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.


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


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.



I completely forgot about the Rafflecopter giveaway! All of us here at Authors Speak have donated a prize to the contest. Nine free stories to the winner!
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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!




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 pixabay.com.

Let it Go: Perfection is Killing Your Craft by Sarah Madison

Hello! Sarah Madison here. I apologize for recycling another blog post. I wrote this a while back for a book tour. I think a maybe handful of people read it then, but I think it’s worth sharing again. 🙂 At the moment, I’m at Writer’s Police Academy! I hope to have some interesting things to share on my return.

For now, I’d like to talk about one of the most destructive things possible to the writing process.

SnowHawkeye-resized_zps4d715482 - Copy

Most people who follow me on Facebook or on my website know I’m a huge Frozen fan. I’ve written several blog posts on the subject, most particularly why a Disney movie could speak so strongly to a middle-aged woman. I suspect it has a lot to do with the fact that many of us live lives like Elsa, hiding our inner powers because we’ve been taught to conform, to fit it, to ‘be the good girl you always have to be.’ That we followed the rules, worked hard, did what we were told, and frequently got bupkis for our efforts. In that post, I listed a number of things I needed to let go of in order to stop binding myself to the same narrative in my life.

But I forgot one important thing.

I forgot to let go of the notion of perfection.

I think perfectionism goes hand in hand with the mindset I’ve described above, of always trying to be the Good Girl, the Perfect Girl, the one our parents urged us to be. I could make this blog post all about the pros and cons of trying to instill certain traits in our children, but that’s not what this is about. No, what I’m talking about now is how perfectionism is the deadly enemy of creativity.


In any other era, I’d probably still be an unpublished author, but the digital age has been kind to me. I’d been writing fanfiction for years when a friend encouraged me to write and submit original fiction for publication. To my surprise, my stories were accepted! I dashed off three or four more stories that were all accepted as well before it suddenly hit me. Oh crap. I was a published author. Did I even know what I was doing?

A lot of well-meaning friends gifted me with books on writing, and I adore them for encouraging me in my dream, but the more I read, the more I discovered I was doing it all wrong. Mortified, I took online courses, read more books, and found a great critique group. I continued to write, but I was no longer pumping out a novella a month. I began to doubt my ability, and I cringed when I re-read older works. Worse, I developed a Critical Voice in my head that made it nearly impossible to read anything without automatically correcting it, even beloved stories I’d re-read time and time again.


I wanted each story to be better than the last, which is a laudable goal, but it can stymie you when you are trying to write a scene for the first time. I thought I was producing better stories, only to have them shredded by editors who found fault with things I’d accepted as appropriate styles my entire life. For the last eight months, I’ve been re-writing the same five chapters in a new-for-me genre because it is so very important to me to get the main character right. And yet all I’m doing is smudging the paper with my erasures and re-writing of words until I have nothing but a grubby, pedantic mess on my hands. I need to either finish it or kill it. Either way, I need to move on.

The main problem is I forgot some of the basic tenants of writing.

  1. Let it Go Part 1: Write for yourself first. Write the story you want to tell. Write the story you’d want to read. Have fun with it. Stop expecting each new story to be THE story, the breakout novel that will rocket you to the bestseller list and solve your financial woes. If you’re not having fun with the story, no one else will either. This is not to say writing isn’t hard work; just that the end product should be something you enjoy.
  2. Let it Go Part 2: You want to throw every ridiculous trope into the story? Rainbow-colored Ninja Kittens with hearts of gold shooting fireballs with their eyes as they save the day? Go for it. Chances are, you won’t keep that first incarnation, but it might just morph into a less-impossible character that everyone will love. Most of my stories begin as hopelessly Harlequinesque sappy stories that I gradually mold into something less improbable. Why? Because we love tropes for a reason. Don’t be afraid to put the things you love into a story. Chances are, someone else will love it too.
  3. Let it Go Part 3: Ignore the Critical Voice that tells you this sentence isn’t perfect and tries to hold you in place before letting you move on. Words are like Doritos—you can make more! You aren’t limited to a set number and you’re allowed to cut, paste, delete, alter, and add on in the next draft. First drafts ARE rubbish. No one expects them to be otherwise. If you think typing The End on a first draft means you can breathe a sigh of relief and mark your job as done, you are wrong. You’ve just reached a stopping point where you can camp for a while and catch your breath.
  4. Let it Go Part 4: After you’ve sent your draft to beta readers, after you’ve cleaned it up to the best of your ability, stop polishing that gem and send it off to your editor. I don’t care if you’re self-published or not, you need a good editor. I personally do not think anyone should edit their own work. I don’t think you can be objective enough. One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made as an author was thinking that my best story was good enough as it stood. It wasn’t. You need someone who is going to make you ruthlessly trim and prune until your story is the best it can possibly be. The hard truth is that’s NOT you, or your BBFs, or your beta readers. Let the editor do his or her job. Don’t try to anticipate the editing process while you’re writing the story. That’s not the time to do it. The truth is, the more you do this, the better you’ll get. But it’s a little like the Force. You have to let it flow through you.
  5. Let it Go Part 5: Stop comparing yourself to others. On any given day, someone among my Facebook acquaintances appears to be receiving outstanding recognition for their efforts. They’re winning awards, or topping the charts, or they’ve been mentioned in glowing terms by some prestigious reviewer. It makes you feel small, doesn’t it? Like nothing you do matters. The truth of the matter is that whether you know it or not, someone is looking at YOUR achievements and wishing they had your luck, your talent, your ability. Be happy for the successes of others and remember it doesn’t affect your odds of the same. Self-doubt and self-sabotage are our biggest enemies. And perfectionism masks itself as something to strive for while in reality, it kills your story from within.

