S.A. Garcia – Lobcock! The Fear and Terror of Researching a Historical Novel.

Love_In_the_ShadowsAt the 2010 Readercon, I remember listening to SF author Barry B. Longyear describing how he wrote Confessions of a Confederate Vampire—The Night, a historical vampire novel set during the Civil War. The amount of dedication he put into setting the mood for writing a novel set during the Civil War was impressive, to the point of playing music from the genre, displaying artifacts on his desk, and even eating food from the era. It sounded daunting. He had performed a megaton of research, all organized into folders on his computer.

The problem is there’s not quite as much ready information floating around about the Carolina colonies circa 1701-1703. Okay, I already hear an American history major sighing in disgust. Let’s put it this way: I am not an American history expert. I would have a better chance of writing a novel about Great Britain because I’ve always been a British history fan.

In truth, it’s not so much a matter of the broad history; it’s a matter of seeking out everyday details. One huge question: what type of clothing did people wear? There’s ready info on what the rich wore, but what about the common people? What materials were used for clothing? What styles, colors, or textures were used? I never imagined that folks wore shoes crafted from wood.

Describing meals is important to me. I hate reading stories where no one eats. What food did people eat back in 1701 Carolina? What did they drink?

Then came the matter of what people lived in. What house styles were in use in 1701-1703 Charleston?

What type of insults would have filled the air? When I found a site featuring insults from that timeframe, I jumped for joy. I want to start calling people lobcocks (a large relaxed penis or a dull inanimate fellow).

Then I made the mistake of inflicting a serious wound on a character. Now I needed medical research. Talk about stomach-turning!

All this research baggage is why I was scared stupid of attempting to write a M/M historical romance. Fellow writers warned me if I screwed up a detail, a savvy reader would happily call me out on it. Readers with degrees in history would wait with daggers, studded clubs, and blunderbusses. Damn, I do love that word. Fellow writers also warned me that reviewers would cheerfully point out any mistakes, down to “well, that buckle style wasn’t used until 1715, not 1701.” It made me terrified to talk about shoes, but I did!

Hell, compared to historical research, fantasy world building is easy. Let’s face it, when you world build, you call all the shots. You draw maps, name cities, determine what people, wear, eat and how they live. It’s a blast. The author is God. How fun is that?

Happily I swallowed down my historical fears and took the plunge. I researched, researched, and researched the research. The research was equal parts fun and frustrating. When I found solid, factual information, I grabbed on with both hands and changed my vague descriptions to match reality.

The result? I am proud to have written “Love in the Shadows”, a mix of a historical and contemporary romance. The historic novel is set in 1701 New York, then over 1702-1703, in the Carolina colony, Boston, and Sweden. At least the contemporary story is set only in Stockholm. I cut myself a break there. I was also lucky enough to have a Swede read the novel and point out glaring errors regarding aspects of modern Swedish culture. Many thanks to Alison and Christina for their valuable support.

A note to the 16th century Colonial History majors— please, I tried my hardest. I did. Be gentle with me.

Thanks to Charlie for having me here today! xo

Here’s the first chapter from “Love in the Shadows,” a chapter set back in 1701.

 

BLURB:

When history, romance, and the supernatural collide, can love triumph over all?

Opening an ancient trunk transforms Doctor Rolfe Almersson’s life. When the spiritually-sensitive academic breaks his rules about touching an article sans gloves, fierce love wells at him. The unwrapped parchment reveals a burnt diary written by Magistrate Nels Halverson. The diary documents meeting seventeen-year-old orphan Aindrias Aster in 1701. Nels describes their eventual love affair, along with tragedies and triumphs in infatuated, intimate detail.

Rolfe’s obsession with his find overwhelms him. Reading about the men’s evolving relationship influences Rolfe’s tempestuous relationship with his lover. Will the story’s romance and tragedy push Rolfe forward into romantic liberation and academic triumph, or will it ruin his life?

 

EXCERPT:

Afternoon, January 26, 1701, Kingston, North of the City of New York

 

(This is where I wish to begin my memories. I own no reason to begin elsewhere. I need to begin here. This is when my heart truly started beating.)

 

I stealthily raised my worn leather flask to my lips and indulged in a mouthful of inferior rum. My body needed the false comfort on this cold, miserable day. Faugh. Winter’s deadly bite ruled the day. My mind also needed fortification before I conquered the crucial matter at hand.

Blast Samuel for running off with a flirtatious doxy. Lively Samuel’s love for lasses had destroyed his dedication. I had found him at a Quaker orphanage near Philadelphia. My former clerk was adept in Latin and competitive thought, yet deep in my heart, I realized that Samuel’s destiny lie elsewhere. The sprightly youth had never displayed the proper spine to wear the magistrate’s wig. No wonder he escaped after a mere six months.

Many a day I wondered if I still had the proper spine myself. After long years as a competent yet hardly brilliant judicial specimen, did I still deserve the sacred honor? Did this sad fool deserve to pass judgment on others?

My thoughts skidded toward self-defeating bleakness. My fingers clutched the slick reins. I refrained from indulging in more drink, tucking the half-empty flask into my right saddle pouch. To arrive reeking of cheap swill seemed unwise.

I urged Bel Canto forward through the murk. My colleague Howard had warned me that St. Luke’s Home for Orphans looked more like a stone jail than a benevolent almshouse guiding young souls toward a better life. His words rang true. The lumpy stone building looked foul, almost rotten. I curled my upper lip in disgust. However, three years ago, Howard had unearthed his highly praised clerk from this establishment. Just after that, a new deacon had stepped into place. The notion worried me.

My meager funding did not allow me to hire a seasoned clerk. I had hired my past clerks from charitable institutions such as this one. Often my choices worked well for me, except for poor Charles. Damn. My heart tightened in remorse.

I refocused on my task, urging Bel Canto to the gate. During my dismount, my coat caught on the saddle. Happily no one watched my near fall from my horse. When had my life turned into a sad comedy?

I clanged the battered outer bell. The worm-eaten, stout wooden outer gate did not raise my spirits when it opened.  Curious lizard-green eyes set in a gaunt, pockmarked face examined me with suspicion. “Master Halderson?”

“At your service, sir.” I bowed. “I am here to interview my clerk candidates.”

A cringing boy scuttled out, pushed forward by the slovenly man in the doorway. He accepted my horse’s reins with trembling fingers, greeting me with a brief, frightened bow. “If you please, sir, I shall stable your horse.”

“Thank you, lad.” The poor boy acted positively browbeaten.

A cold breeze swooped around me. I slapped down my wrinkled gray greatcoat from flapping up. A stray raindrop ran behind my collar. Typical. The miserable weather was accompanied by miserable company. The ill-kept man standing in the home’s outer doorway sparked worry in my soul. His appallingly defiant stare raised my hackles. I had done nothing to warrant such a rude welcome. If this was the teacher’s caliber here, my journey beyond New York’s energetic confines seemed useless.

The scarecrow’s reedy voice wavered between respect and mockery. Quite a verbal feat. “Welcome to St. Luke’s, sir. I’m Master Amos, teacher of numbers. Right this way, if you please. Deacon Buck will show you the selected candidates. I’m sure one will suit your legal needs.”

“Lead on, Master Amos.” We entered the dim recesses. The smell of despair, unwashed bodies, and rotting garbage assailed my nostrils. I was far from a dandy, but the bitter smell even overwhelmed my senses. I left my wet tricorn on my head. Why expose my tied-back hair to the cold dampness? This rank, foul place did not deserve my gentlemanly consideration. At least my casual day wig sat safe in my room. The infernal curly confection took forever to dry. When wet weather threatened, I ignored the need to appear proper.

We entered a dismal central courtyard. Slick brown rats rooted through a tumbled refuse pile in the far corner, dispersing only when the youth returned from stabling my horse and shooed them away. What an unhealthy sight.

In another dreary corner of the courtyard, five youths, dressed only in patched black breeches and rough, gray, homespun shirts, stood under a sheltered area. How barbaric to make them stand in the raw cold without coats. Four appeared to be normal young men, slightly defiant, nervous, and uncertain. They shivered in the murky damp.

