The Protagonist’s Journey

Hi, it’s Anne Barwell and this month’s Authors Speak blog is also my blog post for the Virtual Fantasy Con I’m attending in October.

The organisers had a few interesting topics to choose from, but the protagonist’s journey appealed to me for several reasons. As with all the different genres I read, the thing that makes or breaks a story for me is the characters. Characters and their story is also a big part of the reason I write.

To quote one of my favourite authors—Ursula K. Le Guin: “It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end.”

Within the fantasy genre, a protagonist’s journey can take place on several levels. While they often journey to strange and new lands they haven’t been to before, there is also the potential for internal change. Sometimes the two don’t need to go hand in hand. A character can find new depths within themselves they didn’t know about simply because they view their surroundings in a new and different way. Or find a world within their own they didn’t know existed.

Finding those worlds, or rediscovering our own, is one of the reasons I love reading and writing urban and contemporary fantasy.

Imagine discovering that amongst the world you thought you knew, there are vampires, werewolves and the like. This is what happens to Ben, one of the protagonists, in Shades of Sepia. Although he leaves his native New Zealand, he doesn’t find himself in an alternate world but, shortly after arriving in the United States, discovers that not only are vampires and werewolves real, but most of the myths he’s read about them aren’t exactly true. These vampires walk in sunlight and hold down regular jobs. Ben needs to not just adjust to a different viewpoint of this world but soon finds himself a part of it.

Joss Whedon says that “you take people, you put them on a journey, you give them peril, you find out who they are.”

That quote embodies the other reason I love the fantasy genre. It gives great opportunities to take people and throw them into situations where they have to find a part of themselves they didn’t know existed—or have tried to ignore—in order to survive.

Another world existing alongside our own is the theme behind portal fantasies. This subgenre uses the familiar as a stepping stone to take the protagonist on a journey to another world. I really enjoyed exploring this idea with my Hidden Places series, and took it one step further.

Tomas is a writer searching for the sequel to a book he’s sure exists. He’s miffed that the main characters in his favourite fantasy story didn’t get their happy ending. He meets Cathal and the lines between fantasy and reality are very quickly blurred with life imitating fiction. Or is it vice versa? Tomas is very much someone who keeps to himself at the beginning of the story. He’s been hurt a few too many times so he figures it’s safer if he doesn’t let anyone in. However, he’s soon forced into a situation where he needs to take a leap of faith, and find a part of himself he didn’t think existed in order to secure his own happy ending.

The protagonist’s journey can also result in a physical as well as an emotional change. High fantasy set in a land other than ours is a wonderful playground in which to explore that theme. In A Knight to Remember I wanted to play with the idea that not all heroes step onto the page knowing exactly what they’re doing. In the traditional quest story the hero often goes hunting for a relic and kills a magical beast such as a dragon along the way. This isn’t what happens to Aric, crown prince of Astria. His view of the world is quickly upset when he’s confronted by a dragon after he’s been told all his life they are extinct. Then he’s sent on a quest to find a sword, but isn’t told its purpose, just that it will save his kingdom. Where’s the fun of having something that comes with instructions? Finding the sword isn’t the end of his quest. Instead it raises far more questions than it answers. Aric—and his companion Denys—must find something hidden within themselves and learn to embrace it to save themselves and Astria. They’re only just embarking on their journey and I’m looking forward to writing the rest of it as the series progresses.

I love writing series as they provide a wonderful backdrop for a more complex storyline, and the opportunity to build upon the protagonist and his journey.

Who are your favourite protagonists in fantasy fiction, and what it is about their journey that draws you into their story?

Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with two cats who are convinced that the house is run to suit them; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date it appears as though the cats may be winning.

In 2008 she completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra.

She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth.

Anne’s books have received honorable mentions four times and reached the finals three times in the Rainbow Awards. She has also been nominated twice in the Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards—once for Best Fantasy and once for Best Historical.

Dreamspinner Press Author Page:
DSP Publications Author Page:

No Two People Read the Same Book…

… or watch the same movie, or hear the same song, or see the same painting.

One of the things authors are usually told not to talk about is reviews. It’s generally considered acceptable to promote positive ones, and it’s fine to thank someone for a review—positive or negative.

However, complaining about a review is strictly verboten. I can see why, to a point, as we as authors do need to maintain a professional presence. Not always easy, considering we are real people with emotions and problems like everyone else. Sometimes bad reviews really hurt, and sometimes those bad reviews tear someone apart for the weirdest things.

I should make a point here, that there’s a difference between a “bad” review and a “negative” one. A negative review is just that, negative. The reader didn’t like it or the story wasn’t for them, but clearly they read the book, understood it, and their review was constructive. A bad review is one that shows the reader didn’t actually read the book or maybe tore it to shreds based on the author, rather than the story. We get these, quite a few of them in fact, and those are the reviews we most often want to talk about.

The thing we need to remember, however, is that reviews are personal. Any person who picks up a book and goes into a story, does so with an already preconceived idea. Maybe they’ve been cheated on and any perceived cheating in a story is an absolute no-no. Maybe they work in criminal justice and seeing things done wrong—the wrong language maybe—will make them cringe. I have my own things that will make me throw a book that others would look at me and go, “wut?”

On top of this, when we study English and literature in high school and college, we’re taught to read critically. For me, I’m able to set that aside for the most part when I read. But we’re taught to dismantle a story, look for the subtext, and dig into a character’s feelings and thought processes.

