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Honorary Blogger Lou Sylvre and Anne Barwell: Adventures in Co-writing

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Adventures in Co-writing

by Lou Sylvre and Anne Barwell

Thanks for hosting us today!

Although this is our second published co-written book, The Harp and the Sea was our first foray into co writing, and an interesting project to figure out how we’d make it work. 

Lou is in the US and I’m in New Zealand, so the first thing we did was set up a regular chat schedule, so we could chat in real time to hash out character details and where we wanted to go with the plot.  Between that we kept in touch with email.

Writing a story set in another time and place meant we not only had to juggle plot and character but also location, history, and language.  We’d read enough of each other’s writing to know that our styles would mesh, and decided the easiest way to approach this project was to take a character each and write his POV.  So I wrote Ian’s POV, and Lou wrote Robbie’s. 

Mostly. 

As we traded scenes back and forth, it was with the caveat that we could tweak our character’s dialogue and actions. As it turned out we didn’t need to do a lot of that as we got to know both men the more we wrote them.  And, when as we wrote more and got into the fun geographical research and plotted routes and journey times, we ended up changing a few scenes, and re-writing them to mesh with our research so only writing from one character’s POV went out the window.  As we got into publisher edits and proofs, I couldn’t remember what I’d written or hadn’t and couldn’t pick the difference between our two ‘voices.’ I’d got the same feedback from our beta readers. 

As we got into this story we both got hit with a lot of real life and family issues, so had to put the project on the back burner for months at a time.  Because of this, we decided early on that we needed to plot the story in much more detail than we’d normally do.  We already had an overview, but we had several sessions on chat breaking it down to chapters and scenes, and working out which scene would work better from which character’s POV. For example, there’s several scenes where Robbie is unconscious so it definitely worked better to have Ian tell that part of the story.

Naturally our characters did what most characters do once you get into a story and they changed parts of the plot on us, so our well thought out chapter numbers disappeared into the sea along the way, but the final result is a better story.  I wouldn’t go into a co-written story without a firm plot in mind, as it’s important to be heading for the same finish line, although I think leaving room for creativity and being open to change is essential.

I’d had a nasty experience with Google docs crashing and taking a lot of work with it, so I was wary of tempting fate with it again so we decided to go old fashioned and use word.

We ran into a bit of fun with that as we were using different versions of it and edits I’d made sometimes disappeared in Lou’s document when they were merged so it worked better to send the same document back and forth and write the story like a round robin. Lou would write Robbie’s POV up to the point where it was Ian’s turn to tell their story, then send it over, and vice versa.  As we weren’t alternating chapters, sometimes I’d write several thousand words before returning it, and sometimes it would only be a short scene.  There were also a few scenes that didn’t quite go the way I was expecting.  But I figure that’s one of those signs that the characters and their story are taking on a life of their own, which is one of my favourite things about writing. 

The big thing I’d stress with co-writing is that both authors need to have good compromising skills, and know when to push for something, and when to let it go. Egos need to be left at the door or the experience won’t be a pleasant one.

We’ve enjoyed sparking off each other, and building something new so much we’re planning more in The Magic in the Isles series, and also took some time in the middle of writing this to co-write a New Zealand Romance too.

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Honorary Blogger C F White: Writing During a Pandemic + Excerpt & Giveaway!

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Writing During a Pandemic

by C F White

We’re all in it at the moment. The unprecedented pandemic that was thrust upon us from around December last year and has hit almost every country and affected us all in some way or another.

I’m in England. So it hit us badly in March. We went into complete lockdown at the end of March 2020 and are only now slowly coming out of it. What did this mean for me personally and for my writing and creativity? Well, I was sent to work from home when my job is mostly being out and about —I do outreach for a university, working with underrepresented groups and disadvantaged children giving them access to higher education. I love my job, but all of a sudden it was very, very different.

Not only that, I have two children. One who had just started secondary school and one in primary who has complex special needs. Having them both with me twenty-four seven and having to homeschool and work full time, I think it’s safe to say my writing took an absolute nosedive.

I was lucky in the sense that Fade to Blank had been written by that point. It was finished. I’d started on book two when we went into lockdown and I think I was about midway point into it. Then I halted. Not only could I not find the time, but also the motivation to write was severely affected. There was so much going on, so much fear and worry and confusion and anxiety in the entire world that me putting words to a story just didn’t feel right.

