Love Holiday Stories? Here’s a Holiday Story Link List!

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holidayhouseswap_fbbanner_dspI don’t know about you, but I love holiday stories and movies. Maybe it’s because my grandparents always made a big deal out of the holidays. We had special foods we didn’t have at any other time of year. We gathered together as one big family, sharing gifts, watching old movies, and visiting relatives we never saw at any other time. My grandmother’s house was decorated with ornaments made and purchased throughout the years, and seeing them again was like meeting up with old friends. I remember these days as being magical.

I don’t have as much time for the holidays any longer. Our families are scattered all over the country. We seldom get much time off. Money is frequently too tight for travel or buying much in the way of gifts. I almost never decorate, send cards out, or bake cookies any more.

christmas-1524357-1279x1705But I still love the magic of the holidays. I adore a good holiday story. I love watching the old holiday specials, like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, or How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I love the old movies, like It’s a Wonderful Life and Holiday Inn. It wouldn’t be the holidays to me without reading or watching A Christmas Carol in some form–personally, the Muppet version is my favorite!

And I love, love, LOVE holiday stories! I got hooked at an early age on those annual anthologies that would come out with Regency or Victorian settings. Or contemporary stories where the main characters were snowbound or somehow stranded for the holidays–and wound up falling in love. I’d starting buying them in October and eat them up with a spoon–still enjoying them in the cold, dreary days of January and February! So it’s little wonder I decided to write a holiday story myself this year–in fact, it’s more amazing I haven’t done it before!

To celebrate the release of Holiday House Swap (Dec 21, from Dreamspinner Press), I thought it would be fun to ask people to share their holiday stories with me, past or present. This is by no means a complete list, nor have I read everything on it myself–but I have to say, my wish list for Christmas just got much bigger! It seems as though this list is all M/M romance, but it’s open to all genres–just leave a link to your story in the comments! If your story doesn’t have a happy ending though, please warn for that–more than any other kind of romance, holiday stories beg for happy endings, don’t you think?

So here you go–enjoy! Be sure to share with others, and if you’re an author who has a holiday story out (no matter if recently or not), be sure to leave your story link in the comments! Here we are, listed by author surname in alphabetical order (covers chosen at random):

Wrapped Together (Portland Heat) by Annabeth Albert

If Only in My Dreams by Keira Andrews

on-wings-of-songOn Wings of Song by Anne Barwell

The Holiday Hoax by Skylar Cates

He’s Behind You by Rebecca Cohen

In From the Cold by Shae Connor

Of Holiday Spirits, Wake-Up Calls, and Happily Ever Afters By Shae Connor

Sharing Christmas by Shae Connor

The Half-Life of Pumpkin Pie (from Butt Babes in Boyland) by Shae Connor

glasstidings_500x750Glass Tidings by Amy Jo Cousins

Santa Baby (Minnesota Christmas Book 4) by Heidi Cullinan

A Prairie Dog’s Love Song by Eli Easton

Merry Christmas, Mr. Miggles by Eli Easton

 

 

 

o-the-christmas-wagerThe Christmas Wager by Jamie Fessenden

When Love Flue In by Lillian Francis

A Christmas Kiss by Annabelle Jacobs

Tis the Season by Alex Jane

Christmas Kitsch by Amy Lane

So This Is Christmas (Adrien English Mysteries) by Josh Lanyon

 

holidayhouseswapfs_v2Holiday House Swap by Sarah Madison (wait, that’s ME!)

The Wrong Kind of Angel by Ruby Moone

Lit Up by Devyn Morgan

Twinkle, Twinkle by Josephine Myles

A Family for Christmas by Jay Northcote

Cold Feet by Jay Northcote

What Happens at Christmas by Jay Northcote

Matches by Rick R. Reed

Analog to Digital by Posy Roberts (Advent Calendar)

Feathers from the Sky by Posy Roberts

Strawberries in the Snow by Kate Pavelle and Olivette Devaux

fox-caperDetective Fox and the Christmas Caper by Isobel Starling ON SALE DEC 1-2 FOR ONLY .99 CENTS!

Fred and Ginger by Isobel Starling

Christmas on Adelaide Road by Helena Stone (FREE)

Falling Snow on Snow by Lou Sylvre

Teddy Bears (2016 Advent Calendar – Bah Humbug) by Brandon Witt

 

Woman riding horse on snowy path

Woman riding horse on snowy path

 

I’m sure there are more stories out there–I just haven’t found them yet. Be sure to rec your own holiday stories, past or present, in the comments below! Happy Holidays!

 

CyberMonday sales and a Holiday Giveaway!

holidayhouseswapfs_v2Good news–you can get most of my titles for some great discounts today only!

Dreamspinner’s Thanksgiving Weekend sale winds down at midnight EST–but until then, you can get all my Dreamspinner titles for 35% off, including pre-orders on the fun Christmas story, Holiday House Swap!

All Romance eBooks is having a 50% rebate on many of my titles today only, including the bestseller, Fool’s Gold!