I was in the process of writing No Sacrifice when I got into an… interesting discussion with a beta. The main character was in the process of dealing with his bisexuality. He’d just had a dream of fucking his male costar and woke up in the middle of the dream. He goes out to the kitchen to get a drink and pulls out a carton of orange juice. My beta asked me if the orange juice was deliberate. I was completely confused for a moment. Deliberate about what? Then I realized she was talking about its consistency and I facepalmed. No, it could have been water or Coke or anything else like it. I did avoid milk—for color and consistency—but the orange juice was just orange juice.

Sometimes there is no subtext in something. Sometimes the curtains are just blue because we like that color. Sometimes orange juice is just a random drink.

But along with our personal experiences, we bring our education, and more, to a book. This easily works for movies, like it does books. I recently pointed out that even art—paintings—come with their own interpretations. What is a sad expression to one person could be thoughtful to another.

This is accurate for songs, as well. One of my all-time favorite songs is “Voodoo” from Godsmack.

Sully Erna, the lead singer and co-writer of the song, has stated the song was inspired by The Serpent and the Rainbow. The influence of witchcraft—Erna is Wiccan—was a big part of it. And yet, when I listen to the song, I don’t think about witchcraft—or the zombies in the video—or anything like it.

Voodoo makes me think of BDSM.

Yup. The lyrics at the beginning (and part of the chorus), in particular …

I’m not the one who’s so far away
When I feel the snake bite enter my veins
Never did I wanna be here again
And I don’t remember why I came

…remind me of submission. In this case the “snake bite” is the disapproval or disappointment of my Dom. It feels like poison in my veins. The idea that I’ve disappointed my Dom really does fill me. See, I’ll do it—disappoint. It happens because I’m human. But every time it happens, the “never did I wanna be here again” reminds me that I don’t, but that I will again and again.

But this is what I mean. This is clearly not what Erna intended when he wrote the song. However, it’s what I take away from it. I know some think about drugs when they hear it. Others simply take it for what he originally wrote it to mean.

We, as artists, writers, etc. can’t dictate what a reader takes from our books. We can’t control how they view the message (if there is one) or how we portray a character. All we can do is write the story that needs to be written and put it out in the world.

And keep it to ourselves when someone takes something from it we didn’t intend.


Voodoo ©1999 Republic Records/Universal Music Group. Written by Sully Erna and Robbie Merrill.

Hope (a Forbes Mates tale for the One Pulse Anthology), By Grace R. Duncan – Out Today!!

Part of the One Pulse Anthology, benefitting the victims and familes of the Orlando, Florida shooting

Published by Dreamspinner Press

Release date: September 19, 2016

574 pages (total for Anthology)

Cover artist: Paul Richmond



Miguel Garcia and Luis Rodriguez have been best friends all their lives. For the last year, they’ve been hiding the fact that they’re also destined mates. When Luis’s family finds out, they kick him out. Miguel’s family would keep them…except their alpha has been known to be downright violent against gay wolves.

With the help of Miguel’s mother, they set out to find a pack that will accept them. They run into more that a few obstacles before they end up in Denver, at the national wolf headquarters, meeting the alpha prime. They’re stunned to find, not only offers to join more than one pack, but that their struggle can shine light on a bigger problem–and make things better for LGBT wolves across the country.



Why I Write Part One


Hello, and welcome to another day on Author’s Speak. I’ve decided to spend some time talking about not only why I write, but why I write what I write.

Go ahead, say that ten times fast!

I thought I’d start with my chosen genre and branch out from there.

People ask why don’t you write serious/real books and how come romance? Some go a step farther and inquire why M/M romance or books with LGBTQ+ characters as leads?

Um…romance books are real and it’s a huge genre! There is something for everyone no matter if the characters are gay, straight or Martian.


Okay, I’m the first to admit most of my books aren’t serious in nature or horribly angsty, but not every book needs to be. More on the nitty gritty of that next month.

My initial response to why write LGBTQ+ characters, specifically gay men is simply: “I like it.” That’s sort of stating the obvious and doesn’t really offer much in the way of deep, thoughtful insight. However, I could almost see those reading my answer (the similar answers by other authors) sagely nodding their heads in agreement.

It’s like asking the reader, why do you read this genre? Gee, ‘cause they like it, silly, would be the universal answer. For me the real reason goes deeper.

Which brings me back to the question of why two men? Not two women or a man and woman?

Sooo….I’m out walking the dog one day, contemplating the affairs of my writing and while waiting on my cute canine companion to water some dead leaves I stumbled upon an epiphany about myself and why it is I enjoy reading and writing M/M romance. My answer goes much farther back to a time long before I became aware of gay romance or read that first story.


It’s because of my grandfather, who was, as far as I know, a completely straight, pretty conservative man. Interesting how things work out.

He also loved to read and watch television.

I was raised by this man, and lived in a predominantly male household. From the time I was a very little girl I was constantly telling a story and that evolved into writing them when I learned to string letters to words and words to sentences and sentences to paragraphs and…okay I can do this all day, you get the idea. As far back as I can remember this man told me I should be a writer.

Specifically, a mystery writer. That was his favorite genre.

circles-banner-926-173-whiteI’m sure M/M romance is not what he’d had in mind, but I think he’d be happy knowing I was being published and people were reading and enjoying my stories.

My grandfather was a huge fan of reading the mystery, the more suspense and action the better. Throw in some political intrigue and he thought it was perfect. I grew up surrounded by books, literally hundreds that were in a basement library he built by hand. He was a woodworker by hobby, much like Todd Ruger, one of the main characters of my Sentries series. All my grandfather’s favorite books had a common theme of two men, detectives or cops or whatever that were partners and friends. Men who cared deeply for one another.

