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

Dreamspinner: https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/searchresults?q=Sarah+Madison

E-mail: akasarahmadison@gmail.com

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SarahMadisonFic

 

Why I write (and read) fanfic

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Fan fiction, other wise known as fanfic has been around for a long time. The first official use of the term happened in 1939 and referred to amatuer science fiction as opposed to professionally written stories. The original Star Trek televison series was the source of this particular aspect of fandom.

For those of you who might not know, fanfic is just what it sounds like. It’s pieces of fiction written by fans. Today it’s spread beyond televison shows to movies, books, games, bands…just about anything really.

I wrote fanfic and I still read fanfic.

So, what’s the allure?

As often is the case, the short answer is: I like it.

The longer answer has been written about and the subject of a number of studies. Yeah, it’s that big of a thing.

As a reader fanfic offers a way to express love of your favorite characters, maybe put them in a situation not presented in the cononical version of the TV show, movie, book, whatever. There are communities dedicated to certain fandoms and the fanfic produced. People organize awards and large events to showcase stories and art. Fanart is just as big a thing as fanfic and often the two are paired together.

There are people who think this type of writing is second rate or beneath them.

I say not so.

First let’s look at the fact this promotes reading and writing. Any kid with a paper and pen can write a story or draw a picture. It’s easy when they already have an established world and characters they know to work with. It doesn’t have to be good. The point is those who that might not otherwise pick up a book, let alone try to write one, do just that. If one really becomes active and participate in certain events they learn to write on a deadline, edit and deal with critism.

All very valuable life tools.

Why did I write fanfic?

The short answer is: I could.

Becoming involved in a fandom and writing fanfic did a lot for me. First, and foremost it was fun. I rediscovered my love of writing and that writing came very easily because certain aspects of the story were already laid out. I made friends I still have today. I was given valuable experiences with editors when my work was published in fanzines. I eventually made the jump to writing original fiction professionally, but for many people it remains a creative outlet and hobby. In general it’s an excellent learning ground.

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Feed back from those who read my fanfic is in part what gave me the courage to take the next step and begin submitting manuscripts again. After trying for years and never quite making it I’d given up. It also opened up a whole new genre to me. M/M fiction. While working on various stories, some M/M, some not, I honed my writng skills in a safe, supportive place.

Since I know someone will ask, I wrote in the Supernatural fandom. If you’re curious here are links to two of my stories.

Slash: Crystal Bulls of Thera this story was written for something known as a Big Bang. Many authors and artists come together to create works of fanfic that are then posted on one site. The theme was taking Disney movies and re-tell that story. It’s M/M romance.

Not Slash: What You Feel this story was written as a fundraiser. A group of fans auctioned off fanfic writers who’d then create a story for whoever ‘bought’ them. The money went to charity.

Both of these events are pretty popular in the fanfic world.

Today I have sixteen published novels (and three more in various stages of development) and a couple of short stories in anthologies. I owe a debt of thanks to the world of fanfic and those who love it. Fanfic was an important stepping stone to realizing my dream of becoming a published author.

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We have a rafflecopter give away going on, the winner gets books! We’re writers, of course we give away books.

Rafflecopter Give Away

I have a special sale going on at Dreamspinner Press this weekend. Three of my books, Electric Candle, Run for the Roses and Gone Away, are 99c. You can purchase them HERE.

Little known fact, Jonas Forge from The Sleepless City and The Vampire Guard started out as a supporting character in a series of Supernatural fanfic stories. Back then he was Tim Forge, I think he liked the name change! I know I do.

I also have a newsletter that I put out three or four times a year. If you’d like to sign up you can do so HERE. And if you want super-secret uber updates I have a private Facebook group On the Patio with Elizabeth Noble. It’s low-key and fun and I occasionally give stuff away.

Until next month, happy reading!

Elizabeth

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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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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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The Power of Saying No in Order to Say Yes by Sarah Madison

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I’m late getting here today. I’ve been out of town and, while I had the best of intentions as to writing this post in advance, I got caught up in all the post-vacation work stuff that occurs and barely managed to write this at all. But it’s just as well because my trip influenced my choice of topics here today.

I just got back from an annual vacation that my friends and I refer to as ‘Squee Weekend.’ It started seven years ago as a 3 day weekend among fandom friends and has evolved into a writers/crafting weeklong workshop with participants from all over the world. We still talk about our fandoms, but we also brainstorm over stories, share our love for other hobbies, such as journaling, or jewelry-making, and in general stay up half the night watching movies, talking, drinking wine, and eating too much. I look forward to going every year. It’s a place where I can let down my hair among friends—among tribe mates—and be myself for a few days. Every year the group gets bigger—and the lovely thing is we can all meet together for mass discussions or break down into smaller gatherings depending on what we might be interested in at that moment.

I always learn something new when I’m there: how to creatively decorate my bookmarks for con swag, for example, or the basics of podficcing. I’ll find out what fandoms my friends are in now and what stories I should be reading. One year I might learn how to put on winged eyeliner without looking like Bucky from The Winter Soldier. Another I might learn how to make charm bracelets or create a bullet journal or organize notebooks for my story ideas. I never fail to come home with more ideas for stories, either—the meeting of like minds is a fertile feeding ground for plot bunnies—so if I’d been feeling stale in my writing, I return to the keyboard refreshed and raring to go.

This time, however, my take-home lesson was something entirely different.

It came out of a random conversation. I don’t even remember what the original topic was, but I happened to mention I had a high school reunion coming up and I didn’t want to go.

“So don’t,” said one of my friends.

I grimaced. “I’ve already paid for the tickets and they were too pricey not to use.”

“That money is already spent,” said another friend. “Don’t compound the problem by investing in it further.”

“Yeah,” said the first person. “You’ve wasted that money. But don’t spend it AND be miserable to boot. Call it a loss and do something you’d rather do that evening.”

I confess, it was a bit of a new concept to me. The notion I could cut my losses without having to ‘get my money’s worth’ out of the price of the tickets already spent, that is. Granted, I’m bad about over-committing anyway. I have lots of Big Ideas and I want to implement them, and I frequently agree to things that sound good on paper but I wind up not having the time for it—or worse, I’m stressed by the number of things I promised I would do. This is especially true when it comes to my writing. I’ll agree to submit a story to this project, or sign up for that event, or participate in something I think will get my name out there and hopefully help me find more readers.

Over the years, I’ve gotten better about saying no to things I don’t want to do in the first place—and to not allow myself to be guilted into doing something I have no desire to do. But I’m still bad about over-committing to things that sound fun, or that I think would benefit me in some way.

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One of the things I had to do this time at Squee Weekend was pick and choose which discussions and activities I wanted to participate in. It was hard because I wanted to do them all! But Squee has become so large we can’t do everything we’d like. As it was, the days flew by and it felt as though we’d barely scratched the surface of our activities. I came home with a better feeling of what was important to me (yes, spending a couple of hours posing action figures in ridiculous shots and taking pictures of them was something I wanted to do with my friends). As a matter of fact, I ended up going miles out of my way on the return trip because I missed an exit. I wound up in the WRONG STATE and added more than an hour to my driving time. Normally this would have stressed me to no end, but instead, I found myself pulling over at a scenic overlook to—yes, take pictures of actions figures against the backdrop.

I’m going to do more saying no to say yes. No to the reunion, but yes to a nice dinner with the BF. No to all the anthologies so I can work on the stories I really want to write. No to so much marketing and yes to finishing that next novel. No to writing half a dozen blog posts and hosting more people on my website and yes to walking the dogs in this lovely autumn weather.

Saying no because I don’t want to do a particular thing is sometimes hard for me to do. I was raised to be helpful and accommodating at all times. But saying no to doing something because there is something else I would rather do—that I can get behind.

Lou Hoffman is doing a Rafflecopter here, so check it out while you’re at it!

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


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

Published by Dreamspinner Press

Release date: September 19, 2016

574 pages (total for Anthology)

Cover artist: Paul Richmond

 

Blurb:

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

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

 

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Why I Write Part One

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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!

Elizabeth

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

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.

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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.

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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:

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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

Blurb:

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:

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Excerpt:

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.

Quincy?

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.

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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!

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