A great interview with one of my favourite people, and an opportunity to win the first two books of the fabulous In the Kitchen series.
In the Distance, the third book in the In the Kitchen series from Eileen Griffin and Nikka Michaels, releases today! I’ve read the previous two books, In the Raw and In the Fire, and loved both of them. So I was eager to read more! Here’s my review of the third book, which includes a suggestion of whose story I think these two lovely ladies should write next. 🙂
It’s always a joy to return to a familiar setting in the hands of the authors who introduced you to it. I knew before picking up this book that my trip back to Seattle wouldn’t be super cozy and comfortable though. Much as I would like to read about Ethan and Jamie watching TV and eating cereal (and probably defiling the couch and perhaps the TV console), that’s not really a book, is it? So I was prepared for something to rock their cozy little world.
That something is Trevor falling for Tyler.
In the Distance begins in the kitchen. New Guy, Tyler Mitchell, is watching Ethan and Jamie interact with his usual mix of respect and envy. He wants what they have, but he’s so busy with school, work and his volunteer work, he doesn’t have time to go out there and look for it. That’s what he tells himself, anyway. Really, it’s a trust issue. For someone so young, he’s already been knocked back too many times—by parents who kicked him out of his home for being gay, to a world that is not kind to homeless kids. But it’s hard to ignore a good looking guy like Trevor, who oozes the sort of confidence and charm Tyler knows he’ll never have, especially when that charm is directed at him.
Trevor Pratt (not-so-lovingly called “Trustfund” by Ethan) might seem as if he has it all: looks, wealth, supportive parents, and a career he enjoys. Nearly losing Jamie left a big hole in his life, though, and while they’re repairing their friendship, Trevor has had to face some hard truths. His one-sided love affair has exposed a very unpleasant fact: Loving Jamie might have been painful and losing him broke his heart, but it hadn’t been a relationship. Not really. An actual relationship would require him to give up something more than his heart. Yeah, it’s another trust issue.
I really loved that Tyler and Trevor—two men from vastly different backgrounds—had so much in common, were battling the same demon. From either perspective, the struggle was both real and heartfelt. Add in Ethan and Jamie, who both want to keep Tyler bundled up in bubble wrap—and think Trevor is the last person who should be allowed to pop any of those bubbles, and the tension is the sort that leaves you breathless and obsessively turning the pages.
Then there’s the sexual tension. Holy guacamole, waiting for Trevor to make a move nearly killed me. And thank goodness Tyler has more gumption (yes, I said gumption) than anyone has ever given him credit for.
Another five-star read from Eileen Griffin and Nikka Michaels.
(Do we get Nick’s story next?)
Taking five minutes out of science fiction week to share this cover, because it’s gorgeous, I love it, and because Nikka and Eileen rock! I cannot wait to read this book.
Since joining Carina Press, Jenn and I have formed a friendship with another male-male romance writing duo, Eileen Griffin and Nikka Michaels. A couple of months ago we interviewed ourselves regarding our co-writing processes. This time, we sat our characters down together and interviewed them. Chaos Station and In the Kitchen are two very different series. Chaos Station is science fiction romance and In the Kitchen is foodie romance. But our guys—Zed and Felix—have more than a little in common with Ethan and Jamie. There are some pretty hilarious differences, though.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Felix: Living to see thirty.
Zed: Um, for me, I guess it’s saving that transport of civilians during the war. Kind of wish it didn’t end up on holo, though.
Ethan: Not murdering New Guy.
Jamie: Not murdering E in his sleep.
Ethan: *raises an eyebrow at Jamie*
Jamie: *leans over and smooths Ethan’s eyebrow* What? I’m sure a lot of people would consider that a huge accomplishment. Claire. Tyler. Cal. Chef Boulanger…
Ethan: Next question.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Zed: Damn. Can I skip questions? Because…yeah, I don’t know if I want to answer this one.
Felix: We’re not getting graded on this, you know.
Ethan: *rolls eyes* It’s not that difficult. Perfect happiness is a beer in my hand, good food and naked time with that gentleman. *points at Jamie*
Jamie: Seriously E?
Ethan: What? I can’t think of anything better than a naked you and food. Unless it’s food on you while you’re naked. Preferably Nutella.
Felix: What’s Nutella?
Ethan: *winks at Felix* Just imagine an orgasm in your mouth. That pretty much sums up the divine goodness that is Nutella.
What is your current state of mind?
Zed: Hoping Flick doesn’t scare everyone off with his assholishness.
Ethan: Frankly, irritated the two chicks who write us dragged me out of the kitchen for this.
Jamie: I got nothing except for trying to find my happy place so I don’t accidentally murder E in his sleep.
Ethan: *turns to Jamie* Does this happy place have anything to do with Nutella and naked time?
Felix: What the fuck is Nutella?
Ethan: Don’t worry Felix. We’ll send you guys some.
What is your favorite occupation?
Zed: I don’t really have one. I like watching Flick tinker though.
Ethan: Cooking. Next.
Jamie: I’m with Ethan – cooking. Although, keeping Ethan from going postal on our produce suppliers has recently become a full-time job.
Zed: I’m suddenly thinking we need Ness in here to talk shop with you two. She’s our cook…and doctor. What? It’s a small ship.
Ethan: Back the fuck up. Your doctor is your chef? *shakes head* That’s just wrong, dude.
What is your most treasured possession?
Felix: A picture.
Zed: Really, a picture? Which one?
Felix: Never you mind.
Ethan: My knife block.
Jamie: Your knife block?
Ethan: What? It’s an awesome knife block.
Jamie: Remind me again why I moved to Seattle.
Ethan: Because you love me so much?
Jamie: *sighs* Yes. Yes I do.
Ethan: And naked time that involves Nutella?
Jamie: *sighs again*
Zed: You keep your knives in a block? A block of what?
Jamie: A block of wood. To keep them handy without dulling the blades.
Felix: I keep a knife in my boot. Saves hauling a block around, you know?
Ethan: That sounds dangerous and … hot. Like a pirate or something. *wriggles eyes at Jamie* I know what our next role play is going to be.
Jamie: *looks around at Ethan, Zed, and Felix then shakes head* How in the hell did I get myself into this.
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Felix: *tips head* Him, over there with the steel blue eyes.
Zed: *pokes Flick* Be nice.
Felix: What? I was being nice! I could have said the Chaos.
Zed: Well, that wouldn’t be a lie. You love that ship.
Ethan: That guy in the goofy pin-striped apron. *points at Jamie*
Jamie: I’ll have you know this style of apron is all the rage in New York.
Ethan: Another reason I’m happy your ass is firmly situated in Seattle. But you didn’t answer the question.
Jamie: As if you really need me to say it. *leans over and kisses Ethan* You.
Ethan: *goofy grin*
Felix: *trying not to smirk*
What is your favorite journey?
Felix: The one to the bathroom for a shit, shower and shave.
Ethan: Home. To our bed.
Jamie: *coughs* Ditto to what Ethan said.
Zed: We’ve got these two lovebirds. And then there’s Flick. Jesus.
Felix: So, you’d rather I didn’t visit the bathroom every morning? *attempts to pull Zed’s head toward his armpit*
Ethan: *whispers to Jamie* And you thought I was a fixer-upper.
What is your most marked characteristic?
Felix: I’m an asshole.
Ethan: I’m an asshole.
Jamie: Patience. *goes back to muttering about not murdering Ethan in his sleep*
Zed: I hate these kinds of questions. Probably because I’m not an asshole. Hm…I guess focus?
When and where were you the happiest?
Zed: Hemera Station, 2261. Those five days…
Ethan: Shoving cake in Jamie’s face during our reception.
Jamie: Opening my door in New York and seeing Ethan standing there.
Ethan: Really? More than our reception?
Jamie: *grins at Ethan* When I saw you in New York that morning, I knew we were in it for the long run. Everything else since then has just been the icing on the cake.
Ethan: *groans* You’ve been waiting to use that one, haven’t you.
Jamie: *grins* Yep.
Felix: Next question.
What is it that you most dislike?
Ethan: *holds fist out for a bump*
Felix: *fist bumps*
Jamie: Brussels sprouts.
Ethan: You’re never going to forgive me for that, are you?
Zed: Military brass who don’t give a shit about their men.
Ethan: *peers over at Zed* Dude. We have got to swap stories sometime about past asshole bosses. I had this one boss–”
Jamie: Pretty sure this isn’t the time, E.
Ethan: *mouths to Zed* Later. We’ll talk. I’ll buy the first round.
Zed: Okay. And then for the second, I’ll raid Qek’s special cache. You ever tried ashushk wine?
What is your greatest fear?
Felix: The dark. *glares* It’s not really dark in space, all right? My ship has lights. And there are stars and shit.
Zed: Heights. How many people are going to read this, anyway?
Ethan: I hate people touching my feet. *shivers* Oh, and him leaving me again. Mostly, feet. And tofurkey.
Jamie: Losing Ethan, again.
Ethan: *goofy grin*
Felix: What the fuck is tofurky?
Jamie: Well, you see. There’s this soy product that’s used to make‒”
Ethan: *interrupts Jamie* Trust me, Felix. You don’t want to know.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Felix: The Chaos. Took every credit Eli and I had to buy that bucket of bolts.
Ethan: Extravagance? What is this, big fucking fancy word day? The restaurant.
Jamie: The secret bank account I add money to for my future therapy bills.
Zed: Um…I’m not sure how to answer this. I don’t actually buy a lot of stuff.
Felix: Are you kidding me? Each one of your fancy shirts costs about as much as my ship. *fingers the silk* But you should keep buying them.
Zed: Yeah, but they’re not an extravagance. They’re just clothes.
What is your greatest regret?
Zed: Walking away after graduation.
Felix: *looks at Zed, looks at Ethan and Jamie, looks back at Zed. *grumbles*
Ethan: *looks down at wedding ring, spinning it with his thumb and forefinger* Walking away from Jamie.
Jamie: Nothing. Everything we did led me here to this moment with you. So, yeah. Nothing.
Which talent would you most like to have?
Ethan: Superman’s heat vision. I’d never have cold coffee again.
Jamie: More patience.
Felix: Patience would be good. I guess. Sometimes. Or the ability to see through walls.
Zed: You know, the wishing for talents thing has never worked out well for me. Next question.
Where would you like to live?
Zed: A planet. I’m not picky. I don’t mind being in space for long periods, but I kind of like having somewhere with rock beneath my feet and a sky stretching overhead as a home base.
Felix: Really, a planet?
Zed: Yeah. I like having roots.
Ethan: I’m already living where I’d like to live. In our condo in Seattle. Planet Obvious.
Jamie: Anywhere Ethan is.
Felix: *makes gagging noises*
Ethan: *smirks at Felix, then plants an exaggerated kiss on Jamie*
What is the quality you most like in a man?
Zed: Knowing what he wants and going after it. Also, strong arms.
Ethan: Sense of humor. Also, a big set of *spreads hands apart* hands.
Ethan: *raises an eyebrow* Tatts?
Jamie: *blushes* And maybe piercings.
Ethan: *smirks* Time to hit the Ink Shop again.
Felix: You know we have tatts that actually move, right? That’s one of those future things. *grins* Actually, ours are dead. Too many trips through j-space.
Ethan: *jaw drops* Your tatts move? *turns to Jamie* I have to get one of those. Goddammit, I will fucking die if I don’t get one of those.
What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Zed: Knowing what she wants and going after it. Also, curves.
Felix: *gestures* You mean boobs, right?
Ethan: I second the boobs. Or third. Whatever.
Zed: *holds out fist awkwardly* Is this how you do it? Anyway, yes. Boobs. But hips, too. That curve, right there…
Jamie: *pauses, looks around at the guys, then shrugs* I got nothing.
What do you most value in your friends?
Ethan: The ability to roll with the punches.
Jamie: Sticking by you, even during the bad times.
Ethan: *mutters* Fucking Trustfund …
Jamie: Ethan …
Felix: *glances at Zed* We gotta stop skipping questions, man. Our score is dropping.
Zed: Wait, we’re being scored? I thought you said we weren’t!
Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
Zed: I don’t think the question means superhero.
Felix: Batman isn’t super.
Ethan: Fiction? Hmm. Let me think about that one.
Jamie: Chuck Hughes.
Ethan: Chuck Hughes? You do know he’s real.
Jamie: *smirks* I’m talking about the Chuck Hughes in my imagination.
Ethan: Next question.
Who are your heroes in real life?
Felix: *tips head* Him, over there with the steel blue eyes.
Zed: Don’t believe everything you see on a holo.
Ethan: Jamie. Speaking of steel, he’s got balls of steel for coming out and taking the world by the short hairs.
Jamie: *blushes* Ethan. He’s the strongest person I know. Plus he has such an elegant way with words.
Felix: *tries not to eye Jamie’s steely balls, or general crotch area…anything below the hips* Walking must be awkward, eh?
Jamie: *drops head in hands and groans* I’m so going to kill you, Ethan.
Which living person do you most admire?
Felix: Elias, because he hasn’t strangled me in my sleep yet.
Zed: Flick. He knows why.
Felix: No I don’t.
Ethan: I should give some kind of deep answer here. Let me think about it.
Zed: C’mon, Felix. Think about it. You’re still kicking.
Felix: *kicks Zed in the ankle. Gently*
Zed: Remind me why I like you.
Felix: *nips Zed’s earlobe* You love me.
Jamie: I think it’s time to open a bottle of wine. Anyone else want some wine?
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Felix: Shit, double shit, triple shit and… *smacks Zed’s hand away* Don’t touch me. Yeah, I see what you did there.
Zed: Just being helpful, in case you forgot that one.
Ethan: Any combination of words with the F-Bomb.
Ethan: *leers* You did say that a lot last night. Well, that and “Oh my God!” and “Yes! Yes! Yes!”
Jamie: How many more questions are there?
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Zed: *looks at Flick sadly* I want to say I’d change that, but I don’t know if I can say it. I don’t know if I’d want to. I’m sorry.
Felix: S’okay. Can I call you Soliton?
Zed: That’s Captain Soliton to you.
Ethan: I’d listen to Jamie before opening my mouth. He’s the smartest guy I know.
Jamie: *leans against Ethan* Love you too, E. I’d work on my OCD. I tend to get a little … anal in the kitchen.
Ethan: *snorts* You said “anal.”
Zed: *stares at the ceiling and tries really hard to keep a straight face*
How would you like to die?
Felix: Is this a trick question?
Ethan: With a smile on my face next to him. *points at Jamie*
Jamie: Ditto what Ethan said.
Zed: Aww. That’s…that’s really sweet.
Felix: *makes gagging noises*
Ethan and Jamie: *snickers*
If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
Felix: A poltergeist. And I’d touch everyone who insisted on touching me, with my ghost fingers. And maybe knock shit off walls.
Zed: Maybe you could put your poltergeist powers to better uses, hm?
Felix: *winks* Sexy uses?
Zed: Well, duh.
Ethan: Dude. I’d come back as a chick just so I could smack myself upside the head for all the times I’ve opened my mouth and been a tool.
Jamie: You’d come back as a chick just so you could play with your own boobs.
Ethan: *stares off into space dreamily* Yeah, that too.
Zed: I like Ethan’s answer. I’m gonna ditto that. Because boobs.
What is your motto?
Felix: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Sir Winston Churchill said that. I think he must have faced something like the stin, eh?
Zed: “Don’t die.”
Ethan: “Life’s too short to eat shitty food.”
Jamie: “Laugh often and love hard.”
Ethan: *snorts* You said “hard.”
Jamie: Is this thing over yet?
Eileen Griffin and Nikka Michaels co-authored In the Raw and In the Fire. The next book in the Kitchen series, In the Distance, is due out June 15. Visit their websites to find out more about their many other collaborations.
Yes, I realise my title has sexy connotations. It’s meant to. 🙂
When my writing partner, Jenn, and I joined the Carina Press author loop, we met another co-writing team, Nikka Michaels and Eileen Griffin. We immediately bonded over our love of male-male romance, writing and reading it, and the joys of having a writing partner. Although we write very different kinds of stories–Nikka and Eileen write contemporary romance and Jenn and I write more speculative stories, we all agreed on the same thing: love is love and happy ever afters are made of win.
We haven’t decided to collaborate on a book just yet (I write this with equal parts trepidation and amusement), but we did “sit down” and discuss co-writing in general and male-male romance more specifically. Co-writing can work in a number of ways. Some partners do more of the writing, others more of the editing. Some write chapter by chapter and others each take a point of view. So we’ll start there.
Do you each take a character?
Nikka Michaels It depends on the book. The first two books of the In the Kitchen series we tended to take a certain POV, but for the third we’re both writing both POV’s.
Eileen Griffin Usually, but like Nikka said, it depends on the book and on our own personal schedules.
Kelly Jensen Yes. In the Chaos Station series we also share the writing of a third point of view character, the captain of the Chaos, Elias Idowu.
Jenn Burke I enjoy the surprise of opening up the document to see what Kel’s character has done in his scene. Most of the time, it’s what I’m expecting, because I know her character as well as I know my own, but sometimes…
Is it hard to write each other’s characters?
KJ At first, yes. I didn’t want to assume too much. But as you get to know the other character, it’s easier to do.
JB When Kel and I first started writing together, it was tough because I think we didn’t want to step on each other’s toes. We’re over that now.
KJ Now we’re constantly inventing quirks for each other’s characters. 😀
NM It can be if the other character isn’t speaking.
EG I totally agree that it is at first, but after a few chapters, each character develops a certain personality. Even though we each have an affinity for a certain character, once we’re fully into the book, it’s not that hard to swap characters.
How do you keep to your storyline if someone adds something unexpected?
NM We usually talk about additions before we change the plotline. If we both agree then we plow forward. If not we make a note and keep moving.
EG Even though Nik says she’s a pantster, we both have to have an outline in place in order for us to write comfortably. We just recently had a situation come up where we had to deviate from the outline, but before we could move on, we got online together and hashed out a new direction/outline. Our characters tell us what direction they want to go in, and so we’re okay with changing the outline, but only if both of us agree on the new direction.
KJ If it’s something a character really needs to do, then we try to plot around it. If it’s a plot element that crops up unexpectedly, then we examine our plot as a whole to see if we have a problem or hole we hadn’t seen earlier. My characters tend to have really loud voices. If they’re making enough noise, then I usually assume I’m trying to write something that doesn’t work for them. That’s when it’s time to sit back and reexamine a scene.
JB Communication and openness is key. Sometimes a new direction is exactly what’s needed; the characters drag you in that direction and you’ve got no choice but to madly write in their wake. But sometimes it’s not the only direction and as much as you might be in love with it, if your partner isn’t convinced, you need to hash out why it doesn’t work and come up with a compromise.
How do you keep the descriptions straight?
KJ World building outlines!
JB We have files and files and pictures and spreadsheets and… (our shared folder is getting a little full).
NM We need to do world building outlines. lol Next book we’ll definitely have to be more organized.
EG What Nik said 😉
What’s your favourite aspect of cowriting?
KJ Having someone else to share the workload. We’ve just finished revising a book and facing that task alone would have been more daunting.
JB Sharing the story and the world is both my favourite aspect and the most challenging. It took a while to get comfortable with the idea that I don’t control everything about the world as I do with my solo projects. But the flip side is that being able to bounce ideas off Kel and having that support when something just isn’t working. There’s no time wasted in getting her caught up in my thought processes or where the plot was going or anything like that—she’s right there with me.
NM I’m with Kelly. Having someone to split the workload and everything that is involved with writing a book: writing, editing, revising, promo…it would be a lot more overwhelming going solo. Also it’s just really fun.
EG I’ll be honest: I’d be lost without Nik. Writing is such a solitary endeavor, so having her there with me to talk to about the characters, to plot with, to bounce ideas off of is worth its weight in gold.
Least favourite aspect?
NM I don’t really have one. We’ve been co-writing for a while so we pretty much have a system down after so many books together.
EG I don’t really have one either. I hate time zone issues since we live in different states and google docs can be highly temperamental sometimes. But I guess the least favorite as for me is getting our outlines down. I’m terribly OCD when it comes to our outlines, so I feel for Nik when I go into my Rain Man routine, but I’m getting better. Right, Nik? RIGHT???
KJ Letting go of total control of the project.
JB I don’t know if I’d say least favourite, but challenging, for sure, is leaving my ego at the door. Honestly, I think that’s an absolute necessity for co-writing and it’s not easy to let go of your ideas if your partner’s not down with them. (Thankfully, we can usually find a way to incorporate most of our ideas with some compromise!)
How did you meet?
NM We met online on twitter through shared love of a book series.
EG What’s more, we found out we clicked. She truly knows me better than most of my friends who I see regularly.
JB Kel and I were both fans of video game Dragon Age: Origins and got chatting on the BioWare fan site back in 2009. We bonded over our mutual love of the game and its characters. Seriously, the chats we had via the site’s messaging system were epic.
KJ Then you insisted on telling passport control at the Canada/U.S. border that you were on your way to visit someone you’d met online…
JB Yeah, I think that was the longest I’d ever been questioned at the border. That lady was SCARY.
When did you decide to write together?
NM After realizing we wanted to write stories together.
EG Funny story. We’d been chatting online for a while when Nik showed me a submission call one day and said, “You know, we could write a short story together, just for fun …” The rest is herstory.
JB About a year or so after we met online, we started roleplaying in a play-by-post forum, which gave us our first taste of writing together. We fell in love with our characters and the story we created for them in that setting, enough that we were inspired to try writing a book. Chaos Station is the second book we’ve written together.
KJ One day we’ll dig out that first manuscript, dust it off and shrink back in horror at all the mistakes we made.
KJ Short answer: Two penises are better than one! Long answer: I adore men and I love writing them. I also love reading and writing about men in love. We see a different side of men when they’re in emotional situations. Put two of them together and the dynamic and rules change completely.
NM LOL Swordfight! Who doesn’t love reading a love story? I’ve written men and women together, men and men together and I imagine I’ll write all the combinations of letters together eventually. Love is love, no matter how you put the letters together.
JB I love that m/m seems to allow for a wider range in emotional vulnerability for male characters than hetero romance. That’s a huge and enjoyable challenge to write. Also, there’s the added bonus that, by adding to the m/m genre, I’m helping to further the idea that love is love.
EG I read an article not too long ago that summed up my feelings on this perfectly. Basically, in het romance, the men all have to be these alpha males who never show emotion and take charge of every situation and problem the author throws at him and his love interest. In m/m, we’re given the opportunity to write men with feelings, who aren’t always the strong ones, but are still worthy of love, none the less.
There you have it, love is love. On to the books! Available now from Carina Press, In the Raw by Eileen Griffin and Nikka Michaels. Coming March 2015 from Carina Press, Chaos Station by Jenn Burke and Kelly Jensen.
In the Raw (In the Kitchen #1)
If you can’t take the heat…
James Lassiter has had a crush on fellow culinary student Ethan Martin for three years, but has never had the guts to make a move. Putting himself out there is hard, especially when under the thumb–and wallet–of his overbearing parents. Now that bad boy chef Ethan–who is always vying with Jamie for best in class–is struggling with the pastry course, Jamie suddenly has a reason to reach out.
Ethan doesn’t mean to be an ass–okay, so mostly he does–but even though he’s secretly hot for Jamie, he sure as hell doesn’t want help with pastry. Ever since his dad walked out, Ethan has been the one to hold things together and he’s done fine on his own. Except that he can’t get his cake to rise.
Jamie could be the answer to what Ethan’s been missing his whole life–someone to depend on. But with the two competing for the same scholarship, things suddenly get too hot to handle. And if Jamie finds the strength to go for what he wants, he isn’t about to settle for what he needs.
Where to find:
Chaos Station (Chaos Station #1)
“You’re not real. Felix Ingesson is dead.”
The war with the alien stin is over, but Felix Ingesson has given up on seeing his lover, Zander Anatolius, ever again. Zander’s military file is sealed tighter than an airlock. A former prisoner of war, Felix is attempting a much quieter life keeping his ship, the Chaos, aloft. He almost succeeds, until Zander walks on board and insists that Felix isn’t real.
A retired, broken super soldier, Zander is reeling from the aftereffects of his experimental training and wants nothing more than to disappear and wait for insanity to claim him. Then he sees footage of a friend and ally—a super soldier like him—murdering an entire security squad with her bare hands and a cold, dead look in her eyes. He never expected to find Felix, the man he’d thought dead for years, on the ship he hired to track her down.
Working with Felix to rescue his teammate is a dream come true…and a nightmare. Zander has no exit strategy that will leave Felix unscathed—or his own heart unbroken.
Where to find: