Pop Up Swap! With Elin Gregory!


I’m quite excited to introduce a new feature to my blog. It’s called the Pop Up Swap. Basically, it’s an opportunity to get to know some of my favorite authors better by exchanging our books and having a virtual dialogue about them at our respective blogs.

I’m calling it a pop-up because I am offering no guarantees on when or how often I’ll be doing these swaps. They could pop up at any time and disappear faster than a New York City landlord can raise the rent and send starving artists out on the street.

For my inaugural swap, I’m thrilled to have strong-armed, or rather politely convinced the delightfully talented and all-around delightful Elin Gregory to participate!!

Sheep Avatar

Elin is a tad camera shy, but this is her favorite avatar

Elin Gregory is a British author from South Wales who writes historical fiction primarily in an M/M romance vein. She has a really interesting bio.

Elin Gregory lives in South Wales and works in a museum in a castle built on the edge of a Roman fort! She reckons that’s a pretty cool job. It certainly provides more than enough inspiration for her writing.

Although Elin usually writes on historical subjects, she has also written contemporary and historical paranormals, science fiction, crime and a Western, none of which have, as yet, been published. She likes her heroes hard as nails but capable of tenderness when circumstances allow.

Elin’s first published stories appeared in the British Flash and Tea and Crumpet anthologies produced by the UK Meet team. Her historical novella, Alike As Two Bees, and her first novel, On A Lee Shore, were published in 2012. Elin still can’t quite believe it. However, there are always new works on the go and she is currently editing a novel about the British Secret Service between the two World Wars, finishing one set in 6th century AD England and contemplating one set during the Second World War. For more about Elin, visit her blog.

Hereford, South Wales

Hereford, South Wales, where Elin calls home

I’m a bit abashed to say I don’t recall precisely how Elin and I met. It was somewhere in the ether of the Internet, whether the blogosphere or the Twitterverse or the Triberr kingdom. I think our correspondence grew out of participating in the Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

In any case, across an oceanic divide, we struck up an online friendship. A shared love for ancient world stories helped with that. I won Elin’s Alike as Two Bees in a contest, and I instantly became a fan. I persuaded her to swap our recent releases and have a conversation about them.

This is my interview with Elin after I read A Taste of Copper, which came out from Love Lane Books in 2014. Here’s the book’s back cover blurb:

Olivier the squire worships the Black Knight and takes a fierce joy in his prowess as he defends a bridge against all comers. Olivier only wishes that his master loved him as much in return instead of treating him as a servant and occasional plaything.

Then word comes that the King desires to cross the bridge. With an army approaching, a bright eyed archer enticing him to desert and the first cracks beginning to show in the Black Knight’s gruff demeanour, Olivier is left wondering if his honour is worth more than a chance for happiness.


Andrew Peters: Elin! Thanks so much for agreeing to this experiment of mine. I loved Alike as Two Bees, and I just fell in love with A Taste of Copper. There are many aspects of your work that I admire, and the first question that comes to mind is: where and how did you learn to write so well?

Elin Gregory: Well? My goodness, I think my editors might take issue with that, but thank you very much anyway. 😀

I’m very old school, brought up with books that had lavish descriptions, no inhibitions at all about using adverbs, and believed in taking their time to allow a story to develop – a very far cry from today’s style of ‘grab the reader by the throat in the first sentence or don’t bother’.

It’s been very hard to walk the line between writing what I want to write and what is acceptable in a modern market. As for learning, I’ve always told or written stories. I’ve aped the styles of the authors I most admire, and I try very hard to accept with good grace the advice of beta readers and editors. A book can’t be written by committee, but no author should be above taking the hint whether something is working or not.

AP: Before I quiz you about A Taste of Copper, I’m always curious about female authors who primarily write gay male characters. Of course, many authors in the M/M genre are women as are many readers. What draws you to writing M/M romance?

EG: I suspect that you would get a different answer for as many authors as you questioned. In my case it’s partly identification.

Heresford countryside

Herefordshire countryside

I was convinced as a child that there had been a horrible mistake and that all this pink and dollies and ‘but you’re a girl’ shit would stop at some point and that when I grew up I’d be the Lone Ranger. Sadly, as time passed that didn’t happen and, in a time where there were no words for what I felt and no apparent alternatives, I had no choice but to lump it.

