Trust Release – Love is Not a Cure-All

Cover Final

I am so excited to share “Trust” with you. I adore Evan and Jeremy and telling their story was wonderfully challenging for me as a writer. “Connection” and “Trust” both required a lot of research to get the details right. In addition, taking two bruised and battered men and bringing them to a point where they were healed enough to have a realistic and healthy HEA was an interesting struggle.

Love is amazing. It’s one of the best things out there as far as I’m concerned. But it doesn’t conquer all. It doesn’t fix gaping wounds.  In some cases, it can bandage them enough to allow time and proper treatment to heal them. It can inspire a person to work harder, be better, fix their own problems. But on it’s own it is not enough.

You’ll probably never read a book of mine where love is the cure-all. The idea that humans must heal themselves is too deeply rooted in my beliefs. Sure, I’ll write characters who make decisions I’ll never make. I will write awful, abusive characters like Evan’s father Jimmie. I’ll write horrible, neglectful characters like Jeremy’s parents, Kevin and Barbara.

But I won’t write main characters whose lives are magically fixed by love. That’s too easy and too unrealistic; it’s not what romance is about to me. To, me the beauty of a story lies in the struggle. Characters learning and growing and changing is what fascinates me.

It took me nearly 145,000 words and the better part of a year (in the story) to get Evan and Jeremy to a point where their HEA felt believable to me. Evan seeing past Jeremy’s scars didn’t cure Jeremy’s discomfort with them. However, it allowed Jeremy to work with his therapist to come to terms with them. Would Jeremy have done it without Evan’s love? Probably not.

Would Evan have been strong enough to tell his mother how he deserved to be treated if not for Jeremy’s love? I doubt it. But Jeremy’s love didn’t cause that, it merely created a safe place for Evan to flourish and grow.

Looking further out, I could argue that Russ and Stephen’s love for Evan and Jeremy was equally crucial for their growth. Because romantic love is only a part of what these men were looking for. All four of them were searching for love and connection. For family and trust and equality. And, in the end, I think that’s what all human beings are searching for.

We want to surround ourselves with people who love and support us. Who create the kind of environment where we can become the best possible versions of ourselves. Who love us, but know that we are the ones who need to do the real work. Who give us that opportunity and are proud of us when we achieve it.

Who love us and let us grow.

Summary:

Evan Harris thinks his relationship with Jeremy Lewis is going well.  But when Jeremy bolts, Evan is left nursing a broken heart. Jeremy loves Evan, but his inability to trust holds him back from facing his past head on and building the future he desperately wants. Evan’s patience is at the breaking point, and he struggles to decide if Jeremy deserves another chance.

Evan Harris thinks his relationship with Jeremy Lewis is going well.  But when Jeremy bolts, Evan is left nursing a broken heart. Jeremy loves Evan, but his inability to trust holds him back from facing his past head on and building the future he desperately wants. Evan’s patience is at the breaking point, and he struggles to decide if Jeremy deserves another chance.

Scarred by his own parents’ treatment of him, Jeremy doesn’t trust Evan’s mother’s motives when she reappears in Evan’s life after his father lands in jail. The ensuing disagreement about his concerns puts further pressure on their developing relationship.

Unless Jeremy can learn to trust and Evan can let go of past hurts, they’ll miss out on the relationship they’ve both been searching for.

Excerpt:

Jeremy wrestled his shoe on and stood. He swayed on his feet for a second as his skin went chalky again. Evan reached for him, but Jeremy shook him off. His anger seemed to dissipate as his shoulders dropped and his voice softened slightly. “Look, it’s time you find out what the rest of the world is like. Go meet guys, go be young and stupid.” He ran his thumb across Evan’s cheek, his smile sad and wistful. “Just not too stupid.”

Evan stared at him. “And what will you being doing?”

Jeremy’s voice came out gruff. “Feeling lucky I was your first for a few things.”

“Don’t do this, Jeremy.” Evan hated the way he sounded, like he was pleading with him. He wanted to drop to his knees and beg Jeremy to stay, but he was afraid that would only make things work. That it would make Evan seem weak in Jeremy’s eyes. “Please.”

“I can’t be the guy you’re looking for,” Jeremy murmured. “You have no idea how much I wish I could, but it’s not possible.”

“Why?” He winced, hating the way his voice cracked. “I don’t understand.”

“I’m too … damaged and I have too much of my own shit to deal with. I can barely manage to give you a handjob much less anything else. I’m not able to be what you need. I’d be a shitty boyfriend.”

