Friday, August 25, 2017

Author! Author! FELICE STEVENS

Welcome, Dear Readers, to another edition of AUTHOR! AUTHOR! Wherein I introduce you to some of my favorite writing today's guest, the delightful Felice Stevens.

Now, it's true that Felice does not write mystery or crime, but look. Nobody's perfect. What she does write is charming and heartwarming male/male romance. Her books are hugely popular--and with good reason. But more to the point, Felice is one of the nicest, most generous -- and genuine -- people you'll meet in this biz.

So without further adieu...Felice Stevens.

 Readers may not know that your day official day job title is Legal Eagle. I find it interesting that a lot of authors have a legal background. Why do you think that is? Do you think that some of the skills that make for a good lawyer make for a good writer?

FS - Well I could say because we are incredibly organized types, but I’d die laughing, because I’m the least organized person I know. I think, at least for me, that case law is like a story—the facts, the consequences of the facts and the ending. Plus we write SO DAMN MUCH. It was one of the reasons I became a lawyer and not a doctor. I can’t do math to save my life and I was a good essay writer.

 Do you eat breakfast? Did you know it's the most important meal of the day? What's your favorite breakfast food?

FS - Yes, mother. LOL I do eat breakfast. I love plain Greek yogurt with lots of fresh fruit. In the winter, I eat oatmeal with fruit.

 I have to eat more oatmeal! So we've established that you rock the contemporary male/male romance genre. Is there another genre or sub-genre you'd kinda, sorta like to try but haven't quite worked up the nerve yet? 

FS - Well, I do have a shifter story in the back of my mind. And I also have 3 full length and one half written MF Regency romances in my computer, sitting waiting for me to retire so I can go back and cringe at what I wrote in 2013. ;)  That should be interesting.

  Name three of your all-time favorite childhood books. Do you think those stories influenced your own writing? How so?

FS - I grew up on the Nancy Drew mysteries and moved on to Alfred Hitchcock anthologies. I always wanted to write a good mystery story. <grin> But that’s not happening. 

Note from Josh -- Well, it could! 

FS Continued: As for single books, I loved the Wind in the Willows, Alice in Wonderland (I had to learn that "Jabberwocky" poem by heart and recite it for 5th grade English) and the original Wizard of Oz. As a teenager I fell in love with the Mary Stewart romantic suspense books. My love of reading is all thanks to my father. He was a prolific reader.

 What is with so many teachers insisting their pupils memorize "Jabberwocky"? It's not like is going to prove eventually useful in an argument. I know. I've tried to use it. As for the rest, the original Oz series is crazy imaginative--and probably not very PC, come to think of certain installments, but I remember being enthralled as a kid. And Mary Stewart! I love your taste in reading. Anywhoooo... Congratulations on being the first M/M author to be invited to take part in Amazon Kindle Worlds. Did you want to tell the at-home viewers a little bit about that? 

FS - Sure! Kindle Worlds are an Amazon only imprint that use already published series as a basis for creating new stories in that world. So, it’s basically fan fiction that you can now get paid for writing. Amazon took my Memories series and The Breakfast Club series since there is some cross-over and authors and readers who want to write a story about one of my characters, or create their own to live in my “world” can now do so and get paid. Unfortunately right now it is US only, but they are working to make it international.
That's excellent. Good for you, Missy! It couldn't happen to a nicer person or more deserving author. Next question. I've met your Mister and he's a hoot. How did you two meet?

FS - That’s one word for him! Haha. We met on a blind date. J We had a nice Japanese dinner where I broke date rule number one and had Udon. Totally messy but I guess it worked!  Although I have a funny story because he mentioned on our first date he didn’t like spicy food and I love it so my whole way home all I could think of was “How am I supposed to date a man who doesn’t like Mexican food?” P.S. He now loves Mexican food lol.

 :-D :-D :-D  Yeah, because anything else truly is unacceptable in one's life partner. AGREED. What do you love most about writing? What do you like least?

FS - I love the feeling when a character reveals their story. I love when the words flow and you’re typing away and before you look up you’ve typed a thousand or two thousand words without stopping. Unfortunately that doesn’t happen too often, but when it does, it’s exhilarating.

