Ice on Fire — Release Blitz, Review Tour, Blog Tour & Giveaway

It’s release day! Ice on Fire, the first in a new m/m romance trilogy, Treble and the Lost Boys, is out today!

Blurb: Zac Cinder is on the verge of making his dream come true. His punk rock band, Inferno, might have a shot at an audition for a record deal. Fame and fortune would mean he could finally help his parents. They’d raised eight kids in a loving household while barely scraping by, so Zac is determined to give back in any way he can.

Keeping Inferno together, though, means keeping his biggest secret. His bigoted bandmates would drop him in an instant if they found out Zac was gay.

Then he meets Adrian Frost, and Zac can’t resist the shy man. Adrian gives up everything to be with Zac, but Zac can’t bring himself to do the same. He doesn’t want to lose Adrian, but he can’t give up Inferno, either. Not when he’s so close to realizing his dream.

When one cruel decision rips Adrian from his life, Zac will have to decide if ambition is worth the price of the greatest happiness he’s ever known.

(Note: This story takes place in a fictional world, the same as in the Shifting Isles Series. There are multiple gods, different names for the days of the week, etc. A glossary is included.)

WARNING: Contains scenes of self-harm that may be disturbing for some readers.

Add to your Goodreads TBR: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39346978-ice-on-fire

Universal buy link: http://books2read.com/IceOnFireGRL

And check out the blog tour and giveaway HERE, courtesy of Signal Boost Promotions.

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#CoverReveal And other news…

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Cover reveal day! Huzzah! I’m so excited to finally share the cover for my upcoming release…

But we’ll get to that. 😉 First, a little general news and commentary in the way of fictional worldbuilding.

There’s so much that goes into a book that a reader never sees. Not just the seemingly-endless hours of plotting, organizing, writing, and editing, but all the little nit-picky details that may not even show up in a book but a writer needs to know. For instance, character family trees. Or timelines.

Both of which have been tormenting me lately.

I posted previously that, thanks to an idea from a devoted reader, I was adjusting a few stories to accommodate a change in character descendants which–though a lot of work–turned out to make the future of the series even better, giving a pivotal character a bit more scope when it comes time to tell his story. Once I started charting out the tree to bring various branches together to create this character, however, I nearly ran into a problem: marrying cousins.

Thankfully, with a little more work, I was able to avoid that (sort of: it’s more like marrying second [or was it third?] cousins instead of first), but keeping track of and untangling the various branches to make sure I’d actually gotten it right nearly overloaded my brain. I finally had to print the whole thing out and pin it up on the wall in my office, just to be sure.

And, I must say, seeing that posted really brought my little fictional world to life in a whole new way.

The even more daunting project facing me, though, is the timeline. So far, I’ve been going along giving a few things concrete dates, but mostly keeping events pretty general. And until recently, that worked just fine. Until I came upon five books (two in my main series, and three in an upcoming trilogy that run alongside those two) that all have connected characters, as well as events that all happen within a few years of one another.

And as I went to edit an upcoming book, I realized several details were a whole year off.

Probably something the average reader would never be able to catch on to since there aren’t many actual dates referenced in the stories themselves, but I’m picky when it comes to that kind of stuff, so I had to fix it. At least I was able to keep the details on already-published books as they are, and just adjust the timelines in the upcoming books to match it.

But then it occurred to me that I’ll eventually be writing books that take place prior to my main series, fleshing out key events that have been referred to and hinted at throughout the series. Which means I need to pin down actual dates for those things so I don’t accidentally write them in the wrong season. Or the wrong year.

So all writing is now on hold as I go back through all my Shifting Isles books (all nine currently out in that series, as well as the Matchmakers trilogy and the upcoming Treble and the Lost Boys trilogy) so I can pinpoint exact dates for everything. Overkill? Possibly. But at least, that way, I won’t ever hit a snag like this again. And it’ll be better to do it now rather than after my series timeline stretches another five books into the future.

Normally I enjoy reading my own books, but…ugh. This is going to be tedious. Worth it, but tedious. Then again, knowing me, chances are I’ll wind up with some huge insight or inspiration for the rest of the series or offshoots of it along the way.

In the midst of all this, I’m also (very slowly but surely) trying to put together a wiki for the Shifting Isles world. That’s going to be a process and a half by itself, but it’s kinda fun seeing it come together, having all those little linked pages, showing how things connect.

But, enough of all that. Time for the really exciting news of the day: the cover of my next release!

Ta-da!

I’ve never done a proper cover reveal before, and I’ve been sitting on this one for almost two months. Thank gods this day finally came, because not being able to share it was driving me insane!

Ice on Fire is the first book in a new m/m romance trilogy, Treble and the Lost Boys, set in my fictional world of the Shifting Isles. The cover design is by Dana Leah at Designs by Dana.

You can add the book to your To Read shelf on Goodreads, and the book is up for pre-order on Amazon in Kindle format (paperback will be available on release day, April 27th).

The book is approximately 100,000 words / 340 pages.

BLURB:

Zac Cinder is on the verge of making his dream come true. His punk rock band, Inferno, might have a shot at an audition for a record deal. Fame and fortune would mean he could finally help his parents. They’d raised eight kids in a loving household while barely scraping by, so Zac is determined to give back in any way he can.

Keeping Inferno together, though, means keeping his biggest secret. His bigoted bandmates would drop him in an instant if they found out Zac was gay.

Then he meets Adrian Frost, and Zac can’t resist the shy man. Adrian gives up everything to be with Zac, but Zac can’t bring himself to do the same. He doesn’t want to lose Adrian, but he can’t give up Inferno, either. Not when he’s so close to realizing his dream.

When one cruel decision rips Adrian from his life, Zac will have to decide if ambition is worth the price of the greatest happiness he’s ever known.

(Note: This story takes place in a fictional world, the same as in the Shifting Isles Series. There are multiple gods, different names for the days of the week, etc. A glossary is included.)

WARNING: Contains scenes of self-harm that may be disturbing for some readers.

 

And now to sit back and (not so patiently) wait for release day…

When the Grass Isn’t As Green As You Imagined

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It’s strange to look back at this post from eight months ago and recall how starry-eyed I was at the time. Back then, just two months into my experiment at being a full-time writer, I thought I was truly living the dream: no alarm clocks, no bosses, no desk to be chained to and customers to satisfy for ten hours a day, six days a week. I was free to write and do whatever else I wanted, all on my own schedule. I relaxed. I read a lot. My chiropractor marveled at the improvement in my back now that my shoulders weren’t constantly up in my ears from the stress of the day job. And, of course, I got a lot of writing done. It was the kind of life that every writer talks about wanting if they haven’t achieved already. And I wanted it. I wanted it for years, but never took the leap until I managed to find a way to make it a financially-viable lifestyle, even if only temporarily. I took the leap, and for a while, I couldn’t be happier.

Now? Heh. Different story.

I’m not saying I regret taking the opportunity. Not by a longshot! It was the best decision I ever made. It gave me the final push to leave the day job where I’d worked for 17 years, something I’d been chickening out of for way too long. It gave me the chance to start transitioning with hormone therapy away from the prying eyes of customers, coworkers, and vendors who had known me for nearly two decades (which, as it turns out, was not nearly as big a concern as I imagined, but, you know, hindsight and all that). Overall, it forced me to take the biggest, scariest risk of my life. Not have a job? Was I mad?!?! Sure, selling my house gave me plenty of savings to live off of, but there’s just something comforting about having a regular paycheck coming in, no matter how much of a cushion you have.

Mostly, it gave me the opportunity to write without having to steal moments in and around the day job. Granted, the whole point of leaving the day job was so I’d actually have time to market my books in addition to writing them, and I wound up doing very little marketing. Still, I got a lot more writing done than ever before. I thought I’d finally get my series release dates back on schedule.

So what’s the problem? I am SO FUCKING BORED.

I never get bored. Never. I’ve always wondered at people who complain they’re bored, because that has never been a problem for me. Until now. Even writing has become boring, which is the last thing I want. Writing was my passion. It was the thing I stumbled upon in my darkest moments, and out of trauma came this beautiful, perfect thing, this sense of purpose, this meaning for living. I’d envied people who knew what they wanted to do with their lives. I never had that until I fell into writing.

So the last thing I wanted was for my passion to start feeling like a job.

Now, you’d think that would have been a given. Writing full-time? That makes it a job. But it didn’t feel like that. It felt like an adventure, an escape from the trap of a 9-5 (rather, a 7:30 to 5:30), a chance to play at being retired, in a way, while also pursuing the thing I loved. Except…writing was my passion because it was also my escape from reality. It gave me an outlet to deal with my trauma, but it also gave me a place to disappear to at the end of the day. My little fantasy world was my safe, happy place where I could go on adventures and meet new people and experience new and exciting things, all without having to leave the house. After dealing with the harsh realities of providing customer service to the general public (ugh) all day, my writing was a necessary relief.

