Today it's my pleasure to welcome author P.D. Singer whose book, "Fire on the Mountain"
is being released today by Dreamspinner Press.
First off, the blurb for her new release:
Take a break from academics, enjoy the Colorado Rockies, fight a fire now and then. That’s all Jake Landon expected when he signed up to be a ranger. He’ll partner with some crusty old mountain man; they’ll patrol the wilderness in a tanker, speak three words a day, and Old Crusty won’t be alluring at all. A national forest is big enough to be Jake’s closet—he’ll spend his free time fishing.
Except Old Crusty turns out to be Kurt Carlson: confident, competent, and experienced. He's also young, hot, friendly, and considers clothing optional when it’s just two guys in the wilderness. Sharing a small cabin with this walking temptation is stressing Jake’s sanity—is he sending signals, or just being Kurt? And how would Kurt react if he found out his new partner wants to start a fire of a different kind? Jake’s terrified—they have to live together for five months no matter what.
Enough sparks fly between the rangers to set the trees alight, but it takes a raging inferno to make Jake and Kurt admit to the heat between them. Bonus Short Story: Into the Mountains
Long before he met Jake, Kurt Carlson climbed Yosemite with his best friend, Benji. But after a storm traps them halfway up the face of El Capitan, Kurt has to accept that their friendship isn't what he thought.
The First Electronic Edition of Fire on the Mountain was published by Torquere Press in 2009. I asked Pam the background to the re-release and other questions about her writing.
We've got the fire, now for the grilling!
Thanks for agreeing to an interview, PD.
First up, can I say how much I enjoyed “The Rare Event”
. There’s so much m/m released these days, around 200 a month according to Elisa Rolle. So when someone writes a book that stands out from the crowd, I think it’s worth noting.
The m/m Romance group at Goodreads has a poll of preferred jobs for our heroes. Cops and Private Eyes top the list with 17.3%, followed by cowboys, shifters and military. It wasn’t until near the bottom at 2.3% that business men featured.
I wish I’d known that statistic when I was planning “Red+Blue”
I remembered a gay guy commenting in a thread that he wished authors would write about people in everyday jobs. So as I can’t resist a challenge I wrote about an actuary working for an insurance company. I did mention I liked a challenge didn’t I?
However, the thought of writing about hedge fund traders like you did in “The Rare Event” never crossed my mind. Brilliant! And you did it so well.
Now to make you sing for your supper!AB: What fascinates me about your writing is that both "Maroon" and "The Rare Event" centre on a worldwide catastrophe, yet in neither case do you actually include the catastrophe in the story. Was this a deliberate decision?PD: With the Rare Event, the whole catastrophe was just too large and spread over time, so I had to tackle a chunk of it. With Maroon, the call was for a story to go with a color, and being Attila the Pun, maroon meant ships to me. I have an Age of Sail story meant for that call, but I couldn’t make the ending come out happy without bending history to the breaking point. Then I found one of Walter Lord’s Titanic books, which had a tidbit that became a central plot point. With the Titanic, you are limited to a few possible outcomes to get a happy ending, and a reunion in heaven has already been done. If you can’t pick out the event, let me know; I’ll tell you.
AB: Are there other catastrophes out there that you'd like to use as backdrop?PD: Disasters tend to reveal character. I’ve set mountains on fire, dropped avalanches on characters, sunk ships, it’s all good fun. I’ve thinking of doing one centered on Krakatau but it would have to be a Dreamspinner Bittersweet. Might manage with Tambora better. I have a big book of catastrophes that could keep me in plot bunnies for years.AB: When did you start writing and what made you venture into m/m?PD: I’m an old fanficcer; I started with vampires, were-wolves, and necromancers, all of which are conspicuously absent in my published stories. Eden Winters and I started as crit partners in fandom, and teased each other into attempting original work. She led me into reading m/m, and then we decided we could try writing what we enjoyed reading. We’ve been together since our early head-hoppy messes, and anything one of us bumps our nose on, the other tries to learn from. It’s like getting double the experience. AB: What did your hubbie say when he found out you were writing m/m?PD: Oh, My husband knew early on about the m/m romance; he lifted an eyebrow initially but encouraged me to publish. He’s my trusted resource on rock climbing, camping, distance cycling, guy anatomy, and guy-speak. And he loves research nights.AB: But why do you write when you can probably make more money in your EDJ?PD: I’m fortunate with the day job in that it’s steady, socially useful, and interesting, but it doesn’t feed all parts of my soul. Money is one way to know you’ve resonated with readers, but I write because I want to tell the stories.AB: I’m an online writing course junky. How have you developed your craft?PD: Holly Lisle’s novel revision class was very valuable, and so was getting edited by Vincent Diamond. My action sequences are more exciting after Vincent took a red pen to the original lyrical sentences. Every book provides a new learning experience on some aspect of the craft; the latest lesson was how not to commit ellipsis abuse.AB: What is the best piece of writing advice you ever got and what is the most useful thing you could pass on to would-be writers? PD: The most useful writing advice came out of Holly Lisle’s novel revision course and distils down to: a true scene contains a protagonist, an antagonist (someone or something preventing the protagonist from getting what he wants), the conflict between them, a setting, and finally, a twist, where something changes. When one or more of those are missing, it’s not a scene, it’s pretty writing. Putting this information to work will probably keep me honing my craft for the rest of my life.AB: You mentioned that you have revised and are re-issuing "Fire on the Mountain" what did you see as the flaws in the original version and how are you fixing them? PD: Fire was a pretty good book initially, but when I brought it to Dreamspinner, it was too short to be a novel. Bringing it to length allowed me to flesh out Jake, Kurt, and their backgrounds, and to improve “tell” sections into “show” sections, which are more vivid and interesting. Would you rather watch Kurt struggle with the tanker (and see why it’s a sore spot with him) or just know it happened? And because an author does tinker with sentences, flow is improved.AB: You're very lucky in having a regular beta reader who is also a writer. Has it strained the friendship?
PD: Only if she sells more books than I do. Please, nice readers, keep peace between us!AB: As a writer, what comes easier to you? The plot or the characters?PD: I usually have the plot sketched out before I know what characters will inhabit it, but my true struggle is to get all the scenes on the page they way they play in my head. AB: What would you see as your strengths as a writer and what ... apart from overuse of ellipsis ;) ,,, would you see as the things you need to always work on?PD: I think my strength lies in being open to learning new methods of both writing craft and being willing to tackle a new subject if there’s a potential plot attached. I develop a new writing quirk with every piece—I stamp that last book’s lesson out and promptly have a new issue to edit. The ellipses weren’t a problem in previous books, but abounded in The Rare Event’s first draft. (They aren’t there now!) It remains to be seen what quirk an editor will point out in Blood on the Mountain.I gather that's your sequel to Fire on the Mountain. Well, good luck with this release and maybe when the next one comes out, I'll have you back to grill you some more.If you want to know more about P.D. and her books, visit her at her website.
One lucky commentor will win a copy of the first book in the series, "Isolation" and all respondents will go into the draw for a chance to win the major prize.
See front page for more details.
The Saa'ar Chronicles #2: Nature
by A.B. Gayle
“What date is it?” Sookie glanced over at Isaac who was, as usual, slouched in his wheelchair staring moodily at the exterior vid screen.
He gave a cursory glance at his watch. “June 22nd.” A slight pause and then, almost as if against his will, he dragged his attention away from the image of the huge spaceship parked beneath the space station and added somewhat testily. “That’s on Earth, of course. Why do you want to know?”
Sookie held up her leather bound book. “This is the first chance I’ve had to write in my journal for ages. Been too busy, and I’d lost track of time.” Sighing, she turned to the correct page. “Summer solstice,” she noted absently and started writing.
“Does that mean, you’ll be throwing off your clothes and dancing butt naked down the corridors?”
Sookie’s jaw dropped in amazement. Did Isaac just crack a joke? Or at least attempt to? Given the fact that his girlfriend had died along with her compatriot aliens, his usual glumness was understandable. Still, he was the last person she expected to make her smile.
When Ethan was around, she’d often found herself laughing, but since the transferral of the hibernation pod he shared with Dana, the whole atmosphere was subdued, almost in mourning. She missed seeing the big man, missed hearing his heavy tread, missed seeing his instinctive smile whenever he saw her no matter how tired he was. And she had always known when he was exhausted because of the slight jerkiness in his stride as he struggled to deal with his lower leg prosthetics. She sighed. No time for regrets, best to focus on something else. “Where I come from, June the twenty-second would be the longest night and definitely too cold to prance around the streets in the all together.” Not that she would have done that even if it had been midsummer. She wouldn’t have dared.
Isaac levered himself more upright in his wheelchair. She definitely had his full attention now. “But Korea is above the equator.” He flushed and looked uncomfortable for a second. “Oh, the war... Where did you end up?”
“Australia. Our boat brought us to Christmas Island along with thousands of others.” Sookie snapped her journal shut. She hated being reminded of her family’s desperate flight when the atomic bombardment from the north began. “After we left the detention centre, they sent me to high school in Darwin, then I was lucky enough to be awarded a scholarship to study at Melbourne Uni. June the twenty-second is the middle of winter there.” Much as she was impatient to reach her destination, the impending departure was bringing back too many bad memories. In a way, that’s what she felt like again. Not a participant in an exciting trip to another galaxy, but a refugee who could no longer return to her home-world, totally dependent on the generosity and goodwill of others for her future.
Part of her problem was that ever since she’d been selected as one of the hundred “Bright Young Things” to start up a new colony as man’s first venture out of the solar system, she’d felt useless. What could she contribute? A doctoral thesis on the comparative evolution of plants on different continents hardly qualified her as an expert in anything.
The journal’s cover wasn’t providing her with any inspiration. How could she put into words the dramatic and tragic events that had happened since they had arrived here? Where to start? The last few weeks had been surreal, the stuff of an action movie. Even now, outside the Saa’ar comm’s room, everything was go go go as preparations were made for their departure.
The rest of her friends had specific tasks. Gaby and Kenji had taken over the security role and were busy organising everything. Hu and Adrienne were packing up Ramirez’s surveillance equipment and Astrid Dreher’s office. José and Olga were over-seeing the hibernation process . Rory and Thanksin were looking after all the medical gear, taking good care to ensure that all the drugs and chemicals were being transported safely. After a hurried meeting, they’d decided not to inform the Saa’ar what was inside the containers, hoping that the warnings on the tightly closed and locked lids were sufficient.
She was supposed to keep Isaac amused and make sure he didn’t sink back into his black funk. Judging by the way he’d slumped back into his chair, his brief period of interaction was over.
Stashing away her journal, Sookie took up her usual position at the back of his wheelchair. It wasn’t in her nature to force the issue and tell others what to do, but before he left them, Ethan had told her to trust her instincts, and her instincts were telling her that allowing Isaac to remain isolated was not in his best interests or anyone else’s.
“What are you doing?” Isaac snapped, but he didn’t try to stop her as she released the handbrake and wheeled him out of the room.
Once his belligerent tone would have made her shrink back into herself and defer to him, but now she had to be strong. Dana had insisted that Isaac be looked after, even if he didn’t want to be. It was time to snap out of her blue funk anyway. She didn’t have his excuse of being a paraplegic and confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life.
“Let’s check on how they’re going with putting people into the pods. You know José. He’s sure to be wanting to know something and without you there to translate, he’s only guessing.”
“My chair will just get in the way.”
That had been his favourite excuse for not getting involved. True, the narrow corridors were teaming with humans and Saa’ar as they transported the gear down the ramp, but the stasis room was big enough for them to find a spot.
Before they got there, they were forced to squeeze into an alcove so that two of the Saa’ar carrying a full pod back to the spaceship could pass.
