Writing Rituals… or the things I do to write a novel…the story bible

Happy one year to Authors Speak. My first post was a year ago this month! Thank you Lou Sylvre for all you do for this group.

One of the things I’m often asked as a writer is: how do you write a whole book?

I don’t have a concept of a life without creating a story and writing it down. I have, literally, done this in some form for my entire life. Writing is second nature and storytelling is ingrained to the point I can’t not write.

The drive and desire to write does not create books, screenplays and poetry. Telling the story is the end result but it’s only one part of the process.

We writers are a fickle lot and there are an infinite number of ways to create that product, a completed novel (or screenplay, etc). The simple fact is, however, the creation of all stories does have a few common elements. It’s how each writer goes about organizing and using those elements that is individual to each and every one of us.

So, since this article is about me, I’m going to talk about what I do—my rituals—to write a novel. Firstly, I write novels, not screenplays or other forms of written works, so that in itself dictates a number of my writing rituals and tools.

A book is a book, right? Doesn’t matter if it’s fiction, non-fiction or part of a series. They’re all books, aren’t they?

Wrong.

Every so often I’m asked to write something for a friend or coworker that isn’t fiction. It’s sort of like training to compete in one sport then trying to switch for a day to another sport. Yeah, you can muddle on through and probably not embarrass yourself, but you won’t be in the best form.

Everything I do in the course of creating and writing a book centers around the fact that book is fiction and a novel.

The first thing that happens when I set about creating a new novel is the basic plot idea. For me, plot and title come first. After I have those I begin plugging in characters and locations.

My initial ritual with a new novel or series is making a list of plot points. The order doesn’t matter and is likely to change, but I want a general idea of major events in every story. If the initial story is going to be part of a series I make a separate list of major events I’d like to include in the series.

The next step I take is to plan out where my story will take place. For that I use maps, books and the world’s best location explorer, the internet. Specifically, Google Earth and maps.

This is where the creation of my story/series bible begins. I have a bible for each series, and for every book within a series. I think all the authors I personally know have some form of bible for their works. For me, setting up my bible and organizing it, filling it with research, scene ideas and reference photos is one of my very most important writing rituals.

This is a page from the bible for Gone Away. There are personality traits for the two main characters, inspiration photos and links to research. This page is what I call my basic story board. It holds all my general ideas. Eventually I’ll create individual pages for the characters, plot, location and so on that has much more detail.

Some people use paper notebooks, I know others who employ index cards or journals. This is the digital age, and all of those tools have been recreated in the virtual world.

I use OneNote, which is a digital notebook system. It can be used on a computer, tablet or phone, so I have it with me wherever I go. At one time I figured out that if my OneNote notebooks for the Sentries series was somehow transformed to traditional paper notebooks each one would be hundreds of pages long and probably form a stack about three feet high.

I love my digital bibles. They are filled with photos, links and articles and become a scrapbook for every project. If I have an idea to use a waterfall or certain type of car in a story I can collect images and details, putting them on my digital pages. As I write it’s helpful to go back and refresh my memory with a visual image or check details from articles and links I’ve saved. If I’m planning a series I keep a list of what needs to be included in book #1 as foreshadowing for later books. On the reverse side of that I have other notebook pages with lists of events and characters from earlier books to reference in later books in a series.

This is one of the dozens of pages created for The Vampire Guard series and contains info on the organization featured in the series and some of the secondary characters.

Another nice feature of using a digital system is I can easily move pictures, information and links from one bible to another.

My final step before beginning the actual writing is characters. There is so much of a character that never makes it into a book. I know all sorts of details, childhood pets, favorite color and what kind of pizza they like! Every detail that comes to me about a character is recorded in case I need to use it. Images go in the character sections as well. Photos of people who look like my characters are a helpful reference when writing descriptions.

For me creation of my bible is one of the most enjoyable aspects of writing a novel. As I work on each bible the story begins to gel in my mind. The plot ideas and characters start to take on a life of their own and the story begins to play in my head. From there on it’s simply a matter of recording that story.

More on that another time.

http://www.elizabeth-noble.com/

Giving Back

 

Many years ago, when my children were little and my youngest son was in the fourth grade or so his class did a project for Thanksgiving about what they were grateful for. One of the things on his list was that we always had a phone and our utilities were never shut off.

That was a real WOW moment for me.

There was a time that broke was a step up in the world. However, there was never a time we didn’t have a home, or heat or food. Sometimes the home was a tiny apartment that we squeezed into and the food was hot dogs and peanut butter and jelly.

Things are a bit different now. My kids are a dog and cat. More months than not I rob Peter to pay Paul and something is always paid late. But, it all gets paid.

I still have a home–one I own now. I have a car, something I couldn’t always afford. The neighborhood I live in is much better, and I can buy groceries.

These changes are a result, in part, of the fact I now publish books. People pay for those books, which has added to my income. I’m extremely grateful for that extra income and it makes a huge difference in my life.

Along the way from published to royalty check there are a number of people who help authors out free of charge. They give their time and energy to creating blogs where books can be showcased, increasing exposure. They offer reviews, post interviews and run contests.

These blog owners and their reviewers help my career as an author a lot. So, when one of them asks for help raising money for a worthwhile charity there is no way I’d refuse.

See, there are an awful lot of people who, through no fault of their own, don’t have a home, or enough to eat. They might face bullying because they’re part of the LGBTQ+ population. Maybe there are health issues they face and don’t know where to go for treatment.

The point is for many young people times are bleak and they may feel suicide is their only option.

Which it’s not.

I have always liked to give back, be it with my time, my money or something else. I don’t have a lot to offer in the way of financial support, but I do have books to contribute.

When one of the blog owners I work with regularly put out a call for a fundraising project I jumped at the chance.

Kim from Kimmer’s Erotic Book Blog came up with the idea to sell bundles of books at a discount and donate the proceeds to the Trevor Project, which supports LGBTQ+ youth in the United States.

I’m willing to bet everyone reading this post buys books. Here’s a great way to help someone less fortunate, get your book fix, and maybe try a new author. (ppsssttt…my book is the first one in the picture, Gone Away.)

It’s important to give back, even when you don’t feel very fortunate yourself. There is always someone worse off.

Oodles and goodles of book bundles be HERE!

Until next month,

Happy Reading!

Elizabeth

 

 

Ch-ch-chaaanges!

Well, hello there again and thank you for stopping by my little corner of Authors Speak at Rainbow Gate!

Writing professionally requires certain things and not all of them pertain to the technicalities of putting words together to form a story. Sometimes writers have to make choices about what to write. There is the hard reality that we have to make a living as well as writing what we love.

There is absolutely no reason one can’t do both.

That choices can be difficult if one isn’t willing to expand horizons and change a bit. However, there are a lot of choices and with a bit of thought it’s easy to discover there are other stories that need writing.

I’ve always said I’m a serial offender. I write in series. Series have much to offer in the way of extended plots and character development. It’s my writing as well as reading preference.

However stand alone books have a great deal to offer as well. Some stories don’t need four or six books to complete. There are readers who’d prefer a story be told with the covers of one book.

I decided it’s time to switch gears and write more stand alone stories. Some discussion with Lynn West, Dreamspinner Press editor in chief, helped me decide on a good direction to pursue.

Romantic suspense will still be part of my line-up, though I think the Circles series has come to an end. The next mystery will be a full length novel with more development and probably a more complicated plot. However, my mysteries will be in the same high action/adventure (sometimes in the wilderness) style as the Circles mysteries. I’ll still be working on The Vampire Guard, however it’ll be my ‘written for me’ side pet project stories. Sentries has been completed, though I may offer free stories on my website from time to time.

This isn’t the first time in my life I’ve taken a new path. I’ve always tried to live by the adage “I’m nothing if not adaptable”. Honestly, every change of direction for me has always been a good one. I’m excited over this change.

Coming soon, awaiting contract decision and in the works are two Dreamspun Desires books, a BDSM featuring an ice dancer and a hockey player. Of course there is a murder mystery planned, it will take place in Wrigleyville. There may also be a scifi romance in the future.

I hope you’ll join me in my new writing adventure!

I’m always excited and happy to take requests from readers, so if anyone has a plot bunny bouncing around you’d like to share please let me know!

Elizabeth

PS…you can find all my books on my website, click on the banner below.

There is also a great new repository site for finding Quiltbag/LGBTQ+ books. Check out Queeromance Inc.

Relaunching a Series by Sarah Madison: Why do it?

Sorry, I’m a bit late getting here today. I’ve been working a number of things, not the least of which is trying to put some blog posts in the bag so I can get ahead of my commitments for a change. Among other things, I’m putting together a series of posts about my experiences at Writer’s Police Academy last summer, which I plan to share here. As soon as I can decipher my notes, that is!

In the meantime, I’m delighted to share with you the brand new look for the Sixth Sense series!

You might be asking yourself why anyone would relaunch an old series wit a new look? I’m glad you did! On the surface of it, it probably doesn’t seem to make much sense. A little backstory is necessary.

Unspeakable Words was the very first major story I submitted for publication back in 2010. I did it on a whim, really. I had no expectations of it being accepted by Dreamspinner Press or winding up on their bestseller list for over a month! I’ll be honest, when I got the acceptance email I was flabbergasted–and came very close to snatching the story back from them. I was afraid if I did, however, I would blow my one chance to be a published author. I’ve always wished I’d trusted my instincts and held out for the opportunity to flesh the story out the way I saw it in my mind.

