Monthly Archives: August 2013

Busy, busy, busy

So I confess that I was worried.  When I quite my day job to write full-time, I was concerned that I might slack off.  I know myself.  If I can nap all day, I might just do that.  But although my workday is considerably less hectic than it was in phone support, I’ve discovered that one deadline is almost immediately followed by another in this gig.

There are plenty of writers who write faster than I do.  I talk to people daily who find it easy to churn out 2,000-5,000 words a day, and it’s not because they’re writing crap.  Some are among my favorite authors.

I can’t do that.  I can do 1,000 words a day on average, generally a bit more.  When the spirit moves me, as it did for the final couple weeks of my YA novel, Gods (Book Three of the Dreams of Fire and Gods trilogy), I can do twice that.  But that’s not a normal writing pace for me.

I’m also a little fuzzy on the whole deadline thing.  Always have been.  I try very hard not to piss off my publisher, but begging an extra day or two is sadly not uncommon.

However, I’ve had a pretty productive summer despite my shortcomings.  I turned in the manuscript for Gods, which turned out to be 66k words long, in mid(-ish) July, and submitted a 20k Christmas novella for the Dreamspinner Advent Calendar on August 1st.  Then I spent a week or so starting a steampunk project for an October deadline (it’s currently at 8.8k), but put that aside to finish a 9.5k story about two men on a business trip for a charity anthology, where they will learn about ichimoku cloud strategy for their business.  In between there have been miscellaneous bouts of editing, blog posts (not counting guest blogs), and other promotional work.  About 30k of Gods was written since going full-time, so I’ll say that’s about 68k written in the past … well, about 86 days.  Which works out to about 790 words per day….

Wait a minute — that sucks!

Oh, wait.  I get to take out 24 days for weekends (there were also some holidays in there).  That brings it to just over 1,000 words a day.

Well, that was all rather pointless then, but at least I can justify not searching through Help Wanted ads for a bit longer.

Anyway…

JakeMy current project is a contemporary (more or less — it takes place in 1996) college romance novel, currently called Second Chances.  Yes, my publisher has already suggested changing the name, since are probably about ten million romances out there with similar names.  It’s not all that descriptive anyway.  It’s just the best I’ve thought of so far.

Anyway, the story concerns a  cute, somewhat jockish redhead named Jake, who resembles the possibly naked young man pictured on the right.  Jake was mentioned in Billy’s Bones, as the high school best friend of Tom Langois.  Tom had had a crush on him and came out to him, only to have Jake freak out and run away.  Tom brooded for a while, walking past his house every afternoon trying to build up the courage to go knock on the door (yes, I did this once, when I’d had an argument with my best friend in high school), until Jake’s father threatened to put a restraining order on him.  (In real life, my friend and I just patched it up and we’re still friends to this day.)

So, back to Jake.  Jake, we learn in this next novel, is gay too.  He’s just closeted, as a result of growing up with a homophobic father and two older brothers who enjoy beating him up.  His family moves away from the area before he can figure out how to patch things up with Tom, and sadly they never see each other again.

DannyBut Jake goes off to college and that’s when, in 1996, he moves into a creative arts dorm at UNH (the dorm I lived in) and becomes roommates with Danny, who resembles the possibly naked young man pictured on the left.

While Jake struggles with the guilt he feels over rejecting the best friend he ever had for being gay, knowing that secretly he was gay too, Danny is dealing with the aftermath of what happened when the jock he was crushing on in high school betrayed him in a rather horrible way.

This story is a bit lighter than Billy’s Bones, though it deals with some similar themes.  That part wasn’t intentional — they just kind of crept in there.  But Jake and Danny are young and living in a dorm with coed bathrooms, marathon D&D sessions in the lounge, and naked pizza parties, so I think it’s a fun, entertaining read.  And God is it nostalgic for me to write!  The years I lived in that dorm were some of the best years of my life.

It’s a bit over half done, since I started it in the spring.  I had to put it aside for the other commitments, but my publisher wants to see it in mid September, so I really have to get cracking!  The first half was so much fun to write, I’m really excited to finally have a chunk of time to finish it.

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Guest blog: Desktop – “The Trouble With Tony” by Eli Easton

Eli Easton’s highly entertaining novella, The Trouble with Tony, was released this past week.  I loved it and definitely recommend it for a quick, lighthearted and very sexy read!  Eli put this post up on her blog a few days ago, but I offered to duplicate it here, because I thought it was a lot of fun.

Click on the cover pic to the right to get to the purchase page!

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Whenever I write a story, I like to google images for inspiration.  Sometimes they’re for mood, sometimes they’re characters (major and minor), sometimes they’re locations, and sometimes they’re things like a building or a shop or a car that I just like to have a visual reference for.  I thought it would be fun to share these with readers.

** Note:  I own none of these images – they’re from google.  These images were not used in the book, but if you have a problem with my having an image on this website, please email me and I’ll remove it.  

So without further ado, here’s my “Trouble with Tony” desktop:

TONY DEMARCO

Tony is an Italian-American private detective from Brooklyn now living in Seattle (in part to elude his big, Italian-American family who don’t know he’s gay).  He was a cop for six years but decided to to go it alone as a P.I. after being shot in the leg.   He’s very funny.

I had several images on my desktop to inspire me to write Tony’s character.  Here’s my favorite:

images

This pic was identified as Fabio Cannavaro by a commenter.  Thank you!

DR. JACK HALLORAN

Our other MC, Dr. Jack Halloran, was a combat surgeon in the US Army for 8 years until an I.E.D. damaged his left arm, making it impossible for him to do surgery.  His PTSD made even working in an ER impossible.  He’s now a sex therapist for Expanded Horizons.  He’s not a big guy, but he’s a serious bad ass, he is probably the top surgeon around.

I searched for a ‘blonde doctor’ image to inspire me and I like the attitude on his face.  This one made it onto the cover!

young doctor man with stethoscope and clipboard against different backgrounds Stock image

MICHAEL LAMONT

Oh, Michael!  I’m currently working on Sex in Seattle #3, which is Michael’s story, but he makes his first appearance in “The Trouble With Tony”.  I love this character!  Michael is a sex surrogate and also does in home nursing care part time.  He’s slightly built, very cute, and extremely compassionate/empathetic.  In my head, Michael is physically based on Isaiah Garnica.

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Isaiah Garnica (LA based model/actor)

SETTING: SEATTLE’S CAPITOL HILL

The story is set in Seattle, mostly in and around Capitol Hill, a gay district in Seattle that’s up on a hill (hence the oh-so-brilliant name).  My husband and I had a house on Capitol Hill for 15 years and I love the neighborhood!  I greatly miss it.  Here are a few scenes of this funky/cool area.

elysian-brewing-company caphill seattle-capitol-hill-flcikr-matthew-rutledge

EXPANDED HORIZONS

Expanded Horizons is the name of a (entirely fictional) sex clinic on Capitol Hill around which the series revolves.  I pictured it on Pike Street between Broadway and 15th, which is an area I walked often.  It’s not a very big building. The clinic has a waiting room with receptionist area, three therapists offices, a staff kitchen and meeting room and a, ahem, massage room.  This is about the style/size of the building.

seattle-remodel-urban-animal-01

DISCOVERY PARK

I’m an avid hiker, so I worked a few of my favorite places to hike into the story.  Tony meets up with his police detective buddy, Mark, to discuss the case at Discovery Park, a Seattle park that I miss dearly now that I’m no longer in the area.  It has a beach, lighthouse, woods and trails on a bluff, and gorgeous views.

discoveryparkseattle

The trail along the top of the bluff.

Disc Park 203 SM

 One of my own photos taken whilst hiking with a friend

MT RAINIER’S SKYLINE TRAIL

One of my favorite hiking trails of all time is the Skyline Trail at Mt. Rainier.  It’s quite high in elevation.  You can hike right up to the glacier and the views are spectacular.  Being above the treeline, the flowers and vegetation are really different from most NW forests.  Tony and Jack discuss the Skyline trail earlier in the book and then the epilogue takes place there.

Mount Rainier Skyline Trail

Image by Smigelski Photography : http://www.smigelskiphotography.com/2011/10/mount-rainier/

That’s it for this desktop!  I hope the pictures add to your enjoyment of the story.

ABOUT THE SERIES:

Sex in Seattle #2, ”The Enlightenment of Daniel,” has been written and contracted to Dreamspinner and is due out in the Dec/Jan timeframe.  This story is about a patient of Jack Halloran’s.  Daniel is a high-powered Type A business man who has a midlife crisis when he learns his father is dying of cancer.  Daniel comes to several life-altering realizations –first, that he’s gay and secondly, that he’s in love with his male business partner who is in a marriage-in-name-only relationship for the sake of his kids.

Sex in Seattle #3, “The Mating of Michael” (working title), is my next writing project.  Tentative pub date is April 2014.  This is, of course, the story of Michael Lamont, sex surrogate for Expanded Horizons.  I’m very excited to bite into this one!

Eli

Eli Easton can be found at http://elieaston.com/

The Trouble with Tony can be purchased at:  http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4110

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Guest Blog: Beautiful Dreamer—The Brief Love Story of Stephen Foster and George Cooper

This is a guest blog post by Christopher Hawthorne Moss.

