Tuesday, October 20, 2015

I Finally Wrote A Book Your Children Can Read.

Minotaur is out now! And you know what Booklist said about it at the end of their review?

YA/Mature Readers:  Teens will relate to Thera’s suspicion, loneliness, and search for identity and restitution as well as the compelling settings, classic young quest theme, and paranormal elements. 

That's right, I wrote a book that is apparently appropriate for young adult readers.

I had a feeling it was, but I didn't want to say anything, because I am terrible at knowing what genres my work fits into. Especially Minotaur, which is a little bit fantasy, a little bit gothic, a tiny bit lesbian romance, and a whole lot of weird. But I've been super excited by the teen response to this book so far, and wanted to provide a little more information about the YA crossover possibilities.

I was asked when I submitted Minotaur if I wanted to put it with Riptide's YA line. We eventually decided against that, largely because it it doesn't have much of a mainstream YA "feel." While the action takes place during the time MC Thera is 16-18, Thera is actually an older narrator looking back on her teenage years. She's also very adamantly not a hero. So if YA readers are looking for a story with characters who are good role models, this is probably not that book.

The story does have some sexual content. It's not graphic the way it is in my romances, but it does go a bit beyond kissing. There's also some sexual imagery in a couple of the book's surreal sequences.

The book also contains violence, but that violence is fairly mild compared to something like The Hunger Games.

While I don't think of Minotaur as YA in the traditional sense, I'm very happy that it's connecting with some younger readers out there. I know I've written a lot of smutty things, but believe it or not, YA was always my dream genre. I would definitely like to write more YA-ish type things in the future.

Minotaur is now available from ​AllRomanceAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo, and Riptide Publishing.

Know this: I am not a warrior. I am a disease.
When I was six, my parents died.
When I was sixteen, I was locked away in Rock Point Girls’ Home. Nobody wants to deal with a liar. An addict. A thief.
Nobody except Alle. She is pure, and she’s my friend in spite of all the rotten things I am. 
There was once another girl like me—long ago. A cast-off daughter. A lying little beast who left a red stain across the land with her terrible magic. She’s imprisoned now in a maze high up on the cliffs. They say she’s half woman, half bull. They say she dines on human tributes and guards a vast treasure. They say she was born wicked.
But I know her better than the history books or stories do. She and I dream together. Our destinies are twisted up like vines.
Except I’m not going to turn out wicked like she is. I can save myself by destroying her. I’m going to break out of this place, and I’m going to enter the labyrinth and take her heart.
And once I’m redeemed, maybe Alle will love me.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Lisa Henry Mortally Wounds Our Friendship but Also Talks DARKER SPACE

Today I’d like to welcome to the blog my most beloved mortal enemy, drinker of wine and teller of tales Lisa Henry. When she told me over a year ago that she was writing a sequel to one of my favorite m/m books, Dark Space, I provided her with a title—Dark Space 2: Legend of the Space Bears—a plot—space bears become legend—and even a cover:

I was like, “You’re welcome, Lisa.” Imagine my shock when months later she gave me Darker Space to beta, and I discovered it was not a space bear free-for-all, but rather a thoughtful, moving exploration of love, loyalty, and fear of the unknown. In short, one of the best romances I’ve read this year.

I was betrayed.

Nonetheless, I have let her visit my blog today to figure out what went so horribly, horribly wrong.

Here is Lisa, Betrayer of Co-Writers and Scorner of Space Bears.

Hi! Welcome to the blog tour to celebrate the release of Lisa Henry’s Darker Space. I’m visiting some of my favourite blogs around the place to talk a bit about writing Darker Space and sharing some of my influences, ideas, and even an excerpt or two! Don’t forget to leave a comment, for your chance to win a prize!

Each comment on this blog tour enters you for a chance to win a $20 Amazon gift card. Entries close October 21, 2015, and contest is not restricted to US residents. Remember to leave your email address in the comments so I know how to reach you!

Today I’m visiting J.A. Rock, and she’s asking a lot of hard-hitting bear-related questions. Let’s dive right in.

