The Culture of Nasty: Where Everyone Has a Right To Share Their Opinion

www.jpereira.net info@jpereira.netI’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and discussing it with my friends. I suspect this is going to be an unpopular opinion. I’ve spent several hours drafting it, hours in which I could have done something more productive, and probably less like to piss the Internet off. I’ve come close to deleting it more than once.

The very fact I feel this way is proof of my point, though.

We’re in a culture of Nasty, where Meanness is King.

Perhaps it’s naive of me to think it hasn’t been there all along, but I have to say that in the last ten years, I’ve seen a huge shift in the attitudes and behavior of others, and I think it has a lot to do with the social media platforms where people spend the majority of their time.

My co-workers and I have discussed how short-tempered and irritable clients are, as well as how demanding they are. They want what they want when they want it. If you can’t drop everything and see to their needs immediately, they snarl, “Well, I’ll just take my business elsewhere, then.” The threat doesn’t change anything. If we could have helped them then and there, we would have. Instead, the attitude puts our backs up. Fine, so be it, we sniff, when they hang up on us.

I blame it on the Internet. I blame it on the instantaneous delivery of so many things. One-click a book. Stream a movie. Order food delivered to your house. That’s just part of it though. The other part is that the Internet encourages you to leave your opinion where ever you go, on whatever you purchase. How was your experience at your salon, your grocery, your daycare, your doctor’s office, Home Depot? Tell us! We really want to know!

The President of the United States started a twitter account recently. Within minutes, he’d received some of the most appalling racial slurs and horribly demeaning, hate-filled Tweets that I’ve ever seen. The President. Of our country. To think that when the Dixie Chicks disagreed publicly with then-President Bush’s decision to go to war with Iraq, radio stations dropped their music and people sent death threats. All because one of the band members said she was ashamed that Mr. Bush hailed from Texas. Now, direct name-calling to the President himself is de rigueur. Is it because he is the first black President? Possibly. But I think that the racial aspect is only part of it. FOX News has been cultivating an atmosphere of hatred and disrespect for President Obama for six years now. I think any Democratic president would have faced similar venom because so many people have been groomed to spew the Far Right’s bile. (It’s kind of fascinating, in a horrible way, how long the Koch Brothers have been modeling public opinion of political figures… but I digress)

The Internet has given Everyman a voice.

Everywhere I go, I see people plugged into their iPods or smartphones. There’s even a phenomenon called ‘tech neck‘ because so many people are looking down at the phone in their hands all the time that they are developing wrinkles on their necks at extraordinarily young ages. We had a young pedestrian killed here not too long ago because she stepped off the curb, eyes glued to the phone, without looking at the traffic. She couldn’t even put the phone aside long enough to cross the street safely. I recently read a thread on Facebook where someone complained of making an impassioned speech as part of a lecture, only to look out on a sea of students all staring at their laps. Not a single one was focused on the class. They were all checking their phones. We’ve become addicted to our devices. We’ve also come to a point where we expect to be entertained every minute of every day. Where we can’t cross the street without checking our messages, or we’re on the phone in the line at the grocery store and at the doctor’s office, or we can’t pause the movie for the two minutes it takes us to ladle dinner on our plates, so we have to carry the IPad to the kitchen with us.

And part of that constant need for connection means checking up on what other people had to say. Frankly, the nastier, the better. The more we can gasp and say, “Oh, no they didn‘t!” and yet read on.

I can’t tell you how many times someone will share a link with me but say, “Don’t read the comments. They’ll only make you gnash your teeth.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started an online conversation, only to have to leave for a few hours and come back to discover that it has imploded in my absence and I have no idea how to do the damage control.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen others in that boat, who’ve decided to close the thread to further comments because of the vitriolic disrespect people are showing to each other. Or people who post a strong commentary, but block comments because they know what kind of wank-fest will start if they don’t.

A friend and I were discussing this the other day–this veneration of the nasty, where everyone gets to have their say, but because so often they can do it anonymously, all filters are off. The nastier the better because then people will like your post and you’ll develop a following for your snarky reviews. Maybe it was the hilariously scathing gif-filled review of 50 Shades of Grey that started it, but I see too many reviews aiming for this level of cutting brilliance, when sadly, they are only a pale imitation. Giving celebrity status to the unpleasant critic has become the norm, from Simon Cowell on American Idol to the hordes of talk radio mouthpieces that make a living off being mean.

I think my friend summed it up nicely, however: Reviews have become so important and yet I think they have become so meaningless.

By that, I don’t mean the well-thought out review given by review sites and readers that truly want to share how this story made them feel.These people (and their reviews) are worth their weight in gold! I’m not referring to the people who are capable of articulating the problems they had with a story, either. I’m a big believer in constructive criticism, and I pay particular attention if more than one person makes a similar statement along the same lines when it comes to a story. No, I’m talking about the people who one-star something because it didn’t meet all of their personal expectations. The real issue seems to be one of expectations and entitlement. Because it doesn’t matter if it was well-written or not.  If it didn’t push all of that reader’s particular buttons, it gets low-balled.

This story was about vampires but your vampires didn’t get sparkly in the sun and your heroine (having some degree of backbone) is too bitchy so yeah, I’m one-starring this.

Your hero smokes. Eww.

There was too much sex.

There wasn’t enough sex.

The sex scenes were boring.

Or a personal favorite someone shared on Facebook today: Your Mayans were cruel. The real Mayans weren’t cruel people. (Um, human sacrifice, people? Perhaps that was just a mild aberration, then? A case of being ‘hangry’? Gee, someone hand that Mayan a Snickers bar, for God’s sake!)

