Going Galt (Sort Of)

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Well, it only took me ten years, but I’ve finally done it. I’ve finally started the ball rolling that will get me away from my day job so that I can be…

Yep. A FULL TIME WRITER.

Oh my gods. Holy shit. This is officially the scariest thing I’ve ever done, you just don’t even know. But will it be worth it? Abso-fucking-lutely.

See, I’m one of those people who is so comfortable in the familiar that it becomes a ball and chain, stopping me from going after what I really want because it would mean saying goodbye to safety and familiarity and embracing risk. That’s why I’ve been at my day job for over 16 years now, and spent the past 10 years trying to find the balls to leave, but wound up chickening out each time I tried.

At first, before I had writing, I couldn’t make myself leave because it would mean trying to get another job. That’s something I’ve never had to do. How pathetic is that? Both jobs I’ve ever had were handed to me. The first was a case of: “Hey, you’re 17 now, time for some life experience. Go work part-time for the family business.” Aaaaaand 16 years later, I’m still here. The other job was simply: “Hey, you’re a good, reliable worker. Come work for us.” That job only lasted a year, and I was still at my other job the whole time, as well, but it didn’t teach me anything about how to get a job.

Thirty-three years old and I have no idea how to apply for a job, how to interview, how to submit a resume. I’ve just never had to do it.

But once I had writing to give me the sort of life fulfillment that my day job never did, I kept thinking it would be wonderful to get to the point that I was selling enough books every year to cover my expenses so I could afford to leave my job. I’m nowhere near that, and may never be, so I thought I was stuck here. Forever.

Not that it’s a bad job, per se. It’s a familiar place, with good people, and the conditions are nice, but…

Oh, but.

I’m a major introvert, and have a high sensitivity to sensory input, so working 10 hours straight, 6 days a week, in an environment where there is lots of noise and people’s voices and phones ringing and so much busyness that it’s often hard to get a bathroom or lunch break…

Let’s just say: major brain overload.

After dealing with that all day — and especially now, when the general public think it’s acceptable to treat customer service people like slaves — I’d get home and just do NOTHING because I was completely out of batteries. I’d lock the door, close the curtains, shut off my phone, and pretend the world didn’t exist for a couple hours.

It wasn’t enough.

It’s finally gotten to the point that I’m having a hard time being pleasant to customers. I caught myself almost mouthing off to one, which was so not cool. I finally hit the breaking point that made me realize I simply can’t do this job anymore. Besides that, I want my father to be my father and not my boss. I feel like I’ve lost my father in a way because he’s my boss for so many hours during the week that I have no energy left on the weekend to interact with him, let alone the rest of my family.

And when I really started thinking about it, I realized: if I were to die tomorrow, I’d feel like my life was a waste.

Going along, day after day, in a job I hate, and only staying because it’s safe and familiar…what kind of life is that?

So, after a whole lot of brainstorming, I figured out how to finally afford to leave my day job. It may be temporary, and I may completely fail, but I have to try. There’s no two ways about it. I have to try, just to say I tried. I have to at least attempt to pursue my dream of a writing career, and not having to be at the office every day will certainly go a long way to helping that.

Not having to get up at 5 every morning? Not having to sit at a desk all day and be bombarded with ringing phones and chatty people? Not having to miss meals and skip bathroom breaks because the phones won’t stop ringing and people insist on me dropping everything to research a repair estimate for them right this minute? Not having to go home each night exhausted to the point that I have no social life and never get to have free time to do anything other than chores on the weekends?

WHERE. DO. I. SIGN. UP.

So, *knock on wood*, plans are in place. Between selling my house and training a replacement for my job, I’ve got my work cut out for me over the next few (?) months, which means I’m getting no writing done in the meantime, but once it’s all said and done? Once I’ve got a financial buffer under me and no office hours to keep?

Writing all day? Being able to have a life? Being technically unemployed yet able to call myself (for a little while, at least) a full-time writer? HELL. YES.

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[Insert Relieved, Maniacal Laugh Here]

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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.

What Matters Most

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So, a funny thing happened on the way to this post. I was all geared up to go into some serious ranting. So much ranting. All the ranting. I had a whole list of people who needed to be eviscerated in print and I was ready to rip into them.

From the guy who got pissed at me because I couldn’t tell him why another business across town wasn’t answering their phones (Seriously? Am I fucking omniscient?) to the SJW morons who don’t know a thing about economics (Hello? Supply and Demand is called a law for a reason, and do you know what happens when you mess with natural laws? That’s right. Bad stuff.), from the woman who let her children run rampant around my office while I was trying to answer the phones and couldn’t hear a damned thing (Discipline, anyone?) to images.duckduckgo.comthe people who get pissed at me for not wanting to work late or on the weekend even after I’ve told them I’ve already been stuck in the office over 60 hours this week and I’m exhausted and can no longer think straight (Apparently I’m supposed to be a robot just because I work in customer service?), from the guy who threw a fit because we charged him for a service he agreed to, signed for, and we performed while he proceeded to tell us we were thieves and must be raking in the dough (What part of “We actually lose money on this service” did he honestly not understand?) to the guy at the parts store who had no fucking clue how to do his job and I wound up doing it for him over the phone (Seriously, what are they teaching kids these days? Nothing?), from the people who assume I’m a Democrat just because I’m trans to the people who assume I’m a Republican just because I shootback gadsend flagpractically run a small business in a conservative town (Actually, if you want to know, I’m neither. I’m anarcho-capitalist, the best of both worlds. I’m more economically conservative than the conservatives and more socially liberal than the liberals.), from…

Well, you get the idea.

Lots of people. So many people. I had a whole list of people who were two second away from getting punched in the dick. Possibly even myself (even though I don’t have one…yet) because all the noise and stupidity of the day had gone well beyond the limits of my high sensitivity (yes, apparently, it’s a thing – complete mental overload, and boy have I got it) and I was quickly turning into an asshole. Hence, the desire to punch dicks.

So violent, right? Like, so much violence. All the violence. There was going to be blood. So much blood. All the blood.

Alright, so maybe I’ve been reading a bit too much TJ Klune lately…

Anyway, moving along.

So I was in a fully misanthropic state of mind, ready to go on a rage-blind rant, because my life, when I got a phone call.

Let me back up a bit, first.

A few months ago, the outside sales rep for one of our suppliers came in for one of his usual visits. He brought along a representative from one of their manufacturers. This representative (read: Completely Stereotypical Salesman) proceeded to give his little presentation, all the while spewing obligatory compliments and flashing cheesy grins like any Completely Stereotypical Salesman would do. Since I have a little ad propped up on the counter for my first book, BookCoverImageThe Prisoner, he of course had to filter into his sales pitch some gushing remarks about how wonderful it was that I was a writer and self-published and how proud I ought to be of myself. I’ve had lots of salesmen behave exactly like this when they come into the shop, and it always falls flat. No matter how much they gush, it’s obvious they don’t mean a word of it. So I did the polite smile-and-nod thing like I always do in this situation, just knowing he was spewing bullshit (shows what I know), and the conversation went on.

At the end, just as he’s about to walk out the door, he turns back and pulls out his wallet, saying he wants to support a budding author and buy my book.

Now, I was pretty sure he wasn’t actually going to read it, but…hells, a sale is a sale, so I sold him a book and he left.

Then, yesterday, completely out of the blue, I get a phone call.

You probably don’t remember me, but I was in there with Larry…bought your book…finally got a chance to read it…”

I was just starting to get a vague memory of who the guy was when he completely bowled me over.

I just…wow. This book … It’s absolutely amazing. Like, I couldn’t put it down. I just totally got all the relationships between the characters and the tragedy of the guy feeling like he failed his son and how the woman died and it all just worked and…”

Jaw, meet floor.

Please tell me there’s another book out because I have to have more.”

Jaw now permanently married to floor.

The phone call left me giddy and grinning and, quite frankly, a little bit stunned.

And it made me realize a few things.

One, I did exactly what I accuse so many other people of doing: categorizing a person into a particular box just because of a particular trait. I should have known better, and I was wrong.

Two, all that ranting stuff, in the long run, doesn’t really matter. Yeah, stupidity and ignorance and rudeness pisses me off, but life is too damned short to be angry. Why let myself get sucked into those moments when I’ve got moments like this to revel in? Why let myself get mired in despair over the fact that this country is never going to be free and people as a whole are never going to understand how things work (though I keep trying to educate them even when I know better), when I could be enjoying what life I have while I have it? Why dwell on all the negative when I’ve got so much beauty in my life because of fiction?

Three, it made me remember just how great a story The Prisoner is. Not trying to be an egomaniac when I say that, but just reflecting the reactions to it that I’ve gotten over the past year since its release. The response to it, though small so far, has been overwhelming in its intensity. People who read the story call me at work to tell me how much the book meant to them, how great the story was, how much they want more. And it reminds me just how much I loved that story, how much I enjoyed writing it, how many emotions it invoked as I wrote it. The Prisoner is a great story, and I’d forgotten that.

I think I’ve pushed myself so intently on always getting to the next step, the next book, that I’ve lost track of the depth of feeling I originally experienced when I started the series. I got that back somewhat with the Matchmakers trilogy, even if those books did get me completely off-track, but when I try to think of continuing the Shifting Isles series, I get bored, to be honest. I’d lost my love of the series because I’d lost track of the beauty of the stories that I first clung to when the series started.

MatchmakersThat probably has a lot to do with why I got so far off my writing schedule when the idea for Matchmakers came along. The stories in Matchmakers just called to me in a way that the main Shifting Isles series no longer was, because I’d lost touch with the feeling that The Prisoner gave me, the feeling that carried me through to S.P.I.R.I.T. Division (S.I. Book 2) and Return to Tanas (S.I. Book 3), but started to slip away with Broken (S.I. Book 4) and The Five-Hour Wife (S.I. Book 5).

Clearly, I need to dive back into The Prisoner, reconnect with it, and get that feeling back. No wonder I didn’t feel as excited about books 4 and 5 as I did with the first three, nor as excited as I felt about Matchmakers (hells, those three novels went from Idea to Published in just about five months, so if that doesn’t scream passion and excitement, I don’t know what does). Outside of Matchmakers, I lost track of the emotion, the story, the experience. I need to reacquaint myself with those stories and those characters, or the next books are going to suffer, and neither I nor my readers will be happy.

So the next book, Betrayal (Shifting Isles, Book 6) will probably be even later coming out than planned, even though I’ve already pushed back the release date, but I’m not going to rush it. I’m going to dive back into the world, and instead of rushed and forced, it’s going to be good. It’s going to get to people the way The Prisoner does.

Because The Prisoner is a great fucking story. And I need to remember that.

Authoring: You’re Doing It Wrong (Or: Happy Birthday to Me!)

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MatchmakersToday, I turn 33 (finally an adult! … in hobbit years, that is), and I’m celebrating by launching my first m/m romances. Seems a bit strange and backwards to be voluntarily working on my birthday. Then again, writing isn’t really work. At least, certainly not like the day job.

Even through the frustrations and hassles of editing, formatting, writer’s block, and the emotional ups and downs, writing ultimately is all love and no work. I love it. It’s my passion. It’s the only thing I want to do with my life.

And so, I’m celebrating. My birthday present to myself this year is the release of the Matchmakers Trilogy: three gay romances set in the world of the Shifting Isles.

Am I qualified to write m/m romance? Debatable. I read a lot in that genre (almost exclusively in that genre, truth be told), but that may or may not mean much. Will the books go over well? I have no idea. I’ve already sold more books this morning than I have over the entire last year, but that may change over time. I suck at marketing, and I know that. I know I could be selling a hell of a lot more books if I sat down and put in the time to properly promote them, but it’s not what I want to do. Would I like to sell more books? Of course. Who wouldn’t? But is that what I’m in it for? Yes, and no. I’d love to make a career out of writing, but I don’t do it for the money. I do it for the love. So I’m authoring wrong. I could be authoring much better. But marketing just hasn’t ever been a priority for me.

Will people like these books? I don’t know, and I honestly don’t care all that much.

Alright, yes, I do care, but not to the point that it will make or break my day. I do write for my readers, of course, but mostly I write for myself. I write because I have to. I write because I love it. I write because it’s the only thing that gets me truly excited every day. After spending all my school years wondering what the hells was wrong with me, since I had no goals in mind, while all my classmates were off pursuing their future career studies, I’m just grateful to have something about which I’m passionate. That’s all that matters. Instead of wondering what the hells I’m alive for, I’ve got my stories, and that means everything.

I still can’t believe these books didn’t even exist in concept until six months ago. Six months. Just six months from concept to completion. Three whole novels from start to finish in six months. Good gods, I must have been out of my mind to even consider such a thing, but the Muse commanded and I obeyed.

And I will readily admit I love these stories. I love these characters. Even if these books don’t go over well with an audience, I have never been so excited or so proud of something I’ve written. These even surpass my love of Return to Tanas (Shifting Isles, Book 3), and I thought there was no way anything was going to top that writing experience.

Releasing the Matchmakers books is also part of a simple matter of self-validation. After having spent so much of my life hiding and pretending and trying to be what I thought I was supposed to be, this year I’ve finally come to the conclusion that life is too damned short to be miserable. Life is too short to wear a mask. Just the simple matter of being able to say “I read nothing but gay romance” and of being able to write what I want regardless of the reception and to be true to myself in every small way I possibly can, to own my identity and to not be ashamed…what better gift could I possibly give myself than that? What better gift could anyone give himself than the freedom to be himself? Such a seemingly small mental switch, but it makes a world of difference.

To stand up and say, “I am.”

So, today I am 33. Today, I’m not ashamed to be trans. Today, I’m releasing three gay romance novels, just because I can. Just because it’s what I want to do. Just because it’s what I love.

And if even one reader enjoys them, even better.

The Matchmakers Trilogy is now live on CreateSpace and Amazon, in both print and Kindle formats. They are also listed on Goodreads, and I’ve got a small Pinterest board started for the trilogy. The books can be purchased separately, or in one combined volume at a discounted price.

Introducing: Matchmakers (A Shifting Isles Trilogy)

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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!!!

Self Care, Deadlines, and Sanity

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After weeks of struggling, I’ve finally accepted the fact that my self-imposed publishing schedule is not going to be met.

I know. Self-imposed. Not exactly a big deal, right? Not like there’s a publisher out there to drop me, or like the world is going to end. But for someone who loves deadlines, who hates disappointing people, who will beat himself up one side and down the other rather than let someone down, it was a hard pill to swallow.

But, for the sake of my sanity, and the long term quality of my product, it has to be done. Consequently, I’m pushing back the entire publishing schedule of the remaining Shifting Isles books. There’s just no way I can put out Betrayal (Book 6) in time for its projected release date of June 30th and have it be any kind of good.

Besides life happening (sometimes a ten-hour day at a desk job just kills the muse), I’ve been so absorbed in writing the Matchmakers trilogy over the last few months that I’ve just not been able to focus on getting Betrayal written. I tried dragging my focus away from the trilogy so I could keep myself on schedule, but that only resulted in me getting nothing done at all, so I finally gave in and let the words flow where they wanted to, even if it took me off track. Then again, in the long run, it was probably a good thing. Sometimes a book idea comes along at just the right time, and I’ve been learning a lot about myself in the midst of writing this trilogy. In conjunction with therapy, this was just something I apparently really needed, mentally and emotionally, so I’m slowly getting to where I’m grateful for the derailing rather than stressing over it.

‘Self care’ has been the new mantra I’m trying to adopt, and in this case, it means going where the muse wants to take me, rather than where I think I ought to be.

So Betrayal won’t be available in June, as promised. However, it’s looking very much like the entire Matchmakers trilogy will be available sometime this summer. Maybe I’ll do a special release on my birthday in July.

Then, back on track.

The Five-Hour Wife — Now available!

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B05 - The Five-Hour WifeI’m sitting here, trying to think of what to say, and all I can seem to get my brain to focus on is how many tabs I have open on my browser right now.

Launching a book pretty much demands that. Checking the listings on Amazon, making sure the print and Kindle formats are linked, confirming the listing in the publisher’s storefront, adding the book versions to Goodreads, updating the Pinterest board (which in this case, admittedly, doesn’t have a whole lot on it), posting about it all on Facebook…

Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Gods, I need more coffee for this.

*ahem* So, to The Five-Hour Wife. First, the title. I have no bloody clue where the title came from, but once I had it, I pretty much ran with it, and crafted most of the story around it. Granted, the story changed pretty significantly from the first version to what is now available to read, but the general idea was always still there: something incomplete, something aborted, something unfinished. This was a feeling I struggled with for a long time in my personal life. I distinctly remember my mother always telling me that the key to life was go to school, get a degree, get a job, get married, get the house and the car, have kids, etc.

You know? The whole ‘American dream’, blah blah blah.

Instead, I wound up a college dropout, single, childless, and still in the same dead-end job for going on 16 years. But, I do own my own home (yay!) and I’ve found passion in writing, which is something I completely lacked up until just a few years ago. Still, I had a really hard time adjusting to the idea that I could be happy and successful without having that rigid list of things my mother outlined for me — a hard time adjusting to the idea that I could feel complete without checking off every single item.

That can be a hard lesson to learn, as my heroine, Jani Shyford, discovers throughout the book.

While Jani is struggling with feeling incomplete, she runs into her celebrity crush, Kal Rydyn. Actually, it’s more accurate to say he runs into her. Literally. As they spend time together, they both think the other is the answer to all their respective problems, until a deadly scandal breaks, pulling up secrets from both their pasts and threatening to ruin both their careers.

And they’ll have to work against each other.

This story takes place basically between the last two chapters of Broken (Shifting Isles Series, Book 4). It does end with a happily-ever-after, but maybe not your typical one. You’ll just have to read it to see. 😉

An Exercise in Perspective

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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.

When Characters Have Their Own Way

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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.

Broken — Now available!

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41f+T193FWL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_Finally! It’s done! Wow, you have no idea how glad I am to have this one behind me. After having Return to Tanas absolutely explode out of me in a matter of days, getting stuck over Broken for over a year was beyond frustrating.

But, it’s done. It’s published. It’s now out of my hair.

And it turned out a lot better than I originally thought it would. This story line went through so many changes along the way until it finally flowed well and everything tied together. It still amazes me how moving a key event from one plot point to another dramatically changes the pace and tone of the story.

With Broken, we take a slight change of course in the world of the Shifting Isles. From Benash’s story in The Prisoner to his daughter Saira’s story in S.P.I.R.I.T. Division to Saira’s son Graeden’s story in Return to Tanas, we now drop down one more generation, but the Crawfords are now just supporting characters, and the protagonist is Daivid Thaton, a grown orphan who crosses paths with the Crawfords, and not always in a good way.

Daivid has committed several thefts throughout his life, and gotten caught every time, so he pays the price over and over. On one hand, he doesn’t mind getting caught, because he hates being indebted to people, and he always intends to pay back his victims, but each time he gets caught, he accumulates a new mediation debt on top of the amount he stole, so he’s perpetually broke and quite often homeless.

I got to amuse myself a bit with this one in terms of free market justice. There are no police and courts like we have in the real world, so crimes are subject to a mediated agreement between criminal and victim. Because of his criminal record, no employer will hire Daivid, but he does have a job — only because it was offered to him by his victim as a means of paying off his debt with his own labor.

And Daivid hates the work, but he accepts it because he’s simply thankful to be employed at all, and thus able to not only work off his debt but also (mostly) keep a roof over his head. Why does he hate the work? Well, you’ll just have to read it and find out (keeping in mind that he agreed to the mediation terms, since the alternative meant no employment, certain homelessness, and an even greater mountain of debt that he would have more difficulty paying off — his choice based on his subjective scale of values).

(Thank you, Ludwig von Mises.)

And on top of his debts, Daivid is also trying to track down the parents that abandoned him, not to mention trying to get through the drama of his upcoming wedding.

But then an accident puts a stop to everything…

Broken is now available at CreateSpace.com, as well as on Amazon.com in both paperback and Kindle formats. I’ve also unlocked the Pinterest board for the book if anyone is interested in a few visuals for characters or settings (as well as a few interesting articles on up-and-coming technologies that are used or at least hinted at in the story). The book is also listed on Goodreads for those of you book junkies like me who like to keep track of what they read.

Happy reading!