This was going to be a standard Happy Thanksgiving post (and still is, kinda.) But as I sat down to write it, my little dog, who is my writing companion and muse and an annoying little brat, asked to go for a walk.
Looks sweet and harmless, even thoughtful, doesn’t he? Ha, I wish! Sometimes he talks to me, and today it was one of those typical conversations:
Dog-muse : So, today is Thanksgiving. More food for me, right?
Me : Dogs get dry kibble for Thanksgiving… (And gravy, and a bit of stuffing, and no doubt seven other little treats from my husband, but Dog-muse’d be insufferable if I tell him that.)
Dog-muse : I bet the neighbors would feed me. They think I look starved.
Me : Slim is healthy.
Dog-muse : *In a dreamy tone.* I bet they would give me real turkey, not that tofurkey stuff you eat. Maybe real gravy from actual meat. Maybe bacon!
Me : You’d have better luck tomorrow or Saturday, when they’ll be getting sick of leftovers.
Dog-muse : Oh yeah. I could go caroling for leftover turkey. Great idea.
Me : Take singing lessons first.
Dog-muse : I’ll show up on their doorstep, all starving. I’ll look cute – that gets me through everything. *winning look with big brown, if somewhat-misaligned, eyes* Doesn’t it, Mom?
Me : What did you do now?
Dog-muse : You know that book you’re writing, about the two guys?
Me : Every book I write is about two guys. Spit it out.
Dog-muse : I’m putting a big turkey feast in that new one. John and Ryan like turkey.
Me : It takes place in the spring, you dork. No one does turkey feasts in spring.
Dog-muse : Why not? It could be Easter. Or hey, lamb… picnic ham… Oh wow, this’ll be good.
Me : I’m not writing about your wet-dreams of food. And that’s final.
Dog-muse : Maybe a squirrel? Or an elk? There could be elk in the book. A little dog takes down a looming elk…
Me : Hurry up and pee already; it’s freezing out here.
Dog-muse : I’ll stop in front of this neighbor. They like me. I’ll shiver with cold and hunger. They’ll give me lots of turkey when I go caroling tomorrow.
Me : We are not going caroling tomorrow. That was your joke.
Dog-muse : Oh yeah, you take control. Like you do with your stories. Works so well, doesn’t it? *an extra-pathetic shiver and tremble, before he trots back to our place with his tail wagging, pulling me in his wake.* Turkey in the book. Definitely.
This is more what he looks like: You’ll know who to blame if extra food shows up in Rebuilding Year #2.
Today I’m thankful for having a muse, even if he does pull me in odd directions, and I never know where the story is going. (John and Ryan are Not having turkey in April in this book… I think.) I’m thankful that writing can fill difficult times and empty spaces, and can make me feel like I am doing something worthwhile. And I’m grateful for other people’s muses, that produce all the wonderful books I read. Because even on the holidays, fiction can smooth the edges of real life.
Holidays can be tough, as well as wonderful. Thanksgiving is a time for counting blessings, but it’s hard, when you do that, not to miss the blessings that aren’t there. We’re grateful for family, but wish we could make them all happy and healthy, and accepting. We’re grateful for home and food and warmth in our lives, and yet hurt to know how many other people don’t have enough. We’re happy to have pets, but wish… never mind, pets are great. *Dog-muse made me say that.*
For some people in the LGBT community, family is hard to come by. Or going home for that family holiday means squeezing yourself back into a constricting closet that doesn’t fit, for the sake of being with people whom you love. People who love you back, at least for now, but who don’t really know who you are. Sometimes we have to make our own family – of chosen friends and not ties of blood. Mixed blessings.
So I want to wish a happy Thanksgiving to everyone who celebrates it (and the same thoughts go to those who don’t.) May the joys carry the day, may the food be good and the company better, whether it’s family you’re born with, family you create, or even fictional family in the books that touch your mind and heart.
And as I sit down to the vegetarian tofurkey later, I will give thanks. Thanks for everyone I’ve met here on my blog and in my writing life, and my reading, who make my days brighter, my outlook more hopeful and who show in so many ways the warmth, love and caring that can exist in human hearts.
The Novel Approach review site and blog is running a feature they call “Backlist Book Bump.” They’ve invited authors to talk about a favorite book from their backlist, and offer a chance at a free copy.
When Lisa invited me to participate, I wasn’t sure which book to choose. But I’ve recently finished the third Hidden Wolves book, in first draft anyway, and that pulled me back into the world of the Pack and its place in the modern human world. So I had to choose Unacceptable Risk.
Visit The Novel Approach to find out why that book called out to be written, and comment before midnight Pacific time on Tuesday the 26th for a chance to win ebook copies of both Unacceptable Risk and Unexpected Demands.
Then cruise around and read about other great backlist books from favorite and new authors. It’s a really interesting feature. Thanks, Lisa, for letting me share in it!
My Young Adult short story collection, Rainbow Briefs, under my YA pen name, Kira Harp, is now available for download on Goodreads – click the “download ebook” button and All Romance ebooks. You can also get it for .99 (with royalties going to benefit The Trevor Project) on Amazon. There will soon be a print version from CreateSpace/Amazon, that will sell at cost. (About $5.77) And once Smashwords decides to like my file, it will be downloadable there and distributed through them to Barnes & Noble. I love a lot of things about Smashwords and what they offer for self-pub, except their formatter. (They don’t call it the meatgrinder for nothing.) I’m hoping to get that done soon – to get it on more free sites so teen readers can download without paying (so no problem if no credit card Access to LGBT ebooks for teens can be limited if they have to ask Mom or Dad to pay for them.)
I hope people enjoy the collection. My lovely and tireless editor Sara Winters has even lined up a few reviews for the stories. It’s entirely her doing that this went from, “Maybe I should bundle up a few of the stories in a freebie book” to the organized collection with links and cover and all the details. It’s been such a nice feeling to have Sara, and all my beta readers, letting me know they enjoyed these enough to be worth the time and effort.
I do love this kind of writing – seeing a picture that stirs the imagination, and then having the freedom to write a piece of short fiction that runs with the idea, just for fun. (And I apologize in advance for “Change of Plans” which does read more like a first chapter of a novel. Oops. Maybe one day, I’ll write that one.) I continue to write stories for the Goodreads Young Adult LGBT Books group monthly. (In fact, for October we had two prompts, so I wrote two :)) I post them under Kaje Harper, but for release I want people to be able to know what kind of writing they’re going to get, hence the second pen name.
My Kira Harp stories contain some strong language, where it feels appropriate to the teen characters. There is potentially sex in the plot, although not on the page. These stories are more happy than angsty, since our group loves to vote for pictures of kissing and hugging, and because I like happy endings. I do try to give the characters a real voice, and something interesting to say. There are links and contact numbers in the back of the collection for helplines and resources for LGBT teens, both in the US and some international. These were taken from our group’s Helplines thread (and if you know of other good ones, I’d love to add them to our group.) If just one person finds that information and uses it when they need to, then the publication has been worthwhile. And if this collection entertains, amuses, or enlightens some readers, then that’s all I can ask as a writer. It’s been a fun project. Thanks, Sara!
Many of you know I write some YA stories, in addition to the M/M romance, although very little is published so far. On the Goodreads YA LGBT Books group that I help moderate, we choose a picture prompt each month and write stories for it. And after almost two years, I have a bunch of YA short stories posted on the group.
Fellow author Sara Winters really urged me to put out a collection of some of those stories, so people outside the group could find and read them. I thought it was a great idea… sometime. Then Sara collected a set of them and sent me the file, and made it too easy to resist. She’s great that way. She edited and formatted this for me, and really made the project go forward.
Since my intention was to make the collection represent the range of the YA LGBT group, I added a few new stories too. There are fifteen total, and although M/M stories are over-represented (because that’s what the group mainly chooses for prompts, and what I write most easily) there are four F/F, two trans, one bi, one M/M/M. The length ranges from a page to about 10,000 words. I tried to cover a range of experiences too, but most are pretty romantic. (Our group does love those pictures of two boys or two girls, kissing.)
This collection will be free on Smashwords and ARe, and low cost (with royalties going to The Trevor Project) where it can’t be free. Sara really encouraged me to put out a paperback version, so that will also be available. And Enny Kraft did a great cover for this one too. Isn’t this pretty?
Sara also managed to persuade a couple of people to agree to review the upcoming collection, despite it being free and short stories and YA. (She’s hard to resist.) So I hope it will get a little notice. I’m planning to donate a few copies of the paperback, here and there.
I hope this collection strikes a chord with some teen readers. I hope the list of help-line and resource links in the book is useful to someone. But mostly, I hope the people who read it enjoy meeting the young characters who compete for space in my head with all the guys in love. So many stories to write, so little time. I love that the group gives me the impetus to put some of these on paper. I’ll post the links when this comes out Saturday November 2nd.
Wow. Deep breath.
I’m home in Minnesota after five days at GayRomLit in Atlanta. It’s lightly snowing here, and all of that event seems a bit like a dream. Although I did sign “Kaje Harper” on the credit card reader at the grocery store this morning, and had to redo it.
GRL was a ton of exhausting fun, with some of the greatest people. I’m going to steal a few pictures from those great people (with credits of course) as I go here, because I took no pictures. None. My old flip phone has about three pixels of resolution, and no memory to store them. But I have a thousand pictures in my head.
I arrived on Tuesday, with a suitcase of books that weighted 50.24 pounds (It started at 51, and I took out one book at the airline desk, and the nice lady let me get away with the extra fraction.) Edmond Manning arrived at almost the same time, so we shared a cab to the hotel, and later wandered out together in search of a mouse for his computer. It was a seven block walk to the Office Depot, and I’m glad we did it, because that was the most I saw of Atlanta, beyond the hotel. Oops. Must go back some day and do the city justice. The skyline was very pretty from my 19th floor room.
(From GRL’s Melia Hotel publicity.)
I have to give the host hotel, the Melia, a lot of credit for great, friendly hospitality. (Although I’ll take away a bit, for Internet that was so slow that sometimes I couldn’t connect at all. Very frustrating, especially for someone with a dumb phone and thus no email.) My bed was comfortable, the room was quiet, and the breakfast buffet was awesome. I didn’t need lunches after those breakfasts.
Wednesday was the first Writers’ Workshop. It was worth doing – I picked up some good information and tips, particularly about the business side of writing. And it gave the authors time to connect before we had a full audience. I met several new authors, and others I knew only by name. I hope they all had a great time at GRL.
I got my volunteering stint out of the way that evening in the Swag Room set-up. That was my cunning plan so I wouldn’t have to remember to show up somewhere later
Now, I had dithered over swag forever. What I ended up with was magnets, and a suitcase full of plot bunnies. . I’d hoped to do squishy wolves, in honor of my shifters, but they were all out of my budget. The rabbits were on sale, and I figured I could do something with them. Who doesn’t want to grab a resilient plotbunny? .
There were a lot of great and creative swag items. It was soooo tempting to use my volunteer position, the night before opening, to grab a shotglass with liqueur chocolate, or a calculator, a squishy dragon, a beaded Rowan-tree necklace, bandaids, playing cards, candles, and… oooh, yeah, more chocolate But I was good.
Thursday morning began with the newbie get-together and the opening of the swag room. I wasn’t the only one eyeing the great stuff, as Damon Suede stood there counting down to the opening moment for grabby hands. When he said “Go” I justified all my grabbing as being for Sammy, my friend who couldn’t make it. But secretly, a couple of the chocolates were for me. She wants to lose weight – a friend wouldn’t send chocolate, right?
My bunnies went in the first half hour, which was very cool
The Supporting Author signing happened at the same time. Those were the authors with only a couple of releases so far, (in some cases, a couple of excellent books.) I was pleased to see a lot of readers stopping by there. The organizers had also put together a little book with excerpts from many of those authors. It was a great idea and gave everyone something to sign.
The sessions began that afternoon, and it was far enough from my Saturday duties for me to relax and enjoy them. Thursday evening was the MLR Press opening reception, with a fancy ice sculpture logo and hors d’oeuvres. For a moment, as I went into the dim room half full of people, and had to look for a place to sit, I felt a moment of that being-in-big-groups panic. But then I saw a familiar face, and another… It was definitely easier the second time around.
I admit to skipping the Juke Joint party but over the first two days I met some great people, fellow authors and readers both. I had some conversations about books and writing, and young adult LGBT and even why so many straight women are into the genre. I encountered wonderful folk who were willing to sit with me in quiet(er) places and just chat. Lovely.
My favorite event of the first two days was probably the Cockwalk Invitational Art Show. It was a charity fundraiser for an Atlanta LGBT youth organization, and was set up by Anne Tenino, Josephine Myles, Clare London, and narrated by Edmond Manning. Members of the audience got up and told hysterically funny tales of their own encounters with cocks, and then a variety of cock objets d’art were raffled off. Many of the items were knit or crocheted, including my favorite, the plastic-bag dispenser. Imagine pulling white bags out of the tip of this:
(Picture swiped from Heather K’s blog Heather’s GayRomLit Experience, part two. )
That evening’s “Dine with an Author” event was the only one that went a little off-course. The room became noisy, and it was hard to chat with everyone at the table. By the way, if you were at my table and got one of my ducks be sure to email me with the duck number from the bottom of the duck for your ebook. I’m not sure everyone heard that, over the enthusiastic din. I did enjoy conversations with a couple of interesting people sitting close enough to talk comfortably.
And then Saturday morning… and my Question and Answer session. I was so nervous, it was good we were allowed to sit down – my knees were shaking. But it went well! I was allowed to go first and get it over with, and there were good questions about my books. Questions I could answer! A special thanks to Susan, for filling in any moment of …doesn’t anyone else have a question for Kaje? with another great query. It was over before I realized it. I could actually do that again, at least after I recover from the first time.
Then the book signing. I only misspelled my name once. (Four letters. Right there to be copied on the title page, if I happened to forget who I was. Oops.) I misspelled Minnesota on two tries… to the same reader. (Sorry Ami! But it will be authentic, not machine-signed, clearly me when you get it I was so honored to have people who had actually brought copies of my books all the way to Atlanta, just to have me write in them. (Especially Heather, who tracked me down before the signing, since she had to leave, and got Unacceptable Risk into my hands to sign it.) It was fun and weird and such a high, to be signing my name to the books I’d written, for people who clearly enjoyed them.
And the costume party that evening was the culmination of four wonderful days. I don’t have pictures, but they will be appearing elsewhere, including Susan’s on her “Boys in Our Books” post. Some folks went all out, and there were amazing costumes with lights, or hoop skirts, or rabbit ears, or bare chests (and a bare ass or two.) There were bunny slippers in honor of Shattered Glass and quite a few witches strolling arm in arm with a nun, or a flapper girl. Even folks like me, in jeans and a T-shirt, felt at home. (And thanks to the wonderful ladies who sat off in a quiet corner with me on two different nights, for a lovely chat I actually stayed almost to the end of a party, which was a first for me.
By Sunday’s farewell brunch, I was sad to leave, and yet ready to wind down. After a couple of chance encounters in the Atlanta airport – “Hi, didn’t we just say goodbye?” – I was finally off. Home is nice and quiet. (And my Internet feels blazingly fast.) But looking back, what I remember is how wonderful all the people were, how much fun it was to sit at the bar and have the gay couple next to me say, “Hey, we’ve read your book!” and the sense of community that came from being with 400 of my fellow M/M enthusiasts. Give me a year, and I’ll be ready to do it again.
See you in Chicago in 2014. I can even drive. (And Sammy, damn it, you get healthy and we’ll close down a party next year, right?) A big thank-you to everyone I met this year. It was a blast.
This Tuesday I’ll be flying out to GayRomLit – an annual retreat that brings together both readers and writers in the field of M/M romance. This is the third year for GRL, and the event will be in Atlanta, GA. Of the 400 or so attendees, 100 will be authors, and one of those will be, um, me.
I went to GRL last year in Albuquerque as a reader, which meant I got to have fun, go to all the events, and wasn’t required to say anything. I had a great time, and promised myself I’d go back this year with that author badge on. This is a good event for an introvert, because among so many readers and writers, we’re pretty well represented. I wasn’t the only one standing in darker corners. It’s nice to have like-minded company and I’m looking forward to it.
I’m also obsessing over getting ready, but what else is new?
There are things a reader doesn’t need at GRL that an author does. Like swag. Official authors bring swag. This refers to the stuff that attendees pick up at the conference with author promo on it – pens, bookmarks, chocolate, postcards, keychains, and so on. This spring, after taking the plunge and signing up, I had a great time for several months looking at all the things you can put your name on, most of which were way out of my price range. But then I had to choose. I eventually found some swag items I hope will be fun. Although I still have to finish the ducks… (I’ll try to post a picture after GRL.)
And books. There will be a book signing and I’m going to bring along some of my paper books to sell. I was trying to figure out how many, and was told that other authors last year sold between 2 and 50. Sooooo helpful. It may come down to the 50-pound airline weight limit on my suitcase and how many books fit in there. But if you’re going to be at GRL, and want my books, I will have some.
I have a Question & Answer session scheduled for 10:10 AM on Saturday the 19th. I’ll be sharing the podium with L.C. Chase, and Abigail Roux, so at least I’m not worried we’ll run out of things to talk about. How many Ty & Zane fans can you fit in Ballroom A? It should be good, and maybe by Saturday I’ll be over being nervous. Each author gets a 15 minute block of time, so if you have questions about my guys or my writing, there will be a chance to ask them.
The one sad thing for me is that my best friend Sammy, who was supposed to room with me and drag me along to the parties, won’t be there. Health issues forced her to cancel. I’ve promised to pretend she’s standing behind me and try to be outgoing on my own. Feel better, Sammy. I’ll send you any chocolate body parts swag available in the swag room. Next year, we’ll do it together.
In unrelated news, Nor Iron Bars a Cage is doing well on Amazon, despite my having to charge .99 for it. It’s in the top ten list for “Romance > Fantasy” along with some het books, which is cool. It may even earn a good donation for the Gay Men’s Domestic Violence Project, before Amazon makes it free.
I also have a draft cover for the Young Adult short story collection, Rainbow Briefs, which I will release soon as a Kira Harp freebie. My editor, Sara Winters, and I hope to get this out around the end of October. I can’t wait to unveil the cover, which is another lovely one from Enny Kraft. I just need to write the freaking blurb first…
So, a couple more days to pack, and unpack, and repack. And then I’ll see some of you in Atlanta!
My free fantasy novel, Nor Iron Bars a Cage, made the list of 2013 Rainbow Awards Finalists! It’s so cool to see my book up there with other great stories I’ve enjoyed this year. (And a few I haven’t read, and must now go track down. More good books )
Winners will be announced Dec. 8th. There are a number of categories, including Young Adult, so check out the finalists. The complete lists are posted at the link above.
I have now put Nor Iron Bars a Cage up on Smashwords and All Romance ebooks for downloading in various formats, if you are interested and haven’t got it from the M/M group yet. It should show up at Barnes & Noble and other sites in a couple of weeks (and I’m planning an Amazon release with proceeds to charity as soon as I get it formatted.) Thanks again to my beta readers, and everyone in the M/M Romance group working with the Love Has No Boundaries stories, who helped me get this freebie book completed and released, and to Ren Brennan for the great cover