Rogue Soldier: Book Tour, Interview & Giveaway with Jamie Lynn Miller

rogue-soldier-banner-smallBefore we get down to business, I totally forgot that Fool’s Gold, my newest release about second chances in the exciting world of competitive sport horses, is on sale in US Amazon outlets for a limited time! The price will start creeping up slowly over time so hurry to get it at the best price possible!

But enough of me–Please welcome Jamie Lynn Miller as she joins us today to talk about her latest release, Rogue Soldier! This is book two of the Shadow Unit series, the followup to Broken Soldier.

 

Thanks for joining us here today, Jamie! Welcome to my blog and thank you for answering my nosy discerning, questions!  First, please tell us a little about yourself and the kinds of stories you like to write. Would you say there is an underlying theme behind your stories?

Thank you so much for having me! Little bit about myself – I’m a 40-something graphic designer who loves my husband, my cats, science fiction, photography and of course, writing.

I would say the underlying theme of my stories is “Hearts and flowers romance with a bit of angst thrown in for good measure”.

But that statement changed pretty drastically with both Broken Soldier and Rogue Soldier. I believe in challenging myself as a writer and taking chances. And that’s what I’ve done here with my Shadow Unit series. These books are dark and gritty, more romantic suspense than contemporary romance. I want people to constantly wonder if Connor and/or Shawn will survive to the end of the book.

It’s a big change for me, and I hope that my regular readers will give this series a chance. Because even though it’s not my usual style, I am, and always will be, the Queen of Happy Endings. I will put my boys through hell, but love and dedication will always put them back together again. So give it a try! You just might like it!

What part of the world do you call home? Can you tell us a little about where you grew up and where you live now?

I’ve lived a pretty boring life in that I was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago and still live there today!

How long have you been writing? Did you write as a child or is it something you developed a passion for later in life?

I’d been writing short stories since I was a kid and I also had two English teachers in high school that really encouraged me. But didn’t get serious about it until the mid-90’s when I started writing fanfic.

What gave you the courage to submit your first story to a publisher?

I got tired of hearing how bad all fanfic was, that fanfic writers had no talent. I took it as a challenge and decided to give going pro a shot. And what do you know, my very first book was accepted to a publisher on my very first try. Take that, fanfic haters!

I see you write M/M fiction. Would you characterize your stories as M/M romance, erotica, or something in between?

My new Shadow Unit series is romantic suspense and the rest of my books are contemporary romance.

What draws you to the M/M genre? Have you written in other genres?

This goes back to my fanfic days as well. I started off writing m/f fic and then by complete accident ended up reading my very first m/m story. To say it was a life changing experience would be an understatement! LOL! My eyes were opened and I jumped ship to the m/m world and have never looked back.

Are you a panster or a plotter?  Do you outline extensively or write your story as you go along?

I’m a big time plotter. My outlines are extensive, like pages long. So that takes up a good chunk of time before I even write the first word of the book. But then because I have done such detailed outlines, the writing of the actual book flows pretty easily after that.

Of the stories you’ve written, which one do you like the most? Which one would you recommend a new reader begin with?

Oh gosh, that’s like choosing your favorite child! LOL! But if I absolutely had to pick I would choose Burnin’ for You. I spent a couple of months in a fire academy class and used that experience to write the book. My firemen have a special place in my heart.

Most authors admit to feeling uncomfortable with the degree of self-promotion necessary to be successful. Are there some aspects of social media and self-promotion that make you more comfortable than others? Are there some you avoid like the plague?

I think the only thing I’m not really comfortable with is approaching reviewers. They make me nervous! Their word can either build me up or knock me down.

How often does your real life experience figure into your story telling? Do you base characters or stories on your actual experiences?

Oh yes, absolutely. It was actually my time spent in various citizen police and fire academy classes that inspired me to write nearly all of my books.

How much do you think that a good blurb and good cover art figure into the success of a story?

A LOT. If you can’t hook people with a few hundred words they won’t click on the BUY button. And a picture’s worth a thousand words, right? So I believe cover art is very important. And this is coming from a graphic designer who’s been doing advertising for over 20 years!

Do you miss your characters when you come to the end of their story? Do you find ways to write sequels for them or do you become entranced with a new set?

I do miss them! I’ve just spent sometimes a couple of months with them non-stop and suddenly they’re not talking in my head or appearing in my dreams. This was especially true with Connor and Shawn and probably why the idea for Rogue Soldier came to me so quickly after finishing Broken Soldier. And also why I’ve already started plotting out Book Three!

What are your writing goals for 2016?

My tag line is “Men in uniform…and out”. So far I’ve written cops, firemen, paramedics and now soldiers. I would like to tackle a Coast Guard book next. I’ve already started scribbling down notes.

 

rogue-cover-final-6x9-150dpiSUMMARY:

Rogue Soldier (Shadow Unit Book 2
)

Shadow Unit may have overturned the illegal arms cartel in Kuala Lumpur, but the harrowing undercover op left emotional scars on Sergeants Shawn Weller and Connor Finley. Slowly, patiently, they piece their partnership back together, closer now than ever before.

But the arrival of Julian Montgomery, Shawn’s former CIA handler and lover, threatens to tear them apart. Julian knows all of Shawn’s secrets as well as the past Shawn has kept hidden from Connor. Now the self-serving Julian wants Shawn back—with the CIA and with him. No one will get in his way. Including Connor.

When the joint Shadow Unit/CIA mission to stop the supplier of a deadly biological weapon goes sideways, Connor is captured, tortured, and used as a human test subject. It’s a race against time to save his life. But who can Shawn trust?

And who has gone rogue?

Missed Shawn and Connor’s earlier adventures? Read BROKEN SOLDIER, available from your favorite retailer.

