A Lou Sylvre post: The ideal reader-author relationship? A round dozen author replies

Lou Sylvre Gay Romance Happy Endings Hello readers and fellow writers. I’ve switched my monthly date here at Authors Speak to the first. This month I’m going to do something a little different, but first a word as to why. Lately, I’ve been all about the politics, and I feel that’s as it should be. The most inclusive definition of the word “politics” is well-stated in Merriam Websters free online dictionary as the last (5th) meaning:

the total complex of relations between people living in society

So, it’s not about votes and executive orders and petitions and protests. It’s about people. Persons. Individuals in relation to the world of individuals. What does this have to do with my blog post? Hang on, I’m getting there.

Not quite five years ago I had one of my big ideas. Ruh-roh, right? This particular idea was for a project on my author blog, sylvre.com. I decided to have a whole passel of M/M romance authors answer the same set of questions. One of my favorites was specifically about politics—in other words, human relations—from a writer’s perspective. Here’s the question followed by a dozen of the answers from authors. I’d absolutely welcome comments answering the same question from a reader’s viewpoint, or anything from the same authors if their thoughts on the subject has changed, or anything else you’ve got to say—anyone.

Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.

Andrea Speed: “Friendly, cordial. But not so friendly restraining orders are involved.”

Ellen Holiday: “I don’t know that I can speak to an ideal, but I can certainly say that I’m so delighted when readers take the time to leave a review or a rating or drop me a line or a tweet (@ellen_holiday!). I’m always so glad to hear from folks and have had some wonderful conversations with readers. There was a gentleman from England who emailed me, saying he wished he could vote for a politician like Davis Hudson (the protagonist of “Inside the Beltway”) – that was a great compliment! So readers, if you like what an author has to say, don’t hesitate to drop them a line. They may not all respond — they might be too busy writing the next book you’ll love — but it will give them great validation and motivation to keep writing.”

Anne Barwell: “An open relationship, where the author is free to be true to what she/he wants to write, and where readers feel free to give honest constructive reviews. Emphasis on constructive. It saddens me that as writers, if a reader reviews a story (which often sounds nothing like what we’ve actually written) an author often doesn’t feel as though she/he can reply to it. Tactful honesty should be a two-way street. As a reader I love to be able to chat to authors about what they’ve written, and the same is true in reverse.”

Vastine Bondurant: “Oh, wow. What a cool question. I suppose the ideal is for the readers to feel as if they know the author. For them to be comfortable, to feel free to do as the question above stated—to feel free to suggest what they’d like to see in my stories. But, above all—respect, both ways.”

Chris T. Kat: “It should be based on mutual respect. I like to connect with the people who read my stories, to know what they liked and what not. As a reader I’m mostly shy but if I found an author whose books I like I’m very loyal.”

Cornelia Grey: “I never really stopped to think about this! I guess an ideal relationship would be one where I behave and write all the requested sequels instead of chasing after the latest sparkly toy that strikes my fancy. Then obviously the readers would unconditionally love every word I ever penned, including grocery lists, drunken texts and the like, monarchs and presidents would offer conspicuous sums of money and private kingdoms for me to write their biographies, and my notebook from first grade with my early short stories would be framed and exhibited at the National Library with the Magna Charta. Well… you did say ideal ;)!”

Elizabeth Noble: “One of my favorite things to do has become the chats where I can interact in some way with readers. Some people seem to be intimidated and hesitant to email or participate in a chat and I wish they wouldn’t be. I may always be a writer, but I wouldn’t be an author without readers. I love the sorts of sites that allow and encourage interchanges between the authors and readers.”

Lisa Marie Davis: “Writing (for me, at least) is a very emotional experience and I tend to become quite attached to my characters. They are real for me. I want to write them, share their story, in a way that makes them real for the reader as well. I want the reader to care about each character as much as I do, to feel for them, root for them, maybe even miss them when the story comes to an end.
Jacob Flores:“The ideal relationship would be that the readers loved everything the author wrote. LOL! But I know that’s not going to be the case. You can’t please everyone, but I hope that the readers would be invested enough in my book to understand the choices the characters made. On the same token, authors wouldn’t be successful without our wonderful readers. The relationship needs to be symbiotic, a successful joining of creative minds traveling together on a wonderful journey.”

