Guest Author Lane Hayes – Better Than Good

I love romance.  I always have.  Before the advent of Amazon, Goodreads, and electronic readers I would make sure to have a supply of at least ten books (the number is actually higher, but I’ll leave it at ten) on hand at any given time.  And I traveled that way too.  A good portion of my suitcase was for paperbacks.  Thank God for my Kindle!  I can pack lightly and have fifty plus books with me all the time!  My husband must have noticed that some of his clothing was being left out in favor of a particularly fabulous book and suggested a few years ago that I write one myself.

It took me some time to muster up the courage to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and get serious about something I once did all the time back in college.  I think when I found myself thinking constantly about the characters in my head and visualizing them that I decided I needed to try.  In fact… this is true… my working title for Better Than Good was All You Can Do is Try.  It was never going to be the title, but it served as a good daily reminder.

Better Than Good is my first published novel.  I am beyond thrilled!  Aaron and Matt’s story is a special one in many ways.  It isn’t actually the first one scrambling to get to paper from the confines of my head, but theirs is meaningful to me because it addresses stereotypes.  We stereotype and generalize because we are taught to do so from an early age.  Some examples are innocuous while others breed prejudice.  I cannot fathom how anyone can ever look down on a person because of how or whom they love when the ability to love in the first place is such an amazing gift.

Aaron is a free spirited, self-assured gay Latino young man.  He has had to learn how to be comfortable with himself in a world that isn’t always kind to those who are a little more fabulous than others.  Matt on the other hand is a regular guy’s guy.  He enjoys his friends, sports and is working toward his law degree.  He identifies as heterosexual and has a girlfriend at the beginning of the story.   Unlike Aaron he has never been judged for his race, his religion or his sexuality. His journey to self-discovery is different than Aaron’s but no less poignant for him.  What he feels for Aaron is something he cannot deny if he wants to live a full and complete life.

Writing, having my work accepted and finally published has been a fantastic and surreal adventure.   I hope you enjoy the story and characters as much as I do!

Thank you Charlie for having me today!  I appreciate the warm welcome!

Lane Hayes

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Better Than Good

By Lane Hayes

Blurb

Matt Sullivan understands labels: law student, athlete, heterosexual. He has goals: graduate and begin his career in law. One fateful night, Matt tags along with his gay roommate to a dance club and everything changes. Matt finds himself attracted to the most beautiful man he’s ever seen. All labels go flying out the window.

Aaron Mendez doesn’t believe in labels, and he’s leery of straight curious men.  He makes it clear that he’ll hide his fabulous light for no one. While Aaron can’t deny the attraction between him and Matt, he is reluctant to start anything with someone who is still dealing with what this new label means—especially when that someone has a girlfriend.

 

Lane Hayes Bio: 

Lane Hayes is a designer by trade, but is first and foremost a lover of the written word.  An avid reader from an early age, Lane has always been drawn to romance novels.  She truly believes there is nothing more inspiring than a well-told love story.  Lane discovered the M/M genre a few years ago and was instantly hooked. She loves to travel and wishes she could do it more often.  Lane lives in Southern California with her amazing husband, three teenage kids and Rex, the coolest yellow lab ever.

 

Excerpt from Better Than Good by Lane Hayes

By the time I took him back to his place, it was three a.m.  The usually busy streets were virtually empty.  A fine layer of fog from the river painted the low lying shrubs and sidewalks in front of his building.   It looked a little mystic and magical as though the early morning hour still held promise.  I pulled close to the curb, set the car in park and turned toward my companion.  I didn’t want to say goodbye, yet I didn’t know where this thing between us could go.  I felt that familiar wave of frustration.

“Can I walk you up?  I mean it.  I just want to be sure you’re safe.”  It sounded like a lame request, but Aaron seemed pleasantly surprised.

“You are a gentleman, aren’t you?”  His eyes twinkled.   “I won’t say no and I’ll try to keep my hands to myself.  There’s a parking spot up there.  Take it so you don’t get a ticket.”

