interview: Lillian Francis

A big welcome to Lillian today, who has come to talk about the re-release of her fantastic story New Lease of Life!

1. Why are you doing this interview?

I have finally got my arse in gear and re-released my old DSP title, New Lease of Life. For those who are wondering it’s more or less the same, just in UK English and with a newly added epilogue. Of course if you already have the book from before I’ll be releasing the epilogue as a freebie chapter on Prolific Works, so no need to rush out and buy a new copy.

2. What started you writing?

I’d been writing on and off since my teens, and loved English at school (lit and language), but I never really finished anything that wasn’t connected to school work. I drifted away from it for a while, but then I watched Torchwood, discovered livejournal and a previously unknown group of people writing fanfic and the rest, as they say, is history. Two years of (mostly AU) fanfic and I was encouraged to write my own stuff by a published author/fanficcer. So that’s what I did.

3. Where do you write?

Mostly at the dining room table if I’m using the laptop. But if I’m writing old style I love being in a park or the garden.

4. What do you like to read?

I grew up on Enid Blyton, Tintin, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, and Willard Price.

Progressed to golden age mysteries, noir, and historical mysteries in my 20s and 30s, and I still enjoy picking those up today.

These days it’s mostly gay romance, but that covers a mass of sub genres. So I can still get my cosy mysteries or thrillers or noir private eyes, just with a gay relationship at its heart.

8.  Tell me a little bit about your most recent release?

New Lease of Life was originally published in 2015 by Dreamspinner Press. Due to their troubles I got the rights back last year. The idea I attribute to chap I would see on my drive into work every day. He had one of those hospital metal crutches but it never seemed to help him, in fact he always looked so uncomfortable. And I wondered what he his story was, and what his life had been like before whatever had happened that left him in his current predicament, and Pip was born.

I think it took about three months to write and I found the vintage fashion stuff really interesting. A lot of Pip’s clothing choices are things I would chose to wear if I had a different body shape and a lot more money!

What did I hate? Fighting DSP to keep every bloody English expression. It was exhausting.

New Lease of Life

Cover art by Paul Richmond

There’s a fine line between independence and isolation.

Phillip used to laugh a lot, back when his friends called him Pip. However the good deed that left him hospitalised not only marred his body, it stripped him of his good humour too. Ever since, he has pushed his friends away and shut out the world. Donating his vintage clothing to a charity shop should have been the final act in a year-long campaign to sever the links with the man Pip used to be, but the stranger on his doorstep awakens feelings in Pip that he hasn’t experienced since the incident that left him angry at the world and reliant on the cold metal of the hideous hospital-issue crutch.

Colby forces his way into Pip’s life, picking at the scab of his past. Colby isn’t interested in Pip’s money or his expensive address. He has only one goal: to make Pip smile again.

With every moment in Pip’s presence, Colby chips away at the walls Pip has built around himself. Pip knows it’s impossible to fight his attraction with Colby’s sunny disposition casting light into the darkness in his soul. 

: Buy : Goodreads : Bookbub :

About Lillian

Lillian Francis is a self-confessed geek who likes nothing more than settling down with a comic or a good book, except maybe writing. Given a notepad, pen, their Kindle, and an infinite supply of chocolate Hobnobs and they can lose themself for weeks. Romance was never their reading matter of choice, so it came as a great surprise to all concerned, including themself, to discover a romance was exactly what they’d written, and not the rollicking spy adventure or cosy murder mystery they always assumed they’d write.

Lillian Francis. Author of gay romance. Happy Endings guaranteed. Eventually.

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interview: Jess Faraday

Jess has subjected herself to my nosy questions today! Morning, Jess! Why have you put yourself at my mercy?

I’m promoting the wide release of my short story collection, Shadow of Justice on March 10. Shadow of Justice is the eight collected Simon Pearce stories, which had previously been available on KU only. Now they’re available in all formats and paperback, from all of your favorite e-tailers.

What started you writing?

