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William King

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William King last won the day on November 28 2018

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  1. Between the Shadow and the Soul by Jason MH (Gay Authors). Any story that deals with difficult themes is going to be variously loved and hated. From the third chapter (first interlude) there are some “dislikes.” Why? Because a figure from our protagonist’s past, who has obviously impacted his life in a way that he is still trying to come to terms with years later, is introduced. And this person, referred to as The Fiend, is both a predator praying on teenage boys and the father of our main character's best friend. Convoluted this story most definitely is. A gay man living with his straight best friend, finding himself faced with reliving his own past. It is very well written, which makes it easy and enjoyable to read. Give yourself a break and take a look: https://gayauthors.org/story/jason-mh/between-the-shadow-and-the-soul/
  2. Tears of the Dragon Boy by Ricky Synopsis: A boy is changed by his world's storm, increasingly becoming dragon-like. When he and his brother are outlawed and his parents are killed, can he face down the people accusing them, to win justice, or will he give in to the urges of his inner dragon? Book link (Read it here): Tears of the Dragon Boy Reader comments: I do not have words to express my feelings. The sorrow of the loss, the anger at the injustice, the sour taste of revenge, and at the very end, the exhilaration of the happy ending. It gives us so many mixed emotions. As much as i hate to cry at stories, this one made me do it, and do it in a big way. it's really a beautiful story, with more then enough action to keep me interested. This is one that i also strongly recommend. What a great story! ... I fell asleep at my laptop last night and just finished this morning. A great read and I look forward to a sequel! Bravo! and well written. I enjoyed this very much and loved the ending. This was a wonderful story. I'm glad you had the inspiration to write it. Extract: “They’re coming,” Malageth said to them both. At this Mantu and Bimeny both stood and started looking around. “Not this moment,” Malageth said, “but rest assured, they will come and when they do, you can’t be here. They can’t let this go. They will bring guard from the other provinces. And no one is going to believe you, if you tell them why you killed Gandoo. No one knows how many they have killed to hide their dirty little secrets.” Malageth said, looking at the horizon as if to see torch fire at any time. “Let them come,” Bimeny said with determined purpose. “I’ll just take care of them the same way that I took care of Gandoo and the guard.” “Bimeny, when they come back, they will come with legions. They will shoot you before you would even have a chance to take flight. Or they would hold a knife to my throat to make you give up.” Malageth explained. “Where will we go?” Bimeny asked her, taking her hand loosely. Looking into his eyes she lovingly said, “I can’t leave Reentu. You and Mantu will have to go alone.” Review by Adam. A 14 year old younger brother to the hunk of the elder - he who is to go through the big coming of age event which seals his entire future - inadvertently gets too close to the action and.....well you see the title of the story, right? Ricky has here masterfully crafted a mid-sized story if, were it in print, I'd be buying copies as stocking-fillers this coming Christmas for any children for whom I am due to buy gifts and who are aged between 11 and 14. The tale has just that right balance of adventure, fantasy, the success of right over evil, and those moments of sadness. The title character is Bimeny, who together with his girlfriend - who leads a strong female character cast throughout the saga - shares a wickedly dry sense of humour. Tears of the Dragon Boy is seemingly set in a fantasy world with strong resemblances to Europe of the 10th/11th centuries. The author builds his story and the various moments of crisis with panache, keeping his readers on the edge of their seats and rooting for their heroes throughout. Ricky chooses character names well, making up new ones with alliterative skill. In the same way, whilst creating his make-believe boys and girls, he made them believable by not only giving them seemingly fantastic powers, but allowing them human errors too. So Bimeny, in a flight of anger wants perfectly normal revenge: "He wanted them to see their child killed before their very eyes so they would know the pain that he felt,"(sic) As in so many stories, I felt that this one was front loaded, that is the early chapters were far more detailed than the last few. It was almost as if Ricky had become bored with his own creation and wanted to get it over and done. A strong ending is often something lacking in stories today; they tend to go out with a fizzle rather than a bang. Perhaps that is what the author intended, however. Further, there were a few cases where the story would have benefited from a touch of good editing, but then I am a bit of a grammar freak. But writing a mediaeval story and mentioning a balaclava is a trifle anachronistic! Honestly, though, Tears is a dream of a tale which I have already emailed to all my contacts as a MUST READ and, for children over 11, as the best story I have yet reviewed for Castle Roland. Ricky, ***** Adam INTERVIEW First up, thank you for agreeing to take part. Mostly these author interviews are focused on the book that's been reviewed and a little on you yourself as an author. Straight off your career as a writer of fiction sticks out as being a little different. What I mean, is that you had a large handicap to overcome, namely your dyslexia. Do you think this first book was the beginning of triumphing over that difficulty? It was very well received and won readers choice back in 2015. Well it didn't happen until I was around 50 years old so I think I had developed work arounds for most things in life. What I also didn't mention is that what I wrote took 3 years to edit into something worth reading and it took the help of some really great people. Until I wrote TOTDB I was not at all well-read. I'm embarrassed to say the number of books I read by choice was less than my fingers. When someone would ask if I had read . . . I'd stop them and tell them that if it wasn't written on the back of a Wheaties box I probably never read it. That has all changed now with text to speech I am a voracious reader. You have written a number of books, not just this one. So having found a way to write, despite your drawbacks, why stop in 2015? I’m presuming you did stop. I haven’t looked at all your writing, but I did see that back then you said, you had only one unfinished book. That book was TIC, and it never did get finished. What happened? The short answer is life. But that would not be the complete answer. In truth, I spent several years mentoring a young man who had been through a series of nightmarish events. I grew to love him as a son. And it was the kind of hell most people would not live through. He became my everyday concern for a long time. For a very long period it was a task to just keep him alive. When you exist in that constant concern and fear, it's hard to be creative. I'm happy to say he survived it. He got the proper mindset and turned 18. He started a new life and is living it. So I've been writing short stories to try and revive that writing spirit. I'm getting back into the spirit of it. I've actually written a bit of the sequel to TOTDB. But don't look for anything anytime soon. Okay, looking at Tears of the Dragon Boy, I’m not sure too many authors would quote Hamlet, “But therein lies the rub!” in their opening chapter. It’s not after all a common expression. Does this indicate you are a well educated individual who studied Shakespeare and English literature, or it just popped out? ROTFLMGAO! Uhm, no. High Screwl drop out, got a GED in the army. Don't get me wrong, I'm not stupid. I went on to be a video engineer and traveled the world. I'm a journeyman glazier, did purchasing for a multimillion dollar technology company, spent 23 years as a licensed private investigator. But higher education was not in my resume. I owe that to my mother. She was a very unique woman. We were dirt poor but mom spent a lot of time teaching us that poor was just money. Knowledge was where the real power was. By ten years old I had been to just about every kind of church you could imagine. JUST to learn about them. Even went to a Chinese green tea mass. (The green tea sucked I might add. But hey, I was 10.) Our teachers told us we were unusual kids because we could speak a little on almost any subject. She would dissect commercials asking us things like, what DIDN'T they say. Or it says it's only this much per month but how many months? When we came home from school we never knew what we would hear. Tchaikovsky, Jim Neighbors, Tex Ritter, The Beatles. You never knew. The oldest brother was the Shakespearean fanatic. So I probably got it from him. I think some of it is from our DNA. I had two older brothers and an older sister. All of them brilliant. The oldest spoke 26 languages and wrote 24, the other two were only spoken languages. The next brother, broke the genetic code for gerbils when he was 14. It revolutionized science because back then gerbils were imported only for labs and this gave them the ability to create identical lab animals. My sister can build an empire out of peanut shells. She was brilliant in business. Then there was me. By the time she got to me, she just ran out of genes. I guess you have some method for coming up with the character names, or perhaps you just invent something that sounds like it might work. Elder Gandoo sounds awfully like a version of Gandalf? How did you find all these character names? An interesting question. When you write other world fantasies you have to have rules to structure your world with. These rules sustain the bubble of disbelief for the reader. Mine had very few. Things like how time was measured, how direction was indicated. And names. Bill or George would be too grounding. And I did have some basic rules for names. Elder Gandoo was not at all magical and certainly wasn't derived from Gandalf. I like to think the characters chose their own names. I did find the dialogue seemed at times to be out of character, out of context. Let me explain, the setting , background, descriptions, and character names, all conjure a medieval epoch fantasy, but the dialogue often reverts to modern Americanisms. Example: Man, I’ve seen it and it ain’t pretty. I’m glad I’m not in your shoes. You have any kids?” Mantu asked. You also use “pops” etc. Were you aware of this? What do you think now, in hindsight? Nope. Missed that completely. There are certain colloquialisms that just flow and aren't too grounding. Of course that is if you're American. But hey, it's the first thing I ever wrote! If that's the worst you found then I'm completely happy. The story is, I found, quite gruesome. There is a lot of bloodshed and burning people slowly and painfully to death. In one way it reminded me of those fairy tales I got read to me as a child, Hans Christian Andersen etc., they gave me nightmares. I guess I’d have to rate this story age 11 and upwards. What are your own thoughts on the gruesome aspect of your story? I agree with the age range. In fact I would put it at 12 or 13 depending on the maturity of the child. I didn't so much write the story as let the characters do it. I did have moments of pause. But then I glanced over and saw the video games my own son was playing and threw my concerns out the window. I did try and temper the gore a little though. Getting back to you as a writer. You said, I think, you had this story in your head a long time, spoke to your wife about writing it, and she told you to go do it, that she would read it. Not quite the response you were looking for, but it kicked off your career. Did your wife play any further part in your writing? Negative. She would often be found snooping over my shoulder but never said a word. Of course when I started to write it I was almost in a trance trying to type it as fast as the characters gave it too me. I marathoned it into existence. Was it just that prompt from your wife, or what else inspired you to overcome your handicap and get it written? A great achievement. An easy answer that one. I woke up one morning with the story in my head. The characters would not leave me alone until I wrote it. You have to understand that I did not plan to write a story and even the rules of the world came to me from the characters as I was writing it. And it was not written and rewritten. There were no "drafts". There was the story written and then the editing to make it coherent. I did not revise any scenes. I have no idea where the impetus for the story came from. I was certainly not inspired by anything I read because I did not read! It can’t, I would think, be all entirely your imagination, but there most likely are things, books, films, etc., which have influenced you putting the story together. Was it your imagination that decided dragons gorged themselves on horses? What external sources influenced the story? The characters wrote the story. I just wrote down what they said. Didn't you notice that it's almost entirely dialog? Like I said, I went from just going to write down the story outline and give it to a ghost writer, somebody that could write. The next thing I knew, I was looking at 469 pages of story. I didn't stop writing until I couldn't keep my eyes open or had to go do a show someplace. I even wrote on my breaks in the shows I was doing. I was obsessed. I was convinced the only way to free up those few remaining brain cells that were still shaking hands together was to write it and get it out of my head. This was your first book. I have to ask you this question: the story is not a gay story, there are no gay characters. This is not a criticism, but why publish on a gay story site? I wasn't out to the world then and I didn't KNOW about online literature. When I found out that there was gay literature online I was on it like a pack of cub scouts on a pack of skittles. And most everything else I've written are either true stories about my boys or gay fiction. A funny story here, After TOTDB my son, then 15ish I think was always rushing over to my computer to see what I was working on. I would always task out to something else when I saw him coming. Finally it was becoming a challenge. He would try and sneak up and I would close my computer. Finally I had enough and I had just written Roll Call, I think. I printed out a few pages and waited for him. He showed up and I handed him the pages. They were rather graphically written. My son is absolutely straight. I asked him to critique this author. He read, and said, "The guy is a great author. He's very . . . descript. It's not my kind of story but it's well written." I said, "Thank you. I wrote it." And that's how I came out to my son. I had published it online on a couple other sites that were of mixed types, gay and straight. Saber Peak was one of those. When it merged with CR, it was just brought in. It is the reason that photos are now on the site. They saw the awesome cover art that Jordan Patchak was kind enough to do for me and they said "We HAVE to have this" And there you are. You went on to publish this book on Amazon under the name John Odom (the link is highlighted for readers), how successful was the book in print and as an ebook? Would you encourage other authors to self-publish? John Odom is my real name. I used the pen name Ricky in honor of the boy I first had a crush on. I've sold some. But unless you are going to spend the time or money to market it the people will never know to look for it. And it was a pain in the ass understanding what format to use. I guess finally I need to find out if you will ever continue to write and perhaps finish that book TIC? Yes, I have to get back into the mindset. I know how TIC goes but I have to get my head back into it. I am doing shorts and even trying my hand at a little bit in the RU world with the story Arthur. I'm working to get back to being creative because I love writing. Thanks once again for taking time out to share your experiences about writing with us. As a footnote for those of you who have been following these book reviews and author interviews, this is the final one. We may perhaps be back with something else in the New Year, who knows? From myself, William King and our team, Adam, Mark, and Jay, cheerio for now. ebook and paperback Tears of the Dragon Boy is available as an ebook or paperback from Amazon (click link below). Tears of the Dragon Boy on Amazon - ebook and paperback.
