Countdown to a New Year, December 30: Layla Reyne

Countdown to a New Year, December 30: Layla Reyne

From December 20 through December 31, Binge on Books will be hosting a series of posts each day counting down to the new year. Joined by authors, publishers, and fellow bloggers, this series will focus on takeaways from 2017 and what we can look forward to in 2018. Think the biggest, longest, most book-filled reflection of the past year and the hopes and dreams for the new one all wrapped into one: that’s Binge on Books’ Countdown to a New Year. Come see what your favorite members of the book world have to say about the past year and what’s up next for them in the year to come!

**Plus every day in the countdown will feature prize packs of ARCs and book giveaways plus a final BIG giveaway of a Kindle Fire! Enter every day for a chance to win!**

Reading Outside the Box

My first year published was crazy. Awesome, but crazy. A lot of writing, a lot of editing, and a lot of promo for the four releases I put out, including my debut, Single Malt. That said, I still managed to squeeze in some reading here and there. Since I was writing either romantic suspense for the Whiskey Verse or sports romance for my Changing Lanes duology, I focused my reading outside those genres. I got cozy again with paranormal/fantasy romance and dipped my toe (then my whole body) into historical romance. Here are just a few of my favorite outside the box reads from 2017!

Paranormal / Fantasy Romance

Peter Darling by Austin Chant – I am admittedly late to this party, but I come bearing champagne for a marvelous read! I was never a fan of Peter Pan, so I’d hesitated reading this retelling, but I’m so glad I took the chance. This book was lyrical, magical, romantic, and thought-provoking. Everything I could want, and now I can’t wait for the rumored sequel.

The Community Series by Santino Hassell – This one’s a little bit of a cheat for me given the suspense element, but the psychic aspect is definitely paranormal. While each book featured a different main couple, I appreciated how well each story built on the last, continued to expand The Community world, and furthered the overarching plot. All that while still maintaining the steamy heat and gritty New York atmosphere we expect from Santino’s books.

Wolfsong by TJ Klune – This coming-of-age story involving a human among a pack of shifter wolves was exciting, heartbreaking, and heartwarming. I don’t read many shifter romances, or many coming of age stories, but everything about this book—from the writing, to the characters, to the plot, to the fated mates (two alphas: one wolf, one human)—was just lovely. (Technically, a 2016 release.)

Historical Romance

Sins of the Cities Series by KJ Charles – Last year, I read and loved KJ’s Society of Gentlemen series, my first real foray into historical romance. I had no idea what I’d been missing! Sins of the Cities carried on what I love best about KJ’s books—great plotting, a mystery that keeps me engaged, and swoon worthy heroes. I mean, Justin Lazarus… His redemption arc put him firmly among my top ten romantic leads.

The Turners Series by Cat Sebastian – If KJ’s books were the lure that got me interested in historical romance, Cat’s stories reeled me the rest of the way in. The Lawrence Browne Affair is hands down my favorite book of 2017, and Cat’s writing, her characters, and her deft handling of modern topics in a historical context is marvelous. It Takes Two to Tumble, Cat’s latest, promises more of the same!

The Enlightenment Series by Joanna Chambers – The push and pull tension in this opposites-attract romance remained high throughout the three-book series. Watching David and Murdo fall in love, try to resist, then ultimately realize they couldn’t live without each other, all while set against the Scottish ton and country backdrop, was page-turning catnip. I couldn’t put it down! (Technically, a re-pub.)


About Layla Reyne: 

Author Layla Reyne was raised in North Carolina and now calls San Francisco home. She enjoys weaving her bi-coastal experiences into her stories, along with adrenaline-fueled suspense and heart pounding romance. When she’s not writing stories to excite her readers, she downloads too many books, watches too much television, and cooks too much food with her scientist husband, much to the delight of their smushed-face, leftover-loving dogs. Layla is a member of Romance Writers of America and its San Francisco, Kiss of Death, and Rainbow Romance Writers chapters. She was a 2016 RWA® Golden Heart® Finalist in Romantic Suspense.

Her next release is a contemporary m/m romance called Relay, out on 1/8/18.


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Far From the Tree by Robin Benway

Ringer by Lauren Oliver

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Countdown to a New Year, December 29: Erin Finnegan

Countdown to a New Year, December 29: Erin Finnegan

From December 20 through December 31, Binge on Books will be hosting a series of posts each day counting down to the new year. Joined by authors, publishers, and fellow bloggers, this series will focus on takeaways from 2017 and what we can look forward to in 2018. Think the biggest, longest, most book-filled reflection of the past year and the hopes and dreams for the new one all wrapped into one: that’s Binge on Books’ Countdown to a New Year. Come see what your favorite members of the book world have to say about the past year and what’s up next for them in the year to come!

**Plus every day in the countdown will feature prize packs of ARCs and book giveaways plus a final BIG giveaway of a Kindle Fire! Enter every day for a chance to win!**

THINGS I LEARNED IN 2017 THAT EVERYONE ELSE ALREADY KNEW

I’m a believer in lifelong learning. I witness it every day as the caretaker of my elderly father, who is currently teaching himself how to code.

Inspired by this, maybe, I tried to assess what I learned this year. Specifically, what did I learn about books?

One lesson stood out. It ends up, I was just catching up on what so many others already knew: Young Adult fiction is awesome, even for those of us who haven’t been teenagers in awhile.

When Young Adult began its steep ascent in publishing, I didn’t think I’d be a fan. Too much dystopia, too many stories about kids asking the questions I’d already answered for myself, and didn’t care to revisit.

Was I ever wrong. If 2017 showed me anything, it was that YA isn’t just a genre for high school students and Hollywood scouts. The very best of the genre serve as a bellwether for change, as an index for where literature and culture are headed. It can push old boundaries, and teach us lessons about both ourselves and others, and hint at how the next generation of thought leaders will shape the world.

And the best in this genre in 2017 wasn’t just the best YA of the year, it was some of the very best of the year’s fiction.

Case in point: Angie Thomas’ brilliant The Hate You Give. Along with a lot of other readers, it was my book of the year not only because it entertained, but because it made me stop, go back, re-read, and think. The characters are so vivid, the dialogue so on-point, and the story fleshed out in the realist of realism: so-called bad guys sometimes do honorable things, and good guys sometimes lapse. Not every story is clear-cut.

I was sickened but not surprised to hear that a Texas school district banned THUG. In this current political climate, it may have been inevitable. They couldn’t be more wrong. This isn’t a book you keep out of kids’ hands. This is a book that belongs in every high school library in this country.

Young Adult books may tell us about community and our place in it, but they are so often at their core coming of age novels. And I learned this year that coming of age doesn’t have to be an instruction manual. It can be relevant long past your teen years.

Coming of age should be about introspection, about learning something about yourself, and when its done well—whether combined with fantasy or romance or action/adventure—it has the power to connect with anyone, of any age.

My favorite example of 2017 (and there were several) was the book that was so ballsy as to spoil it’s ending in the title: Adam Silvera’s They Both Die at the End. Ultimately, it makes sense, because dying isn’t the point of this well-written novel—it’s about how you use the time you have.

YA can also be just plain fun, and in this world of daily (sometimes hourly) WTF-ery, we can use a little laughter.  Sound good? Try F.T. Lukens’ The Rules and Regulations for Mediating Myths & Magic. A friend accurately described this wonderfully weird and wild ride as being “a literary version of the waiting room in Beetlejuice.” It’s fast, it’s wild, it had me laughing out loud—while still making a point about being true to yourself, no matter how daunting that may be.


Erin Finnegan is a former journalist and PR flack who now spends a lot of time thinking about and occasionally writing books in her home outside Los Angeles. Her novel Luchador (Interlude Press, 2016) was named one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2016 and was named the best independently-published romance of 2016 by Foreword Reviews. She is also the author of Sotto Voce (2014) and Last Call at the Casa Blanca Bar & Grille, part of the Interlude Press anthology, If the Fates Allow.

Connect with Erin on her website: http://www.erin-finnegan.com/


Enter to win one of 3 prize packs of books! 

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The Thousandth Floor and The Dazzling Heights by Katharine McGee

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Neighborhood Girls by Jessie Ann Foley

Far From the Tree by Robin Benway

Ringer by Lauren Oliver

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Into the Bright Unknown by Rae Carson

Nothing by Annie Barrows

That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E.K. Johnston

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Countdown to a New Year, December 28: Jude Sierra

Countdown to a New Year, December 28: Jude Sierra

From December 20 through December 31, Binge on Books will be hosting a series of posts each day counting down to the new year. Joined by authors, publishers, and fellow bloggers, this series will focus on takeaways from 2017 and what we can look forward to in 2018. Think the biggest, longest, most book-filled reflection of the past year and the hopes and dreams for the new one all wrapped into one: that’s Binge on Books’ Countdown to a New Year. Come see what your favorite members of the book world have to say about the past year and what’s up next for them in the year to come!

**Plus every day in the countdown will feature prize packs of ARCs and book giveaways plus a final BIG giveaway of a Kindle Fire! Enter every day for a chance to win!**

When I reflect on 2017, it’s hard not to think of all of the things that have been weighing on us. As a country. As a community. In my life, as an educator and as a mother. Of the number of times I have cried and thought, how am I going to raise children in this world?

Do I want to walk into 2018 with these fears and worries? In a perfect world, I could blithely say I’d let them go. But I doubt the world will do the same just because an arbitrary date passes on a calendar. I many ways, I think we’re walking into harder days. And yet, in this struggle, there is tremendous potential.

The truth is that the only thing in my life I can control is me. My actions. My responses, my capacity to give love, understanding, understanding, and faith. Not my faith in a god or religion, but in people. In goodness, in strength and resilience, in the will to overcome.

Many of these things are moments that come from wellness practice in my own life. Every moment of my life – particularly a year such as this, with the additional strain of finishing my Masters and going right into a PhD – is geared toward making sure I am doing my best to manage my mental illness. To be successful, a good mother, a writer and student, a teacher and a human all at once.

I don’t know how much of a true or lasting impact I can have within our LGBT romance community – I write slow like a turtle, so I’m off and on people’s radars. But I am there from time to time, and I have a voice. I’ve spent this year crafting a story from my heart. I wrote A Tiny Piece of Something Greater while writing my thesis. I wrote a character, Reid, who lives with the same mental illness I do (cyclothemia). I wrote a story about a boy overcoming, managing, falling in love, and surviving. Learning through mistakes and missteps to thrive. I wrote things in that book that were so honest they cracked me open – I cried through the whole process of writing this book. I had anxiety attacks. I couldn’t sleep. I slept like a baby because of the catharsis. I wrote a beautiful story about resilience and spent a year practicing (or trying) to practice Reid’s fight and success. Not just because I was writing it, but because the world today calls for it.

2017 has been a really good year for *finally* seeing good MI representation in books. There’s been some fantastic #ownvoices stuff, but also, authors without mental illness doing their research. Getting sensitivity readers. Asking questions. And so importantly, not using MI as a plot device to move something else forward without understanding what our lives and struggles are. I am not a plot device. And while A Tiny Piece of Something Greater won’t be out until May of 2018, I think that there are takeaways from writing that book and getting ready to share it that dovetail with so much else happening this year that I’m going to pack up in little boxes and take with me. That I hope we can all take together.

We are resilient.

We are fighters.

We have experienced success.

We’re fighting through missteps.

We are waking up.

We are awake.


Jude Sierra is a Latinx poet, author, academic and mother who  began her writing career at the age of eight when she immortalized her summer vacation with ten entries in a row that read “pool+tv”. Jude began writing long-form fiction by tackling her first National Novel Writing Month project in 2007. In 2011Jude was introduced to the Glee fan community began writing fanfiction, where her stories garnered thousands of readers.

Jude is currently working toward her PhD in Writing and Rhetoric, looking at the intersections of Queer, Feminist and Pop Culture Studies. She also works as an LGBTQAI+ book reviewer for From Top to Bottom Reviews.  Her novels include Hush,  What it Takes,  and Idlewild, a contemporary LGBT romance set in Detroit’s renaissance, which was named a Best Book of 2016 by Kirkus Reviews. Her upcoming novel, A Tiny Piece of Something Greater will be available in May of 2018.

Social Media Links: Website Twitter Goodreads Facebook


Enter to win one of 3 prize packs of books! 

Prize Pack #10:

The Thousandth Floor and The Dazzling Heights by Katharine McGee

The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork

Prize Pack #11:

Neighborhood Girls by Jessie Ann Foley

Far From the Tree by Robin Benway

Ringer by Lauren Oliver

 Prize Pack #12:

Into the Bright Unknown by Rae Carson

Nothing by Annie Barrows

That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E.K. Johnston

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Countdown to a New Year, December 23: Sheena, Owner of The Lesbian Review

Countdown to a New Year, December 23: Sheena, Owner of The Lesbian Review

From December 20 through December 31, Binge on Books will be hosting a series of posts each day counting down to the new year. Joined by authors, publishers, and fellow bloggers, this series will focus on takeaways from 2017 and what we can look forward to in 2018. Think the biggest, longest, most book-filled reflection of the past year and the hopes and dreams for the new one all wrapped into one: that’s Binge on Books’ Countdown to a New Year. Come see what your favorite members of the book world have to say about the past year and what’s up next for them in the year to come!

**Plus every day in the countdown will feature prize packs of ARCs and book giveaways plus a final BIG giveaway of a Kindle Fire! Enter every day for a chance to win!**

5 Great Things That Happened In Lesbian Fiction In 2017

This year has been a year of many things for the globe, some really scary, which is why I was totally ecstatic about these 5 great things that happened in lesbian fiction.

1. Diversity

For the first time, we are seeing authors and publishers actively looking for diversity in their lesbian fiction. Readers are calling for increased representation for women of colour, differently abled women, bisexual women and asexual women.

And while these books are not selling as well as the traditional white, lesbian leading lady does, I strongly believe that it will as the audience comes to recognise that diversity is the best thing that could happen to the sector.

The reason I say this is because with diversity comes a range of stories that you just cannot tell with white lesbian leading ladies. And diversity will ultimately crack open a whole host of exciting prospects for the sector.

2. Audiobooks

I believe that audiobooks are going to be huge. They are a convenient way for consumers to get their fiction fix while keeping busy with the 101 things that occupy our days.

To see the lesbian fiction section of Audible grow the way it has in the last year makes me a very happy woman.

3. Rise of The Incidental Lesbian

I coined the term incidental lesbian to describe a main character in fiction who just happens to be a lesbian.

Incidental lesbians occur in stories that do not depend on the main character being a lesbian, such as a thriller or mystery. Romance is an example of a story that does depend on her being a lesbian because if she weren’t she could not fall in love with the other lesbian, but solving a case does not rely on her sexuality.

There is a definite increase in the incidental lesbian and I hope to see that even more in the coming years. The more we see this kind of character the more chances that the story can hop across to mainstream fiction. And, let’s face it, we need way more incidental lesbians in the mainstream fiction world. But then again, my viewpoint is always that the world needs more lesbians.

4. Marketing Glory

A surprising but important occurrence in lesbian fiction has been an increase in authors taking a stab at promoting their books. We have had an increase in authors reaching out to us for reviews, there has been an increase in the number of authors promoting their work on social media and newsletters.

There have also been a handful of authors who are actively creating promotional platforms for the lesbian fiction sector.

I am thrilled.

Lesbian fiction is tiny in comparison to mainstream fiction and while the market is smaller, it is not nearly the size it should be relative to the amount of lesbians who read.

The problem is that so many lesbians have no idea that world class fiction representing them is just a mouse click away. The increase in marketing means that more women will discover this wonderful sector.

5. Fresh New Blood

Lesbian fiction was a little bit like a musty old attic for a while with a handful of big names putting out regular books, a couple of publishing houses doing their thing and a lot of mediocre rubbish making it onto the circuit.

Over the last couple of years we have seen a major dusting out as exciting new authors, new publishing houses and new voices push the sector to become better.

I can barely contain my excitement because this wave of fresh new blood in the industry has meant that world class books are being published.

To see such brilliance emerging from the tiny sphere of lesbian fiction is a most exciting thing for an avid reader like myself.

So, while the world is on the brink of massive change, I am sitting with my head buried in my kindle and wondering if it is even possible for the books of 2018 to be anywhere near as good as the books of 2017 were. And then I remember that I wondered that at the end of 2016 and was pleasantly surprised.


About Sheena: Sheena’s first love (other than her wife) is reading lesbian fiction, so in 2014 she started www.TheLesbianReview.com as a way to share books she loved. Little did she know it would turn into the largest review website in the sector, nor did she have an inkling that she would also start www.TheLesbianTalkShow.com a podcast channel with a variety of women focused shows including a couple of her own podcasts.

You can find The Lesbian Talk Show on iTunes, Podbean or Stitcher.

You can find The Lesbian Review on Facebook and Twitter.

Sheena is active on both platforms and you can also email her.


Enter to win one of 3 prize packs of books! 

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Sparrow by Sarah Moon

Three Sides of A Heart anthology 

Down and Across by Arvin Ahmadi

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Meet Cute Anthology

The Dangerous Art of Blending In by Angelo Surmelis

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Binge on Books Top Books of 2017: Alex’s Favorites

Alex’s top reads of the year

Well, dammit, there were so many terrific reads this year, weren’t there? I could wax lyrical about all the books I ran to that made me forget which world I was living on. Ginn Hale’s Lord of the White Hell series is at the top of the list with E M Hamill’s Dali as a close second. And, my goodness, that magical retelling Peter Darling by Austin Chant was AH-mazing.
Then there were the books that took no prisoners.  The new Barons Series by Santino Hassell is his best yet. In addition to lots of hot sex, he’s got plenty to say about what it means to be bi in this day and age. My Brother’s Husband by Gengoroh Tagame is the sweetest story of a man coming to terms with his dead brother’s queerness by watching his daughter interact with his brother’s husband. Then, there’s The Hate U Give by Angela Thomas–a riveting story that, among other things, tells the story of a teenager shot and killed by a police officer and shares, in a personal way, why the Black Lives Matter movement is essential… and for that has recently been banned. Because… um… drug use.
Yeah.

So, in honor of THUG, et al, and dedicated to those who want to want all books to be white, straight, ableist, classist, and otherwise normative, my Best of 2017 list comprises a selection of antidotes. Read More

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The Romance of Fan Fiction, part 3 by Jude Sierra

Hello all! Happiest of Novembers to everyone. This month we wanted to welcome Jude Sierra for two exciting reasons: first for a very first look at her upcoming novel and second, for a four part series she wrote for Binge On Books. Jude will be spending the month of November discussing the intersections between some of her favorite things: fanfiction, romance novels, and authors you know who play in both sandboxes! Jude will be talking with some of your favorite romance authors throughout the month about their fanfiction to original fiction publication stories and just how important fan communities have been to them.

Before we get down to the nitty gritty, there’s one more order of business. It’s been a little while since we’ve seen a new novel by Jude, and we’re excited to announce the details of her upcoming novel, A Tiny Piece of Something Greater.

Blurb: Reid Watsford has struggled with his cyclothemia his whole life. When his grandmother offers him a place to stay at her condo in Key Largo, he decides to leave Wisconsin, his ex, and his family to try to make a fresh start. There he meets Joaquim, a Brazilian wanderer who came to the US looking for adventure, and ended up an intern at the Key Largo Dive Shop. When Reid signs up for his introductory dive classes, it seems an adventure has come to Joaquim—but Reid has a lot of secrets, and a past he can’t quite escape. As their relationship deepens, so do Reid’s complications, something they both must learn to navigate—on their own and with each other.

Coming from Interlude Press on May 17th, 2018. 


For us Fanfictioners (Fanficers? anficionados?) the road to publishing fiction or writing original fiction looks different. I mentioned in my last blog post how some of our published fiction began as fanfiction or was conceptualized as fanfiction and reworked as original fiction. Sometimes that fiction was previously published as fanfiction and then changed. This is where many beautiful, well crafted and beloved books in our genre come from. One of my favorite things about this sort of transition is the idea that authors love a story enough to know that it will work better as original fiction.

For many of us, fanfiction came first, and it became a comfort zone. Fanfiction readers are wonderful: in fandom the feedback you get is positive, helpful, and comes from a place of love for a common interest. This is how many of us learn to write and craft – through the feedback we get in those spaces. Fandom is much more immediately interactive than publishing spaces. In fact, this is one of the hardest aspects of transition to publishes spaces for us – the distance from your readers.

Fanfiction readers and authors love to imagine their characters in completely different scenarios than the source material (for example, as I discussed last time, the time I gave a character wings as a part of a writing challenge). It is in these spaces that authors often realize that the characters they’ve written don’t necessarily fit the characters in the show, book, game, etc.

Jordan Brock once responded to a simple prompt from a reader in the BBC Sherlock fandom: John is CanadianIn 18 days she completed a 98,000 word story in which so many things were different than the source material she decided to rework it. Through NaNoWriMo participation, Jordan was contacted by Sourcebooks about publication. This book received a starred review in Publishers Weekly, and yet she told me that she “was nervous about revealing the origin of the story, especially when it got starred reviews in places like Publishers Weekly. I worried that people wouldn’t take me seriously as an author if they learned I got my start in fanfic.”

This narrative isn’t unusual – for many of us, the potential stigma or judgement makes it challenging to know if we should address our fanfiction roots. And yet, many of us are award winning, critically acclaimed and successful authors.

For some authors, learning to write through fanfiction made it initially hard to envision an original work. Lynn Charles spoke of this: “…all three of my published novels were at least conceptualized as fanfiction, but never were finished or made it off of my computer into the ether of the internet.” For Charles and other authors, that transition, support, and encouragement came from publishers who understood the potential and quality being created within fandom. “The transition from fanfic to novel happened through…Interlude Press and their initial commitment to giving quality fanfiction authors a chance to publish original novels.”

For some, reimagining of fanfiction to original fiction didn’t initially work, or weren’t workable. And yet that attempt, that work in recreating, helped them learn how to craft original characters and hone the skills necessary for writing original novels. Amy Stilgenbauer’s first attempt at an original novel was a rework of a Sailor Moon story which she knew, in the end, wouldn’t work. Although she published poetry going forward, it took her a while to transition to original published fiction. Community was a big part of this transition. “I switched to creating my own original work when I lost contact with fandom friends for a while and felt weird writing it without them. I had to create new worlds out necessity, but I still brought the skills honed in fandom forward with me.”

This is not to say that all authors who have written fanfiction and original fiction took these paths, or that their trajectory was from fanfiction to published work: some authors did them concurrently. Sometimes, for those who have made that transition, it is accompanied by anxiety or worry that our roots might somehow lessen our accomplishments, skills, value of our work, etc. But all of these authors are gifted, with readers who will attest to how wonderful their books are.


About the authors:

Jude Sierra is a Latinx poet, author, academic and mother who  began her writing career at the age of eight when she immortalized her summer vacation with ten entries in a row that read “pool+tv”. Jude began writing long-form fiction by tackling her first National Novel Writing Month project in 2007. In 2011Jude was introduced to the Glee fan community began writing fanfiction, where her stories garnered thousands of readers.

Jude is currently working toward her PhD in Writing and Rhetoric, looking at the intersections of Queer, Feminist and Pop Culture Studies. She also works as an LGBTQAI+ book reviewer for From Top to Bottom Reviews.  Her novels include Hush,  What it Takes,  and Idlewild, a contemporary LGBT romance set in Detroit’s renaissance, which was named a Best Book of 2016 by Kirkus Reviews. Her upcoming novel, A Tiny Piece of Something Greater will be available in May of 2018.

Social Media Links: Website Twitter Goodreads Facebook


Jordan Brock is the author of Change of Address, published by Riptide Publishing. She currently publishes fanfiction under the name Kryptaria. She has written in many fandoms, including Dungeons to Dragons, World of Warcraft and Sherlock.


Amy Stilgenbaur is an archivist by day, writer by night. She has published 2 novels, The Legend of League Park independently and Sideshow with Interlude Pres, as well as having published a number of poems and short stories. Additionally, she is a professional ghost writer covering various subjects from history to abstract mathematics. I wrote in the Sailor Moon, Harry Potter, and Newsies fandoms.


Lynn Charles is the author of Chef’s TableBlack DustBeneath the Stars as well as the short story, Shelved, in the upcoming holiday anthology If the Fates Allow. She wrote in the Backstreet Boys and Glee fandoms.


 

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Guest Post: How Much Does a Bear Weigh? (And Other Things a Novelist Needs to Know) by Alysia Constantine

 How Much Does a Bear Weigh? (And Other Things a Novelist Needs to Know) by Alysia Constantine

My Google search history and my little notebook of Things to Remember have become quite amusing reads this year. My second novel, Olympia Knife, tells the story of a woman who grows up in a travelling circus in early 20th Century America, and in researching that book (even if it was often only on Google and not through airless hours in the library, as I was trained for), I wound up seeking the answers to a hundred little questions that presented themselves: how much would Viselik, the trained bear, weigh? How many of those mean, alcohol-soaked clowns could fit into a clown car, and is it a special car? When was the circus canon invented (in case I want to shoot a character out of one)? How do you swallow a sword?

Since the novel takes place in the early 20C, this research was made ever more important by my need to be historically accurate. I also wound up researching period circus costumes, customs of the time and early 20C American slang. (My favorite discovery: “It’s all jake,” as in “everything’s cool”.) I even found myself trying to figure out when folks in the U.S. started saying “OK.” (In case you need to know, it was originally a joke in Boston ‘round about the 1830s… cool Bostonians liked to abbreviate everything—“That’s an NG” instead of “That’s a no-go”, for instance—and OK stands for “Orl Korrect,” which is the 1830s Bostonian’s Intentional Silly-Talkin’ way of saying “All Correct.”)

My point, I suppose, was that the old saw “write what you know” will only get you so far. In my case, it means all my novels would be about middle-aged, fat, disabled, white, first generation, lesbian professors who live in New York and have two dogs. That would dubiously be good for one novel, but after that, one probably must move on. On the other hand, I’ve never been interested in “historical fiction,” either—like sci-fi, much of it seems too caught up in the details of the unfamiliar world, and privileges those details over good, strong characters, beautiful language and sensory detail (the good stuff, of course, doesn’t… hence my love for Octavia Butler).

So how does one strike the balance between research and writing when one’s writing something creative? It’s a version of that same predicament about whether good writing requires routine and diligence or inspiration. (I cannot count how many people, upon hearing that I write novels, have made the assumption that I sit around eating bonbons and waiting for inspiration to strike. I must then explain that if I did that, I’d never write anything at all, because I usually find other things—things that don’t feel like work, like sorting through my fourth-grade papers or arranging my socks—more inspiring, and that writing, at least for me, is work and often an unpleasant task I must make myself do on the regular by, usually, sitting at my laptop for a prescribed 6 hours a day.) Eating bonbons is pretty good, too—as long as I’m also working.

What I’ve finally discovered, well into my forties, is that for me, writing works best as a tightrope walk balanced between inspiration and routine: I must get myself inspired within the confines of a routine. Research helps with this—I can spend hours flipping through pictures of early 20C circus performers, or reading about the history of poi spinning (that’s twirling stuff, often stuff on fire, for you uninitiated folks). But if I limit myself to twenty minutes of research, which must be followed by an hour of writing, I have the inspiration I need to feed me in the drudgery, and the structure to make sure the drudgery gets properly drudged.

Here’s the disenchanting, unromantic truth: writing is usually neither fun nor magical nor John-Berryman-wild-eyed-crazy-inspired. Writing drunk or high doesn’t usually make for good writing, either, at least in my experience. (Lots of writers wrote in spite of drinking or drug use, not because of it.) Dead Poets Society got it 100% wrong: writing is work, often unpleasant or tough or boring or just unrewarding in the moment, and rarely does it involve standing on your chair and bursting with emotion and quoting Whitman. And almost never does a writer get to witness the effects of the writing (except when a reader makes the effort to find her and tell her about it, ahem, friends).

I’m not trying to make writing sound more difficult than it is, or more important, I’m simply trying to demystify it here.

It’s the same thing I had to learn when writing about circus stuff, too: I was really drawn to writing about trapeze performers and fat ladies and bear trainers, but what I found was that the more real I made these characters, the more I had to think about what people threw at Minnie the Fat Lady while she was on stage (newspaper, rocks and hair pins, mostly), or whether Samu slept in his bear Viselik’s cage at night (yes, he did). I also figured most of their costumes smelled like sweat, and the air around the Flying Knifes was always filled with chalk dust from their hands. And the clowns were mean and cliquish and a little bit ominous.

Oh—and in case you were wondering and your Googling finger is broken, the answers to the questions I began with are, in order: about 400 pounds; between 14 and 21 clowns in a car without seats; the first human canon ball performed in 1877.

And how do you swallow a sword? Very carefully.


Alysia Constantine is the author of the novels Sweet (2016) and Olympia Knife (2017). She lives in the lower Hudson Valley of New York with her wife, two dogs, a cat, and a cucumber vine that has completely taken over the garden and produces ridiculous, armlength cucumbers.

Her next book is Olympia Knife. It will release on 11/3/17:

Born into a family of flying trapeze artists, Olympia Knife has one small problem: When her emotions rise, she becomes invisible. Everyone in the traveling circus has learned to live with this quirk; they banded together to raise Olympia in a loving environment when her parents vanished midair during their act, never to return. But the same fate befalls Arnold, the world’s shortest man, followed by one act after another, until the show is a crumbling mess of tattered tents and terrified troupers. Into this chaos walks Diamond the Danger Eater. Olympia and Diamond forge a friendship, then fall in love, and, together, resolve to stand the test of time, even as the world around them falls apart.

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Sounds Like Halloween: Day 31, part 2 with Sarah Rees Brennan

Sarah Rees Brennan joins Sounds Like Halloween with a reading from The Demon’s Lexicon.


About The Demon’s Lexicon: 

Sixteen-year-old Nick and his brother, Alan, are always ready to run. Their father is dead, and their mother is crazy—she screams if Nick gets near her. She’s no help in protecting any of them from the deadly magicians who use demons to work their magic. The magicians want a charm that Nick’s mother stole—and they want it badly enough to kill. Alan is Nick’s partner in demon slaying and the only person he trusts in the world. So things get very scary and very complicated when Nick begins to suspect that everything Alan has told him about their father, their mother, their past, and what they are doing is a complete lie. . .



About Sarah Rees Brennan: 

Sarah Rees Brennan was born and raised in Ireland by the sea, where her teachers valiantly tried to make her fluent in Irish (she wants you to know it’s not called Gaelic) but she chose to read books under her desk in class instead. The books most often found under her desk were Jane Austen, Margaret Mahy, Anthony Trollope, Robin McKinley and Diana Wynne Jones, and she still loves them all today.

After college she lived briefly in New York and somehow survived in spite of her habit of hitching lifts in fire engines. She began working on The Demon’s Lexicon while doing a Creative Writing MA and library work in Surrey, England. Since then she has returned to Ireland to write and use as a home base for future adventures. Her Irish is still woeful, but she feels the books under the desk were worth it.


Learn more about the Sounds Like Halloween audio series, including authors taking part & what you can expect, here.

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Sounds Like Halloween: Day 29 with Roan Parrish

Roan Parrish joins Sounds Like Halloween with a reading from her ghost story Touched from the Follow Me Into Darkness anthology.


About Follow Me Into Darkness and Touched:

Carnivale is a time for decadence, for revelry, and for mischief. A time when we shed the figurative masks we wear in everyday life in favor of new ones… ones that allow us to be a little bolder, a little more adventurous, and perhaps a little truer to ourselves. Follow Me Into Darkness is a compilation of original tales of queer romance by five of the premier authors of contemporary romance.

***

Sometimes when he touches people Philippe Rondeau sees their future. It’s erratic and inconvenient, but mostly he’s learned to deal with it. Sure he hasn’t found true love yet, but he has friends and lovers, and is kept busy running his family’s jazz club in Prohibition-era New Orleans. But now it’s Mardi Gras and all bets are off. In the space of one night, Philippe falls under the spell of jazz musician Claude and learns a terrible secret about his powers. If Philippe is certain of anything it’s that the future can be tricky, but the chance at love makes it all seem worthwhile.



About Roan Parrish:

Roan Parrish lives in Philadelphia, where she is gradually attempting to write love stories in every genre.

When not writing, she can usually be found cutting her friends’ hair, meandering through whatever city she’s in while listening to torch songs and melodic death metal, or cooking overly elaborate meals. She loves bonfires, winter beaches, minor chord harmonies, and self-tattooing. One time she may or may not have baked a six-layer chocolate cake and then thrown it out the window in a fit of pique.

After Follow Me Into Darknesscheck out her upcoming release, The Remaking of Corbin Wale.


Learn more about the Sounds Like Halloween audio series, including authors taking part & what you can expect, here.

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Sounds Like Halloween: Day 28 with Anyta Sunday

Anyta Sunday joins Sounds Like Halloween with a reading from her new adult romance, Rock.


About Rock: 

Igneous. 
 
When Cooper’s parents divorce, he finds himself landed in Week About—one week with his mum and one week with his dad. 
Only, it’s not just his dad he has to live with. There’s Lila, too: The other woman, the one who stole the rock-solid foundation of his life.  
And then . . . 

There’s Jace. Lila’s son. Lila’s smug, regurgitated-fish-scale-blue eyed son.  

All Cooper wants is to have his family back the way it once was, but there’s something about this boy that promises things will never be the same again.  
 
Sedimentary. 
 
Resisting the realities of his new life, Cooper and Jace get off to a rocky start. But rocky start or not, after hundreds of shared memories together, they forge something new. A close . . . friendship. 

Because friendship is all they can have. Although it’s not like they are real brothers. Technically, they’re not even stepbrothers . . .  
 
Metamorphic. 
 
But how does that friendship evolve under the pressures of life? Under pressures of the heart? 



About Anyta Sunday: 

Heart-stopping slow burn. 

Anyta is a big, BIG fan of slow-burn romances. She loves to read and write stories with characters who slowly fall in love.

Some of her favorite tropes to read and write are: Enemies to Lovers, Friends to Lovers, Clueless Guys, Bisexual, Pansexual, Demisexual, Oblivious MCs, Everyone (Else) Can See It, Slow Burn, Love Has No Boundaries.

Anyta writes a variety of stories, Contemporary MM Romances with a good dollop of angst, Contemporary lighthearted MM Romances, and even a splash of fantasy. Her books have been translated into German, Italian and French.

Member of Romance Writers of America.

Contact: http://www.anytasunday.com/?page_id=386

Sign up for Anyta’s newsletter and receive a free e-book: http://www.anytasunday.com/?page_id=977 

Author website: http://www.anytasunday.com/ 

Author newsletter signup: http://www.anytasunday.com/newsletter-free-e-book/ 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/anytasundaybooks 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/anytasunday 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/anytasunday/ 


Learn more about the Sounds Like Halloween audio series, including authors taking part & what you can expect, here.

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