WIP Excerpt- Full Chapter

It’s been a little while since I’ve shared what I’m working on, so I thought I’d give you a chapter of my latest, an as-yet-untitled legal drama. This (unedited) chapter is a good introduction to the characters, their personalities, and the timeframe of the story. Hope you like it!

CHAPTER 2

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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.

Getting to Know Ash Caine, Part 2

What’s your favorite book?
I’m not much for reading books, mainly because when I had time, I couldn’t find a lot about people like me. A few years ago, I found this one fanfic writer, Ewinfic, who wrote Star Trek real person fiction about the actors behind the 2009 JJ Abrams reboot. She wasn’t afraid to push boundaries, either, and I learned some kinky shit from her stories. I also liked the Shannara series by Terry Brooks, but after reading a dozen of those, I got kind of sick of it. If I had to pick a book, it would be something sci-fi, but I can’t think of one off the top of my head.

What’s your most embarrassing memory?
Second grade. Kid named Jeremy Hicks. My mom told me all the kids in my class were supposed to get a Valentine card, and I had a crush on him. Put a heart next to his name on the front, and when they realized I hadn’t done that to any of my other Valentines, I learned real quick what homophobia was. When Charlotte ratted me out, I played it off to our parents like I’d meant to put hearts on all of them, and his was just the first, but that after Jeremy’s was done, I changed my mind. I don’t know if they bought the lie, but they didn’t act like it was a big deal.

If you could go anywhere on vacation where would you go and what would you do there? Is your answer now different from what it was before the shit hit the fan?
Vancouver. It’s beautiful, not incredibly hot or cold one way or another, and has a really eclectic culture. Frankly, moving to Canada now seems like a good option, so yeah, that’s still my destination of choice.

What places have you been on vacations and what was your favorite?
I’ve been to San Francisco, Orlando, and Olympic National Park in Washington. Uncle Marvin lives on the edge of it. If I had to pick one, it’d be San Francisco. That was the first place I ever saw two men holding hands, and knew I wasn’t alone in the world. Not that I was going to learn more about San Francisco’s gay community when I was ten, but it was sort of a confirmation I hadn’t known I was waiting for. The wharf was cool, too, and I could have watched the seals on the pier all day.

Tell me about your Mom and Dad. What do you remember most about them?
My dad was fierce, but he was a pretty reserved, self-contained guy. He wasn’t the kind to swagger or brag about what he could do. He knew what he was capable of, and didn’t give a shit if anyone else believed it or not. He also wasn’t the kind of dad to leave all but the playing with us to my mom. He read as many bedtime stories and gave as many baths as she did. But I remember his smell, most. Head & Shoulders shampoo, whatever soap was cheapest, and sweat.

Mom was a little more outspoken than Dad. She was a skinny thing, and tall. She was taller than Dad, and I remember him laughing and saying if he ever needed an ego check, he just had to look up at her to remember there were bigger things than him. He meant her heart, but he teased her about her height. Anyway, she was always smiling, but she was smart. Fantastic poker player. She taught me about body language and tells. Then she promised that for every outdoorsy thing Dad taught us, she had a housekeeping lesson. I don’t like cooking but I can do it. Ironing is the devil, so I do it as little as necessary, but I know how. I learned how to handle debit and credit cards by the time I was fourteen, not that they were in my name. It’s kind of morbid, but she told us how much our monthly income was and used the incoming hospital bills for her cancer treatment to illustrate what happens when you have to juggle payments. But she was fun. She’s the one who let us cover the living room in chairs draped in blankets and call them tents. She’d make kitchen-s’mores—carefully roasting the marshmallows in the gas flame of the stove burners—and let us have them in our tents while crawling in with us to have ghost stories around a flashlight we pretended was a campfire. She’d randomly start singing and dancing in the kitchen, and she helped us set up little skits. Charlotte was the dramatic one, but I liked building the “sets” for her skits, and my parents indulged us both. Mom was the spontaneous one. I can’t pick a single memory I remember most about her.