  3. What I particularly liked about this first chapter was the atmosphere the author created: the brewing storm about to erupt with heavy rain, the hidden darkness of the older boy Riddle, and the connection between Michael and Thomas. Add to that the ancient school bus, the gentle old black driver, and the arrival outside Riddles home, and the descriptive narrative was perfect.
  4. What's happening in the world of online Gay books and stuff. It’s been nearly five months since the first posted blog article back in June. I suppose I’m not a prolific and fast reader, but I have come across a couple of good interesting stories. I don’t suppose, at least if you are in any way similar to me, that you would be immediately drawn to a book about ballet. I started reading this book, Dance of the Wicked Boys because someone, somewhere, mentioned it and I bookmarked it. You might call it one of those occasions where the title does a great job in drawing the reader's attention. The front cover tells you immediately what type of dancing. Having picked it up and started reading, I simply had to continue, the story won’t let you put it down. Plus it’s well written. There are some typos and errors here and there, it could do with a proof read, but that’s the only real criticism I could make. The sequel, Act Two, is even better than the first book. I had to write and ask the author a few questions about the book and how he wrote it. I particularly wanted to know if he had plotted out the storyline. The reason being the ending, which I’m not about to tell you, but an ending that manages to bring everything neatly together and finish the story is the art of a great storyteller. The sequel achieved that, and yes, a story plot was outlined, even if some things changed along the way. The book has sex in it, a fair amount, and brings up the perennial problem of age differences in relationships. The author managed to walk the tightrope, but as he revealed to me, not without some compromise. Whatever those changes may have been, the book certainly achieves the painting a picture of the world of ballet, the struggle of the boys, as well as how all this sits with society at large. Perhaps one of the best gifts this author has to offer us readers is the superb characterisation. Every character has their own personality and voice, and they are mostly in keeping with who they are. Occasionally, Raphael, a leading character, may appear to talk in a way that belies his fifteen years, but his Uncle Teddy is an absolute joy. There are way too many references to the period, writers, artists, and American society of the epoch to go into. I reckon you could read it twice over and still might miss some, Billy Eliot this is not! So the recommendation, which I’m passing on to you is over on AwesomeDude: Dance of the Wicked Boys by free thinker and the sequel Act Two - Dance of the Wicked Boys Now I did mention at the start that I’ve read a couple of stories since June. For most of those there are reviews and author interviews here on the forum in the Critics Reviews. One other story I would like to give a mention, is a short story that appeared on IOMFATS posted for one of the writing prompt challenges they have from time to time. Ryan and the Gringot is not exactly new in its theme, nevertheless it is well done. Well written (ignoring some errors that crept in) the story was emotional and moving. It had a happy ending that blended perfectly with the story. It had some great character names, I loved the wicked witch. It was easy to read, it was a joy to read, and also nice to read a story set in London. Ryan and the Gringott by Hamster. And as always, just to give a little taste of what boys ballet is like, both physically and emotionally, here’s the Russian equivalent of the Ballet of America with the 5th year boys exam.
  5. Yes, I like it, with one exception: "...Actually, I’ve been sent here to stop you.” - "I am here to make all of that stop..." The second statement is I think obvious without spelling it out, and the first, "I've been sent here," is simply too classic. There would be much more mystery without that statement. Who is this stranger? We can already deduce that something is happening here, I don't think I want to know that he's an angel or whatever sent there, unless the story is about where he has come from, but I rather think it is about our drunken "hero" reliving his life? I would definitely read more of this ☺
  6. Always and Forever by David Lee Synopsis: Cast a stone into the still waters of a pond and watch the ripples. As the ripples encounter other objects in the pond, new ripples flow outward. Like life itself, you just never know how those ripples will affect all the others they encounter. Book link (Read it here): https://castleroland.net/story-synop/?id=1927 Reader comments: David Lee has been one of my favorite authors for a long time. I am so excited he is posting here. He has a huge collection of stories and in my opinion all are very well written. Loved reading Always and Forever and got to the end wishing there was more. Extract: “No, let me finish. I cannot wish for you to be what you are not, and I don’t hate you. I only hate to have you guys facing the prejudice and bigotry that you’re going to find in our world at times. Son, I love you more than anything. I have come to care for you too, Alan. And I couldn’t help but notice the looks you give each other. I don’t mean that you’re obvious, but there are subtle looks like spouses use to communicate with each other after they’ve been married for a while, and you guys have them. That tells me you’re more than buddies.” “Oh, Dad!” was all Brad could get out as he dropped hands and hugged his father fiercely. INTERVIEW First, thank you for agreeing to take part, and let’s get straight into the questions. You are welcome! Thank you for taking the time and effort to do this. From the detailed description of the school year leading up to exams, the Prom night, and end of year, you were either drawing on your own experience or you happen to be in the teaching profession. I’m not sure the latter supposition doesn’t have some truth in it given the musings of the Principal about staff meetings and the reactions to the cancellation of the usual end of year meeting -“Principal Carlson made the final announcements of the year. These included a date change for the girls’ softball game against St. Mary’s and the cancellation of the staff meeting that was to be held the next morning. The latter was met by cheers from the entire faculty, ...” So, the inevitable question, how much of your personal life is in the book? Having taught at the high school level for several years, I do draw on experiences I’ve had. I think most of us fall back on the familiar. This was my first attempt at writing fiction, so I depended on what I knew. It is not, however, autobiographical. I still tend to use bits and pieces of my experiences as a teacher in stories about teens. In “Zeke” which was written a little over a year after this one, Zeke and Brad were inspired by a couple of guys in a theater workshop who were close buddies. One of them was a wrestler and had the kind of personality which inspired the other guys on the team. To my knowledge, neither of these boys was gay, they just provided a beginning point. When reviewing your book I said, “The inevitable, at least as concerns American society, religious self-examination touches Alan’s thoughts.” Referring, of course, to the continuing debate about what the Bible says about homosexuality. This is a two part question: firstly, as I stated, this very much concerns American society, because America is a country where Christianity and church going have a significant impact on society. That is not to say there are not large Christian, usually Catholic, lobbies in other countries, but church going is still, well going strong in America. How big an influence do you think the church has on how people conduct themselves? You do after all paint a picture of forgiveness, reconciliation, and embracing all. I think the Church in the US still has an impact on society in general. The push from the religious right to move us back to the 1950’s by ending abortion and getting rid of same-sex marriage shows that at least a percentage of people want to impose their values on everyone. Some have referred to them as the “Christian Taliban” in their zeal to pass legislation to control other people’s lives. My personal opinion is that Christians should forgive others and accept people who are different from themselves without passing judgment on them. Homophobia and xenophobia have no place in my world-view. Secondly, is whatever the bible says, or doesn’t say about homosexuality really of any importance? It’s not what the scriptures say about same-sex relationships but how the Church at large has traditionally interpreted them. We know that Jesus didn’t say anything either way. In Old Testament times, man on man sex was used as a way of dominating and humiliating your enemies. Conquerors would rape losers as a way of rendering them ineffective, so their followers wouldn’t respect them. The men of Sodom and Gomorrah treated strangers in that fashion. The biblical prohibition on their actions had nothing to do with same-sex affection. The story of David and Jonathan is a beautiful love story between two young men. I suspect it was a physical as well as an emotional relationship. The great mistranslation of the Bible is the King James version. Instead of taking up more time standing on my soapbox, I’ll recommend a book by Jack Rogers entitled, “Jesus, the Bible and Homosexuality. The author was a man who could read the earliest bits of writings in their original languages. He says it much better than I can. His original intent was to create a curriculum for teaching against homosexuality. In doing his research, he did a complete 180 degree turn. I think his conclusions can be trusted. I think, when reading this story, like quite a few similar gay novels, you can’t help but smile at a world viewed through rose coloured spectacles. Where gay characters abound, good triumphs over evil, and whilst if not totally understood, gay couples are accepted and embraced. Did you adopt this theme for the feel good factor, to give a positive view point on homosexuality, or as a dream of a better world which can be read in fiction, but may not exist quite as portrayed in reality? Hmm… I suppose it’s a combination of things. I want to promote a world in which gay couples are treated like everyone else. I know that’s not always the case. Some people have it really bad. In those cases, romantic gay fiction is a kind of escape. I hear from young readers occasionally who tell me that my stories gave them the courage to come out, and that they were thankful at how their families and friends accepted them. One guy confessed to his crush on his best friend, only to find out that his bud felt the same about him! A number of serious issues are touched upon in the book. These include abuse, bullying, rape, religion, tolerance, teenage pregnancy, suicide, the list goes on. Whilst I don’t think that you in any way did an injustice to any of these topics, it is inevitable that there was not the possibility to give much depth. So for example, Alan's mother forgives her mother for pushing her to have an abortion and wanting nothing more to do with her, not speaking with her for the last eighteen years. It was an element intrinsic to the storyline, but it does in some way leave the complex interwoven plot as the main theme and those other areas somewhat glossed over. In hindsight, what do you feel about the number of important issues raised, and was there any particular reason that there were so many? I suspect the reason so many topics are covered is that it was my first story. I wanted to do more than I probably should have in such a short space. I’ve dealt with some of those issues more fully in later tales, I think. I’ve already touched upon the church and religion, but I would like to come back to this topic once again. It is an aspect of the story that permeates through virtually all the characters lives. There is a scene in chapter ten where the boys, who are away with their friends on a sort of religious retreat, find a quiet place in the church to pray. Tom enters: - He picked up the Bible from the rack. There was a marker in the middle and it opened up to Psalm 27. His eyes fell on verse 10: “If my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will take me up.” As the afternoon light streamed through the stained glass windows, Tom looked up toward the life sized crucifix. - This is almost a scene of redemption, a reflection on how Tom's life has turned around, and somewhere behind all this is the theme of salvation through Christianity. Does Christianity play such a large role in the book because you yourself are a committed and practicing Christian, or is it simply there as a reflection of American society? I ask this question because the world portrayed is so alien to me and I am surprised that almost every character is either already a believer or else finds their way back to Jesus. I am aware of just how large the Evangelical, “born again,” Christian movement is in the States, perhaps around a quarter of the population. Add to those numbers the milder version of Christianity shown here, and you must be getting on for nearly half the country following one church or another. The best figures I found put the US at 62% church going Christians and Europe somewhere around 20%, the UK was at 18%. Perhaps you can see how, from a non-American point of view, the religious aspect portrayed is completely alien? I am a practicing Christian in a main-line church. I am NOT an Evangelical. I was brought up in a more conservative tradition, but not as far right as people like Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell, Jr. lead their followers today. In college, I attended a weekend religious retreat at an Episcopal convent similar to the one where Tom had his “encounter” with God. I can still picture the crucifix in the chapel. While I didn’t have his experience, it seemed like a setting in which he could turn his life around. Okay, having more than covered the religious topic, let’s look at the overall composition. For