Or sometimes L. E. Harner :)
Laura is much more than just an author. She's a tireless and outspoken champion of writers and authors' rights. I met Laura round and about on the intertubes, mostly on Facebook, and she invited me to a couple of her writer groups. Do we always see eye to eye? No. I'm too short. And we're both, um, a bit opinionated. A lot.
But that's one of Laura's best things. She can stand her ground (fiercely...vociferously) but then can still shake figurative hands and be friends afterward. (I'm not always so good at that. I have to go to a corner and sulk for a bit sometimes.) She challenges me when other people would say "Oh, yes, of course" or wouldn't want to make me mad. Laura rattles the cage - and often makes me think.
She is, above all , a champion of the independent fiction writer and self-publication and has taught a lot of us that it's not as scary as it sounds. Always up for mentoring, she has gently shoved a number of authors off on their maiden self-pub voyages (yes, I'm using the nautical metaphor on purpose - Laura's retired Navy.)
I've read several of Laura's works - the Willow Springs Ranch series (Ty Hard, Ty'd Down, Taking Chance) and though I'm usually a "no cowboys" kind of reader, these were a joy to read. Ty especially is a character who seizes the reader's heart - his struggles felt very real to me, the terrible toll of modern combat and the things we expect our young men and women to survive are really brought home.
Laura's a versatile author though, and has written some fun paranormals and quite a few multiple partner stories. All sorts of variety to sink you reader chops into.
I did manage to meet Laura last year (there is photographic evidence and everything) and hope to be able to chat with her more this year. Starting to think I need a manager to talk to everyone I want to this year...
It's odd, but I can't recall exactly how I met Eden. She may remember better than I (or perhaps not) but, er, when one reaches a certain age (hush, don't say it) the edges of memory can fade a bit. I certainly knew her name. I know she sat next to me at one of the readings and we chatted a bit. She's an absolutely lovely lady, sweet and charming and just oozing smart. I think those beautiful eyes see everything.
I do recall that she attended my reading of Boots and that she was so supportive. She told me I captured "cat" perfectly in my reading (I thought I had done a good impression of terrified author, so it was wonderful to hear) and that it had convinced her to try the story. Not only that - Eden took the time to leave a lovely review on GR. I am eternally grateful for those positive comments and try to remember how it made me feel when thinking of other authors.
With that established, it took me far too long to read any Eden books, something that I finally managed to fix late this summer. I picked up Naked Tails, which I've wanted since its release, and now, of course, I want more Eden. (In a reader sense, not in a creepy sense.)
I recall in one of my writing groups long ago that we played a game involving "what's the most absurd shifter story you could write?" as its premise since, at the time, non-wolf/cat/bear shifters were just appearing on the horizon. Why did everyone go for the lupine/feline/ursine for so long? Because these are the traditional shifters of human mythology - wolves in much of the world, bears in the Americas and in Norse culture, cats in many Asian traditions and so on. But writers started to experiment with other critters. Penguins. Dogs. Owls. I've seen a lot of variations, some of them more successful than others, but I'd never seen this particular one before.
I was immensely curious how this could be pulled off. Eden does pull it off--in spades. Not only has she created a Possum-centric society, nestled in the heart of the American South, but she hints at an underground shifter society encompassing a wide variety of species. This insular, clannish community is a brilliant bit of world-building and one the protagonist has to piece together bit by bit as he comes into his inheritance and is forced to accept who he is. (I will admit to being terribly angry at Seth's grandmother and all the heartache she caused him, but that's the mark of a good storyteller. The characters are real enough that you want to yell at them.) It's an utterly charming story that really deserves some more exploration - into maybe fox society or elk. Really curious about elk... With a complex supporting cast as well as loveable main characters, this one was so much fun.
There will be more Eden reading, of that you can be sure. Summer reading with sweet tea. Sounds ideal, doesn't it?
Two last Eden notes before I go for today: First, if you see her at GRL, make sure to congratulate he on her new house :) Last, Eden's also over at The Novel Approach today as part of the Countdown to GRL with a giveaway, so be sure to stop by!
I've been in contact with several of the Story Orgy authors (Havan Fellows, Lee Brazil, J R Boyd, Hank Edwards, Jade Baiser, Em Woods - forgive me if I missed anyone) for some time through writers' groups and online mutual friends. They always seemed a fun group to me, kind of like the funny, quirky group at the back of the school cafeteria that you want to go talk to but can't see butting in. They're having so much fun.