Jamie Fessenden: “Ideally, readers will provide useful feedback for an author about what does and does not work for them, and the author will be responsive to that, taking into account things that pushed a lot of readers’ buttons, for instance, and learning to work with that. I’ve also had readers nudge me to get back to work on my cyberpunk story and I think that’s great! I love knowing that there are people out their interested in knowing how the story will work out.”

J. L. O’Faolain: “An ideal relationship between an author and said readers is probably best compared to a dysfunctional family unit, except the screaming takes place over the internet rather than via phone calls and Thanksgiving dinners.”

Kim Fielding: “Ideally, what I love to write is what readers will love to read. Also ideally, my stories can entertain, can stir emotions, and can maybe make people think about things in new ways. If my stories inspire people, even better. And of course readers are really important to me, because otherwise I’m just writing for my own amusement.”

KZ Snow: “Interactive, in a way marked by mutual respect and appreciation. A sense of humor doesn’t hurt, either.”
Zahra Owens: “Very selfishly I’d like a reader to love or trust me enough to buy anything I bring out, even if, at first glance, it isn’t their cup of tea. As a reader, I have a few authors like that (not naming names, because these people know me!). Also, I’d like to get some feedback from them. Just honest, tactful, right off the cuff feedback.”

If perchance you’d like to see one or all of the complete interviews (which are all accompanied by bios, blurbs, covers, and excerpts), you can find them on sylvre.com by checking the list of archived months in the righthand side bar, and looking in October through December 2012. If one of the authors I’ve mentioned is new to you and you’d like to know more, as far as I’m aware they are all still in the M/M writing game and a Google search should yield results.

A tiny update about my current writerly antics: I’ve asked for the rights to A Shot of J&B in order to keep the series it truly belongs to together. They’re mine again as of April 10th. I admit to sadness, especially because I will no longer be able to use the absolutely beautiful cover by Reese Dante, pictured here. If you’d like a copy of the book with that cover now is the time, available at Dreamspinner, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and all the usual places until that date. On a brighter note, I’m currently enjoying the rare chance to go back and make a story I loved writing, and which got some strong reviews, even better with a re-edit—a little new material, along with some refinement on the old. As an author, these two main characters are a joy to spend time with. Not quite as sassy, say, as a Luki Vasquez, but responsive, surprising, and pushy enough to keep me on my toes. Make it fun!

Finally, look for another Authors speak big giveaway coming up very soon! (Stay tuned. Really.)

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you around—the sooner the better!

Why is a Writer Like a Janitor?(A Lou Sylvre flashback post)

Lou Sylvre Gay Romance Happy Endings Hi, Authors Speak readers! I’m Lou Sylvre, and this is my first monthly post here. In case you don’t know me, I’ll post my bio and some info on my books at the end of this post—and I’ll tell you right here and now I’ve got a novella releasing this coming December or January, and it’s very dear to me, even though it’s not all my “usual.” It’s just, occasionally, when I write something I feel down deep that I’ve somehow pulled off writing a really good read, and I believe readers will find Falling Snow on Snow to be just that.

Talking about “writing a good read” puts me in mind of a post I wrote and shared on Love Bytes reviews back in January of 2015. The title, in fact, was “Writing a Good Read: Five Keys and a Pipe Wrench.” So the mystery of this new post title is solved—writers and janitors carry keys and may on occasion need a pipe wrench. Mostly, this post is for those of you who are looking to either start a writing career, or those of you who are writers and, like me, appreciate the addition of a new tool or a reminder about one you already have in your utility belt. But I’m hoping readers can enjoy this too, for a couple of reasons. First, sometimes it’s exciting to reflect on a book you did or didn’t like and be able to see what the author did that produced that result. Also, sometimes readers turn out to be writers, too.

So, from the original post, here’s all this:
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First, I’ll define what I believe the term “a good read” means.

Number one: A good read is a book that captivates a reader so that they finish the book, and when they do, it has satisfied something in their minds or hearts. They might have cried, or laughed, or gotten angry in the course of it, but they end up glad they read it, and most likely would want to read more about the characters or from the author. In order for the book to meet this criteria, it will have to meet the others.