There was an unfortunate delay between Unspeakable Words and the next installment, Walk a Mile. Some of it was inexperience on my part,  some of it was as a result of life getting in the way. When I submitted Walk a Mile, I don’t think anyone realized that I’d jumped from a long novella into novel format. I didn’t think anything of it myself–not until I began running into people who didn’t want to buy the paperbacks because the first in the series was only available as an ebook. Truth and Consequences rolled on in the same novel format–it was only Unspeakable Words that didn’t fit the lineup.

So I went to Dreamspinner and asked if it would be possible to expand Unspeakable Words into the story I’d always meant for it to be. They said yes–and then suggested revamping the series look for the revised version. I’m delighted to announce that not only has L.C. Chase done a bang-up job of capturing the essence of these stories–which I was far more capable of conveying due to developing the skills I needed as an author–but you can now pre-order the expanded, revised version of Unspeakable Words! Release date March 10, 2017.

I hope you’ll enjoy revisiting these guys as much as I have–I’m working on the fourth (and final) installment now, tentatively titled Deal with the Devil.

Write it and They Will Come by Charley Descoteaux

Hi everyone! Charley Descoteaux here for my monthly column, thanks for joining me. Hope you all enjoyed the holidays and are keeping warm (or cool :)) this crazy January.

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January is when we start working on the goals we made in December. I didn’t do a lot of goal-setting this year, but do have a couple. One is to launch a new pen name: Charli Coty. Eventually everything I write will be under this name, for many reasons. But those reasons aren’t what I’m talking about today.

Part of launching a new pen name—or a first pen name—is a social media presence. Some of us love social media , some loathe it, and most of us are somewhere in between. I like it when I’m having fun, chatting with friends or making cool graphics (when they don’t end up looking like a five year-old made them ;)).

2015-rainbow-rose-facebook-iconBut promotion is hard. When I began establishing the Descoteaux name I worked hard to promote it without going overboard, usually by hosting other authors on my blog and talking about their books. I’m much more comfortable promoting other authors than myself, and didn’t completely crash and burn, so I considered it mildly successful. With Coty, I wanted to take what I’d learned and work smarter, not harder.

Setting up the accounts was easy, but it’s another thing maintaining two complete sets of social media profiles, along with a day job and trying to write. I kept forgetting my Coty presence. With a book coming out Jan. 30 that’s no longer an option, so I came up with a way to give myself the needed incentive to post to my Coty blog at least once a week.

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#QueerBlogWed is like #MondayBlogs (in theory, not in scope :)). Every Wednesday I post something new and Tweet it on the hashtag, and most weeks a handful of Tweeps join me. It’s a fledgling group to say the least but I’ve been posting every Wednesday, so it’s a win. So far we’ve had a lot of snippets from WIPs and posts about yearly goals, book recommendations, and cool places to hang out online.

If you’d like to join us please do—no sign-up necessary—just Tweet a link to a blog post on Wednesdays, use the hashtag, and RT others. The post doesn’t have to be new that day; bring back a golden oldie or a post you’re especially proud of and get it in front of new eyes. Or just read the posts and RT the ones you like! The only two rules are no promo, and the content has to be by/for/about the LGBTQIA+ community. Check out the pinned post at @QueerBlogWed or the hashtag to see offerings from past weeks, but that’s pretty much it!

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The first novel originally released under my new pseudonym will be released by NineStar Press on January 30! It’s a dark paranormal with romantic elements and I hope you enjoy it!

thevisionary-fThe Visionary by Charli Coty

Colin Page, eighteen-year-old community college student, apple polisher and all-around goody-goody, has a secret. He sees things that aren’t there. Unfortunately, the Doc Martens on the floor of the mail vestibule in his apartment building really are there and attached to a dead body. Hunkered over the body is someone Colin had barely noticed before, Private Investigator Al Green. Most people scare Colin, but for some reason, Al doesn’t, even after he reveals that he knows about the hidden reality of their world.

Alonzo Green, despite his low-power mind, is determined to help right the wrongs he unknowingly contributed to. He’s also hopelessly smitten. He knows it’s wrong—probably even dangerous—to enlist Colin’s help with the investigation. And that’s before considering all Al has to fear from Colin’s fiercely protective and powerful mother.

Colin and Al put some of the pieces together, but as soon as one thing becomes clear, the picture changes. The search for the Big Bad takes them from Portland to Tacoma and Seattle, and eventually to San Francisco, but their journey into each other’s arms is much shorter.

Pre-order The Visionary at the NineStar Press store!

