Unspeakable Words: On Sale At Dreamspinner Press!

I’ve been so pleased with the relaunch of Unspeakable Words! It’s been getting some fabulous reviews, and is on Dreamspinner’s bestseller list. Best of all, right now it’s on sale! I’m not sure for how much longer, so be sure to grab a copy of this expanded version at a great price!

Here are some great reviews from LoveBytes, Sinfully Gay Book Romance Book Reviews, Joyfully Jay, GayBook Reviews, Diverse Reader, Boy Meets Boy Reviews, and Rainbow Book Reviews, just to name a few! (I feel like someone thanking people at the Academy Awards–I’m bound to leave someone out!)

I have a lot a blog posts out with this book tour, including interviews at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words and Open Skye Book Reviews. I’ve also begun sharing about my experiences at Writer’s Police Academy, part of my research for the Sixth Sense series. Do drop by Authors Speak at Rainbow’s Gate for more about Writer’s Police Academy, but also fantastic giveaways, and the latest on upcoming releases by some of your favorite authors! My April post will be about crime scene investigations and blood spatter, so come check it out. 🙂

It’s Here! Release Day for Unspeakable Words by Sarah Madison

Wow! It’s finally here! I am so excited to be able to share this with you–the brand new relaunch of Unspeakable Words and the Sixth Sense series! To start things off, I have a post explaining my decision to relaunch the series over at MM Goodbook Reviews, and I am chatting about when characters misbehave at GayBook Reviews. Tomorrow I’ll be over at Bayou Book Junkies, so do come and make the rounds with me!

There have been some excellent reviews already, including this delightful one from Debra at Sinfully Gay Romance Book Reviews!

I’m off this weekend to a much needed retreat in the mountains: just me, the BF, the dogs, and a snow-dusted cabin. No internet, but a roaring fire in the hearth. I’ll be posting the first in a series about my experiences at Writer’s Police Academy (part of the research I did for this series) at Authors Speak at Rainbow’s Gate on March 12th, internet permitting. And there will be more in the Unspeakable Words relaunch tour, so stay tuned!

You can find the brand new Unspeakable Words at Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble, as well as some of your other favorite outlets. Find out more about the next installment in the series as well!

Love is in the Air: Valentine’s Day Sale at Dreamspinner Press!

I don’t know about you, but I hated Valentine’s Day growing up.

I hated all the emphasis on being ‘chosen’ to be someone’s Valentine, and how the whole day was an exercise in humiliation for a introverted, homely child.

As a young adult, it felt like a comment on my attractiveness and desirability that I didn’t have someone special in my life to take me out to dinner or bring me flowers. And yet I still wanted those things very much. I wanted that tangible proof that not only was I loved, I was deemed worthy of love.

The first couple of times I was in a relationship as Valentine’s Day rolled around, I went all out: the romantic dinner, the fancy restaurant, the expensive (and sexy) dress. Chocolates, wine, flowers, and cards. The whole nine yards.

Now after having been in a committed relationship for nearly a decade, I can appreciate it not the day that matters, or the meal, or the bling. It’s the person who is sitting across the table from you. It’s the person holding your hand, or the friends taking you out for Galentine’s Day, or the cat in your lap and the dog at your feet. I love that people are taking what has always been for me a problematic celebration of ‘love’ and making it their own–redefining it for their needs.

 

 

 

As part of that celebration, Dreamspinner Press is having a store-wide sale: 25% off all titles until Feb 18th, and a flash sale of new releases today only! That means you can pre-order the newly revised version of Unspeakable Words at the sale price (release date March 10, 2017)–or perhaps you’d like a story of love, loss, and re-connection with The Boys of Summer.  Or maybe werewolves and vampires are your thing–in which case, check out the award-winning Crying for the Moon! Plenty to choose from, and not just my titles. Entering the DSP store is like opening the Potter family vault at Gringott’s. 🙂

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

Cover Reveal & Giveaway for the new Unspeakable Words by Sarah Madison

Oh guys!

I have been on pins and needles with excitement over the cover reveal and pre-order links for the newly expanded version of Unspeakable Words! in fact, the entire Sixth Sense series got a makeover to celebrate the relaunch of book one, so there will be more covers to share in the future and I can’t wait to share them with you! Release date for the new edition of Unspeakable Words is March 10, 2017.

Today I’m at MM Goodbook Reviews with an exclusive cover reveal and a giveaway–as well as an explanation for the decision to expand the original story. Do drop by to check out the awesome cover by L.C. Chase and leave a comment to enter the giveaway!

Also, voting is still open in the 2016 Paranormal  Romance Guild’s Reviewer’s Choice Awards! Fool’s Gold is up for Best MM Romance, but I’m telling you, the competition is fierce. Check out the nominees and vote for your favorites!

I’m not going to post the cover here–you have to check it out at MM Goodbook Reviews–but stay tuned for additional cover releases soon!

Three Hearts Cover Reveal and Buy Links with Grace Duncan

three-hearts_450X674

Three Hearts
By Grace R. Duncan
Cover by Jess Small
72k words
M/M Paranormal/shifters

Pre-order available 2/3/2017

Release date: 3/3/2017

The preorder link for Three Hearts is: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MYFCBSE
Print version on Createspace:  https://www.createspace.com/6894067

 

Liam Scott is sick. That’s not supposed to be possible. As a wolf shifter, he’s supposed to be able to heal. The omega gene he was born with means he’s capable of carrying shifter young and Liam is worried that whatever is wrong will mean his one-day hope of having pups will be dashed. But despite the fears keeping him away from the doctor until now, he knows he needs to go.

It turns out the sickness is temporary, but the treatment causes a whole other problem.

Mason’s alpha gene means he’s one of very few wolves who can impregnate an omega male. For two years, he’d been watching Liam, but things kept getting in the way. When Liam shows up in heat, Mason recognizes the opportunity he needs and doesn’t hesitate make to Liam his mate and the father of his pups.

But Liam has old wounds and fears to work through which the pregnancy is only making worse, and Mason isn’t sure how to get past them to show he’s serious about making a life together as loving mates. It’s not until a female wolf decides Mason should be hers that Liam makes his biggest worry known—and Mason can finally put the fears to rest.

 

Excerpt:

Liam

With a sigh, I rolled over and peered at the clock. Even if I were to drag my tired ass out of bed right then, I’d never make it to work on time. But my boss, Jack, would be there, so I grabbed my phone from the bedside table and lay back. I pulled up my contacts and hit the button when I found my boss’s number. It barely rang twice before he picked it up.

“Yo, Liam!”

I couldn’t resist a chuckle at the greeting. “Hey, uh… I can’t come in today. I know I’ve called off a lot the last couple of months but—”

“Tell me it’s because you’re finally going to the doctor,” Jack said, hope clear in his voice. Jack wasn’t just my boss—he was also probably my closest friend. Yeah, working with friends was never a good idea. Except, for Jack and I, it worked. I never wanted upper management. I was happy where I was, doing what I did. So I was equally happy when Jack got promoted where he wanted to be.

“Yeah,” I said, letting out a breath. “I’m going to call when they open in a few minutes.”

“It’s about fucking time,” Jack grumbled. “I’ve been worried about you.”

“Yeah, I know, I know. Look, depending on what they say, I’ll probably be in tomorrow.”

“Take a couple of days. Make sure whatever they do works. I’d rather you get rest and get over this so you can come back 100 percent.”

Jack was right. I didn’t have to like it, but he was. “I’ll still check my e-mail and stuff,” I said. Right didn’t mean I wanted to. Work had piled up over these two months, and I was so far behind, I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever catch up. “Shit,” I groaned. “Budgets are due. Mason’s going to kill me if I don’t turn them in this week.”

“I’ll tell Mason to take a flying leap off the Sears Tower, dude. He’ll have to wait.”

“Jack! He’s our CFO. You don’t tell the CFO to take a flying

leap and keep your job.”

Jack’s noncommittal sound did not encourage me.

“Look…,” I said, running a hand through my hair. “I’ll come by on the way home from the doc’s and pick up the budget paperwork, okay? I’ll do it here, in bits, when I can.”

Jack paused for a long moment, then finally said, “I’ll send them by messenger. Text me when you know when you’re going to the doc’s. I’ll send the budget stuff over after that.”

He could be a real pain in the ass sometimes. Especially when he was right.

“Fine,” I grumbled ungraciously. Whatever this was had taken up enough of my time and energy already.

“Good. Text me when you get the appointment. And get some sleep!”

It took me a few seconds to realize Jack had hung up. I shook my head and set my phone down.

I hadn’t told Jack my fears about cancer. He’d tell me I was overworrying. He’d tell me it wouldn’t be me, partially because he’d want to reassure me, and partially because he wouldn’t want to believe it himself.

So I kept them to myself.

Before I could talk myself out of it again, I picked my phone back up. With a deep breath, I dialed the doctor’s number.

About Grace

grace_nohateGrace Duncan grew up with a wild imagination. She told stories from an early age – many of 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:

Website FacebookTwitterYoutubeGoodreads

 

Paranormal Sale at Dreamspinner Press: 30% off!

dreamspinner-magicintheair-websitebannerOh! Oh! Today until Feb 6, Dreamspinner Press is having a 30% off sale on all its paranormal romances!

That’s almost every title I have with them! Run check it out–this sale is smoking’ hot!

