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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Vulnerable-- Cover Reveal

Vulnerable

Little Goddess | Book One


Working graveyards in a gas station seems a small price for Cory to pay to get her degree and get the hell out of her tiny town. She's terrified of disappearing into the aimless masses of the lost and the young who haunt her neck of the woods. Until the night she actually stops looking at her books and looks up. What awaits her is a world she has only read about—one filled with fantastical creatures that she's sure she could never be.

And then Adrian walks in, bearing a wealth of pain, an agonizing secret, and a hundred and fifty years with a lover he's afraid she won't understand. In one breathless kiss, her entire understanding of her own worth and destiny is turned completely upside down. When her newfound world explodes into violence and Adrian's lover—and prince—walks into the picture, she's forced to explore feelings and abilities she's never dreamed of. The first thing she discovers is that love doesn't fit into nice neat little boxes. The second thing is that risking your life is nothing compared to facing who you really are—and who you'll kill to protect.

2nd Edition
So, some of you will know what this means to me.
I started writing Vulnerable in 2001--in fact, I turned in the twenty-five page story in October of that year, as part of my masters level creative writing class.  I dropped out of the masters program because I had two (at the time) small children who needed me, and because the world got suddenly uncertain, and  spending time away from them for what amounted to a vanity degree just didn't feel right anymore.
But I kept writing.  And after a little bit of time, I had a book.  I sent it out--and it is probably holding up a couple of desks (if it hasn't been long since incinerated) in some agent's office, because the original manuscript was in heinous shape. There's a lot of reasons I didn't know how to punctuate a sentence of dialog back then--I won't go into them now, but they seemed perfectly reasonable then.  

My husband was impressed with me-- Goddess, so very impressed.  "Let's publish it ourselves! We'll get free copies, give one to the relatives--it'll be great!"

Well, it was, until that first, "Holy God, what idiot wrote THIS crap?" review, and then suddenly I realized I'd brazenly walked out into the literary world with my dress shoved up my pantyhose, and then I'd bent over to pick up my wallet.

The last ten years have been a struggle and a fight to get better.

When Lynn and Elizabeth offered me a chance to re-publish Vulnerable and the entire Little Goddess series under DSP Productions, I cried. Oh, Goddess-- a chance to see my girl gussied up and made ready for company?

I was happy and apprehensive and proud and embarrassed-- Anne Bradstreet had it right. Setting your brainchild loose on the world is a terrifying thing, and it's never the fault of the father, but of the mother who forgot to smooth its hair and button the pinafore and buckle the shoes.

This is my first baby. She has her flaws, but I still think she's beautiful.

I am so proud.

This book has a fandom already-- and the people who love it are fierce and wonderful.  Jennifer Morris, who runs the Coastal Magic convention is sharing in my cover reveal.  Mary Calmes and Damon Suede wrote an introduction for it that made me cry.  They're proud of me too.

You can find Vulnerable: The First Book of the Little Goddess  on presale at DSP Publications--and it will be available on amazon.com on March 3rd.

I hope people love it all over again, I really do.

Especially because I'm writing the 5th one in the series right now-- like I promised years ago.  It's been a long time coming--bless you all for waiting.  And for folks new to the idea?  Welcome to Green's Hill.  It's everywhere I've ever wanted to be.




Monday, January 26, 2015

Black John

John Carey is just out of rehab and dying inside when he gets word that Tory, the guy who loved him and broke him, has removed himself from the world in the most bitter way possible—and left John to clean up his mess. 

Forced back to his hometown in Florida, John's craving a hit with every memory when he meets Tory's neighbor. Spacey and judgmental, Galen Henderson has been rotting in his crappy apartment since a motorcycle accident robbed him of his mobility, his looks, and his boyfriend all in one mistake. Galen's been hiding at the bottom of an oxy bottle, but when John shows up, he feels obligated to help wade through the wreckage of Tory's life. 

The last thing John needs is another relationship with an addict, and the last thing Galen wants is a conscience. Both of them are shocked when they find that their battered souls can learn from and heal one another. It doesn't hurt that they're both getting a crash course on how growing up and getting past your worst mistakes sure beats the alternative—and that true love is something to fight to keep if your lover is fighting to love you back.



Dreamspinner Press
Amazon
ARe

Sounds grim, right?

Well, sort of is.  There's no escaping the fact that this book was spawned by a side character who screwed our heroes over-- he was going to have a long road to redemption.  It's hard to find a redeeming quality in someone who has done something unquestionably douchey--until we remember our own douchey behavior in the past.  Because yes-- everybody has felt spiteful, or has lashed out in pain, or has said something or done something out of pettiness.  When we're young, the action very rarely has lasting consequences. As we get older… well, the stakes are higher.

When we've built something, and have something to lose--and something for everybody we know to lose, well, that's a huge mistake indeed.

When we last see John Carey in the Johnnies series, he's completely undone. He's a noseful of blow from flushing his company down the toilet, and he's betrayed his best friend and crush pretty badly. Dex (said best friend) is wheeling him into rehab and he pathetically begs for Dex to stay his friend.

Dex agrees.

When we see him at the beginning of this book, he's done with rehab, obsessed with gum, and he's just gotten some VERY BAD news.

And Dex ponies up with the friendship, and launches John on a rocket fueled trip down memory lane.

This one isn't for the weak, folks.  John Carey is one obscenely fucked up guy, and the ex-lover he's cleaning up was even worse than John.  And the new lover looming on the horizon is getting there.  But that being said, I have to admit…

There were some profoundly funny moments in this book.  Some moments that are still catching me by surprise.  Galen-- when he's not stoned-- is bright, funny, and just as sarcastic as John himself.  John is actually extremely vulnerable, but he's been strong all his life and letting Galen in-- especially when Galen's an addict too-- is one of the scariest things he's ever done in his life.  These guys aren't young. There's no adolescent beating-down-the-door pain here.  But there's quiet bravery, surprising strength, and two characters who are well aware that you only get so many chances--and they may both be on their last go.

This felt like a slightly more grownup book than the other Johnnies books.  But I hope I proved the older 30 set can have their own sort of desperate yearning--it's just squashed down a little more under scar tissue and fear.  I like to think that means that the sunshine at the end--and there IS a HEA, even if it doesn't sound like there could possibly be--shines a little brighter.

