Saturday, March 21, 2015

Leaving Flowers by Debbie McGowan and Raine O'Tierney #MM Romance

Leaving Flowers by Debbie McGowan and Raine O'Tierney

Creative synergy, bursting with colour.

That's how it's been since January, when Raine O'Tierney and I started collaborating - a bit like the lilies currently blooming in glorious shades of magenta and peach across my kitchen table, and if you've ever watched lilies bloom you'll know what I mean.

We sowed the creative seed and took turns to tend to our tiny sapling, watching in awe as it grew faster than we'd imagined, becoming more and more beautiful. With every day that passed, the colours shone with greater vibrance, the stems entwined more intricately, and suddenly the story blossomed right before our eyes.

Soon, good people! Soon we will introduce you to the two fine young men whose fate lay in our hands. We hope you'll love them as much as we do.

Shy and awkward since childhood, Aidan Degas is now a man lost. His twin - Aidan's other half, Nadia - died tragically young, leaving him with nothing to get him through his days but his job at the prestigious Grand Heights Luxury Apartments and the flowers he lays upon her grave. When Aidan is assaulted on the job by a tenant, it's the graveyard he turns to for strength and solace.

Patrick loves being assistant groundskeeper at the sprawling cemetery where he tends graves and offers a bit of comfort to mourners. When he sees a sad young man lingering over an old grave, his curiosity is strangely piqued for reasons he doesn't understand. He's never done this - struck up a friendship with a mourner. But soon that friendship blossoms into a romance.

It's not going to be easy for the pair. Aidan is so damaged, like petals crushed in an angry fist, and even with Patrick's warm heart and Irish charm, it might not be enough to bring him back from the edge.

You can read Raine's Cover Reveal post here:

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Ruminations - coming February 14th 2015

Seventeen-year-old Josh Sandison has been waiting his whole life to go to university. Gifted - and bullied for being different - he hopes moving away to study will mean a change for the better. Instead he encounters the unexpected, when strange things start happening in his room - the blinds falling down by themselves and notes from an illiterate prankster.

Add to this the myth of the haunted third floor, and cynical Josh has had just about enough, when Sean Tierney arrives at university, three days late and with not a penny to his name. The two strike up an unlikely friendship, bonded by their passion for learning and compassion for others.

But will their intellectual prowess be enough to solve once and for all the mystery of the third floor?

A stand-alone novel from the world of Hiding Behind The Couch
Click here for purchase links:

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Checking Him Out...For the Holidays! Festive fun with Sol and Adam

It's the holiday season!

Fun first...

 And a thought...

I'm not going to get ranty, but however you celebrate, if you are one of the fortunate, take that little spark of festive magic and do something wonderful with it. It could be life-changing for someone else, and it will make you feel nice.

Now the hard sell! :)

Me? Hard sell? As if! I had a job doing door-to-door canvassing for a kitchen company once. I lasted a day.

But! I am selling something, so here goes...

I wanted to officially launch Checking Him Out For the Holidays, which is available to buy for around $2 / £1.25 via Beaten Track, Amazon (Kindle), Smashwords, All Romance eBooks, and a few other places by now, I would imagine. If you went torrent hunting you might even find it there, but I'd rather you bought it.

I took it as a sign that I was finally getting somewhere when my recent novel, Crying in the Rain, made it to the file-sharing sites within three days of release. There's nothing I can do about it, but each of those downloads means a little less income for me, and this is my job. Needless to say, I'm hacked off, but hey! People wanted my work enough to steal it. Like diamonds. ;)

What perhaps stings more is that I give away a lot of my writing as it is. Aside from always having one or two books available for free on my website, Checking Him Out (whence came Checking Him Out For the Holidays) is a free, full-length novel. I wrote it earlier in 2014, as part of the Love's Landscapes anthology, and in November decided to upload it to Amazon, ARe and Smashwords. It's been downloaded almost 30,000 times in five weeks.

That's a lot of free, I'm sure you'll agree!

And that's great. I'm so happy that people are reading AND enjoying my stories.

Which leads me rather marvellously into explaining how this little festive tale came about.

I love my characters, I do. Eventually. For those of you who have read Checking Him Out
you'll know that Sol Brooks - the main character - isn't an easy man to get to know. And that's how it was for me when I began writing. I think it was somewhere around Chapter Eight before Sol finally started 'speaking to me'. Until that point, I was a little puzzled by his behaviour and his thought processes, but then he revealed his secrets to me, and it all started to make sense.

Sounds mad, I know, but the characters become very real to writers in the process of telling their story. We miss them when it's over. So if a few readers suggest that they'd like to read more, and there's more story to tell, we'll often happily oblige.

Hence, a holiday story was born.

Didn't I make that sound easy?

It wasn't - this isn't me complaining. I love writing, but to put in context my frustration at the illegal downloads mentioned earlier, we're talking 150+ hours of work to create a 24,000 word holiday story.

Just thought I'd say.

So anyway, here it is: a story filled with gifts for my readers, to say thank you very, very much.

Special thanks to Alexis Woods, K.C. Faelan, Nige the Pige, and Andrea Harding. You are wonderful.

Happy Holidays!

Checking Him Out For the Holidays

Freelance engineer Sol Brooks doesn't do the festive season. He thinks it's boring and overly sentimental. With the rest of the household laid up with 'the flu', Sol's planned on using the time to crack on with some work.

His mother, however, has other ideas.

And so does Sol's husband, Adam.

A stand-alone holiday special featuring Sol and Adam from Checking Him Out.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Red Hot Christmas - Launch! December 15th PLUS Meet Shaunna Hennessy - star of the story PLUS First Christmas Giveaway!!!

Next Monday (December 15th) marks the release of my second Christmas story of the year, Red Hot Christmas, so we'll start as we mean to go on, by officially revealing the FABULOUS cover, created by Natasha Snow.

Natasha's a brilliant cover artist / designer, and such a great person to work with. For both Red Hot Christmas and Crying in the Rain, I gave her a brief outline of the story and her first ideas were what we eventually went with, even though I fuss and fret and go all around the world before I reach the conclusion that she had it right all along.

I think it's what comes of writing a series, whereby Crying in the Rain and Red Hot Christmas are chronologically #5 and #11 (full list at end of post), although I wrote Red Hot Christmas last Christmas, and wrote Crying in the Rain during the summer. By this point, the characters are so familiar to me that I have a clear picture in my head of what they are like - it's more of a psychological profile than a physical presence (which is also how I see people in 'our realm'). It makes me a bit too picky when it comes to having any likeness of the character on the cover, which is why in the past I steered clear with all my dull, dull covers. They're soon going to be replaced with all-new wonderfully appealing covers, which is very exciting!

The cover model for Red Hot Christmas is very much how Shaunna is to me. She's passionate, strong, sexy, independent, and she's a redhead. So once again, thank you, Natasha. You're a star. :)

But anyway, you're probably wondering what this story is about, especially if you've arrived here having read any of the gay (male) romances I've written recently. I'm not an author of gay romance per se, or indeed of any kind of romance. I write diverse, realist, contemporary fiction, which means there's romance in there as part of that general tapestry of modern life. There's also birth, death, marriage, illness, education, friendship, family...

I also try to make my books as universally accessible as I can, which means that (with two exceptions) I don't explicitly describe scenes involving sex, violence or abuse, which doesn't mean that my stories are devoid of the emotional stuff. In fact, I've been led to believe they are quite an emotional read. Then there was the sexy chapter in In The Stars Part II that my dear husband said he needed to re-read, just to make sure there were no errors, or something like that... ;)

Red Hot Christmas is really Shaunna's story, and if you are reading the whole series in order, then I should warn you that there are significant spoilers in this instalment.

Just one more thing, Mam...

Whilst Red Hot Christmas is 'stand-alone', it is connected to the other two stories I've put out recently.

Crying in the Rain - the story of Ade and Kris - happens a year before Red Hot Christmas (and if you're reading the series, there are two books and two novellas in between).

A Midnight Clear happens at exactly the same time as Red Hot Christmas, but should be read first, as there are events mentioned in Red Hot Christmas that would ruin surprises in A Midnight Clear. There are a couple of occasions where the narrative of the two stories crosses over, but they are very different stories relating to different characters who just happen to be part of the same group of friends - The Circle.

 You don't have to read all three, but if you are going to, then the order to read them would be Crying in the Rain, A Midnight Clear, Red Hot Christmas.

A Midnight Clear is included in the Boughs of Evergreen Holiday Anthology and the proceeds go to The Trevor Project. And it's cheap! 99 cents! It's only $9.99 for the full anthology (23 stories) - that's awesome, you've got to admit! Plus it's had some great reviews, so you should read it. :)

OK, maybe two more things...

If you like Christmas stories, then you might enjoy First Christmas, which is also part of the series and was released last year, but now has a shiny new cover! To celebrate its shiny newness, there's a GIVEAWAY at the end of this post - 3 copies available (but it's only $1.99 if you wanted to go and snag yourself a copy).

Remember the way you used to feel when you were little? So eager for Santa's visit, sleeplessly counting the minutes till morning, trembling with excitement and anticipation... Will I get what I wished for? Have I been good enough?

Josh and George spent half a lifetime apart, so it matters not that they're all grown up now. For this is their first Christmas together, in their new home. They finally have all that they wished for...

...But perhaps Santa still has a few surprises in store.

This Christmas, join Josh and George for a Christmas story full of festive magic and romance.

Best read in December, in front of a roaring log fire, by the twinkling light of a Christmas tree.

That's quite enough preamble. As mentioned earlier (up there ^ somewhere), Red Hot Christmas homes in on one character (and her significant others). That character is Shaunna Hennessy.

Who is Shaunna?

Let's ask her and see!

DM: Hi Shaunna. Thanks for agreeing to answer a few questions.
SH: You're welcome.

DM: First off, that question you're not supposed to ask a woman, but...?
SH: I don't mind you asking at all. I'm 39 and looking forward to turning 40. I'm kind of doing the whole living it up thing in reverse! I've got a brilliant job that I love, great friends and an amazing daughter...

DM: Do you have any brothers or sisters?
SH: Nope. Just me, but I do have quite a few cousins in Ireland.

DM: How about your parents? Are they still alive? Are they married? Are they divorced?
SH: My dad is still alive. My mum died of breast cancer eleven years ago. Dad's doing OK, but he's very forgetful and needs quite a lot of support these days.

DM: If you were sent to a deserted island what three things would you take?
SH: Mobile phone? Oh, wait. That probably wouldn't work. I'd definitely take tea bags, and...a distress flare. Ha-ha!

DM: Do you have a hidden talent?
SH: Not totally hidden, as my mates know, but I'm not bad on the footy pitch. These days there's less stigma about girls playing the game, and women's football is becoming really popular, but it wasn't like that back when I was at school.

DM: Do you have a habit you wish you could break?
SH: Not that I can think of. I don't bite my nails, or anything like that. I could maybe drink less tea?

DM: What features do you like the most about yourself?
SH: My hair. I'm a ginger. Well, it's more the colour of barley sugar, and dries into major curls. It's quite long too - when it's straightened out it's past my waist, and none of the redheads in my family have gone grey, so I'm optimistic it's going to keep me looking young forever!

DM: What feature do you dislike the most about yourself?
SH: Freckles. I'm covered in them and I'm fair-skinned, so no lush tan for me. I'm totally jealous of people who can get a good tan.

DM: Do you have a hobby?
SH: At the moment it's doing a short psychology course - part time from home. A couple of my friends are psychologists - they were chatting about it - showing off, really. Anyway, it snagged my interest, but I don't want to make a career out of it. I might study something else next. Pottery? Conversational Spanish? Car mechanics? Yeah, maybe not the last one.

DM: Do you have a guilty pleasure?
SH: Ha! Lots of them. I'm told that I'm the star of a book of some sort?
DM: That's right. It's called Red Hot Christmas.
SH: Red Hot? How about that! Well, you can no doubt find out more about my most guilty pleasure in there...hopefully heavy on the pleasure, easy on the guilt.

DM: What kind of music do you like?
SH: Pop, rock, anything really. My favourite of all time is A-Ha, fronted by the dreamy Nordic sex god, Morten Harket.

DM: What is your biggest pet peeve?
SH: Smelly dog. I know they can't help it, and I love the dog, but he really does stink at times, and then the house does too.

DM: What is your favourite food?
SH: I'm more of a favourite drink kind of girl - tea, strawberry milkshake, blueberry yoghurt crush, or yoghurt-not-smoothie as my dear friend Sean likes to call it. Food-wise, pasta is always good. And I love chocolate fudge cake. Yes, actually. It's chocolate fudge cake.

DM: Do you have a passion and if so what?
SH: Krissi - my daughter. I had her when I was fifteen, so she's been my life. Now she's all grown up maybe I'll find something else to get passionate about?

DM: Do you consider yourself and introvert or extrovert?
SH: Definitely extrovert! On my psychology course we all met up for a 'day school' and they gave us a fun introvert-extrovert test. I came out second highest out of all of us!

DM: What is your idea of a perfect day?
SH: Lie in, cup of tea, maybe even breakfast in bed, followed by doing something fun, preferably with someone fun.

DM: Who is your favorite author?
SH: Err...I don't actually read. Honestly, I've never read an entire book. I love films, and film adaptations of books. That would probably make my favourite Bridget Jones's Diary.

DM: What would the first thing be on your bucket list?
SH: Ooh, that's a tricky one. There is quite a big thing currently at the top of the list. Maybe I'll stick it on my Christmas list too, and see if Santa thinks I've been nice enough to get it. ;)

DM: If I asked you to write an entry in your journal what would it be about?
SH: Depends if you wanted to read it afterwards...just kidding. Right now it would probably be about getting organised for Christmas. My aunty is having my dad stay with her, which is really kind of her, as we've had a hell of a year and I'm looking forward to the break, but I'm not done Christmas shopping yet!

DM: Tell me something no one else knows about you?
SH: That book I mentioned? I have a feeling you'll get to know a couple of biggies in there. Who knows, it might even get a little steamy...with any luck!

 a novella of 33,000 words
December 15th, 2014

Hiding Behind The Couch Series 
in full and in chronological order:

Beginnings (novella)
Crying in the Rain (short novel)
First Christmas (novella)
Breaking Waves (novella)
A Midnight Clear (novella)
Two By Two (season 6 - 2015)

Thank you for reading - have a great Christmas!

Monday, December 08, 2014

No more bullying of authors by reviewers

There is a school of thought which argues authors shouldn't read reviews of their work, because reviews are written for other would-be readers. Furthermore, those who argue for free expression in reviews contend that once the work is out there, it is a product, just like any other, and authors should not take it personally if a reviewer hates their 'product'. I can agree with this sentiment - up to a point - and it is precisely why we SHOULD read our reviews.

In every industry, customer feedback is used to improve products and services. Likewise, if we authors don't read our reviews, we can not improve our product. That said, a piece of creative writing is not the same as an engine part, or a sofa, or a coffee maker, for whilst the inventor of a new and innovative product might well pour their heart and soul into it, the end product that we buy off the production line is tried, tested and far removed from that initial creative endeavour. A bad review for a vacuum cleaner, for instance ("this vacuum cleaner sucks - unfortunately not in the literal sense"), is unlikely to cause upset to the manufacturer in the same way that a bad review of a book might upset the author.

There are, of course, those authors who do create 'product'. They've figured out a market place, a formula, a target readership, and they approach writing in the same systematic way as any other manufacturing process. Perhaps for this kind of author, the less positive reviews are not so emotionally difficult to cope with, in the sense that they can say "I need to change that in the next batch" and file it away.

But many authors do not create 'product'. Each work is a crafted, unique piece of art. It is an extension of the author, and thus, when a reviewer critiques that work, they are also critiquing the author. No matter how objective or impersonal the reviewer tries to be, it is still personal to the author. And that's the bit that hurts, or equally, with the good reviews, makes us sing and dance with joy.

When it came to the first reviews for my most recent novel, Crying in the Rain, the initial reviews were mostly just what every author wants to see, and even those that were not especially to my liking were still fair. For instance, one reviewer didn't like my writing style, and I'm sad about that, but it's OK. We're all different. I know other readers do like it, and there are other stories out there more to that particular reader's tastes, so neither of us really lose out. What I found more intriguing was the way in which the characters and their lifestyle were received, and again, this kind of criticism is really about a difference of opinion, but it's also rather complimentary, in that the characters have had sufficient impact on the reader for them to experience an emotion (albeit disdain) towards them.

And then there are the reviews that are, quite simply, unacceptable.

If you're about to argue for freedom of speech, then bring it on. I absolutely agree. However, there are terms to describe the kind of freedom of speech that some reviewers exercise: slander, libel and defamation.

To illustrate this point, and because this review angered me enough to break the months of silence I have endured in the name of professionalism, I'm going to use a two-star review of Checking Him Out.

The review in full (I'll add the [sic] here to cover all of the errors):

I would not have bought this if it hadn't been free, I probably would have tried the preview realized how amateur the writing was and given it a miss. I'm only giving it two stars rather than one because I didn't have to pay for it. I read farther than I should have any only gave up at a point half way through the books when the couple is arguing about the GPS navigation, and I just didn't understand the argument/joke. I tried re-reading that part 3 times. This book needs a lot of research, restructuring and a good editor. Many of the assumptions made are just insulting, such as engineers are more homophobic than other professions. There are a lot of insulting side comments, including one about having a female engineer. I hate the way the (ex)wife becomes an instant bitch. The author seems to know next to nothing about what's involved to get a divorce in MA, find a job in academia, or hold down a job.

Breaking it down:

I would not have bought this if it hadn't been free, I probably would have tried the preview realized how amateur the writing was and given it a miss. I'm only giving it two stars rather than one because I didn't have to pay for it.

Everyone is entitled to an opinion. I can't really argue with that, although I'd have read a lot less than 30,000 words if I'd hated it as much as this reviewer seems to. That said, I would be interested to know the specific premise on which this writing is adjudged to be "amateur".

In the Cambridge Dictionary (British English), amateur is defined in several ways:

taking part in an activity for pleasure, not as a job

I write for both pleasure and as a job, so I suppose I am, in this respect, fifty percent amateur. However, I suspect the reviewer was working from this definition:

someone who does not have much skill in what they do

Again, we are all entitled to an opinion. I have credentials I could wave around (and will later), but creative writing, and its appreciation (or lack thereof) is an entirely subjective perspective, so I'll let that one pass. For now.

I read farther than I should have any only gave up at a point half way through the books when the couple is arguing about the GPS navigation, and I just didn't understand the argument/joke. I tried re-reading that part 3 times.

And this is the author's fault in what way? None, that I can think of. Moving on.

This book needs a lot of research,

This book had a lot of research, thank you very much, as I will demonstrate in due course.


Nope. The structure is deliberate, and just because you don't like it doesn't mean it needs restructuring.

See, there are these things called narrative devices that we authors like to deploy. For example, there are two main characters in Checking Him Out: Sol, who is hesitant, restrained and overthinks, and Adam, who is impatient and impulsive. A discerning reader might observe that the narrative flow varies according to how much influence Adam has over Sol.

I'm not claiming it's flawless. I'm merely presenting one of many pieces of evidence I could bring forth for your consideration.

and a good editor.

Yes, well I'll thank you on behalf of my editor and the sixteen other people involved in publishing this story, because you've just insulted their work too.

Many of the assumptions made are just insulting, such as engineers are more homophobic than other professions.

Oh, I could tell you a story or three, but it would involve outing engineers that I know wouldn't take too kindly to me doing that, because they work in a homophobic profession. It IS more homophobic than many other professions. This is not assumption, this is social scientific fact.

There are a lot of insulting side comments, including one about having a female engineer.

Likewise, engineering is a sexist profession, or are you referring to the first-person point of view that would make any sexism a character trait as opposed to one possessed by the author? Either way, the issue remains the same: the main character is an engineer; engineering is a sexist profession. Dear sweet reviewer, if you are going to degrade my work on the premise of lack of research DO YOUR OWN DAMNED RESEARCH FIRST! Oh, and incidentally, my first class degree in social science comes complete with a specialism in gender and sexual politics.

I hate the way the (ex)wife becomes an instant bitch.

And look now who's being sexist! A strong woman who stand up for her rights is instantly a bitch. I'm done arguing this point. It's boring.

The author seems to know next to nothing about what's involved to get a divorce in MA...

And this, darling reviewer, is where you irked me sufficiently to provoke this blog post by way of responding to your slanderous attack.

I present for your information, and in no small part to relieve you of your ignorance, Massachusetts divorce law (which, incidentally, I read as part of my research during the process of writing the book):

"Fault" grounds for divorce:

There are 7 "fault" grounds for divorce. With a "fault" grounds, one spouse files for the divorce and blames the other spouse for the end of the marriage. Although there are several fault grounds, "cruel and abusive treatment" is the one that survivors of domestic violence use the most.

You can ask for a hearing 21 days after the sheriff or constable serves your spouse with the Domestic Relations Summons and the Complaint for Divorce. You can get the divorce even if your spouse does not show up for the hearing. After the judge hears your case, the court issues a Judgment of Divorce Nisi. The divorce becomes final 90 days after Judgment of Divorce Nisi.

According to MA law, adultery is "fault" grounds for divorce.

Sol and Elise were divorced after three months because Sol committed adultery. No further argument.

Oh, just one - I had a beta-reader from Boston, who went through a divorce in Boston. It's safe to say that between my research and his reading of the text this has been checked to ensure it accurately depicts a divorce scenario that could happen in Boston, MA.


[The author seems to know next to nothing about what's involved to] find a job in academia, or hold down a job.

I work in academia. I have been a university lecturer for 15 years.

But thanks for your opinion, because it finally convinced me to do what all authors should do, and that is to face up to their bullies.

I refuse to remain silent just because it is deemed 'unprofessional' to respond to reviewers' attacks, which ultimately is what reviews like this are.

I refuse to be bullied and I too will exercise my freedom of speech. If you attack me, I will defend myself. Because I am, just like every other author out there, a person capable of being hurt both emotionally and financially by hateful words of reviewers who refuse to take responsibility for their actions.


Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Boughs of Evergreen, take me in your glorious arms and let me... zzzzzz

So, yes, well.

I have NEVER been so tired in my life. Or not since my dear daughters were yay big [imagine me holding up a finger and thumb with an inchy inchworm sized gap between]. But today my youngest daughter is leaving home. She's the blondie at the start of the Boughs of Evergreen trailer. My eldest says she's never leaving home... can't say I blame her. Home is nice.

Home is also my place of work, and part of the reason I'm so blooming tired, but we'

Boughs of Evergreen - the holiday anthology from Beaten Track - is out on 21st November and today is the 5th [kudos, Mr. Fawkes, not quite the folk hero people think, but anyway] and I am still editing.


But fear not, intrepid readers! We shall be victorious!

How victorious? Well, there's a giveaway to enter, if you're quick! You can find it on the Beaten Track website here:

And here, for your viewing pleasure, is the full-length video trailer for Boughs of Evergreen.

Thank you soooooo much to Georgey Payne for permission to use "It Does Get Better", recorded by The L Project - available on iTunes and Amazon Music for a great price - 100% proceeds to The Trevor Project.

We have a fundraising page for The Trevor Project. They do great work, providing support for LGBTQ youth in crisis. They're US based, so feel free to find your local / national equivalent organisation and extend the hand of friendship / generosity to them. LGBTQ youth are still a group under-represented and very much discriminated against. It's tough being young and "different". I know. I've been there. So please:

  1. Buy our anthology
  2. Enjoy our anthology
  3. Say great things about the anthology to all the people you know, and perhaps even those you don't.

This message is brought to you by the sleep-deprived editor who could not have got this far without the fantastic talents and creativity of the 24 authors who submitted amazing stories, their continued work to proofread for each other, their commitment and enthusiasm really has no bounds. They're all brilliant. If you see them, give them a big festive hug. :)

Thanks also to Shayla, Andrea and Viv for helping out with editing, Nige for the video (shorter edit to come just as soon as he's recovered and forgiven me for making him re-edit it four times), Tami for the cover, Trev...err, I mean Trigger for getting in on the act, and everyone who goes on to buy this amazing, wonderful EPIC anthology. Yule love it!

Sorry. Couldn't resist. :)

Monday, October 06, 2014

Meet the Character - Jinja

I've been tagged by Hunter Frost to take part in the Meet the Character blog hop.

Hunter Frost is a very talented author of M/M erotic romance, and has been writing since high school.

Her publications to date include the wonderful A Thoreau Affair  - a free short story about a former English professor and the student he can't forget - and the rather raunchy short, What Brown Can Do For You - where attraction blossoms between an IT geek and the UPS guy.

You can read more about Hunter Frost here:

Hunter is one of 23 authors contributing to the Boughs of Evergreen holiday anthology, which is being published by Beaten Track Publishing on November 21st, and she came up with the rather wonderful idea of us taking a hop around the characters from our anthology stories.

Last week, Hunter introduced us to the delectable Mitch Sterling - the main character of An Angel in Eyeliner.

Meet Mitch Sterling:

This week, I'm going to introduce you to Jinja, one of the characters in A Midnight Clear - my contribution to Boughs of Evergreen.

The setting of the story is a small northern town in England; it's early December, and bitterly cold. A young, homeless girl arrives in search of food, shelter and the real Santa Claus, and discovers that the spirit of Christmas can be found in the most unexpected of places.

Now, Jinja isn't very good at answering questions, so he's going to tell you all about himself in his own way.

Introducing Jinja

Painting by Akiko Watanabe

Is that what I am now? When they took me from my mummy and brother and sisters, they made a noise at me over and over and I didn't like it. It was the same as the sounds the big dad cats made at home when they were fighting. Ssss...ssss...I don't remember. It was before. I think they wanted me to do something when they made the sound, and all I wanted was to go home. I nearly got there once. Well, no, I didn't. I got to see the other place that they call The Outside, but when I tried to go to The Outside, they lifted me up and put me down in the stones. I didn't like the stones. They were sharp and scratchy. That was before. Then I went to The Outside - I bet now I could stand on the scratchy stones and they wouldn't feel sharp.

So I know what The Outside does. It has cold and wet and dry. The water is flat and spread out and sometimes it is hard and I can't get it. Plus there are lots and lots of insides, but only one Outside. And I know that I am a cat, like the big dad cats, but not as big. I found out that some cats go to an inside, like the cat-he who was like the big orange dad at home. I don't like the big cat-he who chased me. I had to jump a long way up in the air to escape.

There are dogs as well. They are like cats, but not. I saw one that was very, very big and then I saw one that was very, very small - maybe it is a dog kitten - that is what the small ones are called. The dogs like to go to the insides more, but the cats like to come to The Outside more.

The ones that took me away are called peoples. That was before. The other peoples didn't say I was called a cat, or use the angry noises. They said Fleabag. This must mean the same as cat.

I definitely like Jinja more than Fleabag. And I like this people-she who says that I am Jinja. She feels very sad, just like me when they put me in the dark, small inside and took me to a new, big inside, so far away from my mummy and brother and sisters that I couldn't smell them or hear them anymore.

It's good I'm not there now, but something strange has happened. The outside has lost all smells and I don't feel right. The new ground is not as scratchy as the stones, and it is soft, but it is cold and then it is hot and I don't like it. Maybe I can tell this people-she that I want to go to an inside with her. She makes nice sounds and lets me go to her small inside that is warm, and sometimes I put my nose on her face and she is not as sad. I wonder if they put her on the scratchy stones and that is why she went to The Outside? Peoples don't much like The Outside, as far as I can tell.

I think she would like to go to an inside too, because it is very cold and I am scared and feel strange, and she is scared. I know, even though she doesn't make scared noises, and I'm sure we could find The Inside if we try. Cats are meant to find things on their own, but we could look together. In the hot wind it felt like she wanted us to help each other, and I didn't like it at all, but she stopped the cold that was hurting me. I am not frightened when she lifts me up. I feel safe.

So I will be her Jinja and we will go to The Inside together. I will even let her put me on the scratchy stones and listen until I understand what to do. Do I eat them? I could eat them now, if I wasn't so sleepy and if there were smells to find them. They must be under this new white ground that fell from the sky when it was dark. I hope we can go to The Inside soon. I will go after her and tell her.


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Some Other Authors in this Blog Hop

Laura Susan Johnson

Laura Susan Johnson has been writing since age eleven, cutting her teeth on tales of the family pets. Aside from writing, Laura Susan enjoys quilting, playing around with colorful makeup, clothing and hair colors, web design, and vegan cooking. She resides in California, Idaho, Arkansas, and the northern coast of Oregon.

Laura is the author of the novels, Crush, Bright, and other stories that form the series, The House on Glass Beach.

Meet Boyfriend:

Ofelia Gränd

Ofelia Gränd is Swedish through and through. She is constantly thinking of stories she would love to write. Anything and everything is a source of inspiration that has her lost in thought, staring off into space, in no time at all. Sometimes she turns a street corner, and sees a different world. She is often walking around mumbling to herself and her intended characters. Every so often she is painting mental pictures of their appearances, or wishing that she was better at Photoshop, because she knows exactly what the cover of the story in her mind should look like. Real life, however, interferes all too often, and the stories mostly remains unwritten.

In real life, Ofelia is living with her husband and their three children in a small town on the southwestern Swedish coast. When she isn't a stay-at-home mom, she is teaching Swedish and Swedish as a second language to teenagers and adults. She has been thinking about teaching English, but since she isn't fluent in the language, she is sticking to the one she knows well. Therefore, she, more than anyone, is a bit perplexed about why she thought it would be a good idea to try to write in English. But, she'll probably come to her senses - sometime.

Meet Simon:

K.C. Faelan

Many moons ago, with the encouragement of a writer friend, K.C. Faelan wrote her first fanfic story. After a few years, her muse went into hiding, and then suddenly re-emerged, urging KC to participate and write a story for one of the prompts in the Goodreads M/M Romance Group's 2014 Love's Landscapes DRitC event. The story she wrote was "If At First You Don't Succeed," a romantic comedy about established couple, Evan and Julien and their unsuccessful attempts at kinky sex.

KC prefers to write contemporary male romance, but enjoys reading about them in almost every setting from paranormal, to sci-fi to historical backdrops. She loves men, from the Alphas to the omegas, and all the pretty boys in between. Intelligence and humor whet her appetite. Toss in a course of UST, a dash of angst, season with fluffiness, and she dives right in. Oh, and don't forget the extra-large side-helping of sex. For dessert, it's HEA all the way. She loves dark chocolate truffles and candies, and food often plays a part in her stories, and in the ones she enjoys reading.

KC lives in Northern California with her husband and two rescue birds. Their female bird hates women and wishes KC would go play in the middle of traffic or take a long walk off a short pier.

Meet Ryan: