Fool’s Gold: Audiobook Version and Freebie!

It’s here at last!

The audiobook version of Fool’s Gold, narrated by the charming and talented Gary Furlong, is now available on Audible.com! And as part of the celebration, from now until 9/10/17, you can grab a FREE digital copy of the award-winning Fool’s Gold to go with it!

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.

This is a story very dear to my heart–a love letter to my horses and the sport of eventing. Not to mention, I loved tearing Jake and Rich’s lives apart, only to force them back together to see if they could work things out!

So be my guest, snag yourself a free copy and check out the smooth-as-silk audio treat that is Gary Furlong’s rendition of the story. You’ll be glad you did!

Coming Soon to Audiobook: Fool’s Gold by Sarah Madison

Wow! I can’t believe the last time I posted to the website was back in March!

Looking back, I can see why. A lot of stuff is going on in my personal life right now–family crises, health issues, work stress… I’ve been keeping my head down low and trying to work on various projects but it’s been slow going.

The good news is that very soon I’ll be announcing the release of Fool’s Gold on Audible! This is my first audiobook ever and I am SO excited. I fell in love with Gary Furlong’s voice during the auditions for narrator and I’m sure you will too. With any luck, it will be released in August.

Fool’s Gold was voted best M/M Romance by the 2016 PGR’s Reviewers Choice Awards. The story is a love letter to my own sport, eventing, and I couldn’t be more pleased to share it with you in audio format. Stay tuned for more details on a release date!

In other good news, I’m working on the final installment of the Sixth Sense series, tentatively titled Deal with the Devil. I had intended to have it finished and submitted to Dreamspinner by March, but all those pesky life trauma things got in the way. It’s going slowly, but I am making forward progress, and hope to have it available for release sometime in 2018.

I’ve also been teaching myself to make promotional graphics and how to put together a newsletter. If you want to keep up with the latest from me (and I promise, it probably won’t be more often than once a quarter–no spammy newsletters from me!), then sign up for my newsletter here.

I look forward to being able to share with you an exact release date on the Fool’s Gold audiobook! Until then, I’ll keep writing.

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.

Fool'sGold-400x600

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.

More on KU , a Rafflecopter, and the upcoming release of Fool’s Gold!

Today I’m over at at Authors Speak at Rainbow Gate talking about my ongoing internal debate about whether or not to give KU a chance with my upcoming release of Fool’s Gold. I’ve posted about this before, but I have gathered new information since then, and guess what? It hasn’t made the decision any easier.

dangerI think what it’s going to come down to is doing it on a trial basis and seeing how it compares to the kinds of sales I’d expect otherwise. I mean, I won’t really know unless I try it myself, right? But if you’re also sitting on the KU fence, you’d be wise to read my cautionary tales in the Authors Speak post! Heck, even if you’re not sitting on the fence–if you have stories in KU, you’d better keep an eye on things!

In other news, we’re holding a Rafflecopter giveaway for those who sign up to follow the Authors Speak blog! Check out this post to participate and find out what you could win!

On the home front, I’m pleased to say by this time next month I’ll be attending Writer’s Police Academy! To say I’m looking forward to this is a bit of an understatement. I don’t get to travel much, so I’m looking forward to being in a different venue, but oh! The fun I will have! In addition to the regular seminars, I won lotteries to courses on ballistics and death scene investigations. I’m so excited! The hard part is going to be choosing between seminars held at the same time. I’m also looking forward to using the knowledge gained in upcoming stories, so be prepared for some gritty action in my future romances. 🙂

I’m also pleased to announce that Unspeakable Words is getting a makeover, with additional scenes that will expand it into a full-length novel! Unspeakable Words is the first major story I ever had published, and this revision is something I’ve wanted to do for a while now. It only makes sense to have all the stories in the Sixth Sense series in the same format, and it had always bugged me just a little that UW was only a novella while the other stories were novels. So yay for Dreamspinner to allow me to publish a second addition! Hopefully it will be out by March of 2017.