Number two: The story makes sense. Brief anecdote—when I had children, my former mother-in-law bought me a cup that said, “Because I’m the mommy, that’s why!” Funny, and occasionally it works in parenting, at least for a minute, but if you find yourself explaining developments in your novel with the words “It’s fiction and I want it to happen anyway,” chances are you’ve made a jump that won’t work. I don’t mean it can’t happen in the story, but very likely you need to figure out what you need to do to make it happen in a way that makes sense. By the same token, the saying (immortalized in a pop song a few decades back), “It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to” does not translate well to “It’s my book, so I can do what I want.” This usually arises later in the process during beta reading or editing. Don’t misunderstand—you can certainly think that, even say it. But then if you want the book to be a good read, you’ll probably need to change your mind and do a little more work.

Number three: The characters make sense. No, really. Your characters can be quirky—in fact to make them seem real they should have at least some characteristics that could be called quirks. They can be likeable or loveable, but that can’t be all they are because that doesn’t make sense to anyone who has met a few humans—inconsistencies R us, right? Most stories will have a definite ‘bad guy.’ Sometimes a villain, sometimes a well-meaning or confused character who causes trouble for the ‘good guys.’ Sometimes it’s a group, or a thing, or an idea that fills the role. But even here, the ‘bad’ has to have something more—sorrow, possession, an unbreakable oath, a need to wreak havoc in order for their offspring to survive, or whatever. Again, to seem real, it cannot be flat as a two-dimensional plane, or it’s not interesting. There has to be a why, and most of the time some secondary whys, for everything anybody does in your story.

Number four: The world (or universe) of your story must make sense, too. Everyone’s heard about the pitfalls of world-building. It doesn’t just apply to speculative fiction (sci-fi, paranormal, fantasy, magical realism), but to every story, even if it’s written in real time, real place, real buildings. Why? Because your story never happened there. Your characters never lived there (even if they are based on people you know or real historical characters). In spec fiction, you have to be very aware of systems to make them all work together—if there’s magic, how does it work, where does it come from, what does it cost its user. If it’s a medieval town but they have a flying machine or flush toilets, fine, but make them have a sensible system. The farther you get away from pure sci-fi or fantasy, the fewer systems you must devise. Instead, though, just as importantly, your storyline and characters (which represent a system) must be incorporated as seamlessly as possible with the systems already in place.

I probably could go on about that, but I’m belatedly remembering that my post is supposed to be about five keys and a pipe wrench. Mind you, I propose these only as my own opinion, but I’m pretty sure that if you sincerely apply them (tweaking as necessary), they will at least help you get that book written, and make it a book you’re happy to put your name on.

1st Key—Never, ever, ever read those books that have titles that go something like Two Million Reasons Your Book Won’t be Published, or What’s Wrong with Your Writing. Hey, be real. We’re hard enough on ourselves. These books may purport to have good advice for you, but what they really do is drive home to you, consciously, that you don’t write well enough to be published. Subconsciously, they’ve got you rehearsing how to do things in a way that will end with a negative result.

2nd Key—Think small when planning your book. Start with a narrow premise you’d like to explore, a character or two whose story you think needs writing, a single storyline, or even just a start. This makes it possible for you to outline quickly and get to the writing. Believe me, the characters will multiply, as will twists, turns, and subplots.

3rd Key—Start the writing early in the process. Yeah, this might be called Key 2B, but I think it deserves a place of its own. The only way to begin to learn to write is to begin writing, so the longer you put it off, the longer it will take to learn. And, you’ll probably find that the longer you put off writing the story you want to turn into a book, the harder it gets to make that start. By “write” I don’t mean outline. Yes, do a broad outline, but right away pick a place to start writing—no this doesn’t have to be the beginning—any scene that calls to you. If you know how, you can kick start it by storyboarding, or just do a rough outline of the scene. You should be able to do that within an hour at the most. Then right away, put words on a blank page. It doesn’t have to be good! Just write it and don’t stop until the scene is on the page. Then do another one the next day.

4th Key—Remember you’re really not the boss, at least not all the time. Your characters will have things to say, and they will want you to write what they want to do. At least part of the time, you’re going to have to do it if you want the story to move forward—and momentum is a precious commodity in novel-writing. Likely, you will also realize that your characters have a pretty good understanding of what the story needs. Yes, they’re sometimes like berserk little children and you have to take their privileges and put them in time out (please don’t tell Luki Vasquez I said that), but they need play time, too.