 

EXCERPT:

Once on the ground floor, Shawn assembled the unit around him, scanning for Connor’s face. Perhaps his comm was just malfunctioning and he didn’t hear Shawn. But he didn’t see his partner anywhere.

“Has anyone seen Finley?” Shawn snapped.

There were headshakes all around and Shawn’s concern intensified with each negative response. Where the fuck was Connor?

“I might have seen something.”

Shawn’s head whipped to the left, to pin Julian with his gaze. “What exactly did you see?” he demanded.

“I was coming down the stairs and saw two of Hamid’s men escaping through the front entrance,” Julian said. “They were dragging a third man between them. I assumed it was another of his men, who was injured. But now that you say Finley is missing… It could’ve been him.”

“And you didn’t think to try and stop them, no matter who the third man was?” Shawn spat, getting up in Julian’s face.

Julian shrugged. “I was too far away and they were nearly out the door,” he replied.

Shawn was furious at Julian’s blasé attitude but wasn’t surprised, since it concerned Connor. He was about to say something else when his comm crackled and MacDonald’s voice cut in. “Shadow One, send sit-rep.”

“Alpha. Shadow Two. We have secured the facility and have several prisoners,” Shawn began. “Shadow One is currently unaccounted for. Request immediate GPS location of his cell phone.”

After a long pause, Liam responded. “Shadow Two, GPS location of Shadow One shows him at your current location. Approximately ten meters to your north.”

Ten meters north would put Connor outside. Shawn set off at a fast jog to the front of the building, his heart starting to beat faster the closer he got to the door. Was Connor lying out there injured, possibly dying? Or being held hostage with a gun to his head?

He burst through the door and froze, his rifle up and at the ready, Mandy and Chloe right behind him. All three began looking in every direction, trying to peer through the darkness of the night. When Connor wasn’t immediately within sight, Shawn turned to Chloe and Mandy. “Spread out,” he told them and headed to the left while Chloe went straight ahead and Mandy to the right.

“Where the fuck are you, Finn?” Shawn muttered, his chest tightening with ever increasing worry as he searched the area, unable to find his partner.

“Shawn! Over here!” Mandy called out over the comm.

Shawn reversed direction and ran to Mandy’s position. She pointed in front of her, brows drawn together in concern.

There, lying on the ground, were Connor’s tactical vest, comm earbud and phone, next to a fresh set of tire tracks.

Shawn felt his heart seize up as he looked out into the dark.

Connor was gone.

 

BUY LINKS:

AMAZON: http://tinyurl.com/jpznqp3

ARe: http://tinyurl.com/zu5fv8w

KOBO: http://tinyurl.com/jb364ck

SCRIBD: http://tinyurl.com/jaevs8t

 

jamie-photo-smallBIO:

Jamie Lynn Miller has been writing fiction since childhood and decided to take the plunge and go pro in 2008, finding to her amazement that people truly enjoyed her love stories. She’s a romantic at heart, and her tales reflect the desire we all have to find “the one,” persevering through trials and heartache for that happy ending.

Jamie has a degree in fine arts and has spent the last twenty years working as a graphic designer, though she’d much rather be writing. She was born in Chicago and still lives there today with her husband and their two furry, four-footed children, er… cats.

If she’s not brainstorming story ideas, you can find Jamie at a sci-fi convention, in front of a furnace doing glass blowing, or on a mat twisted into a yoga pose.

 

CONTACT INFO:

Email: jamielynnmiller@live.com

Blog: http://www.jamielynnm.wordpress.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jamielynn.miller.3

 

GIVEAWAY!

Leave me a comment (AND YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS) for your chance to win a FREE copy of any of my backlist ebooks! Contest ends Saturday, October 1st.

 

Dear Entertainment Industry: A little hope, please?

candle by Q8y_dream Flickr Creative Commons

candle by Q8y_dream Flickr Creative Commons

Sometime toward the end of last year’s television season, I quit watching most of my shows. I work in an incredibly stressful profession. I describe it as life and death in a microcosm every fifteen minutes. I come home at the end of the day totally wiped out, with barely the energy to walk the dogs and cobble together some sort of dinner, which is often the first chance I’ve had all day to sit down and eat a meal.

One of the things I look forward to are my ‘must-see’ television shows, when the BF and I can relax, kick back on the sofa, and watch the next installment of whatever thrilling drama the entertainment industry has to offer.

But toward the end of the last mainstream television season, several things happened at once: many of my favorites went on hiatus or were cancelled. Of those that remained on my watchlist, many had become too intense, too dark for me to enjoy. I realized that 99% of everything I watched was incredibly violent. Storylines went from captivating to grim. Combined with my increasing anxiety over the upcoming elections and what the outcome could mean for the world as a whole, I felt as though I had to stop watching television and movies. At the end of the day, I didn’t need to be devastated by the death of characters or the destruction of everything I loved.

I took a hiatus. I read books. I watched old favorites. Thanks to the wonders of Netflix, I could re-watch old television shows that managed to entertain without nearly destroying me in every episode. I listened to music. I took up meditation.I walked the dogs. I began riding horses again. I wrote stories–a lot of stories. Sometimes when I heard friends discussing their favorite shows around the water cooler or on Facebook, I felt a little left out, but for the most part, I enjoyed my quieter evenings.

As the current fall TV season crept closer, I found myself getting excited about the returning favorites or the new possibilities. I watched a few episodes I missed in order to catch up with the season premieres, and I settled in to watching the first eps of the season.

After two such attempts, I complained to the BF that everything was horribly dysfunctional and dystopian. No one could be trusted. Teams betrayed each other and were broken up. Leaders were replaced by people that were evil and dangerous. Friends were forced to choose sides. Beloved characters were angry and vengeful. And I’m sick of it.

Worse, it’s not fun.

No, seriously, some of the franchises I’ve loved in the past have become so unrelentingly hopeless and dark that I Just. Can’t. Even.