And now it’s lost that element. It’s no longer an escape since it’s now my entire life. My whole day revolves around writing, so it’s turning my passion into work, my escape into a job. It’s no longer magical and exciting. I find myself desperately grasping for new project ideas just for the sake of keeping the passion alive when I’ve already got fifteen other projects stacked up behind me, needing to get done but going ignored because they now feel like work rather than a mystery to uncover.

Now I find myself facing the prospect of having to go out and get a part-time job, just for the sake of having something else to do, some reason to leave the house, some grounding sense of reality in hopes that writing can become a beloved escape again.

I honestly don’t know how some people do it. While still working full-time, I thought there was nothing that could beat this kind of lifestyle. No alarm clocks? No bosses or customers to please? Sounds like a deal! But now that I’ve gotten to experience it, going fully unemployed to pursue a dream leaves some things to be desired. To the writers who can do this full-time for years on end without losing their spark, I salute you. I don’t know how you do it, and though I thought this would be the perfect lifestyle for an introvert such as myself, I’m not sure I envy you any longer. Guess I’m just not cut out for being unemployed. I need to be active. I need to be useful.

But not back to my old day job. If I ever have to sit at a desk and answer phones all day again, I’m going to go insane.

Five Stages of Hitting the Right Plot

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A lesson I’ve learned the hard way, more than once (twice, in fact, on one book alone [Broken (Shifting Isles series, Book 4)], once on another, and it’s happening again with one of my current works-in-progress, Illumined Shadows (Treble and the Lost Boys, Book 3)).

You’ve got your story idea, your character profiles, your outline. You’re feeling good, ready to write. Sure, there will be hiccups along the way, little details that need to be researched or fleshed out or filled in, but you can worry about all that later. Hells, for all you know, those little bits might take the story in a new direction you didn’t anticipate and make it even better.

So you sit down to write.

At first, everything is great. You knock out a few thousand words. Then the same on the next day. And the day after that. You grin to yourself, seeing your word count climb.

Then your pace slows. Your daily word counts go down. You stare at the screen trying to decide what to write more often than actually putting your fingers to the keys. You find yourself distracted by other, more interesting things. Maybe even not-so-interesting things, like chores. And you rush off to engage in those other things because sitting any longer at that computer, seeing no new words appear, is getting tedious.

You check your outline. You know what you want to write next, right?

So you keep trying.

DENIAL: It’s all fine. Everything is fine. If I just keep chipping away at it, I’ll eventually get past whatever this slump is, and the book will get done. Doesn’t matter that the outline isn’t really working as well as I thought it might, and that the characters aren’t developing quite the way I imagined. It’s fine. Totally fine.

And you keep trying, forcing yourself to sit at that computer and make words happen, even when they’re not starting to feel right. On that note…

ANGER: Why the hells are these words not feeling right? I outlined this damned book, didn’t I? So why isn’t it coming together? Why is the story falling flat? Why aren’t the characters shaping up the way I imagined? What the hells is going on?

Insert rage-quit and storm away, glaring at the computer from a distance while you go about doing other things.

But you still have a book to write, so you sit down and try again.

BARGAINING: Alright, if I can sit down and get 5,000 words today, and tomorrow, and the next day, until the whole thing is finally done, I can have [insert reward here]. Or, if I can just get this book done, I can finally move on to that other one that I’ve been really itching to get to.

So you try, but you’re still having to force the words out. It’s just not flowing. There’s still something wrong, and you know exactly what it is–the truth has been taunting you from the beginning–but you can’t seem to make yourself say it without slipping into…

DEPRESSION: Oh, gods. This is hopeless. The plot is wrong, and the character arcs aren’t quite right, and fixing it isn’t going to be just a matter of going back through the 50,000 words I’ve already written and just doing some scene editing. It’s going to mean deleting almost all of those 50,000 words (half a novel!) and starting over. I can’t do it. I just can’t. Losing all that progress? Seeing my word count drop back from 50,000 to zero? *goes to hide in a dark corner and cry*

But then, finally, comes the moment when you’re left with no other choice. For the sake of your sanity, for the sake of the story, for the sake of ever getting another word written ever again, you hit the final stage.

ACCEPTANCE: [Ctrl-A] [Backspace] *sigh*

Word count: 0

Rewrite outline. Fix character arcs. And start again.

Long-Overdue Project: Family Tree

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The Shifting Isles series begins with a fork in the road. A simple choice. Right or left? Then again, for our hero, Benash, that simple choice is not so simple. It’s a struggle between the desire for choice and something new versus the security of obedience. His life is so heavily regulated that even the very path he walks to work is chosen for him. Still, that choice taunts him until he finally gives in, and it changes everything.

