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Giving Thanks for the Small Things

November 27, 2014

WolfLickCropped Did someone say “Turkey”?

I’m not a huge fan of the whole Thanksgiving extravaganza. Part of that is the introvert thing – too many people in one place for too long, and it gets claustrophobic even when they’re my family or friends. Also, I grew up in Canada, and although stuffed turkeys and pecan pie made their way across the border (to be improved by a collision with maple syrup) we didn’t have all the mythological “first feast” traditions to go with it. Canadian Thanksgiving happens early in October (when the harvest might plausibly have just finished up there.) And it’s a quiet family day, for the most part.

But I’ve lived in the US for almost 30 years, so I can enjoy marshmallows on my sweet potatoes, and even accept that a portion of any group will suddenly go off to watch football. (One year, those of us more interested in the guys’ asses than the yardage gained went and watched recordings of Eddie Izzard instead. Gradually the football folks wandered in to see what we were laughing so hard about… and sat and watched too. For once, cross-dressing beat out football.)

The thing that I do like about Thanksgiving is the timely, if heavy-handed, reminder to count our blessings.This year, which has been tough, I’m trying to remember to count imperfect blessings.

I live in a family of flaming perfectionists. (And yes, I can claim some of that too.) One thing perfectionism does is to rob the enjoyment out of otherwise-good things, for very small reasons. I once had a child declare a wonderful 3-hour party a total meltdown-failure, because we didn’t have time for one of the eight planned games and crafts. Imperfect=failure. With much wailing and gnashing of teeth (or grumbling and tossing things about for adults.)

That’s an exhausting and depressing mindset. So this year, I’m trying to remember to be grateful for the good-enough stuff. Not just the one perfect time my younger kid and I went to a concert together and had a great time for hours, but all the times she’s had a positive word for me or a hug unexpectedly, even if it wasn’t the long chat I wanted. The meals my husband cooks for me, even if timing them isn’t always easy. The fact that they even MAKE tofurkey. (Because it doesn’t taste like real turkey but it’s ecological, humane, and not too damned bad with stuffing and gravy.)

This year could have been worse. We’re all still alive, despite some health and other issues, and that’s a blessing I wasn’t sure we’d manage. My arthritis may be flaring up, but all hail to the guys who invented ibuprofen, because it actually works for me. The dog is eleven, and getting a little whiny, but he still jumps like a crazy maniac if food is involved, and warms my days. If I wait for things to be perfect, my list of thanks would be short. But in fact, my life is full of imperfect moments of grace, and small, partial miracles.

My writing brings me some of those. I am very, very grateful for the warmth and generosity of so many people in the M/M community, who write wonderful books for me to read, share comments and discussion, read my stories, and encourage my writing. This community sometimes feels like the one sane place in a crazy world. A haven for me to come to, when I need it.

So Happy Thanksgiving to you all. May you have comfort and warmth, surrounded by good friends, good family, or good books. May your list of thanks be long, and humanly imperfect.

Thanks for the nominations!

November 12, 2014

The M/M Romance group on Goodreads has begun their annual 2014 Member Choice Awards. Right now, in the nomination phase, members are naming the Oct 2013-2014 releases they feel deserve recognition in 42 categories of M/M, from “Best Hurt/Comfort” to “Best Historical”, from “Best Story That Should Have A Sequel” to “Best Paranormal”, plus a couple of All-Time Favorite awards.

I’ve been delighted to see my work from this year nominated more than a dozen times so far. And I’m even up for Favorite All-Time M/M Author. How cool is that? :)

They’re handing out nomination ribbons in every category – I’ll let this one stand for all of mine.

But I also want to thank Jessa for nominating Enny Kraft’s cover for Laser Visions for Best Cover Art – so well deserved. Enny’s done great work for me.

A big thank you to everyone who enjoyed stories of mine enough to nominate them (including PJ. Dawn, Regina, K, ttg, Zoe ~ Is incognito, Pmj12, 315, Anna, Julia Duncan, Jessa, Jeanne, Jess…)

And a big thanks also to people who nominated lots of the stories by other authors that I loved so much this year. I’m waiting to see what still gets posted, before filling in with my own additions to the lists. It’s so hard to pick just one per category.

There’s a category for Best Love’s Landscapes Story so if you’re an author who wrote for LL, you might be up there. And readers, especially if you loved someone’s first effort, either LL or another freebie or a debut novel, go nominate it! There are categories for all of those.

This is for fun and to celebrate the genre, not a deadly serious thing. There will be two rounds of voting after the nominations, to name winners. But for me, the most fun part is this one – coming together to celebrate the wonderful stories, to enjoy the fact that there are 20 or 35 or 50 excellent books in any category of M/M, written in this year alone. I love that our genre is growing and becoming better and more diverse all the time.

Thanks again to everyone who decided my stories were among the best of the year (and huge thanks to the M/M group moderators, whose efforts to oversee, make sure the rules are met, and that everything ends up in the right category… well, amazing is what that is.) If you’re a group member, come join in the fun.

Talking books and finding a title

November 8, 2014

Today, I’m a guest at Boy Meets Boy Reviews. They asked me some questions about writing and books. (I had to pick a dozen favorite Desert-Island-Keeper books. Only a dozen? It was torture. I love my ereader with 1400 books on there…) If you stop by and comment, you can enter a drawing for a free ebook of your choice of any of my backlist.

I’m also trying to find a title for the sequel to “The Rebuilding Year”. The Rebuilding Year coverI’m not great with titles – I almost never decide on one until the book is finished, and sometimes not until it’s in edits. In the past, I’ve asked for reader input. Some of my favorite titles, including “Home Work” and “Learning Curve” were readers’ suggestions. There’s no guarantee with a Samhain book that they’ll keep my title. Both “The Rebuilding Year” and “Sole Support” were my originals, though – they tried to find better titles for both, and in the end they failed. :)

So I’m looking for suggestions. This book isn’t big and dramatic. Nothing explodes or burns to the ground. It’s about Ryan, dealing with his dad and brothers. It’s about trying to fit two guys and two teenagers, an ex-wife, a medical education with years yet to complete, and all of their baggage, into an interconnected life that actually works. There are pleasant surprises, and not so pleasant. Some allies, and some not. There’s a lot of family in it, but I want to avoid titles with “Family” in them, because of my “Finding Family” series which uses those. I don’t want confusion. Also no titles starting with “Un…” due to the wolves.

The options I’ve come up with so far include:

Forward Momentum
Life, Some Assembly Required
Fitting Together
Pulling it Together

You can express a preference, or leave me a comment with your inspired, even-better title options. (If I use your title, I’ll reserve a free copy for you, although it’ll be quite a while until release.)

Then don’t forget to stop by Boy Meets Boy Reviews. to check out the interview and comment for a chance to win a backlist book. There are daily posts from other wonderful M/M authors too. Lots of freebies that you could win.

Now I need to go polish up TRY2 and get it out to beta readers…

Chat tonight Oct 30-31

October 30, 2014

Tonight, along with many other of my favorite authors, I’m going to be doing a live chat in celebration of M/M Romance and Halloween. This event was organized by Marc, of Rainbow Gold Reviews.

This will be a 24 hour marathon with new authors every hour. I start it off, with author Hans M. Hirschi whom I actually met at GayRomLit. A very interesting guy – we had a great discussion of queer lit and romance and Young Adult issues. He has a small press, as well as being an author. You can join us and ask about our books, or getting started writing M/M, or chat about your cats, or whatever strikes your fancy. I hope to see some of you there.

I’m on at Midnight to 1 A.M. US Central Time tonight Oct 30-31. And if you hang around after me you can chat with the amazing Amy Lane, Diana Copland, and Melissa Graves. If I can stay awake I plan to stick with it and fan-girl them for a bit. (And pretend to bitch at Amy because after I finished Beneath the Stain I immediately started again from the beginning and my leaves are not raking themselves while I reread it.)

