Sunday, 30 December 2012

The Belgian Chocolate Remedy



Today, I have Julie Lynne Hayes visiting my humble blog. She's here to talk about The Belgian Chocolate Remedy. When she first mentioned it I thought I would actually get to eat chocolates but unfortunately it's only a book. However, as chocolate is one of my favourite things I hid my disappointment and focused on the book. Unfortunately nothing that follows is actually edible but it might inspire you to go make chocolate, or melt it and drizzle it on...well whatever you like :)

Thanks for having me, Nephy!   I’d like to give back to your readers, so let’s have a giveaway! If I get 25 comments or less, I’ll pick a winner to receive anything I’ve written. 25 to 50 comments, there’ll be two winners. Over 50, I’ll give away to 4 readers, and one person will get a $10 Amazon gc! Don’t forget to leave your email addy. No addy – no win!

Here’s the link for The Belgian Chocolate Remedy – enjoy!




What’s one word that’s sure to grab people’s attention, make them perk up, and put a smile on their faces?
No, I don’t mean sex.  Chocolate!  Who doesn’t like… no, I mean LOVE chocolate? I can count on the fingers of one hand the people I know that don’t like this delicious treat, and have fingers left over! So, it’s pretty universal, this love of chocolate. And it isn’t a recent phenomenon. No indeed, it’s been around for a long long time!


Chocolate has been around the Americas for a good three thousand years. It was fermented and used in beverages to take away the bitterness of the cocoa bean.  The Aztecs called it xocolātl , from a Nahuatl word that meant ‘bitter water’.  They also ate chocolate, and used it in religious ceremonies.  Wow, what a great incentive to go to those, right?

It’s only appropriate to discuss chocolate during the holiday season because it makes such a great gift—not just for the people on your gift lists, but for yourself as a treat for running yourself ragged with holiday rituals—cleaning and cooking and shopping and wrapping and decorating, the whole nine yards!

There are different types of chocolate, and each is determined by the amounts of cocoa powder, chocolate liquor and sugar involved. 

Cocoa powder is for baking, and doesn’t taste good on its own. Unsweetened chocolate is also called baking chocolate or bitter chocolate.  It is pure chocolate liquor, made up solely of ground cocoa beans. It’s not meant to be eaten solo, but forms the base of the other chocolates, except for white chocolate.


Dark chocolate has  chocolate liquor, sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla and leicithin, with a cocoa content ranging from 30% to 70-80%. This category also includes bittersweet chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate.

Bittersweet chocolate has at least 35% cocoa solids; most contain at least 50% chocolate liquors, some as high as 70-80%. Since there is no regulation on the amount of sugar, the taste can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.

Semi-sweet chocolate contains at least 35% cocoa solids and is primarily an American term, popularized by Nestle and their Toll House morsels. Usually, it’s darker than sweet dark chocolate, but sweeter than bittersweet.

Sweet dark chocolate has a high percentage of sugar and is sweeter than other dark chocolates, and might have only 20-40% cocoa solids.


Milk chocolate, besides containing cocoa butter and chocolate liquor, must contain condensed milk or dry milk solids. While it’s easier to overheat, it’s a very popular type of chocolate and has a rich creamy taste and texture.

White chocolate has cocoa butter but no chocolate liquor or other cocoa products.  Not surprisingly, it has no actual chocolate taste, and may taste like vanilla. It must contain at least 20% cocoa butter, 14% milk solids, and no more than 55% sugar. If you see white chocolate that contains vegetable fats instead of cocoa butter, this isn’t really white chocolate, and won’t taste the same.
· 


I have a new release with Museit Up Publishing, my first with them. It’s just out today, actually and I’m excited to tell you about it. It’s called The Belgian Chocolate Remedy. There’s that chocolate theme again! 

Milan is my Belgian chocolatier. He and his brother Ludolf came to America, after Milan had studied hard in Europe to become a chocolatier, and they ended up settling in the Midwest, in a small town in Indiana. The plan was that Ludolf would help fix up the shop where Milan would make the chocolates, and they would make a good life for themselves. But life doesn’t always work out the way you want it to. On the other hand, there’s Jesse, who has no interest in his life since his boyfriend dumped him. He lives in St. Louis, but comes to Lafayette, Indiana, at his best friend Reggie’s request (read demand!). They’re going to help her friend Milan get his booth ready for Outfest. Has Reggie got something else in mind?

I hope you like the story, and it wouldn’t hurt to eat some chocolate while you read it, maybe drink some 
too!



