Busy. In a Good Way.

I’m supposed to be working. I have quite a few projects on my plate at the moment:

  1. Adapting St. Peter at the Gate to add to the St. Peter in Chains script, thereby extending it to full length
  2. Two other script rewrites (for other people’s scripts)
  3. Writing the Hunting Victor Frankenstein pilot
  4. A number of prose projects, including: St. Peter Ascends, another K-Pro novel, more Sherlock Holmes stories, plus I have ideas for at least two other books
  5. A couple plays I keep meaning to finish

And though I’ve done some rewriting for 20 August, I’m pretty sure it needs another bit of work.

Also, these blank canvases are not going to paint themselves.

It’s good to be busy. Good to have projects. Really, really good to have scripts that people want to turn into movies, and then also have people wanting me to help them with their scripts besides. Exciting. Exhausting. But I like to take my opportunities as they arise, and in this work it’s often feast or famine. Today we feast!

Which reminds me. I haven’t had anything to eat yet today . . .

(I keep candy stashed in my office, but I try not to resort to eating any until mid-afternoon at the earliest.)

Anyway, must get as much done as possible in advance of the Screenwriters Conference at the end of September. It’s good to have deadlines of a sort, too, really. Otherwise it becomes too easy to drift. So onward! (Cue Man of La Mancha, as sung by Scott Bakula in that episode of Quantum Leap. Cuz that’s just the kind of nerd I am.)

Burning question: Why didn’t Weird Al ever write a song called “Keep Refrigerated” based on “Keep ’em Separated”? Or did he, and I just missed it?

Potential Scene from St. Peter Ascends

. . . though it may not make the cut because it is not from Peter’s POV, which has been the standard for the first two books. Still, fun to play around with ideas.

Simeon gazed up at the stonework façade of the house to where the peak of the roof stabbed the clear June sky. Though he couldn’t have said what, exactly, he’d expected, it decidedly had not been this—a large house on a broad expanse of land in the hills of Derbyshire. It wasn’t a mansion or anything, but it was definitely bigger than the through terrace house Simeon had grown up in.

He glanced back at the car and wondered, not for the first time, whether he’d got it wrong somehow. There was only one way to know for certain. With a deep breath, Simeon stepped up and rang the bell.

The man who answered was tall, somber, cadaverous in his coloring so as to suggest he never went outside nor came within shouting distance of a sunbeam. Simeon backed away involuntarily, sure now he had made a mistake. But because the man was staring at him, Simeon felt he at least had to say something, and so ventured, “I’m looking for Mr. Stoller?”

“Mr. Stoller is dead.”

A jolt ran through Simeon, as though a plug had been inserted into the sole of his foot. “What? When? How?” he stammered. Could the news have crossed him going in the opposite direction even as he’d been on the long drive to Derbyshire?

“Who is it, Mr. Wirth?” A woman Simeon knew must be Peter’s mother—same cheekbones and fine eyes taken twenty or thirty years further—appeared, though she had to stretch her neck to see over Mr. Wirth’s arm; it was that or duck down and look under, which Simeon could see she was too elegant to do. Peter wouldn’t have done it either.

“He’s looking for Mr. Stoller,” Mr. Wirth intoned.

“Well, there’s only one of those left,” Mrs. Stoller said, and before Simeon could begin to comprehend that maybe his boss wasn’t dead after all, she’d turned and yelled into the depths of the house, “Peter! Another one of your boyfriends is here!”

Simeon felt the heat rush up the back of his neck and into his face. Mrs. Stoller was shooing Mr. Wirth away and motioning Simeon inside. He obligingly stepped into the entry, which was dim and oddly humid, more so once the heavy door swung closed. It gave Simeon the unpleasant feeling the house was breathing on him. From somewhere—in the echoing space, Simeon could not pinpoint the immediate direction—he heard Peter say, “I only do one boyfriend at a time, Mother.” And as Simeon’s eyes adjusted to the gloom, Peter materialized beside him as though conjured out of dust motes and heavy air.

It struck Simeon that even away from the office his boss dressed attentively. Today it was a collared shirt under a lightweight jumper coupled with neatly pressed trousers. Shoes, too, which was interesting; in Simeon’s house they would never wear shoes unless on their way in or out.

Simeon snuck a look at Mrs. Stoller’s feet. Yes, shoes there, too, though they were moving away from him. She had turned away in evident disgust at her son’s remark. “I don’t want to know what you do.”