I hadn’t made the decision on what to do about Fade to Blank at that point, so I sat on the book for a while especially as I was concerned that I might never be able to finish book two if we never came out of lockdown, if the world didn’t go back to normal. I gave myself a break. I didn’t want to. Believe me, I wanted to keep writing. I wanted to go back to how things were. I wanted my kids to go to school. But that wasn’t going to happen. So I gave myself a talking to and realised this time with my family is precious. I should take the time to appreciate it.

So I did. I tried not to think about the days, weeks, months ticking by and me having not written any new words. I asked other authors if they were struggling. I wondered how others were still able to write. I thought myself a failure many, many times. I read a lot. I binge read a few series I’d been meaning to read. I edited a few older works. My audio books came out during this time too, so that gave me some focus.

But I still hated that I couldn’t seem to get any words down to finish book two.

Then, suddenly, about three months in, I realised that this was my normal. This was life as it was going to be for a long time. I’d been waiting for things to snap back to life as it had been, instead of embracing it as it was. So I opened the laptop. I actually started writing something completely different. A new book. A new genre. The words flowed out of me. I wrote about 10k in a few days. That kickstarted me into a new writing process. I clicked out of that book, back into London Lies #2, and let myself go.

I finished the book recently. It’s all done and dusted. And I feel I’ve got myself back again.

Moral of this story is, don’t fight it. When there’s so much else going on, don’t force the words to come. Don’t wallow in guilt that isn’t your fault. Don’t compare yourself as to why others were seemingly business as usual and you’d halted to grinding stop. Everyone’s circumstances are different, and no one knows what goes on behind closed doors and how others are really coping. Stay away as much as possible from social media. During these times, it can be a blessing to keep in contact with those we can’t see but it’s also a curse by giving out misinformation and sucking the joy out of things. Use with caution I say.

Words will be there when they are ready. It’s all about adjusting to a new way of working. We’re all doing it at the moment. My real-life job, I’m adjusting to not being able to go and talk to those kids who are already disadvantaged from their peers and give them that extra boost – I have to do this online now or in a new, innovative way. Just like my writing. I’m getting used to throwing down words to the background of Peppa Pig or staying up later when my kids are in bed to edit what I wrote when I was mid-way through a maths problem with them.

It’s a crazy world out there at the moment. We need to acknowledge that and not put guilt on ourselves for not producing at the speed we used to. Or even finding it hard to escape into a good book, because our brains can’t switch off as quickly as our kindle can. We’ll get there again. We will. We’ll adjust and soon this will be normal.

And we can write when things feel normal.

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Honorary Blogger Kristoffer Gair: Not A Horror Novel This Time + Excerpt!

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Not A Horror Novel This Time

by Kristoffer Gair

“You do psycho a little too well.”

I laughed out loud when I read that comment from Martha Davis in her e-mail to me. She’s just finished reading Chapter 18 of Falling Awake III: Requiem and decided to drop me a little note. There’d been chapters of buildup, and when it finally came to this one, I felt unleashed. The crap had to hit the proverbial fan in a big, big way. Writing the main characters (Daniel, Tam, and Alex) meant keeping true to their personalities as they fit in with each other and their families, plus their inability beyond gut feelings to know what they were up against. But when the bad guys make an appearance? All bets were off.

I wrote a couple of villains in the comedy, Gaylias: Operation Thunderspell (under my old pseudonym, Kage Alan), and they were borderline stock characters because that’s what the story called for. The focus wasn’t on them. It was on the heroes. The same could be said in the Falling Awake novella. We didn’t get to know the antagonists then other than they were mentioned in passing. That seemed enough for the story. Then came Falling Awake II: Revenant.

Instead of picking up where the novella left off, I decided we needed to take a little trip backwards in order to see just what Daniel, Tam, Alex, Larenz, and Amanda were truly up against. It’s easy to say characters are bad or evil. You’d have to take my word for it, though, right? Not much of an impact, is it? But if I show you the horrors these characters inflict, and also that they’ll never stop? That’s a whole different matter. It’s this sharing of our antagonists that turned Revenant into a horror novel. I never meant to. I didn’t set out to. The story turned out that way organically.

