Friday, December 8, 2017

What's in a Word -- Captain Obvious

It's been a while since I posted a What's in a Word installment, but now, I think, is high time. 

Why, you ask? The reason is "obvious."

One thing that I had to overcome in my own work was telling instead of showing. I learned the hard way, and now try to share tips before authors run up against reviews that wax less than poetic about craft issues in stories. 

One big offender is the word "obvious", with its partners in crime "clearly", "as if", and "as though."  

Whenever I see "obvious " in a story, usually one of two things is happening:

1) It's not obvious at all and the reader has to be told information, or

2) It's obvious without the author having to say so.

Example of 1: Ralph stood outside, obviously cold. 
Example of 2: Ralph wrapped his arms around himself and huddled into his jacket, obviously cold. 

When reading, the reader should become the POV character. We're totally in their head, and can only know what they know. Example 1 can be the author's way of imparting knowledge to the reader that the POV character doesn't have, thus distancing us from the POV character and losing the opportunity of total immersion in the book.

Show us what the POV character sees, feels, hears, etc., and let us draw our own conclusion that Ralph must be cold. 

Is he shivering? Teeth chattering? Turning blue? Are his head and shoulders dusted with snow? If he acts cold, then we can see it for ourselves and don't have to be told. In fact, if the description is particularly vivid enough, readers might shiver themselves or reach for a comforter, pulled so into the story that they themselves now experience Ralph's discomfort. 

In the second case, if you've shown that Ralph is cold, you don't have to say that it's obvious, because it is obvious. 

Substitute "clearly" for "obviously" and you have the same issue. 

In some cases, these two culprits appear to avoid a point of view flip, when the author needs to impart information about the non-POV character.

Imagine you (POV character), are sitting at a table, having dinner with a friend. Your friend smiles, “obviously happy”. Why are they happy? What makes you think they’re happy? It’s possible to force a smile.

What if your friend smiled, “obviously uncomfortable”. Saying “obviously uncomfortable” based on their smile, is feeding us information we can’t possible have.

However, if your friend gave you a strained smile that didn’t quite meet their eyes, darted furtive gazes right and left, and pushed their chair back from the table, arms wrapped around themselves, what does that bring to mind? I don’t think many would read “obviously happy” there.

“As if” and “as though” also feed us information that the POV character can’t have. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read something like this:

He smiled at Justin, as if he was the most beautiful thing in the world.


Sylvia cocked her head to the side, as if to say, “I told you so.”

Wow, that is one talented smile or head cock if a simple gesture can convey all that. The thing is, a smile alone can’t, nor can the mere tilt of a head.

To convey such a complex thought involves many more body cues. What does it look like if someone is gazing at beauty? Would they lean in, subconsciously trying to get closer? Are they staring? Is their body language open? Now, it’s perfectly okay to say “a coy smile”, as that is an easily discernible expression.

Cocking the head to the side is usually associated with confusion. A scowl and an eye roll might convey the sentiment “I told you so,” but the “as if” has no place here.

Try this:

She rolled her eyes and scowled, arms squeezed tightly to her chest.

Now, her gesture might mean many things, but taken in context, the intention is clear:

“Billy, slow down! The speed limit here is forty-five,” Sylvia snapped, clutching the “oh shit” handle.

Billy glanced down at the speedometer. “Nobody ever slows down for this inter—”

Whiiiiiirrrrrr. Blue lights flashed behind them.

She rolled her eyes and scowled, arms squeezed tightly to her chest.

Now, in this passage is it understood that Sylvia is conveying, “I told you so”, without “as if”?

This scene does not, for any reason, under any circumstances, require an “obviously”, “as if”, “as though”, or “clearly.”

And don’t you kind of want to roll your own eyes along with Sylvia? Because, in the end, folks, it’s all about connecting with the reader.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Reunion (Diversion 6) Scores Finalist in the 2017 Rainbow Awards!

I'm thrilled to announce that the 2017 Rainbow Awards results have posted, and Reunion (Diversion 6) scored Finalist in the Best Gay Mystery Thriller category! Many thanks to the incomparable Elisa Rolle and her team of judges for making the awards possible.

Reunions can be murder. 

A dial tone instead of a human voice announced Lucky’s ousting from the Lucklighter clan over twelve years ago. After living a life of crime. After testifying against his drug lord lover. After receiving a ten-year sentence. Ah, hell. Lucky would’ve disowned himself too. 

