Joshua walked away from Love’s Magic…

I thought long and hard about Joshua before I ever began to write Love’s Magic. Some things I knew on instinct from the moment the character emerged in my mind. I knew he was lonely. I know he’d been abused in his childhood at the hands of an alcoholic father. I knew he was damaged.

Another man might have turned his wounded spirit on others, returning abuse for abuse, but I knew this wasn’t Joshua’s way. He wanted to be healed, but he also longed to heal others who had been hurt as deeply as he had. I think one reason he fell so hard for Colin was that his empathetic spirit saw the pain and darkness that kept Colin’s heart locked away and untouchable.

No two men could have seemed more opposite in nature. What could a swaggering, cocky, self-assured Irish cop possibly have in common with a soft-spoken, reticent, Jewish Doctor of Psychology? But from the very beginning Joshua sensed something deeper in Colin’s nature, something beyond the fiercely independent, I-don’t-do-relationships attitude. He sensed something noble and deeply committed. He sensed a man on a quest to right a terrible wrong.

He didn’t know what drove Colin, but whatever crisis from the past held him captive, Joshua instinctively knew it was a huge part of what made Colin the man he was. He wasn’t under any illusions about the future. Colin had made it very clear on their first ‘date’ that he made no promises to anyone… ever, and he offered Joshua a clear-cut choice: see me on my terms or don’t see me at all.

Joshua tried to do it Colin’s way. He tried to accept his role as the sometimes friend and occasional bed-partner. But Joshua’s self-awareness had grown in the years since he was a shy, awkward boy struggling to believe in his own value.

What I admired most about Joshua was his determination not to let anything cheapen the love he felt for his charismatic Irish cop, not even Colin. He would not allow the love that meant everything to him to be treated as a short-term sexual liaison, bereft of feeling or intimacy, bereft of meaning. He knew he deserved more. He knew Colin deserved more.

Colin’s refusal to admit love into his heart did more to help Joshua grow past the pain of his abused childhood than anything else in his life. He simply loved Colin too much to demean what he felt for him. He found the strength and courage to walk away even though it broke his heart.

Even as the author, I honestly didn’t expect him to choose that route. But any other decision meant agreeing with Colin that what they shared could be minimized. I hated writing those scenes. It broke my heart because I knew how much Colin needed him. But… I had to trust in what he and Joshua were telling me and let them lead me to where they needed to go. I had to trust that they’d be together again if that’s what was meant to be.

Joshua knew Colin could never care for a man he couldn’t respect and who didn’t respect himself. And, even in the midst of his heartbreak, he discovered a new sense of self-worth that brought healing to himself and to his family. And as he walked the shores of Lake Michigan, remembering the nights he’d shared with his charismatic Irishman, he allowed himself to hope that Colin would one day realize that in leaving Joshua had offered him the greatest and most loving gift his heart could give and, perhaps give Love’s Magic another try.

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The Longest Journey…

Colin and Josh feel Love’s Magic!

I’ve been writing gay romance since I was twelve years old, only back then it wasn’t called ‘gay romance’. In fact, it had no name at all. It was the fifty’s, and it was worth your life to admit to being gay, let alone confess to being a girl who constantly fantasized about relationships between gay men. Hell, I didn’t even know what a homosexual was. I lived on a farm out in the sticks in a tiny Michigan village and I’d never, to my knowledge, even heard the word. I just knew I loved the thought of boy on boy romance. I just knew that there was something hot going on between Tom Corbett and his Space Cadets and all those guys on ‘Combat’.

Naïve as I was, I still recognized that I’d better not say anything to anyone about my weird-ass proclivities. And I didn’t. For many, many years I scribbled out my ‘gay romance’ fantasies then immediately ripped them up. For many, many years. I believed there had to be something wrong with me to be so obsessively fascinated by the idea of men loving men.

Fast forward to 1999 and the dawning of the Internet. I still hadn’t shared my love for gay romance with another living soul, and I remained convinced that there had to be something wrong with me because of my passion for gay love. I knew no one else, at that time, who shared my passion for gay passion.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered Kirk/Spock slash! I had, of course, known there was a passionate romantic link between those two. Who didn’t? But discovering the slash community, beginning with the Kirk/Spock fandom, was like a lightning strike to my mind and heart. My god! There were other women who felt as I did! And not only were they were actively writing the kind of stories I’d been ripping up for years, they were admired for doing so!

For the next twenty years I wrote slash fanfiction, mainly in the ‘Lord of the Rings’ fandom. Overall, I wrote over 337 stories, some as short as 100 words (a drabble) some as long as a series which was over 119,012 words. I enjoy writing my stories. I enjoyed the feedback I received from my readers. It was a creative release I’d been searching for my entire life and I blessed the Internet for leading me to this artistic oasis for my spirit.

But after a while it just wasn’t enough. Writing stories about other people’s characters begin to grow tiresome and repetitive. My first book, Love’s Legacy, began as an AU fanfiction story. I wrote my fandom characters in an alternative universe simply to try to extend my reach. But it fell flat.

