Being the Change You Want to See in the Publishing World

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. One commenter at each stop will receive a postcard-size cover art signed by the author or cover artist, and one randomly drawn commenter at the end of the tour will receive the full set of cover prints in a custom-made handbag embroidered with the logo. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

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One of the most exciting aspects of the growth in e-publishing and indie publishing I’ve seen is the rise in niche publications. This isn’t a new trend; this has been where e-publishing has its roots. Back when I first got into publishing (in the late ‘90s, otherwise known as the Paleozoic Era) e-publishing had a very small footprint. There weren’t a lot of publishing houses; Hard Shell Word Factory was the first I ever came across. There were many more companies–really one-man operations–which published e-zines either on the web or as e-mails.

Those e-zines had a heavy genre focus, mostly fantasy, science fiction and horror. You would have thought that science fiction readers and authors would have embraced the idea of e-publishing. It was futuristic! No paper! Reading off a computer with all the advantages of software! But that wasn’t the case. I remember all sorts of debates, and outright arguments, about the impact of e-publishing.

Those debates are still going on today, but opponents have less oomph behind their arguments now. It’s understood that the paper vs. e-book debate is more about preferences than a matter of the Future Of Books, as it was framed in the past.

But back to niches and e-publishing. While the science fiction contingent was giving e-publishing the side eye, there was a group that was happily embracing it: lovers of paranormal romance.

Up until then you didn’t see much of the subgenre in the mainstream. Paranormal romances couldn’t get any respect: there was too much fantasy for romance publishers’ tastes and too much romance for the fantasy publishers. It took small e-publishers to have the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups moment. And it worked. Paranormal romance and erotica were the driving forces behind e-publishing.

Their success didn’t go unnoticed. In the early 2000’s Harlequin and Tor both announced new science fiction romance lines. Bookstores have entire shelves filled with paranormal romances, Twilight most likely would not have been the success it is if there hadn’t been fertile ground already readied for it.

The impact of e-publishing isn’t limited to genres, however. Just recently several major commercial publishers have started up e-original imprints, publishing new fiction in e-book format only, as well as having embraced the novella. I find that last bit the most interesting, and not only because novella-length fiction is my publishing company’s focus.

Novellas have always been an awkward length for publishing. Magazines need to always keep page count and column inches in mind and novellas can take up lot of space, leaving little over for other content. Bookstores don’t like them as chapbooks because their bindings, whether perfect-bound or saddle-stitched, make shelving them annoying.

Usually an author has two choices if she is unfortunate enough to find that she’s written a novella: She can mercilessly prune it down to short story length, and risk ending up with a stunted tale that leaves the reader unsatisfied. Or she can force feed it, adding subplots and secondary characters, and hope she doesn’t end up with a bloated tome that readers struggle to finish.

E-publishing offers a third choice: publish the story as is. It was my feeling when I started publishing e-books, that novellas are perfect for e-reading. They are short enough to read in one sitting. E-publishers have been selling novellas and short stories for years, and again, major commercial publishers are taking notice.

I don’t see this trend slowing down any time soon. I see more and more writers publishing their work on their own. I see more small press e-publishers starting up. And I see more stories finding their audience, no matter how small that is. We’ll see more specialized genres, more diverse characters and storylines as the years go by, and as some gain a larger following we’ll see the major publishers picking them up and bringing them to an ever larger audience. It’s a groundswell and a new publishing ecology that can only benefit everyone in the long run.

Friday Spotlight: Changeling Press

A Very Changeling Christmas — Ghosts of Christmas Past!

We hope you’ve enjoyed our Very Changeling Christmas treats — here are a few of my favorites from Christmas Past:

Hot Toddy: Vampire Christmas by Angela Knight

Amelia wakes up with a bow around her neck — bound and naked under a vampire’s Christmas tree!

12 Nights of Christmas: Batteries Not Included by Lexxie Couper

When a sex-bot goes in search of the ultimate orgasm the city isn’t safe. Because if she experiences a multiple orgasm she will detonate –- and take a large chunk of the city with her. Only one person can stop her, and Dr. Black’s computer isn’t playing ball. At all.

Christmas is a time for miracles. Just hope that Santa’s on his way.

Stocking Stuffers: Christmas Cookie by Elizabeth Jewell

Everybody has their Christmas traditions — even vampires. Every year, Brandt brings Glynna a boy toy for her entertainment. This year it’s Erik, a hot little morsel of a man who just might let Brandt play, too.

Christmas Cookies: Yule Wolf by Kate Hill

The last of his kind, Fenris has spent centuries on the outskirts of modern society — a werewolf alone and longing for companionship. Finding a wounded mortal in his lair is a temptation he cannot resist, but the man is near death. Saving him means they will be bound forever.

Gingersnaps: Canine Cop by B.J. McCall

Tas Rivers is working undercover as a canine cop to capture the culprits killing rare, endangered white wolves. Tas can handle the job, but living with her sexy human partner is getting to be more than she can endure.

Holiday Howlz: Her Feral Pack by Ruth D. Kerce

Ever since Janie Merlot mated with two shapeshifting wolves, she hasn’t been the same.

Sugarplum: Bitsy’s Christmas Demon by Cynthia Sax

Sex with a Christmas fairy tops this powerful demon’s wish list.

White Hot Christmas And all our Christmas Stories now available at http://changelingpress.com/catalog.php?upt=book&ufilter=theme&uid=12

Thursday Spotlight: Changeling Press

Changeling’s White Hot Christmas / Free Books for a Year contest —
Week 3 releases TODAY!

