Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Gardens Of Suzhou

Living in China started with a museum and a wish.

Love slave that I am, I travel with my love. In 2004, one of his business trips took us to San Francisco. As usual I went to the Japanese Tea Garden, and then to the Asian Art Museum. (I adore art and stalk every museum I can). I was meandering through the galleries, and I came upon an exhibit that focused on Suzhou (pronounced Sue-Joe) China.

The exhibit presented videos on the “Venice of the East”. Suzhou earned the nickname because of the numerous canals that used to transport goods through China. The town appeared to be a beautiful place but most stunning were the gardens of Suzhou. Due to the mild climate, many of the Emperors gardeners retired in Suzhou creating their own masterpieces. There are eighteen magnificent gardens and each is different.

I was taken by these exquisite works of art. Every step gifts you with another view the gardener wanted you to see. Around every turn a new perspective that draws you further into the depths of the natural beauty perfected and enhanced by the master gardener.

I watched the 20-minute video 3x crying at the magnificence. Over the weekend, I brought my love to the museum mostly see the videos of Suzhou. He was impressed.

Z.: “I wish we could live there. It’s so beautiful.”
My Love: “Be careful what you wish for…”

Two years later, my love and I settled into an apartment in Suzhou China. We lived in Suzhou for almost six years. I spent many early mornings and late afternoons, meandering through these works of art trying to appreciate every gift the gardener had left.

In The Great Wall Styx and Jin go to the gardens quite often. Here’s an excerpt from one of their garden adventures that changes everything between them.

Excerpt from The Great Wall:

“Let’s go to the Lion Grove Garden.”

A short train ride later, Styx and Jin were climbing around the rockery of one of their favorite gardens.

Ornate gray limestone protrusions shot up around a tranquil lake, its glassy surface marred only by occasional koi surfacing to feed and ashes of their orange and silver gliding by. The limestone rocks, some of which resembled lions, were littered with natural holes of various sizes and shapes and formed an interesting maze. If the right path was chosen, it led to the towering teahouse pavilion. The teahouse had been refurbished in the last century, but the Chinese craftsmen were so precise with their restoration it appeared original. Parts of the garden were untouched from the 1300s, though braces now held up several of the ancient pine trees to prevent them from toppling.

Styx sighed in irritation when a tour guide screamed to her group, interrupting the garden’s peace. Her voice carried to them an explanation of how the rocks came all the way from Taihu Lake. It wasn’t far by modern standards, but in the Yuan dynasty, it must have seemed like an interplanetary move.

As expected, around three thirty the tour groups left. Apart from a few older folks, Jin and Styx had the garden to themselves.

Jin beamed at Styx. “We have to thank your grandfather again for these passes. Mmmm, smell the jasmine.”

He stuck his face in the large bush to inhale. When he finally stepped back, he came away with several white petals stuck in his golden hair.

“Come here.” Styx plucked each flower petal out of Jin’s hair. He fought the need to exchange kisses for each petal.

Jin leaned over, bringing with him the intoxicating scent of the flowers mixing with his own.
Styx was glad Jin relished the gardens of Suzhou as much as he did. With the garden passes, they visited the eighteen popular gardens created by the emperor’s retired gardeners, and even the smaller, lesser- known ones commissioned by rich merchants.

“Yeah, just remember we have to renew the cards soon. Hard to believe we’ve been in Suzhou for almost a year,” Styx mused.

They climbed the steep, rough-hewn limestone steps, along at stone bridges between formations, and down into the rockery that rimmed the pond. Across from their position, a number of elderly people gathered for an informal senior social club at the old teahouse. The excited words of two men playing a heated game of mahjong carried to them, making Styx recall how animated Jin became when he won a game.


“Jin?” He hoped to lighten the direction of the conversation he was sure Jin would take.

“Why didn’t you tell me you were depressed?” The words tumbled out of Jin as if he’d held them back far too long.
Styx tried to make fun of the diagnosis. “According to the doctor, I’m not. I need to focus on my work.”

He didn’t miss the concern on Jin’s face. Turning away, Styx climbed onto the next section of rocks. The trees blocked their view of the tea pavilion’s ornate carved guardians and the people gathered in their protective shadow. Styx almost believed they were the only ones in the world.

“Styx?”A one-word warning told him he’d better fess up and do so quickly. “I don’t know. I guess I didn’t want you to know.” No man wanted to show such a loss of face. His inner voice demanded he act as culture dictated.

Styx jumped off the bridge path and landed on the rock face. He stepped around the peak, grabbing one of the jagged edges as he climbed over to grin at Jin.

“Careful, Styx.”

He scaled the unexplored parts of the rockery, relishing the fact he was breaking the rules. He’d left the proper-acting, rule-following boy back in Yintang. Here with Jin, he became himself—Styx, the boy who loved making Jin laugh, and not Jun Tai, the boy who had to marry a neighbor girl to please his family and honor tradition.

Styx orbited Jin, leaping from limestone outcropping to tiny footholds in the rocks until once again he stood beside his favorite person in the world. 


The Great Wall Blurb:
Destiny will be decided by a battle between heart and mind….

Jun Tai “Styx” Wong loves two things: playing the drums and his best friend, Jin. But being a good Chinese son means he can’t have either—he’ll have to marry a girl of his parents’ choosing and settle into a traditional job. His move to the bigger city of Suzhou is both a blessing and curse, as living with Jin makes it harder for Styx to suppress his desires. Nearly dying while trying to eradicate his feelings serves as a wake-up call for Jin, who takes extreme measures to keep Styx safe from harm.