Join #RainbowSnippets for sneak peeks at The Visionary and more fabulous LGBTQIA+ fiction!

Keep up with the new me!

Newsletter: https://my.sendinblue.com/users/subscribe/js_id/2m34r/id/1

Blog:  https://charlicoty.com/

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/charli.coty

NineStar Press Author Page: http://ninestarpress.com/authors/charli-coty/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/CharliCoty

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/charlicoty/

 

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I Write What I Love and Love What I Write

There’s a ton of advice for writers whether they be published, aspiring or true hobby writers. We’re all authors, the difference is some of us are professional authors who get paid in currency. The truth is we all get paid in compliments and reviews no matter in what the forum and format we publish. Follow the rules of grammar, research your facts and write what you know, that’s preached in dozens, if not hundreds, of books offering writing advice.

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I say don’t worry about writing what you know, you can learn about a topic you wish to include in a story.

I believe in writing what you love!

One thing we all have in common is at some point we write a story for ourselves. We write the tale we want told, the one we want to read. There are various reasons we authors write different stories. Some are continuations of other stories–the birth of the series. Others write about events in their lives or a world they created as an escape.

All of us who write stories that are shared with the public in some manner sometimes create those stories to please others. I’ve run contests where fans can choose character names, or situations one or more characters need to face in a certain story. I created an entire series from prompts offered to writers in a fandom group I once belonged to. I’ve participated in author auctions where readers bid on their favorite authors to write a story for them. The money goes to charity and they’re a lot of fun. I’ve also written stories for group projects that required adhering to a certain theme.

Those stories turned out to be good stories and were well received. Some have won amateur and professional awards.

Then there are the other books and stories. The ones I wrote for me. The ones that were total self-indulgence.

Some of those books were a bit of an experiment, the representation of stretching my writer’s wings so to speak.

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Others progress a bigger story, but are written around plots I had swimming around in my head for months or years. These were stories that include elements I’d been waiting to work into a story. I simply had to wait for the right story to come along.

 

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Then there are stories I write that fall into that pure self-indulgence category. These are the books that are truly for me. The story I wanted to tell and I don’t waiver much, if at all, from my original plot ideas.

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Each of these books have something special to me, near and dear to my heart.

Readers may be surprised to learn authors have favorites, and write books not only for their audience but themselves, but I’m here to say it’s true! Books are important to different people for many reasons. We all have our comfort reads and for me, I have my comfort writes. Even though I adore all the books I’ve written (and the fanfic), these are the books that I go back and read again and again, not as their creator and not as an author, but as Elizabeth the person, the reader.

One might think that because I created these works I’d know everything inside the covers. Not so! When I read them, or any book, as a reader more than once I always find something new. That’s the joy of reading and of writing. Discovering something that makes you feel good inside.

I’m always excited to hear from readers. If you’d like to contact me for any reason I can be at elizabeth.noble19@gmail.com, or visit my website, Emotion In Motion.

Elizabeth

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Circles

The Vampire Guard

The Sleepless City

 

Tempeste O’Riley’s Monthly Author Column: Disability Author or Writer of Life?

Hello everyone! Thanks so much for stopping by again. I know I’ve been MIA for a bit *blushes* but health has been kicking me around a bit. But, I’m back and will do my best to be here every month for you. Today I’m here to talk a little about something I keep being asked and thought I’d write up as a post instead of relying on all the little replies making the rounds, lol. “Are you a disability author?”

Now, that’s an interesting question that I both smile and frown at. Yes, you can do both, lol. The answer is no, I’m not. Yes, I have a habit of writing characters that have challenges, be they abuse, family, mobility, health, hearing, or other…. But, I do not consider myself a “disability author.” I’m not specifically writing “disabled” characters as a “thing.” I know some authors have a niche, but mine is homoerotic love, in all it’s forms, though I’ve only written with boy bits so far (under this name). I do have a few differently-abled (love that term, thank you Josh for insisting I see myself that way instead of a disabled or broken as I had been told I was by others now in my past!) characters, but the point of the story isn’t their mobility or hearing or … issue, it’s the friendship and life and eventual love they find that their “disability” has nothing to do with.

We all want to see ourselves in the stories we read, the poor, the sick, the rich, the lonely, the successful, the ___…. I write for everyone. Therefore, I put a little of everyone into my stories. One day, you might even find you in one Winking smile

Right now I’m working on two books—the MCs keep trading off who’s louder, ugh! –and in one, one of the MCs has an anxiety disorder and is a sub and in the other, the soon to be sub has been met before, in Dreamers’ Destiny. Nate was referred to as having twisted legs by one of the other characters, though it didn’t bother the guy. It was just a descriptor like saying he had blue eyes or something. What he actually has is severe Internal Tibial Torsion (rotated shin bone) and Femoral Anteversion (twisted thigh bone).