Give yourself permission not to be perfect. You’ll be astonished at how freeing this can be, not just in your writing, but in life as well.


My latest release, Fool’s Gold, is now available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited. If you love horses and the thrill of the Olympic Games, you’ll love this story of second chances and lost loves!


Taking Chances by Charley Descoteaux

castle-1016717_640Hi there, Charley Descoteaux back for my monthly spot on Author’s Speak. Thanks for visiting and thanks, Lou, for not changing the locks after last month. 😉

Recently, a friend sent me an email about a contest she thought I should enter. I missed the window because I thought none of my books fit the guidelines but that got me thinking about the contests I have entered, and why. (It also forced me to wonder how I could forget the ethnicity of one of my own main characters, but I’m writing that off to Real Life Interference.) Contests are fun to enter, and I always find new books for my TBR pile. With the way 2016 has been going I’m not about to pass up anything fun.


Earlier this year I entered the Twitter pitch contest #DVpit. In case you haven’t heard of it (I hadn’t until the day before) #DVpit is a Twitter event created to showcase pitches about and especially by marginalized voices. Authors pitch their finished manuscripts in 140 characters or less and hope that an agent, editor, or publisher will favorite that tweet. Favoriting a tweet is an invitation to send the story,  to let the author know they want to read it.

My #DVpit pitches were favorited twice—which isn’t bad, considering I hadn’t had much time to prepare—by one agent and one publisher. The agent ultimately wasn’t interested but the publisher who liked the sound of my bisexual genderqueer Romance caught my attention and has since contracted a different story for publication early next year.


Last week I heard that #PitchWars 2016 was about to start so I checked it out  and ended up submitting my #DVpit story. The submission window has just closed so I probably won’t know if anyone wants to mentor my manuscript until the end of the month, but that’s not really the point. Sure, I’d love to land an agent and a deal with a Big Five publisher but the point is that I took a chance, ventured out of my comfort zone. That carries its own rewards. It’s been fun following the different #PitchWars hashtags (especially #PitchTease and #knowthementees) but I don’t really expect to be chosen from the pool of literally hundreds of entries.


The larger point of this post is that you never know what will happen when you take a chance. For authors, that could mean catching the attention of an agent or contracting a book with a new publisher. In life in general~the sky’s the limit.


Next month I’ll be looking forward to the Gay Romance Northwest Meet-up (especially the panel on bisexual characters which I’ll be on with some awesome authors and editors) and Bi Visibility Day on the 23rd, so expect something non-monosexual in this space! In the meantime, let’s chat about what you’ve done to shake things up lately.

What chances have you taken lately? How have you pushed yourself to grow—or just to have a little fun?

Leave a comment here or catch up with me online & continue the conversation!

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All photos used in this post are courtesy of the lovely folks at pixabay.com.

Sitting on the KU Fence

No dice

To KU or not KU–it’s a question I’ve been pondering for months now. I wrote a post about my ongoing waffling debate about whether or not to list with Kindle Unlimited, at the end of which I’d almost convinced myself not to do it. My reasons were varied–Amazon is paying authors based on a model of number of pages read: but they can’t accurately determine this number, nor can they keep scammers from playing the system to their advantage. The changing TOS is worrisome, as well as the feeling that even for those who say KU is working well for them, this is just a bubble that will collapse once Amazon owns the entire reading market.