When given a second chance at life and happiness, will Styx be able to claim the future he wants with Jin, his bandmates, and his music? Can love and hope grow with the constantly looming threat of Styx’s parents ordering him home? Great things await—if Styx finds the courage to break down the wall that stands between him and everything he wants.


Thursday, January 11, 2018

Interview Roulette questions from Kim Fielding

1.    You’ve been invited to a party being held by your boss. Which of your characters will you take with you as your guest? 
Tristan Cooper (the librarian) from The Librarian’s Rake. He’s shy but well read. Tristan would be on best behavior because he’s all good manners and kindness no worries he’d embarrass me by offering to blow a coworker. (Z. side eyes several characters) While he’s not great in crowds he’s fantastic one-on-one and would engage others in conversation allowing me to listen and not talk. 

2.     Are you a nervous cleaner? (And if you are, will you come hang out at my house?)
Organization and orgasm are spelled rather closely. I don’t think that’s an accident. I’ve just deep cleaned my house and I’m sitting down after 4.5 hours… and yes, I showered first. When I feel out of control I find cleaning provides me with a calm purpose that burns off my crazy. A clean house means at least something in the world is in control even if it’s only my dust.

3.     A 17-year-old girl has asked one of your characters for advice. What is she asking about and what advice does the character give?
She asks, “So Zack, um how old do you have to be to join a BDSM club?”
Zack (from Lock and Key): “You have to be 18 in most states. You might want to take classes. Knowledge is power. Never settle for less than you deserve, and ALWAYS have a safeword… (Zack sighs) and use the safeword if you need it.”

4.     What is your worst phobia?
My first is depressing so let’s go with speaking in public since that is a close second. If this is indeed the case, one might ask why the hell I signed up as a Featured Author for the GRL >> which requires I do a panel or a reading. (Hitting my head against a wall) Why did I do that to myself? I’m totally freaking out. My plan involves Valium, wearing bondage cuffs, and hoping people don’t show up.
I stutter and usually when I talk to someone I’m able to jump over words I can’t say. But when I’m nervous nothing comes out of my mouth and I give a blank stare. SIGH… So there’s a chance during my panel I’m going to look like an idiot. Go ME! Yeah, facing your fears not so much fun. Thanks for asking. (Z. leaves and re-cleans house)

5.     What’s one thing that inspired your latest book?
I sitting with MC Houle and Katie Obbink at the GRL San Diego. They were wearing glasses… for some reason they both whipped them off and stared at me with purpose. BOOM! Tristan Cooper was born… the sweet shy librarian with a lustful heart aching to sin… Yeah, that was some awesome glasses fu style times two they gave me! The Librarian’s Rake had a name and a main character.

6.     One of the characters in your latest book buys a birthday present for another. What is it?
Phillip Valentine (the rake) from The Librarian’s Rake would buy Tristan a sex toy from Bad Dragon. Of course, he would demonstrate how to use the dragon’s penis butt plug (probably in public and definitely in private).

7.     If you were magically transported into one of your own books, which one would you choose and why?
Damn! That’s hard. I guess I’d go into my first book because that’s where Z. Allora was given voice. Before the Dark Angels I wrote but never shared. To give me the opportunity to thank these characters for the love and life I have now would be incredibly rewarding. Visiting Bali again wouldn’t be too hard on me either.
8.     One of the characters in your most recent book wins a dream vacation to anywhere in the world. Where does he or she choose?
Tristan Cooper (the librarian) in The Librarian’s Rake would take his lover to Paris because he’s romantic and envisions sipping chocolate after a full day at the Louvre (The sex they had in the museum’s bathroom might have been ill-advised but was Phillip’s idea of romance… and quite exciting and satisfying).

The Librarian's Rake Book blurb:
Opposites might attract, but is acting on that attraction wise?
Librarian Tristan Cooper can’t steer clear of sexy, motorcycle-riding bad boy Phillip—the man is hot—but Phillip is bound to find quiet, bookish Tristan boring, like all Tristan’s boyfriends. Tristan yearns to explore his wild side, the part of himself he’s only allowed into his fantasies, and maybe rakish Phillip is just what he needs to feel free. 
Sexperienced hairdresser Phillip is more of a believer in happy endings than happily ever afters. Experience has taught him not to hope for more—until he meets sweet, vulnerable Tristan, who seems genuinely interested in his heart. But Phillip can’t trust enough to see himself as a man Tristan might want for more than a night.
With the help of a pair of matchmaking grandfathers, Tristan and Phillip might find the courage to step beyond their comfort zones and discover what has been missing from their lives.

Book buy link:

Author bio:
Z. Allora believes in happily ever afters for everyone. She met her own true love through the personals and has traveled to over thirty countries with him. She’s lived in Singapore, Israel and China. Now back home to the USA she’s an active member of PFLAG and a strong supporter of those on the rainbow in her community. She wants to promote understanding and acceptance through her actions and words. Writing rainbow romance allows her the opportunity to open hearts and change minds.

Author contacts:
·       Website:
·       Blog:
·       Facebook: Z Allora Allora
·       Twitter: @ZAllora
·       E-mail:

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Made in China

I was sitting in China... and I got an e-mail from my sister about the Black Veil Brides. "You might like this band," she said. I watched this video on YouKu...

I got the rights back from the original The Great Wall. I spent six months rewriting and adding about 15,000 words before submitting to Dreamspinner Press. It should be coming out soon!

Hugs, Z.