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Books I enjoyed in 2015

Happy new year, everyone! I know it's a bit late, but better late then never, right?

At the beginning of the year for the past few years I have made a "books I enjoyed" post for the previous year, which is a list of the books I read during the year and particularly enjoyed. Previous posts can be found here, if you're interested, but let's proceed to 2015's books. Note that I am sticking to books that I read for the first time in 2015, because I've probably already told you how much I like the ones I re-read, otherwise they wouldn't be re-reads, natch.

 

Blue Lily, Lily Blue, by Maggie Stiefvater

Book 3 of the Raven Cycle YA series, the first two of which (The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves) I had on my list last year. These books, people, UGH. They are so good I can hardly bear it. This is what I said about them last year, and it still holds true:

Ostensibly the series is about a group of teenagers searching for the grave of a Welsh king they believe can be revived, but really it’s about forging friendships and family and falling in love for the first time and working out who you are as you grow up and how everything is so incredibly important and dramatic when you’re young. They’re killing me, in the best possible way.

The fourth and final book in the series, The Raven King, is out at the end of April and I CANNOT WAIT. But I'm also dreading it because it's going to be an emotional rollercoaster of grand proportions. UGH. THESE BOOKS. They kill me.

 

The Love Lesson series, by Heidi Cullinan

Specifically, I'm talking about Love Lessons, Fever Pitch and Lonely Hearts, I have not read the free short as yet. I listened to all these in audiobook format, and I'm lumping them together because they are pretty great. As you'll see later, I am totally there for college-set romances of any stripe, so these were right up my alley. The audiobooks were beautifully read by Iggy Toma, and aside from there being a few too many references to anime that I had no idea about in Lonely Hearts, and being a tad sappy in places in all three books, I enjoyed them a lot.

 

The Understatement of the Year, by Sarina Bowen

Ah, my favourite trope! Old friends harbouring some kind of unresolved issue of the romantic kind meet again years later. I would read the shit out of this trope until the end of time and never get tired of it. I've even written it, that's how much I love it so. This one is totally worth the time investment, and the rest of the series I've read is pretty good too, for those of you who read M/F. Also, they're college set, so BONUS.

 

Him, by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy

Here's another old-friends-with-issues-meet-again book. Told you I loved that trope. And this one was a GREAT example of it. SO GOOD, I could not stop reading it. This one is getting a sequel too, and I am there for it 100%. This one and the one above also features something else that became a theme of my books read this year: hockey. I have absolutely NFA what hockey's about, but holy shit I love reading romances about people who play it.

 

Rivers of London, by Ben Aaronovitch

I love a good urban fantasy/magical realism tale, and this series of books fits the bill perfectly. Hapless police constable Peter Grant finds out that there's a lot more to the goings-on in London than he ever anticipated, and before he can blink he's neck deep in it. These are so good. I'm listening to them in audiobook format, and if you are at all fan of audiobooks, I recommend these unreservedly. Kobna Holdbrook-Smith does an amazing job with the narration.

 

Breakaway, by Avon Gale

Hockey book #3 to make the list. What can I say? I'd apologise, but I'm not sorry at all. This one is enjoyable - a young man who's amazing at hockey but who has no social skills whatsoever gets involved with a veteran player in a rival team. Hi-jinks ensue. This is the first in a series, and I can tell you now that the second book (Save of the Game) will be making it onto my "books I enjoyed in 2016" list for sure.

 

The Deal, by Elle Kennedy

This book combines two of my favourite things: college setting, and hockey. And it is DELIGHTFUL. I really loved this one, I'd go so far as to say that it is a strong contender for my favourite book of the year. I just really loved the interaction between Garrett and Hannah. Definitely recommended.

 

 

 

 

 

I request a do over...

...of the last 2 months. First, I worked myself into exhaustion and had to take 2 weeks off to recover, and then last week, a good friend and coworker died of breast cancer, after a really sudden deterioration.

It's that last one that's knocked me for a six. Several women in my circle have said to me that we've all known someone that this has happened to, and that's true, but for me this is the first person who's been really close to me who hasn't made it. Breast cancer is not in my family, and maybe I am still a bit young to have known that many people with breast cancer, and so my chance of being close with someone who died from it is smaller, I don't know. What I do know is that I have no desire to repeat this experience again. I have cried inconsolably more in the last 3 weeks than I have in the last 3 years, possibly more than in the last 3 decades. Tomorrow is the funeral, and I am speaking for a few minutes at the service. I've decided that since my friend was one of the jolliest, funniest people that I know, that I'll tell a funny story involving her so I can laugh for a while, and remember her how she'd want to be remembered.

I know things will get better. Even now, they're better than they were at the beginning of the week. It's the nature of these things, isn't it? We can't crumple into a heap for too long, because the world goes on around us in ways that force our participation. So I'll get there eventually. It might just take a little while, that's all.

Needless to say, I've done absolutely no writing recently. I feel very bad for those blog visitors who look at my Coming Soon page and constantly see sweet FA. I'm not the type of writer who can write in the face of massive emotional turmoil, I'm afraid. But maybe I'll put a few words down tonight, and a few more down tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. One foot in front of the other and all that.

(Originally posted at Wordpress August 2nd. Forgot to crosspost, whoops)

Where is the time going?

How it got to be almost April already, I have no idea. I tell myself I'm going to blog regularly, and then life happens, and I just don't.

2015 is turning out to be a bit of a rollercoaster ride. I have a very intense and mentally draining day job, which tends to ebb and flow in terms of workload, but I can safely say that we are the busiest that we have been in years, with no sign of it slowing down. Add to that some serious health issues being dealt with by people close to me, and all I can say is thank God it's Easter next week because I am so tired I can hardly bear it.

Having said that, I have been writing - my current WIP is around 53,000 words at the moment, so not insignificant. Given that I never plan things I'm not sure how long it'll end up being, but at least 80,000 I'd imagine. So a while to go yet, but it's getting there.

I hope you're all well, and getting much more sleep than I am!

Books I enjoyed in 2014

Here it comes, my annual "books I enjoyed" post, where I outline books I particularly enjoyed the previous year. Now, this year was a little different reading wise, because I tumbled head first into the Captain America fandom, and subsequently read an absolute shitload of fanfic. However, this is not the post where I gush about 90-something year old supersoldier boyfriends, it's the post where I discuss professionally published fiction; so, onward we go to my most memorable books of 2014.

In no particular order:

Infected: Bloodlines by Andrea Speed

The continuing adventures of Roan McKichan. If you're a reader of M/M and you don't know of this series by now, you either don't read paranormal, or you've been living under a rock. I am very, very far behind on them, because I find them incredibly intense, and sometimes I'm simply not in the mood for that. Having said that, I think they're excellent, and this one was heartbreaking. Absolutely, positively heartbreaking. I applaud Andrea for doing what she did with this one, because it was awful. But so incredibly realistic, it took my breath away.

Billy's Bones by Jamie Fessenden

A therapist sees a patient who attempted suicide, just the once. Three years later, they cross paths outside of the office, and a relationship develops, complicated by traumatic amnesia and a decades-old unsolved murder. This book has some triggering themes, but it was excellent. I couldn't put it down.

Shaking the Sugar Tree by Nick Wilgus

A single father struggles to find a life for himself while taking care of his deaf son and dealing with his quirky family. I found this charming, funny and sad. While I think some people were offended by the political incorrectness of some  of the book, I found it realistic - I don't know many families without a redneck bigmouth somewhere in the tree, and I think the portrayal of the frustrations of a parent dealing with a disabled child was absolutely spot on.

Machine by KZ Snow

I have waxed lyrical about the books in this series before, twice. I love them. All of them. I am very sad there will not be more of them. In this one, Fan (who I LOVE) struggles with his bipolarity and his past. If you have not read these, and are in any way a fan of steampunk/alternative universes, I recommend them all.

Lick by Kylie Scott

A girl goes to Vegas to celebrate her 21st birthday. She wakes up the next morning with a raging hangover, a tattoo, a scorchingly hot man in her room, and a ring on her wedding finger which matches the one on his. And she has no memory of any of it. Woops! This is labelled as new adult, and it's full of cliches but I thought it was great. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

The Border by Kim Fielding

Two men on opposing sides of a war find they're not really enemies after all. This one was lovely, and reminded me a lot of the movie Joyeux Noel, which I also liked very much and is also totally worth spending time on.

The Protector by Cooper West

In this universe, law enforcement includes bonded human/dog shifter pairs called guardsmen. The shifter of the pair is not supposed to live beyond the death of the human half, let alone bond to another handler. Until one does. This was an unusual take on paranormal law enforcement and the emotional connections of bonded pairs, and I really liked it.

Most Beautiful Words by Raine O'Tierney

This book has quite the eyebrow-raising premise - an M/M romance narrated by a 12 year old girl? Um, no. No thanks. But it needs to be given a chance, because how much Autumn loves her grandfather is charming, and as his layers and his history are revealed you get more and more sucked in; at least, I did. And the M/M side of things is highly, devastatingly romantic.

In Me an Invincible Summer by Ryan Loveless

Closeted gay man and action movie star Joe Nestra signs up to do a gay-themed movie, and the effect doing the movie has on him causes his carefully constructed life to fall down around him. Fair warning, Joe is a dick at first, but as I read on, I got more and more engrossed. By halfway through I really needed to know how it would end for Joe. It ends on a bit of a happy-for-now where his life as a whole is concerned, but I felt the treatment of him as a gay action movie star (once it was known) was realistic.

Body Option by Talya Andor

Soldier Grant Badu is partnered with a human-inside-a-machine, Trefoil Argent. Argent has an option to take a human body, but has not, for reasons unknown to Grant. Grant doesn't want to pry, but when Argent is forced into taking his body option to complete a dangerous mission, they can no longer avoid talking about it. This was a very, very interesting story. There were certain sensitive aspects of the plot which were handled non-offensively, which I appreciated. I enjoyed it.

The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves by Maggie Steifvater

These are part of a 4-book young adult series called the Raven Cycle, and they are SO GOOD. I can't even express how much I loved them. I've got the third one on order at the library (I am listening to them in audiobook, which I get through the library because they are outrageously priced in my country), but I'm torn about listening to it because then I will have to wait FOREVER for the fourth one to come out (later this year) and then it's all going to end in tragedy and I will DIE. Ugh.

These were definitely the best books I read all year. Ostensibly the series is about a group of teenagers searching for the grave of a Welsh king they believe can be revived, but really it's about forging friendships and family and falling in love for the first time and working out who you are as you grow up and how everything is so incredibly important and dramatic when you're young. They're killing me, in the best possible way.

*

OK, I'll stop now! If you made it this far, thanks for reading my rambling, and hope you found something that sounds like it's up your alley. Here's to a good reading year in 2015!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
A little heads-up about an exciting promo month that's just around the corner now. My blogging day is January 16th, but as you'll see there's a heap of Aussie and Kiwi authors participating, so it promises to be great!

~*~

For the entire month of January, Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is showcasing 28 authors from Australia and New Zealand. Journey by way of these authors stories and settings through the mountainous regions and rocky coasts, and cities of New Zealand, or the vastly different and beautiful territories of Australia! Get to know the authors and let them act as your travel guides, introducing you to faraway countries, places they call home.

Think everyone in the US, CAN, AUS, and NZ all speak the same English? Oh the joy of discovering what an “esky”, “chilly bin”, “jandals”, “mozzie” or even a “woop-woop” is. Each day brings a new author, new books, new giveaways and, yes, new surprises.

In addition to these wonderful authors and their novels, Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words has multiple event prizes to be awarded to readers who participate in the Down Under Author Showcase Scavenger Hunt. Visit each author’s page in January, search out the Scavenger Hunt word or phrase, and then follow the directions on the Showcase page at our website.

For all the details and information for our first January Down Under Author Showcase, visit http://scatteredthoughtsandroguewords.com

Check out our participating authors below (in no particular order):

N.R. Walker * Christian Baines * Anne Barwell * Nic Starr * Renae Kaye * Meredith Shayne * John Terry Moore * John Wiltshire * Lily Veldon * Barry Lowe * L.J. LaBarthe * Beany Sparks * Jack Byrne * Nicki J. Markus * Michelle Rae * A.B. Gayle * Lisa Harris * Isabelle Rowan * N.J. Nielson * Bette Browne * Lisa Henry * Toni Griffin * Pelaam * RJ Jones * Penny Brandon * Cecil Wilde * Ellen Cross * Maggie Nash

Plus Down Under publishers:
Wayward Ink Press * BDPublications

Tags:

My Cutting Out blog tour has now come to its conclusion, with the following posts:

I talk about Australia versus New Zealand at Two Men Are Better Than One (and highlight a HILARIOUS video from a Flight of the Conchords episode)

At My Fiction Nook, there's an exclusive excerpt from the book, plus a 4-star review from Sandra, who says:

I loved the descriptions of the landscape, loved how the author didn't shy back from showing the reality of shearing, working with sheep, and how hard these men work for the money they make. The writing is crisp, straight-forward, realistic and organic. A wonderfully rounded story, a character study of two men, and a romance that is, while quiet, also strong and enduring.

 

I'm also delighted to report that Cutting Out has been nominated in two categories in the Goodreads Member's Choice Awards - Best Contemporary/Mainstream and Best Blue Collar. Thanks so much to those who nominated it!

You have to be a member of the group to vote, but if you are, the topic at the group is here. Voting opens November 28th.

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The Cutting Out blog tour continues

The Cutting Out blog tour continues! Over the last few days I've been getting around the place with some interviews and blog posts. At all these blog stops, the giveaway is running, so don't forget to enter! You can find the posts at the following links:

- I answer some great interview questions from Gen at SydneyGen Reads

- I talk about shearing competitions at Erotica For All

- The Novel Approach gets some of my gushing about Queenstown, plus some photos of the gorgeous Otago-region scenery

- The Aussie accent and slang is the subject of my blog post at Zipper Rippers

- I talk about the life of a New Zealand shearer at Hearts on Fire Reviews

- Finally, CJ Baty interviews me over at her blog. I manage to talk about my love of reality TV once again!

 

 

 

Meet the Character Blog Hop

So I've been tagged by the lovely Nic Starr to participate in the Meet the Character Blog Hop, where those of us who are so inclined talk a little bit about the characters from our latest books. Nic introduced us to Dave Simpson, from her upcoming release A Day at a Time. You can read more about Dave in Nic's post here. A Day at a Time will be out on October 29th, and you can preorder it from Dreamspinner Press here.

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Blurb

Sean Vargos is quiet, well respected, and dedicated to his job. But Dave Simpson sees Sean as more than a coworker. He's fought his attraction to Sean for months but can't get him out of his thoughts.

They tentatively embark on a relationship, but Sean isn’t all that he seems. He struggles to put his past behind him and overcome his fears.

Dave, with his good looks and open nature, accepts that sometimes Sean’s doubts get the better of him and he runs. Dave just wants the chance to show Sean he can be trusted and the past doesn't have to dictate their future.

~~~

Now it's time for you to meet Shane, from my newly released novel, Cutting Out.

What is the name of your character?

Shane Cooper, Coop to his friends. "That Aussie bastard" to people who are not his friends. :)

Is he a fictional or a historic person?

Most definitely fictional.

When and where is the story set?

Cutting Out is a contemporary romance set in New Zealand, mostly in the shearing sheds of various sheep farms across the country. Queenstown and Christchurch also feature.

What should we know about him?

He's Australian, something that is rare enough in New Zealand that everybody constantly comments on it. He's been in New Zealand for 10 years, after leaving Australia for reasons that he never talks about. He's a shearer at the top of his game, earning the title of gun shearer without breaking a sweat. He turns 40 during the course of the story, and all he sees when he looks in the mirror is the grey in his hair and the crows feet at the corners of his eyes.

What is the main conflict? What messes up his life?

Meeting a young shearer by the name of Lachlan Moore. Fifteen years Shane's junior, when we meet Lachie he's a bit of a party boy, but then he suffers a personal tragedy during the Christchurch earthquake that changes his life forever. Shane wants to get to know Lachie more than he's wanted anything for a while, but Lachie's issues build a sturdy, almost-insurmountable wall between them.

What is the personal goal of the character?

To have a quiet, peaceful life. He's ready to settle down and find someone who's more than just a one-night fling.

Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

The book is called Cutting Out, and it's available now from Bottom Drawer Publications

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Blurb

A twenty-year veteran of the shearing shed, Aussie Shane Cooper loves his job, and the home he’s made for himself in New Zealand. If he’s a little lonely, he’s got good mates to keep his spirits up. When a hot, cocky young shearer named Lachlan Moore catches his eye at a competition, he’s content to look but not touch, knowing the young man is out of his league.


Lachie wouldn’t mind a piece of Shane, but the gorgeous gun shearer from Australia is soon forgotten when the Christchurch earthquake hits, and tragedy strikes Lachie’s family. Lachie deals with it the best he can, cutting himself off from all he knows. A year later and he’s back in the shearing shed, out of practice and lacking confidence. That Shane’s there to watch him flounder doesn’t help his nerves.


As Lachlan struggles to re-acclimatise, Shane can’t resist giving him a hand to get back on his feet. As they move from friends to something more, Shane finds himself wanting to know everything he can about Lachie. But Lachie’s got secrets he desperately wants to keep, and when things come to a head, those secrets might just mean the end of them before they’ve truly begun.


~~~


Now to introduce you to the two authors who I'm handing the blog hop baton to. Both of these lovely ladies will be posting on November 3rd, so watch out for their posts. Enjoy the rest of the blog hop!


LJ LaBarthe (Blog: http://misslj_author.livejournal.com/)


A long-term friend of mine, LJ has just released Mythica from Bottom Drawer Publications.


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Blurb


Caiden Jones is part-selkie and lives an idyllic life by the sea in South Australia. He’s had his fair share of disappointments, like being kept out of the Navy due to his mythica status, but overall he’s got a pretty good life. Until he’s in the wrong place at the right time.


Cai steps in to subdue an out-of-control minotaur and in the process suffers a serious injury to his ribs. As Cai struggles to breathe, a gorgeous suit-clad sy’lph with mesmerising blue eyes races to his rescue. When it’s learned that the minotaur was poisoned, the sy’lph, Gray, makes it his personal mission to keep Cai and his family safe.


Cai has always harboured some resentment towards the sy’lph because of their easy acceptance into the community, so the attraction he feels for Gray takes him by surprise. But how can they find out what this might mean when the lives of Cai and his family are endangered by someone closer than they realise?


Renae Kaye (Blog: http://renaekaye.weebly.com/renae-blogs)


Renae is a woman after my own heart; that is, she likes to write about shearers. Her new release, The Shearing Gun, is available from Dreamspinner Press.


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Blurb


At twenty-five, Hank owns a small parcel of land in Australia’s rural southwest where he supplements his income from the property with seasonal shearing. Hank is a “shearing gun”—an ace shearer able to shear large numbers of sheep in a single day. His own father kicked him out when his sexuality was revealed, and since no one would ever hire a gay shearer, Hank has remained firmly closeted ever since.


Elliot is the newbie doctor in town—city-born and somewhat shell-shocked from his transplant to the country. When a football injury brings Hank to Elliot’s attention, an inappropriate sexual glance and the stuttered apology afterward kickstarts their friendship. Romance and love soon blossom, but it’s hard for either of them to hope for anything permanent. As if the constant threat of being caught isn’t enough, Elliot’s contract runs out after only a year.

Cutting Out release day

Cutting Out is now on sale! You can pick up a copy at the following places:

The Bottom Drawer Publications website

Amazon

All Romance ebooks

Barnes & Noble

Bookstrand

Kobo

Smashwords

I hope you enjoy it!
Well, it's been a while, chooks, since I have posted here and also since I have had a new release. But I am happy to report that the novel-length version of Cutting Out now has its very own Coming Soon page at Bottom Drawer Publications, and a release date - it will go live on October 11th, not even 2 weeks from today.

Those of you following along at home will know that Cutting Out originated in short story form in the Blokes in Love anthology, that was released at the end of last year to commemorate the very first Southern Hemisphere M/M writers and readers meetup. Since that time it has been substantially expanded, going from a 13,500-word short story to a 78,000-word novel. The short dropped you right in the middle of Shane and Lachie's relationship; the novel gives you the lead-up to it as well.

For those who don't want to click through to the link (there will be an excerpt up on the publisher page soon, but given I am still neck-deep in galley proofs for it, that day is not today), here is a peek at the cover, and also the blurb. Please enjoy:

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A twenty-year veteran of the shearing shed, Aussie Shane Cooper loves his job, and the home he’s made for himself in New Zealand. If he’s a little lonely, he’s got good mates to keep his spirits up. When a hot, cocky young shearer named Lachlan Moore catches his eye at a competition, he’s content to look but not touch, knowing the young man is out of his league.

 Lachie wouldn’t mind a piece of Shane, but the gorgeous gun shearer from Australia is soon forgotten when the Christchurch earthquake hits, and tragedy strikes Lachie’s family. Lachie deals with it the best he can, cutting himself off from all he knows. A year later and he’s back in the shearing shed, out of practice and lacking confidence. That Shane’s there to watch him flounder doesn’t help his nerves.


 As Lachlan struggles to re-acclimatise, Shane can’t resist giving him a hand to get back on his feet. As they move from friends to something more, Shane finds himself wanting to know everything he can about Lachie. But Lachie’s got secrets he desperately wants to keep, and when things come to a head, those secrets might just mean the end of them before they’ve truly begun.


 
Some could argue that in the age of the internet, with Google Earth, Google street view, Flickr, etc, that you don't have to visit a place to write about it. I know of authors who have written novels set in cities that they've never set foot in, and I've done it myself, never having visited Kalgoorlie and its surrounds, where Eyes Wide Shut and Rust Red: Galvanized are set.

No one's ever picked me up about any location errors in those books; still, set something in a real place and it's always a risk that there'll be something you miss. I almost made a location error in Whitewater - there were plenty of photos of Wylie's Baths, the place where Luke goes for his daily swim, online for me to look at, beautiful, atmospheric photos that showed me that Wylie's was just what I wanted in a beachside pool for Luke. But what none of the photos I saw online showed me, what I saw when I got there, was that the pool was graduated, less than ankle deep at the land edge and only about 3 feet or so deep at the sea edge. The photos also failed to show me the big "NO DIVING" warnings painted on the concrete along each of the pool's edges. Originally I did have Luke and Cam diving into that pool, but in the finished book they walk in, because to remain faithful to the reality of that place, they couldn't dive.

Now, obviously there is room for poetic license, and writers do that all the time; I made up a whole town in Equilibrium, and made space for a bakery and a beachside café in Coogee for Whitewater where there is no space for those things in the real Coogee. Sometimes, if you need something to be there you just plop it down where you need it and all is right with the world.

Having said all that, if you can visit a place, it's usually an advantage. Lake Pupuke is a freshwater lake in the middle of the North Shore of Auckland, formed in the craters of two volcanoes (yep, volcanoes). A lake in a volcanic crater sounds like a place where some paranormal happenings might take place, does it not? Observe:

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OK, admittedly, the bright, sunny day makes it look like the best place ever for a swim, but people have drowned there, so...yes. We will see what happens. :)
Despite suffering the catastrophic meltdown of my main laptop on Friday night (it died and is dead, never to be backed up again - thank god for Dropbox is all I can say), I have managed to update my Coming Soon page with the news that Cutting Out, the novel-length adaptation of my short story of the same name, will be out mid-year. So yay to having something new out relatively soon!

In the meantime, I will be occupying myself with another freebie, because I accidentally tripped and fell into the Goodreads M/M Romance group's annual member prompt frenzy. I didn't mean to, because I do have other things to write, but when you're confronted with something that looks like this:

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how can you possibly resist?

Reader, I couldn't.

The prompt that goes with the post is this, from the lovely Donna:

This is my life… by day I walk on land and I am as human as the man standing next to me… but by night… the water calls to me and I must return to it… all I have ever wanted is a man who would love me for who I am… both day and night…

I would only ask for a story… as beautiful as this photo

So it gets even better. I have Plans for that young man, is all I can say. If having to survive for the next 2 weeks on my very non-grunty netbook until my replacement computer arrives doesn't kill me first, anyway.
Morning, tiddlywinks. I'm on holidays now, I don't go back to work for 10 days. I am delighted by this prospect. I have been up since 6.30 am, which is not really what people like to do on the first day of their holidays, but the reason is fairly simple: I have an overseas visitor arriving tomorrow, and a novel to finish by this afternoon. Both those things will definitely happen! If it kills me.

But while I sit here and wake up enough to dive into the world of manly men who shear sheep, I bring you some news items from my part of the world, for your reading pleasure.

These first two fall under the category of "It's a wonder any male in Australia is still alive, that's how dumb they are":

A naked man got stuck in a washing machine and was freed when the firemen called to the scene covered him in olive oil

I mean, what can you say about this one. Firemen covering people in olive oil sounds like the start of a porn film I'd like to see, but really, those poor firemen. I'm quite sure they don't get paid enough for that.

A Queensland man put a budgie cage on his head and went swimming with a tiger shark

Moron. The video of it is ridiculous. The worst part about it is that man is married. His poor wife.

As for hilarious happenings in New Zealand:

A customer pissed a Southland baker off, and got a poo cake in return

Fortunately not a cake made of poo, but a cake made in the--very realistic--likeness of poo. It had a little sign sticking out of it too, but I'll let you discover what that said on your own. The two best things about it was the baker was entirely unrepentant at having done it, saying that client "deserved what she got", and the comment of someone from the Chamber of Commerce in Southland, who said, "This time of year people get a bit stressed". Fantastic.

Why yes, a member of Frankie Goes to Hollywood does live in Auckland, thanks for asking 

Don't think that everyone I know who was a teenager in the 80s hasn't considered staking out Oneroa to catch him down the shops. Including me.

Books I enjoyed in 2013

Since 2010, one of my first blog posts of the year has been a list of the books I read in the previous year that I particularly enjoyed (see the tag "books I enjoyed", natch). I usually go with about ten-ish, but this year I glommed one series in particular, so grouping those books together will probably skew the numbers somewhat. But let's not get fixated on that! On to the books. These will be presented in the order I read them, because that's how my Goodreads list is organised and I can't be bothered changing that.

As always, don't expect much of a review. For some of these, you should expect incoherent fangirl gushing. And a fair bit of all caps. Buy links are added for your convenience.

Fettered by Lyn Gala

A young man goes to a BDSM club because his brother's a sadistic rapist and he wants to find out what makes him tick, and lo and behold, his life is changed forever.

BDSM in books often doesn't work for me because I am such a strong-willed person that the idea of submitting to anyone - or having anyone submit to me - is unfathomable and makes me want to vom (that is not an invitation to explain the lifestyle to me, by the way. I am really not interested, life is short and I don't care). But circumstances led me to this book, and I started it and it was fine, Miss Dolphinia showed up and that was interesting, Dylan, fine, Vin, fine, whatever, and then BAM! I HAD to know what was going to happen IMMEDIATELY. So I stayed up until ridiculous o'clock to find out, and it was worth it.

Crucifox #1: The Green-eyed Monster by Melanie Tushmore

The trials and tribulations of a British rock band as they make it big throughout the 80s and 90s, doing many idiotic things along the way.

Oh, those boys. Having been heavily involved in the Sydney rock scene in the 90s myself, this was like looking at a reflection of every idiot I ever knew who played in a band back then. Turns out that stupid boys in bands needing their heads banged together is an international phenomenon, so there you go. I enjoyed this heartily, it was very real to me, and I did want to smash their heads together many, many times, but Christ on a bike, how I loved Brandon. He is hilarious.

Cambion: Dark Around the Edges by Cari Z

Originally released as a series, it's now available in a single volume. This book is extremely difficult to summarise in a single snappy sentence, but holy shit did it hit all my buttons. Angels, demons, main characters who can do their jobs with their eyes closed, one who's desperate to be loved for himself, and one who loves and is desperate to hide it. Scorchingly hot sex as well. I adored it. I can't wait for there to be more of it. I will be there ordering the season pass with bells on.

The General and the Horse-Lord by Sarah Black

Two military men who've been together for 25 years try to find out where they fit, both in the world and with each other, now they've left the service.

This book polarises people, because one of the MCs is married, and has been cheating on his wife with the other MC for the entire span of their marriage. Part of the book deals with the marriage breakup. If that's not a no-no for you, then this book is a masterpiece. John and Gabriel belong together, and they are fantastic. They are warriors, with so much history together, and all of that comes through. I loved this. And I have to say, I don't generally have a preference for character age in what I read, but these two were nearing 50, and they dealt with their issues like grown-ups. That was nice to read.

Claimings, Tails and Other Alien Artifacts by Lyn Gala

A human called Liam trades with an alien called Ondry. Liam thinks they're friends, but he discovers that Ondry wants to be a lot more.

I am leery of things set in space. The fact that I'm a scientist puts me off anything that might contain a lot of hard science, because a) fictional science is generally unbelievable and implausible, and b) ugh, boring, might as well be at work. But I had already read and liked other things by Lyn, so I picked it up, and I enjoyed it immensely. Ondry is an alien, and he acts like one. A lot of this book is these two trying to bridge that cultural gap. I loved that. I also loved the tail sex. How often can you say you've read a book with tail sex in it? Not very often.

Merman by KZ Snow

The vampire Clancy Marrowbone tries to stay away from Purim province, and a certain Simon Bentcross, but finds he just can't manage it. Hijinks ensue.

This is the second book in KZ's Mongrel series, and I have to say that I LOVE both books. LOVE THEM. They are fantastic, the world is interesting and unique, the characters are incredibly likable, I just adore everything about these books. Mongrel made it onto my "books I enjoyed in 2011" post, and I'm sure that the third book, Machine, will make it onto my "books I enjoyed in 2014" post. LOVE. LOVE LOVE LOVE. I love Fan. Every time Fan punches Simon in the mouth is a personal highlight for me.

Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews

AKA the Kate and Curran show. Life-sucking, sleep-depriving vortex of addictiveness.

I picked the first book in this series as an audiobook from the library for a lark. I'd been told that it was OK, but that the books got better as the series went along, and that is 100% true. The first book was fine, I enjoyed it, but it was nothing special. I picked up the second in audiobook as well, and had to muffle laughter at several points so as not to look like a lunatic while out in public. I had the third book to listen to when I went to Sydney for the Oz M/M Meet in October, and it was lucky that I had 3 hours of plane flight to occupy myself, because I could not stop listening to it. Could. Not. Stop. It was SO GOOD. And also hilarious. I snort laughed many, many times, in public, like a lunatic. When I got home I snapped all of the books up in ebook form and burned through the last three in the two days afterwards, emerging at 3am at the end of book 6 bleary-eyed and wild-haired, and had to go to work on 3 hours' sleep and attempt to function. I will be picking up book 7 immediately upon its release WITH BELLS ON.

Hotter than Ever by Elle Kennedy

Bride who just got dumped at the altar accidentally sees her almost-brother-in-law pashing (that's Australian for kissing, Northern Hemisphere people) his boyfriend. When she finds herself staying with the two men, she discovers they aren't only interested in men.

This is part of Elle Kennedy's Out of Uniform series, which don't really need to be read in order, based on my experience. In short, this is an absolutely scorchingly hot book about the formation of a threesome. SCORCHINGLY HOT. I enjoyed it immensely. I read one of the others in the series as well (Feeling Hot), which I also enjoyed (and not just for the voyeuristic M/M scene either), so at some point I will be reading the rest of them.

Pretty Poison by Kari Gregg

Noah's a wolf who is permanently disabled by an accident when he was young. Wade is the alpha who claims him as his mate.

Wow, did this book hit all my shifter buttons! The tough "weak" character, the outwardly tough alpha who is secretly awash with insecurities and kindness...this was great. Again it had non-human characters who didn't just act like humans, and scorchingly hot sex scenes again. There is a sex scene that involves knotting that practically singed my eyebrows off, it was that hot. Holy crap. Highly enjoyable. I loved it.

And that concludes the summary of my 2013 reading journey. Here's to some equally good books in 2014!

Book news

I'm very pleased to announce that I've signed a contract with Bottom Drawer Publications for the expanded version of Cutting Out, my Oz MM Meet anthology story. There are a lot of gaps in Shane and Lachie's story as it stands now, so I'm filling them in. Those boys haven't quite finished with me yet. :)

The expanded version should be done by the end of the year (side note: can you believe it's November already? How did that happen), so I expect that the book will be out sometime early 2014. BDP is an Australian publisher that I've heard good things about, so I'm looking forward to working with them. My talks with them so far, about me and what I want for my books, have been great, so I think they'll be a good fit for me. Now all I've got to do is get that book written!

Blokes in Love (new free read)

I break my accidental blog hiatus to say that I've updated my book pages with some changes. First of all, my novella Rust Red: Galvanized, which is a sequel to my free read Eyes Wide Shut, has now gone out of print. So if you wanted to grab it, you're out of luck, I'm afraid. At least until I decide what I'm going to do with it.

Second of all, the first M/M meetup in Australia has come and gone. I flew over to Sydney to attend it, and had a fab time, which I will attempt to put into words sometime soon. To commemorate that event, an anthology with six stories from some of the attending authors has been produced. Called Blokes in Love, it's available for free from Smashwords and All Romance ebooks. All the stories have a common thread, in that they're all set in either Australia or New Zealand, to showcase life down under. As is fitting for a bunch of bods who love M/M and got together to celebrate being from the southern hemisphere!

Contributing authors were AB Gayle, NJ Nielsen, Jess Buffet, Pelaam, Susan Beck and me. My story is called "Cutting Out", and it's the story of Shane Cooper and Lachlan Moore, shearers who work the runs of New Zealand. Serena Yates of Rainbow Book Reviews - who came all the way from the UK to attend the Meet, how good is that? - has reviewed the anthology and loved it.

Of Cutting Out, she said:

"...this story about two sheep shearers, one much older than the other, touched me deeply. Shane so desperately wants more than casual encounters with the much younger Lachie, and is devastated when Lachie rejects him. Shane's situation had me up in arms, railing against the injustices of fate. That was until I got to see things from Lachie's side, and his reasons for turning down Shane almost made me cry. Be ready for an intense emotional roller coaster as these two men battle their pride and their circumstances!"

Below is an excerpt, for your reading pleasure. The lovely cover is courtesy of Jess Buffett, who went the extra mile and made all contributing authors individual covers, in addition to the anthology cover.

Individual cover_185


He’d half expected it, but his heart still jolted when he came face to face with Lachie, his shaggy black hair poking out from under the beanie he wore, his dark brown eyes fixed on Shane’s face.

Lachie offered Shane a tentative smile. “Morning, Coop.”

“Morning,” Shane said gruffly, his heart aching as he stared at Lachie for a few seconds longer before picking up his gear and stowing it in the trailer. When he turned around he didn’t look at Lachie again, directing his gaze somewhere in the vicinity of Lachie’s booted feet. “We’ll be leaving in a minute.”

Lachie said, “Okay…” and Shane stepped around him, heading towards the bus’s sliding door, which was now standing open. Don was there, chatting to the team, and the last-minute instructions he had for Shane were a welcome distraction. Being the first one in the van, Shane folded himself into a seat at the front, slouching down as Jade and Di took the driver and passenger seats and the others piled in behind Shane. Shane’s neck and shoulders loosened just a tiny bit as the new rouseabout—Pania—sat beside him, Lachie casting them a look Shane refused to believe was disappointed as he climbed in after her.

Shane slouched down a bit more as they set off and the others started chatting around him. He knew he wouldn’t be allowed to sit quietly and mind his own business straight away, so he wasn’t surprised when someone grabbed the back of his seat and shook it.

“Coop, did you watch the game over the weekend?” Maaka asked, his voice triumphant. “We thrashed the Wallabies good, didn’t we? We thrashed you good and proper!”

“Didn’t watch it,” Shane said, which wasn’t exactly true. He’d watched it, sitting in the corner of his local pub on his own, surrounded by Kiwis and trying not to let anyone hear him say anything like “six” or “fish and chips” while the Aussies were soundly thrashed by the All Blacks. He’d left at half-time, when all hope was lost. It didn’t matter too much; he’d get his own back when the cricket started, because the Black Caps were the shittiest cricket team in the world, and everyone knew it. He’d let his gang take their victories while they could.

Before Maaka could gloat any more, Pania turned to him. “You from Aussie, then?”

Shane had given up trying to get the Kiwis he knew to call Australia the right nickname—Oz—years ago. It was a losing battle. “Yep. South coast of New South Wales,” he said. “Been here about ten years.” Braced for the question they always asked, he wasn’t disappointed.

“What the hell did you come here for? Isn’t it always the other way around, us going there?”

Shane sighed internally. They never got it. “I’m a shearer,” he said, like he always did, because nobody ever seemed to realise that wasn’t an actual answer before he distracted them with another thing he always said. “I like New Zealand, it’s beautiful. You lot don’t appreciate what you’ve got here. You just focus on the bad things and forget about the good.”

That shut them up for a while, and when they’d all mulled that over and started talking again, the conversation turned from him to other, safer topics. Glancing over his shoulder to find Lachie watching him, he turned back around without acknowledging it. Slumping in his seat some more, Shane settled in to brood for the rest of the trip.
I've spent a teeth-grindingly frustrating afternoon formatting Truce for publication through All Romance ebooks for those of you who like to have your freebies in ebook form, and eventually came out victorious. I have now confirmed that section breaks are a tool of Satan. Not that I didn't know that before.

Anyway! Truce now has a pretty cover, courtesy of my good friend LJ LaBarthe, and is available in PDF, Mobi and ePub formats here, still absolutely 100% free.

I did my best to check all the formatting, but there's only so many times you can read something and still see the things that are wrong with it, so if there's any formatting that makes you want to stab your eyes out in any of the file formats, please let me know and I'll do my best to fix it. Proof of bleeding eyeballs not required.
A little while ago, Ms Melanie Tushmore announced that what she would really love for her birthday was some fic, written by her writerly friends. Because she is a considerate lass, she left us some prompts to choose from, and when one of the prompts is something that looks like this:

29

how could I possibly resist?

Scraping in under the deadline by the skin of my teeth, here is some rockstar m/m for your reading pleasure. It features new, never before seen characters, but there is a cameo by everyone's favourite band manager, for those of you who have read Metal Heart. :) Do I need to warn for swearing and sexual situations? There you go, I just did.

~

Truce, by Meredith ShayneCollapse )

Copyright © Meredith Shayne

All the usual disclaimers apply - this is a work of fiction. Any names, places, incidents and events are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual people, incidents or events is entirely coincidental, etc etc.

Thanks to LJ LaBarthe for the read through.

The food and landscape of Whitewater

Two things are quite important in Whitewater: food, and Coogee Beach.

If you bought the paperback of the anthology, you will know already that there's a glossary in it, that explains some Aussie terms, and on my part, provides some information on the Australian-specific food mentioned in Whitewater. I am quite keen for people to be able to picture the food that Luke makes accurately, and to that end I'll reproduce here the explanations and recipe links that are in the glossary in the paperback version.

Biscuit – cookie.

Flat white – coffee, with milk. No froth or other embellishments (cocoa powder, cinnamon, etc).

Sausage roll – minced meat (typically beef and pork, but sometimes chicken), herbs and onion wrapped in puff pastry. An example of a recipe is here.

Scone – a small bread-like cake. Can be sweet or savoury. Wikipedia entry for scones.

Tomato sauce – the Australian equivalent of ketchup.

Vanilla slice – a firm vanilla custard between puff pastry sheets, typically decorated with either a simple water and icing sugar-based icing or a dusting of icing sugar. An example of a recipe is here.

 

Now I would really, really like a sausage roll. NOM.

Also, in Australian, thongs = flip flops. :)

 

Now we get to Coogee beach. In a spectacular case of good timing, I happened to be going back to Sydney at a time when I had just finished the first draft of Whitewater, so I decided to visit all the locations featured in the book and take some photos, which turned out to be incredibly useful, particularly when it came to Wylie's Baths.

I posted an album of some of the photos I took that day on Facebook, which is here if anyone wants to take a look at it. It just so happened to be one of those beautiful Sydney spring days that Luke thinks about on the day that he and Cam go to Wylie's Baths for the first time. What it wasn't, though, was a good surfing day. Cam and Luke wouldn't have gotten much out of a surf that day. :)

Whitewater available now

My new novella, Whitewater, is now available. You can get it from Dreamspinner here or from All Romance ebooks here.

I've mentioned before that Whitewater is part of an anthology of novellas set in Australia and written by Australian authors: myself, LJ LaBarthe, Isabelle Rowan, RJ Astruc and Robyn Walker. The novellas are available as separate ebooks or together in a print edition. If you'd like to take a gander at the other stories, you can find them all on their very own page at Dreamspinner and All Romance ebooks. I hope you enjoy them!
The last February interview of the #bandslash blog tour is up, and it's mine, over on Clancy Nacht's blog.

I talk about writing, music - obscure Australian bands of the 90s for the win! - and Metal Heart. Feel free to head over there for a chat.
My next book is almost here! It's called Whitewater, it's a novella, and it's being released as a stand-alone ebook and in print as part of the Under the Southern Cross anthology, which is an anthology of five stories set in Australia written by Australian authors - myself, LJ LaBarthe, Isabelle Rowan, RJ Astruc and Robyn Walker.

More about the anthology as a whole in a minute. First I just want to share the absolutely beautiful cover art, done by the amazing Anne Cain, and the blurb for Whitewater.

Whitewater cover art and blurb, plus the links for the whole anthologyCollapse )

If you like the sound of that, the link for preordering is here. The book will be available on March 13th, so not too long to go now.

The cover art for the anthology as a whole, and the other individual ebooks, is just as stunning as that for Whitewater. Anne is truly a genius. The whole lot is available for preorder at the following links:

Under the Southern Cross paperback

The Body on the Beach by LJ LaBarthe

Coming Home by Robyn Walker

Jasper and the Dead by RJ Astruc

The Red Heart by Isabelle Rowan

#bandslash blog tour, Goodreads chat

The #bandslash blog tour continues on Jet's blog with Piper Vaughn & Mj O'shea's 'Lucky Moon' rockstar series!

Go here for the interview with Piper and MJ

 

On Saturday, at 3pm US EST, I will be at the Dreamspinner Press Goodreads group doing a chat. It'll be Sunday morning for me, so if you come and talk to me you'll get to see what I'm like when I first wake up, so that'll be fun! I will be doing a giveaway during the chat, the exact details of which have yet to be decided, but I'm pondering it. I'll post the link to the chat when I have it. I hope to see you there!



PS. I think I forgot to post the original #bandslash post here. If you click on this link it'll explain everything. The first giveaway is done and dusted though, alas, but there's still one to go, and lots of interesting interviews in between!

Metal Heart freebies!

It's obviously the week to get a free copy of my book!

First of all, you can win a copy of Metal Heart via the #bandslash blog tour, if you comment on the first post at Babes in Boyland.

If you go here, to Reviews by Jessewave, you can sling your name into the hat to win another free copy. Have at it, kids!

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