Interviewing the enigmatic “Have Body, Will Guard” creator, Neil Plakcy

This week I get to interview one of my favorites, the ever enigmatic and delightful, author Neil Plakcy – interview by Jon Michaelsen;

Neil, where do you live?

A townhouse in Hollywood, Florida, a mile or so inland from the ocean, with my partner and our golden retriever.

Writers rarely like to toot their own horn; seriously! What would you say is your greatest accomplishment? 

I think it’s the way that I combined the coming out story with the mystery in Mahu, the first of my mystery novels about Honolulu homicide detective Kimo Kanapa’aka. I’d read a lot of gay mysteries by then, and all the detectives had already been out in their personal and/or work lives. I wanted to show how the process of solving cases can relate to a hero’s figuring out his own life.

MAHUWithout getting too personal, can you share a little about your home life?

I’m a college English professor, so a great deal of my life revolves around reading and writing, often with my dog curled up beneath my desk. I try to write for an hour or so every day, usually stopping in at Starbucks on my way to school. I use the voice recorder on my phone for funny bumper stickers and snatches of description. I get a lot of inspiration for my golden retriever mysteries just from watching my dog. (His royalties come in the form of treats and belly rubs.)

What inspires and challenges you most in writing? 

I’m a romantic, and so I’m continually thinking about how we fall in love and how we stay in love in the face of obstacles, both internal and external. For my Hawaii mysteries, I’m inspired by life in the tropics (which I experience in Florida), by news of the islands, and by all the unique characteristics of Hawaii – everything from sexy paniolos (Hawaiian cowboys) to leis to surfers and a hundred other cool things.

You’ve probably answered this question a hundred times, but please indulge as our readers and fellow writers) would like to know: Do you fly by the seat of your pants when writing or plot out your storylines?

I work on a principle I learned in graduate school, based on screenplay structure. I start out with one or more characters in a situation, then look forward to the first plot point, about 1/3 of the way through the book, when something changes the trajectory of the story. For example, for Kimo in the Mahu series, it can be discovery of a clue that sends the investigation in a different direction. I work my way toward that point, writing scenes and moving the story forward, and hope by the time I get there I know what the second plot point is, another third of the way through. By the time I get there, I hope I know who the villain is, what his/her motivation is, and what the climactic action is going to be. But that doesn’t always happen, and sometimes I have to go back and rethink the plot to make it work. I can’t plot out too rigidly or I get bored – writing is hard work, and my reward for the work is learning how the story comes out. If I already knew before I started, I wouldn’t have the motivation to do the work. I usually do at least three drafts of a book – more if I have lost my way and have to rethink.

natural_predators_100You currently have some highly popular gay mystery/thriller series known to fans as the “Mahu” and “Have Body, Will Guard” mysteries, the latter with more of a romantic angle. How do you sustain serialized, continuing characters? 

I love these characters, and love seeing how their lives evolve. In the Mahu books, Kimo is going through the arc that many gay men do – coming out to himself and others, making gay friends, starting to date, falling in love, having love drama, finding Mr. Right and settling down, then dealing with all the issues that come with couples. Now he and his partner are becoming dads. All that feeds into the mystery plots—I try to give him cases that will challenge him based on where he is in life.

In the Have Body, Will Guard books, I’m walking a tightrope between romance and adventure. I wanted to write the kind of gay heroes I didn’t see much in contemporary fiction – strong, daring and smart, committed to helping others. But at the same time I recognize they’re a couple in love and I look for ways to challenge them. What if a client is attracted to one (or both) of them? What if Aidan, the former teacher, considers giving up being a bodyguard to return to teaching? A fan mentioned to me a while ago that while the Mahu books have a lot of family background, Aidan and Liam exist on their own. So their next adventure brings them into contact with their families – and highlights their different feelings about family.

You also have published numerous gay romance and erotica titles; can you share any that have mystery/thriller/suspense sub-plots?

Mi Amor, one of my romance novels from Loose Id, has a subplot involving Russian gangsters, and my self-pubbed The Russian Boy is about the theft of a painting. The Guardian Angel of South Beach, a novella from Loose Id, is about a gay guy who takes some magic pills that bulk him up to become a crime-fighter.

UnderTheWaterfallHave had you ever had to deal with homophobia after your gay novels are released, and if so, what form has it taken?

