Callie, Unleashed it out at last!

Two and a half years ago, I published a dirty, emotional erotic novella (with some literary references that were mostly me entertaining myself, but turned out to be many people’s favorite lines!) called Callie, Unwrapped. I had plans to write a trilogy of novellas following Callie’s erotic journey with her ex Gabe, but then…Off Campus came out. And it was such a success thanks to my amazing readers, that I wrote half a dozen more books in that series. Which was awesome! But my Callie plans were seriously derailed.

Now, we’re back on track. And because I’m me, the planned trilogy has doubled in size to include six books altogether (because Kate and Ale, who you meet in Callie, Unleashed, and some other people needed books too!). But I’m stopping there! Probably. 😉

Have I mentioned that this book is even dirtier than the first? And angstier too. By the time we get to book three, pretty sure parking yourself in front of a fan is going to be a serious recommendation for reading prep.

I’ve also got some other SUPER COOL stuff coming up, including an announcement about a new Bend or Break story releasing in July. More info on that in the coming weeks!

xoxo
AJ

(P.S. There’s a sale on Callie #1, some beautiful new paperbacks, and book recs galore if you scroll down!)

 

If you can’t stop thinking about one man, get under another. 

A scorching hot one-night stand with her ex Gabe and his current lover was just what Callie needed to start her recovery from a decade-long sexless marriage. One night only, because anything more than that with the man she’d never quite gotten over would be too dangerous. And the threesome was even more fun and filthy than she’d fantasized it would be.

Now Callie’s supposed to be moving onto new erotic adventures, without Gabe. Or thoughts of Gabe. No Gabe, damn it. But somehow her ex keeps getting caught up in her plans, and Callie can’t make herself say no when Gabe offers to accompany her—strictly as her platonic safety-measure friend—to a BDSM club.

Callie’s trying to be smart, to protect herself and explore this fascinating new world at the same time. And she does actually feel safer knowing Gabe is close when Alejandro, the sexy Dom she meets, introduces her to her first experiences with submission. But when Ale picks up on the ever-present sexual tension between Callie and Gabe, Callie’s going to learn just how far an experienced Dom can push two people who aren’t sure where their boundaries lie. 

 

AMAZON  l  BARNES & NOBLE  l  KOBO  l  IBOOKS  l  GOOGLE PLAY

 

Get book one of the Play It Again series for 99 cents if you missed the intense threesome that started in a pool hall, continued in a taxi, and finished with Callie tied up in ribbon like a Christmas present in Gabe’s sculpture studio…

 

PAPERBACKS! The first three books of the Bend or Break series are available now in paperback at CreateSpace, Amazon, and other vendors. The rest of the series is coming later this month! THEY’RE SO PRETTY, I CAN’T STAND IT. Lexi at Romanced by the Cover is my HERO.

The End of Samhain, Take Two

Samhain is closing, so back up your library now!

You may have seen the news on social media yesterday. Samhain Publishing is officially closing their doors. Yes, they said the same thing a year ago, but this time we have official dates issued, so we’re pretty sure this one is for real!

Here’s what you need to know:

1) READERS, BACK UP YOUR LIBRARIES! If you’ve purchased any books from the Samhain website directly, please make sure to download those books before February 28th when their site will go dark.

2) All Samhain books will be taken down from outside vendors (Amazon, Kobo, et al.) starting right now. BUT DON’T PANIC. Because…

3) All Samhain authors are getting their rights reverted back to them beginning March 1st. This is great news. Stressful, yes, because Samhain authors have a lot of work ahead of us, but getting our rights back was the ultimate goal, so I’m very happy about this.

What does this mean for the Bend or Break series? Good things!

1) EBOOKS will be back on sale at all vendors as soon as I get my rights reversion letters. I’ll be self-publishing these, and will have them ready to go the instant my rights are returned.

2) PAPERBACKS may take a little while longer because I have to learn how to do those or hire an outside formatter, but I’ll be busting my butt to do so in an effort to get them back up ASAP too.

3) EXPECT to see more: box sets! sales! foreign translations! I’m super excited, you guys, about the possibilities.

4) NEW BOOKS IN THE SERIES. When this whole Samhain closing/not-closing confusion began, I decided to stop writing books in the series because I declined to give control of more of my intellectual property to a company I believed strongly would be out of business soon. I’d started writing a book about Varun, Tom’s bisexual co-worker and friend in The Girl Next Door, and had plotted out stories for Andie from Nothing Like Paris and another Tom and Reese novella. Setting all of these stories aside made my heart hurt and I can’t tell you how excited I am to get back to work on them! I’ve made some other commitments in the meantime, so I’m not sure exactly when I’ll be working on them, but I’ll definitely be writing more books in this universe.

5) 2017 SIGNINGS: I have a decent amount of stock to bring with me to NECRWA in April and RT in May, so you will still be able to get signed paperbacks from me at those conferences. Plus, I’ll have Glass Tidings!

As for questions about cover art (I know! I love my Kanaxa covers and hope to be able to keep them!) and other details like the timing of the rights reversion letters, we’re still waiting to hear. Feel free to join me in my reader group on Facebook, where I’ll probably chat about that kind of thing as I get updates.

And finally, thank you! Thank you for reading these books and loving them. Thank you to Amanda and Jacob at Samhain for holding down the fort this past year and for handling this final closure with grace and speed. Thank you to my brilliant editor Christa Desir for her never-ending insight and organizational skills, and to my glorious cover artist Kanaxa for her breathtaking art. I can’t wait to keep this series going, you guys.

​xoxo,
AJ

I’m Gonna Shrink This TBR If It Kills Me

I’ve been working hard in the past month to wrangle the TBR folder on my Kindle under control again. I’m embarrassed to admit how many unread books I have–had!–on there (*whispers* It’s significantly north of 200.), but I’ve made progress! I swear I have. Mostly because I’m not allowed to buy anything new until I get this sucker down to reasonable proportions. Anything under a hundred books will do. I’m also about to dive into a diverse romance reading challenge, so I figure now’s a good time to clear the decks with a book rec post. I read all kinds of great stuff! Have a look, and enjoy. 🙂

adulting-101Adulting 101 – Lisa Henry’s voice is what made this book work for me. I haven’t been in the mood lately for books about 18-22 year olds, probably because I read so many of the in the past couple of years and my reading tends to go in phases. But I love it when an author nails a particular character’s voice, and that was what sold this book for me. I also maybe over-identified with Jai just a tiny bit (self-sufficient loners FTW, y’all), even if it’s true I’ve never been blown by a no-filters kid in a porta potty.

fit

FIT – Loved it! This Rebekah Weatherspoon book made me want to go to the gym, which is not my normal state of being, tbh. 🙂 I knew this one would be dirty, and it is. Deliciously so. What I didn’t expect was how funny it would be. I was cracking up while reading it, and THAT is a gift. Humor is hard to write. If you can work humor and hot sex in the same book? I am 100% sold. Plus, the heroine is big and curvy and I loved her. I’ll be reading the rest of the trilogy, for sure.

 

play-on

 

Play On – This prequel novella to the Glasgow Lads series is super angsty. These university boys are all kinds of messed up in their heads, but the caretaking they give each other is sweet and lovely. Fergus and John’s story in Playing for Keeps was more my speed, tbh (lots of fabulous religious and sports Glaswegian history!), but this definitely sets up the rest of the series.

 

devils-doorbellThe Devil’s Doorbell – This anthology of erotic short stories includes some of my favorite authors under possibly the best title ever. I’ve read the Anne Calhoun, Jeffe Kennedy and Megan Mulry stories so far and I loved all three. Megan Mulry’s story is f/f, yay! (With, um, bonus players. *winks*) I’m always happy when collections mix up their gender pairings. More please! I also particularly enjoyed the mix of role-playing, dirty sex with strangers, and theology in Jeffe Kennedy’s story “Exact Warm Unholy.”

between-heartsBetween Hearts – I’ve only read one story so far from this anthology of debut authors, and “Snapback” by Keller Ramsay was ultimately pretty damn charming. Also, there’s kissing in the rain, which always gets a yes from me. This story is framed as a look back from the present day (and that won’t work for everyone as we’re left with only the beginning of the story in the present), but the heart of “Snapback” is about how Jamie realizes he’s in love with his best friend Adam the summer before they go off to college. And that story is sweet as hell.

everything-i-left-unsaidEverything I Left Unsaid – Molly O’Keefe is a favorite of mine. This book has a whole lot of dirty phone talking, some physical labor that made me tired just reading it, a woman on the run, and one helluva cliffhanger. The sequel is already out, so if you loathe cliffies, you don’t have to wait to read the next book! I really liked how this book takes place almost entirely in a ratty trailer park, without any glamour and with boxed wine and cheap booze. The people and the place were earthy and real. Did I mention the dirty talking?

