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 Belleau.com


 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 ViolettaVane.com.



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.



Blurb:

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. 





Blurb

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: http://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/doubtless

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:
Website: http://www.catgrant.com
Blog: http://catgrant.blogspot.com/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/cat.grant
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/CatGrant2009
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1912055.Cat_Grant


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.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Non-random Gushing: Aleksandr Voinov visits Bitch Factor 10 today!


I have quite the active fantasy life. Channing Tatum doing a personal lap dance for me. Michael Fassbender sitting at my feet while I pet his fur. Aleksandr Voinov dropping by Bitch Factor 10 so I can ask him a bunch of nosy questions. Oh, pardon! That last one's not a fantasy-- it really happened! Aleks has so graciously stopped by to answer a Question or Two (or seven) and talk a bit about Incursion, his latest Riptide Publishing release. Keep on reading to reach Incursion's blurb and contact info for Aleks. And buttercream icing on the cupcake? There are details for the Incursion blog tour giveaway at the end of this post. Be sure to leave a comment to enter the giveaway and show Aleks your love!


Now available from Riptide Publishing

 Question or Two with Aleksandr Voinov


1) I heard a rumor awhile back that you and your Muse had separated. Any truth to that? Were you caught cheating, filling your Kaigelu from another's ink pot?


The Muse is a Fickle Thing, really. At times, he can’t drag me out of bed fast enough or wakes me up in the middle of the night, and at times he can be the most sullen of teenagers, kicking a can down the road and going “meh”, whenever I try to talk to him. What he doesn’t like is too much real-life or cyberspace drama, stress, back-ache and me having to do my taxes, incidences of which I’ve had in the last few months.

It’s also probably true that I’ve generally been writing less in the last 3-4 months. Since finishing Dark Soul, I’ve really only written Incursion and Skybound, and Skybound is a tiny story of a mere 13k (and hence shouldn’t have taken me as long to write/polish as it has). But the big thing that slows me down is a historical novel that is pretty rough to write. It’s intense. There are days when I work hard on it and walk away with only one page or maybe 500 words to show for my effort. That’s a lot slower than I’m used to, but research is a big thing here. I just don’t want to get it wrong, and the setting (the Second World War) is complex. At times I found myself researching Paris, Montmartre, Jewish artists, the order of battle of SS units, and I’m not nearly finished. I’m learning a lot, but it’s a slow process and I hope I get to something good with it. But yeah, right now, writing is hard work.


2) Speaking about your relationship with your Muse, who's the Dom, who's the sub? Is "thwapping" a kinky form of discipline between you? And while you're at it, explain what "thwapping" is. Or is thwapping an English/German literary term? 

I’d think we switch. Sometimes the Muse is all “command me, Master”, and other days I have no illusion of who’s in charge. I think he even tops from the bottom. And “thwap” is the sound when you hit somebody with a leather glove. It’s part punishment, part challenge.

3) Let's talk about your "Disabled German-Named Space Maori in a Haunted House IN SPAAAACE with Polymorphing Monster" story. In your acknowledgements for Incursion, you dedicate the book, in part, to "all real-life shape-shifters." Are you a shape-shifter? Are you really an amoeba, because I think being a single-celled organism would be a totally cool natural state? 

“Disabled German-Named Space Maori in a Haunted House IN SPAAAACE with Polymorphing Monster” is what my partner called the story. I was telling him about the concept (he loves sci-fi), and he said “so, if I understand it right, you’re writing a Haunted House story with a disabled Space Maori who has a German name and he’s trapped with a polymorphing monster”. At first I was slightly affronted (because I’m taking my ideas pretty seriously wile I write), but I had to admit that he wasn’t far off. All ideas sound silly when summarized like that, though. I mean, seriously?

