Z is for Zen

Z is for zen. I try to achieve a zen-like state daily. Oh, I suck at it but I try. I used to have my struggles with zen in my author bio until I changed it to fit my geeky brand a bit better. I tend toward a type A personality with a trigger temper. If anyone thinks changing your temper is easy is either a bit deluded or just plain misguided. I have mellowed in my middle age but still it’s bad.

I’m a high stress sort. I’ve broken four teeth grinding them. I’ve clenched ground and otherwise aggravated the fuck out of my TMJs so badly I now have arthritis in my jaw. I used to be a medical doctor, a high stress job. Teaching and writing have a lot of high stress moments too (what job doesn’t, am I right?) so I started looking into zen meditation.

I’m not looking for enlightenment. I’ll never be perfect. I’m mostly looking for a pressure valve so I don’t break more teeth, punch another wall, have a heart attack etc. (I leave pummeling people to fiction. If you displease me, you may meet a truly gruesome fictional end).

I’ve read up on meditation. I’ve done free meditation sessions via the Chopra Center. I’m not really living in an area where I can go to classes for this sort of thing.

More than a class, I wish we had a zen garden around here. The nearest Japanese garden is 80 miles away at Dawes Arboretum (Still want to go). Or any gardens. I have the hills but sometimes hiking them can be dangerous alone. I feel more calm surrounded by greenery though. I tend to get more out of that than I do out of actual meditation.

I may never be perfectly zen. I can only do my best and if I get some benefits from my attempts, that’s all I need.

And I survived the A to Z challenge. This was fun. Thanks for putting up with me for the month. I appreciate all the people who stopped by. I’ve enjoyed stopping by other people’s blogs. Thanks to our host as well.

 photo survivor-atoz 2017 v1_zpsdt5331ro.jpg

Y is for You

Y is for you. It’s a day late thanks to faulty internet at my steampunk con room but it’s still an important topic to me. This one is all about you the reader and what you can do for the authors you love and want to support. I mean, besides buying the book and/or reading it via a library (I know it shouldn’t have to be said to not download it from pirate sites, please. It’s killing us).

Review the books on Amazon, that’s what you can do to help support authors. Yes, please do put the reviews on Goodreads or wherever else you’d like but whether I like it or not (and in many ways it’s not), Amazon is where it matters.

You see reviews drive Amazon’s algorithms. The more reviews, the easier Amazon makes it for the author to get their book in front of an audience. Once a book gets fifty reviews, the book goes to the next level up and becomes more visible to the people who scan Amazon looking for their next read. And there are more levels, the more reviews you get, giving the author perks like being a recommended book you might like etc.

If you don’t review, the book remains in Amazon’s basement, nearly impossible to find unless you already know the name from some other promotion the author has done. You have so much control over an author’s future in that manner.

I hear so many readers complaining about authors asking for reviews and to be fair some authors are absolute asshole about it. I can’t imagine why because I’ve read some of those posts and I’d be moved to never give that author a review. There is something to that whole ‘you get more flies with sugar’ saying so hopefully I’m not coming across like I’m blaming you for my sad royalty check.

Because you might not have known that. Heck I didn’t realize that’s how Amazon did things until the last couple of years myself. I hear a lot of readers also saying ‘but I just don’t know what to say.’ I get that you might feel pressured. I also hear ‘I don’t have time for that.’ There’s a simple solution to both problems. You don’t have to write a lengthy review. No one is expecting you to give a book a review blog quality write up of every book you read (but if you want to, more power to you!). Amazon’s internal gremlins don’t look at length. All they care about is that a review has been recorded. Heck it doesn’t even have to be a good review. One star reviews count the same as a five star.

Even a simple ‘I loved this book. I thought character XYZ rocked it.’ four stars counts. It’s low pressure and takes like 60 seconds. There used to be a 25 word minimum (or at least I thought there was) but I can’t see if that’s been changed other than some authors complaining that they’re getting one word reviews that were basically swears). I guess what I’m saying it, you don’t have to write something lengthy or even that in depth. It’s not like the book reports from high school. I’m sure most of us can come up with 25 words of what we loved and/or hated about a story.

You’ll be helping your favorite author write their next book if you can find just a little time to review. The publishing death spiral is real and you have the power to stop it.

 photo A2Z-BADGE-100 2017_zpsbwg03vlp.jpg

X is for Xiphoid

X is for Xiphoid, one of those things that might have been on today’s anatomy exam. Yeah, I couldn’t think of an X word that went with my writing. I do, however, have ideas for X words and titles. If I could come up with X titles that made the least bit of sense, I would probably use it. Those read the alphabet challenges are really popular right now. X (Q and Z) are all really hard ones to find. I suppose it’s a bit dishonest to sucker someone in with a title bearing a hard to find letter but it does cross my mind.

X marks the spot. Trite yes but hey it could be the title to an adventure romp, right?

X-rated, nah. Gay romance has enough trouble proving it’s nothing but erotica (and it is so very much more).

Xenolith…is anyone interested in rocks or Xylem in plants.

Ooo how about Xenon Station. That could be a neat SF story. You know I think I’m going to hang on to that one.

I suppose Xenophobia would work but I’ve had FAR too much of that crap in the real world. Shudders.
And I’m going to make this a short post as I’m packing for a steampunk event.

 photo A2Z-BADGE-100 2017_zpsbwg03vlp.jpg

W is for Wales

W is for Wales. Shwmae. Noswaith dda. And pretty much my Welsh fails me after that. About the only other thing I can say is Hoffwn cwrw os gwelwch yn dda, which is about all I need to say! (I’m I’m sure I mangle that ch sound which to me sounds like Klingon. Scratch that, Klingon is easier to say. And oh, I can say wedi blino because I always am).

I can’t say when my interest in Wales started but I’m sure it was when I was young. It probably had to do with King Arthur and the red dragon. Oh, and my actual surname is Welsh, and in fact is about the fourth most common surname in Wales.

Whatever it was, I’ve had a live long interest in Wales. Back in my SCA days my name was an amalgam of Italian (which I am) and Welsh (of which I have not a genetic trace) so it’s been decades running on my interest in Wales. I always wanted to learn the language which is notoriously difficult and my university is the only Welsh language preservation center in the States. What I have learned is I blow at learning new languages. Snort. I did get to go to Wales to research the standing stones as the Madog Fellow. I hope to go again some day. I loved Wales. I got to travel from Cardiff all the way up to Ynys Mon. Lovely country.

Wales and Welsh characters pepper my writing. In Kept Tears Rhys is a Tylwyth Teg, a type of Welsh fairy because I wanted to do something a little different as far as paranormal fiction is concerned you know thinking out of but pressed right up against the box. While Rhys doesn’t bring a ton of Welshness with him, he does at least introduce people to Welsh folklore beyond the Arthurian.

Caleb Davies, the leader of my 1930s demon hunting team, in Soldiers of the Sun is also from Wales. He had a much stronger Welsh voice but still not that particularly strong since it’s set in America. I had a short story set in Wales but that one just didn’t quite worth, probably because I was aiming for contemporary fiction and it’s not my joy.

I did, however, succeed with one contemporary short story set in Wales, The Light of Winter which I’ve talked about before, Warun the doctor and his druid professor boyfriend, Gareth. I did get to showcase some of the more exciting (to me) parts of my Welsh trip. I hope I did the Welsh culture right with it.

I’ll leave you with the links to find some of my Welsh-flavored stories. Hwyl.

Find Kept Tears here.
Soldiers of the Sun. (novel)
The Darkest Midnight in December. (novella)
Snowbound. (short story)
The Light of Winter

 photo A2Z-BADGE-100 2017_zpsbwg03vlp.jpg

V is for Vampires in Vegas

V is for vampires in Vegas. I’ve been working with my vampires Arrigo and Siobhan for twenty years now. They, along with Luc, have been in my brain for a long time now. I’ve sold one story with them to Dreamspinner but I have to revamp, no pun intended, the novel. It’s had some problems but that’s the story of my Vegas vampires.

Originally, way back when it was actually in New Orleans because I was twenty-something and too new to realize just how clichéd that is. Their story started as a short story that was my bestseller in the 90s. Well, in the sense that it was given a contract THREE times and all three times the publisher went under. I’m beginning to believe this story is cursed.

Seriously cursed. That short story I mentioned, somehow I missed an act by Luc that was there early on when he and Arrigo weren’t a couple because in the 90s you really couldn’t write much in the way of gay fiction (and I had to write it as a man which today, for obvious reasons, is frowned on when you aren’t actually male). I don’t know how that slipped by me, probably because it was the second or third short story I ever published at Jana and I was just too excited to do my due diligence. I would like to redo that story and remove that scene! Maybe I will if the novel ever comes to life.

It wasn’t easy bringing a short story into novel country. In the end it was too long…way too long. And then it had issues I was blind to and weren’t pointed out to me at first when it might have been easier to correct. I’ve fixed some of the issues the publisher identified and I’m glad they are willing to look at it again put mortified at the same time that it was submitted in this condition. That’s going to hurt for a long time.

When I started reworking this nearly ten years ago already when it was just a collection of short stories, I decided Las Vegas was the ideal setting for it. Yeah sure New York, L.A. or Chicago have very active night lives too but they’re so overused. Vegas shockingly has had less paranormal activity and I love its tackiness (sorry Vegas but you know it’s true) so Arrigo moved from his Pontalba apartments to a high rise on the Strip. Another thing I have to change in the short story is where Arrigo, my ancient Roman vampire, is living. Originally it was in the Sky but that was before I saw exactly where they were, too far away from the center of life on the strip. He’s now in the Veer in the heart of the Strip and I was able to look into the condos thanks to online real estate sites.

But Vegas is perfect for vampires. So much 24 hour casino action (casinos with no windows), very late night bars, throngs of people running about. Heck on weekends there are even all night bowling alleys and mini-golf courses (looking at you KISS mini golf). Of course most young vampires would need a good hiding spot in the unrelenting sun of the day though.

Arrigo works for a group, the Chiaroscuro which is made up of vampires, lycanthropes, mages and the like to be sure that the supernaturals don’t prey on the unsuspecting humans. He enjoys his job as an enforcer, not so much that he likes killing other supernaturals but because he’s dedicated to protecting humans. Happily bisexual, Arrigo has found lovers among the supernaturals, like his long time on again off again (off because forever is a long time so they drift apart and then together again over the centuries) Siobhan and Fadil (the ancient Egyptian vampire who turned Arrigo back in the days of Julius Caesar). However, Arrigo likes humans too and he’s head on into lust when he first meets Luc.

Luc is out of the bayou having lost his home to Hurricane Katrina and has come to Vegas with his abusive father and brother who have tormented him long before they even suspected he might be gay. Luc’s father pulled him and his brother out of school when they entered middle school so he’s uneducated, working as a bartender with his family. When his path crosses Arrigo’s, he’s surprised at how sophisticated Arrigo is (thinking Arrigo is barely 21). Luc doesn’t trust this rich man because why would he want anything to do with Luc?

As their relationship grows, a dangerous twist crops up, one Luc couldn’t guess at and one that maybe Arrigo should have been on watch for. One of his former supernatural enemies has cropped up and Luc’s odds, as most Vegas odds go, are long when it comes to him surviving to see another day.

Hopefully I’ll have this finished before June or at the latest July. It’s taking me too long as it is but I hope to get to share this with everyone.

 photo A2Z-BADGE-100 2017_zpsbwg03vlp.jpg

U is for Unfinished

U is for unfinished. I’m sure we all have unfinished projects out there. My closet is filled with 1001 beads waiting to become jewelry. My hard drive is equally cluttered with the half-baked unborn stories. Some are just waiting for me to find time to work on them, some in the editing stage, some in the still only half written stage. Others, once the written scenes were out of my head, the story went with them. Nothing remains. Even rereading it, it’s like a strange wrote it. It’s very peculiar.
If I had to pick a couple unfinished stories that I’m sure will go somewhere I’d have to pick These Haunted Hills which, to be fair, I only recently started. Theoretically it’s my Camp Nano story. Even though the middle is as murky as a Louisiana bayou, I have a lot of good ideas. I just need time (and self-discipline. God five years ago I had that by the boat load but lately it’s just gone.)

The other has the working title Behind Blue Eyes and it’s a SF story about a young man born into a prison slum who thinks he’s getting a work release but ends up in sexual slavery (though the rich people using the Toys believe they’re willing courtesans). Kaleo ends up given as a birthday present to a genius scientist, Aneirin who really has no desire to own a Toy. Once he learns the truth about the Toys, Aneirin is determined to bring an end to the practice, provided he lives long enough as someone is out to stop him and his team of scientists from developing a cure to a virus that could prove genocidal.

Kaleo on the other hand is learning to live with the changes, now permanent, that were made to his body as part of the Toy process but his suicidal escape plans fall to the way side when he learns not only can he live with Aneirin who is a kind and gentle man Kaleo comes to admire for those qualities (and his intelligence) but he is determined to protect Aneirin from anyone seeking to harm him.

Kaleo and Aneirin’s story is easily a duology if not a trilogy. Now if only I could find time for everything I want to do.

 photo A2Z-BADGE-100 2017_zpsbwg03vlp.jpg

T is for Temple

 photo A2Z-BADGE-100 2017_zpsbwg03vlp.jpg

T is for Temple. In this case, Temple Chevalier, one of my 1930s demon hunters from the Soldiers of the Sun series. Ever have a secondary character who refused to be secondary and absconds with your story and the plot? That would be Temple. Caleb and Agni were meant to be the main characters but Temple, from the moment I put him on page refused the shadows. He is such a vivacious character that his partners often say not only does he have hair the color of an Irish Setter he has the enthusiastic personality to complete the analogy.

Temple hates that comparison but it’s accurate. He’s very friendly to just about everyone. He loves to talk (hates to study). He’s a fiend for dancing and music and Temple does have a bad habit of sleeping around. A lot. With both sexes.

Temple grew up in a family of Knights Templar from literally the moment there was such a thing. His family can all see the demons and they are exceedingly proud of their heritage to the point of arrogance. Temple always felt he never measured up to his father’s expectations as a soldier.

Temple believed his punishment for not being good enough was to be given to his grandfather for training. What the man was actually doing was sexually molesting Temple who bears deep psychological scars from this. Unfortunately for me this took me deep into the territory of ‘people think all bisexuals sleep around and can’t commit.’ That’s not at all what I wanted. Hypersexual behavior (or the opposite, sexual avoidance), self-blame, low self esteem, attachment disorders and PTSD are not uncommon in victims of sexual abuse. But it’s the 1930s. We didn’t even have 90% of those words, let alone much understanding of sexual abuse so I can’t really make my intentions clear within the scope of the novel itself. The closest I can come is having Agni observe that something is broken inside of Temple and that he tries to fix it with multiple partners but of course that isn’t working. So there is a huge potential for poor Temple to be misunderstood.

Temple, for all his faults, is a good young man. He’s the youngest of the team (until Jo joins). He ran away from Paris when he was in his mid-teams and gave up being Knight Templar (even though his name literally means Temple Knight). He joined the Soldiers of the Sun figuring it would piss his father off (he’s right) and he met Li, Caleb and Agni in London. They were all then sent to America where he unfortunately loses Li. Temple does worry about what he’s doing to Agni and Caleb’s relationship by joining them but his compulsion to be loved doesn’t let him back out. He’s also attracted to his new partner, Jo but believes General Taglioferro when the man promised bodily harm if Temple touches his niece.

Temple’s problems would be something I’d like to work with more if I ever revisit this world which I’d like to (but yeah seriously historical urban fantasy is a tough sell). He is fun to write though, all enthusiasm and sarcasm. And did I mention he fights demons with a Tommy gun? While he might take a ‘spray and pray’ attitude toward demon hunting, he is a good shot with a pistol as well, which he also carries.

If Temple sounds like fun to you, you can find his stories here. (Yes they’re in a series but they can be read as stand alones because hey 1930s demon hunters, right?).

Soldiers of the Sun. (novel)

The Darkest Midnight in December. (novella)
Snowbound. (short story)

On the cover Temple is down in front with the Tommy Gun.

 photo Soldiers of the Sun3 1_zps33butt58.jpg