Monday, April 29, 2013

Guest: LJ LaBarthe

Please welcome guest author LJ LaBarthe! I got to say The Body on The Beach sounds like it needs a home on my Nook.


Thanks for having me, Hayley!

The "Under the Southern Cross" anthology has stories from different genres and various Australian experiences, and I think it's fair to say that one thing the binds us all together, whether we're Australian or New Zealander or American or British or any other nationality, is food. Every country has its own 'signature dish(es)' and Australia is no different.

Anyone who has lived or visited here knows very well the deliciousness that is the Tim Tam cookie, which comes in a variety of flavours, or the tasty candy called Jaffas. We have billy tea, which is tea brewed in a tin can over an open fire, made popular in Australian folk song and poetry; damper, which is bread baked in an open fire or the meat pie. There's the pie floater (a meat pie in the middle of a bowl of green pea soup), or Vegemite (a spread made from brewer's yeast), or chiko rolls (a deep fried savoury roll vaguely like a spring roll).

There's also things like lamingtons (vanilla sponge cake squares coated in chocolate and coconut), fairy bread (buttered bread topped with hundreds and thousands), sausage rolls (flaky pastry wrapped around minced meat with herbs and spices, shaped like a long roll), or pavlova, which is a meringue cake with fruit and cream. There's some dispute about the origin of the pavlova, as some say it originated in New Zealand and not Australia.

One of the things I remember from my childhood is ANZAC biscuits. Originally, they were made as digestive biscuits for soldiers in the First World War, hence the name ANZAC. (ANZAC – Australia and New Zealand Army Corps.) Eggs were scarce during war time, so these biscuits are egg-free, which is great for me, as I'm allergic to eggs.

ANZAC biscuits were—and are—a popular biscuit. The scent of freshly baked ANZAC biscuits is one that always reminds me of home and family, and it's part of the Australian and New Zealand heritage. As the anthology and my story, "The Body on The Beach" are about Australians in Australia, I want to share this recipe with you and hope that you too will enjoy these biscuits as much as we do.

ANZAC Biscuits:

1 cup plain flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons golden syrup (if you don't have golden syrup, treacle is a close substitute).
1 teaspoon boiling water
1 cup rolled oats
125 g butter
2 teaspoons bicarbonate soda

*Note: Some recipes call for 2/3 cup of desiccated coconut as well, but my mum never put that into her biscuits. It's up to you.*

Mix flour, oats and sugar (and coconut, if using). Melt butter and golden syrup together. Mix bi-carbonate soda with boiling water and add to the butter mixture. Pour into dry ingredients and stir to combine. Place spoonfuls of mixture onto greased oven trays, leaving room for them to spread. Bake at 170o Celsius / 338o Fahrenheit for 20 minutes. Put onto a cooling tray to cool completely before packing away. Makes about 30.

(This recipe is from the East Goulburn Valley Country Women's Association and was first on the ABC.)

"The Body on The Beach" by L. J. LaBarthe.

Blurb: In 1920, a body is found on Brighton Beach, Adelaide. Billy Liang has been living a respectable life as the representative of Adelaide’s Chinese community—with his lover, lawyer Tom Williams, discreetly at his side. When evidence seems to implicate the people Billy represents, he steps up to help solve the murder. He and Tom deal with illegal opium dens, fantan games and gambling, racism, and being shot at. Though Billy’s family accepts the love he and Tom share, Australia’s laws against sodomy and homosexuality pose a constant danger. Now, the body on the beach brings a whole new threat to Billy and Tom’s life in Adelaide.

You can find L. J. at:
Twitter: @brbsiberia

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Guest: Anne Barwell

My guest today is Anne Barwell! She shares her thoughts about urban fantasy and some information on her WIP. Enjoy!


Urban Fantasy  - a brief tourists' guide to The Sleepless City.
A big "thank you" to Hayley for the invitation to visit her blog today. 

Why urban fantasy?  When I was growing up, the term was virtually unheard of, although there were some stories out there set in cities with characters who were supernatural beings such as werewolves, vampires, ghosts and the like, if you could find them. But then, during that time it was difficult to find much in the way of fantasy, as science fiction was more popular.  
Today the shelves are full of fantasy, and a large number of those are urban fantasy. Why the attraction to the genre?
I can't speak for others but I really like the idea of something different lurking out there amongst the city streets, of there either being another world amongst the cracks in the concrete or one which co-exists alongside our own without our knowledge.  I'm a big fan of finding the extra ordinary in the ordinary, and especially of a scenario where someone wanders into this kind of world and has to adapt to it quickly and become a part of it themselves, either to survive or if they want to be with the person they love.
I've always enjoyed a good vampire or werewolf story, and thought why shouldn't these beings live alongside humans? Urban fantasy explores that, and what it means to be different. In most stories the supernatural pass themselves off as humans for the most part, except for when their talents are needed to bring down what is often referred to as a 'big bad'.  And yes, I am a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, why do you ask?
Of course there's the flip side of it all as being a vampire, a werewolf, or a ghost does have its downside. What happens when a vampire falls for a human who is going to age and die while the vampire keeps living physically unchanged, for centuries? I think that's the real curse, watching everything and everyone around you change while you don't.
I wrote a series of short stories a few years ago about a photographer who fell for a vampire, the irony of it that he would never be able to capture the man he loved on film. I really liked these characters, and the scenario and wanted to do something further with them, so when Elizabeth Noble and I were discussing vampires one day – as one does -  and she said she had a vampire character she'd like to write more of too, our series The Sleepless City was born.
So far we have five books planned, and we're having a lot of fun with it. The first book is Shades of Sepia, which is my current WIP, and Elizabeth is writing book two, Electric Candle.  The main characters are vampires, werewolves, ghosts and the photographer I mentioned before, although his character has morphed a bit since then, as they all have. We're going for a slightly different take on vampire and werewolf lore, and it's led to some very interesting conversations.
I'll leave you with the blurb for Shades of Sepia, and a brief excerpt to whet your appetite. Keep in mind though, that this is currently a WIP... Stay tuned.

A serial killer stalks the streets of Flint, Ohio. The victims are always found in pairs, one human and one vampire.
Simon Hawthorne has been a vampire for nearly a hundred years and he has never seen anything like it before. Neither have any of others who make up the team of supernaturals he works with to keep the streets safe for both their kind and the humans who live in this city.
One meeting with Simon and Ben Leyton finds himself falling for a man he knows is keeping secrets, but he can't ignore the growing attraction between them. Ben has only recently arrived in Flint, and finding it very different from his native New Zealand, but there's something about Simon that makes Ben feel as though he's found a new home.
After a close friend becomes one of the killer's victims, Simon is torn between revealing his true nature to Ben, and walking away and avoiding the reaction he fears. But with the body count rising and the murders becoming more frequent is it already too late to prevent either of them from becoming the next victim? 


"Cool. I knew you guys were like the Justice League or something."
Lucas laughed. "I was going more for the Legion of Super Heroes actually."
"Yeah but the League has Batman in it," Blair began, "and the Legion is―" Luckily whatever he was going to say was interrupted by the sound of a telephone ringing.  Once he and Lucas started on one of their comics' conversations they'd go for what seemed forever.
"Aren't you going to answer that?" Forge asked Simon.
"What?" Simon glanced around for the source of the ringing. He didn't get telephone calls, and had presumed the noise was coming from wherever Blair was.
"You're the only one around here who insists on that horrible ringtone," Forge pointed out, "so it's obviously your phone."  He'd complained about it ever since Simon had explained―quite logically he'd thought― that if he was to carry a telephone it made sense for it to at least sound like one.
"Try your pockets?" said Lucas helpfully.
"Oh right." Simon fished his telephone out of his pocket. Its screen was flashing with the name of the caller. Simon stared at it.
"You're supposed to answer it, not stare at it," Forge said. "Or have you forgotten how to again?"
"I know how to answer it." Simon poked at appropriate button then held the telephone up to his ear. "Simon speaking. How can I help you?"
Forge snickered. Simon glared at him, thought for a moment about retreating to somewhere more private then realised it would be a waste of time. Damn vampire hearing. Not that werewolves and ghosts were much better.
"Hey, Simon. It's Ben."
Perhaps he was calling to say he'd thought twice about meeting for coffee. But why would he take the time to do that? Surely if that were the case he'd just not contact Simon again at all?
"Hello, Ben."  Simon took a couple of steps toward the door, half turning his back on the other occupants of the room.
"I rang to apologise," Ben said, his words tumbling out over each other.
"Apologise?" Simon frowned. "Why?" If anyone should be apologising for the way in which their conversation had ended, it should be him.
"I obviously upset you, and I'm sorry."
"You didn't," Simon reassured him. "I overreacted. I do that sometimes." He reached for his glass of milk and took a long draught. Feeling a little calmer, he collected his thoughts before breaking the silence. "Would you still like to meet for coffee?"
Lucas and Forge high fiving was something best ignored, as was the smug expression on both their faces.
"Yeah, sure, that would be great." Ben answered Simon very quickly. "When and where? I'm working a long shift tomorrow so that won't work but I don't start until eleven on Thursday."
After mentally consulting his calendar, Simon nodded. "That would be fine. I don't have lectures on Thursday mornings. Do you know Hunter's on West 13th Street? We could meet at there at nine."
"I haven't been there but I'll find it," Ben said. "See you at nine then on Thursday?"
"Yes. Goodbye, Ben."
"Bye, Ben," called out Lucas.
"Bye ..." Ben trailed off. "Hey, who is that?" His voice took on a rather suspicious tone. "Simon, is there someone listening in on us?"
"Unfortunately, yes," Simon said.  "I share my... building... with some friends who don't understand the concept of privacy. That was Lucas. I'll explain on Thursday."
"Okay.  Bye."
"Goodbye," Simon said again, this time to a darkened telephone. He shoved it back in his pocket.
"He sounds cute," said Lucas. "I like the accent." He grinned. "Can I come too? I want to hear how you explain me."


Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand, sharing her home with her twin daughters, at least during the holidays, when one of them isn't away at university. Her son has left home and started his own family, although she claims she is too young to be a grandmother already. Her three cats are convinced that the house is run to suit them; this is an ongoing "discussion," and to date it appears as though the cats may be winning.

In 2008 she completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching and has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and a librarian. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction club and plays piano for her local church and violin for a local orchestra.

She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as "too many." These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of "spare time" is really just a myth.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Guest: Skylar M. Cates

 Today my guest is Skylar M. Cates! Skylar talks about tropes and repetition authors use. I read a lot of mystery, and the genre follows a formula. But I love a mystery even if I can spot the formula, so I always go back to the genre no matter.


You’re My Obsession
Writers are constantly trying to create something new with every novel. They like to push the envelope. They like to grow and change and defy expectation…Don’t they? That is the question that I’m struggling with today. Do writers repeat? Do readers want that repetition?

I think that the answer is yes.

When I pick up a Pat Conroy novel, for example, I expect to see an abusive military type of father and a struggling son. If it is a theme that Conroy repeats in several books, then it is a theme that resonates with me. I like it. I might even be disappointed in one of his works that didn’t have a Great Santini type of father. Similarly, I expect to have a fun time with a Janet Evanovich story. I don’t want her to suddenly turn morose. When I am in the mood for heavy reading, I still turn to a good classic like Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, but I don’t want that in Finger Licking Fifteen.

Recently, I stumbled upon an argument amongst romance writers who were attempting to clarify how they, “Go beyond mere romance trope.” It struck me that I love trope. Give me friends-to-lovers, hate-to-love, lovers reuniting trope. Whenever I pick up the novels of the romance queens like Jayne Anne Krentz or Nora Roberts, I want trope---repeated, predictable trope--- and they deliver it. It is the dependability of the trope combined with their particular writing style that I actually savor.

But what about the writers desires?  Should they deliberately try and change their patterns? Isn’t it important to spread their wings and take some risks?

I’m too new to even know what my patterns are in my books. I’m sure that over time, readers will let me know. It won’t surprise me to hear, though, that I unconsciously repeat themes or even images. We all have obsessions, right? There are some core ideas that float around in our heads. They come from our childhoods, our lovers, our lives. Even if we change genres, make a concentrated effort to write something new, I suspect that these obsessions will still linger, hovering like ghosts. On the other hand, I do see some value in pushing some limits and trying to slay them.

So I’m throwing the question out there to readers and to writers. For the readers, I am wondering if you like spotting an author’s obsessions? If so, why do you like it? Or does it bore you? Do you like it when your most beloved author goes in a completely different direction or do you resent it?  

For my writer friends here, I’m wondering if you try and escape from your own patterns (whether it is in terms of style, theme, POV, or plot)? Do you embrace it, or is it an albatross around your neck?

Tell me your obsessions and I’ll tell you mine.

Skylar’s novel, Exposed, is available from Dreamspinner Press:
Buy link and contact link: links:

After years of running from a traumatic secret, young journalist Rafe Quintero is making his way in the world alone. Now that he’s landed a job at a Miami newspaper, he’s hungry for success. His goal? A blistering exposĂ© on closeted PGA golfer Daniel Andrews. Rafe will stop at nothing to get the scoop—even if it means going undercover on Daniel’s private yacht.
Daniel is used to being in the spotlight, but his reputation for being cold and unfriendly hasn’t made him very popular. Still reeling from his mother’s death and his ex-boyfriend’s engagement, he hides out on his yacht to escape the press hounding his every step. His instant attraction to Rafe, his new crew member, is a problem he can't ignore.
When Rafe and Daniel begin a steamy affair, Rafe knows it’s only a matter of time before Daniel discovers his betrayal. Now he has to choose: confess and hope Daniel can swallow his pride and forgive him, or put his ambition ahead of his heart and follow the story.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Cover Revealed! Paid Leave

Albuquerque police officer Benji Miller made the choice to hide his sexuality and devote his life to his career. He guards his secret carefully, believing he is protecting his job and happiness. Then, during a routine traffic stop gone awry, he shoots a suspect to protect a young girl, and his life spins out of control. A department-mandated paid leave rips away the only distraction he had, and he has to deal with the unsympathetic media who criticize the police department’s every move. 

One day, needing to get out of the house, Benji walks into a cafĂ©, where he meets Neal McCoy—a gay man living without shame, unafraid to speak his mind or stand up against prejudice. Benji quickly falls for Neal but struggles to combine his new love interest and his career. With the media threatening the careful illusion he’s built around himself, Benji can’t stand the pressure. 

Benji has to decide: sacrifice his happiness in the name of his career and an easy life, or find the courage to give up the lonely existence he knows and take a step into the unknown.

Pre-order today from Dreamspinner Press


Paul Richmond has created another beautiful work of art. I simply can't explain how much I love this cover. Paid Leave comes out on May 3, 2013. I plan to do a little celebrating and have some awesome prizes so mark your calendars!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Guest: Grace R. Duncan

Today my guest is Grace R. Duncan. Comment to be entered into a drawing for a bag of swag and a signed copy of Choices. Good luck!


Hayley B. James is a big fan of this cover 
I am fairly new to professional writing.  Choices is my first published novel, my first truly professional endeavor.  I’ve self-pubbed one story before but that was it.  The rest of my writing started out as fanfiction, which I’d been doing for some four years before Choices was published.

In all that time, I have been writing adult-oriented fiction.  I like sex, I like to write it and in all the stories I’ve written, only one has prompted someone to tell me that I had too much sex in there.  And I have gotten some really nasty reviews over my fanfiction.  I write BDSM – quite a bit – and I’m not ashamed of that.  Because many of my stories are BDSM-centric, they also involve a lot of sex. 

So, imagine my surprise when the first negative comments to come back on Choices was talking about there being too much sex.  Tacked on to that involved comments about it being the same sex over and over and I have to say that I was really surprised.  I had gone to great lengths to keep the sex scenes fresh. 

My content editor and I went over them many times, did a lot of cutting, moving and refining and both of us were quite happy with what came out. 

But that whole thing led me to start wondering – how do you keep sex fresh when writing erotica? I mean, let’s be real, erotica comes with certain expectations, like a lot of sex.  Most also expect a decent variety of it.

I was talking to a friend of mine tonight and he agreed, when you’re talking about vanilla sex, there are only so many ways to write it.  Location, position, things like that, but unless one of the guys is holding a Kama Sutra, it’s not going to be all that varied. 

As a writer of BDSM, that helps.  When you bring kink into the picture, things open up.  I can’t begin to imagine that Choices would have been nearly as erotic if it wasn’t BDSM-focused.   But BDSM gives a lot of options, and I enjoyed using many of them.  Bondage, denial, pain, Domination and submission – many of these things allowed me to keep the sex scenes fresh and different. 

It’s not easy, even when there are relatively few sex scenes in a book, to make them different.  As I pointed out above, there are really only so many ways to HAVE vanilla sex, much less write it.  Choices will not be, by far, my last novel.  I have some 20 different stories running around in my head.  Some of those will be erotica, some of them won’t.  A few of them may not even have sex in them (I know, this is shocking to me, too, believe me!). 

But I think that, perhaps because it’s not easy, I look forward to the challenge, I look for ways to make it different, both in and out of kink.  Here’s to hoping I manage it.

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Thank you again to Hayley for hosting me! I am very appreciative of the opportunity.  Do be sure to leave a comment for a chance to win a bag of swag!  I’ll be drawing the name on Monday, April 15th, along with the winner of the signed paperback copy of Choices!
Thank you for stopping by and reading!
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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?