H. L. Moore: Death’s Embrace

This morning I’ve got a fantastic new release for you, from H. L. Moore. It’s Soul of Ash, the sequel to Heart of Dust. I’ve been waiting for this second novel in the Death’s Embrace series pretty much since I read Heart of Dust in 2018. They are set in a wonderful, complex world with normalised queerness and an incredible slow-burn romance. I’ve got Soul of Ash on my Kobo for this evening and have pretty much told my family they’re on their own! I’ve embedded the preview thing from Amazon so you can read the first bit of each book.

Firstly, Heart of Dust (you definitely need to read this first)

“Doran had a problem, and it wasn’t that he’d been stabbed.”

Iole City is in turmoil. Doran Ó Seanáin, leader of the Black Lung Gang, is determined to bring the Lord Archon – Iole’s tyrannical ruler – down for his brutal treatment of the miners. But Doran has more to deal with than getting stabbed, a stalemate and city-wide lockdown that’s seeing his gang of ex-miners being slowly starved out of their base – his daughter Grace has turned against him, and the weight of his wife’s death two years prior haunts them both.

Things start to look up when he’s inexplicably drawn to Nathaniel Morgenstern, the apotheker with a mysterious past he owes his life to, but Doran is in way over his head. The fate of the mines hangs in the balance; the clock is ticking and the Archon is closing in. Doran’s plan to break the cycle may very well be his last.

Find and buy from Goodreads

Soul of Ash

You can run, but you will never be free.

Half a year after the events of Heart Of Dust, Doran Ó Seanáin now finds himself trapped between two worlds while belonging to neither. Held in contempt by the upper class for the turmoil he caused during Archon Bryson’s reign and resented by the miners for selling out, Leonora Darkwater’s bid to purchase the mines from the crown may be his salvation. But the offer is far more complicated than it appears, and the only person Doran trusts is the same man who threw his life into chaos.

Haunted by his past, held hostage by his debt to the Archon, and a slave to the poison that keeps him alive, atonement feels perpetually out of reach for Nathaniel Morgenstern. Too much damage has been done and too much has gone unsaid for time alone to heal the wounds between him and Doran.

Unfortunately, time is the one thing they don’t have as their lives collide once more. There are vipers in Arajon; the mines aren’t finished with Doran, and the sand in Nathaniel’s hourglass is running out.

Amazon : Kobo : Goodreads

H. L. Moore

H. L. Moore is an Australian writer of LGBT+ fiction. She is Jewish and of Middle Eastern (Egyptian) heritage, queer, and is an #OwnVoices writer. She has been writing stories since she was old enough to hold a pen. Her biggest literary influences are Adrian Tchaikovsky, Brandon Sanderson and C. S. Pacat. She has had two short stories published: “The Collector” in the 2014 Future Times Award Collection A Tick Tock Heart, and “Entente” in the 2020 Twisted Stories Award Collection Just Alice.

Find H. L. Moore: Website : Amazon : Goodreads : Facebook

Garrick Jones: Wheelchair

Today I have an insightful piece from Garrick Jones about the research behind his book Wheelchair. I need to give you content warnings for mentions of sexual violence, PTSD and kink.

Garrick is an Australian author who’s books about gay men are all story driven; spies, detectives, murders and epic dramas. Read more about him at his website! Over to you, Garrick!

Wheelchair was an unusual story for me to write on two counts. The first is that it’s my first contemporary novel, and secondly there’s a lot of undisguised personal history woven into the characters.

While the second thing isn’t that unusual, as most writers project parts of themselves into their books, some of the events of Simon’s, Obadiah’s and Marvin’s lives are indeed actual experiences of my own. I live with OCD and PTSD as a result of childhood abuse. It’s formed the man I am, and I’ve faced obstacles in everything I do and have done over the course of my life while trying to cope with the small frightened child that still jumps up in the back of my mind, just when I’m feeling good about myself, and scares the pants off me. However, I’m proud of who I’ve become and always think I’m one of the lucky ones to have been able to face my demons and even stare one or two of them down.

Writing parts of this story took a great deal of research before I even started. I interviewed 27 men, both virtually (the brave ones by voice chat or video chat), by email and even old-fashioned snail mail. I created a new email address specifically for the research and deactivated it once I had my responses, which have also been deleted. No names were ever given or asked for, although they knew mine, obviously.