Now life’s better. He’s done his time and earned a place in the Southeastern Narcotics Bureau’s Department of Diversion Prevention and Control. He has a house. He has Bo, his partner both on and off the job. And pets. But not his folks. The worst part? He’s not sure exactly why they disowned him. Too late now—they think he’s dead. 

Now his father needs a gift only Lucky can give. And Lucky’s family has something that may destroy all he believes: 

The truth. 

Reunion (Diversion 6), from Rocky Ridge Books. 

Find Reunion at Amazon.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Reunion Wins Honorable Mention in the Rainbow Awards

Although the Rainbow Awards still have a few days before winners are announced, I'm pleased to say that Reunion (Diversion 6) has won an honorable mention, awarded to books that received 36 or more points out of a possible 40 points from at least one judge!

Here's what the judge had to say:

Another very good entry in this series, less crime and more personal as we meet Lucky's family, and realize how far loving Bo has brought Lucky from the lonely, sarcastic, and disillusioned man he once was.

Wow! That's some pretty great company to be in! Thank you Rainbow Awards, Elisa, the judges, for this massive undertaking. 

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Audio Version of the Diversion Series?

My next big project is putting the Diversion series out on audiobook. I'm currently looking for a narrator and immersing myself in this process, learning all I can.

It's still a mystery at this point, but I love audiobooks, know what kind of narrator I want, and just have to find one who can read a convincing Lucky, Bo, Walter, and the others.

I created an account on ACX and posted an excerpt, but so far haven't found someone. Any suggestions? The narrators I really want, sad to say, are out of my price range. (But, man, they'd make an awesome Lucky!)

Wish me luck, and I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Hell is Where the Heart Is excerpt

