One of the fun things happening is that I get to be an author of the month in two places. The first is on the M/M Romance Group on Goodreads, where there’s a thread open to discuss my books. The second is on “My Fiction Nook”.
My Fiction Nook is a review and book commentary blog, and they were kind enough to feature me for March (in sparkly purple letters, no less.) That link will get you to the first of four posts. Each week there will be some interview or trivia from me, an excerpt from one of my books, and a drawing to win a free backlist ebook of your choice. This first post starts with a couple of my freebies, including an excerpt from Changes Coming Down, my short menage novel. I hope you enjoy the chance to see a bit more of what I do, love and write. And good luck winning an ebook.
On an unrelated but fun note, I picked out a prompt to write for the M/M Group’s “Love’s Landscapes – Don’t Read in the Closet” event this year. It’s an atmospheric and not-quite-safe-for-work-picture which you can see if you are a group member there – (https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1728161-dear-author-kyle-nsfw—claimed-by-kaje-harper) and a rather open ended prompt. I’m having all kinds of fun thinking about the possibilities right now. There are a ton of great prompts and authors signing up for this. The free stories will begin releasing from June through August. I’ve already bookmarked a bunch I want to read when they release.
So go meet Will, Scott and Casey , and sign up for the book drawing. And wish me luck with this next one.
I’m busy these days writing the second “Finding Family” book, The Family We Make. It’s Rick’s story, and to some degree his brother Sam’s. I hope to self-publish this one, although not for free, and dip my toes into the official self-pub waters.
I also have two books, the next Hidden Wolves, and The Rebuilding Year sequel, in line for editing. Real life stuff has slowed me down, but I’m getting back into the swing of it. I hope.
So I’m looking with a mix of eagerness and trepidation at the 2014 Love Has No Boundaries writing event, getting underway in the M/M Romance Group on Goodreads. This will be the fourth year for this reader/writer love-fest. Over the next day or two, members are submitting story prompts with a picture and a description of the story they envision from that image. Starting late tonight, my time-zone, the first prompts will begin to be posted, a few at a time, until 200 are released. And authors will begin claiming the prompt that sparks their imagination. And… yeah, I’ll probably grab one.
I don’t need another story to work on. But at the same time, these prompts have given me some of my best stories: Like the Taste of Summer in 2011, Into Deep Waters in 2012, Nor Iron Bars a Cage last year. Since I write best from an initial visual and the hint of a character, this style of prompt is right up my alley. So I’ll be looking at them. Hoping to find something I can keep short (really) and good (hopefully) and maybe a bit different again from my previous books. We’ll see what catches my eye.
If you are a group member, you can still get a prompt in. There will be 200 authors of M/M, from new writers to well-known names, looking for inspiration and planning to write a free story for you. The info and link for getting the prompts submitted is here: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1723220-love-s-landscapes-introduction—69-spaces-left At the moment there are 69 slots left for new prompts, but they are counting down. 131 submitted already.
If you’re an author or aspiring author, I’d encourage you to think about picking up one of those prompts to write. Do be aware that the time frame is fairly tight – about 45 days to finish. You also will have to be able to handle seeing your story reviewed, afterward. And be able to live with at least one awful review, probably more. (Everyone does. For Nor Iron Bars, between the really nice reviews, I got things like: “I made it to 30% but was really bored. I didn’t connect with characters or their relationship at all. Out of what I read it was “meh”…” And others like that.) But you will also get great positive reviews, encouragement, the fun of participating, and a lot of readership. The last set of story anthologies have something like 19,000 downloads, and that doesn’t even consider the downloads of individual stories. It’s fun, challenging, rewarding, and a great way to get your name out there.
So… about 10 hours until the first prompts post for claiming. And my current book is only at 96,000 words. Must get back to writing…
Since I released my short free novel, Changes Coming Down in Hunting Under Covers a couple of weeks ago, I’ve had people PM and email me with questions. Since several were repeats, I thought I’d put the answers in a blog (because I’m lazy that way.)
What is your actual story in the anthology about? The anthology blurb doesn’t say.
When I put it on my book list on my website, I had to come up with a blurb, so here it is:
Two years ago Scott and Casey were a couple, and it was good, but it wasn’t perfect. Scott was away a lot, playing hockey and aiming for the NHL, while sheriff Casey got lost in his job and his own head when he was alone. They needed something, or someone. And they found Will, a local ranch foreman. Will was strong, calm and the perfect fit. None of them have been ready to come out, but for two years they have all kept each other happy.
Now suddenly Will’s surrogate parents have died, his ranch is in jeopardy, and Casey’s reelection is being challenged. The days to come will shake the foundations of their relationship and may even break them apart. Unless they are strong enough together to handle the changes coming down.
- 64,000 words
Is your story some kind of spoof or humor piece? Is it related to the other stories?
No, mine is a serious M/M/M romance, with a mystery, and more angsty than funny (although I hope readers find moments of humor in it.) Other than a bit of a tease with how long it took my guys to actually eat the required bacon-and-eggs for the Hunt points, this story really has nothing to do with the Scavenger Hunt per se. Like with my M/M Group freebies, Into Deep Waters or Nor Iron Bars a Cage, I was inspired by the set-up that was given to me. But the story that came out of it stands alone as a short novel.
Why did you write M/M/M? – I prefer M/M.
I’ve wanted to do a menage story for a while. I think that any form of loving relationship adults enter into voluntarily can be a wonderful thing. But the more people you add to a relationship, the more complicated it gets. And so figuring out how to fit three strong guys into a balanced and loving three-way relationship was something I looked forward to.
I’m trying not to just keep rewriting the same story, (although I do love my sequels.) So I’m going to wander through the genres and tropes a bit. I know this won’t be for everyone, and if you skip or down-rate Unacceptable Risk for being werewolves, or Full Circle for lack of a happy ending, or Changes Coming Down for the three guys, I will completely understand. There is no way every book I write will appeal to every reader.
Why did you start with Will, Casey and Scott as an established couple? I really wanted to see them get together.
Weeeellll. You see, I thought I was writing a short story. So I thought that an established trio would let me write a little mystery plot and be done fast. 64,000 words later, I found out I was wrong.
Will you ever write that prequel? Will you show us what happens with Scott after the end of this book?
I have a hard time letting go of characters, after I spend that time in their heads, so… maybe. I might do either the how-they-met prequel, or the sequel, for these three men.
Will you release this story as a stand-alone?
Maybe. Someday. But the anthology is free, so I don’t feel like there’s a real reason to do that soon, since there’s no cost to picking up the whole thing. Not to mention that there are some other very good stories in that anthology which I enjoyed, and hopefully you will too. The only reason to re-release would be if I someday write a related book – the prequel or sequel – and want matching covers.
I said yesterday that I did two interviews, and of course they came out on the same day. The second one is more general, about my other books and my writing, and what is upcoming with my WIPs. It’s also longer, because Marc, the interviewer, is a friend. When we start chatting it goes on for a bit.
Commenting at the end of that interview puts you in the running for a free backlist ebook of mine, and the chance to have $20 donated to the Eric Arvin and TJ Klune fund in your name, and also a general contest for $25 gift cards or donations, from the site. Prism Book Alliance is a newly revamped review site, with other author interviews and giveaways, and Marc’s weekly column about being a young gay man in Germany. Check it out.
Casey, Will and Scott were fun to watch emerging from the story. I spent three weeks deeply immersed in the relationship balance between an ex-Marine small-town sheriff, a ranch foreman with a lonely past, and a pro hockey player who is gone on the road more than he’s home.
The first interview is posted on Shayla’s Little Shell, the blog of author Shayla Mist who also has a story in the Hunting Under Covers anthology. She had some interesting questions about how I ended up tangled in the lives of my three guys. I hope you enjoy reading it.
I know I said I wasn’t writing any more freebies for a bit. I have my books in existing series waiting for me to work on them. But here’s another freebie. It wasn’t my idea, honestly…
For those who are members of the Goodreads M/M Romance Group, you may know that there are some book-reading games there. I’ve played Bingo, where teams read books for categories that fill up a bingo card. It’s a lot of fun, a chance to be pushed to read that book about “sex with aliens” or “dystopian M/M” that you otherwise would never pick up.
Another game is the Scavenger Hunt (SH). I didn’t play, but in that game, for the last six months, teams of readers chose books for their cover and contents, looking for a set of awarded points. So say, if you could read a book with a twin bed (2 points), flavored lube (2 points), an island (3 points), BDSM (1) and cowboys (1) – then your team could collect 9 points. It sounds like it was a lot of fun. (As someone who hates to be pulled out of a book while reading, I don’t know if it’s a good match for me. But it gathered a very enthusiastic group of players.)