Peter ignored her, seemingly engrossed in straightening his watch. “Mr. Martin, to what do I owe this pleasure?”

The thing about Peter Stoller, Simeon reflected, was a person could never be sure whether he was joking. Taking in Peter’s sharp features, his bland expression, Simeon couldn’t tell if he was bored or annoyed or curious. Well, and they hadn’t worked together long, so maybe understanding would come with more exposure.

“Mr. Gamby couldn’t get away himself, so . . .” Simeon shrugged a shoulder and lifted a palm as if the remainder of the sentence were written on the thick atmosphere around them.

Peter gave a curt nod then paused to eye Simeon. “You’re working for Gamby now?”

There was a gleeful second when Simeon thought Peter might actually be upset at the idea, though of course it was truly impossible to discern; Peter might only be interested in learning things at the office had changed again while he was away. “No, sir,” Simeon assured him. “He’s got a new girl. Evelyn. She—”

But Peter had lifted his brows.

“Anyway,” Simeon went on, “you’re needed. Sorry to cut your holiday short.”

Flashback

Featuring a teenage Peter Stoller from St. Peter in Chains and St. Peter at the Gate.

The new boy had all the makings of a self-assured bully; Peter had heard it whispered that James’s father was someone important in the government, which only made Peter wonder why James’s family would send him so far away to school. Still, as James sharked around in ever nearer circles, Peter remained serene in the way of a person used to being ignored. School antics—the fights, the high jinks—raged around Peter, and he sat in the eye, usually with a book open in his hands.

Besides, Phillip would never let anyone touch his little brother.

And yet the day came when James wandered over to where Peter sat reading on a bench and demanded to know what Peter was doing.

“What does it look like?” Peter asked without bothering to look up from the page.

James glanced uncertainly over his shoulder, but he had no audience that day.

“’S not even in English,” James observed.

“No,” Peter agreed. It was Le Comte de Monte-Cristo, and Peter had read it a number of times before; it was one of his favorites. Which was why he was more ruffled than he might otherwise have been when James swiped it from his hands.

“Give it back!”

“Come on, then,” James said, stepping out of Peter’s reach.

Peter looked around at where other boys were chatting, playing cards, a few bent over their schoolwork. Here and there a cluster of bodies denoted a club meeting that had decided to take advantage of the fine weather. Finally, turning back to James with exasperation, Peter asked, “What do you want?”

The unexpected question froze James.

“You wouldn’t bother me otherwise,” Peter persisted. “And you’ve clearly waited until you don’t have your usual following.”

James feigned sudden interest in the tattered paperback. “Why not just read it in English?”

“Because sometimes the nuances of language get lost in translation.”

In response, James shot Peter a look that, for all his linguistic skills, Peter was himself at a loss to translate. Then, checking to make sure no one had looked their way, James quickly grabbed Peter’s hand and began to tow him out of the quad and around the buildings, putting distance and (Peter noted) many trees between them and the larger society of their school. When James at last seemed satisfied they were sufficiently masked and released Peter’s hand, Peter had a moment balanced between perplexed curiosity and wariness. The former wanted to stay and find out what was going on, the latter demanded Peter run back the way they’d come.

Peter didn’t move.

James noticed the book still in his hand and dropped it to the grass. Peter eyed it, the idea bouncing in the back of his mind that he’d have to find his place again, but he did not attempt to retrieve it; to do so would require coming closer to James than made Peter comfortable. Peter reminded himself that Phillip would not allow anyone to bully him, then wondered whether James knew he had a (much larger) older brother?

Still, Peter couldn’t bring himself to run. And when James advanced on him, Peter found himself rooted to the spot, though he balled his hands and made ready to swing if it came to that. But when James’s hands came up, they went to the sides of Peter’s face, holding him in place for the kiss.

While Peter’s mind worked to make sense of what was happening, his body responded quite naturally. And once James felt sure Peter wasn’t going to bolt, the hands moved down to Peter’s shoulders then wound themselves around Peter in a way that startled him into moving backward. James moved with him, their feet tangled, and they fell.

This is a trick, Peter thought as James rolled off him. He’s told everyone to hide and watch and any minute now they’ll come through the trees laughing. He lay still in the grass and waited, listening. But the only sound was James moving beside him, barely audible over the pounding of Peter’s own heart in his ears.

When nothing happened, Peter waited still longer, assuming James would collect himself and go and this would be something about which neither of them would ever speak. James would go back to ignoring Peter, and Peter would go back to his books.

But James did not leave, and finally Peter looked over at him. James was idly pulling grass and staring at Peter thoughtfully. “Had you ever done that before?”

Peter shook his head. He’d thought about it—not about James, but there were others—but had kept it to himself. Phillip knew, and Peter supposed others had guessed, but he’d always believed so long as he never did anything about it . . .

“It’s why I’m here,” said James.

Peter’s brow quirked. “To kiss people?”

James threw a fistful of grass at him. “Idiot.”

Peter sat up and began to brush his uniform clean.

“There’s some . . .” James slid closer, started to swipe at Peter’s shoulder, and Peter’s world slipped into a kind of slow motion. He turned to see what James was aiming for, and as his head tilted James moved in, more carefully this time. Peter would have liked to return James’s embrace, but he was forced to keep at least one palm flat to the ground in order to support their exploration of one another’s mouths. He didn’t realize he’d put his other hand in James’s hair until James pulled back and said, “Don’t muss it.”

So that’s it, Peter thought, and his eyes fell on the paperback lying a meter or so away. He supposed he should go fetch it, give James a chance to skulk away, but James only continued to sit there and stare at him. Well, maybe he wasn’t comfortable standing up yet, either.

After a minute James gave a huff of exasperation. “At least I know you won’t tell anyone.”

Peter looked a question at him and James rolled his eyes. “Do you ever talk?”

Peter frowned. “About what?”

James shook his head in the way Phillip sometimes did to intimate Peter was hopeless. “You’re going to tutor me,” James declared.

“In what?”

James shrugged, gestured at the book in the grass. “French or something.”

“Do you need help in French?” Peter asked.

“Oh my God, you really—” James took a deep breath. “I have a private room.”

Peter nodded; many of the wealthier boys had the luxury of not having to share their quarters.

“And you will come tutor me there.”

Peter looked hard at James then, to be sure he understood. “All right,” he answered slowly, apprehension and anticipation warring in his chest and speeding his pulse, making his lungs labor for air. “When?”

“Tonight. During prep.”

“They’ll come around to check on us.”

“And we will be very studious,” James assured him. He stood and offered Peter his hand to help him up. “You’ve still got grass . . .” Peter remained still as James rid him of the last of the clinging blades. “I’ll go first,” James told him as his hands swept over Peter’s back. “Give it a minute then you can follow.”

Peter didn’t answer. The brushing stopped and Peter went to collect his book. By the time he turned around, James had gone.

Years later, when Charles broached the subject of first loves, Peter would say, “His name was James,” and leave it at that.

BBF Day 6: James Weber Reviews St. Peter in Chains

Last day of Blogger Book Fair! You can find some K-Pro stuff over on Kayla Curry’s blog and ML Weaver’s site as well. But here, today, I’m posting James Weber’s review of my novella St. Peter in Chains. Thanks, James, for taking the time to read it! And glad you enjoyed it!


If James Bond Were Gay!

He’d drink Scotch and Soda instead of a vodka martini. The irony here is that Scotch and Soda is somehow both more sophisticated and manlier than a vodka martini will ever be, no matter how you shake or stir it. Served tall, or in a low ball glass; you can be sure he’ll never low ball you. Even coloring to compliment his even temperament. And exactly three cubes of ice ensure he’s just the right temperature. Never frigid, brittle, or frozen. Always . . . Cool.

You can swirl the glass and perhaps catch some fizz swimming up for air. Proof that he can still get excited. But you shouldn’t stare into the glass for too long. It’s too obscure. You can see the bottom but you won’t truly be seeing him. Not as he really is. The arrangement of the ice, and the grain of the glass. Even the motion of the liquid as you swirl. All of it refracts the light. Casts shadows where perhaps there ought not to be.

If James Bond were gay his apartment would be white on white. He wouldn’t waste time with curtains or drapes. Just a sea of white daring you not to spill your glass of wine . . . or worse a drop of blood. He’d have a great view and lots of open spaces. You’d see the city and the skyline and all the rooftops and alleys. It’d be romantic yet functional. And maybe he’d flirt with some of the office girls at the company Christmas party. Keep them talking. Make them believe he was just a tough catch and not altogether unattainable.

If James Bond were gay, he’d be Peter Stoller.

But alas, James Bond isn’t gay and Peter Stoller is. It isn’t Bond, but Peter who must come to grips with his growing attraction for a blue eyed cab driver. Again, not Bond but Peter who must figure out why the company’s steady stream of intelligence is suddenly dammed up. Oh and if he isn’t careful, that same blue eyed cab driver will burn the tomato sauce and smoke up the apartment! (As if that red wine earlier hadn’t tempted fate enough, now tomato sauce?!)

It is this subtle change in perspective that makes M Pepper Langlinais’ St. Peter in Chains such an enjoyable read. It is as if all the pieces we know are there but just look a little different. Perhaps just a new vantage point is all. I won’t spoil the ending but I always enjoy when an author shows you an answer instead of telling it to you. Langlinais has a way of doing this which is almost cinematic in quality (perhaps it’s all that screen writing experience!) and it truly makes the piece more enjoyable to read. I ended up re-reading the ending to make sure it all worked out. It does so far as I can tell. The clues are there if you know where to look. Another sign of great writing. Well done.


Sorry, Archer. Not what a gay spy looks like.
Sorry, Archer. Not what a gay spy looks like.
James Weber is an English Graduate from the University of Maryland. He currently works at
McKeldin Library. In his spare time, he blogs
about books, publishing, music, television
and whatever else he happens to think
interesting or noteworthy @
Alligatorsandaneurysms.wordpress.com

Everyone should go read St. Peter in Chains
now because the sequel, St. Peter at the Gate,
is out next week. Don’t fall behind!

And while you’re at it, please vote for The K-Pro
and St. Peter in Chains in the Reader’s Choice.
K-Pro can be found listed under Fantasy–Mature (2)
and Peter is under LGBT.

My Gay Protagonist

Cross posted from spooklights.

“Why can’t he be gay?” Andrew Garfield notably asked when discussing Spider-Man (or Peter Parker). And it’s a valid question (except to the entertainment industry people who believe that making a main character a homosexual will cut their box office potential by a wide margin by alienating a large portion of the potential audience).

Peter Stoller, the protagonist in my St. Peter series, is gay. And yet the stories themselves are not about him being gay; the plots don’t revolve around his sexual preference. His being gay is a simple matter of fact, a part of his life. His relationship with Charles is as real a relationship as a fictional spy can possibly have, I guess, by which I mean you could make Charles into Charlotte and still have the same story, the same tensions, etc. But I wouldn’t change a thing about Peter because I love him as he is. (Says the loving mother/creator of the character.)

When I turned St. Peter in Chains into a screenplay (and it won an award, btw), the readers were excited. They were so happy to see a gay protagonist in a movie where his being gay was incidental instead of central to the plot. I have so many gay friends, and their lives are not all about their being gay any more than mine is about being straight. This is what I wanted to show in Peter’s story. That relationships are relationships are relationships regardless of gender.

Of course, no one would touch the script in order to produce it. Because, hey, gay protagonist.

I’m currently writing the sequel (it’s nearly done!), which is titled St. Peter at the Gate. And maybe I’ll take that story and marry it to St. Peter in Chains and do up a full-length screenplay . . . That no one will buy because Peter is gay. Or they’ll suggest I turn Charles into a girl (or maybe Peter into a girl). And I’ll say no. Because while I’m pretty flexible, pretty easy to work with on most accounts, I’m very protective of Peter. He deserves to be who he is without people demanding he change or hide it. Yes, even though he’s a fiction. He’s my fiction, and I’ll fight for him.

In a Whirl

Sorry for having been out of the loop lately. I’m still scrambling to finish St. Peter at the Gate—it gets longer the more I write, has passed 38k words now when I had only planned it to be about the same length as St. Peter in Chains, which was about 17k—and then there’s the Blogger Book Fair next week as well, so I’ve had a lot of prep work for that. Also next week, I’m set to be interviewed by the spastic lovely Tammy Theriault, so do keep checking here for links and updates for that and to where my work is being featured for BBF. I’ll be hosting a few other writers here, too, and it’s been a pleasure getting to know them! So there will be good reasons to continue stopping by PepperWords . . . And when I’m not here, you can look over at spooklights to see if there’s anything there that might interest you.

Sisterhood & Other Bonds

sisterhood-of-the-world-bloggers-awa[2]Carol Kilgore has been kind enough to award me with this Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award. Thanks, Carol! Any of my fellow sister bloggers are free to take it along to their own blogs. (Yes, I know it’s lazy of me not to name a bunch of people, but I’m really busy these days.)

