Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.
Today, Jodi Payne and B.A. Tortuga.
Thanks so much, Jodi and B.A., for joining me!
Jodi and B.A. are giving away an eBook copy of Refraction in the winner’s favorite format. For a chance to win, comment on the post below.
J. Scott Coatsworth: What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever done in the name of research?
Jodi Payne: Way back when Chris Owen and I were writing the Deviations Series, we actually contacted a Mistress who ran a dungeon and also an online forum and asked her if she’d be open to questions. She was, and we asked her all kinds of things about relationships about the way certain tools were used, about power exchange dynamics… and then she basically opened herself and her forum to us as a research tool. We got great information, first hand from real people, but sometimes? Sometimes, we got way more detail than we asked for. Like… whoa.
JSC: Do you reward yourself for writing, or punish yourself for failing to do so? How?
Jodi Payne: No, I don’t do either one. I’ve occasionally tried using incentives, like if I get through 3K I can take the night off and watch a movie, but honestly, I find that mentally counter-productive most of the time. I’m either ready to write 3K, or I’m not. I will take breaks after I finish one project, before I start another. I don’t see that as a reward so much a recharging my batteries.
JSC: What do you do if you get a brilliant idea at a bad time?
Jodi Payne: There is never a bad time for a brilliant idea! If it’s that good, I take the time to at least write the blurb, take good notes, and usually I will start the project because you can’t get that energy back. Sudden inspiration is one of my favorite things about writing.
JSC: Tell us something we don’t know about your heroes. What makes them tick?
Jodi Payne: Gordon is a collector. He has a vintage gay porn collection. He has a huge collection of Broadway musicals (he loves musicals). He has a collection of rare wines. He’s so busy that he doesn’t have time for most hobbies, but he has money, and collecting he can do.
JSC: Describe yourself using… ( a food, a book, a song, a movie, an animal, a drink, a place etc)
Jodi Payne: I am waves at the beach. Sometimes I’m predictable like the tide. Sometimes I’m slowly eroding the sand dunes. Sometimes I’m bringing things from deep in the ocean and leaving them on shore. Sometimes I’m lapping gently at your ankles and going with the flow… and sometimes I’m taking the beach by storm and drowning anyone that gets in my way.
JSC: What do you do if you get a brilliant idea at a bad time?
BA Tortuga: Well, in a perfect world, I take detailed notes and file the idea away until I have an opening in my schedule.
Who am I kidding? I write that bitch and wallow in it as long as I can. 😉
JSC: How long have you been writing?
BA Tortuga: My first story was written when I was two. It was called, “Moma and the Magic Muffin Machine” and it was a morality tale about mean mothers that wouldn’t make their little girls blueberry muffins. My first publication was in 1976. It was a piece of poetry in a children’s magazine.
JSC: Tell us something we don’t know about your heroes. What makes them tick?
BA Tortuga: Hmm…Colby can sing. Like really really. If he doesn’t know anyone’s listening, he can belt it out. After Gordon and he have been together years and Olivia is experiencing stage fright, he finally sings for the two of them.
JSC: Were you a voracious reader as a child?
BA Tortuga: I read 15-20 books a week as a little girl. I read about one a day now. Books are the reason I dream.
JSC: What action would your name be if it were a verb?
BA Tortuga: Persist, no question. 😉
And now for Jodi and B.A.s new book: Heart of a Redneck:
Colby McBride is a blue-collar cowboy trying to make ends meet laying tile in Colorado. A loner by choice, Colby works hard with his hands and finds his peace camping in the mountains outside Boulder. Gordon James is a white-collar restaurateur who owns not one, but two successful establishments in downtown Boulder. He’s a sophisticated urbanite who is devoted to his work and is accustomed to getting what he wants.
The men are friends, but sparks fly when Colby falls in love and decides to show Gordon how much fun a good old boy can be. They’re just beginning to explore their relationship when Gordon’s sister’s suicide leaves him with custody of his five-year-old niece.
Colby comes from a huge family and is eager to help with the girl and to prove his worth to Gordon. But neither of them is ready for the tremendous changes to their already busy lives, or for how this new relationship with Olivia challenges them, complicating the way they interact with each other.