Only, there’s that promise of a payout now… the notion that this story, if enrolled, might be the one that catches fire. That, because of Amazon’s aggressive promoting of KU stories over others, this story will be the one that helps pay the bills, brings new readers to your backlist, cures cancer, and will make everything better. Even though intellectually, I know I have a better chance of winning the lottery, it’s a very seductive idea.


So here’s the background: in 2012, I wrote a novella that was part of an anthology. I’d always wanted to go back and expand on the story, and finally in 2016, I got the chance. Because of its previous incarnation as a novella, I can’t submit the revised story to my usual publisher, which means self-publishing. Fine. No big deal. I’ve self-pubbed before, and while I don’t think it fits my current situation as well as working with a publisher, I recognize there might be a time when that changes, so I like the idea of keeping my hand in. Things change so rapidly in this business. What worked in 2013 is déclassé today.


One of the big things that has changed is the notion that a stint on Kindle Unlimited is necessary to the success of a story these days. So as I am coming down to the wire with the release of Fool’s Gold (I only have the formatting left to do, and then I can upload the file), I’m looking at this decision once again.

A couple of new cautionary tales have come to my attention since I last toyed with this idea. This post is about an author who got notified by Amazon she’d been banned for life from publishing because the Zon believed she was guilty of manipulating page-clicks. Read the fine print on the post because according to Amazon, the company will hold you responsible for something a book promoting service you hire might do. Also, getting paid $1.50 for a 300 page book in KU is a bit disheartening, don’t you think? The only way KU can make up for undervaluing stories is to sell them to LOTS of people. But I digress…

This post is by an author who got the same warning letter from Amazon–only she also had someone steal her identity–and she can’t help but wonder if the two things were related: that in fact, someone deliberately ran up her KU numbers because they gained access to her bank account. Her advice was to keep close tabs on your sales through KU and alert Amazon to any unusual spikes before they came looking for you. The Digital Reader posted about similar cases, and concluded that until Amazon could distinguish innocent authors from scammers, the only way to be safe was for authors to pull their books from KU.

Whew. Not very encouraging, is it? I find myself having to weigh the risks of being permanently banned from Amazon as an author because my life is too hectic for me to watch my accounts like a hawk versus the whispers of that promised land of author recognition and financial success. The reality is neither scenario is likely to happen. And I can’t adequately say ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ to something I haven’t tried for myself. I don’t have high expectations for this story–I doubt seriously the average romance reader is going to fall hard for a story set in the world of competitive sport horses! So perhaps Fool’s Gold is the perfect guinea pig.

I’ll let you know.

Oh! I almost forgot–we’re running a Rafflecopter of prizes for signing up to follow the blog via email! Check out all the details here!


Sarah Madison is a writer with a little dog, a big dog, an even bigger horse, too many cats, and an extremely patient boyfriend. You can find her on the web at:



Out Now: Acceptance, Forbes Mates #3 by Grace R. Duncan

Finding his mate is the least of Quincy’s worries–keeping Miles alive is the real priority…and will take every ounce of creativity Quincy has.

Published by Dreamspinner Press
Release date: July 8, 2016
236 pages
Cover artist: Reese Dante


Dr. Miles Grant acknowledges that his destined mate could be either gender even though his bisexuality cost him his family and his pack. Luckily he found the Forbes Pack, who happily accept him just as he is. What he never counted on was finding his mate in Pittsburgh or for his mate to be another species entirely—a cat!

Quincy Archer isn’t just any jaguar shifter. He is the heir to the leadership of his pride. Destined mates are nothing but legend to the nearly extinct and generally solitary jaguars, and Quincy certainly never expected to find one for himself, much less a male… or a wolf.

However, finding each other and coming to terms with their species is the least of their worries. Quincy is expected to select a proper female mate, father a cub, and take his place as heir to the pride. Except Quincy refuses, having no interest in women or leadership and knowing he isn’t right for it. But his father will stop at nothing—not even attempting to kill Miles—to get his way. Quincy and Miles must overcome many obstacles to stay together as the destined mates they’re meant to be.

Get Acceptance here:










Miles flopped down on the end of the couch in the tiny break room and rested his head on the back. His eyes closed on their own before he could tell them to. He didn’t have long—maybe twenty, if he was lucky.

He was seriously regretting taking on so many shifts. But he’d been missing Quincy and needed something to occupy his mind, to distract him. It was ridiculous, he knew that; they’d met twice. But they were mates, destined, and their bond had already started forming. His wolf had been driving him crazy, pushing him to try to find Quincy and mate.

The problem was, whether he liked it or not, he didn’t doubt for a moment Quincy spoke the truth about why they couldn’t be together yet. He’d talked to Chad and Jamie a little and got the gist of the problems Quincy was having, though Chad wasn’t in good enough shape to do much talking yet. He was still recovering from the change, still learning how to filter sounds and light, still learning how to be a wolf.

But Miles’s wolf didn’t understand, didn’t give a shit about any of that. In fact, he was pushing Miles to protect Quincy, which was more than a little laughable. He’d been truthful—he wasn’t afraid of a cat—but he had no knowledge whatsoever of the jaguar world. It still killed him that Diana had given him a cat. He’d been ready for his mate to be either male or female; he would have been content with either, even if his family and former pack had other ideas about that. But no, he had to get a different species altogether.

And a species he didn’t know a damned thing about. He didn’t know how far someone like Quincy’s father would go to get his way. And Miles was a healer, not a fighter. He could fight—all shifters learned how—but that didn’t mean he relished it, so he wasn’t as good as most others.

He needed to see Quincy again, even for a little while. He could appease his wolf a little, make himself feel a little better, and maybe find some patience to wait more.

Quincy had sent a few messages since he’d seen his mate last—in the emergency room waiting area two months ago—mostly texts and a couple of e-mails to let Miles know he was still alive and still in hiding. They’d exchanged little bits about each other, but Quincy hadn’t wanted to say a lot lest it was intercepted. It wasn’t much, but at least knowing Quincy was okay helped keep Miles from going completely insane. He’d like to think he’d know if Quincy was killed, but he wasn’t sure how far their thin bond went, for something like that. When he’d asked Chad how Quincy had gotten his contact information since he’d never had a chance to give it, Chad had told Miles not to wonder about it. But Miles knew at least part of what Quincy did and wasn’t worried. He didn’t think for a moment Quincy would use it against him.

The last two months had been pure hell. He had no idea how Tanner had managed to keep Finley at arm’s length for two years. Granted, they’d been able to date, hang out together, that sort of thing, and he hadn’t so much as glimpsed Quincy in two months.

So he’d spent most of it working. A few times he’d been told point-blank to go home, that he’d been working too much. Whether he’d liked it or not, they’d been right. He’d been so tired he’d barely been standing. But after getting a few hours’ sleep—filled with some very vivid dreams of Quincy—he’d needed to do something.

Since he couldn’t go back to work, he decided to do the other thing he was good at: learn. He’d gone down to the Carnegie Library in Oakland and begun reading up on all things Ancient Egypt, starting with Bastet. He had no idea how much of it was accurate to the jaguars and how much was pure myth, but he figured having a basis to start from wouldn’t hurt.

Miles sighed and sat up again, eyeing the coffee machine in the corner. It was clear he wasn’t going to get any sleep, so he might as well get going the only other way he could. But as he stood and turned to the counter, he got hit with a huge tangle of emotion that wasn’t his. Anger seemed the primary emotion, though there was fear mixed in. And pain. Too much pain.


Miles raced out of the room, not thinking about how it would look—not thinking much at all. If Quincy was close, something was very, very wrong.

Just as he rounded the corner near the ambulance entrance, one of the nurses ran up to meet him. “Dr. Grant! Your pa—”

“Partner,” Miles interrupted, then stopped himself when the nurse simply blinked at him. He’d never told them about a partner—because he hadn’t actually had one, as far as he knew—but he’d deal with that later. “A friend called me,” he said, thinking quickly.

“Oh. Okay. They’re bringing him in now.”

“Thanks. How bad is it?”

Just then the doors opened and the paramedics pushed Quincy in on a stretcher. He was naked except for a sheet, his normally pale skin way too light. He had long gashes on his chest and stomach, but the rest was covered by the sheet. It looked like the scratches—probably caused by shifter claws, if he was any judge—had already started healing, though plenty more still looked wrong with him.

Miles had to take a quick breath, then a second as Quincy’s scent hit him hard—the hint of graphite and paper that overlaid a sweetness incongruent to Quincy’s outer personality. Miles had to shove hard on his wolf. He wanted out and wanted to go after whatever or whoever hurt their mate. Not now. We’ll help our mate, but not now.

With another breath through his mouth, he went into professional mode, falling back on his training and knowledge so he could make sure Quincy healed properly and didn’t raise too many eyebrows in the process.


Follow the blog tour here for chances to win through the Rafflecopter giveaway and for lots of great excerpts and extras!

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About Grace

noh8Grace Duncan grew up with a wild imagination.  She told stories from an early age – many of which got her into trouble.  Eventually, she learned to channel that imagination into less troublesome areas, including fanfiction, which is what has led her to writing male/male erotica.

A gypsy in her own right, Grace has lived all over the United States.  She has currently set up camp in East Texas with her husband and children – both the human and furry kind.

As one of those rare creatures who loves research, Grace can get lost for hours on the internet, reading up on any number of strange and different topics.  She can also be found writing fanfiction, reading fantasy, crime, suspense, romance and other erotica or even dabbling in art.

Find Grace here:

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Shelly Davidson – Happy Independence Day

Happy Independence Day!

I have been pondering what independence means, truly means and I suppose it’s different for everyone. For some, it’s being able to stand on their own two feet (or one if the case may be) and to be able to gain what they desire in their hearts. It’s being able to make choices and to live with those choices. Independence is about surviving.

Writers understand independence in ways that many others do not. As a writer, much of our craft is born within our minds, takes life in our thoughts, and is born through the keystrokes of our fingers. Being a writer is a very lonely place, existing solely in the mind until one brings it forward and dares to put to words what has been festering in the dark depths. Writers take the ideas that are a very private part of themselves and weave them into characters and stories and can take readers on a journey through their words.

I have recently become a published author for the first time (plug: Resurrection, a M/M Military Romance available through Amazon Click here) and I have had some very good reviews. Many have expressed amazement to the fact that this is my first book. What people tend to look over is that this is by far NOT my first book. I’m over 50 years old and I have been a writer my entire life! I have written short stories, poetry, plays, online role play, and countless stories and books over the years. Yes, this IS my first published novel and honestly, I am very proud of it.

But I am no different from so many authors out there. I read many posting on Facebook about the struggles, with feelings of giving up, and the frustrations with not being able to make ends meet. I get that. Being a writer is something that can be so emotionally draining and take so much out of a person yet pays so little and rarely gets the writer the kudos they deserve. If you’re lucky, you write that best seller that is seen by millions, but most of us, 99.999% of writers will never feel that sort of success. It does not mean we are not as good of a writer as that person is. It does not mean we do not have as good of ideas as that person. I mean, have you ever read Stephan King? That guy has some seriously messed up ideas! It just means it wasn’t meant to be.

I have never wanted to make a living with my writing. Maybe that’s why I never tried to become published before now. I have always figured that if I have to rely on what I love to do in order to pay my rent, then I will be forced to do it and writing does not always work that way. I write for myself first, for my own enjoyment and yes, to calm the characters that pop up in my head, make me lose sleep, and demand their story be written down. Now, that fact that others are also enjoying something I wrote not only boggles my mind but makes me very happy. To have a physical book with MY name on the spine is pretty damn mind-blowing.

Now, that is not to say that you shouldn’t love your job or be passionate about what you do for a living. Many people are able to combine the two and live quite happily. I am just not one of those people and I am sure there are plenty of creative individuals out there, writing until the wee hours of the morning or painting and drawing over and over until they feel it’s right who also believe that art and the creation is a very personal thing. Some people have amazing talent but the thought of showing that talent to the world is terrifying because it’s part of them in some way. The words, the strokes, the colors – it’s all a part of the creator in some way.

I suppose the aim of this posting and the focus I wanted to take today was that it is Independence Day. Celebrate it however you feel you should. In my family, it is a day of mourning because we lost a loved but troubled family member on this day so we all avoid festivities.

However, this year, I am able to celebrate something new. I am a writer and I have been successful in completing a full novel (not as easy of a task as you’d think! You should see all the story starters I have over the years!) and been lucky enough to not only get it published but have others enjoy it as well. So, for me, this Independence Day has taken on a bigger meaning. This Independence Day, I can celebrate my success in being able to wrangle those thoughts in my head, put them to paper, seek out a publisher, have them accept me, and see my dream available to others and have it received well. So, as you can see by that lengthy sentence, that this day means so much more to me this year. This is MY Independence Day because I made a dream come true. No one else but me. And that sounds like a reason to celebrate.

Happy Independence Day!



It’s All About Family

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

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



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

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

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


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

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

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


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


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


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


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

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

That’s really the happiest ending of all.

Until next month! Happy Reading,


Emotion in Motion

The Vampire Guard

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