I’m also pleased to announce Dreamspinner has picked up my Christmas-themed story called Holiday House Swap! When a reclusive writer on a tight deadline trades homes for the holidays in order to get fresh perspective, the last thing he expects to find is the actual owner in residence. Misinformation, misapprehensions, and general hi-jinks ensue. It’s one of my favorite tropes–the home for the holidays story. I think you’ll find it loads of fun. 🙂 Tentative release planned for December 2016.

But before both of those, I’ll be releasing my sport horse story, Fool’s Gold. It’s being formatted now, and I hope to have it available within the next few weeks–I’m timing it for the 2016 Summer Games, as it has an Olympic storyline. There will be a book tour soon, and I’ll be posting some excerpts as well. This story has a lot of personal meaning to me, as I used to event myself before I had to retire my mare from competition due to arthritis.

Fool'sGold-400x600Blurb: 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 that’s all the news in Lake Wobegone for the moment. 🙂 Stay tuned for updates as they become available. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Women’s Fashion: Size 12 is not XL

Okay, fair warning. I have my Ranty McRant pants on again.

This time the subject that’s been weighing on my mind recently is the ridiculous–and unfair–standards when it comes to women’s clothing. My musings on the subject began a while back when everyone was sharing a post written by Kallie Provencher for Rantchic.com called “24 Things Women Over 30 Should Stop Wearing.” No, I’m not going to share the link here because the post is pure clickbait. My reaction to it when everyone was talking about it was to tweet “The one thing women over 30 should stop wearing is the censure of random strangers on the internet.” Suffice to say, there was a lot of eye-rolling. I feel bad for the author, actually. If she’s lucky, she’s going to spend more time over thirty than under it, and according to her, life is over at twenty-nine and counting.

A beautiful rebuttal was written here, however. WarningCurvesAhead posted a brilliant collection of classy, sassy women wearing whatever pleased them–and looking smashing while doing so. I want to be these women when I grow up. I wish I had a fraction of their sense of style and their confidence in carrying off what looks great on them.

But one of the things Kallie Provencher frowned upon women over thirty wearing was graphic t-shirts. Which brings me to today’s subject: sizing of women’s clothing. Now, I’m a sci-fi geek. You can pretty much ask me about any sci-fi universe and if I can’t whip your butt playing Trivial Pursuit, I will at least have heard of it and am familiar with it. And I love my fandoms; Doctor Who, Firefly, Star Trek, Star Wars, Stargate… I love mashups and crossovers. I love fanfic, fanart, and fan vids. My friends know the way to make me squeal in the ultrasonic range, so high I can only be heard by dogs, is to surprise me with something from one of my favorite shows. Just this evening, the BF surprised me with a CD of ambient engine noise from ST:TNG. Just think, now I can hear the murmur of the Enterprise’s engines lulling me to sleep on an endless loop instead of the usual white noise machine.

One of the things I love doing is sharing my fandom pride with graphic tees.

About the same time these previously mentioned posts circulated, another post caught my eye: Man Tries on Girlfriend’s “XL” Clothing and Gets Pissed About Double Standards.

Yeah, because my friends and I have been talking about this, too.

Now, for the record, let me state I am a solid size 12. There was a period of time when I was closer to a 10–there are days when I’m closer to a 14, but 90% of the time, I’m a hard 12. I wear a 36 C sized bra. Now I know in these pictures, I might look ginormous, but remember, the camera adds ten pounds. (I know what you’re thinking here, but trust me, only ONE camera is pointed at me in these photos…)

Let’s start out with a T-shirt I bought a few years ago. It’s a medium, but unisex. This is important, as you’ll see later on. NOT a men’s shirt, not a women’s shirt, unisex.

Medium UnisexYou can’t see it clearly, but it’s a “Hello, My Name is” shirt, with “Inigo Montoya–you killed my father, prepare to die” penned in. It’s also autographed. That’s neither here nor there. What’s important is the size.

This is a medium WOMEN’S T-shirt. I love Agent Carter, and this was sent to me by a friend. A friend who knows what I look like, and assumed I would wear a medium T-shirt.

Medium Women FittedOkay. I got into it, though I look a sausage encased in Saran Wrap. That’s what it felt like, too. And believe me, getting out of it was interesting. I seriously thought about using a pair of scissors… I was very disappointed, needless to say. I love this character, the show, and this sentiment. I should point out as well, that many of the graphic T-shirts I would order, like this one, do not come in a men’s or unisex option.

Right, then obviously, a medium is too small. So, when I ordered a T-shirt for myself (a lovely mashup of Frozen and Doctor Who), I ordered a large.

Large Womens Fitted

Um, I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t look all that much bigger than the medium to me. Okay, so maybe the material isn’t cutting off my circulation, but it is still sucking down to my skin like it was painted on. At this point, I *finally* took a good look at the sizing chart. That’s when I saw that a size 12 is an XL on most sizing charts for the graphic T-shirts I like.

Excuse me, WTF? 12 is considered XL? Since when? Since when does the size of the average woman in the U.S.–which is 12-14 by a Google search–considered extra-large? It brings me back to the pissed off boyfriend and the double standards of the clothing industry.

Okay. Deep breath. Order the XL. You like the shirt and you want to be comfortable. And you don’t want your arms to go numb when you’re wearing it. Exchange the large for an XL.

Here’s the XL:

XL Womens FittedNo, I am not kidding. This is the XL. It is microscopically different from the large, but honestly, it looks so much like the large I had to look at the time stamps to make sure I wasn’t posting the same picture twice. AND, I would like to point out, the shirt only comes one size larger–the XXL. That is insane. No, I’m sorry. It’s just wrong. What kind of message are we sending to young women (because obviously women over 30 shouldn’t be wearing graphic tees, right?) when 12 is considered XL? When there is so little difference between sizes that someone has to get the very largest size a product comes in just to be comfortable?

I honestly don’t know which is worse: vanity sizing, in which clothing companies mislabel clothing as being a smaller size than it is so women will feel good about buying it, or this. It  feels like a slap in the face either way.

BoysofSummer[The]FSOkay, rant over. In other news, Dreamspinner Press is continuing the Lazy Days of Summer sale until June 24th, which means you can get a copy of my award-winning The Boys of Summer for only a dollar! It’s the perfect beach read at the perfect price–but it won’t last long!

On Dreamspinner/Amazon/AllRomance

 

 

 

Fool'sGold-400x600And coming up next month, I’ll be releasing Fool’s Gold, a story about Olympic level eventing–just in time for the 2016 Games!

 

Frenzied, Frazzled, but Still Having Fun: the Truth and Consequences Book Tour continues!

T&C spotlightI confess, I’ve fallen down on the job a bit here with the book tour… thankfully, the tour took a brief hiatus over the weekend, so perhaps I can catch up now!

Truth and Consequences is climbing the bestseller charts, and I’ve been delighted by its reception! Readers are emailing me, wanting to know more about the series and when they can expect the next installment–sadly, it will not be next week, as some people have hoped! 🙂 What I can tell you is that there will be more from Jerry Lee and John–and yes, we will be dealing with the Grimm Fairy Tale killer at long last–as well as John’s nemesis, who possesses the same powers he does, only he uses them for evil.

I also have plans to write more in the Crying for the Moon universe–Nick and Peter are begging for their backstory, and Viktor is not yet done with Alex and Tate, either! I’ve also got a Regency in the works, as well as contemporary romance set in the exciting world of sport horses and eventing–and in December, I’ll be re-releasing a revised version of The Boys of Summer! Such happy-making plans. The only problem is finding the time to write.

Branch ManagerThis past weekend was a good example. I trapped, neutered, and vaccinated the feral tom that has been hanging around picking fights with the other porch cats. The heavy rains and early leaf fall produced a bumper crop of mushrooms in the yard–and I caught one of the dogs eating a toxic Aminita species, so I had to induce vomiting and administer activated charcoal. I’m trying to sell a house, deal with an insurance claim, cover barn duty for friends out of town dealing with their own family crises, field emergency calls, and put in a full day’s work. I might have been a bit cranky last night when I finally got home!

Still, I’d rather have tons of ideas and little time to write than all the time in the word but I stared a blinking cursor, not knowing what to say next! So be patient with me–I’m writing as fast as I can! Hopefully you’ll get new stories to read in a timely fashion. The very fact people are excited about the next one coming out just makes my day. You guys rock!

Here’s my tour schedule if you’d like to join in and check out the fun! Be sure to enter the giveaway too!

Tour Dates & Stops:

14-Oct: VWFOhMy!, The Blogger Girls, MM Good Book Reviews

15-Oct: Jessie G. Books, Divine Magazine, Lee Brazil

16-Oct: Iyana Jenna, Three Books Over The Rainbow, KathyMac Reviews

19-Oct: Kimi-Chan, Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words

20-Oct: Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews, The Fuzzy, Fluffy World of Chris T. Kat, Emotion in Motion, Book Reviews, Rants, and Raves

21-Oct: Full Moon Dreaming, Happily Ever Chapter

22-Oct: The Hat Party, Bayou Book Junkie

23-Oct: Hearts on Fire, Love Bytes, My Fiction Nook

26-Oct: BFD Book Blog

27-Oct: Molly Lolly, Inked Rainbow Reads, Elisa – My Reviews and Ramblings 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunday Moment of Zen: Why sometimes NOT writing is the answer

I hope everyone has had a lovely Sunday and got to do something they really enjoyed. I certainly did, and I want to share it with you today!

K_fall leaves
One of the things that is really important to my mental health is spending a certain amount of time outdoors each week. These past few years, I’ve been very slack about doing this–I used to be an avid hiker and I used to ride competitively. The barn where I kept my horse was dog-friendly, so after I rode, I would take H for a run in the woods. In terms of efficient use of time, it was pretty good. 🙂 Then we moved to a different stable with a no-dogs rule and I was forced to separate out my dog walking time vs my horse riding time. Work got crazy and I found myself in a different location every 48 hours. My mare went lame to the point that I decided to retire her from competition, and I had a hard time finding a good place to walk H–most of the places we go require dogs to be on leash the entire time, and let me tell you, it is hard to *walk* a big, active dog sufficiently to exercise him–H needs to run every day until his brains come out his nose just so you can live with him. More and more, I found I could not do everything: if I got the dog out, I ran out of time to ride. If I rode, I didn’t get the dog out. And if I wanted to write, I had to chose what to give up that day.

One of the things I discovered when I was determined to make up for a week’s worth of not writing by spending my entire day off at the keyboard was that I couldn’t concentrate. I needed that physical activity as much as the dog in order to settle to my work. My friends who are into yoga talk about ‘being connected’ and ‘grounded’, and I have always had a hard time with these concepts because my mind is forever stewing about the past and worrying about the future. I have a very stressful job, and I find it hard to let go at the end of the day. There are still times I wake up in the middle of the night, recalling cases I mishandled more than twenty years ago and not able to forgive myself for being young and inexperienced. Lately, the stress has gotten to a point where I am not managing it very well anymore. Writing used to be one of my main stress relievers, but not so much these days. What has changed?

Blue Ridge_fall
Well, for one, I haven’t been getting that weekly dose of ‘outdoors’.

I’m at a crossroads in my life right now. I am reaching a point of burnout with work, which just so happens to correspond with a severe cut-back in hours. I’m surprisingly calm about this at the moment because I recognize that I could no longer maintain the pace I’d been working for the last three years. My health (both physical and mental) has deteriorated. My creativity is practically zilch. I find myself wanting that creativity back again more than anything else. So perhaps having less money but more time isn’t such a bad thing.

Bank Jump_cropped
If you’d asked me three months ago what I would choose: a Sunday writing at home or a Sunday galloping across open fields, I probably would have chosen writing. Why? Because my writing time has been so short-changed for so long that I couldn’t imagine giving up a whole day to do something else. But my writing has been stilted and mechanical for so long that even when I get the time time write, I often end up wasting the entire day piddling around on various social media sites, only to wind up with a grand total of 300 words and a serious case of depression.

One of the lovely things about working with animals is that they keep you very much in the present while still offering wonderful opportunities for operating in that level of consciousness most conducive to brainstorming creative ideas. A walk in the woods with the dog, or a half hour cleaning stalls or grooming a horse frees my mind to explore all kinds of wondrous ideas, and many a time I’ve had a ‘eureka!’ moment while out at the barn. I’d come home ready to write because I worked out something that I’d been stuck on while performing a mindless physical task. Talk about your Zen moments!

Jumping K
There are other times, like today, in which you must be in the present in order to function safely. “The future” is the jump that you are approaching. The past is non-existent. There is only the now of the sound of hoofbeats on the turf, the feel of the wind whipping past your face, and the 1700 pounds of muscle and blood beneath your legs. Losing focus at this juncture might get you a run-out at a scary fence or worse. This is a ‘connection’ I can understand–making myself one with the horse as we navigate the terrain and the jumps. Not paying attention could get you dumped when a group of deer suddenly appear in the woods alongside you, or cause your horse to stop abruptly because she feels the disconnect and is not sure if she should jump the obstacle or not.

Log cabin
A day like this is spent in moments of the here and now. The tension of crossing a running stream with a young horse in the group, who is uncertain about the process. The patience needed to work through an exercise until both horse and rider understand it. The fall leaves blanketing the mountainsides. The red-tailed hawk soaring overhead. The exhilarating, heart-pounding thrill that comes from galloping uphill to a fence and knowing your horse is going to take it joyfully because your joy is hers.

Look of Eagles
I’ve come to the conclusion that sometimes you need to step away from the keyboard and live life before you sit down and try to write about it. Even if it means cutting into your precious writing time. A day spent staring at a blinking cursor isn’t productive. I’ve also finally accepted that I can’t do it all every day. Some days I’m going to get the dog out. Sometimes I’ll make it to the barn. Some days I’ll choose writing over both. There will be nights when I choose to watch a movie with the BF instead of write. On a good day, I’ll do one of the other things I love AND write. I cannot live by writing alone. I cannot live without writing either.

I’m hoping my creative mojo will come back now that I am no longer working 60+ hours a week. It had better; I’m sort of banking on it. 🙂

Does Facebook Make You Depressed?

Leaping Hawkeye resizedSome time ago, I wrote a blog post for the Savvy Authors website about whether or not too much time on Facebook can make you depressed. I was a fairly new author at the time, and I was (and still am) easily overwhelmed by too much time spent on social media. Facebook in particular was tough for me. It seemed like I just had nothing to say. I hadn’t lost 50 pounds, won the lottery, just come back from a vacation in Bali, had my newest novel shoot to the top of the best-seller list within nanoseconds of its release, nor was anyone in Hollywood beating at my door clamoring to make my book into a movie.

Delorean_danceswithgaryIt seemed, too, that social media was a minefield that only the experienced could navigate safely. There were all these unwritten rules, not the least of which was ‘be yourself, but don’t talk about anything that could alienate your fans.’ Well, that felt like a tricky proposition, along with the notion of ‘branding’. I confess, I’ve settled more for being myself than for branding or not risking fan alienation, for that matter. That means I’m going to get ranty about the way the GOP is pulling out every underhanded measure to hamstring the Obama administration, while at the same time trying to take civil rights for everyone back to the 1950s. I’m going to post sci-fi geeky stuff, and animal stuff, and on rare occasions, talk about my fandoms. I’m going to bore people with my photos because I like taking pictures. And I’m going to talk about my writing. 🙂

I spend more time on Facebook now than I ever thought I would. I share links and posts I find interesting. I comment on my friends’ updates. I use it as a quick break at work, a way of taking a mental breather as I look at photos of LOL Cats or check out George Takei’s page to make me laugh. Sometimes I vent (in extremely vague terms) about something going on at work that has me stressed and depressed, and the support and comments I’ve received have made it easier to get through the rest of the day. I’ve made connections there now, so it feels comfortable to signal boost for those connections, even as I worry terribly when an internet friend disappears and no one seems to know what has happened to them. Of all the social platforms, Facebook was the one I liked the least initially, and the one everyone assured me was crucial to building an audience for my stories.

But it turns out I’m not alone in my belief that Facebook can make us depressed–that it can cause us to be more dissatisfied with our lives than we otherwise might be. And I confess, I struggle with seeing what appears to be everyone around me soaring to the heights of success as they hint at astronomical royalty reports, or post screenshots of their newest release breaking records on Amazon, or they have *another* bloody release less than six weeks after the last one.

Broad Wing Hawk croppedMost of the people I ask vehemently deny that Facebook gets them down from time to time. I think that’s all part of the game face that Facebook requires us to put on. Pretend you are successful whether you are or not. Success breeds success, right? So post the good stuff: the promotions, the raise, the new car, the move across country for the better job, and the five star reviews. Downplay anything that might make the other chickens in the flock start pecking your eyes out. Pretend to be a hawk, even if you’re only a chicken.

Oh sure, we’re allowed to share the tragedies. The tornadoes, the sudden diagnosis of a serious medical problem, the death of a loved one. But the everyday ordinary slog through a life that is not particularly cheerful or successful? No. Not only does no one want to hear it (and rightfully so, I think) but sharing it places you in jeopardy of being labeled a loser.

There’s merit to this thinking, to be sure. There’s a lot to be said for attitude. Lord knows, I’m my harshest critic most days. Just today, I read some wonderfully encouraging posts along these lines. There was this one, by Ky Grabowski, on shopping without success for a gown to wear to a wedding (and most of us can sympathize with that) titled Why am I Beautiful. I envy her self-confidence. I’ve spent a lifetime being told how ugly I was, that I was an absolute Troglodyte and that I would have to work doubly hard just to make friends, even when I wasn’t that bad. Now that I am battling wrinkles and an extra 20 pounds, I find it even harder to accept Ky’s words. It’s like understanding to death why you should eat better and exercise regularly, yet being constitutionally incapable of making good eating choices on a stressful day at work. And every day at work is stressful.

I also came across this highly encouraging post by Kristen Lamb: The Personal Apocalypse–When are we REAL writers? That really hit home with me today. You know, I never used to be as conscious of my ‘lack of success’ to the same extent before the advent of social media. While I understand that there is a tendency to post about the best things going on in your life, I was never one of those ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ kind of people. I could care less about clothing, or having a snazzy car. I wasn’t into a ‘Home and Garden’ house, or being a member of the country club set. And I don’t have any of those things as a result. 😉

But I never felt envious until now. It’s hard to remember, when everyone around you is happily blowing a kazoo over their latest triumph, that 3-4 weeks ago, it was *your* latest release that was collecting the five star reviews. I honestly think social media is an addiction. I think we crave that blissful feeling that comes from sharing a personal success–and that, like most addictions, it takes more and more to achieve that same level of satisfaction. Only three years ago, I published my first story ever. I never thought I would be a published author. In the span of three years, I’ve gone from being giddy with delight over simply being published to expecting more and more from both myself as a writer and my stories when they get published.

Well, as you become proficient at one level of competition, you have to move up. No one stays at the baby level of eventing unless they don’t have the talent or the work ethic to move up once they start winning blue ribbons at their current level. But moving up is scary. It means you’re at the bottom of the heap again. That you practically have to start all over mastering the skill set for *this* level of competition. It’s not for the faint of heart. Most people don’t want to be challenged to master their craft. They want to write what they want to write and have people push each other out of the way in order to buy it like an angry housewife at a Black Friday sale.

The truth is, most of us will never publish a story that will rocket to the top of the sales charts and stay there for weeks on end, paying off our mortgages and freeing us from crippling debt. And even if I really plugged at it, I doubt, with my current 60 hour + work week, that I could be prolific enough to have sales on my backlist work for me. Maybe I’m not being realistic in thinking that writing could even make me more than money to buy cat food once a quarter.

Hawkeye closeup resizedBut I have things that cannot be quantified in the ‘success’ column. I have a kind and generous boyfriend who not only reads, but believes in me as a writer–and doesn’t have a problem with my writing M/M romances. Finances are tight, but they’re getting better. I live in a crappy little house–but I have a roof over my head that I can afford. I have a dog who loves me and thinks I’m the smartest, prettiest, kindest, most compassionate and fun person in the world. Oh, if only I were! 🙂

kenya bridle resizedMy mare is still alive after having nearly died so many times we jokingly refer to her as The Mare Who Lived (and I look for a lightning bolt on her forehead every time I bring her in from the pasture). Every day that I have with her is a gift. My heart still turns over when I walk out to the pasture with a halter to catch her, and she lifts her head at the sight of me, whinnies, and trots over to meet me. My first horse just turned 28 and is everyone’s favorite uncle at the retirement farm. I wake in the middle of the night to the purring of a cat that has joined me in the bed.

My clients seem to really like me. Maybe it’s because I refuse to gouge them in order to raise my own quality of living. Yes, I am one medical health crisis away from crippling financial disaster, but I’m still in pretty decent shape for my age. It could be worse. It could be much worse.

So maybe I need to spend a little less time on social media, despite all the advice to the contrary. Maybe I don’t need to be constantly reminded of the ways in which I have failed in the eyes of the world, and I need to spend more time reminding myself that money and success aren’t everything.

Beach D&H resizedBecause there are some things in this world that are more precious than rubies, that are worth their weight in gold. And they are mine. I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Not even a #1 Amazon best-seller. 🙂

 

 

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

I was invited by Angie of Love Romances and More to participate in the Next Big Thing Blog Hop—a sort of pyramidal branching hop where one person sends questions to five people, who post their questions to five people, who select another five people and post the following week, and so on and so on, like that old seventies shampoo commercial. I liked the idea of it—for one thing, I like blog hops. For another, it’s fun to see how different people answer the same questions. The best part I think, though, lies in the fact that your commitment is to only five people a week. I’ve found for me personally, if there are over 200 people participating in a weekend hop, I’m lucky if I get to more than the top 20-30 on the list. So yes, I thought this would be great fun!

The plan was to answer preset questions about your latest release or your WIP. In this case, my answers are for one and the same! If that sounds strange, it’s because I’m currently working on an expanded version of my sport horse story, Lightning in a Bottle, which is part of the Going for Gold Anthology from MLR Press. So, without further ado, the questions!

The Next Big Thing:

What is the working title of your book?

Hold the Reins, which is an allusion to the fact that not only can there only be one person in charge of where the horse goes, but also to the behind-the-scenes manipulations of Jake’s father. Jake and Rich have found their way back together at the end of Lightning in a Bottle, but being together is never simply a case of Happily Ever After, The End. Relationships are hard work, and relationships that have trust issues are even harder. The two men will have to feel their way into their repaired relationship, all the while dealing with the pressures of Olympic competition and living in the spotlight.

Jake will have to decide if he will pursue his tentative relationship with Rich or hang on to all he knows, particularly when that includes the health and well-being of the man that has always been a father figure to him, Jim Banks. There are no easy answers because of his tumultuous relationship with his father, Patrick Stanford, and the lengths Patrick has gone to in order to keep Jake and Rich apart.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Oh, that’s an easy one! I recently had to retire my own sport horse from eventing, a very bittersweet decision on my part. When I read the submission prompt for a short story involving Olympic athletes for the M/M anthology, I confess, my first thought was that I bet there would be a lot of submissions about diving and swimming (and why not? SPEEDOS!) but that I’d probably be the only one to sub a story about eventing—one of those sports that only gets 3 minutes of airtime on the main broadcasting channel and you have to have cable and a TiVo (or a very patient boyfriend with these things!) to see any of the rest of it.

Well… 10 K became 25 K, and the next thing I know, I’m staring at a story that is too big to tell in the allotted space. I didn’t know what to do! Fortunately the terrific people at MLR Press let me make all kinds of last minute revisions so that an expanded version would make sense, and I’ve been working on it ever since. Slower than I would like, but moving forward just the same. I’ve had both heavy work commitments and some pressing family health issues, so writing has taken a bit of a back seat at the moment. I’m about 2/3 of the way done, though, and I hope to have it completed in short order.

What genre does your book fall under?

Definitely contemporary M/M romance.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

This was an incredibly tough question to answer. I don’t have a lot of time to watch television or go to the movies anymore, so I tend to be behind the times on the latest, hottest actors. Also, my characters are a bit older than your average Olympian, as eventing is a sport where people can compete for decades—one of the reasons I love it is because your partner is a horse, and this makes it one of the few sports where men and women compete directly against each other as well.

I ended up having to ask friends who’d read the story for help, and this is what we came up with:

For Rich Evans, I would cast Joshua Jackson (Fringe). It isn’t just about the blue eyes and the boyish good looks—there’s something about his presence and the kinetic energy in his hands that makes him a good fit for Rich.

Jake was much harder. I had a strong mental image of what Jake looked like (being kind of partial to that ‘type’) but I was looking for something a little less scruffy than my usual go-to look. I needed someone who had the smoothness of being raised in wealth and the benefit and polish of a prep-school education, while still retaining that bad-boy toughness about him.

One of my friends suggested Sebastian Stan (Bucky from Captain America) and though I couldn’t see it at first, the more I looked at images of this actor online, the more I did. He has that ageless quality about him that only gets better with time, and that is definitely Jake!

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Horse-crazy boys fall in love, are separated by circumstances, and learn to overcome obstacles to find love and trust again.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’m hoping MLR Press will pick up the option, but a lot of that will depend on my ability to meet their deadline. If I can’t, then the book will just have to sit on the shelf for a while until the rights for the novella return to me. That’s okay if that happens–I’ve got plenty of other projects to work on! I hope that I can get this finished on time however, and that the end product is something that pleases everyone.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Um, still working…

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

That’s the fun part, I can’t think of any off the top of my head—most of the horse-related stories in the M/M genre that I’ve read have been about cowboys, not event riders! From the standpoint of a contemporary m/m romance set in a realistic sports background, maybe Alan Chin’s Matchmaker? I know that’s presumptuous of me to place my name in the same sentence with Chin, but I’m thinking in terms of the storyline here. 🙂

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

Well, I was galloping along madly with the novella for submission to the anthology, when one of my beta readers said, “You realize you have the makings of a really good novel here, right?”

I realized she was right, only I was already committed to the anthology. Fortunately the people at MLR Press have been *very* accommodating!

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Let’s see… have you ever seen eventing? It’s the triathlon of horse sports, with a dressage phase (Tall boots! Breeches! Gloves! Riding crops!) that combines elegance, precision, and strength to move your horse through a series of elements. From there, you go on to the cross-country phase where you gallop across miles of challenging terrain, leaping unusual and tricky combinations of fences at speed. A lot of horse and rider teams get eliminated there. The final element is show jumping, where the fences are bigger, the turns are tighter, and the stakes are higher as the remaining competitors go for the gold. What is there not to love about that?

Going for Gold is available now from MLR Press: 8 novellas by your favorite M/M authors featuring Olympians vying for that greatest award of all–love.

My other blog hop contributors will be posting their answers to these same questions next week:

Xanthe Walter

Clare London

Cooper West

Sue Holston

Whitley Gray

Aundrea Singer

You can also follow the rest of The Next Big Thing bloggers on Twitter with the hashtag #NextBigThing