Monthly Archives: May 2014

Guest Blog: Jana Denardo talking about steampunk

IfTwoOfThemAreDeadFSI enjoy steampunk for its creativity. I love all the clothes, backstories, and especially the music – Abney Park anyone? Steam-Powered Giraffe? – so I’ve wanted to write a steampunk story for a long time. I didn’t know where to go with it initially. I didn’t want to do the war story or airship pirates. Sure, those are great fun, but they are almost expected of the genre. I wanted to do something a little different.

The steampunk is the backdrop for the story more than the driving force. It is, at its heart a mystery with a fantastical setting. Getting the steampunk to even out with the mystery was a balancing act. I didn’t want to give the detective too much technology that wouldn’t have been around at the time. I wasn’t out to write CSI: 1890 (besides The Artful Detective already does a fine job of that). Nicolai Tesla’s and Abraham’s little toy at the end was really about the only weapon that wasn’t period. And how could I pass up the chance for Abraham to know Tesla? Tesla is one of my heroes.

While I don’t want to spoil the fun weapons at the end of the novella, I can talk about Victor being an airman before he went into the police force. So there are airships, and Abraham makes engines for them, which is part of his wealth. He’s also busy making his own personal small airships for fun. Steam-driven automobiles are slightly more prevalent and advanced than they would have been at the time mostly, because as a wealthy inventor would have one, and the police department has a couple and it made it easier to move Victor around where I needed him to go.

I wish I had more time to play with Abraham’s inventions, especially Cerberus, the mechanical dog he created for his son. There were more domestic scenes I would have liked to write but I didn’t want to take away from the tension of the mystery. Cerberus is the invention I liked the best, (one of my first readers likes the mechanical butler best), and I hope you will, too.

Thanks to Jamie for having me over!

IfTwoOfThemAreDeadFSExcerpt – If Two of Them Are Dead

I’m Detective Victor Van Voorhis. I need to speak to the master of the house.”

He’s expecting you. You can give your coat to Justin.” She waved her hand to indicate what looked like a tree stand with hands. She pressed the brass dogwood flower-shaped button in its center and the thing rumbled.

It wheezed and hissed little puffs of steam, and the arms extended as the contraption lurched forward on its wheeled base, startling Victor. He studied the machine, having never seen anything like it. He wondered how the mechanical butler worked, but it didn’t seem to work without someone there to turn it on. Was it more than a mechanized coat rack? Victor would have to ask.

Do you like Justin?”

The male voice dragged Victor’s attention away. A tall, almost overly thin man stood in an interior doorway that led deeper into the home. He was surprisingly clean-shaven, though his walnut hair was mussed. Grief pinched his otherwise fine features.

You named a machine?”

The man offered a wan smile. “It’s a quirk of mine, one of many. I name all my inventions. I’m Abraham Westbrook.”

To Victor’s surprise, this wealthy man stuck out his hand to shake. Victor felt nicks and calluses he hadn’t expected to find on a rich man’s hands. “I’m Detective Victor Van Voorhis. I’m sorry for your loss.”

Abraham nodded. “Thank you. Her children are upstairs with mine and their nannies. They weren’t here when it happened. Will you need to speak to them? They’re naturally very upset.”

Later,” Victor said, handing his coat to Justin, who rolled away back to its corner. “Just briefly about the morning, before they left. You can be present, of course. However, I have questions for you, sir, about your sister-in-law. I understand your brother is in the city. Were you and your wife at home this morning and afternoon?” Victor had no real idea how the rich spent their days. Why wasn’t this man at work? Did he even work?

I was here in my workshop.” Abraham gestured toward a hallway. “My wife passed over five years ago.”

I’m sorry.” The generic words of sympathy tumbled out of him. Victor was used to saying them several times a day when working a case.

It’s fine, Detective. Come with me. We can talk in my library. It will be more comfortable.”

Of course.”

Victor followed him through a living room roughly the size of Victor’s house, then down a hall with carpeting that ate all the sounds of their passage and felt like walking on a cloud. The scent of old books, slightly musty and even dustier, hit Victor’s nose as they entered the library. A large marble fireplace dominated one wall, with comfortable-looking chairs and a table with a whiskey decanter and glasses set out in front of it. Rows of books lined every other surface, along with more knickknacks and other memorabilia than Victor could easily take in.

Buy Link:

Author’s Bio:   Jana Denardo’s career choices and wanderlust take her all over the United States and beyond. Much of her travels make their way into her stories. Fantasy, science fiction, and mystery have been her favorite genres since she started reading, and they often flavor her works. In her secret identity, she works with the science of life and gives college students nightmares. When she’s not chained to her computer writing, she functions as stray cat magnet.

Jana is Queen of the Geeks (her students voted her in) and her home and office are shrines to any number of comic book and manga heroes along with SF shows and movies too numerous to count. There is no coincidence the love of all things geeky has made its way into many of her stories. To this day, she’s still disappointed she hasn’t found a wardrobe to another realm, a superhero to take her flying among the clouds or a roguish star ship captain to run off to the stars with her.

Social Media Links:



Filed under Uncategorized

Undefining Gay Men: an addendum to yesterday’s post

Gay GuysWhat I posted yesterday about tops and bottoms in MM Romance certainly sparked a lot of discussion—most of it good.  But there also seemed to be a lot of confusion about what my actual point was.  One friend got very angry at me for attempting to define his sexuality.

