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Inspiration – Something Like Winter

Model Bruno SantosOne thing I absolutely adore is when readers send me songs, saying “This one made me think of your book.” I used to do the same as a reader, discovering by chance a song with lyrics or vibe that suited a favorite story. I still do this as a writer, but in reverse. I’ll find a new tune that sets a certain mood, one that I want to capture and insert into one of my novels. Something Like Winter had quite a few songs that helped inspire it, one of my favorites being Bizarre Love Triangle by a little band called Ghost Ghost. Many of you have commented on the couch scene in the second half of the book. We have the below song to thank for it.

For me, the song encapsulates perfectly that desperate feeling of being the third wheel. Some of the lyrics suit Ben, some suit Tim, and you won’t have to dig deep to figure out that I took direct inspiration from a few of the lines. If you dig this song, you can learn more about the album or listen to all the tracks for free right here.
Speaking of art inspiring art (inspiring art!) there’s another musician by the name of Gavin Beach, who is not only gay and adorable, but has the most phenomenal voice ever. Sometimes I listen to him and imagine Ben Bentley sounds much the same. The second coolest part? While in the middle of reading Something Like Summer, he recorded the following cover, and he later told me the story was on his mind at the time:

Gorgeous! The mostest coolest part? His singing contributed to Something Like Winter. I couldn’t stop listening to Gavin’s cover. I listened to it when getting in the mood to write, and this song along with many of Gavin’s other videos, were playing while Andreas worked on the book’s cover. In other words, we’re big fans. Gavin is working on recording some original tunes, so be sure to subscribe to his YouTube channel to keep up with this shooting star.

For Love of Evil-Piers AnthonyAnother big… okay, tremendously HUGE inspiration in my life has been Piers Anthony and his books. They’ve influenced my personal life and my writing. Each of my fantasy novels borrows something from his stories I grew up reading, and in a weird way, so does Something Like Winter. Piers has a series called The Incarnations of Immortality. Each book was about a personified force of nature, such as Death, War, Fate, and the like. The villain in each book was the Devil. Pretty cool, especially the 6th book in the series, which is from the Devil’s perspective. In that book we learn about his early life, what motivates him and makes him tick, and then we relive all those villainous moments, but through his eyes. The twist is, the Devil has a very good reason for doing all those things that appeared evil in the other books. Brilliant! While I didn’t want to make Tim seem like a saint, since that wouldn’t be honest, I did want to provide that same “A-ha, now I get it!” feeling where his actions are at least understandable, and maybe a little forgivable.

That’s it for this time around. There’s plenty more that inspired me, like that photo of Bruno Santos up top, or The Maltese Falcon, since Marcello and The Fat Man share a deliciously offbeat charm. I could go on and on, but I’d rather go listen to more music, seek out more art, and keep working on my next release. Curious what it’s about? Stay tuned!

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New Release! Something Like Winter is here!

Something Like Winter by Jay Bell eBooks and paperbackThis is it! This is the book you’ve all been waiting for! … Actually, I suspect if you guys tied me to a bed Misery style and forced me to write a book, it would probably be about Ben and Tim’s future. That’s okay. I have my reasons for not doing so, and I hope when you read Something Like Winter, you’ll understand them better. And it really is quite the tale. The high school years will feel like a nice flashback to Something Like Summer, but when you hit those college years—watch out! By the end of the book, I hope you’ll agree that this was a fun way to revisit Ben and Tim’s lives. As I’ve said elsewhere, a good sequel should be more of the same and yet different, and I feel Something Like Winter really delivers in that area.

But hey, don’t take my word for it. Something Like Winter is out, and just begging to be bought and devoured. Be sure to bring a glass of water with you, because at 130,000 words long, this bad boy is a lot to swallow! Hopefully it will keep you guys busy while I get started on my next release. As usual, eBook versions are cheapest and available across the spectrum. The bar to the left has all the buying options. iTunes (update! iTunes version is now out!) always takes longer to get my books, but you can use the Kindle or Nook app on any Apple device in the meantime, or pick up Apple compatible formats from Smashwords. The paperback price is higher this time around because of the page count. Despite the price hike, I don’t earn more than I do on any of my other books. For those short on cash right now, or dubious about this whole scheme, there are five free chapters on the product page here.

When I first wrote Something Like Summer, I had no idea that the story would resonate with so many of you. Now, with this second book, I’m in the same position. I’m clueless as to what most of you will think. All I can say is that while writing Something Like Winter, I fell in love with Ben, Tim, and Jace all over again. Having to say goodbye to them one more time is almost unbearable. Eh, don’t worry about sad old me. You guys are just beginning the journey. Go on then! Off you go!