Love’s Legacy is the story of how David Gardener and Nate Reese met and fell in love. I actually went so far as to publish it on Amazon. But it just wasn’t good enough, and eventually I withdrew the book from publication. I was still writing fanfiction and it showed. I was writing with someone else’s voice.

Love’s Magic was my very first step into writing my own characters. David and Nate are still there but they are now fully realized individuals rather than existing as a reflection of someone else’s thoughts. Colin and Josh sprang from my brain like a fiery eruption and immediately captivated my soul. Of all my characters, those two are the ones who most completely reflect my ability to step forth as a creative author, freed from any ties to the work of another.

I will always be grateful the slash fanfiction community for nurturing the budding author until she was ready to blossom into a fully realized novelist. It’s been an amazing thing to watch the gay community’s growth over these past twenty years. My own journey has echoed theirs in many ways, and I’m grateful to all those gay activists who fought to give the gay community the rights and privileges they always deserved.

And I’m grateful to the gay romance community, readers, authors, publishers and promoters, who are making these, my retirement years, the most creative ones of my life.

I hope you’ll read Love’s Magic. I hope you’ll meet David and Nate… Colin and Joshua. These dynamic, sexy, and totally adorable men carried me into a whole new world of love, romance, joy, and happily-ever-after’s. I hope they’ll do the same for you.


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Why two gay couples? And why assault?


I was asked by someone who read Love’s Magic why I tackled the subject of campus assault in my manuscript. They commented that the subject matter seemed tricky and further added that writing a book which featured TWO unique gay couples seemed like dangerous territory for a first-time novelist. In fact that one aspect of Love’s Magic has drawn more attention than almost any other, which rather surprised me.

I can only say this. As someone who has been an assault victim I felt the subject needed discussion. And since I was attempting to offer as many viewpoints as possible on how victims and the persons close to them experience and deal with such a dreadful ordeal, I needed the perspective of both my couples in order to best explore the full range of possibilities.

But Love’s Magic is also a love story. These four men have each found someone who has become… or is becoming… the most important person in their lives. For David and Nate, it’s an already established relationship that gets rocked to its core when Nate is attacked. For Colin and Joshua, it’s working their way past some incredibly high, deep emotional barricades, particularly in Colin’s case, which make finding and keeping that relationship damn near impossible. And all of these issues revolve around the personal experience each of them has had with some form of abuse.

The four main characters in Love’s magic had to deal with assault and abuse, each in their own unique way, and no one of them handles it quite the way the others do. Each of these four men are stumbling toward their own healing and eventually share the best of what they’ve learned along the way with the other three. I needed every single one of these men in order to tell the story that needed to be told. Each of them saw the issue from a different perspective. But before they could find the healing they needed they each had to learn to see it through each other’s eyes.

I wanted to talk a bit about each of the four main characters.

Colin is the cop. He deals with every kind of assault on a daily basis as the man charged with finding and arresting the perpetrators of these crimes. But it also is a deeply personal issue for him for reasons which he will discuss with no one. There is pain buried deep within Colin that no ones sees, feelings he has suppressed for most of his life. But when Joshua cracks open his heart everything comes pouring out, and not all of it is good.

Joshua was abused as a child. He was physically assaulted by a drunken father who broke Joshua’s arm when he was eight. He knows what it’s like to be locked in a dark closet and left alone for hours with no food, no light, no help. He became a Doctor of Psychology in order to help others who had suffered as he had, but also to find his own healing. He could see more easily into Colin’s heart than he could into his own. And in helping the man he loved find healing, he also found healing within himself.

Gay themed romance novel cover images for a special collection.

David was never physically abused. But he was assaulted emotionally and verbally by a cold and critical parent and grew up completely unable to believe in his own worth. These issues haunted him for most of his life and were the primary reason why his marriage failed. His father’s voice was still in his ears, directing his life through constant criticism of everything David did and became. The psychological damage David suffered kept him closeted for many, many years. His relationship with Nate led him to the therapy he needed and at least a partial healing.

Nate was never abused in any way. He had an almost ideal childhood. But he fell in love with a man whose self esteem had been badly damaged by a father’s coldness and constant criticism and had to learn how to cope with David’s resulting insecurities as their relationship grew. When Nate went to the rescue of a student who was under attack on the Tog, a park on the university campus, he was badly, though not critically, injured. The trauma he suffered then was the catalyst which eventually drew all four men together.

No two people experience life in the same way. It’s a unique journey for all of us. And when it comes to dealing with abuse in any form, and there are many, it often takes more than one perspective to lead us to the healing we need. Love’s Magic explores many of those pathways through the lives of four exceptional and dynamic men. I hope you’ll get to know them all. I think their stories will touch your heart.


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June 25 – MirrigoldJune 26 – Scattered Thoughts & Rogue WordsJune 27 – MM Good Book ReviewsJune 28 – Bayou Book JunkieJuly 2 – Love BytesJuly 3 – Two Chicks ObsessedThe Novel ApproachJuly 4 – Joyfully JayJuly 5 – Drops Of InkSarandipity


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Reach me at: jjarrell@lovesmagic.online
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Interview with The Book Swain!!!