rite-of-summerRite of Summer – If you don’t like open relationships in romance novels, this one is not for you. I loved Tess Bowery’s story of two boyhood friends who have been making their way in the world as a composer/violinist partnership and somewhat rocky romantic pairing too, until they meet an artist whose temporary addition to their bed changes everything. Bowery does a terrific job up ratcheting up the tension by including news of a real-life police raid that resulted in the arrests of dozens of gay men, and the deaths of several. I was freaking out for chapters on end, terrified someone I loved was going to die. I’m a fan of pretty much anything historical that either focuses on people who aren’t lord/ladies or manages to convince me of a realistic HEA for LGBTQ MCs. That book did both! Top notch.

waking-up-aliveWaking Up Alive by Emma Shortt – I mean, HELLO. DAT COVER. I didn’t even know what the book was about when I ran to Amazon. But it’s a zombie apocalypse story, so I damn near peed my pants in excitement. This book is terrific. The heroine is a scientist, holed up and science-ing her way through the hordes. The hero is a cop who has a super competent, zombie-fighting female friend. Who’s not a bitch or competition or killed! I really like how these two negotiate their relationship as it develops from cautious friendship to love, and there’s some cool zombie lore too. Loved it.

beauty-and-the-blacksmithBeauty and the Blacksmith – Somehow I haven’t actually read Tessa Dare yet, I think because she came to my attention after a years-long Regency binge, when I’d gotten burnt out on the genre. I realized I had four of her books on my Kindle, but hadn’t opened any of them yet. So I’m diving in. The Beauty and the Blacksmith was delightful. I totally enjoyed this story of two adults who realize they’re more than interested in each other despite being of different classes and (somewhat) calmly figure out a way to make it work. Competence is one of my turn-ons, and this story had it in spades. Also, sex in the smithy. Dirty, dirty blacksmith sex. Yup. Gimme more please.

uncovering-rayUncovering Ray – Genderqueer romance for the win! I really enjoyed Edie Danford’s NA romance about an idealistic, scholarly frat boy and the diner server he meets and convinces to move into the frat house’s garage apartment. Lots of unexpected sweetness mixing with the tough choices of a young person who’s stuck and lost and trying to figure out how not to be. Ray is a great character, but the frat boy Wyatt is the one who stole my heart.

 

never-lovedNever Loved – If Charlotte Stein writes it, I read it. I loved this story of two misfits, the giant, burly, tattooed guy who scares himself more than he scares the heroine, and the woman whose trying to figure out what to do with all her newfound freedom after a childhood of controlling abuse. It’s Charlotte, so these two are super hot and super messed up, and I loved every minute of it.

 

love-me-tenorLove Me Tenor – I’m an Annabeth Albert fan. This is book two in her series about all kinds of singers. Book one (Treble Maker) took place at an a cappella competition and this book follows a secondary character from that story on to a reality show about competing boy bands. Interracial romance between two guys who start getting all protective of each other even while each guy is still pretending he can’t stand the other one. They’re sweet as hell.

so-sweetSo Sweet – I’m not normally drawn to the “sugar daddy” idea in m/f romance, because the power dynamics of that set-up trip too many of my this-is-not-okay buttons. (Oddly enough, straight-up sex work doesn’t affect me in the same way at all.) But I enjoyed the way Rebekah Weatherspoon’s heroine draws a bunch of boundaries right off the bat, and the hero pays attention to every one of them. They’re hot, they’re emotional, and I’m ready for book two.

winter-killWinter Kill – There are a handful of writers whose mastery of atmospheric setting just slays me. Harper Fox and Josh Lanyon are at the top of that list. This murder mystery/FBI-cop romance set in the Pacific Northwest just oozes rain and pine and frost at midnight. Lanyon’s a terrific writer and hits a lot of spot-on notes about the complications of colleagues getting involved with each other and the nature of small town life here. The story behind the rapidly multiplying dead bodies was perhaps a little bit too complicated for the length of the book, but I rolled with it because, well, it’s Lanyon. I just love reading her books.

skin-gameSkin Game – Cara McKenna is one of my favorite authors ever. Skin Game is an odd book, but I really like it. Not a traditional romance, in that there are sex scenes taking place between all kinds of different people during the course of a Survivor-like psychological experiment in the wilds of Alaska, I was nonetheless totally sucked into the weird competitions and the behind-the-scenes shenanigans. Plus, I honestly wasn’t sure who the main characters of the story were meant to be until pretty close to the end. I knew who I was rooting for, of course, but even then, McKenna surprised me by managing to make me root for people I didn’t think I liked. Twisty, strange, and definitely hot, if you’re up for something different, I rec it.

rag-boneRag & Bone – KJ Charles is another autobuy author for me. I usually try to hold off on reading her books when they release (although I always buy them immediately) because I know as soon as I read the latest one, I’ll be back to waiting impatiently for the next new Charles book. Rag & Bone takes place in the Magpie Lord universe, although you don’t have to have read those books first to enjoy this one. I do recommend reading the short story “A Queer Trade” about how Ned and Crispin first met however. And if you’ve read the Magpie series, you’ll enjoy the glimpses you get of some of your favorites in this one. As always, Charles’s words are exquisite, her magic both clever and loathsome, her worldbuilding magnificent, and her characters break your heart. I loved the interracial couple in this book and the differing awarenesses of the challenges that brings to their relationships. Plus, Ned’s paper trade, and his rag & bottle shopkeeper neighbor totally fascinate me. All around highly rec’d, as always.

a-gentleman-never-tells

A Gentleman Never Tells – My first Eloisa James! How is that possible? I am slower than I look sometimes. This book was witty and sexy and delightful. Lizzie Troutt’s husband died in his mistress’s bed, a humiliation which leaves her 100% determined never to go through that nonsense again. This book made me want to play cricket indoors with a smoking hot Regency gentleman. *fans self* A 99 cent novella!

 

launch-the-huntLaunch the Hunt – Book one of a shifter series, with all kinds of remote wilderness wildlife showing up in this one, I’m pretty sure. I really liked the idea that all these different shifters interact as humans in a small community that hunts and fishes, meaning they need to be aware of where the different shifter species are at all times to avoid their hunting (as humans) harming their friends in animal form. Plus, both heroes in this book are in their thirties or forties (I don’t remember their exact ages & I’m avoiding going to check so I don’t end up rereading the whole thing!) and I’m really in the mood lately for grown ups. I’ll be reading the whole series, thank you.

I’m almost afraid to ask, since I’m trying desperately to shrink my TBR, not blow it up, but…what are you reading? Gimme your best recs in the comments!

Bustin’ Makes Me Feel Good ~ Why I Loved the Gender-Swapped Ghostbusters

I’m trying to figure out how to describe the feelings I got while watching the new Ghostbusters this past Sunday morning. I wrote a post once about what it would feel like to have a chance to vote for a woman for president and I described my life of observing politics, only I gender-swapped men and women. That made the surrealness of our daily lack of representation in politics startlingly clear. Because that was fun, I’m doing it again, only this time it’s Hollywood in my sights, not the presidency…

 

Growing up as a boy, you love going to the movies. Sitting in the dark with your friends and family is a magical experience and your memories of your favorite films fill your imagination for decades to come. Not until you are older do you realize that nearly all of your movie heroes are women.

This doesn’t feel weird, most of the time, because pretty much every person in a visible position of power is a woman. Presidents, judges, news anchors, congresswomen, CEOs…almost all women. When you’re little, a single man might manage to break through here or there, but not until you’re in college will there be more than a handful of men visible on any given playing field. And even when you’re older, men rarely make up more than 20% of the power brokers in any political/creative/business arena.

Movies are no exception. Men are vastly less present in the industry than women. Those who want to produce/direct/write movies find it incredibly hard to get hired by studios that will give a hundred-million dollar film budget to a woman who’s made a couple of music videos. Men who want to act get paid less money and are almost exclusively allowed to be beautiful, not powerful. The expression, “He probably slept his way to the top” will be tossed at most them for decades. There will be far fewer roles for those men, and fewer becomes a vanishingly small number when you talk about men over the age of forty.

Don’t get me wrong. Men are in some movies, of course. The love stories. The rom-coms. Some kids’ movies. But even then, even in the movies that theoretically star animated boys, somehow the female secondary characters manage to get more dialogue than the boys. This might be because, in general, most films have women in about 75% of the speaking roles, and 83% of the background crowds in any given scene. When men make up 17% of the people in a crowd scene, that is seen by viewers as an even split between men and women. If you make the background scene 33% dudes, people will complain that there are waaaaaay more men than women in the scene. (Strangely enough, if men/boys speak in classrooms for 33% of the total time, that’s perceived as them trying to dominate the discussion too. Isn’t that weird?)

Teen movies are a strange kind of haven where you at least get to see a fair number of men achieving screen time, even if the plots of most of those movies do revolve around which girl the boy will end up falling in love with. Also, there’s a weird stretch in the eighties where every movie will manage to work in a shower scene or some other unrelated-to-the-plot reason to show a naked hot dude, but you mostly ignore that.

If a big, splashy biopic is made, it’s sure to be about a woman, which is obviously to be expected, because women do all of the important stuff that makes history and guys mostly clean house and shop. But still, it seems to you like at least a few guys must have done something worth making movies about, right? Like, maybe men’s stories just aren’t getting told because women are taking up all of the space in the metaphorical room? “Don’t be ridiculous,” you hear. “These are just the historical facts. Moving forward, perhaps more movies will be made about men, now that men are starting to do things worth making movies about. But you can’t rewrite history to include men when they didn’t do anything worth writing about.”

Action movies are the worst. I mean, duh, of course action movies are awesome. But seriously, you’re lucky if they give one role to a man in any of the ensemble action movie casts. God forbid that guy not be hot as hell and under thirty. (It creeps you out that most of the rom-coms too insist on casting twenty-five year old guys with women in their fifties, because men over thirty are what? Unattractive? Too old to play the love interest? No joke, that shit is creepy as hell.) Finally, finally, in one of the superhero team movies, they let you see a man in a role where he kicks ass and holds his own, even if he does still have to do it in skintight clothes that show off his chest and his ass.

You’re so happy to see a man killing it as a superhero, you rush out to the store, ready to buy T-shirts and toys for your son (secretly for you to play with too, admit it). But at the store, you can’t find the male superhero anywhere. Five hundred choices in figurines and pajamas and beach towels and Lego kits featuring the women from the film. You go to seven stores before you can find anything with the guy on it. You have to make your son’s Halloween costume from scratch at home because hardly anyone is selling those. Just the girl versions. And you still only get to see a dude as a second-tier character who never gets his own movie.

You were a grown adult, by the way, when they finally made a spinoff movie from the batwoman series with a man as the main character. You were damn excited, because you’d been waiting for that for what felt like forever. A male superhero at last! Well, not exactly a superhero. More of an antihero. Who cared? A comic book movie about a man, yay! But when the movie finally came out, it sucked. The dialogue was awful, the dude was in a skintight pleather catsuit the entire time, and they made his whole character laughable. They cast a great actor in the role, but the whole movie (made by a team of women by the way, producers, screenwriters, directors all…like there aren’t men in Hollywood who are talented and would kill to work on a comic book movie?) stunk. It tanked. And no one will risk money on another solo superhero movie starring a man for more than a decade, because clearly the audience won’t go see superhero movies about men. Men just can’t carry a movie like that.

They will, however, make plenty of shitty superhero movies starring women in the same decade, along with some that are meh, and others that are awesome. Somehow neither the meh nor the shitty female-driven superhero movies will make anyone afraid to greenlight another woman lead.

They will, no joke, make a movie with a talking raccoon and a tree with a three-word vocabulary before they make another superhero movie starring a man. You can’t make this shit up. (This movie will be great, but seriously? They can figure out how to market that, but not a solo superhero movie with a man in the starring role?)

The revival of interest in superhero movies when you’re middle-aged is great fun, even as you get frustrated watching them spin off movie after movie (again) featuring the famous female superheroes, without ever giving a man a chance in the starring role.

“Next year,” the movie studios promise you. “Or a couple years after. That’s when we’ll make a superhero movie starring a man. The market just isn’t there yet. People won’t go to the theater to watch a man as a superhero. But we’re getting there.”

Meanwhile, right about this time, some people will start doing some unusual stuff with the annual Hollywood festival of remakes and sequels. They will start putting men in roles that have previously been filled by women.

This generates the teensiest bit of controversy.

At first, you maybe question this too. “Why not just come up with our own new material starring men? Why mess about with remaking all of this cool women stuff that we loved when we were kids?” Then you will go back and watch some of the stuff that you loved as a kid. And you will still love parts of it. But hoo boy, the shitty, stereotypical comments about men and their body parts and their presumed stupidity and how the average male role in a movie could also be played by a tallish floor lamp will really get on your nerves now that you’re forty-four years old and have learned a thing or two about sexism.

They take one of your favorite space movie series Of All Time and they start messing with it, putting a man in the starring role of the next film in the series. Giving him the secret space knight powers and making him the one who knows more about the spaceship than almost anyone, even the roguish woman who plays the smuggler antiheroine. You will damn near hyperventilate with excitement at the idea, even as the women who grew up with the original are complaining that the filmmakers are just catering to identity politics and men who won’t stop complaining about not seeing themselves in movies. “Why don’t you just go make your own movies, men, if you want them? Why stop trying to take over our childhoods?”

Women will point to the one male co-star of the original space movies. “Besides, see?! You had him? What are you complaining about? The prince was an awesome character!” But that dude was never around in the action scenes in the climax, he never got to fly a damn spaceship (no men did, that was a job for women only), he spent half his time in one movie in a bronze Speedo, and he was mostly treated like a cranky control freak who might lighten up if only some woman would throw him a bang.

(When you see the actor who played that male character on screen in the new space movie and he’s a GENERAL and he’s wearing CLOTHES for the whole movie and he’s a man with gray hair and gravitas, you might cry, just a little.)

You think the new space movie is pretty fucking great. You’re kind of embarrassed that you get choked up a bunch of times watching it, but it’s unbelievable. Not only do they have a man in the starring role, but there are men all over the place in the background too. None of this 17% bullshit. The first person you see at the barricades to defend the village against the bad guys is a man. There are male fighter pilots climbing into planes before the big battle scene. The quirky wise character is a man, and did we mention the star of the whole damn movie is a man? You seriously didn’t know how much it was going to move you on a deep, emotional level, seeing women share the screen with a man in the starring role in this long series of space movies.

You are still getting shafted in the merchandise sales, mind, because they make way more toys and clothes with the female characters on them, but it’s getting better. Slowly, you feel as if it’s maybe getting better.

Then when Hollywood remakes the ghost movie, they don’t even play around. They gender-flip the whole thing and give all four of the starring roles to men. (A whole lot of women lose their collective minds about this.) They duplicate some not cool racial problems from the first movie, which sucks, but the men. The men in this movie aren’t scenery. They don’t talk about what girls they like or dating or sex at all, except for a couple of pointed jokes (see below). The men don’t wear clothes that sexualize them, they don’t fight ghosts with moves designed to show off how sexy they look while kicking ass, and they are all 100% competent in their areas of expertise.

They even give the “dumb secretary” role to a woman, which is pretty hilarious, because lots of female moviegoers won’t understand that even that gender swap is a commentary on the flaws of the original. Like, not until women saw themselves in a role that reduced them to pretty, dim-witted scenery did they get how offensive that stereotype was, amirite?

Things aren’t perfect. You will have plenty to criticize about these new gender-swapped movies where men finally get to be onscreen in some of your favorite franchises. But there’s something magic about it nonetheless. Even though you do hope they make more original content for movies and TV with men in the starring roles, it’s amazing to have this second childhood, to relive your youth with all of the original excitement and adventure, but this time, people like you are saving the day and starring as the heroes.

It doesn’t make up for a lifetime of waiting, but it’s a step in the right direction.

 

And that’s why I love the new Ghostbusters movie so much. Why I loved The Force Awakens. Why I can’t wait for the new Wonder Woman movie and have crossed every body part possible in the hopes that it doesn’t suck and set the whole female superhero game back another decade. Why I make a point of calling out movie and toy makers if they’re ignoring the merchandising opportunities for the female characters in their films. Why I’ll be buying Ghostbusters merch for any kid whose birthday comes to my attention this year, boys and girls. Why I’ll buy it for myself or for my kid. I don’t even like tchotchkes. We live in a small, two-bedroom place with a couple thousand books and two people. There’s no room for stuff. But I swear I’m going to go buy some Ghostbusters T-shirts and toys, because I know it’s harder to greenlight pictures without the accompanying merchandising deals. And I’m going to go see the movie again this weekend, because maybe Ghostbusters only came in second place on its opening weekend, but I bet it’s got legs.

And I’m going to cross my fingers and keep hoping for more gender-swapped, race-swapped, queer-swapped remakes of my childhood favorites. Yes, I want more original material. More #ownvoices and less white-washing in all casting. But damn, y’all who got to grow up seeing yourselves all over Hollywood’s biggest movies? That was some fun, huh? I’m totally okay with revisiting my childhood for a while and getting to do the same, even if I’m 44 now. I can still tap into that sense of wonder and pride, no problem. Wanna go to the movies with me? I’ll buy the popcorn.

