Random weekend thoughts

A quick blog post to catch up on my online schedule.

Take Me Home has had a pretty good reception; it impressed the one person I wanted it to impress, and I’m happy with that. First time I’ve ever written a book for one specific person, and it was a lot of fun…even if the manuscript went seriously over target…so maybe I should do that more often? I know Stephen King often refers to his ‘Constant Reader’ and writes every book with his wife, Tabitha, in mind as its first reader. Didn’t Charles Dickens do pretty much the same thing, write for someone specific? Many writers have, no doubt, and it doesn’t have to be the same person each time. Hey, if it gets the job done, it’s all to the good. My writing methods have changed often in the past; I’m self-aware enough to realise I may well find myself writing books in the future using a process that’s currently completely alien to me in July of 2020.

I’ve got some writing done this past week and am, according to my target for this work-in-progress, just over halfway through my menage novella. Of course, my guesstimated and actual word counts rarely, if ever, match up, so the true total of this book remains to be seen. But I’m at least making progress on it.

Of course, there’s also my other WIP to think of, The Hour of Our Death. Because I really love causing trouble for myself and writing more than one book at a time. As mentioned a couple of blog posts ago, I started it because the menage novella was no longer suitable for Patreon excerpts; the remaining scenes are either stupendously smutty, or give away spoilers. Therefore, I’m simultaneously writing The Hour of Our Death, a M/F paranormal (where the ‘M’ stands for “Mmm, sexy demon.”) which has more scenes in it suitable for posting on my Patreon page. I’ll be doing a cover reveal post over on Patreon later this week so if you want to wrap your eyeballs around that, or a squillion other posts, you can sign up here for either $2 or $5 per month, depending on the tier.

For the rest of the weekend I’ll be seeing to laundry and other household chores, and making a start on the blog post due up this coming Tuesday, for my Story Behind the Story series. This time I’ll be talking about Plus One, the very first novel I ever wrote to an outline. Did having an outline stop me massively overwriting, way past my intended word count? Did it buggery.

Fun fact: Plus One was the book where I wrote 20k words in three days without even trying. I was on fire back then.

Right, so. Back to the chores, and yes, chores need to be accompanied by a YouTube watch list comprised of a mixture of true crime videos and reruns of the US version of Whose Line is It Anyway? Why? Because Jeff Bryan Davis is one of the hottest men to ever suck oxygen. I will not be accepting any questions at this time.

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The Story Behind the Story 9: Dark-Adapted Eyes

Ah, Dark-Adapted Eyes, the only third-person novel I’ve published thus far. And why is it written in third person? Because at the time of its first (like, very very first, earliest of earlies) draft, third person was my default. I pretty much thought that was my only option. I’d never tried first person and why? I guess I believed it was too personal, would lead to me putting too much of myself in my books. But that was before I learned the words ‘author’ and ‘narrator’ didn’t necessarily have to refer to the same people, and first person narrative can bring the reader closer to the action, if you’re careful not to put too many filter words in the text. (”I felt,” “I heard,” “I saw,” and so on, can put the reader at one remove. Try not to do it all that often.)

I think it was around 2007 that I was pootling through Waterstone’s looking for nothing in particular when I gravitated towards the writing books, as I usually did. I discovered something called No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty. Turns out it’s the official NaNoWriMo guidebook, but at the time, NaNoWriMo was virtually unheard of in this country. In fact, the price on the back of the book was in dollars only and I had to ask a member of staff to scan the barcode and let me know what they’d charge for it in pounds, if I decided to buy. As it happened, I did buy, as it promised to teach me how to write 50,000 words in a month. Not necessarily good words, just 50,000 of the bastards.

I won’t go into detail here as it’s 2020 and NaNoWriMo is much more popular than it was back in ‘07. You all know the score. The book gives you tricks and tips on how to just get that brainvomit first draft out. It doesn’t have to be any good, but you can’t edit a blank page. Hell, no-one else has to ever read it unless you want them to. Just get the words down.

So, I decided to give it a go. On the day I finished reading the book (because I didn’t obey the ‘rule’ of reading each section at the beginning of a new week), which was two or three days after purchasing it, I counted ahead 30 days, opened up an MS Word document, and just…started writing.

Honestly, that was all the preparation I made. Virtually none at all. I asked myself, “What do I want to write about?” At the time my cousin had just got a new cat, or his cat had had kittens, something like that. So they were on my mind, and I thought, “Fuck it, cats. People. Cat people. Yeah, that’ll do.”

30 days later in mid-May, shortly before midnight, I typed the 50,000th word, screenshotted the little MS Word word count pop-up, and posted an announcement on a forum of which I was a member back then. I remember one person saying, “Well done, but…50k isn’t that many words, is it?”

I wonder how many books she’s written?

All the same, I was proud of myself and my messy manuscript. 50,000 words about four cat shifters with the last chunk of story rushed to fit the deadline and the required word count. Nevertheless, I’d done it. Proven to myself I could write a novel (albeit a short one) in a month.

And that was that, until I wrote Long Time Coming, finishing it in April of 2009. I revisited Dark-Adapted Eyes now I’d realised I was an erotic romance author, and tried to see if I could rework DAE to fit this genre…and whadaya know, it worked. I kept it in third person though, because rotating first didn’t make sense. (And in another example of — I hope — progress being made, my current work-in-progress is written in rotating first person between three main characters. They’re all keeping secrets from one another that the reader needs to know about.) That is to say, if I’d written from Cressida’s, Gabriel’s, Fern’s and Alexander’s points of view, it would have been nigh-on impossible to keep certain facts from the reader until the final chapter. When you’re inside someone’s head, and keeping things that character would know and think about from the reader, you better be a damn sight more skilled than I was ten years ago.

Anyway, upshot is, I rewrote DAE from a messy, 50k-word urban fantasy into a 120k-word erotic urban fantasy. Then I chopped it down to approximately 90k words. When it came time to shop it to various publishers, it wouldn’t sell. Not because the writing is bad (well I would say that, wouldn’t I) but because it’s not strictly speaking a romance. That is to say, three of the main characters end up together at the end, but the world-building and paranormal elements take precedence. There’s a murder in this book, by an unapologetic character who really doesn’t give a fuck because when you’re a cat shifter who can pretty much come and go as you please because the world doesn’t know you exist, why wouldn’t you kill people who piss you off?

Samhain, Loose Id and one other epublisher turned it down; I can’t for the life of me remember the third publisher’s name. Lyrical, that was it! So DAE lurked on my hard drive, not earning its keep. Then, when I started selling books to Totally Bound, I wondered…I already had a backlist, and a following there, so why not chance it? And spank my arse and call me Charlie, they took it! It didn’t stay at Totally Bound for long, given that I pulled all my books at the earliest opportunity once things started to go downhill. Payment always on time unlike Loose Id, yes I’m still salty, but I was sick of being given a week to edit entire novels, and having 100s of instances of the word that inserted into my manuscripts, or having great swathes of my books italicised for no good reason. So, I pulled my manuscripts and self-published them and here we are.

The novel that began with the official NaNoWriMo book and “Fuck it, I’ll write about cat people.”

* * * * *

Everything can change in the blink of a dark-adapted eye.

Fern Mansfield drags one of her pack-mates out to find more of their kind, but Gabriel Devlin is sure it won’t happen. However, at a local bar, a young woman with a feline way of moving grabs their attention. She must be like them, so Fern thinks – normal people don’t have three eyelids, nor a skin-burning itch on the backs of their hands where claws want to grow. And usually, what Fern wants, she gets. Even if she has to commit murder to make a point.

Cressida Naismith doesn’t want to belong to anyone – nor any pack – but becomes the prize fought for by two sides of a fast-dwindling group of shape-shifters. The pack doesn’t have an alpha male but if it did, Alexander Butler would be it. He’s more than willing to have his fun with Cress, especially if it means leaving the increasingly difficult-to-deal-with Fern out in the cold, but one thing stands in his way: the fact Fern is more than willing to commit murder to make a point.

* * * * *

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Universal Book Link for DARK-ADAPTED EYES showing all available vendors.

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Not to put too much pressure on myself

This isn’t the post that should have gone up tonight because I’m a wee bit behind on my blog and other online obligations. I’ve been concentrating on getting Take Me Home edited and published, and trying to work on my menage novella which should have been finished long since, but…isn’t. I’ve also had a few things to attend to in real life because yep, there’s still shit going on in meatspace that needs to be seen to.

Anyhoo, here I am, taking a quick break from household chores and getting caught up on Patreon, etc.

It’s a new month tomorrow and, God willing, I’ll be able to stay on top of my online obligations in July. I just have to hope that my current manuscripts don’t tickle 130k words again!

I’ve set up my bullet journal with my monthly spreads and trackers and it’s probably a little too ambitious of me to say “Yeah, sure, I’ll write 100k words in July,” especially as the most I’ve ever written in a month is around 60k or so. It works out at 3,226 words a day, and it’s not that that number is too high for me; hell, I’ve hit 12k in one day before, but doing 3k per day consistently.

Hey, maybe that would be a better goal. Just writing every day, regardless of the exact word count.

What else? I’d like to get a week ahead on my blog and Patreon posts at some point. Doesn’t matter for how long that lasts. I’d just like to have one day where it’s possible for me to say, “My blog and Patreon posts are set up a week ahead of time.”

And finishing my damn menage novella. Because I only have sex scenes left to write in it (of course) or chapters that contain very specific spoilers, I cannot mine them for excerpts to post on my Patreon page for my sponsors, so before finishing it, I’ve chosen to start my next WIP, a paranormal romance. That way, I have a current story to post on that site.

Which is why I now, again, have two works-in-progress on the go at the same time.

Lordy.

Anyway, the paranormal is a M/F romance which goes by the title The Hour of Our Death, henceforth known as THOOD, for quickness. There are a few wrinkles in the outline to iron out but I’m mostly happy with it. It’s certainly fun to write, what with all the world-building and gadgetry and, er…violent demon sex.

So there are my plans for July. Write every day, aim for 100k but don’t put too much pressure on myself, finish my menage novella and THOOD, release those, get a week ahead on blog posts at some point, and, uh…yeah.

No pressure.

(Your regularly scheduled Story Behind the Story post, on Dark-Adapted Eyes, will be up later this week.)

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The Story Behind the Story 8: A Little Death (Life & Death #1)

Oh, this is a good one. I hope it’s worth the wait, what with this blog post being late. But I have a good excuse — I published a book! Go check it out here; there’s buy links! And you can read the first chapter.

So, how did A Little Death come to be? It started way back in the 90s when I was a teenager obsessed with vampires. I wrote Twilight before Twilight was a thing. The doesn’t-know-she’s-pretty teen who somehow manages to be chased by every boy she meets, the brooding stranger with a family of vampires, the parents who were, to all intents and purposes, absent. Even the end where the bad guy lures her some place on the pretext of “Sacrifice yourself to me or I’ll kill your family, ha ha, I’m gonna kill them anyway once you’re gone.”

And of course the heroine (who was called Ruby Northam at that time because ha ha, Ruby red, like Scarlett, and I had the horn for Jeremy Northam) ended up being turned into a vampire herself at the end of the book, which I, in my teenage hubris, planned to use as a set-up for the sequel, which I never got around to writing…at least, at that time. The book was called Come to Me, after the Bjork song of the same name, from his debut album called…uh, well…Debut, which I listened to over and over again on cassette tape around that time of my life, which shows you how long ago it was.

Even though it was a while back, I still remember writing the whole thing longhand, in a different colour ink each day so I could see at a glance how much I wrote in each writing session. Computers existed back in the day, but people didn’t have them at home. They were strictly schools-and-colleges only. A4, narrow-ruled refill pads from Asda, kept in a ring binder. As the manuscript got bigger and bigger, I moved it over to a lever-arch file. It ended up being around 420 pages in the end if I remember correctly. Funny the details that stick. I started writing it on the first of October 1994, and finished it on the last day of March 1995. Exactly six months.

And here’s the thing — my target, not always met, was 10 pages a day. But for the first fortnight I stuck to that, and at a rough estimate of 8 words per line, and 45 lines per page, that means in two weeks I wrote over 50,000 words.

That’s a whole NaNoWriMo in a fortnight. Longhand.

No, I didn’t have a social life. I’d just been dumped by my first boyfriend and prioritised my writing over finding another one. (Please leave your “Yas Queen!” to the end of this blog post.)

Trouble is…it was shit. Unadulterated shit. Definitely not good enough for publication, but, I’d written a book. And even though received wisdom in publishing dictates that the first book you write is dreck, this story wouldn’t let me go.

Years later when I was published, I no longer had a copy of Come to Me; I hadn’t kept it and transcribed it onto a computer once I owned one, but I remembered the basic story. But it was missing something. Talent. A story. 3D characters. Realistic dialogue. A merciless edit.

Okay, several somethings.

But once I’d become an erotic romance author, I realised that what CTM missed was a sexual element. Not that I was a virgin when I wrote the book at first, but I didn’t have much experience, let’s say. And not just of sex — of life. I was much better equipped to write the book in my thirties. Or rewrite the book, I should say.

How could a book about feuding vampires be anything but sexy? I mean, the whole vampire mythology itself…penetration of a quivering young woman with extendable penisfangs, come on.

I aged up the heroine to university rather than high school and dropped several background characters. And Cian Ambrose remained the bad guy; he just needed a good guy to balance him out. Enter Jonathan Cutler.

(I will confess I named him Cutler because it sounds like cutlery, and Twilight is set in the town of Forks. While redrafting, I even had Jonathan make a scornful joke that “Vampires don’t sparkle, Mallory,” but I can’t for the life of me remember if I left that in or snuck it past the editors.

Mallory being Ruby Northam’s new name in this version. Surname Sharpe, because that’s what vampires’ fangs are.

I changed the title of the book too, because hurr hurr…A Little Death, or le petit mort, is French for orgasm, and it was now a dirty book. If you’re interested in the soundtrack, I was heavily into 30 Seconds to Mars at the time, even thanking them in the dedication for the first published edition. I listened to their albums, 30 Seconds to Mars and A Beautiful Lie over and over. Not while actually writing, as I can only write in silence, or as near to silence as I can get, but while preparing to write, or while away from my computer, on an mp3 player, to maintain the creative mood. My publisher even gave me a telling off for styling the band name as 30STM at one point; never mind that’s how it’s commonly spelled; how dare a rock band’s name not fall in with Loose Id’s house style?

I subbed ALD to a couple of publishers and it was eventually bought by Loose Id first time around and maybe some would say this isn’t professional of me, but they’re out of business now so fuck ‘em. But during the time I was feuding with them over lack of payments (and I’d already signed the contract for A Little Death and put it through edits, so couldn’t do a damn thing about withdrawing the book) a staff member ‘accidentally on purpose’ forwarded me some emails in which the bosses of Loose Id, commonly known as the ‘Big 4’, discussed how difficult I was being.

As in…expecting to be paid for my work.

Anyhoo, the CEO of the publishing house didn’t even ‘get’ the title of the book. “Why A Little Death anyway? It’s not like it’s a murder mystery.” And she had to be told by someone else what it meant in French.

So. I signed the contract, put ALD through edits, and by then Loose Id were consistently ‘forgetting’ to pay me, so I knew by the time the book was even out in ebook format that I would never ever send them another book. I emailed my editor to say I was putting them on notice that I wanted my rights back to both novels — By the Book and A Little Death — at the first legal opportunity.

And that put paid to A Little Death ever being released publicly in paperback. At one point, the ‘Big 4’ even denied they had ever promised me a paperback release, and it had never been formatted for such.

Which was strange, as my insider contact sent me some copies that had been sitting in a warehouse, but which were withheld from sale to punish me. I actually had copies of my book, in paperback, sitting on my desk, while Loose Id staff emailed me to deny they had ever put the novel to print.

However, a paperback release would automatically extend my contract, so not releasing A Little Death in print meant I got my rights back sooner than I expected. I then subbed the book to Total-e-Bound, later known as Totally Bound. They in turn refused to market A Little Death and its sequel, Bring Me to Life, as a series because, and I quote, “Readers don’t cross over from M/F to M/M.”

O RLY.

I said, “Well I’m a reader and I do.” But nothing doing. Totally Bound put two books from the same universe, into different imprints.

*headdesk*

Upshot is, both books are mine again now, and I can market them as a series entitled — what else? — Life & Death.  I’m really proud of my world-building in these books and if I ever write a third book in the series (and I’ve had requests for this) it’ll have to have something death-related in the title, to keep the alternating pattern going. Life and death, life and death.

And you can bet your arse I’ll be after Bianca Sommerland for another one of her gorgeous branded covers when it happens!

* * * * *

Seeing dead people is all very well…unless one of them wants to kill you.

To Mallory Sharpe, vampires are a fact of life. They exist, walk the streets and for the most part mind their own business. As a second-year university student, she doesn’t pay the undead much attention until she meets Jonathan Cutler. He has needs, and blood is only one. The other, Mallory is more than willing to help him with. After all, he has but one rule, to never spend more than one night with a woman. He won’t get attached, or consciously put anyone’s life in danger.

Another vampire, Cian Ambrose, isn’t so troubled by conscience. Mallory’s fair game, a weapon with which to taunt Jonathan. In fact, it might be fun to make her his grail, or living blood donor, and Cian Ambrose doesn’t take kindly to the word no. He hasn’t heard it often in his one hundred and fifty years and it usually results in the other person ending up dead.

So with Mallory’s tolerance for undead guys running very low, Jonathan has to regain her trust, stop Cian killing her, oh…and for God’s sake, not fall in love.

* * * * *

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Universal Book Link for A LITTLE DEATH showing all available vendors.

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Another late blog post, but also another book

Stopping by quickly to say, I know there was no blog post last Friday but illness delayed the progress of edits on Take Me Home so they became my priority…and I eventually got them done, because I published the book today! Purchase links are gradually appearing on various vendor sites, so I hope you guys read and enjoy it. 😀

* * * * *

When successful actress and newly-single Afton Collier returns to Edinburgh after her divorce from an American comedian, she doesn’t expect her distant past to reappear.

Fellow Scot Glenn Peterson is nearly fifty and looking back over twenty years of getting clean and sober, building his television career in the States and interviewing the great and the good…and a few scoundrels. When he decides it’s time to move on, that includes taking his one-man show to the city of his birth, which also gives him an excuse to seek out the one who got away.

Afton wants to believe Glenn’s attempts to atone for the mistakes of their shared partying days are genuine, but she has a broken marriage to recover from, and as the saying goes, you can’t go home again.

* * * * *

The Universal Book Link carousel is HERE; at the moment publication is still processing but as I mentioned at the start of this blog post, more purchase links should appear over time. Now it’s back to work for me on my menage novella which I hope will be a much, much shorter book than the 125k-word behemoth that is Take Me Home. (Psst; if you look at the book’s blog page, you can read the first chapter.)

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The Story Behind the Story 7: Eat Me (Connections #1)

I’ve gotta say, this Tuesday’s Story Behind the Story is a weird one. The origins of the story are a little strange, even for me.

It was the first book that ever came to me in a dream. Yup. I came up with this one in my sleep.

I’d just come off the back of finally finishing Deep Screw and Family Jewels and releasing them at the beginning of 2017. Although I had other ‘big book’ ideas, I fancied a palate cleanser for my next release only…as has become obvious now, in 2020…I have trouble limiting my word counts, even on projects I outline.

So, I decided to have a rest for a bit, see what my addled brain could come up with, and…

I had a dream. I’m not going to name any names, but I had a conversation with a Twitter buddy about an actor we both find attractive and Jesus Christ, Scarlett, how many times are you going to use that as an opener for how your books come into being?

Oh, just you lot wait until it comes time for me to explain Take Me Home, is all I can say…

Now, where was I? Oh yes. I had a conversation with a pal on Twitter about a hot actor and I’m not going to give you either name, the friend or the actor. Names are withheld to protect the guilty.

So of course I had a dream about that actor that night. Not too crazy a happening, you might think, given the last conversation I’d had before bedtime, but given the way my mind works it’s entirely possible and, indeed, far more likely, that I would chat about James Purefoy or Tom Ellis then end up dreaming about being kidnapped by aliens, having my face ripped off and everything I touched turning to diarrhoea.

Because I am classy like that.

Anyway, the dream.

It wasn’t a particularly sexy one, despite the presence of this tall, dark and handsome actor in my sleepytime. As I said, I’m not going to name him but he’s somewhere in his 40s and I had this dream that he was a night watchman in an old, abandoned building. His base of operations was a room in the basement containing only a bare mattress on the floor (I know, I know) and a few other bits and pieces – a portable telly on a rickety shelf unit, a kettle and some cups, a couple of battered old paperbacks and a bare, flickering lightbulb swinging from the fitting in the middle of the ceiling. The few items in the room cast long shadows on the bare brickwork of the walls and, of course, because we were in the basement, there were no windows. Not that they would have done any good – as I’ve said, he was a night watchman, so there was no daylight to be had.

Sexy, huh? How the hell do you get from a bare mattress on a basement floor to the rampant filth that is Eat Me? Well, I’ll tell you.

And I’ll mention again – it wasn’t a dirty dream because while standing in this basement of which the tall, dark and handsome actor was for some reason so very proud, wondering what the hell I could say that wouldn’t cause offence…

…I woke up.

Naturally, because I don’t want to live a moment of my life offline, I told the same friend to whom I’d been speaking the previous evening, about my dream and that was how the plan to expand it into a book came about.

As my outline developed, it became clear the actor who’d inspired my non-spicy dream didn’t quite fit with the character I had in mind…although the name Lucas did come from one of this actor’s most well-known roles, if that counts as a clue…

So, we had Lucas who was a night watchman – but where? I decided to make it a school that had closed down, then bought by a property development company who was yet to decide exactly what they were going to do with the property. (A relative of mine once had that very job, so I knew it occasionally happened, that old buildings could be bought out even if the buyer wasn’t quite sure what they’d do with them yet.)

And of course, as has become my habit (unfortunately) though I’d planned for it to be a short story/short novella of around 20-25k words, it ended up longer than that…though not by much. The published edition is 31,545 words long. Nowadays, of course, my overrunning of estimated word counts is much more severe!

And because the main character, Sarah, had an interesting flatmate, Eat Me spawned a sequel.

What else could it be called but Drink Me?

* * * * *

Sarah Keating is no good at being good; even doing a favour for her flatmate Wallis has the potential to get her into trouble.

Taking a hot meal to Wallis’s younger brother Lucas, who’s working as a night watchman, is on the surface a good deed but there’s lasagne involved, a break-in and some unresolved sexual tension.

Warning: the lasagne is cheesy and so is the humour.

* * * * *

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Universal Book Link for EAT ME showing all available vendors.

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So, this happened…I finished a book!

I missed a blog post earlier this month — Friday 5th, I believe, but I hope this one will make up for it. I’ve been so occupied with Take Me Home and finally managed to finish it. Well, the first draft anyway. Made an incorrect calculation due to not counting one chapter I had started to edit just for the change of pace (I know, I know…normally I advocate writing the whole thing before you start making corrections but this book has gone on for sooooo long). On my Patreon page I believe I referred to the first draft as being a smidge under 130k words, but it was actually slightly over that amount. In fact, the first draft of Take Me Home came in at a chonky 131,998 words.

The blurb is still to be finalised, but for now, here’s the cover art. It’s a M/F contemporary second chance romance, set mostly in Scotland and partially in the States. As for the editing process, dealing with such a behemoth? Wish me luck!

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Who’s who?

I had a conversation with someone on Twitter the other day — I think it may have been through DM’s as I recall — about casting actors in our novels. To think when I started out, I thought I was the only one who did this! Oh, my sweet summer child.

In fact, the conversation with my Twitter buddy may or may not have been about how hot James McAvoy is, and the number of times I’ve used him as models for my characters. At one point I said, “I won’t tell you which characters though; I’m thinking of blogging about it and letting readers guess who is who.” My friend said she thought that would be a fun game to play on my blog so here we are.

I’m going to list various characters from my books just for fun, and all the actors I’ve headcast (shut up, that’s a word) in another list. Your job, gentle reader, is to puzzle out which hottie was cast as which character. I often drop clues, like keeping their nationality the same, or playing up a particular feature or habit the person is famous for.

Bear in mind not every  character is listed here as sometimes, on rare occasions, I write a book without picturing anyone as the main character or the love interest. Also, I have occasionally “re-cast” a character between editions when I get the rights back and make a few minor changes before republishing.

Okay, let’s go.

* * * * *

  • Long Time Coming – Leo Carson
  • By the Book – Reece Hutton, Daniel Cross
  • Family Jewels – Devon Scott
  • Stay the Night – Kit Blackman, Steven Kenton
  • A Little Death – Jonathan Cutler, Cian Ambrose (both also appear in the sequel, Bring Me to Life))
  • Dark-Adapted Eyes – Gabriel Devlin, Alex Butler
  • Plus One – Dr. Spencer Flynn
  • Drink Me – Oliver Chandler
  • Temporary Position – Sebastian Dickson
  • Read Me – Dr. Andrew Kendall

* * * * *

Okay, so that’s fourteen different characters. And here, in alphabetical order, are the actors who play them.

  • Jensen Ackles
  • Gerard Butler
  • Jeff Bryan Davis
  • Chris Evans
  • Colin Farrell
  • Jared Leto
  • Shannon Leto
  • James McAvoy
  • Joaquin Phoenix
  • James Purefoy
  • Jonathan Rhys Meyers (twice over!)
  • Alexander Skarsgard
  • Aidan Turner

* * * * *

Seeing the list written out like that makes it clear I obviously have a J-name fetish. I swear, this writing lark. It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it.

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The Story Behind the Story 6: Stay the Night

Stay the Night, the first strictly M/M novel I wrote (even before Burn, which was written and published in 2012) marked a point in my writing career when I thought, “I might actually be quite good at this smut-writing lark.”

Towards the end of 2010 or beginning of 2011, an editor got in touch with me to say “What would it take to get you to write me a book?” I thought she was referring to a random trope she liked, maybe asking if I’d ever consider writing it, or dedicating a book to her, but apparently, she meant…in her capacity as an editor. Like, “I have faith in your abilities as a writer so I’m willing to practically offer you a contract before you’ve even written anything.”

Which was a huge compliment.

I knew she was an editor who favoured M/M but wondered if I’d be able to pull off a book in that genre. Sure, at this point I’d had By the Book published at Loose Id, but the love interest Daniel and the main character Reece were both bi, and have on-page sex with female characters too. (The fact so many M/M readers take the attitude “Eww, vagina,” is a subject for a whole ‘nother blog post I can’t see myself writing any time soon.)

I definitely didn’t think I was experienced enough to tackle BDSM-related M/M at that point, and though I’d dabbled in paranormal, I’d not sold anything in that genre yet. Besides which, contemporary seems, even right down to this day, to be my default. So, M/M would be a writing challenge to me, but contemporary was (is) my comfort zone.

Over the years, it’s become my habit to cast hot male celebrities in the leading roles of my books and to think there was a point, way back in the distant past, when I thought I was the only one to do this! Oh, my sweet summer child…apparently every writer of erotic romance does it and I’m nothing special.

Why do I mention this? Because I knew the editor who’d approached me had the raging horn for a particular male actor and had even used him as a model for one of her own characters in a novella written under a pen name. (Sadly now out of print. I say sadly because it’s one of the best M/M novellas I’ve ever read.)

Not only that, but she also sent me a DVD box set of Season One of this actor’s best-known role to, er, ‘persuade’ me to write her a book with him. Probably not in the publishing house’s official guidelines, but hey, it obviously worked. The book exists.

So I said, only half-joking, “Looks like I’m writing a book starring [actor] as the main character. Maybe it could be a romance involving him shagging [another actor I liked at the time].”

The response?

“YES. WRITE THIS FOR ME NOW AND I WILL CONTRACT IT.”

“Uh…you do realise I don’t have an actual plot for the book yet?”

“That’s okay, just write it for me. Oh, and [actor] strikes me as more of a bottom so you might want to have his partner shagging HIM rather than it being the other way round.”

“You mean YOU want to have it written that way.”

“Whatever. Just write it.”

So that’s how I came to write Stay the Night. Kit Blackman is a grumpy bloke who has to put up with a new guy moving into his house share to help cover the rent. Then they shag a lot. They break up because of Kit’s being completely incapable of showing his emotions then they have a happy ever after.

I outlined the book loosely, but started writing it before I even had a clue how it was going to end. I like to write with a destination in mind but in the case of Stay the Night, my motivation was this editor constantly DMing, texting and emailing to ask “Have you finished it yet?”

I wonder if all her authors had the same level of ‘care’?

Around about this time I was online pals with Tiffany Reisz (I understand she’s left Twitter now as it’s a timesuck – the proof of her philosophy being that she’s a far better writer than me, and publishes more regularly). As any right-thinking person would, she had and probably still has for all I know, the raging horn for Jason Isaacs. Hold that thought. This is relevant.

Having learned nothing from joking about my book’s subject matter and characters with my editor, I told Tiffany I was going to put her in my book.

This wasn’t a problem.

“I’m going to make fun of what an awful singer you are!”

Also not a problem.

“Instead of one boyfriend called Jason, I’m going to make you polyam, with two boyfriends called Jason and Isaac.”

Most definitely not a problem.

So that’s why the love interest Steven has a sister called Tiffany, who in turn has two boyfriends, Jason and Isaac.

And I’m not even sorry.

Honestly, sometimes I wonder how I get away with this shit and sneak it through the editing process. I mean, the editor had already promised to buy the book but there are other Easter eggs I’ve sneaked past other less-suspecting editors and I can’t believe I’ve not been caught out yet.

Another fun fact about Stay the Night? The love interest is called Steven Kenton and no, I’m not about to tell you who he’s based on. (The hot male celebs I use as models for my characters is a subject for another blog post.) One of my favourite books is Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day and the two main characters are called Mr Stevens and Miss Kenton.

So that’s how Steven Kenton got his name.

Upshot is, I wrote Stay the Night over the course of a few weeks and as I recall – although I no longer have the outline spreadsheet – I finished it by writing 5k words on the final day. That seems to be a pattern of mine; when I get close to the end of a manuscript, when I’m in the home stretch, my typing speeds up and I finish it in a burst of 5-10k words in one day.

I edited it as best I could while the editor was nagging me for it and, no joke, had the contract offer overnight. Let’s face it, she was always going to buy the book.

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know, eh?

Ahem.

The editing process was a bit strange. Because we knew each other away from this particular publishing house and had ‘met’ elsewhere online, my editor had an unusual way of dealing with me as one of her authors. Less “Could you have this manuscript back to me within a month, please?” and more “Fucking sort this shit out,” with a touch of, “You have them watching a DVD instead of streaming? Well, you can be a dinosaur if you want but everyone will laugh at you.”

I wish I still had the document containing her original editorial comments!

The book was first published at the tail end of October 2011, about five or six months after I’d finished the first draft. And was available in print. I received my first royalties payment for it in December of 2011 and I remember there being a problem with my bank account; maybe the publisher had my details slightly off by one digit but they actually contacted me on a weekend to deal with it, and to confirm my bank details. I said I’d run out to the local ATM to check my balance and my contact at the publishing house thanked me, said if it hadn’t worked, she’d try to work out what the problem was and get everything sorted as soon as possible.

Again, I remind you, this was on a weekend.

As it happened, it was only a computer glitch, a slight hiccup, and there were never any payment problems with Total-e-Bound (now called Totally Bound) ever again. Looking at you, Loose Id, with your “Oh, we forgot to send the cheque,” bullshit.

December 2011 was when I bought my Kindle, one of the best purchases I’ve ever made as it’s still going strong eight and a half years later. Paid for by a book I was bribed to write. And I still had plenty of cash left over to treat myself to other things. Stay the Night was my most lucrative book since By the Book and very special to me as it was the first one I sold before it was even written. Okay, unofficially, as I didn’t get the contract until the first draft was done, but I took it as a huge compliment that its editor trusted me enough to come up with something she — and other readers — would like.

* * * * *

Kit Blackman is anti-social, insular and bad-tempered…and those are his good points. As well as an attitude problem, he’s also got a how-will-we-pay-the-rent problem when one of his housemates breaks their third of the lease. If he wants to keep a roof over his head, he’ll have to accept that Steven Kenton, a complete stranger, now shares that roof.

Yes, the new housemate’s good for helping out with the bills but he also has the knack of putting Kit on edge with a few well-chosen words and lingering looks.

Kit’s is-he-flirting-with-me uncertainty doesn’t last long: on his first night there, Steven makes his intentions more than clear. He wants Kit, and he knows the feeling’s mutual. It’s in Kit’s nature to push away any man who shows an interest in him, especially when they live together, but he can only push so many times before Steven decides he’d be better off finding somewhere else to stay the night.

* * * * *

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The Story Behind the Story 5: Family Jewels

Another late one, I’m afraid. Not due to illness this time, thank goodness, but having a stubborn manuscript to deal with that just…won’t…end. Nearly 120k words done of Take Me Home, with at least another 10k to go.

But on with the show! Family Jewels — how did it come about? Years ago. Like, years ago, I had a conversation with a friend-who-is-no-longer-a-friend about how hot a particular celebrity is and I ain’t gonna lie, this is how an awful lot of my backlist started off.

It’s always been my belief that consent doesn’t seem to be a terribly popular concept in BDSM romance (come on; how many heroes have you read who are simply arseholes?) and I’d always said that if I ever wrote in the BDSM subgenre, I’d make damn sure consent was a thing. But I didn’t consider myself knowledgeable enough to go full-on St. Andrew’s Cross, spreader bars and cat o’ nine tails. So, I began playing around with the idea of what I dubbed “BDSM-lite”, concentrating on the mind control aspect of domination and submission. Obedience training, orgasm denial, edging, that kind of thing. That, I felt I could more respectfully honour in my writing than the hardcore dungeon-level aspects of BDSM.

I must have started writing Family Jewels somewhere around 2010 or thereabouts but it wasn’t outlined from scratch; parts of it are cannibalised from a book I wrote in my early twenties, called Rain. The heroine’s father owns a jewellery business, and the events of Rain are hinted at in Family Jewels under the guise of being the heroine Riley’s relationship backstory.

I picked away at the book piecemeal over the years, putting it away and picking it back up again in between other projects — usually, books for which I’d signed up with publishing houses and which had contractually-obligated deadlines. Of course it’s flattering for an editor to buy a book from you before you’ve even written it, but there’s usually a sense of panic that kicks in somewhere along the line. This manuscript I was writing just for fun, wasn’t as important in the grand scheme of things, as the books which absolutely had to be written.

Too, there were occasionally novels to which I’d retrieved the rights and had decided to self-publish. They jumped ahead of Family Jewels in the queue as they were complete, ready to go, able to earn me money. (God willing.)

And the job I had at the time took a lot out of me emotionally, and that told on my ability to truly give Riley and Devon (the hero) the attention they deserved. So it was the tail end of 2016 before I finally had the time and headspace to read over what I had of the manuscript so far to refresh my memory, and to finish off the book. Riley is one of the most sarcastic heroines I’ve ever written, which is why sparks fly when she meets Devon Scott, her father’s Acting Manager. Technically, if Riley inherits the family business someday (as her father’s only legitimate child), she’ll become Devon’s boss but a) he’d have to stick around for a while until that day and b) good luck on trying to make him submissive to anyone.

It was definitely tough writing some of the scenes because I wanted to show Devon as a Dom, not necessarily a control freak, and he had to butt heads with Riley a few times without coming across as an arsehole, or she as a little madam. I hope I managed it.

While reading the novel over, it did make me laugh out loud a few times, and I hope you as a reader agree that the humour in the book really hits the spot. Or maybe I’m just twisted; who knows?

Family Jewels is probably one of my backlist favourites because of that aforementioned humour and the feels I wrote into the black moment at the end of the book, Riley’s heartbreak. And yes, I used the word feels. Blow me.

Or, you know, you could just buy and read Family Jewels.

* * * * *

Riley Cameron is the original poor little rich girl but with access to everything money can buy, she still feels something is missing.

When she visits her father’s jewellery business to liberate a favourite bauble from the office safe, she may well have found this ‘missing something’, in the form of Acting Manager, jeweller, lapidary and Dominant, Devon Scott.

Riley’s equal in all the ways that matter, Devon wants commitment not secrecy, but Riley knows if he finds out about the past she’d hoped was locked away like a tiara in a safe, she could lose something more precious than gold.

* * * * *

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Universal Book Link for FAMILY JEWELS showing all available vendors.

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