I was thrilled to be interviewed by the amazing blog, ‘The Book Swain‘ ! Thought I’d share the interview with all of you!!

What keeps your imagination running when you are writing?
Answer: Two things help me a lot in that regard. One is walking. My best friend and I are part of a walking club and she and I often walk in a wonderful area called Alki Beach. It’s right along Puget Sound, has a view of the Olympic and Cascade Mountain ranges and a gorgeous view of Seattle. We regularly do 5K walks along that beach. Being in that amazing environment rests my mind and helps my imagination stay fresh.

The second thing I do occasionally is write short stories about my characters. Put them in situation other than the ones in the book. That keeps my imagination purring along. And often gives me new ideas for the book!

What was the best reaction you received from your family and friends when they found out you are writing gay romance?
Answer:  My grandson thinks it’s the coolest thing on Earth. He wants to collaborate with me in writing a gay SciFi novel. Now THAT sounds like fun!!

Most of us readers think gay bed scenes are HOT! What do you feel when writing those steamy scenes on your novel?
Answer: LOL! Well, it’s not as ‘stimulating’ as one might think. You have to imagine the scene in ways that are ‘different’ from someone who might be enjoying it as a reader. You have to think about positions, where everyone’s hands are, what position are their bodies in, things like that. You can’t have a character sucking somebody’s toes and in the next breath have him giving a passionate kiss. You have to GET him from one end to the other first. So I think more (or as much) about logistics than I do about how ‘hot’ it is until I get it fleshed out a bit… so to speak. Once I’m sure I haven’t had the guys turning into contortionists and that the scene is believable… THEN I can give it a hotness evaluation. And gay bed scenes ARE hot! I always try to write mine at a 8 on the ‘hot’ scale at least!!

Whoa! Okay, here’s the next one. If you will be given the chance to choose an openly gay celebrity for your next book cover, who would you choose and why?
Answer: I’d choose Elton John. First of all, his from ‘my’ era. LOL! Second, he came out as bisexual in 1976!! A long time before there was much in the way of acceptance for a LGBTQ lifestyle, and has been out as a gay man since 1988. He’s been an outspoken advocate for gay rights ever since then and has been hugely involved in the fight against AIDS. I admire him very much.

Many of us want to write romance but still scared to try, what is your advice?
Answer: Write stories! Leave the novel idea for a little while and start smaller! I wrote gay romance as slash fan fiction for 25 years before taking on my novel of original characters. I think you get comfortable with writing by writing. But I honestly think my time writing stories was great training for taking on something more substantial. I wouldn’t advise waiting 25 years! LOL! But writing ‘stories’ isn’t quite as intimidating as taking on a 80,000 word novel. Get your feet wet… then plunge into the ocean.

And here’s a bonus, my dear. If you are answering this question, it means I am already your avid fan. Convince the new visitors to read your books and become one of your fans.
Answer: Wow. I almost cringe at the idea of trying to convince someone to be a fan or read Love’s Magic. But if I did, I’d do it this way: Go to my website and read my blog. I introduce all of the Love’s Magic main characters there. Get to know the men who inhabit that world! I think THEY will convince you that their story is worth reading without me having to say a word!!

 


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Character Development…

Writing fan-fiction for over twenty years meant that when I began to write my first novel, I started with a handicap. I was used to living in someone else’s world. I was used to working with characters who were, for the most part, already fully developed.

As a result, I had no real experience at character development, and it showed. The first book I wrote remains unpublished for the simple reason that it didn’t deserve to be. It was terrible! I was still, in many ways, writing fan-fiction. My characters were one-dimensional and lacked the unique qualities that would make them pop on the page and in the reader’s mind.

My first book was a valuable learning experience, though a painful one. Faced with the reality of how horrible it was and understanding the reasons for it, I began to research tools and techniques which could help me develop characters with real depth. That’s when I found character profile worksheets, many of which can be found on the Internet. These sheets contained a list of questions that introduced me to each of my characters. Real understanding came when I moved past those early, introductory queries and began to delve more deeply into why they answered the questions the way they did.

It’s fine to respond to the question: ‘How does the character deal with anger?’ by stating that he or she reacts with outbursts or shouting. But understanding why they deal with it that way requires a deeper level of understanding. It requires going back into their past experiences sometimes all the way to childhood. That one simple character trait, if used as a starting point to deeper analysis, can lead to insights that reach far beyond that one introductory question.

I tend to fill out character profile sheets in a fair amount of detail. And during those times when I’m floundering and unsure how a character might respond to a given situation, re-reading their profile sheet can provide the insight I’m seeking. I often go back and revise or add to these profile sheets as new aspects of the character’s personality and motivations come into focus. Those profile sheets are my primary tool for developing characters, for keeping them consistent, and for helping them grow.

You’ll find a GREAT character profile form here!

 


Reach me at: jjarrell@lovesmagic.online
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