews by Max I. Dimont (history).

I’m not sure if any of those would be of interest to readers who will enjoy The Clockwork Menagerie, but the first two are closer than my favorite TV show, Game of Thrones lol!

Now that I think about it, though, puzzle-loving gamers might like the Professor Layton series for DS/3DS.

Keep up with Junk Mage and news of Elliot’s other releases by following him on twitter, or at his site

theclockworkmenagerieThe Clockwork Menagerie 

Autosmith Clement Dyer wants to create his life-like, mechanical animals in peace. He’s tired of being badgered about selling his business to his long-time rival and former lover, Duke Goodwin. He also craves appreciation for his living works of art.

Unfortunately, not all of Clement’s clients see his clockwork creations the way he does, and a prominent but dissatisfied customer threatens to sink his struggling business into the ground.

elliotcooper2015Elliot Cooper

Elliot Cooper is a creativity addict who prefers writing stories that embody adventure, a hint of the taboo, and shadows that are deeper than they appear at first glance. All the better if romantic or erotic elements are key.

Elliot also enjoys video games and knitting, and lives in the southern US with his human and feline family.

Creating a (Meteor) Storm with Atom Yang!

I’m really pleased to be interviewing Atom Yang today! I first became aware of Atom through the Big Gay Fiction Podcast where he was interviewed about his seasonal story, Red Envelope. I looked it up and quickly fell in love with his amazing cast of characters–Atom captures perfectly the complications of cross cultural lives and loves. His newest release, Herc & Pyotr (Storming Love Series: Meteor Strikes Book 5), sounded interesting for entirely different reasons. A dawning love affair set against an apocalyptic backdrop? How would that even work? Atom was kind enough to provide me a copy of Herc & Pyotr to read for this interview, and I have to say that a day after finishing, I am still reeling. Welcome to the blog, Atom, and also, wow.

Atom: Hi Gillian! Thanks for having me. I’m glad you found me through the Big Gay Fiction Podcast—it was my first interview and I had a blast with Jeff and Will (the hosts) as well as with their other guest, the extremely talented Wade Kelly. I was in very good company. I’m also very flattered that you enjoyed Red Envelope and wow, you were reeling after Herc & Pyotr? You’re gonna make me giddy!

The first thing I want to say about Herc & Pyotr is that anyone interested in reading it, don’t do what I did, and read it before bed. The start is really slow and sweet, a gradual drawing together of two people who need each other and it was really neat getting to see an attraction given the space to develop like that–no instant love/sex here! The connection between Herc and Pyotr really felt like it evolved naturally. And then, just as I was lulled into enough security to pick it up before bed, meteors. I could not set the book down and even after I finished my mind was racing all over the place–not at all conducive to getting a full night’s sleep!

Herc & Pyotr COVERIf Herc and Pyotr was an adrenalin rush to read, what was it like to write?

I’m blushing so hard it’s difficult to type! You read it in one sitting? I’m such a slow reader that even reading my own work can take a long time. I think I’m fangirling over you as a reader.

As for what it was like to write, I would stay up very late, resent my bodily functions for interrupting me, and feel emotionally hungover after writing scenes that required digging into my past. Hm. Sounds like I went through adrenaline rushes while writing Herc & Pyotr!

Herc & Pyotr is part of the Storming Love series by MLR Romance, five books written by five different authors, all exploring love against a backdrop of meteor strike. Writing a variation on the same theme as five other authors sounds both a lot of fun and somewhat intimidating. Did you keep tabs on what the other authors in this series were doing or did you focus on your own story? Have you had the chance to read the other books in this series?

Atom: We had a closed group where we would meet and share our individual story ideas as well as develop a unifying back story, but we were given the freedom to write in our chosen genre (I think mine is the only contemporary, the others are firmly rooted in sci-fi).

We didn’t keep tabs on each other, except announcing when we were finished with our story. I haven’t had a chance to read the other books yet, but they’re in my stack!

I agree that writing a variation on the same theme was both fun and intimidating! It was fun because I loved hearing what other people were going to do—it’s a thing with me that I love to see different interpretations of a given concept. Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and Walter Murphy’s disco classic, “A Fifth of Beethoven,” are good examples, if I’m allowed to date myself.

The intimidating part for me wasn’t making sure that Herc & Pyotr was of the same quality as the other books in the series, but that readers would give what I had written a chance and also enjoy it.

Focusing back on Herc and Pyotr, lets start with Herc. I loved the juxtaposition between his name, his strengths and his flaws–he’s one of those characters that instantly strikes a chord because they seem so real. What I found most interesting about Herc was that the very qualities that make him an excellent therapist are the qualities that led to the deterioration of his relationship with Jason, and almost cost him his chance with Pyotr. I imagine that Herc was a challenge to write. I know you researched Pyotr, but how about Herc? Where did he come from?

Atom: Herc comes from me would be the simple answer—I mean, all the characters come from me—but when it comes to how I imagined him, he came from a mixture of my personality (and quirks), relationship history, and culture.

I write often to understand myself and others, and the situations we find ourselves in or made for ourselves. He was a challenge to write because I was writing about shame: the feeling that you don’t belong or deserve to be loved. I’ve felt that shame myself for a long, long time—still do every now and then.

It can be overwhelming, and I remember in my past when I’d think, “It would be easier not to be here than to feel this way.”

Pyotr is charming. His sense of perspective and the dignity with which he faces the many losses in his life, and, in the course of the story, faces his probable demise, are perfectly in keeping with his age and character, and I was rooting for Herc and him from the start. I know you did a lot of research into creating Pyotr, so I’m curious. Where did the inspiration for Pyotr come from and how did he change as you learned more from your Russian advisor?

Atom: Pyotr, like any love interest I can imagine writing, was inspired by love interests in my own life—crushes, dates, and partners. He reminds me in some ways of a teacher I had who left a huge impression on me (my thing for beards, for example). He was wise, kind, and hot. And bearded. Wait, what was your question?

He didn’t change much in personality after interviewing my Russian friend, but his history kind of filled out. Some things I didn’t put in there, like my friend’s experience growing up Russian in the U.S. during the Eighties when there was a lot of anti-Russian sentiment (we’re always finding new enemies, aren’t we?), but I feel like it informed me on how Pyotr would behave.

I know my experience growing up as the child of parents who survived colonization, war, revolution, fleeing, and immigration, even if I never experienced those things directly, they still affected me and the way I see myself, others, and events at the micro- and macro-scopic level.

I also chose to make Pyotr Russian because I researched meteor disaster movies, and a big one—Meteor (1979) starring Sean Connery, Natalie Wood, and other big stars—had the U.S. and U.S.S.R. cooperating to blow up the killer asteroid heading toward Earth with their “star wars” weaponry (missiles on satellites aimed at the other country), which were named Hercules and Peter the Great, respectively. Peter equals Pyotr, and there you have it—a nod to the movie Meteor.

I loved that one of the first things that brought Herc and Pyotr together was hospitality–in particular, tea. In New Zealand, my Gran insists on inviting anyone who visits in for a cup of tea and biscuit and takes it as a personal failure if she doesn’t have anything to offer them. That is a cultural tradition that is dying, but in Japan where I live currently, it is still going strong. I did not drink tea or coffee before Japan, but I’ve had so many cups of both offered to me in my time here that I now enjoy both. I see this shared link of tea as a bridge between my two homes–which made Pyotr and Herc’s exchanges over the samovar even more meaningful to me. How do you see the role tea plays in this story?

Atom: Exactly as you do! I see it as a bridge for hospitality and exchange. It’s cultural, historical, and personal. It rejoins Herc and Pyotr’s ethnicities, gives them common ground. Food is integral in how we connect with one another, so I see it as being integral to romance.

As Pyotr said about Russian tea culture, people would gather around the samovar and settle disputes, hang out, and flirt. Not much has changed, even if you get to plug in your samovar these days. Tea, coffee, even water is an invitation to slow down, to savor, to meet.

The eventual role that the samovar plays in Herc and Pyotr’s survival made me really, really happy, but I don’t want to spoil things for new readers. Let’s just leave it that the samovar was a highlight, and I will definitely be buying some Lapsong Souchong tomorrow. Let’s move on to another highlight: Nestori. I bet he was fun to write.

Atom: I’m so glad the samovar made you happy!

Regarding Nestori, dude was a blast to write, and my homage to Rose Nylund from one of my favorite TV shows, The Golden Girls. (She was Swedish-American, though.)

While researching Russian culture, I came across a connection to Finland, Finnish-Americans (and Swedish-Americans), and their love of coffee and saunas. His name is a Finnish version of the Greco-Roman name Nestor, and Nestor was a friend and companion to the mythological Hercules.

From tea, to Nestori, to my third highlight; Herc and Jason’s messy relationship. This is incredibly hard to pull off in a romance, particularly one with a lighthearted tone, but wow, Atom. You did it and you did it incredibly well. As the child of divorced parents, it bothered me a lot as a teenager that love in books and TV was often simplified, as if you turned feelings off when you broke up. That Herc’s perspective and understanding of their relationship was challenged by Jason’s reappearance and actions later in the story was really real, and added a lot more depth to both characters and the situation. I felt sympathetic to Herc and Jason both, and was really pleased that they were able to come to the realisation that important as they are to each other, they need to do what is best for them–even if best for them is pursuing a relationship with someone else. I know that a lot of romance readers aren’t fans of such messy relationships, but for me it was a genuine highlight. Did you have misgivings about including this aspect of the story?