Excerpt

Milan had gone back to his last batch of chocolate—unscathed and unburned—and removed it from the burner, where it was cooling. “Would you like to brush the molds with chocolate?” he asked.
“Sure, I guess.” Jesse shrugged. It didn’t seem that difficult, at least in theory. “What’s it for?”
“To coat them.” Milan pulled a pastry brush from a drawer. He already set the molds out; they were simply waiting to be used.  “I have some in the freezer already done,” he explained, seeing Jessie’s questioning look.  “This is not all I have.”
“Okay,” Jessie said, “just show me what you want me to do.”
“Here.” Milan carried the pot of chocolate to the center of the work table. “Set a trivet there, will you?”
“A what?”
“A trivet,” Milan repeated, nodding to the counter behind Jessie.  “That blue thing there. I will set the pot on it so it does not burn the surface.”
“Sure.” Jessie laid the round blue object onto the table, as Milan set the pot.  “Take the brush and dip it like this.” He demonstrated just how far into the chocolate he wanted him to go. “Then lightly brush over each mold, like so.”
Jesse admired the ease with which Milan worked, as if he’d been born to do nothing else. He had very nice hands, he noticed. How would those hands feel on Jesse’s cock? Would he touch it with the same care? His breath caught at the thought.
Milan offered the pastry brush to Jessie. He shook himself from his reverie and took it, pushing the forbidden image away. “So you’re selling these tomorrow. At Outfest. Right?”
“That is correct,” Milan replied. “You are coming, yes?”
“I am unless I want Reggie to tan my hide.”
Milan smiled.
“She would, you know,” Jesse continued, “You ever see her get mad?”
“Yes, I have,” Milan admitted, “I would not care to be the object of her anger.”
“Me either.”
“A little lighter, please.” Milan had been watching Jessie work. “Here.” He laid his hand over the other man’s. “Like this. Just enough to coat it. I will fill it in after we put in the fruit.”
Their eyes met and for a moment their hands stopped moving, each acutely aware of the other. Milan broke away first. “I will do this one,” he offered, “then we can do the first freeze.”
“First freeze?”
“Yes. We are forming a shell so it will hold the weight of the candy.”
“Okay.” Jesse thought it made sense, but what did he know. He dipped the brush into the chocolate again, making his strokes lighter, earning a “bon” from Milan. He knew enough French to know that meant good. He relaxed a little at the praise.
Once they had set the molds into the freezer, Milan removed the completed candies that waited there. He showed Jesse how to unmold them, and how to put them into their little paper beds, and into the waiting boxes. Then he let him apply the second coating himself.
“You are doing well,” he encouraged him.
“Thanks.”
A few minutes of companionable silence passed, Jesse concentrating on the task at hand, Milan stealing surreptitious peeks at the brunet. Whether he was willing to admit it to himself, he was glad for his company. Jesse’s presence was pushing the shadows away.
“Milan?”
“Yes, Jesse?”
“This is your place, right?” Jessie encompassed the kitchen with his glance. He couldn’t help but feel a lot of love had gone into making this room the place it was. More than a kitchen, it was Milan’s haven.
“It is, yes. Mine.”
“When are you going to open, then? Reggie said you were going to open your candy store after Outfest, right?”
Milan paused in the act of retrieving a container of raisins from the refrigerator. It was a legitimate question. It’s what businesspeople did—they opened for business. So why was he so hesitant to set a date? Maybe because he didn’t see it ever happening, without Ludolf’s guidance.?
“I do not know,” he mumbled, setting the bowl on the table, not meeting Jesse’s eyes. “There is work that needs to be done, construction work and…and licenses…and I do not know what, I mean I just do not know…”
Jesse reached out his hand without thinking, but Milan had already turned away. Jesse’s heart ached for the other man—he sounded so alone, so lost. Jesse wanted to gather him up in his arms, comfort him, soothe him, stop his tears, and end his pain. And yes, he wanted to get naked with him, too—to touch him, feel him, and lose himself in Milan. He wanted to taste his lips and take away his misery.
His feet moved, as though his thoughts had manifested themselves into action. His fingers brushed across the top of the table as he edged around it, toward Milan. He had no clear purpose he simply needed to be closer to him.
Milan was a few inches taller than Jesse, he discovered, as he came up behind him. Jesse’s lips were at about the level of Milan’s jaw, and he found it hard not to simply kiss him there, to stop his shoulders from shaking, to stem the tears he suspected were falling. He reached up his arms, wanting to hug Milan to him tightly, to take the first step—
The tinkle of the shop bell. Jesse retreated, stumbling back to his side of the table. In his haste, his hand knocked a spoon off the table. It clattered onto the floor. Milan spun around, dabbing at one eye with his right hand.  He left a small smear of chocolate on his cheekbone. Jesse bent to retrieve the spoon, resisting the urge to wipe the chocolate away. The moment passed; he felt like a coward.


My Links:

My Publishers:
Museit Up Publishing:  http://museituppublishing.com/







Wednesday, 26 December 2012

In the Arms of an Angel - The Deceiver



It's Boxing Day and I should be sitting with my feet up enjoying the rest of the Chocolates and Christmas television. However, the XBox cable is missing, we can't unscrew the bottom of the microscope, the cats got at the turkey and Assassin's Creed III won't update. Who says the world isn't ending!!!