I dislike the way some think it’s a me vs. you environment. That if you do well, it means I can’t. I don’t like the thought of people coming into this genre simply for the money. I hate the thought of so much pulling us apart. For a genre that’s all about love we need to practice more of what we write about. I also dislike the uncertainty of publishing. You might think that’s funny for someone who isn’t the most well organized person, but I don’t like not knowing what’s going to happen one month to the next. Probably why I don’t like going to court.

Well said, and I second all of that. This is a business that makes people crazy. But then you have to be inclined that way to want to write in the first place. 

Anyway, moving on. Fashion magazines always ask this critical question: What is the one cosmetic or grooming tool you cannot live without? And do you have any idea why all these fashion models are always pretending the one tool they can't live without is their EYEBROW GROOMER? 

FS - I have NEVER touched my eyebrows. Ouch. It even looks painful. I love Carmex. Lol I have to have it or my lips gets very dry. That and sunscreen because I’m pale and burn and have already had two bouts with basal cell on my face. Yuck.

 You sexy thang, you! :-D Readers of this blog love funny food allergy stories. Can you share any amusing near death experiences brought on by a food allergy?

FS - Oh what a fun question! Not. LOL I don’t have any food allergies but I once took chewable Claritin for my seasonal allegories and it swelled up my lips so much I could barely talk. My kids loved that. Haha.

 What do you think is the most important thing to remember when creating fully realized main characters?

FS - That they need to be imperfect. I know people have often said that they get frustrated by my guys because they make stupid decisions or they go back and forth. But to me that’s realistic. If everyone made the right choice the first time, we’d never learn from mistakes and I think that makes us more interesting. Plus it makes our characters more human. I’d rather have a person fumble and fall down and learn to pick himself up than be superhuman perfect from the start.

Uh, yes. And plus if everyone made the right choice to start with, there would be no plot.

 Do you consider yourself to be religious -- or even just spiritual? It's always a balance, but do you feel your work reflects your own feelings about faith and belief?

FS - I am to a point. I believe there is something out there. I do love watching those mediums, and wonder if they are all fake or if my parents are there watching me….Sorry, Mom and Dad. J And I also believe that if a hundred people make that illegal U-turn and don’t get a ticket, if I do it, I’ll be the one to get that ticket. So there’s that. Karma maybe? Yeah I believe in that.

 Ha! What are you working on now? What's out next?

FS - Oh there’s lots in the hopper. I have Under the Boardwalk which is part of Kade Boehme’s and my Landmarks series, based on different NYC landmarks. Under the Boardwalk is the story of Alexi, a Russian American man who’s never left Brooklyn and works on the Coney Island Boardwalk and Cam, the former opera singer turned teacher who sings on the boardwalk during the summer. They may be my sweetest couple yet.

 Then I have All or Nothing, which is the story of Rico, the closeted Cuban –American caterer from Learning to Love and Adam Barton, the fire fighter from Beyond the Surface who’s fighting some pretty big demons from his past.

There are also audiobooks a comin’. Kale Williams narrated the second book in the Through Hell and Back series, After the Fire and is working on the third and last book. Derrick McClain is right at his heels with Learning to Love. Seth Clayton is working on One Call Away and Nick Russo is hard at it with The Shape of You.

Just a few things as you can see. J

 Yeah, one or two. Ha! Favorite cocktail? 

FS - Margarita!

 I KNEW THAT. You've managed to build a pretty respectable backlist in record time. What's your secret? Do you have one particular book you're most proud of or pleased with?

FS - I don’t overthink things. I just do it. You might not think so but I’m not always on line yakking away. I wake up early and write. I write at lunch. I write when I come home before I have dinner. I don’t set word counts. I prefer to think in terms of chapters and strive for a chapter a day, but if I don’t and choose to play around on Facebook or if I am very busy at work, I don’t beat myself up over it.  I have almost a mile walk to and from work every day so it not only gives me time to prepare for my day, I think about my characters. When I get in front of the computer I have something loosely formulated to start with. I take those thoughts and run with it.

My book I’m most proud of? One Call Away. I love the characters and I wanted to show the Jewish religion in a positive framework. Too many books follow the theme of the forbidding religious father and that’s not always the case. Judaism is such a family oriented religion. I wanted my book to reflect that. I guess I’m tired of stereotypes. I wrote the book I wanted to read. Plus it took me a year to write and that’s crazy for me.

That's great. I love that. Now tell us something surprising. Anything. Go on. Surprise us!

FS - Despite all the traveling I do, I hate to fly. Makes me nervous as hell. Plus, I think we’ve discussed this before and you all called me an alien, I have never had a cheeseburger. Or eaten bacon. But I swear I’m human. J

(You do seem pretty in touch with the human heart, so I'll give you that one. ;-) )

Friday, August 18, 2017


You will be amazed to hear I've had to do a bit of reshuffling my schedule once again. It's just that kind of year. We've got family visiting, I've got the usual big summer music gig at the end of the month, and a looming deadline for Carina Press. So I've jumped from Blind Side to Murder Takes the High Road in order to hit that deadline.

Blind Side is still going to happen, never fear. It's just being postponed a few more weeks. In the meantime, I'm enjoying reliving memories of my trip to Scotland a couple of years back. I'm using our tour itinerary, though changing names of hotels and so forth so as to not get sued by people with no sense of humor about murder occurring under their roof.

The unofficial blurb:
Vacationing librarian Carter Matheson must solve the murder of fellow tourists when someone begins picking off members of a mystery-themed bus tour traveling through the scenic highlands and islands of Scotland.

It's pretty much a classic cozy mystery with a generous dollop of romance and sex.

Here's an unedited excerpt:

 A gust of windy rain hit the small window in the corner. It sounded—and felt—like someone had thrown ice tacks at the glass. I opened my suitcase and dug around for the least wrinkled shirt I could find, and ended up selecting a black soft-wash long sleeve crew T-shirt. I remembered enough from my country dance days to know a ceilidh was not a formal event.

The door rattled noisily in its frame as someone banged on it.

“At this point the handyman's just going to be in the way,” I grumbled.

John leaned out of the bathroom and opened the door.

Trevor stood on the landing wearing a ferocious scowl and the blue cashmere sweater I’d bought him for his thirty-ninth birthday.

 “It’s for you,” John told me.

I gave him the look that speaks volumes, as we say in the librarian biz.

Trevor, too, was giving him a look. “Do you mind?” he said.

“Yep. I do,” John replied. “I’ve got thirteen minutes left to get ready for dinner and you’re about to take up way too many of them.” He withdrew into the bathroom once more, though the door remained open.
“Fine. Whatever.” Trevor swung back to me and realigned his glare. “How dare you go around telling everybody that Vance tried to shove you in front of a car?”

There wasn’t time to stop and argue. I hastily kicked out of the blue jeans I’d been wearing all day and pulled on a clean pair of black jeans. “I never said that.”

“Bullshit, Carter. Everyone on the bus was whispering about it.”

“I can’t help what people saw.” Okay, yes, I probably could have phrased that more tactfully. Trevor’s face got redder. I said quickly, “What they think they saw.”

“You sure didn’t try to correct them.”

I pawed through my suitcase for a clean pair of socks. It wasn’t that I didn’t have plenty of clean clothes, but from the state of my suitcase, you’d think Hamish had thrown our suitcases down a cliffside before stowing them in the bus’s luggage compartment. I threw a harassed look over my shoulder. “How do you know what I did or didn’t do?”

“I know you, Carter. I know how you operate. You’re doing everything you can to ruin this trip for me.”

That got my attention. I stopped digging through my suitcase, and straightened up so fast I’m surprised I didn’t throw my back out. “Explain how I’m ruining this trip for you?”

“Every time I turn around, there you are again with that accusing stare.”

Really?” John said from the bathroom. I think both Trevor and I had forgotten he was still in there.  I certainly hadn’t thought he could hear us over the sound of running water. We both stared at him, framed in the bathroom doorway, slowly, deliberately drawing the razor across his square jaw. He scraped away another snowy drift of shaving cream and said to Trevor, “Because you’re the one who keeps showing up at our door.”

 “Our?” Trevor looked even more taken aback. “How does this involve you?”

“It’s my room. Half my room.”

I think it genuinely threw Trevor. In any event it was a second or two before he turned back to me. “Do you really want to do this here?” he asked in a tone I knew only too well.

“I don’t want to do it at all. Look, I’m not accusing Vance of anything. I don’t think he deliberately pushed me into the road. If you’d shut up about it, people would lose interest in the subject.”

“He’s right,” John said.

“Nobody asked you,” Trevor snapped.

