Hat-Tips, Links, and Shout-Outs, Inspiration, News, Publishing, Shifting Isles, Treble and the Lost Boys

#CoverReveal And other news…

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…

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Hat-Tips, Links, and Shout-Outs, Inspiration, Shifting Isles

Long-Overdue Project: Family Tree

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)

Inspiration, Shifting Isles, Teasers and Excerpts

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

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!

Inspiration, Publishing, Shifting Isles

[Insert Relieved, Maniacal Laugh Here]

You wanna know the absolute worst part of being an indie author?

It’s not the editing, even though editing sucks, especially when you’ve got no one to do it but yourself. The long hours, the endless eye strain, the sheer boredom of reading the same story over and over and over and over and– Well, you get the picture. No, it’s not the editing.

It’s not the marketing, either. And I hate that part. I suck at marketing — it’s not my strong point, and it’s not something I’ve been brave enough to do, until recently — so that’s a part of being self-published that I absolutely never look forward to.

It’s not the lack of money. Sometimes it feels like I’m light years away from being a full-time author (mostly because of that damned marketing thing), and as much as I’d love to leave my day job, it’s just not in the cards, because I’m not selling enough books to come close to covering my expenses, and probably never will (again, that whole marketing thing).

It’s not the formatting. All those tedious hours of wrestling with a computer program to make sure the text wraps and indents just right so as to satisfy my OCD. All that time spent trying to get a footer to appear on certain pages and not on others, and trying to get my computer to keep up with every page layout change I make.

No, the absolute worst possible thing about being an indie author is…

POST BOOK FUNK.

Yes, Post Book Funk. A state of being, after releasing a book, in which the mind cannot even begin to fathom starting another project because it just finished a project and holy hell that was a lot of work and do we really want to do this again and maybe we just need a little break. But wait, now it’s turned into no inspiration whatsoever and now I can’t write and good gods what am I doing?!?!

I. Hate. Post Book Funk. So much. Like you would not believe. Like hate, hate, double hate, loathe entirely. It’s miserable. It’s awful. It’s full of so much unbelievable what-the-fuckery…I can’t even tell you. It’s bad. So bad, I’m going to capitalize it. Because yeah. It’s a thing.

In the past, Post Book Funk would drag me down for a few days — couple weeks at the most — and then I’d bounce back and be on to the next project. No big deal. Life goes on. All is well. But this time? Oh, this time…

I must have really done a number on my brain by trying to do three books at once, because Post Book Funk has been tormenting me for weeks. I couldn’t write. I couldn’t even think about writing. Couldn’t even jot down notes or outline or anything at all. It got to the point that I wondered if I would ever write again and maybe my life was over and why was I even trying to be a writer.

Post Book Funk turns me into a total douchebag asshole, too, apparently. I was punching things (bad) and snapping at customers (way bad) and not even bothering to hold my tongue with telemarketers (okay, so I don’t really feel bad about that one at all because, really, in sixteen years of working at this day job, not once have we ever actually needed something someone was trying to sell us, and telemarketers take me away from my customers, so they’re nothing better than a complete waste of time). It got to the point that I was hating myself but still unable to stop myself from being a total douchebag asshole, and quitting time never looked so good.

But today…Ah, today.

Today, something snapped. Today, I actually outlined something.

Alright, admittedly, NOT the book I’m supposed to be working on. I’m still having trouble getting my motivation worked back around to the next book in the Shifting Isles series, but at least my mind is finally on something. Anything. Good bloody effing gods, I will take any inspiration whatsoever right now. Anything but the dreaded Post Book Funk.

So, yeah. Today I started outlining three new novels, and brainstorming yet another new book idea (which could potentially turn into a whole series of its own). Still not making any progress on Betrayal (Shifting Isles, Book 6), which was originally supposed to have been released back in June, and is now looking like it might not see the light of day until December, at the earliest, but at least the dam seems to have finally broken and I’m thinking about something.

Thank. Effing. Gods.

