Monday, February 28, 2011

Off to Ireland for a wee nip with Gabrielle Evans

Since there isn't anything I wouldn't do for my readers, I recently took a trip to the land of shamrocks and leprechauns and the Blarney Stone in order to meet with author Gabrielle Evans. Here is what she had to say.

Good thing Yaoi Radius has such a large travel budget, as today, I am in Ireland to interview writer Gabrielle Evans.  Nothing is too good for our readers!  I’m in a small fishing village by the name of Doolin, which is situated on the west coast of Ireland.  I make my way to the pub with the unpronounceable name—I won’t even try to say it, I’ll just butcher it. Approaching the bar, I ask the genial barkeep if  the lady in question has arrived.  He nods and points to a table in the far corner, asking me my pleasure. Unsure if she’s ordered, or what she might like, I tell him I’ll get back to him, and make my way through the natives to the object of my quest.

“Gabrielle?” I wish to ascertain, not make assumptions.  At her nod, I take my seat opposite her, holding out my hand.  “Hi, Brie, I remember now.  I’m not that senile.” I laugh.  “Julie, naturally.  Nice to meet you.  What a great place.”  I take stock of my surroundings, drinking in all the local flavor.  It’s Ireland, and it’s beautiful.  “Have you been here before, is that why you recommended it?”

After shaking hands, she settles back in her seat with a smile. "Glad you found it okay. It's good to meet you as well." She laughs as she glances around the pub. "I've been in a few times since I arrived. It's a friendly place." She waves a hand toward the bartender. "That's Grady, and you won't meet a nicer guy. Everyone has been very welcoming. I'm on a bit of a research mission for my next novel, and so far everyone has been a load of help." Refocusing her attention, she nods down at the empty tabletop. "Would you like a drink? Grady builds a mean Guinness."

“Builds?” I ask, showing my ignorance. It’s been a long time since I worked in a place that serves drinks, and they didn’t have Guinness around back then.  “I didn’t know it was built.  I mean, I thought it was a ready made sort of thing.  I’ve never tried it.  If you recommend it, I think I’d like to.”  I smile at the author, relaxing in her company.  This is such a neat place.  Memo to self: take lots of pictures.

“The nice thing about doing research is that you can deduct it from your taxes.  What’s your next novel about? Is it another on in your series, or something different?” 

Holding up a finger to stall the conversation, she calls to the bartender for two Guinness. "True, you can get it in a can or a bottle, but that's almost sacrilege. You don't just draw it from the tap either. It's a process." She waves her hand around and smiles. "You'll see. Now, what were we talking about? Oh yeah, my next novel. Well, it's the fifth book in the Moonlight Breed series, titled Forgotten Sins. My newest hero is an Irish Thoroughbred shifter from a fishing village a lot like Doolin. Although, I'm getting  some great material, and I think I might just have a new series forming." She taps her temple and winks. 

I can’t help but smile at such enthusiasm. Being a writer is the best job in the world, I know. Having whole populations living in your head may be disconcerting to some, but to us it makes perfect sense.  “Ooh, that is awesome,” I commend her.  “I can’t wait to hear all about it. Forgotten Sins.  I like that title.  Whose sins have been or should be forgotten? And tell me more about your Irishman? Is there someone you drew on for inspiration, maybe? Someone whose face you see when you think of him?”

She laughs again and wags a finger. "Now, Julie, you know I can't tell you whose sins they are. It would ruin the ending. Plus, book two only just released, and it would give secrets away in books three and four. However, I will tell you that it is Boston's book. I originally thought his book would be the fourth, but things didn't really work out that way." She frowns a little before shaking her head and smiling brightly again. "Flynn is a great character, and I'm having so much fun with him. I suppose he reminds me a bit of Colin Farrell, and isn't that just yummy?" She sighs wistfully. "Ah, and here's Grady."

Tall and lean with gorgeous blue eyes, the bartender sets two large glasses of some dark and frothy liquid on the table. "Will ya be needin' anything else, then?" He winks, smiling cheerily. Brie actually blushes a little.

"We're good. Thanks, Grady." He nods his head and saunters back toward the bar. "Isn't he beautiful?" She pulls her drink to her, wrapping her hand around the base, and brings it to her lips.

“That he is,” I can’t help but agree, “and he has the loveliest accent.” I feel myself falling into that accent, my words coming out with a bit of Irish, though unintentionally. Must be the pull of just being in this amazing country.

“Alright,” I pretend to pout, “but maybe you can tell me after the interview.”  I laugh hopefully. “Honestly?  I think Flynn is yummier than Colin Farrell, but that’s just me.” The Guinness is here now. Time to see what all the fuss is about.

I lift the tulip shaped glass. The dark liquid inside has a pretty frothy top. I take a tentative sip, and then a longer one.  It has a dark taste, if that makes any sense. “Mmmm, this is delicious,” I admit, “thanks for the recommendation.  “Now Flynn.  If he were filling out a character resume, what would you say were his best traits?  And his worst?”

"Really, I think his best and worst traits are one and the same. Flynn is logical, level-headed, and he doesn't often let his emotions lead the way. It's a good thing when he's trying to outrun the bad guys, but it also has a decidedly negative impact on his relationship with Boston." She chuckles at this. "I haven't really paired two alpha-minded males before, and it is making for some interesting twits and turns." Then she smiles devilishly and winks. "And just wait until you meet Flynn's brother, Declan."  

“I love those names. Flynn and Declan. They’re beautiful.  I like Boston’s too. How do you come up with your names? Do you have people who inspire you, or do you use a site, like looking up baby names? In this case Irish baby names?” I take another sip of the brew. I find it tastes better than beer, which I’m not a huge fan of. I can see why it’s so popular. “And their characters too? Do you fill out any sort of character sheets for them, or keep a timeline or an outline or anything?” I find it fascinating to learn how different authors ply their craft.

Her eyes round in surprise. "You can do that? Make an outline?" She laughs and takes another drink before continuing. "I tried doing the outline at first, but my characters always had different ideas than I did, so I just gave up on them. I know how the story begins and how it ends. Everything in the middle is as much a surprise to me as it is to the readers." She waves her hands around as she speaks. It's obvious she doesn't even realize how animated she is with her gestures. "I use sticky notes on my desktop to kind of keep an outline of how much time has past, what month it is, what season, that sort of thing. My characters mostly come to me pre-packaged so to speak, so it's like meeting a real person. I don't have to fill out a description for them, it's all there in my head before I even start writing."

Tapping her forehead, she crinkles her nose a bit. "Usually, the names come with the characters. It's really like having a living person reside inside your head, introducing themselves and yammering on non-stop. When I do have to choose a name, it's because I need it to mean a certain thing, or come from a specific origin. With those, I'll do a Google search for what I need." She shrugs and leans back in her seat again. "Other than that, it's just a lot of hot men, yelling inside my head, trying to be heard over each other."

“Wow, lucky head.” I can’t help but smiling. “I don’t outline, myself, but I find if I don’t make a timeline as I go, I won’t remember what day it is in what book, I have so many going on. And I’m drowning in sticky notes, not to mention they can disappear.  My planner is invaluable, I’ve found, at helping me focus on my blog and having guests and such, like you. Do they sell food here?” I ask hopefully. My stomach is growling and it’s not being very discreet about it.

“Do you work on more than one book at a time? What would you say is your average time for writing a book? What is the average length of your books? Do you aim for any particular length, or do you just write until you think the story is complete? Do you like to leave a cliffhanger of any sort to segue into the next novel?”

I take a breath, hoping I haven’t inundated her with too many questions all at one time.

She stares at me blankly for a moment, then shakes her head as if to clear it. "Uh, well you can get a burger or sandwich and some fries, though they call them chips here. I'd recommend the fish sandwich."

She plucks a thin sheet of paper from between the salt and pepper shakers and slides the menu across the table. "I'm working on four different books right now, doing pre-submission edits on another, and that's not even counting when I receive line edits in my inbox. I just work on one until I run out of ideas, or a character from another book has something inspiring to say. The time varies, but I guess on average, it takes me about three weeks to complete a manuscript." She shrugs. "It just depends on how long it is, and what else I have going on at the time."

Pausing to take a long drink, she tilts her head to the side as her brows draw together in concentration. "On average my books run around forty to forty-five thousand words. Some longer, some shorter. I have a little gadget that measures my word count progress, and I usually set the goal as forty-five or fifty thousand words. It's just a reference point though. If I feel the story is complete at thirty-five thousand words, I don't worry about the goal. I haven't purposely left a cliffhanger yet, but that can always change. Normally, I like scatter little hints throughout the book to give readers an idea of what's coming next in a series." She takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. "So, did you decide what you want to eat?"

I almost say reply Grady but decide to behave. “Burger and chips sounds great, I’m not big on fish sandwiches.” I drain my Guiness, lick off the slight moustache that I just realize is there from the foam. I must look like a real doofus, I think.

“Sounds like you’re keeping busy,” I smile. “Is this your full time vocation, then? Or do you work another job to support your writing habit? I know how hard it is for writers to earn a living at their profession, most are forced to seek outside gainful employment, unless they’re lucky enough to have someone else support them.”

Holding up a finger, she hurries across the pub to the bar, presumably to place the orders, then right back to slide into her seat. "Yeah, I guess I'm one of the lucky ones. I have an amazing husband who works hard to provide for us so I can stay home with the kiddos. I was a stay at home mom long before I started writing." She shrugs. "It's what works for us. It's not all bonbons and soap operas, though. Between chores, errands, school, sports, and my writing, there are some days where I feel like I barely have time to breathe. Trying to keep up with so much can be stressful, but I'm sure you know that." She nods slightly. "I'm my own worst critic for sure. I get so nervous just before I new release that I can't sleep and just become this neurotic mess. Do you get nervous before a release? Or is that just a newb thing?"