“If you’re going to have this conversation in my room, then I have a right to express my opinion.”

It probably wasn’t funny, but somehow at that moment, it seemed funny.

Trevor opened his mouth but I cut him off.  “Okay, time out. In fact, game over. Trevor, I don’t know what to tell you. I’m not leaving the tour. And if that’s going to ruin it for you, sorry. I have every much right to be here as you do.”

“This is just more of your passive-aggressive—”

“Uh, no,” John said, rinsing off his razor. “That’s aggressive-aggressive.”

Will you keep out of it?” Trevor shouted. “This isn’t any of your business.”

The lights flickered and went out. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

Farewell, my Lovelies

Angel's Flight
A couple of weeks ago, the SO and I went on a tour of Old Los Angeles. Well, Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles, not OLD (as in Spanish) LA. Anyway, I haven't been downtown--really downtown--in decades, although I do write about the area in stories like Snowball in Hell.

We rode the train down to Union Station and then walked from Union Station to a little oasis in the heart of Hell, known as Daily Dose Cafe where we had breakfast and waited for the tour group to arrive.

The tour was organized by a company known as Esotouric, and they describe themselves as Bus Adventures into the Secret Heart of Los Angeles. They're a bit informal, a little...on the zany side (I don't see that as a bad thing), and they definitely know their stuff. I'd like to have switched out the stop at Larry Edmunds Bookshop (the loose inspiration for Geiger's Bookstore in The Big Sleep) near Musso & Frank's for the Bradbury Building, but other than that I really enjoyed every single stop.

Probably the coolest moment for me was a completely personal (and a little weird) intersection of worlds. We were headed back from Hollywood and I suddenly started thinking that the streets looked familiar. Really familiar. I began looking for landmarks, and we suddenly passed through the intersection of a street called Bonnie Brae. Bonnie Brae is where my grandparents lived--it's where my mom lived when my dad started dating her. Later my aunt and uncle lived there and I was often there playing with my cousins. Which isn't all that remarkable, except that the last time I was there I was about four. Four years old. It actually gave me chills when I saw that street sign flash by.


A lot of Chandler's Los Angeles is gone, of course, but it's wonderful to see that many old, genuinely gorgeous buildings remain. Especially given that, unlike in Europe, the American thing is to raze old buildings and then build new ones on their graves. So much more money to be made that way! A lot of the remaining historic buildings are being purchased by foreign investors who typically don't have great reverence for the American past either, so if you write about old Los Angeles or you love architecture or you're curious about the way things use to be, I'd recommend getting yourself down there while there's still so much to see.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Killing It (A New Monthly Column for M/M Mystery Writers)

This morning's blog is basically just a signpost to a new monthly column I'm writing for Larissa over at BookWinked.

It's a long time since I've been interested in doing a monthly column, but a column on what's happening in the world of mystery writing and publishing -- specifically writing and publishing Male/Male and Gay Mystery -- seems to perfectly dovetail with my work on Writing Killer M/M Suspense and Mystery due out Winter/Spring 2018.

In the interests of finding any potentially-under-served* audience, a lot of male/male authors have turned to writing "mysteries." In what has become a brutally competitive market, writers are desperate to find any foothold (in fact, let's face it, that's how a lot of them came to be writing M/M in the first place). And that's okay. Since the first poet starved to death in his garret, authors have always scrabbled for a foothold in the publishing market.  What is NOT okay is putting out any kind of schmaltzy, vaguely suspense-ish crap and calling it a Gay or M/M Mystery. Mystery readers are a bit more difficult -- let's call it discerning -- than some other audience segments. They really do expect a decent mystery to be served with their romance.

And with so many aspiring (perspiring?) authors relying almost solely on output, advertising and promo to get the results they need, the author who comes along and knows her genre and can actually write will have a huge advantage. I'm not exaggerating when I say that consistently writing well is soon going to be the new secret weapon in the author arsenal.

To that end--and because I've pretty much devoted my life to the mystery genre, in particular the gay mystery genre--I want to help both writers and readers get the best books possible. I want Male/Male Mystery to be where you find the best books and the best authors.

Anyway, the column is called KILLING IT - WRITING THE M/M MYSTERY, and it's running August through December. Stop by and leave a comment as to what you'd like to read about and discuss over the coming months!