I do have more complex organs than an amoeba, but if I could have one super power, I’d take shapeshifting. However—I really do think we are already shapeshifters. Damn slow ones, if you consider our natural progression from zygote to rotting bones, but a baby and an old person side-by-side are very different. I do think there’s an “essence” that stays the same, but even as humans, our bodies are capable of a huge amount of change. It can be something harmless as getting a new hair cut, or something as dramatic as losing or gaining a whole lot of weight (“You look like a totally new person!”). What has probably impressed me the most is the shapechange of trans* people who decide to transition physically to the other gender to match their being with how they are perceived. I’ve seen gorgeous people switch over and every time I see it, I’m heartened and strengthened.

Am I a shapeshifter? Well, my world view is strongly influenced by shamanism and energy-work. I change all the time. I’m recently turning more gray (my hair, that is). I’ve managed to get back to the gym and am now running (slowly, right now, but sustained), and I can already see changes. On another level, what is the essence of our being? This is a question that has got me thinking a lot. I mean, we’re talking about characters being “alive” on the page, although they are only really words. I think there’s something bigger at play, a kind of energy, life, possibly what our ancestors would have called “magic”. As a writer, when I write, I become that person I’m writing about. It’s part channeling something (or dragging it up from the sub-conscious), and part seeing through another person’s eyes, taking on their beliefs, their experiences, their pasts, really believing it. And then returning to my normal-day self. It’s definitely emotional shapeshifting. While I write, I am that person, and then I get up and get a tea and stretch my legs and am myself, though sometimes out of sorts and dazed and yearning to go back. But all humans are shapeshifters on that level. We’re parents and children, employees and madpeople, we’re irrational and business-like, we can be enemies and lovers and all those live in the same body.

4) At one point in Incursion, one character tells another, "I'll teach you how to become." How does one best teach another how to become-- anything? Able-bodied, a man…human?

That’s a very good question. In a way, it takes us such a long time to become who we are. To acknowledge our potential and embrace it. It can be something as simple as “I always wanted to write a book.” The moment you decide to listen to the voice that tells you what you really want, what your deepest desire is (of course, don’t listen to the voices if they tell you to kill people or molest children) and act on it, you become. The moment an “I’d really like to write a book” turns into “I’m a writer”, something huge has happened. Something real and powerful and amazing.

This may sound cheesy, but for me, love is when a person encourages that voice in a partner. My partner met me when I was somewhat screwed up and not in a good headspace. I was writing, but I wasted a lot of energy being glum and elitist and cramped up. I always expected the worst to happen, I was constantly worried. And while some of that was perfectly justified, it did make life harder for myself. My partner has always encouraged me to be more positive, to ease up, to follow the flow, to stop worrying, and encourages my gentle, giving, generous and warm side. Over time, I got back in touch with that side of me that was always there but knocked back by stuff that happened in my life. Slowly, I’m getting some of my mental and emotional habits under control and become a better person overall. I like the idea that our loves and lovers make us into better people—there’s a process of mutual civilizing going on.


5) One line I love in Incursion is "Take your darkness to the warrior, for they can slay it." What is your "darkness"? Do you have a darkness-slaying warrior of your own?

Good pick! It’s one of those lines that really resonate with me. When I wrote it, I paused and stared at it in wonder, thinking “wow, where has that come from?” I think it takes real courage to face your own darkness and possibly even more to face that darkness in others. Warriors in that society are part priests, part healers, part shamans; spiritual warriors. All my life I’ve been struggling with the idea of the Warrior (and he/she is a strong archetype). What makes us strong? What is courage? And if somebody has bigger obstacles to overcome than other people, is he/she more courageous than somebody who had it easier? (Personally, I think yes—I’m more in awe of a Paralympics athlete than their less-challenged peers).

My own darkness—lots of stuff. Fears and doubts and laziness and resentment and anger and old scars, and selfishness and worries and being unable to help people. Like anybody else, I got some hard knocks in life, and coming to terms with the fact that’s just part of life and part of being human isn’t always easy. Somebody said that anybody who’s reached adulthood has enough stuff to write about for the rest of their lives, and I agree.