Atom: Not at all, and for the reasons you state. Life is messy, relationships are messy, people are messy, and emotions are messy (sound like Herc much?). I don’t like stories where there’s a clear cut “bad guy.” Life’s not that simple—even when someone behaves badly, I still want to see their humanity.

I think in a contemporary piece, a villain is cartoonish to me, and pulls me out of the story like Scrappy Doo. Sure, it can be fun sometimes to hate on a character, but I think it’s a deeper, truer experience to have empathy for the antagonist.

Everybody’s the hero in their own story. Just think about how much people loved reading about that messy relationship in Paradise Lost.

My biggest problem with Herc and Pyotr was the very dramatic shift in tension, from the first half of the story to the meteor strike and after where the focus shifts from navigating a tentative relationship to survival. However, somewhere in the early hours of last night, it occurred to me that might be a strength. I sped through the last half of the story because I needed to know what happened, much like the characters raced to find each other and reach places of safety. That sense of impending end created some of the most meaningful and poignant exchanges of the story, and the tone of the story is in keeping with the shift from every day to disaster situation. Balancing the two halves of the story must have been hard work. What were the challenges of bringing the story together as a whole?

Atom: Essentially, I kept telling myself that this was a story about everyday people and their response to a large-scale, natural disaster. I didn’t find balancing the halves of the story challenging, because it seemed like a reasonable progression (and metaphor for being alive—no predictability or control, just you and me).

I’m from California, so my experience of earthquakes is: you’re going about your day, falling in love, falling out of love, getting stuck in traffic, etc and then the ground you assume isn’t going anywhere starts shaking like you’ve put money in a Magic Fingers Vibrating Bed.

If you’re lucky, you’re not near the epicenter, but you turn on the news and you see freeways and buildings collapsed, people injured or dead. There’s no warning, or very little warning, and whatever you were doing immediately shifts from la-dee-da to survival.

The risk of telling a story like this is that ultimately, we don’t expect stories to follow real life, even when we complain or insist on realism (which is a style, not a reflection of reality)—we have expectations and an understanding of how a story is supposed to go and we can get disappointed—or delighted—when things don’t go as we assumed.

I really enjoyed Herc & Pyotr, loved Red Envelope, and really look forward to whatever you’re bringing us next, Atom! What are you currently working on?

Atom: Thanks! I’ve got several romance projects going on right now, and they’re all subject to change because I’m like that: paranormal about three (male) witches, contemporary about a restaurant, historical paranormal about vampires in the Wild West, paranormal noir about a psychotherapist and his clients, speculative (sci fi) about flying people, and lastly, a project a publisher approached me a few days ago to helm that I’ll reveal more about once things get going.

And finally, what are you reading or watching right now that might appeal to readers of Herc & Pyotr?

Atom: Hm, not sure what I’m reading and watching will appeal to the readers, but Herc & Pyotr has references to Star Wars and Star Trek, and I’ve been watching Star Trek: The Next Generation lately (I’ve never watched the entire show), and I just finished American Hero, which is a mockumentary about a troubled, down and out man with telekinesis.

I’m currently listening to book 9 of the Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher, started on Into Deep Waters by Kaje Harper, and looking forward to All I Believe by Alexa Land. I might slip in Hell & High Water by Charlie Cochet for a second listen. I’m a slow reader, so audio is how I get books into my head faster.

Thank you so much for having me on your blog! This has been wonderful and one of the most enjoyable interviews I’ve ever had the pleasure of doing.

My pleasure, Atom! I hope to have you back in the future–I want to know more about your many story projects!

To keep up with Atom, you can follow him at the following places:

website | twitter | goodreads | instagram | youtube | pinterest | amazon



Atom was born to Chinese immigrant parents who thought it’d be a hoot to raise him as an immigrant, too–so he grew up estranged in a familiar land, which gives him an interesting perspective. He’s named after a Japanese manga (comic book) character, in case you were wondering.



Herc thought he had the perfect life: a great partner and a meaningful career as a psychotherapist—until his partner left him a week ago and Herc became too depressed to see his clients. When a random meteorite punched a tidy hole in his car’s engine, it seemed like the world had it in for him, but bumping into Pyotr, the handsome older man who’s moved in a couple of doors down and happens to study things like falling stars, life might be looking up for Herc—and more may be falling than the skies in this light-hearted, apocalyptic romance.


 MLR PressAmazon  | Goodreads  | iBooks | AllRomance Ebooks


Chapter One

I took care of my car.

Regular maintenance, oil changes, carwashes–the works. I figured I’d sell it one day, and I didn’t want it to have a scratch or a sticker to drop its value, let alone anything wrong mechanically. Everything worked on it–the power windows, radio, CD player…until today.

“Great,” I said, staring at the fist-sized hole in the hood. I clicked my key fob and turned off the alarm. A few of the neighbors came out and turned off their car alarms, too, that had been set off by the very loud boom that shook all of our windows early this spring morning.

“Jeez, Herc, what happened?” Nestori, my friend and neighbor down the way, stood there with his blond bed head, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. He wore a rumpled white tee, sweatpants, and socks–we were dressed alike except I had slippers. Maybe I appeared as lost as he did. Or worse, since I hadn’t changed my clothes since the beginning of the week.

“I don’t know.” I gawked at the smoking hole. “Lightning?” I pieced together the evidence I had, and only came up with a timeline that started with a crash, followed by my car alarm, then a couple of minutes later the aforementioned boom, and finally the other cars being triggered. “A frozen turd from an airplane?”

“Are you serious? Holy shit.”

“Ha ha.”

“What?” His golden eyebrows crinkled together, and then he grinned. “Oh.”

“To be fair, it did fall from the sky.” Everybody huddled closer to peer into the puncture. “I don’t know. I don’t even know who I should call about this.”

“What about Jason?”

Nestori’s innocent question should’ve felt like a sucker punch, but the numbness from seeing my killed car protected me. “He left last week. We’re not together anymore.”

“Bro. Why didn’t you say anything?”

Because you would’ve wanted to get me drunk and laid.

“I would’ve totally come over with a bottle of Jack and helped you get some D, man.”

“So that’s why I haven’t seen him jogging for a while.” Pihla, the widow who lived across the street, had the perkiest personality–and breasts–in our neighborhood. “I thought he left on a business trip.” She wore a pink satin robe over a pink nightie with matching pink slippers. A small, thin, gold cross on a gold chain stuck out sideways from her cleavage and wobbled back and forth, unable to rest flat. Her son, Sami, clung to her leg, his head just above her knee, avoiding eye contact like some toddlers do. This suburban Madonna in pink held a mug of expensive coffee I could smell and envy from where I stood, and rested her French manicured hand on her shy boy’s head. By the way she had batted her eyes at Jason during block parties, or how she happened to pick up the morning paper from her driveway when he’d jog past, I always thought she had a crush on my partner.

Ex. I meant ex-partner.

“Yeah, he didn’t leave on a business trip. He just left me.” I wondered if I died inside my home from choking on a chicken bone while eating, single and alone, how long it would take for my neighbors to notice my dead, bachelor body. I thought I smelled something funny, one would say a week later. Jeez, what happened? another would ask. Who the hell cares? my ghost would spell out on a Ouija board, life sucks.

“Meteorite,” said a faintly accented voice from the crowd. Slavic, I would guess.

“Whoa! You think a meteor hit Herc’s car?” Nestori asked. “How do you know?”

Meteorite,” the voice gently corrected. “It’s a meteorite when it lands. I saw everything as I was jogging this morning.”

“Meteorite,” I mumbled. My geek brain fetched a personal wiki page from when I wrote a report in sixth grade about asteroids crashing into Earth and destroying all life, because I’ve always been a cheery person. The word disaster” comes from the Italian disastro, meaning “ill-starred event.”

Why couldn’t it have been a pretty shooting star that vaporized all sparkly in the atmosphere, so I could make a wish? Instead, it’d dropped a deuce on my perfectly maintained car.

The hole in the hood gaped back at me, and I thought about the day Jason left. He had requested I park on the street instead of in the garage, so he’d be able to get his things out of the house without too much trouble.

I should make a wish anyway.

Something realistic, not like true love and a happy-ever-after ending with a handsome, emotionally intelligent man, because that obviously doesn’t happen. How about a nice pair of shoes? Good shoes are more reliable than men.

“I’m sorry this happened,” the voice said, this time to my left. “There have been worldwide reports of meteor strikes over the past few weeks.”

I turned and came eye to eye with the concerned face of a middle-aged man only slightly taller than me. He wore a red baseball cap and his black hair, lined with a few strands of gray, escaped his hat around his ears and a little over his forehead. His color-coordinated stubble, speckled with silver, defined a square jaw and framed full lips. Perspiration darkened his loose, gray shirt, forming something like a Rorschach inkblot in the center of his defined chest. Despite the smell of engine oil and gasoline coming from my mortally wounded car, the scent of his clean sweat cut through and woke me from my daze.

“Hi, I’m Pyotr. I moved here last week.” He offered me a firm handshake and a smile, and returned to surveying the damage to my car, his hands on his hips. “You should probably call your insurance and not your ex. I work from home a few days a week, so if you need a ride, let me know? I live down the street.” He started running lightly in place. His feet were bare, which I hadn’t noticed.

“Thanks for the offer…Pee-yo-ter. I may take you up on it.”

“Please do.” Pyotr smiled again, nodded a succinct farewell, and trotted off.

“Yeah, if you need a ride…” Nestori and a few neighbors offered, but I didn’t pay attention.

I was busy making an unrealistic wish. And it wasn’t for shoes.


Setting Sail with Cari Z: Perilous Interview!

Cari Z. is another friend that I have known a long time, but this is our first conversation outside of the Goodreads forums! I’m really excited about it. For one thing, Perilous was a great read, one I thoroughly enjoyed, and the chance to get into Cari’s head is very exciting. For another, everyone I’ve ever met who was involved in Peace Corp has been awesome, and I’m pretty sure Cari continues that trend. Welcome to my blog, Cari! It is a delight to have you here.

Cari: It’s lovely to be here! You’re one of my favorite authors, so it’s kind of thrilling to be hosted on your blog.

Your latest release, Perilous, is a historical romance set during the Napoleonic Wars. I mostly know you as a paranormal author. Was Perilous a departure from your usual writing comfort zone? If so, what challenges did you find in writing a historical?

Cari: Perilous was a huge departure for me, almost as hard as writing contemporary. If I didn’t really love the time period where this story is set, especially the naval aspects of it, I could never have written this. I love reading historicals, but I’m not a natural researcher. A lot of anachronisms crept into the dialogue too, which fortunately for me, my editor did a fantastic job catching.

In your dedication, you mention the enjoyment you had reading C.S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower series and Patrick O’Brian’s Master and Commander books. Enjoying reading historicals is one thing, but writing them is another! How did these series prepare you for writing Perilous and where did you have to do further research?

perilousCari: Reading the series themselves was the impetus for writing the story, and they provided me with energy more than anything else. I feel like they informed the tone I was going for, but for a lot of other things I relied on reading personal accounts of British naval life, and asked my father questions (he’s a military historian who specializes in, well, everything). The best, and most personal thing that I did with regards to writing this story realistically was pull details from a tour I took of the HMS Victory in Portsmouth, England. These ships, big and impressive as they were, were also incredibly cramped, filthy, and dark. There were so many things that could go wrong on board, and I played around with some of those in Perilous.

The reason I’m putting a lot of focus on the historical side of the story is because of how it plays into your characters. Thomas Williams is the perfect Lieutenant. He is mindful of his superior offices and his responsibilities, fair to the men who serve under him, while also being a strict taskmaster. He almost never disobeys an order, conscious of the strict hierarchy that exists not only within the navy but outside it. As a result he is self-controlled and deprecating to an extreme, never thinking of himself. How much of this is naturally Tom and how much is the result of the strictly regimented world he inhabits?

Cari: Tom is the kind of guy I like to write, because I relate a lot to how he sees the world (I’m an army brat, it’s stuck with me), but also, given his predilections I couldn’t imagine him behaving any other way under the circumstances. Sodomy was punishable by hanging at the time, and someone who came from a lower class like Tom would never throw himself into an affair unless he was absolutely assured of it’s secrecy. Not to mention, mutiny was also punishable by death, so toeing the line with regards to hierarchy was a necessity if you wanted to survive.

As a counterpart to Tom, his Captain, Christopher Knightley, bucks expectations — at least initially. Captain, aristocrat, son of an extremely wealthy family, Christopher seems to be in a position of power. Instead of being a dandy or merely a wealthy scion serving his time, he is intelligent, and has moments of sympathy for his subordinates, such as when he apologises to Percival for the destruction of his coat. He seems, in short, a thoroughly modern, thoroughly sympathetic Captain, that it was rather a shock to realise that he is trapped as thoroughly as Tom by the dictates of his family. Tell us about Christopher. How was he able to avoid becoming–like so man of the Captains in Perilous–tyrannical and authoritarian?

Cari: Christopher is the youngest son in a large aristocratic family, which afforded him a certain amount of leeway that his older siblings didn’t have. In being so far down the line of succession, his choices didn’t impact his family’s social standing in the same way, and he took that sliver of freedom and ran with it. I see his personality at the beginning of the book to be part inherent, and part a deliberate effort to distance himself from his roots.

I have to admit that while for the most part I was enmeshed thoroughly in the world you created, Christopher’s actions in the mid to latter part of the story, when he let his recklessness lead himself and his crew into danger, lost me some sympathy for him. And yet, you never hid his recklessness from us readers! I think the realisation that for all his initial sympathy, Christopher remains a man of his time period, was really interesting. It must have been hard to write Perilous, creating sympathy and rapport for characters who are constrained to act in ways that are contrary to modern readers wants! How did you overcome this challenge?

Cari: Oh boy, that’s hard. Honestly, I was mad while I was writing some of it. It’s tempting to transplant modern ideals into historical figures because it just makes them easier to stomach, but I knew it would be doing a disservice to the story. Christopher is brilliant and brave, and also reckless and willing to do idiotic things for the sake of winning. People simply had different ideas about loss, death, and honor, and I had to roll with them. At least he gets a verbal smackdown in the end.

A big part of the constraints placed on Christopher are seen in the form of two women, one thoroughly unsympathetic, the other lovely. I found it interesting that although Christopher’s mother and his intended bride are at opposite poles of the sympathy scales, the effect they have on the lives of your protagonists is the same. What was your intention in writing Lady Mary and Elaine?

Cari: Originally, I wrote those women as foils for Tom and Christopher, plot points to bounce them off of but not take too seriously. As I got deeper into it, I realized that I liked writing them (Perilous is a very male-centric story, unsurprising since most of it takes place on ships) and providing a contrast between not only them, but Tom in particular. The women have their biggest impacts on Christopher, but the character in the best place to relate to them, through his affection for Christopher, is Tom.

Perilous taught me something about myself, namely, that I am a huge wimp. I didn’t think that I’d have a problem with a historical, but I was so quickly invested in your characters that I had to put my kindle down before Tom and Christopher set out on their first raid, needing to mentally prepare myself for what was going to come. It was the same with every one of the many skirmishes throughout the book. The final third, after Tom has been captured, was particularly nerve-wracking! Was it difficult to subject your characters to those dangers? They do not escape unscathed either. Are you the type of author who has to mentally apologise every time she does something mean to a character or do you have no mercy knowing it is what the story requires?

Cari: So, a not very surprising fact about me is that I love writing action scenes. I love putting people into dangerous situations and having them escape by the skin of their teeth (or not, because I’m so mean to Tom). The really interesting thing about the skirmishes in Perilous is that they’re all based on real events that happened during the time period. I researched black powder explosions, shipboard fires, period-appropriate surgery techniques, typhoid…that was some of the easiest research for me to dig into. Call me Cari the Merciless!

I am really, really grateful for Gaspard. I was hoping that we’d see more of the French than arrogant captains, and Gaspard certainly delivered! I was really curious about the history of the humane-minded surgeon, and the risks he took to get his patient to safety really impressed me, providing the perfect counterpart to the military skirmishes. Was he a part of the story from the start? How did he come into being?

Cari: Gaspard was a late addition to the story, insofar as I originally wrote the three parts with a lag in-between each one. I got to the third part and realized I was in desperate need of a sympathetic character, because even I can only torture my hero so much before I just start feeling overwhelmed. That was Gaspard, and I think his mindset, in some ways more modern and empathetic than anyone else in the book, really fit given his profession. Nobody sees the cost of war like a battlefield surgeon.

Finally, in the dedication at the start of Perilous, you thank ‘your beta-readers and all the other people who thought this story deserved resurrection.’ It sounds like Perilous has a history all of its own! How did the story start, and what was its journey to publication?

Cari: Perilous was actually one of the first stories I ever made available to readers. I posted it for free, got a lot of positive feedback on it and then mostly forgot about it. My ficwife, beta extraordinaire and one of my best friends dates from this story, though, and she encouraged me to do something more with it. I took it down, reworked it, and sent it in to Nine Star Press, which is one of the few presses I’m interested in that’s open to reprints. They accepted, which made me sooo happy!

Thank you so much for talking to me, Cari! If readers want to keep up with Cari, you can find her at the links below. Perilous is available now, so don’t hesitate to check it out!

blogspot | twitter | facebook | e-mail | website

Book Blurb

In 1803, England declares war on France, staking the fates of two mighty empires against one another. Thousands of men serve in the British navy, hungry for distinction in the battle against Bonaparte.

One of them, Lieutenant Thomas Williams, thinks he knows what he wants out of life: prize money at sea, a career of decent note, and the means to maintain his independence when he leaves the navy. What he finds is service under Captain Christopher Knightly: a tactical genius, inveterate charmer, and the youngest son of a wealthy noble house.

Their unexpected and perilous love affair is a gamble against the odds, for in a time of war, nothing is sure to last. If the French don’t tear them apart, one slip in front of the wrong eyes or ears might. When the demands of Christopher’s family take him from Thomas’s side, he thinks it might be the best thing for his captain. Little does Tom realize just how far Christopher will go to return to him, and when life takes a turn for the worse, how much further he will go to save him.

 Perilous is available now!

NineStar Press | Amazon | ARE | kobo | Goodreads


Cari Z © 2016

All Rights Reserved

Just before he went over the side, his captain brought his lips close to his ear. “Good luck, Tom,” he said in a voice that drove the shivers out of Tom’s system. Tom closed his eyes for a moment, savoring their closeness, and then slipped quietly into the black water of the bay.

It was cold, bone-chillingly cold. Tom caught his stuttering breath and then began to swim, slowly and silently, toward the distant guard boat. It hadn’t seemed so far away sitting in the cutter, but now that he was in the water, the distance felt interminable. The frigid water sapped his strength, but Tom was built strong in body and determined in mind, and he ignored it, focusing only on his goal as he edged closer and closer. He was within a few feet when he heard his captain’s voice.

Messieurs! Ici, je suis un ami!” It was soft but carrying.

The guards sat up straight, dropping the bottle they were sharing and staring away into the darkness, away from Tom as he crept to the side of their boat. “Qui est là?” One of them called out. “Qui êtes-vous?

Tom couldn’t allow them to keep calling out; the noise would bring unwanted attention. Grabbing his knife, he lunged out of the water and drew it across the noisier one’s throat even as he fought for a place in the boat. The man he held gargled hideously as he died, but the other had time to draw his knife.

Author Bio

Cari Z was a bookworm as a child and remains one to this day. In an effort to combat her antisocial reading behavior, she did all sorts of crazy things, from competitive gymnastics to alligator wresting (who even knew that was legal!) to finally joining the Peace Corps, which sent her and her husband to the wilds of West Africa, stuck them in a hut, and said, “See ya!” She started writing then, because what else are you going to do for entertainment with no electricity? She writes award-winning LGBTQ fiction featuring aliens, supervillains, soothsayers and even normal people sometimes.


Tal Bauer’s Back: A Time to Rise!

attr_websiteWord of warning: this interview might get embarrassing! I am going to try and keep it cool but I enjoyed Tal Bauer’s A Time to Rise thoroughly and while I am going to try and keep things professional, there is a very good chance that my inner fangirl is going to show. I’m not even slightly apologetic — A Time to Rise checks my reader preference boxes on every level. If you enjoyed Thorns and Fangs, then I thoroughly recommend that you check A Time to Rise out.

Welcome back to the blog, Tal! It has been about two months since our last interview (Tal Bauer: Enemies of the State). How have those last two months been?

Tal: BUSY!! Oh my goodness! Time is FLYING by! My students are totally insane, the administration at the refugee school is bonkers, and I’m trying to balance teaching and writing. Err… well, writing is taking a back seat until summer time. I dearly miss writing.

But! In the interim, my students have been accepted into university, trade schools, and colleges; two earned US citizenship; two won the Gates Millennium Scholarship (!!!!!), and we had Prom for everyone. So it’s been a blast.

A Time to Rise is a hard book to describe! A paranormal romance with strong thriller, horror and erotic elements, solidly grounded in both history and modern Rome as well as the Vatican City … First off, I cannot believe how well you blended all of these elements into such a cohesive and compelling story! Secondly, how would you describe your story?

Tal: Oh my goodness, another good question!

Hmmm… I started off saying it was a “paranormal” because it had all the paranormal elements. Vampires, light magic/paranormal elements, the etheric… but then I realized it DIDN’T fit paranormal boxes either. There are no “true mates” in this. It’s not fluffy, which some people consider to be a hallmark of current paranormal. It is angsty – another possible hallmark.

While this aspect isn’t as pervasive in this book within the series, the entire series that this book is apart of – The Apocalypse of the Angels – is an angelic/demonic kind of paranormal story. A retelling, if you will, of Genesis, and how that impacts the modern day. (Sneak peek!!!)

I also didn’t realize, when I wrote it, how close to “horror” I was getting. However, based on the feedback from my ARCs, I slid the story into the “horror” category as well.

What I hope the reader feels is a paranormal, creepy, spooky vibe, and that there’s a lot more to this universe that they can sense and feel, and want to explore.

And, I want to note that it’s NOT a religious work or piece. This is NOT a story with heavy-handed religious themes. In fact, I went out of my way to try and portray a “warts and all” view of organized religion. The good, the bad, the great, and the truly ugly. With no preaching.

a-time-to-rise_finalAt first, I thought A Time to Rise would be completely dissimilar to Enemies of the State, your first novel with NineStar Press. But as the Pope took on a greater role in the story, it occurred to me that the camaraderie and relationships formed by the Swiss Guard might not be worlds away from those of the President’s bodyguard. What will fans of Enemies of the State find to enjoy in Time to Rise? What is new?

Tal: …. You caught me. J

A major theme in nearly every one of my works is that camaraderie and intense male relatinoships that form. It’s something that is deeply important to me as it has been something that had a major impact upon my life and upon my dear friends’ lives as well.

What will fans of Enemies like?

There are strong male bonds of friendship and fidelity. There is a secret being kept from the heroes, and an investigation to uncover the truth. Men who will stop at nothing to save the day, to do what’s right, and, at the end of the day, sacrifice everything for their love. Ultimately, that’s what I write – exploring the limits of friendship, fidelity, love, and commitment. Where are the limits? What happens when you go past those limits? Do you fall? Or do you…. Rise?

The two things that made A Time to Rise for me was the dynamic between your characters — Alain, Cris and Luca especially — and the history infused in the book, whether that of the Swiss Guard, the Knights Templar or that between the characters themselves. Which makes me insanely curious — which came first? Characters or setting?

Tal: You’re on it with the questions today! J

I knew I wanted to write a story about the Swiss Guard. I had the idea in my head about The Apocalypse of the Angels, and it had been marinating for … five or so years. I combined them one day, sitting in my car on my amazingly-long commute, and viola. A Time to Rise was born. So I’m not sure what the answer is.

Both feed into each other. Both are mirrors of each other. The history of the characters is mirrored in the antiquity of the place. You can feel the pull of time on everything – on the locations, on the characters’ souls, on their relationships.

And, the Vatican itself is called The Eternal City. A place where time has no meaning. Where peoples’ actions live on for millennia after they’ve lived and died. I tried to pull that sense of history into the story, and anchor both the characters and the setting – and of course the plot – into that sense of longevity.

Let’s talk about Alain. You are not kind to Alain in this book — actually no one is kind to Alain, not his fellow Guards, even his contemporary and once best friend Luca, not the vampires (then again, when are vampires kind to anyone?), not Lotario, the priest who works alongside Alain in his solitary crusade against the supernatural, not the Vatican priests … Not even Alain himself! His burden is great and that he has borne it for twelve years, with only three people who have any idea of what he faces … The fact that he has continued his work as long as he has is amazing! But those twelve years have taken a toll on him, and he has a tough struggle ahead of him still. Did you have any difficulties in writing a character whose past experiences have caused him to actively close himself off from others?

Tal: Again with the amazing questions. J

Actually, that’s pretty close to home. I used to be very much that way. Writing Alain was more of a process of tapping into my past. Alain didn’t start out actively wanting to push people away, but after years and years of doing so, it becomes second nature. It becomes safe. It’s easier to keep people at a distance than it is to welcome them in, especially if there’s any risk involved. Risk to them, or to you, either physically – in Alain’s case – or emotionally, as was my situation. With my former career, I didn’t want anyone close.

Of course, all that is different now.            

Cris’s ability to cut through Alain’s walls and keep pushing him again and again was fantastic to see. I enjoyed how Cris’s experiences mirrored Alain’s so well, allowing the reader to see how well suited they are before the characters do. Cris’s own brush with darkness and his struggles to find his place within the guard brought to life exactly what Alain dealt with those twelve years on his own, but Cris never felt like an echo. His brashness and anger were a really welcome counterpoint to Alain’s defeat and despair. Despite his youth and ignorance of what is really going on during a lot of the story, Cris is a force to be reckoned with. Cris is thrown head first into an entirely new world, and I cannot wait to see how he grows into his new role as the series progresses. What qualities does Cris have that are going to come into play in the future?

Tal: You nailed it! His ferocity, his tenacity, his anger that propels him more than Alain’s quiet despair. Alain operated from a place of mourning, and that motivated him to move forward. Cris moves from a place of frustrated rage, a burning need to mold his world to the way he wants it. I think that’s both a generational difference and a psychological difference.

Cris, moving forward, will pull on that frustration and his endless tenacity, as well as his thirst for taking the world and bending it to meet him where he exists.

You’ve mentioned in conversation with me that Lotario seemed to be a reader favourite. I am not going to buck that trend by saying that I really enjoyed the priest’s general hostility towards the world, tell-it-like-it-is indifference to common courtesies, and no-nonsense attitude towards Alain and Cris both. In fact, seeing Lotario in the role of teacher was one of my favourite moments of the book! My main question is about Lotario’s battered car. How long has he had it? Is he going to be forced to replace it after a certain hot-wiring incident?

