Thursday, August 23, 2012

Random tandem: I Will End You!

See the title of this post? I always wanted to say that. I'm (virtually) saying it right now. Er, not really ending Bitch Factor 10, altogether. But this Bitch needs to take a small vacation. Well, ok, a somewhat large vacation... say, until the end of 2012. At least. And hey, isn't there a good chance that the world is ending in December anyway? If that happens, you won't even notice that Bitch Factor 10 has gone on hiatus, because you'll be fighting off the zombies and raiding the compounds of the rich for their gold.

I love BF10 and I love my visitors. All 4 or 5 (avg) of you that visit each day. Ok, maybe I exaggerated a bit. All 1 or 2 of you per day. I do really appreciate my followers, and I hope that you will join me in vacationing out the rest of the year. I give you permission to do so.

Please drop by January 1 and find out if I survived the starting of a new editing business and my on-going struggle with kidney disease (if I'm dead by 1/1/13, you're excused from visiting. Consider it my gift to you).

If during the BF10 pause you want to know what I'm reading, you can return to BF10 because my Goodreads widget will still be operational and you'll at least get an idea of my number rating for each book I read in the interim. I am always available through Twitter, if you just need a quick Emme fix (@emmepangala).

Love you to all and take care. Yes! Take care...and run with it. Go hide it. Keep it safe until I return. Then, we'll talk!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Bitch Factor 10 presents: Question or Two with Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane, Authors of The Druid Stone

Treats, treats. I love treats! You probably already knew that, if you've ever seen a pic of this curvaceous Bitch. But today's treat will not require an hour of Wii Fitness after consuming. Bitch Factor 10 is lucky to have two fantastic writers visiting today, Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane, authors of The Druid Stone. Heidi and Violetta were given the Question or Two treatment. Here goes:

  1. First for some probing personal questions. Heidi, please give us a detailed description of your fave "fat slutty bi girl" look (er, we need a Heidi paper doll for this, hmmm).  Violetta, give up some deets on your "checkered past".

Heidi: Oh my! I actually dress very conservatively now! My high school best friend calls it “kindergarten teacher chic”. But if I think back on my proudest fat slutty bi girl look, it would have to be the matching nurse uniforms I and a friend wore for Halloween a couple years back. We got hit on . . . a lot.

Violetta: I used to smoke PCP in graveyards. Oh wait, I already used that line for another interview, sorry! I do have a history with certain chemicals, but I gave them up a long time ago, way before I had kids. I’ve been arrested but I haven’t been to jail. I guess the legal transgression I’m most OK with being public about is going to Cuba, which is mainly illegal for US citizens. I went there with my family for an educational vacation because we think the US embargo is ridiculous. It’s quite easy, actually: we just went via Nassau and asked Cuban customs not to stamp our passports.

  1. How did you two come together to start co-writing together? What clued you in that you could be simpatico as co-writers?

Violetta: We beta’ed for each other and had a great rapport.

Heidi: Our first time co-writing was writing a short porn story. We had so much fun bouncing ideas off of each other and egging each other on we had to give it a go on a bigger (and more serious) scale. I still love writing sex with her though.

  1. Please speak about your transition from fanfictioners to being full-blown novelists. What habits carried over? In what way have you had to become more disciplined writers, as novelists?

Violetta: I wrote a fairly long blog post about the transition. I think the habit of writing steadily carried over. That is, once you start writing, don’t stop. Being a novelist means kicking it up about ten notches in terms of organizing and motivation. Writing fanfiction is a gregarious activity; writing a novel is more isolated, less immediately rewarding.

Heidi: When it comes to fanfic, I think what I learned was just what kinds of characters really appeal to people and what touches and intrigues them enough to want to explore more, read more, write more, discuss more. I’m always searching to capture that spark in my own characters. (Hopefully someday I manage it!) Discipline wise? I definitely agree with V on discipline. Fanfic is a world of immediate gratification, where there’s always a beta-reader nearby and a built-in audience for whatever you do. Original fiction, you’re starting from scratch. You have to find an audience. You have to forge a new emotional connection to get people to care. And yeah, in fanfic you can leave a WIP hanging and it’s sort of accepted. With original fiction, if you don’t finish the novel, you don’t get paid, and then you don’t eat!

  1. What writerly quality would you want to borrow from your co-writer?

Violetta: I love Heidi’s banter and body language. It really makes dialogue scenes come alive.

Heidi: Violetta has a really wonderful grasp of authentic cultural representation. She has a great “ear” for dialects and slang and is so empathic when it comes to people’s values and beliefs. Take a story like “Harm Reduction” and that sense of place and personhood? That’s her magic.

  1. Have either of you written any non-fanfic solo works since starting to co-write, and if so, what was it like writing without the other? Have you co-written with other authors yet? If so, how has that experience differed from writing with each other?

Violetta: I’m working on a solo effort now. It’s moving steadily but very slowly! I’m pretty much resigned to the slowness, however, even if it gets frustrating at times.

Heidi: I’m working on a solo project right now too, a series of short novels / novellas about a group of guys who work at a seedy porn store. I find writing solo absolutely terrifying! I’m hoping once I finish this book, my confidence will get better, but for now I feel very insecure about what I’m writing. And yes, it’s very slow going!

I’m actually co-writing with someone other than Violetta for the first time right now, as well! I’m writing a series of non-con slave/capture stories with Rachel Haimowitz. We’re having a blast, and I hope that people into that sort of thing will enjoy what we’ve come up with.

  1. You both have spoken up about the importance of creating diverse, multi-cultural characters, like Ori in Hawaiian Gothic or Sean in Cruce de Caminos and The Druid Stone. Why is this important to you? What challenges and/or criticisms have you faced in doing this?

Violetta: It’s important to me because... that’s me. I’m Asian and I come from a multicultural family. I live in a predominantly African-American neighborhood. I don’t want to go into the challenges too much because they’re kind of depressing. But I will see that the most frustrating force is not negative reaction, it’s simply... ignoring. I see people doing that all the time. They’ll spend thirty seconds blasting Victoria Foyt for Save the Pearls, get a lot of backpats, then go on buying and reading nothing but novels with white people on the cover. I’m bored with attacks du jour and bored of white self-flagellation. I just want readers of color to have more choice, writers of color to be more financially rewarded, characters of color to be more prevalent. I don’t care how that happens, I just want it to happen.

I do think m/m is actually somewhat better in regards to racial representation than mainstream romance, but on the downside, the drekkier stuff is full of the most ridiculous and ludicrous fetishization of Asian men. I mean, romance and erotica is kind of fetishistic by nature, but you can do it in a smart or stupid way, and I see way too much of the stupid.

Heidi: Violetta pretty much covered this one. I think the issue with IR/MC romance is quite the same as say trans* romance or lesbian romance. People say they want to read more or think they should read more, but often don’t.

  1. The Druid Stone is a sequel to your Riptide Publishing Rentboy Collection novella, Cruce de Caminos. I loved both stories, which feature Sean O'Hara as a main character, yet the tenor of TDS and CdC wildly differ. What accounts for that difference?  What was it about Sean in CdC that made you hold on to him for further fantastical adventures, a continent away in The Druid Stone? Or was the expansion from CdC to TDS the plan all along?

Violetta: We actually wrote CdC after TDS. The main thing that accounts for the difference in tone is that we knew CdC wasn’t going to be a romance. We didn’t need to have a happy ending. So we felt very free to let psychology and mood be the guiding forces for the narrative.

Heidi: What she said! After we wrote TDS, we sort of wanted to explore that aspect of Sean’s history (and his sexuality) more. But it really is a completely different experience, and that was what we wanted.

  1. What magic underbelly do you imagine existing beneath the surface of your "real" world? What fantastical element from The Druid Stone would you run away from, if it suddenly appeared in our world?

Violetta: Atlanta, where I live, used to be called Terminus. An ominous name, although it simply meant where the railroads ended. This used to be Cherokee land, and the Civil War is still being waged in sideways cultural forms.

I think my favorite monster from The Druid Stone is the giant eel with human hands for whiskers. I don’t know where I got the idea, although it feels vaguely Cronenberg.

 Heidi Belleau was born and raised in small town NB, Canada. She now lives in the rugged oil-patch frontier of Northern BC with her husband, an Irish ex-pat whose long work hours in the trades leave her plenty of quiet time to write. She has a degree in History from Simon Fraser University with a concentration in British and Irish studies; much of her work centred on popular culture, oral folklore, and sexuality, but she was known to perplex her professors with unironic papers on the historical roots of modern romance novel tropes. You can find her at Heidi

 Violetta Vane grew up a drifter and a third culture kid who eventually put down roots in the Southeast US, although her heart lives somewhere along the Pacific coast of Mexico. She's worked in restaurants, strip clubs, academia and the corporate world and studied everything from the philosophy of science to queer theory to medieval Spanish literature. You can find her at

A big Bitch Factor 10 thank you to Heidi and Violetta for dropping by and sharing. The best of luck with The Druid Stone and all your writing endeavors!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Non-Random Tandem: Presenting a Virtual Book Tour Visit by Kirby Crow and Reya Starck

I am soooo excited for Bitch Factor 10 to be a stop on the Circuit Theory Virtual Book Tour. Circuit Theory, written by Kirby Crow and Reya Starck, takes place in a virtual world, much like our own. Wait, no, this is the real world. Kirby and Reya are real world authors. Yet, I am... ok, maybe I better ponder that another time. Now, I hand BF10 over to Reya for a guest post. Stay tuned at the end of Reya's post for a Circuit Theory blurb and don't forget to leave a comment and your email addy to be entered in the CT giveaway.

Game Worlds as Inspiration

Reya Starck

As I write this I’m sheltering under a gilt-trimmed gazebo from a violent thunderstorm that blew in across the vertiginous canyon walls that surround me. A small cloud of fireflies is keeping me company and providing some comforting light as the rain pelts onto the metal canopy of the gazebo and I shiver under the blackened clouds in my t-shirt and jeans.

The storm departs as quickly as it arrived, and I step out into a miraculously dry world, taking my fireflies with me. Following a winding path built along what appears to be a dry riverbed, I find myself in a clearing, surrounded by the strangest plants (at least, I hope they’re plants!) I have ever seen.

They look like floating brains with straggling, jellyfish-like tentacles, and they are just as unreal as the bulbous green tubes that sporadically puff out golden spores a little farther along the clearing, and just as unlikely as the angular black creatures that are dangling from the overhang of the canyon walls: the ones I’m trying not to look too closely at.

I am, of course, not in any place that can be found on Earth. In fact, I’m in a place called Eder Kemo, one of the garden ages in the online world of URU Live, and if I keep walking past the floating brains and puffing plants I will pass through a low stone tunnel and arrive at my destination.

It’s just one small area of this virtual world: a peaceful pond with stepping stones leading to the exit of this age. Above it, a massive stone causeway soars, casting a deep shadow across the water. It’s here that I stop, because this is the place I have logged in for.

It never changes (apart from the regular, but short-lived storms) and its tranquillity and atmosphere are exactly what I need for a scene in a story that I’m writing. My headphones are clamped to my ears, and the game sounds are perfect: the soft slap of water against rock, the chirring of insects, the sigh of wind high above me as it follows the same canyon path that I’ve just taken. I bring my text file to the fore: URU window on the left of my widescreen monitor, Word on the right, and I begin typing.

A few days later, I log in again, but this time I head to the derelict ‘pod age’ of Tetsonot. A creaking, rusting observation chamber filled with darkness, dripping water, and the occasional last-gasp flash of dying red lights. My main character is in a prison and, while it’s not as battered and neglected as this area of the game, it’s what I’m feeling as I stand in there that’s important.

I don’t like total darkness, so fear is edging its way around me, looking for a way in. The pod is hollow, the drips echo, the staccato flashes of light startle me. I’m unsettled, in a place that I desperately want to escape from. It’s every prison, everywhere. This time I’m not here for my eyes; I’m here for my gut.

It can be difficult to explain to a non-gamer the level of immersion that’s possible, but if you’ve ever been late for work or bed because you got lost in a good book, or you’ve exited a movie theatre and been blindsided by having to fit your cinematically-altered peg back into the hole of real life, then you’ll understand that it’s perfectly possible to stand on a virtual beach under a virtual sunset with virtual waves crashing, and experience a very real kind of relaxation.

All writers end up with folders on their computers that are stuffed full of inspirational images. Writers who are also gamers often have additional folders full of game screen grabs which, while they don’t find their way into stories in their game format, nonetheless lurk in the writer’s mind as they type. The shimmering green mosaic roof of an in-game temple may end up as a translucent blue mosaic window in the home of a healer; and the primitive carvings on a canyon wall might become stylised hints of a visiting alien salvage company on the outside of a rusting spaceship’s hulk.

Some might think that using parts of game worlds to inspire creative writing is a form of cheating, and indeed it would be if images were lifted wholesale from the coded world and dropped into the written one without any further creative thought given to them. But there is no more deception involved in loving that green mosaic roof and transmuting it into a blue mosaic window than there is in any form of art over the centuries.

Creative people have always found inspiration in whatever world they inhabit. Rand and Robyn Miller, the creators of the original Myst series on which URU Live is based, took hundreds of real world photographs, parts of which they later used as textures in their games. And Myst itself was the forerunner of all Steampunk games; its look and feel and even its music inspiring a new generation of game-creators.

We pick and we sift. A bit of rock from here, the gleam of mosaic glass from there, the annoying habit of a work colleague, and the scent of mildew in an old library. We stir it with a pen, let it simmer in our minds, and then dish it up on the page.

We hope you enjoy your meal.


Attraction is Binary.

Dante and Byron are avatars. Driven by human beings, yet still only digital representations of their ideal selves. In reality, they live far apart, but share most of their waking and working hours together in a virtual world called Synth.

In Synth, like in most code, the laws are infinitely more simple and infinitely more complex. Navigating the system rules of virtual lovers is like steering through a minefield of deceit, suspicion, heartbreak, and half-truths.

Under pressure, Dante makes a friendship that trips Byron’s warning bells, disrupting their carefully-ordered lives and calling into question the wisdom of trusting your heart to a man you can never touch in the flesh.

Kirby Crow worked as an entertainment editor and ghostwriter for several years before happily giving it up to bake more brownies, read more yaoi, play more video games, and write her own novels.

Kirby is a 2010 winner of the Epic Award and a two-time winner of the Rainbow Award for her published works in fiction.

Her published novels are:
Prisoner of the Raven (historical romance, Torquere Press, 2005)
Scarlet and the White Wolf: The Pedlar and the Bandit King (fantasy romance, Torquere Press, 2006)
Scarlet and the White Wolf: Mariner's Luck (fantasy romance, Torquere Press, 2007)
Scarlet and the White Wolf: The Land of Night (fantasy romance, Torquere Press, 2007)
Angels of the Deep (paranormal/horror, MLR Press, 2009)
Circuit Theory (scifi, Riptide, 2012)

Reya Starck lives in England, never gets quite enough sleep, and is a professional procrastinator and consumer of chocolate. By day she is an intrepid bacteriologist, eradicating microbes for a better world order. By night she writes wonderfully queer stories featuring an array of lovely men.

My thanks go out to Reya and Kirby for including Bitch Factor 10 in the Circuit Theory Virtual Book Tour. I'll (virtually) see everyone later!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Non-Random Tandem: Cat Grant visits Bitch Factor 10

What a treat we have today! And we do LOVE treats, right? Cat Grant, author of so many tantalizing M/M stories dropped by to discuss our mutual Fassy Fascination, tats and her latest release, Doubtless. Stayed tuned after the Question or Two interview for a blurb from Doubtless and details about Cat's giveaway.

Question or Two with Cat Grant

1)     Cat, I feel I know very little about your personal life- save you being a fellow Cal-Berkeley alum, your love of Michael Fassbender (known to us "droolers" as Fassy), your tatting,  and your "Catting" around (no, not small 'c' catting, but the kind unique to being the lovely Cat Grant) around the picturesque Monterey Bay.  Those four things certainly recommend you to Bitch Factor 10 readers, but what else would you be willing to divulge?

LOL! You’ve certainly been keeping up with my misadventures, Emme. Speaking of tatting, I just got my orchid sleeve finished tonight. Here’s a pic. Pretty damn stunning, huh? 

I suppose the new shiny in my life is my addiction to the MTV drama Teen Wolf. I’ve devoured the first season and a half (aka, all the episodes thus far) in the past week, and now I’m seeking out all available fanfic for my OTP, Scott/Stiles. With Supernatural, Vampire Diaries, Leverage, True Blood & all the other shows I watch, I sure as hell don’t need another fandom, but it looks like it’s sunk its claws in me. No pun intended!

2)     The first story I read of yours dealt with members of the military. Are you a military veteran or a military brat? Addicted to SoldierPorn? How did your interest in the issues and  sex lives of the armed forces come about?

I’m not a veteran or a military brat, but my dad served in the Army during WWII (long before my birth, let me add!). I’ve always admired those who chosen to serve and protect, and thought it profoundly unfair that they’ve been forced to serve in silence for so long.

It was actually Rachel Maddow’s series of interviews with members of the military who’d been unfairly discharged under DADT (Don't Ask, Don't Tell) that inspired me to write Once a Marine. There was one discharged Army captain who said he’d kept his personal life on hold for the better part of ten years because it wouldn’t be fair to a potential partner to have to go back in the closet for his sake. When I saw that interview, I knew I had the model for my fictional Marine, Cole Hammond.

3)     After DADT was rescinded, I wondered how that epic event would affect your writing. Will you still write about unrequited active duty love? Will you change those narratives to suit the times? Or, have Rentboys taken up that space in your heart?

There’s always room for military stories – and more rent boy stories. Maybe both in the same book. There’s an idea! LOL!

4)     I couldn't put down the two Power Play novels you've penned with best bud, Rachel Haimowitz- PP: Resistance and PP: Awakening.  Were Fassy and McAvoy, stars of the Xmen: First Class movie, models for Power Play main characters, Bran and Jonathan?  If so, were Fassy and McAvoy just physical stand-ins? Do you think of Fassy (and reading your tweets, I know you  often do!) as a submissive, like Bran, or is that wishful thinking?

Uh, I’m trying to think of an answer that won’t get me sued. LOL! The best thing I can say is that Fass & James both were and weren’t the inspirations for Brandon and Jonathan. Obviously Rachel and I know nothing about the actors’ personal lives (aside from what few hints they’ve revealed in interviews), so we basically just took them as the physical inspirations, then fashioned our characters’ personalities out of whole cloth.

As for Fass as a submissive . . . my personal fantasies involve him standing on the other end of the flogger, but that’s a topic for another day. 

5)     You no doubt caught me off guard in your new Riptide Publishing release, Doubtless-- a follow up to Priceless, one of the selections in RP's Rentboys Collection. The first book dealt with Connor and Wes, but this time around, the story follows the loves of Steve Campbell, Connor's best friend and workmate from Priceless. I admit that I was intrigued by Steve in the first book-- who wouldn't love a best bud who buys us the attentions of a sexy young thing for the night! Was Steve begging to have his own story told after appearing in Priceless?

Yeah, Steve’s one of those characters who keeps tapping you on the shoulder until you write him his own book. And this isn’t even a traditional romance, per se – that’s coming later. I’ve got a very intriguing love story in mind for him.

6)     What's up next? Will there be a Power Play 3 "massive kinkapalooza"? More menage-a- yum, like the Courtland Chronicles series? Another *less book?

Actually, I’m finishing up the first draft of a Connor/Wes Christmas story right now. The working title is “Fearless.”

7)     Thanks so much for visiting BF10, Cat. Any last words?

Thanks for having me, Emme! And thanks for your insightful questions. They’ve been a delight to answer. 


Loving your best friend is hard . . . especially when he's marrying someone else.

On the surface, Steve Campbell seems to have it all: a beautiful home, a snazzy car, and a dream job as one of the country’s top 3-D optics researchers. But underneath, he’s restless and dissatisfied, tired of empty encounters with leggy lab assistants and endless evenings alone.

A chance meeting with a handsome escort lifts Steve’s spirits and opens his eyes to his long-repressed attraction to men—and his love for his best friend and business partner, Connor Morrison.

Connor might’ve loved Steve like that once, but now it’s too late for their happily ever after; Connor’s about to ask his boyfriend to marry him. Fortunately, it's never too late to learn about yourself, and maybe Steve can find a happy ending on his own.

Order Doubtless here:

About Cat:
 EPIC Award–winning author Cat Grant lives by the sea in beautiful Monterey, California, with one persnickety feline and entirely too many books and DVDs. When she's not writing, she sings along (badly!) to whatever's on her iPod shuffle, watches lots of movies, and fantasizes about kinky sex with Michael Fassbender.
Where to find Cat:

Cat's Giveaway:

Prize is one of Cat's backlist books.
-Giveaway is OPEN TO EVERYONE!
-To be entered, MUST leave a comment, ALONG WITH YOUR EMAIL ADDY.
-One commenter will be chosen randomly from all comments made throughout the tour, so the more tour stops you make a comment on, the greater your chances of winning.  A list of all participating blogs can be found here.
-Giveaway ends at 11:59 PM CST on 7/23.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Book Review: Inherit the Sky by Ariel Tachna

By Ariel Tachna, Cover art: Anne Cain

 My Bitch Factor 10 rating: 4.7

This has been a season of sweet M/M romance books for me. First there was Frat Boy and Toppy, then One Small Thing and  Country Mouse- to name a few. One of the sweets I just finished reading a second time is Inherit the Sky. Full disclosure: I met Inherit's author, Ariel Tachna at a Texas gathering, and she graciously gave out autographed copies of Inherit at the event. I'm so glad to have met her (she's quite lovely to look at and smart as a whip, too!) and to have gotten this book, because it was a pleasant read.

First, let me throw up Inherit The Sky's blurb, then I will briefly discuss it.

Caine Neiheisel is stuck in a dead-end job at the end of a dead-end relationship when the chance of a lifetime falls in his lap. His mother inherits her uncle’s sheep station in New South Wales, Australia, and Caine sees it as the opportunity to start over, out on the range where his stutter won’t hold him back and his willingness to work will surely make up for his lack of knowledge.

Unfortunately, Macklin Armstrong, the foreman of Lang Downs who should be Caine’s biggest ally, alternates between being cool and downright dismissive, and the other hands are more amused by Caine’s American accent than they are moved by his plight… until they find out he’s gay and their amusement turns to scorn. It will take all of Caine’s determination—and an act of cruel sabotage by a hostile neighbor—to bring the men of Lang Downs together and give Caine and Macklin a chance at love.

There are just so many things I like about this book. I adore Caine and Macklin, the two main characters. Caine did not let his youth, inexperience or stutter get in the way of his determination and pluckiness- and those two were certainly put to the test when he relocated from the U.S. to an Australian sheep ranch owned by his family. Macklin's  been-there-done-that crotchetiness is far more endearing than irritating.  The romance between these two unlikelies (there is a small disparity in their ages that does not detract- though, Caine seemed a bit immature in the beginning of the book) took time and patience on both men's part, and I much preferred that slow build to the intense insta-love rush we find in so many other M/M romances.

It is the setting that made this story for me. It seems that Tachna has spent a great deal of time researching Australian small town and ranch life- but to be honest, I'm not sure that I would particularly know the difference. The geography is vividly described as we travel along with Caine to the Outback and settle in with him at the Lang Down sheep ranch.  I found myself wishing I could listen to Inherit in audiobook format, because it would have been great to have colorful local accents and pronunciations to go along with the story.

As I have found with other Tachna stories, the writing in Inherit The Sky is smooth and lyrical.  In spite of all the loveydovey-ness, there is a bit of conflict in the story (a couple of the resolutions seem a bit too rushed and pat, for my tastes).  As a matter-of-fact, I'd love to see a sequel to Inherit the Sky that unravels those resolutions and carries the story forward- I want to spend more time with Caine and Macklin, as well as the supporting cast of characters.

If you're looking for a sweet modern M/M western, in a setting different from the usual, you'll find plenty in Inherit the Sky deeply satisfying.
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