New release: Black John

Hi, all! It’s been a while since I updated, but I have a surprise rerelease to announce today!

My short story, Black John, was originally included in DSP’s “Cross Bones” pirate anthology. I got the rights back a few months ago and decided I would rerelease it as an individual title for those who didn’t pick up the anthology, or those who read the other book in this universe, Love Rising (currently available from Dreamspinner Press). The two stories are set in the same world, but can definitely be read as stand-alones. Please note: Love Rising does have a fantasy element. If you’re a fan of mermen, check it out! 😀

This fab new cover was designed by Natasha Snow. I ♥ it.

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Former pirate Juan “Black John” de Avila has found a home on Isla Sagrario, a safe haven for men who desire other men. When Jacob, the lover he thought had died, washes ashore after a shipwreck, Juan believes he’s been given a second chance at love. But Jacob Bellamy thinks the safety of Sagrario is an illusion, one that will come to a brutal end should their enemies ever catch wind of their whereabouts.

Juan doesn’t want to lose Jacob again, but neither does he want to leave his home behind for a lifetime of hiding and secrecy. When the island comes under attack, Jacob is forced to decide what means more to him—spending the rest of his life safe and alone, or risking it all to be with the man he loves.

Genre: M/M Historical Romance
Length: Short story (approx 6K)

Buy it now for only 99 cents!:
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Off-Topic Review: Acetone-Free Nail Polish Removers

Heeeey, all. So I might start a separate nail polish/art related blog eventually, but since the people who asked me for this review are people who follow me as Piper anyway, I’m going to post this here for now. If you’re not interested in nail polish/art, then of course, feel free to skip this post.

If you follow me on social media, you might have seen that I’ve been really into nail art for about the last two months. It’s become rather therapeutic for me, but along the way I’d noticed the strong fumes and intensely drying effects of pure acetone and acetone-based removers. I’d already started seeking more natural alternatives, but then, at the beginning of this month, I had a 4-5 day stretch of constant headaches, nausea, and dizziness. While we don’t know if it was related to acetone fumes — some of my symptoms persist even now, after avoiding acetone for a week — my doctor agreed that trying to use it sparingly in future would be for the best. So, I guess it was a good thing I’d already been seeking acetone-free polish removers and had some on order, eh?

If you’re interested in which is the best I’ve used so far, read on. They all do the job, but some definitely work faster and more effectively than others. I’ll list them from slowest to fastest.

Note: All of these polish removers were tested on a nail design with multiple layers and a dark red polish as a base, which stains and can be difficult to remove. I figured I might as well really put them to the test. 😛

Pure Vitality Beauty: 100% Natural Nail Polish Remover

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Price: $12.87 for 4oz on Amazon

Pros

-No fumes

-Plant based

-Safe for you and the environment (biodegradable, non-toxic, non-carcinogenic, non-flammable)

-Light odor (similar to olive oil)

-Moisturizing for nails and cuticles

Cons

-Very slow

-Very oily

-Messy

-Can’t be used for clean up during polishing (Oils on nails can cause polish “shrinkage” and chipping/flaking and lessen the time your manicure will last)

Summary: This will remove your nail polish, but it’s going to take some elbow grease. It comes with a dropper, which you can use to drop the product onto your nails. They suggest doing that and waiting 5 minutes before attempting to remove the polish with a cotton ball or pad. Even after doing so, it took a lot of rubbing – and a lot of cotton pads – to get rid of the nail polish. That being said, I love that it moisturizes while removing polish and I love that the scent is nearly nonexistent.

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Chrome Girl: Coconut & Island Rum Scented Nail Lacquer Remover Pads

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Price: $15 for 60 pads at Chrome Girl Nails

Pros

-Decent scent, though stronger than I expected

-Acetone and paraben free

-Contains cuticle moisturizer and nail strengthener

-Cruelty free

Cons

-Slow

-Not very cost effective (It typically took 1 pad per nail, though sometimes I could do 2 nails with one. The more stubborn polishes might take a couple pads each finger.)

-Difficult to use for clean up during polishing

Summary: These pads remove polish more easily than the plant-based remover listed above; however, if you do a lot of nail art, you’ll be lucky if they last for 6 or 7 manicures. They’re handy to have around, but they’ll never be my go-to remover.

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ella + mila Soy Polish Remover

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Price: $20 for 4oz at HB Beauty Bar

Pros

-Mild lavender scent

-No acetone or harsh acetates

-Moisturizing

-Removes polish fairly quickly

-Cruelty free

-Vegan

Cons

-Oily (Though less so than the Pure Vitality remover)

-Price for quantity

Summary: This was the most expensive non-acetone remover I purchased, and the bottle you get is tiny. Since you’re supposed to soak a cotton ball/pad thoroughly to remove polish, I can’t see it lasting very long if you’re a nail art junkie. That being said, it removed more effectively than either of the previous two removers I listed, which means less time/effort/cotton balls. I haven’t tried to use it for clean up while doing nail art, and because of its oiliness, I’m not sure I will. If I do test it, I’ll update this post with how it went.

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Nailtiques Non-Acetone Remover

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Price: $8 for 6 oz on Amazon

Pros

-Fast

-Effective

-Oil free

-Acetone free

-Contains aloe vera and conditioners

-Strong enough to be used with a brush for clean up (on the cuticle and skin surrounding nails) after polishing

Cons

-Intense chemical scent

-Contains ethyl acetate, which is used as an industrial solvent. It’s relatively non-toxic, but can cause ear/nose/throat irritation as well as nausea/vomiting/unconsciousness at high levels and other health issues with frequent, prolonged exposure. Carcinogenic properties are unknown.

Summary: It’s about as close to an acetone remover as you can get. It’s strong and a lot more effective at removing polish than the others listed in this post; however, the manufacturer’s definition of “lightly scented” drastically differs from mine. The scent is powerful and lingers for a while after using, but if you have a really difficult to remove polish and want to avoid acetone, this is probably your best bet. I’ll likely use this as sparingly as regular acetone.

~*~

And that’s it! There’s no denying acetone is the workhorse of nail polish removers and best for clean up during nail art and removing gel polish. I won’t stop using it entirely, but I’ll probably only use it during more complicated designs with more potential for errors – and to tackle really stubborn glitter polishes.

Piper’s Reading Roundup: Top 15 Reads of 2016

Hey, all! It’s been a while since I posted one of these, but since 2017 is rapidly approaching, I figured I might as well save it for a big end-of-the-year post!

Without further ado, and in no particular order, these were my top 15 favorite reads in 2016. (Note: I did cheat a little by choosing series in a couple of places, and these are books I read this year but they weren’t all necessarily released in 2016.)

Being(s) in Love Series by R. Cooper – I’ve recommended plenty of titles by R. Cooper in the past, so seeing her on this list should come as no surprise. Instead of individual titles, though, I’m just going to mention her Being(s) in Love series as a whole. I have my particular faves (Little Wolf and A Dandelion for Tulip), but really, I just love this entire series. R. Cooper has created a world I wish I could live in. I love seeing familiar faces pop up throughout the books, and I love R. Cooper’s skill at writing slow-burn and unresolved sexual tension. It’s such delicious torment waiting for the characters to finally get together. The pining, friends. The pining. I highly recommend this series for fans of urban fantasy romance. There are fairies and elves and werewolves and dragons and all sorts of wonderful creatures and characters that will steal your heart.

 

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Staged by Kim Fielding – I admit to some hesitancy before starting this book. I’m generally not a big fan of books containing dub- or non-con elements, and slave fic can be pretty touchy for me too. The reason I took a chance on this book was the author. If you’ve followed my book rec posts in the past, you’ll know I’m a huge fan of Kim Fielding. We have author/reader trust established, which means I know that no matter what she puts her characters through, she’ll get them to a happy (or happier) place by the end. I trusted her to do that here too, and I wasn’t disappointed. Fair warning, though – this is a lot darker than Kim’s usual work, and some parts were difficult to read, at least for me.

Misfits by Garrett Leigh – A couple of months ago I was in the mood to read a good menage story and I asked for recommendations on Twitter. Misfits was mentioned by nearly everyone who answered, and though I’d shied away from reading any of the Garrett Leigh titles I own because friends kept warning me about the high angst content, after several people – including Garrett herself – told me the story wasn’t overly heavy, I decided to take a chance. I’m so, so glad I did, because it was a lovely story and an instant addition to my favorites shelf. There was a bit of angst but nothing overwhelming, and I loved watching these three men come together. Highly recommended!

 

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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. Highly recommended. (And damn, was I bummed when I realized McKinley didn’t have any other books for me to devour. /sadface)

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 freak you out. Just a heads up.)

Power Play (Scoring Chances #3) & Empty Net (Scoring Chances #4) by Avon Gale – Full disclosure, I can’t claim to be totally unbiased here. Over the last year, Avon has become one of my best friends, and at this point I’m lucky enough to get to read her work as it’s being written (and we’re also currently writing a series together that was recently contracted by Riptide!). But I will say that my love of Avon’s work and our friendship both started sort of simultaneously. I was hooked with Breakaway and have loved everything I’ve read since. It’s been a trend so far with the Scoring Chances series that I’ve loved each book more than the last. Each book is infused with Avon’s trademark humor, skillful writing, and snappy dialogue. Watching her characters come together is always incredibly fun and gratifying — and sometimes heart-wrenching. Even if you’re not a hockey fan, I’d suggest giving this series a try. The books are about so much more than hockey, though if you’re a fan like myself, there is plenty here to keep the sports lover happy too.

 

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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 – Earlier this year 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 corpse 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. 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 loved them too!)

The Benched Series by Misha Horne – This contemporary series starts with Rookie Mistake, and man, is it fun! Juno and Kyle are vivid, wonderful characters – especially Juno – and if you’re a fan of spanking and D/s elements, you need to be reading these shorts. The most recent one came out in October, and I’m eagerly awaiting more!

The Galactic Alliance Series by KC Burn – When this series was first recommended to me, I’d had the first book, Spice ‘n’ Solace, on my TBR list quite some time. I finally dove in, and I’m so glad I did! These sexy stories include fabulous characters and 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 asked KC Burn if there’d be more right after I finished the third book, which should tell you something. (She said yes, BTW. :D)

Tournament of Losers by Megan Derr – Friggin’ fabulous! If you like reading stories in which the hero has to compete in a tournament for their lover’s heart and hand, well, you will not find a better one in M/M! And it was written for me, after my shameless begging for this type of story on Twitter, so, you know, that made it extra special!

 

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Interborough (Five Boroughs #4) by Santino Hassell – I’m a big fan of this series, and this couple in particular. I’m really glad that Santino decided to revisit them and really cement their HEA. David and Raymond are by far my favorite couple in the Five Boroughs universe. Their chemistry is like whoa, and here we got to see them develop and strengthen as a couple in spite of some stressful life circumstances, which I think was necessary for the reader to believe their relationship can really withstand the test of time. They’ll be together forever. I know it! And it was good seeing glimpses of all the familiar 5B characters. That epilogue! I still haven’t recovered!

Must Like Spinach by Con Riley – I confess, it was the title of this book that first caught my attention. It was different – and I usually like different – and I’m so happy I decided to give it a go. It was my first book by Con Riley, but it certainly won’t be my last. I mean, what a gorgeous, character-driven, slow-burn romance! I loved the pacing. There was enough angst to keep it from being fluffy, and yet it was still a sweet story, and it perfectly fit my mood at the time. I know I’ll reread it again in the future, and I recommended it all over the place after I finished it.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli – What can I even say about this book? It was my favorite read of the year, and I seriously doubt anything else I read in the next couple of weeks will even come close to knocking it from that pedestal. This is the sort of LGBTQ+ 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. It’s one of the few books I own in 3 formats – audio, paperback, and ebook.

 

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Piper’s Reading Roundup – July & August

Hi, peeps! Since I slacked last month and didn’t post my reading roundup, this post contains my favorite reads from both July and August! So, without any further ado… 🙂

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Being(s) in Love Series by R. Cooper – I’ve recommended plenty of titles by R. Cooper in the past, so seeing her on this list should come as no surprise. Instead of individual titles, though, I’m just going to mention her Being(s) in Love series as a whole. I have my particular faves (Little Wolf  and A Dandelion for Tulip), but really, I just love this entire series. R. Cooper has created a world I wish I could live in. I love seeing familiar faces pop up throughout the books, and I love R. Cooper’s skill at writing slow-burn and unresolved sexual tension. It’s such delicious torment waiting for the characters to finally get together. The pining, friends. The pining. I highly recommend this series for fans of urban fantasy romance. There are fairies and elves and werewolves and dragons and all sorts of wonderful creatures and characters that will steal your heart.

Priddy’s Tale by Harper Fox – When have I read a story by Harper Fox that I didn’t like? The answer is never. Her writing is lovely, as always, and then we have Merou, a delightful merman! This was a beautiful story.

Best in Show by Kelly Jensen – When I bought this book, going by the adorable cover alone, I thought I was starting a cute contemporary romance. Little did I know, because I failed to read the blurb, there’d be paranormal elements – like witches and a shape-shifting cat. Lucky for me, that’s not a problem! I’m a big shifter fan, it has to be said, and at the time, this fluffy adorableness was exactly what I needed. If you’re looking for something light and funny, check this out!

Staged by Kim Fielding – I admit to some hesitancy before starting this book. I’m generally not a big fan of books containing dub- or non-con elements, and slave fic can be pretty touchy for me too. The reason I took a chance on this book was the author. If you’ve followed my book rec posts in the past, you’ll know I’m a huge fan of Kim Fielding. We have author/reader trust established, which means I know that no matter what she puts her characters through, she’ll get them to a happy (or happier) place by the end. I trusted her to do that here too, and I wasn’t disappointed. Fair warning, though – this is a lot darker than Kim’s usual work, and some parts were difficult to read, at least for me.

Bitten by Mistake by Annabelle Jacobs – As mentioned earlier, I’m a shifter lover, so when I saw this pop up on my FB timeline I knew I had to try it. Loved the world-building and the unique take on shifter/werewolf lore and I’m hoping to see more books in this universe in the future.

Loud and Clear by Aidan Wayne – This title was recommended to me when I was looking for a light, low-angst read. It was very sweet and there were no explicit scenes, for the readers who prefer that. I would’ve happily read more about these two characters, but sometimes what I really crave is a short, sweet novella, and I got that with this book.

Misfits by Garrett Leigh – The other day I was in the mood to read a good menage story and I asked for recommendations on Twitter. Misfits was mentioned by nearly everyone who answered, and though I’d shied away from reading any of the Garrett Leigh titles I own because people kept telling me they were really angst heavy, after several people, including Garrett, told me the story wasn’t too heavy, I decided to take a chance. I’m so glad I did, because it was a lovely story and an instant addition to my favorites shelf. There was a bit of angst, but nothing overwhelming, and I loved watching these three men come together. Highly recommended!

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The Cobbler’s Soleless Son by Meredith Katz – As I said before, I’m sometimes in the mood for a good short story or novella. This story was one I bought on a whim after seeing Megan Derr mention the title. I’d never read anything by this author, but I liked the blurb, and I’m pleased to say, I enjoyed it very much. I like stories about/featuring demons and this one had a fairy-tale vibe that appealed to me. I was quite happy and charmed by it.

The Hot Floor by Josephine Myles – This was another title that got recommended to me when I was searching for good menage stories. I’d had it for years but never read it for some reason. Well, now I regret having waited so long! I loved the characters and the way their relationship developed. The story was smutty and fun and I found Josh to be very sweet. I also loved the secondary characters.

Empty Net (Scoring Chances #4) by Avon Gale – Full disclosure, I can’t claim to be totally unbiased here. Over the last year, Avon and I have become very good friends, and at this point I’m lucky enough to get to read her work as it’s being written (and we’re also currently writing together). But I will say that my love of Avon’s work and our friendship both started sort of simultaneously. I was hooked with Breakaway and have loved everything I’ve read since. It’s been a trend so far with the Scoring Chances series that I’ve loved each book more than the last, and this is no exception. Isaac and Laurent’s story is the darkest book in the series, but still infused with Avon’s trademark humor and snappy dialogue. Watching these two guys come together was really beautiful. Laurent needed someone like Isaac who was willing to look beyond Laurent’s cold, surly exterior to find the vulnerable person underneath… because that person is definitely worth knowing and desperately in need of the love that only someone like Isaac could give him. Recommended, of course! And even if you’re not a hockey fan, I’d suggest giving this series a try. The books are about so much more than hockey, though if you’re a fan, like myself, there is plenty here to keep the sports lover satisfied too.

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)

 

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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

 

Moonlightseriesbanner

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. 

PRc6NRaY

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.

simon

 

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. 😉 

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