Thursday, May 5, 2016

NOW AVAILABLE: Werewolves of Chernobyl

So it started out innocently enough.

Well, not really. You see, last September, I was sitting in a steakhouse in Spain with Agnes and Kat (the duo who write together as K.A. Merikan), and somehow, we wound up on the topic of Chernobyl-related shapeshifters. Yeah, I don't know either -- it was one of those conversations that probably started out sort of normal, and went south in a hurry, and none of us could ever backtrack to figure out how we ended up where we did.

Bottom line, somehow the three of us were discussing the possibility of combining Chernobyl with shapeshifters. Enjoying a bit of schadenfreude, I was getting a kick out of the already-scheduled-within-an-inch-of-their-lives Merikans being assaulted by this plot bunny, so of course I was feeding it. Tossing little ideas at them, egging them on, etc. After all, what good is having writers for friends if you can't cause them to be consumed by rampaging plot bunnies.

I should've known who I was dealing with, though. They sent the plot bunny right back to me. And by the time we'd ordered dessert (Nutella crepes, of course), we realized what needed to be done -- we needed to write it. Together. All three of us.

None of us were strangers to co-writing, but one book with three authors sounded like it could be as disastrous as giving one cup to two girls. Still, the story sounded fun (and we were already giggling over our wildly mismatched characters), and none of us are the type to forego a challenge.

By the end of the night, we had a plot, three characters, and a delightfully pulpy title. Over the course of the next few months, we wrote and revised the story, and it turned out to be surprisingly fun and easy. Plus the story was just as mad and pulpy as we'd imagined it would be (with all the requisite smut of a shapeshifter menage, including knotting because of course there is).

And now, today, the result of that madness has been unleashed on the world. We give you...



Being kidnapped by two werewolves is an adventure after all, right? Right?

Quinn

If Quinn wants to get the best photos for his travel blog, no gate is too tall, and no ‘do not enter’ sign actually means he won’t go in. What he finds in a hidden exclusion zone by Chernobyl blows his mind. Mutants? Monsters? He doesn’t know, but he is bound to find out when not one but two of them break into his hotel.
Too bad the rules and attitudes they have toward sex don’t match Quinn’s at all.

Dima

Born with a disabled hand, smaller than the other werewolves, Dima is the lowest of the low in his pack, but when he meets the loveliest human he’s ever seen, he knows his luck has changed.
The last thing he expects though is his beloved friend Nazar turning on him once Dima’s affection for Quinn deepens, and he refuses to be mounted by Nazar anymore.

Nazar

Nazar is a high ranking soldier in his pack, but in his powerful body hides a gentle soul, and all he wants is to escape the pack with Dima. But once Dima claims Quinn as his, secrets Nazar has so far kept hidden rear their ugly head.
The werewolf language doesn’t have words to describe what they crave, so Quinn might be the only one to help them solve the puzzle of the desires that go against the rules of their pack.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Guest Blog - Contest Winner Cari Z on her First RT

As some of you may remember, about a year ago, I held a contest to pay someone's way to their first RT. The details were here, and the prize included a guest slot on my blog to talk about their experience at RT.

Well, last week was RT, and my contest winner -- Cari Z -- is here to report back!

***

So hey, I spent the last week in Las Vegas at RT! You all must be wondering how it went.
 
Okay, maybe not all of you, but some of you!
 
It went pretty fucking great, actually. Let me tell you why.
 
RT 2016 was my first really big conference. I've done local cons, but they came nowhere near the scale and scope of RT. Going into a big, crowded conference filled with other professionals and lots of sharp readers, especially when you've never been before and know almost no one by sight...well. I'm not saying I'd never have done it, because eventually I would have had to in order to hit another echelon in my career. But I'd probably have irritated the hell out of my fellow Colorado authors Marie Sexton and PD Singer, not to mention my long-suffering friend Tiffany, by being clingy. No one wants a clingy Cari. I'm like a spider monkey, but way less cute.
 
Fortunately for me, I won LA Witt's RT contest last year. The spoils included her covering my registration fee, taking care of advertising for me, getting me a spot in the book fair, covering my hotel costs, and basically being my conference sherpa. Not literally carrying me around, but rather taking away the burden of uncertainty. Which, let me tell you, is a huge fucking burden to carry around in a new situation surrounded by people you don't know. Where to go, what to do, who to talk to, how to spend down time, how to get the most out of the conference: this is what I learned from Lori, and without a doubt I got way more out of RT because I had that help.
 
Firstly, let me assure you that it's way easier to meet new people when someone else is introducing you to them. I felt like way less of an awkward fangirl meeting Anna Zabo, Vanessa North, Cecilia Tan, and Megan Erickson (among many others) with someone they already knew there to break the ice. Some people can do a great cold open; I’m not one of them. This part was invaluable—honestly, this aspect made the entire conference worthwhile to me in the end.
 
Secondly, and I didn’t think this would be such a big thing, but wow: the issue of what to do. “Oh, just go to whatever’s interesting, Cari!” Yeah, no, because there were always five or six panels going at once, and inevitably more than one of them was interesting. It was nice to get input on what was likely to be the most useful, which ones someone else would go to and I could ask about, and which ones were necessities.
 
Thirdly, and kind of the best part: the downtime. Yes, I would have liked to go for gangbusters the whole time, but that was impossible for several reasons. One, this casino was fucking huge. I wish I had tracked my distance walked, because getting from my room to the conference area of the hotel was a trek. I wore sneakers, and after a while I was still like, “Yeah, hey, I think I’ll just sit in this comfy chair in the coffee shop instead.”
 
Speaking of the coffee shop: you had to schedule downtime into your day regardless of intention in part because there were SO MANY PEOPLE vying for enormous plates of food, coffee and later on, alcohol, that if you weren’t either really patient or a very early riser, you were going to have some slack in your day at some point.
 
Downtime was spent talking, bullshitting, plotting, joking around, and basically having a great time. Again, this was way easier to do when I had people to hang out with.
 
This conference would have been useful even if I hadn’t known anyone, for the panels and the exposure and the book fair. With a guide, though, it was amazing. Worth paying for the privilege of flying on Spirit Airlines (and hey, screw you guys) to get to Las Vegas and marinate in a casino for a week, because the people I met were so fantastic (Riptide Publishing, I’m looking at you).
 
I came away from RT with new plans, updated goals, and the will to get shit done. I have a better idea of what it takes to be an actual part of the conference, not just a lost soul wandering from room to room, trying to find a place there.
 
Thank you, Lori, for being friendly, funny, and above all patient with a newbie
***

Congrats again on winning, Cari, and it was awesome to meet you!

And hey, if y'all are curious about Cari's work, check out her website.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Lovely and Prompt Apology from The Colorado Romance Writers

I'm posting this because I want to make sure it's well-known that the CRW promptly and (IMO) sincerely apologized for what happened with my book in their competition. I greatly appreciate them addressing this in a timely and professional manner.

Dear Ms. Witt,
We the undersigned, representing the majority of the board of the Colorado Romance Writers chapter of RWA wish to extend a heartfelt and humble apology to you for the unauthorized removal of your entry Lead Me Not from the inspirational category of our 2016 Award of Excellence contest. Having reviewed all of the email correspondences, it is clear to us that you never gave permission to have your work shifted, nor should you have been asked to move your novel from the category it clearly belonged in. Our chapter’s mission is to support romance writers, no matter what they write, and in this instance, we have failed.

While no apology can ever fully undo the hurt this has caused you and other LGBTQ writers, please rest assured that CRW doesn’t in any way agree with nor condone discrimination or bigotry of any stripe, and we take this situation very seriously.  As the Board of Directors, we are ultimately responsible for oversight of the contest, and it was a grave failure on our part that we did not monitor our coordinators' actions more closely. Our top priority going forward will be to make sure this situation never again happens to any writer entering our contests.

If you would like, we are willing to post this apology publicly in the comments on your blog post, or if you prefer, we have not objection to you posting it yourself wherever you see fit. We will be posting a public statement regarding this incident on our website tomorrow.