Tal: LOL! I think he’s probably owned that Bug for the length of his priesthood. At least 20+ years. And I’m quite positive it’s not the first time it’s been hotwired. Perhaps there’s a roadtrip in the future, bringing the Bug back to Lotario?

Rome — from the Guard’s barracks and Alain’s musty office within the Vatican City to the Campo, crowded streets, river Tiber and the sewers of Rome itself — almost counts as a character itself. I know you’ve travelled extensively — you must have visited Rome, right? Tell us about how your travels played into the story.

Tal: Thank you! I love making the settings truly vivid and alive for my readers. I wanted the atmosphere to be drenched with Rome, with antiquity, and with a hazy, otherworldly kind of feeling.

I have travelled quite extensively, and I do try to pull all of those locations into my stories. In this instance, the Vatican and Rome was the main setting. I always want to make my readers feel like they are transported to a new location, and that the book wraps them up in the new place completely.

I am a really big fan of vampires that scare. I thought I did a pretty good job of that in Thorns and Fangs, but your vampires turn up the fear to a whole new notch (they live in ossuaries in sewers!). I loved it. The entire mystery surrounding the vampire nest and the lone vampire and the effect on the city was fascinating, an incredibly satisfying twist on vampire lore. I cannot wait to see how the vampire element impacts the characters in the continuing story, but since it would be hard to comment on that without spoiling us for upcoming installments, how about telling us what inspired your vampires?

Tal: I always liked the old-school vampires. The vampires from the horror classics and from the truly spine-chilling myths and legends of old. I did a lot of research in Ye Olde Vampire Mythos from around the world, and reading about the fear of the vampires from the original source texts – medieval journals, poems, myths, and stories – really brought it home how terrifying the vampire mythos was. I wanted to tap into that element for this novel. Something preternaturally eerie and fear-inspiring.

Vampires are not the only supernatural element in A Time to Rise (even if they are my favourite and thus my focal point). So rather than asking you for your favourite vampire recs (books, movies, TV), I’m going to ask for your favourite paranormal works or those that left the biggest impact.

Tal: I’m going to show off my HUGE nerd bone here and say that it’s a bunch of medieval source texts and ancient writing on the vampire legends. Those are by far my favorite!

My final question is purely for fun: you’ve got a day and night in Rome and by some exceedingly unlikely turn of events, one of the characters of A Time to Rise is your tour guide. Who would you most like to have show you the hidden sights of Rome and why?

Tal: Ooooo…… J I’m going to say Luca. And I’ll leave it at that.

Thanks again, Tal — this has been a blast! For readers wanting to keep up to date, Tal is active on facebook sharing life-stories and writing news and also enjoys talking to people on Goodreads. Feel free to get in touch or ask a question — I can attest to the fact that Tal is a lot of fun to chat with!

Facebook | Goodreads | A Time to Rise on Goodreads | on NineStar Press

History says the Knights Templar were destroyed in 1307.
History is wrong.

Vampires haunt the sewers beneath Rome, revenants desecrate graveyards, ghouls devour helpless passersby, and incubi stalk dark alleys and seedy nightclubs in Italy’s capital. Deep in the Vatican, a brotherhood exists, sworn protectors of the earth, and they stand firm against monsters from the dark depths. Operating in secret and silence, they protect our world from the sinister, the etheric, and the evils that exist beyond the Veil.

But it’s a lonely life, and Alain Autenberg knows that more than most. His lover was ripped from him years ago, and he vowed never to get close to another soul again. Even when the loneliness presses down on him, and his empty heart cries out for something more.

Something more comes in Cristoph Hasse, a new soldier arriving in Rome to serve in the Pontifical Swiss Guard. Young, brash, and fitting in at right angles everywhere he goes, Cris struggles in the murky, deceptive labyrinth of the Vatican. Propelled forward by a past he can’t understand, Cris collides with Alain, and both men crash headfirst into the darkest secret of the Vatican…and of the world.

NineStar Press | Amazon  | Kobo | ARE 

Writing, Identity, Cats and an Amazing Moustache — Elliot Cooper Cover Reveal and Interview!

Today’s interview is a blog first — an interview and cover reveal with Elliot Cooper! I’ve got to know Elliot a little over Facebook, but this may be many readers’ first introduction to Elliot. I’m excited to learn more, not just about Elliot, but about his book and to see the cover that has him so excited. Welcome, Elliot! I’m really happy to be hosting you today.

Elliot: Thank you for having me for my first ever author interview!

I know Elliot primarily as a fellow member of the NineStar Press Author group on Facebook, where we’ve talked about writing, and our interest in paranormal and sci-fi in particular. Preparing for this interview, however, I learned more about Elliot the person and was excited to realise we have more in common than sharing the same (awesome) editor at NineStar. Elliot, please introduce yourself!

Elliot: This is the hard part lol!

Here’s the basic stuff. I’m a pop culture geek in his early 30s, a cat person, internet and caffeine addicted, and still learning how to harness creative peaks to focus creative energies for more than a month at a time. Also I’ve been married for a decade and have one kiddo.

Recently I’ve read about how sad it is that we define ourselves by what we do, not who we are. What I “do” is work at a grocery store while dealing with my family’s wildly disparate schedules and trying not to think about anything relating to finances. Who I am has a lot more to do with being a lover and creator of stories. Granted, that’s not all of me, but it’s the wildly beating heart.

The Clockwork Menagerie sounds like a lot of fun! Amazing title, a sweet steampunk romance and clockwork animals … What is not to like? Tell us about your story, please!

Elliot: Thank you! 😀

I originally wrote it for a steampunk anthology call three years ago where it (obviously) didn’t make the cut. I’d always wanted to write a story where a cat was the catalyst (lol puns) for a romance. Throw in steampunk elements and style, a down-on-his-luck artist who’d rather flounder than ask for a leg up, a man who has no idea how to communicate with his crush, and…there’s the recipe for the story. The cat who plays such an important role, Ophelia, is a mechanical one created by Clement.

I am a big fan of cats, mechanical or otherwise! But what turned The Clockwork Menagerie from ‘want to read’ to ‘must read’ for me was what you shared about the personal inspiration behind it. Would you mind sharing that story?

Elliot: Sure! I was somewhat inspired by my own real-life romance with my husband. I think one of the big themes of The Clockwork Menagerie is to not give up on love (or, in the case of the story, don’t give up when you care about someone and think there’s strong potential for love). When I came out to my husband as a transsexual man (shortly before I wrote Menagerie), it really tested us in regards to what sort of relationship we would have following my pursuit of transition, but romantic love won out. And it’s still winning for us 🙂

I am saying this a lot this interview but both Clement and Duke sound fun — I cannot wait to meet them properly when I read this story! Clement especially as a struggling artist is someone I think will resonate with a lot of readers. Did your own experiences and struggles as a writer play into his creation?

Elliot: Absolutely! I remember telling one of my critique partners about using my own experiences as a creator to help imbue Clement with depth. All of my characters have some part of my own personality or experience in them, some more so than others, and Clement definitely got the creative drive and a lot of the issues that follow it.

The Clockwork Menagerie had a three year journey to publication. Firstly, well done on not giving up on the story! It must feel fantastic to have found a publishing home for it at last. Was it difficult to come back to the story after a long time, or had you been revising it over the years? How has your perspective on the story changed in that time?

Elliot: A stack of physical copies butchered (lovingly) by my crit group sat inside a bag in my spare room for the better part of two years. When I decided I did want to start getting serious about writing again, I figured it was high time I go back over those critiques. Having let the story sit for so long, it was a lot easier to pick out which bits of criticism to put into effect and which bits to ignore. Having emotional distance was a big help, since getting rough feedback on a draft can cause a real knee-jerk reaction.

Back when I’d first got the critiques I had the knee-jerk thing going on and thought “oh no, this is crap unless I turn it into a full length novel!” But that wasn’t the story that suited Clement and Duke. It would’ve involved a lot of contrived elements that felt forced to me, which made it easier to put the manuscript aside.

Going back to the critiques first, then rereading the story with new eyes reminded me how much I loved the characters and their little tale. It only needed a few tweaks after all to feel complete 🙂

And now — the main event! Elliot, I know that you are very, very pleased with your cover so I’m going to turn announcing the cover over to you!

Elliot: I’d need at least five memes and an assortment of emoticons to really express how much I’ve flailed excitedly about this cover! Aria did an amazing job capturing Duke as I pictured him and a steampunk feel that suits the story. There are so many little details like the gear schematics, the rose window that evokes a particular scene, and Duke’s signature mustache! Plus, I’m a sucker for grunge layering on spec fic covers.


It must be incredibly satisfying to see a story you’ve worked on so long finally coming together — congratulations, Elliot! I’m really excited for you. But this is not your first story or even your first experience with publishing! Please tell us about your writing journey and your previous releases.

Elliot: Thanks! 

Using a retired pseudonym, my first forays into publication were primarily via short stories in ezines. The genres ranged from paranormal to horror, with no romance in sight. Then I had my first book — a sci-fi romance novella about space pirates — published with Dreamspinner Press, though it’s been out of print for a few years now.

Ultimately, my issues with depression and anxiety (mostly tied to my struggles with my gender identity) put me in a very non-creative place until I pushed forward with helping myself. It ended up being a good break, I think, since I’d be uncomfortable publishing going forward under a feminine moniker and it gave me time to reevaluate and rediscover my love of writing.

Recently, I’ve begun dabbling in self-publishing, under the name Xander Blythe, with a planned series of erotic shorts about a gay werewolf pack. The first is currently available for Kindle on Amazon: Stray Pup – A Pack Mentality Story. It’s interesting to handle the process on my own. And there’s definitely a steep learning curve, but it’s more of a fun side project than anything serious right now.

You’ve also got some other exciting projects in the works, right? I am particularly curious about Junk Mage — what can you tell us about that story? And are you working on anything else at the moment?

Elliot: Junk Mage is another sweet m/m romance, this time between a technomancer and a cyborg who meet while stuck on a far flung planet. It’s got a healthy dose of humor and action, too! It will be released in the coming months from Ninestar Press as well 🙂

On submission, I have a high fantasy erotic romance novel that centers around a bisexual man in a poly relationship, plus royal intrigue and orcs. And on the non-romance side of things, a horror short about zombies in the workplace.

My current works-in-progress include a sci-fi MMF menage, an m/m urban fantasy featuring a necromancer and a zombie, and a paranormal m/m involving a demon and incubus in an enemies-to-lovers plot. I’ve also been enjoying the planning/worldbuilding stage of a series that I’m collaborating on with a friend.

You mentioned that a cat plays a pivotal role in The Clockwork Menagerie and that you yourself are a cat person. I am going to assume that you have or have had cats at some point, so I am curious … How much of Clement’s mechanical cat is inspired by real life cats you have known?

Elliot: All of her lol! Ophelia’s mannerisms are most heavily inspired by one of my childhood cats in particular, Bridgette, who was a sweet-natured, talkative Balinese mix.

I currently have two kitties in residence. Padme is the queen of the house, one of the most intelligent cats I’ve ever known, and genuinely loves belly rubs. Gaius is my little shadow who must be in the same room with me. He’s terrified of everything, but never fails to yell at us when it’s time to eat. Both are accomplished at tricking one of us adults into serving them second breakfast while the other is at work or asleep. They may be part hobbit.

The Clockwork Menagerie is not your first story — is it your first steampunk story? If so, what were the challenges of writing in this genre? What do your stories, regardless of genre, have in common?

Elliot: This was my second steampunk story. The first was a flash piece titled Gear Heart that I had published on my website for years, but because it has a sad ending I’ve taken it down for the time being to avoid any confusion with Menagerie and its setting.

I think my biggest challenge for Menagerie was utilizing enough of the genre’s hallmarks while putting my own take on things. After that, I tried my best to ensure the way automatons fit into the culture made sense.

With regards to elements my stories share, I have a penchant for writing about people who experience a physical transformation. Werewolves and zombies are my favorites. I didn’t even catch my own trope until a friend pointed it out while critiquing my fantasy novel! But given The Clockwork Menagerie and Junk Mage don’t share that commonality, I’d have to go with characters learning self acceptance of some sort. Which is just as tied to my own lived experience as physical transformation.

This is where we say goodbye to Elliot — for now! I will be talking to Elliot again in May once The Clockwork Menagerie is out and I’ve been able to read it. If you have questions for Elliot, now is the time to ask them and I will include them in the interview! Until then, what is the best way for readers to keep up with you, Elliot?

Elliot: Thanks again for having me, Gillian!

You can find (and follow!) me at:

website | twitter | Facebook


The Clockwork Menagerie 


Autostheclockworkmenageriemith Clement Dyer wants to create his life-like, mechanical animals in peace. He’s tired of being badgered about selling his business to his long-time rival and former lover, Duke Goodwin. He also craves appreciation for his living works of art.

Unfortunately, not all of Clement’s clients see his clockwork creations the way he does, and a prominent but dissatisfied customer threatens to sink his struggling business into the ground.

Elliot Cooper


Elliot Cooper is a creativity addict who prefers writing stories that embody adventure, a hint of the taboo, and shadows that are deeper than they appear at first glance. All the better if romantic or erotic elements are key.

Elliot also enjoys video games and knitting, and lives in the southern US with his human and feline family.

A Bittersweet Anthology: In My Heart by Joe Cosentino

Today’s author interview is a man who by now surely needs no introduction! This is the fourth time I’ve interviewed Joe Cosentino, and just like our previous interviews I had a lot of fun, not only reading but coming up with questions for Joe. You can read our most recent conversation here. Welcome back, Joe! How are things going?

Joe: Busy. My readers still tell me I’m writing books faster than they can read them. Hah. Thank you for having me back. I always love your insightful and stimulating questions. And thank you for reading my books—though I’m writing them faster than you can read them. Hah.

Every book from you feels like a new experience. I think out of everything I’ve read of yours yet, Joe, that these two novellas might be my favourite, simply because you do the drama and romance inherent in everyday lives so well. To start with An Infatuation is a romance which tells the story of a love affair that is never realized. I love that — because real life, unlike romance novels — is full of difficult choices and could-have-beens, or if-only-things-were-different, and you manage to capture that in a way that is both romantic but also absolutely right for the characters. Huge congratulations for that! It must have been difficult to pull off, and I imagine, scary to write — romance readers are notorious for wanting happy endings! What was the response from Dreamspinner, the publisher of An Infatuation, to this approach to romance? And how has reader reaction been?

Joe: First, thank you, Gillian, for noticing the different styles in my novels and novellas from the funny and touching In My Heart (An Infatuation & A Shooting Star) to the romantic travelogue A Home for the Holidays to the fantastical The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland to the comedic mystery Nicky and Noah mystery series (Drama Queen, Drama Muscle) to the soap opera Cozzi Cove beach series (Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back, Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward) to the straight theatrical mystery Jana Lane mystery series (Paper Doll, Porcelain Doll, Satin Doll, China Doll). Some readers insist a number of different writers are writing under my name, especially since all of my books have been released over the last two years. As my spouse will verify by my late nights in my study, they all came from my head, which is kind of scary if you think about it. Hah. In each case I think I use my theatrical background and offbeat sense of humor to tell a romantic story with lots of plot twists and turns and a surprise ending.

InMyHeart_Anthology-2Thank you for the nice words about An Infatuation. Everyone seems to love that novella, including me. As they say, your first is the most special. Just ask my mother about my sister. Hah. When I received the email from Dreamspinner Press that they wanted to publish An Infatuation, I danced around my house like a fool. They have published three other e-book novellas of mine since. I’m so glad you liked the theme of An Infatuation and A Shooting Star. How often do we sit around thinking, what if I had done this instead of that? Well, since I write so many books I don’t have much time to do that anymore, but I certainly did at one point wonder how my life would have been different if I had made different decisions. As is the case in many people’s lives, including mine, while things didn’t turn out exactly as I had planned, I got my happily ever after ending. The same holds true for Harold in An Infatuation and Jonathan in A Shooting Star. They don’t end up with their first love/infatuation, but each of them has a happily ever ending with the right man for them. I love that about the stories.

Any discussion of An Infatuation has to start with Mario, naturally! At first he comes across as larger than life, seen through the adoring and uncritical gaze of Harold, our narrator. It’s clear from the start that Mario is not as perfect as Harold believes him, but I struggled to sympathize with him, possibly because of the teacher in me — maybe Mario the student was too realistic? As the story developed, Mario became more nuanced, and I became really invested in his development, hoping that he would be able to accept and live true to himself. He’s an amazing characters, so I have to ask where did he come from?

Joe: Mario is a combination of a few supposedly straight, perfect guys who I met as a young actor in New York City. They were handsome, muscular, captivating, and always tortured, carrying an inner secret.

In contrast to Mario who denies who he is, Harold has a really strong grip on his identity. His journey seems to be less one of knowledge, but one of gaining confidence and strength while remaining true to himself. Like Ms. Hunsley, their science teacher says, Mario and Harold have a lot to learn from each other. Ironically, I wonder if Mario’s denial of who he was, made Harold more determined not to fall into that same trap?

Joe: Great insight, Gillian! I agree that Mario’s denial of his true identity made Harold stronger and more resilient. Since Harold is based on me, I really admire his resilience, honesty, intelligence, wit, and ability to keep going in trying situations. His heart may be broken, but his spirit always stays intact. Harold’s devotion to his spouse, Stuart, is admirable, as is his honesty about his teenage infatuation with Mario. I love that the story spans twenty years so we see Harold (and Mario) develop and mature.

The stand out character of An Infatuation for me was actually not one of the romantic leads! We’ve talked about Mario and Harold, and Stuart is pure joy, but actually I was most impressed by Mr. Ringwood. The principal’s first introduction is not promising, as we see him pressuring Harold to stay quiet about some seriously horrific bullying and advocating that he keep his sexuality under wraps to avoid other incidents. Victim blaming with a side of shut up? I was furious. But Mr Ringwoood is, much like Mario, a victim of circumstances and the inability to be true to himself. Like Mario, his actions show Harold the dangers of following Mr. Ringwood’s path. And while the bullying students are so bad they read almost as caricatures, Mr. Ringwood genuinely believes he is doing what is best for the school and for Harold. Having an antagonist that is this well-nuanced in a romance novel is pretty rare! Mr. Ringwood’s regret and growth towards the end of the story was good to see, offering a parallel to Mario and Harold’s story. I can’t say that he redeems himself entirely, but he definitely made an impression. I’ve met Mr. Ringwoods before. Tell us about him!

