This is my final week as the Author of the Month at My Fiction Nook.
You see, they suggested “Maybe something funny,” and I went into total block on it. There are writers who can tell a funny little anecdote at the drop of the hat. Read Amy Lane’s blog. Read Thorny Sterling’s. I have major envy for that talent. I like to think there is humor in my books, in a subtle way, but I don’t have that gift of the absurd.
Humor is one of the four main things I look for when I read a romance though. A little snark, a funny moment, even a clever bit of word-play—humor lurks somewhere in most of the books I really love to read. So those four criteria?
First, I want characters I can like and cheer for. I don’t mind if they have to reform somewhat to get there—Jake Riordan, I’m looking at you—but I want to like them by the end. My own stories first appear when I hear the voice of a guy who wants his story told. Caring about that man and his journey is what launches the book.
Second, I want realistic emotions. I enjoy anything from sweet to heartbreaking, but I do want to feel it. That feeling of connection is very individual, personal, and hard to quantify. It’s always a surprise to me how other readers and I can agree on dozens of books, and yet there will be one that has me with my heart aching and just bores them. Or one they say had them sobbing that leaves me cold.
Pulling the reader into the story emotionally is a challenge for writers, and what works with one reader will not with another. I have side by side reviews of “couldn’t put this down even to sleep” and “DNF I was soooo bored.” (And perhaps this is a place to say again, all reviews are welcome, the good, the bad, and even the ugly. Readers who talk about the books they read are community, sustenance and keep this profession interesting. The difference in opinions is what makes discussing books fun, and leaves room for all of us different writers to find an audience.) The writers who consistently pull emotional connections from me are the ones you’ll see me recommending at every opportunity. In romance, more than any other genre, we get to share the emotional life of the characters.
My third preference is that bit of humor. Not necessarily laughing-out-loud, but just the occasional quirk that tells me the characters and the author have some sense of proportion, some ability not to take themselves too deadly seriously. The very best authors can give me that little self-deprecating quip even in a scene that will break my heart. That’s a gift.
And the fourth is hope. I don’t need a Happy Ever After or even a Happy For Now ending on every book. But I need it to contain some kind of hope. Real life is hard enough. Things beyond your control will batter and hurt people you love, at some point—if you care about anyone, that’s inevitable. Romance is about the hope of happiness, the hope of love, the idea that there are people out there who will put someone else’s well-being ahead of their own. It is about overcoming adversity and finding, at the end of your trials, the reward of a person to share the good times and the bad. Hope.
And that’s probably why I write. To transmute pain, loneliness, anxiety, fear, prejudice, and loss into the gold of hope, love and joy. And to share that journey, for characters who feel real, with readers. I wrote just for myself for decades, because putting hope and joy on paper made me feel it. There is sweetness now in having readers share that world.
The stand alone books featured on My Fiction Nook this time represent parts of that journey for me.
Lies and Consequences – the first book I ever published, a plot-crazy romp of a thriller that I simple put onto Smashwords for free, before I had published anything, so readers could share the fun.
The Rebuilding Year – two men who have been battered by life, finding each other and a new start together. A book about finding love wherever it appears, even if it’s unexpected and unfamiliar. And valuing that love for the treasure it is. (And yes, the sequel will be coming, although it is still a work in progress.)
And Sole Support – a book I wrote in a big part for myself. After a long period dealing with my mum’s Alzheimer’s, I was pretty blocked in my writing. So I started the story of Kellen, a man in a similar situation, not a perfect guy and one made less perfect by the stress of his helplessness in the face of his mother’s decline. (Much like myself—my poor husband got neglected at times, when all the rest was overwhelming.) Then I gave Kellen a guy like Mike, whose heart was big enough to deal with all of Kellen’s crap, and help him redeem himself. And at the end, despite the pain of family in trouble, I gave them love. And hope. And found that I could write again.
There is one more giveaway of any backlist book, if you comment on My Fiction Nook – Kaje Harper Finale. Thanks to everyone who has stopped by there all month, and congrats to the three previous winners. (Learning Curve seems to be the popular choice so far :) See you there.
For my third week as Author of the Month at My Fiction Nook, they are featuring my Hidden Wolves stories. There is an excerpt from the first book in the series, Unacceptable Risk, and a drawing for a free ebook.
My werewolves started long before I ever published anything, and before I ever went online to find M/M books. I’d only read what was on library shelves and in bookstores, and we all know how limited that is.
In my own little writing world, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool if there were not just gay vampires (which I’d read) but gay werewolves…” Yeah, I really was that much off in my personal writerly cloud. By the time MLR asked about another book they could publish, I’d found out just how many gay wolves are running around the M/M genre shelves. But I was having too much fun with my guys not to let them out to play.
The third werewolf novel is finished in rough draft, but not yet submitted. I do hope to have it out later this year. No title yet, but I’m considering a whole raft of words starting with “un”…
In the meantime, check out the post at My Fiction Nook. And maybe you can win a copy of your choice of my backlist books, to entertain you until that next one is released.
I just got a new cover from my designer, Enny Kraft. And I love it. This is for the second book in the “Finding Family” series. The book is a contemporary romance, and features Sam from The Family We’re Born With, his younger brother Rick, and 20-year-old Travis, a Minnesota guy whose life is turning upside down. I’ll have the blurb for you down the road, but for now, enjoy the cover.
The rough draft of this story is completed, at 140,000 words, which means it almost certainly needs some pruning. But I’ve brought the guys to a good place, for now.
And before that editing happens I have a freebie to write, for the M/M Romance Group’s Love’s Landscapes event. The prompt I picked for that event reads…
I just moved into this old antebellum home I bought with the intentions of restoring. I often find myself awoken in the night by strange noises I cannot identify or hear during the day. At first I think it’s just a dream…this seeming phantom, always walking away. Who is he and how can I get him to finally turn around and see me?”
Paranormal? SciFi? Mystery? I’m thinking about it… Time to have some fun.
This week on My Fiction Nook the focus is on the Life Lessons series. There’s an excerpt of Mac and Tony striking sparks for the first time, in Book 1, and links for all the series novels. Check out my interview with Heather, and leave a comment for another drawing for a free back-list ebook.
Congratulations to last week’s winner. I’ll be emailing your book shortly.
And on a related note, if you bought Breaking Cover from Kobo, and are having any problem with the file, please let me know. Kobo has had issues with it, and I want to make sure everyone gets what they need.
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.