I rarely answer submission calls. My brain has trouble working to specs someone else laid out. Once in awhile, if the parameters are broad and I'm given room to run with something off kilter, I'll do it. (My dear colleagues at the Mischief Corner are more than patient with me and gleefully encourage my taking a science fiction angle on any anthology call.)
But the force of nature that is Kris Jacen contacted me one night and said, "You haven't ever submitted something to MLR have you? And just why not?" I was a bit stunned and blinked a few hundred times and said, yes, I hadn't gotten up the courage but I didn't have anything new just then to submit. Kris encouraged me to look through the submission calls.
With a somewhat jaded eye, I did. OK, yes, that's for contemporary writers and that one, too. Probably that as well, though I could spin it and twist it... Oh, wait, look... A call for Superhero stories.
Yes. I'm a geek. I had comic books growing up even though my mom did not approve. I didn't make any snobbish distinction between DC and Marvel - I loved them all. Spiderman, Batman, Superman, Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Conan, some of the odd indie stuff like Poison Elves that I just adored. So, you bet. That sub call flicked a spark on the gasoline puddle lying on the floor of my brain.
Damien and Blaze's story isn't a capes and tights take on superheroes though. These boys just happen to have some extra abilities most folks don't. A science fiction take on superheroes? Well, why the heck not?
Damien's a mess. Blaze is a bit of a jackass. (Anyone who heard me read at GRL this year can confirm, lol.) But I've come to love these guys and on Friday, November 1, they get their debut over at MLR Press. Join us for the very first novel in the Variant Configurations Series.
You can blame Kris. This is all her fault.
Damien just wants to be left alone. Too bad his variant talent as a locator makes him the go-to contractor for the government’s missing person cases. He can refuse, but it's not so easy when the missing are variant kids.
Blaze Emerson is a sparker. People fear him as much for his ability to call fire as his obnoxious, violent temperament. He’s good at what he does, though, and he’s intrigued by the quiet man who can find people with his brain.
Conspiracies, treachery, and wild rumors are only the start. First Damien and Blaze have to survive each other.
If you'd like to be entered to win an ecopy of the book - stop over to my FB author page. There's a little contest going on...
Out today on All Romance and Amazon:
A Matter of Faces
M/M Science Fiction
An ESTO Universe Short Story
A teensy bit of background: Picture a batch of writer friends wanting to do an antho together. We met in a cabin, so we agreed on a cabin theme. Angel: But I don't write contemporary *mini sulk* Freddy: So write a scifi cabin story. *said in challenge-I-dare-you mode*
The odder the challenge, the more likely I'll accept.
Data privateer Rhodi Mansour crash lands on a barely habitable moon where he's found by a research scientist who refuses to show his face.
A little snippet:
Rhodi woke to a sea of pain. His eyelids wouldn't open all the way, as if someone had punched his lights out. Both of them. He was… where? Not outside. His lungs struggled, but he pulled in warm, fully oxygenated air. He lay half-reclined on a bed, the head presumably raised to help him breathe. His clothes had vanished and he fought a moment's panic. All right, so he didn't have immediate control of the data chip but it would be safe enough in its hidden pocket. Turning his head hurt like a bitch and showed him a Spartan room with a bank of monitors lining one wall, bits and pieces of equipment strewn about on counters as if an indoor tornado had struck.
"Hrgh?" Oh, damn. The attempt at "hello?" had come out a guttural moan. His throat felt swollen, too. Every freaking thing felt swollen, his fingers thick and half-numb, his lips puffed as if he suffered from severe dehydration. What the fuck was going on?
"Oh. You're awake."
The deep voice came from somewhere on his right, though it sounded oddly muffled. A shape materialized from the corner of his vision to stand beside him, a tall, broad-shouldered man with a surgical mask and cap obscuring most of his face. The gray eyes were intelligent and kind, though, so Rhodi told his startled heart to settle down. Probably a doctor…
"Try to stay still if you can. This part of the disease process is the most dangerous. If we can get you through the next sleep cycle, your chances improve exponentially."