Thank God for books and films with wonderful amazing heroes with whom I could sadly and secretly identify. I didn’t want to be their girlfriend, I wanted to BE Aragorn, Mr. Darcy, James Bond, Hephaistion, or Francis Crawford of Lymond. And I could never understand why the hero would be yearning over some tedious female when he often had a strong and brave friend with whom he could share adventures.

You have to remember that this was in the days when ‘the love that dare not speak its name’ was literally silenced and books that did feature same sex relationships were either pulp porn unobtainable in rural Herefordshire or so heavily coded as to be almost unintelligible. But in my pre-teens I fell in love with all Mary Renault’s characters without understanding the subtext and I wrote my own stories about “jolly good pals.” Eventually a friend pointed out that there were hardly any ‘feel good’ historicals with happy endings for gay men. Most focused on angst and persecution and weakness. He wanted something where the relationship wasn’t the source of conflict so I wrote Alike As Two Bees.

Alike As Two Bees by Elin GregoryAP: I’m a huge admirer of Mary Renault as well. She’s pretty much the gold standard for ancient world historicals in my view. But I think you and your friend make a good point about the traditional place of gay men as tragic characters in historical fiction and elsewhere. Speaking of Alike As Two Bees, I thought you captured an ancient Greek time period with compelling authority in that book. A Taste of Copper moves ahead a thousand years and then some. I know you work in a museum so I’ll hazard to say you have another area of expertise outside of writing. What is the research process like for you? There’s such detail in A Taste of Copper, from the description of armor and costume to daily life.

EG: It’s SO handy to be able to put on a helmet to see how much you can see through the eye slits! Also I work in a castle so I know how appallingly cold and damp they can be. Apart from that I’ve got friends who are re-enactors so have been able to poke around their very well made and accurate kit to handle weapons and to experience the God-awful smell of tallow candles and the scarier aspects of medieval food production.

I’ve also attended lectures by experts in various fields and have access to a terrific library. Then there’s the BBC. Yes, they are scraping by on a licence fee so sometimes they cut corners, but when they decide to do something properly they put a lot of effort into it. In a recent programme about the development of Celtic culture they had managed to source proper early Roman Republican army kit. Was it 100% accurate? I don’t know, but I really appreciated that they had made the effort.


Gates to the Castle-Museum where Elin goes to work each day.

I make an effort too, though I know I’m never completely right. You have to know that you don’t know something in order to look it up and there’s always, always someone who knows more than you do. My advice is to do your best and accept the criticism with good grace.

AP: My very favorite character in the book was the rakish archer Hywel. For people who haven’t read the book yet, please scroll down a few inches on the page to skip some spoilers. I was rooting for Olivier to choose Hywel, and while his other love interest, the bullish, withholding Black Knight Maheris, evolves a bit into a softer and more expressive mate, I felt like Olivier and Hywel could have made for an interesting pair. Is there the possibility for a future for the two of them, perhaps in a further installment of the story?

EG: I’m so glad you liked Hywel. He’s my favourite too. In fact Olivier and Hywel enjoyed a much ‘closer’ relationship in my original manuscript, but I was warned that readers wouldn’t like it so had to cut that scene. But I love Hywel dearly, and I have an idea for a story where the cast is assembled again and Hywel finds someone who can keep up with him. I just need to find the time to write it.

AP: I enjoy romantic stories, and I especially like stories that show me something about the world that I didn’t know. For the lay reader, such as myself, there’s an assumption that England in the Middle Ages was a brutal place for most people, though it’s appealing to romanticize that era with visions of lush castles and chivalrous knights and beautiful princesses bedecked in fancy gowns. I know your book is essentially a romance, but I wonder if you thought about that balance of realism versus fantasy as you developed the story.

EG: Oh yes. I had to make some changes from the original manuscript mostly because medieval attitudes to hygiene would be unpalatable to modern readers. This was a culture for which washing was purely cosmetic, practical or a matter of comfort. Clean skin suggested that one was rich enough not to have to work. Greasy hands might slip on a sword hilt. A man would use his knife to cut his toenails, slit an enemy’s throat and cut his meat at table, with just a perfunctory wipe of the blade in between so the iron didn’t rust in the sheath. It was believed that one got sick by God’s will. To be clean was valued but most people had only one change of clothes and there’s no way to launder the heavy padding under armour. All fighting men stank.

