Anne Barwell – It Takes Two

Hi, it’s Anne Barwell back for my 2nd monthly post on Authors Speak. Thanks again for hosting me, Lou.

A week or so ago a library patron asked an interesting question. “What does it mean when a book has the names of two authors on the cover?” He had no clue how two authors could write one book, hence the question.

Co-writing can be approached very differently. In some cases one person has the idea—and perhaps even the outline—of the story, but another actually writes it.

In others, two authors write the book together. This can be done in several ways, but for this post I’ll share how Lou Sylvre and I approached it.

When Lou asked me if I was interested in co-writing a story for Dreamspinner Press’s ‘World of Love’ series, I thought it was a great idea. Lou and I are already co-authoring a longer project—a novel called The Harp and the Sea which is an historical with an element of fantasy in it, set on the isle of Skye in 1746. Although this has been put on the backburner for a while because of one thing or another, we’re hoping to complete it and sub it next year. We’re already a good way into the story so it’s not going to take long to finish.

Anyway, back to our ‘World of Love’ story. We started with the idea that we wanted to set the novella in Wellington, and that one of the MCs would be a local, and the other from the US. As with Harp and the Sea, we’d each take one character and write the scenes which are from their POV. Much discussion followed as we needed not only defined characters, and but also a plot!

Ideas flowed back and forth across google chat, and email, until a few days later we had a plan in place. A detailed outline followed with chapters, scenes, and which of those was going to be from what point of view. We also needed to send a proposal synopsis to the publisher to secure our ‘claim’ for New Zealand, and this needed to be far more detailed than usual so that Lou and I were sure we were on the same page. The proposal was handy for us too, as it and the outline worked well together, with the proposal expanding on the bullet point outline. As this is a novella we had a one page outline and a three page proposal.

The Harp and the Sea being a longer project has a much longer bulleted outline – thirteen pages!

But I’m digressing. With our claim for our novella, Sunset at Pencarrow secured, it was time to start writing. We decided early on, as well as keeping in touch by email, to have weekly google chats. I really enjoy these, and we often go off on tangents that have nothing to do with the story. The chats and emails are important as often stuff changes as we write or the story diverts from the outline and we need to ensure we’re both happy with those changes.

It’s fun taking turns writing a story. When I’ve finished Nate’s scene, I send it to Lou, and wait to read what happens next once she’s finished the next part from Rusty’s point of view. Writing each other’s characters, as well as our own, is an interesting experience and I love seeing her perspective on these guys grow alongside mine. Once we have the first draft finished, we’ll go through and tweak the little things to make sure everything meshes, and that Nate sounds Kiwi, and Rusty, American.

The important thing with working with another author this closely is to be open to each other’s ideas, and be ready to compromise to reach agreements that we’re both happy with. Having worked with Lou before, I knew that wouldn’t be a problem. We also both have other projects on the go as well, so it’s not as though we’re both sitting twiddling our thumbs while we wait for the other to send the next scene over.

As I write this, we’re over 30K into the story and the end is quickly approaching. Naturally now we’ve got this far, our MCs, Nate and Rusty, have started misbehaving somewhat and doing a lot more things that aren’t in our carefully planned outline.

However, with both of us having several novels under our belts, we’re used to this kind of behaviour from characters, and agree that it is better to let them do their thing. It makes for a better story, and we can stick to our protestations that it really wasn’t our fault!

I’m finishing with a raw sneak peek from the opening scene of the story when Nate first meets Rusty:

Kiwi Nathaniel “Nate” Dunn is in a fighting mood, but how does a man fight Wellington’s famous fog? In the last year, he’s lost his long-time lover to boredom and his ten-year job to the economy. Now, he’s found a golden opportunity for employment where he can even use his artistic talent, but to get the job he has to get to Christchurch today. Heavy fog means no flight, and the ticket agent is ignoring him to fawn over a beautiful but annoying, overly polite American man.

Russell “Rusty” Beaumont can deal with a cancelled flight, but the pushy Kiwi at the ticket counter is making it difficult for him to stay cool. The guy rubs him all the wrong ways despite his sexy, rough, working-man look, which Rusty notices even though he’s decided not to even look for a man to replace the fiancé who died two years ago. Yet when they’re forced to share a table at the crowded airport café and Nate reveals the kind heart concealed behind his grumpy façade they find themselves on a slippery slope that just might land them in love.

Why the hell had the fog decided to pick today of all days to turn up. Beautiful weather for weeks, and the only day he needed to fly out of Wellington, and the bloody stuff had foiled his plans. His flatmate, Amy, had warned him to be prepared for it, but he hadn’t listened to her. Sure, he couldn’t see the airport from across the harbour, but it didn’t mean the stupid stuff had to hang around. Typical. Windy Wellington and there was no wind to blow it out.

It was a conspiracy.

Much like the rest of his life. One could only take so much of pretending everything was hunky-dory, and plastering on a false smile. He was sick of it. Bad enough that Glen—who he’d thought was the ‘one,’ the guy he’d be with forever—had dumped him, but to find out his job of the last ten years was finishing as well?

“Next please,” Heather repeated.

“Excuse me, sir,” a man said in an American accent, from behind him. “There’s a line here, and I’m sure the lady has done all she could to help you.”

“Yeah, whatever,” Nate mumbled. He moved to the side, but didn’t walk away. Although he knew he was being difficult, once he’d got started he couldn’t stop. He was a roll and this shitty morning was the icing on a very shitty year.

A year that was supposed to be better than the last one, but so far had started off way worse.

Maybe he should have given into his initial urge to curl up into a ball and ignore life, the universe, and everything. But then that would have been boring, wouldn’t it? And heaven forbid he let that arsehole, Glen, be right about anything.