In between disasters here is the long awaited next chunk of In the Arms of an Angel. My poorly computer is all better and working faster and more smoothly than it has since I first got it, so here we go. Bear in mind that this was written for the prompt two weeks ago, or was it three? Therefore this weeks promt was kind of stuffed in at the end. It was
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“I don’t know what you mean,” Gabri’el said, climbing to his feet. He looked hurt and confused. This time it wasn’t washing. Uzzi’el crossed his arms across his chest and narrowed his eyes.
“When did it happen, Gabri’el? When did you decide to betray me? Was it before we came here? Did you deliberately leave me in the hands of the enforcers? Did you orchestrate it?”
“Don’t be ridiculous. Of course I didn’t. I love you. You know I love you. Everyone knows I love you,” He swept his arm around the table like the showman he was.
“What about Pasha? You don’t love him. You’ve made that clear enough. Did it give you pleasure to hand him over to Micha’el? Did you discuss with him what drugs to use on Pasha to make sure you could manipulate our connection so they affected me too. You wouldn’t have left something like that to chance would you?”
“Uzzy, are you sure you’re feeling well? You’ve been so ill and you’re talking nonsense.”
“I haven’t been ill, Gabri’el and you know it. You’ve simply been manipulating me, and everyone else. I want to know one thing from you, that’s all. Just one thing.”
“What?” Gabri’el asked suspiciously.
“Where is he? Where is Pasha?”
“I don’t know anything about….”
“Don’t lie to me. You’ve been and done many things to me, but you’ve never directly lied. Give me a straight answer. Do you know where he is?”
“No.”
“But you know who has him.”
“You’re sick, Uzzy,” Gabriel said gently. “Your head’s not right. You can’t be feeling yourself or you wouldn’t say such things to me. I love you, Uzzy. I….”
“No, Gabri’el. You’re not going to squirm off the hook this time. This is my soulmate and I’m not compromising. Tell me what you know.”
“I don’t know anything. Uzzy, you’re paranoid, deluded, can’t you see that? You’re ill. You should lie down.” Gabri’el reached out to him and something snapped inside. Uzzi’el grabbed the arm, pulled, twisted and before he knew it Gabriel found himself with his back pressed against Uzzi’el, his arm twisted behind him and Uzzi’el’s arm around his throat, cutting off is air.
“I’m not a weakling and I’m not a fool. Once again, you underestimate me. You didn’t think I’d get free from the enforcers, did you? And it must have felt like your birthday when I went missing. I’m sure you were already in the process of taking my position, even then. It must have been frustrating when my friends insisted on searching for me before they’d mourn my death like you did. And then… what did I do? I came back. I spoiled your plans and to top it all I had a human mate. You hate humans, don’t you? You always have?
“This war isn’t about saving humanity, not for you. It isn’t about breaking the power of the Council to stop them meddling in human affairs, driving them to destruction. No, it’s about power. It’s always been about power. You couldn’t care less if Micha’el wiped out every human on the planet. In fact I’m sure it’s part of your plan that between you, you give it your best shot. Why share Earth with humanity when you can take it from them by force?
There were gasps from around the table and one or two people got to their feet.
“Uzzy,” Gabri’el said in an even, placating voice. “You’re obviously not well. You don’t know what you’re saying. Just let me go and….”
Uzzi’el tightened his grip. “Not a chance, sunshine. You’re not going to talk me into believing I’m deluded and I’m not going let you convince anyone else either. I’m not ill and I’m not confused. In fact, I’m clearer than I’ve been in ages. I see it now. It’s all one big game for you, isn’t it? The whole thing. Tell me—did you ever really care for me, even a little.”
Gabri’el laughed, and it wasn’t a nice one. “Care for you? Yeah, I guess so, in the way a human would care for a puppy. You’re soft and sweet and beautiful and so, so easy to manipulate. It was almost too easy, no challenge at all. You swallowed every line I fed you, like you were starving and you were a bloody good fuck, but you were never going to be in it for the long run.
“For the record, no, I didn’t sell you out to the enforcers but I can’t say I was too upset when they caught you. It suited my plans just fine.”
Intense pain stabbed into Uzzi’el’s heart with every word. “I knew it,” he said hoarsely, “I knew you left me. You let them take me, let them do those terrible things to me.” For a moment he felt overwhelmingly weak and Gabri’el seemed to sense it. He surged forward, intending to burst from Uzzi’el’s arms but Uzzi’el wasn’t that weak and all Gabri’el earned for himself was his shoulder almost yanked out of its socket.
“Never mind, Gabri’el, I’m back now. I’m sure it’s a relief to know I’m home and well again.”
“Yeah, I’m ecstatic,” Gabri’el ground out. Two warriors appeared at Uzzi’el’s elbow and he allowed them to take Gabri’el from his arms and bind him.
“Find out what he knows about Micha’el,” Uzzi’el said coldly. “I don’t care what you do to him to get the information.”
“But Uzzy….”
“Don’t call me that.” He turned his back as Gabri’el was dragged away, screaming abuse at him. He closed his ears and his heart. “Right, ladies and gentlemen, I think some damage limitation might be in order. And we have a rebellion to plan…properly.”
For a moment there was silence, then one of members of the council of war, a beautiful blonde in a red satin dress, raised her glass and said, in a velvet soft voice. “Well done Uzzy darling. I never did like that slimy toad."


And now go and check out the rest of this week's flashers who braved the desolation of Boxing Day to post for your delight



Monday, 24 December 2012

A Very Special Christmas Interview


A few days ago I had the great pleasure of interviewing Kia Zi Shiru, the author of one of my favourite books. Black Sheep. The first part of her trilogy has been released and now, as a special Christmas gift, I get to interview one of her characters. Vic is one of my favourite characters in all the books I've read and it's a real privilege to get to speak to him.



Hey Vic. I’ve been dying to speak to you for ages. You should know, you’re one of my favourite literary characters and I’ve been following your story for a long time.