Here’s the link to my titles on Dreamspinner Press. But if you’re looking for Unspeakable Words and you can’t find it, that’s because the expanded version is scheduled to be released March 10th! Sorry, no pre-order link available yet… but I’ll be posting soon with the new covers for the Sixth Sense series as soon as I get a buy link for Unspeakable Words.

Book 4 in the Sixth Sense Series (tentatively titled Deal with the Devil) is underway. I’m sorry to say that I’ve been finding it challenging to write due to the current political turmoil in the US, but I hope to have the story finished and available to you in early 2018.

 

Architect of Love by John Charles: Book Tour & Giveaway!

Title: Architect of Love
Series: Fated Soulmates #2
Author: John Charles
Genre: M/M Romance
Published: November 27, 2016


He could work miracles with His Hands
Lance Bartner loved working with his hands, made his living refinishing furniture. Nights out were for fun with friends and the occasional hook-up. Though the L word had never been spoken, he would have enjoyed a relationship had the right man crossed his path. But who would want a laborer like Lance? He wasn’t college educated, didn’t live in a fancy loft condo, didn’t drive a Lexus, and didn’t even own a suit.
Forrest Dentren, was an architect and city planner who had become a local name when his design for the Monroe City Center was chosen as one of the top three contenders. Well educated, extremely well built, and as both men and women put it, just plain hot. Some said he was married to his job, others said he was too picky, many said he didn’t want to share the spotlight.


One hot, uninhibited sex-filled night


When Forrest broke his routine and went clubbing on a weeknight, he spotted Lance. The attraction was immediate from both sides of the dance floor. They both felt it. A few drinks later, still feeling it, they left for Lance’s apartment.

It was never supposed to turn into anything more than one hot fuck

Two people from opposite ends of the world, no roadmap, not directions, no ideas how to make it work.

Architect Of Love is a hot and steamy, gay romance novel with no cliffhangers. It is the second book in The Fated Soulmates series and can be read as a standalone.



 

“This is a steamy and yet also endearingly sweet romance. For a sexy good time, characters to love, and a good combination of sweet and spicy, this gets 8/10 fountain pens.” – A. M. Leibowitz

“This was a good book about how being insecure can destroy what may be the best things in your life.” –  Gay Book Reviews

“Its a fun read, a good story, realistic with characters I could get behind, and a sensible mix of story v sex. Stars: Four, a great read with realistic storyline.” –  Jeannie Zelos book reviews

“If you like sexy architects, hot craftsmen, fated love, second chance, not a lot of sex but just enough to heat up a story and an all around good, sweet romance this is for you.” – Cathy Brockton



The tall blond kicked the door closed with his foot as he pinned the shorter, more muscular man against the wall. One hand held the shorter man’s hands above his head, the other a handful of his shirt.

“Lance is a pretty name for such a muscular guy. Why’d your mother name you that?” His face was mere inches from Lance’s. They breathed the same air as they stared into the other man’s eyes.


“She has a thing for different names. Don’t ask me why, she just does.” Lance was almost hyperventilating; his brown eyes were wide with curious anticipation, the pupils dilated. “I might ask what was in your mother’s mind when she named you Forrest. Were you conceived in the woods?”


A growl emitted from the tall blond. He pushed Lance harder against the wall, his entire body now firmly against the shorter man. “Never asked where they fucked and don’t want to know, but the name works for me. Does Lance suit you? Are you?”


“That’s a rather personal question, don’t you think? After all, we just met.” Lance struggled to keep his body under control. He could feel the heat emanating from Forrest, his breath smelled of Scotch, his muscles were taught as a lion’s ready to pounce. His groin pressed just above Lance’s and it was hard with desire as was his own.


They held eye contact for a long minute then Forrest moved his head, slowly as if testing the space between them. Lance followed his full lips as they neared his own. They were heavy with lust, slightly open, tongue barely visible. When they touched his, he felt a tingle down to his toes. He moaned.


Forrest held Lance in place, as he tasted the shorter man. Beer mingled with breath mint met his tongue as he pushed to gain control. He heard Lance’s moan and continued to push for more. His body was ready to burst. He felt Lance’s heat against his and knew the man wanted what he presented.


Suddenly as if on attack, Lance twisted in the taller man’s arms. He forced Forrest around and pressed him against the wall where his back had lain seconds prior. “How does it feel now?” he whispered unable to voice anything louder. “You want more? Can you handle it or are the trees too big, Forrest?”


Forrest could feel Lance’s long, calloused fingers holding his wrists. Short, muscular legs stood outside his encasing him. The hand pushing against his chest caused his heartbeat to sound and feel harder and louder. It was his turn to hyperventilate. “I can take anything you throw at me. Care to try something else or is this all you’ve got?”


Lance pulled Forrest from the wall keeping a tight grip on his wrists. He walked his captive backward to the couch at the far end of the small room. With a push, Forrest was lying on his back, Lance straddling him. For the first time, Forrest took in his surroundings. They were in a small, tidy apartment. The furniture looked old as if from garage sales or thrift stores. Though old, the couch felt soft and comfortable. A bookcase held a small TV and several hardcover books, the titles he couldn’t make out from where he lay. Warm, comfortable, masculine were his thoughts, thoughts that were interrupted as Lance sensuously moved his ass along Forrest’s throbbing erection. Lance’s actions brought a whimper of pain and pleasure from his lips.


Lance sat on Forrest wondering just how far he could go with this hot man who picked him out of all the other guys at The Hole, a club on the gay strip in the south end. He frequented the area. The clubs provided an easy way for him to satisfy his fantasies without too much involvement. He had been the one to pick up others most nights.


Tonight, though, he sat with two friends, no one interested him. Then this hot man, clearly out of Lance’s normal league, asked if he wanted a refill. That refill was not finished as they readily agreed to take the night further. A quick cab ride brought them to Lance’s apartment.


Slowly with a little uncertainty, he unbuttoned Forrest’s shirt revealing a solid hairless chest. “Mmm, smooth, just how I like my men,” he said as he pulled the shirt from Forrest’s too tight pants. Forrest lifted his butt as Lance pulled the shirt from his body and threw it to the side chair.


Forrest reached up and pulled Lance’s shirt over his head throwing it on top of his own. He ran his fingers threw the nest of dark hair on the smaller man’s powerful chest. Grabbing a handful, he pulled Lance down for a passionate kiss, one that had both men moaning into each other’s mouths.


Lust raged in both men. Lance moved down Forrest’s body rubbing his ass along his groin as he did. He unbuttoned his jeans, pulled the zipper down revealing what he thought – Forrest was commando, erect, and already dripping with lust. He lifted Forrest up enough to pull his pants to his thighs, then undid his own and threw them onto the growing pile of clothes.


When Forrest reached for Lance’s hardness, he was met with a calloused hand stopping him. “No, let me take care of both of us.” Lance moved up slightly, enough to put his cock against the one standing tall in front of him. Taking both into his rough hands, he used the wetness to slide up and down in a sensuous motion designed to cause both men to hurt with pleasure.


He leaned down, keeping his hands moving ever so slowly, and kissed those hot lips again. When he felt Forrest grab his ass, Lance moaned, spread his legs encouraging exploration. They were gasping for breath when Forrest shouted, “Oh Fuck,” and came so hard his body spasmed. Lance followed seconds later. He laid his head on Forrest’s chest trying to get control of his breathing and listening to the man below him gasping for air.


The cab ride to his apartment had Forrest dwelling on the man who took his breath away. Not his normal type, Lance was shorter, more muscular, had dark hair contrasting Forrest’s blond hair and emerald green eyes. He was clearly a man who worked with his hands, not a professional, but could hold his own. Their conversations were interesting, intelligent, and broad in scope. Forrest had learned to stay away from politics and religion. He was pleased that Lance didn’t broach those topics either.


Forrest had a busy life, busy work schedule, and firm rules about living that life. He didn’t go out on work nights. He didn’t break his rules. He was tired and would pay for his indulgences in the morning.


Lance didn’t fit his type. Normally Forrest went for the younger twinks. Muscles were not usually a turn on for him, but damn if this guy broke that rule, too. He allowed himself to close his eyes for a minute seeing the broad shoulders of the man pinning him down on the couch. Though shorter, Lance was clearly stronger. He wondered just how far this one nighter might have gone if it were not a work night.


His dreams were interrupted by the cabbie announcing they were at his destination. He paid, gave the man a good tip and made his way into the three-story building. He took the stairs two at a time and entered his own apartment. Keys, wallet, loose change was thrust into the blue glass bowl near the door. Shoes removed, Forrest wiggled his toes in the thick white carpet beneath his feet.


What a night, he thought as he made his way to the master bedroom. A hot shower was in order. The water flowed over his tall solid body. Eyes closed, head under the spray, he tried to clear his mind. Water ran down his back, between his ass cheeks, and along his sculpted thighs. His body was the result of years of healthy eating and hard work at the gym. His mind refused to settle down even as his muscles did. The image of Lance against the wall, eyes wide with anticipation, heart beating fast, his hardness pressing into his leg, those lips as they kissed filled his mind.


Enough! He quickly finished washing, dried his smooth body, and settled into his bed, naked and hard again. Get some sleep Forrest; you have a busy week ahead of you. Never breaking this rule again!

Larry Thomas aka John Charles spent his youth struggling with reading. Not until his late teens did he discover the cause – dyslexia. Only then, with guidance and professional help, did he learn to read. From that point forward, he discovered his love for the printed word.


