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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.

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T is for Temple

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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.

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S is for Soldiers of the Sun

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S is for Soldiers of the Sun, which is both the umbrella title for the series and the name of the novel. On the surface you’d look at this novel and wonder did she try to find a genre mash-up that would be impossible to sell? Honestly no, but as this is an urban fantasy historical novel with a polyamorous trio of main characters I can see how you’d think so. It would have a small group of people who’d be interested in it and it’s not served well by being listed as romance when it really isn’t. The paranormal/urban fantasy action-adventure part of it is the main plot.
It opens around Christmas 1931 where the group of demon hunters, Caleb, Agni and Temple are dealing with the loss of Temple’s lover, Li (see The Darkest Midnight in December to see Li alive nad in action) and their new reality of being in a three-way relationship. Add into that Temple’s new partner who turns out to be their general’s niece, a prince of hell terrorizing the city and a wave of French Knights Templar hot on the heels of that devil, Templars who just so happen to be Temple’s relatives.

I had enormous fun working on this novel. I really enjoy the character dynamics between the foursome (including Jo, Temple’s new partner in tahat). I didn’t know tremendously much about the 1930s beyond the obvious and I wanted to know more as this is the time period of my grandparents as they were just starting out in married life (or just a bit earlier, in their young adulthood). In fact, my maternal grandmother makes a cameo appearance with her girlfriends in the scene inside of Phipps conservatory. She was tickled pink about that. The ghosts of the 1930s can still be seen haunting the streets of Pittsburgh and uncovering what they looked like in their hey day was a blast.

In this novel I got to deal with real life themes such as surviving child sexual abuse and the effects of class inequality and the greed of those in power who want even more power. There is, of course, hints of prejudiced based on skin color, gender, religion and sexual orientation as it was the 1930s after all. Mixed into all of that is the paranormal demon hunting stuff ala Buffy or Supernatural.
I can’t remember exactly why I called them Soldiers of the Sun, other than they represented light in the darkness. I didn’t want them to be the Knights Templar (who are in this universe, who survived the attempts to wipe them out which they didn’t quite manage in the real world), mostly because the Templars are so religiously oriented. The Soldiers aren’t anti-religious in the least but they are secular. I wanted a group that would be inclusive of women, of other religions and ethnic backgrounds and of homosexuals because in a fight against demons it made sense to be all hands on deck (that and I’m all for inclusivity). I couldn’t see the Templars being that (and in the novel, they are not, drawing a strong contrast to the Soldiers. It’s why Temple ran away to join the Soldiers). I’ve created many demon fighting groups because I love writing these kinds of stories but man it’s getting harder and harder to think of sensible names for them!
I hope that maybe this interests you and you might want to take a look at the Soldiers’ stories.
You can find their 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)

And check out Paul Richmond’s cover for this. I have been so lucky in covers.

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Blurb for Soldiers of the Sun Caleb Davies and Agni Pradesh are worried about their teammate and lover, Temple Chevalier. Not only has he lost his long-time partner, Fu Li, but he nearly died fighting a demon himself. Also, Temple isn’t sure he’s ready for a new teammate after Li. Caleb and Agni are even more concerned that their three-way relationship with Temple exists less because he loves them and more because he’s hiding from the pain of Li’s loss.
1932 shapes up to be a terrible year for the Soldiers as they welcome the New Year fighting demons and then end up investigating a case that pairs them up with the Knights Templar. This would normally be a good thing, but it forces Temple to face his painful past. Worse yet, the case leads right to Astaroth, a Prince of Hell, who might prove to be an unbeatable foe.

R is for Rhys

R is for Rhys. Remember the whole ‘sometimes I change a character’s name thing from N is for? Rhys was probably one of the biggest characters I’ve done that for. Originally he was Sebastian (knowing me, probably because I had just read Black Butler before I sat down to name characters). Then I saw no less than eight new releases with the name Sebastian in my genre and I said, yeah I have to change this. I thought about the character and who and what he is and decided why in the world did I ever think he was a Sebastian. He absolutely needs a Welsh name and Rhys is one of my favorite Welsh names.

You see, Rhys is a Tylwyth Teg, a type of Welsh fairy. He’d like to point out that the human belief that his type is only two inches tall is completely erroneous. I’ve mentioned before I love folklore about the fey both good and wicked. I enjoy stories about the fairylands and I knew I wanted to add to the volumes of material out there.