 

[Yes, I know I skipped over Ripley from Aliens and Buffy and a variety of other movies. I was also glib and snarky. My only goal was to give people a sense of how surreal it really is to grow up without media representation of your gender and to be detailed without being encyclopedic. (Pretty sure I failed on that last point.) If I wrote this same piece with a focus on growing up without representation of your race, sexuality, disability, or other marginalizations, it would be even more surreal.]

Summer Reading Begins!

Hello, summer reading! I don’t actually have a vacation planned for this summer, but I’m piling up my summer reading anyway. Lakefront beaches and shade trees in parks, here I come! Chicago’s winters are long and harsh, our summers brief but glorious. Reading outside is one of my favorite things to do, especially if no one will notice when I fall asleep over my book…

Here are some of the books I’ve finished reading recently, or have queued up next!

RollerGirl_500x750ROLLER GIRL by Vanessa North ~ This book made me really happy. This f/f & trans romance is both sweet and sexy and Tina is a fantastic heroine who I’ve been rooting for throughout the entire Lake Lovelace series. But more than anything else, this book made me miss my girlfriends, my best friends. It’s a book that values female friendships and the community of women, and everything about watching Tina find derby and her crew made me happy. These women are funny and fierce and caretaking. They fight sometimes, but they also support each other, all the while appreciating and including the men in their lives. This is one of those books where you just want to step inside it so you can hang out with everyone. Plus, there’s a parking lot make out session that made me fan myself. Whooee. This one’s not out until next month, but you can pre-order it in paperback at Amazon or in all formats at Riptide.

Locked_RoomsLOCKED ROOMS by Laurie R. King ~ I started rereading the later books of this series after picking up the newest release, GARMENT OF SHADOWS. (ETA: GoS isn’t the newest release. I’m way behind on this series, apparently!) Locked Rooms is book 4, and takes place in San Francisco, with lots of flashbacks to the fire & earthquakes of 1906 in that city. King’s series matches a young, brilliant American orphan as the perfect partner for an older, retired Sherlock Holmes. I love these books. Mary Russell is a student of both theology and science, and her adventures with Sherlock Holmes are a pure pleasure to read. In Garment of Shadows, Mary wakes up with amnesia in what she shortly determines is the city of Fez in Morocco. I’m a hundred pages into the new book and loving it.

prime-minister-ainsley-boothPRIME MINISTER by Ainsley Booth and Sadie Haller ~ The dirty, dirty book inspired by Canada’s electing the stupidly handsome and righteously liberal Justin Trudeau. As an ex-HR person, I was hesitant at first, because books with romance/sex in the workplace almost always set off all my “we must abide by the rules and not GET SUED FOR SEXUAL HARASSMENT, DARLINGS” alarms. But the authors wrote a lovely note about the book that cleared up my worries, so now I’m diving in. I’m already past the opening scene where the PM busts the (super smart, educated, and outspoken) intern in her totally work-inappropriate yoga class clothes at the office on the weekend. I’m already fanning myself. Also, this is book 1 of the Frisky Beaver series and that series name alone makes me unutterably happy.

186443SPIRITWALK by Charles de Lint ~ Rereading some Canadian urban fantasy and remembering how much I enjoy Charles de Lint’s writing. This is a collection of linked stories and novellas, all revolving around Tamson House, a magical place I wish existed so I could move into one of its 200 rooms right now. Talk about an excellent place for a writing retreat! I love de Lint’s mashup of Celtic and Native American folklore and his lyrical writing. Plus, mixing bikers and pagans and poets is always a fun time. 🙂 There’s also a completely minor moment in which de Lint’s interior monologue of one character completely exposes how shitty the idea of “being friendzoned” is, long before that phrase even existed. (Spiritwalk was published in 1970.) For a 46yo book, this collection holds up terrifically well. Think I’m going to reread Moonheart, which actually precedes this one, next. The book has a more contemporary vibe to its current cover art, but this is what my paperback looks like, so I’m keeping this one!

True-North-by-Tamsen-Parker-300TRUE NORTH by Tamsen Parker ~ When my CP told me she was going to give Slade from Personal Geography and Original Geography his own books, I was…not pleased. As far as I was concerned, Slade was a walking dumpster fire of awful. But Tamsen can do no wrong, and so of course Slade is completely redeemed in this book, in his own hella kinky way. And his wife Pressly’s alter ego is absolutely darling, which was a surprise to me too. Plus, we get to peek in on India and Cris, and there’s moar Rey! Whooee, a lot more Rey, and that just leaves me dying for Rey’s book, which I know is going to be the last of the series. THAT. MAN. Phew. True North comes out next month.

61iL766lq9L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ROSEANNA by Maj Sjöwall & Per Wahlöö ~ Someone (can’t remember who! please poke me if it was you!) recommended the Martin Beck series to me and I’m so glad they did. It’s fascinating to immerse yourself in another era (1960s Sweden) and this police procedural/mystery sucked me in with a world that existed pre-indoor smoking bans, cell phones, and the internet. This is not a glamorous world. The best quality a police officer can possess is patience, and grinding it out while you have the flu is more valuable than being a great shot. (Martin Beck, the detective inspector who is the main character is a terrible shot and rarely carries his gun.) The book starts with the discovery of a body and there are long, quiet times where the police are getting nowhere with the investigation, but when the action hits its climax near the end, I was holding my breath with anxiety. The writing is spare, almost Hemingway-esque in its plainness, and holds up terrifically well fifty years later.

Plus, I pulled up a map of Sweden on my laptop & kept adding stops to a driving route as the characters traveled from one city to another, so now I feel like I’ve taking a mini-tour of the country. Terrific book. I’ll be reading the rest of the series for sure.

mixed signalsMIXED SIGNALS is book 3 in Alyssa Cole’s post-apocalyptic trilogy where all the power has gone out. I love the diversity of this series, with Black, Asian, and LGBTQ characters. I loved the heroine of book 1 because she made me cackle with her smart alec internal monologues, and because her hair got legitimately ratty during the apocalypse. (I still think of that TV show of the past few years where everyone’s in survival mode and using bows and arrows, but looking like they first spent an hour flat-ironing their hair every morning. Argh.) Book 2 is m/m romance, with one of my favorite characters, an introspective and philosophical astrophysicist dude who almost broke my damn heart. I’m very much looking forward to wrapping things up with book 3. And the whole trilogy is on sale for 99 cents for each book right now! No idea how long the sale price will last.

lagoonLAGOON by Nnedi Okorafor ~ I fucking loved Okorafor’s Nebula Award-winning novella BINTI for its fascinating human and alien cultures, mind-stretching mathematics, super cool spaceships, and its heroine so very far from home. Lagoon is an alien first contact story that upends the usual movie/TV/book assumption that if aliens visit Earth, they’ll obviously land in the U.S. When a spaceship lands in the waters outside Lagos, Nigeria, “It’s up to a famous rapper, a biologist, and a rogue soldier to handle humanity’s first contact with an alien ambassador—and prevent mass extinction.” Yup. Sold. I’ve been reading some excellent SFF lately, and I can’t wait to start this one.

17412444IT TAKES TWO TO TANGLE by Theresa Romain ~ Romain is both witty and funny as hell, and I was hooked on this book at the opening paragraphs, when the hero eyes a painting on which he is working and decides the canvas looks “as if a chicken had been killed on it…He dragged his brush over one corner of the canvas and regarded it again. Now it looked as if someone had killed a chicken on it, then tried to clean up the evidence.” Plus, the heroine is a widow who curses and makes dirty jokes. Love it. All three of the books in this trilogy are only 99 cents until the end of June. Go wild with your Amazon rebate money!

 

61qOB97hxaL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_SAILING TO SARANTIUM by Guy Gavriel Kay is a reread. Kay’s newest book just released this month and I’m dying to dive into it. But he’s an author who deserves a wallow, so I’m going to reread the two Sarantium books first. They take place 500 years before the events of Children of Earth and Sky, the new book. Kay’s books are usually found in the SFF section of bookstores, but they’re more alt history than fantasy usually, lyrical and intensely anchored in the physicality of their settings, I read Kay and assume that at some point in the book I am going to cry. Balancing the intensity of his characters’ emotions, tragedies and triumphs are some of the best adventure and battle tales I’ve ever read. Terrific stuff. Sailing to Sarantium was on sale for $3.99 when I wrote this, which is hella cheap for a Kay book.

downtown devilDOWNTOWN DEVIL by Cara Makenna ~ The first book in this series is still selling for $11.99, but Downtown Devil is priced at $3.99 as of right now. No idea how long that price is going to last, but I snapped it up in an instant because McKenna is an autobuy author for me. I’ll buy her books without reading the blurb. This one’s m/m/f ménage and one of my favorite reviewers said it was her favorite McKenna ever. That’s a damn high bar to set, so I’m very much looking forward to this one.

 

 

It’s late, so I’m going to stop here. More summer reading next month probably! What are you guys reading? I got an embarrassing amount of money back in the Apple settlement, so rec me your favorites!

Lambda Literary Rock Stars

I just got back from the Lambda Literary Award nominees reading at the Sulzer branch of the Chicago Public Library and it was so fabulous, I’m going to make you all go read these books. There was nonfiction and poetry, in addition to fiction that ranged from romance to mystery to SFF to litfic. The authors and audience came from as far away as New Orleans and Minnesota, and we all hung around for way too long afterward telling everyone how fabulous the whole thing was.

Best of luck to all of the authors with the awards! I’ve already loaded up my Kindle and I’m ready to dive in.

NONFICTION

what color is your hoodie

 

WHAT COLOR IS YOUR HOODIE? ESSAYS ON BLACK GAY IDENTITY by Jarrett Neal

Neal read from his essay “Guys and Dolls”, about male role models and He-Man dolls, about mythologizing a junior high coach and the first time he looked at a man, that coach, and realized he found him beautiful. Neal is a terrific public speaker, so this already entertaining essay was particularly brilliant when read aloud by him.

 

hiding in plain sight

 

HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT by Zane Thimmesch-Gill

I met Zane before the reading started when I sat next him and his friend. They’d driven in from Minnesota for the reading and I’m so glad he did. Hiding in Plain Sight is about growing up queer and homeless and I’m just happy I had a happy Zane sitting next to me early on, so my heart didn’t break all the way when he did his reading.

 

 

gay and lesbian history for kidsGAY AND LESBIAN HISTORY FOR KIDS: THE CENTURY-LONG STRUGGLE FOR LGBT RIGHTS by Jerome Pohlen

I’m so excited to get this book! Even though I’ve promised myself I won’t add anymore hard copies to my bookcases, I’m totally breaking the rules for this one. Pohlen read from his chapter on the 70s and told a fantastic story about protesters who used the media to bring attention to gay rights activism by breaking into politicians’ public events and even newscasts. The story about Walter Cronkite, whose broadcast to 60 million viewers was interrupted by a protester stepping onto the set with a sign and sitting on Cronkite’s desk when the station cut the broadcast, was terrific. That the end result was a $450 fine for the protester and the chance to talk to Cronkite in court, followed by Cronkite beginning to cover LGBT rights issues in his newscasts a month later, was brilliant to hear.

POETRY

teaching a man to unstick his tailTEACHING A MAN TO UNSTICK HIS TAIL by Ralph Hamilton

Hamilton read four poems from this collection and they were a lovely mix of history and pop culture, mourning and humor, loss and nostalgia. I loved the poem about Sappho, if she’d existed in 16th c. Japan, and another one about a man missing his ex.

“…Fact is, I sat in
the dark just to breathe his air, to be
where he’d been like a movie-dog

lying down at Boot Hill on his master’s
grave.”

 

FICTION

minotaurMINOTAUR by JA Rock

JA Rock read from the opening chapters of Minotaur and I did my best not to laugh so loudly that I embarrassed her. Minotaur is a retelling of that myth, set in a 1930s home for wayward girls. I sometimes forget–because her writing is so brilliant and so often dark in its focus–just how goddamn funny she is. Even better, she writes the best real people I know.

“I don’t trust heroes; I don’t think I should. At Rock Point, many of the girls liked stories that ended happily, or at least offered a sense of closure. But I liked tales with abstruse people screwing and killing their way toward ambiguous outcomes. I liked shadows. And I liked gore.

And secretly, I liked redemption. I liked monsters who regretted and heroes who mustered a revolted sort of compassion for their enemies. Even better were the heroes who saw villains as a mirror—not one that reflected the world precisely as it was, but one that showed the hero what she might become.”

(As of today, this book is on sale for $2.30 at the Riptide May the Fourth sale!)

the cherokee rose

 

THE CHEROKEE ROSE by Tiya Miles

I’m reading this book ASAP. Miles was studying the history of slaves on a Cherokee plantation at the Chief Vann House in Chatsworth, Georgia when funding was running out for the historic site. This got her thinking about what would happen if the house had been put up for auction. The Cherokee Rose is the story of the three women who wind up meeting each other on the plantation, the ghost of another long-gone woman, and the secrets they all have.

 

 

boystown

 

BOYSTOWN 7: BLOODLINES by Marshall Thornton

Thornton read from the seventh book in his Chicago-set mystery series, but I’ve linked to a collection of the first three books in the series that’s available for the cost of one Thornton book. I loved Thornton’s voice, and the secondary character (a teenage hustler the narrator and his boyfriend have taken in) who totally stole the scene.

 

 

 

my best friend's girlMY BEST FRIEND’S GIRL by Blythe H. Warren

The cover of Warren’s book makes me think of Watts from Some Kind of Wonderful, and that’s an instant rush of nostalgia and teenage lust/angst. The narrator who plays the drums got them from her abuelo, Papa Nestor, and the story of that gift, shortly before the girl loses him, both charmed and moved me.

 

something like stories

 

 

 

SOMETHING LIKE STORIES by Jay Bell

Jay Bell read from the latest book in his Something Like… series, a collection of short stories featuring characters from the earlier books in the series. The excerpt he read was sweet and funny and full of memories of loss while trying to move past them.

 

Thank you, Lambda Literary and the authors and the Sulzer Library for the terrific evening. And for the latest blow to my ever-growing TBR!

#RT16 RECAP: YOU CAN WALK IN VEGAS AND NOT DIE (BREATHING ON THE OTHER HAND…)

 

-If you sleep through your 4am alarm and finish the last part of your packing in a mad dash for the Uber that only took three minutes to arrive, there’s an excellent chance you will show up in Vegas lacking certain essential items. Like shoes. Also, contact solution and deodorant.

-In that dire situation, you will want to make sure to be friends with Reesa Herberth & Michelle Moore because they will stop at a drugstore while touring the Strip and leave a goodie bag on your door handle after midnight. This makes them The Best Ever.

-Also, if the only footwear you have for all of RT is your favorite pair of black, knee-high boots? You will loathe those boots with the fire of a thousand suns by Sunday.


-Everyone who lives in Vegas will look at you as if you’ve sprouted a second, less attractive head when you mention that you want to walk over to the Strip. “Walk? You can’t walk. It’s too dangerous. You’ll die.”

-The most dangerous part of walking from your hotel to the Strip will be the gale force winds that mean you have to clutch at your skirt in order not to Marilyn Monroe it all the way across the bridge over the highway. No doubt locals find this highly entertaining. You will not die.

-Seriously, Vegas people should walk more. Also, ban smoking indoors. The first morning you arrive, you will walk through the casino/lobby of your hotel and think, “Oh ho! Someone is sneaking a cigarette at the slot machines!” By Sunday, this will no longer be an at-all amusing mistake.

-Despite not having been a bartender for 15+ years, it will only take one jackass biker dude in a restaurant to bring out your bouncer side again. Note to jackasses: Vegas, all appearances to the contrary, is not a zoo. Do not turn and stare and insist on taking pictures of random women with colorful hair and tattoos. Ex-bartenders will be all over your ass.

-If your hotel room is in a tower called Ipanema, you will find yourself pretending to be Antonio Carlos Jobim multiple times a day. “Tall and tan and young and lovely, the girl from…” Sadly, the rest of the hotel guests will not appreciate your off-key singing in the halls.

-Jobim might make some kind of sense, but there is no excuse for the repeated bursts of song from Oklahoma. And Simon & Garfunkel. Get a grip, girl.


-Audra North plays therapist like nobody’s business. You will feel rejuvenated as hell after talking to her. That’s because she is magic.

-Every entrée in Vegas is as big as your head. Wednesday’s excellent Indian for dinner will be Thursday’s lunch and Friday’s breakfast. On Saturday, you will want a snack and will consider the remaining leftovers in the mini-fridge, but that will really be pushing it.

-Being a Riptide author is never more wonderful than when they show up at your table at the big book signing event with a goodie bag full of water and snacks. This will make you very popular with your friends.

-The people pushing the carts from table to table at the dim sum place are very intimidating. Somehow you will end up saying yes to four shrimp dishes, which wouldn’t be terrible except for the gnawing required to bite into the one wrapped in sheets of tofu.

-When people stop you in the hall for 48hrs after your Crossover Romance panel to tell you how much they loved it, you will want to give a giant squishing hug of thanks to the fabulous Karen Stivali for pitching and organizing the whole thing.

-When Megan Erickson cracks a tentacle porn joke at said panel, it will make the entire crowd bust up laughing when your hand hits the air a split second later to offer book recs for that.

-At the big book signing, when you end up sitting between Zoraida Cordova and Heidi Cullinan, you will take notes on their cool display ideas and vow to do better with your own next year. Pop-up signs and indie bookstore-like note cards with brief descriptions of each book available, man. Steal those ideas.


-From time to time, you will get emotional and start to cry. When the entire Riptide Cards Against Humanity crowd shouts their “We miss you”s for Sarah Lyons. When talking about the reader messages you received from teens who read the YA LGBTQ charity anthology How We Began. When you talk with a friend about some rough times and how you’ve been struggling lately. All of these emotions are really, really good.

-Slot machines, however, are bad. No waterfall of coins will spill out at your feet, raining your tired ass boots in silver. You will push a button a dozen times and your money will be gone. EVEN IF YOU READ THE FOUR PAGES OF INSTRUCTIONS. Those instructions are a total fake-out. All you do is push the button and it tells you that you lose. This is way less exciting than they make it look in the movies, damn it.


-Nana Malone, Amy Daws, Lena Hart, and Ana E. Ross will make you whip out your phone to take notes during their awesome Looking (and Publishing) Beyond Amazon panel. You will then proceed to spend the next 24hrs cornering your friends and making them listen to all of the cool stuff you learned. Most useful panel ever.

-You will have excellent intentions to stay out late and party hard in Vegas, if only because you don’t have to arrange for a babysitter. This will not happen, not once. The most exciting thing you will do after dark is force your long-suffering roomie to slop goop from Lush on your faces and put a picture of that on Facebook. This is how rock stars party, you hear.


-The fountains at the Bellagio look super classy, but will sometimes do their thing to One Singular Sensation from A Chorus Line. This will perhaps provoke more unintentional singing by you, for which you should take no blame whatsoever. That song is damn infectious.

-If you are sitting next to Heidi Cullinan at the big book fair, you will inevitably spend most of the day telling readers how awesome your mutual cover artist Kanaxa is.

-When you get to meet that very same Kanaxa in the flesh for the first time, you will fangirl and hug her so hard for all of the awesome cover art.

-Breakfast with your agency means both that you get to hang out with the awesome Courtney Miller-Callihan, Tamsen Parker, Audra North, Rebekah Weatherspoon, Alyssa Cole and Piper Drake and that you won’t need to eat again for the rest of the day. Those Hash House A Go Go breakfast platters are ridiculous.

-Chocolate cake for dinner with a mocha milkshake for dessert is an excellent choice.


-The readers! You will meet Emilia, the woman with the best cosplay wardrobe ever, and Karen, whose amazing Off Campus page in her scrapbook lets you check that one off the bucket list. Plus, the mother-daughter duo with the dozen bags of books, the kickass librarians, the readers who are aspiring writers, the ones who will ask you if your kid got home safe from school by himself after the panel where you mentioned that, and a whole bunch of people who will tell you that The Girl Next Door is their favorite book in the series. The readers will be 100% nonstop awesome.

-And the writers! There is nothing better in the world than having the chance to talk shop with all of these fabulously smart and funny women.


-Meeting Amelia Vaughn from Riptide Publishing and spending time with her throughout the week will absolutely be one of the best parts of the convention. It will turn out that you have twin sons separated at birth and you will want to be her new BFF.

-By Sunday in the wee hours when she wakes you up at 2:30am so you don’t miss your flight, you will be 100% certain that Tamsen Parker is the bestest.


-And by the time you get home to Chicago, eager to snuggle up with the kid and the kitties, you will already be ready to register for RT2017. Thank you for everything, you fabulous booklovers, you!

DAMN, Samhain Books Are Amazing

Samhain’s announcement that they are closing (I raved about my publisher, editor, and cover artist here) kicked off a stroll down memory lane via my Kindle library. I thought it would be fun to do a blog post with some of my favorite Samhain books, because I’ve been buying from them for years and they publish a lot of my favorite authors. Little did I know this would be a project that would take me until 4am last night…

Samhain published some damn good books, my friends. HAVE AT THEM.

(I know this closing has kicked off a lot of Amazon criticism, and fairly so, but I want you to buy these authors’ books and I don’t much care where you do that. Samhain is having a massive ebook sale on their website on 2/29, so I’m linking there. You should absolutely drop the equivalent of a rent check there on Monday. And I’m also linking to Amazon because this list is way too long for me to do links to all 3rd party retailers and if one-clicking will get your money in these authors’ pockets that much faster, rock it out. You can, of course, find all of these books at iBooks, Kobo, Google Play, ARebooks, etc.)

love lessons

Heidi Cullinan’s Love Lessons series is both a personal favorite and a stellar example of why our cover artist Kanaxa is a genius. I love these stories and I love these covers. I also adore Heidi’s holiday romance series with Samhain, her historical novel A Private Gentleman, the wonderful Carry the Ocean, and her new steampunk book! All the love.

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provoked

If you haven’t heard me rave about Joanna Chambers’s Enlightenment series, you haven’t been listening. Exquisitely written, intensely researched, and absolutely fascinating to read, the trilogy begins with Provoked. There’s a spinoff book too! I’ve reread the entire series several times now and I’ll do it again.

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think of england

There is nothing KJ Charles writes that I will not buy immediately and stay up all night reading. Her books are witty as hell, fan-yourself hot, and full of adventure. Whether pure historical or historical paranormals, Charles is an autobuy author for me. Think of England was my favorite book last year, and I reread the Magpie series on a regular basis. (ETA: Charles’s new book, RAG AND BONE, is out today!)

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with or without him

Whenever I think of Barbara Elsborg’s With or Without Him, I remember it first for the smoking hot sex. I mean, SMOKING HOT. And then when I start to reread it, I’m reminded instantly of how damn funny this book is too. I love Elsborg’s voice.

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scrap metal

One of the earliest m/m romance novels I read was Scrap Metal by Harper Fox. This book is a perfect example of Fox’s lyrical prose, mastery of the setting so atmospheric it becomes its own character, and heartwarming romance. I have bought everything Fox has published since reading this book. She’s a wonderful writer.

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giving it up

Audra North wrote a book about a submissive SWAT dude and a Domme? And my editor was her editor? These are all the things I like in one lovely place. I am highly in favor of more smart femdom in the market, yes please.

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listen to the moon

You absolutely cannot go wrong with Rose Lerner. I could have picked any of her Samhain books for this list, but I have a weakness for historical novels that are not about royals. This story about a butler and a maid made me happy dance as soon as I saw it.

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heat trap

I love JL Merrow’s books, and the Plumber’s Mate series in particular is a favorite of mine. My grandpa was a union carpet layer in Chicago and every time I read a romance that features a blue collar worker, I’m happy to see that population represented. Plus, Merrow walks a terrific line with the psychic element, making it both fascinating and not too woo-woo for me. I love it.

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uncovering ray

Edie Danford’s Unconvering Ray brings non-binary to romance. It’s also a roommates romance, and that is one of my favorite tropes. I love forced proximity like whoa. Edie, by the way, is also a fantastic editor! I worked with her for the How We Began charity anthology and very much enjoyed her insight and story sense.

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the hierarchy of needs

I had the privilege of betaing Rebecca Grace Allen’s The Hierarchy of Needs and its super sexy ménage sequel. Rebecca is another one of my editor Christa’s authors. We are a lucky bunch.

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a treasure of gold

Piper Huguley writes books that fascinate me. I first came to know her through her self-published series, and her Samhain series has continued to mesmerize. Historical romance featuring African American couples, Piper’s books are must buys.

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cost of repairs

Cost of Repairs is book one of one of AM Arthur’s Samhain series. Arthur writes intense, emotional small town romance about guys who are just trying to make it through. I’m a fan.

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bad kitty

Okay. I freely admit that I did not even care what Teresa Noelle Roberts’s book was about when I first saw it. All I knew was that it was the best title/cover combo I’d ever seen in my entire life. BAD KITTY. But it’s fun, sexy sci fi, and that’s even better.

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the bohemian and the banker

Summer Devon & Bonnie Dee write m/m historical romance together (they may write other things too? it’s the historicals that are stacked up on my Kindle) and their titles always describe a couple that intrigues. I started with The Nobleman & The Spy last year and went on quite a binge form there.

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crossing borders

ZA Maxfield re-released a bunch of books with Samhain, including one of my favorites, Crossing Borders. The cop and the skate-boarding college student have a lot of challenges in this book, but I love the way their very different personalities fit together. I also love their respective family members, which is always a plus for me in LGBTQ romance.

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sole support

Gah. This book. Kaje Harper is a favorite author of mine, but with Sole Support she absolutely outdid herself. Broke my heart too. This book is as much about the struggle to take care of an aging parent as it is about the romance and it’s brilliant. Highly recommended.

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the corrupt comte

One of my favorite historical romances ever, with a heroine who stutters and a hero who is known as the “molly comte”. Edie Harris’s The Corrupt Comte is brilliant. Someday she will put out a sequel and I will squeal with happiness.

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the closer you get

Oh, hello, virgin in my m/m romance. Get on my Kindle right now. LA Witt’s The Closer You Get tell a terrific story about a guy who’s done the whole gay scene (and by “done”, we mean literally) and a newly out man from a conservative hometown. I love the development of trust between these too and the seriously hot UST. HELLO, TENSION.

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spice and smoke

Suleikha Snyder’s Bollywood romances are favorites too. I’m a Bollywood fan and I loved finding books set within that industry. I also really enjoyed the mix of gay and straight relationships within this book and the big cast of characters.

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the reluctant berserker

Alex Beecroft’s books fascinate me. This is an epic Viking historical romance, and I’ve been clear, I think, in my desire for more Viking romance. LGBTQ Vikings in particular, thank you, Alex Beecroft.

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big boy

Big Boy by Ruthie Knox is one of the best portrayals of single parenthood in romance that I’ve read. It’s also a magical story of two people who are playing a game of pretend that becomes real, despite their best efforts.

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trespass

Meg Maguire is also Cara McKenna, one of my favorite writers in the genre. Out of the genre. Just one of my favorites. Her Samhain books are complicated stuff. In Headstrong, I honestly wasn’t sure who the heroine would end up with for most of the book. In Trespass, the heroine does her best to steal from the hero and run away. The loner Montana vet doesn’t let her, of course, but their relationship suffers. It’s Maguire/McKenna. Trust me. You’ll love it.

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the slipstream con

I love this book! A menage story on a spaceship about a bounty hunter couple chasing a thief they want almost as much as they want to turn him in? Count. Me. In. I love all the books in the Slipstream Con series actually.

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rocky mountain freedom

Vivian Arend writes hella sexy books. I started her Rocky Mountain series with Rocky Mountain Freedom, which is, I believe, book six in the series. What can I say? My attention was grabbed by the m/m/f ménage romance in the series! But I’m working my way through the rest of the books from the first in the series, because she’s all kinds of fun to read.

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no souvenirs

I’m a big fan of snarky characters and Jae Sun and Shane really hit the right spot. I love KA MItchell’s cowboy scuba instructor and uptight trauma surgeon. Their relationship is screwed up and complicated and I’ve probably read this book a half dozen times, so that clearly works for me. Plus, they’re damn hot. And an Asian hero! Yay!

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double down

Holy dirty fighter pilots, Katie Porter! Yeah, this series is a lot of high adrenaline fun and sexytimes. It’s possible I might over-identify with the desire to bang an aviator. I’m just saying, Top Gun came out when I was fourteen. It was a game changer.

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come unto these yellow sands

So many fantastic Josh Lanyon books came from Samhain, including one of my favorite holiday novellas, The Dickens With Love. But I will forever hold a spot in my heart for Come Unto These Yellow Sands, one of the earliest m/m romances I read. It’s portrayal of someone living sober as an addict is absolutely brilliant, and the relationship between the addict professor and the small town police chief is pitch perfect.

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Phew. There. Go shopping, y’all. I know I forgot people. I’ll come back and add stuff later, no doubt, when I am awash with regret for having skipped someone I adore. But it’s 4am and I’m super tired, so this is where I’m stopping. For now…

I’m gonna shove my fabulous cover artist Kanaxa’s work in front of your face one more time too. Both she and my wonderful editor Christa Desir freelance and I highly recommend working with them. They are the bomb diggity. And super decent human beings too.

bend or break covers - 8bks

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Thanks for the love, Samhain. It’s been quite a ride.

ETA: I just realized that one of my favorite books of all time is from Samhain and I didn’t know it. JL Merrow’s Muscling Through is a Master Class in narrative voice. It’s funny and sexy and sweet, with a narrator unlike any other I’ve read. It’s wonderful. You should buy it. 🙂

muscling through take two

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Three new Bend or Break covers!

Coming March 22nd, Austin and Vinnie both get their stories in the duology BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE. Plus, readers can also choose to buy their novellas individually with fabulous covers of their own. LOVE ME LIKE A ROCK is the story of Austin and the geology TA/art department nude model who pursues him despite Austin’s longstanding crush on his best friend Vinnie. In HARD CANDY, Vinnie is the one finding love in unexpected places with a skirt-sporting dance major who challenges all his preconceptions.

Now, I’m not saying I’m saving the best for last, but I totally am. So check out the covers for Austin and Vinnie’s individual novellas, before I finally reveal the art for BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE in all its fan-yourself glory. Eternal thanks as always to Kanaxa, my amazing cover artist!

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In art and in love, it’s the rough edges that make things interesting.

Having grown up with artistic implements always in hand, there’s almost nothing Austin can’t make real. Except for one thing – an official relationship with his best friend, rowing teammate and occasional hookup, Vinnie.

The combination of emotional and sexual frustration fuels a spark between Austin and the nude model in his drawing class. Austin isn’t used to having trouble focusing; models are merely challenging subjects to be rendered on paper. But the geology TA’s direct blue gaze is powerful enough to drag Austin’s focus away from his physique.

After a quick and very dirty post-class encounter, all the reasons that Austin has been waiting for his best friend go fuzzy in his mind. Sean is nothing like Vinnie. Sean is persistent, pays attention, and makes it clear he wants to be together.

But if Austin can’t get his head and his heart on the same page, he could lose his friend, or his lover. Or both.

Warning: Contains rock geeks, tent sex, a dictatorial cox whose idea of a good time is drawing naked dudes, plus one naked dude who wants to be more than a good time.

Pre-order LOVE ME LIKE A ROCK on the Samhain website. Or add it to your TBR shelf at Goodreads. Pre-orders at all vendors coming soon!

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How to get over someone? Get under someone else—as soon as possible.  

Vincent Lim always assumed his best friend (and occasional hookup) Austin would be waiting for him—that eventually they’d end up together. But now that Austin’s in love with another man, Vinnie is at a loss.

After the world’s most awkward one-night stand with a dance major, Vinnie knows the drill. Minimize the embarrassment by pretending they’ve never met. Yet Bryan’s vibrant spirit and calm center lure Vinnie like a shelter from an emotional storm.

But Vinnie’s thrown off his game by the rest of Bryan’s total package. Vinnie’s a rowing jock with a single-minded focus on living up to his parents’ academic and social expectations. Bryan might as well be outfitted with glittery butterfly wings—with plenty of pride to match. Vinnie’s haphazard attention to a lover won’t cut it this time.

Physically, they can match each other stroke for booty pop. But for the lovers to meet on common ground, they’ll have to find a way to get moving in the same direction.

Warning: Contains one uptight rower, a dancer who can rock a skirt like nobody’s business, yoga lessons, and the benefits of beingvery bendy.

Pre-order HARD CANDY on the Samhain website. Or add it to your TBR shelf at Goodreads. Pre-orders at all vendors coming soon!

ARE YOU READY?

I’m just saying, you may want to sit down for this one, in case you get a little weak in the knees.

Brace yourself for BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE…

 

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Made you a little dizzy, right?

BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE is a duology containing both LOVE ME LIKE A ROCK and HARD CANDY in one volume and will be available in both ebook and paperback. Add it to your TBR on Goodreads!

When we were talking with Kanaxa about who we would put on the cover, I mentioned that Austin’s new boyfriend Sean has a beard. She sent over a bunch of options, and as soon as I saw this one, I knew we had to use it.

Just look at them all lined up in a row! Isn’t Kanaxa fabulous? Keep an eye on your inbox between now and March 22nd for sneak peeks at both Austin and Vinnie’s stories in my newsletter. (Subscribe here to get all the good stuff!) You’re going to love them!
xoxo
AJ

love me like a rock-hard candy-between a rock & a hard place

Snuggle Up, Holiday Romances Are Here!

Oh, I love me some holiday romances. I’ve already made one list of some fabulous books in the category for my REAL WORLD blog tour stop at All About Romance. In “Santa Baby, Bring Me a Love Story,” I recommended some of my favorite stories, both hetero and LGBTQ, in the subgenre. From Regency romance to contemporary New Adult, from kinky ménage to Jewish m/m historical to a book about a lost Dickens Christmas story, those books are some of the best.

Problem is, it killed me to stop after half a dozen books! So, because this is my blog and here I can be over-the-top with my book rec lists and if I look ridiculous, no one but me looks silly…

Here are some more holiday romances! I’ve got het and LGBTQ, m/m and f/f and more ménage, Thanksgiving and Christmas and Chanukah and New Year’s Eve stories, historicals and contemporaries and even two books about Santa’s elves. Enjoy!

Angel Voices by Rowan Speedwell is a super sweet story about a boy who is rejected by his family after coming out and finds a new family to welcome him when his college roommate takes him home for the holidays. This story embodies so much of what I love about holiday romance: the sweetness, the security of being surrounded by those who will take care of you, the magic of falling in love.

Amy Lane’s Christmas Kitsch is one of my favorite Christmas stories of all time, and her Christmas with Danny Fit is right up there at the top of the list too. Kit Allen is a pudgy accountant who starts working out to his Danny Fit DVDs, in the (undeclared even to himself perhaps) hopes of impressing his new assistant Jesse. As Kit gets a grip on his fitness goals, he starts making changes in the rest of his life too, including moving out of his chain-smoking mother’s home for the first time, and Jesse (it turns out) is dying to help him figure it all out. This story is absolutely charming.

Heidi Cullinan’s Minnesota trilogy started with my favorite trope, snowbound together, in Let It SnowSleigh Ride has a town librarian and the gruff man who makes kinky holiday love to him. Winter Wonderland is the final book in the trilogy, about the one guy in town who wants a relationship, so is of course the last one to find it. Two words for you: snow penis.

Discovering Caro Carson was my absolute win from judging the RITAs last year. After having a terrible streak of luck with some bad category romances, she saved the day with The Bachelor Doctor’s Bride. The Maverick’s Holiday Masquerade is Carson’s holiday romance about a Montana woman looking for a cowboy, not a city slicker, and the high-powered lawyer she doesn’t realize she’s fallen for. (As a side note, Carson is a totally kickass West Point graduate, whose stories about meeting the first women to graduate from Ranger School this year were fantastic.)

You absolutely cannot go wrong with an Eli Easton holiday romance. Blame It on the Mistletoe, about a college jock and his brilliant but socially oblivious roommate and best friend, is a book I reread all the time. Easton has a new holiday romance this year, Midwinter Night’s Dream, that comes out on 11/25 and I’ll be setting aside time to read that book immediately. They play Spin the Bottle! I’m totally in.

Vincent’s Thanksgiving Date is typical of the totally charming R. Cooper, and is my one Thanksgiving romance! Cooper writes brilliantly about characters who are oblivious to those who are interested in them, and this story is a delightful example of that. Cory’s persistence in helping Vincent, and asking for his help in return, leads to a holiday shared with Cory and his friends, and Vincent’s gradual getting of a clue. And this one’s only 99 cents!

I’ve got another R. Cooper rec in the Christmas category. Casper Gets His Wish (also 99 cents!) is a story about two of Santa’s elves, one creative genius in the toy shop and one uptight accountant who feels out of place everywhere at the North Pole. I love this story! It’s delightful. And there’s more! Piper Vaughn’s The Working Elf Blues is about an elf who abandons the North Pole for a boy (now a man) with sorrowful eyes.

All I Want For Christmas by Clare Lydon is a lesbian Christmas romance about Tori, who’s given herself a month to find the girlfriend of her dreams for the holidays. I just picked up after nabbing Lydon’s London Calling when it was on sale. F/f holiday romance for the win!

Men Under the Mistletoe is a m/m holiday romance collection from Carina Press that includes stories by Harper Fox, Josh Lanyon, Ava March and KA Mitchell. This quartet was one of my earliest m/m reads and it introduced me to four authors whose books I still read to this day. In this anthology, you get Regency romance, a literary researcher reliving an Arthurian legend, a ballet dancer who was once in love with a Texas Ranger, and a contemporary story with all the Christmas trappings. It’s a terrific collection.

Harper Fox’s Nine Lights Over Edinburgh is the story of a Scottish Detective Inspector on a downward spiral and the head of security for a visiting Israeli ambassador who helps catch him. I first read this story in His For the Holidays, another Carina Press collection that also includes the terrific Icecapade by Josh Lanyon. Icecapade features a reformed jewel thief and the FBI agent who chased him for years without ever catching him, despite some major teasing by the thief. It’s delightful to see these two come together again at the holidays.

In An Improper Holiday by KA Mitchell, two friends who were lovers meet again after five years separation at a Twelfth Night house party. Ian is a soldier wounded in the Peninsular War and Nicky is the friend who was left behind, now determined to win Ian back after their disastrous parting. I have a thing for holiday historicals, and this one is a favorite.

Riptide’s O Come All Ye Kinky is a collection of all kinds of LGBTQ holiday romances, from the sweetly silly to the serious, including a lesbian New Year’s Eve story about a sub and her Ma’am by Katie Porter, and a ménage romance with a trans character. There’s something for everyone.

Holiday Escort by Julia Lynda is a f/f Christmas romance about a talented personal assistant who is hired to manage high-powered executive’s holiday social calendar and to pose as her girlfriend for the season too. A shared love on tango leads to some unexpected romance.

In If Only in My Dreams by Keira Andrews, two ex-lovers are stuck driving across the country together at Christmas. Andrews’s Kick at the Darkness was my favorite road trip romance (in the middle of the zombie apocalypse!) this year, so I’m totally on board for If Only in My Dreams.

A Midnight Clear by Emma Barry and Genevieve Turner is one of my favorite reads of this year actually. Set at Annapolis in 1948, where every midshipman wants a date with the Admiral’s daughter in the hopes of advancing his career, this book is wonderful. The era it’s set in allows for an exquisite awareness of every touch, even through her very proper gloves.

A Twitter conversation about our love for Lisa Kleypas’s Devil in Winter (one of my favorite redemptions of a rake ever) and the rest of her Wallflowers series reminded me of another old favorite, A Wallflower Christmas. An American hero with a wild reputation is supposed to fall in love with a proper English heiress, but it’s her commoner cousin whom he can’t resist.

I’m a total Charles Dickens fan, so as soon as I heard that Joanna Chambers was writing a retelling of A Christmas Carol, I was ready to throw money at her. Humbug is a contemporary retelling of Dickens’s story about a workaholic reconsidering his life choices. (Chambers’s new book in her Enlightenment series, Unnatural, is out today too! Yay!)

Indra Vaughn The Winter Spirit is the story of a lonely B&B owner and the ghost who likes to tease him, while hoping to overcome the curse that keeps him lingering. I love the sound of this story and downloaded it the day it went on sale.

Devin in December by Kate McMurray doesn’t come out until December 23rd, but I’ve had it on my TBR ever since I heard about it. The story of a flight attendant and a Hollywood star who get snowed in together at LaGuardia, I’m thinking this will be the perfect Christmas Eve read, after I finish wrapping the last of the presents after my kid goes to bed!

Friends to lovers is one of my favorite romance tropes. In Jay Northcote’s What Happens at Christmas, Sean offers to pose as the new boyfriend of his best friend (and longtime secret crush), Justin. But pretense blurs into reality with a kiss on the dance floor (as it always does, which is why we love it!) and when these two guys are both stuck in London for the holidays, they give into temptation again. And again…

RealWorld 200x300And, of course, there is Real World! I knew I wanted to write a story about Tom and Reese from Off Campus and what their relationship looked like a few years after graduation. I also knew I wanted to give them a big, swoony HEA, and a Christmas story let me do both, while bringing together their friends and family too.

Want to strangle me yet? 🙂 Don’t forget to check out my All About Romance post for the rest of my favorite holiday romances! And give me your recs for the best holiday stories on your bookshelves, physical or electronic please. I’m always up for more love at the holidays!

ETA: I just remember Riley Hart’s Return to Blackcreek is a holiday collection too. High fives for catching up on what your favorite couples are up to down the line!

ETA Part Deux: And Annabeth Albert’s upcoming Status Update in her Gaymers series is a holiday story too! Holidays and geeks and another cross-country drive? CAN’T. WAIT.

ETA #3, AKA Stop Laughing At Me, I Can Stop If I Want: Jody Wallace wrote Claustrophobic Christmas, a “trapped in an ice storm” holiday romance about a claustrophobic travel agent and a globe-trotting photographer. I MUST HAVE IT.

ETA #4: A friend on Twitter rec’d Tamara Morgan’s In the Clear for the “best beta hero losing his shit *ever*.” This book opens with the lines: “For a full twenty seconds, Lexie thought the vibrator in her purse had managed to turn itself on. Again.” That purse also holds “at least three unpaid parking tickets, a tube of lipstick she’d accidentally stolen from the drugstore and meant to return, a tiny bottle of vodka for emergencies of a social nature.” So clearly I bought this book immediately. 🙂

ETA #5: I can’t believe I forgot this one: Anne Calhoun’s Breath on Embers is my favorite book by this amazing writer. The one is all about grief and numbness and slowly coming back to life through the warmth of someone who loves you. It’s a marvelous book.

ETA #6: I just found out about Burning Bright: Four Chanukah Love Stories, by Megan Hart, KK Hendin, Stacey Agdern and Jennifer Gracen. KK’s This Much Space was one of my favorite reads this year, so I’m looking forward to reading this holiday anthology too!