Nate would give Glen ‘boring.’ He wasn’t boring. He was the least boring person he knew. Wasn’t he?

Oh God.

What if Glen was right? While Nate knew he wasn’t the most exciting person in the world, he’d always been comfortable with his existence. What if this was a sign he shouldn’t be going for this job?

Then why would they give him an interview? The guy he’d talked to seemed to think Nate might be exactly who they were looking for to run this new gallery. It was the opportunity of a lifetime, not to mention one hell of a move up from his current job—the one that was about to disappear out from under him. Opportunities like this didn’t come up often, but the rebuilding in Christchurch after the quake offered him the chance to be involved in something right from the beginning, to put his mark on it, and make a name for himself. But it wasn’t the only appeal. He’d sent them some of his sketches when he’d let it slip that he was an artist, and they had got really excited by those.

The whole thing was a dream come true. Nate had spent the last ten years watching others have their art celebrated, while pretending it didn’t hurt, that it would never be his on display.

Except now it was all turning into a nightmare. It didn’t matter how good he was, or how well he could wow the interview panel. None of it this made a damn bit of difference if he couldn’t get there for the interview. His life was going to custard—no, it had already done that, this was just the encore. The extremely sucky icing on the top.

“I hope this unfortunate incident doesn’t mar your experience of our country, Mr. Beaumont.” Heather’s words to the American standing next to Nate disrupted his train of thought. “I can assure you this doesn’t happen often.”

“Bullshit,” Nate mumbled. “It always happens this time of year.”

“Listen, man,” the American—Beaumont—said politely. “I know this is a drag. But she can’t fix it, right? Your pack looks heavy. Why don’t you find a place to sit down? Take a load off.”

“What a good idea,” Heather said brightly. She handed a slip across the counter to Beaumont. “I’m sorry we can’t offer more, but this food voucher is valid for today only and you can use it at the food court. Once the fog lifts, we’ll make announcements about the available flights over the loud speak system.”

Food voucher?

Nate pushed past Beaumont. “You didn’t offer me a food voucher!” he said indignantly.

“Oh, no I didn’t, did I?” Heather gave him that annoying smile again. “My apologies, Nathaniel.”

Nate winced. He hated being called by his full name, especially as it usually meant he was in trouble. Perhaps he was being a bit rude? “Sorry,” he mumbled. “Apology accepted.”

“Here’s your voucher.” Heather handed him a piece of paper. “Have a nice day.”

“Yeah, sure.” Nate began to walk away then glanced at the voucher. “Bloody typical,” he grumbled, remembering there was a reason he always had a good meal before his flight. Given the prices they charged here, he’d be lucky if he got a decent cup of coffee for it.

Writing with Disabilities

I always hesitate to use the word ‘disabilities’ when I refer to myself. My health problems are pretty major, but I have hope that, if I can get treatment, I will be able to get better and back to a, more or less, normal life. But at least on a temporary basis, I do deal with a mess of health problems, many of which aren’t outwardly visible, all of which impact my writing.

I have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease that targets the thyroid. Hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) is still often misunderstood by those who do not deal with it. The thyroid gland regulates every other system in the body. So when that doesn’t work, nothing does. Some people are lucky enough to get a dosage of thyroid replacement fairly quickly and feel good again. Some of us–especially those of us with other problems–do not, like me.

One of the biggest issues I fight is fatigue. Now, there’s being tired, there’s exhaustion, then there’s fatigue. Fatigue is the result of days of exhaustion piling onto one another. It’s a nasty symptom that does a whole lot besides making you want to sleep. It makes you feel lazy and crazy. You get brain fog and memory issues, among other things.

The hardest aspect of being an author with health problems–especially if you’re depending on your writing to help pay bills–is finding a balance between self-care and writing. That goes even for healthy authors. I know a few who will run themselves into the ground, burning the candle at both ends until they’re in bed sick.

This, of course, goes even further when you already have a compromised body. Learning that balance is extremely difficult. Accepting that there are further limitations is even more challenging. It can be done, but it can also rob you of feeling productive, making you compare yourself to others–dangerous on a good day–even more. “Well, if she can write six books a year, and she works a day job, I should be able to!”

That way lies utter madness.

Authors are unfortunately already prone to comparing ourselves to other authors: how much they write, how well they do, ratings, likes on Facebook, followers on Twitter, you name it. If we’re already having trouble, adding the comparisons on top of it is only going to make us want to give up.

Trying to balance not pushing myself beyond my limits and still be productive is almost a full-time job in itself. Because of the nature of my disease, I never know how I will feel or what I’ll be capable of from one day to the next. So planning is almost impossible. I could plan to do five things on a particular day, then wake up feeling like I haven’t slept at all and those five things become two.

The brain fog I mentioned earlier also makes things tough. If I get into writing and get interrupted, I end up spending a lot of time trying to get back to where I was. I can forget in a nanosecond what I was thinking and writing.

I developed a system, based on The Spoon Theory by Christine Miserandino to let my family know how I am doing at any particular time. Christine’s theory was born of educating a friend about her disease, lupus. While I don’t pretend to have anything like that, there are days where I can barely get out of bed. So, the system I built shows my family how I am feeling.

Yeah, “YES!” doesn’t happen very often…

I’ve also put together signs to let them know when I’m working, writing, or trying to recover spoons. For the most part, they respect it (perhaps it’s the threats of bodily harm…). This one’s my favorite:

Standard exception applies. I will take tribute in the form of coffee or food and you may survive. I make no guarantees though.