I’m nearly done with St. Peter at the Gate, but I wrote a wrenching near-death scene yesterday and am worn out emotionally. I’ve bonded with Peter in a way I never have with any other character. So for his sake, I’m also worn out with trying not to make his experience too cliché. It’s hard work, being a writer. There is a mine field of things to avoid.

But there are payoffs. Like finding out the screen version of “Warm Bodies” (still don’t know if they’re changing that title) is in editing now. Mind-boggling to think I’m about to have my first film credit.

And coming up: Blogger Book Fair, week of July 22. Stop by here to meet all my guest authors and bloggers and such.

So, yes, very busy. Haven’t left the house in over two days, so I think today I may need to get out a bit . . .

WIP It Blogfest

Thanks to DL Hammons and Elise Fallson for hosting this blogfest designed to showcase works in progress!

WIP Title: St. Peter at the Gate

Word Count (projected/actual so far): ~25k/19,020

Genre: espionage (I’ve classified this series as Mad Men meets John le Carré in that it’s very character driven.)

How long have you been working on it?: about 4 months (had to set it aside for a bit to complete other work)

Elevator Pitch (if you came across an agent in an elevator ride, what couple of lines would you use to summarize your book): It’s about an exiled British spy who is called back to the agency to save his boss/mentor from accusations of treason.

Brief Synopsis (250 words or less): Sequel to St. Peter in Chains. Peter and Charles have settled in Salzburg, where Peter is bored and still is not sure whether he can entirely trust Charles. When Gamby shows up to tell Peter that Gordon is in danger of internal forces stringing him up for treason, Peter agrees to return to the agency to see if he can help. He must then deal with a separation from Charles while navigating the shark tank and taking on a young, untested agent as a protogé.

Are you looking for a Critique Partner?: Possibly

Are you looking for a Beta Reader?: Possibly (when it’s finished)

Secondary Characters Bloghop

sec_char

This bloghop (go here to join) is about those characters that steal the show from the main act, either in books or movies. Which are your favorites?

I’ll start with the easy ones, by which I mean ones I wrote. When writing The K-Pro I originally only conceived of Alfred, Mac, and Craig as so much wallpaper, and Liz in particular was only going to be “in passing.” But they took on lives of their own! Alfred laid the groundwork for his own plot twist long before I consciously realized who he really was. And I was amazed when, in feedback, my readers loved Craig.

It’s happening again in my current WIP, St. Peter at the Gate. A character that would have been someone Peter just passes in the lobby has become central to the story. It can be fun when these things happen, but frustrating too when they necessitate major changes . . . Though I’ve found more often than not that these characters step up to give the story depth and actually make things easier in the long run.

In terms of others’ work, I think the examples are legion. Snape and Dumbledore in the Harry Potter books are just two. It’s interesting to me the way people sometimes rally around potential villains like Snape, or Moriarty in the Sherlock Holmes canon. Well, and Anne Rice’s Lestat is the supreme example of the villain becoming the hero. In Interview with the Vampire, he’s certainly not sympathetic (though at the end he is pathetic), but he refused to leave Anne alone until she told his story . . . Many times over.

But this isn’t meant to be an academic exercise, and if pressed to name my favorite secondary characters, I would say Louis (from Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles) because, though he was central to the first book, he was sidelined most of the others, and I always loved him best. And, oddly, Polonius from Hamlet, whose homilies were amusing even if his character on the whole was a bit irritating. I also always wondered how fucked up Horatio must’ve been after all that . . . I like Marcus Brody (played by Denholm Elliot) in the Indiana Jones movies, too. And the romantic figure of Ashley in Gone with the Wind as the sort of grail Scarlett could never obtain, though that makes him more of an object than a character. Prince Lir in The Last Unicorn. Jareth in Labyrinth.

I don’t know that I’d say any of the above “steal the show,” though. Lestat does in Interview, certainly; Moriarty as depicted by Andrew Scott tends to take over any scene he’s in, as does Rickman’s Snape. It’s easier to steal a scene when you’re a villain. You’ve got a bit more freedom to act (though Snape goes the other way in being repressively cold).

I suppose the pinnacle of this would be Ricardo Montalban as Khan in the second (classic) Star Trek movie. I watched that film over and over as a kid, that one and #3 (which I also loved for some unaccountable reason, or maybe those were the only two we had on tape). No, I haven’t seen the new film. Yes, I know the “secret.” Which makes me slightly more reluctant to see it, actually, since Montalban looms so large in my childhood memory. He was, for me, the ultimate scene-stealing secondary character.