Friday, October 25, 2013

About That Super Secret Special Holiday Project…

I guess -- before anyone gets too carried away by possibilities -- I’d better pull the sheet off and show you what lies beneath. Some of you will love this idea. Some of you will hate it. A number will think I’m crazy. And one or two people will throw a fit because it’s print only. 

Yes, it is going to be print only because it is not feasible, with the technology I currently possess, for this to be an ebook. Sorry. I’m not saying we won’t get there one day, but for now. Print only.

And what is this crazy print only endeavor I’m cooking up? It’s called Stranger Things Have Happened, and…well, it’s an Adrien English gamebook. As  in a Choose Your Own  Adventure novel. Only we call it a Write Your Own Damn Story novel.  

The gamebook is based on Fatal Shadows. It does not in any way tamper with the end of the series OR even the end of Fatal Shadows -- unless you choose for it to do so. If you want to follow the pre-existing plot for Fatal Shadows, it shall be so. But if you wonder what might have happened had Adrien skipped lunch at Claude’s and been in Cloak and Dagger when it was ransacked…well, you can choose that storyline. OR what if Adrien had decided to go sleuthing at the Ball and Chain leather club that Riordan frequented? You can choose that storyline. Or maybe you wonder what would have happened if a pirate ship had suddenly appeared on the horizon? Yes, there is that storyline too. 

Now as in any CYOA story, these are just brief explorations of possibilities, but I think you’ll find them as amusing as I do writing them.

I'm hoping to have it available for order in time for Christmas. Buuuut things are starting to get pretty chaotic at Chez Lanyon (and we haven't even made it through Thanksgiving yet). So...mid to late December is probably the reality.

Here’s a taste:


Cops before breakfast. Before coffee even. As if Mondays aren’t bad enough.


After last night it’s not a total surprise.

            Oh, but first things first. You are a thirty-two-year-old Los Angeles bookstore owner. You’re reasonably successful despite the fact that these are hard times for indie bookstores, and you recently sold your first novel Murder Will Out to a small press. That’s about it for your professional life. Your personal life…well, you don’t have a personal life, let’s face it.

            Your college sweetheart walked out years ago because you’ve got a bum ticker and he didn’t want to take a chance on getting saddled with, well, you. Not that he didn’t love you and everything.

            Did I mention you are gay?


            Cops. Standing outside Cloak and Dagger Books at this very second—crowding the welcome mat and leaning on the buzzer.

            For God’s sake. It’s not even seven in the morning. Whatever this is, it’s not good news.

You stumble downstairs, unlock the glass front doors, shove back the ornate security gate and let them in: two plainclothes detectives.

They identify themselves with a show of badges. Detective Chan is older, paunchy, a little rumpled, smelling of Old Spice and cigarettes as he brushes by you. The other one, Detective Riordan, is big and blond, with a neo-Nazi haircut and tawny eyes. Your gut clenches as you meet those cold, light eyes. Call it instinct. Call it premonition.

            “I’m afraid we have some bad news for you, Mr. English,” Detective Chan says.

     You already know what he’s going to say. His face—that professionally neutral expression—is a giveaway. You don’t risk another look at Riordan. He makes you nervous though you’re not normally the nervous type. You head for your office in the back of the bookstore, and you keep walking as Chan finishes, “…concerning an employee of yours. A Mr. Robert Hersey.”

            The cops tell you that Robert, who in addition to being your employee is your oldest—and once closest—friend, has been stabbed to death in the alley behind his West Hollywood apartment.

            That’s the bad news. There is no good news. They start asking you questions about your relationship with Robert. You stick to the bare facts as much as possible and volunteer no information. You’ve been selling mystery novels long enough to know that much.

“Were you lovers?” Chan glances at Riordan. Riordan must be the guy in charge.


“But you are homosexual?” Riordan never blinks, his gaze never veers.

“I’m gay. What of it?”

“And Hersey was homosexual?” In a minute they’re going to bring up the argument at the Blue Parrot. You consider refusing to answer any more questions without your lawyer present. But that’s liable to look guilty, right? That’s what the cops on TV always say.

You keep fencing and they keep probing, trying to find the weak spot in your defense, and then finally—FINALLY—they leave, promising to keep in touch. That’s copspeak for you’re not fooling anyone, English. Before he walks out the door, that asshole Riordan picks up an empty Tab can and throws it in the wrong trash bin. Well, when you own the entire fucking planet, you don’t need to worry about recycling.






If you decide to immediately call your lawyer, turn to page 10

If you decide a shower and some coffee would be a good idea, turn to page 14




What do you think? Even the simplest decisions might now change the fates of Adrien English and Jake Riordan. YOU DECIDE. 

And just to add to the fun and festivities, the wonderfully talented Catherine Dair is supplying art for the cover AND a few illustrations. Here’s a peek at the gorgeous cover panel.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Sneak Peek - KICK START: Dangerous Ground 5

Here's a little (completely unedited) peek at the opening chapter of Kick Start, which should be coming your way probably 1st week of November.

One minute everything was fine. The next minute the job was going south. Fast.

The limousine with Dragomirov hurtled down the mouth of the alley where Taylor waited. Not unprepared -- Taylor was never unprepared -- but unsuspecting. Taylor would be occupied watching for threats to Dragomirov. It would not occur to him that Dragomirov was now a threat to him.

So Will reacted, he responded to the threat to Taylor. That’s what partners did, right? Even as Will dropped down onto the top of the limousine, he was mentally justifying his decision to Taylor -- justifying it because before he ever hit the roof, he knew he had made a mistake.

Problem Number One: There was nothing to hang onto. Had the car windows been rolled down…maybe. But the windows were not rolled down, and Will began to slide. The instant the limo braked or turned the corner, he was going to go flying -- at thirty-plus  miles an hour. Problem Number Two: Problem Number One was moot, because even if Will didn’t go flying, which he would do any minute now, he had no way of stopping the vehicle. And Problem Number Three: If he did survive, MacAllister was going to kill him.

The rush of garbage scented air blasted against his face, blurring his vision. The alley was nicer than some alleys in Los Angeles, meaning there were no bums to run over. Orange and green and purple graffiti bled into a long smear of chain link fence topped by coils of barbed wire, old brick walls and metal roll up doors. A couple of phone poles with sagging lines flew by, interspersed with several dumpsters. The alley opening -- and the busy cross street beyond -- was coming up fast. With only seconds to spare, Will wrapped his arms around his head, and rolled, launching himself at a fast-approaching blue dumpster.

He missed.

There was a sickening moment of flying through thin -- very thin -- air, and then he crash-landed on a mountain of cardboard boxes and black and white garbage bags.

It wasn’t like the movies. Will landed hard and heavily, the bags giving way, the boxes not so much. It hurt. It hurt a lot. But without the boxes and bags, he’d probably have been killed. He reflected on that for a stunned second or two while he listened to the screech of tires fading into the distance, the pound of approaching footsteps.

Brandt?” Taylor splashed through a puddle and skidded to a stop. He sounded winded, though the entire alleyway was only a block long. “Will?”

Will opened his eyes as Taylor bent over him. Taylor’s eyes were black in his white face, his jaw set. Ready for the worst.

“Right here,” Will said.

Life came back to Taylor’s face. “Oh, you bastard. Don’t do that to me!” He expelled a long, shaken breath, and began to check Will over with a swift, anxious hands. “What the hell was that supposed to be?”

Will gave a weak laugh and raised his head. “Everything still attached?”

“Shut up. Don’t move.”

