chase of a dream

Sen. McCain Defends Gays in Russia; FREE Excerpt

Sen. McCain Defends Gays in Russia

Sen. John McCain, a Republican who ran against President Obama in 2008, recently made strong statements against Russia, which include comments about Russian discrimination against gays. McCain spoke out in reply to a NYT editoral by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Among many things McCain slammed that include ruling through oppression, McCain said this about how Russia treats gays.

“They write laws to codify bigotry against people whose sexual orientation they condemn. They throw the members of a punk rock band in jail for the crime of being provocative and vulgar and for having the audacity to protest President Putin’s rule,” he said.

At least someone’s saying something…other than the smallest voices in the US. You can read more here.

Free Excerpt Chase of a Dream

Here’s another free excerpt from one of my indie pubbed books, Chase of a Dream. It’s the second book in the Chase series, and I released this one in both abridged and unabridged versions so that people who prefer erotic gay romance could buy the version with sex, and those who don’t like too much sex can buy the toned down version. This is from the unabridged version, and you’ll have to click the link to my Word Press blog at the end to read the adult rated parts.

From the raw unedited version:

After dinner, Len and Cain went out on the veranda overlooking the Hollywood Hills and Jim put Culum to bed. Normally, both Len and Jim would have put Culum to bed together, but Jim thought Len needed a little time alone with his son. And Culum was such an easy child to deal with getting him to bed was never much of a problem.
            That night, with Clinger at Jim’s side, he gave Culum a quick bath, put on his favorite little gray sweat suit that he liked sleeping in, and tucked him into bed. There was no need for a diaper. Culum had been potty trained completely at a very early age. He’d been such an easy-going child Jim and Len didn’t even notice if he’d gone through the “terrible two” stage all parents seemed to dread.
Clinger always slept in Culum’s room, right beside Culum’s bed, on a pale blue carpet that always reminded Jim of needlepoint. It was nubby and there were flecks of white stippled between the blue fibers. The large tan dog had begun this ritual of sleeping beside Culum’s bed the first night Len and Culum moved into Jim’s house and he’d never stopped. And if anyone tried to move Clinger, he growled and refused to budge. Although they had a nanny cam and intercom in the nursery, if Culum needed them in the middle of the night Clinger usually started to bark before they heard a sound come from the speakers.
When he was all covered and snuggled in bed, Culum glanced up at Jim and said, “Who is that man, daddy?” The child hadn’t said a word up until he was about nineteen months old. Jim and Len had been concerned about this. But once he started, he spoke in full sentences without baby talk. Len told Jim that Cain had been the same way when he’d been a baby.
Jim smiled and patted Culum’s tiny shoulder. He knew Culum was asking about Cain. He and Len had agreed not to hide the truth from Culum about anything…ever. They wanted him to know who he was and where he came from and to be proud of it. They had nothing to hide, and they wanted to instill this sense of family and strength in Culum at a young age. Culum knew Len was his grandfather; he knew Jim wasn’t his biological dad but he called him dad anyway. “He’s your other dad, Culum. He’s your biological dad. We told you about him before. Don’t you remember?”
They had mentioned Cain, but not often. Jim knew the child hadn’t processed it all yet. The only reason they used large words like biological was to prepare him and get him used to the word. Baby talk wasn’t allowed in their home…at least not when Len was around. Jim often ignored this and spoiled Culum rotten when they were alone together. But Len was determined not to make the same mistakes with Culum that he’d made with Cain. Jim often thought Len took this to extremes and he tried to create a balance. 
Culum let this information sink in for a moment, and then he asked, “Where’s my mom?”
This always tugged at Jim’s heart. They tried to shower the boy with as much love and honesty as they could. They made a point of inviting Culum’s biological mom to LA to spend time with him. But Culum’s mother didn’t seem to want anything to do with him and neither Jim nor Len knew how to deal with that. The thought of a mother not wanting to know her own flesh and blood passed Jim by. But he always kept things positive for Culum’s sake and spoke well of her. “We’ve told you that a million times, Culum. Your mom lives in Texas. She’s studying to be an attorney in Austin. Your mom and your other dad were a couple, like husband and wife, and they broke up before you were born. That’s when your grandpa and I adopted you.” Jim tried to keep things simple, especially when it came to his relationship with Len. The kid didn’t know the difference between gay and straight yet. Culum was still too young to ask the serious questions, like why his biological mom and dad had given him up, and Jim dreaded the day he would have to explain this. He knew the best he could do for now was to let Culum know that they loved him more than anything else in the world.
“How long is my other dad going to be here?” Culum asked.
Jim shrugged. “I’m not sure. He said he was going to move to Los Angeles, so I’m sure you’ll be seeing a lot more of him.”
“Do you like him?”
Jim patted his shoulder again. “Of course I like him. I grew up with him back in Texas. We were best friends and we’ve known each other all our lives.” He knew this part could be tricky, especially when Culum started to realize that Jim had fallen in love with his best friend’s dad. But they believed the truth was better than keeping secrets. And though it wasn’t a normal situation, they didn’t want to make it abnormal either.
Culum thought again, and then he looked up at Jim and said, “Read me a story, daddy. The one about the bears.”
Jim laughed and reached for a book on the nightstand. Culum loved books and stories; his favorites were The Berenstain Bears. He was glad Culum had stopped asking questions. He didn’t like to answer questions like this when Len wasn’t around. Len had a way of explaining things that always made everything sound so much better than Jim did.
By the time Jim finished reading, Culum had drifted off to sleep. Jim turned out the light, patted Clinger on the head, and went back out to the veranda to see what Len and Cain were doing. He smiled as he passed through the kitchen when he saw that Len had cleaned up the dinner dishes. Though Len didn’t clean between the knobs on the range and he didn’t wipe Culum’s fingerprints off the stainless steel refrigerator like Jim did, he always did his best to put things away and help out around the house. And he did this without ever having to be asked.
When Jim opened the sliding glass door he heard Len say, “We’ve been thinking of buying a ranch out near Chatsworth.”
Jim closed the door and sent Len a frustrated glance. “We’re only thinking of moving. We’re not serious about it.” He knew Len missed his horses and he missed Texas even more. And the house they were living in now was only two thousand square feet…a cottage compared to the homes they’d both been familiar with in Texas. But they’d spent so much time renovating their home and making it perfect Jim wasn’t sure he wanted to go through all that again. But more than that, they’d always been so happy there. For superstitious reasons, Jim wanted to keep things the way they were for as long as he could.
Before Len had a chance to reply, Cain yawned and stretched his arms. “I’m exhausted from traveling all day. I think I’m going to turn in early.” Then he stood up from a lounge chair and stretched again. This time his black polo shirt went up and exposed his abdomen. Jim noticed that he had to be at least ten pounds thinner than the last time he’d seen him. His low-rise jeans hung so low on his hips the waistband of his underwear was showing.
Jim gestured to the house and said, “I put your bags in the guest room. It’s down the hall off the kitchen. The second door on the right. You can’t miss it. I’ll show you if you want.” He was glad Cain had interrupted Len. It caused a pull in Jim’s stomach when he thought about moving away from his home.
“He can find it himself,” Len said. “He’s big boy now.” He spoke with a curt tone, as if he didn’t have patience for Cain. He wouldn’t even look at him. It sounded rude, as though he didn’t want Cain around.

Cain rolled his eyes at Len and smiled at Jim. “I’ll find it. Like my dad said, I’m a big boy now.” He spoke with a snide tone, as if he wanted to say something nasty to Len but was holding back.

“There are clean towels in the guest bathroom,” Jim said. He bit his lip, hoping they wouldn’t argue his first night there. “If you need anything else let me know. I think you’ll find everything you need.”

Cain said good night and turned toward the house. Jim noticed that even though he’d lost weight, he still had that cocky swagger he’d had since he was a child. That was another difference between Len and Cain. Len walked with his head high and his back squared; Cain left a room as if he were about to go up on stage and do a striptease act.

When Cain was gone, Jim sat down in the lounge chair next to Len’s and sighed. He stretched his legs and yawned. He’d been up since six that morning and he hadn’t stopped moving all day. Though Len helped as much as he could with Culum, Len had to go to the office every day and he didn’t have the freedom Jim had. Jim’s career in public relations was thriving by then. He had an impressive list of clients that included more than a few famous names, from celebrities to technology executives in Silicon Valley. This allowed him to work from home most of the time. A good deal of the public relations work he did now focused on web presence for his clients, and online promotion. Jim had seen the importance of the Internet the first month he started working in public relations, and now he was considered one of the finest online promoters in his field. He only went into the office in Beverly Hills for meetings. And though sometimes he had to travel, it was never more than a few days at a time.

“Are you tired?” Len asked. He reached over and held Jim’s hand. It was getting cooler out; the palms below them began to sway.

“Exhausted,” Jim said. His feet tingled and his back ached. “It’s been a long day. I had one client almost melt down this afternoon. I spent an hour trying to calm her down so she wouldn’t do anything drastic and ruin her online image. She actually phoned me in tears. She’s being attacked online by some flaming lunatic with sockpuppets.”

“What’s a sockpuppet?” Len asked, as he ran his fingers up and down Jim’s forearm. He always did this when he was getting horny. Jim didn’t pull away from him.

Jim smiled. A lot of the new jargon on the Internet seemed so foreign to Len. He worked in a bank all day, where people in the real world weren’t exposed to these things…yet. “An Internet sockpuppet is kind of like when someone has multiple identities on the Internet and they abuse those identities. In this case, my client, a smaller client who runs a furniture business on the Internet is being harassed by some fruitcake with multiple identities. The fruitcake is leaving vicious reviews and defaming my client and her products with these fake identities. She knows exactly what she’s doing. It looks like twenty five different people left bad reviews, and discussed them together, but it’s really only one person.”

“Do you know who it is?”

“We’re not sure yet,” Jim said. “But we’re taking legal action and trying to get a court order that will allow us to get to the bottom of this. Our attorneys are working hard on it.”

“Is it legal to sockpuppet?” Len asked.

“I don’t know,” Jim said. A lot of this was new to him. “It’s certainly not ethical. I’m still learning as I go. But it is illegal to defame anyone, and that’s what this nutcase is doing. And my client is sick and tired of dealing with it. Trust me; we’re going to hear a lot more about these things in the future as more and more people start using the Internet for business. Right now there really aren’t many ethics and standards on the Internet.”

“Why on earth would anyone torment another human being that way?” Len asked. “It’s insane and counterproductive.”

Jim laughed. “Because my client is this lunatic’s biggest online competitor, and when it comes to money people will do anything.” He yawned again and closed his eyes. “Let’s talk about something else. The whole thing is so creepy I’ll have nightmares if we keep talking about it. The fact that someone could stalk, harass, and defame someone else makes me want to triple lock the doors.”

“Did Culum get off to sleep okay?” Len asked.

“He’s fine,” Jim said. “He asked a few questions about Cain, but nothing we haven’t already discussed before. I read him a story and Clinger is right next to him. How did things go with Cain while I was gone? I hope you guys didn’t argue. I really think it’s time to make peace.”

Len sat up and rubbed his eyes. He seemed as tired as Jim. “I just don’t get him. He was always on the wild side, but I thought he’d grow up eventually. He always got such good grades in school, and he was captain of all the sports teams. It’s like after he graduated from Stanford he went berserk and I don’t know how to get through to him. He told me he’s moving to LA and he wants to open one of those stores where they sell marijuana legally with a prescription from a doctor. Did you ever hear of such a thing?”

“You’re joking,” Jim said. He turned and leaned closer to Len.

“I wish I were,” Len said. “He didn’t ask me tonight, but I have a feeling he’s going to ask for money to help get this business going. He was just setting things up tonight. I know him too well. And frankly I don’t want to be associated with a business like that. I would gladly give him the money to go back to grad school, or to law school, or to do anything normal. But this idea of opening a storefront to sell pot just isn’t something I can support.”

Jim laughed. Len could be very conservative when it came to things like this. Though Jim had smoked pot in Princeton, and he would have liked a joint once in a while to wind down at night, Len wouldn’t allow it in the house. “They are called Medical Marijuana Dispensaries, not pot stores. And it’s all perfectly legal in some states. California is one of them. In California you’re allowed to have up to a certain amount of plants, more, I think, if you get permission from a doctor. It’s complicated and there are a lot of rules to follow. But it might not be a bad idea for Cain. At least he has a goal.”

Len turned and flung Jim a glance. “Dispensaries? How on earth do you know all this?”

Jim shrugged. “I have a client who owns a dispensary. I guess I never mentioned it before.” Because Jim worked at home, he liked to leave work behind when he shut down his office for the day. He rarely discussed his clients unless Len asked him specific questions.

“I don’t want to talk about this anymore,” Len said. “Let’s go to bed early.” He reached over, put his hand between Jim’s legs, and squeezed his ass.

On any other night, Jim would have spread his legs wider so Len’s fingers could go deeper. Their love-making had calmed down in the past year, and Jim often wondered if the proverbial honeymoon was over. When they’d first fallen in love, Len had been more aggressive, almost sleazy in his love-making. Now he yawned in front of the TV most nights and Jim couldn’t blame him. He was just as tired. Working full time, raising a child, and dealing with the everyday realities in their lives wasn’t always easy.

But that night Jim sat up and blinked. “Len, don’t do that.” He smacked Len’s hand and clamped his knees shut. “Cain could walk out here at any moment and see it. I’m still not sure he accepts the fact that you’re gay, let alone that I’m your husband.” Sometimes even Jim had trouble believing he was his best friend’s stepdad. They’d had a small marriage ceremony with a few close friends. And though same sex marriage wasn’t federally recognized, they referred to each other as husband and husband.

“He’s had three years to process all this,” Len said. “It’s time for him to grow up and realize that I’m gay, we’re married, and that it’s not going to change. If he were gay I would feel the same way.”

“I know,” Jim said. “But I’d feel more comfortable while he’s here if we remained discreet. And it’s not like we’re the kind of couple that holds hands while walking down the street.” Neither one of them had ever been overly affectionate in public. And it had nothing to do with them being gay. Len was a very discreet man in every aspect of his life. He didn’t drive a flashy car to let people know he had money; he still wore the same cowboy hat he’d had for the past ten years. Len and Jim didn’t have anything to prove to anyone, nor did they feel the need to put on a show or a display in public for the sake of shock value. They kept their passion and emotion for the privacy of their own bedroom.

Len stood up and scratched his crotch; he yawned. He was wearing those baggy short pants that Jim always thought looked so cute on him. “I’ll go take a shower and wait for you in bed.”

Jim glanced at him and smiled. “Don’t take a shower; just wait for me in bed. I’ll be there in a minute. I just want to do a few things in the kitchen first.” Jim preferred Len to smell natural, like a man, when they made love. He didn’t want him to smell soft and powdery and sweet.

“But I went to the stables and rode for an hour this afternoon,” Len said. “I really should shower.” Twice a week, without fail, Len put on his cowboy hat, his cowboy boots, and drove to a ranch in Chatsworth where he could ride horses. Sometimes Jim went with him if he had time. But for the most part it was Len’s private time, to be alone with his thoughts and release all the stress that had built up from working as an investment banker.

Jim glanced back to make sure Cain wasn’t standing in the kitchen. Then he ran his hand up the side of Len’s strong leg, up through his baggy short pants and boxer shorts, and he grabbed Len’s dick. He squeezed it and said, “I’d rather you didn’t shower first. We can both shower afterward.”

Chapter Three

While Len was waiting for Jim in the bedroom, Jim pulled a few of his favorite cleaning supplies out from under the sink and touched up a few things in the kitchen. When he walked into the kitchen every morning sparkling appliances made him smile. He liked the black granite counters to shine and he used a special product for this. He liked to see his reflection in the stainless steel appliances, and he had another special product for that. He’d always believed that if he kept up with things daily he wouldn’t have to spend long hours cleaning during his spare time. In other words, he never actually spent a full day house-cleaning. He cleaned as he went along.

Len had offered to hire a cleaning person to come in once or twice a week but the house was small enough for Jim to handle on his own. And it wasn’t as if Len didn’t pitch in. He would have done more around the house if he’d had time. Their relationship may have been defined in the bedroom in very specific ways, but around the house they were both equals. There were times when nothing turned Jim on more than seeing Len push the dust mop across the hardwood floors.

Before Jim put the stainless steel cleaner away, he spotted a few smudges on the bottom of the refrigerator. So he quickly went down on his hands and knees and sprayed the surface. But while he was down there wiping, he glanced up and saw a pair of naked legs in front of him. When he looked up, his head jerked back and he stood up so fast he dropped the cleaner.

Cain was standing there stark naked, with wet hair and a ridiculous grin. He smiled and said, “I was wondering if you have a hair dryer I could borrow. I left mine in Hawaii and I didn’t see one in the bathroom.” Then he bent down slowly, picked up the cleaner, and set it on the counter.

Jim started rubbing the clean counter, pretending to be busy so he wouldn’t have to look at Cain. “There’s one in the closet in the guest room,” he said, with a nervous lilt in his voice. “It’s hanging on a hook. You can’t miss it.” His head went down and he started rubbing the counter faster.

“Okay, man,” Cain said. “Thanks. Sorry to bother you. I guess you’re going to bed now. I guess when you’re with someone my dad’s age you go to bed earlier.”

“I was just ready to turn out the lights, and don’t be cute,” Jim said. “Your dad can run circles around me when it comes to energy.” He wanted to tell Cain to go back and put on a robe. He didn’t think it was appropriate for Cain to be walking around naked that way. But he decided not to say anything at all. He’d grown up with Cain. They’d been best friends all through school. They’d showered together in locker rooms, they’d undressed in front of each other without thinking twice about it, and they’d even gone skinny dipping on hot summer nights. There had never been anything sexual between them. Of course there were times when Jim had been attracted to Cain. Back when Jim was still in the closet and very frustrated sexually he used to secretly long to be with Cain. He’d sniffed his underwear and socks more than once. But none of this had ever led to anything sexual.

Cain crossed to where Jim was standing, loping in his bare feet. While Jim was still cleaning the counter, Cain put his arms around him and said, “Thanks for taking me in this way. I just want you to know that in spite of everything that’s happened I still consider you my best friend in the entire world.”

Jim stopped moving. He didn’t try to put his arms around Cain. He nodded and said, “I feel the same way about you.” He didn’t feel even slightly attracted to Cain. He felt more awkward than anything else and he couldn’t wait for Cain to go back to bed and leave him alone.

Cain squeezed him hard and then stepped back. He turned and said, “I’ll see you in the morning, man. I guess you want to get to bed. I’m sure my dad, with all his extra energy, is waiting for you right now.”

Jim ignored that remark. It sounded innocent enough. “I’ll see you in the morning.” He knew Cain too well not to suspect there wasn’t a slight hint of sarcasm between the lines. Cain was insinuating that Len was waiting for Jim in the bedroom for sex, not sleep. He obviously still had problems with the fact that Jim and Len were lovers and partners in every sense of the word. But Jim let that remark go on purpose. He had gay friends at work that actually slept in separate bedrooms when their families came to visit them. For some reason, they thought it was inappropriate for their families to see them go into the same bedroom. Len and Jim didn’t do this, not even when Jim’s mom and dad visited from Texas.

As Cain loped back to the guest room with the same cocky swagger he had when he walked down the street fully dressed, he sent Jim a backward glance and said, “Sweet dreams, baby-boy.” Jim hadn’t been called baby-boy in years. It was a nickname Cain’s mom used to call Jim when he’d been a child. He’d never liked it.

Jim looked up and caught a glimpse of Cain’s naked back. The lights were low. From that distance it could have been Len walking back to the guest room instead of Cain. Their naked bodies were almost identical. “Unless you want to be up early, you’d better close your bedroom door. We’re all up around seven in the morning. I take Culum to pre-school at eight, and your dad leaves for the office around the same time.”

“No problem, dude,” Cain said. “I’m an early riser.”

Jim watched him turn the corner. Before he turned, he reached down and scratched his dick. Jim closed his eyes and shook his head. If Cain continued to walk around naked in the house he’d have to say something to him. This wasn’t a frat house; Len and Jim wore clothes at all times, especially with Culum around. If he was going to live with them indefinitely he had to conform to their rules.

 

Bill Cosby On the "N" Word; Reader Question; Cost to Self-Publish Chase of a Dream

This past weekend Bill Cosby spoke to graduates at Paul Quinn college, and among other things he mentioned the “N” word.

Cosby spent most of his time making people laugh, but he also imparted a serious message about culture and raising children, advising graduates never to use the “N” word.

“Because it’s not entertainment,” he said sternly.

Cosby said that the civil rights movement is ongoing and that Saturday’s graduates and Paul Quinn faculty are helping to bring about change.

“The faculty continues the civil rights movement by making sure you know your stuff,” he said. “That’s civil rights.”

I couldn’t agree with him more. I’ve posted about this topic before with regard to the “Q” word. I don’t see any differences in the arguments that support use of the “N” word and the arguments that support use of the “Q” word. To this day, in spite of all the arguments we’ve heard about the “N” word it is still is one of the most offensive words around. I feel that way about the “Q” word, too.  The interesting thing is that the people who can’t wait to call me queer, without even thinking twice that it just might offend me, would never, EVER, use the “N” word in public.

And I’m not fond of double standards.

You can read more here.

Self-Publishing Question From Reader

I often receive questions from readers that vary in subject from self-publishing to LGBT issues. And I’ve decided to answer these questions in blog posts for others who might be interested. This following question came from a reader who has always wanted to write. I’ve asked for permission to publish it here.

I see so many people talking about how expensive self-publishing is. Can you give me a ballpark figure of how much it cost you to self-publish your first book, Chase of a Lifetime?

Before I get into how much it did cost me, I want to state I’m only talking about digital self-publishing. I also think it’s important for me to mention that I didn’t go into the self-publishing arena with no experience. I’ve been getting published for over twenty years, so I know how the process of getting a book released works, in digital and hard copy. Although things do sometimes vary from publisher to publisher, the basic process is always the same. In other words, what I did might not be as simple for someone who doesn’t have any publishing experience. That’s not always the case, and I’ve posted about self-published authors like Joe Mihalic who did great jobs without experience. But I think it’s important for me to disclose this up front for those who really don’t know anything about publishing books. It’s not a simple thing to do, not even with experience. Actually, getting Chase of a Lifetime out was one of the most difficult things I ever did, and the most fulfilling, too.

I know there is a lot of information out there about self-publishing, and a great deal of this information talks about how expensive it is to self-publish a decent book if you ever want to be taken seriously. I’m not saying new writers shouldn’t look into self-publishing services, but I have seen a lot of exaggerated articles about how expensive self-publishing is that made me wonder if the people who wrote the articles really know anything about self-publishing. And the information about distribution blows me away, too. It didn’t cost me anything more to release my self-pubbed books on Smashwords, allromanceebooks, or Kobo than it did to release them on Amazon. So where these people come up with these extra costs for distribution passes me by.

I also want to mention that a good deal of self-publishing comes down to personal choices and how much control the author wants to maintain. There are literary agents out there who offer self-publishing services to their clients, and these clients seems to be doing well with them. One of them is NLA Digital Liaison Platform, LLC, which is offered by the Nelson Literary Agency, and you can read more about that sort of thing here.  If I were an agent, I’d most likely be doing something similar to this, and talking about it openly so people interested in self-publishing know where I stand.

There are other self-publishing services out there you can hire and you don’t need to be affiliated with a literary agent. I don’t know any well, so I can’t recommend.

But the costs of self-publishing does vary and so far I have not found anyone with the perfect solution to this. In my case, with Chase of a Lifetime, I paid a cover artist and I paid a good copyeditor. I’d worked with both of them before with publishers and I felt comfortable working with them on my self-published books. To date, and this was an accident, the Chase of a Lifetime cover will always be my favorite. Other than that, there were some small added costs Tony handled for me that didn’t amount to much. All in all, the cost for me to self-publish CoaL came to around 400.00.

Could I have skipped the copy editor altogether? Of course I could have. But it’s always been my experience that the copy editor is the most important person in the process of releasing a book because he or she is the one single person you depend on to find issues in grammar and continuity. And even though I always go back to the book and give it my own final edits after I get it back from the copy editor (I do this with publishers, too), I wasn’t willing to take a chance on releasing a self-published book without having a good copy editor.

I should also disclose that Tony did all of the HTML formatting and uploading for me. I told him where I wanted the book distributed, and where I thought it would be easier to get for my readers, but he did all the detailed tech work. He’s been doing this for years. He’s begun to do this for a few author friends I have, and for a literary agent I know. If I had had to pay someone to do that, my costs would have been far more extensive. And that’s because I probably could learn to do it myself, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing it myself. When you already have published books out there, you don’t want to release a self-published book that isn’t equal to them.

So the bottom line, for me, is that I’m not sure there is a set figure for anyone when it comes to the cost of self-publishing. If you know how to format and you feel comfortable with uploading books than you’re going to save a good deal of money. If you know how to design covers, you’ll save even more. I know authors who paid even less than I paid to self-publish their books on Amazon and those books seem to be doing well for them. I also know authors who used self-publishing services, and they aren’t complaining either.

But one thing is important. Make sure you know what you’re doing so you can release the best self-published book possible. This varies from writer to writer and only you know what you’re capable of doing, especially in the beginning. And watch out for scammers. They are out there and they all make self-publishing sound so good you’ll be tempted to believe them. And don’t be shy about asking questions. Authors like me are always willing to help if we can.

Alex Beecroft Talks About M/M Books; Monkey Jockeys; Gender Neutral Rest Rooms

Although the article to which I’m linking where M/M historical romance author Alex Beecroft talks about M/M Books is a few weeks old, I think it’s the kind of post that can stand up to time and remain relevant without a time restriction. It’s an issue we all deal with a one point or another.

For my LGBT blog readers who don’t know what “M/M” (Male/Male) is…and I know there are a lot of you because I get e-mails all the time about it from gay men…the best way to describe it (fast) is that M/M is a sub-genre in the romance world for books mostly written by straight women about gay men. It’s not exclusive to straight women writers. I’ve written some books that have been classified as M/M. But if you look at blog posts like the one to which I’m linking now where Alex Beecroft talks about M/M you’ll see that the side bar links mostly to women who write M/M and most of the comments left are from women who read or write M/M. Again, this is just a fast definition of M/M.

From what I gather, this post discusses the way M/M books are classified when they are released and sold on various web sites. Beecroft isn’t fond of being classified in “erotica” when her books aren’t erotic at all.

Alex: I’m not a big fan of erotica myself. For a start, I’m asexual (but not aromantic) so to me the sex part is pretty uninteresting unless it’s doing something necessary for the plot. In erotica the plot exists to further the sex, so that’s not really for me. I respect erotica as sometimes a beautiful and certainly a highly skilled thing to write. But in general erotica only points up to me how profoundly I’m not like normal people.

You can read more here.

Actually, just to be clear, in my erotic romance, the sex exists within the plot to further the romance. In other words, the sex moves the story and the romance forward. I can’t speak for other authors, but that’s how I do it.

I wish there were better ways to classify books, too. I write a great deal of erotica and I get just as annoyed when I don’t see accurate heat ratings on my books. I do try to give out all the product details here on this blog so readers who vet their purchases know they aren’t getting something they didn’t want. But I found out last year that search engines seem to be the culprits here, and a lot of books are discovered through search engines. It’s a complicated process to get into in-depth in a short blog post like this. And it’s also a good reason why readers need to really vet their books before they make purchases. But then another problem comes into play with what is considered erotica. I’ve read M/M books that are supposed to be erotic and found myself wondering what these authors/publishers think gay erotica is really all about.

I’ve come to the conclusion there’s no simple fix, but I do think that M/M books with no erotica whatsoever should be classified that way so readers know what they are buying. And authors and publishers might want to think about putting tag lines on covers to let readers know this. I made this abundantly clear when I released Chase of a Dream in two different versions last year. I released the sweet non-erotic version of the book clearly marked as “abridged,” and the version with erotica clearly marked as “unabridged.” I also mentioned this in the book descriptions. Readers can see this wherever these books are sold. I did this for my readers, so my readers would know the difference and I didn’t depend on search engines or retail web sites to make this clear for me. It is perfect? Not at all. I still wish retail web sites where e-books were sold would make it clearer for readers. But at least I feel I did something to rectify the issue in a small scale. As a side note, the non-erotic version of Chase of a Dream is only 7,000 words less than the erotic version, and I’ve only had one customer issue that I know of so far where someone made the wrong purchase on iTunes. When this happened I promptly exchanged the book myself without making it more complicated.

Monkey Jockeys Riding Dogs

In a totally unrelated post to Alex Beecroft, I had absolutely no idea this next event was going on anywhere. Monkey’s riding dogs! I guess I’ve been remiss in my carnival posts. But when I saw this mentioned somewhere earlier today I thought I’d post something about it.

Banana Derby is a “family show” in Greenville, South Carolina that stages races with monkey jockeys riding on dogs. For a fee, you can have them come to your next party or public event.

You can read more here.

And this article goes into more detail.

Lepard had dreamed of working with monkeys ever since reading the “Curious George” books as a kid. The dream was postponed, though, by a career in rodeo, where for years he electrified crowds as both a bullfighter and a clown.

Gender Neutral Rest Rooms

I’m feeling so prescient this week I’ve been taking deep breaths to calm down. Last week I posted about a transgender person who was banned from a supermarket for using the “wrong” rest room, and I suggested that I wouldn’t mind seeing unisex rest rooms.

Frankly, I’ve always wondered why there weren’t unisex bathrooms designed, with completely private stalls where doors can be locked, for everyone. Maybe that sounds a little way out there to some, but I’ve never been too fond of urinals myself, and I rarely ever use them. And maybe men’s rooms wouldn’t look so awful compared to women’s rest rooms.

And now I hear they are actually talking about doing this, and referring to it as gender neutral…and right here in my own proverbial backyard in Philadelpha.

 PHILADELPHIA—A Philadelphia city council member wants to require new or renovated city-owned buildings to have gender-neutral restrooms in addition to men’s and women’s restrooms.

You can read more here. 

It’s nice to see the transgender community getting some recognition for a change. And I wish people would just pay attention to me more often when I say things like this (smile).


Authors Acting As Business People: Customer Service

To a certain extent, all authors have to think and act like business people sometimes. Especially when it comes to marketing and promotion. Getting the information out there, so to speak, is an important process when it comes to a book release. And if you don’t do that you could wind up confusing people without even knowing it.

After being in business myself for a long time, I learned certain things. One is never take anything for granted, and another is keep it simple and at eye level. No one wants to think too hard. They want to view a product or book cover without having figure too much out. I always try to think of the who, what, when, where and why as I’m writing blurbs and coming up with book cover ideas. I try to do this in blog posts when I’m talking about the books, too.

But sometimes things get mixed up no matter how hard you try. And that’s happened to me more than a few times. This past weekend I received a private message from a reader on Goodreads. She bought a copy of “Chase of a Dream” on iTunes and wound up getting the abridged version instead of the unabridged version. Up until then I’d assumed that most retail web sites where e-books are sold will exchange books when mistakes like this happen. I know Amazon does. Evidently, according to what I’m told, iTunes does not do this. I don’t know personally because I don’t shop there for books; just music. And I’ve never returned any music.

And it doesn’t really matter anyway, because I had a reader who didn’t get what she wanted and that was the only problem on which I wanted to focus. It was also a problem I knew I could handle quickly. When I released two versions of “Chase of a Dream” I’d planned ahead for mistakes like this. Because books are not usually released in abridged and unabridged versions, with and without sex scenes, I knew I might have to troubleshoot a few issues if and when readers got confused and wound up with the wrong book. As a side note that makes me smile, so far no one has complained about getting the unabridged version. The only issues I’ve had were people getting the abridged version without the sex scenes.

So I did what any businessperson would do with a dissatisfied customer: I replied to the reader on Goodreads and told her to e-mail me personally and I would look into it. When she did, I sent her an ARC of the unabridged version of “Chase of a Dream” and solved the issue in a matter of minutes. The customer was happy, I was relieved, and neither of us had to deal with iTunes and the fresh hells they put people through. Most readers are polite and extremely cool about these things, especially if you make that effort to offer them assistance.

If this had happened with any of my books that have been published with e-publishers, I would have told them to contact the publisher first. I’ve had cases where things like this have happened, and each of my publishers have been more than happy to fix the problem. But when you self-publish like I did with “Chase of a Dream”…and I mean self-publish in the true sense, not with your literary agent’s e-publishing service…you’re going to have to deal with all issues that come up and there’s no one to fall back on.

I think it’s important to point this out to anyone who is thinking of self-publishing. You’re going to have to be a hands on business owner and you are going to have customer service issues no matter what you publish. These days with technology making it so easy for readers to get in touch with authors, there’s nowhere to hide either, which is why I make it a point to be accessible either through this blog, through social media, or with my public e-mail address.

Chase of a Dream: Which Sells Better, Erotic or Censored Non-Erotic Version

For those who don’t know, when I released Chase of a Dream I published two versions of the same book. One was the unabridged erotic romance with all the original erotic scenes and one was the abridged version with all the explicit erotic scenes edited out of the book.

I did this for several reasons. One, because I wanted to see if it could be done without hurting the storyline. I discovered I only had to cut 7,000 words from the original 60,000 word novel and nothing at all changed in the story. It’s still a romance, it’s still as emotional, and it still has a happy ending.

The second reason I did this was to see if I could do it. I’ve been writing erotica for so long I truly wasn’t sure if I could write something that wasn’t erotic. What I discovered was interesting. While I do write explicit sex scenes in my books, I don’t write that many. Again, interesting. After editing the erotic scenes out of Chase of a Dream I went back to other books I’d written and had published through publishers and I found the same pattern in almost each book. Of course some did have slightly more than others, but it all averaged out to not as much as I thought I’d had. I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing. I do try to give my readers what I think they want because that’s what matters the most to me.

The third reason I released two versions of COAD was to see which version would sell better…or if there would be any difference at all. I didn’t know what to expect. I’d never seen this done before with an erotic romance where an author self-censors the sex scenes and releases both versions at the same time. One of the drawbacks of writing erotic romance is that readers are discreet and they don’t like to leave reviews as much as readers who read non-erotic romance. So my only indication is how the book sells.

I also have had several reviews over the years where a handful of select readers have left reviews of my books that said there was too much sex. Or that something bothered them about the sex scenes. This always confused me because I’m a gay man and I know how gay men have sex, I know how they think about sex, and I know how they react to sex. They aren’t that much different than straight men. Because this isn’t a lecture on how gay men think about sex, you’ll just have to take my word for this. I also don’t feel like handing out free advice today from my own personal experiences. You can read about them in my books if you’re interested. Almost every sex scene I’ve ever written was based on some kind of a personal experience I’ve had in the past.

Ultimately, my goal in releasing two versions of COAD was to give readers a choice. This way those who think I write too much sex, and have said this openly, would now have a choice. That choice is important to me. I want readers to have choices like this…but without compromising what I know is real. In other words, I’m not going to pander to a small group who doesn’t want to read about what gay sex is really like. It is what it is, and what you saw on Oprah and Sex in the City about gay men is about as accurate as those women’s magazines where the perfect working mom keeps a perfect house and never has a moment of stress. But I don’t mind removing the sex so I don’t offend that group who prefers not to read about what’s real.

In any event, it turns out the unabridged erotic version of COAD is selling much better than the non-erotic abridged version. And that’s not concentrated on any one web site in particular. It’s across the board, from Amazon to Smashwords to ARe. Which means this will most likely be the last time I ever release two versions of one book at the same time. The next installment in the Chase of a Lifetime series will not be self-published on Amazon. And it will be the full uncensored erotic romance. I pitched the series to Ravenous Romance and they bought it. I’ll post more about it in the future. I’m about halfway through it right now and I’m not sure which direction it’s going. I can give you this small hint: Len Mayfield is forced to contact his family in Connecticut after many years of not wanting to deal with them at all. And Jim Darling finally finds out what his in-laws are like.

I will be taking a short break from self-publishing for a while to concentrate on books I’ve been contracted to do with ravenous romance. But this is by no means the end of the line for me. As difficult as self-publishing can be, I’ve enjoyed my experiences so far and I will do more in the future. I prefer working with a publisher. I like the collaboration and I love working with Holly and my editors at ravenous romance. It gives me more time to concentrate on the book, and not the technical or business issues that involve publishing a book. Tony and I have been planning a trip to Maine for a long time and something keeps happening to stop us. But I do plan on going soon, and I’m making a point to stop in at the ravenous romance offices in MA to see Holly. I’ll post photos when I do.

How I Took the Sex Out of "Chase of a Dream"… And Free Legal Photo Links


I’ve posted about how I released two different versions of “Chase of a Dream,” and now I’d like to show how I removed the sex scenes from various parts of the book without actually changing the storyline at all.

Before I start, I’d like to explain that while I’m usually building up to a sex scene in a book slowly, I keep the sex scenes exclusive to certain parts of the book. I do this on purpose for various reasons. One has to do with continuity and actual novel structure. There’s always a plan. That plan can change at different points while I’m writing a novel, but I think structure is very important.

This is the beginning of the first sex scene in the book. Of course I’m not posting the detailed scene here because I do self-censor this blog. But it will show you how I made the transition. As a side note, the first sex scene in the book didn’t begin until the middle of chapter three.

They had designed the master bedroom the same as the rest of the house. The furniture was stark and modern, with a subtle Japanese theme. The walls were bright white and the floors a rich Brazilian maple. Len was waiting for Jim in the middle of a low king sized bed covered with black bedding. He wasn’t wearing anything but black socks and gray boxer shorts. His slightly hairy legs were spread and he was leaning back on his elbows watching television. When he saw Jim enter the room, he reached down and grabbed his crotch. He squeezed it and said, “What took you so long?” He smiled and jerked his crotch again. “I thought I was going to have to start alone.”

Jim kicked off his shoes and dropped his pants. He stepped out of his underwear and yanked off his socks. He crossed to the bed naked and went down on his knees between Len’s legs.

And this is how I made the transition when I cut the sex scenes out of the book altogether.

They had designed the master bedroom the same as the rest of the house. The furniture was stark and modern, with a subtle Japanese theme. The walls were bright white and the floors a rich Brazilian maple. Len was waiting for Jim in the middle of a low king sized bed covered with black bedding. He wasn’t wearing anything but black socks and gray boxer shorts. His slightly hairy legs were spread and he was leaning back on his elbows watching television. When he saw Jim enter the room, he smiled and said, “What took you so long?”

Jim removed his shirt and said, “I got side-tracked in the kitchen.” He decided not to mention anything about Cain being naked.

They made love for hours that night, in different positions, and in various sections of the bedroom. By the time they’d finally showered and climbed back into bed, it was almost midnight. Jim turned to set the alarm clock and said, “So much for getting to bed early tonight.”

The sentence above this is the key to the transition. “They made love for hours that night, in different positions, and in various sections of the bedroom.” Plain and simple; the reader gets the point without going into detail.

It was an interesting exercise for me. I’d never done anything like that before and I’d always wanted to try it to see if it could be done with erotic romance. And there you are. For those readers who complain about too much sex in books these days, you now have a choice in this one isolated case.

The photo above is a free legal photo from Morguefile.com.

“All of us here at MorgueFile appreciate when you offer to credit the site & the photographer. Mary R. Vogt”

For those interested, here is a web site that lists several places to find free legal photos. I don’t post photos here often, but when I do I like to know I’m not infringing.

"Chase of a Dream" and the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library

I opted in for the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library with “Chase of a Lifetime,” because I have always believed in book lending. It’s been almost impossible to do with e-books in the past and I liked the fact that Kindle was offering this feature to readers.

I also did it with “Jonah Sweet of Delancey Street,” for the same reasons.

But I decided not to do it with “Chase of a Dream.” And only for one reason. When you opt into this you are not allowed to distribute e-books to other web sites where e-books are sold for a period of time…I think it’s the first three months, but I’m not certain about that.

I have found that many readers who buy and read erotic romance do this discreetly and it’s a very personal experience for them. And sharing books is not at the top of their list. I understand this and I respect it. In my case, I think it’s more important to distribute books to as many sites as I can than it is to get into book sharing programs.

But more than that, readers who love allromanceebooks.com and other retail web sites where e-books are sold started to e-mail me about why the COAL and Jonah Sweet were only being sold on Amazon.

So I decided not to opt into the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library with “Chase of a Dream” this time for simple, practical purposes. It’s not that I don’t support lending. It’s just that I had to make a decision I thought would be best for readers.