Look, I get it.  We tend to write stories that reflect how we feel, and examine our fears and concerns. The mythology of werewolves is believed to have risen out of a need to explain serial killers. I recently read a study somewhere that suggested certain kinds of fiction arise in certain types of political atmospheres–and surely the rise of dsytopian and zombie apocalyptic fiction is a reflection of how angry–and terrified–so many of us are right now.

Hope: Steven Snodgrass Flickr Creative Commons

Hope: Steven Snodgrass Flickr Creative Commons

But I need hope. I need the possibility of a future that is better than my fears. One of the reasons Star Trek has had such an enduring fandom over the years is because Gene Roddenberry’s vision of our future was more hopeful than nearly every other sci-fi universe out there. In Roddenberry’s universe, we overcame our worst failings and inclinations. We solved the problems of how to feed people and create clean energy and how to embrace diversity without being terrified of it. Star Trek is about sending the best and brightest out as ambassadors for the human race. Sure, they were flawed, but week after week, they got the job done. Better yet, they inspired generations to be the very best human beings they could be, in the hopes that one day, they’d be good enough to be considered for the Enterprise crew.

At the risk of sounding like someone’s cranky old granny, I want that in my entertainment again. Sure, you can give me adversity to overcome–that embodies great storytelling to me. Yes, there must be conflict, otherwise it’s boring. But give me that happily ever after–or happy for now. End with a note of encouragement, a candle lit in the dark against the forces of evil. Maybe you don’t trust your team mates in the beginning because you don’t know them–but show us that trust building over time.

Because otherwise, you could end every story with “Rocks fall. Everyone dies.” And in a world where it seems increasingly likely that this is our future, I want a little fantasy, please.

So give me hope.

 

Galloping Toward the Finish Line

jumping-kSome of you might notice I haven’t been around much lately. I apologize, and want you to know I haven’t forgotten you–I’m just behind on my emails with a lot of catching up to do.

What have I been doing?

Well, I’ve been deep in edits on my upcoming Christmas story called Holiday House Swap. I’m so excited about this one, guys! It’s a fun little story about opposites attract when circumstances throw an in-the-closet writer and a forcibly retired Air Force major into frivolous circumstances. This one’s a feel-good story for the holidays, and should be out from Dreamspinner Press in December.

I’m also working like mad  on the next story–which I *must* finish before the first of the year: the next (and final) installment of The Sixth Sense series. I’m thrilled to announce that the entire series is getting a new look with new covers because I’m releasing an expanded version of the first story, Unspeakable Words! That’s right, Unspeakable Words will be coming out soon with extended scenes and the sorts of details everyone’s been begging for! I can’t tell you how pleased I am to be able to share this information with you!

Fool'sGold-400x600I’m also running a sale on Fool’s Gold soon (as soon as I can set it up). I’ll be offering an epilogue to the story–but it will be available only to those who sign up for my newsletter. I’ll make an additional announcement when I get that in place too! Which reminds me–Fool’s Gold is up for Book of the Week at Love Bytes Reviews! I know it doesn’t stand a chance of winning (I’ve seen the competition and it’s fierce!) but if you’d like to vote for it, the poll is at the link in this paragraph.

And I almost forgot! My monthly blog post is up at Author’s Speak at Rainbow Gate, where I discuss the dangers of comparing yourself to others. This doesn’t apply just to writing–the advice is applicable to everyone! Do drop in, check it out, and tell me what you think.

And work just called me in early… Whew! No wonder I’m distracted and am behind on my correspondence! I promise I’ll catch up soon, though!

Dear Weight Loss Experts: Tell It Like It Is

I had to laugh at this post I ran across this morning: 14 Easy Ways to Lose Weight All Day. I admit, I’m a sucker for these kinds of things. Easy weight loss! Sign me up!

I’m one of those people you probably hated when growing up. For most of my adult life, I’ve been at an ideal weight with little effort on my part. I could eat pretty much whatever I wanted and lived off cheeseburgers, Pepsi, and peanut butter crackers. I didn’t live for food–it was just something I ate when I got hungry. I didn’t even know what cellulite was until I hit my mid-forties. My hair grew so thick and fast, my stylist would jokingly tell me to stop putting Miracle-Gro on it. Lest you think I was one of the popular girls or thought I was the next Cindy Crawford, not true. I hated me too. I’d grown up hearing how homely and unattractive I was, thanks to Coke Bottle Lens glasses and a set of teeth only a gargoyle could love.

The point is, however, when middle-age and changing hormones finally caught up with me, I could no longer eat what I wanted and I hated everything deemed healthy. I’d never had a weight problem before, and so I didn’t know how to cope with the sudden spread. Hence my fascination with fitness magazines and diet information–most of which gets tossed out when said tips include things like eating Greek Yogurt and red peppers as a mid-day snack. BARF.

So, despite knowing better, I checked out the post. I found it full of helpful tips designed for women who live alone and don’t work for a living. Things like: 7 am: Do 2 minutes of jumping jacks, calisthenics, followed by 7:15 am cook a hearty breakfast, and 7:45 am hit the gym for some weight lifting…. I had to laugh because in this magical household, dishes don’t need to be washed and the gym isn’t a 20 minute drive away and there are no critters to feed or kids to put on the bus.

So I thought I’d create my own version of this advice post, with a more realistic outcome.

6:30 am: Hit snooze on the alarm. Because sleep is a goddamned precious commodity that you get very little of these days. You ignore the cat patting your eyeballs to see if you’re awake and hunker down under the blankets for ‘a few more minutes.’

7 am: Look at the clock and jump out of bed cursing. Leap around the room as you find clean clothing and dress in 2 minutes flat while the dogs bark and spin in circles in anticipation of breakfast. Feel good about your adrenaline rush. Remind yourself you’ve pre-made your lunch and that you have time to accomplish all the things you desire to do today.

7:02-7:30 am: Feed all the living creatures in the house except yourself. Walk dogs. Scoop litter boxes. If you leave up the baby gate to the litter box area, you can combine this activity with hip flexor stretches, but be careful not to fall over the gate and injure yourself. Pause to clean up vomit in the living room from the species of your choice.

tired-dont-care-despair-steve-carell-the-office-gif7:45 am: Consider cooking yourself a hearty breakfast but recall you haven’t been to the store yet this week and unless you can make an omelet out of cat food, you’ll have to settle for cereal. Convince yourself cereal is what you really want. Get bowl out of cabinet only to have work text you that they’ve added an extra appointment and now you have to be there a half hour earlier than expected. Swipe some peanut butter on a slice of bread and head out the door. Grab your previously prepared salad and your healthy snacks to take with you, feeling virtuous that you planned ahead.

glazed-doughnuts-recipe10 am: Completely and totally ignore the break room stuffed with baked goods: doughnuts glistening with glazed sugar. Fresh snickerdoodles. Bagels with cream cheese. M&M’s. You can eat your apple when you get a chance. Pat yourself on the back for being so virtuous. Of course, you aren’t going to get a break because you’re double booked this morning, but at least that will keep you out of the break room.

12:20 pm: Stomach growling, you wonder if it is close to lunch time yet. Realize you’re well into your lunch period but won’t be able to leave the building for the much-needed mental break. Eat your salad at your desk, (the first chance you’ve had to sit down all day) shooting surly looks at the constant interruptions to take this call or field this question. Vow you will take your full break tomorrow and actually leave the building.

the-little-shop-of-horrors-giant3 pm: Full-on hangry now. You’re Audrey from the Little Shop of Horrors. Work-stress has used up all your available blood sugar. You take a couple of bites of your apple but get interrupted. When you finally come back, the apple is brown. You say ‘screw it’ and get a doughnut. You stuff the whole thing into your face in a single bite because THAT’S ALL THE TIME YOU HAVE TO EAT IT.

6 pm: You’re just getting home. You now must feed all the living creatures in the house except yourself. You gauge the temperature outside to determine if it is too hot to walk the dogs. You know you must walk them before you eat or it ain’t happening. You love your dogs. If it weren’t for them you’d never get any exercise at all. But there are times when you wish they were cats and scorned the idea of exercise, period.

7 pm: Now suffering from decision fatigue (yes, that’s a real thing), you say SCREW IT and fix too much food for dinner. You try to stay healthy but that’s not what you want. You want meat and potatoes, damn it, with a whopping big dessert and a glass of wine. Hell, you’ll pour the wine right into the dessert. While eating dinner, you catch up on the day’s emails. You know you have a writing deadline but there simply isn’t any brain power left over from the day’s work.

8-10 pm: You watch two episodes of CSI:NY on Netflix, a show you didn’t like when it originally aired but now you’re too fried to give a shit and you don’t want to watch anything you care about.

10:20 pm: You take the dogs out one more time.

tiana-bed-flop10:30 pm: You get ready for bed because SLEEP IS A GODDAMNED PRECIOUS COMMODITY YOU GET VERY LITTLE OF. You pull out all the stops: shut off the electronics a hour before you want to close your eyes, take benadryl, take melatonin, take pain meds. You lie in bed hoping you don’t wake your partner because there is NO position that is even remotely comfortable. An hour later, you’re still awake but you’re hopeful you might fall asleep soon.

12:01 am: The phone rings. You have to get up and deal with the potential work-related emergency. This time, you don’t have to go in, but your chances of falling back asleep now are nil. You take a book out into the living room to read on the couch for a while. You try not to fret over the upcoming elections, climate change, and your own future. Or, if you don’t have a job that puts these kinds of after-hours demands on your life, insert your favorite teenaged family emergency/sick kid crisis here.

Okay, so I’m making some excuses here. But seriously, women’s health magazines–this is my life and I don’t even have children. It discounts those of us working full time jobs (and that seldom means 9-5 these days in the US) while taking care of elderly parents, young children, or both. It ignores the fact that most of us are so over-extended, so stressed, and so tired, there’s only fumes left in the tank. Your articles, while chipper and enthusiastic, aren’t even remotely realistic. I’d like to see a post that addressed some of these things. That’s all I’m asking. 🙂

In other (happier) news, I’m the featured Author of the Month over at the Paranormal Romance Guild–check out my interview and the reviews there!

 

Dear Internet: I Want My Life Back

cell-phone-2-1525544-1280x960Periodically, I decide I need to break up with the Internet.

It usually comes after a week fraught with huge blowups among my circle: meltdowns and high drama, like the exposure of a catfisher or outrage over someone/something that is Absolutely Wrong.

More and more these days, it comes as a result of feeling overwhelmed and anxious about the future of my country and the planet as a whole, especially when we’re constantly bombarded with images and messages that tell us to be afraid, be very afraid.

As Internet Addictions go, I don’t think my case is too bad (though isn’t that what all addicts say?). Sure, my boyfriend jokes about how I reach for my cell phone first thing in the morning, but that’s about a morning ritual of checking messages and my Twitter feed that allows me to spend another ten minutes or so in bed before I have to get up. No, really.

I don’t have Facebook on my phone. I don’t have a tablet. With the exception of Twitter, I don’t check any of my social media platforms on my phone–that waits until I’m seated at the computer.

But I do spend hours every day at the computer, circling social media sites looking for something interesting to read or start a conversation. I get online to ‘catch up’ and ‘unwind’ and the next thing I know, I’ve wasted most of the evening. Would I have been more productive if I’d stayed offline? Hard to say. Probably. But most days I’m so fried when I get home that faffling around on the internet is about all I’m good for.

