Today we welcome Stephen Del Mar with
The Live Oak Tales
The Live Oak Tales is a paranormal/contemporary fantasy series set in the wider Stories from Bennett Bay collection by Stephen del Mar. The series consists of one short story (“Slay me,” said the dragon), which serves as a standalone prequel and three novels, Dark Love, The Bear, the Witch and the Web, and Hunter Moon and the Red Wolf.
'“Slay me,” said the dragon' is a tongue-in-cheek look at a romantic encounter between a dragon and a slayer. It sets up the mythology of dragon shifters that runs through the rest of the series.
Dark Love, a metaphor for gay love, takes us from the ordinary world of the Bennett Bay, a Gulf-side tourist town in Florida, to the tiny, backwater village of Live Oak. Dieter Reinhold, the proprietor of a trendy café in Bennett Bay’s Spanish Quarter travels back to Live Oak to deal with the death of his great uncle, the man that raised him as a father. While there, he learns there are more interesting creatures in the woods than he ever imagined. He discovers that magic, witches, and undying love are real.
In The Bear, the Witch and the Web, Innes Callahan and the circle of witches we met in Dark Love are facing a number of crises. The greatest of which is that the faeries are missing. In fact, all the enchantment seems to be gone from the Jumble, the wild woods adjacent to the farm. They need to find the faeries and discover who the new Witch of the Wood will be.
The final book in the series, Hunter Moon and the Red Wolf, finds the Circle still in disarray as Janos Pac tries to come into his own as the new Witch of the Woods. This is complicated by a plot by the dragons and wolves returning to Florida after nearly a hundred years, but are they really wolves?
These books are on the lighter side of the paranormal spectrum with a fair bit of humor. However, they do touch on deeper issues. Dark Love explores loss, grief, and what it means to hide one’s love. The stories also explore what it means to make hard choices about our path in life; and, an overarching theme is the changing nature of family as we move through life. How we move from our family of birth to the family we create with friends and lovers.
Excerpt from Dark Love: Book 1 in the Live Oak Tales
Setup: Dieter is alone at the family’s old farmhouse after the death of his uncle. His ex-lover and still good friend Innes comes over to comfort him. Innes finds the mysterious silver box Dieter found out in the barn, which seems to have human ash in it. Innes warns him that it might be dangerous. Innes is a witch and Dieter thinks magic is bull. Innes calls in his mentor, Flora May Crawford, to help him convince Dieter there is danger afoot. It doesn’t work. Later, Innes calls back with another warning for Dieter. It doesn’t make him think Innes is any less crazy.
Of course that was the moment my phone made the little nose-twitch tinkle-tinkle. I sighed, go with the flow and remember you love him.
I picked up the phone. “Hello, Innes.”
“Didn’t you get my text?” He sounded flustered.
“No. I haven’t looked at my phone. I’ve had other things on my mind.”
“Oh. Right. Well, what are you doing?”
“Sitting naked in the kitchen having soup and a sandwich.”
“Because I was hungry. What do you want?”
He didn’t say anything for a moment. I heard the creak of a screen door and the chirping of frogs. He must have moved outside onto Flora May’s front porch. “Look,” he said, “Flora May just got back from the faeries.” He paused like he expected me to comment. I had nothing.
“She’s not telling me a lot. Said they’re pretty agitated about the whole thing.”
Again the pause. Again I was silent; although I was worrying my grip on the phone would reach its crush point.
“Dieter, you gotta promise me to take this seriously.”
Actually, I didn’t have to promise him anything.
“So? It happens every twenty-eight days from what I understand.”
“Fuck.” He was agitated. “Listen, whatever you do, don’t jack-off in that box under the full moon.”
My mind kicked into neutral and spun its gears as it tried to make sense of the string of words it just received. Because they didn’t make any sense and they kept coming.
He continued. “I mean it. Whatever you do, do not mix your semen with that ash in the full moonlight.”
Some emergency back-up system took over. My thumb slid over my phone and ended the call. I stood up, opened the fridge and pulled a beer out. I twisted the top off and dropped it on the table. I pushed my way through the swinging door into the living room. As I fell back onto the couch, I tried to imagine a world where the idea of masturbating into a box of human ash existed, let alone the need to warn someone not to do that. Ohhh, I’m gonna cum, make sure the drapes are pulled and the lids are on all the urns, ‘cause we don’t want our spunk and ash and moonlight to mix! ‘Cause that will start the zombie apocalypse or something.
We asked Stephen a few questions for this tour stop:
Hi Stephen, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself, your background, and your current book.
Thanks, I’m very excited to be here. This is my first blog tour. Basic stuff about me: I’m a 54 year old gay man living in the Tampa Bay area of Florida. I have a background in media production and attended seminary for a while.
I’ve just finished and released “Hunter Moon & the Red Wolf,” which is the last book in “The Live Oak Tales.” This series is a fun and, at times, a quirky take on contemporary/paranormal fantasy. We have witches, faeries and a number of shifter folk all trying to do the right thing and live together. All of this is set in the Bennett Bay area on the Gulf Coast of Florida. A fun little place I’ve made up. I wanted a place where I could condense all of Florida into one county with a tourist town and backwater villages. I’ve been very influenced by the southern literary traditions and setting is always one of my main characters. A strong sense of place is a must for southern fiction, as is a bit of spirit, in whatever form that may take.
What is the nicest thing anyone has ever said about your writing?
That they want more. I’m always blown away when someone takes the time to email me about a story. One of the first ones I received was from a man in Turkey that liked one of my short stories. I sat there and stared at it for a long time. A guy on the other side of the world had found my story, read it, and like it enough to take the time to send me a message. That’s all kinds of cool.
Are you a full-time or part-time writer? How does that impact your writing?
Part-time. Gay fiction is a very small and crowded market. I’ll need to crank out a lot of mainstream stuff if I ever want to quit the Evil Day Job. Like most writers I know, finding time to write is the big challenge. You try to write everyday but sometimes it isn’t going to happen. I’ve had to learn not to beat myself up over that. I just chip away at it as I can.
What interested you about the themes of this series?
Themes are usually something you find after you finish a work. I find it interesting how the theme of family runs through all my stories. The idea of moving from birth families to the families we create with friends and lovers appears to be a deep thing for me. “Dark Love” is really about that. Dieter, the main character, is dealing with the death of a parental figure and pulling his friends closer around him. He also has a new love interest. A theme in the other two books is how a group of friends can fall apart and reform after a loss. Yeah, that family thing permeates my stuff.
What is the most difficult part of writing for you?
As I mentioned above, finding the time is difficult. And also focusing when I do have the time. I sometimes think I have some kind of attention disorder. I call it bouncy brain syndrome. Another difficult part for me is writing really emotional scenes. I’ll put them off for a while because I feel them deeply when I’m writing them. I cry a lot when I write. It’s really embarrassing because I write at Starbucks often. I’m sure they think I’m crazy. I probably am!
Name your four most important food groups.
Only four? Sigh, okay: garlic, pig, potatoes, and curry. Hum, I think I’ll make some curried pork over taters for dinner.
More about the author:
Stephen del Mar is a fresh voice in Southern Gay Fiction. His Bennett Bay collection of books and stories explore life in that unique corner of the American South known as Florida. He also writes fantasy and science-fiction. Del Mar lives in the Tampa Bay region of Florida and enjoys Key Lime Pie and mango margaritas, but not at the same time.
Promotional post. Materials provided by