myself, I would best describe this book as light reading, even with all the dramatic parts that get touched upon, the suicide, rape, etc. If I were listing the ingredients, it would be something like, a serious helping of religion with a good deal of sex (both homo and hetro), overlaid into a book sprinkled with story parts and topped with little incidents. The whole is tasty, if maybe just a little too heavy on the sex, but it’s a matter of taste. How would you best sum up this book, and did you follow a similar recipe for later books, improving, as we all hopefully do, with practice and experience gained? I agree with you that there is quite a bit of sex in this story. Since it was my first tale, I thought a good sprinkling of sex was necessary to keep my readers interested. Some of my subsequent writing has less emphasis on the physical aspects. However, the details sometimes reflect the, um, horniness of the author at the particular moment…. My long-time readers have told me that my writing has improved over the years. Since “Always and Forever” was first written about 14 years ago, I hope that is true. Many of them continue to read my stories because of the plots. Some say that they tend to skip over the sex scenes. If you were to read my more recent postings on Castle Roland, like “Family Matters” or “Unexpected Guest,” I think you’ll find plenty of love but fewer graphic details. I do recommend reading my longer stories in chronological order because characters from earlier ones tend to have cameo roles in later ones. However, each tale is complete in itself. Thank you once again for taking part and giving up your time to talk to me and the readers. Oh, and just as an amusing aside before we end: I had to look up “shirttail relatives,” I’d never heard the expression! I thank you! I’m honored to have the opportunity to do this. “Shirttail” relatives is a common expression in the Midwest and it never crossed my mind that it was regional in nature. I’m sure I do that with a lot of others as well. Review by Mark. Always and Forever’ follows two young men in their senior year of high school in a Midwest location. It is the author’s first story and later was updated to correct some errors. As the story progresses, more characters with different issues are drawn into the story to help round it out. Alan and Brad are out on the track, being observed by the high school principal as the story opens and as the chapter progresses, it had a good emotional feeling to it, then at the end, wham, a darker element is introduced. I will admit to you all, I did something I have rarely done in the past and read the ending. I was really liking the story and was so drawn to see what happened. And no, will not reveal the ending to you. Read the story to find out. For a first story, it is a well written one with characters you come to like and want the best to happen to them. There are very few editing corrections needed, which is always nice. The author does introduce some religion into the story, but at a level which, for those who are not religious, hopefully will not be a turnoff but will satisfy those who look to a higher power. I thought it a nice balance between the two camps. And the religion also helps to illustrate the divide which exists in the country. The dialogue was satisfactorily written and flowed smoothly. Plus the scenes of intimacy, both gay and straight, were authentic and ably handled. Love is the main theme of the story and the author shows us its power. At 16 chapters, it should not intimidate readers looking at a huge number of chapters before they even start. I do have one issue with the story however. It should not stop anyone reading this wonderful story and ‘Always and Forever’ is recommended to read. I wonder if readers will also feel the same way when they reach the end as I did. The story was sweet and well written but I liken it to an apple past its prime. The flavor is there but the inside is lacking enough substance when chewed. I wish the author had delved just a bit deeper into each character and situation and the outcomes were always positive, at times a bit too easily achieved. This may be partly due to it being his first story and therefore the issue can be waived off. I have read other works by this author and I do think he has risen to the challenge. Review by William King. The author has a style which gently introduces each new sequence in the storyline. From the boys first encounter, the run in with Tom, through the sleepover study weekend and Sunday morning church. The inevitable, at least as concerns American society, religious self-examination touches Alan’s thoughts - ‘was it an abomination for two men to lie down together?’ Thus all the ingredients have been thrown into the pot, a budding relationship, an abused outcast simmering to breaking point, a caring, discrete, gay art teacher. The stage is set for a battle royal of emotions, prejudices, and drama! This book is written as a series of delicately woven cameos that weave together to unravel an intricate web of interconnections. There are a lot of positive images and actions which serve, rather like a fable, to surmount and overcome the negative. There are no cliff hangers, and any surprises are only there if you weren’t paying attention, because where the plot is going and the twists and turns are never buried very deeply. For a first novel I believe the author has proved himself to have the ability to create an intricate entanglement of characters and subtle drama. He is able to touch upon serious subjects and recount what amount to life changing events in a subtle, but never superficial manner. Yes, perhaps, there was a lot more that could have been explored within the story. The development might have evolved more slowly and the characters could have gained more depth. But having said all that, the book works perfectly as it is, with a composition of short scenes making it an easy read. All in all very well done, the detail is in the multitude of character interplay. A romantic drama which in its own fashion is rather unique. --------
  7. William King

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  8. Protecting David – Book One by TA - Terry Synopsis: When it comes to protecting the ones you love, how far would you go? There are a lot of "Protecting ***" stories out there. This is the original, against whom all others are judged. Book link (Read it here): https://castleroland.net/story-synop/?id=2507 Reader comments: This is a THE story that stuck with me and eventually led me to try and write myself. I can only hope to write like this some day. Do yourself a favor and read this story. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll get mad, you'll feel happy. And above all - you'll want more! I have loved this story for a long time and its one of those that I can go back to the beginning and reread over and over again. Extract: David started to wiggle and pull my hand out of his shorts. “No fucking! Fucking is exertion! I promised Dr.Kramer that you’d rest.” “Okay, David, I promise to be good. Tell me about tomorrow.” David lay down on my left side, our heads almost touching. He picked up my hand while he talked and played with my fingers. “Well, Frank and Marcy and Mike and Elizabeth are coming in Frank’s car and the boys will be driving Mike’s car. Should be here about two o’clock. I figure the boys will be able to use the pool while us ‘old’ folks sit around and talk. I told Frank to tell them to bring their suits. I figure that while they’re in the pool they can fool around a bit.” “How do you figure they’re gonna manage that without everyone seeing them?” David laughed. Review by Adam. Virgin buff ex-marine meets emerald eyed gorgeous guy and it's love at first sight. An adopted silver blond tot and a multi-million dollar company follow. Without shooting the plot to bits, I think I can reveal that Protecting David, at least at first glance, follows the all too familiar formula which is regrettably becoming one of an ever diminishing clutch being re-honed, re-tweaked, or re-burnished to try to squeeze one more drop of a fresh twist of a new story out of a far too hackneyed plot. But, Protecting David isn't one of these! It is saved from this Armageddon by good writing, something lacking in most of those trying to emulate this story of Mark, David and little Alex as they wend their ways through Mid-western life, California industry, Beltway politics, and a little bit of German travel for the sake of - well I'm not sure what. The story is terribly American. The innocence of it would be impossible of anything written by a European or an Aussie or a Canuk. But that makes it so cute. It is like an adult, gay nursery story. Nothing big goes terribly wrong that can't be put right easily. The tale is a pleasant, placebo for all the nasty, hurtful, gay attack and hate stories which have been the stock in trade of authors these past years. Protecting David is the salve on the wound of so many stories telling of how badly gays have suffered. Here Mark and David prosper and nothing really bad happens. David is a business genius with the ability, and contacts, to manipulate small change into rows of zeros after a significant integer. He also ....but I can't tell you that. I can't tell you that either! Just don't take David at face value - or any other part of his body for that matter. Mark, on the other hand is easier to deal with. He's just in looooove! With David, of course. But also with armaments. I told you this was a very American story, didn't I? His new love is Alex. How he arrives is a plot twist I shan't divulge. It's the only implausible twist in the book, unless US law on adoptions is drastically different from those elsewhere. But who cares? It's a great story. And it's loads more likely than many I've read. Alex is a keen four year old I felt didn't grow enough and needs more depth. Whereas other characters, like curmudgeonly, yet loveable and down-the-line loyal general Frank are fuller figures. I got to know the inner Beltway crowd a bit in the 90s when my oldest was at St Albans and here the author has really nailed to a tee some of the atmosphere of the circuit and the individuals one met. If I have a problem with this story it is one from the position of non-gays reading it. You may say, "So what, it's a gay story. It's no business of straight people what we write!" Which presumes that gays never read straight authors! No, I constantly am confronted with the attitude that gay men (and I'm not discussing hormone charged teens here) are constantly focussed on sex. This story, where David and Mark constantly "fuck" (but never make love, I noticed) only reinforce this stereotype that gays are "just like fucking rabbits!" Having said all that, I finished the story feeling it was knowledgeable about what it wrote. It developed it's pace and characters well, though I feel I didn't really get to know Alex enough, and it was credible. What is more, for those who are more into this "romantic" story genre than I am it will undoubtedly leave a big question unanswered. When is the next installment? Review by Mark. I read this story some years ago and if I had written this review back then, it would be somewhat different than the one I am writing now. Not to say I would write a completely different review but over the years, as I have read many gay stories and romances, I have broadened my horizons, as most of us do over time. Mark and David are the main characters and during the story you meet their friends and son and all the various characters who serve to populate their world. Join them as they move locations, build corporate empires, have medical emergencies, serve as role models, be exemplary parents, and still remain very much in love. This is the first book in a series about the two men and their family and the entire series covers decades in time. I enjoyed reading the whole series as the younger generation takes over from the older, providing a continuity that is refreshing as you know all the characters and their past. The writing is crisp, the dialogue sparkles and the story is well written. You come to care about Mark and David and relish the love they have for each other as they face their challenges head on. The characters are real and have real emotions, which help you relate to them. When Mark wants to throttle a homophobic man causing trouble, you can understand the passion behind it. Overall, the story is very romantic and the love between the two characters is real and evident. That love is why I read these stories. It helps make the world a better place. I did have several issues with the story, especially after re-reading it and admittedly they are purely my opinion. As much as I believe there is love at first sight in the world, the way the story started was a stretch for me. A tiny part of my brain was thinking, ‘Really?’ when reading the beginning. And as much as I like a good sex scene, I felt the author went a bit overboard on the sex in the beginning. A good sex scene should help the story evolve, not be a reason the story exists, as it felt during the first few chapters. However, they were well written and you could not help but feel the passion wash over you. Finally, a lot of stories are divided between characters with money and those not so fortunate. As a piece of escapist romance, I can understand the pleasure of reading a story about people who have money. However, I think at times a story can be enhanced when characters face life without a well padded bank balance. I do recommend the story - heck, the entire series - to people looking for a story about two people who deeply love each other and show the world what that love can mean to their friends and family, down through the years and generations. It is a feel good story and if it helps a person cope with today’s world, all the better. INTERVIEW by Adam If you have read my stories on The Castle, you will know that I tend to write for younger readers than you do. Consequently, in preparing my questions I thought it wise to ask two gay friends from different cultures to read your story and see if the questions they sought to pose you were similar or the same as those I had devised. One friend was a middle aged Spaniard from Bilbao and the other an university senior studying in Massachusetts, but originally from Virginia. I am a fourth generation white East African. So we are a pretty cosmopolitan trio. It would have been better if the "interview" was structured so that I could ask follow-up questions to replies to earlier ones, but this email method of posing queries is not conducive to that. So we'll do the best we can, eh? So, Terry, here goes: Your story of David, Mark and their adoptive son Alex could so easily have fallen into the trap of becoming formulaic, and thus a big yawn. You're right about the trap of writing this type of story, and friends who are writers too, have warned against it. But I never intended the story to be one thing or another. I created the characters and let them write the story. Readers have often asked me what was coming next and I usually say that it's up to the characters. It's like I'm watching television and writing down what they do. In addition to that, I think I'm kinda writing and creating characters that I've missed in my own life. It's like psychotherapy. Obviously, you must have been aware of there being scores of these "rich man adopts kid and everyone lives happily ever after" stories out there. What did you do at the outset to set your story apart from the herd? I didn't do anything. Mainly because I wasn't aware of those stories, although because of what I already said it wouldn't have made any difference. Were there times in writing when you pulled yourself up and said, "Oops! I'm dangerously close to becoming a slave to the norm here. I have to introduce a new twist to maintain my uniqueness."? Never. I never gave that any thought. Many writers introduce into early stories some elements of autobiography. Without being too personal, are there incidents in this story which draw on events in your own life experience? Yes, there are scenes that come from my life, more so in The Good Doctor series, but also in Protecting David. You've tended to downplay tensions between David and Mark in the story. In fact, throughout it is a feel-good tale, with barely a bump on the road of life. Was this written as an antidote to all the grim tales of darkness surrounding gay life which has been written over the past 20 to 30 years, a balm to sooth the pain of the hurt of the dark years of the late 20th Century? No, it's just how I thought the characters would live there lives. One of the criticisms straight, or at least non-gay people often make when in ignorance speaking of gay men is all are sex crazy and focussed on sex beyond anything else. While I recognise that this is a story, and thus maybe partly designed to titillate, isn't there some justification in the argument that the constant focus on "fucking" in this story, rarely referred to as love making incidentally, simply perpetuates this false perception of gays as human rabbits? Absolutely! There was a lot of sex in the early chapters, but readers told me they just skipped over that part, so, I thought, "Why put that in?" You have obviously enjoyed writing this story. It is a credible representation of inside-the-Beltway life, as I experienced in the 90s. With this knowledge and your skills as a writer, together with a story obviously left only party told, what are your plans for Mark, David and Alex? It would be a shame to put those Tuscan olives to waste! Oh, those olives won't go to waste. Christopher has big plans for them. Finally, my European colleague asks me to inquire whether you ever wonder why characters in stories based in the US, such as yours, invariably show themselves to be far more unaware both of their own sexuality and of how to relate to others at even early teen years? I love this question because it highlights just how crazy we are as a country. We are the most insanely religious country on the planet and a country that ends up producing people who are very well educated, and other people who are as dumb as a box of rocks. When I was growing no one mentioned sex, ever. When I was in the Navy I was stationed in Iceland for two years and there were light years of difference. I worked with a guy who was having an affair with a woman in a town near that base and it drove him crazy that they'd be having sex and her kids would sometimes look in and watch them. When he complained about it she said, "How else are they to learn about sex?" Anyway, it always seems like European countries do a better job of getting a certain basic level of education into everyone. Thanks, and feel free to add a comment, particularly about your future writing projects, perhaps why you began writing in the first place. And, please, object openly and vociferously here if you think any of the questioning has been unfair or irrelevant. Thanks again. Adam Extra Protecting David is book one of a series. If you enjoyed this book you can follow the series on the CRVboy site (list of stories and link below). Protecting David I (complete) Protecting David II : Growing Up (complete) http://www.crvboy.org/stories/ta/s003/c01.html Protecting David III : Alex’s Story (complete) Protecting David IV: Finding Christopher (complete) Protecting David V : The Brothers (complete) Protecting David VI : Christopher Grows Up (in progress) The Good Doctor (in progress) Lost and Found (in progress) All these stories are on CRVboy, under the name Audette T – http://www.crvboy.org/authors.html
  9. Rumors of War – Book One by Cynus Synopsis: There's a war coming between Heaven and Hell, but first it starts on Earth. For Damien, it was a new High School at the start of the year. A fresh start. Maybe he could finally make some friends. The first friend Damien makes, turns out to be a demon. What could go wrong with that? Book link (Read it here): https://castleroland.net/story-synop/?id=2988 Reader comments: Wow, loved it so far! Well written, good flow, empathetic characters, what's not to like? Full of intrigue and suspense. I Love this story such a unique prospective on a classic concept. A great take on the Heaven/Hell genre. I simply loved it! Extract: Nodding again, I reached for the necklace only to have my arm suddenly grabbed from the side and wrenched painfully behind my back. I tried to turn to see who was grabbing me when a large hand gripped the back of my head and forced it down to the table. I could hear Veronica shouting something that sounded like her pleading for them not to hurt me, but I was in such a state of shock I couldn’t even process it through the pain. A moment later I gained control of my senses, and I realized that I could barely hear Veronica, and her voice was getting further and further away. I could just see out of the corner of my eye that there was a large man standing next to the table, and he was drawing what looked like a very long knife from within his suit coat. My instinct kicked in suddenly and I realized they were about to kill me, and I began to struggle against the one who held me still, but it was no use. I watched the knife raise in the man’s hands and come slicing through the air toward my neck. I closed my eyes and prepared for death as best as I could. Reviewed by Adam Demons and dragons and angels, Satan and Lucifer, Hell and Heaven, and a great Druid named ........Keith. Well, not quite everything need be exotic! In Rumours of War, Cynus has created a fabulously addictive teen romance featuring bisexual high-school freshman and psychic Damien (of course) and mysterious, body-perfect, gay Marc (with a 'c'). However, will hyper sexual Veronica prove to create a menace or a menage? The pace of this story about a war between angels and demons, where in a way humans seem almost to be bystanders in the most part, is well balanced between action scenes and typical - for pubescent teen boys that is - bedroom ones. I suppose I should re-phrase that. The pace is well balanced between different types of action scene! Cynus has not produced a deeply philosophical treatise on the struggles of gay, bisexual and straight lifestyles in the context of demonic wars in an existential environment. Nor do I assume he intended to do so. Few young people face such challenges. But Damien did. And what Cynus has done so marvellously in Book 1 of Rumours of War is to salivate the taste buds, get them flowing for later volumes. I know that I want to know how Damien will balance his humanity, his ancestry, and his new-found powers. Will he be successful in holding on to Marc through the frenzy of a probable war? Who shall die? - for in most good war stories somebody important always dies! This is not a run-of-the-mill kids as Super Heroes tale. It at least has begun with the potential of being far more. Cynus, my man, Great Beginning. Five ***** from me as a Teenagers' Gay/Bisexual Adventure Romance. I cannot say better than that!! Reviewed by Mark. In the interest of disclosure, I admit to having edited a lot of Cynus’ stories. The stories to review for the Critic’s Corner are assigned to us randomly and just the luck of the draw gave me this one. He is a dream to edit as there are very few corrections to make or suggestions to relay and if I were being paid by correction instead of volunteering, I would starve. And no, he did not pay me $5 to write a good review. Rumors of War starts off with a high school student on his first day at a new school and quickly turns into an exciting story as he gets caught up in prophecies, a battle between Angels, Demons and love. Hell, Demons and Angels in the story are not the traditional entities we think of and Cynus mixes it all up to add an interesting dimension to the story. Damien and his protector Marc (not spelled with a k, as he insists…) are caught up in the age old battle being fought and Damien learns he is the first male descendent of a famous personage from the past. There are turncoat enemies (or are they?) bad guys and a jealous friend among the cast of characters. Just as you think you have a handle on the story, a development at the end of the first chapter teaches you Cynus can misdirect with the finest. The story is not too long and is the first story in the trilogy. Some readers may well wish for more chapters, while others will think it is just right. I think a few more would have been ok, but he wisely does not make it too many. I have looked at some stories and seen what seemed like an endless number of chapters and it made me wonder if I wanted to start reading the story. Cynus is a master wordsmith and his writing flows well and pulls the reader along effortlessly. Dialogue sparkles, the characters are real and engaging and before you know it, the chapter is over and you can’t wait to read the next one. You come to care about the characters, the sign of an excellent author, as he weaves his word magic over the reader. Cynus writes varied stories and if you read more of him, you will see how wide ranging his stories can be… from Asian gangsters to humorous Halloween stories to laugh out loud moments from a failed grand coming out gesture. One thing you can be sure of, his stories are well written and are a delight to read. Reviewed by William King. This is a curious book, aptly titled, and not without its twists and turns. I have to admit that I was wondering about the story, where was it going? How would things ever be resolved? After all it is a short book, seven chapters, but then it’s book one of a series. The ending took me by surprise (although of course the story continues), and left me with a wonderful feeling of having just read a little gem of a tale. The hand of a skilled and gifted author is at work here, as he weaves and circles through the story, taking the reader on a journey with Damien and Marc. The supporting characters are great, from the “punkish” Veronica with her multiple piercings and a streak of red hair, to the acerbic Keith, from whom Marc calls in several favours. There are some great lines, “We had a lot of our deeper conversations over killing each other in video games.” The author masterfully evokes a gateway into another realm: “That was when all my notions of what was normal in the world completely erupted. I felt something deep within me start to stir, as if it were some memory I had placed in a dark secluded section of my mind, to only touch under certain circumstances. It was apparent that I had met those circumstances now, and as I tapped into this unknown piece of myself, I felt a power like nothing I had ever experienced overwhelm me.” Now the world has changed, as do some of those in it, and we are confronted with mystical creatures. “The form was monstrous yet somehow familiar, as if something out of a dream. It was black and scaled. It sported large leathery wings on its back, and a tail whipping back and forth between its legs.” Do I have any criticisms? Perhaps the playing down of the life threatening situation our protagonist finds himself in, as if everyday one gets attacked by a gang of murderers over dinner and saved by a guy who transforms into a devilish creature. But then again, when viewed after finishing the book it only makes me smile, and I think that is intentional. I have to admit to being a fan of the author and having read some of his other books. This story is a coming out story with a difference. I recommend it to you, it’s an easy read, and it has a whole lot more in it than you might imagine at first glance. INTERVIEW At first glance, when you start reading, this book seems a little light. It’s short in chapters and initially feels lacking in depth. However, once you start getting into it, and it is an easy read, you can read it all in one sitting, then you get to, what I found to be a great ending (although the series continues), and you look back and think, there was a lot more to it. My question: is this lightness intentional? Did you plan it to, as it were, have hidden depths? There is after all a lot in there, from telepathy and telekinesis, through to an interpretation of religion. This is a tricky question for me to answer, because at the time I wrote "Rumors of War" I didn't know enough about writing novels to really set a tone intentionally. As some readers may know, this is the first novel I ever completed. I ended up relying on tropes probably more than a professional writer would, and didn't spend as much time going through afterwards and polishing it up/fleshing it out, either, which I would be