“I know what you mean. I’m a stay at home unemployed person right now, and I don’t watch soaps or eat bonbons.” I laugh at the idea. I don’t think many people do any more, which is why they’re basically dying off; they’re dinosaurs whose time has come. “Do I get that nervous before new releases?  I don’t think so, to be honest. Maybe I’m getting jaded?  Or maybe just used to it?  I’m not sure.  I don’t remember ever losing sleep over it, though. I do worry about being accepted.  And liked. But I try not to think about it, or about reviews. Reviews are just opinions, after all.  One person’s.  Not the end of the world.  I mean, everyone wants to be liked, sure, but it isn’t really realistic to expect it.”

“If you were to be stranded on a desert isle with the person of your choice—real or fictional, living or dead—who would it be? And let’s make this an alternate universe where you’re free to make this choice, and not married?” I have to throw that in, otherwise married women tend to take their hubbies, of course.

"Hmm, I guess it's just a newb thing, then. I'm hoping it gets easier with each new release. I think it's more of a personal trait, actually. I tend to over analyze and worry everything to death, not just my books."

Propping her elbows on the table, she leans forward. "A desert island with anyone of my choosing? I think I'd have to choose Archias, the hero of Race the Sun, my upcoming release with Silver Publishing. Not only is he big and yummy at over seven feet tall, with rippling muscles and silver blond hair, but he's also an ancient Macedonian warrior. Other than entertaining conversation and being fantastic to look at, he'd be able to protect me and hunt for food. I'm not really the damsel in distress type," she shrugs nonchalantly and winks, "but if a big, sexy man wants to take care of me, who am I to argue?" 

“Don’t worry,” I attempt to sound reassuring, hope I don’t come off as condescending, “you’ll relax as you get more and more of those under your belt.”

“Archias sounds delicious. Does this mean he’s a heterosexual hero, or are you changing his orientation for the sake of having your way with him on this imaginary isle?” I can’t help but grin.  “He reminds me of another Macedonian beauty by the name of Julian. Are you familiar with Fantasy Lover by Sherrilyn Kenyon?” I make a mental note to put Race the Sun on my need to purchase list. I find myself twisting the hair that falls over one shoulder around my fingers, picturing this massive hunk of man.

"Well, of course I want to have my wicked way with him!" She looks aghast as if any other answer is ludicrous. Then she grins and settles back in her chair. "If we need a label, I guess Archias is bisexual. He was cursed and placed in a magical bottle to be something like a genie, granting wishes and all that. He preferred women, but had been with men. Now, he just prefers Jade, his hunky little pool shark."

A perky waitress with a blonde ponytail sashays up to the table, setting down two plates, heaping with food. She nods, smiling brightly, and hustles off to another table.

Picking up the ketchup bottle, Brie nods and smiles. "I love Sherrilyn Kenyon, and Fantasy Lover is one of my favorite in the series. Archias isn't much like Julian, though. Similar profession, somewhat similar circumstances of being bound to objects." She shakes some ketchup onto her plate and replaces the bottle in the center of the table. "That's really it, though. Archias was a Myrmidon, trained and commanded by Achilles. He wasn't always so big. It was part of his punishment, as well as being entombed inside a bottle. I'd maim someone to have his deep teal eyes though." She sighs, smiling dreamily. "Do you have any of those characters you just wish were real?" 

“Yeah, I think I do,” I have admit, reaching for the mayo, I take some for my burger and for my chips.  Hey, it’s an acquired taste. Never seen Pulp Fiction? “But for different reasons, I think. Max and Richard would be like my bff’s, and Derek Deville would be a fun friend to have, he’s so flamboyant. Avery is smokin’ hot, and he  really makes my blood boil one minute and then he’s all tender the next.  They’re all real to me, of course, inside, but yeah, it would be sweet to have them walking and talking and living with me, to watch them come to life. That’s what movies are for, right? What about you, do you have some of your characters that you wish were oh so real?” I take a chip and dip it into the mayo, taking a bite.  Delicious!

Well, Archias, obviously." She takes a bite of her burger and chews slowly before swallowing. "I think Keeton from The Moonlight Breed series as well. He's crazy and funny, but he's also sweet and has the biggest heart. He'd be a great friend. Quinn Harper from my Salem Night series. She's a firecracker and doesn't take guff from anyone." She bites her bottom lip and looks upward as though considering. "Oh, and Jalen! He's a warrior fae, though the biggest sweetheart, and just so beautiful to look at."

Taking another bite, she nods knowingly. "All my characters are very real to me, too. It's hard to say goodbye sometimes, which is why my books usually spin into a series. I don't always plan more than one book, but I get attached, and it just ends up that way, you know?"

“Absolutely,” I swallow before I reply, trying not to mumble in the process.”I admit that I’m rather unsure of my female characters. I never know if they’re good or not.  When I was role playing in rp games online, I didn’t play many women, mostly men, and I think my writing reflects that.  I think I have a good ear for creating the male voice, but I find women harder to sustain as main characters.  Do you have any problem writing for either sex?  I can tell that men come naturally to you, but what about women?”