Enter the male bonding theme, two men with a connection, deep love and respect for one another was presented to me when I was so young I couldn’t even read.

In fact, I was immersed in it.

Grandpa did more than read, he loved sports, but a physical problem kept him from being very active, so he watched television. Often while reading. Another habit from Grandpa, I often read or write while watching TV. For years I watched football, baseball and basketball with him. In between there were shows that were the staple of the television industry at the time, Combat, Five O’Clock HighRat PatrolGunsmokeBonanzaStar TrekBatman, the list goes on. They all had the commonality of men bonding, be they friends, fathers and sons, or brothers it didn’t matter. I was immersed from a very young age in stories where the central characters were men. Men who loved one another, even if it wasn’t in the romantic sense.


My favorite was Maverick. I’ll still watch that show when given the opportunity. Two brothers who every week found some mystery to solve, or wrong to put right or simply engaged in a good-guy/bad-guy chase down a deserted road and into a box canyon. From that show and those men I learned a love of a good (fictional of course) bar brawl, gun fight, chase, ghost story and an appreciation for taking a gamble in life. Times have changed and in the decades between Maverick and now there have been dozens, if not hundreds, of shows and books revolving around two men in some sort of close, loving relationship.

Okay, these guys weren’t in romantic relationships, but the groundwork for that next step was laid down and mapped out in my mind long ago and far away.

Is it really such a wonder that from there the leap to gay men and their close romantic relationships was made?

The main characters of my books are no different than the men of countless pieces of literature or viewing I grew up loving. They just have one more aspect to their lives and relationship: that of a soul bonded, mated, or married romantic couple. The heroes in my books have lovers as well as partners who are men. Men with a great deal of love and respect between them. Now, how could you not like that?

For women to read, write and enjoy all male romance isn’t so strange. So, here I am, many (we won’t discuss the actual number, but those of you who know the shows of which I speak can work it out I’m sure) years later, a woman whose first published novel was a paranormal action/adventure with a healthy dose of romance between two men.
It makes perfect sense really, when you think about it.

I, for one, couldn’t be happier or more proud that my first published novel revolves around a theme that I loved before I knew what it was: Men loving one another, how doesn’t matter. That my first novel, Marked Yours, and the books that have followed were not only about the close bond men share, but one that allows them to take that bonding into a romantic relationship.

To answer the question of why I wrote and published in the genre of M/M romance, well it’s simple really, it’s what I love, it’s what fascinates me and fires my imagination. It’s what I grew up learning to love and I want to offer a big thank you to those that created those books and shows then brought them to life for one little girl to appreciate the male bond.

From the brothers Maverick, Cartwright, Simon and Winchester, to the buddies Matt Dillon and Chester, Starsky and Hutch, Jim Ellison and Blair Sandberg, Peter Burke and Neal Caffery, and many others, I learned how deeply men bond and love one another and came to appreciate that bond. Mostly I owe them my heartfelt gratitude.

Really, is there any other genre steeped in such tradition for me, or that would feel so natural, to write in and explore? Was there ever a question of what would be the subject matter of my published novels? Hell, no!

There is plenty of action, love and general fighting of evil in all of my books.  

Until next month,

Happy Reading!




C. Descoteaux’s Safe House releases 9/19 from Dreamspinner Press—Sale and Giveaway!


The release date for Safe House, Buchanan House: Book Four, is coming soon! To celebrate, Dreamspinner has created a bundle sale—Pre-order Safe House and get Tiny House (Buchanan House: Book Three) for $0.99! The sale runs September 12 until release day—September 19!

This is a true series so to get the most out of it I recommend to read the books in order. With that in mind I’ve stocked a Rafflecopter with two chances to win the first book in the series, Buchanan House. Visit any stop on my tour between September 12th and October 1st to enter!


SafeHouseFS_v1Safe House (Buchanan House: Book Four) by Charley Descoteaux

It’s never too late for a new beginning…

Kyle Shimoda is an asshole magnet, has been for as long as he can remember. At forty-seven, he doesn’t see much chance for improving his luck in love. His friends who run Buchanan House, a gay retreat on the central Oregon coast, know he wants to find “someone nice” to settle down with, and they set him up with Officer Brandon Smith. Kyle has a turbulent history with law enforcement, but he can’t deny his attraction to the buff cop.

Brandon has been a police officer in Lincoln City almost since the day he graduated from high school over thirty years ago. He’s cultivated the facade of a serious, disciplined law enforcement officer, but beneath his overdeveloped chest beats the soft heart of a drama queen. A cancer scare shifts Bran’s focus from finding a serious relationship to having as much sex as he can—putting his goals squarely at odds with Kyle’s. If he can’t find the courage to be honest about his feelings for Kyle, the happiness they’ve both been searching for could slip through their fingers.


Read Chapter One at the Dreamspinner store to meet Kyle. Meet Brandon in the excerpt below.


Chapter Two

Brandon barely paid attention as he drove between the cemetery and the apartment he shared with two roommates. He’d hoped to find a voice mail from the doctor after the funeral, but no such luck. He did find one saying the new guy, Dylan, had called in sick, and Brandon was expected at work within the hour. He would have been happier to stay at the cemetery and talk with Paulie a little longer. And Kyle. Bran had met Kyle before, but they hadn’t spoken. He had noticed then how handsome Kyle was, and he was even more striking with his hair longer, framing his high cheekbones and full, sensuous mouth. His silky black hair looked so touchable.

