Friday, November 9, 2018

Something Wicked Good This Way Comes

One of the best parts of this year--and I have to give a big chunk of credit to my Patreon group for this--is my newly restored creative energy.

This has been a good year for me. By the end of  2018 I'll have published five new novels, produced a slew of new audio books, compiled several boxsets and collections, launched a successful Patreon, attended my first GRL, taken back control of my print backlist...  So, yes, the most productive year in, um, years, but it's also been a really inspired year. Not that I've had time to put every single new idea into action, but a surprising number of projects are at least in the beginning phase--and although it's still really, really early--we don't even have our cover art yet!--I want to announce one of those upcoming projects now.

Footsteps in the Dark is an anthology of original contemporary M/M Mystery-Romance novellas by seven of my favorite authors in the genre:

 LB Gregg 
Nicole Kimberling
Josh Lanyon
Dal MacLean
Z.A. Maxfield
Meg Perry
CS Poe
S.C. Wynne  


Eight original stories with plenty of suspense and romance and at least Happy For Now endings.

Expected release is May 2019.

There really has not been anything like this in M/M Mystery, and I'm hugely excited about it. I'll keep you posted--I can't wait for the cover reveal!

Friday, November 2, 2018

What's Black and White and Read--Uh Oh!

As previously warned, most of my print list is now pretty much unavailable as we begin the process of moving everything from Createspace/Amazon to IngramSpark.

Why are we making this change? Because, generally speaking, bookstores do not--and will not--stock Createspace books.

Why would this be the case?

A - Most indie print titles don't sell enough to make it viable for bookstores to stock them, and B - Most bookstores view Amazon (Createspace) as their mortal enemy.

Why am I complicating life for readers by turning to IngramSpark when most of my print titles will be sold online anyway?

Because I refuse to hand over complete control of my writing career to the Zon--even if it means taking a financial hit in the short term. Or even in the long term. I just won't do it.

When will my print backlist be available again? Hopefully by the start of 2019 everything will be moved over and back into circulation. We've already started moving titles, but the holidays are coming and life gets complicated. Not just for me personally, but for the entire publishing industry.

So I am sorry for the inconvenience (I've been warning this would be coming for the past three months) but the good news is I have not abandoned print, and if all goes well, my print titles will actually be more widely available and possibly even less expensive.



Monday, October 29, 2018

GRL 2018

This was my first time at GRL (the annual GayRomLitRetreat) and I flat out loved it.

I mean, I knew I would enjoy meeting readers and fellow authors, getting to talk books and writing and publishing for hours on end, but I didn't expect to love it quite so much!

I loved the city of Portsmouth, VA--beautiful old homes and gardens, plenty of quaint shops and wonderful restaurants (Fish and Slips, I will remember you and the lump crab dip fondly forever) within walking distance. I loved the hotel (yes, it took forever to get a drink and the restaurant was so-so, but when is that NOT the case at a conference hotel??). I loved all the events which were organized to give authors plenty of opportunity to interact with readers. I loved the ferry and hugs and the she crab soup and the white caps on the water and all the churches and statues and old trees of the city. I loved the fact that we didn't miss our flight going home--which was a near thing after I realized Sunday night that I'd arranged for the shuttle to pick us up five minutes before we were supposed to board our plane!

Highlights...almost too many to list: meeting LE Franks for lunch the afternoon we arrived (possibly the last moment of quiet sanity for the entire week), the Fanyon dinner (FINALLY meeting the legendary Marilyn Blimes), the first dinner at Fish and Slips with S.C. Wynne, Felice Stevens and C.S. Poe, the author lounges--love, love, loved getting to talk to so many readers--getting to hang out with narrator Kale Williams, singing karaoke with S.C., the spotlight panel with S.C. and Felice (so many great questions from the audience) the Patreon breakfast on Saturday, the MEGA book signing that followed...and this is where I start to lose track, but that's the sure sign of a great trip. When there is simply too much good stuff to recount in a single post. 

Was it worth it from a professional standpoint? I would say so. Networking. There's something to be said for meeting your peers face-to-face. But what I thought was especially well done about GRL versus other conferences I've been to was the effort to create a variety of events for authors to interact directly with readers. Two lounges, a panel and a signing mean there's a lot of opportunity to meet and greet readers--and that's really what this kind of event is all about. The readers.

Was there room for improvement? Undoubtedly there is always room for improvement. From my perspective, next time I'd try to schedule a little more one-on-one time with the author friends I didn't manage to connect with. I probably spent too much time in the bar hanging with the usual suspects (but that's kind of what happens when you only see your pals once or twice a year). I'd bring a pair of boots. I'd try to get a little more quality sleep because by Saturday night I was whipped and just couldn't make it to the big 80s party. I would make more of an effort to eat healthy (in fact, I've never had so much fried food in a single week in my entire life). I'd schedule the Patreon breakfast for earlier in the week. I'd bring a smaller selection of print books, but more copies (who knew Fatal Shadows--Fatal Shadows?!--would be my big seller :-D). I'd do a way better job of bagging my preorders. I'd buy one of those banners that drape OVER the table...

Anyway, that was GRL. A big thank you to the organizers (I'm guessing it takes the better part of year to pull that event together). And another thank you to the readers who took the time and trouble to attend. I can't tell you how much it means to hear that a book helped you get through the dark times, still makes you laugh aloud, taught you something new or gave you a Come to Jesus moment.

If you're an author or a reader and you've been trying to decide whether to attend GRL in the future, well, like any event, a certain measure of what you get out of it will be equal to what you put into it. But you're unlikely to find another real life event so tailored to the things we spend most of our online lives thinking and talking about. And, after all, despite our shared love of fiction there's still something to be said for real life. ;-)

If You Don't Vote, You Don't Get to Complain

And I know complaining is such a vital part of social media these days, so Be Aware.

But seriously.

When I was researching Murder Between the Pages, I remember reading a contemporary (1940s) account of women being dragged off a parade float celebrating their newly gained right to vote. Yes. Women being dragged off a local parade float by their male FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS AND FAMILY MEMBERS because of their outrageous demand to have a say in politics.

And by politics, I mean legislation that affected these women intimately and immediately--as all legislation does.

Now, in fairness, many gentlemen in the crowd came to the assistance of these ladies--this is why we all need allies. We cannot do it alone. No one can. Allies are required. Allies are a non-negotiable component of success. To affect political change you need the good will and strong arm of the majority behind you--and even then, you're in for a hell of a fight. Make no mistake.