Again we wish to express our deepest regret for the harm this situation caused, and we will work hard to rebuild the trust that was lost.
Sincerely,
Traci Morganfield - Vice President of Programs
Cheri Merz - Treasurer
Claudia Burgoa - Vice President of Membership

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

On Writing Contests and LGBT Entries

UPDATE: I'm leaving the text up, but I also want to link to this entry in which the directors of the Colorado Romance Writers apologized for this incident.

I want to say right out of the gate that this is not about winning. In fact, I have asked for all of my books (including two that were finalists) to be removed from the remainder of the competition. Yes, I’m very competitive—and who doesn’t enjoy winning a contest?—but that’s not what this post is about. It’s about being reminded at every turn that even though the LGBT genre has made progress, we haven’t made enough yet. Even though we’ve made progress, there are still spaces where we remain unwelcome.

This isn’t about winning a competition. This is about being told “who you are is offensive.”

So let me get to the point—the situation that prompted me to post this.

Recently, I was contacted by the coordinator of the Colorado Romance Writers’ annual competition, the Award of Excellence. As I do every year, I had submitted several books. One of them was my gay inspirational romance, Lead Me Not. Naturally, I entered it into the Inspirational Romance category.

As emails are private correspondence, I won’t post the actual conversation, but I was told that the coordinators wanted to move Lead Me Not into the Contemporary Single Title category. Reason being—no one in their judging pool would read an M/M inspirational.

Um…no. This book meets the criteria of the category. From the website: “Romantic novels featuring a religious or spiritual belief system as an integral part of the relationship.” Nowhere does it say “…an integral part of the heterosexual relationship.”

So no, I was not willing to move it into another category. I expressed as much to the coordinators, mentioning that this made me feel unwelcome in the competition as a whole. If judges could refuse to read an entry because it was LGBT, even though the rules did not explicitly bar LGBT entries, then maybe this wasn’t the competition for me.

After several e-mails back and forth with various coordinators, though, I believed we had reached an understanding about the situation and come to an agreement about how to move forward. Some judges had been found who would read “pretty much anything,” and would agree to read the book and judge it for what it is (you know—a gay Christian romance).

At that point, I was still less than thrilled that it had even been an issue, but thought it was resolved. That was why I didn’t say anything publicly at the time.

Well, the finalists were announced yesterday, and Lead Me Not made it into the finals…

…of the Mainstream w/Romantic Elements category.

Whut.

Not only was it moved out of Inspirational, it was moved out of romance entirely and into “romantic elements.” (Spoiler alert – it’s a romance)

Upon contacting the coordinators, they insist they thought I was in agreement about moving the book into that category. However, nowhere in any of the emails did I say “Yes, move the book.”  I stated I was happy with the solution when the solution was “judges who will judge it for what it is.”

The coordinators insisted they had thought it was the best solution for “a book that didn’t fit comfortably into one category, but instead straddled multiple categories.”

Nonsense. Utter nonsense.

Lead Me Not is a gay Christian romance. It’s an inspirational to its very core. Calling it “Mainstream with Romantic Elements” is a tremendous stretch unless you’re also willing to put the other inspirational romances into the same category. Which we don’t. Because they’re not mainstream. (Seriously? A gay Christian romance qualifies as mainstream?)

I entered the book in the Inspirational romance category because I wanted it judged as an Inspirational romance. If it didn’t win… fine. That’s part of competing. You win some, you lose some. And I didn’t write this book expecting everyone to love it. Not by any means. But to be refused a shot at even competing alongside books in the same genre? To be unable to see how it stacks up against the rest of its own genre? I have a problem with that.

And I just can’t help feeling a sense of déjà vu over this whole thing, which is probably related to the fact that I’ve blogged about this subject before—clear back in 2012 when an RWA chapter announced that their annual contest would not allow same-sex entries.

One of the things I wrote in that blog echoes precisely what I’m feeling right now:

“I know, it's just a contest. It's not the end of the world. But you know what? It's these little things that add up to a culture that still can't offer more than lip service to the idea that being queer is okay. When an organization allows exclusion based on people being "uncomfortable," it validates that discomfort. It acknowledges that the uncomfortable thing is... well, that it's less okay than someone else's discomfort. They could have said "If you aren't comfortable with the material being submitted, with all brands of 'individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work', then maybe you aren't qualified to judge this competition." Instead, they've stated what amounts to, "Yeah, let's not include that, because... eww."”

Now, this current situation isn’t an entire competition excluding LGBT entries. This is a specific category within a larger competition, and it wasn’t an upfront ban on same-sex content. No, this was judges refusing to read what had been submitted, and the organizers deciding the best course of action was to ask the author to move the book to another category.

Basically, we’re still dealing with what was dealt with in 2012—the discomfort of judges taking precedence over the acceptance of people. Am I okay with people choosing not to read gay romance on their own? Sure! Read whatever you want. Am I okay with books being removed from competition categories because they have LGBT characters? No.

I can certainly appreciate that the LGBT and Christian communities have clashed. All it takes is a glance at the news or social media to see that there is still a tremendous amount of strife between the two. I’m not about forcing judges to read a particular topic, pairing, etc. What I object to is that when the judges wouldn’t read it, the solution was not “look for other judges.” It was “shunt the book over to another category.”

So what’s the point of all this rambling? In short, I want competitions to be explicit about what is acceptable and what isn’t. If LGBT books are not wanted—in the competition as a whole, or in particular categories—spell it out.  Save us the time and money that goes into entering if who we write—and in many cases, who we are—is not welcome.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

To Live Again - Oops.

So I have a new release today, and I get to facepalm like crazy because I made an error that I didn't notice until some reviews mentioned it. And I figured, well, the best thing to do was just to own it.

What happened? I wrote the book. I wrote the blurb. I edited the book. I edited the blurb.  Those steps happened far enough apart (and with other books/blurbs in the interim) that I made a pretty glaring oversight.  Namely, the blurb says Sailo and Greg have a twenty-year age gap, but in the book, it's ten years. Originally, they were twenty years apart, but I changed it in the book...and completely overlooked the blurb.

Yep. I screwed up. And by the time I noticed it, the book was out, in print, etc.

Sooooooo egg on mah author face.  The publisher has been notified, and hopefully we can get the blurb tweaked on future editions, but there's no point in pretending the error isn't out there now or that it's anyone's fault but mine.

Mea culpa. >.<

With that being said, TO LIVE AGAIN is now available from Samhain!


The heart doesn’t take requests. It calls the tune.

The Distance Between Us, Book 6

Greg Douglas’s wife surprised him with an early 25th anniversary gift: a divorce. Staying with friends Ethan and Rhett seems like a good idea, just until he gets back on his feet. The guys have an even better idea to take his mind off his troubles—take him out to explore the other half of his bisexuality.

After a quarter century suppressing his hidden desires, he’s not waiting any longer. Especially not after laying eyes on the gorgeous deejay at Wilde’s.

Deejay and single dad Sailo Isaia isn’t looking for anything serious. He’s definitely not out to be a sexual teacher, never mind to a man almost two decades his senior. But as Greg gets the hang of having a male lover, Sailo can’t help himself. They both keep coming back for more. And more. And more.

But a few nagging questions hold Sailo back from giving his whole heart. Is this just Greg’s midlife crisis and rebound fling? Or a chance to fill that empty space—forever—for both Sailo and his beloved son?

Warning: Contains an older guy who’s waited half his life for this, a younger guy who didn’t realize how lonely he was, and some very hot visits to the upstairs VIP lounge at Wilde’s. Author is not responsible for readers who can no longer look at a leather booth the same way again.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Guest Blog: Spanish Nights: How Real Life Becomes Erotic Fiction by Cecilia Tan



Spanish Nights: How Real Life Becomes Erotic Fiction
by Cecilia Tan

It's something of a romance novel tradition to set stories in exciting "foreign" locales, and for the stand-alone erotic novella Spanish Nights I wanted to tap into that tradition somewhat. When I was a kid my mother was in a bowling league with a woman who worked as an assistant to one of the top-selling romance novelists of the day, one of the women on the level of Jackie Collins and Danielle Steele. In those days before the Internet, one part of the assistant's job was to research faraway places like Venice for her author boss, providing her with photos, facts, details, anything that might work itself into the book. I was fascinated by the thought that so much work went into those books and that it didn't all come out of the writer's head.

At the time I wanted to be a writer when I grew up, but I wanted to go into science fiction and fantasy, where I thought I wouldn't have to do research because it would all "come out of my own head." But as my 25+ year career in writing has shown, what goes in, must come out. Almost anything that happens to me in my real life ends up in my fiction somewhere. And these days, given that I've been writing Daron's Guitar Chronicles as a web serial since 2009, almost anywhere I travel you can be guaranteed that Daron, a touring pro musician, is going to end up there at some point.

When I sat down to write Spanish Nights it was several years after my trip to Seville. I'd gone there purely for vacation when corwin and I celebrated our 13th anniversary. In fact, it was our first "pure" vacation together in 13 years that wasn't a family trip, group vacation, or tacked onto a business trip. Just the two of us, exploring Seville for nearly a week (and then driving through the mountains to Granada, with stops at Ronda and Jaen along the way).

The Seville we discovered was magical, romantic, and full of excellent food and music. In fact, it was magical and romantic BECAUSE it was full of excellent food and music. (And also because it was our anniversary trip, our gift to ourselves for graduating couples therapy, a kind of honeymoon.) So it's no surprise that when I wanted to write a story about a torrid love affair that rekindles Daron's artistic mojo, Seville was the perfect setting. At the time of my trip there, I had not yet begun serializing Daron's story: it was languishing in a drawer because no one wanted to publish the coming of age story of a gay guitar player from the 1980s. But Daron is always with me, and when we were in Seville there were guitars everywhere. I knew, then, that someday I would write a story about Daron going there.

One night we attended a flamenco concert in the courtyard of a tiny house museum that seated only fifty people. Years later that scene makes its way into Spanish Nights, and the woman who sang that night has become a character, the matriarchal Gloria.

Then there is Orlando, Daron's enigmatic, energetic lover in Spanish Nights. Like Daron he is a creation of my yearning heart, not a product of "research" so much as an expression of Daron's need for love and lust and validation of his spirit. In Seville, we discovered that manyof the best restaurants didn't even open their doors until nine or ten at night and the nights held the best music. Even the art museums were open late: why close before ten if the restaurants weren't even open yet? Daron has always come alive at night, on the stage, and in Spain he finds a culture so different from what he's used to in the U.S. Northeast he takes to it like a duck to water.

I didn't want to bog the story down with too many details. It's not a travelogue, after all, but hopefully the smoke-filled tapas bars where Daron and Orlando spend their busking tips on ham and red wine come through vividly enough. Daron never comes to understand fully the nuances of the culture surrounding him, but he doesn't have to. He learns that a kiss, and a chord, and a clap, and a lover by your side mean the same thing on both sides of the Atlantic.

SPANISH NIGHTS is available now in Kindle Unlimited and for download in the Kindle store.





Two men, a chance meeting, a torrid affair.

One an internationally known rock star, the other from the streets of Spain: they meet in an erotic tale as hot as a summer night in Seville, as seductive as red wine and song.

Daron Marks didn't expect to find a lover that day at the airport. He didn't expect to suddenly change his plans and fly to Spain. But sometimes opportunity knocks and you have to grab Fate by the lapels and kiss until you're breathless.

Orlando is as mysterious as he is beautiful, doe-eyed and nimble-fingered. To Daron, his presence seems to beckon something from deep within. When the two guitarists meet, they jam together to pass the time, but music sparks a deeper desire to connect, to touch, to love. But when Daron arrives in Spain he finds Orlando entangled in something more than simply sweaty sheets...

The Spanish Nights ebook also contains the complete erotic story "Home Sweet Home" as a bonus.