Have you ever been betrayed by someone you trusted? If yes would you ever forgive them? If not how do you think you’d react if it happened?
When I was in high school, I was Chip Wilkinson’s piece on the side. He was the baseball team’s captain and was “dating” a cheerleader, but I was the one whose bedroom he snuck into in the small hours of the night. My room was in the basement, and he couldn’t climb through a window, so I gave him a key to the back door. Given how far he went to convince his parents he was straight, I shouldn’t have been so surprised when it ended badly. I was “tutoring” him in biology, not that he needed much help from me. He wasn’t a dumb jock, just a bored one and he had a passing grade, but not a great one. Anyway, one afternoon, we were supposed to be studying for a test on the nervous system or something, and instead, we were on the couch with our hands down each other’s pants.
Charlotte walked in on us, home early from work because Riley was sick. She stopped and blinked at us, then took Riley into the bathroom for a cool bath to lower his fever. She never said a word. Chip freaked out. I told him it was no big deal, that Charlotte didn’t think sexual orientation was gossip fodder, but he wasn’t even hearing the words coming out of my mouth. He left and the next morning, he’d spread rumors that I’d come onto him during a study session. A couple guys from his team were waiting to “escort” me to my first class. I never made it. When I could stand again, I walked home and spent the rest of the week at home, trying to convince Charlotte not to go after him, or take me to the hospital. We couldn’t afford the bills, and Mom was gone by then. It was a couple of bruised kidneys, and some bad bruises. One of them tweaked my knee. They were careful enough not to get my face, so when I came back to school, people just assumed I’d been embarrassed by the rumors and stayed away.

I didn’t care what other people thought of me, but Chip… that hurt. He got caught a year later with his catcher in the school showers, and neither of them couldn’t save face, so he was out whether he wanted to be or not. Last I knew, he got a scholarship to play ball at University of Maryland, and didn’t need his parents’ blessing anymore.

Would I forgive him if he apologized? I already have. He was scared. My parents’ deaths were far worse than the fishbowl that was high school, but I had a better support system with my sister and her out-of-wedlock baby than Chip did with his perfect nuclear family, so I understood his reaction. I don’t know if he set up my greeting party that next day. Even if he did, in the long run, he did me a favor. Because of that beating, I learned how to defend myself, to fight back. I also learned to be more careful with my trust.

What’s your Myers-Briggs type? Or, as is my preference, your D&D alignment (and you don’t have to have played the game to answer these – I tried it)? http://www.helloquizzy.com/tests/the-d-d-alignment-test

Your result for The D&D Alignment Test …

True Neutral

You scored 57% Law vs Chaos and 50% Good vs Evil!

Keep this in mind, before you read this and take it too seriously…
This test is based on a system of moral absolutes. There is no subjectivity in D&D, as it is based on a fantasy world of heroes and villains. That is why their alignment system is so simple and polar. So naturally, if I were to apply this simple morality to modern day life, things would look very “black and white”. That is why I watered down the concept of evil and good. It is very unlikely that anyone who takes this test is a mass murderer or a superhero, so Mean vs. Nice will have to take the place of good vs. evil.

Neutrality in a nutshell:
-In regard to Law vs. Chaos, neutral characters are fairly well balanced. They believe that their morality, or lack thereof, is more important than what is legal or illegal.
-In regard to good vs. evil, neutral characters tend to be somewhat selfish. They do not have a strong will to do the right thing, but they do have a conscience.
Your Alignment:
“Undecided”
This alignment is suprisingly common. Even I fall into this category.
Most people assume that they are good. They follow the rules and they are nice to people most of the time. But what do we really DO to benefit society? The answer for most of us is… not much. We just play our part, and do our own thing.
Don’t feel bad though. It’s better than being evil.

Scenarios:

If you walked into your favorite store to find they had rearranged everything how would you feel and react?
I’d probably get annoyed and grumble about it, but find what I needed anyway and get out. Not really big on shopping.

You just found out you need a good bit of money very quickly. How do you go about getting it?
I mentioned my mother played poker, right? I’d probably hit up a high stakes game and see what I could do. I can hold my own at counting cards. If I needed more than a few hundred or a few thousand, I’d probably talk to my uncle. It would depend on what it was for, though. I’d rather not pop up on anyone’s radar, so illegal means wouldn’t be too helpful.

Answer these as though the catastrophe hasn’t happened yet:

What is in your refrigerator? On your nightstand?
Gatorade, fruit and vegetables, lunchmeat. Nothing exciting. On my nightstand, there’s a lamp, a couple books, my cell phone charger, and a picture of my parents. Maybe a handful of change, unless my asshole roommates stole it.

Time for a typical night out. Where are you going? What are you wearing? What are your plans when you get there? Are you meeting anyone specific?
Probably hit up a club. I’d wear jeans, a t-shirt, and depending on the weather, my leather jacket. Boots. When I got there, I’d have a couple beers, and check out the crowd, see if there are any takers. No one specific. Anonymous would be fine, although I kind of stopped going to clubs in the last several months.

What’s your roommate like? How long have you been roomies?
I have three roommates, and they’re all assholes. The one who shares my room, Jared, I’m pretty sure is fucking his girlfriend in my bed so he doesn’t have to wash his own sheets that often. The other two are kind of obnoxious, but I guess they’re just typical guys. At least they’re all serious about school, though, so I can study without tuning out wild parties and a parade of girls in and out.

If you knew you wouldn’t get caught would you commit a crime? If so, what crime?
Depends on the reason. If I was stuck in a situation where the only solution was to break the law, then yeah. Let’s take your earlier question about what I’d do if I needed a lot of money quickly. Say it was because Charlotte had some kind of problem, like her van got totaled and she needed a car, or something she needed for Riley, like expensive medicine. If I knew I wasn’t going to get caught, I’d probably get a guy I know to hack a bank. I’d try to stay away from stealing from a person, but some of those banks are full of criminals in suits. That would be easier for me to stomach than stealing debit cards or identities. But I don’t think I’d commit a crime without damn good reason, and only if I had no other option.

Do you have any hobbies?
Kickboxing. Building shit. I like to tinker.

What chore do you hate the most? Any you actually enjoy doing?
Housecleaning. Laundry. If I ever have a house, I’m going to have a house cleaner for all that. I don’t mind yard work, though, or even gardening. I prefer fresh veggies not tainted by pesticides, and we didn’t have much of a yard growing up, but we always had a few tomato plants and some other basic vegetables. Useful, good for the environment, and better for our health. Cheaper, too.

What’s your favorite restaurant?
When we were in Orlando, we spent a day at Disney World. There’s this place in the MGM, or whatever they’re calling that park now, called the 50s Prime Time Café. It’s set up like a 1950s diner and the wait staff treat you like they’re your family. What I mean by that is when you sit at your table, they dump the silverware in a pile in the middle and ask you to set the table for them. When you order, they make you get vegetables and they tell you they won’t let you have dessert unless you clean your plate. My dad wanted a beer and it was in the middle of the day. Our waitress gave him the biggest raft of shit for drinking before 5 o’clock. I can remember a couple at a table a few spots over and the guy didn’t want to eat his green beans, so he’d hidden them beneath his chicken and mashed potatoes. The waitress found them when she went to clear their plates and she made a show of making him eat three green beans. She even fed them to him. The whole dining room was laughing, the guy included, and he eventually got his pie or whatever he tried to order. But that stuck with me. The food was good, and it was entertaining. While I have only been there once, it was the most memorable restaurant I’ve ever been to. I was only eight, so I’d like to go back some time and see if it’s really how I remember it.

Getting to Know Ash Caine, Part 1

From time to time, I like a more extensive study, in order to get used to being in my characters’ heads, particularly if they’re stubborn and being quiet in my head. This way, I force them to talk when their image isn’t enough to spark my imagination. The other day, my PA sent me a long list of questions for Ash Caine from The Long Fall of Night, and I’ve decided to share some of the answers. There are a lot of questions, though, and more for a single post, so I’ll probably have another post or more depending on the length of the answers. Here’s the first few.

Describe a summer day with Uncle Marvin from when you were growing up.
Well, he’s not my biological uncle, so I don’t have memories of him at 4th of July picnics or Christmases, and he wasn’t a greater fixture in our lives until after Dad died. Charlotte wanted nothing to do with him at first, so it was just him and me. I’d take him around the Lakes and he taught me things about surviving in a forest setting, how to trap, how to live off the land. I refused to fish though. He once tried to talk me into noodling, but if I couldn’t make myself unhook a catfish from a line, he wasn’t getting me to stick my whole forearm down a fish’s throat. No fucking way.

We know Elliot’s music tastes; what are yours?
The harder the better, though Elliot’s tastes are refining mine, I guess. I can appreciate how good some of his symphony stuff is. Before that, it was mostly Black Veil Brides, Fall Out Boy, Three Days Grace, Shinedown, Seether, Rise Against, Placebo, DeVotchKa, Paper Route, Kidneythieves. Mostly dark stuff and some old school. Metallica, Skid Row, Guns n Roses, that kind of thing, though not as much of the glam shit from the 80s.

What superpower would you want and why?
Definitely not invincibility. I don’t want to watch my loved ones die around me for eternity. Flying seems cool, but it doesn’t do all that much for anyone but me. Invisibility would be cool, but so would shapeshifting, or… Oh, I know. I’d like to be able to manipulate matter, so I could turn one object into another. Like if I need a knife and don’t have one, I could turn a flashlight into a knife just by thinking about it. No, just by touching it. I don’t want to wish for a burrito only to have the book I’m reading turn into one.

Who is your biggest role model?
Most people would expect me to say my dad, because of how much he’s influenced me, but there’s someone who’s done more: Charlotte. She taught me about keeping my chin up, that it’s okay to be human and have flaws as long as I stand up and be responsible for my actions, and that there’s nothing more important than my word. Family is a close second, and I can tell you why it’s not the other way around. I would die for her and Riley and even Uncle Marvin in a heartbeat, but my word has an effect on more than just my family. Other people can become family based on my word, and how much I stand behind it. Take Elliot for instance. When I stopped pretending the words out of my mouth about keeping my distance matched the words in my heart, he became family. I have influence over more than a small sphere of people, and each of those influenced deserve my best, too. It sounds idealistic, but if more people stuck by that rule, maybe we wouldn’t have gotten into the blackout mess to start with.

When have you been most satisfied?
The day I got my scholarship offers for NYU. It was the first time someone with real power to enable me to change my future took an interest. Sure, my science teacher in high school, Mr. Libby, wanted to help, but there was only so much he could do. I know I don’t exactly help myself looking like I do, with the long hair and tattoos, but those things shouldn’t matter. I have a brain and someone finally recognized that fact outside my family.

What would your former teachers say about you?
The majority of them would say I didn’t care or that I was a smart ass. They’re not wrong, but most of them didn’t recognize I acted out because I was so fucking bored. The shit they taught in high school were things I’d already learned on my own during middle school. Mr. Libby was the only one who recognized that I wasn’t some scab just trying to ooze trouble, but that I needed more from my education. He tried to do his best, and if he hadn’t, I don’t know what would have happened with NYU. He’s the one who wrote the recommendation for the scholarship board, told them about our extra credit work, and assured them I wasn’t a mess, but a kid who needed a challenge. Mrs. Kostova would probably say she’s surprised I’m not dead yet. Then again, she might be dead now, for all I know.

Any scars? From what?
I have a couple. There’s a through-and-through scar on my left foot from a nail I stepped on at a construction site when I was eleven. I wanted to study how they wired a building, and one side was ready for the plumbing and electricity while another part was still in the interior framing stage. Security guards saw my flashlight and chased me out, thinking I was there to steal copper piping or some shit. At least the nail wasn’t rusty. I have another one above my eye from falling off the roof when I was seven. I had an idea for a drone, but there was something wrong with the controller handling pitch and yaw, and it landed on the roof. I didn’t plan on the climb down being one-handed, and when I slipped, I tried to catch myself on the gutter. Landed okay, but the gutter fell with me and cut my face. Then there’s this one on my left middle finger. Drawer front on the silverware drawer came off and I accidentally glued it on upside down. Tried to pry it off with a chisel, but the glue I used had already set. Chisel slipped and cut to the bone. I think I was seventeen? It was after Mom died, I remember that much.

How do you work out aggression or anger? What calms you?
Loud, in your face music pumped straight into my brain and either a session at the gym with a body bag or a good long run pounding the pavement. Given my new living arrangements, I’ve had to adapt somewhat. I saved my phone, and the camp has a couple communal chargers that are hoarded worse than gas and water, but I can still listen when I need to. Hiking helps, I’m learning. I never hunt when angry. Handling weapons while my judgment isn’t the best is a bad idea. Though to relieve stress, I’ve been going to the camp shooting range with the bow and arrow they let us keep in the arms locker. It’s repetitive, useful, and the sound does something to break my tension far more than firing a gun.

Have you ever had your heart broken?
Yes. When my dad died, and then later, my mom. But if you mean romantically, no. I haven’t put myself out there enough to get my heart involved… until now anyway. God, that’s kind of an uncomfortable thought.

We all develop bad habits; what are yours?
I’ve started biting my fingernails. I’m also really paranoid of new people now. My trust in humanity took a big hit, given all that’s happened. Yeah, I know I said people outside my family deserve better from me, but I find it really hard to expect them to reciprocate. I waffle back and forth between thinking fuck it, I’m going to start a compound and keep me and mine safe and everyone else is on their own, and thinking if we’re going to get society back on track, let’s reinvent ourselves to be better.

Has anyone ever said anything that has stuck with you? If so who was it and what did they say?
My dad, when he told us he wasn’t retiring from the marines after 9/11 and why. He and Charlotte got in a huge fight about it. His exact words were, “Who’s going to fight for you when you can no longer fight for yourself? The military, that’s who.”
Then she said she’d be dead before she stopped fighting for herself, because she was the only one she could trust, since even her daddy was leaving her to go it alone. She was so convinced we’d never see him again. And we didn’t.
But I decided then and there she’d never go it alone, whether Dad came back or not. She was an idiot, thinking she’d never be vulnerable, but if I had her back, and she had mine, we’d be a lot less vulnerable.

to be continued…

The Risk in a Read

As a young writer, say ten or eleven, I had dreams. Big dreams, that I’d write a book or fifty, would dominate the shelves at the biggest chain bookstores, would attend signings that were more like rock concerts (what can I say, I had just left behind my hair band days and was a little deluded about fame and that writers shared that kind of fame), and would pen the next ten blockbuster flicks people would rave over. I wanted to be somebody. I wanted to move people with my words.

The reality isn’t glamorous. It’s late nights where I’ve run my fingers through my hair so many times it could do a waltz on its own. Mornings where I literally stumble to the basement in my pajamas with a mug of coffee and don’t look up from my computer until late afternoon. Lunch, you say? Why no, it must have passed me by. Again.

I don’t have Hollywood knocking on my doors, and I don’t have shelves at Barnes & Noble prominently displaying my books. I haven’t heard from any book retailers interested in having me do a reading, and even if they did ask, I’d have to take some serious courage pills to be able to stand in front of strangers and do the reading/signing bit. I am not about to attend the movie premiere of any of my stories-turned-cinema, nor am I scouting for an agent to represent me in talks with a major backer out in L.A. Sad but true, I am living the dream, but now the dream is, “YAY! I can pay my bills with royalties! Hope there’s some left over for wine.”

So I’ve had to readjust some expectations. Justalittlebit.

One of them is the give and take between readers and authors. Every author wants five star reviews with a few one stars thrown in saying the book was well written but with this beloved character being killed off, the reader just couldn’t go on without them, they loved them that much. No author wants to read, “DNF chapter 1 because are you fucking kidding me?” (DNF = did not finish, for those who are new here.)

Let’s shift the expectations again.

Now, I will fully acknowledge I’ve been one lucky fucker since releasing Power Exchange three years ago. I know it’s flawed, and yet people seem to love Ben and Gavin enough to be forgiving of that other stupid thing Gavin does at the end that he really ends up regretting. I get email to this day about that book, telling me they didn’t understand BDSM until they read PE, that they appreciated the love story, and my favorite: that my writing moved them.

My writing moved them.

My writing moved them.

—record scratches and stutters with that itchy white noise—

I have moved people with my words.

Isn’t that one of the big ones I dreamt? Why yes, I believe it is.

People remember my stories weeks after they finish them. They’ve told me that themselves.

So, slowly but surely, I’m getting somewhere. OMG, I’m getting somewhere!

One of the things, however, I didn’t bank on, were the demands.