The character of Andrew in Revenant lived a nightmare. I wrote that nightmare. Readers consumed alcohol after reading this nightmare.

There is such a thing as overdoing it, though. I didn’t want to approach Falling Awake III: Requiem as a continuation of a nightmare. Yes, there are some horrible things that happen, but we now already know what could happen because of the previous book. Will it happen again? Will things go in a different direction? That’s the suspense of it. Do I need to duplicate the second book with a horror show at the end? No. The third book can be its own entity. Yes, all three books are completely connected, but each is unique and different from the others.

I once joked that the second book was my Empire Strikes Back. If so, and I’m about to jump franchises here, then this is my Search For Spock. You have the characters you’ve grown to care about, there’s loss, there’s a little adventure, a little humor, a little philosophy, and an ending that gives us a taste of what we’ve been searching for all along: hope.

Incidentally, Martha Davis e-mailed me again after she finished reading Falling Awake III: Requiem. She said, “You do love better than psycho (thank god!).”

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Honorary Blogger Rhys Ford: License to Stalk • Part Three + Giveaway!

Hello!

And welcome back to my world of dragons, intrigue, hot guns, fast cars and a grumpy, slightly anti-social Chimera of a Sidhe and an Unsidhe who really only wants to hunt monsters and go home to his probably carnivorous cat. My name is Rhys Ford and I’ll be your guide today as on July 14th, I’ll take you back to the Kai Gracen series for Book Four — Silk Dragon Salsa.

If you’re following the blog tour from the beginning, you can skip this bit and head to the serialized part of the story but if this is your first time with me, let me ramble a bit about my grouchy special kitten, Kai. I’ve used the past three books to set up his relationships and world and kind of settling him for what should have been a changing environment. He’s never really had a lot of contact with the elfin and never really wanted any. Ryder, the Lord of the Southern Rise Court, blew into Kai’s life like a hurricane with a grudge and Kai’s had to not only learn how to get along with the man but also adjust to the fact the elfin are in his life to stay. Not something Kai ever wanted. He was raised by humans, thinks of himself as human, and was pretty happy about it.

Then his world changed and he was dragged kicking and screaming and probably stabbing into a bit of elfin affairs even as he knew it would probably be the death of him.

And in Silk Dragon Salsa, I really turn his world upside down.

It was a long time coming and Kai, in his true quick-on-his-feet fashion, knows he must change with it. Because the Merged world is going forward — with or without his approval — and this time, he has a chance for a bit of happiness, if he can find it in the chaos storm hunting him down in Silk Dragon Salsa.

License to Stalk • Part Three

by Rhys Ford

“I hate salamanders.” This wasn’t news to Jonas. Especially considering he probably heard me say that exact same thing at least twenty times since we’d hit the tree line. “It’s like they’re pissed off because they’re not real dragons and gotta take it out on everyone else.”

It was a shit job. But shit jobs meant money in my pocket — well Dempsey’s pocket — and I liked eating.

Until — if — I got a Stalker’s license, I couldn’t claim bounty on anything I took in except for a black dog. The ainmhi dubh were like feral pigs, legal to hunt at any time of the year and anyone with enough guts to go after the insane abominations some Wild Hunt master dragged together from spare body parts could cash in on any state’s reward for its skin. The bigger the pelt, the bigger the payout and since no one could ever figure out a way to breed the bastards, any black dog anyone caught and killed was definitely one more monster taken off the land.

Salamanders were a different story.

They were a pain in the ass and came in different flavors, everything from the sleek, fire-gilled ones to the rhino-sized sewer dwelling monsters who liked to chew on concrete foundations. There was a make and model for any kind of trouble and the particular piece of shit salamander we were after today was a spotted Martin’s forest warbler.

Or as many farmers liked to call them… damned chicken munchers.

The diamonds I’d dug for would be enough to keep us going for six months but I didn’t like living too close to the edge. When we did, it was usually me that went into the dirty to get us out and if I didn’t dig through dragon shit again any time soon, I’d be happy. Dempsey tapped out of the run so it was just me and Jonas stalking the tree line. Montana was filthy with forests but there was enough clear land and townships to support a healthy farming and cattle industry.

Although a slimy reptilian predator the size of a lion and able to slither under chicken wire to eat livestock went a long way into making a rough, hardscrabble life even harder.

“You okay with getting your Stalker license?” Jonas dropped his hot little verbal ember into my lap, his eyes scanning the thicket for any sign of movement. “It’ll mean you being able to cut loose of Dempsey. Be your own man.”

I gave him a long look then answered, picking my way carefully through the pile of dead sticks and leaves as silently as I could. “I owe Dempsey my life. Not going to up and leave him now. If the old man needs me, I’m there. Just like always. Going to be a time when he can’t do this life any more. Got no savings. Don’t even have any land he can call his own. It’ll be my time to take care of him then.”

“Like you’re not doing that now?” He rumbled, stopping suddenly. “That it? Over there?”

“Nah, deer.” If we weren’t on a run, I’d have taken a shot at the buck. Venison was good eating and we had enough room in the solar-powered cooler in the back of the truck to hold at least a quarter of it. The rest could go to the families who’d hired us to hunt the salamander but now wasn’t the time. “Look, they might not even let me have a license. I’m not human. Shit, there’s still places I have to hide my ears and face so I don’t get shot when we go inside. It’s a crap shoot, Jonas, but one I’m willing to risk.”

“You’re just a kid, Kai.” Jonas sounded like he was trying to argue a point but I wasn’t sure what it was. “You should be in school, cruising for a Saturday night date so you can get your first kiss and complaining about doing homework. The family was talking about it and they’d like you to come down. Live with us in San Diego —”

“I’m not a kid, Jonas. Never have been,” I cut him off. “First kiss has come and gone. Just like my first kill. That life? It’s not mine. Save it for your kids because I’m not going to live it. Now let’s go find that damned slimy bastard so I can get something to eat. And on the way out, keep an eye out for that deer. Be nice not to have to pay for a steak.”

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Honorary Blogger Jacqueline Grey: Old Movie Nights + Excerpt & Giveaway!

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Old Movie Nights

by Jacqueline Grey

Thank you so much for having me here today and letting me share the re-release of Shoot the Moon, the second book in the Suit of Harte’s series.  I’d like to talk about something a little more serious today.

In Shoot the Moon, the main character Adam and his friend Ash have a classic movie night. I realize the definition of “classic” can change depending on someone’s age, so let me clarify that I am referring to films released before 1970. Adam and Ash start the evening with Some Like it Hot starring Marilyn Monroe.

When I first set out to write this post, I wanted to talk about my favorite classic films. I wanted to share with you which actors I like and ask you what your favorite movie night themes are, but as I contemplated which movies and actors I wanted to talk about, I inevitably came across James Stewart and his film, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Thinking of that film made me examine what I wanted to say with this post.

As I write this we are surrounded by news of riots and racism. We are fighting a fight that has been going on for over four hundred years and the emotions are overwhelming. Granted, we are fighting for something much bigger than Mr. Smith’s campsite, but the topics of standing up against corruption in government and against the injustice of people who would make innocents out to be criminals to suit their own ends are still valid.

These thoughts made me take a second look at the classic films I love and brought to my attention one of my favorites: 12 Angry Men. This is a film about a jury who must decide the fate of a teenager accused of murdering his father. The teenager is a minority and the “12 angry men” are mostly white. Eleven of the jurors are quick to decide the kid is guilty. Only one man, Juror #8, thinks differently. He clearly states that he hasn’t decided if the accused is innocent or not, but he believes they should look at the evidence and discuss the case before making a momentous decision that will affect a person’s life.

Over the course of the film, the other jurors’ motivations for their guilty verdict come to light. These reasons range from racism and personal grudges to just plain indifference. When thinking of this film, it was the last that struck me the most and it is best shown in Juror #7. Throughout the film he tries to hurry things along because he has tickets to a baseball game and does not want to miss it. As the movie continues and the tides change, he even switches his vote, not because he thinks it’s the right choice, but because he thinks it will get him home faster. His entertainment is more important than the life of a young man.

I’m not the only one offended when he does this. Even one of the other jurors around the table point out that this is not a good motivation to change one’s vote.  He should pick a side because he believes in it. Desmond Tutu once said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” It’s easy to see the fight that’s in front of you when you look at the news and social media, but we also need to engage the people we don’t see, the ones who are doing nothing and staying silent on the sidelines.

It’s one thing to clamor for change, but as I learn more about systemic racism, I feel not only rage but despair. Systemic racism is deeply entrenched in every facet of our society, but even though it’s a daunting task, we must plan a course of action to eradicate this problem systematically. We need all the help we can get. If we could change indifference to action, imagine all the things we could accomplish.

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Honorary Blogger Dieter Moitzi: Till Death Do Us Part + Excerpt!

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Why Egypt?

by Dieter Moitzi

When the famous movie “Death on the Nile” starring Peter Ustinov, Bette Davis, Maggie Smith, Angela Lansbury, David Niven, and Mia Farrow amongst others, was released, I was six years old (hrm, yep, go on, Wikipedia it, and you’ll know I’m already that old, lol). I didn’t see it back then, of course, but ever since, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched it or read Agatha Christie’s book. Countless times, that’s for sure. I’ll always remember that remarkable scene where Mia Farrow is standing beneath the colossal statues of Ramesses II in Abu Simbel and shouting I don’t recall what, a breeze ruffling her hair, a luminous smile on her face, her voice echoing over the site.

I guess I’ve always dreamed of doing the same. Imagine therefore how excited I was in 2018 when, on a whim, my long-time boyfriend and I decided to book a cabin on ship cruising the Nile. All right, June in Egypt—we knew it would be sizzling hot (it was as a matter of fact). But hey: Karnak, Luxor, the Valley of the Kings, Aswan, the first cataract, Elephantine, hopefully Abu Simbel… I knew I was going to see it all, and then some.

Don’t worry, I won’t relate the whole one-week trip. Suffice it to say we were overwhelmed (the effing Nile, for God’s sake! There before our eyes!), brought loads of tourist crap back home (dust-catchers, you could call them), and took… over 3,000 photos. And don’t get me started on all the wonderful memories that are still in my head.

Strangely enough, though, I hadn’t been thinking of using the setting for a book back then.

But last year, I was sorting through my photo-files, selecting some for my travel site, when all of a sudden, I had a flash-like “That’s it!”-experience. It was odd because I had already started working on the sequel to my first book, “The Stuffed Cabin”, and the plot was already decided in my head. But there it was: the vision of a dead man lying on his bed, a huge knife sticking out of his back. Yes, I’m odd like that. What should I do about that dead man, who didn’t fit in with the book I was already working on? Darn!

In other words, what story could I weave around this little image?

Now, after I’d published “The Stuffed Cabin” in 2018 (that is, the English version was released in 2019), my boyfriend and I had been heavily brainstorming for a couple of weeks as to creating a new M/M series. Together we had already invented two main characters, a young Italian and a young Frenchie, and had devised how we wanted them to be, physically and psychologically. Alas, our first enthusiasm had petered out at one moment, our creation processes being rather incompatible. BF wants structure, planning, method. I work with organized chaos. Always. So, we had temporarily put our project to rest.

But I remembered it when that idea of the body with the knife appeared in my mind. And what with my looking at photos of our trip to Egypt, I told myself, ‘Hm, let’s see… that could be it…’ As always when ideas strike me like that, I sat down immediately and started typing away on my computer. Lo and behold, half an hour later, the first chapter had written itself apparently out of its own accord. Yes, the Frenchie was there; so was the Italian chap. After that initial thrust, the rest was mere fine-tuning. Who’s the victim? Who’s the murderer (something a murder mystery writer should know from the start, otherwise they’re doomed)? What’s the motive? How can I hide it till the end as to better mislead my readers? How can I make the other characters all look suspect? What’s the link? And how can I mix in a bit of romance, because let’s be honest: a cuter-than-thou Frenchie and a hot-as-they-come Italian dude not falling in love with each other would be a shameful waste, right?

Well, in a nutshell, that’s how this book was created. Just for the record: the photos helped a lot to describe the sites. As for the dust-catchers in my flat… they’re still there, catching dust. Oh, and no. I wasn’t allowed to stand next to the huge statues in Abu Simbel. I’m not Mia Farrow, after all.

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Honorary Blogger Aldrea Alien: Random Facts about the Udynea Empire & the Kingdom of Tirglas + Excerpt & Giveaway!

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Random Facts about the Udynea Empire & the Kingdom of Tirglas

by Aldrea Alien

Hi, I’m Aldrea! I write fantasy romance in a variety of heat levels both within and without the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. My newest release, To Target the Heart, is an m/m romance and part of the spellster series which is largely set in the Known World, consisted of a single giant continent and a few outlying islands.

The story itself involves a pair of princes from two very different realms. Darshan vris Mhanek comes from the great glutton of the Udynea Empire that commands a great deal of the central continent, whereas Prince Hamish of the Mathan Clan is from the rustic, and largely rural, Kingdom of Tirglas. And there are a few differences in their lands that present a bit of a bump for both princes, leading to them learning to comprehend each other and avoid instigating a war between their lands.

Tirglas

  1. The royal family never leaves their clan lands. Not even when married as succession is handed down to the next eldest and then their children.
  2. There is only the Goddess. She is considered responsible for growth, procreation and harvest.
  3. Hunting down known ‘rutters’ (gay men) was abolished only half a century ago.
  4. Elves are rarely seen with the majority of those who stay having roots as refugees from the Udynea Empire.
  5. Marriage is considered legal for all manner of couples, but only binding if a child is born before the end of the second year.
  6. Everything is bigger in Tirglas, from the average height of the population to the size of their animals. Including the local bears.
  7. Those displaying magical talent are confined to cloisters kept far from the general populace. Their limited range of study means that a great deal of these spellsters are highly knowledgeable in the healing arts.

Udynea Empire

  1. As a whole, sexuality is considered a non-issue. With class and anti-elven prejudice being far more typical.
  2. Women are the last to inherit property or titles. Even if it’s an only daughter, all other direct male lines must be eliminated before anything can be passed to her.
  3. Deities are multiple and often overlap in duties. A product of their centuries of colonisation, which typically ended with lopping off the ruling masses and integrating the common people. Those who are worshipped throughout the empire are the High Mother and Araasi, Queen of all deities.
  4. Assassination attempts are commonplace, leading to the majority of the nobility being highly skilled in magical healing. Many choose to display their prowess by imbibing otherwise lethal doses of poison as party tricks.
  5. Slavery has been legal for thousands of years and, since the arrival of elves on the continent, a large percentage of the slave population is comprised of them. There is a hiercharchy with certain slaves of the royal family having the power to execute nobility.
  6. Spellster’s aren’t regulated and not only dominate the nobility, but the Udynea Empire holds the highest percentage of spellsters of all the realms. Magic is used freely and without fear of being prosecuted for being born with it.
  7. Due to completely conquering several ancient civilisations—such as the already crumbling Domian Empire—in the distant past they’ve the largest source of ancient knowledge and technology. But not always the means to replicate their finds.

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Honorary Blogger Geoffrey Knight: The Pathfinders + Excerpt & Giveaway!

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Mood Swings

by Geoffrey Knight

Welcome to our strange new world. As of writing this post, most of us are in isolation. Most of us have stopped venturing outside altogether and some of us are even in forced lockdown, unable to leave our homes at all.

This kind of isolation is going to cause mood swings.

We’re going to have our good days and bad days, we’re going to get frustrated and anxious, and at other times we’re going to look for something to help cheer us up.

I know as a writer I write where my mood takes me. Sometimes I’ll be in the mood to write something easy and fun and I’ll throw myself into an adventure story, full of over-the-top action sequences and impossible escapes. Sometimes I’ll be in the mood to write a thriller full of twists and turns and nasty villains. Sometimes I’ll be in the mood for a good old-fashioned mystery that needs solving. Sometimes I’ll be in the mood for a laugh and I’ll write a rom-com and pack it with as much snarky dialogue as I can muster. And sometimes I’m in the mood for something steamy and I’ll write a sexy romance, trying my damnedest to fill it with as much off-the-charts chemistry as I can.

The result is a back catalogue that is full of my mood swings. But the great thing about that is, I pretty much have a book to suit whatever mood you’re in.

So I thought I’d dedicate this guest blog post to five books of mine that suit a different mood, depending on what takes your fancy.

1. IN THE MOOD FOR SOMETHING SEXY?

I’ll start with my new book The Pathfinders which is the whole reason I’m here today. When I want to write something steamy, I’ll often dive into something a little taboo. I find taboo books instantly sexy simply because of the risqué nature of them. Taboo relationships demand characters to take a chance, to step out of their comfort zone to fulfil their desire, and that automatically raises the sexual stakes in the story. Having said that, I strive to write more than just porn-without-plot. While the sexual stakes are higher in a taboo book, so too are the emotional and psychological stakes. There’s a lot to unpack in a taboo book, so I hope you give The Pathfinders a go and take the journey with Jack and Hux, two best friends and cousins who need to find their path together.

2. IN THE MOOD FOR A GOOD LAUGH?

I think I’m going to be writing a lot more comedy in the coming months. Laughter is one of the most important things we need right now to help cheer us up and get us through this. The book I’m writing at the moment is a new rom-com, but if you want to read one of my back-catalogue rom-coms then perhaps give The Billionaire’s Boyfriend a go. It’s the story of Matt, a flower-delivery guy who inadvertently ends up saving the life of Calvin Croft, a lonely billionaire in need of finding someone down to earth to love. Hilarity and romance are sure to ensue!

3. IN THE MOOD FOR ADVENTURE?

My very first foray into gay fiction was my adventure novel The Cross of Sins, the first in my Fathom’s Five series. The Cross of Sins was best described by one reviewer as “Gay Raiders of the Lost DaVinci Code” which sums it up perfectly. My aim was to create an action-packed adventure in the vein of Indiana Jones or James Bond (I’m a big fan of both) except I wanted my heroes to be gay. And so Fathom’s Five was born, a team of five gay adventure-seekers on the hunt for relics and treasure around the globe. It’s fun, it’s unapologetically over-the-top and my heroes always get their man in the end… in more ways than one!

4. IN THE MOOD FOR MYSTERY?

One of my favorite ever character creations is my 1920’s gumshoe Buck Baxter, a private detective who’s tough-guy exterior hides a man who desperately wants to find real love in a world of prohibition, gangsters and nior-ish mysteries. I utterly adore Buck and his first mystery Buck Baxter, Love Detective where—with the help of a zany cast of support characters—Buck learns more about himself than he expects as he unravels a mystery that reaches deep into his own past. With Buck, it was my quest to inject as much humor into his story as I could to hopefully bring you something that’s as funny as it is compelling.

5. IN THE MOOD FOR DARK THRILLS?

Sometimes all I want to do is write a book that’s as dark and gripping as I can create, and Harm’s Way is exactly that. It’s the story of a Zach Taylor, a successful businessman who’s very in-control world falls apart when he learns his biological father was in fact a notorious serial killer. He begins to question whether such darkness flows in his own veins when his biggest client turns up dead. At the same time he begins to fall in love with a mysterious stranger who could be his savior or his downfall. It’s a tale full of twists and turns and the climax is one of my all-time favorites!

So there you have it, five of my books that I hope will entertain you no matter what mood you’re in as we stay locked in our homes in search of something to keep us sane in these insane times.

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Honorary Blogger E.J. Russell: The Real Deal + Excerpt!

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The Real Deal

by E.J. Russell

While Silent Sin is about a purely fictional couple who are surrounded by a mostly fictional secondary cast, there are some references to people who lived and worked in Hollywood at the time (although mostly they’re simply mentioned). Some of these names may be familiar to readers—others might not. But because they deserve to be remembered, I’ll introduce you to some of them here.

J. Warren (Jack) Kerrigan

The fan magazines called him “The Great God Kerrigan,” and he was the fledgling film industry’s first bona fide superstar. He was also gay, living in his “Komfy Kerrigan Kottage” with his mother, his lover tucked away downstairs as his “secretary.” His sexuality, of course, was never overtly stated: when confronted with the infamous Marriage Question, his usual response was that he hadn’t yet found a woman who measured up to Mother. He topped the fan magazines’ popularity polls from 1913 through 1916, but then, in May 1917, when a reporter asked him if he was going to join the war, Kerrigan shot his own career in the foot when he said he said no—“… first they should take the great mass of men who aren’t good for anything else…” He went on, unfortunately for him, and the papers picked it up: The Great God Kerrigan thought he was better than everybody else and too good to fight for his country. His popularity never recovered.

William S. (Bill) Hart

Bill Hart was a former Shakespearean stage actor who transitioned to films at the age of 49 and became a star of early film westerns—he’d actually been a friend of Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson and owned Billy the Kid’s six-shooters. His films were grittier and more authentic than the flashier stars like Tom Mix who later supplanted him, and his popularity waned. He retired in 1925 following the lackluster performance of his self-financed film, Tumbleweeds. His damaging public statements about Roscoe Arbuckle’s presumed guilt prompted Buster Keaton (Arbuckle’s best friend) to produce, direct, and star in The Frozen North, a parody of Hart (the premise written by Arbuckle) that presents him as a thief and a bully. Hart didn’t speak to Keaton again for years.

 

Thomas Ince

Thomas Ince, the “Father of the Western,” was associated with over 800 silent westerns in his career—some of them starring Bill Hart. Ince was the first producer to build his own self-contained studio on nearly 19,000 acres in Santa Ynez Canyon between Santa Monica and Malibu. Its official name was the Miller 101 Bison Ranch Studio, but it was generally referred to by its nickname: Inceville. Not only did Inceville contain shooting stages, outdoor sets (and not just for westerns), dressing rooms, production offices, printing labs, and a huge commissary—it was also home to its own stock performing company. Ince leased the entire 101 Ranch and Wild West Show from the Miller brothers and installed the troupe (comprising cowboys, cowgirls, horses, cattle, bison, and an entire Sioux tribe) at the site. Ince’s death is another early Hollywood scandal/mystery: in 1924, when he was just 44, he was taken ill following a party on W.R. Hearst’s private yacht, spawning gossip and rumors that persisted for years. The 2001 movie, The Cat’s Meow, with Cary Elwes as Ince, Edward Herrmann as Hearst, and Kirsten Dunst as Marion Davies, is based on the rumor that Hearst shot Ince, mistaking him for Charlie Chaplin, whom he suspected of having an affair with Davies.

So Hollywood almost didn’t need movies—the lives of film’s early practitioners provided plenty of drama on their own. Continue reading

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Honorary Blogger A.E. Via: Ex Meridian + Excerpt & Giveaway!

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Ex Meridian

by A.E. Via

I want to thank the Girls so so much for having me on again to promote another new release. These girls have been my biggest supporters from the early days and I can’t tell them how much I appreciate it. My MM action/romance novel entitled – Nothing Special VII: EX Meridian – that released on February 24th is already firing up the charts. I’m so excited to bring you the seventh installment in the award-winning, best-selling Nothing Special series. 

I wanted to take this time to thank my amazing cover artist – Jay Aheer of Simply Defined Art – for making me one kickass cover to the next. Each one she does exceeds my expectations.  As an author and avid reader, I’m asked all the time why I put so much work and time into my cover art. I really believe that the escapism experiences starts at the very beginning, at the time of purchase. On that first click. It all starts with the illustration on the front. What else is gonna make a reader, especially one that’s not already familiar with my name, to click on the title. There’s no synopsis to read beside it when you’re scrolling down the list.  

Minimalist covers have never been my thing. That’s okay for some authors but not me. The cover art on my books takes quite a bit of time and Jay never rushes me. She doesn’t stop producing drafts until I feel it’s perfect. She nailed Ex and Meridian in only a few rounds and I couldn’t be happier with this one. I think she really captured the darkness of this installment.

I told Jay that this book needed to be eye-catching and very different from the other six books. I also don’t conform to make the series all uniform. I like spice and variety. Sure, I could’ve just put a handsome man on the front and slapped the title up there, but that wouldn’t accurately portray my MCs or the book. I try to tell a piece of the story with my covers. I’m hoping Ex and Meridian’s cover show just how dramatic, dangerous, evil and sexy his character can possibly be. 

Be sure to follow me on social media, or sign-up for my newsletter to never miss another release. 

Happy Reading! 

xoxoxox

Adrienne V.

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