Hey There. Come Here Often?

[pulling out the Dory voice] Well, hi!

It’s uh… been a bit of time since I’ve posted here so I thought I’d check in, crack open a drink, and have a conversation with you all.

The last few months have been extremely hard for me, I’ll be honest. Some stuff happened that redefined the way I look at people I know in a serious way. There were police investigations (closed now) and the fallout will continue for years to come, but the initial whirlwind of holy shit has subsided. I’m relieved and disappointed, angry and fearful, determined and protective. It’s an exhausting mix of emotions, to be honest. All I have to say is thank god for Kate. She has always been and always will be my rock in stormy times. Things are looking up, at least somewhat. I’m trying to be a positive, immovable wall of reliability for those who need me. It’s difficult, and in quiet, solitary moments, I break more often than I’d care to admit, but those moments are becoming less frequent at least. Maybe we’ll all be okay with time and perspective.

Then of course there’s the election of our new Dark Lord POTUS and the fallout from that, which will also have ramifications for years. I stand in shocked disbelief on a daily basis since Lord Cheeto took office. But I also see the protests, the activism, the phone calls to representatives, the sheer rising up of our nation to keep the new PEEOTUS from sinking us all, and it gives me hope. I cling to the hope sometimes, because it feel like the only thing I have, this tiny little lifesaver ring in the face of racism, sexism, cronyism, nepotism, and discrimination. And also batshit crazy. Because Bannon is fucking insane and he’s Wormtongue, whispering his evil into the King’s ear.

But! I don’t want to get into all that political shit in this post. This is more of a hey, what’s up? thing. I’ve been working as a virtual assistant the last couple months, too. The book sales are still decent, but they don’t stretch the way they used to, so I picked up some extra work to even out the valleys and make it easier to save during the peaks. This is also the reason Kate and I have started a Patreon, so we can worry less about scraping together money for bills by doing side jobs and devote that time to the actual writing. It’s been a bit stressful, if I’m honest, but hopefully in the next few months, we’ll have a little more breathing room. Honestly, the Patreon is a lot more fun than I anticipated. I have lots of ideas for it, just need the time to execute.

I’m 42,000 words into Restraint (PE 4) and I’m predicting it’ll be around 100,000 words. This one is not quite as dark as the first three (quite possibly another reaction to the last few months. The darker real life gets, the fluffier I write. Maybe. If I could ever be classified as “fluffy,” which I think is a stretch. More like Addams family dark rather than Ted Bundy dark.) I’ve been having fun with the research for Restraint though. It’s set in Seattle, which is a city that’s always fascinated me. In fact, Kate and I have tentative plans to move there for a couple years when the kids are in college, and before we go to England. Assuming the US still exists by then.

I’ve also got the second Long Fall of Night queued up and ready to begin as soon as Restraint is released. Honestly, I need to write it before what I’ve had plotted for 2 years now comes to pass and I get accused of taking advantage of sick and twisted times. It’ll be quite the roller coaster, for sure.

After that, I have a few ideas. There’s a possible Reaping Havoc 3, a PE spinoff with a character from Restraint (plus another spinoff from Consent with a couple of those characters), and then the beginning of a futuristic slave epic I’ve been kicking around for months now, tentatively called Genesis Rising. That one, I cannot wait to sink my teeth into, but the plot is slow in coming, and I’m taking my time with it so as not to force anything. It’ll be a flop if I don’t do it right. I’m also considering whether or not to make it a menage. I haven’t written a poly relationship in a long time, and never for more than a scene in a work I’ve published. I miss the dynamics of it, and I would love to explore all the facets of it again. It’s such a beautiful kind of love.

I’ve also been knitting and listening to audiobooks. I’ve got intentions of getting audio production going for my backlist in 2017, but that depends on a lot of factors, so I can’t make promises at this point. I wish I could, because I want to hear Gavin come to life in a bad way, but patience is the name of this game.

So, that’s what I’ve been up to lately. Trying to keep my head above water and hold on tight in these changing, somewhat troubled times. I’d love to report Casa Rose-Aaron smells of roses and freshly printed money and is filled with the sounds of books being written at a lightning pace, but the reality is much more mundane and less exciting.

I do want to know what you all have been up to, even if it’s not glamorous or exciting, or even if you think it sounds like complaints. You know what? We’re all in this together and can share strengths. So come sit by me. Tell me a little bit about your worlds and what you hope happens in the next few months. I’ve missed you guys.

Perchance to Patreon

There’s been a lot of controversy the last week in the m/m world concerning authors who have Patreons set up. Patreon is basically a service artists (from all walks of life, like photographers, musicians, painters, filmmakers, models, you name it) can employ for fans who wish to support them in ways beyond buying their end product.

Patrons have been around for thousands of years. Shakespeare had patrons, and considering some of the salacious rumors surrounding just how much of himself he shared with his patrons, it’s possible he took it to levels well beyond what the modern patron does through the Patreon website. The artists of the Renaissance had patrons, and how many of you have seen the Starz network TV show Spartacus? Ilithyia, Glaber’s wife, became a patron of the House of Batiatus, promising enough money to completely cover the expense of training and caring for one of the gladiators. While parts of that show are not historically accurate, this detail is, and Spartacus lived a hundred years before Christ’s birth.

So patronage is not a new thing, though it has morphed into something the modern artist can take advantage of digitally, and in ways people from all walks of life—not just the rich—can take advantage of.

Being writers, we don’t get a fixed income. I know 60 days in advance what I’m going to get from Amazon. Payments from Draft 2 Digital—my distributor through Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Inktera—are monthly, so we know what we’re getting there as it hits our accounts. ARe were great at telling us what to expect each quarter, until they decided to keep it all instead. And my French publisher is still in the process of translating Power Exchange.

There is little margin for error in living like this. The most I get is 2 months’ notice that what I’m bringing in isn’t going to pay the bills—less than that if I switched to KU for my income, because Amazon only decides what they’re paying those authors two weeks after the month-end. Two months is nothing if you need to scramble to find a job, start working, and earn your first paycheck before then.

“So, if you can’t cover your bills through writing, get a job that does cover them,” some people might say.

I released 2 books in 2016. That’s the same output I had when I was working full time as a corporate drone, not the doubled quantity I’d hoped for when I was laid off and in a position to really have a go at the writing gig. Why?

Because I have gotten another job. 2 of them, in fact. I’ve picked up transcription work and have also become a virtual assistant for a multitude of clients… a lot of whom are like me, artists who are trying to free up their time from the doldrums of business running so they’ll have more time for their creations. I’ve also watched my wife, who only released one book at the beginning of 2016, become completely inundated with virtual assistant work to the detriment of her writing career. Kate has a post about her side of this as well, and you can read it here.

We are killing ourselves to make ends meet, and not because we’ve mismanaged funds, or because we’ve sat on our asses eating ice cream in front of the TV all day. Kate spent thousands to move here and a few months later, she had to have emergency surgery, adding thousands in debt to our situation because in this country, healthcare even for non-chronic issues can be enough to bankrupt a person. Amazon keeps changing the algorithms on how they feature books that are selling in order to support their Kindle Unlimited model, which is a royalty vampire for all but the biggest of names involved in it. Those algorithms are what put our books in front of new readers when people are browsing for what to read next. A writer friend of mine said the other day, “Is it any wonder only 15 of the top 100 books on Amazon’s rankings are not KU products?” All Romance eBooks decided to make off with our (and a bunch of others’) royalties for the last quarter of 2016. For Kate, Scribd changed their model in an attempt to compete with KU, and also nixed most romance books out of their inventory (which is why now only 2 of my titles are in it anymore) and that cut our royalties from them down by hundreds.

More $ going out + less $ coming in = unsustainable bill paying + AJ & Kate getting side jobs that have quickly become full time jobs because the paycheck is monthly as opposed to every 60 days for Amazon and descending amounts at varying points in time from the smaller vendors.

So while this might seem to some to be coincidental timing given the latest brouhaha, Kate and I have set up a Patreon after months of waffling back and forth on it. We waffled in part because we’ve seen grumblings like what has become a swell of voices this week decrying the practice, and in part because we keep trying to cover ourselves with “one more client” on both our VA client rosters. And I’ll be honest, there’s a little fear on my part that we’ll do this and the response will be chirping crickets.

We’ve decided to go into this jointly, because it’s all for the same household, and together, we think we can give patrons double the bang for the support—with new writing each month from the both of us, ebooks, signed paperbacks, and swag (plus we might come up with other ways to offer our talents and gratitude to patrons as we get better at this) depending on the tier patrons subscribe to.

For those who think this method of interaction between reader and author is nothing but bribery for content that “should be done out of love” or a demand for more from readers who already buy our works, I totally respect your decision to stick to supporting your chosen authors by buying their distributed works as you see fit. For those who think you’d be interested in helping support Kate and I in exchange for more content in the form of short stories, scene flashes from future works and WIPs, and perks above and beyond the traditional exchange of money for a formatted and edited ebook, check out the link to our Patreon and see if it’s something you might consider supporting.

On another note, as a result of the ARe closure, I realized my readers who prefer the PDF version of my books have no venue from which to purchase them. I’ve taken immediate steps to correct this, joining the Sea to Sky Books family in the hopes of providing readers with another choice in book buying options. My Books page has been updated with the new links to each title. I hope those who once used ARe as a source for buying books will consider this new option, run by Tina Haveman who is the owner/operator of eXtasy Books publishing. I’ve had extensive conversations with Tina and feel this could be the beginning of a good working relationship for both me and my readers alike. Happy reading!

 

Restraint (Power Exchange Book 4) or How This Disastrous Election Won’t Stop Me

I think I’m done reeling from the election results. I might have my balance back. Now, I’m rolling up my sleeves and ready to fight. I’m ready to take on those who want to see immigrants and Muslims and People of Color and LGBTQ people shuffled out of their country, into dark corners, or into some other kind of oblivion. President Trump is the dying gasp of a white patriarchy who can’t handle otherness, and while it may feel like a hurricane force wind right now, I’ve got lungs, too, and I plan to scream back. I will be like Lieutenant Dan, on the mast of a small ship riding stormy waves, screaming into the wind and the rain, “Is that all you got! Come on! Bring it!”

I will not go quietly into the closet/dark corners/oblivion like apparently half the voters in this country would like me and other marginalized groups to do. Nope. This is MY country, too and I absolutely refuse to be a doormat because these people have deemed my differences are not differences they can tolerate.

So much for America the melting pot.

I’ve been kicking around an idea for a 4th Power Exchange (this series has taught me to never say never. It keeps coming back so much I might as well make that the tagline). Ben of all people has been whispering to me, saying, “Hey, I have a story, too. Maybe I’m ready to let you tell it.” It has some legs, so I’ve tinkered out a plot and in the last couple weeks have gotten the first scene down amid a wedding, some serious personal strife that knocked me over like Hulk punching Thor, and this ugly, UGLY election. I cannot promise when Restraint will be released other than to say 2017. But it’s my foremost project, and is the one getting my attention. It may not go as fast as Consent did (4 months to write) or it may. The point is that I’m writing it and in the wake of heartbreaking, devastating news, I wanted to share with my people that maybe we still have things to look forward to. I know I still have a voice, and I plan to use it. I’m going to be getting louder. This is my way of saying I will not sit down, I will not shut up, and in fact, I will write about the love of people like me until I take my literal dying gasp. I will never quit.

So, as a promise to you all, I give you the first scene from Restraint, Power Exchange Book 4. I hope you like it and are excited Ben and Gavin have more to say. Click through to read on.

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Defenseless Cover Reveal

I’ve been waiting for this for a while, and the day’s finally here. The cover for my new release, Defenseless, is up at Diverse Reader and you can enter to win a pre-release copy, one of three I’m giving away. The book will be released in September. Sooooooon.

Let me know what you think!

Excerpt for the New WIP

Yesterday, I amused myself by writing a scene between brothers shortly after the older one, Kyle, comes out to his family that he’s gay and dating Jesse, who they previously thought was just his roommate. This scene is set at Chicago’s Pride parade and the evening after, and with a little liquid courage, his brother, Bobby, has all kinds of questions. (These questions are some of the things—minus what doesn’t exactly work with my physiology—I had people ask when I came out, so it was amusing to have a character be quicker on his feet than I was.) Enjoy.

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What’s Up?

So wow, the last month or so has been kind of nuts, hasn’t it? I don’t know about you, but busy doesn’t begin to describe it.

In the last several weeks, Kate moved to America to be with me, I finished a book, we got married, and I released the book. I won’t bore you with details about paperwork and editing and driver’s licenses and book covers and bank accounts and all that jazz, but let’s just say holy shit. There’s a lot going on up in here.

Reaping Havoc

Because of this, I’ve been hit and miss around social media, and while I’m trying, it’s not liable to get better for a little while. I’m in the midst of planning what to write next, and with the holidays coming up, I know we all get a little hectic.

But it’s the what’s up next bit I want to talk to you all about. Remember this post about what a dick my muse is? Well, it appears I’mma hafta cutabitch and take away his ecstasy, because he’s still not playing ball. He apparently luuuurves Nate and Mitch, because now, there’s a sequel to Reaping Havoc banging around in my head and oh my god I can hardly wait to start it!

IMG_1692

So here’s what’s up with The Long Fall of Night series.

I have every intention of finishing it, but because of the depths of detail required for the next installment, I cannot focus enough on it right now with everything else going on (more gov’t paperwork, traveling for the holidays, life/health insurance, car stuff, you name it we’re doing it) to do the book justice. I absolutely refuse to phone it in on any story I write just to keep to a schedule. That makes me miserable, makes the story suck, and readers can totally see it in the writing. I know there are those of you who are waiting for The Dark Before Dawn (LFoN 2), and it’s at the top of the pile. However, this may be one of those books (or series) I have to work on at the same time as working on something else, because it’s intense to write, intense to research, and it’s slow. I can’t do slow and still keep up with reader expectations.

So my intentions are these: I will continue with the Reaping Havoc world while the muse (that fucking dickhead) is moved by it, work on The Long Fall of Night series with slow and steady determination so as to get the next installment out sometime in 2016, and book 3 out the following year, all while keeping readers on the edge of your seats with new releases every three or so months. I have plans. There’s more Mitch and Nate, the Power Exchange spinoff, the rock star story, the co-written one with Kate (possibly, if her schedule meshes), a ménage, an assassin story, another paranormal world to build regarding ghosts that might fit into the Reaping Havoc world but it might not… Oh, the list goes on.

I promise you, my favorite ever readers, there will be no lack of new work coming from me. It’s just not in the order I planned. Viva la variété!

Reaping Havoc: Excerpt

Begun: July 26, 2015
Completed: October 15, 2015
Approx 95,000 words (pre-edit)

grim reaper watermarkDeacon the Reaper

So I finished another book. Huzzah! And the appearance of Deacon is especially fitting for this one, since it concerns a grim reaper. I have quite a bit to do for it still, including a cover and blurb, but soon. A few weeks. To whet your appetite, here’s an excerpt after the jump:

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When the Muse Does His Own Thing

My muse is kind of a bastard.

First, he (yes, he) gives me ideas that make my jaw drop, my eyes glaze over, and my heart trip hammer. But I’m driving. Or otherwise somewhere where I cannot write the idea down. Thankfully, I’ve circumvented this by having my phone on me at all times, so I can either dictate a note (driving) or tap out a quick text to myself while I’m waiting in line at the store.

Second, when I decide to sit down and write the story for which I got so excited, it’s not always the story the muse is up for exploring at the moment.
Muse: Oh! That character trait would work so much better on Donovan, your musician for that birthday fic you were writing Erin.
Me: But that was supposed to be for her only. Something special so she’d know how much I lurve her.
Muse: So? Ask her if you can turn it into a book, because damn!
Me to Erin: Hey, muse is being a dick again; can I turn your bday fic into a book? I’ll dedicate it to you because you’re so fawesome, but yeah, it kinda blew up and hey, here’s my visual inspiration. [throws her into Google Images to look up Sir-Blue-Eyes with the innocent face but oh my god, he’s beautiful with the not-so-innocent voice or body language]
Erin: Oh my word, he’s breathtaking. YES! MAKE ME A BOOK, WOMAN!
Muse: [smug grin]
Me: I knew you’d understand. [adds to the growing list of books to be written]

Third, publishing schedule? What publishing schedule?
Muse: Nah, I don’t feel like it today.
Me: Listen, asshole. I haven’t written in a month, since Long Fall of Night 1 came out, and I cannot afford to take these breaks. Do you want me to get stuck going back to Corporate America because you were coming down from ecstasy and now all your happy is gone? That’s really fucking selfish.
Muse: Are you threatening me? Because I can play much harder to get if you know what I mean.
Me: [narrows eyes] Oh really? Because I can think of a few things that make you pretty fucking unhappy, too, bitch. Like switching to something else. I bet I could write a knitting book. I wasn’t a half bad photographer, either.
Muse: You said the knitting was for family and for charity. And photography? What the fuck? You shoot three weddings and suddenly think you’re some big shot? You said other creative stuff would never come between us.
Me: What’s to come between? You’re on some kind getaway where all the other muses go to get high, fuck each other, and abandon your writers, so there’s practically a whole continent between us at the moment. If you’re gone, I have to do something. I’m not going to wait around for you to be ready for me. Two-way street, and you. are. failing.
Muse: Fine. But you’re not writing that. You’re writing this. [shoves new idea at me and makes the characters so loud, I have no choice but to comply]
Me: But! No! That’s not fair! I have readers, dude. They want the second LFoN book next! I can’t do a reaper story.
Muse: [grinning deviously] You wanted to write again, right? You can and you will.
Me: Fuck. [puts another tick in the Muse’s column]

Fourth, he knows I have exactly six hours before real life intrudes in which to get my daily quota (self-imposed) in. So he fiddle-farts around for four of those hours, and when I get exasperated and push in hour five for something productive despite his flighty attention span, he begrudges me a little bit of inspiration. In hour six, he opens the floodgates and oh my god this is so much fun, this is flowing, I’m in love with these characters and holy fucking hell they surprised me, and then I look at the clock, have about six ideas on where to go next, and see I have five goddamn minutes before I have to leave. So I scramble in those five minutes to write down the direction I want to go. Seriously, I have three notebooks on my desk at my fingertips, all with various stories, scene flashes, bits of character development, or plot points, plus four sticky note pads with the same, that I have grabbed in haste to keep from forgetting something. And when it’s time to use that inspiration, I can’t find it in the pile. Switching to a dry write board helped, but they’re full now, and because I have moved to story ideas at the muse’s whims, the notes on them are old. I can’t get rid of them because the second I do, that’s when the dick will want me to go back to it, and I don’t want to lose that work.

What’s the point of all of this? To let you, my dearest readers, know that The Dark Before Dawn is still at the top of the pile… just not the very top. Mitchell Seeker, reaper extraordinaire, is talking my ear off, and demanded to be written now, because he’s angsting about Nate, the ski instructor he’s trying so hard not to fall for. Nate has some interesting baggage of his own, and man, these two are fucking with my head. So!

I’m working. There will be a book out soon. It’s just not what I led you to think was coming next. The Dark Before Dawn is after that. And goddammit, if my muse doesn’t let that one just pour out of me when reaper stuff is complete, I will cutabitch. I’ll take away his ecstasy. That shit’s bad for you anyway.

Scene Flash: Long Fall of Night, Book 1

“Have you got a phone?” Elliot pulled an iPhone out of his pocket and waved it. “Try to turn it on,” Ash instructed. The screen remained stubbornly black. “It’s fried. A regular power outage doesn’t do that.”

Elliot threw up his hands. “What are you saying? This is a solar flare or something odd that took out the whole country?”

Ash stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, a frisson of fear dragging up his spine like a resurrected zombie shambling for brains. If Elliot wasn’t coming, he needed to ditch the kid before he got to the illegal stuff, and it clearly wasn’t happening until he explained what he knew. He was uncomfortable enough with breaking more than the underage drinking laws. Last thing he wanted was a witness or to get Elliot in trouble. “I don’t know. I have no evidence for anything. All I know is my uncle, who keeps his ear to the ground about foreign stuff and terrorists and shit like that, called me and told me if something unusual happened, to get out of the city. He sent me an email and said to be prepared. I need to get to my sister and nephew before any inmates do. I’m not going to sit around and wait for this place to descend into Lord of the Flies.

Elliot stared at him, confused, eyebrows furrowed, but opening his mouth to ask another question.

Ash lost patience and snapped, “Are you staying here or coming with me?” Elliot’s eyes went wide. Ash got right in his face, their lips an inch apart. “If you’re staying, I’m gonna kiss you goodbye and walk away. Five seconds.” He paused long enough to count down, while at the same time, giving Elliot a thorough eye-fuck for old time’s sake. Elliot’s skin reddened and he demurely dropped his gaze.

“Time,” Ash said softly, then kissed his lab partner for all he was worth, with full body contact, holding his head captive with one hand and pressing his other into the small of Elliot’s back. Delving his tongue into Elliot’s mouth, he groaned when his startled partner got over his surprise and kissed back with equal fervor, the caress of tongues and clash of teeth not usual for them. Hell, the kissing was unusual. Ash was almost instantly hard, regretting there was no time for this, let alone more to explore it. With one last sweep of his tongue between Elliot’s lips, he pulled back and looked into Elliot’s eyes. “Then I guess this is goodbye.” He ignored the pang in his chest, swinging around and striding away.