1.     Where are the space bears?           

The space bears are still hiding, waiting for their moment, when they will suddenly appear in huge honeycomb-shaped spaceships, and destroy the entire universe. Their first phalanx is made up of trained killer space bees. It will be brutal.

2.     Are space bears not good enough for you?

I know we discussed that space bears make everything better, but I may have been humoring you.

3.     Fine. There are no space bears. So tell us a little about what we will see in Darker Space.

No space bears, it’s true. We’ll see some more of the Faceless, but not much more of their motivation. Creepy aliens remain creepy. We’ll see a few characters recurring from Dark Space, most significantly Cam’s ex-boyfriend, Chris. As you can imagine, Brady is totally adult and gracious about that. Totally.

4.     Oh, of course. Brady is such an awesome narrator for many reasons: His snark, his bravery, his vulnerability...in what ways do you think he’s grown from Dark Space to Darker Space? And what has remained the same about him?

Darker Space was interesting to write because Brady has actually acknowledged that he has some serious issues, and is trying his hardest to change. Of course, it’s not that straight-forward. Brady’s biggest issue is his anger, and that’s something he has to deal with in this book. His first instinct is to lash out, no matter who it hurts. And that has some consequences here. But the biggest challenge was in Brady having to overcome his fear. He makes some huge steps in that direction - possibly not exactly overcoming his fear, but maybe borrowing a page from Cam’s book and letting his fear go, since he can’t control what’s going to happen.

5.     What were some of the challenges you faced writing a sequel?

So many people liked Brady so much that I was worried I would totally screw it up, and ruin all their expectations as well. I mean, I still am worried about that, but also I’ve had wine. So I feel okay.

6.     Are the space bears happening in book three?

I need more wine.

7.    You are a drunk but amicable traitor. Did you find that having such a voice-driven first person narrator made it harder to develop Cam? Or do you find him just as compelling to write, even though he’s filtered through Brady’s POV?

Cam has always been filtered through Brady, but I think in this book our understanding of Cam increases a little because Brady actually matures enough to see shades of grey in people. He’s never been great at nuances -- either you’re on his side or fuck you very much -- whereas Cam has always been less quick to judge people, and to try to think the best of people even when they’re not on his side. Cam also has a tendency to come across as a perfect hero, but I don’t think he’s perfect at all. In Dark Space, Cam is either the perfect unflappable hero who maintains his courage and his dignity in the face of captivity, or he’s a man who has lost all hope and has submitted to the Faceless because there’s no other action he can take. In Darker Space, I think we learn that maybe he’s both.

8.     Part of what makes the Faceless so frightening to Brady and to the reader is a lack of knowledge about them--their thoughts, culture, etc. How much background on the Faceless did you come up with that maybe didn’t even make it onto the page, since we’re always in Brady’s POV?

I have a few ideas as to how the Faceless operate, but I made a decision not to share that, because I think they’re much more terrifying if we just don’t know. I make the comparison a lot that humans are just insects to the Faceless. And there is no level, I’m sure, on which insects can even begin to understand what humans have going on. So I felt it was important to keep the Faceless totally mysterious and alien, and terrifying.

Thank you for being here today, Lisa! I forgive you. Sort of. But only because Darker Space was so good. And because wine has restored my withered heart. 

You can find out more about Darker Space at Loose Id. Or buy from Amazon or ARe.


Lisa likes to tell stories, mostly with hot guys and happily ever afters.
Lisa lives in tropical North Queensland, Australia. She doesn’t know why, because she hates the heat, but she suspects she’s too lazy to move. She spends half her time slaving away as a government minion, and the other half plotting her escape.

She attended university at sixteen, not because she was a child prodigy or anything, but because of a mix-up between international school systems early in life. She studied History and English, neither of them very thoroughly.
She shares her house with too many cats, a green tree frog that swims in the toilet, and as many possums as can break in every night. This is not how she imagined life as a grown-up.

Connect with Lisa: Blog | Twitter | Goodreads
The Tour:

For the chance to win a $20 Amazon gift card, join the tour and leave a comment on any of the wonderful blogs below:

Boy Meets Boy Reviews - October 13
Rainbow Gold Reviews - October 14
Boys In Our Books - October 14
MM Does MM - October 15
J.A. Rock’s blog - October 16
Love Bytes Reviews - October 17
Joyfully Jay - October 17

And for a special extra, and a chance to win an ebook copy of Darker Space, visit Crystal’s Many Reviewers on October 21!