Yeah, I heard from Kia you were a fan. She told me to be nice and answer all your questions. You must be really important, she doesn’t usually tell me what to do. So, let’s start.
·              It’s taken a long time for your story to get completely out there. Have there been points where you’ve become frustrated by the process?
I don’t know who has been more frustrated from time to time, me or Kia. Though I think Kia was the worst when Steve suddenly made himself really important in the story, that put her in a bad mood for a while.
On the other hand, yeah, of course there were points where I got frustrated. There have been things I’d rather have hidden from Kia but she can be really persistent and sometimes that meant that she wouldn’t stop bugging me until I told her.
·              When Kia started telling your story, were there any parts you really wished she wouldn’t tell?
Of course, and she did sometimes listen. Usually it was about Anne or Chris, or about him... Some parts were fine, but too much can be too much. Things that weren’t important to the story she allowed me to keep to myself, or at least she didn’t write down.
·              Right back at the very beginning what was the main things you wanted the world to know…about you, your family, your friends.
That we’re nothing special and that we’re not some charity case. We might not always have had it as good as some other people but that doesn’t make us some special case. From the outside we’re as normal as the people next door.
·              Looking back, do you think she told your story well?
As well as someone who is not me can write the story I think. Though she had a lot of help from Adam and Anne along the way. Those two sometimes helped her out more than I ever did. But over all I think she did well, especially how she told some of the darker things.
·              What were you like before your relationship with your ex, the one after Adam? Have you always been dark?
I think that would be a better question for Adam or Anne, but I don’t think I used to be ‘dark’. Then again, I’ve never been as light as Jack either, there have been things that happened even when I was still with Adam. Especially when we found out that Anne was pregnant or when we found out that Adam was chronically ill. Those weren’t the greatest of times.
But I don’t think I was that dark back then.
·              Do you think that anything positive came from your relationship and the experiences you had afterwards?
I don’t know. The only thing positive I can think of is Jack. Jack and dr West. Dr West really helped me after I had messed up. I think getting help from dr West really helped me when I finally got together with Jack, I don’t think I could have protected Jack as much if I hadn’t had help.
·              Is there anything you’d like to say to someone who’s going through an abusive relationship?
Get out of the relationship and seek help. Don’t do the stupid stuff I did, they’re not worth it. They’re not going to change unless you change, and it won’t get any better until you get help.
·              What was going through your mind leading up to your suicide attempt? Do you think there was anything anyone could have done in the time leading up to it that could have stopped it?
It might sound really silly but I think the only person who could have saved me was my ex. He was the only one I listened to back then. I couldn’t believe he chose some girl over me, I felt like I was no longer important to him and I didn’t know why I should go on living. Looking back on it I feel stupid and crazy. Though the second time around was different, I wasn’t in a good place and I couldn’t see how people could love me because I had hurt and was still hurting them so much. I’m ashamed of how bad people around me had it, all because of me.
·              Have you ever thought about what you’d like your funeral to be like?
Small. I want everybody to forget about the bad I’ve put them through and maybe remember I’m in a better place? I don’t really know, as long as they don’t spend extravagant money on me.
·              Have you ever thought about marriage? Children? Can you see yourself having children with Jack? Personally I think you’d be crazy if you did at this point, just wondering :p
If you think it’s crazy why do you ask it? *grins* I think it would be great if we could just finish high school and get to university, get away from this small town and go to a place where Jack and I can be ourselves.
·              Apart from black, what’s your favourite colour?
Neon yellow, I don’t know why, I just really like the colour. It’s so bright and combines well with black.
·         What’s your favourite song? Do you have a good voice?
Linkin Park - Numb
And I can’t sing for the life of me, I’m really really crappy at it. Anne even forbids me to sing in the shower and Anne is usually the tolerant one in our household.
·              Do you have any piercings or tattoos?
None, I’ve been thinking about it, but never dared to get one. I’m too scared of the pain, yes, ironic, I know. Someone who has no problem harming themselves would have a problem with tattoos or piercings, but I’m just not brave like that. Plus I don’t even know where I should get one.
·              What’s your favourite sex position?
Hmm, keeping that between myself and those that I choose to share a bed or more with. *winks*
·              Apart from your ex, have you ever had a sexual encounter you really really regret?
Well, apart from Adam and my ex, I haven’t been in such a position before. *blushes* I’m not as experienced as you seem to think.
·              What do you think would have happened if you and Adam had stayed together?
I have no clue. We might have been able to make it. I always like to think that we would have made it together and that I wouldn’t be such a mess now. On the other hand, I probably wouldn’t have met Jack either. Which would have been a shame since he is really adorable. I know he wouldn’t have had Tom and I don’t think I would be able to help Adam the way he needs with his illness. The needles and all the tests he needs to get are scary.

That is all? Well, thank you so much for having me here. These were some really interesting questions. I hope you got some answers  you like. *waves*


Wow. That was some interview. Thanks for being so honest, Vic. I hope a lot of people will buy Kia's book and get to know you better. 

Here's an excerpt from the book so you can get a flavour for what you can expect. This one is from the perspective of the other main character, Vic's boyfriend, Jack

Excerpt

The first time I saw Vic I was standing in the schoolyard. Marie was hanging around my neck and we were listening to music, like every morning since we started high school. Suddenly she squealed into my ear and out of reflex I started playfully choking her. That was... until someone cleared his throat near us. We stopped and turned around. I froze. There, right in front of me, was the most beautiful guy I had ever seen.
He had long black hair, piercing blue eyes, perfect round and pink lips. The black long-sleeved top he was wearing had chains which were attached to his black skater pants with even more chains on them. He was just damn sexy... He looked very confident even as the whole school was staring at him. He didn’t seem to care or notice at all.
“You squealed, madam?” He grunted but grinned and asked, “You know where room 304 is? I’m new here and need to be there for my first class. I’m Vic, by the way.”
“Uah! Addams Family reference!” Marie jumped up and down. “We’re going there too. I’m Marie and this is Jack.”
Vic looked me up and down and smiled.
“Nice. So I assume you’ll be helping me today?” He seemed to be talking to Marie but his eyes were on me.
“Sure!” Marie grabbed his arm and dragged him with her as she bounced into the school. Vic looked back at me with large eyes as if unsure what was going on, but I shrugged and smirked at him as I walked after them.
It was never boring after that. Marie kept going on and on about him, about how she liked him and how sweet he was. It was annoying, but heck, even I couldn’t get him out of my thoughts. He was just so... intriguing...


And just in case you've forgotten here's some information about the author and how to get this wonderful book


Kia Zi Shiru is a Dutch girl studying English and Creative Writing in the UK. Amongst her interests she finds writing, reading, doing research and learning different languages (including but not limited to: English, Dutch, French, German, HTML, Java, PHP and Assembly). Her writing and reading habits include books with Young Adults, gay themes, strong female or minority characters and fantasy elements (more often then not all at the same time).


Black Sheep: Letting go of the Past blurb:

Trying to rescue her son from a destructive environment, where the end of his last relationship almost ended in tragedy, Vic’s mother decides to move them all to a new town. Vic, glad at being able to start anew, takes the chance to create an image that would make his last two years of high school a lot easier.
But that plan is sabotaged when his new best friend, Jack, kisses him on New Year’s Eve, something Vic has been longing for and dreading in equal measure. Vic knows being gay in high school can be hell, and he’s scared sweet and innocent Jack won’t be able to handle him, or his past. It scares him more than anything now that his past has come back to haunt him, metaphorically and literally.
Vic tries to hide the horror of his past as long as possible, knowing that when Jack finds out what happened he will leave him.
As Vic takes a turn for the worse everybody but him realises how strong Jack and his love for Vic actually are. But is that enough for Vic to move on?





Friday, 21 December 2012

Black Sheep



Recently a good friend of mine, +Kia Zi Shiru published a story that has been in progress for five years.  I first came across Kia and Black Sheep on the Gay Authors forum and I was privileged to have the tiniest bit of input as a beta reader. I fell in love with the story there and then and have been a great fan of Kia, and of Black Sheep ever since.

Today, I am delighted to have Kia as a guest on my blog. It should have been days ago but my sick computer and sicker memory managed to put a spanner in the works. Anyway... here it is so read on. Enjoy

Author Interview


Hey Nephy, thank you soooo much for having me on your blog. I know this had been in the planning since somewhere May this year, but here I’m now to talk about Black Sheep, the story that you’ve been at my side for for the past three or four years. Damn, that is a long time… Anywhere, let’s start.
·              How did you first meet Vic?
I don’t actually know, I think it was when he was sitting behind his computer talking to Adam when he gets a call from the hospital about Jack. And that is all I can say about that first time I got to know him because even though the scene no longer exists in the series the topic of it is still the end of the second part of the trilogy.
·              Did he introduce himself as a readymade character or did you get to know him over a period of time?
Parts of him were ready made, like how he is still friends with Adam, who is his ex, and his strong love for Jack. But at the same time I had to get to know him. I had to know how they got into the situation to begin with. Though it didn’t take me too long to figure Vic out, he was pretty strong willed from the start. What was harder was to make him talk to me about the things that he rather hid. And even when writing the third novella he was able to surprise me.
·              Has Vic changed much since you first started writing him?
He has grown, he has grown a lot. But I think as in big changes, no, not a lot, though that might have a lot to do because I already knew where I was going towards, who he would be then influenced a lot of who he is at the start.
Though I think the biggest change he has gone through from then was that he has gotten more considerate of others, but that might have just been how he was naturally growing.
·              Did you always know Vic and Jack were made for each other?
Yes. I’ve always found that Jack’s perceived innocence fitted Vic very well and, honestly, Vic needed someone like Jack, someone who could help him without him ever realising it.
·              You deal with some pretty dark topics in Black Sheep, did you do much research and if so where? Did you talk to people who had those kinds of issues?
I did a lot of research, I talked to people, I read books and articles. I love doing research so this wasn’t something I was too scared about. Though most of the things that went into Black Sheep I’ve learned through years and years of research, it wasn’t just that I sat down for an afternoon and learned everything.
·              You like torturing your characters as much as I do. Can you point to any particular reason why?
Life is not pretty. That is mostly the reason. If you look at the main themes in the story you could probably find them within one classroom at later years of high school. Maybe not at the same intensity, but this is a book, it’s safer to deal with heavier subjects in more depth in a book than you can when you’d tell someone face to face or even what you could show in a movie. But why I like torturing Vic and all the other characters in Black Sheep like this? Because they can handle it. I know that in the end they can handle what I throw at them.
·              Did moving the UK chance your style of writing or the things you write about?
I don’t think the things I write about have changed, though since my English has improved so has my writing (or at least I’d like to think that ;) ). Plus, after completing NaNoWriMo for the first time in 2011 my writing speed has gone up quite a bit, which was fun. My style has changed as I’ve become more sure of my writing which has a lot to do with the feedback I’ve had at the university but also because I’ve simply spend a lot of time writing.
·              Have you ever had an abusive boyfriend like Vic? If so where is he buried.
Not like Vic, but I’ve had less then great relationships in the past. I think a lot of people have had bad relationships and that it can really change who someone is going in and coming out of the relationship.
·              What kind of music do you like listening to while you write (I really hope it’s one of those totally cute Japanese bands) Can you provide me with a link to put in here?
Sorry to disappoint you, but you’re gonna have to ask me this question again when I’m doing a blog tour for the Otherkin Spirit series. But for now I’ll leave you with a song from one of my fav bands. Sentenced and Linkin Park were important bands for me during the time I wrote Black Sheep. Linkin Park has some great songs, but it’s one song by Sentenced that always has me thinking of Black Sheep. I actually have the DVD of this concert, which is the final concert of them, and have listened to it a lot while writing Black Sheep. I chose the live version of it because I think it has more emotion. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QQ6RLXRxUYM
·              If you could see the characters in Black Sheep as colours, what colour would they be. Black is not allowed.
Ooh, this is hard. I don’t even know where to start. *thinks deeply*
Okay, let’s start at the beginning. Vic would be scarlet, not just because of his bad habit but also because he is so passionate about things he does. Jack would be purple, he is cuddly like that. Anne would be, hmmmm, I have no clue about her, maybe also purple but of a lighter tint. Adam of course is toxic green, he is hyper and overwhelming like that.
·              Do you think your writing style has changed over the 5 years you’ve been writing Black Sheep?
That is quite obvious, though it mainly has to do with that my English has improved a lot during writing Black Sheep, that I can not deny. I think style wise it is largely that I have become more comfortable within my own “no nonsense” writing style. I’m more about the story than about the descriptions and things like that. I used to be quite insecure about it but I’ve now come to a place where I know that I need to add some descriptions in some places but over all the reader is free to interpret things according to their own liking.
·              What have you learned about the process of writing from having written Black Sheep?
A lot, okay, okay… I learned proper formatting of a story, things like dialog , sentence and other things. Also, Black Sheep was the first story that I had to learn to work with an editor and things like that. Which was really scary. But I got through it and now you can read it as an ebook.

Thank you so much for having me here. I hope I answered all your questions well.
Cheers, Kia






Kia Zi Shiru is a Dutch girl studying English and Creative Writing in the UK. Amongst her interests she finds writing, reading, doing research and learning different languages (including but not limited to: English, Dutch, French, German, HTML, Java, PHP and Assembly). Her writing and reading habits include books with Young Adults, gay themes, strong female or minority characters and fantasy elements (more often then not all at the same time).

EXCERPT

“Vic?” Chris knocks on the door and enters. “Jack is here for you. He’s waiting downstairs. Need a minute or can he come up?”

“I’m okay. Just need to, y’know.” I pick up my shirt and put on my wristbands again.

The little devil takes two steps out of my room and yells, “Vic is jerking off, if you want to see him finish you need to be here quick!”

As I lunge for her I see Jack standing downstairs. My eyes go wide and my mouth goes dry.

“Sisters are fun, eh?” He smiles up at me and slowly starts walking up the stairs.

Oh my, oh my. I hide my face in Chris’ neck. This is so embarrassing. He looks so hot, his hair is styled straight, he’s wearing super-tight black jeans, a fishnet shirt and a black leather choker with studs on them. I 
wish I had been jerking off, I wouldn’t have this problem in my pants right now.

Chris giggles and escapes to her room. So I turn around quickly and walk inside mine to look for a way to 
disguise my ‘problem’.

“You coming?” I ask as I sit on the chair in front of the computer.

“Well, if you insist,” he drawls from the hall.

Is he flirting? Oh no, this is getting bad. Maybe he doesn’t even realize what kind of reaction my body is having to him right now. And if he does realize and keeps doing this, I might not be able to restrain myself for long.

He walks into my room and stops. “How are you feeling? You seem better.” He looks around and then decides to sit on the bed.

“I’m feeling okay, I guess. I just woke up.” I look around, trying not to pay too much attention to him.


BLACK SHEEP INFORMATION AND LINKS

Trying to rescue her son from a destructive environment, where the end of his last relationship almost ended in tragedy, Vic’s mother decides to move them all to a new town. Vic, glad at being able to start anew, takes the chance to create an image that would make his last two years of high school a lot easier
.
But that plan is sabotaged when his new best friend, Jack, kisses him on New Year’s Eve, something Vic has been longing for and dreading in equal measure. Vic knows being gay in high school can be hell, and he’s scared sweet and innocent Jack won’t be able to handle him, or his past. It scares him more than anything now that his past has come back to haunt him, metaphorically and literally.

Vic tries to hide the horror of his past as long as possible, knowing that when Jack finds out what happened he will leave him.

As Vic takes a turn for the worse everybody but him realises how strong Jack and his love for Vic actually are. But is that enough for Vic to move on?







Wednesday, 5 December 2012

In The Arms Of An Angel - Where Is He?




Here we go, and another Wednesday comes around. I put up the Christmas decorations yesterday and I'll sitting here with a hot water bottle on my back and the prospect of a day working in a hell hole before me. But, when I return, I will some glorious stories to read and the excitement of wondering if anyone has been kind enough to leave a comment on mine.

So this week I chose a picture prompt, although of course they're never prompts to me, I just find a way to fit them in afterwards :p


