Love, Simon

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I went to see Love, Simon last night. It is a YA rom-com/coming-of-age film based on Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. The book itself was fantastic – I tore through the back 75% of it in one sitting. It was sweet – achingly so – and the mystery of who Blue is was well-concealed until the reveal (at least, it was to me…but I am admittedly not the quickest to pick up on these things). I rooted for Simon throughout the book, and was delighted by the ending. It was, in a word, perfect.

So you could say I had high hopes for the movie.

Now, I will give this a disclaimer: a few years ago, I had a revelation. I realized that movies based on books are just that – based on books. They are not books. So there will be things left out, things added, things changed. And I came to terms with that. I am at peace. I did not expect Love, Simon to be exactly the same as the movie. What I expected was a love story that left me cheering for the protagonist, a love story so sweet my teeth hurt by the end of it, and a love story that did justice to the importance of coming out as a queer teenager in a perfect world. (Because – and it is revealed very early on – Simon’s world is all but perfect. He has very open, liberal parents, super supportive, amazing friends, and is comfortable with most parts of himself, with one glaring exception.) This was definitely going to be an idealized version of a coming out story. I was okay with that.

I am rambling.

The short version of this is that I got exactly what I wanted, expected, and needed from Love, Simon. It, too, was perfect.

Okay, not perfect. I have a few minor complaints. And I’m certain that critics will soon find a way to shred Simon in the way they can often tear apart things. There were some issues – it was, absolutely, a scrubbed-clean version of what it’s like to be queer and to come out as a teenager today. That was intentional, if the director is to be believed (and I do believe him). The movie is portrayed as a sort of callback to the 80s coming-of-age genre. With the obvious difference that Simon is gay.

This is the first teen queer love story to be put out by a major studio. The important thing is that teenagers will see themselves in Simon and know that their stories are being told. That they are worthy of having their stories told.

So what is it about? I will try to do this with as few spoilers as possible. Simon is a regular teenager who lives near Atlanta, Georgia. His school has an anonymous Tumblr, and in late summer/early fall, one of his classmates makes a coming-out post. The classmate attaches his email address, and a nickname (Blue), but nothing else. Simon immediately emails Blue, confessing that he, too, has the same secret.

They begin exchanging emails, and Simon falls in love with Blue. Hard. He spends a good amount of time trying to figure out who Blue is. In his carelessness, Simon accidentally leaves his emails with Blue where another classmate can see, and is quickly blackmailed into manipulating his friends so that these emails aren’t released to the whole world.

It doesn’t go well.

Eventually, Simon’s secret is revealed, in less of a rip-off-the-bandaid way and more of a rip-out-your-heart way. Things just get worse from there for poor Simon.

Of course, this being a romance, things do work out, in the best way possible. In my theatre, people applauded at the romantic crescendo.

My friend, who attended with me, cried during some heartfelt moments between Simon and his parents. I can understand why she identified so strongly with the parents. But I was laser-focused on Simon. I wanted his story to be my story. It wasn’t, and it never will be, but it gave me such an overwhelming sense of hope, optimism, and joy.

Love, Simon is the love story that needed to be told, and I’m so, so grateful for it.

Please go see the movie. Do yourself a favor and see it. Support this endeavor. Show the world, and the studios, that we support queer teen love stories. The more we support them, the more studios will make them. And if you can’t go, buy tickets for the teens in your life who need to hear these stories told. Who need to hear, in the words of Simon’s mom, “You’re still you. And I still love you.”

I could say so much more, but I’ll leave it here. Marie and I are headed out tomorrow night for another viewing (her first). I hope you’ll tell me how you felt about the movie once you see it!

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Workshop with Kimberly Kincaid

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So it’s been a quiet week! I didn’t blog on Wednesday because life got in the way. Well, to be perfectly honest… sushi got in the way. A local all you can eat sushi place had its grand opening last week, and we went, but it took us 3 hours to get in and out, and by the time we were home it was way past my bedtime.

That said, I would count my re-release blitz last Monday as a great success. I’m pretty excited about it. I’ve had quite a few new readers join my newsletter (ahem), and follow me on social media.

In the meantime, I’ve been working on the Young Spades series, hitting up some marketing strategies with Marie Cole, and (drumroll please)… this weekend I attended another Virginia Romance Writers meeting! This one was with Kimberly Kincaid, and she covered a TON of material. I’ll do my best to sum it up.

The first part of the day covered the “building blocks of writing.” Basically, the things we all need to do to make sure our books are successful stories. I’ll confess, even though I’m mostly a plotter, I don’t do all of these things, and I definitely need to work on them.

One big thing she talked about was making sure that as a writer, we know who ALL of our characters are (primary and secondary), before we start writing (or, for pantsers, by the time we’re editing). Especially if one is writing a series. (I’ll confess – I didn’t know that I was creating a series when I did NaNo this year, so I didn’t do this before I started writing Pulling Strings, Young Spades book 1. Ah well… into the editing phase we go!)

Another thing she really stressed is making sure their personalities are unique, compelling, and organic. That characters should change as the story goes on, definitely. And that things about them should be unique in a way that makes them not just a stereotype, but also not so outrageous that they are unbelievable.

The afternoon session was called “marketing like a boss” and was more about how indie authors can market themselves. The first, very most important marketing tip was: Write a good book! Without a good book, it doesn’t matter how you market yourself, nobody will care.

Then, of course, she talked about social media platforms. What’s hot, what’s not, and what a writer is good at – all different things, but something every writer should consider when marketing themselves.

Of course I have my Facebook profile, but I’ll also be creating a fan group soon, so that you guys can follow my goings-on without having to “friend” me. And of course I’m on Twitter as you probably know.

You may or may not know that I have giveaways going on at InstaFreebie pretty much always.

She also recommended Instagram, which I’m not yet on, and Pinterest, which I have an account on but it’s been so long since I’ve used it that I can’t remember the password. I’ll work on both of those soon. And of course there’s the aforementioned newsletter. I plan to send that out once a month, around the beginning of each month, with giveaways, news, exclusives, that kind of thing.

So that’s the workshop in a nutshell! It was great – lots to digest and learn!

Another bit of news is that I’m working now on turning my website into a static landing page with a blog as a click-through. I’ll still Facebook and Tweet out my blog posts, but this way there will be something up for everyone to see when they visit, without seeing, “Oh, she hasn’t blogged in HOW long?!” if that happens. Also, that way there’s less pressure on me to blog 2x a week (or so), and that means more time writing the books you guys want to read!

How about you guys? Any of my writer friends have brilliant marketing tips? For those of you who are “just” readers (not that there’s any such thing as “just” a reader!), are there marketing tricks that authors use that make you annoyed? Or that you love?

Release day is upon us!

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This is it… tomorrow’s the big day! All three books go live on Amazon for purchase and for reading on Kindle Unlimited! There are tons of bloggers and Tweeters and Facebookers signed up to help get the word out about the re-release and things are well.

Because this blog is being posted in the evening, and I probably won’t have time to blog again before I leave for work tomorrow to welcome any potential new fans and friends, I am going to drop some links, in case you have been directed here from the release party that’s been spread far and wide, and aren’t coming at me from my usual channels (Facebook and Twitter).

The three books are all available for pre-order on my Amazon page, here. You can also check out excerpts that are available on InstaFreebie, here.

If you haven’t already, you can also look me up on Twitter and Facebook (I just have a regular profile for this pen name, but I accept friend requests from anyone!) and Goodreads. (Side note: I’m still trying to get the Goodreads thing squared away – it shows the old covers and blurbs, and Night Shift needs to be merged with the listing for the former title. If anyone is a Goodreads expert, and can help me sort that out, I would owe you a big one.)

Each book is also a part of a Rafflecopter giveaway which you should definitely check out.

As for me, tonight I’ll be curling up with my sleepy puppy, watching the Oscars until I can’t stay awake any longer, and trying to settle my nerves for the release event tomorrow. Pupper is currently snoring at the end of the couch, grumpy because she’s not in my lap, where she prefers to sleep.

If you’re visiting and you’ve chosen to read or purchase my books, please drop me a review either on Amazon or Goodreads or both. As you probably know, reviews make the world go ’round for authors, especially new ones.

Thanks again for sticking with me, y’all. I’m so excited to have you along on this journey with me.

Re-Release Cover Reveal

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This is it! Today’s the day! I have covers for you! And blurbs!

First, we have Falling Apart – a first-time gay m/m erotic romance novella, 35,000 words.

Rising rocker Ryder Sullivan has everything he’s ever dreamed of – a skyrocketing career, a band to support him, and a willing bedmate anytime he chooses. He’s sure something is missing and discovers exactly what it will take to fill the void when he meets an incredibly adorable bartender.

The only problem is that the flirtatious cowboy bartender, Billy Cunningham, is a traditional man raised with traditional values. Fighting against his mother’s wishes for a wife and a house full of babies is tough, but living the Southern straight man values is tougher, especially when a hot rocker is making it very hard for him to resist.

Will Billy be able to give in to his heart before the chance to be with Ryder is lost forever?

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Next, we have “Another Shot” – a second chance m/m erotic romance short story, 12,000 words.

Ben’s seemingly perfect life just went down the tubes. On the eve of his thirtieth birthday his boyfriend breaks it off and despite his better judgement he goes with his best friend to a strip club where he runs into the one that got away–or ran away, more accurately.

When his ex, Ian, now a stripper, makes a move and promises things Ben had long given up on hoping for, Ben has a decision to make. Does he get the closure he so desperately wanted or does he trust Ian with his heart…again?

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And finally, we have “Night Shift” (formerly “Nurse’s Orders”), an enemies-to-lovers m/m erotic romance short story, 10,000 words.

When Officer Daniel Haddox wakes up one morning, and everything starts to go wrong, he knows it’s going to be one of those days. Things get worse when he’s sent to the hospital for smoke inhalation and prankster and all around dick of a nurse, Angelo, is on duty and ready to treat his injuries.

That night, a series of events unfolds that leaves Daniel’s head spinning. Will Daniel finally snap and give Angelo what he’s got coming? Or has Angelo got a different kind of fun in mind this time?

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Again, release day is March 5th, assuming everything goes smoothly. I can’t say enough how much I appreciate your support during this process! I could not be more excited!!

So tell me, which cover do you LOVE the most?

Re-release update

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Tonight’s blog post is going to be incredibly short, so advance apologies for that. I just wanted to update you all on my progress.

I have three beautiful covers that I would like to reveal to you this week. I could not be more excited about them. I’ve shown a few people a sneak peek, and they all love them, so I feel a great deal of relief.

All of the blurbs have been rewritten. I’m hoping that the blurbs give less away in terms of story, while evoking more of the emotional impact of the characters.

We’ve decided to shelve “Come Sail Away” for the time being. It needs some work, and that’s going to need to be pushed down the road for a bit, while the Young Spades series comes together.

Falling Apart (which is much, much shorter than I remember it being!) looks great. I’m the most excited about that one, as always. This one is the longest story, a novella at about 35,000 words.

“Another Shot” also looks fantastic. The cover is really lovely, and I’m really happy with where it sits. This is the longer of the two short stories, at 12,000 words.

“Nurse’s Orders” is going to be re-titled, in addition to getting a wonderful cover update and refreshed blurb (which I’m still writing). I’m not sure what the title will be yet – husband and I are working on that as we speak. (He votes for “Fahrenheit 69,” which I vetoed.) It is the shortest of the three stories, at 10,000 words.

All three stories will be released on March 5th. They will be released on Kindle Unlimited for the time being. Also, going forward, I will be looking into making print copies of each title available for print-on-demand purchase.

Okay! So that’s tonight’s wrap-up. See you soon!

The Planet of Zutar’s Invasion of the Dragons

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Okay, so as you know, coming up with blog topics isn’t my strongest suit. Tonight, as my 7 year old sat next to me eating a day-old cinnamon roll, I looked at him and said, “What should I blog about tonight?” He quickly came up with a topic, as evidenced by the title of this blog. (Incidentally, Zutar is ruled by zombies.) He also picked the image for tonight.

And, I suppose, he hit the nail on the head.

I’ve been battling my own “invasion of the dragons” for the better part of a week now. Granted, I’m not a zombie, but sometimes I feel like one. There are plenty of times that I feel like my day job is turning me into a corporate zombie, though, and that I inhabit a different planet, living off in my own world somewhere. (Hopefully it is not also inhabited by corporate zombies.)

No, my dragon invasion is really a species of dragons known as “the distraction dragons.” I sit down every day in my office, open my laptop, and immediately get to work…checking Facebook, Twitter, my blog, my email, and more. Then I finally open Scrivener and prepare to write. I re-read what I wrote last, so I can pick up where I left off. And then I go check Facebook and Twitter one last time.

Eventually, I start writing. After I get a paragraph or two, I think it’s time for a reward. More checking social media.

But then eventually I get a good writing rhythm going, and soon enough I’ve written a few hundred words. I stop to look something up and notice there’s a little (1) (or more) in each of my social media tabs. Well I can’t just let the notifications go. I have to check them. Right?

Well.

My dear writing friends tell me I need to disconnect my internet.

“No,” I gasp. “I can’t do that. That’s just too drastic!”

Truth be told, they’re probably right. (They usually are.)

I can’t say that’s what I’m going to do, but it’s definitely on the table as far as things I’m considering go.

Typically, after a good 45 minutes of this, I look at the clock and give up.

“Well,” I say to myself, “I’m not going to get any more writing done now, it’s much too late.” So I go watch the news for 20 or so minutes before I have to pack up and head to my day job.

Marie Cole sent me this quote yesterday:

“Work is work. It’s okay for writing to be hard work sometimes. That doesn’t make it “wrong” or “off.” You want what you want (to be successful, to tell stories, to write books, to make money, whatever you want) and if you really want those things, then you have to put in the work. As long as you’re committed to the process of being a professional writer, you’re going to be willing to put in the work.” -R. L. Syme, Write Better Faster Class

She’s right. I need to conquer my dragons, and put in the work.

Truly, my goal is to have the second in the Young Spades series (this would be Liam and Jack’s story) drafted by the end of March, at the latest. That will give me some time to edit it before moving on to book 3, which will be Trick’s story (I haven’t found a love interest for him yet, but rest assured, it will happen). Trick is short for Patrick, by the way. This series has a fondness for people with nicknames – Ari, Jack, and Trick all have given names they don’t use.

I really want to have the first in the Young Spades series, Pulling Strings (Shane and Ari) ready for publication for September. It’s almost March now. Six months to get Pulling Strings edited professionally and two more books from 0 to 100 isn’t much. I will have to send my attack zombies out to slay the dragons, and hope that my writing-zombies can work faster than I imagine “real” zombies would. I can do this. Right?

I also need to start hoping and praying that if my 7 year old asks what happened to the zombies of Zutar in their battle against the dragons, I’ll be able to come up with something good in a hurry. Let me know in the comments if you have any suggestions for the zombie-dragon battle I’ll need to concoct.

Attempting to Reach a Goal

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One of my goals for 2018 was to attend GRL as an author, rather than a reader. There are benefits to attending as a supporting author, including having my name featured on promotional materials and participating in the signing event for supporting authors. GRL stands for Gay Romance Literature, and is the only conference I’m aware of that is specifically for, well, exactly what it says – for readers and writers of gay romance stories. I know that MLR Books goes as a sponsor, as well as several other major publishers. It’s an opportunity for exposure to readers, and especially with my goals and plan to publish the Young Spades trilogy this fall, GRL would be an ideal opportunity to get in front of some readers and meet people in the industry. Besides, it’s practically in my backyard this year, being in Portsmouth, Virginia.

All that said, registration went up on Saturday the 17th, and closed almost immediately after (for authors). It sells out incredibly quickly. There are 80 Featured Author slots (they are invited to do panels, among other things) and 40 Supporting Author slots. There is a waitlist for those who didn’t get in right away, of course, and the reader slots don’t sell out until later (the organizers work hard to allow every reader who wants to be there a chance to get a spot).

So registration went up, and by some miracle, I got in! I’m going to be a Supporting Author at GRL this year!

I couldn’t be more excited! I am hoping to have some of my material back from MLR by then, but if I don’t, Pulling Strings will be out, and I hope to have print copies of that. I may also have some bookmarks drawn up by then as well.

For those of you who have attended this or any author event, please let me know any tips or tricks I need to be aware of. Is anyone I know going? I’d love to see a friendly face!