more concerned with doing now. I definitely planned for it to have hidden depths and wanted it to be complex. I don't know how it is for other writers, though I assume there are as many who agree with me as those who do not, but I appreciate a story which can accomplish several purposes at once, as long as there aren't too many and they all serve to be complementary. I can't say I always achieve that, but it is always the goal. For some people, the religious theme will be the most important part, for others it'll be the psychic abilities, and for others it'll be the struggle of an LGBT teenager trying to survive. I strive to give enough variety that there's hopefully an interest for everyone. The theme of demons and angels, broadly speaking, recurs in another later book you wrote, Rivers of the Dead. Is the magic, dark versus light, good and evil, something which fascinates you as a writer? In a way, definitely, but in another way, no. I'm less concerned with the battle between opposing forces as I am with the balance of them. To me, good and evil are often matters of perspective. Often, we are quick to label someone as evil when from their perspective they are good. I look at my books as a conversation about perspective and try to humanize my villains as often as I demonize them. I want the motivations of my villains to feel natural and believable. I want my readers to understand that someone would choose to act in that way. The same logic applies to when I play with Darkness and Light. For me, darkness does not mean evil, and Light does not mean good. In my work I've explored thieves and gangsters who become heroes. I've made villains of heroes of legend, and I once turned a beautiful and peaceful woman into the worst killer in the world. Light and Dark are merely facets of the soul, they exist in all of us, and do not define us any more than any other part of us. This book and others of your novels often deal with the struggle of being gay in a rather difficult often hostile, unaccepting environment. Almost the theme of a journey to salvation, although in this particular book the protagonist, Damien, seems to get a much easier ride as a bisexual, rather than outright gay person. Why is it that you return time and again to the same theme, the struggle with being gay? I wasn't ready to face the demons of my own past when I wrote "Rumors of War", which is why Damien escaped the same treatment which some of my characters receive in other works. I suppose the answer to this question is twofold: Firstly, because of my own struggles, a lot of the writing I connected with online were in a similar vein. I connected with characters who were struggling with their identity, and so when I took up writing I ended up writing similar themes into my own stories. Secondly, I have long struggled with my own identity. My sexuality is complex, as I think everyone's is. I've never found a label which truly fit me, which has always left me with a bit of uncertainty in my life. I've since come to terms with that fact, that I don't need the label for myself, but I still explore themes of identity in my stories because I'm trying to understand myself and accept myself through the struggles of my characters. They act as a canvas for me to explore my inner truth. And I could add an addendum to that last question. Why do you often pick up the struggle between being gay and religion? I grew up in an extremely conservative, religious environment. I was raised in the Mormon Church, and was constantly preached to about the evils of homosexuality. I don't know if things would've been different with my parents if I'd come out earlier. They might've accepted me over time and stopped preaching. I like to think that they would've chosen love over their religion, but a part of me knows it could've easily gone the other way. The Mormon Church has had a long history with deconversion therapy. There are histories of trials at BYU involving shock therapy and other horrific tortures designed to try and change a person's sexuality. There are also boys' ranches where they would send wayward teenagers to be brought into line with the church's teachings. My parents were both firmly in the Mormon Church, and with how they spoke sometimes, I know I might've ended up at one of those ranches. I say all that for context. Religion and I had a complicated history. I grew up thinking myself unworthy of love, unworthy of human connection, really. I believed I was an abomination for the way I felt about my male friends. I believed I would lose everything I loved and cared about if I gave into those feelings. That psychological torment still weighs heavily on me, and I developed some unhealthy coping mechanisms to get me through. The battle between myself and my faith left me with depression, eating disorders, insecurity, self-loathing, and an overall sense of unworthiness for anything good in life. I'm healing, but I am still scarred. If, by exploring the subject, I can help a single teen reader realize he's not alone and that it can get better, then I'll have considered my writing worth something. You are a talented and prolific writer, when did you first start writing and decide to publish your work online? 2013 is when I published my first short story at AwesomeDude.com. It's "The Drawbacks of Being a Monster", if anyone is interested. "Oak Shadows" was written a week later, and I was hooked from then on. I started "Rumors of War" in November of 2013, and it took me until March of the following year to finish it. During that time, I wrote at least one other short story, "Is Love a Miracle?", around Valentine's Day. Completing my first novel was exactly what I needed. I wrote "The Navigator" from start to finish in April, then started "Shadow Honor" immediately thereafter. I first started writing when I was a kid. I probably wrote my first short story in the second or third grade, a bit of Star Wars fanfiction, if I recall correctly. I've always enjoyed it, though I could never manage to finish a project until NaNoWriMo 2012. While I didn't finish that novel, I did finish the goal of writing 50,000 words in one month, and it made me want to do it again the next year. I did, and that gave me "Rumors of War". I personally like the approach you have adopted for a number of books, like Rumors of War, to divide them into short books and make a mini series. Did you plan this approach whilst writing the book, or was it something you thought of after, and why did you decide to do it like that? I wish I could say it was part of some grand design, but really I just do whatever feels right at the moment. In the case of "Rumors of War", I had three climactic events and simply felt that by separating them more cohesively would give my readers a better chance to sit back and absorb those climactic moments. How much does your real life effect your writing? What I mean by that, is your personal experiences, your upbringing, is there a lot of you in your books? There is a lot of me in each book. There's always at least one character I really put myself into. In the case of "Rumors of War" there are two. I always wonder if people can guess who they are. One is Keith, but I'll keep the other a secret and let you all guess. In writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, I wouldn't say I use too many real-life experiences, though even in those genres I try to focus on the emotions. The emotions are always real, the characters are always based on aspects of myself, though that's not all that they are. I'm connected to every single one of them, however. Leading on from that last question. Why write? Is it something you’ve always wanted to do? Is it therapy? Or because you simply enjoy it? Writing is a means of exploring my greatest passion. I love to connect with people, I love to understand people, and I love to explore the different ways we think. If it were up to me, I'd be doing it through Anthropology, Linguistics, and travel, but unfortunately my life didn't work out that way (Or at least, it hasn't so far). Writing, however, offers me a medium to translate my emotional draw to those subjects into art. It's a little bit therapy, it's a little bit because I enjoy it, and it's a little bit because it allows me to connect with people. Finally, not an easy question, but in your opinion, what is it that makes a good author? I don't know that I'm qualified to answer this question. In all seriousness, the secret to being an author at all is to put one word after another until you've made a story. The secret to being a good one is practice and repetition, and learning to correct your mistakes and learn from them so you'll make fewer. Eventually, when you've done it enough times and made enough of those mistakes to teach you what you need to know, you'll be good. Do it some more, you'll be great. Do it some more, you'll be an expert. You never reach perfection though. Perfection in art is impossible, because that would deny the purpose of art. The purpose of art, in my opinion, is to attempt to make sense of an ever-changing world. Perfection implies a static state, and no such state is achievable in art of any form. What makes a good author? Change. Extra If you enjoyed "Rumors of War", consider "Rivers of the Dead" your next read. TITLE: Rivers of the Dead SYNOPSIS: Caleb is about to embark on a journey of new beginnings when he leaves the small-town life behind for college. There's just one problem: Ethan. After a disastrous spell creates a lethal misunderstanding, Caleb puts his life on hold to find some way to save Ethan's soul, even if he must challenge Death itself to do it. EXCERPT: In this scene from Part 1, Caleb seeks a way to bring back Ethan's soul with the help of his witch friend, Liz. Together, they seek out one who has traveled the path of death before, but is everything as it seems? Liz opened her mouth and began to speak, her voice steady and powerful, like a prayer. “Brother Orpheus, Lord of Music, he who has descended to the depths of Hades, I beseech you. I beseech you in your wisdom and your experience, grant us this boon. By this offering,” Liz paused, and Caleb realized it was time to add the ingredient pouch, so he tossed it into the flames. It combusted almost instantly, as if it had been eager to burn. Liz continued, her voice taking on even greater force. “Show us the path, the path by which we may find our lost love. Show us the path to Death. Show us the doorway.” Caleb let his gaze be drawn into the flames, doing as Liz had said he should. He started with the image of Ethan’s shoulders, and how he longed to hold them, to wrap his arms around his best friend and tell him he loved him. This thought connected him back to the journal resting in his backpack, and the warmth which seemed to radiate from it, embracing him back. He held onto that image, the desire to comfort and be comforted, as Liz continued. “Open the door to us, Brother Orpheus,” Liz yelled to the abyss of the cave beside them. The words echoed in the dark, bouncing off the unseen walls of the cavern, giving them a sense of life as they bellowed their response. Caleb’s desire to comfort his best friend morphed into the sight of Ethan’s eyes as they stood on the side of the road. Those eyes, filled with so much pain, so much longing for peace. Caleb wanted to give Ethan peace, to make those eyes smile and laugh again as they had when they were younger. To go back and prevent Ethan from ever thinking he wasn’t loved. “Open the door!” Liz screamed at the dark. The light breeze from before picked up in intensity, sweeping into the cave as if in answer. The flames flickered and danced as they nearly died from the force of the wind, but then the wind disappeared and the flames surged back to life, crackling with energy. Caleb gripped the knife tighter, thinking of Ethan’s eyes. And then he saw them in a different light, the echoing chasm of pain they’d reflected when Ethan saw them kissing. How Caleb longed to return to that moment, to pull back from the precipice of that instant of perceived betrayal before it took all three of them over the edge. How he longed to take it all back, to make it right, to give Ethan the kisses he deserved and not the one that sent him away. “Grant us passage to the beyond! Grant us the way to Ethan Pallet’s soul!” Liz roared, and the fire responded, exploding with energy as the flames shot even higher, the smoke billowing up into a cloud of pure darkness which seemed to gather like a thunderhead above them. Caleb swore he could hear a distant crackle of thunder, as if a storm were also on the horizon. That storm was a frantic, primal surge of energy, rippling in and tearing everything apart. The imagery drew Caleb in deeper, to the image of rain pouring all around him, the dark storm within his soul. Everything around him darkened like the light in Ethan’s eyes the day he died, the way he’d looked at Caleb as they kissed, blood flowing from his wrists like the floodwaters of the evil storm threatening to destroy Caleb’s heart. The knife had done the deed, had killed Caleb’s love and hope as surely as it had killed Ethan. He rolled the knife in his hand, and the thunder answered, rumbling in response. It wasn’t the knife that killed Ethan, but a knife was a knife. A knife for a knife, Caleb thought. “Let this man’s love be the key, let his love open the way!” Liz cried, and Caleb felt a surge within him as Liz began drawing on his energy. It was like the orgasmic energy he’d felt before, except instead of activating his pleasure, it accentuated his pain, drawing it out fully. Caleb saw Ethan clearly now, leaning against the tree, his blood flowing freely as his eyes locked onto Caleb’s. Now his eyes were filled with lucidity, and his mouth was contorted in an infernal scowl. ‘Why did you do it, Caleb?’ Ethan asked in Caleb’s mind. ‘Why did you kill me? This is all your fault. I’m dead because of you.’ The guilt was overwhelming, overtaking everything else in Caleb’s psyche. He wanted to run, to hide, to escape the image before him, but it existed in his mind, trapping him in the moment where Caleb could do nothing but watch Ethan die. ‘A knife for a knife. A life for a life. If I could give myself up to let you live, I would. I would sacrifice myself for you, I would.’ Ethan’s mouth head tilted to the side, and with a quirky grin he said . . . You can find out what happens here: https://castleroland.net/story-synop/?id=3717 Cynus has his book Rivers of the Dead published on Amazon as a Kindle ebook and also as a paperback. There are links to all his books on the published authors page: https://castleroland.net/hall-of-published-authors/ He has his own sponsorship site, the link is below if you would like to take a look and maybe help a struggling full time author. Latest stories and advanced chapter readings! https://www.patreon.com/Cynus?ty=h