She nods in apparent understanding. "It is harder for me to write women, which seems strange since I happen to be a girl." Laughing, she waves a hand around in dismissal. "I have one m/m/f menage and another het story coming this spring, and they were both much harder to write than my m/m stories. I've never been a girlie-girl. I always had more guy friends than girl friends. I didn't play with Barbie dolls, and I still rarely wear makeup. I did the sports thing, or I was out jumping fences, climbing trees, and playing in the dirt. My female leads tend to be tough and independent. They love their heroes, but they're not going to bow down and let the men run the show. My girls aren't supermodel thin or movie star pretty. They're average women with a lot of heart." She shrugs. "Well, at least I'd like to think so. My one weakness is cute shoes, so that's probably the most girlie thing you'll see from my female characters."

“I can relate.” I nod sympathetically. “As a girl, I used to pride myself on being able to beat up the guys in the neighborhood. Not that we had all out brawls or anything, but I never hesitated to hit them. I did play with dolls, though, with my sister, but I also liked to play games with balls.  And no, that wasn’t meant to be a double entendre.”  I almost snort, as I realize what I just said. “My heroine, Samantha, wants to be dominated, though. Not in a dom/sub sort of way, but she wants a strong man in her life, and she finds that in Eric, my vamp. And a whole lot more. I honestly believed I was a gay man in another life. Do  you believe in past lives?”

She actually does snort. "I know what you mean. My best friend is gay, and he's asked me more than once if I'm sure I'm not a gay man." She continues to smile, but her brow wrinkles. "I won't say I don't believe in it, just that I've never given much thought to past lives or reincarnation. If I did have a past life, I think I may have been a man, but not a gay man. I find women just as attractive, only in different ways. With men, I like to feel protected. With women, it's the opposite, and I feel like the protector. Either way, I like to be in control and make the decisions. It's a delicate line to navigate. I think my husband was made just for me, though." She chuckles softly. "He takes care of me when I want him to, and backs off when I need space. I'm a lucky girl." 

“You’re a very lucky girl, I hope that I can get lucky that way some day.  Does he have a brother?” I laugh before I finish off my very satisfying meal, pushing back my plate.  “Goodness, that was delicious. How about another round of Guinness, on me? Unless you have another drink you’d like to introduce me to? And then maybe show me around this town a bit, if you don’t mind?”

"Actually, there's another little place down by the water that I'd like to show you. We can get a drink there." Standing, she waves to Grady and motions towards the door. "I have a tab here, so I'll just pay for this later."

I follow Brie, waving to Grady in turn, giving him one last lingering look as we head out the door and off to our destination. My recorder is put away. It’s time to have some fun.  Talk to you later, dear readers!

Now, here's a look at Brie's book, By the Light of the Moon, and a bit of a pic to go with it.

By the Light of the Moon [Moonlight Breed 2]
by Gabrielle Evans
Heat Rating: Sextreme          Novel Length (50,000+ words)
Siren Publishing –

Wildly flamboyant and proud of it, Keeton Taylor knows he’s a bit much for most men. Logan is everything he’s ever dreamed of in a partner, but learning they are destined mates throws him for a loop. Forever is a huge commitment.
Logan has spent years searching for his mate. He never imagined that fate would pick someone so perfect for him, though. His instant attraction to Keeton is more than just some shifter pheromone thing. It’s love at first sight.
His ex-girlfriend has other plans for the cursed shifter though. An Arsidian Demon in her mating heat, she is hell bent on having Logan as her own, and eradicating the competition…Keeton. Can Logan save his new mate before the full moon, or will he lose his angel forever?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

V.B. Rose, Volume 11 Review

Ageha innocently asks Kuromine and Arisaka, “So how long have you two been together?” She doesn’t mean it like it sounds, but the question seems to annoy Yukari and amuses Kuromine as we begin Volume 11 of V.B. Rose.
 Kuromine isn’t helping matters any when he reminds Yukari that they’ve almost made it to their tenth anniversary, the diamond anniversary. Luckily (or is it unluckily) for Arisaka, he is needed to help at Rosa, which leaves Kuromine free to wander down memory lane and to tell Ageha the story of how these two boys met.

According to Kuromine, there are four characteristics which girls use in order to determine a boy’s popularity:  1) good looking 2) athletic 3) funny 4) tall.  And in middle school, while Kuromine scores a perfect ten in those attributes, alas, Arisaka does not. Kuromine hasn’t even noticed him at first. But then he does, and he starts asking questions, learning about his famous actress mother. The first time he sees Arisaka smile, he is smitten.  A great bromance is born!

There’s only one problem—it’s very one-sided!  In fact, Arisaka seems intent on evading every attempt at friendship from Kuromine!  What’s up with that? Kuromine chases after him; when he catches him, he compliments Arisaka on his looks, comparing them to his famous mother—and receives a punch in return! Yukari tells him, “Anyone who underestimates me is going to end up in a world of pain.”