5th Key—Trust your editor to be good but not perfect at their job; trust yourself to be good but not perfect at your job. This key is the only one I’m giving that’s not related to spitting out that first draft of your first novel. It’s for later, after the publisher has accepted your book, or you are at the stage in self-pubbing where you’re ready for the editor. (Yes, it will happen if you want it to and you do the work.) What I mean by “their” job and “your” job is that a good editor knows how a story works, how a sentence works, and lots of stuff about grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc. That’s their domain. If they say your story doesn’t work because something’s missing, it probably is. Or if they say your main character isn’t likeable, he’s probably not. Grammar is a grayer area, because in fiction sometimes an author writes in a way that isn’t exactly proper for voice or effect—and most experienced fiction editors will recognize that. It’s your job, as author, to determine whether that’s the case with each edit, no matter how small. It’s your job to know whether their suggested fix will have a different meaning than what you’ve written, because meaning is what the story is about, and that’s your domain. Take edits seriously, think about them, and respect your editor’s work and know-how. Your book will be a lot better for it when it makes it debut.

The pipe wrench— Most people probably know that a pipe wrench comes in really handy for plumbing. But not everyone knows how much a pipe wrench can do when you use it like a hammer, either tapping or pounding as the case requires. The name of this particular pipe wrench is “just write,” and it’s the most versatile, useful item in your toolbox. Key 1 reflects this, but the pipe wrench continues to be awesome throughout the process of the novel and throughout your career. You’ll get mysterious “writer’s block.” Your muse will go on strike. You’ll get negative comments from a beta reader and think you write sucky, so why try. Etcetera! In all cases, get out the just-write pipe wrench and put words on a page. It’ll smash the self-worth bugs, it’ll put the criticism down to size. Scare the muse into suiting up and showing up. Break the clog blocking the pipes into smithereens and let them flush away.

That’s it for my advice. Really. Enough, don’t you think… Thanks for reading! Thanks for writing. Keep doing both!
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Oh yeah, here’s a little about me, Lou Sylvre, too.

Some of my books:
VJ 6 cover banner

My bio, the short version.
Lou Sylvre loves romance with all its ups and downs, and likes to conjure it into books. The lovers on her pages are men who end up loving each other—and usually saving each other from unspeakable danger. It’s all pretty crazy and very, very sexy. How cool is that? She is the creator of the popular Vasquez and James series of M/M romantic suspense, which can be found at Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, and many other online vendors. A spinoff series began with the A Shot of J&B. She blogs at sylvre.com, is @sylvre on Twitter, and loves to hear from readers on Facebook or at lou.sylvre@gmail.com.

One place you can find my books
At Dreamspinner Press: https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/searchresults?q=lou+sylvre

My latest book, the cover and blurb.
A Shot of J&B 400x600 Six years ago, Brian Harrison helped save the life of Jackie Vasquez, and he’s never really forgotten him. After the rescue, Brian ended his employment with Jackie’s uncle Luki and left the US for England, aiming to distance himself from the confused feelings—not lust, but not brotherly—that then sixteen-year-old Jackie engendered. Now Jackie has become a man, and when they meet again by chance, lust with a dose of D/s rope kink is definitely on the list of possibilities. As they get to know each other, though, lust shows every sign of growing into love, deep and true.

When Jackie moves to London for graduate studies in criminal psychology, he and Brian hope they’ll be able to enjoy each other’s frequent company. But they haven’t factored in the claim Brian’s police job with Scotland Yard will make on his time, especially when the “Gaslighter crimes” sap investigative resources. An abandoned aide dog named Soldier leads to a breakthrough clue, and a chain of discoveries fall like dominoes. As Brian rushes to beat the criminal’s game before it escalates to true terror, he comes to an undeniable conclusion: Jackie Vasquez, the man he loves, is in mortal danger.

A tiny excerpt from my current WIP, Blackmail and Roses, sequel to Finding Jackie.

Jackie took three steps out of the LAX terminal and then the heat blasted him from all directions. The pavement baked him from below, all the surrounding structures radiated like oven walls, and the sun threatened to broil his freckles black. But it was the wind, the devil-born Santa Ana that splashed red in his eyes and stole his breath.