Anyway, women won the right to vote--the right to even cast a vote--in 1919. Please pay attention, girlfriend, because some of your great-great-grannies did not have the right to vote. My grandma could remember a time in which she did NOT have the right to vote. (That's right, I am old--and I wear it proudly.)

This right that you take so much for granted that you don't bother to use it...well, think about it. African American males won the right to vote in 1870.  (As well they should have.) But our right to vote is still relatively new and pretty damned fragile. I have heard females argue that women have innate protections merely by virtue of being white or middle class or pretty or whatever.


NO. Get your head out of your ass, my dear. What are you, British? (That's a joke--British women only got the right to vote in 1918.) Wake the fuck up.

We still live in a time when men (some men) take it for granted they can legislate everything from our health care to whether we have children.  We live in a time where OTHER WOMEN take it for granted that men should have the right to legislate our health care and whether or not be have children.

You think "it" couldn't happen here? That's what people always think. Look at history. And then weep. Or not. Because big girls don't cry. They VOTE.

Friday, September 14, 2018

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like, er, Autumn

Which means, gulp, Christmas and the winter holidays are right around the corner.

Time to start thinking of Ye Olde Advent Calendar.

I know! But yes. Really. It's that time again.

I want to extend an invitation to all and sundry (okay, maybe not -- rather to all fans of my work and this blog) to contribute to this year's calendar. Stories, art, games, contests (giveaways), essays... Basically anything that relates to my characters and worlds and/or the winter holidays would be most welcome.

I'm aiming to do six codas this year. I haven't settled on the character pairings yet, but that's the goal.

Which leaves a LOT of room for reader/fan contributions as well as giveaways and all the usual holly-jolliness.

If you're interested in participating, drop me a line through my website OR through Facebook or Goodreads or Twitter or any of the usual places. The more the merrier, IMHO. 


Friday, September 7, 2018

Just Another Morning in September

I love mornings like this.

I woke up around 5:30--even too early for Marlowe the Mutt!--and went outside to water and just breathe in the quiet cool fall morning. So quiet. All around me house lights are coming on, people waking for school and work, but the buzz has not yet begun, is not yet audible. This is my favorite time of day. When there are still infinite possibilities for the day ahead.

What does my typical Friday morning look like?

The dark and cool garden smelling of earth and damp flowers

Email & coffee & thinky-thoughts (So many thinky thoughts!)
1 - Am I making a mistake not letting Amazon control my print backlist?
2 - Can I talk about this new series without getting reamed for daring to think of new books before I have delivered old?
3 - Could an art gallery be used as a front for the mob?
4 - Is audio still viable in the age of subscription services?
5 - Why do people with two stunningly mediocre books under their belt feel comfortable giving writing advice to other newbies?
6 - Will the plane crash on the way to GRL?
7 - Could a publishing house be used as a front for the mob?
(You see how it is...)

Maybe a little bit of social media (So. Much. Talking.)

The SO wakes and the TV goes on (BOO! I knew I should have remained single!!!!) :-/

The SO brings me another cup of coffee and asks what I want for dinner (YAY! I KNEW getting married was a good idea!!!) :-D

Massage and more thinky-thoughts
1 - I will resume yoga
2 - I will eat more veggies
3 - Could a film company be used as a front for the mob?

The day begins for real...

What is your Friday morning like?





Friday, August 17, 2018

Nothing Gold Can Stay

I dread the end of summer.

Which is strange because I actually love the fall--and then winter brings the holidays, which I also love.

But somehow I feel melancholy as summer begins to wind down. Not that there isn't plenty of bounce left in summer because although the nieces and nephews are headed back to school (college for three of them and the final year of high school for the youngest) we've still got many, many days of scorching temperatures ahead.

Many long, lingering twilights and moonlight swims. Fresh picked fruit and grilled salmon suppers and homemade ice cream experiments (the red chili coffee ice cream was an interesting one). Listening to the chimes through the open windows at night--and songbirds at the crack of dawn.

Anyway, it's been a busy and eventful couple of months--I feel like I'm finally FINALLY beginning to catch up a little. Maybe. 

I'm hoping to finish up Seance on a Summer's Night by the end of the month. It will be available for sale in print only--well, and eventually audio. It's going to be our first experiment with Ingramspark and the beginning of maneuvering my print backlist away from Createspace/Amazon.

After Seance I get back to work on The Ghost Had an Early Check-Out. That's slated for a fall release. (It will be available in print and audio as well, yes!)

Speaking of audio, Kevin R. Free is back to narrate In Other Words...Murder (that's likely an October release) and I've been talking to Joel Froomkin about narrating Green Glass Beads (that would be more like a November release--although I'm hoping to have it to my patrons for Halloween). ;-)

That's probably going to be it for the year. I'm attending GRL in October--my first time!--and then we'll be into the holidays and the annual Advent Calendar and THEN before I know it, the next Sam and Jason will be due... Yikes!

Hope you're making the most of these final golden days of summer...






Friday, July 27, 2018

On Your Mark, Get Ready... Wait. What Time is It?!

How the heck can we be more than halfway through the year!?

A lot of what I'd planned to accomplish this year is complete or in the process of completion. Like my new website, for example! But some of what I'd hoped to do, even with tempered expectations (or so I imagined) was simply too much. That's the problem with being an optimist. We tend to overestimate our own resources--as well as everyone else's.

Anyway, I can't do more than four novels within a year. There was a time I could--and did. That time seems to be gone. But it's been a really productive year so far (from my perspective) and there is nearly half the year left!

(There's that optimism showing again!) :-D

But it seems like I can squeeze out a bit more if some of the things I'm doing are serialized and I'm writing them at a snail's pace. That does seem to be doable, as proven by my experience at Patreon. But generally speaking, three to four novels a year is all I can manage.


This year's novels were:
The Magician Murders (The Art of Murder 3)
Murder Takes the High Road
In Other Words... Murder (Holmes & Moriarity 4)

Still to come in 2018:
Seance on a Summer's Night (Patreon exclusive)
The Ghost Had an Early Check-out

That's it. I might manage another short story and at least a chunk of the next serialized story for Patreon, but realistically, that's my limit for 2018.

Now there's other stuff coming. There are audio books, print books, digital boxsets. I'm starting to build a PAYHIP store so that when a book doesn't go live as scheduled, it can be purchased through my website. Not that I want to keep having issues with preorder dates, but that'a another area where optimism gets me into trouble.

I'm still working on a lot of things I talked about earlier in the year--moving my print catalog from Createspace to Ingram Spark, for example. But one thing at a time.

There are four projects slated for 2019 
Blind Side (Dangerous Ground 6)
The Monuments Men Murders (The Art of Murder 4)
Haunted Heart: Spring
Something serialized for Patreon

There's also Mr. & Mrs. Murder, but that's non-fiction and, while it does take time to write, doesn't drain me creatively the way fiction does. So that leaves room for one additional large project next year, but I'm not going to jinx it by promising anything in the here and now.

So that's pretty much where we are at this point in the year. A lot of the remaining year will go to figuring out more audio and rethinking how best to repackage and market my oldest titles. But I'm quickly running out of road. October is jammed with stuff -- everything from visiting family to GRL and then we've got the holidays. So essentially...I've got two months of creative production time left.

On the bright side, compared to last year this has been an enormously productive year. Last year I did a novel and two short stories! So I'm happy with what what I did manage to achieve--and I didn't burn myself out doing it. Progress!


Friday, July 20, 2018

Results of my KU Experiment Take 2

This has nothing to do with anything except I need a drink after so much math
Last September I announced I was going to experiment with Kindle Unlimited again--and that I would publish the results once I had them.

If you missed that post, here's my reasoning. I still think the reasons were valid--and I am still against pinning your entire writing career on Kindle Unlimited for several reasons:

1 - Amazon is already way too powerful and we are all way too dependent on them--even those of us who continue to resist the lure of Kindle Unlimited.

2 - I believe the only way to guarantee a healthy market is competition--and Amazon's competition cannot survive if we all give in and go exclusive. Without a healthy thriving marketplace, Amazon only becomes more powerful and more autocratic. If you're angry at the way they deal with reviewers and royalties and all the rest of it now, just wait for the day when Amazon is the only game in town.

3 - Amazon is changing both the way people read and the way books are written--and not for the better. In order to thrive in the Amazon food chain, a steady supply of books must be cranked out which results in burnout and breakdown--and encourages writers to take short cuts that absolutely affect the quality of books. Some of those shortcuts including hiring ghostwriters--which is good for the ghostwriters, I admit--but it's also a disingenuous way to do business. You can see the effect of KU in how people read too. There's a lot of skimming and scanning by what are now referred to as "whale readers." Readers who consume vast amounts of product without really absorbing much of it--not least because a lot of it is just sand and water.

Anyway, those are my main reasons. I admit that Kindle Unlimited can be a great tool when used in conjunction with exercise and diet--wait. Wrong lecture. When used with a game plan that includes also going wide at intervals, but putting all your eggs in one basket is never a good idea. And that's actually also my advice for traditional authors as well. Diversify, diversify, diversify.

Anyway, it took me a while to get around to figuring out the data on my experiment. For one thing I wasn't in any hurry because I believed I already knew the answer to my question.

But it turns out I was partly wrong. And, hey, I'm not afraid to admit when I'm wrong.

There's a handy dandy relatively inexpensive tool called Book Report. It allows you to get insights from your Amazon sales dashboard that would otherwise require ninja math skilz I don't have the patience for. Like your lifetimes sales. Or your lifetime sales on a particular book. Or your lifetime sales on a particular book versus your page reads on that book.

By using Book Report I was able to see at a glance that I earned way WAY more in sales than kindle page reads during the six months I had Murder Between the Pages available in Kindle Unlimited.






That one's not even close. I suspect that choosing a historical--and a quirky, satirical historical novella at that--was not a good choice for Kindle Unlimited. Probably a more realistic experiment would have been something more typical: a novel length standalone FBI thriller, for example. That might have offered a more fair comparison.

But anyway, that was the original book I chose to experiment with and those were the results.

With my second KU experiment I decided to create a couple of box sets and see how those did. One of the box sets I was experimenting with was an existing set Male/Male Mystery & Suspense Box Set: 6 Novellas which is usually priced at $9.99 but was priced at $3.99 for the 90 days it was listed in KU.

The second set was created specifically for my KU experiment: Partners in Crime: 3 Classic Gay Mystery Novels. This too was listed at $3.99 for the 90 days it was listed in Kindle Unlimited.

The third collection was Los misterios de Adrien English, the Spanish translations of the first three Adrien English novels. List price $3.99.

Now, again, the English titles are all older titles that earned out long ago. The Spanish translations do almost nothing, so I was curious as to whether KU could move the needle on them.

And the winnahs are...



The results were kind of all over the place. With the six-novella box set--which has been available forever--I made more money in outright sales than KU reads. I think this is because my existing readership saw a chance to pick up some completer titles and simply bought the box set outright.

With the three-novel box set, I made more in page reads. I'm going to guess that's because my existing readership has all my novels already and so the sale was not useful to them. The page reads probably came from new readers, but they were really pretty low, so going wide would easily made up the difference there.

As for the Spanish box set, I earned more in page reads, but still again, very minimal numbers.

My conclusion? Advertising probably would have made some difference, but old titles are probably not useful as far as any kind of serious experiment.

At this point in my calculations I realized I had left out a key comparison, which is what the single titles typically averaged in sales during a three month period.

However, because I'm a glutton for punishment, the first thing I checked right off the top was how much had the novella box set earned at its regular price. Never mind 90 day averages, the entire amount it earned for 2017 (not including the period of my KU experiment) was $557.55. So basically it earned more in three months of KU than the rest of the year. Ouch.

Okay, but that was just through Amazon. Including my other sales channels, the book did sell more at full price wide in nine months than in three months of KU. BUT the fact that the numbers are that close is...well, it can't be dismissed. What also can't be dismissed is I sold more copies at $3.99 in three months than I did at nine months of $9.99.

Fair enough, but it is a very old collection. And the stories in the collection were very old when I collected them.

On the other side of that, ideally I'd like every single title to continue to earn something forever. My challenge is to figure out the best way to do that.

Okay, so on to comparing sales of the single titles.



So basically in three months the box set earned more in page reads than any of those single titles did in a year AND it very nearly matched what they all did individually within the year. So yes, safe to say the KU earnings were more than the titles could have earned individually in the same three month period.

That said, again these are really, really old titles AND the single titles were available in the box set during that period, so some people would have opted to buy the box set... But really, I'm just going around in circles here. The books sold more in KU than they would have outside of KU. That's the bottom line. There is really no arguing with that, as much as I am inclined to try.

And what about the three novel box set? How did those single titles fare in comparison?


The first and obvious difference is, with the exception of Murder in Pastel, which has never been a big seller (perhaps partly due to its role in certain dramatic events) this time the KU numbers did not outstrip the books' annual earnings or even quarterly earnings.

Three months at the $3.99 sale price did not equal what Winter Kill typically earns in a regularly priced month and barely beat out Somebody Killed His Editor, so there's really no contest there.

And same with the page reads.  The 90-day KU earnings for those titles was $824.82 whereas in a three month period those three titles would typically average around $1938. And that's not including my wide sales, which of course are lost during the KU period.

Now the point of the experiment was to introduce my work to new readers so maybe there's some read-thru value there that I can't see, but numbers-to-numbers, the novels box set earned less in KU than the titles typically earn sold individually at full price. The novella box set earned considerably more.

Had I run a huge advertising campaign on the novels box set, that might have made a difference, but how much would I be willing to spend in order to earn what the novels are already earning? ;-)

There are always variables. These novels will continue to age and their earnings will continue to decline. And, in fact, out of curiosity I compared the earnings on these novels for the last three years both at Amazon and everywhere else. What I found was series remains strong everywhere. Standalone is dropping fast and faster. Well, hell.

In conclusion? I have a lot more information, but I'm still not completely sure what to make of it. There seem to be a lot of x-factors involved in calculating when or whether to put something into KU. The much vaunted formula for success is to produce something new every month or so, release in KU and price at .99. Repeat as necessary for success or until you drop dead. Whichever comes first. I mock, but it's a formula that certainly seems to work for a lot of authors.

Of course when I say "it certainly seems to work," I mean it works for a percentage of KU authors in the same way that the old formulas worked for a percentage of us, er, Old Guard.

Personally, I think the best way to build a large and loyal readership is to stay wide as much as possible. Staying wide is also the only chance of not becoming completely dependent on Amazon, and that should be a major concern for all of us.

But...I don't want to make bad business decisions based purely on emotion. Kindle Unlimited is not going anywhere anytime soon, and I have to factor it into my plans moving forward. I don't know what that means yet, I just know I have to looking at everything objectively.

Thoughts? What did I miss? What did I get wrong here?

Friday, July 13, 2018

New Release IN OTHER WORDS... MURDER

Either late today or sometime tomorrow** (SEE BELOW!)  In Other Words... Murder goes live.

Just finishing up the bits and bobs of edits and all the front and back matter -- and then formatting. This has been quite the month. But anyway, the book is pretty much done and now it's just a matter of getting it up.

It's available for preorders through Amazon, iBooks, and maybe Smashwords? (I don't think Smashwords actually does preorders--they just act as a funnel for preorders at other sites?)

BLURB:


Mystery author and sometimes amateur sleuth Christopher Holmes is now happily (all things being relative) engaged to be married and toying with starting a new career as a true-crime writer when he learns a body has been discovered in the backyard of his former home.

Then, to complicate matters, Christopher’s ex turns up out of the blue, suggesting the body may belong to Christopher’s former personal assistant.

It’s life as usual at Chez Holmes. In other words… Murder.


EXCERPT:


Oddly enough—or maybe not so oddly, because I did have that third drink and then a fourth—it was easier from that moment on. David and I were able to talk about Dicky and even our own past almost like old friends. It probably helped that he was so complimentary. No, not that he was complimentary, because I didn’t trust his compliments, but that he was genuinely bowled over by the change in me. It was funny really. What a difference a good haircut and a few pounds made. Not just to David. To me. Because I was confident in a way I hadn’t been for years.

But then that wasn’t really about new clothes and fancy-schmancy moisturizer. It was about J.X. About the way he made me feel. Valued. Cherished. Loved.

I resolved to call him as soon as I got back to my room. To hell with who was right and who was wrong. I missed him like crazy. And I wanted him to know that.

“I know you don’t want to hear this,” David said suddenly, “but you’re the perfect person to find out what happened to Dicky. You’ve already solved four murders that I know of. And this happened in your own backyard.”

“First of all, I didn’t solve four murders.” It was more like six if you counted secondary and appended victims. “And definitely not on my own. Anyway, are you so sure he’s dead?”

“Yes.” David’s eyes were dark and sad. “I think I knew something was wrong almost from that first day when he never came home. I tried to talk myself out of it. Tried to convince myself he changed his mind, but I knew.”

“Okay, maybe you’re right. It’s alarming that he’s never turned up in all these months. But neither of us has any useful information as to where to even start looking for what could have happened to him.”

“You must have his old résumé and his job application somewhere.”

“Maybe in a box. I might have dumped it all, though.”

“Exactly.” David leaned back in his chair, smiling. “And if something brilliant should occur to you while sorting through those papers, well, it can’t hurt to make a couple of phone calls. Right?”

“Hm. I suppose not.”

He grinned. “Elementary, my dear Holmes!”

I felt a twinge as he said it because that was J.X.’s little joke with me. Then, with an uncomfortable flash, I remembered it had been David’s joke first.


Funny I’d forgotten that.

I glanced at my watch and was surprised to see it was nearly ten. We’d been drinking and talking in the dining room for over four hours. The dinner crowd had come and gone, and it was back to just the two of us.

I said, “Wow. Look at the time. I should say good night. I’ve got a long drive home tomorrow.”

David looked surprised and disappointed. “Are you sure?”

“Yep. But thanks for dinner.” I rose, and he rose too.

He said, “My pleasure—and I do mean that.”

“Yeah, it was…good.” Good to confront old ghosts, good to let go of the old anger, the old bitterness anyway. Not an event I was in a hurry to repeat, however. More like a rite of passage.

I started to turn away, and David said quickly, urgently, “Christopher.”

I looked my inquiry.

“I owe you an apology. Not just for Dicky, though for Dicky, yes. That was the worst one, I know. But for…all of it. All the times I hurt you. Whatever I felt, whatever you did, you didn’t deserve that.”

I hadn’t expected an apology—or rather, I’d figured this dinner was his apology—so I didn’t know what to say. Especially since I didn’t miss the whatever-you-did comment. 

I finally came up with what I thought was a gracious, “It takes two people to ruin a relationship.” 
Which actually isn’t true. One determined and resourceful person can do it all by himself.

David offered another of his stock smiles. “True. Well, then…” He came around the table to hug me. I think I stood there about as responsive as one of those blank-faced department-store mannequins they prefer these days.

He whispered into my ear, “What about one last time? For old times’ sake.”

I drew back. “What about—huh?”

His smile grew rueful. “You know. We never got to say goodbye.”

“Yeah, we did. I gave you Dicky as a going-away present.”

He leaned in, still smiling, charming and purposeful. His breath was warm against my face. “No, I mean really say goodbye.”

“I think get-the-hell-out-of-my-life is really saying goodbye.”

I’m not sure he even heard me. “You have to admit, the sex was always good between us. Really good.”

Yeeeeaah. About that. 

And even if sex with J.X. had been the worst ever, I still loved him too much to ever think of hurting him the way I’d been hurt. Not in a million years.

I laughed, but not unkindly, not mockingly. “Man, you really are incorrigible,” I said.

David heard me that time. His shoulders slumped, and he sighed. “Yeah. I am. But I mean, we were married.”

“It was a commitment ceremony.”

“Same thing. To me, anyway.”

Did he really not see the irony? I said, “Uh…yeah. Okay. Your point is?”

“We’re allowed to have goodbye-forever sex.”

“I’m sure we had it, we just didn’t notice it at the time.”

He scrutinized my face. “I can’t tell when you’re laughing. Was that your final no or—?”
I was still laughing. “That was final.”

“Maybe one more drink would help?”

“One more drink and I’ll pass out. Besides, these people want to go home.” I nodded at the waitress and bartender, who were watching us with weary wariness.

David gave another of those heavy sighs. “All right. Have it your way.”

We bade farewell to the relieved-looking staff and walked out to the lobby.

At the elevators, I turned to him and said, “Good night, David. Thanks again for dinner.”

“You’re sure you don’t want to—?”

“I’m sure.”

“Absolutely, positively—?”

I said firmly, “’Night, David.”

I stepped into the elevator, punched the button for the third floor. I nodded cordially as the doors closed on David’s glum expression.

I chuckled quietly to myself as I strolled down the brightly lit hall and let myself into my room. I flipped on the lights and moved to pull the drapes across the windows.

I was buzzed but not drunk, and I felt pleasantly…pleasant. I’d have a leisurely hot shower, get in bed, and phone J.X. If all went well, we could maybe even manage a little phone sex. Phone sex with J.X. was still better than live and in-person sex with anybody else.

These agreeable plans evaporated at the tentative knock on my door.

I stopped smiling.

I admit being propositioned by David—urgently propositioned at that—had been good for my ego, but this was not flattering or amusing. Jesus Christ. He couldn’t be that desperate to get laid.

I yanked open the door, prepared to tell him that very thing.

But it was not David standing in the garishly bright hallway. 

Or maybe it wasn’t the hall that was garishly bright. Maybe it was the green-haired guy wearing whiteface and a blue polka-dot clown suit.

 The clown said nothing.


He gazed at me with his sad clown face, complete with painted downturned mouth and eye drips. His costume was one of those ruffled, old-fashioned things—I forget what they call them—and he was holding a single red heart-shaped balloon.

I stared silently back at him. I was thinking—and at this time the defense wishes to call upon the four G&Ts, two of which had occurred on an empty stomach—that maybe J.X. had sent some kind of weird floral-delivery apology. Except I did not see any flowers and J.X. did not like clowns.

I transferred my gaze from the clown’s black eyes to his red balloon. I said, “Where are the other ninety-eight?”

The clown’s blue-gloved hand released the string of the balloon, which went sailing to the ceiling, bouncing against it with an eerie whispering sound.




**It's so long since I've done preorders at Amazon I didn't realize I couldn't release immediately. SO the book goes live Tuesday July 17 at Amazon. It's already live at Kobo and B&N. Smashwords actually pushed the book back three days because it turns out their deadline also includes their own approval time, which pushed it back to July 23 there and iBooks

Friday, July 6, 2018

Two Years Before the Mast

AKA Six Months on Patreon.

Happy Six Month Birthday to me and my Patrons!

Yes, I too was surprised to realize that I've now been on Patreon for six months.  (Which means, holy moly, we're halfway through the year!)

It seems like only a month or so ago that I came up with the idea. But no. Six months! So it seems like perhaps it's time for a progress report.

So far, so good. 

When I first posted about starting a Patreon, I got a lot of helpful feedback--and some of the things mentioned have proved true, and some have not. Or if they have, I've hopefully found a fix.

Providing exclusive and original content in addition to my books and stories is definitely time-consuming. Some of the content is readily provided: excerpts from works-in-progress, story notes, character notes, etc. Some of it requires more effort: character interviews, "missing" scenes, an exclusive-to-Patreon novel, exclusive audio, etc.

But what I've found is taking the time to do character interviews, for example, is really helpful as well as entertaining, so it's a good trade-off--versus simply writing a couple extra short stories a year (which I can still always do if I have to). Also it's hard not to be energized by a group that is so unfailingly supportive and enthusiastic. That's kind of priceless.

Unsurprisingly, it's been tougher during months when I'm already stressed. Like the last two months. But given the nature of Patreon--the purpose of such a community--I'm getting comfortable with letting patrons know this might be a skimpy month, but I'll make it up to them the next month.

As I was warned, there have been a couple of instances of people who pledge, enjoy the rewards at their tier, and then quit before their pledge is processed--only to rejoin the following month. That's been really rare, and as of this month I've changed my account so that people are charged when they join. That should take care of that--and it was, luckily, not a serious issue to begin with (although, it is a serious issue for a lot of creators, as I've learned hanging around the creator forum).

The question I'm always asked is are you actually earning anything? And it's a good question because apparently a lot of creators do not earn much at all. There are loads of really interesting articles on whether it's possible to earn a living on Patreon. Like here and here and here.  Basically that comes down to where you live and how many people you're supporting and in what style.

For the record, I can't earn a living on Patreon, but the monthly payouts act as a much needed safety cushion. If I  have to postpone a book--and (*&+!&^^%%$$$###@!) I have needed to do that with every single deadline this year--I can go ahead and know we're not going under because I need another month to make my book better. So right now my earnings go right back into my business, but I do earn enough to pay the mortgage if it came down to that.