I parked the car as instructed and met Aaron at the curb.  His smile lit his entire face.  God, he was beautiful.    He took my arm when I reached his side.  I didn’t protest, though the gesture seemed overly familiar.  It just felt amazing to have this beautiful creature at my side looking at me like I was some kind of hero for offering to walk him to his door.

There was a bright lantern light on above the old glass and iron front door.  Aaron couldn’t get the latch to catch, so I took the key from him and gave it a try.

“It sticks sometimes.”  He muttered under his breath.

It opened easily for me.  I was beginning to think my levels of chivalry were being tested.  The thought made me grin when I should have been annoyed.

“You’re my hero!” he whispered loudly.

“Knock it off.  Where is your place?”

“Uh oh, Matty’s getting mad.  Watch out kids.”  Aaron pointed to the elevator off to the right.   The corridor was not as well lit as the front alcove had been.  I was actually glad that I was making sure he was safe.  I was a little nervous myself.  Which must have shown on my face, because Aaron laughed out right as the elevator doors opened.

“Relax, sweetie.  This isn’t the Bates Motel.  It’s just an old building.  Supposedly historic, but really it just means the lighting is poor and the water pressure is worse.  My apartment is cute though.  Come see.  You’re safe.”

I rolled my eyes this time, but gamely followed him.

His apartment was on the fifth floor.  He led me down another long hallway and stopped in front of #5E.

“Home sweet home.” He said with a flourish as he opened his door.  “Come make sure there are no boogie men and then I promise to let you go, Matty.”

Aaron turned on a light and breezed through his small entry into a larger living room.  As I followed him I took in my surroundings.  The apartment was small with an open floor plan.

I could see into his bedroom from the living area and although it was dark, I could see that the bed was neatly made.  Aaron’s entire apartment was immaculate.  And the juxtaposition of his modern tastes and the apartment’s older features, like the high ceilings and a floor heater, made for a homey and comfortable space.  It was nice, and it suited Aaron perfectly.

Aaron threw his keys in the egg shaped bright orange bowl on his small kitchen table and turned around with his arms outstretched.

“Well, it’s tiny but it’s all mine.  As long as I pay the rent, that is.”

“It’s really nice.  Suits you.”  I felt a little awkward as I stuffed my hands back in the leather jacket Aaron had returned to me earlier.

“Thanks for walking me up.  That was very gentlemanly of you.  Is that a word?  Whatever, it was sweet.”  His smile was a little shy and his bangs had fallen back into his eyes.  This time I couldn’t help myself.  I reached out to move his hair away from his eyes.  He looked up at me in surprise and my breath caught.  We stared at one another for a second more before our mouths met.

Buy Link: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=3968

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Lane Hayes on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lane-Hayes/
www.facebook.com/Lane-Hayes

Review: http://liveyourlifebuythebook.wordpress.com/2013/07/04/better-than-good/

On Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18048387-better-than-good

Guest Author: Augusta Li – Creative Inspiration

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Hi all! I’m Augusta Li, or Gus to my friends, and I’m happy to be here chatting today. I have an eclectic post for you today about writing, art, costumes, and translating personal experiences into scenes in books.

Until recently, all of my published work had been in the fantasy, paranormal, or steampunk genre. While I love writing speculative fiction and the potential for action and adventure it offers, it never let me draw on many of my real life experiences. To an extent, all fiction, and all characters share certain common ground. I believe people, regardless of the historical period or their situation, share some common goals and motives. They want to feel safe, feel accepted and worthwhile, protect and provide for the people they love, and live a satisfying life. When these things are threatened or taken away, all characters will struggle to rectify the situation and return the balance to their lives. No matter what the setting, characters feel fear, pain, loss, and uncertainty in very similar ways. But beyond that, much of my fantasy and steampunk work has drawn on either research or imagination. I have had to research Victorian London, medieval weapons, period clothing, and even the foods and cultures of various times and places. I have never been on a pirate ship during a storm on the open ocean or rappelled down the side of a tower using a clockwork grapple gun. I can close my eyes and picture what it would be like, and hopefully translate the visions in my imagination to a satisfying experience for my readers, full of sensory detail, but I have never personally lived it.

Recently I wrote my first contemporary novel, and finally, I was able to use some of the things I have done to bring it a level of realism. I have always wanted to be an artist in one form or another, and I’ve never liked being on a structured schedule or being told what to do. This desire for freedom and the satisfaction of creating led me to try a great many different things to support myself over the years. I have worked at Renaissance Faires, living in a tent, cooking over a fire, and taking outdoor showers. Of course, I loved the fantasy aspect of these types of events, and also the sort of nerd solidarity they inspire. They’re places where people who are often rejected by the rest of the world can find a sense of belonging and kindred spirits to support them. I know how these things function behind the scenes, and that is one reason much of On Tinsel Wings takes place at a faire. It was also a good setting for my character, Patrick, to find acceptance and begin to see that there’s no one right way to live life, and that sometimes happiness is more important than money.

I have created with many mediums. At one time, I really wanted to be a blacksmith. I found it a fascinating art form (also I love knives and swords), and while I didn’t ultimately pursue it, I learned enough to bring my experiences to my apprentice blacksmith, Yu Elion. I took a greater interest in costuming. Of course, I couldn’t afford to buy the beautiful period clothing I wanted, but necessity is the mother of invention, so I found some patterns and learned to make what I wanted. There is a magic to costumes. I’m not a shallow person and certainly don’t think clothes say much about a person’s character, but an elaborate costume can have a transformative effect. Anyone who cosplays knows the outward trappings can really help you slip into another persona. You can leave behind the parts of yourself you don’t like and become someone else, maybe someone more confident, for a while. My character Patrick finds this out, and it helps him start to come out of his shell. He carries some of the confidence he finds while portraying other characters into his own life. I know how to sew, and also how to find things at thrift stores, which might seem ugly and worthless, and make them into something beautiful. This is something my character learns to do, and it echoes his growth throughout the book.

The transition from childhood to adulthood is a tough time for anyone, but it can be even more brutal for kids who are weird, artistic, and sensitive, kids who don’t really fit in anywhere and don’t know if they ever will. This is the conflict my characters face in On Tinsel Wings, and it’s one I suspect many of us have faced, myself included. Not everyone understands the need to create that some people feel, a need that can be much more powerful than a desire for money. Luckily there are like-minded people out there, and hopefully we find each other. At least I can make that happen for my characters.

Do you have a need to create? What unusual jobs or experiences have you had that would make a great story? If you’re an artist, what’s your medium and why do you love it? Where have you found kindred spirits?

Here’s an excerpt from On Tinsel Wings. Please enjoy.

Patrick Harford sees hope as magical and beautiful, too delicate to hold—and everything in his life has proved him right. An unhealthy home leaves him hiding in the shadows as he tries to come to terms with his sexuality.

Patrick finds solace among the performers at the Allegheny Mountains Renaissance Faire, where he discovers a love of performing and costumes. As he starts to come out of his shell, he meets Yu Elion, an apprentice blacksmith. Yu gives Patrick a glimpse of fairy-tale love.

But just when hope starts to blossom, it withers. Cynical after a past filled with failed relationships, Yu keeps Patrick at a distance. Working two jobs has disastrous consequences. And an obsessed fan takes things a step too far. After seeing all he’s built start to crumble, Patrick doesn’t know if he has what it takes to try again on his own, and Yu might not have the strength to be the one Patrick needs.

Excerpt:

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Chapter One

WITH his arms overflowing with freshly laundered velvet, satin, linen, and brocade, Patrick Harford pushed the door open with his knee and flipped the light switch with his elbow. The stack of gowns, skirts, pantaloons, and bodices reached past his nose, making it difficult for him to see. From memory, he navigated the women’s dressing room and deposited his burden on a long wooden table at the center. Patrick slid a box of wooden hangers from underneath and started to hang the garments. While his job at the Allegheny Mountains Renaissance Faire entailed everything from emptying trash bins, cleaning privies, mucking out the stables, and basically anything else that needed doing, caring for the actresses’ costumes had always been his favorite task. He turned on a small radio nestled between pots of powder, canisters of rouge, and tubes of lipstick on one of the makeup tables, then adjusted the dial away from the hip-hop to the local college station that played an eclectic mix of classical opera, German cabaret, jazz, ragtime, and even show tunes.