Jackie remembered a time in LA when the Santa Anas had seemed like the touch of some blessed god, in that October when he and Josh had first wandered into the warm, dry City of Angels after a damp summer on the Seattle streets.

“Damn,” Josh had muttered. “I hope it doesn’t blow like that all the time.”
But Jackie had just shook his head, not said a word. True, he wasn’t in the habit of talking much back then. Hurt boys often don’t, he’d since learned in his psych classes. But that time his silence was one of incredulity. Jackie had loved the rough, subjugating caress of those hot winds, would have stood for days and died inside them if he could have.

But that was before he’d seen their cruel side. Before he’d seen them weave a spell of apathy and violence on even those people who sometimes cared. Before he’d seen them spin the heads of friends around until they faced each other with fists and knives. Before he’d seen them launch bullets in back alleys. Now he knew they sometimes stripped the last inhibitions from the minds of drunks, the clothes from shaking young bodies, the last vestiges of hope from desperate hearts.

Thanks for reading! Your comments are welcome, should the notion strike you. I hope to see you next month.

Panel Discussion at Fictional Badass Association Annual Convention 2016

Hello and welcome to my day on Authors Speak! Lou Sylvre and I decided to do something a little different this month. A few years ago Lou came up with a concept that featured a few of our characters in a panel discussion at the annual Fictional Badass Association convention. We’ve looked in on the 2013 and 2014, but weren’t able to to attend the convention in 2015.

Several of our characters are panelists again this year! Let’s sit in one of their panels.

Place: Emotion in Motion Convention Center, Noble and Sylvre room

Date: August 19, 2016  

Time: When many convention attendees have been drinking

Panel members: Luki Vasquez, Brian Harrison, Jonas Forge, Declan

Discussion topic: Modern Surveillance and Espionage Techniques for Human and Otherwise Operatives

Moderator: C. Auguste Dupin

Lucas Coate slips behind Declan and Forge. “Do you know who is in the audience?” He stands between them with a hand on each of their shoulders.

Brian leans around Declan and smirks. “My very handsome sub for one.” He nods in Jackie’s direction. “Looking good in that dark green suit.”

Jackie, front row center, then raises a hand and winks.

Brian mouths, “Behave, devil boy,” but doesn’t get more than a sly smile and chuckle out of Jackie.

“Stop interrupting!” Lucas sputters, and then points. “It’s Sherlock Holmes!”

Forge, interested but not the least bit excited, looks out over the audience. “He looks nothing like that guy from the new Star Trek.”

“Or Iron Man.” Luki adds. “Oh look, there’s Seeley Booth. Sonny thinks he’s “cute.” (He uses air quotes, catches himself and pretends he was only fixing his curls). “Personally, I didn’t think he was real. Now that I know he is, he’d better watch his shit around Sonny. Hi, husband.” He waves to Sonny James, who is sitting three rows back with Forge’s husband, Blair, but still might have been able to read his Luki’s lips. Sonny puts a hand on his hip and raises his eyebrows—a clear warning, which Luki pretends he didn’t see.

“Hmm…Lucas also ‘claims’ to be a fan of that show. He does a running commentary on their pathological investigative techniques.” Declan looks at Lucas. “Yes, I gave away your fanboy secret.”

“Booth is a good G-man,” Forge adds and Brian nods.

Auguste Dupin takes his place behind the podium and taps the microphone a few times, sending a high pitched squeal through the room. A few attendees slap their hands over their ears. A few others take long drinks for plastic cups full of… uh, “water.”

Blair Turner leaves his seat beside Sonny and Jackie and steps onto the stage a second later. He makes some adjustments to the mic, and smiles at C. Auguste. “Big fan, sir. That should work now.”

Dupin gives Blair one slight nod. “You’re a life-saver and a very astute young man.” He eyes the microphone suspiciously. “Infernal device.”

“Yes he is,” Forge chimes in. Blair blushes and returns to his seat.

Jackie gives him a thumbs up and grins. “They’re nothing without us.”

Blair nods. “True.”

“Behind every good Brian Harrison is a me,” Jackie adds, laughing.

“Behind every good detective is his tech guy,” Blair adds, pointing to himself.

Auguste clears his throat and speaks into the microphone again. “If we could get started.”

There is a bit of shuffling in the audience as Lucas makes his way down a row to an empty seat. He leans close to the man on his right. “You’re Ellery Queen.” Whispering loudly, he says, “Declan, look I’m next to Ellery Queen!”

Declan shifts in his chair, looks at the podium and sips his water.

Forge nudges Luki’s elbow and points to Declan. “Deadly assassin of the night.” Then he motions with one finger to Lucas Coate. “And his soul mate, Lucas.”

“Werewolves are very outgoing,” Luki observes, and Forge arches an eyebrow and nods.

Dupin gives them a dirty look and raises his voice. “As I was saying, this is a panel discussion on modern surveillance techniques for human and non-human investigators.” He motions to Forge and Declan. “We have with us today two vampire representatives from the Vampire Guard. Declan specializes in undercover—”

“He’s great under the covers,” Lucas chimes in. Forge covers his mouth with one hand and coughs while Declan shakes his head, rubbing his forehead.

“—undercover and has chameleon like abilities to infiltrate a target gang. Jonas Forge is a prior homicide detective turned covert operative.” Dupin then motions toward Brian. “The human panelists are Mr. Harrison, formerly an inspector with Scotland Yard, and last but certainly not least is Mr. Luki Vasquez, founder and CEO of Vasquez Security.”

Forge leans toward Declan. “Dupin looks hungry, don’t you think?” When Declan doesn’t even look at him, Forge shakes his head. “Maybe it’s me. I’m hungry. You know, my luggage was lost, with all my supplies.”

“You’re always hungry,” Declan states and slides a bowl of peanuts toward Forge. “Have a snack. I told you I have extra blood packets and will give you one later.”

“Declan,” Forge begins, making a motion with his hand to indicate Declan should quiet down. “Mr. Dupin is trying to get the panel started.”

Declan snorts and shakes his head.

“Good luck with that,” Luki says. “I hear the guy hardly ever leaves his house. And he writes poetry. I hope he doesn’t have anything like a recital planned.”

Sonny James stands up, eyes blazing as he makes his way out of the row of seats toward the stage. Luki believes Sonny’s eyes and ears should be studied by science. Sonny can hear a whisper two states away.

“Man, your hearing is good. Are you sure you’re not a vampire?” Lucas asks as Sonny storms by him.

“Luki Vasquez! I am surprised at you,” Sonny says once he’s planted himself on the stage, one hand on his hip, the other protectively on Dupin’s shoulder. “I’m sure you could manage to be civil. I’d like to remind you that Monsieur Dupin has been a fictional human detective for almost two centuries. You are a babe in the woods!”

Luki hangs his head and mumbles, “Sorry.”

“Don’t mope, husband. You know I love you. Just try to be nice, please.”

Mercí, Monsieur James,” Dupin says. “I am gratified, but not surprised by your gallant errantry in quieting the voices of those who, by means of nonsensical puns, would stand in the way of my effort to encourage discourse upon the superior analytic powers of the fictional detective, human and otherwise, such as myself, Monsieur Holmes”—he nods toward that gentleman in the audience and receives a smug nod on return—“and allegedly those four with whom I share the honor of this venerable stage.”

Sonny nods enthusiastically, mostly happy that the sentence had at last come to an end. As he begins to move off the stage toward his seat, he can’t help but reflect upon the vast difference between this man’s moderator style and that of Frodo Baggins, who took the chair in 2014.

Dupin said, “He is a very little fellow, that’s true, and would do better for the Théâtre des Variétés.”

Sonny stops, “Wha…?”

“Mr. Baggins,” Dupin explains. “And those are the same words I long ago spoke to my friend in Paris, as recorded by that illustrious man of the pen, Edgar Allan Poe, which caused him—my friend, that is—to ask me how I deduced that he was thinking about Chantilly. I will now elucidate the manner in which I arrived at the knowledge that you were thinking of—”

Sonny smiles and says, “Oh, no. Please, that’s fine,” while hurrying off the stage.

Declan comments to Forge, “Jackie Vasquez stands out in a crowd. He’s quite stunning and his heartbeat is very steady. You know, with training, if he was turned and acquired a soul mate he’d make a fine agent for The Guard.”

Brian turns immediately toward Declan, prepared to fight even a vampire to protect his lover, sub, and—he hopes—soon to be fiancé.

Luki stands up—which gets everyone’s attention excepting Sonny and those in the audience who have fallen asleep. “Let’s talk about guns!”