Kuromine ponders his words. When he encounters his little brother Shizuya, who is rather the worse for wear, he discovers that he’s been in a fight with a close friend, but all’s now well between them. Hmmm, is that what friendship means? Did he and Yukari have a fight? Mitsuya wonders.  He realizes that he is in possession of Arisaka’s book, the one he always carries with him, forgotten in the course of their fight. He must return it to him, of course, but first he looks inside—and what he sees will change the course of their lives forever!

It’s all about fashion design and making clothing. He had no idea Arisaka is into that stuff. Before he knows it, he’s devoured the book. But when he would return it to Arisaka, he’s not in school! A few days go by with no sign of the other boy, so Kuromine decides to go to his home and see what’s up!
 You can read my complete review at Anime Radius and Yaoi Radius!

Things we always wanted to know about Rick Reed but were afraid to ask

Today I'm in the underbelly of the beast with author Rick Reed, who has kindly consented to bare his soul and his psyche for us. I asked Rick a few probing questions, this is what he had to say: First I'd like to say thank  you and welcome to Rick Reed for being here and consenting to share himself with us.  Let's take a look at our victim. Er, I mean subject.

In their October 2006 issue, Unzipped magazine said: "You could call him the Stephen King of gay horror." And Dark Scribe magazine proclaimed: "Reed is an established brand - perhaps the most reliable contemporary author for thrillers that cross over between the gay fiction market and speculative fiction." In spite of this—or perhaps because of it—he has been lately turning more and more to writing romance and illuminating the emotional lives of gay men. To date, Reed has more than sixteen books in print, and his short fiction has appeared in more than 20 anthologies. His novel,ORIENTATION, won the EPPIE Award for best LGBT novel of 2008. He lives in Seattle, WA with his partner and a very spoiled Boston Terrier. Visit him on the web at or at his blog at

Now, on to the inquisition.  I mean, interview.

1)     You’re marooned on a small island with one person and one item of your choice—who is that person and what item do you have?
My partner Bruce and my Santoku knife; I can't cook without it and we'd have to eat.

2)     Which musical would you say best exemplifies your life – and which character in that musical are you?
Cabaret. Because you know what they say, life is a cabaret, old chum. I would be Sally Bowles...and maybe this time, I'll be lucky, maybe this time, he'll stay. I love Cabaret because its so dark, unlike many musicals. As you know, dark is my color.

3)     Take these three words and give me a 100 word or less scenario using them:  formulator, tearless, neaten
I can't! I don't even know what a formulator is.

4)     You’ve just been let loose in the world of fiction, with permission to do anyone you want. Who do you fuck first and why?
Michael Tolliver from Tales of the City. And the truth is, I think we'd have a lot to talk about after...

5)     What is your idea of how to spend romantic time with your significant other?
I make a wonderful meal, open a nice bottle of wine, have some Oscar Peterson piano on the stereo and seeing where it goes from there. Where it would go really wouldn't matter because it would be with him.

6)     When you start a new story, do you begin with a character, or a plot? characters lead me everywhere. It makes the writing as much of a journey for me as it will eventually become for a reader. I do, though, have a general idea of a storyline in mind, but the characters often end up changing my path.

7)     If they were to make the story of your life into a movie, who should play you?
Jeffrey Dean Morgan, because recently someone was nice enough to say I reminded them of him.

8)     Who’s your favorite horror villain and why?
Probably Hannibal Lecter, just because he's so clever and I can't resist a man who loves to cook.

9)     Do you have an historical crush and if so, who is it?
More like a hysterical crush...on professional wrestler John Cena.

10)  Is there a story that you’d like to tell but you think the world isn’t ready to receive it?

Rick, your new book sounds very interesting.  I'm proud to say that I own a copy of Dignity Takes a Holiday myself.

Thank you so much for being here, Rick, it's been such a great pleasure!  Have a wonderful day!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Communication and Misdirection

For over thirty years, off and on, I used to watch soap operas, most of them on CBS. They ran the gamut from Search For Tomorrow to Guiding Light to the Young and the Restless. My particular favorite was As the World Turns. I had to give up watching it maybe ten years ago or so because time became a consideration. Even with recording the episodes, which reduces watching time from the original five hours down to something more manageable, I still couldn't do it. Sad to say, I missed out on the gay couple they had going for them before the show's demise, but I applaud them for it nonetheless. I think I learned a lot about writing from watching that show, whether I realized it or not, from following plots and character development. I got to know the characters pretty well.  It's hard not to when they're living out their lives in front of you on a daily basis. I think one of the contributing factors to the demise of the soap opera as a genre - and yes, I think it's very much dying - is that the changes are so gradual that you can skip episodes and only watch on a part time basis and still keep up with the plot. Viewers nowadays want more, I think. And they're crunched for time too.  Not to mention that you can get your fill of faster paced night time soap operas which don't have that five day a week thing going on. Maybe the onset of Dallas, all those years ago, was the beginning of the end for soaps?  I don't know, and at this point in time, it's moot.