And I’m holding a contest until Dec 1st, inviting readers to share with us what says “holidays” to them, in order to be entered for an e-book from my backlist.

Authors: I’m compiling a list of holiday stories to be posted in the first week of December so share your links with us here to get on the list! I’ll be checking it twice (heh-heh) and posting the master list this coming weekend. If you love holiday stories as much as I do, you’ll wan to check this out!

How can you resist a sale! I’m a firm believer in the rule that says every time you buy gifts for other people, you should get a little something for yourself. Never heard of that rule? Well, you should follow it anyway. Besides, books make great Christmas gifts!

blog-hop-graphicI’ve also got a fab book tour coming up in December for Holiday House Swap, and I’ll be participating in Divine Magazine’s Holiday Blog Hop too! Definitely the ‘most wonderful time of the year’ around here. Be sure to stay tuned and join in all the fun and great prizes, too!

Holiday House Swap Now Available for Pre-order on Sale!

holidayhouseswap_fbbanner_dspWhoo-hoo! I am SO excited to be able to announce this: my Christmas story, Holiday House Swap, is now available for pre-order from Dreamspinner Press! Best of all, if you order it now until 11/28, you can snag a copy on sale! In fact, Dreamspinner‘s entire store is on sale until Monday, 11/28! That includes every DSP title I’ve written!

Seriously, I am such a sucker for holiday romances, it’s not funny. I love everything about them: the circumstances that force strangers or old acquaintances into closer interaction, the way the holiday spirit changes attitudes and heals past wounds. I love stories about people who find themselves by falling in love. I adore stories in which snow is softly falling outside and there is a blazing fire in the hearth, and you just know those two characters will be holding hands before the night is over.

It’s funny because we aren’t much on celebrating the holidays around here. Most of my family works in some sort of service profession that frequently has us on call. Celebrating Christmas or Thanksgiving often entails a delay while we wait to see if everyone can gather, and many times, the pressure of work has us deciding to forgo gift-giving or massive baking. Lord knows, it’s been years since I decorated. Perhaps that’s why I love holiday stories so much.

In my fantasy, there is time for families to come together and for past hurts to be resolved. The kitchen is magically stocked and every dish turned out just right. It always snows Christmas Eve, but not so much as to make travel dangerous (unless of course, you want to be snowed in with a loved one). And of course, you know exactly what to get every person on your list to make each and everyone of them smile.

This year, I’m determined to find my holiday spirit, the one that’s been sulking the past few years. I’m going to put up a few lights. I’m going to bake snickerdoodles, oatmeal butterscotch cookies, and sausage balls. I’m going to watch all my old favorite holiday movies: The Muppet Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life, The Bishop’s Wife, and Christmas in Connecticut. And I want to read ALL the best holiday stories–any genre, you name it (though I crave Regencies at this time of year, so sue me).

So to celebrate the upcoming release, I’m asking you guys to leave me a comment telling me the ONE THING that says ‘holidays’ to you. Name that movie or book you always have to watch or read. Your favorite Christmas song. Your fondest memory. Include your email address if you want to be entered into the running for a free story from my backlist. Authors: if you want to pimp your own holiday story–have at it! I want to hear about it!

Speaking of free stories, if you sign up for my newsletter, you’ll get an exclusive epilogue to Fool’s Gold (sometime after the first of the year–I’m behind getting my newsletter out!), as well as other free stories from time to time.

If you’re not ready to place an order for Holiday House Swap, but you want to remember it for later, you can add it to your TBR list on Goodreads!

holidayhouseswapfs_v2

Holiday House Swap: Reclusive writer Noah Kinley is facing a dilemma: how to confess to the world he’s really the author of a best-selling romance series. For years, his friend Julie has been the face of his brand, but she wants her life back now. Fast running out of ideas for his popular series, Noah wants to break out into other genres. Not that he’s writing much of anything at the moment anyway, thanks to paralyzing writer’s block. With his publisher breathing down his neck for the next installment, he hopes a change of scene will get his writer’s juices flowing again. Desperate enough to try anything, during the holidays Noah swaps his isolated cabin in the woods for a gentrified horse farm.

USAF Major Connor Harrison has chosen forced retirement over facing charges for an unauthorized mission to rescue a buddy from behind enemy lines. No one expects him home for the holidays, and he certainly didn’t anticipate finding a stranger in his house, much less Noah Kinley with his acid tongue and a wry sense of humor that pierces all of Connor’s defenses.

Both men need to figure out what the next chapter in their lives will be—and whether it will include each other.

 

Living with Fear

If you follow me on Twitter, you know I am far more political there than I am anywhere else. You also may have noticed that my Twitter feed looks a bit schizophrenic: I’ve alternated between frothy-mad post-election Tweets, We’re All DOOMED Tweets, and the incongruous inclusion of images of cute puppies and kittens.

Why the flip-flop? Because we are a species are not well-equipped to live with sustained fear.

