My name is Diana Copland, and first I’d like to thank Divine Magazine for allowing me to talk about my new book, David, Renewed. Writers don’t function in a vacuum, and without blogs that are willing to let us talk about our work, we’d be in a very sad state, indeed. So again, thank you, Anders. It’s an honor.
I can’t speak for how other writers work, but when I sit down to write a novel, the main character, the protagonist whose point of view I describe the action from, has to be there first. I’ve heard scholarly discussions about character driven vs. plot driven work, but I can’t really speak to that. For me books start with a person. In this case, David Snyder, the pale, blond, near-sighted protagonist whose life is the focus of the book. Where did David come from? I have no idea. I just know that one day this lovely, sweet man who works as a corporate interior decorator was there in my head. Next comes his love interest, because romance really is my bread and butter.
In this case, David is recovering from a base betrayal by the man he thinks he loves. I knew I’d have to build any relationship between him and this new man carefully so it didn’t look like he was a rebound guy. I also knew his new love would have to be as different in temperament from his ex as possible. Jackson Henry, the handyman David hires to do some work on his century old, newly purchased house, is as different from Trevor Blankenship, the ex, as sun is to night. Trevor is a preening peacock of a person; expensive clothes, haircut, shoes, snazzy car. He works as a salesman for a liquor distributor, and he is all about how things look. Jackson, on the other hand, is a blue collar guy, a craftsman. He drives a pickup and specializes in restoring and renovating old homes. Jackson is gorgeous, but seems unaware of the fact. He’s also a quiet, thoughtful person, which takes some getting used to for David.
I also believe that to be realistic, these characters have to have lives. Parents, siblings, friends. These two guys have some very good friends.
David’s best friend’s name is Michael Crane. A vision of a twenty-something hipster, Michael wears skinny jeans and bulky sweaters and half boots. He also wears his dark hair in a faux hawk, and tortoise shell, chunky glasses that do nothing to hide his large, surprisingly vulnerable gray eyes. He’s 25 but looks younger, and physically would fill anyone’s definition of a ‘twink’. He’s also got a dry wit and is snarky as hell, and is very protective of David.
Gilbert Chandler is Jackson’s best friend. They’ve known each other since grade school and followed similar paths into blue collar professions. Gil’s dad was an English professor, but Gil is a painter. He paints rooms and houses, but he’s also an artist, and does beautiful murals. He’s bald by choice and has a ready smile, and is six foot four in his bare feet, all solid muscle. He’s also very attracted to Michael, much to the younger man’s consternation.
Added to this mix of blue and white collar friends is Vernon Dwyer, the crabapple of a sixty something man with his long silver hair pulled back in pony tail and his sarcasm used as his armor to keep people at a distance. Gilbert has known him his whole life, and they work together. Another friend is Emanuel Hernandez, who they call Manny. They are all very protective of sweet Manny, a survivor of a brutal domestic abuse attack. Manny is just beginning to heal emotionally and see his friends again, and they would do anything for him.
So that’s the circle of friends I’ve created. Men who are just ordinary guys, doing their jobs, and occasionally getting very lucky and falling in love.
Here’s an excerpt including all of the friends. They’re going to be moving some furniture for David, and they’re all meeting for the first time!
David took a drink of his coffee, but he could feel Michael studying his face.
“So, do I get to meet the mysterious handyman today?”
Movement through the front window of his house caught David’s attention. A silver GMC truck pulled in behind Michael’s car. “As a matter of fact….” David moved to open the front door. Michael followed him, his face growing avid. “And you behave yourself,” David warned. Michael’s white teeth flashed, but he held up his hand, palm out.
“I’ll be good.”
David doubted that, but he opened the door before Jackson had a chance to ring the bell.
“Coffee?” David offered.
“We should probably head out to Gil’s dad’s place. He was going to pick up the truck and then meet us there with the other guys.”
“Other guys?” David wondered how many of them there were going to be. Behind Jackson’s back, Michael gave him a pointed look that said “excuse me? I’m standing here.” “Oh, I’m sorry. Jackson Henry, meet Michael Crane. He and I work together.”
Jackson held out his hand, and David had to swallow a smile as Michael’s eyes widened. “Nice to meet you,” Jackson returned his attention to David, and Michael mouthed “holy shit” behind his back.
“What other guys?” David repeated, giving Michael a stern look.
“Gil asked his buddy Vernon. And Manny.”
“And they won’t let me pay them.”
Jackson dropped his hands into his pockets. “Nope.”
David was both flabbergasted and uncomfortable. Why would strangers do that? “Will they at least let me buy pizza and beer?”
“Pizza and beer?” Michael made a face. “Talk about a carb fest.”
“I’ll buy you some chicken nuggets.”
Jackson snorted when Michael flipped David off.
“I’m sure pizza and beer would be welcome. And I thought we’d take my truck,” Jackson said. “Some of the smaller stuff could go in the bed.”
“That’s fine.” David took Michael’s still nearly full mug and walked into the kitchen, putting both in the sink. He came back and glanced at Michael. “You ready?”
“Sure. I’m just along for the ride.”
“No, dear.” David held open the front door. “You’re my muscle.”
“Me?” Michael gave him a startled look. “Dude, if I’m your muscle, you’re so screwed.”
“You’re what passes for muscle in my world, Michael.” David clapped him on the shoulder as he passed. “You can carry the sofa cushions. And try to look studly, will you?”
“Screwed, man, I’m telling you.”
Jackson clearly swallowed a laugh.
There was a white panel truck backed into the driveway at Gil’s dad’s , and Gil stood on the front lawn with two other men nearly as big as he was, when Jackson pulled up in front of the house.
“Holy shit,” Michael murmured. “That’s muscle. What do they do for a living, eat small children?”
Jackson grinned. “Relax, Michael. I’ll make sure they don’t take any bites out of you.” David covered a smile with his hand, but secretly he agreed with Michael. All of the men were wearing jackets in deference to the cold overcast weather, and it made them look bigger. Bulkier. Scarier.
“I look like a cricket compared to them,” Michael whined.
“No,” David countered. “But right now you sound like one.”
“Oh, shut up.” Michael batted him on the back of his head. Jackson was still grinning as he stepped out of the truck. “I have so much hatred for you right now,” Michael muttered.
“Tough it up, big boy, and come meet the other guys.” David got out of the truck and held the door open for Michael.
“So much hatred,” Michael repeated as he climbed out behind him. David smirked and followed Jackson to the small crowd on the lawn.
“Hey, David,” Gil called, a grin on his wide face. “Is that your muscle?” He gestured to Michael, his smile turning wry. But David also noticed the way his eyes moved over Michael’s lithe form, and he thought of what Jackson told him about Gil’s taste in men. Michael was certainly his type.
“This is Michael Crane.” David pulled Michael forward when he hesitated. “He’s my chief design assistant. He can also lift plenty. I’ve seen him heft an arm chair when necessary.”
Michael glared and held out his hand. “He’s totally lying. I’m the table cloth and decorative pillow kind of muscle.”
Gil chuckled. “Hey, we’ve got plenty of small stuff to move too. Not everyone needs to be a gorilla.”
“Nice,” one of the men David hadn’t met yet quipped in a deep, distinctively rough voice. He had salt-and-pepper-gray hair, pulled back in a low ponytail, and a full grey mustache. He could have been anywhere from forty to sixty, his face a roadmap of lines and wrinkles, but his dark eyes were bright. “I get asked to help move shit, and end up being described as a primate.”
“You like it,” Gil teased. “Makes you feel manly. You should thank me; old guys like you don’t get asked to be muscle much.”
“Bending you over the railing and making you squeal would make me feel manly, Gilbert,” he growled. He offered his hand to a wide-eyed Michael. “Vernon Dwyer. Pleased to meet you.”
Michael shook his hand warily, no doubt still trying to purge what Vernon had described from his mind. David shook his hand next, noticing how crooked his fingers were, how hard his palms.
“Don’t let him scare you,” Gil said to Michael. “He’s all talk.”
“You keep telling yourself that, boy.”