That one simple choice sets off a chain of births and events that would never have otherwise occurred. I thought about simply leaving it at that, but as the series progressed, and I found Benash’s direct descendants constantly having roles in the stories without any conscious decision on my part, I wondered just how far I could take it. Could I tweak the upcoming stories, already outlined, just enough that they could continue to include those of Benash’s bloodline? And, if so, how?

The Prisoner stars Benash. S.P.I.R.I.T. Division focuses on his daughter, Saira. Return to Tanas stars Saira’s son, Benash’s grandson, Graeden. Then Broken features Graeden’s daughter, Sasha. In books 5 and 6, The Five-Hour Wife and Betrayal, Graeden returns in a supporting role, as well as mention of Sasha’s firstborn, Beni, who appears in book 7, Addiction. There’s even a family member at least mentioned, if not present, in each book of the Matchmakers trilogy. With book 5, though, the series was starting to veer away from Benash’s line, and I couldn’t figure out how to continue feeding his descendants into the stories.

Then I thought back through the family tree, and finally had to sit down and start making one to keep everyone straight.


There’s a whole other branch that has been hinted at on occasion but never fully utilized, the branch referred to as the nautical side of the family. Graeden’s older brother, Aurothi, is described in Return to Tanas as having run away from home to join a naval fleet, and there are brief mentions and appearances of Aurothi’s children and grandchildren thereafter (each generation including a firstborn son named Aurothi). Thus, with book 8, Blindsighted, the main characters get to connect with Benash’s line in a whole new way, taking them to other places in the world, perfect for the upcoming stories. But I wanted to get Benash’s line more deeply involved, not just continuing simple cameos.

Then I realized I have an upcoming story involving a character with an unknown origin…

 

(Image is taken from a screenshot of a family tree I put together at familyecho.com)

Blindsighted

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I can’t quite decide if I’ve been really good or really bad at authoring this year. Maybe a little of both.

I’ve now been at this full-time author experiment (read: unemployed) for eight months, and though I’ve gotten a lot of writing done, I haven’t been using all the extra free time the way I’d planned. Namely, I decided to leave the day job so that I could have extra time in the day to focus on marketing, since I rarely had time for it before, what with working ten-hour days at the shop, plus writing, plus gym, plus basic human needs, etc. Eight months, and I have yet to spend more than a handful of minutes at actually promoting my work.

Pretty much defeating the purpose of unemploying myself in the first place. (Can I use unemploying as a word?)

I can count on one hand the number of posts I’ve made to any of my social media since my last book release. Maybe even going back to the one prior. I just couldn’t find the energy for it. Bad author, I know.

As for writing? Good gods. Never before have I been able to finish a draft of one book just to turn around and plunge right into the next one the very next day. Usually, there’s a few days’ worth of post-book depression to deal with first before I can get my head back in the game. Lately, though, I’ve just been hammering them out, one after another. After releasing Addiction (Shifting Isles, Book 7) back in September, I wrote Blindsighted (Shifting Isles, Book 8), then Libertas (Shifting Isles, Book 9), then jumped right into a new Shifting Isles side-trilogy, Treble and the Lost Boys (which will be comprised of Ice on Fire, Heavens Aground, and Illumined Shadows, the first of which is written, the second will be done by the end of this week, and I’m hoping the third will be wrapping by the end of January). I’m doing 5-10k words a day, which is WAY above my usual average.

Yet it doesn’t seem like enough. There are days I fly through ten thousand words only to wind up with several hours of daylight left, with which I do absolutely nothing, and I chastise myself for putting the work aside and doing something mindless. I’m writing a lot (for me), yet I could be doing more. I’m seriously considering going back to work just to have something to do.

And the rational people reading this are thinking: So, why not use that extra time to market?

Yeah, took me months to finally hit on that question myself. As for the answer? I have no idea. Laziness? Boredom? I’m not really sure. I love writing, but I hate everything that goes with it (editing, formatting, marketing, etc.), and the last thing I want is for this to feel like a job. I’m afraid it’ll take the passion out of it and kill my momentum.

And I still have so many more books to write. They’re all just sitting there, in notes and outlines, waiting to be written, waiting to be brought to life. There’s a part of me that feels this weird need to rush through them, as though I’m afraid I’ll never get there. Maybe that’s why I’ve been having nightmares about dying again. That was long a recurring problem for me, but I’ve been free of them for years, only for them to suddenly come back these past few months. Yet I continue to laze about, not using my time wisely. I don’t understand it.