The entire roster and schedule (with several time zones listed) for the event is here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1cvSOE8hO06DThywjQJ38a2A5wNZVYFcTndpSeQCsuus/edit?pli=1#gid=0
You should be able to find the link to the chatroom and more info here if you’re on Facebook. This should be the chat room itself. I’m looking forward to chatting with you tonight.

A little story, and Facebook

October 25, 2014

First, I have a little post with a 2K story out today in celebration of

This event has been going on all of October, celebrating the genre with several posts a day. The contributions touch on all areas of the LGBTQ romance rainbow, including many M/M. I hope you like my story, “Legacy.”

Then stick around, read everything else, from great flash fiction to personal stories of real life proposals to commentary on romance in general and the genre in particular. Wonderful posts from so many people.

Second, I just put up a page on Facebook. You’ll recognize the avatar. Please do stop by, say hi, or friend me if you like. Be patient if I don’t respond fast. I have been so lost today doing this. Edmond Manning and my friend Sammmy have been sweetly guiding me through the maze (with only a little snark). I’m still on the steep part of the learning curve. But I look forward to seeing people there.

GRL and Facebook

October 24, 2014

canstockphoto16576385 Last week I took time out to attend GRL – GayRomLit 2014. This now-annual retreat for readers and authors of M/M romance has become a highlight for me. The best part is the chance to spend a few days immersed in a large group of people with a shared love for the genre I write and read most. This year it was in Chicago – close enough for me to drive, past scenery like this. Sharing the 7 hour drive with author Jessa Ryan made the miles go quickly, and glorious fall colors were the icing on the cake.

The retreat this year was held at the Indian Lakes Resort in Bloomingdale, IL.
This was a lovely hotel and quirky, built primarily out of hexagons. The rooms were hexagons, with two walls of windows, and slightly domed ceilings set with a stained glass hexagon boss at the peak. The corridors twisted and turned between them, in short angled segments. In fact… some of you may remember that I said last year we needed more corners for shy people to hide in at a conference like this? Well, I think I was taken too literally, because there were hundreds of corners. Not to mention a whole atrium of potted plants to hide behind. Perfect for lurking introverts.

This year the internet worked (yay!) and the whole thing went amazingly smoothly. Almost the only complaint I heard was that going from the rooms to the convention area was a quarter-mile walk. But it kept us all fit, walking off some of the good food we were served.

I brought a variety of swag this year – post-it notes with the cover from The Family We Make, candy and my reading ducks (back by popular demand.) ducks4CroppedThe ducks were gone fast. Author swag seems to get more interesting every year. Pens with a stylus tip for touch screen use were popular. I came home with a bunch of fun/silly/useful stuff. (I was collecting it for a friend who couldn’t come. Really!)

The thing I love most about going to GRL is the feeling that the whole place is full of family. The first time I left my room, I met Amy Lane getting onto the elevator, and she recognized me even without a badge. A majority of people wore purple on Thursday for Spirit Day (to bring attention to bullying in schools, particularly of LGBT kids.) Two guys can kiss in the hallways, and everyone passing by will smile happily. It’s a warm, inclusive feeling.

I had a Question and Answer session Friday, shared with L.C. Chase and the two authors who make up Kindle Alexander. For a nine a.m. event the morning after a party, it was very well attended and there were some excellent questions. The Kindles showed us pictures of the hot guys they use as story inspiration, and L.C. talked about getting her start in cover illustration by winning a Josh Lanyon cover contest.

The most fun I had was at the Cockwalk, a raffle of cock-themed arts and crafts, benefiting a local youth center. The event MC, author Edmond Manning, kept the audience laughing so hard we almost couldn’t get the raffle part accomplished. A group of good-natured (and hot) guys dressed as the Village People helped out with drawing tickets and bothering Edmond in all the best ways. (Well, the best that were legal in public anyway.) The youth center got a great donation, and we all left with cock-shaped candy, and book-ends, and artwork, and bottle openers, and wine, and more. Hard to picture it? Check out the pictures on Heather K’s blog post.

I met so many wonderful people, some familiar, some for the first time, including author Julie Bozza who PMed me that she was there. I was delighted to spend a couple of hours talking to her about writing and life. And I could go on for hours about the other good parts of GRL, and all the people who make it special. But that’s probably enough.

Next year will be in San Diego. I hope to see many of you there.

Oh yeah, I mentioned Facebook in the title of this post. Well, one of the things I asked the audience at my Q&A was whether they liked having authors available on Facebook. The yes vote was pretty overwhelming. So this weekend I’m going to try to get a Facebook page up. Wish me luck. Tell me what you like seeing on an author’s page. All tips are welcome. When it’s done I’ll post a link here. And I look forward to seeing you there and checking out what Facebook is all about.

Coming Out, Equal Marriage, Life and Fiction

October 12, 2014

This weekend I’ve been preparing to attend the Gay Rom Lit retreat at the end of next week. This now-annual event brings together writers and readers of gay romance to talk about and celebrate the stories and the genre. We have discussions, parties, book readings and more. I’ll have an Author’s Lounge event on Thursday at noon, and a Question and Answer session on Friday at 9 AM. I’m looking forward to all the events (mostly, with a little nerves added.)

This week is also one in which we support and celebrate being out and LGBTQ, with Coming Out Day yesterday, Oct 11. Then on Thursday Oct 16th, it will be Spirit Day. On that day, we wear purple to bring attention to the bullying of LGBTQ youth, and express support for everyone who stands up for the right to be yourself in every setting including our schools and in sports.

I’m hoping the first day of GRL will be awash in purple, in support of Spirit Day.

In addition, there have been significant events on the gay marriage front in the US. Those court rulings, and temporary stays, and lifted stays, have produced both new freedom to marry for many couples, and a nasty backlash of rhetoric from those who want their personal views to be the only option for their state and nation. We’re seeing both progress and reaction.

As I pack the swag I’m bringing, that says “Real men, real life, real love” and “Love is Love”, the timing of GRL together with these events makes me think about how the stories we write and the community of M/M romance readers and writers fit into the larger world.

I think this genre is unique in combing pure entertainment and escapist fun with a strong sense of moral purpose. The readers of gay romance are a growing advocacy for LGBTQ equality. I hear from first-time readers who are surprised to find how much they empathize with the story of two men falling in love. I’ve had reviews, particularly for “Into Deep Waters”, that say “Now I believe that everyone should have the right to marry the person they love.” We are changing minds with our fiction.

And I love hearing readers discuss how they feel the need to speak up more with each story they read. How loving Ty with Zane, or Whyborne with Griffin, or Tony with Mac, makes it harder to just stand by in the face of injustice. Our community of writers and readers volunteers, contributes and advocates. Slowly, gradually, as we gain comfort in the world of our stories, we put up bumper stickers and wear rainbows, and purple. We write to politicians, sign petitions, donate books to LGBT teen libraries. And we teach our kids. Whether they are going to grow up to discover themselves LGBTQ or straight, we talk to them about acceptance. We tell them that love is love.

One of the great things about going to GRL is that it is a world of acceptance. Suddenly, one location is filled with 400 people who will smile when two guys kiss. People are open and eager to embrace the rainbow. It’s not perfect, but it’s damned sweet to be a part of.

And every year, I think, “This is what we’re working for. The day when the world is like this, when you can say, ‘He and his boyfriend are getting married next month’ and know that everyone who overhears thinks that’s something to celebrate. Even when you’re not at GRL.” Will it happen soon? No. But we’re making progress, year by year, and it’s wonderful to know that the fiction I love has a small role to play in helping that to happen.

Now I have to go pick a purple shirt to wear on Thursday…

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