Joe: Yes, Stuart was great fun to write, because he is based on my spouse who is totally organized and a real list maker, but also sweet, creative, and caring. He creates an itinerary for our trips in ten minute time blocks! Mr. Ringwood is a very special character to me because I see him as representing so many older gay men who had to stay closeted to keep themselves safe and employed in the past. In the red states where Republicans are passing these “Do Not Serve the Gays” so called “Religious Freedom Laws,” I imagine there are still many Mr. Ringwoods. As the times grow more tolerant, it has been great fun to see these older men find the courage to be themselves and come out. I want to play Mr. Ringwood in the movie!

Lastly, I know you did a book-signing at a Barnes and Noble in Poughkeepsie recently, and you read from An Infatuation. I bet that was a ton of fun! Was it difficult to choose which passage to read? What is it like, being able to see the audience react to your writing?

Joe: Thank you for mentioning that, Gillian. My author talk/book reading/book signing went very well at Barnes & Noble’s with a SRO crowd! The funny thing was that I had come prepared to talk about and read from my mystery novels (Drama Queen, Drama Muscle, Paper Doll, Porcelain Doll). Since I had a little time left over at the end, I read the locker room scene from An Infatuation where Harold first approaches Mario in high school, and the audience (mostly straight) went wild with laughter. To my surprise, I signed quite a few In My Heart (An Infatuation & A Shooting Star) paperbacks there!

From a dramatic reading to drama students, time to talk about A Shooting Star! I really enjoyed the parallels and differences to An Infatuation, particularly the variations on the theme of self-acceptance. What most interested me is how the story could be read either as that of David’s inability to accept himself leading to tragedy, or David’s inability to find anyone who could accept him for himself driving the story. David is clearly a pivotal character in the story. What did you set out to do with him?

Joe: Though we move from high school memories to college memories, there is definitely a parallel between Harold in An Infatuation and Jonathan (also based on me) in A Shooting Star. The same holds true for Mario and David, who is a combination of a few young men I met as a theatre major in college. They were gay, bi, closet-gay, or straight. Each was handsome, muscular, charismatic, sensuous, and almost other-worldly like Greek gods. Though they appeared to hold the world in the palm of their strong hands, they each had a secret weakness. I think David is a fascinating character, because the reader is never quite sure what David is really thinking, and what he will do next and why. As a college professor/department head, I can verify that college is a time when many young people sort out who they are and want they want out of life. David (just like his last name) wants more than anything else to be a star. He cares about others, especially Jonathan, but his goal of stardom is the driving force that helps him through the pain he experiences in life.

My personal reading of the story was that David was simply not capable of or interested in the sort of relationship Jonathan longed for, and Jonathan’s inability to accept that indicated he did not know or love David as well as he thought he did, an opinion heightened by the many instances of Jonathan’s inability to read the reactions of those around him (and, admittedly, my own preferences for atypical romances). Not until David’s final confession did I wonder if maybe Jonathan’s interpretation of David’s actions was right. I love that you’ve created such a complex story and nuanced characters that it can be read either way. Much like real life! Was that your intention when writing A Shooting Star? If not, what did you set out to accomplish?

Joe: Yes, Gillian, again you are incredibly insightful. That was my intention exactly. Life isn’t pat, and people don’t always behave consistently. David has good intentions, but he just doesn’t fit into the mold. A great deal of that has to do with his childhood. He loves Jonathan in the way he loves, which is different from how Jonathan and most people love others.

The other thing I really enjoyed about A Shooting Star was the acknowledgement of the power of people to both influence others and change. Both these stories may not end with the typical happy ending, but the love shared goes on to make a lasting impact on the characters. To me, that is as romantic as the traditional happy ending. I imagine I am not the only person to think so — how has reader reaction been to A Shooting Star?

Joe: As you know, Dreamspinner Press released An Infatuation and A Shooting Star separately as e-book novellas. The reader response was amazing. I can’t tell you how many readers told me those two novellas made them laugh, cry, and changed their lives. An Infatuation was voted Second Place Favorite Romance Novel of 2015 by the readers of Divine Magazine. That makes me incredibly happy and proud.

Another thing I admired about A Shooting Star was that you managed to balance the sadness inherent in the story with humour and happiness. I was expecting a really difficult read. Instead I found an upbeat affirmation of the strength of love and kindness to make a powerful impact on the world around us. Characters like Jim, Sasha and Barry Goldman were a great counterpoint to the main storyline, while Professor Katzer provided a nice note of humour to the story. Do you think that your experience on the stage and your interactions with audiences have helped you know when to counterbalance happy and sad?

Joe: Totally! I definitely write with a theatrical style full of humor and drama, just like life. BTW, I want to play Professor Katzer in the movie!

As much as I love ebooks, there is something inherently special about having a printed book in your hand. The re-release of these novellas in printed form must have been an amazing feeling! How did that come about?

Joe: When the e-books of An Infatuation and A Shooting Star did so well, last month Dreamspinner Press released the paperback In My Heart (An Infatuation & A Shooting Star), my own anthology! Obviously I’m thrilled.

My final question is what are you working on now?

Joe: Do you really want to know? Hah. I am editing the third Nicky and Noah comedy mystery, Drama Cruise, published by Lethe Press, where theatre college professors Nicky and Noah do a murder mystery dinner theatre show onboard a cruise ship to Alaska and cast members start dropping like anchors. I am also editing the fourth Jana Lane mystery, Ragdoll, published by The Wild Rose Press, where ex-child star/current movie star Jana Lane stars in a murder mystery television show and life imitates art on the set. Finally, I am finishing the first draft of Cozzi Cove: Stepping Out, the third Cozzi Cove beach novel, published by Nine Star Press, where handsome Cal Cozzi and his guests at the Cozzi Cove New Jersey Shore beach resort experience love and many surprises.

Thanks as always, Joe! It has been lovely to interview you again. I’m happy that 2016 is going so well for you and look forward to talking to you again!

Joe: Thank you, Gillian. 

More about Joe Cosentino:

Amazon Bestselling author Joe Cosentino wrote An Infatuation, A Shooting Star, A Home for the Holidays, The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland (Dreamspinner Press), Drama Queen and Drama Muscle Nicky and Noah mysteries (Lethe Press), Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back (NineStar Press), Paper Doll (Whiskey Creek Press) and Porcelain Doll (Wild Rose Press) Jana Lane mysteries, and The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (Eldridge Plays and Musicals). He has appeared in principal acting roles in film, television, and theatre, opposite stars such as Bruce Willis, Rosie O’Donnell, Nathan Lane, Holland Taylor, Charles Keating, and Jason Robards. His one-act plays, Infatuation and Neighbor, were performed in New York City. He wrote The Perils of Pauline educational film (Prentice Hall Publishers). Joe is currently Head of the Department/Professor at a college in upstate New York, and is happily married. His upcoming releases are Satin Doll & China Doll Jana Lane mysteries (Wild Rose Press), Drama Cruise Nicky and Noah mystery (Lethe Press), and Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward (NineStar Press). Joe was voted 2nd Place for Best MM Author of the Year in Divine Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Awards for 2015.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon


IN MY HEART (An Infatuation & A Shooting Star)

by Joe Cosentino, published by Dreamspinner Press

Dreamspinner | Amazon | B&N 

Release Date: March 21, 2016

Contemporary Romance

ISBN-13: 978-1634771030

Pages: 209

Cover Artists: Christy Caughie & L.C. Chase



AN INFATUATION: With his ten-year high school reunion approaching, Harold wonders whether Mario will be as muscular, sexy, and tantalizing as he remembers. As a teenager, it was love at first sight for Harold while tutoring football star Mario, until homophobia and bullying drove Mario deep into the closet. Now they’re both married men. Mario, a model, is miserable with his producer wife, while Harold, a teacher, is perfectly content with his businessman husband, Stuart. When the two meet again, will the old flame reignite, setting Harold’s comfortable life ablaze? How can Harold be happy with Stuart when he is still infatuated with his Adonis, his first love, Mario? Harold faces this seemingly impossible situation with inimitable wit, tenderness, and humor as he attempts to reconcile the past and the future.

Excerpt of AN INFATUATION by Joe Cosentino

published by Dreamspinner Press

 One Friday afternoon I accidentally ran into my hero in the boy’s locker room. I’d had enough of the big guys banging me into gym lockers, pushing me into cold showers, and hanging me from the gym ropes. So I was on my way to give Mr. Adoni a note from Dr. Dlorah excusing me from gym class for the remainder of the school year (due to my highly contagious disease being studied by my doctor in Guatemala, where he could not be reached for the next year).

The locker room smelled of an odd combination of soap, cologne, sweat, and desire. Mario was getting ready for football practice, standing at his gym locker without a combination lock on it. Nobody would dare to break into it (Except for me that one time I smelled his jock strap. Okay maybe it was a few times, but not more than ten.). Mario slid his T-shirt (red today) over his thick, black hair and threw it on the nearby bench. No longer harnessed by cotton, his arm, back, chest, and neck muscles swelled to full size. I was half hidden behind the adjoining row of lockers, wearing my usual green and blue flannel shirt and brown corduroy pants. Mario, who wasn’t looking in my direction, said something really beautiful to me that I will never forget. “Hi.”

“Did you just? Oh. Hi. Hello. Good afternoon. Nice to see you. I mean, change with you.” I looked down at the floor (but cheated a bit) as Mario kicked off his boots, slipped off his jeans then threw them in the lucky locker. His red underpants (briefs) revealed ample manhood. This is better than the newspaper’s underwear ads!

“Good gym class today with Mr. Adonis, I mean, Mr. Adoni.” Did I just say that? “Harold High.”


“High.” How can I get my pulse down to 260?

“Hi.” Mario reached into his locker for his sweat clothes.

Shouldn’t people be doing that for you? “Oh, my last name is High. Like a kite.” How can I stop my arms from waving like an airport flagger on speed?

“Mario Ginetti. Like nothin’ else imaginable.” Mario smiled, revealing a row of perfectly white teeth, and held the sweat clothes in his hands as if he was mortal.

“I know. I watch your body play.” Why can’t I stop talking? “I mean, I watch you play … football … on the field … in your football outfit.” I feel like Michelangelo with his David!

As Mario put on his sweats, I continued to sweat.

“I’m voting for your body … I mean I’m voting for you for president of your … our … the student body.” I need my jaw wired shut. “I’m your lab partner in Chemistry class. Ms. Hungry’s class … I mean Ms. Hunsley’s class.”

His olive-colored face glistened as Mario’s face registered recognition—of me! “I thought I knew you from somewheres. Hey, thanks for doing the lab reports.”

“It’s my honor … I mean my pleasure. It’s fine. If you need help putting up posters for your campaign, I can … ”

Having just tied the laces of his sneakers, Mario stood absolutely still. He looked at me as if he was staring into my heart and somehow knew what I was feeling. “I gotta take a wicked piss.”

Can I watch?

“Thanks for helping me out, Buddy.” He slammed the locker door and left.

He called me, Buddy! My heart was as soft and silly as putty that Mario held in the palm of his hand like his soap on a rope.


A SHOOTING STAR: On the eve of the best night of his life, winning an Academy Award, Jonathan Bello thinks back to his one great love, David Star. Flipping back the pages of time, Jonathan recalls his handsome, muscular, and charismatic college roommate. Since Jonathan was a freshman and David a senior in the Theatre Department, David took Jonathan under his wing and molded him, not only as an actor but as a lover. With every wonderful new adventure, David left his joyful mark on anyone with whom they came in contact, but Jonathan soon uncovered David’s dark past, leading to a shocking event. Undaunted, Jonathan celebrates the captivating man who will always hold a special place in his heart.

Excerpt of A SHOOTING STAR by Joe Cosentino,

published by Dreamspinner Press

As an Italian-American, I subscribed to my mother’s theory that if someone doesn’t want you to see something, he will hide it in a locked vault covered with cement. So I inadvertently took a quick look at my roommate’s things on the other side of the room. He was incredibly neat. Numerous theater textbooks and play scripts lined his bookshelf in alphabetical order. The bulletin board above his desk displayed artistically arranged programs from various comedy, drama, and musical college productions listing the same male lead in each show: “David Star”.

“Do you always look at other people’s things?”

I nearly got whiplash as he entered the room.

Stammering like a kid caught masturbating by his parents, I said, “I… w-was… ad-m-miring y-your… r-room.”

Though it was a fall September day, he took off his scarf (violet) and rested it on a tall coat-rack, which held scarves in various colors like a department store window display. He was taller than me, with a chiseled, handsome face, and straight, shiny black hair, which fell down his thick neck. I admired his perfectly sculpted muscles, housed in a turquoise designer dress shirt. But what captivated me the most were his piercing crystal-blue eyes—and the enormous bulge in his skin-tight, designer beige pants.

“What’s your name?”

“Johnny Falabella.”

He looked at me like a surgeon examining a tumor. “No, it’s not.”

“Excuse me?”

“It’s Jonathan Bello.” He opened a bureau drawer, pulled out a bottle of hair gel, and tossed it to me. “You should gel your hair.” He opened his closet, revealing a multitude of color-coordinated shirts and slacks, and lay some on my bed. “And you can wear these.”

I looked at his perfectly pressed designer clothes. “Where did you get all these things?”

“They were gifts, mostly.”

“You must have some generous friends…. Sorry, I don’t know your name.”

I’m David Star.” He took a bow.

Looking back at his play programs, I said, “You must have starred in every play at the college over the last three years.”

“Guilty as charged.”

“What happened to your last roommate?”

“He went to LA over the summer break and started auditioning. He got cast in a new TV sitcom. I hope it takes off. It’s called Cosby.”

“At the orientation session, they said freshmen are housed with other freshmen. How did I get a senior for a roommate?”

His eyes twinkled. “Just lucky I guess.”

“Do you think it was some kind of an administrative error or something?”

“Or something.” He added matter-of-factly, “I asked for a freshman roommate.”

Praise for AN INFATUATION (Divine Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Award for 2015: 2nd Place Best MM Romance Novel, 1st Place Best Cover Design):

“The author executed his storyline with a marvelous precision that would be the envy of many authors. He draws the readers into the lives of his characters, they become real and in turn, their emotions becomes yours.” “If you can only afford to buy one more book this year, buy this one.” Three Books Over the Rainbow Reviews

“I really loved this book and having an ending that made me laugh and cry at the same time is testament to the brilliant writing.” BooksLaidBareBoys

“I think you will be left breathless with the reality and emotion behind An Infatuation.” Diverse Reader

“Don’t miss this one friends, it is a heartfelt story magical in the telling! Thanks Joe for putting your heart on the page for us to savor!” Bike Book Reviews

“Author Joe Cosentino brought just the right amount of humor, angst and honesty to make this short but sweet coming of age story a success.” MM Good Book Reviews

“Joe Cosentino proves there’s more than one way to a happy ending in An Infatuation, a story of first love and heartbreak delivered in a fresh and funny voice.” The Novel Approach

“It’s unusual for me to get sucked into a book in the first chapter but it grabbed me early and I read the whole thing in one day”. Nautical Star Books

“I recommend this book to anyone reminiscing about that one that got away.” LoveBytes Reviews

“There were times I laughed and then there were times I cried…unforgettable.” Multitaskingmomma Reviews

“Like an onion, Joe Cosentino’s stories have layers. I would really recommend them. This is a Bittersweet novel, but it has laughs-a-plenty despite the sad and ugly lurking beneath the veneer. A truly fabulous read.” Boy Meets Boy Reviews

“The story kept me turning the pages and I thoroughly enjoyed it from start to finish.” “I love that Harold found what he was looking for in life and in a partner and love that he has his HEA. Great read.” Up All Night, Sleep All Day

“just the right dose of humor, honesty, and of course, sweet romance” Readers’ Favorite


“unbelievably beautiful” “a masterpiece” Lovebytes Reviews

“heart-wrenchingly beautiful, that no words I possess in my vocabulary would do it justice” “Again Joe Cosentino drew me into his wonderful world of part fact/part fiction/loosely based on his own experiences world – a world as a reader I love to enter, time and time again.” Three Books over the Rainbow

A Shooting Star could easily function as a master class in how to write short fiction (or any fiction). Joe Cosentino has provided a work that will leave you thinking and wanting to savor and re-read it again and again.” GGR Reviews

“This is a bittersweet love story, so don’t be surprised if you find tears running down your face when a shining and burning star is extinguished too soon. But, as Joe Cosentino proves time and time again, with his wonderful writing and storytelling ability, love will prevail, and you will smile from ear to ear.” Kathy Mac Reviews

“For those readers looking for something a little bit different – dare I say unique? For those readers who like to laugh. For those readers who appreciate the nuances of people and the way each character is different. For those readers who want to read a damn good story – check out this author. I’m glad I did.” Boy Meets Boy Reviews

“Cosentino has another winning heartbreaker with A Shooting Star.” Prism Book Alliance.

“Yes, it is a bittersweet story but it is one that still has hope and love.” Hearts on Fire Reviews

“This story just blew me away.” “If you like something different from time to time, a bittersweet story, actors, college men, and a very sweet romance I highly recommend this.” Cathy Brockman Romance/MM Good Book Reviews

“From the beginning I was enthralled and couldn’t wait to finish the book.” Inked Rainbow Reads

“really grabs you and tugs at your emotions” “unique and enjoyable.” Nautical Star Books

“a sophisticated, enthralling and suspenseful tale with a gothic vibe and a multi-layered execution that will have you sitting up and taking notice. This is polished prose at its best. Intelligent writing, a thought-provoking plot and characters befitting the theater genre make A Shooting Star one of my favorite reads this year.” Love’s Last Refuge Reviews

“a beautifully written story, full of life, love, heartbreak, tragedy, and maybe most importantly, triumph.” Readers’ Favorite