“I’m fine.” Will waved him off. “I’m fine! Oww!” Yeah, fine was possibly overstating the situation. But he was alive and, miraculously, he seemed to be in one piece. One black and blue piece, probably. “Shit.” Painfully, he crawled out of the nest of garbage. Taylor moved to help him, removing a shoebox that had gotten stuck on Will’s elbow. Will climbed -- and it did feel like a climb -- to his feet.

“Jesus Christ, Brandt. You want to explain to me what you thought you were doing?” Taylor, sounding much more like his normal ornery self, punched him in the shoulder, and Will toppled back into the trash bags.

“Goddamn it,” Will said slowly and with feeling.

“Sorry,” Taylor muttered, hauling him out of the garbage bags once more. He brushed eggshells off Will’s shoulder. “Sorry. But what just happened? Explain to me. What the hell did you think you were doing?”

Will shook his head.

“Dragomirov tears out of here like a bat out of hell. With you on the roof of his car. His asshole driver nearly runs me over --”

“We’ve been laid off.”


“Fired. Without the severance package, I’m guessing.” Will brushed orange peelings and what looked like -- and pray to God was -- raspberry jelly from the front of his leather jacket. The seat of his levis felt soaked with something he hoped wasn’t toxic. Or caustic.

Taylor looked stunned. “What are you talking about? After ten days? What the hell happened?”

It was a fair question. Will was trying to figure that one out himself. “Gretchen Hart is what happened.”


“Gretchen Hart. New Mexico. Two years ago?” Will prodded. “You remember Victor and Victoria?”

Taylor blinked. “Yeah, but…are you telling me…? What are you telling me?”

“Gretchen Hart apparently now works for Glukhov. She walked into that meeting, recognized me, and gave Dragomirov her version of what happened in New Mexico.”

“Which was what?”

“Pretty close to the truth,” Will admitted.

Taylor opened his mouth but couldn’t seem to find the words. Will knew the feeling. He said wearily, “As predicted, Dragomirov doesn’t like feds. A lot. Even ex-feds. So we’re off the case. I guess he thought we were trying to set him up in some kind of sting operation.”

“What sting? We’re doing low level security work. Mall cops could have handled this gig.”

“I never said Dragomirov was a genius.”

Taylor was silent. Then he said, “How the hell would that bitch recognize you?”

Will shook his head.

Taylor’s face screwed up in anger. “Fuck!” He turned and kicked a white and blue mostly deflated child’s ball that had rolled out of the pile of trash bags. The ball shot to the left, bounced off a green brick wall and landed on the pitted pavement with a flat, angry smack.

Will said nothing. What could he say? Taylor had not wanted to take this job in the first place. But they had needed the money and Will had talked him into it. End result: they had put in ten days working a bodyguard detail for a guy who, though maybe not a crook, was certainly a scumball -- and they would not be getting paid for the privilege.

He opened his mouth to apologize, but no. He was already on defense over the Paris thing; not smart to further weaken his position. Anyway, he wasn’t going to apologize for being a realist. They were not in a position to pick and choose clients. How was he supposed to have known their arch nemesis would show up? He hadn’t realized they had an arch nemesis until he’d watched Gretchen Hart freeze in recognition and then morph into the Borg Queen’s.

Taylor turned back to face him, fists planted on his narrow hips, eyes glinting the same shade as a Mojave Green. “Fuckin’ A. What now?”

“Find a new client, I guess. Shower. Sleep.” They were short on sleep these days. It wasn’t helping.

Taylor bit back whatever he started to say. This unusual restraint was almost worse than hearing him voice his feelings.

“Look,” Will said. “I couldn’t predict this. Nobody could predict this. We’re independent contractors now, and sometimes things are going to go wrong.”

“Does that mean sometimes they’re going to go right?” Taylor inquired. “Because so far…not so much.”

Now it was Will’s turn to hold his tongue. He said shortly, “We’re done here, let’s grab our gear and get the hell out of Dodge.”

Friday, October 11, 2013

Anatomy of a Writing Career - Quarter 1

Licensed Photo by Digital Storm
One of the things I hear again and again from new (and even seasoned) writers in our genre is the inability to gauge where you are versus where everyone else is on their career path. What is normal? What is successful? When should you worry? When should you celebrate? Can you ever slow down and take a breath?

Anyway, lots of confusion, lots of competition, but not a lot of concrete information to compare your own experiences with. So I thought it might be both fun and interesting to track the steps of a completely new M/M author for one year.

I chose S.C. Wynne as my guinea pig. You may have heard of her. Probably not. And that's really the point. S.C. is funny, smart and talented. She is disciplined and driven to succeed. Are those things enough? Well, we shall see over the coming months.

For our first interview with S.C. we're just going to set our baseline, as it were. Ask a few basic questions and get some advice from readers and authors alike that S.C. can put into practice -- or not. And then we can view the results. By next quarter we should even have some actual sales figures.

So here we go!

S.C. Wynne started writing m/m in 2013 and did look back once. She wanted to say that because it seems everyone’s bio says they never looked back and, well, S.C. Wynne is all about the joke. She loves writing m/m and her characters are usually a little jaded, funny and ultimately redeemed through love.

S.C loves red wine, margaritas and 7 and 7s. Yes, apparently S.C. Wynne is incredibly thirsty. S.C. Wynne loves the rain and should really live in Seattle, but instead has landed in sunny, sunny, unbelievably sunny California. Writing is the best profession she could have chosen because S.C. is a little bit of a control freak. To sit in her pajamas all day and pound the keys of her laptop controlling the every thought and emotion of the characters she invents is a dream come true.

If you’d like to contact S.C. Wynne she is amusing herself on Facebook at all hours of the day. She is blogging here. Her website is under construction here.




1 - If you had to describe the type of M/M stories you write in just a few words -- such as in an author tagline -- what would you say? 

Humorous, romantic and light hearted but with a healthy serving of sizzling sex per book.  

2 - Where are you right now in your writing career? Are you writing full-time? How many books are you contracted for (titles and publishers)?

 I’m just beginning. I was fortunate enough to sell the very first m/m story I wrote to Loose Id but I have so much to learn it’s daunting. Writing isn’t just sitting and making up stories. There’s so much more to it and that’s where the challenge is for me. I’m truly the cliché of the writer who lives in her pj’s and doesn’t brush her hair all day. I do brush my teeth religiously for the record. But the promotion side of it is where I struggle. There are so many avenues to promote yourself now it’s sometimes hard to navigate which ones are useful and which ones are a waste of energy and time.

No I am not writing full time. Yet.

 I have two novellas contracted with Loose Id Hard-Ass Is Here coming out October 15, 2013 and Hard-Ass Christmas tentatively slated for December 17, 2013. I also have a short story I sold to Evernight Publishing which is just a little Christmas story called Christmas Crush. 

3 - What are you doing now to prepare for the launch of your first book?

 Taking valium with my Cheerios every morning. No I’m kidding. But I would be lying if I didn’t admit I’m terrified of the unknown. I’ve got my website started, a blog at going and I try to be active on Facebook and Twitter.  

4 - Do you have any idea of what to expect following publication of your first book? What do you hope for? What do you fear?

I have no idea what to expect. I assume it being my first book nothing much will happen. I think I’ll be invisible until people know who the heck S.C. Wynne is. But soon I shall rule the world—oh sorry that’s my other alter ego.

Naturally I hope to have good sales and not be humiliated. If only my mother and neighbors my mother threatens buy my book it could be awkward.

I fear I will not sell any books and or people will be mean to me and say my stories are bad. Is that childish? Well you did ask what I fear and that’s me being serious for once. That was a strain, I feel drained. 

5 - How many hours a day are you able to write? How much time do you currently put into promotion?