Medieval Bath

Painting of a man getting a bath, something that didn’t happen too often in the Middle Ages. Retrieved from medievalists.net

Likewise one has to adjust one’s language and mind set. The idea of human rights and the words used to describe them have changed radically over time. There are also words in common usage in the past that cause real distress if used in fiction now. One has to be aware of all that and walk yet another tightrope between historical accuracy and offending your readers. Historical inaccuracy, of course, offends a whole other set of readers. But decisions have to be made.

AP: I’m gathering from your books that you like a story where true love wins out in the end. Do you consider yourself a romantic? And if I might be so bold, have you had experiences that shaped that optimism which pervades the two stories?

EG: Sorry if this is a disappointment but I’m the least romantic person I know. I was never a flowers/perfume/intimate dinner type of person. I would sooner go abseiling or shoot my longbow or watch a film with plenty of explosions and then go for a round of darts and a pint of properly kept beer. This is British beer by the way, which is refreshingly cool to the lips but doesn’t give you a brain freeze.

That said I do like characters, my own as well as other people’s, to enjoy a good happily-ever-after or happily-for-now once the serious business of saving the world, defusing the bomb, getting the serum to Nome, has been accomplished. They’ve earned it. They deserve it. And at least in my fiction I can provide the type of happiness that often had to be very cautious in real life.

AP: What does the future hold for your writing? Are there other historical periods that you would like to explore?

EG: I have a bit of my bookshelf filled with hard backed spiral bound notebooks, one for each potential book. There’s a massive battered one for an untitled book set on the plains of 4th century BC Scythia. A Gleam of Splendour is set in 4th century BC Thebes and is about the Sacred Band. The Hounds of the North – 1st century Rome and Britannia. The Fierce Reaping – 6th century Northumbria. Plans for a sequel to On A Lee Shore – more 18th century pirates. A Perfect Shade of Blue – early 19th century Wales. Calon Lȃn – Wales 1916. Eleventh Hour – London 1928 [almost finished]. The Shepherd’s Hut – England 1940. I’ve got a few for contemporary fiction too, and they scare me worse than tigers because experts on say 6th century Northumbria are rare and few of them read M/M but everyone’s an expert on the modern day.

AP: Those titles sound amazing! I hope they make it out of your spiral notebooks and onto retailer shelves soon! You do a lot to support fellow authors through posting interviews and features on your blog and generally being a cheerleader for our work (do they have cheerleaders in the UK, or am I imposing my American sensibility?). Where does your passion to do that come from?

The Comfy Chair

Elin’s Comfy Chair feature on her blog where she interviews fellow authors.

EG: Ah no, I don’t think we have cheerleaders. Or at least, not yet. We have WAGs – Wives and Girlfriends – who are supposed to turn up, cheer in the right places and generally be a credit to their menfolk. My British sensibilities sort of admire the cheerleaders’ athleticism while being a bit saddened at both groups’ objectification.

BUT – supporting other authors, that was the question. I started off my engagement with the LGBT writing community as a reviewer of m/m historical fiction so I’ve always felt that publicity/promotion is a more important part of my function in the community than my writing.

I do a bit of hosting, I do a lot of beta reading and I’m on the organizing committee for the UK Meet, a weekend long conference for writers, readers, bloggers, publishers etc of LGBT fiction. This year I think [hope] most attendees enjoyed themselves most of the time.

UK Meet

The colorful UK Meet 2015 Team (from l to r) Elin Gregory, Clare London, Cathy Laird, J. L. Merrow, Liam Livings, and Charlie Cochrane.

It’s such a relief to be in a place where one can chat to other people who are just as passionate about their books, where one doesn’t have to explain, excuse or justify what one writes or reads, where one can pick up help, advice, recommendations because everyone understands. I try to foster that type of atmosphere on my blog too. All are welcome from the grittiest realistic gay fiction to the toughest genre fiction to the fluffiest romance. Everyone should be able to find books they will enjoy with characters in whom they can see a little of themselves. That’s something really worth getting passionate about.

AP: Very well said, and thank you Elin for everything you do for our community. Many thanks for collaborating on the first-ever Pop Up Swap!! For readers wanting to learn more about Elin and her work, please do take a trip over to Elin’s WordPress blog, follow her on Twitter and check her out on Goodreads.

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The Great, Big #BSoP Facebook Giveaway!

Facebook Raffle

From October 1st to October 7th, head over to my Facebook page where every day, I’ll be posting images, links, videos, and extras related to my upcoming release Banished Sons of Poseidon. Like, comment, or share something on that page, and you’ll create a virtual ticket stub to be churned around in my virtual raffle drum. You can also enter, if I may be so bold as to recommend, by suggesting to your friends that they like my page!

The raffle prize is the winner’s choice of The Seventh Pleiade or an advance copy of Banished Sons of Poseidon, which hits stores October 14th. The winner will be chosen 12:00 AM EST October 9th.

Come over to like my page and make my day! :)

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LGBT Queens Book Night!!

QQBN Square promo

I’ll be out and about for a reading event this month. Tim Fredrick of Newtown Literary Journal was nice enough to invite me to participate in LGBT Queens Book Night. The event features four Queens-based authors who have new releases in 2015.

Here’s some information about the line-up.

Andrew J. Peters is the author of the Werecat series, The Seventh Pleiade and its forthcoming follow-up Banished Sons of Poseidon. He grew up in Buffalo, New York, studied psychology at Cornell University, and has spent most of his career as a social worker and an advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth. A lifelong writer, Andrew has been a contributing writer at The Good Men Project, YA Highway, Reading Teen, Dear Teen Me, La Bloga, and Layers of Thought among other media. Andrew lives in New York City with his partner Genaro and their cat Chloë.

Shelley Ettinger is a longtime activist in the LGBTQ movement, and in anti-racist, anti-war and union struggles. Her poetry and short fiction have been published in many literary journals, including *Nimrod*, *Stone Canoe*, *Mississippi Review*, *Cream City Review*, *Blithe House Quarterly*, and *Lodestar Quarterly*. *Library Journal *called her recently published first novel, *Vera’s Will*, “powerful, superbly written,” and “a breathtaking achievement.”

Tim Fredrick is a short story writer and author of the collection We Regret to Inform You: Stories. His stories have been published in Burningword, Pif Magazine, Wilde Magazine, Em Dash Literary Magazine, and Circa. He is also the founding editor of Newtown Literary, a semiannual literary journal focused on publishing the work of writers from and living in Queens, NY.

Rigoberto González is the author 17 books and the recipient of numerous awards including Guggenheim, NEA and USA Rolón fellowships, and a Lambda Literary Award. He is professor of English at Rutgers-Newark and the recipient of the 2015 Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Publishing Triangle.

Host: Nancy Agabian is the author of Princess Freak (Beyond Baroque Books, 2000), a mixed genre collection of poems, short prose, and performance texts on young women’s sexuality and rage, and Me as her again: True Stories of an Armenian Daughter (Aunt Lute Books, 2008) a memoir about the influence of her Armenian family’s history on her coming-of-age. Me as her again was honored as a Lambda Literary Award finalist for LGBT Nonfiction and shortlisted for a William Saroyan International Prize. Nancy has an MFA in Nonfiction Writing from Columbia University’s School of the Arts. She teaches creative writing at Queens College, where she was awarded for excellence in teaching in 2012, and in the Writing Program at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University. In 2012, she founded Heightening Stories, a series of community-based writing workshops for the personally brave and socially conscious, online and in Jackson Heights, Queens.

The reading will take place at Queens Pride House, a local LGBT community center with programs for teenagers who are coming out, which I think is especially cool. I’ll be reading from Banished Sons of Poseidon and signing copies.

Check out the Facebook event page and join by clicking here.


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FLAME CON and the Freaky, Fantastical Four

FLAME CONIt’s been a little while since I’ve been on-the-road peddling my writerly wares, and I’m happy to announce that I’ll be out with pride at the inaugural FLAME CON.

Presented by Geeks Out, FLAME CON is a one-day expo representing: “all corners of LGBTQ geek fandom.” There was some buzz about this first-ever east coast con at last year’s BENT CON in Los Angeles. Based on the programming they put together — an impressive list of of artists and writers including young adult authors David Levithan and Sara Farizan — it should be a great event.

And it’s taking place at the famously kitschy Grand Prospect Hall…

Gotta love homespun commercials for catering halls. I don’t think there’s anyone in New York City who hasn’t tried an impersonation of that last line. :)

I’ll be at an exhibitor booth as part of the Freaky, Fantastical Four. Haven’t heard of us? I imagine you are not alone. We are four gay authors who have joined forces to represent queer genre fiction.  The FLAME CON website is preventing me from lassoing our banner over here, but you can scroll down the exhibitors page to see us in our noirish glory.

Separately, we are speculative fiction author Tom Cardamone, horror/erotica author Daniel W. Kelly, and mystery author David Swatling. I’m standing in for fantasy and young adult fiction.

Together, we are Freaky and Fantastical.

So come on out to Brooklyn on June 13th. Tickets are a mere 20 bucks. Get your autographed copy of Werecat: The Trilogy or The Seventh Pleiade. Take a selfie with a Danaerys Targaryen impersonator (I predict there will be a few). :)

Geeks Out Presents FLAME CON




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#HAHABT: Some thoughts on activism past and present, and writing diverse portrayals

Hop Against Homophobia, Bi- and Transphobia

[Edited 5/25: Thanks so much for visiting my blog during the Hop! My giveaway has ended and the winner is: H.B.! Check your e-mail. :)]

The Hop Against Homophobia and Bi- and Transphobia is on!

I’m taking part by writing a short blog post and sharing the list of participating writers/bloggers who you should visit. Each of us hosts a giveaway. Drop a comment below, and you’ll be entered to win my recent release Werecat: The Trilogy.

#HAHABT is a weeklong event (May 17th – May 24th) created by writers to join forces for the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. I’ve been participating since I found out about it in 2013.

A writer-led campaign to advance social justice for LGBTs? Yes, please!

I caught the social justice bug at student protests against Cornell University’s investments in Apartheid-era South Africa. I remember the rush of my first demonstration. As individuals, we had no influence on the university’s financial practices, let alone the situation in South Africa. Together, we were strong and filled with belief.

I joined Take Back the Night marches to eliminate violence against women. In the early 90s, I demonstrated to protest the first Gulf War. When I came out as gay, I marched to protest gay-bashings, religious condemnation, and government inaction on the AIDS crisis.

Activism has changed in the digital age. We take to Twitter, Facebook and online petitions instead of taking it to the steps of City Hall or stopping traffic on Main Street. An important, recent exception is the “Black Spring” to protest police brutality, which has called for traditional strategies of civil disobedience. But generally we communicate and organize in different ways.

I miss the real-life camaraderie and the homespun feel of old school social action. One of my fondest memories is when a group of friends was so energized to counter-protest a “pro-life” group targeting Planned Parenthood that we had an all-night party painting signs, talking politics, and of course tossing back a sizeable quantity of beer.

But a good case can made that technology has made activism more effective. Taking for instance the reaction to the state of Indiana’s regressive legislation to sanction religious bigotry, social media can be a powerful platform for change. The flood of memes (#boycottindiana) with personal testimonials on Facebook and Twitter created a tidal wave of social pressure. That nationwide phenomenon had impact on corporations and elected officials that I don’t believe would have happened through local demonstrations alone.

As a fantasy author, I don’t very often write explicitly about homophobia or transphobia in a modern context. I do think a lot about how fairly I portray sexuality, gender and “race.” One of my current manuscripts features a lesbian character for example who happens to look physically male and to express herself in a “masculine” way, and I puzzled for some time about what that would say to readers since she is the only lesbian in the story.

We need more diverse portrayals of LGBTs in books. I don’t claim to be the authority on how to do that well in every instance though my gut feeling is that it’s a good thing when writers question what we write and ask people who are representative of the characters we’re writing about for feedback.

I’ll stop there and look forward to your comments. Feel free to fill your red, plastic Dixie cup from my virtual keg while you’re here. Leave your e-mail address if you would like to enter a drawing for an e-copy of my latest book Werecat: The Trilogy. I will pick a winner through random.com on May 25th 12:00 AM EST.

And don’t forget to click below to check out some of the 100+ writers/bloggers who are participating in #HAHABT this year:

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Werecat: The Trilogy Giveaway at LibraryThing!

WerecatTrilogyFinalRETAILCover700x1066pRGB96dpiFrom March 24th through April 7th, members of LibraryThing can enter to win an autographed copy of Werecat: The Trilogy.

Do you know about LibraryThing? It’s an online reader community similar to Goodreads where you can organize your virtual bookshelf, chat about your favorite authors and titles, and join groups with reading challenges and group reads. LibraryThing also has a Member Giveaway program that allows you to participate in raffles for new and recent releases provided by publishers and authors.

I have suggested that the winner kindly post an honest rating/review of Werecat: The Trilogy on the site and places like Amazon and Goodreads. Of course, that’s not necessary to enter or to win, but it helps tremendously to spread the word about the book.

LibraryThing members can enter my giveaway here.

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