  10. Since the start of the year a very small team of four have been reading and reviewing books. As well as talking to and interviewing the authors. NOW we need YOUR HELP We really would like a few more volunteers willing to do the favourite thing that you all do - read books. And then write a review of what you read. Telling us what you liked, didn't like so much, what worked, those great lines... etc., etc. If you'd like to try your hand, we'll give you some guidelines and a book to review. If your review cuts the mustard it gets published and you become part of our team. I can't guarantee the publication or team place, but what have you got to lose? A little spare time reading a book you might not otherwise have picked up, and a few hours writing a review. THINK ABOUT IT - WE COULD DO WITH SOME NEW PEOPLE Contact me, William King: william.king.writer@gmail.com
  11. There appears to be no advice, standard, or best practice to follow when formatting your story for online publication. I am wondering why, generally, it is most common to leave a free line between every paragraph. Something I adopted, but which does involve a lot of work later should you want to produce an ebook. It is also a little odd when books in print and professionally produced ebooks do not follow the same format. It appears to me that the standard is indented first line of each paragraph and no free lines (first example below). Here are the two versions of the same book: Chapter 1 - An Unknown Country. "Can you ever be serious?" Matty looked at me across the little coffee table that sat in the middle of his room. "Well I hope not." I looked up at him, a smile forming across my face. "I've got something important to say!" He looked kind of tense, was he frowning? "OK, well just say it." I learned forward resting my chin on my hand, looking up at him. There was silence, the only sounds came from the street outside, the gentle rumbling buzz of traffic. Then a clinking noise intruded from the kitchen downstairs as Matty's mum emptied the plates and glasses from the dishwasher. The silence continued, I waited, time could almost have stopped. "Well, tell me what you got to say." More silence as he fidgeted about in the chair in front of me. Finally, as if the silence was never actually there, he continued, "I'm gay!" "Is that it?" My smile broadened into one of those huge white teeth smiles spread right across my face. I took my hand from my chin, leaned closer towards him and slowly moved my arm over his shoulder, my hand resting on the back of his neck. With a sure, but gentle pressure I pulled his head towards mine, turned to one side and in a scene worthy of the best motion picture I closed the gap between us and kissed him full on the lips. Releasing my hold I sat back, sinking into the old armchair, watching his reactions. The little movements his body made, the expression on his face. I heard once more those faint background noises which had all but disappeared during that moment of intimacy. Like a lightning bolt from nowhere the thought entered my head that never again would we be just best friends. Two boys who had grown up together as virtual neighbours had crossed some kind of invisible barrier, a frontier to an unknown country. The silence had returned, this was a comfortable silence between us, the sort of silence that allowed each of us to savour the moment. Watching Matty relax, seeing him look back at me in that cheeky mischievous way of his, I wondered why I had never said anything to him. I was after all older than he was, wasn't it me who should have been the one to tell him? Wasn't it in some way my responsibility, hadn't I, by saying nothing caused my best friend undue fear and anguish? Chapter 1 - An Unknown Country. "Can you ever be serious?" Matty looked at me across the little coffee table that sat in the middle of his room. "Well I hope not." I looked up at him, a smile forming across my face. "I've got something important to say!" He looked kind of tense, was he frowning? "OK, well just say it." I learned forward resting my chin on my hand, looking up at him. There was silence, the only sounds came from the street outside, the gentle rumbling noise of traffic and the clinking sounds from the kitchen downstairs as Matty's mum emptied the plates and glasses from the dishwasher. The silence continued, I waited, time could almost have stopped. "Well, tell me what you got to say." More silence as he fidgeted about in the chair in front of me. Finally, as if the silence was never actually there, he continued, "I'm gay!" "Is that it?" My smile broadened into one of those huge white teeth smiles spread right across my face. I took my hand from my chin, leaned closer towards him and slowly moved my arm over his shoulder, my hand resting on the back of his neck. With a sure, but gentle pressure I pulled his head towards mine, turned to one side and in a scene worthy of the best motion picture I closed the gap between us and kissed him full on the lips. Releasing my hold I sat back, sinking into the old armchair, watching his reactions, the little movements his body made, the expression on his face. I heard once more those faint background noises which had all but disappeared during that moment of intimacy. Like a lightning bolt from nowhere the thought entered my head that never again would we be just best friends. Two boys who had grown up together as virtual neighbours had crossed some kind of invisible barrier, a frontier to an unknown country. The silence had returned, this was a comfortable silence between us, the sort of silence that allowed each of us to savour the moment. Watching Matty relax, seeing him look back at me in that cheeky mischievous way of his, I wondered why I had never said anything to him, I was after all older than he was, wasn't it me who should have been the one to tell him, wasn't it in some way my responsibility, hadn't I, by saying nothing caused my best friend undue fear and anguish. When adopting the most common format (second example), section or scene breaks are added using symbols such as * * * centred. If the first format were to be used, then section breaks could be free or blank lines? Does anyone have any thoughts on this? Do you prefer the first or second example of formatting and why? Why insert a blank or free line after every paragraph? Is it easier to read? For centuries we have read books published in the first format, why the change?
  12. Great idea guys and interesting to get the background along with all the key numbers, but... is Wala Wala a real place? ?
  13. I like to read/encourage new/young writers and when discovering what they have written I can be pleasantly surprised by the imagination and creativity that has been put into writing a story. But... there is a way of writing English today which put simply is incorrect. - Tonight, the building’s staff has been completely left in charge to me. - Are children taught English Language as a part of their education? As I recall we always had two subjects concerning English, English Language and English Literature. It jars to read a story where the author seems to lack the basic comprehension of the use of a preposition, probably doesn't even know the word "preposition." So let me refer all you budding young authors to this short article which explains the use of "of," "to,' and "for." I never thought there would be a need for something as simple and integral to speaking/writing English as this, but obviously there is. https://www.talkenglish.com/grammar/prepositions-of-to-for.aspx Lesson two will deal with jumbling together past and present tense when writing your book... I am not too sure if I'm joking!
  14. The price in Australia is the same in Europe and probably in the USA (I haven't looked). A$14 (9 Euros) per book goes to the author, the rest is to Amazon for printing and posting (I believe it's a max 70% split to the author. The minimum on Amazon self-publishing is 30% to the author). The variation in price between books is related to the size, bigger books (e.g. 200 pages v 150 pages) cost more to print. I guess you have to accept that the author wants to make money from his books and that's the price he's put on his work. Personally I support free online gay fiction and there is a lot to read here on this site that won't cost you a cent. It's nice to own a printed paperback, but that comes with a price tag. It could perhaps be cheaper?
  15. Coupé by D'Artagnon Robby never intended to be anything more ambitious than a stay at home computer geek. Funny how strange the world can turn on you when you are given a push. Sometimes you have to look deeper than just the surface of things to see the truth. Read the book... extract: We don’t often think enough about how much a touch can affect us. I mean, I know I go on a lot about how sex is sooo good, and yes, sex is a lot of touching. But touching isn’t sex. And in this instance, Juan needed to feel it on his skin as well as in his head and heart that he wasn’t alone. That we weren’t going to trick him or leave him out in the cold like his old motley had. Touch, if nothing else, is very grounding, and he needed that kind of foundation. Trust and touch often equate to the same thing. And I’m talking about touching with emotion, not with lust (although I like that kind too) or with anger. I guess I should have said touching with empathy, since anger is an emotion as well, but I think you get the picture. At any rate, Kenny reached across and rested his hand on Juan’s other shoulder, briefly. We were in a totally public place and we couldn’t just give him a hug, as much as my Satyr nature was urging me to. This was probably the scariest thing to ever happen to him, and being reminded of it so bluntly while we were still glowing with absorbed Glamour only made it more real to him. reader comments: Wow! I love this story so much. Even if I am 70 years it is just the kind of story I love. Just finished the latest chapter and oh WOW!! It just gets better and better I thought the chapter was just about perfect. Dialog, action, new subject matter, emotions, caring, love, you name it. I just finished reading the story of Robby and Kenny and I enjoyed it immensely! I have to say that the story is quite impressive. Although the narrator tends to meander at times, there is just the right mix of action, suspense, adventure, and romance to keep the pages turning. So, have just finished Coupe and I have to say that I thought it was fantastic. the reviews: Review by Adam. Robbie is your bog standard, computer infatuated, geek teen. Enter Kenny the son of a light saber class instructor at the Y and the Universe changes. That, in one line is the precis of Coupé. However, D'Artagnon has built a truly masterful tale around the art of fencing, using the beauty of the French terms used in the sport to add frisson to the already electric action he depicts in this classic, exciting tale of good cast against evil. But, with several twists. The greatest being the roughly 315 degree turn readers need to take to watch Robbie become Robyn....but all becomes clear. Sort of, ...by stages....in magical literary ways. Indeed the author does have many literary tricks up his sleeve. The biggest, of course, his imagination. The parallel world he describes and in which the detailed characters evolve wild adventures is a wonderous device. But other writers build castles in the sky. What D'Artagnon has added is his Pythonesque sense of humour. I don't know if he intends this story to be parody, but a fantastic parody it is. And that is what makes it so absolutely fantastic as an adult read. For teenage readers, just get off on the thrills. For grown up humour, just love Cold Comfort Farm and Coupé! With burger bars turning into fae burghers' bear pits, tutors turning into trolls, geeks to goats, and relatives becoming relative, the whole of Robbie's known world to age 13 suddenly becomes......well, unknown. There are so many zeros missing. This is a fun story. Just fun. I suppose the usual caveats preclude my even suggesting the inevitable conclusion to the story, but there are tragedies along the way. It is not all laughter and zany good cheer. Unfortunately, the plot twists were more obvious the further into the story one delved. Maybe writer or just imagination fatigue set in. I think we all empathise. But, as has been said of many classic tales, such as Treasure Island, Kim, and Harry Potter, I'll say of Coupé: it's a cracking good yarn! Review by Jay. This wonderful action filled adventure is sure to please. The story about two New England boys, Robby and Kenny, is a full on rollercoaster of emotions. A fantasy tale of two boys, complete with detailed descriptions bringing to life their personal interactions and the situations they encounter. It puts you right in the mix with them as they advance through the story. At times bringing a tear to your eyes and at others a smile to your lips. It will surprise you with accounts of their present and past relationship and keep you interested, hanging on every word. The author's passion for detail and explanation does make some chapters very long. So you best grab a drink and snack, then sit back for a ride full of adventure. The story contains some very good advice that can be used in your everyday life. This story will make you think and relate to events you may have encountered. Even though I prefer more breaks between chapters than the author gives us, I was still so captivated by it I could not lay it down. If you enjoy this story as much as I have, then I am glad to tell you the saga continues in "Riposte - Changeling" and "Riposte - Werewolf" by the same author. This story was more than fun to read. Even if it is a fantasy/Sci-Fi story, as I