Monday, June 30, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars

My daughter left for her summer course yesterday. Before she left, she wanted us to see The Fault in Our Stars together, but that required me to read it first. So that's what I did last week.

I was unspoiled for it, but I suspected in the first chapter what would happen, so when I was proved right, I was prepared for it. My daughter expected me to bawl my eyes out, but that just didn't happen as I was reading. It did, however, happen on the last page with the bit about the eulogy. It wasn't the gut-wrenching experience she kept telling me was going to happen, but it was still a good book.

I didn't expect any of that to happen for the movie, and it didn't. Not that the movie wasn't good, but in all honesty, I just don't think Ansel Elgort is that good of an actor. I didn't particularly care for him in Divergent, either, and when his character is so pivotal, it meant I was emotionally disconnected from most of the movie. I don't find him very cute, either, so I can't even be superficial in appreciating him. Shailene Woodley was pretty good, and I was all right that they Hollywood-ized the ending. It still had tremendous impact and made Van Houten more palatable.

The scenes that did get to me? Laura Dern's. She played the mom, so it makes perfect sense that her anguish over her daughter's illness, when I have my own daughter sitting next to me, would resonate the strongest. The dad's pretty throwaway, which is a shame because I loved that he was portrayed as a man who could cry in the book, but Dern more than made up for it.

So I would still recommend the movie. It's pretty well done. My problems with Ansel are just my bugaboos, and not one person I've talked to about him or this movie has the same issue. The book is still better, though.

And reading it let me cross off the "book with a blue cover" space on my reading bingo challenge, which was proving to be a bear. :)

Friday, June 27, 2014

A Smile to End your Week

And to end this busy week, this adorable video of a dad singing along with his three-year-old to "Let It Go:"



Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Preserving LGBT History

As Pride month draws to an end, articles like this one remind me of how important it is to remember where we've been. It's a brief piece on photos from the 1950s that are in the archives at the University of Southern California Libraries, but it highlights just how far we've really come.

The photos' owner took the pictures in a photo booth, one of the few places where a young gay man might be able to sneak some intimacy with another. There's both an innocence about it and a sense of defiance that reverberates to this day.

We can't forget. When we get discouraged about prejudices in today's world, we have to remember there was once a time when it was much worse. The world is changing for the better, but it's a process, one we continue to fight for, and we owe it to our predecessors to remind future generations of their battles as well.

Go check out the photos. They'll make you smile.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

WIP Wednesday

I'm just about to wrap up Placeless, the next Bay Wolves story. This one is about Keaton McGrath, one of the wolves that was rescued along with Elijah in Boundless. Keaton is a very young wolf, with issues controlling his shifts. This is the opening of the story, our first real introduction to him.

* * *

The wind whipped past my face as I raced over the wet grass, filling my lungs with the stinging air and my nose with the smells of dirt, earthworms, and the tulips and cherry blossoms that bloom so vividly in March here. The trees were a blur, obstacles to navigate through and around rather than stop and enjoy. I wasn’t in Golden Gate Park at five in the morning to appreciate the scenery.

I was here to run.

When you’re an untagged wolf in San Francisco, you take whatever you can to roam as free as you might need or want.

Though I caught the occasional scent of another wolf, I never saw one during my runs. I don’t know why. The park seemed like the perfect place to get out some of the urges that often threatened to overwhelm me during the day. They thrived on randomness, it seemed. Anything could trigger them. A beautiful blonde’s perfume. The slope of a burly stranger’s shoulder. A car backfiring. I’m sure if I brought it up in group, any of the others might be able to explain why it happened, but I would never let it get that far. They might find value in talking about the trauma that bound us together, but I didn’t. I only went because if I didn’t, Corey would find out, and since I relied on Corey’s generosity for a place to stay, I couldn’t do anything to piss him off.

He didn’t know about my runs, either. Another reason why I chose coming so early.

I blocked out thoughts about my day to day, to better concentrate on my few minutes of freedom. Here, now, I was wolf. I couldn’t claim this territory as my own, but I could pretend, and that was all I needed.

Faster.

Around the tree.

Through an unseen puddle.

My lean muscles burned as I challenged them with greater speed.