Earlier in the week, I read this post by social media guru, Kristen Lamb. She talks about the fine balance between maintaining a social media presence online and losing five hours of your life to LOL cat videos. She has some good things to say about the way mindless tech use can kill your muse (not to mention your life in general). I read the post, nodding along, knowing I needed to institute some of the same measures mentioned. My friend Shira Anthony calls her tactics “Ninja Facebooking”, which is to log in, share some information, comment on a few posts, and get out again before the time sink effect kicks in. It’s a smart way of handling things, I think. By the way, she’s got a great new release upcoming up that’s available for pre-order now–Take Two from Dreamspinner Press. You should check it out.

Pokemon HoundsYesterday, while I was out with the dogs for a short run, I almost walked into a couple coming from the opposite direction. I looked up just in time before my muddy dogs and I plowed into them and I was horribly embarrassed that I hadn’t been paying attention. Why had I been so oblivious? Because I’d opened a game on my phone (ostensibly with the purpose of deleting it, only I started playing it instead) and I wasn’t even aware of their approach until it had almost become a social disaster.

Lately, I’ve been noticing just how much time I spend answering emails, sharing posts and tweets, and participating in online conversations… and I seriously believe that I do this far less than the average person. I’ve been noticing how much of the evening is devoted to sitting on the couch beside the boyfriend while we both tickety-tap away on our devices–me on Facebook or Live Journal, and him on Reddit or playing games. Just the other day, I met a man with a toddler who had very little verbal skills, but he was a demon on the smartphone. His little fingers flew over the screen, scrolling through images until he found the video he wanted to watch. The kid probably knew how to work his father’s smartphone better than I know how to use mine. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I don’t know. Perhaps it is a matter of trading one skill set for another, exchanging one form of learning for a new one. However, I can’t help but wonder about the scores of young adults I know with crippling social anxiety, and whether the willingness of the younger generation to put every aspect of their lives online for public scrutiny has anything to do with that.

I met with my critique group this morning, and toward the end of our conversation we began discussing how much online presence writers need today. Where the boundaries are. How much should we share. How much time to spend doing it. That sort of thing. To my surprise, my group members seem to think I’m some social media whiz-bang. We were discussing the success of my latest story, and my friends gave much of the credit to my marketing skills. I had to make the squinty–face at them because I’ve been doing about the same thing as always on the media front–the surprising success of Fool’s Gold was probably due to several factors but I don’t think my ability to ‘work it’ on social media had as much impact on sales as decisions I made on pricing and which platform to offer it in.

Yes, I post to Facebook and Twitter regularly, and I share other people’s posts, too. Yes, I post to the blog semi-regularly, but then I *like* writing blog posts. Nothing has changed in that regard since my previous book was released.

But I agreed with much of what they had to say. It resonated with many of the things I’d been thinking lately.

computer-keyboard-1188763So I sat down here with the firm resolution to write the Internet a Dear John Letter. I wasn’t going to ‘take a break’ because I found being online overwhelming. I wasn’t shutting off my browser so I could finish a WIP. I was going to make a full-fledged declaration that the Internet was bad for me and I needed to be strong and walk away. To take that time and spend it more wisely. To reconnect with the living things in my life on a daily basis. To live my life before I woke up one day and discovered it was over.

And then I read this post by The Bloggess, who put things a little in perspective for me. And I remembered that my online life has allowed me to stay in touch with people I’d never see otherwise. I’ve made friends all over the world. I’ve traveled to meet up with my online friends, too. Hell, I met my boyfriend online, and next month will mark eight years of our being together. We had a blast playing Pokemon Go together at a local street festival a few weeks ago (just wait until he finds out I caught a Pikachu!), too.

Even my critique group, with its bicoastal and international membership, originated out of online communities and we ‘meet’ via Skype. Last weekend, I attended Writer’s Police Academy–an organization I learned about from friends met online–and I met up with fellow authors there. I’ll be posting about my experiences at WPA in the future, but the point is I’m not going to be breaking up with the Internet at all. The Internet and social media aren’t inherently good or bad. They are tools, that’s all. And like any tool, we need to learn how to use them appropriately and with common sense.

I wouldn’t carry a hammer to a wedding (it’s not Game of Thrones, peeps!), nor out horseback riding or to the grocery store. But if I need to fix a fence or replace a board, I’m going to use one. Be smart. Turn off the device from time to time and check out the world around you. Don’t walk into hikers or off cliffs or into bears because you weren’t paying attention. Pay attention. Life is worth it.

Fool’s Gold Nominated in the 2016 Indie Book Awards!

Fool'sGold-400x600It’s been two weeks since the launch of Fool’s Gold, and I’m pleased to say the reception has been outstanding! I knew the subject matter might be a bit of a hard sell for anyone except a die-hard horse lover, but to my delight, most of the reviews have been enthusiastic.

Sales have been strong, the best I’ve ever had for a new story. I’m sort of gobsmacked by that, to be honest. I wasn’t expecting that!

Today I discovered Fool’s Gold has been nominated for the first annual 2016 Indie Book Awards, hosted by Metamorph Publishing. I have no idea who nominated it, but thank you, whoever you are!

Now I have this shiny new badge to show off. 🙂

nominee newestFool’s Gold is available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited.

Dear Church Lady: Why Do You Care What I Read?

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Angry woman: freeimage.com

This post was prompted by an article that was being shared around on Facebook the other day, in which a Christian woman held up romance novels as one of the ‘new’, great evils of all time, sucking hapless female victims into their thrall. I’m not going to link to it here because it’s not necessary to drive more traffic to her blog post. There’s enough of that sort of thing out there as it is. In fact, the GOP has declared pornography a public health crisis that is ‘destroying the lives of millions.’

Think about that for a moment. Now, I’ll be the first to say that anything taken to excess can be a problem—even a health crisis. Alcohol, for example, or doughnuts. But along with controlling reproductive rights and standing for the most anti-GLBT platform in the history of the party, the GOP has deemed pornography as one of the main things it must battle in the upcoming election.

Not the fact that climate change is destroying our world.

Not the fact that scarcely a day goes by without a mass shooting here in the U.S. In fact, the U.S. outstrips all other countries when it comes to violent acts, accounting for 31% of all mass shootings in the world since 1966.

Not the fact the U.S. has an abysmal ranking for infant mortality, child poverty, and health care out of all other developed nations. Or that we’re sadly behind other industrialized nations in math and science.

No, what is most important to the GOP is what goes on in the privacy of our own bedrooms between consenting adults. And for this particular Church Lady, this includes what’s on my Kindle.

Not that she represents all Church Ladies. I grew up knowing some fantastic women, stalwart and forthright Church Ladies who would appear on your doorstep with a casserole and a hug at a death in the family, and a crocheted blanket for your newborn baby. They run the after-school programs for the latch-key kids, and the soup kitchen for the homeless. They don’t criminalize you for being poor. And when they raise money for the Church, it’s because the roof really does need repair, not because someone believes a multi-million dollar complex is what God needs from his faithful.

As you can probably tell by now, I was born and raised in a Christian household. I have very strong beliefs, and yet I broke with the Church some time ago. In part, because I didn’t believe that religion and politics should be bedfellows, and I don’t like being told from the pulpit how I should vote. In part, because I believe in the separation of Church and State. But also because I believe very strongly in free will. I believe in God. I no longer believe in the Church. And while someone has every right to come along and tell me I’m going to burn in hell for what I say and do, their right to dictate what I say or do or think ends when it infringes on mine. I suppose that’s where all the legislation comes from. There are states where any sexual position other than ‘missionary’ is illegal, where oral sex is illegal, where sex outside of marriage is illegal and so on. Probably so some fiercely intrusive neighbor can rail at you, “But it’s against the law!”

I call it the Sodom and Gomorrah effect. In this Old Testament story, God announces he will smite the people of these two cities because of their ungodly behavior. Not just the wicked and the guilty, mind you. ALL OF THEM. Abraham negotiated with God’s messengers, who said they would spare the towns if fifty righteous men could be found. Abraham talked them down to ten, but in the end, ten men could not be found. Before the smiting began, God’s angels allowed Lot and his family to escape.

Historians believe that Sodom and Gomorrah were actual cities struck by a natural disaster, which makes sense because earthquakes, wildfires, tornados, and the like wipe out everything in their path with little regard for your religious affiliations. Today, Sodom and Gomorrah are synonymous with evil and immortality—and there is a strong belief among some religious groups that the actions of your neighbor affects your own moral standing. That someday, everyone will be smote by association, regardless of how fervently you pray in your own home. I believe this is the fear that drives most of these anti-everything legislations. The willingness of some to stick their noses where they do not belong because on some level, they believe the entire nation will suffer hellfire and damnation for the actions of their neighbors.

The U.S. has always had a strong Puritan streak. These days, however, certain factions in government have forgotten the Puritans came to America to avoid religious persecution. They have forgotten the words of our Founders written so that others may have the right to worship as they see fit. They have forgotten the precepts of our Declaration of Independence. They want to amend these documents to say, “Only for those people who believe exactly what I believe” when they themselves are splintered into so many subsets within their own religions that this is impossible.

So I say to the Church Lady: yes, child pornography is wrong and it is a crime. What two consenting adults choose to do is not, even if they film it for sale under the rules of the industry. Yes, there are probably people who watch too much porn, just as there are people who drink too much. Yes, porn has probably led to unreal expectations and caused more than one marriage to buckle—but I suspect it was only a catalyst to an already unstable situation. And no, explicit romance novels aren’t new. They’ve been around for a long time. Yes, they’ve been called ‘soft porn’ for a long time, too. Why am I not hearing any ‘slippery slope’ arguments coming from you on this one, as so many do with gun control? Probably because you believe everything should be banned. Do you really think this is where you need to focus your energies right now?

I am perfectly happy with your decision, Dear Church Lady, not to read romances, or allow porn of any sort in your house. You can raise your children to believe sex is somehow wrong unless it is for the specific purpose of procreation, and wonder why they turn to other sources to learn more about one of the strongest human drives there is. You can wonder, too, why spouses stray or hire sex workers. Could it be on some level, they’re missing something in their love life? Some joy, some spontaneity, some freedom from the belief that sex, as an act in and of itself, is bad? In fact, it seems to me those that shout the loudest about controlling the thoughts and private lives of others should check to see if their houses are made of glass before picking up those stones.

Maybe that’s not the case for this particular Church Lady. It’s hard to know exactly what motivates someone to try to hold everyone around them to their specific standards. Just because I decide to go on a diet, it doesn’t mean I get to force everyone around me to do the same. Self-control and willpower are my responsibility, and no one else’s. And keep your nose out of my Kindle.

In the original draft of this post, I was prepared to go on ad nauseum about certain uptight women who think they should have say over what I read and write. (Never mind who I actually sleep with, or my right to access birth control) Who believe the ‘moral decay’ in America is more important than feeding the hungry, providing health care, or creating a strong economic base with the understanding that everyone benefits when there is more discretionary income—even the ultra-wealthy will see business profits go up when there is a strong economy. Tempting as it was, I canned that first draft.

Instead, I decided to share with you why I write romances.

I write because for most of us, life is fairly sucky and we need the distraction of being taken out of our lives for a few hours every now and then. Seriously. You had a crappy day at work? Lose yourself in the fantasy of meeting a wealthy billionaire who will sweep you off your feet and take care of you for the rest of your life. Put in a 12 hour day at the office only to come home and take care of small children and/or elderly parents? Immerse yourself in a different world for a few minutes before bedtime, a place where exciting things happen to characters that you’d like to be.

We need to believe that things can turn out okay. That we can get our happy endings.

We need to see depictions of healthy relationships. And yes, for the vast majority of us, this includes sex. It isn’t a dirty word, not to be spoken except under the covers and with a sense of guilt.  And yes, perhaps there are readers who get off on our words, who are titillated by the scenes of passion we’ve created. You know what? THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THIS.

Perhaps the reader is single and has no other recourse to relieve a physical need.

Perhaps the reader has had his or her trust violated, and is not in a position to let someone into their lives at the moment.

Perhaps the reader has reached a point in their lives where they are comfortable being alone.

Perhaps the reader is in a relationship, and for various reasons, their partner can’t meet their needs. Maybe it’s due to illness, travel, or stress. For whatever reason, maybe this reader uses romance novels to keep them satisfied until their partner is ready for them. Maybe they understand that their partner’s needs will always be different from theirs and this is how they remain faithful.

Perhaps the reader simply needs more than his or her partner can offer, and uses stories to help get them in the mood for a loving session with that partner. Things change, either because of illness, age, or workload. Reading a sexy scene can stoke the fires for a truly passionate session with one’s partner.

Or~gasp~maybe the reader just enjoys it.

Whatever the reason, I’ll let you in on a little secret here. You may think the reason people read romances with explicit sex scenes is because of the sex. It isn’t. People read because of the romance. They want to see a particular set of characters work out their differences, overcome obstacles, and come together for a happily ever after in the end. If there is some smokin’ hot sex along the way, for some of us that’s just icing on the cake.

So I say to you, Dear Church Lady, I have no problems if you only want to eat broccoli, and shun all sweets and confectionaries. I applaud your willpower for passing up bread and pasta, instead noshing down on zucchini and Brussels sprouts. Hey, there are days when that’s what I want to eat as well. But don’t come down with righteous indignation because I also like crusty French bread hot out of the oven brushed with melted butter. Don’t curl your lip because I dip my strawberries in heated chocolate, or try and legislate away my right to eat brownies. If your religion forbids such things, more power to you. Mine doesn’t. And I certainly wish the government would stop trying to legislate what goes on behind closed doors between two consenting adults.

Here’s a thought: why not check out a little spicy romance? Who knows, it may rock your world in more ways than one.

Fool'sGold-400x600For those of you who are interested in such things, check out my latest release, Fool’s Gold. Now available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited.

Blurb: Eight years ago, Jake Stanford had it all: a spot on the U.S. Olympic Equestrian Team and the love of his life, Rich Evans. A tragic accident wipes out everything in the blink of an eye. Hard work and sacrifice get him another shot at Olympic Gold, but only if he puts his past behind him and agrees to work with Rich again.

Bound by secrets he cannot share, Rich was forced to give up Jake eight years ago. Now he has a second chance to help Jake realize his dreams. But the secrets that drove them apart haven’t changed, and Rich must face them or risk losing Jake forever.

 

 

Grace Duncan’s Book Tour & Giveaway: Acceptance

Just a bit of housekeeping before I turn things over to Grace–if you’re looking for Divine Magazine’s Summer Blog Hop post, it’s here!

Today, Grace Duncan is here to share with you about her latest release, Acceptance. Be sure to check out the Rafflecopter Giveaway down below!

Hey, thank you so much to Sarah for letting me take up space today! We’re winding down the Acceptance blog tour, but the giveaway will be live for a while yet and you can always go back and catch what you missed. There’s a link below the tour graphic that’ll get you to a page with the rest.

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So, at Drops of Ink and Tempeste O’Riley’s blog, I shared a couple of conversations–one via text and one via email–between Quincy and Miles during the couple of months between the epilogue in Patience and the opening chapter of Acceptance. Today, I’d like to share an IM conversation with you between them.

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I hope you enjoyed Quincy and Miles’s conversation! To all those who followed the tour, thank you! Be sure to catch the last few stops and go back to read the rest, if you missed them.

Be sure to follow the tour here: http://www.grace-duncan.com/acceptance-blog-tour

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

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Blurb:

Dr. Miles Grant acknowledges that his destined mate could be either gender even though his bisexuality cost him his family and his pack. Luckily he found the Forbes Pack, who happily accept him just as he is. What he never counted on was finding his mate in Pittsburgh or for his mate to be another species entirely—a cat!

Quincy Archer isn’t just any jaguar shifter. He is the heir to the leadership of his pride. Destined mates are nothing but legend to the nearly extinct and generally solitary jaguars, and Quincy certainly never expected to find one for himself, much less a male… or a wolf.

However, finding each other and coming to terms with their species is the least of their worries. Quincy is expected to select a proper female mate, father a cub, and take his place as heir to the pride. Except Quincy refuses, having no interest in women or leadership and knowing he isn’t right for it. But his father will stop at nothing—not even attempting to kill Miles—to get his way. Quincy and Miles must overcome many obstacles to stay together as the destined mates they’re meant to be.

Dreamspinner Press: eBookPaperbook
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/acceptance/id1126559228?mt=11
Amz: https://www.amazon.com/Acceptance-Forbes-Mates-Book-3-ebook/dp/B01H8325Q8
B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/acceptance-grace-r-duncan/1123943161?ean=9781634774055
Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/acceptance-19
ARe: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-acceptance-2060133-341.html

 

About Grace

Grace Duncan grew up with a wild imagination. She told stories from an early age – many grace_nohateof which got her into trouble. Eventually, she learned to channel that imagination into less troublesome areas, including fanfiction, which is what has led her to writing male/male erotica.

A gypsy in her own right, Grace has lived all over the United States. She has currently set up camp in East Texas with her husband and children – both the human and furry kind.

As one of those rare creatures who loves research, Grace can get lost for hours on the internet, reading up on any number of strange and different topics. She can also be found writing fanfiction, reading fantasy, crime, suspense, romance and other erotica or even dabbling in art.

Find Grace here:

WebsiteFacebookTwitter ◊ Youtube

New Release by Sarah Madison: Fool’s Gold

It’s here! It’s finally here at last! The buy links for Fool’s Gold went live this afternoon. I’m sure my constantly refreshing the Amazon page hurried things along. 🙂

If you’re looking for Divine Magazine’s Summer Blog Hop, go here. Great prizes, so you should check it out!

As for Fool’s Gold, I decided to go with KDP select and Kindle Unlimited on a trial basis. I’ll let you know what I think in a couple of months. In the meantime, you can borrow it through KU or order it from Amazon. If you prefer a print copy, you can get it here. Hey, if you run into me at a convention and you have one of my books with you, I’ll be happy to sign it for you, too!

I’m planning a book tour, which will hopefully coincide with the beginning of the Summer Games in Rio, so be sure to come back (or follow my blog) for more updates as they come. Fool’s Gold is a story of loves loves and second chances, set in the exciting world of competitive sport horses. It’s also a love letter to my own sport, eventing, and all the horses I’ve ever known. 🙂

In the meantime, the dogs managed to get themselves skunked tonight, so I’m off to bathe… well, everything.

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Blurb: Eight years ago, Jake Stanford had it all: a spot on the U.S. Olympic Equestrian Team and the love of his life, Rich Evans. A tragic accident wipes out everything in the blink of an eye. Hard work and sacrifice get him another shot at Olympic Gold, but only if he puts his past behind him and agrees to work with Rich again.

Bound by secrets he cannot share, Rich was forced to give up Jake eight years ago. Now he has a second chance to help Jake realize his dreams. But the secrets that drove them apart haven’t changed, and Rich must face them or risk losing Jake forever.

Divine Magazine’s 2016 Summer Blog Hop & Giveaway!

summer-2016-blog-hopI’ll be the first to admit, I’m not really a fan of summer. To me summer is unbearable heat and humidity, mosquitoes and ticks, poison ivy and sweat. I don’t enjoy fireworks and I’d just as soon eat my picnic food indoors to avoid the gnats and ants. Summer is when I consider chopping off all my hair, until I remember that I look like an angry hedgehog with short hair, and believe me, that’s not a good look on me.

 

 

 

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Right now, it’s so hot, even the cats have melted! 🙂 You can see why I’m tempted to cut off all my hair.

So why, you might ask, am I participating in Divine Magazine’s Summer Blog Hop?

It’s a good question. I suspect the answer is I love blog hops, but I also love seasons. I’m fortunate to live in an area that has definitive seasons. Each one comes in its turn on a fairly predictable schedule. I love it it when the cold mud and snow of winter evolves into budding blossoms and balmy mornings where you don’t need that heavy coat. I adore autumn–that first time the temperatures drop twenty degrees, or the sound of dry leaves skittering across the pavement. I spend countless hours photographing my dogs in the snow, and I love hunkering down in front of a fireplace with a good book and a cup of hot chocolate.

Summer, I mostly endure.

But it has its moments as well. When I was a child, summer meant we went off to stay with our grandparents for a good bit of the season. Spending the summer with the grandparents was always fun because though there were still rules, the rules were different and somehow easier to follow. Summer meant fresh vegetables grown in their garden and cooked as only my grandmother could do. It meant staying up past my bedtime to watch my grandparents’ favorite television shows–programs we’d never be allowed to view at home. It was bowls of Cheerios as a bedtime snack, and up at sunrise to catch the bus for Vacation Bible School.

Leaping H_FBThat’s why we were sent–because of the wonderful Bible School. I know what you’re thinking, but this was Bible School done right. We spent an hour each morning with our lessons, and then the rest of the day we swam like fishes at the church lake. Every afternoon, we’d pile back into the bus, sunburnt and with ravenous appetites, to head home. On rainy days, we did crafts under wide pavilions, the damp misty air blowing cool on our skins. Or we played cards: Go Fish, Rook, Hearts, Jack-Change-It–I learned them all. I learned how to play chess, too–albeit badly. And some kind teenager, whose name I’ve forgotten, taught me how to swim as well.

There was no pressure. There was no push. It wasn’t a stepping stone to a better school or a rung in the ladder of personal achievements. The best part of it all was that the religious teaching didn’t come loaded with so much of what I see and hear now–or perhaps I just wasn’t aware of it then. It felt simple, however, without judgement or anger. More New Testament and less Old. And the rest of the time, we were allowed to be children.

I think I’d enjoy summer if it was like that again!

There is a GREAT giveaway going for this blog hop–some participants are doing an individual giveaway but the Grand Prize has it all: jewelry, a promotional tour, and gift cards from Dreamspinner Press! To enter the Rafflecopter for the Grand Prize, you must click on the link and leave a comment on the page there. As part of my giveaway here, if you leave a comment telling me what your favorite thing to eat on a hot summer day is, I’ll randomly select someone to win their choice from my backlist. Also, I just released my latest M/M contemporary romance–Fool’s Gold!

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Now Available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited: Just in time for the 2016 Summer Games!

Blurb: Eight years ago, Jake Stanford had it all: a spot on the U.S. Olympic Equestrian Team and the love of his life, Rich Evans. A tragic accident wipes out everything in the blink of an eye. Hard work and sacrifice get him another shot at Olympic Gold, but only if he puts his past behind him and agrees to work with Rich again.

Bound by secrets he cannot share, Rich was forced to give up Jake eight years ago. Now he has a second chance to help Jake realize his dreams. But the secrets that drove them apart haven’t changed, and Rich must face them or risk losing Jake forever.

So be sure to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or sign up to follow the blog and newsletter (links on the right side bar here) to get all the latest news on the newest releases.

The Summer Blog Hop Lineup is right here for easy access, too!