Rhys is a fey prince, destine to rule some day when his mother decides to step down. His job until then is to police Earth and make sure the wicked fey aren’t messing up the humans much. He decides to shift his base to Pittsburgh, PA (because hey it’s easier for me to write about a place I know). Rhys has spent more time over the centuries on Earth than he has in his own dimension. He doesn’t mind. There are some bad memories there like war and losing not only his wife but his child too.

He meets Aaron at a steampunk party at first captivated by the amazing tech of his prosthetic arm then after they talk for a while, he knows he needs to see Aaron again. It doesn’t matter that Aaron is human. Rhys finds him intelligent, geeky and fun to be with. But he isn’t being honest with Aaron who has no idea Rhys isn’t human nor that Rhys has other children, his twins Bryn and Bran who are about two centuries old, and his daughter Briallen who is one century old. For the Teg, they age very slowly, a century equates to less than a decade in human growth so Briallen is quite young and the twins roughly are twentyish and live to torment Dad.

Even when he knows a past fey lover is after him, Rhys is still reluctant to tell Aaron what he is. He also doesn’t mention that technically he’s married to Gwenllian, an arranged marriage but he does care about her. The fey are polyamorous and Aaron eventually understands this, though unsurprisingly some readers don’t. In spite of there being plenty of open calls for polyamorous relationships there is a persistent belief that polys can’t possibly be happy or trusted. It’s also hard to miss, looking at reviews, that bi-erasure is a very real thing. People seem to want bi-characters but only when we see the homosexual side of it, not the hetero. There is a danger of course with a bi poly of treading into the negative stereotype of they can’t commit and that’s definitely not what I want. Rhys is often on earth for decades at a time and Gwen, also being fey wouldn’t think much of him having lovers. Aaron, however has some adjusting to do.

Rhys, of course, is magical and powerful and has fun with it. On the other hand, he feels some regret and guilt that he can’t use his magic to give Aaron back his amputated arm or fix the other scars the war left behind.

Rhys was such a fun character to write and seriously, one day I need to revisit his and Aaron’s world in long fiction.

 

 

You can find Rhys’s story Kept Tears here

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Q is for Quitting

Q is for quitting. No, not quitting writing, though I have to admit, some days I’ve considered that too. No, what I’d like to quit is all the self-doubt and second guessing myself. I’ve been doing that most of my life. It’s interesting. Our students did a study today on coaching, looking at which students had more self-confidence and success, the ones who were given praise or the ones who were subjected more to the militaryesque screaming. It was closer than comfort allows but praise did win out. I was raised the other way by teachers who screamed and belittled. I’ve come to automatically assume everything I do is wrong and not up to snuff. The worst were the surgeons who taught me surgery. Most of foot/ankle surgery isn’t done under general anesthesia which means the patients are more or less awake. During more than one surgery I had a patient call out, ‘will you quit screaming at her. You’re making me terrified.’ (Meanwhile my hands are shaking because they’re terrifying ME too).

So I am probably one of the most accomplished people you’ll meet with self-esteem this low. Have the time I’m convinced everything I’ve written, everything I am is absolute rubbish. I need to QUIT that. I let it paralyze me. Hell I haven’t written anything of note in nearly two months after being convinced my writing isn’t worth even looking over to edit.

I am crawling back out of that depression but I need to quit letting it get to me. I can’t take two month hiatuses because I’m letting self-doubt destroy everything I’ve worked for.

The other thing I have to quit is letting people talk me out of the things I want to write. That has happened so many times. I’m getting a little depressed with insta-freebie and other giveaways because I see SO MANY ghost and/or witch mystery stories. In the mid-90s I wrote a mystery novel where a ghost played a role in solving the mystery. My usually supportive writers group went ballistic (mostly the guys, the ladies were all right with it except for the lady lawyer). They were out rightly cruel, laughing at me, making me the butt of jokes for months. I put my mystery on the shelf (I think it died in a computer crash which is sad because I liked the one character, a homeless jazz sax busker.

Also in the 90s I tried selling stuff with Nephilim characters. No one wanted it. AT ALL. Some even yelled at me for being blasphemous. I ended up putting those characters in a shared universe I wrote in with & (One looked a lot like Heath Ledger and another like Alan Jackson).

Now you can swing a stick without hitting ghost mysteries or a Nephilim/Angel character. It’s a touch disheartening. I’m not sure I would have been good enough 20 years ago to be published but I would have been right there are the leading edging of a trend, not piling on at the end.

So yes, I need to quit listening to the nay-sayers. I need to write what’s in my heart and I need to quit doubting myself.

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