I love horses. We had ponies and horses when I was a kid, and they’re just wonderful creatures. My first job was exercising horses for an elderly man. I couldn’t get enough of them when I was young.
Unfortunately, I haven’t had access to horses in years. I live in the suburbs now, and my housing association frowns on having them in your backyard. So, I had to throw some horses into my latest novel. (They’re in the upcoming sequel, too!)
First, there’s Merlin. Merlin is Thomas Carillon’s magnificent black Morgan stallion. My favorite horse growing up was a chestnut Morgan with a large white blaze named Dannyboy. As clever as he was beautiful, he had smooth gaits and a big attitude. I thought about giving Thomas a Tennessee Walker like one of the horses I exercised for the elderly man because that one was like sitting in a rocking chair. You couldn’t ask for an easier ride. Thomas ended up with a Morgan because they are small in stature—and Dannyboy was such a great horse. Since Thomas is lame, I thought he would have an easier time mounting a Morgan.
Merlin is stout-hearted and fast. He’s gentle and well-suited to his kind owner. Unlike many stallions, he isn’t aggressive to other horses and rides well with Bucephalus, Hadrian’s mustang.
Hadrian Burton named Bucephalus after Alexander the Great’s horse. (The story goes that only Alexander could ride the wild stallion.) Bucephalus is a buckskin mustang. Mustangs are tough horses that still roam wild in the United States today. They are descended from the horses of Spanish conquistadors and come in a beautiful variety of colors. Bucephalus is a buckskin. These are horses with golden coats and black manes, tails, and points. They don’t have the black dorsal stripe of dun horses, otherwise, they look similar.
Both Thomas and Hadrian have disabilities. Thomas has clubfoot, and Hadrian has PTSD. Their horses provide them with both transportation and emotional stability. In our modern world, horses, the animal we so depended upon in the Old West, continue to help us. Horses are used in therapy to help people with disabilities, including PTSD. They are such amazing animals!
I’m writing about Thomas and Hadrian again. They’re on a new case, searching for a new killer and running into a number of ghosts. What I’m having the most fun with is their relationship. It’s fun to write about the first bloom of love, but what I really enjoy is writing about how couples make a partnership work.
Falling in love is easy. For me, anyway. I always laugh when reviewers say a couple seemed to get together too soon. When I was single, I could fall head over heels for someone after knowing them a few hours. I love being in love. I guess I’m a free spirit. And I don’t make small talk. Even now. I’m intense and like to get to the nuts and bolts of a person. People often tell me their darkest secrets. I’m not sure why, but I always fall in love with them a little when they do. If there’s any chemistry there, as well—
Staying together is the hard part. I’ve been with my husband longer than some of my readers have been alive. Every day, I make the decision to connect and understand. Loving another human and sharing your life with them isn’t easy—especially if you’re both passionate, damaged, and sensitive. We’ve never broken up, but there were a few times that were close.
In this book, Thomas is trying to assert his independence. He’s madly in love with Hadrian, but he doesn’t want to be smothered by him. He’s trying to figure out his boundaries so he can set them.
Hadrian is dealing with a diagnosis of “soldier’s heart” (PTSD), which he sees as a threat to his strength and manhood. He’s worried about adequately protecting Thomas—and doesn’t really hear when Thomas rejects his protection.
I’m setting them up for a collision, but they’ll find their way out of the wreckage and be stronger for it. If two people are truly committed to making a relationship work, they find a way.
And that’s why I love writing romance—and love writing these “how they stay together” stories most of all.
If you want to read the first book in this series, a standalone, you can find it on Amazon and free with KU.
If you’re curious about another paranormal series I wrote where the characters’ relationship grew over a three book series, you can check out Love Songs for Lost Worlds, also on Amazon and free with KU.
I had to think about that longer than I would have guessed. I write because sometimes I need to hide from the stresses of the real world, the wolves at the door that howl for blood and bone. Writing allows me to sink into an imaginary world I can control with characters I create who are braver than I am. At the same time I’m hiding, I’m also processing things that are happening in my life, or things that happened in my past. So, it’s a different kind of hiding than covering my head with a blanket, although sometimes that’s good, too.