Occasionally, I’ll load up my Nerf gun and shoot anyone who opens the door and doesn’t have coffee in their hands. It’s surprisingly effective!

Go ahead. Make my dayyyy.

These are just some of the ways I’ve found to help me deal with my problems. Humor helps, keeping that sense of humor about my limitations makes it a lot less frustrating when I try to work within them.

That frustration is the hardest part of all of this, especially when I end up going a week, two weeks–or more–without being able to write. When I am too fatigued, I can’t even put a couple of coherent sentences together, much less make them good. However, that means on good days, when I spit out three thousand words, it’s that much sweeter.

Having a disability and writing can work. Like any other aspect of life with a disability, it takes compromise, creativity–we are authors, after all–and work, but it can be done. Keep a sense of humor, don’t hesitate to accept offers of help, be reasonable about how much work you can do, and you can still have a satisfying career.

It’s All About Family

Hello! I’m Elizabeth Noble and I’m another of the authors Lou has offered a monthly space for a blog post. I’ll be posting on the 19th of each month.

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Today is Father’s Day in the United States. Happy Father’s Day to all you dads everywhere. Whether your children have two legs or four, are teeny tiny tots or grown and grumpy this day is for you!



I think a common question I’m asked is why do I write in the genre I do? Why write gay romance? I have a variety of answers depending on the situation and how chatty I’m feeling at that moment. Those answers range from ‘because I like it’ to much longer and more detailed responses.

In all honesty it’s not something I give a huge amount of thought to unless the question is put to me.

What I do give a ridiculous amount of thought to are creating the plots for the books I write. Romance books are about, well romance, right? Two people meet, in the case of my books, two men, during the course of the story they’re attracted to each other, develop feelings for each other and finally form a–hopefully–lasting bond. The characters are different, the backdrops vary, but the idea is the same: they form a family.


I’m all about family of choice. When we read a romance novel there is the excitement of the couple meeting, will they get along, will they connect, will they be kept apart?

Then yes, finally our couple shares a kiss and kiss leads to more. By the end of the book what was two separate people have come together and formed a family. A family of choice.

Each of my novels has the family in a different stage of its development.


In Jewel Cave and during most of the Sentries series the couples were established. The family was formed. Clint and Griff from Jewel Cave have two dogs, and Todd and Nick from Sentries have their horses and an extensive network of close friends who are more like extended family.


Gone Away has two men reuniting after a few years apart, so this is a family coming together again. They’ve grown and like many families realize the reasons for separating aren’t nearly as important as why they belong together.


The family created in The Vampire Guard series is a little different. This is a larger family, two couples. These four men have complicated and layered relationships with one another. Each couple have their romantic relationship. In addition there are the relationships between each team member. It’s what makes them not only a team but a family of choice.


These men will do anything for one another, no matter what personal danger they may face.

When a writer creates a romance novel they’re inviting us on the inside of something very special. A new family is budding, an existing family is changing and blooming into something different, and hopefully better. The main characters face more challenges than simply getting beyond that first kiss. They’re creating traditions, forging alliances and reinforcing love so it can last.

That’s really the happiest ending of all.

Until next month! Happy Reading,


Emotion in Motion

The Vampire Guard

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I Hope You Make It To Neverland….

Pulse-Orlando_IMAGE-640x360When I sat down to write this months’ post, I scrapped the intended topic thanks to the horror inflicted on those at Pulse, their friends and families, and the LGBTQ Community as a whole on Sunday. It’s taken me a little to even find any words—and I make my living using words—to express my profound sense of loss and pain since hearing the news.

You see, I’m originally from not that far from Orlando. To say that I was terrified as I waited to read through the list of names doesn’t even begin to describe it. Then you add in the fact that I’m a Novice Sister with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and we have an Abbey house in Orlando… and yeah, was worried for all my sisters there as well.

What I can say is that LOVE IS STRONGER than hate. We cannot allow this pain, this loss, this sickness that has attacked us, to stop us. To put us back into hiding. To cause us to not be who we are. Every time I go out for the rest of the year as Eroti-Quill (My SPI name) I will have Pulse written on me somewhere in memory of those lost. But also to remind myself to fight so that their loss doesn’t keep happening.

Click below to see a wonderful tribute to those lost in the horrible attack at Pulse. I hope you will take a moment to view it. I hope they all are hanging with Peter Pan, loving and being who they are as they await their next life.


I promise to try to have a happier post for you next month, but for now, blessings and know I’m thankful for the safety of each and every one of you!

Sarah Madison: Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me as a Newbie Author

Hello there! I’m Sarah Madison, and this is my first guest blog here on Authors Speak at Rainbow Gate. Thank, Lou, for inviting me to come and share some of my thinky-thoughts. Naturally, I left things until rather late, so I am revising an older post to share with you. It’s not only still relevant but I have new bits of wisdom to add.


Last summer, I stumbled across a great Facebook thread in which a new author asked for advice: she wanted to know what kinds of newbie mistakes to avoid as a first-time author.

True to form, the writing community, including myself, chimed in with a number of excellent points. Afterward, it dawned on me this would make an awesome blog post, and here we are.

I’m going to give you my bits of ‘I wish someone had told me’ advice, mixed in with some of the best snippets I gleaned from my Facebook friends when asked the same.

In no particular order:

  1. Google your pen name before you start using it. Yeah, I wish I’d done this. Because there’s Sarah Madison the actress, Sarah Madison the cardiovascular surgeon, Sarah Madison the published historian, and if you are looking for any of them and you get me instead, yikes! On the other hand, I like to think of someone enjoying one of my stories while recovering from cardiovascular surgery… Seriously, though. Google your pen name. You really don’t want the same pen name as a serial killer. Also, be careful of having a ‘unique’ spelling. If people can’t remember how to spell your name, they aren’t likely to find you on a web search. It’s easy. It takes less than thirty seconds, for Pete’s sake. Just do it. You won’t regret it.

