Sunday, 30 December 2012

Tips for Query Writing

I'm assuming if you're here, you already know the basics of query writing, such as:

  • Keep it brief (less than one page)
  • Personally address it (ie not the dreaded 'To whom it may concern', or to 'Dear agent' when you're querying a submissions editor)
  • Clearly state the book's title, wordcount, and genre
  • Keep it professional (don't talk about your cats, kids, muse or fever dreams or religion)
  • Describe the book's plot and characters in a compelling way 

This post is more about the main body of the query letter, which is the description of your novel that's meant to entice whoever you're querying to request or look at your sample or full. In essence, that series of paragraphs that looks and sounds a lot like what you'd read on the back of your book if you picked it up in a book store. With that said, onto my personal tips, including examples from the query-process for The Druid Stone!

1. Write your query before you write.

If, like most, you're looking up query writing help because you're about to submit your manuscript, then this tip isn't going to be much help to you. But keep it in mind for next time.

I always write a blurb for every story I write, before I put down a single word of my first draft. For me, it's a part of the brain storming process, and a way to harness my initial excitement about a plot idea. Now, I'm not saying that when you've finished the book and are submitting you should send in these initial scribblings, but they're great as a base to work from. Here's why: after you've written a book, you understand its full complexity. All the subplots and themes, all the nuances of character, how you resolve all the plots, everything. Trying to distill all that down to a couple hundred words of a blurb can be downright painful. However, when you pre-write your blurb, you're often just writing about the big ideas: who's your main character? What's the concept hook? What's the main conflict that your character must overcome? Use this broader understanding of your book (as well as the enthusiasm you had when you just started writing) to help shape your query blurb.

Here's my pre-draft blurb for The Druid Stone:
It’s a family business.

As far back as written records go (and possibly even farther still), Cormac Kelly’s ancestors have all been paranormal investigators. And not those silly blokes you see on American telly chasing down tapping sounds and ‘cold feelings’, either. Possessions, hauntings, angry sidhe, curses, witchcraft... you name it, he has the pedigree and know-how to fix it and get everything back to normal... as normal as Ireland ever gets, anyway.

As the years go on, though, the genuine calls get less frequent as many potential customers get too ‘modern’ to ask for his help, leaving only those wishy-washy types who want so badly to believe in something but wouldn’t know real magic if it bit them in the arse. So when he gets a call from Sean O’Hara, a so-called ‘cursed’ American, he figures it’s another case of chance coincidences, leaky old plumbing, and he-said-she-said superstition. When he tries to let his new caller down easy though, saying he only consults in Ireland, he never expects for him to show up on the doorstep with not much else besides a rucksack and a harried smile. And he definitely doesn’t expect Sean to be so devastatingly handsome.
2. Write a super short-form version.

Credit for this tip isn't mine, but should actually go to my old college friend, B.

Faced with a sprawling eight-hundred word query blurb, for a then 130k novel, I complained to B that I was having a hard time getting it all down to two hundred and fifty words. B, in reply, told me "cut it down to a hundred."This might seem like taking an already hard task and making it absolutely impossible, but try it! Open a blank document and force yourself to stay under fifty words. You'll be tearing your hair out, but after adding and subtracting and adding and subtracting and adding and subtracting, you'll end up distilling your manuscript down to its very essence. The bare minimum needed to get your plot across. Once you've reached that magic fifty, add words (and detail) until you get to that 250-300 word sweet spot.

Here's the MASSIVE blurb I originally wrote after finishing the manuscript for The Druid Stone:

It’s a family business.

As far back as written records go (and possibly even farther still), Cormac Kelly’s ancestors have all been paranormal investigators. And not those silly blokes you see on American telly chasing down tapping sounds and ‘cold feelings’, either. Possessions, hauntings, angry sidhe, curses, witchcraft... you name it, he has the pedigree and know-how to fix it and get everything back to normal... as normal as Ireland ever gets, anyway.

As the years go on, though, the genuine calls get less frequent as many potential customers get too ‘modern’ to ask for his help, leaving only those wishy-washy types who want so badly to believe in something but wouldn’t know real magic if it bit them in the arse. So when he gets a call from Sean O’Hara, a so-called ‘cursed’ American, he figures it’s another case of chance coincidences, leaky old plumbing, and he-said-she-said superstition. When he tries to let his new caller down easy though, saying he only consults in Ireland, he never expects for him to show up on the doorstep with not much else besides a rucksack and a harried smile. And he definitely doesn’t expect Sean to be just his type.

Sean O'Hara doesn't like his own name, and he's got some damn good reasons. His mother’s last name was Pérez, making Sean half-Cuban, and for the entirety of his twenty-three years, his father’s family hasn’t let him forget it. He never asked to be born an O’Hara, but then, he never asked for most of the cards life dealt him. He’s made the best of them, anyway. Freshly graduated from night college, he has a modest savings account and a plan: get a paid internship in DC, an apartment that isn’t in somebody else’s basement, and a girlfriend. For once, it all seems to be going his way -- right up until a chance encounter with a malicious great-grandfather leaves him with a cursed family heirloom and a horrible recurring nightmare he just can’t shake. Feeling his sanity slip farther away with every sleepless night, he seeks out the help and expertise of Cormac Kelly, druid-for-hire, sacrificing his savings and his future to take a last-minute trip to Ireland in the hopes of setting it all right.

From the get-go, Cormac seems to go out of his way to be as unhelpful and inhospitable as possible, stopping just short of spitting in Sean’s face. It doesn’t take long, though, for Sean to stumble into enough trouble for Cormac to start taking his problem seriously. If only he could get the Irishman to treat him seriously too. It’s strange, actually, how much he wants Cormac’s approval, stranger still that he finds he just can’t stop looking at him, and in a way he’s never looked at another man before. Can the pair of them learn to work together and respect one another long enough to figure out what’s plaguing Sean? And just what does what started a year ago in Boston for Sean have to do with what happened to Cormac’s mysterious ex Michael a decade ago here in Ireland? And when the case leads Cormac and Sean through the otherworldly territory of the capricious, deadly powerful sidhe lords, will they and their allies escape alive... and sane? Every twist of the mystery draws Cormac and Sean closer together as they struggle against supernatural forces, their own haunted pasts, and the long history of Ireland. They’re not sure whether what they have is love or just a potent mixture of adrenaline, desperation, and raw desire, but as the stakes get higher, they’ll have to find out.
And here's the super short hundred word version:
Cormac Kelly’s ancestors took on the worst of Irish folklore, but modern Ireland has little use for his time-honored skills. Disillusioned, he never expects that when Sean O’Hara shows up on his doorstep, the gorgeous American could be bringing along real old magic.

Sean never asked to be an O’Hara, and he didn’t ask to be cursed by one either. He also didn’t ask for the attitude he gets from druid-for-hire Cormac, who’s too cynical and too good-looking for the job. But when Ireland’s old myths become reality, shared danger and undeniable desire forge an unlikely bond between the embattled pair.
Finally, here's the extended version:
Cormac Kelly’s ancestors took on the worst forces of Irish folklore, but modern Ireland doesn’t seem to have much use for his skills. Disillusioned by a string of paranormal investigation cases that end in mundane explanations, he never expects that when Sean O’Hara shows up uninvited on his doorstep, the American could be bringing along real old magic. And he definitely doesn’t expect surly Sean to be just his type.

Sean never asked to be an O’Hara, and he didn’t ask to be cursed by one either. He also didn’t ask for the attitude he gets from druid-for-hire Cormac, who’s miserable, inhospitable, and way better looking than he has the right to be. And Sean can’t stand him. He’s also Sean’s last chance to break the curse. After all, if they can just figure out how to work together, Sean can go back to his real life: a political internship, a move away from Boston, and if he ever gets the time, a girlfriend.

But Cormac and Ireland have different plans for Sean, and as his case unfolds, the pair find themselves at the centre of a mystery that drives them into the realms of deadly sidhe lords, the depths of Ireland’s -- and sometimes their own -- dark past, and even each other’s arms. But can anything that comes out of these desperate circumstances ever be called love?
3. Choose key words.

Choose words that fit the tone of your book (epic, somber, funny, etc.), the genre (urban fantasy, M/M, romance), the characters and what's unique about them, key plot points, etc. Generate a list, and then use that to guide your writing. Your query is meant to sell your book. It sells an agent on requesting pages. It sells an acquiring editor on reading your submission. It sells an eventual reader on buying your book, since it often forms the basis for the Back Cover Copy. Make it punchy, make it indicative of your writing style and the tone of the book (give a funny book a funny blurb, give a tragedy a serious wistful one, etc.), but above all, make sure it shows all the ways your book is unique, compelling, and worth reading. What makes your book stand out? What are you particularly proud of? What's creative about it? What're the most important aspects that really define the plot?

For The Druid Stone, here were our main points:

  • It takes place in Ireland
  • Cormac Kelly is a disillusioned Druid-for-hire
  • Magic isn't as important in Ireland
  • Sean O'Hara is mixed race and doesn't get along with his Irish side
  • Sean is cursed by his Irish grandfather
  • Sean has big life plans and is afraid of returning to former addiction
  • Cormac thinks Sean is faking
  • Cormac judges Sean for being American
  • Sidhe lords are dangerous and crazy
  • Sean and Cormac can't stand each other but are also hot for each other
  • Is it really love when it's life and death?

Here's the main body of the query letter we eventually sent to Carina Press. How well do you think we did on getting across the above points?

Sean never asked to be an O’Hara, and he didn’t ask to be cursed by one either. He also didn’t ask for the attitude he gets from druid-for-hire Cormac Kelly, who’s miserable, inhospitable, and way better looking than he has the right to be. But Sean can either trust Cormac or go back to Boston and deal with the nightmares himself. Except he’s not dealing, not without stronger and stronger drugs. Last stop: heroin. And he never wants to go back there again.

Cormac runs a paranormal investigation business, not a nanny service for clueless American tourists like Sean. But Sean’s come to Ireland with real magic in his pocket, and even though Cormac is the descendant of legendary druids, he soon finds himself out of his depth, and not because Sean’s the first man he’s felt anything for in a long time.

Sean’s case attracts the unwelcome attention of the mad sidhe lords of ancient Ireland, who throw the pair backward in time, into Ireland’s violent history and their own dark pasts. The bond they develop is unpredictable, intensely sexual, and threatened at every turn, but powerful enough to be love...if they can ever escape the sidhe with their lives and sanity intact.

THE HOLLOW HILL is a completed 120,000 word urban fantasy with strong m/m romantic elements, created as both a stand-alone story and a potential series foundation.
And just for shits n' giggles (and also to illustrate how much a book's BCC can be influenced by the query letter blurb), here's the description of The Druid Stone from Carina's website:
Sean never asked to be an O'Hara, and he didn't ask to be cursed by one either.

After inheriting a hexed druid stone from his great-grandfather, Sean starts reliving another man's torture and death...every single night. And only one person can help.

Cormac Kelly runs a paranormal investigation business and doesn't have time to deal with misinformed tourists like Sean. But Sean has real magic in his pocket, and even though Cormac is a descendant of legendary druids, he soon finds himself out of his depth...and not because Sean's the first man he's felt anything for in a long time.

The pair develop an unexpected and intensely sexual bond, but are threatened at every turn when Sean's case attracts the unwelcome attention of the mad sidhe lords of ancient Ireland. When Sean and Cormac are thrust backward in time to Ireland's violent history--and their own dark pasts--they must work together to escape the curse and save their fragile relationship.
That's it for today, folks? So tell me, do you have any query-writing tips of your own? Resources? Sound off in the comments! :)

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

WIP Wednesday: The Mathematics of Desire

And now, for something completely different...

Today, a little teaser of a caning from my BDSM M/F I've been working on with Violetta Vane, tentatively titled The Dom Project, which is a contemporary all about two friends who embark on a no-sex-allowed experiment revolving around domination and submission. Enjoy!
Should I be feeling guilty? he wondered as she slid the skirt up her thighs. Is this more than a mortal man should see? 
Fuck it. No way was he going to regret a second of this. 
He used the tip of the cane to draw a line parallel to her panties, across her right cheek, like he was illustrating a geometry lesson. She didn’t quiver or flinch. Wait, there it was, the slightest wobble of her stiletto heels. “Right there,” he said, making sure to keep his voice completely even, which was hard, but the geometry analogy helped. The mathematics of desire. Sounded like an essay title about Irina Mareau. Composition, field of view, the rule of thirds. Negative space, like the one at the very top of Robin’s thighs if she stood with her legs pressed together. 
He struck precisely along that line, not very much harder than the first stinging blow. The faintest of pink streaks appeared; he watched, mesmerized, as it faded back into the warm ivory color of her flesh. 
“It’s coming harder next time,” he warned. “Stay straight.” It wasn’t easy to hit the right way with a cane, avoiding any contact with bone, but he’d had a lot of practice over the years. Not his favorite implement by far, but it was the one that seemed to suit Robin best: strict, old-fashioned, trim and elegant and straight to the point. 
She nodded. He picked up a hint of eagerness in the motion. It’s not for you, he told himself. It’s for what’s she feeling. His almost painfully hard cock still throbbed, but he was wearing thick jeans tonight, so she wouldn’t notice.  
He had a feeling these jeans would become a mainstay of their sessions. 
He struck again. The same place. As a rule, the cane hurt twice: once coming, second going. That second hurt had her arching minutely towards him and letting out a delightful sharp little gasp. 
“Left side, now.” Again. No gasp this time; she was expecting it. Now there were two matching pink streaks. John eyed them critically. The one on the right was angled lower; he couldn’t have that, not for what he had in mind later. 
Well, maybe strict geometry wasn’t in the cards for tonight. An informal, asymmetric composition was more his style. He struck again—right, then left, faster and harder. The percussive snap of the blows held its own savage charm.  
He stopped, letting the sound fade, then stroked across the streaks as if the cane tip was a lover’s trailing finger. Pausing, he listened attentively to the music of her labored breathing, then struck again. 
And again, until the streaks melted each other, becoming a pink-crimson field of color. Marking her, but not marring her. Making her more beautiful. 
“Oh...” Robin said—a word, not a cry, so John waited for her to finish, but she didn’t. 
“Turn around.” 
When she finally did, bracing herself against the counter behind her for balance, and her hair was mussed and her pupils were blown, lips parted, and color high in her cheeks—John gripped the cane hard between his hands, trying to transfer all his energy into its quivering length so that he didn’t do something stupid like pressing himself against her. 
God, he needed to take a picture of her right now. Not the marks on her thighs, but her face, so dazed and breathless. “Stay there. Right there.” 
He walked backwards toward the kitchen’s entrance, afraid that if he took his eyes off her even a second, the moment would pass. But she didn’t shift, and her expression didn’t change. Her wide blinking eyes just followed him as he moved.  
He had a Nikon with a portrait lens in the living room. He should have brought it with him, but he hadn’t expected this. He’d planned to have her pose for him at the end of their session, pretty and perfect and well-lit, but now he just needed to capture this moment, in all its imperfection. He’d have to go without the flash on this one, shoot with a high ISO, embrace the graininess of the image the same way he embraced the way her mascara had flaked off under her eyes.

Monday, 26 November 2012

New Release: Mark of the Gladiator

Happy November! Hope your month is going just lovely and you're getting all ready for your winter holiday of choice (or compulsion, I suppose).

After almost a year, it's finally release day for my new book Mark of the Gladiator, out from Riptide Publishing!

After an inconvenient display of mercy in the arena, the gladiator Anazâr is pulled from the sands and contracted to nobleman Lucius Marianus to train his new stable of female gladiators. His new charges are demoralized and untested, and they bear the marks of slavery and abuse. Anazâr has a scant four months to prepare them for the arena, and his new master demands perfection. 
Anazâr’s surprised by how eager he is to achieve it—far more eager than a man motivated by only self-preservation. Perhaps it’s because Marianus is truly remarkable: handsome, dignified, honorable, and seemingly as attracted to Anazâr as Anazâr is to him. 
But the rivalry between Marianus and his brother, Felix, sparks a murder conspiracy, with Anazâr and his gladiatrices caught in the middle. One brother might offer salvation . . . but which? And in a world where life is worth less than the pleasures of the crowd or the whims of a master, can there be any room for love? As a gladiator, Anazâr's defenses are near impenetrable. But as a man, he learns to his cost that no armor or shield can truly protect his heart.
Our blog tour kicked off yesterday at You Gotta Read Reviews with an excerpt from the novel, and continues today at Words of Wisdom from the Scarf Princess, where Violetta Vane interviews me, and at Well Read, where I interview her! For more tour details, check out the tour page. Just remember to leave a comment on as many posts as you can to be entered to win our entire Layers of the Underworld series, including Cruce de Caminos, The Druid Stone, and Galway Bound, all in an e-format of your choice!

And now, as is customary, here's my 5 facts about Mark of the Gladiator!

1. We had to ask for an extension on the collection deadline because my trip to Ireland fell right into the middle of our writing time! So for two weeks, I left the first draft to Violetta while I dashed about Dublin lookin' at bog mummies.

2. Rome is one of Violetta's favourite historical topics and she's a real nerd for it. Me, on the other hand . . . despite my history degree the only aspect of Rome I ever studied was their dealings in Great Britain. Oh, and I'm a huge fan of Starz's series, Spartacus. So writing was a wee bit of a learning curve for me!

3. My original pitch for our Roman story centred around the conflict between the Picts and Romans at the Antonine wall. It was Violetta (who isn't much of a fan of captor/captive stories the way I am) who suggested the gladiator . . . and more importantly gladiatrice angle. An ensemble cast of diverse powerful women? A love triangle between a gladiator, his master, and his master's brother? Oh yes please! I was hooked on her concept right from the start and now I wouldn't change a thing.

4. To write dialogue, Violetta and I used a couple of primary sources to get the feel for the way Romans talked and swore and threatened each other: Roman poetry in translation (which features heavily in the book, especially when it comes to poet Felix), and Pompeiian graffiti. My favourite of these? 
Floronius, privileged soldier of the 7th legion, was here. The women did not know of his presence. Only six women came to know, too few for such a stallion.
What a hero!

5.  If I was casting Mark of the Gladiator as a movie, my first choice for Anazâr would be Nick Tarabay. I love his size and rugged features! (He's also hella sexy.)

PS! If you're a Goodreads member, you can also enter to win a beautiful print copy of the book! Click here to enter!

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

The Place Between Novels

It's so strange to finish writing a book. I just sent off Rear Entrance Video to my editor at Riptide, Sarah Frantz. When I'm writing a book, I live, breathe, eat and sleep that book. It's in my thoughts from morning 'til night, even when I'm not actively writing. So when it's sent off I feel kind of . . . purposeless. Lost. Empty.

There's this sense of exhaustion and closure, too, that makes me feel like "Welp, that's done, I've written a book, it's all over, back to my normal life now." Except this IS my life, and even when a book is finished, my work as an author is never finished. Well until I die, I guess, or make EL James-money and retire early to swim in gold coins like Scrooge McDuck.

One project's done, time to start the next one, basically. Cut and run. Always on the move. Never look back. Etc.

So here's what's on my docket for winter 2012/2013:

Changeling, sequel to The Druid Stone (starring Michael!) with Violetta Vane. 19,000/90,000 words.
The Flesh Cartel Season 3 with Rachel Haimowitz0/80,000 words.
Rear Entrance Video #2 allllll by my~self. 0/65,000 words.

And you know . . . editing. And promotion. (BECAUSE HEY YOU GUYS, MARK OF THE GLADIATOR IS OUT THIS MONTH OMFG!) . . . etc.

Although I'm super psyched to do these sequels, and I feel privileged to even be writing a series of books in the first place when a year ago I'd never finished ANYTHING, I simultaneously kind of feel stalled on them all because it's not the same newness as beginning a completely fresh project. I'm not getting that same disconnect I'm used to where I completely switch gears from one book to the next. It's odd.

Here are a couple of things I *want* to write:

  • Post-apocalyptic, nuclear holocaust Fallout/Mad Max: The Road Warrior -type story with a broody loner vigilante/wanderer who begrudgingly takes another man into his protection and, well, y'know.
  • Historical starring 1950s actor/musician heartthrobs. You know, Marlon Brando, James Dean, all those glorious brooding maybe-bisexual hotties . . . um, fictionalized of course!
  • Tax cowboy: this started as a joke, but I kinda wanna do it anyway. A guy calls the IRS in Austin and falls in love with tax cowboy's sexy voice. (Um that's basically the whole plot.)
  • Established relationship short porn-y story involving a change room in a clothing store.
  • WHATEVER I can get Aleksandr Voinov to co-write with me already.
  • Some M/F!!??!?!?!?!!?
So anyway, that's what my next year's shaping up to look like! Of course, in between there I'll probably have a hundred other ideas that randomly catch my fancy, but aaaaanyway. I guess this is the part where you tell me what you most want me to write?

AND DON'T FORGET: two weeks. Mark of the Gladiator. It's out. You can win a Nook.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

WIP Wednesday: Now Say Penis

Man! I haven't done a WIP Wednesday in a DOG'S age. Well, you guys, that ends today! 

You see, I'm working on my first solo novel! It's a contemporary comedy! There's a porn store! It's contracted with Riptide Publishing!

I guess I'll just give ya the working blurb:

Rear Entrance Video: The Roommate

Teacher hopeful Christian Blake, short on cash, moves into a house full of guys, quickly falling for the one roommate who'd be the worst for his apple-polisher image. Things go from bad to worse when his ailing aunt admits that the porn store that's being paying his tuition so far is about to go under... unless he takes on full time management duties. Will Christian be able to balance the less-savoury aspects of his real life with the ideal one a teacher is expected to live? And can he save the store and his aunt from bankruptcy?

AAAAAAAAAND here's the excerpt, in which our hero applies for a job.

“Alright, Christian. Standard interview. Tell me a little about yourself.” 
 Seriously? Well, he had asked her for that. “Uh . . . my name’s Christian, I guess. I’m twenty-four. I go to SFU for teaching school.” I’m sexually repressed, closeted, and have the hots for my drug dealer roommate who may or may not still beat my ass for making a pass at him. 
 “And what makes you want to work here?” Because I can’t stand to see my aunt lose one more fucking thing to this disease. 
“What do people usually say to that?” 
Vicks’s bland interviewer face cracked a little, a smile showing through. “Depends. A lot of applicants treat this place as a joke, so at this point they’ll take out their big brass balls, slap ‘em on the table, and outright say to me ‘I get to look at titties all day.’”  
Christian curled his nose, in mirror of her gesture. “Well, at least that’s not a danger with me,” he said, and this time Vicks laughed. 
 “No, I don’t suppose it will be, considering when you walked in here you looked like you just stumbled on a mass grave. Okay, next question, and this is a serious one. Can you really handle this place, Christian? You look a little uptight. Calling you ‘clean cut’ would be a total understatement.”  
Christian looked down at his neat powder blue button down shirt and tie and khakis, all clothes he’d bought a couple of weeks ago. “Well, this is an interview, isn’t it? I mean, don’t judge a book by its cover, right?”  
“True enough. Okay. Well, the next question is usually ‘Are you a pothead’, but I guess we’ll take it as a ‘no’ with you?”  
“Uh . . . yeah.”  
“Good, good. Now say ‘penis.’”  
“Say ‘penis,’” she repeated. “Look, I know you probably think this place is a bit of a joke, but it is a pretty delicate business. If you look at customers weird or they think you’re judgmental or laughing at them, they won’t come back. So you have to be able to talk to them without getting flustered or revealing the fact that you clearly have a stick up your ass. Sorry, probably the wrong choice of words with a gay guy.”  
Excuse you, if I was still having sex, I would be a top thank you very much.
 “Penis,” he said. His mouth tried to twitch, from nerves maybe, but he managed to smother the expression (or at least he hoped he did).  
“Okay, that was an easy one. Now ‘pussy.’”  
 “Not quite so good. How about another boy part then. Balls.”  
That was easier. “Balls,” he recited back, very proud of himself for keeping a completely neutral tone of voice. 
 “Hard mode,” she said. “Gaping anus. Double penetration.”  
He gripped the edge of the table so hard he thought he was going to carve gouges in it with his nails, but he said both and didn’t laugh. After that, she had him recite the dirty alphabet from “ass-to-mouth” to “whores” (because there weren’t any dirty words starting with x, y, or z, apparently). A whole dictionary of filthy words, many of them the kind of slurs he’d never even consider using, running the gamut from sexist to racist to homophobic and back again. But by the end, he’d mastered his pokerface to Vicks’s satisfaction.  
“Okay, so you have the vocabulary downpat. Now it’s time for your practical,” she said, cracking a bottle of water and taking a long drink without offering him any. Which was outright torture because he was parched. “So say I’m a customer and I call you up asking you to tell me the week’s new releases.”  
“Do people really do that?”  
“Yep.” She slid a piece of paper to him. It was a typed list of movie titles; an invoice from their distributor, by the looks of things. “Here’s this week’s order. Read them out to me.” 
“You want the job or not?”  
Christian cleared his throat. You’re doing this for Aunt Beverly, he reminded himself, . . . and to prove Max wrong about you. “Okay, uh . . . Your—seriously?—Your Mom’s a Slut She Takes It In The Butt.” He gasped for air, like he’d been underwater.  
“What volume is that, again? I’ve already seen up to 3.”  
“Volume . . . volume . . .” He squinted at the invoice. “Seriously? Volume twenty-six?”  
“Click, I just hung up on you. Try again. Next one on the list. This time, see if you can get through it without saying ‘seriously’ every second word.”  
Come on Christian, at least try. We both know this interview is a complete fucking show trial, but you don’t need to rub it in her face. He looked down to the next title. Read it once, then read it again, to make sure he was actually seeing what he thought he was. 
Put his head in his folded arms and laughed until he cried a little. 
He sat up straight again. Cleared his throat. Took a tissue from Vicks and dabbed at his eyes. “Queef Queens,” he said, blank-faced, completely serious, the corners of his mouth vibrating with the effort of keeping them downturned.  
Vicks’s serious face cracked into a big grin, and suddenly she was laughing too, pounding her fist on the rickety old desk as big hysterical tears squeezed out the corners of her eyes and smudged her perfect cat-eye eyeliner. “Okay, that one is funny,” she gasped, and then, “Shit, I think I peed a little.”  
Which, in a truly bizarre turn of events, only made her laugh harder, until she had to excuse herself and make a teetering and incredibly precarious-looking pregnant lady run for the bathroom.  
He got the job.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Announcement: Good news, I'm Cheap!

Or rather . . . my book's on sale.

To celebrate their birthday, Riptide is doing weekly super-sales of books. This week's special is the Staff Picks Super-Sale: Perfect Prose! which includes my short story Cruce de Caminos.

All this week until Oct. 13th, you can get the entire collection (which includes titles by myself, Aleksandr Voinov, Elyan Smith, and others) for 50% off, or buy individual titles for 30%. So if you read The Druid Stone and were thinking about checking out the prequel starring Sean, now is the perfect time!

Monday, 1 October 2012

New Release: The Flesh Cartel Episode 1

Start off your October with some thrills and chills with The Flesh Cartel, the new Riptide serial being co-authored by Rachel Haimowitz and yours truly. Episode 1 is all about a kidnapping gone wrong and two brothers willing to do anything to stay together. It's dark, intense, suspenseful as hell . . . and yours to buy, if the warnings don't scare you away!

Here's where to get it:

Want to know more? How about following this week's blog tour? On our first stop, Rachel and I pop by for an interview with Darien at Pants off Reviews, where we talk about where we came up with the idea for The Flesh Cartel, if we're worried about reader reactions, why we're not calling the book BDSM, and most importantly, dropping an exclusive spoiler about where the series is headed. Oh, and did I mention one commenter there will win a $10 Riptide gift certificate? That's enough to buy the full first season with change to spare! 

And don't miss our stop at Smexy Books tomorrow, where I sing the praises of the serial format. (And no, it's not a cash grab!)

And since it's become a bit of a tradition, here's Five Facts about The Flesh Cartel.

1. Rachel and I have different "actors" playing Dougie when it comes to our mental image for the character. In my head, he's performer Johnny Rapid (link sooooo not safe for work!).

2. The whole thing is All My Fault. In a group chat with Rachel and Sarah Frantz (our editor), I mentioned I had a story idea gnawing at me that nobody would ever ever publish. Challenge accepted, I suppose!

3. The little prologue with Nikolai at the beginning of Episode 1 was written after both episodes of season 1 were completed, because we realized at the end of the season we wanted to introduce Nikolai as a POV character but it seemed a little late to just . . . toss him in. In the end, we loved the ominous new opening!

4. Even though the serial format was a part of the original concept I pitched, it took a full month of badgering to convince Rachel to give it a try. Her main worry? Overcharging readers. What a selfless little sweetheart she is! Luckily, she figured out a way to keep the format but allow readers the option to pay the exact price they'd pay for a novel. 

5. Partway through edits, I lobbied to have the character of the doctor's assistant deleted because she squicked me out. So, you know, there is a limit, apparently. Ultimately, we chose to keep her . . . with a couple of tweaks surrounding her character. 

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Mark of the Gladiator excerpt now online!

Are you a history buff? A fan of Rome or Spartacus, or other narratives about ancient Rome or gladiators? Do you like slave/master and enemies-to-lovers M/M stories? Murder mysteries?

Mark of the Gladiator, my Roman historical written with Violetta Vane, is out from Riptide Books November 26th and you can pre-order it now, either on its own or at a discount as a part of their Warriors of Rome collection that includes one other novel and two novellas.

Riptide recently uploaded a huge excerpt that introduces our leading men, Anazâr the gladiator, and his masters, brothers Lucius and Felix Marianus. Read the opening chapter after the jump, then continue on to Riptide's website for more, and to pre-order the novel. You can also add it to your shelves on Goodreads!

Monday, 17 September 2012

More Awesome October News

If you read and enjoyed The Druid Stone and would like a bit more Sean and Cormac, Violetta and I are self-publishing our Sean/Cormac erotic short "Galway Bound" in October! It's a sexy little BDSM story about their first anniversary. I'll be back with pricing and updates on where it'll be for sale later on this month, but for now, how about you check out the blurb and the gorgeous cover art by LC Chase?

A year after they saved each other’s lives in The Druid Stone and eager to return a little bit of intensity to a sex-life that's been put on the backburner, Cormac and Sean book a weekend in Galway with no limits and no distractions. Cormac has a few ideas on how to spice things up and the bag full of kinky surprises he needs to make them happen: a spreader bar, a brand new toy or two, and even Sean’s own belt. But once the cuffs get buckled, just how far can he push Sean... and himself? 
“Galway Bound” is a BDSM short featuring Sean and Cormac from the urban fantasy M/M series Layers of the Otherworld, but the only magic here is what’s happening in their bed. Fans of the series and new readers alike will all find a little something to love in this erotic story.
Add it on Goodreads

You may have also noticed that the series name Layers of the Otherworld got a mention! That's because Violetta and I are putting together a full series listing with all the connected works featuring Sean, Cormac, and other characters from the world of The Druid Stone, including plans to edit and rerelease (still for free) the tie-in stories Out of the Tombs and Ulterior Motives. There's also a full length novel sequel in the works! I can't say much about it yet other than it features Michael and takes place in Dublin. Stay tuned!

October also sees the start of my and Rachel Haimowitz's new serial, the psychosexual thriller The Flesh Cartel. Episode 1: Capture comes out October 1st. And just so happens to have a brand new excerpt posted on Riptide's site! Just click here and scroll past the book into to the tab that says "excerpt" for an extra-long taste of what's in store. Just remember to read the warnings!

As with all Riptide serials, you can buy each episode separately (a good idea if you want to try the first episode out and see if it's up your alley), or you can purchase by "season", which gets you both episodes for $4.99. Purchased this way, serials at Riptide are no more expensive than buying a traditional novel. It's only the format that's changed. 

Monday, 3 September 2012

Flesh Cartel Announcement

If you follow me on twitter, you might know that I've been working with a new co-writer, namely Rachel Haimowitz (she of the Powerplay series), who is an author I've admired since first getting into the M/M genre. I'm absolutely bloody stoked to be working with her. You have no idea. Every morning I wake up and fangirl anew.

So what is this thing we're working on? Oh, oh, it is so exciting you guys! The long and short of it is, Riptide Publishing is venturing into the brave new (okay old) world of serialized fiction and Rachel and I are their flagship series in this cool format.

If you're not familiar with serialized fiction, you can read this great Dear Author post all about it. But think of it like a TV series, especially one with season long arcs. You've got individual episodes with their own arcs, seasons with their own arcs that the episodes fit into, and then an overall series arc. Basically, the long and short of it is, it's a great format for certain genres that are best read a bit at a time rather than in one long marathon read (which let's be real, how many among us have never just gorged on a book, like me with a bag of Oreo cookies?).

So for our foray into the format, Rachel and I are doing what we both do best: writing an intense darkdarkdark character-driven psychosexual thriller called The Flesh Cartel. Here's the blurb for the series:

Sublime service, made to order. 
The Flesh Cartel: an international, multi-billion-dollar black market that trades in lost souls. Or more specifically, their bodies. 
Highly organized and frighteningly efficient, the Flesh Cartel could teach even the KGB a thing or two about breaking a human mind. Fortunately for their ultra-rich clients, they’re just as skilled at putting people back together again—as perfect pets, well-trained and eager to please. 
No matter what your secret tastes or dark desires, the Flesh Cartel—for the right price, of course—will hand-design the plaything of your dreams.
We're starting off with a short first season made up of two "episodes", to give readers a taste of the story and the format and also the content. On that note: this story does come with some pretty heavy duty warnings, which Riptide clearly lists. Please don't ignore them! They're there to help you make an informed choice about your reading, which is super important when it comes to stories like this with triggering content.

If that hasn't scared you off, here's the relevant details about the two episodes coming out this year.

Episode 1: Capture comes out October 1st:
In this first installment of the exciting new psychosexual thriller, The Flesh Cartel, orphaned brothers Mat and Dougie Carmichael are stolen in the night from their own home. Taken to a horrifying processing facility, they are assessed, microchipped, and subjected to unspeakable brutality—all in preparation for sale to the highest bidder. 
In a world where every person has a price, the beautiful and subduable PhD student Dougie is highly prized. His brother, a rough-edged MMA fighter, is less desirable—and potentially too dangerous—but he still has his own appeal. 
Abused and locked up under round the clock surveillance, with no idea where they are or even why they’ve been taken, escape seems impossible, which leaves staying together their only hope. And after being separated once by the foster system, they'll do anything to keep it from happening again. Anything at all.
Episode 2: Auction comes out November 5th:
In episode two of The Flesh Cartel, the dark purpose behind Mat and Dougie Carmichael’s abduction is revealed. Though Dougie is protected from the worst of the guards’ brutality, he’s disgusted to find himself halfway to broken—despairing of escape and terrified of pain. Mat holds onto hope despite repeated rapes and beatings, but threats toward his brother teach him well to lay aside his pride and pick his battles carefully. 
Worn down by days of unrelenting fear and abuse, Mat and Dougie are packaged and marketed with the same ruthless efficiency as any consumer product: Dougie the prettyboy twink, Mat the rabid pit bull. They are led to the auction block as the showpiece of the house’s collection. 
Mat would rather be beaten to death than play the role of obedient slave for sale, but Dougie, desperate not to be separated from his brother, strikes a deal with the pitiless Madame who runs the auction house and controls both their fates. It might just be enough to keep them together—slaves, but together—assuming Mat even wants to be after Dougie fulfills his end of his deal with the devil.
You can buy each episode separately on-site (and on the usual e-tailers) for $2.99, or subscribe to the season for $4.99 (and get the episodes two days early and be entered in the free-books-for-a-year draw, as with all pre-orders through Riptide).

If the content's up your alley, we'd be thrilled to have you reading along!

Friday, 31 August 2012

On Sean's Sexuality

So being the little eavesdropper I am, I've noticed a couple of conversations here and there about the subject of Sean's sexuality in The Druid Stone. I've also seen the book shelved or categorized as "Gay for you" by various readers. Now obviously I have a lot of Thoughts on this topic, since Sean is half my baby, and I figured I'd share them here rather than intruding on reader spaces, my policy being strictly "Peep but don't poke".

As always, your interpretation of my writing is just as important as (if not more important than) my intention for the text. So think of these as some thinky-thoughts, not the Almighty Words Of The Author Which Make All Other Interpretations Incorrect. By all means, choose not to read this, choose to read it then disregard it, whatever. Or hell, treat it like the theories of any other reader. No need to prioritize my interpretation over anybody else's.

But for the curious, here's what I think, written up in a handy-dandy FAQ, of sorts:

Friday, 17 August 2012

The Druid Stone Update! Giveaway info and a favour to ask

The Druid Stone has now been out a little under two weeks! We spent a few days at 1 and 2 on the Carina most popular list, and broke the Top 50 of the Amazon Gay and Lesbian lists, our first time ever getting on any sort of Amazon bestseller list with a release (cool!). We've received lots of wonderful reviews, positive and critical, that have given us lots to think about. Our blog tour is going great, and we're getting elbow deep on work on a sequel starring a secondary character. Can you guess who?

If you've bought it or added it on Goodreads, thank you for your support. If you've reviewed it, thank you twice!

If you haven't yet bought the book, or you'd like to win some Irish bling, check out the following links for our giveaways!

Fiction Vixen Weekend Spotlight
(Ends today!) Read an exclusive excerpt of The Druid Stone and meet King Finnbheara. Leave us a comment for your chance to win one of two ebook copies of the book.

Carina Press Blog: Three Top Tips for Cowriting
(Ends Aug. 23rd) Learn a little about how Violetta and I cowrite all our books, as well as some advice on how to cowrite your own. Leave a comment to enter to win a super cute sterling silver pendant of an Irish triple spiral, which is featured heavily in The Druid Stone!

(Ends Aug. 26th) Read about the trope of The Immortal Bisexual, from Jack Harkness way back to the Greek and Roman gods. Leave a comment for your chance to win a ebook copy of The Druid Stone.

And now for the favour:

I discovered last night that The Druid Stone is up for New Author Book of the Month on the Goodreads M/M group! Any author in this genre knows that to be featured there is awesome exposure for your book, so I'd like to ask that if you're a member of the group, and if you liked The Druid Stone or are interested in reading it, that you please vote for us in the second poll listed here! It would be very, very much obliged! :)

Monday, 6 August 2012

The Druid Stone is now available!

In the spring of 2011, I was a few months pregnant, mourning the somewhat sudden death of my grandmother, and dealing with a lot of mental health issues. Not surprisingly, my stressful job as a substitute teacher wasn't going so well. Basically, I was a wreck.

The one bright spot in my life was fandom, where I argued over favourite episodes, shared my love for characters, and wrote a whole pile of fanfic, which was the first time anybody had ever really read my writing. Violetta and I met each other through fandom; we edited one another's fanfic and even dabbled in co-writing. In May, she came to me with the idea that we try and take our enjoyment of co-writing and turn it into an original novel. We brainstormed, planned, argued a bit, and after months of work with the help and support of our fandom friends--especially April L'Orange and Emma (also known in cen_sceal), who edited our first draft--we wound up with a manuscript that would one day become The Druid Stone.

I don't want to get too terribly emotional about things, but this novel means a lot to me. I mean, I'm proud of everything I've written, and I've put all my heart into all of it every single time, but this novel is particularly special. Not only was it my first (that was finished, and saw the light of day, anyway), it kept me going during a rough spot in my life, kept me hoping, gave me something new to look forward to and explore. Opened up opportunities to me that I always thought were impossible. Getting accepted for publication by Carina Press out of the slush was a dream come true. Every day since has just gotten better and better.

So thank you. Thank you to the people who helped me realize this dream, my cheerleaders and editors and marketing people and reviewers and my readers, of course, who are the reason for it all. But thank you especially to Violetta for helping me make my dream come true.

(tears, flailing)

And now, without further ado, here's...

 Five Facts about The Druid Stone

1. Since Violetta and I first met in Torchwood fandom, and because that fandom gave us so much support and joy, we left a few Torchwood-related Easter eggs throughout The Druid Stone, including a cameo by a well-loved character. (The scar on his face should be a clue!)

2. Violetta is a massive David Bowie fangirl. We channeled him when we wrote King Finnbheara, both the real life glam rock version and the King Jared one. We didn't manage to work in a reference to "the area", but I'm sure Sean noticed.

3. A specific scene from near the end of the novel, set in the mound, originally featured lyrics from the song "Wonderwall" by Oasis. In a later draft, those lyrics were replaced with less legally-dubious ones from a song in the public domain.

4. Muff, in County Donegal, is a real town. It really does have a Muff Diving Club. We included it thanks to my Irish husband, who suggested it after I asked if he knew any Irish towns with ridiculous names.

5. The model for Sean used on the cover is almost a perfect representation. When we wrote Cormac, however, we had someone else in mind: specifically, a young Paul Newman.

The Druid Stone is now available from the following retailers:

It is also available as an audiobook from Audible (with an Irish reader!) 

For more information, including reviews, pronunciation guide, a soundtrack, and info on our upcoming Blog Tour, check our dedicated website at

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

5 Healing Alternatives to Lashing Out at a Negative Review

If you've published something, you've probably gotten a bad review. It's a reality of putting your work out there and getting it read. People are going to have a range of reactions, and with the rise of sites like Goodreads, Amazon, and free personal blogs, they now have more forums than ever to express them. And some of these people... are going to be assholes. Sure, you're going to get critical reviews, reviews that point out your head-hopping or how much they dislike your choice of narrative devices. And then you're gonna get the reviews that will tell you you're the worst thing since EL James, or that you didn't get hugged enough as a child, or, or, or. I don't need to give examples, because as authors I'm sure you can fill in the blanks.

But rather than responding in GR comments or complaining on twitter about how "THEY'RE ALL JUST SEXUALLY REPRESSED AND JEALOUS" or, for god's sake, creating an entire website where you 'out' where reviewers live and work (do not do this. if you choose any one thing on this list to give up for author-lent, make it this one), try going through this list.

1. Disengage
Sometimes, all it takes is making a conscious decision not to look anymore. Unless you're being harassed through e-mail, in your blog comments, or internet nasties are using other methods of bringing the criticism directly to your attention, you have the power to limit your exposure. Turn off google alerts for your book's title or your name. Stop refreshing your book's Amazon page. Log off of Goodreads, or limit yourself to your update stream / favourite groups. Use Leechblock if you have to. Find something else to do, whether you get started on that next book or you take a brain break and watch an America's Next Top Model marathon. Just get away from the negativity for a little while. Later, you can decide whether to look at the criticism with a fresh eye, or continue ignoring it. It's up to you!
2. Break them down for scrap
Take a nasty review. Take a piece of paper. Make two columns on the paper: useful critique / useless criticism. Break the review down to its points, and list them in either column. Is there anything to be learned from this critique, however un-tactfully stated? If there is, put it to constructive use. If you're like me, this will help in a substantial way to take the sting out of the review. Part of what's hurtful about reviews is they make us feel so powerless. We're not allowed to respond, even in a veiled way. We're not allowed to defend ourselves or argue the reviewer's points. We can't take the book back and have a do-over. We can't limit a review's influence. This strategy is all about taking positive steps in the one thing we can control: we can improve our writing. 
This isn't about demanding reviewers act as your beta readers, or publicly announcing that people can be vaguely positive but must be constructive with their negative critiques. Readers have a right to react to your books in any way they please, as long as it's not libel and it doesn't go against the TOS of whatever place they're posting at. This exercise is for you and you alone, to try and make sense of a reader response that on the surface is hurtful to you, and give you an empowering, constructive way to respond.  
And if you find your columns are lopsided, with all the points falling under "useless criticism"? Crumple up the piece of paper, throw it out, and move on! (Refer to point 1 if necessary)
3. Seek a shoulder to cry on
Not in public. Even if you don't reply to a reviewer directly, publicly complaining about negative reviews is unprofessional and uncomfortable for your readers to watch. It damages your reputation and harms your platform. Also, what you say on your public twitter or blog or facebook has a way of getting back to the person you're complaining about one way or another, and if they choose to engage you in a new forum (and especially if they bring friends), you've turned one bad review into a whole pile of drama. 
However, what you say to your mom, or significant other, or best friend or even your cat in person has a very likely chance of staying with them. Also, they're pretty much guaranteed to sympathize with you. You can also complain in a private forum such as through email or instant message to someone you trust such as an online friend, a co-writer, a member of your critique group, etc.  
There is nothing wrong with feeling hurt or discouraged or ganged-up on. These are normal feelings when something you've put a lot of time and love into is criticized. Go ahead and ask for a hug and a pat on the back, you're only human! But as an author, you're a public figure and you need to consider where you express these feelings and how. 
4. Pump yourself up
When I was a teenager, I had a lot of body image issues. I was overweight and somewhat fashionably impaired, and I got teased a lot for what I looked like. Being in my own body was often a bad place to be. I had a full length mirror in my bedroom to try on all my various outfits to try and determine which one made me look the least fat or the least slutty or the least bit like a lesbian, which were my general day-to-day goals as a teenage girl. (Now, I'd be quite happy to look like a fat slutty lesbian, but I guess I'll have to settle for fat slutty bi girl.) The point is, this mirror in my room was basically a source of constant misery. Until... someone wrote on it, in big red letters, "Smile, you're beautiful!" Now, I'm not saying it magically made me stop crying over my thunder thighs or picking at my skin, but it was damn better than nothing, just one positive message in a whole world of negative ones. 
So how does this translate to being an author? Bookmark and revisit a positive review, one that really gets you and your book. One that showers you with love and thoughtfulness and makes you think "yeah, that's why I became an author". Somebody out there loved your hero as much as you do, thought that line of dialogue was really funny, understood that metaphor you had woven throughout the whole novel, enjoyed that risk you took or appreciated that safe choice you made. 
Read that review as often as you need. Nobody needs to know. It'll be our little secret. 
5. Read or revisit this post
That's all. Just go there. Now. Shoo.