Still, despite all that, I got through the tedious aspect of writing once again, and finally have another new release. Blindsighted went live yesterday. I know, I know. Releasing a book on Christmas? Did I not have anything better to do? Apparently not, since I spent the whole day at my computer.

Blindsighted is…different. The story (and one of the characters in particular) is oddly disturbing. Actually, it’s rather disturbing just how easy it was to write all the disturbing things in the story. After it was finished, I had to go back through and strip out some of the darker things because it was just a bit too much. I wasn’t sure I could make myself actually publish the story in its original form. Even tamed and stripped down, it’s still disturbing in many ways. I really can’t even begin to guess what readers might think of it. I even stuck in a trigger warning, and I’m generally opposed to trigger warnings as a rule.

Blindsighted follows Athan Vas-kelen, nephew of Kadyr Vas-kelen, who starred in the previous book, Addiction. Athan wants nothing more than to go back to the land of his birth, but an accident severely damages his arm, making him think he’ll never get to go back home, where life is harsh and all about survival. Still, he’s determined to go, driven by instinct and tradition. He wants to find a good clanswoman from his home land—someone of pure blood, someone strong, someone capable—and settle down before he gets too old.

Then he meets the new neighbor, Summer. She’s everything he’s not looking for in a mate—fragile, deaf, childlike, and mentally-challenged—yet he finds himself drawn to her. The attraction makes no sense, but he can’t resist. He wants her, though he’s determined to keep his distance so he can go back home once his arm has fully healed.

And the more he learns about Summer, the more he knows she would never make a proper mate.

Still, his protective instincts keep kicking in, no matter how much he thinks his mind is made up.

Along the way, he discovers that there’s more than one way to be strong. And more than one way to see.

Blindsighted, now available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle formats.

Unlucky (?) #13

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Finally. Addiction is FINALLY here! My 13th title overall is done and behind me.

(Technically, I suppose Matchmakers could have been the 13th title, but it doesn’t really count, since it was a combined edition of books 10, 11, and 12)

And this one really felt like an unlucky 13. The story wouldn’t come together. Then edits took far longer than normal. Don’t even get me started on my indecisiveness about the cover. And then, once all was said and done, and I was ready to launch the book…

It got suppressed.

I logged in to my CreateSpace account to order paperback copies for my local readers, but the book was blocked off, unable to access. I’d never seen anything like that before.

CS contacted me and said there was a question about copyright. Did I actually own the content of the story?

That really threw me. Of course I own the content! I wrote the book. Then, in typical Type A Personality fashion, I got myself all worked up trying to figure out how to prove that. Send screenshots of my files? What? I had no idea.

Then I thought it might be because I’d recently gone through a legal name change, and updated my CS account accordingly. Did they think maybe I got hacked? At least that was a thing I could prove, but it would mean more paperwork. (Ugh, I’m so done with paperwork!)

Nope. Turned out it was just a problem with the title. Too many books with the same title, and it gets flagged. Potential plagiarism issue. In the end, all I had to do was email them a statement that I am G.R. Lyons and I do own the copyright to the content of Addiction. Simple as that. Got myself all worked up over nothing.

But after pulling teeth to get this book done and over with, seeing that little Suppressed line was like the last straw.

*wipes brow* Phew.

It’s done, now. It’s finally released. Addiction, the seventh book in the Shifting Isles series, and my 13th book overall. Wow. If you’d told me, even a few years ago, that I’d have 13 books to my name, I would have died laughing. Yet here we are. I don’t even know where it comes from sometimes.

In Addiction, we meet Princess Seryn of Ceynes, all grown up now after having been raised by Sam and Ithyn from Betrayal. She’s living with her yangkemi addiction and trying to make the best of it, but it’s preventing her from having a chance to take the throne of Ceynes, now that her father, Emperor Phaerel (who had originally disowned her) has changed the law to allow a girl to ascend the throne. She wants that throne more than (almost) anything in the world. It’s her birthright.

But then she meets a stranger from Falsin, the icy land in the north of the world, and he makes her wonder if she can have something she wants even more than the throne, something she never imagined she might be able to attain.

Both main characters are technically bisexual, but their respective cultures have different views on that sexuality. It’s not a huge part of the story, but it was an interesting exercise in fleshing out a culture and what was considered moral or taboo.

Now, I must get back to writing. Blindsighted (Book 8) is already done and in need of editing, and I’m cruising right into writing Libertas (Book 9), as well as a side trilogy, Treble and the Lost Boys, which takes place alongside Book 8 and pulls a few minor characters from there.

And that’s not counting the other 15 books I have planned…

Good gods. Someone get me a straitjacket.