Bear with me a moment. I don’t often post about politics here, but this is important. It affects us all.

sorrow-and-worry-1434786-1918x1274Most of last week was utterly terrifying to me. I watched in horror as the nation elected not only an Internet Troll, but a narcissistic, racist, fascist, homophobic, misogynistic and completely unqualified person to the highest office in the land. While half the country told me to stop whining and buck up, many others saw the parallels to Hitler (not surprising since the President-elect’s playbook came straight out of Mein Kampf). Too many people have been quick to point out that perhaps it was all an act, and he would temper his statements now that he’s won. You mean like the way he’s moderated his discourse his entire life? I think not.

But by the weekend, I had to calm down. I stopped crying. I went to work. I made unenthusiastic plans for Christmas. Kitten pix crept into my Twitter feed, along with Obama and Biden memes. I wrote a post of encouragement, believing now, more than ever, we need our storytellers. I got offline. I went horseback riding. I ate far more pie, ice cream, and brownies than is probably wise.

When I did go back online, I found fresh, disturbing news. The proposed end of Net Neutrality, a free press, national parks, and Medicare. Plans to make the US a Christian theocracy (which flies in the face of the entire reason this country was founded). People proudly flying Nazi flags. Calls for violence and acts of hatred against women, POC, immigrants, Muslims, and members of the GLBTQ community. The erosion of civil rights. The tight ties our President-elect has with Putin, and evidence Russian hackers interfered with voting. ISIS and the KKK celebrating the election of Trump as President. Trump has thanked Alex Jones for his support–this is the man who reported that the Sandy Hook shootings were faked by President Obama to drum up gun control support. He is promoting his businesses from the .gov website. He is appointing family members to his transition team, and his conflicts of interest are legion and yet no one seems to be able to stop him. And that was just over the weekend.

I recognize I am a privileged person. I’m white, educated, have a good job, and own my own home. Any person who can say, “I went horseback riding this weekend” really shouldn’t have much cause for fear, should they? Well, I do.

Because I am a woman, and the President-elect believes money and power is grounds for sexual assault with impunity.

Because I have family members that are POC.

Because I spent the last eight years climbing out of the economic black hole the Bush administration threw us in, and I know what Trump’s policies will do to the world economy.

Because I fear Trump’s supporters. Those that are not armed and openly targeting the aforementioned list of people in danger, turned a blind eye to Trump’s own statements. And the parallels to Hitler’s rise to power are too many and too frightening to be ignored.

Because I am middle-aged, and already am struggling to pay off medical bills.

Because I don’t know if I’m brave enough to openly fight back.

Because he will now control Congress, the Supreme Court, the NSA, the FBI, the CIA, and the military. Small wonder I believe a military dictatorship is not far off. Laws will be written that will support his power base for decades to come.

Because climate change is real, and we’re already so close to the tipping point that releasing the safeties on regulations terrifies me. It should terrify you too. Along with the EPA, he wants to do away with the FDA. For decades we’ve taken for granted that we can buy a bottle of ketchup and be reasonably sure it won’t kill us. That will not necessarily be the case in the future.

Because this isn’t a debate between left and right but between right and wrong.

Okay. So what do we do about it? Because unchecked, fear cripples and immobilizes.

Deep breath.

First, constant stewing and fretting isn’t constructive in the long run. I can keep sharing angry Tweets (it will probably be hard for me to stop) but face it, his followers aren’t listening. I don’t know what’s going to happen with the electoral college and voting recounts. If by some miracle, the election results are overturned, there WILL be violence on a large scale. If you think the protests against Trump are unprecedented, wait until you see what his supporters will do if the results are overturned.

Chuck Wendig, who writes a kick-ass blog about being a kick-ass writer, penned this excellent post recently: Mourn, Then Get Mad, Then Get Busy. Like him, I find I need to do something to combat fear, otherwise it festers, overwhelms, and cripples.

So here’s are the practical things I’m doing:

  1. Paying off debts. I’ve been doing this all along, but now I have to step it up. That might mean cancelling plans made for mental health, and plans made to promote my work. It will mean I have to pick and choose which organizations I need to financially support, but I must knock these bills down as soon as possible before the economy crashes again.
  2. I will support those organizations I feel most important to protect. Your list might be different from mine, but we should all make a list and contribute. If money is too tight, then volunteer.
  3. I purchased a personal alarm and pepper spray for myself and the boyfriend’s daughters. I will be taking a refresher course in self-defense. Call me crazy, but these are proactive steps I’m taking to help mitigate my fears.
  4. Planting a garden in the spring. I have a couple of acres. It’s high time I made better use of them. Time I weaned myself away from a dependence on processed food as well.
  5. I will keep telling stories. I believe our books, our libraries, our access to the great minds of the past and to stories with hopeful outcomes is one of our best, most powerful weapons
  6. I vote in every election, but now more than ever, it is important to encourage everyone you know to vote. Not just in the ‘big’ elections, but in all of them. We must take back Congress. These people are the ones that make the laws in this land. Don’t want to lose your rights? Vote to protect them.
  7. Allow yourself to laugh. Just because you are posting kitten pics, it doesn’t mean you aren’t still outraged. It just means you’re taking a mental health break. There’s a reason why we love the comic relief moments in action movies.
  8. Stand up for what’s right. Don’t allow bullying to go unchecked. Call the police if it’s warranted. Take video. Upload it to Facebook. Spread news of people stopping acts of malice and hate. Not all of us are physically capable of intervening in certain situations, but that doesn’t mean we walk away from it, either.
  9. Support your local library. NPR. The New York Times. We can’t let everything be run by Rupert Murdoch.
  10. Vote with your wallet. Don’t support organizations that promote hate, discrimination, and so forth. Support those companies that have taken a stand against the same.

