WIP Wednesday: Off the Ice (w/Avon Gale) #hockeyromance #mmromance #excerpts

Hi, peeps! So, if you don’t follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you might not know that I’m finally, after about a year of struggling with writing, finding my footing again. I recently began the first book in a planned hockey trilogy with Avon Gale. (Well, technically, the first of two trilogies – one for both conferences in the NHL.)

I’m so happy and excited about this project! Avon and I have become really good friends over the last year, and she’s been a huge mentor to me when it comes to hockey, so it seems only fitting that our first of many planned novels is about a hockey player on our fictional team, the Atlanta Venom. After getting a three-year contract extension and knowing that if all goes well, he’ll be in the area for the foreseeable future, Tristan decides to go back to college to finish his degree. While he starts taking summer classes to ease himself back into student life, he meets Sebastian Cruz, a grouchy Puerto Rican sociology professor born and raised in the Bronx and currently working on gaining tenure at Georgia State.

This is very much an opposites-attract story, which is a trope both Avon and I love. I hope you enjoy this excerpt.:)

(Note: This is unedited and subject to change prior to publication.) 

~*~

 

Tristan slumped further into his seat as students began to trickle into the lecture hall. No one spared him more than half a glance and no one seemed to recognize him, which was about what he expected. Atlanta wasn’t much of a hockey town, no matter how much the NHL tried to make it one. He hadn’t been stopped in the street and asked for an autograph once in the time he’d been playing for the Venom, and it seemed even less likely in the off-season.

This was the first summer he wouldn’t be returning home to Wisconsin. He’d opted to take a few classes at Georgia State instead. But after spending three years immersed in the world of professional hockey, it felt strange to be back in a school, like starting over again. He tried to shake the awkward-new-kid feeling and adjusted the bill of his Milwaukee Brewers cap, pulling it lower over his eyes.

If there was one small comfort, it was that sitting at a desk with a book bag at his feet felt familiar to him in the same way all arenas did after a lifetime of playing hockey. The lingering funk of sweaty athletes that no amount of disinfectant ever quite vanquished, the gleam of freshly resurfaced ice, the narrow benches and green-and-orange water bottles—those things remained unchanged. Just how regardless of the state or the university, one classroom was much the same as any other.

He hadn’t given much thought to completing his degree when he signed an entry-level contract with the Venom before his junior year at UW. Now that he was settled in Georgia and feeling secure with a three-year contract extension under his belt, it was time to consider the future again. At almost twenty-four he wasn’t anywhere near retirement age, and he hoped to have a long and lucrative career, yet Tristan was pragmatic enough to acknowledge how quickly the dreams of a professional athlete could crumble to dust. A bad concussion, a neck or spinal injury—there were dozens of things that could put him out of commission. And what then, when there wasn’t any hope of endorsement deals or ever spending his day with The Cup?

Tristan needed a back-up plan. While he didn’t actually fantasize about a white-collar job in international relations, completing his bachelor’s degree felt like a smart decision while he was young and healthy and could afford tuition without the specter of student loan debt hanging over his head. At least then, should he be forced to quit hockey—Tristan shuddered a little and subtly knocked on the wooden top of his desk—he’d be qualified for something other than becoming a play-by-play announcer for some dinky local TV network. If he was lucky.

More students shuffled into the room, most of them a few years his junior and many of them fashionably dressed. Tristan was slouched in his seat wearing the T-shirt and sweatpants he’d thrown on after his morning workout with his hair still damp under his hat. He never paid much attention to what he wore unless absolutely forced to.

At precisely ten o’clock, a tall man swept into the lecture hall, slamming the door shut behind him. The girl a few seats from Tristan startled and dropped her pen.

“Welcome to Sociology 3201, Wealth, Power, and Inequality,” the man said as he set a messenger bag on the desk at the front of the room. “If you’re not registered for this class, this would be the time to leave.”

No one moved.

“If you bothered to read your syllabus, you’ll know my name is Sebastian Cruz. If you’ve taken any of my classes or spoken to my former students, you’ll also know I expect assignments to be turned in on time and I don’t tolerate excuses. I’m not here to be your friend or mentor. This isn’t Dead Poets Society, so don’t expect me to be your pal. I’m here to teach, and you’re here to learn. As long as you keep that in mind, we’ll get along fine.”

He glanced around the room, his dark eyes narrowed in his sharp-featured face. He got to Tristan and stopped. “Classroom rule number one: no hats. You’re not at a baseball game. Show some respect.”

Tristan pulled the cap off as heat gathered in his face. He tossed it atop his book bag and ran a hand through his hair. It probably looked terrible after being wet and crushed under his hat for the last half hour. “Sorry, sir.”

Professor Cruz ignored him and kept talking. Or rather, ranting. Tristan groaned inwardly. Great. Another hard-ass who ran his classroom like a dictatorship. Tristan hated that type, but whatever. He’d survived coaches who would make Sebastian Cruz seem like a cuddly lamb. Tristan couldn’t be intimidated easily, even if, yeah, it embarrassed him to be scolded like a high-schooler in front of his peers.

Eh, you win some you lose some in the professor roulette. If there was one thing hockey had taught Tristan, it was self-discipline. He enjoyed sociology and thought the classes would be beneficial to him as a businessman, should he ever actually need his degree. Tristan could cope with Mr. Don’t Expect Me to Be Your Pal for seven weeks.

“So power and inequality,” Professor Cruz was saying, “let’s talk about how that relates to blue blooded Manhattanites and me, growing up as a Puerto Rican welfare kid in the Bronx.”

Well, he didn’t waste any time, did he?

Tristan flipped open his MacBook and started taking notes as Professor Cruz lectured. Warm and fuzzy the guy was not, but he certainly didn’t lack in passion for the subject matter. Soon Tristan was fascinated, and while it shouldn’t actually matter, watching Professor Cruz talk wasn’t much of a hardship. He suffered from a bad case of Resting Asshole Face, true, and Tristan couldn’t call him handsome, not exactly. Still, in the world of academia, Professor Cruz—tall and whipcord lean, with wavy dark hair and eyes only a few shades lighter—definitely qualified as eye candy.

“In the New York social stratosphere some of these people are akin to royalty,” Professor Cruz said. “Anyone ever watched Gossip Girl? I’d love to tell you that show was unrealistic in its portrayal of rich, entitled teenagers, but it actually wasn’t far from what I experienced growing up alongside some of them. Of course, the difference between us was, my mother was the hired help, and as such, we existed in entirely different realities.

“See, when you’re a child of such absolute privilege, you grow up with an entirely skewed worldview. These people have no concept of what it’s like to subsist on food stamps or to struggle from paycheck-to-paycheck. They’re on the far right of the social spectrum, the very top of a modern-day caste system, and we the blue-collar workers are the laboring class. The privilege of wealth is going to be a major theme over the next several weeks. Get used to hearing that word, folks. You’re going to be sick of it by the time I’m done. And that brings us to your first assignment…”

Tristan fought back a smile as the girl near him muttered under her breath. He’d read the syllabus and knew this was coming. He’d already started his reading, and though he would’ve rather been playing hockey, he was almost relieved the Venom’s season had ended in the first round of the playoffs. He didn’t think Professor I Don’t Tolerate Excuses would give him a free pass, even for a Stanley Cup Final.

 

****

 

The problem with wealth is that it makes some people have money and some people poor.”

Sebastian read the opening line of the assignment he was grading out loud, his voice echoing in the quiet of his apartment. He’d tried grading with some music in the background, but it seemed somehow sacrilegious to mix Pink Floyd and his students idiocy. As if it were somehow tainting what was good and pure with drivel.

The assignment wasn’t terribly taxing, especially for students enrolled in an upper-level sociology course, but so far he wasn’t impressed. He hadn’t wanted to teach the summer course, even if the material was near and dear to his heart and definitely something for which he had an academic passion. That was actually why he’d prefer not to be saddled with it – it made it all the more infuriating when presented with sentences like the problem with wealth is that it makes some people have money and some people poor.

Rubbing his temples, he kept reading through the end of the paper, which arrived via the course’s Blackboard site. He made a few notes about consulting the reading – and by that, I mean, actually do it – and gave it a cursory mark in the C-minus category, which was the norm so far for all the papers he’d read. The worst had been a paper where the student had opined over the unfairness of not having access to a trust fund before a certain age, since his parents had worked hard for their millions and wasn’t the point of having money to share it with their children?

That paper had nearly driven him to drink, but he’d written perhaps you might benefit from further reading on the concept of poverty and assigned a barely-passing grade. He had a feeling he knew exactly whose paper that was, too – the blonde hottie in the gray sweatpants. The kid with the full mouth and the gorgeous body, who’d immediately irritated Sebastian by slouching and wearing a hat. He looked exactly like the kind of kid who’d write a whiny paper about not having access to trust fund to blow on…whatever rich kids spent money on, Sebastian had no idea. Chuck Bass with the Nice Ass did, Sebastian was sure of it.

The final paper he graded was much better, talking about the idea of class and wealth and what it meant to have a sudden and rather jarring transition from one to the other. The paper was well-written and referenced the reading, which was enough to earn it a solid B right there. There were a few clunky transitions and some of the student’s thoughts were a bit muddled, but overall it was a fairly erudite examination of the sudden gain-or-loss of privilege that came with the movement from one social class to another. Sebastian gave the paper a B+, made a few suggestions for how the student could improve the presentation of his ideas and, because it really had been the best one in the whole bunch, added you clearly did the reading and thought about the assignment from an interesting angle – well done.

From Sebastian, that was high praise indeed – especially on a first assignment. It at least gave him hope that there would be the potential for some interesting and productive dialogue, which had seemed a dim prospect while grading the other students’ assignments. Chuck Bass might be hot, but Sebastian had a feeling he’d spend most of the class asleep — if he even bothered to show up.

When Sebastian was finished grading, he finally checked his messages and found a few from his friend R.J. Marcus, a fellow professor in the math department at Georgia State. He’d been the one to encourage Sebastian to take on the summer class, with the argument that if Sebastian wanted to be tenured – which, of course he did – it would go a long way in improving his chances if he showed he was a team player.

Sebastian didn’t point out that those were a myth in academia, because R.J. was one of the good ones and was fast becoming a good friend. After exchanging a few messages, he changed clothes and went to meet R.J. at a nearby bar for a drink. After those papers, he needed about seven.

“That bad?” R.J. asked, when Sebastian slid into the booth next to him and proceeded to down half his Scotch in one drink.

Sebastian fixed his friend with a sharp look, the one that most of his students had a hard time meeting for too long. “One of my students wrote a very sad treatise on the inequality of trust fund distributions based on age. He referred to it as, quote, ageablism. That’s really the word he used.”

R.J. snorted and leaned back in his booth. He shook his head. “Wow. Hey, look, it’s only for seven weeks.” R.J. grinned at him. “My first year, I had to teach a math class in which one of my students answered all the proofs with long, involved puns.”

“At least those are funny,” Sebastian groused, fingers tracing the rim of his glass.

“They were bad puns,” said R.J. “And I don’t know. ‘Ageablism’ is pretty funny. I mean, you’d laugh if you did that kind of thing.”

Sebastian, well-aware of his reputation, gave a slight smile. “There’s one good thing about the class, though I’m afraid he won’t be around that long.” Sebastian told R.J. about Chuck Bass, he of the Gray Sweatpants. “I’m almost sure that punk was my trust-fund brat, but goddamn.”

“Well, there you go,” said R.J, toasting him with his beer. “Hot guy is better than, uh…ageablism. Right?”

“Well, I’m probably a lot older than he is,” Sebastian pointed out, letting the Scotch and the music – and R.J.’s cheerful, upbeat company – mellow him out. Also, it was the weekend and he had a few days off before he had to address his class and explain how to capture and wrangle that mythical, elusive beast known as a ‘thesis sentence’ into submission. “And I’m sure I won’t be seeing much of him when he gets his paper back. But until then, I’ll enjoy how he fills out that pair of sweatpants,” he said with an evil grin.

It wasn’t a laugh, but it was close enough.

Piper’s Reading Roundup – June

Hi all! It looks like I’m finally starting to get over my reading drought. Huzzah! I read some gems this month, so let’s get to them!😀

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To Arizona by Meg Harding – When I read the blurb for this I said, “Shifters and hockey? Sign me up!” (And actually, I’d been having IDEAS before hearing about this story, so it was fun to discover that someone else had been thinking similarly.) This was totally adorable! I loved the characters, the writing was light and humorous, and the hockey element just tickled my NHL loving heart. Recommended if you like varied shifters and cute romance (and hockey!).

A Cobra’s Charm by Meghan Maslow – This was another book in DSP’s “A Walk on the Wild Side” collection. I loved Jiri, a cobra shifter, and Miksa, a honey badger shifter, and the story had a fairytale vibe, in my opinion. I really enjoyed it!

Spell Weaver by Megan Derr – I love fairytales and re-tellings. This is a take on Cinderella, which I’ll never pass up. Plus, it’s Megan Derr and I’ve never done anything to hide the fact that I’m a fangirl of hers. This was very sweet, and I loved the world-building and would welcome more stories in this universe.

Shades of Gray by Brooke McKinley – Man, it took me way too long to read this book! I don’t know why I put it off for so long, even though I’d bought it when it first came out and multiple friends recommended it to me after its release. I loved pretty much every word. The angst, the yearning and attraction between Miller and Danny…. I mean, it’s like my crack when it comes to books. I die for great UST (unresolved sexual tension). DIE, I SAY. And when they finally came together, it was scorching and I just wanted it to work out for them SO BAD. The ending was perfect. This was probably my favorite read of the month and maybe one of my favorites of the year so far too! Highly recommended. (And damn, was I bummed when I realized McKinley didn’t have any other books for me to devour. /sadface)

 

shadesof

 

The Protection of the Pack Series by Dessa Lux – I have Lexi Ander to thank for turning me on to this series. She knows I love shifters and stories with the a/b/o dynamic (and knotting!). I tried the first book, The Omega’s Bodyguard, right after Lexi recommended it to me on Twitter and promptly consumed all the others. I loved this world; I loved the characters. It’s super sexy and well-written and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here and meet new packmates as they’re introduced. Believe me, if you’re a fan of any of the things I mentioned above, you will love this series. (Note: There are couples, but some of the sex scenes are M/M/M+. If you can’t deal with sharing, even if it makes sense within the books’ universe, this series might not be for you.)

Damned If You Do by Marie Sexton – This book was a pure pleasure to read. It had humor, mild angst, and SO MANY FEELS. Religion – or rather faith – played a huge role (obv, I mean, this is a book about a soul-acquiring devil falling for a Bible-quoting revivalist). I loved Sexton’s take on Hell. I laughed more than once, had a few heart squishy moments, and even got misty eyed toward the end. Whether you’ve read Sexton before or if she’d be new to you, I definitely recommend checking this out! (Also, heed the product warning from Samhain because if snakes aren’t your bag, a couple of scenes in this book might bother you. Just a heads up.)

Farm Fresh (Naked Organics #1) by Posy Roberts – I loved how different this book was. It portrayed a “free love” commune in Oregon, which one of the main characters joins after encountering the intriguing Hudson, a man who lives/works in the Kaleidoscope Gardens and sells their produce and various other things during the farmers’ market on Jude’s college campus every week. Hudson and Jude come from similar backgrounds, but Jude is nursing some serious hangups when it comes to sex – guilt, shame, and memories of abuse at the hands of his parents, who think sex is for one purpose only: procreation. I was fascinated by the commune and Jude’s changes as he acclimated to life there. I’ve actually discussed the idea of a commune, although not quite this type, with friends in the past, and I think I’d love to live in such an environment. I’m looking forward to reading the next book, which features Hudson and Jude once again. They’re together at the end of this book, but their relationship is really just beginning. And as you can guess by this description and the blurb, this book is about poly/open relationships. If you’re not a fan of seeing sex happen with anyone outside of the main couple, then it’s probably best to avoid.

The Dead Past by Kate Aaron – I think it was last month when I asked if there was such a thing as cozy mysteries in M/M. You know the sort – bookish librarian of bakery owner from a small town suddenly stumbles over a dead body and amateur sleuthing ensues. Someone mentioned the Puddledown Mysteries and I was intrigued enough by the blurb of the first book to try the sample. And when I came to the end of the sample I immediately purchased the book and kept reading right until I finished it. The story is set in a small British town in the wake of WWII. Hugo finds an elderly widow brutally murdered in the woods, only to have Tommy, the new groundskeeper on the property, appear on the scene mere minutes later. At first Hugo is suspicious, but then he starts to develop feelings for the mysterious Tommy as they bond in the aftermath of their mutual discovery. It’s a quiet, understated story in the manner of Agatha Christie or Louise Penny with no sex and very little physical contact, and if you’re a fan of cozies, you’re almost certain to enjoy it. (I also read the next two books in the series and really enjoyed them too!)

And that’s it! What books did you read and love this month? You know I’m always looking for recs! 

Piper’s Reading Roundup – March, April, & May

Hey, y’all! Whoops, it has been a while since I did one of these. Frankly, I had a long reading drought for a while there and couldn’t seem to settle on anything, so I haven’t read a ton of books in the last few months, but I did have some faves among the books I did read. Check them out below.😀

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Power Play (Scoring Chances #3) by Avon Gale – See my review, which details why I love and recommend this book, but if you’re familiar with Gale and this series in particular, you know you can expect hockey, humor, well-developed characters, and lots of heart.

Full Strength (Point Shot #3) by V.L. Locey – I’m a big fan of this series and its main character, Victor Kalinski. He’s loud (and foul)-mouthed, he’s offensive, he’s arrogant, but behind the brash exterior is a loyal man who cares deeply about the few people he lets close to his heart. I loved watching him evolve as a character while staying true to himself. He didn’t make a complete 180. He’s still Victor… but a better version of himself.:)

The Benched Series by Misha Horne – This series starts with Rookie Mistake, and man, is it fun! Juno and Kyle are great characters, and and if you’re a fan of spanking and D/s elements, you need to be reading these shorts. I plowed through all 5 available stories in a couple of days, and I’m eagerly awaiting more!

The Harvest Young: Bound by Fate (The Next Generation #1) by MA Church – I love Church’s The Harvest series, and I think I’ve recommended it in previous posts. This is a spin-off series about the “young” of the couples we met in The Harvest (yep, there is mpreg in that series) now that they’ve officially grown up. I can’t wait for more stories!

Shutdown Pair by V.L. Locey – Yep, Locey is getting a second shout-out in this post. She wrote a story about amateur pick-up league hockey players, and while the game certainly plays a role, as with all her work, it’s her characters that really make the story. I loved Heath and Wyatt and would’ve happily read more about them.

The Galactic Alliance Series by KC Burn – The other day I posted asking for recs on Twitter and Megan Derr mentioned this series. I’d had the first book, Spice ‘n’ Solace, on my TBR list for a long time and I’d purchased it a while back, so I finally dove in. I’m glad I did! These were some sexy stories with fabulous characters that are perfect for anyone who’s a fan of sci-fi without an over-abundance of world-building and technical jargon to weigh the story down. I even went to ask KC Burn if there’d be more right after I finished the third book, which should tell you something. (She said yes, BTW. :D)

~*~

And that’s it for now! I seem to be on a reading binge at the moment, though, so hopefully I’ll have more titles to recommend next time.

Happy reading, folks! 

Writing, Depression, & the Future of the Portland Pack Chronicles

For the last 7+ months I’ve been fairly open about my struggles with writing and depression, and more recently, the mystery illness that landed me in the emergency room and countless doctors’ offices over the last month (and has yet to be identified). Those of you who follow this blog or are friends with me on social media have doubtless seen some of my posts. I decided to be open about the depression in particular for two reasons:

1) The stigma that surrounds depression/mental illness is seriously upsetting, and I feel the only way to change that is through open discussion and for the people who suffer from depression not to feel forced to hide it like it’s some shameful secret.

2) Out of respect for my readers. See, I do 100% believe I’m entitled to my privacy and I don’t blame any author who might be in a similar situation for keeping it quiet. This is a decision every individual has to make for themselves. But, for me personally, because my depression affects everything in my life, including my writing, I wanted to be upfront about it. I didn’t want my readers to think I’m just taking some extended vacation and hanging my unfinished series out to dry without a care that people are waiting for more books. Authors are human—we need breaks sometimes, it’s true—but the reality is I want to be writing, and the fact that my words have seemingly abandoned me is a pain I deal with every day. I’ve written since I was around eleven, since the time when the only people who saw my stories were my friends in junior high, and I didn’t even entertain the hope that I might be able to make what I loved a career someday. Writing has always been cathartic for me, and being unable to write for over half a year now makes me feel like I’m missing some critical part of myself, my soul. Believe me, I didn’t make the conscious choice to stop writing, and I’m fighting to get through this block every day.

The TL;DR version of what happened is that back in October I got hit by the worst bout of depression I’ve ever dealt with. I experienced suicidal ideation, nearly ended up in the hospital, scared my family and close friends, and had to seek the help of a therapist for the first time since childhood.

I am only now, nearly 8 months later, getting to the point where I’m started to feel excited about writing again and hopeful that I’ll be able to break through this block and start putting words on the page. Still, I’m taking things cautiously. When the words do start flowing, I want to allow myself to write without any pressure. I’ve realized lately that I can’t write on a strict schedule. I have to focus on the story that is calling to me most strongly, and yes, that does mean that sometimes it’s a long wait between books in my series. I apologize for that, but I just can’t force myself to work on a project simply because I know I should try to keep series releases consistent, not if in my heart of hearts, I’d rather be working on something else instead. Forcing myself to try to write what I should be writing only stresses me out and makes it feel like a job. And while, yes, this is what I do for  a living, I started writing for love and for fun, and I don’t want to lose that feeling—the happiness I experience when I’m working on a project I’m truly excited and passionate about.

