Special Guest: Anne Barwell – Echoes of War

A big thank you to Charlie for hosting me, and giving me the opportunity to share with you today.

In debating what to write about for the topic of writing historical fiction, I noticed–and it’s been noticed by others–that in my writing I keep coming back to the time periods around the two world wars.  The Echoes series, of which Shadowboxing is book 1, is set during WW2, and other characters I’m writing, or planning to write have their origins just before, during or after either this war or WW1.

Coincidence? I’ve never believed in such things.

About thirty years ago my father became caretaker of his father’s and great-grandfather’s war medals, and with his own passing a few weeks ago these medals have come into my care in turn. I suspect that is, in part, some of the reason for what made me ponder my choice of topic today.  These medals are so much more than pieces of metal on faded ribbons; they are a reminder of men who fought for their country and what they believed in. They have their own stories to tell as do others who were a part of those periods of history.

Wars bring out the best and the worst in people. They make us reconsider what is important, worth fighting for, and often dying for. Friends and lovers meet, and/or are separated, sacrifices are made, and decisions taken, not always for the right reasons or with the expected consequences.

For me writing, and reading, is very character driven. I want to get to know my characters, to put them into different situations to see how they will react, and interact with others. Kristopher, one of the characters in Shadowboxing, begins the story as a German scientist from a very privileged background. He’s buried himself in his work, and brushed off a lot of the stories he’s heard of what is going on around him. Work is a great escape. But, when an old friend–the person who is responsible for Kristopher realising he is attracted to other men–warns him that reality is closing in, he’s forced to re-examine not only his conscience, but who he is. He’s never thought of himself as someone who judges anyone, but that’s the thing with social ideologies; they’re insidious like to the point you don’t realise you’re doing it until it hits you between the eyes. Kristopher himself is in no position to judge what might be perceived as ‘other’. As a homosexual man in Germany in 1943, he is ‘other’.

After meeting Michel, Kristopher can no longer deny that side of himself. He also questions everything he’s held to be true.  In his own words: “I don’t see how the love you and I feel for each other can be . It’s beautiful and feels so good.”

This is just the beginning of his journey through this series. He’ll not only find love in the arms of Michel, but also rediscover a side of himself he thought long gone.

Echoes is a story about love, friendship and family, and how all of those things drive people to reassess what they consider right and wrong. War places people in situations they’d normally not find themselves in, and they’re forced to make decisions that will impact not only their life, but that of others.

“There’s always a choice,” Kristopher insisted. “If you kill someone it makes you no better than they are.”

“In an ideal world, maybe, but we’re not in an ideal world.”

“I’m sorry but I’m not a killer.  I couldn’t shoot a man in cold blood.”

“No one is until they have to be.”

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Welcome Guest Author Kim Fielding!

Hi, I’m Kim Fielding and I am a research geek. As an academic, I do a lot of research for a living. But that’s not enough for me, and when I’m writing fiction I enjoy the research parts very much. I’m especially a sucker for history. So even though my first novel, Stasis, was a fantasy set in an alternate universe, I did a lot of real-life digging around to back it up.

The background of my Stasis world isn’t necessarily all that important to the tale, so I didn’t include a lot of details in the novel itself. But those details are very alive in my head, where I know that the story is set in a world in which magic exists, and in which the Romans made their way to the Americas. The action takes place in the city-state of Praesidium—geographically, it’s our San Francisco—and the time setting is late gold rush.

The fun thing about this time period is that some of our more modern technologies were beginning to appear, such as indoor plumbing and railroads. But travel was still a great adventure and the Golden Age of Sail was at its peak.

In preparation for this book (and its sequels, Flux and Equipoise) I spent a lot of happy hours poking around San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, where visitors can climb aboard the Balclutha and other old ships. I hope that the books have created a world that accurately represents life in the latter half of the 19th century—if the people had spoken bastardized Latin, if tyrants ruled, and if there were wizards about.

But although the magic and history are great fun, I wanted the story to resonate with modern readers of our own world. What is it like to be faced with very difficult choices and a repressive government? Can love conquer all, even when the love is forbidden and the erstwhile lovers face internal and external demons?  How can we meet challenges—even deadly ones—and come out stronger instead of being destroyed? Those are the themes that Stasis explores—and to me, the history is icing on the cake.

PS—Stasis is only 99 cents for Kindle and I donate all my royalties from this trilogy to Doctors Without Borders.

Stasis

Blurb:

Praesidium is the most prosperous city-state in the world, due not only to its location at the mouth of a great bay, but also to its strict laws, stringently enforced. Ordinary criminals become bond-slaves, but the Wizard places traitors in Stasis, a dreamless frozen state. Ennek is the Chief’s younger son. He has grown up without much of a purpose, a man who cannot fulfill his true desires and who skates on the edge of the law. But he is also haunted by the plight of one man, a prisoner for whom Stasis appears to be a truly horrible fate. If Ennek is to save that prisoner, he must explore Praesidium’s deepest secrets as well as his own.

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Welcome Guest Author: Charlie Cochrane!

At the recent UK Meet for those who love GLBT fiction (authors, readers, reviewers, publishers, you name them, we had them) one of the sessions was called Novel Openings. In this, twelve victims – I mean, volunteers – came up to the front of the room in batches and read 150 words from the start of one of their stories. I kept order and, helped by the lovely Jenre from the Well Read site, opened a discussion on the topics of “Can you tell how good a book will be from its first chapter?”, “What’s the deal clincher for you as a reader in the first few lines?” and “When looking at a short story, what makes an opening really bad?”

I’m the worst judge of a novel by the first few chapters (not sure if that’s me or if it reflects that the first chapters are often the most polished because that’s what goes to submissions editors…) but it seemed I was in the minority for that one. What struck us all was how clearly the author voice came through in just 150 words, which is less than I’ve written here, so far. The setting, the era, the tone of the tale; in the hands of a skilful author those first few paragraphs told us a lot.

One of the authors had the audacity to start her story “Once upon a time”. But it wasn’t a cliché – her adept use of language made the phrase both fresh and slightly knowing. There was laughter throughout the room and I scribbled down a prospective joke about, “at least nobody used ‘It was a dark and stormy night’!” which I wanted to say when next we broke for discussion. Stap me vitals, didn’t the next but one author start her novel with just that? Mad applause from the audience at the sheer chutzpah on show. And yes, that cliché worked in context, too!

(Although the prize for the best start had to go to Sandra Lindsey, from a WIP. I won’t quote it but if I say it involved a garden and chickens and two men flirting, you can guess which pun got the biggest cheer of the session!)

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Welcome Guest Author: Michael Rupured

Hello all! Please give a warm welcome to my guest Michael Rupured who’s here to chat about becoming a published author, his upcoming novel, and the amazing research behind it. ~ Charlie

It’s an honor and a privilege to appear on Charlie’s blog. I love the era she writes about and am in awe of her ability to put me there. Thank you, Charlie, for this opportunity to meet your readers.

Writing a novel is a complicated endeavor—so much so that I didn’t have the first clue how to go about it. I had accepted that writing a book was another one of those things I’d never be able to do.

The stories inside of me were never happy with my decision. Driven by their need to be heard, I started blogging, which eventually gave me the courage to try writing a book. Believing I lacked the imagination to make up a good story, I wrote a memoir, and when I couldn’t get it published, joined the Athens Writers Group to find out how to make it better.

After working with the other writers for several months, I set the memoir aside to attempt my first novel.  With no imagination but a near photographic memory, the original idea was to fictionalize a part of my life that I believed would make for an interesting story. So I set my first novel in 1997 and the world of my protagonist looks a whole lot like the world I inhabited at the time.

At least it started out that way. The Robot Unicorn Cult (more formerly known as the Athens Writers Group) critiqued my first novel 5000 words at a time. They ripped me to shreds and schooled me on stakes, tension, pacing, and showing vs. telling. With no real idea of what the hell I was doing, I was grateful for the feedback and soaked it up like a sponge.

I am truly a fascinating person with a wild and crazy past and a lot of stories to tell. That doesn’t, however, make me the hero of a novel. Somewhere between figuring that out and finishing the book, I found my voice and discovered that I could tell a good story.

The biggest surprise was having the characters take over. I didn’t need to make anything up. They told me what they did and said, revealing intricate connections with each other that I never imagined. No, I didn’t go off my meds and I’m not hearing voices in my head. The stories are inside just waiting for me to write them down. I have no idea where they come from.

As I was finishing up Until Thanksgiving, scheduled for release by Dreamspinner Press in December or January, one of the supporting characters insisted on his own book. Rather than a sequel, Philip’s story takes place thirty years earlier.  In 1966. When I was eight years old.

We argued about it. I told him there was no way I could tell a story that took place in an unfamiliar time and place. Philip said to trust him. He was there. He’d tell me what I needed to know. Which at long last, brings me to the reason Charlie asked me to be a guest on her blog.

Writing Philip’s story has taken me way out of my comfort zone. I’ve had to do a ton of research. What I’ve learned has inspired me to write a collection of novels spanning the last fifty years to highlight the amazing progress gay people have made.

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Welcome Guest Blogger: Tinnean

I don’t know why it is, but it seems I get some of my best ideas just as I’ve gotten into bed and my head hits the pillow. And I know… I know… that these ideas are so brilliant that there’s no way I could forget them.

Of course come the morning they’re long gone.

This happened so often that it became beyond frustrating. So, what to do? I hied me to the local Walgreens and picked up a “Fat Book” on sale.

That first one rested on my night table, along with a pen, and before long, it was filled with notes of all sorts, for Bless Us With Content, the first novel Dreamspinner published for me, as well as for fanfic, which I was still writing at that point. And of course there were snippets of dialogue.   “You’re not very tall,” she said. “That’s not why they call me ‘Big,’” he replied.

That book was eventually replaced with book 2, and then book 3, and then… well, you get the idea.

There are times when I’ve left myself cryptic notes: Actions speak louder than words—it would be nice if I could remember what I’d been thinking the night before. But at least that was legible. I tend to jot these things down with the lights off and my eyes closed (in hopes I’ll be able to get back to sleep), and in the morning I’ll swear and kick things, trying to figure out what the heck those chicken scratches represented.

But it’s all worth it. In the sequel I have planned for my latest novella, Call Me Church,  we learn that John Smith used to trade blowjobs for the opportunity to get warm and dry in various Broadway theaters. He couldn’t do this for Chetwood’s Kitty—there was a woman at the box office and a straight man at the stage door. It occurred to me at 11:15 p.m. that I had no clue which theater that would be (necessary, since it will be brought up in the sequel, which is as yet unnamed. Johnny and Church in the Search for the Treasure of the Hidden Temple?) so I made a note for myself to look it up.

And in the morning I could actually read what I had written!

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H.C. Brown Contest Winner – Michael Rupured!

contest winner tea house post header

Congratulations to Michael Rupured for winning H.C. Brown’s contest!

A big thank you to H.C. Brown for being a guest on the blog and hosting a contest, and thank you to every one who stopped by!

x Charlie x

Guest Post & Contest from H.C. Brown

Hello!

Today I’m running a contest.  I will pick a comment at random to win a copy of one e-book of their choice from my backlist, so you will have the choice of over twenty books.

Lord  & Master came about after reading some English, Georgian era court cases. The degree of punishment from hanging to life imprisonment for being implicated in the act of sodomy astounded me.

I enjoy reading historical non-fiction, so loved the idea of researching the Georgian era in England.  So many stories are set in the Regency period, and yet so many historical events happened in the world during the Georgian period.

England was at constant war. England fought in the American War of Independence .They destroyed the Scottish Clans at Culloden during the uprising, to name but a couple of important dates in history.

The Georgian era sparked the Anti-Sodomite Movement, a time when the mere accusation of sodomy was enough for a life sentence in Newmarket Prison or a trip to the hangman.  Accusations were used against many people to ruin reputations or to dispose of rivals.

The public, inflamed by tales of sodomy in the broadsheets of the time caused many men to lose their lives for a simple act of love.  This being the case, a man might show his affection toward another man in public by an imperceptible brush of his sleeve or a hooded gaze across the dinner table.
I also bring to light the role of titled women in this time. Rarely a lady married for love. Fathers used them as chattels to join a family’s wealth or to gain position.

BDSM wasn’t known as such in Georgian times but we do know select men’s clubs and brothels catered for men of this persuasion although, there is little written on the subject. So, for this part of my story I used a little fact and poetic license.

My story is about these times of forbidden love.


Lord  & Master

Blurb:

Lord Reynold Wilton, fearing exposure after a public argument with his sex slave, Lord David Litchfield, leaves England for the Americas. On his return, he finds his delicious man in the hands of a brutal sadist. In a time when homosexuality is a hanging offense, Reynold must use every trick in the book to regain the possession and trust of his young lover.



Excerpt:

London 1772

Lord Reynold Wilton opened his pocketbook and paid the tailor’s account, grateful to be finally out of uniform. He met the gaze of Mr. Joseph Brown. The man had produced every inch of clothing he had worn since a boy. “Have everything else sent over to Spencer Street. There’s a good man.”

Donning the new hat he’d purchased from Locks in Bond Street, Lord Reynold pulled on his gloves and turned to look in the mirror. The new, delightfully comfortable, clothes fit well. Soft and fresh against his skin, the linen provided a welcome change from his stagnant, uniform shirt and stiff smalls. At last, after three despicable years, he resembled a gentleman again. The new clothes, ordered by letter some three months prior, had surprised him with their elegance. Mr. Brown had tailored each garment in the height of fashion, right down to the fine, lawn ruffles and silver buttons. White silk stockings and a cloak of the finest, black wool lined in silk completed his dress. He rubbed his chin and smiled ruefully at his reflection. The breeches stretched tight about his thighs and bottom, and Mr. Brown had pinched the jacket in at the waist to enhance the width of Reynold’s shoulders. The cravat lay in exquisite folds. Dressed as such, in blue velvet, with his hair tied in a neat queue, he knew how men of his predilection would react to his appearance. Christ, I look like a peacock. In truth, his body had changed from soft to hard and muscular, but a commission in the Americas did that to a man. His face had altered too, but not in a bad way. He had not suffered any serious injury during his time abroad, but the man with haunting eyes in his reflection had replaced the innocent expression of youth.

Although, relieved by the sale of his commission and consequent arrival in England, his thoughts were not on returning immediately to his country estate in Surrey. Rather, he had spent the last two days in his townhouse close to Hyde Park, not wanting to endure the immediate duties of lord of the manor.

Lord Reynold stepped from the shop and glanced down Oxford Street. Nothing of note had changed in London during his time abroad with exception of women’s fashion and the volume of carriages barreling along the dusty roads. He drew a deep breath to enjoy the scents of normality after enduring an eternity of stinking jacks and sweat. The smell of gunpowder and the unforgettable stench of a military camp had combined with horrors a man could never forget.

For three long years, Reynold had remained abroad. Christ, he had little choice. His role as master had become impossible after another very-public argument with David had threatened to expose them both. To avoid the scandalmongers and the chance of prosecution for the act of sodomy, he made the heart-wrenching decision to leave his lover.

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