Inspiration, Publishing, Shifting Isles

Introducing: Matchmakers (A Shifting Isles Trilogy)

So begins a (slightly) new venture for myself, one on which I had ultimately planned, albeit not quite so soon.

I’m about to release my first m/m romance novels, set in the world of the Shifting Isles. I had planned to jump into m/m romance with the J.A. Wood series, planned for a few years down the road, but these new books pretty much just jumped up and took over my life for a few months, throwing my writing schedule completely off-track, but I simply had to run with it.

41f+T193FWL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_The Matchmakers Trilogy all started when I was writing Broken (Shifting Isles, Book 4). In that story, there is a minor character, Remy, who appears in all of two scenes and has a mere handful of lines, but somehow he grabbed hold of me and wouldn’t let go.

In Broken, the MC, Daivid, is working as a stripper at a gay club in order to pay off a debt he owes the club owner. One night, due to a shortage of staff, the boss has Daivid participate in a live pornography stage show instead of his usual stripper act. Daivid, being the Kinsey Zero that he is, freaks out about this, but ultimately gives in, since it’s either that or lose his job, and wind up even more in debt than he already is, and his criminal record is so long that no one else will hire him.

He winds up performing the stage show with Remy, a flamboyant kid who popped out of my imagination on a moment’s notice just to make Daivid’s situation harder (*ahem* Sorry…more difficult). Remy is about as gay as they come, so his flirtatiousness only makes things worse for Daivid when he’s already having a miserable night.

After the show, Remy pops off with the following comment:

Hey! Maybe next time I’ll get you all out on display like that again, and I’ll ride you. What do you say?” Daivid choked and took a step back, but Remy pressed right up against him and dropped his voice to a husky murmur. “My boyfriend just loves to watch me bottom. Makes him so friggin’ hot. Mmmph. Yeah. Next time. Totally.

Now, what kind of guy would have a boyfriend who actually enjoys watching him have sex with other men? This question teased me for the longest time. I mean, it felt like such a Remy thing to say when I wrote it, but as a strict monogamist myself, I was having a hard time wrapping my head around that as a real situation.

So that got me thinking: Who was Remy’s boyfriend? And why was he so easy-going about Remy’s job? Why wasn’t he jealous? Was he always like that, or did they have a hard road to get to that point?

Second ChancesBam! There you have it. The makings of a new story: Second Chances. Once those questions started popping up, I couldn’t stop. A minor character who appears in two scenes suddenly had his very own novel.

And Remy … *sigh* Remy, Remy, Remy …

The more I wrote him, the more I absolutely adored him. Remy is the kind of character you want to just wrap up in your pocket and keep safe. By night, he’s a porn star and a stripper who absolutely loves his job. But by day, Remy is an intelligent, sophisticated, responsible young man who likes to wear nothing but suits and ties, and all he really wants in life is to settle down and be loved, to have someone for himself.

So along comes Chance Whitaker. And yeah, alright, spoiler alert, they get their HEA, of course, since they’re still together during the events of Broken, but it’s not an easy road. (And, as it turns out, Chance really does like to watch Remy bottom on stage…)

While I was working through this story, I was also discovering Queer as Folk. I know, I know. I’m only about 15 years too late. That’s apparently how I operate when it comes to TV shows. But I got sucked into the show and completely fell in love with it…

Until the finale. I mean, come on: BRIAN AND JUSTIN DON’T WIND UP TOGETHER?!?! WHAT?!?! HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE?!?!

*sigh* Alright, fine. Yes, I agree, that is exactly how the show should have ended, considering their characters. It totally made sense, but a part of me hated that it made sense, because I was so rooting for that big, romantic HEA.

So, of course, I had to fix it.

I needed a story where the guy who refuses commitment (Brian) comes across a man he simply can’t live without, even if he has to learn it the hard way. I needed Brian and Justin to have that big, happy ending.

The story wound up taking a different direction than I originally expected, but as I was finishing Second Chances, I was suddenly well into mentally outlining the sequel, Second Drafts.

Second DraftsShain Ahren, Chance Whitaker’s brother, flat refuses to settle down, and won’t even sleep with the same guy twice. A writer and a major control freak (that doesn’t sound familiar at all … *ahem*), Shain simply won’t let anyone in.

Until he meets…

And here’s where the story really threw me for a loop. I needed a counterpart for Shain, someone to shake up his world and mess with his control, and the first (and only) character who came to mind to fill that role was Elliden Crawford.

Elliden also appears in Broken, as the unstable artist who is the brother of Daivid’s love interest. Elliden inherited an extreme chemical imbalance from his mother which leaves him prone to violent outbursts. When he has one of his fits, his sister literally has to wrestle him to the floor and hold him down until he works the fit out of himself; otherwise, he carries pills that can quickly sedate him and stop the violence before it starts, but they leave him lethargic and unmotivated to do anything whatsoever. His volatility forces him into a very sheltered, isolated existence. In some ways, he’s really not much more than a child, though he has the intelligence and rationality of any other man his age.

I really struggled with this character choice at first. Right off the bat, I knew there was going to have to be a sexual element between Shain and Elliden, and I had the most impossible time trying to picture Elliden as a sexual being. Straight or gay, I just couldn’t imagine it. To me, he always came off the page as not only a virgin, but as someone who would probably never have sex in his life. I just couldn’t see it ever happening.

What I could see, however, and see so easily that I knew he was the perfect choice for this book, was his need to be dominated. What little I’d written of him in Broken translated perfectly into his interactions with Shain. Elliden knows he’s dangerous, and he doesn’t want to hurt anyone. However, he’s also lonely, but thinks he can’t ever be close to someone because he’s unstable. Still, he does manage to succumb to his sister’s control, and even to the authority in Daivid’s voice, so pairing him with the domineering control freak, Shain, just made perfect sense. Elliden knows he needs someone not just stronger than him, but someone with enough presence to get through to him when he’s having a fit. He finds that he actually craves that outside control.

This whole book is really about control: taking it, needing it, and letting it go. Not to mention, an element of shame attached to it all. Apparently, the Writing Muse was trying to teach me a lesson with this book. I kept trying to get back on track with writing the Shifting Isles series, but the Muse wouldn’t let me, insisting I work on Second Drafts instead.

And no wonder. I was having some major control issues of my own. Some parts of my life in which I needed to take control, but thought I couldn’t (like Elliden does when he first moves out on his own). For instance, standing up for myself and seeking out the health care and procedures I needed in order to embrace my trans identity, rather than suffering the misery of constantly pretending for the sake of not upsetting others. Just like Elliden felt ashamed of wanting to take control and have his own life, I felt ashamed of wanting to take control and embrace my identity. Through my own character, I learned a lesson.

…Some parts in which I needed to let go of control but didn’t want to (like Shain does when Elliden starts to affect his life). For instance, not getting myself so worked up about things being done just precisely the right way (I might be a little bit OCD), and learning to let go and ask for help when things get beyond my power or ability (something I’ve never been good at because, hang it all, I want to be able to do things myself).

…Some parts in which I needed control, and was ashamed to admit it (like Elliden craving Shain’s presence to keep him in line). For instance, I’ve learned that exercise requires another’s presence. I can’t seem to motivate myself, but if I have someone else there pushing me, telling me what to do, I love it. Just as Elliden felt ashamed of wanting that controlling presence to keep him in line, I felt some shame in wanting the same thing in the gym, and we both had to learn to let go of that shame and embrace what we needed.

And through both of these stories, there is the matchmaker himself, Danny Berringer. Through Danny’s interference, Remy and Chance are brought together, then Elliden and Shain. Only fair that the matchmaker get his own love story, right?

Second PlaceThus, rounding out the trilogy (and, as it turns out, delving into more of my personal life), is Second Place.

Danny is still in love with Bryan, even after they’ve been apart for years, even though Bryan is married to someone else. But Bryan’s marriage seems to have fallen apart, and as much as Danny would give anything to have a chance to get back together with Bryan, he’s also dying to know what went wrong with Bryan’s marriage, considering he matched up the pair, and he never gets couples wrong.

This story centers heavily around death, guilt, betrayal, and moving on. Without even realizing it, this whole story exploded out of my own grief over losing the family dog. It was a year ago yesterday that we put her down, but it feels like it just happened. Even after a year, I still struggle with the guilt I feel over her last day. She spent her last day at the vet’s office, a place she hated, and when we went to say goodbye, she clearly thought she was finally going home, but instead we all cried over her while she was put down.

It felt like we’d killed her. She spent her last day away from her family, and then we killed her.

That thought tormented me for the longest time. Still does, to some degree.

And even though she was just a pet, I’m not quite ready to move on. I thought I was finally getting to that point, until my father started talking to a breeder about getting another dog, and I burst into tears, thinking, “You can’t replace her!” Stupid thought, but there it was.

So all these feelings — the grief, the guilt, the struggle to move on — came out in this story. Once again, the Muse was leading me where I needed to go, rather than where I wanted to go (namely, sticking to my writing schedule).

Hmmm, there’s that control thing again…

Despite all the difficult feelings that arose in these stories, I am so completely in love with them, and I can’t wait to share them with the world (well, my small readership, as it is, but it feels like sharing them with the world). As I sit here, eagerly awaiting my final proof copies to arrive, I’m counting down the days to their scheduled release date.

July 24th. Giving myself a birthday present this year. Writing what I want to write and not caring what anyone thinks about it. Trans guy writing gay romance. *shrug* That’s just who I am.

The Matchmakers Trilogy will be available — separately and in a combined edition at a discounted price — on Amazon.com and CreateSpace.com starting July 24th. I can’t wait!!!

Inspiration

An Exercise in Perspective

Have you ever been driving down the road and going slower than usual — say, because you have a sick or injured person in the car and you want to make the ride as easy for that person as possible, or you have a vase of flowers sitting in the seat next to you and you don’t want it to tip over, or you have a pounding headache and it’s all you can do to make it that last little bit of the way home so you can finally rest…

And then, the next day, you get stuck behind someone driving a little too slow, and all you can think is, “What an asshole. This guy is holding me up. Why doesn’t he just get out of my way?”

I know I’ve been guilty of this. Perhaps you have, too. Becoming aware of these things has been giving me lots of possibilities for brainstorming reasons behind people’s actions — which, of course, can translate into character motivations.

I remember, back when I actually read M/F romance, coming across two books by Julia Quinn that both included the exact same scene, but told from two entirely different perspectives, which really gave a lot of interesting insight into why certain things were said or done in that scene. Just reading the one perspective left the reader with the impression that one character was an asshole, but reading it from the other perspective really changed the overall impression. Sometimes, taking a step back and looking at something from a different angle can make a world of difference.

So when I see someone barreling down the freeway, and other people are honking and showing the finger, I stop myself from doing the same and try to think why that person is driving like a maniac. Maybe he really is just an asshole, true, but there might be plenty of other reasons. Maybe he’s just found out his child has been injured. Maybe someone called to say a pipe burst or his house is on fire. Maybe he had car trouble and now he’s running late for his first day on a job he finally got after being unemployed for several months and he really needs to feed his family.

This weekend, I had another personal lesson in perspective that made me stop to think. To set it up: I have a major pet peeve about people who wear their sunglasses indoors. It creeps me out. Besides the fact that it’s nonsensical, it makes the person seem somehow untrustworthy. If you’re hiding your eyes, I’m going to be suspicious of you.

Friday night, I had a minor anxiety attack brought on by an overwhelming social situation (hooray for being a major introvert, right?). Not nearly as bad an attack as some I’ve had before, but it was enough to leave me unsettled for the next two days, so I pretty much spent the weekend curled up in my house, avoiding people, with one exception.

I had to drive my father to a family event (which I was also supposed to attend, but obviously bowed out of after the attack), and spent a few minutes helping him unload supplies for the party. I managed to get through a few obligatory hellos to people who were already there, and then made my escape.

As I stepped outside, I reached for my sunglasses, and realized I’d never taken them off the whole time I was inside.

Subconscious armor. The sunglasses staying on made me feel safer, provided a small barrier between me and the ‘danger’ that was other people.

Talk about light bulb moment.

So, the next time I see a person wearing his sunglasses indoors, I’ll be less quick to judge. Maybe he’s not untrustworthy or stupid or an asshole. Maybe he’s just barely keeping his shit together, and taking off the sunglasses would leave him feeling more vulnerable. Maybe he needs that little extra layer of protection just to get through whatever business he has so he can escape unscathed and get on with his day.

Maybe that’s what it takes for him to survive. And if that’s the case, having been on that side of things, I really can’t blame him.

Inspiration, Publishing, Shifting Isles

When Characters Have Their Own Way

So, I finished writing a book last night.

Not the one I was supposed to be working on, mind, but one that grabbed my attention just about a month ago and wouldn’t leave me alone.

With the release of Broken (Shifting Isles, Book 4) at the end of December, and a completed draft of The Five-Hour Wife (Shifting Isles, Book 5) around the same time, I was trying desperately to start working on Betrayal (Shifting Isles, Book 6) in hopes of getting myself back on track after it took so much longer to finish Broken than I’d anticipated.

But, no matter how hard I tried, I was stuck. Betrayal just wasn’t speaking to me. At all.

I fought and struggled and tried to focus on writing Betrayal. I really did try. It drove me insane. I know exactly where I need the story to go; most of it is already laid out in my head; I just can’t seem to get it down on the computer.

The problem? I was completely and thoroughly distracted by a minor character having a mind of his own and taking charge of my muse.

In Broken, the MC, Daivid Thaton, works at a strip club in order to pay off a debt due to money he’d stolen from the owner of the club. One of his coworkers at the club is Remy, who popped into my head one day and pretty much demanded a place in Daivid’s book, just to torment Daivid’s very heterosexual masculinity. Remy has all of a handful of lines and appears in only two scenes in the book, and that was the extent of my plan for him.

Well, Remy, apparently, had plans of his own, because while I was struggling to work on Betrayal, he jumped up in all his flamboyant glory, threw his arms in the air, and shouted, “I need a book of my own!”

What can I say? I obeyed.

It didn’t take much for his story to take shape. Just his few lines in Broken got me thinking: How does a kid wind up being a stripper and a porn star? Why does his boyfriend not mind his job, and even gets off on it? Was it an easy road to that relationship, or was it a struggle getting his boyfriend to accept him as he was?

And there it was. Story concept. And as I started writing it, other characters popped up out of nowhere, more backstory developed to come back to haunt Remy, and suddenly, in a matter of weeks, the gorgeous, energetic Remy Dawes had managed to star in a book of his own.

But, of course, he couldn’t leave it at that. He had to drag in his boyfriend’s brother, who will also have his own book (alongside Elliden Crawford, who makes appearances in Return To Tanas (Shifting Isles, Book 3) and Broken (Shifting Isles, Book 4)), and then Remy’s boss stepped up and said he needed a book, too, which rounded out the stories and developed this neat little M/M romance trilogy that would run as a side-step from the main Shifting Isles anthology.

The trilogy, which I’m calling Matchmakers, after the name of the club where Remy works, will be available…well, I’m not really sure. Since I really should be focusing on the main series, I should be putting this new one off until the end of my current writing schedule, which is already about three or four years out. Then again, this project has me so wound up and excited that I just might make it a special release amongst and between the scheduled release dates of the main Shifting Isles series. I hate to be vague, but there you have it.

I just hope I can get back on track with Betrayal. Granted, all my deadlines are self-imposed, so it’s not like the end of the world if I get off-schedule, but still…my OCD wouldn’t be too happy with me were I to do that.