have said, you may still find the advice it gives invaluable if you care to take it. the interview: Hello and welcome D'Artagnon. There is a certain writing style that you adopted for this book. I don't know if you carry the same style through to other books. It’s an interesting approach, because it’s first person narrator. Which means our protagonist and hero Robby French whom the book is about, is telling us the story himself. Not just relating the events, but including little asides to the reader. Chapter recaps at the start of some chapters and observations he wants to relay in his conversation with us the reader. The style of narrative is both telling the story and having a conversation with the reader. Would you like to tell us a bit about how this writing style came about? Sure. Like so much else, it goes back to my teachers. The most prominent of them was my 8th grade English teacher, who’s name I cannot recall now, oddly. I do remember that she was very obstinate in building our vocabulary. She encouraged us to write loquaciously, as 8th graders are notoriously lazy, especially in their writing assignments. I was guilty of that, as well. One of the many lessons she applied was that writing should be to the point, accurate and precise, but also “complete.” By which she meant that a writer should leave all parts of a statement clear to the reader, without just accepting your reader knows what you are talking about. Explain completely. Other teachers imparted the ideas of writing conversationally, leading a reader, dropping clues and such. In Coupe in particular I wanted to put the reader into the character’s head. My first story in this genre, “Educating Max” was written third person. Parts of that felt like they would be better if we actually heard Max’s thoughts from Max himself (which is ironic since that story is about an emerging telepath). So when I formed the idea of Robby/Robyn’s story, there was never a doubt in my mind that the story needed to be almost like a diary. And quickly, I don’t think Coupe would have had the same impact if it wasn’t from Robby’s point of view, exclusively. He has a unique point of view. There are some subtle, and perhaps not so subtle, reflections on life, the universe, existence, and being gay. Whilst this is not “Animal Farm” and not a satirical look at the world through the guise of a ‘fairy tale.’ Not quite, anyway. It does seem like you had some points and possible statements about life you wanted to get across. Am I right here or off the mark? No, you pretty much nailed that one. Much of Robby’s ramblings does reflect the nature of Changelings, their duality of beings who have a measure of immortality but at the cost of continually starting over in each reincarnation. So, to a degree, Robyn’s centuries of experience, wisdom and knowledge is still in the foggier parts of Robby’s still maturing adolescent brain. He’s obviously a smart character and one with his own opinions. A larger part of the story is dealing with how a kid his age begins to realize he’s part of a much larger world. Or in the case of the Coupe characters, worlds. At the beginning, Robby didn’t know about so many things that become important to him. That being said, as a writer, I tend to let the characters tell me where the story is, where it’s going. Robby is discovering his sexuality the way we all do at that tender age, trial and error. He may be on the “hero’s journey” but I wanted his observations to be slightly different from mine. I also decided early on that this would not be written as a perfect story with predictable plot points and completely satisfying resolutions to all the bits and pieces throughout. It’s more like real life and dreams in that way. Some things start and never finish, some you find yourself in without a lot of knowing how or why. Things go that way. Literature aspires to emulate real life, but often tries too hard, gives you a formula you have to fill. I think you have to accept sometimes that you don’t always know, it doesn’t always resolve to, using a musical reference, a clear major chord ending. I would have to say that even the name of the story has a bit of significance. I use a lot of fencing terms throughout the narrative. A “coupe” is a cut over or a slicing attack, often towards the legs. Literally, the characters are getting hacked at for much of the story, in different ways. They say the first cut is the deepest; we’ll find out. You make some bold statements, which I can completely understand, but which might nevertheless alienate some of your readership. Example: “With all the pride and power and self-assurance of a boy, not some stereotyped flamer or dancing nancy-boy.” What you're saying here, if I got this right, is that Robby is a boy who happens to be gay because he "likes" other boys. And him being a gay boy doesn’t make him effeminate. What about those “dancing nancy-boys” out there reading that? Aren’t they going to think, “well darling **** you?” And they have that right. I can only speak from my own experience here. Growing up, I was very closeted. I was raised in a Catholic household, had no connection to the “gay community” of that time. Gays who were “out” or “obvious” were very much treated poorly at that time. Sadly, I participated in some of that through my speech and deeds. I was a scared kid who just went with the flow of things. This was the early days of the AIDS epidemic, or the “gay cancer” as it was sometimes called. Any young gay kid who had that part of his life in the shadows kept it out of sight. The fear was real, as were the dangers. In some places around the world, that’s still very true and very frightening. I was already one of the “indoor” kids. I wasn’t very coordinated, early on, was horrible at sports, was big into science fiction and fantasy well before it was popular in my age group, and to be very blunt, was picked on by the other boys for it. Because of where my birthday falls on the school calendar, I was the youngest in my class and my family tend to be late bloomers as far as puberty. So I was behind the curve as far as physical development, which was one of the only ways boys back then figured their place in the pecking order. I was, in short (ha-ha) an easy target. So, with that statement about stereotypes, I can only say that I write what I wanted to read when I was that closeted kid, looking for someone to tell me that what I felt was okay. That I didn’t have to fit into ANY stereotype, that I could be just who I already was without having to “change” because I did have sexual impulses towards other boys. The stories around at that time never showed gay people in positive lights, or as anything other than effeminate, weak, comic relief characters. The only openly gay character on TV, that I know of, was Billy Crystal on “Soap,” a show I never really saw as a kid, only later in re-runs. Young-adult literature was not exactly brimming with adventure stories featuring gay lead characters, because, and let’s be honest here, in the 80’s there was no mainstream understanding that gay kids came from normal homes. Many places in America believed that homosexuality was something that only happened in the “bad” parts of big cities. That it was an aberration born of drugs, music, perversion, that sort of thing. I hope that in my stories young gay kids (assuming such kids read my stories) can find something they can identify with. It is easy to identify with Peter Parker, a regular kid who has to deal with both superhero problems, as Spider-Man, and every day high school problems just as himself. My goal was to strike a similar chord. I wanted to let our little brothers know that they’re okay, whoever they are, and they don’t have to fit the mould of someone else, whether contrived or overly played up. We all know people who are various degrees of “camp” in their lives. We all also know many gay men who don’t advertise their preferences in their daily existence. We don’t go to work as the “Gay car repairman,” or the “queer restaurant worker” or the “homo IT professional” or any number of such things. I’m not ashamed of my life, who I live with, whom I love. But I also don’t feel the need to open a conversation or first meeting with “hello, my name is Robby. I’m an openly gay, formerly religious, sci-fi geek and gamer, I play guitar, vote mostly Democrat and used to be a teacher.” Fortunately, a lot of kids these days don’t have the same level of fear that I went through. Being gay is more accepted now, for which I am very grateful. Too many horror stories from that bygone era tell us of young gays who were persecuted, assaulted, in some cases even killed. I know he was an adult when it happened, but we need to keep in mind things like the case of Matthew Shepard, and the case of a young teen athlete in Massachusetts from the late 90’s, who was assaulted by his teammates because they thought he was gay (never to my knowledge confirmed if he was or not), actually holding him down and inserting a banana into his rectum. Cannot forget, shall not forget. We’ve come a long way, but for each person, figuring out how your own feelings affect who you are still can be a confusing, scary thing. In this story, I hoped to give a little context to it. So, if those who are more effeminate feel alienated by the story or by how Robby comes to his own realizations about himself, I invite them to look at their own decisions at that time. I am not making a claim that any one choice is right or wrong in the reader’s life. I am saying that the decisions you make, the choices you take do reflect how you look at yourself and the world. And be yourself. Being someone else is an actor’s job, not a person’s life. Be you – act you – live you. Others will look at you differently for how you carry yourself. Projecting a sexuality or openly describing your orientation is a choice in how you live. While it may seem to some (in this case, the Robby side of Robby/Robyn) that being gay is to be effeminate or appear weak, it is the strengths inside yourself that you barely know you have that will guide how you choose others to see you. There is no one path. So do give Robby/Robyn a little room to grow in his estimations of life this incarnation. He’s still getting his hooves under him and people on all sides are trying to Undo him already. His elder side is catching up, but he’s still got a lot of growing up to do. And has been hinted at before, he’s been a girl in previous incarnations. Whilst I'm quoting from the book, you do have some marvellous descriptions: “In that instant, I knew that while I was still Robby French, a kid going into 8th grade, who loved computers, his small family, his hometown, the scent of December snow, the kiss of late spring sunshine and the scent of apples and leaves come the fall, that while all these things helped define me, that I was someone else as well.” For some reason this made me think of: “You are alive, and you stand up and see the lights on the buildings and everything that makes you wonder. And you're listening to that song and that drive with the people you love most in this world. And in this moment I swear, we are infinite.” - The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. Those descriptions make one reflect on who we are, where we have come from and where we are going. They are emotionally and spiritually uplifting. I don’t think you set out with that in mind, to achieve anything more than just a good story, nevertheless I think you went some way to succeeding in this respect, and I think from what I know, your book influenced more than a few young gay people in a positive way. What do you think about that? First, good book. I haven’t read Perks in a while. Probably need to pick it up again. That and Baby Bebop. Part of the style I wanted to use with Coupe was putting us in Robby’s head, getting his perspective. So I really wanted to show not only his experience and how his views shift over time but I needed him to be how readers go from the somewhat muted ways of the real world to the brighter, shinier, more vibrant and often larger than life aspects of the Dreaming. Plus, I wanted to put readers into the mind-set of “Robby-think” at how he does things, sees the world. He’s an evolving character, finds out the world is bigger, wilder, crazier than he thought, even being a self-professed computer geek who just wanted to stay indoors and live on the internet. One of the reasons I wanted to put such descriptions out there was in an attempt to get readers to take a second look around themselves. The world can be beautiful, odd, confusing, difficult, startling, enlightening, all in just your everyday existence. We need to look for such things and appreciate them for what they are, what they mean. Even if such perceptions are just about ourselves. If any of that makes sense. Your book does fall into the category of books – if such a category exists – which start off normally, then a few chapters in spring a total surprise on the reader. It wouldn't have been such a shock if the book was labelled fantasy, but not knowing where it was going, I was reading it, engrossed in a young boy breaking out of his shell of loneliness, suddenly to be smacked in the face with altered reality and a parallel world, back from the future comes later! In hindsight, perhaps it might have been nice to forewarn the reader where the story was going, because I could see some people closing and setting aside the book at that point? Stories have a life of their own. If we knew where it was going at the first page, why bother plowing through to the last? It is the journey that is important, otherwise every story would be the same. And, yeah, I intended to make the story turn left suddenly. You don’t always get warnings about what’s ahead on the road. I feel if the story had some kind of “warning” like that, no one would read it. Sure, might be missing an advertising opportunity there, but surprises make things more interesting. Cliff hangers are good for that, but they are only one tool in the writer’s tool kit. The arrival of the unexpected is something which gives you something interesting, rather than the “all these stories wind up this way” feel. Like I said, I like to write what I wanted to read as a kid. Talking about the imaginary world that you created in this book. Was it all your own doing, or did you draw your inspiration from other sources? The parallel universe is really an amazing feat of creative imagination and one hell of a trip! Would love to claim it was all me, but I can’t do that. The world I write in for these stories is part of a role playing game universe. The origin material is from a company called White Wolf Publishing, and this setting is referred to as the World of Darkness. It involves multiple different supernatural aspects from vampires, werewolves (like Cody and Nick in Last Place), changelings, wraiths, mummies, and all sorts of those nasty things that go bump in the dark. I used to play and actually run games in that environment, which White Wolf calls the “storyteller” system. The material for the game was very deep, very rich in history and folklore. I felt like it was a great universe to set stories in. And the Dreaming and the Umbra are aspects that appeal to me, the spiritual nature of the universe and how dreams create reality. So while I cannot take credit for the environment, I hope I illustrate it well enough that others will enjoy it. It certainly gives the boys much to play about in, as well as giving the dark things a way to poke around also. Other influences which creep into my writing come from authors I enjoy. Mercedes Lackey (a wonderful person!), Stephen King, Robert A. Heinlein, HP Lovecraft and Edgar Rice Burrows prominent among them. I was also a big X-Men fan (before the comics and movies screwed them up, different discussion, heheh), obviously love Star Wars and role playing games. So, a lot of these influences will start showing up in the stories after Coupe. I should also point out that a lot of what goes on in Canterbury is a mash up of many influences. The town it is based on has a lot of historical and literary confluences. It is the town that inspired the Archie comics series, was a setting used by HP Lovecraft for his Huskatonic University and town of Arkham, counts poets like John Greenleaf Whittier and Robert Frost as area residents, has the first statue of a woman (bearing a tomahawk, no less) on North America, the river that runs through it gave its name to one of the first “ironclad” warships developed in the American Civil War, has a nearby site which is arguably an archeological wonder going back to the Viking era, and is part of the region that was linked to the political term “Gerrymandering” (look up https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerrymandering ). You seem to enjoy describing the magic in detail, like when you are illustrating the healing powers of the Umbra: “Picture if you will everything that exists around you. Now only picture the things that are more constant, the things that have been in exactly the same place for decades. Buildings, trees, geological features, that sort of thing. Now cast it all in a continuous gleam of moonlight. Anything natural is there as its ultimate, purest form. Anything man made, has all these cobwebs all over it.” I can't help but think that there is more to these descriptions than just your imagination at work. It is almost as if you are recalling some real life parallels, meditation or other experiences. More than simply remembered dreams, I feel completely immersed in an altered reality. So my question is: where do these descriptions come from? I do love to put a pin in a moment and try to get as much sensory overload into it as possible. Guilty pleasure, I guess. The Umbra features heavily in the “Werewolf: the Apocalypse” game, and it begins to show up more in “Last Place” and subsequent stories. It is a realm that “Shadows” physical reality. A place of spirits, energy and mystery. If you travel away from the Earth into the Umbra you can wind up in other realms, other dimensions, even places that make absolutely no sense. Even the realm of the dead (cre-ep-py!). So, part of the imagery of the Umbra is based on the werewolves’ cosmology, where three cosmic forces are out of balance: the Wyld, the Weaver, and the Wyrm. Without going into too much detail here, the Wyld is raw creation, the Weaver is static pattern and stability, and the Wyrm is natural decay. A long time ago, the Weaver got upset that the Wyrm kept digesting her things (even though that feeds the Wyld bringing forth new things), and she ensnared the Wyrm into her pattern-web (lots of spider imagery here). So, Weaver goes crazy, traps Wyrm, then the Wyrm decided to just devour everything in order to free himself. The Weaver’s servants, little spider spirits, put webs on things in the Umbra to link physical things to the pattern-web. So the older something man made is, the thicker the spiderwebs. Spirits are native to the Umbra and things without “awakened” spirits typically can’t go there without something else either dragging them in or there being a place where the barrier between physical and spiritual is very thin. Werewolves are creatures of both spirit and flesh, and favored by many powerful spirits. They can travel to the Umbra relatively easily. Other spirits will show up in other stories. The Dreaming, on the other hand, is a place we all know well, or at least our own little parts of it. Those in the know can travel through it to other people’s dream realms, or even to other places within the Dreaming and between one place and another. Even other dimensions, similar to traveling in the Umbra. The two are related, although the exact nature is never completely clear. There will be an example of traveling in the Dreaming in a couple of the stories. Not sure if that answers your question. Whilst the story, and adventure progresses, and the drama, there are plenty of surprises. Whilst all this is going on, it seems nevertheless to take a back seat to the development of Robby and Kenny discovering themselves and the magical world around them. In a way, the story is much more about their relationship and self-discovery, than about the adventure in which they find themselves. Is that a fair assessment, or do you feel it was a big part, but not the whole? What I mean by that is, do you think you could or would, take the story forward without those two main characters in the lead? I suppose your answer will be no, because it would be like Lord of the Rings without Bilbo or Harry Potter without Harry. Except of course those are much more singular heroes, any thoughts? Well… every story has its unique qualities. I think that what makes a story good, any story, is character development. If they don’t learn, grow or in some way change, then it is more like a TV show where all the conflicts are resolved at the end, reset for next show. So, while they are in self-discovery mode, the way that my characters go through that self-discovery is the same way everyone does, by experience and reflection. It is difficult to say how things would be different for them if they didn’t have this centuries old rivalry, access to magical powers, warrior skills and ancient memories impinging on their world. Might be more boring for them, might be more intense of a personal relationship without everything else getting in the way. The story is how they deal with the world and each other. Also, it’s not easy to look at yourself sometimes. The truth of the mirror isn’t in how things are swapped sides from reality, but how much you see as you look in more deeply. The bigger part of growing up is knowing who you are inside. Learning to recognize that takes time and, curiously enough, reflection. I could not let slip a little aside that you weaved into the narrative, a commentary on modern history, but one which is rather reminiscent of those type is conspiracy theories, the likes of which include an alien spaceship in Area 52, or that there was never a moon landing. You say: “If you want to analyze it down to what it really was, Hitler’s war was motivated by a lack of love as well, and look how many people suffered for his own problems with his Jewish father.” That is one of those completely unsubstantiated claims for which most of the evidence points to it being untrue. Why sneak that observation into the narrative? I think that there is a lot which we don’t know, and fear of the unknown leads to speculations. Robby/Robyn is a kid. He sees history through a very specific point of view. I think that as a writer I have to step away from being the character and listen to the character instead. So, there are a mix of things he sees, things he puts his own spin on, and things he sometimes flat out gets wrong. Our little Satyr isn’t a writer, after all. I like to sneak many different things into the stories. Sometimes overt things to give readers something to think about. Sometimes subtle things. For example, there are occasionally anagrams thrown in. Kenny and Mitch’s last name is Tannagord, which is an anagram of D’Artagnon, as is the Countess’ name, Donna Trag. In other stories, I’ve repeated certain words in “establishing” chapters. Check out “Lost Boys” and look for the word “seam,” and “break free,” in the first several chapters. I said this before, but I have to wonder if everything you have created in this story is entirely from your own imagination, or have you borrowed bits and pieces, here and there? In particular the Glamour and the cantrips, are those your inventions? Glamour and the cantrips involved with it are part of the “Changeling: the Dreaming” game. I use a little license in how they are used, but the game system has lots of leeway as far as all of that. Robby’s constant hearing of distant thunder and tinkling bells and other sounds from the Dreaming is something I embellished for dramatic purposes. He makes a lot of statements that may be considered oaths, especially based on the nature of the Treasures he carries. There must be a lot of things in common across the genre of magic worlds within worlds. The idea of parallel universes co-existing is not new, but I’m not sure where the concept of two universes existing side by side, as in your book first appeared. I have read at least one other book with the same concept, something that must be quite difficult to write. The complicated nature of the story gets rather well described when Robby, Robyn, has a dream before confronting the Dragon, in which he appears as both persons simultaneously. Was that you the author having a little chuckle to yourself about the convoluted nature of the whole tale, or were you trying to get something more specific across to the reader? Changelings have a complicated relationship with reality. They live in our world as the person they were born and raised as, but they also have that immortal being living within themselves. There are times when the two sides are separate, but other times when they need to act as one. Even in dreams, though, that separation can sometimes show where the internal stresses may lie. I will say this. That dream sequence was done with the idea of dreams being important, prophetic even. We see things going on there that are hinted at in earlier chapters and, without giving away anything, there are a lot of hidden meanings going on in that dream which show up in other stories. I tend to use dreams as a way to either explain, foreshadow or encode important information. It is an altered state of being, which pretty much describes life as a changeling in general. One more thing Robby and Kenny will have to trust Robyn and Kay to understand, even if they don’t… yet. I could carry on with more questions, but it would be unfair to you and the readers to make this interview too long. I would like to point readers in the direction of the author forum. Having read all the comments there, and your replies, which in some cases are quite long, and always interesting. There is a lot more to be gleaned about you, the author, and the book on the forum. Finally, D'Artagnon, thank you very much for taking the time to reply, and also, thank you for a great book. the extra: Where to next? "The sleepy riverside town of Canterbury, Massachusetts is like many other towns throughout New England. It has its picturesque Victorian homes, quaint shops, rugged and kind villagers, and a fierce loyalty to each other. It also has, as so many small towns do, its secrets; some of them old, dark and dangerous, others just things lurking beneath the surface, pretending to be something normal. "Enter Robby French, self described computer geek, future 8th grader at Canterbury Combined Junior & Senior High School and complete slacker. No ambition, no plans, He just intends to play games and avoid chores over the school break. However, his 13th summer is about to be hijacked in ways he's never ever dreamt of before. Which is good and bad, because he will rediscover parts of himself he had somehow forgotten, find himself with treasures and strengths he never knew he had and possibly make something he never really had before... a true friend. Oh, and possibly find himself way in over his head. "Coupe is the first step into the wild world of the Canterbury Knights, a series of stories where not everything is as it at first seems. The first of several books in the series form a story arc called "The Boys of Summer" although baseball is only rarely discussed. The other books in this arc are Last Place (a short story) https://castleroland.net/story-synop/?id=1690, The Riposte (Combining the characters of Coupe and Last Place, The 5th Age (still in production) and Bolt from the Blue (also still in production). These stories develop around Robby French and his growing group of friends, allies, adversaries and family ties, and the adventures, secrets and mysteries that link them." RIPOSTÉ – CHANGELINGS https://castleroland.net/story-synop/?id=1699 What do you do when you've defeated a dragon and brought the love of your existance back from the brink of oblivion, all before the end of your 13th summer? You get on with your life and try to be normal. Sadly, fate has more in store for Robby and Kenny. The adventure from Coupé continues... now. RIPOSTÉ – WEREWOLVES https://castleroland.net/story-synop/?id=1707 When you are chosen for greatness, it doesn't always mean it's a smooth ride. Cody and Nick find that being young Garou is a lot more involved than at first would seem. The adventure from Last Place continues...Now!
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