Should we consider either one disabled?

Now, for a fun question or two… Do you have any questions/topics you’d love to see me write about? If so, please email me at tempeste@tempesteoriley.com and let me know! Also, what should I call my monthly column? It needs a name…. But as most know, I’m shite with naming things. Ask anyone in the know how Whiskers of a Chance got it’s name, lol…. For all suggestions, ideas, or just to drop me a note, please email me at tempeste@tempesteoriley.com.

For a chance to win any eBook from by backlist, tell me your favorite story with an MC that had a disability of some form (physical, mental, etc.) in the comment section below. (Don’t forget to leave your email so I can notify you if you win.)

And remember, having a little glitch makes us unique, not broken. Be proud of being you and hold out for that person that sees all of you, instead of just the issue. It’s worth it—even more so in real life than in the stories we write.

Turn The Page…. (Suicide Awareness & Prevention Anthology)
by Tempeste O’Riley, Dianne Hartsock, Nikki Prince, Grace R. Duncan, Sue Brown, Aine P Massie, Carole Cummings, Hope Ryan, Mark Zubro, Antonia Aquilante, D. Zander Crane

M/M F/F Transgender Genderfluid 
Contemporary Urban Fantasy Paranormal BDSM Romance
(Each story is unique and special, so the genre varies wildly. All are LGBTQ)

Publisher: Abbey of the Brew City Sisters
Cover Artist: Jess Small
Release Date: October 7, 2016 (ebook/print)
Length: Novel / 270 pages

Turn The Page…. began as a simple idea and grew from there. No matter how bad things seem to be, just turn the page, there’s more—better—things to come. This is only one chapter in your life. It’s not the whole story. With this simple idea, Novice Sister Eroti-Quill—whom most know better as Tempeste O’Riley—began their quest to help Suicide Prevention and Awareness programs in their area. They managed to con (excuse me, convince) other authors to donate their time and stories to the project, and now, many months later, Turn The Page is born!

The authors in this anthology donated their talent as a way to support Eroti-Quill’s hope for others, to help bring strength to programs that so desperately need funding. It will allow them show those that need support but may not have it, or that may be afraid to reach out, just how much love and understanding surrounds them. Turn The Page…. is a diverse range of stories about the journey of love, hope, and acceptance.

Amazon  Create Space   B & N  Smashwords Kobo 

Homo-Erotic Romance Author, Tempeste O’Riley is an out and proud pansexual genderfluid whose best friend growing up had the courage to do what they couldn’t – defy the hate and come out. He has been their hero ever since. Tempe is a hopeless romantic who loves strong relationships and happily-ever-afters. They count their friends, family, and Muse as their greatest blessings in life.

Tempe is also a PAN member of Romance Writers of America®, Rainbow Romance Writers, and WisRWA.

Website: http://tempesteoriley.com/

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year by Sarah Madison

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I frequently have recurring themes in my stories. One of the most common is the notion that life is more than mere survival. That’s one I need to remind myself of often. By that, I mean life is more than going to work, paying the bills, mowing the lawn, etc. It’s more than going through the motions of living so that at the end of your life you can rest. If that’s your sole motivation in this world, your life is going to be mighty bleak indeed.

Another common theme in my stories is the idea that you can build your own family. Maybe it’s with friends or teammates. Maybe it’s with your children, or pets, or the people in your community, but family doesn’t necessarily have to be people who are related to you. That’s another major lesson I’ve learned in life.

I think one of the reasons I love holiday stories and movies is because my flesh-and-blood family doesn’t really celebrate the holidays. There are many reasons why people don’t. They can be estranged from their relatives, either physically or emotionally. They can have bad memories associated with such events and avoid them like the plague. They can be struggling with depression and unable to participate in anyone else’s joy. In the case of my family, we’re scattered all over the country, constrained by jobs and tight finances to rely on an annual phone call on holidays to stay in touch for the most part. This very pragmatic approach to a time of year when most people look forward to celebrations makes me crave the magic and romance of holiday stories. I love the ridiculous set-ups, the cute-meets, the unabashed sentimentality of the songs, movies and stories.

christmas-1524357-1279x1705This year, I compiled a list of mostly M/M romance holiday stories past and present. Some are free, some are only available for pre-order just yet, but if you love holiday stories, this list is for you! And if you’re an author who’s written a holiday story, please feel free to leave a link in the comments!

I’m also participating in Divine Promotions 2016 Christmas Blog Hop! The hop runs until 12/17, so there’s still time to check out the blog posts and enter the Rafflecopter Giveway for the terrific prizes! Many participants are holding their own giveaways as well, so be sure to do the hop! You’ll find links to the other blogs, holiday memories, recipes and more at my website link above.

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Given how much I love holiday stories, it’s no surprise I’ve written one of my own, now is it? Holiday House Swap is available from Dreamspinner Press on Dec 21, 2016, but you can pre-order it now from these outlets:

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2gT2a1o

Amazon CA: http://amzn.to/2gOUf6c

Amazon AU: http://amzn.to/2gOVv9w

Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2gGsV9P

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2gfbQDo

Dreamspinner Press: http://bit.ly/2gIcJ8B

All Romance: http://bit.ly/2fS1JDy

Blurb:

Reclusive writer Noah Kinley is facing a dilemma: how to confess to the world he’s really the author of a best-selling romance series. For years, his friend Julie has been the face of his brand, but she wants her life back now. Fast running out of ideas for his popular series, Noah wants to break out into other genres. Not that he’s writing much of anything at the moment anyway, thanks to paralyzing writer’s block. With his publisher breathing down his neck for the next installment, he hopes a change of scene will get his writer’s juices flowing again. Desperate enough to try anything, during the holidays Noah swaps his isolated cabin in the woods for a gentrified horse farm.

USAF Major Connor Harrison has chosen forced retirement over facing charges for an unauthorized mission to rescue a buddy from behind enemy lines. No one expects him home for the holidays, and he certainly didn’t anticipate finding a stranger in his house, much less Noah Kinley with his acid tongue and a wry sense of humor that pierces all of Connor’s defenses.

Both men need to figure out what the next chapter in their lives will be—and whether it will include each other.
Cover Artist: Brooke Albrecht

Excerpt:

To his delight, a wall switch within arm’s length turned out to be for a sound system. He fiddled with the dial until he found a radio station playing Christmas music. He sank down into the bubbling water until just his toes and head were sticking out. Bing Crosby sang a rousing rendition of “Mele Kalikimaka.” Obviously another indication the station was getting desperate for different Christmas songs already. Then the playlist segued into one of many versions of “Santa Baby,” all of which Noah hated. Still, the sheer bliss of soaking in a steaming tub without having to cross a snow-covered porch to get there had him humming along when “The Twelve Days of Christmas” came on.

Noah had just belted out “five go-old rings” when he opened his eyes to see the bathroom door slowly swinging toward him. His jaw dropped in horror when he saw a soldier dressed in desert camo standing in the entranceway. The man had a 9mm in his hand and had used the barrel to open the door.

Noah couldn’t help it. He shrieked and flung the Kindle aside, ducking down into the Jacuzzi. It didn’t take him long to realize this wasn’t a workable escape plan, and he burst up out of the water, gasping for air. Blinking soapy water out of his eyes, he grasped the wine bottle by the neck and swung it overhead with the intent of throwing it.

To his surprise, while he’d been underwater, the solider had holstered his gun. The man had also taken off his cap to reveal a shock of short brown hair practically sticking up on end. He was leaning against the sink with his arms folded across his chest. The overhead light made his eyes gleam like a cat’s, almost amber in color. His two-day stubble made him look like an extra from Miami Vice. Although he no longer acted as though he planned to shoot Noah, he gave off a dangerous vibe just the same.

“Calm down.” He was unimpressed by Noah’s defensive posture. “I’m guessing you’re not a burglar after all. Unless you’re the kind of thief who enjoys breaking into other people’s houses to take bubble baths.”

“I’m not a thief!” Fear sharpened into anger. “Your first clue should have been the Ford Fiesta sitting in the driveway. A real thief would drive something more impressive, like a black Hummer or something. The second tip-off should have been the fact there’s no evidence of a break-in, and the third should’ve been, I don’t know, perhaps my luggage sitting in the guest room?” Rage made his blood pressure go up like a rocket. “Whereas you came busting in here with a gun in your hand, so tell me, Lieutenant Soldier Man, why the hell I shouldn’t call the police right now?”

Noah noted his hand holding the wine was trembling, and he hastily set the bottle down. Awareness of his naked state, damp and only thinly covered by soap, made him ooze back down into the bubbles. He swept some toward him to cover strategic areas, all while glaring at the soldier.

“Well, I don’t know,” the military man drawled in a lazy manner that sent a little chill down Noah’s spine, even though he was hunkered down in the steaming water. “Maybe because I’m between you and the phone. Maybe because I still have a gun and you don’t. Or maybe—” The man pushed himself off the sink and took a step closer to the tub, pressing his fists into his hips as he leaned over to speak with emphasis. “Maybe because I live here.”

Noah gasped. “You do not!”

Holiday stories–with their potential for hope, joy, and a little bit of magic–are what makes this the most wonderful time of year for me. How about you?