This isn’t getting me to work any faster.

At least work will be a distraction.

He hurried home and changed into his uniform. His quick spot check in the bathroom mirror turned into a lingering appraisal. Brandon ran an open hand over his chest, not to smooth the impeccable fabric of his uniform shirt, but to reassure himself that nothing had changed. He grimaced at his reflection, thinking a little less gray and a little more brown in his hair might be a nice change.

Brandon shivered as he recalled the MRI he’d endured three days prior, which had revealed a suspicious lump in his chest. Forty-seven minutes in a tiny tube while the machine hummed and took pictures of his breast and lymph tissue. Just thinking about the way it had felt to lie there made him shiver—it was worse than the needle biopsy he’d had the following day. With every inhale his shoulders had brushed the walls of the tube on both sides, and less than halfway through he’d had to talk himself out of fleeing. He wasn’t a tall man—something that had bothered him throughout his life—but until that day he had taken pride in his body, in the bulk he’d cultivated without sacrificing speed or agility.

During that forty-seven minutes, he would have been happy to trade his broad shoulders for a smaller frame.

Since I’m making empty wishes, I might as well make one for a better-looking face. A face that could attract a handsome young guy like Kyle instead of scaring him half to death.

Bran’s stomach roiled at his own thoughts, and he resolved to not even think the word death again until—unless—he had to. He was tempted to forgo shaving the sandy brown stubble from his face but fell back on the habit, hoping for the comfort a routine could provide, and reached for his electric razor.

Everything seemed to be happening so fast. Less than a week ago he’d gone in for his yearly physical, and now he was waiting for the call that would tell him whether he needed to make another appointment for that week or next year. In the interim he’d been squeezed into a tube and had a biopsy. And relived the worst time in his life over and over, the time when he’d learned about his father’s diagnosis.


Pre-0rder Safe House at the Dreamspinner store and get Tiny House for $0.99! Sept. 12-19:


Enter Sept 12 – Oct 1!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Three winners! Prizes: One signed paperback of Safe House (US Only); one ebook copy of book one of the series, Buchanan House; one backlist book (any ebook except Safe House)



Charley Descoteaux has always heard voices. She was relieved to learn they were fictional characters, and started writing when they insisted daydreaming just wasn’t good enough. In exchange, they’ve agreed to let her sleep once in a while. Charley grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area during a drought, and found her true home in the soggy Pacific Northwest. She has survived earthquakes, tornadoes, and floods, but couldn’t make it through one day without stories.


Rattle Charley’s cages:

Dreamspinner Author Page:


Series: Buchanan House
Book Number: 4
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: September 19, 2016
Pages: 200
Cover Artist: L.C. Chase



Comparison will Kill Your Craft by Sarah Madison


An author friend of mine has been facing a crisis of confidence lately. Because of some of the conversations I’ve had with her, I’d already decided to make my monthly post here about the evils of comparing yourself to others, when I came across this post earlier today. My initial reaction was, ‘Darn it! Someone beat me to this.’ I thought the post very well done, and seriously considered changing my topic as a result.

Ironic, right? I was going to let an article on not comparing yourself to others prevent me from writing an article on not comparing yourself to others. What’s the first thing we say when we find out someone is writing a story with a similar plot to ours? We tell ourselves no one else can tell a story in the same way we can–that no two authors are going to tell the same tale, despite similarities in plots. And we go ahead and write our story anyway.

So that’s what I decided to do here, because while I think the author of the linked post makes some very good points, I think some were overlooked. The post talks about taking pride in your accomplishments (how many people successfully publish a book?) and concentrating on the things you can control rather on those you cannot. But when the little green monster of envy raises its head–take comfort in knowing you’re not alone. Most of us feel that way too. We wonder why one person’s novel takes off and becomes a bestseller, while ours languishes unnoticed. Or we get a review that makes us think our writing is crap or a rejection letter that has us considering bagging the whole idea of writing.

Here’s my take on it. Comparison to others is one of the most crippling actions we make as creative people. We all do it–we can’t help it. It’s probably programmed into our genetic code–a flip-side to the part of us that categorizes people into groups of ‘us’ versus ‘not us.’ That’s not the healthiest behavior either, but we all seek our tribes. However, this same instinct to check out those around us and lump them into tribes, also has us assessing those within our tribes to determine their rankings. That’s really all it boils down to–but we often take this too far. Not only do we determine where others fall on the totem pole, but we want to know how everyone stacks up to us too.

Therein lies the problem.

I’ve written before that I think Facebook can make us depressed. We writers are taught we need to spend time on various social media outlets engaging with our audience. But in doing so, we also spend a lot of time on those same sites with our fellow authors, and I have to tell you, some days it’s tough seeing everyone else’s successes. As I said in my previous post, most days we haven’t lost 50 pounds, won the lottery, hit the top of the bestseller list, vacationed in Bali, or swum with a pod of dolphins while receiving an award for the best novel ever written. At the same time.

What we tend to forget is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the like are frequently where we put forward our best face. None of us know what may or may not be going on in the lives of those we think have it so much better than we do. We might want to remember that when we are sure everyone else is more successful or a better writer than we are. What I think we also forget is in today’s world, we are constantly being bombarded with images of other’s success. We stack up these successes against our own and often decide we come up short.