I wasn’t attempting to define anyone’s sexuality.  I don’t care what you do in bed.  If you like anal sex, go for it.  If you like to be on the bottom or the top, that’s your business.  (Although I still maintain that those labels are, at the very least, falling out of fashion.)

What I am trying to do is to stop people from defining gay men in relation to anal sex.

Being gay is not about anal sex.


I can’t really even blame this attitude on our society, because it’s thousands of years old.  Bizarre connections have been made throughout documented history between men loving men and anal sex.  People are perpetually surprised when they discover that a gay man they’ve met doesn’t like anal sex.  As if such a thing is biologically impossible.

It’s as if all gay men have brands on our foreheads saying LOVES ANAL.

“Hi, have you met my friend Paul?  He loves anal.”

“Oh!  Good to meet you, Anal-Loving Paul!”

“Likewise!  This is my anal-loving husband, Steve.”

“Will I be seeing the two of you at Anal Pride next week?”

I have witnessed one of our state legislators give a lengthy speech about the evils of same-sex marriage, during which she described how filthy anal sex was in graphic, tedious detail.  It is nearly impossible to bring up gay rights without someone mentioning how disgusted they are by two men having anal sex.

We need to stop this automatic connection of gay men to anal sex.  I don’t care if someone likes anal sex.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with anal sex.  But being gay is not about anal sex.  I’m gay because I’m sexually and emotionally attracted to men.  It has nothing to do with what I like to do in bed, apart from the general fact that it’s probably going to be with another man.  And referring to ourselves as “tops” or “bottoms” reduces us to roles in anal sex.  Even calling ourselves “versatile” still defines us in relation to anal sex.

I’m not some radical who objects to any and all labels.  I have no problem with the label “gay.”  I’m gay and happy to be so.  But that label doesn’t mean a thing about specific sexual practices.  It says something about attraction and love.  I have no problem with people looking at me and thinking about men loving men.

But I have no interest in people looking at me and thinking about anal sex.

That’s just… no.


Filed under Uncategorized

Can we please kill this whole Top/Bottom thing?

Warning:  this blog post contains frank discussions of gay sex.  

Imagine this scene from a straight romance novel:

Harold gazed longingly into Marjorie’s eyes and whispered, “I’ve been waiting all night long to get you into a sixty-nine.”

Marjorie took a quick sip of her wine in an attempt to hide the blush creeping into her cheeks.  She gazed out over the city skyline and breathed in the warm night air, giving herself a moment to think.  Normally, Marjorie considered herself to be a missionary-style woman, but for Harold she could be flexible.  “Yes,” she gasped finally, “that sounds really hot.”

What’s wrong with this scene?  I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it:  they’re not even in the bedroom yet, and they’re already negotiating positions!  Who would do that in real life, except perhaps two people negotiating a BDSM scene?

Yet, if we change the two main characters to gay men….

Harold gazed longingly into Mark’s eyes and whispered, “I’ve been waiting all night long for you to top me.”

Mark took a quick sip of his wine in an attempt to hide the blush creeping into his cheeks.  He gazed out over the city skyline and breathed in the warm night air, giving himself a moment to think.  Normally, Mark considered himself a bottom, but for Harold he could be versatile.  “Yes,” he gasped finally, “that sounds really hot.”

Sure, for men, right here it’s a little raunchy, but no more than other scenes I’ve read in the genre.  It now doesn’t seem all that unusual.  Why?  Because gay men often negotiate who’s the top and who’s the bottom before they have sex, or at least that’s what’s going through their heads.  Right?

Well, um… no.  Not really.

coin_wideOkay, I can’t claim to speak for all gay men.  Perhaps some gay men do this.  But honestly, I’ve been out since 1983 and over the thirty years since I came out, I’ve had lots of sex.  I’ve topped; I’ve bottomed; I’ve done other things I have no intention of talking about in a blog open to the general public.

Do you know what I haven’t done in all that time?  Declared myself a “top” or a “bottom” to anybody.


Nor have I ever thought to myself, “I’m a top,” or “I’m a bottom.”  Is this because I’m “versatile?”  No, it’s because I’m just a guy, and when I have sex, we go into the bedroom (or wherever said sex is going to occur) and just go at it.  At some point, somebody might ask, “Would you like to fuck me?” or “Can I fuck you?”  Imagine!  Actually asking what your partner is in the mood for!

Yes, I’ve known men who would never let anyone fuck them.  Although these guys often refuse anal sex, period, because they find it repulsive or just don’t happen to like it.  (I’ve already discussed the fact that not all gay men are into anal sex in a previous blog post.)  What it has almost never been is because they are “bottoms” who never like to “top.”

Sure, they may have a preference.  Just like straight men and women have preferences.  According to Wikipedia, an examination of over 55,000 profiles of gay men on the popular hookup site “showed that 26.46% preferred top, while 31.92% preferred bottom, and the largest group (41.62%) preferred versatile.”  In other words… nothing.  We might as well call it split down the middle with 42% not caring either way.  And it’s about as useful as polling straight couples about their favorite position.

But my main point is, straight men and women don’t identify as the sexual position they prefer, so why should gay men?

And don’t even get me started about “pitcher” and “catcher.”  I don’t know the origin of the phrase, but I’ve rarely heard it issued by someone who wasn’t disturbed by the idea of gay sex in general.  I’ve certainly never heard gay men refer to each other that way.

Now, I suppose the gay “scene” is different in the cities and in various parts of the country.  I can only really talk about the way things are in my area, and age makes a difference as well.  But these aren’t terms I want to be associated with.


Filed under gay, Life, Romance, Sex, Writing