***

Excerpt:

Bad News Meets Worse News



IF JOHN Carey ever had any doubts that his best friend truly cared for him, they should have been eased by the quality of the rehab center Dex drove him to when Dex had probably been pissed enough to kick his balls up to his throat instead.

It was actually a lovely place, with a large fountain in the center and designated smoking sections. The smell of cigarette smoke from the frantic recovering addicts doing the nicotine junkie shuffle didn’t permeate the clothes of the people who were suddenly obsessed with gum.

John was obsessed with gum. Currently he had sixteen different packs of eight different flavors—kiwi strawberry, mint, strawberry mint, melon, green apple, fruit punch, sour cherry, and bubblegum. Dex had sent him all of it, over the past twenty-six days, by the caseload, along with his mail and the financial and personnel reports of the business John had founded from scratch.

He’d also visited and talked to him like a human being, which was more than John deserved.

John hated himself for how much he really didn’t want Dex to visit anymore.

But John only had one more visit to go, the last visit, and then he had an obligation to work with the man like they’d worked together for the past three years, both of them filming, editing, marketing, and frankly enjoying the porn.

It would have been so much easier if John hadn’t fallen in love with him.

It would have been so much easier if John hadn’t fucked him over in the most heinous of ways.

God—drugs were awful things, they really were, but the human capacity for awfulness should not have been so terribly at their mercy.

But Dex owned part of the company now, and he and his boyfriend weren’t breaking up, and their hard-earned little family wasn’t going away. And Dex seemed willing to forgive and forget, which was damned human of him, so maybe John could take a deep breath and see it through. Maybe he could salvage something of the life he’d built in the unlikely city of Sacramento, and maybe he could keep his company in the black in spite of his best efforts to shove the whole damned thing up his nose.

Maybe.

But first—before he could face all of that, and it was a plateful—he had to face the letter in his hand.


John—

You know how your father and I still feel about your business and your lifestyle. We don’t forgive you, and we don’t think God will forgive you, so don’t get your hopes up. But Vanessa Petrelli asked me to tell you that Vittorio took his own life last week, and that the service will be at the end of March. He left a will that asked for you to release the ashes into the sea, and since he can’t be buried in consecrated ground, his mother said that’s fine. Nobody is going to the funeral, so you don’t need to worry about people you’ll run into. As far as the families are concerned, it’s good riddance to bad rubbish. Should you ever repent, Jesus has a place for you, but we do not.


Your mother

Jennifer Carey


Well, it was comforting that Jesus, at least, wasn’t a martyring, social-climbing bitch.

But even that couldn’t distract John from the actual meat of the letter.

Tory.

Oh God.

Tory.


Tory, man, have you tried to rub one out yet?

Yeah—it feels amazing. Think it would feel as good if we grabbed each other’s?

Yeah, but wouldn’t that be, like, you know—gay?

So the fuck what, John. Seriously. So the fuck what.


John closed his eyes and tried to block out the memory. Tory, brown hair long and hanging in his eyes a little, warm chocolate eyes laughing and hurt at the same time. How old had they been? Twelve? Seventh grade? When boys had started talking about jerking off like it was both horrible and gross and the pinnacle of life as they knew it?

He’d been so beautiful.

And now John was responsible for his ashes. Fucking wonderful. Jesus, weren’t these the times that weremade for substance abuse?

John, hey, you tried weed yet?

John, hey, coke, man, it’s awesome!

John, man, don’t get mad, but we don’t got rent. I know you said we don’t need more heroin, but… man, it just hurt so bad.

John couldn’t… he just…. In his head he saw the two pictures, the laughing boy who’d first grabbed John’s cock—first sucked it, hard, until John had screamed and come—and the junkie, the guy with the sunken eyes and the track marks who blew their rent for the last goddamned time.

The guy John had driven to rehab three times.

The guy John had left Florida to get away from, because to love Tory was to mourn him, because he wasn’t getting any better.

And here John was, about to flee rehab to battle his demons on his own, and Tory apparently had lost the fight and left John to battle Tory’s demons too.

And John couldn’t even be mad. Because before Dex, who hadn’t loved him back, there’d been Tory, who had. Maybe. He’d loved John and John had loved him, John hoped, and they’d made porn together—gorgeous, aching, sexy porn—but it hadn’t been enough. It hadn’t been enough that John had worshipped him, hadn’t been enough that John had placed him in the sun and let the world worship him. No.

In the end, there weren’t enough cocks or enough coke to fill that thing in Tory, the emptiness carved by emotional neglect, by a world that hadn’t been able to laugh with Tory but had certainly made him cry.

Oh God, they had certainly made each other cry.

John didn’t remember when he’d fallen to his knees. He was too busy staring at his fist with the crumpled letter in it, even as he howled until he couldn’t catch his breath.



HE WAS headachy and out of sorts the next day when Dex came to visit, and he shamelessly clung to Dex’s hand from the first sit-down in the visiting room.

Dex stared at their clasped hands, cornflower blue eyes wide and surprised. “Uhm—”

“I’m not hitting on you,” John muttered, helpless and not able to fix it. God, Dex’s blond hair looked perfect, he was dressed in a slick, formfitting leather jacket and high-end jeans. John had barely gotten out of his pajamas. But he needed….

“I’m just….” He closed his eyes and rested his chin on the cheap laminate table. Well, it was a decent place but not the Hilton. “I… my first boyfriend died,” he said baldly. Dex’s jerk was more startled than trying to get away, so he went on. Eight years they’d known each other, three as business partners. John had watched Dex date girl after girl while putting out for guys on camera like a born cocksucker. He’d watched Dex have his first bitter, abusive relationship with a man, and sat there, the good friend, the confidant, full of sympathy and cookies, and the whole time he’d been thinking, I love him. If I’m just here like this, listening and being a good friend, he will look up and see me, and finally I’ll fill that void, that missing place where Tory used to be.

John hadn’t even seen the end of that dream when it had come on camera. A gorilla with a soul patch had moved into Dex’s house right when Dex broke up with his douche bag boyfriend, who happened to be John’s dealer. John didn’t see it coming, even when Dex told him.