I joined a chat group of gay boxers, another of gay wrestlers into humiliation play, and yet another formed of ex State policemen, Federal policemen, first responders and counsellors who were all either bisexual or gay.

Much of what I learned was too cathartic to use in the book, but I did discover quite a few common denominators, which I used to formulate my characters and their stories. The one thing in common was that men’s sexuality is fluid at the best, rarely defined into strict behaviours, but dependent on situation and levels of need, or sexual arousal. Some of the men who were into the most extreme forms of sex play also shared moments of tenderness and intimacy, what the general population might define as “vanilla”, romantic sexual activity.

I decided not to research heterosexual men with the same sexual psychopathologies, because I didn’t intend this book to be an explanation or to be a gay apologist narrative. The combination of same-sex attraction and arousal through sports, such as boxing and wrestling, is not as rare as might be believed. How it manifests itself in sexual roles is not always clear. Many times, interviewees have reported the need to be dominated sexually after winning the match or having subjugated their opponent. Power-bottoming seems also to be a theme, aggressive sexual behaviour and even self-harm while being penetrated is also quite frequent. One could make value judgments about the need to reinforce masculinity by hyped up testosterone acting out, but as I’m not a psychologist, it’s not my place to come to any conclusions.

However, I did try to weave some of those stories into the book. By far, the most difficult character arc was that of Obadiah, who was based on a number of men who reported having sex with other men when either being semi-inebriated to facilitate their activities, or adhering to strict rules about what they did. The new “no-homo” tag is alive and kicking in suburbia. I was astonished at the number of men, especially in the police force/first responder group, who informed me that before officially deciding on their sexuality, they’d engage in fairly no-holds barred sexual activity with either mates, or in pick up places, as long as there was no kissing—something most of them defined as crossing the line. Two senior policemen in particular were very fond of taking on all comers with their faces covered in parks at night-time. I found the risky behaviour almost unbelievable and may have dismissed the first interviewee’s report as fanciful, had it not been a recurring theme from others.

Among the boxing/wrestling crowd there was another common theme: voyeurism and exhibitionism. Rarely were the boxing matches or wrestling engagements in private between two people. There was often public sexual behaviour for onlookers who were quite frequently encouraged to either participate or form groups of their own after the matches. A large proportion of those who boxed or wrestled were also into wearing Lycra underneath their business suits or work clothes and collected used jock straps, wrestling singlets and boxing shorts, which are sold for large amounts in private chat rooms.

The universal theme among all those I interviewed was the need for intimacy. Many of the men either had regular partners—who oddly enough did not share the same fetishes—or they wished for an emotional relationship. I was quite often moved to read about or hear about the moments of connection once the fighting and the fucking was over. Frequently there were descriptions of intimate physical touching, stroking, kissing and even what we might label as “love talk”, even between relative strangers.

I tried not to reach any conclusions while writing this story. My main aim was to depict the struggles of the daily life of someone like Simon, who suffers from OCD driven anxiety. He’s not an extreme example, but fairly typical of many people who try to manage their life, day by day, minute by minute, negotiating compulsive behaviours, yet continuing to hold full time jobs and lead fulfilling lives. There are others of course who are imprisoned within their compulsions.

Every single man with a fetish had something we might describe as a need to “scratch the itch”. In every case, the men mentioned they couldn’t function easily without assuaging the “need” when it came upon them. Since the internet, clubs and meetings have been easier to arrange. However, some of the older men told amusing stories of networking through gyms, fitness clubs, body-building societies and other places ex-servicemen and former policemen met. It’s also to those place that the “civilian” members of society gravitated to meet others of the same ilk and hopefully find an outlet for their needs.

Not one man I corresponded with, or spoke to, thought their activities were at all strange or unusual, no matter far along the spectrum of humiliation play, or beating, or fighting, or other rough and tumbles. About half the contingent did not identify as being members of the gay community; they simply saw themselves as “blokes” (mostly the word they used) who simply liked to get down and dirty with other “blokes”.

Only two respondents revealed there’d been some childhood incident(s) which had triggered the need for humiliation, but neither had been prepared to discuss what those events were, neither did I press the issue. Most of the rest of them, who were prepared to answer the question either gave a “I dunno” or prevaricated with their answer.

I do hope you enjoy the underlying story of Simon, both from the chapters written in first person point of view as the narrative of how he feels and goes about his life, and also from those close to him, in alternate chapters, written from their perspective to illustrate how they see him and his behaviours.

We who suffer from OCD and PTSD often feel our actions and motivations are misunderstood. Perhaps this story is a novel in which I’ve been able to show both sides of the story. As Simon says, talking about his take on intimate relationships, right at the end of the book:

No doubt it wasn’t everyone’s idea of what a relationship should be. But I wasn’t everybody, neither was Obadiah or Dixie nor was anyone else—if I’d learned one thing, that was it.

Love, whatever that was, came in many shapes, forms, and colours.

Wheelchair

You can never judge an academic book by its cover. Simon Dyson, a quiet assistant professor, is a man of hidden depths. To the world he presents as a harmless, innocuous, shy and retiring intellectual. However, the man who lurks behind that public persona is far more interesting … and dangerous … and driven.

‘Wheelchair’ is a slow-burn contemporary psychological crime thriller about a man who suffers from both OCD and PTSD, a man who is unwittingly caught up in a cross-border war between rival crime gangs—a conflict that almost leads to his death, and more than once.

It’s a study of compulsion and of disability, and of the many faces of emotional dependence and sexual compulsion. It’s about how some men cannot just love or make love because their hearts or their bodies lead them to it, but who can only connect emotionally and physically through self-imposed rituals which involve struggle or self-abasement.

:: Buy Wheelchair : Garrick’s Website ::

Come and chat to me!

As I may have mentioned in passing (SNORT), Taking Stock is out tomorrow. I am dropping in to chat to a few places over the next day or two, so please do come along and say hello!

8.20 to 8.40pm BST (15.20 EST): Bryce Winters’s Wildflowers. Bryce also has a release, today! So I’m popping in there for a bit to chat.

9 to 10pm BST (4pm EST) I’m at the Talking RoMMance with a British Accent group! I’m considering doing a reading. Maybe. If the kids have gone to bed. Perhaps.

Tomorrow the 19th, I’m at QueerRomanceInk from 9pm BST (4pm EST) for an hour for a chat. Sarcasm and prizes!

Plus, I have five copies of Inheritance of Shadows to give away to celebrate! Join up here!

Anne Barwell: Family & Reflection

Today I’d like to showcase Anne Barwell’s re-release, Family and Reflection! It’s a 76k word story, part of The Sleepless City, a shared world with Elizabeth Noble.

When a rebel werewolf and a vampire thief fall in love, only one thing is certain—trouble.

For as long as Lucas Coate can remember, werewolves have been taught to mistrust vampires. Lucas is an exception—he has close friends who are vampires. The werewolf pack in Boggslake—and their leader, Jacob Coate—have made it clear that Lucas’s association with vampires is barely tolerated, and another transgression will be his last. When Lucas finds out about the plague of werewolf deaths in the area, he wants to help even though his own life may already be in danger.

Declan has been away from Boggslake for ten years, but he isn’t surprised to learn that the internal politics of the Supernatural Council haven’t changed for the better. When a series of burglaries hit close to home soon after he arrives, Declan—a vampire and professional thief—is their prime suspect, although for once, he isn’t responsible. With the council keeping secrets, no one is safe. Time is running out, and for Lucas and Declan, everything is about to change.

Authors Note: This story was originally released in 2015 by another publisher. This edition has been re-edited.


Excerpt:

“If someone had told me twenty years ago I’d be having a conversation about something like this with a vampire, I’d have told them they were crazy.”

“You’re having this conversation with a friend,” Declan corrected him. “It doesn’t matter what we are, but who we are.”

“Do you really believe that?”

“I want to.” Declan thought for a moment, wanting the right words. Why was this so difficult? He’d given advice to Jonas and Simon many times without any trouble.

“We’re both as bad as each other, yeah?” Lucas seemed sad.

“Why do you say that, and about what?” Declan let go of Lucas.

“I’m a werewolf, and you’re a vampire—”

“You’ve only noticed that now?” Declan interrupted dryly. He walked back to his chair, adjusting it so he was opposite Lucas and could see his face.

Lucas laughed, but this time it sounded natural, not forced. “I’ve gotten used to living at the castle. I love it here, and the guys are my friends. Most of the time I forget we’re different. They’re family. I don’t care what they are. It’s like you said. The important thing is who they are.” He sobered. “Then crap like this goes down… Why do I suddenly feel as though I’m a part of the pack again and need to follow their stupid rules?”

“You’re a part of whatever family you want to be, Lucas.” Declan knew what he wanted—needed—to say now. “One thing I’ve learned with having a long life is that family is who you choose. I didn’t get on with mine that well. I had a father who had expectations too.” He pulled himself up sharply before he went anywhere near those memories. Very little of what he’d done had pleased his father. “We might be different, you and I, mon ami, but in many ways we’re the same.”

“I kind of get the expectation thing with you guys.” Lucas paused and looked apologetic before continuing. “Simon’s not said much about his past, but I get the impression his father expected him to do stuff he didn’t want to do as well.” He scowled. “Be a good son and carry on the family name and traditions. I’m guessing Forge went through the same thing, but he’s never said anything about it. At least not to me.”

“Why do you get it with us?” Declan figured he already knew the answer but wanted to be certain he and Lucas were talking about the same thing.

“You’re a lot older than I am. I can understand this stuff going on a hundred, or even two—”

“Closer to three hundred,” Declan said.

“Yeah, that. You’re old. No offense.” Lucas waved one hand.

“None taken.” Declan couldn’t help but smile. “I know I’m old. But you know what they say about fine wine?”

“Yeah, and, hey, I’m not complaining.” Lucas took a long drink of coffee. “You interrupted my flow. I was making a point here.”

“Sorry.”

“So you’re old, so I expect that kind of stuff from you guys. It was a long time ago.” Lucas growled low in his throat. “But us… the pack… we… they’re carrying on like we’re still living in that society. I’ve told my father that he needs to move with the times or the pack will be left behind. Sure, they use technology, but for the rest of it, you’d think we’d only just gotten off the Mayflower or something.”

“It takes a long time for some people to accept change.” Declan leaned over and brushed a lock of hair back from Lucas’s forehead. “Some never do.” He’d seen vampires who couldn’t move past what their lives had been like as humans. Most of them hadn’t survived.

“Yeah.” Lucas swallowed. He shook his head when Declan started to move his chair farther back and away from temptation. “I don’t mind you touching me like that,” he said softly.

“I should…” Declan hadn’t thought, just reacted. He’d meant what he’d said about flirting and had no intention of leading Lucas on. “We’re friends,” he said finally.

“I wouldn’t be talking to you about this stuff if we weren’t.” Lucas looked like he was about to say something but cleared his throat instead. “I know you’re kind of touchy-feely and all that. So am I. So—”

A loud knock sounded at the front door.

“Now what?” Lucas muttered.

Boggs materialized in front of them. He looked annoyed. “There are two gentlemen at the door,” he said. “I don’t know who exactly they are, but I heard them talking before they knocked. They’re from the council.”

“I already apologized about that weird stuff in the garbage,” Lucas said.

“Not that council.” Boggs rolled his eyes. “The other one.”

About the Author:

:: Website & Blog—Drops of Ink : Facebook : Facebook Page : Facebook group : Bookbub : Joint Facebook group : Instagram : Twitter : Goodreads : Queeromance Ink Author Page : Sign up for my newsletter ::

Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand.  She shares her home with Kaylee: a cat with “tortitude” who is convinced that the house is run to suit her; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date, it appears as though Kaylee may be winning.

In 2008, Anne completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra.

She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth. She also hosts and reviews for other authors, and writes monthly blog posts for Love Bytes.  She is the co-founder of the New Zealand Rainbow Romance writers, and a member of RWNZ.

Taking Stock: sneak preview

Since it’s not yet available on the wizzy Amazon-viewer thing, I thought you might like a sneak preview of the first chapter of Taking Stock!

Chapter 1: Betrayal

September, 1971

“What?” Phil said. “You thought I wouldn’t mind?” He swallowed roughly. “We’ve been together for over a year, Richard. There’s some expectation of loyalty comes with that. I would have thought.” He looked at the younger man stood in the center of his cream living room carpet. “Or perhaps not.”