That's huge. That is worth the price of admission right there.

On the maybe-not-so-great side, I spend less time interacting elsewhere on line. This was something people were concerned with, and it has unfortunately proven true. I'm less active on Goodreads, Facebook and this blog. (I was always terrible with my newsletter, so we can't blame that on Patreon.)

Now partly I think my lack of energy for social media is because this year has been a tricky year. A lot has gone on in my personal life and, maybe more to the point, I'm still struggling to catch up on all that over-committing I did last year. In Other Words... Murder is the final book with any deadline attached. After this, THANK GOD, I have no other deadlines.

(Well, that's not true. ARGH. I still have the deadline for Mr. and Mrs. Murder, but that isn't until mid-next year, so I think I'm fine. )

Also, though, I think every social venue has a life cycle and I've been on some of these places for nearly a decade, and it's reasonable that interaction might begin to wind down in certain places as it revs up in others. As much as I loved LiveJournal in its heyday, by the time I bowed out, it was no longer the same experience. Things change. We change. And that's actually great.

Other things: Amazon has not done anything in the past six months that affects me directly, but they've done plenty to affect Kindle Unlimited authors. And they're as autocratic and ruthless about is as ever.

Some of the problems Amazon is now trying to fix are of their own creation. Things like fake reviews...Amazon brought that on by making reviews part of their arcane algorithm and by making it so difficult for ordinary people to review: you can't "know" the author, for example, which includes having friended them on social media. Say what?!

It's like enriched white bread. Had you not taken everything nutritious out of the food to begin with, you wouldn't have to artificially inject it back in. 

Anyway. My dire predictions have not yet come to pass, but that doesn't change my feeling that I'm still too dependent on Amazon. Kindle Unlimited is making it harder and harder for the rest of us to have any visibility. Visibility is everything in this game.

(Okay, not everything. Writing still counts. Readership still counts. But it's a lot.)

Regardless of what happens with Amazon, my Patreon account is a big step away from feeling so entirely vulnerable to their every whim. Over these past six months I feel like I've begun to lay a foundation for a publishing future that doesn't involve me lying awake worrying about what Amazon might do next.










Friday, June 1, 2018

IN OTHER WORDS...MURDER playlist

Happy June!

I don't know about you, but May was a bit of a weird month for me. There were just a lot of...things that happened. Normal but unpredictable things. Family health crises, family job crises...the kind of stuff that pops up eventually in every life, but can't really be planned for. Or at least, I have trouble doing that kind of planning--probably because I don't like to, well, open the door to dark possibility. (I think that's called hiding your head in the sand, but whatever.)

Anyway, it was a trying month, and that's a fact. But now it's June and summer is just about here, and on we go, one foot in front of the other, and little by little we make progress.

Anyway, I thought I'd share the playlist for IN OTHER WORDS...MURDER. I don't think it contains spoilers, but maybe it does.

Anyway, I think of it as my easy, breezy murder music. ;-)










Friday, May 25, 2018

Your Cheatin Heart Will Tell on You

Hello again! The wonderfully talented (and funny as hell) Dal Maclean is back to chat about infidelity in romance and other stressful interesting topics. ;-)

We had some thought provoking comments on yesterday's blog ;-) as well as a great discussion on Facebook. The three questions we threw out to readers were:


1 – Do you believe a relationship can survive infidelity?

2 – Do you have personal experience with infidelity?

3 – Barring murder, can you think of a worse “relationship crime” than infidelity?

Share your thoughts in the comment section below and you'll automatically be entered in the giveaway for one of five audio book download codes from Audible.com (good for any of my titles--including the brand spankin' new The Magician Murders narrated by the wonderful Kale Williams). 

So here we go! 


JL – I’m entirely in agreement about most readers probably preferring their protagonists’ flaws to be of the romantic variety. Like those old Mills & Boons where the hero was temporarily blinded or paralyzed and was a complete asshole because of it (but then luckily ended up with a miracle cure anyway, so no worries!) Addiction and alcoholism is a harder sell—and I’m in agreement on that; I will almost never read a book where the protag is struggling with addiction or alcoholism (although I’ve got no problem writing such a book). I suspect readers would prefer to read about a recovering sex addict than a guy who deliberately and in full control of his senses (if not body parts) chooses to be unfaithful. Thoughts?

DM - I think you’re right. Many readers would prefer to read about recovering sex addicts and recovering drug and alcohol addicts than, as you say, someone who cheats ‘in full control of his senses.’ But again, as I said in the piece, maybe that’s because the flaws we accept in our romance heroes almost require the hero not to be responsible as it were? An addiction is something the hero cant help – it’s an illness (like those Mills and Boon heroes), though done well and with an attention to the psychology, it can be great (I just read a really great one). I’d say though, addiction isn’t a flaw in a hero, so much as a hurdle the couple have to overcome to be together?  Cheating is an active flaw.  I’d liken it more in Romance hero-active flaw-dom to being an assassin or a ruthless slave owner. Just, as I said, less acceptable.
Uh oh. 

The cheating I was talking about though wouldn’t be ‘I fancy a fling with that very attractive person’ but, for example ‘I’m terrified of where this relationship is going and how much I’m feeling, so I’m going to sabotage it’ or ‘I’m miserable and unhappy and so I’m succumbing to temptation’ – both scenarios which would create intense, genuine regret in the culprit and punishment would be losing something they realize too late they cant bear to lose. They made a Big Mistake but they made it as adults. Hence they’d have to face up to consequences. That’s what I meant about a redemption arc.
Of course, in reality, that’s a romantic best-case take on cheating, but Id suggest so is every other scenario we talk about in Romance books, like addiction.  Again that my big question -- if we can romanticize The Mafia, assassination, slavery, rape, torture and personality breakdown, why cant we romanticize infidelity?

JL – It occurs to me that infidelity is probably more forgivable depending on subgenre. For example, it’s rarely a deal-breaker in mystery. Meaning mystery readers might not like it, but they won’t refuse to read the book. And in historical or, better yet, spec fiction, it’s probably not nearly as problematical as it is in contemporary romance.

Anyway, harkening back to your essay, ludicrous misunderstandings aside, I will say that inability to communicate is one of the most realistic problems any couple can face, but that comes more from styles of communication, including the inability to listen properly—which is tied up in personal history and sometimes education and experience. When I read a story where two men are struggling to make the other understand, I really do sympathize. It can be hard to be honest and vulnerable, even with the people you love most.  

DM -Yeah I do agree. That’s actually not that common a trope in Romance is it? I mean that ‘trying to make the other understand’ but failing. It’s not really ‘romantic’ as issues go – and in real life, as you say, it often doesn’t go away for the HEA.

JL – I kind of divide readers into two camps. (Well, three camps if we include readers just skimming for sex scenes. ;-D)  One camp has trouble believing in happy endings if the problems between the main characters are sufficiently painful and realistic. It doesn’t matter how much relationship work the couple does, these readers always have trouble believing anyone could surmount big issues like…infidelity. Heck, these readers have trouble with even the suggestion of infidelity, say a kiss that shouldn’t have happened. The second camp are the readers who, like you and me, enjoy the struggle to achieve that happy ending. In fact, I prefer those stories because to me the couple has been tested through fire and their love is triumphant.

DM - Yes again totally agree! Lisa Horan at The Novel Approach said in her review of Object of Desire I write ‘Genre Non Conforming Romance’ which was a revelation because-- who knew? She wasn’t talking about cheating there--there isn’t actually any cheating in OOD or BL. But--she’s right I think. That’s what I’ve been writing without realizing it, and perhaps what you wrote, more bravely with Jake Riordan in the brilliant Adrien English series?

 The second part of the audience you mentioned which includes you and I, may be more open to that kind of story? We value the struggle and a real fight for a happy ending.

But I also think people are right to say that Romance is a unique genre in that there is a kind of contract with the reader. Many people read it to relax--for the joy and security of knowing what’s coming.  That’s what the contract is. And I totally get that and understand the sucker punch of being dragged out of that comfort when you didn’t want or expect it, and get given something different that you didn’t want. I didn’t mean to bend the rules of the contract guys! It just keeps happening…

JL – One hundred percent in agreement that, when a book is labeled genre fiction—and regardless of what that genre is—there is an implicit understanding that writers will abide by the terms of the “contract” formed with the reader. If the book is labeled Western, there is an expectation of cowboys. If the book is labeled Mystery, there is an expectation of detecting—and a solution. If the book is labeled romance, there is an expectation of true love and a Happy Ever After.

What’s less clear, in fact, what I find fascinating is how “infidelity” can be defined, depending on the reader. As mentioned above, there are readers who get angry if the hero exchanges a kiss or even considers fooling around. Now in real life, these things happen. They just do. And that should be the point. Moral fortitude is tested by resisting temptation, not by never being tempted. It’s like courage. Courage is how you behave under fire, not being blind to a real and present danger. Also I notice timing is very important to some readers. I had a character break off his relationship over the phone and then go have sex with his romantic interest. One reader was troubled by this “infidelity.” To me, infidelity would have been not breaking the relationship off. As far as I know there is no official wait period once you’ve ended things.

DM - That’s a great point. The comfort zone in defining ‘cheating’ differs. For some it’s lying and betraying. That’s pretty clear. But as you say, for others it’s more… zero tolerance than that? I’m thinking of Jason in The Monet Murders – he didn’t half get it in the neck for a one night stand, even though Sam had broken up with him. He was hurt, he was trying to distract himself, he was being human. But there’s an element of ‘he has no business being human--he’s in a romance book’. Same with Ben in Bitter Legacy and  Tom in Object of Desire.  It’s how far Romance readers are prepared to tolerate that kind of ‘humanity’ in their heroes. I come from a fanfic tradition as you know and it’s definitely redder in emotional tooth and claw there. Maybe MM Romance comes more from MF romance? Maybe it’s evolving into a hybrid of both?  Or maybe not?

Actually, on this point, I read recently that there’s a sneak Third Romance Rule (after 1-Happ ending 2- No Cheating) that readers expect to be followed. Maybe that’s what’s in play here. The love interests must not have sex with anyone else after they meet in the book, even if they’re in sexual relationships with other people when they do meet. This applies even if they don’t commit to each other for some time in the book. For some readers, a character breaking that rule is tacit cheating (even if its awkward to call it that)- as Jason, Ben and Tom discovered. I crashed through that one in both books without knowing it existed.


 JL – Yeah, I would have to say that third rule is more of a guideline. 😉 If not outright wishful thinking. That said, I’m in complete agreement with your observations on inveterate cheaters. It’s one thing for extreme circumstances to result in a Big Mistake. The inability to resist any temptation…that’s just...ugh. Whether it’s gluttony or sloth or promiscuity or an addiction to QVC, the inability to control one’s self is something as a society we really, really look down on. We don’t like weak willed people, so fair enough that horn-doggery should be condemned in romance.

DM - Yeah I’m with you on that. I talk big about realistic flaws but in the end, we are talking… carefully chosen flaws. An inveterate cheat is pretty unattractive imo and one of the most unromantic concepts out there.  Personally, as a reader, I can’t deal with consensual non-monogamy as an endgame in Romance, so I’m marshmallow to the my core.

 One thing I’d possibly quibble on is promiscuity as a plot choice (if it’s not some sort of compulsion I mean).  Ben in BL used promiscuity deliberately as a defensive barrier against any romantic commitment and an emotional distraction for himself–it was a choice, not a compulsion or a helpless need for rampant sex with lots of men. A lot of readers though were very sure that he could never change his spots because promiscuity is looked at compulsive like inveterate cheating–an inability to resist any temptation.

JL – Oh, definitely! Plus, Ben was NOT in a committed relationship. When you’re young and single, is fooling around a lot genuinely promiscuous or is it just…normal male-in-his-sexual-prime behavior?

DM - So I think maybe there can be nuance. Ben for example, now he’s found someone who fits so perfectly what he wants and needs, will be compulsively faithful. Tom uses sex as part of an avoidance of commitment, sometimes as an avoidance of confrontation or loss.
On the whole though, yeah – pffft to horndoggery!


JL – You wrote: ‘Redemption and Forgiveness.  Genuine mistakes, genuine regret. All are powerful drivers of romance for me’. 
Ding Ding Ding!!! This. Like you, physical torture, abuse…that’s a no can do for me. A bad man on his knees? (Er… ) That’s romance.

DM - It really is. That’s putting it…perfectly!

******

Faithful reader, what do YOU think? Comment below!


Oh, and Dal has a giveaway going too! 










a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Holding Out for a Hero - Dal Maclean

Hey, Dal has a new book out! 
This week on the blog we're doing something a bit different.

This morning we've got my dear pal Dal Maclean in to blog on a topic dear to both our hearts: infidelity. ;-)

Admittedly, it's a delicate subject. But I've known Dal for a number of years now--I've been a fan of her writing forever--and one of the things that drew us together is what I think of as a shared positive pragmatism regarding human nature. Human beings make mistakes. Good people do bad things. In fact, bad people occasionally do good things. Ink and paper notwithstanding, it's not a black and white world. And Dal and I instantly recognized in each other's work that sometimes painful mix of realist and romantic.

Anyway, there's lots to think about in this post!

TOMORROW the conversation continues as Dal and I bat around the topic of infidelity (and other character flaws) in our own writing and reading habits. Again, it's all happening right here on the blog.

We're hoping some of you will pop in and join the conversation!

1 – Do you believe a relationship can survive infidelity?

2 – Do you have personal experience with infidelity?

3 – Barring murder, can you think of a worse “relationship crime” than infidelity?




HOW FAR CAN A ROMANTIC HERO GO---AND STILL BE A HERO?

As an author feeling their way in the MM genre, I’ve been doing some thinking on MM romantic heroes -- what readers do and don’t want, and what they will and won’t tolerate.  I’m not sure if I’m going to be saying the unsayable here but--

I think most of us would probably say we like heroes ‘with real flaws’, but maybe we’re not being entirely honest about that. I mean, we’re not talking real flaws, like farting in public, or chainsaw snoring. or crotch scratching, or halitosis.  I would assume. We mean romantic real flaws, flaws the hero can have and remain a ‘romantic’ hero to the reader. 

I should declare a position here and admit that, (while excluding the farting reality) when I say I like flawed heroes, I mean flawed heroes, in the sense of emotionally flawed.  The kind of heroes who generate genuine emotional conflict.  And (to clarify again), by emotional conflict, I mean the kind of relationship conflict not solely generated by external events (e.g. Hero 1 and Hero 2 are madly in love and know it, but are kept apart by bad guys/homophobes/simple misunderstandings which they overcome to be together).

Personally, I love reading about relationships where Hero 1 and/or Hero 2 are facing and overcoming their own character flaws and issues, which create problems between them, though said issues may also stem from external pressures (e.g. fear of their own sexuality, fear of societal condemnation, fear of intimacy, inability to trust, other emotional ties, emotional unavailability etc).

I love stories where the conflict is real, and not an error in communication -- once perfectly summed up to me by Josh Lanyon as the ‘But Darling, She’s My Sister’ get-out-of-jail-free card for emotional battles. The thing is, I don’t want main characters to get out of jail free. I want them to have to fight and claw their way out of jail.  But that’s me.

Which brings us to what are accepted to be MM romance reader’s lines in the sand, and what I was advised about Romance Rule No 1 kind of surprised me, and kind of didn’t. 

In MM, it’s acceptable for a romantic hero to be a killer or a torturer or a corporate shark or a gangland leader or a thug or a slave owner. He can break down his love interest psychologically through torture combined with great sex; he can physically punish and/or even permanently scar/mutilate his love interest. He can break his love interest’s heart by leaving him without giving the love interest any choice in the matter, because He Knows Best. But -- he must not, under any circumstances, be a cheater.

If infidelity arises. it’s generally okay to have a hero cheated upon to push him toward his true love, but if the cheater returns, it’s to beg forgiveness and be kicked forever into touch.  Romance Rule No 1 though  - neither hero must cheat, or their character is pretty much irredeemable. It’s incredibly unusual for a character who’s cheated to get to the HEA or even the HFN.   Non-monogamy is acceptable if it’s consensual  – threesomes, ménages, open relationships. No problem. It’s cheating that’s de trop.

So - is it down to intolerance of dishonesty between lead characters?  On the surface it seems so, given ménages and threesomes are definitely okay in the genre.  Yet, heroes lie to each other all the time in various plots, about all kinds of very important, sometimes life threatening, and definitely happiness-threatening things,  and that is easily brushed past by readers.

 So why is the Cheating kind of lying, under any circumstances, the ultimate Romance transgression?

Perhaps, infidelity is too real?  It’s a situation in which readers are more likely to have been personally wounded or seen others wounded, in real life -- as opposed to finding out their partner is a mafia hitman or a slave owner or whatever.  It’s a closer to a farting, snoring, scratching flaw. Is that why?

Yet.  On the other hand.  Isn’t infidelity a rich seam to mine in touching on (relatively) realistic emotional conflict in a romantic relationship, and what drives people to behave in certain ways? Even in the once-removed-from-reality genre of plot-driven romance?

I’m coming at this by the way, as someone who can’t even read ménage books because of my inability to cope with one hero loving someone else as much as he loves my fave. I can’t read consensual threesomes or open relationships and really enjoy them. I have a fatal weakness for possessiveness and jealousy.   I am OTT into monogamy and true love as a romance reader.   Yet, as a reader I love seeing Infidelity explored and taken by the scruff and shaken out and overcome in Romance, vanishingly rare as that is in the genre. Possibly, because it is an ultimate romantic challenge.

 Yes I love fluff, but first I love the emotionally hard-core to get to Fluffsville. Challenge and reward.

To clarify yet again, I’m not talking about inveterate horn-dogs who cheat compulsively and forever.  I’m not talking about the Leopards Never Change Their Spots kind of cheating. I’m talking about cheating driven by a real issue.  A thing that happened for a coherent reason. Coming back from that believably, is a huge challenge for a reader and writer, and if it’s done well…?  It’s The Prodigal Returns. Redemption and Forgiveness.  Genuine mistakes, genuine regret. All are powerful drivers of romance for me. 

So, that’s my guilty truth. I find reading books that deal head-on with infidelity and other huge emotional conflicts and still lead to a believable happy ever after,  incredibly rewarding.  How small is the minority I’m in with that?   There’s me and…


For the record my own difficulties with character behaviour in MM romance lie in physical torture, pain, maiming or death for a loved character or by a loved character, even if it’s called hurt/comfort. There speaks my marshmallow core.  Go figure as they say across The Pond.

****



Dal has a brand new book out this week called Object of Desire. The book is terrific--no surprise there--so go buy it now!

AND three copies of Object of Desire are up for grabs thru May 28th.

 a Rafflecopter giveaway