They say opposites attract, but can these two very different men work together to join their disparate lives and form a strong, if highly unlikely, family?
“MCBRIDE? YOU get that utility room floor done?”
“Would I be out here looking for my draw if I didn’t, man? Y’all know I do good work.” Come on, motherfucker. Pay me. I got to tile a bathroom and see my man. He reckoned it didn’t matter a bit whether Gordon knew he was Colby’s. That was just details. Eventually he would make Gordon see him as more than a beer buddy.
If he could start his weekend with a check in one hand and a beer in the other, he would be a happy little cowboy. He’d started one job, picked up supplies for another, and trimmed out the third. He was a busy man.
Thank God for that.
“You’re the best guy out there,” Lou admitted grudgingly, handing over his draw. “And I gotta say, you will work for money.”
“I’m good that way.” He pocketed the check after peeking to make sure all the numbers were there. “Thank you, sir. I will be on the Williams’s job come Monday. Should take me a day and a half, give or take.”
“Then you’ll work that Best Western?”
“Just the lobby fireplace, man. You can get any asshole to slap down twelve-bys on the rooms.” He knew what his happy ass was worth, and it was worth more than mindless tile work. He liked to be pushed some.
“Just the lobby.” Lou rolled his eyes like dice. “The owner’s wife has ideas.”
“Faboo.” Something else he was pretty good at was talking to folks. He liked people, so for the most part, people liked him. “I can talk to her Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday, huh? Let her show me what all she wants.”
Lou snorted. “Oh, I’m sure she’ll love whatever you have to offer. Try for Tuesday, yeah? I want you done over there by Friday. I’ve got a couple of big jobs I’ve bid on for the week after, and there might be some design work on one of them. I could use you.”
“Just call.” Lou paid on time and, so far, didn’t seem to be too much of a dick, so Colby gave the big man priority. “Have a good weekend, sir.”
“You too, cowboy.”
He tipped his gimme cap and headed out to his F-250, then hauled his butt up into the cab. “Okay. Let’s get this show on the road.”
Colby cracked his window, turned Luke Bryan up loud, and put on his sunglasses. Damn, he did love to have him some springtime, even if it came later up here than it did back home. The snow was gone, the trees were budding, and the sun was making promises that it might be time to grill out wearing nothing but his cutoffs.
Between the weather and his music, the forty-minute drive from the worksite just flew on by. Traffic into town was pretty heavy but moving, and it wasn’t long before he was pulling into the lot at Delmara. He saw Gordy’s Wrangler, looking a damn sight cleaner than any Jeep he’d ever seen back home. Figured. That Wrangler probably hadn’t seen a dirt road in its life. He parked right next to the shiny Jeep, tossed his sunglasses on the seat, grabbed his tool belt, and headed inside.
“Ah, Mr. McBride.” Gordy’s manager waved him over to the bar. Hell if he could remember the guy’s name.
“Yes, sir. Mr. James called. Says he got a job for me?”
“Yes, but he wants you to stop by his office first. You remember where you’re going?”
“I’ll buzz him. You can head on back.”
He headed through the restaurant to the office, thinking that the tile floor in the hall probably ought to be replaced. It was pretty beat-up.
Gordy’s office door opened before he even had a chance to knock. “Hey, man. Come on in.”
“Hey, honey. You wanting me to get to work on that bathroom, huh?” Look at that hot motherfucker. Colby did like him some stud.
Gordy closed the office door. He turned around, and Colby got a good view of his five-o’clock shadow and his crazy green eyes. “I’d really like to take a break now, but we open in two hours, and those ladies aren’t going to like you in their bathroom much.”
“I live to serve, honey, and your fancy-assed customers might be took aback by my Wrangler butt.”
“They’re not that fancy. You’re just that cowboy.” Gordy laughed, blond bangs falling in his eyes. He swept them away the way he did, one hand carding through them and then that little toss of his head. Gordy gave him one of them weird-assed man-hug deals, bicep popping through his shirt like some high-dollar Popeye. “Thanks for coming by. Now get to work.”