Bio:

Sarah Madison is a writer with a little dog, a large dog, an even bigger horse, too many cats, and a very patient boyfriend. An amateur photographer and a former competitor in the horse sport known as eventing, when she’s not out hiking with the dogs or down at the stables, she’s at the laptop working on her next story. When she’s in the middle of a chapter, she relies on the smoke detector to tell her dinner is ready. She writes because it’s cheaper than therapy.

Sarah Madison was a finalist in the 2013, 2015, and 2016 Rainbow Awards. The Boys of Summer won Best M/M Romance in the 2013 PRG Reviewer’s Choice Awards. The Sixth Sense series was voted 2nd place in the 2014 PRG Reviewer’s Choice Awards for Best M/M Mystery series, and 3rd place in the 2105 PGR Reviewer’s Choice Awards for Best M/M Paranormal/Urban Fantasy series.

If you want to make her day, e-mail her and tell you how much you like her stories.

Website: http://www.sarahmadisonfiction.com

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Sarah-Madison/e/B004K9QY5C/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1471196589&sr=1-2-ent

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E-mail: akasarahmadison@gmail.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sarah-Madison-Author/106445646104338

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SarahMadisonFic

 

A Different Kind of Holiday Guide

Hello and welcome to my December column! The weather here in the Pacific Northwest has been cold and icy this week, but we got some beautiful snow as well to put us in the holiday spirit.

You might have seen the infographics going around near Halloween, explaining the reasons behind some less-than-desirable behaviors that kids could exhibit around the candy bowls. Well, this is that—sort of—only regarding the queers whose families have bailed.

I know, a lot of people have found their large family of choice and love the holidays. Many—family of choice or not—just don’t. We’re not bad people, we just don’t think or feel the same way holiday-lovers do. It’s not something you’ll hear a lot of talk about—it’s just not socially acceptable to be riddled with anxiety about the holidays, or outright loathe them.

Some of these might only apply to me, but some are from other folks entirely and I reserve the right to preserve plausible deniability. 🙂

  1. If you get an email that doesn’t ask about your Thanksgiving or whether you’re ready for Christmas/Hanukkah/Yule/etc., that person might not be a mean Grinch. They could be super-rushed.
    • Or, they could have barely made it past Thanksgiving with their sanity intact and are grateful it’s over;
    • Or, they could be experiencing so much anxiety over the holiday season that they spend hours editing the holiday greeting sentence and still feel it doesn’t sound normal enough to send;
    • Or, they might have so much anxiety about it that they delete the whole email and end up not answering you at all, even if they really want to keep in contact.
  2. If someone isn’t talking about their holiday plans—where they’re going or who’s coming to their house or what they’ll be cooking—consider that they might not want to discuss it because in their world the holidays are a time to batten down the hatches and ride things out, not a time to celebrate.
  3. If you’re organizing a work potluck and someone says they’re not into it because they’re trying to lose weight, consider that they might be using that excuse because it’s easier than saying “potlucks remind me of my mom, who cut me out of the family because I’m queer”. They might honestly be trying to lose weight or eat healthier, but all three are good reasons to bow out of a potluck or resist sampling every treat brought to the office.
  4. This might seem a little off the track, but bear with me. In some cultures it’s seen as respectful to call people cuz—as in cousin—or auntie. I know they don’t mean to hurt anyone, but consider the person whose family won’t let them be an aunt/uncle/cousin because of their orientation or gender identity. If you call someone “auntie” and they’re unhappy about it, maybe stop calling them that without a big discussion about why.

Some people don’t have families to celebrate with, and even some who do have a hard time around the holidays. Your quiet acceptance can go a long way toward making this time of year more bearable. Hugs might also help, but you might want to ask permission first.

Happy Holidays!

holidayweekend_headerbannerIf you like a little angst with your holiday stories you might like my Christmas story Holiday Weekend, Buchanan House: Book Five. It’s releasing next Friday, the 16th.

Sign up for my newsletter here for more information about the blog tour for Holiday Weekend, advance news of a special sale, and upcoming releases.

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This post originally appeared on my Charli Coty blog for #QueerBlogWed.

photo credit: marfis75 santa hood (cc) 🙂 via photopin (license)

Why We Need Our Storytellers Now More Than Ever by Sarah Madison

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This isn’t the post I intended to write.

I’d originally planned a lighthearted piece about the value of play in stimulating creativity, but that was before the results of the Presidential election. While this is not going to be a political post per se, it was written in reaction to the elections.

Suffice to say, I am horrified, shocked, and yes, terrified. And one of the side effects of this is that I’ve had to take a long hard look at whether I can afford to continue writing.