There was no such thing as too fast.

I lost all concept of time. I measured my run in terms of heartbeats and the color of the sky, occasionally tipping my nose up to see its sooty spread shift and fade. Getting caught by dawn could strip my one liberty away if someone saw me. At best, wolves were considered second-class citizens. At worst, we were feared. If the wrong person caught me out…

I angled toward the tree where I’d stashed my clothes. The worst had already happened to me when I’d been kidnapped for the sadistic pleasure of men and women rich enough to afford my company. I wouldn’t do anything stupid to risk getting trapped again.

Though shifting back into my human form was the last thing I wanted, I did it. I’d been a wolf for almost a year now, and it still wasn’t easy. Where others could change shapes back and forth at will, I had to force my thoughts to images of what I looked like standing on two legs instead of four, with bare skin instead of fur, with the face that looked back at me in the mirror instead of the muzzle I lifted to the moon to howl. Corey said going to group would help me learn how to balance the two parts of me, but what did he know? He was a lawyer, for Christ’s sake. He wasn’t even wolf. He couldn’t begin to comprehend the struggle I went through on a daily basis.

Lowering my nose to the grass, I breathed in and out, waiting for my pulse to slow. Shifting was easier that way. Adrenaline turned me into a walking time bomb. Once it didn’t feel like my pelt was vibrating in time with my heart, I let the shift begin.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Today's Words of Wisdom


Monday, June 23, 2014

More cover art!

I got a lovely surprise over the weekend, the cover for my August release, A Flight in Ice. Look at how pretty it is!


I just love it. It makes me all that much more excited about its release.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Cover and blurb for new Jamie Craig story

Pepper and I teamed up again for the upcoming Edge of Danger pax at Amber Allure. The result was a long novella called Between the Shadow and the Soul:

Ryan doesn’t expect too much from his weekend at the Shadows and Souls fan convention in Tahoe—he wants to meet his online friends, engage in a few heated debates about the plot for the upcoming season, and maybe shake the hand of the TV show’s star, Johnny Marlowe. But his weekend goes off course almost immediately after his arrival. First, the hotel loses his booking. Then Johnny Marlowe talks to him like they’re actual friends. And while his head is still spinning, a ghost attacks him in the elevator.

Despite fighting ghosts every week on television, Johnny Marlowe does not believe in the spirit world. However, he does believe he should get to know Ryan better. Fan or not, the man is not only gorgeous, he’s down-to-earth, fun, and makes Johnny forget about the fake life he’s forced to lead and the ex-boyfriend who refused to participate in the charade. Unfortunately, every time Johnny tries to get close to the handsome ginger, something explodes or the earth shakes or lights blink out—and none of that is as sexy as it sounds.

Johnny doesn’t believe in ghosts, but he knows he has to get to the bottom of this haunting if he ever wants to get close to his biggest fan.

Release date is July 20 at Amber Allure. As we get closer, I'll be talking about it a lot more, so stay tuned!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Little by little

Earlier this week, a Canadian boy was presented with a real gift - a birth certificate where his gender had been officially changed from female to male. While it's not that unusual for new birth certificates to be issued for trans people, this case marks a decided shift for them. Why?

Because 12 year-old Wren Kauffman has yet to have to gender reassignment surgery, a necessary requirement prior to the Kauffman case.

It's a wonderful step forward in trans rights, recognizing gender identification as valid regardless of age. Not everyone might be as fortunate as Wren in having such a loving, supportive family, so it becomes the law's responsibility to grant the rights they might otherwise be denied.

Bravo, Wren. I know you're going to be an inspiration for a lot of kids who might be struggling with their trans identities.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Musical obsessions

My current musical obsession, A Great Big World, continues. I've been listening to the album pretty much nonstop. The other day in the car, I  realized that I could totally play, "I Don't Wanna Love Somebody Else," on my guitar.

I've been working on my fingerpicking for the past couple months, so it seems like the ideal song. Plus, it's forcing me to play F and Bb, which I usually avoid at all costs. My guitar teacher is having a concert in August, so I should be more than comfortable with it by then. The thing is, my teacher now wants me to sing while I play. Which, okay, it's not a difficult song. But the only place I sing anymore is in the car. I can say no, but my daughter has been bugging me from the start to sing along with whatever I ended up playing. I'm getting pressured from both sides. I'll probably end up breaking. Damn it.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Daily affirmation...and book art on Etsy

This graphic is actually available on Etsy to purchase. I'm a sucker for book art. I have a number of variations of prints on old book pages framed in my house, and when I found this one, I knew I had to point out the seller to my readers. She has a nice variety of prints available, including a special deal if you buy three.

I firmly believe in supporting independent artisans. They do it for the love of the craft most of the time, and the last thing I want is for creativity to be stifled. Go check her out!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Chance to win an Amber Allure pax

Yesterday, Amber Allure released the Haunting Words pax, five m/m stories about ghosts. Originally, Pepper and I were slated to write something for it, but instead got moved to the Edge of Danger pax next month.

However, there are some great authors still involved in it, so I want to encourage everyone to go check out their posts at the Pax blog this week. Today, A.J. and D.J. talk about their release, The Ghost of Get Me Some Corners, while tomorrow, Clare London is on the schedule with her story, No Angel. Anyone who comments on any of the posts made this week over there is eligible to win the entire pax collection, too.

Go check it out!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Any Day Now

Do you ever use that "let me pick a movie for you" feature on Netflix? Get the Max from Netflix, that's what it is. I can never get that damn jingle out of my head after I hear it once.

Last night, I was tired and my husband was working, so I used Max. I didn't want to have to choose. The problem with Max is that most choices are nothing I'd be interested in. I've spent fifteen minutes going through it before and then just turned the TV off because everything it suggested was awful. It's had a couple winners, though, so I never give up. It's how I got introduced to Continuum, for instance. How can I hate it after that?

Well, last night, it didn't want me to go through the whole rating/selection process. It wanted me to trust its pick and go for it. My daughter was sitting on the couch with me and kept egging me on to go for it, so I finally caved.

What came up was a movie called Any Day Now.

It's a small indie that came out in 2012, starring Alan Cumming as a drag performer/aspiring singer in late 70s West Hollywood. Rudy's life is on the dismal side - he can't make rent, and his neighbor is a druggie who has no interest in her son Marco, a teenaged boy with Down Syndrome. Rudy hooks up with Paul, a shy attorney he meets at the club played by Garret Dillahunt. When his neighbor gets arrested, Rudy steps in to help Marco, going to Paul first, then having to yield to Family Services. Marco runs away from his foster home and when Rudy finds him on the street, he takes him home with him. Paul helps him circumvent Family Services again by going straight to the mother in jail to get temporary custody, then even more by offering his home to them to make Rudy look more stable in front of the judge.

The movie turns into Rudy and Paul's quest to build a family, then to adopt Marco when their lives are threatened by prejudice. This takes place in 1979. You can imagine how well that goes. By two-thirds of the way through the movie, I was sobbing. I was a real mess when the end credits rolled.

It's not a perfect film by any means. The wigs are truly awful and distracting, and the beginning where Rudy and Paul are supposedly falling in love is rushed and underwritten. But the drama focusing on Marco is painfully real, and it was impossible for me not to get wrapped up in it all. Cumming is over the top and vulnerable, and Dillahunt is understated but just as vulnerable. It's the boy who plays Marco who is the most heartbreaking, though. His scenes are minimal but expertly played and timed.

Make no mistake. This movie is nowhere near feel good. Consider the times and the subject matter. But it was worth it for me, even though I was a wreck when it was over.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Today's Words of Wisdom


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Self-publishing

Yesterday, I mentioned how I was going to try self-publishing stories that I'd got back the rights to. It makes the most sense. Most of them are shorter, part of anthologies that got broken up or from a publisher I don't work with anymore, and it seems silly to resubmit them elsewhere.

Only one of them is novel-length, and that is one I always wanted to rewrite anyway. It's called A Sentry's Touch and was originally published by Linden Bay. When I say it's going to be rewritten, I mean quite extensively. It was published as a het shapeshifter romance, but I always wanted it to be menage. The thing was, it was never going to happen organically in just one book. By rewriting and publishing it myself, I can make it a series to develop it and the world that really needed more one story to bring to life. I can go back to my original title for it, too, or at least a variation of it: The Shape of Yesterday.

The others are all shorter, however, so they'll come out much more quickly. It's just a matter of finding the time to sit down and do all the work before I send it off to Michael over at Booknibbles for cover art and formatting.

Ha. Time. Isn't that what we're all looking for more of? :)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Upcoming release dates

One advantage to working a lot is having consistent stories in the pipeline. Starting in July, I have a release a month coming out at Amber Allure, three of which are solo titles and one is a Jamie Craig title (my collaboration with Pepper Espinoza).

Between the Shadow and the Soul (a Jamie Craig story) - July 20
A Flight in Ice - August 17
Flesh and Kisses - September 21
Placeless (a Bay Wolves story) - October 19

There's more in that time period. I'm hoping to get one or two my older titles that I've had the rights back for a while self-published now that I know more about the process (thanks to all those panels at RT!), and like last year, I'm going to have a story in the breast cancer charity anthology, Shades of Pink. That comes out October 24.

I might complain sometimes, but I do love being so busy. :)

Monday, June 9, 2014

New contract - A Flight in Ice

Another of the stories I finished since RT now is officially contracted. This one is for the upcoming Winter Games pax at Amber Allure, called A Flight in Ice.

Here's the blurb:
Life hasn’t turned out like Connor McClure hoped. His relationship is over, he lost his friends in the break-up, and nothing makes him happy anymore. All he wants is to hide from the world, but the only place available to him is his parents’ home in the rural Michigan community he abandoned thirteen years ago. Since they’re in Florida for the winter, he’ll have the whole house to himself. 
Except he doesn’t. In their absence, the McClures asked a young neighbor to look after the property. Jerry is young, energetic, and oh yeah, gay. From everything he’s learned about Connor, he might be harboring a little crush, but Connor is in no place for dating. Right now, he needs a friend, someone to help him remember that second chances are always possible…
It's a quiet character piece about how to move on when all you want is to run away. I'm rather proud of it. More details as I get them!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Stephen Colbert & Sherman Alexie on the Amazon/Hachette feud

The Amazon/Hachette feud has been all over the writing world for a while, but this week started to show up in national media as well. My favorite response so far is definitely Stephen Colbert's. (I tried embedding, but it's not working for whatever reason so go watch if you haven't seen it.)

I was *dying* during his monologue, though admittedly, more about his descriptions of used books than anything else.

But then, to make it even better for me, he brought out one of my favorite authors, Sherman Alexie. They're trying to help a first time author who will get screwed over by this feud by having people order the book through the Colbert site from Powell's.

Like I needed even more reasons to adore these two.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Recent reading

When I'm not really engaged in stories, it takes me forever to get through a book. After devouring the Corine Solomon series, my reading has ground to a near standstill. It took me way too long to finish two recently, though my binge of Solomon and the Divergent books over spring break still has me ahead on my goal of 52 books in 2014. That number makes me sad. I remember when I could've easily read triple that in a year. I just don't have the time right now.

Anyway, the two that took me forever to finish:

City of Dragons by Kelli Stanley: This one had me written all over it. Female detective set in 1940 San Francisco. It's meant to be hard-boiled noir with a female protagonist. Miranda's an ex-prostitute turned private detective with a slight detour as a war nurse where she lost the love of her life. So much potential, right? While the mystery was pretty good, it just took too damn long to get through it. The book could've easily lost a third without missing anything. It would've dramatically helped the pacing. But the author was too in love with long sections where Miranda just sits around or walks around musing on 1940 San Francisco or how miserable her life is. A little bit is good. A lot becomes redundant. Normally, I would give up after a couple chapters of this, but the problem with this book was that it would get really good for a couple chapters, and then grind to a dead halt with the navel-gazing. By the time I realized it wasn't going to improve, I was halfway through and needed to see how the mystery played out.

Any Bitter Thing by Monica Wood: This is a flashback type of story about a woman who is nearly killed in a car accident who slowly rebuilds her life and tries to come to grip with the losses she's endured. Literary fiction and it got rave reviews, but while the prose was pretty, it was soooooooo slow. I would've given up after the first chapter if I hadn't been so intrigued by the premise (she'd been taken away from the priest uncle who was raising her after her parents were killed when there were charges of abuse, and thought him dead but then believed she saw a vision of him at her bedside when she was in the hospital). Others might enjoy it more than I did. The reviews are pretty uniformly very good at Amazon. It's probably just a not-for-me style. Pretty prose but bored me to tears for the most part.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

One of the reasons I dislike Facebook

I'm not a big fan of Facebook. I'll admit that straight up. I have a professional one, only because I needed to join a group that I could only talk to on FB, and a personal one, because when half your family lives on a different continent, it's the only way to stay on top of what's happening to everybody, but that doesn't mean I'm particularly happy with it. Especially their arbitrary removal of photos they deem inappropriate.

Josh Rimer of The Sassy Scoop did a video earlier this month on the photos Facebook doesn't want you to see. It truly is a bit ridiculous what they take off...


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Adventures in Scrivener

Since I'm about to start a new story, I decided to try it out in Scrivener. I'm still on a time crunch, though thankfully not as bad, so it's now or never. The new story is the next in the Bay Wolves series, which makes Scrivener ideal. It will allow me to keep character sheets of all the people who show up, track all the details I need to straight and more.

Sunday, I went through the tutorial, and yesterday, I got my project set up. It's a little more time-consuming than I'd hoped. Things like figuring out how it's best to track my daily productivity took up time, as well as going back through Boundless to create sheets for the characters in there. Those only have the barest details in them. I'll likely fill them in as I go along with the details I need to ferret out. The important thing for me right now is to get started.

I'm sure I'll fall in love with it, but I'm at the part where it's more work than I want it to be. Keep your fingers crossed I don't fall into it and get lost!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Maleficent

I'm going to be in a minority, but I didn't love Maleficent. I enjoyed myself for the most part, and I'd still recommend it, but...yeah, no, didn't love it.

If you don't want to be spoiled, click away now. Otherwise...

.

First, the pluses.
  1. Visuals. It is absolutely STUNNING. Everything about the way it looks takes your breath away. There will be tech nominations come Oscar time, for sure.
  2. Angelina Jolie. Easily the strongest performance in the whole movie. By miles and miles. She nailed the regal, eerie stillness to the role that was in the cartoon. Because of that, all of her emoting is done in her eyes, and it's fantastic.

The reasons I didn't love it.
  1. Sharlto Copley. He plays Stefan, for those haven't seen the movie yet. HATED his performance. From almost the moment he was introduced. And it's not that I hated his character. I never believed his character, so hating it was impossible. But I never bought for a second that this weasely twerp could be either the young lover or the formidable king. Every time he came onscreen, I would find myself wondering why they cast him, who they could've cast differently, internally whining about how awful he was. And don't get me started on how Maleficent could ever fall for him in the first place (yes, yes, I've already had to listen to my family's arguments about how sheltered she was, how much she needed his attention, etc. I still don't buy it.)
  2. All the logic holes. I know it's a Disney movie. I know it's a fairy tale. But because I wasn't emotionally engaged half the time (every time Stefan was onscreen), my mind would go straight to holes in the plot. Like how in hell Stefan remained king for so long when it was clear he hadn't neutralized Maleficent at all and in fact made her stronger because of her anger. Or the back and forth nature of Maleficent's powers.
  3. Imelda Staunton. I love the actress, but honestly, you really can't put her in pink anymore. Or have her character defined by the color pink. Everybody hates Umbridge, and with her playing such an important role in such a popular series, it's next to impossible to avoid comparisons.
  4. The lack of power in the ending. It's far too obvious, and I couldn't help rolling my eyes when I realized what they were going for. Yes, it's nice to redefine true love, but so close on the heels of Frozen, it lost its impact for me.

Still, for the visuals and Jolie alone, people should see it. It's important that movies that female leads have strong box offices, too, so that we can continue to break down some of the walls in Hollywood. And odds are, you'll like it more than I did. Literally every person I've talked to since seeing it has liked it more. Some of these bugaboos could be completely on me.