“I love guns!” Forge jumps in immediately. “I rarely have to use them—” his eyes turn solid blue and his fangs drop for a few seconds before he appears human again. “—but when I do I—”

“He’s trying to say he likes the big guns,” Blair pipes up from the audience. When everyone turns to look at him he blushes deep red. “Um, I mean, you know, rifles and not the little ones.” He sinks down in his seat.

“But when I do, I appreciate a good, solid, state of the art firearm,” Forge finishes.

“Perhaps you could expound upon the ever changing and fascinating subject of how, in this day and age of almost magical means of espionage that uses more than simply pen and paper, a keen eye and sharp wit to follow and apprehend a vile perpetrator?” Dupin asked.

Brian leans closer to Forge. “Do you think he’s finished his question? Seems short for him.”

Forge shrugs and Declan stands up. “Bon après-midi Monsieur Dupin.” Then he repeats in English, “Good afternoon, Mr. Dupin.”

Dupin’s face lights up. “You speak French!”

Declan bows slightly. “I was born in Paris in 1721.”

“Actually he’s nobility, Marquis de—” Forge stops talking abruptly and reaches down to grab at his foot Declan has just stomped on.

“I prefer the name Declan.”

“He’s killed for less than knowing his real name,” Lucas and Blair chime from the audience.

“Like a damn demon,” Forge grumbles. “Can’t know my real name.”

Brian Harrison leans forward and covers his face, trying desperately to stop the laughter he’s consumed with.

“As I was saying,” Declan raises his voice ever so slightly. “We vampires have an advantage because our hearing is so sensitive, electronic means are often unnecessary.”

“And don’t forget the ninja fast moves,” Lucas adds. He nudges Ellery Queen and points to Declan. “Those vamps can move so fast it’s like they’re here one second and there the next.”

“That’s because we are,” Forge says.

“That must be handy,” Brian says and Forge nods.

Luki says, defensively, “I’m fast!”

Sonny is looking down at his program, and it’s not clear he’s even aware he speaks aloud. “Yup! Fast is the word. Wham bam.”

All eyes turn toward Luki, whose mouth is hanging open. He wipes sudden sweat from his brow. “Not that kind of wham bam. That isn’t what he meant! Sonny, baby, tell them that isn’t what you meant.”

Sonny looks up from his program, confused, and then gets a horrified look on his face. “No! No that is not at all what I meant. I mean… Sorry, husband!”

Sonny looks so miserable, and Luki loves him so much, so he ignores his own mortification. “Never mind, sweetie. It’s okay. I don’t care what they think anyway.”

The other panelists, most of the audience, and even Dupin chorus, “Aaaawww.”

Luki says, “So about those guns. I myself far prefer Sig for a handgun. I had a pretty little Beretta once, but… one terrible day I saw Sonny holding it to someone’s head. Lost its charm.”

Brian perks up. Here’s a subject he doesn’t mind talking about. “Man, when I was working in England, no guns! Imagine being a cop investigating murders in a metropolis with 10,000 dark alleys, and no gun!”

“Mr. Harrison, getting vampire skills is simply a matter of being turned. Then not having a gun will be far less a problem,” Declan points out. “If you’re interested…”

Brian seems to consider it for a few seconds before Luki and Jackie say sternly, “No.”

“Now that I’m going back to work for you Luki, things will be different.”

“Not too terribly different, I hope, Brian. You’ll be behind a desk at least half the time, and we rarely have to shoot anybody for a client. Although I did once have to shoot the client… But that’s a tale for another time. Still have your uncle’s Colt?”

“Of course. Damn fine gun,” Brian says.

Forge says, “To heck with handguns. I never use a gun in any situation that requires less than an M16.”

Luki laughs, and shakes his head. “You do know I’m former ATF, right? Still have ties…”

Not at all worried, Forge shrugs and says, “Bring it, man!” He flashes his detective’s badge with the word retired across the bottom.

Meanwhile, Dupin has been fidgeting at the podium and occasionally wiping his increasingly sweaty brow. He’s tried to interrupt, saying “S-s-sirs” several times, but none of the panelists have noticed.

Fortunately, Jackie and Blair have seen him, and they apparently both empathize. “Hey,” they both say, almost simultaneously.

