Category Archives: Psychological Drama

Train to Sevmash

Davis-croppedI’ve just turned in the short story I was writing for an anthology: Train to Sevmash.

This was an interesting one for me. It began with the idea of doing a Cold War spy story about an American agent posing as an officer in the Soviet navy so he could get access to a secret project aboard a submarine. The submarine was being built at Sevmash shipyard in Severodvinsk by a scientist who’d defected from the USA to the USSR.

The story was coming along, though it seemed a bit large for a short story with a 10,000-word limit. Then I decided to expand upon the opening paragraph, which mentioned how he’d infiltrated the base by killing a Russian soldier on his way there and stealing the man’s transfer papers. That seemed like an interesting short scene I could add at the beginning.

When I began writing it, I instantly knew that was the story I wanted to write—the story of a man ordered to kill a soldier (technically, a sailor), and what happens when he meets his target face-to-face and discovers he finds the man interesting and likeable. Will he go through with it, even after they spend a train trip becoming friends… and perhaps more than friends?

So I set the other story aside and focused on this one.

Train to Sevmash takes place in 1964, during the Brezhnev era and just two years after the Bay of Pigs. It was a time when a gay man had to be extremely cautious about showing interest in another man, and this becomes part of the dance between Agent Jax Colby and Lt. Yuri Veselov, as they spend a long night traveling from Leningrad to Severodvinsk. And the entire time, Colby is aware of the cigarette case in his jacket which carries the means of Veselov’s execution….

 

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Drama, gay, Historical, Jamie Fessenden, Psychological Drama, Romance

The world of “Billy’s Bones” – a tour through Tom’s house

BillysBones_FessendenAs some of you may already know, I based a number of elements in my psychological mystery novel Billy’s Bones upon my real life.  There is no specific person in my life who inspired Kevin, though I know many people who are a bit like him in one way or another, including a friend who works as a handyman.  Alas, I am disturbingly like Tom.  I don’t look like him, but I often think like him (well, a combination of him and Jeremy from my novel Murderous Requiem).

The setting though—particularly Tom’s house—was based very much on my real house.  One of my friends told me she had trouble reading the novel, because she knew the setting too well and she prefers to let her imagination create it.  So if you have vivid images in your mind about the setting of Billy’s Bones, you might want to skip these pictures.  But for those of you who are curious….

The house sits at the end of a long driveway, far enough out in the country that we have no streetlights, though still close enough to the highway that we can get to the hospital if we need to. It resembles the Escape Room in Minneapolis because of its size and maze-like layout. Unfortunately, my husband didn’t feel comfortable posting a picture of the outside of the house, since it would be easy to drive around our small town with a photo and figure out where we live.  This post is basically going out to the entire Internet, after all.  But I can post some pics of the inside and pertinent areas.

007We do have a flock of about 20 wild turkeys that wander through the yard almost daily and they can get in the way when we drive in and try to park.  They aren’t afraid of us.  They just casually saunter out of the path of the car and glare at us for disturbing them.  Deer show up occasionally, too, but not as much since we got the dog.

IMG_0382I won’t show you every room in the house, but here are a couple, as they looked when we moved in and as Tom saw them.  The first is the stove room.  You can see the spiral staircase leading down into the basement.  Like Shadow, our dog was too afraid to go down those stairs, so we didn’t have to block it off when he decided it was fun to run down into the basement.  We did have to put up a child gate in front of the other basement stairs until he outgrew that phase.
IMG_0383

And here’s the living room, where Tom and Kevin had to sit on the floor to use the laptop.
IMG_0391Probably the biggest difference between the novel and reality, is that I extended the back deck quite a bit in the novel, so it would be large enough to hold the hot tub. Unlike Tom, we do have neighbors, but in some directions the forest extends all the way to state park land, and you could easily get lost in it.  I know—I once spent a half hour wandering around in it, chasing after our dog, when he broke free of his harness.  Fortunately, we both found our way back home.
IMG_0388
The real hot tub is off a side deck. When we turned the thing on and discovered it was dead (the original is in this picture), we couldn’t find anyone willing to repair it.  It was as badly cobbled together as I described in the novel, and not particularly safe.  So eventually  we replaced it.

2013-10-25_13-15-55_848And this appropriately creepy picture (taken with my cellphone, since a certain pooch ate our digital camera), is The Well, as seen through the trees in back of the house.  No, not the one at the end of the novel, but the cement one behind Tom’s house, where Kevin damaged his hand.

008Last but not least, this is Kumar the Mighty Duck Hunter, the inspiration for Shadow.  He’s still just a few years old and full of energy.  He doesn’t normally have demonic glowing eyes.  He did have a terror of stairs when we first got him, and yes we had to carry all 75 pounds of him up and down for a while, but he’s over that now.

He does still prefer to communicate with people through his stuffed ducks.

Honk!  Honk!

Need some security camera devices for your home? Read some of this more helpful hints – SecurityInfo.

5 Comments

Filed under Drama, gay, Mystery, Pets, Psychological Drama, Romance, World Building, Writing

“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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Drama, gay, Life, Mystery, Pets, Psychological Drama, Reviews, Romance, Writing

“Billy’s Bones” has taken off!

BillysBones_FessendenSince its release on Monday, Billy’s Bones has taken off like a rocket!

It didn’t exactly hit #1 on Amazon, but it did get up to #25 in the Gay Romance category, which is the highest any of my novels has climbed before.  It fluctuates constantly, and that may end up being as high as it goes, but I know for a fact that it went that high—I have screenshots!

It’s also listed on the Dreamspinner Bestsellers page!  That’s been a goal of mine since I was first published with them.

Already, I’ve had a host of terrific reviews.  Cindi at On Top Down Under Book Reviews said about the book, “Overall, I have to say that this is an outstanding book.  I told someone today that it is definitely one of my favorites of 2013. Thinking back I now have to say that it’s one of my favorites of all-time. There are no words to express my total love for this story and the author’s writing. This was an easy 5 stars for me.”

This week has definitely been one of the high points of my writing career so far!

Leave a comment

Filed under Drama, gay, Mystery, New Release, Psychological Drama, Reviews, Romance, Writing

“Billy’s Bones” has been released!

BillysBones_FessendenMy psychological drama, Billy’s Bones, has been released today!

It can be found at Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance eBooks, and other resellers.

It also received a 5-star review from Live Your Life, Buy The Book, calling it “Brilliant.. Gripping.. Suspenseful.. Emotional.. Page turner..”

I’m so excited about this release!

Leave a comment

Filed under Drama, gay, Occult/Paranormal, Pets, Psychological Drama, Reviews, Romance, Writing

New cover for “Billy’s Bones”!

BillysBones_FessendenI just received the cover design for my upcoming psychological drama, Billy’s Bones!

The cover is by Lou Harper and I love it!

We went through several variations, some of which might have been terrific for a lighter novel.  Unfortunately, this is a fairly dark book, with Kevin tormented by repressed memories that break through in his nightmares and cause him to have panic attacks in certain situations—memories of abuse in his childhood.

One thing I insisted upon was the dog.  Shadow is based upon my own black Lab, Kumar, who went through a period of adjustment when we got him home from the shelter—getting over an irrational fear of going up and down stairs and peeing on boxes indoors.  In the novel, Shadow’s adventures parallel what Kevin is going through to be with Tom.

2 Comments

Filed under Cover, Drama, gay, Pets, Psychological Drama, Romance, Writing

“Billy’s Bones” has been contracted!

KevinI just signed a contract with Dreamspinner for my psychological drama, Billy’s Bones!  For those who haven’t been following my progress on that novel, here’s the “blurb” I sent in my cover letter:

Kevin Derocher was just thirty-two when he walked into Tom’s office, newly married, a baby on the way, and the collar of his red flannel shirt pulled up in an attempt to hide the bruises around his throat caused by hanging himself in his garage.  After this initial encounter, therapist Tom Langois is convinced he’ll never see Kevin again, until the man turns up three years later to make repairs on Tom’s new house.

The two men become fast friends and Tom begins to suspect that Kevin may be interested in more than just friendship.  But Kevin is haunted by something from his distant childhood—something so terrible that he’s blocked it from his mind.  Not only do these suppressed memories make it impossible for Kevin to get close to anyone without panicking and lashing out, sometimes violently, but as they begin to surface, it becomes apparent that Kevin may hold the key to the disappearance of a boy from his neighborhood twenty-five years ago.

The picture on the left is what I pictured Kevin looking like.  Tom looks like this guy:

TomWe’re looking at a release date sometime in late July or maybe early August!

So this week I decided to go back and re-read the novel.  I’d already had a conversation with my mother, who is a psychologist with experience treating PTSD, and I learned that I’d handled several things incorrectly in the therapy scenes.  Or you might say I had Tom and Susan doing things the way they used to be done, and psychology has learned a thing or two since then.  For example, it’s no longer considered essential (by many therapists) to pressure the client to remember suppressed memories.  That can cause them more trauma than simply leaving things alone.  And giving someone something to relax him, such as Valium, before experiencing a possible trigger in a controlled setting isn’t as good an idea as I’d thought.  It can do additional harm by distorting the memories further.  (Some therapists don’t believe in repressed memories, but my mother has worked with enough cases to take them seriously.)

So I sent Mom the specific scenes in question to get some feedback on how to make them more realistic.  Hopefully, since the novel is already contracted, we’re just talking about tweaking things a little.  In the future, I’ll remember:  always check with Mom!

In re-reading the novel, I’m still finding it engrossing.  But Tom is seeming a bit more like an asshole than I remembered.  My beta readers didn’t seem to hate him, so maybe I’m just seeing him from a bad angle at the moment.  But I may try to make him a bit less pushy in edits.

Of course, the really frustrating thing about re-reading a novel after it’s been submitted, but before the first edits come in from the editors is that the typos and mistakes I find, I can’t correct.

How on earth did I not notice that I’d failed to capitalize one sentence?

1 Comment

Filed under Drama, gay, Psychological Drama, Romance, Writing