Anna Butler reminded me after I wrote this post the first time that she’d received some very valuable advice from me when she was starting out. I’d completely forgotten about it until she mentioned it, but I think it’s very smart to have separate browsers for your author persona and the rest of your life. It is possible to link all your gmail accounts to one primary account–but not only will Gmail frequently add the words, ‘sent on behalf of’, attaching your real name to the email, but it is incredibly easy to click on the wrong address and send something to the wrong party. If keeping your pen name and real name separate is important to you, use separate browsers.

Whether or not you need a pen name is another discussion altogether. I personally think if you write in wildly divergent genres, such as ‘sweet’ Christian romances and dinosaur porn, you’d better have two pen names. But that’s just me.


  1. Platform and promotion. Yes, you have to have it. No, no one likes promoting themselves, but it is a necessary evil. As author K-lee Klein points out, “Writing is the good part, but be prepared to WORK for the book when it’s done.”

If you want to get the most out of your promotion, you already have to have a platform and internet presence in place. A website (more on that later), Facebook page, and Twitter account are probably considered the bare minimums, but most writers have pages on Pinterest, Tumblr, Goodreads, Amazon, Instagram, G+… well, you name it. Many writers have pages on sites geared toward their genre, too. It’s a lot to keep up with. My rules for platform and social media: pick the two or three sites where you are the most comfortable and spend time there. If a site makes you unhappy, you won’t be your best there. Learn how to cross post from your main sites to other sites. I rarely spend time on Goodreads or Tumblr–they just aren’t my kind of places, but other people hang out there, so when I post a blog entry like this, I make sure it automatically cross posts to those other media platforms.

Worry less about your ‘brand’ when starting out. Be friendly. Share other people’s announcements. Interact with people in a manner that does not always center around your books or writing. For heaven’s sake DO NOT auto-post tweets or private message people with BUY MY BOOK spiels within seconds of them friending or following you.

There are some great books on social media out there. I happen to like Kristen Lamb’s We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. I might not agree with everything Ms. Lamb says (she is very much against pen names, for example) but she has some good points to make. One of which is that your name should be easy to find–it should be part of your website, your Twitter name, etc. Having a cute Twitter handle might be fun, but what if no one remembers that @AwesomeWombat is really Sarah Madison? Don’t make it hard for your readers to find you.

  1. Websites: Your website is your home base. It is going to be the main way readers find you. Make it easy for them! You have roughly two seconds to make a good first impression when people land on your page. If your site is too hard to navigate, too difficult to read, has too many moving gifs or images that roll by too rapidly to read, you’ve lost a perspective reader right there. They will move on to the next site, to look for some other author whose home page doesn’t make their eyes bleed. Whether you have a static home page or not is up to you. But the most important thing is that your site is crisp, clear, and easy to navigate. Your social media links should all be in one place. Your backlist and buy links should be easy to find. You should update your blog on a regular basis. If you have a newsletter or a way for readers to follow your blog, it should be easy to find and sign up. Two seconds. Otherwise, your viewer will click away.
  1. Reviews: if I had put these in any kind of order, reviews probably should have gone at the top. EVERYONE had a lot to say about reviews. For the most part, I tend not to read my reviews unless I’ve been sent the link from a trusted review site or a friend has discovered a glowing review and they want to share it with me. Everyone gets bad reviews. Don’t believe me? Look up your all-time favorite book. I guarantee that you will find someone who utterly loathed it and flamed it royally in their review. Any time I stumble upon a review I wish I hadn’t seen, I perform this very task and it is amazing how therapeutic it is. Because if someone can hate the book you adore, then it puts things in perspective for you. Over and over again, people gave DON’T ENGAGE A NEGATIVE REVIEW as their number one advice. Just. Don’t. The author *always* comes out looking like the bad guy here, and nothing will alienate fans faster. Jay Northcote puts it this way, “Never respond to bad reviews. EVER. And don’t bitch about them in a public forum or it’s likely to bite you on the arse. If you need to vent (and if you look at your negative reviews, you will), do it in a safe/private place to someone you trust.” Sue Holston says don’t even read your reviews, and I can understand that viewpoint as well.

There are some people who’d suggest not responding to any review on Goodreads, as it is a site primarily for readers, not authors. I know many authors who interact with their fans quite happily on Goodreads, but I confess, it feels like an abandoned mine field to me. One false step and BOOM. But that’s just me.

The point is, don’t let one bad review negate the twenty good ones you’ve received. Don’t let a ‘meh’ review derail you from your planned story arc, or shut down your writing mojo. Cooper West quotes Churchill, saying, “When you’re going through hell, keep on going”, which is a pretty good life lesson in general. Margarita Gakis advises the same, but urges even more to simply write. She says, “My advice is keep writing. Keep writing when it sucks and when you get a bad review and when you’re not sure if this is for you. Because as long as you’re writing you’re getting better. It’s like learning any skill and the more you do it the better you’ll be.”

The bottom line is not everyone is going to like your stories. It’s up to you to decide if you’re going to let someone’s raw opinion affect your ability to write more stories. Yes, bad reviews can hurt your sales, but sometimes what someone hates about a story is what others love—so not all reviews are damaging to sales. Once I decided that I was going to keep writing no matter what, reviews lost the power to hurt me as much.

  1. Beta readers versus Editors (and what they bring to the table): first of all, these people are invaluable to you as a writer. As Kaje Harper said, “Beta readers and editors are in partnership with you to make the story the best it can be. Every error they catch, every change they suggest, is not an insult to your talents or story, or a sign of failure, but one more thing that will be better when actual readers buy your book. Welcome the red ink, don’t fear it or be insulted by it. At the same time, remember it is YOUR story. You can tell an editor they are wrong, if you truly believe that. They are human and fallible and sometimes your vision has to be the one that carries the day.”

I think this is very important on many levels. As authors, particularly new authors, we have to be willing to accept the input of others, especially if we keep getting similar feedback from multiple sources: that’s your biggest indication something is wrong with your story or your writing style and it needs fixing. At the same time, it can be difficult not to let a strong-minded person take on more credit for the shaping of your story than they really deserve–or should have. Beta readers are not editors, either. Yes, they will catch typos, but their primary function is to tell you if the story is working or not. Different people catch different things, so I think it is very important to have more than one beta reader. But my main reason for having multiple readers is two-fold: not only do you not want to overwhelm a single person if you are a prolific writer, but it is much harder for someone to claim a larger share of the credit when there is more than one person involved. A beta reader who claims to ‘make or break’ you is like someone who helped you set the table expecting credit for cooking the banquet as well. A good beta reader is worth their weight in gold. They will help you produce the cleanest copy possible for submission to a publisher. They are cheerleaders and problem-spotters. But once the story moves on to editing, their role is usually done. Beta-readers are often friends, which can make it very painful to sever the relationship if it is no longer working for you. But if your beta-reader is acting like a gatekeeper between you and publishing, it is definitely time to end the relationship.

Editors will clean up and tighten your prose, point out that you have used the same phrase thirty-seven times, correct your somewhat loose interpretation of the Chicago Manual of Style, and identify where things need to be explained in greater detail or a weak plot point that needs fixing. But they should not be altering your style to match their own. It is your story. They are polishing the finish on the sports car, not re-building the engine. That is, not unless some major plot hole got past your beta readers. Then you want to listen to your editor and make the necessary changes. Believe me, you don’t want your audience catching bloopers and then pointing them out to everyone else. Get them fixed before you publish.

Which brings me to another point: you need editors. Oh, I know, when you start shopping around for a freelance editor to polish your indie story until it shines, that feels like the one place where you can cut corners. You know when publishers pay you a percentage of your selling price? Part of that goes to distribution, but part of it goes to pay cover artists, editors, formatters, and the like. If you’re going indie, YOU have to pay these people. Don’t skimp on editing. You’ll regret it. I self-published a book that I thought was my best work to date. It won all kinds of awards and got a lot of notice, but the editing was frequently mentioned, even apologetically by the reviewers that loved the book. I regret not spending the money to have it professionally edited the first time. By the time I fixed the problems, it was too late to make a good first impression again.

Kaje Harper and Becky Black also wanted me to point out the difference between rejection and ‘revise and re-submit’. Getting a revise and re-submit request is a good thing. It means the publisher sees promise in your story, but that it is still a bit rough around the edges. Don’t let an R&R crush you! It’s actually quite hopeful.

  1. Don’t game the system: I mean, seriously. There’s a big difference between recognizing and taking advantage of market trends (something I’m not very good at, but I know people who are) and writing simply to make a buck. Face it, if you want to make money, there are far easier ways of doing so. By gaming the system, I mean deciding you’re going to write serials, or short cliffhangers, or dinosaur porn, filling Kindle Unlimited with them because hey, you can churn those babies out to match the current best deal Amazon offers, and the instant the algorithm changes, so does your storytelling. Look, I have nothing against dino porn, but if you want to write it, do so because you enjoy it, okay? And no sockpuppets singing your praises or slinging mud at the competition. No buying reviews. I really shouldn’t have to say this, right? Pricing your story so that it sells well, or making the first book in a series free? That’s not gaming the system. Buying your way onto the bestseller lists is.

Buddy Best

The best way to make writing pay for you? Write. Write a lot. Be working on your next story while you are launching your previous one and be thinking about the next one, too. Readers are like stray cats. If you feed them, they will come.

Most of us go through a post-story blues, where it is hard to move on to the next project. Get over yourself. I once sat down and figured out that it took me nearly a year from the time I conceived of a story idea, to writing it, to submitting it, to having it published before I saw royalties trickle in. Which means that for writing to pay the bills, I have to have a new story coming out at minimum every quarter. Which brings me to the next point…

  1. Don’t quit your day job. Seriously. Writing a runaway bestseller like 50 Shades of Grey is like winning the lottery. It rarely happens, and certainly not to you and me. The rest of us have to slog out a minimum of something on the order of 60-80K words every 2-3 months in order to even hope of quitting the day job. I don’t know about you, but putting that kind of pressure on myself really puts a damper on my writing mojo. Writing is something I do that makes me happy in order to make other people happy. But I don’t ever want to look back on my life twenty years from now and wish I’d spent more time walking the dog or hanging out with my boyfriend. And I don’t want to take something I love and turn it into something I hate because I can’t turn out a completed product I can take pride in.

But hey, maybe you can be incredibly prolific while still working a full-time job. Or maybe you’re currently jobless, and now is the sink or swim moment. It is possible to make a living as a writer. Just expect to work hard, write a lot, make a lot of personal sacrifices regarding how you spend your time, and don’t expect Hollywood to come knocking at your door with a movie deal in hand. It means writing when you don’t feel like it. It means there is no such thing as ‘your muse’, only the need to put words to paper because that’s your job.

Though this doesn’t quite fit in here, Felice Stevens had a nice bit to share about the “Rules” of writing: “Don’t listen when someone tells you the “Rules” on how to write. Don’t listen when people tell you if you write fast, it’s junk, if you write slow you’ll lose your base. Find your voice and don’t try to be someone else.”

Which is just plain, good common sense. You’re going to hear a lot about how to be successful as an author. But by trying to please everyone, you’ll wind up pleasing no one. You don’t really need a ton of fans, anyway. You need a thousand die-hard fans that will buy everything you write and tell all their friends about you too.


8.Piracy: it happens. There are people who will steal your manuscript, slap another cover on it, and offer it for sale. There are plagiarists who will take a story from another genre, change the names or the genders of the characters, and publish it in the hopes no crossover readers will spot the similarities. There are outright pirate sites who sell your book at a lower price or are phishing schemes to get personal information. That doesn’t begin to cover torrents, where people upload your stories for twenty thousand of their BFFs to snag an illegal download. If you try counting up the money in lost revenue, it will only make you cry. Recently someone on Facebook posted a request for pirate sites on her wall, triggering a wave of reaction as some people took her to task and others defended her. I suspect screenshots of her post might not have been shared so many times expect the reaction of the illegal downloaders showed such a misplaced sense of entitlement that a good deal of outrage occurred. I posted about this on my website, and to my surprise, the post went viral. Apparently it struck a chord with a LOT of people.

Some people don’t fight piracy and copyright violations. Personally, I do. Piracy means the difference between my paying the mortgage some months, or whether I have to wait another year to replace the glasses with the $400 lenses. Piracy is the difference between having to choose between dental work or going to a writer’s convention. Every couple of weeks, do a search of your name and book titles (I find that Google Alerts tends not to pick up many illegal downloads–it’s better for notifying you of reviews). If you have a publisher, report it to them–they are losing money as well. Draft DMCA and takedown notices to send to pirate sites. Make sure that people know that many of these sites are just phishing to steal credit card information. In my case, my stories frequently show up on torrents (someone seems to keep uploading a bundle of four of my stories–it’s infuriating to see the same bundle appear again and again…). Appealing to the torrent is usually futile, but you can report the link to Google, which will block it in a title search on their browser. Given that almost everyone uses Google, having them block the illegal site in a search is a good thing. Searching the internet and preparing takedown notices is time-consuming and frustrating, but I do it. I keep hearing people say the vast majority of people downloading illegal copies would never buy from me in the first place. Maybe, maybe not. That doesn’t mean I have to make it easy for them to pick my pocket. I still maintain if those downloads weren’t available and someone wanted to read my story in particular, a percentage of torrent users might consider forking out the equivalent of a breakfast at Hardees to buy it.

  1. Don’t ever diss another author. That’s just plain stupid. Unless you are among unimpeachable friends that you trust with your whole heart, giving a frank opinion of someone’s work or personality is fraught with the potential to have your words come back and bite you in the ass. Keep it to yourself, even if you feel completely justified, or if someone approaches you, encouraging you to vent. Be a professional and keep your mouth shut and your fingers off the keyboard. That applies in general to most internet kerfuffles and dramas. Remember the great proverb: Not my circus, not my monkeys. This is a corollary to not responding to negative reviews. People talk. And if you malign someone’s writing or themselves as a person, the chances are it will get back to them.

On the other hand, sometimes it is impossible not to have someone get angry with you through no fault of your own. Apologize for inadvertently upsetting them, try to correct or prevent the circumstances that led to the misunderstanding, but if they won’t grow up and get over it, let it go. Don’t talk about it, however. Be the bigger person here. Apologize, move on, and never refer to it again. If they keep bringing it up in the face of your silence, they wind up looking petty and small for holding grudges.

  1. And last but not least: write what makes you happy. Don’t write to market pressures. If you have no interest in the latest fad, your lack of enthusiasm will show. If you want to write about chefs, or the horse-racing industry, or US Marines, or WW2 flying aces, or dragons, you can. Just make sure you’ve done your homework, or in the case of fantasy, you’ve created a world with believable rules that make sense. Don’t worry about finding an audience. Chances are if you love what you’re writing, others will too. And they are the readers that count the most.

Sarah Madison is a writer with a little dog, a big dog, an even bigger horse, too many cats, and a very patient boyfriend. She writes because it’s cheaper than therapy. You can find her around the internet:

The Boys of Summer200x300


Charley Descoteaux ~ Safe Spaces

Hello and welcome to my first ever monthly column spot! Thank you for visiting, and thank you Lou for inviting me to participate in your cool group blog!


Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about safe spaces. Okay, not only lately—I’ve been active to varying degrees in the queer community since the 80s—but this year is the first time I’ve actually created one.

Safe spaces can take many different forms, whether they’re for readers of a specific genre or a place where nobody questions the words anyone else uses to describe their orientation or gender identity. I take everything a little too far so my space has both.

Earlier this year I published my first novella with Samhain. Three days before they announced they would be closing. I was afraid my odd little book would disappear in the face of that big news. It didn’t, but I’ve had moments when I almost wish it had.

My daughter helpfully reminded me that I knew some people would want to rip it a new one and I chose to go ahead and submit it anyway—for some very good reasons (which I’ll probably talk about another time). That is 100% true, and even as hard as it was to read some of the reviews I don’t regret it. Torque inspired me to create the Facebook group Rainbow Snippets and even if that were the only good thing that came from it that would be enough. (It wasn’t, which is even better!) Now I have a wonderful group of people I look forward to seeing every weekend. People who have made me feel safe sharing with them regardless of the pairing in my stories, regardless of the orientation, gender identity, or any other characteristic of my characters. And I hope I’ve done the same for them.


Here is the group description for Rainbow Snippets. If it sounds like something you might be interested in, check us out. The more the merrier!

Rainbow Snippets is a group for LGBTQ+ authors, readers, and bloggers to gather once a week to share six sentences from a work of fiction–a WIP or a finished work or even a 6-sentence book recommendation (no spoilers please!).

In this group you’ll find anything from romance and historical fiction to mystery and YA. The common thread is that every story’s main character identifies as LGBTQ+. The snippets could range from zero flames to full-on sexytimes, anything goes content-wise. The only rule is snippets will be 6 sentences long–one for each color in the Pride flag.


What kind of safe space would you like to see created? Be honest, you never know who you’ll inspire!

 I’ll leave you with a little about the book that inspired all of this, Torque.

Sometimes letting things get complicated is the best way to figure it all out.

Mick Randall is on the run, from the biker culture he grew up in and his impossible vision of love. Alaska should be far enough to escape his old life—until he rolls into a wrecking yard and gets lost in a pair of pale, bottle-green eyes.

Scotty Bell has spent years learning to channel his fiery temper into the heat of a welding torch. His sexual heat has always been slower to ignite, but one look at Mick rouses confusion alongside desire. In all his life, he’s only been attracted to one other person—his best friend, Mercy Taylor.

Mick lands a temporary job at the yard, and finds an uneasy crash pad at Scotty’s place…where the ragged ends of his emotions get tangled up in Scotty and Mercy’s relationship

But when Mick hears a Harley engine from his past bearing down on him, his first instinct is to go back to the half-life he’d been living. Lest his secrets destroy the only two people who’ve ever made him feel whole.

Warning: Contains references to abuse, subversive ideas about sexual identity and gender expression, and a free-range bisexual on a mission.


See you next month right here!

Feel free to rattle my cages anytime!






Shelly Davidson – Ch..Ch..Ch..Changes

Hello! My name is Shelly Davidson and Lou has so faithfully offered me a monthly spot on Authors Speak so here it goes –

The first topic I’d like to focus on is the dreaded word – CHANGE. To so many people, the word, just the very thought of allowing any sort of change ignites this fear from within, this utter distain for even the slightest change in their lives, their career, their surroundings, etc. For some, this fear is often dealt with absolute denial or even physical repercussions. However, there is one thing to keep in mind –

Change happens

That simple. It’s going to happen whether you are ready for it or not so it’s best to adapt any way you can and learn to embrace the change.

I’ve been asked several times in my life that if I had a chance to go back and do something over again, what would it be and why? My answer has always been very simple.

There is not one single thing I would change about the past or anything that I would have done differently.

Why not?

Another simple answer. Every moment that I have experienced, every event, emotion, and person has had a part in bringing me to where and who I am now. Is my life perfect? Hell no! Have I accomplished everything I want to in life? No.

But I do like the person I have become. I still have a way to go before I can say love but it’s a life’s journey, right? I am proud of my accomplishments so far and still have a few to go. I would not be able to be where I am at this exact moment if it had not been for the good – and the bad that I have been through prior.

Everything we experience, everything that happens around and to us affects us one way or another. We can choose to respond with negativity, with anger, or with sorrow. Or we can learn to accept, have faith (not as in religion) that everything happens for a reason, and do our best to learn from every experience.

It is up to us to take what we need from a situation. Some take the hate and the anger and the misunderstandings and they bring these emotions inside, feeding them, nurturing them along so that they grow and soon take over everything that was good and pure inside you and leave you with nothing but the blackness it leaves behind.


We can also take the hate and the anger and the misunderstandings and do what we can to learn, to love, and to decipher where the hate comes from and to show it joy and acceptance. Sometimes we’ll see no change at all but sometimes, sometimes we will see a tiny spark of something new. It’s when those are open to change, to being open to something other than what they have surrounded themselves with, that change can be a beautiful thing.

The world right now is going through so many changes. Some of these changes, I find are pretty damn scary. Violence, politics, social climate, environmental changes – it’s all really scary. I was brought up in an era where you helped your fellow neighbor, where you left your door unlocked and kids knew better than to stay out past the time that the streetlights came on. You never questioned your parents and you were never aware of the financial state of your family. Most moms were stay at home, at least in the first several years and if you disobeyed, you got it in the behind!

Today’s kids – I am so happy I’m not a kid today. We, as their parents did what we thought was right. We were more lenient, we didn’t spank, we allowed television but only a little bit, we set up play dates, and introduced our children to electronics at a young age. We also taught them about strangers, how to defend themselves, and that their happiness was important.

Fortunately, I also believe the younger generation accepts change easier because they are used to change. Change is what happens when you are unhappy. For their parents or older, change was only done if absolutely necessary – otherwise we just learned how to deal with it!

I am on the end of the baby boomers and we are about to become the largest population – we are the older generation and there are a lot of us! We don’t deal with change well. We like things to stay the same, to remain secure, to know what to expect. So how do we learn to deal with change?

  • Accept that change is going to happen, with or without you. It’s better to try and be positive.
  • You can’t control everything. However, you can control how you accept and/or adapt to change. It’s still your choice.
  • It’s okay to feel emotion. Get angry, cry, scream and yell, do what you need to do. But do not let your dealing with something or not dealing with it affect others in a negative way. Don’t take it out on others, don’t be nasty behind their backs and don’t let it hurt your family.
  • Understand that change may be difficult for you or those around you. Do what you can to make the changes as easy as possible – this could mean allowing a friend to vent their frustration without being judged or it could mean you have some homework to do to fully understand the change and your possible opportunities to deal with the change.
  • Take a break. This could mean just walking away for a while (there is a reason I smoke!), separate yourself, or sit back and look at it from another perspective. You may find that things don’t seem as bad when you return or maybe even you can see why sometimes change is a good thing.
  • Don’t expect acceptance overnight. If you are a person who dislikes change, take it slowly. It may take a bit of time to adjust so maybe you can start with small things. Years ago, a friend of mine switched from regular Coke to diet. In the beginning, she’d put like a capful of diet into the regular, adding a bit more each day until she had replaced it all together. Today, she can smell regular Coke from across the room and can’t stand it!
  • Above all else – laugh! As I had stated before – change happens. The only thing you have control over is how YOU react. Laughing is much more fun!

Okay, enough about change! Here is some bits of information about me and yes, I am going through some major changes right now –

My first book was released June 1, 2016 and is called Resurrection (

US paratrooper airborne infantrymen during the desert storm ** Note: Soft Focus at 100%, best at smaller sizes


Two men with painful, complicated pasts who have shut themselves down from ever loving again. Complete opposites of one another, one raised in a strict military household, who grew up with the sole purpose of becoming a soldier and defending his country, only to have that cut short by an IED; and the other raised in the rodeo, small town and ranch life his safe haven; and their chance meeting.

How the two of them end up in some small town diner can only be credited to divine intervention. But are both men too damaged? They say God works in mysterious ways. Well, he certainly had his hands full when he chose these two for saving.

Is it too late?

It is a story of two men, both who have had major changes affect them in their lives. Some of the changes have been good, some not so good; some they had control over but most of them they had no control. It is the story about how two men choose to handle change.

Web Site:




Announcing the Vasquez and James iBooks bundle!

The Link:

Vasquez and James ibooks bundle

Okay, really, it’s the Dreamspinner Press bundle, available from iBooks!

Loving Luki Vasquez: Reclusive weaver Sonny Bly James and ex-ATF agent and all-around badass Luki Vasquez can run from desire, but they can’t hide from the evil that hunts them. Sonny and Luki will have to call a truce and work together to fight an enemy intent on making sure loving Luki Vasquez is the last mistake Sonny will ever make.

Delsyn’s Blues: While dealing with newly formed barriers between them, Sonny and Luki become the target of a new threat from outside: an escalating and unexplainable rash of break-ins and assaults.

Finding Jackie: When Luki’s teenage nephew, Jackie, is lured into capture and torture by a sadistic killer, the honeymoon is well and truly over. The couple must put aside their differences to find Jackie before it’s too late.

Saving Sonny James: The events of the last couple of years have begun to catch up with Luki, who must break free of the subsequent PTSD and depression and get to France fit and ready in time to save his husband’s life.—Because of Jade: Luki and Sonny must combat self-doubt and fear and help each other learn to parent an unexpected child—and they must also nourish the love that has kept them whole for the past ten years.

Yes: From their first days together, Sonny and Luki stood united against deadly enemies and prevailed. But now the deadly enemy they face is the cancer thriving inside Luki, consuming his lungs.

A Shot of J&B: Six years ago, Brian Harrison helped save the life of Jackie Vasquez, and he’s never really forgotten him. Now Jackie has become a man, and when they meet again by chance, lust shows every sign of growing into love, deep and true. A case from Brian’s police job with Scotland Yard, however, places Jackie in mortal danger.

Shelly Davidson’s *Resurrection* Blog Tour—new release, awesome giveaway

banner release day party


The Blurb:

Two men with painful, complicated pasts who have shut themselves down from ever loving again. Complete opposites of one another, one raised in a strict military household, who grew up with the sole purpose of becoming a soldier and defending his country, only to have that cut short by an IED; and the other raised in the rodeo, small town and ranch life his safe haven; and their chance meeting.

How the two of them end up in some small town diner can only be credited to divine intervention. But are both men too damaged? They say God works in mysterious ways. Well, he certainly had his hands full when he chose these two for saving.

Is it too late?

A special note from Shelly:

Most of the publicity, blurbs, and what not deal with Jamie and his dealing with PTSD. There is another character – Chris, who is caring, compassionate, and took care of his dying partner for 18 years. Chris is someone who used to ride professional rodeo and has a thing for bringing home strays!

Author bio:

Who is Shelly Davidson? Shelly is someone who has been writing literally her entire life (and that’s a LONG time) and has always written M/M. Her first story was back in high school and she hasn’t stopped since. Of course, Shelly never dreamed of getting published, so needless to say, she’s in heaven! Shelly loves her characters. Her writing focus is real people, flaws and all, who are hurting or damaged, but deserve a little joy in their lives. Shelly was born and raised in Arizona, but currently lives in California because that is where the money is! She is currently single, but has a grown daughter and an adorable grandson both of whom she loves dearly. While she usually stays pretty much to herself, she does have a Bachelor’s in Social Services and a diverse background that ranges from theater to health care and currently works in accounting, she swears it’s not as boring as it sounds. While this is her first publication, it is by far not the last! She plans on being around for quite some time! You’ve been warned!

And a little extra:

Shelly’s writing influences:
Storm Constantine because the world of Wraeththu that she created is so amazing.
Gordon Merrick because his was the first ’gay’ book I ever read and it changed my life.
Stephen King, well, because he’s Stephen King!

Shelly’s “office”:
LOL. My bedroom in my small, cramped apartment, where if you back up too fast, you hit the ironing board and can’t turn the chair around more than 45 degrees because the bed stops it! Wow, used to carry a notebook everywhere I went but I type much fater than I write so I keep it pretty much to my desk. My very crowded, very messy desk!

Contact Shelly!

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If you want, you can write her at:

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