One of the reasons I loathe post-apocalyptic novels and programs is that I recognize I would be one of the first casualties of such a societal collapse. Why? Because I don’t believe in arming myself with guns, and I do believe in peace, goodness, and mercy. A friend commented on Facebook this morning that ‘mercy will get you killed.’ I understand the sentiment, believe me I do. But one of the things we must consider in the coming years is what kind of person we want to be.

I keep hearing people say we will survive this. I’m not so sure. I don’t even recognize my country at the moment. But I refuse to spend the rest of my life in fear.

Here. Have a cute kitten pic.

atg-sun-copy

Six Year Celebration and Giveaway!

six-candlesToday marks the six year anniversary of when I published my first major work, Unspeakable Words. I’d submitted the story on a whim to Dreamspinner Press, and had been completely gobsmacked when they accepted it. In fact, I almost snatched it back. I couldn’t believe anyone would want to publish one of my stories! Now, six years later, a quick check on Goodreads says I have 18 works out there–kind of amazing when I consider myself a slow writer. You know, that pesky FT job gets in the way at times. 🙂

By the way, everything is 30% off at Dreamspinner until the end of today!

I’d planned a big celebration, in part because I totally forgot to celebrate the fifth anniversary last year. I confess, I don’t feel much like celebrating right now. I’ve been stunned and horrified by the results of this past election. For about 48 hours, I seriously considered giving up writing because it seemed like a frivolous use of my time in the increasingly hostile and dangerous environment in this country. With the encouragement of friends, and the sound advice of mentors, I decided now, more than ever, we need our storytellers.

But I still didn’t feel much like celebrating.

Yet the sentiments I expressed in that post are meaningless if we don’t take pleasure, peace, and comfort where we can find them. Switching off the news to watch kittens play doesn’t mean you aren’t outraged at what’s happening in this country, or terrified for what it means for you and your loved ones. It means you can’t hold sustained fear in your heart, and you need a break from it. If you follow me on Twitter (where I am far more political than anywhere else) you’ll note that my tweets have been flip-flopping between frothing-mad post-election commentary and, well, puppies and kittens. I promise you, I’m not schizophrenic, nor is a saner someone wresting my Twitter account away from me at times.

It’s that now that the shock, grief, and terror have stopped boiling over and are simmering in the background, I have to take stock of my life and plan for what the future will bring. Where to put my time and money. How to not just manage my fear, but harness it. And part of that means celebrating the little things, and continuing to be grateful for what I have.

Such as a cat who tolerantly allows me to dress it in a lobster costume for Halloween.

shrimp-cat-2-halloween-2016Hence, a smaller-than-planned celebration, but a party just the same. For the next seven days, I’m holding a contest here on the website. If you want to play, then post something that makes you happy: a photo of your pets, a link to a funny meme, your favorite, upbeat song or vid on YouTube. Include your contact email, and I’ll put you in the running for your choice of one e-book from my backlist. Enjoy!

The KU Report from Sarah Madison: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Before I launched my last indie published book, I waffled a great deal about whether or not to make it exclusive to Amazon. I first wrote about my concerns here on this blog, and then shared further research over at Author’s Speak. In the end, however, it came down to not having enough practical experience to justify not giving the KDP select program a try–and on July 29th, I launched Fool’s Gold on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited for a 90 day trial.

Fool'sGold-400x600In almost every respect, I handled its release the same way I did any other launch of a new story written in collaboration with a publisher. I talked it up beforehand. Because it’s an Olympic-themed story, I timed its release with the 2016 Rio Games. I did an enthusiastic cover reveal (c’mon, this cover by Reese Dante is simply *gorgeous*, isn’t it?). I promoted it with several social media groups and did a book tour. None of this is any different from how I’ve handled most of my book releases in the last six years.

There are only three things that set this book apart from any other story I’ve written and released:

  1. It’s a contemporary romance. I tend not to write these very often because what I love best is the mix of romance and mystery,  or romance and the paranormal. I love the twist that these elements bring to a romance, as well as the built-in level of conflict such subgenres create. But it’s widely accepted that the straightforward contemporary romance tends to outsell the other subgenres, so yeah. This one was different from my usual fare.
  2. As an indie publisher, I set my own price. As such, I set it well-below the industry standard for books published through a publisher, however, on the advice of several people, I priced it at what seems to be the industry standard for an Amazon published book. Which is to say, almost half of what most e-books run these days.
  3. I published it exclusively through KDP Select for the first 90 days.

The first thing that happened is that Fool’s Gold broke the top 100 in its category on Amazon. It never got much past #60 on this list, but it did make the list and stay there for longer than my usual run. In fact, Fool’s Gold enjoyed top 100 status for almost 30 days before it suddenly crashed–I have come to find out that this is referred to as “falling off the Amazon cliff” and that it happens to nearly everyone at the 30 day mark because Amazon stops promoting your book as heavily then. Subsequent marketing through Amazon got me a modest bump back into the top 100, but it didn’t last long. The second promotion didn’t have any effect at all on sales.

Now, I spoke of my many reservations about going with KDP Select in my previous posts, and in my Author’s Speak post, I shared some real horror stories. But prior to the sudden drop-off in sales, I was delighted with how FG had been doing. I found it nearly impossible to tell how much I was making from the KU side of things though. That may well be my fault–I’m not good at making heads or tails of reports at times. But one of the things that concerned me was the constantly changing TOS as well as the change to being paid by the number of pages read instead of by the number of books downloaded. Someone could download a story through KU and not read it for months. Or they could only read a quarter of it and stop. Kind of discouraging, particularly since it was kind of sketchy as to how Amazon determined how many pages were being read… then came the news that the news Page Flip option, a piece of software introduced for reader convenience, prevents Amazon from accurately recording the number of pages read. You know, the thing they use to pay authors.

I have to say, this new bit of information was enough to make me pull FG from the KDP Select enrollment when its 90 days were up. I now have it available in different formats on multiple sites. However… I just got my royalty statements for this past quarter, and despite the fact I haven’t had a new release with my own publisher this past quarter (heck, not even this past year) my sales were up. WAY up. As in, I must have received a boost from FG being so visible and purchased by so many people–and they enjoyed it enough to check out my backlist.

I’m probably going to continue a hybrid model for the future. I will continue working with my publisher–they provide so many wonderful things that I have to outsource and pay out of pocket to receive as an indie author. But once a year, I think I’m going to self-publish something. Will I enroll in KU again? Not sure. We’ll see if Amazon can work the glitches out. Especially since, in their zeal to prevent people from scamming the system, they seem to keep catching up innocent people in their widespread nets.

If you’re looking for a good summation as to how KU works for authors, I thought this post explained things well.

shrimp-cat-2-halloween-2016And just to show I’m not always so serious, here’s a picture of my cat dressed as a lobster for Halloween. 🙂

Blasty: Fighting Pirates and Illegal Downloads with a Single Click

pirates-bill-davenportBack in June, I posted an open letter in response to the ‘broke reader’ on Facebook who’d asked for weblinks so she could download stories from her favorite authors without paying for them.

The post, Dear Broke Reader: Your Sense of Entitlement is Killing Me, went viral. It’s been shared on Facebook over 10 K times and I got over 100 K hits on the website over a period of a few days–nearly 25 K hits in one day alone. Obviously, this post resonated with a lot of people! I wrote a follow up post as well, you can find it here.

By far and large, the comments were supportive. Many were from fellow authors, also sick and tired of battling illegal file-sharing of their works. There was a lively discussion of semantics, with some comments stating that nothing more than copyright violation was at stake here, and that copyright laws were stupid, therefore, they need not comply with them. There were some who defended their right to continue procure stories in this fashion. Several believed that because there was no ‘real cost’ to producing an ebook, they should all be free anyway. When I pointed out the financial investment it took to produce a finished product–cover art, professional editing, formatting, etc–one person suggested that once these financial outlays had been met, the price of the book should automatically drop to zero. I respectfully suggest they try that argument on their plumber the next time  they have a leak. I’m sure if he has paid off all his tools, he’ll be happy to work for free.

Alone by Cherie/freeimages.com

Alone by Cherie/freeimages.com

I even had one person tell me I must suck as a writer because if I was ‘good enough’ I would be making a living from my writing despite the widespread suctioning off of potential buyers through such illegal downloads. And yes, I heard ALL the arguments about how these readers would never buy my books anyway, so they don’t truly represent lost sales. In fact, I was told I should be happy people were illegally downloading my stories in the sheer volume they were doing because this could potentially introduce me to readers who would then go out and buy all my stories. Hard to see why they would need to do so when someone keeps uploading bundles of four or five of my stories at a time to torrents, but then, I digress.

This post isn’t meant to be a rehash of the reasons I wrote the original posts in the first place. I eventually had to stop responding to the comments on the previous posts–I was spending more time commenting than working on writing projects. But I would like to share with you what I’m doing about it.

I used to use Google Alerts to notify me of anything to do with one of my stories–including reviews as well as pirate sites or uploads to torrents. Sadly, Google Alerts missed a LOT of things, so I stopped relying on them to watch the Internet for me and took it upon myself to do a title search every couple of months or so. I would turn over links to pirate sites to my publisher, but dealing with torrents was much more difficult. They didn’t respond to DCMA notices, and when I contacted them directly, they basically shrugged and smiled.

Then someone showed me this handy little link: Google DCMA Removal Request Form. I began using this, though it was very cumbersome and time-consuming. I’d select a title, hunt down a number of illegal links, and then spend several hours copying and pasting information into the form, jumping through all the necessary hoops to get Google to block the page in a search of my story title. It’s not a perfect system by far: the site is still up and running, and if you already know the site, you can probably find the stories within it, but at least someone googling “Unspeakable Words” won’t immediately come up with 20 sites where they can get this story without paying for it. Because it was such a hassle to do, I confess, I would only do it every few months when I had a big block of time. Haha, you know how rare that is, and I’d rather use it to write the next story, thank you very much.

Even more frustrating was the fact Google frequently questioned my request to remove the links to works in copyright violation, demanding I prove I was the copyright holder. Funny, no one asked the illegal file-sharing site to prove they held the copyright to my work before they uploaded it! The irony here was deliciously bitter.

More recently, I was introduced to Blasty, a service that searches out weblinks associated with your titles, allows you to review them for legitimacy, and then file the DCMA removal request with a single click of a button. It’s still in beta, but when it goes live, you can bet I’ll be on board. Yes, I will happily pay a fee to have this tool at my disposal. I have to tell you, I still spend hours searching for illegal downloads of my stories, but removing the links from web searches is immensely easier now. And while I am disheartened by the numbers of illegal files out there (and I have to grind my teeth at the sites that offer a ‘pro’ download system to their users so they can avoid detection and lawsuits–their words, not mine), at least my battle has gotten easier. Now I can check titles once a week and hopefully spend less time keeping up. Sure, I’m constantly bailing out a leaking boat, but it’s MY leaking boat to bail.

Put in other terms: yes, I know that people are going to continue to illegally share files. Yes, I know I’m fighting a losing battle. But darn it, I don’t have to make it easy for them to obtain my creative works without paying for them. When the average story runs between $4-6 dollars and my publisher runs sales all the time, it doesn’t feel like too much to ask. Try not only getting that cup of Starbucks coffee for free, but then taking it home and sharing it with over 16 K of your BFFs online.

People often ask me where I get this ‘magic number of 16 K’. That was the recorded number of illegal downloads for one of my stories from a single site. Last night, I ‘blasted’ over thirty sites. You do the math, and then tell me that it can’t possibly be affecting my bottom line.

EDIT: Since this post went live this morning, I’ve received 523 alerts from Blasty to verify. FIVE HUNDRED AND TWENTY THREE. *sigh*

Busy, busy: Sales, Deals, and Upcoming Releases from Sarah Madison

Time Turner Melanie Tata: flickr creative commons

Time Turner Melanie Tata: flickr creative commons

Whew! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I could use Hermione’s Time Turner device.

I’ve got so much going on right now, it’s hard to keep up. First: let me share a few limited specials with you:

Dreamspinner Press is currently holding a 25% off sale on all paranormal titles until Oct 31st–which means most of my stories are on sale right now!

Even more exciting, however, is the fact that this weekend only, you can snag a copy of Crying for the Moon for only 99 cents as part of Dreamspinner’s Weekend Reads deal! I do love this tale of Alex and Tate, struggling to find out what ‘normal’ means in a world of vampires, werewolves, and shifters. I’ve been saying for years I intend to write more in that universe, and I do, but see the note above about the Time Turner device.

CryingMoonI definitely want to tell the story of how Nick and Peter met, however, and I have wicked, terrible plans for Tate, too. *rubs hands together with an evil grin*

I’m currently winding up edits on my holiday story with Dreamspinner, called Holiday House Swap. In it, reclusive snarky author Noah Finley battles a professional crisis and writer’s block by arranging a house swap for Christmas, only someone forgot to tell the real owner about it! Major Connor Harrison faced retirement or dishonorable discharge due to his actions to save a buddy overseas–the last thing he expects to find in his house when he returns is a sharp-tempered, wickedly funny writer.

I look forward to being able to share that story with you soon!

I’m also beginning edits on the expanded version of Unspeakable Words. This was the first major story I’d ever released, and as the series has grown over the years, I realized there were things I wanted to delve into deeper detail with the original story. I’m very excited about being able to revisit the beginning of Flynn and Jerry’s story, as well as a relaunch of the series (hopefully after the first of the year)! As soon as I finish these edits, I’ll be writing the final installment in the Sixth Sense series. The entire set is on sale right now with the Dreamspinner Paranormal sale, so if you’ve been thinking about starting the series, you should grab them now!

I’m also working on a short epilogue to Fool’s Gold, available only to those who sign up for my newsletter. There’s still plenty of time to sign up, so be sure to do so if you want the latest updates and exclusive material!

