Playing Nicely Together


Current mood:  blissful
Category: Writing and Poetry

One of the questions I’m often asked by readers is how does a collaboration work between two writers living far apart?

I have been extraordinarily lucky that D.J. Manly first contacted me 19 months ago and asked me if I wanted to collaborate. I’d always seen myself as a lone wolf – and so did D.J. – but he had an idea and sent me the first few chapters via email. I loved it.

I’ve said this before so I am not telling tales out of school, but D.J.’s idea of two romance writers meeting over the Internet and falling in love just grabbed me.

He wrote the chapters from Thomas’ point of view and his growing feelings for Marcus.

As I read the pages, I realized I’d be writing from Marcus’ POV.

I emailed D.J. saying I couldn’t get into the name Marcus, would he mind if I changed it to Matt.

He didn’t mind at all and I jumped all over the story that became Black Point. The funny thing is, I’ve sat in rooms with people and had difficult collaborations, but not this time.

A friend of mine is an author and approached me to write a book with her. She had a wonderful idea but presented me with sloppily-written pages and inserted A.J. – SEX SCENE NEEDED HERE.

I don’t write like that. Neither does D.J. Thank God.

The sex scenes must be organic to the work, I think.

She also freaked when I did write the first sex scene – a blow job. She thought it was dirty.

I knew right away we couldn’t work together. It saved our friendship and our sanity.

To write in any genre, it’s important that you both have a love for it. If one author is squeamish about explicit sex, you are doomed to failure.

Trust me on that.

If one of you has trouble writing and the other keeps pulling the wagon, ditto, as Patrick Swayze was fond of saying in Ghost.

Oh, D.J. and I didn’t always agree, but it was one point we argued and D.J. turned out to be right. I think the success of any collaboration lies in trust.

At some point, one of you is gonna jump the shark. So somebody has to be unafraid to paddle the canoe back to the right pool of water. Sometimes it’s me, sometimes it’s D.J. To be honest, it doesn’t happen much with us, because we seem to be so in tune.

I trust D.J.’s heart and his mind. He loves the characters we have created as much as I do. As we wrap up the final work on our 15th book together, Blood Eclipse 4: Apocalypse, I find it hard to do anything except think about Rory, Carden, Dennis and Thiago.

We have become so comfortable writing together now, our styles blend so well even our editor can’t tell who wrote what. Neither can many of our readers.

I think this is the sign of a successful series. I’ve had conversations with other authors about their collaborations and from what I see I am lucky. Some collaborations become volatile and painful. I feel especially lucky because I now also have a fantastic partnership with Stephani Hecht.

We have the same wonderful discussions, nutting out ideas, leaving each other to float and dream and when sharks approach, we yell, “Ahoy!”

As D.J. and I wind up work on Apocalypse, I feel a sense of sadness saying goodbye to our characters. This is our last book in this particular series but D.J. and I have many more lined up. It’s just so hard to say goodbye.

I think this is a good sign though, that the characters cling to me, and I to them. We play so nicely together.

Aloha oe,

A.J.

Currently listening:
Heart Full of Wine/Chocolates & Cigarettes
By Angus & Julia Stone
Release date: 2007-03-19

