I’m not even going to pretend that Sons of Devils wasn’t directly inspired by Dracula. Why would I? Have you read Dracula? Even though it’s now a little outdated, it’s a genuinely enjoyable book, and at least half of it is brilliant.
Bram Stoker is a master of gothic atmosphere, and the part of the book set in Transylvania is to my mind breathlessly gripping and fascinating. When I first read the book, the predator/prey dynamic between Dracula and Jonathan Harker was erotic, and the Romanian setting was unfamiliar and interesting and capital R romantic. I wanted more.
But then the action shifts to England, thus – for me – losing the unfamiliarity and Romance. And with Jonathan Harker presumably dead any kind of erotic charge now fades for anyone who doesn’t like heterosexual pairings… And pretty much my interest in the novel falls off and is gone. No. I wanted to find out what happened to Jonathan. I wanted him to escape and travel through more of that fascinating setting, having interesting encounters and close scrapes until he either defeated Dracula or joined him.
It took me many years of chasing after other vampire novels and wondering why they didn’t deliver the same thrill to realize that it wasn’t the vampire part of Dracula that I was enjoying at all. Half of it was the intense relationship between two men, and half of it was the scenery. Without the setting, none of these other stories were as good. So it didn’t come as any surprise to me that when I began research into Wallachia I absolutely fell in love with the country. What a place! What a beautiful place.
But it did surprise me that it was a very different place than the Transylvania of Stoker’s story. I expected a bleakness in which not much had happened but trees growing and wolves howling, and in fact I discovered a country with roots that were splendid even before the Romans got there. A diverse country full of Dacians and Saxons and Romani, with ancient links to the Ottoman Empire. With lyrical and oddly affectionate folk stories – much softer and more humane than the Brothers’ Grimm stories – and nobles with iron hearts. Such a place! How come more people hadn’t used it as a setting already? I had to put that right.
As far as the intense relationship between two men went, I realized as I got older that a lot of the erotic charge of the vampire came from the Victorian sense that sexuality was something bad and wrong, whose lure was therefore evil – it was a sin whose wages were death. When I realized that, the charm wore off. I don’t want to be suggesting that two guys falling in love with each other was bad or wrong in any way. I don’t want to be perpetuating that whole bodice ripper thing whereby the innocent protagonist has to be forced to have the sex they secretly really want but can’t allow themselves to consent to. Rape culture. Blergh!
That’s not for me. My characters like to take responsibility for their own sexuality, thanks. So my gentlemen’s love for one another is a force of strength for them both, and my vampires are, as they originally were, monsters.
Basically, Sons of Devils is my version of what Dracula should have been, if only it had been written to suit me. I hope it will suit you too!
Huzzah! This is part two of the story that began in Sons of Devils, but with a change of location and an upping of the stakes (heh) I like to think it feels like its own entity. If last book was a love letter to Romania, this one is a sonnet to Istanbul, although I apologize for the vampire apocalypse while I was doing it.
Wallachian nobleman Radu is recently arrived in Bucharest with his vampire parents. Welcomed as an eligible bachelor, he’s introduced to the enchantress Ecaterina, whose salon is Bucharest’s centre of magical expertise.
If you know that you like my stuff, I recommend that you buy both volumes in the package deal, because although the story pauses at the end of Sons of Devils, it doesn’t properly conclude until the end of this one. If you aren’t sure you’d like it, I’ll put up an excerpt on the Freebies page by the end of today so you can try the first three chapters before you buy.
Also, let me know if you’d like more! I have four further volumes mapped out in plan form, if anyone wants to read them 🙂 And in the mean time join me on the tour for a chance to win a backlist book and a $10 Riptide voucher:
Those of you who’ve known me a while will have seen me blog about this book and Angels of Istanbul, its sequel, for years. I know there are folks out there who want to see epic historical fantasy where the protagonists are queer, but the story is not about the queerness – the story is about the protagonists having badass adventures and saving the world.
There are folks who are tired of queerness being considered a talking point or an obstacle to get over, and who just want novels where queer characters’ sexuality is treated the same way straight characters’ sexuality is treated. Namely, it’s an important part of their character, but it’s not going to get in the way of the adventure.
That’s what this is.
Yes, there’s a love story. Yes, it influences the plot. But you could say the same thing of Star Wars without deciding that Star Wars was therefore a romance.
What this actually is, is my homage to Dracula, where I kept everything I liked about Dracula (Romania, the UST between Dracula and Jonathan Harker) and turned it up to eleven. Then I dropped everything I didn’t like (rainy Victorian Britain, het romance) and added the Ottoman Empire. Everything’s better with the Ottoman Empire.
Anyway. To all those people who said they wanted to see queer literature that was (a) not about coming out or dying, (b) not limited to romance, here it is. I hope you like it!
This morning, Samhain’s website has gone dark, only redirecting to a farewell page. It’s the end of an era but not the end of the world. Having had notice, and feeling too fuzzy-headed to write, but capable of doing a bit of light administrative work, I spent the last two weeks reformatting the five books of my Samhain backlist and making new cover art, so that I could make them available on Amazon and Kobo immediately, and in paperback asap.
The paperbacks are also formatted and uploaded, but I’m waiting for Createspace to deliver proof copies to me so I can check they’re okay before I finally press the ‘publish’ button.
One bonus of this crash course in formatting for paperback is that Lioness of Cygnus Five should also be made available in print at the same time. The proofs are in the post, so it shouldn’t be long.
Unfortunately I haven’t yet had a rights reversion letter from Samhain, so I can’t put the ebooks up today after all. But they’re working through the authors alphabetically and I’m a B, so I hope it’ll be in the next fortnight or so.
In the mean time, I really need to re-do my website with the new covers!
Speaking of new covers, here they are:
Plus, I liked the cover for The Reluctant Berserker so much that I’m keeping it, so that one still looks like this:
Watch this space for when I can make them available again. As I say, I hope it will be soon.
With Samhain closing its doors, hundreds of authors are now wondering what to do with their backlists. I’ve been busily making mock-ups for new cover art for my own books, and I thought this might be a good time to repost this “Absolute basics of making your own cover art” post. Learning how to use a photoshop-type program like Gimp takes a long time and a lot of effort, so if you’re reasonably well off but short on time, I think your best option is probably to buy your Samhain covers, or pay a professional to make new ones. If you’re short on money but long on time, however, this might be the point to teach yourself how to make book covers.
First of all, go to http://www.gimp.org/ and download The GIMP. (This stands for “GNU Image Manipulation Program” and has nothing to do with leatherwear unless you want it to.) The Gimp is almost as powerful as Photoshop, more than capable of allowing you to make highly professional book covers, yet totally free.
It’s also offputtingly complicated and has no user manual, but who cares about that, right? 🙂
So, today let’s make a cover for a book which you are going to upload to Smashwords. Smashwords likes its book covers to be 2400 pixels tall by 1600 pixels wide. If you want to make a cover for Amazon, you’ll need to check what dimensions they recommend and use those instead.
So, in an email that went out to Samhain authors this morning we were asked to keep this confidential, but as it’s already out in the public here on The Digital Reader I think that part of it is moot.
Samhain has just announced that they will in fact finally be closing on 28th of February (ie in 18 days time.)
If you’re a Samhain reader who’s been storing their books in Samhain’s cloud, this would be the time to download them to your own hard storage so that you don’t lose them the way readers lost books they bought with All Romance Ebooks.
Authors are getting their rights back once the closure has happened, and I intend to reformat my books and self-publish them as soon as I can. But as you know, I’m still recovering from an operation and I have a deadline for a new manuscript which I intend to turn in first, so it may be some time before I can get around to re-launching my backlist in print.
(Ebooks may be faster, depending on availability of cover art. I’m looking into buying some of my covers back from them. All the haggling with the artist that went on to make the cover of The Reluctant Berserker as authentic as possible was in my view 100% worth it, and if I can possibly keep that one I will. It’s gorgeous. But otherwise, making new cover art is quite fun, though laborious.)
If there’s a book of mine you haven’t already bought, but were idly thinking of getting on some future day when you felt like it, let me know and I’ll prioritize my re-release list to get to those ones first. But if I can beg a favour, I would ask you to hold on a little longer and get them from me, rather than buying them from Samhain now. On a callously monetary basis, I will recieve much more of the royalties if you buy from me than if you buy from them – and you will probably get the book cheaper too.
My royalties from Samhain halved during this last year, so I am quite pleased at the prospect of having my rights back from them, but I’m still sad about this. They were an excellent publisher while it lasted – which is why they have so much of my backlist. There was a time when, in my view, they were the best m/m publisher out there. The genre will be poorer without them.
It does seem to me that the m/m publishing boom has finally burst. This may yet have its good side, in that the people who leaped on the bandwagon because m/m seemed like the place to get easy sales will find somewhere else to go, and we’ll be left with the people for whom it actually has meaning. I think that’s been quietly self-selecting inside the genre for a long time anyway.
Download your Samhain books to your own storage now. They’ll be gone on the 28th.
Well, provisionally, following my surgery I am more or less happy to declare that I am not dead yet 🙂
I’ve also come out of the hospital to news that the Porthkennack series is now available for pre-order.
A complete change of pace from the historical-fantasy of the Arising books, the Porthkennack series is a shared universe series, where several authors write stories based in the same location. In this case, the location is a small seaside town in Cornwall, and the ‘several authors’ are me, Joanna Chambers, Charlie Cochrane, Garrett Leigh, and JL Merrow. Each book is a standalone, but locations and some characters may be shared between them. (You’ll find Garrett’s Brix from Blood Rush has a walk on part in my Foxglove Copse, for example.)
The series is planned to contain mostly contemporary novels, but with a few historicals thrown in for background. I’ll be writing one of the historicals for the second wave, but my first novel in the series is the contemporary Foxglove Copse in which eco-traveler Sam Atkins and local boy Ruan Gwynn investigate what looks like a nasty bit of cultic activity on Ruan’s aunt’s farm.
After a massive anxiety attack, Sam Atkins left his high-powered job in the City and committed himself to life on the road in a small van. Six months in, he’s running out of savings and coming to the conclusion that he might have to go home to his emotionally abusive family.
Needing time to think, he takes a walk through a copse by the Cornish roadside, only to stumble upon the body of a ritualistically killed sheep. As he’s trying to work out what the symbols around the animal mean, the sheep’s owner, Jennifer, and her nephew, Ruan Gwynn, come upon him.
Ruan is a kind-hearted young man with a large supportive clan, and since he and Sam feel almost instant attraction, he doesn’t want to believe Sam is a sheep-killing cultist. In fact, the moment he lays eyes on Sam’s miserable solitary life, he wants to rescue the man. But as the killings escalate, he and Sam need to stop whoever is actually to blame before they can concentrate on saving each other.
And if you would like to read the rest of the Porthkennack books, you can find them here on the collection page.
Meanwhile, I hope to soon be fit enough to start writing again on my second novel for the series, which is the first Age of Sail novel I’ve done for a good long time, and is currently five chapters long out of a planned thirty.
The proof arrived this morning and was a joy to behold, so I have okayed it, and you should now be able to buy a paperback of the new edition.
I don’t know how long it will take until it’s available on Amazon or other retailers, but it should be available right now on the Createspace website here. (From which I may say I get the maximum royalties 😉 )
Now that I know that worked, one of my projects for the new year will be to do a paperback version of Lioness of Cygnus 5. (The last time I tried, I got a doorstop of a book 600 odd pages long because it was doublespaced with extra spaces between paragraphs throughout. This time I will do it properly, reformatting everything and then cutting and pasting each chapter individually into the template.
It is, I have to say, worth it. The new version of Captain’s Surrender is a very good looking book, with a nice large text size that makes it easy to read even without your glasses. Very professional! I am pleased.
On other news, I have finally started work on Contraband Hearts – the second of my Porthkennack books. This is going to be an Age of Sail book from me! A new one, after all hope was lost. It’s not going to be a naval one, though – this one is smuggler versus Customs officer, with some wrecking, some mining and some pilchard fishing just for local colour.
Subject to my health, the plan for this year is:
- Blog posts for the Arising series release tour
- Write Contraband Hearts and get it to Riptide before August.
- Edit Foxglove Copse
- Release Lioness of Cygnus Five in paperback.
- Edit Heart of Cygnus Five and release in ebook and paperback
- Edit Waters of the Deep (sequel to The Wages of Sin) and release in ebook format
- Edit Pride of Cygnus Five and release in ebook and paperback
- Write something else – possibly a Trowchester murder mystery book. Or – if I don’t have time after everything else – the third Jasper and Charles story, so I can bundle Wages of Sin, Waters of the deep and Torments of the Damned into an anthology of Unquiet Spirits novellas.
Ideally I would like to get back to the point where I have a ratio of one book in need of editing to one book in first draft stage. My concentration on producing new stuff in 2016 has left me with a serious second draft/editing backlog.
Well, what an interesting year 2016 was, (in the sense of ‘may you live in interesting times.) My father died in February. We had always had a rocky relationship, and making sure he was cared for in his final two years, when he was suffering from dementia, was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. 2014-2015 brought the rest of my dysfunctional family back into my life in a big way too, putting me in their spotlight in a way I hadn’t had to endure before. I soon discovered I was not going to make it without help, and I put myself into therapy to try to make myself into the sort of person who could cope with this.
It was a year’s course of therapy, and how I wish I’d done it earlier! I learned that I had the right to say ‘no’ to my sisters. This did result in one of them deciding never to speak to me again – but after the months of weeping and raging over the rejection had settled, I discovered that I didn’t actually want to talk to her much either. So I am actually quite proud of her for making a move that did us both good, in the long term. Our family had always caused us pain – let it end, then.
And I’m sad to say that when my Dad died this year, that also came as a relief. I debated not saying this, because it’s not the sort of thing you’re allowed to say about your family. But then I remembered that this was also the year in which I promised myself I would stop being silent, and I decided I would say it after all.
I loved him – all my life I wanted his approval and raged because it seemed to me that although he loved me, he profoundly wanted me to be someone else (and therefore he didn’t love me at all.) Although the last two years almost killed me – literally, the stress symptoms were wild – I’m thankful that we had them, so that (maybe) he could see that my refusal to take money from him was because I didn’t need to be paid to love him, and so that I could see that his insistence on trying to give me money was because it was the only way he knew of to express love.
(We fought a lot about money. Dad used it as a way to gain power over people, and to accept it was to accept a position of subserviance. Everyone could be bought, but he didn’t think there was anything wrong in that – it was just the way his world worked. He honestly couldn’t conceive of anyone doing anything for any motive other than money. My writing was a mystery to him, when I could have earned much more in almost any other job.)
I also had the chance to finally get to know him as one adult to another. It amazed me to see in him the self same anxiety and depression I had been suffering all my life, and that my daughter now shares. It was an eye opener to realize that he too was maybe not entirely responsible for the workings of his own brain – that the desperate thing that whines and batters itself against the closed windows of the inside of my head was in him too. I wish he’d been able to have therapy too, before it was too late. It would have helped him. But he would have laughed for scorn at the very idea. I never told him about my own.
I never told him about his trans grandson. He would have ridiculed us both if I had, and so he never saw his grandson as he truly was… and now I’m just making myself sad.
In February my father died, and after the funeral I went through six months of feeling liberated; I felt wary – waiting for the other shoe to drop – and guilty for not feeling any real grief. (By contrast, when my mum died I felt like the world had ended and it was not to be rebuilt for two full years.)
I don’t know whether I’m a terrible person, or whether dad reaped what he sowed in raising us the way he did. But 2016 has been for me the first year ever when I have not been wrung like a dishrag with anxiety about my family of birth. I have felt hopeful and balanced and strong as a person for the first time ever. I even looked forward to Christmas with no fear that I would get everything wrong and be disowned. It was very odd.
But the world is not like a story, and every time you think you’ve got to a satisfying conclusion something new comes along to throw you back into a state of human turmoil. 2016 was also the year when I found a lump in my abdomen, which has grown rapidly to the point where I now look 6 months pregnant. On 1st February 2017 I will go in for a hysterectomy, at which point we will find out what it is. Is it a huge fibroid? Is it something more sinister? We just don’t know.
And then of course there is the state of the world. I doubt that 2017 is going to be better than 2016, with Trump as president, and Brexit on the way. The future is full of dread.
But even as I say that, I remember that my major lesson in 2016 was that nothing quite turns out the way you expect. The Lord has given me strength to get through two years where I wanted to die. He brought me through without being broken, and enabled me to treat my father as well as I could and make the end of his life as bearable as I could, even though I was terrified of him.
I guess I’ve learned not to look too far ahead. The future may be full of dread, but the present is full of warm electric light and the sparkle of the holographic stars with which I’ve decorated my walls. Good came out of the evil that I endured in the past, and if there is evil to be endured in the future, I have God’s promise that he can bring good out of that too. In the mean time I am counting my blessings while I have them, because I’m beginning to see that the present moment is all I really have.