I’ve been very fortunate to have experienced little overt homophobia – but I live and work in a very liberal environment.

What are your guilty pleasures?

Dark chocolate. Microbrewed beer. And time to myself!

Last question; can you share with us a little about your current release and/or WIP?

As I mentioned, I write multiple drafts of books. So right now I have a solid first draft on my computer for GHOST SHIP, the next Mahu Investigation. A powerboat carrying nuclear material washes up on the shore of Oahu, with a young couple and their infant twins dead. As a new father himself, Kimo’s very moved by this case and investigating it takes him out of his comfort zone.

The next Have Body, Will Guard, THE NOBLEST VENGEANCE, sends Aidan and Liam to Turkey and then back home to New Jersey as they protect Aidan’s distant cousins from danger.

I’ve also finished a draft of the next golden retriever mystery, and I’m working right now on a romance follow up to this year’s LOVE ON SITE. I’m having a lot of fun creating sexy love stories for a group of recent college graduates on South Beach.

love_on_site_150On behalf of the Facebook Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Group, thank you for giving us a little of your time today, answering questions fans of the genre really want to know.

Find Neil Plakcy on the web:!Plakcy


Author Kayelle Allen chats about editing her novel


Editing the Perfect Novel


I recently finished editing my new novel, Surrender Love, due from Loose Id on February 17, 2009. It’s erotic M/M Science Fiction Romance. When I finished it — that is, prior to my editor getting her first look — it was over a hundred and forty thousand words. We had to cut it to a hundred and twenty thousand for it to fit the outer edges of Loose Id guidelines. Twenty thousand words. My first thought was, “But it’s perfect! I can’t take out anything!” How do you cut that many words you’ve sweated to produce?


Michelangelo was once asked how he could sculpt such beautiful pieces of marble into lifelike creatures. Paraphrasing his words, his response was that if you want to carve a horse from a huge block of marble, you simply chip away anything that didn’t look like a horse. In writing, you chip away any words that don’t portray exactly what the reader needs to enjoy and understand the story.


Easier said than done? Too, too true. I followed a few steps I’d learned from previous books and soon cut it down to the right size. I can’t take all the credit. My editor, Hollie Hollis, guided me and provided excellent ideas on where to cut, but the actual snipping and trimming was mostly my own. It went back and forth between my editor and me several times, before going to another level, the line editor, back to my editor, and then to me. Each time, I cut more, polished more. So, what exactly did I cut? Here’s a basic list any author can follow and apply.


A) Look for sub-plots that don’t move the story forward, or can be developed in a sequel or another book. My strong suggestion is that you never cut anything more than a sentence or two without saving it to a document called Ideas for _______ , using the series name, or “other books”, etc.


B) Passages I particularly loved but didn’t fit for whatever reason went into Cuts I Love.doc. These were passages that could be adapted for any book I wrote, whereas the Ideas document is strictly for story-related material. An example from the Cuts doc is “Let yourself want it. Let yourself enjoy the lust, the heat. Let yourself rest in my arms while I pleasure you.” I cut this from another book because it didn’t work for my beta hero, but would be great in an alpha love scene.


C) Characters not necessary to the story. In Surrender Love, Luc had a dungeon in his penthouse, nearly an entire floor with rooms designed with every type of pleasure and punishment in mind. When he meets Izzorah “Rah” Ceeow and falls for him, he knows immediately the way to Rah’s heart is not through pain, but with a gentle hand. I wrote a scene where he calls in a designer and orders everything on that floor ripped out, and changed over to a private nightclub and areas for Rah’s rock band, Kumwhatmay, to practice and record. The designer also held appeal for another minor character, and I knew I couldn’t let them get together or sparks would fly. There wasn’t going to be time to chase that bunny trail, but it could end up launching a new book. I decided to cut and save it, eliminating several pages and nearly two thousand words.


D) Look for words that end in “ing”. This ending is proper for words used within a passive framework, but not for active. An example from Surrender Love is when the alpha hero is the passive recipient, and “ing” helps reveal that.


Luc shook his head, throat too tight, panting so hard he couldn’t speak.

“You’re starving for it, t’hahr. I can taste your hunger. Let me give myself to you.”

Luc didn’t trust his voice. Can’t lose control now. Can’t. Can’t. He shook his head, fighting for mastery of his emotions.


If you find “ing” words where the scene should be active, it’s easy to change to active. Here is the same passage, altered from passive to active. Note the slight change in wording.


Luc shook his head, throat too tight. He panted, speech past him.

“You’re starving for it, t’hahr. I can taste your hunger. Let me give myself to you.”

Luc didn’t trust his voice. Can’t lose control now. Can’t. Can’t. He mastered his emotions and shook his head.


The first paragraph is fifty words; the second is forty-seven. Three words doesn’t sound like much, but multiply that by eliminating three words per page in a three hundred page document, and you have nine hundred words. Averaging two hundred fifty words per page, you’ve cut almost four pages.


The key point is that “ing” words often reveal passive phrases. Hunt them to sharpen the action and reword to make the sentence stronger. Small reminder: not all such words are going to help, i.e., thing, sing, string, during, something, anything, ring (noun), and so on. If you look, however, you’ll find plenty of places to change structure and write in a more active tense, often saving words.


These are the fastest way to cut, and there are many more. I’d love to hear ideas from you!


The book I referenced in this article is Surrender Love, coming from Loose Id on February 17, 2009.


This week I welcome multi-published author, Amanda Young, as Guest Blogger!




One of my favorite things about writing M/M romance is the ability to write outside the box. The characters don’t have to be the typical alpha male found in other genres. 


In my opinion, the idea of physical beauty in this day and age is a little skewed. Instead of smooth, flawless skin and gym-toned bodies, I’ve always been drawn to a different sort of man. The kind of man who’s built like a brick sh*thouse and covered in hair. That’s right—Bears. There’s nothing sexier to me than a hairy chest and a solid masculine body. Michael Angelo’s David be damned, I want to explore the allure of brawny men who can bench-press their own weight plus that of their partner.


For my next series, I’m planning to focus on big strapping men with even bigger hearts. There will be Bears, and Otters, and Wolves—oh my. For those of you who don’t know the terminology, I thought I would share some definitions (as I understand them) with you.


  • Admirer – a term that refers to someone who is sexually or romantically attracted to Bears (this term is often used in various communities to describe an outsider who has sexual attraction to people within that community). Also often referred to as a Chaser. Admirers/Chasers can be of any weight, hairy or hairless and any age.
  • Bear – a hairy man with a stocky or heavyset build and facial hair. Can be clean shaven and of any age.
  • Bear run – a gathering or circuit party for Bear/Cub types and their Admirers.
  • Cub – a younger (or younger looking) version of a Bear, typically but not always with a smaller frame. The term is sometimes used to imply the passive partner in a relationship.[10] Can be hairy or hairless.
  • Gobi – A male, often heterosexual, who is often in the company of bears. Likened to a Goldilocks.
  • Daddy bear – is an older guy sometimes looking for a daddy/son relationship with either a younger Bear, Cub, Otter, Wolf or Chaser.
  • Goldilocks – A female, often heterosexual, who is often in the company of bears (a bear’s fag hag).
  • Leatherbear – A bear with a leather fetish.
  • Muscle bear – a muscular version of a Bear. A muscle cub is a younger or smaller, yet muscular, version. Can be hairy or hairless and of any age.
  • Otter – a man who is hairy, but is not large or stocky – typically thinner, or with lean muscle. Slimmer version of a Bear with little pockets of fat like love handles or a tiny gut, but not as lean as a Wolf.
  • Panda bear – a bear of Asian ethnicity. A panda cub is younger version. Usually hairless.
  • Pocket bear – A short Bear.
  • Polar bear – a silver- or white-haired Bear.
  • Wolf – A lean, masculine gay man who is attracted to bears and involved in the bear scene.
  • Woof – A greeting often used when a Bear spots another Bear in public and wants to express physical attraction. He might make a growling noise (“Grrr!”) or say “Woof!”



What would you, the reader, like to see more of in erotic M/M romance? Maybe more overweight characters, or “Average Joe” type heroes. How about little known fetishes, like sploshing or water sports? For every kink you can dream up, there’s someone out there who’s interested. I’d love to hear what readers would like to see more of.



Author Bio:


Amanda Young writes in multiple subgenres, including M/F, M/M, and paranormal romance. The only thing she guarantees is hot ride and a happy ending. To learn more about Amanda’s books, please visit her website: