About Me

My photo
D. H. Starr is a clean-cut guy with a wickedly naughty mind. He grew up in Boston and loves the city for its history and beauty. Also, having lived in NYC, he enjoys the fast pace and the availability of anything and everything. He first became interested in reading from his mother who always had a stack of books piled next to her bed. Family is important to D. H. and his stories center around the intricate and complex dynamics of relationships and working through problems while maintaining respect and love. His favorite books tend to fall in the genres of science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, and coming of age. To learn more about D. H. Starr and his books, please visit his website at www.dhstarr.com if you are 18+. To view his young adult work and resources, visit www.dhstarrYAbooks.com.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Eden Winters – Reviewer Fangirl

You've got to read this book!
Hey everyone:

I've got a special treat for you today. Eden Winters has agreed to guest blog and she's one of my very favorite authors. She's got some interesting perspectives on reviewers and review sites. So kick back and enjoy and once you're done reading this, you should visit her site and learn more about the awesome author.

Let's get a few things out in the open before I begin, okay? First off, I'm an author. Secondly, I'll be talking about reviewers. And yes, I'm a reviewer fangirl. I'm not necessarily referring to reviews about my work, either, but reviews in general.

I've heard that some authors avoid review sites, and I've seen a lot of blog posts about reviews and reviewers. Regardless, I have to say that I'm very much into reviews for many reasons. Not the one line "this sucked" variety of review, but a well thought out, well stated, honest assessment of a book. These types of reviews are extremely helpful to me, both as a writer, and as a reader who wants to spend her hard earned cash on a book she'll love.

Like a reader with a book, however, I've developed some favorite "writers," for a reviewer is a writer.

If you're looking for name dropping, that ain't happening, but my favorite reviewers have a few things in common:

1)      It's very obvious that they did read the book all the way through and perhaps more than once. I love seeing a favorite passage or quotes that gives me a little taste of what the reviewer found enjoyable, or what they found odd, about a book.

2)      They give a brief synopsis, but don't give too much away. Again, this shows me they've actually read the book. Spoilers are okay – I have a short memory. I'm old.

3)      They list what worked and what didn't, without being harsh or excessively negative.

4)      Their review focuses on the work, not on the writer.

Now most reviewers I know don't get paid to review. Some are supplied book copies by publishers or the authors themselves, but many buy their own books. The reasons they review are probably as varied as the reviewers themselves. Whatever their reasons for staying up late, reading a book that may be out of their comfort zone, and then wracking their brains to correctly word their responses, they devote a lot of time and effort to what is often a very thankless job. And be you writer, reader, or reviewer, we share a kinship in our love of M/M literature. Does that one star, "What was she thinking?" review hurt? You betcha it does. It's gonna take one hell of a lot of chocolate, a couple of pints of Haagen-Daas, and crying on a friend's shoulder over beer and nachos to get over, but the bottom line is: if not for reviewers there's a lot of folks out there who've read and liked an author's work, who would never have heard of them otherwise. My own hard drive is full of purchases that a reviewer talked me into.  

There are those who say reviews are for readers, not writers, but being the opportunist that I am, I'm going to take advantage of critique. Contracts aren't always open-ended, and at some point, a story in which someone said I overused, for instance, the word "vindictive" will fall back into my lap. I now have a chance to enrich my descriptions with a "vindictive", a "spiteful", a "malicious"… you get the idea. The critique is there for the taking, to make my work better. You bet I'm gonna read reviews and glean the benefit of someone else's point of view. Bear in mind that I'm not talking about rewriting my story to please a single individual, but if someone points out a character name misspelling or other glaring error, I'm gonna tip my hat, say "Thank you!" and correct the darned thing if I get the chance.

A post about my fangirldom wouldn't be complete if I didn't mention the reviewers I've communicated with who freely offer their thoughts. You know who you are, and you rock. And to the poor soul who watched in horror as a middle-aged author leapt over a table at GayRomLit to wrap them in a hug and squee, well, I hope I haven't scared you off conventions permanently.

While my stories come from my heart, and I write what's in me to write, if I offer a novel for sale (or as a giveaway), I genuinely, honestly, with all my heart and soul, hope that whoever reads it feels they spent their time (and money) wisely. Insightful reviewers help me to ensure the value of my work, assisting me to grow as a writer.
So hat's off to reviewers. Keep doing what you do, and I'll keep doing what I do. I'll raise my wine glass, sometimes in toast, sometimes to drown the pain, but either way, may we long continue to read each other's work.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Feed, Prey, Love - Prelude


Palestine, 1798

Talib had been named after his late grandfather, meaning seeker of knowledge. His father was filled with pride when, at only eighteen, Talib was accepted to Beit Rabban, the house of the teacher, to serve as an apprentice under Rabbi Elder. It was a bittersweet moment when Talib left his meager village, proud tears streaming down his father’s cheeks. Although Talib inherited a dark complexion and angular, strong features, his frame was slender. Nothing like the muscular build of his father, who served as a commander in the Ottoman Empire army. Yet for all of his father’s size and military success, Talib had never questioned his love. While Talib might never be a military leader, he could show leadership in his own way and planned to open a school house once he finished his own education and pilgrimage. In the meantime, he relished his “special” relationship with his master. Only that eased his great homesickness..

He had been at Beit Rabban for nearly six months and missed his family dearly. The longing for home would have been unbearable had it not been for Rabbi Elder’s mentorship. More than a teacher, Elder had been an older brother of sorts, a friend to confide in and a man to emulate. The fact he seemed to be no more than ten to fifteen years Talib’s senior was simply another attribute to admire about the man. Rabbi Elder had to be truly great to attain his position at Beit Rabban at such a young age. Each day, Talib gazed at Elder’s sandy blond hair, the curls of his peyos framing his face perfectly to accentuate his cheekbones while hiding a sharp jawline, amazed that such a great man would devote so much attention to him in his academic studies and studies of the flesh.

The creak of his door each night was a welcome sound; one he had grown to long for over the past few months. He had lost count of the number of times Elder had climbed into his bed. At first shocked, thinking the pairing to two men a sin against God, Talib quickly reasoned that his mentor and nightly lover knew best. Who was Talib to question a man who knew the Talmud far better than himself?

Rather than dwell on his notions of right and wrong, Talib relished in the spark Elder ignited within him. Longings Talib had felt, but never dared explore, became a reality as he and Elder explored each other’s minds and bodies. To know that a man as worthy of respect as Rabbi Elder wanted the pleasure of another man filled Talib with a sense of wholeness. That he had chosen Talib out of all the other students at Beit Rabban filled him with a sense of pride; a belief that everything within him was true and right.

Rabbi Elder padded softly across the stone floor of Talib’s dormitory room. While there were other students, each received their own sleeping quarters. The accommodations were sparse, walls of stone, a cold and harsh atmosphere, but that was all part of the learning. Sacrifice of personal luxury to better learn to empathize with those less fortunate. Yet as hard as his thin mattress was, the warmth of Elder’s body  and the give of his muscles pressed against Talib’s own blocked anything else from his senses.

“I’ve missed you, Rabbi.”

Soft lips pressed against his own, capturing him in a kiss which began gently, but quickly became fevered. Something was different about the kiss. A hunger which wasn’t normally present. As if Elder had a greater need than usual. Once he pulled out of the kiss, brown pools seeming to glow with an amber fire stared down into Talib’s eyes. “I’ve told you, when we lay together, you are to call me Elder. The lines of master and scholar do not exist when we are together like this.”

“I’m sorry Rab…I mean Elder. It’s difficult for me to remember. I look up to you so.”

Elder’s eyes softened, the fire dimming, as he stared down into Talib’s. “It’s all right, my love. Tonight is going to be a very special night for the two of us.”

Heat washed through Talib, beginning in the pit of his stomach and radiating outwards. The waves of sensation burned from within, yet left an electrified chill along his skin, causing the hairs to rise. His lover’s words incited Talib’s mind, excitement warring with anticipation as he waited for his mentor to continue.

“You know how much I love you, don’t you, Talib?”

The words filled Talib. He would have thought he was floating if not for the weight of Elder’s body on top of his. “Yes, I do. And I love you, Elder. You have given me a gift greater than knowledge, you have given me the gift of awareness.”