When he finished arranging the clothes on their hangers, he took them to their assigned racks and hung them up. After working here for the past three summers, he knew which article of clothing belonged to which character: Mistress Hattie, the amorous haberdasher; Folie au Deux, the crazy French jester; Grace O’Malley, the Irish pirate queen, and her companion Mary Killigrew; Sayyida the Moor; Fair Bianca the Minstrel; the naughty Sisters of Merciful Ministrations, and the even naughtier wenches of the Saucy Stew Tavern. Of course, the best costumes belonged to Jennifer, the Faire’s resident Queen Elizabeth. She had a different gown for every Faire day from the end of May until the operation closed for the year at Halloween, and they were all exquisite.

Patrick dragged the portable steamer into the adjoining restroom and filled its reservoir from the sink. A fog formed on the many mirrors as he steamed the wrinkles out of the garments that required it. A scratchy version of Patti Page’s “You Belong to Me” played as he moved through the mist until he came to the queen’s gowns. He ran his fingers along the neckline of the pale pink dress he’d just washed, marveling at the rows of elaborate lace, fine embroidery, and intricate beading. Looking down at his own simple shirt, brown trousers, and worn, green doublet, he wondered how it would feel to wear something so incredible. How beautiful Jennifer must have felt when she’d welcomed her subjects at the Faire’s opening ceremony! Patrick had never once felt beautiful; most of the time, at school and even here at work, he just felt invisible and ignored.

He reached down and turned off the steamer, his hands trembling at just the thought of what he wished he could do. And why couldn’t he? No one would know. All of the customers had gone home hours ago, and any of the remaining actors or staff would be well on their way to drunkenness up at the Stew. The idea of feeling that sinfully smooth satin against his skin made the risks seem worthwhile. Patrick looked over his shoulder in an irrational assurance that he was still alone, and then he bent and tugged off his dusty, battered leather boots. The rest of his clothes quickly followed, and he left them in a sloppy pile as he slipped the dress from the hanger.

First, he tied what they called a bum roll—a padded crescent of fabric like a knee sock stuffed with cotton—around his slim hips, above his Batman boxer briefs. Then he slid on an undershift made of fine, thin linen, thinking maybe he’d made an error and the bum roll should have gone over top. Still, his silhouette in the full-length mirror on the wall fascinated him. He actually looked like he had hips, and they made his waist appear tiny in contrast. He barely recognized the person looking back at him in the gathered layers of lacy ivory. Patrick put the gown on above it all, then struggled to reach behind himself to zip up the back. Luckily Jennifer was almost as tall as he was, and the costume fit well, if a little short in the arms. This dress was one of the simpler ones; Jennifer needed the assistance of at least two other women to get into the heavy, embellished white ensemble she’d wear at the Faire’s closing ceremony, along with Elizabeth’s signature white makeup.

Patrick put the matching bodice on above the gown and closed the busk, wishing he had someone to lace him up. He couldn’t imagine how tiny his waist would look beneath the steel boning, but who in the world could he ever trust with such a request? He’d probably get his ass kicked, so he satisfied himself with adjusting the puffy sleeves, tying on the beaded bracers, and stringing some rosy pearls around his neck. He turned to look at himself again, and his breath hitched at what he saw.

He looked beautiful. The awkward, scrawny boy had disappeared, and in his place… a queen, holding her head high, her back straight, radiating a confidence Patrick had never dreamed of feeling. Excited, he hurried to augment the effect, choosing one of Jennifer’s wigs from the row of Styrofoam heads on a shelf. He raked his shaggy layers of red-gold hair off his forehead and put the wig on. A similar color to his natural locks, it cascaded over his shoulders in masses of loose ringlets, transporting him even further from the plain, forgettable person he’d been a quarter of an hour ago. He placed a pearl tiara above the bright curls and adjusted the combs so it would stay in place. Almost giddy at what he witnessed, he lifted his skirts and crossed the room to one of the makeup tables.

When he’d finished experimenting with the cosmetics, he looked a lot more like one of the tavern wenches than the queen, with bright red lips, hard pink lines across his cheekbones, and heavy black eyeliner and mascara. He should have used the pink lipstick, and maybe a softer brown instead of the harsh black on his eyes, but he still liked seeing himself, as the cosmetics had enhanced his large blue eyes and full lips.

As Patrick stood from the stool at the makeup station, careful not to trip over the layers of his skirts, “I Feel Pretty” from West Side Story began to play on the radio. He smiled as he twirled, the gown billowing out around him beautifully. He did feel pretty. He felt like a princess, or… a queen.

Facing the mirror on the wall, he looked at himself from various angles, holding the dress out in a curtsey, then turning to the side to glance seductively over his shoulder. He got a little excited with what he saw, and an erection tented the shimmering fabric. It was such a novel thrill to imagine he could be so alluring. Neither men nor women had ever shown any interest in him. They found him neither ugly nor beautiful and just dismissed him. Patrick wondered what they would say if they could see him now. Many of the Faire’s female patrons only wished they looked as good.

Patrick fluffed his hair and ran his fingers down the beaded bodice, grazing his cock and shivering at the jolt of sensation. Just then, the slam of a door wilted his excitement. He looked around frantically for a place to hide. He couldn’t let anyone see him like this. How would he explain it? Terrified, he backed into the restroom, crouched down in one of the stalls, and closed the wooden door as quietly as he could. Who would be in the women’s dressing room at this hour? Patrick’s pulse echoed in his head as he just prayed whoever it was would leave. Otherwise, the best he could hope for was losing a job he truly loved, and it would probably be worse. He inched his way into the corner between the toilet and the plywood partition, hoping for a miracle.

Shiny black boots appeared outside the stall, and someone knocked softly. “Is everything okay in there?” asked a voice Patrick recognized. God knew he’d spent enough nights fantasizing about the man who spoke, the hottest man at the Faire: Eric, who portrayed the privateer Sir Francis Drake. He was tall and lanky, with just the perfect amount of bulk on his frame, warm but devious brown eyes, long dark hair, and the ideal sprinkling of stubble across his angular jaw.

Patrick didn’t know quite how to respond. “I’m taking a leak in here,” he said pitifully.

“Patrick? No problem. I’ll wait. I need you to help me look for Tracy’s phone. She thinks she might have left it in here.”

He had to get Eric to go away. “Actually, I’m not feeling very well.”

Patrick realized too late he’d forgotten to latch the stall door, and Eric pushed it open. “Jesus, what’s wrong? Are you—Holy shit. Patrick?”

“I’m sorry,” Patrick muttered feebly, hiding his painted face in his elbow. “Please… please don’t kick my ass. I-I didn’t mean any harm. I just wondered how I’d look. I love this place. It’s all I have. Please don’t tell anyone. It would kill me if I lost my job. I’ll never do it again. I’m sorry… I just….”

To Patrick’s surprise, Eric extended his hand to help him up, and Patrick grasped it, slipping on the tiles in nothing but his striped knee socks. Eric led him from the restroom to the dressing room, where he held Patrick at arm’s length and looked him up and down. “Have you done this before?” Eric demanded.

“No. No, I swear. I just… I don’t know why I—”

“You look beautiful,” Eric said softly. “Look.” He grasped Patrick’s waist and spun him toward the mirror. Eric stood behind Patrick with his dark hair pulled back and that devastating line of stubble over his jaw. He looked perfect in his T-shirt with the faded Jolly Roger and tight, dark jeans, but Patrick looked heavenly in the pink dress.

“I love the Faire,” he said again. “I belong here. Please, I just don’t want to lose my job.”

Eric pressed his chest against Patrick’s back and bent his neck to whisper in Patrick’s ear. “Jesus, you look fierce. I can’t believe this is your first time.”

“I’m sorry,” Patrick whimpered.

“For what, baby?” Eric asked.

“I… I just thought….”

“Christ. Get yourself cleaned up, princess.” Eric let go of Patrick’s waist and stepped away.

“You won’t tell?” Patrick asked desperately. “My job here—”

Eric shook his head and held up a hand. “You’ve done nothing to offend me, but other people might not agree, so clean up. If you want, I’d like to take you for a drink tomorrow after the Faire. We can talk then. Patrick, it’s okay.”

“Is it?”

“You know you look gorgeous,” Eric said, crossing his arms over his chest. “Maybe a little bit rough, but wow. Seriously, man. Damn.”

“Really?” Patrick asked, clutching at his skirts. “You’re not angry?”

“Why the hell would I be angry? Listen to me: it’s okay, and I’m not going to say anything. I promise. Clean up, and I’ll see you tomorrow when we close.” Eric found the iPhone in the pink case he’d been looking for on one of the makeup tables, then turned and pushed the dressing room door open before disappearing.

Patrick stripped the gown off, hung it up carefully, smoothed the wrinkles away, and washed his face. His hands shook as he turned off the lights and locked the dressing room with one of the keys he wore on a ring on his belt. As he walked past the still and silent Tudor-style buildings, all decked out in seasonal flowers, he kept looking over his shoulder, half expecting Eric to appear with a group of men to taunt him and beat him up. He just couldn’t believe the man who made all the women at the Faire swoon with a wink had no problem with finding him in a pink dress. More likely, he just waited to surprise Patrick when he could impress a few of his friends in the process.

The huge field serving as the Faire’s parking lot stood practically empty. Last year, they’d installed lampposts at regular intervals for the safety of the patrons, and they cast golden pools of light on the trampled grass. Patrick jogged through them until he reached his 1989 Plymouth Horizon and unlocked the door. He took the highway and drove for about forty-five minutes, until he reached the small town between the fairgrounds and the outskirts of Pittsburgh where he lived with his father.

Careful to park beneath a streetlight, because he didn’t live in the greatest neighborhood and cars were often broken into, Patrick killed his engine and locked up. He walked up the cracked sidewalk, spattered with clumps of grass breaking through the cement, to the dilapidated blue ranch house with dirty vinyl siding, sagging roof, and lawn in need of mowing. His father hadn’t bothered to lock the door, and after he crossed the tiny kitchen with its sink full of dishes, Patrick found him in his recliner in front of the television, drinking a beer.

“How was the nerd circus?” Patrick’s father asked without bothering to look away from the baseball game he was watching.

“Okay. We have a lot of new staff this year, and they’re still adjusting, but it’s going pretty smoothly, and the turnout has been up from last year.” Patrick didn’t know why he bothered; his father had only asked so he could work in the jab about the nerd circus.

The old man swiveled in his chair and looked at his son with bleary eyes. “What the fuck is all over your face?”

Stunned, Patrick reached up and touched his cheek, terrified he’d missed a trace of rouge somehow. “Nothing! Why?” he managed.

His father laughed. “I thought I saw a streak of horseshit.” Then he turned his attention back to the game and chuckled.

Patrick clenched his fists. “It’s a good job, Dad.” He resisted the urge to add, “At least I have one.” Someday he’d work up the stones to shoot back when his dad insulted him for no reason, but not tonight. He hurried down the hall to his bedroom, deposited his clothes in the hamper, and stepped into the shower. Though he hadn’t worked with the horses today, he’d worked up a sweat and knew he needed to wash. Afterward, he slipped on a pair of sweats and a worn T-shirt emblazoned with the Triforce. He climbed into bed and turned on his TV and Xbox with the controller, then picked up where he’d left off on Final Fantasy XIII. About ten hours into the game, he’d decided the storyline was unfathomable and the grinding terribly repetitive, but the monotony helped him get to sleep, and tonight, with his nerves still crackling and his mind working at double speed, he needed an escape. Besides, the graphics were beautiful. He’d often wished he had baby-pink hair like Lightning, that he could be as strong as she was. Patrick’s game console, car, and everything else he possessed of value had come as a result of his job at the Faire. He hoped Eric was sincere in his promise not to tell anyone about what he’d seen. Thinking about it made Patrick remember how he’d felt in that beautiful gown, how he’d felt when he looked at himself in the mirror. For the first time in his life, he’d felt like maybe there was something special about him, and then Eric had called him beautiful….

Patrick paused his game on the inventory screen. He set the controller aside and ran his hand down his chest, recalling the sensation of that decadent satin beneath his fingers. As he imagined Eric’s face, he let his fingers wander to the growing bulge in his sweats, and then beneath the waistband. He began to move his hand, picturing both himself in the dress and makeup and the way Eric had looked at him. There’d been something behind his dark gaze that Patrick had always hoped to see from a man looking at him, and just the memory of it drove him crazy.

Buy: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4000

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Where to find Augusta Li

Website: http://www.booksbyeonandgus.com/

 

 

Guest Author Andrew Q. Gordon – To Happy Ever After or Not

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To Happy Ever After or not.

Pick up most romance books and you’ll find a Happy Ever After or Happy For Now ending.  I think for many, HEA is part of the definition of the romance genre. But is it the only definition.

I confess I knew so little about writing and publishing before my first book came out – I was truly clueless and I still don’t feel I know all that much. Word count, genres, troupes, marketing, you name it, I didn’t know squat about it. Back then I’d write the story and not worry about where it fit, would it fit a category. The main character dies for love – hey that’s a great story, right?  Not so much with many readers.

For good or ill, romance sells and romance requires a HEA or HFN ending.  If not, for many readers, it’s not romance.  Dreamspinner Press, a M/M romance publisher, has a ‘Bittersweet Dreams’ line for those stories without the HEA or HFN ending. But put your book there and it is a) not a straight up romance and b) not going to appeal to the same breathe of readers.

When Antya Sunday and I wrote (Un)Masked, we discussed whether one of the MCs  would die.[1]  The story could have gone either way, but for me–more so than Anyta–I didn’t want to kill off one of our characters. I was too invested in them.

And I think therein lays the answer to the question. If the author does their job right, the reader should feel invested in the characters and killing one off or not letting them find the HEA is something of a let down. That’s not to say that a bittersweet ending isn’t as good, but it certainly needs a different mindset from the reader. Which of course is why there is a ‘Bittersweet Dreams’ catefory.

This raises a different sort of dilemma: if you classify a story as romance or Bittersweet Dream, aren’t you giving away the ending? Put it in the romance bin and everyone has the right to expect there will be a HEA or HFN ending. Doesn’t knowing that the MCs are going to get that HEA spoil the tension and suspense?

In Purpose, I originally planned to not answer the question. The idea was to leave clues as to what I saw happening and then let the readers figure it out for themselves. There were enough clues to figure it out, but I also left enough doubt that you never knew for sure. I was advised to make the ending clear. So I did, but you’ll have to read the last paragraph to find out.

 

Blurb:

Purpose CoverForty years ago the Spirit of Vengeance—a Purpose—took William Morgan as its host, demanding he avenge the innocent by killing the guilty. Since then, Will has retreated behind Gar, a façade he uses to avoid dealing with what he’s become. Cold, impassive, and devoid of emotion, Gar goes about his life alone—until his tidy, orderly world is upended when he meets Ryan, a broken young man cast out by his family. Spurred to action for reasons he can’t understand, Gar saves Ryan from death and finds himself confronted by his humanity.

Spending time with Ryan helps Will claw out from under Gar’s shadow. He recognizes Ryan is the key to his reclaiming his humanity and facing his past. As Will struggles to control the Purpose, Ryan challenges him to rethink everything he knew about himself and the spirit that possesses him. In the process, he pushes Will to do something he hasn’t done in decades: care.