“Bossy old man,” he teased and opened the office door real quick before Gordy could react. “You put the tiles in the bathroom?”
“Oh shit. No, they’re on my desk.” Gordy picked up the box and handed it over. “Here. And don’t make me hound you for an invoice like last time.”
“Yeah, yeah. I’m on it.” He grabbed the box, nodded, then made his way to the bathroom. He was going to have to set up his wet saw to trim around the toilet….
Before long he was lost in the steadiness of the work, setting the tile, making sure everything was just so, and the time just flew by.
“Hey, looking good in here. Not that I would expect anything less.” Gordy set a cold bottle of beer down on the floor next to Colby. “We open in a half an hour, you close?”
“You know it. I’ll pop in tomorrow afternoon and grout it before y’all open.” He grabbed the bottle and downed half the brew. Oh, hoppy goodness. One thing about hanging with a restaurant guy? You didn’t have to drink so much Coors Light.
“That would be great. Really appreciate it. Come on up when you’re done if you want. I need a shower, and I have to put on a tie for a VIP tonight, but I’ve got some time to hang out. Back elevator’s running again.” Pretty neat that Gordy owned the building and lived two floors above the restaurant.
“Spiffy! Sure.” Man in a suit. Yay. “I got to go load my truck. You got a sign for this stall? Someone steps in here on this thin-set and they’ll slide and hurt themselves and ruin my tile job.”
“Can’t have that.” Gordy winked at him and then looked around. “Oh. I thought there was a rope and… yeah. I’ll get Oscar to set something up in here. Do your thing and then come on up. Door’ll be open.”
“Yessir. I’m on it.” It took him two trips to load up the truck and get his shit locked in his toolbox. He finished his beer on the way and took a second to wipe his face off.
Lord have mercy, he was filthy. Good thing he’d warned Mr. Fancy Tie before he showed.
He headed around to the back of the building and took the stairs instead of the elevator. The stairs were more convenient anyway; the fire door on the third floor opened up right next to Gordy’s front door.
He let himself in, as he had done many times before, and was overwhelmed as usual by the size of the damn TV in the front room. He kept telling Gordy to move it to the back wall, but the guy was as stubborn as a hog on ice. Otherwise, though, the apartment was comfortable and not nearly as showy as Gordy could probably afford to be if he wanted. Everything was new and shiny, but the couches were comfy, and the decor was basically gay bachelor pad. Framed Stonewall poster on one wall, rack of DVDs, mostly porn, under the TV, the usual. Broadway soundtracks lined up next to the stereo.
Some ancient rock band was on the radio. Gordy always had music going. Colby just shook his head.
Gordy came out of the kitchen still in his jeans but nothing else except the two bottles of beer he was carrying.
“You get mugged on your way up?”
“You lost your shirt.”
Gordy laughed, holding out one of the bottles. “Have another beer, cowboy. Your jokes aren’t funny yet.”
“Now, now. Ain’t it you that ought to be having another one so I start getting funnier?” Lord have mercy, he did love to look at that man. He could watch Gordon James wander around his so-fancy condo for days.
Well, maybe not days. That would lead to long-term blue balls.
“Yeah, that’s never worked. There’s no hope for you.” Gordy took a swig of his beer. “Oh!” He pointed to the coffee table. “New porn in the mail.”
“Lord, honey. Don’t you know that’s all on the computer now?”
Gordy shook his head. “That’s vintage, my friend. The early bareback stuff. Low edit, tons of fucking. That’s not your cheap internet thrill. You should borrow it.”
“Low edit—what the fuck does that even mean, man? Seriously.” Tons of fucking he got.
“No cuts? No kissing and then cut to the money shots?” Gordon sounded a little snooty about it. Like this was something everybody knew but Colby. “You know, the whole scene—foreplay to finale.”
“Not all of us are conness… connoisseurs and shit. Me? I like a nice long bout of on-screen fucking. That way if your mind wanders….” He did love to tease.
“Your mind or your hand?” Gordon snorted. “I’m with you, the longer the better.” He drew his words out, and they had a little heat and a little growl in them. “Mm.”
“Listen to you.” He’d like for Gordon to listen to his happy ass, just for a second, just long enough to prove that he was man enough to rock Gordon’s world.
Gordon laughed. “One of these days we should hit the clubs in Denver. You get over there much?”
“Once a month or so. Depends on whether I have to run over for a specialty tile in the afternoon. That makes it easier.” And he got to dance. Damn, he did love to two-step.
“I think it’s been—God, I don’t know—maybe five or six weeks since I’ve been there. I used to go every Sunday. Last few weeks I’ve been watching a game or bad movies with this tile guy on Sundays. Or losing at pool. I’m still waiting for that chance to redeem myself, by the way.”
Few weeks? It had been three months. “Oh, now. I’ll play you any time, but you ain’t got redemption coming.”
“I might if you’d drink anything stronger than beer.”
“Country don’t mean dumb, Gordy.” He winked over. Some things were real important—knowing when to drink and when to make a bet were two of them.
“Nope. And apparently a college degree doesn’t make a man wise either.” Gordy winked right back at him. “Oh, speaking of wise. Have you got a couple of work days open in the next week or two? I’m having a new shower installed in the master bath, and I want to do something kind of modern and flashy in there with the tile after. I told them I knew a guy.”
“Yeah? Sure. We got lots of options. I’ll bring a few things over—wood-grain tile is huge right now. I did a bath the other day with glass pieces in the grout line. It looked like diamonds or some shit. Too fucking cool.”
“Glass? How cool is that? Must take forever to do, though, huh?”
He shrugged, took a long swig of beer. “Depends on what you want. They have some strips you can lay in. You do know a guy, after all.”
“Yep. A very reliable guy that does top-notch work. Thanks. Just let me know when you can show me the samples.” Gordy finished off his beer. “Drinking before work. Good thing it’s not full-on summer yet.” He set his bottle on the coffee table. “I need a shower. You want to hang out and watch the cable or whatever, go ahead. I might even have some food in the fridge.”
“You mean you’re not worried about your virtue?”
Gordon snorted and tossed Colby the remote. “Don’t drink all my beer, cowboy.” He headed down the hall toward his bedroom.
One day, man. One day I will have my shit together enough and I will make my move. Colby watched that tight little ass as Gordon disappeared into his bedroom.
He could be patient. In theory. Really he could.
Jodi Payne spent too many years in New York and San Francisco stage-managing classical plays, edgy fringe work, and the occasional musical. She therefore is overdramatic, takes herself way too seriously, and has been known to randomly break out in song. Her men are imperfect but genuine, stubborn but likeable, often kinky, and frequently their own worst enemies. They are characters you can’t help but fall in love with while they stumble along the path to their happily ever after.
For those looking to get on her good side, Jodi’s addictions include nonfat lattes, Malbec, and tequila however you pour it. She’s also obsessed with Shakespeare and Broadway musicals. She can be found wearing sock monkey gloves while typing when it’s cold, and on the beach enjoying the sun and the ocean when it’s hot. When she’s not writing and/or vacuuming sand out of her laptop, Jodi mentors queer youth and will drop everything for live music.
Jodi lives near New York City with her beautiful wife, and together they are mothers of dragons (cleverly disguised as children) and slaves to an enormous polydactyl cat.
BA Tortuga: Texan to the bone and an unrepentant Daddy’s Girl, BA spends her days with her basset hounds, getting tattooed, texting her sisters, and eating Mexican food. When she’s not doing that, she’s writing. She spends her days off watching rodeo, knitting and surfing Pinterest in the name of research. BA’s personal saviors include her wife, Julia, her best friend, Sean, and coffee. Lots of good coffee. Y’all know that song, The Happiest Girl in the Whole USA? That’s me, down to the bone.
Having written everything from fist-fighting rednecks to hard-core cowboys to werewolves, BA does her damnedest to tell the stories of her heart, which was raised in Northeast Texas, but has heard the call of the high desert and now lives the good life in the Sandias. With books ranging from hard-hitting GLBT romance, to fiery menages, to the most traditional of love stories, BA refuses to be pigeon-holed by anyone but the voices in her head.