Darkness enfolded him. Deep darkness. The kind of darkness that breathes. Every now and again there were voices, snippets of conversation, bright pulses of light, pain, screams, the smell of burning, the touch silk, of flesh, of metal. But it always came back to the darkness. The thick, black, breathing darkness.
“Dammit Uzzi’el, will you please wake up.” Should he open his eyes? Part of him said he should and part of him didn’t have the energy to care. “Right. You asked for it.” There was a sudden brilliant flash of light that sent intense pain into his head and he screamed.
He became aware of someone, something close by. They were cursing and clucking, expletives spilling out in a torrent, accompanied by squawks and a clicking sound.
“Open your goddamn eyes, you lazy son of a bitch. I can’t believe you made me do that. You know I hate it when I have to do that. My feathers are singed. The least you could do is say thank you.”
“Fierro?”
“Who else, you stupid lump of stupid angel? Get your arse off that bed right now. You’ve a total disaster to stop.”
“What? What do you…?” Uzzi’el opened his eyes and looked around. He seemed to be in his own bed in his own room. He blinked again, his head still sore from the flash of light. “What was that?” he asked, rubbing his temple.
“I’m a phoenix, use your imagination,” Fierro snapped. “Now get up. Gabri’el’s about to make a monumental mistake.”
“Gabri’el? What do you mean?”
“Think about it. What’s the last thing you remember?”
“What do you mean?”
“Just think.”
Uzzi’el thought. “I was in a meeting with Gabri’el. We were talking about… about….” He sat up suddenly, almost knocking Fierro off his perch on the bed post. Into a new flurry of cursing he asked. “What happened?”
“I don’t know. I wasn’t there.”
“Don’t mess with me, Fierro, this is too important. What happened? Where’s Gabri’el? Where’s Pasha?”
Fierro squawked. “I won’t mess with, you shall I? Leave  you now, shall I? Obviously you don’t want….”
“Don’t,” Uzzi’el said, firmly grasping Fierro’s beak and holding it closed. Fiero squawked and fluffed his feathers, sending tiny bolts of electricity flying everywhere. Uzzi’el ignored them. “I don’t want any of your nonsense, Fierro. I just want answers. Understand?” A series of clicks and squawks burst from the ball of feathers and electricity in his hands. “Understand?”
After a roll of the eyes and a single squawk, Uzzi’el let go of the bird who hopped out of reach and clicked his beak in a highly offended way. “Could have broken by beak. All I asked for was a simple thank you.”
“Fierro. Where. Is. Gabri’el? Where. Is. Pasha?”
“Gabri’el is about to lead your army into war. He’s persuaded the generals it would be a good idea to mount an all out attack on Micha’el.”
“What? Is he crazy? Does he know what he’s doing?”
“Seems to.”
“But… why… why hasn’t anyone run this by me?”
“Because Gabri’el has told everyone you’re ill. He told us you collapsed in the meeting and you’ve been unconscious ever since.”
“What? How long?”
“Two days.”
“Two days?! Dammit, I have to go. I have to stop him.” He slipped off the bed and staggered, almost falling. His hands flew to his head. “Goddamit, what did he do to me?”
Fierro looked uncomfortable. “What?” Uzzi’el asked. “What do you know?”
“Um… It’s not exactly what he’s doing to you.”
“What? Fierro, my head feels like someone’s unscrewed the top and vomited into it. I’m in no mood for games and riddles.”
“Okay, I’ll make this simple for you. No one is doing anything to you. They’re doing it to Pasha.”
“What? Doing what to him?”
Fierro fluffed his feathers. “How would I know? I’m able to see inside Micha’el’s camp now?”
“Micha’el? Micha’el has Pasha? But how? Gabri’el was guarding him. He….” Uzzi’el stopped, his eyes flying wide. A horrible thought was gnawing its way to the surface of his mind, spitting acid as it came. “Gabri’el. He betrayed me….betrayed Pasha. He never did post guards.”
“I’m not saying he didn’t post guards, I’m just saying they might not have been keeping somrthing out.
“No, they were keeping Pasha in. But why? Has Gabri’el betrayed us all? Is he in league with Micha’el now?”
“Hell no.”
“But….he sold us out. He handed him Pasha.”
“Yes. Think. Why?”
“Because….” Uzzi’el thought deeply, working things out as he went. “Because he knew the generals wouldn’t follow him as long as I was here to lead them. When I…. When I got lost they wouldn’t listen to him, wouldn’t accept his authority but…but, with me here and… incapacitated….” He shook his head in disbelief. “And he knew he couldn’t do anything to me directly because the healers would be able to tell.”
“Dammit, the man’s a genius,” Fierro said, his voice filled with admiration. “I…I meant in a totally evil way, of course,” he added, shrinking back from Uzzi’el’s glare.
“Where is he?”
“In the main meeting room. They’re about to….”
“Like fuck they are.”
Everyone looked up when the doors of the meeting room flew open and crashed back against the walls. Uzzi’el strode along the side of the table, hearing mutters and sounds of astonishment from the men and women sitting around it. Some of them quickly snatched up one of the fine crystal glasses, filled with golden liquid, and took a long drink. When he reached Gabri’el, who was standing, he stopped.
“Uzzi’el?” Gabri’el said warmly. “I’m so glad to see you on your feet again. Are you feeling better?” He sounded so sincere and the hypocrisy sickened Uzzi’el. Before he quite knew what he was doing, he’d drawn back his hand and hit Gabri’el so hard he knocked him right off his feet.
“Where is he?” he said in a calm, even voice and the whole room held its breath.


Oh dear, what on earth are they doing to Pasha that makes Uzzy feel like someone is vomiting in his head? Maybe we'll find out next week.... or maybe not :)

Now go check out the other amazing writers who are kind enough to entertain you with their wonderful flashes

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Happy Anniversary Romance First Publishing.


It's hard to believe that RFP is a year old. RFP was the first unknown publisher to accept one of my stories and make it into a book. I was scared stiff but Steph, and at that time Julie, made it a wonderful experience for me.

Okay, we've had our ups and downs and some of the downs have been big ones, but that's the way with all business relationships I think.

But not all of it has been about business. I've made a good friend of Steph and we've gone on to write a whole series together. I'm not going to use this space to publisicze Upstaged but if you want to check out a character interview with my two favourite characters then check here




But on to the business of today. I have been lucky enough to corner Steph, busy lady as she is, for an interview. Hope you enjoy.


1. What made you decide to set up your own publishing company?

Essentially, I have always wanted to own my own business, always. Publishing seemed like a natural to me since I was an author already and knew a lot of the ins and outs. Obviously, I didn't know them all, far from it, but I wanted to strike out on my own and see if I could make it. I love owning a business and despite the hefty paperwork involved, especially in the set up, I wouldn't trade it for anything. 

2. How did you  and artist, Mika Star find each other to create such a killer combo of publisher and cover artist?

Luck! No, honestly. I knew Mika already via facebook and we'd chatted at length. She's done some other covers for me for my indie books, which I liked; so I gave her a shot at being my cover artist for RFP. I love her work, as do the authors...she does a great job! 

3.What attracted you to the books you've published for other writers?

Story is always key to me—always. I don't like instant relationships, where they meet and an hour later they're in bed. No. I like a good story with some history behind it; build up, drama - some action doesn't hurt either, then they can delve into the romantic parts of things. 

4. What kind of books are you looking to publish in the future?

Currently, I'm open to contemporary, cowboy, sci-fi, and fantasy. Also, paranormal have been huge sellers, as people eat up the vampires and werewolves voraciously! I plan on offering more of those, along with what I just listed. Any story will be considered though, as long as it fits the guidelines. 

5. What are your personal goals for RFP?

My goals are varied. Firstly I want to get a website up and running so the books can be sold directly. Also, I'd like to have more cover artists, and have merchandising available – bookmarks, tees, things of that nature. I'd also love to offer paperbacks, but demand is pretty low for those right now (everyone has an e-readers it seems). 


6. What has been the most/least rewarding thing about running your own publishing company.

The most rewarding things have been running and managing my own company, and seeing such wonderful authors come on board and be pleased with the experience they've had. 

The least rewarding things were tussles and scuffles with electronic file creation, publicizing the company and its authors, and niggles such as cover issues, editing, etc. 

7. looking back over the last 12 months, what do you think are your:

·    greatest triumph... was getting my first book signed (which was yours I believe)!
·    greatest challenge... was finding enough time to promote the books 
·    proudest moment... was when an author hit the bestsellers list for the 1st time.
·    most frightening moment... hmmm, frightening? When I didn't place a book for sale on the date promised and it was a mad scramble to get it uploaded.

8. What do you offer to new authors looking to sub a book to RFP?

I offer an open mind, a good timescale for turnaround, and a fair royalty rate. I read everything that's received personally, and if it’s not accepted, I give specific reasons as to why and the chance to edit it and sub it again. I will always be fair-minded and willing to work with any changes.

9.  What projects/plans do you have for the next 12 months?

My major project has to be setting up the website. This will be key for increasing our presence, improving and controlling sales. I think this will be key in attracting more authors and helping those who already work with RFP.

Another project would be to look at ways of promoting and publicizing the company and its authors. For example, I’d like to acquire some merchandise, to be used in contests, giveaways  etc. I like the idea of key rings with my logo on them dangling from purses and pocket chains all over the place.

An ongoing project, of course, is signing more authors and promoting those we already have.

Finally, I would like to find more cover artists. Although Mika is a gem and very talented I would like to offer my artists a range of styles to suite their own personal needs. 

10 Where do you see RFP in five  years time?

Wow, that's a long time from now. The market is so fluid right now it's tough to tell, but I hope I'll have a bigger presence in the publishing world, with at least 50 books on the site, and a bigger staff to assist me. 

11 Where do you see yourself in five years time?

Frankly, I have no idea. I'll be older, and hopefully wiser, and in our dream house at long last. Career-wise it’s my dream that RFP will have grown and become successful enough to support me, and possibly my staff and authors, although that might be more a 15 year dream.  

12. There have been those who have criticized you for being unprofessional and unqualified for what you do. What do you have to say to those people and to others who might be in a position where they have the opportunity to realise a dream but are concerned about those who will knock them just because they can?

There are always people who will criticize you for everything you do, good or bad. I know it was a risk, but it was a dream and goal of mine, and I made it happen. I’ve put my heart and soul into RFP, to make it the best publishing company it can be. I know it’s small and it could be more professional but, at the moment I’m just one woman doing the best she can with the resources she has.

Of course it could be better. With a team of professionals and sufficient resources, it could compete with the big publishing houses, but I don’t have that. What I do have is a small team of committed editors, artist and authors who are as committed as I am to making RFP a success.
It’s unfair to judge on what can’t be achieved and I would prefer to be judged on what has been achieved. I truly believe that, with more hard work and the trust put into the company by its current authors and new writers who are prepared to take the chance and be part of something new and exciting, then one day I hope that we will be able to offer than level of service.

There might be many more publishers out there who can offer more expertise and resources but there are few who can offer more enthusiasm, commitment and desire to do whatever we can to make sure each and every one of our authors succeed.

To those who are afraid or timid about pursuing their goals I say— dare to do it. I did that in 2007 and it kick started what I'd written into an actual published book for the first time. I'd realized my dream as an author, and it started me on the path of writing many more and finding wonderful fellow authors, editors, artists, etc...and dozens of wonderful fans too! Don't ever give up on your dreams. Time and life are short. Dare yourself to live it. 

13 Anything else you want us to know about RFP Or Steph Danielson?

I might be a new kid on the block, but I've been around for a year, RFP has great helpers and we're just getting started. I invite wannabe authors to put their stories together and sub them; who knows, you might have a bestseller and not even know it!







Thank you Steph, that was a very enlightening interview. To find out more about RFP and the wonderful authors who find a home there, go to Romance First. They have all kinds of things going on there at the moment...sales, competition, giveaways. Take a look and see what all the fuss is about.

I am also pleased to introduce one of RFP's wonderful writers, Donna McIntosh

And to celebrate our birthday please take a look at All Romance Books where you can find a book by pretty much all of us for the grand old sum of nothing at all. 

YES FREE BOOKS FOR ALL