But one thing I did notice from watching for so many years was this: a lot of grief, drama and aggravation on the part of the characters would have been easily solved by the simple act of communication. Much of the drama stemmed from Character A having something they didn't want Character B to find out about, because it would cause drama/bloodshed/heartache/pain/hate/resentment/whatever. Whether it was the true identity of a baby's father, who this character had slept with that they shouldn't, what they did - ie stole, killed, prostituted, lied, etc - it was something that A concealed from B. The truth of the matter, as I discovered, is that the truth has this ugly way of coming out, no matter how you try to hide it. Sure, some people get away with it. But not most, and you can't count on being so lucky. And generally B, once they get over the initial shock/dismay/disgust/whatever, comes to accept it and the couple begins to heal. In these cases, though, I noticed a correlation between the length of time for which the secret was concealed, and the length of time for forgiveness. I drew this conclusion - the truth is going to come out anyway, so don't lie, be honest, get it over with.

Hooray for honesty and communication. But as an author, I realize why that doesn't work, the primary reason being that you take away that source of drama, you just shot your own story in the foot, effectively disabling it. Tension and drama make for stories we want to read. It's the conflict that our stories are built upon. So yeah, maybe honesty and openness is to be desired in real life relationships - and I do believe it is - in our books, not so much.

The miscommunication doesn't even have to be an actual lie,either. It can be a sin of omission, in that A led B to believe something that wasn't true through the art of - wait for it...


We all know misdirection. It's the magician's stock in trade, it's what he does to keep our attention glued to one spot while the trick goes on in another, so we don't notice the trick. Like those magicians who claim to be able to make large buildings or landmarks disappear.  You and I know that can't be done, but with misdirection it can appear to be. Add to that the audience's willingness to believe and desire to be bamboozled, and well folks, you gotta show.  There's something to be learned here from our magician friends, methinks.

Mystery writers have done the same thing since time immemorial. They litter their books with seemingly important clues that actually come to nothing or mean nothing. But while you're pondering those red herrings (and yes, I have to say it - communism is just a red herring. Sorry, seen Clue too many times, couldn't pass it by), the real clues sit there, unnoticed.  Assuming they're even there at all.  Some writers cheat, in my book, and only reveal things in a dramatic last minute Let me explain to you just what happened revelation by the most marvelous, perfect, intellectually superior detective character. That seems like cheats to me.  You want to impress me? Put those clues out where I can find them, and if I don't do it, then shame on me. If I do, I can pat myself on the back, and feel good about solving the crime with the hero.

There's an old movie called The Last of Sheila. It came out in the early 70's and had an all star cast (at the time, I know not all of these names are familiar to some of  you) - James Coburn, Richard Benjamin, James Mason, Ian McShane, Raquel Welch, Dyan Cannon and Joan Hackett.  It was actually based on party games that the co-authors - Anthony Perkins (Psycho anyone?) and Stephen Sondheim wrote and performed in their own homes. It concerns a wealthy man named Clinton (James Coburn) who invites his friends to join him on his yacht on the anniversary of his wife's death via a hit and run driver for some fun and games. Except the games aren't quite as innocent as they might appear to be. The interesting thing is that the clues are all there, if you open your eyes and look for them. You can actually piece together the mystery and solve it. I have to say I couldn't do that, basically because I came into the film halfway through it the first time I saw it. But it can be done, because having watched it numerous times, the clues are there, if you can follow them, and don't let yourself be misdirected.

I'm not knocking misdirection, by the way, just commenting on it. It's not necessarily a bad thing. Neither is miscommunication. It all adds to the drama, and therefore to the story. Cause face it, if our heroes and heroines confessed and were honest right away, we wouldn't have a book, now would we?

Another most excellent example of misdirection is Sleuth. I saw the play years ago, with Anthony Quayle, and let me tell you, I was mesmerized, both by the actor and by the play. Since then I've seen the Laurence Olivier/Michael Caine film, but not the Michael Caine/Jude Law version. I intend to. And I can't tell you a thing, cause that would be to spoil it, which I won't do. I highly recommend getting the film, though, if you've not seen it. Be prepared to sit back afterwards, and say holy shit, I didn't see that coming.

Do you practice misdirection in your books? Maybe you just like to read about it. Does it come about accidentally, or do you plan for it?  Tell me your thoughts, I'd love to hear them!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Signaling vs Foreshadowing, or how I knew Lights Leary was going to win

************ warning, possible spoilers**************
In January, F/X premiered their new series, Lights Out. It's the story of a fighter who has been retired for five years, after having his belt stolen from him in a title match with Richard "Death Row" Reynolds. He has a lovely family - a wife and three daughters - a huge home, a gym where his father, played by veteran actor Stacy Keach, trains fighters, and a good life. But of course if it were that simple, why would there be a show, right? The economy is rough for everyone. Patrick's wife is in medical school. When she's done, she can do her part at supporting the family, and she's getting there. Patrick's brother Johnny is his manager. But Johnny is, let us say, less than honest. A former (so he says) drug user, who ruined his own marriage, and did some shady investing wit Patrick's money - and lost it. Times are so hard, that Patrick is appearing in commercials, and hiring himself out for cage fights and to strong arm people who don't pay their debts. As if this wasn't bad enough, he's been diagnosed with pugilistic dementia, a fact which only he and his snoopy daughter Danielle know.