I’d encourage you to remember this, however: when you are feeling down because everyone seems to be going to the latest convention when you can’t–when you are bummed because someone has released a new story to accolades–today that news belongs to your friends. But last week, or last month, it was you in the catbird seat. Remember? You just got back from a cool convention. And it wasn’t all that long ago that you launched your own book. Yes, it was a few weeks ago, but unless you’re a writing fiend who writes 24/7, you have no new book out. And you shouldn’t expect yourself to have one!


But I think that’s what social media does to us. Funny, isn’t it? Writers tend to be introverts. Social media gives us a chance to interact with fellow authors–our tribe mates–all over the world. But the same sites that bring us support and friendship place us in the position of making comparisons to others. That rush that comes from launching a new book, sharing new cover art, squeeing over reviews, taking pride in awards bestowed is addictive too. Like any addiction, it takes more and more for us to get our fix. It’s not enough to publish a book–now we need to break the bestseller lists. It’s not enough to be nominated, or get an honorable mention, we want to win awards. Anything less than a five-star review feels like a failure. Likewise, if it takes us a year to write a story when we know others who write several books in the same time, we’re sure we’re never going to keep an audience.

Well, believe me, it happens to me all the time. This is what I do to rein in those feelings of inadequacy.

  1. Spend less time on social media. Maybe it means taking a break for a while. Maybe it means limiting your time per day–make a post, share a post, congratulate a friend on their most recent success but then leave. Don’t get sucked into comparing your life, work, and perceived lack of success with anyone else.
  2. Give yourself credit for the success that you have. So you haven’t written 57 books in the last three years. If you’ve published a story at all, know that you’ve done more than most people who dream of being a writer. Celebrate all your successes–not just the big ones. (This applies to life in general too, you know)
  3. Read your best reviews. We all know we should avoid the bad ones, the ones that sting. But collect your best ones and put them in a folder so you can take them out on bad days and remember that at least once, you touched someone’s heart with your story. Likewise emails from fans. Someone took the time to tell you how much they liked your work. That counts for more than you realize. It’s everything.
  4. Read the bad reviews of your favorite books. Realize everyone gets slammed from time to time, and know that if someone can hate a book you think is sublime, there is no accounting for taste. You’re not going to please everyone all of the time.
  5. Write the next story. Put your heart and soul into it and write the best damn story you know how. Know that there will always be better and worse stories out there. Write the best story you can write at this moment in time with your current life experiences at hand. It doesn’t matter if you do it in a week or six years–write the best story you know how. The comparison you should be making is to the last story YOU wrote.


A little of this and a little of that…

love-581837_1920Hi everyone! Charley Descoteaux back for my monthly chat at Authors Speak!

September is one of my favorite months of the year. The weather has cooled a few degrees and we’ve had some rain in the Pacific Northwest. The kids are back in school, and we have Bi Visibility Day coming up. As always, it’s on the 23rd and this year that’s also the first day of programming for the Gay Romance Northwest Meet-up! If you’ll be in the Seattle area plan to join us—admission is free and we have a lot of fun and informative activities planned.

I thought about writing this column about organization or maybe time management but I’m writing this on the evening of Sept. 7th so honestly, that kind of insight is a bit beyond me. I’m more the kind of person who reads those articles, not one who writes them. 🙂

Things are piling up on my author plate but that’s okay—a little chaos isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The trick (for me, at least) is to tackle it all a small piece at a time. Last night I worked on promo for my upcoming release, Safe House, the night before I started an editing pass on my Christmas story (also in the Buchanan House series, Holiday Weekend). At the moment, I’m trying to figure out how to write about bisexuality without going on for twenty-thousand words.

But why struggle with my own words when someone else has already phrased my thoughts perfectly? You’ve probably heard this before because it’s super quotable, but it bears repeating. (For more from Robyn Ochs, click here.)

“I call myself bisexual because I acknowledge that I have in myself the potential to be attracted – romantically and/or sexually – to people of more than one sex and/or gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree.” ~Robyn Ochs


That’s why I call myself bisexual too.

As a flag-waving bisexual, I write a lot of bi characters. Since I’ll be on a panel at GRNW (Erased No More: Bisexual Characters in LGBTQ Romance!) I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes a good bisexual character and how to talk about it without going on for twenty minutes. So far, my answer is this: the character identifies as bi.

Sure, it’s not quite that simple in practice but basically that’s the answer. A bi character doesn’t have to lust after everyone they see—doesn’t have to lust after anyone at all if they’re also asexual. The possibilities are literally endless.

But that’s not an example, so I’m going to share an excerpt from my first published story with a bisexual main character. Not the Doctor was in the Dreamspinner Daily Dose “Mended” anthology in June of 2014. It’s short, so I’m posting two–the second one, Kai’s, isn’t directly after the first but it’s getting late and I was too busy writing the sixth book in my Buchanan House series during my commute instead of writing something for this space. <3



ON OUR two-week anniversary, I saw young Doc Austin again. He said everything was fine, gave me a prescription for physical therapy which would start in two weeks, and told me not to lift anything over one pound until further notice. My mind stuttered when he said get it moving. The words just didn’t make sense. My arm was broken. I’d just had surgery. And he wanted me to move it?

George dropped me off outside my building and headed back to his office. In my kitchen I found a little round postal scale with a note taped to it. Everything weighs more than a pound. His text came through a few seconds later. Don’t push it J.

I was just high enough to be freaked out and retreated to my recliner with the necessary supplies. Plus an extra blanket to hide under, even though it was a beautiful seventy-five degrees outside. The next time I woke up, I remembered he’d talked with the doctor and nurses after my surgery, when I was too woozy to stay awake and eat saltines. It was much easier to breathe knowing my brother wasn’t psychic. The things he could pick up from my thoughts alone! It didn’t pay to try and figure out when he left the scale, though. Pain meds and chronology don’t make easy bedfellows.




IF I were the praying kind, I would’ve spent the morning doing just that. Joey looked terrified as he walked down the hall—all by his lonesome. It defeats the purpose to say good luck out loud, but I almost did it anyway. He looked like he could use the boost, and his brother wasn’t exactly the nurturing type. Would it have killed George to come up and help with the bag?

Would I be judging him so harshly if I’d been up to walking Joey down myself?

Over the past few months, since he’d been doing more telecommuting, it grew more and more difficult to ignore the silver fox next door. His chestnut hair had barely started to frost at the temples, but silver fox just sounded sexy. And Joe Prescott was nothing if not sexy. He even had gorgeous feet—which I probably wouldn’t have noticed if not for my own problems down there, but that would’ve been my loss. It’s uplifting to look at something—someone—beautiful. Even a straight someone.

Those two, the Prescotts, they’re about as straight as they come. George wore a sport jacket to take Joe to the hospital. Even he wouldn’t have gone home during the procedure to change. Probably kept his head bowed over an iSomething the whole time. But he noticed me. He always notices me, and not in the same way Joe does. No, George had me pegged from the gate. If I didn’t have thirty years of experience saying I knew better, the zealous way he stepped between us would’ve made me wonder.

But if I’m interested in Joey he has to be straight because that’s my m.o. Show me a hot straight guy—bonus points for each prejudice and phobia he brings to the table—and before you can say Judy Garland, I’ve fallen for him.

Enough talking to myself in an empty apartment, time to cook something.

When Auntie gets back, maybe I’ll have gained a pound or two. Not likely, but it would make her happy.



notthedoctor_fbthumbNot the Doctor by Charley Descoteaux

A moment of distraction on a lonely highway leaves middle-aged widower Joe Prescott with a broken arm and in need of surgery. He’s no stranger to long hours spent alone in his apartment, but until his arm heals, independence will be a luxury. Joe is used to helping others and doesn’t realize the strength it takes to accept a helping hand, especially from the neighbor he’s had a crush on since he moved in.

Kai Hosino, “retired” chef, lives with his elderly Aunt Tilly so they can help each other navigate life with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Kai is drawn to the silver fox next door, but his painful history of falling for straight men makes him hesitant to take a chance.


Thanks for reading!

I’ll see you next month–hopefully with a more organized post! 😉




Pictures courtesy of the lovely folks at

Cover Reveal! Wraith Queen’s Veil by Lou Hoffman—Rafflecopter Giveaway

Book two of Lou Hoffmann’s The Sun Child Chronicles is (finally) coming October 6th! Check out this great cover for Wraith Queen’s Veil—art by Catt Ford! Lucky, the fifteen-year-old hero of book one, Key of Behliseth, has his life take a whole new turn when he moves from a fairly ordinary California town to a different world—his home world, Ethra, where the technology is all about magic, and transportation is on foot, on horseback, or by Portal of Naught. I hope you’ll join him on his adventures as his mistaken choices land him in the middle of an epic quest. Don’t forget the Rafflecopter! Scroll down for details!
Cover Wraith Queen's Veil by Lou Hoffmann (artist Catt Ford)

The Blurb:

When Lucky arrives in Ethra, the world of his birth and destiny, he expects a joyful reunion, but the first thing he notices when he reaches the Sisterhold—his home—is something false behind his mother’s smile. In a matter of weeks, the Sisterhold becomes agitated with worries and war plans. People he trusts—like the wizard Thurlock—frequently can’t be found. His mother seems angry, especially with Lucky. Even Han Shieth, the warrior uncle he has come to rely on and love above all others, maintains a sullen silence toward him.

When Lucky’s resentment builds to the breaking point, his bad decisions put him and his friends, L’Aria and Zhevi, in unthinkable danger. Han arrives to help, but he can’t claim invulnerability to the hazards and evils that threaten at every turn. Events launch Lucky, alone, on a quest for he knows not what, but every step brings him closer to his identity and full strength. Self-knowledge, trust, and strength lead to smarter choices, but even his best efforts might not render his world truly safe, now or for the future.


Lou’s Bio:

Lou Hoffmann Icon-logo-square Lou Hoffmann has carried on her love affair with books for decades, yet she hasn’t even made a dent in the list of books she’d love to read—at least partly because the list keeps growing. She reads factual things—books about physics and history and fractal chaos, but when she wants truth, she looks for it in quality fiction. She loves all sorts of wonderful things: music and silence, laughter and tears, youth and age, sunshine and storms, forests and fields, flora and fauna, rivers and seas. Even good movies and popcorn! Those things help her breathe, and everyone she knows helps her write. (Special mention goes to (1) George the Lady Cat and (2) readers.)

Proud to be a bisexual, biracial woman, Lou considers every person a treasure not to be taken for granted. In her life, she’s seen the world’s willingness to embrace differences change, change back, and change again in dozens of ways, but she has great hope for the world the youth of today will create. She writes for readers who find themselves anywhere on the spectrums of age and gender, aiming to create characters that live not only in their stories, but always in your imagination and your heart.

Find Lou on Facebook, or on Twitter, or email her at She loves to hear from readers!

Sun Child new banner with CF logo

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Why is a Writer Like a Janitor?(A Lou Sylvre flashback post)

Lou Sylvre Gay Romance Happy Endings Hi, Authors Speak readers! I’m Lou Sylvre, and this is my first monthly post here. In case you don’t know me, I’ll post my bio and some info on my books at the end of this post—and I’ll tell you right here and now I’ve got a novella releasing this coming December or January, and it’s very dear to me, even though it’s not all my “usual.” It’s just, occasionally, when I write something I feel down deep that I’ve somehow pulled off writing a really good read, and I believe readers will find Falling Snow on Snow to be just that.

Talking about “writing a good read” puts me in mind of a post I wrote and shared on Love Bytes reviews back in January of 2015. The title, in fact, was “Writing a Good Read: Five Keys and a Pipe Wrench.” So the mystery of this new post title is solved—writers and janitors carry keys and may on occasion need a pipe wrench. Mostly, this post is for those of you who are looking to either start a writing career, or those of you who are writers and, like me, appreciate the addition of a new tool or a reminder about one you already have in your utility belt. But I’m hoping readers can enjoy this too, for a couple of reasons. First, sometimes it’s exciting to reflect on a book you did or didn’t like and be able to see what the author did that produced that result. Also, sometimes readers turn out to be writers, too.

So, from the original post, here’s all this:
First, I’ll define what I believe the term “a good read” means.

Number one: A good read is a book that captivates a reader so that they finish the book, and when they do, it has satisfied something in their minds or hearts. They might have cried, or laughed, or gotten angry in the course of it, but they end up glad they read it, and most likely would want to read more about the characters or from the author. In order for the book to meet this criteria, it will have to meet the others.

Number two: The story makes sense. Brief anecdote—when I had children, my former mother-in-law bought me a cup that said, “Because I’m the mommy, that’s why!” Funny, and occasionally it works in parenting, at least for a minute, but if you find yourself explaining developments in your novel with the words “It’s fiction and I want it to happen anyway,” chances are you’ve made a jump that won’t work. I don’t mean it can’t happen in the story, but very likely you need to figure out what you need to do to make it happen in a way that makes sense. By the same token, the saying (immortalized in a pop song a few decades back), “It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to” does not translate well to “It’s my book, so I can do what I want.” This usually arises later in the process during beta reading or editing. Don’t misunderstand—you can certainly think that, even say it. But then if you want the book to be a good read, you’ll probably need to change your mind and do a little more work.

Number three: The characters make sense. No, really. Your characters can be quirky—in fact to make them seem real they should have at least some characteristics that could be called quirks. They can be likeable or loveable, but that can’t be all they are because that doesn’t make sense to anyone who has met a few humans—inconsistencies R us, right? Most stories will have a definite ‘bad guy.’ Sometimes a villain, sometimes a well-meaning or confused character who causes trouble for the ‘good guys.’ Sometimes it’s a group, or a thing, or an idea that fills the role. But even here, the ‘bad’ has to have something more—sorrow, possession, an unbreakable oath, a need to wreak havoc in order for their offspring to survive, or whatever. Again, to seem real, it cannot be flat as a two-dimensional plane, or it’s not interesting. There has to be a why, and most of the time some secondary whys, for everything anybody does in your story.

Number four: The world (or universe) of your story must make sense, too. Everyone’s heard about the pitfalls of world-building. It doesn’t just apply to speculative fiction (sci-fi, paranormal, fantasy, magical realism), but to every story, even if it’s written in real time, real place, real buildings. Why? Because your story never happened there. Your characters never lived there (even if they are based on people you know or real historical characters). In spec fiction, you have to be very aware of systems to make them all work together—if there’s magic, how does it work, where does it come from, what does it cost its user. If it’s a medieval town but they have a flying machine or flush toilets, fine, but make them have a sensible system. The farther you get away from pure sci-fi or fantasy, the fewer systems you must devise. Instead, though, just as importantly, your storyline and characters (which represent a system) must be incorporated as seamlessly as possible with the systems already in place.

I probably could go on about that, but I’m belatedly remembering that my post is supposed to be about five keys and a pipe wrench. Mind you, I propose these only as my own opinion, but I’m pretty sure that if you sincerely apply them (tweaking as necessary), they will at least help you get that book written, and make it a book you’re happy to put your name on.

1st Key—Never, ever, ever read those books that have titles that go something like Two Million Reasons Your Book Won’t be Published, or What’s Wrong with Your Writing. Hey, be real. We’re hard enough on ourselves. These books may purport to have good advice for you, but what they really do is drive home to you, consciously, that you don’t write well enough to be published. Subconsciously, they’ve got you rehearsing how to do things in a way that will end with a negative result.

2nd Key—Think small when planning your book. Start with a narrow premise you’d like to explore, a character or two whose story you think needs writing, a single storyline, or even just a start. This makes it possible for you to outline quickly and get to the writing. Believe me, the characters will multiply, as will twists, turns, and subplots.

3rd Key—Start the writing early in the process. Yeah, this might be called Key 2B, but I think it deserves a place of its own. The only way to begin to learn to write is to begin writing, so the longer you put it off, the longer it will take to learn. And, you’ll probably find that the longer you put off writing the story you want to turn into a book, the harder it gets to make that start. By “write” I don’t mean outline. Yes, do a broad outline, but right away pick a place to start writing—no this doesn’t have to be the beginning—any scene that calls to you. If you know how, you can kick start it by storyboarding, or just do a rough outline of the scene. You should be able to do that within an hour at the most. Then right away, put words on a blank page. It doesn’t have to be good! Just write it and don’t stop until the scene is on the page. Then do another one the next day.

4th Key—Remember you’re really not the boss, at least not all the time. Your characters will have things to say, and they will want you to write what they want to do. At least part of the time, you’re going to have to do it if you want the story to move forward—and momentum is a precious commodity in novel-writing. Likely, you will also realize that your characters have a pretty good understanding of what the story needs. Yes, they’re sometimes like berserk little children and you have to take their privileges and put them in time out (please don’t tell Luki Vasquez I said that), but they need play time, too.

5th Key—Trust your editor to be good but not perfect at their job; trust yourself to be good but not perfect at your job. This key is the only one I’m giving that’s not related to spitting out that first draft of your first novel. It’s for later, after the publisher has accepted your book, or you are at the stage in self-pubbing where you’re ready for the editor. (Yes, it will happen if you want it to and you do the work.) What I mean by “their” job and “your” job is that a good editor knows how a story works, how a sentence works, and lots of stuff about grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc. That’s their domain. If they say your story doesn’t work because something’s missing, it probably is. Or if they say your main character isn’t likeable, he’s probably not. Grammar is a grayer area, because in fiction sometimes an author writes in a way that isn’t exactly proper for voice or effect—and most experienced fiction editors will recognize that. It’s your job, as author, to determine whether that’s the case with each edit, no matter how small. It’s your job to know whether their suggested fix will have a different meaning than what you’ve written, because meaning is what the story is about, and that’s your domain. Take edits seriously, think about them, and respect your editor’s work and know-how. Your book will be a lot better for it when it makes it debut.

The pipe wrench— Most people probably know that a pipe wrench comes in really handy for plumbing. But not everyone knows how much a pipe wrench can do when you use it like a hammer, either tapping or pounding as the case requires. The name of this particular pipe wrench is “just write,” and it’s the most versatile, useful item in your toolbox. Key 1 reflects this, but the pipe wrench continues to be awesome throughout the process of the novel and throughout your career. You’ll get mysterious “writer’s block.” Your muse will go on strike. You’ll get negative comments from a beta reader and think you write sucky, so why try. Etcetera! In all cases, get out the just-write pipe wrench and put words on a page. It’ll smash the self-worth bugs, it’ll put the criticism down to size. Scare the muse into suiting up and showing up. Break the clog blocking the pipes into smithereens and let them flush away.

That’s it for my advice. Really. Enough, don’t you think… Thanks for reading! Thanks for writing. Keep doing both!
Oh yeah, here’s a little about me, Lou Sylvre, too.

Some of my books:
VJ 6 cover banner

My bio, the short version.
Lou Sylvre loves romance with all its ups and downs, and likes to conjure it into books. The lovers on her pages are men who end up loving each other—and usually saving each other from unspeakable danger. It’s all pretty crazy and very, very sexy. How cool is that? She is the creator of the popular Vasquez and James series of M/M romantic suspense, which can be found at Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, and many other online vendors. A spinoff series began with the A Shot of J&B. She blogs at, is @sylvre on Twitter, and loves to hear from readers on Facebook or at

One place you can find my books
At Dreamspinner Press:

My latest book, the cover and blurb.
A Shot of J&B 400x600 Six years ago, Brian Harrison helped save the life of Jackie Vasquez, and he’s never really forgotten him. After the rescue, Brian ended his employment with Jackie’s uncle Luki and left the US for England, aiming to distance himself from the confused feelings—not lust, but not brotherly—that then sixteen-year-old Jackie engendered. Now Jackie has become a man, and when they meet again by chance, lust with a dose of D/s rope kink is definitely on the list of possibilities. As they get to know each other, though, lust shows every sign of growing into love, deep and true.

When Jackie moves to London for graduate studies in criminal psychology, he and Brian hope they’ll be able to enjoy each other’s frequent company. But they haven’t factored in the claim Brian’s police job with Scotland Yard will make on his time, especially when the “Gaslighter crimes” sap investigative resources. An abandoned aide dog named Soldier leads to a breakthrough clue, and a chain of discoveries fall like dominoes. As Brian rushes to beat the criminal’s game before it escalates to true terror, he comes to an undeniable conclusion: Jackie Vasquez, the man he loves, is in mortal danger.

A tiny excerpt from my current WIP, Blackmail and Roses, sequel to Finding Jackie.

Jackie took three steps out of the LAX terminal and then the heat blasted him from all directions. The pavement baked him from below, all the surrounding structures radiated like oven walls, and the sun threatened to broil his freckles black. But it was the wind, the devil-born Santa Ana that splashed red in his eyes and stole his breath.

Jackie remembered a time in LA when the Santa Anas had seemed like the touch of some blessed god, in that October when he and Josh had first wandered into the warm, dry City of Angels after a damp summer on the Seattle streets.

“Damn,” Josh had muttered. “I hope it doesn’t blow like that all the time.”
But Jackie had just shook his head, not said a word. True, he wasn’t in the habit of talking much back then. Hurt boys often don’t, he’d since learned in his psych classes. But that time his silence was one of incredulity. Jackie had loved the rough, subjugating caress of those hot winds, would have stood for days and died inside them if he could have.

But that was before he’d seen their cruel side. Before he’d seen them weave a spell of apathy and violence on even those people who sometimes cared. Before he’d seen them spin the heads of friends around until they faced each other with fists and knives. Before he’d seen them launch bullets in back alleys. Now he knew they sometimes stripped the last inhibitions from the minds of drunks, the clothes from shaking young bodies, the last vestiges of hope from desperate hearts.

Thanks for reading! Your comments are welcome, should the notion strike you. I hope to see you next month.