I own a business and I work thirteen hour days five days a week. But when it’s slow at work I do write. On my days off if I have edits or a submission deadline I write from the time I get up until around ten o’clock at night. If I have no deadlines to meet I still spend at least three fourths of my days off writing. Fortunately I love writing so it is enjoyable to immerse myself in these stories. This is going to sound corny, but I look forward each day to spending time with these people I’ve created. (Now I sound like I have a God complex.)

 6 - Do you use a Critique Group?

I do. They have been a huge help to me. I can ask them newbie questions and they answer them patiently. They’ve been amazing.

 7 - What do you most enjoy about writing?

Getting to create anything I want. Any story that comes out of this brain can potentially become a book. That’s incredibly fulfilling creatively.

8 - What is the hardest part about writing?

Edits. They are so painful sometimes. Having someone come in and change what you’ve put your heart and soul into is difficult to accept. Thank God you don’t sit next to your editor to do the edits. Can you imagine? There would be screaming and hair pulling, maybe even a black eye or two. To be honest that happens when I’m alone going over my edits.

 9 - What are you working on right now?

I’ve got so many stories going right now it’s stupid really. I have a Cowboy Barista story, a Bodyguard story, a Doctor and a Cop story, one about a guy who loses his partner and learns to love again kind of thing… Oh and I’m about to start a vampire story. I’ve been watching anime and I’m in love with Luka from Uraboku. I must have him.

 10 - Describe where you think you'll be by the time we check in again next quarter?

Hopefully holding a big nice royalty check. They pay quarterly right?
In all seriousness I’m hoping I’ll feel more at peace with what this is all about. I’m so new that the process is intimidating. I’m torn between wanting to look like I know what I’m doing, and not actually knowing what I’m doing. So when we meet again next quarter I hope I’ll be able to look back (for real this time) and be proud of what I’ve accomplished so far.

So readers, any advice for a very new writer just dipping her toes in social media and promotion? Authors, any words of hard won experience for a wet-behind-the-ears rookie?


Friday, October 4, 2013

Alexander J. Masters on the I SPY SOMETHING series

Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you get started in narrating/producing audio books? How many audio books have you narrated?

I was active in theater when I was very young and was performing on stage until I was about 18, at which point I became more interested in the written word and its potential for being the most raw and concept-based artistic expression. As a result, I received my degree in literature with the intent to write fiction. While at university, I met my now wife, who is Croatian, and upon graduating, moved to Zagreb to live with her. Now, Croatia has about a 30% domestic unemployment rate, so the odds of finding work as a foreigner are not favorable. This led me to start looking into online freelancing opportunities. I began picking up jobs as an editor and applied to a few voice-acting gigs because of my earlier interest in theater. After a time, I discovered that not only was I getting more jobs as a voice-actor, but the pay was significantly higher. I started with advertisements and English learning programs, and even voiced a few video game characters, but because of my love for literature, I was mostly looking for work with more narrative substance. At this point, I’ve been working in the field for about two years and have produced eight audiobooks.


How much acting is involved in narrating a story?

 Quite a lot, actually. I think listeners can always tell the difference between a narrator who is performing a cold read (has never seen or read over the text before the recording) and a narrator who has read the text at least once, analyzed and developed the characters, and rehearsed the lines thoroughly before entering the recording process. Characterization is particularly important when the story is told through a first-person perspective, as with The I Spy Stories, because the narrative is driven almost solely though the thoughts and opinions of the protagonist, so if the narrator does not fully understand—and to some extent identify with the motivations, desires, and flaws of protagonist, the result can be unnatural, which, considering the narrator’s job is to breathe life into the characters s/he portrays, could potentially compromise the believability of the story as a whole.

 You narrated all three of the I Spy stories. Mark is probably one of my most cold-blooded and ruthless characters. You did a wonderful job of humanizing him. What feelings or emotions were you focused on conveying with your voice? Did you consciously change his voice as the stories progressed?


First of all, thank you very much! Mark is a fascinating character: I’m not sure I would go so far as to say that I would consider him cold-blood necessarily, but it is certainly one of the facades that he has come to assume as a result of his profession’s perspective on the expendability of human life. He is incredibly disillusioned because of this perspective, though in many ways has a greater understanding of people’s motivations. This level of experience in the human condition leads him to be constantly disappointed when his expectations of people do not match the reality. On the other hand, he is quite often correct in his assessments of people, which over time has given him a bit of a superiority complex.

As the narrative opens, Mark is essentially a broken man: isolated and alone, exhausted and both mentally and physically wounded from his last mission. The last time he had any warmth or joy in his life was when he was with Steven, who, he rightly assumes, has moved on. He has to physically remove himself from the situation that is causing him to act cold-bloodedly before he can regain his humanity, which means turning back to that point at which his warmth and joy was derived, Steven. He does so only to find that, on the surface, Steven no longer wants to fulfill this role for him, though even so, Mark’s hopefulness does not altogether falter.

As the love between them begins to spark back up again, we see Mark coming out of his damaged state and gradually he becomes more and more alive. At this point, we realize that Mark is not ruthless at all, but rather a consummate romantic and optimist who had lost his love and thus, his human side. As he begins to put himself back together with the aid of Steven, he becomes more confident and realized. My goal with Mark was to covey this transition from broken and despondent to fulfilled and content.


What character was the most fun to narrate? Why?

Mark, no contest. His observations and comments are priceless and filled with wit and poignancy. He is the most complicated and flawed character in the stories, and because of this, the most fun to narrate.


Which character was the most difficult to narrate? Why?

It’s a toss-up between Anoushesh and Lena. To begin with, I’m never truly satisfied with my portrayal of female characters, and add to that cultural distinctions and foreign accents, and the product is about ten different takes on every line they say until the result is something that I can live with.


Was there a particular scene you think you read especially well? Or that you particularly enjoyed reading?

My favorite parts were when Mark was either getting in someone’s face or responding to someone’s stupidity. The party scene from I Spy Something Christmas was the most fun because I really got to play with the characters of the guests until I got them stereotyped and boring enough for the purposes of the story. I think my favorite line was when an old codger at the party says to Mark, “So Steven tells us you used to be a civil servant…in my day, that was code for spook,” and Mark responds without missing a beat, “Really? In my day it was code for civil servant.” Brilliant.


Readers have remarked on how beautifully you read the moments of intimacy between the characters. How awkward is it to read erotic scenes aloud?

Now, bearing in mind that when I’m reading these erotic scenes, I’m sitting alone in a small, dimly lit, padded room, essentially having sex with myself, it’s actually not as awkward as one might think. You do your best to set the mood for yourself—maybe light a few candles and have a glass of wine, and then you just get right into it. All of these things considered (or not, if you don’t want that spectacular mental image), the only thing that’s actually difficult or slightly awkward is the amount of takes and re-takes it requires to get a realistic and natural-sounding moan.


What’s the most satisfying or rewarding part of narrating/producing an audio book?

As trite as it may sound, the most satisfying part is when the project is drawing to a close and all of the various parts are coming into a sort of cohesion. As far as rewarding, it’s really a great feeling to look at the number of sales on a project and see the ratings and reviews left by people who enjoyed it.


Do you ever find yourself wishing the author hadn’t taken the story in a particular direction? Or is narrating a much more detached process?

While it can be difficult to stay detached when you are invested in a story for a greater amount of time, I do try not to impugn the judgment of the author. That being said, it’s only natural as a reader to imagine alternate directions that the author could have taken, but I don’t think I ever explicitly ‘wish’ they had taken the story in a different direction.


Where can readers/listeners find out more about you and your work?

As of now, my resume is still fairly short and I’ve not done much as far as self-promotion. A few of my other projects can be found on Audible, though for the most part, my work is featured on my clients’ individual websites. I do, however, have a working profile and portfolio with some of my other projects here: