New Release – The Cupcake Conundrum

They say good things come to those who wait and I have a very sweet treat for those of you who have been patiently waiting for my *ahem* Valentine’s Day book.

The Cupcake Conundrum Cover Final

After Hank Edwards and I finished our respective winter holiday stories set in the Williamsville Inn universe, he mentioned he had an idea for Carter, the best friend of the main character in his book Snowflakes and Song Lyrics. He wanted to write a Valentine’s Day book. I considered the idea of writing one but didn’t immediately have any ideas and I really didn’t have time to add it to my schedule. But then one day, it hit me.

I immediately sent a message to Hank: “Aww crap. I have an idea for a Valentine’s Day story.”
He responded with: “Yay! I mean, ahem, oh no!”
I said, “When Seth and Erik from Snowstorms and Second Chances move in together, Seth’s brother Adrian helps him move from NYC to Philly and he meets Seth’s roommate …”

Off I went with the story. Unfortunately, in January, we both stalled. Hank had things in his life he was dealing with, I had a weird case of writer’s block. While I love Seth’s roommate, Ajay Sunagar, he was a complicated character to write. His parents are from India and he had a complicated relationship with them and with his heritage. As Jay told Adrian in the story, “I straddled this weird line of being too brown and Indian for white people and too white and American for the Desi community.”

I wasn’t sure how to write that. I wanted to do justice to how complicated and multi-layered his relationship with his family and his culture was but I was afraid of messing it up. I think somewhere along the line, I psyched myself out of writing completely, afraid I’d screw it up completely. But connecting with a lovely reader from one of the M/M Facebook groups who pointed me in the direction of where to research and answer questions about what it’s like being Indian-American, I made some progress. I sent it off to Hank for some early feedback, which broke through the rest of the block.

I can’t promise I got every aspect of what it’s like to be a second-generation Indian-American gay man perfectly right, and every individual’s experience varies so widely, but I worked very hard to do my best by Jay. And I love him for all of his snarky, sexy sweetness. Adrian is a lovely character too, a single dad who messed up his first shot at a relationship with Jay and who has to make amends for what he did.

While I’m about three months past the Valentine’s Day released I’d hoped to have, I am very happy with the way The Cupcake Conundrum turned out. Getting Adrian and Jay where they needed to be was tough but in the end, I love how it all came together and I hope you’ll enjoy reading the book as much as I love it now!

TCC Quote 3

Buy The Cupcake Conundrum at Amazon or read free through Kindle Unlimited!

The Cupcake Conundrum blurb:

What could be worse than having to spend a week with the man you ghosted?

When Adrian Cobb arrives in New York to help his brother move, he comes face to face with the biggest mistake of his past—a baking conference hookup he rudely ditched a year ago. Now, he’s sharing a guest room with Ajay Sunagar, who looks as tasty as the pastries he bakes, and Adrian desperately wants to prove he can handle the heat this time.

But Jay makes it clear he isn’t ready to forgive and forget Adrian’s bad behavior. None of Adrian’s repeated apologies seem to make a dent in the walls Jay’s put up and Adrian can’t tell if Jay would rather make him grovel or cover Adrian in frosting and lick him all over. Adrian’s afraid that this time, Jay will be the one to walk away—unless Adrian can find a way to make him believe in second chances.

The Cupcake Conundrum” is a sweet-treat story about a single dad, instant attraction, and falling in love all over again that takes place in the Williamsville Inn series world. It features characters from Brigham Vaughn’s Snowstorms and Second Chances, along with Snowflakes and Song Lyrics and The Cupid Crawl by Hank Edwards.

 


Excerpt from The Cupcake Conundrum:

“Jay?” Adrian said hoarsely.

“Adrian.” The blood had drained from Jay’s face, making his normally rich brown skin tone look almost chalky. But he looked every bit as handsome as he had when Adrian had first seen him a little over a year ago.

“Wait, you two know each other?” Seth’s voice snapped Adrian out of the daze he’d been immersed in.

“Yeah, you could say that,” Jay said. His jaw was clenched and he’d gone completely stone-faced. The warm brown eyes Adrian had loved looking into as Jay fucked him sent an icy shiver down his back now. Double shit.

“What? How?” Seth asked.

“The baking expo!” Adrian blurted out. Seth blinked at his loud tone, and Adrian winced, then cleared his throat. “You remember that international baking expo I went to last year?”

“Here in New York? Yeah. I was mad because you said you were going to visit me while you were here but you punked out on me.”

Adrian had punked out on him because he’d been in bed with Jay. He just hadn’t mentioned that part to his brother. He’d never mentioned Jay at all until today.

“Yeah, you’ll apparently never let me forget it either.”

“Nope. But so … what does that have to do with Jay?” Seth’s puzzled expression smoothed out. “Oh, you met there, huh? Well, that makes sense. Cool. What a small world!”

“Yeah, sure is,” Jay said with a scowl as he brushed past.

Grab your copy of The Cupcake Conundrum now!

And please, once you finish reading, take a few moments to review on Amazon, Goodreads, and/or BookBub! Every review is deeply appreciated.

Looking Back at 2019

This past year was a very productive one for me. I wrote and released a brand-new novel to kick off The West Hills series, the second book in my lesbian Colors series, two novels in my co-written The Speakeasy series with K Evan Coles, the third novel in my Midwest series, and a holiday novella in a shared universe with Hank Edwards.

2019 Recap (1).jpg

In addition, I have two more books that are around the 2/3 complete mark so there will be plenty to come in the new year. But before I dive into 2020, let’s recap all that happened in 2019.

I celebrated my six-year publishing anniversary in December.

I attended a record number of author events this year, including Pride Events, Penguicon, and the Gay Romance and Literature Convention in Albuquerque. I sold a record number of paperbacks, more than doubling the number I sold in the previous year.

My fan group increased in size and K Evan and I reached an amazing milestone with our joint newsletter. I taught myself how to make my Amazon and BookBub ads more effective.

I found new ways to build on the organizational plans I made last year and came up with some new ideas for how to continue that in 2020. I worked on building better reader engagement in my fan group and giving back to readers so they know how much I appreciate all they do to help support my writing.

I signed a contract to have my holiday story translated into French. It’ll be released next winter as apart of an amazing anthology and I am very excited about that.

Writing more books and enrolling them in Kindle Unlimited allowed me to more than triple my writing income.

This chart shows my sales from January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2019.

2018-2019

Much of the profit I made was rolled back into things I desperately needed like a new laptop, desk chair, and ads. As I said last year, it’s all relative. I’m nowhere near where I need to be (namely, living somewhere other than my parents’ house) but I am leaps and bounds ahead of where I was last year. The trajectory for everything is upward and I know I’m on the right track.

I have a lot of hope that I can build this into the career I’ve always dreamed of.

Being a full-time author is still a hard job but I love it every bit as much as I did in the beginning.

I still love creating characters and stories and making them come alive. I love the feedback from readers and the connections I make with them through my books. I love that I have the opportunity to keep trying to support myself. It’s an amazing feeling to check my dashboard and see that I am reaching more readers. My books are finding their way to more people. I’m incredibly proud of what I’ve accomplished.

So once again, I want to thank all of you who helped me get there this year. K. Evan Coles, my co-author for more things than I can possibly sum up in a few lines. My parents for allowing me to pursue this crazy dream. My friends who cheer me on. The bloggers and reviewers and organizers and every single person who shared my book releases and helped spread the word about my books. My beta readers and my editors for making my books better. And all you readers. Because your joy in my stories is what keeps me going.

2017 and 2018 were tough for me but by the end of last year, I was beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. In 2019, I moved forward with a lot more hope and confidence than I’d felt in a very long time.

So I’m going into 2020 with even more optimism and a plan to keep building on what I’ve laid the foundation for in the past two years. And a lot of hope and determination to make it all happen.

I can do this. I just need to keep trying.

I’m eager for what 2020 will bring and I look forward to celebrating the new successes next year. There’s so much to look forward to.

 

New Release – The Speakeasy #2 Extra Dirty

In addition to releasing “The Ghosts Between Us”, my co-written novel with K. Evan Coles was released!

It’s the second book in The Speakeasy series. The books in the series can be read as standalone stories, but if you haven’t read the first book and you’d like to, here is some more information about “With a Twist“!

If you’ve been eagerly waiting for Cam and Jesse’s story, here it is!

ExtraDirty_9781786517098_Ebook_1500x2400.jpg

Title: Extra Dirty

Author Name: K. Evan Coles and Brigham Vaughn

Tagline: Love, served extra dirty.

Series: The Speakeasy, #2

While the stories in this series are connected, each book features a new couple and can be read as a stand-alone.

Summary:

Jesse Murtagh loves his life as a wealthy bisexual businessman dedicated to the pursuit of pleasure. With a circle of friends he trusts implicitly, he enjoys a successful career in his family’s business and as co-owner of Under, an uptown speakeasy, with his friend with benefits, Kyle McKee.

Music teacher and part-time DJ Cameron Lewis lives modestly in a DUMBO loft and isn’t interested in serious relationships. However, he’s always up for some casual fun.

Doing a favor for his friend Carter Hamilton, Jesse meets Cam and is immediately charmed. When Jesse discovers Cam’s other life as a DJ, he is further intrigued. Viewing Cam as a challenge, Jesse pulls out all the stops, but his usual methods to avoid serious relationships fail. Though Cam has no intention of becoming attached, he begins to fall for Jesse, unaware that Jesse’s feelings are changing.

Afraid of heartbreak, Cam pulls away, leaving Jesse bewildered and hurt. They remain friends until a series of misunderstandings widens the rift to breaking point. When Cam steps in to help Jesse through a family crisis, they realize they care for each other more than they’ve been willing to admit. Jesse and Cam don’t want a traditional relationship, but can they build a future that makes them both happy?

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of mmm ménage as well as references to homophobia and recreational drug use.

Publisher: Pride Publishing/Totally Entwined Group

Publication Date: March 26, 2019

Word Count /or Page Number: 89k + words

Formats/Price: eBook – $4.99 Available on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited

54424809_575552412921205_6600153136562700288_n.jpg

Purchase “Extra Dirty” from the publisher:Pridelogo

or your favorite book retailer:

Books2Read Button

Add on Goodreads: 

goodreads-logo-square

Add on BookBub:

BookBub-logo

 

New Release – The Ghosts Between Us

Somehow in the excitement of “The Ghosts Between Us” being released, I forgot to blog about it. Whoops?

But if you did miss the news, the book is now live on Amazon and available on KU/Kindle.

Ghosts Between Us Cover (1).jpg

Title: The Ghosts Between Us

Author Name: Brigham Vaughn

Tagline: From Loss, A New Beginning

Series: The West Hills (Book 1)

While the stories in this series are connected, each book features a new couple and can be read as a stand-alone.

Summary:

Dr. Christopher Allen knows how to deal with death. He’s a psychiatrist who works with hospice patients and their families, helping them cope with grief and letting go. But Chris’s job doesn’t prepare him for the sudden death of his devil-may-care brother Cal.

At Cal’s funeral, Chris is completely thrown when he meets Elliot Rawlings, an artist Cal has been dating. Chris is hurt to discover that the brother he knew as straight was actually bisexual. Elliot is angry and resentful of having been kept hidden from Cal’s family.

After the funeral, a night of drinking at the bar with Cal’s friends leads to Chris and Elliot falling into bed together.  The next morning, they’re overwhelmed by guilt and grief and agree to never speak of it again.

But Cal’s apartment needs to be packed up and Elliot reluctantly agrees to help Chris, as well as answer some questions about Cal’s life and their relationship. Despite their guilt and initial dislike for one another, they sort through the pieces of Cal’s life and begin to fall for each other.

Despite his best efforts to fix things, Chris’s family seems to be crumbling around him and he begins to question who he is and what his role with them is.  As his feelings for Elliot grow, Chris must decide if they’re worth further damaging his fragile relationships with his friends and family.

Elliot’s rough upbringing has left him distrustful of getting close to anyone, much less another man who isn’t willing to acknowledge him in public. The odds seem stacked against Chris and Elliot, but if they can overcome them, they may be able to lay Cal’s ghost to rest, along with their own demons.

Publisher: Two Peninsulas Press (Indie/Self-Published)

Publication Date: February 26, 2019

Word Count /or Page Number: 130k + words

Formats/Price: eBook – $5.99 Available on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited

 

BGU IG Promo 4.jpg

Readers are loving “The Ghosts Between Us” and you will too!

Add on Goodreads: 

goodreads-logo-square

Add on BookBub:

BookBub-logo

Buy on Amazon

amazon-logo-preview

 

Coming Soon – The Ghosts Between Us

If it feels like I’ve been teasing you with promises of this book for years, it’s because, well, I have. Somewhere about five years ago, the idea for it popped into my head. I jotted a few things down and then went on to work on other projects. Slowly, over that time, I’ve worked on the story. I did it in fits and starts as I struggled with it. First titled, “In Mourning” it slowly morphed into a massively long novel that explores grief, family, relationships, and love.

To be honest, it’s felt like a story I had to grow into. Both as an author and as a human. There were life experiences I needed to have along with writing skills I needed to develop. This story refused to be ready because I wasn’t ready.

But in a sudden burst of both inspiration and motivation, it came together. My beta readers returned it with some helpful suggestions for how to tweak and polish it, and a blog tour is being arranged.

I am truly excited to share this book with you–maybe more so than with any other book I’ve previously written–because I am so proud of it. I love the characters and I love the story and it was a real stretch for me as an author. I hope you’ll keep an eye out for it next month when it’s available because I know you’re going to love it as much as I do.

Ghosts Between Us Cover (1).jpg

Title: The Ghosts Between Us

Author Name: Brigham Vaughn

Tagline: From Loss, A New Beginning

Series: The West Hills (Book 1)

While the stories in this series are connected, each book features a new couple and can be read as a stand-alone.

Summary:

Dr. Christopher Allen knows how to deal with death. He’s a psychiatrist who works with hospice patients and their families, helping them cope with grief and letting go. But Chris’s job doesn’t prepare him for the sudden death of his devil-may-care brother Cal.

At Cal’s funeral, Chris is completely thrown when he meets Elliot Rawlings, an artist Cal has been dating. Chris is hurt to discover that the brother he knew as straight was actually bisexual. Elliot is angry and resentful of having been kept hidden from Cal’s family.

After the funeral, a night of drinking at the bar with Cal’s friends leads to Chris and Elliot falling into bed together.  The next morning, they’re overwhelmed by guilt and grief and agree to never speak of it again.

But Cal’s apartment needs to be packed up and Elliot reluctantly agrees to help Chris, as well as answer some questions about Cal’s life and their relationship. Despite their guilt and initial dislike for one another, they sort through the pieces of Cal’s life and begin to fall for each other.

Despite his best efforts to fix things, Chris’s family seems to be crumbling around him and he begins to question who he is and what his role with them is.  As his feelings for Elliot grow, Chris must decide if they’re worth further damaging his fragile relationships with his friends and family.

Elliot’s rough upbringing has left him distrustful of getting close to anyone, much less another man who isn’t willing to acknowledge him in public. The odds seem stacked against Chris and Elliot, but if they can overcome them, they may be able to lay Cal’s ghost to rest, along with their own demons.

Publisher: Two Peninsulas Press (Indie/Self-Published)

Publication Date: February 26, 2019

Word Count /or Page Number: 130k + words

Formats/Price: eBook – $5.99 Available on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43690574-the-ghosts-between-us

 


The pre-order for this book won’t be available until February 22, but if you want to be notified about The Ghosts Between Us when it goes live there are two options!

Follow on Amazon

amazon-logo-preview

Sign up for the Coles & Vaughn Newsletter

Logo 2-5

 

Looking Back at 2018

2018.jpg

This past year was a productive one for me. I released a poly novella, took three short stories I’d previously released as a novella and turned them into an mm novella. I released an mm novel and a short paranormal mm story with K. Evan Coles. Released an mm solo novel, took two novels and turned them into a single very long mm novel, re-released a mm holiday short story, and wrote an mm YA holiday short story.

Am I tired? Well, yeah. My brain is pretty full these days and the hours I put in are long.

But it’s been an interesting year. Since I began the writing full-time journey in mid-2015, my sales have steadily declined. Some of it was because the market had changed and my divorce took me away from that at a critical time. I needed time to recover emotionally and then I took some more time to take care of myself better physically. But even once I got back to writing, it wasn’t working anymore. I had missed so much and I felt like I could never get back on track.

Book releases were flat and disappointing. Nowhere near where they’d been before and not even close to allowing me enough to move out of my parents’ house. I’ve been here for three years now, far longer than I thought I’d be. Several times I’ve reached a point where I seriously considered throwing in the towel and finding a new career. Nothing I tried was working.

I got progressively more and more frustrated until about August. I knew I wasn’t as organized and focused as I needed to be. I complained to someone I was dating at the time and he said, “I can help.” His career requires him to manage a ton of projects with shifting deadlines and multiple stages of work–pretty applicable to being an author.

So we sat down and he helped me create a paper calendar with color-coded sticky notes that’s infinitely flexible. I organized current projects and also laid out a plan for which books to tackle next. It’s glorious. And as I moved forward with that, I stopped feeling like I was flailing around with no focus. I had a plan and a way to achieve it.

I decided that this was it. My final shot to see if I could make a living at writing.

I wasn’t thrilled about putting books in Kindle Unlimited. I’ve never loved the idea of being exclusive to Amazon, even if it’s only a 90 day period, but I had to decide which I felt more strongly about. I could live with putting books in KU. I couldn’t live with giving up on my career.

KU Releases.jpg

So I did a shitload of research and threw everything at the wall to figure out what worked. Since September, I’ve put five books in Kindle Unlimited, organized two PW giveaways to build up the following for my newsletter with K. Evan Coles, started experimenting with BookBub and Amazon ads, ran a Kindle Countdown Deal promo, took part in a ridiculous amount of Facebook events and group takeovers, and generally pushed myself as hard as I possibly could without burning out.

Some of it fizzled, but you know what? Overall, it worked. Sales have dramatically increased since September.

12-31

Now, it’s all relative. It’s still a fraction of what I made working for a hospital in a relatively low paying job. I’m still wildly below the poverty line. But it gives me hope.

I finally, finally–for the first time since I quit that hospital job–feel like I’m on the right track again. It gives me hope that as long as I keep writing and releasing books on a regular basis (I have a plan for that!) and trying new things, I have a chance of getting there.

Being a full-time author is a fucking hard job. I’m not going to sugarcoat it in any way. The hours are long, the amount of time I spend working and thinking about what I need to be working on are ridiculous.

48366962_1955803867870335_2082431450564526080_n

That meme is painfully accurate.

But I love what I do and I’m going to fight to keep doing it. I love creating characters and stories and making them come alive. I love the feedback from readers and the connections I make with them through my books. I love that I have the opportunity to keep trying to support myself. It’s an amazing feeling to check my dashboard and see that I am reaching more readers. My books are finding their way to more people. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished.

So I want to thank all of you who helped me get there. K. Evan Coles, my co-author, has done so much to help me. Enough I could write an entire post about, but there isn’t time for that. So I’ll just say I’m deeply grateful for her. I’m thankful for my parents allowing me to live with them rent-free while I struggle at this. I’m thankful for all my friends who let me vent. For the bloggers and reviewers and organizers and every single person who shared my book releases and helped me do this. I appreciate my beta readers and my editors. And I appreciate you readers. Because your joy in my stories is what keeps me going.

I’m ending a very tough year on a high note and a lot of hope.

I don’t know what next year is going to bring and I know I have a shitload of work ahead of me. But I have a plan and a renewed sense of determination that 2019 will be better than 2018.

And I can work with that.

 

Too Many Choices

AdobeStock_66784812.jpeg

I’ve been working on the novel “In Mourning” for several years now. It’s finally coming together (I’m over 82k and it will likely end up between 100-110k when it’s complete).

One thing I’m still struggling with is the point of view and tense and I could really use your help deciding which to go with! I’ve taken the first 556 words of the story and created four different versions. Each is labeled with the PoV and the tense. Just comment below or go to my Facebook fan group to let me know which you like best!

____________________________________________________________________________________________

1st Person Present Tense

The wind whips his hair across his face, and he lifts a bare hand to brush it away. The same bitter, late-January wind snakes under the scarf I wear, chilling the sliver of skin between the collar of my shirt and my hairline. I shudder and huddle into my scarf, jamming my hands into the pockets of my overcoat. Heavy, dark wool or not, it isn’t doing a damn thing to keep me warm. The man I’ve been watching doesn’t seem affected by the temperature at all.

A muffled sob from my mother makes me glance away from him. My father’s arm tightens around her shoulder and she leans in to him, resting her head against his shoulder. The aching hole in my chest widens into a chasm at the sight of the casket in front of us.

Because God has chosen to call our brother, Calvin James Allen, from this life to Himself, we commit his body to the earth, for we are dust and onto dust we shall return.

But the Lord Jesus will change our mortal bodies to be like His in glory, for He is risen, the firstborn of the dead. So let us commend our brother to the Lord, that the Lord may embrace him in peace and raise up his body on the last day.

The priest’s voice drones on as tears clog my throat. Why, Cal? I wonder. Why the hell did you have to die? You were only twenty-eight!

 Unable to stand the sight of his casket for another second, I look out over the crowd and across the wind-whipped landscape. Mt. Calvary cemetery is perched in the West Hills of Portland with views of the Columbia River, Mt. Ranier, and Mt. St. Helen’s. If Cal has to be buried anywhere, at least it’s a beautiful place. I choke on the thought, unable to comprehend that it’s my baby brother we’re burying.

My gaze sweeps across the bevy of female mourners across the casket from me. There is no rhyme or reason to them, no unifying thread. A crunchy granola hippie chick stands between two women who could have been supermodels. It’s so Cal. He charmed everyone and he’d happily slept with any woman who caught his interest and returned it. Hell, one of them is clearly the Mrs. Robinson type, and at least twenty years Cal’s senior. Cal didn’t really have the attention span for long-term relationships, so most were probably one night stands or short, casual relationships, and yet, they’ve braved the cold January drizzle and look devastated by his death. He inspired that in people.

His male friends are easy to spot as well, all sporty, adventure-seeking types like Cal had been and those friends were grieving hard. But one man stood out and I find my gaze repeatedly returning to him. He’s tall, lean to the point of being lanky, with tangled black hair and sharp, high cheekbones. He’s young—early twenties at most—and almost androgynous looking. Dressed less formally than the majority of the mourners, he stands out in his black beanie and black peacoat layered over a grey hoodie. But it isn’t so much his dress as his expression that strikes me. He looks gutted, his eyes hollow and distant as he stares at the casket.

He looks the way I feel.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

1st Person Past Tense

The wind whipped his hair across his face, and he lifted a bare hand to brush it away. The same bitter, late-January wind snaked under the scarf I wore, chilling the sliver of skin between the collar of my shirt and my hairline. I shuddered and huddled into my scarf, jamming my hands into the pockets of my overcoat. Heavy, dark wool or not, it wasn’t doing a damn thing to keep me warm. The man I’d been watching didn’t seem affected by the temperature at all.

A muffled sob from my mother made me glance away from him. My father’s arm tightened around her shoulder and she leaned in to him, resting her head against his shoulder. The aching hole in my chest widened into a chasm at the sight of the casket in front of us.

Because God has chosen to call our brother, Calvin James Allen, from this life to Himself, we commit his body to the earth, for we are dust and onto dust we shall return. 

But the Lord Jesus will change our mortal bodies to be like His in glory, for He is risen, the firstborn of the dead. So let us commend our brother to the Lord, that the Lord may embrace him in peace and raise up his body on the last day.

The priest’s voice droned on as tears clogged in my throat. Why, Cal? I wondered. Why the hell did you have to die? You were only twenty-eight!

 Unable to stand the sight of his casket for another second, I looked out over the crowd and across the wind-whipped landscape. Mt. Calvary cemetery was perched in the West Hills of Portland with views of the Columbia River, Mt. Ranier, and Mt. St. Helen’s. If Cal had to be buried anywhere, at least it was a beautiful place. I choked on the thought, unable to comprehend that it was my baby brother we were burying.

My gaze swept across the bevy of female mourners across the casket from me. There was no rhyme or reason to them, no unifying thread. A crunchy granola hippie chick stood between two women who could have been supermodels. It was so Cal. He charmed everyone and he’d happily slept with any woman who caught his interest and returned it. Hell, one of them was clearly the Mrs. Robinson type, and at least twenty years Cal’s senior. Cal didn’t really have the attention span for long-term relationships, so most were probably one night stands or short, casual relationships, and yet, they’d braved the cold January drizzle and looked devastated by his death. He inspired that in people.

His male friends were easy to spot as well, all sporty, adventure-seeking types like Cal had been and those friends were grieving hard. But one man stood out and I found my gaze repeatedly returning to him. He was tall, lean to the point of being lanky, with tangled black hair and sharp, high cheekbones. He was young—early twenties at most—and almost androgynous looking. Dressed less formally than the majority of the mourners, he stood out in his black beanie and black peacoat layered over a grey hoodie. But it wasn’t so much his dress as his expression that struck me. He looked gutted, his eyes hollow and distant as he stared at the casket.

He looked the way I felt.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

3rd Person Present Tense

The wind whips his hair across his face, and he lifts a bare hand to brush it away. The same bitter, late-January wind snakes under the scarf Chris wore, chilling the sliver of skin between the collar of his shirt and his hairline. He shudders and huddles into his scarf, jamming his hands into the pockets of his overcoat. Heavy, dark wool or not, it isn’t doing a damn thing to keep him warm. The man he’s been watching doesn’t seem affected by the temperature at all.

A muffled sob from his mother makes Chris glance away from him. HIs father’s arm tightens around her shoulder and she leans in to him, resting her head against his shoulder. The aching hole in Chris’s chest widens into a chasm at the sight of the casket in front of them.

Because God has chosen to call our brother, Calvin James Allen, from this life to Himself, we commit his body to the earth, for we are dust and onto dust we shall return.

But the Lord Jesus will change our mortal bodies to be like His in glory, for He is risen, the firstborn of the dead. So let us commend our brother to the Lord, that the Lord may embrace him in peace and raise up his body on the last day.

The priest’s voice drones on as tears clog Chris’s throat. Why, Cal? he wonders. Why the hell did you have to die? You were only twenty-eight!

 Unable to stand the sight of his casket for another second, Chris looks out over the crowd and across the wind-whipped landscape. Mt. Calvary cemetery is perched in the West Hills of Portland with views of the Columbia River, Mt. Ranier, and Mt. St. Helen’s. If Cal has to be buried anywhere, at least it’s a beautiful place. He chokes on the thought, unable to comprehend that it’s his baby brother they’re burying.

Chris’s gaze sweeps across the bevy of female mourners across the casket from him. There’s no rhyme or reason to them, no unifying thread. A crunchy granola hippie chick stands between two women who could have been supermodels. It’s so Cal. He charmed everyone and he’d happily slept with any woman who caught his interest and returned it. Hell, one of them is clearly the Mrs. Robinson type, and at least twenty years Cal’s senior. Cal didn’t really have the attention span for long-term relationships, so most were probably one night stands or short, casual relationships, and yet, they’ve braved the cold January drizzle and look devastated by his death. He inspired that in people.

His male friends are easy to spot as well, all sporty, adventure-seeking types like Cal had been and those friends are grieving hard. But one man stands out and Chris finds his gaze repeatedly returning to him. He’s tall, lean to the point of being lanky, with tangled black hair and sharp, high cheekbones. He’s young—early twenties at most—and almost androgynous looking. Dressed less formally than the majority of the mourners, he stands out in his black beanie and black peacoat layered over a grey hoodie. But it isn’t so much his dress as his expression that strikes Chris. He looks gutted, his eyes hollow and distant as he stares at the casket.

He looks the way Chris feels.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

3rd Person, Past Tense

The wind whipped his hair across his face, and he lifted a bare hand to brush it away. The same bitter, late-January wind snaked under the scarf Chris wore, chilling the sliver of skin between the collar of his shirt and his hairline. He shuddered and huddled into his scarf, jamming his hands into the pockets of his overcoat. Heavy, dark wool or not, it wasn’t doing a damn thing to keep him warm. The man he’d been watching didn’t seem affected by the temperature at all.

A muffled sob from his mother made Chris glance away from him. HIs father’s arm tightened around her shoulder and she leaned in to him, resting her head against his shoulder. The aching hole in Chris’s chest widened into a chasm at the sight of the casket in front of them.

Because God has chosen to call our brother, Calvin James Allen, from this life to Himself, we commit his body to the earth, for we are dust and onto dust we shall return.

But the Lord Jesus will change our mortal bodies to be like His in glory, for He is risen, the firstborn of the dead. So let us commend our brother to the Lord, that the Lord may embrace him in peace and raise up his body on the last day.

The priest’s voice droned on as tears clogged in Chris’s throat. Why, Cal? he wondered. Why the hell did you have to die? You were only twenty-eight!

Unable to stand the sight of his casket for another second, Chris looked out over the crowd and across the wind-whipped landscape. Mt. Calvary cemetery was perched in the West Hills of Portland with views of the Columbia River, Mt. Ranier, and Mt. St. Helen’s. If Cal had to be buried anywhere, at least it was a beautiful place. He choked on the thought, unable to comprehend that it was his baby brother they were burying.

Chris’s gaze swept across the bevy of female mourners across the casket from him. There was no rhyme or reason to them, no unifying thread. A crunchy granola hippie chick stood between two women who could have been supermodels. It was so Cal. He charmed everyone and he’d happily slept with any woman who caught his interest and returned it. Hell, one of them was clearly the Mrs. Robinson type, and at least twenty years Cal’s senior. Cal didn’t really have the attention span for long-term relationships, so most were probably one night stands or short, casual relationships, and yet, they’d braved the cold January drizzle and looked devastated by his death. He inspired that in people.

His male friends were easy to spot as well, all sporty, adventure-seeking types like Cal had been and those friends were grieving hard. But one man stood out and Chris found his gaze repeatedly returning to him. He was tall, lean to the point of being lanky, with tangled black hair and sharp, high cheekbones. He was young—early twenties at most—and almost androgynous looking. Dressed less formally than the majority of the mourners, he stood out in his black beanie and black peacoat layered over a grey hoodie. But it wasn’t so much his dress as his expression that struck Chris. He looked gutted, his eyes hollow and distant as he stared at the casket.

He looked the way Chris felt.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

Which version do you like best?

Doc Brodie and the Big Thank You

In the past few months, I’ve thought a lot about where I’m going with my writing career and if I’m really cut out to be a full-time author.

Sales for “Connection” were subpar (my own fault for not promoting it adequately). Sales for “Trust” were better (but being the second book in a series I hadn’t promoted enough made them less than stellar). Sales of my backlist were solid; enough to pay the bills while I’m living with my parents, but certainly not enough to pay rent if I moved out.

When road blocks hit as I was writing “Push & Pull” (the second in the Midwest series) I began to panic. What if I’d been fooling myself? What if I wasn’t cut out to be a writer at all? With depressing thoughts of having to get at least a part-time job again whirling in my head, I gave myself an ultimatum. If my next two releases didn’t do well, I’d look for the part-time job. In the meantime, I’d stop panicking about the fact that I’m only a few months away from having lived with my parents for a year. My goal was six months.

I threw myself into getting print books out and writing “Doc Brodie”. I contacted Rachel Maybury of Signal Boost Promotions and planned a Book Blitz and Review Tour to get the word out to new blogs and readers. After a minor panic when the first two days of sales for “Doc Brodie” were sub-par, a kind word from a fellow author prompted me to take a look at my pricing. I realized that based on the length of the novella, I’d set my price too high. I adjusted that and since then, the book has been flying off the (metaphorical) shelves!

Sometimes it’s hard to know what exactly leads to good sales. The time of year, the type of book, what else is going on in the world, along with a host of other factors can greatly influence sales. In general, the summer is a good time for shorter, lighter reads so I think that certainly helped with Doc Brodie sales. I wish I could say that it was because it was such an amazing book, but I know book quality is not always correlated to sales numbers. I am certainly proud of “Doc Brodie” and I never put out anything but my best effort, but I know I still have a lot to learn.  Unfortunately, I know very talented authors whose books don’t sell well.

In the two-and-a-half years since I published my first short story, the biggest thing I’ve learned is that marketing makes a big difference. In the list of people I want to thank for Doc Brodie’s success, Rachel Maybury is definitely one of them. I can’t recommend her highly enough. Her fee was reasonable, she was timely in responding to questions, and I feel she more than delivered what she promised. While it’s difficult to say exactly how much her marketing contributed to the book’s success, I honestly believe it played a substantial part in the fact that Doc Brodie sold more copies in the first month than any previous book I’ve released!

The book’s success puts me in a solid place to focus on “Push & Pull” (with a tentative September release) and I am hopeful that as long as that goes well I will be able to move out sometime this fall. *crosses fingers*

AdobeStock_97032783 (1).jpg

 

This blog post is my very long-winded way of saying thank you to all of the people who helped with the book. In addition to Rachel, I’d like to thank Allison Hickman and Helena Stone for their beta work, Sally Hopkinson for her editing, Jessica Stuhr Kurvers and Amy Keating Casey for the proofreading help, and the handful of pre-release reviewers from my private Facebook group. And of course, huge thanks to the bloggers and readers who reviewed and spread the word about the story. Much love and appreciation to all of you. I simply cannot thank you enough. ❤

 

Delays and Good News

If you’re a member of my Facebook fan group, Brigham’s Book Nerds, or a friend on Facebook, you’ve probably seen me mention that “Push & Pull”–the second book in The Midwest Series–is stalled. I’m at about 30,000 words but getting to that point has been like pulling teeth and I am still struggling to figure out what I’m doing wrong.

The added pressure of knowing that I need to release on a timely schedule (so, hopefully, I can sell enough books and move out of my parents’ house) is not helping.

There are other things demanding my attention as well. The Italian translation of “Equals” will be coming out soon. I am formatting and making covers for the print copies of “Bully & Exit”, “Connection”, and “Trust” and hoping to have them available to sell at Ferndale Pride on June 4th.

Good things are happening and I am certainly continuing to work hard, but I came to the realization that I need to set “Push & Pull” aside for a little while. I’m not hearing Lowell’s voice at the moment and he’s such a wonderful character that I don’t want to shortchange his story. In order to keep the release pressure at bay, I am dusting off an old novella. It’s a funny, sweet erotic romance that I wrote several years ago.

At the moment, it is a solid story of 12,000 words. I dusted it off this morning and plan to flesh it out a bit further and turn it into a novella of roughly 25k.

Working on the new novella feels like a breath of fresh air after the stagnant struggles of “Push & Pull” and I am confident that the story will be ready for release in a few weeks. That will take the pressure off me and allow me to take a sorely-needed break from “Push & Pull.” I will never abandon Lowell and Brent, but I’m going to set them aside for a short while. Hopefully, when I come back, I will know what I need to do to fix the plot problems and finish the story!

In the meantime, there’s a new novella coming your way soon!

Doc Brody and the Big, Purple Cat Toy

Doc Brody.jpg

Can a tabby cat with an appetite for silicone toys bring together a lonely computer programmer and a hot veterinarian looking for love?

“Trust” Takes Time

I’ve had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach for the last few weeks. The closer I get to the release date for “Trust”, the worse it gets.

I’ll be perfectly frank; I rushed the release for “Connection”. The story itself was solid, but I didn’t focus enough on promotion and my sales reflected that. I honestly believe a few more weeks of planning could have made a big difference.

This new reality of writing full time is an adjustment. It means stepping up my game as an author. Working harder, learning more, planning better.

I’ve been feeling under the weather since last week and spent the last couple of days in bed feeling like death warmed over. My betas have been busting their butts to get “Trust” back to me, but life happens and it took everyone a bit longer than planned.  Now that I’m well again I could rush through edits and probably get it done in time. I could probably even do a good job of it, but there’s always the risk I’d cut a corner I shouldn’t. I don’t want to do a good job, I want to do a great job.

 

There’s a lot more to writing than just getting words on paper. Especially when self-publishing. Most of it happens behind the scenes.  Where I update the backmatter in my books so readers can see what else I have to offer. When I plan promotions and connect with review blogs. If I don’t work at that, no one will be there to read my work.

I don’t mind it at all and I am happy to do the work. Hell, the most frustrating day as a writer still beats the best day at my former day job, but it does require an enormous amount of planning and time.

In light of that, the release date of “Trust” is going to be pushed back by a few weeks. I had planned to release it on December 30th. The new date will be January 28th.

Cover Final.jpg

I hate the delay. I am so excited about this story and I want all of you to read and enjoy it.  But I don’t want to cut corners on either end of things. I don’t want to rush through edits and put out a story I’m not 100% confident about. And I don’t want to release it without being sure that it gets to as many readers as possible.

So I’m trusting my gut and giving myself a few extra weeks to get this book in order.

My deepest apologies to those of you who have been anxiously waiting for “Trust” to come out. I promise I’ll do everything I can to make it worth the wait.