Queenships, Amnesia and Deadlines: Tami Veldura’s Perihelion.

Today I’m interviewing Tami Veldura about her story Perihelion, a story she wrote for last year’s DRitC event. I’d seen her around the forums during last year’s Love’s Only Road event, but it was in the M/M Romance Writers Group on Goodreads that we met. Welcome, Tami!

Tami: Hello! And thank you for hosting me 😀

Last year was my second DRitC event. I think it’s a great way for writers to challenge themselves and learn and readers to be introduced to a variety of stories and authors. Most of all, I find the collaborative atmosphere it produces really inspiring and encouraging. What attracted you to the DRitC event, Tami?

Tami: I first learned about DRitC not long after discovering Goodreads itself. I was still very new to the publishing world and had no real production schedule to fill my days. The event was in its second year, and back then they released all the prompts at once. I spent some time browsing them, not intending to write, but very captivated by the range of photos and stories being requested.

As these things tend to go, I came across a story that grabbed me and I claimed it. Oddly DRitC has always prompted me to claim photos/stories that are outside of my usual comfort zone. The first story I wrote was a contemporary M/M, the second, a small town contemporary M/M, then a historical paranormal story, followed by, finally, a hefty science fiction novel. While I’ve read my share of contemporary and historical books, I’ve never considered them “what I write” when someone asks. That’s probably something I should change!

Although you’ve written a lot of shorts, you mentioned that Perihelion is your first novel. I found DRitC a real learning experience, I imagine that you were in the same boat (spaceship?) with Perihelion! What did you learn from writing it?

PerihelionTami: Oh, goodness, what didn’t I learn from writing this book? First, it’s the longest work that I have finished and attempted to revise. I have a few other works pushing the 70k and 80k mark, but they’re not done and I haven’t made any effort to fix their errors. Perihelion is also a first on several other levels: my first multi-POV book, my first deliberately inclusive book, my first science fiction book, and my first trans main character!

All of these firsts added up to an intense experience while drafting the story. Thankfully I had no job at the time, I honestly believe it never would have been finished otherwise. I, personally, adore the outlining/brainstorming phase of writing the most and I spent a lot of time working Perihelion’s outline, almost 42 scenes if I remember correctly, before I ever started writing. The drafting phase of any project is the least fun for me. I find it a slog to get through on the best days and have only one good approach: hammer through it as quickly as possible. The editing and revising that happen afterward is another preferred phase and this phase with Perihelion was a massive overhaul that I’d never attempted to undertake before.

Two things kept me from abandoning the project. 1: I had a deadline to meet that I’d met three times in the past. I could do it if I focused. 2: I had an amazing editing team supporting me. There would be no Perihelion without them.

I still blew 3 deadlines in the course of the project, insisted on about 3 extra editing passes after my editor wanted to be done, and near the end of the project, I lost track of what day it was. My head was SO involved with the story that I missed about a week of my real life without noticing.

Wow, Tami! I thought my DRitC experience was intense, but that takes the cake! Based on your DRitC experiences, what advice would you give new authors considering participating in it or similar events?

Tami: If you have the time and you’re just starting on your writing adventure, absolutely take part. Assume that whatever project you start is going to take twice as long as you think it will. Then outline/brainstorm a short story that you know you can write within the deadline. Having a finished product, even if it’s small, is better than having nothing at all!

Onto Perihelion itself! How did you know that Perihelion was the prompt for you?

Tami: Having done DRitC a few times, I knew I wanted to utilize the event to write something personal rather than commercial. If it was going to take over three months of my life, I’d better get something I loved into the process.

I wasn’t thinking specifically scifi as I browsed through the prompts. In fact, this prompt wasn’t my first choice! I had settled on something more fantasy, but the prompt was released around 4 in the morning and I wasn’t quick enough with an alarm to claim that one. I’m glad I didn’t get it, because I also wasn’t planning on writing a novel for this event and look how that turned out.

But the Queenships as a concept have been in my head for at least five years, if not longer, and when I saw the photo and the prompt for this story that was the first thing that came to mind. I’m so glad it did.

Perihelion’s main characters look to have some really interesting dynamics! They start off soldier-prince and untrained pilot, and over the course of the story become a war hero and an injured, discarded veteran. That is almost like writing two relationships! Tell us about Kato and Mas’ud.

Tami: Kato and Mas’ud were both undefined characters that the time of the prompt claiming. It was really the Queenships that I knew most about. But the prompt specifically asked for a building relationship between the men that is then interrupted when they get amnesia in the middle of the story. The prompter wanted to know what they had going for them and then how they were going to deal with having lost that.

It’s hard to say that one character or the other suffers more. Kato looses his memory permanently. Mas’ud looses his memory only temporarily but permanently looses his ability to father children–something really important to him. The two of them are very different, they handle their situations is vastly different ways, but ultimately the story of the Queenships is larger than both of them.

You mentioned that you came up with the idea of Queenships for about five years before writing Perihelion. Reading the blurb, the Queenship sounds almost like a third party in Kato and Mas’ud’s relationship. What role does the Queenship play?

Tami: The Queenships and their pilots are central to the plot of the novel. The ships themselves are sentient. They talk to one another, their pilots, and the pilots of other ships. Through them, the pilots can contact any other ship or ship’s pilot instantly, even across the stretch of the galaxy. The first Queenship, Gaia, was built to be a haven in space for an overcrowded planet. She was intended to be an advanced AI, not sentient. How sentience came about is a story I want to write some day.

But all the Queenships are related to each other. New Queenships are born from older Queens, a combination of living crystal, metal, and organic membrane. They have genetic memories they pass from one to another.

All of this provides context and leverage for each Queen’s pilot and they’re organized into political families. A Queenship is a powerful thing to have on your side when there’s something you’re negotiating for.

What influences shaped Perihelion? Alternatively, what was your inspiration?

Tami: I have always loved the idea of ships that are aware or sentient. Magical devices. I didn’t know how I was going to use the idea, and for a long time I played with the thought of sailing ships. This concept eventually evolved into the Queenship idea which I held onto, waiting for some kind of plot to go along with it.

When I decided to apply this world to Roger’s prompt I knew immediately that I didn’t have the right background to write this story. But I also knew, immediately, how to fix that. Back in the 90’s a TV show called The West Wing was a popular show in my household. It’s on Netflix now. While I was outlining the story, I watched all 9 seasons of The West Wing in about 4 weeks. I just steeped in the political situations (and amazing writing!) in order to understand how political groups of people might butt up against each other. That show was a massive directional arrow for me, and fans may see echoes of it in the book.

During LOR, I remember being struck by Roger’s prompt. The fact that amnesia was not being used as a plot device to hide information from the readers was really interesting! How did that impact the story decisions you made?

Tami: It made outlining the story a lot easier than you might expect! I knew from the beginning that 1: not only were my characters supposed to forget themselves but 2: I knew it had to happen in the center somewhere. It divides Perihelion neatly down the middle, a before and after that none of my other stories have.

But I was also glad to see that specific request because I could develop these characters without worrying about knowing what came before them. And then I could explore the aftermath of amnesia and how these two very different men (with very different support groups) might react to it.

You mentioned that 90% of Perihelion’s cast was non-white. What dynamic did this decision add to your story?

Tami: It added a lot of research, for one. When selecting character names from foreign countries, especially for a cast this big, I made pages and pages of notes that never made it into the book. The vast majority of named characters have only one or two scenes in which to make an impact, so I wanted to give each of them traits that were traditional or common in their country of origin. The limitation here was me! I know very little about places outside my city, especially when it comes to cultural and religious influences, so I opened myself up to a lot of research to get the details right.

On the other side of that coin, all of that research and those details have put unique descriptions into my story where that texture wouldn’t have been otherwise. I’m a very spartan writer at the best of times and a poor visualizer of scenes and setting. Placing unfamiliar characters into my Queenships forced me to expand my visual vocabulary. I intend to maintain this for future books.

Perihelion’s full title is Perihelion (Queenships #1) — clearly a sequel is in the works! What direction are you taking the sequel?

Tami: I don’t know! I do know that Perihelion is just one little story in a very, very big one. Bigger than the humans that are in the galaxy. I have an idea for a prequel focusing on Gaia, the First Queenship. I also know that there’s a lot more to tell about Melpomene, the artificial Queenship.

As of right now, I’m not working on the world or its characters. The first book was a massive, painful undertaking and I’m not ready to put myself through that again. It will come, though. Ideas never stop bubbling up and one day I’ll have enough of them linked together that the next book will start nagging at me.

Not an interview question exactly, but I loved your multi-choice quiz that you hosted on the M/M Romance forums throughout the writing of Perihelion! I checked in a couple of times and it looked like a lot of fun! Are you a big quiz fan yourself?

Tami: Oh, I’d forgotten about that. Yes. Ok, so when an author is writing, there’s really nothing at all for the fans to do except wait. Which is really quite boring. I started the multi-choice quiz the year before with Blood In The Water and it was a big hit, so I repeated the event for Perihelion. People really seem to like it! No doubt I’ll do it again this year, I like how it keeps people involved and coming up with the questions also forces me to do a lot of world-building.

I don’t know if I’m personally a big quiz fan? The quiz layout seemed to work well 1: in a forum context and 2: over time. My goal was to stretch information out over a long period. But there have been adjustments to the system and I will probably continue to adjust it every year that I do it.

And finally, very off-topic, in addition to your writing, you also make your editing skills available to self-pub and indie authors. Do you have any difficulties balancing your editing and your own creative endeavours? Has editing other authors’ work helped you edit your own work?

Tami: I am! I generally find my clients through twitter or upwork and I’m always happy to give people a quote when they ask. Organizing my time around editing and writing is an always evolving process, and I wouldn’t say I have it down to a science just yet. Often the editing takes priority since it’s what pays the majority of my bills lately.

Yes, editing and critiquing other writers is absolutely the best way to see new flaws in your own writing. It’s something I did on a daily basis when studying in college and it’s something I encourage all writers to get involved in. If you have writer friends, ask if you can beta-read for them. If you don’t, go to critiquecircle.com and get started!

The other thing that has helped me both in editing and writing is having a work I consider complete edited by someone else. The mistakes and better phrasing and awkward moments are so obvious when someone else is pointing them out. And the process of revising that work to fix the odd spots is a big part of how I improve book over book.

Thanks again for allowing me to interview you, Tami! Before we say goodbye, please let us know how we can keep up with you and your writing.

Tami: I’m all over the place on the internet and would love to see you wherever you are!


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Perihelion Blurb:

Kato Ozark, crown prince and soldier, has just been chosen to pilot his family’s queenship. He’s trained his entire life for this honor, but it comes with a catch. It seems that First Engineer Mas’ud Tavana has also been chosen as the queen’s pilot. Mas’ud has no formal training, and they both believe a mistake has been made. But when an attack on a distant Ozark queen forces them to work together, it’s clear their minds are better as one than apart.

They might even go on a proper date. Through mission briefings and politically required offspring, the mental link their queenship forges between them only grows stronger. Within this bond they find strength in each other. Then a rogue AI attacks their ship, ripping the queen open to the core. The two pilots feel it all; the assault destroys their connection and tears them adrift into open space.

Kato and Mas’ud wake up in the medical bay of a rival family with no memory of their queenship or each other. Hailed as a war hero, Kato retrains as a kingship pilot, preparing to defend Earth against the AI. Mas’ud, dismissed as permanently broken, struggles to rediscover his own truth.

Their queenship is out there, waiting for her pilots to come home. The future of their family depends on it.


Buy Links:

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TamiAuthor Bio: 

Tami Veldura is a writer, reader, lover, and artist. She currently resides in sunny California. She writes queer science fiction, fantasy, steampunk, and YA fiction.


Tough Choices aka Member’s Choice Round Up!

I am back in my apartment! I had a great time with my family in NZ, but there is something very nice about being back in my apartment — and something even nicer about being able to sit down and relax, knowing that I am not going to miss my next connection if I zone out for a second.

This week’s big news is that the M/M Reader’s Group Member’s Choice Awards are open for voting! It was really neat to see so many of my writing friends amongst the nominations. I’m going to share links to the nominations of those friends who have appeared on my blog (and to my own), so that if you enjoyed their interviews and checked out their stories, you can show your support! Voting is open until the 15th. This means I have a long list of links to share (a lot of which are for the same categories, so be warned — tough choices lie ahead!), but let’s dive in! I’m approaching the list alphabetically for fairness.


First up, Alex Gabriel’s Still Waters is nominated in Best Love is an Open Road Story ! Meanwhile, First Contact is up for Best Contemporary /Mainstream.  Love for the Cold-Blooded is up for Best Book of the Year, Best Family Drama, Best Coming of Age, Best FantasyBest HumorousBest Story that Should have a Sequel, Best Main Character (Patrick West), Best Virgins, and Best Book Debut! Clearly many people enjoyed it a lot!

Anne Barwell’s On Wings of Song is up for Best Historical.

Bree Archer is nominated twice for her cover design in Best Cover Art  (for my Deep Magic and Sera Trevor’s The Troll Whisperer).

I was thrilled with nominations for both of my DRitC stories. Deep Magic is nominated in Best Story that Should have a Sequel, Best Love is an Open Road Story, Best Paranormal and Best Main Character (Olly! Duhywynt in particular is unimpressed). The Biggest Scoop is also nominated for Best Love is an Open Road Story as well as Best Coming of Age.

Jeff Addams’s Penalty Shot is nominated in Best Athletes/Coaches and Best Coming of Age.

Joe Cosentino is nominated in Favorite All-Time Author and Best Book Debut! His stories have plenty of appearances, too. A Shooting Star is nominated in Best Contemporary/Mainstream, Best Coming of Age, Best Secondary Character (Barry), and Best Performance/Visual Arts. An Infatuation is nominated in Favorite All-Time M/M RomanceBest Book of the Year, Best Story that Should have a SequelBest Main Character (Harold), and Best White CollarDrama Queen (the story I interviewed Joe about) is nominated in Best Mystery / Whodunit and Best Humorous.

Kaje Harper (upcoming guest and generally awesome person) is nominated in Favorite All-Time Author! Life, Some Assembly Required is up for Best Contemporary/Mainstream and Best Family Drama and Best Established Couple. Life Lessons and The Rebuilding Year are nominated in Favorite All-Time M/M Romance. The Hidden Wolves Series and Life Lessons both got nominated in Favorite All-Time M/M Series. Meanwhile, Chasing Death Metal Dreams and Second Act are both nominated in Best Performance/Visual Arts. Second Act is also nominated in Best Humorous, and Chasing Death Metal Dreams is up for Best Love is an Open Road Story

K.C. Faelan’s Top Floor is nominated in Best Historical and Best Love is an Open Road StoryMetamorphic Heart (co-written with Alexis Woods) is up for Best Long Story and Best Love is an Open Road Story.

Nic Starr’s Andrew’s Promise is nominated in Best Medical/Rescue Worker Professionals.

Sera Trevor’s The Troll Whisperer is up for Best Contemporary/Mainstream, and Best Love is an Open Road Story. Her other DRitC story, A Shadow on the Sun, is nominated for Best Fantasy and Best Friends to Lovers.

And Tali Spencer has a story in Foolish Encounters which is nominated in Best Anthology!

A quick short out to Gabrielle Morgan and Tully Vincent, both of whom are really deserving of Best Book Debut! I found voting incredibly difficult. I imagine it is like this every year, but as my first time voting I found it really hard to choose! Please look carefully at each category — with so many categories and deserving nominees to choose from, it is highly probable that I missed someone!

Learning How to Lose with Alex Gabriel!

Continuing my series of interviews with DRitC friends, today I bring you Alex Gabriel. I first met Alex through this year’s DRitC event, but you may already be aware of Alex as the author of Learning How to Lose, in Six Easy Steps. I’m excited about this interview because Alex has been busy since we last talked –and not necessarily in the way I expected! Our interview came out on the long side, so let’s jump straight in. Hi Alex! Thank you for talking to me today!

Alex: Hi, Gillian! It’s lovely to talk to you – thank you so much for having me over.

lhtl1In our e-mail conversation, you mentioned working on a mainstream SF novel in addition to M/M Romance projects. Obviously there are things that you can explore more fully in M/M Romance than you can in mainstream fiction, but I would like to know if the reverse is also true? Do you approach the world building or plotting differently, for example?

 Alex:  That’s an interesting question! In terms of plotting and world building, I was originally going to say that the main difference is the emphasis I place on the central relationship; how central it is to the world building, and how much of the plot revolves around and hinges on it. But then I realized that one of my unfinished non-m/m SF novels revolves almost entirely around the (platonic) relationship between two men, with the entire plot arising from it. Conversely, none of the plotting and world building for my m/m novella Still Waters arose from the m/m relationship – everything, including the relationship, developed from the nature and background of one of the characters.

So now I must say that beyond the obvious fact that m/m romance includes m/m romance (who would have thought!), my approach and the aspects I can and do explore in a story depend entirely on the specific story and characters in question.

I’ll have to think about this some more! A really thought-provoking and interesting question.

I’m glad you assured me that the sequel to Still Waters is still in the works! That was going to be one of my first questions. Since you’ve answered that, I am wondering what else we can look forward to you in the coming year?

Alex:  After the Still Waters sequel, I’m planning to return to the urban fantasy m/m novel that I started before “Love for the Cold-Blooded”. I wrote myself into a corner with that one, and in the end put it down entirely in order to clear my head by writing something else. I’ve been thinking about how to resolve the issues I ran into, though, and am really looking forward to picking it up again. I already have not only a great title, but also an actual cover for the book, so I really must finish it!  

The novel is set in a world where gods are a very real presence. Since many gods enjoy dalliances with humans, the world is full of demigods, one of whom is the hero of the story. James is lucky in that his divine power isn’t debilitating or disfiguring – he’s unlucky in that it’s far too powerful.  Because powerful demigods get snapped up by the temples, it’s a good idea for them to keep their heads down… which James rather fails at.

Still Waters was written for the M/M Romance Group’s DRitC event. Now that the dust has settled and you’ve had some time to reflect on this year’s experience, do you have any insights or things that you feel you’ve learned from the event? What advice would you give writers thinking about trying it (or something similar) next year?

 Alex: I have learned one very valuable practical lesson to pass on: Be extremely fast when claiming your prompt! Hit refresh constantly, and don’t even take the time to type out “ME!!” when the thread is opened for comments – have the text already copied and just paste it in. 

It’s tough to give advice when it comes to writing to a prompt, because my impression is that this works differently for everyone. Personally, I find it almost impossible to write to prompts that are more specific than a basic premise, but I know this isn’t true for other authors. Also, when I write in a plot framework someone else has set, my instinct is to subvert it in some way, twist it into an entirely different shape – so I have to watch that tendency very carefully, because that kind of story isn’t going to be what most prompters want.

You’ll notice that even when given the wide-open two-word prompt “ginger merman”, I still managed to twist one word of it. Fortunately my prompter was quite happy with a nix pretending to be a merman, but strictly speaking, I only fulfilled 50% of that prompt.

November sounds like it was an incredibly busy month! In addition to your projects, you were also one of the M/M Romance Group’s Authors of the Month for October. What was that like?

Alex:  It was a complete surprise, and an absolute honor! I actually only realized I was an Author of the Month partway into the month, and was more than a little floored.

You’re obviously not a person who shies away from challenges. Are there any new genres/story types that you’d like to try?

 Alex: In terms of genres, a steampunk novel might be fun… not that I have anything planned, but it’s a fascinating genre. And while writing this, I just had an idea for an alternate history novel.

I’d like to write a completely unreliable narrator at one point. All of my narrators are slightly unreliable in that they see the world in a way colored by their personality, pre-conceived notions and biases, and so miss and misinterpret some things, and twist or outright deny others. But it’d be fun to go a step beyond that, and have an entirely subjective narrative that has the reader constantly questioning and reevaluating everything she is told.

What attracts you to a particular story? How do you approach each of your projects? Are you plot driven, or is it a character that drives things? Do you outline or wing things?

 Alex: How I approach a project depends entirely on the story in question. Some stories are driven by a character, like Still Waters (which is entirely shaped by Drakjan); others are more plot or concept driven, like First Contact (“cops undercover in a gay bdsm club run by the mob”). Most are somewhere in between, starting out with a spark of plot or character inspiration and spinning out from there. 

I used to be a complete “winging it” kind of author, to the point where I was afraid to write down a plot outline in case it would make me lose interest. I was writing to find out what would happen next, and if I already knew, part of the motivation for writing was gone.

That’s changed over the years. Now, I plan more, although I still don’t set out every scene and plot point in advance. There is an initial, general plan – although often, the first scene is written before this plan fully materializes.  As I write, the story evolves, various plot points changing along the way. I’m constantly adding new ideas and shifting things around as new connections occur to me.  In the end, I go back and edit mercilessly so it all comes together and flows smoothly.

Something that I’ve found really helpful is planning out just the scene I am about to write – jotting down a rough outline of who does and says what. Most potential problems become apparent at that stage, so I can adjust the scene until it works, and then write without running into any of those snags and getting stuck.

I cannot imagine that you’ve had any time to read lately, but what was the last book you read? Would you recommend it? If not, what is a book that you would recommend?

 Alex: It’s true that I have much less time to read now than I used to, although I haven’t changed my book-buying habits – which leads to unread books stacking up more and more, both on my shelves and on my harddrive!

A book I’ve been reccing to friends who enjoy tricksters,  mythology and queer urban fantasy is Liesmith by Alis Franklin. It has m/m romance elements, since the male protagonist falls in love with Loki in male form. I think it’s best enjoyed when read as a fresh, original urban fantasy twist on Nordic mythology, though.

I also really enjoyed the m/m science fiction novel Dark Space by Lisa Henry, particularly the author’s portrayal of the space marines from the point of view of a low-grade (and lower-class) conscripted recruit. The sequel’s recently come out, and I’m looking forward to reading it.

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie is a mainstream science fiction novel, the first part of a recently completed trilogy. A fragment of the warship Justice of Toren’s AI – part of an imperialistic empire’s unstoppable fleet – is stuck in a human body after an act of treachery leads to the ship’s destruction. Justice of Toren is left with unanswered questions and a thirst for vengeance, and the fact that she has only one fragile human body left is not going to stop her.

I am always fascinated by characters and societies that are truly and genuinely alien. This protagonist has an inhuman point of view as she should, and I loved it. Another interesting aspect: The narrator’s culture and language do not differentiate between genders, and as a spaceship, she’s indifferent to such distinctions in any case. The result is that gender is a complete non-issue, which is interesting and refreshing.

How can readers keep up to date with what you’re working on?

 Alex: The best way to keep informed about my upcoming releases is to subscribe to my newsletter (http://eepurl.com/bJ0zpX) – it also offers sneak peeks, writing updates, special offers and more. Plus, anyone who signs up gets my novella “First Contact” for free.

I have a blog at alexgabriel.net in which I talk about all things related to writing and reading – I don’t update as often as I should, but I do frequently resolve to do better. I’m also on Facebook and Twitter as ScribblingAlex, and I’m always happy to hear from readers!

And just for fun: What superpower would you most like to have? Would you use it for good or for evil?

lhtl ep2 walk 1600Alex: I’ve always wanted to be able to fly, just for the fun of it. But it would be even cooler to be a teleporter. In all honesty, I would be likely to use my power for very boring things, like popping out to get the best takoyaki straight from Osaka, or avoid traffic jams, or go have tea with friends on the other side of the world.  

Of course, if I were to be embroiled in an international secret battle involving spies, politicians, corporations and desperately outnumbered but determined superpowered rebels – as seems inevitable, really – I would definitely be on the side of the idealistic underdogs who have no real idea of what they’re up against.

What exciting things are on the horizon?

Alex: I have a Holiday Special coming up! From December 25 to 27, the bestselling first novel of the “Learning How to Lose, In Six Easy Steps” trilogy will be entirely free on Amazon. (It’s not that Ryuu’s a bad loser, you understand – he just wants things to be in order. And in the natural order of the universe, he should not be losing to dorks.)

Learning How to Lose” is a slow-burning, red-hot gay romance in three volumes, set in the world of Japanese pop idols. You can check it out here to see if it’s your thing.

Find the first novel here on Amazon. 

And before the year is out, there will be an all-new bonus story featuring Ryuu and Hiro, the main characters. Also entirely free, and guaranteed not safe for work! 

Thank you again, Gillian! 

My pleasure, Alex! Thanks for stopping by.

Food, Fiction and Pinspiration: An interview with K.C. Faelan!

I’m really enjoying catching up with DRitC friends! Today we’re talking to K.C. Faelan. I featured K.C.’s historical romance, Top Floor, earlier this year on my blog. Not only that, she’s co-authored a second story, Metamorphic Heart with Alexis Woods. I want to find out what she’s been up to since we last talked, as well as learning more about her upcoming projects.

Welcome K.C! How’s things?

K.C.: Hi Gillian! Things are a lot calmer now. Writing two novels in seven months was quite an experience.

Indeed! I am really amused that after writing two DRITC stories this year, we both immediately followed that up with a short story! Please tell us all about yours.

K.C.: Are you talking about Aligning North? I actually had North in the works when I picked up the prompt for Top Floor, and I had to finish it first before I got to writing TF.

Aligning North was written for the anthology Summer Bigger Than Others, put out by Beaten Track Publishing. North is the story of Blake Manning, and Zachary ‘Zac’ North. Blake owns an outdoor adventure company with three friends. During the school year, he’s a science teacher. He’s patient and knowledgeable about the wilderness, but hasn’t had any long lasting relationships. So he’s a novice in that territory. The hike he’s leading with his business partner, Ali, is over the Grand Traverse trail in Yosemite National Park, which is about a seven day hike. Zac signed up to take the trip with his boyfriend at the time, but they broke up before it. He decides to go on the hike anyway to get away and ‘find’ himself again. Blake’s attracted to Zac right off the bat, but he knows Zac isn’t very receptive to his attentions, so he treads carefully. The story continues with the two learning and opening up to each other. There are other couples in the story too, and the readers get to discover a little about them.

You know, I actually remember talking to you about the anthology and everything way back. Whoops! Thanks for telling us about it.

Your story for last year’s DRITC event was a contemporary comedy. This year we had a historical romance, and a foray into paranormal! You’ve also written a festive story, a summer story … the list goes on! Clearly, you enjoy writing a lot of different genres. What do all your stories have in common?

K.C.: Haha, yes. I love to experiment in different genres and stretch my writing talents. I take it as a challenge, and because I find so many genres interesting to read.

There are many things common in my stories. First, they’re all character driven. I want my characters to grow, even if the story is just a short story. I want them to take a chance, get over a fear, open up to another person, or discover something new about themselves. I also can’t seem to stop putting humor in my stories, anything ranging from snarkiness to corny humor. It’s probably because I love books that make me laugh. Of course I can’t forget food. I’m a foodie, so food will always be in my stories. Also, I love to create UST for my characters. I want them to yearn for each other, but through events, or their own issues, a wall grows between them so the frustration keeps building. It’s a hurdle that’s once broken, the outcome is worth it. The other commonality, would be my stories end in a HEA and if not, a HFN. I don’t know if I could give one of my characters an unhappy ending, but I know not to say ‘never,’ because I never thought I’d write a historical, lol.

I hear you on the foodie front! My prompt for last year’s DRitC (which turned into The Last Cannoli by Tali Spencer)  was pretty much inspired by a craving for baked goods.

Is there a genre that you really want to try?

metamorphic-heart-pdf-200x300K.C.: Oh gosh, I have a list of genres I’d like to try. I’d like to write a series of Shifter stories, both unusual shifters, and Wolf Shifters. I’d also love to write a Mystery, not necessarily an M/M Mystery, but more like a male MC with a male sidekick. Think Holmes and Watson, or any team like that. Maybe even a single male character, like Brother Cadfael only set in contemporary times. I also want to write a Fantasy, create my own world and mythology, but that’s further down on my list. For now I’ll continue with writing contemporary and likely after, it’ll be Shifters.

Where do your stories start? Is it a character, an idea or a message? Or something else entirely?

K.C.: Usually it starts with an image. I’m a very visual person, and a picture can spark either a plot or a character speaking to me immediately. It happened recently where words triggered off a plot bunny, but almost always, it’s a picture that will do it.

So the DRitC event is a pretty great fit for you then! Actually, while we’re talking about inspiration, your stories all have amazing pinterest boards to accompany them. At what stage in a story do you create your pinterest board? How do you use it? And do you think it has an influence on your writing?

top-floor-jutoh-200x300K.C.: Thank you, I’m glad you find the boards interesting, they really help keep me on track when it comes to describing items or people.

I create a board as soon as I’m pretty sure I’m going to write the story. Even if the board is blank, I’ll set it up with a title, description and then keep the board hidden. As ideas come to me on what I want in the story, I add them. For example in Top Floor, I posted the image of a brass lion’s head door knocker for Harrison Devaux’s front door. I’ll add whatever I think will help in creating a touch of atmosphere to the story and help me visualize the world I want. Seeing the actual objects does aid in my descriptions.

What are you reading right now? And what author/s is/are your biggest inspiration/s?

K.C.: I enjoy reading and reviewing books, so currently I’m reading books from the Goodreads Don’t Buy My Love review program at the moment, a couple of shorts. But lately I’ve been on a kick of reading shifter stories. I’ll probably start reading holiday ones now that Christmas is over the horizon.

JK Rowling is my biggest inspiration. I’d stopped reading for pleasure when I went to college and work. Once Harry Potter came out, I started to read again for fun. From there, and with the encouragement of a friend who wrote, I took up writing. I know many writers have numerous authors that inspire them, but JKR is the only one who inspired me.

What are your plans for the coming year?

K.C.: Plans? What plans? Haha! I’m not the kind of writer who has a list of books that they want to write for the coming year, or loads of plot bunnies stored away. My muse doesn’t work well with a schedule. I write when I get inspired by a picture or something, and the voices start talking in my head. For now, my muse is quiet, so I’m betaing and reading. I’ve found I can’t write a story and read at the same time. But saying all that, I have an idea floating around for writing another book with Alexis, probably next year. We’ll leave it a surprise 😉

That is very exciting! How can readers keep up to date with what you’re working on?

K.C.: If readers would like to follow me, I post mainly on my WordPress blog at: https://kcfaelan.wordpress.com/  

Or people can check into my Goodreads profile to see if I’ve posted anything there: https://www.goodreads.com/KCFaelan

And just for fun: Would you rather go hiking with Blake (Aligning North) or have Julien (If At First You Don’t Succeed) cook you dinner?

K.C.: As much as Blake is the kind of guy I love to look at, and whose personality I would enjoy the most, I’d have to choose Julien. I’m a foodie, and food always figures into my stories somewhere. Julien would be immense fun and a great dinner companion. I wouldn’t have to try and make small talk, because he would carry the conversation and keep me supplied with great food.

And if for Christmas you could have a sequel to any book in the world, which book would you choose and why?

K.C.: Oh gosh, probably something from the Harry Potter universe but where certain characters didn’t die and were paired with each other, instead of how they ended up. So, I guess it would have to be HP fanfiction written by me! 

Sounds like fun! Thanks so much for your time, K.C.!

You can find K.C. at any of the below links.

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Consorting with Trolls: An Interview with Sera Trevor!

Today I’m taking a break from NaNoWriMo to talk to Sera Trevor. I featured Sera’s fantasy M/M novel, A Shadow on the Sun, on this blog as one of my most anticipated LOR stories. It came out in July, and Sera followed it with a second novel in October, The Troll Whisperer, which, despite the name, is a contemporary novel.

You already know that I think Sera is an amazing storyteller. We have similar feelings about such important things as strong plots, well-rounded female characters and vampires. We’re also both new authors, and Sera, despite being extremely busy away from the keyboard, makes a point of sharing her experiences and support. I always look forward to her e-mails, and I come away from reading them with the feeling that I’ve gained something. And today, I’m sharing her with you! So, hello, Sera, welcome to my blog!

pic of meSera: Hi, Gillian— thanks for having me!

You’ve had an amazing year. Not just one LOR story, but two! And you didn’t stop there, did you? What have you been up to since?

Sera: Most recently, I’ve been wrestling with formatting to get my books distributed on Amazon, Smashwords, and All Romance eBooks. In fact, I just now finished getting the last one up. It was such a headache that I had to get an industrial-sized bottle of ibuprofen to get through it!

Congratulations on getting your stories up on both Amazon and Smashwords! I managed to get Deep Magic formatted and posted on Smashwords and it was exhausting. Is there anything you’ve learnt from the process, or from participating in DRitC a second time, that you’d like to share with other writers?

Sera: When it comes to formatting, if you read the Smashwords formatting guide thoroughly and follow all of the steps, you will still probably mess it up. But that’s a good thing! Getting it wrong is the absolute best way to learn how the right way works. Just stock up on your painkillers of choice before you start.

That is really good advice! I know I went through a lot of panadol, myself. What are you working on now? (I will be honest, I am hoping for vampires).

Sera: Sorry to say, but my vampire is waiting in the wings at the moment. Right now, I’m working on the long-overdue expansion of Consorting with Dragons (which was my DRitC from last year) and its sequel, Lances and Lovers. The sequel will give Larely, the broken hearted guard, a love story of his own. Risyda and Polina will be back as well; I don’t want to spoil too much, but let’s just say that Larely isn’t the only one who has a thing or two to learn about love. Plus, there will be baby dragons!

Baby dragons! Okay, I think I can wait a little longer for vampires. One thing I really enjoy about your stories, Sera, is their uniqueness. Both in the ideas and in the flavour of your stories. You wrote The Troll Whisperer immediately after A Shadow on the Sun, and yet both stories have a completely different vibe to them. Where do you start when you write? An idea? A character? A belief? What element is present in all your writing, and why?

 Sera: Generally, I start with the sort of story I’d like to write: for example, a vampire story. (One of the many great things about the Don’t Read in the Closet event is that the prompts give me an extra creative boost, because there’s a bit of character and plot already built in.) Then I decide on a tone—am I going for laughs, or for something more serious? From there, I develop the characters and the skeleton of the plot. As I write, the characters start to reveal themselves. Frustratingly, this often upends the plot I’ve carefully constructed; after a certain point, the characters get very opinionated about what they want to do!

I tend to be all over the place with my subjects and my styles—writing takes me to different places, and I don’t like to restrict where I take my mental vacations! The thing that unites all of my work, however, is a deep interest in the human condition. I think that’s what draws me to romance. We are at our most human when we fall in love. It can bring out both the best and the worst in people, which is fascinating to explore.

I love that! Such a fascinating take on romance. Thanks for sharing!  What do you hope readers take away from your writing? Is it different for every story?

Epub-TheTrollWhispererSera: One of my favorite things to hear from readers is that my writing has made them think about something differently. For example, I’ve had several readers say that their perspective of online trolling changed once they read The Troll Whisperer. That really excites me, because I often write to try to understand people very different from myself. That’s why my villains and other difficult characters have a special place in my heart—it’s harder to understand them, but the effort is very rewarding for me. Ha, this may be why my villains tend to promote themselves to anti-heroes; once you understand why someone is such an asshole, it’s hard to completely dismiss them.

I can see that. Lyar in A Shadow on the Sun is a really great example of a villain that I can’t hate.

What are you currently reading? Would you recommend it? If not, what is a book you would recommend?

Sera: I’ve actually just finished Cari Z.’s Ten Simple Tips for Surviving the Apocalypse and found it completely delightful. It’s a comedic take on the apocalyptic genre, which really appealed to my morbid sense of humor. Besides being funny, it was very heartfelt with two great leads. She even pulled off an HFN in a barren hellscape that felt real and earned. I was really impressed with how much world-building and character development she was able to pack into such a short amount of space.  It’s a DRitC story, so you can pick it up for free. I would definitely recommend it!

Ten Simple Tips for Surviving the Apocalypse is already on my to-read list, but I’m going to move it up a bit!

What are your plans for the coming year?

Sera: I hope to get both the expansion with Consorting with Dragons and the sequel, Lances and Lovers, out by spring of 2016. After that, I’ll start on my vampire book, Curses, Foiled Again, and then I’ll start on my steampunk novel, Manners and Machines.

How can readers keep up to date with what you’re working on?

 Sera: If you want to read a little more about my upcoming projects, you can check it out on my webpage here. And if you want to get notification of my new releases, as well as exclusive sneak peeks and chances at free books, you can sign up for my mailing list here!

And just for fun: If you could meet any fictional vampire, who would you choose and where would you take them?

 Sera: Can I cheat and pick two? Because I’d like to set Lestat and Dracula up on a blind date, then watch what happens from a safe distance.

Yes! I will watch with you. You bring the binoculars, I’ll make the popcorn. Finale question: How awesome is beta-reader/editor/cover-designer Sam on a scale of one to stupendous?

Sera: She is super duper extra stupendous, times infinity plus one!

Agreed!  Thank you so much for your time, Sera! I’ve enjoyed our chat and I’m excited for your upcoming projects. Manners and Machines? You have some great titles!

Sera Trevor. 

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The Biggest Scoop is out!

Taylor has it all. Looks, intelligence, charisma, the ability to appeal to almost every interest group among the students at Bernhardt academy. In fact, Milo is convinced that Taylor is just what he is looking for — the story that will solve his, and the school newspaper’s, waning popularity problem. Taylor, isn’t convinced, however, and Milo finds his reporting skills put to the ultimate test.


Downloads available here!

This is my second LOR story. This was another case of me stepping out of my comfort zone. Young Adult is such a hard genre to get right. In addition, working as a teacher, I wasn’t sure that I could go to school every day, then come home and write about school. Somehow, it wasn’t the problem I thought it would be! Milo, Taylor, Candice, Declan and Fern pretty much wrote the story for me. I’m ridiculously pleased with them, and I can’t wait to hear what you think of the story!

Deep Magic and Still Waters are out!

In really amazing awesome timing, Alex’s Still Waters was released two days ago (read it on goodreads here or wait for the downloads to become available), and Deep Magic just last night (download already available here!). From Alex’s story thread, I gathered our stories had a lot in common, but having read Still Waters, we can now add mermen that aren’t technically mermen to the mix. I love both these stories, and am equally as excited about Alex’s release as my own.

Deep Magic cover by Bree Archer

The travelling is going well! I have a new story idea based off something odd that happened to us in Kyoto, but I am letting that develop slowly. We’re currently in Hakone, up in the mountains. I bathed in water from a volcanic hotspring before breakfast, my friend was woken in the night by an ominous rumble from the mountains and an alarm, and consequently overslept. Volcanoes have their advantages and disadvantages, it seems!

Reading List, Connected by Ink.

I feel like I was so busy working on my LOR stories that everything crept up on me at once. I very nearly missed that the story Nicole Dennis wrote for my LOR prompt had been posted! Family and Reflection, the latest book in Anne Barwell and Elizabeth Noble’s the Sleepless City series has been released, and Tali Spencer has tied up Rattletrap and shared some of Thick as Ice on her blog. And as if that wasn’t enough to keep me busy, Sera Trevor has shared the first chapter of A Shadow on the Sun with her e-mail subscribers, and there are 84 LOR stories already freely available via the M/M Group. It’s a good thing that this is our last week of school before the summer break because I have a lot of reading to do.