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Winter never looked so pretty! New cover art!

Feast those sweet little eyes of yours on the cover art for Something Like Winter!

Something Like Winter by Jay Bell cover art

Andreas and I put a lot of thought into this one. We wanted a cover that harkened back to Something Like Summer. One of the earliest ideas we had was to invert that cover. Since Summer’s cover is looking over Ben’s shoulder at Tim, we figured Winter’s art should depict Tim looking at Ben. We also thought it would be neat to invert the colors. Instead of orange with a touch of those wonderful blue shoes, we have blue with a kiss of sunshine from Ben.

Full cover art isn’t really meant to be seen like this, with the front, back, and spine visible all at the same time. Something Like Summer had Ben on the back as well, so likewise we get to see another image of Tim here. Of course the full view makes it look like there are two Tim’s in one place, an idea that has me fanning my nether regions. Yeah, you heard me right. Let’s return our focus to the art. Didn’t Andreas do a fantastic job? Don’t you just want to kiss his face and tell him how adorable he is? I know I do!

Something Like Winter is due out on November 2nd. You can learn more about the book by reading the blog entry before this one. I’ll see you guys then!

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Something Like Winter release date and FAQ

Something Like Winter sketchesSomething Like Winter will be released on November 2nd. That’s just one month from now! To help prepare you for the occasion, I’ve prepared this spoiler free guide to everything you should know about the book before it comes out. This should tackle most of the questions I get asked, as well as a few I made up.

Q: I can’t wait to learn about Ben and Tim’s future! That’s what the book is about, right?

A: No way! An entirely new story means new conflict, and I think Ben and Tim deserve better than that, don’t you? Instead I decided to write Tim’s story, and believe me, there’s a lot you don’t know about him. Tim goes through a tremendous amount in his years away from Ben. In addition, we also get completely new scenes of Ben and Tim’s history together, both when they were younger and as adults. By the time you finish with Something Like Winter, you’ll feel like you only knew half of the story before.

Q: … But I want to know what happens after Something Like Summer.

A: That’s not a question, but I will say this: There are some unresolved issues at the end of the first book, and I did feel comfortable in addressing those. So this book does go beyond where Something Like Summer ends, giving you a glimpse of the future, even if it’s only a small one.

Q: I guess that might be good, but aren’t you just selling us the same story?

A: Something Like Winter is a whopping 127,000 words. Of those words, only about 27,000 are scenes from the first book, and even they have been rewritten completely (aside from dialog) to provide fresh perspective. Take away all the rehashed scenes, and you’re still left with a book of 100,000 words of new material. Considering that Something Like Summer is 95,000 words, you’re actually getting much more with this book.

Q: I can’t wait to see [insert favorite scene here] from Tim’s perspective.

A: You might not get to. I want Something Like Summer to remain special, so many of those favorite parts will stay exclusive to that book. There are many scenes I couldn’t avoid revisiting, like the first time Ben and Tim meet, but aside from those I wanted to explore new territory. Did Ben ever tell Tim that he loves him? What was the first time at Ben’s house like for Tim? I hope that I’ve created new scenes that will become your favorites too, and that will compliment the first book rather than replicating it.

Those are the most common inquiries I could think of, but if you have more, feel free to ask them. Naturally I won’t answer anything specific about the plot, but if you have a general question about the release, ask away. I might even update this post with new info. Oh, and the art attached to this article is a snapshot of Andreas’s sketchbook. We’re in Paris on vacation right now, but he’s still working away, the poor guy. The above image is just one of many concepts for the cover, and not one that we’re using. What he has come up with will be revealed later this month. Be sure to check back soon!

*New!*Q. What about Tim’s past before meeting Ben? Any of that goodness in there?

A. Yup! What Tim went through in Kansas is crucial to understanding his character, so there is some of that, as well as life in Texas before Mr. I-Can’t-Rollerblade crashes into him. I don’t make you wait long before he and Ben finally meet though.

*New!*Q. What sexy formats will the book be available in? Can we preorder?

A. All the usual eBook formats: Kindle, Nook, iTunes, etc. iTunes will probably be out late, since they often manually review books, especially if there are naughty parts in them. You can always use Kindle for iTunes to grab the book right away, or get an iTunes compatible format from Smashwords. A paperback version will be available too, but since I’m an indie artist, there’s not a convenient way I can set up a preorder. This is a small price to pay for getting to keep my royalties and not starve to death. Of course if I went with a traditional publisher, I’d probably have a sexier waistline. Then again, life is short. Somebody get me a cookie!