I know, that seems like such a trivial consideration when you look at the impact this election will have on our country, our citizens, and our planet for decades to come. But it is, I think, a valid one. Writing takes up a significant portion of my time. Yes, it’s a passion, but it is frequently a source of frustration as well. It’s time spent doing something I hope will also help pay the bills, but let’s be realistic: a second job would do that more reliably and efficiently.

Not to mention, I find it incredibly difficult to write when I’m stressed. This past year hasn’t been particularly productive for me, since I have been fretting about this election for at least that long. Now that my worst nightmares have come true, I am facing, at minimum, four years of high-level stress. That’s what I tell myself in order to make myself feel better, mind you. In reality, it will be worse for years to come. Possibly the rest of my life.

Then there is the feeling right now that writing is a frivolous waste of time. How can I occupy myself writing fluffy romances where there are so many battles needing to be fought? Wouldn’t it be a better use of my time putting that energy into other areas? At the very least, something serious and worthy?

So yes, for a period of about 48 hours, I felt as though all hope was gone. I literally did not know how I would continue in a country I no longer recognized as my own. And then I began reading messages of support and encouragement. They came from my friends at first—reminding me how much pleasure writing gives me, but also how much pleasure my stories give other people. For years now, I’ve said my main goal in telling stories was to make someone’s crappy day a bit better—to provide a few hours entertainment, to let someone lose themselves in another world for a little while—so they could forget the stressful job, or their chronic illness, or the burdens of their daily life. My dear friends reminded me of that, and I deeply thank them for their unwavering support and belief in what we do as creators. What I do as a creator. Now, more than ever, we are going to need relief we get from reading stories that make us happy.

But it’s more than that. A Finnish friend of mine, a wonderful writer, penned this statement as a means of encouragement to us all:

“We are the people who create. And I don’t just mean that we’re creative, I mean that in no matter how big or small a way, we bring something good into this world, make it better. We build instead of destroy, make things move forward instead of back. We create friendships and fandom families that stick together. We create positive thoughts and energy that will always spread farther than we think. We create better versions of ourselves, and help others grow that way too. We create stories, crafts, art, discussions, pictures, and so much more, and bring joy to others through what we do. We create love. So many times this place, the fandom, all you people, have saved my day when I have needed it the most. And every time I hear that something I did or created did the same for someone else, I feel a little surprised that I had such power, but also very happy that I could shine some light on a day that might have been anything between mildly grey and near dark.”

Her words came into my darkness like a shining beacon.

Chuck Wendig, an author who posts kick-ass blogs about being a writer, posted a list of constructive things we as creators can do, titled Mourn, Then Get Mad, Then Get Busy. I found this post heartening as well. In particular because it acknowledged my fear and despair, and then gave me practical things I could do about it.

My BF, God bless him, sent me this link, which also inspired me. It’s from the comic, Oatmeal, entitled It’s Going To Be Okay. I confess, I didn’t want to read it at first because I didn’t want someone trying to persuade me things aren’t going to be as bad as I fear, but I was very glad I did. You should read it too.

Last night, long after I should have been asleep, I came across this tweet from George Takei:

The Ministry has fallen. Death Eaters are about. But, my wizards, together we can defeat the dark tides of bigotry and intolerance. #WandsUp

It made me smile in a painful sort of way, but it also reminded me the power of the written word. The magic of stories that makes us not only see similarities between world events and books we grew up loving, but it makes us want to be better people. We want the Ring to get to Mordor. We want to see Voldemort vanquished, the Empire defeated and Palpatine destroyed. We want to believe that one day, ignorance, hatred, and intolerance will give way to the kind of society that creates Starfleet, and that people of all races, genders, nationalities, and species can serve together—as a team—on the greatest starship of all time. Because otherwise, we’ll all be living in Panem, and the Hunger Games will begin soon.

I won’t kid you. I’m terrified for the future of my planet, for society as a whole, for my personal health and safety. And I’ve been wondering what one exhausted, frightened, middle-aged woman can do. The answer is, I can continue to write. My stories might not change the world. I probably won’t create the next Harry Potter series, or write something that catches fire like the Hunger Games. I write romances, and heck, I probably won’t even write the next 50 Shades of Gray. But what I can do, in my own quiet way, is tell stories where diversity and acceptance aren’t dirty words, and where love wins in the end.

If I make someone fall in love with a character who is not like them—if I humanize that person for them and make that reader want what is best for them—then I’ve taken steps that might make them stop viewing ‘different’ as ‘other’. And if the only thing I achieve is that I make one other exhausted, frightened person feel a little bit better, a little bit calmer, even for a few hours, then I’ve done a good thing. If I can make one person say, “Whoa, that isn’t right, and we need to change that,” then I have done a great thing.

Let’s all go out there and do great things.

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