Recently, I released the last book in my Love Songs for Lost Worlds trilogy, Infernal Hope. (The whole trilogy is available on Amazon.) I had traveled through three books, a horrendous presidency, a global pandemic, and an insurrection with Frank and Kasimir. I watched them grow at my fingertips, watched their love blossom. I saw my sweet (okay Frank’s not always that sweet!) boys grow into young men. They were not only my friends, they became a part of me like few characters ever have. I finished their story and let them go.
And then I became quite depressed. I had a new book outlined and waiting for me, but, after writing furiously while the world seemed to collapse, I found myself unable to write now that things were calmer. I wondered for a while if I truly had any more books in me. And if I did, would anyone read them? None of my books are best sellers. They’re such odd little things, they’ll probably never be.
Once I thought about it, I realized that I did, in fact, need to write no matter how many people read my books. I need to write for me. Being able to share my works with the world is a bonus, and I’m grateful for all of the people who read my books and connect with my characters. At the end of the day, though, I need to write to calm that feeling of static that rises from my skin. Writing doesn’t simply keep the wolves from my door, it gives me the power to make them my friends.
At last! Here’s the cover for the last book in the Love Songs for Lost Worlds trilogy, Infernal Hope! This lovely cover is by Aspen Rayne.
I’ve enjoyed writing this M/M fantasy/ PNR series so much and can’t wait to share Frank and Kasimir’s final adventure with the world. Although the first two books, Know Thy Demons and With Good Intentions ended on cliff hangers, this book gives the sweet demon and the ex-Necromancer the HEA they so richly deserve. Like so many of us, they had to work for it. They had to earn it. I hope readers enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed giving it to them.
It will be on pre-order from Amazon in April, and will be actually releasing May 3, 2021. Expect lots of action, heat, and heart.
Although I loved original book covers for Know Thy Demons and With Good Intentions, because it’s a series, I decided to update the covers this year as we get closer to the release of the third and final book in the Love Songs for LostWorlds series, Infernal Frank.
Here’s the cover for With Good Intentions: Book Two of Love Songs for Lost Worlds. It starts the day after the end of Know Thy Demons. I love writing for Kasimir and Frank and hope you enjoy their further adventures. The cover is by Mahinoor88 on Fiverr.
If you’re needing a laugh and a steamy story of true love, pick up a copy of Chainmail and Velvet. It’s Because Faery Godmonster and His Dungeon Discovery snuggled under one beautiful cover designed by C J Douglass.
Opposites attract in a D&D-inspired fairytale land occupied by nightsprites, vampire werebears, hobgoblins, farting dwarves, and kindly druids who get stuck in the form of giant possums.
Amid the angst and crude humor, romance abounds and love, even when sorely tested, endures.
So, I was supposed to release The Inquisitor’s Gift as an audiobook this month. That’s not going to happen. Acts of nature and inexperience have delayed the release. For the first time, I can say that the climate crisis has affected my small business. The heatwave in Europe took its toll on my narrator, who became gravely ill. We also ran into some technical difficulties. This is my second audiobook, and I believe it’s this narrator’s first. Hopefully, things will come together soon.
In the meantime, I thought I would share some of the things I’ve learned about proof-listening. If you’re an author trying to publish an audiobook on ACX, the publishing arm of Audible and Amazon, you’ve probably realized that they don’t offer many resources to “rights holders” a.k.a authors in nonlegalese. Although they do have a Help section and a large FAQ, I’ve rarely found the specific answer I needed. Here are a few things I’ve learned.
For instance, the contract between the rights holder and the producer (usually the narrator), says the author should not make “unreasonable” editorial requests. Um…that’s pretty vague. I asked an experienced voice actor to help me understand what that meant.
Basically, “unreasonable” is expecting the narrator to be able to make one character sound exactly like James Earl Jones and the next sound exactly like Bishop Briggs. Don’t do that. “Unreasonable” also means expecting the narrator to rerecord the entire book because you’ve suddenly decided you want it to have a different vibe.
You’re in This Together
It’s also important to understand that this is a collaboration, so an author should allow the narrator–especially if he’s a voice actor–to exercise some artistic control. Yes, you know the characters and the story better than anyone, but sometimes an actor can surprise you by what they bring to a role or scene if you let them.
Positive feedback is important. Everyone likes to be appreciated. You know what it feels like to have someone tell you only what they don’t like about your work. Remember to tell the narrator what he’s doing right.
Some Basic Terms
Although it isn’t technically the author’s job to identify audio issues (the producer is in charge of this), it doesn’t hurt an author to know a few audio terms to make communicating with an audio professional easier. (And c’mon, what writer doesn’t love learning jargon and vocabulary!)
Plosive–also called a “p-pop” this is that puffy sound when someone says a hard consonant like a “P” or “T”. Sometimes it will happen at the beginning or end of a word, and sometimes the entire word will have a puffy quality. If you’re listening with good speakers (and you should ALWAYS proof-listen with the best speakers you can) it can do more than sound obnoxious–it can physically hurt. An experienced producer will know how to edit these, or what sort of equipment or posture to use to avoid making them at all.
Mic thump–this one’s kind of obvious. It’s that knocking or thumping sound when the mic is interfered with in some way.
Mouth click–a smacking sound. These occur naturally when people talk, but we don’t usually notice them in day to day conversation. However, a mic will pick these babies up and ruin an otherwise good recording. Some producers have tricks to reduce these during a performance, but sometimes the only way to handle them is through the editing process.
Mouth noise–these can be loud breaths, wheezes, swallowing, gurgling, etc. Basically, any human sound that distracts from the listener’s experience. Although there are breathing techniques an actor can master to reduce heavy breaths, not everyone knows how to do this. In this case, these sounds can usually be edited out. It’s okay to have some breath noises, however. If all of the breaths are removed, the recording can take on a robotic quality. Quiet, non-distracting breaths–or breaths which are part of the acting–are fine.
If you hear any of these noises when you’re proof-listening, write down approximately where they occurred so the producer can fix them. However, it is not the author’s job to comb through a chapter for several hours writing down each and every one of these. If you’re hearing a lot of plosives or clicks, simply tell the producer that the chapter contains a number of whatever the noise is called so he can try to fix them.
Proof-listening Bonus Tip
A tip I learned from a site that creates audio copies of classic books is how to write an error so it’s easy for the audio person to understand. If the narrator deviates from the text in a way that changes the meaning of a sentence, write:
I hear: The woman asked when the prince lived. Text: The woman asked where the prince lived.
Later this month, the audiobook version of The Inquisitor’s Gift will be coming to Audible! With all of the misogyny going on in the world today (ahem, looking at you, Mr. Trump), I think we all need more femdom romances. Femdom means the woman is the dominant. Move over alpha males! Get on your knees. (Maybe your hands and knees….) It’s high time a woman was in charge.
The Inquisitor’s Gift isn’t just about how hot it can get when a woman plays rough, it’s also a story of redemption and self-discovery–an exploration of power and love.
Petal Brightbone is a strong woman living in The Glorious City, the capitol of the Grandimanderian Empire. A survivor of sexual abuse, she serves the emperor as an Inquisitor, wringing confessions from political prisoners. For the purposes of breeding more people with magical powers to serve the empire, Petal is locked into a loveless marriage with a man who wishes to impregnate her so they can please their superiors and get tax credits. She is a creature of duty and habit, but she enjoys rebelling in small, secret ways. (Like using a shield spell to prevent pregnancy.) And she prides herself for being good at her job, breaking her prisoners with words when possible, through force when necessary.
When the new prisoner she must break is the magic instructor who starred in all of her naughty teen fantasies, she feels, for the first time since becoming an Inquisitor, torn between her duty to the empire and her desire. It doesn’t help that he’s an arrogant man who’s as stubborn as he is handsome. And not only does he harbor a hatred of the Overfather who rules the empire and a secret that could change everything, he also has a secret that pique’s Petal’s private interest. A secret that whets her darkest appetites.
She’s a pragmatist; he’s an idealist, and they’re on opposite sides. Can a shared fetish unite an unstoppable object with an immovable force? Or will their lust destroy them both?