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I’m reading your entries

Whenever I submit to an anthology, I look at the response email with pretty much this look before clicking open to read it…

finding doryDid you like my story? Please say yes.

As the tables have turned, I thought it might be interesting to be transparent about my first experience as an editor.

I posted the call in late June, and I was shocked at how fast entries started to appear in my inbox. I made a point of replying to each email to let them know I’d received their entry, or to clarify my submission guidelines. There was a lull, and then in August there was another wave (that unfortunately coincided with an unplanned move) and today I found three emails where I’d received the entry but never responded. I feel like an ass and I’m sorry, three people who know who you are.

A few of you wrote and asked if I’d automatically reject something that arrived at 12:01am on Sept 1

I always wonder about this, too, and I’m almost always a last minute entry. Just ask any of my editors.

The answer I gave them–and now all of you–is that due to living in Asia, I’m 12 hours ahead of the East Coast of the US and 15 ahead of the West Coast, etc. September 1st was the day we celebrated Teacher’s Day at my daughter’s schools and they were both home on Friday September 2nd. As I told the people who asked–I wasn’t really watching the clock. This is also a charity anthology, so while other editors have their own rules, for a variety of reasons no, I wasn’t watching the clock.

How many submissions did I get?

Nearly thirty, and no, I wasn’t prepared for that. I don’t know if it’s just my own insecurities, but I was worried that I wouldn’t get enough submissions to make a full anthology. But an embarrassment of riches cuts both ways. Yes, I would make a full anthology. The downside is that I will end up rejecting stories that I love.

Have you read everything yet?

No. I’m trying. Professionally–I also have a story I need to edit, two to write, and some other commitments. Personally–I have two young children who have been on vacation for a week and don’t get back to school until Tuesday. (Send chocolate and earplugs.)

What are your top pet peeves from this process (thus far)

1–Not reading the call. (sending me file types I can’t open, sending working the body of your email)

2–Not putting your name on  your work.  I had multiple stories and poems with a title and no author’s name. Put your name on your work (this actually ties for #1 pet peeve)

3–Not adhering to the specified formatting. (I have sympathy because formatting was something I fucked up for years, and have only really figured out recently. I remember Lynn Townsend asking me to do something formatting related and my reaction was ??? That said, being on the receiving end makes it frustrating because now I have to reformat work).

When will I hear from you?

By October 1. As early as I can manage. I’m not blogging etc because I’m trying to prioritize reading.

Does a yes mean I’m done?

No, there will be edits. I find typos is Nora Roberts books. Mostly it will very little, as the competition is stiff (pun intended, sort of).

Does a no mean that my story/poem was bad?

Some stories are by authors who are still rough diamonds. Others are incredibly written but I can’t have five stories with the same theme. A rejection isn’t actually personal, although having received many I can say it still sucks. I’m sorry, Baby Dory with the giant eyes.

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Review: Evergreen and Poinsettias by Kassandra Lea

Evergreen and Poinsettias

Submissions for my anthology close today, and I unintentionally set myself up with a short and sweet Christmas story to get me off on the right foot when planning my reviewing calendar.

If you’re looking for a sweet, short Christmas romance, this is a good choice. Brylee slips and falls one day, and finds herself staring into the eyes of the most handsome man she’s ever met. Will their chance meeting end with a simple thank-you wreath from her flower shop, or is it the start of something more?

I found myself identifying with both Brylee and her sister. Brylee is shy and a bit lonely. Her sister keeps assuring her that true love exists, reminding her of how quickly she went from meeting to wedding her husband. I spent many years kissing frogs, but like Brylee’s sister I went from meeting to marriage in an extremely short period of time (and have been married, happily, for a decade).

Lea reminds us that love may find you in the most unexpected of places.

Brylee Mariotte is hoping to get a boyfriend for Christmas, and when she meets Liam Casey, it looks like she might just get her wish.

It’s the magical holiday season again and, like everyone else, flower shop owner Brylee Mariotte can’t help but get swept up in it. Of course, the phrase ‘happiest time of the year’ only makes her loneliness worse. As she watches the happy couples, she starts wishing and hoping for Santa to bring her a man to call her own, and not just for the holidays. She wants the real deal—someone for the long haul.

When the dashingly handsome Liam Casey offers her a helping hand, Brylee begins to think that miracles might just exist. The bookstore owner’s touch lights a fire deep inside her, one she thought would never get burning. But what if Liam isn’t as into her? Or, even worse, what if he’s already married?

With a little touch of evergreen and a whole lot of Christmas magic, Brylee may just get her man.

