Monday, 12 December 2016

What Makes a Christmas Release?

Come this time of year you can’t move at virtual booksellers for titles that reference snow, bells, or wishes and covers that feature well wrapped up couples, sleighs, and Christmas trees. This fact is especially true in the romance genre.

Christmas stories. It’s a strange concept, at least from an author’s point of view. Why spend time writing and editing a story that will only really sell for a couple of months a year. More often than not, you’ll find authors getting ‘joyful’ over their festive holiday manuscripts in the long, dark, drab nights of February and March in order to meet the publishers’ submission dates. Nights when the jolly, sugar-fuelled highs of December have long since faded. The excitement of new gifts have waned into moans about the battery consumption and food that had been such a delight to indulge shows no sign of shifting from your waistline. With authors working in these conditions it’s a surprise to find any Christmas spirit in the resulting stories at all.

As a reader I understand the appeal of a festive story. Come December the first I’m unlikely to pick up a book that unless it comes with a HOHOHO and a huge dollop of sugar attached. Go back a decade and I never changed my reading habits as Christmas approached. When every book I read involved guns and spies, cops or adventurers my need to make my reading matter appropriate to the season didn’t exist. Yes, I would occasionally pull out my dog-eared copy of Tied up in Tinsel and give that a reread but that was as far as Christmas would intrude on my reading. It’s only since I started reading romance that I discovered this urge to make December a month of light, sweet reads.

So what makes a Festive themed story?

No, you can’t just set it around one of the December celebratory holidays and hope for the best.

A lightweight, low angst story tends to work well. I don’t know about the rest of you but I don’t want my Christmas filled with death, destruction or infidelity (I can get my fill of that from the Christmas Day episodes of the British soaps).

I want something sweet that will make me smile. I’m more tolerant of teeth-rotting saccharine sweet stories at this time of the year than at any other, when I prefer my story with a low to medium level bite.

I’m also more likely to accept a version of instalove and be satisfied with a HFN over a full blown HEA. I think this is because many of the stories take place over the short Christmas break or in those few weeks leading up to Christmas so the relationship has to develop quickly and they often only deal with the MeetCute or the start of the relationship. The Magic of the Season brings our MCs together, why should we not believe that same Magic can give them a HEA even if we don’t read about it on the page.

So bring on the snow-ins and candy canes, the elves and dancing penguins, lost presents and blocked chimneys.

I’ll read them all. And some of them I’ll write. When Love Flue In is available now.

What makes a festive holiday story for you?

Buy Links: Totally Bound // All Romance ebooks  //  Kobo  //  Amazon UK  // Amazon US

(This post was originally published here in 2014. The location might have changed but the sentiment hasn't.)

Friday, 9 December 2016

Bones - series review

Another series all finished unless Kim Fielding decides to add another book.

Yes, I'm talking about the Bones series.

I read the first book in this series, Good Bones, three years ago, and then despite buying both sequels I left them languishing in my TBR pile. (Things get lost in there so easily!)

13576676A werewolf story that isn't all 'mine', mates, and insta-love, is always going to endear me to a book in this sub-genre. Chris, the human half of the couple, is an adorable redneck, with more brains than he lets on and a habit of taking a piss off his decking when he's drunk.

Fast forward three years, a quick read of the blurb and my GR review and I'm up to speed and ready to start on book 2. Buried Bones (Bones 2) catches up with the boys several weeks after the end of book 1. This story addresses some of the backstory and lingering issues that the guys are still dealing with at the end of the last book and by the end their relationship is solid. The main story is about a ghost in the house (unlike the characters I guessed who he was almost immediately) and Chris reconnecting with his estranged father. Oh and it appears there is something in the pond.

In Book 3, Bone Dry, Chris and Dylan head off on holiday and leave their artist friend Ery looking after the house. And that thing in the's a gorgeous naked man. I could see this one had an issue that would be hard to be resolved and despite expecting it, when that moment came I still cried. I should have had faith in Kim Fielding's ability to provide me with a  happy ending. But a HEA seemed more difficult to achieve and still I got a satisfactory one. I loved that Chris and Dylan had quite a substantial part in this story and not just as catch-up filler. And we get to meet up with the characters from Speechless again.

Overall a lovely series and one I'd happily recommend. And it can now be bought in a Dremspinner bundle.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Rainbow awards

The Rainbow Awards have recently been announced.

I'm overjoyed to discover that:

     Resistance garnered an Honourable Mention 


New Lease of Life was a finalist in the contemporary category.   

Even better news was that the awards raised over $14000 for various LGBT charities this year,

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Sod the charity adverts, send a dead bird

Another of those Victorian Christmas Cards.

And a tale from my past.

I went to primary school with a girl named Claire, she was born in London but her mum and dad were Welsh, born and bred. I would go around her house on a regular basis (it was the first place I was introduced to the joys of Dr Pepper). Come Christmastime her home, same as ours, would be awash with cards, hung from swags of wool. Except every other card would have a hole in it. Some big, some small. These holes had originally been the image of a robin; realistic, cartoon, it didn't matter. No robins were allowed in the house for fear of bad luck.

I wonder if Mrs Jones would have approved of this card from those cute and fluffy Victorians.

“May yours be a Joyful Christmas” (via Tea Tree Gully Library)
Image from ttglibrary

I found this card in an interesting article from the City of Tea tree Guly library's blog on a book called "Christmas curiosities: odd, dark, and forgotten Christmas by John Grossman. Both scources speculate that "a picture of a dead robin or wren (both bird species were beloved and considered sacred in British folklore) were “bound to elicit Victorian sympathy and may reference common stories of poor children freezing to death at Christmas”. Was this a genuine attempt to raise awareness of social injustice and change society?"

All I know, is that in Mrs Jones' house in the 1970s this card would have had a bloody great hole in it, social commentary or not. 

Friday, 2 December 2016

Are you out of your mind?

This is a two pronged title. I'm going to attempt to post every day again as I did last year. Not so in depth this year though and not always Christmas related.

First up and possibly a reoccuring theme, those wacky Victorians and their 'interesting' Christmas cards.

A Krampus Christmas card (via Tea Tree Gully Library)
Image from ttglibrary 

For those of you unsure...

From the font of all knowledge "Wikipedia": "In Austro-Bavarian Alpine folklore, Krampus is a horned, anthropomorphic figure described as "half-goat, half-demon",[1] who, during the Christmas season, punishes children who have misbehaved, in contrast with Saint Nicholas, who rewards the well-behaved with gifts. Regions in Austria feature similar figures and, more widely, Krampus is one of a number of Companions of Saint Nicholas in regions of Europe."

A throwback to pagan times, maybe?
Alledgedly Krampus would kidnap naughty children and beat them with sticks. Certainly worst than being given a lump of coal.

All in all a pleasent card to remind children to behave.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

What's In a Name?

To which I am referring to the title of a book. Although, the same could apply to character names, but that is a post for another day. And this book in particular: When Love Flue In.

I have a love hate relationship with titles, and I think most authors would agree. Some come to you as an extension of the story, while others need to be dragged kicking and screaming into the world. Once in a while a manuscript remains obstinately nameless right up until the moment of submission. One of my beta readers had the honour of naming my last short story since my mind blanked every time I tried to come up with something. A cracking title it was too. Simple, perfect, and blatantly obvious with hindsight.

For one of my novels my publisher had turned down my initial title because they already published a book with a similar name and they didn’t want confusion amongst their readers, especially since my book was a low sex content gay romance and the other was explicit het erotica. I doubt anyone receiving the incorrect book would have been impressed. So, I carried out a poll of possible titles with my readers and then submitted my favourites in order of preference to my publisher. Of course, they chose my least favourite of the five.
That story brings up an interesting point, whilst you might think you’ve picked the perfect title for your book, your publisher will likely have other ideas. Here are just a couple of reasons I’ve been given as to why I need to come up with another title:

Too similar to other books they sell.

Certain words are overused. Keep them out of your title.

Needs to focus more on the romance aspect of the story.

Ultimately the publisher has the final say, so even if you feel that the title is perfect, don’t get too attached. Be prepared to lose it. Or self publish!

Is the title really that important? I’d say yes. I’ve overlooked books because the title didn’t appeal to me. Too frivolous. Too dry. Too flat. Once I’m reading I don’t give the title a second thought--I’ve never once finished a book and thought ‘Loved it, but that title had nothing to do with the story’. However the title’s importance in grabbing my attention in an ever increasing market can’t be overlooked. It only needs to hold my attention long enough for me to read the blurb at which point I can make a decision about whether I’m curious enough about the book to add it to my wishlist. In the e-book market the title is probably as important, if not more, than the cover. (In the ‘tree’ read market the visual nature of the cover makes this the more important of the two.)

‘When Love Flue In’ is one of those gems that an author relishes. The title appeared without conscious thought or cajoling the first moment Word asked me to save my document. It needed no polish. It didn’t suffer the indignity of being referred to as Christmas1 in my file for the first few months of its development. Nobody, from beta readers to editors, publishers to readers have ever cast doubt over the quality or validity of that title. It is a title that perfectly reflects the story, with just the right hint of what is to come and a nod to one of the main character’s profession.

I think it is a perfect marriage of title and story. I would say that. It’s like naming a child, when you get it right and the name fits you can’t imagine them being called anything else.
Sometimes it is a struggle. Sometimes I’ve heard it said that the title inspired the story. Sometimes, like this time, it is a flash of inspiration. 

How much thought do you give to the title when choosing a book to read?

When Love Flue In, is a Christmas novella.

A soot-haired chimney sweep, an exploding flue and an uncooked turkey. It’s an unholy trinity that may make all of Dominic’s Christmas wishes come true.

Dominic is celebrating his first Christmas since his divorce, and although he’s spending it on his own, he’s determined to have a traditional Christmas morning, including a roaring fire. Unfortunately, Dominic’s chimney is blocked, which is why Reagan, a soot-haired chimney sweep, is head and shoulders up Dominic’s flue. Dominic is just lucky the man had a cancellation on Christmas Eve.

Unable to take his eyes off Reagan’s low-slung jeans and enticing arse while Reagan sets about the hearth with rods and brushes, Dominic knows five years is a long time to be obsessed with the man who sweeps his chimney every Christmas. This year there’s nothing to stop Dominic from acting on his desires—except his own insecurities.

An exploding flue provides the opportunity for more than just polite conversation and could be the catalyst for a perfect Christmas. But Dominic will need to stop hiding who he really is before a special sweep can light a fire in his heart.

Publisher's Note: This book was previously released by another publisher. It has been revised and re-edited for release with Totally Bound Publishing.

Buy LinksTotally Bound // ARe // Kobo // Amazon US  &  UK

This blog post originally appeared at Female First in Dec 2014.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Series Review - Dead Man by Lou Harper

In the last few months I have devoured Lou Harper's various paranormal series.
Dead Man, Sanguine, and LA Paranormal.

All three series are very similar in style. The books are made up of short stories, where the main thread that seems to hold the stories together is the development of the relationship, but somehow the stories intertwine and vague hanging threads and unanswered questions are eventually addressed in a later story, or even book.

17858589Today I'm focusing on the Dead Man series.

Dead Man and the Restless Spirits, is the first book of the series and reintroduces us to 'Dead Man' Denton Mills, who we first met in the Sanguine series. Denton isn't actually dead, but he does see dead people. His new neighbour is the stoic and gorgeous Bran. Turns out Bran is a witch and he helps develop Denton's powers. The mysteries were fun and the guys are adorable together. Despite the light tone of the books the third story managed to move me to tears because of the haunting they were investigating.

Dead Man and the Lustful Spirit is a short story set between the two full length collections. It's New Year's Eve and Denton and Bran are at a party, but even then they can't help but stumble across a spirit.

I told you they were all connected. Dead Man and the Army of Frogs ties up all the loose ends from both the first book and the short story. The miscommunication in this collection had me wanting to shake Denton (since we are in his POV), but overall these two guys are still adorable, and more perfect for each other than they realise, and they end the book in a really solid place. Oh, and we get more Gabe (from the Sanguine series) which is excellent news as far as I'm concerned.

I've finished all these series now, but I'm hoping where will be more to come in the future from any or all of these couples.