Of course, if increased visibility wasn’t tied directly into reviews, then reviews like this wouldn’t matter. They’d just be opinions, and while a few of them might sting a bit, it would be easier to laugh them off. But because they *are* tied into increased visibility, and therefore potentially sales as well, they carry a lot more weight than perhaps they ought.

I’ve said for a while now that I wish Amazon and Goodreads would do away with the ‘star’ rating system and let people just post what they thought without the ranking business. I wonder if as many people would bother in that case? And if no one could give your opinion a ‘thumbs up’, would it still try so hard to be cleverly mean?

The point I’m trying (perhaps unsuccessfully) to make is that I think in many ways, the Internet has made us a less kind society. Our right to voice our opinion is what leads strangers to walk up to George Clooney and tell him, “Hey, your last movie sucked.” Like our opinion matters so much, we have a right to get in a celebrity’s face and tell him that. Or that we can be unforgivably ugly to the President. Or we can cyberbully and troll someone into self-harm.

I get upset when I read about stuff like that, or when I have to put out fires on my own page, or when everything I read makes me despair for the future of our species. I still think that the Internet is a kind of awful addiction, and I know I’d get a lot more done if I simply turned off my browser and got to it. There are days when my Facebook timeline depresses the hell out of me, and forget about going to Twitter or Tumblr! At least on Live Journal, there was a sense of community that tempered one’s interactions with others. Those days seem to have vanished. Now it’s about reblogging someone else’s content and moving on to the next New Shiny. If you are spectacularly nasty, you’re more likely to get reblogged, too.

But even as I’ve wasted the last couple of hours writing this, I know that I’m not telling the whole story. Yes, there is a lot of ugliness online. Yes, it is frequently addictive and often depressing as hell. Yes, I think the generations coming behind us will have to deal with an inability to focus on anything for more than a few minutes, and an outrageous sense of entitlement that makes some people think the world owes them a living. But here’s the thing: I’ve met some wonderful people through online communities. I’ve seen these people come together to help someone in need, be it financially or emotionally. I’ve been the recipient of links to funny videos, cute pictures that make me smile, surprise care packages, and astonishing generosity–all when I needed them the most. I’ve had my hand virtually held when I needed the lifeline, and have been given a safe place to vent when I needed that, too. I’m not sure I’d still be around were it not for that kind of support. I know I wouldn’t be publishing my stories. It was the enthusiasm and encouragement of my online friends that prompted me to submit that first story to a publisher.

So yeah. Mean is flashier. Mean grabs headlines. Nasty makes the news. It’s like the Dark Side of the Force–quicker, deadly, makes a bigger entrance. Seems more powerful.

But don’t belittle the power of the Light side of the Force. I believe that kindness, like nastiness, is catching, and as such, it is up to us to spread it around, sending it out in little ripple effects as a kind of shield against all the nastiness out there. I’ll probably be one of the first ones to die in a post-apocalyptic society, but you know what? I’m not sure I’d want to live through that mess anyway. We have to choose between the two, between kindness and meanness, just like in the story about the two wolves.

Two wolvesWhich will you choose to feed?

 

 

 

 

The LGBTQ Pushback Fundraiser & Giveaway!

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In the wake of the passing of the Indiana Religious Freedom and Restoration Act, a fundraiser was set up to support a family who think it’s their “right” to refuse service to LGBT customers. It raised almost $1 million dollars.

Unfortunately, a pro-LGBTQ counter-fundraiser hasn’t got nearly the same visibility. It’s one thing to tweet our outrage, or share a link on Facebook to an article that is upsetting or disturbing. It’s another matter entirely to put our money where our mouths are.

So authors Kate Aaron and AJ Rose have teamed up with reader/writer/blogger Meredith King at DiverseReader to host a very special giveaway. They’ve invited over 200 LGBTQ authors to donate books to a massive Rafflecopter giveaway at DiverseReader starting Saturday April 18th at 9 am EST and running through 11:59 pm EST on May 1st. I’ll be joining this list, and offering an e-copy (reader’s choice) of one of my stories. Readers will have a chance to win an ebook if they donate $5 to a deserving LGBT charity or share a charity donation link.

It’s a win-win for everyone! Participants get a chance at winning an e-book, but even better, we as a community get to pushback to help those in need by donating to deserving organizations that face an uphill battle in securing funding. Not to mention, I won’t mind having a list of these organizations all in one place for future donations on my part! All the details will be here on the DiverseReader post (which will not go live until 9 am EST on 4/18/15). For the price of one e-book or a fancy cup of coffee, you can make your voice heard in a manner that will count most.

You should check out the post on DiverseReader regardless–there’s a poignant short story by AJ Rose that illustrates what happens to many LGBTQ youth when their families find out about their sexuality. Hope to see you on the winner’s list!

Discounted Books and Free Stories!

Whew! I know I haven’t been around much lately–life has been unexpectedly hectic! I did a serious number on my shoulder, I have an on-going medical crisis with one of the horses, we’ve entered the busy season at work, and I got a recall notice on my car just as I’m trying to leave town for a business trip. You know, life as usual… :-)

Full store_sale_DSPsite

But I’d be remiss if I didn’t share some good news with you guys! First, Dreamspinner Press is having a 25% off sale on everything in the store from now until Monday, April 20th. But even better, for the rest of April, Dreamspinner is selling all in-stock paperbacks at 50% off! My DSP page is here, if you are interested in big savings!

 

photo_30486_20110214Looking for a great beach read? For a limited time only, A Summer Fling is free at Amazon and Barnes and Noble! In A Summer Fling,Daniel falls hard for a guest staying at the hotel where he works. Ryan McFarland is working frantically to finish his latest novel and shouldn’t be distracted. The attraction, however, is mutual, and all too quickly their time together passes. At the end of the week, will this have been just another summer fling?

Bite the Dust is a short story based on one of Ryan McFarland’s characters, the enigmatic and deadly vampire detective, Mikhail Frost.

A Summer Fling was originally published in 2011 under the title Surf’s Up, as part of the Goodreads M/M Romance Group’s “Don’t Read in the Closet” fest. Bite the Dust, a short story based on a character in Surf’s Up, was a finalist in the “Just One Bite” Contest. This compilation is the only place you can get both stories together, so check it out while the price is right. :-)

On Amazon

On Barnes and Noble

So pick up a light read and eat your lunch outside in the springtime sun. Pretend you’re at the beach for me. :-)

Why Peggy Carter resonates with so many women today

Value2Anyone who knows me even slightly knows I am a HUGE fan of Peggy Carter. Captain America: The First Avenger is one of my favorite movies, in part because I adored Peggy Carter in it. (I also might have a thing for the time period, seeing as I wrote The Boys of Summer :-) ) I’ve written about why I think Steve Rogers is the kind of hero we need, and I’ve written a little about my adventures in cosplaying Carter. I’m obsessed in the way only a fangirl can be. If you search this website for references to Peggy Carter, you’ll see what I mean.

Ever since Captain America:TFA came out, I’ve been toying with the idea of writing what would happen to characters like these after the war. After their brilliant, adrenaline-driven careers were no longer necessary, and they had to meld into suburban America. I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a series under the pen name Madison Dean, a kind of X-Files meets Ward and June Cleaver. I thought it would be fun, and I was enjoying the research for it. Then Agent Carter came out, and I realized that I’m going to have to change much of how I envisioned my original characters in order to prevent it from feeling derivative.

Besame 1940 PerfumeYou know what? I don’t care. Because I enjoyed Agent Carter as a television show so much, it doesn’t bother me that it might have shot down my brilliant idea for a romantic adventure series. I enjoyed it so much, it even knocked Queen Elsa off the throne for my current fangirl obsession. (Lord knows, I’ve posted a lot about Frozen, too! You should do a site search on that one if you want to read them all…)

Yesterday, I got a text from a friend off at Emerald City Comic Con, saying she had a surprise for me. Now, I’ve been running on fumes this last week, dealing with an injured horse needing round-the-clock treatment in an effort to save his eye. So when I got her text, it piqued my curiosity but I’d forgotten where she’d gone this weekend. Then she sent me a photo of my surprise: an autograph from Hayley Atwell! Those high-pitched dolphin squeals of glee you heard around the world yesterday? Yeah, that was me.

I showed the image to the BF last night at dinner, and he said he’d been looking for some sort of Agent Carter-related thing to get me ever since the series came out, but he’d had trouble finding anything he liked. Which gave me the warm fuzzies, you know? We watched Agent Carter together each week when it was on–it was our one Must See Live television show, and I believe he looked forward to it almost as much as me (given the amount of teasing I got, I’m sure of it!). The fact that he’s been looking for something Carter-related as a gift shows he *gets* me.

Besame Red VelvetWhich got me thinking this morning, why Peggy Carter? Why not Black Widow, or Wonder Woman, or Kate Beckett, or Brenda Leigh Johnson, or any of a number of excellent female characters over the years? What is it about Peggy that strikes such a chord? Why did Twitter explode with live tweeting during Agent Carter? It’s not just because Hayley Atwell is adorable (have you seen the pictures she posts of her sleeping almost anywhere on almost anything? The one of her in the suitcase is my favorite) but because Peggy Carter herself really struck a cord with a lot of viewers.

For a heroine, she’s super-feminine in a way that is disarming. She’s not in a catsuit. She doesn’t look like she could break your nose with her elbow, despite the fact she can. She is under-appreciated at work, and her male superiors dismiss her abilities while at the same time take advantage of them. I love the fact that she anticipates the mission’s needs and has the information ready to provide before her bosses can even ask for it. I confess, I was disconcerted by the scene where she takes a male co-worker to task for standing up for her–I thought she should have rewarded him for being progressive, after all! But I realized that she dressed him down for intervening because no one should have to intervene on her behalf. To have a man back her in that scenario meant that her presence and usefulness was only allowed if validated by a male co-worker. It was an interesting distinction to make, and one far more subtle than the average comic-book show.

Cinnamon Sweet resizedBut she can ditch the feminine look to get dirty in the trenches. She can knock back Scotch with the best of her male companions, the ones who know her true value and don’t question what she brings to the team. Her hand shakes when she diffuses a bomb. She’s known heartbreak, and personal loss. She’s made mistakes, ones that have gotten people killed, and she’s suffered the guilt, as well as the consequences of her actions. She eats out at restaurants a lot, because seriously, when does she have time to cook? She curses when she hits her head. She is tempted by the luxury of staying a night in Howard Stark’s townhouse, so far removed from a life sharing flats with other women. She is wonderfully realized as a character. She is human. And she is a damn sight closer to most of us than the average role model we see on screen.

One of the best moments in the series is depicted on the mug above: Peggy states clearly that she doesn’t need outside validation to know her worth. She doesn’t expect it. She’s learned to live without it. She’s learned that the only person she mustn’t disappoint is herself. Praise from others is nice, but she doesn’t need it to know she’s done her best.

Forites shoes 1That is a wonderful, amazing, empowering mindset. Seriously, it is everything we could ever hope for in a role model. No, we’re not going to be able to take out bad guys with a mean right hook, but we can look smashing while we go about our business, do our jobs to the very best of our abilities, and we can hold our heads–and our standards–high when the rest of the world would put us down. Without whining.

I sincerely hope Marvel and ABC decide to renew the series for another season. It was by far the best thing I’ve seen on television in years. We need more female characters like this in television, movies, and books. And she’s inspired me to create some of my own.

A friend, knowing my obsession, linked me to this wonderful, amazing essay on Agent Carter and the power of friendship. Do check it out. You won’t be sorry. :-)

 

Book 3 in the Sixth Sense series, and the Convention Season!

Is it spring yet? I’m starting to think it might be.

SnowdustAfter uncharacteristically bitter temps (to the point my dog, who normally loves the snow, had trouble walking because the ground hurt his feet, it was that cold), and the multiple rounds of snow, which never melted before the next bout hit, we’ve had a bit of a tough winter for us Southerners. There was one morning when feeding the horses took three hours, simply because it was snowing so hard it was nearly impossible to see what I was doing. The only good thing about having so many snow days was that I got a lot of writing done. Yay!

redbud resizedBut in the last two days, the temperatures have jumped up into the sixties. Robins flit across the yard, and you can hear the spring peepers every time you step outside. (Sadly, it’s the skunk mating season, so you can smell skunks every time you step outside, too!) The air has a warmth to it that speaks of spring. Daffodils have sent shoots up almost overnight, and yes, I’ve already gotten a tick off me. Tonight we’re experiencing a cold rain, but even that whispers of spring. I believe we’ve seen the last of the winter weather around here, and for once, I’m glad.

I’m not generally a big fan of spring because spring is usually a few weeks of lovely weather before it turns into summer, and I am no fan summer at all. Summer means unbearable heat and humidity to me, being damp and uncomfortable most of the time. Sunburn and mosquito bites. Too hot to sleep. Too hot to walk the dog or ride the horse, unless you want to get up at dawn, and sometimes not even then. But this spring and summer, I have exciting things to look forward to, which change the way I feel about the seasons altogether!

108203413_8The first bit of news is that I’ve completed the next installment of the Sixth Sense series! Book three, tentatively titled Truth and Consequences, has been submitted to the publisher. Instead of holding my breath for the next couple of months until I see whether or not it will be accepted, I’ve decided to move on with the next WIP, which will be a contemporary M/M romance set against the backdrop of eventing. I’m excited about this one–it’s a tale of overcoming personal fears and learning to take second chances–a theme that’s every dear to my heart!

The next bit of exciting news (at least for me!) is that I’m going to be at Animazement in Raleigh, NC (May 22-24)! I’m excited because I’m going to be meeting some of my fellow Dreamspinner authors in person for the first time–we’ll be sharing a table and enjoying the fun! If you’re planning to go to this convention, look us up!

If that wasn’t exciting enough, I’m also going to Rainbow Con in Tampa, FL (July 16-19th) as a featured author! I’ll be doing some panels, and I think a reading as well. :-) I’m already working on putting together some swag to give away, as well as some signed print books. Have you checked out the events for Rainbow Con? They had me at the Big Cat Rescue field trip, but there are all kinds of amazing panels, as well as what will be my very first Masquerade Ball! There are going to be so many great authors there too, so if you’ve been toying with the idea of attending a convention this year, you should check it out! It’s not too late to sign up!

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Goodbye, Leonard Nimoy. Live Long and Prosper, Mr. Spock

SPOCK-mr-spock-35423717-500-451I’ve been crying on and off all afternoon.

I just happened to be online when word of Leonard Nimoy’s passing was announced, and though I’d known in my heart that his time was near, I was still stunned by the news. I quickly shared it with my friends, as one does, and only gradually did the truth of it sink in.

Mr. Spock was dead.

Now before I go any further, I’d like to say that I know everyone and their mother is going to post some sort of statement about their reaction to the news. This isn’t about jumping on the bandwagon and getting people to come read what I have to say because I’m going to be amazingly articulate and say something worthwhile. No, in fact, I’m having a hard time typing through the tears. This is just one fangirl mourning the loss of an icon, and a lifelong hero, and the man who gave that character brilliant, enduring life. It doesn’t matter that I never met Leonard Nimoy, or that he was an actor on a very old television show. His portrayal of Mr. Spock has been, and always shall be, a big part of my life.

Star Trek, and my love for Mr. Spock in particular, woke in me a fierce love for science fiction. After I devoured the James Blish novelizations, I wanted more. I needed more stories about these wonderful characters and their adventures. Star Trek was one of the few sci-fi universes that believed we’d solve our problems, that we weren’t stupid enough to kill ourselves or poison our planet. I didn’t grow up thinking that a woman’s place was in the kitchen because I saw a woman right there on the bridge. I didn’t think the Russians were our enemies because, even though Chekov endearingly thought all great things came from Russia, well, he was Chekov. They weren’t black, or Russian, or Asian, or alien to me. They were the crew of the starship Enterprise, and I wanted so very badly to be a part of their five year mission. More than that, I wanted to be good enough to be a part of their mission. Above all, I didn’t want to disappoint Mr. Spock, Captain Kirk, or Bones. The fact that I was a girl was immaterial to me. It never even registered that I might not have a place on the Enterprise. You have no idea how powerful, how liberating that kind of life lesson that is for a young girl. I credit it with helping shape who I am today.

StarTrekoldpixI read all the tie-in novels, but when I ran out of those, I desperately tried to get on one of those mailing lists for these things called ‘fanzines.’ Failing that, I read some of the published short stories written by dedicated fans, and let me tell you, some of these works were utterly brilliant. I began writing my own stories, horrible self-insert tales where I would miraculously get beamed aboard the Enterprise and save the day (despite being twelve at the time). Still needing my sci-fi fix, I went to the library, where I discovered Bradbury, Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, and more. You should have heard the dolphin squeals of glee the day I realized that the ST episode Arena was actually adapted from a short story by Fred Brown. It was like running into a member of a secret club right there in the library.

I became a dedicated sci-fi fan thanks to Star Trek, and my love of sci-fi has brought me my most enduring friendships, introduced me to some of the best people (including my boyfriend of seven years) and brought me back to writing after a decade-long hiatus. So yes, I owe Star Trek–and Mr. Spock–so very much. More than a lifetime of shared jokes and laughter. More than some tears at storylines that hurt and cheers when things were put right again. Star Trek is one of those foundational cornerstones in my life. I can’t imagine the person I’d be without having experienced it. Mr. Spock made science cool. He made science sexy.

As the news broke today, people took to the airways to express their sorrow and to say their goodbyes. I think that’s when it really began to hit me.

As John Scalzi put it on Twitter: every geek has just lost their favorite grandfather. William Shatner tweeted that he’d loved Leonard Nimoy as a brother. My friends began expressing their sorrow, sharing their memories, their pictures, their stories. Every time I’d pull myself together, I’d read another tribute and I’d start tearing up again.

Leonard Nimoy brought Mr. Spock to life and made him the iconic character he became. He wasn’t always comfortable with being so closely associated with the role (hence the book: I am not Spock) but he came to embrace the role of Spock as being part of his legacy (hence the book: I am Spock) later on. He portrayed the character with a subtly that was the perfect counterpoint to the more bombastic style of Shatner’s Kirk. In fact, the on-screen chemistry between Nimoy, Shatner, and DeForrest Kelley was part of what made Star Trek resonate to such a degree with so many people for so many years. And though other people will play the role, it was Leonard Nimoy who first breathed life into a writer’s words and a creator’s vision, and made Spock unforgettable. He is the reason why other people will continue to play the role. Spock will live on.

I think perhaps this letter Nimoy wrote to a young fan in 1968, bullied for being biracial, shows best who Leonard Nimoy was and how much Spock has meant to so many throughout the years.

Yep, Crying again.

I’ll leave you with Nathan Fillion’s words, tweeted this afternoon:

“I have been, and always shall be, your fan.”

Goodbye, Leonard Nimoy. Your legacy will live on as long as even one person remembers Spock. Live long and prosper, Mr. Spock.

 

 

New Release & Giveaway for Felice Stevens: Memories of the Heart

Title: Memories of the Heart
Author: Felice Stevens
Genre: Adult, Gay Romance
Release Date: February 12, 2015
Ruthless, Controlling, A Loner. All words used to describe Dr. Micah Steinberg by the hospital staff for their next head of surgery. When a letter arrives from his grandmother’s friend at the assisted living facility, his orderly world tilts dangerously out of control.
Josh Rosen had everything until it was revealed much of his world was a lie. Forced to re-evaluate his life, Josh gives up his career and returns home to New York City to care for his beloved grandmother. What Josh didn’t figure on was an attraction to a man who on the surface, appears to be exactly like the life Josh chose to leave behind.
As Micah struggles with the reality of his grandmother’s illness, the bond they share deepens, as Josh helps Micah heal, then open his heart. Micah discovers there is more to life than work, control and success. Josh is in deep but has yet to tell Micah who he really is.
When the fight for the hospital’s head of surgery turns ugly, Josh’s past and present collide. Micah must let go of the past and accept who he is, if his life is going to move forward.
Life is full of surprises, and as both Micah and Josh learn, love can happen whether you plan for it or not.
I have always been a romantic at heart. I believe that while life is tough, there is always a happy ending just around the corner. I started reading traditional historical romances when I was a teenager, then life and law school got in the way. It wasn’t until I picked up a copy of Bertrice Small and became swept away to Queen Elizabeth’s court that my interest in romance novels became renewed.
But somewhere along the way, my tastes shifted. While I still enjoys a juicy Historical romance, I began experimenting with newer, more cutting edge genres and discovered the world of Male/Male romance. Once I picked up her first, I became so enamored of the authors, the character-driven stories and the overwhelming emotion of the books, I knew I wanted to write my own.
I live in New York City with my husband and two children and hopefully soon a cat of my own. My day begins with a lot of caffeine and ends with a glass or two of red wine. I practice law but daydream of a time when I can sit by a beach somewhere and write beautiful stories of men falling in love. Although there is bound to be angst along the way, a Happily Ever After is always guaranteed.
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Release Day & Giveaway for Anna Butler’s: The Gilded Scarab!

square-scarabOh, I am so excited to be able to share this with you! Today, Anna Butler has a new release with Dreamspinner Press: The Gilded Scarab is now available! I can’t tell you how much I’ve been looking forward to sharing this book with you. I had the privilege of beta reading this story before its submission, and oh! There is so much to love! Steampunk! Political intrigue! Egyptology! And everyone’s new favorite book boyfriend: Rafe Lancaster, former pilot for His Majesty, the Queen, now grounded and looking to make his way in the world, without falling into the clutches of his family’s power struggles.

If you love Elizabeth Peters’s Amelia Peabody mysteries and smokin’ hot M/M romance, you’re going to love The Gilded Scarab! Without any further ado, here’s Anna!

BLOG POST TITLE: Hypocondriack Winds

When Rafe Lancaster buys Pearse’s Coffeehouse in 1900, he has no idea of the long history of coffee, or the influence it’s had in shaping the English nation. He’s an educated man, but his interest in coffee has always been in taste and quality, not the culture of coffee. But Rafe’s also intelligent, curious, whimsical. While it’s not mentioned in The Gilded Scarab, I’m pretty sure that as soon as he bought the coffeehouse, and in between learning how to make the best cup of coffee a man can buy, Rafe did a little research. I like to think that he came across this absolute gem of an advert for coffee from 1652, and, just for a moment, wished that he hadn’t renamed the coffeehouse Lancaster’s Luck, but instead had thought of calling it ‘Hypocondriack Winds’…
GSHypochondriackThe Vertue of the COFFEE Drink.
First publiquely made and sold in England, by Pasqua Rosée.
THE Grain or Berry called Coffee, groweth upon little Trees, only in the Deserts of Arabia.
It is brought from thence, and drunk generally throughout all the Grand Seigniors Dominions.
It is a simple innocent thing, composed into a drink, by being dryed in an Oven, and ground to Powder, and boiled up with Spring water, and about half a pint of it to be drunk, fasting an hour before and not Eating an hour after, and to be taken as hot as possibly can be endured; the which will never fetch the skin off the mouth, or raise any Blisters, by reason of that Heat.
The Turks drink at meals and other times, is usually Water, and their Dyet consists much of Fruit, the Crudities whereof are very much corrected by this Drink.
The quality of this Drink is cold and Dry; and though it be a Dryer, yet it neither heats, nor inflames more than hot Posset.
It forcloseth the Orifice of the Stomack, and fortifies the heat with- [missing text] its very good to help digestion, and therefore of great use to be [missing text] bout 3 or 4 a Clock afternoon, as well as in the morning.
[missing text] quickens the Spirits, and makes the Heart Lightsome.
[missing text]is good against sore Eys, and the better if you hold your Head o’er it, and take in the Steem that way.
It supresseth Fumes exceedingly, and therefore good against the Head-ach, and will very much stop any Defluxion of Rheumas, that distil from the Head upon the Stomach, and so prevent and help Consumptions and the Cough of the Lungs.
It is excellent to prevent and cure the Dropsy, Gout, and Scurvy.
It is known by experience to be better then any other Drying Drink for People in years, or Children that have any running humors upon them, as the Kings Evil. &c.
It is very good to prevent Mis-carryings in Child-bearing Women.
It is a most excellent Remedy against the Spleen, Hypocondriack Winds, or the like.
It will prevent Drowsiness, and make one fit for Busines, if one have occasion to Watch, and therefore you are not to drink of it after Supper, unless you intend to be watchful, for it will hinder sleep for 3 or 4 hours.
It is observed that in Turkey, where this is generally drunk, that they are not troubled with the Stone, Gout, Dropsie, or Scurvy, and that their Skins are exceeding cleer and white.
It is neither Laxative nor Restringent.

Made and Sold in St. Michaels Alley in Cornhill, by Pasqua Rosee, at the Signe of his own Head.

Delightful, isn’t it? No wonder Rafe found coffee so fascinating! Now it would please Rafe if you would go and make yourself a cup of coffee, remind yourself that your hypochondriack winds are quite safe and that any defluxion of your rheumas is quite unlikely, and join him in The Gilded Scarab of an hour or two of love and adventure.

Happy drinking!

BLURB GildedScarab[The]FS

When Captain Rafe Lancaster is invalided out of the Britannic Imperium’s Aero Corps after crashing his aerofighter during the Second Boer War, his eyesight is damaged permanently, and his career as a fighter pilot is over. Returning to Londinium in late November 1899, he’s lost the skies he loved, has no place in a society ruled by an elite oligarchy of powerful Houses, and is hard up, homeless, and in desperate need of a new direction in life.

Everything changes when he buys a coffeehouse near the Britannic Imperium Museum in Bloomsbury, the haunt of Aegyptologists. For the first time in years, Rafe is free to be himself. In a city powered by luminiferous aether and phlogiston, and where powerful men use House assassins to target their rivals, Rafe must navigate dangerous politics, deal with a jealous and possessive ex-lover, learn to make the best coffee in Londinium, and fend off murder and kidnap attempts before he can find happiness with the man he loves.

(Cover by Reese Dante)

EXCERPT

MY TRAINING at the coffeehouse went on apace. Some things were more easily learned than others. Mr. Pearse gave me ungrudging approval for my skills in making the various brews—he said I had a neat hand with the espresso machine and the slow-drip apparatus, and mixed the various coffee and milk combinations with confidence—but he was outraged (horrified? pitying? all three?) when he realized I had been planning to buy my coffee ready roasted. Perhaps he was all three, but outrage certainly won the day.

“No,” said Mr. Pearse with decision. “You are not.”
“I’ll have to—”

“No, Rafe.”

“But I don’t know how to work that thing back there—”

The old man pulled down the blind and put up the “closed” sign, then herded me into the back rooms. “You’ll learn.”

“But—”

“No, Rafe,” repeated Mr. Pearse, and I felt all too like a puppy in danger from a rolled-up newspaper. I put my hand over my nose, just in case. “This is important. You want to be better than Philtre Coffee, don’t you? I have no doubt they buy their coffee ready roasted and ground.”

The scorn stung. I couldn’t argue with that. Protests were a waste of breath. So I laughed and gave myself up to the arcane mysteries of roasting green coffee beans.

It astonished me that so far I’d overlooked the roaster. Perhaps my damaged eyesight was worse than I realized, because the damn thing should have been impossible to miss. It filled half the back storeroom with its brooding, massive bulk, a chunk of black cast iron, big as an aerocarrier, with brass hinges and decorative plates and a furnace beneath that looked like something Lucifer himself would covet. But despite its bulk, it was a thing of quirky beauty, from the polished hopper at the top to the enameled cooling tray at the bottom. The best bit was the huge brass handle on the drop door—no plain knob, but a beetle with a blunt rounded head, wing cases opening and gossamer wings, made from the finest of polished brass wires, unfurling to lift it from bright brassy flames.

Another Aegyptian beetle, a bigger and brighter version of the one Daniel had given me. The coincidence made me laugh. I appeared doomed to be surrounded by dung beetles! But for all that, the roaster impressed me. “Good God, Mr. Pearse! How old is it?”

“I have no idea,” confessed my mentor. “It was here when I bought the business, more than fifteen years ago, and it was old then.”

“Old? It belongs across the road in the museum! It’s ancient.” I traced a hand over the beetle’s rounded head. “You know, it looks like it needs to be coaxed into life with kindling and prayer before it works its way up to consume logs, entire trees, and the odd martyr.”

Mr. Pearse laughed. “Do you feel the need for holiness and martyrdom, my boy?”

“Not I! I’m not martyr material. Is it as fuel-hungry and temperamental as it looks?”

Mr. Pearse copied my gesture of caressing the beetle handle. He had an odd smile on his face. “It’s obsolete, really. A sensible man would take it out and use the space for storage or something.”

Something in my chest contracted a little. The old man was going to miss this place. He was going to miss it badly.

I put my hand over his. “Just as well neither of us ever claimed to be sensible. Show me how it works.”

He grinned and patted my hand with his free one. “You’re very good to indulge an old man so, Rafe. But once you’ve seen it for yourself, you’ll understand.”
He was right. Within a day or two, I understood why buying preroasted coffee from a supplier would not do. Not merely intellectually understood it, but viscerally and emotionally. It was fascinating. It was science and art, all wrapped up together. I freely admit I went into it a skeptic, but I was astonished to find how much it interested me. Mr. Pearse delayed his retirement for another week until he was quite satisfied I could handle it, although, as he said, it would take years for me to be an artist with the roaster.

I laughed. “I’m content to master the basics for now, sir. I’ll allow greatness to creep up on me, unawares.”

Because, of course, it would.

WHERE TO BUY

The Gilded Scarab is available at:

Dreamspinner as an ebook and in paperback.

All Romance as an ebook

GIVEAWAY

Comment here and one person chosen at complete close-eyes-stick-a-pin-in-it random will get their choice of a little pack of Gilded Scarab or Gyrfalcon loot, a free copy of FlashWired (a gay mainstream sci-fi novella) and a entry in a rafflecopter to win an Amazon gift card.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Come over to the Dreamspinner Facebook page on Tuesday 17th 11am EST (4pm GMT) and get the chance to win a Gilded Scarab coffee travel mug.

Go on from there to Rainbow Book Reviews Facebook page on Tuesday 17th at 5pm EST (that’s 10pm GMT) to talk about both Gilded Scarab and my other new release, Gyrfalcon, and get the chance to win a Gilded Scarab or a Gyrfalcon iPad cover.

Come over to Wilde City on Facebook, the 18 February, for the Gyrfalcon launch to and you might just be the lucky person to win a rocket ship pen (it makes landing noises! How is that not the most desirable thing on the planet?)

ABOUT ANNA

Anna Butler was a communications specialist for many years, working in UK government departments on everything from marketing employment schemes to running an internal TV service. She now spends her time indulging her love of old-school science fiction. She lives in the ethnic and cultural melting pot of East London with her husband and the Deputy Editor, aka Molly the cockapoo.

Find Anna:

Website and Blog

Facebook

The Butler’s Pantry (Facebook Group)

Pinterest

Twitter

 

 

Release Day Post & Giveaway: Memories of the Heart by Felice Stevens

Hello! Everyone give a nice welcome to Felice Stevens as she is celebrating the release of Memories of the Heart!

Title: Memories of the Heart
Author: Felice Stevens
Genre: Adult, Gay Romance
Release Date: February 12, 2015
Ruthless, Controlling, A Loner. All words used to describe Dr. Micah Steinberg by the hospital staff for their next head of surgery. When a letter arrives from his grandmother’s friend at the assisted living facility, his orderly world tilts dangerously out of control.
Josh Rosen had everything until it was revealed much of his world was a lie. Forced to re-evaluate his life, Josh gives up his career and returns home to New York City to care for his beloved grandmother. What Josh didn’t figure on was an attraction to a man who on the surface, appears to be exactly like the life Josh chose to leave behind.
As Micah struggles with the reality of his grandmother’s illness, the bond they share deepens, as Josh helps Micah heal, then open his heart. Micah discovers there is more to life than work, control and success. Josh is in deep but has yet to tell Micah who he really is.
When the fight for the hospital’s head of surgery turns ugly, Josh’s past and present collide. Micah must let go of the past and accept who he is, if his life is going to move forward.
Life is full of surprises, and as both Micah and Josh learn, love can happen whether you plan for it or not.
I have always been a romantic at heart. I believe that while life is tough, there is always a happy ending just around the corner. I started reading traditional historical romances when I was a teenager, then life and law school got in the way. It wasn’t until I picked up a copy of Bertrice Small and became swept away to Queen Elizabeth’s court that my interest in romance novels became renewed.
But somewhere along the way, my tastes shifted. While I still enjoys a juicy Historical romance, I began experimenting with newer, more cutting edge genres and discovered the world of Male/Male romance. Once I picked up her first, I became so enamored of the authors, the character-driven stories and the overwhelming emotion of the books, I knew I wanted to write my own.
I live in New York City with my husband and two children and hopefully soon a cat of my own. My day begins with a lot of caffeine and ends with a glass or two of red wine. I practice law but daydream of a time when I can sit by a beach somewhere and write beautiful stories of men falling in love. Although there is bound to be angst along the way, a Happily Ever After is always guaranteed.
HOSTED BY:

Taking Up the Reins…

K headshot - CopyTight financial circumstances forced me to make some tough decisions nearly a year ago. After a lifetime of riding horses, I had to move my mare to a less expensive boarding situation.

“Less expensive” meant moving her from a facility that had multiple arenas, where I could ride any time of the day or night, during all weather conditions, to pasture board at a private farm where, if I chose to ride, it would be across open fields on the property. That fact right there severely cut into the time I could ride. When you work long hours, having access to an indoor arena means that you can ride after dark, or during inclement weather, provided you haul your ass out to the barn.

Young KWhile I could still ride on occasion, I found myself riding less and less. In part because there were so few days in which I could make it out there during daylight, when it wasn’t too hot or too cold, when the ground wasn’t too hard or too soft. In part because I’d bred my mare specifically for competition. While I’d reconciled myself to giving up competition several years ago when she developed arthritis in her hocks (to this day, I’m convinced it was as a result of being slung upside down by her legs on a hoist to be carried into emergency colic surgery–something they no longer do with surgical cases in horses), I confess, my mare isn’t a quiet kind of trail riding horse. At almost 20 years of age, she is still quite hot. She has that spark, that flare, that inner fire that made her an awesome competition horse. Unfortunately, it makes her a less than comfortable Sunday afternoon ride when all you want to do is putz around the property.

Autumn Kenya - CopyTo be honest, as little as I am riding these days, getting on her isn’t smart. I either need a dead quiet trail horse, or I need to ride my own mare enough that she gets over the excitement of being taken away from her herd mates and ridden around the property. Since getting another horse isn’t an option, I’m stuck with making what I have work. I’ve been given the choice of riding another horse at the same retirement farm, one that is by nature quieter than my own mare, but I know my horse. I’ve been riding her for nearly twenty years now. Good or bad, I’d rather be on her than a green-broke horse I know nothing about.

You have to understand, too, that this horse in many ways represents the child I never had. She has almost died on three separate occasions over the last 20 years as well. Every day we have together is a gift. Despite the fact my life would be easier if she was the kind of horse you could ignore for months on end and then just climb aboard, I wouldn’t change a single thing about her.

Jumping KI did my best to be smart about making a not-so-smart choice today. I pulled out my old eventing vest to wear while I rode, pleased to find that it still fit even though I haven’t worn it in years. We jokingly refer to the vest as ‘body bags’ around the barn; today I felt the nickname might be more appropriate than usual. I also called my boyfriend and told him what I was going to do–and gave him a time by which, if he hadn’t heard from me, he should come out and look for my body. Then, too, I lunged my mare before getting on her, letting her gallop in a controlled circle to blow the stink off her before asking her to settle down and do a specific routine; one we’ve been doing for years. If she couldn’t wrap her mind around the task I was asking her to do, I wasn’t going to get on her.

Aside from how herd-bound she’d become in the time she’d been living with the old horse retirement group, the day went better than expected. She was lit up at first, but due to the unseasonably warm day and her relative unfitness, she rapidly decided that running in circles was pointless. It was odd, too, but as soon as she began galloping on the lunge line, I thought, I have this.

I might not have the best riding skills in the world–in fact, I’ve spent much of my life bemoaning the fact that I am not that talented a horsewoman–however, the fact remains that I hold the record at our barn for lunging difficult horses. Once I was working an off-the-track racehorse who went berserk and began galloping madly–and I held on to him, spinning in circles and playing him like the marlin in Hemmingway’s The Old Man and the Sea until he finally tired out and gave up–over forty minutes of determined not letting go because if I had, the horse would have learned he could pull away from a human. So when my mare started her mad dash in circles on the end of the lunge line in the middle of an open field, a part of me grinned and settled in for the battle. As expected, she soon tired of the fight, even as her galloping never threatened to be completely out of control. I know my mare. I know while she can get lit up, there is not a malicious or mean bone in her entire body.

Goldeneye - CopyI can’t explain why it was important to me to get on her while no one else was around. I felt the need to prove to myself I could still do this. There was a time in my life when I was the one who got on the ‘bad’ horses. I rode the horses no one else would because I wanted to ride so badly and I didn’t have a horse of my own. I rode despite living with chronic pain post car-accident, the kind that knifes through you and makes you cry every time you take a deep breath. I rode when I was told that I had no business being on a horse, and I should never bother getting on another horse again.

Ridge top viewThough we are no longer able to compete, though we are reduced to meandering around wide open fields, getting on my mare today was a major achievement. I silenced the Internal Critic, the one who constantly tells me that everything is all downhill from here on out and that my life from now on is a series of things I must give up. I conquered my fear of getting hurt, something that has become a bigger factor as I’ve gotten older, and contemplate just how much it would ruin my life if I got injured while riding. I rode on my own, too, without relying on friends to come out and ride with me, effectively limiting any future attempts to times when they could join me. I know now that if I do this regularly, at least once a week, it will get easier. My mare will get used to the demands I am making, and I will be able to ride further afield, eventually going out of sight of the herd as she learns to take it in stride. While it is not the same kind of riding we used to do, where everything had a focus and purpose, it is still riding, and that makes my heart sing.  Not to mention, the views are spectacular. :-)

Most of all, though, I’ve learned that I am the one who sets limits on myself. I am frequently guilty of writing myself off long before those limits are actually reached. With nearly every aspect of my life, I tend to mourn the losses well before the time they actually occur. I hear myself saying that this will be the last horse, the last big dog, the last time I do whatever–but the truth of the matter is that it will only be the ‘last’ if I decide it will be so.

Today, I took up the reins and found the courage to say, “Not yet. Today, I will ride.”

I might pay for it tomorrow with sore muscles and a pissed-off back, but it will be worth every minute of discomfort because today, I rode my mare.