To celebrate the release of Lonely Hearts, I stopped by 6 Feet Under Books and Padme’s Library for two author interviews. I also popped over to Love Bytes to talk about all the threads woven between stories and to talk about the Easter eggs you might want to hunt down. I talked about chat rooms and online intimacy at My Fiction Nook. At Two Chicks Obsessed, I wrote about how the stoic men in my life growing up have influenced the characters I write, and Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews wanted me to talk about my literary influence, who is likely someone you won’t believe.
Check out all the stops, interviews, guest posts, and reviews.
There’s also an Amazon gift card giveaway, so visit!
As most romance readers know, Amazon now dominates the ebook market. What that means for authors is that releasing a book without taking advantage of Kindle Unlimited (Amazon’s subscription service that requires 90 days of exclusivity), is tantamount to book suicide. Without KU included on release day, books disappear into the ether, never to be seen again.
Okay, that might be a little overdramatic, but books sink like stones w/o KU.
But, if you’re like me and prefer reading from an ePub file, it sucks to have to wait three months after the buzz of the book has died down. I want to read a book and share in the excitement while my friends are enjoying it, not hiding from spoilers.
A proposition for you
I will release each new title for a day or two on my PayHip store before they go live on Amazon and get locked into KU exclusivity for 90 days. The books will be live for a very limited time before the official release day. The best way for me to let you know when those books go live is to sign up for my store newsletter. This is different from my usual newsletter, so if you want ePub files before the official release day, sign up.
Later this month, I’ll be releasing a novella bundle, Lonely Hearts. I love writing novellas, telling a full story in a limited amount of words, but novellas are often bypassed. I recently took a poll and discovered many readers enjoy novellas, but they prefer reading them in a bundle. So I put four previously published stories together, drew greater connections between the stories, and added five chapters where the men from the stories interact in a chat room. In Lonely Hearts, you’ll find Easter eggs planted throughout the stories. Not just to each other but also to my other works.
Lonely Hearts will initially be released on Kindle Unlimited, however, if you’re an ePub reader only and don’t want to wait three months to buy your copy, sign up for my PayHip shop newsletter. I’ll have the ePub on sale for a day or two before I have to pull it to comply with Amazon’s KU terms.
So, now let’s get to this COVER REVEAL! Sloan J Designs created this gorgeous cover, and I think it fits the theme of lonely men looking for love so well!
Stoic men, who believe they’re happy alone, find the world turned upside down when their perfect someone stumbles across their path. In four novellas, eight men encounter unique struggles on their way to their well-deserved happily ever after.
Marc joins the Lonely Hearts chat room where men support men on their way to finding true love. He wants to believe that kind of love is possible for him, but his once-burned heart stops him from going all-in with anyone.
The chat group’s philosophy is, “Figure out how you keep screwing up your happily ever after. Once you know, you’re more likely to find the true thing.”
Skeptical as he is, Marc logs in and meets men in various degrees of getting there. At least he’s not alone. Luther truly loves his single life on the Bakken oil fields. William’s not sure he’ll ever measure up, let alone find someone he can be himself around. And Andrew still pines for a guy he hooked up with on a reenactment battlefield before he got blown up on a real one.
One by one they start dropping like flies. Flies drunk on love. And sooner than he expects, Marc’s luck starts changing thanks to these new friends.
Walk alongside these men as they find the men of their dreams and discover their happily ever afters.
101,000 Words | 396 pages | 8-9 hours to read
blue-collar | reluctant lovers | rural | bisexual | gay | fated lovers | Halloween | white-collar | opposites attract | multicultural | coming out | second chance | first time | disability romance | meant to be | military | artist | world traveler | coming of age | long distance | pen pals | gay romance | contemporary | MM romance | lone wolf | alpha male
✪ Bundle includes: Bent Arrow, Stroke of Luck, Momo, My Everything, and Love on a Battlefield.
Today, Lane Swift is here to share an excerpt from her book Dormant Heart that shows a great example of #ConsentInRomance. Beautiful. Thanks, Lane.
I wanted to make him fall apart. I wanted him to feel with every ounce of my being that he never, ever had to apologize for who he was, or shy away from asking for what he wanted. I wanted us to do everything, everything his heart desired. (My lack of the necessary accoutrements notwithstanding.)
Josh arched into my grip as the flush on his face grew darker and his eyelids fluttered closed. Perhaps it was too soon for us to be doing this. We’d only known each other a week. There had been no dates, no long walks holding hands or drawn out good-night kisses. But I was ready, and I got the feeling Josh was too.
I untangled myself and reached for my pad and the pen that had rolled across the floor. Hastily, I scribbled: What do you like/want? I’m afraid I don’t have condoms or lube.
Josh looked as if I’d asked him to explain the theory of relativity. He pondered, scratched his ear, and at last said, “Anything. Whatever you want?”
I shook my head and prodded him in the chest with my forefinger. Tension rippled through his body. Smoothing my hand over his hair, I kissed him softly and waited.
He swallowed thickly. “Part of me thinks we should wait. But I don’t know why or what for.” He fiddled with one of the buttons on my shirt, twisting it one way then the other. “I’ve never had a one-night stand, but that’s not what’s going on here, is it?”
I kissed the top of his head, and he chanced a look at me. “We haven’t known each other long, but it’s been pretty intense, hasn’t it? I’ve told you things I haven’t told my cousin, Mark, and I’ve been living with him for weeks.”
If I could have, I’d have told him again that we’d do whatever he wanted. But he didn’t need my prompting. I could see from how he worried his lip and with each word he said that, bit by bit, he was reasoning things out in his mind and coming to a decision by himself.
“You make me feel like I don’t have to hold back on anything. Like, if I get something wrong, you’ll just let me know and won’t make me feel bad.”
I nodded. My chest swelled with pride, but for Josh, not myself. Despite his indecision, the way he spoke was more certain than I’d ever seen him.
Finally, he let go of my button and patted my stomach. “I’ve got a condom and a sachet of lube in my wallet. I can’t guarantee they’re not past their sell-by date but….” He moved one hand to my cheek. “Are you sure about this? I don’t want to rush you.”
I laughed and kissed his chin before I wrote: I’m 26, ready, willing, and able, and very much enamored with you. You’re kind of killing me here, too.
“Then I want you to fuck me. Is that all right?”
I wrapped my arms around Josh, reached into his back pocket, and pulled out his wallet. He grabbed it from me before I had a chance to shove it at him. Now, so long as long as those expiration dates were good….
Amateur photographer Josh Thornton is out but not so proud. He’s estranged from his family, his boyfriend dumped him, and his job at an estate agency is in jeopardy—especially after he crashes his boss’s car in the middle of nowhere on his way to Hartley Manor.
Callum Black works at the English country estate and lives there in an isolated cottage. Left mute by a childhood accident, he’s more comfortable in the company of animals than people. But when Josh—literally—crashes into his life with his camera and his friendship, Callum realizes his peaceful solitude has been more than a little lonely.
Josh’s affection for Callum deepens even as he’s consumed by doubts over Callum’s sexuality and whether Callum could ever love him. And Callum is haunted by the secret that stole his voice—a secret that keeps him tethered to Hartley Manor. When the past comes hurtling painfully back into the present, Josh and Callum have to overcome their fears and breathe life back into their dormant hearts in order to have a chance at their own picture-perfect future.
As a survivor of rape and sexual assault, the last several weeks have been difficult, and listening to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday brought back painfully familiar experiences. Each of my abusers disguised their assault and rape as horseplay, and they each laughed while they stole my dignity. My consent was never given. I said no, stop, get off. Yet they didn’t, and instead, they treated it as a game.
Then I actually watched an interview with a women who had teen daughters standing beside her. She said it was normal for a boy to grope a girl. That made me livid. I feel like I have to do something, to be proactive.
Many people are utterly naïve to the meaning of consent. And hearing men say they can’t touch a woman ever again without risking being accused of sexual assault drives the point home even harder.
So what is consent?
con·sent|\kən-ˈsent \ 1: to give assent or approval : AGREE
A very basic definition, but it’s clear and concise. But let’s go a bit deeper, this time with the help from Planned Parenthood. These are the basics of sexual consent.
Freely given. Consenting is a choice you make without pressure, manipulation, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Reversible. Anyone can change their mind about what they feel like doing, anytime. Even if you’ve done it before, and even if you’re both naked in bed.
Informed. You can only consent to something if you have the full story. For example, if someone says they’ll use a condom and then they don’t, there isn’t full consent.
Enthusiastic. When it comes to sex, you should only do stuff you WANT to do, not things that you feel you’re expected to do.
Specific. Saying yes to one thing (like going to the bedroom to make out) doesn’t mean you’ve said yes to others (like having sex).
One of the reasons MM Romance appealed to me so much was because consent was respected. In many MF Romance novels, women would say “no” but their desires were disregarded. Women were taken. Maybe they were reluctant through the first kiss or caress, but to me, as a survivor, that first kiss or touch or grope read like pressure and manipulation.
It certainly wasn’t consent.
I didn’t find that theme nearly as prevalent in MM Romance. Granted, it was a lot of years ago that I made the switch, and MF Romance has taken on the challenge to address consent, thankfully.
As I was proofing my manuscript for my upcoming novella bundle release of Lonely Hearts, I noticed several scenes where my characters get consent to touch or kiss or more. In the social context of this last week, those scenes stood out in stark contrast to what I was hearing on the news. Excuses about “boys will be boys” and that “men can’t even hug a woman without getting accused” or “no man is safe.”
What’s so hard about asking someone if you can touch them first? In Lonely Hearts, which is made up of 4 novellas, I addressed consent several times.
So, I propose this: authors, share scenes from your books that show what consent looks like. I’d love it if we could link these up somehow, perhaps a hashtag like #ThisIsConsent and #ConsentInRomance.
I’ll start. This is a scene from Stroke of Luck which will be in the upcoming Lonely Hearts bundle. The single novella is already for sale out in the world. This example has nothing to do with sex. It’s about touch. Cas has birthmarks, and his whole life, people have reached out to touch them without asking, to the point that he covers one up. While I write a scene earlier in the book where someone doesn’t get consent to touch him, here, Marc does.
For setup, they are in a pool, and despite running into each other several places in previous weeks, they just realized they both live in the same building.
“You have beautiful form.”
Cas smirked and glanced at Marc’s chest. “So do you.”
Marc couldn’t help but chuckle. This Cas was different from the defensive Cas. He was playful, not quite as reserved as he’d been at the bar and while they walked on the street, but more like the Cas he’d first seen at Goodwill before Marc had laughed at the leather jacket. This Cas, Marc needed to be careful around.
“I meant your swimming form. Looks like you’ve had quite a bit of practice.”
“I swam competitively through college.” Cas pushed his hair all the way out of his eyes.
One of Cas’s eyebrows was white like the streak in his hair, and Marc couldn’t help his noisy gasp. He reached to touch it but stopped himself. He tried to detract from how rude he’d nearly been by waving his hand in a nothing gesture and asking, “So you never wanted to try out for the Olympics?”
Cas smoothed the white brow, clearly aware Marc noticed, but rather than getting defensive, as Marc expected he would, Cas dropped his hand back in the water and said, “I did try out for the Olympics. Once.” He shrugged. “Didn’t make it. My times weren’t good enough to justify the cost of a coach. And then I was offered a job . . .”
Marc tried not to glance at the light brow. It was on the same side as the white streak, but he was positive it had been dark the last two times he saw Cas . . . And now he was staring.
“Touch it,” Cas whispered. “You want to.”
“That would sound filthy in any other context, you realize.”
Cas smirked. “Maybe that was intentional. But you can touch if you want.”
Marc licked his lips and nodded, moving closer so they were toe-to-toe. He thumbed over the white brow, did the same on the other side with the dark one, then moved to the shock of white buried in that fuck-me hair he’d first noticed at Goodwill. “Birthmark, right?”
Cas nodded and shifted even closer. If the rope wasn’t between them, their chests would be touching.
“But it was dark before,” Marc said as he traced the light brow again. “How?”
“I use a pencil and some stuff to make it match the one on the left.”
“Why? I love this.”
A soft sound escaped Cas’s throat before he coughed. “The birthmark in my hair I quit covering up in high school, but the eyebrow . . . I don’t know. I don’t like the questions and the stares and people touching it.”
Marc took two giant steps backward. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to . . .”
“It’s okay. I gave you permission.”
So what do you say? Want to share scenes of consent? Post your scenes on your website, or if you’d like, e-mail me and I’ll host you. I’ve made graphics as well. As I run across scenes in my books, I’m going to post them here. I’ll use the hashtags #ThisIsConsent and #ConsentInRomance.
Flare was released yesterday, so the entire trilogy is out. Spark is on 99¢ in the US and UK for the next few days, so if you haven’t started, this is the best price you’ll ever get for the entire trilogy.
The second edition of Spark is out today, but I’m a nervous wreck. This book has been in the world for nearly five years and is loved by many, but the whole North Star Trilogy always seemed to hide in the shadows, even when readers praised it to high heaven. So I’m hoping this reboot will help new readers discover this series and fall in love with the men in it. Hugo and Kevin forever is what several readers have told me all these years later, so I’m hashtagging that! Haha. #HugoKevin4Ever
I’ve had some theories as to why this series didn’t sell well. I discovered at book signings that people didn’t know the series was romance. Many were interested in the books but the price didn’t fit into their book budget. Some picked up Spark and never picked up Fusion or Flare, so I knew I had to fix a few things. My fingers itched to improve these books for a long time, and I edited them from top to bottom. I fixed pacing, characterization, scene order, and a whole lot more. They’re even better than the first edition, and I’m hoping the new covers will revitalize this book so new readers are willing to take a chance on it.
I’m so proud of these books. If I never wrote another thing in my life, I’d die a happy woman knowing these books are now what I first envisioned them to be.
And as you can see, I have a gorgeous man on the cover that fits Kevin so well, it was as if someone made a man from the image I’d created in my head as I wrote. Oh, and the price came way down: from $6.99 down to $3.99 for ebook. Paperback went from $18 down to $14.
Buckle in to read these. Hugo, Kevin, Brooke, and Finn are characters who will revisit you as you go about your day and week. Maybe months and years. Hence the hashtag. Hugo and Kevin feel like real people to many readers and this is a series people re-read again and again.
If you’ve been reluctant to pick up the North Star Trilogy now is the perfect time to take the leap. It’s better than ever, just like Hugo and Kevin are on their second chance at love.
As I offered advance review copies of Spark to reviewers, I’ve had a few people ask me if this was much different than the original release. The answer is truly, that depends on who you ask. Ask me, and I’m going to say it’s vastly different. Ask a reader, and they’ll likely not notice a ton of difference unless they pull out the original and compare it to the second edition, which I do below. I show how the opening scene in Spark has changed to give you a taste of how the narration has tightened. I also discuss a few other changes.
But first, why am I treating this like a full-on new release?
My North Star Trilogy was released in 2013 and 2014 when the MM Romance genre existed in a quiet corner of the world. We didn’t have a ton of authors and we certainly didn’t have a huge readership. That’s changed a lot in the last several years. After Damon Suede spoke at RWA or RT about MM Romance being the fasting growing subgenre of romance, we’ve seen a huge uptick of readers. Readers discovered this fantastic genre and then told their friends who told their friends. It’s great to see so many new readers!
By that point, Spark, Fusion, and Flare were no longer on any best-seller lists, the USA Today “Happily Ever After” Recommended Reads articles touting the books were buried under hundreds of newer recommendations, and the Rainbow Award Finalist distinction was likely forgotten too. The books were buried in the Amazon listings, so new readers likely never heard of them, and I didn’t have the ability to advertise on Amazon to boost visibility since they were with a publisher. Add in the fact that I’ve hardly had a new release in years, and it’s no surprise sales fizzled to nothing. Posy who? Despite readers recommending the trilogy to other readers, it is still nearly invisible.
When I was assured I’d be getting my rights back to this series, I dove into my manuscript and discovered how green of a writer I was back in 2012. Since then I’ve grown a lot, I’ve fixed writing techniques, and I’ve toiled over my craft to improve. I’ve learned about marketing, what sells, what doesn’t, and how to take charge of my own promotion, which I didn’t do before.
The first thing I wanted to change was the covers. At author events, I’ve had readers not recognize Spark, Fusion, and Flare as romance because of the more abstract covers. Romance sells better if there are photographs of people, so I hunted town images that would fit Kevin and Hugo. I wrote about this process over at Two Chicks Obsessed, if you’re curious about the cover redo.
But what’s actually different in the second edition of North Star vs. the first edition?
Mostly it’s how the story is told. The narrative is crisper and will read at a faster pace. I cut out a lot of unnecessary words and simplified sentences that made reading a bit clumsy. I’ll show examples below, but first, the climax . . .
With Spark, I increased the stakes and made the major conflict more intense. Some readers stopped after Spark and never picked up the rest of the books, so they never witnessed Hugo and Kevin’s HEA. That could’ve been because the climax I initially wrote was too weak, or it could’ve been a number of other things. It could’ve been the $6.99 price and the book not being on Kindle Unlimited. Who knows?
I focused on what I could control. My goal was to fix as much of Spark as possible so people were invested enough in Hugo and Kevin’s HEA that they picked up Fusion and Flare to get there.
And in Flare, they get their HEA! Oh, do they get it! 😀
But first, that meant significant edits, new covers, and new summaries. Heck, I was so green back in 2013, I didn’t even know that a tagline could help sell a book. Haha. I’ve learned so much!
So, do you need to buy the new books if you have the old?
No. The heart of the story remains. I didn’t change that. If you were happy with that, no worries. If you want to see the new books, they’ll be on Kindle Unlimited the second I can ensure exclusivity, so feel free to borrow them. As for cost, they will be priced at $3.99 through the release blitz then go up to $4.99.
So what did I change?
Let’s look at the opening scene from the first edition of Spark and compare it to the second edition. The first edition scene is 373 words. The second edition scene tells the exact same story in 290 words and it’s more engaging.
A GENTLE kiss barely brushing against Hugo’s mouth startled him away from a peaceful, inattentive moment. He didn’t mind. He lay on soft grass cooled by the shade of trees. Kevin hovered upside down above him with his nose near Hugo’s chin. He felt a second kiss, almost softer than the first, bottom lips dragging and pulling against each other as Kevin lifted his head away and came in for yet another.
Hugo could feel Kevin’s soft breaths fan out over his mouth, could taste him, making him want to kiss again and again. And deeper. But Kevin kept it all sweet and tender, lips on lips, the sensitive pull and drag almost ticklish at some points.
A raindrop fell on Hugo’s cheek, but he ignored it. Nothing would pull him away from this perfect moment.
His tongue drifted up just a bit, lightly grazing Kevin’s lower lip as he moved toward Kevin’s chin, and the quiet, wet sounds of their mouths moving together was sinful to Hugo’s ears.
Another raindrop, followed by several more.
Hugo refused to give this beautiful instant up to something as trivial as getting wet, so he tilted his head, opening his mouth for something deeper—something that might ground them enough to ignore the rain that seemed to be coming down harder with each passing second. Kevin licked into Hugo’s mouth, intensifying the kiss, seeming to pour all his love into Hugo’s lips. Hugo tried to do the same, to share the moment with their mouths. They seemed to be informing each other of their love in a way their words never were able to manage.
Then water poured from the heavens, and they were drenched.
Kevin pulled away, quickly helping Hugo to his feet and dragging him by the hand away from the wooded meadow and toward the trail.
If Hugo had known that was to be the last kiss they would share, he would’ve stayed, kissing Kevin with water dripping down his face, into his ears, his mouth, his eyes—his clothes soaking through, his body getting cold. But he had run away from the green meadow framed by trees, following Kevin as tiny purple and pink flowers became a blur the faster they ran.
A gentle kiss brushed against Hugo’s mouth, startling him away from a peaceful, inattentive moment. He didn’t mind. He lay on plush grass cooled by the shade of trees. Kevin hovered above him with his nose near Hugo’s chin. A second kiss, softer than the first, bottom lips dragging as Kevin shifted away and came in for yet another.
Breaths fanned over Hugo’s mouth so he could taste Kevin, making him want to kiss again and again. And deeper. But Kevin kept it sweet, tender, lips on lips, the sensitive pull almost ticklish at points.
A raindrop landed on Hugo’s cheek, but he ignored it. Nothing would drag him away from this perfect moment.
His tongue drifted up, grazing Kevin’s lower lip. It sounded sinful.
Another raindrop, followed by several more.
Hugo refused to give this beautiful instant up to something as trivial as getting wet. So he tilted his head, opening his mouth for something deeper—something that might ground them enough to ignore the rain that came down harder with each passing second. Kevin licked into Hugo’s mouth, intensifying the kiss, seeming to pour all his love there. Hugo tried to do the same, sharing his love in a way his words never managed.
Then water poured from the heavens, drenching them.
Kevin pulled back, helping Hugo to his feet, tugging him away from the wooded meadow.
If Hugo had known that was to be the last kiss they’d share, he would’ve stayed. Kissed Kevin with water dripping down his face, into his ears, his mouth, his eyes—his clothes soaked until he shivered. But he’d run away from the green meadow framed by trees, following Kevin as tiny purple and pink flowers blurred the faster they ran.
Same story but told better. There are fewer words to trip you up, and the narration gets you to the good stuff quicker. What that meant for Spark is this: despite expanding a few scenes, I ended up cutting 14,000 words from the entire book. For Fusion, which is still going through final edits but without scene additions, that meant I cut about 9,000 words. And I have no clue how many words I’ll cut from Flare.
I hope this helped you decide if you want the new editions or if you’re happy to stick with the old. If you’re not signed up for my newsletter, consider subscribing. If I am lucky enough to get a BookBub Featured Deal, I’ll be sure to let all my readers know about that so they can pick it up at a reduced price. Same with Amazon Countdown Deals.
All three books are up for preorder on Amazon. Click on the images to buy.
I LOVED these books, guys. This series is fantastic, and I fell head over heels for these characters.
~Mrs. Condit & Friends Read Books – Jules Lovestoread
I highly recommend reading all the books in the series, and I applaud Posy Roberts again for creating these subtle stories full of interesting, lovable characters and authentic, relatable life events.
~Prism Book Alliance – Christine