White Hot Christmas Week 3:

White Hot Christmas: Santa’s Claws by Stephanie Burke
Urban Fantasy, Christmas, Elves, Dragons & Magical Creatures

Santa’s making a list, checking it twice, and keeping all the other holidays in check. But when an upstart Valentine’s Day out for revenge infects one of Santa’s precious Think Tank Elves with a true soul mate, the claws come out. Now he’s going to see to it that his Elf and the naughty human to whom he’s bound have a very Merry Khristmas… or else.

Santa’s going to ensure his Elf and the human he’s bound to have a Merry Khristmas… or else.

White Hot Christmas: Christmas Stalkings by Cassidy McKay
Urban Fantasy, Christmas, Elves, Dragons & Magical Creatures

What’s a Christmas Elf to do when he wants to sex up the North Pole a bit? Make adult toys, of course!

When Henry’s Elven magic goes awry, Santa’s workshop will never be the same!

White Hot Christmas: Emmy’s Wish by Ayla Ruse
Urban Fantasy, Christmas, Elves, Dragons & Magical Creatures

Dear Santa,

Every year you tell all the Workshop Elves to write down one wish they’d like you to grant, as their Christmas present. Every year you bring amazement and joy to all us little Elves. In fact, this is one of the perks I’ve loved about being a Workshop Elf.

During the past couple of years, though, it seems that something’s happened to disrupt our communications. I’ve not received my wish yet. I don’t know if my request isn’t getting to you, or if my wish is unclear, but this is the third year I’m making the same request:

Santa, I want a BIG, real live man as my present. The first year I left the time open-ended. Last year I asked to have him a month. This year, because having him around for a long time seems to be an issue, I’m willing to negotiate to have him only one day — preferably Christmas Day.

Thanks, Santa. And if my wish can’t be granted this year, I’ll drop by sometime, because you’re going to have to spell it out for me why this wish isn’t working.

Your ever faithful worker ~ Emmy.

P.S. In case you aren’t sure what I mean, I want a BIG male with BIG, um, male parts. Bigger than our local Workshop Elves, at least.

White Hot Christmas: Stripping Christmas by Zenobia Renquist
Urban Fantasy, Interracial/MultiCultural, Magic, Christmas, Elves, Dragons & Magical Creatures

Alex thought she was going to a job. Instead she ends up marrying the heir to the title of Santa Claus. The vows have been said and cannot be taken back, even if Alex isn’t the ideal bride Kris was hoping for to re-energize the powers of the House of Kringle. But Alex is about to teach him that being a little naughty — or a lot — can go a long way.

Alex is firmly on the naughty list, and she wants Santa to join her.

All 12 White Hot Christmas now available at http://www.changelingpress.com/catalog.php?upt=book&ufilter=series&sid=347

Wednesday Spotlight: Changeling Press

Changeling’s White Hot Christmas / Free Books for a Year contest is here!
White Hot Christmas Week 2:

White Hot Christmas: Holiday Paws by Selena Illyria
Paranormal, Interracial/MultiCultural, Werewolves, BBW, Christmas

One sexy young werewolf is intent on giving his mate a special holiday surprise.

After dealing with the flu and missing her flight to spend the holidays with her family, Nessa thought she’d be alone for Christmas. When her mate Ben shows up at her door with the intention of giving her a holiday she won’t soon forget, she knows this Christmas will definitely be the best yet.

White Hot Christmas: Santa’s Treat by Camille Anthony
Paranormal, Interracial/MultiCultural, Shapeshifters, Christmas

Santa’s been a little disenchanted with his job lately. Mrs. Claus ran off with Rudolph, who kept putting his nose where it didn’t belong — all Santa’s reindeer are shifters. What? You didn’t think he’d keep a herd of fat lazy deer around all year, eating their heads off, when he only needed them one night a year?

Anyway, the Mrs. ran off with Santa’s ex-best friend, so he’s been alone for a while now. So you can see why the idea of a special treat got his juices running. He thinks Plum’s giving him a treat, but he read the note wrong. Plum’s been a very good girl, and he’s supposed to give her a special treat. But that’s OK, because the special treat Plum wants this year is Santa!

White Hot Christmas: Stranded by S. (Sean) Michael
Guilty Pleasures (Contemporary), BDSM, Ménage, Bisexual and More, Christmas

Stranded in Vegas was not how Gretchen had planned to spend her Christmas, but that’s exactly what’s happened to her and hubby Russ. Just when she thinks it couldn’t get worse, a stranger trips over their luggage and sends its contents flying. It turns out their stranger, Dave, is in Vegas for the holiday and he has a suite he’s willing to share.

Can this threesome turn a Christmas disaster into a Christmas delight?

White Hot Christmas: The Other Klaus by Dawn Montgomery
Paranormal, Magic, Christmas

Luke Klaus has a problem. Christmas will be canceled if he can’t get Destiny, Texas, back on the Holiday Cheer Map. A Christmas wish is all that stands between him and a perfect record. His target is packed with killer curves and a heart of gold that’s been broken one too many times. Lucky for Luke, mixing a little business with pleasure might be just what the holiday doctor ordered.

Noella Davis is tired. Too many years as Destiny’s cheer coordinator has left her drained and disillusioned. Is it a coincidence that brings her face-to-face with her old crush, or does the man in black leather have his own agenda? Either way, she’ll have her cake and eat it too even if she has to tie him to the bed. Maybe her Christmas wishes will come true…

This really is a case for The Other Klaus.

Available now at http://www.changelingpress.com/catalog.php?upt=book&ufilter=series&sid=347

Tuesday Spotlight: Changeling Press

Changeling’s White Hot Christmas / Free Books for a Year contest is here!
White Hot Christmas Week 1:

White Hot Christmas: Holiday Moon by B.J. McCall
Erotic Romance, Paranormal, Werewolves, Christmas, Men and Women in Uniform

When these two come together the rules of engagement no longer apply.

Operation Holiday Moon sends Sgt. Sezri Adar and her werewolf team deep into enemy territory. Wounded, Sezri orders her wolves to leave her behind. On her own, she must avoid capture and make it to the secondary pickup point.

Being the only human on the team has presented special challenges for Major Calix Klatt, especially when his second-in-command is the sexiest female he’s ever encountered. She’s brave and beautiful, but a relationship with Sezri would destroy any cred he’s built with the werewolves.

When Sezri is MIA, Calix’s duty is to wait out the holiday and hopes she survives. But the heart doesn’t always listen to the head and putting his career on the line is the least of his fears.

White Hot Christmas: Clothing Optional by Cynthia Sax
Urban Fantasy, Christmas, Elves, Dragons & Magical Creatures

Every Christmas, an ancient demon stalks and murders fairies. Until this killer is apprehended, each fairy is assigned a demon protector. Otho volunteers to protect Prism, the most uptight fairy on the face of the planet.

Or so he thinks…

When Otho arrives at Prism’s house three hours early and spots his blue-haired fairy streaking down the street completely nude, he realizes his perfect fairy is only perfect for him.

Unfortunately, he is not the only demon with eyes on her bare buttocks.

‘Tis the season for running naked in the snow!

White Hot Christmas: Her Feral Destiny by Ruth D. Kerce
Paranormal, Ménage, Werewolves, Christmas

Seduced by wolves — twice! — Janie can’t forget Sawyer, Dall, and Cavan. During the Christmas holiday, she returns to Minnesota to finally solve the mystery behind the sexy wolf-men.

Sawyer, Dall, and Cavan are thrilled to see Janie again and give her an erotic welcome-back like only they can. But now, they must protect her from the danger she’s put herself in by returning.

Sex, a government cover-up, and a fate nobody imagines awaits them all. Janie doesn’t fear the future though, for she’s found her place in the pack and will never leave again.

White Hot Christmas: Wrapped Around by Megan Slayer
Paranormal, BDSM, Magic, Christmas, M/M

Christmas is the time to celebrate — with candy, shiny paper, and lots of white-hot sex.

Luc loves his role fronting the band Glow. He loves the adoration of the fans, the energy in the crowd… but it’s Christmas. No one likes a Christmas alone.

Taygan’s free spirit resists taming — except when it comes to Luc. Luc’s one hundred percent human. Taygan is all air elemental. He needs his space and freedom, but he’ll do whatever it takes to make Luc happy, including giving up his space and freedom to make Luc’s holiday one he’ll never forget — complete with the real Santa, peppermint candy, and lots of hot sex.

Available now at http://www.changelingpress.com/catalog.php?upt=book&ufilter=series&sid=347

Monday Spotlight: Changeling Press

You’ve probably seen the promo — “Win Free Books For A Year — Our A Very Changeling 8th Annual Christmas Contest just got bigger and better than ever!”
So why do we run a Christmas give-away? We started our very first Christmas, looking for a way to give something back. Yes, we could have done chocolate or teas or even day spas, but it seemed like our readers would love what we love — Christmas stories! We asked authors to come up with a Christmas short story for a series we called Hot Toddies. Many of these stories became part of our first paperback anthology, A Changeling For All Seasons, which is now available in our ebook collection, as well.

Since that first Christmas in 2004, we’ve kept up with the tradition, offering a dozen (some times a bakers’ dozen!) Christmas stories every year and a chance to win free books for a year. Each year has a theme — Hot Toddies, 12 Nights of Christmas, Stocking Stuffers, Christmas Cookies, Gingersnaps, Holiday Howlz, and Sugarplums, as well as this year’s White Hot Christmas. You can see all the Christmases past and present (OK, BAD pun!) at ChangelingPress.com under Christmas!

Last year we introduced a new twist, thanks to Tony, our Web Guru. Winners may now pick whatever books they wish each month, rather than being limited to the new releases. For 2011 the choices seem to have been pretty evenly split, between the new releases and our collections. This year there are more prizes than ever.

White Hot Christmas Is Here!

Win Free Books For A Year — Our A Very Changeling 8th Annual Christmas Contest just got bigger and better than ever!

Eight readers will win Free Books For A Year:

One book a month (Four winners, 12 books each)
Two books a month (Two winners, 24 books each)
Two books a week (Two winners, 104 books each!)
Plus — 12 Chances to Win Changeling Gift Certificates!

Our Twelve Days of Christmas winners will receive Changeling Gift Certificates for $5, $10, and $25 — one random winner for each White Hot Christmas title on release day!

The best part — all you have to do to enter is buy any White Hot Christmas title at www.ChangelingPress.com during the month of December! Buy any White Hot Christmas story and you’re automatically entered to win. Every purchase of a White Hot Christmas story counts as a contest entry.

Friday Spotlight: Riptide Publishing

In addition to being entered into the weekly spotlight contest, all commenters on today’s post will be entered into a drawing for winner’s choice of Infected: Prey or Making Contact.

You may or may not know who I am, so to help us get acquainted, I thought I’d catalog a day in the life of procrastinating writer Andrea Speed. Now keep in mind this only takes place in the hours I’m supposed to be writing. I’ve saved you all from the agony of my day job and my personal life (ha ha – what is that).

12 – Finally get on computer

12 – 1:30 – Emails. Read all the emails, sift through them, wonder how I get so many emails when I’m not that popular, question why I’m signed up to so many groups, refuse to answer any emails until I’ve written a bit.

1:30 – 2 – Respond to emails.

2-3 – Check out a couple of blogs I like to hit. But just skim. No time to read! Must write.

3 – Cat jumps up on lap. Well, maybe I can read for just a little while longer …

3:15 – Check up on my social network pages … AUGH! Time vampires! You’re all damn time vampires! Why do I even have so many pages?! I won’t spend any time on you! Be gone, monsters!

4:30 – Finally escape social network pages.

4:30 – 4:45 – Write a bit.

4:45 – 5 – Real life interrupts.

5 – I will not check my email again!

5:15 – Stop with email, write a bit.

5:30 – 5:45 – Phone call!

5:45 – 6 – Write a bit.

6 – Offline.

Get back online about 11:30.

11:30 – to 12:30 – Email.

12:30 – 1:30 – Damn you Twitter! Damn you!

1:30 – to 3:00 or so – Write, download podcasts from iTunes.

So that’s a typical writing day for me. It’s amazing I ever get anything done, just like it’s amazing that Riptide Publishing would take a chance on me.

Perhaps this is why I can identify with Josh of my Josh of the Damned series so much. He can often find other things to do besides his job, although he does work the late shift, and has to deal with stoners and zombies alike. What’s my excuse?

Wish Riptide Publishing good luck with me. They’re going to need it.

Here’s an excerpt from my short, Pretty Monsters:

The first time the hell vortex opened in the Quick-Mart parking lot, Josh very seriously considered quitting his job. But all that came out of it was a lizard guy, and all it did was amble inside, buy a bag of chips, and leave. All the monsters, while ugly, seemed nicer than his late-night human customers, and Mr. Kwon offered him hazard pay, so he stayed on.

Besides, it wasn’t all bad on the night shift. For instance, right now he was looking forward to the return of Hot Guy.

Of course it was a super hot night, still eighty degrees around midnight, and the air conditioner had to pick now to die. Josh peeled off his polyester work smock and put his nametag on his t-shirt, hoping Mr. Kwon wouldn’t suddenly show up and demand he put it back on. It breathed like a trash bag.

His latest customer was an obviously stoned guy buying a wheelbarrow full of snacks. Not only were his eyes glassy and red, but he reeked of pot smoke, making Josh wonder if he’d spilled the bong water. Pot Guy left and someone else came in. Josh leaned over the checkout counter, hopeful, but it wasn’t Hot Guy, just a lizard guy.

“Guy” in a generic, gender free sense of the word, of course, because Josh had no idea how to tell if they were male or female. Maybe they didn’t even have genders. He didn’t know how to ask without being a rude bastard, and there was a chance he wouldn’t understand the answer anyway.

The lizard guys were all tall, and this one was no exception, at least six foot five and so broad across the shoulders it could barely fit in the aisle. They had all your basic equipment—two arms, two legs, a recognizable face—but their mouths were huge, they had no nose, and their scaled skin ranged in color from moss green to primer gray. This one was a kind of greenish-gray, like his roommate that time he got food poisoning.

Like all lizard guys, this one had a weird gait because its feet were huge, with six long toes that almost looked like fingers . . . which was extra weird because their hands were always small and had just four stubby fingers. They looked like they’d been put together by a five year old with a bad sense of proportion.

They also made such a racket you could hear them all the way from the back room. It reminded him of his first Craigslist roommate, Barry, who couldn’t do anything, even open the damn curtains, without making several decibels of needless noise. For the brief time they’d shared a place, Josh had been convinced Barry was hiding a megaphone to fart into just for effect.

Thwak-thwak-thwak echoed in the shop as Lizard Guy waddle-stomped down the aisle, making a beeline for the Fritos display. It grabbed two bags and turned back, waddle-stomping to the register.

Pretty Monsters is available at Riptide. You can purchase it by clicking the cover.

The sequel, Peek-A-Boo, is now available for pre-order: http://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/peek-boo-josh-damned-2

Find me online here:
Email address: aspeed2@gmail.com
Website: http://andreaspeed.com/
Blog: http://andreaspeed.com/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/aspeed
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Andrea-Speed/161826617217710

Thursday Spotlight: Riptide Publishing

In addition to being entered into the weekly spotlight contest, all commenters on today’s post will be entered into a drawing for the First Wave Winner’s Choice: Pick any one backlist book from Rachel Haimowitz, Aleksandr Voinov, L.A. Witt, Brita Addams, or Cat Grant (“Frontlist” books, i.e. Riptide releases and newest non-Riptide release, are excluded, as are the Courtland Chronicles).

Etzweiler. Rhianon Etzweiler. Resident of Hershey, PA. The eccentric owner of an equally odd speckled dog. Writer of speculative fiction – read that as a catch-all term for anything not contemporary, historical, or mundane (lacking fantastical aspects) – and romance stories with varying degrees of erotica and abnormal queerness. “Gay romance” is so limiting.

Blacker Than Black is my pending December release from Riptide and my debut solo project. I co-authored with Aleksandr Voinov, an August release from Carina Press titled Dark Edge of Honor. Before that, I dabbled a little bit in slash fanfic and could be found perpetually writing and editing my original fiction. And Nanoing like a person possessed. And reading. I don’t find time to do much of the latter anymore. Not nearly as often as I’d like, at least. My TBR pile keeps growing, with no end in sight.

When I’m asked to label my stories within a specific genre, I run into difficulties. There are aspects of many. And then there are the stories that blatantly defy labels beyond the most general. Well, it’s fiction. Speculative fiction. And, um… I’m not a big fan of labels, but I understand the need for them, in defining a story. A reader needs to know what to expect on the pages between the cover art and the blurb on the back.

I don’t consider myself a romance author. The romances in my stories rarely have first chair when it comes to plot arcs. They develop organically, from the interactions of two characters through the course of the story. I don’t make an attempt to downplay the romantic aspect or emotional involvement, but neither do I highlight it. As a theme, it’s a minor one.

One of the prevalent themes of the stories I write is, quite simply, The Unexpected. I don’t mean anvils falling out of the sky like a Wyle E. Coyote cartoon, but the sort of plot twists that resemble unmarked hairpin turns on the Autobahn. Please secure the lap bar firmly against your hips, and keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times…

I revel in writing situations that force my characters to make tough choices where neither option can be clearly pointed out as the ‘correct’ one. I won’t hesitate to strip them of everything, down to the core of their being, and stand them naked before their enemies. Preferably in a corner, so they have to fight their way out, or surrounded on all sides so that even their back is unprotected from attack. That’s the only way to truly show, I think, the hard indestructible core of a strong character. Not everyone will like or sympathize with them; some might want to smack them around, instead. If a reader has to pause and question which warring faction is antagonist and which is protagonist… then I’ve succeeded. If the reader cannot find the answer to the question, I’ve done it in spectacular fashion.

Despite this, not all my stories are dark and gritty. Dark Edge of Honor was written that way deliberately – Blacker Than Black is quite the opposite. Though still indelibly twisted, the aspect and execution are entirely different. Much of it has a humorous side, thanks to the POV character and the first-person perspective. Black is definitely not a depressive pessimist, quite often highlighting the humor in situations intended to be somber or serious.

Black’s story began about four or five years ago, during NaNoWriNo. My original goal had been to write a short story for an anthology call titled “The Red Light District.” (Black still laughs every time I mention that.) The first chapter was designed as a standalone, but I kept writing until I hit 50k on it. The next year, I continued on during Nano, and ended up with a rough draft. It was actually that version of the story, which an established author offered to beta for me, that resulted in DEoH even happening. Aleksandr Voinov fell in love with Black and, on the merits of that first draft, asked to jump in on the war romance.

The heavy editing that transformed the storyline of Blacker Than Black into what it is now took place early in 2011, during lag in DEoH’s editing schedule. When Riptide began formally approaching authors for their First Wave, they offered to contract me for it. I expect it will be the first of many stories that find a home at Riptide.

Here’s the blurb from Blacker than Black:

Apparently, my twin and I are two of York’s most notorious criminals. We’ve been Nightwalkers in the blue-light district since the vamps took over the world. Don’t know how many years it’s been. Long enough that a stream of fellow ’walkers have come and gone. Most don’t last long selling their chi. End up face-down in the gutter, or worse.

For us, one night and one sale change everything.

Monsieur Garthelle is the first john to hunt me down. He calls me a chi thief in one breath and offers absolution—servitude—in the next. Maybe I’m a sucker, but I like living and breathing. Strange that such a powerful vamp would show leniency to a mere human. And something’s not right with the chi I took from him. It won’t go away.

Neither will he, and he’s forcing us to spy on his peers. Then a vamp turns up dead, and we go from playing eyes and ears to investigating a murder. This isn’t what I signed up for. All I ever wanted was to sell a little chi, maybe steal some in return. I should’ve kept my damn hands to myself.

This is my story. Look through my eyes.

Blacker than Black will be released on December 12, but is available for pre-order by clicking on the cover above.

Rhianon Etzweiler spent her formative years seeped in military culture, and many of her writing inspirations bear that mark – with a definitive twist. Her main genres are science fiction and fantasy, but she enjoys spicing things up with a speculative mixture that sometimes defies an easy label. Next to Elizabeth Moon and Meredith Ann Pierce, she still counts Jane’s Defense and Popular Science among her influences. “I used to read these articles about cutting edge technology and science, and wonder what impact it would have on society and culture. How it would change us.”

Her biggest failing is the inability to write a “short” story – they may begin that way, but they rarely stay small. “It’s like asking someone to tell you about their life,” Rhi says of her muses. “Like any real person, once you get them talking, it’s unlikely they’ll shut up any time soon.”

Where to find Rhianon:
Website: http://www.rhianonetzweiler.com
Blog: http://rhianonetzweiler.blogspot.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/rhianon.etzweiler
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/musefodder

Wednesday Spotlight: Riptide Publishing

What genre do you write mostly and what appeals to you most about your genre?

I write m/m and menage contemporaries, fantasy, paranormals, AU and BDSM, with a heavy leaning toward BDSM at the moment because…Whoa. Writing BDSM is so way beyond cool. Why? OMG, the head space is just amazing, the push-pull dynamic between a Dom and a sub (and inside a sub in response to his Dom). Then again, the subs I write tend to struggle with their submission, desiring to submit but at the same time fearing it. It’s such a delicious contrast, those conflicting emotions. Plus, I adore exploring the extra journey my heroes can take in a BDSM story — their individual journey and the romantic journey they make together, but also the journey their kink relationship takes them on. I love it, just love it.

Where do you get the names for your characters?

Any- and everywhere. Connor’s name came from a guy I’m only casually acquainted with in real life. He’s nothing like my Connor, not at all, but the name stuck in my head and wouldn’t jar loose until my Connor took form.

Tell us about your latest releases?

Collared is a m/m D/s AU available November 28th from Riptide. Connor Witt is a successful and ambitious IT manager for an investment firm with a new lover and his life exactly where he wants it when authorities announce a biological disaster — genetically engineered crops have mutated and propagated in the wild, producing a biological shift that alters brain chemistry. While everyone else is becoming bigger and badder, though, Connor’s an anomaly. His center of aggression has been suppressed. As the world becomes increasingly dangerous to him, he is forced to choose a master to protect and nurture him. When security consultant Emmett makes his move, Connor’s boss collars him to protect him. One man offers safety, but the other is the safer bet. Who will Connor choose?

My first BDSM title, a paranormal (shifter) novel called I, Omega also released at Loose Id on September 6th. Gabriel is an experienced sub who is bitten by a shifter Dom and forever changed. He lives on the streets as a vagrant to evade the new master who both terrifies and enthralls him until his master finds him and carries Gabriel back to pack territory where Gabriel

What are you working on next?

In the Red is a m/m D/s mystery for Loose Id

What do you enjoy reading the most?

Erotic romance, of course, primarily m/m, but also menage and a bit of poly. Quite a bit of BDSM. I’m totally in love with dub-con/capture type stories and only wish there were more of them.

What are you reading now?

Sudden Sea: The Great Hurricane of 1938 by R.A. Scotti. Just finished re-reading Jet Mykles Heaven Sent series, for my fic fix. ;-p

Who are your favorite authors?

Oh, Lord, so many. Josh Lanyon, K.A. Mitchell, L.B. Gregg are faves for non-kink. For kink, I’m a total fangirl of Kim Dare, but J.C. Owens, Thom Lane and Jamie Craig have written some awesome repeat reads, too.

What would you advise an aspiring author?
Be stubborn. Learn your craft, don’t quit and it will happen.

Is there anything you’d like to tell your readers?

For your Netflix viewing pleasure, Megashark vs. Giant Octopus is the bestest, most cheesiest SciFi original movie, EVAH. Pheremone-driven sea creatures? Awesome. Two thumbs way up.

How can readers connect with you?

If you would like to catch up with Kari, caffeinate yourself and head on over to http://www.KariGregg.com
Friend Kari on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Kari.M.Gregg
Follow Kari on Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/karigregg

Kari Gregg lives in the mountains of Wild and Wonderful West Virginia with her Wonderful husband and three very Wild children. Once Kari discovered the fabulous play land of erotic romances at RWA’s National Conference in 2009, the die was cast. Finally! A market for the smoking hot stories she loves!

When Kari’s not writing, she enjoys reading, coffee, zombie flicks, coffee, naked mud-wrestling (not really), and . . . coffee!

Tuesday Spotlight: Riptide Publishing

In addition to being entered into the weekly spotlight contest, all commenters on today’s post will be entered into a drawing for the First Wave Winner’s Choice: Pick any one backlist book from Rachel Haimowitz, Aleksandr Voinov, L.A. Witt, Brita Addams, or Cat Grant (“Frontlist” books, i.e. Riptide releases and newest non-Riptide release, are excluded, as are the Courtland Chronicles).

Visions and Revisions: A Writer Gets Schooled

When I was in college, I had a lot of pretty typical college-kid writing foibles. I thought critical feedback spoiled my vision, I thought imitating Jack Kerouac was cool, and I thought I was going to be above petty little things like “genre.” (For the record, I still think imitating Jack Kerouac is cool, but I know better than to do it in public.)

My sophomore year of college, I had the gall to trot that business out in a workshop writing class, where I listened to the other students explain the difficulties they’d had with my stories. I gave them very grave little nods when they debated the physics of my fight scenes, and I manfully restrained my rolling eyes when they collapsed into a writhing mass of folklore over my four-page zombie story. I wanted to be on my best behavior, because it was a class and not a pro wrestling arena, but frankly I fantasized about thwapping the lot of them upside the head with a folding chair. They didn’t get my vision—and I was maybe nineteen years old, so of course I had a vision.

“Do you realize that you’ve written a romance?” the professor asked me, while we were workshopping my story about a pair of queer college kids hunting ghosts and finding each other. “I think this is the first romance we’ve had in this class.” I cocked my head at that like an excessively obtuse Jack Russell terrier, because of course it wasn’t a romance. I wrote it; I didn’t write romance; thus, it wasn’t a romance. QED, or some other Latin abbreviation. Clearly the woman was delusional.

In short, my first creative writing class kicked my ass.

You have to understand, it was kind of a delayed ass-kicking. An ass-kicking deferred, if you will. I got out of that class with my asshole notions of my own superiority still intact, still pretty damn sure I didn’t write romance and didn’t need critique and couldn’t get better if I tried. I didn’t actually realize how thoroughly I’d been schooled until I started teaching writing, when I got a chance to rip kids’ papers and stories apart the way my teacher had ripped mine apart. I got the same asshole responses from my kids that I gave my teacher, all “This is good the way it is” and “That’s just my style” and “Stop trying to box me into your stupid little categories.” The pupil has become the master, and the master wondered what the fuck the pupil had been thinking.

Over the years since that class, I’ve come to understand what I was missing when I walked into the classroom—and part of it was humility, sure, but the bigger part was self-awareness. I went in thinking that writing was this sort of magical process where the author would go into a semi-conscious, energy-drink-fueled trance and then THE WORD would appear. Any failures in my fiction couldn’t be failures on my part; they were obviously failures of the magic.

I wrote a lot faster in those days, channeling pure inspiration onto the page, but I had only a little control and not even a smidgeon of self-awareness. If I couldn’t watch myself writing and see why I made each choice, then I couldn’t see those choices as choices that I could un-choose at will.

Just because I wasn’t aware, though, doesn’t mean I wasn’t watching. Some part of me—the real, writerly part—had its eyes open as I glugged cans of Amp and had WWF-related workshop fantasies. When I finally pulled my head out of my ass and got ready to be an active agent in the creative process, that open-eyed part of me unfolded my choices for me and showed me where and how I could intervene.

No, of course that zombie story didn’t work; it was structured all wrong. No, the kind of gun my character was using was really fucking heavy; I should’ve used a lighter, more maneuverable one. Yes, that ghost-hunter story was totally a romance. Thus, I was the kind of person who wrote romances. QED.

I could revise. I could rewrite the fabric of the universe and transform dreck into gold. I could make the magic happen.

That long-delayed boot to the ass finally connected.

The dog watch shaded into the first watch, and at the eighth bell, Edouard Montreuil put aside his pen and rose from his bunk. He locked his letter carefully in his sea chest, then buttoned his shirt collar up against his throat. A useless gesture, he knew—it’d be undone for him within the first moments—but he took pride in small signs of resistance.

The other men on first watch went to their stations at the observation deck or the con, and the night crew of engineers went aft to spell the men in the engine room. Edouard walked with them, as he always did, and they ignored him, as they always did. They, too, had their reasons for serving on the Flèche; better not to ask what debts a fellow crewman was repaying beneath the waves.

They’d been submerged for three days now, and the air was thick and hot and stale. The engine room hummed faintly. Behind their tight steel cages, the electric lights gleamed white and steady.

An assistant engineer on dog watch gave Edouard a worried look, and he raised his chin at the pity in it. “Go to your bunk, Valancourt,” he said. If he didn’t have the rank to enforce the order, neither did Valancourt have the will to stay. The crew knew why he passed through the engine room to the captain’s cabin night after night. If they didn’t, it was only willful ignorance.

He ducked his head and slid through the aft portal sideways, like a long-limbed crab. Stork, Ruiz had called him back in la Légion, when they’d all been looking for new names. All long legs. For a moment, Edouard stood in the narrow passage between the officers’ quarters and the engine room, remembering the way the sun had beat down on his brow in Algeria and the way Ruiz had laughed. He passed the alcove where the officers bunked, and rapped on the door of the captain’s cabin.

“Come in,” said a voice from inside—inside the cabin, or inside his own head, he’d never been able to say. It made his ears ache; it made his blood heat and his heart thrum in time with the engines until he thought his skin would burst.

He turned the handle and swung the door open, then shut it behind him. Closed away the light of the engine room, and closed himself into the darkness.

“Sir,” he said, and swallowed against the constriction of his collar. “Reporting for duty.”

“Good,” said the captain, and a limb like a wet cable fell cool and slick upon Edouard’s wrist. His lips found Edouard’s throat, sharp teeth catching there as he undid those carefully-closed shirt buttons.

A second mouth brushed over Edouard’s ribs, tongue wet with a viscous fluid that chilled his skin. A third latched at his hip, needle-teeth scraping, seizing. “Very good,” said the captain, against his throat and chest and hip, as his boneless fingers wrapped slowly over Edouard’s cock and coaxed it hard. Edouard’s skin crawled, but he willed himself still.

Two of those hungry mouths smiled, and the third whispered, “Then let us begin.”

My dear Farid Ruiz,

I cannot say how many times I have begun this letter and failed to send it. At first I thought I would charm you in French, but I have nothing charming to say, so I beseech you plainly in this formal Spanish: Come to Tarifa with all speed. My letters may be read, so I will say only that it is an urgent matter requiring your utmost discretion.

I will be waiting for you in a restaurant known as El Pobrecito, and there I shall remain at six o’clock every night until I am forced to depart.

Yours sincerely,
Edouard Montreuil.
Tarifa, Spain
3 July, 1926.

A flash of lightning illuminated Edouard’s cup, casting a stark shadow along the curve of the rim. He brought it to his lips, sipping only sparingly at the coffee. They made it black here, and bitter; Edouard had never much cared for coffee, but they hadn’t any tea, and he needed his head clear.

Beside him, the wind dashed braids of rain against the windowpane. He tilted his chair back, letting it rest on the rearmost legs as he raised his arms in a stretch. He glanced out the window as he cracked his neck from one side to the other, but the rain was too thick for him to make out the far side of the street. Come on, Ruiz, he thought, as though it would bring the man running with the lightning at his back. Come out of the rain.

He would have counted the seconds before the thunder came, but the peal rolled in on the lightning’s heels and rattled the glasses behind the bar. In the relative dimness after the flash, he finished his coffee and frowned at the dregs.

“More coffee?” asked the young serving woman, and he raised his cup for her to fill anew. She spoke Spanish with an accent he couldn’t place; it wasn’t Castilian or Catalan, and it certainly wasn’t from the former colonies. He ought to have found it unremarkable, in a port city like Tarifa, but his hackles were already up—and she must have seen that he was giving her a hawkish look, because as she poured his coffee, she said, “If I can help you with anything . . .”

“I’ve been trying to place your charming accent,” said Edouard, and his own native French colored every consonant. “You’re a long way from home, I suspect.”

“Asturias,” she said. Her eyes crinkled a little at the question; she looked so delighted to have been asked he felt his suspicions evaporate. “I followed my husband from there when he was called to serve. He’s a lieutenant—”

The door crashed against the wall and sent the hatstand spinning, and the serving-woman startled at the clamor—she canted the coffee pot up too quickly, spilling a long line of tepid coffee across Edouard’s sleeve. The storm swept across the threshold, and with it, a man in a black Mackintosh coat. He drew off his hat, shaking his head like a long-haired pup and scattering drops of water over the nearest patrons. “Where’s Montreuil?” he demanded. “Edouard Montreuil, where is he? I’m here to meet with him.”

