Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Accomplished in 2013

After taking much of 2012 off, I started back in on writing in 2013 to try and get up to steam. It was a slow process, but I think I'm back in a groove somewhat, finding my rhythm as I concentrate on writing the stories and characters that are important to me. All but one of them came out with Amber Allure as well as all being m/m, but that's going to change up in the year to come. I ended up having seven solo titles and one collaboration with Rick R. Reed.

My lone non-AQP title came from Liquid Silver. A Simple Charm is a sweet historical romance about a carny who shows up in a small Indiana town and falls for a local boy who has real magic. It's one of the most gentle stories I wrote all year, with some of my best prose, I think. It makes me a little sad that this didn't get the bigger audience I think it deserves, but I always knew a sweet historical with paranormal overtones would be a hard sell for most m/m readers.

One of my first titles this year at Amber Allure was The Low Between, a 50s noir story about an ex-cop and the young actor who get caught up in murders that have nothing to do with them. I have a real soft spot for this time period, and there just isn't enough out there, especially in the m/m world. It was tough getting back into plotting, but I was happy with how this turned out.

After reading so much steampunk that focused too much on the tech and not enough on the characters, I decided to try my hand at my own version. The result was Iron Eyes. While one of my leads was a brilliant engineer from 20s Hollywood, I deliberately focused on the story they had to tell, the journey of finding a new solution to help a little blind girl see. I'm really proud of this one, plus Cap and Hector's chemistry went off the charts for me.

After noir and steampunk, I decided to dip my toes in sci-fi. Thus, Aria of the Eclipse was born. I've never created an alien species all on my own before (I've done it as part of the Jamie Craig team), so coming up with Dek was my real challenge in this. He needed to be otherworldly enough to warrant the genre, and yet relatable enough for the readers to connect with. I think, hands down, this is the most romantic story I published all year.

I collaborated with the talented Rick R. Reed on an epistolic short about two men separated by life choices, in a time when being gay wasn't nearly as accepted. Family Obligations still makes me cry when I re-read it, for everything they had to endure as well as for the lives they actually lead.

I stayed in the contemporary zone with my sweet romance, The Hearts of Yesteryear. While it's very comedic in tone, the subject matter is not. It's about a man in his seventies who ran away from his small town after his best friend and the boy he loved chose the military over him. John has to go back to that town and confront his past. To this day, I still want to see this as a sitcom. I think John and Frank would be terrifically funny as a gay senior citizen couple, with Corrine, John's personal assistant, there for back-up. Hey, a girl can dream, can't she?

Things sobered up for me with my next contemporary. The Unbeaten Track is about an insomniac who is still haunted by the loss of his high school sweetheart, a victim of homophobic violence. I chose to do this one in first person, mostly because it's so much about being in Sean's head. The reader needed to be there with him as he made his choices, and hopefully come out the other side better for the knowing.

Last but not least, came Threshold. This took me back to my vampire roots, about a hurt vampire on the run who holes up in an out of the way motel. Falling for him was Max, an ex-soldier who is desperately looking for meaning in his life. The connection between these two sizzled from the start. Of all the titles I released this year, this one, for me, is by far the hottest.

2014 is going to see me branching out some. For instance, I have an m/m/f menage called Enthralled in Silver coming out with Ellora's Cave, and I'm hoping to have more. There are two stories in the final stages to come out at Amber Allure, Boundless and What the Heart Thinks, and more I'm scheduled to do there. All good things!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Back from the Holiday

I hope everyone had a great holiday! I know, New Year's is still to come, but that's not so much a holiday for me as it is just a marker of time. That starting point so many need so they can say, "Okay, this is the beginning." That's not a holiday. That's an opportunity. Grab onto it with both hands and don't let go until you've wrung everything out of it that you possibly can.

I've got great stuff coming up this week, including participating in the Baby, It's Cold Outside blog hop this weekend.

There are a ton of great authors taking part, and lots of prizes to be given away, including the Kindle Fire grand prize. I hope to see you there!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Bits and pieces for Friday

Blogging is likely to be spotty over the next two weeks, for obvious reasons. I'm the one who keeps Christmas moving in my house, so I'll be busy. If it was left to my husband, nobody would even get dressed on Christmas day, let alone eat.

I'm working on edits today, and I've been told there's more in my immediate future. I also go cover art for my EC menage coming out in 2014, but I'm going to save that for sharing later. Suffice it to say, it's gorgeous. I'm so pleased with how it turned out.

Don't forget to check out the Amber Pax holiday office party going on over at the pax blog, either. We're giving one more pax collection away next Wednesday, and you still have the chance to win the earrings I'm giving away on my post, too.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

New Cover Art - Boundless

Remember that new series I was telling you about a couple days ago? I thought I wouldn't be talking about it again until next week, but I was wrong. I got cover art to share with you today.

Love, love, love it. That's Denny, my cop, on the cover. Oh, wait, you need a blurb, too. Well, it's rough, but here it is:

Helping people is what Denny Patton does. Most of the time, it’s through his duties as a cop in San Francisco, but every once in a while, he steps in and aids his brother in an underground battle for those without any rights under the law – werewolves. Their latest mission is to rescue a group of wolves who have been held captive and forced to do the unspeakable. The task will put his career at risk, but in his heart, Denny believes it’s the right thing to do.

Especially when one of the rescued wolves turns out to be the man who disappeared from his life seven years ago.

Elijah and Denny were high school sweethearts until Elijah disappeared from the Bay Area the summer after they graduated. The note he left behind told Denny and his family to move on without him, but Denny has never forgotten his first love. Now, he wants answers about why Elijah could ever leave. More importantly, he wants the future they were always meant to have…

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Caving to the Pressure

Why do we let ourselves get sucked into stories we don't actually like very much? I don't get it. As I get older, I don't fall prey to this phenomenon very often anymore, but it just happened to me again and I'm annoyed.

See, generally speaking, I don't read YA. I find the teenage angst about dates and running hot/cold and the usual drama boring as hell. But I picked up the first book in a recent series because it got rave reviews and looked like it might break out of the norm.

It did, for the first half of the first book. Then completely devolved into the reasons I avoid most YA.

I could've stopped then. I should've stopped then. I didn't like the hero - he's inconsistently written and a douchebag most of the time - and I didn't like her heroine - she reeked of Mary Sue and I had no understanding of why she was supposed to be so special except the author told me she was - and the writing itself wasn't stellar. Lots of reasons to make it a DNF and put it aside, chalk it up to being not my thing and let it go.

I didn't. I finished the book. Then went out and bought the rest of the four-book series.

Because in spite of all the stuff I didn't like, I had to know how it all ended.

My daughter is insanely amused by this. "Just don't read them," she said when I bitched to her about them.

But what she doesn't get is, I can't. Frankly, I don't get why I can't either. I considered it. A lot. But when I would put the book aside, I found myself thinking of it until I had to put it back up again. Stupid thing was like a drug.

The only thing that makes any of this is better is the fact that the series reads fast. The time I spent on it isn't that much in the grand scheme of things. Still, I hate feeling out of control like this, especially by books I will never read again.

Does this happen to any of you? Or am I just crazy like my daughter claims?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Come Visit with Me!

I'm at the Amber Pax blog today, talking about what Christmas is to me, sharing my family's favorite cookie recipe, and giving away jewelry. Stop on by!

Friday, December 13, 2013

A New Series

I have something coming up in 2014 that I haven't had in a while - books in a series. It's not just talking about wanting to do sequels because I love the secondary characters and want them to have their own stories. There are at least two, if not three, stories coming out at Amber Allure in 2014 that are all set in the same world.

It's called Bay Wolves, and it's exactly what it sounds like - werewolf romances set in the San Francisco Bay Area. The first is a short story called Boundless, introducing the world and a set of reunited lovers, and from there, it moves on to other couples, all wrapped up in the intrigue of this underground world. In this series, werewolves are a known commodity, but they're deemed less than human and lack a lot of normal rights granted to people, thus driving many of them to keep their natures secret.

The majority of the stories are going to be m/m, but there will probably be at least one m/f (the brother of Boundess's hero is definitely straight, and I want him to have a happy ending, too). I have no idea how long it'll stretch, either. It really depends on how that world evolves. My initial plan is to focus on new couples with each one, but I'm not ruling out returning to earlier romances. For instance, the reunited lovers in the first could very well find themselves with a longer story later on.

I'm so excited about this series and more than a little amused. I do love following characters and worlds, but honestly never would've thought I'd be doing it with werewolves. But that's what these guys demanded, and the world they live in is too fascinating to ignore.

I'll keep you updated on how it all pans out. Next week, expect to hear more about Boundless as that one will be coming out in January!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Real treasures

When I was growing up, going to the library meant a major trip. We lived five miles outside of a small Michigan town, so it wasn't a casual thing to just stop on by to check out some books. The bookmobile was our best friend during summer months, and during the school year, I had to content myself with what I could get from our school library. I was the only kid in my grade who was allowed to exceed the weekly limit, because they couldn't get them to me fast enough.

Fast forward a couple decades when I learned that our brand new house was only three blocks away from the local library. THREE BLOCKS. That's walkable, no matter what month is it, because hello, California. I was in heaven. Or thought I would be, anyway. The reality was, I was reading a lot of stuff electronically, and the library was tiny, and the joys I'd had as a child diminished slightly in the reality of, "Well, I've read those," or, "They don't have what I want."

It's only been in the past year or so that we started making regular trips there. This has been the time when my eleven-year-old son has discovered books the way I did. He's been devouring whole series to the point where he's gone through most of what we own that would interest him at his age level, so adding in library trips to discover new authors was the perfect answer to him.

The thing of it is, I don't go to our library to check out books. In all the time we've lived here, I've never checked out one. No, I always go and spend all my time in the sale section. You know the one I mean. It's the section of library cast-offs and books that have been donated that they sell off to help raise money.

I don't always buy anything, but sometimes, I make real scores. One week, I got a bag of eight trade paperback romances - with Lorelei James, Shayla Black, and others - for $1. But last night when we walked down after dinner...oh my.

Last night, I scored a 1936 hardcover edition of the Complete Rhyming Dictionary, complete with dustjacket. For $1.50.

I have no idea when I'll ever use it. I'm not sure I even will. But old books always give me a secret thrill. I could lose myself for hours in the used bookstores on Charing Cross when we would go into London for the day. When my husband's grandmother died a few years ago, the one thing my in-laws offered to me was picks of what few books she had. I ended up with cookbooks and gardening books that were almost a hundred years old. Real treasures.

Maybe I'll have a bad poet hero in a future story. I could use the book then.

The best part is knowing I saved it from being destroyed. It's going to have decades more to live, and just maybe my kids will pass it on so that future generations can have a taste of how books used to be.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Sons of Anarchy finale

Looks like it's a TV week here for me at the blog. I want to talk about my reactions to Sons of Anarchy's finale. So if you haven't watched Tuesday night's episodes, or if you want to stay unspoiled for what's going to happen, it's probably a good idea to stop reading now.


Holy crap.

That's pretty much reaction every year, but...holy crap.

This show is going to kill me. I had to get off the computer last night early so I didn't get spoiled, then stay off this morning until I'd watched it. My stomach has been in my throat since finishing it half an hour ago.

First of all, I didn't see that coming with Tara until Unser left Gemma alone. Then, I had to actually pause the DVR and walk away because I knew it was going to be bad, bad, bad. High, vengeful, just dumped, alone Gemma? Complete disaster waiting to happen. And of course, the moment Tara thinks she might actually be happy, that's when everything gets pulled out from under her.

Seeing Jax hold her at the end killed me. Kurt Sutter said in the afterword that he needed this kind of drastic event to propel Jax into the last season, but that's got me terrified about what he intends. I don't want Wendy to be a part of those children's lives at all. Clean, sure. But she doesn't love Jax, and I don't trust her not to mess up again.

And what is Jax going to do when he finds out Gemma was the one who killed Tara? I've got to believe Juice is on the run now. Jax already put him on the watchlist with the club, so he has nowhere else to go. His helping Gemma by shooting the sheriff (god, I hated that, I really did) makes perfect sense in light of everything going through Juice's head. No place with the club. The debt he owed to Gemma for saving his life. If he sticks around, his guilt will only get worse. He's already wound too tight.

I'm scared for Jax. He's made some bad decisions, but now he's lost the two people who were keeping him morally grounded - Opie and Tara. Bobby's an excellent influence on him, but that's not the same.

Then there's Nero. Who is getting dragged back in against his will. I've always liked Jimmy Smits, but this show has really made me appreciate him more. I love him to death. I wonder what it would be like to go back and watch LA Law now, lol.

Hats off to CCH Pounder for some great guest work this season, too. I hope she's back next year.

Man, I need a drink after that.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

How did they make Dracula seem so insignificant?

One of the shows that's been sitting on my DVR for me to try out is Dracula. I wasn't going to. It seemed too cheesy to me from the commercials. But then several people I trusted were enjoying it, so I decided to start recording and see for myself.

Cut to six weeks later.

I watched the first episode yesterday. So far, I'm...underwhelmed. I already have a negative bias on the actress playing Lucy. While Katie McGrath is beautiful and has certainly come a long way in her acting abilities, I find the smirking just a tad annoying, and I don't like the blonde hair. So going into it, that didn't help.

But I always liked Jonathan Rhys-Meyers before this. I loved The Tudors. And he's certainly easy on the eyes. But I finished the first episode wondering how it was they made their Dracula seem so insignificant.

Perhaps most jarring is the physicality of the role. Rhys-Meyers isn't the biggest guy to start out with, but he looks downright puny in much of the premiere, so unimposing that he gets lost even when he's the only person in a scene. His normally arresting eyes look too watery most of the time, so that he always looks like he's about to cry. Great for showing vulnerability, not so great for making me fear or be in awe of Dracula.

And let's not talk about most of the accents. Or the awful actress playing the ridiculous Lady Jayne (I realize she's done a ton of work, but I can't stand her.)

I'm not giving up. I'm hoping some of it will smooth over. I can forgive a lot of the inaccuracies and over-the-top-ness if the story and actors are good enough, so maybe they just need a couple episodes to warm up to the material.

Fingers crossed.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Anything is possible

Everyone gets discouraged. Everyone has off days. Frankly, writers work in a vacuum a large part of the time, so it's easy to lose our perspective in a lot of ways.

That's why I love getting slapped in the face with reminders that anything really is possible. Recently, news has come from the medical community about a new way of approaching cancer treatments where doctors reprogram our bodies fight cancer on its own, much like we're able to fight back against colds. Results have been incredibly positive so far. Cancer is insidious, and while it's hardly the only dangerous set of diseases humans can get, any progress that keeps people from dying is for the good.

These scientists never gave up. They took what seemed like an insurmountable problem and kept attacking it until they finally got results they wanted.

It's this kind of dedication and hard work that I fight to remember on bad days. It's something we should all remember.

Friday, December 6, 2013

What the Heart Thinks

On Tuesday, I got my novella in for the Viva La Difference pax coming out at Amber Allure in the spring. It's a rom com piece of fluff that makes me laugh every time I read it. The blurb is a little rough, but it'll give you an idea what it's about:

On a scale of one to ten, DJ Joe Salinas considers himself a four, five on a good day. Actor/part-time stripper Fess Kedley is definitely a nine, however, though Joe’s pretty sure that slides into a ten as soon as the clothes come off. So when the outgoing Fess recognizes a shy Joe at a bachelorette party from his midnight radio show and proceeds to ask him out, Joe turns him down, convinced he’s either crazy or stupid.

The only problem is, Fess takes rejection as reason to keep on trying.

The two become unexpected friends, so when the thought of trying a date comes up again, Joe decides to take a chance. Though he doesn’t understand what someone like Fess would see in someone like him, it’s hard to say no when everything else feels so right.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

December giveaways at the pax blog

This month at the Amber Pax Collections blog, we're giving away three pax collections to our readers, as a way of saying thank you for all your support this past year. Leave a comment on any post made during the month of December, and you'll be up for the chance to win the pax collection of your choice.

For more details, just head over to the blog to check it out!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Voice results

Yes, I watch The Voice. I love it for the judges mostly, since my favorites very rarely do well (and if they do make it to the finale, they never win, I'm looking at you Michelle Chamuel and Terry McDermott). I've learned not to overinvest in my favorites on this show, but I'll admit, it's tough this year.

See, for the first time in a long time, I really like nearly all of the top five. I have my favorites - James Wolpert and Will Champlin by a mile - but Tessanne Chin and Jackie Lee are both so talented in their own rights, I wouldn't mind if they win. The only one I can probably do without is Cole Vosbury, and that's not really his fault. He has a solid voice, but he gets overshadowed by the other four. Plus, in all honesty, he has never topped his blind audition for me. Because the ballsy, rocking version he did of "Movin' on Up" was too cool for words:

Where did that go? Blake completely homogenized him.

On the other hand, James still excites me every time he comes onstage. I love his range, his ability to go from theatrical to completely understated. Unlike Blake, he is still doing great things, too. Like the week he did "Somebody to Love:"

Do you have any favorites? Are you done because your favorite is gone?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Book recommendation: Strangers: Homosexual Love in the Nineteenth Century by Graham Robb

Recently, I've been reading Strangers: Homosexual Love in the Nineteenth Century by Graham Robb because I wanted something more in depth and dedicated than shorter articles might provide. It doesn't cover much beyond parts of Europe and some of America, with an emphasis on the more well-to-do, but that's due primarily to the lack of good records for those sections of society to validate any of his research and others.

But let me say this. It is utterly fascinating. The tone is a tad dry, so it's not really fast reading at all, but the information it imparts casts new light on the period for me. Once you get past the beginning, which focuses on statistical analysis of crimes and punishments, you get more anecdotes that help bring it all to life. If you're not familiar with gay history, the constant barrage of names might be a little overwhelming at first, but honestly, for me, it just compelled me to do more research into those I didn't recognize.

At the end of the day, I highly recommend this to anyone with an interest in gay history and who is comfortable with prose that doesn't talk down to the reader. I imagine it's going to be a great resource for me in years to come. My only regret is that I didn't read it sooner.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Why does December come so quickly?

December 2. Wow. It's hard to believe this year has flown so quickly, though in all honesty, the next three months are always the fastest for me out of the year. It's not just Christmas, but the fact that both of my kids' birthdays happen as well, one in December and the other in February. I spend a ton of time preparing and making things special for them. The one thing I can guarantee them keeping is memories, so I want them to be as good as possible.

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving. My father-in-law arrived from the UK on Tuesday. He'll be staying with us until mid-February. But this was his very first American Thanksgiving (I did a half-assed version when we lived in the UK, but it was never the same), so he learned that yes, we really don't stop eating for three days. :)

Which means the next three weeks are detoxing in preparation for Christmas, lol.

Writing will be slowing down a bit, though not stopping. There are always deadlines to meet, most of which I actually hit. But I've decorating to do, baking, birthdays, the holidays...busy, busy, busy, but really, the alternative where I have nothing (or if you're going to go bleak, can't do it at all), isn't acceptable. Life is too short. Children grow up. I'm not missing those.