Monday, October 5, 2015

How 'So You Think You Can Dance' influenced THE GRAND BALLAST

The Grand Ballast was originally going to be a short story. I’m terrible at writing short stories, but every now and then I give it a go and realize, "Nope. Still bad at it." I was traveling in New Zealand and I needed something to pass the time on the busses from town to town, so I started imagining a circus. Then I started imagining that circus was pornographic and all the performers were like sideshow freaks who had some kind of bizarre sexual talent. Then I started imagining they were held captive in the circus by a psychotic ringmaster. Because there’s nothing like New Zealand’s friendly people, breathtaking scenery, and affable sheep to make you want to write circus-themed torture porn.

Two years later, I had something very different. A 100,000-word novel that was—I hope—not torture porn, that deals with what I’ve been calling the intersection of love, art, and obsession. And if that’s too pretentious, then it's basically this meets this meets this meets this:

So what changed the direction of this project?

So You Think You Can Dance.

Okay. That’s not the only thing that changed it. But last year, I watched SYTYCD for the first time. I had already decided that Bode, TGB’s protagonist, was going to be a dancer, and that he was going to be one of the few remaining artists in a world that no longer truly valued creativity. Unfortunately, my knowledge of dance was limited.

I played Canada in a “Jesus Loves the Little Children” tap number when I was four. I flail vigorously to 80's music when I’ve had wine. I was forced to take a modern dance class in college in order to earn my theater degree. My only noteworthy accomplishment in that class was to co-invent a move called “the velociraptor,” which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. My siblings and I once endured an interminable production of The Nutcracker the year our parents decided to turn Christmas into a hellscape by forcing us to witness culture.

So I spent years sort of politely ignoring dance as an art form.

Then I saw those people who Think They Can Dance.

And my whole world changed.

It might sound ridiculous, and I know the show is probably rigged, and I know Nigel Lythgoe makes weirdly homophobic comments, but those contestants have so much passion for dance. They seemed as obsessed with dancing as I am with writing, and the dances were awesome, and I got really excited about art and how it makes us passionate and moves us and gets us to think…

I gave a lot of that to Bode, who holds onto his love of dance even as the world around him grows increasingly indifferent. I gave some of it to antagonist Kilroy, because he may be a manipulative fucker who will say anything to get a reaction, but even he can’t deny the power of creativity.

And I hung onto a lot of it myself, in writing the book. I got super passionate about creating a story about people who are passionate about creating.

And who participate in a pornographic circus run by a psychotic ringmaster.

Thank you, So You Think You Can Dance, for making my sex circus take wing. For inspiring my roommate and me to try the lift that nearly killed us both. And for showing me all the storytelling possibilities that exist in dance. I’m probably never going to attend The Nutcracker again. But I respectfully bow to dance as one of the finest fine arts ever. I hope the dancing world will accept "the velociraptor" as my thank you gift.

Is there footage of me velociraptoring in a sparkly
 bellydance costume and Shakira wig? Maybe.

In a future where live sex shows abound to keep a jaded population entertained, dancer Bode Martin falls for the brilliant and unstable Kilroy Ballast, who molds Bode into the star attraction of his erotic circus, the Grand Ballast. Drugged beyond any real feeling, Bode trades freedom and his once considerable pride for an illusion of tenderness—until he inadvertently rescues a young man from a rival show, and together they flee to an eccentric town in the west where love still means something.

Valen’s not an easy man to know, and Bode shed his romantic notions under Kilroy’s brutal employ. Yet their growing bond becomes a strange and dangerous salvation as they attempt to overthrow the shadows of their pasts and wade together through a world of regret, uncertainty, beauty, and terror.

But Kilroy won't let Bode go so easily. Long ago, Bode was responsible for the loss of something Kilroy held dear, and he still owes Kilroy a debt. As the three men battle toward a tangled destiny, Bode must decide if his love for Valen is worth fighting for—or if he was and always will be a pawn in the story Kilroy Ballast will never stop telling.