I'd also heard terrible rumors that they were all the same person. Now, one has to consider the source of such rumors and they stemmed from a particularly bitter, angry individual, so I never put much stock in them. It seemed unlikely to me since I'm pretty good at spotting speech patterns in people's posts and none of these folks sounded remotely like each other.
I can tell you, without a doubt, that they are not the same person. I've met several of them and unlike Clark Kent and Superman, they are capable of being in the same room at the same time. Silvia Violet introduced me to one of them, a gentleman by the name of Hank Edwards. In the Swag Room. In front of the pile of Charlie's Fluffer Balm. I wasn't sure enough of my surroundings yet, so I laughed quietly. I wanted to double over guffawing.
Hank is in every way a gentleman but there's a twinkle behind that quiet smile. This is a man who understands that life (and, often enough, sex, too) is inherently funny. We went to readings together and both nearly died laughing at some of them. (The ones that were supposed to be funny, mind you. Just to be clear.) Hank's own reading, from The Plus Ones, was also well done. Not in an in-your-face, skateboard accident on YouTube funny, but in a more sneak up on you and poke you sort of way. The funny catches you off guard, especially when read with such earnest intent. Beyond the readings: drinks, dancing, group silliness (and yes, there are pictures) - we had a blast.
But Hank doesn't limit himself to comedy. His Venom Valley series is paranormal at its tense and scary best. You're thinking vampires and zombies? Isn't that a bit much? But the premise is sound, in a paranormal way - the necessity for both of these things for the plot to move forward is quickly apparent. The opening scene for Cowboys and Vampires is one of the best edge of your seat beginnings to a paranormal I've seen in a long time. The bad people are bad. The good people are conflicted and freaked out. (I am a little sad that I didn't wait to buy the Wilde City versions since the covers are so cool. Someday when I'm wealthy, I'll just have to buy them a second time.) Can't wait for the next one. (Next one, Hank? Please?)
I've talked to Hank quite a bit over the past year and we've even gotten involved together. Hey! Stop snickering! In an anthology. You knew that's what I meant. I had the good fortune to read his Walking After Midnight before the rest of the world has a chance, releasing this November 1 in the Mixed Tape Anthology from Total E Bound. It's a treat - but the rest of you will have to wait.
So here's to Fluffer Balm and Zombies and Hank, who I can't wait to see again!
Here's another author I wish I could read more of (and will someday, darn it.) Not only that, *small cringe* I have yet to read a solo book of Marguerite's. The ones I have read are co-authored with Fae Sutherland, and those are so very charming.
I like a good historical, you see. Yes, yes, sometimes that means a good regency, but *gasp* there's a lot more to human history than just the Regency era. Sometimes I think romance authors tend to neglect the rest of human history in favor of balls and British lords.
Or they used to. I've been seeing a lot more variety over the past few years and I do find those less-explored century stories tantalizing. Both the works I've read by Marguerite and Fae take place in the waning years of the Roman Empire, when Rome is beginning to abandon its holdings in Britain and the North European groups are beginning to settle on the island. Bee Among The Clover and Lotus in the Wild are both beautifully researched pieces, ones that explore the prickly and problematic attitudes of Norse and Northern Germanic people toward homosexuality, toward other cultures and the world in general. I believe I did review them both in my previous life...
I found them both transportive in a historical sense with the language barriers and cultural clashes well and believably painted (though there are moments of magic here and there, these don't detract from the well-constructed historical setting.) Also very glad that I read both books - they really are companion pieces - since I was a bit put out over how things ended with Wulfgar in the first book. (Sorry, ladies, I still think Aron behaved like a brat ;) ) But the second book lets Wulfgar have the rest of his story, with which I'm more than content. Both stories are explorations of damaged and suspicious hearts and both are wonderful reads.
What would I probably pick up next? I see that Marguerite has some luscious looking paranormals out there - those would have to be my next choice. Yum.
Again - an author I have yet to speak to in person. Come say hi in October, Marguerite!
Compared to the other "how I ran into this author" stories, the one for Damon goes in reverse. I met Damon as a reviewer. No, not me acting as the reviewer. He was.
Damon reviewed one of my early works, one that was written in a flurry of anxious, anguished desperation when I realized: A) I had become entangled with an unethical and mean-spirited publisher several years ago B) I had received an invitation to submit to Amber Quill Press and it was a legitimate invitation (I nearly died of shock) and C) I had NOTHING to offer Amber. Panic in Detroit, as it were. I'm still rather fond of A Different Breed but I recognize that I wrote it a bit too quickly.
