Read me for free* with Kindle Unlimited!

*Sort of free.

If you’re not familiar with Kindle Unlimited, it’s a subscription model available through Amazon enabling readers to pretty much read as much as they want for one monthly price. There are two catches – you can only borrow ten books at a time, and you’re limited to books made available to the Kindle Unlimited program.

Also, technically, you can’t actually read me. It’s my books that are available to read. More specifically, all of my Dreamspinner Press titles. But, seeing as I put so much of myself into the characters I write, you could be reading alternate versions of me. (Is this getting a little weird?)

..

So, What’s Available?

As I mentioned above, all of my former Dreamspinner Press titles are now enrolled in KU. They’re also available for purchase at Amazon worldwide.

Now

Links!

Best in Show
Block and Strike
Counting Fence Posts
Counting Down
Counting on You
When Was the Last Time

..

Sexy New Covers!

Additionally, I redesigned the covers for two books, one a former Dreamspinner Press novella, Out in the Blue, and the other a story I wrote for the Don’t Read in the Closet event, organized by the M/M Romance group on Goodreads. Wrong Direction is now available for sale for the first time ever, and to read through KU.

Check out these pretty new covers!

OBCover0806    Wrong Direction

Links!

Out in the Blue
Wrong Direction

..

No Longer Free*

*Even though they never really were free? 

Anyway, the Aliens in New York series is no longer enrolled in the Kindle Unlimited program. For those of you who missed out, I might enroll them again if I write a new book for the series. It’s a pretty big IF right now. I’ve got a lot of projects I’d like to write and limited time to devote to any of them. But, a writer must write, and write I must.

Rambling aside, what this means is that Uncommon Ground and Purple Haze are now available for purchase from, well, just about anywhere. Universal links below!

41aryKS98RL    41f0Sk6mSiL

Links!

Uncommon Ground
Purple Haze

 

 

RWA 2019

While pondering possible titles for this blog post, I considered “Misery Loves Company” which might have enticed you to read, but would have started us out on the wrong tone. My trip to New York for the Romance Writers of America 2019 National Conference was far from miserable. It was, in fact, one of the most enjoyable conference experiences of my career.

So what’s that other title about? Writing is a fairly solitary exercise and while I belong to three wonderfully supportive groups up here in the Poconos, none of them are romance focused, so I always look forward to an RWA conference as a way to connect with my peers in the romance genre, and with writers whose books, like mine, feature LGBTQ characters. I’m also looking to connect with writers who are at the same stage of their career so we can swap notes, perhaps commiserate a little, and cheer each other on to the next step.

BadgeThis year, in particular, I was hoping to do all of that and also find a reason to keep going. To, nevertheless, persist. My fatigue this year hasn’t all been due to external forces. As a writer and a romance novelist, I’m also exhausted by what’s happening in the marketplace. Thankfully, I’m not alone. My first workshop of the conference was appropriately named #Tired: Wielding Your Pen When the World’s on Fire and everyone in that room was tired. There are other writers out there who felt as though we now need to take two steps to cover the same distance as one. That everyone else is writing faster and harder and better. That our lives outside of writing hours have become stupidly complicated, meaning that sometimes three steps are required when we are back in the zone. And, we all agreed, the absolute dumpster fire that is social media just makes it all worse.

Our lovely panelists, Kianna Alexander and Synithia Williams, were prepared for us, though, with a number of ways for us to Realize, Reset, Recharge, and Restart.

Next up was the PAN Keynote with Jennifer Probst, who also talked about this overwhelming fatigue, to a wave of emphatic nods from the audience. I walked out of this session with five paragraphs scrawled into my notebook—all five written down at the encouragement of our speaker. Why I came to the conference, my fears regarding my career, my dreams, when my writing felt the worst, and when it felt the best. These paragraphs will slot nicely into the reset phase of my working plan from the first session.

I attended other workshops and sessions, but these two set the tone for my conference by reminding me that I wasn’t alone and that if <insert any author here> could keep going, I could too. I just had to want to.

Another aspect of this conference that resonated was how many authors took a moment to speak to the need for more diverse representation, not only in the awards arena, but in our chapters, on our boards, and in our books. The reminder that this starts at the chapter level is timely, and ties directly into why I’ve always tried to be active in my own chapters. Change starts within, and we will only get out of this organization what we put into it.

