Author Layla M. Wier Talks About Homespun, Research, & A Fantastic Giveaway!

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Hello! Thank you so much to Charlie for hosting me today! My blog tour for my novella Homespun is in full swing (’til Oct. 8), and today I’m going to talk about doing research. First, though, I’m doing a kinda nifty giveaway for my blog tour — if you comment on any of my blog tour posts, you’ll be entered to win a handmade scarf, knit or crocheted by me specially for you, in a style and yarn color that you get to pick! (This would also be a great holiday gift for someone else!) More details here: http://laylawier.wordpress.com/2013/09/09/scarf-giveaway/

Okay, that said … let’s talk about research, the writer’s bane! Or … in theory, it’s supposed to be. I remember a time, years ago, when I found research scary and intimidating. I hate to admit it, but it’s become one of my favorite aspects of writing.

… well, okay, I admit there are still times when research is a giant pain in the butt or scares the pants off me, but that’s usually when I have to talk to someone about their real-life experiences with the lurking fear in the back of my mind that they’re going to laugh at me for asking stupid (fiction-oriented) questions.

But! Research! It’s an excuse to buy shiny new books on topics you’re interested in, and read them and call it WORK! How awesome is that?

research-books

Above: a sampling of the books I bought to write Homespun. (At the time, I thought I was going to need a lot more resource material on sheep than I actually ended up needing. Well, now I have a lot of books on sheep.) And this is not including quite a few library books and some other books I bought for social flavor and character details — memoirs on the gay scene in late 80s/early 90s New York City and that kind of thing.

Besides reading a bunch of books, my research for Homespun also included a road trip across central New York state with my sister (which I talked about last week at Charley Descoteaux’s blog – http://cdescoteauxwrites.com/), a couple of guidebooks on New York, an atlas, blogs and websites of people who run actual sheep farms and knitting-supply companies in New York state … and more!

I am one of those people who goes slightly nuts about getting all the details right. There’s a very brief scene in Homespun in which Owen, one-half of the main pairing, gathers late-season wildflowers to create a romantic setting for his wedding proposal:

Owen knelt alongside the driveway, gathering asters, fleabane, and goldenrod from the late-blooming wildflowers around the edges of the yard. The kitchen windows faced the east pasture; Kerry shouldn’t be able to see him as long as he stayed on this side of the house.

… and yes, those are authentically wildflowers that would be blooming in late September/early October in open sunny fields in New York state. I Googled around until I found a website that listed blooming times for New York flowers, and later (when I was actually in Ithaca at my sister’s place) was able to obtain a guidebook at the Cornell university bookstore that had common New York plants with their blooming times.

(And if you happen to know that fleabane only blooms until mid-September in the Utica area, for God’s sake please don’t tell me. I may go mad, or drive my editor to distraction asking for a revision. *g*)

Here’s a descriptive paragraph near the beginning of the story:

Farm stands selling apples and grapes, pumpkins and cider and fall mums lined the rural highways of central New York state. The air smelled fresh, with hints of wood smoke and hay. As the sun sank toward the rolling hills, the day’s balmy warmth gave way to a sharp and biting chill, the first breath of oncoming winter. Kerry was a city boy to the core, but he had been coming back to this place for two decades—his entire adult life, give or take a few years—and it surprised him how many of the smells he recognized, how many of the crops in the fields he could name along with the colors he might use to paint them.

One of the things I did when I was visiting my sister was carefully note what was in season at the farm stands in early October. This is 100% accurate, at least for the Ithaca area.

I like to think I’m reasonably sane about it — that is, there’s a point beyond which I am aware that no one cares about details (I expect this is far past the point to which I actually research them), and a reader who is swept away in the story is not likely to be wondering things like, “If you crossbreed a Jacob sheep with a Border Leicester sheep, do you actually get a spotted crossbreed, or is she LYING TO ME?!”

On the other hand, one reason why I’m a fan of exhaustive research (besides obsessiveness *g*) is because you can often find some really cool details that add depth and authenticity to your writing — stuff you’d never have thought of looking up on your own — that makes it seem more real. For example, one thing I came across in my sheep-farm reading is the interesting little factoid that sheep farmers often keep a couple of aggressive herbivores like llamas and donkeys with their sheep in lieu of sheepdogs, to drive off potential predators like coyotes or stray dogs. How cool is that? So I ended up giving the Fortescues a guard donkey named Shasta rather than a sheepdog.

And there are also the things that you never thought to look up, or the things you never researched because you didn’t know that you didn’t know. One of my beta readers caught me in a really dumb mistake regarding the pitfalls Crisco as a personal lubricant. (Crisco, like all oil-based lubricants, dissolves condoms. THANK YOU ALLAN for saving me from looking like an idiot to anyone with the slightest modicum of safer-sex knowledge.)

Let’s throw the question out to the room! What are your thoughts on research — as a reader or as a writer? Are you the sort of person who is likely to notice that the writer put brass buttons in a Regency set in 1810 when “everyone” knows England didn’t have brass buttons until 1819 (example pulled entirely out of my ass; I would not have the first clue when brass buttons appeared in the historical record) or would you be unlikely to care if a B-52* bombs Queen Victoria’s coronation as long as the story is engaging?

*The airplane, I mean, not a member of the B-52s (the band). Although that would also be pretty interesting.

 

HomespunCover200x300Homespun
by Layla M. Wier

 

Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: Novella/104 pages
Release Date: Sept. 18, 2013

 

Blurb:

For twenty years, Owen Fortescue, a down-to-earth farmer in upstate New York, has had an on-again, off-again relationship with volatile New York City artist Kerry Ruehling. Now that same-sex marriage is recognized in New York, Owen wants to tie the knot. But Kerry responds to the proposal with instant, angry withdrawal. Owen resolves to prove to Kerry that, regardless of the way his family of origin has treated him, family ties don’t necessarily tie a man down. With help from his grown daughter, Laura, who loves them both, Owen hopes to convince Kerry that his marriage proposal isn’t a trap, but a chance at real love.

Buy at Dreamspinner Press:

http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4189

 

About Layla:

Layla M. Wier is the romance pen name of artist and writer Layla Lawlor. She was born in a log cabin in rural Alaska and grew up thirty miles from towns, roads, electricity, and cars. These days, she lives in Fox, a gold-rush mining town on the highway north of Fairbanks, Alaska, with her husband, dogs, and the occasional farm animal. Their house is a log cabin in a birch and aspen forest. Wolves, moose, and foxes wander through the front yard. During the short, bright Arctic summer, Layla enjoys gardening and hiking, and in the winter, she writes, paints, and draws.

 

Where to find Layla:

Blog: http://laylawier.wordpress.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/Layla_in_Alaska
Tumblr: http://laylainalaska.tumblr.com

 

Stops and topics on the Homespun blog tour (Sept. 16-Oct. 8):

Monday, Sept. 16: Zahra Owens (http://zahraowens.com/) – autumn
Tuesday, Sept. 17: Tali Spencer (http://talismania-brilliantdisguise.blogspot.com/) – sharing passions
Wednesday, Sept. 18: RELEASE DAY! Party at the Dreamspinner Press blog!
Thursday, Sept. 19: Charley Descoteaux (http://cdescoteauxwrites.com/) – location scouting in central New York
Friday, Sept. 20: Chris T. Kat (http://christikat.blogspot.com/) – interview
Monday, Sept. 23: Charlie Cochet’s Purple Rose Tea House (http://purpleroseteahouse.charliecochet.com/) – doing research
Tuesday, Sept. 24: Helen Pattskyn (http://www.helenpattskyn.com/) – bisexuality in Homespun
Wednesday, Sept. 25: Garrett Leigh (http://garrettleigh.com/) – interview
Thursday, Sept. 26: Skylar Cates (http://skylarmcates.wordpress.com/) – rural life
Friday, Sept. 27: Madison Parker (http://madisonparklove.com/blog/) – interview + review
Monday, Sept. 30: Jessica Davies (http://jessicaskyedavies.blogspot.com/) – learning to spin, part 1
Tuesday, Oct. 1: Anne Barwell (http://anne-barwell.livejournal.com/) – learning to spin, part 2
Thursday, Oct. 3: Michael Rupured (http://rupured.com/) – writing respectfully from outside a subculture
Friday, Oct. 4: Jana Denardo (http://jana-denardo.livejournal.com/) – invading characters’ privacy
Monday, Oct. 7: SL Huang (http://slhuang.com/) – interview
Tuesday, Oct. 8: PD Singer (http://pdsinger.com/) – central NY photo tour

Guest Author: Tempeste O’Riley – the Story & the Reader

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Well good morning everyone. I’d like to thank Charlie here at The Purple Rose Tea House for hosting me and my debut novel, Designs of Desire.

It takes two to tango, or so the saying goes. In my experience it actually takes a lot more than that to turn a story into a novel. When you add in disabilities that number gets skewed even more, or so it seems.

In Designs of Desire Chase conspires with Seth to help Seth and James find their HEA, but as readers, you are part of the story too. While I was the biographer for the characters, once the book is written and sold, their story becomes yours.

Now, how does hat work when one of the MCs has a disability and you, the reader, may not? Honestly, the disability is not the point of the story, but rather—as James would love for everyone to figure out—it’s about the love they share, the life and family they build, and the future they can now share together.

For the most part James’s disability is genetic (EDS – same as mine). The other part is thanks to a couple of vile exes and the damage done by them and his own family. But where a disability, weakness, or injury comes from has nothing to do with who the person is inside. Too often, in my opinion, the person that isn’t “perfect” gets passed over and ignored both in real life and in romance. I wanted James to find his “prince” and get his HEA, despite what the hate and/or pity of others had taught him about himself and his possibilities for love.

In Designs of Desire James provides Seth with a family to belong to, a purpose for his generosity. Seth provides James with both the devotion and confidence to pursue his own dreams. The genetic disorder James has is important, but it’s not the center of who or what he is.

But, what’s this have to do with the readers? Simple, you bring my characters to life. Your minds create the movies of each story an author pens to paper (or to digi-paper at least, lol). It’s up to you to give life, form, and meaning to the world around you and within the story. It’s also up to you to take the deeper meaning in the story/ies and carry them out into the real world.

I hope James’s journey to self and joy is one that you will savor and take with you, for all people deserve love and happiness. I hope you will take Seth’s compassion and strength and apply them outside the story to help remind you that sometimes, the greatest strength is being more invested in what others need than in your own desires and wants.
 

Excerpt

James allowed his gaze to wander around the entryway, taking in the welcoming setting. Noticing a worker passing through, he asked, “Excuse me. Do you know where I can find Mr. Burns?”

“Yeah, he’s in the manager’s office over there.” The man was covered in dust. He gestured toward a closed door near a large desk, then continued on his way. James couldn’t help looking around once more to admire the rich wood tones, marble tiled floors, and beautiful crown molding, before he headed off in the right direction.

Before he could knock, the door swung open and a harried looking woman stormed out, slamming it so hard it popped back open. Maybe now isn’t the best time, he thought and started to turn away when Mr. Burns appeared in the doorway.

“James,” he said. “Thank God you’re here. Please tell me you brought some ideas, before Stacey drives me to drink. She wants to start painting but can’t until we have everything settled with the designs.”

The way Seth’s eyes pierced him made James feel both nervous and ten feet tall at the same time. “If you have some place I can set up, sure. I have a few designs for you to look over.” He kept wondering why they had waited so long to employ Skye Designs. Normally you do all the branding much earlier in the project.

Motioning down the hallway, Seth led him into a large room—probably meant to be a conference or reception room, considering the carpet and acoustic tiles in the ceiling. “Come in. What can I do to help?” he asked, watching James settle into a comfortable chair before unloading his pack.

James was nervous. He’d never had such a significant or large account before, but he was excited as well. “We normally have the designs approved before getting to this point, but I’ll do my best to catch up. Give me just a minute to set up, then you can see what I have.”

“We’ll get to that in a few. I want you to finish setting up then come with me.”

James stopped midmotion and looked up, confused. “I thought—” He shook his head. “Never mind. Okay.”

Seth led James out of the room, into a wide hallway with large windows spilling filtered sunlight onto the veined marble floor, and began showing him around. Seth stayed close, so close James occasionally caught a whiff of his intoxicating scent, something bright yet deep—cardamom and cedar with a light musk. He wasn’t sure, but he was beginning to think just being near Seth could become a delicious addiction.

As they exited the elevator on the second floor, James stopped dead in his tracks. His heart beat so fast and loud he felt certain Seth would hear it slamming into his ribs. He stared ahead and prayed he was having a terrible nightmare. Those he could wake up from. Please!

Standing there, looking him up and down, was a phantom from his past. Victor d’Leone was even more powerfully built than the last time he had seen him. He stood in the hall, his arms crossed over his barrel chest, scowling. The sea-foam green eyes James once thought so beautiful and loving now bored holes through him. The ghosts of the last time Vic had been near him shot pain-filled shards of memory through him. Away. Yes, he had to get away.

“I… I… I…,” James stammered. He scrambled back into the elevator and almost fell when his left crutch slipped on the metal edging. He punched the close door button repeatedly while fighting the panic attack threatening to destroy his job and sanity. “No, no, no. Not happening,” he mumbled.

He hadn’t waited for Seth to react, nor had he explained anything; he’d just bolted. James headed toward the exit as soon as the elevator doors opened—forget the damn presentation. He scrambled for the steps, desperate to reach the car before he completely lost it.

Life was never that easy.

Seth appeared out of nowhere, sprinting after him in his expensive Armani suit and custom leather shoes. “James! Stop!” he commanded.

Fighting the panic, James tried to get a hold of himself. Stop? Is he nuts? “I can’t be here. I—I’ll come back later.” With protection!

A powerful hand grasped his right arm. Startled, he stopped. Staring at the hand that bound him to his worst nightmare, he begged, “Please, let me go.”

Try as he might, he couldn’t stop the panic and fear as it suffocated him.

 

Designs-of-Desire-200 Designs of Desire
by Tempeste O’Riley
M/M Erotic BDSM/Kink Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: July 29th 2013
Length: Novel / 200 pages

Order:

Dreamspinner PressRainbow eBooksAll RomanceAmazonB & N

Add to: Goodreads

 

Description:

Artist James Bryant has forearm crutches in every color from rainbow for fun to sleek black for business. He even has a pair with more paint splatters than metal. After his family’s rejection and abuse from a man he thought loved him, James only just gets through the day by painting. He lives in constant fear that he’s not worthy of anything, let alone love.

As CEO of his company, Carrington Enterprises, Seth Burns is a take-charge kind of guy, and he is instantly smitten by the artist helping with his newest project. When he witnesses James suffer a panic attack, a protective instinct he never knew he had kicks in. He truly believes nothing is unobtainable—including James—if he’s willing to put in the time and effort.

James is shy and confused by Seth’s interest in him as a person. With Seth’s support, can he work through his fears to finally find the true love he deserves, or will someone finally land the crushing blow he won’t survive?
 

About the Author:

TO-logo-250-transparentTempeste O’Riley is an out and proud omnisexual / bi-woman whose best friend growing up had the courage to do what she couldn’t–defy the hate and come out. He has been her hero ever since.

Tempe is a hopeless romantic that loves strong relationships and happily-ever-afters. Though new to writing M/M, she has done many things in her life, though writing has always drawn her back–no matter what else life has thrown her way. She counts her friends, family, and Muse as her greatest blessings in life. She lives in Wisconsin with her children, reading, writing, and enjoying life.

Tempe is also a proud member of Romance Writers of America® and Rainbow Romance Writers. Learn more about Tempeste and her writing at http://tempesteoriley.com.

 

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