So, with all that being said, I’ve had to make a tough decision, and trust me, it’s not one I made lightly. Tears were shed. But being that I’ve received dozens of messages, tweets, and questions about the Portland Pack Chronicles, I know it’s a series that readers are eagerly awaiting more of. My coauthor, Kenzie Cade, is also eager to get back to our boys and continue writing. Unfortunately, due to my current circumstances, I’m the one holding things back—and I don’t think that’s fair, not to her, and not to the readers who’ve enjoyed the series so far, not when she could keep writing and get the stories to you faster than if I stayed involved. Because right now, with the lingering depression and the health issues that have plagued me over the last month or so, the only answer I can give about when I’ll be able to return to the Portland Pack Chronicles is “I don’t know.” So, sad as it makes me, I feel like this is the best decision for the future of the series. I’m sure Kenzie will more than do justice to the Portland Pack boys on her own. She’ll rock it—I’ve told her so—and I wish her much success!

As for my other in-progress series, fear not! The series I’ve started on my own will be completed eventually, even if it takes me much longer than I ever anticipated. I will break through this! I have so many stories I want to write and projects I’m excited about. I’m not giving up. Definitely not. Watch this space, because I’m sure, in time, I’ll have a much happier update to post.

In the meantime, thanks for your patience and understanding!

♥♥♥

~Piper

My Thoughts on Diversity in Fiction and Writing Characters of Color

So I hesitated to post this because of how charged the atmosphere in M/M is right now. Hurt feelings abound on all sides over a book that was recently released (and no, I won’t be naming it here). The topic of racism is not one I take lightly, having dealt with it all my life, but I leave that discussion to people much more eloquent than myself. I do, however, have some thoughts about the subject of diversity in fiction and writing characters of color, specifically in M/M, and I want to share them here.

In the past, I’ve written blog posts calling for more diversity. I think it’s something we all recognize is needed at this point.

I’m Puerto Rican. I’m open about it. I write a lot of Hispanic characters because of it. And when I wrote a Mexican MC, I wrote with the awareness that Mexican culture and Puerto Rican culture are vastly different.

I reached out to Mexican readers and asked if anyone would proofread my story to make sure I was doing that character justice. Because being raised in a Mexican neighborhood doesn’t make me infallible or all-knowing or any kind of authority. I was still brought up in a Puerto Rican family and there are differences aplenty (just as there are differences between Mexicans and Spaniards or Colombians and Dominicans, etc).

I know a lot of authors hesitate to step out of their comfort zone and write a character of color. It can be intimidating, and in my opinion, it requires research and due diligence if you want to give an accurate, sensitive portrayal. If you’re nervous, yes, you’re probably right to be nervous. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes we have to do the things that make us uncomfortable, and if you are uncomfortable, I think you’ll be likelier to approach your writing with care and tact.

That being said, lately I’ve been getting the feeling that some authors think they have to start including characters of color in their books because the subject of diversity has been the focus of so many recent panels and discussions.

And my opinion is this: don’t do anything you feel you have to do.

If you’ve noticed the lack of POC (people of color) characters and you truly want to change that, awesome! Two very enthusiastic thumbs up from me! But if you’re not willing to be mindful, and if you don’t feel it’s worth the effort to research to avoid stereotypes or possibly offending or hurting your readership, it’s probably best not to do it.

In the long run, I think you’ll be happier and less stressed. And the POC readers will be happier too. We want representation, yes. We want to see characters that reflect our cultural backgrounds, but not if it only comes from a sense of obligation, not actual desire to change the (mostly white) landscape of M/M—or romance and fiction in general—to reflect the glorious, multi-colored reality we actually reside in. Not if you plan to portray us as caricatures. And definitely not if you can’t handle criticism if you wind up getting something wrong, which you very well might.

If you don’t feel comfortable writing a character of color, keep doing what you do. It’s all good. Sincerely. No judgment from this author/reader. But if you do want to try, there are people out there who are absolutely ready and willing to help you try to get it right, and believe me it is worth the effort!

We’re all human. Being a minority, a person of color myself doesn’t mean I’m above screwing up. Not by a long shot. All we can do is acknowledge mistakes when they happen (and they will happen). We can apologize and try to do better. And most importantly, we can listen when someone tells us they’re hurt or offended.

Don’t invalidate someone’s feelings. It’s not your (or my) right to tell someone if they should/shouldn’t be offended by something or to tone police or tell them to “speak more politely.” That only takes away from them and their experiences and turns the attention back to yourself and your own comfort.  Sometimes it’s hard to be calm and polite when you’re angry and hurting. Sometimes people only hear you above the ruckus if you’re screaming—especially if you’re part of a community that has been dehumanized and marginalized for centuries.

If someone is yelling “This hurt me and here is why!”, maybe you should take a minute to listen and try to understand. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my life, it’s that empathy, compassion, and sincerity go a long way.

People of color… we’re just people. We only want to see stories about genuine characters like ourselves falling in love or saving the day or going on that epic adventure. Not stereotypes. Not for tokenism. Our personalities are varied, and we fall all over the spectrums of sexuality and gender. We’re rich and poor and everywhere in between. Educated and not. In other words—we’re just like everyone else. And yet we make up a mere fraction of the characters you find in books or films or on television.

Trust me, if you found it this difficult to find characters you could relate to, if you never saw characters who looked like you, or who reflected your reality, you’d yearn for more representation too. And when you thought you’d found it, you’d latch onto it fast.

Hey! This person. They’re like me! I can do that too! I can be the hero!

Sometimes there’s no better feeling than that.

Lucky Moon Sale! All titles $1 each!

Hey, all! Just a quick post today to announce that the 2nd editions of the LUCKY MOON series by me and MJ O’Shea are on sale for $1 each on DSP, Amazon, and ARe between now and March 25th!

If you haven’t tried our rockstars before, now’s a good time to check out the series! We have a little bit of everything – multicultural romance, bisexual romance, second chances, enemies-to-lovers, friends-to-lovers, and all of the melodrama involved with being a musician in the public eye. Links below!😀

DREAMSPINNER

Moonlight Becomes You | The Luckiest | Moonstruck

AMAZON

Moonlight Becomes You | The Luckiest | Moonstruck

ARe

Moonlight Becomes You | The Luckiest | Moonstruck

 

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Piper’s Reading Roundup – January & February

Hey, peeps! I know it’s been a while since I did one of my book recommendation posts. I’ve definitely read some great stuff since the beginning of the year, so let me rectify that now! These are the titles I’ve read and loved since January 1st. 

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Astounding! by Kim Fielding – It’s probably not a surprise to anyone who regularly follows me to see a Kim Fielding title on this list. I have yet to dislike anything I’ve read by Kim. Here we have Carter Evans, founder and EIC of Astounding!, a speculative fiction magazine that is fast approaching the end of its life. Then there’s J. Harper, an author who keeps submitting terrible stories to the magazine that Carter continually rejects. One day while drunk, Carter drafts and sends a crueler rejection letter than he would under normal circumstances, and subsequently, he sets out to find J. Harper and apologize. I loved this story and the entire cast of characters.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli – What can I even say about this book? It’s my favorite read of the year so far and I seriously doubt anything else I read before the end of the year will knock it from that pedestal. This is the sort of GLBT YA I aspire to write. I thought it was absolutely perfect, and if someday I produce a book that makes people feel the way Simon made me feel, I’ll consider my ultimate goal as an author accomplished. I loved it that much. All of the stars to this fabulous read.

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Some Kind of Magic (Beings in Love #1) by R. Cooper – There’s no denying R. Cooper is an author of considerable talent. I’d venture to say she’s the strongest author in the genre at writing pining/mutual yearning. At least in my opinion. The UST (unresolved sexual tension) in her stories is so intense I have reactions anywhere from rage to tears. It doesn’t matter the story; I can always feel the deep, painful longing between her characters, and I LOVE IT. Seriously. If you enjoy UST and that will-they-or-won’t-they anticipation, that delicious, “Please just let him love you already” feeling, you need to try R. Cooper. I don’t think you’ll regret it!

Love You Like a Romance Novel by Megan Derr -This was a sexy story. I love Megan Derr’s rockstars. I love her writing. Hell, I just love her! She’s pretty damn swell. I’m an unashamed Megan Derr fangirl, and she’s another author who is fantastic at writing UST. She also wrote me a story called Tournament of Losers, which just came out last month and I cannot recommend highly enough. It was fabulous, and if you like reading stories in which the hero has to compete in a tournament for their lover’s heart and hand, well, I don’t think you’ll find a better one in M/M!

Blind Space by Marie Sexton – Speaking of sexy stories… damn! Y’all know I love me some men in lingerie, and I was thrilled to see that fetish explored here. Tristan and Valero were super hot together, but beyond that, I loved the world-building in this little sci-fi gem. It was just enough to tantalize me and make me want more. I’d love to see more stories in this universe!

Hunter of Demons (Spectr #1) by Jordan L. Hawk – I frequently see readers recommending Jordan L. Hawk, but I hadn’t read any of her work until this year. Now I can see why she has such a fanbase. I really enjoyed this story, and I’m looking forward to reading more in this series and more of Hawk’s work in general.

Hell for the Company (Brimstone #1) by Angel Martinez – What a delightful little story this was! I’m a fan of Angel Martinez, and I love the humor and tone in the Brimstone stories (I’ve also read the second one). It sort of reminds me of Firefly with the whole space western/pirates theme. Definitely looking forward to continuing the adventures of Shax, Verin, and Ness.

Nowhere Ranch by Heidi Cullinan – I love ranchers, cowboys, drifters, and stories about friendship, finding a home when you least expect it, and building a family not tied by blood. Cullinan pairs all that with BDSM and some sexy pony-play. This was dirty and kinky, but beneath the smoking hot sex was a surprisingly tender love story. Definitely recommended.

The Professor and the Smuggler by Bonnie Dee & Summer Devon – This is one of my favorite author duos. They write interesting historicals in a genre that’s dominated by contemporary, and this is another reason I never hesitate to recommend them. I think they deserve more attention. Their stories always feel different and refreshing, and this opposites-attract romance was simply lovely. You can tell they know their stuff and they’ve done their research, but it never feels like I’m reading a textbook. I want authenticity in the setting, yes, but I also crave readability. I’ll DNF a historical romance that feels like it’s trying to teach me a history lesson. I don’t want to be bogged down by an overwhelming amount of detail, and I think Dee and Devon strike the perfect balance when it comes to this.

And those are my recommendations for January and February. What have you read and loved since the start of the year? Do tell. ;) 

Prize Pack Winner

Hey, all! And the winner of the prize pack, as chosen by Random.org, is Kathy Clevenger!

Congrats, Kathy! I hope you’ll enjoy all the prizes.❤

Thanks to everyone who commented!

1000 Likes Giveaway Prize Pack

Hey, all! Long time no update, I know, but I have a cool giveaway for you guys to celebrate my official author page hitting 1000 likes on Facebook!😀

This prize goes to one person. Here is a pic of everything in the prize box.

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I decided to do something a bit different for this giveaway. Each prize relates to one of my books/series in some way.

From left to right:

-Hedgehog erasers, representing Avery the hedgehog shifter from the Portland Pack Chronicles.

-An Inigo Montoya themed mug, representing The Party Boy’s Guide to Dating a Geek. (It reads: Hello my name is Inigo Montoya you drank my coffee. Prepare to die.)

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-A USB flash drive disguised as a camera, for Asher the photographer from One True Thing.

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-A $15 iTunes gift card, representing all of the rock stars in the Lucky Moon series. (Note: This card is only usable by US residents. If the winner is from outside the US, it will not be included. The winner will be offered something else of equal value.)

-A Batman/Superman friendship necklace, for Jonah and Laurie from Wanting. Together the two halves form a heart, as you can see below.

batmansuperman

-A notebook and a 5-pack of pens, representing the authors I’ve written – Erik from One Small Thing and Shepherd from Bookmarked. (The journal cover reads: Shoot for the Moon. Even if you miss it you will land among the stars.)

-A wolf coloring book, representing Dylan and the other wolves in the Portland Pack Chronicles.

-A pack of Mermaid Shimmer crayons, representing Wick, my merman from Love Rising. 

-A pair of tool-themed socks, representing the guys from the Hard Hats series. (Note: These are men’s socks that fit men’s sizes 7-12/women’s 8.5-13.5. Below you can see me modeling my own pair.)

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Bonus:

If so desired, the winner can also choose one of the paperbacks pictured below, which I will sign if requested. (Moonstruck is also available, but I didn’t have a copy on hand to include in the photo.)

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THE SMALL PRINT

-HOW TO ENTER: Comment on this post and tell me something you’re looking forward to in the next year. A book release, an event, a trip, whatever. OR, tell me which is your favorite of my books and why. (Be sure to list your email address in the appropriate box when commenting so I have a way to reach you!)

-Because this contest is a celebration of reaching 1000 likes on my official author page on FB, the people who have liked my page will get two entries. But since I need a way to double check, if you’ve liked my FB page, please include a link to your FB profile in your comment.

-Closes: Monday, Feb 29, at 11PM CST

Disclaimer: This contest is open worldwide to adults age 18 and up. Your comment confirms that you are of legal age. You must be willing to provide your physical mailing address to receive this prize.

Goodreads M/M Romance Member’s Choice Awards

Hey, all! Just a quick update!😀 I was fortunate enough to be nominated in some of the Goodreads M/M Romance Member’s Choice Awards categories for both Prickly Business and The Truth About Forever. For anyone interested, voting is now open. (Note: You have to be a member of the group to vote.)

Thanks so much to the people who nominated me (along with Kenzie Cade, for the Prickly Business nominations)!

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