KHOn to the social stuff! The social happenings are the highlight of every conference and one of my favourite authors, Kristan Higgins, totally made my day on Thursday by posing for a picture with me. She is as lovely in person as she is in her reader group! I was thrilled to finally meet her.

I also ran into Liz Jacobs and Roan Parrish, both writers I adore! We’d been friends online for years, but it’s totally different to meet in person. I nearly convinced Liz to move to San Francisco, because for some reason I thought she already lived there and had what we agreed was a lovely mental image of her and her wife and cute dog all sitting on a sunny balcony overlooking the water. Roan has the boundless energy I recognize from her books. I was excited to applaud her efforts when the board recognized her fundraising activities.

I met and caught up with several members of the Rainbow Romance Writers chapter, both on Wednesday evening and Thursday evening. One of the challenges of an online chapter is the connectivity that comes with meeting regularly. Hopefully, putting some names to faces will enable our members to feel closer as a group. Robin Covington is going to do a fantastic job as chapter president next year and will need the support of our membership!

Beer drink

Thursday night, I caught my first Uber (after taxi overheated and dumped us on West 9th) to Brooklyn to watch E.J. Russell’s sons dance. Oh, my. Gina Night, Jenna Bayley Burke, E.J. and I stopped by the brewery next door first, then took our seats for three hours of scantily clad beauty. The skin! The dancing. The singing! The music! The show was called Queen of Hearts and performed by Company XIV at their theatre in Bushwick. An amazing show. Even if you don’t appreciate dance, just the experience of so many talented people moving and working together will blow you away. More objectively—so many lovely bodies. I could have watched these beautiful young people move all night.

Friday afternoon, I got together with Judith Utz (A Novel Take PR), Liz Jacobs, Jenn Burke, and Kini (Smexy Books) for a drink. We touched on the subject of industry fatigue and what seem to be the popular subgenres of romance right now. We also enjoyed delicious cocktails and each other’s company.

SmackDinner out with Jenn, J. Leigh Bailey, and Shae Connor was another highlight. We found the most amazing Turkish restaurant and enjoyed hours and hours of conversation about writing, publishing, and just being human. Later, we indulged in Schmackary’s cookies as recommended by Amanda Weaver. Nom, nom, nom.

I attended multiple signings and gathered many books. I plan to read all of them. I’ll try to read all of them. I’m thinking of writing a blog series about my attempt to read all of them. I’m always up for a challenge! After my first RWA (San Diego 2014) I dragged 37lbs of books home. I think you’ll agree I was much more restrained this time.

I finally met Vanessa North! She’s as gorgeous in person. I also met Cat Sebastian and Ruby Lang. I cannot wait to read Ruby’s book! I met a dozen other authors as well and enjoyed chatting with everyone about their stories.

BooksI picked the books in this picture for two reasons: I liked the author and wanted to read more, or the cover called me across the room. One thing I did notice this year was a distinct lack of science fiction, fantasy, and paranormal romance. A good thing, as there are fewer books in my haul. But a sad thing as those are among my favourite romance genres. This year, I picked up a lot of light-hearted reads and books that veer more into women’s fiction territory.

Finally, on Saturday, Jenn and I caught the subway downtown for a while, so she could see a little more of Manhattan. I took her to Washington Square Park where I tried and mostly failed to take a selfie of us standing in front of the arch. Then we popped into a few bookshops on our way back up to Union Square and ended our trip with another subway ride back to Times Square just in time to pick up our luggage and hoof it to the bus back to Pennsylvania.

WSP TAT

Back home again, I took Jenn to meet my tattoo artist, Rob, and she got an amazing tattoo! One final dinner out and we all came back to my place and collapses. Sunday officially didn’t happen. I did laundry and gamed.

All in all, it was a great conference. If you’re a romance writer or a member of the RWA, I highly recommend attending at least one national conference near you. If not just for the workshops and signings, but to mingle with your people. Exchange ideas, congratulation someone in person for their achievements, and learn a little more about the people behind the books you love. If you’re a reader, there is always a huge book fair on the Saturday where you can do pretty much the same thing. Meet your fellow readers (many of who are writers too!) and line up to meet the author of the book that changed your life.

My Summer Daze is still in effect. I still have to cover all the vacation shifts at the shop, get my daughter to college, prepare for my father’s visit and mow the lawn (again and again), but I now have some ideas—if not story ideas, then plans—for what I’ll be working on in September. I feel refreshed in regards to my career and, most importantly, as if there is still a place out there for my voice and my stories.

The hardest part of getting back to work is probably going to be choosing which project to work on, but I have some ideas about that, too. ❤

What Summer Feels Like

Remember how summer was always hotter when you were a kid? And longer. The nights seemed to go on forever, and the end of August was a long, long way away. I have discovered, through the miracle of slowing down, that summer is still like that. You just need to take the time to notice it—which, when you’re all grown up, can be very hard to do.

I was supposed to take a break from writing last summer. Instead, I edited, sometimes two books at once, as I worked through the different pre-pub phases of all three books of the This Time Forever series. I also wrote promotional pieces for the August release of To See the Sun and the September release of the Counting series print anthology. I wrote workshop materials for two classes I planned to teach in the fall. I booked promotion for the This Time Forever series, processed ARC distribution for all the books, and started planning the posts I’d write for my upcoming releases. I prepared monthly newsletters. I kept up with my obligations to the RWA chapters I’m involved with. I beta read, judged, and critiqued. I blogged.

I also did the usual stuff: mowed my endless lawn, kept up with the weeds, entertained houseguests (my dad stayed with us for two months), and drove my child to and from her first job, music lessons, and anywhere else her heart desired.

Not much of a holiday, eh? I was so busy that I had to put off writing Purple Haze for the second time—which was just as well as Kindle Worlds closed in July and I had to add republishing Uncommon Ground to the to-do list.

Then my husband bought a bagel shop, with the fall, my volunteer jobs at the library resumed (including those classes I’d signed up to teach), and I was still editing and promoting and trying to write. Oh, and my daughter was applying to college.

Several times over the past twelve months, I’ve wanted to develop a delicate constitution. Become one of those people from period dramas who shift from fainting couch (or whatever it’s called) to a sheltered window seat, to perhaps a soft blanket spread beneath a shady tree, while everyone twittered on about their health and did their best not to be upsetting. Of course, were I alive back then, I’d probably have been a peasant and not had the time to be delicate. Just like, well, now.

This summer, I was determined to take my break. I needed it in the worst possible way. I was too tired to write—I could put words down but had no enthusiasm for my favourite part: plotting. I can’t write without a plot. I am not a pantser. I need to know which direction I’m writing, or I’ll scribble in circles for two hours before coming up with anything useful.

Plus, I’m not even sure what I want to write. I have lists of ideas, and I love a lot of them. I have two science fiction worlds almost fully built that I’d love to dive into, an outline for a series that would be the logical follow up to This Time Forever, spin-offs to Aliens in New York, a sequel (finally) to Best in Show, and an outline for another book set in the same world as To See the Sun. Although I’d like to write all of these someday, by the time I hit publish on Purple Haze in April, I honestly didn’t care if I ever wrote again.

So I decided to take the summer off writing and my holiday began with a social media break—which has become such a habit that I might actually have to force myself to get back to regular posts on Facebook, Instagram, and… you know what? I’m not sure I’ll ever get back to Twitter. I never really liked it anyway.

What have I been up to? Well, I’m still mowing my endless lawn and driving my daughter everywhere. Preparations for her first year of college are taking up a fair bit of time and the list of stuff we need to do doesn’t seem to be getting any shorter. The bagel shop is still a thing and I’m working more hours there than I did throughout the year. Standing by a grill when it’s 90 out is all sorts of fun. And there’s the little matter of reformatting and republishing all of my Dreamspinner Press titles, due to my requested rights release.

Aside from ALL THAT, I am having a good summer, though. I’m… not writing. When I’m not stressing about the fact I’m not writing, I am actually having fun.

Family came to visit to celebrate my daughter’s graduation from high school and we went to Hershey Park and it was the best day I’ve spent at Hershey Park in something like ten years. Nothing went wrong, and because I wasn’t stressing about deadlines and contracts, I could simply relax and enjoy the day. Not check my email. Not care about social media, or what was happening in the world of publishing. Also, the lines were miraculously short for all the roller coasters and no one got sick on any of the rides. We didn’t lose a child, and we all made it home without injury. Our last stop of the day was one of my favourite places in Pennsylvania.

20190703_172343

Next up was July 4th, which we celebrated quietly at home. I’m not a huge fireworks fan, so while the kids did their best to set the driveway on fire (under the supervision of my husband and his brother), my sister-in-law and I mixed a couple of cocktails and watched a romantic comedy on Netflix. Perfect night was perfect. (No one lost an eye and only one kid threw up. Not a bad effort.)

20190704_210109

I’ve also been cooking a lot, which is something I miss when I’m hustling to meet editorial deadlines. We eat a lot of sandwiches when I’m busy. This summer, my daughter and I have been experimenting with plant-based eating. She’s been vegetarian for years and we’ve always enjoyed a lot of meatless meals as a family. This is our first proper foray into a vegan diet, though, and with all the new recipe sites out there, it’s easier than it sounds! I haven’t eaten cheese for over a month and I don’t miss it. I enjoyed a couple of ribs on July 4th (they’d been smoking on the outdoor grill all day and the smell, omg, the smell…), but otherwise haven’t missed meat. Eggs are harder for me to give up because they’re a breakfast staple. They’re a lot quicker and easier to whip up than a lot of the vegan alternatives. But I have cut my consumption in half and will continue to wean myself off the sunny side up with toast breakfast I enjoy so much.

I haven’t eaten bacon in over a month. Seriously, this is the most surprising fact of all. I LOVE bacon. But… I haven’t missed it.

The key, I’ve discovered, is choosing recipes that leave me not only full but satisfied. Salads generally don’t cut it. I need starch and protein. Here are a couple of favourites:

Vegan-Stuffed-Sweet-Potatoes-with-Spinach-and-White-Beans-The-Live-In-Kitchen-1
Picture credit: The Live-In Kitchen

Vegan Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Spinach and White Beans

Baked Tofu Caesar Sandwich

Persian Yellow Split Pea and Eggplant Stew (So good I could eat it every day)

Spinach Artichoke Enchiladas (Not vegan, but substitutes can be made)

Every summer, I battle deer for the preservation of my many flower beds. This year, I’m mostly losing the war, but I’m enjoying being outdoors more than I have over the previous few summers. I work hard to keep my garden nice. Taking the time to actually be out there, either reading on the patio in the afternoon or drinking my morning cup of tea out on the deck, is a great way to appreciate all my hard work. My enjoyment is my reward.

20190708_112305

I haven’t spent as much time gaming as I had planned to. Probably because the weather has been so gorgeous, I’ve been finding it difficult to stay inside. I want to be out there, under the sun. Winters in Pennsylvania are longer than winters in Australia, so I need to soak up as much sunlight as I can before November rolls around again. Serious gaming is going to have to wait until then while now, the odd rainy afternoon finds me playing Watch Dogs 2.

20190622092109_1

Every summer for the past five (ten?) I’ve planned to start painting again. This summer I just wanted to draw. I haven’t picked up a pencil, yet, but we’re only halfway through July, so I still have time.

Mostly, I’m enjoying not writing. Every day I don’t, the need to feel productive (or simply keep up) that has driven my writing career for over five years fades. It’s not that I never want to write again, but I’m slowly arriving at a place where if I didn’t, that would be okay—and that’s what I’m aiming for. There are a million quotes about the need for a writer to write and I have a feeling the urge will always be there. When I’m reading, in particular, the ideas creep around the back of my consciousness like poltergeists. I’ve resisted jotting most of them down, though. I have enough projects on the maybe to-do list.

What I’m looking for is a reason to write. I know what it is—it’s why I started this journey in the first place. It’s why I continue blogging, and why I’ve taken the time to republish all of my Dreamspinner titles. Because I love to tell stories, even when they’re about why I’m not currently telling stories. So, while I enjoy these long summer days and nights, remembering what ‘hot’ smells like, and contort myself to scratch the mosquito bites behind my right shoulder, I’ll wait for that feeling to float to the top again. For the one story I need to tell to start knocking. For the voices in my head to start whispering. To not care who I’m writing for, except the one whose butt is in the chair, whose fingers are on this keyboard.

The end of August is still a long way away. I’ve still got a lot of summer left to enjoy.

Celebrating Pride!

Pride month is important to me as a writer of LGBT fiction, but also as a human being. Pride is an important part of my identity and every year, I watch – with pride – as more people are encouraged to celebrate themselves, thereby encouraging others. Often, I think it would be nice to live in a world, a time, where a Pride Month isn’t necessary. But this is and will forever be an important part of our history, and even when who you love matters less than who you are, the fact that there ever was a struggle must always be remembered.

Therefore, I’m thrilled to offer BLOCK AND STRIKE for just 99c throughout Pride Month because this book is about pride. Both Max and Jake struggle with their identity and sexuality and it’s partly through their relationship that they figure out how to be themselves – Jake, a nurturer and caregiver, Max as someone strong enough to stand up for himself.

I put a lot of myself into this book in regards to that struggle for identity and how important the study of martial arts has been in helping me find my voice. If not for my own experiences at the dojo, this book and others might never have happened.

Also, in random trivia:

  • BLOCK AND STRIKE was my first full-length solo novel
  • My first book in print
  • First of my books to win an award
  • I have Jake’s tattoo on my right shoulder blade
  • I named my Mustang after Max.

 

Get BLOCK AND STRIKE for just 99c at all retailers!

Amazon | Amazon UK | B&N | Kobo | Apple Books | Dreamspinner Press

 

Excerpts and extras from BLOCK AND STRIKE:

The Golden Man (Excerpt)

Egg Drop Soup (Excerpt)

First Kiss (Excerpt)

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie (Excerpt)

Who’d bury a body for you? A chat with Max and Jake

Learning to Make Noise Why I study self-defense.

Writing Kids and Family

Bird Chatter

Once upon a time, Lex Chase hosted something called Flash Fiction Fridays on her blog. To those invited to participate, she would send a picture, a random sentence, and the encouragement to make of it what we could. “Bird Chatter” came from the following prompt: “Something about him is…off.”

It’s not the weirdest thing I’ve ever written (that distinction probably belongs to A Moustache Called Justice) but it’s definitely one of the most fun.

286f536e12d3f9122b2b16a4237b1d60_template-below-to-create-your-own-bird-on-a-branch-mural-in-a-_236-236

Bird Chatter

“Something about him is…off.”

“Hmm?” Percy glanced over his shoulder to see who Jerry might be talking about.

Arrayed on the branch behind them were three brothers and four sisters, all with beaks clacking and feathers rustling. It was preening time, which meant gossip time. Nothing like a tidbit of scandal to go along the nitpicking of dust and mites, the resetting and smoothing of feathers.

“Him, on the end.” Jerry pecked at Percy’s scapulars as if he’d leaned over to arrange his feathers rather than gesture toward the next branch over.  

Percy tried not to turn his head all the way, though he prided himself on having a nearly 360-degree swivel. Not all blue jays could turn their heads all the way around. He’d need just about all that radius to take a gander at the bird perched at the end of the branch behind him, however.

After a few warm-up swivels, Percy swung his beak toward his target.

“Not now!” Jerry squawked. “He’s looking right at us. Turn around. Turn around.”

Percy let his neck unwind a little too fast. The rest of the tree rushed past his eyes in a dizzying blur and he swayed on his perch a moment before regaining his equilibrium. “I nearly had him in view!”

“You didn’t have to turn all the way around that way. You looked ridiculous, twirling your head like that. Just look the other way. Quickly. Now…no, wait… Now!”

Percy performed a less impressive five degree turn the other direction and looked at the bird perched at the end of the next branch. Oh, yeah, something about him was definitely…off.

“It’s his breast,” Percy reported once he faced forward again. He then leaned over to peck at the side of Jerry’s head. “Stop already. Any more preening and you’ll misalign my coverts.”

“I’m not even close to your coverts. Now sit still a moment, two of your secondaries are tangled.”

Percy extended his wing carefully to give Jerry access to his feathers. “He’s too blue.”

“I know! I mean, I like a blue breast on a guy.” Jerry snapped his beak.

Proud of his show of blue, Percy puffed up his breast.

“But there’s a right and wrong shade of blue.” Jerry twitched a secondary. “His is much too showy.”

“Maybe he’s related to Reginald.” 

“No, Reginald’s blue had a more violet tinge. You’re talking about Reginald who nested with Agatha last season, right?”

“I still can’t believe he left Arthur for that shrill.”

“Great eggs, though.” Jerry shrugged.

Percy studied the veritable swarm of birds perched along every branch of the tree. “S’pose you’re right. He came from Catherine’s nest, didn’t he?”

“No, I’m pretty sure he was Gertrude and Bartholomew’s egg.”

“Bartholomew?” Percy cocked his head. “One-eyed-Bart? Did you see his mating flight?”

“Oh, I know. I’m amazed he caught Gertie at all. If you ask me, she let him catch her. She always had a soft spot for Bart.” Jerry had finished arranging Percy’s secondaries. “Extend your wing a little farther, sweets, and I’ll have a go at your marginals.”

It would be useless to argue. Percy extended his wing and practiced swiveling his neck again. Three hundred, three-twenty-or-so, three—

“Stop that.”    

Percy turned his head the other way and took another peek at Mr. Blue. Blinked rapidly. “Who is he, anyway?”

“I don’t know! I’m fairly certain he joined the flock last flight. What makes him think he can just perch on any old branch, I just can’t say. Highly impertinent.”

Percy eyed the stranger again. His breast really was quite blue. “Perhaps he’s lost. You know, we could just ask him who he is.”

“What if he’s someone important? Admitting we don’t know his name would be the worst sort of insult.”

“If he was that important, we’d know his name, Jerry.”

Jerry huffed into his feathers, shifting the ones he’d just aligned. Retracting his wing, Percy ducked his head to tend them. Beside him, he could feel Jerry turning to eye the strange bird.

“It’s not just his breast,” Jerry murmured. “There’s something about his eyes and his neck. It’s too thick.”

Which would make it harder to swivel, Percy thought.

“You know, I don’t think he’s a blue jay at all.”

“What else could he be?”

“Ever heard about cuckoos?”

Percy raised his head so suddenly, he dislodged a marginal. “You don’t think—” He glanced over his shoulder. “I didn’t think they worked in disguise.”

“Maybe they do, now. I mean, you’d think we’d notice a different egg in the nest, but no one ever does, do they? So I can’t imagine why we would notice a different bird. But maybe someone did and now cuckoos are employing disguises.”

A shiver crept beneath Percy’s feathers. He scanned the rest of the birds on the next branch, then turned to look at Jerry, his little mind whirling with possibilities. “Maybe that’s what happened to Cornelius. There was always something odd about the bird that nested with him.”

“Oh my God, I think you’re right!”

Jerry began an agitated dance along the branch. “We need to do something. Say something!”  

“But what? What can we say? Maybe he’s a deliberate plant.”

“What? Why?”

“Maybe the cuckoos aren’t content to move in one nest at a time.”

“How horrible. Percy! Percy! You know what this means, right?”

“That we have to find female mates and make more eggs?” His wings were flapping independently of thought, fluff and marginals flying around him in a dusty haze.

“Say it ain’t so!”

“We need to do something Jerry. Do something, do something, do something.”

Jerry launched from the branch with a petrified squawk and fluttered upward with short jerky thrusts of his wings. Percy followed. Their panic alerted the rest of the flock, who didn’t bother to look for the source. They simply followed, as a good flock must. Soon, the air was filled with the beat of wings and the shrill of anxious cries as every bird swarmed the air. The sky was thick with birds until they settled into a pattern, following the leader to safety, which was apparently the tree next door.

Percy settled gratefully onto a branch next to Jerry and immediately started pecking his feathers back into place. Jerry chirped anxiously for a few minutes before settling. Then he began swiveling his head. He still didn’t have quite the number of degrees Percy had.

He stopped moving. “Percy, Percy.”

“What?”

“Don’t look now, but that bird over there. Something about him is…off.”