Edouard rolled his eyes up toward the ceiling. He hasn’t changed a bit. “Farid Ruiz,” he said with a rather fixed smile. “When I tell you that I’ve an urgent matter requiring your utmost discretion—”

“I nearly didn’t get your letter,” said Ruiz, his wet boots squeaking on the polished wood as he crossed from the doorway. “If it had come even a day later, I’d have been on the next flight for the Canary Islands, and then you’d have been drinking alone—and so much for your urgent matter! So much for your utmost discretion! Buy me a glass of good beer, Montreuil; I’m soaked to the skin.” He dropped into the seat across from Edouard’s, propping up his elbows on the table. He was indeed soaked to the skin, and the rain slicking his black Mackintosh had already begun to puddle beneath his chair. The Asturian serving woman smothered a laugh with her hand and brought him a cup and saucer, but he only gave her a tragic look when she began to fill it with coffee.

“Not a drop of beer?” he asked, and he fluttered his long, dark lashes at her. “Not a drop of rum? It’s not proper coffee without a drop of rum in it.”

“Not a drop,” said Edouard firmly. “We’ve business to discuss, and we’ll drink once we’ve concluded it.”

“Then on to your business, you old stork.” Ruiz downed the coffee in a long gulp, grimacing at the bitterness. “There, I’ve fortified myself. I assume it’s something to do with la Légion, if you wrote me about it?”

“Something like that,” replied Edouard, voice lowered—he didn’t particularly expect Ruiz to take the hint, but at least his own half of the conversation might be quiet. “Do you remember Algeria?”

“I’ll never forget Algeria. Mosquitoes everywhere, skirmishes with the locals, damn Belaire with his Carthagum delendum esta.”

Carthago delenda est,” Edouard corrected absently. “And you remember what you did, when your colonel took that little Algerian boy and—”

Ruiz’s hand tightened on the coffee cup until the delicate handle cracked free. A shard of porcelain must have scored his skin, because a drop of blood fell to the saucer. “That bastard,” said Ruiz, and now his voice was as soft as Edouard might have wished. “He deserved what he got.”

“And la Légion went on functioning just as it should. No snags in the business; no pauses for the damn courts-martial to decide whether he’d disqualified himself for duty; the men decided the sentence and carried it out. Everyone was happy with it.”

“As happy as you can be, when you’ve killed one of your own,” said Ruiz. Behind him, the serving woman was turning up the gas lamps against the oncoming darkness; the occasional flash from the window was blue and sharp with sea-lightning.

Pobrecito, indeed. Too poor to have been electrified.

Ruiz sucked the blood from his thumb, then rested his chin on his fist. “If you dragged me here to bring up the worst parts of my service, I’m putting my hat back on and going to find a drink.”

“I’ve dragged you here,” said Edouard, “because my captain is a monster, and we go to sea as soon as we’ve a full crew.”

Ruiz tilted his head at that, his dark brows going up. He had strong features, only very faintly Spaniard—Edouard imagined he was the scion of conversos and morenos, simmering for generations under the Spanish thumb. Small wonder Fernando Ruiz had changed his name and joined la Légion. And small wonder he’d put a gun to his colonel’s head and blown him away.

Edouard’s hands were shaking. If he were to put his cup down on the saucer, the rattle would give him away.

“By the time we reach port in Tartous,” said Edouard, “I want him floating belly-up the Mediterranean. I want the crew to come out of it thanking me for killing him.”

“And following your orders? That’s what you’re after, yeah?”

“I don’t like your tone, Ruiz.” He took a long drink of coffee, giving himself time to calm his nerves, then set the cup very deliberately down. “I can live with another man’s command. If he’s a good man.”

“You don’t get many of those,” said Ruiz, bracing his chin on his hand. “I thought I could kill all of the bastards, and then the good men would rise to the top. But all I got were more bastards.” He raised his empty cup, and that toast said, To the revolution that never was.

Edouard raised his cup in answer, letting it click against Ruiz’s before tossing back the last of his coffee.

Outside, lightning cut across the street. Three seconds later, thunder rolled in behind it. “Promise me,” said Ruiz. “Promise me you have good reason to want your captain dead.”

A dozen clinging mouths, a long limb like a rope, wrapping around his throat and squeezing until he saw stars . . .

For a moment, Edouard’s throat closed. He couldn’t bring himself to meet Ruiz’s eyes. “If I thought there was any other way to do this, I’d have done it,” he said, still thick-tongued and aching. “If I thought for a second I could just kill him myself, or even walk away—”

“You can’t walk away from a monster,” agreed Ruiz.

“You can’t. Because he’ll find you.”

Ruiz brought his hand up to gnaw lightly at his thumbnail, but he said nothing. His breathing was even, his gaze clear and steady.

“Will you help me?” Edouard asked, and he hated how small and weak he sounded. “I’ll be happy to repay you—”

“I’ll help you because you need helping. Now, buy me a fucking beer, stork. If I’m to turn mutineer, I’m going to need a damn good drink.”

Peter’s debut book, First Watch, is available at Riptide Publishing.

Peter Hansen is a teacher, writer, and former spelling bee champion who lives a stone’s throw from the Erie Canal. He got his start in publishing with his college newspaper, where he was forced to write “I will not rake the muck” one hundred times on the chalkboard before they let him write editorials. With that gritty, real-world experience under his belt, he promptly turned to science fiction and fantasy. He spends his days teaching young writers about the pathetic fallacy, his evenings mainlining iced tea, and his nights building a time machine in his basement.

Where to find Peter:
Website: http://peterhansenfiction.weebly.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/P_HansenWrites
Email: peter.hansen.writes@gmail.com