Friday, 29 June 2012

News Roundup

Now Available

The War at the End of the World
September, 1941. 
War correspondent Joseph Byrne has been cheating death all his life, ever since he spent two years in an iron lung as a boy diagnosed with polio. In the years since, the Fetch, a strange being charged by Death with collecting Joseph and transporting him into the unknown, has been condemned to watch and wait. 
Now, with Joseph working in a Finland caught in a tug of war between Nazi and Soviet forces, it seems a foregone conclusion that the Fetch's sentence is at its end and Death will have Joseph for her own at last. Joseph, an openly Jewish American, has no doubt where his allegiance lies, no matter the danger. But after all these years at Joseph's side, watching him overcome adversity to grow into a brave and principled young man, the Fetch has come to realize that there are forces stronger and so much sweeter than even the purpose you were made for.
Our free Love is Always Write short is now available for your ereaders! You can download it directly in a variety of formats from Storm Moon Press, or from ARe. It's a dense paranormal WWII historical that clocks in at around 10k words. You may want to read it twice!
Hawaiian Gothic
Gregorio “Ori” Reyes thought there was nothing left for him in Hawaii. A former Army Ranger and promising MMA fighter, his dishonorable discharge turned him into the family disgrace, and his childhood best friend Kalani never could love him back--not the way Ori needed to be loved--even before Kalani’s doctors declared him to be in an unrecoverable coma. Ori’s return to Hawaii seems fated to be a depressing reminder of every chance he never took... until Kalani himself impossibly welcomes him home. 
Kalani’s body is bedridden, but his spirit is free to roam, and it turns out it’s not just Ori who had unspoken yearnings. Kalani is eager to prove that he can still savor all the pleasures of this world. Together, they remember all those years of surfing, wrestling, touching and aching but too afraid to act; now, they cross that final barrier and struggle against each other in an entirely different way. 
Passionately but tenuously reunited, the pair must solve the mystery of Kalani’s unlucky life, sorting through dark family history and even journeying to the Hawaiian ghostworld. And the greatest terror of their journey is that Ori might have to put Kalani to rest.
Hawaiian Gothic has been available on Loose Id's website since June 12th, but if you prefer to buy from third party retailers, you can now purchase it from Amazon and All Romance eBooks.
The Druid Stone
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.
The Druid Stone comes out from Carina on August 6th, but if you've got a Kindle you can now pre-order it on Amazon for 20% off! Woohoo!


If you read our Riptide Rentboys short "Cruce de Caminos" and are interested in following Sean's journey when it picks up -- five years later in Ireland -- with our novel The Druid Stone, there's still time to enter to win a copy! Just take the Cruce de Caminos quiz! E-mail me your answers, and two lucky winners will be chosen. You have until July 1st (Happy Birthday, Canada!) to enter.

How about an amazing Hawaiian Gothic totebag, so Hawaiian hunks can help carry your things? (Figuratively, I mean. If you want an actual Hawaiian hunk to carry your stuff around, I'd suggest dating one.) Check out our review and/or interview at Mrs Condit Reads Books and leave a comment on either with your email for a chance to win. Since this is a physical prize, it's only open to people living in North America. You have until July 2nd to enter!


Hawaiian Gothic has had an absolutely amtiazing critical reception so far. You can check out a roundup of reviews here. And while you're on the site, why not check the sidebars for some great extras like a pronunciation guide, MMA videos, and a soundtrack?

Lisa at The Novel Approach gave "The War at the End of the World" 5 stars:
...a beautiful tale of the inexplicable and mysterious journey we all eventually take, and it left me saying, “This can’t be the end.”

Jenre at Well Read gave the anthology Like It or Not 3 stars, and had this to say about our offering "Salting the Earth":
Although this was not my favourite story in the anthology, it made me think and is perhaps the most complex story in the collection, which can only be a good thing!

Coming Soon

Violetta and I have signed two contracts (!!!) in recent weeks.

First of all, an upcoming novel tentatively titled Mark of the Gladiator, (the story formerly known as TMQF), which will be released as a part of Riptide Publishing's "Warriors of Rome" line. It's all about a disgraced gladiator who is given one last chance to prove himself as a warrior and a man by training a troupe of demoralized gladiatrices. He's quickly enamoured with his new master, who's the ideal Roman man, but things get complicated by the arrival of his master's brother, a young poet and dandy and ne'er do well. There's attempted fratricide and love and even talk of freedom, but only if he can avoid being sent to the cross or the mines. You can expect to see it out in November 2012.

Also, coming in December 2012, "The Saturnalia Effect" is getting a big exciting re-release from Storm Moon Press in an extended edition! We're just starting work on it now, but what I can tell you is that we're planning on adding something in the range of 15k words, which means more sex, more violence, and more magic. (And an epilogue, for those of you still agonizing over the end!)

Finally, this isn't signed and sealed yet, but we're in the planning stages with our awesome editors at Storm Moon Press of putting together an anthology of erotic horror shorts centred around the world of Irish druid-for-hire Cormac Kelly, including our non-con short "Salting the Earth", a newly edited and revised version of our freebie "Out of the Tombs, Exceedingly Fierce", and a whole bunch of new material. Fans of The Druid Stone won't wanna miss it!

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Happy Father's Day!

It's my husband's first, since our daughter was born last year on August 17th.

I bought him a card that said "Here's a little tip for your first father's day: when an overly tired baby just won't stop crying, many dad's have found that a little ride in the car can work wonders..." and then on the inside, "Just make sure there's someone at home to watch the baby!" with a picture of a happy dad driving away alone into the sunset.

"Get it?" I said as he opened the card and squinted his eyes. "Because you're the crying baby!"

His reply: "Uh... no. I think this means I'm supposed to leave the crying baby with you to look after."

...Oh. Well. - Dad?

Friday, 15 June 2012

Hawaiian Gothic, Maggots, and the Importance of a Useful Warning

I've been going back and forth on whether or not to write about this issue. For one, it's technically responding to a negative review (although I'm sincerely hoping the reviewer doesn't feel attacked by this, because I think her concerns are valid), for two, I'm going to be criticizing my publisher a little, but they're hardly the only ones I could talk about in this regard. Ultimately, I've decided to post because I think this is a conversation worth having, and I'm hoping that my weighing in here will seem reasoned and thoughtful and not like an author's sour grapes.

So first things first, Hawaiian Gothic has been out since Tuesday and has gotten some really wonderful responses. I'm not just talking about positive reviews (although those are totally awesome), but also just people discussing 1. How much they appreciate the concept and the fact that our heroes are POC, 2. The story in general, whether they liked it or no. I've been writing for a long time, but it was always a very private, lonely sort of thing, up until I started dabbling in fanfiction in my mid-twenties. Before fanfic, though, I'd have to beg and scrape to get a reader response to my work, usually from a teacher or my mom or a close friend, and often that feedback was pretty... diplomatic, sometimes to the point of being kind of generic. Which, you know, is fine, because nobody owes me a deep and thoughtful analysis of my writing. But anyway, I'm at the point where any response is incredibly novel and exhilarating and enlightening, especially when people aren't talking to me or for me, but are actually talking amongst themselves as readers for their own benefit, a process which has nothing to do with me. I feel so privileged to know people find something I wrote worth talking about!

So anyway, I've been eavesdropping a little. And one thing I happened to spot on Goodreads was a person who enjoyed the first half of the book, but in the second half had to give it a DNF because it veered way too weird for her. Her review, to paraphrase, basically started with "I ignored the warning signs!", and after some discussion with another reader, she explained that some of the imagery in the book's "ghost world" climax was the reason she put the book down.

I don't blame her! I've put down lots of books that cross my particular "lines", that upset or disgust me in ways that I can't or don't want to handle. Sometimes a book is worth being disturbed or upset or just eye-rollingly grossed out... other times it isn't, and as readers we all have the right to decide which side of that line a book falls on. And honestly, I had a couple of oh-god-gag moments while I was writing the book, so it doesn't surprise me that a reader would too!

But one thing about her review did give me pause: the fact that she said she'd ignored the warning signs. Which was a bit of a lightbulb for me because... what warning signs?

Here's the content warning that Loose Id provides for potential readers of Hawaiian Gothic:
This book contains explicit sexual situations, graphic language, and material that some readers may find objectionable: male/male sexual practices. Includes a flashback of m/m/f menage.

Now look, I don't want to single out Loose Id, here. They're hardly the only publisher who uses warnings such as these, this just happens to be my book and my publisher, so of course that's what I'm going to talk about. Because here's the thing.

Hawaiian Gothic is listed as an LGBT romance. It features two semi-nude men in an embrace on its cover. The blurb, both long and short form, refer to men in a gay relationship. It's Loose Id, so we already know going in it's going to be erotic, because that's all they sell. Frankly, if you get through all that and still buy the book and complain because it's got gay dudes getting it on? I really don't have pity for you. Also, there's a high chance that you're a bigot.

Pictured: Gayness
So Hawaiian Gothic is about gay guys who have (consensual) sex a few times. It also has a flashback to an M/M/F ménage (that is, two guys getting it on with each other and a lady), a warning reviewer Cole Riann described quite astutely as warning: "flashback of girl cooties". And we all know my feelings on that particular chestnut.

But do you know what else it has? Disturbing medical scenes depicting the harsh reality of a person with a terminal illness and how it affects their family. Gay bashing and homophobia. Depiction of an abusive relationship. Murder. PTSD and war scenes. Assorted fantasy violence. Disturbing imagery including horrific fantastic creatures from myth. Maggots and other bugs described in detail. (Mild) drug use.

None of these things are warned for, but consensual sex between adults (specifically gay ones) is.

This argument is old hat in fandom, the general consensus--in my neck of the woods at least--being that warnings should be reserved for things that readers could potentially find triggering or upsetting, including but not limited to rape, violence, abusive language, or depictions of self-harm. By warning for consensual gay relationships, you are, in essence, suggesting that gay relationships need to be warned for on that same basis.

Should readers know what kind of book they are reading before they start? Absolutely! That's why we have genre distinctions, blurbs, cover art, and heat ratings. It's how I know how to avoid high fantasy, which is a genre I don't like, but am able to seek out terrible terrible Highlander romances, which I love beyond all reason (just look for the plaid!). Even within the romance genre, it's really not hard, for the most part, to tell between an M/F, M/M, F/F, or M/M/F book. If it were hard, I'd say a lot of cover artists weren't doing their job right.

But when you use the terminology of "warning", you're suggesting that the material is likely to disturb people and more than that, that they deserve the courtesy of being made aware of it. You know who gay sex disturbs? Homophobic bigots. And frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn. If a bigot clicks on my gay romance with gay dudes on the cover labelled LGBT romance that they found on a site explicitly meant for erotic romance with lots of steamy sex scenes, that's their own damn fault. Cry me a river, bigots, and call someone who cares. Maybe you can try getting a hold of the hyperbolic-ly-named One Million Moms so they can organize a national protest and give me lots and lots of good press and attention while they're at it. (Seriously, how many of you shopped at JC Penny before the Ellen and gay-father's-day thing? Exactly.)

So anyway, back to the reader who DNFed my book. She said she ignored the warnings and ended up reading something that disturbed her. What warnings, you ask? The warnings of a reviewer, who'd hid them behind a spoiler tag. This is one of the many valuable functions of reviewers. They can warn us whether something is good or bad, if something is racist, if something is inappropriate for our kids of XYZ age to watch. They can warn rape survivors if there are triggering scenes. They can warn religious people if there's nudity. Having a favourite review site that you trust, that you can go to and know they can provide you with the information you need to navigate media according to your values, is a really important amazing thing. Consumers of media, including readers, deserve to be able to seek out information about any given thing and make informed choices.

On our end, publishers and producers of media can either help facilitate that process, or choose not to warn and let readers seek out information for themselves. After all, readers of good 'ole dead tree books have been going without publisher-provided warnings for content for a long damn time.

But if, as a publisher or writer or someone who produces media, you decide of your own volition to provide an official warning? You best damn make sure it's actually useful and relevant. 

So... yeah. Sorry, reviewer, that you didn't know about the maggot thing before you came upon it. I think this has been a wake-up call for me as an author that the pro-active thing to do in the future will be to make a warnings tab here on my website for potential readers to browse by book in order to make informed decisions about my writing. And as for various publishers (NOT JUST LOOSE ID, who I really must stress are really just conforming to an unspoken social standard within the genre at this point), perhaps it's time to consider who you're providing these warnings for: readers in your target audience, or bigots who shouldn't be browsing your site in the first place?

ETA: The reviewer recently updated her review to clarify she did, in fact, finish the book, but her criticism of the spirit world subject matter still stands. Edited because I didn't want to misrepresent her, even though I have chosen not to link to/name her without her permission.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Release Day! Six Facts about Hawaiian Gothic

Our busy summer continues, today with the release of Hawaiian Gothic, out now from Loose Id! Our blog tour kicks off today at Babes in Boyland with a post that asks, How Gay is MMA?

To celebrate, since I had so much fun with it last time, here's Six Facts about Hawaiian Gothic.
1. We chose the settings of the story based on our respective times in Hawai'i. Nanakuli, the city Ori and Kalani are from, is where I once stayed with my family when we travelled to O'ahu for a karate tournament. Hilo, where Ori journeys to in his quest to unravel Kalani's past, is where Violetta's father lives.  
2. To prepare for a certain scene, Violetta and I spent an evening watching videos of caterpillars on youtube, which gave me some serious heebie jeebies. Violetta, however, was unaffected, possibly because she is a robot or a higher form of consciousness.
3. In a complete reversal of the composition of most M/M (and most other Western genre fiction in general), Hawaiian Gothic has only two named white characters as a part of its ensemble cast. Many of the characters are hapa, a Hawaiian term which refers to a person of mixed ancestry, usually Asian or Pacific Islander. 
4. We consulted three separate RNs about the medical scenes centring around Kalani's coma and treatment. If there are still mistakes in the final text, those are ours, not theirs. ;) 
5. Throughout the book, we use Native Hawaiian and Hawaiian Pidgin words and phrases. We've created a glossary (with pronunciation guides!) for the curious: here.
6. Nearly every chapter of Hawaiian Gothic starts with a flashback, going back in time from Ori's time in prison back to his and Kalani's meeting, one for every year. We specifically picked scenes from their lives that mirrored the struggles and tone of their present-day journey, from abject despair through to the promise of love and acceptance. 

Monday, 11 June 2012

Hawaiian Gothic Gets Its First Review! (and why can't I hold all these feels?)

Lisa at The Novel Approach gave it 4 stars and had this to say:
Action, suspense, danger, mythology, fantasy, and the ultimate love-overcoming-all-odds romance transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary in Hawaiian Gothic and placed Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane on my “authors to watch” list.

I find the build up to a release a pretty anxious time, which I'm sure is completely normal for authors. In Hawaiian Gothic's case, we've been working on this novel since December of last year, so finally releasing it out into the wild and hearing reader responses to it can be nerve-wrecking. It's the result of a lot of time and effort and heart. It's our first novel-length release. It's our first grand, sweeping romance. Waiting for it to come out is the culmination of a lot of feelings and rising emotions. Honestly, it's a little like the month before Christmas when you're still a little kid, except you don't get a sweet advent calendar and along with the anxious excitement, you have the anxious uh... dread. Like maybe if, along with presents, Santa might be giftwrapping boxes of poop and leaving them under your tree. Okay, not to say that negative reviews are poop, but they sometimes feel like that! LOL.

All you can do as an author is write your best story, get honest feedback and work damn hard on your edits, put on your big girl panties, and accept how readers respond, for good or for ill. Maybe you use criticism to better your writing, maybe you stop reading reviews to save your own precious ego, maybe you flip out and go all Dickensian Principles on the internet's ass (I don't personally suggest this one).

Either way, it's definitely a relief to hear positive feedback, especially during these anxious hours leading up to release. I know books rarely (never) get unanimously positive reception, and I accept that, but a good review sure can bolster you, can't it?

Hawaiian Gothic comes out tonight/tomorrow from Loose Id and will cost $6.99 to download in all major formats. It will be available from third-party retailers (like Amazon, ARe, Fictionwise, B&N, and Sony) on June 29th.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Hello June!

How the heck is it June already! And not only that, it's four days in! Violetta and I are finally coming up for air after finishing our latest WIP, our Roman historical tentatively titled TMQF. It's our second-longest novel at 70k words, and probably one of our most ambitious: it's got a complicated plot with lots of intrigue and a relationship that faces some pretty serious challenges, both inwardly and outwardly. We subbed it a few days ago, and I'll be sure to let you know when I hear back on where it's being pubbed and when!

In the meantime, we're taking a break from writing to get some promotion going on our current and upcoming releases.

So what's in store for June? Violetta and I have three releases this month. First of all, the Storm Moon Press non-con anthology Like It or Not came out June 1st. Our story "Salting the Earth", all about a young Irishman who gambles against the sidhe and loses, finishes off the anthology with a metaphorical "bang". I've read the whole anthology (perks of being an author, natch!) and I gotta say, if you like non-con and dub-con themes, there's a little something in there for everyone. You can get it in ebook or paperback from your favourite e-tailers.

On June 12th, our paranormal romance and first novel-length release Hawaiian Gothic comes out from Loose Id. It's a tearjerker friends-to-lovers ghost story with a well-earned happy ending and some of the trippiest fantasy scenes we've ever written. You can read the first chapter as a free excerpt (and check out other extras!) here. To celebrate its release, we're doing a blog tour! So many bloggers have volunteered to open up their spaces to us and we couldn't be more thankful. I'll give you a full schedule closer to release.

Finally, on a mystery day this month, we have a free short called "The War at the End of the World" coming out as a part of the Goodreads M/M Romance Group's Love is Always Write event. If you're a member check the M/M Group forums every day for a new free story from some of your favourite M/M authors, including us! Once it's up on the M/M group, Storm Moon Press is graciously releasing it for everybody on your favourite e-reading platform through their website, along with other LiAW stories from Storm Moon Press authors SL Armstrong, K Piet, and Cari Z. Here's the blurb for our offering, a WWII historical paranormal:
September, 1941. 
War correspondent Joseph Byrne has been cheating death all his life, ever since he spent two years in an iron lung as a boy diagnosed with polio. In the years since, the Fetch, a strange being charged by Death with collecting Joseph and transporting him into the unknown, has been condemned to watch and wait.

Now, with Joseph working in a Finland caught in a tug of war between Nazi and Soviet forces, it seems a foregone conclusion that the Fetch's sentence is at its end and Death will have Joseph for her own at last. Joseph, an openly Jewish American, has no doubt where his allegiance lies, no matter the danger. But after all these years at Joseph's side, watching him overcome adversity to grow into a brave and principled young man, the Fetch has come to realize that there are forces stronger and so much sweeter than even the purpose you were made for.
  Check out all of Storm Moon Press's free stories here!

Thanks for reading this far! How about a never-before-seen NC-17 excerpt from Salting the Earth? Check it out after the jump!