I'd like to share a preview of my upcoming novella Hell is Where the Heart Is

The door flew open without so much as a knock. Oh, Home and damnation! Didn’t anyone respect privacy anymore? Vik snapped his fingers, banishing his PlayStation and Black Veil Brides posters back to the ninth level of Hell where no self-respecting upper level demon dared go. While the sixth level ruler didn’t embrace the trappings of modern humanity like heads of other levels did, lately she’d learned a new human word: slacker—and wasn’t afraid to use it. After all, any son who’d reached the ripe old age of two centuries should be out of the parental cave by now.
A flickery little fire minion hopped up onto the coffee table and bowed low. He’d better not leave any ashes or scorch marks. The maid service would have Vik’s hide. “Your Royal Highness, Prince Noorvik Metlakatla Hoonah Emmonak, Master of the Sixth Level of…”
Yeah, yeah. Yadda, yadda. Vik wafted out a puff of smoke. A minion didn’t deserve a full-flame snort, and what the Home had Mother been thinking to hang a guy with so many barely-pronounceable names? Writing his name and phone number on matchboxes at bars gave his quarry too much time to get away.
“Can you call me Vik like everyone else?”
“But sire, I’m on official business, summoning you to a private audience with Her Supreme Highness, the Most Glorious Sovereign of the Sixth Level of Hades, Mistress of All Things Dark and Sinister, Anaktuvuk Iliamna—”
“Mom. Go ahead, say it. She’s my mom. The Big Fucking Deal of the Sixth Level.” The only level worth inhabiting, in his mother’s eyes. Lower levels fell to chaos and ignorance, and the denizens of the upper levels grew too snooty to tolerate. She carefully guarded her turf from outside influences. Big Fucking Deal, indeed.
The fire minion shaded from red to blue, his edges tinged with white. He dropped his already hissing voice to a lower susurrus. “Don’t let her hear you say that…”
Vik emitted another sigh, offering up a touch of flame through his nostrils. Pompous ass of a minion. Why couldn’t Mother simply install intercoms or hand out cell phones? Sometimes the temperatures reached a bit on the high side on the sixth level, but surely someone could figure out how to make a cell phone work in the netherworld. Oh yeah. Her Royal Badness was the biggest technology snob ever. With single-minded determination she kept her people in the Dark Ages, where men were men, demons were demons, and Grand Theft Auto were three words that had yet to be used together.
Ah, no use crying over old times. Old times. Hah! Back before the rulers of levels five and six had some kind of falling out, declared a silent war on each other, and sealed the passageways between the two domains. What glorious times Vik once had, entertaining himself on the fifth level. There was this one young prince named Diomede…He and Vik had gotten up to a lot of mischief behind the brimstone pile.
Yes, those were the days, spent with a handsome young demon prince with blue skin, yellow eyes, and an endless fascination for Vik’s body. Whatever happened to Prince Diomede? Diomede. Heh. Vik had certainly yelled his name enough in the past.
For fifty years or so Vik had tested the wards between the levels. The resulting scorch marks served as visible reminders of his failed attempts. Whoever sealed the doors didn’t mean for them to be breached.
Sigh. Diomede. Vik’s very own “Big Blue.” Where was he now? Did he ever think of Vik, or had he moved on, like Vik tried to do, burying himself in video games and the occasional hookup?
The messenger cleared what passed for a throat on a fire minion. Oh, yeah. Not alone. Vik stopped his hand midway up his thigh where it seemed to have wandered on its own while he’d recalled his exploits from years gone by. He’d save those memories for later and some privacy.
“So what brings you down here?”
The minion sucked in air, his little chest heaving. “As I was saying, The Mistress of All Things Dark and Sinister cordially requests your presence.”
“In other words, she screamed, ‘Get my slacker son’s ass down here—now!’”
The minion’s flames shaded to green. “Something to that effect.”
Ah, Home. No hope for it now. When the BFD called, Vik came trotting. He passed by a mirror on his way out the door for a fang and zipper check, and added a bit more eyeliner to highlight his glowing golden eyes. Maybe the sexy new lieutenant would be in attendance tonight. Vik would love to get his mitts on Lt. Sex-on-Legs. That is, as long as his mother didn’t find out.
Two centuries were a long time to stay in the closet, but somehow Vik managed. Mostly because his mother, the workaholic, was too busy wreaking havoc on humankind to pry into his personal life. She had underlings for spying on her son, and they could usually be bought off with movie tickets and a day pass to the surface—another transgression to hide from Mother.
The residents of level six were an easy lot, with a voracious appetite for human vices. Vik had even dodged a scandal of epic proportions with a pack of chewing gum once, given to a very dense fire minion. Too bad it melted in the little cretin’s mouth. Gobs of greenish goo oozed from a ball of rainbow-colored flames. Took a month to clean up the mess.
“Ah-hem,” the current fire minion said. “We mustn’t keep her waiting. You know how she can be.”
Yes, Vik did. Last time he pissed her off the resulting earthquake formed a new island off the coast of Pakistan.
He closed his apartment door on the conjured image of a Manhattan high-rise, for as long as the illusion lasted. It’d take another decade or so to learn long-distance glamour maintenance, or how to maintain the fa├žade while sleeping. One more reason to kick out his one-night stands before they actually spent the night and quite literally woke up in Hell.
From the semblance of a big city to the very real caverns of Hades: outside his front door the scent of brimstone overrode his patchouli incense and the rough stone walls were hot to the touch, hinting at his true location. He’d love to extend his glamour to the rest of the immediate area, but the re-creation of a human city would tip his mother off about his continued surface exploring. Plus, he pretty much sucked at glamour.    
He followed the fire minion, taking care to step clear of the trail of live sparks the servant shed like cat fur. What did Mother want this time? Vik had been on his best behavior since his last foray to the surface, when he’d made tabloid headlines by getting caught in a photographer’s lens and ending up on the cover of a tabloid. “Demons Exist!” the headline blared. Bah. It wasn’t even a good likeness. Still, it’d cost him a huge portion of his DVD collection to arrange the cover up. Greedy little minions.
The closer they came to headquarters, the livelier the minion bounced. He hopped into a broad chamber, lit by strategically placed flames. Crystal stalagmites rose from the floor of the cavern, their inner fire cast flickering light along the wall. Her Supreme Highness, the Big Fucking Deal of the Sixth Level—although the unofficial title wasn’t used to her face—reclined on her stone throne. No way could a hunk of carved brimstone be comfortable. The gorgeous lieutenant was nowhere in sight, just two ugly bodyguards who could pass for trolls. A handful of hangers-on mingled at the far end of the chamber, bearing silent testament to his mother’s foul mood.

“Hello, Mot—”

Now available for preorder at, publishing December 16.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Hell is Where the Heart Is, now available for pre-order

Like hot, steamy, scenes? Like, literally hot and steamy scenes 'cause they take place in Hell?

Hell is Where the Heart Is is now available for pre-order on Amazon.

Demon Prince Noorvik Metlakatla Hoonah Emmonak (“call me Vik”) likes his lack of responsibilities just fine. His mother, the Big Fucking Deal of the Sixth Level of Hell, longs for the tippity tap of tiny hooves and gives him two choices: find a mate within the next twenty-four human hours or settle for the demoness of her choice. Where can he find the ideal man on short notice, who’ll meet the mother-in-law from Hell’s approval? 

Especially when he can’t have the only mate he wants. 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Tis the Season... For Holiday Reads!

Wow! This year sure went by fast, and now the holidays are upon us. What better way to kick off the season than with lovely holiday romance novellas?

First up: A lonely gamer searchers for love at Thanksgiving in A Lie I Can Live With. Although this is the third installment of The Match Before Christmas series, it can be read as a standalone, as it features a secondary character from the first two volumes. Readers wanted to know Otis's story, and I was happy to oblige.

A dating site profile faked up to make geeky gamer Otis Tucker more alluring hasn’t done much for his social life, so what does he have to lose by putting his real picture and honest interests online? His pal Barry swears there’s someone out there who will love Otis for himself, extra pounds and all.

Handsome Garret Mims sends “I’d love to meet you!” but takes things so slow Otis is quite sure they’re stopped. Is it really a date if there’s not so much as a kiss between them? Maybe he shouldn’t worry about Garret’s intentions and just enjoy every platonic moment. Instead, Otis could work on finding the missing ingredient for his pumpkin pies before Thanksgiving.

Garret’s upfront in every way but one, and Otis may have found a lie he can live with.

Next up:  The Match Before Christmas.

Candlelight, mistletoe, gaily wrapped packages beneath a trimmed tree, and someone to share it with. That's all Barry Richards wants for Christmas. Desperate for a traditional holiday, he creates a profile on "," in hopes of finding the perfect man in a matter of weeks. One date after another goes sour, while all around him friends are falling in love, and Barry starts to lose faith.

The first snow falls and the world fills with seasonal cheer, all except for Barry, for whom time is running out. Facing the prospect of a lonely holiday, he tries just once more to make The Match Before Christmas.

Although it's a bit early to think about Valentine's Day, Fanning the Flames picks up Barry's story two months after meeting the man of his dreams, as he fumbles his way through the maze of Valentine's Days hearts and flowers. 

The man of Barry's dreams has gone from a sugarplum fantasy to sweet reality, thanks to the GLBT dating site Introducing a new boyfriend to the family and settling into coupledom aren't the easiest things in the world for a man with little dating experience, but the romantic demands of Valentine's Day are beyond Barry's imagination. His piteous cry for help brings all kinds of suggestions from family and friends.Fully believing he's found the perfect ways to charm his sweetheart, Barry isn't prepared to hear "Achoo " at every turn. Adam's allergic to what? And will sneezes and welts wreck Barry's painstaking plans for Fanning the Flames? 

But there's no need to choose just one of these novellas. Why not indulge in all of them, with the Match for the Holidays collection? 

Adventures in computer dating. 

What starts as Barry Richards’ desire for someone to share Christmas grows into an adventure in friendship and a little matchmaking of his own. Now the three-story set: The Match Before Christmas, Fanning the Flames, and A Lie I Can Live With have been combined into a single collection. 

Follow Barry and his friends as they navigate the tricky (and often bizarre) world of Internet dating, in their search for love. 

While we're on the subject of holidays, Tinsel and Frost tells the story of men who, together, discover the beauty in what they've always seen as flaws.

The last time Tony danced, he wore the spangles and tights of the Nutcracker’s Prince and the audience threw roses at the stage. One career-ending accident later, he’s dancing again, and he’s not proud of hoping that the audience will reward him with twenties.

Frost, the big, pale bouncer, has reasons of his own for keeping a watchful eye on Tony. He keeps his distance, too, until he has to bounce an aggressive customer who takes things with Tony too far. They have a short, shared walk home but a huge divide between their lives. Do Tony and Frost have more in common than they believe?

And let's not leave out Hanukkah, celebrated in Happy Holidays, a sexy romp by my dear friend and fellow Rocky Ridge Books author, Z. Allora! 

What do erotic sex toys and Hanukkah have to do with each other?

Absolutely nothing unless you’re a member of the famous rock band The Dark Angels and the shy but kinky Robin gives gifts that guarantee to spice up the holidays!

Each couple makes the most of these unique gifts blending love and orgasmic fun to REALLY celebrate the holidays.
 You'll find these and other great stories at Rocky Ridge Books and your favorite book e-tailers.