Guest Blogging! Stop By and Win

I’m guest blogging at Book Wenches today about my new release, Relentless Passion and the sad, tawdry, comical inspiration behind it.

Please – Stop By and comment for a chance to win a bottle of Limoncello – this features heavily in the book!

http://www.bookwenches.com/gblogajllewellyn.htm

Aloha oe,

A.J.

Vagabond Heart

 

By A.J. Llewellyn

I know I’m a prolific author but Vagabond Heart, my latest release for Total-e-Bound, has been waiting in the wings to come out this week and really is one of my favorite books – it has been a passion project since I got the idea. It’s also quite a departure for me.
This story, of a gay make prostitute working in Honolulu during WWII came to me after I saw a riveting documentary on TV: Sex in World War II: The Pacific Front, in which the lives of 200 women who lived and worked as prostitutes in Hotel Street, Honolulu, servicing US servicemen were depicted.
I’m an insomniac (just by the by) and caught this program at 3am one cold winter day. I kept calling my own voicemail, leaving myself messages since I was too tired to get up and grab a pen and paper and had no DVR at the time.
The details of these women’s lives staggered me. I could not BELIEVE that each one serviced at a minimum of 100 men a day, each, and that each man was given three minutes of time for three bucks. They were called Three Minute Men.
Apart from being working girls, these women virtually lived like nuns. They weren’t allowed to go out to bars, restaurants, Waikiki beach, couldn’t ride a bicycle (!!) or a street car. They couldn’t ride in – or own a car. They weren’t allowed to own a bank account OR send their money back home to the mainland.
Phew.
And the US military put them to take care of the men…but nobody really took care of them. Some women lasted only a few months. Rule-breakers or those crushed by the business, were shipped right back to the mainland and fresh workers would be shipped to the islands.
Of course, as I watched all this, my mind flew to the possibilities of…what if a man serviced the gay servicemen streaming in and out of Honolulu?
Every person I started talking to about the idea was haunted by these 200 women. Of course, I did a lot of research and the book took on a life of its own. In all my research I learned that there was a man dressed as a woman servicing some men – a WWII transvestite! – but I remain convinced somebody was secretly servicing men.
My character, Tinder McCartney, gripped my heart and wouldn’t let go. I’m thrilled my editor at Total eBound loved the character and the book and Vagabond Heart is the first in a three-book series called Pearl Harbor.
A month ago, I returned to Honolulu and spent time on Hotel Street to complete my research. Some of the hotels still exist, but most don’t. I was shocked how run down it was and it saddened me. I had my map of the Chinatown neighborhood from way back then with the hotels all listed. Almost all are gone. I also have photos and could visualize exactly where all those sailors lined up to “climb the stairs” to visit their favorite girls as they drank imitation gin, nursed fresh tattoos from the numerous parlors on Hotel Street.
Ironically, a few tattoo parlors remain.
Some people in Honolulu are ashamed of this particular piece of history and I think this is why Hotel Street is a shocking dump today. I don’t see this chapter of US military life as shameful. I think it needs to be told.
These 200 women were the first sexual experience most of these young soldiers had. From the oral histories of two of the men who went to them, I’ve learned that the women were often maternal and caring and when they could, talked to the boys…some of whom died in battle soon after.
When Pearl Harbor was bombed, these ladies of Hotel Street gave up their beds to injured men and worked side by side with the nurses in the hospitals, tending the sick.
I think they were quite heroic.
I read “Honolulu Harlot”, the autobiography of Jean O’Hara Hotel Street’s most famous sex worker and I must admit I adore her. She once got beaten up by the local cops who kicked her teeth in. She defied all the rules and bought a car and wound up in the poky.
And yet, she cared about the men and provided a service.
I’ve interviewed so many people who were in the islands then and wish I could have talked to her but her book tells quite a tale.
Jean O’Hara disappeared a couple of years after Pearl Harbor was attacked. I wonder where she is and hope she’s happy, rich and loved. I also wonder how she survived the damage down to her own…Vagabond Heart.

http://www.total-e-bound.com/product.asp?strParents=&CAT_ID=&P_ID=982

Aloha oe,

A.J.

Banpaia

 

By A.J. Llewellyn

Ever since I was a kid, I loved being told stories. My mother became very ill when I was five and spent most of her time in and out of hospital. She died when I was six and my dad, God bless him, was not the kind of guy to open the big book of fairy tales on my shelf and read me one of my favorite stories. I used to hold the book and look at the pictures, picking out favorite lines, but I began to re-imagine the stories and of course, I was always the hero in them.
I got into tons of trouble, but no matter how tough things got, I had a happy ending. I always lived happily ever after.
I guess this constant fantasy world was the genesis of my writing. I still love and believe in fairy tales. Several months ago, I went to LA’s Chinatown for the New Year celebration. I spotted a guy who was very handsome. A tall, slim, sexy Asian guy dressed in black, I wondered if he was a priest, a cop…or even a vampire.
It was an unusual evening. Unusually chilly. I decided he was a vampire since he was acting so mysterious. I followed him through the strange mist that swirled over Hill Street.
There were people all around, but it seemed to me, it was just me and him.
The red lanterns that hang high over the old Chinatown community cast an eerie red glow over everything.
Chinatown in LA is a melting pot of Asian cultures. Japanese, Chinese and Korean communities fuse, with not always the greatest of ease.
I followed the handsome man and started constructing my own fairytale.
Soon, I’d given up the physical chase and I went home to write. I called my partner and frequent co-author D.J. Manly and told him my idea for a story I wanted to call Banpaia – Japanese for vampire.
I went to work, feverishly, and quickly sent a note to our cover artist Angela Waters at eXtasy books. I told her what I wanted.
Like the idea for the story, my cover art request was unorthodox.
Angie slipped right into my dreamworld and gave us one of my favorite covers of all time – with the red Chinatown lanterns in there too.
When it came time for D.J. to write his sections of the book, I couldn’t have been more pleased and also, more intrigued. He too, had somehow stepped into the dream and followed the handsome Asian man. What he wrote was more exquisite than usual.
We spent a long time talking about Banpaia and the haunting man who dominates it. It was unusual for us, because we have such a strong symbiosis we don;t often have to talk about the work. It’s there on the page, but then, this whole experience has been beyond magical.
I wish every book was like this.
D.J.’s input was invaluable. In fact, thanks to him, the ending begs a sequel. Though the first book comes out in three days and was finished several weeks ago, in dreams, the vampire beckons me to follow.
And I will, once again, turning the pages of the big book in my mind…following the lanterns, the swirl of mist…haunted by the stranger’s smile. Hunted by the man they call Banpaia.

Aloha oe,
A.J.

Crazy Business

Crazy love. We’ve all experienced it…I think. I’ve mentioned before I’ve experienced my own demented moments in love…but how about a crazy friendship? And how about crazy business? Have you ever done anything utterly crazy in a friendship or in the course of conducting business?
I don’t know about you about I’ve had my fair share of lapses in dealing with people but there are lines I would draw in any transaction. For example, how dumb do you have to be to trust a complete stranger with your body AFTER you’ve had a heated argument?
There is news out of Australia that a guy went to a tattoo artist and they argued. He wanted a dragon on his back and the artist complied. The guy went home and showed off the tattoo to his roommate and learned to his horror that he didn’t have a dragon tattoo but a giant, 15 inch penis! And to add insult to injury there is also a misspelled gay slur on his back.
Here’s the link to the article:
http://tinyurl.com/34odt6m
I have to say as an outsider it’s hilarious. I have no idea what the tattoo artist was thinking. Surely he knew he’d wind up in legal trouble but that must have been some argument to risk criminal charges, which he now faces.
Have you ever done anything crazy in business or friendship?
I think the craziest thing I did – and it still shames me to remember it – was the time I was asked to give a well-known actor some feedback on a screenplay he wrote. Now, this is my day job and the guy knew this which was why he solicited my advice. He didn’t offer me money. I guess he thought he was doing ME the favor. Anyway, I made the colossal mistake of telling him the truth. I’m still not sure I was completely wrong in being honest in telling him his screenplay sucked, but I’ve learned that experience, like a 15 inch tattoo on your back teaches you some life lessons in craziness.
How about you? How crazy have you gotten? Please leave a comment and the best one gets a free ebook from me!
Aloha oe,

A.J.

Ala Moana – In Paradise

I’m in Honolulu and as I write this blog, I am halfway through the final galley edit of my book “Xu” which publishes at Amber Quill Press on November 17. 5 days!
It’s fitting that I am here since this where I set my story, many of my stories in fact.
I’ve been filled with nostalgia since my moment of arrival on island (as the locals put it). Driving along Nimitz Highway from the airport, I passed River Street, the Chinatown stomping ground for my character Jimmy Thunder from “A Vampire in Waikiki”.
I can feel Jimmy and Tem flying around and I like to think my two favorite vampires are guarding the island.
I swear I can feel the spirit of Detective Jardine, the 1950s homicide cop who protected and patrolled Chinatown. Other people tell me the same thing.
I passed the shipping terminal where Matt and Thomas took the Superferry to Maui in the “Black Point” books. This has especially filled me with sadness since the ferry (a wonderful invention) has since been abolished due to alleged water pollution.
I tried to have lunch at the (thinly disguised) Zippys at Ala Moana Mall where Katie finds a job – and magical help via Kimo and Lopaka in “My Hawaiian Song of Love” but it was closed for renovations.
Almost all my characters wind up at Duke’s for mai tais and macadamia wantons…of course, I toasted them all there as I sipped my cocktail and watched the ocean in front of me yesterday.
I feel all my characters around me, whirling in my mind…and none more than Lindo Santiago, the leading man in my new book, Xu.
Yes, Honolulu is my mental playground but it was to me the perfect setting for the story of a closeted gay boxer who is forced to abandon a career he loves when he almost dies as the result of a beating in the ring.
He takes his first vacation – to Honolulu. It’s here that I feel him and “Xu” (pronounced Zoo) the powerful, dynamic, mysterious man who saves him.
Last night, my companions walked along Kalakaua Avenue and we watched the people parade. The freak flags were flying high. I see a disturbing rise in homeless people begging on the street. Their encampment, near the ocean is over a mile long and I saw the fear and revulsion on some tourists’ faces.
It reminds me of Santa Monica 10 years ago.
It isn’t supposed to be like this here. One man asked me for 50 cents. What in the heck can you buy with 50 cents?
My niece stopped to pet “Lani the Friendly Guinea Pig” and we paid a buck for that. To me it smacked of exploitation but as Eleanna pointed out, Lani’s grass skirt and floral hat were immaculate and the pig herself looks very well fed. But still…I know the police are asking many homeless people if they would like to go home. Almost all of them were sent here via one way tickets from jails up and down the Pacific northwest coast on the mainland.
Some have accepted the offers, some resist. Maybe, like Lindo Santiago, they are certain that somehow, some way, love and miracles will find them. Ala Moana – In Paradise.
What about you? Is there a place for you that is life-changing? Please leave a comment and the best one will win a copy of “Xu” when it publishes!
Aloha oe,

A.J.

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