Category Archives: piper vaughn

Update: Riptide Publishing Titles

Avon Gale and I have requested and received the reversion of rights for both our Hat Trick and Art & Soul series from Riptide Publishing.

We’ll be rereleasing OFF THE ICE and PERMANENT INK as soon as feasibly possible and intend to self-publish the remaining books in both series. We’re currently unsure what will happen with regards to the PERMANENT INK audiobook, but there’ll be more info to come as and when we have it available.

Asking to dissolve our contracts wasn’t a decision we made lightly, but as a Latinx person who writes characters of color, Riptide no longer feels like the right publishing fit for me or my work. We hope that in the future, Riptide will become the inclusive publisher they intended to be from the beginning. We also hope that readers will please consider continuing to support Riptide authors. I fully understand the current situation is complicated and emotionally charged, but it truly hurts my heart to think these authors who worked so hard might suffer through no fault of their own.

Thank you.

 

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Follow-up Statement Regarding Santino Hassell & Apology

A few days ago I posted a preliminary statement regarding Santino Hassell. At the time, given what I was still learning about the sheer extent of the accounts and accusations being made against him, I kept my statement fairly straightforward while I examined the information more thoroughly.

First, I’m deeply sorry so many people were hurt through the actions of Santino Hassell. I’m even more sorry for the people I hurt by publicly vouching for him and by making his accusers less credible. I recognize my platform and position as an author gave me the power to influence and/or harm people, and I’m sincerely sorry for the damage I caused.

Now that I’ve read accounts and had numerous conversations, I’m completely dismayed by what I’ve learned and the gaslighting and manipulation I’ve seen described. It’s led me to reexamine every conversation or interaction SH and I ever had, and while doing so, I recognized a disturbing pattern of behavior, of lying and pitting friends against each other, that’s made me realize I never truly knew the person behind the name.

As I said before, I do not condone or excuse gaslighting, coercion, manipulation, or harassment. I’m horrified by the idea that someone I trusted and considered a friend could behave in such a manner—and that I could have been ignorant for so long.

I believe the people who’ve come forward, and I’m sorry it took me so long to say so, and that my support of SH helped to harm them.

I took Santino Hassell at face value. Like many people, I believed what he told me. When he claimed people were trying to harm him and his family, I blocked accounts without engaging or looking into them too deeply out of respect for his privacy. A couple of months back, when he posted pictures of his face, I spoke up on behalf of the person I thought I knew—because at the time, I believed him. I sincerely regret that my support of him caused people to cast their own doubts aside and made others more vulnerable to his manipulations.

When SH mailed me a paperback a year or two ago containing an invoice that listed a male name, I kept that name private, as I would’ve done for any other person, because I’d never give out anyone’s legal name under any circumstances without their express permission. The name didn’t raise any red flags or hold any particular significance to me, beyond the fact that I assumed it was his because it was tucked into the book. Earlier this year, when we drew up a legal contract for the series we’d intended to self-publish—which has now been cancelled—SH signed that contract using the same male name I’d previously learned.

In all the time I’d known SH online, we only ever hung out in person during one trip—the weekend we and some friends spent as a group in New Orleans this past November. Back then, I had no reason to suspect SH was anyone but who he claimed to be, or that I was writing the book with anyone other than the person I believed him to be—a bisexual man, who’d published books I loved and who’d told me he lived with a roommate.

We plotted Bishop’s Move through a series of chats. We wrote our sections from our respective locations, in separate states. We never wrote together on FaceTime or on Skype or in the same place at the same time. Even when we had writing marathon days, it was me looking at my screen, working on my own chapters, in my own home, and checking in via chat. So, as much as it humbles me to think I could have been so thoroughly fooled by someone, I have to acknowledge that I can in no way be certain who was behind the keyboard on SH’s end throughout the writing process. The entire time we were writing and editing, I assumed I was working with the man I’d met, the man who signed our coauthor contract.

I’ve been publishing M/M romance since 2011, and I have so much love and appreciation for my readers and the friends I’ve made in the community. Please know, I would never knowingly engage in any type of deception. Nor would I ever risk damaging my career or my reputation by trying to cover up for anyone, nor by helping someone perpetuate a false identity. I value my readers and friendships too much for that, and if I’d had any suspicions that SH wasn’t who he claimed to be before we started, or at any point during the process itself, I never would have started writing with him or continued doing so. I would never intentionally try to harm anyone. But I realize my intentions are meaningless in these circumstances. Only the impact of my actions matter—and I know my actions caused people to believe SH and made them disbelieve his accusers. For that, again, I’m profoundly sorry.

Thank you,

Piper

Off the Ice Instagram Tour

IG Tour Doc updated (1)

#OfftheIceTour

Presented by: Avon Gale, Piper Vaughn, and A Novel Take PR

 

Hosted by:

10/28: @anyaminx, @gaybookreviews, @loveqhuay, @lovinghotbooks1, @mikku_chan0711, @thefictionfaery, @write.read.learn

10/29: @apolishedreader, @hoards.jumble, @dtr_downtoread, @fernsbookblog, @zaza_bdp

10/30: @booklovcrs, @erchomaiii, @loveunchainedreviews, @wild_heart_reads, @danielapolegre

10/31: @dirtybookobsession, @alphabookclub, @realtalkbooktalk, @wickedgoodreads, @surletagere, @southernbabesbookblog

11/1: @KarenBoudoir, @em_b_whittmann, @expect_books, @thebookcorps

11/2: @bookish_notes, @bookishgerman, @bookly_reads, @Riverreads_, @strandedinbooks, @bookhaulholl

11/3: @szangelika79, @hearts_on_fire_reviews, @two_chicks_obsessed

 

OFF THE ICE, a contemporary m/m hockey romance featuring a professional hockey player and his surly Sociology professor falling in love, is out 10/30/17! To celebrate we have 7 days of awesome #bookstagram photos hosted by some truly gorgeous accounts!

What it is: for seven days, 10/28 – 11/3, stop by each of the hosts to see their photos of and take part in the tour challenge.

Tour challenge: comment on any of the host photos & use the hashtag #OfftheIceTour, tag any of the daily hosts, tag the authors (@piper.vaughn and @avongale), and A Novel Take PR (@anoveltakepr) and you’ll be entered in the giveaway.

You can enter on every post from one of the hosts!

Can’t wait to see all of your photos!

***Giveaway details: up for grabs and open internationally!***

Signed paperback + swag pack from the Off the Ice Hockey team, The Venom:

Venom T-shirt (https://www.zazzle.com/venom_t_shirt-235129640364916786)

Venom button (https://www.zazzle.com/theavaughnshop/gifts?f_cg=196626168205879547)

Venom pen (https://www.zazzle.com/venom_pen-256103053089540914)

Venom player spiral notebook (https://www.zazzle.com/venom_player_spiral_8_5_x_8_5_notebook_holt_57-256932640330558309)

Winners chosen by 11/9 and contacted about their prize via the Instagram account they used to enter

Upcoming Release Schedule

Hi, all! For anyone wondering, this is my list of upcoming releases and works-in-progress. All dates are tentative/subject to change, but this is how things stand right now. 😀

RELEASE SCHEDULE:

October 2017 – OFF THE ICE (Hat Trick #1) – with Avon Gale – Riptide – Contemporary romance. Sports. Age gap. Earnest Midwestern hockey player meets grumpy Puerto Rican sociology professor with a dash of kink.

May 2018 – GOALIE INTERFERENCE (Hat Trick #2) – with Avon Gale – Riptide – Contemporary romance. Sports. Rivals to lovers. Bisexual character. Interracial relationship. D/s elements. POC characters. Two ice hockey goalies competing for the starting slot on the same team. Tempers flare and things get hot. 😉

August 2018 – NECESSARY ART (Art & Soul #2) – with Avon Gale – Riptide – Contemporary romance. Graffiti artist/skater. Lawyer-turned-sculptor-turned-non-profit-organizer. Age gap. Opposites attract. Demisexual character.

November 2018 – TRADE DEADLINE (Hat Trick #3) – with Avon Gale – Riptide – Contemporary romance. Sports. Friends to lovers. Sweet and sexy. Bisexual character. A veteran hockey player is traded to his hometown team and reunites with his best friend/first crush from childhood. When I say sweet, I’m serious, y’all, there are DOLPHINS.

WIPs:

ANOTHER ROUND – In progress – First book in my texting trilogy. Contemporary romance. Opposites attract. Multicultural couple. Cute, nerdy number cruncher meets hot, bearded, tattooed gym owner/MMA fighter through rather unconventional circumstances.

Vloggers trilogy – In planning

Hard Hats #3 – Outlined

Permanent Ink Release Instagram Tour

permanent ink tour 5

 

#PermanentInkTour

Presented by: Avon Gale, Piper Vaughn, and A Novel Take PR

 

Hosted by:

 

8/7: @bookish_notes @apolishedreader

8/8: @benbendiks @books.and.moonlight

8/9: @Two_Chicks_Obsessed  @midnightclockwork

8/10: @KarenBoudoir @alphabookclub @booklovcrs

 

PERMANENT INK, the kinky tattoo artist romance from me and Avon Gale, is out 8/7! To celebrate we have 4 days of awesome #bookstagram photos hosted by some of our favorites!

What it is: for four days, stop by each of the hosts to see their photos of Permanent Ink and take part in the tour challenge.

Tour challenge: post your favorite tattoo snapshot & use the hashtag #PermanentInkTour, tag the daily host, me (@piper.vaughn) and @avongale, and A Novel Take PR (@anoveltakepr) and you’ll be entered in the giveaway.

People can enter once a day as long as they tag a daily host.

Can’t wait to see all of your photos!

***Giveaway details: up for grabs: 3 e-copies of PERMANENT INK. Winners chosen by 8/15 and contacted with their prize via the Instagram account they used to enter.***

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.

blackjohn-f-web

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!:
Amazon
Payhip
Kobo
Barnes & Noble

Add it on Goodreads

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.

 

dandelion

 

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!

 

misfits

 

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.

 

empty_net_final-1

 

 

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!

 

tournament

 

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.

 

simon

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! 😀

PRc6NRaY

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! 

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.

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