You’d think that after submitting my second LOR story, I would be allowed a break, right? Not so! I found myself picking up Thorns and Fangs almost immediately. I’ve been going through and revising it again. While I am impatient to share the story with everyone, I want it to be as strong as I can possibly make it, and I feel like I’m making good steps in that direction! Taking some time off from this story has given me some necessary distance and I’ve learnt a lot from Arielle, Serena, Sam and Raevyn, my LOR event betas and editor this year that I can now put to good use.

Weirdly, while writing my LOR stories I found it was really difficult to read other people’s LOR stories. I am rather one-track. When I’m in writing-mode, all I want to do is write. When I’m in reading-mode, I go through 3-4 books back to back before I’m satisfied. I think that the knowledge that I still had a lot of work to do with my LOR stories didn’t help me relax and enjoy them. Bizarrely, I have no problems reading Family and Reflection while working on my own Vampire serial. I’ve got no idea why the similarities between these novels and my draft don’t put me off, but instead reading the first six chapters of Family and Reflection last night got me really inspired and all fired up to get back to work revising my draft. Coming back to these characters after a few months felt like catching up with old friends. I am really enjoying this series!

Also inspirational, Nicole Dennis’ Connected By Ink has me itching to try writing paranormal sci-fi. I love the direction she took my prompt. The setting and world-building was completely unexpected and my favorite part of her story!

Here is my prompt (sans incredibly awesome picture unfortunately):

Dear Author,

What you see is more than mere ink. Any tattoo has the power that comes from significance, but none have what ours do― the ability to grant power. He gave us the first of our marks when he claimed us as his Heartless, you see. Betrayed by love and left to die by the ones we most trusted― but still unwilling to die.

It’s a strange life, if ‘life’ is the right term. We walk in the dark, see what humans do not see, and wield awesome powers, protecting humans from what they do not even know exists. It’s not without its perks, of course. We are allowed pleasure, companionship and wealth. There is only one rule, and that easily kept. We know the anguish of heartache too well. Why fall in love?

No, my problem is more― peculiar. One of my tattoos has gone― missing. It seems to have transferred itself to the charming young man who entertained me last night. An absolutely unheard of event. I would find it fascinating― if it wasn’t happening to me. Now I have to find him before he attracts unwanted attention with his new powers and find a way to get my tattoo back.

And Nicole’s story can be found on Goodreads here (must be a member of M/M Romance to view).

Impact Ripples and The Biggest Scoop.

The theme of this year’s DRitC event is Love’s Only Road, right? I’m starting to think it should have been ‘Love’s Only Ocean’ or ‘All Roads Lead to Mermen.’ Seriously. There is yet another merman story, and unlike mine, Alex’s or Lila’s, you don’t have to wait to read it! Impact Ripples by Claire Davis and Al Stewart is out now! Read it on the M/M Romance Group or download it in ebook format here.

Impact Ripples is a contemporary thriller. It is a desperate race against forces imperfectly understood by the characters, and the story hurtles you along as though you’re also part of this urgent fight to survive this just-guessed-at danger. I am left wanting to know more about this world and these characters.

I’m also kicking myself. Al created a hilarious spoof cover featuring a merman that I saw and joked about with him on Goodreads – and I still managed to somehow miss this story until now. To be fair, I was somewhat distracted … by writing my second LOR story.

In my defence, I’m not alone! There is an outbreak of second stories happening. K.C. Faelan is teaming up with Alexis Woods to write about a gorgon. Sera Trevor is swapping fantasy for internet trolls. And me? I said ‘tara’ to my morgen, and stepped into the equally foreign (if you’re me, anyway) world of American High School.

Milo is determined not to let the school paper go under, if its the last thing he does — and with the grudge the football team has against the paper, and Milo in particular, it just might be. Enter Taylor, a confident new student with personal magnetism strong enough to put the entire school in flux. Taylor is the perfect story, Milo is sure of it. But while Milo’s stories are great for the newspaper’s circulation and Taylor’s popularity, they do nothing to improve Taylor’s opinion of Milo. This is the biggest scoop of Milo’s life — but can he figure out the real story?

Josephine’s prompt is here. I highly recommend checking it out, just for her photo. There is so much personality contained in that photo, that the story pretty much wrote itself! I’ve shared a few snippets in the thread, but as for updates, I finished the first draft last week and it is in the process of being beta-ed prior to being revised then submitted for editing and formatting.

LOR: Still Waters

Today I am again introducing you to another of my most anticipated prompts of the 2015: DRitC Event. This time it is Kathleen’s mer-prompt!

There is so much to get excited about with this prompt. Firstly, the picture Kathleen chose absolutely demands a story. I’m usually more about the prompts than the pictures, but in this case the picture speaks eloquently enough on its own! I mean — look at him! Also, the prompt. I’m not a big fan of simple prompts either. I need a hook. Kathleen’s excitement, however, is contagious: I only have two words for you: ginger merman! Everything else is up to you. See what I mean? The scope is endless, there are so many possibilities here!

Still Waters cover

But with so many possibilities, there is a risk of the story drifting without clear direction. No worries there. The prompt was snagged by Alex Gabriel, of Love for the Cold-Blooded fame. From the very first extract shared on the discussion thread, Alex owns this story! Drakjan shrugs off legs to walk on land with a laconic resignation I found utterly compelling, while the humour and the hint of mystery introduced by the beavers and their habit of collecting corpses had me wanting more. Finally, Drakjan’s song hints at both melancholy and passion. He is such an individual, in fact, that it was days after reading the first extract before I realized that Still Waters has a lot in common with my prompt this year!

Want to share the excitement? Alex has kindly allowed me to repost the first extract here: