Saturday, April 19, 2014

New Contract, New Review

First, my heartfelt gratitude to Lynn at World of Diversity Fiction for posting a review of Merman (Mongrel #2). What a pleasant surprise! Thank you, Lynn, for taking the time to read my book and share your thoughts on it. Anyone who likes Clancy Marrowbone is okay by me. ;-)

A reminder to everybody: Machine (Mongrel #3) is coming out on April 30. You can currently preorder it at 25% off the list price.

Aaaaand . . . I've had a story accepted by Harmony Ink, Dreamspinner's YA imprint. Ben Raphael's All-star Virgins is a contemporary featuring five 16-year-old prep school friends. Release is scheduled for early fall.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Save the redwoods! Love the gays!

One of my guilty pleasures is watching a couple of Fake Housewives of Clueless City shows, because it fascinates me to see how the other half lives. Just recently, one of those privileged female stars said something that provoked this shout from me to the TV: "Are you fuckin' kidding me?"

This is what came out of the pie hole of Sonja Morgan, NYC Legend in Her Own Mind: "I love my gays." That's a verbatim quote. "I LOVE MY GAYS."

Dafuq? Need I explain why I nearly launched myself out of the recliner? Well, I'm going to anyway.

Those four words, uttered with such self-congratulatory gusto, made me sick. Were I a gay man, I would've shouted something else at the TV. Maybe, "I am not yours, bitch. I am not a bragging point. I don't exist to contribute to your public posturing. Nor am I one of your personal accessories, like a hat or corset or boa. Nor am I part of a happily homogeneous aggregate that you treat like a cause du jour. Save the redwoods! Love the gays! Leave me out of your mission, you fatuous, presumptuous twit."

At that moment it was clear to me, a cis-gendered heterosexual female, that possessive modes of thought and expression severely undermine any GLBTQ ally's sincerity, no matter how good our intentions are. They make us look like self-aggrandizing users. And maybe some of us are.

Since watching that episode of Fake Housewives, I've combed through my memories of relationships with people unlike myself. Have I ingenuously dragged them out to use as bragging points? Oh, look at soft-hearted, liberal me with all these black/Indian/gay/lesbian/handicapped/[insert minority group] friends! Yeah, probably (I'm ashamed to confess), at some points in my life. But I can say unequivocally that I never thought of or referred to any of these individuals as a collection or, worse yet, as MINE. And I've never professed my love for all members of any human group. Doing so is the height of either delusion or deceitfulness.

If I learned anything from that stupid TV show, it's the need for constant self-monitoring. Ill-chosen words aren't always innocuous. They can be profoundly offensive and/or indicative of questionable motives. Caring should never come off as condescension. A supportive boost should never be accompanied by boasting. And possessive adjectives and pronouns used in relation to people must be applied with great care.    

Monday, April 07, 2014

Cover Reveal

Coming April 30 from Dreamspinner Press
The Final Book in the Mongrel Trilogy

Cover by Anne Cain

The closing-day flea market at the Marvelous Mechanical Circus always draws a colorful crowd, but salesman Will Marchman doesn’t expect to see a large, elaborate gold wagon on the plaza -- especially one called The Spiritorium. The wagon’s exotic looking owner claims he can perform “cleansings and siphonings” via a miracle-working machine housed within. He can supposedly flush the wickedness out of people and places.

The Spiritorium appears in the Mongrel village of Taintwell the next day, setting off a potentially tragic chain of events that begins with a shocking revelation. To make matters worse, Fanule Perfidor, de facto mayor and Will’s lover, has been neglecting to take the tonic that stabilizes his moods. Besieged by his illness, Fan drives Will away. Then Fan’s best friend, vampire Clancy Marrowbone, vanishes, causing a rift between him and his mortal lover. Then Will disappears.

As Fan regains control of his mind, he knows what he must do to save his village and the people most important to him. He must solve the mystery of the Spiritorium and its master. This means delving into truths about himself and his Mongrel lineage he'd never before had to face ... and confronting a man he'd hoped never to see again.

The trial, if Fan passes it, will make him worthy of the title Eminence of Taintwell. And worthy of the far more meaningful labels life partner and friend

Monday, March 17, 2014

Life is ablaze with sunshine! When it isn't steeped in gloom.

Writers are emotional creatures who wind themselves up for countless reasons. Small wonder readers often get fed up with us. Sometimes I get fed up with myself.

Do the following sound familiar?

I have a new idea/contract/cover/release/blog tour! J I’m going to a conference! J I’m going as an author instead of a nobody! J J An author who’ll be in the spotlight, like Liza Minnelli in Cabaret! J J J I can’t go to this conference. L But I’m going to that conference! J I scored a great story prompt at Goodreads! J I didn’t score a story prompt. L I got a glowing review! J I got an ickycaca review from a poopbutt who doesn’t understand my work. L I won a contest! J I lost a contest. L I’m in DABWAHAHAHAHA although I have no clue how I got there or even what it is! J I hate those stupid people who run that stupid tournament ‘cause they're poopbutts who play favorites. L Readers and reviewers love me! J Readers and reviewers don’t love me enough. L Readers and reviewers are brainless poopbutts who ignore me. L L I don’t deserve love because I’m a brainless poopbutt. L

A lot of this kind of stuff has been swirling through social media lately. Since I’ve contributed to the whirlwind, I figured it’s time to step away and go in search of a precious and elusive commodity: reality.

Ah, I think I see it there, at my local resale shop!

Every time I go to a resale shop, I gravitate to the book section. Most of you probably do. And at some point I start to mourn all the dozens of "masterpieces," with beat-up dustjackets or no jackets at all, that are doomed to languish unnoticed on the shelves. I think of the men and women who penned them, how thrilled and proud they were to get published -- then how, ten or thirty or fifty years later, they fell into total, impenetrable obscurity.

Imagine how Edna Winchester’s ego swelled when A Chalice of Rubies  was issued. Did she celebrate? Sure she did. Maybe donned her best lemon-yellow cocktail suit with rhinestone buttons and went to a nice restaurant with her husband. Maybe drank one-too-many glasses of champagne afterward. Her mild hangover was worth it, though. A Chalice of Rubies made her that special being called an “author.”

But that was in 1962. Regardless of Edna’s creation being offered by the Book of the Month Club as an alternate selection, regardless of it being condensed for Reader’s Digest, regardless of raves and pans and an award for Best Historical Novel of the Year by the Crown and Quill Writers’ Guild, A Chalice of Rubies now sits -- ragged, ignored, and leaning piteously -- on a warped and dusty shelf. Nobody’s willing to pay so much as a dime for it. Nobody’s even heard of Edna Winchester. In fact, nobody other than Edna's friends and family have heard of her since 1974.

So, my writer friends, if you ever find yourselves fussing over reviews, either good or bad, or feeling pumped up by a contest win or deflated by a contest loss; if you’re ever tempted to pat yourselves on the back or kick yourselves in the ass because of your success or lack thereof . . . go to a garage sale or any store that sells other people's unwanted crap. Scan the books. Note how many author names you don’t recognize. Note how many books couldn’t interest you less. Pick up one that's bound in cheap, paper-covered boards or barely clinging to a faded and tattered dustjacket, and think about its short journey from pride-and-joy to piece of shit.

Believe me, you’ll get a humbling adjustment in perspective. You'll realize the vast majority of fiction is throwaway fiction. Nothing you do, don’t do, are, aren’t, score, don’t score as a writer will ever seem quite so earth-shattering anymore.

Until, of course, that next release or review or conference or contest . . .

Saturday, March 15, 2014

I just got this in the mail.

And I won it fair and square. :-)

Yes, it's for Xylophone.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

And More News

Dreamspinner accepted my novel-length (but not quite by their standards; it's just over 55K words) contemporary, Resurrection Man. It should be coming out in August. I've posted an unedited blurb below.

Right now I'm working on my first bona fide YA story. (The Zero Knot was, I guess, more NA, because it did contain explicit sex scenes.) Titled Ben Raphael's All-star Virgins, it features 16-year-old protagonists. There's a Big Sad in it too.

So here's the blurb I promised.

Resurrection Man

Bad enough Elijah Colter’s life of comfort and privilege comes to an abrupt end when he’s 17 and his family discovers he’s gay. Bad enough he must live out of his car in a bar’s parking lot and turn tricks for money. But when his perfect boyfriend, Alonzo, is taken down in a drive-by shooting, Elijah plummets into suicidal depression. The concepts of trust and hope become more alien to him than ever.

All that keeps Elijah going is a promise he made on that bleak Chicago sidewalk: that he would look after Alonzo’s stepdad, a sixtyish black man named Dizzy who’s on the verge of losing his house.

Diz joins Elijah in Milwaukee, where they become companions in homelessness—until Elijah discovers a program for throwaway LGBT youth. Through Footbridge, the now-20-year-old gets his own apartment… then loses it after a year when he can't cover his living expenses. Elijah has kept his promise, though, and until he can get back on his feet, he’s resigned to joining Dizzy in the abandoned factory the older man calls home.

One September day, a pair of new presences in Elijah’s life promise to shape his future: Alonzo’s ghost and an outreach volunteer named Michael Hanlan. As the boundaries between reality and illusion, truth and deception begin to blur, the bright but na├»ve Elijah must decide which of his dreams to pursue and which to cast aside. And just how much he can dare to believe in himself again.       

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Update of the Update

Machine should be coming out at the end of April. You can bet you'll see the cover as soon as I get it.

Following is a blurb and a snippet from Chapter Two.

* * *

The closing-day flea market at the Marvelous Mechanical Circus always draws a colorful crowd, but salesman Will Marchman doesn’t expect to see a large, elaborate gold wagon on the plaza—especially one called The Spiritorium. The wagon’s exotic looking owner claims he can perform “cleansings and siphonings” via a miracle-working machine housed within. He can supposedly flush the wickedness out of people and places.

The Spiritorium appears in the Mongrel village of Taintwell the next day, setting off a potentially tragic chain of events that involves a shocking revelation. To make matters worse, Fanule Perfidor, de facto mayor and Will’s lover, has been neglecting to take the tonic that stabilizes his moods. Besieged by his illness, Fan drives Will away. Then Fan’s best friend, vampire Clancy Marrowbone, vanishes, causing a rift between him and his mortal lover. Then Will disappears.

As Fan regains control of his mind, he knows what he must do to save his village and the people most important to him. He must solve the mystery of the Spiritorium and confront a man he’d hoped never to see again.

* * *

From the corner of his eye, Will saw a figure racing in his direction. A tall, familiar figure, his rough jacket flying out behind him, his powerful strides measuring out long stretches of grass. Before Will could react—
“Get away from him!” Fan roared, sounding fiercer than Will had ever heard him, sounding like a dragon defending its young, as he gripped the stranger’s shoulders and flung him aside.
Or tried to.
The Spiritmaster stumbled but didn’t fall, although he looked considerably older than Fan. Any other person would’ve landed on the ground ten feet away. Transfixed and anxious, Will glanced back and forth between both men. They looked… they looked like….
“You,” the stranger grated, his sharp gaze raking up and down Fan’s tall frame. The glance he darted at Will made a damning connection. “And a filthy two-door, no less. I can’t say I’m surprised.” He muttered something in a foreign tongue, but the name Quam Khar stood out.
Will gaped at the angular figure, the exotic man of stone. Why had he targeted them? Why did he seem to despise them? Not because they were twors; he couldn’t be absolutely sure of that. Not because Will was a Pure and Fan was a Branded Mongrel; he couldn’t have known that, either. And what, if anything, had all this to do with that Quam Khar person?
The self-appointed judge (for that was how he now seemed) dipped to the left, frowned for a moment at the side of Fan’s head, then extended a hand and flicked at Fan’s windblown hair. Will gasped at this inexcusable liberty. Glowering, Fan jerked away.
The judge curled his lips. “Well, well. Small wonder I couldn’t see the verification. They found you guilty of buggery and cropped your ears. What a peculiar punishment. You should have been stoned or hanged or at least had an S carved into your forehead.”
Will stepped forward. “That’s not why his ears were—”
Without looking at Will, Fan stiff-armed him from getting any closer to the stranger, at whom he stared spears of ice.
Any second now, Will feared, Fan would do something horrible to the man. Fan would suck the light from his eyes and swallow it, which meant it would be gone forever. The Spiritmaster would be blind for life.
Will clutched at his lover to get his attention. “Calm yourself, Fan. Don’t do anything rash. The authorities won’t tolerate it. You’ll be arrested.”
“It would be worth it.” The reply, spoken in a hard, cold voice, was shockingly sincere.
The stranger echoed “Fan” on a scornful laugh, as if he were spitting badly cooked food from his mouth.
“Just leave him be,” Will pleaded when he saw how Fan’s face had changed, how it quivered with suppressed rage.
“He can’t leave me be,” the stranger said, sneering around the words. “I’m sure it isn’t in his nature to leave anything be. Nor is it in mine.” Narrowing his eyes, the man lifted his nose and grimaced. “Dear God, how much of an abomination are you two? Do you also consort with blood drinkers? I can sense at least one beast’s presence in your lives.” His gaze slid to Will. “Ah, your friend, the one I saw you with yesterday! Is he the link, or is there, God forgive you, a more direct connection? Because as sure as I’m on this Green, I’ve stumbled upon a clutch of mandrakes, at least one of whom is a vampire.”
Will’s face gathered in confusion. More, in dread. How could this newcomer know all these things? “Who are you?” he whispered. Without waiting for an answer, he shifted his gaze to Fan. “Who is he? Tell me. I know you know.” His certainty had come but a split second before he voiced it.
A scudding cloud dimmed the sun. Slowly, the stranger looked at Will and smiled.
With a gesture as graceful as Clancy Marrowbone’s movements, he pulled a card from one of his pockets and handed it to Will.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

A Trope Down Memory Lane ~ DRAGONS!

Yes, it's true. I once wrote about dragons. A whole trilogy about dragons, in fact. Although these are predominantly m/f stories, I also ventured into m/m, m/m/f, and m/f/m territory. These interrelated fantasies are fun and erotic little adventures, and Ellora's Cave has been selling them DIRT FUCKING CHEAP. (Um, yeah. You'd be floored if you saw my royalty statements.) So by buying a starving writer a cup of gruel, you'll get to venture through the Kingdom of Galdesh, spy on its horny inhabitants (including some kick-ass protofeminists), witness magic, and glimpse the society of the Farfields dragons.

* * *

Wing and Tongue

Elrisa hungers to be the first female Dragon Caller in the Order of Wing and Tongue. When a member of the Order wants to marry her, it seems the perfect opportunity to realize her dream.

But getting to the wedding won't be easy. To test the level of attraction and compatibility between would-be bride and groom, Elrisa must have sexual encounters with three members of the brotherhood, one of whom will be the man who chose her. Problem is, she doesn't know who chose her. If she's drawn to any Caller other than he, the marriage is off.

Even if she deduces her suitor's identity, what if she truly wants one of the other two men? Should she follow her ambition…or her heart?

Buy for a pittance from the publisher.

Cauldron of Keridwen

The valley known as Cauldron of Keridwen is where the "Strange People" of Galdesh live — those who practice the occult arts or have paranormal powers. It's the home of Hilendra, an empath with mild psychic ability. But Hilendra also has another, more special gift she's intent on keeping secret. Intimacy with her results in healing and rejuvenation.

Hilendra has taken two lovers from the village. She doesn't find the men particularly attractive but they meet her needs. Until, that is, the shadowy but far more seductive form of another man appears in her cottage one night.

As Hilendra's dream lover becomes more real and increasingly more captivating, his true identity comes to light. He seems to have some connection to a local witch and to the Farfields dragons. Hilendra also discovers her two former sex partners are not what they seem. A plot is afoot…and it endangers not only the Kingdom of Galdesh and the Farfields dragons, but Hilendra herself.

Prince of Glacier Glas
[I love this crazy story!]

When the city-state of Glas is spellbound and encased in ice, young Rennick is left the sole heir to the throne. Renn’s only clues to the reclamation of his kingdom lie in a riddle tacked to the face of the engulfing glacier. For the next twenty years, the prince roams the world, trying to discover how Glas can be restored.

Princess Seramar of Galdesh is a headstrong and randy little royal. Unlike her sister, however, she doesn’t believe it’s right to “keep” a stable of human studs. Her attitude abruptly changes when she meets a stunning man in a nearby valley—a vagabond who turns out to be the displaced Prince of Glacier Glas.

Renn’s quest soon becomes Sera’s quest as their intimacy grows. But powerful enchantment cannot easily be broken. Their efforts to unravel the riddle will involve Sera’s male prostitute lover, a magical change of identities…and, of course, dragons.

Buy from the publisher.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

A Trope Down Memory Lane: Men for Sale

The hooker with the heart of gold: that character type has been a Hollywood staple for decades. As has the scheming, cold-blooded, or even murderous whore.

No wonder many of us find men in the sex trade . . . well . . . sexy. Exotic dancers. Porn stars. Escorts. Rent boys. Maybe it's the ambiguity built into the lifestyle that appeals to us. It can simultaneously be glamorous, tawdry, and dangerous. The men brashly put themselves out there, yet have (we suspect) an underlying emotional vulnerability. Sizzling physical appeal and sexual prowess are often coupled with intelligence, creativity, and/or sensitivity.

Frankly, I love these types of characters. I love exploring their complexity. The psychologically scarred Daren Boothe in Xylophone is a gender-fluid erotic dancer, and Faron Weaver, the Amish MC in A Hole in God's Pocket, has often depended on sugar daddies to get by. Below are two more of my men for sale.

* * *

Mobry's Dick (now on sale at Loose Id!)

Late-19th-century illusionist Alain Mobry, a short, homely man with a clubfoot, is known primarily for his elaborate clockwork automata. But his private life is even more complex than his mechanisms. Mobry is a homosexual and a member of the Green Carnation Club, a secret gathering place for gay men of the theater. He’s also dabbled in “real” magick. There are hints of it in an illusion called the Fountain of Youth—in which a beautiful youth called Puck, never seen in public, emerges from a diorama and disappears back into it—and in a profane automaton Alain has devised specifically to entertain the Green Carnation’s members. He would like his creation to be for one man in particular, a fellow magician with whom he’s infatuated.  But he never gets the chance to offer his gift . . .

Over 100 years later, a peculiar item turns up at an outdoor flea market. It looks something like a blunt-nosed artillery shell to Cameron Waters, the young real estate broker who buys the piece out of curiosity. It looks like the legendary automaton known as Mobry’s Dick to Paul Patrillo, a graduate student who’s been researching the history of stage magic. It looks like a blessing as well as a curse when it brings the two men together.

While Cameron inches his way out of the closet and Paul struggles to free himself from a sugar daddy who’ll stop at nothing to get what he wants, the unlikely pair grow closer as they tackle the mystery of Mobry’s Dick -- with startling and nearly tragic results.

* * *


It was just an amateur porn video, like thousands of others on the Internet. Like hundreds Jonathan Wright has seen and hundreds more he's ignored. He hadn't intended to watch it. In fact, he hadn't intended to go anywhere near his home office. He was simply on his way to the bathroom—the only sensible destination, aside from bed, in the middle of the night.

Jon's fuck-buddy for the evening doesn't think so. Much to Jon's annoyance, his trick is having some solo fun in front of the computer as he watches a lithe, blond young man doing naughty things with a bearish, older man. When Jon gives in to his curiosity and watches the same video the next day, he's seduced too…and feels like a pervert afterward. The youth in the video seems a little too young, despite the fact he also has his own escort service. Worse yet, Jon gets the nagging feeling he's seen "Justin Time," aka precious_boy, before.

One of Jon's former lovers, a college professor eleven years his senior, is the connecting link between that vague sense of recognition and the hot bottom whose screen name is precious_boy. When Jon takes the defining step of meeting Justin in a Chicago hotel room, his past, present, and possibly his future begin to converge in alarming and confusing ways. There’s no escaping the resulting dilemma: Jon must decide just how involved he wants to get with a sweet kid, all grown up now, whose life has turned sour, and with an ex-lover who seems to care more about his own needs than those of his lost son.

The resolution lies in trust that was established and faith that was betrayed seven years earlier. And it won't come easily.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Thank you for the nominations!

I'm putting off my Tuesday Trope Down Memory Lane post (just for a little while) to extend my deepest gratitude to whichever reader(s) nominated XYLOPHONE for the Goodreads M/M Romance Members' Choice Awards in the following categories:

Thank you, dear readers!

Oh, and Anne Cain's cover for Merman was also nominated. So congratulations, again, to my favorite cover artist!

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

A Trope Down Memory Lane: Bridge Over Troubled Water

Guys can be vulnerable. Usually, the younger they are, the more vulnerable they can be. But even the most alpha of men can find themselves waist-deep in doodoo, whether it's of their own making or the result of someone else's machinations. At times like this, caring, determined support proves invaluable. It often comes in unexpected ways, from unexpected sources -- like unconventional heroes whose inner strength shines in times of crisis.

Below are three contemporaries, two with a paranormal elements, in which the patience, persistence, and courage of unassuming men become the salvation of those they love.

Bastards and Pretty Boys

A lakeside summer idyll, a budding romance . . . and jealousy gone horribly awry.

Charles Larkin is finally happy with his life.  For the most part.  He’s happy with his new summer getaway—a rustic cottage he just bought on a small Wisconsin lake.  He’s happy that his ex-wife, whom he divorced because he couldn’t play straight anymore, has become one of his best friends. He’s happy he can breathe again.

It’s only Kenneth, Charlie’s boyfriend of five months, who makes this new life less than completely satisfying.  Charlie feels they’ve never been quite right for each other, and Kenneth cements that conviction when he makes a disturbing confession.  Charlie knows their time together is quickly coming to an end.  Problem is, Kenneth doesn’t know it. And he tends to be rather possessive.

Planning to spend a quiet, relaxing two or three weeks at his cottage, Charlie is less than thrilled to notice that his nextdoor neighbor is one hell of a looker.  He doesn’t need that kind of distraction.

Only, Booker isn’t going anywhere, and he isn’t that easily ignored. And neither is his unexpected, none-too-savory baggage. And neither, for that matter, is Charlie's. But when two people care enough about each other, they figure out how to help carry such baggage . . . or cast it aside.

* * *

What happens to a young man's self-image, and his sex life, when he wakes up one morning to see his good looks significantly altered for the worse?  Three twenty-something gay friends--an embalmer, a performance coach, and a literary agent--find out the answer when they hit on the wrong patron of a club one night.

Todd, Fallon, and Jake, aka the Hunt Club, think they're pretty damned hot. As a result, their standards for worthwhile hook-ups are appallingly superficial. The men aren't total jerks; they just need an adjustment in perspective. And they get it, in spades, from a mysterious stranger who's sick of seeing his beautiful partner pawed by dogs.

There’s no medical explanation for the hideous rash that erupts on the trio overnight. Doctors can’t even detect it, much less cure it. Still, the Hunt Club’s mirrors reflect ravaged faces, and the toned, handsome guys they normally pursue now shun them.

As the vulnerability that’s always lurked beneath their vanity begins to surface, Todd, Fallon, and Jake begin to see themselves and potential partners in a new light. Little did they know that in the eyes of three ordinary, overlooked men on the sidelines of their lives, it's always been the heart that’s mattered far more than the hot.

* * *

Carny's Magic

Carny Jessup here. Let me tell you a little about myself. The best part of my life began when my aunt’s homophobic squeeze smashed his fist into my face. This time, I didn't just take it. I already knew a wizard named Jackson Spey lived on my side of town, so I figured I’d turn things around by becoming his apprentice.

Problem was, Spey didn’t want an apprentice. He was going through a midlife crisis. All he wanted was to build beautiful furniture and live in peace with his beautiful husband, Adin. He still took me in, though. Guess he felt sorry for me. And he was really intrigued by the red paths I’d been seeing in the air.

Hey, I’m only 19, so how could I have foreseen the rest? That I’d fall for a breathtaking boy named Peter, who was at the center of some strange magic tied to Jackson’s past. And I’d have to deal with a sorcerer named Bezod, an evil pig who plagued all four of us and threatened to destroy our relationships.

Sometimes you just have to fight for what’s right. Like love. I might’ve been new to the boyfriend gig and Jackson might’ve been a reluctant wizard, but when the time came, we were ready to kick some supernatural ass.