“We’ll be fine.” A shiver ran down Sookie’s spine. She definitely wasn’t in a hurry to get into one of those things. She hadn’t felt as apprehensive when leaving Earth, but then Ethan and Abu had been around to reassure her. Anyway, those chambers had been more like humidicribs with glass sides. These were totally solid, and although she’d seen the inside of one, they reminded her too much of a coffin for comfort. At least these were bigger than the ones she’d initially seen. The need to bring more suitable ones from Saa’ar had been the reason for the delay, though there was still confusion as to whether this was the same Inter-stellar space ship or not. Two of them could have passed each other in transit. Although he could converse with them fairly well, Isaac still didn’t understand everything they said to him.
One of her suspicions had proven correct. Not all Saa’ar were the same.
When the new crew of Saa’ar arrived to take them on the final stage of their journey, everyone had been surprised that accompanying the tiny albino-like aliens were some absolutely gigantic specimens. No, she had to stop thinking of them like that. They weren’t animals to be studied as part of an experiment, however humans wasn’t the right word and people seemed inadequate.
Even the huge Maori, Rory Te Morenga, was dwarfed by these... creatures. At least the ones who had accompanied them from Earth looked like humans. These new arrivals may have had two arms and two legs, but there, the resemblance ended. At first, she’d assumed they must have been wearing some sort of armor or cloaked themselves in the skins of a beast, but then she’d realized that the grey, thick covering was their skin and the clothes they wore were rudimentary at best. Not that they seemed to have much to cover up.
Their job seemed to be providing the physical grunt as they operated at the direction of their smaller, paler counterparts. Slow and lumbering, more like an elephant until she’d seen one sprint to catch a box that had been knocked off a trolley. Then they were more like a rhinoceros attacking at full speed.
“Good, I’m glad you’re here, Isaac. I was just going to page you.” Gabrielle gestured at them both to come inside the room where, one-by-one, the humans were placed into the pods ready for transit.
Sookie studied the tall, fit figure of the Frenchwoman who had been thrust into the leadership role. She was looking tired, but no way would she ever admit it. At least she had Kenji to back her up. He was busy restraining a scowling man. Carlos. The security guard. Ramirez’s offsider. Sookie felt herself bristle. The guy who’d tried to kill Ethan. Twice.
Looking on, in their typical impassive fashion were two of the smaller aliens. One was holding what looked like a cylindrical wand.
“Isaac, can you find out what the damn thing is for. Carlos won’t let them near him.”
Carlos had been shot when he and his boss had tried to prevent Ethan from rescuing Dana. His injury had only been a flesh wound in the shoulder while his boss had been killed. Just another death to add to the total since they left Earth. The bandage on his chest seemed to be worrying the alien, he was picking at the edges as if he wanted to take it off.
“Bastard.” Carlos jerked his head to the side and spat. Sookie wasn’t sure whether he was aiming at the alien or Kenji who had just twisted his arm up higher.
Isaac spoke a few words to the alien but looked confused by the reply. After a moment’s silence, he shrugged and said, “Cha’ang used the word mahjaan which is Sa’ar for healer, but he used the negative form by placing otur before the word. Then he followed that with nokat usi which translates literally as blessed gift.”
The Saa’ar raised the shiny implement again. Carlos still eyed him warily, but the strange alien didn’t seem to notice the hostility that positively oozed from the man. Sookie couldn’t think of anyone who was less likely to be blessed, but then, who was she to judge.
“You’ve got no choice, Carlos. Either let him put that thing next to your skull, or we’ll leave you here.” Sookie could almost hear Gaby crack her infamous whip.
“Everyone’s had the procedure.” José hardly looked up from where he was adjusting the nozzles inside the chamber.
“I don’t trust you.”Carlos struggled for a few seconds, but finally settled enough to allow the tiny alien to reach up and place the instrument near the base of his skull.
Sookie wasn’t sure what she expected. Some dramatic convulsion perhaps, but apart from the fact that Carlos’s eye widened and he seemed to lose concentration for a second, from what she could tell, the machine had done nothing at all. The alien seemed satisfied though.
“Nokat usi,” he repeated, nodding his head as he carefully marked the cylinder with some kind of stamp that melted the surface before sealing it completely and stacking it on a trolley alongside about thirty others.
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When I decided to write “Mardi Gras”
, my m/m romance centred around Australia’s Pride Parade
, I checked the local libraries to see what they had on the subject. Luckily, I found a great book by a Melbourne academic, Robert Reynolds, “What Happened to Gay Life”
. In it, he interviews gay men from different generations about their experiences and attitudes to the parade itself. At the end, the different feedback suggests that changes in their attitude really reflect society’s attitude to gays in the era that they came out: from when it was illegal, through the fear of catching AIDS just by being in the same room as a gay man, to today’s more toleration (but still not celebration) of the fact that LGBT people exist.
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My book was based on the 2010 parade and revolves around the theme of making and maintaining connections within the gay community. This theme is hidden inside a May-December romance as men from two different generations connect. To get the feeling of this right, I also scoured Star Online, Australia’s premium gay paper Star Online
Opinion pieces there and comments on them, gave me an insight into how real gay men think (as compared to ones found in romances). Mind you these may be atypical, but what it did prove was that there was no “one” way. Ten people had ten different opinions, proving how wrong it is to shove them all into one stereotypical box.
When it came time to research my Dreamspinner novel, “Red+Blue”
, I needed different research, because this deals with people being infected by HIV. Not only the clinical implications but also attitudes in the community to those affected. I used the insurance industry as my vehicle to display that. My heroes work for a company called Sydney Sutherland Family Insurance which is (in the book) one of the few companies offering any type of life insurance to people who are HIV positive.
Life insurance is boring, I hear you say. Who needs it? People taking out loans on property for starters.
When I started researching this topic, I discovered that despite advances in the treatment of HIV, there are no life insurers that currently underwrite whole or term life insurance for applicants with HIV. A few firms offer impaired risk insurance (capped) as they do all people who fall into the high risk category. This article
on how to get life insurance when your are HIV positive was very helpful as was this source
. I also discovered that a small family firm did offer full cover a few years ago but stopped.
I love writing romances that leave people feeling good. I like to give all these sorts of themes a positive spin because I believe that showing how things should and could be done is as important as all the well-meaning books that dwell on the negative.
Toward the end of “Red+Blue” Adrian, the son of the firm’s President makes this statement to Damian (the blogger out of “Mardi Gras”): “(People with HIV) need to be reassured that their life still matters. That they matter. Society is too quick to shun them once they’ve been diagnosed, but the more encouragement we can give them to keep fit and healthy and keep their illness from progressing, the more likely they are to survive. With the new treatment regimes, many are living asymptomatic for years. Their life expectancy is almost an unknown. The longer they live, the more proof they’re giving the bean counters that they are an acceptable risk.”
Mind you insurance companies don’t just discriminate against people with HIV, but unless the community is prepared to stand up and fight for people infected by HIV just as they would any other disease, then infected people will feel like second class citizens.
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Obviously, I have strong feelings on these topics, but I try not to let these messages overpower the rest of the story. Many readers may not even pick up on the issues I’m covering, but I do love it when I get responses like this from a Goodreads reviewer, Lisa
: “ Mardi Gras, by A.B. Gayle, is a blend of political history and personal exploration. It delivers a multilayered story with intriguing characters, a complex message, and an interesting background that kept me turning pages and had me surfing the internet for information. ”
My style is to use humor to lighten the tone. “Caught”
was a good example of that.
Without the internet, I could never have written the stories I do. I even read blogs of gay and bi men to get a more rounded picture. I do think as a writer using LGBT characters, I have a “duty of care” towards them. Therefore, it is up to me to get as true a picture of possible of their world and, when I can, alert readers who are only looking for romance to the real issues that affect their lives. The trick is to wrap that up in a page-turning romance that people will enjoy reading.
To celebrate YAM magazines support for LGBT issues, I'm giving away a copy of one of my ebooks to the first person to comment on this article. The choice of which one it is, is up to you.....