So did Damon. He wrote one of the most thoughtful, insightful reviews I have ever received from any reviewer. He had obviously enjoyed the story but he pointed out in a funny, gentle, slightly manic way that it had flaws. I agreed and thanked him. He didn't attack me as a writer or as a person. He simply told me what he thought, something that's become more and more rare in reviews.
I saw Damon around and about on the intertubes after that, but then he announced he was releasing his own novel. Squee of excitement in the reader half of my brain, so of course I stalked him, er, showed up at the release party on GR so I could ask a hundred trillion questions. See, some authors are all out there on a visible level. You read their work and you know what it's all about. There are no questions. I'd seen enough of Damon at this point to know there was a lot of weird shit going on in that manic brain and if you poked a bit, you might get to see more.
I do love Hot Head and have read it several times and, yes, there were layers of thought that went into the story, an outpouring of things that had to be said. In the still-raw emotional wreckage of 9/11, it was an anthem, a remembrance, and a poignant journey.
And, damn. Griff is hot.
But it's no longer my favorite Damon story. He delved into SF shortly after that and wrote two related pieces, a short titled "Seedy Business" which was fast-paced and often darkly hilarious, and a more serious piece, Grown Men, which I absolutely adored. It didn't have the widespread success of Hot Head but the sad fact is that contemporary will always outsell SF. I loved it. Lurved it. Damon understands world-building, I think, in a more instinctive way than a lot of romance writers - material culture, political motives, and economic structures are all important pillars of how a character will react and respond to situations in any new world. Heck, it's vital to what situations there will be in the first place. You could easily dismiss Ox and Runt by saying "oh, there's that old M/M trope again, the big man/little man one." You could, if you're one of those readers who can't absorb anything past the most superficial and obvious. They are a couple of the most unique characters I've yet to come across in any genre and their story is quite astounding. (Some of the sex gets rather inventive, too, but that's a different story.)
I actually met Damon at last year's GRL and got a lovely hug and was rather tongue tied and shy. He is, if you have not met him yet, a human typhoon. He often sweeps into a room, rattles it about, and sweeps out again. The man has so much energy it's kind of scary to watch sometimes and while his brain is capable of darting in several directions at once, it's the intensity of focus as he sweeps in and out that makes heads turn. (OK, and he's not bad to look at. There, I said it.) The kilt did make an appearance at the readings (I have grainy pictures) and there was some pretty elastic dancing as I recall.
Anyway. Damon's new project A Bad Idea is one that I'll want to snap up. Currently reading through Horn Gate, which I do believe is related - and it has the Itch series attached to it on the DPS website. You gotta love the promise of a series...
This year, maybe I'll siphon off a little of Damon's energy. Discreetly. Not too much. I don't think he'll notice, do you? ;)
For something on a personal note. You know that one friend of yours? The one who picks the wrong person to go out with, to fall head over heels in love with, the exact worst person for them? There could not possibly be a more destructive choice for your friend? Friend finally suffers breakup, you listen patiently to all the tears and the self-deprecation and the "oh, my god, how could I have been so blind?" wailing.
Then your friend turns around and hooks up with a clone of that person in the next couple of months - and does this again and again.
I seem to have this issue with publishers.
Oh, no, certainly not all of them. I have some truly lovely publishers, one of whom I've been with for years. Faithful, ethical, supportive publishers who pay on time and honor their contracts and commitments. But there's always that one. The bright, shiny one I hang so many hopes on despite my friends' warnings. Despite the warnings going off in my head. I make excuses. I wait for the promised changes to happen. Yes, everything will be fine soon.
Until it all falls apart. And this isn't my first rodeo. Hell, no. I'm just a trusting, self-deluded idiot. No, I'm not naming names. Not in public. That wouldn't be right.
But there will be a delay in some sequels and for that, I apologize to my readers. We'll get there again and maybe now, finally, I've learned to make better choices.
Clancy will most likely be coming for my head for this one. (I hope not, but...)
See, I have monetary issues. This isn't (no kidding?) unusual for a writer but they've been worse the last couple of years. One of the fabulous things about writing reviews was I got to read without the cost. (So long as I wrote my thoughtful, inspiring, incredibly erudite *cough cough* reviews, I got to keep playing.) Without this literary safety net, I have to limit my purchases and, sadly my reading these days.
Yeah, yeah, I'm going somewhere with this. There are a lot of writers I would A) like to read more of or B) like to read at all. Clancy falls into the A) category. Every time I see a new Clancy Nacht story, I gaze at it wistfully and tell myself to remember it in the next semi-annual book buying spree. These happen in June (birthday) and late December (Christmas) with gift card money. Every relative I have knows I don't need things - I need books. But since I keep losing my lists, there are authors, like Clancy, that I invariably neglect to pick up.
This makes me sad. Especially since I have read one Clancy Nacht story - though probably not one of the ones you would expect. I ran across Clancy for the first time in a wonderful M/M Fairytale Anthology Bedknobs and Beanstalks (a nod to the old children's story Bedknobs and Broomsticks.) I enjoyed several of the stories thoroughly but only one of them made me laugh out loud. We say that a lot these days, the whole lol thing, but my son says I shouldn't be allowed to use it. I should only be allowed to use lqtm (laughing quietly to myself) since I rarely laugh while reading in any audible way.
With Clancy's story, "Jack and the Peenstalk," I did. Loudly. Until my stomach hurt. It just hit all the right tickle spots for me and was so marvelously sarcastic and ironic. I like sarcasm. Bet you couldn't tell. (From the original review: "This Clancy Nacht gem had me in stitches with its satirical take on the evils and ennui of modern life. It’s not merely a bit of humor, though. There’s a sweet love story here as well, giving us hope for the possibility of redemption for even the most selfish slacker.")
Long story short, I do look forward to reading more Clancy and perhaps speaking in person this year. Anyone who can write about peenstalks already has my approval. (lol)
Sometimes you run into another author in strange and various ways over the years. He or she kind of pops in and out of your life with a bizarre frequency that almost makes you wonder if there are patterns in the universe of which we're unaware.
My first encounter with Belinda was in my guise as the evil reviewer. (Evil Review Queen sounds a little melodramatic so we'll stay with the small title.) The book? An Uncommon Whore.
I'm an ancient Science Fiction fan. Have been for...a long while. All right, I'll say it. Probably for longer than some of you have been alive. Reviewing M/M SF, though, had left a bad, bad taste in my mouth previously. It wasn't really Science Fiction at all. It was romance with spaceships and not even very interesting spaceships or with aliens who were just like humans in every way that mattered or on distant planets that really were Fantasies...on different planets. Where was the science? Where was the universe building? (Don't get me wrong - I love a good genre mash for a purpose. A little fantasy thrown in with the SF for a humorous piece is splendid. But these all took themselves waaaaay too seriously.)
Did I really want to risk another? I'm so glad I didn't give up on the genre and it was Belinda who gave me hope. Here was (finally!) an SF author writing M/M romance. There were planets and societies to explore, fun tech, evil aliens, (and morally dubious aliens) hints at intergalactic relations and so on. The SF didn't overshadow the romance, though, and we have a fascinating look at a main character who struggles to regain his confidence and his sense of self after losing everything up to and including his identity. This was SFR I could get behind and now I wanted more.
I started to run into Belinda through SFR groups next (The Science Fiction Romance Brigade, specifically) where I had fun posting about new releases for other authors. There was a dearth of GLBT SFR at the time so it was nice to see company. (Both Belinda and I write M/F SF as well, in the interest of full disclosure.) We found each other on Facebook and I've admired Belinda's huskies and the lovely pics from various cons. The second UW book came out and I snatched it up. Squeezed Blacque/Bleu in there for good measure - not SF but tons of fun.
When I arrived in Albuquerque for last year's GRL, I managed to squish myself onto the wrong shuttle from the airport. I didn't know the times were scheduled and reserved. I was just so relieved to find the right bus for the right hotel. On this bus? Belinda and ZA Maxfield (ZAM!) and the lovely Tara Lain. I think I'm recalling correctly... Anyway, I felt so much better about the whole going to a conference where nearly everyone would be strangers thing after that. It was such a lively group and the best introduction one could have to such things.
This year? I've just finished The Bacchi (which was quite a story, let me tell you... no, just read it. I won't tell you.) and Belinda and I will be doing a Storyteller spotlight together with KC Burn. I think we're just meant to keep bumping into each other like really strange ships in the night. At warp speed, of course.
When you think of a soft-spoken gentleman who writes like a demon, who comes to mind?
No, no, not Ralph Waldo Emerson. A contemporary writer. What's that? Andrew Grey? Why, yes, that's right. :)
Andrew's another writer I came across for the first time during my reviewing years. I may have been a bit critical with my first review, but it was early on in Andrew's career and I saw something there in the manner and the mode of the storytelling that attracted me. My second Andrew book was one of the Farm Series books - and after that I snatched up every one as quickly as it was entered into the database.
When I look back through my review folder (yes, I saved them all, so there) I have tons of L.E. Bryce, a good bit of Josh Lanyon, ones and twos from lots of others, but my folder is just peppered with a healthy population of Andrew Grey novels. Once upon a time, I could safely say that I had read everything Andrew had written. But he's such a prolific writer that I can't keep up and sadly *sniff* have had to curtail my devouring of his novels.
Again, these are a bit atypical for me. While Andrew wrote some fantasy early on, his focus is more real world - farms, cowboys, vintners, restauranteurs and so on, but for me, Andrew is a comfort food author. He's who I turn to when I feel heart sore and world weary. His writing, while there's certainly conflict and often souls in terrible need, is gentle and kindhearted. Everything's going to be OK and there are still good people in the world. Andrew says so. His characters show it's true.
I do play favorites, I'll admit. The Range series really got to me (Dakota's father has MS, after all, something rather close to home for me since it's the retro-virus that decided to take residence in my body, too) and I do still love the Farm family. But I have a special place in my heart for the Of Love series which takes place in lovely Carlisle, Pa, not too far from me, and features some really lovely food scenes as well as poignant characters in difficult situations. (Tell me you don't cry over Billy trying to take care of his little brothers on nothing, I dare you.)
Luckily, Andrew goes to lots of events throughout the year so there are tons of photos out there of him. The first time I saw him in person was in the Swag room at last year's GRL. I need to warn you, the photos are correct. Andrew is quite tall. (And I am quite short) So the hug was a bit of a tiptoe stretch, but, hooray! Andrew hug!
Some writers are exactly as you imagined them. In some cases, this is a really good thing. :)
My next writer really needs no introduction. You know you'll get one anyway.
Ethan Day, if you don't know, is one of the beating hearts of GRL. He was an intimate part of the nurturing from the germ of a lovely idea to the full-scale exuberant madness that it is today. This is in less than a handful of years, mind you. He could easily have been one of those writers who spent all of his time on self-promotion (and writing, of course) but he's always been a staunch supporter of other romance writers and, as long as I've known his name, has provided forums for fledgling writers to try their wings.
I first ran across Ethan as a reviewer. (Yes, I was one of those horrid, nasty people who read books for a review site and didn't always say glowy, gushy things. Of course, that's when I still had time left in the day for such things.) This review site accepted all manner of erotic romance and while most of my colleagues snapped up the M/F and the menage offerings, I haunted the listings for M/M, the odder the sub-genre, the better. It must have been at a point where I needed something to lift my spirits (probably after reading something dark and distressing or several somethings) that I was lucky enough to spot At Piper's Point. The blurb made me hesitate a bit but, what the heck? A comedy, even if there was a bit of slapstick, was just the ticket.
Was there slapstick? Some - Ethan does some hilarious physical comedy, not just in this book but in several others I've picked up since. But the expectation that I was getting a shallow rom-com didn't last past the first chapter. Our Mr. Day has depth. He's a natural storyteller who understands the rhythm of a story and just how much to spool out on the story thread. (From my review, oh, my, almost three years ago: "After my first, wrongheaded impressions had been swiftly shattered, I found it amusing that Cassidy and Nate spend most of the novel not having sex. Quite honestly, the not having sex and almost having sex was hotter and more squirm-inducing than most sex-filled novels I’ve read.")
Yes, Ethan writes contemp stories, but weirdo me will make an exception for him. There aren't too many writers I'll do that for. (What? No mystery? No horror? No crime scenes? No spaceships? No paranormal beasties? Heavens to Murgatroyd!) Ethan writes more than simple comedy, though - his stories contain very real internal struggles. Don't be shocked if you alternate between giggling and tears when you read them.
Talk to Ethan? Well...maybe this year. If he's not busy. If I don't get all tongue-tied again. Or I could just wave from across the room...
The pretty At Piper's Point cover above is the new one from Wilde City Press.
Angel writes (mostly) Science Fiction and Fantasy centered around queer heroes. Currently living part time in the hectic sprawl of northern Delaware and full time inside her head, she has one husband, one son, two cats, a love of all things beautiful and a terrible addiction to the consumption of both knowledge and chocolate.