Sure sounds like a doctor. "Drgh?"
"Terribly sorry. You have questions. I'm going about this all wrong. Julie always said I had faulty social skills." The man perched on the edge of the bed, facing him. "I'm Gel."
Not entirely accurate, of course. There was serious stuff going down and some lovely quiet moments. While we did have tons of parties, fun and silliness, I loved that this year was also so much about the work.
What did we do this year? My head's still spinning...
Got in Tuesday night and went to a fabulous pub a few blocks down from the hotel, Pints and Plates, with Silvia Violet, Hank Edwards, Christy and ET Thomas and Sara York. It was Beer Geek Night there and food, beer and company were all wonderful. I get so nervous before these events and getting to hook up with old friends first thing really calmed things down for me.
Wednesday: The Writers Workshop
A GRL first, the workshop was designed to include classes for all levels of writers, whether just starting out or those who've been to a more than a few rodeos. Me? I've been around the block a few times (hush, I heard that snicker.)
This filled a huge gap I know a lot of writers felt was missing, all aimed toward professional development. There were workshops on writing different genres, on several demons that plague the fiction writer, (like passive voice) on branding and marketing, on publishing with an agent. The other first for GRL? Pitch sessions. A mainstay of larger conventions, these are usually small bits of time with publishers, agents and acquisitions editors for which the author pays extra. At GRL? All part of the price of admission. Good practice, good way to get your name to some important industry people, good way to expand your professional portfolio or even start your career.
Time to set up swag - and, oh my goodness! The imaginative stuff everyone brought this year. My poor jaw suffered rug burn from being dropped so many times. I think we've all agreed to crown Eden Winters as Swag Empress of the Universe but it was tough, as an author, not to snatch all sorts of stuff up early. Amber Kell's Chinese take out boxes of intriguing mystery. Abi Roux's t-shirts (woohoo!) Kaje Harper's evil plot bunny squishies.
Lovely cocktail party that evening where I found a much more relaxed than I've ever seen him Damon Suede. I know lots of folks went out to the clubs that night, but kids, too many late nights are not a good thing for me. I stayed to talk to some of my favorite people, met some new ones, and turned in at a decent hour. (No, you do not get to know what time.)
Thursday: The Madness Begins
Never have been so nervous in my long, nerve-rattled life. I had this spotlight to do in the afternoon, you see, and there would be no moderator. It was all us. I was anticipating my fellow authors and I seizing up, the audience staring in barely contained contempt while the crickets chirped in the corners.
*spoiler alert* The day did not live up to my worst nightmares.
Started off with Belinda McBride and KC Burn at our breakfast planning session. We found we meshed so well, we really didn't plan very much besides a few basic concepts and possibilities if things went wrong. Nerves calmed to the point that I no longer felt like I was having a stroke (merely a coronary) and off we went to collect swag and stalk supporting authors.
Loved the fact that our newer colleagues got their own signing. I don't get to go to the signing, since I'm stuck at my table spot, but this was my chance to oooh and ahhh over displays and new books and to get all sorts of fabulous folks to talk to me because they were trapped behind their tables. Mwahahahaha! Seriously, tons of fun and I did get everyone to sign the free excerpt book.
Oh, look! The publisher's room is open! So many tempting yummies, but I managed to contain myself to a single purchase, Eric Arvin's The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men, which came highly recommended by my dear friend Hank Edwards. (How could I resist?)
And how did the SF panel go, Angel? You appear to have survived...
It was amazing. (*echo effect* Seexxx Iiinnnn Spaaaaaaacce) The audience was full of folks who know and understand the genre, who asked great questions and stayed engaged. We didn't need the readings we'd prepared. We didn't need to fall back on contingencies. It was more like an extended conversation with a (large) group of friends. Thank you, thank you to everyone who showed up and made the experience so lively and enjoyable for your three sacrificial la....er, authors. I loved that we were able to talk about not only our specific stories, processes and struggles but that we could also talk about the genre past and present and the changes in the industry over the past ten years.
I did not throw up from the nerves. Not even once. Then I got to meander and relax and have a nice gnash with friends at the opening ceremonies before the first party.
The Juke Joint was tons of fun. Charlie was a wonderful host and though I was there for the friends and the dancing, a lot of folks enjoyed the scenery :)
Will Prater came up to me at some point during the day and asked "You want to come to my room later?" I blinked at him in stunned surprise but he went on to say that it would be a special Live from GRL edition of the Write On The Edge radio show. Hehe. That was tons of fun with authors and loved ones perched on various pieces of hotel furniture (5 of us ended up on the bed, lol.) Hank Edwards, Maguerite Labbe, Jeff Erno, Allison Cassatta, Wt Prater, Lily Velden, Jambrea Gaff, Edmond Manning and I giggled and winged our way through the questions with a little snark, a little TMI and a special visit from not-quite Anne Rice thrown in.
Hardest day down - the rest? Easy-peasy. (Well, as easy as being social far more than I am all year is for me, lol.)
Friday: I Get To Watch
Busy day for me, but not difficult. Volunteered at the readings in the morning, so I got to hear Ethan Day and Zam, Eden Winters and Jessica Freely and tons of other readings. I think I love the readings best of all. Some folks have told me they don't want to hear someone else read - that it spoils the cadence of the story in their heads - but for me, I love hearing an author's interpretation of their story. What do they find moving or important? What kind of an excerpt did they choose? Was it funny, sexy, ominous, heart-wrenching? The choice alone says so much about the author and has prompted several buying decisions.
On to scrapbooking! I don't even know what a scrapbook is supposed to look like (or I didn't.) We had instructions on how to make the correct page but a lot of readers make their own sizes and shapes and several were kind enough to show me how the pages would look and how it all comes together :)
Dine With An Author was a bit loud but still fun. I love giving prezzies, and got to do a whole table full of them. The readers sitting to my right and left were delightful people. Tim and Mary entertained me with their takes on romance, gay romance, literature and no longer being twenty. :)
One Enchanted Evening came - lovely event. (Yes, I know. I have to stop using that word...but it was.) Everyone looked marvelous, from Andrew Grey in his white tux to Kris Jacen in her flame red evening gown. Jonathan Karrant had a wonderful voice for the blues - nice to hear songs I recognized. Ahem.
Saturday: Return of the Eek!
What better way to start the day than an adrenaline rush? Wheeee! My reading group was scheduled at 9am. I arrived last and as punishment, they put me last. (OK, fine, I'm sure it was all arranged beforehand and I really didn't mind.) Got to hear Jordan Hawk and PD Singer read so I'd say that was more than fair.
I read a Blaze Emerson passage from the upcoming SF release, Rarely Pure and Never Simple (November 1, MLR) and realized I had not dressed well for the occasion. You see, most of the events had been stifling, temperature wise, so I wore a t-shirt and jeans and my vintage pink Chucks. I shivered so hard during the reading, I think they could hear my teeth rattling in the kitchen. But I got through - woohoo! Only minor stumbles. It's fun to read Blaze. He can be such a jerk.
Lunch with my posse and then - the hugely ginormous book signing!
I had an outfit all planned for the signing, but received so many compliments on the Sally shirt, I decided not to change. Good thing, since it was hot in there. Set up took all of three minutes and then I was free to skip about the room like an excited puppy and take pics of everyone at their tables. It dawned on me as the doors opened that I had forgotten to bring my one purchased paperback down with me for Eric to sign. Dang it. I'll have to bring it next year.
(That's the lovely EM Lynley in her too cute chef's outfit this year!)
The signing was super crazy for the initial rush but calmed nicely after the first forty five minutes. I got to talk to so many wonderful readers this year about, oh, everything from pookas to SF to story locations. During downtimes, I had the wonderfully eloquent Kaje Harper on my right for conversation, the mischievously hilarious duo of Ally Blue and Jade Buchanan on my left (with Ally's stuffed friends doing inappropriate things) and Lynn Lorenz sitting across the aisle trying her best to make me crack up. (She succeeded. Hey, I'm easy.)
Our little group of friends did skip the cocktail party in favor of dinner at an incredible Thai fusion restaurant, Poor Calvin's. Weird name for a Thai place, we all said, but the food was wonderful and before we left, I think half the attendees had shown up. Panang to die for - if you're ever in Atlanta, don't miss this place.
On to the Masquerade Ball! I think I'm going to let the costume photos speak for themselves. So many freaking amazing looks!
All right, yes, I did spend a huge amount of party bouncing around getting photos but I got to see everyone that way :)
Sunday: Time to Return
It was bittersweet, saying good bye again to friends I see once a year, to the second family I never thought I'd have. To the organizers - the events were amazing this year. To the readers - thank you for all your support and enthusiasm. To the reviewers - thank you for getting the word out. To the publishers - thank you for all you do, for all of us.
Here's to next year! See you in Chicago, all y'all!
P.S. - for all my pics and some from other wonderful photographers, go to the Pinterest page: http://www.pinterest.com/angelwritesmm/grl-2013/
This final pre-GRL post is dedicated to the authors I wish could have attended this year. Really, there are too many folks out there to name. If I've missed you, no slight was intended. I've read too many books and have too many holes in my brain.
But here are some folks I would A) fangirl stalk if they were to attend next year B) wish desperately to finally meet in person or C) have met in person and just miss terribly
First and foremost, my partner in crime, (and now business) the squirrel that stole my heart, Freddy Mackay.
Freds and I met in Tennessee the first time and found that our biology-background, geek brains meshed well. Maybe too well sometimes. We communicate by telepathy. A good friend and one of my staunchest supporters, I can't tell you how much I appreciate her.
Freddy's writing is sometimes surprising if you've met her. It can be dark. Very dark. Complex. Twisty. I enjoy these things in a good story. Yes, the stories have often made me cry. She's quite proud of that fact. (Freds - I'll miss you this year!)
Some day I will meet Lou Sylvre. This is will happen before I die. I met Lou on a Goodreads chat (kids, this is a really good way to stalk, er, meet authors) and she had me at bagpipes.
But Luki and Sonny stole my heart from the first chapter of that first book. I read everything Lou writes. It may take me a bit sometimes, but she's always at the top of my biannual must-have list.
Can't wait until I can get my grubby paws on the next one - Saving Sony James :)
Some day I will meet Lou. In the meantime, I'm content with my desperate crush on Luki, whom I love as much as...
Roan McKichan (not pronounced in any way like kitchen.) Andrea Speed has that gift for quirky, troubled characters you can't help but love and Roan has a huge heart shelf right next to Luki where I'm concerned.
Like me, Andrea writes both kinds of gay romance - SF and Fantasy - though she tends toward a few shades darker. Even though she's committed literary felonies I often don't deal well with (character death, cliffhanger endings and so on) I love the stories and the characters so damn much that I just need more. Yep. Infected junkie and not looking for a 12 step program, thanks.
Again, an author I would like very much to meet someday, even if I can't get two words out.
Someone I definitely could talk to and have at length - Toni Griffin. We'll miss our giant platypus this year, from the land of all things writ giant. I do understand that it's tough for a single mom to make the trip over to the States too often, but really? You couldn't have stowed away in Geoff Knight's luggage?
Maybe not. Toni is kinda tall. Toni writes with mix of humor and pathos that's refreshing and touching. Sweet endings, hot men, and some very funny conversations pepper her tales of shifters, hellhounds, and cowboys.
Looking forward to 2014! Toni promises to visit :D
My fellow Mixed Tape Anthology authors - these folks I've known for some time online and would love to meet. Lee Brazil, he of the cooking skills extraordinaire and the green thumb. The irrepressible Havan Fellows. The lovely and kind Em Woods.
Through their intervention and kidnapping, er, invitation, I got to be involved with this little venture - our first work together with the newly revamped Totally Bound coming out in November, :D Each of these writers has a unique voice, from Lee's often surreal twists on romance to Havan's unique characters to Em's gift for an intriguing situation.
I do hope we get to work together again but even more, I hope we can meet someday.
Mathilde Watson and Andi Anderson... two more authors I met in Tennessee and wish would be there with us this year. Matty and I even grilled together. You don't get a better bonding experience than pouring way, way too much lighter fluid on the coals and watching them go up in a glorious inferno. Oh, and there were offerings to the bear gods, as I recall. Matty's stories intrigue me - each one I see from her gets better all the time. We're looking for some shifter stories coming out soon. :)
Andi is the sweetest person I have ever met. People say that all the time, but this time, it's all the gods honest truth. And how cool is it that she writes about angels? (Yes, I react to that on a personal level but these angels are much prettier than me, lol.) Hoping to have Andi join us in anthologies in the months to come. (Hooray!)
The last author I want to mention is something of a mystery to me and I very much doubt I'll ever meet her. L.E. Bryce was my first actual M/M Romance read. Oh, yes, I'd read gay fiction and GLBT erotica before but this was the first gay romance I ever read. (Please remember that romance, for me, was a dirty word until I was in my early forties.)
She writes fantasy worlds of such astounding depth and breadth, with such an marvelous grasp on the history and cultures involved, that her worlds became real to me. I understood the historical timelines, understood the cultural variances as if I had gone back to college and was studying them. I have read everything she wrote in the genre. Then she stopped. There are no new L. E. Bryce novels. Her website hasn't been updated since 2010. As a reader, I am devastated. I think a lot of erotic romance readers didn't "get" her work. It was too serious, too dense, not always happy, not simply concerned with sex. Sometimes the endings were bittersweet, sometimes tragic. Perhaps the criticism was too much, and that would be a great shame. At least if I saw her in person, maybe I could ask why.
So many more authors...Charlie Cochrane, Ava March and on and on. The world has grown smaller communications-wise, but it's still a big place that poses huge obstacles to travel, especially for authors who are rarely independently wealthy.
Those of us who will be at GRL will enjoy the company and the camaraderie - but I think each of us will have that odd spot in out hearts where we feel someone is missing. Here's to the day when we can all be in the same place at the same time. Cheers everyone and I'll see the GRL'ers starting tomorrow when my flight gets in early afternoon!
A more recent discovery for me, KC is one of those authors who stays pretty well focused on a few things - contemporary, paranormal and, what attracted me, of course, science fiction.
We'll be doing a panel together this year at GRL, and I can't wait to see more behind the mind that created Spice 'N Solace and Alien 'N Outlaw. While these stories have as their main focus the romance part of SFR (and the sex - there is a lot of steamy sex) there's obviously a lot of thought that went into the societies and people involved.
My biggest beef with SFR is when an author writes a romance and just happens to stick it on a spaceship or another planet. KC's stories have the detail an SFR fan wants, the necessary culture clashes, the interesting quirks of non-human thought that make it clear that this story could only be told as SF rather than Bob from the bar down the street who we stuck on a spaceship.
I found the Ankylos fascinating - the herd mentality writ large. How they react to situations we take for granted, how the human in their midst is forced to cope with aversions they find puzzling is what a good SF is all about. When we're forced to question our assumptions, to look at them sideways, we often reach important truths about ourselves.
Ankylos anatomy is pretty darn cool, too. But I won't give stuff away. :)
I'm looking forward to spending time with KC this year and, omg! That plane ride to Atlanta is only a day away!
Remember how I told you certain authors are a force of nature? Deanna is another of those. If you are in a room, a group, a hallway where she is sweeping through, Make sure you have you life vest securely fastened. You are about to be swept up in the Great Deanna Flood.
Don't panic. This is not a bad thing. It is simply, for the socially awkward, a delightful surprise. See, Deanna can talk to anyone - she has that gift, the one that makes you immediately comfortable, that makes you want to talk to her. Her energy is limitless, something like the nuclear furnace of the sun.
I see you looking at me sideways. This is not hyperbole. You just wait.
We met through mutual friends and ended up spending time together - talking at the bar, at dinner, in the lovely pool with waterfall. She even dragged, er, asked that I go with her to watch the traditional dancing done by a local Pueblo family. Best shanghai ever. It was absolutely magical and I wouldn't have missed it for the world.
Deanna's writing is a clear reflection of her personality. It's fun, it's often hilarious, it moves at a good clip. Please keep up. I've read some of the Naughty North Pole books (A Gift For Santa most notably :) ) and they are just too much fun. The different flavors of cum alone... Sorry, go read them. Certainly, some of Deanna's books have a more serious tone. The new Sleepy Hollow story comes to mind. Haven't read that yet, and though the subject matter is darker, the excerpts and blurb hint at a bit of tongue in cheek going on. Who's surprised? Anyone? Heh. Didn't think so.
I can't wait to see Deanna again - here's to being caught in the flood!
We're back after a couple of days hiatus. I did have a story deadline to meet, dang it all, and "Fear of Frogs" made it just under the wire.
So who better to return to our 2013 GRL Authors I Have Read series than with one of the heavy hitters of the genre? Today, I have a few words about Amy Lane.
Amy's one of those really problematic authors for me as a weirdo...I mean reader! Reader. See, I have this odd pathology. If there's a book/movie/song everyone's talking about and everyone's raving about, I tend to cross over to the other side of the street. It isn't so much that I want to go against the trend just to be contrary. It's more that I've learned over the years that popular things are not for me. Titanic? Blech. Fifty Shades of Whatever? Ick. Breaking Bad? Meh. Sorry. I'm just wired strangely.
So - I wouldn't read Amy Lane. Refused to. The more people talked about her, the more I shied away. Silly? Yeah. Shut up. Then I read a lovely review on the blog "A Bear On Books." Now, I know Tom, trust his judgment, and quite frankly love his reviews since he writes them from the heart. And what was it that caught my eye? The much lauded Promise Rock? The wolves? The SF book that got so much attention?
No. It was a quirky little cover without headless naked torsos or hot manga style men. There was an alpaca in knitwear and a marvelously funny title, The Winter Courtship Rituals of Fur-bearing Critters. She had me at alpaca, but the oddball characters clinched it for me. The painfully antisocial, gruff Rance. The we're-not-acknowledging-our-attraction-to-each-other banter of Aiden and Jeremy. The absurdly optimistic vulnerable mess that is Ben. The writing was, at times, jumpy and higgledy, which suited the characters and the story. It suited me. It soothed me. It made me smile. (I don't knit. Never had enough practice. But I come from a family of knitters and crocheters. I may not be able to get my fingers to do it right, but I know, on a bone deep level, what it feels like.)
By the time I got to GRL last year, that was the only Amy Lane I had read, but the story had settled in my heart and affected me profoundly. When I did meet Amy - well into my third margarita of the night, I believe at the piano bar party - I hugged her and sobbed. She must have thought me a great ninny or a terrible lush or perhaps both. She was awfully kind about it, though, and patient.
Since then, I have read all of the current Knitter books - and have loved them all, especially the Honest Rabbit one, such a lovely, poignant portrait of a soul trying desperately not to come apart every moment of every day. I have read a couple of others, Dex In Blue and so on, but none that burrowed in as deeply as these knitters. I do adore them.
I won't promise not to drink this year, but I will be keeping a better eye on the consumption for reasons of health and perhaps dignity. Right. It's the little things. So perhaps if I run into Amy again this year, I can manage an actual conversation instead of dissolving into fangirl blubbering. Yeah, I know. We'll see.
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.