For the Love of Sean

Current mood:  chipper
Category: News and Politics

I love children and the nieces, nephews and assorted godchildren I have in my life are very important to me. As an author, they have inspired both Baby Kimo and the twins Kamaha and Keli’i in the Phantom Lover books (13 and counting). My niece is the model for Baby Daphne in the Black Point books I co-author with D.J. Manly.
When D.J. first suggested that our red-hot Black Point husbands Thomas and Matt should have their own child, I was all over the idea. However, I felt there should be a tug of war with the surrogate mom, an idea D.J. ran with.
I’ve seen this situation happen over and over again with friends where surrogate mothers and even sperm-donor dads have fought for custody rights.
Watching the dreadful circus that unfolded in Rio de Janeiro this morning with the long custody battle over 9-year old Sean Goldman, I realized how lucky Kimo and Lopaka were that they managed to get custody of their son Baby Kimo pretty easily. But that’s fiction.
If you haven’t been following this case the bare facts are this: A Brazilian woman, Bruna Bianchi married New Jersey resident David Goldman. They had a son, Sean. When Sean was four, she took an alleged two-week vacation to Brazil with her son.
And never came back.
She divorced Goldman, married another man and fought, with her powerful attorney husband Joao Paulo Lins e Silva, any efforts her former husband made to even see his son.
For five years, David Goldman has petitioned the courts for visitation and for a custody order to be enforced. And then Bianchi died in childbirth.
Up until the last month, this drama has played out privately. Like many custody battles, the details are shocking and cruel.
Both Bianchi’s mother and her widower fought Sean’s return to his father until they ran out of options this week.
What disturbed me today was how some newshounds supported the family that abducted Sean Goldman and kept his father from even seeing him for 5 long years.
In my Phantom Lover books. Kimo has magical powers. He was able to fight wrong with the help of his ancestors.
David Goldman isn’t so lucky.
It isn’t the first time a high-profile US child abduction case has hit international headlines (remember Elian Gonzalez?) but what disturbed me in this emotional tug-of-war was how the Brazilian family who profess to love Sean Goldman behaved this morning.
Forced by the courts to return Sean to his father, Lins e Silva, who has been able to use his legal and financial clout to prevent David Goldman from having contact with his son – in spite of several Brazilian court rulings in Goldman’s favor – chose to parade the child he claims to love through the streets, the boy crying and frightened all the way to the US Embassy.
I’ve read all the reports and watched extensive coverage of this case and it is clear that if Joao Paulo Lins e Silva truly loved his dead wife’s little boy, he would never have put him through such public trauma.
He was given much more private means of returning Sean. In the end, it is apparent that his motives are not for the love of Sean, but for the love of winning.
In spite all the hoopla, New Jersey rep Chris Smith who has helped David Goldman in his quest for justice since the beginning and was present this morning when they were reunited, said that once Sean was over his terror of the crowds, he and his dad were thrilled to be together.
“They were calm, smiling, they started talking about basketball.”
Smith was also present the first and last time David Goldman got to see his son in February and said that visit too, showed the father and son adored each other.
I am certain that once the dust settles and Sean is comfortable and safe, David Goldman will allow Sean’s maternal grandma to see the boy again.
All of this heartache – on both sides – could have been avoided if the child hadn’t been stolen in the first place.
I feel strongly that David Goldman should not have just forgotten his kid or given up on him as some in the media suggest. He loves his son and the photos of them together from five years ago show a loving bond.
This is a story of love and I for one, am impressed that David Goldman never gave up on his kid like so many dads do. He is no deadbeat. He hasn’t moved on and fathered a bunch of other kids by a bunch of other women.
He is a man who loves his son.
I hope they get to cement that bond in peace and without further interference from the family in Brazil. I heard this morning that they don’t plan to contest this arrangement anymore.
Perhaps they have finally woken up and realized their only resource is to make peace with the man they denied for so long.
I am not sure how merry this Christmas will be for either side, but I think Sean’s return to the father who loves him devotedly might just mean that for him, it is a very happy day indeed.
What do you think?
Aloha oe,

A.J.

Currently listening:
Diva Series
By Blossom Dearie
Release date: 2003-05-20

Chestnuts Roasting on an Open…Eye


Current mood:  bouncy
Category: Writing and Poetry

I’ve encountered an unusual problem this holiday season. Playing host to my family (sixteen people) is both a pleasure…and a pain. I’ve discovered it’s impossible to write with children in the house.
I was in the middle of writing a big sex scene when my niece sidled up to me.
“Whatcha doin’?”
I quickly closed the file. Dammit. The scene was really hot, too.
I have no idea how my married friends with children manage to produce anything.
Being used to being single and juggling nothing but my day job now appears to me to be a complete luxury. I resorted to bribery and corruption to buying some writing time. I promised my cousin Chris and his gorgeous husband Tracy that I would look after the kids for the evening if they gave me the afternoon to write.
“Did you just call me gorgeous?” Tracy asked. “Of course you can have free time.”
I went to my bedroom on the pretext of taking a nap, but the kids could hear me typing and they wanted me to watch A Christmas Story with them.
For the tenth time since we arrived a few days ago.
So I left the house.
The trouble with paradise is that once I leave my mountaintop retreat, I’m in Waikiki. Not quiet. No sir. I couldn’t find a coffee shop where anybody would leave me in peace. I had three strangers at my table at the Starbucks down by Diamond Head and I quickly gave up.
I tried a sheltered beach table on the boardwalk at Waikiki and a bunch of stoners arrived, getting high and generally making a nuisance of themselves.
I moved on. I finally found an outdoor table at the Diamond Cove cafe. Two Scottish girls arrived, playing the fiddle at the table beside me. Yes, they were wonderful but the jitterbugging that ensued made it awfully hard to write.
Yes, I just couldn’t sit down. My feet just wanted to dance.
I went back home, hid my car down the bottom of the hill, sneaked past the kiawe trees that line my property and sat in my garden. I watched nature in her finest and opened up my laptop.
A little voice piped up beside me.
“Whatcha doin’”
“I’m roasting chestnuts with you,” I said, making my niece scream with joy.
We have become obsessed with chestnuts this Christmas…don’t ask me why and I arrived on island prepared with a recipe I downloaded on the mainland.
We made a nice barbecue and followed the instructions.
We washed our chestnuts (all carefully selected and inspected for mold at the grocery store), dried them, salted them and put them on the grill.
Christmas carols wafted from the house.
“I’m making eggnog,” Tracy shouted from the house.
The kids danced around as the chestnuts started to roast.
One popped open and flew up, hitting me in the eye. I danced around in agony and after a while the pain subsided and I realized the gods and goddesses of writers everywhere were making me see the bigger picture.
I will always have deadlines – and I am grateful for them – but I won’t always have the children in my life at the ages they are at when they yearn to be with me, who want to know what I am doing. Who really, truly, want my time.
Deadline, Schmeadline. We’re going to Chinatown to hunt for the freshest chestnuts today and we’re going to try again.
The ones we roasted yesterday were old and moldy and tasted like…nothing. Our online research indicates Chinese chestnuts are the best.
My nieces are ready. I am ready.
This will indeed, be a Christmas to remember.

Aloha oe,

A.J.

Currently listening:
Kimo’s Hawaiian Slack Key Christmas
By Jim “Kimo”West
Release date: 2008-10-01

Once in a Blue Moon…

Current mood:  adventurous
Category: Writing and Poetry

 

A little over a year ago, I went to meet my editor Heather, who is a huge Sherrilyn Kenyon fan when she came to Los Angeles to attend Sherrilyn’s book signing. It seemed a great time to finally meet the woman with whom I had wrestled over edits of my literary babies. She came armed with friends, I supposed, in case I punched her lights out, but a real friendship was forged over pie and coffee.

I formed my strongest and truly cherished friendship with Heather’s sister-in-law Rosie, who not only reads all my books but has a true understanding of story. We have spent many hours over dinner and lunch together since then discussing stories – not just mine, but her observations are always acute – and one rainy afternoon, she’d just bought my book Hanalei Moon and told me that she loved it.

It was a non-series book and one of which I was proud, because the idea came to me many years ago. The premise was this: a world champion surfer takes his dog to the beach for a surf after an argument with his boyfriend. He wipes out badly, comes back to the surface after fighting the ocean for survival.

His dog, his car keys and his car are all gone. Gaby soon finds out these are the least of his worries…he has somehow, inexplicably lost 12 years of his life.

I loved writing this paranormal, erotic, romantic adventure and Rosie, who is a great critic as well as a fan of M/M stories suggested a sequel.

“Why don’t you make Gaby wipe out again and he finds himself back at the starting point, 12 years ago, knowing everything that he knows now?”

Wow.

I could hardly concentrate on my mother lode chocolate cake after that. My brain was firing with ideas.

In truth, the sequel, Blue Moon, which came out today is a much better book than Hanalei Moon. As I cross-referenced the original in writing the sequel, I saw so many places where the original could have been so much better. I wrote it over a year ago and like to think I have improved since then. But I also think, giving a character I love the chance to go back and love his dog, his mother, to maybe prevent his best friend’s battle with cancer…and to reunite with the love of his life kept me on the edge of my seat as I wrote.

I feel it’s a stand-alone title in spite of being a sequel, but I also feel I got to address some issues I often think about – that maybe we ALL think about. Can we change the future? Can Gaby, who jumps back 12 years change the things he knows will happen?

Would anyone listen if he told them JFK’s plane would crash or that terrorists will fly planes right into the World Trade Center towers?

Once in a blue moon, writers have conversations that inspire better work and better stories and I will forever be grateful that I battled the rain one afternoon to drive all the way to Valencia to have lunch with my lovely Rosie.

She gave me so much to think about and I hope, a book my readers will enjoy.

Aloha oe,

A.J.

Currently listening:
Ki Ho’alu Christmas: Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar
By Keola Beamer;Ledward Kaapana;Moses Kahumoku;Cyril Pahinui;James “Bla”Pahinui;Barney Isaacs & George Kuo;Dennis Kamakahi;Ozzie Kotani;George Kahumoku;George Kuo;Cindy Combs;Joanie Komatsu
Release date: 1996-09-19

Happy Sexy Books

Current mood:  bouncy
Category: Writing and Poetry

I had an awesome Thanksgiving, meeting a bunch of wonderful people through my friend Ruth’s family. I was astonished at the warmth and generosity of those around her, not to mention the incredible tasty food.’
I made an Australian pavlova which I think everyone enjoyed but of course, I had to sample all the other desserts on the table, you know, just to be polite. I was thrilled also to meet the fascinating women in Ruth’s life. Her cousins are well traveled and had astonishing experiences in Italy this year that beg for space in a book or a movie.
I was also pleased to meet another published author at the table, mystery novelist Joseph Steven.
His wife Marisa, a wonderful woman, gave me an idea for a new book based on an experience they shared thirty years ago.I told Joseph he was so kind to lend me his muse and he smiled. Marisa is supportive and encouraging of all his ideas and right now Joseph is working on his fourth novel which sounds amazing.
We talked for a long time and I came home all fired up to work on my new book. I am planning on an April 15 release for it.
I sat working on the idea all excited by the research I found online. I had the biggest smile on my face when I took my dog for a walk around midnight and ran into one of my old Russian neighbors in the courtyard.
It’s funny how you can find yourself on a similar schedule as people you share space with. I see him early in the morning and if I walk my dog after midnight, I run into him again.Last night, he was rugged up like he was heading for snow and he greeted me under the lamppost. He’s a fascinating man who always seems to be cooking meat and onions judging by the smells wafting from his condo.
Last night he told me, he’d cooked for sixteen people.I saw the joy in his face when he talked of his whole family coming together for the first time in twelve years.”I never thought it would happen,” he said. “I am so happy.”
“Were there any arguments?” I asked.
He laughed as we walked down the street.
“Of course. It would be a holiday without arguments.” He always walks with a big stick and suddenly withdrew it from the inside of his coat and held it in his hand.”I know you’re a writer,” he said. “My daughter is a writer. What kind of books you write?”
Everyone in my building asks me this and I am always afraid of shocking the older people. Especially ones carrying big sticks.
I took a deep breath. “Erotic romance,” I said. “Gay erotic romance.”
He rubbed his chin with his free hand and tilted his head. He seemed to be mulling it over.
“Mmm…I see now.”
“You see…what?”
“You write happy, sexy books. That’s why I always see you smiling.”
He gave me a wave and crossed the road to take his own private like circuit. And I walked on with my dog and dreams of my own.
Of Happy, Sexy Books.

Aloha oe,

A.J.

Currently listening:
Whispering Jack
By John Farnham
Release date: 2003-12-02

Love, Life & Bubblebath

Current mood:  blissful
Category: Life

It’s my turn to blog at The Many Shades of Life and Love and here is what I posted…

I have so much to be thankful for this year and I am kinda excited it’s my turn at the wheel here at The Many Shades of Life and Love on this special day because it is my favorite holiday.
I never celebrated it until I moved here in 1984. I was a student then and living with a family who fell on severely hard times almost as soon as my dad organized for me to stay with them.
The mom, who was a district rep, lost her job at Avon and in short order, she lost her car and a bunch of other stuff.
It was the first time I realized how many people here live “one paycheck away from disaster.”
I could have called my dad back in Australia and said, “Get me out of here” but I felt a sense of loyalty when she was trying so hard to make things good and fun for her family and for me. I remember that Thanksgiving looked kinda lean. She bought turkey parts because they were cheaper than the whole bird and a ton of vegetables.
Since I am a vegetarian I got to enjoy tasty sides and confess that candied yams became one of my many food obsessions.
Dessert was – and we still make jokes about this – a packet of M and Ms which we all shared. I think I got three.
The best surprise was that the next day we went out and bought a Christmas tree. I’d never had a live, fresh tree in my life since Christmas in Australia is summer and at that time, they didn’t exist.
In hindsight, it was an extravagance, but it was one I will never forget.
I buried my face in that tree and I think my enthusiasm transmitted itself to everyone in the family.
I love Christmas because it was the last time I saw my mom laughing and happy and able to sit up before colon cancer claimed her.
But Thanksgiving is the time I also love because her dear friend who has also since succumbed to the Big C wanted so badly to give me a chance at having a mom and a loving family here in the US.
And she did. I am still close to her kids and I still make egg salad sandwiches the way she taught me. I think of her often and I cannot smell any kind of bubble bath without thinking of all the bottles of it she had in her massive bathroom.
She was a generous soul who gave everybody samples of Avon and who was a fantastic saleswoman but this current economic climate isn’t the only time people have lost jobs.
I learned from her that there are valuable, treasured moments each and every day and to gather them, much like you would shells on the sand. And I do.
I am grateful to have good health (in spite of my sweet tooth and a tendency toward high stress) and I am thankful my animals are in good health.
I am grateful for my friends and family – scattered all over the world.
I am most especially grateful to my lovely friend CR Moss who approached me to be a contributing member of this blog. She is an awesome lady and an incredible writer. I will never forget that she once emailed me, a total stranger then with articles on Hawaii that she thought would inspire a book or two.
They did.
I am grateful to know all the other authors I also share this blog with. Lynn Crain is another awesome author and a sweet woman who really is one of the first I got to know through our publisher at eXtasy Books and of course my writing partner Stephani Hecht, the lovely, lavish Erin Sinclair and I often chat and Jambrea Jo Jones I’ve seen emerge from M/M fan to full-fledged author. Celia Jade, Courtney Breazile and the adorable Annie Alvarez are also terrific, talented people.
We have some newbies on board I don’t know yet but I look forward to doing so.
Most of all, I wish all our readers a wonderful day, whether you eat turkey or you don’t, think fondly of your loved ones whether you always get along with them – or you don’t.
I wish you a happy, peaceful, beautiful day.

Aloha oe,

A.J.

Currently listening:
Abbey Road (Remastered)
By The Beatles
Release date: 2009-09-09

Dancer

Current mood:  blissful
Category: Life

 

I had a wonderful experience Sunday that I feel has forever changed me. I am a Buddhist and my west valley division of the SGI International branch of Buddhism is the first to create an Art Department.
Sunday was our first big meeting and I was overwhelmed that so many people came out to support the creation of the Art Department, particularly Buddhists from all over California.
Our mentor, President Daisaku Ikeda, a great humanitarian, philosopher and avowed “peacebuilder” was excited about this new development since he encourages our work with youth members who are very drawn to Art.
President Ikeda loves the written word. He is an astonishing writer of philosophy, letters, poems and songs. He loves art and music. He always says the seeds of growth come from artists.
And President Ikeda loves to dance.
As one of the participating volunteers on Sunday, I was asked to give out slips of yellow paper as I greeted new arrivals. Seven of us were given different colors – mine was yellow.
I must be a real social animal because as the meeting progressed, half the room had yellow papers!
As each person arrived, they were asked to sign in and also write what their art is.
I was intrigued to see many of the children write: DANCER.
As our meeting went on, I was inspired by the stories I heard. Theater director Wayne Green came from Las Vegas to share his experience of how he rebuilt his career when 9/11 crashed and burned the entire livelihood of the theater community in Nevada.
He talked about the passion he tapped into to rebuild and his commitment to never surrender. He talked of the power of our chant, nam myoho renge kyo.
He reminded us in tough times, we must chant more. It works. I remind myself I have better days when I do it. I remind myself that being a Buddhist doesn’t mean I’ll never have problems, but it DOES guarantee I’ll handle them better.
Above all, he reminded us of our mentor’s words, to live life as if it is a splendid dance.
The women and children did a traditional Japanese fan dance as overhead, footage of President Ikeda doing the same dance in the various stages of his life played on.
I was mesmerized by his joy in the movement. I was enthralled that this great leader, who travels the world helping so many people, finds time – small moments – to enjoy his Art.
As we split off into group colors to exhange ideas, each group came up with a sentence that best describes their joint philosophy of life.
These are wonderful discussions that always provide food for thought and a new focus.
I signed into that meeting as a WRITER. I crossed that out as I left the meeting.
My name in A.J. Llewellyn and I am a DANCER.

Aloha oe,

A.J.

Currently listening:
Pua ‘ena – Glow Brightly
By Reverand Dennis Kamakahi
Release date: 1996-05-21

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