Evan straightened and brushed away the tears. “What if—if you didn’t have to commit to me and we … we slept together. It wouldn’t have to mean anything. Give me rules about where I can touch you. You can keep your pants on. I don’t care.” Right then, he wanted anything, whatever Jeremy would give him.

Anything but losing him.

“I’m in no shape for sex and you deserve a hell of lot more than a cripple for a lover.” Jeremy’s voice was surprisingly gentle. “And let’s be honest, it’s more than sex, isn’t it? You want the rest too. Wouldn’t it hurt you to wonder why you weren’t good enough for me to commit to?”

Evan flinched. “I wouldn’t,” he protested, but he knew he was lying.

“You would. And I know I’m hurting you now, but it’ll hurt a lot less than some half-assed non-relationship.” Jeremy brushed Evan’s hair off his forehead. “I care about you, Evan, way more than I should. What happened last night was a mistake and we can’t repeat it.”

“Wasn’t it good?”

“It was perfect.” Jeremy sighed, the corner of his mouth twisting up in a sad smile. “But that makes it worse, right? I can’t give you what you need and it’s going to end badly if we continue. The last thing I want to do is hurt you, Evan.”

“You already have,” Evan whispered.

“Oh, kid.” Jeremy wrapped his arms around Evan and he collapsed gratefully, his cheek against Jeremy’s shoulder. “I know. And I’m sorry.”

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Connection Release

Connection Final Final Cover

“Connection” was a long time coming.  Since the moment I created Evan’s character in “Partners” I knew I was going to have to tell his story as well.  If nothing else, my betas would have come after me with pointy things until I did!

It was during a conversation with Allison that it occurred to me that Jeremy was the perfect partner for Evan. I actually gasped when I thought of the pairing, because it was so unexpected, but perfect.  I hadn’t planned on another May/December romance, but Jeremy’s a stubborn one, and despite the fact that he and Evan seemed all wrong for each other on paper, I knew they’d be just what the other needed.  Evan needs someone who can recognize his loneliness and pull him out of his shell a little.  And Jeremy needs someone like Evan who simply doesn’t see Jeremy’s scars as a problem.

Meredith King made me a beautiful trailer for the story and I am so in love with the way it compliments the story.

Summary:

After a lifetime of being told he’s worthless, shy, sheltered Evan Harris is forced out of the closet and kicked out of his home.  Friends in Atlanta give him a place to stay while he gets on his feet, but despite his eagerness to explore the city, it isn’t exactly what he expected.

Physically and emotionally scarred from a devastating car accident, Jeremy Lewis struggles to reconcile the brash, outgoing man he used to be with the social recluse he’s become.

Loneliness draws them to each other, but a strong mutual attraction isn’t enough to overcome their pasts.  In order to be together, Evan must discover his own worth and Jeremy must trust someone to see past his scars.

Excerpt:

“So how do you know the grooms?” The man he was pretty sure he recognized from the sporting goods store dropped onto the stool to his left, and Evan jerked, spilling some of his drink on the bar.

“Oh, um, I met Russ and Stephen last fall when they were in Stephen’s hometown. I worked at the funeral home there when they buried his father.”

The guy frowned. “So you’re just visiting Atlanta then?”

Evan shook his head. “No. I moved to Atlanta in February. When we met last fall, Russ was nice enough to kind of”—he struggled to find the right words as he mopped up the spill—“take me under his wing, I guess. Once I moved here, Russ and Stephen helped me get settled and find the guts to go off on my own.”

He chuckled and nudged Evan’s elbow with his. “I dunno, seems like you must have had some guts in the first place.”

“Maybe.” Evan blushed. “I’d like to think so.”

“How do you like Atlanta?”

“It’s lonely,” Evan said, surprising himself with his candor. The drink he was working on must’ve loosened his tongue. “I mean, it’s fine, I guess. I just haven’t met anyone yet.” In his head, Atlanta had been a gay man’s paradise where there would be available guys everywhere he looked, but it hadn’t worked out that way. At least, not for him.

“Amen, kid.” The guy raised his glass and clinked it against Evan’s. “What’s your name, anyway?”

“Evan Harris.” He glanced at the guy out of the corner of his eye.

“Nice to meet you. Jeremy Lewis.” He narrowed his eyes at Evan. “Wait a minute, you came into Johnson’s sporting goods a while ago, didn’t you? You needed running shoes, I think.”

“I … yeah,” Evan replied, shocked but flattered that the guy—Jeremy—had remembered him. “I did. Russ suggested I go there, actually. Um, thanks for your help, by the way. The new shoes are much better. The fit specialist did a great job.”

Jeremy grinned. “Glad to hear my employees know what they’re doing.”

Evan wasn’t sure what else to say about running shoes that wouldn’t make him sound like an idiot, but he didn’t want Jeremy to stop talking to him, so he changed the subject. “How do you know them?”

“Stephen and Russ? I just met Russ a few months ago, but Stephen’s my ex.”

“Really?” Evan gaped at him for a moment before all the pieces fell into place. Stephen had mentioned his ex’s car accident. That explained the limp and the scar. “Oh.”

“Mmmhmm. Stephen’s always had a thing for younger guys. We met when I was twenty, and he was … oh, must have been about thirty-two, thirty-three, maybe? Hell if I can remember. It’s been fifteen years.”

Which meant Jeremy was in his mid-thirties now. Up close, Evan could see the lines around his eyes when he smiled. Evan liked them.

“You’re not jealous of Russ?” he blurted out, then bit his lip, hoping Jeremy wasn’t offended.

“It’s complicated,” Jeremy said with a sigh as his lips twisted in a bitter smile. “I know Russ is a hell of a lot better for Stephen than I ever was, and I’m glad they’re happy together. It’s … it’s not that I want to be with Stephen, and, hell, I’m not a relationship kinda guy, but something about seeing them together makes me envious, you know?”

“Yeah, I know.” Evan sighed.

Jeremy nudged him with his elbow again. “Come on, kid, I’m sure you can’t have any trouble picking up guys.”

Evan sputtered, nearly choking on his drink and wondering how the guy knew he was gay. Am I obvious? he wondered. “Umm, I haven’t exactly ever done it before …” he muttered into his glass, embarrassed to confess his lack of dating experience but unable to hold his tongue.

“Don’t tell me you’re a virgin?” Jeremy’s gaze was disbelieving, and the tips of Evan’s ears went red-hot.

“Okay, I won’t then.” Evan tilted his drink back and shook an ice cube into his mouth, crunching down on it. He refused to look at the guy next to him for fear he’d turn tomato red.

Jeremy whistled quietly. “Kid, if you go into a gay club it’ll be like waving a steak at starving tigers. They’ll be all over you.”

“I think you’ve had too much to drink,” Evan protested. “I’m nothing special.”

“Oh, Jesus, you have to be kidding me.” Jeremy stood with a groan. “Okay, unless you’ve got somewhere you need to be, I want you to come have a seat with me at a booth over there. My leg is fucking killing me, and we need to have a long talk about why you don’t realize you’re the kind of pretty little twink who makes gay men cream their jockstraps.”

Evan blushed, but he followed Jeremy toward the cozy booths anyway, embarrassed, terrified, and completely intrigued by the gorgeous guy who had called him pretty.

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Bully & Exit Release

Bully & Exit has been two years in the making and is the first full-length novel I’ve released. I am so, so excited to share it with you. I hope you love Nathan and Caleb as much as I do. ❤

Join me on Prism Book Alliance today as I discuss the plan for the series and a chance to win copies of Bully & Exit.

11304399_1595907117324216_1509607792_nSummary:

Theater student Caleb Stockwell is ready to leave college behind. Too bad his past isn’t ready to let him go.

With less than a month to go until graduation, Caleb runs into Nathan Rhodes at a house party.  Nathan is a star hockey player for Western Michigan University and finally ready to step out of the closet.  He’s also the guy who broke Caleb’s heart in high school.

Nathan’s determined to make amends for what he did four years ago, but Caleb isn’t willing to risk getting his heart stomped on again.  With only a few weeks left before they go their separate ways, it’ll take all of Nathan’s creativity and help from some interfering friends to convince Caleb to give him a second chance.

Excerpt:

Nathan’s voice was soft when he spoke, gentle as it’d always been. “Caleb Stockwell. I’ve been looking for you.”

Caleb cleared his throat and ignored him, tipping the bottle up for another long drink. He licked the spiciness from his lips as he debated making another run for it. There was a shrub blocking his way in one direction and a hockey player in the other. Even if he hadn’t been drinking, the odds weren’t in his favor. “Nathan Rhodes,” he managed.

“Damn, I can’t believe it’s you!” Nathan leaned in, and Caleb pulled back, uncomfortable with him being so close.

Caleb laughed bitterly. “It’s me. Now that you’ve satisfied your curiosity, you can run along.” He motioned with his hand, encouraging Nathan to leave.

“It’s really good to see you,” Nathan said, ignoring him. He took a seat on the pile of discarded construction materials, his knees brushing Caleb’s as he lowered himself down. Caleb pulled away as if scorched.

“Yeah? Too bad I can’t say the same,” he muttered, his head swimming as the alcohol began to hit him. He eyed Nathan’s long, long legs and the way he was pinned in by them, remembering the way they’d felt tangled with his as they came, panting shallowly against each other’s skin. It brought it all back: the scent of Nathan’s cologne, the taste of his skin, the way Caleb’s heart raced in his chest when Nathan held him close. It brought back the memories, the ones he’d worked so hard to run from. The good and the bad. The sharp, intense happiness of falling for Nathan. The aching, crushing hurt that paralyzed Caleb for months after Nathan was no longer in his life. Everything he’d buried four years ago and vowed never to touch again.

He caught the first glimpse of doubt on Nathan’s face. “Are you okay, Caleb?”

“Oh, I’m motherfucking peachy,” he snarked and took another long drink. “I’ve made it through four fucking years trying to ignore the fact we’re on the same campus, and with barely a month left in my senior year, I thought maybe I’d managed to pull it off. But, no, Lowell had to drag me to this goddamn party, and, of course, you showed up too. Just my luck.”

He raised the bottle again, but Nathan wrapped a hand around the neck and tugged. He was stronger than Caleb, so Caleb let go, afraid he’d end up getting pulled onto Nathan’s lap if he didn’t. Nathan took a drink and passed the bottle back, licking the taste of rum off his lips before he spoke. “You’re so angry at me.”

“Ya think?” Caleb snarled. “Didn’t it ever occur to you I would be? What the hell makes you think you can waltz in here and pretend like all the shit that went down between us didn’t happen?” He tried to stand, but Nathan’s dark denim-clad knees were on either side of his, pinning him in place. The bottle was pried from his suddenly limp fingers and set aside.

“I don’t think that,” Nathan protested. “I was just glad to see you, and I… I wanted a chance to apologize. I didn’t … I wanted …”

Caleb’s lips parted in surprise as cool fingers framed his face, and for the first time in four long years, Nathan’s lips were pressed to his again. Involuntarily, Caleb’s eyes closed, feeling a rush of heat wash over him, taking him right back to the first time. Before Nathan broke his heart.

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How To Support An Author

Let me be very blunt; I’m going to talk about sales and money.  Some authors do, some don’t.

May was my best month so far.  I sold 223 copies of my short stories, as of this morning.  I have the rest of the day today and tomorrow still, but it probably won’t be more than another 10-15 sales.  Depending on which site the sales are from, I make anywhere from about $2.21 on Smashwords to $1.50 per book on iTunes for a short story listed at $2.99.  Averaging it out between the sites, it’s roughly $2/sale.   $446 a month.  And that doesn’t include what I have to withhold for taxes or pay for stock photos to make cover art.  I make my own book covers and  I’m lucky enough to have incredible betas and a stellar editor who work for free.  Or for a copy of the story/my eternal gratitude.

So, when I say that every sale counts, I mean that.  Every sale matters to an author.  Every review, every tweet, share, like, and recommendation.  And every one of those things has a cumulative effect.  Take a look at May.

Chart

Whenever I release a new short story there’s a spike in sales.  For example, I sold 34 copies of my stories on May 19, after “Sunburns and Sunsets” was released.  The chart above is my sales from Amazon and doesn’t include the other sites.   Sales tapered off slowly over the next few weeks while I continued to pin inspiration pics, blog about it, Tweet, post on Facebook, etc.  And then it settled down to maybe 2-3/day.  For May, I’ll probably average just over 7 sales/day.  That’s nearly double what I sold in April, but equal to what I sold in March.  According to other authors I spoke to, April tends to be a slow month.

I’ve been tracking sales since February, trying to put together the pieces of what makes the biggest difference in sales.  This is what I’ve found applies to me.  It may not be the same for other authors, but I guarantee, it won’t hurt.

So what can you do to help your favorite authors?

Review

Hands down, reviews make some of the biggest differences in sales.  Review on the site where you bought the story, review on Goodreads.  Review on both if you can.  Review on your blog or your FB page or in FB groups.  Every single review counts.

Even if you feel like you’re saying the exact thing someone else did, that’s fine.  It doesn’t matter if it’s two lines or twenty, it helps.  It doesn’t matter if it’s stilted and awkward sounding or clumsy.  It’s another person chiming in to say how they felt about it.

If I had to choose between all of the places a reader could leave feedback, I’d probably pick Amazon.   More than half my sales come from there and while they aren’t the highest royalty (about $2.09) they are number two and every review translates into more sales.  The more sales, the higher the story is ranked, the more exposure it gets, and the more people are likely to buy it.

If you can do more than one site, you’re a rock star and I’ll probably love you forever.

Word of Mouth

Spread the word!  Every new release from me is posted on FB, tweeted about, blogged about, etc.   Share those.  Whether it’s a re-tweet or a share on FB, it counts.  It’s one more chance for someone to see the story and think, “Hmm, that sounds interesting, I should buy it!”  If you love a story, tell people about it.  If you’re excited about it, they will be too.

Comment on the author’s blog, share their posts, engage with the author.  Sometimes it feels like we’re writing in a vacuum and a quick message from someone can make a huge difference.  Knowing readers are out there and enjoying what I do is an incredible boost and makes the words flow faster.

Understand Royalties

I’ll be honest, I had no idea whatsoever that there was such a huge difference in what an author is paid depending on where you buy your books.  If they’re going through a publishing company, they’ll earn more if you buy directly through the site than on Amazon (although, there’s a flip side and the more sales on Amazon, the better the exposure and the more books are sold).  It’s complicated.

For self-published authors, there’s a huge range in royalty rates.  For my $2.99 short stories, this is how it breaks down.

Smashwords – $2.21

Amazon – $2.09

Kobo – $2.09

Barnes & Noble – $1.94

All Romance – $1.79

iTunes – $1.50

Obviously, I’m just thrilled if you buy one of my books, wherever you buy from.  I appreciate the support and interest in my work.  I would imagine most authors feel the same way.  That being said, I know a lot of people had no idea that there was such a huge difference.  If you’re so inclined, buy from places like the publisher’s site and Smashwords.  But if it’s easier to One-Click on Amazon and it means you’ll buy more, by all means, go there.  Just keep buying books!

Pay for What You Read

This may seem silly, but pay for the books you read.  I just recently discovered that my books are available on a pirating site.  If I found out about one, that probably means they’re on a dozen more.  I have to wonder how many sales I’ve lost because of this.

Loan judiciously.  I’m not against the idea of you loaning a book of mine to a friend.  Occasionally.  I can only speak for myself– many authors feel differently–loaning a copy of an eBook to a friend every now and again is no different than loaning a hard copy.  I’ll be honest, I’ve loaned eBooks before and had them loaned to me.  But often, after reading that story I’ve  gone on to buy every single other book in that author’s catalog.  Plus the one that was originally loaned.   A single, judicious loan led to many, many sales.  It can be done fairly.  But it can also get out of control, so be mindful.  Realize that it directly impacts an author’s life.

Don’t return books on Amazon.  I know many authors who are livid about Amazon’s return policy.  I’m learning to suck it up and deal with it, but it rankles.  On average, I lose 10% of my sales from people returning books.  I suspect most of them don’t have cats who accidentally One-Click on my book or anything else of the sort.   Probably, the vast majority are people who read the book and then “return” it because they don’t want to pay.  For an author like me, that can add up to hundreds of dollars a year in lost sales.  For bigger authors, even more, although most I’ve talked to say it hovers in the 10% range for them as well.

Don’t Feel Guilty

If you’re as busy as I am (or busier) doing all of these things can be time-consuming.  Believe me, I understand.  Compared to the number of books I read, I am only able to review a limited number.  I share the ones that excite me.  We all have busy lives and just finding time to read those books is a challenge.  So don’t beat yourself up if you can’t write an in-depth eloquent review for every story you read.  I am a writer and I feel like I write the lamest reviews ever.  So, do what you can.  If you have the time to review, do it, but don’t beat yourself up if you can’t.  Like and tweet and reblog when you’re able and know that every single thing you do is appreciated.

Like

This is the easiest one of all.  Go to my Amazon Author Page and click the Like button (on the upper right side of the page).  It will only take a few moments and will help boost my author ranking.  Can’t hurt, right?

Oh, and on that same page you can sign up for an email alert notifying you when an author has a new book available.  How handy is that?

 

Finally, please, please know how much I deeply appreciate those of you who have gone out of your way to do all of these things.  There is no way I’d be able to do this without you.  ❤

 

 

 

 

On Sale


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All Romance is offering a great sale to celebrate Earth Day!  All of my books are 50%* and the best part is, I still get full royalties!  So you get short stories for $1.50 while I get paid $1.79.  Now that’s a good deal!  It’s only good for today though, so hurry!

*Rebate to be given at check-out in eBuck s equal to 50% of purchase for use on a future purchase. The Earth Day 50% Site-Wide  (on Eligible ebooks) Rebate applies to paypal and credit card purchases from 12:01 am 04/22/14 to 11:59 pm 04/22/14 US/Central only.