The fifth lad, taller than the others, stood straight as a slender beech tree challenging a mountainside’s chill snowfall. The others glanced my way. Number five stared forward in resolute determination, ignoring me with peculiar intensity. Tattered ribbon kept his long hair away from his face. Wavy lengths tumbled down his neck, imprisoned by his tight queue. The surface of his long face reminded me of rosy marble. A wild pattern of raw, red eruptions were scattered across his forehead and chin, likely caused by a mix of adolescent growing pains and poor diet.

Although I tried not to stare at him, I concentrated on his intelligent face. I realized he was my choice. Why did he appear desperate? Something in the set of his lips displayed a deep fear, and I had witnessed enough honest fear to judge the sensation in my fellow men.

Something in this hovel terrified the youth.

I studied Deacon Buck’s poorly-shaven face. Discouragement fluttered through my soul. The man looked to be a drunkard, a liar, quick to use the whip for punishment. He had probably procured his current position through patronage, not skill. Nothing surprising there. Any youth who had advanced into manhood under this creature’s tutelage could not be trusted as my clerk.

Neverthelsss, I might as well interview the lads. Perhaps before he passed on, the former Deacon had skillfully crafted the fifth lad’s mind and soul. I wished for such a glad outcome.

“Magistrate Halderson, welcome to Saint Luke’s.” The stout man possessed a whiny voice which could have irritated a saint. He grabbed my unhappy right hand, squeezing as if he intended to woo me. His filth skin felt greasy.  “I feel honored my fine establishment is still known for producing learned lads. Before you stand five candidates selected for your clerk position. They can read, write, and think.” The Deacon raked his piggish stare over my candidate with loathing. “Aye, one of them thinks a bit too much for his own good.”

Buck’s open antagonism sickened me. “I feel sure I will find a lad to suit my needs.” Despite my urge to point at the slim youth and declare I would rescue him, I queried the others in my normal fashion.  The first four boys answered in coherent sentences, yet they lacked outstanding mental abilities. Candidate one, the biblically named Joshua, displayed a severe stutter, not beneficial in public speaking. Malcolm and Guy acted too obsequious toward me. How badly had this place treated them? As he stumbled on his answers, Matthew scratched a nasty magenta neck rash and refused to meet my gaze.

My head ached in a dreadful fashion. One last chance for redemption stood before me. Number five performed a swift bow and surprised me by speaking first with nervous authority. His alert, green stare met mine. I half expected him to grasp my hands and drop to his knees.

“Sir, believe me, I am a worthy clerk for such an honorable man as yourself. Not only do I read, speak, and write fluently in English and Latin, but I also communicate in French and Spanish. My handwriting is superior and neat. My spelling is flawless.” He darted a sharp glare at the glowering Deacon before he refocused on me.

“Sir, I am accused of thinking too much, but an inquisitive mind is essential for learning. I do not comprehend the law’s sterling rule, but I am a fast study. In addition, I am healthy, I never fall ill, and I am willing to work as hard as you desire. I will endure long, hard hours serving you. In addition, sir, I feel ready to leave this place far, far behind me.” The youth’s intense words ended in a second bow. He looked down at his battered, square shoe tips. Rich, pink color stained his pale cheeks.

My mind reeled. What an astonishingly forward speech.

Something haunted this lad enough to make him beg for the clerk’s position. Indeed, the poor boy acted no different than a shunned leper offered a king’s grand palace. I hardly considered the unpaid two-year clerk’s position a prize.

Deacon Buck snorted in reprimand. He glared as if his irritated vengeance could melt flesh. “This miserable sinner acts awfully bold for his place in life. You can tell he thinks right highly of himself. Sir, trust me, young Aster is an insufferable brat. The chit is not worthy of your important time.”

How odd. I smiled in arch reply. “Pray tell, sir, why do you present this sinful brat to me?”

The Deacon flapped his chapped lips in annoyance until he shrugged off my question. “The law requires I offer you my eldest lads for the position. This dense wretch falls into the category. I’d hardly select Aster to present to you.” The miscreant cozied up to me with physical camaraderie. I almost stepped away from his swill-tainted breath. “Listen well, sir. I warn you, he is not your choice. Mark my words, this mouthy cur’s fantasies, endless questions, and lies will make your ears bleed. Aster’s brash speech shows his shameless disposition. Is that any way for a callow bumpkin to talk to someone like you, sir?”

Buck’s crude character assassination stiffened Aster’s body. “I am not a liar, sir.” His defensive assertion barely broke a whisper.

“Did the good magistrate ask your opinion, you bold scum?” Buck lifted his grimy right hand in a threatening gesture.

The Deacon’s hand never completed its threat. If his corrupt flesh had touched Aster’s skin, I might have disgraced myself by punching Buck’s warty nose. Something evil had happened between my candidate and the Deacon. I ignored the vile man, returning my attention to my prime applicant. “Master Aster, I need to see a sample of your handwriting. Deacon, may we use a desk?”

This time the Deacon included me in his glare. My stern, cold stare devoured his mistake, pummeled it, and spat the mess into his face. I possessed a dangerous gaze, ripe with my icy Swedish heritage. I suspected Viking blood fueled my finest stares.

Buck struggled to conquer my will, but he failed. After ungraciously accepting defeat, the ogre angrily gestured toward a narrow opening across the courtyard. My cutting smile betrayed my frigid mood. We traveled down a rank hallway littered with dust-decorated cobwebs which smelled, to my dismay, worse than the fetid courtyard. Did any room in this pit smell remotely pleasant? Horrible.

Our mismatched trio entered a crowded office. The sty resembled the town dump. The sputtering oil lamp’s flicker had blackened the small paned windows. The familiar, welcome aroma of old pipe smoke masked another sinister stench, something my nostrils equated with dire rot. How fitting.

Buck slumped behind his disorderly desk. A crusty inkwell, and a few tattered quills jammed into a broken ceramic mug added to the clutter.

My nervous candidate shuffled his feet.

“What is your full name?”

“Aindrias Aster, sir.”

“What an unusual name.”

“Yes, sir, a family name given by my poor parents, may they rest in peace. Shall we start, sir?” Another respectful bow. “Let me select a quill.” Aindrias critically examined three different quill tips, rapidly dismissing them. Number four earned a thoughtful frown before Aindrias lifted the rusty pen blade and sharpened the tip.

For a second, I feared Buck might strike Aindrias for his innocent effrontery. My stern stare halted him as I encouraged Aindrias. “Excellent. A man who understands his writing quills. You have neat sharpening work.”

“Sir, I cannot abide a dull quill.” Aindrias’s words drifted toward the quill, but they also aimed for Buck’s ears. “A blunt, ill-treated tool wastes ink and time. Any instrument not kept tidy is useless.”

Aindrias stirred the ink and performed a few practice flourishes. His fingers pantomimed a beautifully light touch. He finished his preparation and nodded in approval. His gaze shyly questioned me. “What shall I write, sir?”

Without asking, I selected a clean parchment page, cleared an area on the desk, and silently dared Buck to challenge me. The lout remained quiet. “While I recite, take notes in Latin, please.”

To my satisfaction, Aindrias smiled as if I offered him heavenly solace. His pen anticipated my words. I subjugated my amused smile and spoke in my normal trial pace. Aindrias’s pen raced across the paper with graceful speed, the flow broken only for the needed ink dip. He performed the mundane task with neat precision.

I droned on about nothing in particular, glancing at Aindrias’s tidy, easily readable handwriting. Once I finished speaking, I read the written page and nodded with sincere appreciation. Every Latin word appeared correct. He performed well under stress.

Intelligent Aindrias was my perfect candidate.

His tall grace made me wonder about his true age. “How old are you, Aindrias?”

My question encouraged Aindrias to stand straighter, trying to appear older by squaring his slight shoulders under his threadbare shirt. He reminded me of a young rooster facing down an older, far more experienced cock. He hiked his pointed chin in  the air with stubborn pride. “I turned seventeen a few days ago, sir. I am plenty old enough for the job. Truly I am, sir.”

His age suited the position. My choice made complete sense to me. Unlike Charles, Aindrias would be my proud achievement.

Deep in my soul, a knowing voice straight from Hell hissed, “Wrong.” Black-winged guilt smiled and danced in bony malevolence.

Begone! I vowed to wait. I would.

I swore to myself on Charles’s sacred soul.

The act nearly brought me to tears.

 

(I need to break here. Writing this account is more difficult than I ever imagined. A jolt of sherry comforts me.)

 

Love in the Shadows from MLR Press

 

About S.A. Garcia 

Thirty years ago, I started writing gay male romance. Writing about men inserting tab A into slot B didn’t seem the norm for a suburban female teenager. Reading Gordon Merrick, John Rechy and Larry Kramer helped me fill in the serious informational gaps.

As the years progressed, I still wrote gay male romance, although the stories progressed from lurking in notebooks to hiding on the computer. I wrote fantasies, contemporaries, bodice rippers; I chugged along following my goofy muse.

Now I’m glad I kept the writing faith. I never thought I’d have published novels. Imagine, my comedy An Elf for All Centuries (Silver Publishing) was in the running for a few awards. The novel didn’t win, but come on, what a thrill.

Life is now is a fun quandary of too many stories hindered by my slow, two-fingered typing skills. I blunder onward into more trauma, drama, and humor. I just hope I can keep up with sexy men who insist on running off with the plots!

My M/M romdramedy (romance/drama/comedy) The Gospel According to Cher releases in late October 2013 via Dreamspinner, home to my novellas and the novel Cupid Knows Best.

My dark comedies An Elf for All Centuries and Temptation of the Incubus are sold at the usual retailers.

 

You can find out more about me at my blog and website.

Facebook: S.A. Garcia

Twitter: SAGarcia_Writer

 

 

 

 

Guest Author: Grace R Duncan – Chatting Choices and Reviews

ChoicesLGWhen I originally set out to write Choices, I honestly had no idea the monster it would become.  The idea started out as an AU fanfiction of the Naruto world.  It was to be the first alternate world (as opposed to alternate reality of Naruto) of my own making.

But as I was talking to the wonderful A.F. Henley about the concept behind Choices, he told me that it sounded like an amazing world and then he challenged me to write an original story, instead.  I don’t think he had any idea just what he unleashed.

Choices grew quickly.  From a short AU fanfic to a short story to a novel.  Then, as the novel progressed, I found myself fascinated not only with the main characters, but also with a number of the secondary characters.  They began to worm their way into my head and heart and demand their own stories.  I pushed it off, convinced for the longest time that this was going to be a single, standalone novel and that was that.

Well, Cyrus and Nadir wouldn’t stand for that.  Neither, apparently, would Darius and Salehi.  And before I knew what hit me, I was making notes on not one, but two more novels in this world.

I managed to make that be enough for the time being and put my effort into finishing Choices.  That novel took me a long time to write.  I started it before NaNoWriMo of 2011.  During NaNo, I managed another 55,000 words and then sometime between January and April, I finished it.  It ate up some 182,000 words, initially.  I stared at that number for a long time, shocked that I’d written so much in one story.

Mind you, novel-length stories aren’t anything new for me. I’ve been writing novel-length fanfiction for quite a long time.  The first story was put up on Fanfiction.net sometime in late 2008/early 2009.  Okay, four-ish years might not seem like a lot for most folks, but it is for me.  Before that, the most I’d written was bits and pieces of original fiction, short stories, poetry and the like, but not in a very long time— like, more than a decade, long.

But seeing myself finish a novel-length original story was an amazing accomplishment for me.  I owe a lot to my husband and my beta, who were both amazing cheerleaders for me and helped encourage me to finish.

Because I was terrified.  Of putting myself out there, of the rejection I was sure I’d get from the publishers I’d submit to.  I’d decided that even if it got turned down, I’d still put it out there on the web as original fiction, at least, for my friends to read.  And I was even scared to death of that – of the reviews I knew I’d get.

Reviews are both a bane and a balm to authors.  There isn’t a book out there that is unilaterally liked.  Every book ever published gets critical reviews as much as they get good ones.  The good ones help motivate us, keep us going, help us to get through that next book.

The bad ones… can stop us in our writing tracks.  Sometimes for days… weeks.  Even months.

I am not new to bad reviews.  I’ve had my share of them over the fanfiction I’ve written.  Something about the anonymity of the internet give a lot of folks insulation and the feeling that since it is the internet, they can say whatever they want.  But there are still real people on the other end of that screen, real people who put their hearts and souls into that story and when bad reviews come back, it is heartbreaking. I should be clear, here.  I’m not talking about reviews with good, constructive criticism here, ones that talk about character problems or plot holes.  I’m talking about reviews that shred the author for the sake of being nasty.  And we’ve all received them.

Despite the fact that I have received my share of bad reviews for fanfiction – and one such review once had me unable to write for over two months – despite having received them, I have found that reviews of my original work are even harder to take.  I can’t explain it; it doesn’t make sense.  But they hurt, much more than any of the mean-spirited reviews I’ve taken over my fanfiction.

As I sat down to work on Deception — my next book— I have found myself blocked on more than one occasion.  I’ve been told over and over again to not even read the reviews, much less let them bother me.  But it is easier said than done.

The most common thing I’ve heard so far is that Choices has too much sex.  It was intended to be a sexy erotica novel.  The sex is integral to the story and the plot is woven through it.  You can’t separate them.  And I was (and still am, if I let myself be) proud of that book.  In a lot of ways – not just because it was my first novel and the first original story like that that I finished.

See… I like sex. I like to read about it and I like to write about it.  I love BDSM and I love good stories about BDSM that handle it right.  So when I set out to write Choices, I wrote something that I would have wanted to read.

Well, I got warned that it might be too much, but I sent it off and Dreamspinner liked it.  They wanted to publish it.  The edits came back and my wonderfully patient content reviewer warned me about the sexual content (not the type of sex, the amount).  We cut and moved. We revised and rewrote and we both were happy with what was left. It was still a lot, but a lot less.

And still, the most common comment I hear is… too much sex.

The problem that comes with that is that Deception is the same type of book.  It, too, is erotica.  It follows Cyrus and Nadir of Choices, two other pleasure slaves.  This is, in fact, what they are.  And when I let those reviews get to me, I start to realize how hard it is to keep writing what Deception should be – and erotica novel with sex that is inseparable from the plot.

But thanks to some very wise words from a couple of close friends of mine, I realize that I still like Deception. I still like the type of book it is and others will, too.  There are quite a few people already looking forward to it.  And it is on these readers that I should be focusing – the ones that I know like Choices and want more.

Well, they’ll get more.  After I finish Deception, I have plans for not one, but possibly up to three more stories.   I mentioned before that this world didn’t want to let go of me.  The characters have become such a part of me, so many of them want my attention.  Two of Teman’s clansmen – Hamid and Isam – have insisted that they want their story told.  And then there is an even more minor character, a serving boy in Bathasar’s chambers by the name of Ghalib who may even get his own.

Will they all be the same level of erotica? I don’t know. That remains to be seen.  Those stories will tell themselves, like Deception is doing now.

It’s not up to me to fight it.  It’s not for me to question it, despite what the reviews say.

It’s just up to me to tell the story that needs to be told.

 

* * *

Thank you so much to Charlie for hosting me today! It is an honor to spend time in the Teahouse!

Please be sure to leave a comment below! Do you write? Have you ever received reviews? How did they affect you?  Do you leave reviews? What is your philosophy on them?  Leave your opinion for a chance to win a bag of swag and be entered to win a signed paperback copy of Choices! Thanks for reading!

* * *

Choices Blurb:

Born and raised a gypsy in the late eleventh century, Teman values freedom over everything. He and his best friend, Jasim, are thieves for hire—until one night they’re caught and their precious freedom is revoked. Given the choice between the dungeons or palace pleasure slavery, they become slaves, but Teman vows to escape someday.

Bathasar doesn’t want the throne. He supports his brother instead, which suits their sadistic father, Mukesh. When Teman, the handsome slave Bathasar has secretly been watching, saves his life, Bathasar requests a slave for the first time. Before long, Bathasar and Teman fall in love. But all is not well. One day Mukesh brutalizes Teman before the court, angering the empress of a neighboring nation. To appease her, he then offers her Jasim as a gift, and Teman decides to stay with Bathasar for now—despite the abuse he may suffer.

The peace doesn’t last. Mukesh plans to invade Jasim’s new country, and Bathasar must find a way to stop the destruction. But if he succeeds, he’ll ascend to the throne and have the power to grant Teman his liberty. Then Teman will surely leave him. What other choice could a gypsy make?

* * *

Where to find Grace:

Website: http://www.grace-duncan.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorgracerduncan
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6606362.Grace_R_Duncan
Twitter: https://twitter.com/GraceRDuncan

 

Guest Author: L.J. LaBarthe – The Body on The Beach

My latest release is called “The Body on The Beach” and is set in Adelaide, South Australia, in 1920. It is a m/m romance murder mystery, and is part of the Australian anthology I put together for Dreamspinner Press. The authors involved in this project are Isabelle Rowan, Meredith Shayne, RJ Astruc, myself and newcomer Robyn Walker.

My story covers not only the murder mystery, but the subjects of immigration, the need for absolute discretion by the gay community, fan-tan games run illegally and opium dens. In 1920, Adelaide was as diverse a city as anywhere in Australia. My research has shown that people came from all over the world to start a new life here in this country, and Australia is a huge multicultural nation.

In “The Body on The Beach,” the main protagonist is Billy Liang, son of Chinese immigrants. He was born and raised in Australia, went to university and was elected by his countrymen to be their liaison and spokesperson for the police and local government. This role was traditional in Adelaide at the time; in 1888 until the early 1900s, the spokesman was Chinese businessman Mr. Way Lee.

Billy’s love interest is an Australian man named Tom, who is also Billy’s family lawyer. The two of them live in Billy’s house, and hide their relationship from the outside world. The only people who know about it are Jian, Billy’s butler and assistant, Bessie, the maid and Hui Zhong, Billy’s wife. Many Chinese men married women in order to continue the family line while having lovers of both sexes, this was a tradition, which is shown in China’s history.

The murder itself is based loosely on an unsolved murder from the 1950s in Adelaide, one that has fascinated me for ages. It’s called the Taman Shud case or the Mystery of the Somerton Man. (More information for those interested is here: http://www.policejournalsa.org.au/0004/16a.html)

The history of Adelaide in the twenties fascinates me, particularly as I’m the child of immigrants myself. It was not all doom and gloom—a newspaper article from 24th February, 1912 talks about a celebration for Chinese Day, when the Chinese businesses closed and there would be fireworks and in the evening, a banquet dinner with toasts being celebrated.

Chinese immigrants—and those from Italy, Greece, Romania, Russia, and all over the world—worked hard and contributed to society. The Adelaide Markets, once situated in the east part of the city center, are now on the south side, and still run as they did when they were established by market gardeners who sold their produce there. Those market gardeners were Chinese, Greek and Italian immigrants and the legacy of their market gardens continues today.

Despite the illegal fan-tan games, which ran for years, despite numerous arrests, and the sale of opium, which was illegal and also resulted in numerous arrests, the Chinese community prospered and became as vital a part of the Australian multicultural landscape as any citizen of the country. This is something I touch on in my story as well, the games and the opium were a constant thorn in the side of the police and the businessmen and the spokesperson for the Chinese.

Finally, I want to share some of the amazing photographs from the era, all are public domain and from the State Library of South Australia.

Brighton1920s

Brighton beach in 1920. This is how the beach where the murder and part of the investigations in “The Body on The Beach” looked during the story.

ChineseStallMarket1907

From 1907, a display of goods from Chinese market gardeners in the East End Markets.

KMTAdels1920

 Group photograph of the members of the Kuo Min Tang in Adelaide, 1920.

 

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L. J. LaBarthe can be found in the following places:

Twitter: @brbsiberia

Blog: http://misslj_author.livejournal.com/

Web: http://www.ljlabarthe.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lj.labarthe.9

 

“The Body on The Beach” is the latest release from L. J. LaBarthe. It’s a m/m romance and murder mystery, set in Adelaide in 1920. It is part of the “Under the Southern Cross” anthology put together by L. J., which features work from Isabelle Rowan, Meredith Shayne, RJ Astruc, L. J. LaBarthe and newcomer Robyn Walker. The anthology is five Australian m/m stories by five Australian authors and is out with Dreamspinner Press in March/April. Stay tuned to http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/index.php?cPath=116 for more information.

LJ