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Inspiration – From Darkness to Darkness

ColeWhen I wrote The Cat in the Cradle way back in 1863, there wasn’t a lot of music and images that inspired me as I worked. I suppose my fascination with the color spectrum was a definite influence, and I know my lifelong love of Pier’s Anthony’s Apprentice Adept series was a definite inspiration. Aside from that, the process was much different than with my later books. With From Darkness to Darkness, I started out with an image of Cole, as you can see on the left. A little bit emo and a lot a bit hot, having a photo like this was very inspiring for the character’s mood and demeanor. I don’t know the model’s name, unfortunately, but having a starting point for one of the main characters was very helpful.

Music is always a huge influence when I write. I can’t stand having it on while I’m working, but I’ll often play different songs beforehand to get in the right mood. This time, Alphaville’s Inside Out had the right vibe. The lyrics seem to be about a relationship that took a wrong turn, perhaps due to a twist of fate.

“And always I think where we might have gone, if we’d never met inside this song.”

That’s very suiting to the events of the plot, since both Cole and Dylan spend some time pondering what could have been. Naturally this song is also where I took the book’s title. I had this track and another called New Horizons playing on frequent rotation while working on this story. I obsessively hammered out the first draft in under a month, which I believe remains the fastest I’ve written any book. Something about writing fantasy leaves me exhausted, but I hope a similar fever overtakes me someday for a third installment.

NatashaGetting back to pretty pretty faces, I also had model inspiration for Natasha. She doesn’t have a large part in The Cat in the Cradle, but I enjoyed writing her enough that I wanted to give Natasha a bigger role in From Darkness to Darkness. Probably the biggest downside to writing gay romance is the main protagonist always being male. I suppose there are some creative ways around this, and I should probably take advantage of them. I’ve been blessed to have numerous strong and talented females in my life, and I’m always channeling them when I write characters like Natasha. She might appear timid or insecure at first glance, but she knows who she is, and by the end of the novel, I pity anyone that stands in her way.

The Loka Legends series feels a little bit like a pet project to me. My contemporary romances might occasionally draw on autobiographical events, but this fantasy series is like a letter to my younger self. He grew up devouring such books, and in a way I’m doing my best to entertain him. “Hey, check out these crazy magical powers and the talking cat! By the way, it’s okay to be gay and people like you can find love and have a meaningful relationship. Oh, and be sure to check out the illustrations. You’ll never guess who drew them all!” Until I get my time machine up and running, I can’t be sure if angsty younger Jay would appreciate my efforts or not, but hopefully these stories speak to the hearts of many people, no matter how young or old they might be.

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From Darkness to Darkness is out!

From Darkness to Darkness by Jay BellWhat’s the opposite of a delay? Whatever it is, that’s what going on. From Darkness to Darkness is out the gate and running for the hills. There’s no stopping it now! This is my first sequel, which is sort of a weird feeling. Usually my books sink or swim on their own merits, but this one has to politely wait in line while people judge the first book. The Cat in the Cradle was the first novel I ever published. I’d like to think I’ve grown as a writer since then, so if you enjoyed that book even in the slightest, please give From Darkness to Darkness a nibble. I think you’ll enjoy the taste. If you’re nervous about the Loka Legends series in general, you can always give Finding Fire a quick read first.

From Darkness to Darkness artFor those returning to the series, there has been one change in regard to the illustrations. Before, Andreas cranked out one drawing for each chapter, but the idea of him having to create twenty-seven more for this book seemed cruel. I also felt that there wasn’t always a suitable idea for each chapter, which is why the first book has a drawing of melons in it. It’s a lovely drawing, but hardly exciting. So we limited it to one image every fifty pages or so. The good news is that the illustrations are now full page and thus a lot more glorious. Aside from that, it’s business as usual for Dylan and his friends; Danger, romance, and hopefully a little bit of fun when they aren’t running for their lives. I hope you guys enjoy. You can start reading the first four chapters here, buying options are on the left, and the blurb is directly below. Now reread that last sentence and picture me gesturing at things like a stewardess.

From the cradle to the grave…

The Black Oligarch is dead. Some call his replacement a boy, others call him a threat. Cole lost everything the night he became Oligarch: his family, his home… even Jonah. Now he’s alone, left only with painful memories and the power to destroy the Five Lands.

When Dylan is sent to help Cole, he finds they have more in common than expected. They hope to build a new life together, but dark forces have other plans for them. The dead are rising, bringing secrets from the past that threaten to change their lives forever. Can Dylan guide a young man through the darkness and protect those he loves without making the ultimate sacrifice?

As always, be sure to let me know what you think of the new story. Something Like Winter is up next. When? Soon, I hope. I better get to work!

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