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!

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I Novel, JA Wood, News, Publishing, Shifting Isles

Back on the Box

Wow, what a crazy few months. Back in October, my entire foundation felt pulled out from under me. Deciding to sell my house with the intention of banking the proceeds so I could afford to try the full-time writer gig was a HUGE change, but apparently that’s how I do things. I trudge along, tolerating, tolerating, tolerating — whatever the problem may be — then finally snap and make a big decision, and never look back.

The process of selling the house, moving, and getting settled in at my new place took longer than I’d hoped, but it’s finally done. And I’ve found a sense of home again, something I was afraid would be always lacking. My entire mental well-being was so wrapped up in my house that I wasn’t sure I’d ever find that sense of stability and comfort ever again, but now that I’m unpacked, settled in, and have a new routine, my foundation is once again stable. I’m home. I have a new writing space, and I love it. It’s perfect.

And, next week, my day job replacement starts training. Which means I’m not far from being able to finally leave the place I’ve worked for almost 17 years (half my life!), and try to write full-time. It’s a scary prospect, but I have to try it. It’s either that or continue in a dead-end, unchallenging job that leaves me feeling like I merely exist rather than live. I want to live.

Now that all the pieces are falling into place, I’m finally writing again. Betrayal (Shifting Isles, Book 6) was supposed to have been out last June, but after releasing the Matchmakers Trilogy, I just seemed to lose all motivation to write. Life, eh?

But Betrayal is now finished, and just getting a last few touch-ups with the red pen before I slog through the tedious process of formatting and setup, getting the files ready for publication. It’ll be so worth it, though. I miss that feeling of having a new proof copy in my hands. I can’t wait.

(Aaaaaand I even got back on my box jumps. Not well, and not every time — I still have to build myself up to them — but they’re not insurmountable anymore.)

As for what’s in store for the rest of the year? All going well, I’m hoping to get back to my previous schedule and also have books 7, 8, and 9 in the Shifting Isles series released throughout the year. If I have time for it, I may even throw in another m/m romance trilogy that the Muse has been teasing me with for several months now. And that’s not even counting the remaining 5 books in the Shifting Isles series after Book 9, and the standalone that takes place before the events in the series, and the other series that takes place before the standalone, and another side series I’m toying with, and…

Yeah. Straitjacket. I need one.

So many books to write, so little time…

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

2016 Rainbow Awards

15380790_1466238886743522_9050221161763556811_nI still can’t believe it. The Matchmakers Trilogy was a Finalist in the 2016 Rainbow Awards!

Being Newbie Mr. Nobody in the m/m fiction genre, I thought there was no way my work would receive any kind of recognition in these awards. Receiving Honorable Mention several weeks ago blew my mind. Finding out I was a Finalist left me speechless. I can’t believe my book made it that far, especially amongst a list of so many fantastic books.

Many congratulations to all the winners! My to-buy list of books is about to explode even more than usual. And huge thanks to Elisa and the judges for all their hard work and dedication to making the Awards happen. Such a great experience and I can’t wait to try again next year with a new release!

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

Excitement Error

There’s always something. You go through the writing process, get everything done and uploaded and ready for sale, and then there’s always something that has to be fixed.

You know, that one little spelling error you missed. Or a page layout issue that just didn’t sit right with you. Or maybe the image on the cover really needs a slight adjustment.

The things that wake you up in the middle of the night after a book launch, and have you scrambling out of bed to get it fixed in a hurry, because you won’t be able to sleep until it’s done.

That didn’t happen when I released the Matchmakers trilogy. I was so excited about that one, so eager to get it released, that for the first time, I actually slept easily the night after launch.

But, there’s always something.

I stumbled across a bad review of Second Chances, the first book in the trilogy. A lot of it I just brushed off as personal taste, but the reviewer did point out one thing that had completely slipped my mind.

The stories take place in a fictional world, and since all my writing takes place in that fictional world, it never occurred to me that the m/m audience, as opposed to my general fantasy audience, wouldn’t immediately realize that the books took place in a fictional world.

Then another reviewer pointed it out (pre-review, thank you Isa!), and I realized how stupid I’d been.

I’m just so wrapped up in this fictional world that it never occurred to me my readers might not be so. I live and eat and breathe the Shifting Isles, so I forget that there’s an actual reality out there sometimes.

So, yeah, my mistake. Entirely my fault. I should have thought of that. I’ve corrected it now, adding a note before the text to clarify that the stories do not take place in the real world, that there are multiple gods, that the days of the week have different names, etc. All the little things that were throwing readers.

What can I say? Live and learn. Fix your mistakes. And move on to the next thing.

But on a positive note…

honorable-mentionEEEEE! The Matchmakers Trilogy received Honorable Mention in the Rainbow Awards!

I actually screamed when I saw this pop up on the Facebook event page for the Awards. Considering I’m the little guy, the newbie, the nobody, and running amongst so many of my favorite authors, I never dreamed I’d actually get any kind of recognition. Sure, I’d hoped, but never thought it would actually happen. As far as I understand it, Honorable Mention means at least one judge gave the book at least 9/10 in all four ranking criteria, which is just thrilling to me. That someone enjoyed my book that much…

What a feeling!

Hat-Tips, Links, and Shout-Outs, News, Publishing, Shifting Isles

What Matters Most

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.

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

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

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.

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!!!