The solution to their money problems seems simple - Lights has to go back in the ring. But faced with his diagnosis, and the fact that he's going on 40, this isn't an easy decision to make. Johnny arranges for him to fight against JoJo. It would have been a good match, too - if only someone hadn't hit JoJo's hand with a cinder block. The law is on Patrick's tail, and things are getting desperate. So he does what he has to do, thanks to Johnny putting him in bed with the devil - ie fight promoter Barry Word, and he agrees to a match - not with Reynolds, not yet, but with Javier 'El Diablo' Morales. The trouble is that Morales is an animal in the ring. The situation is further compounded when, during a sparring session, Lights gets a thumb in the eye, and now his vision isn't what it should be, and he's skating on thin ice here. But he forces himself to learn to compensate for that, cause he doesn't have a whole lot of options here.

By the way, isn't Lights hot?

Okay, so now we come to the fight itself, which was in this week's episode. How did I know, without reading the script or any spoilers (which I didn't do) that Lights was going to win?  Elementary, I tell you, elementary. I read the signs.  One: the season isn't over. If Lights lost to Morales, there would go his chance at a title fight, not without a long road. I didn't see that happening. Two: When the fight started, Lights was losing and things were looking bad. I really knew then he was going to win, cause it would be a comeback victory and therefore dramatic.  And he won.  It was still exciting, even though I called it (that would have meant more if I hadn't been watching it by myself).  Although that doesn't mean the bad times are over, so of course we have to wait and see what's coming up this season.

Okay, I figured it out, but was it because they signaled it, or was it foreshadowing?  Is there a difference? And if you're smart enough to figure out the signals, is that a bad thing?

I love foreshadowing. Especially when it's unconscious.  Yes, it's easy to go back and plant something at the beginning of your story so that it looks like you foreshadowed, but it's even better when it flows naturally, in my opinion. Foreshadowing is more subtle than signaling, in my opinion, though signals don't always have to be blatant, just because you figure them out. Some are just givens, things you can assume and take pretty much for granted.

For example - you start out a show, book or movie with a guy and a girl. Or two guys, two girls, whatever. They have this automatic mutual antipathy to one another. Chances are they're gonna get together at some point and be a couple.

If you want a change-up on that particular stereotype, how about you start with a couple that's already together, and supposedly happy, and introduce the third wheel/newcomer aka the other main protagonist. You make the replaceable member of the couple a nice person, not the expected shrew/harpy/bastard, and now you have moral dilemma and sexual tension and drama.

In a horror film such as the ones that involve alien mutant creatures including but not limited to zombies, giant gators, and rabid dogs, you know without being told that good will prevail.  Somehow. Good vs evil, good triumphs. However, in some recent films, that trope has been expanded a bit, so that the lines between good and evil are not as clearcut. In fact they're downright blurry. Hannibal Lecter, for instance - serial killer, psychopath (or is that sociopath) and cannibal. And yet he makes us like him, and root for his escape. Even the FBI agent, Clarice Starling, although she works to capture him, deep down I think she'd like nothing better than to let him go free. She respects him, at the very least. And if you read the book Hannibal, you'll see there's more to it than that, which the filmmakers for some reason chose not to go into, but which was a better ending, and very sexy.

Signaling is expected in certain books and movies, but when it becomes too obvious it can also be boring, cause if you've got the plot figured out from the beginning, why are you reading? If it's foreshadowing, you can figure it out, but you won't know if you're right unless you keep your eyes glued to the page. Did I mind that I knew Lights was going to win?  Hell no, it was fun to see if I was right or not. It's all in how you make that journey - are you taking the dull train to Sameville, or the fast and exciting train to What's Gonna Happen Town?

I know that I foreshadow in some of my stories, but I hope that I don't signal. One reason that I think that I don't is because I am a pantser, not a plotter, so often I don't know what's going to happen until it does. Sure, I know broad things, but not necessarily specifics. So I feel that I can't signal what I don't know, which hopefully leads readers to want to know and keep reading. In Dark Love, it was totally accidental. I was at the end of the book, writing that up when I realized that I had foreshadowed something major, without being aware of it. Maybe it was a subconscious thing, I don't know. But it blew my mind when I realized it.

So I knew Lights was gonna win against Morales, do I see him fighting Reynolds again in the future?  Of course, that's a given.  Will he win?  That I don't know yet, and that is what I can't wait to find out, not to mention there are bound to be other bumps in the road which will make this exciting to watch.

Signaling vs Foreshadowing - do  you see a difference? Do you use either in your writing? As a reader, do you look for it in what  you read? Tell me what you think, I'd love to hear it!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Flash Fiction #4 - Something's Burning

If it's Wednesday, it must be time for the Silver Flashers to get their Flash on! This week's offering is the fourth installment in my continuing saga Yes He's My Ex. Our prompt was:  I’ve got a bad feeling about it this time.        

             Something's Burning

IIt’s been two weeks since Sonny went out that door, two weeks since a damned phone call interrupted a potentially intimate moment between us.

Alright, it was just a blow job, but that’s beside the point. It was mine, and I wanted it.

It’s been two weeks, that’s the point. Two weeks with no sign of Sonny, either in person or on the phone. Not an email or a postcard. No flowers, nothing. No, he doesn’t usually send flowers, I’m being sarcastic. That’s my way of coping, that’s what that is.

I should be happy, right? I should be able to see the writing on the wall, it’s written in large enough letters, isn’t it? He’s finally gotten it into his thick head that he’s my ex, and he’s gone. Now I’m free to move on myself, instead of always waiting for him to show up, live my own life.  No more waiting for that other shoe to drop.  Not that I wasn’t free before, but having Sonny always potentially underfoot does put a definite crimp in one’s love life.

So why do I feel so uneasy? No, more than that, why do I feel so damn miserable that I haven’t seen him or heard from him? Am I just a glutton for punishment? Or do I just want to see him that badly?

You know, it’s not like he hasn’t stopped coming around before. Usually after episodes when he drives me so crazy I tell him to fuck off and die. No, I never mean it. Just kindof mean it. Temporarily. But then he lays low for a few days or a week and comes waltzing back into my life like everything’s hunky dory. Mr. Oblivious.

But it’s been two weeks. I’ve got a bad feeling about it this time.

The easiest thing to do would be to call Sonny. But wouldn’t that be defeating the purpose? I’d just be opening that can of worms all over again.

On the other hand, maybe I’d stop seeing him everywhere I go. I thought he was walking just ahead of me today when I was leaving work. I’d already locked the office up tight. My office, that is. I don’t think I’ve mentioned that before but I have my own office where I do payroll and accounting. It’s what I went to school for. The rent is low, the building isn’t fancy, but the neighborhood is pretty cool. Right next door to me is a fortune teller named Sue. She reads Tarot cards, I think. Or crystals. I’m not really sure. But she’s pretty nice.

So anyway, I lock up, tell Sue good night, and I’m heading toward the parking lot and my car when I see this guy and I think it’s Sonny and before I even have time to think about what I’m doing, my hand’s on his shoulder, and my heart’s beating faster, and I’m about to yell at the schmuck, I’m that happy to see him. Til he turns around, and I realize it’s not Sonny, not even close. I apologize, of course, and he just gives me a weird look before he walks on while I want to crawl into a hole somewhere and die.

That wasn’t the only time I thought I saw him, but it’s the only time I let myself react.

Enough is enough.

It’s time for me to pull my head out of my ass and move on, I decide.  That’s when my phone rings, as I’m sitting there in my apartment, having this self-serving pity party, debating if I feel like cooking or not, and leaning toward not. It’s my mom, and she’s inviting me to dinner.  Says she’s made lasagna, and a salad, and cheese garlic bread, and would I please come. My grumbling stomach decides for me, so I agree to come over. I don’t mind spending time with my mother. I feel bad that I haven’t even talked to her since Sonny disappeared. To somewhat make amends, I even pick up a bottle of wine on the way, so I don’t show up empty-handed. White, ‘cause it’s what she likes. I don’t care what it goes with or doesn’t go with. Who made those rules? Seriously.

It isn’t until I’m at the door that something hits me, and I start to wonder if maybe I haven’t been set up. Maybe I’m being played for some sort of a schmuck by my mother, the matchmaker. I’ll walk in that door, and there he’ll be—sitting at the dining room table, leaning back in the chair so that it’s balanced on two legs. It’s what he does, and why he doesn’t fall backwards onto his thick head is beyond me, but he doesn’t. She wants us back together, I know she does. So what better way to do it than over Sonny’s favorite Italian food? Boy, am I dumb.

So why is my heart beating like a drum, and why is my mouth suddenly dry, and my lips puckering in anticipation?

I open the door, yell out that it’s me, I’m there, and walk in. I don’t knock.  I mean, I used to live here.

Mom’s in the kitchen. I hand her the wine, kiss her cheek, try not to be too obvious as I peek into the dining room. It’s unoccupied. So’s the living room.

“Looking for your sister? She’s not here yet,” Mom says, pulling out two wine glasses.

I mumble that I didn’t know she was coming. My cheeks flush heatedly, I feel this pain in the pit of my stomach. I’m such a fool. He’s not here, he’s not coming.  He’s gone. He’s really and truly gone.

She’s pulling out the hot pan of lasagna from the oven. “Tim, honey, are you okay?” she asks, obviously concerned.

“Yeah, sure,” I mutter, reaching for my ringing phone. The caller ID says Sonny. I quickly answer.

“Tim… Help—“ The line goes dead suddenly.

What the fuck?

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Sui Lynn
RJ Scott
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Victoria Blisse