My family has a philosophy that nothing is one hundred percent terrible if you can get a good story out of it. I remember so many evenings after dinner with my parents, brothers, cousins, aunts and uncles and grandparents, where we took turns telling stories about funny things that had happened to us, getting up and acting out the stories with different voices and exaggerated movements, laughing until our sides hurt. It was only a matter of time before someone started writing things down. The science fiction author Julian May is a distant cousin, so she got there first. But I guess it’s my job, too.

My first story was a graphic novel about a lonely vampire who liked to pop through the bedroom windows of unsuspecting naked ladies. He was always sad because he would fall in love with them, but was a vampire, so, you know. I was about nine, and I think the naked part kind of startled my parents, but in my mind it was a tragic story of forbidden love more than anything else.

Where do you write?

I usually write at home, either at the standing desk in my office or at the kitchen counter. Sometimes, if it’s cold and dark and nasty in the morning, I will be very naughty and work in my jammies in bed well into midmorning. Sometimes I like to go to the National Museum to write. I was surprised once, last year, when the new Egyptian exhibit featured the mummies upon which I’d based one of the subplots in The Star-Crossed Lovers, Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep, who were interred together and believed to be one of the oldest gay couples in recorded history.

What do you like to read?

That really depends. Under normal circumstances, I love to read historical mysteries. I’m having a bit of a thing with some of the newer gothic romances right now, too. I’ve just burned through Amanda de Wees’s delightful Sybil Ingraham mysteries, and wish there were about 20 more. And I love monster mash-ups that are done half tongue in cheek. I’m currently reading Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula by Loren D. Estleman, and it’s very well done and quite entertaining. If I’m having a stressful time I enjoy a good, schlocky cozy mystery or a well-written romance — any sort of pairing. Love is love and all.

What are the three books you’d take to a desert island? Why would you choose them?

I HAVE TO CHOOSE?????

Writing is an intrinsically solo occupation. Do you belong to any groups or associations, either online or in the ‘real’ world? How does that work for you?

I belong to the Edinburgh Genre Writers, which meets fortnightly to crit members’ work. It’s quite a bit different from the American writing groups I’ve belonged to, where feedback was generally like “This is really, really great, but you might want to think about this little thing right here, but only if you want to, this is only my opinion, just saying.” My current group’s feedback is more like “Right. Here’s an itemized list of everything that’s wrong with this piece, your work in general, and that hideous tie you’re wearing. But don’t give up. We’ve seen worse, now let’s go to the pub.” It was a shock at first, but once I realized it was cultural, I learned to take up the valuable feedback and brush off the sting. We have a few more American members, now, and it’s always interesting to see the difference in how we present feedback, as opposed to our UK colleagues.

I’m also a member of the Crime Writers Association and International Thriller Writers, though I’m not particularly active with them. And I look forward, of course to UK Meet every two years.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing? (What’s your favourite food? Do you have any pets? Do you like to exercise? Netflix? Juggling? Are you learning anything new?)

I run and do taekwondo. I’ve been doing both for a long time, but I started running seriously about a year and a half ago, when I decided to train for a half marathon. I really enjoy those long distances, now, and I try to get out five days a week, weather permitting, which is Scotland, it often is not. I also like to knit and crochet for charity.

Tell me a little bit about your most recent release. What gave you the idea for it? How long did it take to write? What did you enjoy about writing it? What did you hate?

A few years ago, I wrote a novella for Blind Eye Books, The Kissing Gate, which appears in the anthology Blades of Justice. The publisher asked if I wanted to write a short story to give away as a promotional teaser. The Kissing Gate was f/f, but since many of my other books are m/m, the publisher floated the idea of writing a story about Constable Simon Pearce, who appears briefly in The Kissing Gate, with the very briefest of hints about his own personal life. Somehow, during the discussion of the story, it spun itself into eight novelettes with a personal arc that runs throughout them.

What did I like and hate about writing it? Interestingly, the same things. The editor/publisher, Nicole Kimberling, is very hands-on, and would often suggest structural or thematic changes to the stories that sent me back to the drawing board, sometimes more than once per story. I hated that, but at the same time, her suggestions were often really interesting, and took the stories to some really cool places.I can imagine it would be a frustrating way to work for someone who is very precious about their words and their art, but I’m not. I live and work on both sides of the red pen, and I’m most interested in putting out a kick-ass story, so if someone has a suggestion that’s objectively better than what I’ve done, I don’t have any ego about taking that suggestion.

It took literally three times longer to complete the cycle than I’d planned for, but ultimately, I’m really proud of how it all turned out.

Book blurb and buy links!

Buy Shadow of Justice

Constable Simon Pearce doesn’t believe in love. It’s a dangerous proposition for many people in 19th century London, but for an ambitious copper climbing Scotland Yard’s greasy career ladder, it’s out of the question.

He doesn’t believe in monsters, either, though there seem to be a lot of them about. Whether it’s a ghost haunting a London churchyard where men seek men’s companionship, a phantom hound in Edinburgh that’s hell-bent on revenge, or a murdered businessman on a cross-country train who just won’t stay dead — the mysterious has a way of finding Pearce, whether he wants it to or not.

But are these happenings truly supernatural? Or is something worse — something thoroughly human — to blame?

Pearce has his theories — about crime, about monsters, and about love. But life has a way of testing even the most carefully considered ideas. And as he chases mysteries from one end of Britain to the other, he may just have to reconsider his ideas about all three.

Find Jess!

Website : Facebook : Twitter : Goodreads : Instagram

Emily Carrington: Yew & Thorn

Emily is a long-time writer of m/m romance and is visiting today with an interview with Ashley from her upcoming release with Changeling Press, Heartwood 3: Yew and Thorn

Emily Carrington: Hi, Ashley.

A: Actually, it’s Ash, ma’am. That’s my nickname but I want everyone to know I’m using it instead of my legal name. At least until I have to switch back for something like getting a job.

EC: Okay, Ash. Tell me about your nickname.

A: Aidan accidentally gave it to me, but I liked it so much that I claimed it for my own. It seems to fit with my being nonbinary.

EC: Tell us about Aidan.

A: He and Mike are my foster parents. I’m thirteen and they’ve been taking care of me for about eight months now. It’s just turned January 1st here in Pennsylvania. Anyway, Mike and Aidan are great. They’re gay and Aidan knows almost everything about the LGBTQ community. [she giggles] Although he calls it QUILTBAG and hopes everyone will start using this more inclusive, if silly sounding term.

EC: What does it stand for?

A: Queer, Undecided, Intersex, Lesbian, Transgender, Bisexual, Asexual, and Gay.

EC: Neat. It does sound a little funny though. Do you mind if I ask about your white cane?

A: Sure. I’m visually impaired. Not like Aidan, who’s totally blind and can’t see anything, but I don’t’ see much. No movement, few colors, and basically straight ahead of me. I can read 72 point font but that’s about six times bigger than everyone else reads, so I read braille instead.

EC: I’d like to go back to you mentioning that you’re nonbinary. How and when did you realize this?

A: Over the summer with Aidan and Mike. I didn’t feel like a girl or a guy-thing, and I don’t have discomfort with my body being a girl’s, but I like to wear gender neutral clothing. Like T-shirts and jeans that aren’t specifically cut for a girl. If I really start enjoying the new, UU, church Mike and Aidan and I are going to, I might ask to wear a suit or something. But for now, I like it that Aidan says they’ll take me as I am.

EC: Thank you for visiting with us, Ash. Is there anything you’d like to share that I haven’t asked?

A: You didn’t ask why I had to be thirteen before someone would even talk about adopting me.

EC: Mike and Aidan are planning to adopt you?

A: If they can get all the right permissions.

EC: Okay, I’m asking. Why?

A: Aidan says it’s because fate wanted me to be with them. Mike says it’s God. But I think it’s because I just didn’t fit with the other families. I was too scared with them to be myself. Now I can be, and Mike, Aidan, and their adopted daughter, Candice, love me just as I am.

Find Emily online

Website : Facebook : Find Books

Look for Heartwood, Volume One in March 2020 from Changeling Press: , and for Heartwood 3: Yew and Thorn in April 2020.

Today I’m at Valerie Ullmer’s blog, talking about Jones and her trip to England and her thoughts on wearing petticoats!

Sarah Remy – writing gender diverse characters

Thank you so much to Sarah for this piece on writing gender diverse characters (and for being so kind about my own work!)

I love adventure stories (especially adventure stories including ferocious tigers). I love creepy paranormal mysteries. I love romance (especially queer romance). And I love, big, sloppy, loyal dogs.

A.L. Lester’s THE FLOWERS OF TIME has each of these things, which made me a Very Happy Reader. ™ But if you sat me down and said, “Sarah, tell us your most favorite thing about this, the third book in Lester’s LOST IN TIME series?” I would reply, without hesitation, “Jones.”

Jones. The non-binary, dog loving, code-breaking, magic-wielding, one-half of our romantic pair. (The other half being Edie, whom I adored as well, especially for her* stubbornness and petticoats). But. JONES. Jones made me laugh, and Jones made me cry. Because I am a non-binary person, and in Jones’ fear that she might somehow be broken, in Jones’ sometimes unrecognition of her face in a mirror, in Jones’ distress over her menstruation and lack of ‘male parts’—

Well. In Jones I saw myself. And for that I’m grateful.

Although publishing is finally beginning to catch up and catch on, finding well-written stories with well-written gender diverse characters can still be difficult. Many of my favorites I have discovered through word of mouth, rather than Big 5 marketing. This may be because I am super picky about how I connect with gender diverse characters, or it may be because there is still a tendency to rely on tropes when writing about a character whose gender identity lies outside the ‘cultural norm’.

I’m not saying that tropes can’t be fun. Nor am I implying that I haven’t fallen into the trope trap myself. As a fantasy author, I’ve written my share of non-binary faeries.

What I am saying is: let’s hold Jones up as an example and try to do better.

“But Sarah,” you may argue, “writing gender diversity can be hard, and frightening. Even as a gender diverse author. Everyone has a different experience. What if I do it wrong?”

We all get it wrong occasionally (see non-binary faeries) but if we’re too afraid to dip a toe then certainly we’ll never get it right. So, here are three helpful tips to keep in mind going forward:

  1. Your character’s gender diversity is 100 percent NOT their defining characteristic. Take Jones. She’s an extremely well-rounded and believable character with passions and fears that have absolutely nothing to do with being non-binary. Which is fantastic. Because so do I!
  2. Gender identity, gender expression, sexuality and physical sex are different things. I didn’t write Jones, so I don’t know all her secrets, so here I’ll use an example from my latest book, EARNEST INK. Hemingway, my MC, is trans masc. He thinks of himself as male (gender identity) he prefers to present himself as male (gender expression) and he’s sexually attracted to any gender (pansexual). He hasn’t yet opted for gender confirming surgery, he is on T, and if you asked him about his physical sex he’d probably punch you in the face because: rude. As a writer, knowing a character’s gender identity, gender expression, sexuality, and physical sex helps to make for more believable, well-rounded character motivation.
  3. Talk to gender diverse people. Educate yourself about experience. Lean on your gender diverse friends and your sensitivity readers. But do so politely. A good example: “Hey, Sarah, I’m writing a non-binary character, but as a gay cis male with zero non-binary experience, I have questions. You seem to be pretty open about discussing your gender. Would you mind weighing in?” Sure thing. Thanks for asking so nicely. Hit me up any time.

*In 1782 there were no they/them pronoun options, so I will refer to Jones as she does herself.

Sarah Remy/Alex Hall is a nonbinary, animal-loving, proud gamer Geek. Their work can be found in a variety of cool places, including HarperVoyager, EDGE and NineStar Press. 

Find Earnest Ink on Goodreads : Buy on Amazon : Sarah/Alex’s website

Today I am at Xtreme Delusions, talking about Jones and Edie’s trip over the mountains.

Daniel Aegan – An Ode to Magic & Time

Daniel is the author of Blood Drive, Lost Women of the Admiral Inn, and Kai the Swordsman: The Imprisoned King.

Systems. They’re everywhere. That’s a broad word for an even broader spectrum. Everything is part of its own system and many others seen or unseen. From microsystems to solar systems and beyond.

That opening sounded like something you’d here while waiting for a ride at Disney World to start, but not one of the good ones. I’m talking about one of the rides the parents insist on going because the line is short and it has air conditioning.

But I’m not here to bore you with science talk. I’m here to enrich your mind with my knowledge or fantasy and sci-fi system building. This isn’t “world building”, which is a term any speculative fiction writer should know before they start. I’m not talking about creating my universe and inhabiting it. I’m talking about the systems that go into that universe.

If you don’t specify, your reader will mostly fall back on their baser instincts of what happens in a world. Gravity is something we take for granted. You may not know how it works, but you know if you throw a brick in the air you need to move before it comes down and bashes into your skull. You may not know how electricity works either, but you know if someone flips a switch the lights will go on.

Working in a system that doesn’t exist in the real world is something we, as writers, enjoy. I mean we really enjoy it. For your approval: I give you magic. Let’s say you have your world, and you want it to be a fantastical one full of unicorns and dragons and mystic hippies . Aside from that, you want to have a system of magical laws in places just beneath the surface. Your characters need to spin spells or use enchanted relics. Is it a free-for-all of magical nonsense, or is there a structure to which said spells and enchantments must adhere?

There’s a law. There always is. There are formulas to prove why gravity pummeled your head with that brick. There are equations and laws that can prove why the lightbulb above your toilet goes on when you reach over and flip the switch. In your magical world, there should be laws that can be proven why it’s there.

But here’s where things get tricky. Tell me why, and I’ll yawn. Give me a  page or more of info-dumping, and I’ll start fiddling with my phone. I took all those classes about how electricity works, and it’s so boring it took two years before I could get a minor degree. I don’t want to be told about how your magic works. I want to be shown. Subtly.

The same goes for the sci-fi realm of this discussion. Time Travel is a big one for me. I love it. I love everything about it. I love wondering what would happen if I went back in time and undid my own birth. What would happen if I gave Hitler a wedgie during an important speech? What subtle change can I make in the past that would result in me having a billion dollars today?

Time travel, like magic, needs rules and laws. There have been countless books, TV shows, and movies dedicated to this. Everyone has its own science and laws. I’ve explored this on a multitude of occasions, and I have a short story planned to get into this again with a new sci-fi theory I’ve concocted. There are a few of them, so hold on.

For starters, if time travel ever became a reality, we’d know it. We’d know it because someone would have come back by now. With that theory, time travel doesn’t nor will ever exist. The only exception would be if the time travelers in question were sworn to secrecy like time ninjas. If you changed the past, would your memories change when you got back to the future, your present? Would you have to write down what you changed really fast before the timestream caught up with you and erased the memories of the events you changed?

Another theory I’ve worked with is that we can never know if time travel ever happened. If it has, this timestream was the one that was changed, and we’re living in the one and only affected reality. Same thing goes for the time paradox that ends up in a lot of writing. If a paradox is ever created that erases all of space and time, then I wouldn’t be able to type this. I would have never existed. None of us would have! A paradox cannot happen, making it a paradox within itself!

Wait a second… “A paradox within itself?” 

Whatever. The point I’m trying to make is there are laws and consequences you must map out before you dive into travelling through time. Think about your favorite time travel movie or series. Whether it’s Back to the Future, Quantum Leap, Time Cop, The Time Machine, Avengers: Endgame, Mr. Peabody and Sherman, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, etcetera. The common thread in all of those is that they have rules that govern what they can or can’t do when travelling through time. When you create your own world around time travel, make sure you have a set of rules and laws in mind. Even if you don’t spell them out in an infodump (which I prefer you don’t), make sure your characters adhere to them at all times.

Magic and time travel systems are similar, though completely different. Some may even say science is just fancy magic. I wouldn’t say that, but I know some characters who would. Then again, one could argue either practice is just a manipulation of energies through separate means. We can even time travel by magic if the magical system in your world allows it.

I’m a modest guy. I always tout myself as such to anyone who’s willing to listen. I love writing, but I’m an engineer by training and trade. If you can put yourself into that mindset, you can create systems that can bring your world into a whole new life. I’m not saying you have to put yourself through engineering training like I did, even though I didn’t do it for the writing benefits. Just keep the basics in mind when you’re setting up the systems in your world.

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. What comes up must come down. Like charges repel while opposite charges attract.

You can make up your own for your world.

When you open a portal through time it’ll stay open until the timestream rights itself. Multiple dimensions do exist, but only one of you can exist in any given dimension at a time. A paradox in time can be reversed with another paradox of equal paradoxical magnitude.

Don’t steal those. Make your own and have fun with it. I’ll leave you with a quote from Ray Samson from an upcoming book I’m final-drafting called I’m in Sci-Fi Hell: “Anyone with a third-grade education knows that science and magic don’t mix.”

Thank you for your time.

Biography

Daniel Aegan lives in New Haven, CT with his family. He started writing at a young age and gave it up, only to start again fifteen years later. Comedy, horror, and dark fantasy are just some of his preferred genres, and he’s not opposed to mixing or mashing them. Other than writing, Daniel enjoys reading tarot for himself or his friends. He’s a supporter of the indie writing community of which he’s a part as well as all LGBT+ people and authors.

Daniel’s published works include Blood Drive, Lost Women of the Admiral Inn, and Kai the Swordsman: The Imprisoned King. There are more books on their way as the pile of drafts gets sorted and whittled. While not writing or drafting, you can often find Daniel Aegan embarrassing himself in public.

Website : Twitter : Amazon : Goodreads

Kai the Swordsman: The Imprisoned King:

It’s a fairy tale etched in blood; a pitch-black fantasy. The secrets of one man’s past reverberate in the present, and those secrets have the power to topple a complacent empire.

The village of Umi no Mura knows nothing but peace. They’re far from the capitol of the empire, far from crime and poverty. They fend for themselves, fishing and farming for what they need. They have only one protector: an exiled swordsman named Kai.

The swordsman has a past he cannot escape. His dreams are haunted by blood and demons, and his waking world is haunted by the sins he committed in the name of his Emperor. Umi no Mura has its secrets, and Kai can’t help but feel they’re somehow tied to his checkered past.

Deep in the heart of the empire sits Emperor Aki-Jin, who is more obsesses with immortality than he is with his people. He was once a friend of Kai in his childhood, but that friendship led them down a path that ended in blood and wrath. He kept his old friend alive, making his sword grow rusty as the protector of a village that needs no protecting.

The atrocities of Emperor Aki-Jin reflect in the waves of the ocean. The swordsman Kai who would die to protect has an impossible choice ahead of him as Umi no Mura faces the harshest of days. Does Kai turn to the Aki-Jin and doom them to another threat, or does he rescue them and make them enemies of their own emperor? What clues in Kai’s past can help him in his present dilemma? What chaos will be inflicted if past and present enemies collide with a lone swordsman in the middle of it all?

Kai the Swordsman: The Imprisoned King is Daniel Aegan’s third book and his first foray into creating a world of dark fantasy. Follow him into the Empire of Hojite, a land ruled by magic and dark forces; a place where swordsman and shinobi fight in the forest; a realm where one man’s sacrifice and toil can save the lives of all.

Buy Kai!

Today, I’m over at Mirrigold’s Musings, with an excerpt from The Flowers of Time.