And I’m working on several other stories for different projects at the moment as well–which leads me back to the opening paragraph! Man, I’d love a Time Turner!

 

 

 

 

Book Tour and Giveaway: Tempting Tristan by Melissa Foster

Tempting Tristan (A Sexy Standalone M/M Romance)
Series: Harborside Nights
Author: Melissa Foster
Release Date: October 19, 2016
Tempting Tristan is a stand-alone M/M romance featuring two sexy, hot alphas.
Fresh off the heels of yet another bad relationship, Tristan Brewer is taking a break from men to try and figure out where he keeps going wrong. He knows his biggest fault–he leads with his heart, not his head–and that’s never going to change. But after several introspective weeks, he’s beginning to get a handle on things. That is, until badass heartthrob Alex Wells walks into his bar…
Alex has spent eight years in the Army, months in a hospital bed, and far too long hiding his sexual identity. He’s guilt-ridden, damaged, pissed off, and up for a Silver Star–for the incident that nearly cost him his life, and kept him from his grandmother’s funeral. But all he wants to do is forget his stint with the institution that allows but doesn’t necessarily accept, and live the life he’s always dreamed of.

The chemistry between Tristan and Alex ignites from the moment they meet, and the more time they spend together the hotter the flames become. But the closer Tristan gets, the more Alex’s walls go up, and when the two walk onto a military base, Tristan finds out Alex’s physical scars aren’t the ones that run the deepest.
***
HARBORSIDE NIGHTS is a sexy, hot, and evocatively real series of stand-alone romances that follows a group of friends who have known one another for years as “summer” friends, and now come together after college to build their lives. They’re tough, edgy, and accepting–most of the time. This series is written in the same loving, raw, and emotional voice readers have come to love by New York Times & USA Today bestselling, award-winning author Melissa Foster with LGBT themes.

 

“Melissa Foster is synonymous with sexy, swoony, heartfelt romance!” New York Times Bestseller Lauren Blakely


“With her wonderful characters and resonating emotions, Melissa Foster is a must-read author!” New York Times Bestseller J. Kenner

We step forward at the same time, and he presses his rough hand to my cheek. “I don’t know what kind of pussies you went out with before, but I wanted to fucking claim you in there.”

He slides a hand around my waist, tugging our bodies together. I feel every hard inch of him, and he’s got me so hot I’m sure we’re going to combust.
“I’ve spent almost nine years hiding who I am, and I’m not willing to do it anymore,” he says through clenched teeth. “Not here, where I came to start over. Where I came to live on my terms without the goddamn military hanging over my head.”
“I have no interest in hiding,” I assure him.
“You’re sure? Because I really want to kiss you right now, and I don’t care who sees us.”
I respond by pulling his mouth to mine, my break from men long forgotten. We stumble backward, crashing into the railing, fighting for dominance as we did yesterday morning. The passion between us has a life of its own. My hands claw over his ass, up his back. I want to strip him down and take all of him. I want to discover why he’s so rough and learn what about those shadows that are lurking behind his gorgeous eyes. Instead I take, and give, and take more of the angry kisses. When we finally tear our mouths apart, my body’s still reeling, and we both curse under our breaths.
“Okay?” he pants out.
I nod, knowing if I open my mouth, I want to fuck you, is going to come out.

“Can I ask you something? You don’t have to answer.”


Tristan shrugs. “Have at it.”

“Why were you taking a break? I get that your ex was a prick, but is there more to it?”
He looks down the street, across the street, and then his hand cruises through his hair as it has so often that I’ve already come to expect it when he’s nervous.

“Ian was a prick, but the rest is going to make me sound like a pussy,” he admits.

“I’ve only known you a day, and I already know nothing can make you sound like a pussy.”

He meets my gaze, and his jaw tightens. He lifts his chin and I recognize the struggle between feeling proud and worrying about looking weak. I fight that battle on a daily basis.
“I give away my heart too easily, and I end up getting hurt.”
His eyes never leave mine, and that trust, that confidence, is the sexiest thing I’ve ever seen.
“I was right. Nothing can make you sound like a pussy.” I slide my hand to the hard ridge of his jaw and lean in closer. “I’ve never given my heart away. That makes you braver than me.”
Melissa Foster is a New York Times & USA Today bestselling and award-winning author. She writes sexy and heartwarming contemporary romance, new adult romance (M/F, M/M, F/F), romantic suspense, thrillers, and historical fiction with emotionally compelling characters that stay with you long after you turn the last page. Melissa’s emotional journeys are lovingly erotic and always family oriented. Her books have been recommended by USA Today’s book blog, Hagerstown Magazine, The Patriot, and several other print venues. She is the founder of the World Literary Café. When she’s not writing, Melissa helps authors navigate the publishing industry through her author training programs on Fostering Success.
Melissa has painted and donated several murals to The Hospital for Sick Children in Washington, DC. Her interests include her family, reading, writing, painting, friends, helping others see the positive side of life, and visiting Cape Cod.
Melissa is available to chat with book clubs and welcomes comments and emails from her readers. Visit Melissa on Facebook or her personal website.

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The Number One Rule of Writing: Have Fun!

sorrow-and-worry-1434786-1918x1274I’ve been away from the keyboard for a while. The week before last, I was on vacation, and then I came home with a nasty respiratory bug that has knocked me flat for several days.

As per my norm when I’m ill, I tend to enter a weird shadow zone of ginger ale and crackers, comfort reads and cheesy television shows from the past. I don’t want anything that requires too much concentration. I don’t want anything that is going to blindside me or hurt. I read or watch TV until I doze off, sleep as long as I need (or until one of the dogs wakes me to go out), then get up, get a little something to eat and drink, and do it all over again.

As long as I don’t have to work while I’m sick, more and more these days, I don’t want the cycle of reading and snoozing to end. I am constantly on the go, and sometimes it seems nearly everyone’s needs come before my own. I’ve come to enjoy sick days. Once I get over how much time I’ve wasted being sick, I find I wish I could continue lying on the couch, binge-watching old television shows and reading favorite books.

Not all of the old favorites hold up to the test of time. Sometimes I reach for something I loved as a teenager and wonder what was I thinking when this was a favorite thing of mine. But there’s a common thread through most of my favorite entertainments: they know how to have fun.

Not just outright humorous stories, mind you. I rarely find the typical comedy shows funny. No, what I mean is a story or show that doesn’t take itself too seriously. That knows its premise is ridiculous and doesn’t mind poking fun at it. Bonus points if the *characters* themselves take it seriously–that just adds a delicious layer of irony to the whole process. Even the more serious shows, such as the gritty crime dramas I love, know when to place a ‘silly’ episode in between three or four more intense ones.

And after several days of re-reading and re-watching these old classics, one thing struck me about my current WIPs: I’m not having fun with them.

I’ve started and abandoned four stories in the last year–very unlike me. The first dealt primarily with job burnout, and whoa! Too close to home. I just couldn’t finish it. Not now. Maybe never.

The second is a Regency I’m revamping, adding in more secondary characters and fleshing out the backstory of the MCs. I love Regencies, but this isn’t my period or my forte. I know there are people out there who do this sort of thing better than I will and they already have an audience. Part of me wonders if it even makes sense for me to write this story when it’s not part of my ‘brand’.

The third is a contemporary story in which one of the MCs is a former solider and an amputee. It’s important that I get the details right, which means lots of research. Again, there are people who do this sort of thing better than I do. That’s not to say I’m afraid of hard work, just that again, is it part of my brand? I don’t really know. My ‘brand’ is all over the place, to be honest. I tend to write what I want to write when I want to write it. Perhaps a little more discipline and development of a recognizable brand would be useful.

The fourth is a major departure for me: set in the 1950s and dealing with an agency that investigates paranormal events (you read the part where I said my brand was all over the place, right?). Oh, yes, and instead of male/male romance, it would be more along the lines of a traditional romance, perhaps even with the sex scenes fade-to-black. It’s been so important to me to get the heroine right that it dawned on me the other day that the story has bogged down–and it took being sick and bingeing on my favorite stories of all time to see that I’m not having fun with this, either. I’ve been tossing obstacles at my heroine left and right in order to justify her attitude, and really, the fact she’s a woman in the 1950s who desires to be more than a housewife or secretary is enough of an obstacle right there. At least 25 K of what I’ve written so far needs to be scrapped. And what could be more ridiculous than Ward and June Cleaver meets the X-Files, which is how I refer to this story? I should expand on the wackiness here, not try to dress it up like a serious story. It was a relief figuring this out, let me tell you.

oh-these-photographers-1430111-1600x2400So yeah, first law of writing: have fun. Write what you want to write, not what you think will sell. Cross genres. Hell, mix them up. Don’t take yourself–or your characters so seriously. Sure, do the research (you have to respect the genre and the character) but don’t belabor it to the point of tedium. If it bores you, it will bore your reader as well. Let your wild creative side out to play. Sometimes you have to write 25 K to realize who your character is. Sometimes you have to write 25 K to realize who your character is not. Either way, they aren’t wasted words. Don’t dole out your sentences like each one is a precious heartbeat you can never get back again. Words are more like Doritos. We can make more. We can also trim them when they don’t fit the story we’re trying to tell. So don’t be afraid to be outrageous. You can always ‘tone it down’ in edits. When I look at which of my stories were wildly popular compared to others, they are usually the ones where I let it rip, threw in every trope but the kitchen sink, and in general said, “Yeah, I know this isn’t grand literature, but it’s fun.”

Have more fun with your writing. If you’re having fun, your readers will too. That doesn’t mean you need to turn every story (or piece of art, or whatever your medium is) into a 1930s screwball comedy. Some people find horror fun–I’m not one of them but I’m all for whatever floats your boat and makes you happy. These days, I think we could all use a little more fun in our lives.