Excerpt from WHERE MY LOVE LIES DREAMING:

Johnny froze. “You never expected… to fall in love?” He felt Frankie chuckle, more than heard him do so. “So does that mean you think differently now?”

Frankie stiffened. He nodded against Johnny’s warm cheek. “I do. Because, mon ange, I love you.”

Johnny stepped back, breaking out of Frankie’s arms. “You what?” He felt a jolt of fear.

Pain filled Frankie’s face. “Is that not wonderful?”

Johnny shook his head slowly. “Men can’t be in love with other men.”

“Have you never heard of Hadrian and Antinous? Alexander and Hephaestion? Achilles and Patroclus? All the others throughout history?”

“They were heathens.” Johnny’s voice had grown cold.

“And you think it was their being heathens that made them love each other?” Frankie turned to face the railing.

“I-I don’t know. I guess I always thought so. Or they just liked to make love with men. Or a man. But it wasn’t real. The only true love is between a man and a woman. The rest is… just sex. Just sinning.” He heard Frankie’s low laugh. “You don’t believe that?” Johnny challenged.

Frankie lifted his head, looking out across the river. “I don’t know. That’s what the priests say. All I know is that when I think of you, my heart sings. It’s a thing of such beauty. It doesn’t feel dirty or sinful. It feels… sublime. I cannot imagine not wanting to be with you, to grow old together, never parted. How can that be sin? That song you sing to me, the one by Stephen Foster, ‘Come Where My Love Lies Dreaming’? Did you think it was about a woman? No. He wrote the music for lyrics written about him by his lover, the poet, George Cooper. I know them both. If a song like that is not about love, then I….” His voice faltered. He slowly turned to look at Johnny. “I had hoped that someday you would feel the same about me.”

Johnny, Johnny, whose feelings had started to soften, felt anger flash through him. “Well, you hoped in vain.” He spun on his heel and started away. He realized abruptly that he had nowhere to go. He was on a riverboat, stranded in the middle of the Mighty Mississippi.

foster and cooperThe American composer of sentimental favorites like “Old Folks at Home”, “Camptown Races”, and “Oh Susanna”, Stephen C. Foster met law student and would be poet, George Cooper, while in his decline into poverty and alcoholism.

The two met in the back room of a Bowery grocery store at which Foster liked to do his drinking.  The twenty year old Cooper came to Foster with a poem he had written he thought would make good lyrics to a Foster song.  The composer read over the poem, then sat down at the piano and created first a melody and then a composition.  The song is one of the most beloved of Fosters works, “Beautiful Dreamer”.

After a life of writing mostly his own lyrics to his melodies, Foster, one of the first professional songwriters in history, proceeded to form a team with Cooper, who later had a long career as a lyricist for many composers.  Foster came called Cooper “the left wing of the song factory”, and the two wrote 21 songs together over the few remaining years of Foster’s life.  His fortunes falling rapidly the composer moved from boarding house to flop house, but on a January day in 1864 he had a little more money than usual and took a room in a hotel.  While there he fell from the bed and cut his neck and head on a broken washbowl.  It was Cooper who was called by the chambermaid who found him, got him to the hospital, wrote to his brother about the accident, and then just a few days later, informed him of Foster’s death.

Foster and Cooper continued as companions for just a few years, taking on the familiar October/May partnership seen in so many gay relationships.  Foster was the mentor, his contribution to Cooper’s successful career as a professional lyricist (whose most enduring hit is “Sweet Genevieve”, a barbershop quartet favorite), while Cooper acted as a caretaker to the older man.  Foster’s alcoholism was too advanced at that point to be reversed, but he experienced a resurgence of productivity and hope.

But were they really a couple?  Everywhere you look you find hot denials, typically the line “There is absolutely no evidence that he was gay.”  One wants to ask, “And exactly what evidence would there be?  Photographs of the two men making love?  Sworn statements?  Court room evidence?”  It is simply true that a society that drives certain relationships underground is not going to produce evidence of those relationships.  Consider Pres. James Buchanan [i] and long time companion William Rufus King, publicly referred to by no lesser a persona as Andrew Jackson as “Mr. and Mrs. Buchanan”.  Whatever the suggestive evidence, it will be denied.  The evidence we might have had was rigorously destroyed.  The two men’s nieces burned every last one of their letters to each other.  Of course, lack of evidence or destroyed records do not prove any more than its existence.  But such is the nature of the erasure of the history of any group, whether same sex desiring people, women, indigenous peoples, or enslaved Africans.  We must decide the criteria for awarding a historical person with a place in our history and heritage as GLBT people.

But does it do a disservice to our brothers and sisters of the past to stretch so many points, such as when Foster’s biography in “The Gay & Lesbian Theatrical Legacy” [ii] ponders whether the back room in that Bowery grocery store was a sort of proto gay bar?

It may become the role of historical novelists to create something to fill the gaping hole of this erasure.  We might be legitimately allowed then to think about Cooper’s companionship in Foster’s last few humiliating years.  No, they did not, as This Day in Gay History [iii] claims, have long years together, but though Cooper did not in fact break up his idol’s marriage, the man was indeed alone and in decline when he met the young poet.  Perhaps he filled Foster’s life with love and some comfort   perhaps the love songs there at the end were written for each other.  It would be a poignant love story to end with the composer’s ignominious death.  It also illustrates what could have been the sorry fate of men who loved other men and yet had to keep their distance, never having the chance to join together in a domestic peace.  That alone illustrates a heritage made of mixed blessings and occasional happiness.

WHERE MY LOVE LIES DREAMING by Christopher Hawthorne Moss is available in paperback and ebook formats from Dreamspinner Press and other fine online booksellers.  Learn more at http://www.sshield-wall.com .

Christopher Hawthorne Moss

Christopher Hawthorne Moss wrote his first short story when he was seven and has spent some of the happiest hours of his life fully involved with his colorful, passionate and often humorous characters. Moss spent some time away from fiction, writing content for websites before his first book came out under the name Nan Hawthorne in 1991. He has since become a novelist and is a prolific and popular blogger, the historical fiction editor for the GLBT Bookshelf, where you can find his short stories and thoughtful and expert book reviews. He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his husband of over thirty years and four doted upon cats. He owns Shield-wall Productions at http://www.shield-wall.com. He welcomes comment from readers sent to christopherhmoss@gmail.com and can be found on Facebook and Twitter.  


[i] The First Gay President? A Look into the Life and Sexuality of James Buchanan, Jr. [Kindle Edition]

Jim Nikel, http://www.amazon.com/First-President-Sexuality-Buchanan-ebook/dp/B004TMLOCI

[ii] “The Gay & Lesbian Theatrical Legacy:

A Biographical Dictionary of Major Figures in American Stage History in the Pre-Stonewall Era

Edited by Billy J. Harbin, Kim Marra, Robert A. Schanke

http://books.google.com/books?id=f0fbSlGN8uUC&dq=was+stephen+foster+gay&source=gbs_navlinks_s

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Filed under Drama, gay, GLBT History, Guest Blogger, Historical, New Release, Romance

“Billy’s Bones” is touching a lot of readers

BillysBones_FessendenI almost titled this post, “Billy’s Bones could be my breakout novel,” because it very well may be.  A breakout novel is a novel that finally draws enough attention to put an author’s name on the radar.  Generally, subsequent novels sell much better as a result, because now readers have heard of the author.

That may be what Billy’s Bones is for me.  It spent over a week in the top ten of the Gay Romance list on Amazon, peaking at #7, and remained in the top 20 for almost two weeks.  The reader reviews and professional reviews have been amazing!  Sales have been astronomical, in comparison to any of my previous novels (and sales picked up for them over the past weeks, too).  And I’m still on the Dreamspinner bestsellers list!

What this will mean in the future, I don’t know.  If I’m lucky, my next novel will be successful as well.  Though it will be a little while before I attempt to tackle anything this dark again.  My next novel is a romance between two roommates in college.

But really, what’s more important than sales (yes, really) is that I’ve received numerous reviews and emails in which people have told me how much the book touched them.  Many have survived abuse themselves and the novel helped them — or at least didn’t disturb them — by dealing with the issue sensitively.  I couldn’t ask for greater praise.  My fear as I worked on the novel and all the way up until the day of its release was that it would be traumatic for some readers and come across as insensitive and  wildly inaccurate in its depiction of PTSD.

There have been, in fact, some readers who marked the book as something they know they can’t read.  After reading other reviews, they’ve concluded that the subject matter is too unpleasant for them to deal with in the context of their own pasts.  I understand that and sympathize.  I would never want somebody to be further traumatized by something I’ve written.

There have been a number of comments in reviews about the level of research that went into the novel.  Certainly I did read up on the subject of PTSD and watch videos of survivors discussing flashbacks and other experiences, but I was also lucky enough to know a number of therapists, including my mother, who specialized in treating clients with PTSD.  She and others read over the therapy scenes in the novel to make sure I wasn’t doing anything too horrendous.  She did point out that pushing someone to recall repressed memories wasn’t always a good idea.  In some cases, it’s better to leave it alone.  But of course, in the novel, it becomes necessary for Kevin to remember what happened, since he is the only witness.

As a final note, I would like to point out that, although I did have some experiences in my childhood which came into play while writing this novel, no one in my family was ever abusive to me or my brother.

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