Kane’s crashing at my place for a while until he gets his shit together.

Let me know if you need to kick him out.

Kane? He’s good people. He can stay.

Apparently Kane was not just good people, he was as good in bed in real life as he appeared to be on camera, because suddenly they weren’t just roommates, they were a thing. And even worse than them being a thing, they were a good thing—a happy thing.

A thing with rings and home improvement and the entire family Dex had forged out of John’s business riding behind them.

And John was left, once again, yearning for someone he really couldn’t have.

And right now, John was drowning and Dex was John’s only rope.

“I….” John closed his eyes. “I need your help. I need to figure out how to get him cremated and have his ashes dumped out at sea.” John’s lower lip quivered, and he remembered the past nearly four weeks in which he’d been a giant oozy hole, sobbing on groups and shrinks and groups with shrinks. He’d bought the Kool-Aid, he really had. He’d nearly flushed his hard-forged life down the toilet—and very nearly lost his only true friend, losing himself to the thing he hated most. He was getting clean—he’d promised himself he’d do anything it took.

He’d told himself getting clean was a matter of mind over habit, really. The coke habit had started to keep him awake through college. Tory had succumbed because he’d been weak and sad, and the other drugs had given him solace and dreams, but John was smarter than that. He’d been able to just use it, just use it, just use it….

Until suddenly he owed his dealer so much money he’d rather sell out his best friend than go without his next hit.

So he’d been dedicated to getting clean—had, in fact, thought that his twenty-eight days were going to do it—but now… his hand shook in Dex’s.

“David,” he said hoarsely, using Dex’s real name on sufferance. Kane had told him not to, but John needed the real person here, not the glam porn icon, and David seemed to know it too.

“What do you need?” he asked seriously. “I’m sorry about your boyfriend, John. I’ll do what I can, you know that, right?”

Give up the gorilla with the soul patch, leave the business we built from the ground up with your ass and my camera, and come home with me and keep me clean.

“I need to stay here until the day the trip is booked,” John said, knowing it was true. “I need the house in Orlando, with grocery service and maid service, and a car for as long as it takes to get this job done.” John closed his eyes and tried to organize himself. “I need plane tickets, and I need you to keep looking after my house a little longer—is that okay?”

Dex nodded and squeezed his hand. “Yeah. Yeah, John. I got you.”

John nodded and then had a thought. Vittorio took his own life…. “How’s Chase?” he asked, suddenly filled with worry.

Chase had been different—he’d been beautiful and haunted and dynamite on screen, but Chase’s only drug had been the misery eating him alive. The fact that he’d lived through his attempt on his own life was a testament to his own instinct for survival—he’d quit after his first wrist—as much as it was a testament to the friends and the lover who had rallied behind him.

But he’d been John’s employee, and John felt a sort of proprietary worry for the boy, and for his lover, Tommy, as well.

“He’s doing good,” Dex said, smiling sincerely. Oh God—he had dimples. That was the first thought John’d had when Dex showed up at his house to interview. Blond hair, blue eyes, and dimples. John’s stomach clenched at those dimples, even now.

“Good,” John answered absently. “I mean, I worried.”

“Yeah. He worried us all. But Tommy says the medication is worth it, and they’re going to work hard.” Dex looked away, and John remembered that everybody had their demons. John hadn’t told Dex about Tory, and Dex hadn’t told John why he’d picked Dex as his name and why he hadn’t faced up to being gay when he’d spent six years fucking guys for cash.

John tried really hard not to be a self-involved douche bag and squeezed Dex’s hand like he meant it. “You’ll help,” he said sincerely. “You’re good at that.” He sighed and rubbed his face with his free hand. His whiskers rasped at his palm, and given that he had red-blond stubble that didn’t grow in well or quickly, that was saying something.

Dex looked him in the eye then, and John tried his damnedest to look back. At the last minute, he failed miserably.

“I don’t mind helping you out,” he said evenly. “Please don’t feel bad because you had to ask for help.”

“Yeah, I know,” John snapped, out of patience with guilt. “You know when an outstanding time to ask for help would have been?”

“Before you sold me in a porn scene to my ex-boyfriend?” Dex asked flatly.

John grimaced. Apparently Dex was out of patience with guilt too.

“I don’t know how to fix that,” John stated.

Dex jerked on his hand—not to break the touch but to get John’s attention, because he still wasn’t making eye contact, and they both knew that was bullshit. “You can’t,” Dex said honestly, and John thought Tory might have had the right idea. “You can’t fix it. But you might mend it.” There was a pause during which John actually ached. “You were my friend for years, John. Do you really think I can just give that up?”

John groaned and leaned his head on the table. “God, David. I just wish you could have loved me.”

So naked. Maybe the most honest thing John had said in the past year, really, since his cocaine use had gone up and his interest in any other guy had gone down. Sad, so sad, when you were surrounded by porn stars, some of them willing and happy to give a fuck-and-suck on the side, and you spent your time at home getting high and wishing for something you couldn’t have.

“You know what I wish?” Dex asked. For the first time, his voice was as angry as it deserved to be.

“That I wasn’t a douche bag?” John asked, almost hoping for a smile.

“That you had told me,” Dex snapped bitterly. “Oh my God, John. We were friends. Do you know who I just fell in love with? My friend. Do you think maybe it could have happened between us? Hell, I don’t know. For a year I thought I was in love with Scott. And before that—”

“You were straight!” John snarled, feeling like a savage. Davy, so transparent, watching the porn with hunger in his eyes.

“I was lonely!” Dex snarled right back, the wounded expression on his face sharp enough to dig a trench in John’s soul. “Do you think maybe I could have used someone saying they cared like that? Do you think maybe knowing my friend thought I was gay might have helped me figure things out a little? Jesus, John, aren’t you supposed to learn how to be honest in rehab? We could have meant something to each other, and you just sat there and watched me eat my heart out! You’re pissed because Kane came and picked me up from under your nose? I was drowning under your nose, and you couldn’t have told me you loved me to save my life. So I’m not gonna feel sorry I fell in love with someone else. I’m not saying we would have been happy, or even that it would have been forever, but you’re damned right it could have been you.”

“This is a pep talk?” John asked, staggered.

“This is a wake-up call! If you didn’t make a move on me, it’s because something held you back—notbecause you thought I was straight.”

Something held you back. And John wasn’t strong enough to do it. He wasn’t strong enough to apologize and pull back into his shell, which is what he would have done before rehab.

He buried his face in his arm and just stayed there, shoulders shaking, until Dex moved. Good. He’d driven Dex away. Great—way to go, John—

Dex wrapped his arm around John’s shoulders, and John took a deep breath and cried some more. The storm shook him—not as bad as the day before, but pretty bad. When it was over, Dex kissed his temple.

“I’m a friend,” he said, his voice resigned. “I’ll do what I can, but it can’t be about you and me, okay?”

John nodded. “Tory,” he mumbled. “My boyfriend. He’s what was holding me back.”

Dex grunted. “Now see, not being able to let go? That’s something I know about.”

John smiled into his arm, feeling marginally better. “Help me get to Florida and take care of the funeral, and that’ll be my solid,” he said softly. “Thanks, David. It’s more than I deserve.”

Dex’s sigh ruffled his hair. “John, you maybe think this whole problem is because you deserve more, but you’re afraid to ask for it?”

John wiped his face off on his thin white T-shirt so his snort wouldn’t be so full of phlegm. “Not likely.”

Dex shook his head and took his place across the table again. That was it. That was all John got. Now it was business as usual. “I’m saying you’re a good guy,” Dex said patiently, and then grimaced. “Just don’t tell Kane I said that. But you are good. And you’ve been watching guys fuck for years through a camera lens and not reaching for nearly enough of ’em. Maybe it’s time you thought you deserved to get some too, right?”

John shook his head and tried to sit up. “Sure.” He shrugged, but he didn’t believe it.

Apparently Dex thought so too.

“Look,” he sighed, running his hand through his hair. “John, I know what it’s like to lose someone. Whatever it is about this old boyfriend that’s got you tied up in knots, maybe going away is what you need to do to untie those knots, you think?”

John blinked at him, so completely exhausted that he was willing to be led anywhere. “Sure,” he said. But in his head, he’d already lost. He honestly didn’t think he had the strength to go back and confront Tory’s ghost alone.




Friday, January 23, 2015

Don't I Know You?

So, on Monday, when I was in getting my hair cut, the following happened:

Big, burly, thirty-something guy starts staring at me.

I smile back.

He says, "Hey, did you use to teach?"

Me" "So, did you go to NHS?"

Him: "Yeah, but you were teaching summer school or home-study or something."

Me: "I only did that for one summer!"

Him: "That's all I took it-- I'm Anderson Cambry!"

Me: "Anderson! That's awesome! How you doing man?"

And what followed was a half an hour of pleasant conversation whereby I caught up with this young man.  He's in security, I know where he works, I'm going to interview the crap out of him for upcoming projects.

Squish sat next to me and smiled the whole time, and when an older gentleman said, "Imagine that-- that guy knows your mommy!" She gave a serene little grin.

"Yeah.  That happens to her all the time."

And it does.

Tonight, Mate and I were in Chili's for important dinner eating purposes, and there was a wait.  I tapped Mate and said, "Look! Isn't that our post office guy?"

Now Mate gives me a ration of crap because I go into the post office and all the people know me.  I've had enough giveaways and know enough people who are out of state to send packages to, that they tell me what the best way to send my stuff is, and they're polite, and we talk. I know who has kids, and how to make the sort of shy German fellow smile (he has a delightful sense of humor, and is always kind, but he's very reserved).  The last time I was in there with Mate, this man-- in his early sixties--chatted at me happily.

They're my people, right?

Anyway, he saw me, and came over and we talked for the whole half-hour before we got our table.

Mate just looked at me and shook his head.  "Once a week?" he asked.

I shrugged.

It does seem to happen to me a lot.

Part of it is that I'm gregarious, and I like talking to people, knowing their stories, being me.

Part of it is that I'm noticeable.  I'm a big girl, my hair is usually bright red with or without the skunk stripe, and I often wear knitwear.

And part of it is that I'm approachable.  Eighteen years of teaching gave me the "I sweartagod I don't bite!" smile.

And part of it is that I just sort of know people.  I mean, in Disneyland a teacher from my old school came to chat.

And it's cool.

It makes me feel like I'm home wherever I go.

And I always (don't judge me!) harbor a secret hope (it's so douche-matic!) that someday, someone will recognize me from my promo-pic, and will want me to sign a book or a placemat or a napkin or something.

Sh… don't tell.  It'll jinx it.

I like to think it'll happen.

But in the meantime, I'll just enjoy the big surprise of the people who wander into my life and talk to me.  It really is a delightful part of any day!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Success!!!

So, the kids were home from school yesterday.  I took the opportunity to take Squish shopping, and we both got our hair cut (wherein my hair went from long and poofy and unmanageable to slightly less long and poofy and unmanageable) and I generally spent my day doing things I put off for later.  (Including catch a tremendous sale at Bath and Bodyworks, which will leave me eyeballs deep in pleasant smelling body wash for what I hope will be another six months.)

But this morning, the kids went to school, and I was back at my desk, and back to the daily grind.

And the thing is, it's not a bad grind.  I frequently get asked in interviews, "What's your writing day like?"  I'm not sure what people want to hear with that.  Do they want to hear, "Well, I wake up, pump out three hours straight brilliant work, social media for a bit, and then spend my day with my personal trainer and beautify myself up for my next public appearance?"  (Excuse me while I clean up my keyboard-- I spit up water while typing that.)

The fact is, while I am considered mildly successful in my field, my daily grind is much the same as it was when I was teaching.  I spend part of my day getting my kids off to school.  I spend part of my weeks making sure they participate in activities to become useful and talented human beings. I spend part of my day struggling with things like diet and exercise so that I might not become a human solid. I spend part of my day watching television with my kids, so that we can all be in the same room together, comment during the commercials, and occasionally snuggle. I try for one night a week with my Mate, and he makes it a point to go with me when I walk the dogs, so that we might continue to be Mates and not just roomMates, and I cherish those times.  I carry my phone with me, so I can reply to any urgent social media, and I check my e-mail like I breathe: automatically.  I cannot go to the bathroom without a cat, or a dog, or a kid following me to get my attention. Sometimes it's a parade.

But in all of this, there are few of the trappings of success I always imagined-- and we all always imagine when we hear the words "success".  There is no PA to deal with bothersome things like e-mail or guest blog posts or the whopping 60% of accrued e-mail in my G-mail account. (My husband is boggled by this. He doesn't understand things like, "I don't want to get rid of that!"  He says it explains a lot about the house.)  I still have to do my own laundry, pick up my own kids, do my own shopping, and pick up my own dry-cleaning. (Which would be more impressive if I did dry-cleaning more than once or twice a year.)  There is no limo service, and if I was going to hire someone to clean my closets (ala Sex in the City) they would first have to hire a contractor to fix my bathrooms, because after years of bitching about them, they are still death traps.

But I'm not complaining.  In fact, I'm doing the reverse of complaining.

Last year, about this time, I did a truly frightening thing.

I didn't renew my teaching credential.

Yes, the whole "porn" brouhaha had blown over, as had the suffocatingly bigoted political climate that spawned the entire fiasco in the first place.  I suffered a slap on the wrist suspension for what amounted to leaving a note on the board telling the students to be good for the sub. I shit you not-- when all was said and done, letting the student read the story was never mentioned. It all came down to me telling the kids I was in the doghouse and making sure they knew their grades would be held accountable to the sub. That's what I did wrong.

But in spite of all of that, I wasn't going to try to go back to teaching.

I'd been quite spoiled in the three years previous.

Yes, I missed the students. I missed talking about my subject at length. I missed not having my ass spread in measurable increments because I was living a sedentary life instead of actively teaching.

But for three years, I'd taken the kids to school, come back to my desk, and weighed the work on my laptop with an assessing eye. When I needed to turn something in for my publisher, I worked on that. When it was time to blog, I worked on that. When people asked me to blog for them, I used my own judgement for whether or not to accept the work or whether to turn it down. And then I decided what to blog about. I chose whether to visit on social media, and how to promote myself, and what project to write next.

And I haven't done a bad job of it, really.  Yeah, my writing sometimes takes a left turn with projects that appeal to a limited audience, but since those projects sort of feed my writers soul, I'm not gonna whine about that.  That was my decision. Sometimes I social media too much, and sometimes I hide in my writing hole too much, but you now what? I did what I felt I'd be most productive with at the time.

In fact, do you know what I didn't do, during those three years?

I didn't participate in any bitch, wank, and jizz sessions, because A. Those things are unproductive, and B. I got enough of them in the staff room.

I didn't respond to any trolls because A. Those things are unproductive and B. I got enough of them in the staff room.

I didn't listen to anyone who said I was too weird for my opinion to matter because A. That's unproductive and B. I got enough of that in the staff room.

I didn't listen to anyone who ripped me apart and disparaged me and made fun of the things I loved and said my work wasn't good enough because not enough people hated me.  I didn't hate myself for not fitting in.  I stopped being embarrassed that I could actually create the kind of writing I loved to read. I started to trust my judgement for how I spent my time and trust that the decisions I made on my own, without a band of pissy, judgey men who managed to run off every other female in the department telling me my decisions were bad just because they weren't what those men would have done.

Because, you know, those earlier behaviors were unproductive, and I got enough of that in the staff room.

So, yes. I think I've found success.  It's not income (although I'm humbly grateful for the ability to put my children through college and to go to conventions where I get to meet fans and fellow authors) and it's not visibility.  And it's not limos or PA's or BMW's or new shoes every week (which I don't have) or a chance to go to a play more than once every five years (which I do).  It's not even the occasional pedicure.

It's the ability to trust myself. It's the ability to stand free of the soul-rotting Greek Chorus of "You can't!" and "Different is bad!" and "Kindness is weakness!" and "Being mean is being strong!"and "Don't work outside the herd!" that made sitting with my students so much easier than sitting with my peers.  It's independence and self-acceptance, and a genuine joy in the thing I do, and a belief that it matters to people, and that it makes a positive difference in the world.

So, it's a little scary, answering that question, "What does your average day look like?".  Sometimes, my average day looks like I'm staring into space and computer surfing a lot. But after nearly four and a half years of choosing my own adventure on a daily basis, I can honestly say, I am choosing wisely.  Even if a particular book doesn't do smashingly, it was my decision to write it how I wrote it, and my work gave me joy, so I am choosing well.

Maybe, just maybe, I got this.


Saturday, January 17, 2015

Cover Reveal: The Tales of the Curious Cookbook

Hey all!

So, last year at RT, Marie Sexton, Amber Kell, Mary Calmes, RJ Scott and I sat down and had a giggly conversation about, "Hey-- let's make an anthology together!"

And we did.

Each one of us wrote a novella about, of all things, a curious cookbook of which only five copies were made. Each copy was passed down and sideways through the families, and there was something… special about this cookbook.  Here-- this is the blurb for the collective paperback, and it explains it all:

It’s called comfort food for a reason.

Not much is known about the cookbook, except that years ago, the mysterious Granny B collected a set of magical recipes and wrote them down. Over the years, each book has been modified, corrected, added to, and passed down through the generations to accumulate its own unique history. The secrets behind these very special recipes are about to find their way into new hands and new lives, just when they’re needed the most.


Food created out of love casts a spell all its own, but Granny B’s recipes add a little something extra. Thiscurious cookbook holds not only delicious food, but also the secrets of love, trust, and healing, and it’s about to work its magic once again.

So that's the premise each of us took-- and ran with.  

Now, the books in the banner are in order to how they're going to be released--in e-book-- in April, starting with RJ's on April 1st, and then mine on the 8th, and Marie's on the 13th, Amber's on the 20th, and Mary's on the 27th.  You'll be able to buy the novellas separately, but in case you're a lover of the printed book, they will be available anthologized together in paperback form, under Tales of the Curious Cookbook.  

And, uh, for the record?  Everybody's story is AWESOME. 


Here's the blurb for mine:

Emmett Gant was planning to tell his father something really important one Sunday morning—but his father passed away first. Now, nearly three years later, Emmett can't seem to clear up who he should be with—the girl with the apple cheeks and the awesome family or his snarky neighbor, Keegan, who never sees his family but who makes Emmett really happy just by coming over to chat.

Emmett needs clarity.

Fortunately for Emmett, his best friend’s mom has a cookbook that promises to give Emmett insight and good food, and Emmett is intrigued.  After the cookbook follows him home, Emmett and Keegan decide to make the recipe “For Clarity” and what ensues is both very clear—and a little surprising, especially to Emmett's girlfriend.  Emmett is going to have to think hard about his past and the really important thing he forgot to tell his father if he wants to get the recipe for love just right.

I love this story. It's got a dash of sad, a helping of sugar, and it hearkens back to an unfortunate moment in my own cooking history when I swear to God, I made beet porridge.  

And it tasted delicious. 

So there you go-- ta-da! My cover has been revealed!

Now, if you'd like to see what everybody else has to say about this little venture, don't forget to check out Marie Sexton, RJ Scott, Amber Kell, and Mary Calmes-- cause we're all doing this together, cause that's how it started.

And boy, I hope you enjoy the stories-- because I have to tell you, I sure did enjoy the project!  (Do you notice that my icon is a cat and not food? That's because I can't cook for crap! Putting food on my picture felt like a big lie-- enjoy the stories, but replicate my recipes at your own risk!)

Amy




Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Technical Difficulties

So in the past month, we have had the following mechanical things go kablooey: the washing machine, the car, my iPod, Chicken's laptop, Mate's old phone.  The refrigerator, the drier, and the bathroom plumbing are hanging on by a thread, and you know? That was bad enough.

But when I got the new Odyssey, it hit me: Cars--and most machines-- have become a lot fucking smarter in the past decade.  My car is smarter than me now-- mostly-- and occasionally we butt heads on certain matters, such as whether it's polite to interrupt someone in a perfectly restful driving coma with a phone call from a telephone vendor.  (No. However, Cortana is a whore and has no shame.)  And, as the car and I are having our disputes, and my car is threatening to either drive itself or sell itself off to someone who is not as apparently inept as I am,  it has occurred to me that I am either A. Not particularly savvy, technology wise, or B. Fucking cursed.

I mean, I have a car and a phone and a tablet and a faithful laptop, but every day something shows up to either amaze me or piss me off.

My family thinks this is hilarious--and I have to tell you, I am fast becoming the toast of the technology helplines in a variety of fields.  Heh heh… yeah.  You probably think I'm kidding.  The following conversations (or something close to them) have occurred in the past week between myself and the nice people at…

Cortana (also known as "The Odyssey" but since whenever I get in the car that heifer takes demonic possession over the car's computer and bluetooth system, we're just going with Cortana here, Kk?):

You have received a text from Ma-ree Cal-mess. Would you like to answer it, or ignore?

Me: Answer it.

Cortana: It says, 'You should tweet the sale Naomi just posted on Dream Readers too.' Would you like me to reply?

Me: Reply

Me: 'What sale?'

Cortana: Should I text back, 'White sails?' or would you like to add more, change it, or cancel.

Me: Change it.

Cortana: Sure.  (And don't you just love how condescending that is. Sure? Like, you know, it's MY fault, but she'll help me out with it.)  What would you like it to say?

Me: WHAT. SALE.

Cortana: Would you like me to text 'What sale?' to Ma-ree Cal-mess?

Me: Text.

Cortana: Sure.  You have a text from Ma-ree Cal-mess. Would you like me to read it or ignore it?

Me: Read it.

Cortana: It says 'Dreamraisers'. Would you like to reply?

Me: Yes-- say, 'Is it the one for Beneath the Stain? And should I put it on the blog? What is Dream Readers?' (Notice how I now speak Cortana, right?)

Cortana: Would you like me to text, 'Is it beneath the stains or put on the log with the dream reekers?'

Me: o.o

Cortana: Would you like me to cancel?

(Kids in the back, laughing their asses off.)

Me: No, Cortana. Send it.

Cortana: Sure.

-- SEE?  Not just me, right? That heifer led me down the garden path, and right when I was thinking I was going to have a good conversation, BLAMMO. The "Are you texting from Mars or Lars?" text.  Uhm hm… not my fault, right?

But that's only the beginning.

So, I've joined the dreaded WW, and, since I just sort of kited off last time and never came back, and they've got this whole e-tool thing that I barely understand, their website took exception to me trying to log on at all.

Now, the new points system is baffling to me, but last time, I depended on the calculator on my web dash, and I was planning to do the same thing this time-- except it's not showing up.  And I've had a moderate breakfast, and a moderate lunch, but if I don't start writing down my menu, I'm going to forget I've eaten at all and try to make up for lost time. (You think this doesn't happen? LOOK AT ME and find another explanation!) And I need a snack. Like, need some protein, because my little Patrick-ADHD brain is spinning at frog speed, and is about to jump the track.

And the 20 minute conversation with tech support went something like this:

Tech support: Okay, so I'm going to try something here… *five minutes of tapping*

Me: (Internally) Bird! STring! Spot on the ceiling! Dog! Dog! Dog! Aw… doggie… scratch the doggie… pretty doggie… love the--

Tech support: Okay, try it now.

Me: "What? Oh, wait. There you are."

Tech support: "You found the screen?"

Me: "No, literally-- there you are. I forgot what we were doing.  Wait. No. I've got it now. No. It's not working."

Tech support: "Okay. Okay, fine. Here, let me try this."  *five minutes of typing*

Me: (internally) Brush! Paper towels! Do we need paper towels? Will my concern for the environment be cheapened if I buy paper towels?  Is it worse to buy paper towels and recycle than it is to buy cloth towels and accidentally use the one you were using to wipe something off the floor as a hot pad for your husband's soup? Wait-- have I ever actually done that, or did I catch it in time?

Tech support: "Okay. I think we have it now. Log in again."

Me: "We're still doing this?"

Tech support: "Yes dear-- it should only take a second."

Me: "Okay, trying… wait wait wait… YESSSSSSSS!!!!!! YES YES YES YES YES!!!"

Tech support: "It's working?"

Me: "Sweet!"

Tech support: "You're funny!"

Me: "Funny? I'm starving! I need a snack and if I didn't log it in, I was going to eat a pound of chocolate and call it good!"

Tech support: "Don't do that?"

Me: "Nom nom nom… iths a rithe cake n hummuth, I thwear…"


-- So you see?  Me and tech support?  We get along, yo?  Which is good. Because there are even more sensitive moments for tech support than Weight Watchers. Like, uhm, say, when you're trying to log into Corbin Fisher.  For my non-porn watching friends, let's just say there's a lot of sweaty naked things going on at this website. For my straight male friends (not sure I have any) just stay away. You'll sleep better at night.

Now, for those of you who don't follow me a lot online, you may want to know that I often work with a Chiwhowhat and a Shitzu napping in my sweatshirt. It's important. I swear.

Tech Support: How can I help you?

Me: I could have sworn I updated this credit card.

Tech support: We're sorry, Amy, you told us that card expired on 8/14.

Me: Oh! That's my bad-- it should say 17, not 14. But now we have another problem.

Tech support: What's that?

Me: You're not supposed to know I'm Amy. I should have another screen name, right?

Now, what follows is a long and involved conversation that I enjoyed very much--although by the time we were done, I was no longer in the mood for porn.  We talked about the website update (it's very pretty) and how much better it was than the old format and how there was a website for tech support and how I should upload Yosemite on my Mac…

Wait, I should what?

Tech Support: Yes-- your model mac would work much better with Yosemite.

Me: I don't even know what model Mac I'm working with. It's old. YOu know that?

Tech Support: Yes, Amy-- I also know that you could view us better if you used Chrome or Firefox instead of Safari.

Me:  That's totally scary.  Quick-- how many dogs do I have in my shirt?

Tech Support: Uh, one?

Me: HA! TWO!  Oh thank God-- I was never gonna watch porn again.

-- So there you go. My adventures in tech support-- the good, the bad, and the absurd.  And here I was, writing this blog, when I get a text from Chicken about her broken laptop.  She needed cheering up.

Chicken: I've been crying all day.

Me: No worries.  Don't cry.

Chicken: No worries?

Me: Save your tears for when we sell your little brother.

Chicken: heh heh heh heh

Me: And the dog.

Chicken: heh

Me: I'm sorry-- did you text dad?

Chicken: He hasn't gotten back to me.

Me: He's busy taking Zoomboy shoe shopping. Do you know how big your brother's feet are?

Chicken: How big?

Me: Mens 8 1/2.

Chicken: No way. I can't wear his shoes anymore.

Me: You didn't want to wear his shoes anyway. He has freakishly shaped frog-feet.

Chicken: Heh heh heh…

Me:  And watch out-- at least one of your children will have freaky frog-spread whacked little piggies too.

Chicken: NOOOOOOOO!!!

Me: All the better for stepping into two different piles of puppy poop.  I swear, if you point that dog's ass and squeeze her in the middle, you could decorate a shit cupcake.

Chicken: heh heh heh heh

-- And there you have it. I can't make my car behave, document my calories, or watch a decent episode of porn, and I've passed it on to my kids.

But at least we know how to laugh about it!




Sunday, January 11, 2015

Knitting Squishy, Blogging injuries, and Mummy Dog attacks!

 A short post tonight, but hopefully a fun one.

First of all, I"m proud to announce that Squishy has learned to knit!  Huzzah!

She posed for the camera all on her own, and I love the shot--also, it showcases her brand new hat in all its rainbow glory :-)  We have since added a bright red pom-pom to the top, and she is working on a pair of fingerless mittens all on her own-- can I say proud again?  Yup.  Doing that.  Also, I am absurdly *wipes tear* touched by the image of my two daughters working side by side with knitting.  I can say I gave them that :-)

Speaking of which, Chicken has gone back to her new apartment far away from everything without an hour of public transportation.  Mate keeps trying to remind me that I took the bus from San Carlos to Daly City during a period of time when Daly City was scary as hell, but I seem to recall more maturity on our part at that point.  Mate says I'm imagining things, but no. I'm sure she's too young to be on her own. What's the going age these days-- 25? 30?  Yeah.  Then.  Then I won't worry, okay?  But that worry aside, I do very much like her hair.

Anyway-- on to blogging injuries and mummy dogs.

So, it's safe to say that I'm a big girl.  I mean, a BIG girl.  And for the last week I've been fighting a couple of deadlines-- editing, yes, but also guest blogs etc., and when I get really into a groove, I lean forward in my chair and put my toes behind me, which puts an enormous amount of strain on my achilles tendon.

Which, after three days of no sleep and doing that barefoot resulted in… well, a lot of frickin' pain.  And a fever.  So I woke up last night, teeth chattering, barely able to walk to the bathroom, and soaked in sweat from pain.  I tried to go back to sleep, but the dogs were screwing around, and one of them landed on my ankle one too many times, so I shoved the biggest one off the bed.  Where he stayed.

About a half-an-hour later, I couldn't take it anymore.  I use Motrin sparingly because, in fact, it makes my intestines bleed (TMI, I'm sorry-- also, yes. I'm falling apart) but I couldn't go on like this.  I asked a very patient, caring mate to go get me some Motrin and water, and he did-- leaving me in the dark, because who likes to laser-bolt their eyes.

So I took the Motrin, and as Mate and I made ourselves comfy once more, I realized Johnnie hadn't gotten back on the bed, and I felt bad.  I called him up, and we heard him jump, and his feet scrabble up, and then he fell back down.

What in the hell?

I called him again.

He did the same thing-- back feet and front feet scrabbling, and then he fell down.

He did that a few more times, and Mate was like, "Is he hurt?"  (Cue guilt.  Oh God! One moment of irritation and I killed the frickin' dog!)

Finally he made it up onto the bed, and thud/rolled his way over to us.

He was wrapped in an entire fleece blanket.  One of the old ones.  The edging had become separated from the blanket itself, and he had gotten wrapped inside-- probably on the ground after I pushed him off the bed.  And then, when I called, he jumped on the bed mummified in an entire adult sized blanket.

And I had to laugh-- I still felt like shit, and omg, poor baby, we'd been calling him and he came, when only his front feet could work and maybe his nose because he'd been swaddled in the blanket…


But on the other hand… MUMMY DOG!!!!

*still giggling*

And that's it for now-- I actually need to write some fiction.  I know-- someday I'll do that as a profession!







Thursday, January 8, 2015

A Little More *flail* And Place Setting for Zero!


Hey all--

You know that feeling where your pants are falling down and you think your underwear might come with them and you're in public and then…

THEY DO!!!???

Yeah, well, 

A. That just happened to me, because my hands were full and the pants were the ones that don't fit and so were the underwear and that's a bad idea.

And 

B. That's the exact feeling I got when I was preparing Monday's blog post.  I kept thinking, "Oh no, I'm going to forget one, I'm going to forget one…"

And then I DID!

So this is a belated *Kermit Flail, and it's for a writer I have been wanting to read for a while-- in a genre I haven't seen from him yet!  John Inman is known for books like Shy! and The Poodle Apocalypse,  and both of those are known for their comedy.  But John's next endeavor comes from DSP Publications, which is all about the serious genre fiction and not quite so much about the romance or the m/m--which makes the fact that it's a mystery/suspense/thriller just oh so very delicious.  I very much look forward to seeing this book take on the mystery genre, because the blurb sounds decadent, and any man who can write a story titled The Poodle Apocalypse has got to be able to pen one hell of a story.  Everybody give it up for Mr. John Inman with Willow Man!!!  YAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAY!!!!!!!!

***


By John Inman

Woody Stiles has sung his country songs in every city on the map. His life is one long road trip in a never-ending quest for fame and fortune. But when his agent books him into a club in his hometown, a place he swore he would never set foot again, Woody comes face to face with a few old demons. One in particular.

With memories of his childhood bombarding him from every angle, Woody must accept the fact that his old enemy, Willow Man, was not just a figment of childish imagination.   

With his friends at his side, now all grown up just like he is, Woody goes to battle with the killer that stole his childhood lover. Woody also learns Willow Man has been busy while he was away, destroying even more of Woody's past. And in the midst of all this drama, Woody is stunned to find himself falling in love—something he never thought he would do again.

As kids, Woody and his friends could not stop the killer who lived in the canyon where they played.  As adults, they might just have a chance.

Or will they?

*******



***
*wipes brow*  

Phew.

I felt so bad when I realized what I'd done, by the way-- but Mr. Inman graciously said that next-day (or, in this case, next blog) service would be okay with him.  A good egg, Mr. Inman-- I'm so hoping this book explodes off the frickin' charts.  (And yes. Bought my copy. Will I have time to read it?  Mmmm… but I have the HOPE that I will have time to read it. Hope is everything, right?)

And as for us at home?

Well, I've been sort of eyeballs deep in work, including three projects I didn't push myself to complete over winter break, when the kids were home and I got NO time to myself, and are now jumping up in my face like jack-in-the-boxes going "HEY! HELLO! YOU'RE FRICKIN' LATE!"  to which I respond "AUUUUUUGHHHHHHH!!!! Why would you DO that?"  and continue to work on the OTHER late thing that was absorbing my interest before the fuckin' jack-in-the-box. 

But Chicken is only here for a couple  more days, and I have spent some time watching television and movies with my family, and the following happened the other night and we're still laughing about it.

The dogs sit with me  as I watch television. Yes, it makes knitting more difficult than necessary, but I soldier on.  They usually fall into the gap between my ass and the chair, Johnnie on the bottom and Goeffie (who weights a whole four pounds right now) on the top.  The other night, after a long, cold, walk, Johnnie wormed his way out and onto the ground, leaving Geoffie to fall into the black hole right behind my behind.  Squish came over ask if she could hold Geoffie, and I reached behind me and handed Geoffie over, and Chicken almost fell out of her chair laughing.

"Oh my God, mom! It was like you pulled a puppy out of your ass!"

So for the last three days, we've been looking at each other and saying, "Hey Chicken! Watch me pull a puppy out of my ass!"

(Chicken drew this for me.)
And then falling out of our chairs laughing because we have little teeny brains.

Then there was this--I posted an article about how hard it was to get research and details down, especially when you're not predisposed to notice details anyway.  *Sheepishly raises hand*.  For the most part, people took the article in the spirit for which it was intended-- that we'd never stop trying to get things right, but that we had to forgive ourselves for basic human error or we'd never keep writing.  But one of the commenters sort of, well, latched onto a detail and I thought I should explain.

No.  I have not eaten with my family at my kitchen table for around five years--ever since the writing got really involved.  My computer is here, the printer, the scanner, basically my office is here.  For some gatherings, I clean off my office, put all my stuff on one chair, and put chips, dip, and parts of a potluck on the table--but the fact remains, all the stuff that was on the table is on a chair, and we still can't gather round to eat.  

We eat in the living room, which does explain why my children sometime have the table manners of Chimpanzees on Sugar Day at the zoo.

I have a friend-- Roxie-- at Sannasbag.blogspot.com -- who routinely sets a beautiful table with personalized china and napkins with individual napkin rings, each setting gleaned from garage sales and estate sales, and she shows pictures. 

They are so lovely-- so gracious.  I admire them to the depths of my soul.

Most especially because they are a thing that I have no brain for (I have, as you may have noticed, a very little brain.)  I am so grateful to people like Roxie who can continue to show the world what grace and beauty are like, even in something so simple-- and so taken for granted-- as a table setting.

I am not that person.

I am, in fact, the person who almost wet myself when Chicken came in having just completed this hat as a present for a friend.  "See mom, it's… oh my God! It looks like a penis!"

Well, not when it's on.  When it's on, it looks just like the had Double Dee from Ed, Edd, and Eddie had, which is exactly what she was going for.  Good job, Chicken!

And that's where I'll sign off-- it's been a rough transition back to school, the kids have been late every day but one so far, and the puppy has decided that every day is crap day!  (We have no idea where she craps, either, until we step in it.  Puppies-- there's a reason they're lumped in with snips and snails, that's for sure.)  I am finally getting work done-- but unfortunately, very little of it is fiction.  

But when I am writing fiction?

I'm writing Quickening.  So, you know.

There's that.