Most of the games are run by a wonderful lady named Katie (Mistress of Merriment.) Other than about a week which she took off to have a baby, she’s been tireless in helping us have reading fun all year. The Scavenger Hunt folks decided it would be nice to do a book for her, as a thank-you gift. It would be the holy grail of scavenger hunt books, the one with all the possible points in it. They decided to make it an anthology (because time-travelling, cross-dressing, paranormal cowboys with butt plugs, bacon-and-egg breakfasts, and mail… started to get silly. More about that later.)
One of the SH people suggested they could try to bring in a few extra authors, to round out the writing crew. They had two months to write the stories and compile them, if this was to be a New-Year’s, end-of-the-game, congrats-on-the-baby gift. And someone, (Marc, I’m looking at you,) suggested I might do one.
Well, I’m impressed by everything Katie does, and then there was the challenge. They still needed to get a bunch of points into a story, like the major themes of Cowboys, and Sports, and Law Enforcement… all of which had to involve main characters. Plus a musical instrument, a mansion, sports equipment, an elevator… You see where this is going, right?
I said, “Hell, I can write a short story with all of those in the span of a month.”
Except it turned out I couldn’t. I could, however, write a 64K short novel about a sheriff (Casey), a cowboy (Will), and a hockey player (Scott), in less than a month. And title it, Changes Coming Down.
Changes Coming Down is my first published M/M/M story. It’s about an established trio, coping with some upheavals in their lives. There’s a bit of a mystery thread, and a little coming out drama. Plus the elevator, the mansion… I had fun writing it, and might even do a sequel someday. It’s not fully polished, given the time frame, (and hockey fans – there’s only a little actual hockey) but hopefully it will make a decent free read.
The anthology is titled Hunting Under Covers and is a free release from ARe books, Smashwords and Divergent Publishing where J. Vaughn did the production on the book. (Big thank-yous to J.!) Aimee Brissay, Kathleen Hayes, Shayla Mist, ME Sanford, and J. Vaughn and Katies Crewman contributed their six short stories, plus we created one group-round-robin get-everything-in effort of over-the-topness – Demons, Time Travel and Bacon, Oh My. (Where we found out just how silly cramming all the SH points in one short story could get. Well, we had to try, although I don’t think we quite succeeded. It was fun.)
Despite the lightheartedness of the effort, all the stories other than the round robin are genuine M/M fiction. I think you’ll enjoy reading them in this anthology. Maybe you’ll find a new author you’ll like. At least you may be cheerfully entertained. And now, back to our regularly scheduled writing…
So that was 2013. Well…
On the personal-life side, it was the year in which I learned to use “but no one is dead, yet” as a positive statement. Enough said.
But on a book and writing side, it was a pretty good year.
I went to the Gay Rom Lit retreat as an author this year. For the first time, I created Kaje Harper swag, in the form of magnets and plot-bunnies, and ducks.
I spoke up in front of an audience, and chatted with readers, and signed books, and handed out said swag. Like a real author By the way, all of the ducks I handed out had a number on the bottom, and directions to email me for a free ebook. Only a third of them were claimed. If you have a reading duck and haven’t claimed your freebie, look at the bottom side and email me with the info, or even post it here and I’ll get in touch.
I didn’t accomplish all that I’d hoped to on the writing front, but I had some fun. Nor Iron Bars a Cage wrote itself as a complete novel in the span of six weeks, spooling out from under my fingers more easily than any other book I’ve written so far. I had the joy of playing in my own fantasy world, and then the pleasure of seeing many readers enjoy the story I’d created. I particularly appreciated the reviews that began, “I don’t normally like fantasy, but…”
With Learning Curve I had the bittersweet pleasure of leaving Mac and Tony and the kids in a good place in their lives. I’ll miss them, and may revisit them someday. But Tony had been dragged into enough mysteries for the moment, and Mac had achieved the growth and changes he’d needed to step out of that first dark lonely closet and into the light. Closing off that chapter in their lives felt right.
Sole Support garnered more mixed reviews, but writing the story of how a parent’s downhill slide could bring pain, and yet leave room for love, was vital for me. After months of writer’s block the summer before, I needed to get that book out, to unclog my creative heart for the rest. A few readers’ hearts found a deep resonance with Kellen and Mike, and Kellen’s mother, which is all I needed to make the publishing worthwhile.
I did a lot of traveling this year, and found that I can’t write very well when on the move. But on the plus side, I can read. I read a lot of good books, some recent releases, and some just new to me. So at the end of this post, I’ll give you my personal “M/M reading pleasures of 2013” list. These are not necessarily the “best” books I read, in terms of literary merit. These are the ones that made the real world go away for a while, which made me smile or cry or sigh, and which I will reread. Obviously, preferences are as individual as people, but these are books I hope some of you will also love.
My Goodreads Young Adult LGBT Books group became even more of a pet project this year. With the other moderators dealing with their own personal situations, I spent a fair bit of time on the group. We grew from 1200 members to over 2000. We wrote a lot of little short stories. (I did thirteen myself.) We read some great books. And there were discussions and news items. This was a banner year for LGBT rights, at least here in the US, and I really enjoyed posting each victory for the group. The latest I noted was that the Boy Scouts will start accepting openly gay youths as members on January 1st (and about time.) I released the free book Rainbow Briefs by “Kira Harp”, with fifteen of my older stories from the group, and I treasure a couple of emails from teen readers who found a reflection of their lives in those stories, and were encouraged by them.
The world of a writer has changed a lot, from when I penned my first private stories on a portable typewriter, back in the nineteen-seventies. What was once a solitary profession, highlighted by occasional fan mail, has become much more interactive. The Internet allows readers and writers to come together in a common community. Sometimes that community has its squabbles and flaws, but most of the time I’ve found it a remarkable solace. Especially for those of us who are more gifted with the pen than with speech, it’s a place to spend time with friends in pursuit of common pleasures. I’m grateful every day for the chance to share thoughts and recommendations and laughter and commiseration with readers and fellow authors from around the world. It is that community, more than any other reward, which makes publishing my stories worthwhile.
I hope the new year 2014 is a better one than 2013 for all of us, (even those for whom 2013 was pretty damned good.) The momentum toward LGBT rights in the US gives me hope for the future. I have plans and dreams, and lots of books to write. And my To-Be-Read list is now over 500 books. So much good stuff awaits. I hope you all have a lovely New Year’s Day, and a year of warmth, discovery, and joy to come.
My personal “I loved these M/M books in 2013” list (with links to my Goodreads reviews):
The General and the Horse-Lord by Sarah Black – a mature, established couple, coming out of the military and out of the closet, in a very real and sometimes imperfect way
King Mai by Edmond Manning – the second book in The Lost and Founds, with Edmond’s signature humor, love and quirky brilliance
Bone Rider by J. Fally – a wild, exciting, everything-from-aliens-to-the-mafia story, with a surprisingly sweet, hot and unusual M(M)M relationship
Claimings, Tails and Other Alien Artifacts by Lyn Gala – this one made me believe in a relationship between a human and an alien.
The Magpie Lord by K.J. Charles – an atmospheric, alternate history Victorian fantasy, with wonderful dry wit and great writing
Widdershins by Jordan L. Hawk – this series now has three books out, a great historical paranormal romp with a charmingly geeky main character
Brothers of the Wild North Sea by Harper Fox – one of my favorite authors wrote us yet another absorbing, lyrical, vivid story, this one with just a hint of magic, set in Viking times
Faster Than the Speed of Light by Lucius Parhelion – a realistic, slow-burn story in an academic setting, in the 1950′s gay/Red-witch-hunt days
Like Coffee and Doughnuts by Elle Parker – funny, warm but with an active plot, and great MCs (and starts a series)
Laying Ghosts by James Buchanan – this one probably ends a favorite series, which began with Hard Fall. Joe Peterson, the conflicted, gay, Mormon, Sheriff’s Deputy, is one of the best characters in M/M
Favorite YA :
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz – this is a lovely coming-of-age story, with an LGBT theme but universal in its depiction of a teen boy moving from childhood to adulthood
Know Not Why by Hannah Johnson – a funny, warm and quirky story of self-discovery
Favorite Holiday Story:
Christmas Kitsch by Amy Lane – this was the holiday story that touched my heart, lovely and painful with poignant moments, all told in Rusty’s wonderful narrative voice.
Wishing you all moments of love and laughter, discovery and joy, and great stories in 2014.
~ Kaje Harper