Ironically, as a father reading to his children his desire to write was born. Reading to his children was a nightly ritual. “I wanted them to fall in love with books.”

Writing was always part of his professional career, but not until he retired did he move from creating marketing and technical materials to writing novels. Now, as a full-time author, Larry writes Romance / Mystery / Thrillers using the pseudonym John Charles.
His books can be found on Amazon and wherever e-books are sold.

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Writer’s Block: When to Push Through and When Not

book-gianni testoreToday’s post came out of a conversation I had with a fellow author the other day, and it occurred to me it might be useful to others as well.

Recently, I posted about the struggle I’ve been having to write. I don’t sit and stare at a blinking cursor, which is how I think many people perceive writer’s block. No, instead I come up with a great idea and dive headlong into it–writing madly until I hit the 40 K mark or so, when I suddenly lose all faith in the story and my ability to tell it. As such, it doesn’t really feel like writer’s block, but I think it’s a form of it just the same.

I’ve done this with four stories in the past year. Four stories that I walked away from at the halfway point.

Now, 2016 wasn’t a good year for me. Let’s be honest, it wasn’t good for a lot of people. Living with fear or depression is sapping to one’s creative energy. So is working an exhausting job. But these things were only additional factors in my decision to walk away from these stories. The real issue was that I didn’t believe they were any good. I thought they were fatally flawed and not worth finishing.

The thing is, I think there is a natural rhythm to writing. Most of us experience a lull in productivity after we’ve finished a big project. That’s normal. That’s not writer’s block. Farmers used to let fields lie fallow for a season to allow the ground replenish the minerals needed to grow healthy crops. Now we stuff the dirt with fertilizer and force earth to produce more food faster without any rest.

I’m a firm believer in taking a little break between projects so your well of creativity can restock. Just don’t let that break go on too long, or it represents too much lost time between one story and the next–and these days, like the farmers, writers are expected to produce new works rapidly. An experienced author knows this and doesn’t let that natural lull go on too long or else it becomes wasted time.

laptop-user-1-1241192But what I experienced last year was not a naturally occurring wane in production. So if you hit a roadblock in your writing–think about why you want to bail on it now. The most important question you have to ask yourself is this: is the problem with THIS story or is it with your self-confidence?

The thing with writer’s block of any sort (even if you’re still writing but it’s like pulling teeth with a pair of pliers) is that sometimes you’re blocked for a good reason. Either the story isn’t working or you’re trying to force the characters in a direction they don’t want to go. That kind of ‘I can’t write today’ is totally different from the feeling that everything you write is utter crap and you’re stymied because you either keep writing the same bit over and over or nothing at all because ALL THE WORDS SUCK.

In the first situation, sometimes you need to walk away from the story for a bit and let it simmer in your subconscious while you figure out the problems. Or you need to read other stories and watch some movies while you re-charge your writing mojo. Be kind to yourself in these situations. Take the dog for a walk. Do something different. Let your brain unravel the thorny problem as best it can. If taking a little break doesn’t help, then skip that scene and write something else until you can come back to the one giving you trouble. The solution might well have come to you by then–maybe even as a result of you moving on with the story.

If you feel hamstrung in your writing because of self-doubt however, the most important thing is to write SOMETHING. Part of the problem with writer’s block in any form is the belief nothing you write is good enough. You know what? The first draft of anything written isn’t good enough. But you can’t know what to fix until you get it down on paper. I’m discovering that sometimes my first draft is just me getting to know the characters and the universe they live in. That means a lot of things might change in the second draft. And there is nothing wrong with this!

There’s also nothing wrong with realizing something isn’t your forte and not expending any more time or energy on it. I’ve finally accepted that as much as a love a cleverly written short story, it’s just not something I do well. I have spent as much time struggling with a 10 K short story as I have with an 80 K novel. Don’t beat yourself up because you don’t do something as well as other people you know. Figure out what your strengths are as a writer and hone them until they are razor sharp. This is even more important when you’re already struggling to write, regardless of the reasons.

If self-doubt is holding you back–and I believe depression and fear are huge contributing factors to this category as well–sometimes the wise thing to do is soldier on. Will it be your best work? Probably not. But dropping out of things and not finishing things becomes a habit. A bad one. I think this is what happened to me last year, and though I also made a decision to drop out of some projects recently, I think in that case, I did it for the right reasons. Not because I didn’t think the end result would be good enough but because I realized I’d seriously over-committed myself at a time when the demands on my writing time and creative energy are already very high. Saying no to some projects–including ones I really wanted to do–took the pressure off me enough so I could get back to work on the most important ones. It sucked to have to disappoint people, but at the same time, I hope that will serve as a reminder to me in the future not to take on more than I can manage.

Things that sap your creative energy–like an exhausting job, or family pressures, or depression–aren’t likely to go away. You have to learn how to work around them if you want to be a writer. The lovely thing about doing this is that when things are going better, you have the skills to write like a fiend. And if you can turn out decent work when things are crap, think how much better you can do when things are great?

For many reasons, I’ve been debating if I should continue writing, and if I do, what genre I should be writing in. Part of my problem as a storyteller is I don’t have a recognizable format–I like a little of everything! I’m not sure I’d do better in other genres, but other genres are calling to me. The hard part is knowing what is a valid reason for changing and what is self-doubt. Knowing the difference between truly wanting to head in a new direction versus letting the fact that the path has become difficult make you think it’s time to turn around.

So if you’re struggling to write just now, I feel your pain. If you’re thinking about quitting–either on a specific story or the whole writing gig altogether, be honest with yourself as to why you’re thinking about quitting. Figure out if the problem is THIS story versus your writing in general. The action you take will depend on knowing the difference.

In the meantime, I’ve got a bloody story to finish. Catch you on the flip side.

Writing in Spite of it All…

Hinfallingsnow_zps0b503108I’ll be the first to admit, 2016 wasn’t a very productive year for me.

To be perfectly honest,  I lived with a growing conviction we’d see a Trump presidency, and this hamstrung and paralyzed my ability to write.

I started at least four stories last year, reached the 40 K mark, decided they were utter crap, and abandoned them. Maybe they were crap. Maybe I just lost faith in them. It was impossible to concentrate on them to work through their issues as long as I lived with this utter, horrible premonition that everything was about to go to hell.

winter is comingAnd you know what? My worst fears came true. Since I’m a writer, that’s saying something.

Not only did Trump get elected President, but within hours of his taking office, links for climate change, civil rights, and GLBTQ rights disappeared from with WhiteHouse.gov website. Republican lawmakers in five states launched bills to criminalize peaceful protests. Every Cabinet member chosen by the Trump transition team could best be summed up by choosing the biggest, most vicious fox and putting it in charge of the respective hen houses. If he proposed making Cruella DeVille the Secretary of the National Humane Society, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least. The gross manipulation of the confirmation hearings, with limiting questioning, means most of them will get rammed through regardless of the fitness of the nominee for office.

The GOP wants to defund Planned Parenthood and the National Endowment for the Arts. They announced plans to eliminate twenty-five of the DOJ’s Violence Against Women grant programs, and of course, they want to kill the Affordable Care Act. Millions will lose health care coverage as a result, and reinstituting the ability of companies to deny coverage based on pre-existing medical conditions will doom many to backruptcy at best and death at worst. Medicare and Social Security aren’t safe, either.

I should also like to point out that because we have a Republican Congress and Senate, we are unlikely to see an impeachment go through, despite the fact Trump has already violated the Constitution he just swore to uphold by taking office without divesting from his businesses.That doesn’t even touch on the disturbing possibility the Russians interfered with the election for the sole purpose of getting Trump in office. Or the fact that given the age of most of the members of the Supreme Court, the incoming administration will have the power to influence legislation for decades to come. Let’s not forget the last time we had a Republican House, Senate, and President, we had the Great Depression and it took World War II to end it.

Wait, I take that back. We also had a GOP-controlled House, Senate, and Presidency from 2003-2006. Also one of the worst economic downturns in American history. Believe it or not, driving the economy bus off the cliff has nothing to do with POC, ‘the gays’, Muslims, immigrants, or ‘uppity’ women and everything to do with the policies of the GOP.  Not that Trump’s supporters will see it that way.

It’s a lot to take in. Not to mention, my firm belief we have an unstable man who cannot bear criticism in any form who has been given access to the nuclear codes, or that his closest advisors could double for Hitler’s Cabinet. Or that science and education are considered dirty words and in some locations, government officials are actively prohibited from using the words “climate change.”

It’s also hard to believe, in the face of all of this, that any scribblings I might create could have value or meaning. Isn’t it the height of frivolity to continue telling stories in such an environment?

I don’t think so.

It took me a while to reach this point. I’ve read posts on the subject written–far more eloquently than anything I could say–by other people. Probably the best of them have been written by Chuck Wendig, who wrote How to Create Art and Make Cool Stuff in a Time of Trouble, as well as this morning’s words of encouragement about the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States: No One’s Coming to Save Us, So We Have To Save Each Other.

Good words.They didn’t sink in right away, though. And I will probably have to refer to them again and again as I struggle with what the future brings to our country and our planet. Until this morning, when Trump was irrevocably sworn in, I think on some level I was hoping for a last minute reprieve. The Ring is tossed into the fires of Mt. Doom. Harry Potter destroys the final Horcrux. Birnam wood comes to Dunsinane. Something. Anything.

And yet, it did not. Trump has been sworn in, and the ravaging of our lands and our rights, the savaging of the public programs, the crippling of the already struggling middle class, has begun.

The battle lines have been drawn. So mourn, but don’t stop resisting. Don’t allow anyone to normalize what the GOP and the President are doing. Be outraged, but don’t let it paralyze you. Remember to take care of yourself and those around you that are struggling: emotionally, physically, financially.

Never Give UpOne of the things I’ve done that seems to help me a little is order some of these rings from Amazon. I got the idea from a post by The Bloggess–it seems someone gave her one of these rings once, and now she keeps some on hand so she can give them out to people she thinks needs them. I buy them three at a time and wear one until I give it away. When I’ve given away the last one, I buy three more.

Remember that we cannot function in a state of sustained fear and anger. Share those kitten pictures. Penguins. Otters. We need more otters. Baby otters. Corgis. Hell, Baby Corgi-Otter crosses. Sharing something that makes you happy doesn’t mean you aren’t taking things seriously enough. It means you’re in this for the long haul and you have to nourish your soul. That includes celebrating the events in your life important to you.

Read. Pull out your comfort reads, whatever they may be. I find I’m re-reading a lot of the children’s horse and dog books I grew up with, as well as historical romances. There’s something very soothing in reading about an era where the worst thing that happens is that you get cut dead by society or your sister makes an imprudent match. But if zombie apocalypse is your comfort read, that’s okay too. Read, and then share your squee. Make an author’s day and tell them how much you enjoyed their story. Leave a review.

Watch your favorite movies. Remember why you love your heroes. You know who was the biggest hero is in The Winter Soldier? Sure, Steve Rogers gave a stirring speech about doing what’s right when everyone around you is doing wrong. But the real hero in my book is the little tech guy who refuses to push the button that will activate the Insight program–which would kill thousands of people all over the world deemed as a potential ‘threat.’

He was inspired by Captain America’s words. But he refused to give in to doing wrong, even when he knew the consequences for refusal would be grave.

Also, if you are a creator, then create. More than ever we need our creators, our artists, musicians, and storytellers. Because it’s the creators that taught us about Voldemort and why he needed to be defeated. It’s the creators that give us Fight Songs, our Katniss Everdeens, and our Princess Leias. It’s creators who wrote  Captain America the inspirational speech, and creators who give us hope.

Rebellions are built on hope.

If you’re like me, and you think we’re in for a very rough time ahead, there are some practical steps you can take.

We each have to resist in the manner we can best maintain, however. I can call my Congressmen. I can donate a little to some organizations, but not all. I can write letters of protest. I can pen stories of hope. Marching in huge crowds? Makes me want to run screaming for the hills. This is a sustained march we’re on–a marathon, not a sprint. Pace yourself accordingly. Pick the organizations it is the most important to you to support and remember someone else will have different priorities. If every penny you have is going to your own survival, it’s okay you can’t donate money. Consider volunteering or some other way of showing the President he does not have the mandate of the people behind him. If organizing and participating in a protest march is your forte, I will cheer you on.

As for my writing, I’ve been giving a lot of thought as to what kinds of stories I should be telling now. I still believe as much as ever we need stories with happy endings. Stories where two people meet, fall in love, overcome adversity and live happily together afterward. Stories that take you out of your stressful, crappy day and transport you to another world for a few hours.

More than ever we need stories where diversity and acceptance aren’t dirty words. But I also find that I have other kinds of stories within me begging to be told now. Stories about finding your inner strength and power. About standing up for what’s right. I suspect my storytelling is going to be changing over the next couple of years. I’ll keep you posted.

I think this also means I’ll be spending less time on social media in the name of self-protection and increased productivity. I’ll still be around, but less vocal, less angry. I think we have our work cut out for us in the upcoming years, and yet I will probably be making fewer posts like this one.

I have lanterns to light. Hope to share. Stories to tell.

Time to get to it.

 

 

Defending Copyright on “A Summer Fling”: Part 3

I’ve written and deleted the opening sentence to this post three times now.

summer_fling-200x300I’m not really sure how to proceed at this point. If you missed the beginning of this story, it starts here and is continued here. The short version, if you prefer, is this: someone sent Amazon a takedown notice for A Summer Fling. Amazon demanded proof that I was the copyright holder. I sent them everything they asked for and more. I sent the original file of the story with the date stamp. I sent the link to the story on Goodreads (if you’re a member of the GR M/M Romance Group, you too can read the original version there) and the free anthology created from the Don’t Read in the Closet fest.

I sent them the Smashwords URL showing the date I first uploaded A Summer Fling in its current form. I sent the registration number for the pending copyright registration I’d filed. Yes, filed belatedly. More on that later.

I expected this to be resolved. After all, I am the legal copyright holder. This is a self-published free story of little value. Why was this even up for debate?

Imagine my surprise when I got an email from Amazon saying that due to the third party dispute that had not been resolved, they would not be re-publishing my story. Surprise is putting it mildly. I was shocked and upset. I got on the phone with Author Central and KDP. I sought advice from authors who’d been in similar situations (though none quite like mine). I tried to get more answers from Amazon, but was stymied at every turn. The young man with KDP was very nice but he could not determine why the story was being blocked, despite my having provided so much information. He advised me to send a detailed email, outlining everything I shared with him and he would do the same from his end.

Later that evening, I got an email from KDP stating flatly that they would not release the third party’s name or what the basis of their complaint was. I was also advised to hire a copyright lawyer if I wanted to pursue the matter further.

My initial reaction to this situation was to suspect that the now-defunct All Romance Ebooks was behind this somehow. I’m still not convinced that they’re not. Their abrupt announcement of closure, along with offering authors only 10 cents on the dollar of owed 4th quarter royalties, as well as preventing authors from removing files from the ARe platform is suspect, to say the least.

But I have also discovered that copyright claim-jumping of self-published authors is apparently a thing, and that Amazon puts the burden of proof on the author, not the accuser. Self-published authors may be at greater risk.

It may be the case that it is a coincidence I happened to get targeted by a scammer the same day ARe acrimoniously closed their doors. But unless I hire a lawyer I will never know. The various articles I’ve linked discuss what you can do to protect yourself from these kinds of attacks, and the most common bit of advice is to register your copyright claims, even though technically the copyright is yours once you put your words to paper unless you sign them away. I haven’t signed mine away, and yet Amazon isn’t accepting my documentation. And frankly, if this IS an attempt by ARe to lay claim to titles that were simply hosted on their former website, then registering your copyright may have little effect on Amazon’s resolution to reinstate your book.

Kind of like how it happened here with me.

I will be registering all my stories from now on, however, as well as retroactively registering my existing ones. It’s an extra layer of insurance that may well protect you in the future from your run-of-the-mill scammer. The link for the US copyright office is here.

This morning I received a very nice email from Amazon stating that after a careful review of my documentation, they have decided to uphold their decision to block the sale of A Summer Fling, but that they look forward to publishing my future stories.

That’s very telling. They are no longer disputing the fact I wrote the story. They are saying someone is claiming I don’t have a right to distribute the story. A story that’s been freely available online for years. You can see why the list of suspects in this case is extremely short.

As for A Summer Fling, I have a couple of choices. I can file a counter-claim. I’m looking into that, but one of my concerns is making personal information available to this unknown third party. Another option is to contact Jeff Bezos directly and lay out my story. He probably gets thousands of emails a day, so I doubt it will get though, but it’s worth a shot. I emailed him this morning, forwarding all the information I’d given to KDP regarding my story. I stated in my email I wasn’t asking him to reverse Amazon’s decision not to publish my story, but I was requesting the name of the third party and the basis of their claims against me. We’ll see what happens.

Late last night, in a last-second cliffhanger twist, I was tagged on Facebook by someone involved with publishing the old DRiTC anthologies. She apologized profusely to me and said it was a possibility her statement to Amazon that no one else was allowed to publish the anthologies except her might have triggered this situation. She’s promised to speak to Amazon on my behalf, and for that, I am deeply grateful. However she did not realize I’d changed the title of my story. Unless she sent in a takedown notice for my story by name, then her blanket statement isn’t behind the complaint. That’s why I need to know who IS behind the complaint before I take further action.

Beyond that, I’m looking into my legal options. But honestly, I can’t afford to spend a lot of money on a free story. Perhaps that’s why it was targeted in the first place. In the meantime, it’s available on Smashwords for free, and it is my intention to send it out to other sites as well. Grab it while you can in its various forms, all linked in this post. Consider leaving me a review on Goodreads or Smashwords, as Amazon is no longer an option. It would be greatly appreciated.

Mostly, be aware. Amazon places the burden of proof on the accused and apparently *anyone* can waltz in and file a complaint. How can I address the complaint when I don’t know who made it or what the basis of their claim might be? Only by hiring a lawyer, and I’d be willing to bet most of us aren’t in a position to do that. My accuser could be someone with an axe to grind, a random scammer, or a former retailer looking to take advantage of the fact they are still holding my files. Amazon has blindfolded me and left me in the ring to duke it out against an unseen opponent who merely has to walk away to win this round.

If it is a certain retailer, then I am not the only person with stories at risk. I also have grounds for going to the people forming a class action lawsuit with additional information. But I can’t move forward without knowing the name of the third party.

If you know of anyone, or if you yourself have recently experienced something similar at the hands of Amazon, I would appreciate you letting me know. If this is not an isolated incident, it gives even more credence to my suspicions as to who the guilty party might be.