Pre-order link: Purpose from Dreamspinner Press

 

Excerpt:

“Will?” There was tension in Ryan’s voice.

“Yes?”

“I’d like us to go out with Jake if you still want.” His tone and body language didn’t match the words.

What brought this change about? “We don’t have to. I wasn’t trying to force anything.”

“I know you weren’t, but I’d like to go anyway.”

Will paused the movie. “What changed for you?”

“It’s like you said, you wouldn’t lie to me. Of all the people I’ve ever met, I know beyond any doubt, you’re the first one who won’t pretend. I trust you.”

Will felt a tingle in his nose, a precursor to a tear. The little time they’d been together meant so much to Ryan. How could affection be so missing in his life? “Thank you. I trust you too.”

“Why wouldn’t you?” Ryan snorted. “I mean, what fool who looked like me would leave someone like you?”

“Whoa. Stop.” He pulled Ryan’s face up. “What fool would ever leave someone as beautiful as you? No….” He put two fingers over Ryan’s lips. “Hear me out. The moment I saw you on the Metro, I was drawn to you. You deserve so much better than me, but I’m going to try to make you happy anyway, for as long as you let me.”

Squeezing his eyes tight, Ryan turned back toward the television. “Really?”

“Absolutely.” He gently stroked Ryan’s head. “So no more talk about you being anything other than beautiful and hot. Deal?”

Twisting, Ryan all but jumped on top of him. Pressing his lips hard against Will’s, Ryan kissed him with a passion Will hadn’t felt in a long time. It was over quickly, and Ryan settled back onto Will’s chest. “Deal.”

Clicking the movie back on, Will asked, “So why the change of heart on seeing Jake?”

“I… I don’t have any friends. Us having some would be nice.”

The impact of the statement took Will’s voice. Amidst the sadness in the words was the hope Ryan felt for his future. He not only wanted friends, he expected they would have them together. He swallowed hard, wondering what possessed him to give up his emotionally detached life for this swirling mass of conflicting emotions. Then Ryan gave him a gentle kiss on the chest, and Will’s arms squeezed reflexively.

Detached was easier, but it was empty. For the first time since David, he felt alive again. A little pain was worth it, if this was how it felt when it was good. 

 

Contest:

Enter for a chance to win a $25.00 Dreamspinner Press credit. To be entered, you can leave a comment here, on any of the other post release blog stops or on the Purpose page on my site. For those who don’t know what to write – you can answer this question. Which do you enjoy more, HEA/HFN or Bittersweet stories?

Please leave an email so you can be notified if you win. All comments from all guest blog posts between the June 21, 2013 release date and July 1, 2013[2] will also be entered to win. The winner will be chosen using Randomizer.org on July 2. One entry per blog, but you can enter on each participating blog for more chances to win. For a complete list of eligible blogs, please see the Purpose book page on my blog:

Purpose: By Andrew Q. Gordon

 

About the Author:

Andrew Q. Gordon wrote his first story back when yellow legal pads, ball point pens were common and a Smith Corona correctable typewriter was considered high tech. Adapting with technology, he now takes his MacBook somewhere quiet when he wants to write.

He currently lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his partner of eighteen years, their young daughter and dog.  In addition to dodging some very self-important D.C. ‘insiders’, Andrew uses his commute to catch up on his reading. When not working or writing, he enjoys soccer, high fantasy, baseball and seeing how much coffee he can drink in a day and not get the shakes.

Follow Andrew on his website: www.andrewqgordon.com,

On Facebook:  www.facebook.com/andrewqugordon,

On Twitter:  @andrewqgordon,

Or just email him: andrewqgordon@gmail.com

 


[1] I’m not creating a spoiler by stating no, because the book was not listed by Dreamspinners as a Bittersweet Dream.

[2] All dates and times are East Coast, U.S.A. (EST).

*** This contest is now closed ***