All the panelists close their mouths and look toward the men in the audience.

Jackie continues. “Mr. Dupin has been trying to get your attention”—he stops, and in a fair imitation of his uncle Sonny, puts his hands on his hips and emphasizes the next word especially for Brian’s benefit “—Sir!’

Blair says, “Yeah, Forge. What he said.”

Sherlock Holmes stands, puts his hands behind his back and says, “I’ve deduced, Misters Forge and Harrison, that your respective lovers….”

Luki interrupts, “Is Watson here, Mr. Holmes? He knows a little something about guns.”

Dupin gets right up on top of the microphone and says, “Gentlemen! Here is a question from the audience.” Everyone is shocked into silence by the fact that the man asserted himself, so he continues. “Guns are fine in a confrontation, but you are supposed to be detectives. What are your favorite tools of detection?”

Brian says, “Internet.”

Forge says, “Superhuman strength and speed combined with extremely sensitive hearing. I can tell if someone is lying by how their heartbeat changes.”

Declan speaks authoritatively. “I’ve been around a long while; hard to put anything over on me since I’ve been a student of human behavior for a very long time. Plus, my senses are so sharp I just heard that guy in last row surreptitiously scratch his…” He holds Luki’s watch out to him and smiles mischievously. “And I can catch a thief because I am one.”

Luki has been looking thoughtful, chewing his lip while the others were speaking. The answer comes to him in just that moment, and he blurts it out. “Jude!” Then he rolls his eyes at Declan and snatches his watch.

Brian nods knowingly, but Dupin, Forge, and Declan ask together, “Jude?”

Luki says, “Yes. Jude. My office admin. She can do anything.”

Dupin gets up close to the mic again, as if about to assert control over the suddenly guffawing crowd, but a woman with “STAFF” on the back of her shirt comes in, steps onto the stage, and over to the mic.

“Lara Croft, Tomb Raider,” Brian exclaims. “Speaking of badass!”

But no one is listening. Ms. Croft has thanked Dupin and the panel for the “uh… ahem… enlightening discussion,” and the audience, it seems is racing en masse to get a table at the bar.

~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~

The Gents:

Sonny James & Luki Vasquez

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Dreamspinner Press

Amazon

 

 

 

 

Brian Harrison & Jackie Vasquez

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Dreamspinner Press

Amazon

 

 

 

 

Jonas Forge & Blair Turner; Declan and Lucas Coate

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DSP Publications

Amazon

 

 

 

 

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Dreamspinner Press

 Amazon  

 

 

 

Until next month

Elizabeth Noble

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Announcing the Vasquez and James iBooks bundle!

The Link:https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1119228592

Vasquez and James ibooks bundle

Okay, really, it’s the Dreamspinner Press bundle, available from iBooks!

Loving Luki Vasquez: Reclusive weaver Sonny Bly James and ex-ATF agent and all-around badass Luki Vasquez can run from desire, but they can’t hide from the evil that hunts them. Sonny and Luki will have to call a truce and work together to fight an enemy intent on making sure loving Luki Vasquez is the last mistake Sonny will ever make.

Delsyn’s Blues: While dealing with newly formed barriers between them, Sonny and Luki become the target of a new threat from outside: an escalating and unexplainable rash of break-ins and assaults.

Finding Jackie: When Luki’s teenage nephew, Jackie, is lured into capture and torture by a sadistic killer, the honeymoon is well and truly over. The couple must put aside their differences to find Jackie before it’s too late.

Saving Sonny James: The events of the last couple of years have begun to catch up with Luki, who must break free of the subsequent PTSD and depression and get to France fit and ready in time to save his husband’s life.—Because of Jade: Luki and Sonny must combat self-doubt and fear and help each other learn to parent an unexpected child—and they must also nourish the love that has kept them whole for the past ten years.

Yes: From their first days together, Sonny and Luki stood united against deadly enemies and prevailed. But now the deadly enemy they face is the cancer thriving inside Luki, consuming his lungs.

A Shot of J&B: Six years ago, Brian Harrison helped save the life of Jackie Vasquez, and he’s never really forgotten him. Now Jackie has become a man, and when they meet again by chance, lust shows every sign of growing into love, deep and true. A case from Brian’s police job with Scotland Yard, however, places Jackie in mortal danger.