Richard didn’t even have the grace to look ashamed. “It wasn’t anything, Phil. You’re being stupid. I sucked him off, that was all.” He didn’t even blush. He looked irritated, if anything. “You’re being very unreasonable.”

“You’ve been living here for nearly twelve months. You didn’t think that the assumption would be of monogamy?”

Richard made a dismissive huffing noise and shrugged. “That’s not how it’s done, Phil my dear. Not these days. You’re delightfully old fashioned in some ways, but you’re being very stick in the mud about this.”

Phil shut his eyes for a moment. “It’s not the first time then?”

Richard waved his hand in a dramatic gesture, the tight sleeve of his orange and brown striped shirt flexing along with it. “Leave it, won’t you. It’s not important.”

“Not important to you? Or not important to me? Because I assure you I think it’s important. It’s very important. Richard.” He swallowed. “I… I’ve come to care for you.”

Richard raised an eyebrow. “My dear Phil. Is this a declaration? How thrilling! Do go on.”

Phil said nothing. Clearly he had been barking up the wrong tree. He shoved his hands deep into the pockets of his trousers and turned away to look out of the inverted arched window at the lake. There were some ducks shagging enthusiastically on the edge of his view. More than what’s going on in here, he thought, dismally. No more shagging for me.

Richard had joined the firm eighteen months ago as a junior in Phil’s department and had quickly made his interest in Phil clear. Oh, he was discreet at work…the rough and tumble of the trading floor wasn’t tolerant of anyone who didn’t follow the public-school rugger-bugger stereotype. He’d made it clear that he was interested in Phil though. Phil’s friend Peter had pointed it out to him first. Phil was usually a bit slow on the uptake.

“You want to watch that one,” he’d said one evening as they were sat, backs to the bar, watching the younger traders horse around at a table on the other side of the room. “He’s trouble. And he likes you.”

Phil looked at him. “He likes me? What do you mean?”

Peter glanced at him. “You know what I mean. He likes you. Didn’t you notice him flirting when he came up to get his round in? You could take him home tonight if you wanted to.” He took a swig of his beer. “Bet he sucks cock like a Hoover,” he said wistfully.

You take him home if you feel like that about him,” Phil said, slightly acerbically. He could never tell when someone was coming on to him.

“Nah mate, I’ve got enough on my hands already.” He nodded toward one of the other young men at the same table. “Hips like a snake. And he knows how to use ‘em.”

Phil blushed. Peter was a lot more open about his partners than he was and always had been, even before the change in the law. Phil was never going to out himself to anyone other than his closest friends.

The next time Richard came up to the bar, Phil returned his smile. “Let me buy you a drink?” he asked.

“Sure,” the younger man replied.

And that was that. A few weeks later he had moved into Phil’s spacious flat in the middle of the city and he’d been here ever since. Apparently using it as a base to bring blokes to suck off on his days off while Phil was at work.

Not good.

“I’d like you to leave,” Phil said, turning back toward him. “Pack a suitcase. You can come back for the rest of your things another day.”

“What?! Are you serious!” Richard’s voice rose in both pitch and volume. “Phil, darling, it really didn’t mean anything! It’s you I want to be with!”

“But I don’t want to be with you. You’ve been lying to me and you’ve been bringing people I don’t know here for sex behind my back. I can’t live like that.”

“I’ll stop! I promise!” Richard’s voice was tearful.

“Rich. Please. Don’t…make this any harder than it is.” Phil turned away again. The ducks were still shagging. It looked like the lady duck was drowning. “Please just go. And leave me your key. You can stay with Peter or someone tonight; you’ve got lots of friends. I just…can’t.” His heart hurt. Richard’s sobbing cut him to the quick.

“You bastard!” Richard spat out. “I didn’t have to move in here with you, you know! It was you who asked me!”

“And now I’m asking you to move out.” Phil folded his arms. He was having trouble holding on to his composure. “I’ll ring Peter now and ask him if you can stay there tonight. He’s got a spare room.”

He moved out to the hallway and picked up the telephone. “You can pack some clothes while I do it.”

And that was that. Just over a year of unwedded bliss destroyed by another man’s underpants left in the bathroom.