Elder brushed his fingers through Talib’s black hair, pushing his peyos aside so they splayed on the pillow. He lowered his head to Talib’s neck and pressed his nose to the skin, inhaling deeply, the intimacy of the act causing Talib to shiver. In a husky voice, he whispered into Talib’s ear. “There are things I have not yet taught you, but I would like to.”

“Anything. I am a vessel for you to fill.” Talib smiled thinking of how many times Elder had filled his vessel.

Elder laughed. “You are playing with your words, but yes, you are my best and favorite student. Yet there are things not written in books which I must…no…which I desire to teach you. I have become…attached to you, and wish to share everything I am with you.”

The way he phrased his comment sent Talib’s mind soaring skyward. Elder wanted him, was attached to him. He had called him special. “Whatever you wish to teach me, I am willing to learn. You are a brilliant teacher. A highly skilled scholar. A man of great knowledge.”

“Yes, but I am more. Will you allow me to show you what I am? May I introduce you to the world I live in, one quite different than the world you know?”

There was mystery behind the cryptic words, forcing Talib’s breath to quicken, each intake shallow, uncertain. But Elder had opened Talib’s eyes, led him down paths which had frightened him, and Talib’s world was brighter and fuller as a result. If his mentor and lover wanted to share something with him, he would gladly receive the gift. “Yes, of course. Anything.”

Elder smiled, but it wasn’t a smile of happiness. Rather, his lips curled up into a grin revealing some other emotion Talib couldn’t identify. Only in the last moment did Talib realize Elder wore no smile. He drew his lips back, exposing teeth which seemed to have grown longer. Fear not were the last words Talib heard before Elder descended, clamping down on his neck.

Razor-sharp teeth penetrated his skin. With a piercing scream filled with pain, shock, and pleasure, Talib gripped at Elder’s head, trying to escape but to no avail. Blood flowed from his neck and into Elder’s hungry mouth, a sickeningly sweet iron odor filling his nostrils. Along with the sensation of blood flowing from him, each lick of Elder’s tongue bringing excruciating pleasure, Talib could also feel Elder’s arousal pressed against his thigh.

Time seemed to slow. The space between Talib’s heartbeats lengthened. The thrum of his blood coursed slower and slower.

After what seemed like hours, Elder drew back. Crimson blood stained his lips and dripped from his still-elongated fangs. While the bite had been painful, Talib longed for Elder’s mouth to return to his neck, to continue to draw blood from him. Although it was difficult to focus, Talib was able to make out the expression of lust and hunger in his mentor’s eyes. Elder’s arousal continued to drive against him, his own hardened shaft pressing back. He’s something other than human. How can this excite me?

“Talib, I am a creature of the night. You have a choice to make. I have drained you to the point of death. You will die if I do not feed you, but if you accept my gift, you will become what I am, and we can spend our lives together, for all eternity.”

Through the haze of his faint consciousness, he could make out the earnest expression on Elder’s face. Thoughts flittered through Talib’s mind, disconnected, difficult to comprehend. “A creature of the night? A golem? Not real…only stories.”

Elder caressed his forehead, hot fingers burning against his cold skin. “I assure you we are not lore. I am not a demon or possessed by a dybbuk. I am real and I wish to give you the gift of eternal life. Will you share your love with me for all time?”

Thoughts slipped through his mind, never taking hold. Darkness crowded in until he could barely see or hear. It wasn’t until the warm drops of thick liquid hit his lips and dripped into his mouth, quenching a thirst he hadn’t realized he’d felt, that his answer came to him. Gripping Elder’s wrist, he pulled the torn flesh to his mouth, sucking with all his might, drinking life’s essence back into himself with each pulse of Elder’s heart.

As if waking from a dream, Talib became aware of each of his senses. Sights, smells, scents, sounds, everything coalesced within his mind with great clarity and sensitivity. The fear emanating from a fly trapped in a spider’s web entered his nose. I can smell fear. Along with the coppery, iron flavor of Elder’s blood, he could taste the wine Elder had drunk at dinner. Disconnected thoughts flew through his mind. How can I taste the wine in his blood? Golem are real?

Sensation upon sensation filled him, only to come to a screeching halt when he heard something he never expected to hear. I have turned him. He’s now mine.

“What? What do you mean you’ve turned me?” Talib was sure he had misheard. It had to be the result of his loss of blood or perhaps the fear coursing through him. He had broken so many rules, he must be possessed by a dybbuk, the spirit of a dead man who’d violated the laws of Torah. Perhaps he had been wrong in believing what he and Elder shared was right. Was God punishing him for breaking His laws? An image of his home, his father’s proud face, flashed in Talib’s mind. Shame and panic swirled within him, making breathing impossible. He had shamed himself and his family. He had turned on his God; on his religion. All because he had trusted Rabbi Elder.

Elder’s eyes widened and his mouth opened slightly, only to clamp shut once again. Disbelief, no, shock, settled on his face. “I said nothing, my love. You must still be weak from the transformation.” It can’t be. He couldn’t possibly have heard my thoughts.

“But I do hear you. What is this? Have you deceived me in some way?” Fear shifted to anger and hurt. He’s betrayed me. He’s led me down the path of sin, knowing I could never return to the life I’d dreamed of. He’s forced me to act against my God…so I could be…his? The sense of foolishness closed in and around Talib and he pushed to free himself, to stand, to take in deep breaths of cleansing air. With little effort, his push flung Elder across the room, his body hitting the wall with enough force to kill a man.

Even in the dim light of his bedchamber, Talib saw the color drain from Elder’s face. “But how…how do you know the thoughts which run through my mind?” He mustn’t ever find out I did this so I won’t have to be alone any longer. I need a companion. Isolation has left me starved.

It took him a minute to get over the shock that Elder had not been hurt from his crash with the wall. Talib could hear everything, every truth Elder had failed to tell him. He had not offered Talib eternity out of love. His motives had been selfish. He could hear it in Elder’s mind, for the man could not lie there.

Talib was no longer human. He knew this in the deepest reaches of his being. The change had occurred. He was a dybbuk and worse, a golem. He had broken every rule there was to be broken short of killing. There was no turning back. The truth filling his mind caused Talib to retch, thick red jets of blood erupting from his stomach. When he could speak, he scowled at his former master, the man he’d loved, had given his heart and body to. The man who’d deceived him in the most wretched way. “You did this to me because you wanted a companion?” While the words formed a question, his tone carried all the anger and accusation coursing through him.

Raw emotion lifted Talib’s body from the bed. Before he realized what was happening, he was hovering in the air before Elder, defying gravity and laws his human form had to abide. He glided effortlessly, slowly closing the distance between himself and the deceitful man who had irrevocably changed his life. Instinctually, he reached out with his mind, linking it to Elder’s, forcing him into helpless paralysis.

Elder cowered, but was unable to avert his gaze. Talib could feel the will seep out of Elder as his mind gave way to Talib’s strength. He could sense the urge to fight back within his former mentor, but could feel the weakness radiating toward him. Elder wasn’t as strong as Talib. Talib was more than Elder, different. What have I become?

Hatred swelled within him as he prepared to strike, but he stopped, released Elder’s mind and lowered himself to the ground until he once again stood on his own two feet. “I will not kill you, nor will I remain with you. You may have taken the life I planned to live from me, you may have turned me into a golem, but you can never take my humanity. I may not be able to return home. I wouldn’t bring that kind of shame to my family. But I won’t stay here with you.”

Elder rushed forward. Kneeling before Talib he wrapped trembling arms around his bare waist. Fear radiated from his very pores. Talib could taste it, smell it. It burned his nose and tongue like acid. “Please. I’m so lonely.”

Talib pushed him away once again, not as hard as the last time, but hard enough to make his point. He had no idea what his future held, only that it had been changed. He could not undo the things he had done against God, but maybe there was a way to reverse the evil coursing within his body. Maybe he wouldn’t have to live an eternity, as Elder had said. Maybe he could become what he had always been, pious, a man of God.

Turning to face Elder, disgust filled him. Looking at the weak, pathetic man cowering on the floor, hands raised up in defense, Talib shook his head, a single, sad laugh escaping him. “And so you shall remain, for I must leave you.”