So, it’s the material I work with. I reach into those often murky waters, and if I touch something that feels powerful and alive and wriggly (picture a big ugly conger eel), I do my best to pull it out when I write. But I’ve reached a new level of that, too. I used to dig that stuff up and throw it in the face of my readers, which really was a helpless, angry act (well, I was a teenager, and thankfully, very little of that stuff made it into paid circulation). These days, I dig it up and examine it and ask the reader to join me in the process of working through this. When I take my fear, I invite the reader to take their fear, put it there, add it to my fear, and together we go through those issues and defeat them together. Reading is not a passive act at all, it’s a collaboration. If the reader walks away stronger and hopeful and feels like a burden’s been lifted—perfect. I try to write about these internal (and often external) hard-won victories, and the main transformative power is love.


6) What's happy-making in your life right now…in your writing?

I’m excited like a kid about my patio—in end-July, some landscaper people are coming over to rip open the nasty concrete behind my house and put down a sandstone patio. In my mind, I’m already sitting in the late autumn sun editing a manuscript there. It took me two years to decide what I want done in the garden, but now that I have a plan I can’t wait for it to happen, although it’s a long process and will get completed in stages.

I’m also getting a big kick out of running, and I’ve taken up meditation, which leaves me nice and calm and aware. Running and meditation entered my life at roughly the same time and are complementing each other beautifully. Ideally, I want to be able to run 10k with my partner, and a big dream is a half-marathon, because essentially it’s a ludicrous goal for me and hence I’m attracted to it. I’d get bored by a full marathon (running for 5-6 hrs? Really? How do people spend that time in their heads?), but people have told me if you can run a half-marathon, you can run a full marathon, so that’s the goal. Happy-making is that I’m getting my first bespoke three-piece suit fitted this week.

In writing: When I get emails from readers telling me I touched them. I got one this morning on a full commuter train and was grinning to myself like a loon the whole way. Also, finding a good sentence that has power and that will stay with me and others, or finishing a scene, or getting a good number of words out, or finding a perfect piece of research. It’s the sense of wonder and gratitude that makes this job so rewarding, and there’s the up and down of pride of achievement and humility that I can do this and that I can reach and touch people. It’s pretty intense emotionally.


7) Your stories are often exempla of the pitfalls of religious dogmatism. All that aside… when can we expect the announcement that you are starting your own religion? I know you've already kicked things off with a "ten albino virgin pygmy hippos" sacrificial barbeque. You have throngs elbowing for a place at your boots (I do hope you cordon off a VIP section-- and that you'll reserve an all-access pass for me *squeak*). Oh Great Savior of My Kindle, how much longer must we wait to formally assemble for your worshipage?

I guess I’m widely known as the rabid atheist among m/m writers. But you put it very well—it’s fine if people are religious, all power to them, I know terrific people who are also religious, from Quakers to Catholics to Muslims. But I’m not—that paradigm doesn’t work for me, and I had a phase during my teenage years when I tried. What I do get really quite angry about is when a religious person uses their religion as an excuse to make other people miserable, or, worse, justifies atrocities and violence, from wars, ethnic/religious cleansing to suicide bombings to witch burning.

My last vestiges of Christian faith died when I studied history and worked out that the Greeks and Romans (the pagan, pre-Christian ones) had systems to be a “good person” without requiring any kind of god keeping tabs on them, so I went with that. But I respect that some people want to be religious or feel happy while believing in a god/dess (or many).

As to starting my own religion. I’m the last person on earth who should do that. I don’t want the responsibility, and I’d be the first to say “don’t believe anything I say, this is my truth and yours might be totally different.” Also, can you imagine the Faithful grabbing stuff from my office and carry it home as a relic (“Hey, I NEED that thesaurus!”)? Also, my front garden is small and my street is pretty quiet, so I could really only accommodate maybe one or two tents of devoted fans camping out in my front garden, or I’d get in trouble with the neighbours (who are lovely), so I simply don’t have the proper space for a mass religion, sorry to say.

Although, if I did start a religion, it would involve getting all writers and book people together in a nice location (my patio is too small, but maybe think a large park) and there’s food and some music and group readings, and snark and damn awesome coffee, and book swaps and creative writing groups, and everybody can adopt a virgin albino pygmy hippo to take home to help them write or just look cute. I think that would be pretty awesome. 




Incursion blurb:

Fighting with your back to the wall is all well and good—as long as you’ve chosen the right wall.

When the local authorities ask Kyle Juenger to hunt a shape-shifting Glyrinny spy, he can’t refuse. After all, he can use the reward to replace his paralyzed legs with cyberware, and maybe even to return to his home planet. Besides, he hates the morphs—those invasive, brain-eating monstrosities whose weapons cost him his legs.

Kyle’s best lead is the Scorpion, a mercenary ship armed to the teeth. Grimm, the Scorpion’s pilot and captain, fascinates Kyle. He’s everything Kyle lost with his legs, and he’s from the same home world. He’s also of the warrior caste—half priest, half savior. But Grimm’s been twisted by life as a merc, and Kyle’s stuck undercover as a criminal on the run.
That doesn’t stop Grimm from coming on to Kyle, or from insisting he’s more than the sum of his past and his useless legs. But Kyle has other concerns—like tracking a dangerous morph who could be wearing anyone’s face. And as if things weren’t complicated enough, Kyle can’t tell if Grimm is part of the solution . . . or part of the problem. 

Buy Incursion at Riptide Publishing

Aleksandr Voinov is an emigrant German author living near London, where he makes his living editing dodgy business English so it makes sense (and doesn’t melt anybody’s brain). He published five novels and many short stories in his native language, then switched to English and hasn’t looked back. His genres range from horror, science fiction, cyberpunk, and fantasy to contemporary, thriller, and historical erotic gay novels.

 Visit Aleksandr’s website at http://www.aleksandrvoinov.com, his blog at http://www.aleksandrvoinov.blogspot.com, and follow him on Twitter, where he tweets as @aleksandrvoinov.

And now- Aleks' Giveaway!


Thanks for joining me on the Incursion virtual book tour! Feeling lucky? I’m giving away three prizes to commenters on any of the blog tour stops. Comment on this post (feel free to ask questions!) and you might win! The first winner will receive a $25 Amazon gift certificate and a swag bag with assorted magnets, wrist-bands and other goodies. Two more lucky winners will receive swag bags as well. I ship internationally and will draw the winners from all commenters after the tour is over. Deadline for entry is 7/15/12. Please include your email address in your comment so that I can contact you.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Guess who's visiting Bitch Factor 10 tomorrow?



I am soooo excited about Aleksandr Voinov stopping by Bitch Factor 10 tomorrow that I'm practically wettin' 'em! I loved his latest book, Incursion (watch for my review next week). Aleks totally makes shape-shifters his own in this action-packed sci-fi-er.  Aleks discusses the book, and a few other nosy questions I was dying to ask. So come for the Incursion... and stay for the giveaway. That's all coming up tomorrow on Bitch Factor 10.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Random Shit: Today's Sing-a-long

I'm about to completely rearrange my personal and professional life. This is not a surprise if you've known me any length of time. It's not that I'm fickle, I just believe that every breathable moment is an opportunity for improvement. No, really, I do believe that. And, it doesn't hurt that I'm disco-dancing my way to age 50 (there should be an echo for that). Change is hanging in the air like a grassy fart from...

Isis the Bitch of BF10 fame
 Anyhoo, I'm switching my career focus from librarian to literary editor. I have a lot to learn, because it's apparent that 2.5 college degrees, lots of beta-reading and a book review blog do not an editor make! I'm starting from scratch, but what else is new? And you know I'll be coming here and bitchin' about every little thing as I stretch and grow towards my goal.

Ok, just a bit more sappy-cheezy shit. Here's a video for my sing-a-long song of the day,  "A Brand New Day" from the Broadway musical, The Wiz.  Oh, and, sorry, this is the best of the YouTube videos of the song I could find.

Happy Earwig... er, I mean...Earworm!



Friday, June 22, 2012

Book review: The Vengeance of Legion by Helen Fields


The Vengeance of Legion by Helen Fields *

My Bitch Factor 10 rating: 4.8


In my review of the first book in the Eve McKenzie's Demons series, I groused that The Immolation of Eve was not quite an "epic" beginning to the tale of a British solicitor who discovers that she is an unwitting part of an otherworldly power struggle. Don't get me wrong, I loved the book, but I felt the scope of Immolation wasn't quite epic-y enough for that claim.  In Immolation's sequel, The Vengeance of Legion,  there is a greater sense that Eve's journey is taking on epic proportions. Eve is suited up as "heroine," as there are demons to slay and despots to overthrow. So, yes, this time Fields takes us on an even more fantastical and epic quest to Eve's origins… and her future.

 Here's the summary of VoL from the book's blurb:

Eve MacKenzie has had a tough year...pursued by an incubus determined to use and control her, narrowly avoiding death in a bloody and bitter demonic war then having to part with the man she loves to avoid a mortal curse. So she did her best to move on, settle into her new life in California and remember how it felt to be normal. 

Unfortunately for her, the incubus she deprived of power is back and he wants revenge and this time he won't stop until she has paid in blood for the humiliation she dealt him. Torture, tragedy and desperation abound in this dark fantasy sequel to The Immolation of Eve.

In my review of Immolation, I talked about Fields' understated writing style. That’s still evident in Vengeance. The writing just seems so effortless-- how does Fields manage this (again!), especially given all the action in the book?  Mayhem seems to follow Eve wherever she goes, even in the idyllic setting of Carmel, California. And this time around, Eve's friends are guilty by association, as the bad guys take the fight to supporting characters, in an effort to draw Eve back into the struggle she had left behind in the first book.

The pace of Vengeance is slightly more relaxed than it was in Immolation, but the plot here is anything but tranquil. In the beginning of Vengeance, Eve has retreated to a "normal" life in Carmel, but soon she is drawn back into the politics and violent upheavals of her native people.  It made sense in Immolation that Eve had  to rely more on James, her otherworldly guide and love interest-- after all, she had been thrust into a world that she didn't even know existed. This time, Eve leads the charge, with her friends as back up. James is distant (in many different ways), but is still very much in the picture. Immolation was as much about Eve's discovery of her sexual self as it was finding out about her birth parents and adoption; in Vengeance, Eve doesn't seem to have the time or heart for love-- though she does manage to get her "sexy on." This story remains more of  a sexy dark fantasy tale, than a romance. Though I have to admit that I'm surprised that there isn't more sex in a book with so many incubi and succubi-- oh, wait, there is that wild party scene in Carmel… nevermind.

As much as I admire Eve, with all her wit, intelligence and  pluckiness, it is the dastardly Perun who interests me most. He is even more sinister in Vengeance, and the veneer of charmingness has worn off from their Immolation encounters. Perun has assembled his dark forces and wants Eve--who is of royal birth, and ruling her people, in absentia-- completely out of the way, and is willing to use any and every ruthless means at his disposal. This makes for several scary, gory clashes.  I totally felt like Perun was channeling Joffrey from HBO's Game of Thrones at the conclusion of this book-- brattily wicked and oh, so deluded… almost sympathetic. Almost.  Loved Perun!

I'm not going to give much away here. I love Fields' writing, love the characters, love the dark places this story goes. Alas, there is no pat HEA here, but then I told you this wasn't really a romance. I can  forgive the cliffhanger, because Fields deftly handles it (thanks for the eggs, Helen!) and does not leave the reader as much frustrated, as really wanting to know "what happens next, what happens next

Helen Fields promised in the blurb for Immolation of Eve that this series would be an "epic adventure of seduction, loss, love and revenge." She has more than accomplished this in this second chapter, and I am eagerly awaiting the next sequel.


Other quick notes: There's a nice two paragraph prologue that will clue you in if you haven't read Immolation of Eve before The Vengeance of Legion. Also, the third book in the series isn't coming until 2013 because Helen will be working on a legal novel.

*The author of The Vengeance of Legion requested this review and provided an ARC for that purpose. This review represents my personal opinion of the book, and I was not influenced by anyone as to what to write in my review. Which should be obvious by how rambling it is. No author was harmed in the process of writing this review-- well, not physically, anyway.




 
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