Gil grinned and gestured to the other man beside him. “David, Michael… this is Manny.” David had seen pictures of Emanuel Martinez when he went online to read about the trial that had put George Wilkerson in prison. Manny’s injuries at the hand of his ex-lover had been described in graphic detail, and the list had been horrifying and extensive. A broken hand and arm on the right side, broken ribs on the left. One blow had fractured his skull above his right eye. In photos accompanying the articles, Manny looked pale, dark circles beneath his eyes, his hair shorn short revealing the myriad scars that made a grim patchwork of the right side of his face. The Manny standing before him now was tense, his slender body held tight, but his features had been restored by a very skilled plastic surgeon. There were scars, but he was also so beautiful David had to remind himself not to stare.
A baseball cap covered his curly black hair, but when he looked up his chestnut eyes, surrounded by thick black lashes, were arresting. There was one particularly angry scar bisecting a brow and curling around his cheekbone, but other than that, his smooth, golden brown skin was healed. He nodded in greeting but didn’t offer his hand, his shoulders hunched and his hands deep in the pockets of his jacket. David ached looking at his body language, the way he held himself withdrawn even when surrounded by his friends.
“So, that gives us six guys.” Gil surveyed the group, then looked back at the house.
“Actually, I think David and I should only count as one.” Michael gave David an irritated look.
“Speak for yourself, Mary,” David shot back and the other men laughed.
So, those are my guys. I hope you enjoy David, Renewed!!
When interior designer David Snyder buys a beautiful century-old house in eastern Washington, he is reeling with heartbreak and looking for somewhere to put down roots. Unfortunately his new home comes with a laundry list of problems: electrical, plumbing, heating… things David knows nothing about. When his mother offers him the business card of a local handyman, David pictures an overweight, balding man in his fifties. But Jackson Henry couldn’t be further from that stereotype.
Dark-haired, muscular, and handsome, Jackson left a large construction firm in Seattle to take care of his sick mother. However, his hometown still has an active “good old boy” network, and finding employment in construction is almost impossible for an openly gay man. Determined to persevere, Jackson takes odd jobs as a handyman. He’s exactly what David needs—in more ways than one.
David isn’t ready for his attraction to Jackson, not considering the way his last relationship ended. But as the two men get to know each other, it becomes clear that the heart often knows best, and it rewards those willing to listen.
Review by Claire Potterton
Diana Copland is a new writer to me, but certainly one I will look for again. The writing in this book is just lovely!
David and Jackson are what I would describe as good men; eminently likable characters who have taken a few knocks, but picked themselves up and carried on regardless. Their attraction and relationship are beautifully believable, sweet, romantic, and a joy to see!
The secondary characters in this story are wonderful too; incredible, supportive friends, the bad guy is the right amount of bad, not over the top, but wicked enough to make you want to see him get his comeuppance, and the Mothers…..they are just awesome, strong, loving ladies!
There is the potential for further stories from some of the secondary cast that I, for one, would love to read!
A thoroughly enjoyable, engaging read, that I would highly recommend. Romance, heat, great friendships, and a beautiful happy ending.
Star Rating: 4.5
Meet Diana Copland
Diana Copland began writing in the seventh grade, when she shamelessly combined elements of Jane Eyre and Dark Shadows to produce an overwrought Gothic tale that earned her an A- in creative writing, thanks entirely to the generosity of an indulgent teacher. She wrote for pure enjoyment for the next three decades before discovering LiveJournal and a wonderful group of supportive fanfiction writers who encouraged her to try her hand at original gay fiction. Born and raised in southern California, Diana moved to the Pacific Northwest after losing a beloved spouse to AIDS in 1995. She lives in eastern Washington with four horribly spoiled cats, near her two wonderful adult children who swear she doesn’t embarrass them. She thinks they’re so cute.
You can reach me at:
My email: firstname.lastname@example.org
My Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/diana.copland.7
My Website: www.diana-copland11.com
My twitter: @dianacopland
My Pinterest, including my inspiration page for David, Renewed, https://www.pinterest.com/blamb10421/david-renewed-blue-collar-book-one/