It is no secret the romance genre requires certain elements to qualify, and if you’d have asked me twenty years ago, when I was still dreaming of this life, if I’d be writing romance, I’d have laughed at you. No, thrillers are where my heart lies.

Except nope. As I grew up, my heart got squeezed by writing stories about people like me, in same-sex relationships, with problems other people have or if the problems are bigger, it’s not the gay characters who end up maimed or dead because that’s the only acceptable HEA.

So if I write what speaks to me, I’m told I fit in romance.

I call bullshit on that, but it’s a work in progress. While I always intended to write dramas or thrillers or mysteries or paranormal stories or horror, I read plenty of those where there was a love interest, too, and that didn’t automatically move them to romance. However, writing LGBT fiction with any kind of love story, it’s pretty much romance with a ton of identifying keywords so the right audience can find it in a search or bust.

Ugh, I hate being told I don’t fit somewhere I want to be.

It smacks of, “Kill the gay character or face the wrath of the readership who don’t sympathize with them.”

It reeks of, “The public isn’t ready for LGBT characters to have romantic interests that work out in a HEA. So don’t give them one.”

It’s heaving with, “People don’t want to read about two guys kissing or falling in love. Two women, sure, because that’s hot (and heh heh, can we watch/join in? Heh heh).”

So the last several years, m/m and the wider LGBT genre has SMASHED the thinking on that bullshit, and what do you know, acceptance for LGBT people as a whole is gaining ground. Are we writers of LGBT romance responsible for that? I’d like to think we have our slice of responsibility in that pie chart, sure.

But it takes open minds of readers, who are willing to challenge themselves in reading a book they’ve never tried before. Or if they’ve tried m/m before, maybe they give a shifter book, or a BDSM book, or a paranormal book a shot when that’s been outside their comfort zone before. The point is, the open minds behind it are required for the growth and furthering of the genre, and indeed, the growth and furthering of ourselves as humans with compassion and honor.

After all, opening minds through books is sort of a writer’s job, right?

So when I see discussions about labels, what are “required warnings” on storylines, is cheating in a plot deserving of a trigger warning, that a book contains a non-HEA, or that there’s multiple pairings within the book, I get upset.

It smacks of, “Kill the gay character or face the wrath of the readership who don’t sympathize with them.”

It reeks of, “The public isn’t ready for LGBT characters to have romantic interests that work out in a HEA. So don’t give them one.”

It’s heaving with, “People don’t want to read about two guys kissing or falling in love. Two women, sure, because that’s hot (and heh heh, can we watch/join in? Heh heh).”

Readers have expectations for romance books, and I get that. We all stick to our favorite genre because we love the comfort it brings, the thrill it induces, that we can reasonably expect entertainment.

But no one changed history by being safe. I wrote a story years ago, about a high school English teacher trying to pass his love on to his students. In that story, he said, “Words have moved nations, romanticized generations, caused and ended wars, corrupted the pious, converted the damned. There’s nothing more powerful than words, except maybe the pen used to immortalize them.”

Nothing more powerful than words, except the pen used to immortalize them.

As proud of that statement as I am, I know it’s not entirely true. It should read, “There’s nothing more powerful than words, except the writer who created and had courage to publish them.”

I am not patting myself on the back, here. That statement stands true even if I’d never written a single word.

But we’re not going to move people to rethink anything by neatly peppering every book’s metadata with safe little warning labels. No one will ever be struck dumb by an idea, then. No one will ever step outside their box, then. No one will ever take a fucking risk then.

What’s my point?

It smacks of, “Kill them, stifle them, make them behave.”

It reeks of, “Stick to romance, because the mainstream readership isn’t ready for two men in love.”

It heaves with, “Write what you’re fucking told and sit down and shut up. Behave yourself, writer.”

Well, I don’t fucking behave without a good goddamned reason. And if I have a story to tell, I’m going to tell it, without the warnings*, because if you’re not ready to face what’s in the pages of a book, which holds power but dude, you’re reading it on your couch, well.

You’re not ready to be moved by the words I’m risking sharing with you.

*I warn about the following things only: abuse themes, rape themes, sensitive mental illness topics such as PTSD. That’s it. If you expect more from me on that, I’m not the writer for you.