Living the Dream

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Well, I finally did it. I left the day job. For almost two months now, I have technically been a full-time writer.

Technically. As in, not 100% accurate. Besides the fact that I do still go in to the office a couple hours each week (hey, those accounts aren’t going to reconcile themselves), I also haven’t actually been…well, you know…writing.

At least, I wasn’t for the first several weeks. Instead of writing, I found myself sleeping in, watching films, reading (oh my gods, so much reading), playing games on my phone, and generally avoiding the world. If it hadn’t been for paying bills at the office and the desperate urge to hit the gym each night, I probably wouldn’t have left the house at all.

And I was depressed. SO FUCKING DEPRESSED. Which totally threw me off. I would sit on my couch, staring out the window, with absolutely no motivation to do anything whatsoever, and wonder, “What the hells is wrong with me? I’ve finally got what I wanted. I’m away from the day job. I’m home. I have all this time on my hands, and I could be writing, and I should be happy, but I’m not. WHY?!?!”

Quite simple, really. Change is a bitch.

Yeah, I got what I wanted, but even so, it was change. Pure and simple. And my brain does not like change.

I felt completely lost without the routine I’ve held for the past 17 years. Spend that many years getting up at 5 am, getting to work at 7, working straight through until at least 5 pm, then going home and doing it all over again the next day…yeah, it’s hard to train the mind out of needing that schedule. My brain and body expected one thing, and suddenly I’d thrown something else entirely at them, and I didn’t know how to handle it.

So I spent the first few weeks of full-time authorhood doing abso-fucking-lutely nothing.

And in some ways, it was GLORIOUS.

I’ve complained for years that I had no time to really live because I was always working. But now? Now I can do anything. I can go see things I’ve never seen. I can spend time with people I never had time for before. I can go to the market on a Tuesday! Not strictly on Sundays, but a Tuesday! I can walk down to my favorite restaurant and enjoy a plate of strawberry-and-cream-cheese French toast while I write…on any day of the week! I know this probably all sounds so simple and silly, but it absolutely blows my mind.

(Seriously. Don’t become a workaholic. It’s soooo bad for you.)

Still, that transition was rough, and I had a hard time understanding why. One of my CrossFit coaches put it best: “It’s like you’ve been deep-sea diving for the past 17 years, and now you’re coming up for air. Going through decompression is going to take time.”

Brilliant, that.

So, I rode out the transition, learned to stop hating myself for not getting anything done, and allowed myself to just enjoy the downtime. Now, I’m well into the next book. Not as far along as I’d hoped I’d be at this point in the year, but I’m finally making good progress, and having all these days stretched out in front of me that can be filled with nothing but writing — or whatever I want — is making the future look bright.

At this point, Addiction (Shifting Isles, Book 7) is about halfway done, and should be released within the next few months. After that, I’ll be diving into Blind Love (Book 8) and Libertas (Book 9) before taking another side-step like I did with the Matchmakers trilogy and throwing myself headlong into another m/m romance project, which will run alongside Shifting Isles books 8 and 9. Beyond those…well, too many other books to count. I swear, the ideas just won’t stop coming. (Speaking of which, I’ve also submitted a short story to the Agorist Writer’s Workshop 2017 fantasy anthology. Still waiting to hear if my story was accepted, but if it is, it’ll be one small part of the whole Shifting Isles experience. But more on that later…) And I finally have time to pursue them.

This can’t last forever. I know that. Unless the stars align and I somehow manage to become well-known enough that I can sell enough books to pay my bills, I know I’ll eventually have to go back to work. The money in my savings won’t just magically stay there. But, in the meantime, I’m going to embrace this chance I’ve given myself. I could have played it safe. Stayed at the day job. But then, I could die tomorrow and regret not having taken this chance while I could. And the more I think about it, the more I appreciate the idea that this was absolutely the right step for me.

Scary? Yes. Risky? Absolutely. But so worth it. I’m throwing everything on the line to pursue my dream, my passion. Will I succeed? Well, technically speaking, I already have.

I’m not a bestseller, and probably won’t ever be, but I’ve rearranged my life in order to be a full-time writer, and that in itself is the greatest gift I could have imagined.

Awkward: Party of One [includes an excerpt from Betrayal]

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It seems to be a general understanding that writers are socially-awkward creatures. We’re in our heads, making up fake people and fake places and fake scenarios all the time, too wrapped up in our thoughts to be aware of the fact that there’s a real world out there, with real people in it.

Real people who might run into us and wonder if we’re not slightly off our rockers.

I was in the midst of writing Betrayal (Shifting Isles, Book 6) when I had a particularly awkward and embarrassing situation.

Because my brain-mouth connection is just awesome.

I was lying in bed one night, thinking about the plot, when an idea for a scene ran through my head. The dialogue and action played out just right, and I knew it would be a good addition to the story. But did I get up and immediately write it down? No. Of course not. Because I knew, I just knew, I’d remember it all the next morning.

I always do. Somehow, my writer memory is, by far, the most reliable part of my memory. Everything else falls by the wayside. But my stories? Stick like glue.

Except this time. This time, I woke the next morning, and had no fucking clue what the scene entailed.

I remembered an argument, but that was about it. It was something between the main character, Sam, and his fellow mage, Ithyn. But what they argued about, and why, completely eluded me.

Normally, when this memory lapse happens, it only takes a few minutes of thinking it over for the whole scene to come rushing back.

Nope. Not this time. This time, I agonized for hours. What the hells was the scene? What were they arguing about? Why couldn’t I remember?

I needed just a clue. A keyword. A hint. Something to bring it all back.

And, of course, being the awesome socially-awkward person I am, it all came to me in a public setting. Most likely work (since, let’s face it, where the hells else do I ever go outside my house?), possibly the grocery store, definitely somewhere that involved other people.

“Whore!” That’s it. That’s the keyword I needed.

And, of course, I said it out loud.

Cue the what-the-fuck looks from people around me.

And cue the furious blush on my face.

Yeah, y’all totally didn’t just hear me say ‘whore’ randomly just now. You imagined it. Totally didn’t happen. Wasn’t me. Carry on.

At least–thank gods–I salvaged the scene, but I definitely could have done without that particular moment of revelation.

So, without further ado, here’s part of the scene in question, in which Sam recovers from having taken an unknown substance from amidst the stock of herbs and drugs that Ithyn–a specialist in healing–keeps on hand. The scene references the Erosti Guildmates, who are renowned throughout the world of the Shifting Isles for being highly-trained professionals in all manner of entertainments (sex, massage, singing, dancing, cooking, etc.). To be particularly crass, they are–to some–nothing but glorified whores.

Enjoy!

 

 

WHEN SAM came to, he found a blurry figure bent over him, swimming in his vision.

Shhh-sh-sh. Do not move,” a voice murmured.

Sam tried to lift his head, then groaned and closed his eyes again.

Drink this,” the soft voice said as a hand slipped around the back of Sam’s neck and cradled his head, lifting it slightly as a cup was touched to his lips.

Sam drank, and gagged, but the person holding the cup wouldn’t let him stop. The foul concoction was forced into his mouth, so Sam had no choice but to swallow as quickly as possible or choke.

Finally, the cup was taken away and Sam’s head was rested back down. Panting, Sam blinked heavily several times before his vision began to clear and he was able to make out Ithyn leaning over him.

Gods all around, Samril.” Ithyn sighed, gently pressing his wrist to Sam’s forehead. “What were you thinking?”

Sam tried to answer, felt his stomach lurch in response, and shut his mouth again.

Ithyn shook his head. “You nearly killed yourself, do you realize that?”

Sam’s eyes went wide, but he still couldn’t speak quite yet. Killed myself? What the hells did I take?

Ithyn continued looking him over, checking his pulse, examining his eyes and tongue, feeling the glands under his jaw, then sat back with another sigh. “Thank Kalos, I was able to determine which powder you took. Why did you not simply wait for me? I might have been able to assist you with…whatever it was you were attempting to accomplish.”

Needed,” Sam whispered, testing his voice, “an escape.”

Oh, Sam.” Ithyn sighed. “But to take your own life?”

Sam slowly shook his head, thankful the room didn’t spin when he did so. “Wasn’t my intention.”

What was your intention?”

Just…a break. A little break from the world.”

And you used that?” Ithyn asked incredulously.

Sam shrugged and slowly sat up. He found himself on the sofa in Ithyn’s sitting room, not far from where he’d collapsed on the floor. “It did say For Master Shyford.”

Ithyn gave him a puzzled look, then glanced over at the table where all the herbs were arranged. He gave an exasperated sigh and shook his head. “That note had nothing to do with the powders. It was for the books I placed in your room the day you arrived, and I simply forgot to discard the note. Besides, you had my jars all out of arrangement, anyway. How could you possibly match the note to one of them?”

Sam felt the tips of his ears go red. He really had made a bad assumption there.

The blue one looked like–”

Like what?” Ithyn asked when Sam broke off and fell silent.

Sam shook his head. Father’s love, I’m an idiot. He knew herb lore was not his strong point. “Looked just like the drug the Guildmate gave me.”

A puzzled look flashed across Ithyn’s face before it gave way to a stony expression. “I see,” he bit off. Then he was silent for a moment before he suddenly jumped up from his perch on the edge of the sofa and went over to the table, roughly rearranging the bottles and keeping his back to Sam.

Sam slowly sat up, testing his body for any further pain or dizziness, and turned to look at Ithyn. “Did I say something wrong?”

Ithyn paused his movements, gave a tight shake of his head, and went back to whatever he was doing.

Sam stood. “Ithyn, look, I’m sorry I messed with your bottles there. I just–”

Ithyn whirled on him. “You know, when you cavort with whores, you are no better than one yourself.”

Sam’s eyes went wide. “Excuse me? You’re calling me a whore?”

You have been with one,” Ithyn accused. “You admitted as much yourself.” He paused and gave Sam a quick once-over. “And more than once, if I had to guess.”

He’s not a whore!” Sam threw up his hands.

Ithyn clasped his hands before himself, the posture on him somehow more threatening than if he’d crossed his arms over his chest. “Does he accept payment in return for bodily pleasures?”

Of course.”

Whore,” Ithyn reiterated, and turned back to his jars and bottles.

Betrayal (Shifting Isles, Book 6) is now available on Amazon.com in both print and Kindle formats!

And With No Fanfare Whatsoever…

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I released a book two weeks ago, and barely posted a damned thing about it.

It certainly wasn’t for lack of satisfaction with the book. I’m much happier than I initially thought I would be with the story, considering how much I struggled with the plot line (shades of Broken all over again). Although, I didn’t really consider just how content I was with the story until I gave it that final proof copy read-through right before releasing it. There was this constant sense of “it’s technically done” until that final reading, and then I was hit with a sense of “I actually really enjoyed reading that.”

A little backwards from the usual, but whatever works, I suppose.

Overall, I think I’m just … tired.

Too much life change going on at once, and I think it just became more overwhelming than I realized. For an introverted Highly Sensitive Person, change is never a good thing, even when it’s voluntarily chosen. Selling my house and moving was monumental enough. Starting hormone therapy and watching / feeling my body change was a whole other level of stress, even though desired. Hiring someone and training her to take over my day job so I could eventually do the full-time writer gig….I think that just pushed me beyond my limit.

It’s all I can do to drum up the energy to go in to work each day, let alone train her. It’s all I can do to simply adult lately. I forget to pay my bills (which NEVER happens). I forget to do my chores. I put off anything and everything to do with writing, editing, brainstorming, marketing.

Because I just don’t want to.

I’m not giving up on writing. Not even close. It’s definitely still my life-long passion, and I’ve still got (at last count) at least 20 more books to put out, to add to the 12 I have out now. I think I simply overdid things, and might need to take another step back.

Which just kills me, considering the nine-month long dry spell I suffered last year, which set my whole writing schedule back in the first place. Betrayal should have been out last year, not to mention two more that follow it, but now they’ll (hopefully) be coming out this year instead. I just need to ease myself through this depressive funk I’m in and get my head back in the game.

As for Betrayal, though…

This is the first book in the Shifting Isles series that is written entirely in one character’s perspective, rather than switching between the two (or three) MCs. In this book, we get Sam’s story, when he goes off to Ceynes to be personal mage to the emperor there after the resolution of the Westfield virus scandal in The Five-Hour Wife. In Betrayal, we follow Sam as he tries to navigate his new post while also juggling a very unexpected new attraction that just might help him get over his long-unrequited love of his best friend, not to mention trying to make sense of the prophecy that brought him to Ceynes in the first place.

One thing I love about this story is the constant mix of places and technology. Sam goes from Agoran (which is more technologically advanced than our own real world) to Ceynes, which is something like medieval England. There’s even a little sprinkling of Jadu’n, the magical Isle where the magi live, as well as Erostil, the tropical Isle where the Erosti Guildmates (essentially, glorified prostitutes) are trained. One minute, Sam’s in a world with electricity and mobile phones, and the next, he’s in a place where the height of technology is candles and horse-drawn carriages.

And the Westfield virus scandal may not be quite as resolved as Sam thought…

There will be magic. And winged horses. And danger. And secrets. And lots of flirting between Sam and a certain silver-haired mage, which is just about the only thing that keeps Sam sane while he tries to deal with a cocky boy king who sits on the throne of Ceynes.

And there will be betrayal.

Betrayal (Shifting Isles, Book 6) now available on CreateSpace and Amazon.com (in both Print and Kindle formats).