Evergreen and Poinsettias can be found at your favorite e-book retailer, including amazon.

 

Review: Hunt Her by Elle Q Sabine

Hunt Her

When I decided to read Hunt Her, I expected I was settling in for a Vampire book. Which I was. Sort of. Sabine blends Vampire lore, Irish tales of the Sidhe (familiar to most fantasy readers as fairies), and even some Angelic mythology, throws it in a blender and comes up with something entirely new. To put the cherry on the sundae, the “vamps” are actually human women necessary for a vampire’s survival, and his very sanity.

I think this is one of the book’s biggest strengths. As someone who has been reading fantasy for three decades, I am in love with the story of the Sabine’s vampires and how what I think I know about many different groups is both right and wrong. However, as someone who has been reading fantasy for three decades, I often had to stop, force myself to step away from every assumption I have about words like “vampire” and “sidhe’ and let her do her world building. That isn’t a weakness in Sabine, but if you are also a long-time fantasy reader, you need to be open to letting Sabine change up the tropes.

I liked the relationship dynamic between Valor and Meghan. They have a dynamic that allows for Valor’s alpha personality, and Sabine ensures that Meghan is no pushover either. Meghan has a mysterious backstory that unfolds in tandem to her search for her brother and her relationship with Valor. She isn’t going to let Valor’s arrival derail her search.

This is the first in a series, so we have many more books to come to help continue to flesh out her world. I hope the second book deals at least in part with an ending plot point of Valor’s general finding his vamp and her wanting nothing to do with him. I want to see more of them.

Her life on hold for a decade, Meghan’s ready to take it back and move forward. Valor is ready too. The Vampire Master won’t let her disappear, not ever again. Meghan doesn’t understand the dreamwalker who comes to her at night. After years of sleeping medication to subdue nightmares, she is unprepared when the handsome stranger who stood guard over her childhood returns to her dreams. Now that she’s grown, he’s intent on possession and seduction. When he shows up in her life, real and not a dream, she’s horrified . . . and enthralled. But life isn’t waiting around for Meghan to play out the traditional script of meeting, falling in love and living happily ever after. Desperate to reclaim some part of her childhood, Meghan leaves behind the man who wants her in search of her long-lost brother. But Valor is not a man who is willing to be left behind, not again. The years he spent unable to find Meghan-not knowing if she was happy, healthy or even safe-were difficult enough. He’ll find Meghan and bring her into a world she doesn’t even imagine exists, and he’ll find a way to keep her at his side-forever. Because he’s not just some man Meghan met in a library. Valor isn’t a man at all.

Hunt Her is available as an e-book and paperback everywhere, including Amazon.

An Interview with Avylinn Winters

avylinn

Hi Avy! Tell us a little about you.

Hi there! Well, for starters, I’m a Swedish blonde, happy to prove the prejudices incorrect but also just as pleased with saying that I’m all for having fun. I write M/M novels in my free time, and spend the rest of my time either at the office, cuddling with my cat (who can impersonate a ghost), or hanging out with my partner. I’m not yet 30, but if you happen to stumble upon this post sometime in 2017, then that’s a lie.

I also spend a lot of time as a hobby psychologist and give myself various diagnosis. It’s all in good fun though, but my novels tend to include a little bit of psychology. I enjoy the occasional glass of wine, I have a sweet tooth, and a bad memory which is a nuisance.

What was your journey from aspiring writer to published author?

I began as a reader. My partner bought me an e-reader for Christmas, and that’s the moment when this wheel started spinning. I read a lot. A lot. So, slowly I began to explore what the internet had to offer in terms of content. I stumbled upon a site called Booksie, where writers shared their works for free, and still do. I began reading there (now this makes me sound like a cheap, which is true as I was a student at the time with next to no funds), but all of a sudden the threshold to start writing my own stuff wasn’t that daunting. I could simply write something and press publish. No fuss. So, that’s what I did. I began to write online, and when Booksie felt cramped, I moved on to Wattpad.

Wattpad opened up a world of possibilities, and two years after starting on the site, I felt that I had achieved something that I wanted to introduce to the rest of the world. For the first time ever, I felt confident. So, I sent out the manuscript to an agent. Right, because that’s what you’re supposed to do. I aimed high. Very high. When this agent finally got back to me (note that I only sent to one agent which is weird in itself), she was super nice and positive although she wished to see another story rather than this one. So, rejected, but with grace. I moved on to contact a publisher directly, one that a friend of mine had told me about a while back. This was Pride Publishing, and lo and behold, I sent them the manuscript, they gobbled it up, and here I am. What happens from now on is not set in stone, but that’s the fun of it all.

Who has influenced you?

I might go a bit off road here, but I feel like sharing this for some unknown reason. Influences come from everywhere and everyone, but a few individuals have left more of a mark. My sister is my hero, definitely, and so is my partner. But then, I’ve also been influenced by a selected few who have left me in one way or another. One was a young gay M/M writer who had to give up on the world he’d created online because of his family. They gave him an ultimatum, and he chose them. His entire story made a huge impact. He was a part of a closed religious society, quite an unwilling member actually, but he ended up showing me how strong the urge to fit in can be, and how difficult it is to sacrifice the world you know and the people you love. He also inspired me to continue since some members of the LGBT youth need us to speak up for them when they aren’t free to do so.

I also lost one of my best friends last summer to cancer. I was too young to remember much of my grandparents, and in general, we’ve been spared a lot of heartache in our family. So, when Jay died, it struck me hard. I wrote stories for him, with him and to him. Now when he’s gone, he’s still with me, pushing me forward and not allowing me to give up, just as he did then.

Leia

Where do you usually write, and what’s your ideal writing space?

I write at home in my sofa, preferably with the cat in my lap (as long as she doesn’t get in the way). I do like sitting in a large room with lots of people around me, but only if they’re reasonably quiet. I’m easily distracted so quiet is the best. I don’t even listen to music most of the time unless I need it to reach a certain emotional state.

Tell us about your book (On sale today!)

My first published novel is called Volatile and tells the story of a young, slightly depressed, very lost guy who gets a rather remarkable opportunity to travel around Europe. The tale focuses on his rocky relationship with a volatile violinist. It’s angsty, it’s cheesy, and it’s meant to tug at your heart a bit. Without giving too much away, I give you the blurb:

volatile_9781786514547_800 (1)

Like a depressed moth drawn to a wild flame, Chris hoped that flame would brighten his life, not burn him alive.

Chris Sinclair fades into a gray world after losing his mother to cancer. When forced to attend a concert, as a last attempt to coax him out of his shell, he discovers that life might not be as bleak as he first thought.

Dante Heron holds the audience between the tips of his fingers and the delicate bow, playing the violin as if every heart is his to command. However, something darker brews behind the façade, and Chris is determined to solve the enigma.

When Chris is offered the job of traveling around Europe with the famous violinist, he surprises himself by accepting. With no idea of what awaits him, he’s thrown into a world where emotions rule and rules are bent.

They’re a perfectly dysfunctional match, but then there’s always calm at the heart of the storm.

One, two, three, four.

I wasn’t prepared when the first note struck. Not at all. Waves of sound rolled against the walls, flowing into every crevice then surging back. The tiny hairs on my arms stood in a silent salute, reaching for the hum in the air. I gripped the armrests on both sides of me, but it didn’t help. I was floating in a restless sea, weightless and lost.

Closing my eyes, I fought the current of emotions that tried to break free, but it was a hopeless battle. I shivered as the tones from the string orchestra reached for my core and swept me away. Ten seconds, and I was struggling to breathe. It was too much.

In the late afternoon sun, one full year ago, my last words to Mom’s coffin hadn’t brought out a single tear, but here beneath the glow of a solitary light, my eyes burned.

I wanted to leave. All the pent-up sorrow after Mom’s last months alive seemed to pour out of my heart, latching on to the beautiful lament produced by the violins and cellos. It felt as if I were fighting against a tidal wave of sounds and emotions. It was powerful and haunting, like ghosts whispering past the veil between life and death. No wonder my skin flared alive with apprehension.

As the concert continued, I was torn between the urge to leave and the wish to stay and lose myself in the storm of sounds. It was a useless, exhausting battle, and it didn’t cease until the music faded into a quiet breeze. The lights focused on one individual among all the tuxedos. Someone who stood out in the crowd. I saw it as his fingers danced across the slender neck of the violin—I saw it in his wild eyes and unruly hair. The tresses were black as ink, slightly too long and drenched with sweat. He didn’t belong. He wasn’t one of them.

I couldn’t tear my gaze away from him no matter how hard I tried. He had me under his spell as his solo caught my soul and kept it hostage. I felt ridiculous, more so than the conductor who waved his arms in the air as if he was fighting an invisible monster. Perhaps this concert was a monster. It seemed cunning and brutal, masking itself behind treacherous melodies and rhythms.

It was time to go before I lost control.

Buy links

Amazon

Pride Publishing

Apple iBooks

Kobo

 

What’s your next writing project(s)?

I’m currently working on the sequel to Volatile. It’s a very different story, both in tone and content, but with characters that are introduced in Volatile. Where Volatile is sweet, Toxic is vile. It’s intended to unsettle. Toxic centers around domestic violence, and it’s meant to highlight that same-sex couples aren’t spared from this plague. It’s a serious theme, and it has been very difficult to both write and edit. The only thing that drives me forward at this point is the knowledge that stories like this, although unpleasant, are important.

 

Social media links

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My Plunder Playlist

**Disclaimer–Yes, I’m a total romantic version of pirates fan. It was probably inevitable that I’d write a pirate novel. I’m going to mention the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. If you haven’t seen them, see Curse of the Black Pearl and skip the rest unless you absolutely feel the need. I will say, though, that Mick Jagger as Jack Sparrow’s father was an inspired bit of casting.**

Music is as instrumental to me as breathing (pun intended). So when I’m writing, I usually have a playlist going in the background, and not just to block out Sofia the First or Teen Titans Go. When I wrote the short story version of Plunder, I didn’t have a song or a playlist in mind. However, when it came time to write the novel, I decided one was necessary.

I was wasting time on Youtube, as one does, when my recommendations came up with this…

 

I had no idea that my life was missing this, but it was. I then spent several hours watching Peter Hollens videos.He has an amazing catalog, including any number of gorgeous duets with his equally talented wife Evynne.

Not only was the Pirates medley awesome, but it made something click for me about Plunder.

My heart is pierced by Cupid

I disdain all glittering gold

There is nothing can console me

But my jolly sailor bold.

–My Jolly Sailor

The thing about Plunder is that both Bree and William are sailors, and they’re both crazy in love, despite their constant banter/fighting. So the lyric work both ways…Bree about William, William about Bree.

I immediately bought the song, and it is the cornerstone of my playlist. Because they did such a great job, I went over to the Pirate of the Caribbean soundtracks. I have the entire Curse of the Black Pearl soundtrack, and from the World’s End soundtrack I added “Drink Up Me Hearties Yo Ho” and “Hoist the Colours.”

Interestingly enough, My Jolly Sailor Bold isn’t on the soundtrack of Stranger Tides, despite it being the song the mermaids sing to enchant sailors so they can turn vampire, drag them into the water and eat them. However, you can find countless covers on YouTube.

 

Disney, however, didn’t write this song. It seems to be based off an 18th or 19th century shanty, depending on which version of My Jolly Sailor Bold you believe to be the origin song. To read more, go here.

So, my playlist (all of which can be bought on Amazon or iTunes, depending on your preference) is The Peter Hollens Pirates Medley, Hoist the Colours, Drink Up Me Hearties Yo Ho, and the full Curse of the Black Pearl soundtrack.

Happy Pirating! I should be finishing my edited version in the next few days and sending it off to betas. Once that happens, my playlist will look a lot more like this…

Sidenote–Check out Todrick Hall’s videos, too. He’s so incredibly talented.

Under the Mistletoe is closing submissions soon!

I’m so grateful and overwhelmed by the response I’ve gotten for my call, Coming Together: Under the Mistletoe.

However, it’s not too late to submit a story or poem!

book cover coming soon

Want to help your chances? Things I haven’t seen enough of include…

  • Queer characters
  • Persons of color
  • Non-Christmas holidays (Hannukah, Solstice, Kwanzaa, and even though it’s not technically a December holiday, I’d totally be open to a Diwali/Deepavali story)
  • Non-US locations

This doesn’t mean I don’t want you to send in your Christmas story, merely some additional info to inspire those still thinking of what to write.

My story will be the next installment in my North Pole series, which features shape-shifting reindeer, so there’s no idea that’s too out there as long as the story is good. (My North Pole Series stories New on the Naughty List, and A Reindeer by Any Other Name are currently free on my website.)

An Expat Fourth of July

200 Anniversary Button 2015

Today I’m over at Long and Short Reviews, talking about what it’s like to be an American expat in Singapore on the Fourth of July. I usually reserve that topic for my expat blog, so this is your chance to get a glimpse into the life of an expatriate American.

We spent July 4, 2009 in Washington DC. We watched a recitation of the Declaration of Independence at the National Archives, then sat down and watched the parade. We pushed my daughter E’s stroller through multiple Smithsonian Museums. E spent her first Fourth of July on the grass of the National Mall, enchanted by a light up ball we’d bought in a gift shop, rather than the gorgeous fireworks display by the Washington Monument.

At the time, we had no idea that would be the last Fourth of July we’d spend in the United States

 

Click the header or banner below to check out my full post and enter a Rafflecopter to win a 100 USD gift card to either Barnes & Noble or Amazon!

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